Discovering Provence: The French Riviera

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The Lavender Fields of Provence

Cézanne, Van Gogh, Chagall, and Matisse all drew inspiration from the storied beauty of Provence, and now savvy travelers can as well on a new, affordably-priced 12-day small group tour with Odysseys Unlimited: Discovering Provence with the French Riviera. From billowy lavender fields to rose-hued salt marshes, hilltop villages to medieval towns, and traditional cowboy ranches to the French Riviera, the small group tour relishes la vie Provençale with visits to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, and the quintessential Provençal villages of Lourmarin, Rousillon, Les Baux ,and Saint-Rémy; along with the Camargue region, Avignon, and Nice.

Six-time honoree of Travel +Leisure’s World’s Best Tour Operators award, I like Odysseys Unlimited approach with small groups, limited to 12 – 24 traveling companions, and led by top-rated tour directors with a balanced mix of guided tour and time for independent exploration. There’s nothing worse than never having a moment to relax. The company’s tour directors illuminate historic sites such as Cézanne’s atelier in Aix, the Pont du Gard and the Palais des Papes (Papal Palace) in Avignon, and the UNESCO sites of Roman Arles, while also allowing ample time to stop and smell the sunflowers. Or the lavender.

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The sights of Provence

Small group highlights abound, including a private cooking class from a local Provençal chef, dinner and a wine tasting at a vineyard, a visit to a working manade (traditional ranch) in the Camargue, and a stay at a converted 17th-century convent.

Priced from $3,997 total price from Boston and New York ($3,495 air and land inclusive plus $502 airline taxes and departure fees), and slightly higher from other gateway cities, Odysseys Unlimited’s 12-day Discovering Provence with the French Riviera debuts April 6, 2020, and has 12 departures through October 12, 2020.  There is an optional three-day/two-night extension in Nice on the French Riviera, from $245.

www.odysseys-unlimited.com

For a day-by-day itinerary check it out here:

Discovering Provence with the French Riviera

Hyatt Ziva Cancun: An All Inclusive Culinary Escape

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Hyatt Ziva Cancún, which debuted in November 2015 as the newest addition to a distinguished collection of Hyatt all inclusive resorts for guests of all ages, has thoroughly re-imagined the all inclusive experience from the ground up. From its unrivaled location at the tip of the Yucatan peninsula to its luxurious Ziva Sky Swim-up Suites, Hyatt Ziva Cancún stands apart from the rest. Unquestionably, the resort’s greatest distinction from other all inclusive properties lies in its cuisine. Hyatt Ziva Cancún is fully committed to authentic gourmet dining, seasonal flavors and fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Guests can curate their own gastronomic journey at Hyatt all inclusive resorts – one might start the day with a pastry from Casa Café, try fresh ceviche for lunch by the beach, reminisce over a private candlelit dinner in the sand and cap the day with a sweet treat from our fantastical, sugar-themed dessert parlor, Pasteles. Best of all, it’s entirely unlimited and fully at the guest’s discretion.

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Pasteles – A Sugar Themed Heaven

Redefining the all inclusive resort by satisfying every age, taste and style, whether traveling as a family, couple or group, Hyatt Ziva Cancún provides the typical All You Can Eat bonanza and a world of à la carte options to suit every palate. Nine distinct restaurants offer full menus to ensure that guests’ taste buds never tire:

· La Bastille, presenting timeless French cuisine in an elegant, yet relaxed setting for adults only
· El Mercado, a bountiful buffet of gourmet international cuisine with both indoor and outdoor seating
· The Moongate, offering a variety of Asian specialties, from dim sum to an interactive teppanyaki table
· Tradewinds, a casual oceanfront grill by day and a classic steakhouse by night
· Lorenzo’s, serving Trattoria-style favorites for lunch and elegant Italian traditions for dinner, including brick oven pizza
· Habaneros, featuring tacos and fresh ceviche beachside
· Chevy’s, a classic all-American diner with burgers and milkshakes, and even a ’57 Chevy convertible that guests can dine in
· Pasteles, a delightful dessert parlor
· Casa Café, specializing in all things coffee, plus scrumptious pastries and snacks

In addition to the restaurants, mobile food carts roam the pool and beach areas with tacos, burgers, fresh fruit, sweet crepes, and cool refreshments. Plus, in-suite dining, is available 24-hours a day. This is something appealing to families because other all inclusive resorts like Club Med Cancun don’t offer this.

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Tres Cerveza’s – Onsite Microbrewery

Choices abound at Hyatt Ziva Cancún, not only for dining but also for nightlife and libations. Adults can enjoy unlimited signature cocktails and a wide selection of beer, wine, tequila, and premium spirits at seven distinct watering holes:

· Juana Margarita, a tequila tasting bar offering local tequila varieties and an onsite tequila sommelier
· Tres Cervezas, a sports bar and microbrewery featuring handcrafted microbrews and an onsite brewmaster
· Sassil Bar, a contemporary lobby bar inspired by the region’s Mayan heritage, featuring both indoor and ocean-view outdoor seating
· Punta Vista, a rooftop lounge with panoramic views by the adults-only pool
· Dips & Sips, featuring both outdoor and in-pool seating at the swim-up bar
· 24 Horas, a lively 24-hour lounge
· Bar del Mar, the exclusive Hyatt Club Level lounge overlooking the infinity pool, offering both indoor and outdoor seating

http://www.playaresorts.com/Hyatt-Ziva-Cancun

True Wine Lovers Sleep Right In The Vineyard

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The Pool at Entre Cielos – Mendoza, Argentina

You think you are a serious wine drinker? Maybe you have a few glasses each week, swirl it around your glass rejoicing in the “body” and “tannins” and even can taste the differences between a California and a French Pinot, but have you ever slept in a vineyard? Well, we have… and let’s just say that there’s no substitute from drinking from the vine, resting your deliciously weary head, and then rising in the morning to drink/eat/repeat.

One of our top picks is Entre Cielos Luxury Wine Hotel + Spa in Mendoza, Argentina. This luxury boutique hotel and member of Small Luxury Hotels lets you sleep amongst their eight acres of Malbec grapes in a Limited Edition Vineyard Loft. The pod-like designed loft rises 30 feet above the vines making oenophiles feel like they are growing in the vineyard themselves.

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The Pool at Entre Cielos – Mendoza, Argentina

The one of a kind “suite” has an outdoor terrace complete with jacuzzi and unobstructed views of the vineyard and snow-capped mountains off in the distance. Although the views during the day are incredible, the ones at night are just as awesome. The loft has numerous skylights allowing you to stargaze right from the comfort of your bed.

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The Pool at Entre Cielos – Mendoza, Argentina

Located in one of the largest wine regions in Latin America, often recognized as the second home of the Malbec grape, the 16-room Entre Cielos sits on 20 acres in the Mendoza countryside and is a modern day retreat with ultra-modern architecture, sculpture and zen garden, two restaurants and the only six-stage circuit Hamam in Latin America.

Don’t worry, wine reigns supreme in the spa to with Vinotherapy treatments. Where else can you  – detox and retox – at the same time? We highly recommend the Hamam circuit combined with a Grape Seed Exfoliation and Wine Bath. Imagine soaking in a bubble bath infused with red grapes while drinking the hotel’s very own “Young” 100% Malbec Rose? Magical.

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The Pool at Entre Cielos – Mendoza, Argentina

As the property does have their own vineyard, they produce their own three labels of Malbec- Marantal Young, Marantal Classic and Gran Marantal (voted one of the 20 best Malbecs in 2013 by Descorchados). They also, of course, coordinate onsite tastings of their wines, as well as others. If you want to venture out on a tasting mission, the hotel can also arrange tastings at an array of nearby wineries. Bring your wooden leg… you’ll need it.

If drinking all day seems like overkill, there is definitely plenty of other activities nearby. You can horseback ride through vineyards, hot sir balloon over vineyards… ok, fine, it all still revolves around winemaking but hey, when in Mendoza!

The Limited Edition Vineyard Loft starts at $700 per night but there are other rooms in the main building that start at $315 per night.

www.entrecielos.com

Wild Animals and Wine in Monterey, California? You said it!

Vino Blanco... mi favorito...

Ah, the fruit of the vine… how I love thee so.

To that end, about two or three years ago, we wrote up a great itinerary for the Russian River Valley, so we thought we’d expose our readers to another River Road Wine Trail to complement the Carmel Valley. And, with the advent of the Monterey Wine Country iPhone app, it’s easier than ever to experience authentic wine country, get close to the producers and indulge in some of the finest wines made in the world.  The Monterey mobile app acts as a private tour guide, with tasting room profiles and maps, wines, tours, and amenities. The perfect long weekend in scenic Monterey County could include three of the app’s most comprehensive itineraries: The River Road Wine TrailCarmel Valley Wine Trail, and Monterey/Carmel-By-The-Sea Wine Trail.

At the mid-point of Monterey Wine Country’s 90-mile valley, this wine trail follows a parallel path to Highway 101 at the foot of the gorgeous Santa Lucia Mountains.  Morning fog and comfortable daytime temperatures are the setting for friendly, easygoing tasting rooms that welcome guests.  With the first tasting room less than an hour from Silicon Valley, guests can pack a picnic and camera as they make memories of a journey through relaxed, hassle-free wine country with stops at Talbott Vineyards, Pessagno Winery, Manzoni Estate Vineyard, Ray Franscioni Wines, Boekenoogen Vineyards & Winery, Hahn Winery, Wrath Wines, Paraiso Vineyards, Ventana Vineyards, Sycamore CellarsScheid Vineyards, and Marin’s Vineyard.  Wine trail signs easily guide visitors along the way through this picturesque trail.

Don’t miss the River Road’s Valentine’s Day Passport on Saturday, February 11th, where visitors traveling to River Road will receive a souvenir glass for tasting at each of the wineries, entry into a grand drawing, special discounts, fun, food, and a celebration of all things amour. Each winery will be hosting their own wine and food pairing, specifically to suit the love surrounding Valentine’s Day. Tickets are $20 before February 1st and $30 thereafter. info@riverroadwinetrail.com 

Vision Quest Ranch - Your Local Safari...

For luxe and out-of-the-ordinary overnight accommodations, check out the nearby Vision Quest Ranch is a B&B situated on an exotic animal sanctuary that offers safari tent-style bungalows – chic canvas-walled hotel suites complete with bathroom facilities – as well as morning breakfast delivered to the veranda by an African elephant.

Day 2: Carmel Valley Wine Trail 

“Country elegance” defines this well-marked wine trail, which runs east-to-west along the famously charming Carmel Valley Road.  Wineries to visit include Chateau Julien Wine Estate, Boekenoogen, Chateau Sinnet, Heller Estate Organic Vineyards, Talbott Vineyards, Joyce Vineyards, Carmel Hills Winery, Holman Ranch, and Bernardus Winery.  Nearby, it’s easy to find bistros serving sumptuous fare, art galleries, one-of-a-kind boutiques, hiking trails, equestrian trails and world-class golf to round out the perfect Carmel Valley experience.

A Room at Bernardus Lodge

After a full day of indulgence, the accommodations at Carmel Valley’s Bernardus Lodge are sure to rejuvenate and relax.  Nestled among the oaks and vineyards of scenic Carmel Valley, savor the gracious intimacy of a resort with epicurean flair, feather beds, cozy fireplaces and oversized bathtubs for two. The spa’s meditation garden, warming room and soaking pool along with dining at Marinus restaurant welcome you.

Day 3: Monterey and Carmel-By-The-Sea

For the last delicious day, re-energize in the buzz of Wine Country’s downtown tasting rooms in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterey, and on historic Cannery Row.  Conveniently located amid art galleries, fine dining, shopping, pristine beaches and tourist attractions like the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, tasting opportunities in this area include Morgan Winery, Caraccioli Cellars, Figge Cellars, Scheid Vineyards Tasting Room, Galante Vineyards, Cima Collina, Coastview Vineyards, Wrath, Otter Cove Wines, Bountiful Basket, Pepe’s Vino Napoli Wine Bar, Tudor, McIntyre Tasting Studio, Bargetto Winery, Pierce Ranch Vineyards and Ventana Vineyards.

The Stunning Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa

For a true “Monterey” experience, indulge in a night’s stay at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa located on Cannery Row.  Dramatically perched over the Monterey Bay, the Plaza is a Forbes four-star-rated hotel in the heart of the city that begs guests to enjoy the sounds of the surf, the fresh scent of sea air, and all the activities that the Monterey Peninsula has to offer.  The Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa was recently awarded the Trip Advisor Reader’s Choice Award, highlighted as one of the top 25 hotels in the United States.

For more on these three delicious days by the Bay, visit:

www.MontereyWines.org 

To download the Monterey Wine Country app, visit iTunes.

Love is in the Air This Valentine’s Day

The Snowy Peaks of Telluride

St. Valentine… ah, a story around martyred Saints. Makes me sorta in the mood. You too? To that end, I think of snowy peaks and warm fires. Precisely why we’ll be posting about a few Valentine’s Specials. This one in glorious Telluride, Colorado.

The Peaks Resort & Spa announced today the Valentine’s Day Staycation Special – an evening of pampered luxury for lovely couples everywhere – this Valentine’s Day at the premier resort in Telluride, CO. The Peaks Resort and Spa’s Valentine’s Day Staycation Package includes 1 Night Stay, 3-course dinner for two, a complimentary bottle of Champagne upon check in, 15% off Spa services and a rose petal turn-down service, all for the Romantic Price of only $299 per couple. Pretty great, eh?

A Room at The Peaks Telluride

With 29″ of fresh powder this week in Telluride, there’s no better way to heat things up this February. Treat your loved one to luxury at the world-renowned Resort and Spa. Plus, Telluride’s sweet cruisers, steep bumps and alpine bowls are in amazing shape. Enjoy a glass of your favorite red or indulge in a slice of sumptuous flourless chocolate cake before retreating to a rose-petal room turndown service turning your one-night escape toward an evening of nirvana. Already in town? Reserve yourself dinner at their award winning Palmyra restaurant and let the professional staff lead you on a culinary journey through a special three course menu priced at only $50 per person. *

The property includes 161 guest rooms including 32 suites, penthouse condominiums and two, three, four and five bedroom mountainside cabins – all with astounding mountain views. The resort offers slopeside access in the winter and is the home to the Telluride Golf Club championship course and Pro Shop. Onsite dining includes Palmyra, the Great Room, The Lift, Legends and Deep End Grill (summer only), as well as in-room private dining.

The Peak's Spa

What we also love? The onsite Spa at The Peaks Resort. At 42,000 sq. ft., is the largest spa in Colorado. The Spa features 32 treatment rooms and a variety of treatments like The Alpine Glow or Après Ski Calming Facial for wind whipped skin. The Spa also encompasses a full service salon, fully-equipped fitness center including Pilates and yoga studios, certified fitness instructors providing a variety of private and group classes, three-lane lap pool with Telluride’s only indoor water slide, indoor climbing wall, gender specific steam rooms (though we love co-ed… cause us Euro), saunas and Roman tubs, and indoor/outdoor heated pool and hot tubs. The NEW Laser Center at The Peaks is also located within the Spa at the Peaks and offers Botox, Restylane, Juvederm and Laser assisted surgery for all you Angelenos who want a secret vacation injection.

www.thepeaksresort.com