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@kirstenalana

Kirsten Alana • Photographer

kirstenalana

Sharing Moments at Home & Abroad • Co-creator of #ThoseCubaStreets w/ @dante.vincent • business inquiries: kirsten@godandbeauty.com

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1/6 from The Outer Banks • So grateful to be working on a #sponsored creative series with my uber talented friend @borderfreetravels this week in @theouterbanksnc. We both feel grateful to have been chosen to help tell the story of this special part of the USA! We're starting in the town of Manteo on historic Roanoke Island where the English first created a settlement in the 1580's. It's a place where you'll find an abundance of old inns, long piers, pretty boats, tall trees, vibrant gardens, eclectic stores and no shortage of stories from locals if you have the time to sit and hear them. Stay tuned for more as we discover #obxnow and of course Kristen and I will both be sharing tidbits from our day to day in Stories...
JORDAN • After a month away from home, I was more than ready to get the whole thing over with so to speak. When I arrived in Jordan, I was just TIRED, ready to see @dante.vincent again, to have truly clean clothes to wear and to be in the same bed for longer than two nights -- but I'd made a commitment, so luggage issues plus some more complications (see my last post), I was going to give it my all on the last few days of my trip. Jordan has a way of making it easier. It's a country that seduces you moment by moment and interaction by interaction. In the end, it was a privilege to spend 3 nights at the Dead Sea with colleagues from @adventure.travel_ talking about adventure, sustainability and mostly about @visitjordan itself. I really appreciated talking to HRH Princess Dana Firas too, who pointed out that while Jordan hasn't always gotten things right, they are making strides and I'm excited knowing she's at the helm of projects that will lead the way in that respect. How poignant, that we all make mistakes but what matters most is that we keep trying to do better. Always. Instead of feeling worn out, as the time to leave came due, I was feeling filled up and ultimately, sad at the prospect of leaving. #anextneareast, like other conferences the ATTA puts on, is not like other events. Jordan is not like other places. And so in a way the best part of my month away kind of ended up being saved for last. My new friend @paulclammerwriter said it best, "I had a lot of big life and career thoughts come out of that conference, and it's in no small part because of all the conversations we shared. Turns out it's not a Lonely Planet after all." As I looked across the water during this Sunset, I gave thanks for all I'd experienced in the days leading up to this moment. There's hope for us all if we choose to see it. #myjordanjourney
JORDAN • After my assignment with TCS concluded, I traveled alone to the country of Jordan to rendezvous with colleagues from @adventure.travel_ for #anextneareast. My first flight was delayed causing me to miss my connecting flights, then my bags never made it to Amman so the adventure started out very adventurous indeed. When I arrived in the middle of the night, I was actually so afraid to meet my colleagues over breakfast the next morning, only one of whom I knew already, wearing the same clothes I'd been in for 3 days, drastically unprepared for hiking through desert wadis and up mountains. I feared the people I was about to meet would not accept me since they'd already had a day to bond without me, and I believed they would ridicule me for my ill-preparedness no matter how little control I had over it. The opposite was true and by the end of our first day together, we were family. During our time together at @feynanecolodge, we spent time with multiple Bedouin families learning how to make tea, how to use the wild plants and herbs of the surrounding landscape for prevention and healing, coming to understand the rituals of coffee which are highly nuanced, observing bread being made in varying styles, showing Bedouin children the basics of photography, trusting our guide Suleiman to get us home safe in the desert darkness and taking cooking lessons back at the lodge. We grew used to the lack of electricity (the lodge is solar powered but minimally), and didn't miss the WiFi we would have had elsewhere. We slept on the roof when our rooms were too warm. We gazed at stars so numerous and large they made us feel minuscule. I can't show you in photos what it means to bond with people on a level that's permanent and I can't promise it will happen to you if you visit Feynan. But you should visit. It's a place 40 KM from the nearest paved road and it's likely that separation which makes it so inspiring. I don't know. All I do know is that all my fears were washed
PORTUGAL • Our last country on the @tcsworldtravel Kingdoms & Cultures of Eurasia itinerary was the one from which we began our journey. However, instead of going straight back to Lisbon, we flew to Porto and drove from there to the Douro Valley. It felt as if we traversed through Portugal's garden of eden on the way to @sixsensesdourovalley. Light rains made mist hang on to the heights of rolling hills like top hats on a well-dressed gentleman while shades of green seemed to number into the hundreds, every hue from emerald to chartreuse represented. Port, as the name suggests, comes from these valleys outside the city of Porto so the endless slopes of grapevines were both stunning to look at and also a lesson in the culture of the region. Everything revolves around the grapes! The beverage is a poignant part of life and of the history of the region. From our home at Six Senses we could look out at the layers of the valley letting the views bring us peace, we could wander in the nearby forest with the song of the wind in the leaves, or in the garden where every plant is used in the bar/kitchen/spa, indulge in the treatments that spa provided or float down the river on a boat which was once used to carry Port to harbor. Our stay was far too short but it was a gift, a way of ending our incomprehensible journey through 9 countries on the highest of notes. It was the swell in a symphony that leaves you wanting so much more. #tcsmoments #tcsworldtravel #sixsensesdourovalley
FRANCE • After visiting the Spanish side, we continued our quest to understand Basque Country in France by making the @hoteldupalais, Biarritz our home away from home as well as using an afternoon to walk around the town of Bayonne. The "home of chocolate" in France, according to our guide, it is a colorful town with tall row houses of a very distinct Basque style comprising shutters in red/green/blue, a grand cathedral and intact city walls which date back to the Romans. Biarritz is somewhat typical of a French seaside resort town but has a laid back vibe that could have been due to our arrival just before high season, or its surfing and fishing culture. While you'll find some of the glitz and glamour of far away Cannes or Nice, including designer boutiques and palace hotels -- you will also find a ruggedly beautiful coastline and a relaxed attitude that makes the town one I find far preferable to its Mediterranean counterparts. In fact, I may just return because our visit during a National Holiday meant not every store was open and not every vendor in the market was present yet I still found the shopping to be undeniably tempting and the market to be delectable in the extreme. So much more to still see and do!! As with all of our #tcsmoments over the last month, just a sample that leaves you wanting so much more...
SPAIN • Our second to last stop on the @tcsworldtravel adventure that I've been a staff member for since mid-April, was done in two parts. The goal was to experience Basque Country on both sides of the Spanish and French borders. This thrilled me to no end because while I j'adore both countries, I had never been to this part of either AND it meant visiting Bilbao, the home of one of the many masterpieces by my favorite architect: Frank Gehry. His design for the Guggenheim Bilbao has been a phenomenal success for the city, bringing something in the realm of 160 million dollars to the local economy in just the first year of its opening. I've also read estimates that put the total value of its contribution at over 3 billion. This has led other cities to attempt to capture that same magic and now his creations can be seen around the world from Seattle to Prague to Hanover and back again. Inside I think the museum is even more spectacular than out and the exhibits they currently have are worth a visit all on their own. Modern masterpieces by Pollack, Rothko, de Kooning & Richard Serra made me wish we had more than 2 hours to explore. Yet it was a privilege I didn't take for granted at all, to be able to visit just for a few hours because we had the flexibility of the TCS private jet. The Basque people that we met were so interesting and my only regret is that our brief stop didn't allow me more time for a deeper understanding of what makes them different from people elsewhere in Spain and France. I'll just have to return to do that another time!! • I'm curious, are you Basque? Or from Bilbao? What's your favorite thing about the area or culture? #tcsmoments #tcsworldtravel
ROMANIA • Because of my friendship with @monicasuma, I had heard enough about Bucharest to know I'd probably enjoy this visit to the city with @tcsworldtravel. I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did or to find, around nearly every corner, evidence of a Romanian affinity for all things French that rivals my own!! In fact as one of our guides on the ground said, and I'm paraphrasing, "We love France so much we just copied their flag and changed the white to yellow!" 🇷🇴 Can you see the French influence in this photo? It was taken at a former Belle Époque home that's now the most wonderful bookshop with a sublime outdoor café in a residential area of the city that is filled with similar mansions, all built during the same period. Patisseries abound and the mansions aren't the only evidence of a love for France. Even many of the street signs are a direct copy of those found in my beloved Paris. Then again, also like some of our other stops, Bucharest is a city of contrasts. Because not far away from where I took this there are Communist-era landmarks and buildings significant to the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu. I noted a few blocks with buildings un-restored which looked as if they were victim of a more recent armed conflict. Yet I felt 100% safe walking around at night and every Romanian I met could not have been more nice. Contrasts! Everywhere! The beauty and the decay work in tandem to evoke a sense of surrealism but ultimately the feeling of hope and optimism for the future of Romania presides over all! These few days have made me very excited to follow along as Monica and some of my other friends bring @experience_bucharest to life in the coming weeks. I hope you will follow along as I plan to! ❤️
ALBANIA • Yet again I was blown away by how much I liked another stop on this @tcsworldtravel tour assignment. Tirana is the capital of Albania and from my room at @theplazatirana, I could look out at a city which is rapidly changing. It includes a colorful mix of Ottoman, Fascist, Soviet-era and Italianate architecture but it will soon include towers and buildings by renown international architects and the cranes which dot the city skyline attest to that investment in the future and the hope that Albania's future is far brighter than its troubled past. On our first night in the city we met Mayor Erion Veliaj who has a bold vision for that future which includes the largest pedestrian car-free zone in Eastern Europe and a focus on encouraging the arts as well as growing the technology sector. I was downright emotional hearing him lay out his plans, influenced by his years of humanitarian service work in far flung locales. We toured former Communist palaces, we saw bunkers turned into art installations and centers of learning, we went to mosques and churches from multiple religions and we met a documentary filmmaker before listening to the most wonderful family of musicians play long into the night. We ate lunch at an organic farm and winery run by a father and son who are so passionate about the role good food plays in the future of their country. We saw a peace bell made from the melted down bullets spent during the tumultuous years which followed a deadly regime. It's hard to feel hope as an American right now but the places TCS has taken us in these last few weeks are reminding me that hope is only lost if we choose to lose it. Tirana, thank you for the latest reminder. 🇦🇱 Albanian followers, can you chime in by commenting and tell me: what are your favorite things about your country? What should a visitor not miss? 🙏🏼 I couldn't go everywhere and I'd love to make this post a sort of crowd funded travel guide to the country. Together, we can
#sponsored ❤️ Paris was my first ever truly solo trip abroad. It was a trip that confirmed the Francophilia I'd been feeling since I was a little girl, which was encouraged by my mother and godmother who both speak French. During that first trip, I was convinced that I am destined for a lifelong obsession with all things French and hopefully one day a deeper relationship with the culture than just a few trips. It prompted me to form deep connections with other Francophiles like me around the globe which I've further indulged by making frequent trips to France and by being part of communities online that promote French culture all around the world. One such friend, whom I actually met in person at a cafe during those first blissful days in Paris, I worked with last year to help another friend of ours launch #thefrancophiles. We both fly SkyTeam member airlines with frequency and it's @Delta who I have Diamond Medallion Status with. I'm grateful to them for asking me to share with you how #travelchangedme
OMAN • Our halfway point in this journey with @tcsworldtravel. I've been so impressed with the quality of the hotels which are part of this trip but by far the best has been our stop in Oman at @sixsenseszighybay. It's now on my list of favorite resorts and please ask me questions because I will be overjoyed to tell you more about it!! From the kind staff to the delectable food to the superb villas to the fun of the activities and the unusual setting on a secluded bay of the Musandam Peninsula -- everything about our three night stop made it an experience that I was reluctant to have end. If you watched my Stories, you know the most fun for me was the motorized hang glider that I went up in early one morning as the fog was still sitting on the mountain behind the resort. I haven't had too much experience in this part of the globe so I wasn't sure what to expect but the expectations I did have were entirely exceeded. #tcsmoments
KAZAKHSTAN • When my visa for Turkmenistan was denied, I came here from Kyrgyzstan to get some work done before the rest of my @tcsworldtravel group joins me tonight. They've had some amazing adventures I'm sure, if everything I've heard about Turkmenistan is true -- but I've had to "roll with the punches" that a life of travel can bring by making the best of things at the @ritzcarlton. It hasn't been bad at all actually! 😉😜 The view of the city below me and the mountains off in the distance have been a nice distraction from the slew of things I've had to check off my To Do list in preparation for a talk I'll give in Oman, our next stop, and the presentation I'll do at the very end when we're back in Portugal. Actually I have not stopped working since I arrived!! All I've done is alternate between the desk and this cozy spot where I can more easily look out over the city. Which is so green!! I can't wait to get down into it and explore with the group tomorrow, stay tuned for my Stories and if you have any questions about this month-long assignment, please ask away in the comments ❤️
KYRGYZSTAN • I originally heard about this country from my friends @uncornered_market. Like many other countries, it was once a part of the Soviet Union. During this visit with @tcsworldtravel what I've found, not unlike in Lithuania, is a country burst forth from the confines of the past to embrace all the possibilities of the future. However in deference to the lessons that the past has to teach us, and different from how other former-SU countries operate, you'll find all the evidence of the past still on display. [At least] in Bishkek, where we concentrated our time during our two nights in country. Statues of Lenin are found close to statues honoring current leaders. Surrounded by tulip beds and crowned with sunshine there's a surrealistic air that begged questioning. In answer, our guide explained that this is because they believe erasing the past, however terrible it was, will not help them be the type of people who welcome & embrace all human beings. And, he proceeded to explain, this is how they want to be. Like a big house open to everyone. This seems a tall order given, as he went on to explain, there are 40 distinct tribes of people here and 80 different ethnic groups. If there's a secret to living in harmony no matter our differences, it seems like the people I've met along this journey so far have certainly discovered what it is. Perhaps it doesn't hurt that while in the city, the snow-capped mountains are always visible and seem to impart a sense of wonder. Maybe it is the patterns which cover clothing and buildings alike, all taken from elements of nature or relating to the relationship between man and nature. This country may not be perfect, no one country is, but it is a place that struck me as being free of malice and full of hope. A rare combination these days. #tcsmoments
LITHUANIA • It was rainy and cold for the first few hours of our only full day in Vilnius. However, I was determined to make the best of it and in the hours between when it stopped raining and the sun finally came out to stay for good, I found the upside I was looking for in the giant puddles that accumulated all over the Old Town's cobblestone streets. There were suddenly reflective surfaces everywhere and every time I saw one there was something beautiful waiting in the still water because the historic section of Vilnius that somehow managed to escape too much damage during Soviet rule is gorgeous. Lots of details make the buildings so charming and since they are protected with UNESCO status, they will stay that way forever. It felt a bit metaphorical in a way as well since the Baltic states went through some dark times in the past but Lithuania appears to have emerged into the light of a new era with hope and vigor. Everyone we met from the hotel staff at @kempinskivilnius to the guides to the locals who opened their studios and businesses -- were so kind, quick to make jokes and to smile. They were so proud of what their country has become and perhaps still has yet to become. Finding such optimism in a time where the news usually suggests such global darkness was the most beautiful gift we as visitors could have received I think. I'm so glad this country, and it's capital city, were on our itinerary with @tcsworldtravel 🇱🇹 #tcsmoments
PORTUGAL • First stop: Lisbon!! For the next month I'm the onboard photographer for @tcsworldtravel's "Kingdoms and Cultures of Eurasia" itinerary. We all met in Portugal from around the world at @fslisbon and I was so excited at first I could hardly contain my joy. It's a country I've wanted to visit forever so though we only had 2 nights there, it was long enough for me to confirm that the country is every bit as wonderful as I'd hoped it would be. We'll end our tour back in Porto but next up is Lithuania which I've already begun to share in my Stories if you're interested. This is a country with an immensely fascinating history and lots to talk about. But back to my photo: the little tuck tuck is a common site in the city and most of them are all white. This one caught my eye because it's essentially covered in the Azulejo tile that is found on the exterior walls of many of the buildings in the city of Lisboa. These tiles are not only beautiful, they're very functional. They reflect the light and keep the interiors cool. I happen to love them because they're so beautiful! #tcsmoments
"Staring down the barrel" of a long month away from this guy which officially began yesterday. I'm so grateful for the few vacation days we had in California together before I had to go, which ended with this sunset shoot outside of Palm Springs. @dante.vincent is always up for a photo op and I was so happy when he went along with my idea for this one. He's the best adventure partner a lady could ask for. Tag your favorite person to explore with! I'd love to know them too! ❤️
When I found out Doug Aitken had contributed to @_desertx, I had to go see his piece while in Palm Springs for Coachella. MIRAGE did not disappoint. Though I wish I'd been more diligent, arriving early, as the crowds who had the same desire to experience MIRAGE as I did, were a little overwhelming. It's been commonly called the mirror house for good reason. Aitken has created, at the juncture where the San Jacinto mountain range gives way to the Coachella Valley, a literal house made of mirrors. It both frames and distorts the scenery around it. There is no correct interpretation and no one fixed perspective. Without doors or windows, devoid of people who call it home and the possessions that would come with that, there's a fluid relationship between the "home" and it's surroundings. The mirrors become life-size kaleidoscopes, the outside is inside and though the structure exactly depicts a typical suburban Ranch Style house it is anything but typical. I've seen other art installations involving mirrored surfaces but I've never experienced anything exactly like MIRAGE. Visit before it goes away October 31 and I recommend going at sunrise or early in the day. For more 👉🏼 #desertxmirage
As inspiring as Coachella was, it wasn't really the source of the zen or rest I was looking for. So I was grateful to see a different side of the Palm Springs area when @gnbinfluence got @dante.vincent and I in to the #topshopescape #topmanescape party. There were ample places to sit in the shade, vines overflowing with colorful blooms spilling over stone walls, carved wood surfaces that took me back to Morocco and Spain, a beautiful pool, a yummy salad bar, a cooler full of fresh pressed juices and a cocktail bar as well as treats from @sugarfina and even free massages! To say I didn't want to leave is an understatement. Frankly, after visiting and later perusing their feed, I'd like to return to @korakia for a proper vacation or maybe a yoga retreat. I think I could indeed breathe deep and find serenity in a setting like that!
I survived my first ever @Coachella! Did you know that it is officially the Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival? If not you do now! 😉 The grounds of the festival feature [from their site:] "a variety of large-scale art exhibits to provide immersive and tangible experiences between the bands' sets. This year's art includes a 360 degree sensory experience, massive and colorful stucco sculptures, and art examining the role of self-reflection. Chiaozza Gardens is a group of massive, colorful stucco sculptures built by Brooklyn-based artists @chiaozza with help from their friends." 🎨 The Gardens were my favorite art at the festival and no matter whether day or night, they were inspiring to behold, always changing in the varying light. If you know me well it's perhaps not a shocker that the art is what I focused on!! 😝 However the food was pretty dynamite as well (special props to those vendors in the VIP area and @cupcakevineyards for that) and it was monumental for me to finally hear Radiohead, Bon Iver, The XX plus Francis & the Lights live. I'd pay the price of admission all over again just for those 4 performances. Actually @dante.vincent paid the price of admission as a surprise, making him the best partner a lady could ask for. See his feed for photos 5x better than anything I captured all weekend. After all, I was on vacation and mostly had my camera off. But Danté was shooting constantly & what he captured blew me away! ✨✌🏼 #coachella2017
I teamed up with @getolympus to test the OM-D E-M1 Mark II in stunning Whistler. As we were flying over the mountains in a helicopter, I was shooting with the 12-100mm, which worked so well for that situation, and thinking of one of my favorite photographers. The black and white landscape photos that Ansel Adams captured were an early influence in my desire to one day become a photographer and it's rare that I'm in the kind of jaw dropping nature that characterizes British Columbia, without thinking of his work. His work was also influential in making me feel protective of the planet and in prompting me to find ways as an adult to be an active participant in conservation. More on that in a later post but I wanted to say thank you to Olympus for bringing me to such a beautiful place to shoot, with such great equipment and an amazing crew, so for a few days I could remember those early influences. #capturingwhistler #sp
#tbt to this time just a week and a few hours ago where I was in France with @bargeladycruises capturing my favorite season in my favorite country. I fell in love with a new style of travel and a new region in said favorite country but I've been on an innumerable amount of flights since then and multiple continents and I'm exhausted. I'm putting down the cameras for a few days in California with @dante.vincent but I'll post occasionally here and on Stories. But rest. For now what I need is a bit of rest. That's restoring the life to my soul. 🌸 What's making you come alive on this beautiful Thursday?
Early in our visit to Whistler with @getolympus, who I've teamed up with to test the new OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera, we drove to Squamish to test the camera's Pro Capture setting while shooting birds. I didn't feel I was successful so I wanted another chance and a visit to the Trainwreck in the woods provided just that when @mikaikarl consented to jump from car to car for me as I fired away with the M.ZUIKO 12-100mm f/4.0 PRO lens. I typically don't use lenses which aren't f/2.8 or under so I was impressed by how well it performed when I needed it to, easily catching Mikai mid-jump between the cars. There's an alternate shot in Stories still visible if you want to see the great light we had!🎨 As for the wreck itself, which you can also see more of in Stories, it's the site of seven twisted train cars from an accident that occurred in 1956 in a rock cut not too far from the present resting site, caused by a crew speeding too fast through an area of tracks which were under repair. PGE Railway wasn't able to budge the fourth engine which had turned a rail or the subsequent wrecked boxcars, so a local family came in with their logging equipment, cleared the tracks and moved the wrecked boxcars to their present location right on the Cheakamus River, spread out over a kilometer under soaring evergreen trees. To visit, hike in from a trailhead close to the former Olympic Village. The city has deemed the site an Authorized Graffiti Area, encouraging artists to leave their mark on the metal surfaces as they naturally decay. It makes for a fascinating juxtaposition between the man-made & the natural.🌲 #capturingwhistler #sp

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