An escape to a fabled, remote corner of the world with a reputation for romance.
Our friend, Sana Keller, a travel communications expert, was telling us about her honeymoon in Tahiti. We just had to share her story.
For world travelers with backgrounds from opposite parts of the world, Tahiti was the perfect place for our honeymoon. I am from the West Indies and my husband is from Switzerland. For us, Tahiti was the best of both worlds: an island atmosphere, Polynesian-style, making it delightfully exotic for anyone familiar with the Caribbean lifestyle, with a European flare – 'c’est perfect'!
We flew to Los Angeles, and then boarded Air Tahiti Nui for our 8 hr flight. We overnighted in Papeete, the capital city, where the famous artist Paul Gauguin lived for many years. If you're an art lover like I am, you'll understand how extraordinary it feels to follow in the footsteps, and see in real life, scenes immortalized by such a creative genius.
From Papeete, we boarded our 7-day Windstar cruise. The legendary islands of Moorea, the inspiration for South Pacific's mystical Bali Hai; Bora Bora, idyllic Huahine and Raiatea and Tahaa are glorious all on their own. Now imagine them from the deck of a graceful sailing yacht, with the wind in the sails overhead. Imagine a honeymoon of swimming and snorkeling in crystal-clear lagoons, meandering through lush rainforests, and experiencing the fascinating Polynesian culture from tikis to tiare flowers. It's almost a 'pinch yourself to see if you're not dreaming' moment.
Following our cruise we stayed in Bora Bora and Moorea for another 5 days and enjoyed unique experiences such as shark feeding, swimming with the giant manta rays, enjoying the native Polynesian culture, visiting a pearl farm and renting a moped to explore Moorea at our own pace.
InterContinental Resort and Spa, Tahiti
If you like island hopping like we do, Tahiti really delivers. Particularly if you enjoy snorkeling and diving, relaxing on a private yet pristine white sand beach, or simply romancing on the deck of our overwater bungalow with a warm breeze, glistening turquoise sea and a tropical cocktail. And there’s a bonus – being a French Overseas Territory, French Polynesia has outstanding cuisine, in restaurants and on the streets. Familiar sights such as baguettes appear alongside fresh exotic fruit, fish and the intoxicating smell of the tiare flower everywhere.
Le Lotus Restaurant. Also pictured, Lotus Swim-up Bar
It might be the intense blue of a bewitchingly tranquil lagoon, or a night sky filled with South Pacific stars. Maybe a silhouette of volcanic peaks dramatically lit by a tangerine sunset, or a lunch of fresh fish, exotic fruits and vegetables prepared with a Polynesian influence and a touch of French flair. It doesn't take long for anyone who visits these tropical islands to realize, that yes, this really is paradise.
It certainly was on our honeymoon!
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Gone are the days when a trip to Jamaica meant a week spent entirely at your all-inclusive resort. Getting around and exploring outside your resort has never been easier or more appealing.
If you haven’t visited Jamaica in a while, we suggest it’s time to try something new on one of the Caribbean’s most-loved islands:
What’s the best way to enjoy Reggae music? The organizers of the Reggae Marathon & Half Marathon think it’s running to the beat. The marathon is Jamaica’s premier International Marathon Event, an internationally certified course with a Jamaican vibe that includes Reggae, refreshments, and ‘irie’ atmosphere. Marathoners, sports enthusiasts as well as beginners, locals and visitors converge in Negril to run or cheer on the runners and join in the gourmet Pasta Party and Finish Line Beach Bash.
A new web site, MoretoJamaica.com, has launched with the tagline: More to Jamaica, More about our Communities.
Jamaica Social Investment Fund, the World Bank, and Jamaica Tourist Board provided the funding for the site, facilitated by Green Team Global and built by Travel Agency Tribes, for visitors who want to explore beyond the sun and sand. The community tourism site connects visitors to attractions and activities that help you get to know the island in a deeper, more personal manner.
The places and organizations featured give you the opportunity to take in the jaw-dropping natural beauty of the island, explore Jamaica’s cultural roots and get to know the island’s warm, welcoming people on a first-name basis. The site currently features 5 community tourism enterprises, and continues to grow.
If off the beaten path is where you like to visit, this site’s a charm.
Visitors have more options about which airports they use, and will be better able to explore the island now that Highway 2000 has opened. The North-South highway that connects Jamaica’s capital city Kingston with the island’s north coast is a four-to-six lane, 66 km motorway. Travel from Kingston to Ocho Rios is now under an hour.
These new resorts will give you never-seen-before, stunning backgrounds for all the photos you’re going to want to post on social media to make your friends jealous.
Kids and Concierge Service at Royalton Negril Resort & Spa and Hideaway
Royalton Negril Resort & Spa opens in 2017. The new 600-room hotel comes with complete beach access, a stylish tropical ambiance and a kid-friendly atmosphere. The Hideaway next door is an adults-only, 166-room haven with butler and concierge service, afternoon hors d’oeuvres in the adults-only pool and beach areas with waiter service, in-room premium amenities like aromatherapy, upgraded room service and more.
New Yoga Pavilion at The Cliff Hotel
The Cliff Hotel, a boutique hotel known for its luxury suites and villas, has just re-opened after an off-season refresh with a new yoga pavilion and fitness centre. This is the final phase of a multi-million dollar renovation to the property located off the renowned West End cliffs of Negril. All rooms offer unhindered views of the Caribbean Sea.
Infinity Pools and Natural Beauty at New Adults-Only Hotel RIU Reggae
Located on the beach and surrounded by incredible natural beauty, the RIU Reggae is an all-inclusive, 450-room, adults-only hotel in Montego Bay in November. The resort features idyllic surroundings and a wide array of services and amenities including: free wi-fi, infinity pools, a gym and spa.
Hotel Royalton Blue Waters
Located in Falmouth adjacent to Royalton White Sands and sharing amenities between both luxury resorts, Royalton Blue Waters opens in November with 225 rooms. The hotel features modern spacious rooms, beautiful architecture and sports and recreational activities for the whole family.
Over the Water Villas at Sandals Royal Caribbean
We’ve written about these before, and they’ll soon be here! The much anticipated, five Over the Water Villas will be the first of their kind in the Caribbean with see-through glass floors, an over-water hammock for two and private infinity pool. They are perfect for couples looking for a breathtaking and memorable vacation or honeymoon.
Modernist Flare, Gourmet Cuisine and Parties at Adults-Only Breathless Resort & Spa
AM Resorts’ new, 150-room Breathless Resort opens before the end of the year. The ultra-modern, adults-only resort features luxury accommodations, a world-class spa, mouthwatering gourmet cuisine and a non-stop party.
Rooftop Pool Bar at Spanish Court Hotel
Spanish Court Hotel makes its entrance in Montego Bay next year. Most of the 120 rooms have spectacular ocean front views as well as grand spa bathrooms. Roman tubs and specially designed sauna-sized showers add to the feeling of decadence. We are especially looking forward to drinks at the rooftop pool bar with views of Doctors Cave Beach and the surrounding turquoise waters.
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This might be the most romantic exotic adventure we've ever heard of. Taking flight on a 'diamond safari'.
South Africa's Ellerman House, partnering with local Benguela Diamonds, is offering guests the day trip of a lifetime to a unique place of origin for diamonds worthy of the most exquisite jewelry and travel memories.
Benguela Diamonds is named after the Benguela Current, which flows off the west coast of South Africa. The 'diamond safari' allows guests to follow the journey of an ocean diamond from its humble origin beneath the surface of the sea to its transformation into a permanent memento of an extraordinary journey.
It's hard to believe it can all happen in just one day. From the historic luxury of Ellerman House in Cape Town, a limousine, then private champagne charter morning flight transport couples just over an hour away to the remote coastline.
Home base for the day is a luxurious, contemporary villa on the coast, directly in front of Benguela’s offshore concession. Did we mention? A private chef accompanies you for the day, preparing gourmet meals in keeping with the coastal theme. Fresh, line-caught fish or the local specialty, west coast crayfish, paired with South African wines from Ellerman House's wine collection? Of course.
Between gourmet meals on the terrace, the quest for diamonds. If you have Padi Open Water certification, you can join Benguela dive masters under the water – or wait on the surface for divers, or your sweetheart, to bring the haul to you.
It's an underwater, modern, diamond version of 'panning' for gold. Seabed gravel runs into a classifier that separates the larger stones, which are then ‘jigged’ using a vibrating pan system. The heavier gemstones, not just diamonds, but also garnets and olivines, fall into the pan.
An expert from Benguela’s sorting team shares the process of sorting and grading of diamonds. This is the magical moment for you and your sweetheart to select a rough diamond to be cut, polished and set into a piece of dream jewelry at the company's design studio. While nature determines the color, carat-weight and clarity of a diamond, it takes a skilled craftsman to determine the cut and release the fire, sparkle and beauty of your diamond.
By late afternoon, you are winging your way back to Cape Town aboard your private aircraft to Ellerman House, indulging in the hotel’s signature Dom Perignon Experience to celebrate the day. Within three days, your diamond will be cut and polished, and set into your new, signature piece.
Did you choose the perfect gem? The diamond, that is. Your sweetheart is golden. We couldn't dream up a more breathtaking trip for a proposal, engagement, anniversary or any milestone celebration.
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Half a million bottles of champagne, 9 Michelin starred restaurants, 81 million meals… When we travel for business or pleasure, alone, with our families, or a large group, how often do we pause to think what it takes to deliver 5-star service any time of day, at any hotel or resort in the world, to any guest or group?
Now, as part of its 70th anniversary celebrations, the world’s largest luxury hotel brand has offered us a glimpse into how it delivers five-star service around the clock, across over 180 hotels and resorts from Marseille to Macau.
A year of luxury cuisine in numbers at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts:
- 81 million meals served
- 27 million pastries made for guests
- 500,000 bottles of Champagne are popped
- 400kg of honey is produced by bees at InterContinental Hotels & Resorts
- 166 years is the oldest bottle of vintage wine available for guests to order
- 9 Michelin starred restaurants across the InterContinental brand portfolio
When your hospitality heritage includes catering to the world’s most illustrious faces, from the likes of Princess Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Martin Luther King to The Rolling Stones, Elton John and Queen Elizabeth II, partnering with Michelin star and celebrity chefs and restaurants is par for the course.
The company's current stable includes Gordon Ramsay at InterContinental Bordeaux – Le Grand Hôtel, Daniel Corey at InterContinental San Francisco, Theo Randall at InterContinental London Park Lane, Lionel Levy at the InterContinental Marseille Hôtel Dieu, Jason Atherton at InterContinental Dubai Marina and 2015’s ‘world’s best chef’ Pierre Gagnaire, at ANA InterContinental Tokyo and InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort. InterContinental Hong Kong manages to offer an impressive three Michelin stars all under one roof.
Now, some of these chefs have shared the efforts required to ensure guests experience the very best luxury dining during their stay… and what inspires them about the restaurants, guests, and destinations they serve.
Michelin-starred Jason Atherton of Marina Social at InterContinental Dubai Marina: “In an unbeatable location overlooking panoramic views of the waterfront, the restaurant’s concept celebrates de-formalized dining within a relaxed, social atmosphere. What’s always been really important to me is that we engage with our customers. So, we created an open kitchen and dessert bar, where guests can watch and interact with the chefs during their meal, and of course the DJ booth, unique to this Social, which won’t be replicated anywhere else in the world – it’s Dubai’s Social.”
Daniel Corey, Michelin Star chef at Luce at InterContinental San Francisco: “I was part of the opening team in early 2008. The InterContinental brand knows that restaurants and bars go hand in hand with travel experiences. They have given me a lot of creativity when it comes to developing and executing menus for our clientele, allowing us to offer a distinct dining experience at our Michelin-star restaurant, casual fare at our bar, and a room service menu that really showcases the best products and ingredients throughout Northern California.”
Theo Randall, Chef Patron of Theo Randall at InterContinental London Park Lane, which is celebrating its 10th birthday: “I am very proud to be celebrating this milestone with the launch of a new look and menu, in the same year as the InterContinental brand’s 70th anniversary. Together we have grown from strength to strength with numerous awards over the years. It has been a pleasure to partner with InterContinental Hotels & Resorts and be a part of their signature repertoire made up of over seventy years’ experience catering for guests across the globe.”
If you're traveling and staying at an InterContinental Hotel soon, look out for something new at the bar: the recently-launched Worldly Classics Cocktail Menu, a carefully crafted selection of seven classic cocktails, to be enjoyed by guests all over the world. The menu, which includes Dry Martini, Negroni and the Eastern Breeze mocktail, will be rolling out across all InterContinental Hotels & Resorts globally beginning this year.
Dining with Kids
This follows the launch of the brand’s Planet Trekkers Children Menu, developed by Theo Randall and leading children’s food expert and best –selling international author Annabel Karmel. It features dishes that embrace flavors, textures, smells and tastes that will take children on an educational voyage around the world, while ensuring a nutritionally balanced meal with their parents.
With ten openings in the past year alone including new hotels in London, Dubai, Chennai, and Beijing, as well as the reopening of the legendary InterContinental New York Barclay earlier this year, the iconic brand continues to build its luxury and culinary legacy.
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Bleisure travel is like a mullet haircut: 'business at the front, party at the back'. It's a new term that has cropped up recently, a portmanteau word combining 'business' and 'leisure' - meaning travelers who attach leisure travel onto a business trip.
This is not new. And there are many who deny such a 'trend' exists. But there's a new awareness of 'bleisure' travelers and a need to provide those travelers - with tight schedules and multiple travel agendas - opportunities to enjoy their travels even on a work-related trip. I say, 'bring it on'.
By: Lynn Elmhirst, executive producer and host, BestTrip.TV
As a travel expert, journalist, TV producer, host and entrepreneur, I lead a busy life, and much of it is on the road. But I have always taken to heart my Granny's advice to 'stop and smell the roses'.
Here are my tips for travelers who want to put a little 'party' in their business travel.
1. Take even a small break.
Some have defined bleisure travelers as those who extend a business trip at least for one Saturday stay on either side (usually the back end) of a business trip. Personally, I feel that's much too narrow. I think bleisure kicks in any time you can carve out some personal time – at the beginning, end or during a business trip. It can be a couple of hours, a couple half-days, or yes, a couple or more days outside your business obligations.
We had an intense filming schedule in Russia that ended up without our crew ever having a full day off. But we did end our filming one day near the famed Hermitage art museum-in-a-palace. To my surprise, the entire crew – very different ages, backgrounds and interests – all wanted to explore inside. And that experience – while not as long as many avid art lovers might spend there – became one of our favorite memories of Russia. If we'd decided we didn't have 'long enough' to 'do it right', we might have missed it altogether.
How could you miss this? The Grand Staircase entry at the Hermitage. BestTrip.TV
For some people, just an early morning run or cycle around the city for an hour invigorates and gives them a way to explore their destination.
2. Be open to new experiences.
The top 'bleisure' travel destinations naturally reflect the corporate world. Especially in Europe, they don't always align perfectly with traditional top holiday travel destinations. Top Bleisure destinations in Europe include Lisbon, Nice, and Istanbul, outranking top leisure destinations of London, Paris, and Rome.
This means you could well end up in a destination that has never been on your travel bucket list. I call that: opportunity.
Vespa Tours? Not on my list until I found myself in Tuscany for work. BestTrip.TV
Some of my favorite and most memorable travel experiences have been ones that I would never have come up with myself, but that I encountered as a result of my work, and they opened my eyes to a whole new way of experiencing life.
In fact, my very first cruise was for my work, not by my choice! Two weeks on the Crystal Symphony converted me – no surprise! And now, cruise travel expertise is one of the things I'm best known for!
3. Book ahead.
Commit and pre-pay for your bleisure, and you'll be much more likely to take the break to enjoy your destination rather than letting work consume all your time. If you know you have a wine tour booked, you'll be much more able to combat your instincts to tell yourself, 'If I stay in my hotel, I could get X done now…', and get out into those vineyards and tasting rooms.
Don't miss out on the vineyards! BestTrip.TV
Don't make mental half-promises to yourself to enjoy your business destination, make a commitment that your trip will benefit your own life as well as benefiting your business.
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Michelin-starred gourmet hiking in the Black Forest is the grown-up way to celebrate Germany's cuisine and outdoors.
We hope you've already checked Munich's incredible Oktoberfest off your travel bucket list, because it really is a young person's game. Staggering from Festhall to Festhall, raucously joining off-key, multi-lingual singing, and belting back beer and sausage with your buddies and thousands of your newest best friends is tons of fun once, but off the menu for most people after 30 or your first couple of children.
What should be on your travel list to replace it? Baiersbronn.
Michelin Stars in the Black Forest
Nestled in the fabled Black Forest across the French-German border from Strasbourg, Baiersbronn is surrounded by clean air, green hills, cold fresh water, five lakes and a vast forest. An impeccable combination of startlingly beautiful nature and delicious gourmet food, this small town of 15,400 has the highest density of Michelin stars in all of Europe. The locals take pride not only in the eight Michelin stars that Baiersbronn has earned, but the nature and conservation of the Black Forest.
Baiersbronn has found a way to seamlessly combine both of their claims to fame - gourmet food and outdoor hiking - in a new "Culinary Hiking Heaven" program.
'Vespern' - 'Bringing a Snack'
The gourmet hiking program is an extension and expansion of the German tradition of 'Vespern', or 'bringing a snack', an important ritual of the German tradition of hiking, finding a wonderful spot with a view, and enjoying local food in the heart of Nature.
The Culinary Hiking Heaven program involves "Wild plant hosts" - restaurants and inns using natural ingredients from the local forest to prepare their dishes; "wild plant guides"- guides who take visitors on hikes and introduce them to all the forest has to offer; and the "wild plants discovery trail"- where visitors can learn all about the riches nature has to offer.
Hikers can purchase picnic rucksacks provided by the "wild plant hosts" that feature local and regional specialties and a brochure to help them identify plants along the way.
In addition to the "Culinary Hiking Heaven," Baiersbronn has many different themed-guided hikes that are planned for different seasons. There is something for everyone, and the gourmet hikes range in taste from five-course alfresco menus all the way to beer and liquor hikes. With the Black Forest Card, some tours are even free.
On a "Tasty Hiking" tour you follow guides through the forest to a beautiful romantic spot. A small Black Forest specialty snack is waiting for you while you enjoy the unbeatable scenery. From here, follow the guides to a hiking cottage and enjoy a Black Forest meal with other hikers.
Themed herb walking tours are exciting for those hoping to learn more about sustenance you can collect in the forest. For hundreds of years people have been looking to the forest as a means of food, shelter and medicine. These herbs and berries had many uses that included natural remedies for infection, pain and sickness.
The "Schnappstour" centers on how to make Black Forest liquors. Hike along the path with your guide until you reach the distillery where Dr. Zimmerman produces the high alcohol percentage schnapps out of local fruits. Or enjoy the "Hops and Malt," beer tour. That a crisp, cold beer is the perfect solution after a long hike is no mystery, but how to make delicious beer is!
Whether you enjoy hiking alone and bringing your own snack, or would prefer to hike gourmet style with a guide, Baiersbronn's Gourmet Hikes allow you to celebrate German nature and home grown flavors.
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Star Clipper's New 'Flying Clipper' is Largest Square Rig Sailing Ship Ever Built.
We love the romance of sailing. We also love the story of this specialty cruise line. Star Clippers allows travellers to revisit a modern, luxurious reincarnation of the era before steam ships and ocean liners, when there were sailing ships.
Star Clippers is the vision of Swedish yachtsman and entrepreneur Mikael Krafft to recreate the 'Golden Age of Sail' a hundred years after its decline.
In 1991, Star Clippers launched its first ship the “Star Flyer,” a recreation of the classic sailing ships of the 19th century. Since then, the Star Clipper fleet has grown to three, and the company decided that the best way to celebrate this silver anniversary would be to give the fleet a brand new sailing ship.
Star Clippers has now announced the name of their fourth ship, Flying Clipper, a five-mast barque to be launched at the end of 2017.
The World's Largest Ship of its Kind
Flying Clipper will be the biggest and the most ambitious of the Clipper fleet to date, carrying 300 passengers, and powered by 35 sails totaling more than 6,350 square meters.
It is a near replica of the dramatic France II ordered in 1911 at La Gironde shipyard Bordeaux, which was the largest square rig sailing ship ever built. SPV Flying Clipper will be the world’s largest square rigger and the largest ship of its kind afloat today.
While the ship will have ecologically sound, high-tech engines, it will, like its sisters, rely on wind power and its sails wherever possible.
Golden Age of Sail Meets Modern Age of Luxury, Romantic Cruise Travel
Flying Clipper has three pools, one that funnels sunlight through the ship’s atrium into the elegantly appointed dining room. A water sports platform in the stern is for use when the ship is at anchor. Designs include a variety of cabin grades, including 34 suites with balconies and four luxurious owner’s suites. A glass Dive Bar occupies several compartments of the ship.
Regular guests will be delighted to discover their favorite hallmarks of all Star Clippers ships, such as the cozy library, the bowsprit net and the popular, alfresco Tropical Bar, where evening entertainment takes place.
More About Star Clippers
Star Clippers is a specialty cruise line currently operating three of the world’s largest and tallest sailing vessels. They offer passengers the activities, amenities and atmosphere of a private yacht, and are able to visit ports often untouched by larger cruise ships.
The fleet sails in Mediterranean waters in the summer months and relocates to the Caribbean for the winter. In 2014 Star Flyer started sailing Cuban waters, one of the first lines to receive permission from the Cuban government. A new route in Asia starts in December 2016, on board Star Clipper; in Summer 2017 Star Clippers will sail into Indonesian waters for the first time, from Bali and Singapore and reverse.
Passengers can enjoy the romance of sailing on board a true tall ship in a relaxed atmosphere with high standards of service. All three current ships have expansive teak decks, swimming pools, informal dining, tropical bars on deck and piano bars. They are large enough to offer first class accommodation but small enough to call into intimate ports, untouched by large cruise ships.
The two smaller ships, Star Flyer and Star Clipper, take 170 passengers each, with a crew of 74, while Royal Clipper carries 227 with a crew of 106. The upcoming Flying Clipper will accommodate up to 300 guests in 150 cabins, attended by 140 crew members.
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The British Caribbean island of Anguilla, reached by first flying to neighboring St.Martin (only 10 miles away) or Puerto Rico (200 miles away), has an air of relaxed, gracious refinement thanks to its British heritage and off-the-beaten track location. Only one main road traverses the island (you can drive its full, 16-mile length in half an hour) connecting fifteen thousand residents, seaside villas and resorts.
Seasoned travelers looking to expand their Caribbean horizons beyond the bustle of busier, more tourist-y islands have these new experiences and places to stay to make this the year to explore the allure of Anguilla.
First Electronic Music Festival
Anguilla hosts the first annual Livin’ in the Sun, a revolutionary EDM (electronic dance music) festival, November 11 – 13. The festival brings the world’s best deejays together on the best beaches in Anguilla. Global music, top-notch food and beverage service, live art and water sports create the ultimate music festival experience. Think Ibiza or South Beach but with British Caribbean flare.
Tennis Capital of the Caribbean
Dust off your stylish Wimbledon summer whites and head for the courts. Anguilla Tourist Board (ATB) partners with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to host the inaugural Anguilla International Tennis Federation Junior Championships from November 12 – 19. There's a Commonwealth connection: the tournament is organized by the Director for Canada's premiere professional tennis tournament, the Rogers Cup.
Hit the Best Beaches in the Caribbean
Anguilla boasts some of the finest beaches in the Caribbean, and now, it's official! Anguilla recently placed at the top of the list of the best-kept beach secrets in the Caribbean. The island boasts 33 beautiful beaches to choose from, with the softest and sandiest going to Barnes Bay, sandwiched between Meads Bay and West End Bay. The seclusion of the island means they're almost never over crowded, simply the island beaches of your dreams.
Luxury at the New Four Seasons Resort and Residences this Fall
Four Seasons Resort and Residences assumes management of the Viceroy Anguilla, reopening October 20, 2016. The new property will be the largest hotel on the island with 166 villas and resort accommodations overlooking two of the island’s 33 beaches.
Photo: Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla
World Class Cuisine at The Reef by CuisinArt, Small Luxury Hotels of the World
The Reef by CuisinArt opening November 10, will be Anguilla’s newest luxury destination. A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the world, the property features 80 accommodations, ranging from Golfview and Seaview Junior Suites in the main building, to spectacular Junior Suites in the four beachfront building.
Photo: The Reef CuisinArt
Romance at The Manoah Boutique Hotel
The Manoah Boutique Hotel opens early November. With 25 rooms, the resort is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
Photo: The Manoah Boutique Hotel
Seclusion at the Frangipani Beach Resort's Newest Villa
Frangipani Beach Resort officially unveils its brand new 5,000 square foot villa. A family owned and operated resort, the Frangipani Resort is a premier luxury boutique resort in Anguilla with 19 rooms and suites.
Photo: The Frangipani Beach Resort
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Crystal announced its latest innovation, Crystal AirCruises, a few months ago. Now Crystal has shared the designs for the first Crystal AirCruises aircraft, and we think this innovation is going to change the way you - and the rest of the world - think about luxury travel.
Ultra Luxury Cruise Concept, but Traveling by Air
In fall 2017, Crystal’s acclaimed luxury travel experience will elevate to new heights with Crystal AirCruises. It's so elegantly obvious, how did no one think of this before? A jet that transports just 84 guests (compared to the usual hundreds of passengers on a 777) to itineraries that include the world’s most exotic and remote locales. Like Crystal's legendary luxury ocean cruises, AirCruises offer guests first class accommodations on 14, 21- and 28-day global itineraries.
Crystal’s privately owned Boeing 777-200LR is currently being customized to meet this new exclusive way to travel. The jet will boast plush, fully reclining Crystal 'Exclusive Class' seats, airy social spaces, large flat-screen TVs, Crystal’s famous butler and concierge services and Michelin Star-inspired cuisine.
Better than Private Jet Travel?
Crystal’s Boeing 777-200LR is larger and more spacious than any private jet travel option, appointed with features that make you think less of a private jet, more of a luxury hotel suite. The custom Crystal Exclusive Class seats fully recline to lie-flat beds, measuring 73.5 inches long, for maximum personal space and ergonomic comfort, while the expansive social lounge with stand-up bar, two divans and four dining tables with dedicated seating for six guests foster friendly camaraderie among luxury travelers. Cuisine will be prepared by a dedicated executive chef in two state-of-the-art galleys and paired with an elegant premium wine list.
Guests will also enjoy creature comforts and conveniences including Bose® Noise Cancelling headphones, Apple® iPads, complimentary global WiFi, 24-inch interactive TVs with on-demand programming and music library, individual USB ports and power outlets, and a live cockpit-to-ground listening channel. Custom blankets, lumbar and pillows, plush duvets and mattress toppers – as well as spacious lavatories appointed with ETRO amenities – offer more than the comforts of home during the global journeys.
Even the savviest travelers and guests who have sailed on Crystal's ocean cruises many times will be eager to experience this brand new way to explore places impossible to reach by water, all with Crystal’s signature personalized service and the highest standard of luxury at every point of travel.
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One island, two countries. St. Martin / St. Maarten is the smallest place in the world shared by two nations, France and the Netherlands. This may be the only Caribbean vacation or cruise port of call you’ll ever take that will have you crossing borders once, twice, or more on the same day.
You may not be able to visit every beach on the island: it's only 37 square miles, but there are the same number of beaches! Each St. Maarten beach is a very different experience. Here are four beaches – and beach bar or dining experiences – you just can't miss.
Great Bay Beach / Phillipsburg – breezy boardwalk and boutiques
International flights and cruise ships arrive on the (smaller) Dutch side. Cruise ships dock at the capital, Phillipsburg. It’s a short walk to the town’s stunning stretch of beach that rises up from piercing aqua water the full length of the bay. The terrific boardwalk along Great Bay beach is lined with noisy island bars, rented segways, boutiques, and duty free shopping.
Just off the boardwalk, Phillipsburg. c BestTrip.TV
We took a break from filming on the boardwalk at the Holland House Beach Hotel. It's a taste of Miami's South Beach with European flair, with an elegantly breezy feel, low teak lounges, canvas, white stucco and bougainvillea creating a beach-chic ambiance for the bar and restaurant facing the boardwalk and beach. With exceptionally attractive and charming 20-something local and Dutch staff in attendance in the lounge at the private beach area, the cocktails go down easy and the time slips by as you absorb the action around you in the hotel, on the boardwalk, the beach, and the ships in port.
Maho Beach – daredevils and spring break
The one beach that sets St. Maarten apart from any other beach in the world is nearby Maho beach. It's pretty enough, but the real attraction is its location at the end of the Princess Juliana International Airport’s runway, and the bizarre tradition that brings tourists from all over the world to see what it feels like to stand on a beach in the jet stream of a 747 taking off just feet away.
The 747's are the blast everyone waits for. c BestTrip.TV
No one reads this sign. c BestTrip.TV
I wonder if the makers of the movie Jackass were inspired by this daily phenomenon. The signs and police warnings do nothing to stop the frenzy of bathing suit-clad thrill seekers crowding the beach mere feet from the engines of 747’s about to take off. Just how strong is the jet stream? Before barriers were erected along the road, we were filming there and saw two parked cars rolled over across the beach and into the sea. People actually try to stand there, even hold onto the fence that separates them from the plane as it takes off!
Just starting up... c BestTrip.TV
Sandblasting. c BestTrip.TV
Bars bookending the beach outside the blast zone (but still within deafening earshot) offer the room with a view to enjoy the 'entertainment' of watching risk-takers getting their skin sandblasted. Voted one of the best beach bars in the world, the boisterous Sunset Bar and Grill is right on the beach at the end of the runway. It continues the frat house feel of the beach with a chalkboard schedule of the 'entertainment': the day's flight departures and also broadcasts a live web cam feed of other raucous bar activities.
Orient Beach – nudists and water sports
On the French side, Orient Beach is the place to go if you're terrified of returning from your holiday with tan lines. Taking its cue from the casually sophisticated topless beaches of the south of France, one end is famously designated clothing optional. For some visitors, that ‘view’ at Orient Beach is the big attraction, although if it's your first clothing optional beach, I warn you that most people on a clothing optional beach are not the people you want to see there.
These ladies are. c BestTrip.TV
There are plenty of reasons to love Orient Beach besides ogling – or joining - the bathing suit-free. On the windward side of the island, it's a two-mile beach of sugary sand that attracts all kinds of water sports enthusiasts and especially kite surfers and paragliders.
Whenever I visit St.Martin, I make it a habit to inhale the fresh breezes off the bay in the ambiance of one of the Orient Beach restaurant/bars that provides all day drinks, dining, and rental beach lounge chairs to catch the breeze.
Grand Case – romance and fine cuisine
The charming sea-side village of Grand Case is at the heart of French St. Martin's famed gastronomic scene. At the casual end of dining are some of the island's best lolo's or barbecue street stands that specialize in seafood. For Grand Case's real magic, try one of the open-air restaurants right on the sand that line the crescent moon beach facing west – into the setting sun. Exquisite, authentic French food, French servers, sun setting over the waves, it all conspires to create an atmosphere you couldn’t design any better for a romantic movie set.
Any of the wonderful French restaurants on the sand will kindle the romance, and you can end the evening on the beach with one last drink under tiki torches watching the dying rays of the sunset.
Grand Case. c BestTrip.TV
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What's the next best thing to travel to Provence? The souvenirs that help you remember your trip. Of course you can discover fabulous French designs and jewelry in the chic boutiques in the luxury hotspots of Nice, Cannes, Antibes/Juan-les-Pins and St. Tropez.
But here's a list of the top items you can find in markets and at local producers to remember and share the real flavor of the South of France. (Except wine. That's a whole other story). Some are delightful and still inexpensive, while others are a real travel splurge. High or Low end in cost, here are some travel shopping tips to help you make the best of countless choices shopping in Provence.
The characteristically sunny tones and regional prints of Provencal kitchen linens are an ideal gift to yourself or anyone in your life. They instantly brighten up your kitchen or bring the zest of the Mediterranean to outdoor entertaining in the summer. Oddly, the shops have aprons galore, and they're cute, but does anyone really wear them?? Do you? I don't even know any French women who use aprons.
The colors of Provence in linen c BestTrip.TV
Tip: I'm very practical. I opt for things that are very useful: napkins you can offer guests at home outdoors in the summer with Mediterranean canapes and frosty Provencal rose wine, or, my favorite, a quilted square with ties at each corner that, once tied, create a fabric basket for French bread or fruit.
If you have little girls to shop for, Provencal linen dresses are hard to resist! c BestTrip.TV
High/Lo rating: Linens aren't cheap, starting in the tens of euros and going up into the hundreds depending on workmanship or if you get into clothing. But they weigh virtually nothing, so it won't overload your luggage and cost you excess baggage fees.
Every guest bathroom should be honored with the iconic Savon de Marseilles in the scents of Provence. Marseilles soap has set the benchmark of pure, gentle, and delectable soaps since its creation. Buying it is such fun, it's like following the yellow brick road! Shopkeepers must feel like they're kids with Lego again, setting up displays of bars, with different colors for different scents: lavender for lavender (!), delicate pink for rose, mossy green for pure olive oil.
The original color blocking! c BestTrip.TV
Tip: You don't have to buy them in Marseilles, they're all over Provence; I bought some recently in Avignon's market.
High/Lo rating: Pocket change! You'll be tempted to fill a whole suitcase. But the weight adds up even if the price doesn't.
Soap isn't the only way to bring home Provencal olive oil! If you're visiting Provence in the cooler autumn, see if you can visit an olive grove to see the harvest and the pressing first hand. Our production crew was lucky enough to be given a tour and then a tasting of the grassy oil right out of the first press, then properly aged variations. You realize you don't really know what olive oil is supposed to taste like until you've tasted it at the source!
Filming an Olive Oil Tasting at a Family Olive Farm and Press, Provence c BestTrip.TV
Tip: Opt for tin containers, they're lighter than glass and will make the trip home better. And indulge in skin care products made from olive oil, you'll never find a better hand cream or a more soothing bath oil!
High/Lo rating: The oil itself is higher quality and less expensive for the quality than you can get at home. But some of the skin care products can be pretty pricey, even so, my French friends say they're worth the splurge!
Fleur de Sel
Is really just a fancy pants way of saying 'sea salts'. Sea salts from the south of France are justifiably famous, and any foodie friend will be tickled if you remember them with a flavored local salt. Rose scented, lavender scented, the options are countless, and equally colorful. I bought test tubes of various flavors; you can see the delicate colors and bits of rose, lavender, jasmine in the salts.
Tip: Use them where their delicate flavor can really shine: Sprinkled over a pan-fried or gently grilled piece of fresh fish or chicken when they're done cooking, or to scent rice or eggs.
High/Lo rating: Lo! Small gift packets or the test tubes are very affordable. Save, and enjoy!
Truffles may rise out of the category of 'souvenir' and into the category 'investment'. If you're a gourmet, truffles from the source are worth the splurge; and visiting a truffle farm and going out with the (highly trained!) and adorable dogs to find the truffles really puts the 'fun' in 'fungus'!
No Trespassing on this Truffle Farm! Somewhere (secret) in Provence c BestTrip.TV
Tip: Some truffle products are available in very small quantities, which make gifting them to your foodie friends quite reasonable.
High/Lo rating: High! Anything made with pure Provence truffles will be the big market / food producer souvenir splurge of your visit to the South of France.
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Program will be incorporated on all Seabourn cruise ships in 2017
For ultra-luxury cruise guests for whom wellness is more than workouts, massages, a spa menu, and the relaxation of a service level where extraordinarily intuitive staff anticipate your every need, Seabourn has created a fleet-wide mindful living program. The new offering guests a holistic spa and wellness experience that integrates physical, social, environmental and spiritual well-being.
The new Spa and Wellness program, with acclaimed wellness author and expert Dr. Andrew Weil, will be the first-ever of its kind at sea, and executed in partnership with Seabourn's Onboard Spa by Steiner.
Dr. Weil, a pioneer in integrative medicine, will be working with the ultra-luxury cruise line to deliver an range of mind and body programs that ensure you can break away, relax and rejuvenate while you travel.
Central to the program is the daily practice of meditation and yoga through a selection of complimentary sessions. Guests can experience Mindful Meditation, which will introduce positive affirmations and mantras they can reflect on throughout the day.
There will also be daily restorative yoga classes which will continue to focus upon the mantra and positive affirmations. Yoga classes will be varied, offering guests the ability to choose classes that focus on various physical issues, such as yoga to heal back and joint pain, headaches and body alignment, as well as yoga to enhance creativity, mental focus and happiness.
Classes will focus on mind, body and spirit over a period of seven days, and will change daily with a new theme.
Integral to the wellness program are enriching complimentary Mind and Body seminars designed to educate guests on philosophies and practices that are aligned with the program’s mission. Each presentation will aim to empower guests with ideas and practices that enhance well-being and increase the awareness of connection between mind, body, environment and wellness. Seminars are created by Dr. Weil and Steiner’s Wellness professionals, many of which will be based upon Dr. Weil’s teachings, and will explore the fields of the healing arts.
On Board Seminars:
- Spontaneous Happiness & Spontaneous Healing: adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil’s best-selling books.
- Anti-inflammatory foods: adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil’s nutritional guidance.
- Healthy Aging: adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil’s research in this area.
- Introduction to Mindful Meditation: learn what happens to the body and mind during meditation.
Guests can also book individualized one-on-one wellness sessions on select topics that will also be available for a fee.
New Position on Seabourn Ships
Guests will be led in the new program by The Wellness Guide, which is a newly-established position on Seabourn ships. The Guide will be a certified yoga and meditation practitioner who will inspire and educate all guests through various complimentary classes and gatherings throughout the voyage.
Launching with the New Seabourn Encore
The program is scheduled to kick off with Dr. Weil sailing on Seabourn Encore’s inaugural cruise in January 2017. The program will be rolled out throughout the entire Seabourn fleet in 2017, including Seabourn Ovation in spring of 2018.
Guests who already know Dr. Weil's work will be delighted to hear he will sail on a different Seabourn ship each year, where he will deliver a 60-minute lecture for guests and will also offer smaller informal group discussions. A separate team of wellness experts will also make regular visits to spa facilities throughout the Seabourn fleet.
Guests who choose to participate in this new program on Seabourn will have a cruise experience that is further enhanced by a holistic mind and body perspective.
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The same Amsterdam-based company that revolutionized getting around with kids is hoping to achieve a new cult following among travelers.
If you are one of the countless parents worldwide devoted to Bugaboo stroller systems, you'll already be familiar with the stroller system that set a new benchmark for rugged, high-concept, modular, and - above all with Dutch design - practical moving solutions.
The Bugaboo Boxer luggage system applies the same principles to getting you and your things efficiently and stylishly around an airport as it did to you navigating the school run with small children in tow.
Not a suitcase, a 'Luggage System'
It's based on a four-wheeled, foldable chassis the design company says has smooth and easy push-steering and ergonomic design to give your back and arms a break. A variety of hard-shell, interlocking cases click-lock onto it and each other (yes, Lego-like!).
According to Bugaboo, the frame is lightweight and glides effortlessly on two wheels for pulling or four wheels for pushing. The 'luggage system' allows you to easily maneuver multiple cases without a trolley, and reconfigure them in moments, even folding the wheels into the chassis to reduce its size to a minimum as you check in, board, go through security, or load into a taxi.
Mobility and Utility - and Style
It's not all about mobility, it's also utility. There are elastic straps to manage your coat, and a detachable organizer that can hold a laptop and any other at-hand essentials you might need.
You can buy system components separately, or sets of the chassis plus a selection of travel case, cabin case (with inner bag bonus for your laundry, an extra carry on, last minute souvenirs…) or laptop bag pre-configured in a design suited to the travel needs of a business, short range or extended vacation travelers, in a mix and match of trendy, Dutch colors.
Like their baby strollers, Bugaboo luggage system prices start north of $1000 for the chassis plus one case.
Bugaboo hopes the new 'luggage system' will allow you to 'forget everything you know about luggage' and that its game-changing details allow you to 'rediscover the pleasure of travel'. We haven't tried one yet, but we'd settle for just a little less 'lugging' of our luggage.
Sales begin September 26th 2016 online for Europe, UK, and US, with further distribution promised.
Where would you travel in search of the world's cleanest air? Here's logic you might use: it has to be remote, since big cities and human activity are the world's polluters; an island, even; and in the less land- and human-dense southern hemisphere. Eliminate places that are not inhabited year round for air quality monitoring, and did you come up with… Tasmania?
Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.TV's Executive Producer and host, traveled to Australia's remote southern island to see if you can really breathe the difference.
Australia's southern-most state is an island south of Melbourne (next stop: Antarctica). Tasmania regularly registers the world's purest air. Its aptly named Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station, on the remote, north-west shore, records air quality that sets the standard for global clean air.
The air that reaches Cape Grim is carried thousands of kilometers across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans by the 'Roaring Forties'. These strong westerly winds carry pollution-free air thousands of kilometers across the southern most parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans without going over any other populated land.
Just how clean is the air in Tasmania? Scientists record a couple of hundred particles per cubic centimeter of air, compared with the tens of thousands of particles in major cities. As we discovered, even at the airport in the capital city of Hobart, the difference in the air is heady.
No wonder the best ways to experience of one of the world's most southerly landfalls involve getting outdoors. Over one third of Tasmania is national park, reserve, or world heritage-protected wilderness. We spent almost all our visit outdoors, and you can, too. Here's our favorite ways:
Get on the water.
It seems nearly everyone you meet in Hobart has even a little sailboat down at the marina. 'Tassies' love to sail, and you can easily get on board a sailing cruise, where you can crew, or enjoy the fresh air as a passenger.
If you're a huge fan of sailing, plan to visiting over Christmas holidays so you can cheer at the finish line of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, one of the most grueling maxi yacht races in the world. The 630 nautical mile race takes crews nearly two days to navigate, and is considered one of the sailing world's top three offshore yacht races. The spectacle as the yachts arrive at Hobart is magnificent.
Kayaking is another tremendously popular way to get out on the water, especially to explore remote coastline. Surfers will find some of the biggest breaks in the world, and divers can explore amazing kelp forests.
And one of my favorites: woods walks. Tasmania is a hiker's paradise with gentle and epic walks in hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine coastline and wilderness. With its diverse and ancient landscape, including unique plants and wildlife found no where else in the world, including Huon Pine, one of the world's oldest trees, a hike in Tasmania is an experience you'll never forget.
Biking trails, tree walks and climbing adventures give everyone a taste of Tasmania's wild- and mild outdoor adventures.
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Cunard Debuts First-Ever Transatlantic Fashion Week en route to New York Fashion Week on Queen Mary 2.
Cunard brings a world of glamour and fashion and British luxury on board the iconic ocean liner Queen Mary 2 featuring Dame Zandra Rhodes CBE, Colin McDowell MBE, Fern Mallis, Gail Sackloff OBE, Royal College of Art and Storm Models.
Royal College of Art graduate, Sophie Schmidt, unveiled her latest creation worn by a Storm model on board the iconic Queen Mary 2 to kick off Cunard’s first ever ‘Transatlantic Fashion Week’ cruise with Dame Zandra Rhodes.
Fashion royalty, including Colin McDowell MBE, Fern Mallis and Gail Sackloff OBE set off from the Port of Southampton on Queen Mary 2 for seven days of runway shows, glamorous dinners and exclusive unveilings before joining New York Fashion Week on September 8.
British Designer Dame Zandra Rhodes CBE, known for dressing some of the world’s best-known style icons including Freddie Mercury, Jackie Onassis and former Cunard passenger Elizabeth Taylor, showcases her latest collection this week on board Queen Mary 2. The celebrated fashion designer is also joined by highly respected fashion historian and style commentator Colin McDowell MBE and New York Fashion Week Founder Fern Mallis for a series of inspirational talks during the voyage.
Passengers have the opportunity to attend exclusive first look runway shows featuring collections from the world’s most famous fashion college, the Royal College of Art’s 2016 graduates including:
Niels Gundtoft Hansen: innovative Danish designer whose final collection aims to create the perfect balance between the raw edge and romantic beauty of his home country
Stefanie Tschirky: born in a small village in Switzerland, Stefanie hopes one day to own her own design studio, with a focus on interdisciplinary design and art work
Sophie Schmidt: Sophie’s interest in design stemmed from her upbringing in a family of architects, and her collection is based on Anthroposophy – taking inspiration from life, the human body and soul to create a deeper meaning
Oksana Ani: Oksana has taken inspiration from science and technology to create her Fluid’Sense collection, creating the feeling of wearing liquid clothes
Laetitia Berthier: influenced by social codes, values and symbols of power within menswear across decades, Laetitia’s collection is inspired by her French heritage and the varied and diverse influences discovered during her studies
In addition to embracing new design talent, the first-ever fashion show at sea introduces emerging new faces from of one London’s revolutionary modeling agencies, Storm.
Following a recent remastering in the region of $132 million, Queen Mary 2 marks 176 years of heritage, echoing the height of British elegance and luxury associated with Cunard’s iconic fleet. Cunard’s ‘Transatlantic Fashion Week’ provides a rare and exclusive experience for cruise guests set within an art deco inspired interior. It's just one event that showcases Cunard's ongoing upscale British way of life, products and experiences on board its fleet.
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Lynn Elmhirst, Host and Producer of BestTrip.TV, shares her favorite drinks in Mediterranean Europe.
I once traveled with a cameraman who spent our entire 3-week, 10+ city film shoot in the Mediterranean trying to teach bartenders how to make a White Russian. The confusion – and often disdain - on their faces was priceless. On one occasion, the rest of the crew was blissfully sipping delicious local wine at a table under umbrellas on Barcelona's Las Ramblas pedestrian thoroughfare, soaking in the ambiance and enjoying a rare break. He spent half an hour trying to explain to the waiter how to make a White Russian. Finally the waiter exclaimed, 'But sir! In Spain, only children drink milk!'
Don’t be that guy. When you're looking to switch it up from the regional wine or beer or straight-up spirits, here's a list of cocktails you can confidently order like a local.
My first love affair with a cocktail began when I lived in France. It's still the first thing I do whenever I arrive anywhere in France, from Normandy to Nice: go to an elegant bar, ideally with a view, and order a Kir Royale to toast my return to one of my most beloved travel destinations. Kir Royale is made from crème de cassis (black currant liqueur – there's no cream, crème de… refers to any sweetened cordial) and champagne. You can also order a Kir, which is the same cocktail but with white wine instead of champagne (royale in a cocktail refers to champagne) or, as I discovered in a restaurant in the Beaujolais region, a Cardinal, made with red wine instead of white.
Tastes like the South of France! Lynn with her Pastis. c BestTrip.TV
In the south of France, particularly in Marseille, locals are most likely to be ordering Pastis at a café. Pastis barely qualifies as a 'cocktail'. It isn't even mixed by the bartender. Generally, you are given your own bottle of anise-flavored liqueur and a carafe of (often iced) water; you mix them together to your own taste. The moment you add water, your cocktail becomes cloudy. Don’t worry, it's supposed to look like that. Ah, but you don't like black licorice or anything anise-flavored, right? Trust me, in the blistering Mediterranean summer sun, nothing tastes more perfect. Or trust French good taste: they are said to drink 130 million litres every year.
The French are not alone in developing an anise-based liqueur. It's a common theme in traditional spirits in the Mediterranean. The version distilled in Greece is Ouzo. Good Ouzos are complex, containing numerous botanicals in addition to anise. That means there are nearly as many versions as there are distillers of Ouzo. And like pastis in Marseille and Provence, it's drunk mixed with water, perfect for a dry throat on a hot Mediterranean day.
Enjoy a Bellini on the Westin Europa and Regina's terrace and watch Venice sail by on the Grand Canal. C BestTrip.TV
It's hard to say you've been to Venice if you haven't had a Bellini. The original was developed in the 1930's by the owner of Harry's Bar, and you can still order one there in Venice today. This cocktail features prosecco (Italian sparkling white wine) paired in a perfect flavor combination with white peach puree, served (like a kir royale) in a champagne flute. The ideal foreground to any photo of life on the Grand Canal in Venice.
One more before you go; the Aperol Spritz Bar at the Venice Airport c BestTrip.TV
If the Bellini is a bit too 'ladies' brunch' for you, give the much more savory Aperol Spritz a try. A 'spritz' is a wine-based cocktail with a bitter, botanical liqueur and a splash of soda. The Aperol Spritz has become the go-to version especially in Northern Italy. There are a reputed 300,000 consumed daily in the Veneto region alone! Aperol's vivid coral color, and flavor combining bitter oranges, rhubarb and gentian root, make it both festive and refreshing.
Where the Aperol Spritz is light, summery and refreshing, the Negroni is the Italian cocktail with bitter liqueur that will 'put hair on your chest' as I once told a friend when I recommended it. In this case, the bitter comes from Campari, less sweet and higher in alcohol than Aperol. Paired with gin and vermouth in an old-fashioned glass over ice with an orange peel, it packs a punch. Order one in Florence, where the Negroni was invented in 1919. The Negroni – and versions of it – have become the 'it' drink in trendy watering holes in North America, so you can show your mastery of cocktail style before your next trip to Italy.
Popular on patios across North America, where imaginations have run wild, producing exotic variations on Spain's original red wine and marinated fruit 'punch', Sangria is still a legitimate local drink in Spain. So even if you regularly make green grape and kiwi sangria for your own pool parties, don't miss trying the original on its home turf. In more traditional places like Madrid, you'll find Sangria that sticks to its roots. The original recipe elevates young (but still drinkable!) Spanish table wine blended with oranges, lemon, and a cinnamon stick, left overnight to blend the flavors, into a truly delectable beverage served at the table from a shared pitcher.
When to drink them:
Western Europeans generally order cocktails like these as aperitifs – afternoon/pre-dinner cocktails, occasionally with light snacks. Dinner later in the evening is usually served with wine (or in Central Europe, beer), and a dessert wine or port accompanies a sweet or cheese course.
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If you like 'new ship smell', you won't want to miss the opportunity to experience some of your favorite Caribbean ports of call this winter – in a shiny new cruise ship.
A number of new cruise ships made their entrance on the cruising scene this spring and summer in Europe. But as temperatures cool, they start their migrations, repositioning to the Caribbean for a sunny tropical winter cruise season.
No matter your cruising style, there's a new ship to enjoy the islands this winter.
Seven Seas Explorer - Regent Seven Seas
Regent Seven Seas Explorer made a glamorous debut in Monte Carlo mid summer. She was christened by royalty, (Princess Charlene of Monaco) and explored the Mediterranean through the summer and fall, heading for Miami in November for its inaugural Caribbean season.
You'll be joined by only 750 privileged guests in a glittering, all-suite, all-balcony environment on a ship that's been called 'the most luxurious cruise ship ever built'. (Its Regent Suite is as spacious as any resort on shore, nearly 3900 square feet of exquisite design, with two bedrooms and even an in-room spa!) Guests may choose to dine in six fine dining venues, and enjoy the ship's two-story theatre and Culinary Arts Kitchen cooking school. Like other top end luxury cruise lines, the fare is all-inclusive, with packages that may include air, wine and spirits, shore excursions, wi-fi, gratuities and more.
Harmony of the Seas - Royal Caribbean
Have you been keeping track? Royal Caribbean's latest Oasis-class ship, Harmony of the Seas, is now the largest ship in the world, at an amazing nearly 1187 feet in length. This wonder of maritime engineering has been cruising in the Mediterranean since her launch in June, and repositions in November to her new permanent homeport of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. From there, she'll take nearly 5500 guests at a time on Caribbean itineraries.
Hard to list in just one paragraph. Guests flow through the ship's immense space in seven distinct neighorhoods, where you have the opportunity to experience some of Royal Caribbean's favorite experiences and some new ones: 20 restaurants; FlowRider surfing simulators; a zipline and jungle gym, an AquaTheater for diving shows; a waterslide; a water park if you can picture your kids or your inner child having a blast with water cannons; a drench bucket; two climbing walls; and an ice-skating rink. The question is whether a 7-day itinerary gives you enough time to begin to explore the whole ship, let alone experience it all. You might want to consider back-to-back Eastern and Western week-long itineraries to spread out this much excitement over two weeks!
Koningsdam – Holland America Line
The first of HAL's new Pinnacle-class ships is the largest Holland America Line ship to date. When it debuted in May, christened (as is the tradition for the line) by Dutch royalty, the Koningsdam was praised as a new era for HAL. After a season sailing in the Mediterranean, in November, she arrives in her new homeport of Fort Lauderdale, Florida for winter and spring Caribbean cruises.
The Koningsdam ushers in a new era of fresh, celebrity design for the quietly elegant cruise line. Design innovations include new, upscale suites, including family units, and a top deck with a stunning pool with fountains and whirlpools. You'll be among 2650 guests enjoying some acclaimed dining experiences (always a HAL strong point): an intimate new seafood brasserie, exquisite garden-to-table cuisine (thanks to its glass-enclosed growing space), even a wine-making venue, BLEND, and new entertainment venues. The Koningsdam's 'Music Walk', features different nightly performances in three venues: Lincoln Center Stage (featuring world class performers as a result of the partnership with the famed Lincoln Center), Billboard Onboard, and World Stage.
Viking Star - Viking Cruises
The Viking Star is an honorary member of this group, since it launched as the first of Viking's ocean cruise ships in the spring of 2015. So technically, she's over a year old now, unlike the other ships on this list that launched this year. But she is crossing the Atlantic for the first time when she makes her way to Montreal this fall, then on via the Eastern Seaboard to New York, finally repositioning to San Juan to spend the winter in the West Indies before returning to Europe in the spring.
If you're a fan of Viking's river cruise ships, you won't want to miss the opportunity to experience its first foray into ocean cruising while the Viking Star is this close to home. The 930-guest Viking Star features the same, unique, Scandinavian modern design you've come to expect from all of this Norwegian company's ships, but in a larger ocean cruising format; all veranda staterooms; a LivNordic Spa, which includes a Snow Grotto; The Wintergarden for afternoon tea; multiple dining venues; and Viking’s Culture Curriculum for onboard learning.
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If Peru is on your travel bucket list, chances are it's the historic citadel of Machu Picchu that inspires you. The extraordinary citadel remains the iconic symbol of the Inca civilization, as well as its awe-inspiring engineering and construction techniques. The structures, built without mortar, are still so solid even a knife can't pass between stones. Not to mention its location on a mountain ridge nearly 2500 metres (nearly 8000 feet) above sea level. Part of its mystery is that it remained isolated, unknown to the outside world until American historian Hiram Bingham was brought there in 1911. Since then, it has been declared a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and even voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. But Machu Picchu is more than mystical ruins…
Cave Paintings Discovered Near Machu Picchu
Two new cave paintings have been discovered near the Machu Picchu ruins. The paintings depict a man and a camel in black and are drawn on a rock located about 15 minutes walking distance from Machu Picchu. The two drawings may have been made in pre-Inca times, the Cuzco Cultural Department has said, adding that more study is needed to confirm this theory. The paintings are not recorded in explorer Hiram Bingham's original findings when he discovered the Lost City of the Incas in 1911. An awe-inspiring lesson in how much more scholars and travelers can learn about this ancient and nearly mythical site.
The 'Second Machu Picchu': the Fortress of Kuelap
Keep some time in your Peru travel schedule for lesser-known historic attractions in Peru. Savvy travelers are paying more attention to historic treasures off the well-beaten path to Machu Picchu, like the fortress of Kuelap. This 1500-year old site sits atop a mountain ridge in Peru's north and is one of the largest monuments in the world, with more than 200 buildings, and stone walls reaching nearly 20 metres (more than 65 feet) high!
The site was built around 500AD by the Chachapoyas "cloud people" to deter conquests by the Incas. Reaching Kuelap has previously been reserved for adventurous travelers willing to climb steep mountain terrain. That's all changed with the launch of a new cable car system with 26 cars that can carry eight to 10 passengers at a time.
But the countryside of Peru has more to offer than the mysteries of ancient ruins!
Peru Sets a New Birding Record
There are officially more birds in Peru to see than anywhere else in the world.
Peru set a new record for birds during a recent international bird survey organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird project. This virtual gathering of the world's birding community logs bird species in 145 countries via checklists on just one day a year. This year, the most species were recorded in Peru with 1,242 bird species logged, once again beating second-place Brazil for top country with the most species of birds spotted.
No wonder nature lovers are 'flocking' (pun intended!) to Peru for birdwatching. With some 1,830 total species of birds, Peru is not only one of the most important birding destinations in the world. As confirmed by the eBird project, Peru is also the leading global country for actual bird observation. Birding hot spots in Peru include the Tambopata National Reserve, Manu National Park and the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve.
Make sure your itinerary is designed to experience this South American country's incredible biodiversity as well as its history and culture.
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If you haven't tried a European river cruise yet, here are the big three 'starter' cruises we're certain will get you hooked on river cruise travel.
The Rhine River
Route: Rhine River cruises span at least four countries: usually the Netherlands or sometimes Belgium at one end, then through Germany and France to Basel, Switzerland at the other end. They cover a lot of cultural and scenic ground in a week or two.
Highlights: The Rhine River may be the granddaddy of European river cruises. As far back as the 19th century, tourists took cruises to see the most outstanding feature of this river: a stretch of the Rhine where there are 40 castles in 40 miles. Most are in or on the banks of the river – best viewed from the water. In a cozy chair on the top deck of your cruise ship. With a bottle of wine.
Beyond the castles, who can resist the excitement of Amsterdam, diamond shopping and the sexy modern trends in Belgium, or the dark and intimidating cathedral in Cologne? This route also takes you to the vineyards around Rudesheim on the banks of the Rhine, home to famous Riesling wines.
The Danube River
Route: The Danube is the most popular European river cruise itinerary, flowing between several countries for nearly 2000 miles. Itineraries often start pre-cruise in Prague or even Amsterdam, then on the ship through some combination of Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, even Romania.
Highlights: Many itineraries include the most trendy central European cities: Prague, Vienna, Budapest, even the lesser known, surprisingly fascinating Bratislava. Outside these major cultural centers, scenic countryside is punctuated by medieval towns and picture perfect monasteries. There's a different wurst (sausage) and a different beer in every town, you can make a study of them!
The Danube also sails through one of our favorite places: the Wachau Valley. Some call it 'the Tuscany of Austria', with colourful towns and exquisite wines (famous for its Grüner Veltliner and Riesling) and vineyards you can explore by cycling tours.
The Rhone River
Route: Unlike the other two 'starter' European river cruises, this route stays in just one country: France. The itinerary is actually a combo of the Rhone and the Saone, from Arles in the heart of Provence in the south, to France's culinary capital of Lyon and the Beaujolais region north of Lyon, often with a pre or post cruise extension in Paris via a brief high-speed train ride.
Highlights: This river cruise itinerary not only gives you the opportunity for a pre or post cruise extension in the legendary South of France, it also makes its way through some of the most legendary wine regions of a legendary wine destination. Take a look at a wine map of France; wine regions follow the rivers the entire length of the Rhone/Saone. (Many of Europe's most famous wines developed in the ideal conditions provided by the river banks.) Itineraries deliver you to the doorsteps of great houses of Cotes de Provence, Chateauneuf du Pape, Cotes du Rhone, Beaujolais, and other celebrated French wines.
Other highlights include the breathtaking Roman amphitheatre in Arles, the bridge of the famous song in Avignon, the pinnacle of French cuisine in Lyon, and oh, and did we mention the wine?
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We love river cruising. Like all cruise travel, it's a hassle-free way to navigate to multiple destinations and get an overview of a region. You unpack once, really settling in to your ship environment like a home away from home.
River cruise ships are small – almost by definition. They're restricted to the size of a ship that can navigate the rivers and canals and locks of Europe. Depending on the itinerary and the water levels, you may even see the wheelhouse on the top deck of the ship ingeniously lowered to make it under bridges!
So, while modern river cruise ships feel surprisingly spacious, much like boutique hotels, you won't find extravagances like climbing walls or Broadway shows. There's usually one main restaurant, and sometimes, a much smaller alternative dining room in an aft area normally devoted to a lounge, or near the main dining room, or on the top deck for alfresco dining. Sommeliers offer wine tastings and sometimes even tasting dinners with local wines.
In direct support of local culture and economies, local performers and even artisans are scheduled to share their talents during sailing time. They literally bring their culture on board the ship in an intimate setting that fosters interaction between guests and the talented locals.
But for us, the true enchantment of river cruising is that rivers are at the heart of Europe, weaving through not just the major cities, but also the scenic rural areas and picturesque small towns between them. Historically, rivers were the best – sometimes only! – way to travel between communities. Most European cities started and were built from the river.
In many ways, river cruising is the way Europe was meant to be seen; one of the most authentic ways to experience its diverse regions.
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Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism
If you thought a vacation in the Dominican Republic was all about the sand and the surf, think again. Outside the resort areas you can find some of the most diverse natural beauty in the Caribbean.
Both the Highest and the Lowest Points Above and Below Sea Level in the Caribbean
Lake Enriquillo is a scientific marvel situated in a rift valley. This saltwater lake is both the largest lake and the lowest elevation in the region, at 42 meters below sea level. The lake is a designated Ramsar Site you can best explore by boat, allowing visitors to take in the spectacular sight of the wildlife refuge featuring tropical birds, flamingos, two types of iguana and American crocodiles.
To the northeast of Lake Enriquillo stands Pico Duarte, the highest peak in the Caribbean at 3,087 meters (two miles) above sea level. The peak is accessible by two- to four-day treks from nearby Jarabacoa. It's worth the effort; you get magnificent panoramic views once you arrive to the top.
Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism
Cool Mountains and Sand Dunes
Jarabacoa's cool mountain climate is also a welcome break from the more tropical weather in other parts of the country.
By contrast, the sand dunes in Baní—about an hour from the capital of Santo Domingo—offer a desert-like atmosphere, spanning over 15 km and reaching heights up to 35 meters. If you plan to explore the dunes on foot, this is not a time for flip flops! The sand is hot and you'll need good, closed shoes.
The Long and the Short of It...
Dominican Republic is home to another extreme: the shortest river in the region. Los Patos River in Barahona, named for its large populations of ducks, is not only the shortest river in the Antilles/Caribbean, it's even one of the shortest in the world.
On the flip side, the Yaque Del Norte River is the longest river in the Dominican Republic, winding from Jarabacoa up to the far northwest corner of the country in Montecristi.
Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism
So once you've decompressed on the beaches of your resort, make sure you take the time to explore the rest of the natural beauty of the Dominican Republic.
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Peru celebrates thousands of events each calendar year. The majority of these are organized to celebrate a patron saint. But even these religious events are mixed with the mystical local religion of the pre-Colonial period.
Processions, music, dancing in costumes, and eating/drinking form the core activities of these festivals. Often, entire towns shut down to celebrate, so it's important to plan bank visits and shopping around certain dates.
- All Saints Day and Day of the Dead, Across Peru - November 1:All over the country, residents visit cemeteries carrying floral crowns to visit the dead and clean their tombstones. Later, they share food and drink with the other residents. This ritual is part of a tradition that has been followed since the pre-Hispanic era. Those who have lost a child give children rolls and sweets in bags called angelitos (little angels). Through the night, families hold a vigil at the cemetery with candles until the dawn of the second day.
- Immaculate Conception, Arequipa, December 8:On December 8, after the procession, men dressed in women's clothes approach women and "kidnap" them in a unique dance. This is a good time to visit the 16 baroque churches of the Colca Valley, its hot springs (La Calera), and the beautiful terraces of one of the deepest canyons in the world.
- Andean Christmas, Across Peru, December/January:The Andean Christmas has acquired unique local character by adding typical elements from each region. These elements are characterized by the extreme care observed in Nativity scenes, decorations in churches and homes, the performance of dances and plays, the cooking of typical dishes and a wide range of crafts such as Nativity scenes carved in stone, altarpieces containing Christmas-related images and pottery or carved "mates" decorated with Easter drawings. In most Andean communities, the festival continues until the arrival of the Three Wise Men, the Catholic celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, when gifts are traditionally given.
Carnival Season, Across Peru, February 1 to March 31 Peruvian carnivals are marked by celebration and the participation of the whole community. The yunza ritual, known as umisha in the jungle or cortamonte in the coast, involves the artificial planting of a tree loaded with presents, with a dance around this tree until it is cut down with a machete or axe. The couple that cuts down the tree will be in charge of organizing the yunza the following year. All over the country, it is very popular to throw water at people, so if you're planning on travel to Peru during Carnival season, dress accordingly! Carnival cities known for their celebrations are Cajamarca, Puno, Ayacucho, Huaraz, Apurímac, San Martín and Tacna.
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Finland has sauna, Turkey has hammam, and Russia's historic version of bath house/spa is called: banya. BestTrip.TV's Lynn Elmhirst went for a steam while filming in Moscow.
In Russia, the banya is a social as well as therapeutic undertaking; even today, a lot of business happens in the banya. And champions of Russia's version of the spa say it treats everything from hangovers, to circulation problems, to wrinkles... to lice!
We can’t verify all the therapeutic claims (lice!), but it is a great way to ‘immerse’ yourself in traditional and current Russian culture and lifestyle.
For the full out experience, our host suggested we try the stunning Sandunovsky Banya in Moscow’s old quarter, the oldest and most luxurious banya in Moscow. Picture it as having a bath in Versailles.
Sandunovsky Banya dates from when the 18th century had just come to a close, and the décor is like a museum or the setting of a fairytale ball: intense blues, curlicues, elaborate iron railings and gilding, chandeliers, and that’s just the lobby!
Public Men's Bathing Area
Bathers in the ‘public men’s bathing area’ get the real royal treatment: a cross between roman baths and a Tchaikovsky ballet, with columns and statues and stained glass and more gilding. This is where Moscow’s political and economic movers and shakers, celebs, and international VIPs sweat out the stress and seal deals.
Private suites sound swankier still. Actually they were built much more recently and look like your uncle’s 1970’s rec room with a sauna. Ironic hipster heaven if you take the vaguely vulgar art on the walls as tongue in cheek. As a mixed group of men and women (with video cameras!), we were installed in a private suite.
The Private Suites feel more like your uncle's 1970's rec room sauna
Male or female, public or private, the technique’s the same, and has been for centuries. To compare your international spa/bath house experiences: Russian Banya are both hot and wet. Finnish Saunas are hotter and dry. Turkish hamam are just as humid, but much cooler. In banya, you sweat it out in the hot, wet air that’s so intense you can barely draw a breath, and when you just. can't. take. it. anymore. you jump in the pool of really cold water (in the countryside, that would be a frozen lake with a hole cut in the ice) to snap you out of your stupor.
Here's the uniquely Russian twist: bathers use birch or oak branches in full leaf, soaked in cold water, to 'massage' (read: hit!) themselves or fellow bathers, to 'improve circulation'. (That’s why it’s important the branches have leaves, it hurts less!) We got a little carried away like kids in a snowball fight with the branches, chasing each other around smacking at each other. The private suite was a good call after all.
Sanduovsky Banya staff prepares oak-leafed branches in our Private Suite
Maybe we didn't take it as seriously as Russian traditionalists might have liked us, but what a fun and refreshing way to get a real taste for the daily lifestyle of real Russian people.
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Things we blog about
Places we've blogged about
- Agrigento, Italy
- Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Amsterdam Zuidoost, Nh, Netherlands
- Anguilla, Anguilla
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Aspen, Co, United States
- Baiersbronn, De-bw, Germany
- Banff, Ab, Canada
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Batopilas, Chh, Mexico
- Berlin, Germany
- Bogotá, Bogota, Colombia
- Bordeaux, France
- Branson, Mo, Usa