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Designs by Alina:  Handcrafted jewelry fabricated with gold, pave diamonds, and choice pearls for the sophisticated modern-classic woman. Beauty and inspiration forever entwined. Lifestyle blog on design, travel, fashion, family.



Designs by Alina Lifestyle Magazine

Blog, Travel, family, interior design, jewelry design and fashion.



Filtering by Tag: Travel

Six things I discovered about Australia (and a few I already knew)

Bernardo de Albergaria

Beautiful Victorian with filligree balcony in Melbourne

Beautiful Victorian with filligree balcony in Melbourne

No koala sitings. No kangaroo trekking. No snorkeling or endless reading on sandy beaches, nope! Following months on end of jam-packed schedules (work and children) my better half and I were in neither an overly active nor overly restful state of mind. Unable to completely pull away from our creative endeavors, we found ourselves in a "loungey-city" mood for lack of a better word, and indulged it by weaving our way through Sydney and Melbourne along whichever street happened to strike our fancy, some hidden, some not. And it was just puuurrrrrfect.

Australia is the sixth continent I am fortunate enough to have visited and it is easy to fall in love. I knew that the Opera House was beautiful, that the feel, much like Southern Calfornia, would be relaxed, that the weather was temperate, that they drove on the left, and that kangaroos were largely considered pests. Ah, but there is so much more to the land down under.

1. The Aussies know how to make a good cup of coffee.

“Two what?” I ask puzzled on the heels of Bernordo’s “two flat whites please.” He correctly states that I will love what he just ordered: a perfect cross between a cappuccino and a latte. Served up with a smile, the flat white never disappoints. Not with the taste. Not with the presentation. And there are popups everywhere.

2. The Sydney Opera House is not just beautiful, it is exquisite.

Sure, we have all seen photos of the giant building reminiscent of white sails, but believe me when I say they are, well, just photos. The magnificence of the structure is impossible to portray for three reasons:

  • Every view is a surprise in a Forest Gump box of chocolates sort of way. One minute you are touching a sun scorched curved surface, and the next you are on the floor trying to capture the perfect shot. After you've clicked a hundred times you take it all in again with selfish eyes that share the glory with none other than your own swooning heart. 
  • The beauty is in equal parts structure and setting. With the imposing Harbour Bridge in view, the Opera House stands in all its glory and is arguably as stunning when viewed from the water, where an intimate outdoor concert venue and amusement park remind us that there is no backdrop quite as enchanting as the sea. 
  • It’s Day and Night. Literally. You will become so entranced by the natural and man-made beauty on your first stroll, you’ll want to return at night. We choose to enjoy the "set changes" offered by the vanishing sunlight as night fell. The entire scene, beautifully enhanced by lights on the glistening surface and above, deemed us grateful for having been able to witness such veritable beauty.

And that was just the beginning. The highlight of our trip was enjoying Madama Butterfly in its penultimate night with Japanese soprano Hiromi Omura whose powerfully emotional portrayal of Cio Cio San brought me to tears. Our preordered interval drinks were served up with breathtaking views of the Harbour. We exited the theatre to a grand finale of fireworks making our romantic evening rival any other on Earth.

On gratitude

Bernardo de Albergaria

The de Albergaria family in Siena

I need to work on "untearing" myself. Or not. Perhaps feeling torn is part of what makes us stop and appreciate the mere fact that we have options. We can be torn about where to go on vacation or what child to take with us on a new adventure; about whether to go on a cleanse or whom to meet for dinner. I've been in countries where choices are limited and am reminded of this often.

They say that with age comes acceptance but what age has given me is a prism through which most of life can be interpreted, embraced. Not to say that the prism is always within reach, but I try to keep it close, put it to good use and be grateful all the while.

Tessalina, our daughter, embracing life.

Take my trip to Australia for example. It is one of the many journeys I have shared with my better half, the man who every so often peels me away from Designs by Alina, from my children, and from my daily routine, to remind me that there is so much more of life to be shared, discovered. And yet when I hear my children's voices, I feel torn between wanting to share these new experiences with them and wanting to recharge my battery with the man I love. Those very choices galvanize gratitude and that is when I know my prism is within reach. 

So without further hesitation, I place my "mom hat" in repose and embrace the opportunity to be "half-a-traveling-duet" ready for a new discovery which I will share with you in my next post: Six things I discovered about Australia (and a few things I already knew). Stay tuned!

Happy to Be Alive Part 1 Our family journey to Morocco

Bernardo de Albergaria

Dar Ayniwen Hotel

Dar Ayniwen Hotel

It should never have been a difficult choice. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to visit a gorgeous Riad in Marrakech packed with six other adventurous couples? Who would say “no” to an exotic camel ride, a romantic dinner for two in the desert and a trek through the wondrous Atlas mountains at sunset? 

That would be me. 

When our friends Tatiana and Campion invited us and 10 of their nearest and dearest on this adventure-packed getaway to celebrate their first year of marriage, we were flattered to say the least and in fleeting excitement I hailed “yes” to the proposal. And that is when the sleepless nights began. 

It had only been three years since 9/11 had shattered the lives of many, thrusting the world into a state of mourning and casting a shadow of doubt on our desire as newlyweds to begin a family of our own. It wasn't the Middle East, still the prospect of leaving our twin toddlers to pursue the unknown in a farway land had me tied up in knots. As much as I wanted to discover that side of the world, meet up with friends and not forfeit our tickets five days before our flight, I simply could not tear myself away from these sweet little faces.

Dario and Gisella at  Sunstone Winery

Dario and Gisella at Sunstone Winery

What a difference a day makes -or six years in this case- for that's how much time had passed since my husband decided not to kill me. Now our new and improved family of five was ready to embark on a Moroccan adventure!

Day 1 

Upon our arrival, I am delightfully surprised to discover I will not need to kiss my wardrobe goodbye in favor of full body armor like the travel advisors suggested. Sure, older women are donning djellabas and veils but the younger set sports western clothing, arms and legs exposed even in winter. Another discovery that delights me is the intense hue blanketing everything in sight. It is as though a perennial sunset cast a spell on the grounds and structures around us rendering them deep orange at all hours of the day. The dramatic juxtaposition of light and dark is the most exquisite live example of chiaroscuro I have ever seen and I suddenly have the urge to meet the modern-day Rembrant who surely must be lurking in these parts of the world.

Meeting the locals is what I love most

Meeting the locals is what I love most

Nestled in the midst of a lush oasis of palm and fruit trees known as the Palmeraie,  is Dar Ayniwen, a charming hotel, rich in color and smiles of the genuine kind. Our whole family falls in love with Zakaria, our valet of sorts, from the moment he says mrehba. Yes, the stranger who continually charms us with his kindness, including the homemade chicken soup, blankets and bracelet he offers to our under-the-weather-four-year-old, completely wins us over...tenfold.

Yes, our family is humbled by the new world of wonder and goodwill unfolding before us. And after a good night's sleep, the real adventure would begin.

Take a stroll through the Medina in Part II, and a dangerous trek though the Atlas mountains in Part III of Happy to be Alive, our family's journey to Morocco. A few photos to whet your appetite...

The Most Beautiful Time of the Year

Bernardo de Albergaria

Las palabras están demás. I love how it sounds in Spanish. It means "no words needed," and on that note I leave you with some gorgeous images from the trip my husband and I took to Europe this time last year. And I couldn't resist an all-time favorite of our twins chasing Santa in Rome. Enjoy the visual feast and Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones!

All photographs by Bernardo and Alina de Albergaria