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The Best Outdoor Adventures in California

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Tag Archives: luxury

Discover culinary delights on a foodie getaway

If you’re looking for a trip where food is just as important as hotel and nightlife, Nilou Motamed, features director for Travel + Leisure magazine, suggests some destinations that offer culinary delight.

 

If you’re looking to eat your way through your next vacation, and eat well, Nilou Motamed has some recommended restaurants for you. 

“Whether you’re going just down the street or whether you’re going to another country, people want to know where to eat and actually are planning their trips around their meals,” said Motamed, features director for Travel + Leisure, who spoke with TODAY’s Natalie Morales on Wednesday.

Chicago, while known for pizza and steak, has a new culinary movement afoot.

“Grant Achatz at Alinea is really making food that is as much about theater and as much about presentation and molecular gastronomy,” Motamed said. She also mentioned Stephanie Izard of “Top Chef” fame — “She has Girl and the Goat and much more rustic food, but also equally with a sense of humor” — and the newly opened Public Hotel and its restaurant, Pump Room.

When you think Nashville, barbecue may come to mind. However, Music City is embracing some interesting food trends.

For example, The Catbird Seat — a 30-seat restaurant — features two chefs. “The chefs are actually cooking and serving you what they want for that day — there’s no menu — and so you get to experience what they’re feeling for that day, which is so much fun,” Motamed said.

Food trucks are also hot in Nashville. Mas Tacos Por Favor, Motamed said, just found a permanent home in East Nashville, “and people swear by their tortilla soup — they say it’s better than penicillin if you have a cold.”

Beyond U.S. shores, Paris is a must-stop as a culinary destination. “In Paris … the most important thing is to find someone who is an expert to take you around,” Motamed advised.

Must-stop restaurants in France’s capital include L’Avant Comptoir — “a little, tiny, 12-person standing space” — and Laduree, which has been making macaroons since 1856. “They make 4 million macaroons every year … every single one of them decadent and delicious,” Motamed said.

And what foodie destination discussion is complete without a mention of Italy?

Piedmont, located in northwest Italy, is “all about food,” said Motamed, who highlighted La Traversina: “For under $120 a night, you can stay at an incredible agriturismo, you can take gardening classes, you can take cooking lessons, you can take yoga, and you can also just eat and relax and enjoy.”

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Maui resort marks 20 years with 20-hand massage

The 20-hand massage at Grand Wailea’s spa will cost you $2,000. Luckily, all those hands won’t be outstretched for a tip.

The effect must be similar to 10 maestros all sitting down on the same piano bench. But instead of bestowing their virtuosity upon 85 ivory keys, they’re simultaneously striking your aching muscles.

It’s the 20-Hands Duo Massage at Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea Resort, the posh Waldorf Astoria property on Maui.

Launched in September, it’s all part of celebrating the resort’s 20th anniversary.

“We were just throwing ideas around and were trying to come up with something fun and over-the-top,” said Stephenie Handley, assistant spa director at Grand Wailea. “We came up with the idea of having two people getting massaged head-to-toe by 20 different hands. We think our guests will find it an unforgettable relaxation experience.”

The price?

Twenty bucks per digit — or $2,000 per couple.

Handley said the Hawaiian massage involves five therapists per person who deploy a carefully choreographed “hula wave” that has 100 fingers dancing across each guest’s body as the masseurs circle each table for 50 blissful minutes. The entire treatment lasts 2 1/2 hours.

The therapists practice on one another about once a week so that no one steps on another’s toes while they’re applying the treatment.

“With any traditional massage, the brain is bound to focus on where the hands are working,” said Handley, who has been a recipient of the massage. “But the synchronicity of all these fingers working at once tricks the brain into totally relaxing.”

Industry experts interested in spa trends credit the Grand Wailea for an innovation bound to inspire imitators.

“It’s important for spas in this competitive hospitality environment to find ways to differentiate themselves from one another,” said Katie Davin, director of hospitality education at Johnson Wales University in Providence, R.I. “This one really captures the imagination. This is the kind of creativity all the spas aim for. For them, this will be like the chocolate massage at Hershey. Others may try and copy them, but everyone’s going to want the original.”

The promotion will run through December 2012, but no one has booked the pricey splurge just yet. The price will remain at $2,000 for the duration, Handley said.

“We’ve had a lot of people ask about it and a few people even book reservations, but so far the only people who’ve been able to enjoy the massage are staff,” she said.

The price includes taxes and gratuities.

Good thing, too. Who knows what sort of tipping quagmire might ensue with all those busy hands out?

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Chris Rodell is a Latrobe, Pa. based contributor who blogs at www.EightDaysToAmish.com.

 

10 little-known luxury islands

Tried-and-true island favorites such as St. Barths and Capri have long been wooing fashionable travelers. But these days, the new prestige in globetrotting lies in exploring far-flung destinations the masses have yet to invade. Even better: a vacation spot so exotic that no one has even heard of it. “We’ve been seeing strong interest in remote, off-the-beaten-path destinations, especially from travelers who have been to a region before and now want to discover its hidden side,” says Scott Wiseman, president of luxury travel company Abercrombie Kent USA.

Slideshow: 10 new luxury islands

Enter a new set of islands in the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Caribbean and beyond. Take, for example, the Indonesian island Sumba. If Bali is too obvious a vacation choice, hop a short flight to this lush oasis, which now has its own luxury resort. You’ll forget Bali even existed. Meanwhile, St. Barths is not the only isle de French paradise: Deep in the Indian Ocean lies the France-owned island Réunion, where you can start your day with a croissant before hitting the surf. And before it fully developed into a vacation destination for the rich and famous, Capri would have looked quite a bit like nearby Ischia, its rugged cousin.

“Private and reassuringly hard-to-get, these islands entice diehard fans to get off the grid,” says James Lohan, CEO and co-founder of the boutique hotel website Mr. Mrs. Smith. They let vacationers “be the ruler of their own domain and feel like they have discovered someplace unique.”

That’s certainly the case at Makepeace Island, off of Australia’s Sunshine coast. Richard Branson just started renting out the heart-shaped piece of land off this summer. Accommodations only house 22. Thailand’s Koh Surin Nu is so secluded that the only way to stay overnight is in a rustic bungalow or camping out under the stars in Mu Koh Surin National Park.

So transition into being a trendsetter by picking a destination that bears some similarities to a familiar favorite. Then prepare to tack on extra travel time, since being an early adopter usually means adding an extra leg of travel. It’s the moderate difficulty in getting there that keeps these places exclusive. Are you ready for an island less ordinary?

More from Departures

Copyright © 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation

10 luxurious African safari camps

These days, going on safari doesn’t mean having to rough it. From Kenya to Zambia, five-star safari camps in Africa are plentiful. Think thatched suites with wooden terraces, in-room plunge pools and even private helipads.

Slideshow: 10 luxurious African safari camps

Believe it or not, these safari camp amenities aren’t uncommon. At the Royal Malewane, in South Africa, for example, six stand-alone gazebos have four-poster beds and window-side Victorian baths. The Little Shompole house at the Shampole camp, in Kenya, has its own staff, guide and butler. Meanwhile, the Safari Lodge at Ulusaba Private Game Reserve, in South Africa, has swing bridges that link the tree house suites.

The real reason to go on a safari though is not for the accommodations — it’s for the wildlife-spotting. But as safari travel has become more abundant, so has access to game, and many trackers find themselves in line with a mob of other ranger trucks filled with visitors all after the same experience: an intimate view of the world’s most illusory animals. This can be avoided, however, if you stay at the right camp. That’s why Departures chose 10 exceptional properties based on their fancy lodging, exclusivity of game drives (many of which last three to eight hours), and unique access in the bush (truffle hunts anyone?).

These safaris come with some strings attached, though — namely good behavior. Being so close to lions, rhinos and zebras (oh my!) might be exhilarating, but make sure that excitement doesn’t get the best of you. Observe the animals silently and with a minimum of disturbance to their natural activities. “Loud talking on game drives may frighten the animals away,” says experienced ranger and Masai Mara native Timothy Kinyamal Kiok of Beyond’s Bateleur Camp.

Never attempt to approach a wild animal on foot, especially near your lodge or campsite where the animals have become accustomed to humans. Do not try to attract the animals’ attention by imitating their sounds, clapping, throwing objects or making any other disruptive noises. This could cause the animals to be unpredictable. “They can become skittish in this situation,” says Kiok.

Whatever you do, protect the habitat. “Off-road driving causes erosion and encourages the unwanted plant species,” adds Kiok, adding that off-road driving is not allowed in most parts of the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya and many other reserves around Africa. Don’t smoke — the dry African bush ignites easily. And remove litter and waste. (“If you bring it in, carry it out” is Kiok’s simple rule.) With that: happy tracking.

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Copyright © 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation

Meet Fairmont’s newest doggie ambassador

Kaitlin Bledsoe Photography

Edie, named after Andy Warhol’s “superstar” Edie Sedgwick, is stationed in the lobby of Fairmont Pittsburgh.

The Fairmont isn’t going to the dogs. The dogs are going to the Fairmont.

Fairmont Hotels Resorts has unleashed a movement to appeal to animal lovers by stationing lobby dogs in many of their more than 60 upscale properties around the world.

The newest is Edie in Pittsburgh. The name’s a nod to Edie Sedgwick, one of Andy Warhol’s “superstars” who is featured in hotel artwork and exhibits throughout the nearby Andy Warhol Museum.

Edie — the canine ambassador — officially started her job this month.

“Her main job is to just sit around and be cute,” says Julie Abramovic, spokeswoman for the 18-month-old Pittsburgh hotel. “She has such a soothing effect on our guests. We’re a pet-friendly hotel and people are delighted to walk through the doors and see a dog just roaming around the lobby.”

The 50-pound boxer/Labrador retriever mix wears an employee name tag and keeps an appointment book for guests who wish to sign up to take her on 20- to 30-minute jaunts around Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle.

Besides ample affections, her reward is dog-healthy treats crafted by executive pastry chef Naomi Gallego, who also prepares human delicacies for the hotel’s Habitat restaurant.

Abramovic brings Edie home with her every night but adds, “If I ever go away, I have a whole building of employees who want to take her home with them.”

Harrison Forbes, celebrity pet expert and author of “Dog Talk,” shows how to travel safely with your dog by using dog car seats and various props.

What do you expect from a dog who flunked out of advanced obedience training for being “too social?”

“We tried to teach her to get her to do simple tasks, but she had zero work ethic,” says Marlys Staley, executive director of Circle Tail companion dog training near Cincinnati. “All this dog ever wants to do is schmooze.”

Found wandering the streets, the malnourished dog was taken to a local shelter where her joyful manner attracted Staley. She took her to Circle Tail to heal and train, part of which involved several months in Ohio prisons where approved inmates work to socialize once-neglected animals.

With Edie, they succeeded a little too well.

“It’s so fun to hear all these professional business people, even our own executives, using their baby doggie voices around Edie,” Abramovic says. “Everyone loves her.”

Sounds like someone’s barking for a promotion.

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Chris Rodell is a Latrobe, Pa., contributor who blogs at www.EightDaysToAmish.com