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Perfect Stay – Palácio Belmonte

Nneya Twins playing chess

a sitting room at Palácio Belmonte

I’ve stayed in countless hotels and from luxury hotels to spartan cabins, there have always been a few that stood out as a step above the rest. About 3 that I’ve been so enamored by, the location, decor, staff, vibes that immediately felt like home and left me pining to go back. Palácio Belmonte in Lisbon, Portugal is definitely one of those places. My article for Fathom perfectly captures everything I loved about this property.

Walking into entrance of palacio belmonte by Nneya Richards

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This is the text I received from the manager of Palácio Belmonte, which set the tone for the next few magical days. Located in the oldest historical Alfama district of Lisbon, high on one of the city’s many hills with views of both rivers, Palácio Belmonte was built into Roman and Moorish walls dating back to 198 B.C. In the mid-1400s it became the residence of a noble family and with it’s ten palatial suites and common areas, I too felt like medieval Portuguese nobility. But this is not your stuffy, white gloved palace hotel. Sure you might run into a shipping magnate or a magazine editor or two, but the thing is, once you’re in the Palácio Belmonte family, you’re in. Through those red doors, all pretense seems to fade away. It’s as though owners ecologist Frederic Coustouls and his wife, artist Maria Mendonça who purchased the property about fifteen years ago, have curated the salon of the century.

Entering Palacio Belmonte by Nneya Richards

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It took them six years to restore the grounds and revitalize many of the original frescoes and azulejos that still compose the wonderful decor. There are antique rugs and an impressive art collection and seasonal exhibitions. Centuries old art, seamlessly mixes with modern. The library has thousands of leather-bound books from Frederic’s personal collection (he reads a few books a week). It is a palace, with several towers, so if you’re anything like me, you will get lost a few times a day. But that’s the beauty of Palácio Belmonte: every time you get lost, whether it’s in a courtyard with bougainvillea spilling over walls or through a side room leading into the kitchen, you always discover a hidden gem.

This guesthouse is the epitome of luxury, truly one of the best in the world. Not that cookie-cutter luxury, but unique and homey, inviting and caring. Palácio Belmonte seamlessly balances modernity with old-world opulence. Once you’re here, you’re in the heart of Lisbon’s history, so don’t feel too guilty about your overwhelming desire to stay in and not explore the city.

This is probably the most deep dive photo diary I’ve ever done with a Perfect Stay and it really felt like every moment I spent wandering around Palácio Belmonte, I explored another beautiful, inspiring, corner. Hopefully these photos inspire some wanderlust and you’ll head there!

The Rooms

Trust me, they are amazing. The ten suites are equally as majestic as the common areas, each suite a feast of colors and interior design. Consistent throughout all the rooms is Palácio Belmonte’s immaculate attention to detail, from the permanent decor to the in-room books. The Amadeo de Souza Cardosa suite, with its dark woods, chill library, and lofted sleeping area, feels like the most sophisticated bachelor pad. The Ricardo Reis terrace suite actually has original azulejo tile panels by Master Valentim de Almeida as well as original frescoes. There’s also a small kitchen and superb natural light. As for me? I felt like a princess in a castle in my honeymoon suite.

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this is how I woke up, every morning. What a dream!

I stayed in the Padre Himalaya honeymoon suite and I still have yet to find a room that can compare anywhere else in the world. With two floors built into the Roman tower, 360-degree views of the Alfama district and the River Tagus, and a full marble bathroom (as big as most hotel rooms) complete with sunken tub, this suite is the epitome of romance.

There was nothing like waking up to the birds chirping and the sun streaming in through the wooden cross-hatched shutters. The beauty of Belmonte is that every suite is special, so even the lower-priced Fernão Magalhães room is luxurious and flooded with natural light, with a separate sitting room and full marble bathroom. There really is no way to go wrong here.

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view of Lisbon from my room

When restoring the palace, Frederic simultaneously wanted to modernize the building and restore it to its former glory, and looked to time-honored techniques of the past. Natural ventilation replaced air-conditioning, the architecture strategically employing windows and natural shade to maintain the perfect temperature throughout the palace. There are no elevators but there are steps all over to encourage healthy movement. There is a first floor suite recommended for those with mobility issues. This is not your standard luxury hotel — no minibars and no televisions — guests are meant to engage with the space and each other. Listen to the birds in the garden, swim laps in the pool, or play the piano in the music room. (If you must be connected, know that the WiFi is excellent.)

Corner in Palacio Belmonte by Nneya Richards

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One of my favorite places to watch the sunset was the grand terrace. What a dream event space, and most nights, as the sun set, I had it all to myself.

 

One of the most outstanding features of the palace are the 59 panels (in the public spaces as well as one of the suites) of restored azulejos (tin-glazed ceramic tiles) that were commissioned in 1720 and 1730 by the Portuguese noble family.

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Remember I mentioned that Maria is an artist? Here is one of her paintings below. Her amazing eye also presides over the seamless blend between old and new at Palácio Belmonte. A live in gallery that you experience upon entering. If she has a moment, indulge Maria to tell you lively stories of exhibition installations at the palácio.

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You may feel like you have the nooks and crannies all to yourself, but the inviting atmosphere makes you want to get to know your fellow guests. Do as you please, while listening to fado music and making yourself gin-and-tonics at the self-serve bar in the lounge.

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The Food

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Healthy, organic, and natural. That’s what to expect while dining at Palácio Belmonte. Place your breakfast order before bed, and it can be delivered to you terrace (mine overlooked the river). I wasn’t aware there was room service, but when my mother sprained her ankle, a beautiful multi-course dinner of soup, salad, and fish appeared in our suite as if by magic.

 

Palácio Belmonte

Páteo Dom Fradique, 14
1100-624 Lisboa, Portugal

Trust me, treat yourself and go now!

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Running on the terrace

 

 

Norwegian’s New Flavour

I’m working on an op-ed for a big site having to do with study abroad and what can be done to further include people of color in the travel industry via brands, marketing etc. Usually on a press trip I’m the only person of color. The few times I’m not, it’s an extremely diverse crew that usually reflects an awareness on the part of the PR and branding team. Often, when you see big brands influencer trips, there is usually one person of colour and I can name the women they are most likely to be on one hand. I am always thrilled to see them, but on a trip of, say 10, there will usually be just one. I can’t wait until you see me upcoming pub articles on my recent trip to Finland. I definitely came out of my comfort zone in a place that I didn’t really think of going before. Another wildly refreshing thing about this trip? All of the attendees and press person were people of color. Going to the Artic circle. Cutting up, getting in the mix, hell, even wearing gear that’s not usually marketed to us. We had so much fun, thrived, and it was such a unique bonding experience.

We are copy

Sure I get frustrated with things like delays, fees etc but as I mentioned in my article for Popsugar about messaging coming from higher up, this is an airline that seemingly hires a corporate team that works with purpose and thinks outside the box, with a new flava if you will. Here’s a video put together and edited by amazing Ashley Nguyen (half of Go Yoko Coco this girl is truly on fire). Trust, her ability to direct, shoot and edit (super speedy too) is a thing of wonders. Just a tip of the iceberg to convey the fun I had on this trip.

Thanks Norwegian Airlines and Kakslauttanen Artic Resort!

Share share share!

Featuring:

Ashley Nguyen & Brittnie Nicole of Go YokoCoco

DéVon Johnson of Bleu Magazine

Rachel Hill of RachelTravels.com

Réal Hamilton-Romeo

Annika Harris

Daniel Watson of Livid Magazine

 

and me!

Here’s a little preview of it… check it the full video on INSTAGRAM!

 

And of course, Rest In Peace Craig Mack.

Black Women in History Portrait Series: American Girl Addy Walker

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I’ve had such a great time working on my Black Women in History for black history month portrait series. There are so many great women I want to pay homage to. Sometimes I come across one of my inspiration photos and I have to shoot it right then and there. Sometimes I come across the look in my closet and I’m reminded that I bought it because I was inspired by…. I am definitely inspired and look up to my elders, their experience, their knowledge, their accomplishment that paved the way. I am also inspired by the young women coming up. From young women like Zendaya and Amandla Stenberg using their platform to insight young people to be the change to young women like my mentee Shilpa who is changing the jewelry game with Shiffon Co. and paying it forward. This latest portrait is a bit of a combination of young and old. Addy Walker.

Meet-Addy-Book

Addy Walker is a fictional character from the American Girl book series. Before the American Girl dolls were the phenomenon that they are now, the brand focused on several novel series, each one about a young woman in different epochs of American history. My favorites? Samantha Parkington, the posh, mischievous Victorian and Addy Walker, the former slave who ran away with her mother from North Carolina to Philadelphia for freedom in 1864. The story starts with Addy’s daily life as a young girl on a plantation. Though written for children it did not sugar coat the horrors and dehumanization Addy faced daily but yet still very digestible for children: for example, Addy being made to eat worms by an overseer who accused her of slacking in her job of deworming the tobacco plants. I remember how the book starts so vividly. As we say at Through Our Lens, “Representation matters” and I saw my face in Addy’s as reflected in the American Girls Collection, my curls in Addy’s, even Addy’s cowrie shell jewelry. Addy’s story had equal footing in the American Girls history as a daughter of the revolution. Sure it’s a children’s novel, but that is major. Before I read the diary of Frederick Douglas, I read Addy’s. Here’s my homage to this young black woman who’s story was pivotal to me, fictional though it may be.

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A Day in A Dream

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Boutique hotels with strong brands have been around for decades — I even did a stint working on the brand marketing at Morgans Hotel Group so I got to dive into the Ian Schrager world. A great bar and a great restaurant always a plus, but now there’s a new layer to getting a guest out of their rooms. A blah lobby with a coffee machine or bell hops waiting for the next guest just won’t cut it. Hotel lobbies and their cafes are now waterholes for creatives, free-lancers, execs.

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In NYC, I’m not the best at co-working; I kind of hate leaving home to work unless it’s for a shoot or meeting. I’m writing this blog post at 1am. Sometimes I wake up, journal and start on emails before I leave my bedroom, retainer still in. In London, I’m quite the opposite: I’ll try cafes, libraries, hotels. I’m usually looking for great natural light, reasonably priced beverages, not too crowded that you feel you can’t go to the restroom and a good mix of different kinds of people. A fire place is always a plus.

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I love the lobby of Dream Downtown. 

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craving these fresh summer eats from The Beach pool & bar grill

In my hometown of NYC, I often find myself judging hotels by everything but the room. How is the restaurant? For meetings? Wha’t the vibe? In The Dream Hotel Downtown, I found a favorite spot. It’s such a fun oasis in the city — great pool, modeled after the south of France, yummy food, well lit lobby. Some parts are zen, some parts are bustling like Grand Central Terminal, when I’m in the city, especially during the warm months, I love making some time to work here during the day. Here’s another one of my favorite NYC haunts that I hope you’ll love as much as I do.

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hanging at the entrance. t-shirt MAMM | skirt, vintage | shoes, SALVATORE FERRAGAMO

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Do you think I have an affinity for the Electric Room because of it’s Brit vibes?

What girls do in the bathroom…

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dress LOVESHACKFANCY | shoes, LFL BY LUST FOR LIFE

PHOTOS OF ME BY FRED WATFORD

Travel Guide to Dublin, Ireland

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With St. Patrick’s day coming up, I’m reflecting on my trip to Dublin. As I mentioned in my previous video on 24 hrs in Dublin, I had been mulling over going to Dublin for quite some time having frequent lay overs there. I’ve always had an affinity for Irish people, from Ireland (I made my first Irish friend in Disney world when I was 6 or 7 in the hotel pool — I’m sure I have a photo of us — when I go to my mum’s house I’ll add it to this post later this weekend). After meeting an Irish actor via Twitter I decided to extend a layover on the way to the UK and have some fun exploring Dublin! With a few recs from friends, from Dublin, living in Dublin and who went to University in Dublin, I spent 3 days having a great time in this city. Though I know I just scratched the surface. There are a few cool neighborhoods I want to dive deeper into but starting out in the center Temple Bar area and walking around (sometimes for hours) gave me a great basic guide. Here’s my quick guide for a weekend in Dublin.

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Where to stay

Sometimes I like hotels, sometimes I like an Airbnb. A lot of factors go into this, some of the big ones being, have I been to this place before? Do I have friends here? If so, do I want to be near to them? How long am I going to be in town etc.? For a short trip like this (I only had 3 full days), I opted for a hotel. Only there for 3 nights I didn’t need amenities like a kitchen and I wanted to be in a pretty central location to explore many of the sites on foot. I settled on the Morgan Hotel for it’s location in the city centre, and Temple Bar area, it’s fun design and cool cocktail bar. It was such a whirlwind trip I really wish I spent more time in the hotel as it looked cool and there was always a pretty chic crowd shuffling in and out.

What to eat.

scallops tartare by Nneya Richards

scallops tartare at The Pig’s Ear

irish short ribs by Nneya Richards

Irish short ribs at The Pig’s Ear

Often, a clear indicator if a place is exploding is to follow the foodies. With tons of new restaurants cropping up, the Dublin culinary scene is world class. My friend Oli recommended The Pig’s Ear to me and it did not disappoint. It was one of his parents favorite places when they visited him at Trinity. First, there is the cute hot pink door out front, beckoning you in like promises of secrets in a boudoir. When you head upstairs, the two dining rooms are wood finished but light, airy and modern. The cuisine is a mouth-watering modern take on traditional Irish comfort foods. This is a Michelin star restaurant so do book in advance. I dropped in but it was during the first dinner seating time and, well, I’m charmingly clueless ;). The Pig’s Ear. 4 Nassau St, Dublin 2

Want to try French and Irish fusion? I promise, it’s delicious. Check out Hugo’s for a delicious meal and live jazz. Hugo’s, 6 Merrion Row, Dublin 2

All of the touring have you exhausted? Fallon and Byrne is awesome to pop into for a quick, cheap lunch. Fallon and Byrne, 11-17 Exchequer St, Dublin 2

Obviously, Dublin is like any other metropolis and a gathering place for people around the world, lending to their culinary influences. Try this delicious and casual BYOB spot, Jerusalem. Middle Eastern cuisine, the food is fresh and delicious. What’s more, you get a lot for your money and it takes you out of the touristy center. Jerusalem, 77 Camden Street Lower, Saint Kevin’s

Where to drink.

Dubliners love their drink and I had my first Guinness at the perfect spot, Kehoe’s. A no frills “old man” pub quite near to Trinity College Kehoe’s has been around since 1803 and still remains a gem. It retains a lot of it’s original fixtures like stained glass mahogany doors and Irish snugs and partitions. They pour an amazing pint and you immediately cozy in and feel like a regular. There’s even a fire place upstairs! Kehoe’s, 9 South Anne Street, Dublin 2

For gags, and a good pint, head to Dawson St Lounge the smallest pub in Ireland, this place is always packed to the rafters. Dawson St Lounge, 25 Dawson St, Dublin 2

Grab a late night rum at Wigwam. Wigwam, 54 Middle Abbey St, Dublin 1

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Ha’Penny Bridge

Stop here.

If you’re as much of a knit fanatic as I am, you may already know about Irish Aran knits. You know the fisherman knit that you see in J. Crew? Wait, go to Ireland and get the real deal. Made in Ireland, you’ll know the klan and story behind the knit pattern you’re getting and it will be even more special. I live in mine as well as a pair of socks from Aran Sweater MarketAran Sweater Market, 115 Grafton Street, Dublin 2 

Do this.

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Visit Trinity College. Founded in 1592, Trinity College in Dublin is the oldest surviving university in Ireland and one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland. Absolutely stunning, I did consider going there as well as look at St. Andrews when I was applying to universities. Visit the magnificent Long Room of the Old Library which houses the ancient book of Kells, dating from 800 A.D. I also loved the grass tennis courts. Trinity College, Marrion Square and St. Stephen’s Green is a perfect touring triangle to fall in love with the quaintness of the city. You can also visit the Natural History Museum of Ireland — I love their website, museum.ie, boom — the National Gallery of Ireland and Oscar Wilde’s childhood home in that same triangle. (And Kehoe’s is there too). Trinity College, College Green, Dublin 2

Take a trip to the Guinness Storehouse and immerse yourself in the history of this delicious brew. Did you know that outside of Ireland, Africa, namely Nigeria is Guinness’ highest market? They even make some brews for this market that are only available there. You can taste them though if you book a connoisseur experience. Learn how to do the perfect pour and watch the sunset over Dublin at the rooftop Gravity Bar. Guinness Storehouse, St James’s Gate, Ushers, Dublin 8

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PS. Plan your flight to Dublin now. Norwegian airlines seems to be celebrating St. Patrick’s day as well with one way flights to Europe from the US’s Northeast for as little as $89. You have until Monday, Mach 19th to book airfare to destinations like Cork, Belfast and Dublin in Ireland for travel between April and May and between August and October. Return flights can be found for as little at $154! Get. on. it.

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Have you been to Dublin? Have any tips? Let me know below!

24 Hours in Dublin

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m going to Dublin, Ireland here on ‘N A Perfect World this week. To be fair, Dublin is a very cool city that definitely deserves more than 24 hrs, and I found myself laid over there quite a lot. With the nudging of my friend Jack, I decided to take a semi-proper (just the beginning) trip to the Emerald Isle, starting with the capital city. Here are a few places to wet your whistle if you only have a day in Ireland.

 

 

I’m going to do a proper Dublin Travel Guide post this week with more places to visit (because I did stay longer than 24 hours) but here are the places I mentioned in the video.

Trinity College (and the Long Room) College Green, Dublin 2

Kehoe’s 9 South Anne Street, Dublin 2

Guiness Storehouse St James’s Gate, Ushers, Dublin 8

The Pig’s Ear 4 Nassau St, Dublin 2

 

How to vacation like top models Imaan Hammam & Mélodie Monrose x Vogue.com

I’ve followed the rising careers of top models Imaan Hammam & Mélodie Monrose for a long time. Along with Grace Mahary and a few other ladies and gents, they’re squad exudes #blackexcellence, #blackgirlmagic and #goals. When I found out Mélodie Monrose (I mean that name!) hailed from Martinique my affinity for her grew with island girl pride. I was recently in Martinique at the same time as these beauties as they skipped the tail end of NYFW and attended Carnival. I fell in love with the island, the food, the people. It was definitely Caribbean, decidedly French and undeniably African. I can’t wait to go back and Norwegian airlines has flights for as low as $79 so I definitely can for a long weekend!

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I’ve been to a few events that these ladies attend, but I’d really rather run into them on a beach, on a beautiful isle. Here’s to hoping and check out my guide to Martinique for Vogue.com!

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