Rome in Black & White


A couple weekends ago, I visited Rome with a few friends. (I also have yet to find quasi acceptable internet anywhere in Italy, hence why this post is a bit late in coming.) The city is very much one of both the past and present, effortlessly interweaving the energy of megacities like New York and Cairo with the quaintness of Paris. It can be both vibrant — during the heat of the tourism season — and calm — 4am at the Trevi fountain — and every street has its own magic. Rome is bursting with young professionals, and it is easy to make new friends in hip, up and coming areas such as Trastevere. The food scene is also to die for — perhaps it has been the excessive amount of Venetian tourist meals I’ve eaten in the past three weeks, but almost every restaurant we visited served mouthwatering fresh caprese salads and otherwise delicious fare. (If you’re interested in some recommendations, let me know!) Although an expensive trip, Rome is a city I’m glad I didn’t miss. I will be back here someday, exploring every beautiful little thing this city — a crossroads of ancient and modern — has to offer.


The Colosseum


View from Castel Sant’Angelo — Dan Brown, anyone?




The Trevi Fountain

St. Peter’s Square
Interior of St. Peter’s Basilica
Interior of St. Peter’s
St. Peter’s Basilica
The Vatican Museum
The Vatican Museum
The Vatican Museum
Vatican Museum staircase
Vatican Museum staircase
The Vatican Museum
Overlooking Piazza del Popolo
If you’re ever in Italy Europe, you should block off a few days to see Rome. There’s a reason it’s still one of the most famous cities in the world, and the atmosphere here is like no other. Don’t miss it!
Hope you enjoyed these photos! Soon I’ll be blogging about visiting Florence, food in Italy, and lots of other delicious/beautiful/awesome things — stay tuned!
{Images by me. Please do not use without permission.}

The Chocolatier of Venice


It’s been about two weeks in Venice, and so far the biggest surprise has been this: the food in Venice is mediocre at best. Much of this, I believe, can be attributed to the rampant tourism industry, and tourist menus abound on almost every street, unless you wander far away from the crowds. Even then, you’re going to be paying a lot for a so-so meal, unless you’re careful. This is not to be pessimistic though — there are some great places to eat if you take the time to seek them out! They’re just hidden from the daily crowds or cost a small fortune.




But even though Venice is not known for its food in the way that Rome and Florence are, the desserts are still spectacular. I think I average about two gelatos a day, sometimes more (and I’m really not picky about ice cream, so it’s relatively easy for me to find a gelato place I’m happy with). So, naturally, when I repeatedly read about “the best chocolate shop” in Venice, I had to go. Immediately. Vizio Virtù is easy to find and absolutely fantastic — if you’re ever in Venice (or Italy, for that matter), do not miss this place!

single chocolates


Simply put, this place is divine. It’s nestled in the neighborhood of San Polo, right by the San Tomà vaporetto (waterbus) stop. The façade is quaint and unassuming, and the shop is small but pristine. When I was in France a few years ago the chocolate was amazing, but I don’t think even that could compare to this.




Of course, it’s ridiculously expensive. I tried the chocolate-dipped candied oranges (about 1 euro each) and the caramel chocolate bar (7 euros apiece). It’s definitely worth a stop though, even just to try a few of the by-the-kilo candies, and I can’t recommend this place enough — everything is exquisite. This place is a gem in Venice (a place where the food scene pales in comparison to the rest of Italy).



In addition to chocolates and jellies from the case, they also offer gelato, mousse, freshly baked brownies (which I have yet to try), and pre-wrapped chocolates, which are great for taking home — if you can make it that far.

Directions: Take the vaporetto to the San Tomà stop. Walk until you reach a T-shaped intersection and turn left; the shop is on the right. Open from 10am-7:30pm, closed Sundays.

Trendspotting | Baroque


On the Street in Europe | Photographed by Tommy Ton for

It’s been a while since I’ve done a trendspotting post. I’m not as big on blogging about fashion trends, but this one is simply too fabulous to pass up — in other words, I’ve become completely enamored with the Baroque trend.


Baroque has an interesting history. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, the Baroque period began in 17th century Rome and was mainly reflected in architecture, sculpture, and painting (although Baroque themes were also reflected in the literature, music, and theatre of the time). Baroque — which relied on ornamentation, drama, and visual grandeur to create the style — was encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church as a means of expressing the emotion of religion through art. The Baroque style also exaggerated the concept of motion, articulating events visually with clear, dramatic lines. This would also become important when Baroque influenced the fashion world, then and now. (Below is very obviously a picture of “then”…)

lady with fan

“Lady with Fan” by Diego Veláquez, mid-1600s | Source

Style also developed during the Baroque period, impacting fashions throughout Europe. Trends swung heavily during the 17th century, but at the beginning of the 1600s, wide, detailed collars, large sleeves, and dark, heavy fabrics were popular (these would later be replaced by pastels and more relaxed silhouettes). The waistline was raised — for both men and women — and corsets as well as full, ornate skirts remained popular until later 17th century, when a more streamlined silhouette began to take shape. The shoulders were also heavily emphasized.

Baroque-inspired style today is characterized by some of the earlier fashion from the Baroque period. On the fall 2012 runways, luxe materials, exaggerated silhouettes, heavy embroidery, brocade, lace, and chunky jewels were quite possibly the most popular trend. You could literally go baroque with the sheer amount of opulence that took over the runways and glossy magazine photo shoots (and apologies for the awful joke).


There was no shortage of opulence on the Fall runways to counter the past minimalism of the past few seasons. Here are just a few highlights:


The Dolce & Gabbana show is probably the most-cited example of the Baroque trend’s reemergence into the fashion world. With gorgeous gold brocade detailing, pretty prints, and dramatic silhouettes, the show evoked 17th century opulence redefined for a modern era.


McQueen and Marchesa also showcased Baroque style: McQueen with a more futuristic approach and exaggerated shaping, and Marchesa with beautiful fabrics and distinctly feminine designs.


Robert Cavalli and Stella McCartney opted for a brighter, modern take with colorful brocade. As always, the tailoring on the McCartney runway was impeccable and clean. Oscar de la Renta offered printed fabrics and lots of jeweled details.


Plenty of editorials from around the world featured Baroque styling. Here are a few of my favorites, for some inspiration:


Photographed by Takahiro Ogawa for Elle Mexico |




Photographed by Mikael Wardhana for Karen Magazine |


Photographed by Mario Testino for Vogue Spain |



Photographed by Sofia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello for Vogue Turkey |







Photographed by Zhang Jingna for Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam |

I love the drama of the last image! If any thing, the Baroque trend is very obviously over-the-top, especially when it comes to the details — whether it be a painted blouse, gold brocade, or lace overlay — extravagance defines the Baroque trend. To emulate the Baroque look (not mimic, that would certainly be a disaster), take a cue from the runways and editorials from this season and look for pieces with gold detailing, lots of lace, defined shoulders, or jeweled accents. You’ll feel like Renaissance royalty in no time.

What’s your take on Baroque for this season?

{Sources: street style, Tommy Ton @; painting,; runway photos,; editorials,}

Abu Dhabi, Take Two

Sunset in the desert.

I just posted some photos from my visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque during my recent trip to Abu Dhabi, and am humbled and honored that my post was chosen for WordPress’s “Freshly Pressed” feature page. It has been such a whirlwind, and I want to thank everyone for taking the time to visit my blog and leave such wonderful comments. I read every last one, and they all make me so happy.

I also promised that I would post more pictures from my trip. These ones aren’t as organized, they are simply snapshots of some of the highlights/best photos I came out with.

On the first day we took a walk along the Corniche, a relatively new stretch of beachfront running along Corniche road. It was absolutely beautiful. Because it was winter in Abu Dhabi, the weather was quite temperate, in the high 70s (F), making it perfect for a quick trip to the beach.

Above is the view of the rising Abu Dhabi skyline from the Corniche. It was really interesting to see all the construction going on at the same time (if you look closely you can see the rightmost two skyscrapers are under construction). Also, sorry about the over-exposure on these; it was super bright out.

Good morning! The sun rises and sunsets in Abu Dhabi were so brilliant.

Just a few snapshots from the city…

I really like the detailing you can see in this shot.

The juxtaposition between the skyscraper and the minaret here really caught my eye.

Above is the Emirates Palace Hotel at night. This place is crazy — apparently, there’s a gold vending machine in the lobby. (There are actual videos of this on YouTube, I kid you not.)

Some more shots from the desert. This was my first time ever setting foot in a desert, and it was an unbelievable experience. I was simply blown away by it, and it’s difficult to put it all into words. It’s incredibly vast and expansive, and you can really feel that when you’re standing on top of a dune, soaking it all in. It is also a very peaceful experience. (Side note: climbing sand dunes is quite the workout.)

The sunset in the desert was stunning. That shade of pink is totally unedited. A closer look…


You can see my first photo post about the trip here.

Photos taken by me, please request permission before use.

Abu Dhabi: The Grand Mosque

Early morning fog at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi.

I recently travelled to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for a short trip and had an incredible experience. It was unlike any place I have ever been (especially considering that I haven’t been out of the States much.) The city was not as touristy as I had initially anticipated, which came as a surprise and relief — I wanted to experience the culture, not just become part of a massive entertainment industry. You can see two distinct cultures in Abu Dhabi: the old, or more traditional, UAE, and the new, modern city, still under heavy construction. There is a strong push towards the future in Abu Dhabi, especially when it comes to architecture, which is evident pretty much any where you go. But there are also pockets of traditional culture that are very interesting to explore. Although I have tons of pictures from the trip, the following are all from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, an absolutely stunning piece of architecture.

The domed archway to enter the courtyard of the mosque.

Beautiful detailing inside the dome — note the gold Quranic text.

I have hundreds of photos (so many beautiful things to see!), but for now I’ll just share a few of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a project begun by the late president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan (whose tomb is also located on the grounds). It is actually a relatively new mosque, still under construction, and there is a second phase of building — for an Islamic center — that has not yet begun. I have a certain fascination with Islamic architecture, and the mosque is an absolutely breathtaking example. When you first walk into the courtyard area (the sahn), you are immediately left slack-jawed by the sheer immensity of it. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, though.

Looking into the sahn from the outside.

Inside the sahn.

One of the mosque’s four minarets — about 351 feet tall.

Beautiful reflection pools surround the mosque.

As our guide explained, the mosque is designed to be an international mosque, incorporating elements from countries across the world. Many of the colored precious stones inlaid in the columns surrounding the sahn and in the marble courtyard floor come from all over the globe (detailed above). After the sahn, we prepared to enter the main prayer hall.

The sahn was absolutely stunning, but the main prayer hall was just as cavernous and beautiful, with high domed ceilings and tons of small inset windows to let in natural light. Again, indescribable:

Inside the main prayer hall.

The main prayer hall is home to the largest single carpet in the world, made by Iran’s Carpet Company. The rug took two years to complete. If you look closely, you can see the small raised lines in the carpet that indicate where men align themselves to pray.

The qibla (means “direction”) wall of the mosque indicates the direction of Mecca. The qibla wall in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque features Arabic calligraphy of the 99 names (qualities) of Allah.

One of the largest chandeliers in the world hangs in the center of the main prayer hall, suspended under the largest dome of the mosque. It is made with German Swarovski crystals.

The ventilating system installed above the columns.

The full main prayer hall. So beautiful.

The prayer clocks (adhan) around the mosque were made in London, England — again, embracing the international reach of the mosque.

Beautiful and sunny back in the courtyard!

Those are the majority of my best photos from the mosque, although I have plenty more from my trip to Abu Dhabi that I’m hoping to share soon. Have you visited before? What are your thoughts on the mosque and/or city?

Part II: view more snapshots from my trip here.

Photos taken by me. Please request permission before use.