About Virginia Shaffer

I have been in the DC area for 5 years and kept blogs running on a hodgepodge of topics for almost a decade. After uniting several ongoing interests under one domain, virginiahopes.com's utility is to present a stream of consciousness to its viewers... Amusing, sporatic, colorful, and always under construction.

Just a few things that rock about Southern Italy

You can take walks around the ruins all night long in Rome without getting bored:


You know one Italian, you know them all:


Italy can beat Starbucks in coffee options by a thousand miles:


“You can taste the volcanic earthiness in the crust,” they say, in Napoli. Go to Di Matteo.


The limestone in Capri is truly breathtaking. And yeah, you feel like you’re in a Giorgio Armani perfume commercial, all the time.


You can jump off the tour boats in the Capri’s Blue Grotto as your tour guide chants old folk songs for good luck:


You can rent a Smart Car and drive it from Sorrento to the Amalfi Coast. Don’t attempt this in a scooter; you might die.


Ah Ravello… Where all the celebs go to get married. See the most beautiful gardens of Europe here:


They have signs where things translated still seem pretty funny:


There are some views you just won’t ever forget:


What are your favorite things about Ittaaaaalia?




A Bahama Wedding in Auto Awesome – Kelleys forever

(Courtesy of Anne Boccuzzi)

(Courtesy of Anne Boccuzzi)

Brittany and Nick, two of the most beautiful people we know, just got married in the Bahamas. According to our favorite .gifs below, you could only dream of a wedding weekend this auto-awesome.

Look surprised, Ah! okay we’re done


America’s Next Top Girl Band PErforms:


Groom tells a compelling story:


Dan gets 3 ducks:


Mrs. Kelley APpears and Disappears:


Groom tossing:


(Above courtesy of Anne Boccuzzi) 

cake cutting:


(Above courtesy of Anne Boccuzzi) 

Dance Party… Dan’s Pirouette [top right]:


Dad & Bride Cutting up the Dance Floor, warp speed:


Anne Struts… Is Phil Impressed?


Pop and Lock:

image (2)

Fist Pump:


What a Bro:


Watch Out She’s a Flirt:




(Above courtesy of Anne Boccuzzi) 

Thanks for letting me be a special part of your day! – Virginia

Already Dreaming of a German Christmas

Christmas in Germany beats anywhere else in the world, and how they get the real candles to stay on the trees without burning their houses down is a mystery to me.

It’s still October, but I’m ready to hop on the Xmas spirit train. Here were a few of my favorite things about the time of year in Berlin. I went during the Christmas holiday, and although a German wouldn’t necessarily say “Go to Berlin” for Christmas, you’ll get both the grungy, hipster feel of this incredible city and a taste of the holiday season. Best of both worlds.

Christmas Market Lights, what an ambiance:


Hot Wine at the Christmas Markets – delish:


More drinks of Berliner Weisse – now that’s festive during the holidays:


KaDeWei, the most amazing supermarket to exist, gets really into their decorations:


The shwweeeets! And the girl who wanted to kill me for taking her picture:


Other cool things about Berlin: 


(This is Currywurst)


This is Pia and Me (she’s from Hamburg):


I can only remember that this was delicious, and that it was made in a restaurant recommended by our taxi driver. Travel on a whim sometimes and ask a local!


Oh, Berlin… 

They have an unconditional love for travelers and Western ideals… :


The graffiti is such a testament of young artistic hardship and the city’s history:




Get yourself to Berlin. You can stay at Hotel Amano in the Rosenthaler Platz area. So many cool bars and coffee shops line the streets. They also have one of the best hotel bars in Berlin.


What do you love about Berlin? 

What Styles Reflect Your Inner Edgy Worldliness?

A lot of things can inspire you, including unique garnishes for your body. Everyone has it – men and women alike – that one item in your closet or drawer that makes you feel defined. It could be anything from a perfume that looms in the air to a tiny toe ring.

What are your favorite brands that make you feel unique, exotic, or wordly? Send me a comment. I like to incorporate a few colorful international brands into my daily dress. Thanks to globalization we all do this to some degree! But here are a few of my favorites that I think are really unsung designers.


1. Frey Wille: My friend introduced me to this bold Austrian designer. Check out these bangles. The intricacies of the designs are phenomenal – you really must feel like you’re wearing a colorful piece of art. You probably wouldn’t need to wear much else to make a bold statement about your style (These are pretty expensive, however!).


2. Jorge Bischoff: By far, the most comfortable, outlandishly fun pumps I’ve ever seen across the board. This Brazilian designer knows how to make statements with his craft, and the best thing about it all is that you could literally walk miles in them (I have).


3. La Baggagerie: The most durable French purses I’ve ever purchased, and actually affordable. I’ve only seen their stores in Paris but I guarantee there are some online shops with their bags and totes. They come in every color and do have really cool designs, like this crocodile Heather GM Handbag (above).


4. Petit Bateau: Because we all need some good quality basics to balance out the excitement of our bangles and bags. Yes, it’s also French, and it has kind of an interesting market: young women and children. I guarantee, however, that even when you’re picking shirts out of teen sizes, you’re still going to love the feel of the high neck tanks and tee’s.


5. Flõ Activewear - for the Yogi in me. I’m seeing that I have a love affair with Brazil and France, but… Eh, who doesn’t? Check out these crazy awesome yoga pants. Tell everyone you love being eclectic as much as you love standing on your head in these (above).


6. Feather Earrings – No particular brand. The easiest way I jazz up my look is by wearing some feather earrings. It makes me feel exotic, and you can find them in every color. I bought a couple pairs on the streets of El Salvador for $1, and found more all over the place in the states – including big beachwear stores by the ocean for $3. You can also find really cool, funky ones online from etsy.com from $14 – $65. Get your parrot on.


What are your picks when you want to get edgy?

Infographic: 5 trends in the world of travel & leisure

I read too much about what’s going on in travel, so I thought it would be entertaining (if only for myself!) to wrap up those major topics I’ve seen discussed and put them in an easy pictogram for everyone else. Happy travels, jetsetters, and happy marketing, leisure industry marketeers.


Marketeers – 4 ways to bounce back from Gmail categories


Google,  you’ve done it again.

Many of you experienced Gmail’s switch to categories in your accounts last week. Now you have emails categorized into primary, social, promotions and updates. This means easier navigation for you as a user. Your personal emails were often lost in a stream of promotions, facebook or twitter updates, listservs, etc.

As an end user, it’s calmed my nerves. I don’t have to do the work to separate anything anymore and it’s thrilling. In retrospect, it’s a serious slam in the face to email marketing because we hate to consider everything as “promotions”. The word doesn’t always sit well.

But here’s what we have to remember: if the end consumer likes the separation, then email marketers have to like it too, and we have to stop relying on
emails-in-your-face to get the message across.

Here’s how we should adapt:

1. Work on your super punch line

5 words or less? Something like that. Get creative, folks. Otherwise, your email won’t even make it into “Promotions”. You’ll get knocked down to “Updates”, which holds the undecided pile pouring over from promotions and gets lost in bank statements, confirmations, etc. Is it better or worse? I don’t know yet. But the hierarchy is frightening.

According to Salesforce’s marketing stats, 33% of emails are opened just on the subject line alone! In addition, 64% of people said they open an email because of the subject line.

Bottom line: now is the time, more than ever, to experiment with the whole “less is more” concept in the subject line.

2. Send them content they WANT to look for

In a sense, we have to rework the “Promotions” tab to a “Content” tab. This is going to separate the good content marketers from the awful ones. It’s the truth - if your emails are incorporating an added value to constituents, they’re going to go look for it. I know I do it. If you’re selling travel deals, why not incorporate some interesting itineraries for their trip in the same email? Why not redesign the approach and throw in some content about a destination’s cool factor?

In essence, you have to meet the “why read this” more accurately. Show consumers or businesses that you’re the smartest, most thoughtful, and targeted organization. Show them you want to give back. Send them neat stuff to read. Braid the deals, promotions, services or products in between.

3. Reconsider your release times

I’ve noticed that during the work day, I only have time to read and reply to what I get in the primary email section. However, at the end of the day, I’ll scan through the promotions and social tabs to see if there’s anything that catches my eye.

So, assuming I’m normal, I think other people will do the same. For example, I’m a sucker for Gilt deals and LivingSocial Escapes. In my opinion, they should reorganize to release in the late afternoon so they’re at the top when I’m skimming down the list.

4. Find more significance in recipient behavior

We’re not all sure how recipient behavior will change just yet, but we need to learn the lesson that people want organization in their lives and they want to have more of a say in what’s presented to them. Let’s listen to how it goes. It could be the greatest thing that happened to marketing. And hey, since the emails aren’t coming down the main pipe, that’s less people getting grumpy enough to unsubscribe. If it’s in promotions, it’s more tolerated.

Lastly, open rates may decrease a tad, but they should mean more, too. Someone scanned their promotions to seek you out. It’s less accidental, so it should be more significant. I just spun that one into a positive, didn’t I?




Secret Parisian Diaries – the master underground list

You can’t go wrong when you ask a pro videographer, photographer, and music enthusiast about the best underground spots in Paris. That’s what I did with Bertrand Guez, a reporter for TF1 and good friend of mine… & to imagine he’s giving away all of Paris’s gems to my site. All of your French hipster desires are coming true before your eyes.

So, If you’re tired of getting stuck between tour Eiffel and the Louvre every time you go to Paris, perhaps you should add these to your list and go like a pro.


Hey dear,

So as promised, here’s some places you can go check when you’ll be in Paris. They are my favorites:


ROSA BONHEUR is a fantastic place, nice outdoor spot especially during summer, where you can dance, drink, eat, in the middle of Parc Buttes Chaumont. It’s a very cool, relaxed, nice hipster crowd. Definitely one of my favorite place in Paris to chill…


LE VIEUX LEON is in the area of Châtelet Les Halles. It’s a good old small bar-troquet with an awesome terrace, live music sometimes, cool young hip crowd. I always hit that place, when I come back in Paris. Always!




Le BATOFAR, such a great spot, it’s actually a canal boat serving as a beer garden, a concert venue, electro music parties… Check the place and program, a must see.




L’AUTOBUS. Nice bar, very old school parisian.

Another spot I used to go for a drink, it’s like being back in time. Jukebox, old rock’n'roll music, drinks pretty inexpensive, good people… A real parisian bistrot!

PS : if you hit the same street, rue Oberkampf, it’s packed with many other bars, kebabs, etc… A sort of 18th St. (Washington DC) minus the boom boom dancing clubs…


MECANO BAR is in the same area as l’Autobus. It’s a nice tapas and wine bar in an old factory, live music, very trendy-cool



LE SANS SOUCIS is in the Pigalle area, kinda bobo (bourgeois boheme), always packed, great place for sure, nice people.





Great DJ rock/new wave/garage music sets on thursday, friday and saturday






AU CLAIR DE LUNE is in the Montmartre area, another nice retro bar, typically parisian as well. Really inexpensive!






Check around the Bastille area, there’s also many nice bars such as LES FURIEUX on rue de la Roquette or LA MECANIQUE ONDULATOIRE on Passage Thiéré.





LE GIBUS is a great club, such a classic… Rock, electro parties, hip hop…




How about some danceclubs to hit for some boom boom music. Check this:

Address : 6 Avenue Marceau 75008 Paris
Metro : Alma Marceau




Address : 5, avenue de l’opéra 75001 Paris
Metro : Opéra



Address : 6 Rue Fontaine 75009 Paris
Metro : Pigalle






Address : 5 Boulevard Poissonnière 75002 Paris
Metro : Bonne Nouvelle



Unique Shopping experience?

To go shopping, go have some fun at the SAINT OUEN DE CLIGNANCOURT FLEA MARKET. Antiques, vintage clothes, books, jewelry, retro posters… You can’t miss that place…



Amazing Terrace?

Oh and I forgot a very nice chill bar I spent a lot of time hanging out with friends. It’s one of the best terraces in Paris on a very cute little place called Place Sainte-Marthe


Adresse : 32 Rue Sainte-Marthe 75010 Paris
Metro : Belleville, Goncourt or Colonel Fabien


El Salvador: a trip to Central America’s thumb

“El Salvador doesn’t have a real budget when it comes to tourism,” said my Salvadorian friend as we sipped on our coconuts we picked up off the side of the highway on our way to Tunco. I watched in amazement when the guy whacked a hole in the coconut in one swift motion with his machete.

“But it’s still just as beautiful a place to explore. The roads are better than Honduras, much better. You can get around.” …Given that you have a vehicle. Public transportation isn’t the fastest way to maneuver about the country.

We barreled our way up and down mountains in her Mom’s Chevy Suburban for just over 30 minutes, passing lush green canopies and dry barren fields until we reached a gate with guards, who requested a dollar before we could enter the tiny surfer streets of Tunco. We talked them out of it with our charm.

Tunco is the hidden surfing gem in the elbow of Central America. The rough Pacific Ocean makes it just dangerous enough to attract daredevils from around the world. In addition, you’re going to love the small town’s non-intrusive and low key personality. You could do a lap around the beach and major streets in under 15 minutes, but this works to your advantage because a beer, pupusa, raw oyster, mango or bag of fresh cashews is never out of reach.

You’ll pay $70 a night to stay in a bungalow at Tekuani Kal, which has a tiny, but charming infinity pool overlooking the action on the waves from above. They’re going through some renovations at the bar, but the pina kolada quality and lobsters topped with cheese and crushed local nuts would make you completely oblivious to it.

The area is full of small hotels, so you could really name your price once you get down there. Our friends found a place for $30/night. It had a pool, a fridge with beer, hammocks in the courtyard… Not such a terrible way to spend a weekend on a dime?

The most intriguing thing about El Salvador is the wide range of climate for such a tiny country. Around the beaches, the air is moist and the vegetation is lush. The space in between Tunco and El Salvador is much drier – some fields are baked by the irremissible sun. You feel the dust on your face when you drive with the window down. But once you wrap yourself around the mountain tops and down into San Salvador, you’ll find a cool crisp and arid place – not to mention the hustle and bustle of the city dwellers, which is quite opposite from the beach life.

San Salvador isn’t very commercial at all. The buildings don’t arch much taller than a few stories, but you’ll find markets, shoemakers, tiny little restaurants, and fun karaoke spots throughout the city. If you’re looking for unique trinkets, you have more than enough options to find the perfect souvenir. A taxi for a 10-15 minute drive is about five dollars for 2-3 people, so you’re free to move about the city without excessive fares or complex city maps.

Join me in the unique El Salvador adventure. The people are forever friendly, and let’s not forget the beauty benefits – you’ll be sure to return with healthy and hydrated skin considering all the great fruits, nuts and big breakfasts you’re eating!

If you want something longer term, mark it as your starting destination (it’s 4 hour direct flight from DC!), spend a few days in Tunco and San Salvador, then be on your way to Guatemala or the beaches of Roatan in Honduras!

You Have to Eat Fat to Burn Fat – A Secret to How We Work …@ Work

The Concept

If something is true about your gut, it’s probably true about your gut feeling, right?

I have a charming friend who updates facebook daily with useful nutrition anecdotes. Wedged in between the warnings of aspartame and the toxins in bagged tea, one of my memorable favorites was, “you have to eat fat to burn fat.”

It was like turning my perception of eating on its head. I can’t burn something I didn’t take the time to consume. I need to eat the fat for my body to absorb fat, package fat, and ultimately understand how to release fat. 

Do you practice what you preach?

Now that I have you dreaming of grease, I’m applying this concept to how we all work, and what we do for 8 hours a day.

  • Can you write a book if you’re easily bored reading books?
  • Can you conceptualize content on a powerpoint if you’re too impatient to bother with shapes?
  • Can you convince someone to buy a house if you’ve never taken the plunge (because then maybe, heh, you wouldn’t)?
  • Can you train a runner for a marathon if fast walking even pains you?

Ultimately, as someone who surrounds herself with a million tools used for my organization’s content marketing strategy, do I really watch enough webinars, read enough magazines, or get lost in enough infographics to know what I’m even doing?

The line where the fat sticks & burns effectively

Much like my eating habits, I know how to enjoy content marketing. I praise a good article. I share things that provoke a strong reaction. I appreciate data. I see things in colors, shapes, and concepts, and of course, I spy on the big leagues.

But I spend only 5-10% of my day doing this. Much like your saturated fats, you need just enough. Just enough grease to understand what YOU would read, and how YOU would like to see it. But I beg you, leave some mystery in the event that you have an original idea, and – oh yeah – that “listening to your audience” part. If you’re in it for the long run, your audience is all of those leafy greens, fruits & veggies that should keep you driven throughout the day.

And don’t forget to eat organic. :)

The gift of content marketing must originate in the freshest, most natural and brainy way possible. Otherwise, you’re just a hodgepodge of funky ingredients and misinterpreted ideas we can no longer pronounce or understand.


This self-portrait (medium: charcoal & pastel)  was a project done in spring 2012. This was my fourth attempt to draw my face proportionally to what I was seeing. When sketching another person, there’s a feeling of duty to ensure the perfect relationship of features, as if you owe it to them to recreate reality. Well, I felt it stronger in my sense of self.  I often wondered, am I drawing what I actually see or drawing what I want to see? Does my feeling of perfectionism occur because I’m not fully satisfied with myself in other ways? 

It came out well. I’m not completely sold on the nose.

- Virginia