20 TRIPS TO TAKE IN 2020

Welcome to the roaring 20s! But seriously, I have a feeling this new decade is going to be a good one. Kick it off right by starting with some epic trips in 2020. Here’s a quick guide to 20 places that are on my radar right now.

  • Austria – I just went to Austria this past October and absolutely fell in love with the country. The cities are so opulent and fabulous (hello champagne for breakfast!) and the countryside is just jaw-dropping. This summer marks the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth and the 100th year of the famed Salzburg Festival. Any classical music enthusiasts or lovers of the arts? This is your year to go to Austria!
  • The Arctic – Expedition cruising is the new black and major cruise lines are launching luxury expedition ships left and right. What that means is that the polar regions are getting more and more crowded; and since many of these areas are tightly regulated in terms of traffic, now is the time to go before it gets busier. While Antarctica is an epic trip, the Arctic is a bit more accessible with 7-10 day itineraries offered out of Oslo, Norway. I am actually going myself this summer with Silversea and could not be more excited!
  • Costa Palmas – Never heard of it? I don’t blame you. Costa Palmas is the new hot spot on the Baja Peninsula – just north up the eastern coast from Cabo San Lucas. Think swimmable beaches, beautiful marinas, fewer crowds, and some brand spankin’ new resorts, including the recently opened Four Seasons Los Cabos at Costa Palmas and the (coming soon) Amanvari.
  • Hawaii (Big Island) – One of the most exciting hotel (re) openings of 2020 is the beloved Mauna Lani on Hawaii’s Big Island. After its acquisition by Auberge Resorts, the property underwent an extensive $200 Million renovation. 90% of the resorts’ rooms have an ocean view and private terrace so you’re pretty much guaranteed a good room. After the volcanic eruption in 2018, tourism to the island is still on the rebound and the reboot of this beloved and iconic hotel is sure to help.
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  • New Zealand – I’ve planned several trips to New Zealand in the past few months and I’m loving re-living our honeymoon. Seriously though New Zealand was one of the most spectacular and special places I’ve ever been and I cannot wait to go back. Everything from the scenery, to the food, to the people to the wine – it’s just perfect! And to make things even better, there is now more non-stop service to New Zealand from LA (on American) and a new non-stop flight from New York launching in October 2020!
  • Paros, Greece – Of course you can’t go wrong with a trip to the Greek Isles but some of the hotspots (*cough* Santorini *cough*) have gotten so crowded, especially during the peak summer months. In 2019, Paros hit the map as one of the newer must see islands in the archipelago and that’s in large part due to the opening of Parilio this past July. Part of the Design Hotels portfolio, this 33-suite gem has a lovely pool and beautiful beaches. Plus the island is full of locals, not tourists, giving you a more authentic feel.
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  • Bhutan – Bhutan has been on the top of my list forever. It’s just a bit hard to get to, but one of these days I’ll be there!! 2020 is a great time to get to this tiny mountain country now that Six Senses has made its debut. Four Six Senses lodges opened in 2019 with a 5th set to open in 2020. A perfect trip would involve a circuit of these lodges, coupling wellness with adventure in the world’s happiest country.
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  • Canyon Ranch, Woodside – Speaking of wellness, the Queen Bee of wellness resorts, Canyon Ranch, opened its latest property, Canyon Ranch Woodside, just a few months back. Located south of San Francisco, this latest venture takes a “retreat” approach to Canyon Ranch’s tried and true methods, with nutritionist approved meals, daily activities, a state of the art spa and plenty of time to relax & disconnect. Plus I love the look of their treehouse style suites!
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  • Namibia – This country is like the new cool kid on the block when it comes to Africa. While I wouldn’t necessarily choose it for a first time trip, this is the perfect destination for a second or third visit to the continent. You can easily combine safari with sand dunes for a truly unique vacation. One of the most interesting hotels is the Shipwreck Lodge on the Skeleton Coast – the rooms look like old ships that wrecked in the desert!
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  • Australia – Australia is all over the news right now and its heartbreaking to see what has happened to the landscape and wildlife there with the recent bush fires over the past couple of weeks. That said, Australia is an extremely large continent and the majority of its iconic tourism destinations (Uluru, The Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, etc.) were unaffected by the recent fires. In 2020, I think that Australia will need tourism support more than ever to help fund the restoration and rebuilding of the impacted areas.
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  • South Africa – South Africa is such a diverse destination and you can fit several totally different experiences into one trip. Of course there is the art and history of Cape Town, and the iconic safari in the Sabi Sands or Kruger… but you may also consider spending a few days in the stunning winelands of Franschhoek or even escaping to the De Hoop Nature Reserve along the southern coast.
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  • Virgin Gorda – Another returning gem, Rosewood Little Dix Bay has officially reopened in Virgin Gorda after an extensive 4-year renovation. Dating to 1964, the resort was originally opened by conservationist Laurence Rockefeller and was purchased by Rosewood in the early 1990s.
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  • Mendoza – South America’s wine country is perfect for a combination of adventure, relaxation and good food & wine. Plus there are some incredible hotels in the region. Last year, I wrote a guest blog with my tips for visiting Mendoza on my friend La Matera’s site.
  • Belize – Costa Rica has been hot for years and years, but people are finally starting to talk about one of its lesser known neighbors, Belize. While a very small country, Belize packs a punch with jungle experiences, diverse wildlife, beautiful beaches, Mayan ruins and, of course, some fabulous hotels. Most notably, Leonard DiCaprio’s much anticipated eco-resort, Blackadore Cay, is set to open this year.
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  • Egypt – Tourism in Egypt really slowed since the 2011 revolutions, but in 2019, we started to hear some buzz on this destination again. In 2020, the Grand Egyptian Museum will open in Giza, becoming the largest archaeological museum in the world. The museum will house a complete and permanent collection on the renowned King Tut. History and archaeological buffs – there has never been a better time to visit this incredible country.
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  • Kyoto, Japan – Japan has been all the rage for several years now and 2020 will be even hotter with the summer olympics coming to Tokyo! But Kyoto is really stealing the scene with several new hotel openings (ahem Ace Hotel Kyoto, Park Hyatt Kyoto & Aman Kyoto) either in recent months or coming soon.
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  • Indonesia – Aqua Expeditions has been running luxury boutique river cruises in off-the-beaten path destinations like The Amazon and The Mekong rivers for years. With luxury, all suite accommodations, incredible food, and truly adventurous locales, this isn’t your typical river cruise. Their latest product, Aqua Blu, expands beyond the rivers to the seas of Eastern Indonesia. This explorer yacht is perfect for visiting some of those remote locations like Bali, Komodo Island, Raja Ampat and the Spice Islands. It’s particularly great for scuba divers as the ship is equipped with gear, but non-divers will also enjoy kayaking, snorkeling and stand-up paddle boarding.
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  • English Countryside – European cities are wonderful but in my opinion the countrysides are underrated. Though a bit more complex to plan (you’ll need to rent a car or hire a driver-guide), the quaint towns and boutique hotels found in the countryside of England are the perfect place to escape. We just spent an incredible week in the Cotswolds and it was every bit as romantic and relaxing as we’d hoped!
  • Montana The Resort at Paws Up has been on my travel list forever and for good reason: they have an unbelievable property in the heart of Montana, with rustic luxury style accommodations, delicious food and tons and tons of activities. But we have a new excuse to head to Greenough, Montana coming this summer, and it is Paws Up’s new venture – The Green O, set to open in August 2020. This adults only all-inclusive property shares the same incredible food and activities as Paws Up but is set in a remote woodsy setting – perfect for couples looking for a true escape and some time in nature.
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  • California Wine Country – Ok this is a bit of a biased one as I’m currently sitting in my gorgeously appointed suite at The Farmhouse Inn in Sonoma county and tomorrow, I set off to Meadowood in Napa Valley. However, California wine country is such a perfect (and easy!) escape within the US – and not just for wine lovers. Aside from stunning hotels, beautiful countryside and incredible food & wine, you will also find plenty of opportunities here to hike, bike, whale watch from the coast, and of course, relax at the spa or pool.
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I’d love to help you plan some incredible adventures in 2020! Please contact us today to get started!

HOTEL REVIEW: GREAT FOSTERS

Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world, with planes taking off or landing every 45 seconds! As an entry point into Europe, many US travelers will pass through Heathrow/London on their way to other destinations – either in Europe or further abroad, such as Africa. As a result, I often recommend to spend a night or two in London at the start or end of one’s trip in order to break up the travel time. And for those who have visited London many times before, heading in and out of the city for a short stay isn’t all that appealing.

Enter Great Fosters. Part of Alexander Hotels, this stunning country estate has historic rooms, a Michelin starred restaurant and beautiful grounds to enjoy, and is located just 15 minutes’ from Heathrow airport. A stay at this property would be lovely on any occasion but I am particularly drawn to the convenience of its location. I can’t envision a more idyllic spot to recharge after a long flight or combat jet lag!

HISTORY

An estate is known to have existed at this location in Surrey since the Middle Ages and a portion of the original moat is still in tact today. While the history of the home through the centuries is quite lengthy, there are a few highlights worth noting in this short post, including a royal crest of Queen Elizabeth I located above the main porch and dating to 1598. The manor first became a hotel in 1930 when it was purchased and refurbished by Sir Harold Sutcliffe. The following year, Queen Mary visited the property and the famed Ascot Ball was held at the hotel, solidifying its place in modern history. In 2018, the Sutcliffe family sold the property to Alexander Hotels, who manage the estate today, along with four other historic manor hotels.

THE ROOMS

Currently, the estate houses 43 rooms, some of which are newly added and in a more contemporary style, attractive to business travelers who may be utilizing the estate’s conference facilities. In my opinion, the highlights of the hotel are the historic suites – 7 uniquely designed rooms in the main house. I personally had the chance to stay in Panel II. When I arrived on a stormy night, the dark wood paneling and four poster bed with rich velvet fabrics felt so traditionally British – I love when you can arrive to a place and feel you’ve stepped back in time a bit. I also had the chance during my stay to tour several other historic rooms and my personal favorites were the Queen Anne Suite and the Tapestry Suite.

DINING

The Estate Grill is the main dining facility, offering traditional British fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week. For a splurge, treat yourself to dinner at The Tudor Room, the hotel’s intimate Michelin-starred restaurant featuring cuisine by head chef Tony Parkin. The 20-seat dining venue serves a delectable tasting menu for dinner three nights a week (Thursday – Saturday) and for lunch four nights a week. Before dinner, you may opt to enjoy afternoon tea in the living room, or a cocktail in the hotels’ bar or on the terrace.

THE GROUNDS

As mentioned above, the grounds of the estate are partially surrounded by an original moat. Within those bounds you’ll find numerous English gardens that are lovely to stroll through and in warmer weather you can enjoy the outdoor heated pool or a game of tennis. For rainier days, you may opt for a spa treatment in the comfort of your room or simply to enjoy a good book by the fire.

All in all, this romantic country estate nods to a bygone era, offering the perfect respite to renew your energy at the start or end of a big trip. And the proximity to the airport makes it all too convenient! I would also just note that Great Fosters is quite popular for weddings, so weekends during peak periods tend to book up quite far in advance.

CALLING ALL WIZARDS

If you don’t already have the “Warner Bros. Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter” on your bucket list, now’s the time to add it. This attraction in Leavesden (just outside of London) is where they filmed the majority of the movies. The former studio now houses full sets, costumes, special effects, and so much more. Fans of the franchise will see the wizarding world brought to life, while also learning some of the behind the scenes secrets for creating magic in the films. On my last trip to England, we finally had the chance to visit the studio and it was a dream come true!

Here are a few essential things to know before you go.

Buy your tickets in advance. While the studio is large, only a set number of tickets are sold per day. And with school field trips and tour groups in the mix, tickets do sell out far in advance. Make sure you purchase tickets online here well before your trip.

Ticket types. From individual to family to group tickets, there are a variety of options to choose from. There is also the choice to purchase just a ticket or a package ticket that includes a digital guide and a paperback souvenir guide. Personally, I found the audio guide to be a bit overwhelming during the tour as there was quite a lot to read as well. If you want to purchase the souvenir guide separately (instead of bundled with your ticket), you can pick it up in the gift shop after your visit.

Getting there. If you have a rental car, the easiest option is to drive yourself and park (for free) in the lot just outside the city. If you’re based in London and don’t have a car at your disposal, you can opt to take the train from London to Watford Junction, followed by a 15 minute shuttle bus. Read more about these options here.

Plan for 3+ hours. As mentioned, the space is large! There is so much to see and explore! You will need at least 3 hours to visit the full space. If you would like to take part in any of the simulators or other special videos, you’ll want to allot more time. And as there is so much information, you may want to break in the middle for a rest and lunch or a snack. If coming from London, I’d really plan for this to be a full day excursion.

Look out for special events. We were lucky enough to visit during Christmastime where many of the sets were decked out for the holidays. The studio also has fun events around Valentine’s Day and Halloween so be sure to check the schedules well in advance if you’d like to visit during these times!

Have fun! Entry is timed at regular intervals with an intro and a short movie shown to each group before entering The Great Hall. Due to large numbers of people, this first part can feel a bit too crowded, but after the intro and movie, visitors move through the attraction at their own pace and start to spread out. Be patient and just enjoy yourself!

This was such a fun day and there is really something for everyone! I loved the costumes while my husband loved learning about the special effects and which magic effects were computerized versus physically constructed. Our favorite however, was truly the sets – they really just brought the world of Harry Potter to life before our eyes.

HOTEL REVIEW: THE KENSINGTON HOTEL

London is one of the larger cities in the world, and as such, travelers have a plethora of options to choose from when it comes to accommodations. On my last trip to London, we spent a night at The Kensington Hotel in leafy Kensington. Part of the Doyle Collection, this property is made up of 8 historic townhomes dating to the Victorian era. The property evokes the sense of staying in a friend’s posh home in London – with cozy fireplaces, an open and inviting lounge area and friendly staff.

LOCATION

Kensington is the perfect neighborhood for visitors looking for a local flavor. A bit removed from the more touristy areas like Piccadilly Circus, the hotel is still conveniently within walking distance to many museums, Hyde Park and Kensington Palace, making it a quiet yet agreeable home base in London.

THE ROOMS

Though it hardly feels like it, the hotel has 146 rooms and suites. As with many older properties, the room lay-outs and color schemes vary from room to room, with some featuring more traditional British decor and others a more modern, refreshed design. While some rooms have balconies, others have floor to ceiling windows, and some of the newer rooms even have clawfoot tubs right in the bedroom – perfect for a romantic escape!

Those looking for a more unique accommodation will love the signature suites. The Knightsbridge Suite is a stunner with a more modern design, large balcony and two fireplaces, but I actually slightly prefer The Brompton Suite with its more ornate decor and subtle safari theme. Of course, there is the option to combine both suites to create a small apartment style dwelling – ideal for families or groups.

Notably, the hotel also offers several “family suites” – a rarity in many European cities! These are slightly larger rooms with a bit more living space and 2 King sized beds, offering a comfortable and more economical option for a family of 4.

DINING

The main lobby area of the hotel is an open lounge that feels like an intimate living room, with a variety of plush and cozy seating areas, several fireplaces and the option to stop at any time of day for a cup of coffee/tea or even a light bite. In Town House restaurant you can enjoy a lovely breakfast with both buffet and a la carte options. In the later hours you can dine here for lunch or dinner, but the true stunner is their afternoon tea, which currently features pastry molded into the famous landmarks of London – a real treat!

In the evening, when you return from exploring the city, pop in to the famous K Bar, reminiscent of a private members club, for some excellent craft cocktails.

SERVICE

Aside from the warm and inviting atmosphere, the well-appointed rooms and plethora of dining and lounging options, what really sets this hotel apart is the service. The staff is incredibly friendly and welcoming. They left some unbelievably thoughtful and unique touches and amenities in our room that made us feel right at home. I was so pleasantly surprised and appreciative to see this sweet photo they left for me of my puppy Deacon!!

I highly recommend staying at The Kensington during your next trip to London and would love to help you plan! Please contact me to get started.

GIFT GUIDE FOR THE SEASONED TRAVELER

You’ll find gift guides these days for every type of person, including avid travelers. But while many of those items seem cool and would make fun gifts, I never quite find myself going through with the purchase – whether I would actually use it always seems to be in question. For this gift guide, I’m sharing the items I actually pack and use on every trip! These gifts will be guaranteed to please the seasoned travelers in your life.

1 – Briggs & Riley Luggage – I know that everyone is on the AWAY train but I personally prefer soft luggage and Briggs & Riley is my favorite. These durable suitcases have plenty of pockets to stow all your belongings for a trip. And while these bags are an investment, they come with an unconditional lifetime warranty. I have the Spinners (carry-on and checked) and love them!

Photo Source: Briggs & Riley

2 – Packing Cubes – These are inexpensive and would make a great stocking stuffer – Amazon has a ton of options. I use these for every trip. They’re particularly great when you’re headed to two different destinations/climates on one vacation, as it allows you to easily segment your items so you can partially unpack at each place!

Photo Source: Amazon

3 – Passport Case – A must for international travel. So many options out there it’s hard to go wrong, but I love a subtle design such as this or this.

Photo Source: Anthropologie

4 – Inflatable Neck Pillow – Another non-conventional choice! So many people are passionate about their travel neck pillows. I personally like an inflatable option as it takes up less room in your suitcase on the remainder of your trip.

5 – Travel Journal – Ever since I was little, I’ve kept a handwritten journal of all my travels. I love reading these years later to relive the memories – sometimes they evoke even more than a photo. Rifle Paper products are some of my favorite and they have a range of designs to choose from. I’m loving this one!

Photo Source: Rifle Paper Co.

6 – Reusable Water Bottle – They never give you enough water on the plane in those tiny cups so I always bring my own bottle and fill it up at the airport before take-off. My favorite one is by Liquid Hardware – keeps colds cold and hots hot, seriously forever!

Photo Source: Liquid Hardware

7 – Lots of Pouches – I have pouches for literally everything – it helps me stay organized, especially while traveling. Mark & Graham has some great options that can be personalized.

Photo Source: Mark & Graham

8 – A Light Scarf – The plane can be hot, it can be cold – it’s a toss up these days, so I always have a light scarf with me. Keeping your neck warm makes a big difference. My favorite one is from Kate Spade (similar one here).

Photo Source: Kate Spade

9 – Kindle Paperwhite – Obviously a kindle is much more packing friendly than several hardcover books! And the lighting features make this an ideal choice for those who may have trouble with jet lag.

Photo Source: Amazon

10 – Herschel Laptop Sleeve – These Herschel laptop cases protect my computer without taking up too much room. I have the Heritage Sleeve in the Silver Birch Palm design and always get compliments!

Photo Source: Herschel

11 – Portable Phone Charger – My new iPhone’s battery life is incredible, but for those with older phones, a portable charger is a must.

Photo Source: Amazon

12 – Juice Plus – Traveling means you’re interacting with new germs on a daily basis. It also means you may not be eating as healthy as usually do. No one wants to get sick on vacation, so I always pack my Juice Plus. These capsules are made of freeze dried fruits and vegetables. Each daily dose is the nutritional equivalent of 30 different types of produce!

13 – Comfortable Walking Shoes – I always pack my New Balance sneakers, and typically also a pair of Tom’s (loving these since they look like chic loafers!). I recently splurged on a pair of Rothy’s loafers and have to say I’m very happy with these as well.

Photo Source: Rothy’s

14 – Kiehl’s Hydration Essentials – These products are the perfect size for traveling and will keep your skin hydrated on those long flights and varying climates!

Photo Source: Kiehl’s

Happy Gifting!!

A COZY WEEK IN THE COTSWOLDS

Just two hours outside of busy London, you’ll find The Cotswolds, an area of lush meadows and rolling hills, dotted with quaint villages featuring the famous, golden-colored Cotswold stone. The Cotswolds region is a perfect destination for travelers searching for a quintessential English countryside escape.

DAY 1: ARRIVAL

We flew into London and picked up a rental car at the airport. While you could opt to take the train from London to Bath or Gloucester (taking a taxi or transfer from there), it’s lovely to be able to explore the Cotswolds at your own pace with the freedom of a vehicle. So if you’re comfortable enough with driving on the wrong side of the road and navigating narrow lanes, then this is the way to go. Another great option would be to hire a private driver for a couple of days.

From London, we drove to our first hotel in Cheltenham, at the northwestern part of the Cotswolds. On the way from London, we stopped in at Oxford for a bite at The Kings Arms (the oldest pub in Oxford, dating to 1607!), a quick walk around town to see the architecture and a self-guided tour of the Divinity School of the Bodleian Library (featured in the Harry Potter films as the hospital wing).

Once in Cheltenham, we checked into Ellenborough Park, a stunning manor house with a Great Hall dating to the late 1400s. The current iteration of the hotel opened in 2011, but was refurbished just recently in 2017. The property has 62 rooms, and many amenities for guests, including a fine dining restaurant, a bistro, swimming pool, fitness center, boot room and easy access to the nearby Cheltenham racecourse.

After checking in, we enjoyed a delicious and cozy meal at The Horse Box, Ellenborough Park’s 5-star country pub.

DAY 2: SELF DRIVE COTSWOLD TOUR

After a wonderful night’s sleep, a delicious breakfast with farm fresh eggs, and a quick stop in at the spa, we took off to explore some of the famous Cotswold towns. Our first stop was Bourton-on-the-Water, otherwise known as “The Venice of the Cotswolds” due to the river that runs through the town. One of the interesting attractions to see here is The Model Village – a complete replica of the town, built at 1/9th the scale! You will also find a lot of cute gift shops here that are great to peruse.

Next, we drove north to Stow-on-the-Wold, another adorable village. This one featured more art galleries and gourmet food shops which we enjoyed walking through.

Lastly, we drove up to Broadway, known for its broad main street – originally used as the main carriage way from London. You’ll find loads of cute shops and restaurants here so it’s a great stop for lunch. We popped in to The Bakehouse for a flatbread and a drink.

After our touring for the day, we returned to Ellenborough Park for a lovely afternoon tea in the main hall by the fire. And later in the evening, we enjoyed an incredible dinner at the formal restaurant, aptly named The Restaurant.

DAY 3: CHELTENHAM RACES

The British are big into horse racing and Cheltenham, where Ellenborough Park is situated, actually has a large race course. The main event is in March, but in November, they host the November Meeting – a 3 day event that draws people from all over the UK. We were fortunate in that our visit to Ellenborough Park aligned with the races and so we went one day. The really nice thing about staying at Ellenborough Park is that they are so close to the racecourse and they offer complimentary shuttles to guests staying over racing weekends – so you don’t have to deal with parking or Ubers, and can get dropped off right at the gates of the course.

While a bit chilly, this event was really great fun. We did a little betting (although no winning), enjoyed some food and drinks, and experienced great people watching. I particularly loved seeing all the British equine fashion and their great fall hats!

This evening, we ventured into the town of Cheltenham for dinner at Muse Brasserie – a fusion restaurant serving up a mix of Indian and French cuisine. It was innovative and delicious and a welcome break from the British fare we had been enjoying.

DAY 4: BATH

This morning, after our final breakfast, we bid farewell to Ellenborough Park, and drove south to the city of Bath. This is a beautiful city and one could really spend even a few days here, as with Oxford. But we just stopped for a couple hours and visited the ancient Roman Baths. Back in the 1st century, when the Roman Empire extended into the British Isles, they found a natural hot spring at this site and constructed a temple and traditional roman bathing complex. The Roman settlement of Aquae Sulis was later built around the sacred site. As centuries went on, this ancient roman site was eventually built over, only to be rediscovered and excavated in the late 19th century. Audioguides are complimentary with your ticket and offer a wealth of information about the construction of the site, how it was used and the types of people that visited there. This was really fascinating and I highly recommend it.

From Bath, we continued just a bit north to Castle Combe – a quintessential Cotswold village used as the filming site for the original Dr. Doolittle movie. Here you will find another lovely estate, called The Manor House. My parents actually stayed here many years before on their honeymoon, so we decided to stop in for Sunday Lunch at the on-site, restaurant, Bybrook.

After lunch, we headed to our home for the next two nights, Whatley Manor, a Relais & Chateaux property with just 23 rooms and suites. This property was truly fabulous and I am already planning to come back as soon as possible. Aside from the beautifully furnished rooms, they have an extensive spa, a private cinema, numerous common rooms, a brasserie and a 2-Michelin starred restaurant, The Dining Room.

After taking a bit of time to unwind and relax in our room, we headed down for dinner at The Dining Room. The experience began with cocktails and some nibbles in the lounge. We were then escorted into the kitchen (!!!) for the next part of the experience – some bubbly (to celebrate their recent 2nd Michelin star!) and three amuse bouches while we watched the chefs prepare our meal. This was such a fun surprise and an amazing way to start the evening. Next, we headed into the dining room itself where we enjoyed the rest of our prix-fixe dinner – each dish more innovative and delicious than the last – the whole meal was completely divine.

DAY 5: R&R IN THE COUNTRYSIDE

For our last day in the countryside, we just relaxed at the hotel. The sun was shining and it was a gorgeous fall day. After our 3-course breakfast, we borrowed the bikes and went for an hour ride through the countryside.

After our exercise, we enjoyed some much deserved spa time – swimming in the indoor/outdoor hydrotherapy pool, and using the sauna and steam rooms, before I went in for a treatment.

Later, we enjoyed an incredible afternoon tea and then watched a movie in the private cinema (complete with popcorn!), before sneaking back to the spa for one more swim before dinner in Grey’s Brasserie. It was a 10 out of 10 day, and the perfect way to close out our trip to the Cotswolds.

We really had the best time exploring this region of the English countryside. In 5 days, we really just scratched the surface and I can’t wait to come back here and explore more. The Cotswolds are a beautiful place to visit year-round and I would love to help you plan your next trip there!

SOJOURN IN SEVILLA

I recently had the chance to visit Sevilla for a work conference and really fell in love with the architecture and rich culture of the Andalucia region of Spain. Sevilla is the capital of Andalucia and famous as the birthplace of flamenco. With a population of approximately 1.5 million, Sevilla is the 4th largest city in Spain. It’s Old Town district is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, making it a popular stop for visitors to Spain.

GETTING THERE

Sevilla is in southern Spain and, as a small city, doesn’t necessarily have direct flights from the US. However, it is easy enough to connect through Madrid or Barcelona, if flying straight through. Personally, I recommend flying into Madrid for a few days and then taking the train down to Sevilla. The route takes only about 2.5 hours, and the train is typically on time and cost effective. Plus you’ll get to enjoy the scenic countryside as you head south.

WHERE TO STAY

  • Mercer Hotel Sevilla – This luxury boutique hotel is right in the heart of Old Town and was a former Andalusian house. The property has just 12 rooms and a sleek, modern design. The rooftop terrace and pool are a perk, especially for the hotter summer months.
  • Hotel Alfonso XIII – Part of The Luxury Collection, this hotel was built in the 1920s to accommodate prestigious attendees of the Ibero-American Exhibition. A Virtuoso property, this is one of the grandest addresses in Sevilla today.
  • H10 Casa de la Plata – This 4-star property is a fabulous option for those looking to save a bit on the budget. Newly opened in May 2019, the style is contemporary, yet traditional with Andalusian ceramic tiles filling the lobby and guest rooms. I stayed here personally and can highly recommend it. Plus the location in Old Town is fabulous.

WHAT TO SEE

  • Royal Alcazar Palace – This complex is comprised of a 12th century fortress and 3 palaces. Rich in history, the Alcazar has been designated a UNESCO site since 1987. Queen Isabella actually had meetings here with Christopher Columbus before he set sail for America. Tours are offered daily and should be booked in advance of your trip. You can also visit the palace at night, which I recommend to see it all lit up.
  • Sevilla Cathedral – The Cathedral of Saint Mary is a Roman Catholic cathedral in the heart of Sevilla, and the second notable UNESCO site. Built in the 16th century, the cathedral took over the title of “largest cathedral in the world” upon completion, and still holds that title to this day. The building really is massive and quite an impressive architectural feat.
  • Archivo de Indias – The third UNESCO site in the city, Archivo de Indias houses 40,000 documents and maps referring to voyages to the New World, spanning three centuries. The 16th century building was a former stock exchange and is also renowned as an example of Spanish Renaissance architecture.
  • Maria Luisa Park & Plaza de Espana – A beautiful green space in the city, complete with palms and flowers, Maria Luisa Park is worth a visit on a sunny day. The Plaza de Espana is a square in the center of the park that was built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929.

I’d love to help you plan your next trip to Southern Spain! Sevilla pairs perfectly with a few days in Cordoba & Grenada. I also love the idea of hopping down to Mallorca or Menorca at the end to enjoy some R&R and beach time. Please contact us to plan your next trip to Spain!

FALL IN THE CATSKILLS

I’ve shared this many times before but fall is absolutely my favorite season, and autumn foliage doesn’t get much better than in the Northeast of the US. The Catskills, just two hours from NYC, are a perfect getaway to enjoy this time of year. Think crackling fires, warm apple cider, hikes through the woods and cozy sweaters…

GETTING THERE

From out of state, fly into Newark (to avoid the city), and pick up a rental car to take you North. If you live in NYC, your best bet is still to rent a car and drive up – you’ll want the flexibility to drive around the area, and as its quite remote here, Uber isn’t really an option.

WHERE TO STAY

The Catskills are a broad area and there are many different towns you can visit. On my recent stay we peeked in at the newly opened (Summer 2019!) Farmhouse Catskills, part of the Design Hotels collection. One of the larger hotel options in the area, the property has a pool, fire pits and several different rooming options (including glamp sites for the summertime), along with an onsite restaurant and cafe.

For a more rustic option, check out the properties owned by Foster Supply Hospitality. Their collection includes The North Branch Inn, The DeBruce, Nine River Road and The Arnold House. Each property is small and similar in design, yet they all offer their own unique features: The North Branch Inn has a historic two-lane bowling alley just off the restaurant, while The Arnold House is well known for its spa and tavern; The DeBruce is renowned for its multi-course gourmet dinners on Saturday evenings, while Nine River Road has bikes available for guests to borrow free of charge. Perhaps most importantly, all of these properties offer fresh baked chocolate chip cookies daily!

WHAT TO DO

Take a hike in the woods, bike on country lanes, or simply go for a drive, stopping in quaint towns for local goods, fresh cider, and antiques. If you have kids in tow, visit a local farm or pick-up some treats at the farmer’s market. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, take a fly fishing lesson – a popular past time in the area. On a rainy day, opt for a self-guided brewery tour, sampling some of the local craft beers, or simply curl up with a book by the fire. The Catskills are a perfect place to relax and reconnect with nature.

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE IN AUSTRIA: PART 2

Part II: Salzburg

From Vienna, we took a lovely three hour train journey west to Salzburg, a much smaller city of just 150,000 people. The train was easy and scenic but driving from Vienna to Salzburg is also a great option as there are many places to see and stop along the way.

Outside of Austria, Salzburg is famous as the setting of The Sound of Music and there are many sites in and around the city that are featured in the film. In Austria, the city is well known as the birthplace of Mozart, and for the Salzburg Festival, a music and arts festival attracting visitors from around the world every July and August to enjoy fabulous opera, concerts and theatre. 

WHERE TO STAY

  • Goldener Hirsch – I had the opportunity to stay at the Goldener Hirsch on my visit and absolutely loved it. The hotel dates to the 1400s and is located right in the center of Salzburg’s Old Town. The entire property just recently underwent a thorough renovation and the result is a historic hotel that retains much of its charm and authentic design as a Salzburg country inn, while also incorporating many modern luxuries (think USB ports by the bed and motion-detection lighting). 
  • Hotel Sacher Salzburg – The sister property of the Sacher Vienna, the Salzburg property is currently undergoing a facelift in its main areas (full renovations will be done by Spring 2020). The design here differs quite a bit from the Sacher Vienna, featuring a lighter, brighter palette with cool grays and whites. The location is perfect – set on the riverbank, directly across from Old Town. Definitely spring for a room with a river view – some even have small balconies.

WHAT TO DO:

  • Salzburg Festival – This famed arts and music festival will be celebrating its Centennial in 2020. Running for 6 weeks in July and August, the event draws performers and arts enthusiasts from around the world. 
  • Hohensalzburg Fortress – Perched high above the city, the fortress was built in 1077 by one of the Prince Archbishops of Salzburg and took nearly 600 years to complete. Take the funicular up to enjoy beautiful panoramic views of the city or wander through the museum. For a special evening, you can enjoy a Mozart concert in the fortress. 
  • Helbrunn Palace – Just outside the city limits, this former residence is famous for its trick fountains! 
  • Mozart Birth Place & Mozart Residence – Classical music fans can visit the home where Mozart was born, located in Old Town Salzburg. Just across the river, you’ll find another Mozart Residence where he moved with his family at the age of 17. This building now houses a museum with various artifacts from Mozart’s life. 
  • Old Town – Salzburg is an extremely old city, and you’ll still find this historic appeal in Old Town. Visit the Salzburg Cathedral and pass through the Mozart square to shop the winding pedestrian streets. 
  • Sound of Music Tours – Sound of Music tours are extremely popular in Salzburg as the movie was based here. Tours visit a variety of filming sites, including: Mirabell Gardens, Leopoldskron Palace, Nonnberg Abbey, the Wedding Church, and Mondsee Cathedral.

WHERE TO EAT

  • M32 on Moenschsberg Mountain – Take an elevator up through the mountain to the modern art museum where you’ll find this restaurant with spectacular city views.
  • Restaurant s’Herzl – Located in the Goldener Hirsch hotel, this cozy, casual restaurant has been operating since 1569 and features Austrian home cooking favorites.
  • Café Tomaselli – Austria’s cafe culture extends far beyond Vienna and Cafe Tomaselli is the most famous cafe in Salzburg. Located in Old Town, the cafe has been run by the Tomaselli family for over 150 years. 
  • Zirbelzimmer – In the Sacher hotel this wood-paneled restaurant overlooks the Salzach river and serves gourmet Austrian cuisine in a rustic setting. Be sure to order the famous Salzburger Nockerl for dessert! 
  • St. Peter Restaurant – Touted as one of Europe’s oldest restaurants (dating to 803!), this is the best spot in town for fine dining. 

BONUS: SALZBURGERLAND

If you can tack on an extra few days to your trip, I highly recommend spending them in the lake district just outside of Salzburg. With bright blue water, soaring mountains and Austrian chalets dotting the landscape, this is a side of Austria you don’t want to miss.

WHERE TO STAY

  • Schloss Fuschl – Built in 1450 as a hunting lodge for the Archbishop of Salzburg, Schloss Fuschl became a hotel in 1945 and was renovated in 2006. The setting on the lake is perfect and many rooms enjoy a beautiful view. The castle suites, which are located in the original lodge building, are my favorite for their lake views and the feeling of stepping back in time. 

WHAT TO DO

  • Visit the Salt Mines – Salzburg is aptly named after the “white gold” which is naturally found in the region. Salt was highly prized in olden times as a way to preserve food, as well as add flavor to cuisine. There are several salt mines in the surroundings of Salzburg that can still be visited today, the most famous being Hallein.
  • St. Gilgen – This town was home to Mozart’s mother and later to his sister. Make sure you stop in at Cafe Dallmann, a famous family-run coffee shop that has been in operation for 70 years. 
  • St. Wolfgang – From St. Gilgen, you can take a scenic boat ride across Lake Wolfgangsee to St. Wolfgang, a quaint pilgrimage town. 
  • Hiking around Lake Fuschl and Salkammergut Region – There are many, many hikes in the region. Whether you’re staying at Schloss Fuschl and want to set out for a hike around Lake Fuschl or want to venture farther afield, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to enjoy the nature. 
  • Zwolferhorn Mountain Cable Car – From Saint Gilgen, you can take a cable car up Zwolferhorn Mountain for beautiful views of Lake Wolfgangsee and the Salkammergut Region.
  • Hallstatt – A little further afield, you’ll find Hallstatt, the picturesque lakeside village that has become Instagram famous over the past few years. While it is now a bit overrun by tourists, its still worth a visit – just be sure to arrive quite early in the day.

WHERE TO EAT

  • The Fishery – At Schloss Fuschl you’ll find two restaurants. The Fishery is a more casual option and perfect for a light lunch. Located lake-side, many of the fish smoked and served here are caught from the lake. 
  • Schloss Restaurant – The more gourmet dining option at Schloss Fuschl serves up modern Austrian cuisine with beautiful views of the lake. 
  • Forsthaus Wartenfels – About 15 minutes’ drive from Schloss Fuschl, you’ll find this most traditional Austrian chalet. Note: If you’re looking to order the fondue, you’ll need to call in and order ahead. 
  • The Dorfalm on Lake Wolfgangsee – If you happen to take the boat from St. Gilgen to St. Wolfgang, this is another excellent restaurant to enjoy traditional, casual Austrian fare over lunch or dinner.

All in all, Austria was a magical place – I was so impressed by the architecture, the food, the history and the kindness of the people. I would absolutely love to share this country with you and help you plan your next trip to Austria. Please contact me to get started!

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE IN AUSTRIA: PART 1

Austria is the 20th largest country in Europe by area. Its small size and convenient location make it a great year-round destination for travelers who wish to enjoy the continent’s renowned culture, while also experiencing some of its breathtaking countryside.

PART I: VIENNA

My trip began in Vienna, the capital of Austria, and city of about 2 million people set along the Danube River. The imperial city is known for its historic architecture, café culture, appreciation of the arts, and former famous residents (including Mozart and Beethoven). The metropolis was recently named the “Most Liveable City in the World” for the 2nd year in a row by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

WHERE TO STAY

Given that I was here for a work study trip, I had the opportunity to visit 7 different properties, all in the heart of Vienna:

  • Hotel Imperial – This is where I stayed personally and I loved it! The building dates to 1863 and was originally built as a palais by a Duke as a present for his wife. In 1873, it was converted to a hotel for the World’s Fair and is now part of the Luxury Collection. The decor feels very royal with chandeliers everywhere, rich fabrics and grand staircases.
  • Hotel Sacher Wien – Dating to 1876, this hotel is still family-owned and has an excellent location right in the city center. The atmosphere is very boutique and intimate – you feel as though you’ve been invited to stay in a grand family home. The name may sound familiar to you, as the hotel is also the producer of the famous Sacher Torte – a delicious chocolate cake that tourists line up around the block to taste (Bonus: as a guest, you can try the cake any time you like, even for breakfast!)
  • Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna – On the opposite side of the Ringstrasse, you’ll find the Kempinski Vienna, which has a more modern feel, having just opened as a hotel in 2013, though the building is still historic as are most of the structures in Vienna’s first district. My favorite part of this hotel is the lobby which is lovingly referred to as “the largest living room in Vienna.”
  • Park Hyatt Vienna – Another newer property, the Park Hyatt opened in an old bank and gives a subtle nod to its roots with the original ceilings in the lobby and event spaces, vault-style minibars in the rooms and a spa pool built in the old bank vault in the basement! This location is also perfect for Christmastime as it’s right in front of a square that hosts one of the main Christmas markets in Vienna. 
  • Hotel Bristol Vienna – Another Luxury Collection property, the Bristol’s design is also very traditional, with the exception of 10 more modern rooms that were recently added and designed in a 1920s style. Opera enthusiasts will flock to this property which is adjacent to the famed opera house. In the summertime, a screen outside the opera building offers Bristol guests the ability to enjoy the performances from their open windows, perhaps with a bottle of champagne and some room service. 
  • Palais Coburg Residenz – This is such a unique and special property. If you dream of staying in a palace, then you better hop on a plane to Vienna. This 117 year old palais was built atop the old city walls of Vienna and the traditional imperial design now incorporates both this extremely historic city wall and modern touches of glass. The wine cellars here are to die for, as are the state rooms, which practically feel like Versailles. And with only 32 suites, you’ll definitely feel as if you’re a royal guest. 
  • Ritz Carlton Vienna – Last but not least, the Ritz Carlton Vienna is a great option. I love the Ritz’s club lounge which provides a nice gathering area (especially for families), but the hotel is most famous for its rooftop bar (in the summer) and rooftop Christmas market (in the winter). 

WHAT TO DO & SEE

  • St. Stephen’s Cathedral – This gorgeous cathedral has a beautiful mosaic rooftop. Visitors can also climb the towers for a birds’ eye view of Vienna. 
  • Viennese Cooking Class – We learned how to make strudel from Chef Bianca of Cook in Vienna. Austrian cuisine is so unique, I highly recommend a cooking class! 
  • Bosendorfer – The official Austrian piano maker has a salon in Vienna where you can view the famous pianos and learn more about their history. 
  • Schönbrunn Palace – Just outside the city, you’ll find the 1,441 room summer palace of the Hapsburgs. Be sure to purchase tickets in advance. 
  • Belvedere Museum – Set in another former palace, this museum now houses the largest collection of Klimt paintings in Vienna, including his most famous one, The Kiss
  • Hofburg Imperial Palace – This was the main residence of the Hapsburg rulers and the center of the city. It is now home to the Spanish Riding School and the crown jewels. 
  • Museum Quarter – Have no fear of a rainy day in Vienna; there are plenty of museums to visit in the Museum Quarter!
  • Vienna Boys Choir – Known as one of the best boys choirs in the world, the Vienna Boys Choir performs regular concerts and is a joy to listen to. 
  • Vineyards – Just 20 minutes or so from the city center, yet still within the city limits, you’ll find Vienna’s vineyards and the Heurige, taverns that produce and sell their own wine. 
  • Beethoven Museum – in Grinzing, you can visit Beethoven’s summer home, which is now a museum, and learn more about his life. 
  • Christmas Markets – From mid-November to Christmas eve, you’ll find Christmas markets all over vienna, complete with punch and gluhwein. 
  • Café Culture – Vienna is also famous for its coffee houses, many of which are 100s of years old and were frequented by famous people in history. 
  • Vienna Woods – Just a hop skip from the city, you can visit the large green area known as the Vienna Woods, a Biosphere Reserve designated by UNESCO. Enjoy one of the hiking paths or visit Heiligenkruez, an old monastery.
  • Vienna State Opera – Enjoy a performance at the Vienna Opera House – or two or three, they put on a different one every evening.

WHERE TO EAT

  • Plachutta – Famous for its Tafelspitz (boiled beef). Don’t be fooled by the name – it’s very flavorful and delicious!
  • Demel – A lovely patisserie right near St. Stephen’s. Austrians love their sweets and you will find plenty here.
  • At Eight – A relais & chateaux restaurant on the Ringstrasse. It’s a bit out of the main hub but totally delicious. 
  • Heurigen Mayer am Pfarrplatz – A lovely wine tavern in Grinzing with down-home Austrian fare, local wines and a beautiful outdoor seating area. 

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 on Salzburg!