InStyle Vacations's Blog

Hike Europe's Most Famous Ancient Trail During This Jubilee Year
Only once or maybe twice a decade, the Camino de Santiago becomes an even more remarkable hiking journey through Spain.

Pilgrims and tourists have been hiking the “Way of St. James,” as it translates, since the 9th century. It’s a 500-mile (800 km) route across northern Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, the spiritual home of the apostle James who preached in Spain, became its patron saint, and whose remains were returned here and enshrined.

The route of St. James’ final, return journey to Spain became a pilgrimage, one that continues to this day.

Spiritual and religious devotees walking the route today are joined by those taking the “Way of St. James” as a journey of self-discovery, to achieve a personal challenge, or to explore this unique cultural experience and northern Spanish countryside actively on foot or by bicycle.
 

Jubilee Years on the Camino de Santiago

 
And if your trip coincides with a Jacobean (from “James”) Holy Year, the experience will be all the more exceptional. The “Xacobeo Holy Year” occurs when the festival of St. James, which takes place annually on July 25th, falls on a Sunday. That means the special celebrations of Jubilee Year happen once or twice a decade.
 
Due to the pandemic, the Holy Year 2021 was extended for the first time over two years. Already, special festivities have begun for its second half. “Light up the Xacobeo” is an initiative where more than a hundred monuments and landmark buildings throughout Spain are illuminated to honor the special pilgrimage year. Half of those are along the actual Camino de Santiago. 

 (Illuminations at the terminus, at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, courtesy of the Tourist Board of Spain)

They include a wayfinding arrow, pointing the way to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the terminus of the Way and a long pilgrimage. They mirror the wayfinding signs that are used to mark the actual route still today.
 
This year’s Xacobeo Holy Year has gone global. Recognizing how communities and the world have come together even more during pandemic times, “Light up the Xacobeo” illuminations and wayfinding have spread beyond Spain’s borders.
 
Here, for example, is Notre-Dame Cathedral in Ottawa, Canada, illuminated for the Holy Year Jubilee – wayfinding arrow guiding pilgrims and seekers towards Spain.

(Photo courtesy of the Tourist Board of Spain in Canada)

In addition to special, wayfinding illuminations, the Way of St. James in Spain this Jubilee year will be celebrated by events including concerts, art exhibitions, films, conferences and educational activities for all ages.

Centuries-Old Traditions


That’s in addition to all the traditions of the Way of St. James, not just wayfinding markers that range from the humble to the spectacular illuminations of the Jubilee year.


Scallops are the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. The shellfish is plentiful on the beaches of the region, and originally the shells may have been practical for pilgrims to scoop shared food and water, as well as become a souvenir of the life-changing journey. 

Pilgrims still wear a shell to show they are on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. And scallop shell markers, including brass shells inlaid in cobblestone paths, or stylized sideways shells, often gold on a blue background on signposts or buildings still mark the path through towns and countryside. 


Most pilgrims then and now buy and carry the credencial. In days of yore, it provided access free accommodations and support for pilgrims along the Way. It’s also like a passport, an official record of your journey. You get an official St. James stamp in each town you eat, or official stay along the way, and presented at the Pilgrim's Office once you reach Santiago, proves that you have completed the official route and qualify for a 'compostela' – a certificate of completion.

A Pilgrim's Mass is held in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela twice daily, and pilgrims who received their compostela the day before have their countries and where they started their journeys announced during Mass.

Pilgrimages had trickled down to only a few hundred travelers along the Camino de Santiago by the 1980's. Then, in 1987, it was declared the first European Cultural Route and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Modern pilgrims and secular active travelers re-discovered the appeal of the historic route.  

These days, 300,000 or more people make the trip every year on foot, by bicycle or horseback, and in escorted tours by vehicle that stop at highlights along the way. During Jubilee years, that number swells.

The trip on foot from the Spanish border nowadays takes about a month. Not everyone who walks on the Camino receives a compostela, but you can still earn one without a month-long commitment. 

To qualify, you must make the pilgrimage for religious or spiritual reasons, even if they are your own spirituality and inner quest, do the last 100 km (approx 60 miles) on foot or horseback, or the last 200 km (approx 120 miles) by bicycle, AND you still need to collect a certain number of stamps in your credencial which you present at the Pilgrim's Office in Santiago de Compostela.

The next Jubilee Year for the Camino de Santiago isn't until 2027, so don’t wait to experience this uplifting, unique experience.
 
As the Tourist Board of Spain says: Just walk. Buen Camino.
 

 

START YOUR TRIP!


Top image courtesy of the Tourist Board of Spain.

Unless noted, other images: Getty

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6 Exciting Hotel Openings in Cities You'll Want to Travel to in 2022

These newly-opened hotels aren't just a home-away-from-home, they're gateways to a city's sites, local urban culture, cuisine, and social scene. Start planning your next city adventure today!


New York, New York

Hotel: Park Lane Hotel, Preferred Hotels & Resorts
What Makes it Special:
This classic, 47-story NYC Central Park South hotel has been re-imagined and re-opened as a sophisticated, playful, and inclusive hotel in a very exclusive part the city. Celebrated design agency Yabu Pushelberg restored the existing architectural details of the historic, post-war building with bold colors and eclectic textures redefining its mid-century luxury aesthetic. Nearly half of the over 600 rooms have park-facing views, with the other half featuring vistas of the Manhattan skyline. Whimsical murals in guest rooms and public spaces shatter any impression of stuffy luxury. Guests have three unique in-house dining options, which include the Parisian-style lobby bar Rose Lane, reimagined Harry’s New York Bar and Central Park South’s only rooftop lounge “secret garden” cocktail bar.

 

 
Why Visit:
Located on “Billionaires’ Row” on Central Park South between 5th and 6th Avenues, the hotel is ideally located directly across the southeast corner of the park and within immediate walking distance to some of NYC’s most famous attractions, such as Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, 5th Avenue shopping, and the Museum of Modern Art. Of course, everything in New York is within easy reach, from its famous restaurants to rooftop bars with views of the skyline, to icons of American architecture and culture like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. The anniversary of era-defining, NYC-based TV series Friends, and the reboot of Sex and the City, have re-inspired some fans to relive beloved scenes and revisit famous neighborhoods of our favorite fictional characters.

Paris, France

Hotel: Bvlgari Hotel Paris
What makes it special:
Luxury fashion house Bvlgari brings Italian glamour to the magic of the French capital. Located on the Avenue George V in the ‘Golden Triangle’, home to the French capital’s luxury and fashion excellence between the Seine and the Champs-Élysées, the Bvlgari Hotel Paris is where ‘bold’ Italian design and hospitality excellence, as well as contemporary Italian cuisine meet the jewelry heritage of Bvlgari in the glorious setting of Paris. 76 rooms and suites, including the Bvlgari Penthouse, have views of all the capital’s iconic monuments including the iconic Eiffel Tower:






Why visit:
It’s always time to reconnect with the City of Light and one of the world’s most magical, walkable cities. From strolls along either bank of the Seine, to the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower, the majesty of historic monuments, to renowned museums and palaces of cuisine to humble restaurants that serve mouth-watering bistro food, from the incomparable boutiques of the Marais and grand department stores that are as much destinations as places to shop for that perfect French addition to your style, there’s no place like Paris.
 

Venice, Italy

Hotel: Radisson Collection Hotel, Palazzo Nani Venice
What makes it special:
Radisson Collection Hotel, Palazzo Nani Venice, near the heart of the city, was built as a private family villa in the 1500’s, and has opened as a 52-room hotel following two years of renovations approved by Venice’s arts and heritage authorities to preserve its authentic qualities. Restoration work focused on the original decorative and architectural elements of the building’s façade and interiors. Special attention was paid to the restoration of historical ornaments, including centuries-old stuccos and paintings on the walls and ceilings. During the excavation works, some Roman flooring was found and registered as an historic find. The hotel’s wine bar and terrace offers traditional Venetian food, wine and cocktails, while the hotel garden overlooks the Cannaregio Canal.


Why visit:
With views of the Cannaregio canal, and located by the Venetian Ghetto in the northern part of the city, the
Radisson Collection Hotel, Palazzo Nani Venice lies in the Cannaregio district, known for the historic Jewish Ghetto and the many local bars and restaurants. The Vaporetto stop just outside the hotel provides access to the rest of the city, including St. Mark’s Square, the romance of walks along canals and bridges with stops at restaurants and shops of famous Venetian craftsmanship, and of course, gondola rides of exploration. You can also take a water taxi from the hotel to the train station, airport and the islands of Murano and Burano, famous for glass workshops and extended Venetian culture and lifestyle.
 

Halifax, Canada

Hotel: Muir, Autograph Collection
What makes it special:
Muir is the first hotel in the Canadian Atlantic coastal province of Nova Scotia to join Marriott Bonvoy’s Autograph Collection. From a picturesque location in the heart of this famous port city’s waterfront lifestyle scene, carefully appointed rooms with thoughtful amenities, to Nova Scotian art, design and dining, Muir establishes an authentic “Sense of Place” that invites guests to forge a meaningful connection with contemporary Nova Scotia and its people. Muir projects a contemporary marine, wharf-like design using local materials, including salt-and-pepper granite and sandstone, as well as Muntz metal, a copper alloy prominently used in shipbuilding.


Why visit:
Muir is part of the Queen’s Marque district of Halifax, a cultural and community destination for locals and visitors to Atlantic Canada. The bustling district encompasses vibrant restaurants, shops, nightlife, offices and luxury residences, all set against a striking harbor backdrop. Halifax is the capital city of the province that fosters Scottish heritage more than nearly anywhere else in the world outside of Scotland, where you can find your inner Scot at a Gathering of the Clans or musical Tattoo. Halifax also cradles a Canadian Atlantic lifestyle that features whale watching, dining on lobster, sailing, coastal exploration, famous lighthouses and more.
 

Mexico City, Mexico

Hotel: Ritz-Carlton Mexico City
What makes it special:
This hotel is the third Ritz-Carlton in the country, but the first urban Ritz-Carlton. It has transformed Mexico city’s skyline with its 58-story tower along the iconic Paseo de Reforma and showcases sweeping, uninterrupted views of the famed Chapultepec Park. Its location and views are maximized by a double glass façade and open-air terraces, inviting guests in its 153 guest rooms and suites to discover a new perspective on the city. The hotel’s design pays homage to Mexico city’s profound role in the surrealist art movement, and how Mexican artists like Frida Kahlo celebrated their indigenous roots. Its design makes use of metals, mirrors and glass to reflect the exterior into the interior, creating a surrealist experience by playing with perspective and distorting the surrounding, traditional architecture. A calm neutral color palette with shades of smokey ash, deep blues, and metallic fibers woven throughout the hotel are a nod to Mexican storytelling and folklore, and local ingredients and botanicals, as well as healing and spiritual traditions of Mexico City’s Aztec culture, in addition to local flavors in its dining offering, add to the hotel’s uniquely local experience.


Why visit:
The personalized guest experience at the Ritz-Carlton Mexico City goes beyond its doors into the vibrant city that’s known for its art and culture scene. A hotel tour with a local historian allows guests to be immersed into the Mexican rituals and celebrations that inspired the hotel design, and hotel staff curate days of exploration for cultural discovery and epicurean adventures in the city. Part of the hotel’s vision is to be a “literal and figurative gateway along the Paseo de Reforma, welcoming and encouraging guests to learn about the colorful history, dynamic present and bright future of Mexico City,” say hotel officials.

Melbourne, Australia

Hotel: Melbourne Marriott Hotel Docklands
What makes it special:
The first Marriott Hotels property to open in Australia in 20 years is a 189-room center of hospitality whose design takes inspiration from the yachts in the city’s harbor, and its façade offers multiple views over the water, city skyline, and the Bolte Bridge. The hotel’s lobby holds fluted glass windows with art installations to welcome guests, as well as brass golden chains suspended over the area to mimic a cinched sailcloth. But its centrepiece is a 92-foot, wet edge rooftop infinity pool, with an adjoining Sunset House bar, one of the only bars in town with views of sunsets illuminating the city skyline. Melbourne Marriott Hotel Docklands also welcomes the first exclusive, 24-hour M Club executive lounge in Australia.
 
Why visit:
The hotelier says it aims to offer “an all-encompassing experience” of Australia’s second city. Located within the retail, leisure, and entertainment precinct, The District Docklands on Waterfront Way in Melbourne’s city center, the Melbourne Marriott Hotel Docklands doesn’t just offer views across Melbourne’s harbour, city skyline, Bolte Bridge, and into sunsets in the west. Melbourne's Docklands is one of Australia’s largest urban renewal projects, reconnecting central Melbourne with its historic waterfront on the Yarra River. Melbourne is the gateway to the state of Victoria’s treasures, including Great Ocean Road and the vineyards of the Yarra Valley.
 

START YOUR URBAN ADVENTURE!


Images courtesy of their respective hotels.



Better Sleep is the Travel Trend We Need Right Now
Is your New Year’s resolution to get more rest – and travel more? The good news is that there are travel experiences that let you do both. 

Lynn Elmhirst, Producer and Host of BestTrip TV, runs down a few of her favorites.
 

Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland – Sleep Retreat

The breathtaking Fogo Island Inn, perched on stilts like the fishing huts on the island on the edge of the North Atlantic ocean, has been rated one of the top luxury lodges in the world.

 
Any trip to the Fogo Island Inn is a retreat into a unique island environment enriched with visiting artists, local artisans and crafters, and centuries-old living off the land and the sea, which curated, hands-on guest experiences bring to life.
 
Don’t take my word for it! WATCH THIS BESTTRIP TV VIDEO OF THE FOGO ISLAND INN. Designer Karen Sealy highlights some of its breathtaking design.
 
The hospitality of the island and the Inn is now legendary. In its 29 unique rooms, beds covered in locally hand-made, colorful quilts face floor-to-ceiling windows onto the sea or the dramatic landscape. Every morning, a wooden box draped with cheerful linens is dropped off at the door of your room, with a carafe of coffee or tea, and a selection of freshly baked treats that inspire you to go right back to bed to enjoy them while gazing out at the view and enjoying the crackling of your room’s wood-burning stove.

 
In addition to an acclaimed dining experience in its restaurant, bar, lounge and Tea Room, the Inn’s Heritage Library, Reading Room, roof-top wood saunas and hot tubs help contribute to a guest’s relaxation and well-being – not to mention the benefits of feeling cut off from the hustle and bustle in this remote edge of the world.
 
What’s more, the Fogo Island Inn is also a community asset, with all of the operating surpluses reinvested into the local community to help secure a sustainable future for Fogo Island.
 
If that doesn’t already make you sleep better, the Inn also hosts a sleep retreat in March 2022. The director of Ryerson University in Toronto’s sleep and depression lab will lead “The Secrets of Sleep” that teaches guests sleep science, including daily workshops, morning yoga, evening meditation, time outdoors in the fresh sea air of the island, and more.
 
 Between the inherently relaxing qualities of a stay at the Inn, and the science-based sleep teachings of the retreat, guests can look forward to restorative sleep during their stay, “and the benefits will endure long after you’ve left our shores,” says the hotel.
 

Rosewood Hotels’ “The Alchemy of Sleep” Retreats

Inspiring guests to improve their state of rest in the New Year, 20 luxury Rosewood Hotels have launched holistic escapes to encourage movement, mindfulness, nutrition and tranquillity leading to more restorative sleep.
 
In addition to the restful features and amenities of their rooms and hotel spas, Alchemy of Sleep is Rosewood’s global collection of new and immersive retreats from January to March 2022, designed to promote rest through sleep-inducing treatments, movement-driven activities and special amenities that create long-lasting benefits to travelers. Dedicated to those setting intentions for profound change in the New Year, the thoughtfully crafted programs support renewal of the body and practices to take home and incorporate into busy, everyday life.
 
Guests can opt for a one-night 'Dreamscape' or extend from two to five nights for a 'Sleep Transformation,' providing an even more immersive stay. As a supplement to these offerings, Curated Sleep Boxes feature products that re-balance such as essential oil blends, tea blends, aromatherapy linen mists and silk eye masks.

Image: Rosewood Hotel Georgia
 
Rosewood's “A Sense of Place” philosophy means the Alchemy of Sleep retreats reflect local wellness customs and embrace the unique natural surroundings. Here are a selection of Alchemy of Sleep programs at hotels and in destinations that inspire:
 
  • In Paris, Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel welcomes guests with an in-room Sleeping Beauty set, featuring all the essentials for ensuring a good night's sleep. Guests continue their stay with personalized messages and centering meditation sessions, concluding the journey with a Sleep Naturopathy consultation to establish long-term patterns for attaining the best sleep possible back home.
  • In St. Barth, the newly-debuted Rosewood Le Guanahani St. Barth offers an ideal setting for finding serenity. In addition to nutrient-rich dishes and scenic meditation, restorative treatments, such as Healing Sound Bath Therapy, activate the brain waves for a dreamlike state. Each room is enhanced with oil diffusers and mists, silk pillowcases and eye masks, books with sleep tips, as well as access to meditation TV apps.
  • In the British Virgin Islands, Rosewood Little Dix Bay is a tranquil haven that also offers aromatherapy and reflexology treatments releasing tension from the body, supplemented with outdoor activities such as hikes through 'The Baths' National Park. For the deepest possible state of relaxation in full consciousness, guests can partake in Yoga Nindra, also known as 'Yogic Sleep,' offered under the stars just before bedtime.
  • In Mexico's Riviera Maya, Rosewood Mayakoba guests can engage in personal consultations with the resort's wellbeing experts to develop clear actions for improving sleep cycles, while keeping the body moving with Float Fit sessions and Restorative Yoga at the resort's private cenote (natural pool). Guests will also have access to a Sleep Aromatherapy Support Kit featuring a remedy made from a blend of organic oils, as well as a master class on sleep.
  • In California, with the Alchemy of Sleep retreat launch comes the debut of Bryte Sleep Suites at Montecito's Rosewood Miramar Beach and Menlo Park's Rosewood Sand Hill. The suites feature 'The Restorative Bed by Bryte,' which allow for individual heating and cooling personalized to each sleep partner's profile with Circadian Climate technology directly impacting the sleeper's core body temperature. To further reduce stress, guests can choose from a selection of calm-inducing treatments that incorporate ingredients like CBD and lavender, as well as partake in meditations that take advantage of the resorts' breathtaking natural settings and landscaped gardens.
  • Rosewood San Miguel De Allende's retreat hones in on nutrition's impact on the sleep cycle, offering menus specially created by the hotel's Executive Chef Vincent Wallez, who thoughtfully selected soothing ingredients. Throughout the stay, guests will enjoy treatments that encourage deep rest, as well as meditation, yoga and breathing workshops that take advantage of the property's scenic surroundings.
 
Alchemy of Sleep retreats are also available at other Rosewood hotels around the world including Baha Mar, The Bahamas, Phuket, Thailand, London, England, Italy, the Middle East, and other destinations in Asia. 
 

SLEEP by Princess Cruises

Some of my best sleeps ever have been on cruise ships, where the gentle motion lulls you to sleep.
 
Princess Cruises has built on the natural advantages of the rocking motion of ships by consulting with a board-certified sleep expert to optimize staterooms for a sleep-friendly experience via all five of your senses.
 
“SLEEP” is not a specific retreat, but a way of cruising, with added touches for a wonderful, restorative rest on board, from the bedding to wellness treatments at the spa, even SLEEP-friendly evening meals on board. The cruise lines’ sleep expert explains, 'Sleep is a sensory experience. In fact, all five of your senses must be prepared for slumber in order for sleep to come easily and last all night long.'

Images above and top: Princess Cruises

Other resorts, hotels, cruise ships and spas offer enhancements to your sleep practices – from pillow menus to sleep concierges to activities, amenities and therapies. Whatever your travel tastes or needs for better rest, there are practices available at hotels, resorts and ships in dream destinations to help you achieve restorative rest while traveling, and even when you return home.

Ask your expert travel advisor about the perfect, restful travel experience for you.
 

START YOUR (RESTFUL) TRIP!







The Good Travel News We All Need at the End of 2021: Elephants Return to Conservation Area and Eco-lodge in Cambodia
Anantara, the luxury hospitality company that connects travellers to the indigenous, grounds guests in authentic luxury, with over 40 hotels and resorts located in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, has had success this year hosting other types of guests – the pachyderm kind.

The company’s charitable foundation, the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) works in partnership with local communities on environmental, social and cultural conservation.
 
As a result of one of those partnered programs, The Cardamom Tented Camp in Cambodia recently recorded the return of a small herd of wild elephants to its conservation area, after elephants had been absent for over five years from the region.
 
As they are in neighboring Thailand, elephants are a beloved – even sacred – and culturally significant creature in Cambodia, even as their wild populations are threatened by development and the industrialization of processes that used to use working elephants.
 
In a piece of rare, happy news coming from travel during the pandemic, forest rangers in the conservation area in Cambodia discovered and photographed elephant footprints and droppings. The evidence of elephant inhabitants occurred inside the nearly 45,000-acre forest concession, which the camp protects with help from The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF).


Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic Anantara guests, via the GTAEF, continued to support the ongoing maintenance of the camp and its team of rangers despite borders being closed to tourism. Anantara Angkor Resort in Siem Reap also donated supplies directly to the eco lodge throughout the past year. 

GTAEF wildlife experts estimate that a herd of nine elephants, consisting of four adult females, their calves, and one young adult elephant, make up the new herd in the conservation area. Members of the herd have also been captured on motion-sensored cameras nearby. The organization hopes the elephants will make themselves at home in the safety and security of the conservation area.


There’s more good news besides. The Lodge manager, who is also a wildlife photographer and conservationist, reports the return of a group of 15-18 otters to the Preak Tachan river beside the camp. This species of otter is native to Cambodia and is one of three species that are globally threatened and at risk of extinction due to human activities. So their appearance is hoped will allow Cambodia to play a role in the global conservation of otters.


The Cardamom Tented Camp, is located in Southern Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountain range. It’s a non-profit eco lodge resting within 18,000 hectares of pristine land, and opened in late 2017. Proceeds from the camp are used to fund rangers that patrol the concession, protecting against deforestation and illegal poaching. Since funding began, the protected haven and wildlife in it have thrived. That’s as development has continued in the region. 

Guests often see otters, macaque monkeys, kingfishers and hornbills from their boat when they travel to the camp, which is only accessible by river. The camp offers multiple hiking trails for adventurous guests to join the rangers on guided wildlife and bird spotting hikes through up to 5 miles of forest before returning via kayak with rest stops at the main ranger station in each direction.


In October, Cardamom Tented Camp was included in the Green Destinations’ Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories in the world. In 2019 the camp won the PATA Gold Award for Ecotourism and was a top three finalist in the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. In the same year, it was listed in National Geographic UK’s invitation-only listing of top 36 eco-hotels around the world that are leading by example.
 
At the end of 2021, Cardamom Tented Camp is once again open and operating with a unique business model. Part of the income from the lodge’s operation goes towards the funding of 12 forest rangers who protect the area from loggers, poachers and river sandbank dredgers.
 
Fully vaccinated travellers can now enter Cambodia and it has nearly 90% of its population fully vaccinated, one of the highest rates in Asia. The ideal time to visit this idyllic corner of the world is between December to April as the southwest Cambodia region near the Thai border enjoys blue skies and rain free days.

Talk to your travel advisor about planning a visit that supports the wilderness and wildlife of South-East Asia.
 

Start Your Trip!


Images courtesy Anantara Hotels & Resorts, Cardamom Tented Camp and The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF).

Enjoy a Rum-Soaked Taste of Antigua This Holiday Season
Located in the heart of the Caribbean Sea, the twin-island tropical paradise of Antigua (pronounced An-tee'ga) and Barbuda (Bar-byew’da) should be on the radar of any traveler looking for a beach escape away from the masses with a different beach for every day of the year, and two distinctly different island experiences.

At just over 100 square miles, Antigua is the largest of the Leeward Islands. Its rich history includes Nelson’s Dockyard, the only remaining example of a Georgian fort, and UNESCO World Heritage site. The island’s calendar prestigious events includes Antigua Sailing Week, Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and the local version of Carnival.

Little sister island Barbuda is a couple of dozen miles north-east of Antigua; only a 15-minute flight away or a short sail. The secluded, romantic island is famous for its pink-sand beaches and the largest Frigate Bird Sanctuary in the hemisphere. It also punches above its weight in attracting global celebrities, including actor Robert De Niro, one of the partners in the upcoming Nobu Beach Inn, to accompany the celebrity-chef Nobu Restaurant on the island.

Perhaps nothing combines Antingua and Barbuda’s culture steeped in British traditions and Antiguan-style Caribbean flavor, than its holiday black rum cake.

Visit Antigua and Barbuda and one of the country’s luxury resorts, Carlisle Bay, share with us an Antiguan version of a Caribbean holiday staple: black rum cake.

This version of the rich, moist and morish fruit cake is made using only local rum from the island's very own Antigua Distillery: a leading distillery renowned globally for their English Harbour Rum. The deep noir of this decadent dessert is achieved through the wonderful caramelization of soft sandy white sugar and cups of 5-year English Harbour rum.

It’s the perfect Christmas and fall holiday treat to warm you from the inside out with a touch of tropical decadence.


Carlisle Bay’s Black Rum Cake Ingredients
   1lb unsalted butter
   1lb white sugar
   6 free-range eggs
   2 tsp cinnamon
   1 tsp nutmeg
   2 tsp vanilla extract
   1lb plain flour
   1 tbsp baking powder
   4 tbsp food browning
   1lb dried blend mixed fruits, mainly cranberry, raisin, currant, dried citrus
   2 cups English Harbour 5-year rum

Method
Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add free range eggs and vanilla extract and mix.

Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg together. Combine dry mixture to sugar, butter, egg mix until all incorporated. Add the browning & dried fruits and mix thoroughly.

Finally add the rum, taste and add more if you wish for a stronger flavor.

Place in a greased baking tin of your choice and cover with greaseproof paper. Bake at 280 degrees (Fahrenheit.) for 40-60 minutes, checking regularly til set. The ideal internal temperature of the cake is 205-210 degrees Fahrenheit.


For a truly authentic Antiguan confection, soak your dried fruit in the rum for as long as possible in advance. It is not unheard of for Antiguans to start the soaking step in January or even ahead of baking! But don’t worry if you haven’t started a whole year in advance, this rum cake will be a winning treat on your holiday table.

Serving
Rum goes in the cake - and with the cake when served! Treat your family and holiday guests to a shot of vintage English Harbour Rum on the side, drizzle the cake with rich cream and rum-infused caramel sauce; and you could even go as far as to pour more English Harbour Rum on top, the more the merrier!


What other travel recipes have become part of your culinary repertoire?

No matter what your family traditions, wishing you a happy holiday season!



Images courtesy Carlisle Bay




Celebrate the Festive Season - or Make a Gift of the Holidays at Four Seasons Across North America
There’s only one holiday season, but the luxury lifestyles of one of many Four Seasons hotels or resorts is just around the corner - either a drive or a short-haul flight - from many of us, and our loved ones.

Treating ourselves during the festive season, or giving our loved ones the gift of a recognized luxury travel brand experience in your hometown or at a favorite destination - will help make this holiday special and memorable.

Here are some suggestions to help you get into the Christmas spirit - or capture the holiday magic for your loved ones.

Your expert travel advisor can help you create the perfect luxury travel experience or give the perfect gift, from wellness, culinary, and family festive experiences.


Surround Yourself with Christmas Cheer


Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort gets into the Christmas spirit with a chocolate and gingerbread display created by its award-winning chef. Even a Christmas Grinch can’t help but smile at the charming life-size gingerbread house, with candy canes, lollipops, Santa and more, Plus - it’s the perfect holiday photo backdrop for your social media holiday post. You can enjoy festive treats including holiday gelato flavours such as chocolate peppermint, while the little ones try their hands at cookie decorating.

At Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia, the holiday display takes the form of a modern arctic wonderland. A large, mirrored polar bear flanked by custom made flocked trees and poinsettias adorned with snow. The holiday magic extends to the ground floor's reflective Christmas tree and the fifth floor's life-size reindeer, creating a majestic holiday scene and the perfect backdrop for holiday photos.

Make a List, Check it Twice… then get some Help


Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street, Boston’s Wellness Floor has curated a holiday gift guide featuring bespoke experiences and products for mindful giving. You can fill your loved ones’ stockings with certificates for a side-by-side couples massage or Cryotherapy Energy facial and gifts such as candles, cashmere loungewear and beautiful Italian leather handbags. Maybe slip one treat in there for yourself for your next visit to Boston, too.

Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC’s Holiday Market is a goldmine of the gifts and culinary works of local artisans as well as the Hotel's craftspeople including their pastry chef’s gourmet hot chocolate bar. And you can shop for your loved ones surrounded by live music entertainment, light and snow displays. You can feel even better about holiday gift giving this seasons as a portion of the proceeds from every sale is donated to Children's National Hospital.

Culinary Christmas - and the Whole Holiday Season


Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel is ringing in the holidays in style. A series of prix fixe menus for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, along with a New Year's Day Brunch let you leave all the work to the hotel chefs - and you can choose to indulge fully with options like caviar, a seafood platter, and Bloody Mary and bottomless champagne bar. The restaurant, which overlooks the famed Rodeo Drive, will also be offering a special holiday afternoon tea, complete with delicate and elegant Italian desserts by its chef.

The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler’s popular Vintage Camper is back for the winter, serving up decadent hot chocolate and cook-your-own s'mores. Guests can enjoy a Tipsy Snowman, the Resort's playful signature hot chocolate, or wind down with a complimentary wine tasting offered every evening featuring a selection of local British Columbia wines.

Hands-on Holiday Experiences



At Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley, a limited-time winter wonderland pop-up reimagines an alpine village. Rustic wooden chalets take center stage, while 'snowfall,' fireside movies, an après-ski menu including s'mores and hot cocktails create an inviting experience on the outdoor terrace. The village includes a sweet shoppe, Instagrammable life-sized snow globe and more.

Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina’s #FSWAYFINDERS program is a weekly series featuring art, culture, history, and in-depth workshops that make the holidays in Hawaii come alive. A curated group of artisans and crafters offers intimate and engaging learning opportunities including ukulele lessons, coconut hat weaving, lei making, evening stargazing and hula workshops with all proceeds going to the artisans themselves.

Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire keeps the holidays active, with horseback riding across the 500 acres of parkland, the ultimate treetop challenge, a relaxing ride on a traditional horse-drawn carriage or a unique bird-watching experience on a wildlife walk.


Restoring from Stresses of the Holiday Season


Four Seasons Hotel Austin’s The Spa has two festive ways to treat winter-ravaged skin and stressed-out bodies. Picture yourself or a loves one enjoying a Peppermint Facial or a Fire & Ice Massage. Up the ante with an after-hours private booking that allows for full access of the entire spa complete with the hotel’s margarita cart.

Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas uses locally sourced materials in its seasonal relaxation treatment. The Cranberry Pomegranate Body Treatment features a wrap, head massage, and full body scrub and leaves you feeling restored for another day of gaming, entertainment, and super-sized shopping of Sin City.

Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole is celebrating the winter solstice with restorative yoga and intention setting sessions. Guests can enjoy a complimentary restorative yoga session and wassail, the traditional warming drink you sing about in Christmas carols.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North is also commemorating the winter solstice with guided meditation, sound healing and intention setting on the longest night of the year.

#HappyHolidays




Images courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts







There's a new cruise ship on the block - and she's a stunner!

Celebrity Cruises has debuted its second, Edge-class ship. The Celebrity Apex is sister ship to the celebrated Celebrity Edge.

The pandemic delayed the Celebrity Apex launch from its originally-scheduled debut in March 2020, but that made her christening ceremony in Fort Lauderdale in November, 2021 maybe even more celebratory.

Lynn Elmhirst and Best Trip TV were on hand for that magical moment when a massive bottle of champagne smashed against the side of the Apex in the traditional naming ceremony.

Watch the video above to join in that cruise ship christening magic. And also get a tour of the brand-new ship.

The Celebrity Apex takes all the favorite elements and contemporary design features of the Celebrity Edge - like the Magic Carpet, the only cantilevered venue at sea, new, over-scaled design elements that provide 'wow' moments everywhere you turn, as well as the perfect backdrops for photos to post to social media, new dining options, and an enhanced, multi-floor Retreat, the ship-within-a-ship concept that provides Retreat guests with exclusive suites, lounge, dining, and pool deck.

Adding to this, the second-in-class ship amplifies the Edge Series with brand new offerings, such as a new bar called Craft Social, featuring casual pub cuisine and some of the world's rarest craft beers; a reimagined Eden experience with a new dinner menu and an entirely refreshed programming dubbed Wonder at Eden; the brand's most technologically advanced theatre yet, with a new 110-foot curved 4K LED screen; new spa and wellness offerings; and a refreshed retail experience, like the first-ever Montblanc; just to name a few.

You won't want to wait to see this newest ship cruising the Caribbean this winter for yourself!

Following a short run of Greek Island sailings in the summer of 2021 and its trans-Atlantic crossing to Fort Lauderdale, the Celebrity Apex now embarks from U.S shores on rotating Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries, where guests will visit the picturesque islands of Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Belize, Grand Caymans and more.

#StartYourCruise!





First Club Med Mountain Resort in North America Opens; it's the First All-Season, All-Inclusive in Canada Another, all-inclusive Club Med in Utah to open soon read more
The Most "Amazing Journeys" in 2022, According to National Geographic's Experts Looking at travel through five lenses: nature, adventure, sustainability, culture and history, and family, NatGeo’s experts have narrowed a world of travel riches into a list of 25 can’t-miss journeys next year. read more
I can’t overstate it: 2022 is special for European travel. If you don’t visit in 2022, you’ll be kicking yourself forever.

Have it all to yourself


Leading up to the pandemic, the most popular cities were getting a bit overrun. Before the crowds return in full force, early 2022 may be the best year of your lifetime to visit Venice, Barcelona, Paris or Amsterdam.

New openings


While you were away, a slew of new hotels have been opening in Europe, and a number of gorgeous river cruise ships have launched, waiting for you to discover a new, favorite 'home away from home.'

Catch up on all the experiences we’ve been missing:


  • the flavors of Europe that taste so much better at the source, like Old World wines at Tuscan vineyards, pilsners brewed by monks and served in biergartens, melt-in-your-mouth cheeses, aged in caves, that you’ve never even heard of before, tapas in the south of Spain, or seafood caught fresh that morning in the Mediterranean, and prepared simply with olive oil, lemons, capers or olives and served with a crisp local white wine that’s cold enough to create condensation on your glass that sparkles in the sunshine;

  • the cultural events that remind so many of us of our heritage, like celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, mass at the Vatican, and Oktoberfest in Munich. Going to the opera in Vienna, the Palio horse race in Siena, or the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo; or

  • the sporting events and occasions that have become cultural touchstones, like the style of the Monaco Grand Prix, the cycling epic Tour de France, the royal touch of tennis at Wimbledon, or even playing a round of golf at its birthplace in St. Andrew’s, Scotland, yourself.

Once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences


In addition to all these beloved travel memories waiting to be revisited, some things happening in Europe in 2022 are once-in-a-lifetime experiences you’ll never forgive yourself for missing:


The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee


2022 marks 70 years since Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne at age 25. She’s already the longest-serving monarch, and a Platinum Jubilee will be truly historic.

Longevity runs in the Queen’s family, with her ancestor Queen Victoria serving 63 years on the throne and her own Queen Mother living over a century. But the simple math suggests the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee - when she’ll be over 95 years old - may be the last, one-of-a-kind milestone jubilee of her reign, or indeed ever.

So Platinum Jubilee celebrations in the U.K. in 2022 are not to be missed for anyone with an interest in royalty, royal history, or being able to tell their own grandchildren that they took part in this historic occasion.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee will come with a year-long series of celebrations around the U.K., with the central festivities focused on an extended official long weekend from 2-5 June.

There will be an epic version of the annual Trooping of the Colour to mark the Queen’s official birthday, as well as a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, a special live concert and the Platinum Jubilee Pageant at Buckingham Palace, the lighting of beacons as well as street parties throughout her realm.

It will be an unprecedented - and likely one-of-a-kind - opportunity to be part of a Royal celebration, see your favorite Royals, and be part of history in the making.


Oberammergau


This small Bavarian village has become synonymous with its once-a-decade Passion Play – a recreation of the biblical story of Easter that consumes the entire village for over a year.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE AS THE DIRECTOR, AND THE VILLAGER WHO PLAYS ‘JESUS,’ EXPLAIN THE HISTORY AND MAGIC OF THIS FAMOUS PERFORMANCE

Attending a play that's been performed for hundreds of years in celebration of the most significant Biblical story is a once – maybe twice? – in a lifetime opportunity.

Unfortunately, the pandemic cancelled the Passion Play in 2020… but luckily, the village will stage its Passion Play in 2022 instead, daily from Spring through Fall.

Joining a land tour or river cruise is by far the best way to 'do' Oberammergau - travel companies locked in blocks of the best seats years ago, as well as dining reservations during your time in this small village.


Floriade, the 'World’s Fair' of Horticulture


Every 10 years, this ‘World’s Fair’ of flowers upstages even the Netherlands’ glorious 'Tulip Time.'

Horticulture is famously the Netherlands’ most ‘colorful’ industry. The country sells half of the world’s ‘floriculture’ products and over three-quarters of the world’s flower bulbs. It’s number one in greenhouse horticulture and leads global exports of cut flowers, ornamental plants and even trees.

The ultimate celebration of horticulture, Floriade, happens only 10 times a century, and the next one is in 2022.
Floriade is the largest public event in the Netherlands, drawing 2 million visitors over six months between April and October to its vast displays of almost any plant that grows, in stunning gardens, installations, pavilions and greenhouses, displays from exhibitors around the world and a vibrant arts and culture program.

Floriade 2022 takes place in a purpose-built, ultra-modern, 150-acre ‘garden city’ near Amsterdam.


An electric scale-model train moves visitors around the vast site, and a 35-meter high, 850-meter long cable car provides an incredible view of what will seem like the Garden of Eden below.

Like many other ticketed events, it pays to be part of an escorted group to Floriade, with guaranteed access and no need to line up with people waiting for tickets.


2022 Travel Tip


No matter what’s on your travel list in 2022, we have one big travel tip: book soon.

With people using their stored-up travel credits, and everyone looking to make up lost travel time, some events and blocks of tickets are already selling out.

Now’s the time to start planning with your expert travel advisor to return to Europe in 2022 with a bang.

#StartYourTrip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host of BestTrip TV


Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.








Theme Parks and Beyond: Nearly 2 Dozen Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Orlando This Season
Orlando’s claim to fame is its extraordinary collection of family-friendly theme parks standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the balmy weather of the Sunshine State.

But the warmth of the holiday season in Orlando outshines even the Florida sun.

From Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration, to re-imagined Christmas and New Year’s Eve experiences at the theme parks and beyond, it’s a great way to get into the Christmas or Hanukkah spirit - or get a change of pace from the stresses of spending the holidays at home - again!

Whether your celebratory taste runs to festive performances, dazzling light shows, or theme park themed celebrations, Orlando is the place to capture the spirit of holiday cheer this year.

Your expert travel advisor can help you find the best value, last-minute holiday trips now, gift a future trip, or make plans to get away to Orlando later this winter. Happy Holidays!


FESTIVE THEME PARK CELEBRATIONS


Walt Disney World Resort - Select nights starting November 12, 2021


Disney Very Merriest After Hours at Magic Kingdom Park runs for 24 select nights
from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. The new separately ticketed, after-hours holiday event will bring
festive food and beverage offerings, dance parties, nighttime spectaculars and “Mickey’s
Once Upon a Christmastime Parade.”

• The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays takes guests on a global holiday
celebration with costumed performances, seasonal food throughout 11 World Showcase
nations, along with sights, sounds and flavors of the season celebrated by cultures near
and far.

• At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests can dine with Minnie and friends at Minnie's
Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine, catch a glimpse of old St. Nick as he cruises in his
candy-apple red convertible down Hollywood Boulevard and experience a captivating
projection show on the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom brings a holiday twist to the magic of nature with festive
flotillas featuring Chip n’ Dale, Donald Duck, holiday percussionists and Santa sailing
down the Discovery River. As nighttime falls, a holiday edition of the Tree of Life
Awakening will begin accompanied by a heartwarming musical score.


Universal Orlando Resort - November 13 – January 2, 2022


• Grinchmas at Universal's Islands of Adventure brings holiday charm to Seuss
Landing with The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, a live retelling of the classic tale
starring the Grinch. 

• Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter features festive decor in both
Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida.
Guests can cap off their evening in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade to
enjoy “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle” – a spectacular transformation of
Hogwarts castle with a stunning projection.

Universal’s Holiday Experience featuring Macy’s Balloons offers guests a walk-
through experience of larger-than-life Macy’s balloons and colorful Christmas floats,
including characters from Shrek, Madagascar and Despicable Me, along with Santa.

SeaWorld Orlando - November 12 – January 2, 2022


• During SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, over 3 million sparkling lights will shine
throughout the park. Festivities include live performances, seasonal food and meet-and-
greets with Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer. 

New for 2021: the littlest guests can sing and dance with their favorite Sesame Street characters during Elmo’s
Christmas Wish Show and Holiday Reflections: Fireworks and Fountains Finale features soaring fountains, dazzling lights and fireworks.

LEGOLAND Florida - Weekends November 26 – December 31, 2021


• Holidays at LEGOLAND will feature a giant LEGO Christmas tree, seasonal shows,
holiday characters, special treats, LEGO activities, twinkling lights and more.


FUN BEYOND THE THEME PARKS


• ICON Park is home to The Santa Workshop Experience through December 24. Every
child who participates receives a free ticket to ride The Wheel (adult guests receive 50%
off). ICON Park hosts its first tree-lighting ceremony on December 1 with a 40-foot-tall Christmas tree visible from International Drive. 

• The Night of a Million Lights at Give Kids the World Village holiday spectacular, taking
place November 12 - January 2, 2022, immerses guests in a sparkling wonderland of millions of lights, including a sparkling tree trail, larger-than-life holiday displays and a guided storytelling tour of 100 magnificently lit villas from the comfort of a tram.

• The Dazzling Nights outdoor holiday event at Harry P. Leu Gardens, running November 19 – January 9, 2022, features a three-quarter-mile interactive holiday experience with epic lighting installations, themed photo moments, live entertainment and more. 

Crayola Experience’s Colorful Christmas, taking place November 20 - January 3, 2022 includes diving into a life-sized snow globe, complete with falling snow, and crafting unique gifts. 

• Throughout the entire month of December, downtown Orlando is offering nine free holiday
events as part of Downtown for the Holidays. Visitors can watch The Nutcracker by the
Russian Ballet of Orlando; stroll around Eola Wonderland to see the dazzling holiday décor and lights - including the Eola Wonderland Christmas Tree; or grab a blanket and enjoy a holiday movie on the Lake Eola lawn. 

• The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts hosts holiday-themed performances
during its outdoor, socially distanced FrontYard Festival. Holiday performances include
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy's Wild & Swingin' Holiday Party and the Big Band Holidays
tradition by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.


SPARKLING EVENTS TO RING IN THE NEW YEAR


Live large at New Year’s celebrations in Orlando! From five-course dinners to
exciting theme park celebrations, ringing in 2022 in Orlando will sure be worth the countdown.

• The New Year’s Eve Dinner at JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa’s
Sear + Sea features a gourmet meal and rooftop terrace boasting nightly views of both
theme park fireworks, which typically provide an extra-large NYE display. 

• Downtown Orlando’s Wall St. Plaza area, features multiple themed bars linked by an
open-air courtyard, for an annual New Year’s Eve Block Party with lightshows, dance
parties and a big countdown to 2022.

• On New Year’s Eve during SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, spectacular music and
a bold fireworks display will send a wave of welcome to the New Year ahead.

• On International Drive, numerous venues hosting celebrations with unique entertainment and live music.

HOLIDAY TRAVEL OFFERS


Ask your expert travel advisor about the best Orlando travel deals for upcoming holiday season.

#StartYourHolidayTrip!






5 Reasons This is the Year to Give the Gift of Travel
The gift-giving season is close at hand, and this year, more than ever before, travel may be the very best present you can place for someone under the tree.

Lynn Elmhirst, producer and host of BestTrip TV, explains:

Experiences vs. Things

Study after study shows it, and we know it instinctively ourselves. Our best memories, the best of times, are about experiences, especially shared experiences with loved ones. Not stuff.

How many presents do you yourself remember? Compared to the smile that appears on your face when you think of your favorite travel moments.

Humans are hardwired to cherish the things that travel is all about: new experiences, once-in-a-lifetime moments, meeting new people who are passionate about sharing their culture, talents, and life experiences with you.

There’s something primal about humans wandering in search of new tastes, new horizons, new ways of living and thinking. 

The exploring gene is real. Give your loved ones a new campfire to visit, and new memories to share and remember for a lifetime.

Cherish the Planet, don’t Fill it with Garbage

How many people in your life 'need' anything? Most of us have more stuff than we know what to do with. Even if it’s useful, do we need the newest version? Unnecessary goods become landfill.

Time to step off the object acquisition treadmill and fill our loved ones’ lives with experiences they’ll cherish, not stuff they’ll eventually throw away.

Responsible travel can be sustainable, rewarding… and the best gift of all.

For the Person who has 'Everything'

That’s especially true for 'that' person. The one who says they have 'everything.' Why give them more stuff when you already know they don't want any more of it?

Even the person who has 'everything' still hasn’t experienced everything. Who better to give the gift of travel?

The subcategory of this person is people who are living in small spaces or down sizing. The last thing they need or really want is more things to try to find a place for. Travel is the best way to live large in small spaces.

Sharing your Blessings

The pandemic has been so difficult for so many people. For people and communities and countries whose survival depends on tourism, these have been the most difficult times ever.

By giving the gift of travel, and putting local economies back to work, you can directly share your blessings with hard-working people who rely on travel to support their own families.

What’s more, you can give the gift that also gives back. There are responsible, meaningful travel experiences that allow travelers to directly participate in experiences that build communities, people up, and restore the wonders of Nature.

What could be a more heartfelt gift?

Reaping the Rewards of the Return to Travel

Travel is still just getting restarted again. To inspire us to get back into the travel habit, his year, more than ever before, travel providers are offering seasonal deals we may never see the likes of again.

These bigger and better offers are making the gift of travel - for yourself or for your loved ones - irresistible. From hotels and resorts, air-included packages, cruises and guided tours… the promotions are so good - it’s like a holiday gift to you!

How to Give

There are so many ways to give the gift of travel - to yourself, your immediate, or extended family or friends… even to colleagues or business contacts this holiday season.

Whether you want to plan a specific trip, or get them started on their way, your trusted travel advisor can help you understand all your options and the best ways to give the…

#GiftofTravel


Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.






Your First Decision to Travel Solo: Should You Stay or Should You Go?
11/11 is Single's Day, highlighting the solo lifestyle that applies to more and more uncoupled people. The decision to travel solo is among the biggest decisions a singleton makes.

This year will mark the first time many people decide to travel solo. They'll be deciding whether they should stay home or go it alone.


Janice Waugh of Solo Travelers explains why more and more people are taking the solo travel plunge:

It’s true that the trend for solo travel has been growing over the past decade. But, with the last year of restricted travel, it seems that people are less inclined to wait for every detail to be aligned. That includes the detail of having a travel partner. Instead, they are deciding to travel solo!

Booking.com's research indicates that “solo travel is likely to gather even greater momentum as people’s desire to travel will nudge them to take the plunge to travel on their own in 2021”. Their “data pre-pandemic saw only 17%* of travelers were planning a trip on their own, while 30% now say they will be planning a solo trip in the future”.

Tour companies say it’s true: They are seeing more people booking solo trips than in the past and there a several reasons why.

Do any of these scenarios describe you?

  •    The freedom to travel has become more precious. Before the pandemic, it seemed that you could be more patient and wait for the right time to travel. We have learned that this is just not the case. Many people are refusing to wait and making travel plans whether they have to go solo or not.

  •    We've had too much time with a partner. This is not a criticism of relationships, just a reality for many people. Couples can spend too much time together and with lockdowns and the like, this has happened. A solo trip by one or both parties can reset and refresh a relationship.

  •    The pandemic has had a financial impact. This has affected people in different ways. In our most recent reader survey some said they have done better during the pandemic and some worse.

  •    If the pandemic negatively affected your travel friends more than you, they may not be able to take a planned trip, which sends you off solo or not at all.

  •    If the pandemic hurt your travel fund more than that of your friends, you may still want to travel but not as luxuriously as your friends which, again, takes you on your own course to travel alone.

  •    On the flip side, you may be after that big ticket trip that others just don't prioritize the same way, which leaves you with the solo travel decision once again.

  •    We're not willing to put off that big trip any longer. Some solos have been pacing themselves over the past few years, taking trips when the price/destination/friends combination was right. Now, that trip of a lifetime has become a priority and, solo or not, they're going to take it.

  •    Time alone is more natural than it was. With stay-at-home orders and lockdowns, people have become more comfortable with their own company. Taking their sense of adventure out into the world solo now seems very normal.

  •    Financial priorities have changed. For some, the plan to travel solo was always in the offing. But that was the problem. It was in the offing. After living through a year when they couldn't spend as much, financial priorities have changed and moved travel – solo travel – higher on the list.

The decision to travel solo is, for some, a big one. For others, it's just the logical step given their personality, circumstances, or desires.

Whether your decision to travel solo is easy or difficult, your trusted travel advisor can help match your solo travel wishes, budget, and desired level of support and company, with trips with low or no singles supplements so you can get the most out of your decision to venture into the world solo.

#StartYourSoloTrip!







World First UNESCO Trail Connects 13 Sites in Scotland 13 diverse sites with natural and cultural significance, including World Heritage Sites, Biospheres, Global Geoparks and Creative Cities now form a dedicated digital trail. read more
Malama Hawaii Program: Giving Back on a Trip to Paradise
The Hawaiian Islands may draw you to their other-worldly tropical beauty, South-Pacific culture and warm welcome, legendary beaches and seaside lifestyle.

But the most memorable trip to Hawaii may be the one that gives back.

The Malama Hawaii Program connects visitors to activities that make a difference to the islands’ land, ocean, wildlife, forests, fishponds, and communities. Malama means 'give back' and it puts you in a position to become part of Hawaii, leave it an even better place… and have vacation memories of a lifetime.

It’s about building real relationships between people and place, and enriching your life as well as the destination you visit.

The Malama Hawaii Program has brought together a number of hotels and resorts, tour companies, and local volunteer organizations in a collaboration for the good the Hawaii that everyone loves. 

Volunteer projects range from reforestation and tree planting to self-directed beach cleanups, ocean reef preservation, and even creating Hawaiian quilts for kupuna (elders).

Visitors gain a more enriching travel experience through their positive impact, and may also qualify for perks like discounts or even a free night’s stay at a participating hotel or resort by participating in its dedicated volunteer activity.

There are opportunities to Malama on at least four of Hawaii’s visitable islands.

Oahu


In Oahu, check in with the community group Malama Maunalua to participate in a volunteer activity allowing them to malama aina. Volunteers will learn about ecological issues affecting Maunalua Bay and participate in removing three types of invasive algae threatening marine sanctuaries in the bay’s nearshore waters.

Get hands-on during an immersive, volunteer workday with eco-nonprofit Papahana Kualoa. You’ll sink your feet into the satisfyingly muddy earth of its loi kalo (irrigated taro terraces) to do the good work of helping plant or harvest kalo, a staple crop of the Native Hawaiian diet.


Maui


Don’t miss the ocean conservation activities at the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation. Visitors in the foundation’s Coastal Marine Debris Monitoring Program head out to Maui’s scenic coastline areas to collect and track debris. Data recorded by the foundation helps to mitigate and prevent shoreline and marine life damage.

You can also participate in the critical environmental work of removing invasive species from Maui’s protected lands, by volunteering to help with restoration and conservation projects of the nonprofit Hawaii Land Trust, which does vital stewardship work contributing to wildlife protection efforts at the island’s Waihee Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge.

Island of Hawaii


Visitors can volunteer to help restore and replant a 275-acre lowland dry forest preserve, surrounded by nature at the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative. You may be able to be part of building trails, tree planting, clearing invasive plant life and more, all while taking in the sights and sounds of the preserve’s tranquil landscape.

Adventure seekers interested in mountain hiking and volunteer work are encouraged to look into the workdays of Uluhao o Hualalai for a private eco-tour traversing the mature koa and ohia forests of 8,271-foot Hualalai volcano. In addition to hiking to one of the volcano’s many craters and learning about the cultural significance of the surrounding landscape, visitors are also invited to participate in the group’s reforestation efforts by planting native trees.


Kauai


You can spend a part of your vacation experiencing Kauai’s verdant and vibrant forest areas with the Kaua‘i Forest Bird Recovery Project, and participate in a remote video review to help identify the island’s protected birds and their activity and patterns. You can also join a virtual seminar to learn more about the native forest birds and the eco-project’s conservation efforts. Held monthly, the project’s Forest Fridays virtual series focus on the protection of the threatened native iiwi bird and three federally endangered native bird species — the puaiohi, akikiki, and akekee — with a goal of facilitating recovery of their populations in the wild. Visitors can also view prior series segments via the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project’s YouTube channel.


Ask your trusted travel advisor how you can Malama on your next trip to Hawaii.

#StartYourTrip!


Images: Hawaii Tourism Authority/ Heather Goodman
Rick Barboza of Papahana Kuaola and volunteers harvest kalo taro



If a picture speaks a thousand words, then a video is running commentary. That's why we wanted to share with you exactly what the health protocols on board an Avalon Waterways river cruise in France are in the Fall of 2021.

We know some people have already begun traveling again - but others are still hesitant. Maybe you wonder if new health protocols take away from your river cruise experience. Or you wonder if it's safe enough.

Lynn Elmhirst of BestTrip TV decided to find an answer to that question. She sailed in October, 2021, on an Avalon Waterways river cruise through the south of France to see exactly what protocols were in place, and how it felt to be onboard.

From boarding, to dining and enrichment experiences on the ship, to shore excursions or wandering around lovely Provencal towns on her own, Lynn reports - and shows on video - what it's like to be on a European river cruise in the fall of 2021.

The great news: she loved it!

Not only did Lynn feel safe at every moment, she enjoyed every moment of her Avalon Waterways river cruise. In fact, the health protocols, and the care and thoughtfulness of the protocols - including complementary mask washing and complementary pre-departure COVID tests to help guests make the journey home - made her even more impressed with her cruise!

Still wondering what it's really like? Well, seeing is believing. So watch this video to see exactly what life on board the Avalon Poetry II in October, 2021 is like.

If it makes you long to be on a European river cruise, too, there's more good news!

There's still time to get back to Europe, to get back to river cruising, this year. In fact, some of the most special river cruises are still coming up: Christmas market river cruises help you capture the holiday spirit, and give you your long-awaited dose of European culture and lifestyle - as well as the pleasures of sailing on some of Europe's most scenic rivers in your own 'floating hotel' river cruise ship.

Your trusted travel advisor can help you find the perfect European river cruise - and all the details of the new health protocols so you'll feel fully informed and confident you'll enjoy your next river cruise.

#StartYourRiverCruiseTrip!












Mary Shelley's House of Frankenstein Opens in the Birthplace of Famous Fictional Monster
Over 200 years ago, a trail-blazing female author penned the novel that brought one of the first tales of the horror genre to life.
This year, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein opened to commemorate the life of the novelist and her legendary, terrorizing creature.

In 1816, at just 19 years old, Mary Shelley wrote much of her novel Frankenstein in the chic, English spa-city of Bath.

Frankenstein the novel was groundbreaking on two levels: it had a rare, woman author, and it was one of the earliest examples of published horror stories. Shelley’s novel helped spawn a popular culture trend that resulted in a literary, theatrical, and nowadays, film and television landscape full of vampires, monsters, the living dead, medical and science experiments gone awry with terrifying and supernatural results.

Mary Shelley’s monster has been immortalized countless times over in frightening or campy, early and recent films, in pop culture references like cartoons and music videos, and is of course a perennially classic Hallowe’en costume.
Now Frankenstein’s monster has a permanent home of its own in the town where it was born.

Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein in Bath celebrates the author as well as her notorious fictional creature. Her monstrous literary creation has 'lived' in various artistic forms non-stop since its inception in Shelley’s novel, but this is the world’s first attraction dedicated to the trail-blazing Regency-era author.

Interactive exhibits tell the full story behind the genesis of ‘Frankenstein’. Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein celebrates the legacy of the author’s work across four atmospheric floors, uncovering:

Mary Shelley’s Unusual and Complex Life - Visitors retrace the tragic and unconventional life events and radical scientific thinking that flourished in Shelley’s active and ahead-of-its-time mind;

The Monster of Shelley’s Imagination - You’ll confront head on the formidable 8-foot breathing creature in a world-first recreation exactly as the author imagined in her novel;

Frankenstein in Popular Culture - Revisit all things Frankenstein and his “monster” in the Popular Culture rooms bursting with vintage memorabilia, props, posters, and even bizarre collector items;

Enter the Darkness - Venture down into a dank foreboding basement, in a dark and disorientating walkthrough experience revealing the unhallowed practices of a deranged scientist.

Multi-sensory Classic Horror


Brace yourself for a thrill. Ominous music and unsettling soundscapes, eery temperature shifts, bespoke scents and unsettling aromas, lighting and special effects, electric shocks, projections, and props deliver a scarily immersive, unnervingly thrilling and visceral experience.

It’s not all scary, though. In the Popular Culture rooms, notes of cinemas, popular culture and childhood nostalgia are conjured with gourmand notes of popcorn, vanilla, caramel, chocolate with an undertone of plastic and even playdoh!

You Can’t Escape Frankenstein’s Monster - or Can You?


The bravest of 'Franken-fans’ can test their mettle in Victor’s Lair Escape Room, where you have just one hour to unravel the ramblings of his deranged mind and, more critically, your way out.

You begin locked in Victor’s miserable attic quarters, strewn with insane equations, strange artefacts and miscellaneous body parts. Trying in vain to unlock the mysteries of life itself, he needs just a few more ‘vital’ components to fulfil his maniacal quest. If you and your group can unravel the ramblings of a madman and discover the equation through 14 challenges, you’ll reveal the mystery of Frankenstein’s undead life, but more critically, your way out to freedom.

Between the literary history, the tale of a trail-blazing woman author, a creature who has embedded itself into our cultural fabric, immersive and entertaining exhibits and challenging activities, as well as tongue-in-cheek approach that even has body parts in jars intermixed with items for sale in the gift shop, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein has become a gothic must-do experience in the elegantly Regency-era city of Bath.

#StartYourTrip!


Images courtesy of Mary Shelley's House of Frankenstein, Bath, UK



If you’re like most of us, your holiday season last year fell a little bit short on the fa-la-la’s. This year, it’s not too late to double down on , and make up for lost time with 'peak Christmas' at the Christmas markets of Europe.

Lynn Elmhirst, producer and host of BestTrip TV, shares this video with some of the highlights of a nighttime German Christmas market - and explains why visiting Germany's Christmas markets this year may be the best way to return to travel.

Authentic Christmas Cheer

If it’s your first Christmas market experience, Germany is the way to go. So many of our modern Christmas traditions hail from Germany (via England, thanks to Queen Victoria's German husband, Prince Albert); for a real injection of the spirit of Christmas, this year, it’s time to go to the source.

Even today, Germans are the torch-bearers for festive authenticity – only genuine fir branches, music, food, drink and shopping traditions allowed!

Good Timing

Since Germany’s Christmas markets begin in late November, four weekends before Christmas, and wrap up Christmas Eve, you have time to get a dose of Christmas cheer and still make it home for the holidays -laden with everything to deck the halls on this side of the ocean.

For an extra special experience, visit in the evening – when twinkling lights, bonfires and torches kindle the magic and spirit of the season and transport you back to the ancient origins of this winter festival.

Good Taste

It doesn’t matter if you had substitutes at home last year, tasting traditional German Christmas market foods at the source will remind you of exactly why you travel: because it never tastes the same as when you’re 'there.'

The fir bow-draped, traditional wood stalls include the best German standards: hot sausages, pretzels, and beer, plus the seasonal delights: hot, mulled 'gluhwein'; stollen, a particularly addictive fruit bread; gingerbread or lebkuchen; and marzipan.

Oh, the glorious marzipan. Forget the icky, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth goo slathered on top of cheap fruitcakes here at home. Once you taste the real thing, you just can't get enough. Marzipan in Germany comes formed in all shapes. Look for the quirky Christmas traditional 'marzipan kartoffeln' – marzipan 'potatoes', little marzipan balls dusted with coco to look like… miniature potatoes. Other shapes are delightful, hand painted confections – a favorite in southern Germany is little pigs, a symbol of good luck.

You Can Bring it Home With You

The best thing about the Christmas spirit is sharing it. By definition, markets are perfect for souvenirs, to savour your own memories, and pass them along to your loved ones.

High quality, and often, artisan-crafted German Christmas traditional items like nutcrackers, ornaments, religious items and toys, toys, toys are iconic symbols of Christmas for the young and young at heart. You are going to want to buy the unparalleled handmade glass ornaments and you are going to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how and if you can get them home safely. Sheepskin slippers and mittens, and lots of boiled wool have a European design flair you don't find at home. Every market also has local specialties like the iconic blue and white china in Dresden, in everyday and Christmas designs.

If you haven’t restarted travel yet, the historic, traditional atmosphere of Germany's Christmas markets may be the best way to get back to the travel you love - and rediscover the magic of the holiday season.

#StartYourTrip!




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This New Museum in Oslo is a Real 'Scream'
Edvard Munch’s 'The Scream' is one of the most famously eery pieces of art in history, and it continues to disturb admirers today.

Now, MUNCH, a new museum and landmark architectural masterpiece on Oslo’s waterfront, has opened, with the world’s largest collection of works by the famed Norwegian artist. That includes several versions of Munch’s iconic work, The Scream, including an early study in pastel from 1893 and a later painted version from 1910.

More than 26,000 works bequeathed by the artist to the City of Oslo are housed in the massive museum with unparalleled views of the Oslo Fjord. It’s one of the world’s largest museums dedicated to a single artist.

11 exhibition halls feature not only versions of Munch’s most famous, disturbing work, but also over half of Munch’s known works, from paintings, prints, photographs, drawings and watercolours by the artist, ranging from 1873 to 1944, to monumental mural paintings like The Sun (1909), which stretches nearly 8 meters.

While Munch is best-known for The Scream, he also experimented with various media and techniques at the edge of modernism. In addition to the paintings, watercolours and woodblock prints for which he is best known, Munch bought a Kodak camera in 1902 and is recognized today as one of the first artists to experiment with self-portrait photography.

The museum’s collection also includes thousands of other items included in Edvard Munch’s original bequest to Oslo such as his printing plates and lithographic stones as well as thousands of letters and approximately 10,000 of the artist’s personal belongings.

Image: Munchmuseet

Alongside personal items and displays of iconic artworks from the renowned permanent collection, temporary exhibitions will show Edvard Munch’s lasting influence in his own contemporary society, as well as on today’s generation of artists.

In addition to gaining a deeper understanding of the highlights of Edvard Munch’s work and influence, visitors will get to enjoy a wide-ranging program of cultural events and experiences for art lovers of all ages, including concerts of all types of historic and ultra-modern music, literature readings, performance and art workshops.

That includes those interested in modern architecture and the transformation of the Oslo city skyline.

Image: Munchmuseet

Right on the edge of the Fjord and in the heart of Oslo’s city life on the water, MUNCH was designed and created in homage to Edvard Munch’s connection to the Norwegian landscape and his habit of painting outdoors in all seasons.

The top floor opens up into an observation area, offering some of Oslo’s most spectacular views. The perforated, translucent aluminium façade reflects the changing colours and conditions of the Oslo skies. Visitors can also enjoy dining in the 13th floor restaurant with views overlooking the city and Fjord.

A can’t-miss destination on your next trip to the Norwegian capital.

#StartYourTrip!

All images courtesy MUNCH






8 Top Features to Look For in an All-Inclusive Resort
The days are getting shorter, the skies are getting duller, and the temperature’s dropping. That’s our cue to start thinking about a beach vacation.

Many people are deciding to 'splash out' on their next vacations and really treat themselves to the very best version of their dream trip. 

That’s where your trusted travel advisor can really add value to your vacation.

We recommend dreaming big! Pick the features that appeal most to you, and work with your trusted travel advisor to help match your top features with an ideal destination and design your best beach vacation ever.

Your travel advisor can also help make sure you are fully up-to-date on the current travel requirements for your next sun and sand holiday.

Here’s our list of some of the top requested features of an all-inclusive resort vacation. Which of these features would make your all-inclusive holiday dreams come true?

Swim-Up Bar

For many of us, our first drink at a swim up bar - whether it’s a margarita, a mudslide or a mojito - is the moment we feel 'Ah!' I’m on vacation. It’s one of the most popular features of beach resorts - but not every resort in the tropics has one.

Generally speaking, the more pools a resort has, the more likely it is to have one with a swim-up bar.

Adults-Only Pools and Other Areas

Speaking of pools, if you don’t like your swim time interrupted by pool noodles, splashing and high-decibel shrieks, it’s time to consider an adults-only resort - or at least one with adults-only areas. That could include not only pools, but lounge areas, sections of the beach, bars and restaurants.

That way, kids can be kids and grown ups can get their rest in, too. Or playtime, because sometimes adults like to have grown up fun. And more adult behavior can have its place without having to worry about being improper in front of someone’s kids - or getting a glare from disapproving parents.

Multi-generational Family Time

Some resorts make a concerted effort to cater to all generations, especially those who travel together.

That can come in the form of adult-and kid areas, where everyone, from parents, grandparents, child-free aunts and uncles, and kids, can all have their own versions of a great tropical vacation.

It can also be different types of accommodation, from connecting rooms or suites with separate sleeping quarters but shared living areas, even to private villas.

The Beach

Some sun-lovers enjoy spending their entire holiday at the pool. But for others, they haven’t really been on vacation unless they’re in the sea.

While most resorts have access to waterfront, not all beaches are created equal. Do you want to be on a long strip of a famous beach that goes for miles? Or have access to a smaller, secluded - even private - beach? Must it be a silky, sand beach or are pebbles ok?

Do you need to see the beach from your room’s balcony? Or are you satisfied to have a 10+ minute walk or ride to a distant beach at a very large property?

If the beach is important to you, these are the questions to ask yourself.

On-site Watersports and other Activities

How active a vacation do you want? Do you want to rent jet-skis? Go snorkeling? Play tennis every day? If an active vacation - or lots of time in the water - is your idea of the perfect vacation, your best bet is a resort that already has lots of activities on the property so you have easy access to your favorite activities.

Multiple Included Restaurants

If you’re a foodie, an all-inclusive with just one buffet might not be up to your standards. Fine dining and multiple international cuisines are increasingly available at all-inclusives throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and other short-haul tropical destinations.

Make sure to ask your travel advisor if all the specialty restaurants are included, or what the costs of specialty dining is.

Bonus Question for the Super-Savvy: are there any restaurants with air conditioning? Not everyone soaks in the tropical heat with equal pleasure. Some of us just can’t enjoy dinner in a restaurant that isn’t air-conditioned.

Spa and Wellness


Almost all resorts at least have the facilities to get a massage, but after that, your wellness travel experience varies widely.

Some have extravagant spas with huts on the beach, where your massage is accompanied by the sounds of the waves and the smell of sea breezes.

Others have daily, scenic, included yoga, pilates, and other sessions for physical and spiritual well being. There are also some resorts with spa menus so those committed to returning from vacation even healthier than when they left can embrace health throughout the day.

Work-from-anywhere Services


A trend that started before the pandemic is now here to stay. More and more resorts have created an environment for those who are able to work and travel at the same time.

From enhanced internet, to live-work accommodations and packages, to private rooms where you can book quiet virtual meetings… if you are joining the ranks of digital nomads, there are all-inclusive resorts that you can call 'home' - until you want to move on again!

Treating Yourself to Upgrades


For a really special treat, let your fantasies of beach vacations run wild: private villa with your own splash pool? Overwater bungalow? Butler Service? It’s all available for that unforgettable beach vacation.


#StartYourTrip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV




Vienna's New Rooftop Bars
Austria’s capital city is famous as a cradle of classical music and high culture, for its skyline shaped by Hapsburg palaces, the Opera House and city symbol Giant Ferris Wheel, for tastes and experiences like chocolate/apricot Sacher Torte and coffee house culture, and even the renowned, high-performing and high-stepping, gleaming white Lipizzaner horses.
 
You may have been to Vienna before, but no matter how many times you’ve been to a city, seeing it from above gives you a whole new perspective.
 
That’s why the string of new rooftop bars in the city on the Danube river – with stunning design and inspiring food and beverage experiences - is so exciting for those of us planning Danube river cruises or guided trips to Central Europe soon.
 
Plan for daytime snacks or late-day drinks in at least one of these ‘elevated’ bars with a view!

mariatrink: Laid-back music
 
This is the most musical of Vienna’s new rooftop bars. Jaz in the City Vienna, located in the city’s sixth district of Mariahilf, is the third hotel in the German hotel chain’s portfolio. The view, if not the music, will make your heart skip a beat.
 
(Photo credit: Jaz in the City Vienna)

Contemporary design is the backdrop to an immersive music theme. The lobby recreates a record shop vibe, and the rooftop, mariatrink bar has the feel of a luxuriant jazz club, with velvet seating, innovative cocktails and regional dishes. But few jazz clubs can boast mariatrink’s real claim to fame: the panoramic views of Vienna.

 
Kindred Spirits Rooftop Bar: Drinks with Views of the Prater
 
Playtime at Vienna’s beloved Prater park… followed by smart drinks at the rooftop bar overlooking it. The boutique Hotel Zoku Vienna opened in June 2021, and its amusement-park-adjacent location is symbolic of its focus: providing a venue for work-life balance. Its special home-office hybrid solution appeals to working road warriors.

(Photo credit: Ewout Huibers Photography & Concrete)

At the top of the building, the Living Kitchen Rooftop Restaurant and Kindred Spirits Rooftop Bar are ideal for a laid-back lunch or after-work drink with a focus on Austrian wine, spirits, and culinary artisans, while soaking in the 360-degree views of Vienna. After dusk, the attractions at the Prater amusement park below twinkle like a sea of colored lights, illuminating the entire atmosphere.

 
 
MQ Libelle: Viennese Modernism and Rooftop Views
 
It only opened mid-pandemic during the summer of 2020, but it’s already the most popular rooftop bar in Vienna. MQ Libelle (libelle means dragonfly) is perched on top of the roof of the Leopold Museum, home to Vienna’s leading museum of Viennese Modernism (pictured, top). The museum has the world’s largest Egon Schiele collection.
 
And architecturally speaking the MQ Libelle is a work of art itself. Two of Austria’s most prominent artists were responsible for designing the main elements of the terrace, glass wall, and iconic lighting elements. The drinks and epicurean hotspot is also a new space for art and cultural projects in its own right.

 
 
360° Ocean Sky: a Zoo With a View
 
Everything about this rooftop bar has a fascinating story. The 360° Ocean Sky is a spectacular rooftop bar and all-day and –evening modern restaurant with pride of place on top of the House of Sea. Whisked to the rooftop in a panoramic elevator, guests enjoy eye-catching drinks overhead, while brightly colored exotic fish shimmer in the waters of the aquarium below.
 
The building itself is located in a WW2 flak tower that – by its very nature soars above the surrounding buildings, providing fantastic views in every direction.


IKEA at Westbahnhof Station
 
Your Saturday morning runs to IKEA at home may be more utilitarian, maybe with some Swedish meatballs as a treat.
 
But in Vienna, right next to the Westbahnhof railway station, IKEA has opened a ‘hus’ social hub complete with green façade and a rooftop terrace that’s open to the public with no obligation to buy a Billy Bookcase or even one of the items on the vegetarian menu.

 (Photo credit: Ikea)

Seventy fully-grown trees in giant planters punctuate the space that has a fantastic view over Vienna.

 

Coming Soon:

 
Chez Bernard Restaurant et Bar: Sustainable and Stunning
 
The Hotel Motto is scheduled to open in Fall 2021, with a combination of 1920’s Parisian charm, contemporary Viennese lifestyle and Scandi-chic design.
 
Its rooftop Chez Bernard Restaurant et Bar is flooded with natural light that supports the lush greenery spread across two floors under a striking glass dome. Organic French and North-African cuisine, locally-roasted coffee beans and signature beer brewed from leftover bread from the in-house bakery – along with the views – make this a one-of-a-kind experience.

 
Parliamentary Proceedings with a Twist
 
The late-19th-century Austrian Parliament, one of the most important buildings on Vienna’s Ringstrasse, will unveil a modern rooftop restaurant of its own in 2022.

(Credit: Parlamentsdirektion / András Pálffy, Ortfried Friedreich und Christian Jabornegg)

It’s part of a huge refurbishment project at the Parliament. Once complete, visitors will be able to enjoy previously unseen views over Vienna’s historic city center from four outdoor terraces. An area with table service, a self-service section and a bistro are all planned. The menu will include a mix of traditional Viennese cuisine and international dishes.

Start Your Trip!


Images Courtesy of the rightsholders as noted and the Vienna Tourist Board

Top image: MQ Libelle: WienTourismus/David Payr / MQ Libelle




3 Million Lights for 101 Nights of Niagara Falls' Festival of Lights this Winter
This holiday season will be the brightest ever in the most popular tourist attraction in Canada – and one that conveniently spans the border with the U.S. - just as the land border between the neighboring countries is set to be open in both directions.
 
Beginning in mid-November and running 101 nights all the way to late February 2022, Canada’s largest, free outdoor light festival will take place. It’s the longest Ontario Power Generation Winter Festival of Lights of its 40-year history, designed to keep spirits bright throughout the darkest days of the year.
 
With over 3 million lights and over 75 spectacular displays providing colourful visuals, Niagara Falls will be transformed into a twinkling winter wonderland along the Niagara Parkway, Dufferin Islands and across the tourism districts. Visitors to this popular annual festival can bundle up and walk or drive through the Festival route to explore the outdoor, socially distanced, self-guided experience. 

 (Above and top photos: Niagara Falls Tourism)

That’s of course in addition to the nightly, colorful illumination of the Canadian side, Horseshoe Falls. The lights in the winter takes on a fantasy appearance as mist generated by the torrents of falling water freeze as they rise up into the air, creating natural and other-worldly ice sculptures clinging to the Falls.
 
You may even want to take more than one trip to Niagara Falls for the 2021-22 OPG Winter Festival of Lights. The Festival will be presented in two parts.
 
From November 13, 2021 – January 9, 2022 over Christmas and New Years, the Festival features favourite 3D animal and holiday themed displays, including the popular Dufferin Islands loop within Niagara Parks. 20 new displays introduced in 2020 will return, including a giant gingerbread house, 20-foot polar bear and fairy tale castle, plus 8 new displays for 2021.
 
Then from January 10 - February 21, 2022, spanning Valentine’s Day, the new, second half of the Festival showcases winter wonderland and love-themed displays. 3D animals from Dufferin Islands will magically appear in other parts of the tourism district, and holiday themed displays will be replaced with new illuminations.
 
Two maps – one for each part of the Festival of Lights – are available on the Winter Festival of Lights website so you can plan your trip – or trips – to take in the change in displays during the entire, extended Festival period.
 

New Light Show Dramatically Illustrates the Other Side of the Falls

 
This winter season may be the perfect time to discover the illuminated magic of Niagara Falls. The city has just opened another fascinating attraction with its own, celebrated light show.
 
The Niagara Parks Power Station is a new landmark attraction just south of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls that opened late summer. It pays homage to the incredible power of the water that flows over the Falls - and how the Falls have benefitted residents on both sides of the border, in addition to Niagara Falls’ place as one of the Natural Wonders of the World.
 
The first major power plant on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, the Niagara Parks Power Station was completed in 1905 to produce hydroelectricity by leveraging the power of the six million cubic feet of water that surge through the Niagara River and over the Falls every minute. Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side is the most powerful waterfall on the continent. 
 
Beyond its stunning architectural features and landscape design, the power station was one of the first in the world to undertake a major tunnel project, with water entering the structure and dropping 180 feet before being expelled into a 2,000 foot tunnel that emptied into the lower Niagara River, right at the base of the Horseshoe Falls.
 
An engineering and architectural marvel, the station’s generators were the largest of their kind. Power generated from the Niagara Parks Power Station was used to service Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, New York, and the plant remained in operation over one hundred years, until 2006 when it was decommissioned.
 
By day, visitors explore the preserved interior of the historic power station, transformed with new exhibits and guest amenities.

(Photo: Niagara Parks)
Each night, an immersive sight and sound experience “Currents: Niagara’s Power Transformed” brings the building’s story of transforming water to electricity to life. This immersive, family-friendly experience features incredible 3D projection, interactive moments of wonder, and a breathtaking musical score in the heart of the power station.
 
The dramatic light show at the Niagara Parks Power Station - as well as the newly-extended Festival of Lights - will brighten any traveler’s winter.
 

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This Entire Caribbean Island is now a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
This small French Caribbean island is known as the Isle of Flowers, the Rum Capital of the World, and now, its land mass, along with the marine zone around it, has become an over 12-million acre globally recognized eco-reserve.

Martinique has been inducted into UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program, so now over 5% of the Earth’s landmass is recognized for conservation of biodiversity, environmental education research, and sustainable development. The organization describes Martinique as “the 12th biosphere reserve along the volcanic arc of the Caribbean, one of the world’s 35 biodiversity hotspots. Its richness is unique, as it includes many endemic species living in rare and endangered habitats.”

It adds how remarkable the French Caribbean island’s geology is, featuring the 4,583-foot Mount Pelée volcano (pictured above), sleeping ‘mornes’ (or small mountains) and a coastline of bays and coves. The rainforest covering the island’s foothills and the mangroves along its coastline demonstrate its vital role as part of an ecological corridor between the Americas.


The UNESCO Biosphere recognition also comes in part as acknowledgment of the island’s commitment to sustainable economic and social development while preserving their local natural and cultural wealth, which is a key element required for UNESCO recognition.

Fewer than 400,000 people live in Martinique, and most are involved in food production or tourism.
 
With all the infrastructure as an overseas region of France, Martinique’s unspoiled beaches, volcanic peaks, rainforests, waterfalls, streams, and other natural wonders are unparalleled in the Caribbean, giving visitors the best of both worlds, and making it the perfect destination for nature lovers.

Two-thirds of Martnique is protected parkland. Its warm, humid climate nurtures a vast array of vivid tropical blooms, as well as a hundred species of orchids, leading to its nickname as the Isle of Flowers.


Rainforest trees also abound. Mahogany, magnolias, and bamboo all tower as tall as more than 10 people, and yet are still dwarfed by Martinique’s yellow mangroves, chestnuts, and white palm trees, sea grapes, and manchineel trees.
 
An incredible 80+ miles of well-maintained hiking trails of differing levels take active visitors through beaches, bays, and mountain rainforests, through nature reserves and past lighthouses, up Mount Pelée volcano, and across coastal paths.


You can also experience Martinique’s extraordinary natural wonders by horseback, mountain bike, kayaking or canoeing excursion. For even more adrenaline, try canyoning, where you climb to the top of a waterfall, look down into the mists of the tumbling waters—and take an incredible leap into the void below. Or get a taste of its world-famous surfing scene.
 
There’s much more to Martinique than its magnificent tropical eco-experiences. You’ll use Euro as the local currency, and hear French spoken as the official language, but then Martinique’s unique qualities takeover, including Afro-Caribbean Creole character, cuisine, musical heritage, art, culture, everyday language and identity.

Start Your Trip!


Images courtesy of Martinique Tourism: https://us.martinique.org/

Sloths Named the New National Animal of this Central American Country
Slow-moving, sweet-faced and gentle sloths have taken the world by storm, becoming one of the most beloved creatures in popular culture in the last few years.

Formerly a synonym for laziness, sloths have become cultural darlings, with their famously adorable countenances that always seem to be smiling sweetly, 270-degree, slow head rotations, ability to hold their breath underwater for over half an hour, and a digestive system that takes days to process food. Sloth encounters have famously turned celebrities to tears, and have become among the top requested travel experiences.

Now, two of the six types of sloths in the world today have become national symbols of Costa Rica: the Two-Toed Sloth and the Three-Toed Brown Sloth. The country made the announcement ahead of world-wide International Sloth Day on October 20th.

 
According to The Costa Rica News, while signing the new law, Costa Rica’s president proclaimed, “I celebrate the new national symbol: the sloth, the friendly and peaceful animal that is an international benchmark for animal protection.”
 
Another official explained the move “sends a clear message to our society and the entire world, that our social pact with the environment is not reduced to the simple protection of large areas of land, but also shelters the species that live there.” Nearly 30% of the country is protected as a nature park or reserve.
 
Now, areas around known sloth habitats will be protected, and traffic slowed to reduce harm to the adorable, slow-moving creatures who are not able to walk, but pull themselves in slow-motion across the ground.
 
The country’s residents see a connection between the sloth’s easy-going, relaxed lifestyle, spending most of its time swinging gently from tree limbs, to the peaceful, Costa Rican ‘Pura Vida’ mindset which focuses on a living life with little stress and instead, enriching the mind, body and soul. 
 
Even prior to its adoption as national animal, sloths were already among the best-known animals that visitors from North America look forward to spotting on a visit to Costa Rica.

Responsible Sloth Spotting in Costa Rica


Of the six sloth species in the world, Costa Rica is home to two unendangered subspecies – the Two-Toed Sloth and Three-Toed Brown Sloth, which are both typically spotted in tree canopies around the country.
 
While sloths can be spotted all throughout Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio National Park, Limón, Monteverde, the Osa Peninsula, Arenal, and Tortuguero are great places to start.
 
But spotting a sloth in the wild can be a challenge. Although they have few natural defenses, sloths can be hard to spot as their fur blends in well with the branches they hang from.