Gothic fashion maven La Carmina takes on the world
Blogger, author and TV host shares her musings on world travel and finding unexpected beauty.
La Carmina is always on the move.
The Canadian fashion and travel blogger, published author, journalist and TV host (real name Carmen Yuen) has become accustomed to her jet-setting lifestyle. She's taken her "spooky-cute" Gothic fashion persona across Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, all with a film crew in tow. She's known for finding beauty in unexpected places, discovering the unique gems of underground cultures that aren't widely featured in travel magazines or TV networks. Since starting her namesake blog in 2007 – while a law student at Yale – she's rarely slowed down, but her eagerness for more adventure and experience only grows.
It's that eagerness that led her, last year, to Israel for the first-time. Her preconceived notions of the region – stark desert, stifling heat – were shattered as soon as she arrived. Palm trees? Gardens? Beaches? Trendy boutiques? Sushi? Tapas?
"Israel is so much more than a historical landmark," she observed.
She wanted to know what that "more" was. Luckily, she connected with Galit Reismann, who took Carmina on a tailor-made fashion tour of Tel Aviv.
"I was very impressed with the designers and boutiques I saw," Carmina told From The Grapevine. " Tami Bar-Lev's handmade hats – which look like sequined bananas, forks and more – reminded me of the avant garde accessories I'd see in Japan. I loved seeing how fashion blogger Korin Avraham rocked her personal style. There's so much energy and creativity in the Tel Aviv fashion world."
The expert approach of Reismann's boutique tour offered Carmina a perspective she wouldn't have gotten on a larger, more commercial tour.
"I'm fond of small, boutique experiences like hers that cater perfectly to my niche interests," Carmina said. "I stay far away from cattle-like tours that go to mainstream places. However, when you're with an expert guide like Galit, you get a more comprehensive understanding of everything you see. I wouldn't have gone behind the scenes at design stores, or struck up friendships with Israeli bloggers, if it weren't for her."
After the fashion tour and a quick visit to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, it was time to eat – and did she ever.
"Until this trip, I had no idea Israel had such a fusion food scene," she said. Her first meal was at Kimmel Restaurant, which she called "earthy and Mediterranean." The all-hummus menu at Abu Hasan in Tel Aviv was "unforgettable," despite the minimalist decor and sparse seating. At Spanish-themed Vicky Cristina – a swinging bar in Tel Aviv's old railway station – Carmina indulged her tapas and seafood fix.
Knowing that no trip to Israel is complete without a trip to one of the country's legendary street markets, Carmina wandered about the dizzying array of food stalls at Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market, sipping smoothies, talking to merchants and inhaling the scents.
Carmina, a native of Vancouver, Canada, whose parents are from Hong Kong, took a liking to Japanese Gothic fashion early in life. Though she had originally planned to become a lawyer, her blog started gaining traction and reached a point where she could focus on blogging and traveling full time. She's also picked up a few hosting gigs on the way and has written three books, including " Cute Yummy Time" ("how to make meals look adorable," she explains) and "Crazy, Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo" ("exploring the bizarre world of maid cafes, cat cafes, vampire restaurants and more," is one way to describe, she says). She writes frequently for CNN, AOL and Huffington Post. And she keeps her blog readers updated on all her latest adventures on her Instagram and Facebook pages.
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