5 Great Girlfriend Getaways

Dubai’s Shopping Mall

Our friends at Friendly Planet Travel, a leading full-service group tour operator that specializes in high-quality tours to international destinations at affordable rates, has just told us about a five new packaged deals that revolve around exploring, sunbathing, shopping and dining… perfect for a relaxing trip with the girls.

Dazzling Dubai & Bangkok: this 9-day tour starts at $2,299 and takes the ladies to the epicenter of modern luxury in Asia. From world-class shopping and dining, to fascinating culture, it may be hard to convince the girls to come home!

Some leather bags in Florence

Leather bags in Florence

Incredible Italy: this 10-day tour from $3,099 takes travelers through Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome and more for a true taste of the flavors of Italy. Travelers will enjoy the charismatic Italian countryside, the celebrated wineries and see Italy’s most famous art – not to mention enjoy world-class shopping! If you love leather, the shops in Florence give you plenty of choices when it comes to handmade items such as wallets, belts, gloves, jackets, briefcases, and shoes.  Most of the leather shops are in Santa Croce and San Lorenzo, but Florence is also famous for two outdoor markets between Piazza San Lorenzo and Via Nazionale along the Via Dell’Ariento.  The other market is known as the Mercato Nuovo which was built in the 16th century and is located under a logia a few steps from the Ponte Vecchio.

The Springs Resort - Costa Rica

The Springs Resort – Costa Rica

Captivating Costa Rica: this 7-day tour starting at only $1,179 is the perfect getaway for girlfriends looking to soak up the sun! The tour takes travelers to explore the tropical rainforests and jungles, cloud forest, volcanoes, mountains and more that define Costa Rica.

Kenya Safari Express: this 8-day tour from $2,299 takes girlfriendson the ultimate African Safari. Savvy travelers and novices alike can check Kenya off of their list of dream vacations. With abundant wildlife and lavishly gorgeous, incredibly photogenic landscape, travelers will enjoy the teeming cities and exotic wildlife that Kenya is known for.

Taste of Ireland: this 7-day tour from $1,799 takes travelers through Dublin, Kerry, Limerick and Kilkenny. The ladies can enjoy the quaint Irish towns, explore the rolling green hills and end the day enjoying a pint of Guinness and Irish music.

All Friendly Planet Travel tours include round-trip airfare, deluxe hotel accommodations, many meals, comprehensive sightseeing and more so check them out and tell ‘em we sent ya!

www.friendlyplanet.com

Your Yoga Yacht Away from Home

The Voyager. Your Yacht Away from Home.

The Voyager. Your Yacht Away from Home.

How ’bout this?? Group IST is offering a special eight-day Yoga Retreat In The Riviera aboard the newly-built 68-meter Variety Cruises Voyager Mega Yacht. Practice Prana Vinyasa yoga twice daily while unraveling the wonders of the French of Italian Rivieras and the splendorous Mediterranean islands of Elba and Corsica (remind me to tell you about the time I kissed a beautiful Italian on the rocks of Bonifacio). Guided by instructor Konstantina Maridaki, who trained under world-renowned guru Shiva Rea, the yoga program is based on the five Pancha Vayus, which have been the core of Vedic, Tantric and Ayurvedic yoga practices for over 5.000 years. The retreat will be devoted to traditional practices, innovative explorations, inward reflection, dynamic morning vinyasa sadhana, while integrating specific and creative tools for a transformative yoga practice. I could really use some of that right now (I call it “Summeritis”).

Your Stateroom... away from the states

Your Stateroom… away from the states

The high oxygen levels and iodized air of the Mediterranean optimize the effect of the traveler’s yoga practice. I swear, it’s true (at least… that’s what they tell us). Daily sessions of 60-minute Solar Gathering classes in the morning and a 60-minute Lunar Salutation classes at sunset are augmented by meditation sessions and three 30-minute lectures (The Miracle of Prana Breathing on Life, Why Yoga?: How Yoga Can Help your Body Posture and Activate Your Chakras and Achieving a Healthy Life Style Through Yoga and Diet) throughout the cruise.

Travelers will embark on the yacht in Nice and sail to St Tropez, Corsica, Ile Rousse, Bonifacio, Elba, Portovenere, Cinqueterre, Portofino and Monte Carlobeforedisembarking in Nice on the eighth day.

Fares for the Yoga Retreat In The Riviera range from $1690 – $6000 per person, depending on suite size and number of occupants. The cruise departs on Saturdays, August 11 and August 18, 2012.

http://www.groupist.com/yogaretreat.

Girls Getaways to Italy’s Amalfi Coast!

Positano

Girls Getaways… get on it!

ItalyVacations.com has just created a dream trip for single ladies looking for an exclusive week long “Girls Getaway” combining great food, wine and scenery with lots of free time to shop, dine and explore two beautiful locations in Italy, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast.

The journey will commence with a three night stay at one of the oldest hotels in Italy, NH Porta Rossa, a four-star hotel located in the historical center of Florence. The first full day will be spent visiting three characteristic villages of the Cinque Terre, a unique area suspended on steep cliffs overlooking the sea and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The next day guests will embark on a full day tour of Chianti, an area known to have one of the best wines in the world and indulge in a fabulous wine tasting at a local farmhouse, followed by a traditional Tuscan lunch.

NH Porta Rossa

En route to Sorrento, guests will visit the city center of Naples to taste the original Pizza Margherita and enjoy a short stop in the picturesque town of Positano. In the evening, guests will arrive at Grand Hotel La Favorita, a four-star hotel situated on the corner of Sorrento’ s most famous alley ways where guests will embrace spectacular views of the gulf of Naples and the grand volcano Vesuvius. The next two days, guests can look forward to sublime shopping opportunities on full day excursions to the island of Capri and the Amalfi Coast. The last night in Sorrento guests will learn how to prepare a typical Italian Mediterranean dinner from a great local chef at Esperidi.

The view from Sorrento's Grand Hotel La Favorita

This hosted trip is $3,499 per person, double and is scheduled to depart the U.S. on Thursday, April 19, 2012 and return on Friday, April 27, 2012. The prices include all costs aside from gratuity for the guides: Round-trip airfare from New York (JFK) to Florence – return from Naples to New York on group flights; fuel surcharges and air taxes; arrival and departure airport transfers; three nights in a four-star hotel in Florence; four nights in a four-star hotel in Sorrento; seven breakfasts; first class train tickets from Florence to Naples; pizza lunch in Naples; cooking class with dinner in Sorrento; full day visit of Cinque Terre; full day visit of Chianti and vineyards; one day visit of the Amalfi Coast cities, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello; visit to Capri, with jetfoil to/from Sorrento; all hotel VAT taxes.

And let me just say… I did a very similar girls getaway to Italy when I was in my 20s and it was as amazing as I thought it would be!

Take Me to Paris

The Stunning Mandarin Oriental, Paris

What  do you think is one of the most prestigious addresses in Paris? Would it surprise you to learn that it’s one of our favorite hotels, The Mandarin Oriental, Paris?

With the Garnier Opera, the Louvre and the Tuileries Gardens all close by, this week, we wanted to spotlight this beautiful hotel for it’s original and magnificent Art Deco façade because it’s recently undergone an artful transformation complemented by super chic, contemporary interiors.

Making this one of the most glamorous, and truly Parisian experiences in the city,  the hotel’s 138 luxe rooms are some of the largest in Paris, providing all you design-savvy Jauntophiles with elegance, space and light. The design combines Parisian sophistication, with art deco details and, of course, a few oriental touches. Working with the foremost international names in architecture and design, architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte supervised renovation of the building, facade and patio, Sybille de Margerie imagined the interior design and decoration of the rooms, spa and public spaces, and Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku lent their talent to the bar and restaurants. The hotel’s vast indoor garden of oriental inspiration (check this masterpiece of indoor/outdoor beauty out!) was created by Wilmotte & Associés, in association with the landscape artists François Neveux and Bernard Rouyer.

Le Renovation!

But they didn’t stop there. Mandarin Oriental, Paris ‘designed to satisfy every gourmet desire’, is also led by Executive Chef and Culinary Director Thierry Marx. Two restaurants, a “live cooking” counter (j’adore), a bar, Cake Shop and Garden offer a variety of different settings and moods where guests can savor a unique experience each time they visit (tres cool).

Sur Mesure par Thierry Marx

This gourmet restaurant was intended as an intimate cocoon for diners.  Its design forms the perfect backdrop for Chef Thierry Marx’s menu that pays particular attention to shapes and colors, textures and temperatures, and is an invitation to experience new sensations. What we like?  Sur Mesure par Thierry Marx offers a choice of menus comprised of nine or 13 dishes to choose from, including classics from the Chef’s repertoire, such as Tomato Iceburg, Soya Risotto, Calf’s Sweetbread Spaghetti and No-Bake Warm Chocolate Cake.

Mandarin Oriental, Paris - Cake Shop

Camélia’s light-filled space and continuation of the landscaped inner garden reflects Thierry Marx’s wish for a menu of simple, instinctive dishes focused on individual ingredients used in French cuisine that are also influenced by Japanese culinary traditions.  For a unique dining experience, guests can choose to sit at the “live cooking” counter in the center of the restaurant which seats seven, or La Table du Jardin which seats six to eight guests. We sure love the “live cooking” experience. Mandarin Oriental, Paris also pays tribute to its location and Saint Honoré – the patron saint of bakers and pastry-makers – with a delicious collection of classic French pâtisseries with a modern twist in their Cake Shop.  These delicacies can be enjoyed at teatime in the Camélia restaurant or the Gallery area of the Lobby, or beautifully wrapped and taken home.

http://www.mandarinoriental.com/paris/dining/

But we can’t forget… Le Spa!

Mandarin Oriental, Paris Spa

The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Paris

Entirely devoted to well-being and relaxation, the Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Paris offers a holistic experience and sanctuary of soothing, revitalizing experiences that extends over two floors and includes seven Spa Suites of which three are double suites for couples. Covering 1,281 square feet on the first floor, a fully-equipped fitness centre affords a plunging view of the pool.  For outdoor sport, guests can enjoy a morning run in the Tuileries Gardens, one of Paris’ most beautiful parks and just minutes from the hotel.  The Group’s Signature Therapies and product line were specially developed with anti-aging Orchidée Impériale treatments and exceptional facial therapies by Guerlain (one of our personal favorites since the days we used to go through bottles and bottles of Shalimar).

http://www.mandarinoriental.com/paris/spa

Last Minute Fall Getaways

Rajasthan, India

Looking for some last minute fall getaways? Who isn’t? If you’re anything like me, you’re a workaholic often being told by your colleagues to just ‘get some rest already!’ So, as it’s just around the corner, fall is the ideal time to discover the world, with many destinations around the globe featuring cooler temperatures, colorful panoramas, abundant wildlife and a kaleidoscope of festivals. India, already a vibrant country, explodes in a riot of colors in the fall, when many festivals take place, including Diwali and Pushkar Fair.

Budapest by Night

Budapest, Vienna and Prague are also beautiful during the Fall, along with Berlin, China, and Tanzania.  So, when Abercrombie & Kent sent us a list of their special fall journeys (with added discounts and deals), we wanted to spread the word so that you, too, could experience your dream destination at its best. Solo travellers take note: you can also save up to 96% on the single supplement on: Treasures of Northern India from Oct 7 and Nov 11 and Essence of India from Oct 13 and Nov 17. Remember, Abercrombie & Kent is high-end so you won’t be skimping. This is 5 star all the way with guides that are some of the best in the world. We’re talking life changing travels, baby, and you could use a shift in your continuum, right?

Right.

Though I tend to be more of a fly by the seat of my pants kinda traveller, as I get older and wiser I find that sometimes it’s just easier to have someone in the know do all the legwork for you. At Abercrombie & Kent, the nice thing is that you can also search for tour options like the following:

August through November departures are filling fast so click the link below to see last-minute destinations for fall travel, and reserve a fall getaway now!

Abercrombie & Kent Last Minute Fall Getaways

ELLE Spa – Eden Roc

Eden Roc Renaissance Miami

When I was invited to cover the grand opening of Elle Magazine’s first foray into the spa business, you can probably guess no one had to twist my rubber arm. The ELLE Spa, launched in Miami’s famed Eden Roc hotel, promised to be both luxurious and relaxing. Although I’d never set foot in the Eden Roc, I did know the name. Who doesn’t? For more than 50 years, the Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach has graced Miami Beach’s Golden Mile at 45th Street and Collins Avenue.  Its 1950s and 60s heyday established it not only as a legendary landmark, but as South Florida’s premier resort property sought by many of the nation’s top entertainers and celebrities.

Eden Roc Pool

Today, the Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach continues its reign as the Grande Dame of Miami Beach, successfully luring the happening crowd away from South Beach, according to New York Magazine.  As with most great monuments, it is surrounded by a tremendous amount of history, and in some cases, controversy.

Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach was originally designed by famed architect Morris Lapidus, who also designed the Fontainebleau next door as well as the Americana Hotel, now the Sheraton Bal Harbour.  Lapidus was a virtual newcomer to hotel design, specializing in the design of retail storefronts.  His curvy, innovative hotel designs were widely criticized and, though considered daring at the time, later earned the 96 year-old Lapidus national acclaim in which he always insisted his best revenge on his critics was outliving them.  That’s when Harry Mufson came along and bought the Warner Estate (which belonged to one of the Warner Brothers) with a promise to build an even grander property:  Eden Roc. Lapidus was commissioned by Mufson to design the Eden Roc and said,  “I don’t want any of that French stuff you used at the Fontainebleau.  That’s for kids.” Gotta love a man who can crack a funny joke about the French…

As research for this project, Lapidus traveled to the Eden Roc in France; a favorite vacation spot for The Kennedy’s.  While touring Europe, he purchased statues, marble, and Venetian glassware for use in designing the hotel that would later be deemed a vision of the Italian Renaissance. Completed in 1956, Eden Roc was Lapidus’ most lavish design, attracting a stream of celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Ann Margret.  It became the favorite on Miami Beach, successfully claiming the limelight from the Fontainebleau next door.

Eden Roc Lobby Bar

Located just off the pool deck was Harry’s American Bar.  Named after the property’s owner at the time, Harry Mufson, this became the hottest nightclub in town where elites such as Katharine Hepburn, Joe DiMaggio, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, and Ernest Hemingway frequently danced the night away.  Painter Al Hirshfeld captured the essence of these entertainers at the popular nightclub in a famous celebrity caricature mural on the walls of the establishment.

Eden Roc Guest Room

Today, with the completion of its lavish restoration, Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach is shining brilliantly once again with it’s spacious 631 guest rooms, three 2,500 sq. ft. penthouse suites, 18 oceanfront one-bedroom suites, and 15 bi-level bungalow suites with floating staircases. All rooms feature flat-screen HDTV’s, iPod stations & Wi-Fi high speed internet. Their lobby bar is also one straight from the movies with sparkling glass, marble, and Brazilian rosewood columns. Beware of their delicious cocktails (which I happily slurped down with a side of shishito peppers) alongside Marysol from the Real Housewives of Miami, writers from Spa Magazine, and other fun, very Miami-based celebs. And the food at  1500 Degrees, their signature high-end dining establishment…delicious.

Under the direction of Exec Chef Paula DaSilva, 1st runner-up in Season 5 of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, hand-crafted artesian dishes demonstrate ‘fresh flavor combinations that accentuate the unparalleled flavor of fresh farm ingredients’. Sorry, couldn’t have said it better myself. The menu changes daily according to season and features local food products from farmers she actually knows. Small plate offerings ($6-$9) range from roasted beets with seared goat cheese and jumbo lump crab cakes with cilantro slaw and Old Bay aioli, to charred baby Brussels sprouts with mustard sauce and teriyaki beef skewers. Main plates ($25-$42) include: Florida red snapper with mushroom risotto, wilted arugula and aged saba vinegar; locally-raised half-chicken, cooked on the rotisserie, served with Carolina rice, black bean puree and mustard greens; hickory rubbed Palmetto Creek Farms pork loin chop with creamy polenta and roasted lobster with celery root puree, hearts of palm and Florida fruit salsa.

1500 Degrees

The ELLE Spa, which I was first and foremost there to enjoy, was designed by the owners Paola Chapur, Paloma Ardid, and Tim Williams, the spa director. This joint venture — the first for ELLE and an unprecedented partnership between a media property and a luxury resort — offered a once‐in‐a‐lifetime experience combining the unparalleled history and service of the Eden Roc Renaissance with the style of ELLE and the swankiness of Miami Beach. With floor‐to‐ceiling windows overlooking the hotel’s lushgardens and ocean, four infinity pools and sweeping seascape, the space boasts design and décor inspired by the Mediterranean coastline. High‐coved ceilings, whitewashed walls, natural stone, water and wooden elements create a calm, chic environment for the ultimate spa escape. My favorite part? Free yogurt covered pretzels, copies of Elle Magazine, and a faux fireplace to keep things warm and toasty.

Exit Through The ELLE Spa Gift Shop!

The ELLE Spa offers a range of treatments that come to life through elite, editorially‐inspired treatments such as ‘Doctors’ Orders’ and ‘Forever 25’ –replete with inspiring oceanfront views, rooftop dining, chocolates, champagne, a shared whirlpool tub, rain shower, and cozy beds. Depending on their schedule, guests can spend less than an hour or a whole day experiencing wet spa areas with hot whirlpools, cold plunges, steam sauna and hydro‐experience showers before being escorted to the decadent relaxation lounge.

Jaime King Gets a Pedi

ELLE Spa visitors can also take advantage of an expansive rooftop deck with VIP cabanas, light dining and beverage service. A retail boutique offers the ultimate selection of luxury products, handpicked by ELLE editors. This spa shop is one of the best I’ve seen. So much so, I bought a bracelet and a necklace. The prices, for the quality of the goods, are also completely reasonable.

A range of exclusive products and treatments, curated by skin and beauty experts including Tammy Fender, Yael Alkalay of Red Flower, and Essie feature exclusives from Red Flower, including massage and body treatments and a customizable scrub bar, all which incorporate the signature ELLE Spa scent. In addition, Essie has developed eye-catching custom nail colors—the neon-pink “Eden” and can’t-miss-it-coral “Roc” —to be sold only at the ELLE Spa.

All in all, the trip was amazing. Live music at the beachfront cabana restaurant, rooms with ocean views, high quality in-room flatscreen TVs and the ELLE Spa, made for the perfect balance between relaxing after an evening of Miami’s nightlife and revitalizing myself from a day at the beach under the sexy Miami sun.

Couples Therapy in Paradise

Villa Milagro at Sunset

We’re excited to announce that Villa Milagro, a secluded retreat on the Pacific coast of Mexico, has expanded into a full-scale wellness resort and spa. In addition, Berta Davis, PhD, couple and sex therapist and owner of Villa Milagro, in collaboration with the managing director, Peter Petersen, will offer workshops in meditation, couples therapy, qigong, dance, yoga, surf and other forms of holistic healing. And really… who better to offer such things than a sex therapist??

Sitting solo on a secluded beachfront cove, Villa Milagro is a fully enclosed paradise that is as serene as it is secure. The Villa consists of three spacious thatched-roof buildings open to the Pacific Ocean in the sexy little fishing town of Zihuatanejo. Scenic vistas include the ever-changing sea, acres of untouched tropical landscapes and the Sierra Madre del Sur Mountains. Gentle waves are the ultimate backdrop for meditation or the perfect night’s sleep. Gated and enclosed with twenty-four hour security, Villa Milagro is also perfect venue for romantic hideaways, family vacations, destination weddings, and group workshops.

A view from the pool at Villa Milagro

Throughout the year, they’ll offer spiritual, emotional, and educational retreats, including couples and sexuality workshops under the guidance of Dr. Davis, who has been a leader in the transformation process for over 30 years. Structured in collaboration with Peter Petersen and his “moving meditation” practice, Villa Milagro will approach healing with a new and exciting approach. In addition, they’ll also be hosting other healing professionals who combine mind, body, and spirit to help facilitate our mission for holistic healing and education.  Rates are below, so what are you waiting for? Your love life to improve on it’s own. I don’t think so. Perhaps it’s time someone admits that it’s time for a spontaneous retreat, no?

Si.

www.mexicovillamilagro.com

Master Suite per night $450 $275
Sunrise Suite per night $250 $200
Sunset Suite per night $250 $200
Zen Room per night* $200 $175
Garden Room per night* $175 $150
Entire Villa per week $7,500 $5,000