Bannerman Castle - Hudson Valley, NY

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A fresh breeze and the soft crashing of water against the hull brought on a wave of calm. It had just started to feel like autumn in the Hudson Valley. The air was crisp, but the sun was shining and a few seconds under it was enough to warm up. 

The boat started to slow down and with a few yanks we came to a stop at Pollepel Island. There are many legends as to the origin of the name. One of them tells the story of a young woman called Polly Pell. She fell through the breaking ice of the river one winter and was rescued and brought to the island by her sweetheart. Prompting the villagers to name the island after her.  


However it’s more likely that the word Pollepel came from the Dutch for “pot ladle”. Since the early Dutch explorers sailed by the island continuously as they made their way to their settlements up the river.  

Today the name Pollepel remains the official name of the island, but most people know it as Bannerman’s Island. A name that comes from Frank Bannerman, the business mogul who bought the island for himself and build the castle. 


At first glance, Bannerman Castle looks like a traditional castle. The towers at each corner, a moat and the battlements. But unlike regular castles, Bannerman Castle was not built as a residence. (At least not a typical residence). The building was home to an arsenal. A place to keep Frank Bannerman’s surplus of grenades, pistols, boots and uniforms. 


You see, Frank Bannerman was in the business of war. 

A native of Scotland, Frank Bannerman immigrated to the United States at the age of 3. His father established a business as a salesman of flags, rope and other used items auctioned off by the Navy. When Frank was 13-years-old, his father joined the Union army to fight in the Civil War and Frank took over the family business. He quickly realized the items he was selling as scraps could fetch a higher value if sold as military goods.

At the end of the Civil War, Frank bought many of the military goods the government sold off to be stripped off as scraps. But instead of selling them as scrap Frank created an Army-Navy Store. Then after the Spanish-American War, Frank bought 90% of the weapons and surplus military goods. 


Frank Bannerman’s arsenal grew so much that the city was concerned with him keeping it all stored in Brooklyn, and asked him to move his warehouse.

That’s when he purchased Pollepel Island and built his warehouses in the shape of castles. Bannerman designed the castle himself, after some of the castles he saw on his trips to Europe and then had builders recreate his sketches on the island. 

Eventually the Bannerman business declined. As the government placed more legislation on ownership of military equipment, the sales for Bannerman’s arsenal declined. 


The weapons and paraphernalia remained on the island until New York State purchased it in 1967. The government removed a lot of the equipment, however in 1969 a fire destroyed whatever remained on the island. The Castle’s roof, floors and parts of the wall were also destroyed.

The island remained closed to the public for decades until the Bannerman Castle Trust gained the New York State’s government permission to stabilize the buildings remaining on the island and finally provide tours to the public. 


During our hike up to the castle we journeyed through a series of dirt paths and rocky stairs and got a real sense of what it was like to be here in the late 1890s and early 1900s. 

On the other side of the island a garden maintained by volunteers and the remnants of Bannerman’s personal home are flourishing once more. 


Useful information:
The island is open to the public for hiking tours, kayaking tours, theatrical presentations, movies under the stars and a series of other events that take place during the warmer months. 

Tour Tickets:
Adults (12+): USD$35
Children: USD$30

How to get there:
Take the Metro North Hudson Line to Beacon. Walk through the underpass to the riverside of the railway to find the pier from which the Bannerman Castle visits depart.

Website: https://bannermancastle.org/


TWA Hotel - New York, USA


A red carpet, the ultimate symbol of status, is rolled out for you the moment you enter the TWA Hotel. Literally. The carpet that covers the entrance corridors and part of the lounge areas is bright red, after the original colors of the airline. But it’s not only the carpet that makes a big impression.

I took the elevator from JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy International Airport and in a few seconds was transported in time. It was the 60s and this was the jetset lifestyle. 


A makeshift office welcomes you next to a futuristic tunnel that will lead you to the hotel. Before walking through the tunnel, I couldn’t help but explore the MadMen-style desk, wooden decor and full bar (all props left there for you to take some cool antique snaps).


Inside the hotel, the celebration to this precious era of aviation continues. A monochromatic sunken lounge, a departure board with split-flaps that switches with the iconic clicks and clacks, and a wing displaying vintage flight personnel uniforms bring to life what the TWA Terminal was like back in 1962.

1962 is the year this terminal originally opened its doors. The building, known as the headhouse of the terminal, was designed by Finish architect Eero Saarinen. The design itself is considered to touch a few different styles, including Futurism, Neo-Futurism and Googee styles.


Today, the terminal is the anchor between the three buildings that make the TWA Hotel. Additional to 512 rooms, there is also a rooftop infinity pool that overlooks the active JFK runway. It’s an amazing sight and one of my favorite parts of the hotel.

If you’re feeling peckish, try one of the many food options: a restaurant by Jean Georges called Paris Café, the Pool Bar, The Sunken Lounge or the Connie Cocktail Lounge (a lounge inside a vintage airplane!)


Good to know:


Average per night is around USD$ 250 depending on how far in advance you book.

But you can book a room for 4 hrs to rest between layovers for $150.


You can get access to the pool by staying at the hotel or by reserving a table at the Pool Bar.

Website: https://www.twahotel.com

Address:Terminal 5, 6 Central Terminal Area, Jamaica, NY 11430


The Best Plants for Travelers

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

The other day, as I walked down Grand Street in Brooklyn, I came across a little shop that stopped me in my tracks. This shop was Sprout Home, a florist and plant nursery, bursting with all sorts of luscious greenery. 

I had to walk in.

The mustardy yellow wall near the front door offered the perfect contrast to the green cacti welcoming me inside. It was impossible to resist the urge to snap as many photos as I could manage. And while I looked for the perfect angles for each little succulent that got in my way, I realized that I wanted a plant. But could I keep it alive?

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

As a frequent traveler, sometimes I’m abroad for weeks at a time and I figured that not many plants would be able to survive going thirsty for that long. But it turns out there are a few that could.

I’ve been doing a lot of asking around and searching online, and it looks like these five plants could be my safest bets:

1. Succulents

This may seem like an obvious one, after all they look like cacti. (Did you know that cacti are a type of succulent?) Why are they good for frequent travelers? Succulents store water in their stems, roots, and leaves, so they can survive longer without being watered. In fact, they may wilt if you over-water them. They also come in an assortment of shapes, colors and sizes, so you’re sure to find one to your heart’s desire. 

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

2. Snake plants

Snake plants are a succulent, but they don’t look like it! (It’s their secret identity! haha). These plants are famous for their air purifying ability and their ease of care. I have two of these, so I can confidently say that they don’t need that much attention to grow and prosper. Why are they good for frequent travelers? They only require watering every two weeks or so, they also don’t require much light. Snake plants thrives in medium to bright indirect light, but can stay healthy in low lights, too. 

3. Pothos

Pothos have wide leaves and tend to grow in width rather than height. They also come in a few different colors: Marble Pothos have a green and ivory colored leaves, while Jade Pothos have deep green leaves and Neon Pothos have lighter green leaves. Why are they good for frequent travelers? They require to be watered slightly more often than succulents, but weekly watering is enough. They can also thrive in low light so they are good if you live in a small space without many windows. 

4. Zanzibar gem

Also known as a ZZ plant, the Zamioculcas zamiifolia is a tropical plant originating in Africa. It’s glossy leaves are chubby stems make for a beautiful bundle. However, this plant is not good for a home with pets. The Zanzibar gem is toxic and poisonous if consumed. Why are they good for frequent travelers? Like succulents, the Zanzibar gem’s chubby stems collect water, so you don’t have to water them often. They are also good air purifiers. 

5. Philodendron

These plants have really wide green leaves and a super tropical feel. (I may need to get one now that I found out what they are called!) They have a really lush and shiny look that makes them look like they need a lot of upkeep. However, they don’t need as much care as you’d think. Why are they good for frequent travelers? They are known as a nearly impossible to kill and they grow really fast. The only downfall is that these are also poisonous for pets, so you’ll need to keep them out of their reach or choose a different variety. Many people put them in hanging pots. 

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

Going on a long vacation doesn’t always mean you’ll come home to a dead plant. There are a lot of tools you can use to create a makeshift watering system that can keep them moist while you’re away. Like these small Aqua Globes that can keep plants watered for up to 2 weeks. 

If you have a pet, make sure to check with your local nursery before buying a plant to make sure they’re not poisonous to your little buddy.


Sprout Home
All the suggestions and tips on this post are based on my personal research and unrelated to Sprout Home.

Daily 10:00am to 7:00pm

Website: www.sprouthome.com

59 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY 11249

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

Photo taken at Sprout Home - Brooklyn, NY

Cenote Ik Kil - Yucatán, Mexico


I jumped. I really did. I still can’t believe I did. But I did. I climbed the limestone steps and hopped into the 40 meter deep sinkhole called Ik Kil. And while Ik could’ve Killed me (had to do it), it didn’t.

Instead I swam with the sunlight peeking through the top of the cave. The rich turquoise waters hiding schools of fish freely going about their day. Vines reaching in from the top of the cave almost like curtains playing with the light.


Ik Kil is one of Mexico’s best known cenotes. These incredible structures happen when the limestone gives in and collapses to reveal a deep pool of water within the cave. There are around 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatán peninsula alone.

These underground pools were used by the Mayans as a source of water, but they also considered them sacred. They often performed rituals in which they threw valuable items into the water and some tribes also practiced human sacrifices. Jewelry and human bones have been found by archeologists within Ik Kil. It is also believed that Ik Kil was the personal bath of Mayan Kings and their families.

Today this cenote is one of the most visited ones due to its proximity to Chichen Itza. So it gets pretty crowded. The trick is to arrive before the lunch-hour tour-bus rush. Early morning dips with the cenote practically to yourself will have you feeling like a Mayan king.

And when you climb those limestone steps and look into the deep, dark water below you remember…

“Those who don’t jump will never fly.”


Entry fees:
Adult: MXN $70
Children: MXN $35

Carretera Costera del Golfo
3 KM away from the archeological zone of Chichen Itza, Chichen Itza 97757, Mexico


Bondi Icebergs Club - Sydney, Australia


"Happiness comes in waves." - unknown

I was running, as usual. But this time it wasn’t the “I like to torture myself with exercise” kind of running, this was the “I only have 10 minutes to get this photo right” kind. It was my second day in Sydney and I was meant to be on a boat to Manly (a suburb just across the harbor) in less than an hour. Time was of the essence.

I ran the full kilometer from one end of Bondi Beach to the other. Sweaty and short of breath I made it to my destination with only 4  minutes to spare. 

The Bondi Icebergs Club opened its doors in 1929 as the top spot for winter swimming. Today, its famous pool still attracts visitors from all across the world. Probably more photographers and onlookers than swimmers, and with good reason. The stunning pool nested within the Tasmanian Sea commands your attention.


As I stood just across the entrance, I understood what the big fuss was about. The waves jumped over the rocks with full strength and came crashing into the pool. One after another, after another. I felt hypnotized by the continuity. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

There was an unspoken agreement in that moment. An agreement between mother nature and I. An agreement to always remember that no matter what happens, there is nothing bigger, nothing stronger and nothing that can’t be overcome by nature. An agreement to let things flow.


Useful Info:
The two saltwater pools remain open year round to members and visitors alike. The main lap pool and a smaller kid’s pool have lifeguards on patrol around the clock.

Entry fees:
Adult: AUS $6.50
Children: AUS $4.50
Spectator: AUS $4.50
Towels: AUS $3.450

1 Notts Ave
Bondi Beach NSW 2026


Extraordinary Libraries: Stockholm Stadsbibliotek

View of the Rotunda.

The Stockholm Public Library makes a big impression from the moment you set your eyes on it. The massive square building, painted orange, is topped by a rotunda in the same deep tone. From the outside, it looks as if the building was wearing a top hat.

Once inside, things only get better.

I followed the signs to the Rotunda on the top floor of the library. Walking up the steps, I gasped for air. Not because I’m totally out of shape, but because I could see the endless rows of books above me. I reached the atrium and noticed the three levels of bookshelves that surrounded me. Telling you that my jaw dropped would be an understatement.

This incredible building was designed by Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund in the 1920s (and it’s sometimes called the Asplund Library). Today, the collection includes about 410,000 books, in addition to a wide range of audio books and other literary items.

This off-the-beaten path location is the perfect place to spend an afternoon in Stockholm. Entrance is free and the library has a small coffee shop where you can read while eating a traditional cinnamon bun.

Stockholm Stadsbibliotek
Address: Sveavägen 73, 112 80 Stockholm

Website: biblioteket.stockholm.se

Santa Lucia, A Swedish Tradition of Lights

Lucia concert at Storkyrkan. Photo: Julie Cid

Lucia concert at Storkyrkan. Photo: Julie Cid

I sat inside a beautiful church -- Storkyrkan, a cathedral in the heart of Stockholm. The lights dimmed and the crowd grew quiet. Everyone knew what was about to take place. And while I didn’t understand a word of Swedish, I, too, knew I was in the middle of something special.

Suddenly the choir director gave a swift signal and a fleet of young women and men dressed in white started singing in unison. Their melody resonated through every corner of the church and vibrated against my skin. For the next 50 minutes I was enchanted.

On December 13th swedes young and old come together to celebrate Lucia’s Day. The charming celebration involves processions of lights all across the country. They happen at schools, churches, hospitals and offices. These processions feature a young woman or a girl dressed in a white gown with a red sash tied around her waist. She also wears a unique wreath crown with lit candles on her hair.

She’s the chosen one to represent Lucia and is accompanied by a group of maidens and star boys. The maidens also wear white gowns with a red sash, but instead of a crown with candles, they wear wreaths with berries and hold a single candle in their hands. The star boys wear the same white gown and red sash, as well as a large, pointy hat decorated with stars.

They sing carols together, bringing a warm and cozy feel to an otherwise cold and dark winter day.

The festival originated in Italy hundreds of years ago. Santa Lucia represented light in what was thought to be the darkest night of the year. In fact, the first Lucia celebration recorded in Sweden dates back to the 1700s, but became popular nationwide in the 1900s. Today it is one of the most celebrated traditions.

Saffron bun. Photo: Julie Cid.

Additional to the procession and singing, there’s also one particular sweet bread bun that accompanies the celebration. The Lussekatt, or saffron bun. This bun can be bought at coffee shops, outdoor markets and bakeries everywhere during the holiday season.

Address: 1 Storkyrkobrinken, 111 28 Stockholm
Website: www.svenskakyrkan.se

Vasamuseet - The Most Visited Museum in Scandinavia

Vasamuseet, or Vasa Museum, is the most visited museum in Scandinavia according to its website. The museum is unique in that it only holds one centric piece in exhibition: The Vasa.

This majestic ship was commissioned by King Gustav II in the early 1600s. It was a warship, build to fire over 500 lbs of ammunition from each side. It carried 64 cannons, 300 soldiers and 145 sailors. However, just as strong and powerful its rise, so was its demise.

As crowds gathered to watch the ship leave the harbor, they witnessed the unthinkable. The ship sank in its maiden voyage on August 10, 1628, just 20 minutes after sailing. All but 30 of its passengers survived.

The day after the accident the Council of State and the King started looking for the responsible parties and started an Inquest. However, no one was ever punished or held responsible for what happened. Today, it’s believed that faulty design was to blame in the tragedy. After all, ships of that size and capabilities were unstable and susceptible to the technology of the times.

The vessel remained lost in the cold waters of the Baltic Sea for hundreds of years. It was 333 years later that a team of expert divers were able to raise and restore the ship.

Today the wooden ship is well above water and protected by a massive concrete building tailored to keep it safe.

Address: Galärvarvsvägen 14, 115 21 Stockholm

Website: www.vasamuseet.se