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The Hyatt brand is world renowned for its service and experience. Their Maui property checks all the boxes for creating the perfect island vacation. From the beautifully executed integration into the ocean environment, to the services and activities at your flip flopped feet, life's stresses give way to island time the moment you arrive. Close enough to Lahaina town to skip a car rental, yet buffered from the distractions of the world, it's a great balance in one location. The onsite restaurants are top notch, easily keeping your calorie intake therapeutic. The bars offer a wonderful mix of island cocktails to melt away any residual tension from your stand up paddle board lesson. The little bay on the south end of the resort is home to a healthy group of huge sea turtles, easy to paddle up to in a kayak or board. Walking everywhere is easy and entertaining. Whaler's Village is just a mile up the beach on a paved path the takes you through some of the other resorts in the neighborhood. Rooms are crisp, spacious and have some ocean views. The resort is medium-sized so you don't feel overwhelmed by the physical plant. Speaking of plants, there are hundreds of native flora dotting the grounds. Also wondering about are flocks of flamingos and penguins. The Hyatt is a first-class operation leaving you free to relax to your heart's content.
The Front Street hustle, while below low key, does produce a palpable buzz within the Lahaina vacation experience. That's when I like to retreat to the serenity of the sea in a place like Kimo's. The patio overhanging the harbor is a visual treat, accented with the food to enhance the experience. Staff are friendly and informed, making it easy to navigate the options on the menu. Getting you started with one of the handcrafted cocktails is the first step to a pleasant dining experience. Venture forth with a Tropical Itch or a Kimo's Grog, a potion made with the local Organic Ocean vodka. The macadamia nut crusted calamari pairs nicely with the island tonics. Treat yourself to the kalua pork lettuce wraps for an additional guiltless pleasure. Kimo's serves lunch and dinner with the latter providing spectacular sunset views from the deck. It's a family friendly environment with room from groups large and small. Their dinner menu matches local fresh catches with preparation styles to produce a great array of flavorful results. The Baked Kimo's and Coconut Crusted styles were both deliciously executed with Mahi Mahi and Ono. The iceberg wedge salad with bacon, avocado and blue cheese is robust. Folks do order off the lunch menu in the evening if you're looking for a burger and hand-cut fries. The Hula Pie will round out any meal and Kimo's has a couple of versions to consider. Being on Maui is fun and Kimo's is one more way to punch your fun ticket.
This harbor-front eatery is part of Mark Elman's restaurant portfolio on Maui and it's a delight. The outdoor tables provides some of the most dramatic sunset views in the islands. It's a busy scene with a laid-back vibe, firmly planted on a foundation of freshly squeezed cocktail specialties, not to be ignored. Try the Kama'aina Mai Tai or the Mala Rita to get the party started. The starters should include the seared ahi bruschetta with a side of the stir-fried Brussels sprouts. Don't forget the frites! On to the salads where the Surfing Goat Cheese is a local favorite you'll find in the Beet salad. For the main, check the fish specials. The Balinese stir fry with a fresh fish capitalizes on island grown goodness. You can also go real casual and order off the bar menu with options like the mac and cheese, ahi burger, steamers and fish sandwich. The frites are worth a spin with any order. There is a dessert waiting in the wings to extend your sunset culinary cruise - the Caramel Miranda. A house specialty, this kind of healthy mix of chocolate, caramel, grilled island fruits on a pile of vanilla macadamia nut ice cream will send you sailing into the warm Lahaina night.
The unconventional Hotel Viura is located in Villabuena de Álava (Basque: Eskuernaga), a small, ancient town famous for its resident (300) to winery (48) quota. The hotel was designed by the Spanish firm Designhouses (http://designhouses.org/dh/) and opened in 2010. Its playful, cubist architecture provides a great contrast to its neighbor, an 17th century church, and of course the rest of the old town. The inside is as quirky as the outside, a real feast for the eyes. ____________________________ A warm thank you: My travels through the Basque Country were courtesy of Romo Tur (http://www.romotur.com/). The amazing folks at MedjetAssist (https://medjetassist.com) ensure that I take trips, not chances.
It’s a toss-up between what's more breathtaking here along the rim of Ngorongoro Crater: the sunrise views of the world’s deepest and largest volcanic caldera, haven for more than 25,000 wild animals (including the endangered black rhino); or the lodge’s contrast between the Masai-inspired mud-walled and banana frond–thatched architecture and the all the silk, velvet, and crystal of sumptuous, neo-Victorian boudoir furnishings. The romantic, glamorous guest suites—divided into three sub-camps—are supremely comfortable, and butlers strew thousands of locally grown rose petals in them each day. But the emphasis here is on 4WD game viewing on the 100-square-mile crater floor, and guests wake up early (5:30 a.m.) to beat the traffic jam of safari vehicles making the slow, 2,000-foot descent on the common access road. No off-road driving is permitted, to protect the crater’s unique Arthur Conan Doyle–lost world environment, which can lead to congregations of vehicles and travelers angling for shots of charismatic species. However, andBeyond’s eagle-eyed guides prove adept at tracking game and evading crowds. For travelers who really want to get away from it all, the lodge offers day trips for hikers into car-free Empakaai, a scenic four-mile-wide sister crater half covered by a lake.
This lodge offers a private island experience with the option of experiencing the Swahili architecture, music, and culture of Stone Town (Zanzibar’s capital, 20 minutes away by boat plus a 90-minute drive). High-ceilinged, thatched bandas are footsteps from a flour-fine sand beach and are romantically furnished with elaborately carved wooden beds. For those who want a change of scene, verandas and shaded beach beds offer a variety of places to sleep off all the early morning safari wake-up calls. One mile in circumference, Mnemba Island has permanent residents that include poodle-sized Suni and rabbit-sized Ader’s duiker antelope, breeding doves, and enormous terrestrial coconut crabs. Sunbathers can spot dolphins from the beach year-round, and scuba divers might encounter the occasional whale shark.
You can hear water lapping beneath the floorboards of this boutique hotel, inhabiting a 1912 pier just west of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This is where ferry passengers used to wait to cross the harbor before the bridge was built. A hotel was first constructed in 1999, taking care to preserve the original pier pilings and steel support beams, incorporating them into hallways and guestrooms. Today, Pier One is a 198-room beauty that’s part of Marriot’s Autograph collection of unique properties. Co-owner Ruth Magid put extra love into the 18 sunny suites, which she designed like waterfront apartments. Some feature modern globe lights juxtaposed against the original wood-beam rafters, as well as brass sink basins, twin rain showers with side jets, and egg-shaped tubs. Two balcony suites take guests eye-to-eye with the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Tara Guest House is in the edgy South Sydney district of Enmore, known mostly for its old pubs and theaters. Owners Brom and Julian—an interiors architect and a fashion designer—live in a bedroom upstairs. They lovingly decorated each space with art and antiques from their personal collections and spared no expense on such luxuries as Egyptian bed linen (“straight from Egypt”) to ensure travelers are as comfortable in the house as they are. The front of the building reveals its 1880s terrace-house character, and the inside tastefully marries heritage floors and crown molding with modern furniture, statement light fixtures, kilim rugs, and surprising décor. A porcelain cat-woman presents herself outside the kitchen; a felted red horse is a magnet for kids upstairs; and a Norman Lindsay painting that Julian bought when he was 16 hangs in the Front Room. Tara is a true B&B that takes its morning meal seriously. Brom and Julian cook up a feast that guests enjoy around a communal table, often late into the afternoon.
Owned by Terry Kaljo—a former model and founder of the Contemporary Hotels collection of upscale rental homes and villas—the Medusa Boutique Hotel offers 18 unique accommodations in Darlinghurst, an eclectic area and the epicenter of Sydney’s gay community. The 19th-century home is filled with wacky touches, from red Alice in Wonderland–style carpeting that runs up the grand staircase to pastel-pink walls studded with maple leaves in the entryway. The midcentury-modern rooms—with their retro primary colors, geometric patterns, and vintage chaises longues—attract fashion, media, and design professionals looking to get beneath the surface of one of Sydney’s liveliest neighborhoods. But there's still the opportunity to relax, as guests can settle in next to the fireplace in the lobby to read the newspaper, enjoy a complimentary pastry, or make new friends. Longtime staff members offer the kind of local knowledge and personal attention that keeps guests coming back.
What used to be a wool shed in the middle of a sheep farming area is now a youthful hotel that celebrates the Pyrmont district’s heritage while featuring the full suite of modern amenities. Opened in 2013, the hotel is an extravaganza of wool, which is found in the felted black lampshades attached to old pulleys in the lobby, in the lower wall panels in the hallways, and as carpeting throughout the building. The old Wool Brokers Arms is visible across the street from the heritage rooms on the west side of the hotel. Modern and cheeky touches also abound at this boutique property, known as the world’s first Instagram hotel. There’s an empty “Selfie Frame” hanging amid mismatched furniture in the lobby, and guests with at least 10,000 Instagram followers are offered a free night’s stay. (Mere Instagram mortals have a chance to win, too, by using the hashtag #1888hotel to be entered into a monthly photo contest.) 1888 is also a leader in sustainability; the hotel preserved the building’s original ironbark beams and built desks from recycled floorboards. The minibar is more conscious than usual, too, stocked with Alter Eco chocolates, Charlie’s juices, coconut water, and fresh milk. The best things about 1888 are the little surprises. Even the hotel’s name has a double meaning: 1888 was the year the building was constructed but was also the year that the Kodak camera debuted.
Hotel Arts Barcelona is my go-to when I visit Barcelona because they always have unbelievable cuisine! Forget continental breakfasts, they have two Michelin-starred chefs in residence, and a new executive chef who has worked in other Michelin starred restaurants. That's rather unheard of if you ask me. Luckily for me, I just happened to pop in during an exceptional culinary experience they held last week! The Kabuki Pop-Up was a week long extravaganza held at the ever classy, totally chic Frank's Bar (that's named after Frank Gehry, who's golden fish is in view from just about everywhere on hotel grounds.) Anyhow, Chef Ricardo Sanz pioneered the fusion cuisine known throughout Europe as "Kabuki" and Hotel Arts, trendsetters that they are, hosted the first ever Barcelona Kabuki Pop-Up from Oct 13-19. Their sushi, sashimi and specially crafted cocktails left me speechless! The food was delicious, the ambiance impeccable, the service exceptional. It doesn't get any better. Next time you're in Barcelona, definitely visit Hotel Arts and eat at any of their restaurants. I promise you won't be disappointed!
If you happen to travel to West Africa, specifically Senegal, you will no doubt find yourself in the capital, Dakar. Here you will witness a real African city, a true mixture of luxury and dilapidation, wealth and poverty. On the outskirts, along the Atlantic Ocean, are lavish homes, posh hotels, and many seaside restaurants, all of which cater to tourists and the upper crust of Senegalese society. In the center, the palatial grounds of the prime minister and president are equally luxe. But venture in any direction inland or on the many roads leading away from the central plaza and you will find a dusty, dirty, dilapidated mess of rundown buildings, piles of garbage and people in need. It's a really tough pill to swallow for the traveler, but once you meander through distinct neighborhoods, such as the Medina, you will encounter a certain livelihood, a city with a real soul. People work, live, eat and play together, building a real sense of community. Dakar is a city that seems so disheveled and run down at first glance, but one where if you dig down deeper, offers a cultural immersion into a way of life that seldom exists anymore in our big westernized cities. While it is not exactly a breath of fresh air, it certainly is an eye-opening experience.
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Ancient temples, surfers, sea breezes and giant grassy lawns. The shore temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site, attracts locals, tourists and music and dance festivals throughout the year. A great place for kids to play, watch the surfers just beyond the fence and buy seashells plucked freshly from the sea beyond. Walk about the temple ruins, run in the grassy lawn and retire back to town for lunch and shopping.
Sold in restaurants and by street vendors everywhere, the fastest way to cool down and freshen up in Chennai is with a fresh lime soda. Made to order, I like mine "sweet and salty" for the perfect combination of refreshment.
Porta is just one of the genius creations of the Smith group in Asbury Park, NJ. Their Cavolo Nero salad puts Tuscan kale center stage in a tangy lemon garlic dressing topped with sunchokes and watermelon radish, a touch of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and homemade chile-garlic crostini croutons. Porta is an authentic Neapolitan pizza restaurant at the Jersey Shore. When we say authentic, we mean the pizza ovens came straight from Italy to Asbury Park. But who says the magic is completely in the oven? Porta’s pizzas are superb because the ingredients are locally sourced and deliciously arranged atop a homemade crust that will make you sing. We adore the arugula pizza, topped with homemade mozzarella cheese, crisp, peppery green arugula, garlic, and truffle oil. We’ve fallen in love with the Autumn Betty, a seasonal pizza with San Marzano tomatoes, homemade mozzarella, goat cheese, garlic, thyme, and fresh mushrooms. And when we feel its time to cheat from our mostly vegetarian diet, we turn to the 14 1/2, a pizza of homemade mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, hot soppressata, and Calabrian chiles. Ultimately, the 14 1/2 is our favorite Porta creation to date. While the food is magnificent, it is the people who complete Porta. The staff is always thoughtful and attentive, and most importantly, consistent. We love the culture Porta has created, and we love the amount of energy and devotion the Smith group has put into our little city by the sea.
At the northern end of George Street, opposite Circular Quay and the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Four Seasons hotel offers everything guests might need, right on the doorstep of the Sydney Harbour. It’s no surprise this is one of the most popular hotels among business and leisure travelers, and it books out a year in advance for New Year’s Eve. In typical Four Seasons fashion, the hotel is outfitted with caramel-colored furnishings, dark woods, and romantic lighting—exemplified by the lobby’s crystal overhead lights and the hanging lantern installation—and the top-tier suites are dressed to impress. They all offer an apartment-style ambience and incredible harbor panoramas from their perch on the 34th floor; the Royal Suite is especially beautiful, with parquet floors, an ornate wardrobe, and Roman blinds. Whether staying for work or pleasure, all guests will appreciate the fine-dining restaurant, the cherry-wood bar that specializes in boutique beers and wines, the full-service spa, and the 24-hour gym. The Four Seasons also puts together exclusive guest experiences, such as a harbor tour led by a renowned local photographer.
Opened in time for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the Establishment is a pioneering 31-room boutique hotel housed in an 1890s steel plant near the modern-day stock exchange building downtown. Managed by the hospitality group Merivale—which started as a fashion house specializing in fascinator hats and mini skirts—the hotel is popular among brand executives who book the 328-square-foot Loft Penthouse for product launches and photo shoots. Rooms feature wood furnishings, swinging metal doors, animal hides, and suedelike daybeds as well as such amenities as Apple TV, Bose surround sound, and Lululemon yoga mats. Bathrooms are particularly luxurious here, with marble floors, freestanding tubs, Bulgari products, and tall windows that open up to Sydney’s bustling business district. The best part about the Establishment, though, is the internal access it offers to some of the city’s hottest bars and restaurants, which are housed within the same complex as the hotel. And after enjoying live music and a few stiff cocktails at the speakeasy Palmer & Co, guests are welcomed to bed with Sleep Tight tea and a homemade chocolate chip cookie.
Chiseled from a sandstone-and-brick wool factory on the site of Sydney’s first hospital, the Harbour Rocks Hotel is one of the most historic accommodations in the Rocks—and maybe the most haunted. Hotel staff say part of the building, named Scarlett’s Cottages after a well-known lady of the night, is watched over by Eric, a man who once lived here and who still searches for Scarlett in the labyrinthine corridors after she swore her love to him and then disappeared. Ghosts aside, the hotel’s 59 rooms are peaceful, with high ceilings, Georgian arched windows, brick walls painted dark gray, Old West–style textiles, and wool carpeting that recalls the building’s former life. The place is filled with fun artifacts, too, from the ancient luggage lift to old maps and letters framed on the walls. The early-20th-century history that pervades the building is also found in every direction outside its doors.
Cune (owned by Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España, CVNE) is a century-old family winery in Rioja Alta, located in the Barrio de la Estación de Haro, the wine capital. An early misspelling stuck and turned CVNE into Cune. It's fun to visit wineries all over the world, but listening to detailed presentations on how wine is produced over and over again can get monotonous for the most passionate oenophiles amongst us. Because of Cune's extensive history and age, some of the winery's spaces that you can visit here are extraordinary. One of them is a beautiful, vast, column-less wine cellar of no less than 800 sq m (8600 sq ft). It holds 400 barrels of wine and is attributed to Gustave Eiffel's architecture practice (think Eiffel Tower). And then there's the insane, mold covered bottle graveyard deep in the caves of Cune, that contains bottles all the way from the beginning of the winery's existence. The mold, Penicilin, thrives here; the conditions (12 degrees centigrade and 100% humidity) are perfect. And so are the visuals! If this is your first winery visit in Rioja, make sure you get a reservation, as they may not be able to accommodate you otherwise. ____________________________ A warm thank you: My travels through the Basque Country were courtesy of Romo Tur (http://www.romotur.com/). The amazing folks at MedjetAssist (https://medjetassist.com) ensure that I take trips, not chances.
On the eastern edge of Portugal in the Alentejo region sits the mountaintop village of Monsaraz. The village is cute and whitewash-pristine with a handful of shops, restaurants and a small medieval castle, but the main attraction are the views. They are staggering. With 360° views you'll see sprawling fields across Portugal and scattered lakes over the Spanish border. We were visiting a winery in the area and the proprietor at our hotel suggested we make a side-trip to Monsaraz. We snickered a little when he told us to just "go and dream." After visiting, I knew exactly what he meant. I could have spent an eternity, lost in these views.
On the outskirts of the village of Arraiolos, sits an ultra-modern, super-cool boutique hotel run by two equally modern and cool Frenchmen. You could easily spend your time wandering the common areas admiring the multitude of objets d'art and pretending you're in a high-end design magazine (of which, the Villa Extramuros has been featured in many). You could also just laze around your room and private terrace with vistas of a meadow filled with grazing sheep and views of the Arraiolos Castle in the distance. Or you could chill by/in the welcoming infinity pool just down a short path. Yes, you may never want to leave the grounds, but Villa Extramuros makes a convenient base for exploring medieval Evora and the breath-taking mountain-top village of Marvao among other places.
Did you know that Cristóbal Balenciaga was from the Basque Country? A stunning museum paying homage to the couturiers of couturiers was built in Getaria, about 25km (16 miles) from San Sebastian. The architecture and interior design of the museum alone is worth the visit, but the exhibits (one permanent, and usually one changing) were extremely well curated, too. Coco Chanel described Balenciaga as the only authentic couturier, because, unlike his contemporaries, he was capable of designing, cutting out, assembling and sewing a dress from start to finish. Christian Dior said: "With fabrics, we do what we can. Balenciaga does anything he wants". In addition to the exhibitions, there's a 30min introductory video that will give you an overview of Balenciaga's life and art. You might want to schedule around 2 hours for your entire visit. ____________________________ A warm thank you: My travels through the Basque Country were courtesy of Romo Tur (http://www.romotur.com/). The amazing folks at MedjetAssist (https://medjetassist.com) ensure that I take trips, not chances.
Staying at Fazenda Nova feels more like you're visiting a really cool friend's beach house rather than a boutique hotel. That isn't to say you won't receive all the amenities that one finds at a high-end boutique hotel (you most certainly will), but you'll also be welcomed (though not forced) into afternoon cocktails, games of petanque and lovely alfresco dinners with other guests. However, if you'd rather keep to yourself, you can certainly find privacy, too. The rooms are designed with this in mind and each have private outdoor space. And of course, since this is in the eastern Algarve, there are plenty of quiet beaches and sleepy coastal towns a short drive away.
Antoni Gaudi's famed Casa Mila is often just a drive-by viewing. The inside is also fabulous, creative, bold and inventive. Worth the admission (the Barcelona Museum Card is recommended), Casa Mila will enchant you. Visits begin with the colorful organic forms of the ground floor courtyard (pictured). Next you are whisked by elevator to the rooftop, a wonder of ingenious, otherworldly sculpture that merely facilitate ventilation and the many chimneys for the home. Interior floors are also open, including an attic setting that explores the life work of Gaudi and his ingenious eco-friendly insulation and ventilation. A top floor apartment has been filled with turn of the century household items, furniture and artwork. A rare chance to peek into the interior world of a family living one hundred years ago. If Gaudi's grand cathedral Sagrada Familia takes you to new heights of grandeur, Casa Mila brings it all home.
Rum Point, who got it’s name when a shipwreck beached barrels of rum on the shoreline, can be identified by the hammocks in the trees, the long beautiful pier, and a collection of colorful beach bars and restaurants. Of course the soft sands are perfect for sunbathing, but it is also great under your feet during an invigorating game of beach volleyball. Wander through the palm trees to find the ideal hammock to take in the views and even drift into a mid-afternoon snooze. As the day starts to wind down, stop by the infamous Wreck Bar for a bite to eat and a refreshing drink. Be sure to try the infamous Mudslide as this popular dessert-like drink was invented at this very bar.
Located just south of George Town, Smith’s Cove is a wonderful beach that offers topnotch snorkeling and diving just off the shore. The water is crystal clear, allowing the observation of colorful sponges, sea fans, coral reefs, and a wide array of tropical fish. This location is also the perfect place for a family picnic as there are tables and facilities available.
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