Thursday, June 25, 2009

Plane Travel. Can it ever be glamorous again?

In earlier blogs I mentioned flying with a cashmere wrap, taking a travel tin of chocolates along with you, and sporting a functional, yet stylish carrie-on bag; all tips to make your flying experience a bit more enjoyable. Sadly, for many of us, I'm just not sure plane travel will ever really be glamorous. Lets face it, most flying is more Grey Hound than Net Jets. Kimberley Newport Mimran did tell me about one airline that is all that and serves a bag of chips, well a snack anyway. It's Porter Airlines. Self proclaimed, "flying refined," Porter Airlines does have a good formula. Their branding is cool, they are located in Toronto's City Center Airport allowing passengers immediate access to the city and they actually provide sophisticated service. The motto for this short hall airline is to "keep travel smart, uncomplicated and dignified." Sounds good to me. Kim designed Porter's uniforms and they are smart!

I picked up a few additional tips for plane and packing from Kim that I'd like to tell you about. I could have kissed her when she said, "You don't want to be wearing a sweat suit." Please, could everyone keep their sweat suits at home, even the Juicy ones. That goes for fanny packs too, even the Gucci ones. Kim says the goal is to, "Get off the airplane looking the same way you got on." For me, in summer this
usually means a comfortable dress or top and skirt. Angus Miller who is on my short list of debonair men, says he always wears a sport coat when flying because he indubitably (his word, not mine) gets better service. Perhaps we should ask Kim's husband and business partner, Joseph Mimran, founder of Club Monaco what his opinion is on what to wear in flight.
Mr. Mimran feel free to leave a comment.

Summer or winter an appropriate scarf is always good to have on board. Kim recommends lightly spraying your scarf with a favorite perfume–a comforting fragrance next to your face can take you away.

Photos, Pink Tartan. Easy choices for travel.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Make Good Choices...When Packing!

"You don't ever have to fuss with Pink Tartan." Practical, functional, design with style is Kimberley Newport Mimran's guiding principle for Pink Tartan. What does that mean for travel? Kim says, make it simple. A simple jersey knit dress can go from day to dinner. Depending on the inspiration of the destination, a flip flop for the Amalfi Coast verses a ballet flat for Barcelona, a flat sole is a must for comfortable travel.

A word about comfortable shoes (a travel shoes article is in my future), there are four brands I can recommend now that look appropriate, I wouldn't say they are all the height of style, but they work for walking: Geox, Aerosoles, Cole Haan, Delman. Delman is expensive, but very simple, smart and comfortable.

Kim explained that she, "hates a lot of stuff," getting everything into one carrie-on bag eliminates the hassle of wait time and forces you to make good choices about what you pack. "There is always your favorite piece of the moment to take with you and then there are key items in my collections that can take you everywhere." Kim told me about a skinny riding pant made of high performance technical fabric that can last at least three years that we all should own!

A white shirt is another must. I've heard this before, but her philosophy about the white shirt is a little different. She says to examine the way the shirt looks on your body. Make sure it is tailored, not boxy and that is of heavy, 100 percent cotton fabric. Like any really good men's shirt, you would dry clean this special shirt, ladies. The whole conversation plays into Kim's mantra of, "buy smart, buy better." I wonder if my Thomas Pink or Facconable shirts would pass muster with this gal from Niagara Falls...

Photos, courtesy of Pink Tartan. Top left, Kimberley Newport-Mimran. Right, Pink Taran fab cotton shirt and high tech travel pant.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Day Downtown, Toronto

On Friday I had the pleasure of interviewing Kimberley Newport Mimran, designer of Pink Tartan. Thankfully, the Canadian Tourist Board accommodated my request of getting an insider's point of view of Toronto. I wanted the insider to be fashion and travel savvy and a native of Ontario. Interviewing Kim exceeded my expectations and I'm so pleased to be able to share some of her practical advice on fashion, packing AND travel.

When asked what her favorite family day trip would be in Toronto, Kim didn't hesitate–the ROM. The Royal Ontario Museum was also a favorite of James and mine during our media tour. Situated downtown, close to some of Toronto's best shopping and restaurants, a trip to the ROM is like traveling the world through time in one afternoon.

A visit to the First Peoples Gallery brought James and me upclose to Chief Sitting Bull's feather war bonnet. We marveled at the enormous collection of work by the pioneer painter Paul Kane. His depiction of life amongst Canadian natives reminded me of the Hudson River School painters–grand, bucolic and Mohican!

A visit to the ROM would not be complete without a stroll through the Age of Dinosaurs. There are some jaw-dropping specimens in residence here, a 90 foot Barasaurs skeleton, that's the one with the long neck and tail, tiny head. Say hello to several duck-billed dinosaurs, hadrosaurs, from Alberta. The Age Of Mammals on the same level houses mammals who rapidly diversified following the extinction of dinosaurs. Here you'll find your woolly mammoth. Note: The gift store has a great stuffed woolly mammoth that James really wanted.

As with any grand museum, there was so much at the ROM that we didn't see. Fortunately for Kimberley Newport Mimran, she's lucky enough to visit again and again with her eight-year-old, Jaquiline. When they've had enough of world cultures at the ROM, a trip to Holts Cafe at Holt Renfrew is in order. There, mother and daughter rest their feet and partake in a tartine made from world-renowned Pollane bread that's flown in from Paris daily. Isn't that chic?

After a rest up, Mimran suggests a trip to Indigo, otherwise known as Chapters Indigo. Right on Bloor Street, Indigo is a great big bookstore for exploring, reading, buying a toy or a snack. It is a great "bribery stop" after too much time spent in mommy stores. Kim mentioned that her daughter has gotten the reading bug and that she, herself wasn't much of a reader at Jaquiline's age. As Kim discovers all the great childhood reading out there stores like Indigo are, in ways more fun then ever before. I'm sure Kim is still augmenting her design and photography book collection that she uses for inspiration as well!

So there you have it: Designer Kimberly Newport Minram's Toronto Pick:
A tartine at Holts Cafe
A book, music or toy at Indio

Check in with me next time for more travel and style advice from Kim.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Maid of the Mist

Isn't she fetching? Like the falls, a force of nature. I was hoping for a little Maralyn fix, visiting Niagara Falls. However, certain places don't live up to stylish dreams and when that happens, embrace the right now and enjoy the venue for exactly what it has to offer.

The falls are over-the-top, big, bold and ferocious, the King Kong of water falls. Its avenue backdrop is cheesy, touristy, outlandish and garish, to the point of laughable. My son loved it! His chosen souvenir, a jester hat, set the tone and the style.

When you go, and everyone should at least once, don't miss the Maid of the Mist. Dawn a full length blue rain poncho, included in your admission, step aboard, choose the top deck, and be prepared to enter Horse Shoefalls on the Canadian side screaming. It's a blast, literally. The Maid's been blowing visitors away since 1846! Imagine what people wore to Niagara then.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Much to do in Markham, Canada

GoNOMAD has sent me on a press trip covering family travel in Toronto and my son, James, is joining me. It's been great to have him along. When asked how he rated where we are staying, James's comment was, "If it is a scale from one to ten, ten being the president should stay here, and one being a Motel 6, I'd give it a twenty." He likes it. We're in a two bedroom suite at the Homewood Suites by Hilton, in Markham, Ontario. James likes it for the same reason any nine-year-old would; indoor pool, fluffy bed, flat screen TV, your own kitchen and bath, putting green, homemade cookies. I think the decor and amenities are nice and serviceable, reflective of this brand, which prides itself on being the most upscale in the extended stay market.

In today's itinerary we're exploring an area outside Toronto called Markham. Included is a short hike through a rescued forest, visiting a working/educational farm right out of Charlottes Web, and lunch plus shopping on a circa 1800s main street.

York Regional Forest was a barren desert before it was rescued in 1924. Apparently farmers of the 1800s had cleared and farmed the land to extinction. The Canadian forest management came to the rescue in 1924 planting mostly red and white pine trees. Since then indigenous flora and fauna have moved in creating a dreamy forest canopy. We walked one short trail of 22. James gave it an A-plus calling it a "nice, quiet, relaxing walk where you can see old trees."

"We raise our own beef, pork and chicken. We're a working farm that provides education and entertainment to our visitors," says Jim Forsythe of Forsythe Family Farms. Doesn't warm apple pie from the country store, feeding greedy goats, navigating a corn maze, cuddling baby bunnies, taking a wagon ride behind a John Deere and visiting a storybook forest, sound like fun for kids, and adults too!? A down-home word is appropriate here–it was, swell. Teaching and entertainment is both a passion and a survival strategy for this 64 acre farm. The Forsythes have hit on a perfect combination of tradition, charm, education and real-life farming.

Lunching in what was once the site of a Model T Ford shop, we ordered some Canadian brew, ate, rested up, and then sallied fourth down Unionville's main street in Markham. Appropriately, Unionville is frequently used as a TV and film set location for the quintessential main street America. Today Canadian flags lined the street, yesterday it was American. James grew impatient while I ducked in and out of girly stores, absolutely refusing to set foot in a lingerie store hidden behind a charming victorian facade. I wanted to purchase a perfectly tame nightgown. He wanted nothing to do with it.

That will change one day.