The Curation: Volume 26 (2024)

The Curation: Volume 26 (1)

Hello, Good Person with Good Taste reading this. I’m getting out of my comfort zone today. I share a bit about my personal life as I try to make a point about the lack of correlation between money and taste. I also share my guide to Marin County (California), where I’m proud to be from. The tried-and-true recs for anyone that finds themselves in the Bay Area. Even some closely held secrets. Of course, there’s a hotel list – this week, it’s Ireland. I wanted this one to be particularly well-researched, curated, but comprehensive. Most typical trusted resources don’t have all that much to offer. I think I delivered! I also share five cool (and mostly very affordable) French hotels with availability for the summer. One in many responses to the multiple France requests.

I’m a little nervous, to be honest, with this whole getting personal thing. I’m consistently conflicted about how much to share about me. But that’s a me problem, and it felt good writing this.

In a couple weeks, I’ll be headed to Italy for my yearly month-long trip. This year, I’m treating it as a business trip. I’ve done a full content strategy. The goal at-large: sharing an authentic Italian summer less-traveled. Special, little-known hotels. Introducing you to places less spoken about. A diverse variety of destinations: Le Marche, Cilento Coast, Lago Maggiore, the Levanto region of Liguria, Umbria, and of course the Tuscan Countryside and Capri. A bracket ranking the hidden gem beach clubs I visit. All of the details will live here, for paid subscribers. As a writer, naturally, I want as many people to read as possible. But, I know well that finances are often strained in Summer (and life in general), so I’m introducing a new way to become a paid subscriber. You can now opt for a group subscription, where you and your friends can get one together, and each save 25% off a yearly subscription (which is what this deal is applicable to). Use this link, if you like!

I’ll never tire of saying thank you. For being here, for reading, for trusting me. It’s a big deal and I take it seriously.

Let’s Talk About Money…and Taste

I know it’s uncouth to talk about money. But that’s what this is about, initially at least. First off, I find it fascinating and refreshing when someone talks about personal finances. Maybe you do too.But also, this is about taste. And how they’re uncorrelated. Mostly, this is a note from me to you, the Happy Hotelers, letting you into my personal world a bit more.

First, let’s start with a fact that’s a core tenet of and tenant in my life. Taste has absolutely nothing to do with money. Let’s rephrase. Money doesn’t buy you good taste. Again? You do not have to be wealthy to have good taste. And yes, you can be wealthy and have quite poor taste. And the last yes, “good” taste is subjective.

At the highest level, Happy Hoteling, and my “personal brand” is built on my taste. I’m really grateful to have been raised in a way that cultivated this. I’m really grateful that, although I can’t sing or dance or ski or code, I can find gems within dirt. It comes from how I was raised.

Many people seem to think that I come from old money. Or even just a lot of money. Simply, that’s incorrect. There are two factors at play, both of which I must discuss.

The first is that I come from a family that spent beyond their means. I’m working on changing this in my own life, but candidly, I’m not there yet. This year, there’s been a fire lit under my tush to change this, stat. At the risk of oversharing, this has been my hardest year yet – in January, my 87 year old dad ran out of money. Entirely. He had never saved, which I thought he had. Nothing. If you weren’t already over-aware, I’m an only child. My parents have been divorced for 25 years. But my dad gave me a wonderful life, and I’ve had to step up in a big way to show just how much I appreciate that.

I grew up traveling the world. I grew up in a house (small, but lovely) filled with antiques and original art and books. So many books. Photography, travel, fashion, history, quantum physics. I grew up spending a month in Capri, every summer. I also had student loans for my in-state tuition at UCLA. As I’ve now learned, my dad spent beyond his means. For me. All for me. I’m unfathomably fortunate.

Both of my parents have always taught me that travel is the best education, and it’s the key to being both an interested and interesting person.

Over time, I’ve learned that if there is any precursor to good taste, it’s being an interested and interesting person.

Thank you, parents.

Here’s what they did for me, and then what I’ve done to cultivate, regardless of how much (or how little) is in my bank account:

  • Museums were (and are) a non-negotiable. Knowing about the past, throughout the world, transcending time, pays you in spades. As a kid, my dad would play a game with me where he’d show me a flash card of a painting, and I’d have to name the artist. My reward was 25 cents. But it paid more when I was an art history major in college and could put in the bare minimum while doing well. And now, when I spend countless hours a week discerning what’s special enough to make the Happy Hoteling cut. Going to museums, doing the flash cards, learning about art and material history trained my eye. Don’t worry – I was a playground regular and played pretend, too.

  • Both of my parents houses were filled with treasures procured from their good eyes. At my dad’s, original Fornasetti, Art Deco furniture, and so many books. At my mom’s, African tribal masks, Japanese furniture and yes, books. So many books. When I started my career, I became the “girl that had a reference for everything” and that stemmed from the homes I was raised in. I’m so grateful. I think this is why when, last summer, my Caprese best friend taught me the Neapolitan word “piglia polvere” I was so giddy. (Definition: essentially a tchotchke, but more so the things you have in your home that you’ve accumulated throughout your life) I take immense pride and inspiration from collecting “stuff” from throughout the world. No one is ever going to walk into my studio apartment and think it’s boring.

The Curation: Volume 26 (2)
  • That leads to another core way I was raised. I was taught that “boring is as boring says.” Besides being unkind, in my family, being boring is the biggest no-no. It’s funny, because as a kid, I used to wish on birthdays that I could be more “normal.” Luckily, those wishes never came true. Instead, the parental push for curiosity turned into an insatiable appetite. I always want to know why and how and, most importantly for Happy Hoteling, where. In ways, I live my life as one big research expedition.

  • That led me to know a little about a lot, and a lot about certain things. Hotels, Italy, and travel in general lie in the latter category, obviously. But this broad need-to-know inclination has undoubtedly informed my taste. It’s much easier, and more genuine, to have gut feelings about what is “good” when you have a large reference pool to pull from.

  • My parents also taught me, although unspoken, the power of finding your “signatures.” Hallmarks of your unique brand of human that you become known by and for. I can probably sum myself up in a handful of terms: colorful, eccentric, hotels, extroverted introvert, Capri Person, stripes, allergic, Italy, only child, ideas, and hopefully…kind. I’ve found that knowing who you are, and going all-in on a handful of things makes it a whole lot easier to “shoot from the hip” instead of over-thinking or taking too much inspiration. (Fun fact, on TikTok, I consume very little travel content)

  • Back to the kind part. My dad never had too many rules when traveling, but a firm one was to “treat the people who serve you as if they’re the Spice Girls.” I would have done anything for the Spice Girls, so I sure as hell was going to be kind and conversational to everyone I met. This stuck, and it’s paid in spades. I don’t think I know any bona fide Good Person with Good Taste who is not also, fundamentally, kind. It’s cool to be kind, forever and always. This “rule” has had a direct by-product of people asking what I think.

  • I was taught to always have an opinion, unless you’re uneducated on a matter. Being opinionated, having gut instincts, and being willing to share is how I’ve connected with some of the most influential people I know. I’ll always find it to be the highest compliment to be asked “can I pick your brain?” or “I want your honest opinion.” I’m lucky, infinitely so, to have been asked this a lot, sometimes in big boardrooms with Important People, and other times by people like you, which has given me this platform.

These bullets are not intended as advice, necessarily. They’re intended as context, which we often miss in the digital age. Because no, I have not stayed at every hotel I share about. I have not (yet) visited every country I write about. I do not come from a family that was able to afford to stay at all these places. I have simply been given a toolbox that’s good at finding the special within the meh.

That’s why I treat Happy Hoteling like a business. Not a blog. Not as another social platform. It’s why I’ve pivoted away from being a travel agent (an attempt to legitimize this natural ability) to doing what I really love – writing, curating, and connecting. Telling stories. Helping you make memories.

Operating this as a business, as a team of one, has forced me to turn down much of my previous (much more lucrative) work with brand strategy and copywriting. The Happy Hoteling Substack is my pride and joy, and deserves the majority of my time. I’ve put all my eggs in the taste basket, not the money basket. I hope you’ve learned, through this essay of sorts, that they are not intrinsically connected.

With that said, if you trust my taste, enjoy my eye, like my recs, I’d love to have you as a paid subscriber.

Regardless, thank you for listening. Thank you for being here. Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for making it possible for me to pursue my wildest dreams.


The Ireland Hotel List

This is one I really wanted to get right. Mostly, because I see the same five hotels incessantly re-circulated across social media, and print. But I know in a country with such vast beauty and such rich culture, there’s more. It turns out, a whole lot more. Although I know it’s not part of the country, Northern Ireland is included.

52 hotels. My personal top choices are marked with an asterisk, as always. Quick notes on each name listed, for context. The source for all your future Irish Happy Hoteling!

Reminder that even if you’re not planning a trip to Ireland now, paid subscribers have access to the archives always – just search where you’re going and you’re likely to find what you’re looking for.

The Curation: Volume 26 (2024)
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