Category: Travel & Hotels

Iceland

Iceland

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By Alexandria Ott

Located at Latitude 67 north, Iceland and its recent rise in tourism is befitting: With majestically milky hot springs, blistering and bright volcanoes, landscapes that resemble landing on the moon, unusual scapes for scuba diving and lava fields inhibited by Santa and his elves, this Nordic island has quickly become a top destination for American travelers. In fact, at any given time, more American tourists inhabit Iceland than Icelandic residents. With a surge in travel deals from the US to Iceland, journeying to this ancient land has become a must-do for travel connoisseurs and peace seekers.
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HEAD TO THE NORTH
With a quick flight from Reykjavik to the town of Akureyri, Northern Iceland gives visitors a picturesque look into the nation’s most treasured natural wonders. More familiar is South Iceland’s Diamond Circle, but what many don’t know is that the North also boasts a tour that will take you to Lake Myvatn, the Godafoss waterfalls, the geothermal area called Namaskard, the Jokulsargljufur canyon and much more.

Godafoss (Goðafoss), which translates to “the Waterfall of the Gods,” is a historical monument and stunning sight near ring-road 1. It is named as such from the ancient Viking story about Thorgeir Ljosvetningagodi (Þorgeir ljósvetningagoði), an ex-Pagan Chief who converted to Christianity in AD 1000 by throwing pagan idols of Nordic gods into this waterfall as a proclamation of the new faith.

Lake Myvatn is one of northern Iceland’s most beloved stops. The lake’s birdlife is plentiful with fourteen different duck species (the most gathered in any place in the world) and a Bird Museum worth checking out. Myvatn’s Nature Bath is located just east of Reykjahlid, where guests can enjoy a warm dip in the relaxing natural waters. As the fourth largest lake in Iceland, the Myvatn region also offers visitors many hiking routes, if you’re looking for some cardio after your spa-like experience. The Yule Lads, figures from Icelandic folklore who are commonly identified as the Icelandic version of Santa Claus, also live in the Myvatn area at Dimmuborgir. “Watch out for the little elves,” say the locals.

Namafjall mountain (also known as ‘Namaskard’ or ‘Hverir’) is a geothermal area that looks as celestial as it is serene. With boiling and bubbling mud pools, this high-temperature area is often referred to as “Hell’s Kitchen” for the steam that rises from it and the strong sulfur odor caused by hydrogen sulfide. Take a walk on the Icelandic moon.

Jökulsárgljúfur canyon is home to the roaring and spectacular Dettifoss waterfall. Visitors can travel along the canyon and see the famous Hljodaklettar or “Echoing” Cliffs, named for their exceptional acoustics. Dettifoss is Europe’s most powerful waterfall and is situated in the glacial river, Jökulsá á Fjöllum, which is the second longest river in Iceland. The river originates in Vatnajökull glacier, Europe’s largest glacier.
In the springtime, you can also see cliffs of the Tjornes peninsula and will be met by majestic puffins that nest in the area. While there, drive through the village of Husavik, which is the whale watching capital of Iceland, before heading back to Akureyri.
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WHAT TO WEAR
“If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Pack for all seasons and occasions when visiting Iceland, where the weather is often windy and unpredictable. Each day will bring multiple changes in temperature, so preparing for anything is the best way to stay warm and comfortable for your Nordic adventures. A beautiful day can rapidly turn into a windstorm so pack layers that will allow you to go from t-shirt weather to winter weather in the turn of a moment.

SNORKEL THE SILFRA
When you think of the most ideal places to snorkel in the world, your imagination might fill with images of tropical waters in Hawaii or Indonesia. What many may not know when planning a trip to Iceland is that it’s waters are some of the most clear in the world and offer a rare opportunity to swim between continental plates. Scuba divers and snorkelers are attracted to this freshwater beauty for many reasons but most its geological significance: The Silfra is located between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
Offering exceptional visibility, there are three main dive sites: Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral, and the Silfra Lagoon. If you’re a newbie or first time snorkeler, this is a great place because the area is shallow upon entry. The “Ice” in Iceland certainly applies to the water temperature, which ranges between 36–39 °F but can be relieved with a dry suit. The lava rocks are constantly filtering the water so it is truly some of the clearest water in the world. It’s so clean that you can drink it while you are snorkeling. You will view underwater majesty for as far as the eye can see while staying more hydrated than you have ever been.
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DO AS THE LOCALS DO
Four-Wheeling to Freedom: Ditching the tour groups can have its advantages. Trekking through Iceland’s highlands and mountain roads through Jeep Excursions can be the best way to break away. The best places to rent a four-wheeler and take off include:

Glymur waterfall (one hour north of Reykjavik): This amazing waterfall, which is the second largest in Iceland, empties into a giant canyon and with such a short hike, the reward is well worth the time.

Seljavallalaug is Iceland’s oldest geothermal swimming pool, which sits at the base of the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Located in southern Iceland, this outdoor pool is one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland (built in 1923) and gives you yet another excuse to relax in tranquil waters.

Landmannalaugar (meaning “the people’s pools”) is a steaming volcanic landscape in the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in the Highlands of Iceland. It is at the edge of Laugahraun lava field, which was formed in an eruption that dates back to 1477. With colorful mountains in the backdrop and cute shops in town, this is a great spot to break away and explore with your travel partner.

Relaxing in the isolated countryside is another way to live like a native. Chic cottages on Airbnb start at $53/night and can range from mossy spots that border lava fields to naturally heated hot tubs overlooking volcanoes. When renting in rural areas, you can also have access to fresh, local food including lamb or seafood and produce like strawberries, tomatoes and cucumbers. Dining in may be a better option for the pocket book as Iceland’s restaurant culture is infamously expensive.

If you are a music lover, then Iceland is a great place to follow major international acts like Foo Fighters, who are headlining this year’s Secret Solace. In addition to being home of major musicians such as Sigur Ros, Of Monsters and Men and Bjork, Iceland has a breadth of festivals to check out, depending on the time of year you are visiting.

Launched in 1999 in an airplane hangar in Reykjavík, Iceland Airwaves is the most well-known. The festival, which takes place in November each year, showcases the Icelandic rock/pop/electro music scene along with numerous international acts. Hard rock festival, Eistnaflug, has taken place annually since 2005. An indoor festival situated in a quaint little town on the Eastern coast of Iceland called Neskaupstaður, the lineup consists of 30-40 bands from Iceland and around the world. Dark Music Days is another festival that locals love, consisting of contemporary and new music and takes place at Harpa in downtown Reykjavík during the darkest period of the Icelandic winter. The festival was founded in 1980 by the Iceland Composers’ Society as a platform for Icelandic composers to present their work. Today, the festival is a platform for getting to know new music with an emphasis on Icelandic composers and performers.

Reykjavík Blues Festival opens with “Blues Day” in the city center every year and it usually takes place in March or April. It includes live blues in different downtown venues and highlights include surprise performances in the downtown city center. Blues clubs in the area also liven up and serve as the official after hour venues. The annual Reykjavik Jazz Festival is an increasingly prestigious event on the international jazz scene. The festival hosts performances in a variety of styles, from contemporary jazz and the avant-garde to Latin jazz, gospel and big bands. It features many acclaimed international Jazz players as well as Iceland’s leading Jazz musicians against a stunning backdrop of colorful mountains in the inspiring coastal town.

Finally, Secret Solstice is back in it’s fourth year, bringing “72 hours straight of never-ending daylight”, incredible live acts, and some of the most unique parties nestled in Iceland’s otherworldly landscapes. The 2017 lineup includes headliners Foo Fighters, The Prodigy, Richard Ashcroft, Pharoahe Monch, Foreign Beggars, Dubfire, and Kerri Chandler. With side events that utilize the beautiful and natural terrain, visitors of this festival can expect events such as performances in the Raufarholshellir lava tunnel system outside Reykjavík. Formed over 5,000 years ago during a volcanic eruption, the Raufarhollshellir cave system is a magnificent phenomenon of nature, which instills a sense of wonder in all who journey within it. And for the first time ever, guests can be part of this ultra-special concert, in this natural space.

WHEN TO GO
Visiting Iceland in winter can impede your adventures with a sliver of sunlight each day, but this is also when some of the best deals can be found. Tourism is most popular in the summer months where the month of June can see 24/7 arctic daylight. If you are looking to miss the high-traffic months of July and August, where the weather is best and most predictable, try booking your trip in the early fall months. This will allow you to enjoy all that Iceland has to offer before the snowy season arrives and even gives you the best chance to catch the enchanting Northern Lights.

Brussels

Brussels

Grand-PLace

Brussels
Equal parts tough and adorable, Belgian comic book icon Tintin and his faithful hound Snowy, brought the sophistication, style, and exuberance of Brussels with them on their adventures—and focused the world’s attention on this cosmopolitan city. That’s just fine with locals, who are proud to show off why their city of a million people is not only the capital of Belgium, but also the entire European Union. That means immersing oneself in the some of the world’s best beer, chocolate, waffles, and fries—served “in German portions, but with French finesse,” as the Belgian saying goes—all the while discovering gorgeous Art Nouveau architecture, vintage markets, puppet shows, pop-up parties, and comic book art.
French and Flemish may be on the tips of local tongues, but Brussels is a true polyglot, making it hard to find a person who doesn’t speak English. Commuting into the city is just as easy as communicating, with six hourly trains running from the airport to Brussels Central Station, and taking just 18 minutes. From there, a vast network of subways, trams, and buses weave through the tightly-knit neighborhoods. In many cases, your foot-power will be enough, starting with the city’s most famous icon, the Grand Place, just five minutes walking time from the station. Like most of Brussels’ primary sights, hotels, and restaurants, the Grand Palace is found in the City Center, or in easy striking distance in the surrounding neighborhoods of Ixelles, Saint-Gilles, Anderlecht, Laekan, and Saint-Josse-ten-Noode. Tap into the pure spirit of Brussels at these ten sites:

Palais Royal
Théâtre Royal de Toone
The actors who take the stage at this theatre may be wooden in composition but not in expression, thanks to nearly two hundred years of history, starting in 1830, when Antoine (Toone) Genty founded this marionette theater. With more than 1,300 hand-carved figures in the inventory (each with its own tailored costume), there’s a huge cast of characters to draw from for spoofed-up classics, like Romeo & Juliet, Cyrano de Bergerac, and The Three Musketeers. The stage itself is nestled under angled eaves upstairs, but don’t leave without seeing the charming downstairs café and bar filled with vintage puppets, posters and an impressive menu of Belgian beer.

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BELvue Museum and Coudenberg Castle
After fire engulfed the castle of Coudenberg in 1731, the 700-year-old residence of central Brussels soon disappeared from existence altogether, buried from view under the Place Royale and surrounding neighborhoods. It wasn’t until the 1980s that serious excavation commenced, and today, several parts of the ancient castle are open to the public, including stairs, passages, cellars, a chapel, warehouse, and the former Rue Isabelle. Flesh out the history above the ruins at the BELvue Museum, where two floors of striking exhibitions present the history of Belgium in a bright, modern way, with many interactive elements, including cartoons, making it fun even for those who generally hate museums.
Cantillon Brewery
Enjoy a sip of Brussels’ revered lambics, gueuze, and kriek beers, especially those concocted at this legendary brewery, the last of its kind in in the city. Opened in 1900, it is truly Old School, utilizing the original 19th-century equipment to produce the world’s original style of beer. Guided tours run every 30 minutes, taking visitors through the production floor, where antique belt-driven machines continue today, milling, mashing, boiling, and cooling the brew. Inhale deeply in the aging room, as the fruity, woody aroma of beer brewing in chestnut wine casks perfumes the air. Abundant spider webs don’t prosper from neglect, but rather are encouraged to keep the brewery naturally bug-free. The Brewery’s admission fee includes one glass of Cantillon’s coveted stock, but few visitors stop at just one glass.
Belgian Chocolate Workshop at Zaabär
Although you can’t actually dive into a vat of Belgian chocolate, it’s still possible to get up close and personal with it at this chocolate factory in the center of Brussels. Every Saturday afternoon (plus Wednesdays during school holidays), one-hour workshops facilitated by the chocolate maker instruct up to 30 guests in the fine art of making truffles, bars, and traditional “mendicants,” named after the four mendicant or monastic orders. There is plenty to taste, too, and your delicious creations are yours to take home…if you make it that far. Be sure to snap your selfies before slipping off your compulsory hairnet, apron, and gloves.

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Les Apéros Urbaines
When the mercury rises high enough on the thermostat, Brussels’ denizens love to get outside and celebrate the warm weather together, and some have converted this rite into an art. One citizen’s attempt to get a few friends together for drinks transformed into Les Apéros Urbaines, a festival of large scale “apéros” on Friday nights throughout the spring and summer. Enormously popular, each event attracts hundreds of locals to chat, drink, dance, and meet friends old and new. The pop-up parties travel throughout the city, and are found in parks, squares, rooftops, and forests during the season—always with the doctrine of “Simplicity, Happiness, Originality, Friendliness.”

Belgian Comic Strip Center
Belgium claims more comic strip artists per square kilometer than any other country, and the evidence is overwhelming — if not in your childhood memories of Tintin and the Smurfs, then in Brussels’ numerous venues for comic book art. The most important is the Belgian Comic Strip Center, where the rich history and production of the “ninth art” pack several floors of permanent and temporary exhibitions. The Grand Poohbah of comics and creator of Tintin, Hergé (aka Georges Remi) are featured in a dedicated area. The Center’s Art Nouveau home, a former textile warehouse built by Victor Horta, is a work of art itself, and the iron-and-glass ceiling bathes the contents in defused light. Outside the center, enjoy more of Belgium’s comic culture along the “Comic Book Route:” a path through the city marked by dozens of large-scale, comic-style murals painted on buildings.
Brussels Vintage Market
Fashionistas visiting Brussels should aim for the first Sunday of each month when the vaunted vintage clothing market opens its doors to nearly 2500 shoppers in need of retail therapy. The remedy is in ample supply, with 40 or more second-hand vendors, and more than 20 designers, filling the charming space in Halles Saint-Géry, a neo-Renaissance brick-and-wrought-iron former meat market. A central obelisk is the point from which all distances in Belgium are measured. Shopping for vintage clothes, furniture, tableware, and accessories, however, is only part of the fun. Meeting friends, snacking on delicious cakes, and possibly shaking your hips to the live music provide the rest — all with a retro flavor.
Royal Greenhouses of Laeken
Brussels’ passion for flowers culminates every two years, when one million artistically arranged begonias fill the Grand-Place with a “Flower Carpet,” stretching 250 feet. Equally coveted by budding botanists and stop-and-smell-the-flowers guests, is the annual opening of the sumptuous greenhouses on the grounds of the royal palace in Laeken, which lasts only three weeks every spring. Established in 1895 by King Léopold, the complex of art nouveau pavilions, cupolas, and arcades is capped by the massive, domed “Winter Garden,” filled with rare and valuable plants, many belonging to King Leopold II’s original collection. The gathering of camellias (over 100 species) is especially prized, as the largest and oldest of its kind in a greenhouse. Afterwards, head to Hallerbos Forest, located 10 miles southwest of Brussels. Here, an astonishing carpet of bluebells covers the forest floor every spring, as if from Arthurian fantasy.

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Horta Museum
The “father of art nouveau”—Victor Horta—lived and worked in Brussels, endowing the city with many of its most beautiful buildings, including his private home and studio. Inside the tall and slender house are many exquisite examples of the style, including tile mosaics, stained glass, wrought iron fixtures, a spiral staircase, and furniture designed by Horta himself. Horta believed material and design should harmonize like a beautiful piece of music, and no one doubts he achieved harmony here. UNESCO called it a work of “human creative genius.”
Bois de la Cambre
On the eve of Waterloo, three miles to the south, British soldiers played a cricket match on the grounds of this park before marching to hand Napoleon his final defeat. The playing field, La Pelouse des Anglais, now makes up but one part of this 300-acre park at the edge of the Sonian Forest. One of Brussels’ favorite escapes, the Bois de la Cambre offers tons of green space, playgrounds, walking and bike paths, a theater, roller-skating rink, row boats, and even its own island, home to one of Brussels’ swankiest restaurants, Chalet Robinson, reachable by ferry only. Make your visit even sweeter – enjoy a Belgian waffle from one of the numerous food trucks.

Getting there – nonstop service from Dulles International Airport (IAD) to Brussels Airport (BRU) is available on Brussels Airlines (5 times per week) and United Airlines (daily).

India: Jammu and Kashmir: The Crown Jewel of the Indian Himalayas

India: Jammu and Kashmir: The Crown Jewel of the Indian Himalayas

church gulmarg_1By Adrien Field

There is nothing like the silence of the Himalayas. If you are quiet enough, you can almost hear the mountains vibrating, relaying an ancient message too profound to be conveyed in words. These majestic peaks are not just an unforgettable sensory experience, but a spiritual one sure to inspire wonderment and bring you face to face with yourself along the way.
Jammu and Kashmir is the Northern-most state of India and the crown jewel of its vast and varied territory. In his travelogues, British diplomat Walter Lawrence wrote of the land, “The valley is an emerald set in pearls; a land of lakes, clear streams, green turf, magnificent trees and mighty mountains where the air is cool, and the water sweet.” A skier’s paradise in the winter, this Shangri-La blossoms in the summer months, when its hill stations become a haven for those seeking refuge from the punishing heat further south. For the adventurous ready for the journey of a lifetime, replete with ancient culture, history and breathtaking natural beauty, the Himalayas await.
Summer is usually the hottest time to visit the Indian subcontinent, when the country is either sweltering in 110F heat or drenched in monsoon rain, however it is the best time to visit the Himalayas where the air is fresh and the landscape resplendent with spring blooms.
You will want to plan at least two weeks for this epic trip to see and experience as much as possible, as well as acclimate to the time difference and altitude.
The journey begins with a flight into Delhi, landing at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. At least a day to recover from crossing the globe should be spent in the Indian capital, though the sweltering summer temperatures will make leaving the air-conditioned environs of the hotel a daunting task. Instead, book a spa treatment to release the stress of travel and try to get on local time.
From Delhi, you’ll want to book a flight to Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir (in the winter, the capital moves to the city of Jammu). An hour in the air, the flight offers a scenic view crossing over the mountains below.

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GULMARG
Situated 34 miles West of Srinagar, Gulmarg is distinguished for being the best ski destination in India with annual snowfall averaging 46 feet and slopes that rival the Swiss Alps. In the summertime when the only snow can be found on the looming mountain caps, the land comes alive with vibrant blooms of lilies, daffodils, buttercups – a total of 21 different varieties of flora. In fact, the name Gulmarg actually means meadow of flowers.
Summer temperatures from June to August average highs of 68 and lows of 50 degrees with minimal rainfall. The town is situated 8,000 feet above sea level and a good place to begin to acclimate before traveling even higher into the mountains to the East.
The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa is the marquee luxury destination and the only 5-star hotel in Gulmarg, offering both traditional rooms and private cottages. The Khyber Spa by L’Occitane is an experience not to be missed. Indulge in customized treatments infusing locally cultivated herbs with traditional L’Occitane preparations and the purest waters from the Himalayas while immersed in enchanting views of the forest meadows and mountains.
Golfing has been an attraction in Gulmarg since the early 1900s when vacationing British colonizers came for the summers. Here, golfers can enjoy one of the world’s highest golf courses, with 18 holes spanning 7,505 yards of greens.
For nature lovers, Gulmarg is a paradise of wildlife protected within a biosphere reserve. Take a ride on the Gulmarg Gondola, one of the highest in the world extending 13,000 feet which reaches the summit of Mount Apharwat, covered in snow year-round. Trekking tours can be arranged with a travel guide or hotel concierge while local touts will be eagerly pushing pony rides. Alpather Lake is reached by the gondola then a short pony ride, and offers incredibly serene and mesmerizing landscapes. Used for ice-skating in the wintertime by locals, in the summer months it’s an ideal spot for an afternoon picnic.

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SRINAGAR
After a few days rejuvenating in the blissful nature of Gulmarg, travel back East to Srinagar, where you landed and plan to spend a couple days exploring this ancient city. Founded over 2,000 years ago, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir is situated around Dal Lake and surrounded by mountain peaks ranging from verdant tree topped hills to imposing icy behemoths. The city is as famous for its traditional Kashmiri crafts as it is for the panorama of colorful houseboats lining the waterfront.
Staying on a houseboat is a unique highlight of visiting Srinagar. It is recommended to stay on the river facing houseboats, which have a better view and are more easily accessed than the lakefront boats. These ornate wooden masterpieces came into existence because of a law that only native Kashmiris could buy land in Kashmir. As a result, houseboats sprung up as an alternative way to skirt the ruling and today are a tourist attraction and charming aspect of local life.
Taking a ride on a Shikara, a small hand-paddled and vibrantly painted long boat, is India’s answer to the Venetian gondola ride. These are used to ferry passengers along the lake and to visit the floating gardens where lilies and lotus flowers bloom from mid-July.
While Dal Lake itself offers infinitely picturesque landscapes, the Mughal Gardens are a place of contemplation amid immaculately maintained landscape of flowers and fountains. Constructed in 1619 by the Mughal Emperor as a romantic gesture to please his wife, the gardens continue to seduce with their classical beauty.
Srinagar is an ideal place to sample traditional Kashmiri food and shop for local handicrafts. Kashmiri cuisine centers around rice and meats including lamb, chicken and fish prepared in a variety of curries and spices. The most famous dish is called Wazwan, which is a 36 course meal, featuring between fifteen and thirty different preparations of meat, meant to be shared among four people and is central part of celebrations and weddings.
Kashmir is known for its high-quality hand embroideries which can be found on a wide variety of garments, accessories and home furnishings. Additionally, the name cashmere has come from this region, where fine goat hairs and woven together to make the softest shawls. The word pashmina is used interchangeably with cashmere in India so don’t get confused and come ready to bargain.

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LEH, LADAKH
Two to three days will be enough time spent in Srinagar before you are ready for the final destination, Leh. Travel by road spans 422 kilometers and can take up to twelve hours depending on unpredictable traffic, which at any moment can be halted by a passing bullock cart or passing animal herd. There is one flight a week from Srinagar to Leh, but by flying you would miss the spectacular sights the road weaving through the Himalayas offers. Instead, take either a bus or a private taxi, both of which stop overnight in Kargil. A private taxi will cost around $360 one way.
Soaring high in the Himalayas at an elevation of 11,562 feet above sea level, Leh was once the capital of the Kingdom of Ladakh and shares a similar culture with its neighbor to the East, Tibet. To this day, Buddhism is the major religion in the region with prayer flags and monasteries a ubiquitous sight amid the backdrop of glacial mountains.
To live like Ladakhi royalty once lived, book one of the 6 rooms in the Stok Palace Heritage Hotel, built in 1820 and opened to the public in 1980 with the blessings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Rooms retain their original craftsmanship and the royal suite is decorated in the hand painted motifs that the Namgyal King once gazed upon from his four-poster canopied bed.
There are a variety of day trips that can be organized from Leh to experience the vastness and majesty of this incredible land. Many places require foreign nationals obtain an Inner Line Permit (ILP) before visiting protected areas or sights near the Tibet border. Permits are granted the same day and can either be arranged through most hotels for a commission or by visiting the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Leh.
The fearless can rent a Royal Einfield motorcycle to explore the areas around Leh and drive on the some of the highest motorable roads in the world. This is the best way to experience the splendor of Ladakh — the sense of freedom on open roads cutting through mountains terrain at 17,000 feet above sea level is something that has the power to change your life.
Whether by car or motorcycle, the Pangong-Tso Lake on the border with Tibet is a top choice for travelers, often described as a Heaven on Earth with its clear blue waters reflecting a panorama of the surrounding mountains.  A four hour drive from Leh, it is advised to camp overnight, falling asleep to the whispers of the Himalayas.
Getting there – Air India offers nonstop capital to capital service, from Dulles International Airport to Indira Gandhi International Airport, three times per week, beginning July 7, 2017.

Hawaii: Craving the Elements

Hawaii: Craving the Elements

BIVB_0246By Carrie Bell
Hawaii was born of fire and of the sea, shaped and cultivated by wind and waves and a constantly moving earth, nurtured by a mineral-rich land, plentiful rain and, of course, endless sun. America’s archipelago — and the dramatic cliffs, lush valleys, flower-filled forests, tranquil coves, cerulean waters, gnarled lava fields and colorful beaches that are its trademark — are quite literally a product of their environment and at first glance, the six main islands seem fairly similar where tourists are concerned. All come stocked with sunshine, innumerable palm trees, poke proprietors, stunning swimming spots, hotels with ocean views and, perhaps most importantly, locals brimming with aloha spirit.

So when it comes time to pack bags and head for this no-passport-needed paradise, as 8.9 million people did last year according to the Hawai’I Tourism Authority, how does one pick between Oahu, Maui, Lanai, Hawaii (aka the Big Island), Kauai and Molokai?

It’s element-ary, my dear wanderers. Why not plan an itinerary that highlights the forces responsible for creating this delightful destination — fire, water, air and earth — and celebrates the primal connection between nature and the natives? (Malama ka ‘aina, which translates roughly to preserve and take care of the land, is one of the most important tenets of the Hawaiian culture.) Most flights from the mainland will deposit visitors on Oahu in the buzzing capital city of Honolulu, which offers many reasons to stay, not the least of which are the legendary strip of sand known as Waikiki and the utterly moving USS Arizona Memorial at the World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument. But thanks to readily available, reasonably priced and ridiculously quick (an hour or less) Hawaiian Airlines’ nonstop flights between isles, Honolulu International is also an easy and convenient jumping off point to venture over to get a taste for what sets each of the hot tropics apart whether you’ve got a few days or a week to spare.

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Given the chain’s volcanic heritage, fire-inspired activities are a logical place to start when deciding how to fill your vacation days.

Seeing lava flowing from the ground, crashing and exploding upon impact with the Pacific, smoke billowing in big fluffy clouds is an awe-inspiring, near spiritual, experience no matter how many PBS documentaries you have binge-watched. There are many ways to accomplish this bucket list item on the Big Island in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Reserve a room or window seat for dinner at Volcano House, a historic hotel perched on the rim of Kilauea’s caldera, and watch as the still active Halemaumau Crater turns incandescent as night falls and a farm-to-fork and pole-to-palate meal is served. Early risers willing to splurge should book a C Big Island sunrise boat tour out of Hilo to get front and center with magma. A cheaper, but much more labor-intensive option is to rent bicycles from Kalapana Cultural Tours where Highway 130 ends, peddle three and a half miles one way and then walk out to a coastal observation area. To see red, arrive at dusk and ride back in darkness. Luckily, the rentals come with helmets, first aid kits and headlamps.

Sure, luaus are cheesy but they’re also a tourist rite of passage. Found on almost every island, a few standouts include Hyatt Regency Maui’s Drums of the Pacific, Aha Aina at Oahu’s Royal Hawaiian and the Kauai Luau Kalamaku (the name literally means flaming torch) held at KIlohana Plantation. After stuffing your face with kalua pork, lomilomi salmon and purple poi, the highlight will inevitably be the show’s fire-dancing portion.

Every Memorial Day, the Lantern Floating Hawaii festival has been held to honor those who’ve been lost in Oahu. In 2016, 7,000 glowing offerings were sent out.
Campfires are as much a part of camping as tents. Make s’mores using the Oahu-made Manoa Chocolate bars in some of the U.S.’s most picturesque sites to rough it including Pala’au State Park on Molokai or Lanai’s Hulop’e Bay. Beginners will love the toilets and grills. If you call it quits, the newly renovated Four Seasons is just up the path.

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WATER
Most residents try to spend time in the gorgeous water every day and as a visitor you should definitely follow suit in your swimsuit. Dive headfirst into fun in myriad ways. The easiest being swimming or snorkeling from shore at popular places like Poipu Beach (Kauai), Hanauma Bay (Oahu) or Two Steps (Hawaii). Boat trips can get you away from crowds and closer to cooler fish, turtles and dolphins. Nana Kai often runs scuba, snorkel and free diving excursions to a sunken ship off Oahu and the locally nicknamed Electric Beach (where the power plant’s warm water outflow pipes attract big schools of vibrant fish). From Maui, Four Winds II charters deposits you at Molokini, a sunken crater that is home to 250 marine species and 38 different corals.

Find your inner Moana on a sunset sail around the royal lands of Keauhou on Hawaii in an authentic (yet updated)way-finder’s vessel captained by Eka Canoe Adventures. The small capacity also makes them the boat to board when you want to get up close and personal with the resident manta rays. With a noodle and a custom longboard equipped with handles and a blue light, your family floats on the surface while the graceful and gentle giants gorge on plankton and glide past your masked face.

And speaking of gentle giants, humpback whales migrate en masse to the region’s warm waters between November and April and create what islanders affectionately call “whale soup” in the ocean corridor between Lanai, Molokai, and Maui. During this time, pay extra mind to the car in front of you, as breaches visible from land are responsible for Maui fender benders by the dozens every year.

Learn board basics and how to ride waves at a surf school like Surf Hawaii on Oahu or with private lessons by Maui’s Zack Howard or Hawaii’s Kona Boys. Or if you prefer the safety of the sand, instead motor around Oahu’s North Shore, aka the Seven-Mile Miracle, stopping to shovel shave ice and see the pros hang 10 on the bananas swells of Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay. Try your hand at paddling a traditional outrigger (canoe) at many resorts including the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina or Maui’s Grand Wailea. The California craze of stand-up paddleboard yoga has made its way from the mainland. Bend and balance daily with Oahu’s Yoga Kai or Maui SUP.

A plethora of waterfalls, blowholes and inland plunge pools let you get your liquid fix without leaving solid ground. Puukaoku Falls on Molokai is the eight largest in the world. Waianuenue in Wailuku River State Park outside Hilo is known for the many rainbows that form in its mist. Hike across basalt to see Spouting Horn on Kauai or the multiple-plumed phenomenon near the Lanai golf course.

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AIR
Most people would probably be surprised to know that it snows in Hawaii. Head into thin air on Hawaii for a snow day atop Mauna Kea and visit the observatories while there. Travel to the summit at 13,796 feet above sea level requires a 4×4 and a stop at the visitor’s center to acclimate to the attitude. As many rental car companies restrict access on that route, an all-day tour with Mauna Kea Summit Adventures is the way to go. Seeing one of the world’s most famous sunrises at 10,023 feet from Haleakala National Park on Maui provides a natural high. It now also requires a reservation, which can be booked up to 60 days in advance through the NPS, unless you go with a group. Maui Activities Store offers van service. But adrenaline junkies should opt to roll down on two wheels from above the clouds with one of their guides.

Another way to get a bird’s eye view is from a helicopter. To see Kauai’s Jurassic Park movie locations, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific (Waimea), the fairly inaccessible Alakai Swamp and the Na Pali Coast jump into a chopper with Safari or Blue Hawaiian Helicopters. BHH also flies many Maui and Molokai routes. This is also a great way to view the volcanic action on Hawaii.

Also feel the wind in your hair as you whip through an exhilarating zipline course, which like luaus can be found on almost every rock. Most offer combo packages that pair zips with kayaking, swimming or horseback riding like Umauma Falls (Hawaii) or Princeville Ranch (Kauai). Daredevils can also catch air parasailing (H20 Sports Hawaii in Honolulu), kiteboarding (Kite HI on Maui) or in one of Hang Gliding Hawaii’s (Oahu) motorized sky trikes.

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EARTH
Last, but certainly not least, the list of diversions offered on land is never-ending. It is a perfect place to hike, offering trails of all lengths and difficulty levels from the simple saunter to Lanai’s Puu Pehe (Sweetheart Rock) to the grueling (but visually rewarding) slog that is the rustic and slender 11-mile Kalalau Trail in Kauai. Many of Hawaii’s most famous geological landmarks like the Dragon’s Teeth rock formation (Maui) or Pele’s Chair (Oahu) are only reachable by foot.
There’s almost as much variety when it comes to beaches. They come in a rainbow of colors – red (Maui’s Kaihalulu is caused by an eroding cindercone rich in iron), green (olivine saturated Papakolea on Hawaii), black (Punaluu on Hawaii is a popular sunning spot for sea turtles as well), orange (Papohaku turns the color of Trump’s tan as the sun sets in Molokai) and run-of-the-mill white. Polihale Beach (Kauai) is commonly referred to as Barking Sands because individual grains there have microscopic porous holes that produce dog-like sounds when rubbed together.

Like to roll more than stroll? Take the ATVs of Oahu’s Kualoa Ranch, a popular film location (Lost, 50 First Dates, Kong Skull Island), out for a test-drive or trek through the 400 miles of unpaved roads on Lanai with a driver and a 4×4 that can be booked by the Four Seasons there or the Expeditions Ferry folks.

Or maybe, like most of the world’s travelers, you intend to eat your way through time off. Once you’ve eaten your weight in Maui Gold pineapples and fresh mangoes, do a deeper dive into Hawaii’s growing and diverse farm and food scene. You can visit the home of Hamakua Mushrooms, sample honey at Big Island Bees and see what makes Kona coffee so prized on Hawaii. Get tipsy at Maui’s Ocean Vodka organic distillery, Oahu’s Hawaiian Shochu Company and Ko Hana Rum or Volcano Winery and Kona Brewery (Big Island). Grab picnic supplies and edible souvenirs on any idle at Surfing Goat Dairy (Maui), Kauai Chocolate Factory or the Dole Plantation (Oahu), which also has a family-friendly maze.

Seeking Sun – Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort

Seeking Sun – Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort

Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort

Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort

Do you want to relax in the lap of luxury, yet have access to all the nightlife, restaurants, shopping and other activities while you vacation in Mexico? When you arrive at the airport, a Mercedes vehicle transports you, with a flower for the ladies, to the hotel in cool, swift comfort. As you check in, a long cool glass of Prosecco eases you through the process and up to your room — a view of the Mexican Caribbean, loaded with amenities, treats, and luxurious touches, like Mexican candies, creams, bathrobes welcome you to Playa del Carmen.

The Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort’s award winning spa design is topped only by the service and the people. For one of the best experiences of your life, drop in for a lime, passion fruit and ginger drink as you wait to move on to your massage or facial. Treatment rooms look out on the mangrove, for double relaxation.

Afterwards, drop into the sauna or steam bath, and, if you dare, a cold (delicious) or hot plunge with cucumber mint water. Finish with laps in the lap pool or private meditation in the cenote room, designed after the underground water caverns that network through the Yucatan peninsula.

Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort Lobby

Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Resort Lobby

If you want to get out and about, there’s so much to do on the pedestrian walkway that stretches through downtown Playa and 5th Avenue — every kind of food and shopping. Try Cantina #20, and enjoy Mexican food with a fusion twist such as fish tacos with hibiscus flower sauce. It is a mouth treat. Seated in the covered, open area, join the noisy crowd screaming as Mexico plays soccer against Venezuela — this is authentic Mexico! After a meal, walk along 5th Avenue (or rent a bike) and see everything from brand name stores to Mexican curio shops.

Arrange to go on a tour to see Sian Ka’an, run by Siankaantours.org, a community organization that uses the fees to conserve this delicate ecosystem — a biosphere reserve with mangrove, canals, birds in the beautiful aqua-blue water of freshwater and saltwater lagoons. Jump in the water and float through the canal, past orchids, huge termite nests, and mangroves that make an umbrella as the fish swam in the crystalline waters below. It is beyond belief. You will return.

The Sian Ka’an tour includes demonstrations on how sap is drawn for chicle, yes, chewing gum, from the chicozapote tree. Then they offer a walk in the shade through the archaeological site of Mujil (3ooBC – 1500AD). Guides tell stories of grandparents claiming the site as a place of aluxes, Mayan spirits. Indeed, it is, as they are descendants of the people who built these structures.

There is no need to leave the hotel if you just want some pampered down time — the staff from the pools, to the Grill, the bars, everyone’s goal is to make you happy. The Grand Hyatt Playa del Carment Resort plans daily activities, for families and couples — from cupcake to cocktail contests! For their one-year anniversary, there was a huge Mexican buffet of grilled tacos, all to the tune of a mariachi band, celebrated under the stars.

What’s New at LAX

What’s New at LAX

American Airlines

American Airlines

American Airlines Launches LAX > HKG

Aboard American Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER, travelers experience the airline’s award-winning wine list and destination-driven, farm-to-flight menu featuring Cantonese dishes such as traditional Dim Sum, Congee, and Steamed Chashu Pork Buns.

The Boeing 777-300ER Flagship international aircraft features the next generation Flagship First Class suite and Business Class cabin with fully lie-flat seats; direct aisle access; complimentary pajamas and turndown service; a walk-up bar stocked with snacks and refreshments — a first for any U.S. carrier — Cole Haan amenity kits filled with rejuvenating skincare products; international Wi-Fi capability; AC power outlets and USB ports at every seat; and a touchscreen monitors that offers on-demand entertainment with up to 250 movies, 160 TV shows, 13 radio channels, 375 albums, and 20 games.

The daily flight departs LAX at 1:55 a.m. and arrives at HKG at 8:10 a.m. the following day. The return flight departs HKG at 8:20 p.m. and arrives at LAX at 6:50 p.m. the same day.

China Eastern Airlines

China Eastern Airlines

China Eastern Airlines Celebrates 25 Years at LAX

China Eastern Arilines hosted a luxurious event for over 100 of L.A.’s premiere travel influencers to celebrate important anniversaries.

China Eastern airlines celebrated their coveted 60th anniversary with 25 of those years providing exceptional business connections between Los Angeles and Shanghai. The airline has officially opened its North America call center providing even more of their revered customer service to thousands of global travelers.

Guests indulged in cocktails and a six course meal prepared by Chef Rui Wang that channeled the very best that the Pearl of the Orient has to provide to business travelers. Guests experienced on-stage performances and a unique look into the outstanding traveler experience the airline has to offer presented by official MC Christine Lakin.

Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport

Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport

Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport

Located less than one block from Los Angeles International Airport, the closest hotel to the airport, Hyatt Regency Los Angeles International Airport opened after undergoing extensive $75 million renovations. Guests marvel at amazing views of busy LAX runways, the airport’s iconic Light Towers, and the sparkling City of Angels, from the comfort of their guestrooms, which feature quadruple-pane windows to eliminate air traffic and airport noise.

 

 

2017 Snow Report

2017 Snow Report

Heavenly Mountain Resort and Lake Tahoe

Heavenly Mountain Resort and Lake Tahoe

California had a banner snow year in 2016 and we are already having a very snowy 2017.

Northstar California Resort

Northstar is located at the northern part of Lake Tahoe about seven miles from Truckee and 45-miles from Reno Airport. Northstar is an upscale, family-friendly destination — often described as “California laid-back luxury.” The slopes offer a variety of terrain for teaching kids or developing skills on long runs. Right in the middle of Northstar resort sits the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe. Onsite amenities include retail/rental shop True North where you can rent gear, purchase lift tickets or score the perfect pair of gloves. The Spa offers post-ski treatments to sooth achy muscles in a beautiful and restorative setting.

Mountaintop Culinary Experience

Enjoy freshly-sourced produce, meats and seasonal ingredients paired with regional artisan wines, craft beers, and distilled spirits at the Northstar’s iconic Zephyr Lodge. The lavish dinners are offered just four times this season so you must book in advance.

Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe

Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe

Where to Stay

The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe is the first AAA Five Diamond resort in the Lake Tahoe area. Nestled mid-mountain at Northstar California Resort, the resort is a contemporary mountain retreat featuring slope-side ski-in, ski-out access. Manzanita, the resort’s signature restaurant, features artfully crafted cuisine, combining classical techniques and a modern culinary philosophy. Located just six miles from both historic downtown Truckee and the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, the resort features a 17,000 square foot spa and fitness center and an inter-mountain gondola that connects the resort to the nearby Village at Northstar.

13031 Ritz Carlton Highlands Ct, Truckee, CA 96161

(530) 562-3000

www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/california/lake-tahoe

 

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

After great snowfall in 2016, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is gearing up for a big 2017. Alpine World Cup ski racing returns to Squaw Valley with the Audi FIS Ski World Cup in March. The world’s best skiers return to the legendary Red Dog run that hosted the 1969 World Cup and 1960 Olympics. The March 9-12 schedule of events features concerts, fireworks and parties.

New App

The new Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows app offers real-time lift, trail and snow data along with unique new features. The first-of-its-kind ski resort app features one-touch easy “group” creation which allows users to stay connected with friends and family on the hill — sharing location and messaging throughout the day. Performance dashboard shows daily and season-long data including trails and lifts skied, vertical climb, miles covered, hours skied, average and maximum speeds, and the difficulty of trails skied. Chairlift wait times allow guests to plan runs and navigate the mountain efficiently. The app includes sale functionality to purchase lift tickets.

Eco Efforts at Squaw

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is composting all food scraps and organic waste generated at the resort. The program is in line with new law, AB 1826, and supports California’s statewide goal to recycle more and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Each year, California disposes of approximately 30 million tons of waste in landfills, 30% of which could be used for compost or mulch. To help support this greenhouse gas emission reduction program, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has installed composting containers at all dining facilities for sorting food scraps and compostable paper products.

In the 2015-16 season, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows became the first domestic ski resort to discontinue the sale of disposable water bottles with the implementation of Drink Mtn Tap, a program focused on reducing single-use water bottle usage. The resort installed over 20 water refill stations across both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows during last year’s season and will continue to offer visitors reusable water bottles for purchase at the same price point as disposable bottles. Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows plans to install an additional five water stations, with locations to be determined.

Another focus for the 2016-17 season is the removal of single-use serving items. Single-use items will be replaced with reusable cups, dishes and silverware to further reduce waste and involve guests in the resort’s commitment to sustainability and reducing waste resort-wide.

DJ CAT at Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe,

DJ CAT at Heavenly Mountain Resort, Lake Tahoe

Heavenly Mountain Resort

Heavenly Mountain is the party destination of Lake Tahoe and has the No. 1 après ski party in North America. The party, Unbuckle at Tamarack, features end of day action with go-go dancers, drinking, dancing and Heavenly Angels. Check the calendar because the 2017 season will have theme days for Spring Break and Mardi Gras.

During the day, Heavenly is known for the best views of Lake Tahoe and expansive terrain allowing for miles of skiing or boarding practice. Take in spectacular views as you ride the Gondola up from South Lake Tahoe.

If you’re skiing or boarding while you should be working, then you’ll be pleased to know that Heavenly Mountain Resort has partnered with Tahoe Mountain Lab (a South Shore based co-working business) to create an on-mountain work hub. The shared workspace located at Heavenly’s Lakeview Lodge is for professionals who dream of guilt free powder days and taking a few turns before hopping onto a conference call or responding to an urgent email.

At the base of Heavenly Mountain, you’ll find plenty of action including South Lake Tahoe casinos such as Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe. If you prefer to sleep in California then stay at Grand Residences by Marriott, Lake Tahoe. This family friendly resort has full kitchens, heated outdoor pool, hot tub and on-site exercise and activities centers.

 

Kirkwood Backcountry

Kirkwood Backcountry

Kirkwood

Kirkwood is a serious ski and snowboard destination with the highest elevation and lowest population of all the Lake Tahoe ski destinations. Known for deep powder, steep runs and cornices, Kirkwork welcomes the season by expanding its flagship program Expedition: Kirkwood to include daily mountain guide service and private snowcat tours.

Kirkwood’s instructional program Discovery Series is for intermediate and expert skiers/riders ready to take it to the next level. The course boosts confidence and skills by exposing students to the unique and challenging terrain found only at Kirkwood. All sessions include lunch and use of Go Pro cameras for skier/rider analysis.

At the end of a tough day on the slopes, you’ll find a hot tub instead of an après ski party. The slopes are a terrific challenge for those looking to push down a double black.

 

Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth

Mammoth is ready for 2017 with exciting new culinary offerings including Eastern Sierra Brewery Tours and on-mountain improvements including new jumps and platforms at Hemlocks.

Hemlocks Ridge is the hike-accessed backcountry on Mammoth Mountain. This season, the Unbound Terrain Park offers new jumps and platforms throughout the bowl to provide a backcountry experience with more flow and airtime.

The Unbound Terrain Park is celebrating 20 years of leading the industry in on-mountain innovation and design with 13 unique parks, four halfpipes, 100+ jibs and over 50 jumps on any given day. To celebrate the impressive anniversary, events, parties, on-hill activations, and digital storytelling of #20yearsofUnbound are planned throughout the season.

Off Hill Culinary News

Eastern Sierra Brewery Tours
Sit back and relax as owner, driver, beer lover and tour guide, Mike King, takes you on a four-hour tour of the region’s micro and nano breweries. Stopping at Mammoth Brewing Company, June Lake Brewing and Black Doubt Brewing with lunch at Ohana’s 395 in between, King handles the driving and entertainment so you can devote your full attention to a careful study of the region’s rapidly expanding beer scene.

Black Velvet Wine Bar
When coffee industry veterans, Matt and Gracie Hammer, opened Black Velvet Coffee Shop five years ago, they took it one cup at time. Every order served in a 12 ounce cup, brewed pour-over, and with attention paid to the smallest details. They’ve taken the same approach with their latest venture, a wine bar in Black Velvet’s tastefully appointed space on Main Street. With a focus on boutique wines and a selection that changes weekly, the wine bar is a great après option and a frequent venue for unique tastings.

Big Bear

Adventure Academy
The new 5,000 square-foot learning center at Snow Summit will offer a one-stop-shop for rentals, tickets, and sports school registration. The increased efficiency means families can spend less time in line and more time enjoying the slopes.

Methods Sports Bar
Located in the main lodge at Bear Mountain, Methods has been renovated for the 2016/17 season to provide a more welcoming atmosphere to watch a game or catch up with friends for a drink after a day on the slopes. With an array of new big screen HDTVs, all major sports packages, and an updated menu, Methods is sure to be an après favorite on game day.

Base Area Activities
This year, BBMR installed a 30-foot rock climbing wall. Weather permitting, the climbing wall will remain open through the winter, giving guests another option for off-snow entertainment to go with the Grizzly Ridge Tubing Park, which debuted last winter.

Winter X Games 20th Anniversary
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Snow Summit hosting the inaugural Winter X Games. During that time the event has grown from a mix of “extreme sports” like super-modified shovel racing and ice climbing, to become the ultimate winter action sports competition. Both resorts have a number of exciting events planned throughout the year, both on and off the slopes, that pay homage to Snow Summit’s place in action sports history.

Revelstoke

Revelstoke

Canada 

Revelstoke

Revelstoke is located deep in Canada’s BC rockies. Although the town of Revelstoke has more than a century of skiing history, Revelstoke Mountain Resort is practically brand new. The area, located between the Selkirk and Monashee Mountain ranges, has long been a destination for backcountry and heli-skiing operations. However, this beautifully designed, easily accessible and modern resort with the luxurious ski-in, ski-out Sutton Place Hotel only opened in 2007 — and immediately grabbed the attention of serious powderhounds. The mountain features the most vertical in North America — 1,712 metres (5,620 feet) — as well as 1,263 hectares (3,121 acres) of varying terrain with two alpine bowls and 65 named runs. It’s also the only resort in the world to offer lift, backcountry, cat, and heli-skiing from one village base. Wake up early in the morning to experience a wide variety of terrain, with everything from steep, open runs to big cliff areas, tree skiing and long groomed runs, top to bottom.

Say Cheese!
Want to relive all the action from your ski vacation? The new Paparazzi Pass lets you do just that. HD video cameras have been spread across the mountain to capture your best looks. With an easy download of the Paparazzi app, the cameras are programmed to communicate with your smart phone, automatically filming your action from the day and recording it to your account for online viewing.

Moonlight Snowshoe Tour
Revelstoke Snowshoe Company offers guided tours in the subalpine forests of the Selkirk mountains. Suitable for most ages and fitness levels, knowledgeable guides teach about local plant and animal species, wildlife tracking, local history, and winter survival. Enjoy a moonlight tour amidst the stars. A guided Moonlight Snowshoe tour through the subalpine forests of the Selkirk Mountains promises a quiet sojourn to cap the night.

Great Canadian Snowmobile Tours
Great Canadian Snowmobile Tours is Canada’s premier backcountry snowmobile clinic & rental company with guides who are meticulously trained in avalanche safety and awareness and wilderness first aid. With over 20 years of snowmobile experience in the mountains surrounding Revelstoke, they have perfected the art of riding. “The Cabin Run” is designated for beginners looking to get an idea of what snowmobile in Revelstoke is all about. The 1-hour tour teaches basic skills and techniques for operating a snowmobile. Guests have fun riding trails up along Frisby Ridge to a lovely cabin overlooking the surrounding mountains. Ride as a single or double up!

 

SunPeaks

SunPeaks

Sun Peaks

Sun Peaks Ski Resort, in British Columbia’s Interior, is now the second largest ski area in all of Canada, with 1728 hectares (4,270 acres) of skiable area, two bowls, 133 runs and 11 lifts, including five quads, as well as the four-hectare (10-acre) Rockstar Energy Terrain Park. Even better, Sun Peaks, which is located 45 minutes north of Kamloops, is drenched in more than 2,000 hours of sunshine each year, making this a great place to escape from gloomier climes. The resort’s European-style alpine village is nestled at the base of three mountains, Tod, Sundance and Morissey, and offers award-winning downhill skiing and snowboarding. The area is also becoming known as a world-class Nordic destination, with 34.9 kilometres (21.7 miles) of groomed and track-set Nordic trails, plus 14.3 kilometres (nine miles) of backcountry trails and 16 kilometres (10 miles) of snowshoe trails.

Fondue Dinner and Evening Descent
Picture yourself gliding down the mountain under a dark starry sky. It’s a favorite memory of guests who visit Sun Peaks. The Fondue Dinner and Evening Descent starts with a peaceful ride on the Sunburst chairlift after everyone else is finished skiing for the day. The mid-mountain destination is Sunburst Lodge. A decadent selection of meat, cheese, and chocolate fondue awaits, accompanied by live music and a casual, friendly atmosphere. After eating your fill, you’ll have the mountain to yourself for a private ski down to the village. A tour guide and headlamp (and on a clear night, all you need is the moonlight!) leads you along freshly groomed corduroys of Sun Peaks’ signature run, 5 Mile. Enjoy the sound of carving fresh turns and the beauty of a snowy winter’s night as you descend towards the lights of the village nestled in the mountains.

BeaverCreek First Tracks

BeaverCreek First Tracks

Colorado

Beaver Creek

Beaver Creek has long been the most upscale of the Colorado mountain resorts operated by Vail Resorts. The Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch sits at the base of the mountain and often serves as an end-of-day meeting point for guest of the mountain. This year Beaver Creek is offering even more luxury packages for coddled adventurers.

For a mere $50,000, guests arrive in style with first class airfare direct into Vail/Beaver Creek’s Eagle Airport (EGE), then board a private helicopter for the 28 mile ride to the base of Beaver Creek Mountain upon which they are transferred into a private car and delivered to Trapper Cabin. Trapper Cabin is located on Beaver Creek Mountain at 9500 feet and the luxury property comes with a private gourmet-chef and private Ski School Ambassador, Epic Passes, Helly Hansen gear and other lux perks.

The White Glove Collection offers guest various levels of specialty services. Join the White Carpet Club for slope-side ski valet, preferred parking in Ford Hall, private lockers, boot dryers, concierge service and more. White Glove First Tracks offers guests sunrise access to flawless snow surface conditions and a gourmet breakfast at Allie’s Cabin — located on Beaver Creek Mountain. The Winter Wine Excursion begins at the Beaver Creek Nordic Center, situated steps from Beaver Creek Village. Guests travel up Strawberry Park Express Chairlift to McCoy Park to enjoy a guided snowshoe tour while taking in views of Beaver Creek. Following the tour, The Osprey Fireside Grill and Executive Chef Ryan Murray serve a delicious assortment of charcuterie carefully paired with select wines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lima and Machu Picchu

Lima and Machu Picchu

Larcomar in Lima, Peru

Larcomar in Lima, Peru

By Dory Benami

Of the approximately 3.5 million visitors to Peru each year, nearly one third include Machu Picchu in their itinerary. Many others make the main emphasis of their Peruvian voyage the Amazon, but nearly all paths to Peru begin and end in the capital city of Lima.

Since Lima’s major airport, Jorge Chavez International, is located approximately 40 minutes from the major tourist areas of Lima, most visitors to all parts of Peru are likely to spend at least a night in Lima before heading elsewhere. It is best to arrange ground transportation prior to your trip, but otherwise, the Easy-Taxi and Uber apps on mobile devices have significantly improved professionalism of transport in Lima.

Hotel B

Hotel B

Where to Stay

Lima’s tourist districts of Miraflores, San Isidro and Barranco are filled with tourist amenities. Of the three districts, many prefer Barranco because of its colonial Spanish charm. Budget hotels and Airbnb apartments are available.

The magnificent Hotel B is a relatively new four-star boutique hotel with restaurant, bar, exquisite décor, and 17 guest rooms.

In Miraflores many frequent visitors love to stay at the JW Marriott because of its proximity to Larcomar, a shopping center built into the cliff of a wall overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Additionally, the JW Marriott has a good lounge for business meetings and the Majestic Casino is located adjacent to the hotel’s entrance — a perfect place to play blackjack and craps. In San Isidro — an upscale suburban district of Lima — the Hotel Atton is highly regarded amongst business and vacation travelers, and the hotel features a nice breakfast buffet.

Pescados Capitales

Pescados Capitales

Lima’s Food Scene

As you may have heard, the foodie scene in Lima is on fire! Recently, Lima made waves across the globe when three local restaurants were featured on the The World’s Best Restaurants 2016 list — a list based on polls of international chefs, restaurateurs, gourmands and restaurant critics. If you are a fan of ceviche you may want to plan lunch at a different cevicheria everyday, throughout the city.

Ceviche is a Peruvian staple normally eaten mid-day because that is when the fish is most fresh. The dish comes in many different forms and styles. Ceviche is not cooked by heat but rather by the acid of the highly acidic Peruvian limes. Very few cevicherias are open for dinner service. Here are a few favorites:

Chez Wong 

Located in a gritty neighborhood called La Victoria, this restaurant is a favorite of intrepid food critics Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain, and can only be visited by reservation. Seating is limited and there is no signage outside so if you seek a challenge, this is a can’t-miss place. Pictures with Chef Wong and a large pre-chopped fish are certainly Instagram-worthy.

Pescados Capitales 

A mainstay for business lunches due to the upscale décor and location in the business district, this modern restaurant serves excellent seafood and also a mushroom risotto to pair with ceviche.

Canta Rana

Owned by a soccer mad Argentinian ex-pat named Vicente Furgiuele, this restaurant is located along a side street called Genova in the heart of Barranco. The showpiece dish here is called ‘El Guardia Imperial’ and is comprised of sole and octopus. Apparently, this is what the owner would serve the Queen of England if she were to ever enter his restaurant. She hasn’t yet, but there’s still time.

La Mar

Gaston Acurio is the most important personality in Peruvian gastronomy. He is also one of the most important names in South American gastronomy because his restaurant empire stretches throughout Latin America. His cevicheria is known for its innovative ceviche selections that are delicately prepared, and served in a delightful atmosphere.

Aside from cevicherias, there are several other restaurants that can’t be missed in Lima. First and foremost is Central, the fourth best restaurant in the world according to the latest rankings from British magazine, Restaurant, The World’s Best Restaurants 2016 (third last year). What is most remarkable is that Central’s Chef Virgilio Martinez has surpassed Gaston Acurio who also makes The World’s Best Restaurants 2016 ranking at number 30 with his flagship Astrid y Gaston. Another highlight of Peruvian cuisine is Nikkei, the fusion food which combines classic Japanese with a Peruvian twist. The best exemplification of Nikkei cuisine in Peru is found at number 13 of The World’s Best Restaurants 2016, Maido in Miraflores.

For more casual fare in Lima, try some of the best ‘pollo a la brasa’ (blackened rotisserie chicken) in the world. Pardos Chicken has built its acclaimed reputation as one of the best purveyors of pollo a la brasa, with several locations in Lima including one at Larcomar, along with Don Bellisario, located near Parque Kennedy. However, what may be the ultimate best pollo a la brasa in Lima can be found at Don Tito in the San Borja district. The secret to Don Tito’s taste is the additional spices and herbs.

Another mainstay dish in Peruvian cuisine is “lomo saltado” (stir fry sirloin with onions, tomatoes and french fries) — the origins of lomo saltado come from the fusion of Cantonese cuisine. Try this dish at Panchita, which is also owned by Gaston Acurio. Other popular dishes worth sampling here are “Anticucho” (beef heart) and “Picarones”(sweet potato doughnuts) both of which are popular street-food offerings, but at a place like Panchita, are elevated to an even more delicious level than what can be found on the street.

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca

What to Do in Lima

Now that our stomachs are full, the question becomes how to fill up the time in between meals. The answer is just as diverse as the dining options. Shoppers will want to visit Dedalo in Barranco to find moderately priced artisanal gifts and jewelry by Peruvian artists. You can visit one of the many traditional Inca market stalls near Parque Kennedy to find what would be considered more typical Peruvian souvenirs, ranging from brightly colored blankets called “mantas” to baby alpaca sweaters and scarves. At Inca markets, bargaining is acceptable, and if you’re comfortable, hone your Spanish speaking skills negotiating prices en Español.

If shopping isn’t your thing, you can check out ancient pre-Incan sites called Huacas, like the one that can be accessed adjacent to Restaurant Huaca Pucllana near Miraflores. Alternatively, a trip to Barranco’s Museo MATE which is the permanent home of Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino’s most significant works, is a good way to spend a couple of hours.

As night approaches head to Ayahuasca, a large house in Barranco, named after the psychedelic tea that many come to Peru to experience. This lounge and restaurant is visually stimulating due to its unique décor. While there, take a tour in the courtyard and private rooms to see how they’ve ingeniously incorporated traditional crafts of Peru into furniture and art. It is mesmerizing.

The national drink is a pisco sour but many enjoy the national beer, Cusqueña. A good place to enjoy either is El Dragon only a few streets away from Ayauhasca, where international DJs and entertainers perform regularly. As the night approaches 1 or 2 a.m., head to Bizarro in Miraflores. There you can party until the sun comes up. Bizarro features two main rooms; one with house and techno music and one with top-40.

When you wake up the next morning, you may want to relax at Cala, a lounge and restaurant located on Barancillo beach adjacent to Miraflores and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The vibe is relaxing and the views of the water are the best in Lima.

Whatever you end up eating, drinking, seeing, doing or buying in Lima, you will find yourself becoming an advocate for this vibrant, modern, historical, beautiful and fun city when you return home. I certainly have.

Getting There

LATAM Airlines offers direct flights from LAX to Jorge Chavez International.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is a stunning archaeological wonder of an ancient Inca citadel located deep in the Andes Mountains of Peru. It has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage site status. Surrounded by huge mountains and valleys, Machu Picchu was built and used by the Incan Empire until the Spanish invasion of the sixteenth century. The impressive development includes walls, ramps and terraces held together without mortar and designed to interplay with incredible views and astrological alignments. While there are no official records, it is generally assumed that Machu Picchu was an urban hub of commerce, religion, agriculture and community for the ancient Incans. While this is a bucket list destination, expect lots of crowds and it is now required to purchase a ticket for admission in advance. There are physical challenges to the exploration of Machu Picchu as it is in the middle of a huge mountain range. Visitors can either hike or take the bus but there is no escaping high elevation, which can lead to lightheadedness.

Getting to Machu Picchu from Lima
The first leg of the journey is Lima to Cusco by air. The flight is less than 90 minutes and there are several flights offered daily. From Cusco take a train to Aguas Calientes which is the base of Machu Picchu. This trip takes three and a half hours and trains depart early each day so it is impossible to fly in from Lima and catch a train on the same day. It is required to spend a night in Cusco. There are hotels, restaurants and plenty of tour guides available in Cusco.

 

Morocco – The Gem of North Africa

Morocco – The Gem of North Africa

 

Sahara Desert, Northern Africa

Sahara Desert, Northern Africa

Travelers to Morocco are filled with expectations formed from the many movies, novels and news based in the region. The Kingdom’s extensive heritage and culture, its food, architecture, landscapes and people, all of which combine to make it a must-visit destination for today’s travelers.

Upon arriving into the capital city of Casablanca, one realizes the small town depicted in the American movie has turned into a westernized cosmopolitan city. In the financial and commercial center, you’ll find international clothing brands, luxury hotels, and trendy restaurants and bars. The main cultural attraction is the Hassan II Mosque. Morocco’s largest mosque features gigantic titanium doors, huge chandeliers, and marble columns decorated with green and blue tiles which combine perfectly with the shades of the sea. If Casablanca is one of your favorite films, you can’t leave the city without visiting the famous Café Rick. Although not the original, it was designed to recreate the bar famous from the Academy Award winning movie.

As you venture south, visit Ksar of Aït Ben Haddou, a Berber fortress. The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Center is visually stunning and surrounded by huge walls. Its scale and splendor bring back memories of the many movies filmed there such as Gladiator, Alexander, and Babel. The fortress is near to the dazzling gorges of Dades and the deep ravine made by the river Dades, which is on the way to Marrakesh.

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen

Another popular destination is Jamaa el Fna Square — the heart of the city of Marrakesh, especially at night. It is full of life, with vendors and visitors everywhere. Wandering around the streets, one discovers henna ladies — experts in hand painting. Henna art, originally developed to cool the skin and adorn brides, includes intricate designs with meanings such as joy and love. It is certainly the perfect souvenir that won’t take up extra room in your luggage. If you have a big suitcase, the market offers thousands of items including Moroccan lamps, carpets, spices, shoes, and the famous Fatima’s hand key chains. Be prepared to bargain, otherwise, you have not fully experienced Morocco.

In the heart of the Sahara, experience Merzouga, a spectacular oasis to relax and meditate. Merzouga is full of breathtaking landscapes, with sand orange shades and multicolor sunsets. An incredible experience is the slow ride through the dunes on a camel. After a day riding across the desert, take in the evening tranquility at the jaimas (Moroccan tent) in a magnificent tourist camp with suitable bathrooms and showers. Under a sky full of stars, guests enjoy a hearty dinner of local fare, accompanied with regional music and the rich tapestry of stories about the Berber people. Be sure to wake up in time to enjoy the striking sunrise and then head to the small village of Khamlia to enjoy Gnawa drummers in traditional costumes of white and red.

A must see is the city of Fez, which hosts the largest and oldest royal palace of the country. Although not open to the public, you can see the famous seven golden gates and admire the detailed reliefs and drawings framed with brightly colored tiles. The best of Fez is the Bab Bou Jeloud entrance, a UNESCO World Heritage medina (old downtown). Fez´s medina, the largest in the world, is actually a maze. It is easy to get lost, so hiring a tourist guide would be helpful. The city’s uniqueness lies in the authenticity of the traditional shops, tanneries, mosques, and bakeries — a mixture of colors and smells along the narrow streets with carts and donkeys transporting wares. It is impossible to leave Fez without buying a typical Arabic turban (keffiyeh), which includes instructions on the different ways to wear it.

Another “must see” stop is the town of Chefchauen, known as “the blue village” for the bright color of its medina houses. Walk the streets of alleys and arches, decorated courtyards and weavers’ and woodworkers’ shops. Before leaving the great country of Morocco, visit Uta el-Hamman Plaza to enjoy one last meal: a tajine of vegetables on a bed of cous cous accompanied with the typical thé a la menthe.

 

Loire Valley: Château Hopping

Loire Valley: Château Hopping

 

Gardens at Château de Villandry

Gardens at Château de Villandry

Must Visit Châteaux

Royal Château of Amboise
Set on the edge of the River Loire, the Château was a hot spot for royals in the 15th century. However the property fell into decline after King Charles VIII died. King Francois I was born and raised at Château of Amboise and Leonardo da Vinci is rumored to be buried in nearby Clos Lucé where he lived  in his final days.
www.chateau-amboise.com

Château of Clos Lucé
The smaller château of Amboise is where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last days working on theories and inventions. In 1516 da Vinci was invited by King Francois I to use the property as his living and working space. Today the space is dedicated to da Vinci’s theories.
www.vinci-closluce.com

Château of Cheverny
This elaborate château has been open to the public since 1914 and was one of the first family estates to open to tourists. The family who owns Château of Cheverny still live in a blocked off section of the main building with about two-thirds left open for tourists to view. Guests are treated to luxurious interiors, stunning gardens and even a pack of hounds for hunting. Make time to try the wine tasting experience at Maison des Vins de Cheverny located right next door. They serve excellent wine using cool wine distribution technology.
www.chateau-cheverny.fr/en/

Domain of Chambord
In 1519, King Francis I began building Chambord as a display of French power and artistic genius. With a unique double spiral staircase inspired by the designs of Leonardo da Vinci, the massive castle has been granted UNESCO world heritage status. One of the most unique Renaissance structures in the world, the architecture pairs medieval French with Italian Renaissance.
chambord.org

Château de Villandry
The gardens at Château de Villandry will leave you in awe. They are the quintessential castle gardens with six sections including the decorative vegetable garden; the ornamental rooms — configured to spark discussions on love, music and religion; the water garden; the herb garden and the maze. Enjoy the brand new sun garden featuring a pond in the shape of the sun, eight-point star and beds of orange perennials. Inside the castle are gorgeous rooms, clever nooks and crannies, all leading up to a magnificent 15th century Mudejar style room with a ceiling made of 3600 pieces of wood.
www.chateauvillandry.fr

foodx

Loire Dining

Bistrot de la Tranchée
103 Avenue de la Tranchée
37100 Tours
Tel : +33 2 47 41 09 08
www.charles-barrier.fr

Pâtisserie Bigot
2 Rue nationale
37400 Amboise
Tel : +33 2 47 57 04 46
www.bigot-amboise.com

Monument Café
Place St Louis
41250 Chambord
www.monument-cafe.com/chambord/

Les Archives
14 rue Edouard Grimaux
86000 Poitiers
Tel : +33 5 49 30 53 00
www.lesarchives.fr

Le Terminus
3 place de la gare
16000 Angoulême
Tel: +33 5 45 95 27 13
www.le-terminus.com

 

Château de Perreux

Château de Perreux

Where to Stay

Château du Breuil
This beautiful, relaxing château is a favorite for fine dining. After a day of sightseeing, an evening of terrific wine and fantastic food is just what’s needed.  Château du Breuil does not disappoint. This is a great place for corporate events or weddings.
Château du Breuil
23 Route de Fougère
41700 Cheverny
Tel: +33 2 54 44 20 20
www.chateau-hotel- du-breuil.com

Château de Perreux
A truly unique château, Château de Perreux is hidden away in the majestic beauty of the Loire Valley woodlands. The food and beverage program is magnificent and the on-site chef, Michelin star winner, Ludovic Laurenty stocks his kitchen with the best ingredients of the region.
Château de Perreux
36 Route de Pocé
37530 Nazelles-Negron
Tel : +33 2 47 57 27 47
www.chateaudeperreux.fr

Getting There

Air France flies direct from Los Angeles to Paris. From Paris take RailEurope one hour on the high speed train to the Loire Valley. It is easy to get around by taxi, rental car or public transport.

HILTON PARIS OPERA

HILTON PARIS OPERA

Where to Stay in Paris

Hilton Paris Opera was recently renovated and is spectacular. Located in the heart of the Champs-Élysées district.
www.hiltonparisoperahotel.com


Indian Arts in Santa Fe

Indian Arts in Santa Fe

intro

Santa Fe has been an arts and trade hub for millennium with Native Americans inhabiting the area for more than 2500 years. One cannot escape picking up tidbits of historical knowledge while meandering through a town filled with museums, galleries and landmark hotels.

 

Houser working on Warm Springs Apache Photo Credit: Lee Marmon

Houser working on Warm Springs Apache
Photo Credit: Lee Marmon

Allan Houser

Apache Indian artist Allan Houser is the godfather of Santa Fe art. His bronze sculptures set the standard for Indian art. His father fought with his second cousin, Geronimo, in the small band of Warm Springs Chiricahaus. They surrendered to the to the US Army in 1886 and Houser’s kin was sent to Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida and then to Mount Vernon Barracks, Alabama where his mother — Blossom — was born in the prison camp. The band of Chiricahaus spent 23 years in captivity at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and was eventually freed in 1914. Houser’s parents stayed in Oklahoma and became farmers. He was the first child born out of captivity. As Houser matured and his interest in art grew, he announced to his father he was headed back to the motherland of New Mexico to be an artist. His hard-working, life-scarred father was not impressed. He wanted his eldest son to stay and help on the farm. But Houser followed his path back to New Mexico and became the preeminent Native American artist of our time.

As you roam about Santa Fe, you’ll notice a certain style of sculpture — a Native American figure with unmistakable curvature. You see this style everywhere; Allan Houser started it. After leaving the family farm, Houser went on to create important pieces of art as well as become a founding professor at the Institute of American Indian Arts. You can visit Houser’s studio and take a tour of the sculpture garden in Santa Fe. His art is also in the collections of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the National Museum of the American Indian, and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

Allan Houser Sculpture Garden & Studio are open to the public by appointment. Call 505-471-1528 or email toursandevents@allanhouser.com

 

Native American ‘Origin Cuisine’

Native American ‘Origin Cuisine’

Dr. Lois Ellen Frank, born in New York City and raised in Long Island, is from the Kiowa Nation on her mother’s side and Sephardic on her father’s side. She started her career in photography and found herself shooting product shots for ad agencies in Los Angeles. One day an elder visited her on the set of her photo shoot. She was shooting some inane, not original, non-environmentally friendly product. The elder asked her if she was “sharing her poetry from within?” She thought long and hard, quit her agency photography job and became a chef.

Armed with culinary knowledge, Frank returns to the pueblo and educates Native American communities on changing their eating habits back to ‘origin cuisine’— the cuisine of their ancestors. Native American origin cuisine consists of beans, corn, and squash and make a complete protein, produced with natural fertilizer in an ecologically balanced planting and gardening system. All three vegetables grow in perfect harmony. The corn provides structure for the bean stalk to grow up, the beans provide nitrogen and fertilize the corn, and the large leaves of the squash plants protect the soil from too much sun and reduce weeds. Frank’s cookbook, which won a James Beard award, shows us how to cook origin cuisine; and just wait for the next one which is coming out soon.

www.redmesacuisine.com

Pottery at Santa Fe Indian Market

Pottery at Santa Fe Indian Market

Of all the art events in Santa Fe, the Santa Fe Indian Market is the most historic and most important. Since 1922, it has been the largest Native American Indian arts market in the world. Held every year on the third weekend in August, the entire town sells out, so book accomodations well in advance. The market features thousands of Native Americans selling original art. Held in the historic downtown plaza in the center of Santa Fe, taking up 14 downtown city blocks with over 700 artists booths. Not only is it big, it has high quality art, including a juried Native arts program where global buyers and collectors buy directly from artists. Native American art is beautifully crafted, holds special meaning and appreciates in value over time — a great investment and a beautiful addition to your personal art collection. From the thousands of traditional and contemporary handcrafted works, you will have a hard time choosing between the jewelry, pottery, sculpture, textiles, paintings, wooden carvings, beadwork and baskets in the show. While you’re at it, you can sample Native American food, music and films.

www.santafeindianmarket.com

 

Dan Namingha, Passage #43, Acrylic on Canvas, 48” x 96”, 2016

Dan Namingha, Passage #43, Acrylic on Canvas, 48” x 96”, 2016

Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

A must-visit museum in the city of Santa Fe, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture tells the stories of Native Americans from early history to modern day art. Visitors enjoy thought-provoking exhibits such as Here, Now and Always that illustrates Native American history with life-size dioramas of living quarters — from tee-pees and hand crafted ladders, to modern day life on the rez, complete with insulin needles as a nod to the diabetes problem that plagues today’s Native Americans. Another lively program is the Landscape of an Artist: Living Treasure Dan Namingha. One cannot introduce Namingha (Hopi-Tewa) without including his artistic pedigree. He is the great-great grandson of Nampeyo, a famous Hopi-Tewa potter whose artwork is very important to Native American arts and uses ancient techniques passed down from the 1500s. Namingha’s work is mesmerizing and pairs ancient Native American symbolism with contemporary techniques.

miaclab.org

SAR – School for Advanced Research

It’s a huge honor to be awarded a fellowship at SAR, Santa Fe’s historic and preeminent academic institution. The Indian Arts Research Center archive at SAR is beyond belief and fills two grand halls with historic art including pottery, painting, textiles, carved figures, basketry and jewelry. In addition to serving the keeper of this incredible collection of historic Native American artifacts, SAR is a publishing house and educational institute. SAR offers fellowships for scholars-in-residence; week-long gatherings of scholars in advanced seminars; the annual J. I. Staley Prize for excellence in anthropological writing and residential fellowships for Native American artists. SAR Press publishes academic books developed from SAR’s programs as well as general-interest books on the Southwest and Native American arts.

www.sarweb.org

Kakawa

Terrific sweet treats can be found at Kakawa Chocolate House. Located near Canyon Road, the chocolate shop serves warm chocolate elixirs in the style of ancient Mesoamerican, Mayan and Aztec chocolate drinks. Take the flavor home and add two teaspoons of powdered chocolate to your daily coffee. In addition to drinking chocolate, Kakawa offers house-made ice-cream and truffles.

kakawachocolates.com

Than Povi Cottonwood Trading Post

There are no shortages of places in Santa Fe where you can pick up custom Native American art but a stop at Than Povi Cottonwood Trading Post is a great idea if you want to directly support Native American artists who live on a reservation. With a huge supply of jewelry, art, beadwork, pottery and wood carvings available, you’ll find one or several items to covet.

www.thanpovi.com

IAIA – Institute of American Indian Arts

If you really want a stellar arts education then look no further than the tribal college, Institute of American Indian Arts, located just outside of Santa Fe. While the university is small and very affordable, it has the latest educational technology, including 3-D printers and a dome-style filmmaking studio. In addition to traditional studio arts, students at IAIA can chose to study creative writing or cinematic arts. The school is open to non-Native students, it’s mission is committed to Native American and Alaska Native cultures. The collection of art from former students at IAIA is extraordinary and visitors are able to visit their museum in downtown Santa Fe. It is a must-see!

www.iaia.edu

 

Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino

Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino

Where To Stay

Located in downtown Santa Fe, steps from the historic Santa Fe Plaza, Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi is an intimate world-class vacation retreat and New Mexico’s most lauded hotel. Since it was established in 1991, the Inn has set the standard for luxury and service among small city hotels. The 58-room boutique hotel unveiled a full guestroom re-imagination in 2014 to embrace a more modern, sophisticated aesthetic, while still celebrating the enduring creative spirit of the region’s Native Americans.

www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/inn-of-the-anasazi-santa-fe

Opened in 2008, Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino is located on and operated by the Pueblo of Pojoaque just north of Santa Fe. The architecture and design of the building itself lends further to this artistic vision. Art from Native contributors statewide, and from many different Pueblos, are displayed proudly throughout the casino, a museum-quality collection with its own curator and worthy of studied perusal.

www.buffalothunderresort.com

Getting There

Santa Fe is located 70 miles northeast of Albuquerque. Multiple airlines offer direct flights from Los Angeles to Albuquerque. Once there, visitors can rent a car or hire Santa Fe Valet and drive to Santa Fe. A car is not needed if visitors plan to stay in the downtown vicinity however you will need some form of transportation to explore neighboring Native American pueblos.

 

LAX Updates

LAX Updates

WOW air CEO Skúli Mogensen

WOW air CEO Skúli Mogensen

WOW air Launches Low Cost Service Between LAX and Reykjavik, Iceland

WOW air, an ultra-low-cost transatlantic airline from Iceland, launched west coast service in Los Angeles. The airline offers four weekly flights to Reykjavik, Iceland for low fares. WOW air´s 23 European destinations including London, Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt, Dublin, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm. Los Angeles World Airports Chief Executive Officer Deborah Flint said, “We are honored WOW air chose LAX as part of its expansion into the U.S. market. Angelenos will benefit from having low-cost nonstop flights to Reykjavik — a new destination for LAX — and more options to the major cities of Europe.”

Swiss Celebrates First Boeing 777-300ER LAX –Zurich Flight

SWISS, the flag carrier of Switzerland, celebrated the inaugural flight of its newest flagship Boeing 777-300ER on its Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) – Zurich route. “We are excited that Swiss Airlines’ new “flagship” Boeing 777-300ER aircraft has now joined the LAX livery family, providing long haul service from Los Angeles to Zurich, Switzerland,” said Los Angeles World Airports Chief Executive Officer Deborah Flint. “The additional capacity and the airlines focus on customers’ air travel experience reflects our commitment to world class experience at LAX.” The totally-redesigned cabin interior of the new SWISS flagship offers comfort and aesthetics in all three seating classes.

XL Airways Launches at LAX with Nonstop Service to Paris

French leisure carrier XL Airways launched at LAX with nonstop service to Paris three times a week, operating at Terminal 2 with Airbus A330 aircraft. The new service to Paris will give passengers more opportunities to choose from during the busy summer season. All tickets include one piece of checked baggage, a hot meal and a snack. Passengers seeking a more exclusive experience can opt for Premium Galaxy class and enjoy comfortable reclining seats at the front of the aircraft, fine cuisine with premium wines, and personal entertainment on Samsung tablets.

LIVE LIKE A MAHARAJA, Visiting India During Off-Season

LIVE LIKE A MAHARAJA, Visiting India During Off-Season

Leela Palace in Delhi

Leela Palace in Delhi

By Adrien Field  

“Atithi Devo Bhava” is a Sanskrit verse from the Upanishads which translates to “The guest is equivalent to God.” Indians take this message to heart, and exhibit incredible hospitality to visitors.

Visiting India off-season, defined as the summer months between May and September can mean deeply discounted fares on everything from hotels to airfare. Be prepared, however, for extreme temperatures: certain places like Delhi and Jaipur will be unbearably hot. But you can beat the heat by traveling to the North and South of the country, discovering India from top to bottom.

Delhi, Haryana

When the mercury in the thermometer is pushing 110 degrees Fahrenheit shortly after sunrise in the summer months, you won’t want to spend much time venturing out. Delhi itself is not the most attractive city for the casual tourist, but it is an excellent perch from which to begin your journey in India.

Situated at the top point of the “Golden Triangle” Delhi completes the tourist triumvirate comprising Agra (the home of the Taj Mahal) and Jaipur, the famous Pink City. Each are a few hours drive away from the capital, depending on variables like passing cow traffic and the fearlessness of your driver.

Within Delhi, there are several places worth visiting: The Lodhi Gardens are home to 15th century ruins spread over 90 serene park acres. There are treasures to be found among the markets of Hauz Khas Village, Lajpat Nagar and Dilli Haat.

Rooftop pool at Leela Palace

Rooftop pool at Leela Palace

Spotlight on Leela Palace

Delhi is a hectic city, full of pollution and noise. For the first time visitor, it can be overwhelming from the moment you step outside Indira Gandhi Airport. The Leela Palace takes away all the stress — you might even forget you’ve spent the better part of twenty-four hours in the air as you step into a BMW or Rolls Royce from its private fleet of cars available for airport transfers.

Opened in 2011, The Leela Palace has set a new standard for luxury in India’s capital. Boasting the largest standard guest sized rooms in Delhi, the Leela offers exceptional world class service and comfort, combining top-notch modern amenities and classical Indian heritage. With its architecture and art inspired by the Mughal dynasty of India’s past, the property will make the guest feel like a modern day Maharaja as you walk down its carpeted corridors scented with fresh floral arrangements.

With four distinct and award winning restaurants, one need not leave the grounds to let the taste buds travel. Megu offers Japanese cuisine with an extensive sake list, Jamavar serves North Indian dishes, The Qube is the spot for continental food and a fantastic breakfast served buffet style. Finally the marquee restaurant is the New York import Le Cirque. Chef Diego Martinelli has come with fifteen years of culinary excellence honed at Four Seasons outposts worldwide. His addition as head chef has infused the menu with inventive dishes — the lucky patrons only need to sit back and let him create a tailored dining experience not soon forgotten.

If you’re feeling frazzled after a day of exploring the city, the Leela is a welcome respite for the senses. Indulge in a spa treatment at the 12,000 square foot ESPA or simply watch the city below from the rooftop infinity pool.

Taj Kovalam

Taj Kovalam

Kovalam, Kerala

This southern state known in India as “God’s own country” is a veritable Garden of Eden. With unsullied coastlines that stretch for 370 miles and nearly year-round perfect temperatures, it’s a vacationer’s paradise. Unlike the well-established Goa to the north, Kovalam is a lesser-known destination and therefore quieter — you won’t find much of a party scene here, just incredibly lush, tranquil settings to explore. The flight from Delhi to Thiruvananthapuram is four and a half hours and then Kovalam is a short thirty-minute drive.

Backwater sailing is a unique attraction in Kerala and excursions can last for days should you desire to rent a houseboat. Lighthouse Beach is worth a visit for its sandy beaches and boardwalk lined with fresh, inexpensive seafood and tourist shops.

Spotlight on Taj

The Vivanta by Taj is the premiere luxury property in Kovalam. The 10-acre property sits above the bay tucked into a lush hill. The property’s 59 cottages with elephant grass thatched rooftops are located on the hill providing a relaxing atmosphere with ample privacy. Standard rooms are spacious, offering either a garden or sea view, and villas with private lap pools are also available. There is no question of not finding shanti, or peace, in this tropical oasis.

Spend all day down by the beach, lounge by the outdoor pool, or even play a round of golf on the 9-hole putting green. The Jiva Spa offers Ayurvedic treatments that can both relax the outer body and awaken the inner senses. Three dining options are available on-site, including Indian, seafood and continental options.

Shimla, Himachal Pradesh

In order to beat the summertime heat of India, you’ll have to travel North into the mountains as the locals do. Shimla once was the summer capital of British India, when the ruling class decamped sweltering Delhi to the Himalayas for cool temperatures. It remains a unique attraction full of history and natural landscapes of unimaginable beauty.

Located 240 miles from Delhi, the best way to reach Shimla is by first flying into Chandigarh then taking a taxi for the remaining four hour passage through winding mountain roads. In this case, the journey really is nearly as great as the destination: at each hold-your-breath, hair-raising turn, the Himalayan views reveal themselves with increasing splendor.

Spotlight on The Oberoi Cecil

The Himalayan foothills of Northern India are full of resort hill stations, but few are as iconic or luxurious as The Oberoi Cecil in Shimla. Set in the foothills of the majestic Himalayas at 2,200 meters above sea level, The Oberoi Cecil is a charming heritage hotel located at the quiet end of Shimla’s famous mall. The restoration of the hotel to its original glory marks the return of gracious living, a tradition exemplified by The Oberoi Cecil since the days of the British Raj. A haven of luxury and comfort, each guest room at The Oberoi Cecil is a reflection of the hotel’s Colonial heritage.

English teas, fine dining at night, log fires, a heated indoor swimming pool, impeccable and personalized service and panoramic views of the Himalayan mountain range, are some highlights of the hotel.

Should you desire to leave your cozy environs, adventure awaits in every direction and the hotel is happy to arrange transportation. A hot sulfur spring is located a two hour’s drive away. Nearby Kufri offers skiing (in the winter months) and yak rides.

 

 

Beautiful Monterey for Nature Lovers

Beautiful Monterey for Nature Lovers

bs_pfeifferbeach1_kerrickjames_seemonterey.com

Located north of Los Angeles is the Central Coast of California. Consisting of Big Sur to the south, Moss Landing at the center of Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz to the north, notable points along the bay include Marina, Seaside, Monterey, Pacific Grove and a peninsula of land filled with famous golf courses such as Cypress Point and Pebble Beach. The south side of the peninsula is Carmel Bay, the focal point of Carmel-By-The-Sea -— a picturesque town of understated luxury. The south point of Carmel Bay borders Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, and inland is Carmel Valley where wineries, spas and world-class hotels pamper their guests. Inland from Monterey Bay is Salinas — an agricultural town made famous by John Steinbeck novels such as Of Mice and Men, East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath. Running alongside the valley of Salinas are the Santa Lucia Highlands, where delicious California pinot noir grapes are grown and used by winemakers such as Pisoni Estates.

Moss Landing

Moss Landing

Excursions for Nature Lovers

Horseback riding on Salinas River State Beach with Monterey Bay Equestrian Center is a great way to bond with magnificent horses while enjoying the view of the bay. The horses are healthy and guides encourage a safe canter or gallop. An exhilarating ride on the beach is a perfect way to take in the splendor of the bay.

Elkhorn Slough is full of stunning birds, playful otters and bellowing seals and sea lions. Safari tours begin at Moss Landing as wildlife enthusiasts board a pontoon boat and aquatic wildlife experts lead the tour, explaining the geography and history of the area. The slough is called “Elkhorn” because it is shaped like a half of a huge elk horn. Elkhorn Slough is protected space offering wildlife a safe environment with plenty to eat. In addition to a safari tour on the pontoon boat, kayaking will bring you up close and personal with the birds and aquatic life of Elkhorn Slough.

Monterey Bay Aquarium is best for kids, a fun way to entertain the little ones and teach them about conservation and aquatic life. Located deep into the heart of downtown Monterey and surrounded by old cannery buildings, walking in downtown Monterey feels like stepping back in time to a Steinbeck novel.

Whale watching is a highlight of any trip to Monterey. Princess Monterey Whale Watching offers trips twice a day, morning or afternoon. We recommend the morning tour and be prepared for all kinds of weather and possible motion sickness. Because of changes in our climate, whales who used to travel south for food are staying in Monterey Bay and making this area their home. Humpback and Grey whales are glorious creatures and come right up to the boat. When we visited we spotted a huge pod of dolphins. There must have been over 100 dotted throughout the water. The photo opportunities on this tour are extensive and worth getting queasy on the boat.

A visit to Monterey is not complete without a hike in the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. It’s an easy hike, available to all levels and ages. If you really want to learn about the area then book in a guided hike with Big Sur Guides. Owned and founded by Los Angeles native  Stephen Copeland, the hiking operation treats participants to “insider” information about the park and the history of the area, including the hippie days of Big Sur. The views on the trail are stunning and leave you in awe of nature’s wonderous beauty.

Whale Watching

Whale Watching

 

Cuisine 

The food and wine in and around Monterey is world class. Wineries and farms dot the landscape deep into the Salinas Valley and up into the Santa Lucia Highlands.

Must Visit Farms

Artichokes are a major crop in the area and Pezzini Farms is one of the only family owned farms left. They have an adorable farm shop on the property selling various artichoke products. You’ll also find a food cart with a range of cooked artichokes including steamed, barbequed and fried.

Most consumers are familiar with Earthbound Farms products. Founded in Carmel Valley, they have become huge and supply Costco, Whole Foods and many other grocers with various leafy greens. At the site of their original 2.5-acre farm is a farm shop and community outreach center. The farm shop is a terrific place to grab lunch — of course they have a salad bar, or you can build a sandwich or enjoy homemade soup. Educational tours for all ages are an effective way to teach about healthy eating decisions.

Wine

The city of Carmel-By-The-Sea is tiny and incredibly cute. A number of wine tasting rooms have opened, and wine enthusiasts can purchase a Wine Tasting Passport. The passport includes seven passes to be used for tastings at participating tasting rooms. Some of the outstanding wine features selections from Alexander Smith, Wrath, and Scheid Vineyards.

Folktale Winery is new to Carmel Valley and they are out to impress the community. The space used to be Chateau Julien. The new owners have updated the grounds, bringing the classic space up to modern standards. Folktale Winery offers artisanal snacks served with delicious wine in a beautiful courtyard with live music. An onsite private residence is available to rent for special occasions, weddings or corporate retreats.

In the vicinity of Monterey are the Santa Lucia Highlands where Pinot grapes are grown and wine is made. Plan a full day of wine tasting with visits to Hahn Estate to experience the 2013 Lucienne Chardonnay Lone Oak Vineyard which is a beautifully crisp Chardonnay unique to Monterey County. No visit to the Santa Lucia Highlands would be complete without a visit to Pisoni Estate. They produce some of the very best pinot noir in California. As you make your way back to Monterey stop in at Scheid Vineyards to try their delightful bubbly.

SNOW REPORT – 2016

SNOW REPORT – 2016

The El Niño year has started off with great promise, dumping huge amounts of snow on the mountains of California, Utah and Colorado.

Powder day at Mammoth. Photo by Corey Rich

Powder day at Mammoth. Photo by Corey Rich

PARK CITY, UTAH

The new Quicksilver Gondola opened in Park City making it the largest ski resort in United States. Park City also launched Miners Camp Restaurant. Construction on Quicksilver and Miners Camp began in the summer of 2015 as part of a $50 million improvements campaign to connect Park City and neighboring Canyons Resort. Now, a quick, 8 ½ minute ride on Quicksilver is all that separates guests from experiencing hundreds of trails across Park City and Canyons Village.

Miners Camp, located at the base of the Silverlode Lift, replaces the old Snow Hut and offers guests a cozy escape from the slopes. The new on-mountain restaurant features 500 indoor seats and a fresh menu highlighted by local ingredients, daily specials, handmade flatbread pizzas, Mediterranean dishes and local beer.

Park City appointed Manual Rozehmal as Executive Chef of The Farm. To complement Rozehmal’s hire and the newly expanded resort’s debut this winter, the food and beverage program also refreshed menus across various dining locations, including The Farm, Murdock’s Café and Red Tail Grill.

Rozehmal is originally from a small village in the mountains of Germany. He started professionally cooking at age 15 at Le Méridien in Munich through a three-year apprentice program while he also attended culinary school. He received his culinary fundamentals from his grandfather, who took him hunting for mushrooms in the morning, and from helping his grandmother cook dinner with the foraged produce. After receiving his culinary degree, Rozehmal continued cooking in Germany and Switzerland until moving to Dana Point, CA to work as a junior sous chef with world-renowned Chef Michael Mina at Stonehill Tavern. Missing the mountains from his hometown in Germany, Rozehmal was drawn to Park City.

Rozehmal’s background has inspired delicious additions to Park City’s restaurant portfolio, including made-from-scratch soft pretzels with house-made caraway mustard, as well as hot potato soup with cabbage and grilled sausage.

Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Mountain

MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN, CALIFORNIA

Benefiting from a uniquely high elevation, Mammoth’s ski season is the longest in California, starting last year on Veterans Day (Wednesday, Nov. 11). With 7 months of snow the norm, there’s plenty of time to eat, drink, and experience everything that Mammoth Lakes has to offer.

Breweries
Après favorite Mammoth Brewing Company continues to expand its new tasting room, opening an upstairs seating area that will expand capacity, allow for private group events and live music.

Lodging
The New Holiday Haus Hostel offers budget-minded travelers a new lodging option in Mammoth Lakes. The comfortable and modern rooms, kitchen and common areas are located on Main Street, walking distance from the Village Gondola, restaurants, bars and nightlife.

Restaurants
53 Kitchen and Cocktails is Mammoth’s newest eatery in the heart of the Village. Fuel up for a day in the mountains with a good breakfast, and cap the day off with an artisanal cocktail and a selection from a diverse dinner menu. The stage and expansive dance floor also make 53 the destination for live music and entertainment well into the evening.

When Skadi closed its doors two years ago locals thought the restaurant was gone for good. “Back by popular demand” is an overused cliché but it certainly applies here. After spending the intervening years hearing from Mammoth Lakes’ locals about how much they miss the eatery, Chef Ian Algerøen reopened the doors at Skadi. Now located on Berner St. near the Village, Skadi is back to offer authentic high alpine cuisine.

Located inside Bleu Handcrafted Foods, the Tasting Bar offers customizable tours of cured meats, artisanal cheeses and the beer and wines that best complement them. Served atop Bleu’s custom Charcuterie hanger, it’s an excellent après experience, particularly for groups. The culinary tour is curated by Bleu’s knowledgeable staff and updated regularly. Reservations are recommended.

Activities
Five nights throughout the season, Woolly’s Tube Park hosts Electric Tubing and transforms into an electric circus in the forest with DJ’s, drinks (adult and otherwise), food, glow sticks, laser lighting and of course, snow tubing.

Tamarack Full Moon Tours are available every full moon this winter (and the evenings immediately before and after). Naturalist-led tours of the wilderness surrounding Mammoth Lakes take on a whole different feel; the snow on the trails and surrounding mountains soak up the moon’s glow, allowing for comfortable visibility and an unforgettable experience. Guests can cross-country ski or snowshoe the two hour tour, which finishes with drinks and s’mores around the iconic fireplace at Tamarack Lodge.

Sonnenalp Resort of Vail

Sonnenalp Resort of Vail

COLORADO

Beaver Creek
The Osprey Fireside Grill  has opened at The Osprey at Beaver Creek, in the heart of Beaver Creek, CO. As part of the upgrade and rebranding, there is a brand new post oak and peach wood-fueled custom smoker outside The Osprey Backyard, adjacent to the Strawberry Park lift, and six new beer taps that will offer guests rotating beer flights, complete with local Colorado brews.

Telluride
Telluride Distilling Company, Telluride’s first distillery, offers  two types of rums, whiskey, and vodka. The equipment and processes used have been developed in-house and create a truly hand-crafted product. The tasting room is open Thursdays and Fridays from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Vail Resorts
EpicMixTime, an expansion of ski and snowboard app, EpicMix, uses anonymized, crowd-sourced Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals to estimate lift line wait times. Using breakthrough technology, EpicMixTime calculates and displays up-to-the-minute lift line wait times at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone.

Where to Stay
The Sonnenalp Resort of Vail is located in the heart of Vail Village. Known throughout the region for its elegant European-style spa, the Sonnenalp features a relaxed seating area surrounding the fireplace. Hotel guests can store ski equipment in air-circulating lockers at Mountain Adventure Center, next to the Vista Bahn, the main ski lift out of Vail Village. The Sonnenalp Ski Shop offers adult ski rentals and accessories, as well as snowshoes and crosscountry skis. Guests of the Sonnenalp may request the use of the hotel’s Lexus sedans or 4-wheel drive luxury utility vehicles for transportation needs during their stay.

 

Northstar California Resort

Northstar California Resort

 

TAHOE, CALIFORNIA

Squaw Valley
A full-service, luxury resort in an idyllic mountain setting, Resort at Squaw Creek rests at the base of Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, and just minutes from California’s North Lake Tahoe. This AAA Four-Diamond is ideally situated to offer access to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, now accessible with one lift ticket. The dramatic lobby, through its floor-to-ceiling windows, overlooks a cascading waterfall and the breathtaking Sierra Nevada Mountains. 405 luxurious resort rooms and suites, complete with resort-style kitchens, fireplaces and LCD flat-screen TVs, comfort guests in mountain home ambiance.

Northstar
With record levels of snow already blanketing Northstar California Resort’s mountain, guests and day visitors alike can enjoy a unique après-ski offering: The Champagne Experience, which includes champagne by the glass or the bottle with oysters on the half shell, available Friday – Sunday throughout the ski season at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe.  Adjacent to the Champagne Bar is an authentic 6-passenger Silver Green Gondola, cabin number 14, which is one of the 160 gondola cabins, originally constructed in Veryins, France during 1986 by Sigma. The unique gondola has LED lighting inside, a Bose sound system and Bluetooth capabilities. Guests can relax in the remodeled interior, listen to music, have a drink or use the gondola as a fun backdrop for photos and selfies.