The Dunstane Houses

creative direction & photography CYNTHIA NGUYEN in collaboration with THE DUNSTANE HOUSES


The Dunstane Houses is a family-run five star boutique hotel property: set in two restored heritage Victorian townhouses, the Dunstane House and the Hampton House, with 35 rooms between them— featuring English interior, history and the classiest bars that provide Scottish treats, such as whiskies to wet your beak with. Within the heart of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, this property comes to life as a swanky yet inviting and charming persona, offering the most authentic Scottish experience and stay. 

The houses date back to 1851, where they were first built by George Lorimer as Victorian Villas with Jacobean/baronial style in mind, on land owned by George Heriot’s Trust. Followed by a thoughtful restoration process while preserving many of the buildings’ original architectural and design elements, The Dunstane Houses now operates as a boutique brand offering refined Scottish experiences within their striking walls— walls that display their tasteful, bold wallpapers, Scottish tartan tweeds, and counting plenty of windows that allow pools of light to pour in, drawing in the beautiful ornate mouldings on the high ceilings and wainscoting. At these heritage properties, there is an overwhelming amount of detail and refinement throughout the space, including a subtle narration of Orcadian influence— which comes through in the served food, such as the Orkney whole Kipper, the selected original artwork, and even the Orkney-based marshmallows you can receive in your room to pair with your hot chocolate. 


The Dunstane Houses are comprised of two Victorian townhouses which are situated across the street from one another, offering a 6 unique suites and a total of 35 beautiful and comfortable rooms between the two buildings.

Featured room is their Hamnavoe Suite on the top floor of the Hampton House (Room 202).


Guests can to enjoy the elegant high ceilings that are adorn with ornate mouldings, wallpaper and wainscoting. The interior is inspired by the neoclassical design of old-town Edinburgh, subtle Orkney details (island off the northeastern coast of Scotland) and English style interior.

The suites are design with a combination and the consideration of comfort and contemporary: from cloud-like, soft king-sized beds to walled flat-screen televisions displayed across the bed to enjoy after your long days of exploring, to old-world teak furnishing and modern lighting, to Persian rugs and walls with original artwork by Orkney artists. The traditional Scottish flare radiates through the space in the form of tartan accented cushions to the delicious homemade Scottish shortbread found replenished daily in the biscuit jars. 

On the main floor of the Hampton House is the dining space paired with the Honest Bar, where you will enjoy your morning meals (served in both houses), as well as create your own cocktail while bearing in mind the honesty system.

Enjoy food or afternoon tea at the main house across the street, the Dunstane House, where you can taste multiple plates of Scottish cuisine (must-tries are the Haggis Fritters with the delicious mustard sauce and the whole Orkney Kipper) and mouth-watering whiskies (with more than 100 single malts to choose from) and cocktails with the view of their bewitching fireplaces from your Chesterfield sofa.


The property is located in the captivating and peaceful neighbourhood of Coates and it is about 10 minutes away from the city centre. Everything in Edinburgh can be enjoyed by foot paired with sensible footwear. 

The nearest station is Waverley and is only a 10-minute work from Haymarket station. There is also a nearby stop for the tram that goes straight to Edinburgh Airport. 

You can experience Edinburgh’s Old Town that is made up of beautiful cobble stone streets and smoky painted sandstone buildings. The disfigured black patches that dress the buildings are said to be cause by the smoke of the city during the early ages of railways and pollution. In this area, you can walk along Edinburgh’s most famous street, the Royal Mile, which was the route for kings and queens for the last 500 years that connects to Edinburgh Castle (west) to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (east). As you walk along the Royal Mile, take a few photographs of J.K.Rowling’s greatest inspiration for Harry Potter’s Hogwarts school, the Edinburgh Castle. You can also pay a visit and rub the nose of the famous dog statue, The Greyfriars Bobby, who was a Skye Terrier who became famous for spending 14 years coming back to the grave of his owner until he had passed. 

The property is nearby the Scottish National Gallery, where you can enjoy some artwork and afternoon tea at their Scottish Cafe and Restaurant. Take a walk down or grab dinner at Portobello beach while viewing the sunset (which will eventually turn into a majestic foggy evening). You can enjoy some nachos, pints of beer or mulled wine at The Espy or grab some delicious mussels and cocktails at the cosy Boathouse. 

Pick up a few gifts and souvenirs like handwoven wool tartan goods or luxurious cashmere gifts along South Bridge and High Street, such as the Scottish Experiences Store. For Harry Potter fans, you can visit the Museum Context for themed clothing, collectibles, fan art in the form of lovely cards and posters, as well as photo opportunities around the spiral stone staircase. For unique gifts for the holidays and occasions, check out Mr. Wood’s Fossils where you might find well-preserved fossils of dinosaur remains, ammonites and gems that can go back later than 110 million years from around the globe— extremely ideal for those who love antiques, collecting, history and all sorts of detail. For vibrant and crafty gifts, check out Lackdhu, where you can find handmade ceramic magnets and ornaments, illustrated cards, hand-knitted jumpers and hats, felted brooches and much more. And because our health is our greatest wealth, gift some health-boosting teas, candles, oils and mulled wine or hangover cure kits at D. Atkinson Herbalist.


4 West Coates, Edinburgh EH12 5JQ, United Kingdom


Starting at $250/night for the Cosy Wee Double and $780/night for the Dunstane Suite (prices are in Canadian dollars)


For information or booking, visit their website and Instagram

A special thank you to Shirley and the entire staff at the property for hosting me during my visit.


As always, all opinions are my own.

I do not accept or review PR stays unless I had an enjoyable and genuine experience to share.


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Le Narcisse Blanc

creative direction, photography & editing
CYNTHIA NGUYEN photo assistance GAVIN MACKEN in collaboration with LE NARCISSE BLANC


Nestled in the heart of Paris on the charming and open street of Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg in the 7th District, sits a contemporary-classic 5 star boutique hotel and spa called, Le Narcisse Blanc. It’s truly the authentic experience if you’re searching for a boutique property with a romantic Parisian flare while still remaining completely contemporary. 

Branding and interior architecture was designed by Laurent Bardet and Laurence Jean from Laurent and Laurence, while Thierry Martin and Thibaut Fron of  Compiegne-based, Exclusive Interiors by T&T, executed the interior design for the hotel property.


Behind the doors of Le Narcisse Blanc, they offer 37 rooms that each take on a feel of a private classic Parisian apartment, drawing inspiration from Parisian cafe society with their signature powder pink hues and gold details, with high regal panelled walls with ornate wainscoting that evoke French design, complimented with fresh florals to bring out a soft yet glamorous ambience. The rooms offered are sound proofed, with complimentary high-speed wifi, includes a flat screen TV and fully-stocked mini bar. Amongst the previously mentioned are the basic items, such as a safe, iron and ironing board, welcome products with an exclusive fragrance, complimentary water, tea and Nespresso coffee. Other requests that may not be obvious to guests are shoe shine request and alarm call upon request. Housekeeping also comes twice a day, including turndown service. They will come to your room and check if you need anything, if not— they are always prepared with loads of French chocolat to give out. As for the bathrooms, it includes rain-effect shower, hair dryer, luxury bathrobes and slippers for your feet.

Featured room above is their Superior Room.


18h to 3h Room Service, 24h Front Desk, WIFI, Air conditioning, Valet parking, In-room childcare, Restaurant and Bar, Luggage Storage, Meeting Room, Indoor Swimming Pool, Hammam and Sauna, Spa Services, Fitness Centre, Night in a Vineyard (a wine tasting visit at the Domaine de la Soucherie Valley, which is 2h30 away from the hotel)


A delicious continental buffet breakfast is served every morning (or can be requested for Room Service) at the Cléo Restaurant on the main level of the hotel, including tasty baked treats like pain au chocolat and croissants, an array of meats and fromages, fruits of the day and likely the best French-toast you’ll ever have. By no means did I mention this tip about the toast because it’s a review in collaboration with the hotel, but because it was genuinely better than anything I’ve tasted in the form of this choice of breakfast item in Toronto! Guests can enjoy the beautiful on-site restaurant Cléo, headed by Chef Zachary Gavillet from Canada, for lunch and dinner— which also includes daily newspapers for your pleasure to pick up and read.

The intimate spa, wooden sauna and incredible indoor counter-current pool that also has a waterfall and a jacuzzi can be found in the lowest level, where you can enjoy a nice swim after a long day of being a flâneur. The spa offers a mix of facials and body treatments, such as deep-tissue Swiss massages. For warmer days, you can pop outside their courtyard patio to enjoy a drink or two.

From a personal highlight, upon my arrival at the hotel, I was delivered a decadent looking hazelnut mouse dessert to my room that tasted amazing as it looked by their wonderful staff as a sweet welcome greeting.


The hotel property sits on the street of Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg, which intersects Rue Saint-Dominique where you can catch a beautiful and non-typical/touristy street view of the Eiffel Tower. Tons of brasseries and cafes nearby that are less than 500m away. Invalides and Tour-Maubourg Metro Stations are a 5-minute walk from the property. For history lovers (and Picasso lovers too, there is currently a featured exhibition on the top level dedicated to his early and most popular works), Musée de L’Armée is a 8-minute walk. For romantic artwork (specifically sculptures by Auguste Rodin) Musée Rodin is a 12-minute walk. To enjoy a boat cruise along the river Seine, the port is a 16-minute walk. For Eiffel Tower, it is a 15-minute walk from Le Narcisse Blanc & Spa. 


19 Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg, 75007 Paris, France


Classic Room starting at €294 / Superior Room starting at €338 / Deluxe Room starting at €390 / Executive Room starting at €434 / Classic Suite starting at €699 / Aurore Suites starting at €772 / Cleo Suites starting at €736 / Suite Toits de Paris starting at €736


For information or booking, visit their website and Instagram

A special thank you to the entire staff and property for hosting my wonderful stay during my time in Paris.

Although it was only for two days, it definitely felt as though I started my 48 hours in Paris as a first-time visitor properly— not too touristy, no big chain hotels. But instead, began my experience by staying at one of the upmost charming, Parisian boutique properties, filled with simple luxuries.

As always, all opinions are my own.

Away with Hazelton

creative direction & editing CYNTHIA NGUYEN photography VINCENT KO in collaboration with HAZELTON HOTEL

Donned with velvet, emerald couches in the lounge and serving exquisite Boston vanilla bean cream donuts on the menu— this boutique hotel will capture your heart. And not because it’s in the heart of Yorkville. Whether it’s for work, pleasure or play, the Hazelton Hotel doesn’t stop at expressing luxury at their hotel doors. The ever-so captivating Yorkville neighbourhood that surrounds the property is fastened with the best designer boutiques such as Corbo Studio and TNT Fashion, galleries, bars and restaurants. Uncover Toronto’s first true luxury hotel in one of most desirable destinations in the city— with 77 comfortable, oversized luxury hotel rooms and suites designed by award-winning and internationally renowned, Yabu Pushelberg firm.

From the spacious, granite bathrooms that is accompanied with your own personal television to watch your favourite soap opera, to the heated granite floors, to the L’Occitane en Provence bath sugar cubes and toiletries. The bathroom alone will make you want to make yourself at home or at least get you calling it your own private sanctuary. The 24-hour room service is catered by the ONE restaurant, headed by celebrity Chef Mark McEwan— which is by far, one of my favourite restaurants in the city. I often catch myself re-ordering their Shakshouka, spaghetti with meatballs and Boston cream doughnuts. They also have an amazing tea selection by Sloan.


in this photo
jacket BALMAIN
trousers PETER COHEN
courtesy of TNT FASHION

There’s something about the property being farther away from the downtown core, from where I live and work, that makes this escape seem more like believable and simple getaway for me. Sounds like the perfect mini vacation from home. To leave the city freely and travel away from the seasonal blues is not easy for most. Where there is rest and wellness to be restored, the space around you does heavily contribute to your recovery. For me, the spacious size of the rooms (and closet) allowed me to feel free to move around in and all the modern interior and details felt as though you were staying in an enhanced version of your home.





in this photo
courtesy of TNT FASHION


With a bed so soft, you’ll sleep through your alarm— especially with the hotel’s L’Occitane en Provence lavender pillow mist to help you have a better rest, (although the fact the curtains of the room open electronically with the flick of the switch made it hard to contain my excitement to open them in the morning) and a bathroom so beautiful, you’ll definitely want to make time for a bath. For someone who doesn’t own a bathtub in their home, this was a huge opportunity for me to take advantage of. I made some tea, brought a book and called room service to bring some extra bubble cubes for the bath and they kindly and promptly provided.



Although my made up staycation itinerary only covered 24 hours, the use of those hours offered good rest, an extravagant bubble bath and an amazing breakfast in bed.

But let’s face it— the true meaning of relaxation doesn’t exist without a few hours at the spa. The Valmont Spa at the Hazelton offers world-class facial treatments, luxurious body treatment and specialized massages designed to release stress and toxins. You have access to the steam room, indoor saltwater pool and gym. For more than 30 years, Valmont does not only hold one of the most premium range of advanced performing cosmetics and skincare products from Switzerland but has also been deploying all of its know-how in the field of anti-aging with profession care combining expertise, product performance, and accuracy of gestures.

I had the great pleasure of enjoying the last few hours of my time at the Hazelton hotel by ending it off with a facial and a collagen face mask by Marie Nguyen. A skin consultation was performed, followed by a facial cleanse using Valmont’s purification White Falls cleaner and White Falls invigoration softening toner. Next, Marie used Valmont’s purification face scrub mixed with Valmont’s clarifying cream mask— this combination is great for those with extremely sensitive skin when you’re looking to exfoliate.

The priming with a hydrating fluid is then used before using the V-line lifting cream mask to reduce the look of lines and wrinkles on the face. The lifting mask is then removed for Marie to proceed with applying the Valmont’s prime renewing pack, which promotes anti-stress and fatigue and produces that immediate glow. With the renewing pack, the regenerating collagen mask went over top for 20 minutes to rejuvenate the skin, causing the skin to lift, hydrate and smooth out— during this stage, a nice scalp and hand massage was done. Lastly, Marie removed the mask to apply Valmont’s eye cream (used to replenish the skin’s volume around the eye and treat puffiness and dark circles), v-line serum, face cream and lifting cream. It’s safe to say that may be the most intensive yet best facial I’ve had so far. A shout out to Marie Nguyen for walking me through the steps and providing such a personal and amazing experience during our session.


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coat FILIPPA K pants VINCE
courtesy of CORBO STUDIO


in this photo
courtesy of CORBO STUDIO

A special thank you to the entire staff and property for hosting my wonderful staycation.
My stay was extremely short but the rich experience exceeded beyond my own expectations. 
As always, all opinions are my own.
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creative direction CYNTHIA NGUYEN
photography SELF PORTRAIT in collaboration
and Saltwater Collective
“Go where you feel most alive”
Oh, Tulum—the coastline of Mexico where the mellow sounds of the water and the slow music intertwine to become background sound to your scenes; where the taste of the salt is in the air and the breeze softly kisses your face. These were all the kind of moments and reactions I felt when I either found myself still at the shore of the beach or sitting in the outdoor living room of my beautiful, temporary beach home, at NEST, or even biking along the beach strip, under the palm trees. The calm views, the tasteful decor and the care people bestowed on me, warmed my heart, as these things brought joy to my time in Mexico.

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dress shirt NATALIJA

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My time in Mexico started by plane from Toronto to Cancun. From Cancun airport to Tulum, I took the ADO bus. This transportation method was a recommendation made by a friend who is a local and from my experience, it is accessible from the airport, safe, and extremely cost-effective and easy to use. Normally a private shuttle or cab straight from the airport to Tulum can cost anywhere around $60-$100 USD. The price for a one-way goes for about $10-14 USD per person from Cancun to Tulum, and $8-10 USD from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. Be aware that the some businesses, including airport operated and restaurants will overcharge you as a tourist. Ask for local pricing when possible. The best way to explore the local streets of Tulum is by bike and NEST Tulum kindly provides them for their guests. Surveying prices along the beach strip via bike for scuba diving, snorkelling and tours are a good idea to compare rates. You can also ask your concierge for their go-to tours and they will be able to help you.

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Vanille 44 LE LABO

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It must have been years since learning about Tulum’s Cenotes. I would collect countless photos and underwater references. I would day dream about uncovering the wildlife and scenic region below the surface of the water. I knew that if I didn’t personally experience the Cenotes while I was in Tulum, I may not have another reason to go into a body of water. Boundaries were to be pushed and fears had to be overcome. About less than 4 weeks before my trip, I didn’t know how to swim. I was long developed in my adult years. I was ridden with regret that I had not learnt how to swim for this long. Over my childhood, I had developed a fear of water over traumatic events. The fear of water had also lend itself into such effortless routines, such as making face washing more difficult. It had taken me two informal lessons, taught by a love one and one formal lesson by an instructor before I was able to accomplish some sort of familiarity with moving through bodies of water.

It was both emotionally and physically draining to navigate through my lessons in order to get back to where I had previously developed a feel for comfort in the water. It wasn’t until the second last day during my time in Tulum that I  decided I had to try swimming and snorkelling in the Cenotes. It took me five to ten minutes of clinging onto the stalagmites and even holding my tour guide’s hand to get comfortable in the freezing water of the caves. I felt that I would be more embarrassed to partake in a group, and instead opted for more privacy in a one on one session, allowing me to go at my own pace. After the few minutes of struggle was over, I surprised myself with remaining calm and poised under water. I was not only swimming and snorkelling, but I was filming and holding a flashlight. For someone who had the severe fear of water— multi-tasking and breathing properly was a challenge to get used to. Eventually, the scenery became more of a distraction, and my breathing and body movements became consistent, and I was able to personally experience the Cenotes in the way I only dreamt of.
Since the beautiful NEST Tulum is an eco-friendly, boutique hotel, the power is generated from solar, wind and generators. During my first evening with the property, there was a power outage due to the wind currents. There was no electricity, no wifi, and no music. Only the sounds of the ocean, the sight of the little stars that litter the sky and candles that lit the path back to your room. If it were anywhere else, you’d find yourself uneasy. But since it happened in Tulum, it felt almost acceptable. It felt okay to disconnect and notice your surroundings. To take in what was in front of you and be grateful for all that you have. Tulum is not a place just for beautiful photos but for adventure and rest.“Every once and a while. Take off your life. And rest.”
– Nayyirah Waheed

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