Calgary - TRAVEL & LEISURE
February 14th, 2013
Queenstown, one of the filming locations for a little movie about Middle Earth, is the perfect jump-off for exploring New Zealand's South Island. The beautiful scenery and delicious vineyards make for an equally chic and sportif trip.
Queenstown’s Matakauri Lodge is situated on Lake Wakatipu and overlooks The Remarkables mountain range. Book through luxury boutique concierge service Mr & Mrs Smith to receive a complimentary “Smith Extra”, currently a gourmet picnic hamper for two. www.mrandmrssmith.com
Visit the charming Amisfield Winery Bistro for dinner. Select "trust the chef" for a multi-course, simple yet stylish meal. Ours was completed with a chocolate and praline confection expertly paired with their deliciously honeyed sticky wine, produced with the "noble rot" method. Head over to the winery shop after to purchase a few bottles- Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir are also good buys from this Central Otago winery. www.amisfield.co.nz
For a little cinematic escape, visit The Dorothy Browns Theatre in neighboring Arrowtown (you may even catch a screening of The Hobbit!). This stylish cinema offers a selection of both blockbusters and art-house films. Order a glass of local wine and a cheese plate to enjoy while you watch your movie. www.dorothybrowns.com
The Postmasters Residence in Arrowtown is a quaint restaurant in a heritage garden cottage. We ordered the caramelized banana and brioche French toast. With bacon. And mimosas. After all, vacation is the time to indulge! Fiending for less sugar and more caffeine? Bob’s Weigh in town brews a good cup. www.postmasters.co.nz
From Queenstown you can charter a helicopter air tour to visit world-renowned Milford Sound. But, we recommend saving your Kiwi dollars and rent a car- when a road has "UNESCO World Heritage" designation you know it'll be worth the drive. Once at Milford Sound, join a 2-3 hour boat tour. Budget two days for the journey, with a night in Te Anau, so you can stop at the many scenic points and wineries along the way.
February 9th, 2013
Taking your kids to Paris? Read this first! Or, “How do you say umbrella stroller in French?”
Get your bearings with day passes for the BatoBus, sightseeing boats that stop every 15 minutes along the Seine so you can hop on and off at all the major monuments ($15 Euros/day). It’s the best way to get the pretty and sprawling Jardins Des Plantes with its Menagerie (the oldest zoo in the world opened in 1794). Don’t miss Nenette, the famous 40 year-old orangutan. Hint: if you go just before closing at 5, you can see the cats get fed whole chickens. Menagerie Du Jardins Des Plantes 9 Euros/7 Euros.
The L’Ouvre and Musee D’Orsay are for a different trip. To get your culture fix, head to the Centre Pompidou, the famous inside-out art gallery. The very best view of Paris is from its rooftop café (try the Vietnamese spring rolls) and there are lots of free activities for kids in and around the lobby and grounds, plus a great gift shop. www.centrepompidouparis.com
Hands down my favourite afternoon was spent at the stunning Jardins Luxemburg. Check out the art exhibits in its Orangerie, ponder the immaculate topiaries, and make sure to rent the affordable wooden boats (pictured) for your kids to play with in the main fountain. There is a pretty garden and wading pool just for kids under 5, which makes a nice oasis for a picnic from nearby Le Petit Luxe (2 Rue de Vaugirard) which has inventive take-away salads and sandwiches for just 3 Euros (hence line-ups).
If your local science centre were designed by Philippe Starck and housed in a massive sculpture park, you are beginning to get a sense of the sheer scale and scope of Paris’ Cite des Enfants. We wished we had a whole day to explore inside and out, but at the very least take them to the main science experiences where they can “work” in a water factory, play with a light wall, collaborate in a kiddie construction site and stimulate their growing grey matter. Cite Des Sciences, www.cite-sciences.fr
Even the best parents deserve a date night in Paris. We used the babysitting service Baby Chou and met a wonderful English-speaking au pair named Aude. Ask for her! It is better to phone rather than book online. 9 Euros/hour plus agency fee. 01 43 65 58 58, www.babychou.com
Be prepared to carry strollers up and down Metro stairs and wait for grumpy attendants to open access doors beside the turnstiles. For shorter journeys, taxis are better (get a business card and reserve a “maxi cab” for your trip to the airport).
Remember: the Eiffel Tower is best viewed from the park at its base, don’t waste half a day dodging pickpockets in the lineups. Instead, take them to the Eiffel Tower Carousel, the prettiest in the city.
We found that picnicking in parks was better than trying to keep the steak knives and wine glasses out of tiny hands. Not to mention all the glares we avoided this way. If you have rented an apartment like we did, even better.
Credit cards and online reservations are de rigeur, but you will find that your booking can’t be retrieved with a foreign credit card. This applies to train tickets, museum passes, etc. Be prepared to line up.
The 12% VAT can add up. Make sure to carry your passport number and ask for a tax form at point of purchase. You can get the tax back in cash at the airport before you check in as long as you have your purchases on hand to present to them.
February 7th, 2013
High fashion indie shops congregate in the Marais alongside to-the-trade fashion, great art, and, like everywhere in Paris, hot girls on bikes! A tour:
Stop for delicious (and affordable) café alongé (Americano) and pain au chocolat at Christain LeCroix’s favourite neighbourhood spot, Le Sancerre. If you have kids, let them run wild in the gated park across the street. 87 Rue des Archives, Paris.
Pick up the best bedding, table linens, Japanese stationery, and maybe even a Vanessa Bruno coat at the famous 3-storey lifestyle store, Merci. Look for special collaborations with the likes of Maison Martin Margiela (trompe d’oeil door, pictured). The adjoining restaurant is known for its healthy fare. 111 Boul., Beaumarché, Paris, www.merci-merci.com
Designer children’s clothes like you have never seen (baby Chloé!) are up to 60 per cent off at the clearance outlet of Fifi de Vem. 17 Rue de Turenne, Paris.
The Lebanese couscous counter at the lively food market dating back to 1615, Marché Des Enfants Rouge is known city-wide. Great for a refueling pitstop at the end of a fun day. 39 Rue de Bretagne, Paris.
Open till 7:30 pm, the flagship store for Isabel Marant does inventory every two hours. Watch the chauffeurs crowding the street waiting for their charges doing serious credit card damage inside. Pale blue leather leggings anyone? 47 Rue de Saintonge, www.isabelmarant.tm.fr
Just a block away is the hush-hush tequila bar housed in the back of the teensy taqueria that everyone is talking about, Candelaria. You mean you went all the way to Paris for cheap Mexican food? We sure did. 52 Rue de Saintonge, Paris, www.candelariaparis.com
February 1st, 2013
Escape to the gorgeousness of the foothills just 40 minutes from downtown Calgary.
With 11 rooms on the property, the Azuridge Estate Hotel is an intimate getaway, with expansive surrounding wilderness and an incredible water tower with views worth the climb.
This is the stuff culinary dreams are made of: Azuridge’s Executive Chef will help you design a personalized and original menu for your meal in one of the several dining areas.
Finally, a getaway that's actually a getaway! With an awe-inspiring view of the Rocky Mountains from the fitness centre and private yoga classes available on request, inner peace is easy (at least for the weekend).
Get out and explore the stunning world around Azuridge. Private cross-country skiing and snowshoeing tours can be arranged as well as trips to the world-renown Spruce Meadows to watch the equestrian competitions.
January 31st, 2013
Belize might be small, but it packs a punch for its size – and you'll never have a chance to get bored. Choose your own adventure with these highlights from our recent visit, and mix and match with your own must-dos from the list of top attractions: think Mayan ruins, yoga retreats, diving adventures and – let's be honest – drinking cocktails in a hammock.
Hopkins is off the beaten path as it is; to really get away from it all, book a room at Hopkins Bay Resort at the north end of town for its chic, spacious rooms, quiet beach and refreshing pool, plus gracious staff always at the ready to make your stay an enjoyable one.
In Hopkins, don't miss the excellent pizza at beachside Driftwood Pizza Shack, best served after dark with a local Belikin beer in hand. In San Pedro, the fresh fruit smoothies at Wild Mango's kept us satiated by day, and the fresh coco-jitos – that's a mojito with the addition of coconut cream – by night.
Activities for all energy levels are the name of the game here, from low-key hikes and bicycle outings to the more intense diving, ziplining or rappelling. We loved snorkelling with sea turtles, nurse sharks and stingrays (don't worry, they won't bite) at Hol Chan Marine Reserve off San Pedro, and have our hearts set on kayaking Glover's Reef next time around.
There's wildlife to see farther inland, too. We adored our visit to the Community Baboon Sanctuary, a community initiative that helps conserve tree cover on private land for local black howler monkeys and offers tours for visitors to see them and other wildlife in their natural habitat.
In San Pedro, you'll find carvings and textile crafts sold beachside by locals and art galleries in town. But our favourite purchase was in the village of Hopkins in southern Belize, a rosewood cheese board from Dave's Wood Carving, a locally owned and operated shop that sells handmade sculpture, jewellery and dishes crafted from indigenous timber.
January 24th, 2013
What do you do in Maui on the days you’re not venturing up Haleakala or fighting carsickness on the road to Hana? We have a few ideas.
Keep your eye on the surf report because if Jaws (a big surf break just east of Paia) is breaking, you’ll be able to watch some of the world’s most daring surfers take it on.
January 18th, 2013
It’s getting cold out here and a girl’s gotta warm up. Our new favourite destination for a luxe yet low-key weekend? Jupiter, Florida.
Jupiter Beach Resort is laid-back and chic, making it the ultimate home-away-from-home… with the added bonus of palm trees, a full-service spa, being directly on a private beach, offering fresh-baked cookies daily at 3 p.m. and having a gorgeous pool and Jacuzzi. Did we mention a private, picturesque beach? #heaven www.jupiterbeachresort.com
Don’t mind Little Moir’s Food Shack (103 South US Highway 1, 561-741-3626) strip mall exterior: The interior will transport your to a Caribbean island. The local hotspot features daily specials and catches aplenty but be sure not to miss the Panko Crusted Fried Oysters ($18), a house specialty that’s worth the cost of airfare! http://littlemoirs.com/food-shack
One of the best ways to explore Jupiter is from the water and stand-up paddleboarding is one of the trendiest workouts. Conclusion? A SUP tour with the Jupiter Outdoor Center (1116 Love St., 561-316-6203) a must-do. If you’re lucky – we were! – you might even spot a manatee along the way. www.jupiteroutdoorcenter.com
Take a historical tour of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, which was first lit in 1860. Be brave and climb up the steep staircase for a breathtaking vista of the area as well as a bird’s eye view of the celebrity homes – including Céline Dion’s! – that lie in the surrounding area. http://www.jupiterlighthouse.org
Warning: Boarding that plane back to the winter wonderland may be one of the hardest things you’ll have to do. —Christine Laroche
January 10th, 2013
We crave sun, sand and salutations. But we don't need crowds, saccharine drinks and poolside renditions of La Macarena. Set in the beautiful south east coast of the Dominican Republic, Casa de Campo is 7,000 acres of serene luxury with all the right bells and whistles.
Nestled among palms and bougainvillea, Casa’s swishiest private villas boast infinity pools, basketball courts and docks for one’s yacht. Jay-Z rented something oceanfront for his 40th birthday (Queen B needs her space). No less sumptuous, our Elite Balcony suite had a cathedral ceiling and walk-in closet. Best of all, each room comes with its own golf carrito for getting to and fro. Arriba! Rooms from US$300 per night, www.casadecampo.com.do
There are 13 gourmet eateries here and (hallelujah!) just one buffet. We spent most afternoons noshing on fresh seafood at the open air Beach Club by Le Cirque. Overlooking Minitas Beach, the lobster salad and poached conch cocktails are delish. Do sea breezes smell better over mojitos made from hand-picked berries? Why yes they do.
A short hop from the main resort, Altos de Chavón has a charming cache of boutiques with handspun carpets, embroidered linens, and artisanal pottery. At Jenny Polanco we fell for hand-painted clutch bags and pretty lace trim dresses. The village is also home to The School of Design (an outpost of Parsons). Ask to visit the library where a collection of vintage leather-bound Vogues will put a gleeful dent in your beach time.
We never could resist a gent on horseback and the Casa de Campo polo team is most swoon-worthy. Catch a cup tournament at the Equestrian Centre, take a guided trail ride or sign up for lessons in Western, English or polo (if you dare). Trot on. www.casadecampo.com.do
Riding the range is glorious until you discover muscles you never knew existed. For your sins, the spa’s Polo Stretching Massage is just the thing. We loved that treatment products are 100 per cent natural and made on site. Follow up with a turn in the meditation garden labyrinth and you might get back on the horse. Treatments from $40. www.casadecampo.com.do/spa
January 3rd, 2013
I can’t think of a goal I’d be happier to reach than my resolution to return to Kauai, the Garden Island, this year.
On the sunnier, drier side of the island, the Sheraton Kauai is located on a quiet spot of Poipu Beach. A waterfront room there is a must, not just because of the view but because it’s so close to the surf the waves will lull you to sleep.
Called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon is a stunning spot to have a picnic or go for a hike. And if you continue on to the end of the road you’ll find postcard-worthy views of the Na Pali Coast.
Yes, you could find a $10 ukelele at any souvenir shop in the state, but you won’t find passion for the locally made instrument like you will at The Ukelele Store in Old Koloa Town.
Shave ice is everywhere in Kauai but Jojo’s Shave Ice, a red shack adorned with Bob Marley posters, has flavour combinations you won’t find elsewhere.
Even better than standup paddle boarding on the ocean? Standup paddleboardng on Kauai’s navigable rivers. Outfitters Kauai runs scenic river tours perfect for novices.
November 29th, 2012
Spain’s Castilla y León region is home to more medieval castles than anywhere else in Europe. Segovia - 30 minutes north of Madrid via high-speed train - is the jewel in this area’s crown with scenic castles, cathedrals and palaces. Like a fairytale come to life….
For a truly authentic experience, stay in a parador. Paradors are Spanish state-run hotels converted from historic buildings- usually convents, castles or palaces. The Parador de la Granja is housed in the 18th century palace used by Charles III for Princes Gabriel and Antonio. http://www.parador.es/en
Manchego, Jamón ibérico and morcilla (blood sausage) are regional specialties. Sorry vegans! Roast suckling pig, or “conchinillo asado”, is the most famous Segovian dish. The meat is so tender that it is traditionally cut tableside with a dinner plate. Our favourite was at Mesón de Cándido, a Spanish Inn founded in 1786. www.mesondecandido.es
Sangria, what else?! Throw a rock anywhere in Segovia’s Plaza Mayor and you are bound to hit a pretty patio with a spectacular view. Prefer your wine with less fruit? Tempranillo a good bet in this region. If you want to wander around with a drink in hand, ask for yours “para llevar” (to go).
The Alcázar de Segovia is one of the most recognizable and beautiful castles in Spain. Walt Disney thought so too- the Alcázar served as a key inspiration for the iconic Cinderella castle.
The Catedral de Santa Maria is not to be missed! Literally. It is massive, so really, you can’t miss it. The cathedral was built starting in 1525, making it the last Gothic style cathedral to be built in Spain. The interior is ornate but light and bright- one of the most beautiful I’ve visited.
Segovia’s Roman aqueduct is one of the most important and well-preserved ancient monuments in Spain. It is the symbol of Segovia, and one of the many reasons the town is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Palacio Real de La Granja is an 18th century baroque palace, located 15 minutes outside of Segovia. Visit at dusk, when most of the turistas have left and there is a beautiful dappled glow cast over the extensive French-style gardens. You can still make it back to Segovia in time to watch the sun set over the Alcázar.