Can you remember a time when your days were spent marveling at the world around you? When afternoon naps were a daily occurrence and evenings were passed beside the flickering amber flames of a camp fire? When playtime was so all consuming that time seemed to disappear?
How long ago was it? Days? Months? Decades? Since childhood? Never?
For me, it was less than a month ago on safari in Botswana.
At Inkaterra, they’d never leave us stranded on a muddy riverbank for more than an hour waiting for a wayward boat.
At Inkaterra, they provide complimentary flashlights and organic bug repellant.
At Inkaterra, the kerosene lanterns were clean and gleaming, not coated with black soot so thick they barely illuminate the room…
The comparisons kept surfacing. I couldn’t seem to help myself. That’s the problem with great service; you’re forever doomed to compare everything else to that standard. Once spoiled by five-star treatment, every inefficiency and oversight in the competition becomes glaringly obvious.
Such was the case for me recently after two separate stays with Peruvian luxury hotelier, Inkaterra.
There’s something lavishly indulgent about checking in to a luxurious hotel with the singular intent to settle in and relax. No early morning wake up calls. No planned excursions. No returning home more exhausted than you arrived.
Such was the case recently when my husband and I checked in to Peru’s Aranwa Sacred Valley spa hotel for a peaceful getaway.
Arriving to eleven thousand feet in elevation during a Cusco winter requires certain indulgences: oxygen-infused air, heated floors, relaxing spa treatments, late mornings and long afternoon naps.
Lodgings are scattered up and down the steep streets of the ancient Inca city. But we selected the 43-room Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel, stylishly converted from a 16th century mansion, as much for its modern conveniences –oxygen-enriched rooms, complimentary Wi-Fi,and heated flooring–as its sophisticated aesthetic and ideal downtown address.
There are a few places so special, so unique, so dreamy that I can’t help but recommend them to everyone and anyone: Jicaro Island Ecolodge, a tropical private island hideaway in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, is one of those places.
It’s been a few months since we left Nicaragua behind for continued travel in Latin America and extended stays in Ecuador and, now, Peru. Yet I frequently find my thoughts traveling back to our time at Jicaro - awakening to the roar of howler monkeys, morning cups of coffee enjoyed on our casita’s private deck, daily massages at the lakeside spa, sunset paddles in the shadow of sleeping Volcán Mambacho, and delicious meals of innovative organic Nicaraguan cuisine.
What makes Jicaro so special? That’s easy…
Exploding fireworks. Tolling bells. High volume music. Tooting car horns. Sound is omnipresent in Latin America; the vibrant soundtrack of every day life. But from the cozy sling of a hammock on the veranda of a private casita at Hacienda Puerta del Cielo Ecolodge & Spa, it felt as if Nicaragua had gone silent.
It was early December, mid-way through a three-month stay in the nearby Colonial city of Granada where the town had been rocking for days in boisterous preparation of the upcoming Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebration. At the Hacienda, however, perched atop a remote hillside with unimpeded views of tangled jungle, smoldering volcano and glistening lake, there wasn’t even a whiff of noise on the balmy breeze. As if to make the point, soundless butterflies the size of dessert plates fluttered about the resort gardens.
A movie trailer of experiences – snorkeling with rollicking sea lions, hiking among giant cacti, photographing leaping dolphins, and whales so close you can hear them breathe– replays often in my mind’s eye as high-definition and heart-pounding as any Hollywood production.
It’s been months since our yacht adventure in Mexico’s nature-rich Sea of Cortés, but the mind-movies surface often– triggered by conversation, photographs, or the sheer joy of conjuring up images of one of our planet’s most amazing places.
There’s something soul-soothing about a vacation where Mother Nature takes center stage. Where, amidst the wind, clouds, sunrises and unrestrained land and seascapes, the daily drama and media headlines take a backseat to wonder and awe. American Safari Cruises’ voyage through one of the world’s richest marine environments brings Nature up-close-and-personal.
Discover the Pampered Side of Ecuador At Exclusive Haciendas
World-class spas. Healing hot springs. Glamorous hacienda accommodations. Just because you’re eager to discover Ecuador’s rich and colorful past, doesn’t mean you have to forfeit contemporary service, cuisine and comfort. Well, that’s what Judy Carvalhal, founder of Ecuador travel outfitter, Enchanted Expeditions, believes.
Luxury travelers can now discover the Pampered Side of Ecuador on Enchanted Expeditions’ new hacienda hopping package.
Just outside La Paz, Mexico, Costa Baja Resort & Spa has upped the luxury ante in a region of Baja California still delightfully undiscovered.
I’d been running full throttle for months when my husband, Hank, and I booked a pre-cruise stay at Costa Baja Resort & Spa in La Paz, Mexico. Somewhere between preparations for a year (or more) of nomadic wandering in Central and South America (more soon!) and looming deadlines, I decided that a pre-adventure respite in a luxurious resort would be the perfect place to kick back for a few days.
There are many who mock a resort stay (too mainstream, not for serious travelers)…for the very seclusion I was hoping to find. There’s something about exquisite service, tranquility and gracious hospitality that soothes a life-exhausted soul.
Part Western commerce center, part culture capital, Denver exemplifies the art of relaxed urbanity. It’s sophisticated but not pretentious: small-town friendly but not provincial.
Beyond hightailing it to the mountains via Denver International Airport, it had been years since I’d visited the Mile High City. But a recent pre-ski city break revealed a hip, oft-overlooked and glitzy inner-city scene that’s channeling that Western charm into new restaurants, upscale boutiques and art galleries.
The latest star in Denver’s upscale vibe is the city’s most exclusive address - the Ritz-Carlton Denver. Just two blocks from the city’s fashionable heart and mile-long café-filled pedestrian promenade, the 16th Street Mall, the luxury hotel is an ideal base for travelers seeking to add a little Town to an up-Country visit.
Listed below are a few of my favorite discoveries and reason enough to add a Denver City Break to your next Colorado vacation.
In the film, THE HOLIDAY, Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet play two strangers, one living in England and the other in Los Angeles, who agree to swap homes temporarily. If you’re like many moviegoers who came out of the film dreaming of starring in your own luxury home swap, now you can.
The movie became one of the inspirations for one of the hottest travel trends this season, Luxe Home Swap where luxury homeowners can get the most out of their vacations by swapping in style. Whether you fancy skiing in the Rocky Mountains or winter sun in the Caribbean, Luxe Home Swap is the savvy traveler’s way to holiday in style and blend in like a local.
My husband, Hank, and I are big fans of home exchanges and have been able to enjoy extended stays in exotic locales, for little more than the cost of staying home, as a result. And while home exchange websites have been around for decades, Luxe Home Swap has come up with a model that levels the playing field for swappers with style.
Luxe Home Swap is the brainchild of entrepreneur Debbie Wosskow, who came up with the idea when she was thinking about booking a winter vacation away for her and her family. Debbie was sick of spending 80% of her travel budget on a hotel, where she still wouldn’t feel like it was a home away from home.
“I took a look at the main home exchange sites out there, put my home up on a few of them and found that there was a real problem. When I listed my funky home in Marylebone, Central London on a few of the sites, I was bombarded with 30 to 40 messages a day from people with properties that didn’t match with mine asking me to swap,” says Wosskow. “I then looked for other nice homes, and there were some there but they were really difficult to find. Plus the existing home exchange sites looked horrible and obviously had been built a long time ago. Clearly it wasn’t the same glossy experience as booking through a travel agent. So I came up with the idea for Luxe Home Swap – a stylish home exchange site for people with homes they’re proud of that lets you holiday like a local
Receive the Royal Treatment in South Africa With South African Airlines Vacations ‘Safari Royale’ Air-Inclusive Vacation Package
South African Airways Vacations is offering a package fit for royalty, with nine days of 5-star luxury stays in Cape Town with tours, plus a safari and flights on South African Airways, Africa’s most awarded airline. The “Safari Royale” package features four nights at the 5-star Cape Royale Luxury Hotel and Residence, a lavish enclave in the heart of Cape Town’s metropolis. Its intimate and relaxed atmosphere will serve as a regal retreat after days filled with excitement experiencing all the spectacular attractions that Cape Town has to offer. A full-day Cape Peninsula Tour and a half-day Winelands Tour included in the package will ensure that guests get to experience the must-see vistas of the Cape region.
After time spent at the “Fairest Cape,” guests will jet off to the Savanna Private Game Reserve at Mpumalanga in Kruger National Park. Situated in the famous Sabi Sand Reserve area of Kruger, a stay in the lodge’s 5-star luxury suites, plus outstanding safari cuisine and game drives with exceptional opportunities to view the Big 5
We’re just back from a stay at Seattle’s quintessential waterfront lodge, the Edgewater Hotel. Perched above the waters of Elliott Bay on Pier 67, the luxurious landmark was the perfect compliment to an Alaska wilderness voyage. The hotel topped the charts in both service and location.
Originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Edgewater Hotel is Seattle’s only waterfront hotel and a local favorite. My Seattle friends had nothing but compliments for the legendary landmark and its award-winning Six Seven restaurant. With good reason. Dining at Six Seven, watching the buzz of harbor traffic cruise by, was as delightful an experience as it was delicious. An innovative menu highlights seafood, meats and produce sourced from throughout the Pacific Northwest. The organic sea asparagus from neighboring Bainbridge Island that accompanied our Alaska halibut and king crab legs was a standout. The combination of salt and sea with the fresh sweetness of the seafood had us talking about the meal for days afterwards.
With an eye open for the best, the authentic, the innovative and the irresistible, I’m just back from Portugal’s famed Vinho Verde wine region.
Home for the week was the scrumptious Tiara Park Atlantic Porto hotel, an elegant landmark of the Avenida Bonavista area in Porto (yes, just like that delicious drink, port wine, which happens to have originated there).
Learn more about Portugal’s up-and-coming wine country in ‘Rota Vinho Verde: Following Portugal’s Green Wine Trail.
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Wish you were here,
Mayday, Mayday! Missed your connection in L.A.. No time to snag a Starbucks. On the brink of a demotion for not getting the boss’s birthday gift - a bottle of single malt you promised to bring back but didn’t.
Stop stressing! If you’re an Air Canada Super Elite member - or travelling in Executive First on an International flight - a personalized and dedicated Concierge agent is at your service.
Stationed at the departure gates and Maple Leaf Lounges in 20 airports around the world, they’ll pretty much do whatever they can to help you get from here to there without a meltdown: meet and greet you and make alternative plans if your flight is canceled or delayed, assist you with ticketing, connections, upgrades, baggage handling and customs clearance.
They’ll also make hotel and restaurant bookings, theatre ticket reservations and arrangements for ground transportation and have even been to known to score a bottle of duty free Scotch for the boss. Shssh. We’ll never tell.
Think of the bliss: Getting there really could be half the fun.
Always on the lookout for extraordinary travel opportunities, we struck gold with this one! Perfect for Pampered Passengers seeking the ultimate 2010 Winter Olympics experience, this one-of-a-kind program offers an exclusive experience with an award-winning athlete and a behind-the-scenes look at the Games.
During the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, athletes won’t be the only ones taking home the gold. The Flexjet 25* Jet Card program and Jet Set Sports—an official supporter of the 2010 Winter Games—are teaming up to offer a limited-edition package for an unforgettable journey through next year’s premier event.
This one-of-a-kind 2010 Gold Edition Jet Card includes:
- Exclusive access to an award-winning athlete and a memorable behind-the-scenes look at the Olympic Winter Games
- Access for two to each of the most sought-after Olympic events: the Closing Ceremony, the Men’s Ice Hockey Gold Medal Game, the Figure Skating Gala Exhibition and the three Short-Track Speed Skating gold medal races
- Three nights’ accommodation at Vancouver’s prestigious Sutton Place Hotel
- Olympic-certified ground transportation and an onsite personal concierge
- Dining at Vancouver’s most highly acclaimed eateries