Travel Inspiration By A Pro Trip Designer

Italy Dreaming



There comes in time, usually monthly, where my mind drifts to the magnificent scenery of Italy. I’ve been fortunate enough to have called the country home on two occasions, though neither stint dampened my ardor to return – rather the opposite, albeit with some added qualitative measures.

Rather than earn a living in Italy – an endeavor I wholeheartedly not recommend, unless your clients are foreigners, like you – I now prefer to find a way to enjoy la bella vita the way it is meant to be enjoyed – sans responsibility. And I am eager to help you do just that, should Italy be calling you helen willetts pokies lately too: please visit my travel consulting business at Friend of a Friend Consulting.


Below are some photos from my first book, Italian Hideaways, that were sent to me recently for an upcoming promotion with my recent addiction: Home Design site, One Kings Lane. And yes, they are the cause of this recent spate of wistfulness.

The path at Castello di Vicarello at dusk

The path at Castello di Vicarello at dusk

Villa Cimbrone's gardens

Villa Cimbrone’s gardens

The silver bed at Villa Mangiacane

The silver bed at Villa Mangiacane

A guest room at Il Falconiere - an Italian Hideaway in Tuscany

A guest room at Il Falconiere – an Italian Hideaway in Tuscany

Posted in: Italy

Published by Meg, Thursday, August 16, 2012 No Comments

Striped Basque – Espadrille Hunting in France

Shopping, Travel Tips


Artiga Linens

Artiga Linens

With the fever for the woven-bottomed shoe at an all time high, I couldn’t help but do a little Espadrille canvassing (pun intended) of my own when visiting France’s Basque region a few weeks ago. Derived from the Catalan name for the shoes, espardenya, the espadrille has been made on the French side of the border since the 14th century. Although many of the better known shops export globally (Pare Gabia, for example), I was intent on finding a boutique with a signature Basque flair, ensuring my shoes would meet stares of envy along with distinct ‘foreign-flair’.

What I found was the charming, colorful boutique, unlike many manufacturers that have taken their production abroad, Artiga still fabricates everything in southwest France, earning it the distinguishing Origine France Garantie label. Age-old Basque materials like pure cotton and a sturdy linen-cotton blend are now employed in everything from colorful striped table linens, deck chairs, and sun hats, tote bags and change purses.

But when it comes to the espadrille, ask and ye shall receive. Artiga makes three different types: the traditional peasant-shoe style, a newer ballerina flat with a shorter top cut as well as a heeled wedge. For the classic, I recommend the Castilian espadrilles, so patriotic in red, blue and white. For the modern lass, the ballerina cut has a more feminine feel not to mention a more flattering shape on the food while summery Menditte fabric is guaranteed to garner an envious second glance. When you want great design service, visit

Artiga Maison, St. Jean de Luz, 13 rue Garat, 64500, St. Jean de Luz

Posted in: Shopping, Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Friday, May 11, 2012 No Comments

La Trop

Europe, Food + Wine, Travel Tips


Saint Tropez, France

The most delectable thing. Ever.

The most delectable thing. Ever.

I just got back from a wonderful week visiting the seaside towns of France – from Normandy’s charming Deauville to the Cote du Basque’s family-friendly, surf-spot Saint Jean de Luz and the crown jewel port of Saint Tropez on the Cote d’Azure. Throughout the week I was greeted by misty sea breezes and cuisine that brutalized any modicum of self-restraint. I ate cheeses by the pound, croissants and foie gras daily and would be lying if I didn’t admit that I enjoyed every bite guilt free. Now, back home, I am chiding myself, but I’m certain regret from not having tasted it all would be worse.

I have lots to report back from the trip, from hotels to activities to yes, meals, but the first thing that I must post is this recipe given to me from chef Vincent Maillard of the Byblos Hotel in Saint Tropez. It is for his version of La Tropezienne, the town’s famous cream-filled cake. I have chosen this to be the first thing I share with you all simply because it is the best, most unbelievable thing I have ever tasted. Seriously.

He does it in beignet form too, but the cake is the real piece de resistance

He does it in beignet form too, but the cake is the real piece de resistance

I’m not a baker and so will unlikely ever attempt to recreate this masterpiece, but if you do, please let me know how it turns out. Otherwise, just pack your bags and go. It’s not as if one needs further enticement to visit the beautiful beachside village of Saint Tropez, but this cake truly is a remarkably compelling reason to book a flight. Two types of cream with a crumble top – need I say more?

Chef Vincent Maillard in front of three different versions of his masterpiece

Chef Vincent Maillard in front of three different versions of his masterpiece

**The recipe is in French but googletranslate should help take care of it. And let’s face it, those that will endeavor to do this, likely have followed French recipes before…Bon Chance!

200g de pâtissière et 200g de crème au beurre lisser les deux Puis les mélanger délicatement

Crème pâtissier :
1l lait ½ Faire chauffer lait et gousse de vanille avec un peu de sucre.
250g jaune d œufs Blanchir sucre et jaunes, ajouter la poudre a crème .puis cuire
100g poudre a crème l ensemble 3mn
2 gousses de vanille

Crème au beurre :
250g lait ½ Elle doit être réalisé en trois parties. Préparé d abord une
200g sucre crème anglaise a laquelle on ajoutera le beurre pommade
215g jaunes d œufs et pour finir la meringue
1 gousse de vanille
850g beurre
200g meringue italienne 125g blanc 250g sucre 100g d eaux
Mettre à cuire le sucre et l eau a 117°C/121°C puis le
Verser sur les blancs et laisser refroidir

1kg farine Mélanger tout les ingrédients puis attendre que la pate
30g levure se décolle de la cuve et ajouter le beurre
20g sel
500g beurre
600g oeufs
120g Sucre
30g ameliorant

250g beurre fondu Mélanger tous les ingrédients faire un pâton
400g sucre semoule puis le réserver au frigo, quand le tout et bien refroidi
600g farine émietter le tout

-1000g de purée de fraise Mélanger le tout a froid et mettre en Paco
-500g de fraises entières
-300g de sucre

300g framboise
65g sucre semoule
1 zeste de citron

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Posted in: Europe, Food + Wine, Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Sunday, April 22, 2012 No Comments

about meg

About Meg


Meg is the founder of luxury travel consulting company, Friend of a Friend Consulting. Her three books, Italian Hideaways, Caribbean Hideaways and England's Hideaways are published by Rizzoli. Passionate about travel, hotels and wine, she continues to write freelance travel pieces and is currently pursuing a Masters in Wine through the WSET.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not reflect separate business relationships with the subject. Whenever posts are supported financially, they are designated as such.