Melbourne: Art Hotels, Beer Hall Drinks, and Jazz

Melbourne's Jazz Festival (c) PiecesofVictoria.com

Melbourne’s Jazz Festival (c) PiecesofVictoria.com

Most people don’t know that Melbourne is well voted, time and time again, as one of the world’s most livable cities. With it’s impressive calendar of high profile events throughout the year, including the Melbourne International Jazz Festival (May 30 – June 8, 2014), Melbourne International Film Festival (July 31 – August 17, 2014) Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival (November 4, 2014), and the Australian Open Tennis Championships (January 19 – February 1, 2015), it’s also the gateway to regional Victoria, with her deserts, alpine ski resorts, mighty rivers, great lakes, wildlife, and unparalleled spectacle known as the Great Ocean Road. At the same time, art and design groups are flourishing, alongside Melbourne’s natural beauty.

mark_schaller

For example, luxury boutique hotel group, Art Series Hotels is bringing their well-known art inspired concept to regional and urban cities around Australia in a compact & affordable way. First stop, Bendigo – the regional hub of art and culture – and the perfect location for the first studio inspired hotel.

Artist Mark Schaller, today regarded as one of Australia’s strongest mid career artists with his expressionistic, vigorous style, will join the fold. A founding member of the renowned Roar studios in the early 1980’s, his paintings and prints that have been acquired by major institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and National Gallery of Victoria. He’s the real deal.

And… we love the idea of the art studio hotel. No, we actually live for it. A hotel is the best possible location for an experience filled with art and design. To not simply to stay in a location, but to experience the vision and emotion of each designated artist while also on vacation. That is at least one meaning in life. If not the best one.

PS. The second Art Series Studio, Larwill Studio will open in Parkville, Melbourne in December.

Tonka

Tonka

If that’s not reason enough to check out Melbourne, you also have their unique dining and cocktail scene. We hear Adam D’Sylva’s Tonka is a throwback to his Indian and Italian heritage, featuring cocktails including the Darjeeling Fizz, Tonka Lassi and Miguel’s Milk Punch, while Cookie combines Thai food with its mantra of being a Beer Hall, Eating House and Disco to create the perfect environment to dine, flirt, sip and reminisce. The walls are adorned with murals and artwork from Melbourne artists, and the popular ‘kiss wall’ eventuated of its own accord and is now covered with scores of lipstick kisses amassed over the years.

Cookie

Cookie

Sounds pretty good to me.

For more information on things to do, places to go, and sights to see in Melbourne, click the link to for Travel Victoria’s website.

We also liked the list of Melbourne’s hot Jazz clubs on the blog, PiecesofVictoria.com. According to their blog, they said to check out, among others:

Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, a Melbourne institution known for late night jams and dubbed by Lonely Planet as “the world’s best jazz club”. Located in a back alley off Little Lonsdale Street, the club has been around for more than 20 years.

25 Bennetts Lane, Melbourne

Uptown Jazz Café, hidden up an unassuming set of stairs on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, there’s live music four nights a week and the stage is graced by a renowned list of local and international acts. There’s also a solid Japanese restaurant downstairs if you want to grab a bite prior.

177 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

 

Looking for Om in 2014? Here are some Yoga Trips for You

Namaste

Namaste

We all know yoga based vacations are gaining popularity with travelers looking for a balance between wellness and exploring a new place and intriguing culture. Our readers love ‘em! Rachel Quinn, Head of Group Sales for Holidays for Humanity, also states that over 35% of their enquiries now include requests for yoga, alongside some other vacation “must haves” like white sandy beaches, water sports, and tropical encounters.

So, we thought we’d share several new ideas of yoga trips to kick off the new year right!

Yoga Vacations for Sailors in Turkey

This sailing journey is an exclusive one-of-a-kind voyage that offers guests a chance to practice yoga among the enchanting blue waters of the Turkish Mediterranean coast. The striking coastline, with its pristine beaches, idyllic villages, picturesque coves and remote ancient civilizations is waiting to be explored. This is an excellent opportunity to experience a taste of traditional Turkey in the unhurried pace of staying aboard a sailing yacht. Sit back, relax and let their experienced captain, crew and chef take you on an unforgettable journey. Rates start at $1399 per person based on seven-nights shared accommodation.

Yoga Vacations for Surfers in Costa Rica

Founded in the spirit of adventure, Rip Jack Inn in Playa Grande, Costa Rica is known for tropical bliss and friendly ambiance. They are just steps away from Playa Grande’s main surf break, and offer daily yoga classes in their beautiful shala. If you love to surf, practice yoga, and love great food, you’ll feel right at home here. Rip Jack Inn is also a member of Pack for a Purpose, and supports local community outreach programs. Expect prices around $170 night/based on double occupancy.

Yoga Vacations for Purists in India

Shreyas is dedicated to promoting the authentic spiritual tradition of yoga in a holistic manner and is recognized as one of the finest yoga retreats in the world. What makes Shreyas unique is that, whilst yoga is taught in traditional ashram style (daily yoga, meditation sessions, chanting classes, a strict vegetarian, no alcohol policy and community service), their guests live in a luxurious environment normally associated with a star rated hotel. They enable their guests to integrate the ‘manifold facets’ and benefits of yoga into their daily lives without the austerity and rigor usually associated with ashrams. Expect prices around $550 night/based on double occupancy.

Yoga Vacations for Beginners in Mexico

With personalized yoga, pranayama and meditation classes the Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita is a great place for beginner wellness travellers. Set on 14 acres, including a picturesque sugar sand beach, the resort is perfectly positioned along Cancun’s famed Riviera Maya. Intimate in design, with only 90 luxury suites, they offer a completely new kind of vacation experience focused on wellness, serenity, and romance, balanced by a commitment to social and environmental responsibility. Expect prices around $750 night/based on double occupancy.

Yoga Vacations for Nature Lovers in Nicaragua

Aqua’s explicit vision statement is to “lead luxury sustainable development in Nicaragua” and as such, they built, and operated their resort in close partnership with the local communities, and in complete concert with nature. Additionally, they are completely committed to sea turtle conservation, and encourage their guests to join along. They provide opportunities to work with trained staff in caring for the turtle eggs, protecting them in the nursery, and for those fortunate enough to be there during hatching, to help release them back to the ocean. Daily yoga takes place on their palm-thatched open air, ocean-side platform. Expect prices around $280 night/ based on double occupancy.

About Holidays for Humanity: www.holidaysforhumanity.com

Holidays for Humanity connects travellers with vacation options that appeal to their self, as well as their soul. By working with partners that promote sustainable and eco-friendly practices they offer a range of travel options including eco resorts and hotels, health and wellness, volunteering abroad, cultural and culinary and expeditions and tours.

Setting Sail & Sightseeing in Burma

Set Sail to Burma

Set Sail to Burma

There is just under 12 months to go before luxury cruise and safari specialists offer something pretty spectacular. Sanctuary Retreats’ new custom built ship, Sanctuary Ananda, sets sail on its maiden cruise voyage in Myanmar. The coolest part? The all-suite ship is being custom built by two renowned Burmese brothers in a Yangon shipyard using traditional materials combined with modern technology to ensure she can navigate Myanmar’s rivers.

A familiar sight in a Burmese village

A familiar sight in a Burmese village

Sanctuary Ananda will offer eight exciting itineraries on 3, 4 and 7-night ‘Discovery Cruises’ between Bagan and Mandalay and 7, 10 and 11-night  ‘Exploration Cruises.’ The longer journeys will allow guests time to explore the Upper and Lower Ayeyarwady Rivers as well as the Chindwin River, incorporating must-see sights and the opportunity to engage with many local tribes and Burmese people. These ‘Exploration’ itineraries are particularly suited to guests who want a more relaxed cruise with a chance to explore off-the-beaten path.

Your bed in the suite

Your bed in the suite

The four-night “Mandalay to Bagan” itinerary begins in the cultural capital of Myanmar, and makes its way to Bagan, the spiritual heart of the country and home to more than 2,000 gilded pagodas. Guests admire the beauty of life along the river with visits to the Sale monasteries, textile workshops in Amarapura; Sagaing; the living centre of the Buddhist faith in Myanmar, and the local markets and traditional shoe factories of Pakokku.

Monks!

Monks!

Bagan, the 11th-century capital of the country is one of Asia’s most extraordinary destinations; more than 4,000 temples, pagodas and stupas (Buddhist memorials) cover Bagan, a true treasure trove of Buddhist art history. Work on the new ship is taking place in Myanmar, employing skilled local craftsmen. In addition to the furniture built by local carpenters, Burmese teak and traditional handmade fabrics will be used throughout and all Sanctuary Ananda’s guides will be local, Burmese experts. Recruitment and extensive training has now begun to build a team that will deliver the high standards behind Sanctuary Retreat’s ‘Luxury Naturally’ philosophy.

A little Burmese scene on the side of the road

A little Burmese scene on the side of the road

There are 21 spacious suites, ranging from 291 sq ft to 721 sq ft, including the exclusive Aloungpayah Suite. Most offer large private balconies with uninterrupted views of the surrounding countryside, towns, villages and riverside life.  Accommodating 42 guests, Sanctuary Ananda will offer a high level of personal service. The Aloungpayah Suite, along with the 4 Luxury Suites, will also have a private butler service.

Prices start at $2.244 per person, based on two people sharing a Deluxe Suite, for a 3 night itinerary including sightseeing, all meals, soft drinks and local beer.

Burmese textiles

Burmese textiles

Sanctuary Retreats’ runs a collection of luxury safari lodges and explorer ships so we trust it’ll be amazing. Bringing the boutique experience to guests with the promise of authenticity, all have the same aim: to allow guests to have a “real” experience and enjoy a more natural kind of luxury in properties that have a strong commitment to conservation and responsible tourism. The Sanctuary portfolio also includes safari camps and lodges in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, as well as expedition cruise ships on the Nile, the Yangzi, in Myanmar and the Galapagos Islands.

www.sanctuaryretreats.com

Just Opened! Como’s Point Yamu in Phuket, Thailand

Point Yamu by COMO

Point Yamu by COMO

One of our luxe favorites, COMO Hotels and Resorts’, has just opened another sweet property. Personalized luxury travel is what COMO is all about: Urban Hotels, Island Resorts, Adventure Retreats and Wellness Resorts all highlight wellness, cuisine, adventure and culture, service and design – while always upholding a sustainable approach towards the people and places where they operate. Founded by Christina Ong, COMO Hotels and Resorts develops and manages handpicked, individually curated properties like The Halkin by COMO in London, two Metropolitan by COMO hotels in London and Bangkok, Parrot Cay by COMO in the Turks and Caicos, Cocoa Island by COMO in the Maldives, and three Uma by COMO experience resorts in Bali and Bhutan.

A rendering of Point Yamu's Italian Restaurant, La Serena

A rendering of Point Yamu’s Italian Restaurant, La Sirena

Enter their 106-room resort, Point Yamu by COMO. The property, on the coast of the island of Phuket, Thailand, has COMO’s classic stunning interiors, this time by famed Italian designer and architect, Paola Navone. New to the hotel world, Ms. Navone designed Point Yamu with deep, bold colors, clean lines, and a myriad of textural elements to combine COMO’s signature style with indigenous designs. Point Yamu is also home to a COMO Shambhala Retreat, a 100-meter infinity swimming pool and infinite views of the turquoise waters of Phang Nga Bay. In addition, private residences with access to all Point Yamu’s facilities are also available to purchase for those who want to keep coming back to your own sexy digs.

The bathroom in a suite

The bathroom in a suite

LOCATION

Point Yamu by COMO is located on Cape Yamu, a peaceful peninsula on the east side of Phuket, Thailand. The resort overlooks the limestone karsts of Phang Nga Bay – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and the Andaman Sea.

CUSINE

Cuisine prepared in a wood-fired oven also plays a star role at Point Yamu. The resort offers everything from relaxed Italian cooking and locally caught seafood at La Sirena to spicy southern Thai cooking at Nahmyaa. Healthy COMO Shambhala Cuisine, designed to maximize energy and wellbeing, can be nibbled at The Central Bar while private dining such as beach picnics and romantic sunset meals can be arranged in-room and at a number of special locations in and near to the resort.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 330-foot swimming pool
  • COMO Shambhala Retreat with eight treatment rooms including one beauty treatment room and yoga studio
  • Pilates and Asian-inspired therapies
  • Italian and Thai restaurants
  • Child-friendly interactive learning area

GETTING THERE

The resort is a quick 25-minute drive from Phuket International Airport. So get thee to serenity.

Rates for a Bay Room begin @ $500/night

 www.comohotels.com/pointyamu

Dominican Dreaming: Step Back in Time in the DR

Casa del XVI

Casa del XVI Patio

Who wouldn’t want to step back in time for a moment to experience 16th century splendor? Even better on an island with crystalline waters and fresh fruit. Now, this can be had at the brand new Casas del XVI, a boutique eight-room luxury hotel opening in Santo Domingo’s emerging Ciudad Colonial in March 2014, with a soft opening slated for December 15, 2013. Nestled in the heart of the New World’s oldest city, Casas del XVI is the first hotel in the Dominican Republic comprised of an exclusive collection of newly renovated colonial houses, maintaining the integrity of the stunning, romantic architecture dating back to the 16th century.

Breakfast on the patio

Breakfast on the patio

With a focus on preserving the original architecture, celebrating the vibrant Dominican culture and drawing upon the area’s international influences, the interior of each house is decorated according to a theme relating to Dominican culture and sixteenth century history. A butler in each home makes guests feel like royalty, tending to their every need from daily a la carte breakfasts prepared in each home’s kitchen to endless excursions in Santo Domingo’s Ciudad Colonial, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

A room at

A room at Casas del XVI

Possibilities are suited to a wide array of interests and include Old City guided strolls, tours of the colonial churches, a flavors of the city tour and tasting series at the area’s finest restaurants, a rum experience at the historic Ron Barcelo distillery, a golf challenge at the Las Lagunas Country Club, and a chocolate, clay and sugar tour. One word: YUM.

Pre-opening rates start at $225/night

www.casasdelxvi.com

The Flavors of Trinidad and Tobago

Creole Bake & Shark

Creole Bake & Shark

Drawing on the powerful blend of cultures including Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, Chinese, African, Creole and Indian, we just discovered that Trinidad and Tobago’s “foodie” scene is one of the best Caribbean destinations for curious gourmands looking to take their taste buds on a culinary world tour. From street food to fine dining, the destination offers visitors the chance to savor a unique and adventurous culinary style that offers tasty options, regardless of dietary needs—vegetarians to meat lovers and those in between.

Trinidad & Tobago Map

Trinidad & Tobago Map

Secret on the Side of the Road

For a unique culinary experience, visitors can to take the unbeaten path that leads to the side of the road.  Street vendors serve some of the most traditional, memorable and flavorful foods on the islands, including doubles, roti, various soups, pholourie and chowDoubles, one of the most popular street side delights, are made up of savory curried chick peas between two barra, or flat fried bread.  Perfect for breakfast, a snack or a late night treat.  When in search of the next meal, street foodies need look no further than a roti vendor.  Similar to an Indian flat bread, roti is filled with finely ground split peas, then wrapped with curried meat, shrimp and/or vegetables.  Trinis love their soups and many can be found enjoying a bowl of cow heel soup, one of Tobago’s most popular soups in addition to pig tail, fish broth and Creole corn soup, served piping hot with corn, coconut milk and dumplings.  Another favorite is pholourie, fried balls of dough that are incredibly versatile as they can be enjoyed sweet, with tamarind sauce or mango chutney, or savory with chandon benni (cilantro).  When in search of a sweet and savory combination, many Trinis reach for chow, sliced mango and pineapple marinated with chandon benni, garlic, salt and pepper.  The most popular spots to taste street treats include St. James, Port of Spain’s nightlife capital, and Queen’s Park Savannah.

Store Bay - Tobago

Store Bay – Tobago

Beach Eats

For the ultimate authentic taste of the islands, Trinidad’s famed Maracas Beach, often referred to as the bake and shark capital of the world, is not to be missed.  Trinidad’s signature dish serves up shark fillets seasoned with a tangy lime marinade, deep fried to perfection, then stuffed in between fried bread and spiced with choice of a seemingly endless number of toppings, including garlic, pepper, cilantro and pineapple.  Another favorite, alloo pie, a potato filling mixed with a variety of meats or vegetables in dough that is then deep fried, is one of the many quick delights you can buy from most of the street food vendors throughout the islands.  On sister island Tobago, Store Bay beach goers enjoy the island’s signature dish, curried crab and dumplings.  Visitors should note that there is no need for knife and fork, just fingers, some patience and napkins to eat the sometimes messy dish.

Flair - Trinidad

Cassava Stuffed Shrimp, a garlic butter cassava blend stuffed into jumbo shrimp presented on mojo slaw and Scotch bonnet-spiked tartar sauce, from Flair in Trinidad (c) CreOle

Fine Dining

With Caribbean food rapidly growing in global popularity, one of the islands’ most exciting movements in local cuisine is the emergence of haute cuisine where traditional Trini dishes are prepared in a trendy gourmet style.  In Trinidad’s burgeoning gourmet restaurant scene, patrons will find a variety of fine dining restaurants from international to local cuisine.  Chaude Creole, in particular, has given street food a haute makeover by serving French, Chinese and Thai influenced dishes in a gourmet tasting style.  Many of these dining destinations can be found on Ariapita Avenue, also known as “The Avenue”,  Woodbrook, St. Ann’s, St. Clair and around the Queen’s Park Savannah.  Other fine dining favorites include: FlairVeni Mange, and Aspara in Trinidad and Seahorse Inn and Café Coco in Tobago.

For more information on Trinidad & Tobago:

www.goTrinidadandTobago.com

Former Heads of State, CIA, & NASA Come to Crystal Cruises in 2013

General Michael Hayden

General Michael Hayden

Take sail, take flight!

Imagine this… The two-term former president of Switzerland, NASA’s lead flight controller for Apollo missions, and a general who was once the highest ranking intelligence officer in the United States Armed Forces. Now, imagine yourself hanging out with them while on a sophisticated exciting cruise. Yes, dreams do come true. These powerful men of sleuth and science will be bringing their considerable clout aboard luxury cruise outfit, Crystal Cruises, this year.  The guest speakers are part of a distinguished lineup of internationally influential, preeminent leaders set to present complimentary lectures and interactive Q & A sessions on several of the line’s ultra-luxurious voyages, including:

  • General Michael Hayden – The retired Director of both the CIA and NSA, and four-star U.S. Air Force General, brings a wealth of knowledge and intelligence from his nearly four decades of military duty and national service (September 19, Venice to Monte Carlo, President’s Cruise with Crystal President Gregg Michel);
  • Kaspar Villiger – Formerly the president of Switzerland, as well as the chairman of UBS Bank, Villiger is one of the world’s leading authorities on business, government and finance, whose influence and leadership has affected global economies (September 2, London to Barcelona);
  • Sy Liebergot – The lead controller at NASA’s Mission Control served during the legendary Apollo program (November 23, Miami to Rio de Janeiro);
  • Norm Mineta – The ex-U.S. Secretary of Transportation and congressman is also the recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Medal for his civil rights efforts (September 11, Barcelona to Venice); and
  • Nando Parrado – The ultimate survivor, Uruguayan rugby player-turned-motivational speaker was aboard the ill-fated flight over the Andes that later became the subject of the film Alive (July 6, Istanbul to Rome).

The speakers join an already-extensive roster of leading experts set to enlighten guests sailing Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity in 2013, including a U.K.-based celebrity florist, award-winning photographers, show business veterans and a bevy of historians and professors.  Crystal often brings expert minds together on their “Ocean Views”- themed cruises, with speakers debating current issues with each other in a live panel that includes audience participation so we think this is pretty darn cool.

“Our guests are worldly, well-educated travelers who seek not only new adventures while on vacation, but also new information and perspectives on topics that affect the world we explore,” says Bret Bullock, vice president of entertainment.  “With such fascinating experiences and knowledge to share, these presenters are certain to spark some stimulating discussions on board.”

The Crystal Symphony

The Crystal Symphony

Bret, we’re so on board with you.

Crystal’s award-winning, luxe offerings always include a diverse selection of thought-provoking, scholarly, and sophisticated enrichment activities that provide extensive on-board choices for cultured world travelers so take to the seas and make your ocean-exploring adventure one for the mind and seas.

www.crystalcruises.com