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3 New, Impossibly Picturesque Boutique Hotels That Make it Easy to Dream About Your Next Trip to Europe

France. Italy. Spain. If you’re imagining traveling again to Europe, you’ll have no problem picturing yourself in any of three independent boutique hotels that have just opened in spectacular historic properties.

All three belong to the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group of over 500 independent and unique hotels in 90 countries. They all have special character and offer themes that are even more relevant in the new world of travel: small size, privacy, and locations that allow guests to get away from crowds of tourists. 


Milan, Italy

Galleria Vik Milano is part hotel, part post-modern art gallery, immersing guests in Milan’s rich artistic heritage. With bold murals, striking sculptures and a colourful palette, this 88-room hotel is a canvas for Milan’s creative side.


The hotel is located inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and is circled by Milan’s best-loved shops, landmarks, restaurants and galleries. Get your culinary, cultural or couture fix – it’s all literally on your hotel doorstep – then easily escape into your lifestyle hotel.


Both guest rooms and public areas are exhibition spaces with each bearing the hallmark of a renowned artist. Two restaurants, one with dawn-to-dusk food and drinks, the other dedicated to wood-fired pizza, complete your escape from the busy urban surroundings. Fully committed to the marriage of art and life, the hotel has no TV’s or screens. 

Don’t-miss feature: The Adriano Pompa Gallery Suite offers a mezzanine-level bed beneath a Renaissance-esque mural.


Loire Valley, France

If you’ve ever imagined living like the nobility of old France in their chateaux in the Loire Valley, that dream can become a reality in this 49-room hotel. While Les Sources de Cheverny (pictured, top) evokes historic times, guests enjoy modern comforts of luxury French country life.


Everything from the local produce served in the restaurant, the artisanal wooden WaterRower fitness machines, the solid oak jacuzzi and thermal pool, to the antioxidant and anti-aging grape seed extracts of Caudalie’s signature treatments in the Spa des Sources complements the surrounding farms, vineyards and the estate’s 45 hectares of woodland.
 
Here guests can rejuvenate in the spa, inspire energy with a forest-based yoga session, bathe in nature and feed their minds.

Don’t-miss feature: Discover the region on the Loire à Velo cycle route with the hotel’s complimentary bikes. Meander through more than 900km of cycle paths through Loire vineyards, along the banks of the river and past the region’s glorious Renaissance chateaux.


Matarraña, Spain

Torre del Marques is a 15th-century farmhouse that has been brought back to life for the 21st-century and beyond. The intimate, 18-room hotel is in 150 hectares of forest, farmland and vineyards in Aragon, a region of Spain. While it’s easily accessible from Barcelona, many tourists have yet to discover the area sometimes referred to as the ‘Spanish Tuscany’.


Guests of the hotel can enjoy the bounties of the region, including local delicacies surrounded by the gardens and groves that provide them - olives, almonds, honey and black truffles are showcased on the menu alongside local wines like Tempranillo and grape must Mistella.


The hotel has undergone a bio-sustainable makeover with families and small groups in mind. The Suite Room spaciously accommodates four people with two connecting rooms and an outdoor terrace.
 Don’t-miss feature: the organic, ‘zero-kilometre’ restaurant.
 

We can picture a dream escape in luxury to one of Europe’s most beloved destinations in any of these three new boutique hotels.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
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These 'Hotels' are Full of 'Guests' Throughout Pandemic - Part of Fairmont's 'Bee Sustainable' Program
The global pandemic closed the doors of nearly every hotel in the world. But thousands of very special ‘guests’ at some Fairmont hotels stayed.
Some have even been ‘residents’ for years.

'HOME SWEET HIVE'

In 2008, the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto and Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver installed honey beehives. These two urban hotels may not seem likely places for apiaries. But the thriving hives made headlines, raising awareness of the importance of bees to our world, as well as producing honey for (human) guests, and highlighting local products and food.
Fast forward over ten years, and other Fairmont properties have joined the ‘Bee Sustainable’ initiative, from the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle and Fairmont San Francisco, to Fairmont Yangcheng Lake in China and Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club in Africa. Onsite local honey produced replaces purchased honey in the hotels’ bars and restaurants. Six rooftop honey beehives at the Royal York alone – home to 350,000 bees - are producing 450 pounds of honey every year.
Every hotel’s honey is one-of-a-kind, tasting of the nectars of dozens of indigenous flowers from humble dandelions to cherry blossoms. And the bees do double duty, foraging up to 12 square miles, pollinating area gardens and parks as they visit over 1 million flowers for every pound of honey they produce. 

WILD BEE 'HOTELS'

Not all bees produce honey. But all bees are essential pollinators.
So Fairmont broadened its groundbreaking Bee Sustainable program in 2014, building and installing wild bee ‘hotels’. These wooden structures feature sticks drilled with holes to attract wild bees in the area in need of a safe haven.
Now, millions of bees call Fairmont hotels ‘home’. Nearly two dozen honey bee hives, and a similar number of wild pollinator bee hotels grace the grounds and rooftops and terraces of Fairmont hotels around the world:

CANADA

  • Fairmont Royal York - Toronto
  • Fairmont Waterfront -Vancouver
  • Fairmont Chateau Whistler
  • Fairmont Empress - Victoria
  • Fairmont Vancouver Airport
  • Fairmont Le Château Frontenac - Québec City
  • Fairmont Palliser - Calgary
  • Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth - Montréal
 

USA

  • Fairmont San Francisco - San Francisco
  • Fairmont Washington D.C.
  • Fairmont Copley Plaza- Boston
  • Fairmont San Jose
  • Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa - Sonoma, USA
  • Fairmont Dallas
  • Fairmont Olympic Hotel – Seattle
  • Fairmont Orchid - Hawaii
 

INTERNATIONAL

  • Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda
  • Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club - Mount Kenya, Kenya
  • Fairmont Mayakoba - Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
  • Fairmont Le Montreux Palace - Montreux, Switzerland
  • Fairmont Yangcheng - LakeSuzhou, China
  • Fairmont Beijing - China
 
Bees have also become part of their hotels’ guest experiences over the years, from culinary and cocktail menu items, beekeeper courses and packages, garden and bee tours, honey tastings, and special gift items.

BEE SUSTAINABLE

Fairmont has even opened a bee hotel at parent company Accor’s global HQ in Paris. The Bee Sustainable program is a cornerstone of the company’s commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable tourism.
The program works with the Pollinator Partnership, an organization dedicated to protecting and promoting pollinators and their ecosystems – not just bees, but also the birds, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other creatures whose pollination efforts produce one out of every three bites of food we eat.
In that way, Bee Sustainable isn’t just about sustainable tourism and supporting local foods in Fairmont hotels. The company says supporting bee habitats is part of its commitment to hotel communities, food production and the economy, noting that bees pollinate 1,000 of the 1,200 crop varieties that provide 80% of human food worldwide and contribute billions of dollars to the US economy alone.
That’s the big picture, and Fairmont is also encouraging everyone to support bees in your own backyard just as Fairmont hotels support bees on their properties. Families and nature lovers will It sells mini bee hotels at fairmontstore.com – a perfect way for nature lovers to get involved, and for families to learn more about bees at home.
 
You can also learn more about the Fairmont Bee Sustainable program and the importance of honeybees and wild bees at fairmontbeesustainable.com.
 

#DREAMNOWTRAVELSOON


Images courtesy Fairmont

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This Company is Sending a Local Hero - and their Nominating Travel Advisor - On a Life-Changing Trip to Africa
Until June 30th, travel advisors can nominate a person from their community they feel deserves recognition.

Courtesy of African Travel Inc., a sister travel company to luxury Insight Vacations, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Red Carnation Hotels among other outstanding travel providers, the chosen hero and their guest will receive the ultimate 8-night escape to South Africa and Botswana, experiencing Red Carnation’s Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa and the new Xigera Safari Lodge as well as the Chobe Game Lodge.
 
The advisor who nominates the winning hero will receive their own complimentary spot on an African Travel educational journey to South Africa, Kenya or Tanzania.

For over 40 years, African Travel has created luxury, handcrafted safaris ensuring immersive and authentic cultural encounters across the continent with exceptional service by local experts every step of the way.

(Chobe Game Lodge is an elegant, five-star, fully Ecotourism-certified safari lodge and the only property located inside the world-renowned Chobe National Park)

From now until June 30th, 2020, travel advisors can nominate a person who they feel deserves recognition for going above and beyond in their community. African Travel wants advisors to share their stories, whether it’s about an essential worker on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic or a co-worker helping their community heal.
 
Advisors nominate local heroes by briefly explaining how their hero has positively impacted the people, planet and wildlife in their local community, which reflects African Travel’s philosophy to TreadRight.
 
The TreadRight Foundation was established by The Travel Corporation’s family of brands, that includes African Travel, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, Trafalgar Tours, Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold, among others. The foundation sets the standard on sustainability for those travel companies, and executes its mission to #MakeTravelMatter.
 
TreadRight supports community-based projects worldwide that safeguard the planet, people and wildlife. To date, the foundation has supported 55+ sustainable tourism projects in 280+ communities worldwide, that have included WWF, Conservation International, WildAid and The National Trust in the UK, while current initiatives include WE.org, Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School, Wilderness Foundation Africa and Wildlife SOS. 
 
This contest is in gratitude for people’s efforts to make their communities better places, a theme especially powerful during COVID, which has reinforced how ‘we are all in this together as a travel family’.
 
Advisors can nominate a hero by completing the online form here.
 
African Travel will shortlist the top 10 heroes and host a poll July 13-23rd, 2020 for the travel community to choose the deserving hero.
 

Nominations close June 30th.


Don’t miss this opportunity to reward a deserving local hero!

 
 
 
 
 





Canada's Iconic 'Castle and Cabin' Western Mountain Hotels Re-Open
June 1st was the 132nd birthday of the iconic Banff Springs Hotel, and this year, the date marked another milestone: the re-opening of the four Fairmont Hotels in Canada’s Western Mountain region following a nearly two-month pandemic shutdown.
Fairmont Banff Springs is joined by its sister hotels in Canada’s western mountains Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise, Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Fairmount Jasper Park Lodge, which are also re-opening with new measures for guest and staff protection including physical distancing, new cleaning and disinfecting protocols, 48-hour periods between guests in rooms, and temporary changes to amenities like restaurants and spas.


Historic and Legendary

Canada’s ‘Castle Hotels’ are part of a string of luxury properties in epic wilderness and central downtown locations across the country. Today they are part of the Fairmont family of world wide landmark hotels. But they were originally built as railway hotels at the most scenic, or most important urban locations along Canada’s cross-country railroad. Styled with a vision of French chateaux in many cases, today’s Fairmont hotels in Canada are legendary.
Four hotels in Canada’s spectacular Western mountain resort regions are the first Fairmont hotels to re-open in Canada.
The setting for adventures in the wilderness, celebrations, milestones, romance, and many more unforgettable memories, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and the Fairmont Chateau Whistler are spectacular mountain playgrounds.

Magic Every Season 

At any time of the year, experience breathtaking moments in the mountains, in some cases, in the heart of some of Canada’s oldest National Parks, amidst glacier-fed spas, panoramic vantage points, and charming mountain towns. Discover breathtaking views of vast mountain ranges on a gondola ride. Get a glimpse of the bears, elk, deer or bighorn sheep that may live nearby.
Collectively, Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise and Whistler are renowned for being among the world’s best alpine ski destinations, where endless winter activity extends beyond your usual experiences on the slopes: the exhilaration of heli-skiing and dog sledding, the pristine backcountry scenery of cross-country skiing, and the romance of horse-drawn sleigh rides and ice-skating.
Summers at these mountain resorts celebrate the joys of alpine hiking and ziplining, fishing and canoeing, retracing the steps of early adventurers up tall peaks and through deep canyons, not to mention championship golf on a lush mountainside.
 

The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Canada’s original ‘Castle in the Rockies’, located in the heart of Banff National Park only 90 minutes from Calgary, Alberta, the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel reflects the majesty and grandeur of its magnificent surroundings and features:
 
·     Nearly 800 guest rooms from cozy rooms tucked away in quiet corners of the castle to spacious suites with sweeping Rocky Mountain views
·     A dozen restaurants and lounges, including a 24-hour deli offering seasonal fare
·     Direct access via ski shuttle to three world-class ski areas: Mt. Norquay, Sunshine Village, Lake Louise Ski Area
·     Championship golf at Stanley Thompson–designed 18-hole and Tunnel 9-hole golf courses
·     Willow Stream Spa
·     Shops and boutiques
·     Indoor/outdoor pool, hot tub and children’s wading pool
 

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

One of the most iconic images of Canada is the castle form of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise against the breathtaking backdrop of turquoise waters and mountain peaks of its namesake lake in Banff National Park. For over a century, the Chateau has been a symbol of elegance in the wilderness 2 hours from Calgary, and today features:
 
·     Progressive environmental stewardship and responsible tourism in its natural setting
·     Guided Mountain Heritage programs
·     Hiking, canoeing, horseback riding and rafting in the summer, or
·     Downhill and cross-country skiing, heli-skiing and ice-skating in the winter
·     Nearly 600 alpine accented guest rooms and suites
·     8 restaurants and lounges, including 24-hour deli
·     Health club, indoor pool and hot tub; salon with spa treatments
 

The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Deep within the Canadian Rockies, in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Fairmont
Jasper Park Lodge is one of the last authentic Western Canadian lodges in a charming village of cedar chalets and heritage log cabins lakeside with views of majestic mountain glaciers and features:
 
·     Some of the best alpine skiing in the world 20 minutes away at Marmot Basin
·     #1 Golf Resort in Canada just outside your cabin door in the mountains
·     Abundance of wildlife experiences, icefield hiking, ice skating on the lake, canoeing or kayaking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing,
·     Rejuvenation at the luxurious Fairmont Spa
·     Year-round heated outdoor pool and hot tub
·     Local cuisine in 7 unique restaurants and dining rooms and unique outdoor settings
·     Kids’ Club and Children’s Activity Centre
·     446 guest rooms, suites and Signature Cabins
 
 

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler

At the base of British Columbia’s famous Blackcomb Mountain and only 90 minutes from Vancouver, The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is one of North America’s top mountain playgrounds and features:
 
·     Spectacular mountain or village views from each of 550 elegant guest rooms and suites
·     True ski-in/ski-out convenience
·     Championship golf at Canada’s only David Leadbetter Golf Academy
·     Year round alpine activities including mountain hiking and charming sleigh rides
·     Full-service spa, health club, including whirlpools, indoor/outdoor pools, sauna and steam rooms
·     5 unique restaurants and lounges, including famous après-ski and happy-hour gatherings
 
Whatever season you choose to visit any one of these magical mountain hotels, the sheer beauty of the landscape and the epic hotels nestled in the mountains will captivate you.
 

Start Your Trip!


Images courtesy Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
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Travel Companies Offering Free Vacations to Frontline Workers - and How You Can Get Involved
We’ve already reported some of the hotels and hotel chains offering complimentary hotel stays to essential workers in their own towns. The hospitality of these hotels gives frontline workers a comfortable place to stay between gruelling shifts, while keeping their families safely isolated at home during the COVID pandemic.
Now some travel companies have taken generosity and recognition a step further.
In gratitude, and awareness of the toll that work on the frontlines of the fight against the global pandemic is taking on these devoted professionals, hotel, resort, river cruise and airlines have begun offering essential workers free or discounted vacations once conditions permit travel again.
Here are some of our favorite travel companies enabling frontline workers to take holidays to recharge and reconnect with loved ones.
If you’re reading this, you likely believe in the power of travel, too, and these initiatives include ways for you to help frontline workers in your community benefit from a vacation when we are able to travel again.

Karisma Hotels & Resorts

Nominate a frontline worker for a free, all-inclusive beach getaway

Karisma Hotels & Resorts is running a ‘Holidays for Your Heroes’ initiative, providing 150 luxury, all-inclusive resort stays for essential workers and their families.
The recipients of the 150 vacations will be selected from nominations. Anyone can nominate an essential worker with a simple explanation of what makes them so deserving. Workers can also nominate themselves.
Nominations are accepted at www.karismahotels.com/holidays-for-your-heroes#nominate until June 30, 2020.
The lucky 150 nominees will be chosen in July, and will receive a complimentary 5-day stay for up to 5 family members (2 adults and 3 children).
Once travel restrictions are lifted, the recipients will receive a stay at one of Karisma’s beach properties from across its portfolio of brands for either a romantic stay or a family getaway. Options include El Dorado Royale, A Spa Resort by Karisma; Azul Beach Resort Negril, by Karisma in Jamaica; the family-friendly Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic; and the newly opened Margaritaville Island Reserve Riviera Cancun.

(Karisma's El Dorado Maroma, Riviera Maya, Mexico)
Stays include gourmet food and beverages, 24-hour room service and a full-service concierge in addition to a wide variety of watersports, live entertainment, spas, fitness centers, yoga, dance, cooking and mixology classes, language lessons, and supervised programs for kids and teens.
You can do more than nominate a deserving essential worker. If you’re feeling generous and want to participate more, the program also allows anyone to sponsor a vacation for a frontline worker. Karisma will allocate 100% of donated funds to providing a gift of a vacation - at cost - to a frontline worker and family.

AmaWaterways

Frontline workers sail free on a river cruise

The river cruise line has unveiled its program supporting medical, first responder and essential workers who are eligible to register for a complimentary Future Cruise Certificate. 
Once river cruise travel resumes, the certificate can be used with one paying guest in the same stateroom for any of the line’s Europe or Asia sailings through the end of 2021, for reservations made within 90 days of the sailing date.

 
In tandem with the complimentary cruise-only offer, AmaWaterways is also extending a book now option to those eager to reconnect with family and friends and reserve their 2021 journey to any AmaWaterways destination: sailing Europe’s Danube, Rhine, Moselle, Main, Rhône, Seine, Garonne, Dordogne, Dutch and Belgian Waterways and Douro Rivers, Southeast Asia’s Mekong, Africa’s Chobe River and Egypt’s Nile River (beginning in 2021, pictured). The book now option offers hundreds of dollars in savings plus complimentary pre-paid tips.
AmaWaterways also acknowledges the role travel agents play in their communities, and recognizes that they will know personally friends, family and clients who are frontline workers. It allows travel agents to apply for Future Cruise Certificates on behalf of frontline worker clients by visiting AmaWaterways.com/Hero.
 

Hyatt Hotels and American Airlines

Friends & Family Rates and free vacations for healthcare workers

Hyatt Hotels Corporation has teamed up with American Airlines to show their appreciation for the work of thousands of healthcare professionals in the heart of the pandemic storm. Together, they’re providing all 4000 staff members of one of the hardest-hit hospitals in New York City with roundtrip American Airlines flights to Hyatt hotels for 3-night, complimentary vacations in the US and Caribbean. 
It marks the largest total flights ever provided to an organization by American Airlines, and the two companies hope to be able to extend the program further.
In addition, in response to messages from loyalty club members interested in helping, Hyatt is permitting you to donate your points to support the initiative, saying, “Your World of Hyatt points contribution will help support our commitment of providing complimentary vacations for select healthcare workers and a guest—giving them something to look forward to.”

(Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, Bahamas, above and top)
And it’s welcoming healthcare workers around the world into the Hyatt family by extending the hotels’ Friends & Family rate to them through June 30, 2021. Qualified healthcare workers can access the special rate using the Special Offer Code THANKYOU and validating their professional status.

#DreamNowTravelLater

 
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Revealed for the 1st Time: This Hotel’s Famous Cookie Recipe

Challenging times call for fresh-baked cookies. For your COVID-19 #StaySafeStayHome pleasure, a cookie recipe for all the home baking and snacking we hear everyone is enjoying during lock down.

Not just any cookie recipe. These are cookies of legend.

They are the welcoming treat so many guests of DoubleTree by Hilton look forward to when they check in. Receiving a paper sleeve of straight-from-the-oven warm sweet treats makes a hotel stay at one of the company’s nearly 600 hotels in almost 50 countries feel a lot like coming home.
DoubleTree cookies have a long history and - no surprise - an avid fan following. More than 30 million cookies are eaten every year, and copycat recipes have been circulating on the internet.
They are also the first cookies baked in space! The hotel chain partnered provided the recipe for its world-renowned cookies to test cooking equipment for space on the International Space Station.
Travel on earth may be grounded. But now, DoubleTree by Hilton’s beloved cookies can continue to put smiles on faces. For the first time, they’re sharing the official bake-at-home recipe for the chocolate chip cookie so at-home bakers can create the warm and comforting treat in our own kitchens. 
“We know this is an anxious time for everyone,” said a spokesperson for DoubleTree by Hilton. “A warm chocolate chip cookie can’t solve everything, but it can bring a moment of comfort and happiness.”
 

DoubleTree Signature Cookie Recipe

Makes 26 cookies

½ pound / 225 grams butter, softened (2 sticks)
¾ cup + 1 tablespoon / 165 grams granulated sugar
¾ cup packed / 150 grams light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 ¼ teaspoons / 6.25 mL vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon / 1.25 mL freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 ¼ cups / 280 grams flour
1/2 cup / 45 grams rolled oats
1 teaspoon / 6 grams baking soda
1 teaspoon / 6 grams salt
Pinch cinnamon
2 2/3 cups / 465 grams semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 3/4 cups / 220 grams chopped walnuts 
 
  • Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes. 
  • Add eggs, vanilla and lemon juice, blending with mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, then medium speed for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl. 
  • With mixer on low speed, add flour, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, blending for about 45 seconds. Don’t overmix. 
  • Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
  • Portion dough with a scoop (about 3 tablespoons) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart. 
  • Preheat oven to 300°F.
  • Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, or until edges are golden brown and center is still soft. 
  • Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet for about 1 hour.
 
On the off-chance you haven’t just eaten all the dough or baked and enjoyed the full recipe of cookies all at once, they’ve even provided a tip so you can enjoy fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies for days.
 
You can freeze the unbaked cookies, and there’s no need to thaw. Preheat oven to 300°F and place frozen cookies on parchment paper-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake until edges are golden brown and center is still soft.
 
The Doubletree spokesperson says, “We hope families enjoy the fun of baking together during their time at home, and we look forward to welcoming all our guests with a warm DoubleTree cookie when travel resumes.”


#DreamNowTravelLater


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When a destination’s nickname is ‘The Rock’, you don’t expect a warm and cozy place. Newfoundland is the eastern most point in North America, the vanguard of the continent where it faces into the North Atlantic waters and winds that once brought Vikings and still bring icebergs to its shores.  
In this dramatic setting and tough climate, only the strong survive. Newfoundlanders are tough survivors, but the opposite to their stark environment with famously welcoming, colorful, charming, musical and comedic culture.
The ponies that Newfoundlanders brought over from Northern Europe developed the same characteristics over 400 years, until they became their own breed of tough, sweet, sure-footed and gentle ponies.
Nearly extinct only couple of decades ago, Newfoundland Ponies are now, along with Newfoundland dogs, the animal symbol of the province, and a special treat to meet ‘in person’.
BestTrip TV met these Newfoundland Ponies at The Doctor's House Inn & Spa, an hour away from the province’s capital of St. John’s. The graceful Tudor-style mansion occupies 100 acres of oceanfront Newfoundland terrain with breathtaking views of Trinity Bay. 
Converted into an inn with charming rooms, acclaimed fine dining, one of the most beautiful private gardens on the island, walking trails, luxury spa and an event venue in the restored barn, it’s become not only a country retreat and hub for visitors to explore the region, it’s also become a world famous wedding destination.
Warm Newfoundland hospitality at The Doctor’s House Inn & Spa includes the welcome of sheep, goats, chickens, ducks… and a small herd of now-rare Newfoundland Ponies. They add a ‘Newfoundland theme’ to weddings, drawing the bridal couple in carts.
Not only picture perfect, but irresistible, too. 
 

#DreamNowTravelLater




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And Now For Some Good News In Travel We hope you are well and keeping yourself, your family and your community safe by staying at home. Now, more than ever, we all really need some good news. read more
The Hotel with the Best Views of Buenos Aires
They call Buenos Aires the ‘Paris of South America’. Historic neighborhoods of elegant, whitewashed buildings with ornate wrought iron trim, its reputation as the global capital of theater with 280 theaters, more than any other city in the world, and the world’s biggest boulevard, lined, like the grand boulevards of France’s capital, with monumental buildings… all add up to a distinctly European feel in Argentina’s capital city. 

The hotel with the very best view of Buenos Aires has to be the Hotel Panamericano Buenos Aires, with its prime location on July 9 Avenue. Called the world’s biggest boulevard, July 9 Avenue commemorates the country’s independence day and stretches 3 km long, and a whopping 18 lanes across!

The Panamericano hotel’s twin towers are in postmodern architecture, but the hotel still manages to evoke the classic French style of this neighborhood of Buenos Aires, with black and white marble floors, wrought-iron railings and details like a grand, brass-trimmed entrance onto the breathtaking July 9 Avenue. 



(Paris meets South America: black and white and wrought iron railings; driftwood horses reminding guests of Argentina’s rich, ‘gaucho’ equestrian rancher lifestyle and lore).

At the same time, the Panamericano is true to its Argentine homeland, including one of BA’s most renowned restaurants serving wine and locally ranched beef, lamb from Patagonia and other uniquely Argentine flavors.



The Panamericano’s 23rd floor has two attractions: Nivel 23 Club and Spa, with its glass-encased rooftop swimming pool, and an open-air terrace overlooking July 9 Avenue – arguably the best view in BA of the city’s signature boulevard and the other emblems of the Argentine capital along it.

Rising out of Republic Square in median of the boulevard right outside the Panamericano, the dramatic, 67 meter (220 foot) Obelisk marks the spot where the Argentine flag was flown for the first time in the capital. (And it also feels like a South American version of Paris’ Place de la Concorde, with its own obelisk).

Also in full view of the Panamericano is Teatro Colon, ranked one of the top three opera houses in the world, and seating more music lovers than London’s Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Acoustically magnificent, this Historic National Monument is also visually glorious in ornate, late 19th century style, with red and gold décor and a famous chandelier.
 
The Panamericano couldn’t be in a better location. It’s in the heart of Buenos Aires’ most noteworthy architecture, domes, century-old buildings, modern skyscrapers. It overlooks BA’s landmark obelisk, Colon Theater, the Palace of Justice from its privileged position on the July 9 Avenue. 


And the hotel is also only a 10-minute walk from the fashionable neighborhood of Recoleta. That neighborhood’s grand cemetery is a fascinating attraction with its decorative, historic crypts. There’s a constant stream of visitors past one in particular: the final resting place of Buenos Aires’ most internationally famous citizen, Eva Peron, immortalized in Evita!, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about the life of Argentina’s former first lady.

In addition to sightseeing, the Panamericano is the perfect base to take advantage of Buenos Aires’ theatre scene, immerse yourself in the tango music and dance, indulge in Argentina’s world-famous wines and beef from its ranches.

Start your Trip!

 
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It’s a US territory with sun-kissed Caribbean charms. Where lush jungles, land and marine parks and world-class beaches meet Old World cobblestone architecture, New World comforts, and signature Latin hospitality, culture and sultry vibe.  

Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan is a major cruise port and destination in the eastern Caribbean. Thousands of cruise passengers embark and disembark every year. But don’t miss the opportunity to extend your cruise – or visit the island just to explore the island’s urban lifestyle and beach resorts in San Juan, as well as the attractions outside the capital.

Following Cuba’s revolution in the 50’s, Puerto Rico became the heart of island Latin style for America’s jet set, and many of the island’s most memorable urban beach hotel-resorts in date from that sexy, Rat Pack era. Newer boutique hotels have added more ways to stay and play in Puerto Rico’s capital.


Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV’s producer, host and cruise expert, picks three of her favorite San Juan hotels from her latest cruise trips to Puerto Rico.

Fairmont El San Juan Hotel


Whether you love Old Havana and colonial style, rhythms and cocktails, Mid-Century modern Rat Pack vibes, or contemporary luxury urban resort lifestyle on one of the world's top tropical beaches... the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel fits the bill.
 
This sprawling hotel on San Juan’s 2-mile-long Isla Verde beach – one that’s been voted ‘Best Urban Beach’, is a recent addition to the prestigious, luxury Fairmont portfolio.
 
But this urban hotel has a pedigree. Considered by many the ‘grande dame’ hotel of Puerto Rico society, the El San Juan underwent a $65-million post-hurricane reno and upgrade that restored the best of its colonial architecture, Rat Pack era cool, and added modern, urban resort touches with the Latin flavour of its surroundings.
 
Watch the video above to see this captivating time capsule beach hotel that’s also one of the best places in Puerto Rico for a pre or post-cruise stay, family vacation, wedding or vow renewal.
 
Better yet, book a vacation to experience Fairmont El San Juan’s beach lifestyle, sexy, interconnected pools, breezy outdoor teak spaces, one of the largest chandeliers in the world above one of the most famous bars in the Caribbean, even the hotel’s famous, 200-year-old banyan tree.  
 
 

La Concha

Where the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel melds Old Havana, mid-century, and contemporary design hotel, La Concha is all mid-century beach chic re-imagined for the 21st century.

Right on Ashford Avenue in the heart of San Juan’s ‘it’ Condado neighborhood with expansive beach front, La Concha is one of the island’s iconic hotels, dating back to the heyday of Puerto Rico as a ‘jet set’ destination.

Its namesake is its standout feature: a gigantic, seashell-shaped ‘floating restaurant’ at the edge of the sea. Not only a marvel of engineering and design, being inside the ‘shell’ space makes any meal memorable and a special event like a wedding, absolutely epic.

The curves of the giant shell feature are unmistakably from the mid-century school of modernism. The architects continued tropical modernist features throughout the property, in the form of curves and breezeways, an open lobby and seamless transitions between indoors and outdoors, even a concrete façade that filters sunlight to create patterns mirrored indoors.


Also benefitting from a recent renovation, La Concha has kept its mid-century bones and added ocean-inspired hues and beach-inspired textures, lounges and patios kept throbbing with electronic dance music by local DJ’s, resulting in a completely modern urban beach resort, nightlife destination, and ‘Latino Chic’ lifestyle in a stylish setting few modern hotel builds can match.

O:LV Fifty Five

Around the corner in San Juan’s chic Condado neighborhood from La Concha, O:LV Fifty Five is a jewel of a boutique hotel where Old Hollywood glamour meets modern design hotel.  


Since it’s recent opening, it has made the lists proclaiming “Top Places to Travel”, “Best New Hotels”, and “Finest Hotels” among others.

This adults-only, 26-suite hideaway on a quiet side street overlooks Condado Lagoon from what must be one of, if not the best rooftop destination in San Juan. A cooling green wall and fountains form the backdrop to the infinity pool with a view on the city.


The lobby feels like the living room of an uber-sophisticated socialite, with plush textures, mood lighting and eclectic touches like a table-top metallic cheetah statue and oversized, black and white photography portraits. 


Restaurants at the ground and rooftop levels repeat the concept in their own palettes, with head-turning features like the vintage Rolls Royce – converted into a DJ booth! -  parked among tables of diners and guests heading out to the roof top terrace (pictured above).

All 3 hotels are located between Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, and the San Juan Cruise Port, just outside historic Old San Juan. Whether you’re flying in or cruising out, these three very different urban hotel experiences are unmistakable expressions of San Juan’s one-of-a-kind hospitality and travel experience.
 

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It was a week at the end of May 1969 that became an iconic, unforgettable moment of 60's counter-culture and protests against the Vietnam War.
 
2019 marks the anniversary of the legendary time when music uber-star and peace activist John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono booked themselves into Montreal's Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel, and held their 'Bed-in for Peace'. 

The event resonated around the world, drawing global media who broadcast images of the couple in their pajamas in bed and their messages of peace. While in bed, they composed and recorded the anthem 'Give Peace a Chance' that resonates even today. It was Lennon's first solo single and marked the beginning of the end of the Beatles as well as marking the history of the peace movement. Music history and activist history made on the grand stage of a bed in a suite in the hotel.

The suite in the hotel has been a beacon, drawing pilgrims and fans to take photos in front of the room's door. And now, as part of a $100 million-plus renovation of Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, the four rooms Lennon originally booked have been joined together in a single suite, renamed in honor of the couple and designed with all the comforts of a modern luxury hotel, but also in homage to the 60's era, the Bed-in for Peace, and the urgent, memorable song 'Give Peace a Chance' with interactive, multi-media immersions that bring to life the media frenzy and impact of this once-in-a-generation event.

The John Lennon and Yoko Ono suite at Montreal's Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth is not normally open to the public, but BestTrip got access to experience the suite today, re-live that week in 1969 and its message of 'Peace and Love', and share it with you.
 

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See the World's Tallest Indoor Waterfall at this New Airport

It's one of the world's top ten busiest airports, with a flight every 80 seconds. A hundred airlines transport over 60 million passengers yearly to and from Singapore's Changi airport. So millions of travelers are already familiar with the breathtaking Nature features in the airport that's the gateway to Asia's 'City in a Garden'. 


But 2019's new Jewel Changi Airport brings the natural world into an airport environment in a whole new, spectacular way that makes Singapore's airport a destination itself.

The Rain Vortex was inspired by Singapore's tropical rains. It's a 7-story feat of design and engineering that astounds you the moment you walk in the door. At over 130 feet high, it's the tallest indoor waterfall in the world, cascading dramatically through an oculus in the glass and steel dome.


The experience of the Rain Vortex changes depending what time of day you are at Jewel Changi Airport. Every evening, the flowing water, along with mist and music, becomes the centerpiece of an hourly, magical Light & Sound show designed by the same company responsible for the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and hundreds of other water, fire, light, fog and music installations around the world.

Jewel's indoor waterfall is surrounded by 5 acres of lush gardens and greenery – 2000 trees and 100,000 shrubs from 120 species in different 'parks' that make Jewel Changi Airport a lifestyle destination for visitors and locals too.

Areas like Forest Valley and Canopy Park are shopping and dining neighborhoods in a whimsical green wonderland, with cobblestone walking trails, indoor clouds, play attractions like Sky Nets, Hedge Maze, Mirror Maze and Discovery Slides that flow through themed gardens - all in climate-controlled comfort. In a man-made environment, you can enjoy tropical gardens without tropical weather!
 
With all the world-class shopping, dining and entertainment, Jewel is still a functioning airport that anticipates travelers' needs and offers conveniences that are a breath of relief, even for travelers with only a brief stopover in Singapore. 
 
Thoughtful airport facilities that have been added in Jewel include early check-in counters and kiosks, a baggage storage service and the Changi Lounge, a 150-seat lounge with shower facilities, offering seamless transfers for passengers connecting to and from cruise and ferry services
 
Jewel also has the first YOTELAIR in Asia. The tech-savvy, smart-design, space-efficient cabin hotel concept has 130 cabin-units in Jewel in three categories. The Premium, Accessible and Family cabins can be booked for as little as four hours. They are a game changer for travelers with short daytime layovers, a very early arrival in Singapore, even an extra half day to spend time exploring all that the airport has to offer before you fly out of Singapore - even overnight stays. Hotel check-in / check-out is seamless, with time-saving, airline-style self-check-in kiosks.
 
Jewel also adds capacity to accommodate increasing numbers of travelers at Changi Airport. Another 3 million passengers will now be able to be accommodated annually, bringing the airport's total capacity to 85 million. And it's going to be needed with an airport that's enough reason alone to visit Singapore.
 
The multi-faceted innovation at Jewel gives local residents a new destination where lush Nature meets Singapore's urban energy. And it gives a renewed sense of novelty and wonder at the experience of air transportation to everyone traveling to or from Singapore. 
 

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Photos: Jewel Changi Airport Devt.

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Whether you love Old Havana colonial style, rhythms and cocktails, Mid-Century modern tropical, Rat Pack vibes, or contemporary luxury urban resort on a world's top beach... Puerto Rico's El San Juan Hotel fits the bill.


Following a post-hurricane, $65-million reno, this grande dame of Puerto Rico society and must-visit destination for visitors to Puerto Rico's capital is back - in spectacular style combining all three eras and captivating your travel imagination.

The El San Juan Hotel alone is worth the trip to this US island territory! 

It's ideal as a destination tropical resort for your whole vacation or destination wedding/ vow renewal / business event, or as an extension before or after your Caribbean cruise embarking or disembarking from Puerto Rico; the El San Juan Hotel is 5 minutes from the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, 10 minutes from San Juan Cruise Port… and 15 minutes from historic Old San Juan, on 2 miles of Isla Verde Beach that's been voted the Best Urban Beach.

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Think Overwater Villas are the Height of Exotic Luxury Travel? Try This UNDERwater Villa
It puts new meaning into being immersed in the local natural beauty. The pristine waters of the Maldives are epic, surrounding one of the world's most romantic, remote and legendary tropical eco paradise destinations. 

Now you can sleep alongside your sweetheart or family as well as the rich marine life that animates the waters of these tiny islands in the Indian Ocean. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is a pioneering resort: the first international hotel in the Maldives, the first underwater restaurant, and now, the first undersea residence.


It's called the Muraka, or 'coral' in the local Maldivian language, and it is an extraordinary way for up to 9 guests to experience of one of the world's most breathtaking marine environments. Specialized aquarium technology was used to create the 2-story villa, consisting of above-sea-level space, and a spiral staircase to an underwater suite more than 16 feet below sea level with a king size bedroom, living room, and bathing area under a dome with 180-degree views of the ocean.

Sleeping in an undersea dome is an almost surreal vacation, but the overwater part of the villa above is unforgettable, too. More bedrooms, one with an ocean-facing bathtub, more bathrooms, gym, space for a butler and private security, living room, kitchen, bar and dining area with a deck facing the sunset, and another deck with an infinity pool facing sunrise. 

The Muraka butlers are dedicated 24-7 to hyper-personalized service. They are also ambassadors of the Maldivian island experience for undersea villa guests, sharing their passion for culture, the environment and adventure throughout your custom-crafted stay at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.


The resort is located in the Maldives' best diving and snorkeling locations. It melds harmoniously with the environment, flowing from island, over the ocean, to the overwater/undersea residence.


You can double down on the undersea experience at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island at its trailblazing underwater restaurant. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is also a world's first, where the fusion local and Western lunch and dinner menus, fine wine pairings, and mid-morning cocktails are accompanied by a panoramic view of coral gardens 16 feet below the surface of the ocean.

 
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant is one of dozen resort restaurants and bars that regularly make 'best of…' lists. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island also features an overwater spa and a Spa Retreat, and experiences inspired by the local environment and culture round out the ultimate island escape. Sunrise and sunset yoga practice. A meditation pavilion. A 5-hour journey to inner tranquility via a unique Zen revelation. A Spa Retreat with over a dozen water villas, its own restaurant, and a selection of therapies including a signature treatment inspired by the beauty practices of Maldivian women, including a heated coconut stick massage and organic, pineapple and papaya body scrub.


Consciously-designed villas and suites, from ultra-private beach villas nestled amongst the rich tropical landscape with direct beach access, to overwater villas ranging from private and romantic, to expansive for an extended group of family or friends, complete with sundecks, hot tubs steps into the sea, spa treatment rooms and more, provide the iconic Maldives vacation.
 
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7 Castles in Ireland Where You Can Stay
St. Patrick and the Emerald Isle. Dramatic coastline. Historic towns and cobblestone streets. Pubs and parties. Folklore and green pastures… and castles.
 
Hundreds of castles and manor houses dot the Irish countryside. They not only evoke Ireland's storied past. Many allow you to live out your inner fantasy world of warrior kings and legendary princesses during overnight stays.
 
Look for a tour of Ireland that allows you to lay your head at some of these stately homes:

Ashford Castle, County Mayo

 
You'll be joining the illustrious ranks of not only early Irish nobility when you stay at Ashford Castle. British royalty, American presidents and sports and entertainment superstars have all stayed at 800-year-old Ashford Castle. It's a 5-star resort lifestyle in a magnificent French chateau style building on a 26,000 acre estate – complete with is own school of falconry, horseback riding, fishing, archery and clay shooting, as well as more modern pass times like a spa, golf, kayaking, tennis, tree climbing and zip lining.

 
Ashford Castle has been voted the best resort in Ireland and one of the top three in Europe.
 

Bantry House, County Cork

 
Since the 1700's Earls of Bantry have occupied Bantry House overlooking Bantry Bay on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way on the southern coast. You can stay in one of the finest historic manor houses in the country in luxurious bed and breakfast or self-catering style.  

 
As well as the Wild Atlantic Way, you'll want to explore Bantry House's elegant gardens especially when the azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom. The design is dramatic with seven terraces – the house is on the third terrace - 100 steps, and a fountain.
 

Drumoland Castle, County Clare

 
 Another magnet for global political figures and celebrities, 5-star Dromoland Castle is the ancestral home of the O'Brien family that traces its roots 1000 years back to the famous High King of Ireland Brian Boru. 

 
400 acres of Irish heaven include a top-rated golf course, walking and cycling trails, tennis, hiking, horse riding and pony carriage rides, traditional archery, falconry, fishing and clay shooting. Deluxe décor and luxury living include a spa, afternoon tea, casual and fine dining that once earned a Michelin star.
 

Ballyfin Demesne, County Laois

 
Your travel imagination may picture your castles with gothic towers, but don't miss Ireland's most celebrated Regency / Georgian mansion. With only 20 guest rooms, you'll feel like you're lord of the manor at this 5-star Georgian country house nestled on 600 acres at the foot of the scenic Slieve Bloom Mountains.

 
It's the ultimate mix of old world charm and modern home and hotel comforts – and perfect to take over for a special, destination family or even business event.
 

Ballynahinch Castle, County Galway

 
Voted #1 Irish luxury castle hotel, Ballynahinch is an elegant 17th century castle with magnificent views over 700 acres of woodland and rivers. Relax indoors by one of six open log fires or dine in elegance at one of Irelands' best restaurants. 

 
Take long walks or cycling tours with backdrops against the 12 Bens Mountain range along the Wild Atlantic Way. Or climb onto a boat for a guided trip of its famous salmon and lobster fishery.
 

Crom Castle, County Fermanagh

 
Lord and Lady Erne still dwell at the historic seat of the Earls of Erne, magnificent Crom Castle in Irelands' beautiful Fermanagh Lakelands (pictured top). But the castle's West Wing can be yours, it's available year round for up to 12, with even a cook provided if you wish. 
 
Nearly 2000 acres at Crom are a unique nature reserve with one of the largest semi-natural woodland remaining in Ireland, the largest surviving area of oak woodland in the country, and one of the largest freshwater habitats in the British Isles. You can see two rare butterflies and pine-marten, the largest heronry in Ireland, wild geese and deer.
 

Lismore Castle, County Waterford

 
Some of the most notable names of Europe and the Americas over the last few centuries have visited and stayed at this 12th century castle of the Dukes of Devonshire. Fewer than 30 guests at a time enjoy truly regal hospitality, with use of the castle and estate facilities, and even the Duke's personal butler and staff. The Castle kitchens create formal, informal, indoor and outdoor meals from local and on-site ingredients.

 
Live like the Irish nobility with salmon fishing, golf, horse riding and racing, kayaking and boat trips, even kite surfing, scuba and hot air balloon rides.
 
Make sure your next vacation to Ireland includes a stay fit for a king on one of the Emerald Isle's historic castles.  

(Images courtesy ireland.com)
 

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Discover Tropical Romance in 3 Overwater Bungalow Resorts on the Caribbean Sea
(Re)kindle the romance close to home – without long flights to the South Pacific or the Maldives!

Overwater villas are the next best thing to a private tropical island of your own – a luxury, bungalow suspended right over top of jewel-toned seas with the rustic-chic experience of living indoors and outdoors. It doesn't need to be Valentine's Day or your honeymoon for you and your sweetheart to deserve an overwater dream holiday.

Here are 3 resorts on the Caribbean Sea - in Jamaica, Mexico, and Panama, where you can live the dream.


Where: Sandals Royal Caribbean, Montego Bay, Jamaica


The Overwater Bungalows and Resort Highlights:

Couples-only Sandals built the Caribbean's first all-inclusive overwater bungalows, inspired by more distant cousins in Tahiti. These secluded villas are just off the resort's private island with private water taxi service. Picture glass floors, butler service, private infinity pools and outdoor soaking tub for two or hammocks over the water where you can dangle your toes and absorb the sun, extended outdoor decks and outdoor showers that blur the line between indoor and outdoor luxury living.


  • All-inclusive, unlimited fine dining at 8 restaurants and unlimited wine and spirits at 5 bars, including swim-up, and stocked bars in every room
  • Free wifi, tips, taxes and gratuities
  • Roundtrip airport transfers and BMW private airport transfers for all Butler and Club Sandals guests
  • Professional water sport instruction and all equipment; PADI-Certified SCUBA diving, snorkeling 
  • Hobie Cats, paddle boards, kayaks, beach volleyball, bocce ball, pool tables, day and night tennis, unlimited land sports and state-of-the-art fitness centers
  • Day and night entertainment including live shows
  • PLUS exchange privileges and all amenities and inclusions with 2 nearby Sandals – it's like having 3 resorts in one!

 

Where: Karisma's El Dorado Maroma, Riviera Maya, Mexico

 
The Overwater Bungalows and Other Resort Highlights:

The adults-only resort's 'Palafitos' (pictured top) are not only the first overwater bungalows in Mexico, but are also on Maroma Beach, one of the world's top-rated beaches. Glass-bottom floors give you a view of the sea from the moment you wake up and your feet touch the floor; in the evenings, you'll have an unobstructed view of the setting sun from your own infinity pool on your private deck. And outdoor shower and private butler top off your indulgent beach escape.

 
  • Easily-reached via non-stop flights to Cancun
  • 8 diverse resort restaurants available in the 'Gourmet inclusive' all-inclusive program and 24-hour room service
  • 2 lounges and 3 swim up bars
  • Non-motorized watersports
  • Spanish lessons, yoga, aqua aerobics, latin dance lessons, cooking classes,  beach volleyball, mescal tasting, free wifi and more
  • Daily entertainment and  nightly entertainment including karaoke, live music, circus show and more
  • Shopping tours to Playa del Carmen
  • Fitness center, sauna and steam baths at the spa, aqua fit

 

Where: Viceroy, Bocas del Toro, Panama – opening slated for 2021

 
Overwater Bungalows and Other Resort Highlights:

  • 42 overwater bungalows the first in Central America
  • Accessible via a short flight from Panama City, boat, seaplane or helicopter
  • 457 acres of Caribbean coastline in a famous eco-destination, next to jungle and San San Pond Sak wetlands, a habitat for birds and wildlife exploration via eco-tours and hiking
  • Sailing, paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, surfing, biking, walks and lounging on the lengthy beach
  • 42 overwater bungalows and 150 more guestrooms and residences
  • 8 onsite restaurants plus lounges,
  • Multiple pools, spa, fitness center, meditation rooms

 
Tip: If your travel heart is set on the romance of an overwater villa, book well advance as these evocative, one-of-a-kind accommodations are always among the first to fully book especially in high season December – March.

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8 Facts About the Panama Canal

Panama is one of the fastest-growing destinations in Central America, and the Panama Canal is the country's star attraction. Although it's on everyone's list of things to experience, the canal is more important as a global shipping transit than tourist experience. 

Whether you sail the canal on your next cruise or watch in action from land, here are 8 things you need to know about this wonder of the modern world.

1. It's a short cut between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The Panama Canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama in a narrow land bridge between North and South America. Prior, ships had to sail around the tip of South America. It takes about 8 hours to cross the Canal's 50 miles (77km). That saves days. If a ship had to navigate down and around Cape Horn at the tip of South America and back up the other side, it would have to travel nearly 12,500 miles (20,000 km).

2. It's over 100 years old.

2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal.  Columbia, France, then later, the United States controlled the land surrounding the canal. In 1881, the French started building the canal, but progress halted due to engineering problems and high worker mortality. The US took it over in 1904 and completed the project with newly available technology ten years later at a cost of $400 million USD. In 1999, control passed back to Panama.

3. Construction cost over 25,000 lives.

At times, more than 43,000 people were working on the Panama Canal at once. Workers had to deal with heat, jungles, swamps - and all the creatures in them, including rats that carried bubonic plague. Plus mosquito-borne diseases like yellow fever and malaria. Over 20,000 workers died during French building efforts.

After the scientific links between the insects and disease had been discovered, Americans undertook intensive and successful anti-mosquito initiatives. Even so, another more than 5000 workers perished during the American building phase.

4. It's considered one of the Man-Made Wonders of the World

The American Society of Civil Engineers has also dubbed the Panama Canal one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. It's one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken.
 
A system of locks at each end of the Canal lifts ships up 85 feet (26 meters) above sea level to an artificial lake. Ships traverse the artificial lake, as well as a series of improved and artificial channels, and then are lowered again in more locks to sea level at the other side.  
 
The locks are 110 feet (33 meters) feet wide and 1000 feet (300 meters) long. About 30-MILLION pounds (1,400,000 kilos) of explosives were used to help clear the land for the canal.

 (That's a view! The Norwegian Bliss is the largest passenger cruise ship to have ever transited the Panama Canal)

5. Over 1 Million Vessels have transited the canal since it opened.

In 1914, the year it opened, about 1000 ships used the canal. Today, nearly 15,000 ships pass through the Isthmus of Panama via the Canal annually. The 1 Millionth ship crossed the canal in 2010, 96 years after it opened.
In 1934 it was estimated that the maximum traffic of the canal would be around 80 million tons of shipping a year, but by 2015, canal traffic exceeded 340 million tons of shipping – over 4 times the original maximum estimate.
 

6. $2 Billion in Tolls are Collected Annually

Every ship that passes through the canal pays a toll based on its size, type and volume of cargo. Tolls are set by the Panama Canal Authority. Tolls for the largest cargo ships can run about $450,000. Cruise ships pay by berths (number of passengers in beds). The per-berth fee set in 2016 was $138; a large cruise ship can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to sail through the Canal. 

The smallest toll recorded was paid by American Richard Halliburton in 1928, who paid 36 cents to swim the Canal.

 

7. The Panama Canal was expanded for bigger ships in 2016

The original canal locks are 110 feet (33 meters) wide and ten times as long. For a century, they accommodated shipping, and the term 'Panamax' ships was used to describe ships built to fit through the canal. But ships kept getting bigger, and in 2007, work began on a multi-billion dollar expansion of the Canal. In 2016, a third, wider lane of locks opened for commercial shipping, capable of handling 'Post-Panamax' ships that can carry 14,000 20-foot shipping containers (nearly 3 times Panamax ship capacity).

In spite of that giant leap forward in 2016, the world's largest container ships - that can carry 18,000 shipping containers – can't pass through the Panama Canal.

(A Celebrity Cruise ship transiting the Panama Canal)

8. How you can visit the Panama Canal. 

Many ocean cruise lines offer increasingly popular Panama Canal itineraries that sail through the canal in the approximately 8 hour passage to their next destination in the opposite ocean. 

But you don't have to sail through the canal. If you're visiting Panama City, or taking a resort / beach vacation in Panama, you can take a land trip to see the canal in action.
 
The Miraflores Visitor Center is on the east side of the Miraflores Locks, which are close to the Pacific end of the Canal and Panama City. Like the canal, the Visitor Center is open daily. The Visitor Center has large balconies designed for you to get a great view as the lock gates are opened and closed for ships to start or complete their journey through the Panama Canal. 

Engineering buffs and even children will be thrilled at the up-close-to-the-action perspective on this man-made Wonder of the World. 
 

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Grain Silo Transformed into Breathtaking Museum and Hotel
Within a year of its breathtaking reincarnation, Cape Town's historic Grain Silo has already been named one of the world's top 100 places. 

When it was originally constructed in the 1920's, the Grain Silo on the city's waterfront was the tallest building in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a symbol of connection to the rest of the world.

A century later, after the Grain Silo was decommissioned, rejuvenation efforts could easily have seen it imploded to make way for bland new builds. Instead, the visionary conversion of the Grain Silo into a breathtaking museum, with a locally-owned and operated luxury hotel above, has resulted in a win for the waterfront district, for African culture, for the local history and people, and for travelers to South Africa. 

Zeitz MOCAA


The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art is the largest in the world. Architects magically transformed the Grain Silo's 42, densely-aligned concrete silo cylinders by carving the concrete inside to create the BMW atrium (photos by museum sponsor BMW) and multiple galleries.


The carved cylinders lend their form to the museum's spectacular design. In places, cylinder tops were capped with pillowed glass windows, each with 56 panels of glass, allowing natural light to filter in.

The result is a complex of over a hundred thousand square feet with nine floors of exhibit space, education areas, a sculpture garden on part of the roof, as well as a restaurant and shop.


It's an architectural and design masterpiece – even before you consider the art. 

German businessman and former Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz, considered one of the world's leading collectors of contemporary art from Africa and African artists abroad, loaned his extraordinary collection to the museum. 

It provides the founding collection of art from eminent African artists as the museum continues to grow and actively collect and share to locals and visitors art from the vast range of African artists near and far, provide many levels of art education, give back to Africa, and become a leading voice for Africa in the international art world.
 

The Silo Hotel


Above the museum, the former Grain Silo rises to new heights with a six-floor addition housing the extraordinary, 5-star Silo Hotel.
 
Like the museum below, the hotel retains and reflects ties to the local community; the Silo Hotel is the 5th property of the local Biden family hospitality company The Royal Portfolio, with a selection of exclusive boutique hotels in southern Africa.  


And like other hotels in the Royal Portfolio, the Silo Hotel has quickly become a beacon for luxury hospitality in Cape Town.

Multi-paned spectacular pillowed windows overlook the best scenery in Cape Town in every direction, including Table Mountain and the harbor into the Atlantic Ocean. The hotel celebrates its unique architecture with the Royal Portfolio's signature approach to art, style and design. 


Co-founder and family matriarch Liz Biden designed the hotel's public spaces and 28 one-of-a-kind rooms with hand-selected art acquired throughout her travels, a combination of modern and colorfully re-upholstered antique furniture, and unique pieces that make each guest feel at home in this deluxe atmosphere.


The catch-your-breath, stylish bar on the 6th floor provides bubbles, fine international wines and bespoke cocktails along with awe-inspiring views through the pillowed glass windows, and the Granary Café maintains elegant traditions like Royal Tea and Sunday Roast.


Perched at the top of the tallest building on the waterfront, the Silo Rooftop pool, dining, and lounging are the premiere al fresco experience in Cape Town.

 
The visionary transformation of Cape Town's Grain Silo offers a master class for any global city's transition of its waterfront from industrial to cultural and public. The Zeitz MOCAA and Silo Hotel are magnets for international visitors and still retain and reflect deeply local heritage and values, and make a lengthy stay in Cape Town essential before or after your cruise, wine tour or safari.


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Las Vegas Has a New Culinary Destination

24 hours a day, 40,000 square feet, 400 types of wines from all 20 Italian wine regions, 2 restaurants, 3 bars, an educational chef's table, 6 food counters representing authentic versions of your favorite Italian delicacies and comfort food plus 5000 retail products you can take home – directly on the Strip. Foodies are asking themselves why Eataly hasn't opened a Las Vegas outpost before now.


The debut of Eataly in Vegas' newest resort, Park MGM, marks the world's largest Italian shopping and dining experience's sixth US location.  Now, there are more than three dozen global Eataly centers celebrating high quality, sustainable Italian gastronomy. 

Eataly's philosophy is 'Eat. Shop. Learn'. Part food hall, part restaurant, bar, cooking school, and culinary education destination, Eataly Las Vegas continues favorite experiences and adds some new ones.

'The Kitchen of the Market' blurs the lines between shop and restaurant. Pull up a seat at one of the 6 fresh counters where you can eat what you shop, and shop what you eat of Italy's most iconic dishes:

  • La Macelleria: Butcher & Kitchen and La Pescheria: Fishmonger & Kitchen: choose any cut of sustainably sourced meats and sausages from the case at La Macelleria, or daily catches, seasonal oysters, and Italian ceviche at La Pescheria, watch chefs prepare it for you to eat there, or package it for you to take back to your own kitchen.

 
All Photos: Francisco Lupini/Eataly USA

  • La Salumeria: Cheesemonger & Kitchen: The best of Italian snacking: meat and cheese boards with salumi and formaggi chosen by an Eataly cheesemonger, or by you.
 
  • La Pizzeria: Roman Handcrafted Pizza alla Pala: Ah, pizza. The Roman variety, served up on a wooden paddle and featuring seasonal ingredients
 
  • More Italian Street Food: Il Fritto, La Rosticceria, and Mozzarella Bar: There's more than pizza to Italian Street Food, and this fresh counter is divided into three areas: Il Fritto, offering lightly fried bites like arancini and fried seafood; La Rosticceria, serving rotisserie roast chickens, seasonal vegetables, and panini; and Mozzarella Bar, offering house-made mozzarella favorites.
  • La Pasta Fresca: Market & Kitchen: Everyone's favorite carbs, kneaded, rolled, cut and formed by expert pasta makers in front of you, covering all the regions of Italy and paired with traditional sauces. In season, you can even order black or white truffles by weight because if there's anything that makes fresh, hand-made pasta even better, it's fresh truffles.
 
Italian wines and spirits and coffee traditions hold place of pride in three new venues:


  • L'Aperitivo – The perfect place to start your exploration of Eataly. L'Apertivo is at the entrance, and a hand-crafted Italian cocktail of your taste, from a Venetian Aperol Spritz to a fortifying Negroni, will get you into the spirit of Eataly Las Vegas.
 
  • Gran Caffè Milano – an upscale, full-service bar inspired by the elegant cafes of Milan, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Don't miss the replica of Milan's famous bull mosaic – a good luck symbol helpful to gamblers in Las Vegas when you put one foot on the mosaic and spin three times around.
 
  • L'Enoteca – The 'Wine Bar' is Eataly's premier bar and serves up all of Italy's finest – from more than 80 regional wines by the glass or bottle, craft cocktails, even bitters.  and will feature a wide selection of regional Italian wines by the glass or bottle, craft cocktails, and Amari (Italian bitters).
 
Your wine selection is even greater at the wine shop and tasting table, where you'll find one of the largest selections of Italian wines in the States: over 400 labels from all 20 regions of Italy.

Relax at the table at two classic restaurants: Manzo, La Pizza e La Pasta, or grab take-away pizza by the slice, pastries, all things Nutella at the Nutella bar, true Italian coffee, even pastas, sauces and gifts or souvenirs like Eataly branded clothing, kitchenware and mementos.


Live culinary demonstrations at the interactive Chef's Table inspire visitors of all ages to explore and taste the world of Italian cooking traditions hands on, from shaping gnocchi to understanding the difference between Toscana and Sicilia extra virgin olive oil. And makers at many stations and shops create fresh pastas, bread, gelato, cheese, and more to your wondering eyes.

Eataly's Italian gastronomic playground joins other star power dining and entertainment experiences at the new Park MGM. If you haven't been to the Strip lately, follow the scents anytime day or night to Eataly, which we're predicting will be one of the most iconic, must-do experiences in Las Vegas. 

Start your Trip!


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Champagne Vending Machine at this NOLA Hotel Makes Every Day New Year's Eve
The motto of New Orleans is 'Let the Good Times Roll'. Nowhere is that more true than at the local Ritz-Carlton, which now boasts the area's first permanent champagne vending machine.


This classy, tongue-in-cheek interpretation of lobby fixtures in sadder hotels holds 320 'piccolo' (mini) bottles of liquid celebration, and blends right into the hotel's festive seasonal décor and events.


A nearly life-sized gingerbread NOLA streetcar dominates the lobby, with festive gingerbread making and decorating events throughout advent for the young and their grown up family members who want to sip while they decorate.

Christmas Eve 'Reveillon' feasts throughout December pay tribute to New Orleans' and Louisiana's French founding residents, along with 'Papa Noel' teas and breakfasts, and a Christmas Day 'Jubilee' extravaganza.


As exciting as those are, it's the New Year's Eve 6-course masquerade dinner and ball in partnership with iconic champagne brand Moet et Chandon, that tops out the festive season with champagne taking center stage.

And before New Year's is even over, the Mardi Gras carnival season in New Orleans has already begun.


With a full calendar of festivals and celebrations, never-ending good times really do roll one into another in New Orleans.  The city's 24-hour alcohol serving times plus relaxed policy towards carrying your drinks into the street (a couple of restrictions do apply: only in plastic cups and only in the French Quarter) make the Ritz-Carlton's lobby champagne vending machine not only festive but even practical.  

So whatever celebration brings you to New Orleans, you can let your good times roll in the Big Easy anytime with an elegant bubbly and a hotel home base on Canal Street just a block from Bourbon Street at the edge of the French Quarter.


Start your Trip!


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It's a global buzzword and cultural phenomenon. And today, more and more of us are in need of Denmark's signature recipe for happiness: 'hygge'.


Danish 'hygge' (pronounced 'HOOG-uh') is sweeping the world – everyone wants in on Denmark's famously convivial way of life. The Danish are the happiest people on the planet – even during the long, dark days of winter - and it's all about hygge.

So much so, hygge has actually been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. It might be the world's first UNESCO World Heritage… feeling.

But translating hygge – and living it - aren't so simple. A hug? Mindfulness? Cozy?

Hygge is often referred to in design, with tips for creating rooms with 'hygge'. It's been said the Danish buy more candles per capita than anyone else on the planet. Add snuggly wool throws. Nature-inspired materials. A crackling fire. Comfort foods. And the simple pleasures of good company and togetherness.

All things that mean more to us than ever.

BestTrip was in Copenhagen at the height of a hot summer on a pre-cruise weekend before boarding our Seabourn cruise… and with Copenhagen Urban Adventures, we discovered 'hygge' isn't just something you find indoors in winter. It happens year round, indoors and outdoors, with people, spaces and activities you love.

Hygge has caught on as a catchphrase with its appeal as an antidote to the ails of the modern world. Travel to Denmark, and you'll discover not only the scenics that stand out in Scandinavian style. Danish food and drink, obsession with cycling and life balance… a concept that's been around for a couple of hundred years has new and more powerful relevance in a busy, connected-yet-impersonal, disengaged and over-programmed world.

Hygge might be the very best souvenir from Denmark of all: once you learn how to capture hygge like we did from Mie at Copenhagen Urban Adventures, you'll be able to recreate that feeling home with you and implement its practice into your and your family's life.

Start your Trip!


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This Macau Hotel is the World's First 'Exoskeleton' High-Rise

Macau is anticipating a surge in visitors with the opening of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge that links the two cities and mainland China together by land for the first time.

The Morpheus hotel will be a big part of the allure of a trip to Macau. Designed by the acclaimed celebrity architect Zaha Hadid before her passing, the hotel at Macau's new City of Dreams complex is the world's first high-rise held up by a free-form 'exoskeleton'.

Imagine: no need for internal structural or supporting walls! That innovation literally opens up the interior to entirely new design opportunities. And the hotel's design takes full advantage.

First: the outside. It's a visionary feat of architecture and technology. The extraordinary exoskeleton that gives the hotel its structural integrity itself becomes sculptural design. Two towers connect at the base, separate, twist, then merge together again 40-storeys up. Where they separate, abstract voids appear, suggesting a figure 8 that of course is a lucky number in Chinese culture (especially helpful if you're in Macau to gamble!) The towers are even connected by a breathtaking sky bridge.

This architectural masterpiece was inspired by traditional Chinese jade carving techniques that create fluid forms from hard materials. The Morpheus appears light and delicate but in fact contains four times the weight of iron used in Paris' Eiffel Tower! And the ridges of the exoskeleton provide shade for heat control.

Inside this art-like skyscraper, freed from structural walls, a design like you've never experienced before. The hotel atrium occupies the height of the entire hotel between the two towers! And the voids create vast interior spaces, and along with high-speed glass elevators, guests have breathtaking views of both the city and the unique interior with high tech solutions and art installations by famous global artists and even street artists.

Restaurant lounges and bars occupy bridges running through the structure' central void.

Alain Ducasse at Morpheus, City of Dreams (photo credit: Pierre Monetta)

If you can tear yourself away from the view, you'll be in another world first, this one culinary. The World of Ducasse at Morpheus is a partnership with iconic chef Alain Ducasse. For the first time ever, an entire hotel floor is devoted to two Ducasse restaurants and bar.

Alain Ducasse: Small Spelt from Haute-Provence, Seasonal Vegetables, Shaved Black Truffle (photo credit: Pierre Monetta)

There's also a partnership with Parisian chef Pierre Herme, also known as 'the Picasso of Pastry', as well as Yi at Sky Bridge, the world's only Chinese fine-dining restaurant serving a mix of Chinese regional dishes in Japanese omakase-style.

You'll find other world-firsts in the spa, with its in-house Spa Butler concept and the first spa in the world to feature real snow in its 'Snow Garden'.

The spa and the appropriately-named Sky Pool top the 40-storey hotel, over 400 feet above the hotel interior below, a spectacular view of the Macau skyline.

Then there's the gaming salons and world-class collection of retail stores. Morpheus and the City of Dreams cement Macau's status as the one of the world's top grown-up fantasy escape/entertainment destination.


Start your Trip!


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'Glamping' in Laos: Luxury Tented Villas are a Rosewood Resort First

Laos may be one of the last, best-kept secrets in South-East Asia. Now, travelers looking for an immersive vacation in the unspoiled environment, unique culture and French-Laotian heritage of Laos have the perfect ultra-luxury destination: the tented villas of the new concept Rosewood Luang Prabang.

It's Rosewood's second resort in Southeast Asia – and its very first world-wide to feature tented villas.

It's a dream 'glamping' (glamorous-camping) destination. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the heart of Laos, where the mighty Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet. It's the ancient capital and current cultural center of Laos; surrounded by misty mountains with waterfalls and pools of water in the forest, countless temples and a lifestyle true to both traditional Laotian and colonial French culture.

The Rosewood Luang Prabang fits right into this idyllic escape. Nestled in untouched forest just outside the city, the resort is harmonized with the terrain, centered around a natural waterfall and river.

Its designer was inspired by the tradition of Laotian hill stations, a French colonial tradition where gracious hosts welcomed travelers to the remote corners of Laos.

Sleep: River, Forest, and Tented Villas

The resort still retains that feel of intimate but luxurious isolation in a dense, tropical forest. 23 accommodations meld into the terrain adjacent to a river or waterfall, or float above the ground amongst the treetop foliage. Some have private swimming pools, oversized balconies and outdoor wooden bathtubs. There are 6 tented villas.

That already makes them one of a kind. But each space also has its own unique design, evoking French-Indochine ambiance and hospitality with original artifacts and antiques of bygone Luang Prabang.

Tented Spa Villas with Traditional and Holistic Wellbeing Programs

Even spa services take place in the other-worldly environment of 3 tented villas in a peaceful corner of the property overlooking the river. All mind and body therapies draw from nature, and guests are guided to select herbs and plants from resort gardens for tailor-made treatments. In addition to Western techniques, nearly lost local healing practices have been resurrected and are provided by a respected local healer using ingredients he forages in the surrounding forest.

The wellness program also offers holistic experiences and retreats.

Dining in a Laotian Forest

Farm to table? How about forest to table. Or fishing boat to table. Dining at the resort reflects the harvest at hand: local farmers, fishermen and foraging, transformed into authentic local cuisine and even dishes influenced by historic Laotian royal court entertainment.

There are two dining venues: Laotian farm-to-table restaurant called The Great House and a relaxing river-view spot with the evocative name The Elephant Bridge Bar for light bites and hand-crafted cocktails with a tropical flair and local botanicals and spices. But reflecting the fluid arrangements of tents, villas and other buildings on the resort by the river and in the forest, guests also have the option of poolside dining, from sunbeds, cozy cabanas or breezy tables on the terrace, even custom-designed meals served at scenic places on the grounds – the ultimate luxury picnic!

Play and Explore

The leafy tropical environment surrounding the Rosewood Luang Prabang is ideal for relaxation and activity on and near the resort. In nearby gardens, you can enjoy classic games of petanque or croquet. A forest-enclosed swimming pool is next to a natural waterfall – not to mention the famous nearby waterfalls and series of natural pools in the forest that are one of Luang Prabang's claims to fame.

In addition, the resort creates customized experiences for guest interested in immersing themselves in local Lao culture: local traditional artisans, ethnic hill-tribes and farming communities, historic mansions, ancient Laotian temples, and lifestyle of the communities along the Mekong river. Adventurous and hands-on travelers can trek through the forest and forage for a meal prepared with those ingredients, take a guided mountain bike tour through remote landscapes, weave textiles or form ceramics, harvest seasonal produce alongside local farmers, or take an elegant Laotian river boat cruise along the Mekong.

Giving Back

Rosewood Luang Prabang is also the site of the first hospitality school in Laos, a philanthropic project providing students with professional hospitality training.

The Rosewood Luang Prabang is not only one of the most truly one-of-a-kind resorts you will ever stay in Asia or the world; it's also on the ground floor of a growing interest in travel to this fascinating and evocative country.

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7 Places Not to Miss in Indochina

Two hundred years ago, Europeans started referring to the region between India and China as Indochina.

Already, it was recognized as one of the most beautiful, exotic, culturally unique destinations on the planet. With its very strategic position, Indochina was also center-stage in some of the defining conflicts of the 20th century including the Pacific theater of WW2 and the Vietnam War.

Fast-forward to today, and the legendary countries of South-East Asia - SEA for short - are magnets for travelers by land and sea. Dense tropical jungles and one-of-a-kind plants and wildlife, fabled rivers and waterways, beloved cuisine, some of the world's most beautiful beaches, mountains tiered with rice terraces, gilded temples and Buddhist monks, dizzying markets and spectacular sunsets are hallmarks of these nations.

The term Indochina, or the French Indochine, is still used particularly to refer to traditional or colonial culture in the region, which you'll still find preserved in these rapidly-growing economies and modernizing nations.

Lynn Elmhirst, producer/host of BestTrip.TV shares the must-see sites in the 7 SEA countries:

Thailand

This nation tops nearly everyone's SEA travel bucket list, from backpackers to those in search of 6-star luxury exotic escapes. The Land of Smiles is a smorgasbord of South-East-Asian culture. You won't want to miss Thai cuisine at the source in fabulous restaurants or from street vendors or markets. There are 40,000 temples in this kingdom, including one containing the world's largest solid gold Buddha in Bangkok.

The capital is firmly in the world's top-three global travel destinations every year, and also home to floating markets, tuk tuk taxis, royal palaces and massive shopping malls. Thailand's rural attractions include jungles and elephant sanctuaries, legendary beaches and island destinations like Phuket, Koh Samui, the famous Sunset Beach on Koh Kradan and the Golden Swan Temple (pictured top).

Watch Video: The Real Name of the Capital of Thailand… is Not Bangkok

Vietnam

The tragedy of the Vietnam War is in the past for modern Vietnamese who are among the warmest people in Asia, if not the world. The still-communist country welcomes growing numbers of American and Western visitors. Many travelers – especially Americans - find it hard to believe the country permits and even promotes interest in Vietnam War-era sites like tours to the Viet Cong's legendary Cu Chi tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City and the famous American R&R China Beach near Danang. Everyone visits Ho Chi Minh (HCM) City and its ornate, French colonial public buildings, famous historic hotels and the top-ranked Saigon market. But don't miss other cities in Vietnam like historic imperial Hue and the ancient canal town of Hoi An – stay in town long enough to have some custom-tailored clothing made! 

An day trip or even a journey on the mighty Mekong river, with its floating markets, and entire communities is unforgettable. And UNESCO World Heritage site Halong Bay's emerald waters and mystical islands are a traveler's dream.

Watch Video: Kayaking in Mystical Halong Bay 

Laos 

This is the only land-locked nation in Indochina, and perhaps that's why it's later to the tourism party than other SEA countries. For many travelers, the path least traveled is exactly where you'll want to go next.

The highlight of any trip to Laos is Luang Prabang. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been inhabited for thousands of years, nestled in a valley where the mythical Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet. Luang Prabang is a cultural and religious center with historic temples, serene Mekong river scenery, the magical Kuang Si waterfalls with its series of swimming holes, falls and ideal picnic sites, and even an Asian black bear rescue center.

Cambodia

For travelers, Cambodia's has two claims to fame: one joyful, the other very dark. Travelers to neighboring SEA countries take trips into Cambodia solely to visit iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site Angkor Wat. This 12th century temple is part of the largest religious monument in the world – a 400-acre complex isolated by a dramatic moat that is a top global bucket list destination.

Equally compelling but difficult to experience are the museum and sites associated with the Khmer Rouge genocide known as The Killing Fields. But there's more to experience in the capital Phnom Penh: Cambodia's position where Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers meet made it the natural center for both Khmer and French colonial regimes. Today, its busy riverfront, art deco market, Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda make it worth an extended stay to explore.

Myanmar

The country formerly known as Burma is fast becoming a country that adventurous travelers want to see before the tourist scene gets very busy. The capital city Yangon is home to ancient Buddhist sites, including the oldest pagoda in the world. The Shwedagon pagoda dates back 2500 years, and is the national symbol and holy site of the nation.

Outside the capital you'll find one of the world's greatest archaeological wonders: the 2300 pagodas and temples on the plains of Bagan. You can even get an overview of the entire complex on a hot air balloon ride.  Inle Lake, surrounded by misty mountains, is a time capsule of local people who still live with the land in stilt houses, with floating gardens and a famous fishing technique. Rudyard Kipling coined the phrase 'Road to Mandalay' to refer to the majestic Irawaddy River. Some major cruise companies offer river cruise tours on this exotic waterway.

Malaysia

Mainland Malaysia occupies the southern end of the SEA peninsula, as well as parts of the nearby island of Borneo. The wilderness is famous for wildlife reserves protecting endangered orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants, the beaches of Langkawi, and storied tribes of head-hunters whose villages on stilts over rivers in Borneo you can still visit. Cooler Cameron Highlands are home to tea plantations where you can do a tasting tour. Colonial European heritage landmarks include the sites in colorful Malacca, and Penang's landmark Eastern & Oriental hotel – a sea front sister hotel that pre-dated the famous Raffles in Singapore.

Don't skip Malaysia's ultra-modern capital Kuala Lumpur. KL is a fascinating vision of the future of SEA, not to mention the record-breaking Petronas Twin Towers connected by a sky-high bridge that's featured in action films and many an Instagram post.

Singapore

This city-state and global financial center at the end of the Malaysian mainland is the only island nation of SEA. Singapore has preserved a core of its colonial past, with high rises surrounding the historic cricket field and colonial buildings, including nearby, one of the world's most famous historic hotels. Legends are still told of the early days of the Raffles Hotel and the Long Bar, where the Singapore Sling was invented. Take time to wet your lips with one of the world's most famous cocktails and soak up the bygone atmosphere.

But Singapore is more famous now for its almost surreal ultramodern vision and skyline. The symbol of modern Singapore is the already-iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel and Casino's three-pillar towers topped by a surfboard-like top floor with the world's largest infinity pool overlooking the city. The 250-acre Gardens by the Bay, with the grove of futuristic super trees takes Singapore's love of green space to a space-age level. Singapore is a popular SEA cruise port of embarkation/ debarkation, and well worth extending your trip pre- or post- cruise to explore.

Indochina is no longer a place on a map – but it's still one of the world's top travel destinations. 

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How does a hotel become the most photographed in the world?  Many hotels have spectacular architecture, magnificent and dramatic settings... but very few hotel silhouettes define the destination. 

Fairmont's Chateau Frontenac is to Quebec City what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris.  The hotel not only evokes the grace and elegance of the French castles that inspired it.  It is literally the high point of this historic, 400 year old city's UNESCO world heritage site.  Although it appears to rise from the French Middle Ages, in fact, it dates from the late 19th century, and in 2018 celebrates 125 years of being a can't miss experience of a trip to Quebec City. 

Join BestTrip.TV's exploration of the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac's historic character and anniversary multi-million dollar makeover.

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