Wanderlust Posts

Wanderlust: Architectural Wonderment

By: The Balance Design Team

It’s travel season, folks, and that means different things to different people. Some are looking for rest and relaxation on a picturesque beach. Others take to the mountains for hiking and outdoor adventures. And then there are the architecture fans: those of us who choose our destination based on the location’s unique, historic, and beautiful buildings and structures. Here’s a few on our list.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, should be on everyone’s travel list. Built in 1609, this still-practicing mosque has five main domes and is stunning both inside and out.  The colors of the tile, the arched ceilings, and of course the red rug stir our hearts.

While you’re in Turkey, don’t miss the Grand Bazaar. This is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, so yeah, you could spend days here.

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest

Barcelona’s incredible architecture is something out of a fantasy. Casa Milà at sunset provides an unforgettable view.

Photo Courtesy of City Wonders

Park Güell is another of architect Anton Gaudi’s nature-inspired masterpieces. Fun fact: Gaudi lived in one of the residences here! The color and curves are childhood dreams come to life.

Photo Courtesy of Koamas Travel

The Maldives off the coast of India are the epitome of a dreamy island getaway. So what kind of amazing architecture could you encounter there? Envision a tranquil villa with a calm aesthetic, peaceful color palette, and a glass floor — enough said.

Photo Courtesy of Maldives Finest

Or what about a cozy minimalist interior with an open-access deck that lends itself to a perfect sunset view? Home away from home BLISS.

Hopefully we’ve been able to add to your bucket list and inspire you to venture to new places. Happy travels — and please share your photos with us!

Wanderlust: Las Vegas

By: Shelby Adamson

Recently an incredibly dear friend of mine invited me to her fabulous wedding in Las Vegas. To be honest, if it were not for this event I really would have no reason to take a trip to Sin City. For me, whatever happens in Vegas can stay in Vegas. I don’t gamble, I prefer a dive bar to a club filled with house music, and I would rather go to the real Paris or Venice than see the American versions in the middle of a desert. All that being said, here is my “skeptic’s highlight” of the city.

Image courtesy of Spoiled Splendid.

Upon arrival, I was immediately impressed with the canyons surrounding the city. I’m a Florida girl, and the expanse of desert was a beautiful sight to behold. My first stop along the strip was the Bellagio, a large hotel with a casino and shops on the main expanse of the first floor. High end shopping, Michelin star restaurants, and intricate interior details showed that no expense was spared here. After grabbing a cocktail and walking around, I have to say my favorite part was watching the fountain show that occurs every 15 minutes in front of the hotel. The fountains are paired with music (my favorite was the Pink Panther theme) and it is quite magical to watch.

Image courtesy of Cosmopolitan Las Vegas.

Yet another stop along the strip was the modern Cosmo Hotel, home to the Chandelier Bar. Pro tip: order the Verbena cocktail — it isn’t on the menu, but you will be so happy you did. This lemon verbena and ginger infused margarita is garnished with a Sichuan flower. Eat the flower before drinking the cocktail; your mouth will tingle and then go numb, but your taste buds will be heightened due to the alkaloid ingredient in the flower spilanthol. It’s a very unique and Alice in Wonderland type of experience!

Image courtesy of Conde Nast Traveler.

The details that go into each hotel really are impressive. If you know me,  you know I love to look up, and the Venetian had me marveling at its incredible ceiling. After popping into an oxygen bar and watching the gondola’s float along the indoor canal I made sure to get my fill of this ceiling before leaving.

Image courtesy of Shelby Adamson.

The dizzying lights, the sounds of the casinos, and the smell of cigarette smoke can be a bit overwhelming. So when I had a chance to hike Red Rock Canyon with a friend, I was eager to get some fresh air (this type of outing is much more my vibe). We were lucky to have a guide take us into the canyon and hike up the cliff, and learned about the common misconceptions that the desert is barren. On the way up, we were able to see all of the beautiful flora native to Nevada. The patterns in the sandstone truly were a work of art, and the peace and calm of the desert was exactly what we needed after the overstimulation of the Vegas strip. Ultimately we hiked to an elevation of 600 feet and looked over the beautiful splendor that is the desert.

My honest opinion about Las Vegas is that it is somewhat of a Walt Disney World for adults. I personally would prefer to visit other continents, hike Glacier National Park, see foreign sights. But overall I had a really great time in Las Vegas, and I was incredibly honored to be able to witness my friends beautiful nuptials.

Wanderlust: Phoenix, AZ

By: Danielle Clockel

Although my heart lies in the icy north, I do have a strange love for the desert. I love the plants, hearty and fierce looking. I love the landscape, with its sudden rocky peaks jutting into the sky. And while I despise the hotter end of the spectrum, I deeply relate to the extreme range of temperatures from day to night.

As you can imagine, this sparse landscape was strikingly different from the “city in a forest” I call home. But my heart swelled with excitement upon seeing short, shrubby vegetation and jagged mountains.

The first expedition was to the Desert Botanical Garden, and it was basically a wonderland. Paved and unpaved pathways wound through giant cacti, breezy grasslands, and crawling succulent sanctuaries.

I’m not exaggerating about the giant cacti. They’re as tall as trees!

I wish I could tell you I trekked all the way to the top of Camelback Mountain later in the week, but I absolutely did not bring the right shoes for that hike, so I stopped about halfway up and took in some seriously beautiful views.

To be honest, I was much more enthralled wandering around in the valley, gazing up at the incredible rock formations jutting out from the otherwise flat desert.

There was plenty to explore in the actual city as well. Delicious vegetarian/vegan eateries, vintage record stores, an arthouse/indie movie theater, and this incredible David Bowie mural that spanned almost a full block near the historic bungalow that I stayed at for the week.

It was an incredible visit, but I left just in time — the forecast called for a high of 90 degrees the day I flew back to Atlanta, and this cold weather loving gal had had enough of that nonsense during the summer already. That said, would I go back? I’ll answer that with a photo:

Wanderlust: Turkey

By Melody Richardson

As a Turkish-American child, I remember splashing in crystal clear waters, enjoying spectacular food, and absorbing the fast paced culture of Turkey every other summer throughout my childhood. The country has always held a special place in my heart. My mother is from Izmir, a small town on the southwestern coast, but spent her teenage years in Istanbul, making both cities a home away from home for me. After the passing of my mother, my younger brother and I decided to make an annual visit. Despite having spent so much time there growing up, viewing Turkey through unaccompanied adult eyes gave me a completely different experience. This time I went off the beaten path, exploring islands, and smaller historical neighborhoods, while still finding time for our favorite places. 

When in Istanbul, we stayed with our Aunt in Kadıköy, a local neighborhood. Each day we gazed out from her balcony, across the water, to the Princes Islands. This time we were fortunate enough to visit those islands. We knew after a one to two hour hike to the top we would be greeted by a 200 year old church and beautiful views. We did not, however, expect to be met by wild horses! As we took in the beauty, we fed the horses figs and olives from the surrounding trees. The Princes Islands are often visited by locals for a day trip, and I have every intention of going back each and every time. 

After a few days in Istanbul, we travelled to nearby Izmir to visit my grandmother. Izmir has been dubbed Ataturk’s City and has a giant stone monument in his honor. Another thing it’s is famous for is the Karşıyaka Bostanlı Bazaar which is only a 5 minute walk from my Grandmother’s house- we never miss it! It is definitely not the ideal environment for the claustrophobic, but very rewarding if you dont mind a little hustle and bustle. The bazaar is always busy with vendors and customers bargaining for goods. From fresh fish and vegetables to handmade jewelry and traditional Turkish towels, you can find just about anything. I always end up bringing an extra luggage to fill up with treasures to bring back home. After a long day of bartering, a nice ride around the bay on the Bostanlı Ferry at sunset is a relaxing way to take in a once in a lifetime view. 

The final leg of the trip we ventured back to Istanbul to visit with our uncle and explore the more touristy areas of Taksim and Karaköy. I always like to visit these neighborhoods because of the incredible combination of new and old, foreign and local. There are modern, trendy shops and buildings alongside centuries old palaces, mosques, and architecture– including the second oldest underground transit system, inaugurated in 1875. You can see Turkish people and foreigners alike bustling through the areas visiting the shops and cafes. 

Being in that environment is an experience impossible to find in the United States, that I highly recommend to all that are able. Coming home to Turkey makes me feel closer to my mother, closer to my family, and closer to the culture that I so deeply adore.

Turkey is a magical place with incredible people, sights, and history. It truly is my happy place. If you get the opportunity to go, please don’t hesitate to contact me for information and tips. I’d love to share, give recommendation and wish you: İyi yolculuklar! (Have a wonderful trip!)

Top 5 Quintessential Courtyards.

By: The Balance Design Team

As the weather gets warmer, people tend to talk about “porch season” or “deck weather” in terms of spending more time in their outdoor spaces. But let’s not forget courtyards! From grand, lush British gardens to architecturally focused Turkish temples, the style range is immense. Take a walk with us through some of the courtyards of our dreams…

Having a courtyard sounds like such a lavish luxury only attainable if you have a huge expanse of space in your home or yard. Not true! This Paris hotel does what Parisians do best: fit impeccable style into a small space.

But speaking of lavish luxury, the courtyard of the Riad Johara in Marrakech is doing it so right. This is everything we love about Moroccan style: cobalt blues, beautifully patterned tiles, and architectural shapes that are unmistakable (and astounding).

On the flip side of that coin, a simplified approach can be just as beautiful. This minimalist courtyard evokes a calm, quiet feeling and puts the focus on the experience of being outside. We can almost hear the quiet birds chirping and the soft breeze blowing.

We love a good fire pit, especially in such a lovely little courtyard. Balancing out the gravel ground with lush blooming hydrangeas and climbing vines creates a welcoming and intimate atmosphere.

We weren’t going to let this post go by without featuring a courtyard with a pool! Plus, look at those carved wooden doors, tropical palms, and crisp white facade. This is paradise.

In the most basic definition of the word, a courtyard is simply an unroofed area completely or mostly enclosed by the walls of a building. But to us, it’s so much more! A blurring of the line between indoor and outdoor space, a meditative sanctuary to commune with nature, or a gathering place for friends and family.