Thursday, July 31, 2014

Travelore Tips: Holland America To Offer Free Drinks And Other Perks If You Book Now For 2015 And 2016

Holland America is offering free drinks and other perks to customers who book now for 2015 and 2016.
Under the terms of the line's latest Explore 4 promotion, unveiled today, cruisers who book select sailings departing between January 2015 and April 2016 will receive a free Signature Beverage Package that normally costs $100 per day for two.
The Explore 4 promotion also brings early bookers a free dinner at the Pinnacle Grill eatery found on Holland America ships when booking an ocean-view or higher category cabin; free or reduced fares for third and fourth passengers in the same cabin on select sailings; and a 50% reduction in the deposit required to hold a cabin.
In addition, passengers booking suites will receive a $300 per cabin on-board spending credit and a free dinner at the Canaletto restaurant found on Holland America ships.
The offer is good on select itineraries in almost every region that Holland America sails, including the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe and South America.
Holland America's Signature Beverage Package includes wine, beer, spirits, cocktails, sodas and coffee.
The free beverage offer only is applicable on the cruise portions of Holland America's Alaska Land+Sea Journeys.
Contributed by Gene Sloan, USA TODAY
Follow us on Twitter: @TraveloreReport

Where To Find The World's Best High Teas

Sipping tea in rarefied surroundings is a simple treat that can turn a fun city break into something truly memorable. High (or afternoon) tea, involving delicate cakes, buttery scones and the occasional glass of bubbly, is an English tradition dating back to the 1840s. So it’s unsurprising that the world’s best spots to indulge in this culinary luxury can be found in former British imperial outposts, often at swanky, high-end hotels.
Whether you’re after some London glamour or an alternative Singaporean take on the classic afternoon tea, here’s our pick of the best the world has to offer.

Eastern & Oriental, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Hidden down a long corridor stretching from a vast, opulent foyer, the E&O’s tea room in Penang is as traditionally English as you’ll find this far east of the Kentish countryside. You’ll realise you’re not in Blighty only when you look past your lavishly laid table and see the glorious sea-front palm garden. The huge tea menu, which includes delicious local Malaysian Boh infusions as well as classic Indian and Chinese teas, is supplemented by moreish finger sandwiches (the beef-and-horseradish is delicious) and an impressive array of petit fours.

Erawan Tea Room, Grand Hyatt Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

It might be in one of Bangkok’s fanciest crash pads, but the Erawan’s Tea Room offers a totally different take on the traditional English afternoon tea. Although you’ll find refreshing Indian, Sri Lankan and, of course, Thai teas, the food is local, with savoury and sweet delights from the country that offers Southeast Asia’s finest cuisine. Formal chairs and modern sofas are liberally mixed in a relaxed room overlooking the Erawan Shrine.

The Strand, Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

Built by the same brothers who founded the E&O, and a favourite of Somerset Maugham and Rudyard Kipling, Yangon’s Strand hotel is one of the city’s few grand colonial structures that hasn’t fallen into disrepair. A room costs the better part of $400, so the $18 afternoon tea is a steal by comparison. Offered in the Strand Grill restaurant on wide wicker chairs and under choppy ceiling fans, the tea service’s scones and sandwiches come piled high on a tiered cake stand. The petit fours may look too delicate to eat, but don’t let that stop you from scoffing them.

Claridge's, London, UK

London is spoilt for high teas, with the Patisserie Valerie chain and the Wolseley offering excellent – and affordable – versions. But Claridge's is the pinnacle of this afternoon art form. The classic afternoon tea costs £39 per person plus service, and there’s a smart-casual dress code – but boy, is it worth stumping up for. Raisin-and-apple scones with clotted cream follow as many sandwiches as you can eat, and that’s after you’ve chosen from an array of 40 teas. Served in the hotel’s foyer, this is a must-do on any visit to London.

House, Dempsey Hill, Singapore

Far less traditional than rival hotels’ offerings, Singapore's House holds a ‘Vintage High Tea’ every Thursday and Friday afternoon in its former British barracks home. A snip at 22 SGD, it’s served as a swanky buffet, with tables sagging under the weight of huge cakes (try the lemon-and-pistachio sponge for starters) and savoury treats – and you can reload your plate as often as you want. The squid-ink pizza is a great alternative to the sandwiches you’ll find at standard high teas.

Tea & Sympathy, New York, USA

New York has plenty of full-on high tea spots where you can enjoy fancy service and dainty nibbles (The Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel is especially good). But if you want hefty scones, homemade strawberry or raspberry jam and sandwiches that you’d find at tea on the lawn of an English stately home, then Tea & Sympathy is the go-to place.

Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town’s Mount Nelson Hotel serves up one of the finest afternoon teas you’ll ever set your eyes on. The cucumber sandwiches melt in the mouth, the scones rival those at Claridge's, and the lemon meringue alone is worth the R135 price tag. There’s a local flavour too, thanks to the melktert, a delicious milk tart that’s an absolute must-have. Every tea imaginable is on offer, even one made with rose petals from the Mount Nelson’s gardens.

Read more:

Follow us on Twitter: @TraveloreReport

Abercrombie & Kent First In The Air With Lie-Flat Seats On Private Jet Journeys


New Wonders of the World Itinerary for 2015
- Abercrombie & Kent will be the first to operate
 luxury private jet journeys featuring fully lie-flat seats beginning in the fall of 2014. All of A&K's private jet
 journeys will now feature a privately chartered Icelandair Boeing 757-200ER with 50 custom-designed Italian
 leather seats equipped with a personal massage system, 4-way adjustable headrests and lumbar support,
 and a fully lie-flat bed more than 6.5' long (79" pitch).  Additional seating enables each guest to socialize in
 comfort with their travel companions, while a full privacy screen and extra-high seat back provide undisturbed

"I truly believe – in fact I built Abercrombie & Kent on the belief – that we can provide our guests with an
 unexpected level of comfort," says A&K founder, chairman and CEO Geoffrey Kent. "So I'm thrilled that
 our guests will be the first to experience completely lie-flat, first class seats on our private jet journey around
 the world this fall."  

Travellers will have another opportunity to experience this extraordinary plane on Wonders of the World 
by Private Jet, which will whisk guests from Machu Picchu to Easter Island, Angkor Wat and Istanbul.
 Under ordinary circumstances these places would be difficult – perhaps impossible – to visit on a single
 itinerary.  But this journey brings all of these inspiring experiences within reach, while the small group size 
allows for an itinerary packed with exclusive, invitation-only events.
Wonders of the World by Private JetSeptember 17 – October 10, 2015
  • Board the luxurious Hiram Bingham train on an exclusive charter to Machu Picchu.
  • Walk through the volcanic quarry on Easter Island where giant stone moai were laboriously carved. 
  • Unwind in the tropical paradise of Samoa.
  • Enjoy dinner at the Sydney Opera House and attend a private performance.
  • Explore Angkor Wat with a preservation specialist.
  • Experience the power of the Taj Mahal at sunrise and sunset.
  • Explore Istanbul's Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Basilica Cistern when they are closed to the public.
  • Sleep under the stars in the Sahara Desert and discover Marrakech with Geoffrey Kent as your host.
Leading every Private Jet Journey is an A&K Tour Director who oversees everything from start to finish. A team
 of exceptional Tour Managers guarantee seamless service, while expert local guides lend additional insight.
 A&K's Travelling Bell Boy® service collects luggage from each room and ensures it is waiting at the next hotel.
Abercrombie & Kent is one of the most experienced companies in the luxury private jet business
having designed and operated private jet programs since 1999. Deep roots and long-established relationships
 — as well as 52 offices worldwide— allow A&K to offer unique encounters unavailable to others.

To learn more about Wonders of the World by Private Jet (24 days, from $108,000 per person, double
 occupancy) contact your travel professional, go to
 or call 800 554 7094 to speak to a Travel Consultant.

About Abercrombie &

Abercrombie & Kent pioneered luxury adventure travel with their first African safaris in 1962, and today their
 award-winning travel services extend around the globe to more than one hundred countries on all seven
 continents. A&K's custom itineraries and small-group journeys offer one-of-a-kind inspiring experiences,
 while our 52 on-site offices ensure invitation-only access to the people and places that make every travel
 destination unique.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Canada’s Greatest Hidden Rail Trip

Weaving along a narrow ledge between razor-sharp mountains and a gigantic, glittering lake, the tiny, two-car Kaoham Shuttle is arguably Canada’s greatest hidden rail journey. And at just 10 Canadian dollars for a two-hour return trip, it’s also a bargain – especially if you’re a fan of both spectacular scenery and wildlife.
Founded in 1912, the Pacific Great Eastern Railway (later renamed BC Rail) used to trundle passengers from North Vancouver to the northern city of Prince George, linking dozens of backcountry communities en route. But by 2002, its money-losing passenger services had all been canned – except for a daily diesel “rail bus” between the tiny westernCanada towns of Lillooet and Seton Portage. When the transcontinental freight operator Canadian National Railway acquired BC Rail’s operations in 2004, this lone passenger service somehow endured.
Today, the Kaoham Shuttle – a partnership between Canadian National and the Seton Lake First Nation community – remains a vital service in an area where backcountry roads are sometimes impassable, while also luring travelling train spotters who can’t quite believe their luck.
All aboard
I arrived at Lillooet Station after a 320km forest-and-mountain-filled drive from Vancouver. Huge, pyramid-straight mountains dwarfed the gable-roofed building, while a dozen empty train tracks striped the ground in front of us.
A skeletal tumbleweed rolled across the platform just as the late-arriving train shimmied into view. Bell ringing, it screeched to a halt in front of the platform, looking like a pair of attached steel sheds on wheels.
After paying my fare, I slid onto a seat in the first carriage, making sure I snagged a left-hand, lakeside spot.
At first glance, it’s clear this 30-passenger train was purpose-built. The seats looked left over from an old transit bus, while the granite-coloured floor tiles seemed to come from a hardware store clearance sale. The driver sat in the front, right-hand corner, beside an engine hump that was also used as a ledge for his paperwork, packed lunch and a bottle of window-cleaner.
No-one would mistake this functional conveyance for the luxury of the Orient Express. But as we rattled alongside a fast-moving river and suddenly emerged wide-eyed on the shore of jade-green Seton Lake, the scenery was no less magnificent.
Kaoham Shuttle, British Columbia, Canada
Watching the now-familiar diorama unfurling alongside. (John Lee)
Taking in the view
The mountains across Seton Lake were cloaked with dense forest – a sharp contrast to the jagged, rust-colored cliffs that rose along the tracks, just inches from the windows. The rails twisted like spaghetti strands ahead of us, threading a narrow route between the rocks and the lake.
Without any announcement, the driver slowed down every few minutes; it was our cue to scan the scenery for wildlife. It wasn't long before we spotted eight bighorn sheep peering curiously at us from on high, followed by a black bear and two cubs snuffling around a nearby tree.
After a quick stop at the red-roofed Shalalth Station, we encountered the line’s only tunnel: a narrow, rough-hewn 1.2km cave that looked like a mythical dragon’s grotto. On the other side was the community of Seton Portage: a clutch of wooden houses centred on a derelict brown church, it’s sharp, pinprick steeple rising above it all.
Heading back
After dropping off the mail and chatting with a few of the locals who came for a social visit, our driver shifted to the other end of the train and prepared to head back down the line. I asked if I could sit on the nearby cooler that served as a makeshift bench at the front of the train.
“Go ahead,” the driver, Eugene, said, smiling. “It’s the best seat in the house – apart from mine.”
The return trundle was more relaxed, with passengers comparing wildlife shots and watching the now-familiar diorama unfurling alongside. Eugene explained that the day’s animal sightings were fairly routine. Cougars pop up once or twice a year, he added, but falling rocks are more common.
There were no tumbling rocks the day I was there, but as we rounded a corner, four young deer – two with furry antlers – skittered away from the rails. A little later, the train screeched to a halt as Eugene spotted a well-camouflaged, sandy-coloured mountain quail hopping over the tracks, followed by 10 bouncing feather balls climbing over each other to get across. Once they made it over safely, we continued on our way.
Clouds were rolling in as we inched back towards Lillooet. But there was just enough time for a wildlife finale. Two adult mountain goats – their white, shaggy coats half-moulted – stared intently at the train from about 5m away; a pint-sized baby jumped around on the rocks nearby.
“You don’t normally see them this low – you got lucky,” our driver said, hopping out to change the points on the rails ahead. Lillooet Station was just a couple of minutes away, but I was already planning my next ride.
Friday is the best day to board the Kaoham Shuttle, since the train departs from Lillooet at 10:30 am (morning departures the rest of the week are from less-accessible Seton Portage). Reserving ahead by phone is recommended, especially in summer (250-259-8300).

Contributed by 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

TRAVELORE DESTINATION REPORT: The Raddison Blu Warwick Philadelphia, A World Renowned Luxury Brand New To The U.S. Provides Outstanding Value

The Rittenhouse Square area of Philadelphia is known for having some of the most exclusive shopping, dining and homes in the world. Recently joining this highly coveted area is the Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel after a $20 million update to the iconic address that originally opened in 1926 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. While the luxurious Raddison Blu brand already has 270 properties in 62 countries, this is only the third in the United States. The others are the Raddison Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago and the Raddison Blu Mall of America. Being new to the U.S. market creates a value opportunity for travelers since perceived value is not yet established against more established 'boutique' brands.

Beyond having world-class options for dinning and shopping just out the door; Philadelphia is one of the
most walk-able cities in the world with its historic area, museums, and theater options all nearby.

The hotel features 301 spacious modern rooms with Philadelphia-centric art. We stayed in one of the 31 spacious Executive Rooms that have upgraded amenities and services including access to the Business Class Lounge serving evening drinks and breakfast, free high speed internet,  in-room Nespresso coffee machine, turn-down service, complementary bottled water, a bath robe and slippers.

 The hotel features three food options; Tavern 17, featuring artisan-inspired dishes from local and organic ingredients.Recommended at Tavern 17 is their Amish Chicken Breast with Yukon gold potato puree, broccolini and salsa; The prime Rib, evocative of a 1940's Manhattan supper club; and a coffee bar. For early risers also offered is a complementary Grab and Run breakfast with fresh coffee, fruit, and breakfast bars from 5-6:30 a.m.

We found the service at the hotel to be outstanding, the 'bottom-line' reason for choosing where to stay. Radisson has a  full satisfaction warranty that if they do not make it right after reporting a problem, you won't pay.

The Radisson Blu Warwick is located on 1701 Locust Street 215-735-6000 or www.RHI_RHPH@Radisson.Com

The newest important attraction in Philadelphia is the Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion at the Franklin
Institute, one of the best science museums in the world that first opened it's doors in 1934. The centerpiece of the new pavilion is the Your Brain exhibition. With over 70 interactive experiences Your Brain is the largest permanent exhibition dedicated to the most complex and misunderstood organ in our body in the Country. Other iconic attractions at the Institute include the Baldwin 60,000 locomotive, the walk- through Giant Heart, the Planetarium, and the best IMAX theater that we've experienced in our world travels.

The Franklin Institute is located on 222 N. 20th Street, a 15 minute walk from the Raddison Blu. For more information please visit:

Also a short walk from the hotel is the British Lush Spa, the second opened in the U.S., with the first opened in New York. While mainly known for its exceptional cosmetics, their spas have unique experiential British theme. Recommended is their signature Synaesthesia treatment designed to be a complete merging of the senses with choreographed massage to music that takes you through a 24 hour day starting with bird songs, along with radiating color and clouds of scent. Before going into your treatment you consult with your therapist sitting along a large table made of reclaimed wood to decide what you seek to achieve with your treatment including "Ambition", "Esteem", "Relaxed", "Mind Cleanser" and "Relaxed"; using a customized blend of essential oils for your treatment to achieve your objective. At the end of your treatment you will be given a Bubble Bar Stone with the same essential oils to take home.

The Lush Spa is located at 1525 Walnut Street, on Rittenhouse Row. For more information please call 215-546-5874 or visit: www.LushUSA.Com/LUSHSPA

For more information about planning your visit to Philadelphia and to enter to win a "Dream Trip To Philly" please go to:



Monday, July 28, 2014

Travelore Tips: 10 Quirky Local Customs Travelers Should Know

Contributed by 
venice - st marks - san marco - anna fox - 620Anna Fox
Flight: booked. Hotel: reserved. Language podcasts: Completed. What else do you need to prepare before jetting off on vacation?

Most of us would probably never think that feeding pigeons in parts of Venice could get us fined as much as our plane tickets there cost. Likewise, while we always leave a substantial tip after dining at a restaurant in North America, the practice is a foreign concept to many international visitors. Needless to say, very diverse cultural customs abound around the world. Here are a few quirky ones that we love and think are useful to know for preventing cultural mishaps abroad.

Brazil: Brazilians love to touch each other, so don’t be surprised when you talk to a Brazilian and they tug at your shirt or wrap their arm around you. It’s not a sign of flirtation but a means of friendly communication.

China: Finish all of your food? That could potentially make you rude. In China, some interpret a completely 
cleaned off plate as a sign that guests weren't fed enough. They could take offense — or try to stuff you with unwanted extra helpings. To be safe, leave just a bite or two on your plate when full.

Germany: It could be 4 a.m., there might not be traffic, and there might not be even the hint of a car. No matter: You never jaywalk. Unlike most places where jaywalkers plague the streets, jaywalking in Germany can often met with scoffs and disapproving glares. That’s why some crosswalks now let you play ping pong against those across the street while you’re waiting for the light to change.

Greece: The Greek word “moutza” or “mountza” refers to thrusting an open palm with all fingers extended and stretched to another person. With a reference to a period in time when criminals’ faces were smeared with cinder as punishment, the extremely rude gesture equates to the American middle finger. Avoid throwing out your palm at anyone, whether you’re hailing a taxi or motioning for someone to stop.

India: India’s a diverse society, but who would have guessed that its alcohol laws are just as complex? The legal drinking age ranges from region to region; in some states it’s 18, others 25. In a few areas, mostly in the East, alcohol is prohibited entirely.

IrelandStand your round – meaning you never order a drink for just yourself, which is interpreted as standoffish. In order not to ostracize your Irish brethen, always offer to pay for a round. And if you can’t quite drink like the Irish? Stand your round early so you can sneak away before total inebriation.

ItalyFeeding the festering pigeons in Venice’s St. Marks Square may accrue a $700 ticket, and shorts and tank tops in an Italian church might get you some glares.

Japan: With a few exceptions like tour guides and private drivers who mostly work with international visitors, most Japanese find tipping insulting. But if a restaurant truly wowed you, for example, return for another meal to show your gratitude.

Mexico: Many Mexicans, especially of the older generation, consider it rude to stand with your hands in your pockets – it signifies a casual lack of interest. In the same vein, standing with your hands on your hips indicates anger. Needless to say, one generally minds not only where but also how they stand.

United States: The tag price is not the actual price. For example, your $10 dinner really costs $10.80, and that’s not even factoring in the tip. This isn't news to most of our readers, but it especially baffles plenty of visitors from other countries.

- See more at:

Follow us on Twitter: @TraveloreReport

What To Do In Marrakech: 10 Amazing Attractions

(CNN) -- While many visits to Marrakech revolve around the imposing Koutoubia mosque or Jemaa el Fna, the bustling central square filled with snake charmers and storytellers, there's plenty to do beyond these landmarks.
For those willing to delve deep into the narrow streets around the square or into the desert and mountains outside the city, Marrakech rewards with stunning scenery, unforgettable flavors and luxurious indulgences.
Here are some of the city's highlights.
1. Getting lost in the backstreets
Exploring the old medina can be pleasurable and expensive in equal measures thanks to the small boutiques selling almost everything.
Among classic local souvenirs are djellaba robes, spices, babouches (Moroccan slippers), old carpets and colorful ceramics.
Bargaining is part of the attraction here.
Taking time over a purchase will not only save money but generally prompt an enjoyable discussion with the vendor.
Recommended: La Porte d'Or -- an ancient two-level bazaar rammed with rugs and antiques.
La Porte d'Or 115 Souk Semmarine, Marrakech; +212 24445454

2. Wandering through the Jardin Majorelle
Here, the simple joy of a peaceful garden meets the complicated world of high couture.
This 12-acre botanical creation was bequeathed to Marrakech by French painter Jacques Majorelle and later saved from development by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, who bought it in the 1980s and, following his death, had his ashes scattered among its plants.
The garden, which blends Moorish and art deco features, is filled with rare flowers. A startling electric blue villa looks down upon the scene.
Jardin Majorelle, Rue Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakech; +212 5243-01894
Marrakech\'s answer to the mall.
Marrakech's answer to the mall.
3. Eating a sheep's head
There are plenty of places to eat Moroccan food in Marrakech.
Cooked snails, tajines, couscous and sheep heads -- there are different levels of exoticism to match the adventurousness of the diner.
Tanjia is a staple here. It's a meat dish cooked for six or more hours in a ceramic pot.
It's not commonly enjoyed by tourists but has such a terrific reputation among Moroccans that some come to Marrakech with the sole purpose of eating it.
Recommended: Dar Rhizlane Bejgueni, Jamaa el Fna square. This 40-year-old restaurant is a Marrakech institution. It's open until 2 a.m. and is famous for its sandwiches.
Dar Rhizlane Bejgueni, Jamaa el Fna square, Marrakech
4. Getting pummeled by a stranger
Steaming in a traditional Hammam or public bath is an important part of Moroccan life and culture.
Being scrubbed by a perfect stranger may not sound like everyone's idea of relaxation, but there's no better way to escape the buzzing Medina and revitalize weary skin and muscles.
Recommended: Les bains de Marrakech, a luxury spa close to the medina that offers individual massage rooms.
Les Bains de Marrakech, 2 Derb Sedra, Bab Agnaou, Kasbah, Marrakech; +212 5 24 38 14 28
5. Visiting or staying in a palace
El Badi Palace: It may be in ruins, but it's still possible to get an idea of the former glory of this sprawling 16th-century sultan's home.
There are subterranean rooms and a labyrinth to explore, plus a museum of objects recovered from an old Minbar (pulpit) at the Koutoubia mosque.
Mamounia Palace: This five-star hotel has been a Marrakech institution for the best part of a century, receiving famous guests such as Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin.
Green space: Jardin Majorelle.
Green space: Jardin Majorelle.
The Mamounia still attracts celebrities. Russian President Vladimir Putin's daughter was reportedly married here in 2013.
Namaskar Palace: Another luxury hotel, this one on the way from Marrakech to the Atlas Mountains.
Stylish with traditional influences, the oasis-style spa retreat regularly tops best-in-Africa lists.
El Badi Palace: Ksibat Nhass, Marrakech; +212 661 350878
Mamounia Palace, Arset el Maach, Marrakech; +212 5243 88600
Namaskar Palace, Route de Bab Atlas, 88/69, Province Syba, Marrakech; + 212 5 24 29 98 00
6. Relaxing in a riad
Whether for drinking tea or staying the night, riads are a great part of the Marrakech experience.
These traditional Moroccan houses built around a central garden or courtyard are as much a part of the city as the snake charmers of the main square -- although many have had a modern makeover.
Regardless of whether they've been kitted out with the latest fixtures or remain faithful to their old fashioned Moroccan decor, they all seem to evoke the myths of "One Thousand and One Nights."
Recommended: El fenn, a maze-like, 22-room luxury boutique hotel based around three central courtyards.
El Fenn, Derb Moullay Abdullah Ben Hezzian, Bab el Ksour Medina, Marrakech; +212 524 44 1210
7. Checking out the Atlas Mountains
One of Marrakech's key attractions is that it lies within easy reach of the Atlas Mountains, meaning that cool retreats from the heat and dust of the city are close at hand.
The town of Lalla Takerkoust, 43 kilometers (27 miles) to the southwest, is chiefly known for its nearby dam and lake and is a great place for quad biking, camel riding or simply admiring view of the peaks.
Slow food: A Marrakech snail vendor.
Slow food: A Marrakech snail vendor.
The valley of Ourika, in the Atlas foothills 60 kilometers to the south of Marrakech, is a popular escape to see Berber villages surrounded by waterfalls and rivers.
The village of Armed, 64 kilometers due south, is the last stop before Toubkal, Morocco's highest mountain, the peak of which affords views over the Sahara.
It's a great base for hiking or for simply breathing pure air, contemplating nature or enjoying a lunch on the terrace at the Roches Hotel (+212 667 64 49 15)
8. Grabbing a bargain in Bab El Khemis
It's off the main tourist trail, but Bab el Khemis is worth a visit.
The souk here is open every day, but on Thursdays ("Khemis" translates as "Thursday") it becomes a truly Moroccan experience.
This is when it transforms into a crowded flea market selling secondhand goods and treasures such as vintage carpets, doors and more than a few things that customers probably don't know exist until they stumble across them here.
9. Hot air ballooning
When people visit the city and talk of getting high, it doesn't necessarily mean they're hunting for the Crosby, Stills and Nash "Marrakech Express" vibe of the 1960s hippie trail.
Over the past 20 years, the city has emerged as a destination for balloon trips -- clear Moroccan skies that rarely see clouds or rain are a huge plus.
Taking in what is undoubtedly the best view of the Atlas Mountains doesn't come cheap, but few deny it's money well spent.
Recommended: Ciel d'Afrique, an organzied and professional operation with decades of ballooning experience.
Ciel d'Afrique; +212 524 43 28 43
10. Thrill seeking
A 30-minute drive south of Marrakech leads to Terres d'Amanar, a 173-acre adult playground filled with adrenaline-boosting outdoor activities.
For those with no fear of heights there are climbing routes, high wires and zip lines, while on the ground there's horse and camel riding.
Berber bread making courses are also offered.
Terres d'Amanar; +212 524 438 103
Contributed by Ali Berrada; a Moroccan photographer, writer and director. 
Follow us on Twitter: @TraveloreReport

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The 12 Most Romantic Resorts In The Mediterranean

There’s something undeniably sexy about the Mediterranean: The sea breezes, the storied history, the beautiful architecture, the friendly people, the delicious cuisine, and — without a doubt — the sweeping views, of both city and sea, certainly don’t hurt either. We’ve made our way along the winding coast, from Spain’s Costa del Sol to the Greek island of Mykonos, and have found that the Mediterranean can certainly set the scene for romance — as can many of its luxury hotels. Here are a dozen beautiful, romantic properties in the Mediterranean that are perfect for a sexy escape.

Myconian Ambassador Hotel & Thalasso Spa Center, Mykonos

Myconian Ambassador
Myconian Ambassador Hotel & Thalasso Spa Center is a luxury hotel (it’s part of the Relais & Chateaux chain) with 70 rooms overlooking Platis Gialos. Guests seem to love the hotel’s little extras, such as juice at check-in and ice pops by the pool. Guest rooms are chic, white, and airy, and offer ocean views. The hotel has an infinity-edge outdoor pool, and a restaurant serving Mediterranean, Greek, and Mykonos dishes. The indoor spa offers guests a free, daily thalassotherapy session, and the hotel has a fitness center with several weight and cardio machines. Free shuttle service to the airport is available. It’s a short walk to the beautiful Platis Gialos Beach, and Mykonos Town is a 12-minute drive from the hotel.

Mare Hotel Savona, Italian Riviera

Mare Hotel Savona
With its beach-heavy, modern design, Mare Hotel Savona provides a tropical escape on the Mediterranean. Savona is a bit industrial, but the hotel provides a nice spot for a beach vacation and is also a good base for exploring other tourist destinations on the Italian Riviera, such as Bergeggi and Finale Ligure. The on-site restaurants are popular (though a bit pricey), which means snagging a table without a reservation can be somewhat difficult. Rooms on the south side have much better views and are quieter.

Claris Hotel, Barcelona

Claris Hotel
A former palace, the luxurious 124-room Hotel Claris is conveniently located within walking distance to Plaza Catalunya and Paseo de Gracia. The gorgeous rooms are quiet and creative with Egyptian-inspired art objects and marble bathrooms; there are several room types including chic duplex suites. The extensive array of features includes a rooftop pool, solarium, gym, and sauna. One highlight is the glass-enclosed cocktail bar and restaurant with striking city views. There is an on-site museum and interesting works of art in every hotel corner, but there is no tea or coffee in the rooms.

Royal Continental Hotel, Naples

Royal Continental
The 397-room, four-star Royal Continental Hotel bills itself as a “boutique” property, but in actuality it is the largest convention center in Naples. Located in a quiet pedestrian area by the Bay of Naples, the Royal Continental has a wide variety of facilities for business travelers, including a full theater and exhibition hall, but tourists and couples will also appreciate the location, away from Naples’ inner-city crush and surrounded by cafes and restaurants.

Electra Palace Hotel Athens

Electra Palace
Electra Palace Hotel Athens is a beautiful luxury property with 150 rooms in the neighborhood of Plaka. The grounds and facilities are gorgeous, featuring an outdoor garden with manicured lawns and a pavilion where guests can enjoy the free breakfast. The rooftop restaurant, pool, and surrounding deck offer stunning views of the Acropolis. The hotel has a spa with a large indoor pool and hot tub as well as a fitness center. Rooms offer classic decor with crown molding, wooden floors, and area rugs. Guests looking for more modern accommodations may want to check out the less expensive New Hotel Athens, which is nearby.

Masseria & Spa LuciaGiovanni, Lecce

This old farmhouse has been transformed into an intimate Moroccan-themed hotel located in the southern Italian region of Salento. The beautiful, natural-looking pool and spa make LuciaGiovanni an exotic escape that’s unmatched — unless you hop a plane to Morocco. The 28 rooms have stunning details such as wood-beam ceilings and wrought iron four-poster bed frames. The property is vast and green and provides a relaxing oasis, but is only a short drive to the old part of the city.

Petasos Beach Hotel & Spa, Mykonos

Petasos Beach
Petasos Beach Hotel & Spa is a luxury property built in the traditional Cycladic architecture style that prevails on Mykonos. It has many of the same features as its competitors (large spa, swimming pool, beach access, restaurants, and fitness center). Unlike competitors, however, the hotel doesn’t own any of the beach facilities, so expect to pay extra for a chair and umbrella on the sand. Still, those looking for more activity may prefer this location — the nearby beaches are among the island’s most popular, and there are a number of restaurants and shops nearby (most competing properties tend to be more secluded). Be aware that the views shown on the hotel’s website are mainly from private suites, and might not be available from many rooms. Mykonos Town is about two miles from the hotel, and a bus stops directly outside of the front doors.

Precise Resort El Rompido, Costa de la Luz

The 196-room Precise Resort El Rompido is a luxury golf resort near the fishing village of El Rompido. The hotel is in a gorgeous, palm tree and tropical plant-filled setting, with many peaceful spots to sit, sun, swim, or, of course, golf. The 36-hole golf course, driving range, and golf school are the resort’s centerpiece, so much so that the front desk features large arty photographs of golf balls. Rooms upscale, contemporary decor in neutral colors.

Mercer Hotel Barcelona

Mercer Hotel
One of Barcelona‘s top-rated hotels, the 28-room Mercer Barcelona offers the intimacy of a boutique hotel and the amenities of a larger property. Add in its location — tucked away on a charming, cobblestone street in the city’s Gothic Quarter, and within walking distance to many top attractions — and the Mercer can be a win-win for travelers. Leisure travelers are the main customers here, but business travelers will likely appreciate its “business corner,” with its library and computer, and small private areas for events and meetings. The hotel also offers several cocktail and dining options, including the Le Bouchon tapas bar and Jean Luc Figueras’ Mercer Restaurant JLF, a rooftop lounge and small pool, a hanging garden, and some of the most comfortable beds around.

Hotel Excelsior, Naples

Hotel Excelsior
Built in 1908 and considered one of the classic hotels of Naples, the Hotel Excelsior is adorned with crystal chandeliers, antiques, and Italian marble floors in its sumptuous public spaces. A stay here is like stepping back in time to Belle Epoque-era Italy. Set in a prime position at the southern tip of Naples, the Excelsior overlooks the Castel dell’Ovo castle, Gulf of Naples, and Mount Vesuvius. The 121 rooms are elegant and understated, and some come with superb views of the water (though dated touches, like patterned bedspreads, are present). The prime gathering spot is the rooftop terrace restaurant, with fine Mediterranean cuisine and panoramic views.

Hotel Balcon de Europa, Costa del Sol

The Hotel Balcon de Europa is one of many four-pearl luxury hotel choices on the Málaga coast, but what sets this 108-room property apart is its prime location on the beach in the center of tourist-friendly Nerja. There’s definitely an adult vibe here thanks to the rooftop swimming pool, spa facilities, and a romantic restaurant with views of the beach through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Classical King George Palace, Athens

Classical King George
The historic Classical King George Palace is one of the most luxurious and exclusive properties in Athens. Everything about this hotel is chic — from the aviator-clad doormen to the gourmet restaurant with stunning views of the Acropolis. The Palace boasts every amenity one would expect from a luxury hotel — but as a boutique, some are on a smaller scale: There is a small indoor pool, an intimate spa, three glamorous meeting rooms, and a tiny fitness center. The 102 rooms are elegant, with hardwood floors, antique furniture, rich, silky curtains, and plush bedding. The dated tube TVs in some rooms seem a bit out of place. For those who can afford it, the Royal Penthouse Suite is truly decadent, with two bedrooms, a massive terrace, and an infinity pool with unobstructed views of the Acropolis.
Contributed by Jane Reynolds 
Follow us on Twitter: @TraveloreReport