Skimbaco Lifestyle | online magazine » SKIMBACO TRAVEL Skimbaco Lifestyle, online magazine inspiring you to live life to the fullest. Travel, home, food, fashion, family. Sat, 22 Nov 2014 20:25:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Travel Insight: Tourist Cycling Gains Popularity as Luxury Hotel Amenity Sat, 22 Nov 2014 20:09:17 +0000
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Tourist Cycling is popular amenity for luxury hotels

Sometimes the best way to explore an area is to pedal your way through town on a leisurely bike ride.  Our own Satu spent late Summer biking through Ireland. Ok. She’s more like a professional, but whether you are an avid biker or someone like me who gets on a bike very rarely, you will find that more and more hotels are giving you the option of experiencing cycling fun while on vacation.

Bikes are available for many luxury hotels for tourist cycling as a luxury amenity

“We believe getting on a bike is a great way to explore our property,” remarked Theresa Chiettini, General Manager for the five-star, Relais & Chateaux property Fearrington House Inn in rural Pittsboro, N.C. “We’ve offered our guests the use of complimentary bikes for years because our property is so expansive. There are some great bike trails in Fearrington Village for our guests to explore. They can also hop on a bike and take a short ride to the swim and tennis club as opposed to walking.”

Fearrington House  Inn offers guest complimentary bikes

The Fearrington House Inn is located about 8 miles outside of Chapel Hill, the home of North Carolina’s first public state institution, the University of North Carolina. The Inn, located on an old rural farm, is the anchor in a small village, reminiscent of a European village with a first-class spa, gourmet dining, and adorable locally owned shops.

Tourist Cycling is popular at luxury hotel Fearrington House Inn in N.C.

Over coffee at Roost outdoor café, cyclists pass our table in the village. Chiettini tells me that it is not uncommon before guests arrive at Fearrington to ask the concierge to make activity arrangements in the nearby towns of Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh because they may think farm life may be a little to tranquil.

“But, once they arrive and grab a complimentary bicycle, they usually tell us to cancel everything we scheduled for them, and they never move their car until they check out.”

Fearrington Village Bike_1 (2)
I even wobbled on a blue bike (girls get blue and boys get red) through the hotel’s tranquil gardens on my recent stay. I say wobble because I need a lot more practice on a bike to feel comfortable going far.

Fearrington Gardens

Hotels are seeing that guests are enjoying the use of bicycles, and some offer special biking packages. The Wedgewood Hotel and Spa, another Relais & Chateaux property, located in Vancouver, British Columbia, offers guests a cycling package during the summer yearly.  This hotel’s general manager, Philip Meyer, loves cycling so much that he may just give you a private cycling tour of the city. Now that is making a guest feel welcome. I have a feeling he would leave me behind though. He is an avid cycler, and he graced the cover of the Spring 2014 issue of BC Cancer Foundation’s “Partner’s in Discovery” magazine.

Bike_Wedgewood Hotel

The Wedgewood Hotel, under Meyer’s leadership, even has its own cycling team, and over the past ten years, it has raised $2.5 million dollars for the BC Cancer Foundation in honor of the hotel’s founder. If you want to bicycle around Vancouver, then the Wedgewood Hotel and Spa is the perfect place to check in to do so.

California is known for its scenic highways. Resort guests at The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay have access to complimentary beach cruisers while staying at the resort.

Tourist Cycling is popular at Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay

“Biking along the Coastal Trail is a great way to experience Half Moon Bay,” remarked Kaitlin Crawford, a spokesperson for The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay. “Guests can ride 7.5 miles from the resort all the way to Pillar Point Harbor. Once guests reach Pillar Point Harbor there are many coastal restaurants to grab lunch, as well as watching the surfers catch waves and a little shopping. Off the coast of the harbor is the legendary surf spot Mavericks, where the big wave surfing competition takes place.”

Photo by Jay Graham

Photo by Jay Graham

This bike trail is considered a paved, easy trail, but some portion of the trail is along the highway. So it may be best for avid cyclers, and not beginners like me.

People like me may feel more at ease on Jekyll Island, Georgia, where there seem to be more people on bikes than there are in cars.

Bikes are more common on Jekyll Island than cars

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel, rich with its affluent millionaire club’s history, is in the center of all the action on this beautiful, coastal island. Hotel guests may rent bikes right at the hotel for $10 for half-day or $18 for all-day use. Bikes with training wheels and bikes with infant seats are in the inventory, too.


“It’s always amazing in the busy summer months to go out and see the entire rack empty. That means everyone is riding around the island soaking up all the history and activities offered, “ commented Brittney Strickland, social media coordinator with the historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel. “The interesting thing about Jekyll Island is there are over 20 miles of bike trails throughout this small barrier island. Just in the last few years the Jekyll Island Authority has added new bridges very close to our main entrance that allows guests to stay off the road if they want to go up near the causeway.”

Bikes_Jekyll 2

Guests can cycle to the beach, to the island’s waterpark or around the trails of the hotel. I chatted with a family that had been exploring on the island for a few hours and also with a few people who said they had not been on a bike in years. The common theme heard a lot was that riding a bike made these guests feel like kids again.

Tourist Cycling is popular on Jekyll Island, Georgia

With today’s wellness trends, traveler, avid runner, and blogger Elena Sonnino seeks out properties where she can stay on track with her fitness goals. As a guest of the Lodge of Glendorn, a Relais & Chateaux property in upstate Pennsylavia between Pittsburgh and Buffalo, N.Y., she recently took advantage of the complimentary bikes the hotel provided to explore the property. I spotted her bike ride in my Instagram feed. In one day, she said, “I have fished, foraged, hit a clay target with a shot gun, ridden a bike and gone paddle boarding.”


Now, I would say that is active. Knowing this fitness guru, she probably rode all 18 miles of bike trails.

“Using bikes along the 18 miles of trails and roads at the Lodge at Glendorn is one more way to enjoy the resort, especially during the warmer seasons.  The vast and beautiful property fosters wellness as the valley begs to be explored,” stated Sonnino as we chatted over social media.

Luxury Hotels are providing bikes for Tourist Cycling

Whether you want to keep up your fitness goals or just explore more of the area you are visiting, luxury properties are making it easier for you to do just that. Next time you book a hotel, check to see if biking is part of the hotel’s many amenities. You may find that two wheels are better for exploring than using your two feet.

For more on the hotels listed in this feature, visit the following sites:
The Fearrington House Inn, Pittsboro, N.C.
The Wedgewood Hotel Hotel and Spa, Vancouver, B.C.
The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, CA
Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Jekyll Island, GA
The Lodge at Glendorn, Bradford, PA

Photo Credits: Leigh Hines, Fearrington Village, The Ritz-Carlton, Jay Graham, Elena Sonnino

Part of this story was made possible by a media visit.

Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.

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Hotel Nettuno: How a Family Operated Hotel Impressed in Italy Tue, 18 Nov 2014 17:23:35 +0000
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You all know that I’m the odd one on our Skimbaco team because I probably spend more time picking out a hotel for a trip than I do picking out a destination. Where I stay on a vacation is a big deal to me. I know I’m a little quirky in my ways and beat to my own drum, but my entire personal travel blog was established out of my passion for very nice hotels.  When I was selected, along with Reeta and Katja to attend TBDItaly 2014, I was absolutely thrilled at first, and then I became a little nervous because all my lodging would be selected for me. I curate a lot of my own media visits, so having no say in my lodging at all was very new to me. My Skimbaco team members will tell you that I stressed over this fact in our online team member meetings. They have learned to love me for all my flaws, but I’m sure they were very glad when our hotel assignment came in to us a few days before departure.

hotel nettuno in Cesenatico, Italy

We were assigned Hotel Nettuno in Cesenatico, Italy. It was listed as a 4-star property with full-breakfast included. The website stated that rooms had been remodeled. Reading that was music to my ears, but the hotel was not listed in the top 100 hotels on review websites. I didn’t know what to think about that because I rarely ever book a hotel that is not in the top 25 on review sites. However, reviews of Hotel Nettuno in my research were very favorable. I guess I would have to experience it myself to know for certain.

I was the last team member to arrive at the hotel, and it was 2 a.m. in the morning because my plane in Munich broke down on the runaway. I had to be redirected to Venice, which was a four-hour bus drive away from where I needed to be. Luckily, I was traveling with a fellow blogger who lived in Spain, and spoke fluent Italian. She was able to converse with the Italian man at the hotel desk, who just happened to be on his first night of duty, and spoke no English. I handed over my passport, and hoped I would put it back in my possession the next morning. At this point, I was just glad to be in my room after almost 36 hours of traveling.

hotel review of Hotel Nettuno in Italy

I took one look at my room, and took a few photos upon arrival.  I was quite pleased with the size and shabby chic, clean feel. I immediately crawled into bed. I was to be downstairs in the main lobby  again in less than five hours from my arrival.

The next morning,I met one of the Ricci brothers in the lobby. The Ricci family owns several hotels in Italy. The business consists of the father, and his two sons.   The family has been in the hotel industry for 60 years.  Mr. Ricci immediately gave me my passport, and a wonderful cappuccino followed.

breakfast at Hotel Nettuno in Cesenatico, Italy

From this point on, I felt as if I was staying with the family. As every day passed, I loved this little family-run hotel even more.

We arrived late after the conference one day, and the Ricci brothers were waiting on us with appertifs.

warm welcome at hotel nettuno in Italy

The brothers were there every morning for breakfast, making sure the wide assortment of pastries, fruits, and cereals were always well-stocked.

Staff members remembered you, and by day 2, they knew I was that American that always asked for coffee with steam milk. Hot coffee basically arrived at my table before I even sat down. I love cappuccinos, but after the first day of downing the coffee in one gulp, I switched to Reeta’s version of ordering coffee. I felt spoiled.

breakfast cooked to order at Hotel Nettuno

I did not not spend a lot of time in my room because that was the nature of the conference, but when I was there, I enjoyed it. It was comfortable, and attractive. The bathroom was large, and well accommodated. The hotel was also extremely clean. That impressed me a lot. This hotel has exceptional housekeeping.

bathroom at Hotel Nettuno

The common areas were pleasant, and we would hold Skimbaco team meetings well after 11 p.m. Katja lost her voice one night. The owner fixed her hot tea one evening to soothe her throat. That’s service, and caring about your guests!  The common areas just felt cozy, and made you feel at home.

Hotel Nettuno Lobby

The more time I spent at this property, the more I fell in love. I really did. It’s not luxurious, but yet is upscale. It has a very warm feeling about it, and when you’re traveling in a foreign country, that is just a great feeling. Four star properties in Europe are a lot like our three-star ratings in America.  In my opinion, breakfast is more than what you find in America at 3-star  and some 4-star properties, but rooms are comparable in the rating.  Upscale in decor, but not really luxury. During peak season, the hotel restaurant serves farm-to-table cuisine for lunch and dinner.

garden area at Hotel Nettuno in Cesenatico, Italy

Hotel Nettuno is a family-friendly property, and it caters to children during its busy months with a play area, swimming pool, and daily activities.

If your travel plans take your family to Cesenatico, Italy then I think you would feel right at home at Hotel Nettuno. As a guest, I felt as if I was a member of the Ricci family. This family gem  is across the street from the Adriatic sea, and the Hotel has its own beach area.

This media visit was made possible because of TBDItaly

 Post by Leigh Hines

Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

“I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.” Leigh Hines of Hines Sight Blog

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Paris Day Trip: Touring Champagne Region in Reims Fri, 07 Nov 2014 09:59:44 +0000
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veuve clicquot store

Just having returned from a trip to Paris, all things French are still on my mind. While there is a laundry list of things to see and day in Paris that can keep one busy forever, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and explore a new town, Reims, during my visit. Before explaining, this portion of the trip ended up being my absolute favorite! Whenever you travel, I recommend trying something you have never done before or visiting a place you have not seen- this is what makes traveling so special!

If you are unfamiliar with Reims, it is the heart of the champagne region of France. Fellow champagne connoisseurs probably recognize the name from “Maison Fondée en Reims” from your favorite champagne bottle. The town of Reims makes for a great day trip from Paris and perhaps an alternative to more popular day trip locations such as Versailles. Because France has such a great rail network to take advantage of, Reims is only a 55 minute train ride from the Gare de l’Est in Paris to central Reims on the high-speed TGV network.

You may be wondering what the attraction to Reims is besides its world renowned Cathedral is? Champagne. This rainy town (250 days plus of rain!) is the home to some of the most prestigious champagne houses in the world from Krug to Ruinart and Veuve Clicquot. I selected one of my favorite houses, Veuve Clicquot, to do a tour. Most houses offer the chance to tour their cellars and caves and learn more about the history of their companies. Note-book in advance as many time slots fill up quickly!

veuve logo

It felt like a champagne-lovers heaven upon arrival in Reims while passing by the signs of Tattinger, Krug, and Ruinart in the taxi on the way to the Veuve Clicquot headquarters. I signed up for the “Aromatically Yours” tour through Clicquot. While this is one of the more expensive tour options, I highly recommend it.  Aromatically Yours is a 2.5 hour tour that takes you through the experiences of all the flavors found in the Veuve Clicquot vintages and is finished with a tasting of 4 vintages paired with raw goats milk cheeses.

The tour started in the garden which was filled with all the aromas found in the champagne. I found this portion to be highly beneficial as it really helped to identify the unique flavors during the tasting by waking up and attuning my taste buds to them early on. Our guide showed original documents from Madame Clicquot which had her original recipe for the first vintage. Our group was then taken down in to the famous chalk cave cellars….what an experience! The cellars are a labyrinth of 400+ cellars aging champagnes. I spotted a lot which dated back to 1975!

cellar steps


veuve bottles

After learning some more aspects about the history of the house and champagne making, the tour was concluded with a private tasting in the “cave privée”, a special cellar where each bottle is numbered because production of these vintages was limited. It was interesting to learn that “vintage” has nothing to do with the age of the champagne, but instead it just refers to year during which the harvest was exceptionally good. We experienced whites from 04 and 90 and rosé from 04 and 89. It was great to experience the aromas we were exposed to upstairs and learn about the pairings with the different cheeses.


cave privee



All-in-all the experience in Reims gave me a new found appreciation for the bubbly drink by show casing all the hard work and time that can go in to crafting just a single bottle. If you are in Paris and love champagne, a day trip to Reims is a must! Even if you cannot do an extended tour, visiting the gift shop at Veuve Clicquot was an experience in itself as we have nothing like it in the United States. The pristine showroom was filled with vintages, sleek yellow counters iconic to the brand, and unique gift sets.


All I can say is that the next time I find myself in Paris, I will be making a visit to the champagne region!


Post by Wes Holland

Monsieur Curations - Men's Lifestyle at Skimbaco Lifestyle, feature by Wes Holland

“I dream of being a business leader in the fashion world. Whether that be creating and running my own luxury retail consulting firm, or heading a department for a renowned fashion house, I want to mix the intellectually stimulating side of business with the creativity that the fashion world offers. Make sure to subscribe to Skimbaco Fashion weekly feed.” Wes Holland of Life Through Preppy Glasses.

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Follow Skimbaco Lifestyle (’s board Monsieur Curations for MEN on Pinterest.

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Instagram Travel Thursday project presented at the TBD Italy 2014 Thu, 06 Nov 2014 11:20:42 +0000
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Instagram Travel Thursday Project Presented in Italy

Leigh, Reeta and me from the Skimbaco Team attended the TBD Italy last month, and I was honored to speak about the Power of Communities, and I wanted to tell everyone the powerful story of Instagram Travel Thursday. Travel Blogger Destination Italy, TBD Italy, is a project by the largest travel trade show of Italy, TTG Italia, dedicated to online travel and blogosphere. Launched in 2013, it is the first event in Italy connecting the world of bloggers and online influencers with the tourism industry. I spoke in the event last year as well, and was honored to speak about a topic close to my heart this year as well.

I started the Instagram Travel Thursday in 2013 to raise awareness of travel bloggers on Instagram, and help travel bloggers to use this newer medium. I have been on Instagram for almost four years, and wrote a book about it a year and half ago. I saw the rise of Insta-fame and realized that many bloggers have actually much more to offer than people who only use Instagram as their medium, however large following they have on Instagram. The past summer I took a personal break from Instagram Travel Thursday, and now got back with monthly posts instead of weekly blog posts. It may seem that our community is not thriving, but in fact, many of the participants of the Instagram Travel Thursday have been getting new opportunities, more travel and are busier than ever, partially thanks to the Instagram Travel Thursday community. I wanted to take a moment today, and share some of the stats about Instagram Travel Thursday project and also share some of the feedback from our community members. The testimonials are the most powerful way to see the real benefit of Instagram Travel Thursday – not to mention how many of ours travel experiences have enriched thanks to great tips from IGTT members, and thanks to making new friends in our community.

Some Instagram Travel Thursday statistics:
– Over 230 bloggers have participated with blog posts and link collection promotes everyone’s posts
– Almost 20,000 photos tagged on Instagram
– Over 2,000 blog posts written in multiple languages, hosted in English, Finnish, German and Italian
Pinterest board to promote bloggers on Instagram
– Twitter parties receive over 12 Million impressions

Why join? Our community members confess!

Power of Instagram Travel Thursday community

Power of Instagram Travel Thursday community

Power of Instagram Travel Thursday community

Power of Instagram Travel Thursday community

There is one thing common with all of the above people – they have been actively supporting others in the Instagram Travel Thursday (IGTT) community, and the fact that they have helped and pushed other people up in our community, has been noticed by people even beyond the IGTT-participants. I am a big believer that when you help people to succeed, it always circles back to yourself. While many people have tripled their following numbers, and gained hundreds or even thousands of new followers while being participating to IGTT, there are some who have not noticed as large of a bump and have simply quit. Many have joined the IGTT movement in excitement and with high expectations, and these results and testimonials may even inspire many new people to join in. However – the truth is with any community (or relationship, ultimately being part of a community is having a relationship with many people within the community) that your expectations of getting something “out of it” should not surpass what you are willing to give for others.

I have much more to say about the subject of community, but above all, I am so thankful for all of our community members who are supporting and helping each others, and I am so proud of our community members who have been inspired by IGTT and started something new on their own. Let’s keep the good thing going!

See my slide show for the presentation.

TBD Italy on Instagram

Here are some photos from the TBD Italy 2014 picked from Instagram. Next year – you have to join us!

I may or may not have found my long-lost twin @fashitect at #TBDI2014 #style #werq

A photo posted by DJ Yabis (@dreameurotrip) on

A photo posted by Toni Tran (@fashitect) on

Join us!

Read more Instagram Travel posts from these new blog posts this month and add your own blog post. Linky closes on the last day of the month.

Link up, but read the rules first!instagram-travel-linky-rules

Instagram Travel Thursday

Join us every Thursday on Instagram by sharing your travel photos with #IGTravelThursday hashtag. You can also join our Facebook group for on-going discussion about Instagram.
Follow @skimbaco and @IGtravelThursday and we will feature the best photos on Instagram and on our Facebook page.

Instagram Travel Thursday is a fun community project to connect travelers on Instagram, read more.

Bloggers! Join the Instagram Travel Thursday and Host the Linky!

Bloggers, join us! Get email sent to you when the Instagram Travel Thursday linky post is up (subscribe it here).


Also get my ebook Instagram as your Guide to the World – How, What and Who to Search and Follow on Instagram to Help You Travel the World FOR FREE when you subscribe to my newsletter.

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Le Méridien Sparkling Happy Hour: Serving Global Cocktails Unique to Local Areas Sun, 02 Nov 2014 21:30:53 +0000
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Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts are putting back the sparkle in happy hour this fall and winter.  The trendy, European-inspired hotels in the Starwood Brand, have tapped into local flavors to curate spritzers and cocktails unique to its local area as part of the new global beverage program called Le Méridien Sparkling . During one of the most festive times of the year, guests and visitors of Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts  are  invited to have a taste of French sophistication in the hotel  lobby space, the Hub. Each evening, all Le Méridien Hubs transform from coffee bars into swanky ‘Sparkling’ lounges, featuring an eclectic playlist from French Bossa Nova band Nouvelle Vague.

Here are some of the divine cocktails being served up globally, from Charlotte, N.C. to Budapest, and places in between.

Le Méridien Stuttgart Mexican Snowman Cocktail

Le Méridien Stuttgart is creating the Mexican Snowman in Germany.  This cocktail is made with tequila coffee liquor combined with cherry liquor, topped with Rose’s lime juice, hazelnut syrup and finished off with Laurent Perrier.

You can find Santa’s Rosy Cheeks at Le Méridien Chicago Oakbrook-Center. This is a festive vodka-based cocktail with peppermint-infused syrup, crushed peppermint and mint leaves.

Sparkling cocktails at Le Le Méridien


The Le Méridien Budapest is serving the Autumn Spritz.  This fall-inspired cocktail consists of vodka and apple juice with freshly sliced pear and apple, topped with soda

cocktails inspired by fall and winter

In my home state of North Carolina, the Le Méridien Charlotte is offering guests the Charlotte Sling. I asked for the recipe so that you can have it at home, too. Get the ingredients and taste a little bit of North Carolina with me. The Charlotte Sling from   Le Méridien Charlotte The Charlotte Sling

3 dashes of bitters

1.5 oz. Queen Charlotte’s Reserve

1.5 oz. fresh orange juice

1 oz. club soda

.5 oz. maple syrup

Stir, add ice and garnish with orange peel

As you whip up a travel-inspired cocktail, listen to this playlist that you would hear if you were at the Le Méridien. Bring resort inspired cocktails in your own home is one way that you can experience travel year-round.

Katja  has been living the #SPGLIFE in Bali this week. Be sure to check her Instagram feed for beautiful photos in the Starwood Collection. The St. Regis just looks dreamy.

Skimbaco is living the #SPGLife in Bali


Post by Leigh Hines

Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle


Visit Leigh Hines of’s profile on Pinterest.


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Herbs, Spices and Sri Lankan Delicatessen Wattalappan Wed, 29 Oct 2014 10:42:39 +0000
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Euphoria Spice & Herbal Garden - Sri Lanka On this post to a family adventure in Sri Lanka I want to talk a bit about the local food. I shared all the different things our family manage to explore and try in Sri Lanka from elephant safaris and beaches to tea plantation visits and learning to carve cinnamon sticks., and in the second post I reviewed the lovely east coast boutique resort Maalu Maalu.  What I found astonishing was the fact that Sri Lanka seems to be a sort of paradise when it comes to the ability to grow a variety of local food – everything grows from rice and coffee to exotic fruits and spices here – both wild and farmed. Coming from the northern country of Finland where you can grow potatoes, appled and few other things, Sri Lanka is just amazing to me!

Collecting Natural Rubber - Sri Lanka

Collecting sap from a rubber tree

If you are planning to tour Sri Lanka you should definitely schedule a stop at one of the herb and spice gardens. As most of them are rather small and family-run, their Internet presence is not quite there yet, but the local guides will know where to find some. We were lucky to visit a great family-ran Euphoria Spice & Herbal Garden in Matale, where we learned about the healing powers of different plants and what these plants look like in real life – some of which are quite surprising to the images I had in my mind beforehand. A local lunch was part of the visit, and we, or rather Miss Anaïs also got to participate in preparing one dish for it – in this case it was a creamy and savory dahl. All in all the meal had some  ten courses, and that was one of the best meals I’ve ever had – and I was astonished to see all our children trying ,and liking , most of the dishes, which is somewhat rare!

Learning to Cook Dhal - Sri Lanka

Learning to cook dahl in Sri Lanka

The food was home-cooked, so the presentation might not have been Michelin-star level, but it certainly didn’t lack in flavour. As you can tell from the picture, they key really is having fresh ingredients and lots of herbs and spices. The cooking wasn’t as hard I had imagined, not did it take a long time. The one particularly positive thing I noted in addition of having plenty of different vegetables was was that salt was not needed in this cooking, which is something I try to avoid at home when cooking for children.

Delicious Sri Lankan Food

Lunch is served on a banana leaf

The table is set. Served on a banana leaf is an amazing meal full of colours and flavours. Food alone is a great reason to go and visit Sri Lanka – it is healthy, cheap and so tasty – even when bought from the little stands on the streets!

I also loved the local desserts, and one in particular: wattalappan. It was a bit like a mix between a creme caramel & sticky toffee pudding, and like many dishes in Sri Lanka it had that lovely coconut flavour. Our family had endless amount of wattalappan, and  Ruwandi from Euphoria Spice was happy to share her recipe, which was the most delicious of all the wattalappans we tried (and we did so in almost every hotel we stayed in!).

Wattalappan Sri Lankan delicatessen

If you’ll end up trying to make your own wattalappan let me know what you think about it, especially if you come up your own variation with a new twist to it. Meanwhile, keep calm and eat wattalappan!

Wattalappan from Sri Lanka

The must try dessert in Sri Lanka: wattalappan

reeta laaksonen

I love luxury travel and bringing global inspirations to our daily life. As a mother of three, I am always in the look for best places to visit with the kids. If you like the global lifestyle as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Lifestyle weekly feed.

Let’s connect!

Visit reeta’s profile on Pinterest.


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Tove Jansson’s 100th Anniversary and Moomin Exhibition at the Arabia Gallery in Helsinki Tue, 28 Oct 2014 10:21:56 +0000
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We recently visited the Arabia Factory in Finland. Arabia has been manufacturing Moomin mugs for decades, and held a Moomin Exhibition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tove Jansson, one of the most beloved and well-known authors and illustrators of Finland. The exhibition was part of the “Tove 100” portraying Tove Jansson’s art and life from different perspectives. We caught the last days of a Moomin exhibition in the Arabia Gallery during our factory tour and saw so many Moomin mugs we wanted to add to our own collection.

Collecting coffee mugs runs in our family. I carry Starbucks mugs from around the world, and the children carry Moomin mugs from our trips to Finland (and they are widely available around the world too, but online shops might be your best place to find them).

And it’s not just us that are affected by this coffee mug collecting bug, I bet the Arabia’s Moomin mugs are one of the top 10 collectibles in Finland, and it has spread all over the world, where Moomin fans live (especially in Japan), even to my sister-in-law in Texas, who started collecting Moomin mugs for her daughter as well.

But who are these Moomins?

The Moomins (Muumit in Finnish) are the characters created by Finnish illustrator and writer Tove Jansson. The roundish hippo- or even white cow-looking characters are the stars of the original nine books, five picture books and a comic strip being released between 1945 and 1993. Later on the Moomins have inspired to several other publications, anything from self-help to cooking books to TV shows and movies. The books have been translated from the original language Swedish to 44 languages. The carefree and adventurous family live in their house in Moominvalley, though in the past, their temporary residences have included a lighthouse and a theater.

YOLO says Moominpappa

Moomins are the original Skimbacoers, finding the best of every situation, and living life to the fullest. The Moomin family’s friends are an eclectic group of travelers and adventurers who like to visit the Moomin family while they explore the world. Moominpappa is full of wisdom from his world travels and life experiences, and he likes to get philosophical at times, but he has never lost his boy-like joy of adventuring life. Moominmamma is always ready for anything, and especially when it involves food, and we all know that food is an important part of any adventure. Moomintroll is the son of Moominpappa and Moominmamma, and he is a happy boy trying to make everyone around him happy, although gets himself in trouble quite often too. But that’s part of life – how could you learn anything if you didn’t do anything wrong?

Oh, and then there are Snufkin and Little My, who are polar opposites. Snufkin is a lonesome philosophical traveler, who wanders around the world with only a few things. He plays the harmonica, or goes fishing, and enjoys the simplified life. Little My is a mischievous tomboyish little girl, who lives in the Moomin house and has a brave, spunky personality. She loves catastrophes, and often does mean things on purpose.


And there is so much more. While Moomin-books were meant for children and loved by children, their stories and life lessons have a deeper meaning that adults alike will identify with and are inspired to enjoy life despite the storms we may encounter in life. I personally like Moomin better now as an adult as I ever did as a child.

Tove Jansson – 100 years

Tove 100

The creator of the Moomins, Tove Jansson was born on 9 August 1914 in Helsinki to a family of artists, and the 2014 is celebrated as her anniversary year. She passed away in 2001. Tove Jansson is one of the best-known Finnish artist in the world, and her work includes much more than writing the beloved Moomin books. During her first decades as an artist, Jansson produced not only paintings, but also an astonishing variety of illustrations. She continued to illustrate and paint even after the Moomin fairytales took off and as her reputation rose as a writer. Even her contemporaries saw that her tales from Moomin valley were not simple children’s stories, but presented an entire philosophy of life. The world of sympathetic Moomins was easy to enter, but readers found a deeper level behind the characters and their adventures: asking tricky questions and discovering the world with an open mind was the right thing to do. No wonder the Moomin characters have inspired many self-help type of books over the years, and an entire philosophy how to live life. And yes, even Skimbaco Lifestyle draws inspiration from Moomins and their adventurous life.

The first Moomin book was not an immediate hit, but with the third story, Finn Family Moomintroll (1948), Tove Jansson’s reputation rapidly spread across the borders of Finland and Sweden. As early as in the 1950s, she made a distribution contract for the Moomin comic strip with the largest evening paper of the time, the Londonbased Evening News. Soon, the comics were read in more than 20 countries. Today the books have been translated into over 40 languages.

Tove Jansson 100 years

As the success of Moomin books and comics snowballed, Moomins became a phenomenon calling for Tove Jansson’s intensive participation all over the world. After the first wave, one generation after the other has eagerly embraced Moomins. Moomins have appeared in countless television, movie, theater and opera productions. A fame of such proportions was quite demanding for the artist. However, Jansson never secluded herself from her audience, since she understood that friends of the Moomins wanted to get to know the artist behind them. Typically, she wanted to personally answer each and every fan letter she received.

Arabia & Moomins – part of everyday life

Moomin inspired home ware

Arabia started producing home ware products with Moomin characters already in the end of 1950’s, but the raise of the Moomin really begun in the 1990, when Moomin became more popular than ever before, and the time was called a “Moomin boom” in Finnish culture.


Ever since our children were young, I have been reading and telling them about Moomins, but I think they are just now starting to understand more of the deeper life lessons also included in the books, and starting to like Moomins more.


Arabia typically launches 1-2 new mugs per year and additional summer and winter seasonal mugs.


Moomin Exhibition

The Moomin Exhibition at the Arabia Gallery focused on the “Mugs that tell the story,” the Moomin mugs Arabia has produced over the years.


The pictures for the products are not original pictures drawn by Tove Jansson, but they are all inspired by her work and illustrated for Arabia just for the products.


Each Moomin mug was secured inside a dome to assure the highly collectible mugs stay in the exhibition.




The pictures between the mugs tell a much more detailed story how the Moomin characters turned into figures in the everyday dishes.


Are you familiar with or a big fan of the Moomins?


Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

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Follow my Trip to Bali as I Discover the SPG Member Favorite Hotels & Resorts Fri, 24 Oct 2014 08:12:30 +0000
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The St. Regis Bali Resort

Private pool at the St. Regis Bali Resort

My Dream Destination: Bali

Our expat living time here in Sweden is coming close to the end. Ever since I went to Bali last year I told my husband I would only move back to the USA from Europe if I could fly back “around the world,” and stop in Bali on the way. I fell in love with the island on the short trip when I went to the opening of Le Méridien Bali Jimbaran, a Starwood Preferred Guest hotel, last year, and I have been wanting to go back to Bali with my family ever since. Life doesn’t always go as planned, and we haven’t been able to make travels plans yet for the journey to exit Sweden. At the same time – life has an amazing way to work out, and I am going to Bali, leaving on Monday!

I partnered with Starwood Hotels and their Starwood Preferred Guest [SPG] member program. Each year they release their Member Favorite Hotels and Resorts List, and the 2014 list was just released recently. The list is based on SPG Ratings & Reviews and hotel feedback surveys from members around the world. This year three Bali properties are on the list, and I will be discovering all of them next week. Starwood has six resorts in Bali and three more opening the next 14 months.

The culture & serene luxury relaxation combined. Oh… and the food!!

Bali intrigues me as a travel destination, and I can’t learn to learn more about the Balinese culture, and I hope to do some cooking and yoga classes this time around. Bali is just one of those perfect destinations to have the ultimate luxury beach vacation in an exotic location.


The food is still often cooked on an open fire in Bali – even in the five star restaurants. I can’t wait to eat some exotic fruits like dragon fruit and mangosteen (pictured) on my trip, and I’ve been craving for the Balinese BBQ seafood for over a year now!

Watching the sun set at the private beach at the Westin Resort Nusa Dua

Watching the sun set at the private beach at the Westin Resort Nusa Dua

My daughter Gabriella is coming with me to Bali, and although this is a work trip for me, we will also be celebrating her upcoming 13th birthday on this trip, a trip I think we will both remember the rest of our lives. When her older sister Isabella turned 13, we celebrated it with a mother-daughter trip to Paris.


I’m looking forward taking my daughter to see some of the temples, and see the Balinese dancers performing.


I truly believe life is too short to wait for that one big adventure of a lifetime, and you have to figure a way to enjoy life right now, and make those Travel Dreams come true! That’s why I’m excited to partner with Starwood Preferred Guest, I believe I live the #spglife of making my dream travels come true. The SPG Member Favorite Hotels and Resorts List is a pretty good list to start looking for your next travel destination, and helping you to make your next travel dream come true. The list features 67 resorts around the world from Starwood’s almost 1,200 properties. These 67 have been voted the “best of the best” by over 1.1 million SPG members around the world.

SPG Member Favorite Hotels and Resorts in Bali

SPG Member Favorite Hotels and Resorts List highlights the SPG properties and destinations in several different categories: The Ultimate 10, Best Golf Getaways, Best Beach & Island Retreats, Best Winter Escapes, Best Family Adventures, Best City Experiences, Best Exotic Excursions, Best Small Luxuries, New & Noteworthy, Top 10 China and Top 10 USA Resorts.

The three SPG Member Favorite Hotels and Resorts in Bali are the Westin Resort Nusa Dua (read Reeta’s review of the Westin Nusa Dua), The St. Regis Bali Resort and the W Retreat & Spa Bali – Seminyak.


It explains a lot about Bali as an exotic beach destination that out of Top 10 Member’s Best Exotic Excursions, three resorts are in Bali. The Westin and St. Regis are also both voted as Best Beach & Island Retreats, and the St. Regis also gets the votes as a Best Family Adventure.

W Retreat & Spa Bali Seminyak
AWAY Spa at the W Retreat & Spa Bali

AWAY Spa at the W Retreat & Spa Bali

First we will stay at the W Retreat & Spa Bali Seminyak, and it features the AWAY® Spa. Open 24 hours a day, perfect! I can’t wait for a relaxing spa day, and recovering from our 24-hour travels at the WET® pool or at the Woobar overlooking the Seminyank Beach with some of the best views of the famous Bali sunset on our first evening in Bali.

Woobar at the W

Woobar at the W

The St. Regis Bali Resort
The Strand Villa at St. Regis Bali  Resort - Bedroom with Ocean View

The Strand Villa at St. Regis Bali Resort – Bedroom with Ocean View

The next we will check-in at Strand Villa at the St. Regis Bali. Strand Villa is a beachfront villa with direct access to a private beach with reserved beach sitting. St. Regis Bali is the only Nusa Dua Resort offering this ultimate luxury feature. I hope will are also able to do some kayaking or snorkeling on the private beach and on Saturday we will enjoy beach front yoga. (Stay still my heart!)

Beach at the St Regis Bali

Beach at the St Regis Bali

The Westin Resort Nusa Dua
Fresh water pool at Westin Nusa Dua

Fresh water pool at Westin Nusa Dua

We will spend our last days in Bali at the Westin Resort Nusa Dua. Skimbaco Team’s Reeta Laaksonen has stayed in this resort before and she says the Westin Nusa Dua is a perfect family resort, they even have a Westin Kids Spa – the kids only spa!

Westin Nusa Dua kids spa

Westin Nusa Dua kids spa

Virtually travel with me

Follow me on Instagram to see my travels as they happen.
My accounts: Skimbaco and KatjaPresnal.

I will also be tweeting and answering your questions about the resorts and Bali, follow me as @skimbaco on Twitter.

I will be using the #spglife for my social media content, and you can find more information about other SPG locations by following the hashtag.

My photos so far from Bali:

You can also follow Skimbaco Lifestyle‘s accounts SkimbacoTravel, SkimbacoFood, SkimbacoHome, SkimbacoFashion.


More about Bali on Pinterest

Follow’s board Bali Travel Inspiration on Pinterest.

Disclosure: I am working together with Starwood Hotels on this trip, but my opinions are my own. The resort photos provided by Starwood.

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.


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For Men: Packing for a Fall Trip to Paris Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:02:57 +0000
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Fresh Croissants, Vespas, cafés, crepes- quintessentially Parisian. For me, all these things and the many other marvels of Paris are just around the corner. The only thing standing before me is packing, often a daunting task for many. While the seasons begin to change in the City of Lights after the Indian Summer, below are my suggestions for a fall getaway in the French capital.

First and foremost- pack light! You will find many souvenirs, including wines and champagnes, which will add weight to your checked bag on the return trip. Parisians love to dress in all black. As a New Yorker, my wardrobe is filled with a myriad of black pieces so this is not an issue. Why do I recommend packing black? So you can “fit in.” When I travel, I like to blend in with locals as much as possible to avoid standing out. I recommend packing some light weight merino wool or cashmere sweaters to pair with slim fitting black cargos or denim. This time of year Paris temperatures are around 60 degrees; however, the city is notorious for its grey skies so lighter sweaters make for the perfect tops.

paris packing


Sweater: Ralph Lauren Black Label // Pants: Ralph Lauren Black Label // Boots: John Varvatos

After filling my suitcase and sorting and refining, here are my top suggestions for your autumn visit to Paris:

  • Dark colors: try to pack shades of black, grey, and brown. Parisians love to where dark colors like New Yorkers so you will fit right in!
  • A lightweight jacket: temperatures will be around 60 degrees so a jacket will be necessary, but you do not want to be too hot while walking around site seeing and touring. I suggest a lined nylon jacket.
  • Sweaters: utilize lighter weight wools and cashmeres which are perfect for laying in case the sun surprises you.
  • Footwear: For footwear, I found myself with boots and loafers. Loafers will be easy to slip on and off at the airport while a refined city boot will be perfect for function as well as style while in Paris
  • Travel Essentials: I like to pack a chapstick while traveling because of dryness, your favorite cologne, and, of course, your passport!





Photos: Wes Holland, Pinterest


Post by Wes Holland

Monsieur Curations - Men's Lifestyle at Skimbaco Lifestyle, feature by Wes Holland

“I dream of being a business leader in the fashion world. Whether that be creating and running my own luxury retail consulting firm, or heading a department for a renowned fashion house, I want to mix the intellectually stimulating side of business with the creativity that the fashion world offers. Make sure to subscribe to Skimbaco Fashion weekly feed.” Wes Holland of Life Through Preppy Glasses.

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Follow Skimbaco Lifestyle (’s board Monsieur Curations for MEN on Pinterest.

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Must do for Finnish Design Lovers: Visit Arabia Factory in Helsinki Tue, 21 Oct 2014 06:38:48 +0000
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Artists are the rocks stars of Finland

I recently visited Arabia factory in Helsinki. More about the factory, it’s history, amazing historical findings done from the factory attic, the showroom and why Arabia is the best known Finnish home ware brand in the world in this post, but first: why Finnish everyday design is different and how come the artists are the rock stars in Finnish culture.

It sort of has always been self-evident to me that you just know the names of the most famous Finnish textile designers, ceramics artists, and even artists who design hand-blown glass art. Let’s take the Marimekko’s iconic Unikko-print with bright poppies as an example – Finns just know that it was Maija Isola who designed it. Another example is home ware company Arabia’s Teema dishes, most of my Finnish friends probably could name that the dishes were designed by Kaj Franck. Even with the newer Finnish design brands, such as Ivana Helsinki, you know that the designer behind the brand is Paola Suhonen. The designers in Finland may be shy of using their own name as a brand name (although huge props for show designer Minna Parikka for going with her name as the brand name as well), but they do share the spotlight alongside with the brands.


The Finnish textile designers, ceramics artists, or home ware designers don’t have TV shows like Nate Berkus does, and they are not promoted by PR geniuses, nor they are in the covers of magazines or interviewed by morning TV shows all the time. Many (famous) Finnish designers work in small work shops like any other artists, and they do both commercial work for large brands and one of a kind art. I was thrilled to visit the Arabia Art Department, a rare creative art work shop co-op next to the factory where artists can concentrate on making art. This way unique art ceramics and design form a firm interaction, and the top artists of Finland can exchange thoughts and ideas. The Art Department Society’s goal is to advance the status of ceramics art in the field of modern culture, and aims at developing the Finnish culture and establish new contacts internationally through ceramics.


Peeking through the door of Fujiwo Ishimoto’s work space felt almost equally intimidating as meeting George Clooney at the Oscars. Really, I couldn’t believe it was really Mr Ishimoto, who designed for Marimekko in 1974–2006, and has been designing ceramics for Arabia since 1989.


Seeing the work shop of Heljä Liukko-Sundström was thrilling as well, her ceramic art was already part of my childhood home.


Applied arts has been an important part of Finnish culture since 1870’s. It has been important part of Scandinavian design that even the manufactured products are well-designed – and often by artists instead of pure industrial designers. The entire idea of applied arts comes from products designed by using traditionally handmade processes and methods, but then (machine and) mass-produced in a factory. The emphasis has always been put for the designers and the artists and their handicraft skills, even when the products are designed to be mass-produced. This all really comes back what we Finns tend to think: everyday design should be beautiful, and everyday objects should be well-designed and last a lifetime – both with high quality and with visually timeless design.

History of Arabia


The Arabia factory was built in 1873 in Helsinki, and still today reminds in the same location. It has been a Finnish custom to name companies by the location of the factory, and the entire company Arabia got it’s very non-Finnish name from the area where the factory sits in Helsinki. The rumor goes that the city blocks in the fairly remote area from the city center were named by a sea captain, who had visited exotic locations, like Arabia. Nowadays many think that the area in Helsinki has been named after the ceramics brand giant but it simply was the other way around. Regardless, 140 years later, thousands of ceramic objects are still fired in the long tunnel kilns of the Arabia ceramics factory.


The Arabia factory is the largest ceramics factory in the Nordic countries and it is nowadays part of the Fiskars Group. The name Fiskars most likely rings a bell even for our non-Finnish readers – it’s the bright orange scissors you might have in your kitchen or what you buy for your kids for school. Fiskars Group now owns several well-known brands besides Arabia in the ceramics/glass ware/porcelain category, for example Hackman, Höganäs Keramik, Iittala, Royal Copenhagen and Rörstrand. And as you can guess – the original Fiskars scissors were designed with the principles of applied arts – everyday objects had to be designed in a way the function and form unify. The scissors were designed in 1967 and over billion pairs has been sold worldwide.

fiskars tools

You can learn much more about the history of the Fiskars Group at the Arabia Factory, and see several art installations designed with the everyday objects from their brands.

fiskars factory

My favorite was the colorful glass votive installation created with iittala’s candle votives.

colorful glass votive installation created with iittala's candle votives.<br />

Arabia factory visit

Iittala is another Finnish home ware company, also owned by Fiskars Group, and nowadays both Arabia and Iittala products are developed and produced in the Arabia factory.

You can visit the Arabia factory and have a guided tour and learn more about the makings of the Arabia ceramics and home ware products.

You can visit the Arabia factory and have a guided tour and learn more about the makings of the products. It was fascinating to learn how the products are designed, and then the molds built for each product. Even more interesting was learning about the glazes and the colors in the ceramics, and why the Arabia Iittala products last a lifetime due the high quality process and materials used, and the decades of research of the best ways to manufacture ceramics.

While many of the products are completely machine manufactured in the factory, there are still several products that are handmade. Most of the prints in the ceramics for example are hand-places into each product instead of printed with a machine.

I can’t even start to explain the process in detail, but it was interesting learn little details like that the color red is the most difficult (and expensive) to produce. After also hearing how long the manufacturing process of many of the products takes and the high amount of individual steps involved, I swore I never complain about the high prices of Arabia and Iittala products anymore. (And I have been collecting Arabia dishes for 20 years now, and still use the same plates I used back then, and the quality truly stands the time).

While many of the products are completely machine manufactured in the factory, there are still several products that are handmade. Most of the prints in the ceramics for example are hand-places into each product instead of printed with a machine.

While many of the products are completely machine manufactured in the factory, there are still several products that are handmade. Most of the prints in the ceramics for example are hand-places into each product instead of printed with a machine.

The Arabia factory was being renovated in 2010, and during the renovations a sealed room was found consisting of hundreds of old ceramics molds. The molds were identified, and a few of them form the Arabia Memories collection today, only available to purchase at the factory store. The molds were of pieces designed by Kurt Ekholm, Michael Schilkin and Kaj Franck in 1930-1940's.

One of my favorite stories from the factory tour was to hear how the factory was being renovated in 2010, and during the renovations a sealed room was found consisting of hundreds of old ceramics molds. The molds were identified, and a few of them form the Arabia Memories collection today, only available to purchase at the factory store. The molds were of pieces designed by Kurt Ekholm, Michael Schilkin and Kaj Franck in 1930-1940’s and some of them were in production until 1950’s and some of them never made it into production. What an incredible time capsule!

he factory was being renovated in 2010, and during the renovations a sealed room was found consisting of hundreds of old ceramics molds. The molds were identified, and a few of them form the Arabia Memories collection today, only available to purchase at the factory store. The molds were of pieces designed by Kurt Ekholm, Michael Schilkin and Kaj Franck in 1930-1940's and some of them were in production until 1950's and some of them never made it into production. What an incredible time capsule!

Arabia Memories collection in production at the Arabia Factory in Helsinki, Finland

Factory showroom

Last, but not the least, the Arabia Factory also has an excellent showroom where you can find ideas for home decorating with the products from Fiskars Group. And of course, who could forget about the outlet store, where you can score many of the products for lower price!

Arabia Factory visit in Helsinki, Finland

Modern Finnish design for home - minimalistic Scandinavian style

iittala glass - helmi candle votives in multiple colors

Fall home decorating ideas from Arabia

More information about visiting the Arabia Factory, read from

My visit to Arabia Factory was part of a media trip in Finland organized by Visit Porvoo.

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

Let’s connect!

Visit Skimbaco Lifestyle (’s profile on Pinterest.


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