November 21st, 2013
When rest, relaxation and renewal is in order, there's no better place than Arizona.
Listing the amenities of The Phoenician would take a long time (we would start with its nine swimming pools, three golf courses, and amazing spa) so trust us when we say it is a great place to stay. At the foot of Camelback mountain, this resort boasts an abundance of great dining, spacious rooms or suites, and stunning desert views. Try a morning hike (see below) or a yoga walk of the property, with breaks for downward dogs. And if you aren't into golf, tennis, hiking, or spa-ing, then their top notch poolside service will ensure you are cocktail-hydrated and comfortable in the shade, or sun, all day. The Phoenician, 6000 E Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, Arizona, 480-941-8200, www.thephoenician.com
Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden has one of the largest collections of desert plants, featuring over 50,000 species. The options are endless in this beautiful space: enjoy a tour of the gardens, book a healthy cooking class (we loved ours with Rachel Albert, see more below), learn some gardening tips from an expert, visit the butterfly pavilion, watch a concert, practice sundown yoga in the wildflower atrium, or attend one of their luminaries events, where you can stroll around the candlelight gardens with a drink. From November 10 to May 18, there is a Chihuly exhibition, where you’ll be able to check out his spectacular glass sculptures amongst ancient cacti. These gardens are a must-see while in Arizona. Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 North Galvin Parkway Phoenix, Arizona, 480-941-1225, www.dbg.org
The Gladly is a new restaurant that specializes in a mix of comfort food, southern favourites and modern cuisine. We loved the grilled Brussels sprouts served over corn grits, and their coffee charred short ribs come highly recommended. They also boast a fantastic cocktail list featuring new takes on the classics, and an enormous whiskey menu that you can drink served over a purified ice ball that they will prepare for you at the table. Mains start at $20. The Gladly, 2201 East Camelback Road, Phoenix, Arizona, 602-759-8132, www.thegladly.com
The perfect early morning or evening workout, Camelback mountain features a 1.5 mile hike up the side of the mountain. Access the Cholla trail via Cholla lane and pack lots of water. Don’t try this midday, the heat is unbearable. The locals call this a difficult hike, but if you're a grouse grinder, you’ll breeze through in 70 minutes return. www.phoenix.gov
Head out towards Mesa and Gilbert are suburbs of Phoenix is located a 20 drive from Phoenix. Try a paddle board lesson with No Snow Stand Up Paddle at Saguaro Lake (yes, there are lakes in Arizona), have lunch at the trendy Joyride Taco, buy some chocolate flavoured olive oil or handmade, natural beauty products from the Queen Creek Olive Mill, and finish with an award-winning cupcake at The Coffee Shop at Agritopia (pictured), an urban farm oasis where people live in beautiful homes between vegetable fields, orchards, and a 24 hour honour-system farmers market (sigh).
—Alexandra Suhner Isenberg
November 14th, 2013
No kids, no TVs, no phones.
If this sounds like your idea of heaven, it's paradise found at Sparrows Hotel, a former motor court that had fallen into desuetude and has just been brought back to life by an enterprising couple, she a former Calvin Klein model (that's her Brigitte Bardot likeness you see mounted in the bar) and he a rakish entrepreneur who built the outdoor furniture and did the stone work by hand.
This being their second hotel project in Palm Springs (they were drawn back to the desert from their horse ranch in Portugal), the pair have created a unique, and rough-hewn boutique hotel in the early modernist style — think Georgia O'Keeffe and Frank Lloyd Wright, not Mad Men. With olive trees, citrus, a vegetable garden and a horse shoe pitch, there's a communal feeling to the property. Rooms have private courtyards inside, but the benches around the property and in the central barn beckon for book reading and making new friends. And if that new friend happens to be Cameron Diaz, so much the better. —Sarah Bancroft
From $175 per night, Sparrows Hotel, 1330 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, 760-327-2300, www.sparrowshotel.com
October 24th, 2013
Business travel has its challenges: red eyes, missed connections, pretzel dinners—and that’s before we even get to the airport.
Since we know Donald Trump is all business (and in anticipation of the 2016 opening of Vancouver’s Trump Tower) we spent a few nights at Toronto’s Trump International Hotel and Tower. Here are 5 things that made our stay:
1. Flying in late on a Sunday night, our presentations for Monday’s meetings were printed (free of charge) and waiting in an envelope upon check in.
2. Our suite was so comfortable and large at 750 square feet, we hosted drinks in the plush grey-and-cream seating area (pictured), complete with European wet bar and Nespresso. In the fanciest suites (we hear) the furnishings come from Fendi.
3. Travelling with workout gear takes up precious space, but the gym arranges for sweats and shoes in your size and loans them free of charge. The infinity saltwater lap pool is highly recommended to wake you up for the day.
4. Lunch at Stock on the 31st floor was one of the most memorable we have had in Toronto’s business district in some time – very fish-forward, with excellent vegetable preparations (but also the classics like steak-frites or prawn caesar for business travel purists). Newly appointed: an in-house Master Sommelier.
5. With a 6 a.m. departure, what a relief to find a clean and warm town car at the ready (discretely arranged by the hotel after learning of my early check out).
We’ll be back!—Sarah Bancroft
Rooms from $595. Trump International Hotel and Tower, 325 Bay St., Toronto, 416-306-5800, www.trumptoronto.com
October 3rd, 2013
Few places hold the energy and magic of the Cycladic Islands. For majestic sunsets, breathtaking beaches and a whitewashed chora perched high above the Aegean, Serifos is one island not to be missed.
For simple, clean rooms steps from the beach, budget friendly Maistrali is a great option (from €45 a night). For a few extra euros, The Rizes (from €90, pictured) is popular among the jet set with its gorgeous views and minimally appointed rooms. www.hotelmaistrali.com and www.hotelrizes.gr
Along the port, you'll find plenty of tavernas serving traditional Greek food from Moussaka to Gemista to Yiouvesti. Ask about the fresh fish and don't miss out on local favourites like fennel pancakes, chickpea soup and fava bean puree. Another option is the beautiful Aloni, up in the hills, with panoramic views and made-from-scratch quintessentially Greek fare.
Rent a bike (or car) and explore the island's glorious beaches. Koutalas, Agios Sostis and Vagia are among our favourites. Some have a taverna or bar, but in most cases, you are on your own when it comes to finding shade, snacks and water. Come prepared.
Watch the sunset with an Ouzo in hand from picturesque Chora. It's a fairly steep walk up, but it's truly the most beautiful village in the Cyclades. Bring a camera for extraordinary photo moments from the monastery at the very top of the mountain.
Serifos is a 2 hour high-speed ferry ride from Piraeus.
August 29th, 2013
Locals like to call it the capital of Scandinavia, and they are probably right. Here’s what to do and see in Stockholm.
There’s a reason why royalty and politicians all stay in the Grand Hôtel when visiting Stockholm, and that’s because it is old-school, European grand. Boasting three of the city’s eight Michelin stars (a two star and a one star), the hotel’s food and beverage is unbeatable. Did we mention a great bar, too? The Cadier Bar is known for its high tea as well as being a great place for cocktails. Plus we lucked out and spotted a hot Swede: retired footballer Freddie Ljungberg was in the bar, and we are pretty sure he was winking at us. Grand Hôtel Stockholm, rooms start at 1700SEK a night. Södra Blasieholmshamnen 8, 111 48 Stockholm, +46 8 679 35 00, www.grandhotel.se
Another reason not to leave the Grand Hôtel, its Nordic Spa (also known as Best. Spa. Ever.). Featuring a series of pools, steam rooms, and saunas made from Nordic wood and stone, the spa focuses on the Scandinavian traditions of hot and cold. Sit in an 80 degree sauna and then take a dip into a freezing cold pool. If you’re feeling flush, we recommend the Arctic Detox massage (2390SEK) but even without a treatment, this place will make sure you leave relaxed but stressing about when you’ll be able to come back. Nordic Spa, Grand Hôtel Stockholm, Södra Blasieholmshamnen 8, 111 48 Stockholm, +46 8 679 35 75, www.grandhotel.se/en/explore/spa
Åhléns is Sweden’s major department store, and even the small town locations are enviably cool. Its central Stockholm location, Åhléns City, is their flagship where you can expect to find some of the best Scandinavian fashion and homewares. And yes, we know you can’t take glassware or sofas back in your suitcase, but you can browse and dream of what your apartment might look like if you lived closer by. Åhléns City, Klarabergsgatan 50, 101 29 Stockholm, +46 8 676 60 00, www.ahlens.se
eat and drink
We love the Soder neighbourhood (it means South) for its cool bars, restaurants, and shops, and one of our favourite hang outs was Morfar Ginko. Featuring a trendy bar area, a European restaurant (eat steak frites or classic Swedish hash browns) and an outdoor patio where you can actually smoke (there are some people who still do it in Europe), this is a great start to the evening, or a place to spend the whole night. Morfar Ginko, Swedenborgsgatan 13 11848 Stockholm, +46 8 641 13 40, www.morfarginko.se
While everyone has been raving about the new Abba Museum, we tried an alternative and opted for Fotografiska, Stockholm’s photography museum. While the Helmut Newton exhibition we saw might be over by the time you get there (it ends September 29th) the David LaChapelle show from November to March should be really good. After the exhibition, have a fika (a Swedish coffee break) on their outdoor patio with a view of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s old town island. Fotografiska, Stadsgårdshamnen 22, 116 45 Stockholm, +46 8 50 900 500, http://fotografiska.eu
—Alexandra Suhner Isenberg
August 15th, 2013
It's called everything from Sin City to Adult Disneyland, but to us, Vegas is just a place to unwind with a 3-foot souvenir margarita.
Monster hotels may rule the Strip, but Palms Place has spacious, modern studios that feel more like an upscale condo than a cookie cutter hotel room. For a morning-after detox, try a steam bath at Drift Spa. From $100/night, www.palms.com/guestrooms/studio-suite
"Farm-to-table" isn't exactly synonymous in a city where high-end restaurants fly in fresh food twice a day, but Mario Batali's Otto does its best to source sustainably (even the Further hand soap in the washroom is green seal - it's made from glycerin distilled from kitchen grease).Try the deconstructed Insalata Tricolore topped with fresh anchovies ($8) and, if you are up for a classic Italian dish, the kitchen will be happy to whip you up a plate of pasta aglio et olio. www.ottopizzeria.com
All the bold-faced names (Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Prada) are well-represented, but we were so happy to discover the newly opened Sandro, a French brand that is contemporary, stylish and tres chic (not exactly the hallmarks of most stores in Caesars Palace). http://us.sandro-paris.com
No city in the world makes it easier to carouse the night away (no clocks, no windows, no problem). Spend the first part of the evening at 1Oak (where we spied Leonardo DiCaprio two tables away), which has open-format Top 40 and hip-hop, and spend the second part at the Hard Rock Cafe's recently reopened Body English, which transforms into an after-hours club at 4 a.m. Stay hydrated, and hope for a late checkout.
August 8th, 2013
Beach houses, waves and plenty of sun - we must be in San Diego. We spent a few days resting, restoring and spinning at Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa.
With its Mediterranean roots and SoCal vibe, Rancho Valencia is a very special place to tuck in for a few days. An all-suite property spread over 45 lush acres (think tennis courts, olive groves and even a croquet lawn) - it's easy to forget the outside world. Place your fresh-pressed juice and newspaper order with the front desk, then hop on a golf cart for a ride down to your ultra-private casita. A masterful blend of rustic decor and luxury amenities, each casita has a private entrance, fireplace, plus a massive bathroom with a glass steam shower. Dip into the complimentary mini bar (stocked with coconut water, truffle popcorn and even some not-so-good-for-you goodies) and order in room service to enjoy on your private patio. www.ranchovalencia.com
Working out in such a serene setting is actually a treat: the floating yoga studio's (pictured) sunrise classes are a soothing way to start the day, while the high-energy spin classes are made (slightly) easier with the thoughtful touches, like an attendant who comes in every 15 minutes to offer fresh, cold towels and water. (All classses are complimentary with your stay.) The real fitness show-stopper are the 18 impeccably maintained tennis courts surrounded by citrus groves; book a lesson with a certified tennis pro, who will have you serving like Serena before you know it.
When in San Diego, a visit to the share-plate-style Pony Room and the upscale Veladora are a must (both spots are popular with well-heeled locals). Sustainable and fresh is the order of the day, with Exectuive Chef Eric Bauer making a morning trip to surrounding farms to choose the day's best bounty. The Marinated Fluke Crudo with fennel and chile relish is a standout, while the popular vegetarian Artichoke Cannelloni will have you say, "I can't believe it's not gluten." (It's not - the "pasta" is actually shaved potato!) A chilled bottle of white Albarino D Fefinane went down smooth at lunch, particularly paired with the Stuffed Sweet Peppers with organic quinoa, goat cheese and almond romesco sauce. Be warned: the dozens of tequilas, available in tasting flights of 3, are probably best enjoyed post spin class.
August 1st, 2013
Our Fashion Editor Alexandra Suhner Isenberg is spending the summer in Europe (ya, we're jealous, too!); herewith, her fieldnotes from Copenhagen.
First hotels Skt. Petri is perfectly located on a quiet street in the middle of downtown Copenhagen. Ask for a South East facing room with a balcony in this modern design hotel, and enjoy a sunny pre-dinner beer overlooking the rooftops. First Hotel Skt. Petri, rooms from 1052DKK, Krystalgade 22, 1172, Copenhagen, +45 33 45 91 00, www.firsthotels.com
Don't be fooled by Höst's three course menu, it's more like five when you include the mini plates and palate cleansers between courses. This modern Nordic fusion food (hake with wild asparagus and smoked cheese to start, duck with green strawberries and fermented garlic as a main), is served in a modern rustic space with walls and furniture made from reclaimed wood. Höst, set menu for 295DKK Norre Farimagsgade 41, Copenhagen 1364, Denmark +45 89 93 84 09, http://cofoco.dk/hoest.php
All the trendy Copenhagen locals hang out on Dronning Louise’s bridge on summer evenings. Dubbed the ‘hipster bridge’, friends bring their own beer, chat, relax, and catch the day’s last rays of sun. (And unlike neighbouring Sweden, Denmark allows alcohol - even chilled - to be sold in supermarkets, so don’t worry about finding a liquor store.) Dronning Louises Bro, 1371 Copenhagen. (Photo courtesy of Miss Copenhagen.)
Jægersborggade, located in the north of Copenhagen, is a street of independent retailers selling locally or hand made home and fashion goods. We loved My Favourite Things’s selection of natural beauty products and pretty leather bags, Vanishing Points's kids sweaters (which are hand knit in Nepal) and leaf quilt blankets, and Gågrøn’s eco-friendly kitchen gear. Buy yourself one of its Bambu sporks, a treat from one of the street’s many bakeries or wine bars, and walk over to Assistens park (where Hans Christian Andersen and Kirkegaard are buried) for an impromptu picnic lunch.
Mikkeller is a famed neighbourhood brewery known for its small-batch gourmet beers like stouts made with black truffles or gourmet coffee (they claim it is good with breakfast). Its bar in Copenhagen features 20 beers on tap and a small selection of snacks. But you don’t really need snacks when your beer is made with cinnamon and apples, right? Mikkeller Bar, Viktoriagade No. 8 B-C, 1655 Copenhagen, http://mikkeller.dk/the-bar
—Alexandra Suhner Isenberg
July 18th, 2013
This world-class city is a bustling business hub and a haven for expats (read: jam-packed with culture, ah-mazing food, every boutique and high-end brand you can think of!).
Luxury hotels abound but we are particularly fond of the swanky Harbour Grand Hong Kong, situated along the city's famous Victoria Harbour. Seriously, you couldn’t miss the views in this place if you walked around with your eyes closed. For the ultimate panorama, have dinner at Le 188 Restaurant and Lounge, or take a swim in the huge outdoor pool with stunning vistas. www.harbourgrand.com
Hop on the ferry to neighbouring Macau (don’t forget your passport!) and experience the ultimate in relaxation and luxury at the Shine Spa at the Sheraton Macau. Our experience started in a private dressing room complete with a shower, dressing table and sundries, followed by a muscle-melting massage that included a foot soak and scrub, along with all the green tea we could down. www.starwoodhotels.com
Once the early morning fog lifts, head to the Peak, the highest point on the island. The jaw-dropping view takes your breath away and offers a clear perspective of Hong Kong Island and the mainland, clarifying the somewhat confusing layout. www.thepeak.com
The buzzing Soho and Central districts is where you'll find an eclectic gathering of bars and restaurants, packed together on narrow streets amongst boutiques. This nightlife hot spot brings the tables right onto the streets and is the best place to eat and drink (choices range from Mexican and Mediterranean to British pubs and authentic Chinese food). Luk Yu Tea House (24 Stanley St., Hong Kong) is regarded as the best teahouse in town and serves up authentic Cantonese dim sum. Keep in mind, reservations are highly recommended.
Hong Kong knows fashion. Stroll the trendy Central district for everything from high street to high-end boutiques, and get in the bartering spirit at the Temple Street Night Market, where you can score unique wooden Buddha’s, silk robes and tea and saucer sets. www.discoverhongkong.com
July 5th, 2013
Forget hailing cabs next time you stay with Hotel Arts or its sister property, the Kensington Riverside Inn.
The hotels have recently partnered with the city chic company, Brooklyn Cruiser, to enlist a fleet of wheels for guests to use during their stay. Paired with a picnic basket program that will launch soon, along with city maps of how to get around, guests get to see the city at their leisure. And, after all the pedalling, relax and stretch tired legs by the pool. —Kait Kucy
Hotel Arts, 119 12 Ave SW Calgary, www.hotelarts.com