Month: July 2019

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Diets are out, or so we keep hearing, but it seems that the wellness revolution has other ideas. In 2018, Euromonitor reported that ethically labelled “health” foods were valued at US$45.9 billion globally. But is this just a rebranding of foods that are actually all about weight loss?  

“The Atkins, the grapefruit diet, SlimFast – the 1980s and 1990s saw the first wave of diet culture, and really it goes back even further. Clean eating, gluten-free, alkaline – this is the second wave,” explains Laura Thomas PhD, registered nutritionist and wellness advocate. A brief rundown of this new wave includes: alkalising (eating foods with an alkaline pH to allegedly counter the effects acidic foods); low GI (foods with low fat and sugar); paleo (based on a “caveman” diet, essentially whole foods rather than processed); keto (low carbohydrate, high fat); and intermittent fasting (plans vary from the 5:2 diet to alternate-day fasting). While each promises a new dawn of better health, fundamentally they all seem to link back to calorie restriction – ergo, shifting weight.

Even environmental concerns can link to diet culture in disguise. “I think the sustainable vegan diet is pretty complicated,” says Thomas. “On the one hand there is this huge, and valid, surge in concern for the environment, but at the same time, [some people may be adopting this diet] to mask an eating disorder. There is no more effective way to limit your food than by saying ‘I don’t eat dairy or meat’ or ‘I only eat locally.’”

How healthy is “clean eating”?

There are a series of mixed messages to contend with when it comes to clean eating vs health. Obesity is on the rise: in 2017, the World Health Organization reported that global obesity has almost tripled since 1975; and this July, a Cancer Research UK report put obesity ahead of smoking as a cause of some cancers. In response, media and medical organisations are talking up the principles of healthy eating and a balanced diet; and this has inevitably gained traction in emerging food trends too.

“With new research and the demonisation of the word ‘diet’, the industry has moved away from that label. Diet companies have become about ‘lifestyle change’,” says Christy Harrison, anti-diet nutritionist and host of the Food Psych podcast. “This shift, dovetailed with the obesity epidemic – it’s become a moral panic. The rise of the rhetoric that obesity is killing you works nicely for the diet industry. Now we don’t need to worry about aesthetics, but about health,” Harrison continues. “Today’s trends conveniently belie aesthetic aspirations. However, it’s still diet culture pushing weight loss under a different term.” 

What’s the link between healthy eating and body image?

While body positivity is now a mainstream movement, society still places huge importance on personal image. “If you told someone who says they want to lose weight for their health that they could [improve it] without losing a pound, would they be interested? When you dig, losing weight more often than not comes down to looks,” argues Harrison. 

The focus on aesthetics, she continues, is so ingrained in our lifestyle that it’s now almost instinctive. “We care about looks because for so long that’s been the key to success, the key to love and acceptance, belonging – everything that’s part of the modern human experience,” says Harrison. “Wellness plans and resets, while marketed for health, are represented by thin, able-bodied models – maybe slightly more muscular, slightly less emaciated than decades past, but that’s the look. The images are still aspirational.”

Thomas argues that there’s also a link between this new wave of wellness and perceived health, and wealth. “This intersection between wellness culture and privilege has a lot to do with social signalling, inherent in not to eat. What you’re saying is: ‘I’m so wealthy that food is not a focus, I don’t need to think about it.’ Meanwhile, the obesity epidemic is considered to largely affect those who are less financially affluent; those with more privilege can afford to buy these powders and vials to emphasise their ‘healthier’ lifestyle,” Thomas says.

How can we best approach healthy eating?

Embracing intuitive eating is a good first step, advises Thomas. Start by listening to your body’s signals to identify when you’re hungry and when you’re full. And enjoy eating without attaching labels such as “clean”, “good”, “bad” or “cheating”. Take a good look at your social media following too – make your feed a positive place of inspiration, rather than a conflicted wellness/diet culture minefield. 

Laura Thomas debunks four “clean eating” trends

“Our livers are the central hub of detoxification, our kidneys too. We are detoxing when we go to the bathroom, when we breathe… even our skin is a system for detoxification. There’s no amount of green juice that will rid your body of toxins.”

“The main premise of this diet is to change the pH of our bodies. If we changed the pH of our bodies, it would deactivate our enzymes, which would lead to a potential coma and then we would eventually die. There is a fundamental misunderstanding in how an alkaline diet has been sold.”

“I’m not trivialising serious medical problems, such as inflammatory bowel disease. What concerns me is people suddenly cutting out (and later reintroducing) food groups. The bacteria in their gut gets excited about a new substance, which often leads to gas or bloating. This is then mistakenly labelled as an abnormal reaction to that particular food, when actually it’s simply about our bodies readjusting, which is completely natural.”

“There is very limited evidence to substantiate a connection between food and skin problems. It’s tenuous at this point and certainly can’t account for the vast majority of cases of acne, for example. Again, it’s one of those things that has been overhyped and prompted some to go down a restrictive food path. If you have skin issues, you need to talk to a dermatologist. Cutting out foods should really not be the first step in treatment.”

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31st Jul 2019

After dating for a total of three years, Avengers actress Elizabeth Olsen, 30, is reportedly engaged to her musician boyfriend, Robbie Arnett, 27.

While the notoriously private couple are yet to publicly address the reports, according to People, a source has confirmed the news. At this stage, there is no news of when and where the proposal took place, but we are hopeful all the engagement details will surface soon.

The actress, who was previously engaged to Narcos star Boyd Holbrook, before the pair decided to go their separate ways in 2014, was first romantically linked to Arnett, the lead singer of indie pop band Milo Greene, in March 2017.

Interestingly, this news comes just as her older sister, Ashley Olsen, was spotted wearing a dark band on her left ring finger. However, this isn’t the first time the fashion designer, who is currently dating artist Louis Eisner, has worn a ring on that finger.

Per People, just months after Olsen and Arnett were seen walking arm-in-arm in New York City, they were photographed together at the Gersh pre-Emmys party in September, 2017. The actress has since shared a small handful of rather candid images alongside her beau on Instagram.

While she rarely touches on her personal life, Olsen revealed in a 2017 interview with Modern Living, that she is open to the idea of having children. While speaking on the topic of renovating her home, the Avengers star shared: “I was also thinking, ‘There’s this small room upstairs, which would be good for a kid.’”

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Per People, Olsen then added, “I don’t know where things will lead, but I do think about it in that way: ‘I think I could raise kids here.’”

Congratulations to the happy couple!

A handbag is considered an essential accessory for most modern women and many gents, who understand the practicality of carrying your keys, wallet and phone in one convenient, chic holdall that leaves your pockets and hands free.

However, it has long been understood that for modern women who also happen to be royals, like The Queen, there are innumerable staff available at any time of the day or night and in every location, to carry any personal items that might be required. Indeed, it’s unclear if The Queen even has personal items like a wallet, Her Majesty has certainly never been spotted in her 93 years whipping out a credit card or wads of cash to settle a bill.

Equally unknown is if The Queen has a set of keys to the many entrances to her multiple homes — surely this is managed by a member of staff? We can’t picture Her Majesty standing outside the imposing doors of Buckingham Palace looking for the spare key under a flower pot after misplacing her own.

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And yet, Her Majesty carries a handbag at all times. Even when Queen Elizabeth II is photographed inside one of her many homes, a handbag is always present either hanging from her left arm (her seemingly preferred handbag carrying arm) or tucked neatly on the floor next to her if she’s seated. Of course, when The Queen is out attending one of her many official engagements a handbag is always, always present. It’s her most consistently called-upon accessory and is such an ingrained part of her look, it’s almost easy to forget it’s there.

But, given The Queen has reportedly never seen inside her own wardrobe and appears to leave fashion and style decisions to staff, it did have us wondering, why is the handbag the one item The Queen seems attached to? Further, what essential items is The Queen carrying in her handbag if not a wallet, keys or a phone? And finally, why does she carry a bag even if she’s just at home?

Scroll on as we unpack the fascinating secrets behind The Queen’s handbag habits.

The Queen has a favourite handbag brand

Handbags from heritage British luxury handbag and leather small goods brand, Launer, fill The Queen’s accessories wardrobe, with Town & Country reporting Her Majesty owns more than 200 Launer bags.

According to the Launer website, The Queen granted the brand a royal warrant and they have been supplying Her Majesty with handbags since 1968.

Even with such a wide collection of Launer bags, Town & Country reports The Queen does tend to favour a couple of styles: “the black leather Royale, black patent leather Traviata, and a third custom handbag.” 

The Queen carries a handbag at all times for a very valid reason

Hello! reports that in an interview with a magazine in 2018 the CEO of Launer, Gerald Bodmer, revealed the reason why The Queen always has a handbag with her: “She [The Queen] doesn’t feel fully dressed without her handbag.”

The Queen is specific about her handbags

In the same interview, Bodmer disclosed that Her Majesty knows what she likes and what she doesn’t like in a bag. “…if The Queen doesn’t like what we’ve made her, she won’t wear it. She definitely knows what she wants.”

What’s reportedly inside The Queen’s handbag is quite surprising

Although Her Majesty isn’t known to carry the usual suspects (keys, wallet, phone), she does, according to one royal watcher, carry some quite surprising items. Phil Dampier, author of , told Hello! in 2016 that she carries “treats for her much-loved corgis; sometimes a crossword cut from a newspaper by a servant in case she has time to kill; a penknife; a diary and small camera.” 

Dampier explained to Hello! that The Queen uses the camera “to take pictures of visiting presidents and other VIPs” and the penknife is reportedly a “throwback to her days as a girl guide.” The author said The Queen doesn’t carry a mobile phone in her bag.

Hello! reports that in addition to the items Dampier alleges are in Her Majesty’s bag, other sources say she also carries “reading glasses, a handkerchief, mints and a fountain pen, not to forget a portable hook which is used to hang the bag neatly under tables.” 

According to the publication she also allegedly carries “a small mirror and a lipstick” along with a “metal make-up case” which was a gift from Prince Philip, some “good-luck charms including miniature dogs, horses, saddles and brass horsewhips… and a handful of family photographs.”

While we can’t verify the above rumoured contents of The Queen’s handbag without a first-hand sighting, we can verify that her handbag is her most-trusted accessory and like us, doesn’t leave home without it.

New Slogans for Athleisure Brands

July 31, 2019 | News | No Comments

Athleisure wear is sweeping the nation, and dozens of brands are competing to be the face of the new movement toward dynamic design and fitness-inspired fashion. With that in mind, here are some slogans I came up with that any athleisure brand is welcome to use.

Make your whole life feel like going to the gym.

Health is the power of aura divided by chafing.

POWERFUL shirts for MEN who want to dress like SEXUAL ROBOTS.

Energy is about eating vitamins and wearing camo socks that cost thirty dollars.

Blend in among the Uniqlo mannequins.

Be an urban soldier in the war against belts and buttons and stuff.

Wear this to work; find out if you work at a startup.

Dare to dream of a yoga pant so high-waisted that it consumes your head and blocks out the sun.

No more “She’ll do it tomorrow”—guilt a stranger into going to the gym TODAY.

Goals are the engine of the locomotive of looking hot.

Sensual ass pants your boyfriend can watch CNN in at the gym.

Unlock your most dynamic you.

What drives us? The dynamic need for you to succeed—naturally.

In this city, you’ve got to be dynamic to be naturally.

Naturally dynamic for a dynamic city that you are also being dynamic in.

Biodynamic design helps us attain new heights of pajamas for hot people.

Don’t get caught at Whole Foods in pants you can’t do full splits in.

For a fun treat that’s a blast for kids: do NOT eat these high-tech leggings.

Be your most yourself you (max size 8).

Every hurdle is an opportunity to stumble, which is an opportunity to fall, which is an opportunity to absolutely eat it, but then you get up. And you are wearing athleisure clothes.

Here’s an idea: a tiny sweater that makes you cold!

Tired of jogging in tuxedo pants but need to look rich while you exercise?

Our laundry tags are a fucking nightmare!

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Just before Tuesday night’s Democratic debate began, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny said on air that the Bernie Sanders campaign wanted its candidate to be more “present” than he was during the first debates, in June. In retrospect, it was a strange thing to worry about. It took more than forty minutes for the debate to move to any topic other than Sanders’s signature issue, Medicare for All. Sanders had enough time to tally the number of Americans going bankrupt each year because of medical bills (five hundred thousand, more or less) and the amount of money that the health-care industry has spent on lobbying. CNN’s video introduction had, a little stagily, teased a fight between Sanders and Elizabeth Warren (“they’re fighting for the same cause—and the same voters”), but, when Sanders denounced the health-care industry’s political influence (it spent four and a half billion dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions during the past twenty years, he said), Warren nodded emphatically. Later, when Warren sounded a protectionist note on trade, Sanders returned the favor: “Elizabeth is absolutely right.” Present? Progressive ideas were the whole debate.

Maybe this was because the two marquee progressives, Sanders and Warren, were the best communicators. The moderates came with slogans: “Wish-list economics,” Steve Bullock, the governor of Montana, said. “Fairy-tale economics,” John Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, said. Warren shot back: “I don’t understand why anyone goes to all the trouble of running for President of the United States to tell us what we can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”

Warren sounded different from the other candidates: her imagery was more specific. She told the story of Ady Barkan, a health-coverage activist, who is dying of A.L.S. and who has insurance that does not cover his bills. Warren said, “He talks about what it’s like to go online, with thousands of others, to beg friends, family, and strangers” for cash. Her language was alive. The rigged system had not just propped up the wealthy and connected but “kicked dirt in the face of everyone else.” The insurance companies have “sucked billions out of the health-care system” and stored them as profits. “We aren’t going to solve the problem by being the party of small ideas and spinelessness,” she said. “We’re going to solve them by being the Democratic Party of big, structural change.” It was hard for anyone to find a comeback to that.

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The luck of the draw meant that none of the more moderate candidates on the stage could match Sanders’s or Warren’s profile. Even Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg seemed a little shy about drawing distinctions with the two contenders to their left. Often they sounded merely like paler versions of them. Did O’Rourke believe that the government should fund tuition-free four-year college? “I support free two-year college,” he said. But, when he tried to criticize Sanders’s and Warren’s Medicare for All plan, which would eliminate private health insurance, he couldn’t quite bring himself to name his rivals: “The two senators to my right,” he said. Buttigieg got a loud burst of applause for saying, “If we embrace a far-left agenda, the Republicans will call us a bunch of crazy socialists. But, if we embrace a centrist agenda, they will call us a bunch of crazy socialists.” It was a good line. But he was making Sanders’s point for him.

A half hour before the debate started, the Greater Detroit Democratic Socialists of America marched along Woodward Avenue, carrying banners and signs bearing the D.S.A.’s red rose and calling for the Green New Deal. In the midterm elections, Democratic candidates won votes in moderate suburban districts across the country, and with them a broad national majority, by effectively portraying the Republicans as radicals—the party of Obamacare repeal and child separation—and themselves as defenders of the way that things had been. The simple news tonight was that Warren moved the Democrats a bit further from the party of the 2018 midterms, and a bit closer to the activists in the streets. The subtler development was that she altered the direction of the progressive left, so that it no longer pointed so directly at a utopian socialism but to the oppositional work of what she called “big, structural change.” That’s the revolution now. Over to you, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, on Wednesday night.

Pour yourself some more sake.

Reapply your lip gloss.

Begin aggressive self-flagellation for choosing a bad karaoke song. Did you really need to pick something with an eight-minute lyricless guitar solo?

Ruminate on how, after two years at this job, you were finally starting to fit in among your co-workers, but now you’ve definitely, definitely blown it.

Make eye contact with every single person in the room while smiling and shrugging, signalling that this wasn’t your intent.

While locking eyes with each individual, determine who seems the angriest so that you can try to get him or her fired later.

In fact, why not get them all fired? Bury the evidence that this ever happened. Yeah. That’s a good idea.

If everyone is politely nodding along now, assume that it’s because they’ve permanently labelled you the office fool who always makes bad decisions.

Blame Steve. Jocelyn held onto the songbook for too long, and, when she passed it to you, Steve was already breathing down your neck, yelling at you to choose so that he could have his moment in the sun with “Sweet Caroline.” Jesus, Steve. Why not choose the world’s most predictable song? And everyone will probably have a great time singing along to “Sweet Caroline,” too, because even though it’s basic as hell, it has lyrics. A crucial feature for a karaoke song.

Try to salvage the moment by going to the front of the room and making people laugh with your fun dances.

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Uh-oh. No one’s even watching your dumb dance. They’re all on their phones. Probably texting their real friends about how bad you are at karaoke. You’re a fool. A fool, and now also a clown.

Sit back down and try to determine what temporary insanity overcame you when you selected this song. Wonder whether this is the same form of insanity that leads people to commit gruesome murders. Decide it must be.

Spiral into a depression that will last for weeks and take you thousands of dollars in therapy to move on from. Brace yourself for sleepless nights spent ruminating on this horrible mistake.

Go pee.

I binge-watched a bunch of TV this weekend, catching up with a series that was previously issued one episode at a time and now is on home video to consume in one gulp, if so desired. “Screen Directors Playhouse,” newly available in a three-DVD set from Mill Creek, was made and broadcast in 1955 and 1956—an era that, like the present day, found the movie industry losing viewers to television. The series has a hook that served to display to home audiences the distinctive merits of movies, and should serve the same purpose today: its episodes, each running about twenty-five minutes, were all made by movie directors, who, according to a voice-over at the start of every episode, chose their own screenplays (in some cases, they wrote them). The roster includes such superb directors as John Ford, Ida Lupino, Allan Dwan, Frank Borzage, and Leo McCarey. It also features some remarkable work by filmmakers of lesser originality who nonetheless possess a knack that their chosen screenplays and casts give room to flourish.

It’s a misleading misconception that classic-era studio directors merely filled in the performances and images for preëxisting scripts that were set in stone. In fact, the best Hollywood directors were also integrally involved in the creation of their scripts, reworking them in the course of the shoot and even on the set (in part because, especially from the nineteen-forties onward, they were often also their own producers). In “Screen Directors Playhouse,” the bold artistic results of the freedom with which the notables worked is a reproach, decades in advance, to the practice of the writers’ room, to the primacy of the showrunner, and to the absurd mix-and-matching of directors that make modern TV series bureaucratic jumbles, the equivalent of novels ghostwritten for book packagers.

Ida Lupino’s film “No. 5 Checked Out” (which she also wrote) tells the story of Mary, a deaf woman (played by one of the most subtle and complex Hollywood actresses, Teresa Wright), who is alone for a few days during the off-season at a colony of cabins, in deeply wooded country, that she runs with her father. A car drives up and dispenses a heartily courteous, vigorously young-middle-aged man named Barney (William Talman), who asks for a cabin for himself and a “friend,” and, though the cabins aren’t yet open for business, she charitably lets them in. But the two men turn out to be robbers and killers looking for a hideout, and their presence at the resort puts Mary in danger—even as she seems to be falling for Barney. (Notably, the other criminal is played by the cunningly inventive Peter Lorre, who gives the devil his full measure of sleazy fascination.)

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Lupino—who directed six feature films from 1949 to 1953, for her own independent production company—is, simply, one of the great filmmakers, whose stories about women’s lives are matched by a fervently expressive style, in image and performance alike. The themes and dramas of “No. 5 Checked Out” seem to be assembled from elements of her prior movies—a woman’s disability and its devastating emotional consequences (“Never Fear,” a.k.a. “The Young Lovers”), and a man with an agonizing secret (“The Bigamist”)—but with a more sharply focussed purpose. Her sixth film, “The Hitch-Hiker,” which is also a story of two male criminals on the run, is the least artistically significant of her films and the least distinctive in theme and tone—and this brief TV show serves as a virtual do-over, turning it into the classic, personal movie that it could, and should, have been.

Allan Dwan, one of Hollywood’s less heralded directorial heroes, started his filmmaking career in 1911 and was nearing the end of it, in 1956, when he made the final work in the series, “High Air.” To do so, he came up with an ingenious solution to a practical artistic challenge. His film is centered on the world of “sandhogs,” men who dug tunnels and bridge foundations beneath rivers and endured the rigors of high air pressure, facing the risk of the bends. It’s a keen cinematic subject, as seen in such films as Raoul Walsh’s “Under Pressure” (1935) and Mitchell Leisen’s “No Time for Love” (1943). In “High Air,” Dwan (who was himself trained as an engineer) blends the physical drama of dangerous labor with the emotional drama of an estranged father and son’s reunion. The father, a sandhog, is played by William Bendix, one of Hollywood’s great vulnerable hulks (as in “The Blue Dahlia,” from 1946), and the son, an aspiring engineer in the grips of emotional torment, is played by a fervent and intense actor, nearly or barely twenty, who was just launching his career: Dennis Hopper.

Dwan was one of the great action directors—he brought a virtually mathematical dynamism to violent confrontations and daring stunts—and, in “High Air,” working with a low budget and limited sets, he makes the most of the physical perils of the labor at hand. Nonetheless, the film’s most intense action and gravest danger is emotional; its melodrama suggests a much larger span of action, including flashbacks. But Dwan, with ferociously pressurized minimalism, compresses the bulk of the drama into an extended dual closeup of the glowing-hot Bendix and the inflammable Hopper, squeezed together at a disturbingly cocked angle, which lets the two great actors verbally thrash out years of stifled turmoil in one shockingly intense moment of joint confinement.

It’s no coincidence that most of the great movie acting is found in movies by the best directors—and also that great directors are frequently responsible for the discovery of stars. That’s the story of “The Silent Partner,” by George Marshall, a filmmaker of scant originality but notable sensitivity to performance (he worked with Laurel and Hardy, Lucille Ball, and Jerry Lewis, and directed “The Blue Dahlia,” which is a feast of pugnacious melodrama). Marshall was a movie veteran who started directing in 1916 and made dozens of silent films, which are the inspiration for “The Silent Partner,” about a broken connection between a famous veteran director (Joe E. Brown) and a former, now forgotten silent-comedy star whom he had discovered, played by none other than Buster Keaton. (It also features a host of high-wattage character actors, including Jack Kruschen, Jack Elam, Percy Helton, and, most notably, the former silent-era star Zasu Pitts.) Keaton gives a profoundly moving double-edged performance as a tersely melancholy has-been and, in flashbacks to the freewheeling days of slapstick silent short films, as the blank-faced, mercurially acrobatic master of uproar.

There are other treasures in the three-disk set. Another film by Dwan, “It’s Always Sunday,” is a teeming comedy about a liberal and principled minister (Dennis O’Keefe) and a grifting hobo (Sheldon Leonard), along with the huge and hurtling cast of family members, friends, neighbors, and officials who get involved in an unexpected but high-stakes tangle (like many of Dwan’s features, it parses sociological turmoil). In “Rookie of the Year,” starring John Wayne as a swaggering sportswriter, John Ford tries out the theme of “Print the legend,” which he would raise to historic proportions in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” Leo McCarey, who joins sanctified sentimentality toa spritzy sense of physical comedy, offers the whimsical romance “Tom and Jerry,” a brassily urbane yet tenderly melancholy comedy of remarriage—the story of a New York lawyer (Peter Lawford) who cheats on his wife (Nancy Gates) with a gold-digger (Marie Windsor) and gets a little unsolicited help from a concupiscent minister (Frank Fay) in repairing the damage. With a sudsy sidebar involving fatherhood and Santa Claus, as well as some erotic winks and some swift and sour notes of deeper marital discord, it plays like a nineteen-thirties screwball comedy condensed and updated for the television audience.

The rapturously romantic Frank Borzage (who started as a director in 1913) made three films for the series, all three of which, in their ways, are war films. The idiosyncratic philosophical tale “The Day I Met Caruso,” set during the First World War, stars Lotfi Mansouri as a celebrated singer and Sandy Descher as a Quaker girl who meets him during a train trip from Boston to New York—and has her principles of austerity, and perhaps her pacifism, too, shaken in the process. The Korean War drama “Day Is Done,” an anguished tale of the bond between a raw recruit and a crusty officer, is unstinting in its vision of the terror of war—and the various, often ugly responses that it provokes from those who are forced into battle. Borzage also made “A Ticket for Thaddeus,” a story of a Polish refugee (Edmond O’Brien)—and, as it turns out, a Holocaust survivor—who is left traumatized by Nazi terror, and now displays a desperate fear of law enforcement. Borzage offers a proudly democratic vision of the American way of life and of the even-handed fairness of the police and the judicial system alike, albeit one that was as idealistic then as it would be now.

1. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Torres del Paine in Chile’s Patagonia region is unlike any other natural landscape in the world. From the majestic mountains that so beautifully encompass the region, to iridescent lakes, piercing blue icebergs and monstrous glaciers; this is where you can travel to disconnect from reality, and reconnect with nature.

Image credit: Instagram.com/jocyjorquera

2. Faroe Islands, Denmark
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To truly get a picture of small-town life on the Faroe Islands, understand this: the Prime Minister’s home phone number is freely accessible in the public phone book, and there are more sheep than people living across the 18 small volcanic islands. The archipelago is an autonomous country within Denmark, and it’s arguably Europe’s best kept secret.

Image credit: Instagram.com/kelvintrautman

3. Glenorchy, New Zealand
About 45 kilometres north of Queenstown on the tip of Lake Wakatipu sits the town of Glenorchy. From here you can take in the dynamic landscape of New Zealand, with lakes and mountains located nearby, which are perfect for hiking. And when you need a rest? Hit up the town; it’s stocked with enough charming pubs and restaurants to occupy your downtime.

Image credit: Instagram.com/a_home_in_a_thousand_places

4. Hamoa Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Yes, Maui may be a tourist hotspot for honeymooning couples and tropical family getaways, however there are some spots on the Hawaiian island that see less tourists, and allow travellers to experience the island through the eyes of a local. Hamoa Beach, located on the eastern side of Maui has no lifeguards (meaning less families) and is consecutively listed as one of the best beaches in the US.

Image credit: Instagram.com/chaddprice

5. Harads Forest, Sweden
While Harads Forest will not necessarily give you a local look at Sweden, it will give you the opportunity to truly experience and appreciate the country’s natural landscape as it inches towards the Arctic Circle. The forest is home to the iconic Treehotel complex, housing rooms built quite literally into the canopy of the forest. Throughout winter, travellers can embark on forest skiing or dog sledding, as well as wildlife watching, think: moose, bears and reindeer.

Image credit: Instagram.com/traveljunkiediary

6. Kaga, Japan
Beyond Tokyo and luxe ski resorts, Japan has a rich and storied culture that is fascinating to witness, and even more thrilling to experience. About two hours north of Kyoto, hidden in a magical mountainous landscape, you will find Kaga; a remote village surrounded by onsen towns and ancient cedar trees. Kaga offers an authentic look at old-world Japan that is a must-visit for travellers seeking to truly immerse themselves in Japanese culture.

Image credit: Instagram.com/seiko215

7. Lamezia, Italy
Rich in historical and architectural heritage, Lamezia gives the perfect snapshot of traditional Italy. Surrounded by white beaches on one side, and rocky mountains on the other, travellers can drive the coastal road to some of Italy’s best-kept-secret beaches.

Image credit: Instagram.com/pentothalsodium

8. Mary River Wetlands, Northern Territory, Australia
About two hours inland from Darwin you will find the kind of Australia that Crocodile Dundee so accurately (ahem) portrayed to the rest of the world. Mary River Wetlands runs alongside picturesque Kakadu National Park and is known for its large population of saltwater crocodiles. The area is buzzing with natural flora and fauna, and eager locals will gladly show you around. You definitely won’t feel like you’re in Bondi anymore.

Image credit: Instagram.com/yannick_we

9. San Juan, Colorado, USA
One of the least populated of Colorado’s counties, San Juan gives travellers a local taste of Colorado that is virtually devoid of tourists. Stay in cozy log cabins located deep in the woods by night, and embark on hiking trails to tumbling waterfalls by day.

Image credit: Instagram.com/parksproject

10. Stowe, Vermont, USA
Ski towns at major resorts are too often filled with tourists wanting to make the most of the season. Visiting the town of Stowe in Vermont will give you a taste of small-town snow villages, without the flocks of eager skiers. The town has a quaint arts hub hosting a live dance, music and theatre program, and it’s also a blooming foodie district.

Image credit: Instagram.com/instamandac

11. Sylt, Germany
If you look past the beer-drinking, football-loving German stereotypes, you’ll find that Germany has a strong and vibrant beach culture. Case point: Sylt. The tiny northern island sits just south of the coast of Denmark, and boasts a 40 kilometre white sand coastline and picturesque beaches. Here, in what feels like a small seaside town, the best mode of transportation is on two wheels.

Image credit: Instagram.com/colorsofnorway

12. Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada
For something virtually untouched by civilisation, try a trip to Yoho National Park, just north of Banff. Cabin-style accommodation such as Emerald Lake Lodge allows you to stay within the park beneath the mountains, surrounded by the serenity of Emerald Lake. It is the perfect escape for those seeking to disconnect; think open fireplaces and intimate hikes, where it is literally just you and the vast surrounds of nature.

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Any Francophile with a taste for good old-fashioned decadence might want to consider a stay at Hotel Alfred Sommier in Paris. The beyond-elegant five-star hotel is a hôtel particulier with a backstory as sweet as it could be. That is, the noblemen behind this mansion made it big in the 19th-century sugar industry.

While Alfred Sommier’s descendants have no remaining interests in what has since evolved to become Saint-Louis Sucre, the heir behind the hotel, Richard de Warren de Rosanbo, has evidently inherited his great, great, great, great grandfather’s head for business.

That’s lucky for us, because this home deserves to be shared around, with its stately position on Rue de l’Arcade, close to the neoclassical Madeleine church, its ironwork, parquet floors, painted wall frescos and the elaborately gilded interior architecture of its salons. Not to mention its two monumental marble staircases and 45 marble fireplaces. Oh, and 70 enormous antique mirrors that will help you acknowledge that yes this is really you and you are really here.

While Alfred Sommier is possibly more famous for having bought and restored the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte just southeast of Paris, he was behind the success of the family business and the building of Rue de l’Arcade.

The facade is exactly as fantasy would have it, Haussmannian in era but 18th century in design. The place is marketed as a ‘family mansion’ and it’s true that familiar warmth emanates from even the most distinguished of corners.

There are 80 rooms in total, including 22 suites and 14 connecting rooms, perfect for families. All enjoy the basic amenity of marble bathrooms. Fifth-floor views take in the Eiffel Tower and the Butte Montmartre.

The dining and meeting rooms are just as palatially appointed. Les Caryatides restaurant takes on the Golden Salon of the Elysee Palace with its Louis XV decor and, when the sun is out, guests can take their meals in the private garden. Chef Franco Miotto’s succinct menu reimagines the food that was served to the Sommier family’s guests back in the day, and to literally experience being a guest of the family, you can even book dinner with the owner himself (if his diary allows).

Within walking distance from upmarket department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, as well as the famous Champs-Elysées, it’s also perfectly placed for a little accidental shopping or a sneaky French confection to celebrate the sweet life.

Visit: alfredsommier.com

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