Kirsten Alana (@kirstenalana) — conscious stories of connection, of city breaks & nature escapes • NYC to LA transplant with @dante.vincent • ask before using my 📸
So that Vancouver storyline I wanted to continue was delayed by a stolen iPhone and all kinds of adventures of late.... . But as promised, I wanted to finish posting about my latest trip to Canada, hosted by @fairmontwaterfront. It’s now one of my favorite hotels in the world because of how community oriented it is and how environmentally sound their practices are. No one is perfect but they’ve set a new standard for me in how I wish more hotels would be. I’ve published an extensive review and photo essay on my photography site, see the link in my profile for that story. But spoiler alert, it includes two rooftop gardens, one beekeeping operation, compositing and partnerships with the local Indigenous community... . #FairmontMoments#FairmontWaterfront#VancouverBC
As 2018 draws to a close and I start to think about what I want for 2019, I realized that one theme comes foremost to my mind over and over again. CONNECTION. It’s a theme that begs for more inclusion in my day to day life when I am not traveling, where long episodes of alone time at home can be very isolating. It’s a theme that is threaded through the quilt of my travels as I feel drawn to the moments that connect me to others with more depth than a merely photogenic vista inspires. It’s a concept that informs my beliefs on how we as human beings should treat one another since I do not believe any individual is an island onto themselves. . And it’s the reason I enjoyed visiting @fairmontempress because it’s a historic property that fosters connection; to the past which was so deeply connected to Great Britain in the time of Queen Victoria, to the future of the city of Victoria which is the capital of British Columbia, to the people who have visited in the past and the people you visit the hotel with in the present. . It’s so apparent in @QattheEmpress which is both a bar and a restaurant following the recent 60 million dollar restoration of the 110-year-old property; with the property’s unusual “purple gin” that is an homage to the past while being so modern and funky (even color changing once it’s in a drink!). And with @TeaattheEmpress where generations of men, women & children of all ages and from so many destinations around the world have taken part in that most traditional of food-related activities - Afternoon Tea. However, I found the idea of connection to be present in my Suite as well, in the rooftop garden that the property’s Chefs use and the Fairmont Gold Lounge where fire pits, couches and beautifully appointed common areas invite you to stay a while and relax with friends, new or old. . More on this in my forthcoming blog post! But next it’s onward to the @FairmontWaterfront where their environmental initiatives simply blew me away. #HostedBy#FairmontMoments
Let’s go traveling shall we? Coming up next: stories from Canada, Switzerland and Italy! . And since we’re talking about traveling, what countries would you like to see me feature in 2019? . Thank you @dante.vincent for suggesting this date night to LAX. I wonder if all couples like to go plane-spotting as much as we do...
🥑 toast start to the week. Let’s do this! . There’s so much of my life now that I wouldn’t want to change, so much of who I am today, that I owe to travel. Probably chief amongst those, and my family can attest to this, is that I used to be a really picky eater. I mean I would have died from malnutrition if I’d been allowed to continue eating the way I once wanted to eat. But when I began traveling and discovered foods I’d never had in the USA, tried textures I’d never even imagined and found myself experiencing flavors I couldn’t get enough of - my whole opinion on food changed. So did the way I now eat. And while avocado toast isn’t unusual in Los Angeles or New York City — quite the opposite in fact — it certainly would have been to the person I was before I became a traveler. . I still have a lot to experience, and learn from, which is why I won’t ever stop traveling. Because I genuinely believe to my core that travel can change us for the better. Maybe it’s one new vegetable or dish at a time, maybe it’s more...
It seems like just a few weeks or months ago, not a whole year, that I was standing in this spot taking this photo with my mum. I was still a resident of New York and she’d come to visit me, before we boarded a flight to Europe together for a river cruise of the festive cities along the Danube. I could hardly breathe without feeling pain it was so cold (as I remember it) but Central Park was still in the grips of a beautiful autumn blanket. Trees were the colors of a bag of Starburst if you only had cherry, orange and lemon left. Holiday windows were already causing lines of tourists to jam up Fifth Avenue. I had to buy a hat from one of the street vendors because my ears were so cold I thought they’d fall off if I didn’t cover my head. The scent of roasting chestnuts mixed with the odor of the horses, the taxi exhaust, the grit that just is New York’s smell. I didn’t feel grateful to be living there anymore. I felt ready to leave. . But I didn’t have a clue that in less than 6 months from that day my life would be spread around in boxes across multiple states. Or that a year to the day I’d be sitting on a balcony in Los Angeles in a t-shirt as hummingbirds zoomed by my head, pausing to drink from the flowers I’d planted on my balcony. . Adults used to tell me when I was a kid “be careful squirt, time flies;” in that vaguely condescending way only adults speaking to kids can, and I hated it. . I think I’ve only just realized what they really meant.
What’s a more natural high than even the best cup of coffee and a bigger boost to self esteem than any award or compliment? Confidence, that comes from within!! . Real talk: It’s not something that comes easy to me. I’ve dealt with poor self esteem for my whole life. There are solid causes for it that make it something I’ll always struggle with. I also know that the times I can work through it positively, finding ways to overcome from a place within myself — those are the good days. . Few things help that happen more than being able to do something I LOVE that I’m also good at. #Drive2Learn included the opportunity to spend a day @BMWPerformanceDrivingSchools on the test tracks, living out my fantasy of being a race car driver for a few hours. Something I’m good enough at to earn a spot in the top 3 at the end! Something I truly adore because it feeds a part of my soul which longs to be free or for even just a second, to experience no limits. At the very least to push the speed limit and cross 100, 120 miles per hour. I can’t put into words how exhilarating it is and even more so when you know how to handle a car well enough to do it without fear. . If you’re like me, especially my fellow ladies, I urge you to give this a try here at the track in Cali or one of their others. The instructors are superb, their safety standards are top notch. So whether it’s your first time racing or you’ve had experience before like me, with their setup, it’s an experience that will have you feeling 💯 more empowered and confident than you did when you walked in. . And bring a partner like @tomikatalks who was THE BEST! 🏁 http://bit.ly/2NEhJLn
Like I said with my recent photo of the vintage Beetle, @vw has been a part of my life as long as I’ve been alive. So I was glad to be assigned the 2018 Passat GT V6 to review during #Drive2Learn with @agirlsguide2cars. . It’s an emotional connection that draws me to Volkswagen vehicles and I have a deep affection for VW in every aspect be it their graphic design and branding to the look of the vehicles and the colors they come in. I admit I’m not exactly an unbiased opinion! 🤷🏻♀️😂 So perhaps it’s no surprise, I give this special edition Passat 👍🏼👍🏼. From the red GT detail on the front grille & exterior trim to the technology package to the heated seats and the way it handled as I accelerated on a fully open road — this car felt GREAT to drive. It behaved less like a four door sedan and more like a larger sports car; playing nicely into my need for speed that I’m always trying to balance with safety. And safety features it does have in abundance. . I also loved how easily it, like other VW models, connected to @apple CarPlay. Though the one thing I would have improved upon if it were my vehicle to own, would be a slightly bigger monitor so the system is easier to read at a glance while driving. Luckily I didn’t have to worry about that this time around because I had @goricegirl as my co-pilot driving from Palm Springs back home to Los Angeles. . At less than $30,000 MSRP, I’d walk in and buy this tomorrow if I was serious about owning a car right now. It certainly would be a nice thing to have here in California with so many open roads I’m longing to explore!! Then again, there’s also the last ever Beetle calling my name... either way, this conference proved that though I might flirt with other car brands, it’s VW that I always come home to 😉❤️
One of my favorite things about living in California, is how many different kinds of adventures I can have in my own home state. For instance it felt like a mini Mediterranean getaway when I joined @agirlsguide2cars at @miramonteresort for #Drive2Learn recently. #sponsored . With so many olive trees and a bit of Italianate architecture, it had me reminiscing about past trips to Italy. We also did test drives in the brand new Lexus UX 200, the Mercedes-AMG E53 Cabriolet convertible and the VW Passat GT V6. And there were classroom sessions with women who absolutely blew me away in their savvy ability to make a living doing something most people only dream of. I’ve known the founder of A Girls Guide to Cars, @scottyreiss, for a while now and it was amazing to get to spend quality time with her exploring a subject she’s so passionate about. . I also loved getting to know @hejdoll (who kindly took the first photo in this carousel of me on our last day), @tomikatalks & @stacieinatlanta who I drove to Palm Springs with from Los Angeles, @goricegirl who I drove home with and had the most life changing conversation with... and so many more, PLUS reconnecting with @luxurytravelmom who has also recently moved to California from the East Coast. . I’m grateful to the car companies for partnering with us, Miramonte and @visitgreaterps for hosting such a great group of women that I am so excited to hopefully work more with in the future and to Scotty for having a vision of women in the car industry that is so inspiring. 🚙
#asundaycarpic for the adorable Beetle, which I am struggling to accept is finally being retired for good with the 2019 model. My mother brought me home from the hospital in a burnt orange model and ever since then VW has been a part of my family’s story off and on; a constant presence that always brings a smile to my face. What is it about the shape, the alter egos like Herbie and Superbug, the connections that can be made to our own histories and that of people we don’t even know. Sure it might be just a car but it’s also not ever going to be just a car. Not to me. It’s one of the most enduring symbols of the age of mass transportation that I was born into and when it’s gone - I am glad that it won’t ever actually be gone, because so many vintage Beetles will still be out and about just like this one was on the streets of Los Angeles and in places all around the world... #VWLove
We entered a trippy, wondrous world on Wednesday night when @dante.vincent purchased tickets for us to go to the ‘Enchanted: Forest of Light’ interactive experience. It’s a one-mile walk through @descansogardens at night, accented by lighting installations that range from the captivating and the beautiful to the bizarre and the almost Stranger Things-esque. In one grove of trees that seemed to be composed of cedar and redwood, the lights first seemed to be that of a billion fireflies blinking randomly, reminding me of a night on the river in Indonesian Borneo many many years ago. After turning a corner, that same grove of trees suddenly turned into a scene from Jurassic Park or E.T. with ferns and palms taller than us, lit by green strobe lights that a Hollywood cinematographer might have dreamt up. There are plenty of places to sit down and rest as well as bars serving spiked hot chocolate or hot cider and beignets for adults. And while it’s clearly an attraction that’s well suited to curious kids - I never felt too old to attend. On the contrary, being there seemed to open a well of childlike wonder in me that hasn’t been replenished for quite some time. #enchantedforestoflight is ongoing until January 6, 2019 if you’re visiting SoCal and want to see it for yourself. But snag your timed entry ticket as soon as possible, as I hear this annual tradition does sell out. #KAguideLA#descansogardens
I’ve been craving this breakfast lately, that I had during my recent stay at @fairmontempress in Victoria. When Veterans Day occurred it reminded me, with a smile, that this breakfast led to my having a wonderful conversation with an older gentleman who is a Veteran and who was staying at the hotel when I was. He thought my breakfast was far too healthy to be one that would also taste good. Suggesting I swap it out for pancakes like he had with a wink and a chuckle, he was quite amused when I told him that in fact it was really delicious and though healthy, very enjoyable for me to eat. The type of breakfast I actually look forward to and don’t get to eat often enough in fact. However, wanting to fully support his pancake habit (for it soon became evident it is) I then preceded to tell him about my family history with pancakes. That they are something my mum has cooked for us for as long as I can remember. Given she makes pancakes better than anyone else, and that hers are Swedish Pancakes which I’ve now come to prefer, with only real Vermont Maple Syrup, well...... when I travel, it’s just not the same. No matter how good the pancakes are, they’re never as good as my mother’s. So instead I choose to enjoy those when I visit her, and explore other foods when I travel. We had a nice talk but eventually the gentleman went back to his paper and his pancakes and I devoured my delectable Avocado Toast, salad and fruit bowl at the table next to his in @qattheempress. Our connection might not have lasted for long but food brought us together for a moment and I find that food usually does bring people together in a way few other things do. After all, it’s something we all need to survive and it’s something we usually all have stories about that we can share. . My goal with food now is to never miss those connections, those stories. To always be open to the ways a meal can open doors. And I’m grateful for the moment this meal provided during my hosted stay at #FairmontEmpress where their kitchen garden ensured that much of this was as fresh as possible and locally-sourced. Another thing that always makes me happy where food is concerned. ❤️ #FairmontMoments
Interrupting the series I was planning to share from Canada because my heart is breaking over all the wildfires that are burning around my new home state both in the north and very close to where @dante.vincent & I live here in Los Angeles. In fact, the Hindu Temple where he took this photo of me is very very close to the epicenter of the Woolsey Fire that has now caused Malibu to be evacuated. This naturally beautiful part of SoCal is often thought of only in the context of celebrities but many many hard-working, non-famous people live in this area and have now been forced to leave their homes and even in some cases already... lose their homes. . As you see the news, or spread the news, have some compassion for these people and all the people affected by these fires; choose to do something for them, if you can, instead of just contributing to sensationalizing. I can’t believe how many people I’ve seen actually saying in response to news of the fires things to the effect of, “Celebrities deserve it. Who cares!” No one *deserves* this kind of loss. 💔