October 20, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Cobble-stone streets, graceful colonial churches, pastel facades, flowering courtyards: Antigua is almost too picturesque. A stroll through the streets is to wander through time-- in a perfectly preserved Spanish colonial city. Framed by volcanoes, Antigua offers cute restaurants and bars, historical attractions a-plenty and a glimpse (albeit touristy) at traditional Mayan culture.
And while exploring the colorful local markets (intoxicatingly full of inexpensive fabrics, handbags, clothes, you name it…) forget that buyer’s remorse! What a better way to help the local economy, recently ravaged by Hurricane Stan.
Where to stay? Follow the presidents and movie stars to Casa Santo Domingo, housed in a former historic convent, now draped in bougainvillea and heaps of charm. Senator Hilary Clinton glowed, “Thank you for your warm and gracious hospitality in beautiful Casa Santo Domingo, a unique blend of the old and the new, I hope to return.” Any place that the Clintons and Oscar de la Renta rave about-- is bound to be a good hideaway.
For an adventure (and a really good scare), take a hike up the (active) Volcano Pacaya. I doubt the tourist police in the US would allow visitors this close to sputtering volcanic ash and flaming red lava. Trips depart twice daily in the wee AM hours or early afternoon.
Casa Santo Domingo, Official Site
Leave it to HotelChatter to add some spice to T&L’s hotel recs for your family feast this year. Get the inside scoop on the best Thanksgiving grub, whether you’re craving roasted scallops or some traditional turkey with all the fixin’s. My vote's for the Ritz-Carlton New York-- what about you?
The walls have come down. For centuries the Kingdom of Bhutan has been closed to the outside world, its cultures and customs a mystery to the West. Sandwiched between China to the north and India to the south, Bhutan straddles high mountain valleys and remote, unspoiled wilderness. The kingdom has preserved its beautiful Mahayana Buddhist way of life, uninfluenced by the outside world. Forget coffee-table books; now is your chance to see this marvel with your own eyes. By decree of the king, visitors are now allowed to step inside the mountain walls and experience Bhutan in style: Amanresorts is the first foreign company allowed to open a series of luxury properties throughout the kingdom. Amankora opened its first location in June 2004 in Bhutan's Paro Valley. Located 2,500 meters above sea level, the luxury hotel features magnificent wood-paneled interiors, traditional wood burning stoves and glorious views of the surrounding snow-capped peaks. The eight-suite Amankora Punakha is the second resort property, accessed by crossing a suspension bridge over a river. It is situated in lush rice fields near one of Bhutan’s most significant fortress monasteries.
Take advantage of the tailor-made Aman Journey, a circuitous route through the country’s diverse landscapes, for guests to experience and discover the ancient traditions of the Himalayas at each of four luxurious Aman hotels. In November and December of 2005, the Amankora circuit will be further extended with the openings of Amankora Gangtey in the remote Phobjikha Valley and Amankora Thimphu, in the Thimphu Valley, the site of Bhutan's capital city. Amanresorts will book all flights, ground transportation and take care of visas on behalf of guests. Double suites from $900, with an additional $289 for the Tourism Development Fund tax.
Amankora, Official Site
Amankora, Five Star Alliance
October 18, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
OK, so I´m guilty of reading inflight magazines (along with—um-- the Economist and Finding George Orwell in Burma*), but how else to hear about the latest Inflight Kit from Fresh? Convenient zippered bag includes cleansing towelettes with lotus and pomegranate, in-flight mask, and post-flight serum with green coffee. $130
*ok, ok, add to that the occasional US Weekly probe of Brangelina and TomKat also. It´s just sooo scintillating…
This month's issue of National Geographic Traveler explains the regulations required by the European Union when traveling with a pet. It's pretty gnarly. Not just rabies vaccinations-- we're talking microchips embedded in your little mutt. You may want to skip the bureaucratic mayhem and leave Fido at home. The rules as outlined by the United Kingdom's DEFRA
Premiering November 1st, the exquisite St. Regis Hotel is right next door to SF MOMA and across the street from Yerba Buena Gardens. The hotel incorporates the historical Williams building, which now houses 260 light-filled rooms, a signature restaurant and the 9,000-square foot Remède Spa. Room highlights include leather-textured walls, sleek window seating, 42” recessed plasma television and soaking tubs in each luxurious bathroom. The San Francisco Grand Opening Getaway Package includes services of the signature St. Regis Butler and complimentary valet parking for the duration of your stay. From $329 per night with a two-night minimum stay from November 1-December 30, 2005. Or take advantage of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Package, which includes two VIP tickets to MOMA and two continental breakfasts, with room rates from $399, valid for Thursday through Sunday arrivals.
St. Regis Hotel, Official Site
St. Regis Hotel, Five Star Alliance
The hype is right. This place is sizzling. (Not just the hotties working there.) Last night I tested a wild mushroom dosa (Indian meets truffle oil?) and the best damn lobster I’ve ever had. Make your ressies here.
Head south of the border for Halloween’s biggest party. November 2 is the Day of the Dead in Mexico, a cultural celebration rich in tradition. The graveyard setting may spook you out, but they certainly come to life during this annual festival. On el dia de los muertos, the deceased are welcomed to hang with the living; altars are covered with food, and tombstones are draped with colorful gifts.
Closer to home, check out the annual Halloween exhibit at the Met in New York. This month, Travel and Leisure reports on "The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult" (Sept. 27–Dec. 31). The exhibit shows how affiliates of the 19th-century Spiritualist movement sought to prove the existence of beyond-the-grave communication. Apparently you can even see ghosts in the pix! I’m so there.
Cancun is a mess. Mangrove swamps and coral reefs were paved over for towering high-rises and wet t-shirt contests. God bless the eco-friendly developers at Mayakoba, who are creating a new kind of luxury community just south of there on the picture-perfect beaches of the Riviera Maya. We’re carefully observing this ecoproject, which is ambitious and unique, and may set the standard for responsible, sustainable development worldwide. Mayakoba is a community of five luxury hotels—including Fairmont, Viceroy, Banyan Tree, Rosewood, and La Casa Que Canta—set within sugar white beaches and lush mangrove lagoons. Among all these celebrated resorts (of which the Fairmont Mayakoba is the first to debut in December 2005), guests can experience a range of spa and culinary choices.
Fairmont Mayakoba, Official Site
Fairmont Mayakoba, Five Star Alliance
October 13, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin