October 11th, 2012
The big draws to this city are its theme parks, but where do the locals go for a good time? We took a tour of the Orlando most people don’t know.
With on-site activities like swimming, golf, kayak, tennis and even fly-fishing, the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes is a luxe retreat all on its own. Add to that fabulous restaurants and a standout spa at the adjacent Ritz Carlton hotel (The Citrus C Organic facial ($159) is one of the best we’ve had) and we hardly wanted to leave. 4040 Central Florida Pkwy, Orlando, 407-206-2300, www.marriott.com
Swimming with dolphins is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and Discovery Cove proved the perfect place to check it off our bucket list. The all-inclusive resort-inspired park offers 30-minute group dolphin swims (from $259) where we fell in love with Yoko and Diego (more than we can say about the giant sting rays we also swam with!). Sandy beaches, lazy rivers, an aviary pavilion, all-you-can-eat and drink… Booking a reservation at this piece of paradise is a must. 6000 Discovery Cove Way, Orlando, 877-557-7404, http://discoverycove.ca
Back on land, we got a glimpse at what Florida looked like pre-Disney at Forever Florida, a 4,700 acre eco-ranch and conservation area. We experience the pristine grounds – and played spot-the-gators! – by zipline and canopy cycle, but coach bus and horseback tours are also popular options (from $32). 4755 North Kenansville Rd., St. Cloud, Orlando, 407-957-9794, www.floridaecosafaris.com
Downtown Disney is technically in Mickey Mouse territory but it is home to an array of fabulous entertainment (like Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba) and restaurants like Bongos Cuban Café. Request a table on the balcony for a view of the lake: it’s the perfect spot to sip a signature mojito and let the exotic flavours (like the to-die-for seafood paella) transport you even further south. Dancing starts at 11:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and seeing as Gloria Estefan is the owner, you might end up doing the conga into the wee hours of the night. 1498 East Buena Vista Dr., Orlando, 407-828-0999, www.bongoscubancafe.com
We just have three words for you: Orlando Premium Outlets. Think Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus, Saks, Prada, Tory Burch and a ton more. Word to the wise: There are two locations, so make at least a day out of it. 4951 International Dr., 407-352-9600 and 8200 Vineland Ave., 407-238-7787, www.premiumoutlets.com
For more on our trip to Orlando and the ultra-posh city of Winter Park, Florida, check out our Editors' Diary. —Christine Laroche
October 4th, 2012
It would take years to explore one of the world’s largest cities, so this time we focused on Mexico City’s vibrant food and design culture. (For more on Mexico City, click here.)
Located in the ritzy Santa Fe business district, boutique hotel Distrito Capital occupies the top ten floors of a skyscraper, which means breathtaking views of the city and its surroundings, not to mention its trippy Tron-esque entrance. Both Lady Gaga and Bono have stayed there…what else is there to know? Distrito Capital, Av. Juan Salvador Agraz 37, Santa Fé, México City, 1-866-978-7020, www.hoteldistritocapital.com
Searching for the new and hip? You’ll find it in the city’s Condesa and Roma districts. Parque Mexico is a great place to start exploring and discovering beautiful art deco architecture, charming sidewalk espresso bars, local boutiques, and artisanal chocolate shops like Princesse Cacao (Fernando Montes de Oca 81, Condesa, 5211-0276), all while meeting at least fifty dogs and their hipster owners. End your stroll on the sun-soaked terrace of Hotel Brick (Orizaba 95, Roma, Mexico City, 5525-1100) for a margarita or two.
If you’ve already said hello to Frida and Diego, then give Rufino Tamayo a visit for a contemporary art fix. Along with the famed Mexican painter’s works, Museo Tamayo houses a permanent collection of his peers (he did live to almost a 100!) like Rothko, Miró, and Warhol as well as rotating contemporary exhibitions. The museum is located in the Chapultepec Park, which could easily rival NYC’s Central Park in its beauty. Museo Tamayo de Arte Contemporáneo, Paseo de la Reforma y Gandhi Bosque de Chapultepec, México City, 5286-6519, http://museotamayo.org
Mexico City’s food choices are abundant, from taco stands to fine dining establishments. One of the latest favourites is restaurant Azul Histórico in the Centro district, which has taken over the gorgeous courtyard of the newly opened Hotel Downtown. Surrounded by historic brick, lush trees and beautiful people, feast on Mexican specialties like organic hibiscus flower enchiladas and Tixin Xie fish. Azul Histórico, Isabel La Católica 30, Centro Histórico, Mexico City, 5510-1316, http://azulhistorico.com
It won’t be hard to find incredible things to buy in Mexico City, but local designer Carla Fernández caught our eye with her amazing draping and a fresh take on Mexican knitwear — yes, that includes the legendary poncho. Thank us when everyone asks you, “Hey, where’d you get that?” Carla Fernández, Molière 58-A, Polanco, Mexico City, 5912 8010, http://carlafernandez.com
September 13th, 2012
Go west, young lady, for the relaxed-chic vibe of the City of Glass. Here are some highlights from our recent visit.
Ditch stodgy for saucy at the newly renovated Burrard Hotel. Perks include free Wi-Fi, bike rentals and phone calls, an inner courtyard complete with palm trees and retro left-coast style that ensures you'll know where you are when you wake up. 1100 Burrard St., Vancouver, www.theburrard.com
We didn't mind lining up (too much) at The Acorn, the city's newest vegetarian restaurant with plenty of vegan and raw options. The goat cheese arancini with Okanagan cherry emulsion were a standout; the cocktail menu was a hit, too. 3995 Main St., Vancouver, www.theacornrestaurant.ca
Bitter Tasting Room features eight local beers on tap plus a global selection in bottles and some fancy-sounding beer cocktails, too. Light drinkers can order a flight of three selections to get the tasting experience without needing help getting out the door. 16 W. Hastings St., Vancouver, www.bittertastingroom.com
The Vancouver-only Lululemon Lab turns the brand on its head by designing – and making on-site – clothes that are streetwear first, studio second. Stop by for an ever-changing collection of basic neutrals with a twist. 511 W. Broadway, Vancouver, www.lululemonlab.com
Sometimes, tourist clichés really are worth doing: rent some bikes with locks and helmets in Coal Harbour then ride the seawall around Stanley Park; be sure to stop by the Vancouver Aquarium to see the belugas, porpoises and other creatures of the deep, including the gorgeous orange jellyfish.
After all that calorie-burning (or before – we're not judging), head to Lucky's Doughnuts to replenish with its selection of basic-done-well fried goodness. We loved the square doughnuts filled with a not-too-sweet BC blueberry compote; coming up for this fall, pumpkin varieties are in the testing stages. 2902 Main St., Vancouver, www.luckysdoughnuts.com
August 10th, 2012
Dig out your best afternoon party dress and dust off your royal wedding fascinator for a secret tea party.
Serving traditional scones and Chantilly cream, tea sandwiches and delicate pastries, The Fairmont Palliser's first-ever pop-up afternoon tea ($50 per guest) will happen at a top-secret location, announced days before the exclusive event.
Pinkies up, ladies. —Kait Kucy
Sunday, August 18 (2 p.m.-4 p.m.), $50 per person; The Fairmont Palliser; address to be announced three days prior to event, 403-260-1222, www.fairmont.com/palliser-calgary
August 2nd, 2012
On a recent trip to Southern California, we were blown away by the beachy-chic lifestyle of Santa Monica—so we’ve decided to drop everything and move there.
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the luxury Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows used to be the private mansion belonging to Senator John P. Jones, the founder of Santa Monica. With that history lesson in mind, it’s easy to see that this 123-year old SoCal staple is one lavish and classy stay. Work up a sweat (for real) in a barre class at Exhale Spa, and reward yourself later with a dip in the outdoor hot tub and a nightcap at FIG Restaurant before returning to your elegant suite and freshly turned-down bed. Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, 101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-576-7777, www.fairmont.com/santamonica
Apart from the obvious beach appeal, Santa Monica is a bike lover’s paradise, spanning just 8.3 square miles. The city’s new Bike Center is the largest in the U.S., and has two downtown locations for rentals, valet parking, and tours (we did a self-guided exploration of the excellent vintage shops). In the next few years, look for the light rail system that will connect to Los Angeles and Hollywood. Bike Center, Unit A 1555 2nd St., Santa Monica, 310-656-8500, and one other location, www.santamonicabikecenter.com
West Coast hot spot Michael’s Restaurant, just a few blocks up from the Fairmont estate, has a romantic garden patio, mind-blowing seafood dishes, “California Cults” wine list, and another equally successful restaurant New York. (Anna Wintour is rumoured to be a regular, and allegedly likes her steak blue-rare). Michael’s Restaurant, 1147 Third St., Santa Monica, CA, 310-451-0843, http://www.michaelssantamonica.com
In this town, beach is the new black, but that doesn’t mean they’re short on clothing. Stroll Third Street Promenade for classic American retailers and the first West Coast Converse store, where you can customize your own souvenir-pair of kicks à la Santa Monica, complete with palm trees and the infamous pier. At the end of the strip, get lost in Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, and Barneys Co-Op at Santa Monica Place.
… for celebrities. While our brush with fame happened in our hotel lobby with funny man Adam Sandler, the Fairmont Miramar has a history of welcoming celeb guests (Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Kennedys, to name a few). Outside the hotel, the place to see and be seen is Montana Avenue. —Caroline Gault
Booking info at visitcalifornia.com
July 26th, 2012
The dream of the '90s is alive in Portland and so are our dreams of a great weekend escape.
It doesn’t get any more quirky – or more Portland – than a night in a McMenamins hotel property. Their flagship, the Kennedy School (pictured), will have you sleeping in a converted classroom, but the Chrystal Hotel is right downtown.
The fact that it’s well outside downtown makes St. Jack that much more charming. It doesn’t hurt that they serve French cuisine, like gratin de macaroni, that would satisfy any gourmand.
The Alphabet District in Northwest Portland is lined with small boutiques slotted between the likes of Restoration Hardware and Urban Outfitters. When you’ve worked up an appetite with all that shopping, stop into the unassuming Red Onion, which serves killer Thai food.
Stroll through the Portland State University Farmer’s Market on a Saturday afternoon and you’ll find all the organic, local produce you’ll need for a lunch al fresco Portland-style. —Kelsey Dundon
July 19th, 2012
Our Editor-in-chief Sarah Bancroft's recent tour proves Montrealers do everything in style.
Its central downtown location and stellar views are one thing, but that we met the Scissor Sisters in the elevator and ended up at their show, well, that doesn’t happen just anywhere. Marriot Chateau Champlain, 1 Place du Canada, Montreal, 1-800-200-5909, www.montrealchateauchamplain.com
Only in Montreal would a top chef get to put a sleek, modern shipping container on the sidewalk and serve horse tartare. The signature salmon with shaved fennel is sublime, and, in keeping with the aesthetic, The Contemporary Art Museum is just steps away. Brasserie T, 1425 Jeanne-Mance St., Montreal, 514-282-0808, www.brasserie-t.com
Old Montreal is one of the prettiest places to walk in the city. We suggest getting your bearings with the 18-minute multi-media show Yours Truly, Montreal (designed by the all-female Montreal team Moment Factory, who work with Jay-Z and Madonna). Lunch at its rooftop restaurant (pictured) with view of the Old Port is highly recommended. Point à Callière Museum of Archeology and History. 350 Place Royale, Montreal, 514-872-9150, http://pacmusee.qc.ca
If you are an all-natural spa junkie, you need to get yourself to Dr. Hauschka’s only Canadian outlet for an incredible facial with healing ingredients like rosemary. They use tiny brushes to perform lymphatic drainage so your visage will be toned and lifted, too. 1444 Sherbrooke St. W., Montreal, 514-286-1444, www.spadrhauschka.com
After the spa, pop into the garden of the nearby Maison Bouloud at the newly refurbished Ritz Carlton Hotel. We suggest a glass of rosé in the just-opened Glass House overlooking the duck pond. But don’t worry about the ducks ending up in your dinner: Canard Confit is not on the menu. Le Jardin du Ritz at Maison Boulud, 1228 Rue Sherbrooke St. W., Montreal, 514-842-4212, www.danielboulud.com
Our Montreal editor Christine Laroche took us to Editions de Robes, run by a former Jacob executive with an eye for high quality vintage. We loved the look of a new pink dress based on a Balenciaga, but left with a covetable Yves St. Laurent vintage clutch. 178 St-Viateur St. W., Montreal, 514-271-7676, www.editionsderobes.com
July 5th, 2012
Turquoise lagoons, adrenaline-pumping activities, cultural landmarks… all served with a side of rum punch and Bob Marley, of course.
Kick back in style at the timelessly elegant yet warm and cozy Jamaica Inn, a favourite of celebs ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Kelly Rowland. With zero distractions (read: WiFi or television), grab a Planter’s Punch and soak in the views of the hotel’s private sandy beach. The toughest decision we had to make? Choosing whether to watch the sunset from our room’s private deck, the beach, the al fresco spa or one of outdoor dining spaces. 1-800-837-4608, www.jamaicainn.com
For a little bit more action, it’s all about the Round Hill Hotel and Villas in Montego Bay. Besides the Nantucket-esque vibe (rooms were refurbished by Ralph Lauren, so pack those nautical stripes!), there’s a slew of on-site activities to choose from, ranging from a coffee and sugar body scrub at the spa (housed in what was a plantation house during the 18th century) to deep sea diving and tennis. Kudos if you manage to ever tear yourself away from the stunning double-edged infinity pool. 1-800-972-2159, http://www.roundhill.com
Ocho Rios, the city where Christopher Columbus is believed to have first set foot in Jamaica, is home to some of the country’s most exciting, not-to-be-missed attractions, including Dunn’s River Falls and Dolphin’s Cove.
Take a trip back to colonial times with a visit to Greenwood, a house built by Richard Barrett (Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cousin) in the 1800s. It is filled with fascinating artifacts from both Europe and Jamaica and the view from the breezy veranda is more than worth the slightly treacherous trip up into the hills.
There are patties aplenty (look for Juici or Tastee, the two most popular shops), but Jamaica is jerk country, so grab an outdoor seat at one of several Scotchies locations and enjoy some authentic jerk chicken, pork or fish The combination of jerk spice and grilling on wood planks produces the deliciously addictive flavor. Add some Scotch Bonnet pepper sauce – a.k.a. one of the world’s hottest peppers! – at your own risk but don’t skip the yummy sides (think fried dough balls, pumpkin rice and a Red Stripe).
Ja man! —Christine Laroche
For snapshots of our trip to Jamaica, visit the Editors’ Diary.
May 4th, 2012
The circle is complete at downtown’s Hotel Le Germain. It already had swish rooms, the stellar restaurant Charcut and the laidback Lounge Central 899. Now the hotel adds Santé Spa to its list of reasons why we want to check in and never leave.
We’ll start our spa experience at the top with a rehydrating facial to tackle the drying effects of our city’s high elevation and end at the bottom with a grounding Thai foot massage using bamboo and mahogany. In between we’ll settle in for the signature hot stone massage.
Santé Spa will lull into a state of calm that might make you want to book a room and curl up with the goose down comforter. —Jaelyn Molyneux
899 Centre St. S.W., Calgary, 403-930-5959, www.santespa.com
July 13th, 2011
Enter the Matrix, Edmonton’s bright and bold boutique hotel adjacent to Jasper Avenue.
Chic, urban and stylish, this spot has 184 rooms, a stunning designer lobby and easy access to all the theatre, dining and downtown nightlife you want. (Psst: If you’ve got a Travel Alberta card, get 30 per cent off your booking.)
And while you’re there…
Visit the Onyx Suite, a $2,000 a night luxury pad featuring a giant terrace with a built-in BBQ and fireplace.
Try the MZ Lounge for a delightful continental breakfast before evening wine and cheese tastings.
Check out the Wildflower Grill, a destination world-fusion, and thus, authentically Canadian cuisine restaurant situated beneath the hotel for city dwellers and hotel guests alike. Owned separately, but partnered with pride.
If the Matrix is all fabricated like its sci-fi name suggests, ignorance is bliss. —Caroline Gault
Matrix Hotel, 10640-100 Ave., Edmonton, 780-429-2861, www.matrixedmonton.com