ResortPass:  We’ll Stay for the Day — GLR Opinion

Have you ever stayed at an impressive resort that, while teeming with the promise of pristine pools and soothing hot tubs, seems to be a bit lacking in any actual partakers? The offerings, sure, are plentiful, but the sauna and steam room in their world-class spa? Empty. This may sound problematic for their business, but in the efficiency-driven, “as-a-Service” economy we live in today, it also presents a smart opportunity for mutually beneficial partnership. Enter ResortPass, a service poised to connect locals and day trippers seeking relaxation with access to a partnering property’s all too available amenities.

 

Some might say the company has taken a page out of the Airbnb book by leveraging the under-utilized assets at resorts and selling them as an experience, for a fee. Well, the model is certainly working out for both parties. Launched in 2016—with Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba and “The Point’s Guy,” Brian Kelly, as early investors—ResortPass is starting to hit their stride this year. Not only have they grown their network significantly, but they also closed a $26 million “B” round this past November. They now partner with over 900 hotels and resorts around the world, all allowing users to enjoy luxury experiences on a day pass basis.

 

The price, you might be musing, is surely where the catch lies. Not necessarily, as it is more so reflective of the level of service and amenities offered, as well as the brand. The Four Seasons, for example, will likely cost you more than a Hilton. The range might be from $25-100 per day for a standard pass—more for daybeds and cabanas. The cost for children is less, if not free, depending on age.

 

large pool overlooking valley
Carneros Resort—Napa Valley, CA

 

It’s early days yet and hard to forecast the level of overall demand there will be for ResortPass, but I do have one prediction. The “stickiness” of this service will ultimately reside more with travelers than locals. According to Michael Wolf, CEO of ResortPass, the early data disagrees. So far, the majority of ResortPass’s users are locals who want to experience the amenities of hotels in their own or nearby cities. A staycation, or even “day”cation, as they say.

 

“Our local users never had the opportunity to access the hospitality industry locally,” says Wolf. “They thought they had to get on a plane to enjoy those sorts of amenities.”

 

pool surrounded by canabas and chairs and palm trees
Miramar Resort—Santa Barabra, CA

 

infinity pool overlooking river valley
Miraval Resort—Austin, TX (Photo: James Baigrie)

 

To be fair, ResortPass does acknowledge all types of users, from locals to cruise ship passengers alike, and I’m sure they are targeting all sorts of people in various situations where the service would be compelling. Whether the local demographic remains their top revenue source is anyone’s guess, but I would wager that the true value of this service lies with a certain type of traveler staying at a certain type of place.

 

For example, guests staying at a boutique hotel—one that offers a terrific experience but without resort-level amenities—would seem to be likely customers. Vacationers staying with friends are another plausible group to appeal to, as they might still want a bit of pampering and that vacation vibe while they’re out of town. And then there is their ultimate customer, the ones where the value of ResortPass truly becomes apparent—and for me, it’s full circle back to Airbnb and its guests.

 

I love Airbnb. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t appreciate the service. They created a whole new segment of lodging at price-points that are generally more attractive than hotels, especially if you require multiple bedrooms. What Airbnb sorely lacks, however, is amenities. Sure, you can get a great pad with a pool, large kitchen and epic view of the ocean or mountains, but you cannot get the kind of facilities and social intangibles that luxury hotels and resorts offer. There is no way to spell a bustling hotel lobby, or expansive pools surrounded by chaises and cabanas, with dining and cocktail service at your fingertips.

 

hotel pool in city overlooking skyline
Williamsburg Hotel—Brooklyn, NY

 

hotel pool next to bay with palm trees and dining tables
Ritz Carlton Bal Harbor—Miami, FL

 

And therein lies the true value of ResortPass. The best products and services are the ones that fill a void. It’s fine to build a better mouse trap and plenty of companies have made a living doing this. Even the most innovative companies in the world owe a lot of their success to products and services that already existed which they simply improved upon. Apple didn’t invent the smart phone; they just made it better. A lot better. But filling a void is the ultimate goal for most entrepreneurs. See Uber, Venmo and yes, Airbnb.

 

I think Airbnb would be wise to partner with—or dare I say, even purchase—ResortPass. It may start out as just an incremental supplement to their service, as it’s only useful if there is a qualifying resort nearby. Nonetheless, it would be a natural fit that could yield larger, more impactful results in the future. The Batman and Robin of travel disruptors, if you will.

 

ResortPass gets the GLR stamp of approval as a rising star in the resort space. Mark my words, they’re going places—and not just for the day.

 

Miami Beach EDITION: Five Things I Loved, Two I Did Not

Miami Beach EDITION, a collaboration between Ian Schrager and Marriott International, is a vibrant and luxurious hotel situated in the heart of Miami Beach. With its distinctive Shrager-esque style and uncompromising five-star comforts, the hotel offers an array of amenities and experiences that cater to discerning travelers.

 

An Enchanting Location

Nestled in Mid-Beach on a private enclave stretching from Collins Ave to the ocean, Miami Beach EDITION boasts a sprawling three and a half-acre property. This prime location ensures guests have convenient access to both the vibrant city scene and the serene beachfront, creating an ideal setting for a memorable stay.

 

Unparalleled Facilities and Amenities

Since its opening in 2014, Miami Beach EDITION has become synonymous with luxury and entertainment. The hotel features two ocean-facing pools, a wellness spa with a well-equipped gym, a unique basement ice rink doubling as a nightclub, and a bowling alley. Additionally, the indoor and outdoor event spaces offer chic settings for various gatherings. The highlight of the hotel’s dining options is the Jean George-developed MATADOR BAR and ROOM, an visually stunning space offering an equally impressive culinary experience.

 

Matador Terrace

 

Effortless Navigation and Comprehensive Offerings

Miami Beach EDITION stands out with its straightforward and user-friendly layout. Virtually everything is within easy reach from the lobby, fostering a seamless flow of energy and camaraderie among guests. The hotel aims to provide a one-stop shopping experience, encompassing dining, nightlife, socializing, recreation, culture, work, and meeting spaces. With a wide array of amenities and services available on-site, guests may choose to indulge in everything the hotel has to offer without the need to venture outside.

 

Even the lobby of the hotel is a captivating space, featuring pristine white marble floors and polished white pearl Venetian plaster walls. The carefully curated indoor palms and subtle gold and deep green accents contribute to the hotel’s signature “barefoot chic” ambiance. Offering a rare ocean view, the lobby serves as the central hub, connecting guests to various facilities such as the MATADOR BAR, pools, beach, and the outdoor tiki bar called “Tropicale.”

 

Easy To Get Around…Has Everything You Need

 

The layout at The Edition is simple and intuitive. Virtually everything is a stone’s throw from the lobby which makes getting around easy and efficient and adds a whimsical flow of energy and comradery to the place. Everyone is coming and going to or from something enjoyable. The hotel is also outfitted with everything you need. One of Shrager’s top goals with the hotel was to make it a one- stop shopping experience, providing everything a guest could imagine—dining, nightlife, socializing, recreation, culture, work and meeting space—within the complex. Once you are there, there is no reason to leave if you don’t want to. Personally, I can’t imagine forgoing a dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab or walking across the street to the Broken Shaker and Twenty Seven restaurant at the Freehand Hotel, but if you’re the type that just likes to chill at your hotel, Miami Beach EDITION has you covered.

 

The Lobby

The lobby is visually stunning with pristine white marble floors and polished white pearl Venetian plaster walls, highlighted with subtle tones of gold and deep green form the indoor palms. One of the few hotel lobbies in Miami Beach to offer a view of the ocean, the spirit of the space, like the hotel itself, is “barefoot chic” or “new tropical” as Shrager likes to say.

“You might see people in golf attire, a bathing suit, a Pilates uniform, formal evening clothes or jeans,” Schrager notes. “All comfortable, all being themselves, all connected by a certain sensibility.”

 

Lobby

 

The lobby is also the central nervous system of the hotel with a fun pool table (great for the kids) and adjacent MATADOR BAR—with the pools, beach and outdoor tiki bar, “Tropicale,” just a short jaunt away.

 

Dining Delights

Within the hotel, guests can explore a range of dining options. The Jean George-developed “Marketplace” provides indoor and outdoor seating for breakfast or a quick snack. Overlooking the pool with stunning views of Miami Beach, “Tropicale” offers tropical drinks, light bites, and a relaxed island atmosphere.

The pièce de résistance, however, is the MATADOR BAR, a space that transports guests to an era of timeless glamour. It is the kind of place, Schrager says, “one might expect to see Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers waltzing through.”

The bar’s expansive design, black walnut and stone centerpiece, and ocean vistas create an unforgettable setting. Adjacent to the bar, the MATADOR ROOM welcomes guests with its grandeur, offering a splendid dining experience inspired by Latin cuisine with modern twists..

.

MATDOR BAR—Lucien Clergue Paintings on Wall

 

Afternoon drinks at MATDOR BAR

 

Adjacent to the bar, the MATADOR ROOM welcomes guests with its grandeur, offering a splendid dining experience inspired by Chef Jeremy Ford’s modern interpretation of Latin cuisine with modern twists—with a variety of dishes that are ideal for sharing.

Equally impressive is the setting. The space’s original chandelier has been restored and is suspended over the sunken oval dining room, reminiscent of the glamorous supper clubs of the 1940s and 50s

 

Inner circle seating at MATADOR ROOM (there are also tables around the permiter of restaurant)

 

Beach Access and Atmosphere

The proximity of the beach to Miami Beach EDITION is a notable advantage. Guests can effortlessly transition between the main pool and the beach, making it convenient for those who enjoy multiple visits throughout the day. The hotel’s beach area has a unique ambiance, thanks to the rocks at both ends, creating a sense of privacy and exclusivity away from excessive foot traffic.

 

Main Pool, benches and cabanas, beach and ocean

 

Family Friendly

While the Ian Schrager brand might not immediately evoke a family-friendly image, Miami Beach EDITION surprises with its welcoming environment for children. The hotel offers various amenities catering to younger guests, including a pool table in the lobby, a ping pong table in a palm-tree sheltered area, and a basement bowling alley and skating rink.

 

Lobby pool table

 

Basement bowling alley

 

Room for Improvement

Though Miami Beach EDITION excels in many aspects, there are a few areas that could benefit from further attention. While the standard rooms showcase elegant design, some functional aspects, like the low-draining sinks, could be improved for a more seamless experience. The pools and benches, while satisfactory, do not stand out as exceptional, and the positioning of the benches could be better optimized for sunlight exposure and comfort.

 

Ocean View Room

 

 

Pool at night overlooked by Matador Terrace

 

My main gripe is more with the positioning and comfort of the benches than the pools themselves. Half the benches have morning sun and half have afternoon sun so you kind of have to choose when you want sun. While this may be a problem for many Miami hotels it seemed more pronounced at EDITION. Of course, many people today will actually appreciate this as we’re more careful about sun exposure, particularly in places where the sun is so strong. But the benches are also quite stiff and low to the ground. The minimalist design Shrager is famous for can sometimes look more comfortable than it actually is—think futon not featherbed—unlike their neighbor, 1 Hotel, which has a more impressive pool situation.

 

“Tropicale” Pool

 

Final Verdict

Miami Beach EDITION, with its modern minimalist design and reasonable price-point for a five-star hotel, offers a comprehensive and stylish retreat for sun-seeking travelers. The hotel’s beach access, ocean-facing pools, and vibrant dining options, particularly the enchanting MATADOR Bar, make it an enticing destination for those seeking class, glamour, and a touch of nostalgia. Whether indulging in a signature cocktail or reveling in the surroundings, guests are sure to find Miami Beach EDITION a delightful escape.

The most unexpected treat? MATADOR Bar. Shrager is right. It does indeed, “transport you back in time to an era where class and glamour reigned supreme.” Order The Pineapple, served in a custom-made copper pineapple or opt for a simple Martini while you enjoy the surroundings. Either way you won’t be disappointed.

5 Spas To Help You Rejuvenate This Spring

If the recent warm weather is not enough to alert your senses, then let me inform you. Winter is on its wane and spring is on its way, waiting in the lurches, ready to…well, spring.


While you might not be motivated to zealously hit the gym or give up the hamburger-and-fries combo meal just yet, a great way to recharge your batteries is through a trip to the spa. A week-long stay is the best option as most spa programs combine healthy cuisine, fitness classes and therapeutic treatments to help guests garner optimum results. But even a day trip to your neighborhood spa can aid in detoxifying your system. Great spas exist throughout the country and almost everyone can afford an hour of relaxation. GLR has chosen five spas, from New York to California and in between, that offer a great way to dispel the late winter blues.

 

Peninsula Hotel, New York, NY

A Forbes Five Star-rated spa, the Peninsula Spa is an intimate, indulgent environment featuring a wide range of innovative spa treatments, magnificent facilities and great staff. Try one of their popular facials by the French luxury skincare line Biologique Recherche or opt for the ultimate in relaxation with the signature Deep Tissue Experience.

The Spa features a stunning collection of 10 treatment rooms including a spacious Private Spa Suite, Nail Care Suite, men’s and women’s private relaxation lounges, an Asian tea lounge, and changing rooms with luxurious heat experiences.

There are nearly a dozen different types of treatments at the Peninsula Spa, including the Tulasi Detox Signature Journey, a detox that starts with a mineral-rich, aromatic foot soak that creates a sensory-rich start to the ritual and the Deep Tissue Experience, one of their signature spa experiences—a powerful therapeutic treatment that utilizes a vigorous, free-flowing joint release technique, which replaces stressful tension.

Spa Solage, Calistoga, CA

Set in beautiful Napa Valley where spas are not exactly a rarity, Solage sticks out with its farmhouse-style buildings and geothermal pools, compliments of the strong thermal springs that Calistoga is famous for. Artfully designed and ecologically conscious, Spa Solage is the ultimate retreat to experience relaxing and invigorating services, including new twists on the renowned Calistoga mud and mineral water therapies.

Experience the healing geo-thermal waters at Spa Solage with a pre-treatment soak to improve circulation and restore health. Choose to soak in the co-ed geo-thermal pool warmed to body temperature, or in the privacy of our separate men’s and women’s clothing optional areas featuring 103° jetted mineral pools. The clothing optional areas also include a rejuvenating cool plunge and eucalyptus steam for whole-body purification. Arrive 30 minutes prior to your treatment to enjoy the famed hydrotherapy bathing ritual or linger after your treatment to deepen relaxation.

Finally there is the Mudslide, which Solage calls “a modern twist on the traditional Calistoga mud bath” which can be enjoyed solo or as part of a couple or group.

Wellhouse Spa, Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN

While Blackberry Farm has been welcoming guests for several decades, its Wellhouse spa is still in its early childhood, having opened in June 2014. Nonetheless, the rustic stone-and-wood building feels established and the spa and wellness menus are comprehensive and enticing. Registered guests of Blackberry Farm have full access to the wellness and spa menu. Sample Spa Treatments include:

The Wellhouse Soothe: a custom Blackberry Farm massage utilizing a combination of classic Swedish techniques and gentle stretches to relieve muscle tension and stress,

Smoky Mountain Mist Skin Glow: a blend of pomegranate seed, orange peel powder and essential oils that exfoliates and conditions the skin while relaxing in a private steam bath, followed by a full-body massage with nutrient-rich body butter follows.

The Blackberry Man: an exclusive spa menu dedicated to every man’s-man featuring relaxing, therapeutic, feel-good services like the Muscle Melt, High-Adventure Foot Restoration and the Saving Face facial.

LakeHouse Spa, Lake Austin Spa Resort, Austin, Texas

Holistic spas are popping up around the country and one of the best is the LakeHouse Spaat the 19-acre, bucolic Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas. The 25,000-square-foot renovated facility has 30 treatment areas (some situated in the picturesque garden), an outdoor pool, an indoor lap pool, a hot tub and cabanas. Choose from more than 100 spa and salon treatments, many of which are based on ancient therapies including Ayurveda, Moortherapy and Thalassotherapy. Many of the herbs used in treatments are grown onsite at the resort’s Healing Gardens. Opt for the Bamboo Bliss massage or the Texas Sage Herbal Infusion body treatment.

LakeHouse believes in using your body’s defenses to keep illness at bay. Instructor Paul K. Smith teaches specialty yoga classes that allegedly relieve allergies and asthma. Acupuncture is also offered and many spa programs can be tailored to meet the needs of guests who want to decrease stress, lose weight fast or jumpstart their fitness routines.

The resort has 40 luxury accommodations in Texas Hill Country. Rooms feature Egyptian cotton sheets and down comforters, artesian afghan throws, handmade quilts, Kohler soaking tubs and LCD TVs.

Canyon Ranch, Tucson, Arizona

Canyon Ranch is one of the oldest destination spas in the country and also one of the most luxurious. Founded in the Santa Catalina Mountains in 1979, Canyon Ranch, which also has locations in Lenox, Massachusetts, and Miami, boasts a dizzying array of treatment rooms, fitness facilities and places to relax for guests looking for a week or longer detox. Nestled on 150 acres, amid cactus, desert blooms and bubbling streams, the Tucson property has a 80,000-square-foot spa with six gyms, a pilates studio, fitness rooms, racquetball and squash courts, as well as a 11,000-square-foot aquatic center, a golf club and tennis courts. Guests can choose from 50 fitness classes daily, including yoga, tai chi and qi gong.

Spa treatments run the gamut, from facials to scrubs to massages, all with a therapeutic theme. Wellness and health are the focus. You won’t find trendy treatments with Swarovski crystals here. Instead, you’ll find centuries-old therapies such as Ayurvedic treatments. The wellness portion of the resort focuses on disease prevention, smoking cessation, weight loss and stress management. The Life Enhancement Program (LEP) is a week-long program stressing specific medical, wellness and lifestyle concerns of participating guests.

The 240 guest rooms have a Southwestern feel with featherbeds, red and brown printed throws, carved wooden furniture and original art.

Escape to Crested Butte’s Luxuriously Rustic Scarp Ridge Lodge

I toured Eleven Experience’s flagship property, Scarp Ridge Lodge—in the heart of downtown Crested Butte, CO—this past summer and loved it! I can only imagine how comforting it must be to stay here after a long day of skiing in the winter. Perhaps even “snowcat skiing” via their partnership with Irwin Guides (more on that).

A former Croatian saloon, with its Western façade still in tac, this European ski chalet-meets-Rocky Mountain lodge makes for an ideal place to stay for private groups and families.

Eleven Experiences

You may be wondering, what is Eleven Experience? Eleven Experience is an exclusive accommodation and experiential travel brand which seeks out unique and authentic places and properties around the globe. They tend to be off the beaten track, and are mostly all-inclusive, full buy-out type properties. Think 5-star accommodations, but in the comfort of a private home. In addition to seeking out these special properties, Eleven Experience also provides customized experiences with private guides.

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, COPin this image on Pinterest

 

The bar at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte ColoradoPin this image on Pinterest

Eleven Experience has a few properties in Crested Butte, Scarp Ridge Lodge being its lead property. I visited the lodge this summer, when I was in Crested Butte, and had a wonderful tour. The property is fabulous.

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested ButtePin this image on Pinterest

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge—The Flagship

Scarp Ridge Lodge, with its 5 King bedrooms and bunk room with 7 beds (including a nanny’s room), functions as a retreat for private groups during the winter, and as an upscale B&B during the summer. During winter, Crested Butte is known for its excellent skiing, as well as a plethora of other outdoor winter sports. Think Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, snowmobiling, fat biking (extra fat tires to allow you to bike on the snow), and cat skiing.

 

Scarp Ridge Lodge living roomPin this image on Pinterest

The lodge has its own, custom snowcat that comes each morning and takes guests to exclusive ski terrain in nearby Irwin. This is part of the “experience” Eleven Experience offers its guests here. Along with a private snowcat, private guides, amazing terrain, and two mountain cabins for eating and apres skiing, guests of the lodge can enjoy a completely unique and plush experience.

 

Rooftop hot tub at Scarp Ridge LodgePin this image on Pinterest

 

Indoor pool at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, COPin this image on Pinterest
Relax and Unwind

After a long day on the mountain, Scarp Ridge Lodge itself is the perfect place to relax and unwind. With a rooftop hot tub, indoor hot tub, indoor salt water pool, sauna and steam room, gym, and media room, there’s not much the lodge doesn’t have. It even has its own oxygen-enriched air system for those who are having a hard time to adjusting to the high altitude. There is a bar for post-skiing drinks, and an open kitchen with fully stocked fridge accessible 24/7. And no worries about cooking – a private chef will do that all for you. Though I must say – the restaurants in Crested Butte are pretty great! You can dine out too.

 

Bedroom at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, ColoradoPin this image on Pinterest
Playing in the bunk room at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested ButtePin this image on Pinterest
Bedrooms

Each of the 5 bedrooms has its own en-suite bathroom and is uniquely decorated, with rustic touches in a contemporary setting. We were able to see a bunch of them, all cozy and inviting. The lodge really does feel like a home. The bunkroom, with its 7 beds, is awesome – it had my kids grinning from ear to ear. Based on the board game Chutes & Ladders, it’s adventurous and fun, and just plain cool. There is a loft you can climb up to, and if the kids are young and need some watching after, no worries – there is a nanny’s room right next to it. My kids have been begging to go back. I keep telling them, we will.

 

Hanging out in the media room at Scarp Ridge LodgePin this image on Pinterest
The kitchen at Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte Colorado

 

As I mentioned, we toured Scarp Ridge Lodge during the summer, when it is a B&B. Not only a ski town, Crested Butte is amazing to visit during the summer. Known for its mountain biking, hiking, flower festival, a happening downtown, and gorgeous scenery, Crested Butte is a special place to visit any time of the year. The lodge is conveniently located in downtown, making it a very easy and accessible home away from home.

—Corey Cook, Luxury Travel Advisor at Elli Travel Group and founder of Fifi+Hop Travel Blog

 

See also: Rocky Mountain Resort Towns

 

A Timeless Treasure in London

In the bustling heart of Mayfair, London, stands a true testament to refined elegance and unparalleled luxury—The Connaught Hotel. With its rich heritage, impeccable service, and unrivaled attention to detail, The Connaught has become synonymous with sophistication and has captured the hearts of discerning travelers from around the world. This iconic establishment offers a haven of tranquility and indulgence, making it a destination unlike any other in the vibrant city of London.

An Enduring Legacy

The Connaught Hotel has a storied history that dates back to 1815 when it was originally built as a private residence. Over the years, it has evolved into a symbol of timeless grandeur, attracting an elite clientele that includes royalty, celebrities, and influential figures. The hotel’s reputation for excellence has been carefully cultivated, and it continues to set the standard for luxury hospitality in London.

 

Timeless Elegance

Stepping into The Connaught is like entering a world of refined beauty and understated opulence. The hotel’s interior design seamlessly blends traditional British charm with contemporary sophistication. The public areas feature plush furnishings, exquisite artwork, and tasteful décor, creating an atmosphere of warmth and serenity. Every corner of the hotel reflects meticulous attention to detail, from the elegant corridors adorned with fresh flowers to the discreetly attentive staff who anticipate guests’ every need.

 

Exquisite Accommodations

The Connaught offers a range of luxurious accommodations, each meticulously designed to provide an oasis of comfort and tranquility. The rooms and suites exude an air of timeless elegance, with sumptuous fabrics, bespoke furnishings, and modern amenities seamlessly integrated into the classic design. Guests can expect the utmost privacy and personalized service, ensuring a truly unforgettable stay in the heart of London.

 

Culinary Excellence

One of the highlights of The Connaught is its extraordinary dining experiences. The hotel boasts several acclaimed restaurants, each offering a unique culinary journey. At Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, guests can savor exquisite French cuisine created by Michelin-starred chef Hélène Darroze. The elegant surroundings and impeccable service complement the extraordinary flavors and artistic presentation of the dishes. For those seeking a more relaxed atmosphere, The Connaught Bar is a world-renowned destination for cocktail enthusiasts, where expert mixologists create innovative concoctions that push the boundaries of taste and presentation.

 

The Aman Spa

The Connaught Hotel takes pampering to new heights with its exclusive Aman Spa. Nestled within the hotel, this serene sanctuary offers a holistic approach to well-being, drawing inspiration from both Eastern and Western traditions. Guests can indulge in a range of luxurious treatments, including massages, facials, and rejuvenating therapies. The spa’s tranquil ambiance, coupled with the expertise of highly skilled therapists, ensures a blissful experience that rejuvenates the mind, body, and soul.

 

Unparalleled Service

What truly sets The Connaught apart is its legendary service. From the moment guests step foot inside, they are enveloped in an atmosphere of warmth and hospitality. The staff is dedicated to anticipating guests’ needs and providing personalized attention to ensure a flawless experience. Whether it’s arranging a private tour of London’s hidden gems, securing reservations at exclusive establishments, or simply delivering impeccable room service, the staff at The Connaught goes above and beyond to exceed expectations.

 

Mayfair’s Cultural Haven

Situated in Mayfair, one of London’s most prestigious neighborhoods, The Connaught offers easy access to a wealth of cultural attractions. Guests can explore the nearby art galleries, high-end boutiques, and world-class theaters, immersing themselves in the vibrant pulse of the city. The hotel’s prime

12 Essential Travel Tools for the Modern Adventurer

In today’s fast-paced world, traveling has become more accessible and exciting than ever before. Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or embarking on a round-the-world adventure, having the right travel tools can make your journey smoother, more enjoyable, and stress-free. From reliable travel blogs and advisors to convenient booking platforms and smart devices, here are 12 essential travel tools that every modern adventurer should consider. These tools range from providing valuable information and recommendations to simplifying travel logistics and ensuring peace of mind throughout your journey.

 

The Points Guy TPG

The Points Guy is a popular online resource that caters to savvy travelers looking to maximize their travel rewards. This website offers insightful tips, tricks, and strategies to help you earn and redeem points effectively, allowing you to enjoy upgrades, free flights, hotel stays, and more. With comprehensive guides on loyalty programs, credit cards, and travel hacking, The Points Guy is an invaluable tool for those seeking to make the most of their travel experiences.

 

Travel Blogs

Travel blogs provide a wealth of information and inspiration for travelers worldwide. These online platforms are written by experienced globetrotters, offering personal anecdotes, destination guides, itineraries, and insider tips. From adventure travel to luxury escapes, there is a travel blog for every type of explorer. By following these blogs, you can discover hidden gems, learn about local customs, find budget-friendly options, and gain insights into off-the-beaten-path destinations. Popular travel blogs include Nomadic Matt, Adventurous Kate, and The Blonde Abroad, among many others.

 

Travel Advisors

While travel blogs offer a plethora of information, sometimes it’s beneficial to have a human touch. Travel advisors, also known as travel agents or consultants, are professionals who specialize in curating personalized travel experiences. These experts have extensive knowledge and industry connections to help you plan your dream vacation with ease. Whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway, family vacation, or adventure tour, travel advisors can provide valuable insights, handle complex bookings, and offer recommendations tailored to your preferences. Their expertise ensures a seamless and unforgettable travel experience.

 

Booking.com

Booking.com is a widely recognized online platform that simplifies the process of finding and booking accommodation. With an extensive database of hotels, hostels, vacation rentals, and even alternative accommodations, such as treehouses and houseboats, Booking.com offers a vast selection to suit every traveler’s needs and budget. The platform provides user-friendly search filters, detailed descriptions, reviews, and competitive pricing, making it a go-to tool for travelers worldwide. Booking.com also offers flexible booking options and excellent customer service, ensuring a hassle-free experience from start to finish.

 

HotelsTonight

For spontaneous travelers or those seeking last-minute accommodation deals, HotelsTonight is a game-changer. This mobile app allows you to find discounted hotel rooms for the same day or up to a week in advance. HotelsTonight partners with various hotels to offer unsold inventory at reduced rates, allowing travelers to find affordable options on short notice. The app provides user-friendly filters, detailed hotel information, and real-time availability updates. HotelsTonight is perfect for those seeking to save money or find a comfortable place to stay when their plans change unexpectedly.

 

Airline Credit Card

An airline credit card can be a valuable tool for frequent travelers. These credit cards offer various benefits, such as airline miles or points, priority boarding, lounge access, and free checked bags. By using an airline credit card for your everyday purchases, you can accumulate rewards that can be redeemed for flights, upgrades, or other travel-related expenses. Additionally, some airline credit cards offer travel insurance, purchase protection, and other travel perks. Research different airline credit cards to find the one that aligns with your travel habits and preferences, and start earning rewards towards your next adventure. Chase Sapphire Preferred, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card and American Express Platinum are just a few of our favorites. See our full review of Best Airline Credit Cards for 2023.

 

Apple iWatch

The iWatch is a versatile travel tool that can simplify your journey. From displaying flight itineraries and hotel reservations to tracking your fitness and monitoring your health, the iWatch and other high-end smartwatches offer convenience and functionality on the go. With built-in features like GPS, heart rate monitoring, and connectivity to your smartphone, you can navigate unfamiliar cities, stay active, receive notifications, and even make contactless payments. The iWatch’s compact design and multiple functionalities make it a practical companion for any traveler.

 

Travel and Lifestyle Websites

Travel and lifestyle websites, such as TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet, provide comprehensive travel information and recommendations beyond just accommodation. These platforms offer insights on local restaurants, attractions, shopping, and nightlife, ensuring you make the most of your destination. With user-generated reviews and ratings, lifestyle websites allow you to gather authentic feedback from fellow travelers, helping you make informed decisions about where to eat, what to do, and what to see. By exploring these websites, you can discover hidden gems, avoid tourist traps, and immerse yourself in the local culture.

 

Travel Magazines

Travel magazines, both in print and digital formats, offer a curated collection of inspiring travel stories, stunning photography, and expert recommendations. These magazines cover a wide range of destinations, cultures, and travel styles, providing a source of inspiration and wanderlust for travelers. Whether you’re flipping through the glossy pages on a long flight or exploring digital articles on your smartphone, travel magazines transport you to different corners of the globe and offer insights into unique experiences. Some popular travel magazines include National Geographic Traveler, Condé Nast Traveler, and Travel + Leisure.

 

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is an essential tool for any traveler. It provides financial protection against unexpected events, such as trip cancellations, medical emergencies, or lost luggage. Travel insurance policies typically cover medical expenses, emergency evacuation, trip interruption, and personal liability, among other benefits. Before embarking on your journey, it’s crucial to research and purchase travel insurance that suits your needs and covers your destination. This ensures that you have peace of mind during your travels, knowing that you’re protected in case of unforeseen circumstances.

 

Cheap Flight Alerts

Cheap flight alerts services, such as Going.com (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) or Airfarewatchdog, help you find the best flight deals and save money on airfare. These services send you email notifications or app alerts when there are significant price drops or mistake fares, allowing you to book discounted flights before prices rise again. By subscribing to these services and being flexible with your travel dates and destinations, you can take advantage of incredible flight deals, explore new places, and stretch your travel budget further.

 

TripIt

TripIt is a travel organization app that consolidates all your travel information in one place. By forwarding your flight, hotel, and car rental confirmations to TripIt, the app creates a master itinerary that can be accessed offline. It provides essential details like departure times, gate information, and confirmation numbers, ensuring you have everything you need at your fingertips. TripIt also offers features like real-time flight updates, alternate flight suggestions, and syncing with your calendar. This app keeps your travel plans organized, simplifying your journey and minimizing stress.

Ram’s Gate Winery: A Perfect Day Trip From San Francisco

The wine tasting scene in Napa and Sonoma has evolved significantly since I first frequented these picturesque “twin valleys,” dotted with vineyards and beautifully framed by the Mayacamas and Vaca mountain ranges, many years ago.

 

Gone are the days of hopping from one tasting room to another, savoring the array of wines for a mere $10 to $20—often with a complimentary tasting upon purchase of a bottle. The transformation is attributed to a combination of the evolving wine culture, influenced by changing times, and the lasting impact of the Covid pandemic. Today, the wine-tasting experience has taken on a more comprehensive and upscale character. It’s now customary for visitors to focus their attention on a single winery, yet one that offers a more holistic experience. Ideally this would include a winery with an extensive selection of wines and a beautiful setting—both inside and outside—to enjoy your tasting experience. It might also include gastronomic options and other customized experiences.

 

Unfortunately, discovering a winery that seamlessly combines all these desired attributes can be a challenging quest. Many high-end wineries boast stunning settings and may even feature gourmet dining options, yet they often specialize in only a limited selection of varietals, such as Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc. Meanwhile, the larger, more value-oriented wineries often provide an extensive range of wines (various red and white varietals), however, they tend to offer a somewhat standardized experience that mirrors what it was a decade ago, albeit with advance reservations required. Finding that elusive gem of a winery that offers the best of both worlds—diverse wine offerings, a picturesque estate, bespoke services like a thoughtfully curated lunch to complement your wine tasting—is a rare find.

 

Perched on a hill in the southern tip of the Carneros AVA, Ram’s Gate Winery offers such an experience. With a diverse selection of wines—they produce 24 different wines, though tastings usually focus on 5 or 6 styles—exquisite food options and a breathtaking setting, there is no need to go anywhere else to satiate your wine country thirst. Perhaps the most amazing feature? It’s only a 45 minute drive from San Francisco!

 

Here are some of the most alluring elements of Ram’s Gate Winery that make it an ideal “day trip” from San Francisco for wine and food lovers.

 

Proximity to San Francisco

 

Ram’s Gate Winery is conveniently situated in the heart of the Sonoma Valley, making it easily accessible from San Francisco. Located less than an hour’s drive from the city, this winery allows visitors to escape the urban environment and immerse themselves in the stunning natural beauty of wine country in no time.

 

The scenic drive to Ram’s Gate takes you through picturesque landscapes, with breathtaking views of rolling hills and vineyards, while saving you an additonal hour of dricing compared to “up-valley” destinations in places like St. Helena or Calistoga. Visitors can maximize their time at the winery without spending hours in the car.

 

Array of Wines

 

One of the most significant attractions of Ram’s Gate Winery is its wide array of wines. Whether you’re a seasoned wine connoisseur or a casual enthusiast, the winery offers something to suit every palate.

 

Known for its cooler-climate wines, Ram’s Gate provides a great foray into the various micro climates within Sonoma Valley. Their wine portfolio currently includes 24 different wines. Varietals include Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rosé, and a Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine—great for celabratory occasions!

 

 

Ram’s Gate doesn’t offer your run-of-the-mill tastings; they provide a portfolio of six extraordinary experiences that cater to every palate and passion: the regal Seated Wine Tasting, the divine Seasonal Wine and Food Experience, the tantalizing Wine and Bites Experience, the exclusive Caviar Experience (paired with some of their finest white wines), the opulent Luxury Picnic, and the lively Group Tastings.

 

If the “experiences” are more than you were bargaining for, the winery also offers a more standard tasting, which can be enjoyed inside or outside, at the main tasting bar or various tables throughout the winery. While they run a tight operation at Ram’s Gate, the hospitality crew and tasting room staff are also flexible and will work with you on offering the ideal experience.

 

 

A Beautiful Compound

Outdoor sitting area (Photo Credit: Rocco Ceselin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Designed by Howard Backen, Ram’s Gate is a stunning architectural masterpiece that beautifully blends the elements of nature with modern design.

 

At first glance, the winery captivates visitors with its understated elegance and organic charm. Howard Backen, renowned for his commitment to creating spaces that honor their surroundings, seamlessly integrates the winery into the rolling hills and vineyards that define the region. The design approach is characterized by simplicity, natural materials, and a deep appreciation for the site’s unique topography.

 

The entrance to the winery is marked by a long, meandering driveway that gradually reveals the beauty of the estate. Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by a stunning main building that serves as the focal point of the winery. The structure combines elements of traditional agricultural buildings with contemporary touches, resulting in a design that exudes both rustic charm and modern sophistication.

 

Front of winery (Photo Credit: Rocco Ceselin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main building of Ram’s Gate Winery immediately captivates with its low-slung profile and extensive use of glass, allowing for breathtaking views of the surrounding vineyards and hills. Backen’s design seamlessly integrates the indoor and outdoor spaces, blurring the boundaries between the two. This connection is further emphasized by the use of natural materials such as weathered wood siding, which adds warmth and texture to the building’s exterior.

 

Inside, the winery exudes an inviting atmosphere with its open-plan layout and a focus on natural materials. Reclaimed wood, stone, and metal elements create a sense of authenticity and timelessness. The design allows for effortless transitions between different areas, including the tasting rooms, barrel storage, and production facilities, enhancing the overall visitor experience.

 

One of the standout features of Ram’s Gate Winery is its expansive outdoor terrace. This beautifully designed space overlooks the vineyards, providing a serene and picturesque setting for guests to savor their wine. The use of natural stone, wood, and comfortable seating creates a relaxing ambiance that invites visitors to immerse themselves in the surrounding landscape.

 

Courtyard (Photo Credit: Rocco Ceselin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In line with Backen’s commitment to sustainability, the design of Ram’s Gate Winery incorporates environmentally friendly features and practices. From the use of reclaimed materials to the implementation of passive design strategies, the winery minimizes its ecological footprint while maintaining a high level of comfort and functionality.

 

Commitment to Sustainability

Joe Nielsen, the Winemaker and General Manager of Ram’s Gate’s estate vineyard, has taken remarkable strides in enhancing the vineyard’s sustainable farming practices. His innovative methods, such as utilizing soil diagrams and pressure bombs to assess the vineyard’s water requirements, have led to a significant reduction in water consumption by 33%.

 

Estate Vineyards (Photo Credit: Rocco Ceselin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joe is now steering the estate vineyard and winery towards an even more eco-friendly future, with the ambitious target of achieving organic certification by 2024. Embracing the philosophy that Mother Nature provides the best tools for nurturing a thriving vineyard, Joe and his team have implemented various natural solutions.

To control weeds and enrich biodiversity, they employ a flock of sheep for winter mowing, allowing them to naturally fertilize the vineyard. For the challenge of birds and rodents damaging the vineyard, Joe introduced owl boxes and perches to attract natural predators, while also collaborating with a local falconer for additional pest control during the growing season. Even when confronted with an increase in deer that defied fencing, a pack of coyotes naturally traversed the vineyard, highlighting the team’s commitment to harnessing nature’s own mechanisms to maintain balance in their estate farming practices.

 

Culinary Delights

Beyond its impressive wines, Ram’s Gate Winery also offers a culinary experience that elevates the visit to a whole new level. The winery’s commitment to farm-to-table cuisine ensures that visitors can indulge in delectable food options that perfectly complement their wines.

 

 

The Ram’s Gate Winery’s culinary team sources fresh ingredients from local farms and purveyors to create a seasonal menu that reflects the flavors of the region. From artisanal cheese platters to flavorful charcuterie boards, the food offerings are thoughtfully curated to enhance the tasting experience.

 

For those seeking a more substantial meal, the winery has a fully equipped kitchen and offers a delightful dining experience, compliments of Executive Chef Ruby Oliveros. The menu, inspired by the bounty of Sonoma Valley, showcases dishes with a focus on locally sourced foods, that pair harmoniously with their wines. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely lunch while taking in panoramic views of the vineyards and surrounding landscapes, immersing themselves in the quintessential wine country ambiance.

 

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Unique Experiences

Ram’s Gate Winery goes above and beyond to provide unique experiences that engage visitors and deepen their understanding of wine culture. The winery hosts educational seminars, blending workshops, and wine-pairing classes, allowing enthusiasts to expand their knowledge and appreciation of wine.

 

For those seeking a more immersive experience, Ram’s Gate Winery offers private tours that provide an insider’s perspective on the winemaking process. These tours offer the opportunity to explore the vineyards, witness the winemakers in action, and gain insights into the complexities of crafting exceptional wines.

 

Moreover, the winery frequently hosts special events, including wine release parties, winemaker dinners, and live music performances, creating an atmosphere of celebration and camaraderie. These events present an excellent opportunity to engage with fellow wine lovers and connect with the vibrant wine community.

 

Private dining and tasting room (Photo Credit: Rocco Ceselin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ram’s Gate Winery is a hidden gem that offers a remarkable day trip experience from San Francisco. Its proximity to the city allows visitors to escape the urban environment and immerse themselves in the beauty of Sonoma Valley without spending excessive time on the road trekking through Sonoma or Napa Valley—which can be dangerous if you over-indulge, or expensive if you require an Uber. With its diverse selection of wines, ranging from elegant Chardonnays to robust Cabernet Sauvignons, the winery caters to wine enthusiasts of all preferences. The exceptional culinary offerings, which highlight the region’s flavors, perfectly complement the wines and elevate the overall experience.

 

(Top Photo Credit: Rocco Ceselin)

culinary appliances

Culinary Comforts

Whether your personal preference is centered on design and style, or on food and entertainment, here’s our list of the top high-end culinary brands that will suit your preferred lifestyle.

Bertazzoni

Italians are renowned for their passionate love of food. Bertazzoni continues that tradition, as a fifth-generation, family-owned Italian manufacturer of high-end kitchen products. The company’s products include free-standing ranges, built-in cooktops, ventilation hoods and other design-coordinated accessories.

See also: 28 Beautiful Bars Across the Country

Gaggenau

Gaggenau is the world’s preeminent brand of high-performance restaurant-grade cooking technology for the modern home. Specializing in cutting-edge, built-in home appliances, its sleek portfolio includes ovens, gas, electric and induction cook-tops, ventilation, dishwashers, modular refrigeration and freezer columns and wine storage units. Gaggenau also produces specialty appliances such as steamers, grills and deep fryers, and the Asian-influenced Teppan Yaki – all crafted for the luxury American kitchen.

La Cornue

Each Château and each Cornuchef is assembled by hand and by one person; this person will follow production through to the end and finalize every last detail. Each kitchen range is monitored, controlled and tested at all the stages of production. Even if you happen to be the Queen of England, you will have to wait at least two months for your Château La Cornue. The superior ranges simply cannot be made any quicker. For three generations, La Cornue has loved and served cuisine in the same way as a stringed-instrument craftsman loves and serves music. La Cornue cultivates an ideal of excellence.

Dacor

Working together to redefine the modern kitchen, the Dacor family has produced an impressive array of industry firsts. Patented features abound throughout their full line of cooking appliances. Features like an infrared gas broiler inside an electric oven, a Pure Convection system for even heat distribution, a Butterfly Bake Element for an extraordinary traditional bake, and extra-large Dacor Greats that simplify cooking with large pots and pans.

Miele

Each Château and each Cornuchef is assembled by hand and by one person; this person will follow production through to the end and finalize every last detail. Each kitchen range is monitored, controlled and tested at all the stages of production. Even if you happen to be the Queen of England, you will have to wait at least two months for your Château La Cornue. The superior ranges simply cannot be made any quicker. For three generations, La Cornue has loved and served cuisine in the same way as a stringed-instrument craftsman loves and serves music. La Cornue cultivates an ideal of excellence.

Viking

In spite of its tremendous growth and success, Viking Range Corporation remains essentially the same entrepreneurial company it was at its inception. This small, close-knit company culture serves Viking and its customers well, and greatly contributes to the company’s ongoing growth and success. By carefully preserving this unique, creative and stimulating environment, and through offering only the very finest, highest quality products, Viking plans to continue its aggressive growth and expansion to further increase its already strong presence in the worldwide major appliance and related culinary lifestyle industries.

 

Sub-Zero Refrigeration

For 60 years, Sub-Zero has offered innovative, aesthetically appealing and technologically advanced solutions to meet virtually any home refrigeration need. Through foresight and responsiveness, the company has earned its position as an industry leader – a position Sub-Zero intends to maintain well into the new millennium.

GE Monogram

GE has been a leader in American manufacturing for years, gaining a corporate reputation for unmatched reliability and innovation in their products. Their Monogram line consists of their premier professional-grade products, from refrigerators to cooking appliances and everything else you can dream up for your kitchen. Should you ever take issue with a Monogram product, GE employs a nationwide fleet of vans and repairpeople to provide prompt service on your appliance.

 

Thermador

Thermador has been at the forefront of cooking technology for more than seven decades, fusing state-of-the-art performance with classic design to satisfy the most demanding culinary enthusiasts. From introducing the first built-in wall oven almost 50 years ago, to revolutionizing gas cooktops with the patented Star Burner, Thermador’s innovations have helped to transform the kitchen from a mere workplace into the social and entertaining center of the modern American home.

Wolf

For more than 70 years, Wolf has been synonymous with professional cooking equipment for restaurants and hotels. Now, as part of Sub-Zero, the Wolf line has been adapted for the serious in-home cook. With their superior performance and leading-edge design, Wolf instruments fuel a passion for cooking.

Bosch

Also for 70 years, the beauty of Bosch exterior design is how well it blends with your kitchen decor. Their integrated system allows you to match the dishwasher to your cabinets, complementing the entire look of your kitchen with ergonomically-designed controls are at your fingertips.

Jenn-Air

This company creates luxury appliances that are more than a facet of your kitchen, they make your house more of a home. Ranked #1 for the last four years in their creation of built-in refrigerators, Jenn-Air will never fail to impress guests in your home.

AGA

Aga has nearly a century of experience of enriching kitchens around the world. The Classic Aga Range employs cast iron construction and energy efficient heating, which combine to offer a truly unique cooking experience. Available in a variety of enameled colors; Aga ranges offer tremendous design flexibility. Now enhanced with complementary undercounter refrigeraton Aga continues to redefine upscale kitchen design coupled with professional cooking prowess.

 

And that concludes our list of the best luxury kitchen appliances for 2020. What culinary brand, from refrigeration to cooking, do you own? Share this on social and add your favorite brands!

 

See also: Best Juice Delivery Services for 2021

Six Shoulder Season Stays Worth the Trip

Shoulder season, often referred to as the travel industry’s best-kept secret, is an ideal time to embark on adventures. This transitional period between peak and off-peak seasons offers a harmonious blend of favorable weather, fewer crowds, and attractive prices. Travelers can revel in the beauty of destinations without the hustle and bustle of peak season crowds, allowing for a more immersive and authentic experience.

 

Whether it’s enjoying the vibrant fall foliage in New England or the temperate conditions of the California coast, this time of year is ideal for comfortable weather, serene landscapes and fewer people. Here are six places we recommend.

 

Woodstock Inn (for fall foliage and quintessential New England atmosphere)

 

Nestled in the picturesque town of Woodstock, Vermont, the Woodstock Inn is a luxurious, yet quintessential New England retreat that embodies timeless charm of the area. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Green Mountains, this historic inn has been welcoming guests since 1793, offering a seamless blend of tradition and modern comfort.

 

The architectural elegance of the inn reflects the region’s colonial heritage, with its white-clapboard exterior, dormer windows, and inviting front porch. Inside, guests are greeted by a warm and welcoming atmosphere, featuring cozy fireplaces, comfortable furnishings, and tasteful decor that captures the essence of Vermont’s rustic elegance.

 

 

The inn boasts a range of accommodations to suit every traveler’s preference, from charming guest rooms to luxurious suites. One of the inn’s highlights is its commitment to culinary excellence. The Red Rooster Restaurant, located within the inn, showcases Vermont’s farm-to-table ethos. The menu features locally sourced ingredients that celebrate the flavors of the region, providing a true gastronomic experience for guests and visitors alike.

 

For those seeking relaxation, the Woodstock Inn’s spa offers a serene haven with a range of treatments designed to rejuvenate the mind, body, and spirit. Guests can also explore the surrounding area, where outdoor activities abound, including hiking, skiing, and exploring the charming town of Woodstock with its boutique shops, art galleries, and historic sites.

Throughout its rich history, the Woodstock Inn has retained its commitment to providing a welcoming and unforgettable experience. Whether savoring gourmet meals, unwinding in the spa, or simply enjoying the tranquility of the Vermont landscape, visitors to the Woodstock Inn can expect a stay that captures the essence of New England hospitality and natural beauty.

 

 

Ocean House (for luxury at a slightly discounted rate)

 

While Newport may get the majority of summer visitors to Rhode Island, Watch Hill—just over the boarder from Connecticut—has a quiet charm that many prefer over the towns further up the coast. It also has some of the best beaches in New England, with comfortable ocean temps—thanks to the guldfstream—well into the early fall.  And while you have views of both eastern Long Island (Montauk, The Hamptons) and Block Island it is open ocean.

Watch Hill has a few lodging options, but the best remains the Ocean House. In fact, the Ocean House might be the nicest resort in all of New England. CNN named it one of the “20 Most Beautiful Hotels in the US” (2016), Coastal Living named one of the “10 Best Beach Resorts in the World” and Travel+Leisure named one of the “10 Best Hotels in the Northeast” and “Top 100 in the World.” While the Ocean House is affordable to few during peak season, the offseason offers a little bit of financial respite.

 

 

Built in 1868, the Victorian mansion was a favorite summer retreat for the well heeled until it was torn down in 2005, before being rebuilt as nearly an exact replica—from the exterior at least. Preservationists were initially up in arms but the architects’ lovingly reconstructing of the landmark building—albeit at a smaller scale (but with a hefty $140 million price tag)—quelled a lot of those complaints. Guests can choose from 49 rooms (159 existed in the original structure) furnished in a British colonial style with colorful New England flourishes, all with dramatic views of the ocean. iPads are available for use and guests have access to other modern amenities, including flat panel TVs with multimedia connectivity.

Visitors can swim in the open Atlantic and frolic on the dune-y beaches (Watch Hill Beach, Main Beach and Misquamicut Beach) which are some of the most pristine beaches on the east coast. Go for a sunset stroll and grab a drink along the way at Paddy’s Beach. Or grab a fishing pole and head to Block Island Sound. Surfers journey to Westerly or Narragansett. A number of good public and private golf courses exist in the area. The rates can’t be beat at Winnapaug Golf and Country Club, a public course in nearby Westerly. Bottom line, if you are looking for a classy beach resort in New England with all the comforts of a 5-star hotel, you cannot go wrong with The Ocean House. Since it’s 2010 renovation it has become the gold standard of New England beach resorts.

 

Foundry Hotel Asheville (for hip, mountain vibes)

 

The Foundry Hotel stands as a unique blend of industrial charm and modern luxury in the scenic mountains of western North Carolina. Housed in a former steel factory dating back to the 1920s, the hotel seamlessly marries its rich history with contemporary design and upscale amenities, offering guests an unforgettable stay.

 

The Foundry Hotel’s exterior pays homage to its industrial heritage, with weathered brick walls and steel accents that evoke a sense of authenticity and character. Upon entering, guests are greeted by an atmosphere that combines rustic elements with sleek sophistication, creating a welcoming ambiance that reflects Asheville’s eclectic spirit.

 

The hotel’s accommodations range from well-appointed guest rooms to spacious suites, each thoughtfully designed to provide comfort and elegance. High ceilings, exposed beams, and a blend of modern and vintage furnishings create a distinct sense of style that pays homage to the building’s past while catering to the needs of today’s travelers.

 

Dining at The Foundry Hotel is an experience in itself. The hotel boasts a renowned restaurant that showcases locally sourced ingredients and Southern-inspired cuisine. Guests can savor delectable dishes in a setting that fuses industrial aesthetics with a contemporary dining atmosphere.

 

The hotel’s commitment to relaxation is evident in its amenities, including a spa and wellness center that offer a range of treatments to soothe and rejuvenate. For those who wish to explore the vibrant city, The Foundry Hotel’s central location places guests within walking distance of Asheville’s art galleries, live music venues, and unique boutiques.

 

A stay at The Foundry Hotel is not only a chance to experience the allure of a bygone era brought to life, but also an opportunity to immerse oneself in Asheville’s vibrant culture. With its seamless blend of history, design, and hospitality, The Foundry Hotel invites guests to discover the dynamic spirit of Asheville while enjoying the comfort and luxury of a truly exceptional accommodation.

 

Big Cedar (for a Midwest golf magnate)

 

 

Nestled in the heart of the picturesque Ozark Mountains in southern Missouri, Big Cedar Lodge stands as a premier wilderness resort that offers a harmonious blend of nature’s beauty and luxurious comfort. Surrounded by the serenity of Table Rock Lake and the lush woodlands, this expansive resort provides an idyllic escape for those seeking a tranquil retreat.

 

Big Cedar Lodge captures the essence of rustic elegance with its charming cabins, lodges, and accommodations. The resort’s architecture and design pay homage to the region’s natural beauty, blending seamlessly into the landscape. From cozy cabins to spacious lodges, each accommodation is meticulously appointed with modern amenities while exuding a warm and inviting atmosphere.

 

The real allure of Big Cedar however, is undoubtedly the 4 world-class golf courses, including the Jack Nicklaus-designed Top of the Rock course. This par-3 course is renowned not only for its challenging design but also for its stunning vistas that showcase the Ozark Mountains and the pristine Table Rock Lake. Golfers are treated to an unparalleled experience as they navigate through meticulously designed holes, some of which are perched atop the cliffs, offering breathtaking panoramic views.

 

Beyond the Top of the Rock course, Big Cedar Lodge offers the Buffalo Ridge Springs course, designed by renowned architect Tom Fazio. This 18-hole championship course is known for its strategic layout, incorporating natural rock formations, water features, and lush fairways that seamlessly blend with the surrounding wilderness.

 

Whether you’re a passionate golfer or simply looking to appreciate the artistry of the sport amidst stunning scenery, Big Cedar Lodge’s commitment to providing exceptional golf experiences makes it a destination that truly stands out on the map of golf resorts.

 

Post Ranch Inn (for nature, nurture and nourishment)

 

Perched on the dramatic cliffs of Big Sur, the Post Ranch Inn is a captivating retreat that offers a harmonious blend of luxury and natural beauty. With its innovative architecture and eco-conscious design, the inn seamlessly integrates into its stunning coastal surroundings. Guests are treated to breathtaking Pacific Ocean views from exquisite accommodations that include treehouses and ocean-view suites.

 

These retreats boast a blend of indoor and outdoor spa tubs, inviting wood-burning fireplaces, sumptuous leather furniture, elegant wooden ceilings, and expansive king-size beds. Beyond the comfort, each abode treats guests to majestic vistas of either the rolling surf or the grandeur of the mountains.

 

On the southern expanse of the property, the Cliff Houses, Peak Houses, and Pacific Suites beckon with their unique allure. Constructed using reclaimed lumber, they boast floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the breathtaking panorama. The Peak Houses even feature cantilevered terraces, offering an immersive connection with the surroundings. The accommodations afford a sense of seclusion, as if the sprawling land extends solely for your enjoyment.

 

The Post Ranch Inn’s dedication to preserving the environment is intrinsic to its philosophy. Using natural and sustainable building materials, minimizing wattage in lighting, and safeguarding rare and endangered species, the inn ensures that its luxurious offerings harmonize with the surroundings without compromising the integrity of the ecosystem.

 

While the mesmerizing views from your terrace are captivating, the resort presents a spectrum of activities to engage in throughout the day. Guided nature walks lead you through the enchanting redwood and oak forest, while evenings bring cosmic wonder through the eyes of the resident astronomer and the electronic telescope that unveils the night sky’s brilliance. Moreover, the inn’s proximity to central coast wineries allows for captivating wine journeys.

 

Within the resort, the acclaimed Sierra Mar restaurant garners recognition in esteemed publications like Food & Wine. Dinner offers a seasonal, shared experience that changes daily and is inspired by the harvest from our dynamic Chefs Garden. To complement these delights, an extensive wine list features California’s finest varietals, rounding out the culinary experience with finesse.

 

Ojai Valley Inn Spa (for relaxation, recreation, and rejuvenation)

 

Surrounded by the Topatopa Mountains and embraced by the vibrant energy of the Ojai Valley, this iconic resort offers a captivating blend of relaxation, recreation, and rejuvenation—a luxurious haven where natural beauty meets refined elegance.

 

Accommodations at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa are a testament to comfort and sophistication. From cozy rooms and suites to luxurious private villas, each space is meticulously designed to embrace the region’s Spanish colonial heritage while providing modern amenities and serene views of the surrounding landscape.

 

The inn’s crown jewel is its award-winning spa, a sanctuary of serenity that embraces the spirit of the Ojai Valley. Indulge in a plethora of treatments and therapies that draw inspiration from the local flora, ensuring a harmonious connection with the environment. The Kuyam, a unique treatment inspired by Native American traditions, offers a communal journey of purification and rejuvenation.

 

The culinary offerings at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa are a celebration of farm-to-table excellence. The Oak, the resort’s signature restaurant, sources ingredients locally to craft a menu that showcases the region’s bounty. Guests can savor delectable dishes in an inviting atmosphere that captures the essence of Ojai’s relaxed sophistication.

 

Beyond its remarkable amenities, the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa fosters a sense of community and connection. The Artist Cottage and Apothecary provides a space for creative exploration, while the resort’s dedication to sustainability and environmental stewardship reflects its commitment to preserving the natural beauty that envelops it.

 

From the invigorating spa experiences to the world-class golfing and the culinary delights, the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa offers an unparalleled escape where guests can immerse themselves in the serenity of the Ojai Valley while enjoying the pinnacle of luxury and hospitality.

 

 

This Napa Resort Typifies What Younger Travelers Want in a 5-Star Hotel

If a world class spa, beautiful pool overlooking Napa Valley, afternoon wine tastings, gourmet farm-to-table cuisine and the peace-of-mind knowing that the resort is a leader in sustainability practices is the kind of resort you would like to stay at—then give the Carneros Resort a try. It checks all of these boxes and more—especially for millennials and younger generations who genuinely care about those things.

Situated in the heart of wine country, sandwiched between Napa and Sonoma, the Carneros Resort (formerly “Carneros Inn”) is a quiet haven (and heaven) amidst the well-trodden wine country tourist trail.

At first glance, this secret treasure might appear to be one of many throwback, charming farm properties, with barns, silos and rancher’s cottages lining the landscape, but a closer look reveals one of Napa Valley’s most luxurious yet unique resorts. The place was designed to give you the sense that you are in a small village: Amidst the pastoral, authentic wine country feel, you won’t simply find your typical resort staples but also a gourmet market, espresso bar, bocce ball courts, an outdoor lounge and even their very own post office centered around a “town square.” Sitting on a plush 27 acres of vineyards and apple orchards, the resort has managed to strike a balance between fitting into the local agrarian scenery and providing a refined luxury experience.

 

There is no doubt Carneros Resort offers plenty of family-oriented activity, but the resort earns its major kudos as a lovers’ respite. Travel + Leisure calls it one of the “World’s 25 Most Romantic Getaways” and bridal media has overwhelmingly deemed Carneros Inn “a beautiful setting for any bride’s dream wedding.”

 

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Your own cottage

 

If you are looking for privacy, you are in the right place here, with 85 percent of the resort being accessible to registered guests only. The Orchard Cottages, which can be bought as a time share, contain a rustic wood-burning fireplace, private garden and deck, as well as an outdoor shower and whirlpool. Private full ownership homes and resort suites offer alternative alluring accommodations.

 

While you might have come to wine country to indulge in the cornucopia of local California cuisine or toss back the vintner’s libations at leisure, there is no lack of bustle for the health conscious at Carneros Resort. What I find to be a most charming inclusion is that one can take a joy ride on a complimentary cruiser bicycle. Ride over to the fitness center for a private yoga, pilates or other fitness training class. For the early riser or those uber motivated to stay active while your sweetheart lounges late in bed, they offer boot camp, Zumba, and morning walks and runs through the vineyards.

 

World-class Spa

 

Shed some stress with one of their spa treatments, all of which are inspired by the natural Carneros surroundings. Utilized ingredients include the rich minerals of the soils of Carneros and farm abundance like goat butter and milk (these have inherent skin healing abilities), as well as flowers, herbs, oils and fruits native to the area. Condé Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Poll gave the spa a perfect 100 score for setting and service, while rating them as one of the top 55 spas in North America.

 

Carneros-Inn

 

Wining & Dining

 

PlumpJack Group, owner of Carneros Resort, also happens to own the esteemed Cade Winery, and may offer guests comps toward a visit. With its modern, stoic design, Cade received GLR’s GreenLux Award in 2010 for Greenest American Winery and provides a stunning hilltop view of Napa Valley. Cade’s sister, PlumpJack Winery, lends itself to a more bucolic flavor, tucked away at the bottom of the Vaca Mountain range. If you are in the mood for wine tasting but don’t want to venture too far from your eden, there are wonderful options only a few minutes away: Etude Winery, located right across the street, is known for their Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, while Domaine Carneros, the local sparkling wine producer, offers a stunning backdrop to enjoy your bubbly. For a wider variety of Carneros wines, Artesa Vineyards & Winery offers all sorts of varietals and – on clear days – a view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

Nothing makes you hungrier than a rough day of wine tasting out in the hot, dry sun. Luckily, travelers have a variety of dining options at their fingertips at the Inn, from the most casual deli to fine dining. While local, sustainable and organic farm-to-table fare has come to be expected in much of Northern California, the Inn takes the mantra quite seriously, endeavoring to source from within 150 miles and harvest from their own farm and orchards. On-site green thumb Peter Stonebreaker runs a half-acre culinary garden, a proudly touted feature. Taking the artisanal ideal one step further, they also bake all their own breads, pastries and charcuteries.

 

Gourmet and FARM Fresh Cuisine

 

FARM at Carneros Inn welcomes those on the lookout for a sophisticated evening, where one can dine sumptuously in their outdoor living room-esque alfresco lounge, underneath Cathedral ceilings, next to cozy fireplaces or on the patio. Inspired by the natural abundance of Napa Valley, FARM features an elevated menu by Chef John Carney based on locally sourced produce.  In addition to the super fresh locally sourced foods, the restaurant makes sure that all food waste is then put back into the culinary garden for soil reconditioning.

 

Contemporary-and-Unique-Lounge-Interior-Design-of-The-Carneros-Inn-Hotel-Napa

 

The Hilltop Dining Room is just as you would imagine, with spectacular vistas of the all-encompassing vineyards and offering what they call “wine country-inspired” cuisine. Have a nightcap at the adjoining Hilltop Bar, where you can sit admiring the Brazilian cherry wood while you sip on a handmade cocktail straight from the orchards.

 

Casual Dining at Boonfly Cafe

 

Looking to mingle with the locals? Head on over to Boon Fly Café, a spot named after a Carneros pioneer who grew and cultivated orchards and vineyards back in the 1800s. Somehow the place is able to magically bridge the gap between a contemporary and down-to-earth feel. They describe their style as “rustic cuisine based on the agricultural heritage of the region.”

 

Boon-Fly-Cafe-Exterior-At-Dusk-01-The-Carneros-Inn

 

While at Boon Fly, do not pass up the flatbread with Point Reyes Blue Cheese (whose farmstead cheese company is worth taking an afternoon trip up Highway 1), bacon, onions, portobello mushrooms and thyme. Since you are already stuffing yourself indulgently with all this fried chicken and cheese, you might as well go all out and order the truffle fries with parmesan, too, right? Wash it all down with their Bacon Bloody Mary with Smirnoff, a secret special spice blend mixed with tomato juice and garnished with a celery salt rim and an entire strip of bacon. Now that you are in this deep, it can’t really hurt to leave with a baker’s dozen of their supposedly “world famous” donuts for that oh-so-sad drive home.

 

Family Friendly Too

 

Carneros Report is undoubtedly an ideal for adults of any age to unwind in Napa Valley wine country and enjoy all the amenities you’d expect from a five-star resort, yet it is surprisingly family friendly too! The resort recently launched (March 2022) their “Little Seedlings” program which will run through the duration of the spring season. The program is designed to perfectly encapsulate the family-friendly offerings at the resort, while inspiring kids of all ages to get their hands dirty and connect with nature in a curated way that’s wholly Carneros.

“Napa doesn’t just have to be an adults-only experience,” says Managing Director Edward Costa. “Modern families are seeking experiences that enrich the whole family in engaging, hands-on ways that also deliver opportunities to learn and grow – in this case, quite literally. The Little Seedlings program was designed to inspire our youngest guests with meaningful and educational experiences while allowing the adults to fully embrace the charm and amenities of our luxury resort.”

 

Explore or Relax… or Do Both!

 

Whether you are traveling with kids, significant others or by yourself Carneros Resort offers the ultimate combination of luxury and relaxation among Napa Valley’s natural setting. Take advantage of all the wineries and restaurants just a short drive from resort if you desire, though there is no need to ever leave the grounds.

 

Be lazy with breakfast in bed one morning during your stay; Inn staff will bring it straight to your doorstep with a private meal served in the comfort of your cottage, suite or home. For a mid-day munch after taking a dip in the infinity edged lap pool, order a sandwich from Otto’s Snack Shack and relax under a shady cabana. Or, if you are planning a day of exploring, grab a gourmet sandwich, latte, bottle of wine or other organic and artisanal picnic goodies from The Market and espresso bar on site. Heck, they will even put together a personalized picnic basket for you if you so desire. Now, that’s first-class service. Soak it up while you can.

 

Carneros Inn

4048 Sonoma Highway

Napa, Calif. 94559

(707) 299-4900

 

Photos courtesy of Carneros Inn

 

Secret Gardens

The slow food revolution continues to sweep across the country. While restaurants in Europe and elsewhere have been utilizing locally sourced produce, meat and dairy for some time, Americans were slow to catch on. Beginning decades ago with activists like chef Alice Waters (Chez Panisse) restaurateurs around the country are continuing to realize the benefits of buying locally, whether its to help local farmers and purveyors or to have fresher and more beneficial foodstuff. If you live near a large city, chances are, you’ve eaten at a farm-to-table restaurant.

Continue reading

7 Farmers Markets To Visit This Summer

It seems to be basic human nature to take everything outdoors in the summer. Answer us this: Why dine at the kitchen table when you could have a barbecue out in the sunshine? Who hits the treadmill when they could take a breezy sunset jog? It’s simple – when the weather’s nice, we want to be out in it, absorbing all that wellness-inducing vitamin D. Continue reading

6 New England Beach Resorts to Stay at This Summer

While booking a summer rental has its merits, there is something about beach resorts—convenience, amenities and hospitality to name a few perks—that can make it much easier than hassling with the research and paperwork normally associated with summer rentals. Here are 6 resorts in New England that are sure to satiate your summer travel cravings, without any hassles.

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10 Outdoor Dining Spots We Love

Rooftop Bars have been all the rage of late in big cities, from New York to L.A. and everywhere in between. And while this trend shows no sign of stopping, with more and more watering holes opening up atop dormant rooftops, most are suited for drinks and appetizers and are not true outdoor dining destinations. Continue reading

How Topo Chico Went From Local Cult Favorite to Worldwide Phenomenon

Founded in Monterey, Mexico in 1895, Topo Chico’s uber-bubbly mineral water is now an internationally recognized brand. The story of this seemingly innocuous sparkling water that was born in Mexico, raised in Texas and is now flourishing on multiple continents—thanks in part to its acquisition by Coca Cola in 2017—dates back over 125 years.

History of production and relationship with Coca-Cola

The history and relationship between Topo Chico and Coca-Cola can be traced back approximately 100 years, highlighting a long-standing association between the two companies. Interestingly, prior to Coca-Cola’s acquisition of Topo Chico, it was actually Topo Chico that obtained the licensing rights to bottle Coca-Cola in Mexico a century ago. This enduring partnership with Coca-Cola over the years made Coke’s decision to acquire Topo Chico a natural progression.

Founded in 1895, Topo Chico initially began its journey by sourcing and bottling water from a spring located near a small hill shaped like a mole, from which it derived its name. The word “Topo” means “mole” in Spanish, while “chico” translates to “small.” Remarkably, even after 127 years, Topo Chico still relies on the same pristine water source, the “Cerro del Topo Chico” spring, to provide the exceptional water quality that has become its hallmark.

The minerals matter

Topo Chico stands out from ordinary sparkling water, such as seltzer or club soda, due to its distinction as mineral water. It naturally contains essential minerals and electrolytes like Sodium, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, and Manganese. In contrast, popular sparkling water brands like “La Croix” only offer seltzer without any added minerals. What makes these minerals so remarkable?

Sodium plays a crucial role in regulating blood and bodily fluids, and its absence can significantly impair bodily functions. It also facilitates the transmission of electrical impulses in the body. Calcium, an important nutrient, serves as a vital component for bones and teeth. Magnesium aids in digestion, helps muscles recover, and promotes a sense of calm. Potassium acts as a fuel for the heart, supports kidney function, and aids in the proper functioning of the nervous system. Manganese acts as an antioxidant, benefiting bone health and boosting collagen production for healthier-looking skin.

While consuming Topo Chico on a daily basis may not single-handedly solve all your health issues, it certainly won’t harm you, and the additional mineral intake could yield some positive effects. Moreover, the electrolyte-rich nature of this water will aid in maintaining hydration, which is beneficial in itself.

It now comes in 3 flavors but you may like the original

In addition to their original unflavored version, TC also comes in three litely flavored mineral waters; Twist of Lime, Twist of Grapefruit and Twist of Tangerine—all zero calorie.

 

 

While Topo Chico’s flavored versions are quite popular, their original unflavored water tastes quite good too. The naturally occuring carbonation, while plenty effervescent, has a softer mouthfeel than other sparkling waters, as if the bubbles are smaller but greater in quantity, leading to a texture that is mellow and inviting. Also, despite the minerals, TC also has a very mild aftertaste, if any at all—something I would imagine most people want in a sparkling water. Less is more.

It all about the bubbles

When it comes to the aftertaste, less can be more, but when it comes to carbonation, more is definitely more. This is where Topo Chico truly shines—its secret weapon lies in its bubbles. Put simply, the naturally occurring carbonation in Topo Chico is both explosively effervescent and remarkably long-lasting, surpassing any other brand I’ve tried. It’s no wonder that it has gained a devoted following among consumers and bartenders alike, who seek a vibrant Vodka Soda or Tom Collins with a ferocious fizz that refuses to go flat.

Even if you leave an open bottle of Topo Chico out overnight, the next day it will taste as if you just cracked it open. Unlike some other mineral waters, which can contain high levels of sodium that may deter some individuals, Topo Chico boasts a relatively low sodium content, providing a refreshing and thirst-quenching sensation without overwhelming the palate.

What is Ranch Water?

When it comes to creating an authentic Ranch Water cocktail, Topo Chico is an absolute must. If you’re not yet familiar with Ranch Water, it’s a refreshing drink consisting of tequila, soda, and lime—a popular choice nowadays due to its low-calorie profile and reduced hangover potential. However, it’s important to note that a true Ranch Water can only be achieved by using Topo Chico. As the unofficial cocktail of Texas, which happens to be the unofficial home-away-from-home for Topo Chico, this beloved drink has played a significant role in the meteoric rise of Topo Chico’s popularity over the past decade. Texans, known for their deep affinity for Topo Chico, have undoubtedly contributed to its widespread acclaim.

 

Ranch Water Cocktail

Photo Courtesy: Valerie’s Kitchen

 

TC launches hard seltzer lineup (no surprise there)

In March of 2021, Topo Chico introduced a range of Hard Seltzers to the market, a move that hardly came as a surprise in today’s craze for hard seltzers. This lineup offered an array of enticing flavors, including Tangy Lemon Lime, Exotic Pineapple, Strawberry Guava, and Tropical Mango. Building on their success, almost a year later, Topo Chico unveiled a new collection of hard seltzers called “Margaritas,” featuring flavors inspired by the classic cocktail. These delightful options included Signature Margarita, Tropical Pineapple, Strawberry Hibiscus, and Prickly Pear, each capturing the essence of tropical indulgence with a dash of salt, lime, and tequila flavors.

During the same launch campaign, Topo Chico also unveiled their highly anticipated “Ranch Water” Hard Seltzer, drawing inspiration from the renowned cocktail recipe made famous by Texas bartenders. The Topo Chico Ranch Water Hard Seltzer was crafted with real lime juice, offering a truly refreshing and crisp taste that echoes the beloved original cocktail. This release further demonstrated Topo Chico’s commitment to innovation and their ability to capture the essence of popular flavors in a convenient and effervescent form.

 

Topo Chico Hard Seltzer Margarita Variety Pack

 

9 Green Luxury Hotels We Love

While a lot of the heavy lifting to help curb climate change and other environmental concerns requires governmental initiatives there are plenty of things individuals and the private sector can do to make a difference too. Continue reading

Where to Stay Play and Eat Gourmet in Puerto Rico

The island of Puerto Rico is the heart and soul of the Caribbean and is known for its gorgeous beaches, tropical sophistication, vibrant culture, and adventurous spirit. Check out our curated Top 5 Things to Do in Puerto Rico by renowned luxury travel expert Christopher Parr.

The beautiful Fairmont El San Juan is the perfect blend of tradition, culture, and sophistication since its opening in 1958. Located in Old San Juan, romantic cobblestone streets, vibrant restaurants, boutiques, and shops are just outside your door. Designed by Miami Beach architect Morris Lapidus, the hotel embodies the island heritage, along with modern luxury after a 65 million dollar remodel. With 266 guest rooms, the property can accommodate any type of room you may need, with 36 suites and 3 specialty suites, including the palatial Presidential Suite and 83 Banyan, Pool, and Ocean Villa Rooms.

Once you have arrived, you won’t ever want to leave with access to Award-winning Isla Verde Beach, where you can spend the afternoon jet skiing, kayaking, paddle boarding or just relaxing by one of four pools. When the sun sets, head to  Foxwoods El San Juan Casino for non-stop gaming, entertainment, and live music.

 

 

Wyndham Rio Mar

Located on Puerto Rico’s northern shore, the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar is situated on a two-mile stretch of white sand beach surrounded by the El Yunque Rainforest, sun, and surf. Find your perfect retreat in one of 400 guest rooms and suites, well-appointed with balcony views, plush bedding, a mini-fridge, and complimentary modern conveniences like free WiFi, water, and Puerto Rican coffee. Enjoy two championship golf courses & tennis center, a spa, a fitness center, 10 restaurants & bars, a casino, two nature reserves, and a guest experience program to explore all that nature has to offer.

 

 

The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico

Built on a former coconut plantation and ties you directly to nature at the foot of El Yunque National Rainforest. Nestled on a former coconut plantation, the property offers sustainable activities like naturalist-guided bird-watching and kayaking tours to discover over 240 unique species of flora and fauna, including tropical birds and leatherback turtles.

TRY AUTHENTIC PUERTO RICAN CUISINE

With Spanish, African, Asian, and Caribbean influences, Puerto Rico has some vibrant cultural dishes. With a close influence on the sea, freshly caught seafood is a must-try. If you haven’t tried some of the local specialties, Purto Rico offers so much more than just fried plantains, spit-roasted pork, stuffed Mofongo, and rice & beans. If you want to explore Old San Juan like a local, try a food tour with https://thespoonexperience.com. Founded by a group of artists, event planners, and former executives with a passion for food, culture, and the island of Puerto Rico Island, this is the perfect chance to taste several dishes and two beverages, with stops to points of interest along the way.

 

 

EXPLORE ADVENTURE & NATURE

With over 1,200 beaches around the island and over 270 miles of coastline, there is a beach for everyone. Enjoy the rays on white sand beaches with crystal blue waters, or try snorkeling, surfing, or scuba diving.

If you are looking for adventure, try leaping off a waterfall in the rainforest, cave rappelling, zip-lining over the forest, or paddling through the glow-in-the-dark bioluminescent bay. In the spectacular El Yunque National Forest on the Sierra de Luquillo mountains, you can hike to waterfalls, take a Rainforest Foothills & Beach Tour, or even a Bio Bay Kayaking Adventure Tour.

If you are looking for a unique day trip, take a Catamaran Day Trip to Culebra with East Island Excursions. Travel by catamaran to snorkel at the reefs of the Island of Culebra, explore the marine life at the famous Flamenco beach, Cayo Luis Peña, and Culebrita Island.

 
ART & CULTURE
Explore the local art scene with theartwalkpr, an independent local cultural project designed to promote Puerto Rico’s art scene through curated art experiences, exhibition projects, and community art-based initiatives. The “rutas y experiencias” spans a range of experiences from group tours of the murals at “Calle Cerra”, casual cocktails at Santurce’s alternative art spaces, to sit-down dinners at an artist’s studio to artist community-based projects. theartwalkpr can also tailor-make experiences.
Explore Modern Art at the Museum of Contemporary Art
Founded in 1984, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico (MAC) is the only institution on the island expressly dedicated to the study, collection, preservation, exhibition, and promotion of art produced since the mid-20th century in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Spread over two floors, this is one of Puerto Rico’s best collections of contemporary art by local artists and those from other Caribbean islands.
VISIT HISTORIC SITES
Old San Juan
Dating back to 1521, Old San Juan is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Stroll through cobblestone streets lined with brightly colored houses with buildings dating from the 16th century, including the San Felipe del Morro and San Cristóbal fortresses. The Bautista Cathedral houses the tomb of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León, and Old San Juan is home to cocktail bars and Caribbean fusion restaurants.
Old Forts
Old San Juan is home to several massive fortresses with historical importance, with the most famous being Castillo San Felipe del Morro (“El Morro”). Located on the coast, the fortress was an important military post during the First and Second Wolrd Wars. Don’t miss Castillo de San Cristóbal, one of the largest forts built in America, that took over 250 years to build.  Then, stop by the governor’s mansion, La Fortaleza, built between 1533 and 1540 and is the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the New World.

The Resurgence of the Travel Agent

If there’s one thing we can collectively embrace in the COVID era, it is a bit of nostalgia. Sure, we are still trying to be mindful, and grateful, and present, but the past can be a comforting balm when living in the moment looks more like “Groundhog Day” than “Eat, Pray, Love.” Whether you have been staring dreamily at old vacation photos on your camera roll or grinning at the sight of Mark Hamill and R2D2 back on your TV screen, being reminded of the days of old (or, you know, any day prior to February 2019) has been energizing and damn near delightful. GLR doesn’t mind that you’re fondly reminiscing—we are, too!—but might we suggest a tip for marrying the comfort of the past with the prospects of a vaccinated future? If “Saved By the Bell” can get a reboot, so can an old travel industry standby. (Re)enter:  the travel agent.

 

We know what you’re thinking:  you have a plethora of online booking options at your fingertips, which are already almost permanently glued to your keyboard or phone at this point. Redirect that side eye and hear us out, though. Sure, widespread, global travel is not greenlit just yet and we understand if you are still too spooked to count the proverbial chickens of 2021. With the FDA’s approval and roll-out of vaccinations now on track, though, it just might be high time for wanderlusters to seek out a helping hand in a changed landscape.

 

“The role of the travel advisor has become more important now than ever, as people need help navigating all of the Covid details, including which counties are open for travel, entry requirements, testing sites, and more,” says Corey Cook, an agent for Elli Travel in Larchmont, NY and GLR’s resident travel advisor.

 

Jolie Goldring of the NYC-based agency In The Know Experiences (ITKE) has a similar take on the logistical benefits of using a travel advisor. However, the veteran advisor also points out the additional perks she can get her clients, noting amenities such as resort credits, daily complimentary breakfast, small personal touches and often confirmed upgrades—not to mention the general hand-holding that her clients have become accustomed to receiving.

 

“Whether it be leveraging our relationships to help with more flexible deposit and cancel policies, deciphering airline cancel and refund policies, or guiding clients about testing and quarantining policies that may be required, we are offering an invaluable service and peace-of-mind,” says Goldring.

 

 

Cook also sees the role of travel agent as similar to other sought after experts that the average person seeks out on a regular basis, such as a financial adviser or interior designer. Due to all the travel sites that have spawned across the web for years, many think that planning a trip is no longer something they need to outsource. According to Cook, though, she has recently seen her job become en vogue again, and hey, we get it. After all, why scour the internet for the best flight deal or agonize over conflicting hotel reviews when you could instead enlist the help of an individual who has made a career of knowing these things?

 

“The web has become oversaturated with travel information, and it’s simply overwhelming for many people. Which hotel should I book? What are the better activities/tours to do? There’s a million options,” Cook opines. “That’s where travel advisors come into play. We cut through all of that confusion to properly guide our clients and help with the bookings.”

 

Furthermore, studies in recent years have shown that the use of travel agents, even pre-Covid, was still more prevalent than the average I-can-do-it-myself hodophile might have guessed . The 2018 Global Passenger Survey completed by the International Air Transport Association, which garnered 10,408 responses from 145 countries, found that about 43 percent of passengers preferred to use a travel agency, travel management company or corporate travel department to book flights. Another particular standout from that 2018 survey that rings particularly relevant was a finding from the responses that passengers wanted “a human touch when things go wrong.”

 

Ahem. Case closed, are we right?

 

See our full report on The State of Travel: 2021

 

Rocky Mountain Resort Towns

Typically viewed as a nuisance in the city, alpine villages view snow as the gift of all gifts from mother nature. For the big mountain resorts in the Colorado Rockies, significant snow storms represent cash falling from the skies.  If you count yourself among those wanting to hit the slopes and carve a few black diamonds before the warm weather arrives, there is no better time for a weekend getaway. Continue reading

Beyond Pebble Beach

If you’re heading to the Monterey Peninsula to play golf (or watch the pros play), why not stick around after it’s over? Monterey County has a plethora of pleasures to offer from world-renowned golf courses to interesting restaurants to craggy terrain. Continue reading

5 Great Juicers

Juicing — the process of extracting the juice from fresh fruits or vegetables — is popular because it can increase the variety of nutrient-rich foods in your diet so you can take advantage of all of fruits and vegetables’ healthy benefits.

There are three styles of juicers: slow, centrifugal, and citrus. Slow juicers and centrifugal juicers are usually best for fruits and vegetables, while citrus juicers are dedicated for simply squeezing citrus, like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit.

No matter what kind of juicer you’re looking for, there are many on the market today. But we’ve narrowed them down to our top 5 favorite juicers. Here they are in ascending order:

 

 

Hurom’s H101 Easy Clean Slow Juicer ($499)

The H101 is on our top juicers list because it really was designed with cleaning in mind. It has grooved strainers and a tiled juicing chamber that pours out more — and leaves less mess inside — so you can really enjoy all the benefits of juicing without the messy cleanup. There’s also a pulp outlet, aka trap door, that opens 180 degrees so you can easily flush out any remaining pulp inside the chamber. This slow juicer mimics the motion of fruit squeezing by hand, rotating at a speed of just 43 revolutions per minute, which produces delicious fresh juices in their most natural state. Hate pulp? Love it? This one has a function to control the amount of pulp to suit your own taste preferences. And we should also mention this top juicer also can juice nuts and soybeans into a variety of smoothies and nut milks.

 

 

Novis Vita Juicer ($500)

We love the bright, sleek and shiny exterior design of this juicer, and it comes in seven colors! This top juicer is amazing because it truly has the benefit of all three juicing options, including its own attachment for citrus. It’s simple to use, with just one button to operate everything. And an AutoSpeed function auto-senses the best speed for each food, adjusting the speed of the press and centrifuge according to your chosen fruit or vegetable. There’s a large tube, so you won’t need to cut all of the fruits and vegetables, and every part of the juicer can be easily cleaned in the dishwasher.

 

 

The Smeg Citrus Juicer ($180)

As the name implies, this one is specifically for citrus, and therefore best for oranges, lemons, and limes. It is the top juicer that has our favorite look, sophisticated and retro, and a design that comes in a few cool colors. Its superior performance pairs with reliability, showing off a powerful 70W motor with an integrated on-off sensor. And using it is simple thanks to a non-drip spout which prevents spillage, keeping kitchen surfaces clean.

 

 

 

Kuvings Whole Slow Juicer ($600)

Kevin’s Whole Slow Juicer stands out for its versatility. It does an efficient job of juicing greens, veggies, and fruits alike. Its 3.2” wide-mouthed two-way feed tube reduces prep time and allows you to insert different types of ingredients without jamming. It has patented low speed extraction technology that prevents nutritional loss and minimizes oxidation. Multiple strainers, including a sorbet and a smoothie strainer attachment, allow for even more food options. And it even has a handle so you can carry it with you.

 

 

Breville Juice Fountain SL Cold Plus ($350)

The Breville Juice Fountain is SL Cold Plus Pursuitist’s overall favorite juicer for its power, ease of operation and clean-up. Its super sized 70 fl.oz. jug seals and stores so you can make large batches, and the 3.5” wide chute shortens prep time — seriously, you can put a whole apple in, core and all, and it juices. The “cold” its name refers to Breville’s “Cold Spin Technology” that reduces the amount of heat transferred while juicing. Set-up couldn’t be simpler, your juice will be pulp-free and delicious, and clean-up is a breeze. What could be better than that?!

 

This article was originally published on Pursuitist. Republished by permission.

Yucatan Three Ways

As we dip our toes back into travel after a year of social distancing, it may feel hard to decide where to go and what to do first. Does a beach vacation sound most appealing or would you prefer an urban getaway focused on shopping, dining, and culture? Perhaps an escape to the country and days of waking to birdsong, dining on farm fresh meals, and exploring small towns is the trip you are dreaming of.

 

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula makes the process of picking a destination easier, as you can choose from all three of these holiday options in one place. It also offers the convenience of flying into and out of Cancun, with flights from more than a dozen American hubs. After you land, you just have to decide whether to drive south, to the beaches along the Riviera Maya; west, to the lively and charming capital of the state of Yucatan, Mérida; or into the countryside, for a stay at a sprawling hacienda reborn as a luxury hotel.

 

Escape to the Seashore

With its dramatic Maya ruins sitting atop a bluff overlooking the Caribbean and its small resorts strung along the sea, it’s not surprising that Tulum has become a favorite of those travelers looking for beach time in the winter but who aren’t interested in the mega-resorts of Cancun.

 

God of Winds Temple, Tulum, Mexico (Shutterstock)

 

The plus of Tulum’s emergence as a destination has been the opening of new hotels and restaurants that have transformed what was once a sleepy backpacker destination into a decidedly stylish one.

 

Getting There: From Cancun it’s a straight shot south on a well-maintained highway. If you are driving, expect the journey to take between 90 minutes to two hours. There are also buses and shuttles, though renting a vehicle will give you the freedom to explore some nearby sites like the Sian Ka’an Biosphere and the Maya ruins at Coba, a much larger complex than the one in Tulum.

 

Where to Stay: Olas Tulum is a small B&B that has a very Tulum-like boho-chic atmosphere and attitude. A plus is that it is to the south of most of Tulum’s hotels—you can enjoy the quiet of the location for naps on the sand in the afternoon but when cocktail hour comes around it’s a short walk to Tulum’s other bars and restaurants.

 

Don’t Miss: Make sure to have at least one meal at Hartwood Tulum which helped lead Tulum’s transition from modest beach town to jet-setter destination. Chefs and owners Eric Werner and Mya Henry opened the restaurant in 2010 and it has made its way on to many “best-restaurant” lists thanks to dishes featuring farm-fresh produce from the Yucatan and seafood straight from the Caribbean in simple preparations that let the ingredients shine.

 

Country Living

Much of the Yucatan peninsula is dotted with haciendas that used to produce henequen (a fiber that is, in English, more commonly called sisal, after the port of Sisal where much of it was exported from). Sisal was essential to rope-making and huge fortunes were made growing the crop. The Mexican Revolution and, more importantly, the invention of nylon led to the bust of that boom though today many haciendas are enjoying second lives having been reborn as luxury hotels where you can spend days lounging by pools or visiting off-the-beaten path villages, convents, and Maya sites. You’ll fall asleep each night to the captivating sounds of the jungle wildlife at night.

Getting there: There are haciendas throughout the peninsula, though there tend to be more of them in the states of Yucatan and Campeche (on the northern and western sides of the peninsula—Quintana Roo, where Cancun is located, runs along its eastern side). You’ll want to rent a car if you intend to spend your days exploring the backroads, but most haciendas will happily arrange for transfers to their properties if you intend to spend your days relaxing on the grounds.

Chablé, Yucatan

 

Chablé Yucatan

Where to Stay: Chablé Yucatan is the most luxurious of the reborn haciendas, though most accommodations there are in newly built free-standing casitas while the historic buildings house common areas, lounges, and restaurants. Hacienda Petac is an appealing smaller hacienda that is rented exclusively to one group at a time and can accommodate up to 14 guests. Marriott’s Luxury Collection includes five beautifully restored haciendas.

 

Don’t Miss: The Maya sites of Chichen Itza and Coba are world-famous, and the crowds at them are evidence of that. An advantage of a stay at a hacienda, however, is that it’s easier to visit some of the less-popular Maya sites. Uxmal, which is just over an hour south of Mérida, is one of the most magical of them. It is built in the so-called Puuc style which is known for being more decorative than other Maya styles with intricate carved geometric patterns and designs.

 

Uxmal Pyramid

 

A City Escape

Mérida, the capital of the state of Yucatan (and the largest city on the Yucatan peninsula) has emerged in recent years as one of the most exciting cities in Mexico. It has long been known for its laidback pace and impressive collection of historic buildings spanning the 16th to 19th centuries (within Mexico, only Mexico City has a larger historic district). Now the city can also boast about its lively dining and shopping scene, supported by both a growing expat community and travelers who have discovered Mérida’s appeals.

 

Getting There: Mérida is roughly 3.5 hours from Cancun on a toll road. The colonial town of Valladolid and the Maya ruins at Chichen Itza are appealing stops en route. (It is also possible to fly to Mérida directly.)

Guilermina Restaurant, Merida

Where to Stay: Mérida has an abundance of rental properties in historic homes that have been lovingly restored and you will want to check out the options on AirBnB and VRBO. If you prefer a hotel, the recently opened Wayam has a cool, contemporary style and also one of Mérida’s best new restaurants, Cuna, which serves delicious updated takes on Yucatecan cooking.

Cuna Restaurant at Wayam (Photo: Orbitz)

Don’t Miss: Mérida is not only a state capital but a culinary one too. It’s a place to sample both street food like the simple tacos served at stands at the Santiago Market (a small neighborhood market that is less intimidating than the central one) to the innovative Mexican cuisine of Picheta which overlooks Mérida’s cathedral and central square.

—John Newton, Founder, Signal Custom Content. (John previously worked as an editor at AFAR, Condé Nast Traveler, and Travel+Leisure and has written travel stories for many other publications and websites.)

Dining Departures

Delays at airports are not as woeful as they used to be. That is, if you are lucky enough to be stranded in a choice terminal replete with the type of trendy dining and watering-hole options that rival our very cities. If you find yourself in an airport for an extended period of time this coming holiday season—or any time for that matter—hopefully it’s at one of these terminals. Continue reading

How to Optimize Your Airline Points and Other Tips From a Travel Expert

TomFlies.com is an NYC-based, new-concept travel agency that aims to provide several essential aspects of travel that may have been overlooked throughout the years. Not selling exaggerated experiences, but rather leading their clients to genuine discovery is a key goal at the new age travel agency. We asked their Lead Flights Analyst, Adam Kwan some questions about the future of travel and how TomFlies.com plans to be a part of it. Here is what he had to say.

 

Q.It appeared for a while that the Internet (and D.I.Y. booking) would deal a major blow to travel agencies, however they have actually seen a strong resurgence in recent years. Why is this and how does the pandemic factor in?

 

A.What we try to do for each one of our clients is to identify where we can add value above and beyond the services they can book themselves. Whether it be monetary value from negotiated rates or service-oriented benefits such as expertise and personal vetting of providers and vendors, we think this goes a long way in showing clientele the benefits of booking with us.

 

People nowadays are inundated with what are essentially cookie cutter options that provide instant gratification. Just go on Amazon and you’re a couple clicks away from getting whatever you want, shipped straight to you from a warehouse containing hundreds of the same whatever-you-wants. We believe that this type of standardized mass merchandising is not befitting of people’s travel needs. People don’t buy vacations as nonchalantly as they do household goods. They want to be sure that they will get the best experience and best value for their travel. Especially since, for many people, a vacation is a significant expense relatively.

 

Right now, travelling in a pandemic-stricken world, people are more nervous than ever. Their confidence has been shaken and many people are unsure what will await them when they exit their plane. Making sure that people are confident that their travel will go off without a hitch has always been one of our main goals, so we view travel consultants as more beneficial than ever. There is a deluge of information out there with each country having different regulations. The last thing someone wants to do is spend their hard-earned money on a trip, only to find out they cannot board the plane or leave quarantine during their stay. That’s where we step in, making sure that our clients are making completely informed decisions with confidence.

 

Shutterstock

 

Q. Loyalty and rewards programs play a much larger role for airlines and hotels than meets the eye. Can you discuss how and why these programs are so vital for the travel industry, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic?

 

A. We see two main benefits to loyalty programs. The first is obvious—reducing customer churn and encouraging purchases with your company over your competitors; i.e. customer loyalty. The second benefit is liquidity through corporate partnerships.

 

Reducing customer churn (the rate at which customers stop buying your product over time) is important for every industry, but even more so in leisure travel where each individual customer may only purchase something once a year or less. It is tantamount that a travel company remains prominently in view of their clientele. Regular newsletters, deals, and targeted ads help with this, but a loyalty program will take this a step further. Loyalty programs create a sense of investment in your clients and strongly encourage them to return to you for their travel needs. There have been many detailed studies done on the psychological effects of loyalty programs, but the benefits are essentially the following:

 

  • Goal Anticipation – Creating something for your client to work for. By giving them a concrete goal and a way for them to track their progress towards that goal, people will be strongly motivated to complete that goal; i.e. purchase more. Not only that, but customers will invest more to complete the goal the closer they are to achieving it.
  • Positive Reinforcement – Encouraging customers to stick with you by giving them rewards is an obvious example of positive reinforcement. But just as important is the converse. Not only are you encouraging people to purchase through your company, but you also create a sense of “lost value” when they book with your competitors. Studies have shown that people generally tend toward being risk-averse when faced with a value-loss proposition.
  • Creating a sense of exclusivity – Simply put, people like being in exclusive groups and feeling unique and appreciated. Top-tiers of loyalty programs offer this prestige. If you make JetBlue Mosaic, you’re going to feel pretty good being the first one on the plane.

 

 

The second main benefit is more simply explained. Airlines and hotels will create liquidity by selling their points to corporate partners. When Chase or American Express offer their cardholders point exchanges or deals with specific travel partners, that likely means the bank has purchased points in bulk from the travel provider. This accounts for a surprisingly significant portion of the liquidity for several travel companies and is important in supporting daily operations and business development.

 

Both of these benefits are eminently important during the pandemic. When your clients are ready to travel again, you want to make sure they come back to you. And while traditional sales dry up, you want the extra liquidity from corporate points sales to keep things running.

 

Q. Should consumers be thinking any differently about their loyalty/rewards memberships during this period? Are there any tips or strategies you have for people who travel frequently and accrue a lot of points?  

 

A. There are a few tips and tricks we have for maximizing the value of your points, however more so in general rather than specifically during the pandemic.

 

First is to absolutely do your research. There’s no way of knowing if you’re getting a good value for your points unless you know the baseline value of them. For example, TrueBlue points are worth 1.1 cents each on average. I would only book flights with points where you meet or exceed that exchange rate. During COVID, we’d suggest to make sure that there is no expiration on your points and benefits, at least until you’re ready to travel again. If there is, ask the airline or hotel if they can extend the expiration for you.

 

Second is to shop around. Just because you have points with American Airlines doesn’t mean you can’t buy a British Airways ticket with them. Airlines have partners which often allow you to book the same exact flight through them. For example, Alaska Airlines offers many of the same flights operated by its partner American Airlines, however the flights usually cost fewer Alaska Airlines miles than AAdvantage Points. You can simply transfer your points from AA to Alaska and use them there for more value per point.

 

Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock

 

Q. What have been the most frequently asked questions by your clients during the pandemic and how are you advising them? 

 

A. Far and away the most asked question is whether a traveler will have to quarantine when they arrive at a destination or if they will have to take a COVID test before travelling. We’re keeping track of the ever-changing regulations for each of our most popular destinations so we can make sure all of our clients are fully informed.

 

Q. What destinations, US and international, do you expect to see the most interest in once virus fears subside and travel returns to pre-pandemic levels—or close? 

 

A. Hard to tell, but it’s between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean in our opinion. We’re already seeing a large uptick of interest in the Caribbean, especially for all-inclusive resort destinations like Cancun and Punta Cana. The amount of interest can only go up from here. We think that the private and comprehensive experience offered by all-inclusive resorts does add a sense of security for their guests. Knowing that everything you need is in an environment you’ve seen being sanitized goes a long way towards making people feel safe during a pandemic. They can have it all without having to go out into unfamiliar surroundings that may not be clean.

 

Positano at sunset/Shutterstock

 

We also think people are just itching to head back to the Mediterranean, we know we are. Italy, Spain, Egypt, Israel, and Greece et al have always been some of our most requested destinations, and people miss those places more than ever now that travel is restricted.

 

Q.What is the single biggest reason to use a travel advisor?

 

A.Simply that the cost to benefit ratio is great. With our agency’s negotiated rates and worldwide reach, we can offer prices competitive with OTAs while also offering the added benefit of travel planning expertise and dedicated e-concierge services and support before, during, and after travel. Essentially, people will be able to pay roughly the same amount of money for their travel as if they booked it themselves, without actually having to do anything themselves.

 

Q.In just a few words, what is your philosophy at TomFlies.com?

 

A.“Always wander!”

 

See our full report on The State of Travel: 2021

8 Versatile Wines to Pair With Your Thanksgiving Feast

“Thanksgiving Wines” has become an annual favorite of mine to write. I enjoy the challenge of trying to find wines that pair well with a Thanksgiving meal—not as easy of a task as one might think.

 

I definitely favor white wines over red wines for this once-a-year meal, but the type of white wine you choose is key. The amount of oak is always something I wrestle with. On the one hand, the wine needs to be “big” enough to stand up to the richer aspects of the meal. Dark meat turkey, gravy and even a green bean caserole all call for bigger style whites. This usually means white wines with ample oak that have gone through some malolactic fermentation. As such, California Chardonnays can be a wonderful pairing for this meal, however I lean towards the less oaky ones with ample acidity to cut through the fattiness of the meal. For 2022, I have two Chardonnays listed (both from California).

 

Versatility and minerality are equally if not more important. Thanksgiving is a motley group of foods with a lot of different dishes serving as supporting cast to the main actor, turkey with gravy. This means you need a wine that can go with myriad flavors (sweet, salty, savory), with plenty of minerality and acidity to pair with the fattier apsects of the meal.

 

Alas, here are my 2022 “Thanksgiving Wines” selections, with a variety of price points (ordered by least – most expensive) from a variety of regions.

 

Chapoutier ‘Bila-Haut’ Cotes du Roussillon Blanc 2020 (SRP $15)

 

 

A blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Macabeu, Vermentino and Marsanne, this Cotes du Roussillon Blanc from world-class Rhone Valley producer M. Chapoutier, is round and rich, yet balanced with good minerality, ample acidity and tons of bright flavors. Alluring white peach, quince and lemon zest give way to saline and limestone notes on the finish.

 

A versatile wine for food pairing, you can serve this with your Thanksgiving meal or with hors d’oeuvres before. With an average SRP of $15 (even lower at some discount stores) this is also a wine you should consider buying a case of for Thanksgiving and the Holiday season.

 

 2021 Garofoli Supèra Verdicchio Di Matelica DOC (SRP $16)

 

 

Dating back to 1871, Garofoli is the oldest family-owned winery in the Marche region of Italy. While Garofoli may be an old winery, the Supèra is relatively new and the winery’s first foray into Verdicchio di Matelica.

 

The grapes for this Verdicchio are from the higher elevation Matelica Valley where the Garofoli family is working with a young and innovative grape grower. Referred to as a “mountain wine” by Garofoli, this Verdicchio teams bright and tangy notes of lemon peel and tangerine with mellower notes of pine nuts and bread pudding.

 

 2021 La Valentina Pecorino Colline Pescaresi IGT (SRP $18)

 

Established in 1990, La Valentina is a good example of the modern winemaking renaissance happening in Abruzzo, a region long undervalued for its quality wine production. A true believer in sustainability, the winery avoids the use of artificial or chemical products and estate vineyards are farmed organically (or in transition towards organic).

 

The Pecorino grape thrives in the rocky slopes and maritime climate of Abruzzo—the areas clay, limestone, and gravel soils and microclimates a great mix for a grape that is known for being difficult. but more than worth the effort.

 

The light hue of this wine (very pale yellow) is misleading. Citrus, stone fruits, minerals and acidity literally explode out of the glass, with very little oak presence—which I love. Like the ‘Bila-Haut,’ this is a versatile wine that will match with your smorgasbord of Thanksgiving spoils, but can also be served as a cocktail wine beforehand.

 

2020 Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec (SRP $20)

 

I have always liked Malbec as a plush, soft tannin, mellow alternative to bigger Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon. However, I have always felt there was a ceiling to its quality. That is before I met Germán di Cesare, chief winemaker at Bodega Trivento—one of Argentina’s top Malbec producers, in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Both of the reserve Malbecs I tried were extrememly approachable, complex and paired beautifully with our lunch at mid-town Manhattan’s L’ Amico restaurant.

 

Their Eolo Malbec is the best Malbec I have ever tried, but at $100 it is very expensive for a Malbec—especially for Americans who typically think of Malbec as a relative value. At $20 though, their “Golden Reserve” is VERY good and a great value. This wine reminds me of a Napa Valley Boardeaux-style blend, with dark red fruits, anise, tobacco and spice box wafting out of the glass. This wine is very structured for a Malbec, with soft, yet prevalent tannins and complex flavors shaping it the whole way through.

 

2020 Inama “Carbonare” Soave DOC Classico (SRP $30)

Inama’s vineyards cover 70 acres throughout Soave Classico, mainly on and around the dormant Monte Foscarino volcano.

 

The region’s soil owes its characteristic to a stream of water that flows underground in the region. According to Inama, “the basalt, which characterizes the ground in most of the Soave Classico area, has great chromatic complexity…the strong character of the vineyard is evident in the grapes.”

 

Aromas of citrus and fresh cut flowers greet you with this Soave, followed by effervescent acidity, strong minerality and a little bit of limestone salinity on the finish—which I love! This Soave can easily stand up to your turkey and gravy while also complimenting your sides, from sweet potatoes to green bean casserole.

 

2021 Frank Family Carneros Chardonnay (SRP $40)

 

I’ve written about Frank Family wines before and for good reason—they are very good, VERY consistent and generally available Napa Valley wines at reasonable prices.

 

The grapes for this wine were sourced from some very reputable vineyards—primarily their estate Lewis Vineyard as well as neighboring Beckstoffer Vineyards (Napa-Carneros) and Sangiacomo Vineyards (Sonoma-Carneros).

 

This wine has a rich bouquet of baking spices, apple pie and Meyer lemon upfront. While only seeing partial malolactic fermentation, this prototypical Carneros chardonnay is full bodied, with pineapple, peach, and brioche bread notes upfront. Plenty of bright acidity and subtle hints of oak are revealed on the long finish. Frank Family’s “Lewis Vineyard” Chardonnay is also worth seeking out if you can find it and don’t mind the higher price point. Pineapple, pear, tangerine and vanilla custard notes are shaped by impeccable structure, ample acidity and a super long finish.  This is one of the better California Chardonnays I have tried but you might need to order it directly from the winery.

 

 Fiddlehead “Oldsville” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (SRP $54)

 

 

Founded in 1989 by winemaker Kathy Joseph, Fiddlehead Cellars stands out as one of California’s pioneering producers dedicated to terror-driven and age-worthy wines tied to great vineyard sites. Running the winery 30-plus years, Kathy is one of Santa Barbara County’s first leading female winemakers to own both her own winery and vineyard, with a hands-on role in the farming, winemaking, and other aspects of the business.

 

While Fiddlehead is famous for their Santa Barbra County wines, they have also been producing outstanding Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley for nearly 30 years. Their Oldsville Pinot Noir is indicative of Kathy’s attention to making wines that are an expression of their vineyard sites—in this case terrior driven, Burgundian-style Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

 

This classic Willamette Valley Pinot is packed full of blueberries and pomegranates with undercurrents of strawberries and lavender and complimented by earth, leather and smoked meat notes. The wine finishes with tobacco, spice box and just a hint of vanilla oak—with great structure and a long, lingering finish. This Pinot Noir is a perfect match for lamb chops but will also work well with your Thanksgiving feast.

 

Lynmar 2018 Quail Hill Vineyard Chardonnay (SRP $63)

 

 

At the heart of Lynmar Estate is its original site, the 47-acre Quail Hill Vineyard, one of the foremost vineyard sites within the Russian River Valley. Planted in 1974, proprietor Lynn Fritz acquired the site in 1980 as a rural retreat from running an international corporation in San Francisco. Upon tasting some of the original wines sourced from Quail Hill, made by Merry Edwards at Matanzas Creek and Tony Soter at Étude, Lynn began to fully understand the site’s rare qualities. Today it remains one of the top vineyards in Russian River for world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

 

This wine is quintessential, top-tier, Russian River Chardonnay. Tropical and citrus fruits give way to peach, pear and crème brulee, with bright acidity and limestone minerality on the finish.

Raw Bar Hopping—8 Great Oyster Bars in NYC

In the book The Big Oyster, Mark Kurlansky writes “before the 20th century, when people thought of New York, they thought of oysters.”  Though that sentiment along with New York’s oyster population has diminished over the past two centuries with the city’s drastic growth, oysters are currently making a strong comeback in Mahattan via the Oyster Restoration Research Project. Continue reading