Ireland: The Wild Atlantic Way with Vagabond Adventure Tours

Vagabond Tours

Vagabond Tours

The Wild Atlantic Way… we’d never heard about this rugged beautiful place before, but, apparently, it’s the longest defined coastal touring route in the world, embracing Ireland’s wild West Coast landscape, ancient monuments, and historical sites. This stunning route twists and turns for 1,600 miles along an undulating coastline from the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal to Kinsale in County Cork. The Wild Atlantic Way is not just a driving route, it’s an invitation to adventure.

With countless ways to explore it by sea kayaking, hiking, mountain biking and even surfing, we wanted to introduce our readers to Vagabond Adventure Tours of Ireland makes it all accessible, thanks to their smartly planned multi-sport scheduled trips that take adventurous travelers to these authentic, off-the-beaten path areas along the route. In operation since 2002, Vagabond was founded by Rob & Amy Rankin after traveling extensively through Southern Africa. Impressed by the classic African travel modes of safari and overland tours, they decided to bring the concept to Ireland. They established Driftwood Irish Journeys of Discovery in 2011 as a division of Vagabond to offer trips for more leisurely travelers. We can dig that since we love leisure.

Surfing in Ireland with Vagabond Tours (because... why not?)

Surfing in Ireland with Vagabond Tours (because… why not?)

Utilizing custom-designed Land Rovers that take no more than 13 passengers, Vagabond trips explore an area in depth with daily adventures. One day, it might be sea kayaking in sheltered waters off the coast of Cork, while another day its horseback riding along a beach in Kerry. Nightly stays are in coastal villages and towns, in locally-owned guesthouses and small hotels.

One of Vagabond’s classic Wild Atlantic Way journeys is their World Tour of Ireland. Focused on the southwest and counties Kerry and Cork, this seven-day trip includes sea kayaking off the Beara Peninsula, horseback riding on the Dingle Peninsula, and mountain biking in Killarney National Park.

The price is $1,340, based on double occupancy, including accommodations and breakfasts.

The Wild Atlantic Way may be Ireland’s best-kept secret and with the dollar at its strongest in 11 years, this is quite possibly the perfect year to discover it.

vagabondtoursofireland.com

5 Top Design Hotels To Check In… and Out

11 Mirrors - Kiev, Ukraine (c) Design Hotels

11 Mirrors – Kiev, Ukraine (c) Design Hotels

There’s more than one thing that we love about hotel stays when we travel (spa, spa, spa, room service, room service, room service), but at the top of that list of “Pros” is the opportunity for us to discover, examine, and fully experience the many facets of art and design that go into creating a property. The idea that we can be transported to another world, inside a new world, thrills us. Design Hotels™ has been a part of our own travel story for years. Created by a global community for passionate travelers who love design, architecture, and culture, today, through it’s collaborators and community, these innovators, designers, and dreamers are behind some of the most original hospitality experiences around the globe.

So, take a journey through five inspirational properties, handpicked by Design Hotels™’s very own travel experts.

Incheon, Korea - nest hotel

Incheon, Korea – nest hotel

nest hotel, Incheon, South Korea recommended by Carsten Lima, Area Director, APAC, Design Hotels™

Located on the island of Yeongjongdo, the setting of nest hotel is absolutely spectacular with views overlooking the Yellow Sea and neighboring islands. Perfection is sitting on one’s balcony and being surrounded by pine trees and reed fields, a nesting ground for the local bird population and the inspiration for the hotel’s name. The reeds sway with the sea breeze and when the sun catches the landscape, it produces the most exquisite kaleidoscope of colors. The sense of tranquility is continued through the simple and sleek interiors of the 360 rooms, all of which feature diagonally placed windows designed to optimize the amount of sunlight streaming through.

Hotel Hotel - Canberra, Australia

Hotel Hotel – Canberra, Australia

Hotel Hotel, Canberra, Australia recommended by Brandon Chan, Director of Sales & Marketing, APAC, Design Hotels™

Housed in a Japanese-inspired building, at first glance Hotel Hotel would seem to be entirely removed from its location. However, the functional and minimalist interiors of the 68 guestrooms have been created using humble, locally-sourced materials such as natural clay, recycled oak and aged cork. Hotel Hotel’s program of thoughtful sustainability is evident at almost every level: from the off-form concrete structure, to the repurposed furnishings and central staircase fashioned from salvaged timber. Taken as a whole, this breathing cornerstone of the Australian capital is a “vertical village” that contains the Palace Electric cinema, cafés and bars. The hotel’s public lounge is a series of nested spaces formed by rough-formed concrete, home to two large fireplaces and a library thoughtfully stocked with independent magazines and vintage books.

Sir Albert Hotel - Amsterdam, Holland

Sir Albert Hotel – Amsterdam, Holland

Sir Albert Hotel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands recommended by Henning Schaub, Sales Manager, Central & Eastern Europe, Design Hotels™

The building was once a diamond factory but there’s no doubt that Sir Albert Hotel is shining at its brightest right now. Amsterdam’s cool and creative crowd is flocking to the hotel’s IZAKAYA Asian Kitchen & Bar, created by Yossi Eliyahoo, and the restaurant’s adjoining private terrace with sweeping city views is the perfect spot for sundowners. For those staying in one of the 90 stylish guestrooms once the party winds down, Sir Albert’s unique brand of ‘bedside burger’ room service comes courtesy of De Pijp foodie hotspot The Butcher. Wait… BEDSIDE BURGER ROOM SERVICE? I think I’m in love.

Vertigo Hotel Spa - Dijon, France

Vertigo Hotel Spa – Dijon, France

Vertigo Hotel, Dijon, France recommended by Samantha Schellhase, Head of Portfolio Development, EMEA, Design Hotels™

Set in the historic heart of Dijon, the capital of Burgundy and one of the four official French cities of gastronomy, Vertigo Hotel is intrinsically linked with world-class food and wine. This may be reason alone to visit for us and the hotel has fully embraced this culinary heritage, starting with the chic retro bar which serves a wide selection of vintage burgundy wines, alongside classic French cocktails. Quite possibly my favorite. For the best and most unique sampling of the region, the mini bars in each of the 42 rooms are sourced strictly with products from Burgundy. Bedside wine tastings come in the form of single-serving ‘test tubes’, a personal favorite and a great way to sample the region.

The Gate Hotel - Tokyo, Japan

The Gate Hotel – Tokyo, Japan

The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon, Tokyo, Japan recommended by Aik Wee Ong, Director of Account and Revenue Management, APAC, Design Hotels™

The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon and its 136 rooms is nestled in the culturally-rich neighborhood of Asakusa, steps from the main temple gate of Kaminarimon and surrounded by independent shops and restaurants oozing with the charm of old Japan. Far from being stuck in the past, the district is constantly evolving by embracing innovative art and design, and The Gate Hotel with its clean, contemporary vibe is playing a considerable role in this evolution. The sweeping panoramic views from the hotel’s lobby and restaurant offer guests a birdseye view of the shifting and contrasting landscape of one of Tokyo’s most exciting destinations.

Mexico: Swanky Deals to Spa For at Mexico Velas Resorts

Hotel Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo. Mexico

The Sultry Spa at Hotel Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo. Mexico

This just in! Mexico’s Velas Resorts are celebrating summer by showcasing a selection of special spa treatments for $99 each at their world-class destination spas, a savings up to 50%. Guests are invited to indulge in popular treatments ranging from a rejuvenating Radiance of Pearls Facial to an innovative Velas Fish Therapy Pedicure. The spa promotions are available from June through October at the four resorts, which include: Casa Velas, Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit and Velas Vallarta.

At Casa Velas, a highlight of the spa treatments offered is the Dead Sea Mud Wrap, which utilizes mud from the richest waters in the world, providing an ideal concentration of essential salts and minerals. A unique therapy at Grand Velas Riviera Maya is its Velas Fish Therapy, which incorporates the famous Gara Rufa fish, small fish from Asia that produce an enzyme in their mouths that eat dead skin cells and help repair minor skin lesions. The treatment is complete with a relaxing pedicure to polish the nails.

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Spatasticness

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Spatasticness

The Spa at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit will be showcasing three 25-minute spa specials: Back Massage, Tired Legs Massage, and a Face and Head Acupressure Treatment. At Velas Vallarta, guests are invited to enjoy its Seaweed Salt Scrub and Foot Massage, which uses seaweed salt to eliminate dead cells and improve circulation with a relaxing foot massage.

We’re already planning our trip now as The Spas at Velas Resorts have won numerous industry awards, including Most Excellent Spa Hotel by Condé Nast Johansens, Virtuoso’s Best Spa in the World, Trip Advisor Traveler’s Choice Award for Best Spa Hotel, a SpaFinder Readers’ Choice, and Travel + Leisure’s Best Spas, to name just a few.

Treatment options vary by location and month, but have a look and, who knows? Maybe you can get your feet properly cleaned and pampered by little fish too!

www.velasresorts.com

Alaska Fishing Lodges: The Lodge at Steamboat Bay

Steamboat Bay

Steamboat Bay

When I was a kid, my father used to take me fishing for rainbow trout. It’s one of my favorite memories to date. The casting of the line, the waiting for a bite, the cleaning of the fish, perhaps my least favorite part, but memorable and at one with nature, nonetheless.

I’ve never been to Alaska, but I do know this. If I go, you bet I’ll be fishing. Steamboat Bay Fishing Club came across our radar when we heard they were expanding their accommodation offerings with the addition of The Residence at Steamboat Bay, available to book for the 2015 summer season. Completed February 2015, the new eight-bedroom manor will join The Lodge at Steamboat Bay, inviting an additional eight guests (increasing the total guest count to 24) to indulge in luxury amenities at the closest lodge to the best fishing in southeast Alaska. The 2015 season (mid-June to mid-August) also brings to the Club a new fishing fleet of custom-built 27’ heated cabin cruisers each equipped with a livewell and dual outboard engines. The new fleet provides guests with an upgraded boating experience, including more deck space, an onboard head, and satellite radio. Sounds like a facing party, doesn’t it? Exclusively located on Noyes Island near Ketchikan, just a 90-minute flight from Seattle, The Residence at Steamboat Bay is adjacent the original Lodge.

A Room at the Residence

A Room at the Residence

Like the Lodge, the Residence features iconic Steamboat Bay styling including Native American artwork and artisan hand-crafted construction using island timbers, local stones and antique materials reclaimed from the island’s original seafood cannery. The new Residence also has something particularly cool: a transparent floor showcasing views of the salmon stream that runs beneath the house! Residential-style oceanfront and forest view accommodations with en-suite bathrooms, a comfortable Great Room featuring a large wood burning fireplace (because you can’t have a lodge without a fireplace), and its own hot tub on the Residence’s spacious deck overlooking the bay are other super fine lodge lovin’ features.

Getting toasty by the fire

Getting toasty by the fire

Guests at The Residence get complete access to the services and amenities at the nearby Lodge, including a made-to-order cocktail reception at the hosted open bar, fine made-to-order Alaskan cuisine, on-site therapeutic massage, bay kayaks, a sauna styled after a traditional Slavic banya, and more. Not bad for a fishing club that hosts novice and experienced anglers alike to enjoy the region’s best-guided salt-water Alaskan sport fishing, while exhilarating in spectacular coastlines and wildlife. This premier location is just minutes from the best fishing spots for trophy-sized wild Alaska King Salmon (Chinook), Silver Salmon (Coho), Halibut, Lingcod, Yelloweye Rockfish and more than 20 other abundant species. To ensure an exclusive experience for guests, Steamboat Bay Fishing Club will reserve booking The Residence for travelers that bring up to eight guests in addition to accommodating sixteen at The Lodge.

I’m hungry now. You too?

www.SteamboatBay.com

Off the Beaten Path: Brunch in Chicago

Originally posted on Taste Savant:

Brunch in Chicago is not simply a pastime. It is an art. Each Saturday and Sunday Chicagoans flock to the smart restaurants that offer the perfect cure: time to gossip about the week’s adventures, pure comfort food, and the hair of the dog. We like to have our perfect cure without the hour-long waits and unfortunately packed tables and head to these hidden gems instead:

Broadway Cellars

5900 N Broadway St

broadway cellars brunch

A little out of the way from the bustling streets of Lincoln Park and River North, this Edgewater joint is well worth the walk from the Thorndale station. Nestled in the middle of a neighborhood, there is no better place to sit and people-watch than on their tree-lined patio. Not only is the atmosphere the perfect mix of upscale and family-friendly, their portions are also generous and the menu is simply mouth-watering. With time-tested classics like Steak’n’Eggs next to innovative dishes such as Honey-Brined…

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Aruba, Adults Only

Bucuti's Romantic Beachside Huts

Bucuti’s Romantic Beachside Huts

Normally, we don’t write about Adult’s Only properties because it always makes us think of nudist colonies, but, sometimes, when we go on vacation, we do want some peace and quiet. Enter: Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts, one of Aruba’s premier boutique resort for couples. The award winning, owner managed resort caters to adults only and has earned a number of awards and honors. Most recently, Bucuti was named number one in the top 25 hotels in the Caribbean by TripAdvisor and is the only resort in Aruba to be honored in this category. Additionally, Bucuti was named number two in the top 25 hotels for romance in the Caribbean, number four in the top 25 hotels for service in the Caribbean and was honored among the top hotels for romance in the world. Bucuti has also appeared on Condé Nast Traveler’s prestigious Gold List, recognizing the world’s best places to stay.

A chic standard room at Bucuti

A chic standard room at Bucuti

Located on the white-powder sands of Eagle Beach, designated as one of the “Dream Beaches of the World,” Bucuti’s 104 guest rooms and suites, freshwater infinity pool, and Day Spa, make it recognized as a Five Star Diamond Resort by the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences.

We also like the property because it’s certified Green Globe 21, ISO 14001 and ISO 9001, and is a leader in sustainable tourism throughout the world, earning the Green Globe High Achievement Award. If vegging on the beach isn’t the only thing you’re after, Bucuti supports the local community with  monthly beach clean-ups, the Turtugaruba sea turtle protection group, and Donkey Sanctuary Aruba.

Eagle Beach, Aruba

Eagle Beach, Aruba

Did we mention that the resort is also TAG Approved® as a gay friendly hotel?

So, you can have an all around relaxing time on one of the best beaches in the world AND feel good about it.

From around $300/night

www.bucuti.com