November 14th, 2013
No, it's not always sunny in Philadelphia – but you'll have so much fun, it'll seem like it was. Here are some top picks from our latest sojourn.
We adored our visit to the swanky Rittenhouse Hotel, whose doormen and bellhops are as friendly and helpful as they come. Be sure to make time for a drink in the cozy, hidden-away Library Bar, or afternoon tea – complete with tiny sandwiches, scones and clotted cream – in the back courtyard. Rooms from $390/night, www.rittenhousehotel.com
Talula's Garden is a feast for the senses even before you get to the food and drink. If it's warm enough, request a seat on the gorgeous side patio and bask in the glow of thousands of fairy lights as you feast on the fresh, plant-centric cuisine. Save room for a cheese plate and perhaps a butterscotch pudding, served with English toffee on the side. 201 W. Washington Sq., Philadelphia, http://talulasgarden.com
Brand-new a.bar is attached to the luxury AKA residences (they don't like to call it a hotel) and serves up wines and cocktails to match the sexiness of the decor. Grab a seat at the bar to keep an eye on the fun, friendly bartenders as they go about their work.135 S. 18th St., Philadelphia, www.stayaka.com
Philly has more public art than any other city in the country, lending itself to plenty of options for art tours as well as DIY explorations to see what you can find. Mosaic and mural lovers will want to head to Philadelphia's Magic Gardens to view the works of famed mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar, which are also distributed around the city; other crowd-pleasers include Rodin's The Thinker at the Rodin Museum and the statue of Rocky in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Our favourite random discovery was Jim Sanborn's Ars Medendi, which cast the words of some of history's most famous medical researchers – Pavlov and Galen among them – across the surrounding ground and buildings.
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 1st, 2013
Dreaming of a late summer sojourn somewhere hot, vibrant and colour-rich? Here, Montreal-based fashion designer and Baba Souk owner, Stephanie Hebert shares her personal guide to the one-and-only Marrakech.
Riad El Fenn which means “the home of Art” is just mind blowing. With its incredible art collection and amazing decor, Riad El Fen is sure to please your artistic soul. Every corner of this guesthouse is brilliantly styled with an attention to detail and an added touch of art in every nook and cranny. The little boutique has some very unique finds, the spa is a little hidden heavenly spot and don’t get me going about it’s magnificent rooftop terrace with a breathtaking view overlooking the Koutoubia mosque. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a drink and the hippest place to stay. Riad El Fenn, Derb Moullay Abdullah Ben Hezzian, Bab El Ksour, Medina, Marrakech, www.el-fenn.com
Without any doubt the most amazing shopping experience in Marrakesh belongs to its souk market. Get started in one of the labyrinths surrounding Place Jemma el-Fnaa and just stroll down kilometers of handcrafted goodies. Kilim pillows, rugs, lanterns, tea glasses, leather “babouches” slippers, all available in amazing colors. Bargaining is a must, its just part of the game, give it a try! And don’t you worry about getting lost, it’s impossible not to! When you're done, just ask someone where you can find an exit and you’ll be able to catch a taxi on the street.
Visit The Ben Youssef Madrasa, a 14th century Islamic college, a great example of traditional Islamic architecture. You’ll see stunning, colorful, abundant mosaics in fine geometric patterns and finely engraved Arabic inscriptions. You’ll be able to visit the ancient student dormitory cells and feel the special vibe of the courtyard in this superb medersa. Ben Youssef Medersa, Rue Souk el Khemis, Marrakesh, Morocco.
After a long day at the souk, you will absolutely need a bit of quiet and a break from the crowds. You’ll find a little hidden gem in the heart of the souk, it’s a rooftop terrace called Terrasse Des Épices. It’s the perfect place for a late lunch. The decor is very baba cool so you can chill for a few hours sipping on a delicious cinnamon infusion. Try a wonderful tagine and don’t you dare skip dessert! Terrasse des Épices, 15, souk Cherifia. Sidi Abdelaziz. Marrakech Médina, www.terrassedesepices.com
August 1st, 2013
To indulge our inner foodie in a serene spot steeped in history, only one place will do.
When the Ritz Carlton re-opened its doors after a $200 million facelift, one of the best surprises was the opening of Maison Boulud. Under the direction of Chef Riccardo Bertolino (and Boulud himself, who reportedly adores Montreal and drops in often), the restaurant serves up fresh, local inspired fare in its sleek dining room and gorgeous greenhouse overlooking the garden.
Our idea of the perfect splurge-y lunch? A seat in said greenhouse, plus Nicoise salad inspired tuna tartare ($21) and a glass of rosé.
We could get used to this. —Christine Laroche
1228 Sherbrooke St. W., Montreal, 514- 842-4224, www.ritzmontreal.com
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 4th, 2013
In his 1933 novel Lost Horizon, British author James Hilton created a mythical utopia, a sort of heaven-on-earth, that he called Shangri-La. Now all the earthly pleasures of this aptly named hotel in Toronto are available to all. You may even feel like it’s all too good to be true.
Take tea in the vast lobby lounge, where a fresh menu of macarons is baked daily- try the one with fois gras. Sit back a people watch, especially come film fest: we saw Kiefer Sutherland stroll by (perhaps on his way to the private screening room)?
The Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie Paris combines Moroccan luxury with French refinement, a marriage made in pampering heaven. Exotic décor, private hammam treatment rooms and wine-infused skincare products that are gentle and natural make for one-of-a-kind experience.
Adjoining the hotel is New York chef David Chang’s first Canadian outpost of Momofuku, with three levels offering different dining experiences. We love the ground floor Momofuku Noodle Bar with its communal tables and bustling lunch crowd.
The hotel’s award-winning pool also features deck side infrared saunas, perfect for detoxing after a night at Soho House, the elite private club right next to the hotel.
The beautiful Asian-inspired Bosk restaurant offers very attentive service in a bright and airy space off the main lobby. Come summer, a patio opens up onto University Avenue, offering fresh seafood platters right in the heart of downtown.
Hotel rooms are more like luxury apartments with lots of storage space, ample desks, boudoir-like bathrooms, and one suite even has it own spin bike. See, why would one ever leave?
June 27th, 2013
Having spent a fair amount of time in Santa Monica with an ex-beau, I thought I had the area covered. But some 10 years later, I realized that most of our activities took place within the confines of his oceanfront apartment. Thankfully, true love (and a 40th birthday) prompted another visit to the 'hood, this time with my husband and three-year-old son in tow.
We fell in love with the boutique Oceana Beach Hotel the moment we stepped through its modernist doors. Once an apartment complex in the '50s, the Oceana’s public spaces were remodeled a few months back leaving warm blue and taupe hues with pops of colour and beach house décor. We loved the kidney shaped pool and in-house restaurant (think farmers market finds and local wines) – both were ideal for people watching as guests ran the gamut from fashion types to chic Euro families. But our favourite feature was the service, which rivaled the Four Seasons – everyone from front desk staff to wait staff were incredibly helpful and genuine – a rarity in these days of hipster cool. Do splurge on a top floor ocean view room – the view is killer and the higher floors enjoy a quieter stay. www.hoteloceanasantamonica.com
We shopped like a chef at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market on Arizona and West 2nd. Local hospitality types abounded scoring finds for dinner and the bar (you can see them with their dollyies everywhere). We loved the probiotic tomato basil bread from Bezian Bakery and scored great hotel snacks like organic dried plums and raw nuts.
Blue Plate Tacos is one of three neighbourhood eateries that are kid-friendly, boast fun wait staff and use tons of local ingredients. We loved the soft shell tacos (chicken, fish and beef were all excellent) and the grilled corn on the cob served with hint of spice and a slice of lime. Their classic margarita made with top shelf Reposado Tequila had us reminiscing about our 20s (and feeling no pain).
Kicks Sole Provider is a sweet little shoe shop on the very trendy Montana Street (home to Splendid, Jonathan Adler and other LA essentials) carrying limited edition and unique finds for men, women and kids from big name brands like Nike, Adidas, Converse and Toms. We loved the limited edition Birkenstocks by Tatami Amadora (pictured). www.KSPLA.com
Do try to plan your trip around the Santa Monica Pier’s Twilight Concert Series coming July 11. Done in partnership with NYC’s Central Park, these free outdoor shows are well-loved by locals. This year’s line-up includes killer acts such as Meshell Ndegeocello and No Age. RSVP here.
—Tara Parker Tait