The Caribbean is Calling

Take Me to Nevis - Paradise Nevis Hotel

Take Me to Nevis – Paradise Beach Nevis

It’s the dead of winter and almost 20 inches of snow just rained down in Chicago. So, what better time than the present to plan that trip to the Caribbean? Well, you’re in luck since the islands want YOU. Paradise Beach Nevis, the newest luxury development on the charming Caribbean island of Nevis, officially opened its doors last month.

Paradise Beach is the island’s only villa option located directly on the beach offering guests the intimacy of a posh private home with all the service of a five-star resort. Guests have seven exquisitely designed three and four bedroom villas to choose from – all inspired by a sophisticated blend of Balinese and Caribbean culture. Each villa features hand-woven thatched roofs with 20-foot vaulted ceilings, privacy walls enclosing lush gardens plus an outdoor dining pavilion, and a waterfall pool overlooking the Caribbean and neighboring St. Kitts or beautiful gardens.

Renowned designer Adam Tihany created the villas to blend seamlessly into the natural landscape, and new contemporary interiors. Each villa has two king bedrooms, one or two queen bedrooms, a full entertainment kitchen, open living space and romantic outdoor showers. Guests are catered to with concierge and butler service and a private chef can be arranged to whip up a romantic dinner under the stars or a full party spread. The villas are all air-conditioned, but, sliding, floor-to-ceiling Balinese glass walls can completely open to create an authentic island setting capturing fresh tropical breezes.

Ideal for a family or group of friends, Paradise Beach Nevis offers guests a luxurious villa experience in a gorgeous oceanfront setting. The villas are a tropical oasis for privacy and relaxation, but guests interested in venturing out have access to the resort’s stretch of white-sand beach and private beach bar as well as nearby restaurants, sight-seeing attractions, tennis and golf as well as Nevisian cultural activities and events. Paradise Beach – formerly known as Villa Paradiso – is managed by Richard Williams and Associates.

Rates start at $2700/night for a three-bedroom garden villa.

http://paradisebeachnevis.com 

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Marin, California: Straus Home Ranch

Straus Home Ranch

Straus Home Ranch

This once-sleepy stretch of the California coastal highway –  just north of San Francisco in West Marin – has become a hotbed of innovation in artisan / organic / sustainable food and farmland conservation movements also chronicled in the recent, excellent documentary film, Rebels with a Cause – featuring interviews with the Straus family matriarch, Ellen Straus, who co-founded MALT, the nation’s first agricultural land trust.

Food on the home ranch

Food on the home ranch

“Years ago, my siblings and I launched Straus Family Creamery – the first organic dairy west of the Mississippi – which is owned by our older brother. Now, separately, my two sisters (Vivien and Miriam) and I have renovated our family’s Civil War-era home into a vacation rental,” says Michael Straus of Straus Home Ranch. Alas – and now the rental is on the market for those to feel a little closer to the excellent Straus family brand (complete with recyclable glass bottles and farm raised milk).

The Kitchen

The Kitchen

We think it’s a perfect home-base for exploring the artisan cheese revolution (assisted, of course, by the iPhone app created by Vivien, CheeseTrail.org), kayaking on Tomales Bay, hiking in the Pt. Reyes National Seashore, or simply escaping to what Michael likes to think of as the “Lost Coast of West Marin”.

  • Overnight: $500 / night

straushomeranch.com

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

Your St. Barth’s Cheat Sheet

Eden Rock, St. Barths

Eden Rock, St. Barths

Finally, it’s in! So, we recently went to St. Barths for the first time and now fully understand it’s irresistible appeal. Well, there’s even more to love during the summer because it’s the time when St. Barths locals and privileged insiders shift from the VIP shuffle to a quieter, more intimate pace, what the real St. Barths is all about.

Low season (July and August) is when visiting St. Barths means relaxing at deserted beaches, getting ad-hoc reservations at the best restaurants, experiencing a range of cultural events and ultimately enjoying affordable luxury at the Caribbean’s most sought after destination. 

St. Barts is one of the most varied and upscale islands in the Caribbean; with villas, hotels, spas, some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean, a wide choice of leisure activities and nautical sports, prestigious sailing regattas, a full calendar of cultural events, and the irresistible allure of great shopping. Frequented primarily by an upscale clientele, this French Caribbean island attracts discriminating travelers who favor an exclusive vacation spot.

This is how you rent a villa in St. Barths...

This is how you rent a villa in St. Barths…

St. Barts also has a strong artistic and cultural heritage, which is celebrated in the island’s many festivals. During the summer, there’s 10 days of live music with St. Barts Summer Sessions from August 5-16; and concerts of Caribbean music with St. Barts JAM Music Festival from August 15-18.

Check out Snow from St. Barts, a brand originally launched in 2007 and returning after two years in standby. The collection designed by Liliane Jossua aims at strong personalities who juggle chic with a scheduled life. Snow St Barth capsule collection is all about those made-in-France essential pieces, all in leather too. Until Christmas, deals may be few and far between, but when planing next year and thinking about summer, hotels on St. Barts also offer special packages. At Eden Rock, the Eden Bliss includes accommodations for 6 nights, lunch for 2 at the ‘Sand Bar with Jean-Georges’ on a day of your choice, dinner for 2 under the stars at ‘On The Rocks with Jean-Georges’ on your evening of choice and cocktail at sunset on your evening of choice.

Hotel Christopher

Hotel Christopher

Hotel Christopher offered a Gold package, which included 5 nights’ accommodations, room and buffet breakfast, welcome drink and minibar on arrival, and 150 € resort credit per day for food & beverage at Taïno and Mango.

Le Toiny is another gem which, this year, offered the Island Breeze package, where guests are invited to enjoy a three-, five- or seven-night stay in a One-Bedroom Villa Suite with newly renovated private pool and terrace, and sweeping ocean views. Guests will also enjoy a three-course dinner at the hotel’s beloved Restaurant Le Gaiac, two 60-minute spa treatments in Le Toiny’s Spa Cottage or the privacy of each guest’s own villa, and a Smart rental car to explore the island. Also included are daily full American breakfast, private round trip transfers, and a bottle of chilled Rosé and gourmet refreshments upon arrival.

The Hotel Carl Gustaf and Il de France also announced Summer packages. If villas are where you prefer to unwind this summer, most villas on St. Barts are rented weekly at 30-50% less than the weekly rate during high-season. Premium Island Vacations, SiBarth, and Villas Caribe are all viable options. Just be aware: it’s island time on St. Barth’s so if anything breaks, you may not get things fixed until you’re probably ready to leave. Trust me, I know.

Now for your list of places to go and things to do, here you go!

CLUB: Le Ti St Barth – for Friday or Saturday night dinner/drinks/dancing.  Make the reservation now. Go late.  The other option: The Yacht Club.

FAVE BAR: Do Brazil – sunset drinks for sure and on Sunday the best.

DIVE BAR: Le Select – Gustavia – fun, local, nothing special but good for a dinner if the bills from all these other places is getting too high. This is where Jimmy Buffet wrote “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” Do with that information what you will (eg. have a burger, since that’s all they have).

SLOW & LAZY SPA TIME: Le Sereno Spa and restaurant – great views from restaurant – Sereno is great and very chill.

CHAMPAGNE AND LUSH LUNCH: Nikki Beach – lunch – awesome and go for it on Saturday, DJs, tables in the sand, etc. Nikki Beach = Applebee’s of the international jet set.

THE BEST RELAXING EASY BEACH LUNCH: Les Plages –  its on the beach by Eden Roc (and the airport to catch those flying planes). They usually have DJs, tables in sand, paninis and decently priced food and  drink for being right on the water. It’s similar to Nikki Beach, but more casual and a warmer vibe.

SANDWICHES/PICNIC: Kiki et Mo‘s – cheap eats

NICE FANCY BEACH LUNCH: Ilse de France on Flamands Beach (my 2nd favorite on the island). Follow with with sunset drinks at Taiwana next door.

DINNER:  Have a lovely dinner at Eddy‘s in Gustavia – they had a beautiful garden and authentic creole food.  There’s also Bar Bat for sushi.  The crepe and sandwich place places in Gustavia are good if you’re wandering around the shops.  Have dinner one night at Eden Rock and make a reservation overlooking the water. It’s overpriced for the quality of food (like the majority of the island), but worth it.

Bonito is also a place to hang. Chill, without the pomp and circumstance, this cozy joint in Gustavia is the the place to be.

From Sibarths to Villas Caribe, check out what private villas have in store. I know I do...

From Sibarths to Villas Caribe, check out what private villas have in store. I know I do…

BEACHES

Saline: sublime, but can get a little windy

Gouverneur: much like Saline. Gorgeous, perfect waves, but sometimes a little windy too.

St. Jean/Tom Beach:  This is where Les Plage, Nikki Beach, Eden Roc all sit.  One of the most charming/beautiful beaches in the world and our group favorite (Flamands below a close 2nd)

Flamands:  Where Iles de France is located, perfect to stay from lunch until drinks, then leave around 3pm to Les Plages or Shell Beach (where Do Brasil is located for sunset the sunset).

Columbier: Stunning, but a hike to get to. I didn’t go the day my friends went, but I was told to tell people that it’s a lovely hike too (that is, if you wanted to mildly torture them one hot afternoon).

For divers, check out this great scuba/snorkel operation in St. Barth:

http://www.plongee-caraibes.com/en/home.html

And for those who want to get a crew together and have a home away from home, check out these websites for villa rentals in St. Barth:

Villas Caribe

SiBarth

Wimco

Villas of Distinction

Luxury Retreats

Looking for a group ski trip in the Alps?

Chesa Wazzau, Switzerland. You may not have heard of it before, I certainly hadn’t, but lately, can you tell that I’m feeling the Alps? It must have something to do with the impending winter and all those episodes of Game of Thrones.

Where is it?

Bever, Upper Engadine, Switzerland to be exact.

What do you do there?

Ski. Duh.

And check out this self-catered holiday rental. It’s like traveling back in time.

Chesa Wazzau is a Swiss idyll out of a picture book: a typical Engadine house from the 17th century, you feel as if traveling back in time a couple of hundred years. The house was restored preserving its original character with vaulted ceilings, windows deeply embedded into the walls and the typical sgraffito decorations. The house is located in the small village of Bever, surrounded by beautiful Alpine landscape and St. Moritz just a couple of minutes away. With its four peaks, 350 km of snowy slopes, 150 km of hiking trails and 190 km of cross-country slopes, Engadin St. Moritz is one of the largest and best winter sport areas in Switzerland. Chesa Wazzau is the perfect retreat to spend a relaxing holiday in the Upper Engadine.

Price per week: CHF 3.100 for up to 12 people sharing

http://www.welcomebeyond.com/property/chesa-wazzau/

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.

A Villa in Virgin Gorda, perhaps?

Check out the view, babies!

Check out the view, babies!

Since we’re always on the hunt for chic villa rentals, we wanted to share one that caught our eye. BAYHOUSE, a new luxury Caribbean beachfront villa, is a villa for design lovers. Sitting among large volcanic boulders and tropical vegetation it’s clean lines complement the stunning landscape.

BAYHOUSE consists of 3 bedrooms with ensuite baths with around 6,000 square feet of interior and exterior living space on almost 2 acres of private beachfront property. Villa rental rates range from $4,900 to $14,700 per week depending on season and occupancy and it even has a 24/7 on island concierge service and offers an extensive list of amenities.

Bayview Villa Room

Bayview Villa Room

A fusion of classic Caribbean architecture and contemporary tropical design, each room has been designed to frame an inspiring view of the sea-scape. The play between expansive versus framed views occurs throughout, achieved by the contrast between louvered window seats, fifteen foot fold-away doors, covered outdoor rooms and carefully placed window openings in the structures. The operable wooden louvers further energy efficiency, providing shading as well as ability to take in that plentiful sea-breeze. Additional fixed louvers at roof level ensure passive cooling at all times, reducing the reliance on air-conditioning in the tropical climate.

An exterior shot

An exterior shot

If you don’t hang out by the pool visit one of Virgin Gorda’s beaches, such as Savannah Bay, Pond Bay, Devil’s Bay, Mahoe Bay and Spring Bay or visit the most popular natural attraction in the BVI, The Baths, where huge granite boulders create mysterious grottos, saltwater pools and a connecting trail that entices visitors to spend a day exploring, swimming, and snorkeling. And just as an FYI – U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT just recently voted the British Virgin Islands as the #1 for having the most relaxing beaches.

BAYHOUSE website