August 27, 2014

My Best of the Best from Travel Week ~ Asia


Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while knows that more often than not, I write about travel in Europe and North America, which isn't all that unusual for a blogger based in the US. So, at Virtuoso Travel Week when I began discovering some of the amazing Virtuoso properties in other parts of the world, I immediately began planning this virtual globe trot - specifically to showcase the rest of the world. I will eventually be featuring Europe and North America, but will try to share places which may be a little less familiar to most people.

As we head to Asia today, I want to focus on a few properties that truly wow-ed me during my four minute meetings at travel week.  Fingers and toes crossed, you may be hearing quite a bit more about a few Asian cities from me in the coming months. In the meantime let me take you away to a few very special properties in India, Thailand and Japan...
The Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, India is, not surprisingly, consistently at the top of every "best hotels in the world" lists. Set amidst 47 acres of one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, in a palace once owned by the Maharaja of Jaipur, you will certainly get a taste of royal living when staying at this stunning property.  Let one of the butlers accompany you on a walk through the peacock filled gardens and share the illustrious history of Rambagh Palace's royal heritage. This video will allow you to discover even more about this remarkable hotel. 

 Four Seasons is offering a package called "Tour of Thailand" which allows you to experience four completely different aspects of this incredibly diverse country, all while enjoying legendary Four Seasons service and quality. Begin in Chiang Mai, the "cultural capital" of Thailand, where you can visit temples and art galleries and return to the oasis of the Four Seasons Chiang Mai set amidst terraced rice fields and surrounded by mountains.  At the Four Seasons Tented Camp, Golden Triangle you can discover the natural wonders of Thailand while trekking by elephant through the jungle and on mountain trails, and then relax in the comfort of your luxury tent.  Snorkel, dive or just enjoy the pristine private beach and aquamarine waters of the Gulf of Siam at Four Seasons Koh Samui, on an island just 45 minutes from Bangkok. Wrap up your tour at the Four Seasons Bangkok, in the heart of the city - the perfect home base for exploring the vibrant culture and cuisine for which Bangkok is renowned.

Several people I met during Travel Week said that Kyoto is a "must" to understand the true spirit of Japanese culture...Hoshinoya Kyoto takes that understanding to another level. A traditional ryokan (Japanese Inn), you reach Hoshinoya by boat along the Ooigawa River, where you are greeted on the pier by the staff.  This tranquil 25-room resort is fashioned in classic Japanese style exuding a sense of calm and relaxation, with heated wood floors, handmade wallpapers and shoji-style sliding doors. Outside, enjoy a walk through lantern-lit stone paths leading to serene Japanese gardens.
 
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So...are you feeling a little more zen after our short jaunt to Asia?? Just looking at the photos makes me feel more relaxed! 

I have been missing my normal Friday "On My Radar Screen" round ups so I am hoping to bring that back on Friday before taking a little break for Labor Day weekend...then next week we will wrap up or round the world trip in Europe and North America. Enjoy these glorious last days of summer!

(all photos via Virtuoso)

August 25, 2014

My Best of the Best from Travel Week ~ South America


Let's wrap up the Southern hemisphere today on our round the world trip, showcasing my favorites in South America from Virtuoso Travel Week.

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South America is vastly underrated as a tourist destination for most Americans and I am not really sure why. It has such a rich cultural heritage and beautiful landscapes at every turn...I think Americans (me included) have been missing out by not spending more time exploring our neighbors to the South.  And, an added benefit, you don't get jet lag when traveling there since they are in similar time zones as the US. 

Chile: 

 If Patagonia is not on your bucket list, then it probably should be...within the  pristine and untamed wilderness of Patagonian Chile, you can explore fjords, glaciers and the stunning rock towers in Torres del Paine National Park (see photo above). 

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 The Singular Patagonia would be my choice of where to stay to best experience Chilean Patagonia - it is a luxury hotel created from an old refrigeration plant in which they kept much of the original machinery intact. They offer numerous excursions for all levels of abilities ranging from horseback riding, to hiking in Torres del Paine National Park, to sailing or kayaking in the fjords. 

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If you are headed to Chile to visit Patagonia, most likely you will fly into Santiago, Chile. Definitely spend a few days exploring the booming capital city, quickly becoming a destination popular for its culture, nightlife and excellent cuisine. The "it" place to stay in Santiago right now is the W Santiago, with a rooftop infinity pool, numerous dining and nightlife options including "Whiskey Blue" - Rande Gerber's first South American venture, and a helipad ready to transport you for your heli-skiing adventures (that would be YOU not me!).

Argentina:

Buenos Aires is known as the "Paris of South America" for good reason - it is a city known for world class art, haute cuisine and cutting edge design. The European influences are felt everywhere but it also retains a distinctively Latin feel. 

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The Palacio Duhau - Park Hyatt Buenos Aires is a microcosm of the city itself - two hotels in one, the French belle epoque palace from 1934 and the modern minimalist tower are connected by a contemporary art gallery and the always fantastic Park Hyatt service.

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 Bariloche, Argentina is in the foothills of the Andes mountains in Argentine Patagonia. If you landed there not knowing where you were, you might think you were in Switzerland. Located within a national park and nestled between two lakes, Llao Llao Hotel and Resort is the ideal place for exploring the surrounding area. Ski in the "summer" or take advantage of the numerous activities available at the resort year round. 

Peru:

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If seeing Macchu Picchu is on your "must see" list then you will want to learn more about Inkaterra Macchu Picchu Pueblo Hotel - an opulent boutique hotel within the "cloud forest" and the Macchu Picchu Reserve. There are 85 casitas and two villas offering spa-like bathrooms, alpaca blankets and welcoming fireplaces. Relax in their twelve acres of gardens that contain over three hundred species of orchids and let them arrange your visit to the Macchu Picchu citadel and other sacred sites nearby.

 Ecuador:

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Ecuador's capital city, Quito, is home to 40 churches and chapels, 16 convents and monasteries with their respective cloisters, 17 plazas, and 12 museum, and was the first city to be named a UNESCO world heritage site. As such, Quito retains its distinctive colonial quality.  In keeping with the colonial tradition, Casa Gangotena is in a newly restored and beautifully appointed boutique hotel in an historic building in the heart of the city in Plaza San Francisco.

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We couldn't leave South America and Ecuador without experiencing a true "trip of a lifetime" - a Galapagos cruise. And which one do I recommend?? You can't do much better than the National Geographic/Lindblad ships which have less than 100 passengers and several on board naturalists offering instruction on everything from photography to scuba diving.

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How are you enjoying our "travels"?  Later this week, we will be heading back to the other side of the globe and into the northern hemisphere to Asia...see you on the flip side!
 

August 22, 2014

My Best of the Best from Travel Week ~ Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific


Continuing on our virtual trip around the world, sharing my "best of the best" from Virtuoso Travel Week...

 
...let's venture Down Under and beyond...to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific...

In Australia...


The "hot spot" in Melbourne these days is Crown Towers, the chic hotel right on the Yarra river in downtown Melbourne which offers over 40 dining, cafe and bar options.  The buzz down under is Heston Blumenthal bringing his Michelin starred Fat Duck to Crown Towers for six months beginning in 2015.

(go here if you cannot view video)

What a way to explore the Outback!  Longitude 131 is a tented camp that is far from rustic.  There are 15 elevated luxury tents offers unparalleled private views of Ayers Rock. They arrange bespoke excursions around the outback for their guests, offer fine dining and even a spa.


Explore the Great Barrier Reef in the utmost of private island luxury at One & Only Hayman Island...Recently re-opened after a complete renovation, Hayman Island is now part of the One & Only family and reflects the brand's commitment to top notch quality and service.

In New Zealand...


Wharekauhau Country Estate  is a 5,000 acre rural retreat on the south east coast of New Zealand’s North Island with just 12 cottages dotted throughout the sprawling estate, unsurpassed vistas abound. With private native forest, spectacular beaches, rivers, lakes and wetlands, Wharekauhau is a haven from the outside world.



Kauri Cliffs has just 22 rooms set on 6,000 acres near Matauri Bay on the North Island, and boasts jaw-dropping views of Cape Brett and the Cavalli Islands, and a world renowned golf course. 



Eichardt's Private Hotel is in a pristine lakefront setting in the heart of Queenstown, and offers five sumptuous suites, four apartments and one three-bedroom villa. Don't let the contemporary look fool you - it has been open since 1860!

In Fiji...


Laucala Island is a 3,000-acre private island — once owned by Malcolm Forbes — which offers just 25 one to three-bedroom residences. The thatched-roof villas are sprinkled across the island, all have private pools and are decorated in a classic Fijian style. Amenities include five restaurants, a golf course, a hilltop spa, an equestrian center and a glass-cube pool. Enjoy a private picnic prepared by the staff on one of the isolated beaches or make use of one the 14 boats available for guests to explore the coral reef that protects the island. There is even a submarine for the guests to use if they want to see the marine life without getting wet!

In Tahiti...


The Four Seasons Bora Bora is as popular with families as it is with honeymooners, but they separate the two at opposite ends of the resort. There is even a private beach area called "Chill Island" just for teenage guests. Many people don't realize how accessible Tahiti is - only two hours more flying time than Hawaii! Whether you choose an overwater bungalow with private plunge pool or a beachfront villa, there is truly something for everyone at this resort.

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Don't these places just make you want to pack up and head to the other side of the world?? When can we leave??

August 20, 2014

Journey to Africa...


As an avid reader, I have read all of Ernest Hemingway's novels, short stories and memoirs that take place in Africa, as well as Isak Dineson's Out of Africa, but for some reason, visiting Africa has never been something that was very high on my bucket list. Well, after the morning at Travel Week I spent "in Africa", it has suddenly moved right up to the top of my list!

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There is so much to learn about travel to Africa...where to begin?? The travel professionals from Africa who attended Travel Week are the top experts in their field and know all the ins and outs of planning a trip to Africa.

One of the things that stunned me is the amount of open space in Africa...there are millions of acres of land in conservancy and the amount of people allowed to go on safari at any one time is limited, which offers the opportunity for an intimate "oneness" with nature. In a world that seems all too crowded, the chance to be alone on the vast plains of Africa is awe-inspiring. 

Another delight was the luxuriousness of the camps - even the tented camps are over the top luxe. This is hardly roughing it...and the word "tent" and "camp" have a whole new meaning to me now!

Here are a few of my "best of the best" in Africa...

 Lion Sands, South Africa

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Where else can you stay in your own tree house above the bush?? Talk about being one with nature! On the banks of the Sabie River, Lion Sands is in an area that has one of the highest densities of wildlife per square acre in the world. 


Only guests accommodated at one of the Mala Mala camps enjoy the 33,000 acres of privately-owned game land - with only two safaris per day in vehicles holding no more than six people. The main camp is perfect for families - they even offer a "Junior Ranger" experience; while the adults only Rattray's on Mala Mala offers an elegant and timeless “Out of Africa” setting and promises the ultimate exclusive safari in style, privacy and sublime comfort.

The Blue Train
 
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I have always been enamored with the idea of classic train travel. The Blue Train runs between Capetown and Pretoria - a 27 hour, 994 mile journey. Add five star luxury and a route through some of the most diverse and spectacular scenery offered by the African sub-continent and I am ready to hit the rails!

The Royal Livingstone, Zambia

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Imagine arriving via water taxi on the Zambezi river and having private access to one of the seven wonders of the world - Victoria Falls - only a 15 minute walk from your hotel...The Royal Livingstone Hotel is a classic British colonial hotel on the banks of the Zambezi and the closest hotel to the falls.

Fregate Island Private, Seychelles

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Yes, Virginia, we are in Africa...actually the Seychelles (an archipelago in the Indian Ocean just off the eastern coast of Africa). With 160 staff for just 16 villas, the level of service at Fregate Island is clearly above and beyond. The island has seven beaches to make your own...and is home to over 2,000 Aldabra giant tortoises which roam the island.
 Made up of 53 two story riads (or villas), Royal Mansour is more like a small luxury village than a hotel.  Over 1500 Moroccan artisans were employed to create the delicate tile work, marquetry and other craftsmanship seen throughout the property. With a staff of over 500, guests will feel like royalty.

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I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of Africa is quite limited...but I love that I have a team of amazing experts, which I can call upon to share their resources, at my fingertips...and, I hope that at some point, I can learn more about Africa first hand! Have you been to Africa? Is it on your "bucket list"? I would love to hear more!!