A Spontaneous Trip to Marbella

Santiago Travel July 2, 2017

By Ksenia Mezentseva

I am usually one who takes the time to research my travel destinations before the trip, with particular attention paid to my main interests of dining and unique
sightseeing experiences.

My latest trip, a spontaneous getaway to Marbella, was unplanned and therefore it was up to my well-informed friends, who have spent many sunny days in Marbella, to provide me with recommendations.



It is probably important to mention that when one says «Marbella», what he or she really means is that you are flying to Malaga and then staying in Puerto Banus. At least this is what I would strongly advise you to do. Malaga airport is a major hub for Spain’s southern destinations. It is one of the bigger and more efficient airports, with many direct daily flights from various destinations. Marbella is located about 60km south of Malaga which makes it a very convenient commute from the airport. The town itself is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Andalucia – bustling with busy cafes, gift shops and crowds of people. I can immediately recommend a day trip to the Salvador Dali permanent sculpture exhibition, set just by the port, as well as the fish market and a gentle stroll through the quiet streets of the old town.

The place to find your hotel would have to be in the Puerto Banus area – located just 10km south of Marbella and a 40-minute drive from the Malaga airport. A luxury marina and a shopping paradise which was designed by Noldi Schreck, the architect who participated in the design and construction of Beverly Hills as well as a local developer, Jose Banus, from the late 1960s. The lavish opening of the construction was held in May of 1970 and was attended, among others, by Prince Rainier, Princess Grace of Monaco, Aga Khan, Hugh Hefner and Roman Polanski. The party itself, which included 1700 of the world’s fabulously elite, was the most extravagant event, including a private concert by the young Julio Iglesias. It was even reported that guests had consumed over 22 kilos of caviar. Today, Puerto Banus is one of the hottest European destinations for international jetsetters, celebrities and
young trendsetters.

Surprisingly, there is only one luxury 5-star hotel in Puerto Banus itself, The Gran Hotel Guadalpin Banus, which is located on the waterfront just outside the main marina area. The two other hotels which I would highly recommend are situated between Marbella and Puerto Banus, and are the Marbella Club and the Puente Romano Hotel and Luxury Apartment complex. Once belonging to the same owner, they are the most luxurious spots along the coast.

The scarcity of the luxury lodging in the area is explained by the high density of premium apartment buildings and beautiful villas set along the coast, which are available for rent.

Shopping is a must do in the Puerto Banus area. Split between the large El Corte Ingles – where one can find a range of options from makeup, toys, top designer clothing to sports gear, and on the other side – the luxury, well curated boutiques, set in the Banus Marina. The latter option will indulge any fashionista with Dolce and Gabbana, Jimmy Choo, Tods, Valentino, Gucci and many more designer boutiques set along the promenade for you
to enjoy.


Beach Clubs are a popular daytime destination in Puerto Banus. Often, but not always, located on an actual beach. Most clubs come with their own swimming pools and offer sunbeds, cocktails and light snacks along with a glamorous crowd and uplifting party vibes.

Ocean Club – is one of Europe’s largest beachside venues and is located right outside Puerto Banus. One could definitely define this spot as a ‘party place,’ particularly the Opening party which is not to be missed.

Nikki Beach – if you are a fan of this chain, the Marbella location will not disappoint, with glamorous people, the finest food and exceptional service all guaranteed.

La Sala by the Sea – a place to see and to be seen. Just like its original restaurant, La Sala is a vibrant place with delicious cocktails, a trendy crowd and great food.

El Ancla Restaurant and Beach Club – is located in San Pedro, minutes outside Puerto Banus. The restaurant’s terrace is set right on the waterfront creating this magical illusion of dining out at sea. The menu includes a variety of fresh seafood and the beach has one of the most awesome atmospheres on the coast.

Another favourite excursion is the much anticipated day trip destinations, with Marbella providing a host of exciting sites. If you want a change of pace and do not mind a bit of a drive, there are many things to see. Benahavis is a miniature “white” village situated in the beautiful Spanish mountains, 7km from the coast. It is a 15 to 20 minute drive from Puerto Banus and is the perfect spot for a leisurely afternoon. Meander along the tiny streets and have lunch at Los Abanicos – a traditional feel with the most delicious food guaranteed. Make sure to pre-book as this is a popular spot.

Ronda is a charming mountain town and has become one of the main Andalucian places to visit. Enjoy a scenic drive for about 40 minutes to see the dramatic escarpments, the Arabic walls and city gates, and enjoy a walk along the 18th century Puente Nuevo – a “new” bridge that took over 40 years to build. A visit to Plaza de Toros – one of the oldest bullrings in Spain, is quite a sight, take in the immensity of the space which was known to hold up to 5000 spectators. While in Ronda have lunch at the famous Pedro Romero restaurant, located just across the bullring, a place to dine for over 45 years.

If you drive for another 20 km you can visit the old Roman settlement of Acinipo – a large theatre dating from the 1st century AD and enjoy the rare sites of several old homes. This was one of the few cities the in Roman Empire to produce wine and export it to Rome. A further 40 minutes down the coast and you will arrive to Gibraltar, where you will see the dramatic Rock of Gibraltar, a 426m-high limestone ridge, and enjoy some cheeky duty free shopping.

Seville is the capital of the Andalucia region and is only 200km away from Puerto Banus, which makes it a great one or two-day trip. In recent years, Seville’s old historical town has received an influx of contemporary art, food and fashion. Today, it is not only the incredible ancient sights that attracts people from all over the world, but the street fashion, East-West tapas and enjoyable nightlife. The city is famous for flamenco dancing, so make sure to visit one of the many clubs in the Triana neighborhood. The main things to look out for include the 18th century bullring – Plaza de Torros de la Maestranza, the ornamental Alcazar castle and the Gothic Seville cathedral, where Christopher Columbus is buried. If you decide to spend a night or two in Seville, stay at the classic Hotel Alfonso XII – rightfully one of Spain’s grandest hotels. Before I forget, if you are in Seville for the evening, make sure to have the delicious tapas at Yebra or at El Rinconcillo, which been around for over 350 years and are clearly doing something right. As the night goes on, I would recommend dinner at No-Lugar or at the city’s latest trendy gastrobar, La Perona.


Upon my arrival to Puerto Banus, I was told that all the best restaurants were actually located outside Puerto Banus port and it was recommended that I get a car. This certainly proved to be somewhat true, but there are, nonetheless, great places to eat in the port itself. If you are spending the day shopping, checking-out the boats or simply enjoying the beach, a good lunch spot in the port is A1 Aretusa – a stunning Italian restaurant with traditional dishes, some with a modern twist, in a contemporary setting overlooking the mega yachts docked just 10 meters away.

My other favorite places in the area are:

Los Bandidos – located in the port and is the place where one can spot celebrities who come to wine and dine. The walls are covered with photos of every famous person that has ever visited, and trust me, there are a few, the food is great and the service is impeccable.

La Sala – a 10-minute walk from the port will get you to this restaurant come bar come lounge. Every night one can expect a live concert with a bubbling, busy vibe. The food is not bad either with a great variety, serving international classics from all over the world.

Sinatra café – is a famous bar located in the port. If you are looking for a good drink or some people watching, this is your place.

Magna Café – is a short drive from Puerto Banus up the hills to one of the many golf-course areas of Marbella. Magna is located in the hills and along with delicious food, offers a beautiful view of the area and the Rock of Gibraltar.

D-Wine – is a relatively new addition to the local scene and is the mecca for wine lovers. Originally a wine boutique and now a large sophisticated restaurant, it has an extensive menu, an endless wine list of the finest wines and live music every night.

Paella y mas – is your home-style Spanish restaurant, attracting local and international celebrities to this traditional, cosy restaurant. According to a recent interview, Lady Gaga favors Paella y mas the most when she is visiting the area.

Takumi – probably one of the best Japanese restaurants on the coast serves the freshest ingredients with a menu presenting both traditional and innovative dishes.

Puente Romano restaurants

I am putting these spots in a separate category as it is very unusual for a hotel to have more than one amazing dining option.

Dani Garcia – is a two-Michelin starred restaurant named after chef Dani. Come for a special occasion and prepare to be swept away by the elegant setting and the most creative and delicious meal.

Bibo – is another restaurant on the property, also by Dani Garcia, and is your bustling and happening restaurant where prior reservations are a must. Enjoy the originality of the food presentation which is truly spectacular.

Celicioso bakery – for something to ease the guilt of all the indulging is a great spot at the Puerto Romano complex. It is a lively gluten free café with an extensive juice bar, lots of healthy salads, burgers and of course divine gluten free pastries.

St Barts Gustavia Yacht Club launched on the “Jewel of the Caribbean”

Santiago Travel July 1, 2017

By Simon Piggott

The St Barts experience starts immediately as you fly across from St Martin (SXM) and touch down on the island at Gustaf III Airport (SBH); this reminds the newcomer of some of its historical origins, when the island was a free port under the Swedish Crown.


You fly in over spectacular views of the Port of Gustavia, the island’s capital, which also takes its name from King Gustav III. The short airstrip is at the base of a gentle slope which ends directly on the beach. Considered the third most tricky airport in the world to approach, the descent to the runway is extremely steep, passing straight over a hilltop roundabout. Departing planes take off right over the heads of sunbathers, as at St Martin, although signs advise sunbathers not to lie on the beach at the end of the runway: a barrier has been put up to discourage bathers walking across the beach at that point. Anyway only specially licensed pilots are allowed to land at St Barts so do not worry!



The island’s original name was Ouanalao, Amerindian for pelican. It was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and renamed by him after his brother Bartolomeo. French settlers arriving in 1663 called it Saint-Barthélemy. In 1784 France ceded the island to Sweden in exchange for trading rights at the port of Gothenburg. The Swedes then sold it back to France nearly a century later in 1878.

At 25 sq.kms, the island is small and was not conducive to plantations, such as sugar, due to its being dry and rocky. It thus became a centre for buccaneers before and during the colonial wars, when bounties could be exchanged without paying tax. Over the years the inhabitants, while retaining their free port status, converted to trading, fishing and farming.

In 1957 David Rockefeller, who died earlier this year at the venerable age of 101, bought a plot of land and built a property at Colombier, one of the most beautiful bays on St Barts. Slowly the dormant island, which had become a département of France in 1946 (a similar status to Hawaii in the US) emerged onto the map of an eccentric collection of characters, who settled on the island in search of its privacy and seclusion vis-a-vis better known spots frequented by the international jet set. A good read is Randy West’s book of tales “A Sunny Place for Shady Characters” about his encounters over the past 40 years at Le Select, the island’s only Caribbean-style bar, located in the centre of Gustavia.



Over the past 20 years, the island has developed into a hub for discreet luxury tourism under the savvy guidance of Bruno Magras, first as mayor from 1995 and then as Président de la Collectivité, following its independence from Guadaloupe in 2007. The original settlers and even the sailors who visited the island in the early 1980s would hardly recognize St Barts today!

Christmas and New Year’s Eve now attract an international crowd, with superyacht spotting becoming a “national sport” – 2016 saw the likes of the 162.5m “Eclipse” whose owner also has a property on the island, the 115m “Luna”,  the 113m Le “Grand Bleu”, 101.5m “Symphony”, 96.25m “Limitless”, 92m “Aquarius” SY 88m “Maltese Falcon”, 85.6m “Aquila” and many more anchoring off Gustavia Port, which berths its largest yacht “Excellence V” at 60m. The owners are a mixture of European and American billionaires and friends, who appreciate the beauty and safety of the island, many of whom are members of Cercle.



It is within this growing international context that the Gustavia Yacht Club was established in 2016 by its Commodore, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, and a number of founding members, who have fallen in love with the island and its human dimension, but lacked a place in which visitors and inhabitants alike could come together to enjoy the island’s beauty and its fascinating nautical past
and present.

Over a short period of time since September 2016 GYC has gathered in its Clubhouse on the Port of Gustavia over 280 members (many of whom have made St Barts their winter residence) including Benefactors, Founding and Ordinary Members in a cosy atmosphere reminiscent of a home within a home, with members active in sailing, motor yachting and all the other activities that the island offers Club members have started to take part in sailing events held on the island, starting with the New Year’s Eve Regatta round the island, which saw Donald in his W Class “White Horses” among others. This was followed by the coveted Bucket Regatta, which this year celebrated its 30th Anniversary.

In the Club’s first Role of Honour we congratulate GYC member Kim and his crew for winning the Les Gazelles des Mers class on the 33m Baltic “Win Win”, and Elena on her 88m Perini “Maltese Falcon” entering into the true spirit of the Les Grandes Dames des Mers class, which was won by the 56m Perini “Rosehearty” with Paul Cayard of America’s Cup fame as tactician.





“Koo”, the 43m Vitters won Les Voiles Blanches, racing under the new Corinthian Spirit Class ORCcs handicap , while “Wisp”, the Royal Huisman 48m sloop, took the Les Mademoiselles des Mers class.

“Spiip”, the 34m German Frers designed and Royal Huisman built sloop won the Les Elegantes des Mers class and was crowned overall winner of the Bucket! Add in the return of the mighty
J Class, Le retour des legendes being won by “Hanuman”, a Royal Huisman built in 2009, and the 2017 St Barts Bucket was really an unforgettable trentennial celebration!

Next on the sailing agenda was the Voiles de St. Barths in April, which saw a number of members and friends competing. This will be followed by the America’s Cup rendezvous in Bermuda in June, at which many GYC members will be present.

Fair winds to you all and looking forward to seeing you in the Med for the season and at the Monaco Yacht Show at the end of September, where the Club will have a stand on the port.

For more information about the Gustavia Yacht Club, its activities and how to join up, go to and also contact the authors at for details about sponsorship.


Santiago Travel December 5, 2016

By Bee Beardsworth


Three years ago, I fell utterly and irrevocably in love when I took my first trip to Tokyo. Wandering wide-eyed through an alien city, my eyes dazzled by neon kanji on every building; spine-chillingly tranquil shrines in alcoves of each neighbourhood; exquisite food and the considerate and charming demeanours of each encounter. Japan is a truly exotic and enchanting place, where there’s always another mystery to uncover, and I’m hooked!


There seems to be an ever growing  multitude of places to see or be at in the sprawling Tokyo metropolis, but a few of my favourite experiences were the Tokyo Tower (the Japanese Eiffel Tower), Shibuya (the quintessential Tokyo area), Zozo-ji and Senso-ji temples (both equally regal and memorising), Tsukiji (the world’s largest and busiest fish market, and home of the freshest sushi).


Ranging from traditional to hyper-modern, Japanese fashion and style is an art form in itself. For impeccably dressed Tokyoites, obsession with aesthetics stretches into every aspect of their life, so this city is ideal for satisfying all your shopping needs.

• Omotesando is one of the best shopping areas for designer stores and boutiques. Along with designer brands, the Spiral is a wonderful concept store, and Cat Street has a plethora of boutiques and hidden gems.

• Ginza is Tokyo’s answer to 5th Avenue. Dover Street Market is a firm fashion favourite, but here you’ll be able to find the best quality in all traditional crafts, food, perfumery, and clothing.

• Department stores are an essential part of the Japanese shopping experience. Go to Shinjuku and get lost in the mazes of Isetan, Seibu, and Mitsukoshi, amongst others.


• Famed for its fusion between nature and man, the concept of wabi-sabi influences all aspects of Japanese life, so try to find your own zen in this bustling city by visiting these sanctuaries:

• Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens will enchant anyone, with Japanese, French, and English gardens, and a tropical, orchid-filled greenhouse.

• Visit a traditional tea house for a tea ceremony, drinking whisked matcha and eating tiny mochi while sitting cross-legged.

• Yoyogi Park is a tranquil place to have a picnic and observe Tokyoites doing everything from yoga to band practice, and is also the home of the Meiji-Shrine.

• Try to visit an onsen (Japanese bath house) for a day of relaxation and replenishment.

f1290031Eating & Drinking

Tokyo is a foodie’s dream, with more Michelin starred restaurants than anywhere in the world. It has an exceptional array of bars and hidden old school hot spots. You cannot leave Japan without trying the ‘real’ ramen, sushi, tempura, yakisoba and sake.

• For the Kill Bill experience, have dinner at Gonpachi, the restaurant where the infamous fight scene was set in.

• Head to Shinjuku’s Golden Gai for a night out tasting beers and sake in hundreds of tiny izakaya (standing bars)

• Have a tipple in the Park Hyatt’s New York Bar for the Lost In Translation experience and breathtaking views.

• The Shangri-la’s Nadaman is an exceptional Japanese traditional restaurant catering for Westerners too.

Like anywhere, Tokyo has numerous events and seasonal activities constantly springing up and taking place throughout the year. Be sure to show your respect when visiting this gem of a place by doing some research into the polite and fascinating culture and city.


Santiago Travel December 5, 2016

By Ksenia Mezentseva

California is a great travel destination almost the whole year round, but my personal favourite is doing a road trip in the fall. If you are adventurous and enjoy active travelling, moving from one place to another, I highly recommend to spend a few days driving along the Pacific coast from San Diego to Napa Valley. The journey will offer breathtaking views as well as delicious dining and luxury lodging experiences.


Start in San Diego and spend a day or two in this lovely city with its famous satellites: La Jolla, Del Mar, and Rancho Santa Fe. Rated as one of the top places in the world for its attractive climate, San Diego is surely worth a visit. Checkout the famous San Diego Zoo, a pioneer in cage less exhibits, it is a home to over 3000 different animals and over 650 species. Spread over 100 acres it is divided into themed areas representing different parts of the world. The Zoo is located in Balboa Park, an urban cultural park that hosts many beautiful gardens, museums and walking paths. A must do is the San Diego Museum of Art, the oldest and largest art museum in the region. The collection features work by Matisse, El Greco, Francisco de Goya, Diego Riviera. Walk the glorious Park’s gardens: Japanese Friendship garden, Spanish style garden and Palm Canyon are among my favorites.

If you like hiking, Torrey Pines Natural Reserve is one not to be missed. The 8 miles of trails offer a breathtaking view of the cliffs and the sandy beach. To rest in peace after an exciting day, stay at the Loge at Torrey Pines or the Fairmont Grand Del Mar. If you feel like being extra glamorous, check out Hotel Del Coronado, where Marilyn Monroe starred in Some Like It Hot.

For fine dining book a table at the Marine Room, the beautiful La Jolla restaurant has been around for 70 years and is considered a true landmark. The dining room has huge windows facing the ocean. If you so happen to be dining during high tide you may enjoy an outstanding view of the powerful ocean waves splashing against the window panes.

For another iconic spot visit Bertrands at Mr A’s, open for 50 years, with its original essence still very prominent. Bertrands is located on the roof of an office building offering sophisticated cuisine with a panoramic view of the city and San Diego bay. The Market is definitely a unique dining experience, not perhaps for those who love outdoor dining. This trendy restaurant is located in a shopping plaza in Del Mar. Although it does lack a terrace, it compensates by offering a very chic contemporary setting, a very famous chef and an inventive Californian cuisine. If you are looking for the freshest and finest sushi in the area go to Sushi Ota. The restaurant is noisy, crowded and the setting simplistic but the sushi speaks for itself. Discover creative rolls and fresh sashimi that will delight your taste buds.

To continue on the active adventuring, start your drive north towards Los Angeles through Orange County, a place that deserves a separate article entirely just to describe its vibrant little beach towns. Newport Beach and Costa Mesa certainly have plenty gourmet hot spots, but if you are passing by and want to stop for a quick lunch, walk or a coffee, then go to the picturesque Laguna Beach, well known for its artistic community. For delicious seafood enjoy the fresh tastes of the sea at Slapfish or a super creative Wednesday-to-Sunday brunch at Break of Dawn.

Soon you will arrive in the land of angels, Los Angeles. Spend a night or a few days in the entertainment capital of the world, surrounded by its beautiful landscapes and people. Stay at the classic Beverly Wilshire, the recently renovated Hotel Bel-Air or the scandalous Chateau Marmont. Attempting to narrow down restaurant recommendations for LA is certainly a challenge. With an abundance of beautiful, delicious and trendy places, I am going to only mention a few of my own picks but be warned there are many more to find. Stop by the Ivy for a great lunch and a spot of people watching. Make sure to book on the terrace and be prepared to face the celebrity crowd. The North Robertson Boulevard is a nice place to shop afterwards for funky and contemporary designers. For dinner, Il Pastaio, a classic Italian restaurant in Beverly Hills will not disappoint. While it seems like a simple choice, reservations are key as this understated gem is a must with authentic, delicious food.

For a more experimental cuisine experience, book a table at Cleo or Katsuya Brentwood. The former is a creative Lebanese setting with a bustling atmosphere, and the latter is my favourite alternative to Nobu that will leave you feeling fully satisfied. During the day walk the beach from Santa Monica to Venice and have lunch at Gdjalina before you head off to the Getty Centre. The late afternoons are my personal favourite as you witness the gorgeous views. Enjoy mesmerizing sunsets accompanied by a crisp glass of local Pinot Noir.

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Come morning and it is time to get back in the car, driving on Route 1 towards Malibu. Enjoy the stunning beach with a hearty breakfast or an early lunch at Geoffrey’s. Drive north to Santa Barbara. If you happen to come there on a first Thursday of the month you can participate in Art and Culture celebration. Galleries, museums, shops and other art related venues open their doors to customers with live music performances, exhibits and other enriching entertainment. Spend the night at the Four Seasons Hotel and in the morning visit the Coronado Butterfly Preserve, a truly special place. From October to March, monarch butterflies migrate to spend their winter at this magical park. Have lunch at the Harbor and then head towards Big Sur. On the way there you may want to stop by the Hearst Castle, the publishing magnate’s estate of mixed historical European styles, now housing an art and antiques museum.

Head north towards Big Sur and be prepared for spectacular scenery. Named as one of the most stunning meetings of land and sea in the world by The New York Times, Big Sur is a nature’s wonder that attracts visitors from around the world. Spend the night at the magnificent Post Ranch Inn or at the Ventana Inn. The Big Sur offers an abundance of wild and wonderful hiking trails. If time is limited two hikes you do not want to miss are the McWay Waterfall trail and Ewoldsen trail.

When your feet are tired and eyes are dazzled by the great natural beauty, head towards Napa Valley. Make sure to stop by Carmel-by-the-sea just one hour north of your hotel for a nice lunch and walk along the harbour. Then, via Pebble Beach 17-mile drive, а nice scenic road will take you through famous mansions, golf courses and local attractions.

You are then going to pass by Silicon Valley, the tech capital of the world and an opportunity to experience the innovation centre first hand. It is only really worth doing it if you are lucky enough to have friends who can give you access into the infamous Apple, Google and other tech giants’ campuses.

Arrive to Napa Valley in the evening. Choose your lodging from one of the several wonderful hotels like Auberge du Soleil, Carneros Inn or the Bardessono. Spend the next few days tasting fine Californian wines at the world’s famous wineries such as the Silver Oak, Caymus, Mondavi, Quintessa, Blackbird, Frog’s Leap and many others. If you get tired of tasting wines and want to taste something else stop by Napa Smith or Bear Republic Breweries for some local beer, Kollar Chocolates and Round Pond Estate for olive oil.

While in the area, visit Di Rosa: the 200 acre estate that offers visitors several indoor and outdoor exhibits of contemporary Northern Californian art. The outdoor grounds are open for guests without prior reservations while for the main indoor collection it is wise to book a tour. In the afternoon more local wines may tickle your fancy or perhaps some unique art and decoration pieces can be browsed at the exclusive South-of-France inspired Maisonry: a contemporary gallery with an intimate garden lounge.

Golfers should visit the semi-private Chardonnay Golf Club and the Eagle Vines Golf Club that are open throughout the year and offer beautifully set 18-hole courses set through the acres of scenic vineyards. If you prefer something with a bit more of an adrenaline kick, the Sonoma Raceway is the place for you.

Completing Napa Valley’s highly hedonistic experience are its world-class restaurants. For lunch, the famous Farmstead. This not-to-be-missed farm-to-table restaurant is set in a former barn and has a charming atmosphere revolving around the open kitchen, with fresh organic ingredients and friendly staff. Another great lunch venue is Bouchon Bakery: Thomas Keller’s traditional French bistro (open from lunch through dinner). It features a seasonal menu with a raw bar which will greatly satisfy the health conscious.

In the evening, if you were not able to get a table at the legendary French Laundry, dine at the trendy Japanese Marimoto or at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc with a four course pre-fixed chalkboard menu that changes daily. And the next day, before you head home, do wake up bright and early to explore the Valley at a bird’s eye view with the Balloons above the valley sunrise ride. Don’t worry, they will provide plenty of freshly brewed coffee with a pastry to wake you up before the flight and finish your wonderful Napa experience with a champagne brunch celebration!