15 Jun

Luxury Travel in the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are known for their unique wildlife.

Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are known for their exotic wildlife. It’s a great place to take kids or go on a secluded romantic vacation.

Children love the animals found on the Galapagos Islands.

Galapagos Islands are great for kids

The Islands are an archipelago, a string of 6 islands formed by large volcanic domes fused together. It is one of the most volcanically active places on earth! Isabela is the largest island, but still only has 2000 inhabitants, most of which are fishermen.

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago.

The Galapagos Islands are a string of 6 islands, formed from volcanic domes.

The Islands were discovered accidentally by Spain when a ship went off course. It was thought to be worthless because of the rocky terrain, but has been used as a pirate hideout and food source. Whalers ate about 200,000 tortoises and wiped out an entire sub-species. Charles Darwin made the island famous when he discovered natural selection, and on the 100th anniversary of Origin of Species the Charles Darwin Research Station was created.

There are 15 sub-species of tortoise found on the Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos Islands have a large tortoise population

The tortoises on the Galapagos Islands are large.

The tortoises are huge!!

Now the Galapagos Islands are a huge tourist attraction for wildlife enthusiasts. There are some truly unique variations of animals to be found here. The Galapagos penguins, red-billed tropical birds, waved albatross, blue footed boobies, Galapagos finches, giant tortoises, and fur sea lions are just a few!

The Galapagos Islands has lots of sea lions

Galapagos Islands sea lions

The Galapagos Islands are home to blue footed boobies.

Galapagos Islands Blue Footed Boobies

Where to stay: The Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge

This beautiful lodge is located just steps from the ocean on Santa Cruz, the most important of the inhabited Galapagos Islands. The town there, Puerto Ayora, is the largest town with 15000 residents. The lodge was designed to blend with the mangrove forest and seafront that surround it. It offers the best views of the bay and two seaside restaurants.

The Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge on the Galapagos Islands.

Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge, Galapagos Islands.

14 Jun

Pros and Cons of All-Inclusive Resorts

All-inclusive resorts are popular accommodations.

“All-inclusive” sounds great, but is it actually all-inclusive? Chances are, probably not. And while there are some great things about all-inclusive resorts, there are some not-so-great things as well. Of course, they all vary and there are a few luxury resorts out there that do it right. Keep these pros and cons in mind when you’re trying to make your decision.

PROS

You don’t have to use your brain. Your stay will truly be stress-free. The resort has made all the decisions for you – meals and activities are predetermined. This can be especially beneficial for honeymooners who are burnt out from wedding madness.

Stay within budget. Paying upfront helps a lot of people avoid encountering a bigger bill than expected upon checkout.

It’s actually pretty cheap. Do the math – break down what you ate, accommodations and activities and you’ll find it’s actually a great deal.

No tipping allowed. Well, it’s allowed. And definitely appreciated… but you don’t have to and they can’t make you!

Everything is easily accessible. You don’t have to use your brain or your legs. You’ll find that mostly everything you need can be found in the resort.

Included activities. Most all-inclusives have tennis, snorkeling, private beaches and more that are included in the cost.

Amazing scenery. All-inclusive resorts are known for their picturesque locations. If you are meant to stay in the resort, it had better be beautiful!

CONS

The term “all-inclusive” is open to interpretation. Your stay will be all-inclusive… oh, except for spa treatments, salon services, and sometimes *gasp* alcohol!!

Bad food. I’m sure there are some exceptions, but many all-inclusive resorts pack their menu or buffet with starchy, filling, inexpensive foods. The restaurants may also have strict hours, making it difficult for you to eat late at night or between meals.

Cheap alcohol. If the alcohol is included, prepare yourself for some pretty mighty hangovers the next day.

Biased staff. The staff may only be recommending you an off-site tour operator, restaurant, or store because they receive a kickback. If their recommendations feel touristy and lack a certain mom-and-pop feel, this may be the case. Try to ask specifically for places the locals would go to get the real scoop.

I can’t get out! You might feel a little stuck within the resort. Maybe it’s because you paid for everything there and don’t want to go over budget with off-site activities, or maybe it’s because you’re in the middle of nowhere. Try to choose a resort that is close to an interesting town so you can venture off the resort and experience the local culture.

Lame entertainment. No casinos and a general lack of entertainment or just poorly done entertainment is a frequent complaint.

No shopping. How long can it take you to walk through the resort gift shop? Like five minutes. That’s not real shopping! Where are the local artisans? Where are the high end boutiques that sell things you love for less??!

I think while writing this I made my decision… how about you?

10 Jun

Glamping

Glamour + Camping = Glamping!

I’m not a camping enthusiast by any means, but when I heard about glamping I discovered the only way I would ever entertain the idea. Glamping is the old fashioned, luxury version of camping with a modern twist. There is actual furniture and a focus on comfort. What we just recently learned about as glamping has actually been the cornerstone of the African safari circuit for ages.

You still have to do outdoor stuff like hiking, fishing, and kayaking, but you get to return to a designer tent with a real bed, rugs, and better protection from bugs and wild animals. Some glamping resorts have bathrooms in the tents, or separate bathroom facilities close by. These high-end campsites features teepees, yurts, or treehouses.

Glamping is a popular, luxury version of camping.

Glamping

Glamping is a more luxurious way to go camping.

Glamping

Some glamping resorts feature yurts instead of tents.

Glamping in a yurt

Categories: Leisure,Luxury Travel
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9 Jun

Underground Supper Clubs

Underground supper clubs often have a theme, like A Razor, A Shiny Knife's "A Stark Meal."

Underground Supper Club by A Razor, A Shiny Knife

Underground supper clubs have been around for a few years, but have just recently become mainstream. They are typically started by foodies throwing dinner parties for their friends and evolving from there, or by chefs between restaurants who throw dinner events in warehouses or lofts. These events are an opportunity for foodies to share their cooking skills with friends, or for chefs to experiment with creative cuisine that they wouldn’t be able to serve in a restaurant. Since supper clubs are independent and have more freedom than restaurants, they are able to work with farmer’s markets and other local, sustainable food sources.

One of the most appealing things about a supper club is the mystery and adventure. Diners usually don’t know where the dinner will be held until a few days prior. There are passwords, secret websites, exclusive invitations and mailing lists that fuel the mystery. Unusual settings or themes add to the fun. RogueApron of Atlanta threw an Alice in Wonderland themed party in a beautiful garden setting, with a Mad Hatter host and house-made strawberry-celery hooch. ONCE of Boston threw a Viking party in the Somerville Armory, and A Razor, A Shiny Knife regularly throws glamorous events in unique places in big cities like NYC, Chicago, and LA. The most interesting installment I’ve seen by far has to be by A Razor, A Shiny Knife, who threw a 6-course lunch on the L Train in NYC.

Underground supper club A Razor, A Shiny Knife, held a 6-course Sunday lunch on the L train in NYC.

A Razor, A Shiny Knife 6-course L Train Sunday Lunch

The popular NYC supper club, A Razor, A Shiny Knife, hosted a surprise lunch on the L train.

A Razor, A Shiny Knife L Train Sunday Lunch

A Razor, A Shiny Knife threw a six course lunch on the L train in NYC.

A Razor, A Shiny Knife L Train Sunday Lunch

Supper clubs are a great way to socialize and meet people in your area. They can be small, from 6 people, to 70 or 80 people. It’s a lot like a formal dinner party at a friend’s house, and since you often have to know someone to get on the list, there’s a good chance of running into friends or acquaintances.

There is also an interactive aspect. You can see what’s being made by the chefs, and they may even let you prepare or plate a dish. Lots of these chefs also offer cooking classes, which might be separate from the dinner events. Check their websites to see the schedule.

The level of fanciness and professionalism does vary. Supper clubs have gotten more savvy, innovative and professional as of late. A Razor, A Shiny Knife utilizes molecular gastronomy techniques and cooks with liquid nitrogen and fancy machinery.  Others are in the style of a home cooked meal using ingredients from the Farmer’s Market and simple cooking techniques.

One thing people may find unsettling about a supper club is that you don’t know what will be on the menu, but I think that’s part of the fun. The “donation” seems to bother people as well – being asked to donate what you think the meal is worth at the end is a bit unsettling. Many clubs will just ask you to pay upfront when you purchase the tickets, which I think is the best way.

Supper clubs can be found in major cities, typically ones that are known for their cuisine. This list consists of the best supper clubs I’ve found online that I would love to visit! Going to a supper club is an awesome idea when you’re visiting a city as you can get a totally different, “underground” perspective.

NYC

- A Razor, A Shiny Knife
- Ted and Amy Supper Club
- New York Bite Club
- Apt4 Food & Wine
- City Grit
- The Sunday Night Dinner

Boston

- Wink Supper Club (there is no website…they are the most mysterious!)
- Chef Louie Night
- O.N.C.E. (One Night Culinary Events)
- Anemochory
- Washburn Underground Kitchen

Atlanta

- Staplehouse
- RogueApron
- For Food’s Sake
- Souper Jenny
- Curry Cravings

San Francisco

- Brassica Supper Club
- Du Jour Dining
- graffEats Guerilla Dining
- Lazy Bear
- Mission Gastropub (14 person beer dinner)
- The Phoenix Supper Club
- Radio Africa & Kitchen
- Stag Dining Group
- Sub Culture Dining
- Wild Kitchen

Chicago

- Clandestino
- Valerie Bolon’s Culinary Speakeasy
- One Sister Inc.
- Sunday Dinner
- Wandering Goat
- Bonsoirée
- X-Marx Chicago
- Hush

To view even more supper clubs throughout the country, click here.

3 Jun

Anne Patrone’s Dream Destination

With us today is Anne Petrone of 500 Places With Kids. Stay tuned for her family-focused guidebook of 50 fabulous trips covering all of North America!

What is your dream destination, and who would you take with you?

 

The Greek Isles are a great place for a family vacation

Greek Isles

My “dream” destination is a sun-drenched cruise through the Greek Islands on a small yacht with my husband and two sons.  I can’t imagine a better family vacation that incorporates lots of sun, good food, and tons of history and culture.  I can just picture my family exploring the museums and archaeological ruins on Crete or Rhodes in the early morning, then heading off to their beaches to relax in the hot afternoon.  At night, we’d find some local taverna and make a meal out of mezes (light appetizers) before sailing away on a small ship to our next island.  Sounds like paradise . . .

 

Santorini is one of the most popular Greek Islands.

Santorini, Greece

Mykonos is one of the most popular Greek islands.

Mykonos, Greece

Crete is the largest Greek island.

Crete, Greece

The Greek Isles are a collection of over 6000 islands and islets, the largest of which is Crete. Visitors can go island hopping and experience the history, food, and beaches of several islands. Among the most popular are Crete, Mykonos, and Santorini. I love Mykonos especially, it has amazing beaches, nightlife, food and shopping!

1 Jun

CanCan’s Dream Destination

We asked CanCan from Mom Most Traveled about her Dream Destination. CanCan is an educator and a mother of two, and her blog has great tips for mothers traveling with kids! Follow her on Twitter at @MomMostTraveled

Where is your dream destination and accommodations?

I would like to go to Kerala, India because of the beautiful landscape and delicious regional cuisine. If I had the chance to go, i would bring my two young sons! I saw a neat tree house hotel they would love to stay in with me!

The Vythiri Resort is a tree top resort in Kerala, India

Vythiri Resort

The Vythiri Resort has tree top cottages in India.

Vythiri Resort Tree Top Guest Cottage

The guest cottages at the Vythiri Resort feature private balconies.

Vythiri Resort Guest Cottage Porch View

Kerala is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India, and National Geographic named it one of the “Ten Paradises of the World,” and “50 Places of a Lifetime.” Kerala is known for its tropical greenery, beaches and Ayurvedic treatments. It is also home to some amazing tree top resorts, which are typically built between two trees 85 feet off the ground.

31 May

Anne Fritz’s Dream Destination

We are delighted to kick off this guest blogging series with Anne Fritz of The Jet Set Girls.  Anne and Hope’s blog is my go-to for travel, beauty, and fashion tips! Follow them on Twitter: @JSGAnne, @JSGHope. Today, Anne shares with us her Dream Destination:

Where is your dream destination and accommodations?

 

Right now it’s the W in Vieques. I love the Out Islands of the Bahamas—they’re so secluded and the beaches are pristine. You feel like you’re halfway around the world, but really you’re only 30 minutes from Florida. I imagine that Vieques has that same feel. I’ve been dying to go ever since the W opened last year.

The W Vieques is a luxury hotel in Puerto Rico.

W Vieques, Puerto Rico


Who would you take with you?

It just so happens that I am going—with my hubby for a romantic birthday trip.

 

The W Vieques features a Living Room with a bar and lounge area.

W Vieques - Living Room

W Vieques is located on the Bay of Vieques in Puerto Rico.
W Vieques Bay
The W Vieques is a luxury resort in Puerto Rico on the bay of Vieques.
W Vieques Aerial View

Vieques is an island located off the east coast of Puerto Rico. It is the largest of the Spanish Virgin Islands, and has been one of the Caribbean’s Best Kept Secrets – until now! It is a popular wedding destination thanks to its amazing beaches and food. Travelers can easily reach Vieques via small planes from San Juan.

 

27 May

10 Best (Almost) Deserted Islands

Travel and Leisure’s new post about the Best Secret Islands on Earth inspired me to write about these stunning islands. Many of them are just off the coast of popular destinations and offer a great opportunity to experience real solace in the middle of a busy vacation!

1. Gozo, Malta

This hilly landscape in the Mediterranean will take you to another place and time with castle ruins and a Bronze Age fortress

This Mediterranean island is the perfect place for a secluded getaway.

Gozo

2. Robinson Crusoe, Chile

It’s easy to understand why this island inspired the novel Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe Island in Chile is so beautiful that it inspired the novel.

Robinson Crusoe Island

3. Gotska Sandon, Sweden

This island is covered in moss and pine trees

Gotska Sandon is located in Sweden.

Gotska Sandon

4. Skopelos, Greece

So perfect, they filmed Mama Mia! here…

Skopelos, Greece, is where Mama Mia was filmed.

Skopelos

5. Pico, Portugal

Great wine and footpaths through lava landscapes left by the volcano

Pico is an island off the coast of Portugal that has a volcano.

Pico

6. Mabul, Malaysia

Exceptional diving and wildlife, comparable to the Galapagos Islands

Mabul is a beautiful Malaysian island.

Mabul

7. Jicaro Island, Nicaragua

This 1 acre island is actually in the middle of Lake Nicaragua and has 1 resort, the Jicaro Island Ecolodge

Jicaro Island is an island in Lake Nicaragua.

Jicaro Island

8. Great Barrier Island, New Zealand

A great place for adventure seekers and the most untouched destination in New Zealand

The Great Barrier Island off the coast of New Zealand is one of the most untouched islands to be found.

Great Barrier Island

9. La Maddalena, Italy

Off the coast of Sardinia, has white sand beaches, secret coves and rare birds

La Maddelena is an island off the coast of Sardinia in Italy.

La Maddelena

10. Desert Islands, United Arab Emirates

These 8 islands are about 2.5 hours from Abu Dhabi and are filled with historic sights and exotic wildlife

The Desert Islands are about 2.5 hours away from Abu Dhabi.

Desert Islands

Categories: Leisure,Luxury Travel,Top 10
Tags:
20 May

Best Summer Cocktails

 

The best summer cocktails contain fruit and are served cold.

Summer is almost here, and that means BBQs, beach, pool, and patio brunches! These delicious cocktails perfectly pair with summer food and activities. Try adding fruit garnishes for a little extra flavor and glamour.

Top 10 Best Summer Cocktails:

This Kumquat Caipirinha is a spin on the classic Brazilian cocktail.

Kumquat Caipirinha

1. Kumquat Caipirinha
This delicious spin on the Brazilian cocktail has soy caramel sauce (omg), lemon juice, raw sugar, kumquats, cachaca, and ice. This sounds perfect for a chic summer white party or cocktails by the pool with the girls.

The Royal Blush Cocktail is perfect for summer parties.

Royal Blush Cocktail

2. Royal Blush
This drink changes from green to pink! It has cherry puree, vodka, lime juice, simple syrup, mint leaves, and dry sparkling wine (like brut Champagne).

White sangria is easy to make and tastes delicious.

White Sangria

3. Sangria
Sangria is good anytime, anywhere! It is really easy to make and both the red and white are delicious. Try the white with Champagne, vodka, white wine, ginger ale, and any kind of fruit. It’s best if you let the ingredients soak for a day or two prior to drinking and let the flavors of the fruit really percolate.

A good Bloody Mary is the perfect brunch drink.

Bloody Mary

4. Bloody Mary
Another classic, great at those brunches on the patio, or for a little “hair of the dog” cure the next morning by the pool. Try using grated horseradish and Tobasco with your tomato juice and vodka. Blue cheese stuffed olives are always a nice touch as well.

The bazooka bubblegum cocktail is a great drink to serve at parties.

Bazooka Bubblegum Cocktail

5. Bazooka Bubblegum Cocktail
The pink color and bubblegum flavor make this drink fun for parties. Mix vodka with double bubble to achieve the bubble gum taste.

El Diablo is a cocktail that mixes beer, tequila, and creme de cassis.

El Diablo

6. El Diablo
This is a sophisticated version of beer, and is a good option for the men at your summer soirees. Mix tequila, ginger, beer, and creme de cassis and prepare for the compliments!

A Mint Julep is the perfect summer cocktail.

Mint Julep

7. Mint Julep
This classic cocktail is not for the faint of heart! It tastes great but packs a punch. Whiskey, mint, soda, water, sugar and crushed ice are the main ingredients, so it’s a relatively easy drink to make.

A French 75 cocktail is a great cocktail for those who love Champagne.

French 75

8. French 75
It’s just a little more intense than regular Champagne! Use Champagne, gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup.

A sidecar is a great summer cocktail.

Sidecar

9. Sidecar
A classic cocktail with a sugar rim, Cognac,, Cointreau, and lemon juice.

A mojito is the perfect summer cocktail.

Mojito

10. Mojito
Who doesn’t love a mojito? It’s super refreshing, perfect for the pool or beach. Mix mint, lime, rum, sugar and club soda for the perfect drink on a hot summer day.

Check out this
epicurious article
for recipes!

Categories: Leisure,Top 10
Tags:
18 May

Haute Hotel: Alvear Palace Hotel

The Alvear Palace Hotel is located in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Alvear Palace Hotel

The Alvear Palace Hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina is known as “The Grand Dame of Buenos Aires” for a reason! This stunning hotel is located in Recoleta, the most exclusive neighborhood in BA. It offers direct access to shopping, museums and sightseeing. Alvear has an old-world style and has incorporated elements of Empire, Louis XV, and Louis XVI interior design. They have enhanced this style by adding art by renowned Argentine artists.

The beautiful lobby of the Alvear Palace Hotel.

Alvear Palace Hotel Lobby

The personalized and attentive services are another thing that set Alvear apart from the rest. Their Butler Service will unpack, draw you a bath whenever you like, give you complimentary garment pressing, and help you pack when it’s time to leave. Don’t have time to shop? Don’t know where to shop? Alvear’s Personal Shopper has got you covered. The shopping specialist can either do all of your shopping for you, or take you on a personalized shopping tour.

The Alvear Palace Hotel offers afternoon tea.

Afternoon Tea at the Alvear Palace Hotel

The dining and bar options at the Alvear have been patronized by businessmen, socialites, and celebrities since the 1930s. La Bourgogne is their French dining option. L’Orangerie is the grand dining room that hosts the amazing breakfast buffet and Sunday Brunch. The Sunday Brunch features an international buffet with shellfish, seafood, wild game, and desserts. Their acclaimed afternoon tea features fine teas, cakes, fresh fruit tarts, warm scones, and aspecial “Alvear Blend” of tea.

The Lobby Bar is an exclusive venue that serves great cocktails. The Cigar Bar offers havana cigars and fine chocolates and liquors.

The La Prairie Spa at the Alvear Palace Hotel includes steam rooms, saunas, pool, and relaxation rooms.

Alvear Palace Hotel Spa

The Alvear Spa and Fitness Center is the perfect place to relax! The steam baths, saunas, a ludic pool, relaxation rooms, and La Prairie products and treatments.

The Alvear Palace Hotel is a great option when trying to choose accommodations in Buenos Aires. Even if you don’t choose to stay there, the Afternoon Tea, Sunday Brunch, and Lobby Lounge are worth a visit!