Friday Feature: Palm Springs, CA

barbados-92162_1920.jpg

Palm Springs

.

Palm Springs, CA is truly a place like no where else! People come to experience it’s renown mid century style and retro, desert vibes but stay for the beautiful weather and amazing food scene. If you are looking for a great option for a friends trip, bachelor/bachelorette retreat, or couples getaway, Palm Springs should definitely be on your radar! You can get here by flying into the local airport - Palm Springs International Airport. While some guests opt to rent a car during their stay, if you are looking for an authentic stay we recommend using the bikes that most resorts offer to their guests! There is no better way to experience this adorable town then cruising the streets on a colorful bicycle.

Best Times to Visit: The best time to visit Palm Springs is between January and April when the weather is the most hospitable. Fall's temperatures are almost as nice, but unless you love the heat, we wouldn't recommend visiting in the summertime when daily highs regularly reach the triple digits.

Things to do:

Take in the sites of The Valley from the Aerial Tramway. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway—the world’s largest rotating tram car—travels over 2.5 miles along the cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting visitors to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area. During this ten-minute journey, tram cars rotate slowly, offering spectacular vistas of the valley below.

Tour the mid century houses of Palm Springs. The Mod Squad has perfectly curated an amazing “Essential Palm Springs” tour for visitors looking to see the iconic design of the city. In just 90 minutes, discover what makes Palm Springs the mecca for mid-century modern architecture and still have time to relax by the pool! With a maximum of five individuals per tour,  Palm Springs Mod Squad tours are intimate, personalized experiences.

Relax! While the food and downtown scene is vibrant and fun to explore, there is no better way to spend your time in Palm Springs than simply relaxing at one of the amazingly designed pools or famous spa’s! No one does relaxing weekend retreat quite like Palm Springs so make sure to leave time to recharge your battery during your stay.

Leave some extra room in your carry on… because the shopping here is no joke! Whether you stroll the boutiques along downtown or shop the Desert Hills Premium Outlets, you are sure to find some necessary keepsake to celebrate your amazing stay!

Click HERE to learn more!

Feature Hotel: The Parker, Saguaro Palm Springs, JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort and Spa

Our favorite restuarants…

.

  • Cheekys - This is thee. best. brunch spot! Possibly in all of Palm Springs. Make sure to grab a bacon flight during your stay!

  • Purple Palm Restaurant - nestled in the Colony Palms Hotel, this spot has an imaginative menu of globally-influenced American cuisine

  • Great Shakes - this ice cream shop is taking your traditional cone to a whole new level… i.e. milkshakes with a donut on the straw

  • Norma’s - Located in The Parker hotel, this five star diner is anything but ordinary

  • Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge - This American eatery is a great addition to the vibrant downtown Palm Springs scene. And the interior decor gives us all the design inspo.

Check out more great options HERE!

Our Recent Stay: Unico 20 87

Our travel designer, Robin, just got back from a relaxing couple’s vacation at Unico 20 87 in Riviera Maya, Mexico! You have probably heard us mention this amazing property before but it’s truly something you need to experience for yourself.

She is dishing out all the insider information you need to know to book your next stay at this all inclusive resort.


Why I went:

My fiance and I wanted a tropical getaway that was both convenient to get to from south Florida and a luxury all inclusive resort… Unico 20 87 checked all the boxes! This resort is located 1 hour south of the Cancun airport, which has tons of direct flight options from cities like Ft. Lauderdale, Dallas, Miami, and more!

What I loved:

I have stayed at all inclusive resorts before but Unico does such a good job at capturing the boutique luxury vibe. The best part is the all inclusive package is truly all inclusive… like tours, spa, golf tee times, scuba diving excursions, and salon services for only a 25% service fee!

Upon check in we were greeted with a refreshing welcome drink and welcoming, attentive staff. They even had us select the scent of our room amenities… such an amazing touch! Our local host, Mario, gave us a quick tour of the resort, took our luggage to the room while letting us enjoy some delicious tacos for lunch near the ocean! Local hosts are assigned to every guest and can help you with all dinner reservations, booking tours for you, etc. We felt so important and well taken care of by the staff the entire trip!

What I ate:

The best food ever… EVER! We tried a different restaurant for dinner every night and never left a meal unimpressed. They have a great selection of dining experiences ranging from casual beachside to fine dining under the stars!

During the day, they have a great selection of breakfast and lunch options which you can enjoy at a restaurant overlooking the ocean, by the pool, in your room, or wherever you want. You can even order poolside drinks or snacks through an app on your phone… Game changer!

How I slept:

The rooms were clean, spacious, and artfully designed! Our king size bed was like sleeping on a cloud and the pillow menu selections only helped make our stay even more comfortable. They also have a nightly turndown service and I am pretty positive there is nothing better than coming home from a delicious dinner to a freshly made bed and Godiva chocolates!

What I got with my stay:

All. The. Things. And that is not an exaggeration y’all! This all inclusive resort truly took the term all inclusive to heart. With you stay, you get:

  • 5-star adults-only accommodations

  • In-room minibar stocked according to preference

  • Custom-scented amenities

  • Four unique restaurants, including Cueva Siete under celebrity chef Xavier Perez Stone

  • Complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi and free calls to the Continental US & Canada

  • 24-hr room service

  • Three bars with a devoted mixology program and a lounge featuring live entertainment

  • Poolside and beachside service including snacks and beverages

  • Land and water sports

  • Fitness Center with a visiting instructor program

  • Daily and nightly events

Why I would recommend considering for your next trip to Mexico:

Mexico is teeming with amazing resorts! But Unico has completely changed the all inclusive, boutique resort game! From the food, decorations, pool and beach, and friendly staff, this place is a new favorite of mine. It is perfect for a romantic weekend, group celebration, honeymoon, or business incentives trip!

Friday Feature: Barbados

barbados-92162_1920.jpg

Barbados

.

It’s hard not to instantly picture bright white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters when you hear the word Barbados. But this beautiful Caribbean island offers guests a rich history and culinary scene as well! It’s location in the southern Caribbean also means it is not at risk for hurricanes during that time of season - making it a great spot to consider if you are looking to travel between June - November! How do you get to this sunny paradise? All flights to Barbados land at Grantley Adams Intl. Airport (BGI), which is located in the parish of Christ Church.

Best Times to Visit: The best time to visit Barbados is between July and November. Though these months fall within the Caribbean's hurricane season, hurricanes rarely hit the island!

Things to do:

Taste the local flavors. Barbeque is the preferred cooking method of Bajans and you will smell the delicious aromas throughout the island. This is also a great way to immerse yourself in the culture and locals! Just follow your nose to one of the many roadside or beachside barbecues and taste some of the nation’s best food.

Go on a rum tour. Mount Gay Rum is the country’s pride and joy! Mount Gay Distillery puts on excellent rum tours where you can learn about the history of rum production in Barbados, while trying a few samples along the way.

Visit Harrison’s Cave. Located in the central uplands, Harrison’s Cave showcases breathtaking limestone that drips water into impossibly clear pools. Pictures hardly do it justice. The cave itself is located far away from most tourist hotels, however there are plenty of tour options that will take you straight to this natural wonder.

Stroll St. Nicholas Abbey. St. Nicholas Abbey is an old plantation home set on a beautiful property of tranquil gardens, gullies and orchards with the adjacent Cherry Tree Hill. The home itself has some beautiful antique furniture and decorations transporting you back to the 350+ years of history that this wonderfully preserved plantation home offers visitors.

Soak in the sunshine on Carlisle Bay Beach. While there are plenty of beautiful, white sandy beaches along the coast of Barbados, Carlisle Bay is one of the best! The waters are always calm with plenty of places to pick up food and alcohol to sit back and enjoy the day with!

Check out more ideas HERE.

Feature Hotel: St Peters Bay, Sandy Lane Hotel, Sandpiper

Things to know before you go…

.

  • Leave the camo at home. While it has become pretty mainstream in today’s fashion, camo is illegal to wear in Barbados. The print is exclusively reserved for use by the defense force in Barbados.

  • English is the primary language. It may be a little hard to understand at first, but Barbadians speak a form of broken English know as Bajan. It consists mostly of words which have been shortened or joined together, excluding “r” sounds and replacing “th” sounds with “d”.

  • Look but don’t touch the turtles. Barbados has an amazing population of hawksbill and leatherback turtles, which were once endangered and are now protected and monitored throughout the island.

    For more information, click HERE.

Friday Feature: Brussels, Belgium

canada--quebec--quebec-city--vieux-quebec-or-old-quebec--chateau-fontenac--156848485-5b06d0e3eb97de003701f257.jpg

Brussels

.

While it boasts many great options for junk foodies (i.e. chocolate, fries, waffles, and beer), Brussels is so much more than just a food lovers paradise. As the “unofficial” capital of Europe, Brussels is one of the best connected cities in Europe because of its importance in the EU and its geographic location. It is a quick day trip or additional stop from most cities in Northern Germany or France. How do you get to this beautiful city? There are numerous direct flights from various cities in the United States to Brussels Airport. Direct flights leave from the following cities: New York (JFK), Chicago, Newark, Atlanta, Washington and Philadelphia.

Best Times to Visit: The best time to visit Brussels is between March and May and September and October, the shoulder seasons; this is when room rates are cheaper and fewer crowds clog the top attractions. This city also experiences all four seasons, and rain is a possibility year-round.

Things to do:

People watch in Grand-Palace. One of the best ways to start your trip around Brussels is to visit the Grand-Place, one of Europe’s most beautiful squares and best places to just watch the world go by. The heart of Brussels began as a thriving market, soon spreading out into the surrounding maze of little streets: the butter street, butchers street, the chicken market, herb market, and cheese Markets.

Eat. All. The. Things. We are serious about this one you guys… Brussels is known for it’s chocolate, beer, and waffles so it would be almost a waste of a trip without indulging in what makes this spot so great! So pack some stretchy pants and live your foodie life to the fullest during your trip! If you would like to add some education to your trip, stop by the Choco-Story museum to learn all about how this delicacy is made!

Take in the greenery of Bois de la Cambre. Although the sprawling cityscape of Brussels may make you think it's entirely covered by industry, Brussels is actually one of the greenest cities in Europe. It's also located on the northern edge of the huge Forêt de Soignes, which means you don't have to travel too far outside the city to be immersed in nature either.

Explore Trendy Sainte-Catherine. The Sainte-Catherine district, located just opposite the old Bourse (stock exchange), is a trendy, modern destination for shopping and dining at some of the city's best new restaurants and shops. Also, if you're interested in sightseeing, don’t miss the delightful Notre-Dame-aux-Riches-Claires, a Flemish baroque church that is well worth going into if it’s open. For more information, click HERE.

Feature Hotel: Hotel Sofitel Brussels Le Louise, Rocco Forte Hotel Amigo, Hotel Navarra Brugge

pic_wonder_quebec_city_lg.jpg

Things to know before you go…

.

  • The weather isn’t always perfect. It can easily go from sunny and gorgeous to a 30 minute spell of rain, and then back to sunshine. So make sure to pack accordingly!

  • Save your pennies. Brussels has exceptional shopping so make sure to spend some time strolling the beautiful streets and checking out the local shops and markets.

  • Check the schedule for seasonal festivals. Brussels is a great city that always has a lot of things going on from chocolate festivals, music festivals, or various film festivals.

  • You don’t need to talk the talk to love this city. Most people speak French, while people within the Flanders region tend to speak Dutch. Visitors are able to get by with English, as it tends to be fairly common and accepted in Belgium.

    Check out more information HERE.

Friday Feature: Quebec City

canada--quebec--quebec-city--vieux-quebec-or-old-quebec--chateau-fontenac--156848485-5b06d0e3eb97de003701f257.jpg

Quebec City

.

This week we are throwing some well deserved love to our neighbors of the north - Canada. Quebec City is located on the Saint Lawrence River in Canada's mostly French-speaking Québec province. The city’s deep French roots are immediately display at it’s dozens of boulangeries, creperies, bistros and wine bars in the middle of town. The buildings architecture almost instantly transports you to France with stone buildings and narrow streets. Air Canada, which flies from the U.S. through Montréal or Toronto, is the most popular airline that takes you to this beautiful destination. However, WestJet, Alaska, and United are other good options. All flights arrive at Québec City’s main airport Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB), a quick cab ride into downtown.

Best Times to Visit: The best times to visit Quebec City are June - September and December - February. During the summer and winter months, the city's social calendar is booked solid with festivals.

Things to do:

Spend the afternoon strolling Old Quebec. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is so well preserved from its 17th-century construction, you’ll feel as though you stumbled into France, minus the transatlantic flight. With narrow cobblestoned streets and twinkling lights, the area has the exaggeratedly romantic appearance of a real life winter wonderland. The area is home to the most prominent feature of Québec City’s skyline, the Château Frontenac. Spend some time at the local cafes or boutique along the old street.

Take a ferry ride to Lévis. To get the best view of Quebec City, you need to see the beautiful city scape by water! There’s a ferry service between the capital and its adjacent neighbor, Lévis, which means that for a handful of change you can cross the St. Lawrence River, sit back, and enjoy the view that unfolds before your eyes.

Taste the local cuisine through a food tour. Arguably the best way to experience a new place and culture is by sampling its authentic fare. This three hour Old Quebec Food Tour walk you through the city’s vibrant, and diverse foodie scene. You will visit a variety of notable establishments and enjoy enough delicious bites and sips to make up a hearty and satisfying lunch!

Pour yourself a tall brew-sky. The citizens of Quebec take their beer very seriously… which is why there are micro breweries everywhere! Some local favorites are Griendel, La Souche, La Barberie, La Korrigane, and Noctem.

Feature Hotel: Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Auberge Saint Antoine by Relais and Chateaux, Fairmont Tremblant

pic_wonder_quebec_city_lg.jpg

Things to know before you go…

.

  • This is a French speaking province… and they take it seriously. French must be the predominant language on signs, retail or food service employees always greet customers in French, and there are even laws dictating whether parents can send their children to English or French school.

  • They have their own national holiday. Canada Day is on July 1, and while Quebecers still get that day off, those celebrations are muted compared to those of St. Jean Baptiste Day, known as Fête Nationale, held a week earlier on June 24.

  • The best of this city is experienced in winter. If you want a true Canadian experience, we recommend braving the cold to enjoy some local favorites - ice fishing, snowshoeing, etc.

    Check out more information HERE.

Our Recent Stay: Parrot Key Hotel

Our travel designer, Jennifer, just got back from a relaxing girl’s weekend at Parrot Key Hotel in Key West, FL and if you have an upcoming group trip - this spot is for you!

She is dishing out all the insider information you need to know to book your next stay at this Florida paradise.


Why I went:

This property was perfect for a group, without requiring the uncertainty of an airbnb or rental house. We had 8 women and needed a multi-bedroom property, and this was perfect! We rented a 3 bedroom villa, which suited everyone!

What I loved:

  1. The pools- there are 4! There is a noise level option for everyone, and allowing guests to spread out means families can choose to not be seated next to cackling bachelorette groups (...which was absolutely us!). 

  2. The service! Everyone we met was incredibly welcoming and hospitable. 

  3. The pool bar was perfect for cool beverage outside the villa, and without having to travel far. We had a light lunch and then were off and running!

  4. This was the most modern and clean spot! I was absolutely wow'ed by the decor and how up to date this property was. Definitely a great choice for travelers of all styles!

What I ate:

In Key West, you have to wander out to enjoy the local fare. The hotel (while perfect for us) was not on the main strip, so we wandered into town on their complimentary shuttle for our meals. Conch fritters, chowder, and crab legs...OH MY!

How I slept:

The rooms were impeccably clean, the beds were cozy and there was no noise pollution. Being off the main drag definitely has its advantages! Who knew you could actually get an amazing nights sleep at a bachelorette weekend…

What I got with my stay:

We were given waters, L'Occitane products (NICE TOUCH!) and all the space that a group could ask for. There is valet available, for those who needed parking. They also offer a quick and complimentary shuttle ride downtown so you can easily experience the quintessential Key West.

If you are looking for a thrill, the hotel also offers water sport packages that include parasailing, paddle boarding, jet skiing, kayaking, bike rentals, boat rentals, cruises, dolphin watching, snorkeling, and so much more, there are truly options for everyone in your party!

Why I would recommend considering for your next trip to the Florida Keys:

If you are looking for a family or group getaway, this is it! I can't stress how seamless our stay was here. With the pool bar and restaurant, multiple places to soak up the sun, the amount of room we had in our villa, and the shuttle into town- this makes it incredibly convenient for anyone looking to enjoy Key West!

Uniquely Italy: Redefining your “villa” stay

Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, Umbria, Grosseto, Lazio….shall we continue? While most travelers think purely of Tuscany when considering the countryside of central Italy, there is so much more to see! Italy isn’t “one size fits all” and we recently went in search of finding those properties that offer a twist on the quintessential Tuscan vacation.

We have rounded up our top 10 most unique accommodations in central Italy:


 

1. Lupaia

Lupaia, an agritouristic resort in the heart of Tuscany, stands on ancient foundations of over a thousand years on which the main house and its annexes date back to 1622. Lying on the soft hills of Tuscany, in the Sienese countryside between Pienza and Montepulciano, the ancient estate of Lupaia is suspended at the crossroads between history and nature. 

 

2. Eremito

Eremito is a unique place, a lay hermitage located in an isolated spot, where one can spend a relaxing and reinvigorating time, away from the daily hustle and bustle of daily life. The place is majestically located within Umbrian valleys, this amplifies the sense of spirituality enchanting the eyes and the soul.

 

3. Casa Iris

Casa Iris is nestled in the five hundred year old Palazzo Raveggi, just inside the historic center of Orbetello. This haven in the Grosseto region has created a playful mix of modern design and ancient beauty. We offer luxury amenities, inviting and spacious rooms, and fresh breakfast including local organic produce each morning. Special care has been taken at the end of the week, quality bedding and beautiful upholstery.

 

4. Villa Fontelunga

The Villa is set within an estate of 200 olive trees. The terrace to the rear of the main building allows clients to enjoy the Villa's spectacular view across the Val di Chiana, where breakfast (included) and lunch are served daily. Twice a week the Villa organizes a private 3 course dinner party for guests, an event that has become synonymous with life here at Villa Fontelunga. The property includes a spacious living area, 9 double bedrooms, an outside gazebo with fireplace, landscaped gardens, large pool, Jacuzzi, tennis court, mountain bikes and yoga / pilates gazebo.

 

5. Castello di Monterone

The Castle of Monterone is located in the countryside, three kilometers from the historic center of Perugia. 
Eighteen rooms equipped with all comforts, in an ancient castle transformed into a period residence and furnished respecting its history. At Castello di Monterone it will be possible to live an experience of deep relaxation: welcomed in the refined spaces of the ancient residence or walking among the rose garden, it will be easy to immerse yourself in a timeless peace, finding serenity and balance with yourself at the sheltered from the daily stress of big cities.

 

6. Borgo Santo Pietro

Situated in the heart of Tuscany near Siena, Borgo Santo Pietro is a 5-star luxury boutique hotel with a holistic spa, cooking school, Michelin-starred restaurant, 230-acre organic farm, vineyards and 13-acre beautifully manicured gardens. Experience the ultimate luxury Tuscan vacation at Borgo Santo Pietro, your home away from home in Tuscany. Each of the 20 rooms and suites are individually styled, inspired by the villa's rich history, with bespoke details executed by local craftsmen and in-house artisans using traditional techniques. Rooms and suites combine contemporary luxury with the romantic charm of the Tuscan countryside.

 

7. Hotel Il Pellicano

This luxury boutique hotel in Porto Ercole is a familiar romantic getaway for discerning guests all over the world and those seeking exclusive weekend breaks from Rome, on the Tuscan Coast. Each day the Tuscan sunlight illuminates our pristine blue bay, infusing us all with a sense of delicious wonder, no surprise that Il Pellicano is famed for is sprezzatura, stylish, effortless ambiance. “Sprezzatura” is an Italian term originating from Baldassare Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier, which represents “a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it.”

 

8. Villa Mangiacane

Nestled in the heart of the winemaking region of Chianti Classico, Villa Mangiacane is a magnificent 15th century property built by the Machiavelli family, bearing the unmistakable hand of the Renaissance master, Michelangelo. Located just 12km south of Florence, Mangiacane is set within 600 acres of flourishing vineyards and olive groves. Luxurious facilities compliment the Palazzo Machiavelli: an outdoor swimming pool, SPA with indoor heated pool, sauna and steam bath, unique sculpture garden and breathtaking views of the Brunelleschi Duomo in Florence from the terrace balcony.

 

9. Adler Spa Resort

Where gentle hills dot the landscape, the scent of cypresses fills the air and steaming thermal water relieves all tension, coming to rest is easy. Nestling in a unique location in the hilly Tuscan landscape, the ADLER Spa Resort THERMAE is not just a place for personal relaxation, it is also the ideal starting point for truly getting to know the region. Immerse yourself in our soothing spa and an environment of enchanting beauty.  

 

10. La Corte Dei Papi

Situated just a few kilometres from Cortona in Tuscany, in a small valley surrounded by rolling hills, la Corte Relais is an oasis of peace and tranquillity and is perfect for those seeking both culture and tradition. You will be seduced by the traditional fine food and comforted by the elegance of this authentic Tuscan villa. La Corte Relais is a country residence dating back to the 1700’s where long-standing tradition and luxury are brought together to offer our guests the wonderful experience of wellness and relaxation. Beautiful suites enhance the feeling of wellbeing. With an excellent restaurant and warm and genuine Tuscan hospitality, your stay will be completely unforgettable.

Friday Feature: Fiji

Fiji

.

Known for its luxurious private-islands, all-inclusive resorts, top spas, culinary destinations and outdoor adventures, Fiji is most widely celebrated for its culture, which uniquely welcomes visitors home to it’s 333 lush islands. Fiji's white sand beaches and pristine, crystal-clear ocean waters offer an ideal vacation destination for divers, honeymooners and families- or simply, those looking to relax and get away from it all. Fiji is easily accessible through convenient, non-stop flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco or Honolulu by Fiji Airways.

Best Times to Visit: Fiji weather is typically either hot and humid (Nov-April) or dry and mild (May-Oct). Generally, the best time to visit these islands is between mid-October to mid-November as prices are reasonable, there are fewer crowds, and weather conditions are dry and pleasantly warm.

Things to do:

See Fire-Walking on Beqa. Located just off Vitu Levu’s southern coast is Beqa Island and the surrounding lagoon, are home to more than 100 dives sites. However there is far more to this island than just it’s rich underwater life… The beautiful Beqa Island is home to the Sawau tribe who created the traditional art of fire-walking. You can experience members of the tribe participating in a fire-walking ceremony where warriors tread over burning embers from a lovo (earth oven) shouting “O-vulo-vulo!” at the Lalati Resort and Spa.

Drink Kava on Vanua Levu. Fiji’s second-largest island, Vanua Levu, sits to the north. It is accessible via a short flight from Nadi. This is a great place to experience the traditional island life and culture first hand. Take a tour of Nukubaluvu Village, where you’ll take part in a sevu-sevu (gift giving) ceremony, kava drinking (an absolute must-do in Fiji!) and a wild traditional dance with grass-skirted warriors.

Hike the Falls of Taveuni. Taveuni Island is located just off Vanua Levu’s east coast and known as Fiji’s Garden of Eden. It is overflowing with beautiful rare orchids, prehistoric tree ferns, tumbling waterfalls and natural water slides. Don’t miss the Tavoro waterfalls, a 60-foot waterfall that cascades into an emerald pool! It is easily accessible via a flat, grassy trail and a great way to spend a day!

Shop for pearls in Savusavu. Justin Hunter has spent the past decade cultivating some of world’s most unique pearls in Savusavu Bay. While you can find these beautiful, locally sourced pearls at a variety of stores and resorts, they are best found right at the source - Hunter’s flagship store off Savusavu’s main street. There is truly no better Fiji souvenir!

Information courtesy of Islands.

Feature Hotel: Vomo Island Resort, Kokomo Private Island, Castaway Island Fiji

Things to know before you go…

.

  • Know the Meaning of Bula and Vinaka. Although most Fijians speak English these local words will make their way into each conversation so definitely brush up before arriving. 

    • Bula means “hello” and is the Fijian greeting

    • Vinaka means “thank you”

  • Pack some conservative outfits. If you plan to visit local villages, schools or attend a local church service it is important that you respect the conservative culture and cover up a bit more than you might at the resort.

  • Understand how tipping works. Most hotels and resorts will tell you that tipping is not necessary, and on paper Fiji is a non-tipping country. However, we suggest to bring or set aside some extra cash for tipping staff members that go above and beyond. 

  • Sunday is a church day for the islanders. Almost all of the locals go to church on Sundays and that many restaurants and shops are closed. If you are planning activities in town over the weekend to take this into consideration.

For more information, click HERE.

Our Recent Visit: Hermosa Inn

Our Travel Designer, Robin, just back from a great weekend checking out a bunch of different properties in Scottsdale. One of her favorites? The Hermosa Inn in Paradise Valley!

She is dishing out all the insider information you need to know to book your next stay at what Conde Nast says is the “Best Hotel in Arizona”!


What I loved:

The Hermosa Inn is the definition of romance! This resort is small and intimate with only 43 rooms available. Famed artist Lon Megargee created The Hermosa Inn in the 1930s as his private escape before opening up to guests. All these years later, the luxury boutique inn retains that original intimate feel, complete with homey touches: Lon’s original artwork hanging on the walls, a flourishing garden, and upscale furnishings throughout. Top it off with the best service of any resort I have ever stayed at, and you have the perfect weekend getaway with your significant other or friends!

Where to eat:

The Hermosa Inn is home to two great dining options: Lon’s and Lon’s Last Drop. If you are in the mood for true farm to table Arizona fare that is sure to “Wow”, Lon’s is the best spot for not only guests, but any foodies visiting the Paradise Valley.

Lon’s Last Drop is connected to the acclaimed restaurant and serves up handcrafted cocktails, local beers and delicious small plates. Enjoy these dished inside amongst the authentic Arizona artwork or outside amongst the beautiful trees and garden - an unlikely sanctuary in the middle of the desert.

Room details:

Each room at Lon’s is it’s own private oasis. You will not find the traditional hotel room keys here - Hermosa Inn still uses an actual key to open up its rooms in an effort to remain true to Lon’s original vision! Each guestroom and casita is individually decorated in warm, Southwestern style. Fireplaces, secluded patios and vaulted ceilings add to the relaxed appeal. Enjoy your coffee in the shadows on Camelback while admiring the lush gardens around the property.

What you get with a stay:

  • Complimentary self-guided art walk of the property

  • Fully equipped fitness center

  • Access to the Blue Door Spa Suite

  • Bike rentals to explore the surrounding area

  • A full calendar of events - from brunch with well known artists to dinners with acclaimed pianists

  • Close proximity to nearby hiking and jogging trails

Why I would recommend considering for your next trip to Phoenix:

Clearly, I am a huge fan of this boutique inn as an adults only, wellness focused escape. While I would not recommend it for a lively crowd looking for the nightlife of Scottsdale or large families traveling with small children, I do think this is the perfect stay for anyone needing some much needed R+R!

Friday Feature: Seychelles

Seychelles

.

Scattered across the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles are an archipelago of 115 islands located off the eastern coast of Africa. While picturesque beaches of the islands main attraction, these beauties draw in guests from around the world for diving, world-class resorts, and fishing! How do you get to this tropical paradise? Direct flights connect the Seychelles with China, France, Germany, South Africa, and Sri Lanka. From the US, you'll need to take a connecting flight from South Africa, Europe or the Middle East. The Seychelles International Airport, outside of Victoria, is the only international airport in the Seychelles.

Best Times to Visit: The best times to visit Seychelles are April, May, October and November. These months during shoulder season allow for fewer tourists and warm temperatures. These are also the best months for diving visibility.

Things to do:

Spend the day exploring the beautiful water. The Seychelles are known to be the premiere diving and/or snorkeling destination in the Indian Ocean. There is excellent diving off Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, the three main islands, as well as off the other inner and outer islands. Don’t worry if you aren’t a great swimmer - there are places to go for every level or expertise. Disclaimer: Diving in the Seychelles heavily hinges on the weather conditions, currents and direction of the wind. However, diving can be sampled during all seasons as there are always sheltered conditions. The seas are calmest from April to May and October to November.

Toss a line. It only makes sense that water this beautiful is teeming with fish! Just about any resort, tour operator, or dive centre will be able to set you up with a fabulous charter to the open waters. Job-fish, groupers and red snappers are most commonly caught, but you're also a good chance of reeling in a tuna, sailfish, or marlin.

Parasailing along the coast. If you are wanting truly picture perfect views of this beautiful place, consider taking a parasailing ride! You can fly solo or tandem with a partner. Beau Vallon Beach is a great spot for this - be sure to check out the Beau Vallon Aquatic Sports Center. They'll strap you into your harness and you'll be airborne in no time, wind conditions permitting.

Take a sunset sail. Since this destination is best experienced by water, it is only right to end your night sailing those same beautiful waters while watching the sunset over the horizon. If you want a longer expedition, there are day to week long cruise options available through certain hosts. The best months for cruising are April and October; the worst are January, July and August. 

Feature Hotel: Four Seasons Resort Seychelles, Six Senses Zil Pasyon, Banyan Tree Seychelles

Things to know before you go…

.

  • Be sure to enjoy the ride. Time in the Seychelles move slower than in America, so do not get in a rush.

  • Ask before snapping pictures with the locals. Always respect the wish of locals. Ask permission to photograph and don't insist or snap a picture if permission is denied.

  • Keep you clothes on. Although beachwear is fine for the beaches, you will cause offense and may experience pestering if you dress in skimpy clothing elsewhere. Nude bathing is forbidden.

For more information, click HERE.

Friday Feature: Philippines

Philippines

.

From lush rainforests to world class beaches, the landscape of the Philippines is one of the most diverse and drawing more and more visitors from around the world! With over 7,000 islands, you really have to choose your Philippines travel itinerary carefully if you want to take in all of this incredible country! There are five different airports to choose from, making it easily accessible from various parts of the world.

Best Times to Visit: The Philippines are most popular during the dry season, between November and April. Temperatures are high during March and April, so it's best to travel during the cooler months of December to February.

Places to see:

Twin Lagoon and Banol Beach, Coron Island. Surrounded by towering cliffs, and filled with crystal clear water, the lagoons are a must see. You won't be alone. Large tour groups come and go all day, but if you stick around for long enough you can find a little piece of paradise for yourself. Banol Beach is everything you would imagine the Philippines to be - crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, and surrounding mountains-cape. The cliffs are scattered with old fisherman’s huts, which have the effect of transporting you back in time.

El Nido, Palawan. Do yourself a favor and give this beautiful place a Google… yeah, crazy right?! Aside from it’s beauty and friendly locals, this town has an abundance of tours that will take you island hopping with a great local host who can point out the various island and beaches!

Binalayan Hidden Waterfalls, Cebu. If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, the cliff diving in Binalayan Falls is magical. This hidden gem is in the middle of the jungle with three distinct streams and ledges of varying heights for the those willing to take the plunge! There is a short walk required to the falls so wear good shoes - you won’t regret it!

Feature Hotel: Amanpulo

Things to know before you go…

.

  • Don’t get in a hurry. There is no thing as fast travel in the Philippines, as most travel is done from island to island on boats! So kick your feet up and take your time with this country.

  • Skip the car rental. While some travelers gravitate to the flexibility that a car offers them, it is best to skip it in the Philippines. Aside from being both stressful and dangerous, it is also best to see the sights and beauty of the country.

  • Brace yourself for the heat… because the heat and humidity of the country is no joke.

  • Tip your servers! The Philippines is a country that provides cheap service so tipping is common practice. At restaurants, it’s customary to leave 10-15% of your final bill, unless service charge is included, in which case, less is fine.

For more helpful tips, click HERE.

Friday Feature: Napa Valley, California

IMG_3729.jpg

Napa Valley

.

Nothing says relaxing getaway quite like Napa Valley and Sonoma, California. Besides the obvious reasons to go (i.e., world renown, locally-owned wines galore), this area of the United States is truly beautiful! From rolling hills to vines galore, there is no better place to sip on a glass of white outdoors while admiring the picturesque scenery.
We suggest flying into San Francisco, renting a car and driving the winding country roads all the way to wine country - the drive is absolutely spectacular and bonus… take a drive over the Golden Gate bridge before heading out of town.
Pro tip: Add a couple days to the front or back end of your vacation to explore San Francisco!

Best Times to Visit: If you want fewer crowds, cheaper hotel rates, and perfect weather, the absolute best month to visit this area is October!

Things to do:

Take a morning hot air balloon ride. This is the best way to see and learn about the beautiful vineyards and unique agriculture in the valley. Plus, there is no better start to a day full of wine tasting than by watching the sun rise over the surrounding hills. If you are afraid of heights, you can watch the dozens of balloons bounce around the sky early in the mornings while enjoying a warm cup of coffee. Our favorite tour is Napa Valley Aloft!

Pamper yourself at one of the luxury spas in town. Napa Valley knows luxury. The hotels and resorts all have the most amazing spas on property, making carving out a little '“me time” easy! If you are not staying at a property with a spa, make sure to reserve your service in advance!

Spend your day vineyard hopping! This is the most obvious of our list but we have included some of our favorite vineyards below. Make sure to reserve your space ahead of time as most vineyards require a reservation for tastings.

  • St. Supery - amazing Sauvinon Blanc & friendly staff with excellent recommendations

  • Domaine Carneros - best for bubbles and beautiful views

  • Domaine Chandon - very popular sparkling wine, and a great place for a picnic

  • V. Sattui - organically farmed vineyard in St. Helena with 60 different highly rated wines

  • Sterling Vineyards - great wines but the tram to the top of the vineyard is truly beautiful. Great views to enjoy lunch and a glass of white.

Feature Hotels: Meadowood Napa Valley, Carneros Resort & Spa, Bardessono

Our favorite restaurants are…

.

  • Bouchon - authentic French bistro fare from world renown chef, Thomas Keller

  • Bouchon Bakery - best macaroons and pastries in the valley

  • Grace’s Table - charming eatery with globally inspired menu

  • Boon Fly Cafe - Fresh and casual California fare , great for lunch!

  • Bottega Napa Valley - Rustic Italian food served in an indoor/outdoor, lively atmosphere

  • The French Laundry - famous farmhouse, world class restaurant to splurge on an amazing meal

Our Recent Stay: Four Seasons Bora Bora

Our fearless leader & CEO, Jennifer, just got back from an amazing stay at the Four Seasons Bora Bora… and it was next level luxury to say the least!

She is dishing out all the insider information you need to know to book your next stay at this Tahiti paradise.


Why I went:

The Four Seasons isn't just a hotel - it's an iconic brand representing quality and the epitome of high end experience. The location of the Four Seasons Bora Bora is hard to beat. Boasting views of Mount Otumanu and bungalows hovering over crystalline waters, this resort rivals it's next door neighbors with vengeance. 

What I loved:

I have to admit that I teared up a bit when I got off the plane...not only was I ushered onto a luxury boat that seamlessly transferred me to my hotel, but I couldn't stop saying..." I'm in BORA BORA...I never thought I would be in BORA BORA." From the moment you walk onto the property, you are engulfed in the lush surroundings of the grounds. The walkways are nestled into nature and essentially hug you while you explore the property. The rooms are out of this world- you walk into a living space, through a bathroom featuring an ocean view bathtub, and into the bedroom. The amount of space justifies any length of stay, allowing you to settle in and feel at home. In fact, I felt so "at home" that I used the self-service laundry at the end of each bungalow section...saving me from smelling like a sailor fresh off the boat (y'all....Tahiti is HOT!). 

What I ate:

Ok, ok...don't hate me, but the first thing I did when I heard that the pool bar offered two-for-one drinks in the afternoon was saddle up poolside, order a cool glass of French rose and hover over a heaping plate of truffle fries. Authentic? Maybe not...but I have no regrets. With all indulgences aside, the breakfast is one to remember. A juice bar, fresh made crepes, eggs to order, and authentic Polynesian fare made this buffet a satisfying spot to start the day. 

How I slept:

Like angels kissed my face and sang me a lullaby. You think I'm joking....but, may I remind you that I was in a cool room over the ocean, in the fluffiest king bed that the islands can offer, and facing a star sprinkled sky...I would not joke about this level of sleep. In fact, I can only dream about this level of sleep for the rest of my days. 

What I got with my stay:

The service offered at the Four Seasons can simply not be rivaled. I asked for ONE safety pin (due to a minor wardrobe malfunction) and came back to find a bag chock-o-block full of safety pins, next to a sewing kit. Need a ride to the restaurant? Simply call the front desk (don't judge...heels on a dock is no small feat). From simple asks to big requests, the resort was willing to offer support.

Why I would recommend considering for your next trip to Nashville:

In the event that you didn't read the previous responses, I'll sum it up for you...do yourself a favor and book the ticket, make the reservation, and pack the sunblock (my souvenir was a gnarly sunburn). The Four Seasons is plenty large to enjoy a long stay, and the views will beg you to stay even longer than you originally planned. If you love being near the water, having your breath taken away by nature, and incredible gastronomy - look no further than Four Seasons Bora Bora! 

Friday Feature: San Miguel de Allende

IMG_3729.jpg

San Miguel de Allende

.

This vibrant, fun city is teeming with exceptional food and culture. Located in Mexico’s central highlands, San Miguel De Allende is about 3 hours north of Mexico City. It has a great mixture of Mexican and European flare that will leave you begging to return. The closest airports to San Miguel are in Léon (about 70 miles away) and Querétaro (about 45 miles away). From there, a relatively inexpensive (between $30 and $60) hour-long shuttle or cab ride will bring you right to this charming city!

Best Times to Visit: the best times to visit are from November through April. The San Miguel's climate doesn't vary too much throughout the year, however November through April experiences less rainfall than in the summer months.

Things to do:

Experience the La Gruta hot springs. Just 10 minutes outside the city, this beautiful springs are a great family-friendly getaway. The spring has a handful of paved pools perfect for lounging on a sunny afternoon, or make your way into the caves to feel the hottest water and steam! There is a $6 entrance fee.

See the Parroquia De San Miguel Arcangel. This bright pink cathedral is located in the center of town in El Jardin and a true sight. Modeled after Belgian church, the architecture is beautifully unique. El Jardin square is a nice place to just sit on a bench to people watch or browse the numerous restaurants and street vendors nearby.

Sample the local fare. San Miguel del Allende is teeming with amazing rooftop bars and restaurants serving up authentic Mexican flavors that you won’t want to miss! Some of our favorites includes: Le Mesa Grande for a latte and breakfast, Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar for Mexican-Asian fusion cuisine, and Restaurant Nectar for a great organic brunch! Another great option is a food tour!

Take a trail ride through the countryside. San Miguel de Allende has multiple horseback riding options and this is a great way to take the slow route and truly experience the beauty of this place! There are options for all levels of riders and most tours include lunch!

Feature Hotels: Rosewood San Miguel de Allende

Things to know before you go…

.

  • Book your stay in advance! This city is growing in popularity which requires booking reservations farther in advance, so don’t wait!

  • Skip the strollers and rolling luggage. San Miguel’s streets are very narrow and uneven so it is best to travel light.

  • Bring comfortable shoes to explore! Walking cobblestone streets in heels, flip flops, or unsupportive sandals on a daily basis is enough to make anyone cranky. We can’t emphasize this enough, bring comfortable shoes!

  • Account for their changing weather. While the days are normally warm and beautiful, nights can grow chilly so make sure to pack light jackets and pants to avoid freezing.

For more helpful tips, click HERE.

Our Recent Stay: Union Station Hotel Nashville

Our awesome Travel Designer, Robin, just back from a luxurious weekend stay at Union Station Hotel Nashville - a beautifully converted train station in the heart of Music City.

She is dishing out all the insider information you need to know to book your next stay at one of Nashville’s hottest hotels.


Why I went:

Location, location, location! This boutique hotel is only 4 blocks from iconic Broadway, coined Nashville’s Honky Tonk highway and famous bar scene. Not looking for a party scene or traveling with children? This hotel is also close to the Nashville Zoo, Centennial Park, Cheekwood Botanical Garden, the Gluch, and Honky Tonk Central. Whether you are looking for a relaxing weekend in the city or to experience Nashville’s nightlife, the Union Station Hotel is central to just about everything!

What I loved:

The details of this place are insane! Walking into the lobby you are awh-struck by it’s 65-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling and 100-year-old Tiffany-styled stained glass transporting you back in time to this hotel’s past life. However, the rooms have a recently renovated, modern feel that create the coolest mixture of old meets new.

What I ate:

Carter’s is the trendy restaurant and bar located in the hotels main lobby. Like the rest of the hotel, it has a cool mix of southern charm with modern sophistication. The menu offers a great mix of shareable plates, delicious entrees, and desserts that will pain you to share! This pairs perfectly with the drinks menu that has a great selection of classic favorites with an updated twist…. Are you seeing a trend yet?

Another great option is the room service! Your room comes with a hanger tag that allows you to order breakfast for the next morning. All you have to do is select what you are craving, choose what time you would like your breakfast delivered, and hang the tag on your doorknob before midnight! Then boom… fresh coffee and fluffy eggs to wake you up after a night on the town.

How I slept:

I am a big bed critic because I think this truly makes or breaks your hotel stay. The Union Station Hotel gave me THEE best nights sleep on a mattress that made you almost feel weightless. All rooms also come with a walk in glass tile shower that gives you the spa-like feel you want during your stay.

What I got with my stay:

  • Fitness and business center

  • On-site restaurant and bar, Carter’s + in room dining

  • Pet friendly accommodations

  • Live nightly music in the lobby

  • Breakfast scheduled by you and personally delivered to your room (surcharge)

  • Valet parking

  • Helpful concierge staff

Why I would recommend considering for your next trip to Nashville:

Clearly, I am a huge fan of everything this hotel is about! From the interior design to the polite and attentive staff, I can’t sing Union Station Hotel’s praises enough. If you are planning a relaxing weekend getaway, friend’s trip, family reunion, etc.: this is the spot for you!

Pro Tip: They are offering some winter deals to help lighten the deal!

Friday Feature: Amsterdam

caribbean-3475306_1920.jpg

Amsterdam

.

Between Amsterdam’s forward thinking about recreational drugs and Red Light district, this beautiful little city on the river often gets a bad rap among many. However, we are hear to plead Amsterdam’s case as a charming and wonderful city that you should consider visiting in 2019! Between it’s bicycle covered streets, picturesque canal system, and extremely detailed architecture, Amsterdam is sure to leave you surprised and pleased with your stay! Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) is a major intercontinental flight hub and the home of KLM, the national flag-carrying airline of the Netherlands.

Best Times to Visit: The Dutch capital is great all year round, but April-May & September-November are the best time to visit Amsterdam. This is when the temperature is a little more moderate; perfect for canal cruising or a spring trip to the tulip fields of Keukenhof!

Things to do:

Cruise through the Amsterdam canals. The Amsteram canals are often times the first thing people think of when they think Amsterdam. Make sure to rent a small electric boat for a few hours to cruise and see the beautiful city from the water. Our favorite tour company: Those Dam Boat Guys

Rent a bike to explore the city. Given Amsterdam’s relatively small size, the most popular way to travel is by bike. Everyday during rush hour (8-9 am and 5-6 pm), thousands of cyclists take to the streets. The city is quite flat and filled with over 400 kilometers of bike paths. Consider renting a bike while you’re in Amsterdam to travel like a true local!

Visit the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum. For the history buffs, there are plenty of museums and exhibits to explore around the city. Some of our favorites are the Anne Frank House and Van Gogh Museum. On Friday nights from 7 pm, the Van Gogh Museum is turned into a semi nightclub with cocktails and loud DJ music but also some free guided tours!

Heineken Brewery Experience. The Heineken Experience is a self guided interactive journey through the world of Heineken. You can discover the history of the company, the 4 natural ingredients of the beer, the brewing process, a tasting room and the Heineken brand. At the end of the tour you can enjoy 2 Heinekens or learn how to draught the perfect beer yourself!

Explore the Dam Square. This square is home to the Royal Palace and The De Nieuwe Kerk Museum. It is bustling with tourists and locals all day and night checking out the food stalls, restaurants, and trendy shops along the square.

Take a tour of the Red Light District. Explore Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District on an approximately 2-hour guided evening walking tour. Stroll by the red-lit window cabins of the cobbled alleyways of De Wallen, and learn about the area’s history and Amsterdam’s progressive approach to prostitution.

Visit the Bloemenmarkt. You won’t want to miss out on seeing the only floating flower market while in Amsterdam. Located on the Singel Canal, the fantastic displays of flowers at this floating flower market is beautiful to behold. Stop and smell the flowers and be sure to pick up a souvenir to remember your trip!

Other Tour Recommendations: Hungry Birds food tour

Feature Hotels: Andaz Amsterdam, D'el Europe Amsterdam, Conservatorium Hotel

edited.jpg

Fun Facts about Amsterdam…

.

  • 165: That’s the number of canals in Amsterdam. In total these waterways add up to more than 100 kilometers or about 60 miles.

  • 25,000: That’s the number of bicycles that end up in Amsterdam’s canals each year. Oddly, they say only 8,000 bikes are pulled out of the canals annually.

  • 1,515: That’s the number of bars and cafes in Amsterdam. Wow! That’s a lot of Heineken. 

  • 881,000: That’s approximately the number of bicycles in Amsterdam. A little funny, considering that there are only about 799,400 people living in the city. 

  • 1,281: That’s the number of bridges in all of Amsterdam. There are 80 bridges within the center of Amsterdam. Magere Brug, also known as the Skinny Bridge, is the most famous bridge in the city. The crossing of Reguliersgracht and Herengracht is known as the Bridge of 15 Bridges. If you stand in the right spot, especially at night, you can see a total of 15 arches into the distance. Pretty!

    Read more fun facts at Awesome Amsterdam.

Friday Feature: St. Kitts

caribbean-3475306_1920.jpg

St. Kitts

.

Situated over 1,000 south of Miami, St. Kitts stakes claim on being the first Caribbean island to be colonized in 1623. This beautiful island attracts over 100,000 stay-over tourists and half a million cruise passengers every year. But it isn’t just beaches and sunshine! This island has great cultural and historic significance as well! Multiple airlines will bring you non-stop to this beautiful Caribbean oasis from main hubs like Atlanta and Charlotte. If you would rather take your time getting there, cruises are another great option!

Best Times to Visit: The best time to visit is in May and June, when hotels lower their rates to lure in travelers and the winter crowds thin out. Carnival is hosted in February during the peak season of December to April.

Things to do:

Take a ride on the St. Kitts Scenic Railway. The Scenic Railway offers visitors a glimpse of the real St Kitts along it’s 18 miles route with an additional 12 miles by bus. The complete circle of the island is 30 miles. This 3-hour tour allows visitors to get a glimpse of many of the island’s villages plus famous and historic sites.

Explore Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park. The Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park was built over the course of 100 years by African slaves mostly under British command. From the high vantage point, it is easy to see why this spot was chosen for a defensive fortress. On a clear day, this park offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and neighboring Caribbean islands - St. Barts, St. Eustatius, Saba St Martin and federation island Nevis.

Take a catamaran cruise to Shitten Bay. This picturesque small bay on the southeast coast of St Kitts has a visible shipwreck with tons of beautiful coral and colorful fish. The best way to get here? A catamaran cruise is the best way to see all of the secluded bays, coves, and the rich sea life.

Explore downtown Basseterre. Be sure to spend a few hours exploring the historic capital Basseterre which has applied for UNESCO World Heritage Status. Wander around and marvel at the architecture on Basseterre’s lively streets like Liverpool Row, College Street Ghaut, Princess Street, Rosemary Lane, etc. Be sure to bring your camera!

Feature Hotels: Park Hyatt St. Kitts, Belle Mont Farm

edited.jpg

Things to know before you go…

.

  • Try the local fare. Stewed saltfish with spicy plantains and coconut dumplings is the national dish of St. Kitts & Nevis.

  • You have to talk the talk. Saint Kitts Creole is spoken in the country as a Caribbean creole based in English. While estimated 40,000 people speak creole, it is not officially recognized in the islands.

  • Don’t worry about exchanging currency. The Eastern Caribbean Dollar is the official currency of the islands but the American Dollar is widely accepted as well!

Friday Feature: Why we are begging you to roam Rome

Scottsdale_Attractions_AZSunset_hero.jpg

Rome

.

It goes a little something like this…“I hear that I don't really need to spend much time in Rome, so we can skip it."

To an Italy fanatic...this hits me like a ton of bricks....and I hear it all. the. stinkin'. time. People treat this historical mecca like a layover on their way to the Renaissance filled town of Florence, the majestic coast of Amalfi, or the vineyard touting area of Tuscany. But Rome? It gets snubbed as if it wasn't the creator of the newspaper, concrete, welfare systems, roads, bridges, and bound books...y'all...books!

My immediate reaction? Well, my immediate reaction is stifled by my professionalism, but my internal dialogue is screaming, "well, then you are hanging out with the wrong people!" But that's not nice...or fair, for that matter. In fact, I was NOT a fan of this bustling city on my first pass either. While I love historical places, I am not one to "geek out" on the history alone. I travel to "feel" a place- not to memorize information. So hit me with a ruins tour...cool, but take me to a market filled with locals pedaling spices and letting me taste the oil from their family's recent olive harvest - well, HOT damn, I'm in!

So we are here to plead Rome's case a bit, and share why that we encourage our clients to consider a minimum of three nights to get the full feel of this city that is constantly fighting to find the balance of an ancient and modern world.

Feature Hotel: Hotel Indigo Rome - St. George

First off, your hotel plays a BIG role in your experience! What I mean by this more than cushy pillows and fancy Nespresso machines (although, those don't hurt) is the LOCATION of the hotel. On my recent trip to Rome, I was on the hunt to find a hotel that provided a respite from the hubbub while echoing the style of the city. I FOUND IT! This was my fourth time to Rome, and I confidently can say that I have found my new base. Forgive my quick tangent to explain my love affair with this hotel, while I outline the highlights:

  • This is tucked into the "real" Rome- you won't be bumping into tourists, but you will be walking passed artisanal shops, wine bars with locals pouring on the sidewalks, and a quick jaunt away from Piazza Farnese and Campo di'Fiori, where you can find every carb that you ever wished for.

  • History is alive within the building! There are stones within the lobby that date back to the same age as the Colosseum- potentially taken from the exact same quarry!

  • The breakfast. Ok...ok..so by breakfast, I mean the Prosecco and a croissant, but there are MANY more options that a less lushy visitor would want to indulge in. There are cheeses, meats, honeycomb, pastries of every kind, juices, pizza (for. real) and more! Plus, their cappuccinos can rival any in the city. 

  • Spa-aaahhhh. In the bottom floor of this hotel holds an intimate spa that offers treatments, a jacuzzi pool, sauna and steam room to sweat out all that gelato. 

  • Lastly...and the pièce de résistance. The rooftop! Terra cotta as far as the eye can see and a rooftop worthy of skipping your scheduled tour and spending the day sipping rosé. 

And now back to the city as a whole...why add those extra nights onto your Rome itinerary?

Because one day is not enough in any big city! Would you assume that you could see all of New York in a single 24 hours? Times Square does not summarize the numerous boroughs of such an expansive place. Rome is just the same. The Roman Ruins and Colosseum are in one nook of the city- a very busy nook, at that. In that same area is one of the biggest intersections in the city...full of honking and monstrous buildings that seem to remove all personalization out of the experience, and therefore making the intimacy of the other Italian towns quite contrasting. 

IMG_9617.JPG

So where do you start? Well, we suggest sectioning your trip out by neighborhood. Don't try and cover ALL the ground in one day, and definitely don't try to hit every monument, ruin and church without stopping for a minute to "feel" where you are.

IMG_9725.JPG
  • Regola: This is where I call "home" from now on! You will find Hotel Indigo nestled into this area right on Via Giulia - one of the most important (and elegant) streets of the city! This street was commissioned by Pope Julius II and was designed in 1508 by the same architect that was working on the Vatican. This street is very popular for the ever-so-common "passegiata."

  • Trastevere: This funky and bohemian area is chock-a-bock full of cafes, coffee shops, artist galleries, and youthful events. This is across the river from the main area of Rome, and therefore there immediately is more space to explore and wander. While you're over in the area, take a hike up Janiculum Hill for one of the most incredible panoramic scenes that you'll ever lay eyes on!

  • Testaccio: One word....YUM. Not only is this area HUGE for traditional Roman food (cacio e pepe, osso buco, and the hot spot "Trapezzino"), but this area has a TON of history, including a pyramid- literally an ancient pyramid. It almost looks like it got lost on it's way to the desert, and in some ways, it kind of did! I encourage everyone to head towards this neighborhood built on a hill of pots and learn all about how this area has been shaped over time. 

Of course there are more...but we know you don't have all day to hear us yammer on...we're just trying to make a dad-gum point here! 

So, onto HOW to see/eat/experience it all without devoting your entire trip to Rome! Here are our favorite guided options to help you hit the high points and free up some time to wander aimlessly:

  • EasItaly: This company can tailor and create practically ANY Rome tour that you can dream up! Do you....Want to have a private guide throughout the ruins? Easy! Want to ride bikes outside the city center to the catacombs? They've got you covered. I always get asked, what would YOU do if this was your trip? Hands down- I would ask this company to get creative to make my Rome dreams come true!

  • City Wonders Early Access Tour: While we haven't touched on the Vatican here, you'd be remiss in skipping out on a visit to the Papal state. This company offers an early access tour that allows you to beat the crowds and potentially be the first person to step into the Sistine Chapel for the day. What I also love about this tour is that you are done by 9 AM...perfect time to head to Campo di' Fiori to people watch and enjoy a nice cup of espresso. 

  • Eating Italy Testaccio Twilight Stroll: A night out in Rome starts with apertivos- and so does this tour! You'll be guided to a local wine shop, and given introductory cocktail to hear a bit about the area before venturing on a gastronomic journey. You'll hear about the history of the area, and taste things that you'll be talking about for years to come.

  • ScooteRoma Vespa Tours: Talk about LEGIT! What Romans think is a normal commute is thrilling to this tourist. ScooteRoma guides can zip you through the main sights and the back streets of the city to cover the most ground and in the most authentic way possible. 

So did we do it? Did we convince you? If not...give us a call, and let us tell you more!

Friday Feature: Curaçao

mar-3208531_1920.jpg

Curaçao

.

Curaçao is arguable one of the Caribbean’s best kept secrets. This beautiful island is located in the southern Caribbean nestled between Aruba and Bonaire. Cleverly, these islands are known as the ABC islands! Curaçao, the largest of the three, is a unique melting pot of different cultures, cuisines and languages. However, most people also speak Dutch, English and Spanish so you needn’t worry if you’re not multilingual! You can fly direct to Curaçao from Miami into Hato International Airport.

Best Times to Visit: May to November are considered the off-peak season. During these months, you'll find the lowest airfares and hotel rates. Plus, you won't be vying for beach chairs with other vacationers.

Things to do:

Go beach hopping. Most of Curaçao’s beautiful beaches are easily accessible, however some are more tucked away into coves. Banda Bou, located on the western side of the island, is home to some of the best beaches! Rent a jeep for a more local feel!

Explore Willemstad. Most known for it’s beautiful, colorful buildings, this city is a must do during your time in Curaçao. The government allows local artists use some of the abandoned buildings outside walls as a canvas to express themselves. Make sure to bring your camera!

Go diving. The Caribbean is known for it’s crystal clear waters and exotic marine life. There are plenty of reefs off the beaches where you can rent scuba or snorkeling equipment to explore for yourself.

Take it easy! If there one place in the world to relax and unwind, this is it! Make sure that you leave plenty of time to simply enjoy the beaches and sunshine.

Feature Hotels: Baoase Luxury Resort, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Avila Beach Hotel

edited.jpg

Things to know before you go…

.

  • There are four languages that are spoken on the islands (English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamentu) but most everyone speaks English.

  • Unlike some of the other Caribbean islands Curaçao is below the hurricane belt so you can go during hurricane season.

  • It is best to rent a car on the island to travel on your own terms.

Friday Feature: Chicago

Scottsdale_Attractions_AZSunset_hero.jpg

Chicago

.

Chicago is absolutely jammed packed with amazing things to see and do. From shopping, sports teams, theatre, parks, and beautiful rooftops, this city has everything you need for a great weekend getaway! Hop a quick flight into either O’Hare International Airport or Chicago Midway International Airport. This is a major hub with most cities offering direct flights at reasonable prices!

Best Times to Visit: Chicago is a year-round destination that offers visitors something different each seasons. However, if you are looking for milder weather it is best to visit in late spring, early summer, and early fall; specifically May, June, September, and October. 

Things to do:

Shop Michigan Avenue. Also known as the Magnificent Mile, this iconic fashion strip is host to the best shopping in the Windy City. It boasts more than 460 retailers, including popular brands, designer boutiques, and major department stores. Make sure to account for a shopping trip in your travel budget because this mile of shopping is enchanting.

Explore Millennium Park. Most famous for the iconic bean, Millennium Park is beautiful oasis in the middle of the city. Take in the amazing summer temperatures or ice skate underneath the bean during the winter months!

Snap a picture hanging over 110 stories. The Willis Tower (previously known as Sears Tower) is hard to miss when looking at the Chicago skyline. This tourist destination is most popular for it’s glass box jutting out over the city! Be sure to bring your camera… if you have the nerves.

Take a stroll down Riverwalk. This is especially beautiful in the summer when temperatures are warm and mild! When you hit the DuSable bridge where Michigan hits E Upper Wacker, be sure to take the steps down to the River Walk. Here, you can stroll along the river by foot, hop on a boat for one of Chicago's many tours, or find a restaurant to stop in for a snack or drink. 

Catch a game at Wrigley Field. Wrigley is a special place no matter who you cheer for. If you're in town for a Cubs home game, be sure to go and drink and Old Style, a true Chicago original. If no games are happening during your trip, there is plenty of entertainment exploring Wrigleyville's restaurants and bar scene. 

Cruise on a Chicago Architecture Boat Tour. Chicago’s architecture is absolutely iconic and seeing it from the river makes it even more special. You'll find out how Chicago grew from a small settlement into one of the world’s largest cities in less than 100 years. Don’t forget your camera!

Feature Hotels: Omni Chicago Hotel, The Drake, Hilton Chicago/Magnificent Mile Suites,

IMG_5351.jpg

Restaurants We Love…

.

Hampton Social - enjoy an amazing brunch menu and snap a picture with the iconic “Rose all day” neon sign!

Maple & Ash - a steakhouse that is very much worth the splurge!

Quartino - if you love Italian and tapas, this is the spot for you! They also have to-go wine, which is obviously important.

Cindy’s - the best rooftop bar in the city with sweeping views of Millennium Park

Giordano’s - no trip to Chicago is complete without some famous deep dish pizza

3 Arts Cafe - located inside the Restoration Hardware offering visitors great all-day menu items