Washington DC is one of those places whose name you learn by heart since you are a kid, no matter where you were born. The impact that every decision taken here has, is beyond compare.

It’s full of grandiose monuments. They all stand for beautiful ideals, and were built by people who believed in them. And yet things have changed: the world is shifting, and many of those ideals are being questioned in a world where we are way too many people, using way too many resources, and finding it harder and harder to live together.

I was staying at the Mandarin Oriental, which is perfectly located if you are in the mood for discovery. From the room I could see the Jefferson Memorial. The best part is that I was able to walk almost everywhere.

Let’s begin this journey at National Mall, a landscaped park that contains many key elements of some of the most important events in American History.

First we walk towards Washington Monument, the big white obelisk in the middle, that honors America’s first President George Washington. He never lived in DC, and yet his contributions to the country are many, starting with the victory of The American Revolution.

Right behind it, we see the World War II Memorial where 16 million Americans who served in the United States Armed Forces are remembered.

Keep walking.

You can see Lincoln’s Memorial’s Reflecting Pool. It’s shallow and calm so that you can see through it a reflection of the memorial in the water.

Look at your own reflection as well, and perhaps spare a thought to how you fit in this context.

Keep walking towards the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and read out-loud at least one name that represents a lost life during this very particular war.

Walk all the way from start to finish, and realize how much time it took you. Multiply it by the impact loosing that person meant to each family. With this in mind, walk towards the solitary statue of Lincoln, at Lincoln’s Memorial.

As you stand up there, imagine all the social and political events that have taken place right here, including Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a Dream” speech. Think of how big things often have small beginnings.

Walk down the stairs, and head towards the Korean Veterans Memorial. Read the inscription that says “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered a call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.” Read it once more. How does it relate to the latest news headlines?

Now, walk towards Martin Luther King’s Stone of Hope. What does it make you feel as you contrast it with every other monument here?

Let’s finish this walk at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial. “Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear,” he said in 1941.

We can now focus on the ideals of John Smithson, founder of the Smithsonian Institution, which is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex in the world, and the reason why almost every museum is free in this city. The vision behind it, is that every person should have access to art and education.

This institution will help us weave together all these concepts through art.

The first stop should be The National Portrait Gallery, which tells the story of America through the portraits of celebrated people in every discipline followed by The National Gallery of Art, to add a world-wide context to our conversation.

For a deeper understanding of the evolution of art in this context, stop by the Hirshhorn Museum, a leading voice for contemporary art that holds one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Renwick Gallery was my absolute favorite place. Its collection documents America’s visual culture through artists from all over the world, and its housed in a very special old house with the most beautiful staircase. The Phillips Collection, which was the first museum of Modern Art in America, has a collection that spans from French Impressionists to Contemporary Artists from all over the world.

Now we can focus on social wounds:

The Holocaust Museum, is a powerful and quite unforgettable experience that can’t be missed. The National Museum of African American History is also a must, not only because of its incredible architecture, but also because there is still so much to be said about the struggles African Americans have faced in their own country.

But, let’s talk about women, through a visit to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts. You do have to pay for this one, but it’s worth it.

Its impossible to finish this journey without spending sometime at Newseum, as fake-news is at the forefront of world politics, and terrorism and fear shape the way everything works. Here, you can experience up-close and personal some of the stories that shaped 9/11, and almost every terrorist attack from the past couple of years.

Stop by The Library of Congress, which is very close to Newseum, and finish this journey on a high note, realizing how you, and everyone of us has the power and potential to influence the way our world is engineered.

This journey means a lot to me. I’m not blind to the current situation at the border. It hurts me everyday to think that our countries, and I speak in regards to Latin America as a whole, haven’t been able to provide a safe environment and the opportunities needed for our people to thrive at home. And yet, every country is facing their own challenges.

And the journey continues.

Once upon a time, there was a man who loved beauty and details more than anything in this world, and built the most beautiful mansion, overlooking Miami’s Biscayne Bay, at a time when there wasn’t much around here.

It was built inside out. Every piece has meaning: the attention to detail is spectacular.

His name was James Deering, and to me he was the Great Gatsby of Florida. Ever since he first laid eyes on this beautiful place, he filled it with glamour, even though construction took place between 1910 and 1922, a time of political, economic and social turmoil.

As you enter the estate, it’s impossible not to feel the European vibe, and the walls whispering stories of how much this place might have meant to the dream-maker behind it.

The stories that speak to me the most, are love stories. He must have been in love with someone… who was that someone, and why didn’t he ever marry?

Sadly enough, Mr. Deering’s health began to fail even before Vizcaya was completed. He died on board a steamship that traveled from Paris to the United States in September of 1925, leaving the property to his half-brother, Charles, who died two years after he inherited it.

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This journey through Vizcaya, will take you through the love story that my mind has built around this man, and this estate: it starts with me being him, and is followed by the journey of the woman who owned his heart, yet wasn’t able to share her journey with him during that specific lifetime.

Currently, I am honored to be a Cultural Ambassador to Vizcaya, and we built this journey together in the hope that it will spark your curiosity to visit the unique estate, embed yourself in the stories it carries, and maybe motivate you to help us preserve it for many generations to come by joining us at the Vizcaya Ball, becoming a member, or donating as much as you wish to.

Hurricanes have been rough on this incredible place, and we have to make everything in our power to preserve its beauty.

All the dresses you will see on the following days, are by Naeem Khan, who is now based in Miami, and the jewelry is from Chopard. The photography is by Celia D Luna.

And this is where the journey begins.

I didn’t grow up surrounded by war; for me it was just something that belonged to the movies, and the history books.

And yet when you are in Europe, you are constantly reminded that war is real. Every corner holds a plate, every town a monument honoring the fallen soldiers. I’ve seen how war permeates through generations through the conversations with my in-laws, who are French, and specially in their silence.

We often believe that to have an experience worth living, we must create worlds filled with fantasy, and yet nothings touches us as deeply as reality.

I spent 3 days at Puy du Fou, a place unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It has won every award when it comes to the most creative park in the world, and yet, I didn’t know what to expect.

I was at the trenches of World War I while a love story was taking place, I was part of a naval exploration during the 1800’s, and became an expectator at the Coliseum, where life and death decisions were made by Julius Cesar. I had vultures flying on top of me, brushing my hair, and more importantly, I saw the power of 4,000 people united to share the history of France. Can you imagine what 4000 people means? It takes a village. Perhaps they are there in the hope that all the mixed experiences that you feel when you are there, will keep us away from war.

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It reminded me how far we’ve gotten as a society, but at the same time how lucky I am to be doing this video, while many countries are going through different versions of war. We need to use our collective memory to engineer the world in such a way that all this suffering… stops.

 

Useful information:

 

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LANGUAGE:

Yes, you are in France and they speak French, but there is an alternative translation for most of their shows. All you need to do is download their app before you go, and bring your headphones!

GETTING THERE:

I drove from Bordeaux, and it took us less than an hour. You could also drive from Paris; it takes about 3 hours and a half from there.

ACCOMODATION:

I stayed at ‘La Citadelle’, which is a beautiful medieval city, with direct access to the park. If you go to the night shows, it’s practical to be right there. The place was beautiful, and my children loved it. The entrance looks like a castle! Consider staying at least two nights.

FOOD:

Book your meals in advance. The restaurants are great, and with very nutritious options. It’s not your average burger and fries kind of place. They also have shows during meals, that need to be booked in advance as well.

NIGHT SHOW:

Book ‘Cinéscénie’, the show that happens thanks to 4,000 volunteers, in advance. People go to the extreme of booking one year prior, because of how popular it is.

THINGS TO KNOW:

Puy du Fou is a non-for-profit and re-invests the money they make. They also support multiple causes and associations all over the world. It also has a green certification, that is really hard to get. You’ll be surprised by the beautiful nature that you’ll encounter along the way.

MUST-SEE SHOWS:

Everything. Absolutely everything. It’s beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before. Arrive early in the morning to make the best out of your day.

More information: www.puydufou.com