Céline Cummins, designer of Céline Rita, got married last summer and in July this year the designer and her new hubby Dean Cummins spent a month in Europe for their delayed honeymoon. It was also the perfect place to test out her new Céline Rita samples for her Summer 2018 collection which has recently arrived online. Céline shared their travels on her IG page @celinerita and we loved them so much we asked her to share her travel diary with us including her favourite spots to stay, eat and visit.
Tbilisi is a beautiful little city in the far East of Europe. Dean spends a lot of time in the capital of Georgia, as part of the coaching team for their national rugby team.
If you’re like me, you don’t know a lot about Georgia (the country, not the state). Georgia was a part of the Soviet Union, and up until as recent as 1995, the country dealt with political and social unrest. Meaning most adults today have clear memories of war time.
It has an enchanting old-world charm about it. Part of what made travelling to this area so fascinating for me, was the sheer amount of history, especially coming from a young country like NZ.
Georgia is surrounded by so many different cultures and you can definitely see influences from each; in the culture, food and architecture.
The patch work architecture had me snapping away at every corner. Centuries of Persian, German and Russian architectural influence is visible. Unfortunately after decades of conflict, and little spent on redevelopment, many beautiful historic buildings are in disrepair.
There is a very cool, creative vibe throughout Tbilisi. From art, to interior to fashion. There’s a real contrast between the older generation with the traditions, and the younger generation coming through, wanting to express themselves creatively. You can really feel that it is an exciting time for this city.
There is a strong, underground fashion scene. The street style is some of the best I’ve ever seen, making people watching a dream! I can’t pinpoint the style, but it’s very refreshing – young, edgy and laid-back.
I’ve always loved the connection between history, fashion and politics, it could not be more evident in Tbilisi. The first fashion week was in 2015 and I have a feeling their industry is going to be influential in the future.
Céline in the Soph Dress in White Stars $299 in Tbilisi.
Wine is a huge part of Georgian culture, no surprise considering they have been making it for thousands of years (since 6000BC!). Their orange wine is made traditionally in clay vessels called Qvevri. It’s all natural and organic, and is an amazing drop in the Georgian heat, a great alternative to my usual go-to rosé.
Food is cheap and fresh. Traditional and fusion Georgian food is made in cool hipster cafes and beautiful restaurants in charming courtyards, usually down unexpected alleyways. If you ever find yourself in Tbilisi, my foodie recommendations are: Keto & Kote, Café Littera, Stamba Hotel, Lolita.
There are so many beautifully refurbished heritage buildings, but Stamba Hotel stood out from the crowd, it is seriously impressive! The building itself is an old soviet-era publishing house, evidence of this can be seen with the antique printing machine now a centerpiece in the lobby. Not just a hotel, among the industrial framework there is a cute little cocktail bar, café, restaurant, gallery spaces, indoor exotic plants and private courtyard dining. So even if you aren’t staying here, you can enjoy everything it has to offer. Recently, fashion shows as part of Tbilisi Fashion Week were held here.
Even if you’re not a history nerd like me, you will find the Georgian National Museum interesting, purely to get a better understanding around Georgia’s history with the Soviet Union. A bonus was the incredible ancient art, fashion and jewelry that has survived centuries in a city that has had countless wars.
Tbilisi was an amazing way to start our trip, full of surprises and hidden gems. One surprise included a 5 hour train ride to a place called Batumi, to watch Elton John, the living legend. A night I will never forget!
We had already spent a little time in Italy when Dean played rugby in Florence. So we were keen to check out the lower region of Italy this time, so we hired a car to cruise around Puglia.
Céline in the Vivian Blouse $159 in Matera (Otrano centre image).
The first stop on our road trip was a beautiful old town called Matera. Although not technically within the region of Puglia, it is unmissable when you are in this part of the world. Matera has been carved into the rock and is made up of ancient caves, we actually stayed in one! It’s an amazing place to wander around the footpaths in the sun, and to marvel at the architectural treasure that it is. We got up early to roam the streets and narrow alleyways. It’s pretty amazing to see a world that looks not of this time, and whose history can be traced back further than almost any other place known to man. Although its growing, tourism has not yet taken over this beautiful town. In fact, I didn’t hear any English the whole time. To me this is part of the beauty. This ancient city has remained relatively unknown to foreign visitors, and yet has had people living there for thousands of years. Matera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Another highlight in Puglia was staying at a Masseria. A Masseria is a fortified farmhouse or country house on a country estate, usually found in the Italian region of Puglia. Once again, there was no English to be heard and lots of holidaying Italians. The whole vibe was very serene and relaxed. Breakfast was freshly prepared every morning with fresh fruits from their own orchard, and freshly baked croissants. It really was a dream! They have a new set menu every night for dinner. You really felt like you were eating a homemade meal, in someone’s back garden. I guess essentially we were doing just that!
Polignano a Mare
We did some beach hopping on our way to the next stop Polignano a Mare. Instagram research showed some drool-worthy beach pics of Polignano a Mare, so we stopped into this town without too many expectations, apart from a great beach. It turned out to be the most charming wee town, full of energy, yet had a beautifully relaxed vibe to it. Everyone was on holiday and enjoying it – ‘La dolce far niente’ the sweetness of doing nothing. I was so into this!
Céline in the Tilly Dress $289 at a Masseria in Puglia.
Ironically, the beach itself was a little disappointing. Impressive photos from afar, especially at night, but much to my shock the beach itself was made up of large stones. (give me the beautiful, white sand of the Coromandel any day!). But once we were in the water, I didn’t ever want to get out. Following the swim was the best gelato I’ve ever had, and just like that Poliganano a Mare had my heart within a few hours. Beautiful during the day, it was when the sun went down that this place really turned on the charm! We did a little bar-hop stopping into places where we heard good music, before settling in for another plate of pasta.
The last spot on our Italian tour was the Amalfi Coast. This was by far the area most recommended by friends. We stayed in Praiano, conveniently located between Amalfi and Positano. This serene little town is the definition of tranquility. Travelling to the Amalfi Coast in the peak of summer, we knew it was going to be full of tourists (ourselves included) and Praiano offered an escape from the crowds. Other towns may offer more restaurants and bars, but here we could just sit back, enjoy a glass of Prosecco and truly live la dolce vita!
As undeniably beautiful as the Amalfi Coast is, I think I was so used to hearing only Italian for a week, that I couldn’t handle all of the American and Austrian accents here, and much preferred to spend our time at less ‘touristy’ locations. I prefer to really get a feel for what life is like in the towns we visit, and embrace their way of life.
We arrived in France on Bastille Day, this really set the tone for an incredible week, fireworks and all! If you’ve been following Céline Rita over the years, you will know I have a real love and fascination for the French culture. Truth be told, I haven’t actually spent a lot of time in France. So I really anticipated if it would live up to my own hype!
Céline in the Valentine Midi Dress $389 in Aix En Provence.
Our first stop was Antibes. Close friends had spent a lot of time here while working on super yachts, so we were lucky to have inside knowledge of the area. Antibes is a resort town between Cannes and Nice on the French Riviera. This 16th century historic walled town had a mixture of beach life and town life, with beautiful buildings, great food, lots of happy sun-kissed people, and a lot of luxury super yachts.
The old town of Antibes looks like it hasn’t changed much for centuries. It’s a maze of narrow cobbled streets, overlooked by pastel-coloured buildings with brightly painted shutters. Antibes and Juan-les-Pins is surrounded by beautiful beaches, and unlike a lot of the pebbly Côte d’Azur there’s plenty of sand with its clear blue waters.
A highlight was walking around the forested Cap d’Antibes peninsula, equally captivated with all of the grand villas as I was the incredible views overlooking the Mediterranean.
I felt right at home immediately – fresh produce markets, macarons, rosé, cheese, sun, beaches, Picasso Museum, live music, and a visit to the pharmacie to go a little crazy with the beauty products… Safe to say my French expectations were being met already!
The home to my beloved rosé. Upon researching I discovered that Provence is a very large area, with countless towns scattered throughout. Each one is meant to be different, yet the same. So we chose a couple of spend time in, Aix en Provence and Saint Rémy de Provence.
Aix En Provence
First stop was Aix. We came for the rosé, and instead got football! The World Cup final was on, and this university town was ALL about it. It was a pretty surreal day and night to be in France. Although I hadn’t seen a game of football in my life, you couldn’t help but get amongst the “allez le bleu!” chanting. The day after was unsurprisingly quiet around the streets, so we could get some exploring in, along with a croissant and coffee, and wander around this beautiful town.
Céline in the Courtenay Jumpsuit $329 in Saint Emilion.
Saint Remy De Provence
We chose Saint Remy purely because one of my besties recently had a little boy called Remy. It was one of my most favourite places ever! It was so quaint and charming, I really fell in love with this little town. Helped by the fact that we stayed in a very cute little chateau with dreamy French gardens. Quiet in the afternoon, this country-town came to life after 8pm. All you could hear was live music, chatter and laughs. Families ate out late in the many restaurant courtyards.
Just down the road from where we were staying was the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole. There had been a monastery there for over 1000 years, but was made into an asylum in 1807. Van Gogh lived and painted there for about a year towards the end of his life. The asylum today acts as a living Van Gogh museum. It’s a beautiful, yet sombre place full of history.
We met friend’s in the medieval town of Saint Emilion. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the history is evident immediately, with the ancient buildings, beautiful old churches and streets covered in cobblestones. Half an hour train from Bordeaux, Saint Emilion is one cute, quaint town. There really is not a lot of point going here if you’re not into wine or history. Saint Emilion is famous for its Grand Cru wine, and is actually one of Bordeaux’s biggest winemakers. The town is surrounded by miles of vineyards, and I’d guess that 90% of the shops in the town were wine shops!
Conveniently, a Jazz Festival was one while we were there, and we also cruised around to some family-owned vineyards in the area, my favourite was the most welcoming Mangot Vineyard. Saint Emilion truly is a picture-perfect little French town, made extra special, our friends got engaged at the top of the bell tower overlooking the town.
We finished our trip with a quick stop over in Paris. Having been here before, we didn’t feel the need to go looking around all of the usual tourist spots, in saying that I couldn’t help but pop into Ladurée and marvel at the Louvre square again.
We spent most of our time in Saint Germain, and felt happiest people watching at a café. The architecture still blew me away, as did the beautiful gardens. And I just love the idea that 100 years ago these very same cafés were already here, and they were full of philosophers, and writers and artists.
We had an incredible degustation dinner at Le 39 V on the Champs-Elysées, lunch and too many wines at Le Bonaparte Café, and strolled through both the Tuileries garden and Jardin du Luxumbourg. Yes, Paris still has my heart.
There really is nothing like a bit of travel to make you appreciate home more though. Au revoir to the best holiday and memories.
Images by Céline and Dean Cummins.