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

Missed SXSW? No worries… check out the Austin Film Fest!

If you missed SXSW and you’re a lover of film and art, have no fear… the Austin Film Festival (AFF) is here. What’s more is that they’ve announced new Weekend Getaway Packages, discounted travel packages that encourage visiting festival-goers to experience Austin’s restaurants and historic hotels.

Packages range from $725 to $765, and offer a value of 18-19% off regular prices.

Each of the three packages, named for food-centric films, include a Weekend Badge to the 19th Annual Austin Film Festival, October 18 ­-25, 2012, special discounted rates at either The Driskill Hotel or The InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel for the first weekend of the Festival, gift certificates to the city’s culinary destinations, and an Austin Film Festival gift bag filled with AFF merchandise. The offer will end August 31, 2012, and there are a limited number available, so act now to enjoy an Austin weekend full of film and food! AFF designed the packages to introduce those visitors to new experiences in Austin, the Festival celebrates writers’ and filmmakers’ creative contributions to film through storytelling and features film premieres and screenings, exciting and informative panels with some of the top names in the industry, and numerous parties and other special events.

Hi, Jamessssssss

Hi, Jamessssssss

THE PACKAGES

Babette’s Feast

Price: $765 ($930 value)

In addition to a Weekend Badge to the 2012 Austin Film Festival, this package includes and two night stay at The Driskill Hotel for Saturday, October 20th and Sunday, October 21st, 2012. Built in 1886, The Driskill remains a landmark of legendary Texas hospitality. Located on Sixth Street in the heart of downtown Austin, the luxurious, historic hotel is convenient to all that the city has to offer including the Texas State Capitol, convention center, opera, symphony, fine dining, shopping, and Austin’s music scene.

It also includes a $50 gift certificate to 2nd Bar + Kitchen. Recently commended in the New York Times Magazine for its irresistible cuisine, 2nd Bar + Kitchen is a dynamic downtown destination where Executive Chef David Bull combines seasonal ingredients and local artisan products to create what he calls “Natural American” cuisine. In 2011, Bon Appétit named it one of the “Top Ten Best New Restaurants.”

Julie & Julia

Price: $725 ($895 value)

Along with a Weekend Badge to AFF, the Julie & Julia Package includes a two-night stay at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel for Saturday, October 20th and Sunday, October 21st, 2012. A pivotal part of the Austin scene for more than 60 years, the Beaux Arts hotel opened in 1924 and was named to memorialize Stephen F. Austin, the Father of Texas and a beloved Texas Statesman. The hotel has been witness to much Austin history and served as the campaign headquarters for LBJ during his 1937 run for the House of Representatives.

The package also includes gift certificates to Chez Nous, Austin’s neighborhood authentic French bistros since 1982, and Parkside, the gastro pub by chef Shawn Cirkiel, an Austin staple.

Soul Food

Price: $725 ($895 value)

Also featuring a Weekend Badge to the Festival and a two-night stay at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin for Saturday, October 20th and Sunday, October 21st, 2012, the Soul Food Package offers visitors a chance to taste a little bit of Texas with gift certificates to South Texas gourmet legend Ranch 616 and downtown favorite Hickory Street.

AFF has already announced the first round of panelists for this year’s Conference, including some of the top screenwriters, directors, showrunners and producers in the business. The full list of panelists can be found here. Stay tuned for announcements from AFF with this year’s awardees, film lineup, Conference panels and more panelists, and more. For more information on Austin Film Festival and to purchase passes or badges go to www.austinfilmfestival.com

To purchase a travel package, you can visit: http://www.austinfilmfestival.com/shop/badges/weekendgetaway

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.

Looking for a lovely, but inexpensive apartment in Paris? Who isn’t?

A Modern Apartment Rental – Paris

Looking for an apartment rental in Paris, but also desire a bit of personalized service? Let’s face it, current economic circumstances reinforce the necessity to make travel budgets stretch as comfortably far as possible.  That’s where ApartmentParis.fr comes on the scene. Already a respected player in the UK and Europe for short-term apartment rentals in Paris, they’re backed by an established apartment management company, with comfortable, well-located accommodations at below-hotel rates. A daunting task for any traveler.
We’re big fans of renting flats, but sometimes it can be risky directly dealing with owners, or, it can result in last-minute disappointment.  Likewise there is no continuity in experience (cleanliness, quality) from one location to another. In response, ApartmentParis has created an alternative solution positioned between these two extremes. Even though it is not a hotel, clients are guaranteed hotel standard services  such as decoration and furniture suited to the travellers’ needs, wifi access, housekeeping service, fresh sheets and linens.
Check out the view through the window!

Check out the view through the window!

While each apartment can be adapted to the traveller’s needs, they all come with a basic service: sheets, linens, cable & satellite TV, high bandwith internet and wifi. Prices start at… and here’s where we love it!

Around $75 night for a studio apartment in off-season.
ApartmentParis manages more than 100 apartments that can accommodate from two to eight people, perfect for single travellers, couple or families.  Business travellers can also benefit from apartments located close to the main Paris train stations. All flats are located near tourist attractions such as the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées, Montmartre, and in charming neighborhoods like the Marais,  Buttes Chaumont,  Canal Saint Martin…
A bilingual (French/English) call centre is also available to assist travelers with their plans. So, in a nutshell, their positioning between a hotel and person-to-person rental service, combined with competitive prices and the flexibility of ApartmentParis’ flats, adds an extra dimension of comfort (economic and physical) to your Paris travel plans.

Your Boutique Guide to Merida, Mexico

Merida, Mexico

Merida, Mexico

Yucatan’s capital is famously called “the white city”, but if you look hard enough, you’ll find a mosaique of strong, passionate colors all around it. A walk along its famous Paseo Montejo is a trip within a trip: from Parisian-style mansions that will transport you from French classic architecture to traditional Mexican ice cream parlors that evoke the last remains of the golden years, the variety is exhilarating, specially because it all fits and matches. This is, at the same time a strong Mayan capital (Yucatan is home to Chichen Itza and Uxmal, and to more than one million people who still speak Mayan language), and the neat colonial city where visitors will find the boutique hotels of their dreams at quite affordable prices.
We are particularly thinking about two colors of luxury:
Rosas y Xocolate

Rosas y Xocolate

Rosas y Xocolate
The classic surreal dream about life in pink comes to life in Merida, covered with utter elegance, lots of roses and a velvety chocolate flavour. Two former colonial mansions located exactly at the Paseo Montejo were masterfully transformed into this sensual palace, where avant-garde design reigns. After a good sleep in their cozy, tastefully decorated rooms; wake up to their spa, specialised in choco-therapies that use 100% organic Yucatecan cocoa nectar (great for all types of skin). At the restaurant, go for the beautiful terrace and grab a lemon Margarita. Pair it with the exotic chicharrón de pulpo (crispy octopus with Mexican spices). On your way home, think pink and don’t foget to get some local chocolate for the people you love.
Address:
Paseo Montejo 480 x 41
Colonia Centro
97000 Merida – Yucatan, Mexico.
Call: +52 999 9242992

Casa Azul Hotel
This very accurately self-proclaimed historic monument-hotel is a majestic homage to the classic blue. It’s forged doors open the path to the colonial glory of the past. If you are into antiques, or a fan of Gabriel García Márquez’s ‘Love in times of Cholera’, look no further. Only 8 rooms that recreate the magnificent grandeur of the Mexican XIX century are the perfect location to experience what it’s like to be the Hacienda’s owner: every detail is carefully prepared to achieve lavishness and beauty. Take your favorite novel and enjoy it in the patio listening to the water running inside the imperial fountain, take a dip in the backyard’s pool or enjoy an evening conversation sitting at the blue terrace, watching people passing by.
Casa Azul

Casa Azul

Address:
Calle 60 No. 343 x 37 and 35
Colonia Centro
97000 Merida
Yucatan, Mexico
Call: +52 999 9255016
Ria Celestun

Ria Celestun

Our chromatic recomendation: You don’t have to choose between pink and blue to feel the daintiest combination of colors in the Yucatan Peninsula. Take a one-day excursion to Ría Celestún (check out the YouTube video), a biosphere reserve framed by the purest white of the sand and the strong turquoise of the Caribbean sea. The breath-taking azure of the sky is the perfect scenery for the pink flamingos that migrate there every winter. If animals and nature are your thing, be very alert: if lucky enough, you’ll find exotic birds (endemic ducks and pelicans are famous among the locals), crocodiles (watch out) or even turtles.
La Chaya Maya

La Chaya Maya

Foodie tip: Merida is the best place to enjoy cochinita pibil, one of Mexico’s gastronomic treasures. Run to my personal favorite of the city: La Chaya Maya (Calle 62 x 57, Colonia Centro; just ask the locals, they know the way), where you can have great handmade tortillas to taste it. Also, look for lime soup and virtually any other Mayan specialties that sounds good to you. This is the Yucatan, no matter what you order, it promises to be delicious.
Jaunt Magazine Contributor - Jesus Catalan

Jaunt Magazine Contributor – Jesus Catalan

Regular Jaunt Magazine Contributor, Jesus Catalan Meneses, ex-journo turned blogger (like me!) and very Mexican Taconnoiseur is back to give our readers a taste of Merida, Mexico. Whether he’s writing, researching social media, travelling, cooking or finding the greatest places for tacos, quesadillas, and enchiladas, Jesus’s love for Mexico can only be matched by his love of Mexican food.

An Idyllic Little Town in Norway…

Alesund, Norway

Alesund, Norway

For those heading to Norway, we say check out Ålesund, a great weekend trip. Picturesque with great seafood, just make sure you head there when it isn’t the rainy season (unless you like that rainy Nordic vibe). If you visit Ålesund in early summer, you can take a round trip to the famous bird cliff on the island of Runde, where over 1/2 million birds nest every year. For Art Nouveau architecture and history, the Art Nouveau Centre in Ålesund commemorates some of the best. Ålesund is also adjacent to the Hjørund and Geiranger fjords. Ålesund is also the site of… hurrah… an annual Norwegian Food Festival. Also pretty cool: In Norway, you have the right to walk wherever you like in the forests, hills and mountains, as long as you shut gates, bring your garbage home and practice good manners. They call it “allemannsrett” and this means that you can hike and pitch your tent anywhere, as long as you stay clear of people’s homes and barns.

So, next time you’re traveling to Norway and looking for a great, quick weekend retreat… this city’s your girl (or strapping lad).

Check out more information about little weekend getaways in Norway here:

A Weekend Trip in Norway

Top 10 Restaurants: New York

This week, Joanne Smith, gives us a rundown on the Top Ten Restaurants in New York City if you find yourself visiting the city (and – yum – we have to agree). You can’t go wrong with Daniel or Per Se.

Start spreadin the news...

Start spreadin the news…

New York City is full of art, entertainment, and fine dining. So, here are the top ten restaurants you should check out while visiting New York will complete your big city experience. As you’re filing your ESTA Visa Application and booking your trip, remember to fit a few of the following into your plans because nothing shows off the diversity of New York like these fine favorites.

Craft has a beautiful and calming atmosphere with farm to table dinners. Simplicity is the highlight here. Gramercy Tavern is a low key restaurant that’s reaching new heights with the talent of Michael Anthony (and a 27 out of 30 from Zagats). Your best selections are the braised meats and pork. If you like Italian, look into Torrisi Italian Specialties. An elegantly designed tasting room, they’ll serve you a 20 course meal that includes steak tartar. They were also ranked one of the best restaurants in NYC in 2010.

Octopus Corona - Torrisi

Octopus Corona – Torrisi

If it’s an elegant dining experience you’re in the mood for, try Eleven Madison Park. Trendy with a contemporary style, you get excellent service and Chef Daniel Humm gets down to the traditional favorites of fine dining. The restaurant is elegantly decorated, but it doesn’t feel intimidating. Corton is a very sleek and modern facility that has an excellent selection in their wine cellar, and it is a great spot for trying finer foods. Also fitting the bill for elegance is Daniel. This is Daniel Boulud’s flagship restaurant, serving French classics and haute cuisine. The very upscale dining room is perfect for romantic dinners (but you’ll definitely pay a pretty penny).

Daniel NYC

Daniel NYC

If you are the type of diner that enjoys seafood, give Le Bernardin a try. It is New York’s best spot for seafood. Chef Eric Ripert’s talent shows in the meals served by the top notch staff. Another good establishment for seafood is Per Se. Thomas Keller offers consistently wonderful dishes and the varied menu includes his Nova Scotia lobster and his signature Oysters and Pearls. Sam Sifton of New York Times puts Per Se on the ‘last meal’ list and explains, “It combines a sabayon of pearl tapioca with Island Creek oysters (small, marble-shaped, from Duxbury, south of Boston, fantastic) and a fat clump of sturgeon caviar from Northern California. These arrive in a bowl of the finest porcelain from Limoges. Paired with a glass of golden sémillon from Elderton, they make a fine argument for the metaphor of transubstantiation.”

Oysters and Pearls

Per Se’s Oysters and Pearls

Two of the most coveted dining locations are the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare. For $225 per person you can enjoy classic gourmet dining, with a 25 course meal, at Chef’s Table though reservations are hard to come by. This is true at Momofuko Ko too. They only accommodate twelve diners at each meal, but it’s well worth it.

Author Bio: Joanne Smith’s passion is to write for Travel Blogs. You can reach her here: @travelplex