Category Archives: Old School

Old School Souvenir Shopping in Italy – Disco Swimsuits, Man Purses and Johnny Carson Jackets

We went to Italy last summer and all I have to show for it is a leather man purse … Oh yeah, and some Disco-era swim trunks as well as a jacket that either Johnny Carson or Rodney Dangerfield would have been proud to wear in their heydays.

Some of my best souvenir finds arise from the unexpected. For example, after checking into the Hotel Marincanto, our beautiful lodgings in Positano, my Partner F and I decided to hit the streets of this gorgeous seaside town in order to get our bearings.  A few steps away from the hotel, we spotted the following two gentlemen in a store window:

Maria Lampo Positano Mannequins in the Window

Maria Lampo is the owner of the shop and a longstanding fixture on the Positano resort apparel scene. I’d describe her design style as bold, colorful and harking back to a peasant influenced, Disco-era aesthetic.  In my opinion, the late 1970s will NEVER go out to style.

As we browsed the racks of colorful clothing we noticed framed photos on the walls of the various celebrities who have made their way to this little boutique. In my halting Italian, I asked one of the salespeople whether they carried a particular style of paisley-patterned “disco swimsuit” in a men’s husky size. Over the course of our conversation I commented on the familiar faces on the wall posing with the proprietor.  Suddenly, out of the corner of the room I hear a loud and cheery voice exclaim: I AM MARIA!!!

Maria Lampo Positano with Celebrities

Maria graciously let us take a picture with her and we followed in the footsteps of such stars as Dustin Hoffman, Billy Zane and Colin Farrell. I don’t think we’ll make it on the store’s “celebrity wall.”  However, we did receive a lovely red handkerchief as a complimentary parting gift from this very sweet woman.

Maria Lampo
Via Pasitea, 12/14/16
Telephone: 089 875021

A few days later, we left the Amalfi Coast and took the high-speed train from Naples to Florence. Florence is one of our favorite destinations in the world.  Once we enjoyed the city’s marvelous culture, food, and views, our attention turned towards SHOPPING.

We spent a long morning wandering around Florence’s San Lorenzo Market.  After a few hours of exploring the multiple stalls, we were about to reach our “shopping saturation point” when we made one last stop at a vendor of high quality leather goods. Adriano Pelletteria’s shop was located right behind the stall and we stepped inside.

I don’t know. Maybe it was the thrill of being surrounded by such beautifully crafted leather goods. Alternatively, it could have been the heat of the day that clouded our judgment.  However, after a few minutes in the store the concept of owning a “man purse” suddenly seemed very logical.

Pelletteria Adriano Leather Florence Shopping for Man Purses

After all, it was big enough to carry our iPhones, guidebooks and spare change so the bag was PRACTICAL, wasn’t it?  Plus, there were all those Italian, French and Spanish guys walking around and THEY looked perfectly naturally sporting the bags.  I guess the only question that remained was “Who wore it best?”  (note: Please be gentle with your comments folks!).

Adriano Pelletaria
Stand n. 83 – Via dell’Ariento, 43
Telephone: 055 281654

Finally, we were on our way to visit Santa Croce when all of a sudden another bright and sparkly item distracted us. Well, actually in the case it was a plaid jacket that caught my Partner F’s attention. We just had to pop into this clothing store for a few minutes …

Barnaba Clothing Store Florence Exterior

Barnaba carries a full line of tailored men’s and women’s apparel (much of it with an English influence). It seems like it had been a slow shopping day prior to our arrival.  Once the Americans gushing over “vintage this and vintage that” walked in, the two women working in the shop that day sprung into action and started bringing out various for items for us to look over …

Barnaba Clothing Store Florence Ties on Display

Of course, our main reason for being there were those plaid jackets that we just had to have …

Barnaba Clothing Store Our Purchases

Via Martiri del Popolo, 47-55r
Telephone: 055 240707

I’ll be the first to admit that when on holiday I’ve been known to suspend any normal sensibilities regarding practicality or taste when I’m in a souvenir-shopping mode.  Therefore, I’ll bet you’re wondering just how many of our Italian purchases made it out onto the streets of our hometown. Well I did hang out at the pool in my disco swimsuit … but with a towel strategically draped over me most of the time.  Oh, and sadly the man purse is still enjoying a restful slumber in the pretty felt bag it came in.  However, as for that plaid green jacket …


… I come up with any excuse possible to wear it!

Yes, we do tend to “over buy” when we go away on vacation.  However, in addition to coming home with overstuffed suitcases that bump up against most airlines’ allotted weight limits, we also return with some fun stories about how we came across those particular souvenirs as well.

How about you? Do you have any “souvenir stories” to tell? I’d love to hear them!

Afternoon Tea at the Langham Hotel – A Tale of Two Teas

These days when most people get that afternoon “sinking feeling” they often do a “Betty White” and turn to a Snickers candy bar to satisfy their hunger.  However, back in 1865,  when the Duchess of Bedford experienced the afternoon munchies she had her footman deliver all of her tea making equipment and some bread and butter to her private room in London’s Langham Hotel.  And Voila! The Afternoon Tea is born!


A few years ago, my Partner F and I on one of our London trips made a pilgrimage to the Langham Hotel to enjoy Afternoon Tea at the place where the tradition had its beginning.

The hotel is stately and traditional and served as the perfect quintessentially, British backdrop for our afternoon break.


Afternoon Tea takes places in the hotel’s Palm Court which has a glamorous Art Deco feel that is accented by modern touches.

Palm Court Langham Hotel London

Photo Source: Langham Hotel London

Service at the hotel was formal, yet gracious.  We were able to choose tea from an extensive menu and enjoyed a selection of traditional finger sandwiches and sweets.


The Langham Hotel London offers a tea service that does justice to its standing as the birthplace of the Afternoon Tea.

I was therefore excited when Langham opened its newest outpost in my hometown of Chicago which features its own modern interpretation of the Afternoon Tea.

The Langham Chicago occupies the first 13 floors of the iconic IBM Building which was designed by the celebrated architect Mies van der Rohe. The hotel has a very luxurious Mid-Century Modern feel.  Afternoon Tea takes place in the hotel’s Pavilion lobby restaurant.

Pavilion at the Langham Hotel Chicago

The tea service began with an amuse-bouche of Passion Fruit Pearls in the house’s Palm Court blend.  This was a wonderfully elegant take on the concept of a bubble tea!

Afternoon Tea Amuse Bouche Langham Hotel Chicago

Savory finger sandwiches were served. The selection included:

Coronation Chicken Salad, Marcona Almonds, Black Figs
English Cucumber, Red Pepper Butter, Watermelon Radish
Maine Lobster, Green Goddess Aioli, Celery Hearts
Roasted Beef Tenderloin, Truffle Remoulade

Afternoon Tea Sandwiches Langham Hotel Chicago

The sweet selections were served on a beautiful tiered silver tray …

Afternoon Tea  Presentation Langham Hotel Chicago

… and were delicious as well as colorful!

Afternoon Tea Desserts Langham Hotel Chicago

Of course, Afternoon Tea wouldn’t be complete without scones, clotted cream and jam on the menu.

Afternoon Tea Scones Langham Hotel Chicago

… and since we were celebrating my Sister’s birthday, a special treat was prepared for her.

Afternoon Tea Birthday Treat Langham Hotel Chicago

All of the “classic” Afternoon Tea items were served.  However, the Langham Chicago puts a definitely more modern spin to its version of this institution.

However, what really defined our experience was the flawless service by the Langham Chicago’s staff.  The team was attentive, crisp and professional. Every person we encountered made an effort to make us feel welcome and special.

In addition, although the hotel has been getting quite a few favorable reviews, it doesn’t seem like a regular stop on the “tourist trail.” The clientele consisted of a nice mix of upscale international travelers combined with “in the know” Chicagoans.  The resulting effect is an atmosphere that’s quiet and fashionably elegant.

We enjoyed being able to compare and contrast two different interpretations of the institution of Afternoon Tea. However, one element that remained constant was the excellent service provided by the Langham.  Oh yes, that and the delicious tea and scones!

Have you ever had Afternoon Tea?  What was your experience?


Royal Hawaiian Luau – Book It Danno!

My perception of Hawaii has been defined by television. The image of Don and Megan Draper sipping drinks on the beach in front of The Royal Hawaiian this past season on Mad Men is still very fresh in my mind.  Then, of course, there was that “very special multi-part episode” when the Brady Bunch took off for the Islands.  Finally, as I continue this past-TV-life regression, how can we ever forget the classic opening credits sequence of the original Hawaii Five-0?

Royal Hawaiian Mai Tai Bar

We were in Hawaii this past May to celebrate my Dad’s 80th Birthday.  Since this was our first visit to the Islands we wanted the quintessential Hawaii experience. In my mind, there’s nothing that represents “TV Hawaii” at its finest than Waikiki Beach with those stunning views of Diamond Head in the distance. In the middle of all the action and positioned to capitalize on this iconic scenery is The Royal Hawaiian.  Given the location, we felt that the hotel would be the perfect place for our first experience with another Hawaii classic – the Luau.

The Royal Hawaiian’s Luau “Aha Aina” (which according to the hotel translates to gathering for a meal) takes place only on Monday evenings on the property’s Ocean Lawn.

Royal Hawaiian Luau Front Lawn View

Aha Aina is Waikiki’s only oceanfront sit-down dinner.  Guests are seated at comfortably-spaced tables of ten and are served dinner and drinks at their seats.  Unlike other some of the other luau dinner show options, there’s not a need to line up at buffet for your meal.  The views of Waikiki beach and Diamond Head are spectacular.

Royal Hawaiian Luau Lawn View Rear

The evening started with welcome drinks inside the hotel’s vestibule as our party was checked in.  A brief announcement and ceremonial procession kicked off the festivities as we were guided outdoors.  We paid an additional supplement for Premium Seating which gave us a table in the front row and a Kukui Nut Lei.

Royal Hawaiian Luau Group Photo

As the beverages flowed (Mai Tais and Pina Coladas were our drinks of choice and were included in the price of the meal) we wandered the grounds as the performers demonstrated traditional Hawaiian crafts such as cloth making, poi-pounding and the tending of tools.

Royal Hawaiian Luau Traditional Craft Demonstration

Next, we were all draped with fresh flower leis …

Royal Hawaiian Luau Family Photo

… and, following the sound of a pu (conch) shell being blown to signify the start of the feast, we were seated at our tables for dinner.  As we started our meal, the performance began with a storyteller sharing the significance of various Hawaiian traditions.  Later the emcee made the rounds of the tables to call out various guests who were celebrating special occasions including my Dad  …

Royal Hawaiian Luau Emcee

Of course, I think she got a little nervous when my Dad took hold of the microphone and started to tell his life story.  That said, she was very gracious and let my Dad “run with it.”

The meal was very well-prepared and centered on a “surf and turf” Sake Braised Short Rib and Kona Lobster Tail (the full menu can be found at this link). However, my personal favorite was the dessert …

Royal Hawaiian Luau Dessert

… The Royal Hawaiian Signature Pink Haupia Cake.

As the sun began to set, the show started in earnest with an appearance by King Kamehameha

Royal Hawaiian Luau King Kamehame

… and traditional dances …

Royal Hawaiian Luau Dancers 1

Royal Hawaiian Luau Dancers 2

Over the rest of the evening song and dance commemorated Hawaii’s culture and traditions with homages to the Royal Hawaiian’s Beach Boys

Royal Hawaiian Luau Dancers 3

A whole lot of hula …

Royal Hawaiian Luau Dancers 4

Royal Hawaiian Dancers 5

Royal Hawaiian Luau Hula Dancer

… and of course a classic Fire Dance!

Royal Hawaiian Luau Fire Dance

I used my Starwood Preferred American Express Card to reserve and pay for the luau and received double Starpoints for my purchase.  Check out my earlier post, Starwood Starpoints Starstruck, for more details on the value of the Starwood Preferred Guest program.

The manicured grounds of this beautiful vintage hotel and its perfect location on the beach provide the ideal setting for the evening’s festivities.  The table service (e.g. “non-buffet”) format provides for an upscale, relaxed and more gracious dining environment.  In addition, the performances are family friendly and offer broad appeal to a variety of audiences. The Royal Hawaiian Aha Aina Luau may seem a bit “old school” to some people.  However, that’s precisely why I chose it.  And now, let’s continue with a very special episode of From Point A To in Hawaii …

Have you ever attended a luau in Hawaii?  What was your experience?


Postcards to Ourselves

When I woke up this morning I shuffled over to my computer and as part of my morning ritual logged into my Facebook account. After 7-8 hours offline (aka “sleep”) reconnecting to the world via my various social media accounts has taken precedence over such basics as brushing my teeth or brewing a cup of coffee (though in my case it would be popping open a can of Diet Coke).  Bleary-eyed, I glanced to my right and noticed a few new additions to the wall next to our computer.


My Partner F had taped up several of the postcards we had mailed ourselves from our recent trip to Europe.  I was about to wake him up for a lecture on the possibly permanent damage he had done to the paint finish when I stopped myself.  The postcards sparked a wave of memories ….

… Of how Vacanze Romane (Roman Holiday) was the movie playing on the flight over


… Of buying the set of vintage Italian postcards at the San Lorenzo market in Florence right after we had each purchased our leather “man purses” (which have yet to see the light of day on the streets of Chicago) …

… Of how we rerouted our return home from Italy via London so we could attend the David Bowie show at the V&A … and how we spent a good 45 minutes sitting at the center of the exhibit immersing ourselves in the artist’s music as we watched concert footage of him through the years on giant video screens …

… And buying the following card:


Just so we could mail it home with a Doctor Who stamp.


Our trip has been well documented with photos from our iPhones.  We updated family and friends in real time on our travels via Facebook.  We’ve left quite a few digital footprints over the course of our journey.  However, those little postcards we mailed home to ourselves sparked more memories than all of those electronic media combined.  The postcards represent a very tangible link to the great times we had on vacation.  The very act of putting pen to paper created a physical link back to those moments we were recording.

Writing postcards is definitely Old School.  However, those cards from each of our trips are our most treasured vacation souvenirs.  They all communicate the same warm message and elicit the same nostalgic feeling… “Wish we were there.”