Riviera Maya: Mandarin Oriental’s Wellness Yoga Retreat

Face it. You need a quick escape. Recharge that battered spirit. Elevate that funky mood. Take the OM out of ominous. We can feel it. We’re there too. These days, everywhere we turn and everything we see is doom and gloom. Aside from trekking in the Andes and eating hot noodles in Saigon (which takes a bit more than four days), the Yoga Wellness Retreat at the Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya is a surefire way to relax and feel good about spending your hard-earned cash. When you give to your spirit, the Universe gives back. Did we mention that the honorable Rishi Bharadwaj of India is teaching? Well, he is… and he’s 15 years of yogic magic.

Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya presents its 2009 Wellness Yoga Retreat, a four-day holistic program featuring guided meditations, yoga classes, yogic diet and nutrition sessions from:

March 26 to 29
May 28 to 31
June 25 to 28

A relaxing weekend break at an award-winning spa and resort located on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula? Si senorita. Eso es la vida perfecta. Yoga Instructor Rishi Bharadwaj, leads the stellar program for a long weekend sure to recharge the senses.
The retreat begins on Thursday evening with a welcome group dinner and opportunity to meet with Rishi and fellow guests. Throughout the weekend, guests will experience Asana and Pranayama yoga sessions, diet and nutrition classes, quiet time for meditations, group discussions and bask in the luxurious accommodation at Mexico’s most sophisticated resort.

A naturalist’s paradise, Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya is nestled in mangrove reserves and tranquil lagoons highlighted by a spectacular cenote, a deep, freshwater reservoir sacred to the ancient Mayan.

The resort is only 10 minutes north of the always happening Playa del Carmen with dining, entertainment, and boutiques, just a 30-minute drive from Cancun International Airport.

The “Wellness Yoga Retreat” includes:

· Three-night stay at the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya
· Yogic breakfast daily and one group dinner
· Choice of one spa treatment
· Morning and evening yoga sessions
· Daily meditations
· Diet and nutrition classes
· Participation in daily fitness activities
· Complimentary use of Heat and Water Therapies
· Round-trip airport transfers

Now how’s that for OM-nificent?

Rates from $2465 (single occupancy) and $3340 (double occupancy)


Chicago’s Best Eco-Boutique Hotel

We fell in love with Chicago when we went to see Cats at the Shubert Theater as a small kiddie. Deep-dish pizza, jazz, Carmine’s and good old Midwestern values… what’s not to love? So when we hunted around for the best boutique digs in Chi-Town, a little birdie alerted us to a European inspired hotel just a block off of Michigan Avenue. Unique among it’s competitors in that it’s still family-owned, The Talbott Hotel has all the sophisticated charm of a bygone era coupled with the modern conveniences of today.

A cozy wood-lined lobby, roaring fireplace, large rooms, plasma TV’s and superlative service make this property feel like you’re in an upscale English club. The best part? It’s just one of five hotels to receive Green Seal Certification by the City of Chicago in recognition of their commitment to “sustainability without compromise.” Their “greenficient” efforts stretch beyond the basics – it’s 100% carbon neutral. Having just completed a multi-million dollar refurbishment of all the hotel’s 149 rooms and suites, it’s the warm, luxurious base from which you can enjoy all of Chicago’s shopping, restaurants and entertainment.
Owner, Basil Kromelow, inherited the property when he and his dad Jack bought it together as Basil’s first project back in 1965. Apparently, Basil always wanted to own a boutique hotel so he converted the old apartment hotel into a luxury boutique hotel that reflected the boutique hotels he fell in love with across Europe as a kid. As such, many of the antiques inside are purchases from Kromelow’s own shopping trips to Europe. Still visible in the hotel, Basil even greets and interacts with guests, unlike far too many Blackberry-obsessed proprietors these days.

On the corner of Rush street, you’ll find famous restaurants like Gibsons (www.gibsonssteakhouse.com) and Carmine’s (www.rosebudrestaurants.com) where we recommend the Baked Clams, Chicken Marsala, and Eight-Finger Cavatelli. No, we won’t tell you what it that is, you’ll just have to find out for yourself.

Guests also have free access to the 55,000 sq foot Equinox in the 900 North Michigan building just a block away. If that’s not swanky enough, those who participate in the Green program by selecting the “eco-mode” on their thermostats (which automatically adjusts the room temp when guests come and go, in addition to alerting housekeeping not to change sheets everyday), they’ll receive a 1 month carbon credit for their home to continue the Green lifestyle they embraced at the hotel.

If our staff wasn’t galavanting around the globe right at this very moment, we’d stop by again just to give Basil a big old Chicago bear hug.

Rates start at $179 (in low season)

A Vietnam Bargain: The Exotic Vodka Adventure

Kai Vodka

Usually, when we think vodka we’ll be honest… we think of Ruskies (and forty year-old housewives), but this ultra-premium Vietnamese rice vodka quickly caught our staff’s attention for another reason altogether. What does Vietnamese vodka have to do with vacations, you ask? Well, we’re here to tell you. KAI Vodka, the world’s only ultra-premium rice vodka handcrafted in Vietnam, has announced a special Vietnam travel package in conjunction with Pleasant Holidays.

So drink up! KAI, distilled in northern Vietnam from the rare and highly prized yellow blossom rice that grows only in the country’s Red River Delta, is the first product of its kind to be exported from Vietnam, while KAI Lychee is the only vodka to be infused with the sweet subtropical lychee fruit. The country’s 600-year history of making vodka only adds to KAI’s exotic mystique.

Vietnam 2Designed to give le vodka connoisseur the chance to experience and learn about its unique origin, we say… vodka with a cultural incentive?  We’re into that.

The KAI Exotic Vietnam Adventure (KEVA) is a custom packaged excursion that offers tours from 8-14 days including round-trip airfare, all transfers and tours, accommodations, and featured meals at KAI Vodka’s recommended culinary and nightlife destinations along the way with carefully selected Vietnamese translators and guides.

Vietnam Rice FieldsYou’ll visit all the hot spots like Saigon, Hanoi, and Halong Bay allowing guests to experience the rich culture, vibrant towns, and phenomenal beauty.

The KEVA Eight Day Package includes:

· Round trip air from Los Angeles or San Francisco on Cathay Pacific
· Overnight accommodations
· Cruise of the Halong Bay
· Sightseeing in Hanoi and Saigon
· A blend of classic and contemporary excursions
· Select meals
· Transfers, gratuities, and taxes

Starting at only $2,649 per person – $3,575 per person for 14 days, it’s also a real bargain.

VietnamKAI Vodka’s Managing Director Marcus Bender had this to say: “Vietnam has become one of the top 10 travel destinations according to Condé Nast Traveler and seduces visitors with its exotic mystique. A true fusion of eastern and western cultures lies at its heart, blending over 50 different ethnic groups, including Chinese and French influences. It is this rich and complex influence that is the essence of KAI Vodka.”

Jaunt says: “True dat!”

LA-based Pleasant Holidays have developed the perfect Vietnam experience blending city and country, relaxation and adventure. Hiking, biking, kayaking, and select dinners of traditional and contemporary cuisine, as well as ‘must see’ tours of off-the-beaten-path adventures, are all included. They’ll even advise travelers of restaurants, nightclubs, and adventures in each city.

So maybe it’s time for Jaunt to get over it’s ‘only Ruskies and 40 year-old housewives drink vodka’ thing, no?

That would be a ‘Vâng.’


Cabo San Lucas, Mexico: The Holistic Yoga Wellness Retreat

This just in from The Marquis Los Cabos, one of our favorite Cabo properties, located right off ‘The Corridor’ on the southernmost tip of the Baja península where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific. To celebrate it’s ability to soothe you, they’re now offering the first of its transformational travel events. The Guru Getaway Series with renowned mind/body wellness instructor Kent Burden will take place from May 17-21, 2009. The 230 + room resort, just minutes from the Old World village of San Jose del Cabo and the town of Cabo San Lucas, has one of the best spas and fitness centers in the area (a 15,000 square foot retreat to be precise).
In addition, their exclusive gourmet restaurant, Canto del Mar, has one of the only Michelin-pedigreed chefs in Cabo. Our EIC stayed here about two years ago and was blown away by the fresh bread and fruit basket delivered each morning, the fantastic dinner service, and the excellent views. Since its 2003 opening, Marquis Los Cabos has earned the travel industry’s most coveted awards including “World’s Best” (Travel + Leisure); “Gold List Award” (Conde Nast Traveler); and the Five Star Diamond Award for its Canto del Mar restaurant. Marquis Los Cabos is also a member of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World and the only member of Leading Spas of the World in Los Cabos.
The Holistic Wellness Getaway incorporates yoga, Qi Gong and Pilates instruction; a visit to an organic farm with cooking lesson; an art walk and progressive dinner in San Jose del Cabo; a waterfall hike and tai chi instruction; Real Food, Aztec Calendar and Modern Day Hunter/Gatherer lectures, and a horseback meditation ride into three days of mind/body activities that promise to encourage “personal growth” and “self-actualization.” Who couldn’t use some of that in these trying times?

With more than 25 years of fitness experience, Kent Burden has worked one-on-one with Oscar, Emmy, and Grammy winners and NFL and NBA champions alike. His mind/body program created at California’s Ojai Valley Inn & Spa was voted by Spa Finder Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Awards as one of North America’s top mind/body fitness programs. A certified personal trainer, Pilates instructor, Yoga instructor, Spinning instructor, water fitness instructor, Systematic Touch Trainer and Massage Therapist, you’re, you guessed it… in really good hands. For more information on Kent, check out his website:


The 5 day/4 night Holistic Wellness Getaway is $2,550 per person, based on single occupancy, and includes all lectures and mind/body activities, suite accommodations, a signature welcome drink made of natural local fruits, breakfast daily, gifts upon arrival and departure, box lunches for all activities, VIP roundtrip airport/hotel transportation, and all service charges and taxes.


Four Seasons Seychelles: By the Sea Shore

Good news, lads and lassies! The Four Seasons Resort Seychelles has opened it’s doors. Said to be a ‘remote, hillside retreat that embraces the natural simplicity of treetop living,’ this brand spankin’ new property occupies an isolated position overlooking the idyllic bay of Petite Anse, just 30 minutes from the Mahé international airport. The Republic of Seychelles, East of Africa and North of Madagascar, is a tropical haven of 115 islands scattered across 530,000 square miles of the western Indian Ocean, an archipelago of 41 hilly, granite islands surrounded by low-lying coral islands. Covering a secluded area of 170 acres on the southwest coast of Mahé, the Four Seasons Seychelles consists of 67 villas and suites and 28 Four Seasons Private Residences that descend down a lush forested incline to the private, horseshoe beach of Petite Anse. Creole-inspired design complements the dramatic topography with granite boulders, steep jungle slopes and a shoreline indented with pirate coves. That’s right… argghhh, who goes there, Matey? Back in the day, these waters were a favorite among the Jack Sparrows of the water world.
Four Seasons Seychelles Room

Get this… each of the 67 tree-house villas and suites is perched on stilts amid a jungle of coconut, mango, jackfruit and cinnamon trees. How disgustingly exotic is that? Standard features in all villas also include an infinity-edge plunge pool, open-air shower, glass-walled bathroom and expansive private outdoor living space with sunset views over the Indian Ocean or surrounding landscape. At the base of the Resort, black granite boulders, powder-white sand and tropical foliage combine with the azure blues of the sea and sky to create a vivid image of exotic island perfection. To keep you looking good and feeling good, there are also plenty of water sports, water trails and off-site activities like tennis, trekking, hiking, bird watching, mountain biking and paragliding. It’s also a perfect paradise location for weddings, from a simple blessing on the private powder-white beach to a civil ceremony among the frangipani. Say it again after me… frangipani. Now isn’t that fun?
Four Seasons Seychelles Exterior

The Resort’s main restaurant, ZEZ (Creole for a zither), offers a breakfast buffet of Continental and Asian dishes with a full American breakfast and speciality dishes available à la carte. Dinner takes on a Mediterranean air, featuring Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Turkish and Lebanese dishes. The restaurant focuses on simple cuisine and deep flavours and offers a wide variety of fresh seafood, extra virgin olive oils, tapas, mezzes and speciality Arabic breads. An extensive wine list features 250 wine labels from the Old and New World since no vacay is complete without a lonnnngggg list of fine wines.

Oh, and their beach… one of the top ten beaches in the world. So stop complaining about the snow, the economy, your husband, and your weight and get lost in the Seychelles by the sea shore.

Rates from €1,000/night