Camdeboo National Park

The Valley of Desolation, limitless space, rock formations up to 120 m tall, deep breaths of fresh Karoo air… Hang on, we’re getting ahead of ourselves! This is how you’ll end your perfect day in the Camdeboo National Park. To start your day, get to the main gate off the N9 when it opens at 6.30am.The park curls around Graaff-Reinet and has several entrances. At reception at the main gate, get a key for the Kroonvale gate in the eastern part of the park. Then drive the Driekoppe 4×4 Trail. You can do the trail in a 2×4, but during the rainy season you’ll need a vehicle with a high ground clearance.

Keep your eyes peeled for Cape mountain zebra, mountain reedbuck and klipspringer on your way to the Waaihoek picnic site, which has a great view of the Camdeboo plains. Settle down around a picnic table and unpack your coffee flask and sandwiches. From here, drive down a gorge called Diepkloof and exit the park at the Lootsfontein gate. There’s no restaurant in the park for lunch, but there are plenty in Graaff-Reinet – and you have to drive through town anyway. Our pick is Polka Cafe for lamb cutlets with potato chips and vegetables.

Camdeboo National Park

Camdeboo National Park

Now go back into the park at the main gate and remember to drop off your key. Drive past the statue of Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius and explore the network of game-viewing roads (about 20 km in total). Look for flamingos and secretary birds east of Nqweba Dam. There aren’t any predators in the park, but you’ll be able to take photos of buffalo, gemsbok, eland, springbok and red hartebeest.

Around 4 pm, it’s time to head to the Valley of Desolation. This gate is about 5 km from town next to the R63 towards Murraysburg. Follow the winding road for 9 km to the parking area and walk the easy Crag Lizard Trail (1,5 km) to the viewpoints, overlooking the famous dolerite pillars, estimated to have been formed about 100 million years ago. Sit on a rock at sunset and let the silence of the Camdeboo whisper to you.

How to get there? The park is just outside Graaff-Reinet, about 250 km north of Port Elizabeth.

Gate times: 6.30 am to 7 pm.

Danube’s Gems Aboard a Fancy River Cruises

The Viking Tor swiftly glided through the river. It was smooth sailing down the Danube as my husband and I sat on our balcony, watching the ever- changing vistas of castles, churches and small European villages pass by. Centuries of history now became part of my memory as I thought about the thousands of vessels that sailed the same routes.

 Each day was a new adventure

viking-oden

Cruising down the Danube with Viking

Our eight-day journey on The Danube Waltz started in Passau, Germany with stops in Linz, Melk, Durnstein and Vienna, Austria; Bratislava, Slovak Republic; and ended with three days in Budapest, Hungary. This is the beauty of river cruising – the opportunity to visit so many lovely cities, towns and countries but unpack only once. Viking created a masterful experience – from the first-class surroundings to the exquisite dining to the port stops to the evening entertainment. The ship had only four decks with 190 passengers, creating a truly intimate setting. With open seating at every meal, guests had a chance to meet in a relaxed, casual atmosphere. Perhaps that’s why so many guests re-book for future cruises. Upon talking to others, I discovered many of them have sailed on several Viking cruises and felt the line offered an extraordinary experience and outstanding value.

castle-austria

Schloss Schönbühel, a private castle on the Danube River – Austria

 Dining and entertainment

The chef-inspired meals were a delectable combination of local cuisine paired with wines as well as more traditional culinary choices. Guests could dine in the main dining room or the Aquavit Terrace for lighter fare with great views. The highlight  was the Taste of Austria menu that featured authentic Austrian cuisine from hot pretzels with dipping sauces to hearty stews and pastries, and of course, beer! Servers were dressed in leather breeches or lederhosen, while an accordion player and his band entertained with festive tunes.

viking-taste-of-austria

Guests enjoy the Taste of Austria onboard Viking Tor

Every night, Viking offered another enrichment program, ranging from a lecture, live chamber music, opera, to folk dancing, to enhance guests’ cultural understanding of the ports.

 Exciting ports with local guides

Having cruised on ocean liners before, I had not come to expect complimentary excursions. But Viking includes a local excursion at almost every port, giving guests the opportunity to engage with a knowledgeable tour guide whose commentary enhanced our understanding of history and culture. Indeed, there was ample time to explore the cities on our own or choose from optional excursions like expansive city highlights, home visits, winery tours and classical concerts.

 Austria comes alive

melk-abbey

The exquisite Melk Abbey is an included excursion aboard the Viking Tor

In Linz, we set off for an all-day excursion to the Bohemian town of Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. We toured the castle, walked around the main square filled with Renaissance buildings and enjoyed a lunch of wild mushroom soup and goat cheese salad. When we returned, we walked around Linz and discovered works of painter Gustav Klimt (most famous for The Kiss and The Woman in Gold) in every shop window and imprinted on every imaginable souvenir.

With a stop at the 900-year- old Melk Abbey, we explored the famous site of this Benedictine Monastery, still in use today. I admired the frescoes, courtyards and medieval manuscripts and yes, the 365 windows in this splendid treasure.

West Coast National Park

Postberg is open! The wildflowers in this special section of the park attract thousands of visitors during August and September. Come early and enter the park at the main gate on the R27. Follow signs to Kraalbaai, about 20 km away. On the way there, turn off to the viewpoint overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Have coffee and sandwiches at Kraalbaai and look out over the turquoise water that laps against green hills in the distance. Houseboats and yachts bob in the bay and it’s easy to imagine that you’re on a tropical island – if the water weren’t so cold!

Postberg

Postberg

Walk along the beach to the Preekstoel rock formation, which looks like a pulpit. Spend some time here if you want to, but make sure you get to Postberg by 9 am. You’ll see eland and springbok grazing in fields of yellow, orange and white daisies and maybe even a bat-eared fox darting across the road. Once you’ve driven all the roads in the Postberg section, pull over at Plankiesbaai. Stretch your legs and walk up the hill for a view of the pristine beach below. If you do the two-day Postberg hike, this is where you’ll spend the night.

For lunch, visit the park’s Geelbek restaurant. The bobotie is delicious. End your day at the Seeberg viewpoint on the eastern shore of the lagoon, where the wildflowers are just as pretty as they are in Postberg. On a clear day you can see Table Mountain in the distance. The Langebaan gate is beckoning – as is the road home -but give yourself an extra few minutes to soak up the view of the peaceful lagoon.

How to get there? The park is about 120 km north of Cape Town.

Gate times: 7 am to 7 pm. Postberg is only open during August and September, from 9 am to 5 pm.

Fake Big-Brands Products Are Everywhere in Canal Street, Chinatown – New York

The heart of Chinatown, Canal Street is hectic with pedestrian traffic and vociferous street vendors. It has long been the place to go for counterfeit designer products, but a police crackdown has cut down on the number of knockoff handbags, watches, jewelry, and shades displayed in the open on this crowded street. Customers are not at risk of arrest, but vendors are. Still, it hasn’t dissuaded intrepid salespeople from reaching out to tourists who crowd the street in the afternoons and on weekends – they’ve simply become stealthier.

canal-street-fakes

Some fake bags, but they’re still looking good

If you’re looking for a fake designer accessory, watch for men on street corners with wallet-size plastic catalogs of product photos. Then, either they’ll lead you down the back stairwell of a store, or around a corner to another address. What happens afterwards is not for the faint of heart: you’ll be taken into rooms that may then be locked behind you. Spread out on the floor will be a selection of faux brand-name accoutrements to choose from – Gucci, Cartier, Prada – you name it, there’s a fake for it.

Alternatively, locate one of the minivans parked just off Canal Street, used by mobile vendors who are ready to move on at the slightest sign of police activity.

How to shop for a fake

  • Don’t be afraid to haggle, especially if you’re buying more than one item
  • Do your research on the latest trends before you buy if you don’t want an out-of-date fake
  • If you don’t see what you want, ask. Chances are someone will have it ‘in stock’.
  • Be sure to look carefully at the items, and look for shoddy workmanship like zippers that don’t close, or seams that aren’t sewn together correctly.
  • Remember to carry cash, but not too much, as visible wads won’t help in your negotiations
  • Avoid buying pirated DVDs – usually shot by home video cameras in theaters and terrible quality.

Tasting The Delicacies of Shilin Night Market – Taipei

My first memory of Taipei as a young girl of 11 back in 1990, was of a noodle stall down the street from my Grandma’s apartment. I was just a kid, so it was cheap. I had a couple of coins in my pocket and was alone with my younger brother, so I had no parents or relatives to fund my meal. This wasn’t my first time visiting Taipei, but it was my first time venturing on the streets alone. I felt excited, empowered and, most of all, hungry.

My plan was to wander up and down the winding alleys, exploring all that Taipei’s street food scene had to offer, but I was stopped cold by the gratifying smell of my favorite childhood noodle dish oamisoir, also known as oyster vermicelli. Twenty cents (USD) bought one steaming hot bowl of this briny, umami bomb.

Oamisoir is a thick and deliciously unctuous dish featuring thin rice noodles, oysters and chopped intestines, if you are lucky. These days, many authentic Taiwanese eateries in San Gabriel Valley, California offer oamisoir, but nothing has ever beat that 20-cent bowl from my childhood.

On my most recent trip to Taipei, I was already planning my menu on my airplane ride, somewhere miles above the Pacific. After all, how often do I get to taste the food of my parents’ homeland? It had been five years since I had returned home.

One might point out that there is plenty of Taiwanese food near where I live in Los Angeles. But I would counter that the boba shops don’t even get the boba right! The boba in the States is quite chewy, even at the top-rated teahouses, while the boba you get in Taiwan is meltingly soft like the softest mochi you’ve ever encountered.

I was ready to stuff myself with shaved ice, Din Tai Fung, Taiwanese breakfast, bubble tea and more. I wanted it all, and my newly exchanged NT was burning a hole through my wallet.

We hit the streets of Shilin Night Market that first night in Taipei. Having just eaten airplane and airport food for the last 20 hours, walking into the din and aromas of the Shilin Night Market was intoxicating.

 

I was somehow able to scarf down crispy, burning hot stinky tofu, Hot-Star fried chicken the size of my head and a boba milk tea within what seemed like five minutes of stepping into this food heaven. I was ready for more. I had only spent mere pocket change at that point. My fingers glistened with oil, and the essence of popcorn chicken lingered in my mouth. I slurped down an oyster omelet and chomped on tiny soft- shell sea crabs. I was happy.

The Shilin Night Market is one of the most famous street food destinations in the world. It’s been covered on Anthony Bourdain’s “The Layover” and features over 500 vendors. It’s by far the largest night market in Taiwan, so you shouldn’t leave the country before spending a night there. Here are just a handful of the street foods that you must try when you visit Shilin Night Market.

Old-World-Style Superyacht Through Eastern Indonesia

The heat in southern Indonesia is unyielding, even in April. It hangs on you, becomes a permanent state. The nights, however, are soft and sweet, and it’s on such an evening that I’m standing on a pristine beach at Pulau Muang, in Komodo National Park, watching what feels like the world’s most remote soccer match. It’s a casual pickup game between two teams of blue-shirted crew members from Dunia Barn, the wooden yacht I’ve spent the last week on, sailing through West Nusa Tenggara. The game features quick, scrambling legs, stray driftwood fashioned into goalposts, and frequent yelps of laughter. Someone scores, but I hear it more than see it, as I’m caught trying to fully digest the happy scene: Key lime-colored peaks in the distance, low-hanging clouds, the cinnamon glow of the players’ arms in the fading sun, the cool sand.

Komodo-National-Park

Komodo National Park

Later that night, after a beach bonfire and a barbecue fit for a visiting dignitary-buttery Kobe steaks expertly grilled on a hibachi—Dunia Barn’s owner, Mark Robba, is jonesing for fireworks. Fifty feet or so down the beach, the same crew I’d watched curl corner kicks are bent over on the sand, lighting rockets that hiss into the sky and explode in bursts of red, yellow, and white, sizzling down toward the sea and illuminating the boat—strong lined and bold masted—anchored in a cove like some kind of pirate ship. After the fireworks come the Chinese wishing lanterns, dozens of them, ignited by blowtorch and sent soaring out over this tiny island like dreams, until they vanish, snuffed out among the milky stars.

My arrival in Indonesia had felt no less otherworldly. After nearly a decade of grief and reconciliation, I’d begun, several weeks before, digging into the circumstances surrounding my father’s 2005 death—he jumped from a bridge and drowned in the sea. I’d made plans to return to Maine, where I’d grown up: I’d sent emails and made phone calls to my father’s lawyer, ex-wives, family friends, and old drinking buddies, gathering information about his life. I’d recovered a lockbox with his watch and his wedding ring, and a former roommate of mine had shown up in New York with childhood mementos I’d left in his attic after college. Everything was coming up Dad. In a final stroke of mystical interference, I accepted an assignment to sail seven days with Robba, his family, and a few friends, roughly 300 miles to Komodo National Park from Bali, the tropical island paradise where my now-expat stepbrother, Alex, had moved four years earlier. Our parents’ divorce and my father’s death had splintered communication between us, but he offered to let me stay at his villa. We would talk.

“The locals avoid this pi ace after dark,” Dunia Baru’s Swiss cruise director, Sebastien, tells me as we hoist my luggage from a taxi at the beach in Serangan. It is my first night in Southeast Asia, and the mist hangs like a shroud. He explains that many Indonesians believe in ghosts, spirits of the dead that can take possession of living people, driving them mad. After a week spent poring over photo albums, letters, and other Dad-related ephemera, I can understand the concern. We load my things onto a tender and zip out to the yacht, which is massive and lit up with blue LEDs. In the blackness it looks like a floating nightclub. Onboard, Robba has waited up, nursing brown liquid in a mason jar.

Serangan

Serangan

A New England salt, he spent his childhood summers on Cape Cod and began sailing in his teens. He skippered a yawl during college and moved to Indonesia in 1998, where he bought a glove factory and made his fortune. He began construction on Dunia Barn in 2006, and after seven and a half years of commuting from Jakarta by plane, river speedboat, and over ragged roads to the boatbuilding site on Borneo to check on the progress, he had a 167-foot wooden phini-si—a modern superyacht in an old-world shell. He also had a retirement plan. “That was the idea,” he says. “The boat being a way to force me away from the business, to pass it down to my son, to get out here and enjoy the ocean with my family.”

My bed in the master suite is big and soft, but the sea is unforgiving that first night; motoring east from Bali to Lombok, waves beat against the hull. My sleep is agitated. “Top five roughest nights on the boat I’ve seen,” Robba’s 31-year-old daughter, Courtney, chuckles the next morning at breakfast, unfazed. We’re sipping tea on the plush aft deck, surrounded by the calmest, most glasslike water—as if the recently thrashing ocean had been playing a practical joke. Over Robba’s shoulder, his five-year-old son, Colby, constructs a makeshift fort out of throw pillows, diving gleefully beneath them when Dad looks his way. In the pink predawn, a towering volcano, Mount Rinjani, spits fat, benign clouds into the blue sky. The silence brilliant, broken only occasionally by cries of the fishermen who orbit us, the outriggers of their pump boats like mantis legs spread out over the sea.

Over the week, we will sail through some of Southeast Asia’s most stunning landscapes. Sitting on the bow of the boat, it’s possible to imagine slack-jawed early-i6th-century Portuguese sailors setting eyes on the place for the first time: limitless stretches of cerulean water; pristine reefs with whales, manta rays, and tropical fish; jungle forests and pink sand beaches framed by craggy mountain switchbacks; and lakes cut by tectonic plates, tsunamis, and glaciers. It’s a place so rich with natural wonder that sighting “breakfast dolphins’’ becomes something I expect alongside poached eggs and avocado.

indonesia

Indonesia boat

Excursions begin the same way each day on Dunia Barn, with Sebastien nervously checking his watch. “We’d better be going,” he’ll say, with just a trace of a singsongy French accent. The anemic farming outpost we’re touring on morning three is a shake-your-head contrast to the five-star flavor of the boat. But its beauty is a more organic kind of astounding: Within 50 yards of the beach we notice that what had appeared to be only a smattering of sand dunes is actually dozens of grazing, chomping cows. In an open hut, a few aging herdsmen in flip-flops sit nursing their cigarettes in the shade, and a cluster of women in hijabs smile self-consciously through broken teeth. The smoke from small trash fires hangs in a hazy layer over the beach, and rickety wooden dwellings, connected by crisscrossing laundry lines, hunch in the high grass. We walk the beach silently, in awe or reverence—something about the austerity of the place borrows your breath.

On Rinca, villagers contend regularly with carnivorous lizards known as Komodo dragons. A trip to relieve myself in the bush requires a chaperone wielding a pitchfork-like stick, and when we spot a 10-foot turtle-like reptile lurking in a nearby graveyard, I am grateful for the escort. Catching my surprise, Sebastien quickly Googles “Komodo dragon attack” and laughs from his belly as I watch on his smartphone, horrified, while the creature disembowels a goat.

Then on Komodo, we encounter a decidedly different scene: beaming schoolchildren in green-and-gold uniforms lined up on the dock to ferry newly delivered desks and chairs to their island classroom. The mood couldn’t be higher. Eager to practice their English, they chirp at us: “Miss!” they shout “Hey, mister!” They wave in unison from the dock, lit up by sunshine, as we retreat back to our big wooden ship.

Travel Back In Time to Australia’s Norfolk Island

Marie Bailey never met the grandmother who finally made it ashore on Norfolk Island in 1856 after a gruelling month at sea.

By the time Marie was born on 28 November 1926, by now a second generation Norfolk Islander, her gran had been dead four years.

Yet it’s her grandmother’s impressive migration story – and the story of 193 people who travelled with her from Pitcairn Island to Norfolk – that Marie, now retired, spent a lifetime retelling as one of Norfolk’s earliest tour operators.

Not only is it a family story dear to her heart, says Marie, during my three-day hosted tour of Norfolk, it’s also a story that gives outsiders a window into the latest chapter of Norfolk Island’s rich social history.

The Amazing Transformation Of New York’s Finger Lakes

“This is why we are here”, says Susan Higgins, standing amid yellow wildflowers and pinot noir vines on a ridge overlooking Cayuga Lake. In the shade of a maple tree, she’s showing me the hunks of limestone she and her husband, Tom, pulled from the ground. A huge vein of the stuff, deposited here roughly 400 million years ago, balances the pH of the soil—and makes it possible to coax quality fruit from their three-and-a-half acres despite Upstate New York’s reputation for brutal winters and a short growing season. The Higginses, whose Heart & Hands Wine Company released its first vintage in 2006 and who are now some of the region’s most lauded winemakers, were onto something.

New York City

New York City

There’s a special alchemy to this place, where rolling hills frame glacial lakes, clear streams carve deep gorges through the shale, and plucky, self-reliant entrepreneurs are turning what was a Rust Belt backwater into one of the country’s most appealing summertime destinations. At a time when everyone seems to have their own short list of restaurants in Mexico City and their favorite hotel in Tokyo, the hidden-in-plain-sight Finger Lakes remain largely undiscovered, a 14-county sweep of forests and farmland, four to five hours northwest of New York City by car.

The 11 long, skinny lakes, formed by advancing glaciers 2 million years ago, don’t just inspire the name but dictate the slow, rural pace of life. There are no bridges or ferries crossing the lakes, so you always seem to be driving the long way around. Not that you’ll mind: When I first started coming here, as a college student, my buddies and I would set out from Rochester with a cooler of cheese and charcuterie, and buy a few bottles of wine at whatever vineyard had a picnic table set out. Back in those pre-Sideways, pre-social-media days, tasting rooms were little more than a corner of a bam where someone had slapped a piece of lumber over two old barriques, and you could get a flight of pours for a dollar or two, or maybe for nothing at all if you promised to tell your friends to visit.

Keuka Lake

Keuka Lake

In the 15 or so years since, the fresh-from-the-farm vibe has remained largely the same, but the wine has vastly improved. “The region is more exciting than it’s ever been,” says Thomas Pastuszak, the wine director at the No Mad Hotel in New York City, who started making his own label, Empire Estate, in the region in 2014, collaborating with Kelby Russell, a winemaker at Red Newt Cellars. “There’s a push in quality that the region’s never really seen before,” Pastuszak adds. You find it at Bloomer Creek Vineyard, where husband-and-wife team Kim Engle and Debra Bermingham pour electric single-vineyard whites and Bordeaux-inspired reds in a tiny tasting room you’d drive right past if you didn’t know to look for it. At Boundary Breaks, a small-batch producer run by Bruce Murray, who used to host tastings in his own kitchen, they’ve just built a new space overlooking Seneca Lake, where you can geek out on clone-specific rieslings. And at Shaw Vineyard, where the wood-beamed tasting room is still as lo-fi as they come, owner Steve Shaw is making outre orange wines and seriously good cabernet sauvignon.

Yet as far as the wines have come, the true appeal of the Finger Lakes is that its small towns retain their white-picket-fence “Norman Rockwell-painting” feel, as bartender and manager Matt Stevenson puts it over lunch at Fargo Bar & Grill, the wood-paneled pub not far from Heart & Hands in the tiny town of Aurora, on Cayuga Lake. The ethos of the village owes largely to Pleasant Rowland, who graduated from Wells College, the 6oo-student school here, and went on to sell her American Girl empire to Mattel for a reported $700 million. She’s since spent a healthy chunk of that to convert several historic buildings into the Inns of Aurora, a network of guesthouses.

Dinner at Le Café Cent-Dix in Ithaca

Dinner at Le Café Cent-Dix in Ithaca

(My favorite is Rowland House, which feels more like the lakeside retreat of a lovable eccentric great-aunt than a stilted B&B.) Skaneateles, a tidy lakeside village with a gazebo bandstand at waterfront Clift Park is another holdover from the LeaveItto Beaver era: Pontoon boats and Chris-Craft bowriders tie up at the municipal dock the soft-serve machines at Doug’s Fish Fry whir afternoon; and local institutions like Sherwood Inn serve (thankfully) updated versions of country-club cuisine—shrimp cocktail, Yankee pot roast, big Bloody Marys—to locals dressed head to toe in Syracuse University gear. It’s the sort of place where you’ll find a dinghy regatta underway, though most people won’t care much who wins, as long as the race is over in time for Gibsons at The Krebs, an ambitiously formal restaurant that’s been here, in one location or another, since 1899.

For all the nostalgia, though, the Finger Lakes are today at an inflection point that felt almost unimaginable back when my friends and I were in college, renting ramshackle share cottages on the waterfront. We’d spend the mornings hiking through the region’s state parks, like Watkins Glen (with its 19 waterfalls) or Taughannock Falls (with its impressive Gorge Trail), before an afternoon of swigging riesling and fishing, at dusk, from a beat-up aluminum Jon boat. “It’s always been a good place for outdoor activities, for camping, for summering,” says Pastuszak, “but it was less accessible before-people didn’t know what to look for. Social media has helped a lot.” That’s enabled not just winemakers but chefs, distillers, innkeepers, craftspeople, and designers to connect with bigger markets—and lure more tourists than ever to places like Geneva, a small town at the north end of Seneca Lake, where, Pastuszak says, “Linden Street has blown up and become this little restaurant alley.” It’s now getting a national profile thanks in large part to FLX Table, an innovative, almost-experimental restaurant that opened in 2016.

One warm summer evening last September, Christopher Bates was there in his open kitchen, wearing his chef’s whites and a topknot, prepping a one-night-only tasting menu of dishes like an “uber-BLT” (a deconstructed version made with local tomatoes, corn, and lamb bacon) and “lots of duck,” which is exactly what it sounds like. His wife, Isabel Bogadtke, in a gingham floral-print shirt, was handling the wines, which are drawn from a wildly deep cellar and served by the ounce with a Coravin that makes possible pairings like one I had, a 1981 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses with a course of potato raclette. But as good as the food is, the most remarkable thing about FLX Table is its vibe: on trend without being trendy, interesting without being overdone, ambitious without being pretentious.

Waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park

Waterfalls at Watkins Glen State Park

There are just 12 seats, all of them around a farmhouse table, so I ended up sharing the meal with a group of staffers gearing up for the school year at Geneva’s Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and a couple from nearby Hornell, New York, out on what, thanks to the seating arrangements, must’ve started as one of their more peculiar dates. But when the first pours of riesling arrived, and the crudites—a riot of local peppers, squash, beans, and berries—hit the table, we all fell into easy conversation. It’s supposed to feel like a dinner party, Bogadtke says. “That’s why we have these mismatched chairs. When you go to someone’s place, they’ve always got an odd chair.” It was the sort of night you could only have here, where nothing much changes and yet things are getting better all the time.

Malibu Beach Inn: Wild Waves & Stellar Amenities

Kauai’s Chelsea Yamase travels the world as a professional athlete and writer. When she was invited to spend a weekend at Malibu Beach Inn, California’s iconic boutique beach resort and a 2017 Hot List winner, she soaked up the chic design and breathtaking surroundings. ‘Traveling has taught me so many things. There’s always something to explore,’ says adventurer Chelsea Yamase. When she arrived at Malibu Beach Inn, she felt invigorated by the coastally inspired yet distinctly modern aesthetic.

Each of the 47 rooms features a private balcony above Carbon Beach, tile showers, and luxury details. Guests are also a mere five-minute walk to the Malibu Pier and hiking trails. Chelsea reveled in the idea she would be waking up to the waves and ending each day with sunset yoga. ‘l grew up on an island so being surrounded by water is important to me,’ she says.

Malibu-Beach-Inn-Room

When Chelsea wasn’t exploring the beaches and mountains, she indulged in the Mediterranean-inspired fare at the hotel’s Carbon Beach Club. ‘Malibu has a food culture that feels very health conscious,’ she says. ‘It has a wellness aspect that I wasn’t expecting.’ Chelsea also made a point to explore Malibu’s boutiques, as well as the shops of Santa Monica. ‘Besides the view and location, I think my favorite part of staying at the Malibu Beach Inn has been the way that it makes me feel.’ Chelsea says. ‘It’s so peaceful’.

Bordeaux River Cruise Offers You Beautiful French Experiences

Bordeaux — a name synonymous with fine wines — is a port city on the Garonne River in southwest France. Vineyards first planted here by Romans more than 2000 years ago “seeded” and shaped the city’s economic and cultural identity over centuries. Bordeaux’s location near the Gironde estuary (the largest estuary in Europe) proved ideal for the growth of the wine trade, offering easy access to the Atlantic Ocean.

vineyard-of-bordeaux

Vineyard of Bordeaux in Autumn

Due to its unique mix of history, geography and terroir, the surrounding region (also named Bordeaux) now houses more than 8,000 wine-producing chateaux that export some of the best French wines enjoyed throughout the world. These include Sauternes, title of “European Best Destination 2015” in a competition among 20 major cities. In 2017, Bordeaux placed first on Lonely Planet’s list of top cities to visit.

The rundown waterfront area was redeveloped to make it more appealing and pedestrian friendly. Facades of weathered limestone buildings that had blackened with age were cleaned to restore the original patina of their stone. New hotels and restaurants began opening. The now-lively city boasts more than 350 listed buildings of historical significance, ranking second to Paris. A high-speed TGV train service links Bordeaux to Paris.

When we chose our Bordeaux river cruise itinerary, we of course looked forward to being able to tour the city and taste the famous wines of the region in their own terroir. As expected, the wines were poured generously at both lunch and dinner on the ship. They were also featured at various port stops where we heard lectures, attended tastings, and spoke to vintners and wine merchants about the wines of Bordeaux.

However, three extraordinary optional shore excursions not only introduced us to the wines of Bordeaux but also allowed us to “branch out” and explore other epicurean foods and spirits identified with the region, notably Perigord truffles, oysters and cognac.

saint-emilion-la-cave-du-marche

One of the many wine shops in Saint-Emilion

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