Travel Expressions Ltd.'s Blog

This New Cruise Ship Bar Beat Out Restaurants, Hotels and More to Win “Best Beverage Menu” Award
Why just have a drink – when you can have a story, too? That’s the premise behind the cruise ship bar menu that’s won out over competitors throughout the world of hospitality.

“Best Beverage Menu” was awarded to Holland America Line for its newest bar concept onboard its newest ship at the 2022 VIBE (that’s the Very Important Beverage Executives) conference.

That means this bar menu isn’t just the best at sea. The award is open to any venue in the entire beverage space, and Holland America Line went up against other bars in hospitality, including restaurant groups, hotel chains, casinos, and more for the honor.

The “Half Moon Bar” debuted on board Holland America Line’s new flagship, the Rotterdam, which launched in fall, 2021. 


I traveled on the Rotterdam in the Caribbean in the fall, and can attest that the new bar concept is one of the great new innovations on Holland America Line’s latest ship. I’m not surprised that Half Moon Bar has – in just months – become “the most popular bar on board,” I’m told.

Half Moon Bar pays homage to Holland America Line in a couple of ways. It’s named after the cruise line’s private island in the Caribbean. And its bar menu tells the history of the line and cruising through the lens of its cocktails.
Each carefully crafted cocktail comes with its own fascinating tale, and simply reading the now award-winning bar menu transports you back in time on a journey though Holland America Line’s history.


Time-traveling tipples on the menu include:

·      “The Original,” (pictured above) which celebrates Holland America Line’s first ship, Rotterdam I. It’s crafted from Dutch gin and a hint of single malt Scotch, ingredients inspired by the building of the ship and Holland America Line’s Dutch beginnings.
 
·      “De Halve Moon” ties into the line’s origins as ocean liner travel between Rotterdam and New York (which, you may recall, used to be Dutch and was called “Nieuw Amsterdam” before it was renamed New York City.) De Halve Moon is an ode to the Dutch sense of exploration and the botanical wonderland Henry Hudson found in present-day New York. It’s composed of Old Duff genever (the Dutch precursor to gin), lemon rosewater shrub and DDG Bitters.
 
·      “Three Mile Run” is a prohibition cocktail that tells the story of Holland America Line Prohibition-era ‘cruises to nowhere’ New Yorkers could take to get around no-alcohol rules. Once in open waters (three miles out), cocktail bars on the ship could be legally open, and quenching the thirst of New Yorkers for a strong one. It is made from a combination of lemon, honey and gin for a Bee’s Knees, whiskey for a Gold Rush or rum for a Honey Bee.
 
·      “May She Be Blessed” is an ode to the godmothers who bless the Holland America Line ships. The elegant and feminine cocktail is made with champagne and the guest’s choice of essence.
 
·      “Rotterdam VII” is dedicated to its namesake ship. The current Rotterdam is the seventh vessel to have that name in the nearly 150-year history of the line. Like the ship herself, the cocktail salutes both tradition and innovation, with its combination of smoked gin and maraschino.
 
If you’re imagining yourself on holiday, sipping an inventive cocktail with new and old friends and sharing a laugh and a good story, Half Moon Bar on Holland America Line’s new Rotterdam might be your best place to be.


Book a Holland American Line cruise on the Rotterdam or any other ship in the Caribbean to visit the Half Moon Bar's namesake, Half Moon Cay (pictured above.) A day at Half Moon Cay - no matter what you're drinking - is the ultimate island beach day.
 

Start your Cruise Trip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, TV show producer/ host and cruise expert

Images courtesy of Holland America Line

All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.







Fun Facts About Your Favorite St. Patrick's Day Drinks
What’s the best part of celebrating the day named after Ireland’s patron saint? Is it the ‘wearin’ o’ the green?’ The irresistible beat of Irish music that makes every listener’s toes tap? Your hilarious attempts at an Irish jig or your own version of Riverdance? Or the famous Irish beverages that fuel the festivities in the Emerald Isle and around the world every March 17th?

(Courtesy Donal Cawley, Merry Ploughboy Pub)

They say on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone’s a little bit Irish. And so we’re guessing at least one of these drinks finds its way into your hands at the local Irish pub. 

Here are a few fun facts about the four most iconic Irish beverages you can have up your sleeve to make you look like the smartest honorary Irishman at the bar. 

Now, if you memorize an Irish toast too, you’ll bring the real ‘spirit’ of St. Patrick’s Day to the moment!


Irish Whiskey 

Yes, that’s ‘whiskey’ with an ‘e.’ In the debate between Irish whiskey and Scottish whisky, Ireland claims to be the global original.

According to Tourism Ireland, the first written reference to whiskey in Ireland took place two whole centuries before distillation of malted grains was recorded in Scotland. The Red Book of Ossory in Ireland referred to whiskey in 1324.
In terms of authentic beverage, nothing may be more Irish than whiskey. The word itself comes from the Gaelic ‘uisce beatha’, meaning ‘water of life.’

The oldest ongoing commercial distillery in the world is also Irish, and the 400 year-old Old Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim has always put the ‘e’ in ‘whiskey.’

As traditional a tipple as whiskey in Ireland is, the spirit is seeing a renaissance throughout the Emerald Isle and around the world. The Head of Drinks Ireland|Irish Whiskey Association explains that, “Irish whiskey has undergone a phenomenal revival, going from four distilleries to 38 – with 24 open to visitors – and recording 140% growth in sales around the world in the last decade.”

The traditional, and globally available, brands like Bushmills and Jameson are being joined by exciting new artisan brands that you can only taste on a trip to Ireland.

A million international travelers every year visit an Irish distillery – not to mention Dublin’s Whiskey Museum or a local pub with a selection of new and traditional whiskies.
 
The Ireland Whiskey Trail is a free touring guide to distilleries, the best whiskey pubs, hotel bars, well-known and up-and-coming brands, as well as specialized whiskey shops.

And IrishWhiskey360° provides visitors a map and information on the island’s most important distilleries that offer tours, tastings and behind the scenes secrets about their amber spirits.

Irish Coffee

Irish Coffee has a much less pedigreed history than its most spirited ingredient, Irish whiskey. Its claim to fame is as a method to ‘warm the cockles o’ your heart’ as they say, and is said to have been invented at the height of World War 2.

A chef at County Limerick’s Foynes Port, where planes flying between Europe and North America would stop to refuel before the North Atlantic crossing leg of their journeys, invented the hot drink. 

The story says he whipped the first hot, creamy batch up one raw night in 1942 for a group of delayed, chilled, and weary passengers. After a collective “Ahh” went around the room, one passenger reportedly asked, “Is this Brazilian coffee?”  To which the chef replied, “No, that’s Irish coffee.”

The name – and the appeal on a brisk night – stuck. Here’s the recipe – straight from Foynes – to impress your friends around a warming fire, and to compare with the ‘real thing’ on your own next trip to Ireland. (Pictured. ©Failte Ireland, Courtesy of Carsten Krieger.)

The original Irish coffee recipe

  1. Preheat your Irish coffee glass by filling it with boiling water for 5 seconds, then pour the water out.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and a good measure of Irish whiskey into the warmed glass.
  3. Fill the glass to within ½ an inch of the brim with hot, strong black coffee. Stir well to dissolve all the brown sugar.
  4. Carefully pour lightly whipped cream over the back of a spoon so that it floats on top of the coffee.
  5. Do not stir after adding the cream; the best flavor comes from drinking the coffee and Irish whiskey through the cream.
 

Irish Cream

Despite marketing, and images and script on the bottles that suggest Bailey’s Irish cream is a long-standing tradition, the sweet liqueur made of cream, cocoa and Irish whiskey only dates back to the 1970’s.

There are a few stories about its origin, none as romantic as the image of Irish coffee being brewed up for wartime flights across the Atlantic.


The first Irish cream was reportedly developed by a team with the pragmatic goal to come up with a new export product, which they did deciding to use up whiskey from a distillery that wasn’t making money and to take advantage of excess cream on the market as skim milk was becoming more popular, or as a whiskey-based ‘girly drink.’ Or all of the above.

Regardless of its start, today, Bailey’s Irish cream is an undoubted beverage ambassador of Ireland around the world. Its annual production uses over 250 million liters of Irish milk from 40,000 dairy cows living on 1500 Irish farms. The U.S. imports more Baileys Irish cream than any other country in the world.

One final – and very important – fact about Irish cream: it is NOT an ingredient of authentic Irish Coffee.
 
(Image ©Tourism Ireland)

Guinness

Moving away from whiskey, perhaps the most ubiquitous drink for St. Patrick’s Day celebrants or visitors to Ireland is simply, ‘a Guinness.’ Its brand symbol, the harp, is the symbol of Ireland’s 11th century king, Brian Boru
 
Guinness has been produced in Dublin since 1759. Founder Arthur Guinness knew he was on to a sure thing: he signed a 9000 year lease for the St. James’s Gate Brewery. By the 20th century, Guinness was the largest brewery in the world.
 
The brewery’s Irish dry stout or dark beer has become the iconic symbol of St. Patrick’s Day and pub life in Ireland. It is made from barley, hops, water, roast malt extract, and brewer’s yeast. Some barley is specifically roasted to give Guinness its signature dark color and distinctive taste. The result was believed at one point even to be a health drink – so healthy, in fact, it was recommended for young children and pregnant women! Some modern science has upheld the healthy reputation: Guinness’ rich ingredient list makes it a source of B vitamins, iron, heart-healthy antioxidants, and immune support.
 
But we don’t think anyone is thinking of their B vitamins when they’re raising their glasses of Guinness in the Dublin brewery, or in their home or local Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day, when over 800% more Guinness is drunk than any other day of the year – a whopping estimated 13 million pints!

(Image: Tourism Ireland)
 

Start Your Ireland Trip!

 
Image credits as noted. All images courtesy of Ireland.com

Top image: Pearse Lyons Whiskey Distillery, The Liberites, Dublin City, Courtesy Killian Whyte







Where in the World to Drink Ice Wine
Don’t let winter stop you from enjoying a wine harvest season! There are two ways - and many places - to celebrate a wine harvest in the New Year.

You could travel to the southern hemisphere, where standard vineyard harvests take place during the northern hemisphere’s spring.

Or you can embrace winter – and the one, very special wine it creates.

Ice wine is a case of making lemonade when life gives you lemons. When winter conditions are just right, grapes freeze on the vine, giving vintners the opportunity to make ice wine. 

What makes ice wine special? When grapes are still on the vine as the temperatures turn to freezing, it’s only the water content in the grapes that freezes – not the sugar or other solids. So the small amount of juice extracted from the frozen grapes is very concentrated.

For natural ice wine, grapes must fully ripen on the vine, then undergo a hard freeze (−8 °C (17 °F) or colder). It's risky business. Grapes can be lost before harvest, and then the moment it freezes, pickers have to work at night harvesting all the grapes in a few hours before the sun warms them up again at dawn.

The wine made from that freezing process is very sweet wine with a balanced acidity - and can only be produced in small quantities. And it's priced accordingly.

If you want to taste ice wine at its source - and see the unique way it's made, your geographic choices are limited. Ice wine can only be produced in wine regions where it gets sufficiently – and reliably – cold.

Old World

Like many culinary innovations, ice wine may have been a happy accident that came about as a result of an unexpectedly harsh winter in the Nuremburg region of Germany around 1800. Vintners pressed their frozen grapes anyway… and voila!

It may have helped that sweet, late harvest Rhine wines were already the most highly valued wines in Germany at the time. Although the process is different, sweet late harvest wines may have smoothed the way for sweet ice wines to be appreciated and attempted in the rare, subsequent years when weather conditions presented the opportunity to make ‘Eiswein.’ 

Technology, like electric lights to facilitate night time picking, helped permit more frequent Eiswein vintages in the second half of the 20th century. Austria and a number of other, mostly Central European countries make small quantities, too.

We recommend: combining an Eiswein tasting trip with an alpine winter ski trip to Europe.

New World

While its wine culture is much more recent, Canada’s Niagara wine region consistently achieves ice wine levels of freezing every year.
 
Not long after some Central European winemakers at Niagara wineries began experimenting with ice wine, Niagara was producing the rare wine in commercially-viable quantities. In 1991, a Niagara ice wine won the Grand Prix d'Honneur at Europe’s Vinexpo, putting Canadian ice wine on the international wine map. 
 
Now, Canada is the world's ice wine superstar and largest producer, making more ice wine than all other countries combined. Niagara (pictured above) remains the biggest ice wine region in Canada, although it’s produced in wineries across the country.
 
Across the border and the Great Lakes, American vineyards have been getting into the ice wine act, too, particularly Michigan, although other wineries in neighboring Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania also produce the wine that celebrates the winter cold.

We recommend: Get in on the spirit of ice wine at a local ice wine festival. Sometimes you can even be part of the midnight grape picking, which is more fun than it sounds.
 

START YOUR WINE TRIP!

 


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Celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day with this Cruise Ship Classic
We often sing the praises of the inventive, entertaining, and sometimes, celebrity-chef driven specialty restaurants on cruise ships. But some of the best culinary experiences cruising are in the main dining room, where talented chefs craft classic, favorite dishes, presented with a sense of ceremony that make dining at sea a true occasion.
 
Take National Chocolate Cake Day. January 27 highlights the appeal of one of the world's most popular desserts, one that's been around since 1765. A comfort food that cheers an ordinary day puts a smile on every face, and is the sweet touch that makes life's milestones all the brighter.
 
A rich, decadent chocolate cake is the kind of mainstay, staple dessert you find on main dining room menus on many cruise lines.
 
 
For National Chocolate Cake Day, Chef Russel Gomes from Carnival Cruise Line's Mardi Gras ship, shares a recipe for a 5-ingredient, half-hour version that means you don't have to wait til your next cruise to indulge.
 
 

Five! Simple Ingredients

9oz Semi-sweet Chocolate
6oz Butter
4 Eggs
3oz Sugar
2oz Flour 
 

Five Easy Steps 

  1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a glass mixing bowl using the medium setting in a microwave, in no more than 1 minute increments at a time, til fully melted. Use a spatula to fold the butter and chocolate together til blended.
  2. In another mixing bowl, mix eggs and sugar and whisk for a few minutes, then add flour and whisk til there are no lumps. It's just enough to bind the ingredients, so you get that lava, molten effect, not a regular chocolate cake!
  3. Add the egg mix to the melted chocolate and combine, whisking constantly so the heat of the chocolate doesn't cook the eggs.
  4. Pour the mix in greased, individual ceramic molds. Single-serving size souffle cups if you have them, or improvise! Even small coffee cups will work.
  5. Set the molds in a pan with hot water in it. Put the pan in a pre-heated, 350°F oven for 20 minutes.
 
Place the warm cup on a plate to serve. A dusting of icing sugar, maybe a fresh strawberry, and you have a cruise ship classic dessert for a homemade celebration - or an ordinary dinner at home, to make any day National Chocolate Cake Day.
 

Start Your Culinary Trip!

 
 
 
Enjoy a Rum-Soaked Taste of Antigua This Holiday Season
Located in the heart of the Caribbean Sea, the twin-island tropical paradise of Antigua (pronounced An-tee'ga) and Barbuda (Bar-byew’da) should be on the radar of any traveler looking for a beach escape away from the masses with a different beach for every day of the year, and two distinctly different island experiences.

At just over 100 square miles, Antigua is the largest of the Leeward Islands. Its rich history includes Nelson’s Dockyard, the only remaining example of a Georgian fort, and UNESCO World Heritage site. The island’s calendar prestigious events includes Antigua Sailing Week, Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and the local version of Carnival.

Little sister island Barbuda is a couple of dozen miles north-east of Antigua; only a 15-minute flight away or a short sail. The secluded, romantic island is famous for its pink-sand beaches and the largest Frigate Bird Sanctuary in the hemisphere. It also punches above its weight in attracting global celebrities, including actor Robert De Niro, one of the partners in the upcoming Nobu Beach Inn, to accompany the celebrity-chef Nobu Restaurant on the island.

Perhaps nothing combines Antingua and Barbuda’s culture steeped in British traditions and Antiguan-style Caribbean flavor, than its holiday black rum cake.

Visit Antigua and Barbuda and one of the country’s luxury resorts, Carlisle Bay, share with us an Antiguan version of a Caribbean holiday staple: black rum cake.

This version of the rich, moist and morish fruit cake is made using only local rum from the island's very own Antigua Distillery: a leading distillery renowned globally for their English Harbour Rum. The deep noir of this decadent dessert is achieved through the wonderful caramelization of soft sandy white sugar and cups of 5-year English Harbour rum.

It’s the perfect Christmas and fall holiday treat to warm you from the inside out with a touch of tropical decadence.


Carlisle Bay’s Black Rum Cake Ingredients
   1lb unsalted butter
   1lb white sugar
   6 free-range eggs
   2 tsp cinnamon
   1 tsp nutmeg
   2 tsp vanilla extract
   1lb plain flour
   1 tbsp baking powder
   4 tbsp food browning
   1lb dried blend mixed fruits, mainly cranberry, raisin, currant, dried citrus
   2 cups English Harbour 5-year rum

Method
Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add free range eggs and vanilla extract and mix.

Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg together. Combine dry mixture to sugar, butter, egg mix until all incorporated. Add the browning & dried fruits and mix thoroughly.

Finally add the rum, taste and add more if you wish for a stronger flavor.

Place in a greased baking tin of your choice and cover with greaseproof paper. Bake at 280 degrees (Fahrenheit.) for 40-60 minutes, checking regularly til set. The ideal internal temperature of the cake is 205-210 degrees Fahrenheit.


For a truly authentic Antiguan confection, soak your dried fruit in the rum for as long as possible in advance. It is not unheard of for Antiguans to start the soaking step in January or even ahead of baking! But don’t worry if you haven’t started a whole year in advance, this rum cake will be a winning treat on your holiday table.

Serving
Rum goes in the cake - and with the cake when served! Treat your family and holiday guests to a shot of vintage English Harbour Rum on the side, drizzle the cake with rich cream and rum-infused caramel sauce; and you could even go as far as to pour more English Harbour Rum on top, the more the merrier!


What other travel recipes have become part of your culinary repertoire?

No matter what your family traditions, wishing you a happy holiday season!



Images courtesy Carlisle Bay




Celebrate the Festive Season - or Make a Gift of the Holidays at Four Seasons Across North America
There’s only one holiday season, but the luxury lifestyles of one of many Four Seasons hotels or resorts is just around the corner - either a drive or a short-haul flight - from many of us, and our loved ones.

Treating ourselves during the festive season, or giving our loved ones the gift of a recognized luxury travel brand experience in your hometown or at a favorite destination - will help make this holiday special and memorable.

Here are some suggestions to help you get into the Christmas spirit - or capture the holiday magic for your loved ones.

Your expert travel advisor can help you create the perfect luxury travel experience or give the perfect gift, from wellness, culinary, and family festive experiences.


Surround Yourself with Christmas Cheer


Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort gets into the Christmas spirit with a chocolate and gingerbread display created by its award-winning chef. Even a Christmas Grinch can’t help but smile at the charming life-size gingerbread house, with candy canes, lollipops, Santa and more, Plus - it’s the perfect holiday photo backdrop for your social media holiday post. You can enjoy festive treats including holiday gelato flavours such as chocolate peppermint, while the little ones try their hands at cookie decorating.

At Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia, the holiday display takes the form of a modern arctic wonderland. A large, mirrored polar bear flanked by custom made flocked trees and poinsettias adorned with snow. The holiday magic extends to the ground floor's reflective Christmas tree and the fifth floor's life-size reindeer, creating a majestic holiday scene and the perfect backdrop for holiday photos.

Make a List, Check it Twice… then get some Help


Four Seasons Hotel One Dalton Street, Boston’s Wellness Floor has curated a holiday gift guide featuring bespoke experiences and products for mindful giving. You can fill your loved ones’ stockings with certificates for a side-by-side couples massage or Cryotherapy Energy facial and gifts such as candles, cashmere loungewear and beautiful Italian leather handbags. Maybe slip one treat in there for yourself for your next visit to Boston, too.

Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC’s Holiday Market is a goldmine of the gifts and culinary works of local artisans as well as the Hotel's craftspeople including their pastry chef’s gourmet hot chocolate bar. And you can shop for your loved ones surrounded by live music entertainment, light and snow displays. You can feel even better about holiday gift giving this seasons as a portion of the proceeds from every sale is donated to Children's National Hospital.

Culinary Christmas - and the Whole Holiday Season


Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel is ringing in the holidays in style. A series of prix fixe menus for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Eve, along with a New Year's Day Brunch let you leave all the work to the hotel chefs - and you can choose to indulge fully with options like caviar, a seafood platter, and Bloody Mary and bottomless champagne bar. The restaurant, which overlooks the famed Rodeo Drive, will also be offering a special holiday afternoon tea, complete with delicate and elegant Italian desserts by its chef.

The Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler’s popular Vintage Camper is back for the winter, serving up decadent hot chocolate and cook-your-own s'mores. Guests can enjoy a Tipsy Snowman, the Resort's playful signature hot chocolate, or wind down with a complimentary wine tasting offered every evening featuring a selection of local British Columbia wines.

Hands-on Holiday Experiences



At Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley, a limited-time winter wonderland pop-up reimagines an alpine village. Rustic wooden chalets take center stage, while 'snowfall,' fireside movies, an après-ski menu including s'mores and hot cocktails create an inviting experience on the outdoor terrace. The village includes a sweet shoppe, Instagrammable life-sized snow globe and more.

Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina’s #FSWAYFINDERS program is a weekly series featuring art, culture, history, and in-depth workshops that make the holidays in Hawaii come alive. A curated group of artisans and crafters offers intimate and engaging learning opportunities including ukulele lessons, coconut hat weaving, lei making, evening stargazing and hula workshops with all proceeds going to the artisans themselves.

Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire keeps the holidays active, with horseback riding across the 500 acres of parkland, the ultimate treetop challenge, a relaxing ride on a traditional horse-drawn carriage or a unique bird-watching experience on a wildlife walk.


Restoring from Stresses of the Holiday Season


Four Seasons Hotel Austin’s The Spa has two festive ways to treat winter-ravaged skin and stressed-out bodies. Picture yourself or a loves one enjoying a Peppermint Facial or a Fire & Ice Massage. Up the ante with an after-hours private booking that allows for full access of the entire spa complete with the hotel’s margarita cart.

Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas uses locally sourced materials in its seasonal relaxation treatment. The Cranberry Pomegranate Body Treatment features a wrap, head massage, and full body scrub and leaves you feeling restored for another day of gaming, entertainment, and super-sized shopping of Sin City.

Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole is celebrating the winter solstice with restorative yoga and intention setting sessions. Guests can enjoy a complimentary restorative yoga session and wassail, the traditional warming drink you sing about in Christmas carols.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North is also commemorating the winter solstice with guided meditation, sound healing and intention setting on the longest night of the year.

#HappyHolidays




Images courtesy Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts







The secret about river cruising was out, even before the pandemic.

Like all cruise travel, it's the ‘easy button’ way to ‘sample’ multiple destinations and get an overview of a region. You unpack once, really settling in to your ship environment like a home away from home in a floating boutique hotel that winds its way through marquee cities as well as scenic countryside you might not see if you travel any other way.
The enchantment of river cruising is enhanced by its authenticity. Historically, rivers were the best – sometimes only! – way to travel between communities. Most European cities started and were built from the river. In many ways, river cruising is one of the most authentic ways to experience its diverse regions.

That hasn’t changed, and as we return to travel, river cruising makes even more sense to dip our toes back into the water. 

River cruise ships are small enough to navigate the rivers and canals and locks of Europe. In post-pandemic times, smaller ships also translate to fewer fellow guests. Smaller, off-the-beaten track ports along the river mean less crowded destinations. And staying in a small, river cruise ‘bubble’ helps keep everyone safe.

We’ve been missing travel for so long, many people want to extend their journeys with back-to-back river cruises.
For travellers wanting to minimize how many jurisdictions and sets of COVID rules they encounter – France is the obvious choice.

Vineyards on Rhone riverbanks; BestTrip TV

It’s the only country in Europe with more than one, single-country river cruise. And it’s France! Joie de vivre, savoir vivre, wine and cuisine and the French way of life make cruising on any of these three rivers enchanting.

Here are the highlights of France’s three cruising rivers. Sailing along any one of them is a dream vacation. Sailing two – or even all three – back-to-back is a French ‘affair’ you’ll remember forever.

Bordeaux:


Route: Rather than traveling on one river, a cruise in this storied area of south-western France is more like traveling on spokes, where the city of Bordeaux is something of a hub to explore along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, and Gironde estuary.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE for my experience on a Bordeaux river cruise

Highlights: This is a serious wine lover's dream. Bordeaux is a city - the capital of the Aquitaine region – a river, and a wine region: the largest, one of the oldest, and most prestigious in France.  

Some of the most fabled and historic vineyards and wine houses are here, including some of the most expensive bottles in the world, and it’s the origin of the world’s first grand cru. Daily visits and tastings let you immerse yourself in the history, terroirs, and flavors of Medoc, Cadillac's Sauternes, and Saint-Emilion, the first wine region to be protected by UNESCO, and more.

The city of Bordeaux has been called the 'essence of elegance', second only to Paris as the French city with the most protected architecture. Its 18th century French design is best represented by the breathtaking Place de la Bourse. Best of all, your cruise ship docks in the 'Port de la Lune', a crescent shaped part of the river in the heart of the historic city.

Bordeaux keeps its eye to the future, too, with modern architecture, vineyards and developments including the new and astonishing riverbank 'Cite du Vin' – a wildly modern, vast museum of wine, shaped like a stylized decanter, and firmly entrenching Bordeaux as the world capital of wine.

The Seine


Route: Seine river cruises usually begin, and often round-trip to Paris. The river flows north from the French capital, ending at the sea in Normandy. Paris, the sea, and French countryside in between? Formidable! As the French would say.

Highlights: You had us at 'Paris'. Most itineraries include at least one pre- or post- cruise day, and in our opinion, you'll want to top it up to at least three days minimum in the City of Light.

Art Lover? The region north of Paris to Normandy is the birthplace of Impressionism. Cruises call at Giverny, Claude Monet's home, where the flower and water gardens that inspired some of his most famous works are still on view. And don't miss the second largest collection of Impressionist art in the world (after Paris' Musee d'Orsay) in Rouen.

Normandy is the largest region in France that is NOT a wine-producing region (the horror!). Instead, the signature Norman beverage is Calvados – a brandy-like spirit made from the region's famous apple crops. The dairy cattle grazing in fields throughout the countryside supply the milk for the area's most famous cheese: Camembert.

One of the biggest draws is the opportunity to visit the World War 2 Landing Beaches. American, British and Canadian sites are emotional reminders of the epic struggle to gain the first foothold in the quest to free Europe. Memorial centers bring the stories of the battles and soldiers to life, and can help trace family members who fought. 

The Rhone

 
Route: The itinerary is usually a combo of the Rhone and Saone, from the Mediterranean Sea in epic Provence in the south, to France's culinary capital of Lyon, often with a pre or post cruise extension in Paris via a brief high-speed train ride.
 
Highlights: This river cruise itinerary not only gives you the opportunity for a pre or post cruise extension in the legendary South of France, it also makes its way through some of the most legendary wine regions of a legendary wine destination. 
 
River banks offer ideal conditions for many of Europe's famous wine regions. Take a look at a wine map of France; wine regions follow the rivers the entire length of the Rhone/Saone. Itineraries deliver you to the doorsteps of great houses of Cotes de Provence, Chateauneuf du Pape, Cotes du Rhone, Beaujolais, and other celebrated French wines.

Lynn tasting olive oil on a Rhone River cruise; BestTrip TV
 
Along the way, some of the culinary delicacies that pair terrifically with those wines make their homes side by side with vineyards. Think: French truffles, olives and olive oil, goat cheese, and incomparable Provencal produce.
 
Other highlights include the breathtaking Roman amphitheatre in Arles, the bridge of the famous song in Avignon, the culinary capital of France – Lyon, that is. And oh, and did we mention the wine?
 

#StartYourTrip


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

Images: BestTrip TV

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.






8 German Words You Need to Fit in at Oktoberfest
It’s Oktoberfest time again. The festival traditionally held annually in Bavaria’s capital of Munich, with similar events throughout the entire region, is one of the world’s most epic celebrations.

Name notwithstanding, Oktoberfest actually runs for just over two weeks from mid-late September to the first Sunday in October. It’s been cancelled again in 2021, but that gives you time to brush up on your vocabulary – and German beer drinking skills – until you can visit Munich’s Oktoberfest soon.

Here are a few expressions you’ll want to file away for good use at your next Munich – or backyard – Oktoberfest.

Bier

The word needs no translation, but it is what Oktoberfest is all about. According to recent stats, nearly 8 million liters, or around 16 million pints, were served to 6 million locals and visitors who thronged to the Munich Oktoberfest.
 
Bier is not just Bavarians’ favorite beverage, there’s a special one brewed exclusively for Oktoberfest every year: Oktoberfestbier. It has to meet certain standards, including German Beer Purity Laws and it must be brewed within Munich city limits.
 
Note to self: Oktoberfestbier is stronger than normal German beers, at 6% alcohol content.
 
Bonus word: Bierhallen. Pretty self-explanatory. The place they drink the beer during Oktoberfest.

Prost

 
This word involves essential Oktoberfest etiquette. Prost is German for ‘cheers’ (and a generally good word to know outside of Oktoberfest too!). You toast before drinking your beer, and you must look into your drinking friends’ eyes, raise your beer stein, clink, and shout (yes, shout) Prost! (Pronounced Prohst!)
 
You’ll find yourself doing ein Prosit often, and the bands in the Bierhallen strike up a specific tune every 20 minutes for a tent-wide toast, too.
 

Wurst

The jokes make themselves, when it comes to the German word for sausage. The ‘best’ of the ‘Wurst’. And so on. Actually, it’s pronounced ‘Vurst’, which is much less conducive to joking.

There are many kinds of Wurst to have with your Bier. In Germany you’ll likely encounter ‘Weisswurst’, which means ‘white sausage,’ and refers to its ingredients: minced veal and pork; Kasewurst, which has cheese inside, and of course every man-cave in North America has some Bratwurst, which just means finely-chopped meat in the sausage casing, usually pork.

Maybe the best thing about the Wurst is the wonderful variety of mustards served with them. You’ll quickly learn which kind of ‘Senf’ you like with which ‘Wurst’.
 

Tracht

For Germans and visitors alike, Oktoberfest is about ‘getting your Tracht on.’ Tracht refers to traditional costume in Germany and also other German-speaking countries. Oktoberfest guests are encouraged to get into the local culture and spirit by donning Tracht, and you have two choices:

Dirndl
A traditional alpine dress for women, dirndls consist of a long skirt, white blouse, bodice that’s done up so tight it can’t help being very eye-catching, and apron in vivid colors. It’s derived from a Bavarian word for ‘girl,’ and many women keep a hand-made, heirloom dirndl in the closet for formal, not just beer-drinking, occasions, like attending weddings.
 
Lederhosen  
The male equivalent simply means ‘leather pants.’ Actually, they’re shorts, usually worn with a white shirt, warm knee socks, suspenders/ braces and some go for the whole look with special shoes. Bonus points for a dashing wool felt hat with a jaunty feater - that’s also a symbol of the region.
 

Gemutlichkeit

 
There’s no exact English translation for this word, pronounced something like ‘geh-MOOT-ly-kite’) but it is the essence – even more than beer – of Oktoberfest.
 
Some call it fellowship, friendliness, or even good times. It’s the atmosphere surrounding you at Oktoberfest as you clink beer mugs with new and old friends.
 

#StartYourTrip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

Image: BestTrip TV

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



Rum and Cigar Festival Elevates St. Barts to New Levels of Luxury Island Lifestyle
 It’s a tiny island with a big reputation as one of the most chic destinations in the Caribbean. Legendary St. Barts combines French ‘art de vivre’ with a lush tropical setting and an exclusive atmosphere. 

If you’ve been waiting to discover – or re-visit – this jewel of the islands, there may be no better time than November.
That’s when the Caribbean Rum Awards bring island luminaries and rum and cigar VIP’s from around the world together to celebrate two island luxury indulgences.

Saint-Barthelemy, affectionately shortened to the anglicized nickname St. Barts or St. Barths, is only 25 square kilometers (just under 10 square miles). Only small planes can land on St. Barts, and its iconic yacht harbour – one of the most renowned in the Caribbean – only accommodates yachts. That preserves the island’s charms from mass tourism.

Visitors arrive by small plane from nearby islands like St. Maarten, or sail in on a private or chartered yacht or even on one of the small, luxury cruise ships that can be accommodated in St. Barts’ picture-perfect, U-shaped harbour nestled in a cove in its capital city, Gustavia.

Some of the world’s most stylish, influential and prestigious travelers include the French overseas island on their annual calendar of travels.

The week-long Caribbean Rum Awards originated in 2018 and have become a highlight of the island’s November social calendar.

Anchored by Gustavia’s Rhum Room, home to the largest collection of fine rums of any bar in the hemisphere, the Caribbean Rum Awards are centered around a blind-tasting of the most premium rums in the world vying for the event’s top award. 

Rum luminaries and cigar aficionados from far and wide gather to sip, savour, judge, share their insights and tastes, and celebrate the iconic sugarcane spirit of the Caribbean.

In addition to the main event, rum lovers enjoy a slate of day and evening events including cocktail parties, master classes, private tastings, rum and cigar pairings, cocktail pairing dinners led by top chefs at one of the island’s most talked-about restaurants that end with spectacular, rare cigars, and nightly tasting parties at the Rhum Room.
A one-day Rum Expo is open to the public that week. Only holders of VIP tickets can access the other events.
 
If you haven’t over indulged already, we recommend you stick around in St. Barths. The Caribbean Rum Awards week kicks off the island’s ‘Gourmet Month,’ with the St Barth Gourmet Festival scheduled for the following week.
 

#StartYourTrip!


Images: Getty


Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Two New Luxury Brands for the Secluded Turks & Caicos Islands
They are among the Caribbean’s best kept secrets. The forty islands and cays that make up the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) are favored by travelers in the know for their pristine waters, picture-perfect white sand beaches and conch and lobster fisheries that make local dining such a joy.

TCI’s archipelago is strung out along the sea at the tail-end of The Bahamas and before you get to the Dominican Republic.

Bookended by two popular and busy beach destinations, this British Overseas Territory stands out for its quiet seclusion. Only about 30,000 people live on TCI - mainly on Providenciales in the Caicos islands. In fact, fewer than a dozen of the islands are inhabited at all. But possibly because of its primary business as an international banking center, TCI has great air service from Miami, New York, Toronto and London.

So anyone looking for an idyllic island escape can add TCI to their list. Even more now, since two luxury hospitality brands have arrived on the archipelago, boosting its credentials as a luxe beach destination away from the bustle of its bigger neighbors.

Ritz-Carlton Turks & Caicos

This iconic luxury company has opened its first resort on TCI on renowned Grace Bay in Providenciales. Ritz-Carlton Turks & Caicos joins a small family of Ritz-Carlton ultra-luxury resorts in the Islands, one that includes Aruba, St. Thomas USVI, Puerto Rico and the Cayman Islands.


The latest Ritz-Carlton resort’s design was inspired by the natural wonders of the Turks & Caicos, incorporating the heritage of its earliest Lucayan inhabitants in the use of rich wood, calming ocean themes as well as desert magic, incorporating local cactus and sponges into the property, including the native turk-head cactus that thrives in TCI’s dry climate and gave the islands its name.

Guests are welcomed to nearly 150 ocean view rooms including 23 suites, or a number of three-story penthouse suites with private, rooftop plunge pools and endless views.

The resort is designed for private and romantic or fun family vacations; the company’s ‘Ritz Kids’ program offers programs for children to explore the island and learn about marine life through arts and crafts.

For grown-ups, there’s an adults-only pool with private cabanas, a private catamaran for marine exploration, a casino; a seaside spa and yoga on the beach; and multiple dining venues that offer both local and global flavors.

Celebrating the island’s natural abundance of conch, the resort marks the end of every day with the sound of this iconic shell and offers guests the chance to sample conch ceviche and other island delicacies.
 
A Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge offers an exclusive sanctuary that offers private check-in, a dedicated Club Concierge, and multiple culinary presentations throughout the day, in addition to dedicated service at the beach.
 
Indoor and outdoor venues are also designed for meeting and events including a 5000 square-foot ballroom and an ‘event lawn and grand promenade’ with the white sands and sparkling waters of Grace Bay in the background that will fulfil any bride’s dreams.
 

The Meridian Club on Pine Cay

The Meridian Club (pictured top) has occupied a spectacular private, 800 acre island off of Providenciales since the 1970’s, when the exclusive, intimate beachside property became the first tourist development in TCI.

What’s new is its recent adoption into the fold of Relais & Chateaux, the elite collection of boutique hotels, resorts, villas and restaurants all committed to the highest standards of hospitality and gourmet cuisine. That designation just formalizes the recognition of The Meridian Club at Pine Cay as one of the region’s leading private island resorts.

Pine Cay is less than a mile wide and only two miles long. Despite its small size, the island has over 9 miles of trails and a breathtaking 2-mile stretch of white sand beach. The ideal place for beach walking, the island is connected to its neighbors, Water Cay and Little Water Cay – you can even walk the beach for 5 miles to the end of Little Water Cay.

Just 13 rooms host 26 guests with nearly the entire 800 acres of island nature and beauty to explore.


Guests choose between private cottages or spacious beachfront rooms – all inclusive of the fine dining that helped secure its inclusion into the collection of Relais & Chateaux properties world wide. Every room opens directly onto the 2-mile beach.

You can imagine why people with milestones to celebrate often book out the island for their party – it may be the private island party of your dreams!

In addition to miles of arid island hiking, guest while away their days swimming in crystal clear waters, joining daily snorkeling trips, kayaking, paddleboarding, days at the spa, yoga classes, boating on a charter or on complimentary Hobie Cat boats, fishing, or just relaxing seaside.
 
It’s the beach getaway you’ve always really wanted.
 

#StartYourTrip


Images courtesy of their respective resorts. Top image: two of the cottages at the Meridian Club



On some islands, they like to tell you how many beaches they have, or days of sunshine. On Nevis, it’s how many different varieties of mangoes they have.

The answer? Officially, nearly four dozen – and unofficially, it’s estimated nearly 200 different varieties of mangoes grow on this tiny Caribbean island.

Nevis makes up the other part of the twin-island nation of St. Kitts & Nevis. Tucked away between Antigua and the British Virgin Islands, Nevis is off the beaten track in the Caribbean sense – which makes it a treasure for travellers looking for a secluded, charming island paradise. 

Dominated by the cloud-topped Mount Nevis, whose verdant sides slope down before becoming sandy beaches at the water’s edge, Nevis is beloved by savvy travelers in the know, who call in port in Nevis on a private yacht charter or luxury, small-ship cruise, or arrive by ferry from St. Kitts a couple of miles away.

 
No buildings higher than a tree are permitted, so the island retains a local, island character that heavily-developed Caribbean destinations lose. Only one famous resort brand calls Nevis home, and the Four Seasons resort on Nevis is a legendary, luxury, tropical island escape (more about that below.) Many visitors to Nevis stay in villas and small inns – where mango trees fill gardens and yards.

Something very special about Nevis’ microclimate and soil has made it the ideal growing environment for mangoes where they almost grow like weeds. In addition to yards and gardens, mangoes grow in wild abundance along roadsides, and in the green rainforests up the sides of Mount Nevis. They’re there for the picking for the island’s residents as well as its famous monkey population, who climb the trees, and donkeys, who eat them off the ground.

Ripening mangoes on the trees add to the vibrant color palette of the island especially in July and again towards the end of the year. Everyone has their own favorite varieties, from Amory Polly, to Julie, to graft mangoes that can grow as big as your head, and many Nevisians eat them right from the trees.


Mangoes are such an integral part of Nevisian life that there’s even a festival during peak season in early July to celebrate them.

The Nevis Mango & Food Festival usually takes place over the first weekend of the month. It’s one of the biggest events on the island and draws some of the region’s most talented chefs who compete over the course of the weekend to create dishes judged by celebrity chefs like UK Iron Chef Judy Joo who often appears at the festival to judge and also to teach masterclasses.

If you don’t make it to Nevis during the festival, you don’t have to worry you’ll miss the flavors of Nevis’ famous mangoes at other times of the year. If there are four dozen – or two hundred – types of mangoes on Nevis, there are at least as many ways to enjoy them served throughout the island, from cocktails made with mango puree, mango guacamole and salads and sherbet, biscotti, jellies, sauces for fish dishes… even some you can take home with you as souvenirs, like mango chutney, or jam or even mango hot sauce!

Complete your mango-themed visit to Nevis dining at the restaurant called Mango at the newly-renovated Four Seasons resort. The breezy, vivid yellow seaside restaurant is the epitome of upscale island dining.


WATCH THE VIDEO at the top to see more of the new Four Seasons resort’s renovations – plus another can’t miss culinary experience: ‘Dive and Dine’ lobster at one of the resort’s private, beach side cabanas.
 

#StartYourTrip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV



Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.







Top Tips for G7 Leaders - and Travelers Like Us - to Experience Cornwall
The leaders of the world’s seven biggest democratic economies are meeting in Cornwall, England, and it’s putting the Southwest region of the country under a spotlight.

Maybe you’ve heard of ‘bleisure’ travel? It’s about tacking on a leisure vacation to a business trip. We’re not sure if the leaders of the Western World have the time for a little independent fun and exploration during their packed schedules in Cornwall, but here’s what our friends at Visit Britain suggest they – and you – do on a visit.
 

Cliffs, Surf, Record-Breaking and Breathtaking Hikes

Coastal Cornwall’s claim to fame (other than things labelled ‘Cornish’, like Cornish hens and Cornish pasties/ meat pies) are related to its dramatic, seaside location: over 300 sandy beaches, coastal villages and resorts, dramatic cliffs and wild moors.

It’s an ideal scenario for outdoor, fresh air activities like hiking, cycling and even surfing that draws surfers and kitesurfers from around the world when the surf’s up.

Take a walk along the newly-opened English Coast Path, which, at 2,795 miles (4,500 km) is
the longest managed and waymarked coastal trail in the world. (Yes, in case you were wondering, it’s longer than other famous long-distance trails like the 2190 mile Appalachian Trail and the 2600 mile Pacific Crest Trail in the U.S.)
 
The view alone will get your blood racing. Cornwall has 12 “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty” from the dramatic cliffs of the North Coast to the beautifully bleak hills of Bodmin Moor.


“Jurassic Park” IRL

It’s the closest you might come to a ‘real life’ dinosaur habitat. Cornwall’s “Jurassic Coast” is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and THE place to go fossil hunting with the dinosaur lovers in your family.

The Jurassic Coast begins in Devon and continues for 95 miles (150 km) to Old Harry Rocks in Dorset. The rock cliffs at Charmouth and Lyme Regis contain thousands of fossils of animals that swam in the Jurassic seas, and each year fossils are eroded from the cliffs and tumble onto the beaches waiting to be discovered.

If you’ve seen the film Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet, it is set in Lyme Regis and tells the story of amateur fossil collector Mary Anning. She and her brother were the first to discover a complete Ichthyosaur skeleton and a complete Plesiosuar. Some of her fossils are at London’s Natural History Museum. Fossil fans can find out more about Anning’s life at the Lyme Regis Museum. The Museum of Jurassic Marine Life is home to some of the first fossils found. The famous Weymouth Bay pliosaur is on exhibition at the Dorset County Museum.


Photo: VisitBritain/ Jason Hawkes

The World’s Largest Indoor Rainforest

On the Southeast coast of Cornwall, a huge crater inside a depleted clay pit has been transformed into the Eden Project. Visitors discover a thriving garden featuring massive Biomes housing the world’s largest rainforest within walls including stunning plants, contemporary gardens and exhibitions. In 2022, it will even get its own hotel on site, a 109-bedroom designer hotel that maximizes accessibility, energy-efficiency and sustainability.
 
Photo: English Heritage

Legends and Tales

Cornwall’s Tintagel Castle is inextricably linked with the ultimate English tale: the legend of King Arthur. Situated along the dramatic and windswept coastline, the castle ruins echo with stories from centuries ago. Built half on the mainland and half on a jagged headland projecting into the Cornish sea, the startlingly contemporary Tintagel Bridge brings the two impressive sites together in a dramatic way.

Tropical Escapes on British shores

Cornwall’s Isles of Scilly are called England’s own tropical islands, accessible by a 15 minute flight or a ferry ride to what might seem like another world. Only 5 of the 140 islands lying less than 30 miles (45 km) off of Land’s End are inhabited, providing the ultimate in privacy and seclusion to explore crystal clear waters and idyllic beaches.
Those in the know have already discovered the charms of the Isles of Scilly. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Dame Judi Dench all holiday there.

Local Flavor

Cornish pasties, or meat pies, are an historic favorite, but they’re no bygone tradition. Visit Britain tells us more than 120 million Cornish pasties are made each year! Add decadent Cornish Cream Teas to your travel menu and don’t forget about the seafood! Coastal Cornwall is the perfect place for fresh-from-the-sea fish and chips, not to mention Fal Oysters and Cornish Sardines.

At at the luxury resort Carbis Bay Hotel near St. Ives (yes, the St. Ives of the poem, “As I was walking to St. Ives…”), spa treatments include hot tubs infused with Cornish seaweed. That’s fresh!
 

#StartYourTrip



Top Photo: St. Michaels Mount, a historic fortified building on a rocky outcrop in the Marazion bay, off the coast of Cornwall. VisitBritain/ Jason Hawkes

This is something we can get on board with! A few years ago, Spain declared the third Thursday of June ‘World Tapas Day,’ which in 2021 falls on June 10.

Tapas comes from the Spanish verb ‘tapar’ or to ‘cover’, and story goes that back in the day, ‘tapas’ was simply the piece of bread or maybe meat that you used to cover your wine glass so the flies didn’t drop in. 

Classy! That lead to actual small plates, with small bites of ‘bar food’ and simple cooking at inns and bars, replacing the slices of bread – and unknowingly starting a culinary craze. 

WATCH the video above for the Top Reasons we love Barcelona – including contemporary tapas with organic wine!

From those humble roots, tapas today has become a symbol not only of Spanish cuisine, but also lifestyle.
It represents relaxed gatherings of friends in a bar or sidewalk café in Spain, chatting, drinking wine, sharing small plates of simple, delicious and easy-to-eat local food. The very best thing about tapas is not what you drink or eat, but being in the moment.

Spain’s historic tradition of small, shared plates fit perfectly into a modern way of life and socializing.

No trip to Spain is complete without tapas. And no tapas experience is complete if it’s rushed or too formal or too fussy. So the best way to celebrate tapas on a trip to Spain is to give yourself plenty of time, find a place where the locals go, cast away any preconceived notions of what you ‘should’ be eating or drinking, and let the staff guide you to their favorite wine and best small dishes.

On World Tapas Day, you can celebrate one of the planet’s most beloved styles of dining and socializing even if you’re not actually in Spain – or even close to a casual Spanish restaurant.

Tapas’ simplicity makes it ideal for home entertaining – especially in the summer months when outdoor living, casual entertaining, simple, delicious shared plates and wine please the palate and your guests.

Visit your local wine store and ask for recommendations for a couple of types of Spanish wine. If you’re lucky, your local specialty food market will have everything else you need for simple tapas, too. Bread, olives, cheeses, jambon, and even marinated seafood easily translate into an evening of tapas in the backyard. You can plate some items up on skewers, scatter numerous small plates and napkins and candles around, add some Spanish guitar to your playlist and suddenly, you have tapas!

Are you motivated to do a little cooking? Spain Tourism has shared its list of 20 popular tapas that you'll find recipes for online.

A little of tapas makes a cocktail party… and more make a meal. There’s no better way to entertain, to celebrate Spanish culture – and to get inspired to take your next trip to Spain for tapas at the source.
 

#WorldTapasDay

#StartYourTrip



10 Reasons to Visit Columbia on Your Next Trip to Latin America
Colombia is reborn. Named after the 15th-century explorer of the Americas, Colombia stands out as the only nation in South America with coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, as well as being the leading source of coffee and emeralds in the world.
 
Colombia has found new followers among savvy global travellers, who, in survey after survey cited the warmth and kindness of Colombians as one of their top reasons to visit. Now, Colombia has given itself a new calling card, “the Most Welcoming Place on Earth.” 
 
That's number 1. We can think of at least nine more:
 
1 Colombia’s Renaissance
Forget old Miami Vice re-runs. Colombia has shed a troubled history, and narratives of cartels are a thing of the past. Through community and eco driven initiatives, the country has earned its place as one of the top destinations in South America, offering travellers a new place to explore. 
2 The most biodiverse country in the world
The South American nation is the most biodiverse country on earth per square kilometer, and is home to 10% of the Earth's flora and fauna.
3 Caribbean beaches AND a Pacific Coast…
There aren't many places in the world where you can sun yourself on a Caribbean beach and see snow-capped mountains at the same time in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal range in the tropics, and one of the highest coastal ranges in the world. On Colombia’s Pacific coast the beaches are surrounded by jungle and its waters host humpback whales from July to October. 
4 It has one of the world's biggest Carnivals
According to Colombians, the Barranquilla Carnival is second to none. It comes with a spectacular display of Colombia's melting pot of cultures: African, Indigenous, European and Middle Eastern.
5 Cool and Cosmopolitan
Bogota and Medellin are gaining traction on the world stage, and give visitors a taste of Latin American chic.
6 Get Your Java Fix
You remember the commercials. Colombia produces some of the world's most prized coffee - that's a given. What you might not know is that the country has a budding coffee tourism industry that brings you up close and personal with producers and tasters and the most authentic flavors, right at their source.
7 It's the Land of more than 1,000 Rhythms
Hailed as the Land of more than 1,000 Rhythms, every corner of Colombia moves to its own distinct sound. Actually, sounds. Over half a dozen distinct musical genres that blend Spanish and European influences with African beats and ancient indigenous rhythms liven up the country's cultural scene and make Colombia a must-visit place for music lovers.
8 Booming cycle-tourism
Colombia is at the heart of South American cycling tourism because of its diverse topography and climate - and with over 38 key training trails, your legs will tire out before your interest in this off-the-beaten-track cycling destination does. 
9 Greener and More Sustainable
Colombia has amended its tourism laws to incorporate sustainability as a core principal. The country formally recognizes the importance of protecting the environment and supporting local communities.

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Image courtesy ProColumbia

Cruise Ships: New, Improved, and Coming Soon
The latest designs, innovations, and features, in a sparkling white cruise ship gliding over the waves. If that’s not enough to get you excited about taking a cruise on a new ship, there’s always ‘new ship smell’.
 
A new cruise ship may not have a distinctive scent like a new car, but knowing you’re among the first to experience a new entry to the world’s fleet of cruise ships is a not-to-miss sensation.
 
Not every new ship comes ‘hot off the press’. Some ships are remade during their lifetimes, and their mystique begins afresh.
 
Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip TV’s cruise expert, lists the ships to keep your eye out for right now, whether new, improved, or coming soon.
 

NEW

 

Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas


The latest addition to this mega-cruise ship fleet is the 25th Royal Caribbean ship, and its second Quantum Class ship.
Vacationers of all ages are in for a combination of Royal’s signature, over-the-top cruise experiences plus 12 all-new and first-to-brand experiences including:
 
  • All-new pool deck to enjoy the sun and stars in style– Two decks, two open-air pools, four whirlpools and Splashaway Bay, anchored by a Quantum Ultra Class first – The Lime & Coconut bar
  • Action-packed top deck – Returning guest-favorites include the gravity-defying SkyPad virtual reality bungee trampoline adventure, FlowRidersurf simulator, skydiving with RipCord by iFly, and the iconic North Star all-glass observation capsule that boasts 360-degree views from 300 feet above sea level.
  • SeaPlex – The next-generation of a longtime Quantum Class favorite, this SeaPlex is the largest indoor and outdoor activity center at sea.
  • One-of-a-kind entertainment –Teched-out venues combine immersive technology, unparalleled special effects and world-leading performers and aerialists take the stage alongside six agile Roboscreens for a multidimensional live show.
  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar and Teppanyaki – Two Royal Caribbean restaurants new to North America join the many dining options on board.
 
After an inaugural summer season sailing bubble cruises from Israel in the Eastern Med in 2021, Odyssey sails to Fort Lauderdale for Caribbean cruises including calls at the cruise line’s private island beach experience Perfect Day at CocoCay.
 

IMPROVED

  

Paul Gauguin Cruises’ The Gauguin

 
Paul Gauguin Cruises is the longest-continually sailing luxury cruise line in the South Pacific with its ship The Gauguin, which has emerged from drydock, after intensive environmental upgrades, making her more protective of this precious and sensitive setting.
 
In addition, all her staterooms, suites and public spaces have been renovated in a chic and fresh vision of Polynesian style to enrich her 322 guests' experience sailing the islands of Tahiti, French Polynesia, Fiji and the South Pacific.

Every detail of The Gauguin's renovations reflect her South Seas home, including décor, artwork, Polynesian cuisine in the restaurants, onboard enrichment and cultural activities led by the ship's troupe of Tahitian entertainers. The refurbishment enhances the historic woodworks and adds local lagoon shades, green and natural tones, organic patterns and woven textiles, exotic panoramas and traditional artwork.

In addition to the renovation, the onboard lifestyle has been enhanced, with a new, virtual museum of over 150 paintings of artist Paul Gauguin, wifi, and all-inclusive experience, including dining in all three of the ship's restaurants.
 
Sailing on the renovated ship, guests have exclusive access to the line's private island and a private beach in Bora Bora, where you can embrace the natural wonders of the South Pacific through marine activities off the ship.
 

COMING SOON


Oceania Vista


By recently naming its upcoming ship The Vista (artists' renderings below and top), this culinary-and destination-focused cruise line looks to the future of cruise travel. The 1200-guest ship is the first of two new Allura Class ships on tap for Oceania, and will be the line’s 7th ship when it sets sail in 2023.

 
Like its sister ships, the new Vista will be a designer-inspired, intimate ship, with residential-inspired suites and staterooms, and dramatic and glamorous public spaces like the Grand Dining Room, which soars almost two decks in height and pays homage to the 'beautiful age' of early 20th-century Parisian society through its contemporary interpretation of Belle Époque. 

 
Guests will also be wowed by Vista's nine additional best-in-class culinary experiences, and several unique firsts that will re-define Oceania’s already acclaimed dining and guest experiences.
 

#DreamNowCruiseSoon

 
Images courtesy of their respective cruise lines.









Drink a Cocktail Made by the World’s 1st Human-like Robot Bartender at Sea
He mixes drinks, but doesn’t stop there. ‘Rob’ the robot bartender also speaks 8 languages, tells jokes and even dances too!
 
When we can cruise again, you won’t want to miss the world’s first humanoid – and interactive – shipboard robot bartender, who will make you the perfect cocktail to toast your return to cruising and travel.
 
When MSC Cruises launches its newest flagship this spring, it will have at least one exclusive feature.
 
The futuristic MSC Starship Club lets cruise guests feel like they’ve walked into a sci-fi movie as the sidle up to a bar that would look right at home in a space ship.  MSC tells us the Starship Club was half a decade in the making, the result of experts in robotics and automation, digital media, interior design and of course, mixology and entertainment.

 
After placing your order in one of the bar’s ‘vertical digital cockpits’, you can watch as Rob shakes up your order from a menu of 16 signature ‘cosmic cocktails’ – alcoholic and kid-friendly – or a beverage of your own creation using dozens of ingredients including spirits, juices and syrups, mixes and garnishes.
 
Meanwhile, an LED ticker tape strip above the robotic island tracks the status of your drink. And the 3D holograms and immersive digital art wall add to the atmosphere.   
 
Just like any good bartender, Rob’s got a ‘schtick’, chatting to guests, sharing jokes and responding to guests with human-like facial expressions and hand gestures – even dance moves.
 
When Rob is not preparing cocktails, he’s working the room. His AI programming gives him the ability to recognize guests passing by, greet and striking up a conversation with them.

 
The MSC Starship Lounge is just one of the 21 indoor and outdoor bars on board the 6300-guest Virtuosa, along with 11 dining options including a new concept for MSC: Indochine, with fusion Vietnamese/French cuisine.
 
Virtuosa and her sister ship Grandiosa are the two largest ships in 18-strong MSC Cruises' fleet. So there’s plenty of room for five spacious pools and one of the biggest and most elaborate waterparks at sea.
 
The Virtuosa will also be home to the longest LED dome at sea over top of the Galleria Virtuosa of a dozen boutiques and places to gather, lounge, sip and enjoy live entertainment.

And for those who like a quieter, more intimate cruise experience, the MSC Yacht Club is a luxury ‘ship within a ship’ with 24-hour butler service, private access to suites, dedicated restaurant, lounges, pool, whirlpools and spa space.
 
The ship will also be highly equipped with cutting-edge technologies and environmentally conscious capabilities.
 
After completing short cruises in the Mediterranean, Virtuosa will be deployed to Northern Europe in summer 2021 with a range of itineraries to the Norwegian fjords and Baltic capital cities.
 

#DreamNowCruiseSoon

 
Images: MSC






The 'FOMO' Guide To Travel in 2022
Social media has an acronym for it: FOMO, or ‘Fear of Missing Out’.
 
Over the last year, we’ve been missing out on a lot. A lot of get togethers, events, family celebrations… and a lot of travel. Finally, it looks like there’s light at the end of the tunnel, with travel starting to pick up this year, and gaining real speed in 2022. 
 
If you’re anything like us, you feel like you have a lot of catching up to do.
 
In addition to all your favorite travel experiences, the 2022 calendar of events is packed with events and natural phenomena that are always worth the trip. 
 
  • The return of live music and theater worldwide.

  • All the famous races, from the Kentucky Derby by horse, to one of the Grand Prix by car, the Tour de France by bicycle, and the America’s Cup at sea.

  • Carnivale. Wimbledon. Day of the Dead.

  • Fashion Weeks, Christmas Markets, St. Patrick’s Day parades.

  • The Great Migration of Africa’s Wildlife on Safari, Cherry Blossom Festivals, Wine Harvests
 
In normal times, these things happen every year. Whether you’ve enjoyed them often, or they’re still entries on your bucket list, if we’ve learned anything from a canceled year, it’s to seize the moment and do it while you can.
 
But there are even more reasons to travel in 2022, and this is where FOMO sets in. Next year has an extraordinary abundance of events that only happen a few times in a century. Once in a lifetime? Maybe not. But your FOMO instincts should be tingling.  
 

Mark Your Calendar

 
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed, and now the Summer Olympics take place in Japan in 2021, but the Winter Olympics are still on schedule for February 2022 in Beijing.
 
The World Games is a quadrennial event too, one that allows athletes to compete in dozens of sports uncontested at the Olympic Games, including acrobatic gymnastics, karate, orienteering, tug of war, waterskiing, and squash. They are held between Olympic Games. With the Summer Games bumped from 2020 to 2021, the 11th World Games were also rescheduled to July, 2022, in Birmingham, Alabama.
 
August 2022 brings another multi-nation, multi-sport games that take place every four years. At the upcoming XXII Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, 5000 athletes from dozens of countries compete in 20 summer sports that bring together the former members of the British Empire.
 
That’s not all that’s happening for sports fans in 2022. 
 
One sports event held every four years is the most widely viewed and followed in the world – beating out the even the Summer Games. The FIFA World Cup brings whole economies of diehard soccer fans to a standstill, and the fan culture in bars and cafes – and for some fortunate fans, in person – is legendary. The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held over nearly a month at the end of the year in Qatar, the first time for it to be held in the Arab world.
 
World Expos (formerly known as World’s Fairs) showcase the excellence of nations in arenas other than sports - like technology, agriculture, design and architecture, energy, ecology and more, with vast displays and events held for months twice a decade. Inventions like the telephone, color TV’s, touch screens, Ferris wheels and even ice cream cones were unveiled at World’s Fairs, which also debuted landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Seattle’s Space Needle. Expo 2020 was postponed, and now takes place from October 2021 through April 2022 in Dubai with the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’
 

FOMO Tip:

 
No matter what’s on your travel list in 2022, we have one big travel tip: book early.
 
With people using their stored-up travel credits, and everyone looking to make up lost travel time, some events and blocks of tickets are already selling out.
 
If you have a Fear of Missing Out of any once-in-a-lifetime trip in 2021 or 2022, now’s the time to start planning your trip with your travel advisor.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host BestTrip TV

Image: Getty

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This State's 'For Lovers', and Even has a Seductive Local Cuisine - Recipe Included!
The catchy saying is known around the world and has even been inducted into the Madison Avenue Advertising Walk of Fame.

‘Virginia is for Lovers’ debuted over 50 years ago, explaining to readers of ‘Modern Bride’ why they should honeymoon in Virginia.

Over the next half-century, ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ has come to mean a lot of different things to different people. It’s not just newlyweds who love Virginia, nestled between Chesapeake Bay on the Atlantic Ocean and the Appalachian Mountains.

Ways to Fall in Love in Virginia


Virginia is the cradle, the battlefield, and the bedroom of American history. Jamestown, founded in 1607, was the first permanent English colony in the New World.

(Thomas Jefferson's plantation, Monticello/ J Looney)

Right next door to Washington, the ‘Commonwealth’ is home to the estates of eight early Presidents, as well as hallowed battlefield and military sites.

Places like Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Mountains are fabled backbones of Virginia’s natural history. Lush with flora and fauna they are host to fables and current-day outdoor activities, from trail to mountain biking, epic hikes with breathtaking views, camping and backpacking.


Descend from Virginia’s heights to sea level, and you collide with history again, along with current-day thrills.
The rich waters and shores of the Atlantic in Virginia are not only where those first English colonists landed. Today, Virginia Beach holds the Guinness World Record for the longest pleasure beach in the world. Sandy shores stretch for 35 miles, which are also the northern-most warm water beaches on the Eastern Seaboard.

Humans aren’t the only ones who love the fertile waters of storied Chesapeake Bay.

‘Virginia is for Lovers’ takes on new meaning when you discover the state’s most famous local seafood. Oysters thrive in eight different coastal regions in Virginia, each giving a different complex flavor and texture to the mollusk that’s widely considered an aphrodisiac due to its suggestive appearance and abundance of zinc.

This food of love tastes best in proximity to the state’s bay breezes, salt water, sunshine and dockside views, and travelers can join Virginians eating oysters in the state year round, at traditional Chesapeake Bay oyster roasts, marquee events like oyster festivals, as well as at local wineries and breweries and of course, fine dining restaurants.


We may not be traveling to Virginia right now, but we can still infuse a little Virginia love into our own stay-at-home Valentine’s Day or any day we want to share some love, with this delicious oyster recipe, shared with us by Virginia’s Hotel Roanoke. 

With a prestigious AAA Four Diamond Designation testifying to the quality of its dining and hotel experience today, the Tudor-style Hotel Roanoke dates back to the latter half of the 19th century, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We bet local, fried oysters have been on the menu since the beginning. Here’s an upscale version to change up a romantic evening at home.
 

Hotel Roanoke’s Fried Oysters with Crab & Caper Beurre Blanc

Serves 2 as a light, shared treat
·     4 Fresh Medium-size Oysters
·     1 cup Ground Cornmeal
·     1 cup Buttermilk
·     Micro-Arugula
·     Deep-fat fryer
Beurre Blanc:
·     1 tsp Chopped Garlic
·     ¼ Cup Chopped Onion
·     1 cup White Wine
·     1 cup Vegetable stock
·     2 cup Heavy Cream
·     2 Tbs Hard Butter
·     ½ cup Lump Crabmeat
·     ½ cup Capers
·     Salt & Pepper to taste
To make Beurre Blanc, place garlic, onion, white wine, and vegetable stock in pot. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. Add heavy cream, bring to the boil and reduce until sauce consistency. Turn off heat, then whisk in hard butter a little at a time until fully incorporated. Strain, then add crab and capers. Season to taste. Leave until needed (covered in warm place).
Heat oil to 360 F. Dip each oyster into buttermilk (coat thoroughly) then into cornmeal, shake off excess, then carefully drop into hot oil. Fry until golden brown (1-2 minutes), drain dry. To serve, place a little sauce in bottom of one or two plates, and then top with Oysters and a few sprigs of micro-greens.
 

Enjoy with someone you love, and dream of traveling again soon!

 
 
Images Courtesy www.virginia.org/

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2 Travel-Inspired Beverages to get you in the Holiday Spirit
You may not be celebrating the holidays as usual this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create some new holiday entertaining traditions.

While we wait to travel and celebrate again, here are two recipes for ‘spirited’ holiday drinks from favorite destinations to warm your heart and remind you of better times ahead.

Perfect for a virtual holiday cocktail party, long winter evenings binge-watching holiday movies, or trimming your tree, these recipes can be made for one or more to share.
 

Gluhwein

Warm wine makes winter better. All the iconic Christmas tastes, sights and sounds of Germany’s Christmas markets, from the fir trees and handmade toys, fires roasted nuts and sausages, are enhanced by its warm and aromatic signature drink. Warm, often spiced, wine, can be found throughout Europe, like mulled wine in England, or vin chaud in France.

Gluhwein is Germany’s version. While the combination of citrus, fruit juices, spices – and even color of wine! – varies, one thing stays the same. Gluhwein translates roughly to ‘glowing wine’, referring to the red hot irons from the fires that were originally stuck into the wine to heat it up. That should give you a sense of the long history of Gluhwein. There’s a gold-plated Gluhwein tankard dating from the early 1400’s that’s attributed to the German aristocrat who was the first grower of Riesling grapes.

Cologne Christmas Market, Germany © GNTB/Wojciech Grabowski

Although most gluhweins you’ll see at Christmas markets in Germany involve red wine, this recipe, from AmaWaterways, uses regional white wines you’ll get to try on one of the river cruise line’s Danube or Rhine cruises during the summer or during a magical Christmas market cruise.

Ingredients
  • 3 cups of white wine (Silvaner or Müller-Thurgau)
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 cup Franconian plum brandy (optional but recommended, as a little of the alcohol cooks out of the wine)
  • 4 slices of orange
  • 2 slices of lemon
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 5 allspice seeds
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 pinch of aniseed
  • 1 tsp. honey (if you prefer it sweeter, add a bit more)
  • Extra slices of fruit for garnish, if desired
Preparation
  1. In a medium-sized stock pot with a tight-fitting lid, combine all of the ingredients, except for the honey. Stir to combine.
  2. Cover and bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer, keeping the lid on, for 10 minutes. Be careful not to let it come to a boil again; if it boils too long all of the alcohol will be cooked out.
  3. After 10 minutes, immediately remove from the heat. Strain the mixture with a fine mesh sieve; discard the aromatics. Return the mixture to the pot and taste-test. Stir in honey, tasting as you go until you reach your desired sweetness.
  4. Ladle into desired serving glasses. Garnish with sliced fruit, cinnamon sticks, cloves, or star anise pods, if desired. Serve immediately.
 
Pair your Gluhwein with authentic German standards like hot sausages and pretzels, or seasonal festive sweets like stollen, fruit bread; gingerbread or lebkuchen; and glorious marzipan. 
 

Rompope

The clue to this festive Costa Rican drink is also in its name. But it’s not like a rum punch found in the Caribbean. Rompope is Costa Rica’s answer to British egg nog or Dutch advocaat, composed of egg yolk, milk, sugar, cinammon and rum. Unlike egg nog, it’s cooked like a hot, boozy custard. Variations made with coconut milk, coffee, almonds or other nuts are popular in other parts of Latin America.

Rompope’s roots are believed to be Spanish colonial, with stories told of Spanish nuns making the New World’s first batches. Today, families often make two bottles ahead of celebrations, a grown-up version with the rum, and a non-alcoholic version for the younger members of the family. The kids’ version is also used for making cookies, cakes, ice cream and jellies. And the adult rompope can be strong; the rum is added at the end so the alcohol doesn’t cook off.

Courtesy Visit Costa Rica

It’s the sweet and strong traditional beverage of Christmas gatherings. And Visit Costa Rica has sent this rompope recipe for us to share in its celebration of the joys of the season.

Ingredients (4 servings)
•           4 cups milk
•           1 cups sugar
•           2 cinnamon sticks
•           6 egg yolks
•           1 Tbsp. cornstarch
•           Rum to taste
•           Nutmeg to taste

Preparation
Place 3 cups of milk, the sugar and cinnamon in a pot. Heat. Apart, dissolve the cornstarch and the egg yolks in the rest of the milk and add to the pot. Cook over low heat for several minutes. Cool and add rum to taste. Sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon before serving.
 

#HolidayCheers


#SipNowTravelSoon


Top Image: Nuremberg Christmas Market; copyright German National Tourism Board/ Jens Wegener
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Italy Names Its First 'City of Wine'
Wine lovers have one more reason to get traveling again next year. In celebration of one of its oldest and most beloved products, Italy has declared its first-ever ‘City of Wine’.

The Italian association of communities that collaborate to protect and promote their regional wine designations held a competition for the new honor. 

Barolo - the town with the famous red wine of the same name – was crowned ‘City of Wine’ for the award’s inaugural year in 2021.

Nestled between Genoa on Italy’s north-western coast, and the Alps to the north, the picturesque Langhe hills surrounding Barolo in Piedmont are nearly entirely covered by vineyards and have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The nebbiolo grape grown there is made into Barolo wine – so highly esteemed, it’s been dubbed the ‘King of Wines’.
Barolo wine is considered the most famous regional designation in all of wine-rich Italy. Not only does the wine have to originate only in the Barolo zone – that’s only 5 miles across at its widest point – wine must also go through a particular process. That includes a minimum of 3 years of ageing – half of that in wooden casks. Barolo is famously a wine high in tannin and much better aged, with some connoisseurs waiting more than 10 years for Barolo wines to develop the best flavor.

That’s put some modernizers – who favor a fruitier, quicker, less fermented version that appeals to modern and international tastes – at odds with die hard traditionalists.

You can decide for yourself at the abundance of wineries and wine shops that form the core of any visit to Barolo, and pair the wine with some of the region’s famous dishes at local restaurants. (Don't miss braised beef Barolo - in Barolo red wine sauce, with carrots, an iconic example of Piedmontese cuisine.)

To beat out half a dozen other competitors for the new title ‘City of Wine’, Barolo proposed an entire 2021 calendar of events, exhibitions, seminars, tastings and installations. They’ll celebrate the wine traditions, history of Barolo wine, and the natural cycle of the seasons.

City of Wine celebrations only enhance Barolo’s permanent features: the Langhe hills, Barolo vineyards, wineries, and wine shops. Add Barolo castle and its wine museum, the nearby, quirky Corkscrew Museum, and Barolo chapel standing in the middle of vineyards with its historic sanctuary for vineyard workers-meets-modern art installation to your essential 2021 pilgrimage to Italy’s first designated City of Wine.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images: Getty
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Sweet Spot: New Chocolate Museum Houses the World's Largest Chocolate Fountain
It’s one part of the great trifecta of iconic Swiss contributions to world culture: precision clocks, alpine-produced cheese… and chocolate.
And now, a new museum celebrates the sweetest thing about Switzerland.
The Lindt Home of Chocolate has opened on the outskirts of Zurich. Its centerpiece will get any fan of fine chocolate drooling – and wishing they had brought a fondue fork!
This isn’t just any chocolate fountain. At 30.5 feet, it easily tops the 27-foot height of the chocolate fountain at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the current Guinness World Record holder for tallest chocolate fountain. 
It isn’t often local tennis great and Lindt brand ambassador, Roger Federer, is upstaged. (He's on the left in both of the photos above.) 
But at the museum’s opening ceremony, all eyes were on the 4850 lb chocolate art installation. More than 300 feet of pipe enable 400 gallons of Swiss chocolate to flow from a giant whisk down over a supersized replica of a signature Lindor truffle sphere.
Beyond the fascination of the world’s largest chocolate fountain, the Lindt Home of Chocolate is an interactive celebration of all things chocolate: multimedia exhibits follow chocolate from the origins of the cocoa bean and its introduction to Europe, where 200 years ago, Swiss pioneers helped develop the confectionary we know, love, and use to mark nearly every holiday occasion today!
It’s a multi-sensory experience. You can marvel at the open-view production line that reveals the secrets behind the process of creating chocolate, and follow it from start to its satisfying conclusion in the tasting room.
Chocolate fans rub shoulders with experts who are developing new chocolate masterpieces in Lindt’s test kitchen, or leading courses in chocolate making for all ages.
The biggest chocolate fountain in the world isn’t the only record breaker in the Lindt Home of Chocolate. Chocoholics will lose themselves among traditional Lindt pralines and treats in the biggest chocolate shop in the world.
But why have the world’s biggest chocolate shop without one-of-a-kind treats? Watch a Master Chocolatier create a chocolate bar customized exactly to your taste and whims. And design your own praline packaging so you’ll have a personalized souvenir for yourself or the perfect Swiss sweet to take home to your loved ones.

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy Lindt Home of Chocolate

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3 New, Impossibly Picturesque Boutique Hotels That Make it Easy to Dream About Your Next Trip to Europe

France. Italy. Spain. If you’re imagining traveling again to Europe, you’ll have no problem picturing yourself in any of three independent boutique hotels that have just opened in spectacular historic properties.

All three belong to the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group of over 500 independent and unique hotels in 90 countries. They all have special character and offer themes that are even more relevant in the new world of travel: small size, privacy, and locations that allow guests to get away from crowds of tourists. 


Milan, Italy

Galleria Vik Milano is part hotel, part post-modern art gallery, immersing guests in Milan’s rich artistic heritage. With bold murals, striking sculptures and a colourful palette, this 88-room hotel is a canvas for Milan’s creative side.


The hotel is located inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and is circled by Milan’s best-loved shops, landmarks, restaurants and galleries. Get your culinary, cultural or couture fix – it’s all literally on your hotel doorstep – then easily escape into your lifestyle hotel.


Both guest rooms and public areas are exhibition spaces with each bearing the hallmark of a renowned artist. Two restaurants, one with dawn-to-dusk food and drinks, the other dedicated to wood-fired pizza, complete your escape from the busy urban surroundings. Fully committed to the marriage of art and life, the hotel has no TV’s or screens. 

Don’t-miss feature: The Adriano Pompa Gallery Suite offers a mezzanine-level bed beneath a Renaissance-esque mural.


Loire Valley, France

If you’ve ever imagined living like the nobility of old France in their chateaux in the Loire Valley, that dream can become a reality in this 49-room hotel. While Les Sources de Cheverny (pictured, top) evokes historic times, guests enjoy modern comforts of luxury French country life.


Everything from the local produce served in the restaurant, the artisanal wooden WaterRower fitness machines, the solid oak jacuzzi and thermal pool, to the antioxidant and anti-aging grape seed extracts of Caudalie’s signature treatments in the Spa des Sources complements the surrounding farms, vineyards and the estate’s 45 hectares of woodland.
 
Here guests can rejuvenate in the spa, inspire energy with a forest-based yoga session, bathe in nature and feed their minds.

Don’t-miss feature: Discover the region on the Loire à Velo cycle route with the hotel’s complimentary bikes. Meander through more than 900km of cycle paths through Loire vineyards, along the banks of the river and past the region’s glorious Renaissance chateaux.


Matarraña, Spain

Torre del Marques is a 15th-century farmhouse that has been brought back to life for the 21st-century and beyond. The intimate, 18-room hotel is in 150 hectares of forest, farmland and vineyards in Aragon, a region of Spain. While it’s easily accessible from Barcelona, many tourists have yet to discover the area sometimes referred to as the ‘Spanish Tuscany’.


Guests of the hotel can enjoy the bounties of the region, including local delicacies surrounded by the gardens and groves that provide them - olives, almonds, honey and black truffles are showcased on the menu alongside local wines like Tempranillo and grape must Mistella.


The hotel has undergone a bio-sustainable makeover with families and small groups in mind. The Suite Room spaciously accommodates four people with two connecting rooms and an outdoor terrace.
 Don’t-miss feature: the organic, ‘zero-kilometre’ restaurant.
 

We can picture a dream escape in luxury to one of Europe’s most beloved destinations in any of these three new boutique hotels.

 

#DreamNowTravelSoon

 
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Seize the End of Summer with Recipes Inspired by Favorite American Hot Weather Travel Destinations

The kids are back to school (whatever that looks like this year for your nearest and dearest), but on the calendar, summer isn’t quite over – yet. The Autumn Equinox – the first day of Fall – arrives this year on Tuesday September 22, so we still have a couple more weekends of ‘summer’.


You may not have done all the traveling you wanted this summer, but you can catch up now in spirit. Serve up an celebration of summer travel with a party in your backyard full of summer flavors from beloved American hot weather destinations.



1. Pensacola, Florida: Grits à Ya Ya

Along Florida’s Northwest Coast, Pensacola is home to The Fish House, the restaurant behind the unique and delicious Grits à Ya Ya, created by Chef Jim Shirley. A combination of grits, a southern staple, heavy cream and lots of smoked gouda cheese, this is comfort food like no other. This delicious dish is sure to be a hit with your guests!

“In 1998 I developed this Fish House favorite during the Mardi Gras season. Mardi Gras, properly celebrated, can sometimes last for days. Recognizing the toll this marathon celebration had on my friends, I created this fare that not only provided sustenance but tasted great, too. Since then we've whomped up hundreds of thousands of dishes of my favorite child. Enjoy it at home with this recipe.”

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

The smoked Gouda Grits

1 quart chicken stock

1 cup heavy cream

1 lb Dixie Lily grits

1/4 pound butter

1 lb shredded smoked Gouda cheese

The Ya Ya

8 strips applewood-smoked bacon, diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced shallots

3 tablespoons butter

White wine

1 lb peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp

1 portobello mushroom cap, sliced

1/4 cup diced scallions

2 cups chopped fresh spinach

2 cups heavy cream

3 cups smoked Gouda cheese grits

PREPARATION

*For dietary restrictions or preferences, you can make this recipe shellfish-free if you replace the shrimp with 1½ lbs of an assortment of your favorite mushrooms, chopped.


First, make your grits. Run the chicken stock into a thick-bottomed saucepan and turn on high till it boils. Mix in the grits and stir like crazy. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cream if you need more liquid. Then tumble in the butter, add creamed corn, drizzle in the rest of the cream and stir till it’s all in the family. Then shake in the shredded cheese and stir very well till it’s all nice and smooth.

While your grits cook, bring a large saucepan to medium heat. Add bacon and cook for about 3 minutes, then add garlic and shallots. Saute and then add butter and a splash of white wine. When butter is half melted, add the shrimp. When the downsides of the shrimp become white, flip them and add mushrooms, scallions and spinach. Saute for 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp. Pour in heavy cream and let simmer while stirring. When reduced by 1/3, add salt, pepper and hot sauce. Return shrimp to sauce and combine. Spoon the sauce and shrimp onto heaping mounds of cheese grits.


2. San Antonio, Texas: Seafood and Quail Paella

This 300-year old city that originated as a Spanish mission and colonial outpost is now the second-largest city in Texas and the Southern US.


It’s one of only two American cities designated a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy and it’s easy to see why. If you're in the mood for some ‘Tex-Next’ dining, this seafood and quail paella - a twist on the traditional Spanish dish in an ode to the city’s heritage - created by Chef Steve McHugh of Cured should hit the spot.


“Experience the taste of Spain, with a San Antonio flavor in your own kitchen. This paella is meant to be enjoyed with family, friends and good wine.”


Serves 20

INGREDIENTS

1 ¼ cups extra virgin olive oil

Healthy pinch of saffron

Healthy pinch of red pepper flakes

Healthy pinch of paprika

2 lbs quail legs

2 lbs smoked Spanish chorizo

4 tablespoons shaved garlic

1 diced & roasted red pepper

1 sliced jalapeño

2 cups Sofrito

3 cups escargot

4 cups mussels

3 cups large shrimp

8 cups Bomba rice

4 quarts chicken stock

Salt

Pepper

Large cooked white beans

Pickled serrano peppers

½ cup preserved lemon rind, sliced thin

½ cup peas

Pea sprouts

PREPARATION

*Although paella traditionally includes and is most delicious with seafood, for dietary restrictions or preferences, you may wish to switch out the shellfish with cubed chicken and chunks of your favorite barbecuing sausage.


Heat your oil in the Paella pan. Sauté the chorizo and the quail. Turn the heat down to medium, add the saffron, red pepper flakes, garlic, red pepper, Sofrito and jalapeño. Sweat the vegetables until they are translucent in color. Add in Bomba rice, mix well. Add mussels, and shrimp. Arrange the ingredients in a nice pattern across your entire paella. Add in chicken stock, and allow to simmer until the rice is cooked, and most liquid is gone. Continue cooking until the bottom of the paella forms a Socarrat, or crust (this is the key to a delicious paella!).

FINISH & SERVE

Garnish the top with preserved lemon, pickled serrano peppers, white beans, peas and pea shoots. Serve hot to your loved ones.

Share your finished product using #TexNext and tag @visitsanantonio!


3. Hawaii: The Mai Tai

Often mistaken as Hawaiian, tiki is actually imaginary, made of a collection of romanticized concepts of Polynesian and South Seas culture, including humanoid teak carvings, coconut shell bikini tops, grass skirts, pineapples… and powerful cocktails featuring pineapple, coconut, rum, and other tropical flavors. Tiki and tiki bars have become shorthand for ‘Pacific Island getaway’ and they abound in Hawaii.


A staple in any tiki bar, the Mai Tai is the perfect Summer drink - or your drink of choice during a visit to America’s Pacific island state. You’ll be carried to Hawaii’s clear blue waters after your first sip of this fruity concoction.


Serves 1

INGREDIENTS:

1 oz spiced rum

1 oz coconut rum

1 tsp grenadine syrup

2 oz pineapple juice

2 oz orange juice


PREPARATION

Combine the rums, grenadine, and juices in a cocktail mixer with ice. Shake and strain into a glass of ice. *Party Tip: make these up a pitcher at a time with a bucket of ice and garnish handy.

SERVE

Garnish with wedges of fresh pineapple on a skewer topped with a cherry.

With these 3 recipes delivering up the taste of travel for a late-summer get together, dress in your most festive summer wear, soak up the last of the season’s sun, and enjoy, dreaming of your next summer weather vacation.

#TravelAgainSoon

Recipes and images courtesy of

· Visit Florida

· Travel Texas

· Hawaii Tourism

· And the respective restaurants/chefs referenced.



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These 'Hotels' are Full of 'Guests' Throughout Pandemic - Part of Fairmont's 'Bee Sustainable' Program
The global pandemic closed the doors of nearly every hotel in the world. But thousands of very special ‘guests’ at some Fairmont hotels stayed.
Some have even been ‘residents’ for years.

'HOME SWEET HIVE'

In 2008, the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto and Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver installed honey beehives. These two urban hotels may not seem likely places for apiaries. But the thriving hives made headlines, raising awareness of the importance of bees to our world, as well as producing honey for (human) guests, and highlighting local products and food.
Fast forward over ten years, and other Fairmont properties have joined the ‘Bee Sustainable’ initiative, from the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle and Fairmont San Francisco, to Fairmont Yangcheng Lake in China and Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club in Africa. Onsite local honey produced replaces purchased honey in the hotels’ bars and restaurants. Six rooftop honey beehives at the Royal York alone – home to 350,000 bees - are producing 450 pounds of honey every year.
Every hotel’s honey is one-of-a-kind, tasting of the nectars of dozens of indigenous flowers from humble dandelions to cherry blossoms. And the bees do double duty, foraging up to 12 square miles, pollinating area gardens and parks as they visit over 1 million flowers for every pound of honey they produce. 

WILD BEE 'HOTELS'

Not all bees produce honey. But all bees are essential pollinators.
So Fairmont broadened its groundbreaking Bee Sustainable program in 2014, building and installing wild bee ‘hotels’. These wooden structures feature sticks drilled with holes to attract wild bees in the area in need of a safe haven.
Now, millions of bees call Fairmont hotels ‘home’. Nearly two dozen honey bee hives, and a similar number of wild pollinator bee hotels grace the grounds and rooftops and terraces of Fairmont hotels around the world:

CANADA

  • Fairmont Royal York - Toronto
  • Fairmont Waterfront -Vancouver
  • Fairmont Chateau Whistler
  • Fairmont Empress - Victoria
  • Fairmont Vancouver Airport
  • Fairmont Le Château Frontenac - Québec City
  • Fairmont Palliser - Calgary
  • Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth - Montréal
 

USA

  • Fairmont San Francisco - San Francisco
  • Fairmont Washington D.C.
  • Fairmont Copley Plaza- Boston
  • Fairmont San Jose
  • Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa - Sonoma, USA
  • Fairmont Dallas
  • Fairmont Olympic Hotel – Seattle
  • Fairmont Orchid - Hawaii
 

INTERNATIONAL

  • Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda
  • Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club - Mount Kenya, Kenya
  • Fairmont Mayakoba - Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
  • Fairmont Le Montreux Palace - Montreux, Switzerland
  • Fairmont Yangcheng - LakeSuzhou, China
  • Fairmont Beijing - China
 
Bees have also become part of their hotels’ guest experiences over the years, from culinary and cocktail menu items, beekeeper courses and packages, garden and bee tours, honey tastings, and special gift items.

BEE SUSTAINABLE

Fairmont has even opened a bee hotel at parent company Accor’s global HQ in Paris. The Bee Sustainable program is a cornerstone of the company’s commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable tourism.
The program works with the Pollinator Partnership, an organization dedicated to protecting and promoting pollinators and their ecosystems – not just bees, but also the birds, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other creatures whose pollination efforts produce one out of every three bites of food we eat.
In that way, Bee Sustainable isn’t just about sustainable tourism and supporting local foods in Fairmont hotels. The company says supporting bee habitats is part of its commitment to hotel communities, food production and the economy, noting that bees pollinate 1,000 of the 1,200 crop varieties that provide 80% of human food worldwide and contribute billions of dollars to the US economy alone.
That’s the big picture, and Fairmont is also encouraging everyone to support bees in your own backyard just as Fairmont hotels support bees on their properties. Families and nature lovers will It sells mini bee hotels at fairmontstore.com – a perfect way for nature lovers to get involved, and for families to learn more about bees at home.
 
You can also learn more about the Fairmont Bee Sustainable program and the importance of honeybees and wild bees at fairmontbeesustainable.com.
 

#DREAMNOWTRAVELSOON


Images courtesy Fairmont

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Drink Like the Queen with the First Official Buckingham Palace Gin
In the times of COVID, even Her Majesty needs a side-gig. Why not in the tasty world of spirits?
In a Royal first, official Buckingham Palace gin has gone on sale to the public – and the first batch sold out online in only 8 hours!
The premium, small-batch, London dry is an initiative of the Royal Collection Trust. It is infused with citrus and herbal notes that are derived from 12 botanicals, including some collected from the Buckingham Palace garden itself, like lemon verbena, hawthorn berries, bay leaves and mulberry leaves.

Gin for Art Conservation

Priced at £40 - about $50 USD per bottle, sales from the gin don’t go into the Queen’s already pretty well-lined pockets.
It’s an initiative of the Royal Collection Trust, a privately-funded charity. 
The Royal Collection of art, artefacts, furnishings and more is one of the largest and most important collections in the world and one of the last remaining intact royal collections in Europe. It is dispersed between over a dozen royal residences and properties, many available for visitors to see during public opening hours. The Royal Collection is not owned by the Queen as an individual. The Trust is responsible for maintaining and displaying the priceless works for the Crown’s heirs and the nation.
The charity has revealed it’s expecting a shortfall of tens of millions of British pounds without ticket sale revenues due to pandemic closures, so the tremendous success of the Buckingham Palace gin will help ensure the Trust can continue its conservation work.
Luckily, a second batch was already ordered and available just in time to stock shelves at the Royal Collection shops that re-opened July 23rd at Windsor Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, and the Queen’s Galleries in London and Edinburgh.
North Americans will have to wait to taste Buckingham Palace gin. Online delivery is only available in the UK. Fortunately, there are lots of other items on the Royal Collection Trust’s web site to give you a taste of British royalty until you can travel to the UK again.

Drink like the Queen

The Royal Collection Trust recommends enjoying Buckingham Palace gin in a classic, hot-weather thirst-quenching gin and tonic. It also says the gin will be served at official Buckingham Palace events.
But the Queen’s reported pre-lunch cocktail (you read that right, pre-lunch) isn’t a G&T, although it does feature gin, along with Dubonnet, an aperitif made from fortified wine and a special blend of botanicals including peels, spices and herbs.
Until you can visit the UK and pick up a bottle of Her Majesty’s new gin, any premium, London dry gin will do (it’s said HM traditionally drinks Gordon’s), and the recipe is easy:
·     1 part gin
·     2 parts Dubonnet Rouge
Stirred with ice, strained into a cocktail glass over cubed ice, served with a slice of lemon.
 

#DreamNowTravelSoon



Images: The Royal Collection Trust
Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.