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Filtering by Category: Travel

Tuscany (+ bambino).

Andrea Porritt

Dennis and I had been to Tuscany a few years ago (pre baby) and had a fabulous time. Mostly filled with fancy hotels, lots of wine and michelin starred restaurants. So I knew that this was going to be a VERY different trip, and sure enough, it was!

I guess one could argue that travelling with a baby is almost like a right of passage for new parents. Many of our family and friends had gone through it before us, and even though their advice was helpful, I think you just have to work it out for yourself on how to take a baby on holiday - especially when you're used to taking off as a pair.

Dennis and I decided on Italy for our first big family trip for several reasons. It was a country we had both been to before, a place where the eating would be good and where there was lots of lovely produce so we could cook our own food, where there were beautiful places to explore during the day, and where we felt confident in the quality of the health care, just in case. 

Dennis flew in from work to meet Inès and I in Florence and from there we picked up our rental car and headed into Tuscany!

It's true what they say about Italians loving children. Only 10 minutes after arriving at our Airbnb in Tuscany, the owner was praising Inès's legs as the very epitome of chubby perfection. Not long after we found ourselves surrounded by most of the town's residents all gathered in a mass huddle around Inès oohing, ahhing and cooing: 'Bellissimo!'

We settled into a routine fairly quickly, so really, holiday life was pretty much the same as being at home. Except there were fewer chores and our afternoons consisted of exploring wineries and medieval hilltop towns. After our days' adventure, we'd settle Inès for the night, then relax with a meal and some wine!

 

STAY

We rented an Airbnb, called Il Borghetto, in Castelnuovo dell'Abate - a charming medieval village at the top of a hill overlooking the Tuscan countryside. The town is located just outside the village of Montalcino and right in the heart of Brunello wine country.

The apartment, aptly named La Casetta di Brunello, consisted of 2-bedrooms, 2-bathrooms, a terrace and was newly renovated. It was very clean, bright and stylish - think old world charm but with all the modern amenities. The only negative about this place was that there was no real living area to relax in. The apartment was also split over three levels so lots of stairs.

We ended up renting it sight unseen - a huge gamble!!! As we had originally wanted to stay in La Casa di Alice but it was already booked. The host, Stefania, said that she had this new aparmtent that was undergoing renovations and we could be the first to stay in it. I had asked to see some pictures but she had non to send me. So we decided to roll the dice and rent it anyways.  I'm usually not one who likes to gamble on accommodation but this place turned out to be great. And Stefania was also very nice, helpful and made our stay enjoyable.

 

EAT

Dinners out were definitely a no fly zone as Inès was usually in the bath by 5:30pm and into bed shortly after that. So instead, we focused on enjoying outdoor lunches. 

Although we did manage to squeeze in the odd michelin starred restaurant, it was certainly nothing like the last trip. FYI - fancy restaurants are not as relaxing with a baby in tow, but I would argue that they're still worth going to.

Here are our top three fav lunch spots:

Il Silene, Pescina, Seggiano

This place is located in a teeny tiny village in the middle of nowhere Tuscany. 

The restaurant is very unassuming and doesn't look like much at all from the outside, but the inside is gorgeous! One of the most elegant dining rooms filled with big round dining tables and beautiful furniture. I especially loved the gold framed windows into the immaculate kitchen.

Chef Roberto Russo came out to personally greet us and explain the dishes. We also chatted with him about travelling with kids as he has a little girl and a baby boy on the way. 

The menu is high-end with creative and imaginative offerings, fresh vegetables and herbs from their garden. The food was delicious and each bite was absolutely divine!

Definitely worth a stop or detour!

Boccon di Vino, Montalcino

First, the view from the terrace of this restaurant is amazing! Then there's the Brunello heavy wine list (one of my favourite Italian wines).  Then comes the food which was superb. The staff were also excellent, attentive and friendly. A great experience to have such a lovely lunch overlooking the Tuscan countryside.

Osteria La Canonica, Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, Montalcino

Unlike many of the other restaurants we ate at during our trip, the service here was impeccable! The food was also utterly delicious and they even made a special dish of pureed fruits and veggies for Inès! And I loved the basket of fresh vegetables they brought out for us right when we sat down. 

Drivers beware - the property is very secluded and much of the road is unpaved. But definitely worth it!  A lovely casually elegant Italian restaurant with a view.

Where to Shop in Florence.

Andrea Porritt

After we left Rome, Inès and I hopped on the train and headed up to Florence for three nights, just the two of us. Actually, I take that back. There was no "hopping" involved. More like dragging, lifting, struggling and sweating my tits off while trying to haul a stroller, car seat, suitcase, travel crib, Inès, myself, and one very full diaper bag from the platform up the three stairs onto the train. Again with the stairs! And again, NO ONE HELPED! It makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Anyways, once we finally made it to Florence we had a fabulous time, mostly filled with shopping. I know, I know, there are some amazing galleries, museums and churches to explore, but I had zero interest in waiting in lines to see them. So I decided shopping was the answer! No lineups and no stairs!! It was a win win.

Whenever I travel I tend to skip the big brand stores and head straight for the local artisanal boutiques. So I cruised past the Gucci's and the Zara's and headed straight for the old-world, one-of-a-kind artisans creating things I haven't seen anywhere else.

Here is my list of top shopping spots you need to add to your Florence itinerary:

Loretta Caponi

A beautiful old Florentine shop selling the best nightgowns in the world, and all handmade! They have everything from sexy lace-trimmed slips, to slinky silk robes and even granny chic floral long sleeved nighties. They also have some gorgeous handmade baby and children's clothes, plus bed, bath and table linens. An absolute MUST when visiting Florence. This place isn't cheap. A short slinky lace-trimmed nightie will run you about 600 Euro!

Il Papiro

Purchasing Florentine paper and stationary is a must when visiting Florence. This quaint little shop specializes in marbled and patterned paper, cards, stationary and leather bound journals. I loved their hand decorated patterned paper and cards. Lots of great items for gifts that don't take up a lot of room in your luggage! There are a few locations throughout Florence.

TAF Ricami

If you're on the hunt for beautiful children's clothes then this is the place to visit. All hand-embroidered and hand-finished garments in rich colours, patterns and of incredible quality. The clothes are beautiful so expect to pay top dollar, but they're worth every penny! I splurged and bought Inès a pretty pink floral romper, which she was been wearing a ton this summer! The staff were also very helpful, attentive and professional.

Street Doing Vintage Couture

To my surprise there are actually quite a few designer vintage stores in Florence. Inès and I went into several (mostly all the ones that didn't have stairs) and this was our favourite. It has an amazing selection from some of the best designers - from vintage Fendi, to 70s Gucci, and Valentino shades from every decade - it's a fashion girls paradise!  They also had a beautiful selection of vintage Hermes silk scarfs. 

All the garments and accessories are carefully curated, in excellent condition, and clearly presented and displayed. The prices are very fair and if you spend some time you can find some amazing pieces. I ended up buying a creamy Celine silk blouse and a vintage silk scarf.  Fashionistas, this is heaven! 

BONUS ROUND: Where to Stay & Eat

Inès was up by 6:00am which meant we were hitting the Florentine streets by 6:30am. Our first stop was always cappuccino and pastries at Scudieri. We'd enjoy these al banco, or standing up at the bar. To blend in: order and drink your coffee first, then pay after at the register.

We went here every morning while we were in Florence and the staff kinda got to know us a little bit and were always so happy to see Inès' smiling face in the morning whenever we walked in. The cafe was just around the corner from our hotel and in a prime location next to the Duomo. Also, if you appreciate fine china and tableware with a great view then this is the place for you!

After our Italian breakfast we'd wander over to the Duomo which was just steps away. The best part about being up early in Florence is that there were no tourists around! It was amazing and definitely the time to snap pictures. 

I'd always make sure to be back at the hotel for nap time. We stayed at the boutique Firenze Number Nine Hotel & Spa, which was centrally located in the historic district of Florence. The service and staff were great, everyone was super friendly, helpful and spoke good English. Our room was HUGE for european standards and was elegantly furnished, clean and stylish. The bed was an actual king size bed - not one of those stupid tiny "double" beds - it was also super comfortable and the sheets were top notch. Would definitely recommend this place - a great inner city hotel!

Rome (with kids).

Andrea Porritt

This was my third trip with my girlfriend Raegan, my second time visiting Rome, but it was our first time travelling with kids, and travelling together with kids! We've both done quite a bit of travelling, but never with babies in tow so we knew this would be a trip of firsts in many ways.

Since both Raegan and I had been to Rome before there was no pressure to squeeze the entire city and it's thousands of years of history into seven days. This worked out perfect for us as it allowed us to take a nice easy pace and have a quality and memorable trip as opposed to one filled with quantity that can easily be confused or forgotten.

It really allowed us to SLOW DOWN! This is especially important when travelling with kids! Don't try to replicate the way you used to travel before baby. Things are different now! So try not to squeeze too many activities or sightseeing into one day.

We would generally plan one big adventure a day which usually ended up being in the afternoon. Our mornings were filled with naps, cappuccino runs and making breakfast.

I really tried to stick as closely as I could to the same routine I had at home - which basically meant my days revolved around Inès's nap schedule. I never thought my life would revolve around nap times -  but now I am basically a prisoner! The timing is not always ideal, especially when travelling (hello baby jet lag!), and it often means sacrificing some activities or sightseeing, but a tired and cranky baby is not fun for anyone!

There were also days when things didn't always go according plan. We had a few days where Raegan and I were on totally different nap schedules, which meant some solo exploring and street wandering. A huge coup would be if we were able to get a lunch out together. And there were certainly days when we'd be up before dawn or in bed just after sunset.

Travelling with kids is certainly not easy, but I'm determined to keep at it! And I believe that making the extra effort to travel will ultimately have a positive impact on my little girl. I think the key is that you really just have to learn to embrace the craziness that comes with baby travel and smile at the fact that things will definitely not always go according to plan.

STAY

Travelling to Rome with a baby and a toddler meant that we needed a kitchen and laundry so we decided to go with an Airbnb. We rented a 2 bedroom apartment on Via dei Coronari in Navona - arguably one of Rome's most enchanting neighbourhoods, and centered around the spectacle that is Piazza Navona. It's narrow winding streets were the perfect exemplar of Rome's charm and quaintness and were perfect for daytime strolling, shopping, great restaurants and cafes.

Now the apartment itself was kinda hilarious and there were some serious issues with the suite. We were pretty screwed in terms of stroller accessibility. There were tons of stairs and the smallest elevator ever (we had to disassemble our strollers in order to use it and only one person could fit in it at a time)! We also needed 6 keys just to get in to the apartment (3 for doors within the building, 1 for the elevator and 2 keys for the apartment) RIDONC! It was such a huge pain in the ass to get in and out of, especially with the strollers, but on the plus side the neighbourhood was rad.

I did find myself using my Ergo Baby carrier a ton just because it was so much easier in terms of getting in and out of the apartment. The only downside to the carrier was that Inès and I would get pretty hot as the weather was quite warm in Rome. I did still use the stroller as I liked having it at restaurants so Inès could sit in her car seat instead of on my lap so I could actually eat my food.

Even though the apartment description on Airbnb said it was "kid friendly" next time I would try and book an apartment that was wheel chair accessible.

 

EAT

Gelateria del Teatro

There must be a million gellaterias in Rome but this one is consistently rated at the top of all the lists, and it just so happened to be conveniently located 3 floors directly below our apartment! 

Using only the freshest ingredients, this place has nothing to hide as you can watch the gelato being made through the large window. Inside is an amazing selection of gelato with some unique flavours like Raspberry Sage, Lavender White Peach, Sicilian Almond and my favourite Lemon with Rosemary and Honey!

Navona Notte

This place came highly recommended to us by Raegan's uncle. We tried going here twice (once for lunch and once for dinner) but they refused to seat us because of our strollers! So we thought we would attempt one last go but this time we put the kids in the carriers and headed on over for an early dinner. Luckily, this time we were able to get a great table outside! I'm so glad we persevered because the food was amazing - order the gnocchi with pistachio!! The service was also great and the staff were very friendly. This isn't haute cuisine, it's honest italian food in simple surroundings.  The atmosphere is great and be sure to get a table outside so you can people watch! They even comped us a limoncello each, we were two very happy mamas!

EXPLORE

Villa Borghese Galleria & Gardens

This was the one place I wanted to see while I was in Rome. So one afternoon Inès and I hopped in a taxi and headed out to the Borghese Gallery. Once we arrived I quickly realized that this place is NOT stroller friendly. Stairs everywhere! Literally the bane of my existence in Rome. There were about 20 stairs leading up to the entrance of the gallery and no elevator in sight. So with Inès in the car seat, I disassembled the stroller and started hauling it up the steps. Because I was by myself I had to do this in two parts. I took Inès up in her car seat and left her at the top of the stairs and just as I was turning around to head back down the stairs to get the rest of the stroller a man came out and started yelling at me "Madame, No...., No, No, No!" Apparnently, the entrance was down a different set of stairs!! So I had to carry Inès back down the steps, reassemble the stroller, find the correct entrance (with more stairs), disassemble the stroller, again, and carry everything down. Once again, I had to do this in two trips.

The crazy thing about this whole ordeal was that no one offered to help me!!!! I was actually kind of shocked by this. I don't know if it was because people are just in their own worlds and aren't paying attention or that people just aren't willing to help strangers??? But it was pretty awful.

Once I had finally hauled everything down the stairs there were signs everywhere saying that tickets to the gallery were sold out and that they were only accepting pre-sales for Saturday. I couldn't believe it! I just came all this way, had the worst stair disaster experience and now I can't even get into the gallery?!! I had no idea I had to buy tickets in advance! I was literally on the verge of a MAJOR meltdown. I decided to wait in line anyways. Once I got to the ticketing desk and asked if they were sold out for the day the ticketing agent said that I had come at the right time and he sold me a ticket! I was so relieved!!!!

Apparently only 360 people are allowed to visit the gallery a day, which means you must reserve in advance or you risk being turned away due to no availability. I'm pretty sure I got very, very lucky. Either that, or the ticketing agent took pitty on me and decided to sell me a ticket anyway.

Once I had my ticket I realized that the stroller was not allowed in the gallery (thank god I brought my carrier)!! I was however, able to check it at the counter. So I plopped Inès in the Ergo, left my stroller at the coat check and away we went. 

The gallery was amazing and if I had to pick only one museum to visit on my trip to Rome, this would be the one. The museum has one of the best collections of art in the world - sculpture, painting and architecture (the building itself is a masterpiece). And it's all in a space that's visitable in the 2-hour time allotment you have. Some serious swoon worthy (and very famous) works by Caravaggio and Bernini were my favs.

The bonus about visiting this museum is that it's also a park. The Villa Borghese Gardens is the third largest park in Rome. So if you're looking for shade, a place to feed your baby or a quiet spot for a nap on-the-go, this is where you'll find it. It's also the perfect spot for an escape from sightseeing and crowded tourist attractions. 

So after all that, would I say it was worth the visit.... definitely yes! Although my experience was certainly not easy or smooth, and could have ended terribly, I'd have to say it was still worth it and I'm so glad I went. Worth a visit forsure!

The Pantheon

The Pantheon is a true architectural wonder and one of my favourite 'tourist attractions' in Rome. It's also one of the best preserved buildings of ancient Rome.

Outside, the pillard portico entrance is imposing but the interior is a real surprise. As soon as you walk in your first instinct is to look upwards at the dome. The oculus, the only source of natural light, is a round opening in the center of the dome. It's open to the sky and the floor is even gently sloped to allow for rainwater runoff.

There are some beautiful frescoes and the marble floors are amazing. There are also some monumental tombs set in the wall of the Pantheon, including that of the artist Raphael (on the left side as you enter). Bonus: there is no charge for admission and no security screening!

Calamigos Guest Ranch.

Andrea Porritt

When I asked my bestie Raegan if she would be up for escaping to California for a few days her answer was immediately "YES!" Girls trip here we come!!!

Raegan has been one of "my people" for a long time and we've certainly seen each other through a lot over the years - travel, heartbreaks, laughing till we pee our pants, shopping, babies, breakdowns and endless love.

With four nights at our disposal and her little 8 month old mini me Fletcher in tow we were looking for a no muss no fuss kind of vacay. We wanted to go somewhere where we didn't have to think about drudgery, dishes or deadlines, and simply just indulge in good food, conversation and some much needed R & R.

Whenever we go on trips together we do like to kinda 'do it up'. So we decided to stay at the Calamigos Guest Ranch, which had been on my radar since I stumbled across it on Instagram a few months ago. This rustic yet elegant resort rests on 200 dreamy acres tucked away in the hills above Malibu and includes vineyards, several pool areas, gym and a spa.

We stayed in one of their two bedroom bungalows, which was perfect as we each had our own room with separate private en-suite baths, courtyards and outdoor showers! The king bed was super comfortable and I'm pretty sure I fell asleep every night by 9:00pm.  Except for the last night when I stayed up and watched the Emmys on the giant Smart TV in my room.

Complimentary breakfast was available until 11:00am every morning and featured an ah-mazing breakfast buffet! You name it, they had it - omelette bar, waffles, pastries, fresh fruit and the most delicious avocado toast. We definitely indulged to the fullest!

During our stay we also ate at the property's trendy outdoor restaurant - the Malibu Cafe, did yoga in the vineyards, hung out poolside, and soaked up some of that glorious California sun at the resort's beach club. It was certainly the making of a dreamy girls getaway.

Ski Trip: Lech, Austria.

Andrea Porritt

Dennis and I have been wanting to do a European ski trip for a while now, but we never quite got around to it during our Canadian ski season because the conditions were always so good.

Since a number of European ski resorts stay open right through spring, we decided to opt for a spring ski break instead. And when it comes to spring skiing in Europe you can't beat Austria! So we packed up our bags and ski gear and headed to Lech, Austria for a week of skiing.

 The pretty village of Lech, Austria.

The pretty village of Lech, Austria.

Now skiing in April may be considered low season, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. As long as you choose the right resort, a spring ski break can have some great advantages. My personal favourite being that the warm sunny weather makes for ideal après-ski conditions on the mountain terraces!

 The pretty pink facade of the Hotel Gasthof Post, Lech, Austria.

The pretty pink facade of the Hotel Gasthof Post, Lech, Austria.

Three flights and one bus ride later we finally arrived in Lech am Arlberg! This wasn't the easiest alpine resort to get to, but I suppose that's part of its appeal. Sitting in a narrow valley surrounded by mountain rimmed plateaus, Lech is a vision of alpine neatness with its snow covered houses, hotels and a very old church that was built in 1390.

 Village wanderings, Lech, Austria.

Village wanderings, Lech, Austria.

Once a humble farming village, Lech has become the winter hideaway of the well-heeled and well-known and combines a beautiful setting with superb skiing. People watching in the main street of Lech was an activity all in itself, as in the thousands of euros in designer clothes that would strut past - some good, and some not so good.

 The place to go for custom ski boots and glam gear. Strolz, Lech, Austria.

The place to go for custom ski boots and glam gear. Strolz, Lech, Austria.

 Strolling through Strolz, Lech, Austria.

Strolling through Strolz, Lech, Austria.

 Chalet chic, Lech, Austria.

Chalet chic, Lech, Austria.

An important tip, regardless of conditions or terrain, don't forget to don your most glamorous ski outfit. I noticed that in Lech, the european ski style race was definitely won by neon ski pants paired with an equally loud jacket. It's all about getting noticed here! This was certainly a contrast to Dennis and I's ski wardrobe - monochromatic with lots of black, grey and white. But when it came to après-ski, the trophy fashion item was without a doubt a massive fur or fuzzy statement coat. From what I could tell, grunge doesn't fit in too well in Lech, but you could try to go it alone.

 My kinda place. Balmalp, Lech, Austria.

My kinda place. Balmalp, Lech, Austria.

 St. Christof, Austria.

St. Christof, Austria.

 Hotel Gasthof Post, Lech, Austria.

Hotel Gasthof Post, Lech, Austria.

Now, Lech is not the place to go if you want an extreme après-ski experience. St. Anton has plenty to offer in that department! Lech is a very traditional Austrian ski resort with traditional Austrian culture, and thus they're approach to partying is more refined. That isn't to say it's staid, there is always a lively atmosphere, but Lech is not, at heart, a hard core party town.

 Auf dem berg (At the mountain).

Auf dem berg (At the mountain).

 Yummy lunch. Schneggarei, Lech, Austria.

Yummy lunch. Schneggarei, Lech, Austria.

 The outdoor pool at the Hotel Gasthof Post, Lech, Austria.

The outdoor pool at the Hotel Gasthof Post, Lech, Austria.

Austria is a German-speaking country, and needless to say, Dennis and I's ability to grasp the der-die-das of it all was pretty much non-existent. Thankfully, this wasn't a problem in Lech, as most people spoke some degree of English. So long as we knew how to order a bier and a wiener schnitzel, and say danke, then we were fine.

Lech, Austria.
Lech, Austria
Hotel Gasthof Post, Lech, Austria.

STAY.

Hotel Sandhof

We stayed at this hotel based on recommendations from a few members of my family who stay here every year for their ski holiday. However, our initial impressions were somewhat underwhelming.

Since we were staying here for a week, we decided to book a junior suite to ensure maximum comfort and plenty of room for all our gear. Unfortunately, the room was much smaller than what we had expected and was definitely NOT a suite! I would say it was more akin to a standard room at an average hotel back home. I will forever be amazed at the value for money of hotels here in North America versus those in Europe.

On a more positive note, the location of the hotel was great, right in the centre of town and just a few steps away from the ski lifts. This is a family run hotel and the hotel owner, Martin, was great - welcoming, friendly and very helpful - I had asked him if he could give me a few recommendations on some fabulous Austrian wines to take home, and he kindly obliged - recommending some of the finest wines from Austria!

When we booked this hotel, we decided to spring for the half-board option which included an extensive breakfast buffet and a 5-course dinner with salad bar and cheese board for the duration of our stay at the Sandhof. The food was traditional but good, and we got to sample all the classics - Semmelknödel (dumplings), Fritattensuppe (sliced pancake soup), Weiner Schnitzel (no explanation needed), Tafelspitz (boiled beef) - I left this to Dennis - and last but certainly not least, and my personal favourite, Spätzle (Austria's answer to mac & cheese). There was also a fondue dinner and an Austrian evening with live traditional music.

The staff were nice, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that they were overtly friendly. And we did notice that there seemed to be varying levels of service depending on whether you were a first timer to the hotel or a repeat visitor. In my opinion, none of this should really matter and everyone should receive the same level of service and attention regardless of familiarity. 

Hotel Sandhof, Lech, Austria.

EAT.

Balmalp

This place has got it all... Great food, superb design - a mix of traditional alpine style and sleek modern lines - and an atmosphere you would normally find at a beach club. We ate here twice for lunch and the food was always yummy - I loved the pizza and the Asian stir-fried dishes. The ambiance was buzzy, the music was super cool and the outdoor terrace and bar have fantastic panoramic views across the valley. This is the place to go for a sunny lunch with glorious views!

 Lunch with a view at Balmalp, Lech, Austria.

Lunch with a view at Balmalp, Lech, Austria.

 The outdoor bar at Balmalp, Lech, Austria.

The outdoor bar at Balmalp, Lech, Austria.

 The outdoor sun terrace at Balmalp, Lech, Austria.

The outdoor sun terrace at Balmalp, Lech, Austria.

Rud-Alpe

One of the best mountain restaurants in Lech, Rude-Alpe boasts traditional wood panelled dining rooms and a lovely sun terrace with great views overlooking the village of Lech. The food was hearty and consisted of local specialties and traditional Austrian cuisine. The service here was by far the best out of all the mountain restaurants we visited in Lech - fast, attentive and friendly!

 Rud-Alpe, Lech, Austria.

Rud-Alpe, Lech, Austria.

 Cozy interiors, Rud-Alpe, Lech, Austria.

Cozy interiors, Rud-Alpe, Lech, Austria.

 Rud-Alpe, Lech, Austria.

Rud-Alpe, Lech, Austria.

Hospiz Alm

No trip to Lech would be complete without a gastronomic pilgrimage to St. Christof to dine at the Hospiz Alm. We stopped in here for lunch and although the food was good, the wine was by far the highlight! If you're a wine aficionado like me try and get a quick tour of their bomb shelter cellar - it's one of the best stocked cellars in the area! From the classic decor to the red and white tablecloths and lederhosen clad waiters this place has bags of traditional character. And in case you need anymore convincing, there's also a slide alongside the stairs down to the bathrooms to assist inebriated and overfed patrons! What more could you ask for!

 Hospiz Alm, St. Christof, Austria.

Hospiz Alm, St. Christof, Austria.

 Dennis with the wine list at Hospiz Alm, St. Christof, Austria.

Dennis with the wine list at Hospiz Alm, St. Christof, Austria.

Ice Bar, Hotel Krone

Located at the bottom of the piste, right in the heart of Lech, this popular outdoor bar (with heaters) is predestined for a bit of après-ski people watching. Now in order to après in style you'll want to skip the hot toddy and opt for a glass of rosé champagne instead while you watch skiers finish their last runs of the day. It's the perfect place to sit back, relax, and soak in the majestic mountain peaks while you let your eyes wander.


EXPLORE.

The Arlberg region consists of eight linked ski areas - Lech, Zug, Warth, Zurs, Stuben, St. Anton, St. Christof and Sonnenkopf. A lift pass to Lech will get you access to the entire Arlberg region, including Zurs, Stuben and St Anton. In all, the pass covers 305 km of slopes and 87 state-of-the-art chair lifts and cable ways.

Lech, Austria

The lift system is incredibly well planned as it allows you to ski continuously to any of the eight linked ski districts and villages. The infrastructure of the lifts themselves was also quite impressive with fancy high speed chairs, perspex covers for extra warmth and protection, as well as padded and heated seats!

Lech, Austria
Lech, Austria
Lech, Austria

The skiing and snowboarding terrain at Lech and the associated resorts consisted mainly of open mellow interlinked pistes that were mostly suited to intermediates. There was certainly some great off-piste terrain in Lech, however most of the really challenging stuff was in St.Anton. But since few advanced skiers venture over to Lech the upside for us was that the off-piste areas didn't get tracked out as quickly and we managed to score a few great powder finds.

One thing that is definitely different when it comes to skiing in Europe versus Canada is that the mountains are virtually devoid of trees! This has the advantage of being able to access more terrain, but it also comes with the disadvantage of poor visibility on bad weather days. 

Lech, Austria

It wasn't exactly a great season when we visited, and the snow conditions were far from ideal. The south-facing slopes got pretty slushy by the afternoons, but some of the north-facing slopes held their conditions well and made for some enjoyable off-piste riding.

Most of the time we would go on little ski tours and move from one drinking and dining establishment to the next. And if the weather was nice, we'd add some sunbathing to the agenda!

Lech, Austria
Lech, Austria
Lech, Austria.

 

 

Whistler.

Andrea Porritt

Spent a few days away at wonderful Whistler Blackcomb! Nestled in British Columbia's coastal mountains, it's one of the most popular mountain destinations in North America. 

We came prepared for three action packed days of snowboarding, but instead of falling snow we found rain instead :( Despite the less than ideal snow conditions we did manage to get one ski day in, and decided to pack the rest of our trip with a few non-skiing activities and a little exploring.


STAY.

Four Seasons Resort Whistler

We stayed just outside the heart of Whistler Village at the Four Seasons Resort Whistler. Grand in scale, intimate by nature, this lavish hotel epitomizes the mountain spirit. The resort, rests at the base of Blackcomb mountain, with cozy wood interiors, fireplaces, terraces and balconies in every room, this is one of the finest luxury mountain resort hotels in the area.

Dennis and I have stayed at this hotel on three separate occasions - once in the summer and twice in winter - and have always had a wonderful experience. Although this time was a bit different because we decided to bring our dog Rypien! He had such a great time with us in Whistler and was able to stay free of charge! Most hotels charge extra fees for pets which can vary in cost but the Four Seasons charges no additional fee so be sure to bring your furry friend along!

There certainly is no shortage of things to love about this hotel - comfortable rooms with huge bathrooms, an amazing breakfast menu, ski valet, fitness centre, spa and outdoor heated pool and hot tubs.

There really aren't any negatives except for the fact that the hotel doesn't really have any chill space. The bar is good but it gets very busy and noisy. The rooms, although lovely and well appointed, aren't always the best if you want to hang out in a group. Sometimes you just want to relax by a fire in a cozy area. 


EAT.

The Rimrock Cafe

No snow? No problem! Consistently rated one of Whistler’s top restaurants, the Rimrock Cafe exudes that appealing rustic elegance. This cozy cafe was the perfect ambiance in which to partake in the delectable menu which stars fresh seafood and wild game. Wine is also taken seriously, but there’s nothing pretentious about the 300-plus-label wine list or those selecting and serving the wines.

Araxi

One of BC’s most celebrated chefs, James Walt, helms the kitchen at Araxi, which is arguably the most recognized fine dining restaurants in Whistler and certainly one of my favourites. We started out with half a dozen fresh oysters and a couple ice cold vodka martinis. We then preceded to enter the realm of such contemporary fare as hamachi sashimi, dungeness crab sushi roll and beef tenderloin steak. The wine list is to die for and consists of over 11,000 bottles of wine and over 1,000 different labels, this restaurant is a wine lovers dream!  This is a dressy spot by Whistler standards, which means you’ll look fine in nice jeans and a collard shirt, but the gracious service and snazzy digs remind you that you’re someplace special.

Alta Bistro

Hip and intimate Alta Bistro sources from local area farmers and ranches. The menu here is small but everything we ordered was well prepared with great flavours and excellent service. A well curated drinks menu features local artisan beers and biodynamic wines, largely French :). A top notch gastro-bistro mountain experience.


EXPLORE.

Whistler Blackcomb

Skiing and/or snowboarding is the obvious choice activity when visiting Whistler. February is usually a great time for skiing at most resorts, unfortunately, this was not the case for us. We arrived in Whistler during the middle of a warm weather spell so we decided to only ski one day of our 3-day trip. Thankfully for us we picked the right day, as it started raining the very next day and didn't let up for the remainder of our trip. 

Although it was nice to be out skiing, the snow conditions were less than ideal - think cement, mashed potatoes, sticky, thick, heavy, wet sloppy snow! As anyone who's ever booked a ski holiday before you can only hope and pray that the snow gods will bless you with epic conditions as Mother Nature is impossible to predict. We made the most of it nonetheless and the good news is that if the skiing sucks there are lots of other things to do in Whistler.

Whistler

Scandinave Spa

Of course, we had no shame spending a non-ski day lazing on a massage bed. Although our beautiful hotel boasted a cushy spa of its own, we decided to head a few kilometers north of Whistler Village to the most stunningly situated of the bunch, Scandinave. Located on a spruce-studded hillside, the Scandinave Spa is an open-air compound that is best appreciated on a rainy day or starlit evening. You can book Thai yoga, hot stone, deep tissue and Swedish massages, or soak in the outdoor hot tubs, Finnish sauna, and eucalyptus steam room, set on terraces with outdoor fireplaces and solariums.

Audain Art Museum

A brand new art gallery filled with an extensive collection of First Nations art and one of the best collections of BC artists - Emily Carr, E. J. Hughes, Takao Tanabe, and Bill Reid to name a few. The collection and building were donated by Michael Audain and his wife Yoshiko Karasawa. The building itself is elegant yet retrained and provides a quiet minimal backdrop to the art it houses and the surrounding natural landscape. Nestled amongst the trees at the bottom of Blackcomb mountain, it's an angular dark-metal clad structure raised several meters above the ground (due to a flood plan). The building blends perfectly into the forrest and only one tree had to be removed to build it! This museum is definitely worth a visit when in Whistler! A world worthy collection of irreplaceable historical artifacts.

Maui.

Andrea Porritt

Aloha!

So excited to be sharing my trip to Maui with you guys today. 

This was our first trip to Maui and it was nothing short of fantastic. Radiantly beautiful, it was the perfect place for us to escape, relax and unwind. 

Although I was all about fall before I left, it was pretty easy to slip back into summer mode. From the beach to the pool, I definitely enjoyed dressing the part. I kept things pretty classic and was all about black and white beachwear and accessories. The perfect sun hat, sunnies, bikini and cover-up are all must-haves when travelling to a tropical destination like Maui. 

What I loved about Maui were the varying types of landscapes - from volcano vistas and rainforests to spectacular beaches, waterfalls and the serene pastoral upcountry. There really is something for everyone and it's a great place for people of all ages - it's hot, clean, safe and lots of fun. So if you're planning a winter getaway this year I would highly suggest Maui!!


STAY.

Hotel Wailea

We spent a sun-filled 10 days on the island and the Hotel Wailea was our Maui 'home away from home'.

When we were first looking at where to stay I was initially a bit unsure as the hotel isn't on the beach. We looked at staying at the Four Seasons but didn't like the idea of being at a busy resort with a bunch of kids. We definitely made the right choice by staying at the Hotel Wailea! It's boutique, quiet and beautiful!

Set on 15 lush tropical acres of gardens, streams and ocean views the 72-room Relais & Chateau haven is nothing short of perfection. I took full advantage of the morning yoga classes and the gorgeous pool side cabanas are a full afternoon of tropical island bliss. Our room was huge and very comfortable with a deep soaker tub for two, stylish kitchenette and private lanai (veranda). It's all very grown-up, with an adults only policy.

The hotel also has a beach club with lounge chairs and towel service so it really was the best of both worlds. The beach club is right next door to the Four Seasons, so I wandered over there one afternoon to check it out and it was noisy and crowded! 

There are many different hotel options on Maui, but luxury Maui is an experience all onto itself and worth splurging on, if only for a few days during your stay. So if you're a hotel snob like me but can't afford the 10 days at the Hotel Wailea my suggestion would be to either start or end your trip at this beautiful hotel with 2-3 days of pampering. Trust me, this place is a MUST stay... even for just a few nights.


EAT.

We ate at lots of different restaurants in Wailea and around the island, from five star to casual, but found that most tended to miss the mark. This was especially so for some of the higher-end restaurants which we found underwhelming and overpriced.  That said, we did have some great dining experiences, below is a list of some of the hits.

Monkey Pod Kitchen, Wailea

Be sure to stop here for happy hour as their Mai Tai's are the best on the island! I'm not even a big Mai Tai fan but I must admit these are pretty tasty and definitely worth a try! We went here with a group of friends and ordered just about every appy on the menu as well as mains and everything was great. The service was fab and the food was fresh, locally sourced and inventive without being over the top or pretentious. This place gets super busy so be sure to make reservations. 

Flatbread Company, Paia

Awesome atmosphere, service and killer flatbreads! We ate lunch here twice cause it was so good! This down-to-earth little restaurant has a farm-to-table like menu and they do a great job with flavour. By far the healthiest and most flavourful pizza I've ever had. And I loved their organic salad - fresh local lettuce topped with shredded green papaya, carrots, sprouts and homemade vinaigrette.  All organic, homemade and too good not to finish every single bite! Yummy yum yum.

Matteo's Osteria, Wailea

The vibe at this italian eatery is energetic and upbeat with great food, fresh pastas and a surprisingly good wine list! The service was friendly and attentive, the food delicious and the Gnocchi was melt in your mouth amazing. We ate at Ferraro's and Spago (both located in the Four Seasons) and this place far surpassed both those restaurants. Would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for great italian food and service on Maui.


EXPLORE.

Although there is lots to see and do on Maui we really just wanted to relax and spend time together - stress free! So for us that meant lots of chill days spent at the beach or the pool. 

We had a few other friends that happened to be on Maui at the same time as us, so we got to get in some awesome hang time with them which was tons of fun. It was so great to be able to spend time with friends on this beautiful tropical island.

Drive - There is so much to explore on Maui and most areas of the island can be reached within a few hours drive. We rented a Jeep Wrangler while we were on the island and it was perfect - I loved being able to take the top off while we were cruisin' around.

Snorkle - We quickly discovered that on Maui the trade winds are much stronger in the afternoon. So to beat the wind, be sure to schedule any snorkling or paddle boarding before 11:00 am.

The Road to Hana - This is probably one of the most popular attractions on Maui, along with Mount Haleakala, which occupies more than 75% of the island. Plan to leave early as this will be an all day affair! Trust me you do not want to be driving this road in the dark! The road is beautiful with lots of great vistas and waterfalls but it's also super windy! You might get car sick and you might want to pee your pants every time you make a sharp turn alongside a cliff. Start early in the day to avoid some traffic and be sure to go all the way around, as opposed to turning around once you get to Hana.

Paia - Located on Maui's north coast, this is one of the coolest hippie surfer towns around. The community is filled with colourful one-of-a-kind boutiques, local art galleries and fabulous restaurants. During the winter, the big north shore waves make Hookipa Beach a great place to watch windsurfers and kite surfers and surfers.

Hotel Wailea, Maui, Hawaii

Outfit Details (in order of appearance):

Tularosa Poka-Dot Dress (old).

La Blanca 'Island Fare' V-Neck Cover-Up Tunic (White).

Marysia Swim Antibes Bikini Bottom & Broadway Bikini Top (both in Black).

Elan V-Back Cover-Up Maxi Dress (Black).

Tamara Catz Signature Dress (Blue/White Print).

 

Sunshine Coast, BC.

Andrea Porritt

The Sunshine Coast is one of BC's best kept secrets. Stretching along 180 km of coast you'll find quaint oceanside villages, quirky shops, friendly people and breathtaking views. 

This was our first trip to the Sunshine Coast. Dennis and I like to head to the coast at least once during the summer to escape the Okanagan heat. We usually head to Tofino but since we didn't look at booking anything until June everything was full! I looked at lots of different places on the island and up the coast but everything was fully booked!

I was lucky enough to stumble upon the Sunshine Coast Resort Hotel & Marina and it just so happened that they had one room left for the exact dates that we wanted and it was pet friendly! I called them right away and booked it!

So a month later, at the end of July, we packed up the car and the dog and headed west.

Pender Harbour, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Pender Harbour, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Pender Harbour, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Pender Harbour, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.


STAY.

The Sunshine Coast Resort Hotel & Marina

We stayed at the Sunshine Coast Resort in one of their ocean view suites which had a beautiful view over looking the marina. The room was pet friendly which was great so we were able to bring our chocolate lab Rypien! However, there were a few deficiencies.... Our room did not have air conditioning! And it was very hot, so you had to keep the windows open to cool off. I normally wouldn't have a problem with this except there were no screens on the windows, so if you left the windows open for too long the room would fill up with bugs and mosquitos. The room was nice and clean but was showing some signs of wear and tear and could definitely benefit from a little updating. 

The resort itself was nice, great location and views and had some great activities on offer - from kayaking to ping pong and boat rentals (all of which I would highly recommend). There were also lots of great hiking trails nearby to explore. However, if you have trouble with stairs be wary as there are a lot of stairs throughout the resort. 

Pender Harbour, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Pender Harbour, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

We decided to rent a boat from our hotel one afternoon and cruise around Pender Harbour. This was Rypien's second time in a boat and he was pretty unsure at first but started to warm up to the idea near the end. 

Beautiful sunset from our room at The Sunshine Coast Resort Hotel & Marina, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.


EAT.

The Sunshine Coast is by no means a culinary destination but there are a few good restaurants that are worth checking out....

Emmelle's Madeira Bistro

We were on the Sunshine Coast for a total of 5 nights and ate breakfast every morning at Emmelle's Bistro in Madeira Park. I loved the casual atmosphere, full of light and colour with some cool funky art. The staff were laid back and super friendly, the food was delicious, the coffee was great and their fresh baked sconces were superb. A great little eatery! 

The Restaurant at The Rock Water Secret Cove Resort 

Although there is a nice view from the restaurant and the resort is in a lovely location, the restaurant lacked some serious ambiance. I felt as though it had more of a group dining room in a budget hotel vibe rather than one (in what they refer to themselves) as a luxury resort. The service and the quality of the food was good and our dinner here was probably one of the best we had on the Sunshine Coast, but I just felt like the ambiance did not reflect the prices.

The Restaurant at Painted Boat Resort, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Oysters, West Coast Wilderness Lodge, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

La Trattoria Italiana

We found out that the chef at this restaurant was actually form Italy and had been told that this was the best restaurant on the Sunshine Coast. Unfortunately, it did not live up to our expectations. The service was fine but the food was a bit disappointing. I ordered "Aldo's Special Farfalle al Salmone" which, as I was told by our server is the dish "they're known for", unfortunately the pasta was bland and the salmon was a bit 'fishy'.

La Trattoria Italiana, Ruby Lake Resort, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

La Trattoria Italiana, Ruby Lake Resort, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.


EXPLORE.

Francis Point Provincial Park

Francis Point is a beautiful Provincial Park with great trails along the beach. This isn't a long hike (about 30 mins to 1 hour max), but it is one of the most beautiful. It winds its way along a wooded and rocky trail and there are some fantastic views over to Vancouver Island. When you get to the end of the trail you can explore the rocky outcroppings or sit back, relax and take in the view! It's also a great spot for a picnic! 

Francis Point Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Francis Point Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Francis Point Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Francis Point Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Francis Point Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Francis Point Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Francis Point Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Francis Point Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Mount Daniel

The views from Mount Daniel are to die for and well worth the climb! This small mountain is about 440 meters (1443 feet) high and takes roughly 40 minutes to an hour to climb (depending on your fitness level). The hike doesn't require much direction as there is one trail and it is well marked.

View from the top of Mount Daniel, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park

The Skookumchuck Narrows is an unusual geological feature. It consists of a narrow opening between the open waters of the Georgia Strait and the Sechelt Inlet. As the tide comes in and out, water pours through the opening, creating the rapids. Experienced kayakers can often be seen riding the rapids.

You have to hike into see the rapids. But it's an easy 4 km hike along a well marked trail. Be sure to check the Skookumchuck Tides Brochure which lists the best viewing times for each day of the year. 

Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

My 5 Favourite Skin Care Travel Products.

Andrea Porritt

I've never been a fan of having to sacrifice my beauty routine when carry-on space is tight but I do try to be selective with the skin care products I take otherwise I'd be paying for overweight luggage on the regular. Since travelling can really irritate my skin I tend to focus on quality products that will target my skin in the most beneficial way. So I've narrowed it down to my 5 favourite beauty products that work best for me, so looking fabulous will always be on my itinerary, no matter the destination.

1. Kiehl's Rare Earth Pore Cleansing Masque

This is one of my absolute favourite cleansing masques as it helps to purify my skin and minimize pores. The white clay formula gently pulls out impurities, dirt and toxins that clog my pores without making my skin feel dried out. The texture is great too, nice and creamy! I love this masque for travelling as it's super lightweight, and it's perfect for those late nights in a robe in your hotel room.

2. OptaDerm Phenomena Facial Cream

I have been going to OptaDerm for the past few years now and have been so happy with the results. I use their products and skincare line religiously and love the fact that they are all made in Vancouver. 

My absolute favourite is their Phenomena Facial Cream, I never leave home without it! It contains a potent blend of rose oils so not only does it smell ah-mazing it's also full of vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids that are known to correct dark spots and hydrate dry skin (a much needed benefit for me when I travel). The formula is ultra-hydrating, pH balanced and packed with plant polypeptides which help stimulate collagen production, all while reducing fine lines and wrinkles. This moisturizer is my saving grace as it instantly plumps my complexion, evens out my skin tone and makes it look like I've just downed three litres of water!

If I'm limited for space in my suitcase sometimes I'll opt to forego a night cream and use this moisturizer in the evening instead. It's the perfect double duty moisturizer!

3. Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Oil

Long flights can definitely irritate my skin, leaving my face looking swollen and blotchy. I like to use a few drops of this recovery oil right before applying my night cream. It's super soothing and really helps replenish my skin with it's distilled botanicals. It always makes my skin feel super smooth and soft and the results the next morning are superb, my skin is fresher and more glow-y (and it smells great!).

4. Origins High-Potency Night-A-Mins

If I'm not pressed for space in my suitcase I'll usually try to pack a night cream. I've really been loving the Night-A-Mins from Origins as of late. It's fortified with tons of vitamins, minerals and moisture rich replenishers which works wonders while I sleep to help revive my dull plane-air-ravaged face. My skin always feels so radiant and refreshed in the morning and the light orange oil scent is DIVINE.

5. OptaDerm Phenomena Eye Cream

I've always been a little obsessed with eye creams and this one is at the top of my list. This super concentrated eye moisturizer helps reduce puffiness which is always super helpful after a long flight and helps with the appearance of fine lines and dark circles. It's especially good after a night of happy-hour-gone-wrong as the infusion of evening primrose oil has anti-inflammatory properties which will help diminish those unsightly circles in the AM.

What beauty products do you guys like to use when you travel? Let me know in the comment section below!

Scottsdale, AZ.

Andrea Porritt

It's been dubbed the desert version of "Miami's South Beach" and the "Beverley Hills of the Southwest". Yes, Scottsdale is lovely, but it's also creative, rugged and inspiring. There's a reason why Frank Lloyd Wright made this area his winter residence in 1937. It's the same reason why artists have been flocking here for decades - inspiration, not to mention sunshine and glorious warm weather. A gorgeous desert backdrop, bustling downtown area with great shops and restaurants. It's the perfect destination for those looking for sunshine and sophistication when vacationing in the southwest.


STAY.

Hotel Valley Ho

The Hotel Valley Ho is the perfect mid-century time warp. Originally built in 1956, this swanky, retro, yet renovated, hotel is an eclectic blend of old and new. We were lucky enough to get upgraded to a Tower Suite, complete with full kitchen, washer/dryer and a walk-in closet! Our room featured bright accents (I loved the butter cream yellow kitchen!), retro furnishings, private walk-out balcony and zen inspired bathroom. 

The pool area was totally fab, busy and social in the afternoons with lots of chairs, refreshing cocktails and great service. But the best part about this hotel is that it's within walking distance to Old Town Scottsdale and all the great bars, restaurants, shops and galleries.


EAT.

Virtù

Voted best new restaurant in Scottsdale, Virtù was on our list of restaurants to try and it did not disappoint. Chef Gio Osso gives Mediterranean cooking a Southwestern spin, spicing up octopus with chili butter and spiking the burrata with fire roasted peppers. The bistro style lighting creates a warm and inviting space and I loved the thyme sprigs in the linen napkins. Good wine list with a focus on selections from California and Italy.

Cafe Monarch

When Adonis wants to take Aphrodite out for a romantic dinner while vacationing in Scottsdale, this is absolutely where he'd take her. 

First off, sit outside! The outdoor patio is one of the nicest dining spaces I have ever encountered, ultra romantic and absolutely stunning. The candlelit courtyard is surrounded with vines, palm trees, bubbling fountains and lantern lighting, it's rustic elegance at its finest and the perfect outdoor space.

The dinner format is great, a set four course menu with your choice of entree. We loved everything served, from the truffle cauliflower soup to the tempura prawn with tomato chili jam. Dessert is not to be missed, and the rum cake is a must!!! The service was impeccable and everything was superb! By far my favourite dining experience in Scottsdale. Reservations highly recommended. 

The Mission

A great little restaurant in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale that serves up delicious modern Latin American cuisine. The decor is great, I'd describe it as shabby chic meets St. Mary's Basilica - a slightly gothic vibe with  loads of votive candles, chandeliers and rustic furnishings. The service and food were top notch. We started with a few signature margaritas - the best! And be sure to order the guacamole, made table side, it does not disappoint! Sit outside at one of the cozy tables near the fireplace in the front courtyard.  Oh and if you don't like waiting thirty minutes to an hour for a table be sure to make a reservation!


EXPLORE.

Scottsdale Old Town and ArtWalk 

A great walking spot, Old Town has a great selection of galleries and stores open late on Thursdays for anyone to enjoy. From Western bronzes to traditional Hopi Indian pottery, grab a glass of wine and meander through the wide selection of galleries. On Saturday, local flavour is on full display in the Old Town with the Scottsdale Farmer's Market, where Arizona-grown oranges and peppers are sold alongside homemade tamales and mozzarella. 

Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright

Taliesin West was the desert masterpiece and winter home of Scottsdale's most notorious snowbird, famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In typical Frank Lloyd Wright fashion, the home is constructed entirely out of local materials - desert rocks, fitted together with wood forms and filled with concrete. Wright always favoured using materials that were readily available rather than those that must be transported to the site.

Built in 1937, the low, sky-lit buildings of Taliesin West served as Wright's winter home until his death in 1959 at the age of 91. Today the house remains a pilgrimage site for its masterful expression of desert design. It is also the main campus of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. 

Mr. Wright sure did like his geometry! Office chairs at Taliesin West.

I spotted several of these ancient Chinese theater scenes, each one cemented into place throughout the property.

Fun fact: all the furniture at Taliesin West was also designed by Wright.

Scottsdale's Museum of the West: Western Spirit

Not knowing entirely what to expect, I popped in here one morning while Dennis was off playing golf and was pleasantly surprised and impressed. The museum features an extensive collection of western art and artifacts that thoroughly captures the spirit of exploration and the settling of the wild west. There was also a great exhibition which highlighted the expedition of famed explorers Lewis and Clark. If you like the old west, this is definitely the place to go.

Lewis and Clark exhibit, Scottsdale's Museum of the West.

California spurs, Scottsdale's Museum of the West.

Saddle up! Scottsdale's Museum of the West.

The Great Outdoors

There is no shortage of outdoor activities in Scottsdale - from golfing to mountain biking to hiking the options are endless. The region also hosts some of the most iconic events in the automobile industry (Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction), golf (the PGA Tour's Phoenix Open) and baseball's (MLB Spring Cactus League). There is truly something for everyone.

Tofino.

Andrea Porritt

Located on Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia, Tofino is the crown jewel of Canada's West Coast. The stunning beauty and ecological diversity of Tofino's location in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is the source of all activities. Beachcomb along kilometers of sandy beach, take up a surf lesson or snuggle inside with your favourite hot bevy and watch the waves crash against the rocks. The opportunities are endless on the edge of Canada's West Coast.

Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.


STAY.

The Wickaninnish Inn

This is simply one of my favourite hotels in British Columbia. I have stayed at the Wick several times over the last few years and find it to be one of the best places to relax and unwind.

Situated on an outcrop between the Pacific Ocean, Chesterman Beach and a rainforest of giant evergreens, the Wickaninnish Inn exudes rustic elegance on nature's edge. A Relais & Châteaux property since 1997, the Inn features two contemporary cedar buildings providing a range of guest rooms and suites which all offer ocean or beach-to-ocean views, gas fireplace, soaker tub and an individual balcony. The linens are Frette, the decor is soothing and I love falling asleep and waking up to the the sound of the surf. Another nice touch was that our room also came fully equipped with beach towels, blankets, backpacks and rain gear!!

One of my favourite things about this hotel is how fantastic they are with pets. We usually bring our chocolate labrador, Rypien (pronounced "Rippin'), whenever we visit and the hotel and the staff are always so accommodating. From dog beds, toys and treats to towels, dishes and poo bags (they even had a nail filer) the hotel has it covered!

The Wick also offers dog sitting services! On our most recent stay at the hotel we had scheduled a full day of salmon fishing with a local guide and since we didn't want to leave our dog in the hotel room all day we decided to arrange for a day of dog sitting. They assigned a staff member to hang out with Rypien for the entire day. Together, they got up to all sorts of fun from morning hikes to long beach walks and afternoon swims. Rypien is certainly in dog heaven here, truly one pampered pooch!

The Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Room with a view. The Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, BC, Canada.

The Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, BC, Canada.

The Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, BC, Canada.

The Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Beach walk. Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.

The Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, BC, Canada.

The Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, BC, Canada.

The Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Low tide. The Wickaninnish Inn, Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Such a great idea! The Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Beachcombing during low tide. Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Love these two! Chesterman Beach, Tofino, BC, Canada.


EAT.

The Pointe Restaurant, Wickaninnish Inn

If you're staying at the Wick you must have at least one meal at the Inn's Pointe Restaurant. The dining room takes full advantage of the beautiful coastline with a wall of windows and 240 degree views of the beach and ocean. Chef Warren Barr serves up refined Pacific Northwest cuisine and the service is always on point and friendly.

The restaurant is truly the top of the Tofino food scene. Upon returning to our room after a day of activities we were delighted to have a personal message from Chef Warren Barr on our answering machine. He asked if there was anything in particular we would like to request for dinner, and if so, that he would be happy to prepare anything we wanted! Ecstatic by the news we wasted no time in getting back in touch with him and requested a crab feast for our final night. It was nothing short of spectacular! What a treat!

Wolf in the Fog

I've eaten at this restaurant a few times and have always enjoyed its casual yet lively atmosphere. Whether it's lunch or dinner this place always seems to be busy with a mix of surfers, hipsters and loved up couples. The interesting and ever changing menu features artistic edible delights that are both authentic and rustic and always made from fresh local ingredients.

The kitchen always looks fast paced and lively with loud pots and pans banging in appreciation of the 6-pack beers being bought for the kitchen staff as a tip by customers. The service was friendly and informative, however I find the dining experience to be a bit hurried and rushed. This is certainly not the place to go if you want to make an evening out of your dining experience. The Wolf in the Fog is a great restaurant nonetheless and a must do when in Tofino.

Norwoods Restaurant, Ucluelet

An outstanding little restaurant in the heart of Ucluelet! The food is the real star with great fish features and imaginative recipes. Lovely flavours, beautiful presentation and great attention to detail. The service was brilliant, friendly, knowledgeable and professional. Be sure to order the west coast seafood experience appetizer - the tempura halibut is to die for! The restaurant is quite a small space with limited seating so be sure to book in advance. 

TacoFino Cantina

Tucked away at the back of the 'Live to Surf' complex, TacoFino Cantina is an unassuming little orange food truck that serves up the best fish tacos in town. The ingredients are always fresh and the food is very tasty with lots of great flavours. The atmosphere is pretty casual and there is a nice outdoor seating area that is usually packed with the local surfing crowd. If you don't get there early be prepared to wait as the lines can get very long - which can absolutely suck, especially if you're already hungry. 


EXPLORE.

The Big Tree Trail, Meares Island, Tofino

Located on Meares Island, the Big Tree Trail consists of a 3 km loop that winds its way amongst some very big - and very old - trees, ranging from 1,000 - 1,500 years old! The trail was conceived in 1984 as a protest against logging on Meares Island and is now a well preserved old growth forest that consists of spruce, hemlock and western red cedar. The trail itself is moderate in difficulty and features a combination of boardwalk and dirt trail/forest floor - it can be muddy in places so make sure you wear the appropriate footwear.

Transportation to Meares Island can be arranged through one of Tofino's water taxi services. Alternatively, you can hop in a kayak and cruise on over to the island on Tofino's calm inside waters.

Big Tree Trail, Meares Island, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Knocking boots on the Big Tree Trail, Meares Island, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Big Tree Trail, Meares Island, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Big Tree Trail, Meares Island, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Big Tree Trail, Meares Island, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Big Tree Trail, Meares Island, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Meares Island, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Meares Island, Tofino, BC, Canada.

J'adore Labrador, Big Tree Trail, Meares Island, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Kayaks, Meares Island, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Meares Island, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Waiting for the water taxi after our hike on the Big Tree Trail, Meares Island, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet

A walk around the Wild Pacific Trail has become a ritual during any of my trips to Tofino. Vistas and views abound on this easy trail and I love winding my way through the old growth trees, twisted trunks, roots, ferns and moss of this rainforest as it hugs the wild coastline. 

There are three different walks but I usually opt for the "Lighthouse Loop", which usually takes me between 30 - 45 minutes - depending how often I stop to take in the view and snap a few photos. It's a great destination for storm watchers, bird watchers, photographers and hikers of all abilities.

The Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet, BC, Canada.

The Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet, BC, Canada.

The Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet, BC, Canada.

The Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet, BC, Canada.

The Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet, BC, Canada.

The Wild Pacific Trail, Ucluelet, BC, Canada.

Ancient Cedars Spa, The Wickaninnish Inn, Chesterman Beach, Tofino

The Ancient Cedars Spa is Tofino's premiere oasis of relaxation and well-being. This spa has been enchanting me for years and I always look forward to my treatments here. My go-to's are their nature inspired treatments, especially the 90 minute hot stone massage in the beach cabin - it's the absolute perfect indulgence.

Don't just grab a massage here, take the time to plan and arrive at least 30 minutes before your treatment. Trust me, you'll want to take full advantage of the glorious eucalyptus steam cave and have time for a foot soak and a cup of tea with a to die for view before you start your treatment.

Also, be sure to make your appointments shortly after confirming your guest room or suite reservations to ensure preferred treatments and times as it fills up fast!

A relaxing start to any treatment. Ancient Cedars Spa, Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Cedar sanctuary beach cabin. Ancient Cedars Spa, Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, BC, Canada.

My happy place. Ancient Cedars Spa, Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, BC, Canada.

Sport Fishing - Salmon & Halibut

On our most recent trip to Tofino this past June we headed out for a full day of fishing with Cleanline Sportfishing.  This was our first fishing adventure with Cleanline and it was great - good fishing, good guide and a clean and comfortable boat. We left the dock early in the morning and maxed out on chinook salmon and halibut by the afternoon.

The weather, however, was not so good - rough water, big waves, rain and very very grey and cloudy. So much so that because we were so far offshore we couldn't see any land!! And let me tell ya it can be a bit nerve racking when you're out in the middle of the ocean and not able to tell which way the land is. 

I had only been salmon fishing twice before this, once in Port Renfrew and the other time at the Sonora Resort, which was definitely my favourite fishing experience as there was amazing scenery and the water was much calmer (given the location of the resort).

Smile boys! Tofino, BC, Canada.

Surfing

Tofino is Canada's undisputed surf capital and the sport is a year round activity here - though you'll need a wetsuit. Surfing is certainly one of the things to do (or watch) while in Tofino, where waves break against a spectacular backdrop of wide sandy beaches and temperate rainforest. If you're new to the sport and want to test it out there are a number of surf schools in town for those needing lessons - Surf Sister is great and features all female surf instructors.

Storm Watching

Many vacationers want to avoid storms, but during the winter months, the rough weather is a plus in Tofino. It's one of my favourite times of year to visit Tofino. The giant swells, crashing waves and gale force winds of the mighty Pacific storms can be admired from November to March. Whether watching from the comfort of your guest room or bundled up outside in the elements, winter storm watching is an awe-inspiring experience complete with dramatic beauty and heart pounding drama.

Other Activities - Kayaking, Hot Springs, Whale Watching

Tofino has lots of other activities to offer and there are lots of other water sports that can be enjoyed such as kayaking and paddle boarding. You can take a boat ride around the area's rugged coastline and numerous islands. Spring is the time to see the Gray Whale migration and bear watching is available spring through October. One trip not to miss: visiting the Hot Springs. It's a 26-nautical mile boat ride to the completely natural hot springs.

Ireland.

Andrea Porritt

Flung onto the fringe of the Atlantic like a mossy stone, Ireland is a small country with a big reputation. Bolstered by a timeless craggy landscape and a charming, friendly people, whose lyrical nature is expressed in the warmth of their welcome. Witty, earthy and proud, yet unpretentious, Irish culture is an intoxicating potion to sip or slosh — as the mood strikes you.


STAY.

The Merrion Hotel, Dublin

The Merrion Hotel is pure city center luxury. Located next to Merrion Square, the Irish Parliament, Trinity College (home to the Book of Kells) and Grafton Street, one of the city's main shopping thoroughfares. The hotel occupies some of the finest, most beautifully restored, historic Georgian buildings in Dublin and exudes a relaxed traditional elegance. Our room was spacious and elegantly decorated with luxurious beds and a grand bathroom. Unfortunately, the view from our room looked onto the construction that was taking place just outside in the garden and courtyard. The service was attentive without being intrusive and combined the right measure of friendliness and professionalism. I loved the eclectic collection of art that can be found throughout the hotel!

Mount Juliet, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny

Steeped in heritage, Mount Juliet is one of Ireland's leading country estates. They pride themselves on their family culture, while at the same time maintaining a high level of service and hospitality. My mom and I stayed here for two nights. Our room was located in the main house and was comfortable and quite large with a pretty walk-out garden.

The 1,500 acre estate offers many exhilarating activities and sporting opportunities. Hit the links on the estate's 18-hole Jack Nicklaus golf course, salmon and trout fish in the two rivers that run through the estate, or head over to the archery and skeet shooting centre and channel your inner Robin Hood!

As an equestrian enthusiast, I was eager to check out the Mount Juliet Equestrian Centre and managed to convince my mom to go horseback riding with me one morning through the estate's mature unspoilt parkland. A visit to the world renowned Ballylinch Stud is also a definite must! Located on the edge of the estate, the stud farm has a long breeding tradition and is responsible for many world-famous racing horses.

There is a lot to see and do on the estate itself, let alone the surrounding area, and if you're only staying a few nights I would highly recommend a guided tour of the estate and its grounds with the hotel's host Dez! Dez was the perfect host, very knowledgeable, a great story teller and loads of Irish charm. Blessed with the gift of the gab, Dez kept the tour fun and entertaining with his vivid and colourful tales. My guess is that there might have been a bit of exaggeration thrown in for good measure, but it just made the story all the more interesting.

After a busy day of activities and adventure there is no better place to relax and unwind then at the hotel's bar. It was the perfect place to sip Irish whiskey and watch the future thoroughbred champions race in the fields.

Giddy up! Mount Juliet Equestrian Center, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland.

Everyone, meet Dave! Mr. Handsome. Mount Juliet Equestrian Center, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland.

A few members of the Kilkenny Hunting Club. The Kilkenny Hunting Club has 120 foxhounds. They eat once a day (tripe and liver), receive weekly vet check-ups and are exercised three times a day. Every morning at 6:00am the Huntsman and his two assistants get on their bikes and take all 120 foxhounds out for a five mile run along the roads!

These young foals are only 3 - 4 weeks old and are being brought into the stables with their moms before the storm hits. Ballylinch Stud, Mount Juliet, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland.

Ballylinch Stud, Mount Juliet, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland.

Ballylinch Stud, Mount Juliet, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland.

Hayfield Manor, Cork City, Co. Cork

A charming very well run property located just outside Cork's city centre. The staff were wonderful, friendly and provided excellent service from the moment we were greeted by the topcoat and tails wearing doormen to the time we checked out. The grounds are lovely and the food was good, although I thought the décor of the Orchid restaurant was a bit passé and over-the-top, a matter of taste of course. Our room was spacious, comfortable, well appointed and had a lovely view over the courtyard.

Hayfield Manor, Cork City, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Hayfield Manor, Cork City, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare, Co. Kerry

The French expression “comme ci comme ça” perfectly exemplifies our stay at the Sheen Falls Lodge: It was neither good nor bad – just so so. The location is great - Kenmare, the Ring of Kerry, and Killarney all easily accessible - and the grounds were immaculate, however, the service and décor fell short of what I would normally expect from a "5-star" Relais & Chateaux property.

Our room was large and spacious with a beautiful view, but certainly not up to five star standards - older furnishings, outdated décor and simply fell short of our expectations.

The dinner experience was confusing and seemed like a scene right out of a Fawlty Towers episode. There were two restaurants located in one big room - one was high end that included a tasting menu and the other was more casual and consisted of more traditional fare. The menu you decided to pursue dictated where you sat in the dining room even though everyone was still eating together in one big open room. A complete lack of intimacy to say the least.

The service was patchy at best, although the staff were friendly and competent, they all appeared confused, lacked significant training and many seemed new to the industry. At breakfast one morning we had to ask three times before a pot of tea and hot water were delivered to our table!

While Sheen Falls is probably the nicest accommodation in Kenmare, overall it probably didn’t live up to the billing. I'm not sure there is much more in the area to choose from, but don't expect super high end accommodations here.

Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Gregans Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare

Far from the grim stone fortress conjured by the name, Gregans Castle turns out to be something quite a bit more refined and not a castle at all, it’s a 250-year-old manor house, that has been lovingly maintained and thoroughly renovated.

Known for its legendary Irish hospitality, the Gregans Castle Hotel ranks as a treasured gem among Irish hotels. This historic 18th-century mansion welcomes guests by scenic roads and boasts extraordinary views of Galway Bay and the layered limestone cliffs of the Burren - one of Ireland's most unusual landscapes. Here, in this quiet landscape, Gregans Castle Hotel has served as a sanctuary for bird watchers, botanists, and Hollywood luminaries like Sharon Stone, Ewan McGregor, and Kathy Bates.

The house itself comprises some 21 bedrooms, as well as seemingly endless drawing rooms, lounges and libraries. The guest rooms are all different, ranging widely in size, from petite bedrooms to sprawling suites, from the absolutely traditional to the faintly contemporary newer suites.

Hotel amenities stick to the essentials; this is a classic country house hotel, not an all-inclusive resort. The hotel restaurant is top-tier gourmet and serves modern Irish & European food, made from local and regional ingredients, including organic Burren beef and lamb, and local Atlantic seafood. The combination of an inspired menu, local ingredients, impeccable execution, artful plating and superb service make Gregans a definite on the "must return" list.

There’s plenty to see in the surrounding rugged and rocky countryside, and even options for golfers, but in the evenings, we found ourselves socializing in the Corkscrew Bar or the drawing room. We were jealous that we couldn't stay longer to enjoy more food, extended camaraderie amongst our fellow guests and further interaction with the team, who were kind, genuine, and engaging.

It is no surprise that this historic small hotel is a local landmark - unpretentious, relaxing, comfortable and warm. This was easily the highlight of our trip to Ireland's west coast.

Historic fun fact: Writers J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis often visited then owner Frank Martyn and stayed at Gregans Castle during the 1950s and it is believed that The Burren was part inspiration for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Gregan's Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, Ireland.

Gregan's Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, Ireland.

Gregan's Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, Ireland.

Gregan's Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, Ireland.

The Burren as seen from Gregan's Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, Ireland.

Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co. Galway

The 40-room Ballynahinch Castle Hotel is set in a beautiful riverfront location amid the wild, unspoiled beauty of Connemara. The hotel's style remains true to a hunting - fishing - shooting lodge with lots of old world charm, interesting art and history to be learned. It's more of a manor house than a castle, but the main structure dates to the 18th century and both the building and the estate are steeped in history. Both restaurants served good food, however the service was poor, obviously the staff lacked training, and could have been a bit friendlier and welcoming - we missed the Irish hospitality.

The interior is quite homey and features several wood burning fireplaces. Our room was on the ground floor at the end of a long maze-like hallway - there are also no elevators. Our room was spacious, nicely decorated and had lovely river views and a walkout to the stream.

The hotel is set on 450 acres of woodlands, rivers and walks in the heart of Connemara. It stands proud and majestic overlooking the famous Ballynahinch Salmon River, whilst being surrounded by the splendour of the Twelve Bens Mountain Range. The grounds offer a range of activities, including beautiful hikes, woodcock shooting and fishing. Nature lovers will not be disappointed as they have all the equipment you might want available.

We booked a full day guided hike through the hotel that fell short of our expectations. Although we had booked the hike months in advance our guide was very disorganized and the hike was poorly planned. We were a small group of three, myself, my mom and another lady who was also staying at the hotel. The hike was terrible, not overly scenic and the terrain consisted of gravel roads and bog. We had asked the hotel in advance to prepare a lunch for us for our hike that turned out to be absolutely horrible - white bread with butter and a few bits of shredded chicken. Yuck!

Towards the end of the hike the guide had planned to take me up Mount Leenane for something a little more challenging while my mom and the other lady were to continue along the gravel road to the village where we would all rendezvous. I told our guide that I wasn't keen on doing the climb if the terrain was going to be boggy and wet, as I was already covered in mud up to my knees and could feel my feet sliding around in my soaking wet shoes. He assured me several times that it would be dry. Sure enough I ended up climbing 700 ft straight up in bog! Suffice it to say I was not a happy camper! The decent was even worse - steep, wet and slippery - I basically had to slide down the mountain on my bum. By the time I got to the bottom I was wet, covered in mud and extremely agitated.

Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Door Knocker, Ballynahinch Castle, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Connemara Hike, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Connemara Hike, Co. Galway, Ireland.

The top of Mount Leenane, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland.

The top of Mount Leenane, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland.

The top of Mount Leenane, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland.


EAT.

Afternoon Tea, The Merrion Hotel, Dublin

Who doesn't love afternoon tea at a posh hotel! During our stay in Dublin my mom and I indulged in the 'Art' Tea at The Merrion Hotel. I have been to a few afternoon teas in my day and this was by far the best and most interesting. The tea was served in two courses: The first course was a 3-tiered stand of sandwiches, cakes and fresh scones with jam, clotted cream and a divine home made lemon curd. The second course was three beautiful miniature sweet creations inspired by the artwork found throughout the hotel. The teas were delicious and the service throughout was excellent without being pretentious. Afternoon tea at The Merrion Hotel was a great way to experience the history, art, service and ambiance of the hotel. A lovely experience from beginning to end. Be sure to reserve in advance as space is limited as it is very popular.

Afternoon Tea, The Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Ireland.

Afternoon Tea, The Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Ireland.

"Art Tea", The Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Ireland.

Afternoon Tea, The Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Ireland.

Afternoon Tea, The Merrion Hotel, Dublin, Ireland.

Fallon & Byrne, Dublin

Sweet mother of Jeebus, my waistline certainly did not need this discovery. My mom and I stumbled upon this place after a morning of walking and exploring around the city and decided to stay for lunch.  Located in a beautiful old building on Dublin's Exchequer Street, Fallon & Byrne is a foodie's paradise and baked good heaven. The ground level features an enticing and exciting food hall, deli and supermarket with lots of delicious and unique looking items, all beautifully displayed. We chose to eat in the food hall and had a great experience. The choice was eclectic and the quality was well above average. There is also a lovely restaurant upstairs and a wine bar and cellar located downstairs. What a great place!

Lady Helen Restaurant, Mount Juliet Estate, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny

The formal setting of the award winning Michelin starred Lady Helen restaurant at Mount Juliet is the perfect place to enjoy classic country house cuisine. The menu features dishes prepared with local ingredients and herbs from the estate's own garden and the opulent dining room boasts beautiful panoramic views over the estate and lush Kilkenny countryside. The staff were warm, friendly and well trained - it was like being a privileged guest in a beautiful country manor. Don't miss it!

Arthur Mayne's Pharmacy, Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork City, Co. Cork

Located in the heart of Cork city, Oliver Plunkett Street is home to a multitude of food shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs. We choose to eat at Arthur Mayne's, a 120 year old pharmacy turned wine bar. Many of  the old counters, cases and prescription paraphernalia are still on display! Very little has been done to the ground floor of the building that houses one of the most unusual bars in Cork city, apart from the installation of an enomatic wine system which allows customers to sample 24 different varieties of wine without stumping out for an entire bottle.

Mitchell's Restaurant, Clifden, Co. Galway

Mitchell's is a wonderful restaurant with great ambiance and delicious food. The menu had lots of great choices and the staff were friendly, professional and well trained!. Order whatever seafood is on the menu as it was delicious and very fresh. The seafood chowder, crab salad and spicy fish cakes are sure to impress. Be sure to book in advance! 


EXPLORE.

Dublin

With reminders of its stirring history and rich culture on every corner, Ireland's capital and largest city is a sightseer's delight. My mom and I arrived in the evening and the first thing we did was venture over to Temple Bar, Dublin's trendiest neighborhood, with cafés, pubs, and restaurants — a great spot for live traditional music. We did a ton of walking in Dublin I loved all the antique shops just off Grafton street - the city's liveliest pedestrian thoroughfare. The National Museum of Archaeology is also worth a visit as it had an interesting collection of Irish treasures from the Stone Age to today.

Dublin, Ireland.

Georgian Architecture, Dublin, Ireland.

Georgian Architecture, Dublin, Ireland.

Georgian Door, Dublin, Ireland.

My mom! Dublin, Ireland.

Important looking buildings, Dublin, Ireland.

Dublin, Ireland.

Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland.

The face says it all. Somewhere in Dublin's Temple Bar District, Ireland.

Antiquing, Dublin, Ireland.

Dublin, Ireland.

Dublin, Ireland.

I'll take one of each! Dublin, Ireland.

Dublin, Ireland.

Dublin, Ireland.

Dublin, Ireland.

Corduroy in every colour of the rainbow. Dublin, Ireland.

National Museum of Archaeology, Dublin, Ireland.

National Museum of Archaeology, Dublin, Ireland.

Georgian Architecture, Dublin, Ireland.

Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny

Known as Ireland's finest medieval town, Kilkenny is truly a beautiful historic city and a great hub for arts and culture. The Kilkenny Castle and gardens is the dominate feature in the city and is its principal attraction. Be sure to visit the Kilkenny Design Center, home to an amazing selection of Irish handcrafted gifts. Take a wonder through the streets as there are lots of shops and quaint cafes to explore.

Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland.

Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland.

Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland.

The English Market, Cork City, Co. Cork

English Market, Cork City, Co. Cork, Ireland.

English Market, Cork City, Co. Cork, Ireland.

English Market, Cork City, Co. Cork, Ireland.

University College Cork, Cork City, Ireland.

University College Cork, Cork City, Ireland.

Kinsale and Cobh

County Cork, on Ireland's south coast, is fringed with historic port towns and scenic peninsulas. Rather than kissing the spit-slathered Blarney Stone, spend your time in County Cork enjoying the bustling, historic maritime towns of Kinsale and Cobh.

Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Cobh, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Kinsale, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Druid Ruins, somewhere in Ireland.

Druid Ruins, somewhere in Ireland.

Druid Ruins, somewhere in Ireland.

Wild Atlantic Way

No trip to Ireland would be complete without taking on the Wild Atlantic Way, the world's longest road trip, around the Emerald Isle's craggy west coast. The Wild Atlantic Way is 2,600 kilometers (1,600 miles) in length and winds its way all along the Irish west coast from the Inishowen Peninsula in the north down to the picturesque town of Kinsale in the south. With a constant meeting of water and land a deeply indented and wild terrain has emerged with towering cliffs, spellbinding bays and beaches and mystical islands.

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry

One of Ireland's most scenic routes, the Ring of Kerry combines jaw-dropping coastal scenery with emerald pastures and villages. Hope for good weather and your views will be spectacular. Drivers beware - the roads can get very narrow. Be sure to go clockwise to take advantage of pullouts and views. And look out for tour buses! We opted to use the "tidy town" of Kenmare as our base. A spectacular drive and a definite must see! 

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The Ring of Kerry, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry

The Dingle Peninsula, the westernmost tip of Ireland, offers just the right mix of far-and-away beauty, isolated walks and ancient archaeological wonders. The classic loop drive is 50km but allow a day to take it all in. The town of Dingle is very picturesque and chock full of beautiful artisanal shops and friendly pubs where you can listen to a steady beat of traditional Irish music. It's colourful harbour is filled with fishing boats and tractors leave tracks down the main drag.

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The Best Ice Cream! Murphy's Ice Cream is made with cream from grass fed cows from Kerry and it is simply amazing. Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Murphy's Ice Cream, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

The must try flavour combo: Dingle Sea Salt and Blissful Butterscotch! Murphy's Ice Cream, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Door Knocker, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Death by chocolate truffles. Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare

The Cliffs of Moher are Ireland's most visited natural attraction. Standing 214m (702 feet) at their highest point they stretch for 8 km (5 miles) along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland. We were lucky enough to visit the cliffs on a beautiful clear and sunny day. The Cliffs were truly a spectacular sight. I was so surprised that there were no fences or any sort of barrier/enclosure, as people can walk right up to the edge and along the cliffs - one slip and your gone! The cliffs themselves are quite majestic and offer beautiful views over the mighty Atlantic. The Cliffs of Moher are definitely a not to be missed visit on any trip to Ireland. Well worth a visit but do it early before the tour buses arrive!

The Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare, Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare, Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare, Ireland.

The Burren, Co. Clare

The Burren is a unique, windblown limestone moonscape that hides an abundance of flora, fauna, caves, and history. It is one of those landscapes that is truly otherworldly. They sing about it in the traditional pubs of Doolin and it is the backdrop for an incredible display of rocks, sky, wind, ring forts, tombs, orchids, shamrocks, birds of prey, ancient karma and mystery.

The Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland.

The Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland.

The Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland.

The Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland.

The Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland.

The Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland.

The Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland.

The Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland.

The Burren, Co. Clare, Ireland.

Galway City, Co. Galway

What Galway lacks in sights it makes up for in ambiance. My mom and I spent the afternoon in this lively town just wondering its medieval streets, with their delightful mix of colourful facades, pubs and weather resistant street musicians. Be sure to pop into McCambridge's - a lovely family owned deli and fine food shop. Irish Whiskey is their specialty and they have a great selection to choose from (they will even let you sample!). Try the Yellow Spot and the Teeling, both are excellent!

Irish Whiskey Tasting at McCambridge's, Galway City, Co. Galway, Ireland.

Monaco Grand Prix.

Andrea Porritt

This year marked my first visit to the Monaco Grand Prix. An event that transcends motorsport as the 'one' F1 event that my mother, the mailman and the dog know about. Admittedly, I was not overly excited about attending the race. I had watched highlights of previous races from the confines of a TV and thought they looked rather dull and processional. But as I reflect on what was a most superb and memorable weekend, my opinion has completely reversed... the Monaco Grand Prix is more than simply a race.

The most prestigious race on the F1 calendar, the Monaco Grand Prix is equal parts beauty, spectacle, glitz and glamour. Politicians, celebrities and general bigwigs flock here in droves to be part of the weekend spectacle. There is no show on earth quite like it, which allows the sport to sell itself to the world better than anywhere else. It is why Monaco is the only race on the calendar which does not pay to host a race.

The Monaco Grand Prix is not the most dynamic race of the season (passing is near impossible, pole position almost always wins), it’s not the fastest (Monza is), and for spectators, it’s tough to see more than a small section of the track. But, it is the crown jewel of F1, and for racing fans and spectators, it is for a weekend in May, a place of unbridled glitz and glamour.

The backdrop is nothing short of spectacular. Monaco, the world's smallest and richest country, is filled with multi-million dollar yachts, models, celebrities and the fastest cars in the world.

We watched the race, with champagne in hand, from the Midi Terrace of the Hotel Hermitage, the most luxuriously beautiful hotel I have ever been to. Our perch had stunning views over the harbour and the track, allowing us to scan the smattering of super-yachts too big to dock in the harbour. We had a superb sit-down lunch in the hotel's beautiful Eiffel Mezzanine before the main event. The race itself was fantastic and those F1 cars sound unfreakin' beliveable! Roaring engines, the smell of rubber in the air and thousands of yards of stanchions and felt rope, coralling in the VIPs.

Yes, the Monaco Grand Prix is ostentatious, pretentious and all the rest. But the ridiculousness of it all, the excess, should surely be enjoyed at least once. And for anyone that wants to dismiss Monaco before they experience it, as I myself did, I implore you make the effort and embrace the whole package.

My transportation for the day. A helicopter ride from Nice to Monaco is the only civilized way to get to the track on race day.

The line up for the helicopters reminded me of the taxi cab line up outside Vancouver International Airport.

Go big or go home.

Coming in hot!

The backdrop.

A giant television screen was located directly opposite the terrace, built especially for the Grand Prix, which enhanced our view of the rest of the track.

The F2 race.

The F2 race.

Balcony bitch, Midi Terrace, Hotel Hermitage, Monaco.

The F1 driver parade. That's Lewis Hamilton from team Mercedes on the far left with the gold chain and neon kicks.

Yacht party, Monaco.

The stands are packed. Ready for the main event, Monaco.

The F1 race.

The F1 race - warming up the tires.

The F1 race.

The grand stands, Monaco.

The grand stands, Monaco.

Nico Rosberg, Team Mercedes.

The "free" seats. Apparently people camp out here over the weekend to secure their spot for the race.

Hotel Hermitage, Monaco.

Hotel Hermitage, Monaco.

Hotel Hermitage, Monaco.

Hotel Hermitage, Monaco.

Taking in the view, Midi Terrace, Hotel Hermitage, Monaco.

Here they come!

Rolex watches on the terrace, Hotel Hermitage, Monaco.

Bubble heads, Midi Terrace, Hotel Hermitage, Monaco.

Provence | Hotel Guide.

Andrea Porritt

 

Get swept away by the most heartbreakingly beautiful places to stay in Provence.


HOTEL CRILLON LE BRAVE

Place de l’Eglise Crillon le Brave 84410 France, +33 4 90 65 61 61

Located about 25 miles northeast of Avignon in the Vaucluse, Hotel Crillon Le Brave is the perfect stone built hilltop hideaway where you can enjoy all of the simple pleasures of Provence. The stylish design of this 36-room boutique hotel creates an air of relaxation, tranquility and casual luxury.

The origins of the village of Crillon date back to roman times, while its modern history dates to the 14th century. A long line of dukes ruled Crillon throughout its history, however the town drew its name from Le Brave Crillon (1541-1615) - the most legendary of its dukes and Henri IV's fiercest general.

The village was lively and prosperous until the late 19th century, but by the beginning of the 20th century, this once powerful fortified village of over 500 inhabitants was in the throes of decline. A lack of direct water supply caused many inhabitants to abandon the village and by the end of WWII, it was in ruins and almost completely deserted.

In the summer of 1998, Peter Chittick and his wife Carolyn Fairbairn set about finding a Provençal property to convert into a hotel. They stumbled upon Crillon Le Brave and about a year later with the help of their good friends and business partner Craig Miller and his wife Susan Meech, they opened the Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave with 11 bedrooms.

Over the past 25 years, the hotel has expanded to encompass eight more village buildings and in 1995 the hotel became a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux hotel group.

I was completely and utterly charmed by this lovely hotel, the location is beautiful, the staff were wonderful and the food was simply marvelous. The hotel's stunning setting allows for many activities and local day trips. You can borrow bikes and cruise through the nearby vineyards, olive groves and peaceful villages. Spend a day by the outdoor heated pool with wonderful views of "the Giant of Provence", Mont Ventoux. Relax with a massage in the charming stone walled spa - they use all natural Provençal products. Explore the markets, local artisans and wine regions. Packing tip - allow plenty of suitcase space for wine - Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Châteauneuf-du-Pape and other Rhône varieties abound! Or simply find a quiet corner on the hotel's beautiful terrace and watch the sun cast its fading light onto the Provençal countryside and enjoy a nice glass of Ventoux rosé. Welcome to Provence!

RESTAURANTS

Restaurant Jerome Blanchet

No visit to the hotel would be complete without an evening meal on the main terrace of the hotel or in its vaulted dining room. There is a four course Menu de Saison and a seven course Menu du Chef. The wine list focuses on selections from the Rhône Valley and Provence and includes excellent local Ventoux vintages. All of the above are sourced from an outstanding cast of local farmers, artisans and winemakers from the region. Although the restaurant is impressive, I did not find it as interesting as the more casual Bistrot 40K.

Bistrot 40K

Is so called because all the ingredients are sourced from within a 40km radius of the hotel. The blackboard menu at €40 per person changes every night and includes a starter, main course and dessert. The menu puts local produce in the spotlight with delicious meat and fish options and wines supplied by noted nearby vineyards. One of my favourite parts about dining at this charming restaurant was the opportunity to go down into the Reboul Wine Cellar and pick out my own bottle of wine for the evening!


LA BASTIDE DE MOUSTIERS

Chemin de Quinson, 04360 Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, France, +33 4 92 70 47 47

Set at the foothills of the Alps, La Bastide de Moustiers was chef Alain Ducasse's country home before he converted it into the romantic hillside hideaway that it is today. Ducasse has done his utmost to enable each guest to feel right at home. Along with its obligatory wow-factor restaurant, this upscale country inn showcases local craftsmanship from the sheets to the teacups. The 11 bedrooms and pair of suites, each named after something quintessentially Provençal, are graceful, cool and decorated in pared-back country style. We stayed in La Suite Olive and simply loved the homey, tranquil atmosphere -  a perfectly dreamy vision of low-key Provençal life.

The surrounding area is equally spectacular - lavender fields, a dramatic gorge (Gorges du Verdon), limestone cliffs and the beautiful medieval village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie are sure to impress. And you could easily lose a day in the Bastide's gardens, pool and terrace.

RESTAURANT

If you are lucky enough to get to La Bastide de Moustiers on a bright sunny day as we did, I can assure you that few experiences in life will be as pleasant as this. Set in a stunning location in the Provençal countryside, the restaurant delivered all that could be expected from a Michelin starred establishment.

The food is simply perfect - Alain Ducasse's name should suffice, as he is a celebrated chef with restaurants in select locations around the world. The menu changes daily, following the rhythm of the seasons and depending on what is ready to be gathered from the Bastide's garden. The atmosphere is relaxed with warm friendly staff and polished professional service. La Bastide de Moustiers is truly a gourmand's dream come true and is the perfect place to indulge in the kind of fantasy long lunches we all need in our lives.


DOMAINE DE LA BAUME

2071 Route d'Aups, 83690 Tourtour, France, +33+33 4 83 13 27 27

Set away from the famously pretty village of Tourtour, Domaine de la Baume is a divinely restored 18th-century guesthouse located between the Gorges du Verdon and the French Riviera. Once home to famed French Expressionist painter Bernard Buffet, this magnificent property boasts 99 acres of formal gardens, olive groves, woodlands and heartbreakingly beautiful views over the sun drenched Var region. A waterfall, pool and garden paths lead on past fig trees, a horse paddock and a chapel.

Expressionist painter Buffet was, in the 1950s, as celebrated as Picasso, highly collectable even before he was 30 years old, lived well and extravagantly in Paris, shared a lover with Yves Saint Laurent, and was much talked-about, not just in France but worldwide.

The 15-room Domaine de la Baume is truly a work of art in Provence. Behind the apricot coloured facade, each room is decorated with a theatrical eye and clever antique finds. Walls are covered with Toile de Jouy fabrics from Braquenie, floors are trompe-l'oeil and hexagon-tiled; and warm Provençal colours are painted inside and out: soft ochre, dusky pink, sky blue and pale orange.

Guests are provided peace and quiet but the staff were always available and extremely accommodating to meet any request or need we had during our stay.

RESTAURANT

The kitchen sources its ingredients from local farmers and produces its own honey, herbs and olive oil, all of which were exquisitely good and of great quality. The food is top end yet unfiddly and the regularly changing menu offered significant variety each night despite having dinned there for three consecutive evenings. While the restaurant only had their house wines on offer with dinner, they were very enjoyable and paired equally well with the evening menu.

Provence.

Andrea Porritt

Arguably the most irresistible region in France, Provence ranges from the snow-capped mountains of the southern Alps to the gently sloping vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and boasts Europe's greatest canyon, the Gorges du Verdon. Fortified towns guard its ancient borders; countless villages perched on hilltops, and great cities like Arles, Aix and Avignon are full of cultural glories. The sensual inducements of Provence include sunshine, food, wine, and the heady perfumes of the Mediterranean vegetation. Small wonder it has for so long attracted the rich and famous, artistic and reclusive and ever-growing throngs of summer visitors.

 Domaine Tempier, Bandol.

Domaine Tempier, Bandol.


STAY.

Hotel Crillon Le Brave

Located in the Vaucluse, Hotel Crillon le Brave is the perfect stone built hilltop hideaway where you can enjoy all of the simple pleasures of Provence. The stylish design of this 36-room boutique hotel creates an air of relaxation, tranquility and casual luxury.

There is no shortage of things to do - you can borrow bikes and cruise through the nearby rolling vineyards, olive groves and peaceful villages. Spend a day by the outdoor heated pool with wonderful views of "the Giant of Provence", Mont Ventoux. Relax with a massage in the charming stone walled spa - they use all natural Provencal products. Or spend a few days exploring the nearby wine regions.

Packing tip - allow plenty of suitcase space for wine - Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Châteauneuf-du-Pape and other Rhône varieties abound!

La Bastide de Moustiers

Set at the foothills of the Alps, La Bastide de Moustiers is Alain Ducasse's romantic hillside hideaway. Ducasse has done his utmost to enable each guest to feel right at home. Along with its obligatory wow-factor restaurant, this upscale country inn showcases local craftsmanship from the sheets to the teacups. Stroll from the terrace to the swimming pool and through the 4 hectares of gardens. The surrounding area is equally spectacular - lavender fields, a dramatic gorge (Gorges du Verdon), limestone cliffs and the beautiful medieval village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie are sure to impress.

Domaine de la Baume

Set away from the famously pretty village of Tourtour, Domaine de la Baume is a divinely restored 18th-century guesthouse located between the Gorges du Verdon and the French Riviera. Once home to famed French Expressionist painter Bernard Buffet, this magnificent property boasts 99 acres of formal gardens, olive groves, woodlands and spectacular views over the sun drenched Var region. A waterfall, pool and garden paths lead on past fig trees, a horse paddock and a chapel.

The 15-room Domaine de la Baume is truly a work of art in Provence. Behind the ochre facade, each room is  decorated with a theatrical eye and clever antique finds. Walls are covered with Toile de Jouy fabrics from Braquenie, floors are trompe-l'oeil and hexagon-tiled; and warm Provencal colours are painted inside and out: soft ochre, dusky pink, sky blue and pale orange.


EAT.

Le Verger des Papes, Châteauneuf-du-Pape

After a morning of touring and tasting the great wines and wineries of Châteauneuf-du-Pape there is no better place to break for lunch than the long established Le Verger des Papes. It has a terrace that affords breathtaking views over the vineyards, valley and the Rhône river. Provencal cuisine, fine produce and local wines dominate the menu. Be sure to order the dish of the day and any of the local wines, trust me, you will not be disappointed - fresh, great quality and tastes wonderful. After lunch be sure to take a stroll around the ruined medieval castle that sits at the top of the village as it is right there!

Le Mas des Vignes, Bedoin

It's hard to imagine a more pleasant experience than dining at this marvelous restaurant. The large terrace is the perfect place to sip rosé champagne and watch the sunset over the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range and the Provence countryside. The menu is simple and all the dishes are shockingly delightful. Definitely worth the trip for a special evening with a partner or friends. Best to make a reservation, also credit cards are not accepted so bring cash!

La Bastide de Moustiers (Alain Ducasse), Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

If you are lucky enough to get to La Bastide de Moustiers on a bright sunny day as we did, I can assure you that few experiences in life will be as pleasant as this. Set in a stunning location in the Provencal countryside, the restaurant delivered all that could be expected from a Michelin starred establishment.

The food is simply perfect - Alain Ducasse's name should suffice, as he is a celebrated chef with restaurants in select locations around the world. The menu changes every day, following the rhythm of the seasons and depending on what is ready to be gathered from the Bastide's garden. The atmosphere is relaxed with warm friendly staff and polished service. I could not think of a better way to while away the hours on a warm spring evening in Provence.


EXPLORE.

Grass

Grass, the perfume capital of the world, is located only 15 km away from Cannes, with its yachts, beaches and shopping. The French perfume industry began here in the 16th century and has been blossoming ever since. This beautiful little town proved ideal for the perfume trade due its sunshine and micro climate that facilitates the growth of the most delicate flowers. The principal parfumeries of Fragonard, Galimard and Molinard all offer guided visits that show the history of each house as well as the process of making perfume.

The old town is large, old and extremely interesting. Tiny streets wind forever between the 17th and 18th century buildings, up and down ancient steps, passing through arched tunnels and sometimes opening up into large squares.

Wine Tasting

Wine tasting and touring is one activity that cannot be missed on any trip to Provence. Historically known for light, drinkable rosé, they now also make some exciting red wines, with many young vignerons moving towards organic production. We visited several wineries and regions from the Rhône valley, Luberon and Bandol to Gigondas, Vaquerays and Beaumes de Venise.

 Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

 Vacqueyras.

Vacqueyras.

 Gigondas.

Gigondas.