Tantalizing Taos/ Mountain in Tamaya

August 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Laurette Veres

Photo by Laurette Veres

Just 135 miles from Albuquerque International Sunport and a short, 90-minute drive from Santa Fe, lies the sunny town of Taos, New Mexico. It’s here that you’ll find world-class skiing, hiking, camping, whitewater rafting, kayaking, fishing, and mountain biking.

Taos is also a city steeped in culture and history. It is home to the country’s oldest continuously-inhabited Pueblo community.

In fact, many cultures blend together in Taos’ rich heritage including Hispanic, Native American, African American, Anglo, and more. The diverse cultural traditions that built this community are beautifully evident in the eclectic art and dining scene.

Other hidden gems include cultural sites like the historic San Francisco de Asis Mission Church (a National Historic Landmark), the downtown plaza known as “El Corazón de Taos,” not to mention a wealth of museums and art galleries.

New Mexicans have a tradition of inviting travelers into their homes and offering incredible hospitality. Bed and breakfast style inns all throughout Taos keep this tradition of hospitality alive. We started our B & B tour at Hacienda del Sol, which is situated on 1.2 majestic acres. The hacienda adjoins 95,000 acres of Taos Pueblo land with Taos Mountain. This stunning, picture perfect vista provides the ideal backdrop for an unforgettable wedding ceremony. We stayed in the oldest of three historic adobe buildings, constructed in 1804. Each morning we awoke to the aroma of freshly-ground, special blend coffee and a delicious breakfast in the air. This property is the perfect launch pad to explore the streets of Taos, or if you’d rather ski, head up to the Taos Ski Valley.

The big news on the slopes this year is the availability of the Mountain Collective Passes.

The Mountain Collective gives adventure seekers a two-day pass to 16 mountain resorts including Taos.

The legend of Ernie Blake, founder of Taos Ski Valley, is alive and well as people are newly-introduced to skiing and snowboarding daily at the Ernie Blake Snowsports School. It is often said that Taos Mountain has the ability to make you a better skier. Blake knew that a long day of skiing could improve your skills but it could also wear you down so, he planned ahead.

He buried martinis in Spanish flasks called Porrons at the base of certain trees along the slopes then marked the trees with a bow so skiers knew where to look. This tradition continues at the Martini Tree Bar where it’s always après ski time.

Also new this season is The Blake at Taos Ski Valley. The Blake, named for the Blake family, is an 80-room alpine guesthouse conveniently located next door to Lift 1 to deliver carefree mountainside adventures to its guests. If you’re looking for a unique wedding venue, The Bavarian Lodge & Restaurant provides a beautiful backdrop to make your Taos wedding celebration even more distinctive and memorable.

We continued our bed and breakfast tour at the Casa Benavides Inn. This property, a complex of several converted buildings, boasts 37 rooms on the property. Each themed room has a different name and décor from “The Blue Lady Room” to a “Painted Desert Room.” Casa Benavides is conveniently located just steps from the main square in the heart of Taos and all it has to offer. We arrived mid-afternoon and were greeted by tea service and a plethora of sweet pastries. The rooms at Casa Benavides are quite spacious with heated tile floors and our large bathtub had a mountain view. Breakfast was spectacular— the homemade yogurt is perfectly sweet with coconut and cranberries, but be sure to save room for the homemade muffins.

Looking to be pampered? Just down the street from Casa Benavides you’ll find the El Monte Sagrado Living Resort, home to the The Living Spa. With a view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains; the Living Spa offers all modern spa amenities with New Mexican flair. The couple’s massage room features a high ceiling and a private bath and shower. Here, you will be pampered by some of the best therapists in the area. Don’t skip the “Sagrado High Desert” massage. This service blends indigenous plants such as cedar, sage, and ginger then crafts them into an herb- infused, body scrub treatment. Next, you are wrapped in an ancient sea-clay mask, which they say helps to “draw toxins out of the body.” After a quick shower, enjoy a gentle butter cream massage. When your treatment is over, enjoy refreshing coconut water in the outdoor garden.

Want some down-home, authentic New Mexican food? Head to Orlando’s New Mexican Café in nearby El Prado. Enjoy the outdoor fire and a margarita while you wait to be seated. Husband and wife team, Orlando and Yvette Ortega are consistently “Best of ” award winners for their Grilled Carne Adovada— a pork cutlet topped with their homemade Red Chile Caribe and fresh tortillas.

ESSENTIALS

www.taos.org www.skitaos.com 

www.taoshaciendadelsol.com 

www.casabenavides.com

www.elmontesagrado.com/taos-spa-resort-amenities

THE DRESSING ROOM WEST

by Owner, Christina Ferrara

In the heart to the Santa Fe historical district, a new retail concept is energizing the bridal business. Offering the thrill of a sample sale coupled with the exclusivity of private appointments, The Dressing Room West is a bridal boutique catering to the needs of today’s brides. “Everything here is off-the-rack,” says boutique founder Christina Ferrara. “You can take it home today.”

What a change from the typical bridal gown appointment! All gowns at The Dressing Room West are brand spanking new and direct from designers or designer warehouses. With this constantly changing, curated collection of discontinued or overstocked gowns, it’s the perfect boutique for the girl who finds it hard to visualize her perfect dress. If the dress fits, buy it. Nothing in the store is over $1,200. – LMV

WHAT’S TRENDING NOW?

“Gowns are featuring open backs and the sheer, illusion backs now. Also, sleeves are very popular” says Ferrara.

FERRARA’S TIPS FOR BRIDES

#1 Always have some sort of idea (about what you are looking for)

#2 Don’t bring too many people

#3 Have an open mind

 

Mountain in Tamaya

Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort

On the majestic Sandia Mountains of New Mexico, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa offers a picturesque setting for an extraordinary wedding or honeymoon getaway.

The Tamaya is located on the Santa Ana Pueblo, one of the 19 ancient pueblos in New Mexico. As you enter the property, the scenery is so breathtaking that you just might forget you are heading toward a luxury resort. In fact, The Tamaya blends right into its surroundings like a perfect painting with its pueblo-style architecture against the indelible Southwestern landscape.

In the main hotel, there are three glorious options designed to fit your unique wedding plans. For a smaller guest list, consider the Sunrise Amphitheater, a gorgeous flagstone area set against the canvas of the nearby mountains. The Sunrise is an ideal space for an outdoor ceremony particularly in the early evening. The light is just right for your closest friends and family to celebrate and snap unforgettable photos of your happy occasion. This outdoor space can seat up to 350 guests and the adjoining veranda can be set up for cocktails or act as a backup location in case of inclement weather.

For weddings during colder months or large groups, the versatile Tamaya Ballroom might be a better choice. You’ll love the dazzling chandeliers in this capacious yet functional room that can accommodate up to 1,000 guests.

Perhaps the most unique of these spaces, The House of the Hummingbird, duplicates the rustic charm of adobe pueblo ruins complete with views of the Sandia Mountains and the sacred Tuyuna Mesa. This space has it all; it is the quintessential New Mexican setting. This 8,600 square-foot multi- purpose venue can hold up to 300 guests. At the end of the ceremony, the bride and groom can make an unforgettable grand exit in a romantic horse- drawn carriage.

The Cottonwoods Gazebo and Pavilion seems so far removed from the hotel’s main property, you’ll forget you are at a resort. The gazebo and adjoining pavilion, located right on the Rio Grande River, is the ultimate space for an outdoor ceremony.

It features a unique indoor/outdoor ballroom that can host up to 300 guests for your ceremony and reception.

If you want to offer your guests a destination wedding with an authentic New Mexican flair, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa is the perfect option.

For more information on the Hyatt Resort:

https://tamaya.regency.hyatt.com

Pops of New Glimmers Old

August 9, 2017 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Stephanie DiCiro

Courtesy of Visit Mobile

The charming port city of Mobile, Alabama has a character all its own. Deeply rooted within its rich history are streets lined with live oaks and azaleas, time-honored traditions and a remarkable, enduring spirit, all wrapped up in a big dose of Southern hospitality. When you step into Mobile, it always feels like a celebration.

With over 300 years of history brimming with countless stories and traditions celebrated, Mobile can be described as: historic, cultured, celebratory, and above all, unique. Once known as the “Paris of the South”, Mobile has long been the cultural focal point of the Gulf Coast. Even a short visit will provide you with a memorable, one-of-a-kind experience you won’t find anywhere else in the Southern United States!

Recent revitalization in Mobile’s many historical districts provides a picture window to the past. The Steeple on St. Francis is one of old Mobile’s most inspired new event venues that has emerged from the hallowed halls of an old Methodist church.This vintage space holds history within its timeworn walls although it has been renovated and repurposed to host concerts, parties, and weddings. Couples are drawn to this space because it tells an interesting story while also providing the exceptional aesthetic of immaculate stained glass windows and intricate wood-working details. If you visit in the spring, be sure to hit the Mobile Historic Homes Tour. Ancestral homes, churches and house museums are open to the public for this two-day event to benefit the Historic Mobile Preservation Society.

Mobile holds the distinction of being the original and unsung home to the infamous Mardi Gras parade and celebration. Each spring the parade rolls through the historic streets of downtown with its elaborate and vibrant floats, flooding the streets with beads and pelting the townspeople with Moon Pies. This parade is a grandiose finish to the revelry of a two-and-a-half-week citywide celebration called Carnival! Carnival time in Mobile is a family-friendly time to attend balls, parties, and parades filled with non- stop celebration. In Mobile, the fun doesn’t stop on Fat Tuesday. The Mobile Carnival Museum captures the essence of the Mardi Gras legacy year round, with stunning displays of parade floats, elaborate, century- old costumes and a wonderful history lesson.

Everywhere you turn, Mobile is buzzing with creative souls displaying their amazing expressions of art. Much of Downtown Mobile and in particular Lower Dauphin Street or LoDa, as it is known, is a creative hub for artists to express their talents with studios, galleries and art centers showcasing everything from dramatic murals, contemporary sculptures and abstract paintings, to endless other types of artful creations. The Mobile Arts Council, located in the heart of LoDa, is an agency that partners with art organizations to bring events like the LoDa ArtWalk to the public. The outrageously popular LoDa ArtWalk brings thousands of people together to appreciate the latest in local art, music, food and culture. If carefully curated art is more your style, the Mobile Museum of Art showcases approximately 10,000 eclectic pieces from around the world and hosts exhibits, classes, programs and special events for the community.

The Saenger Theatre brings performance art to life in a historical theater experience; prestige, poise, presentation, and pizazz are all present when describing this glorious concert hall that has played host to local, national, and international performers. From classic and contemporary art, music and dance to luxury hand-made furnishings and homemade crafts, visiting these diverse local galleries and pop-up markets will be an unforgettable experience and will leave you with an enduring appreciation for the southern charm this quaint town has to offer! The arts community in Mobile is flourishing with countless creative and artistic activities and festivals to enjoy. Your calendar will be booked throughout your visit!

Hit the streets of downtown Mobile for some retail therapy where you’re sure to find a hidden treasure or two in one of the local boutiques! After a busy day of shopping, you can choose from a variety of delicious dishes sure to satisfy your taste buds. From the award winning seafood gumbo at Wintzell’s Oyster House to the locally sourced ingredients from the esteemed Kitchen on George, you won’t be disappointed with any food choice in Mobile!

If you’re seeking adventure, whether you take a Delta Safari for an up-close view of local wildlife or take an airboat tour across the picturesque Mobile- Tensaw Delta, Mobile is the perfect place for those of you who love the outdoor life. From boating, kayaking, and duck boat tours to a guided tour of the famous Bellingrath Gardens, this town has the total package for a weekend getaway full of adventure and excitement! Located in the heart of downtown, the Admiral Hotel

Mobile offers a lavish setting and modern conveniences for guests to return to after a leisurely day of shopping and dining. The Admiral has it all; deluxe guest room suites and two delightful dining options on- site, and just walking distance from everything this engaging town has to offer!

Perfect for a family weekend getaway, a romantic escape for two, or even a group of festivalgoers, Mobile attracts a variety of visitors because it provides an authentic experience you can’t find anywhere else!

ACCOMMODATIONS

www.mobile.org

www.theadmiralhotelmobile.curiocollection.com

www.mobilecarnivalmuseum.com

www.mobilesaenger.com

www.mobilemusuemofart.com

www.mobilearts.org

www.thesteeplemobile.com

www.wintzellsoysterhouse.com

www.kitchenongeorge.com

Cabo is Calling

August 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Vicki Dill

Courtesy of Grand Velas Resort

After taking hundreds of pictures of breathtaking views and stunning scenery, I am heading home from the brand new hotel, Grand Velas Los Cabos, that just celebrated its grand opening in December I feel refreshed, tan and ready to book my next trip back to this luxurious resort that catered to my every whim!

Whether you’re planning a destination wedding, a honeymoon, an anniversary trip or just because you’re in love, Grand Velas Los Cabos will go above and beyond at every turn.

Upon my arrival, the smiling hospitable staff warmly greeted me by name. The bold entrance to the hotel features what appears to be a keyhole to a paradise of turquoise waters, purple gardenias and swaying palm trees framing a pristine blue sky. Checking in is stress free when presented with a refreshing welcome drink, a cooling towel and (the clincher) a welcome shoulder and neck massage.

Rooms are modern and sexy with rich, dark, wooden doors, sliding bathtub walls that open to the suite, and a mini bar filled with the promise of lively afternoons and seductive nights. Your own private butler is on hand to ensure that all of your needs are met. Soak up the expansive views of the Pacific Ocean, three infinity pools and the colorful gardens all from the chaise lounge on your own private terrace.

All-inclusive has never looked this good. Upscale, stylish, and award-winning are terms that best describe the dining experience at Grand Velas Los Cabos. With seven restaurants, in addition to several casual dining areas, you’ll want to stay as many nights as possible to enjoy the culinary genius at each unique Grand Velas establishments. The shining star of their gourmet restaurants, Cocina de Autor, was the world’s first all-inclusive resort restaurant to be awarded Five Diamonds by the AAA. Two Michellin Star Chef, Sidney Schutte, prepares meals that ignite your senses and really should be showcased in a museum of exquisitely presented fine food! For an authentic Mexican experience, Frida, a restaurant honoring Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, offers live music and contemporary dishes reflecting the traditions of Mexican cuisine. The French restaurant, Piaf, is romantic and evokes the feel of 1940’s Paris.

You can’t go home without eating at Lucca, their Italian/ Mediterranean restaurant, which is sure to leave you feeling full and happy!

The spa…wow–Just WOW! You begin your spa adventure with a guided hydrotherapy called The Water Journey. This tranquil area of the spa has a massive pool with several small coves. Each cove has a different type of water pressure, designed to massage your muscles and de-stress your body. There are waterbeds that elevate you with hydro pressure, and knead your joints and muscles as you relax. After that peaceful journey, you can add traditional spa treatments like the sauna, steam room, ice room and a series of unique showers. The steam room was a favorite. It features delicate lights that dim and change colors giving you a feeling of serenity. I had a Blue Agave Candle Massage; something I had never experienced and thoroughly enjoyed. A multitude of services are offered and the Grand Velas Spas are among The Leading Spas of the World. It would be easy to spend your entire vacation at the Grand Velas Los Cabos Resort. Spend a dreamlike day at one of the three infinity pools. Keep cool at the swim-up tables and bar and enjoy sipping the specialty drink of the day. The service is attentive, the beverages plentiful, and the menu is perfect for poolside dining. In addition, Grand Velas Los Cabos offers many activities to keep you engaged. There’s poker, darts, water aerobics, bingo, Ping-Pong, and a fully loaded fitness center with classes. There’s also a kids club and a teen club that even the adults will find entertaining.

If you are a person who likes to take in the sights, there are countless ‘once in a lifetime’ adventures available in Cabo! Situated at the tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, the Los Cabos region is well known for deep- sea fishing and seasonal whale watching, but also boasts a lively nightlife. Cabo Adventures is a leading tour and activity operator dedicated to providing memorable experiences for vacationers in Cabo. I was lucky enough to be a guest on their Luxury Sailing Tour aboard the elegant Beneteau Yacht. Our cruise took us to the Sea of Cortes where we jumped off the boat, snorkeled, paddle boarded, swam and enjoyed the breathtaking beauty of the Pacific Ocean. We enjoyed great music, upscale, tasty meals, all you could eat and drink margaritas, mimosas, cervezas, and more! Cabo Adventures also offers dolphin swims, camel safaris, scuba diving, whale watching tours, sunset dinners, whale shark encounters, zip-lining, mountain biking, air adventures and even fly boarding.

If you are planning a wedding or a honeymoon, Grand Velas Los Cabos is a picturesque, accommodating and endlessly romantic destination. Their experienced team will assist you with every detail.With so many beautiful and unique restaurants you’ll have many options when planning your wedding events. A Grand Velas wedding is beyond your imagination. Whether you choose a beach wedding among the oceanside boulders or opt for a garden ceremony overlooking the vast ocean, a private terrace wedding or even a wedding in one of their many ballrooms;it will be a day you’ll wish you could relive over and over again.

Grand Velas Los Cabos will exceed your every expectation. Step away from real life for a few days and treat yourself to the luxury you deserve.

ESSENTIALS:

www.grandvelas.com/resorts 

www.loscabos.grandvelas.com 

www.cabo-adventures.com

Gateway Canyons

July 26, 2017 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Laurette Veres

Courtesy Laurette Veres

John Hendricks, founder of the Discovery Channel, recalls his dad’s love affair with the majestic landscape of Western Colorado. Years later, when he finally took the time to see it for himself, he was hooked!

John regards this part of the world as some of the most awe-inspiring, scenic terrain in creation and his vision is to share it with others. First, he built a ranch. Then he was inspired to add a car museum followed by a café and a few guest rooms to accommodate visitors. Today, Gateway Canyons Colorado Resort and Spa is a full-service, 58-room/14-casita luxury resort.

This one-of-a-kind resort sits at the mouth of five converging canyons, creating a picture-perfect setting for your destination wedding. The exposed rocks near Gateway Canyons are 300 million years old. Most notably, The Palisade is a three-mile long butte and the most prominent geologic feature in the area. Whether you capture it on film from afar or climb to the top, you’ll be in awe of its beauty and grandeur. Surrounded by breathtaking red rocks in every direction, you and your guests will never tire of the scenery here.

As you might expect at a Colorado resort, outdoor activities reign supreme. Whether you’re keen on mountain biking, hiking, riding ATVs or horseback riding, they’ve got you covered. If you’re feeling adventurous, opt for the scenic heli-tour. Heli-Yes!

For $525 you and four friends can get an aerial tour of these beautiful red rock canyons and the surrounding area.

The resort’s full-time curator, Zebulon “Zeb” Miracle (yes, this is really his name) is on hand to help guests interpret the curiosities of this land. Accompany him on a Rock Creek Ranch Art Hike and discover an ancient world of art and storytelling. Zeb explained that before the Ute Native American tribes inhabited the land, the Anasazi and Fremont people left their mark on the rocks with both abstract and realistic figures. Since none of their descendents remain, we are left to interpret the art for ourselves. If there are youngsters in your group, Zeb is also the guide for the Jurassic Experience, a dinosaur tour that includes a dinosaur dig and a chance to actually see prehistoric footprints. Get a bird’s eye view of the five canyons as you ride an ATV to the top. The stables also offer horseback rides taking you to scenic locations. Still a working cattle ranch, you just might see cowboys at work on your stay.

The bride and her maids can enjoy panoramic views from the treatment rooms at the full- service spa. The women-only outdoor Jacuzzi is the perfect place to kick off the relaxation. Their signature treatment, the Desert Flower Poultice Therapy, is their twist on a hot stone massage. As you enter the room, fragrant sage, lavender and other herbs simmer in muslin sachets similar to large tea bags. In fact, from an auditory perspective, this treatment is reminiscent of a facial due to the relaxing hiss of steam filling your senses. Deep tissue massage is administered using the herb packet.

A rare and unexpected offering here at the Gateway Canyons is the Driven Experience, allowing guests to drive some of the world’s most luxurious cars. Speeding down one of America’s most scenic roads such as the Unaweep/ Tabeguache Colorado Scenic Byway, a spectacular 133-mile road running around the National Forest and the Dolores River, feels exhilarating in a luxury car. Surprise your guests with an airport pick up in a Bentley or take a 4-hour spin in a Viper. Driving experiences such as these and more are available right on property. For a historic perspective of American cars, a visit to The Gateway Canyons Auto Museum is a must; don’t miss the one-of-a- kind 1954 Oldsmobile F-88 concept car, considered a rare American icon.

Accommodations are five- star, each room containing a balcony with personal fire pit and in-room fireplace. The barn door entrance adds a dose of rustic charm as you enter the full bath with floating bathtub, walk-in shower, double sinks and ample counter space. One and two bedroom casitas are also available. There are 14 in all and a complete buyout for your wedding allows private access to the casita pool.

Your group will surely come hungry and they are in good hands. The Kiva Café is open daily for breakfast and lunch.

The Paradox Grille Patio is the perfect outdoor location for a quick Angus burger, Cobb salad or grilled cheese with tomato soup. Entrada offers fine dining nightly and can cater to any dietary needs. Wedding menus are customized, of course, but you might consider staying true to Colorado character with their signature Garlic-crusted Venison Loin.

THERE ARE A NUMBER OF SPACIOUS AND ELEGANT VENUES AVAILABLE FOR YOUR CEREMONY AND RECEPTION:

  • The Mission Bell Amphitheatre sits near the center of the property andis the perfect location for a cocktail reception or ceremony. As the name implies, this structure resembles a historic mission reflecting the Pueblo Revival style of the 1920s.
  • Cottonwood Terrace is the perfect grassy area to stage a small ceremony. Views of the surrounding canyons lend a unique sense of place to this setting.
  • Paradox Grille Courtyard is an outdoor brick courtyard perfect for a small, casual reception.
  • Gateway Ponds reflect the red sandstone mesa or the Palisade and can accommodate an intimate ceremony up to 75 guests.
  • The Palisade Grand Ballroom is the largest indoor venue accommodating 200 guests. These functional rooms are mainly used as weather back up spaces.

For more information visit:

www.GatewayCanyons.com

Mystical Mayan Adventure

July 19, 2017 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Jade Lewis

Photo by Jade Lewis

After a short 15-minute drive from the Cancun International Airport, you arrive at Kukulcan Boulevard, home to Cancun’s Zona Hoteleria and two JW Marriott resort properties. Prepare to be greeted by name by an upbeat, attentive staff if you stay at either of these 5-Star resorts.

After checking in at the JW Marriott Cancun Resort, the staff provided a mini tour of the property and luxurious guestrooms. The JW Cancun offers 448 elegant ocean-view rooms and suites, all just steps from beautiful white-sand beaches. Featuring five sparkling pools, the JW caters to couples, adults and families alike. The CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort located just up the beach is tailor-made for a family vacation with its tantalizing pool, kid’s club and amazing restaurants. The resorts are connected with a walkway so that you can choose either location and have an unforgettable stay.

Feeling hungry? There are a number of great choices within the adjoining Marriott properties and the nearby local eateriesto have an amazing dining experience. If you have a taste for Italian, Gustino Italian Beachside Grill boasts a phenomenal menu and a 4-Star rating from AAA. During my visit, Gustino’shosted high quality tequila tasting in their private tasting room, offering a sampling of Don Julio Luxury Tequilas in a wide range of vintages. Are you ready for food that is as beautiful as it is tasty? Try the fantastic Sasi Thai Cancun restaurant in the CasaMagna next door. Sasi Thai’s menu is a combination of nouveau Thai cuisine and traditional favorites. You simply can’t leave Cancun without getting out of the hotel and having some great tacos. Although good tacos are not hard to find in Cancun, I was lucky enough to attend the main event of Cancun’s annual Wine & Food Festival, the Star Chefs: Gourmet Taco Competition. This event invites you to taste signature tacos from 16 award-winning chefs along with the best wine, tequila and spirits and vote on your favorites.

With loads of great adventures to be had in Cancun, it can be hard to choose but visiting a Mexican cenote is a definite must! The Cenote Samulà and Cenote Xkeken are located about two hours outside Cancun but this adventure is well worth the trip.

A cenote is a freshwater sinkhole that creates a natural swimming hole of beautiful, refreshing water often surrounded by an underground cavern. While swimming at Cenote Samulà, the sun beamed through the roof of the cave and reflected off the water creating mystical lighting all around us. It was an unforgettable experience! After our swim, we grabbed lunch at El Meson Del Marques, a very traditional Mexican restaurant just like something from the movies. Another “must-do” on the Riviera Maya is snorkeling in the Mexican Caribbean. Visualize yourself navigating the Nichupte Lagoon in a speedboat, then jumping in and snorkeling in the clear, blue coastal waters. What better way is there to spend time with a loved one than exploring the Caribbean together?

After an adventurous day exploring Cancun or if you just want a little bit of heaven, escape to the luxurious spa experience at the JW Marriott. This 3-story Mayan-themed spa offers 17 treatment rooms, plus a steam room, sauna and lounge all dedicated to guests’ health and relaxation. Customized facial, massage and body treatment packages are available or you can opt for the ultimate Mayan traditional massage, the Hunab Ku Ritual. Of the three Mayan treatments available, the Hunab Ku is a mixture of unconventional healing movements and energy flow rituals based on traditional Mayan beliefs. They also offer relaxing couples massage therapy, perfect for honeymooners.

Adventure and mystical beauty await you at every turn on the Riviera Maya.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION AND RESERVATIONS:

www.marriott.com

www.mesondelmarques.com

www.wineandfoodfest.com

www.marinabarrcuda.com

Paradise Forever

July 12, 2017 by  
Filed under Travel Blog

By Marian Jacob

Photo by Marian Jacob

Mayakoba – “Village of Water”

On the majestic Caribbean shores of Mexico, the Mayakoba Resort on the Riviera Maya offers four exclusive luxury hotels surrounded by natural forests full of wildlife, freshwater lagoons and crystalline beaches. The newest of these is the long-awaited Andaz Mayakoba-Riviera Maya, a welcome addition to round out this spectacular master-planned retreat.

Mayakoba prides itself on sustainability and protecting the natural environment, while creating a luxurious escape to another world. Wake up to bird calls from over 200 species, and experience nature right from your room.

Stay in the presidential suite at the Andaz enveloped in tropical scenes of serene lagoons and lush greenery or behold the Fairmont’s hypnotic waterfront views and superbly cultivated gardens. Lose yourself in the Rosewood’s ultra-comfort service and white sandy beaches, or rent a villa at the Banyan Tree with your own private plunge pool and garden terrace.

Start off the day with a full breakfast buffet at Cocina Milagro at the Andaz, overlooking the pool or enjoy a good book while swinging in the hanging-egg wicker chairs. Set up a tee time at El Camaleón, a world-class golf course designed by PGA legend Greg Norman and home to the PGA Tour OHL Classic. Like a chameleon, the surrounding vistas from the fairways change from mangroves and cenotes to sand dunes and white beaches. Take a ride in a golf cart tram through the winding roads of the exotic forests to El Pueblito, “El Corazón de Mayakoba”- The Heart of Mayakoba. Here, you can shop at boutiques filled with handmade textiles and pottery, take a cooking class at El Pueblito Cooking School or eat lunch at La Fondita. Enjoy a refreshing fruit drink at Bang Teng Thai or coffee at El Cafecito. On Sundays, they hold Mass at Santa Cruz Chapel, followed by the weekly Farmer’s Market.

Mayakoba offers a variety of activities from hiking and biking through meandering nature trails, bird watching for those rare and unique species of birds, honing your archery skills on the four-target range, or taking a guided kayak tour through the Mayakoba waterways. Take a leisurely tour of the entire resort via the Mayakoba Connection ferry service. Stop by each of the hotels to enjoy a meal and live music from myriad restaurant options: tasty tostadas and tequila from Olla Ceviche at Andaz, authentic Thai cuisine from Saffron at the Banyan Tree, sushi from Agave Azul at the Rosewood or enjoy golf club favorites and Latin wines at Koba on El Camaleón.

Get pampered with the 24-hour butler service at the Rosewood, with personalized room service and housekeeping. Use the Rosewood Mayakoba app to request services for those special moments on your honeymoon; from a romantic bubble bath or an intimate dinner to a helicopter ride over the Kulkulcan Pyramid in Chichen Itza.

For rejuvenation and spiritual healing, choose spa treatments rooted in ancient Mayan rituals such as the Mayan Clay Purification treatment at Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont or a fresh honey body scrub and massage at the award-winning Banyan Tree Spa. The spa at the Andaz has six treatment rooms and two hydrotherapy spaces dedicated to your relaxation as well as a full-service salon to keep you looking as great as you feel.

If you’re planning to tie the knot, Mayacoba offers a variety of unique spiritual ceremonies to cater to a couple’s vision for their wedding. Consider the Mayan Ceremony at the Rosewood where couples are blessed by a shaman who invokes happiness and abundance on their union. There is certainly no shortage of striking, one-of-a-kind backdrops and glamorous venues available to grace your ceremony.

Whether it takes place alongside a crystal blue lagoon, barefoot on a pristine beach or in a lush jungle hideaway, your wedding will be one to remember!

Book your paradise wedding or honeymoon at Mayakoba Resort.

For Further Information and Reservations:

www.mayakoba.com

www.mayakobamagazine.com

http://mayakobamfwg.com

Prague

June 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Three Days in Budapest

June 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog, Uncategorized

by Dick Dace and Joel Hoopaugh

Day One

We arrived in Budapest at eight in the morning after an extremely bumpy and exhausting overnight train from Prague. We blamed the Soviet-era tracks, the heavy-footed brake man, and the Animal House rejects who partied next door. Our hotel was the sister property to our Vienna accommodation, The Kempinski Hotel Corvinus. Conveniently located in the city center and surrounded by

other high-end hotels, it is nestled between the Ritz-Carlton Budapest and two metro stops. There is nothing like staying at the Kempinski, where one is rejuvenated just by walking through its revolving door.

First stop of the day was Memento Park. We caught the 11 a.m. Memento Park Bus less than one block from our hotel, for a short 20 minute drive outside the city. Created in 1993, the park includes several of more than 1,000 communist-era statues that were an intricate part of the intimidation and propaganda campaign the Soviets used to control the Hungarian people from 1945 until 1989. In the center of every community was a statue showing a benevolent soviet soldier protecting a Hungarian peasant, or a three-story tall statue of Joseph Stalin looking down like a mythical God.

Other statues feature Lenin, Marx, and Engels. The statues made me depressed, sad, and angry. Apparently, most Hungarians agreed with me. In 1989, with the fall of the Soviet Empire, citizens toppled the soviet era statues all across the country, and many were melted down to create new works of art.

Hungary even used some of the communist statues to remodel the ones at Hősök (Heroes) Square, originally

built in in 1896 to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin. In 1989, the statues of the Holy Roman Emperors were replaced with other important national leaders, and a tomb honoring the Unknown Soldier.

Heroes Square is surrounded by a beautiful park, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Palace of Art, and the Serbian Embassy. During the summer the lake is dotted with watercraft, and ice skates gliding on top in winter. It is also the site of the first underground subway station in all of Europe.

As we walked back to our hotel, we stumbled upon a small Hungarian restaurant, Pater Bonijac Etterem. Once inside, the waitress/owner Monika stopped by to take our order. I ordered a chicken dish. She rolled her eyes and exclaimed, “Why you order that? You don’t want that. I bring you what you want!” and off she went. And she was right. She delivered a large plate of chopped veal and her version of potato dumpling for me, and a Gypsy-style meat stuffed crepes typical to Hungary (Hortobagyi Palacsinta) for Joel. Every bite was better than the last.

We decided to take public transportation, then a local taxi to the world famous Formula One Grand Prix racetrack. While most of the track was closed the day we visited, there was a spirited go-kart race happening on one part of the compound, and in another, Hungary’s largest waterpark.

Back in Budapest, we decided to walk along the Danube River which separates Buda from Pest. While admiring the Buda Castle compound across the river, we came upon an interesting grouping of bronze old-fashion shoes on the waters’ edge. It looked like dozens of folks had slipped off their shoes before going for a swim.

We learned later from a tour guide that the shoes are a memorial commemorating the execution of Hungarian Jews by the fascist Arrow Cross members during World War II. The Fascists took the Jews to the river and ordered them to remove their shoes, so they could be used by others, then shot in such a way that their bodies fell into the river.

Day Two

On our way to Buda Castle, we walked along the river to the very impressive Hungarian Parliament. Directly outside is Kossuth Square, a large square with monuments, classical buildings and an underground memorial to the Revolution of 1956. Across the river are Budapest’s most famous landmarks; Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle and Liberty Statue.

Atop the hill is Fisherman’s Bastion, built in 1902 on the foundation of a 13th century church. From one of its seven towers, there is an amazing panoramic view of Buda. For the price of meal, one can sit on the Bastion’s terrace walls and enjoy the view.

At the base is the famous Buda Castle. After being almost completely destroyed by Soviet forces at the end of World War II, the castle was painstakingly rebuilt according to historical photos and paintings. The castle is now a museum, where it is possible to see some of the castles recreated furnishings. A 700-car garage is being constructed underneath the grounds.

Because we wanted to see other sites not accessible by public transportation, we decided to hire a car for our trip to Vienna. First stop: Slavin, Solvakia, which provided us with a birds-eye view of Bratislava, Austria and Hungary.

Day Three

Our driver was Gyuri, a moonlighting professional soccer player who had been a high school exchange student in upstate New York. He spoke excellent English, and drove a late model sedan. First stop: Slavin, Solvakia, which provided us with a birds-eye view of Bratislava, Austria and Hungary.

On our way to Devín Castle in Bratislava, (which was destroyed by Napoleon in 1810) we drove over the famous UFO bridge over the Danube river that was built in the late 1960s and early ’70s during the height of Soviet Communist propaganda building spree. It features a flying saucer-shaped restaurant at the top of the bridges only pylon, the largest such bridge in the world.

Our favorite stop was Carnuntum, a Roman army base established in the first century. Over the years, Carnuntum grew to be an important outpost of the Roman Empire, and was the site where the Emperor emeritus Diocletian and the co-emperors Maximian and Galerius granted freedom of religion for every citizen of the Roman Empire.

It is now an Archaeology Park where they have rebuilt The House of Lucius, complete with period furniture, heated floors, heated baths, and water-flushed latrines. You could say life was good for the generals, and the merchants of Carnuntum. They loved their baths, as do citizens of Budapest, who keep four city bath houses hopping.

Resources:

www.Kempinski.com

Pater Bonijac Etterem Restaurant

Budapest 1068

Dozsa Gyongyut 108

DayTrip.com

Foodie Getaway at Rancho Pescadero, July 6-9

June 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Rancho Pescadero in the artsy, laid-back beach town of Todos Santos, Mexico is hosting a fun and food-filled Guest Chef Series over July 6-9 for foodies around the world. Nestled on a pristine beach of the Pacific Ocean an hour north of Cabo San Lucas and a world away from the everyday, Rancho Pescadero’s weekend-long Guest Chef Series culinary event will feature the talented Jason Dady.

The executive chef / owner is behind the restaurant concepts Tre Trattoria, Tre Enoteca, Two Bros. BBQ Market, The DUK Truck, B&D Icehouse, Shuck Shack, and Dady Premier Catering in San Antonio, TX. He was awarded “Star Chef Restaurateur” by Star Chefs and was a semi-finalist nomination by James Beard.

The full weekend starts with a cooking demo and farm-to-table lunch followed by a traditional tequila and mezcal tasting. The next day entails a Baja wine tasting followed by a dinner of the guest chef’s tasting menu in the resort’s signature restaurant, the Garden Restaurant. Rancho Pescadero sources ingredients for these meals from its on-property organic farm and local purveyors in a 20-mile radius, making each meal extremely fresh and full of flavor. The Baja-specific farm-to-table are sure to delight culinary connoisseurs and casual foodies alike.

For more information, visit http://ranchopescadero.com/special-offers/guest-chef-series.

Three Days in Vienna

June 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

by Dick Dace – Photos by Joel Hoopaugh

Day One

After Joel and I check into the Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna Hotel, we met our tour guide, Ilse Heigerth, for a walking tour of the city center. With seven hundred years of history, 27 palaces, 150 churches, and more Hapsburg royals, princesses and Emperors than I can count, Ilse proved invaluable with interesting stories and tales about this remarkable city and its people. We walked around the first of 23 districts on the ring road, created when the Emperor tore down the medieval wall, creating a green space with a walking path, bike path and roadway, in the footsteps of Roman soldiers, romantic princes and bloodthirsty assassins.

The Hapsburgs ruled Vienna from 1273 until 1918, and were a dynastic powerhouse that was created by marrying off their fifteen year-old daughters and sons to other royal houses in political alliances. “They weren’t very good at winning wars,” Ilse shared. “So inheritances allowed them to expand their empire, and stuff their treasury.” At one point, their empire included everything from Spain in the west, to the Baltic States (including Hungary and the Czech Republic) to the east, and north to Denmark and south to Rome, Italy.

During the eighteenth century, Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, had sixteen children. Among the ten that survived to adulthood, would emerge a Queen of France, the Queen of Naples and Sicily, the Duchess of Parma, and two Holy Roman Emperors, Joseph II and Leopold II.

One of Maria Theresa’s children was Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna aka Marie Antoinette, Queen of France. She was Maria Theresa’s fifteenth and second youngest child, and was just fourteen years-old when she married the fifteen year-old future King of France, Louis XVI.

Franz Joseph and Elisabeth were the last Habsburg emperor and empress of Austria. Sisi, as Elizabeth became known to the world, was one of nineteenth-century Europe’s most famously beautiful women. She was known as the world’s unhappiest royal, though not an actual princess (think Princess Diana). She bristled at the traditions and demands of court life, writing in her diary, Marriage is an absurd arrangement. One is sold as a fifteen year-old child, and makes a vow one does not understand, and then regrets for the next thirty years. Love her.

Two of the Hapsburgs most romantic royals were Duke Albert and Duchess Marie Christine, briefly ruling Brussels until French revolutionary troops forced them back to Vienna. Marie Christine was the only child of Marie Teresa’s who was allowed to marry for love. When she died by drinking tainted water, Duke Albert underwrote the cost of building two pipelines from the Swiss Alps to bring spring water to the citizens of Vienna, which Viennese still drink from to this day. He also commissioned a moving memorial in St. Augustin, the parish church of the imperial court of the Habsburgs.

The Hapsburg royals believed in elaborate funerals. They had their hearts buried in the Herzgruft (Hearts Crypt) inside St. Augustin Church, their entrails entombed in the Ducal Crypt below St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and their bodies buried at the Capuchin Church and Monastery. Famished, we were about to be funeral-ready ourselves.

So Ilse invited us to a traditional Viennese dinner in the hills surrounding Vienna. We took their safe, clean underground subway, a tram then a bus, all of which have efficient, intuitive signage event directionally challenged like myself can figure it out. We dined at Mayer am Pfarrplatz in hills above the city, feasting on Wiener schnitzel (think chicken fried steak) roasted pork and potatoes, all washed down by local wine.

The wine tavern’s most famous guest was Ludwig van Beethoven, who in 1817 came seeking a cure to his hearing difficulties, and it is where he completed his Symphony No. 3, “Eroica.”

Day Two

The next day we visited both the Upper and Lower Belvedere Palaces and gardens, which houses an art collection worthy of Emperors. Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss is here. The rooms, with their Rococo ceilings and walls, are the perfect backdrop for the art. The Belevdere’s beautiful gardens inspired us to lunch at Palmenhause in the Burggarten Park. It was our first opportunity to enjoy a slice of Sachertorte, one of desserts for which the Viennese are most famous.

A visit to Vienna isn’t complete without an outing at its famous amusement park Prater, and a ride on one of Vienna’s landmarks, the Giant Ferris Wheel, which Alfred Hitchcock made famous in his movie, The Third Man.

The Ferris wheel cars remind me of 18th century a train cars, same red color, made of wood. The view revealed our first sight of the modern skyline across the Danube. The park had a retro feel, with old-time amusements, and tree-shaded beer gardens, which the locals really seemed to enjoy. On the way out of the park, we stopped for dinner.

Vienna is famous for its street food, especially its sausages, so we stopped at Bitzinger near the entrance. We shared a bratwurst stuffed with cheese and pomme frites, washed down with local draft. Our meal was so delicious, we doubled our order.

Day Three

On our last day in Vienna, we visited the former summer residence of the imperial family, Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens. Its last residents, Franz Joseph and Elisabeth (Sisi), are very present in portraitures, and extravagant displays of their personal items in the very same rooms in which they and their children lived.

We discovered Vienna’s love for coffee in our hotel lobby, where from morning to late at night, Viennese gathered and mingled with hotel guests over a cup of Joe. The worldwide coffee culture began in Vienna during the Thirty Years war. People could not afford to heat their homes, but could afford a coffee in the local cafes. The Viennese still expect to enjoy a cup of coffee, a fresh glass of water every thirty minutes, and to read all the local newspapers and discuss the news of the day with anyone who will listen. No surprise the Age of the Intellectuals began here.

Our last meal in Vienna was at Edvard inside the Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna Hotel, where Executive Chef Anton Pozeg had just won his first Michelin Star, the third star in three years for the restaurant. Chef Anton served us his seven-course tasting menu—adding four other courses that we just had to have. These featured local seasonal produce (he works with a local farmer who brings him this entire crop of fruits and vegetables). Chef Anton’s inspired use of wood ash, for that hint of smoke, and dust he created out of different herbs, layered flavors and textures that left you wanting more.

I can’t say I know where Joel will wind up. But I can tell you that Mr. Dace is not going to heaven when he dies.

You’ll find me at the Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna Hotel.

Resources:

www.ViennaPass.com

Private Tour Guide

Ilse Heigerth

heigerthi@gmail.com

Wine Tavern

Mayer am Pfarrplatz

Pfarrplatz 2, 19th district,

www.pfarrplatz.at/en/startseite.html

Edvard at Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna Hotel

https://www.kempinski.com/en/vienna/palais-hansen/dining/restaurants/edvard/

Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna Hotel

www.Kempinski.com

Healdsburg

June 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Head to Healdsburg for a day of wine tasting

Healdsburg, California, is a picturesque escape for newlyweds. This authentic farming town— with its winding roads and rolling vineyards— is located north of San Francisco, a little over an hour from the Golden Gate Bridge. Healdsburg features top of the line wine tasting rooms, authentic cuisines, and exciting outdoor activities.

Located one block from Healdsburg’s Historic Town Square, is Hotel Le Mars. Dedicated to the tradition of old-world luxury and European service, the hotel offers complimentary French breakfast every morning as well as wine and cheese tastings in the evenings. Each guest room is beautifully fitted with antique furnishings, which includes a hand-carved four-poster bead, and a fireplace.

 

This charming hotel is a luxurious and traditional getaway for couples seeking a scenic escape or a romantic honeymoon. Whatever you might be looking for, the hotel promises a stay that you’ll never forget and never want to leave.

 

If you’re looking to take in some of Sonoma’s breathtaking scenery, a trip down the Russian River might be for you. Russian River Adventures offers full-day or half-day rafting trips down the river. What could be better than paddling down the Russian River through Sonoma’s vineyards and redwoods? Bring a cooler along and stop for a picnic on the banks of the river.

 

If pedaling through Sonoma’s rolling hills and quiet country roads sounds more like your pace, take a trip around town with Wine Country Bikes to taste the great wine that Healdsburg has to offer. This 17 mile trek includes pit stops at four different local vineyards and wineries. The one-day tour includes a tour guide and a fresh made, locally grown lunch.

 

Or take a hike with Jordan Winery as you learn the history of Sonoma’s wine culture, which boasts the freshest wine closest only to that of Tuscany. Sonoma County has over four-hundred vineyards, so try some for yourself and you can be the judge. We recommend Roth, located in the Chalk Hill region. They, along with their sister company Lancaster, pride themselves on crafting full-flavored wine and superb wine-pairings.

 

If craft beer is more your style, visit one of Healdsburg’s own beer companies: Bear Republic. Located in the heart of Healdsburg’s wine country, Bear Republic is one of the top craft brewing companies in the nation.They feature a wide variety of beers (over 90 in total) ranging from their “Big Bear Black Stout” to their “Hop Rod Rye.” They also offer tours of the brewery, which will give you a glimpse of how their delicious beer is produced. Bear Republic’s goal is to bring you fresh, never-filtered, hand-crafted beer.

 

After all of that wine and beer, be sure to stop at one of Healdsburg’s staples, Mateos Cocina Latina. They specialize in Yucatan food, from chilaquiles to huevos rancheros (rancher’s egg). And with namesake chef Mateo Granados at the helm, you know you’re in for a delicious meal. He has created a signature menu that showcases the local Sonoma ingredients combined with the flavors of his culture. Locals recommend the margaritas. I had a salad tossed in eel sauce alongside a strawberry margarita.

 

However, if you are looking for something fun and unique to do with your bridal party, then Relish Culinary Adventures might be up your alley. Learn how to prepare and create one-of-a-kind authentic food while pairing it with more wine and homemade peach drinks. Most classes don’t require any prior cooking knowledge, but they do offer classes for those with more advanced culinary skills. Learn to make chicken breast with quinoa, for instance, and top it off with some grilled peaches and ricotta cheese for dessert. Relish is sure to be a perfect compliment to your wine country experience.

Three Days in Leipzig

May 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Photos by Hansjoerg Niethammer

Day 1

The City

Leipzig is known as the city of Martin Luther and the Lutheran Reformation, Johann Sebastian Bach, the St. Thomas Boys Choir, and of the Peaceful Revolution of 1989, which brought down the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Empire. Leipzig is today as it was a thousand years ago, the market place of Europe and the economic capital of the region. To navigate this fascinating city, we turned to Tour Guide Sylvia Rebbelmund.

 

From Sylvia, we learned that the city was founded at the intersections of two main medieval trade routes and was established by business owners from many different cultures. With her binder of photos, which shows the city in all its glory, past, present and future, we discovered that in the 1920’s one-third of the world’s fur trade was conducted in Leipzig. Most of the downtown buildings were built to be trade fairs and sample rooms, which are connected by thirty (somewhat) secret passageways and courtyards. It was these free trade fairs that drove innovations and the exchange of ideas. It was the merchants, not the nobility, who opened schools and music academies, established choirs, and supported the arts. Even during its time as part of the Soviet Empire as the German Democratic Republic (GDR), it stayed true to its friends and its beliefs. Today, with the youngest and most educated citizens in the nation, industry is thriving, high tech companies are moving in, and its unemployment is the lowest per capita in the country. It is also home to the oldest business school in Germany where all the classes are taught in English, the language of business. It is also a very green city with one-third of the city covered in green belts, with a multitude of parks and lakes. It is also extremely multi-cultural and LGBT-friendly.

 

The day before we arrived, 300 anti-immigration protesters marched only to have their speakers muffled by more than 3,000 counter marchers who chanted, “All are welcomed!” and “We are the people.” It was very reminiscent of what happen in 1989.

 

The Peaceful Revolution

No visit to Leipzig would be complete without a visit to the Stasi Museum in the Round Corner, where we met Mrs. Irmtraut Hollitzer, the former member of the the Citizens’ Committee on the Dissolution of State Security. Her personal story of perseverance, struggle, and desire for a life of freedom for herself and her four children is worthy of a Hollywood thriller. She had the foresight, with her son, Tobias Hollitzer, to join a group of fellow citizens in seizing of control of the Stasi Headquarters to prevent its agents from destroying their files so that the world would never forget the crimes of the German Democratic Republic. As she walked around the museum with us, she told us her story.

 

When the Allies carved up Germany at the end of the war, in which 62 million people were killed, Leipzig was included in the Soviet-controlled German Democratic Republic, also known as East Germany. The Soviets brought their secret police with them, the KGB, which they called the Stasi, and began surveillance of its own citizens, creating distrust among family and friends in a campaign of sociological and psychological terror and intimidation.

 

The Hollitzer family, like so many others, were frustrated with the lack of opportunity, liberty, jobs, and the ability to travel (East Germans were the only citizens in the Soviet Empire which were specifically forbidden to travel to the West). They joined their neighbors and friends at Saint Nicholas Church on Mondays to pray for peace. Over the years, the police and the Stasi gathered names and addresses of those who attended and threatened them with violence. Young Tobias was soon on the Stasi radar because he organized groups to help clean up the river Pleisse, as well as musical performances in the city’s squares.

 

In preparation for their march, they used the mimeograph machine from Saint Nicholas church to spread the word and to invite other congregations to join them. As their numbers grew they took their protest to the streets. They marched for human rights and a free press. They practiced non-violence techniques; they did not throw rocks, and not a single window as ever broken. They lit candles, marched arm-in-arm, and shouted “We are the people!” and “We want to leave!” and “No violence!” They were beaten. Young men were snatched up and taken way for “temporary detention” or were “disappeared,” a euphemism which meant they were murdered.

On October 9th, 1989, just two days after the 40th anniversary of the founding of the GDR, more than 70,000 people from all over the region gathered at St. Nicholas Church and marched on the ring road past the train station, churches, and to the Stasi Headquarters where they placed lighted candles. They knew Mikhail Gorbachev was in Berlin that night, so they also shouted, “Gorby, Gorby, Gorby!”

In the back of her mind, Irmtraut Hollitzer remembered the last time East Germanys protested. It was June 17, 1953, and police and soldiers opened fire on those protesters, killing 55 and injuring 25. She left the march to go home to her daughter, just in case the same thing would happen that night, only to discover all four of her children were at the protest which proved that the power of one voice, joined by thousands, can transformed lives and the whole world.

 

As feared by the protesters, the police chief and his 8,000 armed officers had been prepared to shoot them as they protested. The hospital had been banking blood. Arrangements had been made to detain 1,300 people in solitary confinement. Overwhelmed by the more than 70,000 protesters, the police chief called his superiors in Berlin for instructions. Time after time no one answered the phone, and he refused to give the order to shoot.

 

Eventually the crowds dissipated and the people went home. Four weeks later, the Berlin Wall fell. This protest became known as the Peaceful Revolution and inspired other East Germans to protest as well.

 

When the Hollitzers and the “Leipziger Bürgerkomitee” took over the Stasi Headquarters, they found 1.5 million bullets, 7,000 hand grenades, machine guns, and even 31kg plastic explosives that the Stasi were ready to use on its own people.  They also found evidence that the Stasi stole $32 million in German marks by opening its citizens’ mail during just a single Christmas holiday season.

 

 

 

St. Thomas Church

 

Day 2

A Houston Connection

 

While visiting Saint Thomas Church, we ran into Houston’s own, the Reverend Doctor Robert G. Moore, formerly the senior pastor at Rice Village’s Christ the King Lutheran Church. Moore, along with his wife Kathy, is spending the next three years as a guest pastor at the historic St. Thomas Church and as the Reformation Ambassador for the City of Leipzig and the Director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Wittenberg Center, all the while hoping to perfect his German language skills. Moore is thrilled that his former congregation’s Bach Society is one of the mote than 130 groups who will be performing the music of Johann Sebastian Bach which was inspired in great part by Martin Luther’s biblical translations. Christ the King Church has a long standing relationship with St. Thomas Church. The congregation has served for decades as one of the centers for the work of the Houston-Leipzig Sister City Association which donated a new stain glass window honoring the 20th anniversary of the Peaceful Revolution.

The Peace Window at St. Thomas Church

 

 

 

Theologians like Moore are using this anniversary to reexamine what we know about Martin Luther, reading such major works as The Freedom of the Christian. Musing as to whether he really nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg in 1517, Moore is skeptical.

“As a very pious man, Luther would not have desecrated the church door,” stated Moore. “Anyway, during that time, notices were posted on the church door with a bit of wax, not nailed to the door.”

Day 3

From Thread to Art

 

Leipzig still has many industrial building in the suburbs, including the largest cotton mill in continental Europe. The complex now known as The Spinnerei was the largest importer of cotton from the southern states of the USA, before and after the Civil War. It was built to last, with three-foot-thick brick walls and a steel-tiled floor, this massive complex of factory, living quarters, and gardens was home to more than a thousand workers. The building is believed to have survived the unrelenting bombing of the city because they had planted chives on the roof as a cooling agent. Many speculate that at 10,000 feet, the chive covered roofs looked like fields, and thus was not bombed.

 

After the war, the factory went through several owners and different uses before being decommissioned in 1992. It was saved from vandals by artists looking for cheap spaces to work and live. Now known as Spinnerei, it is home to galleries, exhibition halls, a movie theatre, and about 100 artist studios, many of which we visited. The Spinnerei is also home to the so-called “New Leipzig School,” with renowned artist Neo Rauch as its most famous member. With eleven galleries, an art supply store, and a chic café, a visit to Spinnerei is the perfect way for art lovers to spend the day.

 

If you go

WHERE TO STAY

InterCityHotel Leipzig

Trondlinring 2

Intercityhotel.com/Leipzig

Located conveniently near the main train station, Opera House and the historic and downtown district.

 

TOUR GUIDE

Sylvia Rebbelmund

SylviaRebbelmund@web.de

via Leipzig Erleben
info@leipzig-erleben.com

 

WHERE TO EAT

Auerbachs Keller is one of the most famous restaurants in the world, having been immortalized in Johann Wolfgang Goethe drama, Faust. Enjoy traditional Saxon/German Cuisine.

Madler Passage, Grimmaische Strasse 2-4

 

WHERE TO DRINK COFFEE

Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum. Coffee has been a favorite beverage in Leipzig since it was introduced in 1711. Grab a coffee from the bar on the ground floor, or enjoy lunch or dessert at Café Francais or the Vienna Café on the second floor.

 

FOR GREAT VIEWS OF THE CITY

Panorama Tower, Augustusplatz 9. Amazing 360-degree view of the entire city, perfect for skyline photos at sunset. Panorama-leipzig.de

 

The Monument to the Battle of the Nations, Str. des 18. Oktober 100, stadtgeschichtliches-museum-leipzig.de/site_deutsch/voelkerschlachtdenkmal/ Set in a beautiful park with a reflection pond, the views from the top illustrate why Leipzig is known as a green city.

 

HISTORY OF LEIPZIG

Stasi Museum in the Round Corner

www.runde-ecke-leipzig.de

Goerdelerring 20

 

Forum of Contemporary History also known as the Tearful Palace

Explore the history of World War II in Germany and Europe through artifacts and videos. Tissues are available.

www.hdg.de/zeitgeschichtliches-forum

Grimmaische Strasse 6

 

INFORMATION

Leipzig.travel; Hidden-Leipzig.com

 

Mr. Dace and Mr. Niethammer were the guests of the City of Leipzig.

Leipzig.de

Suite Summer Escape Package: Honua Kai Resort & Spa

There’s no sweeter time than summer to escape to the poi-fect Maui destination,Honua Kai Resort & Spa!  Invite your readers to give their summer a suite Hawaiian punch, with the resort’s new Suite Summer Escape Package.Including huge savings on the resort’s spacious suites, daily breakfast at Duke’s Beach House, a rental car for island exploration and more, the package makes planning a family vacation to Maui a breeze!

 

Honua Kai Resort & Spa’s idyllic beachfront location gives travelers easy access to the best island activities. Enter a state of indentured surfitude with family surf lessons, explore the island’s natural wonders during an afternoon of snorkeling or zip-lining, or simply bask in the sun on beautiful-Kaanapali Beach.

Are you working on any summer travel stories where this Suite Summer Escape Package would be a fit? I have outlined full package details below and look forward to hearing from you.

Suite Summer Escape at Honua Kai Resort & Spa

  • Complimentary Breakfast for two at Duke’s Beach House – Studio & One Bedroom Suites OR …
  • … Complimentary Breakfast for four at Duke’s Beach House – Two & Three Bedroom Suites
  • A Full Size Car Rental
  • A $20 MCS Activity Credit
  • Complimentary Professional Family Photoshoot with Forever Maui & A 8×10 keepsake photo

Booking Window: April 05, 2017 – June 30, 2017

Stay Dates: June 07, 2017 – August 20, 2017

Rates start at $453.00 per night for a one-bedroom suite.

Restrictions: promotion is applicable to new bookings only. Studio Resort View Suites do not apply

To book this package, call 855-674-1522. Visit HonuaKai.com for more information.

About Honua Kai Resort & Spa

Honua Kai offers a uniquely contemporary Maui experience. Nestled on 38 oceanfront acres of Kaanapali’s pristine North Beach, the resort is designed as two U-shaped buildings with ocean and mountain views, lush landscaping and expansive open spaces. This openness is mirrored in each of the 628 guest suites (one-, two-, and three-bedroom) with the largest lanais on Maui, professionally equipped kitchens, spacious and homelike floor plans, and luxury resort services. An imaginative aqua network of pools, hot tubs, natural pond bridges, waterslide, waterfalls and fountains allows for privacy and play. Dining options include Duke’s Beach House and ‘Aina Gourmet Market. Find out more at http://www.honuakai.com/.

 

Monarch Beach Resort

May 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Monarch Beach Resort’s spectacular golf views

California Dreaming

Monarch Beach Resort offers luxurious surroundings and stunning views

Photography and story by Laurette Veres

Nestled along the coast of Dana Point, California is the Monarch Beach Resort. A quick flight from John Wayne airport, where lines are short and luggage arrives seamlessly, the Monarch is a perfect wedding or honeymoon destination. The property prides itself on its rich history of celebrity weddings, special events, and golf trips. Fans of reality TV might recognize the Monarch as the site of Jade Roper and Tanner Tolbert’s wedding on “The Bachelor.”

All 400 guest rooms and suites were recently updated. Each room features sea grass textured wallpaper, luxurious chaise lounges, flexible headboard reading lamps, ocean-inspired artwork, and marble top armoires to complement the full marble baths.

 

Every room and suite includes a balcony, each adorned with modern patio furniture. All of the first-floor balconies also have built-in fire pits so you can spend cozy nights enjoying the panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. Nestled hillside, you’ll love the coastal paths leading to seaside bluffs as well as the private beach.

We started our trip with the scenic walk to the Monarch Bay Club. (If you don’t want to walk, a quick jitney will take you to the ocean). Impressive California, Pacific Rim style food is served with casual elegance at Monarch Bay Club’s one-of-a-kind oceanfront restaurant. Here we had tasty flat bread and wine before our Stand Up Paddle Board class. Following that, we hurry back to make our spa appointments.

An exclusive spa partnership with Miraval Group focuses on a “Life in Balance” philosophy with their innovative programs and activities. New treatments at the spa are inspired by the coastal location, holistic movement and mediation programing. The program also gives you access to nutrition specialists, healthful culinary workshops, and an expert speaker series as well as a lap pool. Get ready for dinner with a “blow out” at DryBar.

Speaking of dinner, the many options on property will satisfy even the pickiest eater. Stonehill Tavern at Monarch Beach Resort is Michael Mina’s acclaimed restaurant concept— offering tavern fare in an elegant and sophisticated setting. AVEO Table + Bar features a Mediterranean concept showcasing the seasonal bounty of the Californian coastline.

Designed by the renowned Robert Trent Jones, Jr., the Monarch Beach Golf Links is an award-winning, championship 18-hole golf course. Modeled in the traditional Scottish links style, and set along the peerless backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, this challenging 6,600-yard course features rolling greens and tight fairways to entice all golfers. This is also a great location for an Ocean view wedding.

End your weekend on a high note at AVEO Table + Bar’s Sunday brunch. The view of the pools and ocean alone make this a must-attend event— but be sure to request outside seating. The food choices go on and on. Start with vegetarian eggplant or asparagus and Brie soup. Or, for the carnivores, lamb lollipops, flat bread, omelets, eggs benedict, sausage and seafood stew. Huge displays of salmon, shrimp, crab and ceviche satisfy seafood lovers. And for dessert, try white chocolate dipped strawberries, praline encrusted marshmallow, and macaroons at Tres Leches.

Whether it’s for a destination wedding or honeymoon, Monarch Beach Resort is the ideal romantic location.

 

Monarchbeachresort.com

Awe Inspiring Aspen

April 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

 

By Marissa Greteman

 

Nestled among the Rocky Mountains’ Sawatch Range and the Elk Mountains is Aspen, Colorado; the ideal spot for a destination wedding. No matter the season, your budget or the size of your guest list, Aspen has something for you. Hotels in Aspen include The Little Nell, The Limelight, The St. Regis and Hotel Jerome, which are all centrally located in the heart of Aspen. Removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown are The Gant and Aspen Meadows Resort. Each property offers unique event spaces and amenities perfect for a rehearsal, ceremony or reception.

 

The Limelight property includes several outdoor event spaces, great for couples who are looking to highlight the beauty of Aspen on their big day. Guests can also enjoy good company, live music and light Italian fare in the lounge before retiring to their spacious, luxurious rooms. The versatile Fountain Courtyard at The St. Regis provides remarkable views of Aspen Mountain, while the St. Regis Ballroom incorporates the sophisticated, enchanting design style that is seen throughout the hotel. The St. Regis is also home to the award-winning Remède Spa, a fantastic place to relax before (or after) the big day. Known as the “crown jewel” of Aspen, Hotel Jerome is rich in history and features Aspen’s only aboveground ballroom. The Grand Ballroom is a luxurious, neutral-toned space that is fit for any wedding. Stop by the J-Bar for a famous “Aspen Crud”, a spiked milkshake drink created during the prohibition days. Situated on 40 acres of beautiful Colorado land between the Roaring Fork River and Castle Creek is Aspen Meadows Resort. The entire property reflects classic Bauhaus style and features countless works of art by Herbert Bayer, designer of the hotel. Bayer also created Anderson Park, a serene space with magnificent views, where many couples have said “I Do”. The Gant is a condominium style resort that also offers services typically found in luxury hotel. Located in a quiet residential area at the base of Aspen Mountain, The Gant offers impeccable views and a break from the commotion surrounding downtown.

 

The Little Nell is another property located right at the base of Aspen Mountain. In addition to the exquisite dining options and event space available on property, they offer exclusive access to the Sundeck and the Aspen Mountain Club. Both are located at the top of the mountain, and accessible by gondola. The Sundeck is made up of 10,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. An open floor plan allows for plenty of flexibility when it comes to transforming the space. The Aspen Mountain Club is a 4,400 square foot private club that strikes harmony between European and cozy mountain lodge design styles. Adjacent to the Aspen Mountain Club is the Wedding Deck, an outdoor ceremony space with unbeatable views of the Elk Mountains and highland bowl. These views serve as the perfect backdrop for a wedding, regardless of the season.

 

Some of the best food in Aspen can be found at the Caribou Club. Chef Miles’ passion for food is evident in each of his creations. Whether you host an intimate rehearsal dinner at the club or take advantage of their full service catering option, your dining experience with the Caribou Club will be one you never forget.

Aspenchamber.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caribbean Karisma

March 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

By Bianca Vertil

Located in the Mexican jungle in Riviera Maya, Cancun, lies a series of Karisma Hotels & Resorts. Karisma Hotels & Resorts, an award-winning luxury hotel collection, owns and manages properties in Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe. Karisma is comprised of an impressive selection including El Dorado Spa Resorts & Hotels, Generations Resorts, Azul Hotels & Villas, and Allure Hotels. Karisma properties have been honored with the industry’s top accolades and have received worldwide recognition for its creative approach to hospitality management and product innovations.

 

El Dorado Spa Resorts & Hotels is a premier, adults-only property located in the jungles of Riviera Maya, Mexico. Upon your arrival, you are welcomed with a champagne toast and introduced to your personal concierge. There is a sense of calm, casual luxury at the 450 room resort. Whether you choose to stay in a swim-up suite or private beachfront villa, all guests have all-suite accommodations, pool and beach butler service, hammock amenities, and 24-hour room service. El Dorado received AAA’s “Four Diamond Award” for its outstanding environmentally sustainable services.

There are many fun activities couples are encouraged to take full advantage of during their stay ranging from snorkeling in the sea, zip-lining through the jungle, horseback riding, and more. Some complimentary services include a tequila tasting, morning yoga, bike tour, Spanish class, cooking class, shuttle, and more. The resort also has evening entertainment every day located at Guacamayas Bar. At 6 p.m. a new movie is played, live music at 8:30 p.m., some sort of entertainment performance (for example, a circus show, fire performance, karaoke, etc.) at 10 p.m., then dancing and a DJ until 2 a.m. There is something for everyone to enjoy at El Dorado.

 

Say “I Do” by the Sea

Create memorable moments with El Dorado, and plan your private events at the resort. Whether you are newly engaged, planning a honeymoon, celebrating your anniversary, or just need a romantic getaway, Karisma will create the most memorable details to make your event special. Gourmet Inclusive Wedding Events by Karisma Hotels & Resorts strives to help you enjoy a truly special destination wedding. There is an assortment of signature wedding packages as well as venues to choose from. Whether it is a beachfront chapel, private beach, pier gazebo, or beautiful sky location, Karisma’s signature wedding designers and staff will diligently take care of every aspect of event coordination. Chapels typically hold 40-50 people, gazebos, seat around 20-30 people, and the most popular choice, the sky venues, hold up to 120 people. If any of your guests need to bring their children along, nanny services are offered at Little Eko, a kids center, at the neighboring Generations Resort location. Although walking distance, there are 24-hour shuttles running through the resorts.

 

Celebrate Your Big Day in Luxury

Pamper yourself at the Mayan inspired Naay Spa. You can choose to receive a relaxing spa treatment on the beach, inside the comfortable Naay Spa, alone, or with a loved one. Guests who are celebrating a special event during their stay are offered the complimentary Memorable Moments Spa Package. There are six bridal suites located in the spa building. The third floor can be turned into a private party for brides. At these private parties, 10-15 people are welcome to get wedding ready at $25 per person. There is also a groom room, where men are welcome to get ready for the big day. To make this spa truly unique, guests are invited to experience Temazcal, a traditional Mayan experience performed by a shaman.

 

Eat and Drink in Style

El Dorado has partnered with Jackson Family Wines to create The Jackson Family Wines Culinary Series by Karisma. The exclusive event is carefully catered to guests that prefer quality over quantity and a must for wine-lovers and connoisseurs. At a cost of $300, guests are enticed with a week of hands-on epicurean experiences, vertical tastings, educational classes with sommeliers and winemakers, cooking courses, special pairings, elaborate meals and an exclusive Guest Chef and Winemaster’s Dinner. A la cart rates for wines and ad hoc wine and culinary experiences start at $35. The program which takes place the first week of each month, spotlights distinguished chefs, restauranteurs, winemakers and sommeliers. The 2016 lineup includes culinary visionaries such as Mark Stark of Stark Restaurants and Food & Wine Best New Chef Sue Zemanick from New Orleans’ Gautreau’s Restaurant as well as an impressive roster of other prominent chefs.

There is a wide variety of restaurants at El Dorado Resorts. Whether you are in the mood for Italian, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Asian, Mexican, or American food, there is an inclusive, gourmet restaurant to satisfy your craving. If you want to start off the day with a well-balanced breakfast, you can visit Cocotal, La Isla, Jojo’s, Spot, or Sante Fe Grill. Lunch is served at Jojo’s, Kampai, La Isla, and Rincon Mexicano. Finally, set the mood with a romantic dinner preapared at D’Italia Villas, D’Italia Casitas, Cocotal, La Isla, Kampai, Jojo’s Rincon Mexicano, Sante Fe, and Fuentes. There is an extensive room service menu, and gourmet corner restaurants (La Cabana Pizzeria, Health Bar, Bar 31 (Las Olas), and Kick) that are conveniently accessible as well. Each restaurant includes a Wine Spectator award-winning wine list, sommelier, and premium liquor.

A unique dining experience is provided at these resorts; while there are no buffets, the restaurants display an open, farm-to-table, food concept. Guests can see how food is prepared, giving them an experience with amazing details. Be sure to stop by Fuentes culinary theatre to watch a chef showcase while enjoying your meal. The food served at the resorts come from Karisma’s own green house. Tours of the state-of-the-art, hydroponic greenhouse are a complimentary service.

 

Courtesy photo

 

Soaking in Sarasota

February 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

By Stephanie DiCiro

Courtesy photos

 

Once known to be the winter home of the Ringling Brothers Circus, today Sarasota is rich in culture, art, attractions, and breathtaking beaches. Both Lido Beach Resort and The Resort at Longboat Key Club are a part of the Ocean Properties Hotels Resorts & Affiliates, they provide a perfect paradise to stay in while nestling your toes in the sand.

 

Lido Beach Resort is perfectly located in the middle of all the excitement of downtown with the shops and local restaurants at St. Armand’s Circle. This resort is perfect for family getaways and romantic weekends with 223 deluxe guest rooms and suites, two heated pools, three Jacuzzis, and a beachside Tiki bar. Lido Beach Resort recently revamped 112 suites in the south tower. With square footage ranging from 595 to 1,000 in size, these rooms are decorated with sleek modern, sophisticated nautical décor made to satisfy every customer’s needs.

 

Lido Beach Grille holds up to their reputation with an astounding view of the beach and coastline. After taking a dip in the pool, Café Lido and the Tiki Bar are the perfect places to grab a bite to eat. They have Happy Hour specials every day from 5:00pm to 7:00pm with a menu that is so enticing from the tropical cocktails to their delectable appetizers, you won’t be disappointed when you find a seat here!

 

Just a 10-minute drive north is The Resort at Longboat Key Club spread across five resort buildings while encompassing 410 acres of incredible beachfront views and has earned the Four-Diamond AAA Award for 32 consecutive years. This resort has 223 extravagantly decorated rooms and suites with eight onsite restaurants, fitness center and Mind and Motion studio, 20 tennis courts, 45 holes of golf, 9,000 square foot Island House Spa, and the largest marina on Florida’s west coast. The rooms have private, secluded balconies overlooking the incredible resort or beach with completely renovated suites to make all the guests feel at home.

 

From healthy smoothies by the tennis courts to incredible Northern Italian home cooking by the marina, the eight different restaurants on location will sure satisfy anyone’s appetite. The fairways are ranked by Golf Digest as one of the “Best Places to Play” with two PGA-approved golf courses that have incredible views along the Sarasota Bay. The Tennis Gardens have hosted the annual USTA Sarasota Open Men’s Invitational since 2009 and provide numerous courts to play day or night! Need a massage to unwind, the Spa provides more than 50 distinctive personalized treatments from reflexology to a hydro-lifting facial. Mind & Motion Studio provides a wonderful array of classes for yoga, spinning, and even interval training; with a remarkable view of the golf course, guests won’t even feel like they are working out!

 

Both resorts offer the most breathtaking sunset views, but saying “I do” to your soul mate while your toes are nestled in the sand is just the icing on top of a perfect getaway. From bridal showers to honeymoon packages, their attentive staff will be there to cater to the needs of the couple to be.

 

The Resort at Longboat Key Club and Lido Beach Resort are surrounded by a number of attractions with temperatures year round about 75 degrees, these two resorts offer such a unique experience while soaking up the sun in Sarasota!

 

www.lidobeachresort.com

www.longboatkeyclub.com

 

Destination Cabo: The Resort at Pedregal

February 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

by Kyley Kornegay

Courtesy photos

Pedregal Suite Patio Detail

At the very tip of the Baja peninsula in Cabo San Lucas sits The Resort at Pedregal. This luxury resort is hidden away, and built into the side of the mountains. With fine dining restaurants, a world-class spa, and endless amenities, this resort has it all. Each guest is provided with a personal concierge, a room tour, and complimentary chips and guacamole every afternoon. Each room includes an indoor fireplace and an infinity pool.

 

The most amazing dinner can be found at El Farallon – an ocean-side fine dining restaurant. Chef Gustavo Pinet creates the most amazing food, which is all made with only the freshest of ingredients and the catch of the day. Live music softly plays in the background while you enjoy drinks and the great food next to the Pacific Ocean.

 

Luna y Mar Spa is the world-renowned spa at The Resort at Pedregal. With 10 private treatment rooms and an endless variety of relaxation options, this spa is a must. The spa is centered on the four phases of the moon, and each spa treatment starts with a Mexican folk healing foot cleansing. You will absolutely look and feel your best after your spa escape. The day of your treatment, you are free to enjoy the amenities of the spa – which includes a mineral pool, a relaxation room, a sauna, steam & ice rooms, and more – at your leisure.

 

When in Los Cabos, it is a must to go snorkeling. The water is crystal clear and water is just the right temperature. Hearing the water crash on the shore and on to the mountains is such a relaxing sound when paired with the ocean breeze. RMC Events took us out on a yacht to see the shore alongside the beautiful Sea of Cortez, get a breathtaking view of the famous El Arco de Cabo San Lucas, and to snorkel in the clear waters. The arch is home to many sea lions, and we even got to see a manatee! Manta rays fly out of the water, and dolphins swim with the wake of the boats. You get to swim with so many types of colorful fish when snorkeling – it is a blast!

 

This resort is the perfect vacation relaxation getaway for a honeymoon, bridal party, or even a destination wedding. The views are beautiful and the weather is great, so if you are looking for that clear blue water and luxury getaway, look no further than The Resort at Pedregal.

 

 

 

Pedregal Suite Patio Detail

Destination Bucket List: Machu Picchu

January 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

By Laurette Veres

“It’s really hard to get to, and when you get there the altitude will get you.” Mom

The incredible view from Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, a 15th-century Incan citadel, is the best-known archaeological site in South America. This bucket list destination was built around 1450 AD and abandoned a century later when Spanish conquistadors invaded the region. The Spaniards marched inland from the Pacific destroying most significant Incan settlements, but never discovered Machu Picchu. Hidden nearly 8000 feet up in the Andes, it was unknown to the outside world until American historian and explorer Hiram Bingham set out to confirm a myth about the lost city of the Incas in 1911.

 

Getting here is a planes, trains and automobiles adventure. LATAM Airlines out of JFK to Peru, change planes and fly to Lima then Cusco. LATAM’s premium business experience makes the plane trip bearable: seats recline into beds, gourmet meals are created by renowned chefs and wines selected by an award winning sommelier. In Cusco we hop into one of Viajes Pacifico’s automobiles and transfer to the Ollantaytambo train station, and ride PeruRail’s Vistadome train, with 90% panoramic views so we can appreciate the beauty, to Aguas Calientes.

 

As we roll out of Ollantaytambo the famous Inca Trail is nearby and we see backpackers crossing the scenic Urubamba River, embarking upon a four-day athletic adventure. Our adventure is different, we step off PeruRail’s Vistadome in Aguas Calientes and hike four short minutes to the town’s only five star resort: Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel.

 

My introduction to the Incan culture is magical and mystical thanks to the Peruvian and Andean cultural immersion at the Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel, spectacularly located on the banks of the Vilcanota River in Aguas Calientes. I left my Houston home nearly twenty-four hours ago, but I’m not tired, I’m invigorated. The luxury 62-room property has recently renovated guest rooms and public spaces featuring historic Peruvian and Andean themes and symbols while featuring world-class modern amenities. The best amenity is Sumaq’s location. Most people visit Machu Picchu from Cusco and spend a big part of their day in transit. The bus ride up to Machu Picchu from Sumaq is less than 20 minutes and you can spend your day taking in the historic sights.

 

Food is a big part of our adventure. We learn to prepare Peruvian Ceviche and Peru’s flagship cocktail, the Pisco Sour at a cooking demonstration before heading to Qunuq for a six-course degustation tasting meal. Qunuq creates innovative dishes with ancient Peruvian culinary traditions and exciting flavors. Salmon trout cubes, lamb shank and avocado risotto are menu standouts.

 

Finally, Machu Picchu. Early morning hikers head up Hiram Bingham Highway. We bought tickets days ago and were lucky to get some of the limited seats on the bus. We stand in line in the center of town on Av. Hermanos.

 

Machu Picchu is considered the heart of the Incan culture. Built with polished dry-stone walls, many buildings have been restored to their original glory. We join the crowds to enter the site and quickly make a dramatic turn around a bend to reveal the first of many terraced landscapes. The landscape is simply breathtaking and quite unbelievable. These terraces were used to grow crops at various temperatures and seem to go on forever. Even though we are 7972 feet up, there are two other hills that are much higher; I see hikers on one of them. A member of my group tells me has has hiked there. Gulp. Our group entered the site at the main entrance. Others enter at the Sun Gate, (a higher point) have made the four-day trek. We walk carefully on the narrow and steep stone steps and winding trails to look down upon the main city where the Incas lived and worshipped. It’s symmetrical and green. As you stare at all the stone, it’s impossible to understand how the Incas got it up here.

 

Shaman Willko Apaza leads “Mystical Machu Picchu Experience,” exploring the spiritual side of the legendary site. Using his natural gifts, and traditions from ancestors, he introduces us to his Andean beliefs and the Incan culture. His message is one of a new beginning. As he chants and dances around us clearing negative energy, we are invited to imagine all the peace and love in the world, feel the weight of the sacred rock, absorb the sun’s rays and connect to each other in a new way. Going beyond a historical lesson and sight seeing excursion, Willko also reveals the mystery of Machu Picchu and the magical connections with the Pachamama (Mother Earth) and sacred temples.

 

Rituals and ceremonies are part of the Incan culture. Offerings to Mother Earth are part of daily life for locals in the regions around Machu Picchu. Shaman lead them to a realm beyond the physical world where they are open to emotional and spiritual healing. Coca is a Peruvian symbol of community and respect and plays a significant role in these ceremonies. We participate in the ceremonies; some of us have our Coca leaves read.

 

Arac Masin is a traditional Andean wedding. We witness the magic as one is performed on the hotel’s terrace. With the terrace draped in greenery and flowers, a shaman calls upon the Incan gods to guide relationships to last eternally. Available to engaged as well as married couples, guests immerse in the Andean culture with this ceremony.

 

Overall, the trip to Machu Picchu is worth every minute. There are crowds, but they all seem to be in awe, as I am, and very respectful. Plan to take your time and take it in. You’ll be glad you did.

 

It’s a long way to Machu Picchu. Here are some helpful hints:

 

Dress:

Temperatures vary greatly due to altitude. Dress in layers.

 

Luggage Restrictions:

We highly recommend traveling as light as possible. Some of the trains have luggage restrictions.

 

Altitude:

Elevations vary and altitude sickness can be an issue. Here are the elevations:

Machu Picchu: 7,972 ft.

Cusco: 11,152 ft.

Lima: 505 ft.

 

NOTE: Coca is widely used throughout Peru as a treatment for altitude sickness. Drinking coca tea is highly recommended, especially if you find yourself suffering any of the symptoms of altitude sickness – dizziness, headaches, nausea or vomiting.

 

 

Electricity:

The electrical current is 220 volts throughout Peru.

 

Currency:

The Peruvian Nuevo Sol (PEN) is the national currency. Locally, people say “Sol” or “Soles” – plural.

 

Language:

The official language is Spanish, with Quechua also widely spoken (the language of the Incan empire).

 

Essentials: latam.com, viajespacifico.com, perurail.com, sumaqhotelperu.com

The eight-hour Mystical Machu Picchu Tour costs $400 per person, including transportation, entrance ticket to Machu Picchu, private guide and authentic Peruvian shaman. For further information and reservations: reservations@sumaqhotelperu.com or toll-free 866-682-0645.   www.sumaqhotelperu.com

 

 

 

Moody Gardens Holiday of Lights

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Events, Travel Blog

Moody Gardens should be on your holiday calendar every year! Offering something for all ages, from the Festival of lights, to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 4-D, your family will enjoy time spent here.

We arrived around 4:00pm to give us a time to explore the property before dusk. Start with a quick tour of the rainforest pyramid. This is the type of exhibit you can explore at your own pace. Be sure to look for the River Otter and watch out for the White-faced Saki monkeys who literally roam the tree tops of the rainforest.

No visit to Moody Gardens would be complete without saying hello to the penguins. You’ll encounter some sharks as you take the Caribbean tunnel to see the penguins.

Next, The North Pole meets the Caribbean as Moody Gardens introduces ICE LAND: Ice Sculptures, A Caribbean Christmas. For the third year in a row, Carvers have come from China to sculpt two million pounds of ice. This cool holiday attraction features nine scenes such as scuba diving, a towering oilrig, tropical fish and more; all maintained at a chilling nine degrees.

 

At dusk it’s time to walk the one-mile Festival of lights trail filled with sound-enhanced lighting and animated displays. This leisurely walk features spectacular lights, trains, fish, butterflies, and culminates with the North Pole. The walk takes about 30 minutes.

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS

Admission to the Festival of Lights is $10.95 and other ticking options vary.

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