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

Follow The Camino: A Unique Scented Journey To Santiago de Compostela

Camino-de-Santiago-Route

If you’ve never heard of it before, the Camino de Santiago is a medieval pilgrimage in Spain inspiring millions of pilgrims throughout the centuries. It has also been a unique source of healing for all of those who have walked it. Many pilgrims still use this pilgrimage as a way to balance their life, find some answers, or simply take some time away from the over busy life style we experience. So, a group called Follow The Camino decided to bring pilgrims a new way to experience the Camino, easing this unique Camino and transforming it into a scented spiritual journey.

Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela

They’re inviting guests to follow the last part of the French Way, from Sarria to Santiago, the very famous last 100km of the pilgrimage with a unique Aromatic Camino Kit and the comfort and advice of their aromatherapy expert, Pam Conrad. Popular scented herbal examples in these regions include lavender, rosemary, thyme, bergamot, and eucalyptus, to name just a few. Connecting your walk with the aromatic plants and their gifts is a perfect way to fully experience your Camino.

Some Spanish food along the way...

Some Spanish food along the way…

As you walk the Camino Zen Aromatic, you will learn the benefits of aromatherapy to ease your Camino, but also to heal your mind in a natural way. The Camino Zen Aromatic tours will include Aromatic Camino Kits to support your journey as well as two experiential aromatherapy sessions with Pam, customized for physical, emotional, and spiritual support as well as aromatic education. Daily aromatips will be provided too.

A B&B on the Camino

A B&B on the Camino

This Camino Tour is priced at 795 Euros and includes 8 days/7 nights, rustic charm B&B accommodation, dinners, and transfers.

http://www.followthecamino.com/camino_zen_aromatic_trip83.html

These Sunglasses Can Pull a Small Aircraft!

Cool Sunglasses

These sunglasses can pull a small aircraft!

Yes, it’s true. We recently came across this interesting line a few weeks ago and had to check it out. After all, durability is of the utmost importance when it comes to travel gear. OVVO Optics designs exceptionally durable frames for any type of excursion a travel warrior may stumble upon.

Why we like them:

  • OVVO is a small and lovely family company
  • They use spacecraft technology to design frames composed of fused surgical steel and titanium, producing virtually indestructible eyewear
  • Stretched flat, OVVO frames can lift 90 lbs or pull a small aircraft
  • OVVO Optics’ screw-free hinge frames can withstand more than 300,000 rotations and reveal no changes in structure or appearance
  • OVVO eyewear is handmade in Europe (Germany and Poland)
  • As many as 65-85 steps are needed to complete an OVVO frame

Quality like this is particularly hard to find in a day and age when people are outsourcing to China and we like the fact that everything is manufactured in Europe through family owned factories.

http://www.ovvooptics.com

The Flavors of Trinidad and Tobago

Creole Bake & Shark

Creole Bake & Shark

Drawing on the powerful blend of cultures including Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, Chinese, African, Creole and Indian, we just discovered that Trinidad and Tobago’s “foodie” scene is one of the best Caribbean destinations for curious gourmands looking to take their taste buds on a culinary world tour. From street food to fine dining, the destination offers visitors the chance to savor a unique and adventurous culinary style that offers tasty options, regardless of dietary needs—vegetarians to meat lovers and those in between.

Trinidad & Tobago Map

Trinidad & Tobago Map

Secret on the Side of the Road

For a unique culinary experience, visitors can to take the unbeaten path that leads to the side of the road.  Street vendors serve some of the most traditional, memorable and flavorful foods on the islands, including doubles, roti, various soups, pholourie and chowDoubles, one of the most popular street side delights, are made up of savory curried chick peas between two barra, or flat fried bread.  Perfect for breakfast, a snack or a late night treat.  When in search of the next meal, street foodies need look no further than a roti vendor.  Similar to an Indian flat bread, roti is filled with finely ground split peas, then wrapped with curried meat, shrimp and/or vegetables.  Trinis love their soups and many can be found enjoying a bowl of cow heel soup, one of Tobago’s most popular soups in addition to pig tail, fish broth and Creole corn soup, served piping hot with corn, coconut milk and dumplings.  Another favorite is pholourie, fried balls of dough that are incredibly versatile as they can be enjoyed sweet, with tamarind sauce or mango chutney, or savory with chandon benni (cilantro).  When in search of a sweet and savory combination, many Trinis reach for chow, sliced mango and pineapple marinated with chandon benni, garlic, salt and pepper.  The most popular spots to taste street treats include St. James, Port of Spain’s nightlife capital, and Queen’s Park Savannah.

Store Bay - Tobago

Store Bay – Tobago

Beach Eats

For the ultimate authentic taste of the islands, Trinidad’s famed Maracas Beach, often referred to as the bake and shark capital of the world, is not to be missed.  Trinidad’s signature dish serves up shark fillets seasoned with a tangy lime marinade, deep fried to perfection, then stuffed in between fried bread and spiced with choice of a seemingly endless number of toppings, including garlic, pepper, cilantro and pineapple.  Another favorite, alloo pie, a potato filling mixed with a variety of meats or vegetables in dough that is then deep fried, is one of the many quick delights you can buy from most of the street food vendors throughout the islands.  On sister island Tobago, Store Bay beach goers enjoy the island’s signature dish, curried crab and dumplings.  Visitors should note that there is no need for knife and fork, just fingers, some patience and napkins to eat the sometimes messy dish.

Flair - Trinidad

Cassava Stuffed Shrimp, a garlic butter cassava blend stuffed into jumbo shrimp presented on mojo slaw and Scotch bonnet-spiked tartar sauce, from Flair in Trinidad (c) CreOle

Fine Dining

With Caribbean food rapidly growing in global popularity, one of the islands’ most exciting movements in local cuisine is the emergence of haute cuisine where traditional Trini dishes are prepared in a trendy gourmet style.  In Trinidad’s burgeoning gourmet restaurant scene, patrons will find a variety of fine dining restaurants from international to local cuisine.  Chaude Creole, in particular, has given street food a haute makeover by serving French, Chinese and Thai influenced dishes in a gourmet tasting style.  Many of these dining destinations can be found on Ariapita Avenue, also known as “The Avenue”,  Woodbrook, St. Ann’s, St. Clair and around the Queen’s Park Savannah.  Other fine dining favorites include: FlairVeni Mange, and Aspara in Trinidad and Seahorse Inn and Café Coco in Tobago.

For more information on Trinidad & Tobago:

www.goTrinidadandTobago.com

Get Ready! It’s COMO’s First US Property in Miami…

Miami hip hotels

Listen up!

COMO Hotels and Resorts will open its first US property, Metropolitan by COMO, Miami Beach in December.  If you’re not familiar with their properties in Turks & Caicos, Bali, London, and beyond… take note. This 74-room hotel occupies an original 1930s building in the heart of the city’s Art Deco District and will have direct access to the beach and a private swimming pool, two restaurants, and a COMO Shambhala Urban Escape spa.  A daily schedule of complimentary yoga and Pilates will also be available to guests, reflecting the company’s commitment to wellness. Pst… they’re famous for their spa, y’all.

Located on Collins Avenue and 24th Street, the property has views that stretch across the Atlantic to the east or the Intracoastal Waterway to the west, flooding rooms with light. Interiors are by the Italian designer Paola Navone, who preserved the hotel’s Art Deco heritage and contrasted it with an urbane, contemporary spirit in shades of peppermint green and dusky grey, with surfaces of cool white marble and shining chrome.

The hotel will feature two restaurants.  The Traymore, the headline restaurant, will showcase Floridian seafood, with an emphasis on fine dining and traditional service; the poolside restaurant will be more relaxed, with wood-baked pizzas and easygoing pick-up food to enjoy during the day.  The Met Bar will offer premium spirits and Champagnes, while the rooftop COMO Shambhala juice bar will be a space to revitalize with a bespoke juice blend after a workout, beachfront run, or massage. Love ‘bespoke’ juice.

Metropolitan Miami Beach is the first stateside venture for COMO Hotels and Resorts, which owns, among other properties, two other Metropolitan hotels in London and Bangkok.  The Singapore-based company also owns the private island resort of Parrot Cay by COMO in the Turks & Caicos.  Parrot Cay is a direct 90-minute flight from Miami, allowing for a perfect pairing with this opening, we think.

Metropolitan by COMO, Miami Beach

2445 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL  33129 

http://www.comohotels.com/metropolitanmiamibeach

Travel Beauty’s Latest Pick Me Ups

Advanced-B5-Hydration

Destination Hydration

Prepare for travel-induced dry skin with glōtherapeutics B5 Hydration.  This moisturizer balances moisture content and prevents transepidermal water loss, all while nourishing your skin.  In a 1 oz. bottle, it’s small enough for your carry on but a little goes a long way so you’ll have enough to enjoy from your vacation to your staycation all summer long.

Revive-Mist

First-Class Fresh

To invigorate tired travel skin, try glōminerals Revive Hydration Mist, a travel-sized facial spray with peppermint, lavender, and rosemary essential oils that stimulate the senses.  Spritz on before applying makeup for instant hydration, after applying makeup to get a polished look, or whenever dull skin just needs a refreshing pick-me-up.  It’s perfect to revive skin from the drying effects of an airplane cabin!

Terrific Tresses

Don’t get stuck using the hotel’s mini bottles of questionable hair care products.  Buy some empty travel sized bottles and stock them with Keratin PerfectCleanse Shampoo, a gentle cleanser that is scented with honey nectar blossom leaves and leaves hair with a relaxed, smooth appearance (later frizz heads). Pair it with their Keratin PerfectSilk Conditioner, a detangling conditioner that nourishes and protects hair from heat damage and is perfect for color treated hair.

A Luxe Yoga Cruise From Chile to Tahiti!

Guests practice yoga in Crystal's Feng Shui Yoga Room

Guests practice yoga in Crystal’s Feng Shui Fitness Center

Alas… one of our favorite luxe cruise lines, Crystal Cruises, has just announced that they’re inspiring their guests to relax, refresh and recharge with a new Mind, Body & Spirit-themed exotic cruise through some of the most exquisite waters in the world.

Crystal Symphony’s first voyage of the year, a 12-day “Southern Seas Soliloquy” itinerary, begins January 8th, 2014 in Valparaíso, Chile, and sails across the southern Pacific to the Society/Tahitian, Easter, and Pitcairn Islands (the latter of Mutiny on the Bounty fame).  On the roster are a guest yoga instructor, extreme athlete, health and wellness expert, and ZUMBA® teacher, as well as a repertoire of active excursions and a host of complimentary fitness classes.

The 12-day cruise sails from Valparaíso to Easter Island, Chile; Pitcairn Island/Adamstown, UK; and Moorea, Society Islands before ending with an overnight in Papeete, Tahiti. 

All-inclusive cruise fares start at just $2,975/person, with $1,000 in savings if booked by August 30. 

Among those scheduled to motivate travelers are:

·         Dane Rauschenberg: Extreme athlete who ran 52 marathons in 52 consecutive weekends. I’m tired just thinking about it, but damn… good for Dane!

·         Dr. Barbara Udell: Health and wellness expert who’s helped guide the Pritikin Longevity Center, Weight Watchers, and the Diabetes Research &Wellness Foundation.

·         Lisa Goodwin: Transformational yoga instructor skilled at teaching both beginners and seasoned practitioners. I. Need. You.

·         Annie Hoefel: High-energy motivator leading ZUMBA classes on board for guests of all ages. Because Zumba… who doesn’t want to shake it, shake it?

Crystal Symphony State Room

Crystal Symphony State Room

In addition to the above, complimentary fitness classes and programs onboard include Spinning, Pilates, dancing, stretching, circuit training, Nordic Walking, and Walk-on-Water weight vest power walking on the ship’s 360-degree promenade deck.  Can you imagine getting on shape and eating well during a cruise through beautiful islands? I can! Also on the agenda for brainiacs like us:  experts to stretch travelers’ minds with talks about space exploration, world affairs, and Leonardo da Vinci.

ATVing in French Polynesia!

ATVing in French Polynesia!

In port, Crystal Adventures also offers snorkeling, scuba diving, ATV-ing, four-wheeling, volcano trekking, helicoptering, and jet skiing with stingrays.  Numerous excursions also take guests to ancient Polynesian temples and ceremonial grounds, including Easter Island’s famous Moai statues.  When anchored outside Pitcairn Island – considered the most remote and smallest inhabited place in the world – local residents will come aboard, allowing guests to liaise with the mutineer descendants and see their traditional crafts. I was sorta of obsessed with this movie so I’m daydreaming about mutiny right now…

Add massages, treatments and scrubs and there’s really nothing left to need.

Crystal Serenity’s first cruise of 2014, sailing through the Panama Canal from Miami to Los Angeles starting January 5, also offers a “Mind, Body, Spirit” focus, with all-inclusive, “Book Now” fares of $4,675/person for 13 days so check out the website below and let us know if you have any questions.

www.crystalcruises.com