International Travel Tips from an Antiques Diva Guide

With my job as CEO of The Antiques Diva® & Co travel is my job- organizing and leading antique buying tours in 15 countries in Europe, Asia and America – I’m sometimes on the road for 3 months at a stretch and regularly buy round-the-world airline tickets -they save me money and time, and often help me score upgrades to 1st class. I literally live out of my suitcases!!! I bounce from hotel to AirBnB to friends’ guestrooms, taking clients on With my job as CEO of The Antiques Diva® & Co travel is my job- organizing and leading antique buying tours in 15 countries in Europe, Asia and America – I’m sometimes on the road for 3 months at a stretch and regularly buy round-the-world airline tickets -they save me money and time, and often help me score upgrades to 1st class, like my recent flight above to Argentina. I literally live out of my suitcases!!! I bounce from hotel to AirBnB to friends’ guestrooms, researching new tours and making new antique vendor contacts, taking clients on tour and meeting with the press, speaking at conferences, and sourcing the world’s best antique vendors. All this travel means I’ve become a whiz at packing. In fact my suitcase (er, make that “suitcases” depending upon the number of shoes I pack) practically packs itself. Previously I’ve shared with you some of my packing tips learned from my experience on the road the past 20 years. Today Rome Antiques Diva Guide Désirée shares some of her travel advice. (Désirée is our one of our vintage fashion experts: she has amazing fashion style and knowledge and secret resources in vintage fashion with her background as a costume designer and makeup artist. You must must book a Rome vintage fashion tour!)

10 Pieces of Travel Advice from a Diva Guide

#1 Enrich your in-between moments. 

Travel can be hard- you are away from everything familiar to you. Flying can be overwhelming and long periods of sitting can be unbearable. Travel with the things that make you happy. Wear your favorite wrap or shawl and bring cozy socks on the plane. Download movies, or research the in-flight movie list and make a plan (you don’t want to end up watching a talking animal movie because you were sick of flipping through your choices). Pick up amazing treats and eats at the airport. I love to buy macaroons in the Paris airport and eat them on the plane. I also bring stationary and catch up on correspondence on the flight. Plan for all of these details and it gives me little things to look forward to throughout the journey.

#2  Get your ZZZZZ’s under control!  

Toma Clark Haines says it’s the secret to her high energy! Learn to sleep with earplugs and a sleep mask and you can sleep anywhere in the world. Develop a plan for jet lag, so that you can make the most of your time on holiday.

International Travel Tips from Diva Guide Desiree Marie Townley | The Antiques Diva & Co

#3  Carry an empty water bottle on airplanes.

Fill your bottle once you get through security and keep it with you. Staying hydrated may seem like unoriginal advice- but it is an essential part of traveling well.

#4  Bring something to read.  

I love using my Kindle because it is so light, but even if you have to carry your belongings on your back, a book is always worth it.

#5  Keep a piece of citrus fruit in your carry-on luggage.  

When I have reached ‘that point’ in the flight where the space and the food and the people are getting to me, the smell and flavor of an orange is a huge boost to my mood and my immune system.

10 International Travel Tips from a Diva Guide | Desiree Marie Townley | The Antiques Diva & Co

#6  Disaster-proof your trip.

Bring extra passport photos and clearly mark your luggage. Passport photos are so easy to pick up in any big city, don’t wait until you need them, to buy them. Mark your bags with fun luggage tags and easily identifiable details. And finally… take a photo on your phone of your luggage at the airport. If something doesn’t arrive, it will be much easier to describe your bag to the customer service representative.

#7  Know the culture of tipping at your destination.  

For example, in Italy leave yellow change (small copper) for a cup of coffee and a couple of euros for a meal. This is an easy detail to research before you leave home and will keep you from insulting the customer service at your destination.

#8  Learn a few words of the native language.

It helps open up the dialogue with the locals. Make interacting with you as painless as possible. I have found that most people are very receptive to my efforts. There are always exceptions.

#9  Know yourself.

Understand what you CANNOT live without and bring it with you. I always bring my own chapstick and shampoo because I am picky. However I am easy going about food and am willing to try almost anything twice (once for adventure, twice to be sure). If you are really picky about food, bring some rations with you so that you won’t be miserable.

#10 Book a tour with a DIVA!  

Chances are a guide from The Antiques Diva® & Co knows just the best nooks and crannies of a city you are visiting and can give you an insiders view. This will save you TIME which is our most precious resource – especially while traveling.

International Travel Tips from a Diva Guide | Desiree Marie Townley | The Antiques Diva & Co


Book A Tour with The Antiques Diva & CoDREAMING OF A TRIP TO ITALY?

Lolo’s Carefree Summer Getaway Through France pt 2

Lolo’s Travel Tips

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”

– Lao Tzu

Hmmm… Lolo and I must be great travelers! We left Birmingham for our carefree summer getaway through France with way too much luggage (mostly mine), one carry-on going clickety-clack as we rolled it out the door (also mine), and no hotel reservations at all — anywhere (my responsibility). The reason for our trip was to shop three large antique fairs in the South of France and visit Lolo’s family afterwards. Since I had made no reservations other than our flight to Paris, things could have really gone awry, especially with all of France about to embark on les grandes vacances. Fortunately for us, they didn’t. We filled a 40-foot container full of beautiful French antiques and spent a lovely week with family.

Lolo French Antiques.Shopping antique fair in Provence
Last minute purchases at the fair.
Lolo French Antiques loading truck
Lolo has perfected the art of truck loading. 
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Lolo and Gigi

Since returning home, I’ve had a little time to ponder some of our decisions. While I strongly suggest getting off the tourist track and experiencing the “real” France as we did, I have to admit we might have approached some things a little too carefree, resulting in foils and fumbles, smiles and tears. In the end, however, our work-cation was just as I’d hoped (minus the little red convertible) — one filled with family, food, fun, and romance. It wasn’t about the destination, it was all about the journey!

Lolo French Antiques.La Buratta for lunch Uzes
La burrata for lunch at Restaurant à Côté in Uzès.  
Strolling along the promenade in Carnon-Plage.
Lolo French boats Le Croisic
Le Croisic, best known for its fishing industry, was one of the first tourist resorts in Brittany. 

Imagine the art world if Monet had only painted water lilies in Giverny, without ever learning to paint en plein air? What if he never visited the Louvre or never traveled to Algeria or never lived in Argenteuil or Vétheuil? There are so many great destinations waiting to be seen. I hope these travel tips help you enjoy your next journey and that you will always take time to smell the roses!

What We Learned From Our Work-cation

Lolo French Antiques Lolo's Travel Tips from our Carefree Summer GetawayWith a little care and just enough (but not too much) planning, you can improve your odds of having les grandes vacances. What tips can you offer?

À Bientôt!


Lolo’s Carefree Summer Getaway Through France pt 1

Lolo French Antiques Guide to Experiencing the Real France 

It’s August and back to school time. Those lazy, crazy days of summer are slipping away — in America, that is. But not in France. Vacation is sacred to the French. Five, seven, even nine weeks of vacation per year is not unusual for them. From the first week of July until early September, the French are “hard at vacation”… not, “hard at work!” Les grandes vacances (the summer holidays) are generally divided between the juillettists (Julyists), those who take the month, yes “month,” of July off, and the aoûtiens (Augustians), those who begin their month-long vacation in August.

Lolo and I experienced this sacred rite first hand during a recent buying trip/vacation in France that took us from the picturesque villages dotting Provence to the coastal scenery and seaside resorts of the Loire-Atlantique. I had dreams of driving through France in a little red convertible. But, that was not to be!

Lolo French Antiques.2017SummerGetaway

We were very “hard at work” buying in the South of France, traveling back-and-forth between three large fairs and two major marché aux puces. We were in France, however, and “when in France, do as the French do.”

Lolo French Antiques et More.BuyingTrip
Morning Haul

Meaning we shopped the antique fairs and puces all morning, then lingered over delicious lunches, eating our fill of crusty baguettes, crevettes, huîtres, and ratatouille while sipping fabulous regional wines, and more often than not, chugging a Coke Zero avec de la glace (as one needs to stipulate, “with ice”). Afternoons and evenings included more shopping, more food, and a lot of driving, whether sightseeing or traveling to our next destination.

Lolo French Antiques seafood platter Sete
Delicious seafood platter of shrimp and oysters, Sete, France


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Antique shopping in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

Driving in France… that’s a sore subject! Not because we were traveling in a big box truck instead of a shiny red sports car, not because the box truck we rented for the fairs and markets was too high for many of the bridges we needed to pass beneath or too wide for the narrow streets we had to maneuver, but because the air conditioning wasn’t working during the unexpected summer heatwave! Now, I’m a country girl at heart. I’ve ridden plenty of miles in a pickup truck with the windows down and a cooler of ice cold beverages in the back, but after two days in a big box truck with no a/c, no cooler (because you can’t buy bags of ice), temps over 100 degrees, and nights spent in hotels that were “climatized” (to nothing lower than 73 degrees), my split personality was beginning to rear its ugly head. Laurent realized it was in everyone’s best interest to repair the air — ASAP!  After several desperate phone calls, he found a dealership that could fix it. In less than three hours, “we were on the road again, the best of friends, goin’ places that we’d never been.” Hallelujah!

Lolo French Antiques.lavenderfields
Field after field of lavender in every shade of purple

We continued on our buying trip. The best moments were when we veered off the suggested GPS routes and stumbled upon hidden antique shops, quaint medieval villages, and a 12th-century Benedictine abbey that was converted into a wine cave in 1791.

Lolo French Antiques.Buying Trip.2017
Hidden treasures


Lolo French Antiques.AbbayedeValmagne
Abbaye de Valmagne, nicknamed the “Cathedral of the Vines”

We made new friends, took selfies in lavender fields, sunflower fields and random vineyards, and dined outdoors along various riverbanks and canals. We gaped in awe at the beautiful surroundings, living life comme il faut.

Lolo French Antiques.vineyard
Vineyard selfie on our way to Uzès

Once we were done being “hard at work,” it was time to claim our own les grandes vacance. We hopped a short flight to Nantes from Montpellier and spent a fun-filled week with Laurent’s wonderful family. It was magical.

Lolo French Antiques.Lolo.Mimi.Gigi
Family time

There was tons of laughter, lots of story telling, despite my terrible French, and more delicious food! We shopped the local seafood and produce markets instead of antique markets. We ate langoustine straight out of the Atlantic and fresh vegetables right out of the garden.

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Fresh produce at local market in Nantes 


Lolo French Antiques.langoustine dinner at home
Langoustine for dinner

We took a riverboat cruise down the Erdre with Laurent’s sister acting as our personal tour guide. She’s a remarkable local historian and was so generous sharing her knowledge with me. It made the days Lolo and I ventured off by ourselves much more fascinating and enjoyable.

Lolo French Antiques.ErdreRiverboatCruise.2017
Summer sailing camp underway on the river Erdre

We continued to linger over lunches, after all, we were still on French time — everything was closed from noon until 2:00 pm. We saw dungeons and jails, salt flats and saltwater marshes.

Lolo French Antiques.Guerande.Saltflats
Salt flats, Guérande

We walked (and walked and walked), and climbed all 350 steps of the Grand Degre that leads to the Abbey at Mont St. Michel. We piddled around his mom’s house, watched French TV, and slept with the windows open. I can’t wait to return in the fall!

Lolo French Antiques.MontStMichel
Mont Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most exceptional examples of religious and military architecture from the Middle Ages

For almost three weeks we wined and dined in sun-drenched towns and fog filled villages. From the Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur regions in Southern France to Brittany, Normandy, and the Loire Atlantique in Northwestern France, we got a “taste” of the real France, with its gorgeous countryside, narrow, winding cobblestone streets, castles and cathedrals, bubbling fountains, outdoor cafés and of course, beautiful antiques.

Lolo French Antiques.MimiandLolo.Sorgue
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue waterwheel 


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Cathédrale Saint-Théodorit and its Romanesque Tour Fenestrelle (Window Tower), Uzès


Lolo French Antiques.Lolo and Mimi.Clisson France. June 2017
Medieval town of Clisson

While there’s nothing more quintessentially French than the Eiffel Tower (or the Louis XV bergère), every Francophile should get off the tourist track for a carefree getaway full of fun, romance, and incredible seafood (I’m talking every kind of little shelly creature you can imagine) paired with the best wines in the world. As the title of this summer’s dramedy starring Diane Lane, Alec Baldwin and French actor, Arnuad Viard suggests…. Paris Can Wait, there’s so much more to France.

Here’s a look at three of our favorite South of France side trips. 

Lolo French Antiques.Lolo Getaway Side Trips

Have you experienced the real France? If so, tell us where your carefree getaway took you. And look for Lolo’s Travel Tips From Our Carefree Summer Getaway next. We had a few foils and fumbles along the way, but managed to go with the flow and have one of the best work-cations ever!

Bon Voyage,