Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Need I say more? Good things to good people, my friends. 

Enjoy your Earth Day with loads of kindness, generosity and hope aimed at those people and beautiful things surrounding you.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

In Honor of Tax Day: A Finer Fare at Former Banks

Denver's The Broker steakhouse offers private dining in the original cash vault, now wine cellar

Call me kitschy, but I couldn't resist a little banker-themed post in honor of Tax Day.

Having an affinity for all things green, I love me a repurposed property. And when I think of Denver, I can't help but recall the dining experience I enjoyed at a bank-turned-steakhouse called The Broker.

Tucked inside the former Denver National Bank building, this dimly lit restaurant takes up space once used for peddling the monies of the mining industry. Down a narrow staircase, you can even peek inside the wine cellar, which is still encased in the ominously thick metals that once protected it as the original cash vault. (In the photos below, I used the space to host a private dinner.)

While I can't recall the food as being especially memorable, a quick glimpse of Yelp confirms so-so ratings of the menu. But, let's be clear, what is indeed memorable and quite intriguing is the non-traditional atmosphere and innovative upcycling of a historic landmark.

And the good news is, whether you owe Uncle Sam this year or not, you can still enjoy a bite to eat at The Broker, judgement free.

Not heading to Denver anytime soon? Consider a stop into one of these restaurants, which also spent their former lives selling interest, rather than shrimp cocktails:

  • The Ordinary (Charleston, South Carolina)
    A seafood and oyster bar housed within a 1927 limestone and brick bank, where the former teller's table now serves as a hostess stand
  • The Bank Restaurant (Temecula, California)
    A Mexican menu offers plenty of tempting fare, to be enjoyed in the original vault or in second-floor former executive offices; this bank was home to the county's first robbery
  • Metals Sports Bar (Butte, Montana)
    Once Metals Bank and Trust Co., this ground-floor restaurant still features the original vault, where diners are seated for less ritzy gameday fare
  • Trinity Place (New York, New York)
    It seems fitting that this historic bank building would be located in the heart of NY's Financial District; the 35-ton bank vault doors date back to 1904
  • The Bedford (Chicago, Illinois)
    Inside a 1920s historic landmark building, this nightlife destination still features the copper safety deposit boxes and steel doors of yesteryear
  • Gold Cash Gold (Detroit, Michigan)
    Not quite a bank, but definitely a means to an end, Gold Cash Gold is named for the pawn shop that resided in the same space before it became a southern food mecca in Corktown

The original cash vault of The Broker, now a wine cellar used for private dining

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Up Close: An Eco Boutique, Hawaiian Retreat

Built in 1910 by the Baldwin sugar cane family and recently renovated to become the boutique eco retreat Lumeria Maui, this Hawaiian property is a well-kept secret.

Offering an ever changing lineup of destination programs - think yoga, meditation, wellness, healing, writing and art - the Maui property is a well-designed sanctuary that follows a design process dubbed SoulSpace, created by resort founder Xorin Balbes and outlined in his book, SoulSpace: Transform Your Home, Transform Your Life. (Let's be honest ... most of us are in need of of some serious spring cleaning. Balbes' book explores the effects of decluttering your home, and your life, for a simpler and more rewarding existence. What's not to love about embracing the white space?)

Having won a Preservation Award from the Hawaii Historic Foundation, the 28-room property blends traditional indigenous Hawaiian culture with a fresh, spiritual infusion of new age elements. And here's the thing: It's pretty darn gorgeous.

Lush, tropical landscapes give way to open meditation spaces, a saline pool serves as a blank slate against ocean views, and edible gardens inspire clean-eating horticultural programs. If that picture doesn't whet your appetite for an eco excursion, I don't know what will.

To take my quickie synopsis one step further, I'm sharing some snaps of the green grounds and eclectic interiors behind Lumeria. My prescribed next step is to grab your coffee (or wine, depending on the time of day) and spend a few minutes losing yourself in these immersive visuals...

{King rooms start near $329 per night, based on double occupancy.}

Note: All "Up Close" hotel posts are formed out of my own interest, which means no compensation from the hotel or other travel companies.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Q+A: EcoChic Lifestyles' Megan Risdon

Founder of EcoChic Lifestyles, Megan Risdon

If the greatest outcome of travel is deep-rooted inspiration, Megan Risdon has mastered the art. The founder of EcoChic Lifestyles - a retailer that sells furnishings crafted of brightly hued, reclaimed tropical fishing boats - Risdon is an LA-based (devout vegan yogi) who dreamt up her career while staring into a mirror in a faraway place. Really.

When given the opportunity to delve into Risdon's thoughts on travel, business and all things eco, we couldn't resist. Read on for Risdon's answers to our current, must-know questions:

GG: As someone who's smuggled discarded front door remnants from Greece (painted a brilliant blue!) in my checked luggage, I'm curious where your inspiration for EcoChic Lifestyles stemmed from? 

Megan: It happened quickly, honestly. One minute I was looking at a mirror, a decorative item that seemed it was just something pretty, and then I took a closer look and realized that what I was looking at was something really different: the wood frame around the mirror seemed to have more warmth than other frames, the colors seemed to have more depth. And then I realized that what I was looking at was reclaimed wood from the fishing boats in the same village (in Southeast Asia) I happened to be staying in...the families there, after the Boxing Day Tsunami, had salvaged wood from the boats that had been destroyed. They were making decorative items out of the wood. And they were even using the wood from the bungalows that had been destroyed in the tsunami, as well. I was really moved, because what I was looking at was someone's life story. I wanted to bring this same sense of renewal to people here.

GG: Do you have a travel philosophy? If so, can you share what it is? 

Megan: I always try to stay where the locals live. Part of that is trying to be in touch with the local culture; the other part of it is trying to live simply. Traveling should transport you, and if I'm staying in resorts, I don't feel like I'm really getting the full sense of a place. Also, go back to the places that made you feel alive. Those places are where you recharge. Traveling doesn't always mean going someplace new.

GG: What has been the most surprising or rewarding part of starting EcoChic? As a female entrepreneur, what advice would you give fellow women contemplating a business of their own?

Megan: I think, although some part of me always knew that this company would speak to some people, the other part of me wasn't prepared for exactly how deeply it would speak to them. Folks always love the way the furniture looks, but when they sit in it and feel the warmth of the wood, it's pretty amazing to see the way their whole body changes. They relax, and settle in. That's the vibe we know we can convey to so many more folks, whether they be guests in major resorts or homeowners looking to add a little color and life to their entryways.

For women who are thinking about starting their own businesses, I want them to know first that they should be proud of themselves. And they should remember this fact, because it is scary to step out on your own. But then I want them to know that if they're passionate enough to feel like they want to go out on their own, they need to listen to that desire, and let it guide them for at least part of their entrepreneurial journey. Because when the going gets tough--and that's the other thing they need to know, that the going will get tough--they need to remember what it felt like to be inspired by their passion and their desire to start their own business.

GG: Your furnishings, which include upcycled wood from old boats, are delightfully colorful. Is there a place in every home for a worldly piece like one of these? Or, do you feel that your offerings suit a particular sense of style and spirit?

Megan: Our furnishings can currently be found in places as urbane as Santa Monica, CA; as pastoral as a resort in the Dominican Republic. Probably the most important thing to remember about our furniture is that each piece is different. Every single one has a different color schematic, and we like to think that that uniqueness also reflects every EcoChic Lifestyles client: They range from bar and restaurant owners to homeowners, and we've seen the full range of our work featured in every possible location you could think of. I guess, if I were pressed, I'd say that the unifying spirit of our furniture is definitely joy and renewal.

GG Side Note: If you haven't checked out the pretty pieces over at the EcoChic site, start with my favorite, the Atlantis Bench ... which I'm imagining on the caldera patio of my someday Greek getaway home ;)

EcoChic's Dock Holiday chairs retail for $699 each

Friday, April 10, 2015

Italy's Organic Hazelnut Spread + A Few Other Things

A springtime brunch with Italy's Nicciolata organic hazelnut spread,
Trader Joe almond croissant and Conde Nast Traveler, no doubt

An evening shot of NYC from the rooftop bar of Kimpton's Ink 48
Buds in bloom at Rockefeller Center in New York City; just outside of the
legendary Teuscher Fifth Avenue with champagne truffles in hand

Arriving home from a few days in LA, I jetted off to NYC for work. It was, needless to say, a bicoastal month for G.G. Not only did it include my first trip into the desert (the Mojave!), it delivered stellar views of New York on an uncommonly warm spring day, and a dire need for an Allegra overdose as soon as I walked through my door.

While those flowers are lovely, the pollen is stirring. I hope that the rest of y'all have been enjoying the sunshine and April rain without the added drag of allergies!

Tomorrow, I'm off for a weekend of wine tasting with my favorite ladies. Follow me along on Instagram - at @EcoTravelGal - for real-time shots of all the fun ;)

 Why Adult Coloring Books Top the Amazon Best-Selling List Right Now (MNN)
NPR picked up on the fact that one detailed flora and fauna coloring book - meant for adults - has sole 1.5 million copies on Amazon; who else loves the lost art while gabbing on conference calls?

Idyllic Solo Travel Destinations for Those with Lots of Moolah to Drop (Goop)
There's something to be said for a far-flung adventure with no one but yourself, that's why I veer toward this curation of top-notch resorts for individual jetsetters, courtesy of Gwenyth

Two Fashionistas Recommend Paris' Newest and Best Dining Options (Travel + Leisure)
Why wouldn't you take the advice of these darling style mavens? The photos of them flipping around France are enough; but I trust that the menus are divine, too...

Note: Nicciolata generously provided a sample of their organic hazelnut spread for photography purposes

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