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From Paris to Havana

This month, our jet-setters puffed Cuban cigars, sipped Croatian wine and shopped ’til they dropped in the City of Light.

By Kristen Gray

Havana nights

“Whenever I travel I like to add on a second destination, either at the beginning or the end of my trip, to get the most out of taking a vacation,” explains Felipe Escamilla, who planned a last-minute rendezvous in Cuba with friends after a wedding in Puerto Rico. “We spent most of our time in Old Havana, where time stands still,” he says. “The people of Cuba are exceedingly warm and welcoming; it’s almost as if they need the self-validation. There is no hustle in the tourism. There is a real sense of community,” he adds. Escamilla, his girlfriend, Melissa Vargas, and three of their friends stayed in an Airbnb run by a recently retired German expat, and spent four days soaking up the city’s sights by pedicab, strolling down Calle 23 and the Malecón and visiting the famous Hotel Nacional, where peacocks roam freely on the grounds. The group also swam in the crystal-blue waters of the Playas del Este and dined at La Fábrica del Arte Cubano, an art gallery in a repurposed cooking oil warehouse. “We also visited the tobacco farms in Viñales, where we puffed cigars that can take up to nine months to create,” he reminisces.

Buon compleanno, Signora Trujillo!

Since her mother, Theresa, had never been out of the country, Ruth Trujillo and her sister, Jaclyn, decided to take her on a special trip to Italy. The family traveled to Rome, staying at the Aurelia Vatican, before venturing to Siena and Florence. “There is a lookout point at the top of the Siena Cathedral, where you can see for miles out. The architecture was also very uniform: tiny streets lined with shops. Siena is known for their blown-glass jewelry,” she says. While shopping in Siena they discovered a candle shop that has a patent on their process of creating wax-covered roses. “The candle shop is named La Fabbrica delle Candele and is a must-see. They have unique handcrafted candles and wax-dipped flowers, which you can make yourself,” she notes. While in Florence, the family took a bike tour and encountered the Ponte Vecchio, which was the only medieval bridge left standing amid the Nazi invasion in World War II. Pro tip from Theresa: Be cautious when riding the train at night. “Apparently it is normal to take your pants off on trains,” she says, “and let’s just say there are some things you can’t unsee.”

More champagne, s’il vous plaît!

A Phil Collins concert drew Marya Chivari, mother Babs and son Ryder to London, but when the singer canceled the show last minute, the trio embarked for Paris—because no one ever needs an excuse to go to Paris. “I’ve never been to Paris with my mom and she wanted to see it through my eyes since I love it so much,” Chivari says. “It’s Ryder’s third time, but the first he will remember. I’ve lived in San Francisco for 10 years and I have been to Paris more than I have been to Los Angeles.” They stayed at the Renaissance Paris Vendôme Hotel because of its location, but Chivari usually stays at the Shangri-La or the Ritz, where she recommends grabbing a cocktail. Browsing boutiques is a major draw for Chivari, and the eclectic general store Merci in Haut Marais is a favorite. “Honestly, I just love to walk, walk, walk, and walk more. Sipping champagne is how I refuel and shopping soothes my soul,” she adds. Also on her list: Manoush, Balenciaga and “then Colette for crazy fashion, different music selection and accessories.”

Mediterranean romance

“The Croatian coast is still a secret to most,” Lyvia Garcia says of her recent trip with husband Sanzio to the postcard-perfect shoreline of the Adriatic Sea. The duo toured hotspots you might recognize from HBO’s Game of Thrones, including the medieval Fortress of Klis near Split, and the Walls of Dubrovnik. “We had just left Italy, and although the food there is delicious, I preferred the seafood in Croatia,” confesses Lyvia. “It’s also a lot less touristy than Italy. The true beauty lies within the people. We made friends with our driver and he took us to his beautiful home, where he gave us a bottle of homemade olive oil and served us homemade wine along with ham, salami and cabbage. We got to know how the locals live and how much family means to them.” Adds Sanzio: “I must say Italy has a beauty I have never seen before, but it has become commercialized, and Croatia has its own beauty with prideful people. It is not commercialized like most of Europe. That itself is an experience I hope will last.”

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