December 14, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The marvelous Galapagos Islands, the inspiration for Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, are home to the greatest diversity of creatures on the planet. What better way to experience this rich biodiversity than by private yacht tour? Blue Parallel is the specialist for private luxury travel to the wondrous natural wonders of South America, including customizable yacht packages to the equatorial islands of the Galapagos. Boats range in size from small (one to four passengers) to larger cruise ships for up to 40 peeps. The price range? From between $6,000 to $7,000 per person for an 11 day trip. Amenities include a superb staff (onboard personal chefs, expert naturalists, dive instructors, masseuse, and butler) and five-star accommodations.
Record lows (prices, that is) at the Boulders Resort, with winter specials from $249 a night. Discover one of America's top golf and spa resorts, located on 1,300 acres of pristine Sonoran desert. Book one of 160 unique adobe casitas, overlooking red-rock boulders, enormous cacti and the wildlife of the Southwestern desert. Or choose one of 55 Pueblo Villas, with one to three bedrooms, and private patios. The 32,000 sq. foot Golden Door Spa offers 24 treatment rooms, Movement Studio (Pilates, etc.), private locker rooms with saunas, steam rooms and Japanese baths. The full spa menu includes Native American wraps and therapies.
Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa, Official Site
Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa, Five Star Alliance
SD's Gaslamp Quarter is seeing a renaissance, this historic hood packed with great shops, tasty bistros, elegant galleries and exquisite fine-dining. Stroll past the Victorian buildings and the old-fashioned gaslamps illuminating the sidewalks. Its energy is conspicuously contagious; this place is where it's at! Among all the excellent bars and restaurants, Chive stands out for its sleek, contemporary environment and cutting-edge cuisine. Opened in 1999, this chic urban bistro dubs its grub, "Cuisine Moderne." But I see a global fusion of sorts: mouth-watering dishes like goat cheese crusted Colorado lamb sirloin, and pink pepper crusted mako shark, served alongside more classic American plates like short ribs with a coffee glaze and buttermilk onion rings. Happy Hour, from 5-7 pm daily, runs the gamut of eclectic: Mad Monday (choose from a superb selection of wines by the bottle), Tequila Tuesday (enjoy duck nachos with that margarita), White Wednesday (with Whitehaven sauvignon blanc and a white corn pizzette). You get the idea.
I've heard the talk. Next year we'll be using new e-Passports, which include an integrated computer chip capable of storing biographic info, a digital photo, and other biometric info. Bye, bye familiar, friendly little passports. I guess the hard copy pages of stamps and visas (and the bragging rights associated with accumulating them) are becoming obsolete. Though we'll be able to use our current passports until they expire, I hope. But I'm a little scared about these Smart Cards. This opens a whole new can of worms about privacy concerns, and the security of the stored information. Know anything more? Fill me in!
The Trib's Metromix has it covered. From the glogg-saturated St. Lucia Day celebration at the Swedish American Museum Center to the Pre-Kwanzaa Party in the South Shore, the windy city's full of unique cultural happenings this holiday season.
No hotel space in the Caribbean this winter? Sleep on the beach! Experience the beauty and blissful Caribbean sunshine of the Virgin Islands from a kayak, with Arawak Expeditions. A small, family-run outfitter based in St. John, Arawak was the first company offering sea-kayaking tours around St. John, and they know their territory. With years of experience, Arawak uses the best technology and equipment in leading environmentally-friendly tours in the Virgin Islands National Park. With gourmet meals—prepared nightly on the deserted beach-- to boot. The snorkeling is remarkable, in secluded, untouristed locations. This is adventure travel at its finest. A sample five-day itinerary starts in Peter Island, then involves gentle paddling from island to island, including: Pelican Island, Norman Island, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Sandy Cay, Lovango Cay, St. John.
The holidays are upon us, and for the second consecutive year, The Peninsula Hotels has organized the "Trees of Hope" charity campaign in each of its hotels around the world. They've got gorgeous trees set up in their hotel lobbies, and guests are invited to purchase an ornament to hang on the tree. One hundred percent of the funds are donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses. (You can also sample the "Teas of Hope" or "Tree of Hope" cocktails in each hotel, and support the cause.) Live in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Manila, Beijing, Beverly Hills, Chicago or New York, or planning a visit? Get yourself to the Peninsula and help deck that tree!
Le Meridien has announced its first hotel addition since becoming part of Starwood Hotels and Resorts this November. The new five-star Le Royal Meridien Prague, located in a listed building currently used by a bank in the city's Old Town, is due to open in early 2009 and will be the company's sixth hotel in Central Europe.
The Michelin Guide Deutschland 2006 has distinguished the "White Town by the Sea," bestowing an award on the gourmet restaurant Friedrich-Franz in the Kempinski Grand Hotel Heiligendamm. Head chef Tillmann Hahn opened the restaurant in June 2004. The guy's culinary motto? "One cuisine, four aspects." Thus four creative menus-- utilizing the best products from the region and the world—range from Classique, Exotique, Mediterranee, and vegetarian Menu Jardiniere. Framed by the Baltic Sea, the beach and dense forests, the hotel is now blanketed in wintry charm.