7 TIPS TO STAY HEALTHY WHILE TRAVELING

  • Pack your vitamins!​ Personally, I swear by Juice Plus+. Made with freeze dried fruits and vegetables, a handful of these capsules every morning powers me with the nutrients of dozens of fruits and veggies. When you’re on the road, your daily consumption of fresh produce likely declines, and Juice Plus+ is the perfect way to boost your immune system and energy without packing your entire fridge with you. If you’re interested in trying, you can learn more ​here​!
  • Find an on-the-go workout routine.​ When traveling, I definitely don’t crush the same workouts I do at home, but I love to find a way to sweat at least a couple of the days I’m gone. ​Classpass​ is a great option for city trips, because you can swap your location with the tap of a button and try out a local class. But if you’re not a ClassPass member, just find a local studio and do a drop-in – many of them offer a discounted (or free!) rate for your first class, and “out-of-towner” packages ideal for an extended stay. I also love, love the ​Tone It Up app​ for quick and easy workouts you can do in your hotel room at any time!
  • Pick up some quick dry leggings.​ As much as I love packing in a sweat sesh on vacation, I hate packing my sweaty workout clothes with me throughout a trip. So, whenever I travel, I always pack my ​Booty By Brabants​ leggings. At one size fits all, the material on these leggings is super stretchy and dries quickly – perfect for the plane to the gym. Plus they are flattering on literally everyone. Get yours here! (pictured above!)
  • Pack your reusable water bottle. ​Plane travel can be super dehydrating. Plus when you’re on the go, you’re likely drinking a lot less water than you do when sitting (and sipping) at your desk all day. I have so many reusable water bottles, but my favorite is the ​Liquid Hardware​ vacuum insulated water bottle that I got from my stay at Amangani last year. It keeps cold cold and hot hot for so, so long. I usually pack this in my bag and fill it up at the airport before boarding – that way I have plenty of water to sustain me on the flight.
  • Try local healthy food spots.​ Healthy, real food is so IN right now. Which means when you’re traveling to a new city or location for work or for fun, it’s not all about trying that oversized ice cream sundae or local burger joint. You can research the trendy health spots for your destination and check them out – a great way to explore local favorites while still maintaining your healthy habits. And healthy doesn’t mean it’s not delicious!
  • Get Outdoors.​ Whether you’re in a city or at a resort, going for a long walk or jog is a great way to get in a lighter workout while getting out and seeing the sights. Sometimes on vacation, I don’t feel like doing a traditional workout in the gym, but easily rack up 5 miles walking around a city without even trying. If your location isn’t conducive to walking or jogging, look for other outdoor active options like kayaking, paddleboarding, snowshoeing, skiing, etc.
  • Book some time at the spa. Healthy isn’t just about exercise and eating right. Today we consider “wellness” to have many different meanings, and that includes taking care of ourselves. On vacation, you deserve that extra hour of sleep, a long hot bath, and some relaxing spa treatments. Stress takes such a toll on our well-being – not only mentally, but also physically. Taking care of your mind and your body will do wonders for your overall health.

WHERE TO SPEND FESTIVE 2019

Here we are in the beginning of July – ready for beach days, backyard BBQs and lots of ice cream. But believe it or not, it’s time to start thinking about the holidays. With work slowing down and kids on break from school, festive season is one of the most popular times of year to travel. To avoid limited availability and high pricing, it’s best to think ahead! Here are some of my favorite ideas for Festive 2019:

BEACH RETREAT: COSTA RICA

A lot of families will head off to the Caribbean or Mexico for some R&R over the holidays, but Costa Rica is a great alternative. The beaches on the Pacific coast are pristine, with great surfing and plenty of activities. For families looking to mix in some adventure with their beach retreat, you can easily include a few days in the rainforest or a trip to the Arenal volcano.

SKI VACATION: ZERMATT

Snow can be a bit tricky in December – you never know if you’ll have a foot of powder or be skiing on ice. But Zermatt, in the Swiss Alps, is fairly reliable when it comes to early season snow. The snow depth in Zermatt at the beginning of the season has averaged 5+ feet over the last 8 years. Plus, Zermatt is easy to travel to via train from Zurich or Geneva. And once you’re there, you needn’t worry about a car in this quaint, pedestrian village. Bonuses: Views of the famed Matterhorn, cheese fondue, and Swiss hot chocolate!

QUINTESSENTIAL CULTURE: THE COTSWOLDS

I have a hard time imagining a more idyllic Christmas than one spent in the Cotswolds in the English countryside. With just a hop over the pond, you’ll live out your Downton Abbey dreams – attending horse races, shooting sporting clays or practicing falconry, and sipping spiced tea in the afternoons by the fire. Not to mention, you’ll get to enjoy all the delicacies of a traditional English Christmas – from Yorkshire pudding to mince pies!

WILD ADVENTURE: LAPLAND

If seeing the Northern Lights is on your life list, then head to Lapland in Northern Scandinavia. Though sunlight will be limited, there’s plenty to do – from polar plunges to Finnish saunas, mushing with huskies to searching for reindeer, snowmobiling to ice fishing – you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime. And the chance of seeing the majestic Aurora Borealis dance through the Arctic night sky is pretty high!

We have plenty more ideas on unique places to spend the holidays. We’d love to work with you on a memorable vacation – please contact us here to start planning!

SCOTTSDALE THREE WAYS

Scottsdale, Arizona is an ideal destination for many types of occasions. For one, it’s very easy to get to; most US hubs offer direct flights into Phoenix airport, just a 20 minute drive from Scottsdale. Secondly, it has great weather pretty much year-round. The city averages 299 sunny days a year and while, yes, it is cooler in the winter and can be hot, hot, hot in the summer, the climate is very dry and there is almost no humidity. And lastly, there is an abundance of things to do in Scottsdale – from golf to spa, hiking to jeep tours, and even museums and gardens – there is truly something for everyone!

But with dozens of hotels in the Scottsdale area, the tricky part is choosing where to stay! Having visited Scottsdale twice in the past 4 months, I have some suggestions on the best resorts for three totally separate vacations:

BACHELORETTE PARTY OR GIRLS GETAWAY: THE SAGUARO

While airbnbs are often popular for large group trips like a bachelorette, a fun boutique hotel is a great alternative for those that don’t want to worry about grocery shopping or spending all weekend coordinating Ubers for a big group. The Saguaro Hotel Scottsdale is ideally located in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, with easy access to tons of restaurants, bars, shops and coffee houses. The vibe of the hotel is also perfect for a girl party – everything is neon and Instagram-worthy! I recommend rooms that open up onto the main pool and a suite for the bride – you’ll feel like you’re in a house with a large living area to hang out in and easy access to a pool, but you’ll have guac and margs at your fingertips!

FAMILY FUN: THE FAIRMONT SCOTTSDALE PRINCESS

There is something for everyone at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. This is a larger resort with 6 pools (one with its own beach!), 4 different restaurants, a golf course (plus access to hundreds more in Scottsdale!), and a killer spa with dozens of fitness classes offered weekly. The Trailblazers Family Adventure Center has daily programming for kids and pre-teens aged 5-12. For a more intimate experience, I recommend staying in the Fairmont Gold area of the resort. Gold guests have access to a private lounge that offers daily breakfast, evening appetizers and cocktails, and a private check-in and concierge desk, as well as unlimited use of the spa facilities.

WELLNESS WEEKEND: SANCTUARY CAMELBACK MOUNTAIN RESORT & SPA

If you’re looking for a more peaceful hideaway with a focus on wellbeing, look no further than Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa. This intimate property has just 109 casitas and suites, nestled across its 53 acres in bungalow-style accommodation. Guests enjoy farm-fresh healthy food and Asian-inspired treatments at the spa. The resort offers beautiful views of the famed Camelback Mountain as well as across the Scottsdale valley and the sunsets here are a nightly show. Scottsdale has optimal weather for indoor/outdoor living, so I recommend a Spa Suite for the private outdoor soaking tub or a Terrace Casita for a private outdoor rain shower.

Contact us to start booking your next getaway to Scottsdale, or check-out our new self-booking tool to reserve on your own with exclusive amenities.

HOTEL REVIEW: WHAREKAUHAU COUNTRY ESTATE

Sheep farms abound in New Zealand. In fact, sheep outnumber humans in the country at a ratio of 7 to 1. So for a truly authentic New Zealand experience, I love the idea of spending a few days on an actual working sheep farm and Wharekauhau Country Estate is the perfect place to do just that. This Relais & Chateaux property has operated as a sheep station since the 1840s and guests are offered the unique opportunity to see what this means first-hand through the lodge’s farm tour.

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GETTING THERE

Wharekauhau is located in the Wairarapa Valley on the North Island of New Zealand, about a 2 hours’ drive from the capital city of Wellington. The lodge can arrange for vehicle transfers for those who do not want to rent a car, or, you can opt to arrive by helicopter in just about 15 minutes’ time!

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THE ACCOMMODATIONS

The oceanside property is sprinkled with one-bedroom cottage suites, most of which offer interconnecting options to allow for families or larger groups to stay together. All of the suites overlook stunning vistas of Palliser Bay, and feature gas fireplaces, super King-sized four poster beds, plush couches, and of course – a jar of homemade cookies. The large walk-in wardrobe leads into a small wet bar area and then on to the bathroom where guests will find heated marble floors and large soaking tubs with views over the front lawn.

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DINING

Breakfast is served in the kitchen of the main lodge – a continental buffet of breads, pastries, fruit, fresh jam and honey, plus a menu of hot selections available for order. Pre-dinner drinks and canapés are served in the living room and offer guests the opportunity to mingle and discuss the day’s activities by the fire. Dinner is then presented in the formal dining room – a delicious 4-course menu (changing daily) with an optional wine pairing. Many of the wines are from local Martinborough vineyards or produced by the lodge owner’s vineyards around the world.

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Room rates are inclusive of daily breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and canapés and 4-course dinner. Guests can opt for lunch at an additional fee, but given all the food, you may want to skip it as we did, and just grab a pastry from the cloche in the kitchen to tide you over.

ACTIVITIES

There are so many fun and unique activities to do at Wharekauhau! We partook in the following:

  • Martinborough Wine Tour – the Martinborough region is known for fabulous Pinot Noirs. Just about an hour from Wharekauhau you’ll be in wine country with easy access to multiple different vineyards. Wharekauhau arranged a private guided tour for us that included tastings at four different wineries. Moy Hall was one of my favorites due to the design of the building. And we loved the lunch spread at Poppies – a platter of cheeses, meats, breads and spreads is always perfect for wine tasting. If you’d like to ship a case of wines home from a variety of the vineyards you visited, don’t forget to stop at the Martinborough Wine Merchants store in town before you leave and assemble your box. IMG_2671IMG_5116
  • Farm Tour – As I mentioned above, the Farm Tour is an absolute must for all guests experiencing Wharekauhau as it gives you the opportunity to really understand what goes into operating a sheep farm – from training sheep dogs to shearing the wool. The day we participated, everyone else staying at the lodge was also on the tour and it was a great way to connect with our fellow travelers.DSC02594DSC02609
  • Archery – With the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, archery has become a popular activity for New Zealand visitors. Wharekauhau offers an incredible archery experience with a seasoned guide.

These were just a few of the activities we enjoyed, but there are many more options available!

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WHY VISIT

Each place we stayed in New Zealand was completely unique and Wharekauhau did not disappoint. I loved being near the ocean, gazing past herds of sheep to the bluffs of Palliser Bay. The property is stunning and the warmth and hospitality you’ll feel at this estate is palpable. ATLAS + VALISE clients also receive special Virtuoso amenities, including a $100 resort credit and early check-in!

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HOTEL REVIEW: AZUR LODGE

Nestled among soaring mountains at the foot of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand and is a must-see for anyone visiting the country.

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Just a 5-minute drive from this bustling downtown, you’ll find the perfect hideaway for honeymooners and couples – Azur Lodge. This boutique luxury property is incredibly private – it has 9 identical villas perched hillside, with breathtaking views over the lake and surrounding mountains.

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ACCOMMODATION

Villas at Azur Lodge are spacious – from the L-shaped couch set in front of the gas fireplace, to the private patio and the indoor dining table set in a bay of floor-to-ceiling windows – there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the view. A small kitchenette provides guests with complimentary soft drinks, beer and wine, as well as local snacks, tea and coffee. The villas are arranged such that each is completely private (once you’re in your villa – you won’t see anyone else in theirs!) and have unobstructed views from the King-sized bed to the oversized soaking tub.

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AMENITIES

In addition to the 9 villas, the property has a main reception area with a lounge, dining room and library. At breakfast time, guests can opt to join others in the main dining room, where a delicious buffet spread is laid out, or have breakfast delivered to their villa at no extra charge. In addition to the traditional continental fare, guests can also order a variety of hot items – anything egg-based, pancakes, or french toast.

In the afternoons, pop up to the main lodge for a cup of tea and the pastry of the day, or stop by in the evenings for a cocktail and some canapés (or both – hey, you’re on vacation!). While dinner isn’t included at this property, a full bar is set up in the evenings and you can request pretty much any cocktail or glass of wine that you’d like. The hotel also offers a complimentary shuttle to and from town and the concierge is available to assist with dinner reservations at the top spots in Queenstown (of which there are many!). But, one of the more genius offerings at Azur Lodge is their take on in-room dining. For lunch and dinner, the lodge provides an extensive portfolio of take-out menus in your room – from Asian food to pizza and burgers. Just pick out what you’re in the mood for and the staff will place the order for you, pick it up downtown, and set it up in your room with white linen and silverware. This is the best table in town so don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy it!

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ACTIVITIES

There is SO much to do in Queenstown! As I mentioned, this is the adventure capital of New Zealand and it is also the birthplace of bungee. If you’re up for a major adrenaline rush then this is a great place to skydive or bungee jump. But for the slightly less adventurous out there, I recommend the Shotover Jet, the Luge, e-biking through wine country, and of course, a trip to Milford Sound. Read my full New Zealand post for a recap of everything we did in Queenstown and contact me today to start planning your stay at the beautiful Azur Lodge!

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HOTEL REVIEW: OTAHUNA LODGE

We arrived at Otahuna Lodge late our first evening, after a long day of travel from Kokomo to the main island of Fiji then on to Auckland and finally to Christchurch. Despite the late hour, we were still greeted in the front drive by several staff who helped us with our luggage, gave us a quick tour of the property, showed us to our upgraded Master Suite, and then served us a 3-course dinner at 10 pm. I immediately felt as if I had stepped back in time, to the world of Downton Abbey – we were the Lord & Lady of the Manor here. Words can hardly describe how incredible this hotel was – it was more than a hotel – it was an experience, one that we felt so grateful to have on our Honeymoon and one that left us counting the days until we can return.

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THE HISTORY

Otahuna was built in 1895 for Sir Heaton Rhodes, a Victorian country gentleman, and his wife, Jessie. Sir Heaton lived in the home for 60 years until he passed away at the age of 95, leaving Otahuna (which means “little hill among the hills” in Maori) as his greatest legacy. Though the home has been through several incarnations over the past few decades, it has operated as a hotel since 2007. While privately owned and operated, the property is part of the Relais & Chateaux portfolio and lives up to the brand’s extremely high standards of service, luxury and cuisine.

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THE ROOMS

The property has just 7 rooms, each one of them completely unique in style. We were lucky enough to be upgraded to the Rhodes Suite – 1 of the 2 Master Suites. This series of four rooms was originally the master bedroom for Sir Heaton Rhodes himself – complete with a private verandah, octagonal turret room, a study/foyer and an ensuite bathroom. The accommodation also features beautifully carved woodwork, an operational fireplace and stained glass windows.

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THE CUISINE

Food lovers rejoice at Otahuna! I honestly have probably never had better food in my life. At breakfast, guests are greeted warmly in the country-style kitchen with a slew of freshly baked breads, homemade jams, butter and honey, as well as homemade buffalo yogurt, fresh berries, melon, and of course kiwi! Each day, there will undoubtedly also be a fresh (literally right out of the oven) baked good – perhaps some blueberry muffins or maybe banana chocolate chip. The juicer is also out on the counter, ready to serve up the lodge’s signature Orange-Ginger-Carrot concoction. And a chef in the kitchen can cook up eggs, bacon, sausage to order – or probably any hot breakfast you have in mind. While lunch isn’t included in the rate, ATLAS + VALISE clients receive a complimentary Virtuoso picnic lunch for one day during their stay. We enjoyed this on the back patio – a delicious salad with smoked chicken and vegetables cut from the garden, freshly baked focaccia bread with local olive oil, and a work of art otherwise known as panna cotta with freshly picked berries. Of course there was wine too – whatever wine we wanted! – but I can’t resist a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

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I dare you to go hungry at Otahuna, but if you do, there is a pantry of snacks stocked on the upstairs landing, as well as hot and cold beverages – so help yourself! At dinner time, guests meet in the drawing room for cocktails and canapés before entering the communal dining room for the lodge’s signature 5-course dinner. (Guests can also opt for one of a few private dining locations if they prefer not to eat with the group). Each course is paired with a local New Zealand wine selected by the highly trained server/sommelier. But if you don’t like any of the choices, don’t be shy – just ask for something else.

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THE ACTIVITIES

At the Lodge

  • Tour the Gardens and Visit “Oinkahuna” – Otahuna is home to spectacular gardens, from its massive front lawn and daffodil field, to the vegetable gardens and fruit orchards. You’ll also find some secret garden paths in the woods – leading to hidden clearings and frog ponds. And don’t miss “Oinkahuna” – home to the Lodge’s two pigs. IMG_2298IMG_2296
  • Learn to Cook from a Master – Any visit to Otahuna must include a cooking class. These hands-on lessons are offered in one or three hour formats. We opted for the shorter one, but still learned to make so many different things – from brioche to homemade sorbet, and handmade tortellinis. IMG_2243
  • Bike Ride – The Lodge has bikes on hand if you’re hoping to stretch your legs through the Canterbury countryside. IMG_2231

Nearby

  • Visit Banks Peninsula & Akaroa – One of the main attractions of this area is the historic town of Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. You can also take a cruise through the Akaroa harbor and see the world’s rarest and smallest dolphins, the Hector’s Dolphins.
  • Take the Tranzalpine railway to Arthur’s Pass National Park – We did this full day trip one of the days at Otahuna. The lodge can arrange a guided tour for you with Canterbury Guiding Co. You’ll be picked up early from the Lodge and driven to a nearby train station to board the Tranzalpine Railway – one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world. You’ll follow a river as you climb up into the Southern Alps and Arthur’s Pass National Park. You’ll disembark the train there and meet up again with your guide who will take you on some beautiful hikes before returning back to Christchurch by car. LRG_DSC02445LRG_DSC02449LRG_DSC02476
  • Fly Fishing & More

Rates are inclusive of breakfast and dinner (beverages too). Contact me to book your visit to this amazing property today and receive your exclusive amenity of a complimentary picnic lunch and bottle of wine!

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HONEYMOONIN’ THROUGH NEW ZEALAND

When my (now) husband and I got engaged last spring, we immediately started planning for an epic honeymoon – even before we sorted out the details of our wedding! New Zealand seemed like a perfect choice – neither of us had been before and it offered the ideal combination of luxury and adventure that we were both looking for in a honeymoon locale. Plus, as we were married at the end of March, New Zealand would be entering autumn – our favorite season.

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Getting There

As destinations go, New Zealand isn’t necessarily close, but this makes it perfect for a longer trip like a honeymoon. However, flying from the West Coast of the US is actually easier than you might think. From LAX, Air New Zealand has daily direct flights to Auckland – New Zealand’s largest city (about an 11.5-12 hour flight). And from Auckland, it is very easy to connect to all other cities in the country on shorter domestic flights. Since we first spent 5 days enjoying the beaches of Fiji at Kokomo Private Island, our flight to New Zealand was only about 2.5 hours from Nadi – the main international airport in Fiji. Air New Zealand also offers direct flights from the US out of Hawaii, San Francisco, Houston and now, Chicago.

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Planning Your Trip 

New Zealand is comprised of two main islands – North and South. Despite being a relatively small country – less than 5 million people and about the landmass of Colorado – there are so many different areas worth exploring. I definitely recommend visiting about 3 different areas for a 10 day trip – and likely by the last day you’ll be planning for your return trip to explore the rest of this amazing country. For our honeymoon, we chose to visit the Christchurch / Canterbury area and Queenstown on the South Island and the Wairarapa Valley on the North Island.

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Getting Around

New Zealand is a driver-friendly country and many people choose to explore it that way. There is even a ferry service between the two main landmasses that makes it easy to travel between them without flying. However, with a shorter itinerary, I do recommend maximizing your time in each place by flying short hops on Air New Zealand. Flights are only about an hour or so depending where you are traveling between. The airport environment is also much more relaxed than most of the US – no need to arrive at the terminal hours and hours prior to your domestic flights.

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First Stop: Christchurch

Our first stop in New Zealand was Christchurch where we stayed at the incredible Otahuna Lodge, just 25 minutes outside the city center. This Relais & Chateaux property was once New Zealand’s largest private residence, built by Sir Heaton Rhodes in 1895. A stunning Victorian mansion with just 7 rooms and exquisite cuisine, guests truly feel transported back in time.

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On our first full day in Christchurch, we had absolutely perfect weather. So after a delicious breakfast of freshly baked breads and homemade yogurt, we set off on a bike ride through the countryside to enjoy the scenery and stretch our legs from the long travel the day before. That afternoon, we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the garden and a cooking class in the Otahuna kitchen before settling in to a delicious 5-course meal (with local NZ wine pairings!) in the dining room.

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The next day, we set off on a full day adventure with Canterbury Guiding Co. We took the Tranzalpine Railway across the Canterbury Plain and up into the Southern Alps. In Arthur’s Pass National Park, we disembarked the train and met our guide for some hiking and exploration. The weather was really crazy this day – pouring rain one minute, then sunny and rainbows the next! But we made the most of it. And as we drove back to Christchurch, we stopped at Castle Hill Rock – a filming site for Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia – for another hike and photo op.

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Second Stop: Queenstown

Reluctantly, we bid farewell to Otahuna and flew to Queenstown. Our good luck with the weather followed us and we had a beautiful few days in this city. Queenstown is truly a jewel of New Zealand. While a smaller city, it is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand and full of fun activities. Our home base in Queenstown was Azur Lodge – a gorgeous boutique property with only 9 villas set atop a hillside just 5 minutes’ drive from the center of town. While I loved the design and decor at this property, it was the jaw-dropping views that really stole the show.

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What to do in Queenstown:

  • Onsen hot pools – An instagram moment if I’ve ever seen one! This day spa offers private hot tubs overlooking the Shotover River Canyon IMG_2425
  • Shotover Jet – As I said Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand, this is a must do for an adrenaline rush. For about 25 minutes, you’ll be driven through a narrow canyon – dodging rocks and spinning 360s.
  • Skyline Luge – Everyone told us to do the luge in Queenstown. My initial impression was that it would be a bit corny, but we went for it anyways and I could not have been more wrong. Get ready for a real life game of Mario Kart – this is pure fun!IMG_2622
  • Milford Sound Tour – Milford Sound is a stunning fjord in Fjordland National Park in the Southwestern portion of the South Island. You can drive there from Queenstown, but it takes hours so most folks will plan a half day or full day trip by helicopter or fixed wing aircraft. We chose the latter as it is about half the price, but I’d recommend the helicopter for anyone that has issues with motion sickness or a fear of flying and/or heights (I hear the helicopter is smoother)! After a scenic flight over the mountains, you’ll arrive in Milford Sound for a cruise through the fjord – admiring the many waterfalls – before your return flight to Queenstown via a different route. IMG_2545IMG_2520DSC02538DSC02559
  • Better by Bike – This is an amazing way to get out of the city and explore the countryside! Better by Bike will pick you up at your hotel in Queenstown and drive you 30 minutes to Arrowtown and the lake district. From there, they will suit you up with a mountain bike or e-bike (definitely recommend the e-bike!) and a trail map and send you on your way. We spent a beautiful morning biking along the river, crossing bridges, watching bungy jumpers and stopping along the way for tastings at a cheesery and local wineries! IMG_2586IMG_2598IMG_2607

Where to Eat in Queenstown:

  • Rata – Modern New Zealand cuisine; Upscale for a nice dinner, or go for a late lunch as we did and enjoy the pre-set menu at a lower price point IMG_2407
  • White & Wong’s – Eats meets West cuisine inspired by street food from Southeast Asia
  • Botswana Butchery – Upscale dining with a broad selection of high quality meats
  • Madame Woo – Inspired by Malaysian hawker food IMG_2640
  • Mrs. Ferg Gelateria – While all the tourists are lined up at Fergberger next door, stop in for some delicious gelato IMG_2643
  • Azur Delivery – Not an actual restaurant, but one of my favorite things about our hotel in Queenstown. While the property serves breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails + amuses bouches, there is no onsite restaurant for dinner. Instead, they offer you take-out menus from the many restaurants in town and will pick up whatever you like and set it up in your room. This is the best view in town! And you can wear your pajamas. 15A10100-53C8-4A9D-B4D7-B02597FBD149

Last Stop: Wairarapa Valley

For our last stop in New Zealand, we flew up to Wellington and then drove two hours into the Wairarapa Valley where we spent three nights at the beautiful Wharekauhau Country Estate – another Relais & Chateau property, but with a totally different flavor. This estate began in the 1840s as a sheep station and remains a working sheep farm to this day. Guests can stay in one of 16 different cottage suites spread across the property and experience rural New Zealand life – where sheep outnumber humans 7 to 1.

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Our first full day at Wharekauhau, we took a guided wine tour of the Martinborough region – famous for its Pinot Noirs. The wineries are centrally located around the town of Martinborough so it’s easy to visit a few for tastings. On our last full day in New Zealand, we enjoyed the hotel’s famous farm tour – learning about sheep shearing, sheep dogs and sheep herding, and meeting the resident eels – before trying our hand at archery in true LOTR style.

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New Zealand was an incredible honeymoon destination and combined perfectly with Fiji for a blend of relaxation and adventure. I cannot wait to go back and explore more of this gorgeous country.

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HOTEL REVIEW: KOKOMO PRIVATE ISLAND FIJI

Bula! If you’re looking for a little slice of paradise for your next vacation, look no further than Kokomo Private Island Fiji. When Australian billionaire, Lang Walker came across an abandoned resort in the Kadavu Islands on a trip to Fiji, he had a vision of creating a unique and exclusive island paradise unlike any other that existed. Fast forward through several years of sustainable development, he has succeeded in achieving just that – all while maintaining the natural beauty and landscape of the rugged Fijian islands. Guests here will feel truly transported; and after a few hours on this remote piece of the earth, the stress of every day life will melt away into the soft, white sand, the lapping ocean, and the stunning sunsets.

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GETTING HERE

Fiji Airways offers direct flights daily from LAX to Nadi, the primary international airport in Fiji. From Nadi, it’s just a quick 45-minute transfer to Kokomo via helicopter or sea plane.

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ACCOMMODATIONS

There is no such thing as a bad room on Kokomo. The parallel beaches on either side of the island are dotted with beachfront villas, ranging from 1 to 3 bedrooms. Each villa is completely private, with the exterior door entering first into a private garden and pathway to the main villa door. The one-bedroom villa (which I stayed in) opens into a comfortable living space and kitchenette (complete with complimentary homemade cookies and dark chocolate covered honeycomb – replenished daily!), a spacious bedroom with a King sized bed and walk-in wardrobe, and an enormous bathroom with an indoor shower, an outdoor shower, a large soaking tub, and his and hers vanities. The entire floor-plan is optimized for the view, as guests can easily step outside onto their private verandah to lounge on the day beds, hammock, or chaise lounges, take a dip in their private plunge pool or walk just steps to the beach and swim in the ocean. This space is the ultimate retreat for privacy and indoor/outdoor living.

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But the property doesn’t just cater to couples. The 2 to 3 bedroom beachfront villas are perfect for families. And for multigenerational groups, Kokomo also offers an array of luxury residences ranging from 3-6 bedrooms. Slightly more modern in their design, and perched on a hill in the central part of the island, the residences are still incredibly luxurious and all offer private pools along with full kitchens, nanny and butler service.

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DINING

All meals are included in your rate at Kokomo so you can eat until your heart’s content! There are three dining venues on the island:

  • Beach Shack – This is the primary dining room, located in the main lodge building.
    • For breakfast, a beautiful continental spread is set-up with fresh baked breads and pastries, local fruit and fresh juices. You can also order off the menu for specialty hot, made-to-order items such as eggs and waffles. F0282C79-75C0-444A-8083-31D8E35426CC
    • Lunch is fresh-caught local fish or meat and salads with vegetables from the on-island farm.
    • If you’re hungry for a snack or a drink in the afternoon, pop-in for an array of sweets and savory bites at the bar. IMG_2001
    • And for dinner, indulge in a five-course tasting menu. IMG_2150
  • Walker d’Plank – Set-off in a cove past the main jetty on the island, you’ll find a true treasure – Walker d’Plank, open for lunch and dinner. Here, Chef Caroline serves up Asian-inspired street food, like crispy tempura prawns, chicken and scallion dumplings, and even sushi. But there is no menu here. Chef Caroline will come to each table to talk to you about your cravings for the day, then she’ll make a few suggestions and cook up something special just for you. IMG_20469F732F74-56B1-4541-ADE9-372B772446C4
  • Kokocabana – Located adjacent to the resort pool and kids clubs, this pizza parlor and ice cream stand, is clearly intended for the younger visitors to Kokomo. But that didn’t really stop us from enjoying their wood-fired pizzas, burgers and milkshakes for a more casual lunch. DSC02408

Want food delivered to your room? No problem. Looking for a private cook-out and dining experience? That can be arranged! I also strongly recommend you take advantage of the farm tour to see how they provide the majority of the food for guests on the island in an organic and sustainable way.

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ACTIVITIES

Despite being on a remote island, you will not get bored at Kokomo. Included in your rate are all on-island activities and non-motorized water sports: a fitness center, tennis, basketball, snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayaking, a sea trampoline, yoga, and cultural activities. Guests can also arrange excursions each day for an additional fee. We enjoyed scuba diving, a waterfall hike on a nearby island, and snorkeling at the Astrolabe reef. For those interested in fishing, I think the ability to catch your dinner would be quite a treat!

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I also definitely recommend a visit (or two) to the Yaukuve Spa Sanctuary, where you can enjoy a massage, facial or body treatment.

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WHY VISIT

First off, this is paradise – it’s luxury perfectly blended with nature. You will feel completely relaxed from the minute you step off the sea plane or helicopter. But what really sets this place apart is the staff. Guests are welcomed with traditional Fijian songs and fresh cut coconuts. Staff are all over the resort, smiling, shouting Bula! and ensuring that you don’t have to worry about a stray palm leaf or where to find your next drink. This is not another chain resort – but a truly Fijian experience, where you’ll feel immersed in the culture and friendliness of the country.

ATLAS + VALISE Perks: By booking this property with ATLAS + VALISE, an affiliate of Travel Edge and member of Virtuoso, guests will be treated to an exclusive welcome amenity, early check-in/late check-out and a $100 resort credit to be utilized during your stay.

Looking for an escape to paradise? Contact us today to book your escape to Kokomo!

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RINGING IN 2019 IN THE FLORIDA KEYS

The Florida Keys, the Southernmost point of the continental United States, are a string of coral islands tracing south from Miami 160 miles to Key West. The name Key is derived from the Spanish cayo, which means “small island” – a word originally borrowed by Spanish explorers from the native Taino Indians of Hispanola and Cuba.

The famed Overseas Highway follows Route 1 from Miami to Key West on a beautifully scenic drive that is consistently heralded as one of the top US road trips to experience in your lifetime. And for that reason, shortly after Christmas, we flew down to Miami and embarked on a weeklong adventure through the Florida Keys.

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Islamorada 

About halfway between Miami and Key West lies Islamorada. Home to a dozen or so resorts, as well as many great restaurants, Islamorada is a great home base for the first half of your Keys road trip.

Where to Stay

The Keys definitely have a low-key beach vibe and for that reason I wasn’t really looking for 5-star luxury here. I wanted to stay somewhere that truly evoked the spirit of the Keys and we found that in La Siesta Resort & Marina. We splurged a bit for our room which was a 1-bedroom cottage with a living area and kitchenette, opening directly onto the beach – oddly named “Mango Cottage,” despite its purple color. In addition to the beach and pool, we also loved how this hotel offered complimentary bikes, kayaks and paddleboards to all resort guests!

 

Where to Eat

  • Lazy Days – delicious fish, right on the beach
  • Morada Bay Cafe – come early to get a spot beachside in time for sunsetIMG_1315
  • Midway Cafe – great for breakfast and lunch. And don’t miss the original Manny & Isa’s key lime pie!IMG_1323
  • Green Turtle Inn – Dating to 1947, the establishment was originally made famous for serving up sea turtle delicacies.
  • Hungry Tarpon – Located at Robbie’s Marina; casual waterfront dining

Where to Drink

  • Holiday Isle Tiki Bar – Based at The Postcard Inn, a sister hotel to La Siesta, you can ride your bike over to enjoy the original “Rum Runner” cocktail IMG_1302
  • Islamorada Beer Co – a local brewery offering tasting flights IMG_1304
  • Florida Keys Brewing Co – another great local brewer with tasting flights and a backyard “beer garden”IMG_1331IMG_1329

What to Do

  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – a great place to snorkel or scuba in Key Largo (unfortunately our scuba trip was cancelled due to high winds!)
  • History of Diving Museum – tons of information and memorabilia on the history of diving and the evolution of gear in the sportIMG_1296
  • Robbie’s Marina – for a few bucks you can buy a bucket of fish and feed the giant tarpon that frequent Robbie’s Marina – just watch out for the pelicans!IMG_2031
  • Kayak & paddleboard – The Keys are all about water sports
  • Ride bikes – a great way to get around without worrying about traffic or parkingIMG_1330

Continuing on to Key West, it’s definitely worth making a few stops along the way to see some local wildlife…

  • The Turtle Hospital – in Marathon, you’ll find a sea turtle rescue hospital that has rehabilitated and re-released thousands of sea turtles since opening in the 80’s. DSC02320IMG_1414
  • National Key Deer Refuge – Many people don’t know there are deer in the Florida Keys, but the Key Deer Refuge is home to the diminutive species of Pine Key Deer. They are elusive, but you may find alligators and other wildlife as you walk through the trails. 

Key West

Continuing to the very end of the archipelago, you’ll arrive at the largest city, Key West – located just 90 miles north from the island of Cuba.

Where to Stay

There are a ton of hotels to choose from in Key West, but given that it was New Year’s and Key West can be a bit of a rowdy town, we chose to stay a bit outside the downtown area on nearby Stock Island. The Perry Hotel Key West opened in 2017 and is set right on a marina with a fabulous pool and lots of great spots to hang, dine and drink. I just love the design focus and chill laid back vibes of this hotel.

 

Where to Eat

  • The Breakfast Club, Too – Great breakfast – no surprise there! I closed out 2018 with some epic chocolate chip pancakes and cinnamon sugar butter – yum.IMG_1436
  • Little Pearl – A little off the main drag, this cute restaurant is perfect for date night. IMG_1477
  • Matt’s Stock Island – Located at The Perry Hotel. Solid brunch and nice shareable plates for a lighter dinner.IMG_1484
  • Salty Oyster – Poolside bar with casual eats at The Perry; happy hour is great deal with 50% off food and drinks.IMG_1341

What to Do

  • Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum – Located in Old Town Key West, this historic building was home to Ernest Hemingway from 1931 to 1939. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968, descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s famed six-toed cats still call the property home. I recommend joining one of the regular tours that start every twenty minutes or so. IMG_1450IMG_1444
  • Duval Street – The main drag in Key West, home to lots of dive bars, cafes and shops. Great for people watching.
  • Southernmost Point Buoy – Pretty self explanatory but a popular photo op. IMG_1454
  • Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square – Starting 2 hours before sunset every night, head to Mallory Square to see the sunset and enjoy the sunset celebration featuring street performers, food carts and drinks to go (no open container laws in Key West!) IMG_1468
  • Jet Skiing with Key West Water Tours – Several tour operators offer jet ski trips around the island of Key West. We really enjoyed that this one was guided and included brief stops with history of the locale (in addition to going really freaking fast). This was a blast and I highly recommend it!

In short the Keys are the perfect place for an easy getaway where you can enjoy sunshine, water sports, history, and casual dinners of fresh fish beach side – an ideal equation to unwind and rejuvenate for the new year to come!DSC02306

HOTEL REVIEW: TWIN FARMS

Is anyone else’s favorite Christmas movie, White Christmas? Visiting Twin Farms last week reminded me of the quintessential Vermont resort in that movie. Full of rustic charm and piled high with snow, this Relais Chateaux property is the ideal winter retreat. Secluded among 300 acres of meadow and forest in Barnard, VT, the property allows only its guests to enjoy the extraordinary dining and amenities, offering a truly intimate and private experience. 

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THE HISTORY

The original hotel building was the home of Sinclair Lewis and his wife, Dorothy Thompson, who bought the property in 1928. The story goes that Dorothy required Sinclair to purchase two neighboring farms for her as a wedding present, hence the name “Twin Farms.” Restored by a group of owners in the early 1990s, Twin Farms opened its doors to guests in 1993 and has been wowing luxury vacationers ever since.

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THE ROOMS

The hotel boasts 20 unique rooms – 10 suites and 10 cottages. Six suites reside in the original house and lodge, while another 4 suites sit just across the dirt road in a newly developed building, The Farmhouse at Copper Hill. Those suites share a communal hot tub and living area and make the perfect retreat for a larger group or family.  The 10 cottages are spread throughout the property on a 1 mile loop from the main building, each with its own carport, wood-burning fireplace, sitting area, and King-sized bed. Each cottage is decorated with a bespoke theme and offers differing amenities from private hot tubs to floor-to-ceiling windows. The resort has a residence perfect for each visitor and the staff takes care to match potential guests with the room that best matches their preferences. IMG_1097IMG_1099IMG_1101IMG_1115IMG_1112IMG_1109

DINING

Though the rates are steep, they are all inclusive of meals and beverages. And if you’ve visited a Relais Chateaux property before, you’ll know that the cuisine is not to be missed! I was fortunate enough to enjoy a lunch in the on-site dining room and we were treated to an unbelievable three course menu complete with perfectly-selected wines. While there are no set meal times at the hotel, there are meal windows: 7-10 for breakfast, 12:30-1:30 for lunch and 6-8:30 for dinner. Guests can also request meals in their room or cottage. Prior to dinner, cocktails and canapés are served in the living room by the fire and after dinner (or any time really), you can head to the on-site “pub” for a night cap. 

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ACTIVITIES

In the winter, the hotel offers a variety of outdoor activities, including: skiing on its private 6-trail ski hill, sledding, snowshoeing, and ice skating. For those averse to the cold, you can enjoy the state-of-the-art fitness center or book a treatment with the spa. Fitness classes are also offered regularly. In the summertime, guests can kayak, SUP and canoe on the on-site pond, hike along groomed trails, bike, fly-fish, or play tennis. 

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Several times a year, the property also hosts a Murder Mystery Weekend where all guests participate. They even hire professional actors to amp up the fun!

Travel Advisor Perks: By booking this property with ATLAS + VALISE, an affiliate of Travel Edge and member of Virtuoso, guests will be treated to an exclusive welcome amenity, early check-in/late check-out and upgrade on arrival (all subject to availability).

Looking for the quintessential New England getaway this winter? Contact us today to book an escape to Twin Farms.

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