HOTEL REVIEW: WALDORF ASTORIA LOS CABOS PEDREGAL

This 5-star Virtuoso property is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year (2019), yet the hotel just debuted a new name with a recent acquisition by Waldorf Astoria. Formerly known as The Resort at Pedregal, the property officially became Waldorf Astoria’s first hotel in Mexico when the name change went into effect last week. However, the new management assures that guests will see few other changes to this beloved resort. With impeccable service, incredible amenities and a breathtaking setting, we can see why.

LOCATION

Cabo, on the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, is centered around the tourist town of Cabo San Lucas, yet the resort area of Cabo extends far beyond this hub. The Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal is the only 5-star resort located directly in the center of Cabo San Lucas, however, once you drive through the hotel’s man-made tunnel to the other side of the mountain, you’ll feel a world away.

GETTING THERE

Regular flights operate from Los Cabos International Airport (SJD). From there, its about a 45 minute drive down to Pedregal. The hotel can arrange transfers or you can rent a car and make the easy drive on your own.

THE ROOMS

The entry-level room at this hotel has an ocean view, a terrace with a private plunge pool, a gas fireplace, a large soaking tub and separate shower, just to name a few of the amenities… You really cannot go wrong at this resort, which caters to couples and families alike, with the flexibility to reserve 2-3 bedroom suites or casitas. I also loved the design of the rooms which felt very authentically Mexican with warm toned decor, dark wood furniture, and brightly colored pillows.

AMENITIES

Oh my goodness are there amenities here! From the small – a welcome margarita upon arrival and daily guacamole and coronitas (!) – to the large – remember that private plunge pool we mentioned? how about a personal concierge and a complimentary bottle of tequila in every room? (!)

Beyond these small touches and surprises which guests will find at every turn, the resort also boasts 4 separate pools, a swim-up bar, two tennis courts, several dining venues and an award-winning spa centered around the phases of the moon.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE

As with many resorts in Cabo, the beach at this hotel is not “swimmable.” However, I really didn’t miss it. In fact, I loved floating in the infinity pool overlooking the ocean waves crashing on the sand below – it was awe-inspiring and beautiful to see the power of the Pacific up close.

For those looking to dip in the ocean, there are several swimmable beaches just a few minutes away. Pedregal has a partnership with SUR Beach House so you can ask your personal concierge to book you some beachfront lounge chairs for a couple of hours (complimentary with purchase of food & drinks).

DINING

Breakfast lovers will delight in the large buffet offered at main dining restaurant, Don Manuel’s. From a make-your own smoothie bar, to an omelet & egg station (also serving daily specials of Mexican favorites like Chilaquiles and Huevos Rancheros), to a wall of bread, bowls upon bowls of fresh tropical fruit, and an entire honeycomb dripping honey into the dish below, you certainly will start your morning off right. Plus I love that the buffet area is housed in what feels like a traditional Mexican tiled kitchen.

At lunchtime, you can return to Don Manuel’s, or opt for sushi & ceviche at Crudo by the adult pool or tacos & salads at The Beach Club by the family pool. Of course you can enjoy items from the latter two establishments from the comfort of your lounge chair as well.

At 4 pm, you’ll be surprised by a knock on your door to find a Mexican staple – guacamole and salsa, fresh corn tortilla chips and a bucket of Coronitas (quite possibly my favorite hotel amenity ever!). For dinner, you have two options on site. El Farallon, touted as the best restaurant in Cabo is a must for one night and certainly for special occasions. Set completely outdoors, nestled among the rocky cliffs with the ocean waves crashing just below, guests stop first at the champagne terrace where they enjoy a glass of fabulous bubbly. From the terrace, you’ll be asked to select your main dish from a selection of catches of the day, as well as two sides, before being seated overlooking the ocean. The chef then offers up a 4-course prix-fixe menu based on your selection. I really loved the uniqueness of this dining experience!

For a more casual option, return to Don Manuel’s and you won’t be disappointed – the restaurant takes on an entire new personality in the evening – you’ll hardly feel you are in the same place and the food is phenomenal. Both restaurants also offer nightly live music which further adds to the atmosphere.

BOOK YOUR STAY

Now is the perfect time to book your next trip to Cabo with a stay at this incredible resort. ATLAS + VALISE clients receive the following exclusive amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Breakfast buffet daily in Don Manuel’s, two per bedroom
  • $150 USD equivalent Hotel/Resort credit to be utilized during stay
  • Complimentary VIP airport Lounge Tickets with all Beach Front Suite Bookings
  • Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Contact us to start planning today!

HOTEL REVIEW: WOODLARK HOTEL

Portland, Oregon’s newest downtown address, Woodlark Hotel, opened in 2018 as the latest venture from the Provenance Hotel Group. Embodying two historic properties – the Cornelius Hotel, which dates to 1908 and was known to locals as “The House of Welcome,” and the Woodlark Building, which dates to 1912 and was home to Woodard, Clarke & Co., the city’s pioneer drug store and wholesale pharmacy. The hotel gives a nod to its roots with its neighborly slogan “Come as You Are” and its neon “House of Welcome” sign out front, while simultaneously bringing a fresh, modern design to the interiors.

THE ROOMS

With five different room types, there’s something for everyone – from a standard King room to a loft style suite complete with spiral staircase. While the entry level rooms are cozy, they are well laid out and make efficient use of the space. The design is sleek and clean with rich velvet fabrics and emerald tones set against crisp white linens imported from Italy. Beyond the standard amenities you’ll find some unique touches, including: accessible USB charging ports, Bluetooth speakers, a locally-inspired honor bar (including pints of ice cream from famed Portland scoop shop, Salt & Straw), and MiN bath products.

AMENITIES

Most hotels charge a daily resort (or city) fee these days but they often don’t explain what this is for or what it brings you. At Woodlark, they are clear about the benefits of the $24 daily fee: from a complimentary drip coffee from Good Coffee’s Woodlark location to a host of wellness-oriented amenities, including MIRROR fitness classes and Peloton bikes in the 24 hour fitness center, a Well + Fit kit that can be delivered to you room and bike and gear rentals. An extensive “pillow menu” also has several options to ensure you receive the optimal night’s rest.

And for those who love to travel with their furry friends, the hotel will provide a dog bed, bowl and tasty treat at check-in.

DINING

There’s no doubt that Portland is a foodie city and you won’t have to travel far from your room to find some great options that cover all the bases right at Woodlark. In the lobby, guests are greeted with fantastic coffee and homemade kolaches at Good Coffee. Bullard, where “Texas meets Oregon,” serves up “Hometown Downtown” fare such as BBQ meats and shrimp & grits. Those craving a craft cocktail before hitting the town will delight in the eclectic Abigail Hall.

WHY WE LOVE IT

I always feel that a hotel should have a sense of place and be reflective of its locale. Portland is a unique and weird city – full of good coffee, good food and unique design. Woodlark embodies this spirit while simultaneously making you feel at home. It’s the perfect boutique address for a stay in the City of Roses.

HOTEL REVIEW: SHINOLA HOTEL

One of the hottest hotel openings of 2019 was the Shinola Hotel in downtown Detroit – yes, you read that correctly – Detroit. So when I realized I’d be in the Motor City for a wedding this summer, I knew I had to swing by and see what the buzz was all about.

You may recognize the name Shinola from the iconic (yet now defunct) Detroit-based shoe polish company. In 2011, a newcomer on the Detroit scene took over the brand name and launched their luxury design company. Today, they make high quality products from timepieces to leather goods to bicycles. Their most recent foray into the hospitality industry was made in partnership with Bedrock, a Detroit-based real estate firm.

HISTORY

Detroit was a booming industrial city at the turn of the century. With the dawn of the automotive industry, it was the heart of America. As time went on, the city succumbed to bankruptcy and violent crime and went into disrepair. Yet, in recent years, there’s been a revival of sorts, with local developers refurbishing the historic architecture and new businesses boosting the economy, signaling the second coming of Detroit. The downtown area still features many historic buildings and The Shinola Hotel, which comprises 5 buildings in total, occupies two of them, including the former Singer Building and the T.B. Rayl Co. store (Rayl’s). The hotel’s design pays homage to the history, incorporating old signage, logos and photos of the two classic buildings.

THE ROOMS

With 10 different room types, the property doesn’t lack for options. All rooms are spacious and feature mid-century modern furniture and large windows letting in plenty of natural light. Of course, you’ll find Shinola products throughout the room – from the alpaca throw on the sofa to the large bluetooth speakers on the minibar. I loved the thoughtful design touches: the USB plugs by the bed, the cute and surprising notes inside the drawers. I spent a night in the Cass King room and aside from a divine bed, I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of closet space and the size of the shower – it felt like we had our own little apartment in downtown Detroit.

FOOD & BEVERAGE

With several different dining concepts in the hotel, you hardly need to leave the premises. I tried to eat at all of them in 24 hours so here’s a quick recap:

  • San Morello – the Chef at this Italian restaurant takes inspiration from the coastal towns of Southern Italy and Sicily. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant maintains the design aesthetic of the hotel with both indoor and outdoor seating. Reservations are recommended for dinner, but I loved their take on brunch as well. The breakfast spaghetti was a hit and the Bomboloni (read: cream-filled donuts) are divine.
  • Evening Bar – This cocktail lounge has a speakeasy feel, with one entrance hidden away in the hotel and the other in an alleyway. Go here for an after dinner drink to enjoy the intimate setting and craft cocktails.
  • The Brakeman – An American beer hall with rotating craft brews. Guests purchase beer tokens when they enter and pay for drafts at the bar with their chips. I love the kitsch in this, but for those non-beer fans, they also have a full-service bar serving liquor and wine.
  • Penny Red’s – A to-go spot adjacent to The Brakeman, Penny Red’s serves up buckets of fried chicken and honey-dunked biscuits – perfectly paired with a cold brew!

Beyond the rooms and plentiful dining options, guests will find everything they need at this beautiful new, boutique hotel – from a fitness center (with Peloton bikes), to small green spaces tucked throughout, and a beautiful main area aptly named “The Living Room.” You won’t want to leave!

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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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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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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HOTEL REVIEW: THE GARLAND

Planning a weekend getaway to Hollywood? Whether you’re visiting Universal Studios (as I was) or just looking for an affordable yet chic place to stay in Los Angeles, The Garland is a perfect option.

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Two weeks ago, my fiance and I drove up to LA on a random Thursday to celebrate his birthday at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (yep this is how you celebrate 35!). It’s a bit of a hike from San Diego and so we decided to spend the night up there. Looking for a hotel near the Park, I was immediately disappointed by the plethora of Burbank Airport hotel options. I wanted something cool and unique and worthy of a birthday night away. That’s when I stumbled upon The Garland. Just a 10 minutes’ drive from Universal, this place feels like a world away. Plus they have a complimentary trolley that runs a regular route to/from the park so you can down those Butterbeers without worry!

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Originally built in the 1970s by Hollywood actress Beverly Garland and her husband Fillmore Crank, the hotel was redone in the early 2000s by their son (and now owner) James. I was so impressed with how James and his team were able to modernize the hotel without sacrificing any of the 70’s Retro charm – the orange accents and funky fabrics blend perfectly with modern design touches like unique light fixtures, a hip new restaurant and manicured lawns and parks.

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The Rooms are all well appointed and comfortable – each with a private balcony and your very own paparazzi closet!

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After a long day walking around Universal Studios, we immediately headed to the pool after check-in. We picked up some drinks at The Spritz Hour (a very on-trend happy hour) and relaxed on the chaise lounges poolside before taking a dip in the hot tub.

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We also decided to make it easy on ourselves and eat our meals at the on-site restaurant, The Front Yard. We were certainly not disappointed. The food was innovative and delicious and the service was excellent. Do yourself a favor and save room for dessert – chocolate nutella cake? Yes please.

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I would definitely recommend a stay at The Garland to anyone visiting Hollywood for a trip to Universal Studios. For assistance booking your trip to Universal Studios, please contact us today!

And for those wondering about how magical The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is…

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