Deer Valley Delights!

Deer Valley does indeed delight for so many reasons.  My top reasons for loving Deer Valley besides the obvious variety of fantastic terrain on 400 miles of trails to ski are as follows:

  1. Flying is simple! Multiple airlines fly into Salt Lake City International Airport and it happens to be a major hub for Delta, especially attractive to SkyTeam loyalists.  Deer Valley, Park City, and Sundance are all located well under an hour from the airport.
  2. Food in Deer Valley is fantastic and I am not just talking about the posh restaurants — there are many great spots on the mountain. Selection and quality are some of the best mountain resort offerings I have had. Of course the resorts and the charming town of Park City have a superb line up of restaurants and bars to keep any foodie busy for a week of holiday!
  3. The hotel experience – Deer Valley boasts many special hotels with ski on/off access and all the bells and whistles. I don’t believe it when anyone says that they “just need a place to stay.” An alpine vacation is the whole package and a hard day of skiing is only made better when you have the creature comforts of a roaring fire place, a fully staffed ski concierge, nightly s’mores, a great bar, and terrific yet genuine service! Nobody wants a hassle when they are on holiday!

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In this blog, I will highlight my two favorite Deer Valley properties – one is an old classic and one is a newer favorite!

Welcome to Stein Eriksen –  This classic mid-mountain resort named after Norwegian Olympic Gold Medal skier Stein Eriksen is a European-style getaway where celebrities and nobodies comfortably rub elbows. The condo style accommodations are enormous, most with balconies and many with hot tubs. The food is some of the best alpine cuisine off the alps and the wine list is to die for. The entire feel of the resort is completely unpretentious and relaxed, feeling more like a private lodge. It is not uncommon to see  guests cutting through the garage to get to the spa in their robe and slippers!

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I worship a bartender who makes a perfect margarita with no coaching required!

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Our spacious two-bedroom suite with fireplace, balcony and hot tub.  The rustic mountain design gives you a sense of place.

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Ski in/ski out access from Stein is perfect, ski right out…..

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….and grab the tiny lift right back in.

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Stein Ericson was the original game in town and many families have been coming for decades – it is one of those places where they meet up with their same guides year after year and are seen lunching with them at the resort each afternoon. Stein is undergoing some massive enhancements to the resort to include a family pool and enlarged pool deck, an entertainment and movie area, and a new coffee bar. The resort will benefit from this additional public space as besides the fabulous restaurant and bar, there is not really any place outside of the spacious room product to hang out and people watch.

What IS already open and a WOW product are the new ultra luxurious and modern Stein Residences. During my visit, I got to tour several of the distinct homes and residences. For those seeking ultra luxurious multi bedroom units with state of the art living, cooking and entertainments areas plus all the benefits of a luxury hotel – ski concierge, spa, restaurant, Stein Ericson residences is the answer!

Here is a model of the Stein Ericson development (now open for ski seasons 2017-2018!)

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Stunning infinity edge pool with a view –

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Indoor pool and water areas – IMG_3415IMG_3417

Game Room

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A few pictures of the 39 condominium residences (or ask me about the 15 distinct homes!)

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Next stop is up the mountain to the super posh Montage Deer Valley. This is a great resort for those that want a resort full of buzz and activity and spectacular service.  The Montage is ideal for families as there is so much to do from tubing, bowling, nightly s’mores by the fire pit to a variety of fantastic restaurants from sushi, to pub food, to glorious burgers, to fine dining.

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Ski concierge at Montage suits and boots you daily – warms your boots overnight, takes them off while you lunch, and always has hot chocolate, cookies, waters and other niceties to keep the skiing comfortable!  Some of the best ski in/ski out in the West!

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Post slopes, Apres gets going at the Veuve Cliquot Apres Lounge at the Montage!

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It doesn’t hurt to run into the U.S.A. Ski team at Apres!

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The cozy lounge at Montage Deer Valley is a great place for apres or to just order a dinner of sushi instead of a night on the town.

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There is always time for spa following a day of tackling the slopes. Montage designates specific times for family swim post ski and then leaves time for adults to unwind unaccompanied.

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Adults and kids alike take their turn tubing down the hill at Montage – especially great for families with little ones.

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What family does not love a night of Montage bowling pre or post dinner or better yet, send the kiddos to bowl while you linger over dinner!

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I think everyone looks forward to the daily S’mores around the fire pits – house made marshmallows, cookies and chocolates make this a truly decadent camp fire affair!

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Dalys Pub for fun food, Apex for fine dining, Burgers and Bourbon for out of this world burgers and barbecue, and Yama Sushi are all wonderful. Food options to keep the sophisticated foodie to the picky kiddo absolutely delighted!

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Of course the complimentary shuttle into nearby Park City further entices with a fantastic array of restaurants and bars. This is a great town with character and dining to match the skiing! Deer Valley delights, indeed!

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Adult approved! Kid approved! The Madrids will be back soon, Deer Valley!

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Crystal Mozart: Cruising the Danube River

Crystal has been wowing ocean cruisers for years, but now with the launch of the Crystal Mozart on the Danube River, they are setting a new standard for service on the riverways!

The Crystal Mozart was stripped to the steel and completely rebuilt before debuting as Crystal’s first river vessel. It is the widest ship on the Danube and boasts some of the most sumptuous public space on the river. So while it cannot always get into every city center port of call, it’s always within a stones throw, and you can be sure you’re coming and going in style!

Crystal has three new state-of-the-art luxury ships coming on line in 2018 and 2019 that will sail the Rhine, the Main, and the Danube.

If you were not one of the lucky 18 who joined our fun group of friends (lovingly called “the Boat People”), please join me below as I share some of the highlights of our most recent voyage!

First, the ship:

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Top deck, where many libations were enjoyed day and night as we cruised the Danube
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Stylish Bistro Mozart for a Viennese coffee or glass of Grüner Veltliner or a gelato anytime
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The Waterside Restaurant for a lunch buffet or decadent multi-course dinner

Below is a typical dinner on the Crystal Mozart:

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Foie Gras appetizer
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Caviar and potatoes second course
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Fresh fish, grains and greens for my main.
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Pre and post cocktails in the Palm Court

Our favorite spot for lunch was Aft at Blue which had a great team – they were always happy to prepare a fabulous burger, a niçoise salad, and, as we say, a glass of “rosé all day!”

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The spa is terrific, featuring a forward location with beautiful views in the relaxation lounge and luxurious treatments. My treatments with Maria – massage and facial – were truly some of the best I have had! The pool is excellent for laps and the hot tub is a cozy option for warming up on a cold day.

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First Port of Call – Vienna

Vienna is lovely and stately and elegant. There are opportunities to enjoy music everywhere including the famed Opera House, the Vienna Philharmonic, and even the lovey Crystal signature event with an orchestra at the Belvedere Palace!

Most delightful about Vienna in my opinion is the cafe culture that is so prevalent throughout the city – it is not unusual to sit for hours with a single coffee or beer or glass of Grüner. I love this pace!

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Something else that the Crystal Mozart does for their guests is allow them to select a Michelin star restaurant experience in Vienna or Budapest and completely includes it the price of your cruise! Crystal arranges the reservations, transfers to and from the restaurant, and prepays a three course meal with wine. It is a very nice touch!

We enjoyed a spectacular dinner at Konstantin Filippou pictured below:

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As the Crystal Mozart embarks and disembarks in Vienna, this is a perfect opportunity to stay at the immaculate and historic Hotel Sacher, owned and run by the same family for generations.  A step back into a sumptuous, by-gone era!

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The Restaurant of Hotel Sacher
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What an elegant spot to dine!
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An amuse-bouche of salmon
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A first meal in Vienna must always be Wiener Schnitzel
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And at Hotel Sacher, there is nothing more appropriate than the famed Sacher Torte with fresh cream
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Mr. Sacher himself
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Even I feel almost a celebrity next to one of the many walls of famous patrons
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A drink in the Blue Bar
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The impeccable bedrooms are charming and bright
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In such a prime location, expect a wonderful view!
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Well appointed and comfortable bathrooms
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Hotel Sacher chocolate amenities
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A view of the Opera House from Hotel Sacher

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This lovely design suite has quite the penthouse and terrace!

Second Port of Call – Krems, Austria

A cycling trip through the Wachau River Valley:

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Of course with a stop or two to try the local Reisling and Grüner wines of the region!

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River cruising is special because you are never far from land. The Danube is particularly scenic.  The top deck is the place for sipping something cold and taking it all in!

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A fellow boat person – Jan the ham!

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Third port of call – Melk and the lovely Abbey

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Back on board the Crystal Mozart

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Going through one of the dozens of locks along the Danube – a very cool feat of engineering.

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And as evening falls, another wonderful dinner is served. Seating in the dining room is as you wish – some nights Gil and I dined alone, some nights we joined another couple or two from our group, one night we invited a single traveler to join us, and a few times our entire group of 18 – the “Boat People” dined together.  The nice thing about Crystal is that everything is included – all meals and always terrific wines, champagne, beers and spirits! No one ever needs to reach for the bill.

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Fourth Port of Call – Linz, Austria

From here we took a day trip to Salzburg

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I love that whenever you order a glass of wine, it automatically comes with a water! Such a nice touch!

Fifth Port of Call – Passau, Germany

This is a lovely, lovely town and I wish we had more time there. We instead opted for a day trip to Munich. Munich was a great time but, in retrospect, the transfer was too long to warrant the trip – over 2.5 hours each way.  Suggestion: Enjoy Passau instead. We traveled to Munich with our friends John and Carrie and had a blast visiting several beer halls! “When in Rome!”

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Yes, the beer drinking continued on the coach!

Everything in Germany is about their wonderful sports cars and Munich is the home of BMW. For those that are BMW enthusiasts, a visit to the BMW headquarters and show room may be in order.

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We enjoyed an overnight in Passau and wonderful meal aboard the Crystal Mozart.

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Roasted Beet Salad with nuts and cheese

The next day we joined a cycling trip that rode along the Austrian-German border. The bikes on the Crystal Mozart are e-bikes which means anyone can pedal along and it is never too strenuous.  Not a great way to burn a lot of calories, but a lovely way to sightsee!

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Cycling with my friend, Reid, newly indoctrinated to the “Boat People”
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A bridge uniting Austria and Germany

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Passau

Enjoying some comfort food aft at our favorite lunch spot on board, Blue.

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And some post lunch R&R on the top desk of the Crystal Mozart, my kind of sight seeing!

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The crew on the Crystal Mozart is spectacular – truly outstanding service, always with a smile, just like this:IMG_2024.jpg

The entertainment aboard river vessels usually includes some wonderful piano bar music, some well informed lectures, an occasional round of group trivia, and on this occasion, a hilarious bout of the “Not-so-Newlywed Game!” Gil and I participated and came out BIG LOSERS!  We did become minor celebrities though and gave everyone a good laugh!

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Sixth Port of Call – Bratislava, Slovakia

A stunning capital to a small, new country with a big history!

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A walk through the old town to a local brew pub where we enjoyed tasting several local beers.

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The Bratislava Opera House

Final Port of Call – Budapest

This lovely lady greeted us as we cruised into Budapest. Lady Liberty!  She was erected by the Russians as the self-proclaimed liberators of Hungary from the Nazis. Today the Magyars (as the Hungarians rightfully call themselves) say that she is actually saying goodbye to the communists as she liberated the country once and for all from all oppressors. She is beautiful and Budapest may be one of Europe’s most breathtaking cities!

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The pubic transportation throughout the city is excellent and we easily moved about by tram, bus, and subway!

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Always a cake to be found. This is the Sacher but I really wanted the Dobbos!

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One of my favorite things to do in ANY city is to visit the local market – this is always the heartbeat of the city where you can shop and dine as a local.

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It was fun to try local specialties such as the stuffed cabbage and the goulash, with sauerkraut, of course.

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Budapest has absolutely wonderful cafes and wine bars through out the vibrant city, especially lovely in the summer time!

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And not to be missed is one of the grandest hotels of all of Europe, Four Seasons Hotel Budapest Gresham Palace, a stunning restoration of a former palace overlooking the Chain Bridge and the hills of Buda.

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We stopped in to listen to live music and have a cocktail on their new terrace and I must say I think the libation I found suited me to a T – the Señorita!

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We enjoyed a wonderful dinner of innovative contemporary takes on traditional Hungarian dishes at Tigris.  Did you know that Hungary is one of the world’s most important procurers of Foie Gras?  You are in for a treat! Here it is prepared four ways as my appetizer:

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Budapest by night truly takes your breath away!  Upon returning to the ship from dinner, the Crystal Mozart graciously sailed up and down the Danube for guests to gawk at the lights of Parliament, the Chain Bridge, and the many palaces and monuments completely restored and rebuilt after the Nazis and then the Communists left the country.

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What a magnificent trip with a great group of “Boat People!” Crystal, I will see you soon on the Rhine and the Main rivers, no doubt!  Well done!

Laura Madrid is an avid cruiser and can help you navigate the many ships and private yachts from the oceans, to the rivers, to the canals.  Read a bit more on options and climb aboard here!

Jamaica: Cherry oh Baby!

I had not been to Jamaica for 20 years and it was high time I checked back in! This island has an easy, happy and friendly vibe that encourages you to smile and let your hair down right away! Due to great air connectivity, we have families who rent fully staffed homes at Tryall Club and Round Hill year after year. It was wonderful for me to see some of the terrific homes and meet the lovely teams that take care of our clients! I also got the chance to travel to the north of the island and stay at the marvelous Golden Eye where Ian Fleming wrote all of his James Bond novels. After that, I headed up to the Blue Mountains where Jamaican coffee is grown and food is truly farm to table at the lovely Strawberry Hill. Jamaica Inn was also a real treat, a throw back to the glamorous 50’s and 60’s when every famous person vacationed here and likely sat at Teddy’s Bar with Teddy who still holds court!

Round Hill – Classic, elegant, old world

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Checking into Round Hill
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First sights of the Caribbean!
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Protected beach at Round Hill
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Water sports center at Round Hill
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The spa pool at Round Hill
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The iconic staff members, still in full coat and tie in the heat of the day
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Round Hill has lovely hotel rooms in addition to their special multi-room villas.
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Morning swim
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Shady reading spot!

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The villas at Round Hill are exceptionally well appointed and come with a dedicated staff during your stay. The below images are from one of their most luxurious villas – terrific for a large family or group of friends:

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Next stop, Tryall Club!

Tryall Club is a very large property with a wide range of fully staffed spectacular homes – each completely different in design and decor. When families return year-after-year it is often because of the staff whom they have grown to love!

Given the vast range of choices, it is important for me to speak to my clients about what style decor they enjoy – whether they are looking for more of a classic or contemporary feel.  All of the homes are completely unique in size and amenities. We visited several with gorgeous views, welcoming staff, and terrific amenities including private pools, tennis courts, and entertainment areas.  All guests staying at Tryall have access to the beach club, golf course, and tennis courts.

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Welcome to Half Moon

Half Moon is located just 10 minutes from the Montego Bay airport with a whirlwind of activities from golf, tennis, horseback riding, kids club, waters sports, fitness facilities, and many dining options. This property will appeal to families with varied interest and who want a lot of activities.

This is a very large resort spread out among many acres with varied options for hotel rooms, suites, and villas. The villa product is going to be more generic with hotel standard furnishings and art, not like an individually owned home. While the larger villas have many rooms, the public or shared entertainment space is not very large. Decent value but the decor will not wow those looking for a special home.

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Jamaica Inn

What a wonderful throwback to a glamorous era of travel! This historic and iconic property really has a sense of place and is full of tales of the storied cast of characters who have enjoyed this escape.

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Ocean Side Rooms are private and allow you to literally look over your balcony into the water
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Outdoor living space in many of the rooms is so charming and enjoyable.

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The main pool next to the croquet lawn and Teddy’s Bar.
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Here is Teddy himself who will make your a drink, sing you a song, and tell you about the heads of state and famous actors he has served drinks to for a half century at Jamaica Inn.
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The honeymoon villa is a stand alone unit
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I loved my beach front room
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My outdoor living area was my remote office during the day and cocktail lounge by night.
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My friend Teddy, always ready with a cocktail!

Jamaica is a study in contradictions – Rastafarian reggae meets elegant old world. It is not unusual for staff to be in coat and tie – expect guests to also step up their dress at the traditional old guard properties such as Jamaica Inn and Round Hill.

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The open air spa at Jamaica Inn – one of the best massages I have EVER had!

Golden Eye

Owned by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and the site where Ian Fleming wrote all of the James Bond novels, Golden Eye is the place that helps you understand Jamaica and all of the legends who celebrated life here during the 70s and 80s. And today it remains a relaxing haven of cool! Golden Eye is a rustic eco-chic retreat with terrific food and relaxation. No sport coat expected here!

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The private beach at the Ian Fleming Villa

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Welcome cocktail delivered to my cottage shortly after arrival
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Our Lagoon Cottage
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The newer beach huts are a more affordable option at Golden Eye

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Cocktail hour at Golden Eye with the fantastic GOLDEN EYE Rum cocktail and tasty organic appetizers – pumpkin seed dip and mango jerk chicken.

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Heading to the spa by kayak (you can swim there too!)
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Spaaaah bound!
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Beachside lunch and what else but Blackwell Rum!
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Glad this guy showed up to join me for a beach lunch and Blackwell Rum.
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We barely made it to the spa without capsizing our kayak
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The treatments were certainly a treat!

Strawberry Hill

Not many travelers go to Jamaica get up to the highlands but we wanted to visit the famous Blue Mountains in coffee country! We stayed at the ever so charming Strawberry Hill which is part of Island Outpost – the group that has Golden Eye.  This makes for a wonderful combination of coast and country!

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Our view of the lush valley and hills far above Kingston
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Charming bedroom

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The Main House with a wonderful restaurant
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Staying at Strawberry Hills feels like you are a guest in a great house from a bygone era.
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Gracious hospitality and always a rum in sight!
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Even in pouring rain, the views are stunning
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Strawberry Hill sits in the Blue Mountains overlooking Kingston
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Wonderful lunch on the porch
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Lamb and Goat
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Jamaican me happy, mon!

Strawberry Hill is not for the faint of heart, the roads leading up to the property are narrow and windy and in the rains can feel treacherous. I am glad we did not miss it though! Jamaica has soul and character and when visiting, I definitely suggest you get out and experience the land and the people rather than just staying resort bound. The people of Jamaica will raise your spirits from the start – a robust and confident smile – everything is going to be alright!

OREGON: Cycling, Wine & National Parks! (and beer too)

Oregon has been on my list of states to visit as long as I can remember, but nothing prepared me for the WOW factor I experienced at every level! “Oregrown” says it all, as just about everything is grown and sourced locally – from incredible wines (think Pinot Noir and Pinto Gris but don’t stop there), to local beers with brewery tours and tastings galore, to spectacular coffee and coffee shops on every corner (no, NOT Starbucks!). Foodies will be delighted by all the state has to offer! I loved the beautiful fresh produce, the pasture raised lamb and wagyu beef, and the local river and ocean fish – all served up at various creative eateries on little plates of happiness! I pulled together a group of dear friends for a week of cycling in the stunning Cascade mountains. We made our way from Bend to Crater Lake to Sisters all the while taking in the stunning mountains, lakes, and deserts in between. The trip started with some pre-cycling fun in the Willamette Valley and ended with a night at the très chic The Nines hotel in Portland. I can’t say enough about the experience, but I hope some of the photos from my handy iPhone will paint the picture!

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First beverages in the Willamette Valley
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Welcome to The Allison
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The Allison is a terrific Oregon wine country hotel
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The Jory restaurant at the Allison is a must do! (English Pea, crab meat, and crème fraîche soup)

Wine tasting in Willamette Valley is always a treat! We had an exceptional day meeting in the homes of small batch producers.

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The Barn at Carlton Hill
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David picked a stunning and fortuitous location to grow his grapes
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David Polite with Gil and Ryan
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Lynne and Steve looking great!
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The boys with our guide, John and owner and wine maker at Carlton Hills, David Polite.

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David serving his favorite Pinots and even opening some Reserves for us.
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Mo Ayoub in the Red Hills of Dundee share some of his gorgeous wines
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Ayoub was definitely one of this group’s favorite stops on the wine trail!
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Privé is a small family winery run by husband and wife team, Tina and Mark (and their kids!)
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Tina shared some delicious Pinots and other warmer climate varietals plus some great stories of how they got started and sourced their grapes!
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The ladies at Privé.

Onward to Bend to meet the rest of our group and start the cycling adventure with Backroads!

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Backroads is famous for their gorgeous daily picnics always set up in picturesque spots!
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Always healthful, delicious and local
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Jenna and Ryan suiting up for the first ride
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“Snackroads” always fuels everyone up for the ride…
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First day was a 25 mile ride with an optional climb of 3000 feet
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So happy to have made it to Crater Lake at 7000 feet!
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“Partners-in-climb” Leigh and Laura
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Well-deserved drinks! Ladies table at Crater Lake Lodge
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Cycling makes you really, really thirsty!
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After Dinner Drinks at the Lodge
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Good morning, Crater Lake!
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I love the roaring fire at the Crater Lake Lodge
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Mid June yet snow still everywhere, even closing some of the passes up to Crater Lake
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Deschutes, one of our favorite local beers!
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One of our super capable trip leaders, Ariel – A.K.A. Super Woman!
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Route Rap with our Trip Leaders
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Leigh
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At the end of Day 2 cycling – Gil, Lynne, Steve, Laura, Leigh, Chris Bo, Rachel and Chris Ba
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One last shot of Crater Lake – Sorry but so darn breathtaking!
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The Backroads van is always ready with a beer for our group after a long ride or hike!
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The girls goofing around in the snow!
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Last one, I promise – hiking the rim of Crater Lake.
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Oregon has so many gorgeous lakes, this one is Diamond Lake.

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Arriving into Bend after an epic 45 mile bike ride, first stop a brewery tour at the Deschutes Brewery.

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Gearing up for the day at our Snackroads table
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Fantastic coffee shops everywhere, this one was a winner! All local and organic!

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Checking into the Five Pine Lodge in Sisters, OR
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Heading to our cute individual cabins
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The Cabins at Five Pine Lodge
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All cleaned up and heading out to dinner in Sisters on our cruisers
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Ryan and Chris
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Even the Oatmeal is Oregrown – love it!
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Katie, our fabulous trip leader ready to ride with us
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Our other trip leader extra-ordinaire, Ariel
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Another wonderfully health picnic lunch
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Jenna and Gil Chilling after a ride
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Jenna and Ryan all cleaned up
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The ladies ready for final night dinner (yes the guys are here too!)
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Rachel and I hitting the town on our cruisers
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The ladies ROCKED IT!  Here is to fantastic Trip Leaders!
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Last day of riding through the gorgeous lava fields of the McKenzie Pass
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Chris, Rachel and Chris
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Gil loving the 20 mile down hill through McKenzie Pass

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Final Picnic with the crew – salmon in every way!
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Cold Local Beers – Gil, Ryan, Laura, Chris and Steve
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Well done, Katie, Ariel and Patrick!

Finally on to Portland for last night before the flight home……

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Checking in to our room at the stylish “The Nines” Hotel in Portland
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Sweet welcome amenity at The Nines
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Kushner’s and Madrid’s enjoying roof top cocktails at The Nines
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Drinks and dinner at the delicious “Tasty and Alder”
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Great trip, friends, wine, rides and view! Well played, Oregon, well played!

New Zealand – Luxury Lodges, Food, Wine, & Adventure

New Zealand has long been on my must do list! Each year, I send many clients to the North and South islands to explore beaches and mountains, quirky towns, the ancient Maori culture, breathtaking golf courses, and to experience dart boating, bungee jumping, hiking, fishing, kayaking, glacier climbs, heli-rides, and skiing. There are countless incredible, cozy lodges in which to unwind – each completely unique, with bespoke and customized service, staff, and setting that make you feel very much at home! I have at least a dozen favorite MUST DO places to suggest, but on this trip I will highlight the ones that I can. Keep in mind that when I plan your New Zealand holiday, providing as much lead time as possible will help me to get you in to the most sought after lodges in a nice flow from North to South or South to North with out too much zig–zagging. With less time, we may need to be more flexible on the routings. Either way, you will feel completely cared for. The gastronomic and wine options in New Zealand are very much worth the trip. Some consider New Zealand one big farm with spectacular beef and lamb dotting every hill, but the bountiful seafood all around and the award winning vineyards producing Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Shiraz (just to name a few) will keep you well-satiated throughout the journey!

I started my visit in the far north of the North Island in Kerikeri. After landing in Auckland, a short 35 minute flight whisked me up to the spectacular Bay of Islands and on to the famed Relais & Chateaux property, Kauri Cliffs.

The relaxing nature of this perfectly elegant and homey lodge in the tropical Northland was the perfect antidote to jet lag and a climatizing my southern blood to the cool climates of New Zealand.

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Arriving to the incredibly beautify, understated and elegant Kauri Cliffs.

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Welcome to Kauri Cliffs
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The style and design is understated and elegant – each furnishing and piece of art is worthy of a private collection.
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The golf and the views are certainly worthy, even if you will only bike ride or hike the course.
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The in-room bar and coffee set up is both functional and inviting. Homemade brownies in my jar mysteriously disappeared each day!
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I loved my little cottage.
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Heated floors, comfy tub, all perfect for the New Zealand weather.
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Welcome Home to Kauri Cliffs.
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Balcony with a view
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The Main house
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Pool and hot tub with a view.

Nothing like beating the first day’s jet lag with a picnic at the Pink Beach. What a feast complete with the incredible fish, vegetables and wines from the area!

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Now this is a welcome to the Pink Beach at Kauri Cliffs!

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Chef in waiting.
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Food for the soul!
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I am happy!
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Pink Beach

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No detail missed.
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Some of the best wines of the North Island.

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Cycling the golf course
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Chasing Sheep.
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The Spa
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and tennis
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Oh…. but the food is incredible!
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…and the wines always a treat!!
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Nothing makes me happier than waiting up to a fire, French pressed coffee and a home made brownie, all while still in my robe!

Today we head out to do some touring with a local Mauri (a Native Kiwi). We visited a Saturday Market which is the true gathering spot for the locals.IMG_0298IMG_0299IMG_0302

New Zealand Chocolate is some of the best!

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A historic government building from the Europeans who settled the area.

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Stunning water falls…
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The incredibly huge Kauri trees….

Dinner at Kauri Cliffs is served wherever you might like it. This evening in the library was definitely unforgettable!!  Feast your eyes…..

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Next stop to The Landing.

The homes on this spectacular setting are top quality craftsmanship with views to knock your socks off. This is a wonderful place for families who want to settled in with a chef, a wine maker, privacy, and activities-galore!

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Arriving to the landing

The first home we saw was the Boathouse – perfect for an active family on the beach. basketball court, multiple barbecue and entertainment spots, all the bells and whistles.

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This home is located overlooking the vineyard and the coast and has glass walls that open or close depending on the weather.  Loved the privacy and setting here!

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Finally, the creme de la creme was the main house with its own wine cellar, star gazing roof top, incredible indoor and outdoor public areas – this is the place for a big birthday celebration with friends or family!  WOW!

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The Landing has its own wine maker and all the wines are included in the price of your rental. We had a marvelous afternoon with the wine maker who admits that his wines are not where he wants them with such a young vineyard but each year we tried simply got better and better! No complaints whatsoever! Lovely!

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And the chef may have prepared the most healthful and flavorful meal of the week – that is saying something! It was SIMPLY Wow!

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What a delightful surprise to depart in such style after a lovely afternoon.

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Embarking on the Ata Rangi
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The Ata Rangi is something we can most definitely arrange for our clients – it is wonderful for day trips or overnight charters.

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Eagles Nest

We were guests in the 4 bedroom presidential villa, affectionately nicknamed by us as “Villa Rockstar” as that is how we felt staying here!

 

 

Helena Bay

It was a true WOW to be some of the first guests at Helena Bay. This over the top, no expense-spared resort is made up of five one-bedroom villas and approximately 50 staff.  The location alone is incredible with some of the most beautiful and private beaches in the world and a working farm.

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Cocktails on the lawn
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The range of toys and equipment available is mind blowing and always TOP QUALITY! Fun to explore on 4 wheelers, mountain bikes, paddle boards or your own two feet!

 

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Mr. Ian Swain living it up with the ladies! Love this guy!
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The amount of original and special art throughout the property is over-whelming!

The food is all grown on the farm – livestock, produce, fruit – and only what is needed beyond that is imported. The chef is from Don Alfonso in the Amalfi coast and his whole concept of cooking is SIMPLICITY – let the flavor of the product shine through on its own! Wow, did we eat the most gorgeous foods and chef was right!

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Today we toured the grounds – visiting the sheep, cows, and gardens! Truly incredible to see how a farm is run and to be able to enjoy the fruits of it all with a cooking class!

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The service at Helena Bay is mind blowing! 50 employees take care of up to 10-14 guests tops!  They do not miss a beat, know your preferences, and can not do enough for you!

One more delicious dinner…..

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All good things must come to and end….but not really – how about being picked up by the fastest and sleekest helicopter operating in New Zealand? I am most definitely up for it!  This shaved off a 3 hour drive to the Auckland airport.  We definitely suggest at least a heli or two for our clients. The best way to set up a golf trip of New Zealand is via helicopter – heli-golf anyone?

Our views from Helena Bay all the way to Auckland are below…

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From the airport we departed Auckland on the North Island bound for the South Island and marvelous Queenstown, Adventure Capital of the World!

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There are many wonderful places to stay in the Queenstown area. The question is do you prefer to stay outside the city in a stunning lodge immersed in nature or inside the city in a chic hotel within walking distance to all?

Matakauri Lodge – Stunning!!

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Next stop Blanket Bay – New Zealand’s Ultimate Alpine Escape! Cozy, comfortable, and quite possibly perfect!

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Off on a heli-glacier ride and landing –

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Jet boating on the Dart River –

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For those wanting to be in the wonderful city center of Queenstown, THE place to stay is Eicharts Private Hotel which is walking distance to everything, but chic enough to not want to leave! Eicharts Private Hotel has nearby wonderful residences and a terrific sister hotel – The Spire Hotel.  Just outside of town in a lovely residential neighborhood, we love Azur Lodge.

Quaint shops, fun restaurants and live music await those who chose an in-town location.

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A couple of shots of the fabulous Eicharts Private Hotel –

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The ultimate thrill, Bungee jumping.  Believe me, this was not planned nor ever even remotely on my radar, but as they say, “When in Rome….do as the Romans do!” Or in this case, do as the Kiwis! How could I resist when I got to personally meet the co-founder of Bungee jumping and being at the exact spot of the original Bungee jump – the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown.

It is completely exhilarating and I am still pinching myself.  I did it! Check!

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Farewell, New Zealand! I will absolutely with out question return! One of my most favorite trips and places ever.  Your kindness, hospitality, and genuine love of life shines through! As you say,  “Sweet As!”

If you have a minute and 44 seconds, check out my epic jump video – still makes my hands sweat!

 

 

Exploring the Yucatan Peninsula: Glorious Haciendas & Mayan Culture

Traveling to the Yucatan peninsula is such a short journey but feels like a million miles away! Flights into Merida are currently non-stop from Houston, Miami, and Mexico City. I enjoyed an unplanned stopover in one of my favorite food cities in the world: Mexico City.

I took advantage of this quick stop to check into the gorgeous boutique property, Las Alcobas which has its own fantastic restaurant on property and a renowned restaurant near by.

Anatol Restaurant is a seasonal, consciously-sourced, ingredient-driven restaurant. The menu consists of composed small plates, presented in a social and casual environment. Renowned Chef Justin Ermini has assembled a menu that is ideal for those seeking a laid back dining experience with a touch of Italian influence. Anatol’s contemporary and fresh environment amplifies the passion its food inspires.

Dulce Patria, directed by talented Chef Martha Ortiz, is a 90 seat, high energy venue that has redefined the Mexican dining experience. The menu is comprised of traditional plates reinterpreted in a modern context, set in a lively, stylish and urban environment. The restaurant boasts two terraces that give the inside of the restaurant a serene, spacious and open-air feel.

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As we arrived very late into the city, we walked a block down to Pastor for some truly delicious tacos!

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The next morning we arrived into Merida and were met by our driver for our drive through the beautiful remote and ancient villages of the Yucatan and to our first Hacienda visit.

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Welcome to Hacienda Tixnuc! Truly built in the ruins of this old Hacienda. Romantic and authentic with modern Air-Conditioned rooms.

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The Master bedroom is especially spacious and lovely!

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Every little snack is a surprise and a treat.
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This simple and delicious and healthy little snack is served all the time – jicama, cucumber, mango with lime and a chile citric spice! Love it!

Hacienda Tamchen was an absolute favorite for me. This 4 bedroom home has a massive master suite and two additional modern suites plus a fabulous bedroom with views in the main house. The suites are so large and set up to easily accommodate a family of 4 who would like to share an accommodation or wonderfully spacious just for a couple.  Ideal hacienda for a couples trip or several families sharing.

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The pool is surrounded by a lily pond
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Just the place for an after lunch nap
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Looking back at the main house
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The suites have a king bed on one side….
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….and a spot for two kids on the other
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One of the two modern suite additions
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Lunch time on the terrace

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View from the suite in the main house
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This is a sweet room with a bit of a view of the grounds
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What a delightful surprise to have a cold mini-coronita waiting for me.
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Expect homemade tortillas at every meal
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The meals are always creative and locally sourced – this is a cucumber stuffed with a pumpkin seed puree!
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Delicious frijoles at nearly every meal
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Wonderful Yucatan products
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One of the many Cathedrals and churches throughout the region

Next was Hacienda Itzincab Camara, which boasts 14 bedrooms – five in the main house and eight in the original hacienda outbuildings.  I fell in love with this dramatic property: its gardens, pools, and very own Mayan pyramid!

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The lovely team here was so welcoming!
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Always a delicious welcome drink and cold towel
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The indoor and outdoor public areas
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The natural gardens throughout are stunning!
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One of three swimming pools
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Two Bedrooms in the former Stables
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One bedroom is in the charming school house

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My room is in the Secret Garden – I love it!
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Morning bird watching with our absolutely wonderful guide!

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A breakfast surprise
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I love huevos motulenos for breakfast!
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My room is called the Secret Garden – so romantic!

Today we head out to explore the area:

First we are led on a private tour of Uxmal, the largest of the sites famed for their elaborate Puuc-style architecture, whose principal buildings are aligned to observe astronomical events. We visited the Pyramid of the Magician and the Palace of the Governor—two of the finest pre-Hispanic Mexican structures in existence—as well as the Nunnery Quadrangle and the House of the Turtles.IMG_4014IMG_4025

In the afternoon – another WOW experience that we can’t wait to plan for our next clients visiting the Yucatan. Hacienda Xocnaceh—a private & exclusive property is something unique. At its zenith, Xocnaceh produced cattle and henequen, the “green gold” that brought tremendous wealth to the Yucatán in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After a visit to the pyramids, we were surprised and delighted with a  delicious lunch served in the chapel ruins!

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Oh my, what have we come upon…

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…a jungle affair prepared just for us!
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Bienvenidos!
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“Jungle love, its driving me mad, its making me crazy!” – well they were not playing that, but these musicians made my heart sing.
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Perspective!
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That is my kind of quesadilla!
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Can you name these local fruits?

After a wonderful night’s sleep, I awake to birds singing and wandered in the main house early in search of a coffee. The team informs me that this morning coffee is served at the top of the pyramid (which sits incredibly just adjacent to the main house).

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Out is 7am and the Pyramid climb awaits!
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Oh the details and the view at the top. I imagined what the Mayans felt and saw.
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Indeed worth the trip up – strong and lovely brewed coffee!

This morning as we set out for our next adventure we came upon another simply magnificent restored hacienda. We saw it being prepared for a jet setter wedding from abroad. I envisioned so many over the top parties being held here! We can absolutely help! My iPhone pictures won’t do justice so I won’t try but if you are looking for a truly singular experience ask me about Hacienda Tekik de Regil.

IMG_4083Next I had the privilege of visiting the new Chable Wellness Resort and Spa. I have been talking about it incessantly since its debut and finally got a peek. The groups and buildings are very special, and the spa and wellness regimes are completely customized. It is a first class resort to relax at while visiting the area, but it’s also an excellent destination spa to completely focused on well being. Like all of the properties I am highlighting in this blog, it is a former hacienda with a rich story.  The restoration and modern additions are gorgeous!

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The modern bar
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The welcoming terrace

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Their villas are designed for maximum relaxation and boast spectacular jungle views, indoor and outdoor showers, and a private pool. It also features a signature restaurant by Jorge Vallejo, one of the most prominent chefs in Mexico, where we’ll taste their specialties.

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The entrance to the ruins of the Presidential Suite

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Of course the spa is a significant part of the experience and the resort:

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One of the main pools and restaurants….where we enjoyed lunch

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The largest tequila selection in the world!

Since the Spanish conquest, Mérida has been the cultural capital of the entire Yucatán Peninsula. At times provincial, at others ‘muy cosmopolitano,’ it is a town steeped in colonial history, with narrow streets, broad central plazas and the region’s best museums and restaurants.  Many consider Merida the new San Miguel de Allende where artists, free spirits, and those looking for something different are settling.

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