Budget Travel Warehouse Inc. London Ontario's Blog

Is the Modern Travel Luxury... Sleep?

You can't enjoy life - even luxury travel - if you don't have sleep. That's the premise of the new ship-board wellness program on Celebrity Cruises in conjunction with its spa and wellness partner Canyon Ranch SpaClub.

It's not just about getting your 'beauty sleep' these days.  It's about stressful lifestyles and poor sleeping habits that have left many of us chronically exhausted. 

That takes the fun out of even the most amazing travel experience or destination.

So what better time than on vacation to not only catch up on some rest and relaxation – but also to experience new sleep treatments that can help you improve your sleep even after your holiday? Especially after your holiday?

Celebrity Cruises and onboard Canyon Ranch SpaClub now offer cruise travelers a curated program for sleep called Mindful Dreams. The program is available fleet-wide beginning the fall of 2017.

The program takes a 360-degree view of sleep and sleep 'hygiene'.  There are so many factors that affect a restorative night's sleep.  Celebrity's guests can try new treatments, products and sleeping aids, receive nutrition advice on the best culinary choices to aid in sleep, and enjoy expert lectures and special instructional classes promoting a holistic approach to mindful sleep that will benefit you during your cruise… and back at home.

Mindful Dreams got its name from an existing Canyon Ranch SpaClub relaxation treatment. This sleep-encouraging experience incorporates products specifically designed to soothe, alongside a sleep-inducing cultural massage, and meditation techniques. It's a focused treatment to evoke instant tranquility and foster inner wellbeing, calmness and serenity, transporting guests to the perfect getaway state-of-mind.  Now that's a holiday!

Additional sleep-enhancing treatments in the program include:

  • Organic lavender and seaweed sugar glow
  • Age-defying restorative facial
  • Lazy days detox seaweed bath

The program features VOYA luxury products. For centuries, it's been known that lavender can contribute to relaxation and sleep. The lavender body care range, Tranquility, incorporated in many of the Mindful Dreams treatments, helps to ease the stresses of everyday life, leading to a feeling of relaxation and peace. All ingredients are organic and sustainably harvested on the western coast of Ireland.

More and more travelers are planning holidays with self-improvement – especially wellness goals – in mind.  We love Mindful Dreams' focus on providing Celebrity's guests with relaxation and sleep during your sailing… and especially a lifetime of wellness habits and techniques for mindfully improving your sleep in your daily routine once your cruise is over.

Your whole life and life outlook feels better with a good night's sleep.  What better gift to give yourself with a gift of travel than a whole new approach to restorative sleep?

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Where's the Coolest Place to do Yoga in Vancouver?

It's where stand up paddleboard meets downward dog – in a South Beach-style pool overlooking Vancouver's seawall and mountains. 

The latest trend in West Coast wellness lifestyle, the stand up paddleboard (SUP), is well established in Vancouver.  And yoga? Well that's a no-brainer. 

But it took local SUP pioneer and yoga instructor Kristy Wright Schell to bring the two together and introduce them to Vancouver.  And the Westin Bayshore's programming team to take notice and make Kristy's 'Liquid Yoga' part of the hotel's pool lifestyle.

The stunning hotel pool gives participants an opportunity to practice yoga in the open sea air, embracing the quintessential experience of Vancouver's West Coast lifestyle but in the security of a pool as an aquatic yoga studio, rather than the open sea like SUP yoga.

We tried it and we think it's inspired.

On a fair summer day in Vancouver, British Columbia, the locals joke it's like 'British California'.  And it seems that somehow, every resident and visitor in town is outdoors or on the water.  

This program gives hotel guests – and the general public – a unique way to be part of the local wellness and outdoor culture, even if you're in town, like we were, with a packed business schedule.

Liquid Yoga sessions take place in the morning, while the pool is still quiet. Kristy, who's the Owner/Founder of Just Add Water Yoga Ltd and Standup Paddle Vancouver, discovered made-in-Canada Aquamats (Kristy's on the center mat below). She and the Westin Bayshore team decided on six, so every session is intimate and there is plenty of space around each mat in the pool.

Photos: Above, Westin Bayshore; Top, BestTrip.TV

Unlike yoga on SUP's, Aquamats have squared corners and are stable left to right, but, here's the 'twist', they do tend to rotate. 

Getting wet can be intentional… or accidental.  Participants either mount pool-side dry, or have the option to swim to their mats, and some of the poses involve options to dip in the water, or even dismount and remount, adding that challenge and direct interaction with water.   Kristy says about 1 in the 6 students every session will end up in the drink without meaning to.  Luckily the pool is warm!

For Liquid Yoga, Kristy uses a lot of Vinyasa 'flow'  - the water environment lends itself quite literally to a fluid practice, where participants need to bridge the gap between effort and surrender to stay balanced on the mat in the water.

As a result, you gain a new awareness of your body in the pose, and new awareness of your yoga practice. Control freaks usually intent on the perfect pose will find they need to let go a little and relax in response to the elasticity of the water.  While yoga slackers will need to bring more consciousness to their practice to literally 'stay afloat'.

Even though Kristy keeps to relatively simple poses. A class that done on the floor in a studio would be quite basic takes on a new challenge in the water, requiring you constantly engage tiny core muscles for balance.

But in case you were thinking it all sounds very serious… it's not.  Let's face it: we are primed for pools as places to play, and Liquid Yoga brings a playfulness to yoga practice too.  We almost wanted to fall in!

It's like taking a 'mini yoga retreat' completely outside a usual yoga environment that reconnects and reinvigorates your yoga practice.

We recommend wearing your bathing suit under layers of yoga or workout wear that will wick water away from you in the open air.  Didn't bring workout wear? We love that guests can take advantage of the Run Westin's gear lending program.

Classes fill up, so we recommend advanced booking through the hotel concierge or Kristy's web site.  The sessions are open to both hotel guests and the general public.

There are two morning sessions of Liquid Yoga at the Westin Bayshore 6 days a week (except Mondays) from May- September whenever the pool is open.  They are considering moving it to the indoor pool once the outdoor pool closes.

Liquid Yoga is a terrific way to enjoy the Westin Bayshore's gorgeous, 'make an entrance' circular pool, with its new South Beach style cabanas and indoor/outdoor terrace restaurant.  But it's also an inspired addition to Westin's wellness cuisine and activity programming, with a uniquely Vancouver spirit, enhanced by the Westin Bayshore's incomparable views of Vancouver's harbor, seawall and mountains. 

By: BestTrip.TV's Lynn Elmhirst with Ryan McElroy

 

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A New Place for the Best Views of Old Havana

The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana has opened in Havana.  It's the Cuban capital's first five-star luxury hotel, located in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Havana.  And it is the first foray into the Americas for Europe's oldest luxury hotel group Kempinski.

The hotel is a revival of an historic six-story colonnaded building begun in the late 1800's.  It lived through various incarnations as Cuba's first European-style department store, a silent film theater, and later, government offices, slowly decaying like much of the historic architecture in isolated Cuba.  Its re-imagination as a luxury hotel brings the Manzana building back to its glory days… and then some.

Now as a 246-room urban lifestyle hotel, the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, with its whitewashed façade, is again a landmark and beacon of style in Old Havana. A cool, pale color palette, with vivid tropical hits of pinks, teals and purples, cements its design hotel credentials.

Rooms all have ceilings 4-6.5 meters ( 13-20 feet) in height, contemporary furnishings and many have large French doors/windows perfect for admiring the patio and city views.  Worth mentioning is the air conditioning and wi-fi, which, along with truly luxury levels of service, you can't take for granted in the up-and-coming tourism destination of Cuba.

A 100 square meter (10,000 square foot) spa by Resense, and a business center round out amenities that include six bars and restaurants covering every whim of entertaining around the clock. 

When in Cuba, as they say… so of course there had to be a cigar lounge.  You are guided through a Cuban cigar experience by a cigar sommelier who also suggests a perfect beverage pairing – with Cuban rum, naturally.

And the spectacular roof top bar is the best place in the city for incomparable scenic vistas day or night over Old Havana’s Parque Central, and El Capitolio (a replica of the U.S. Capitol).   The panoramic rooftop views are icing on the cake of this hotel that is at once majestic, high-style, and fun.

The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana has reclaimed the building's position as a hub in the centre of the Old Havana.  As Cuba continues its upward trajectory towards full-fledged modern tourism, it provides an international urban lifestyle hotel experience for that luxury group of travelers, visitors to its bars, restaurants and spa. It also sets a high bar for new arrivals on the luxury travel scene in Cuba's capital.

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Costa Maya is world famous for ancient Mayan ruins, but traditional culture is still alive for visitors looking for authentic experiences.

We met a local shaman who practices the spiritual beliefs of Mexico's ancient, indigenous peoples. On this shore excursion from our Carnival cruise, he shares with us the spiritual and wellness traditions of his ancestors, including a sweat lodge ceremony followed by a dip in sacred waters.

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Go Coastal! 5 Beaches you Can't Miss in Maine this Summer

Summer in Maine defines coastal living.  Wood-siding summer homes in nautical colors along miles of beaches begging for you to stroll and dig your toes in the sand, examine shells and driftwood, inhale the cool Atlantic breezes, walk the dog among sandy dunes, and of course, enjoy the sea.

Maine is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in the US, and by mid-summer, they've warmed up enough to beckon swimmers off the sand and into the waves. Here are five beaches you just can't miss on a trip to New England.

1. Old Orchard Beach.

Start with this seven-mile strand that has been welcoming visitors for over 170 years. It has the only beachfront amusement park in New England. You can even reach Old Orchard Beach aboard the Amtrak Downeaster, which stops just steps away from the beach. The 500-foot classic pier is a powerhouse of family entertainment with shopping, arcades, dining, nightlife and concerts and even fireworks!

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It's also the point of departure for fishing, whale watching, and birdwatching tours.

2. Scarborough Beach State Park

For those seeking a little more tranquility, Scarborough Beach State Park has waves that attract local surfers and a wide beach that's ideal for families. Scarborough Beach offers some of the best swimming in New England with water temps in the high 60's through out July and August.

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It's also the nesting grounds of endangered Piping Plovers; visitors help protect them by following bans on dogs, bikes and kite flying April through November.

3. Ogunquit Beach

This beach (pictured top) is ranked among the top beaches in the United States, great for swimming, bodysurfing, and searching for shells and driftwood. It's a 3 ½ mile peninsula of sandy beach and grassy dunes; a natural barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ogunquit River.  (There's a footbridge across the river at the midsection of the beach).

You can rent chairs, umbrellas and floats, launch a small boat at the boat ramp, and stroll along Marginal Way, a mile-long cliff walk that extends along the ocean, and pass Marginal Way Lighthouse en route.

4. Goose Rocks Beach

The picturesquely-named beach at Kennebunkport is a wide beach with three miles of soft sand and moderate surf. A barrier reef offshore known as Goose Rocks, visible at low tide, helps protect the soft, white sands of the beach.

This is a perfect spot for you to spread out the beach blankets, chairs and umbrellas for a fun day of sunbathing, relaxing, swimming and combing the shore for sand dollars. An ideal relaxed family day at the beach.

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5. Popham Beach

Finally, Popham Beach is a wilder beach in Midcoast Maine. It's part of Popham Beach State Park, one of Maine's rare geologic landforms. The Kennebec and Morse rivers border each end of the long stretch of sandy beach. From the beach, you can see offshore islands, such as Fox and Wood Islands, where you can explore at low tide. You can even get a geologic tour of the beach.

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Canada's Top Travel Treasures

Canada celebrates 150 years of Confederation on July 1, 2017. Of the many celebrations, events and legacy builds taking place in Canada this year, one of our favorites is the free admission to Canada's National Parks and historic sites for the entire year.

Parks Canada is inviting Canadians and visitors from around the world to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary at national treasures from coast to coast to coast with free admission to all Parks Canada locations. You can order your pass online or pick up in person at certain locations.

Here is our curated collection of Canada's National Parks and historic sites and nearby experiences that might help inspire you to include the 'true North, strong and free' in your travel plans this year.

L'Anse aux Meadows

In a clever line on the Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism web site, 'even the Vikings came here to get away'.

If you thought Columbus was the first European to reach the Americas, think again. L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site and UNESCO World Heritage Site on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland contains archeological evidence of a Viking settlement dating back to around the year 1000 – hundreds of years before Columbus and his first 1492 expedition.

Sod and wood buildings were found, with artifacts that showed the residents involved in smithing iron, knitting, weaving, and carpentry for boat building or repair. It's believed dozens of Viking men and women resided here, but harsh conditions made it unsustainable and the site was abandoned.

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While you're in Newfoundland, don't miss…Cape Spear. The rocky cliffs jutting over the North Atlantic waters make Cape Spear feel like the edge of the world – and it nearly is. This is the eastern-most point of North America. Standing on Cape Spear, you are closer to London, England than you are to Vancouver on the other side of the continent!

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Old Town Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

From the harbor, the almost cartoon-bright painted houses look like an artist's interpretation of an historic town. But it's real. The town is both National Historic Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's considered the best surviving British colonial town on the continent, with its 18th century planned, gridiron streets, unique shops, restaurants in preserved buildings leading away from the harbor that was the focal point of rich a fishing and shipbuilding economy.

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You can still see majestic and romantic tall ships moored on the town's waterfront, and hear the stories. Especially about the fabled Bluenose. This is the homeport of the Bluenose II, the replica of the original local fishing boat that was undefeated in 18 years as a racing schooner.

While you're in Nova Scotia, don't miss: The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo. It's a week-long event held every summer in Halifax celebrating Nova Scotia's Scottish and military traditions. It began to mark the visit of the Queen Mother to Nova Scotia for the first International Gathering of the Clans with bagpipes, highland dancers and military traditions. Hundreds of Canadian and international military and civilian performers makes it the world's largest annual indoor show; granted Royal status by the Queen.

Bay of Fundy National Park

The Bay of Fundy is the site of a record-breaking marine phenomenon, part of the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve, and a Dark-Sky Reserve. The tides in the Bay of Fundy are the highest in the world – as high as a 5-storey building! Local Mi'kmaq folklore attributed the dramatic tides to a giant whale splashing; it's actually a result of the bay's particular shape. The twice-daily tides see a flow of 115 billion tonnes of water flowing in and out of the bay.

You'll also want to experience local dinosaur fossil finds exposed by the extreme tides, hiking, sea kayaking, tidal rafting, and whale watching, including the rare right whale.

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While you're in New Brunswick, don't miss…Confederation Bridge, part of the Trans Canada highway, connecting mainland New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island since 1997. You'll be driving 13 km across the largest bridge in the world that crosses ice- covered waters.

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Prince Edward Island National Park and Green Gables

Canada's smallest province has one of its most beloved sites. 60 km (37 miles) of Prince Edward Island's signature red rock and sand shoreline. Seven swimming beaches, hiking and cycling trails, and camping grounds join protected white sand dunes, freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, and nesting areas for endangered coastal wildlife.

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While you're there, don't miss... Green Gables, the house that was the childhood inspiration for the internationally beloved Anne of Green Gables stories by local author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

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Quebec City

Many people say walking through Old Quebec is like a visit to Europe without the jet lag. The only walled city in North America and the oldest city north of Mexico, the historic district of Quebec City, dating from 1608, is a National Historic Site and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, first city in North America to receive designation.

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Although the magnificent hotel Chateau Frontenac dominates the skyline, perched in Upper Town's 100 meter high cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence, it is a mere hundred or so years old compared with Upper and Lower Towns' 17th century walls, fortifications, Citadel, winding cobbled streets with shops, restaurants, Plains of Abraham.

While you're in Quebec City, don't miss… The Winter Carnival, one of the biggest in the world, and all the more dramatic in snow covered historic streets. There are masquerade balls in the grand ballroom of the Chateau Frontenac, an Ice Palace, snow sculpture parks, a bikini snow bath, day and night parades led by 'Bonhomme' de Neige ('snowman') the ambassador and mascot of the festivities with his red cap and early voyageur knit belt. And plenty of French joie de vivre.

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Rideau Canal, Ontario

This feat of incredible engineering in the early 1800's began with military intent, but nowadays has become a top recreational boating destination. Following the war of 1812 with the United States, British military engineers came up with plans to forge a vital water route for over 200 km (126 miles) from Kingston on Lake Ontario north to Ottawa. Workers labored to carve the waterway through dense wilderness and solid rock of the Canadian Shield. They also built 45 locks to take vessels up and down elevations in the terrain along the way through rivers, lakes and man-made canal.

The Rideau Canal is a glorious boat trip through pastoral plains, cottage communities and remote, sheer rock cliffs all the way to downtown Ottawa and past Canada's majestic Parliament Buildings.

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Don't miss… Boating the length of the canal in the summer months, taking a canoe tour of the Ottawa portion of the canal, or skating on it in the winter. In downtown Ottawa, in the shadow of historic hotel Chateau Laurier and Canada's Parliament buildings, 8 km of the canal becomes the world's longest skating rink every winter.

Wapusk National Park

It's over a 2 hour flight or two days by train from Winnipeg to Churchill, Manitoba, the gateway to Wapusk. For anyone who makes the trip in mid winter, it's worth it to reach one of the last places in the world to see tiny polar bear cubs getting their start in the world.

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Wapusk means 'White Bear', and this part of Canada is known the world over as the polar bear capital. Nearly three million acres of the park are the seasonal home of a thousand polar bears returning from summer roaming through the tundra back to new Arctic ice, joined by moose, wolves, foxes, and herd of thousands of caribou. Polar bears are gorgeous but dangerous; access to the park is only through licensed operators of guided trips to this famous refuge.

While you're in Manitoba, don't miss…Winnipeg's Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Opening in 2014 to national and international attention, the museum is architecturally compelling, with geometry and colors based on images of the Canadian landscape. It's also intellectually challenging, highlighting personal stories and stimulating debate about how to define its subject matter.

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Wood Buffalo National Park

The largest of Canada's National Park straddles both Alberta and the Northwest Territories for nearly 45,000 acres – it's bigger than Switzerland! It needs to be that large – it provides enough territory in its muskeg and tundra for the long term preservation of the world's largest herd of free roaming Bison.

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The park is also a UNESCO world heritage site and the world's largest Dark-Sky Preserve. And in spite of its remote location, the park can be reached and visited by car.

Banff National Park – Alberta

Canada's first National Park dates back to 1885, and scenes of the turquoise waters of Lake Louise surrounded by a distinctly Canadian alpine landscape have been famously depicted on postcards sent around the world ever since. Snow topped mountains, glaciers and icefields, the western resort town of Banff, endless all-season outdoor activities and the hot springs that started in all keep visitors coming back to this park in the Rocky Mountains year round. The breathtaking Icefields Parkway connects Lake Louise to Jasper National Park further north.

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While you're in Banff, don't miss… a cocktail at the Banff Springs Hotel in the lounge with picture windows over Lake Louise. The view really does make a perfect custom cocktail taste even better!

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site

Spearheaded by the Haida Nation to stop destructive logging on their historic lands, Gwaii Haanas now protects an archipelago of 138 (formerly Queen Charlotte) islands off the coast of British Columbia. It totals 5000 square km of land and sea – one of the only places in the world protected from the depths of the ocean in deep fjords to rugged mountain tops. 90% of the land is forest, with mountains draining into dozens of freshwater lakes and salmon-spawning streams. The seas are a 'primary feeding habitat' of humpback whales; Gwaii Haanas is remote and only accessible by boat, sea kayak, or floatplane.

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While you're in British Columbia, don't miss… Victoria Harbour, one of the most picturesque harbors in the country. Originally used by First Nations, the harbor now bustles with recreational vessels and small cruise ships, mooring in the center of this scenic heritage city famous for its continuing British tone. Historic buildings frame the lively waterfront and line the walkable streets. The harbor is the epicenter of thriving eco-tourism and whale watching tour activities.

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Video: Fogo Island Inn: Daring Design meets Ancient Fishing Community

In colorful Newfoundland turn of phrase, you might say that Fogo Island is far away from far away.  The island is remote; only accessible by ferries and helicopter flights that defy dramatic weather and waves to drop visitors on a a rocky outpost in the North Atlantic that until recently was a centuries-old, declining fishing community.  This is not where you might expect to find a hotel that has won world-wide acclaim for its architecture, experience, social responsibility, and design.

Designer Karen Sealy and BestTrip.TV visited the extraordinary Fogo Island Inn to see what happens when local maritime craftsmanship meets 21st century global design.

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Vancouver may be Canada's most famously 'outdoorsy' major city. Even in a city that drives Canada's vast Asia-Pacific business, athletic wear is more common than pinstripes!  Nature thrives right on the city's doorstep: a gorgeous, picturesque harbor and bay, snow-capped mountains surrounding the city, and breathtaking Stanley Park, one of the world's top urban green spaces. For vacationers and cruise travelers in Vancouver, outdoor activities top the list of things to do.  Even if you're traveling to Vancouver on business, if you don't take the opportunity to get outdoors, you've missed essential Vancouver.

Luckily, it's not only one of the most enticing big cities to be outdoors, it's easy to get outdoors and get active on a trip to Vancouver.

BestTrip.TV's Ryan McElroy 'test drives' Vancouver luxury harborfront hotel Westin Bayshore's active travel program. With cycling, run concierge, superfoods, yoga, and fitness equipment loan programs, Ryan discovers there is no excuse to miss enjoying the great Vancouver outdoors.

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The Bicycle's Big Birthday

This month marks a big milestone for the bicycle. We've had two hundred years of two-wheeled travel. 

On June 12, 1817, German inventor Karl von Drais took a little ride on his new invention, the 'Laufsmaschine'. His first reported trip, from a castle courtyard in Mannheim to a coaching inn 5 miles away on Baden's best road, took a little over an hour – and changed travel forever.

Reproducing Karl von Drais' First Ride.  Image courtesy of City of Mannheim

Von Drais' 'Laufsmaschine' was heavy, awkward, had no pedals, and riders moved it with uncomfortable running/ skating motions of their feet. Laufsmaschine even means 'running machine'.

This does not look fun to ride.  (Photo credit)

Travel Game Changer

But it was the start of something that literally moved the world.  The patent that Drais filed in 1817 for the earliest form of the bicycle fulfilled the saying 'Necessity is the Mother of Invention'.  A volcanic eruption in Asia in 1815 had sent so much ash into the skies that the following year the sun in Europe was blocked, causing crops to fail, and widespread famine.  People were forced to slaughter their oxen and horses to feed their families, leaving them with no form of transportation. 

In this sad scenario, the earliest form of the bicycle was a game changer.  For the first time, humans were their own form of faster-than-walking propulsion. It was the first form of land transportation without using an animal, and set the stage for all future mechanized personal transportation. It not only increased the speed at which humans could travel on their own, it was even faster than available transportation!  Drais' first, 5-mile, one-hour trip in Mannheim was twice as fast as it would have taken a traditional horse-drawn coach.

You've Come a Long Way, Baby

Happily, Drais' invention evolved through the 19th century and the bicycle spread from Germany across Europe and overseas.  There were some bumps along the way – literally.  Terrible rutted dirt and cobbled roads sent early cyclists onto crowded sidewalks (a controversy that continues today), endangering pedestrians.  That resulted in bans of bicycles in its birthplace, Germany, as well as Great Britain, the US, and even cities in India!

Hard to imagine, when today, the bicycle has become such a fundamental part of the local culture and lifestyles of people around the world.  The bicycle is the answer to the need for inexpensive, effective transportation in some of the most fascinating, densely populated cities in Asia, where seas of bicycles have become the very image of local lifestyle. And Northern Europe's health and eco-friendly culture is symbolized by city bikes.

The Netherlands has more bicycles than people!  Photo: BestTrip.TV

More and more travelers are also choosing to experience destinations by bicycle.  The relaxed pace, off-the-beaten track, and health features of cycling journeys answer the call for active, authentic travel experiences.

Cycling tour of Peterborough & the Kawarthas, Canada. Photo: BestTrip.TV

And innovations like E-bikes and power-generating bicycles will keep Karl von Drais' invention moving us into the future.

Celebrating 200 Years of Bicycles

Mannheim and the region have a year-long calendar of activities commemorating the bicycle's birthday, with concerts, exhibitions, bicycle tours, shows and much more. Visit Mannheim's Technoseum for a special exhibition, "2 Wheels - 200 Years," which brings to life the technical development of the bicycle since Karl Drais, to the present cycling culture and the future role of the bicycle in cities.  (Top image courtesy Technoseum).

Courtesy City of Mannheim

Courtesy City of Mannheim

And get outdoors and bike! SouthWest Germany is a bicycle rider's paradise, with hundreds of bike routes that pass through beautiful landscapes, from vineyards to castles and the Black Forest to Lake Constance. The ADFC (German Bicycle Club) notes and rates cycling routes; don't miss the region's five-star "Liebliches Taubertal - der Klassiker".  The route is one of the oldest in Germany and travels by castles, monasteries and fortresses for 100 beautiful kilometers.

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Sometimes we think that the best travel experiences can only be found in distant, exotic destinations. And they're waiting for you right in your back yard. 

Kieran Andrews of Wild Rock Outfitters leads cycling tours in some of the most famous and storied locations in the world.   But when BestTrip.TV's Ryan McElroy asked him about one of his favorite places to cycle, it was at home in Canada in Peterborough & the Kawarthas. 

In this BestTrip.TV video, Kieran takes Ryan in a two-day cycling journey across rolling hills and scenic vistas to waterfront in cottage country. Ryan gets an insider's introduction to local cycling community favorite trails, views and 'energy stops' (that is, fabulous restaurants!) as well as its network of passionate, connected cyclists.

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Mind, Body, Soul: Wellness on Shore Paired with Spa on Board Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Does the idea of returning from vacation healthier, more centered, spiritually uplifted than when you left appeal to you?   Regent Seven Seas Cruises and its shipboard spa partner Canyon Ranch SpaClub have introduced Seven Seas Wellness, a new collection of wellness-themed shore excursions paired with on-board spa and wellness experiences.

The initiative, that integrates ship and shore, is all about providing guests with one-stop-shop holistic well-being programming for their holidays.   It debuts this summer on sailings of the Regent Seven Seas Voyager in the Mediterranean, a region whose healthy lifestyle sets a global benchmark.

(Tour the Canyon Ranch SpaClub on Regent Seven Seas Explorer in the video above).

Guests who choose a Seven Seas Wellness experience first choose a wellness-themed excursion from a collection of more than 10 options in some of the most exciting Mediterranean destinations.

Seven Seas Wellness Shore Excursions Include:

Marseille, Old Port. Photos: BestTrip.TV

Tai Chi

 

  • Provence (Marseille), France – De-stress and unwind with the ancient Chinese martial arts in a 19th century palace on Tai Chi in the Imperial Garden.
  • Palma De Mallorca, Spain – Enjoy fresh sea air and breathtaking scenery as guests center their chi from either the Illuetta Bay or Can Antoni Pere Beach on Mallorca Meditation in Motion.

 

Yoga

  • Corfu, Greece – Experience Corfiot filoxenia, a concept not adequately defined by the word “hospitality,” and learn about local culture, before practicing yoga and deep meditation in one of Greece’s most beautiful estates on The Generosity of Spirit.
  • Monte Carlo, Monaco – Guests will calm the mind, increase focus, strength, and stamina, in the fast-paced, dance-like style of yoga that synchronizes breathing, while enjoying  the spectacular Mediterranean panorama on Vinyasa Yoga on Monte Carlo.
  • Taormina, Sicily – Guests take in the dramatic and contrasting coastlines, cliffs, and Mount Etna, as they practice poses from a high perch overlooking the charming seaside town on Taormina Terrace Yoga.

Hydrothermal Therapy

  • Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy – Soak in the restorative mineral-rich, thermal springs, which has been visited by Popes and Kings throughout its thousand-year-old history on Thermal Baths of Popes.
  • Sorrento, Italy – Enjoy a sprawling spa complex built on the site of an ancient Roman prototype, consisting of warm and cold thermal springs with rock grottos, mineral baths, pools and genuine Roman sauna rooms on Roman Baths and the Burning Fields.

Aromatherapy

  • Venice, Italy – Visit the exhibition at the palace-turned-museum, where one room recreates a 16th century perfumer’s laboratory and guests can learn how to create their own perfume to take home on Venetian Scents at Palazzo Mocenigo.
  • Amalfi/Positano, Italy– Be inspired and invigorated by the island’s calming presence, inherent spirit, and many natural gifts on a highlights tour, before visiting Carthusia, the famous and exclusive perfume laboratory on this full-day Capri for all Senses.

Walking and Laughing

  • Palma De Mallorca, Spain – Enjoy the benefits of lower-impact, body-toning Nordic walk up the hill to the 14th century Bellver Castle on Nordic Morning Walk.
  • Palamos, Spain – Unlock the many health benefits of this atypical Laughter Therapy session, where guests giggle and laugh for a full-scale workout to release stress-busting endorphins on the Wellness of Laughter.

 

Then, to complete the distinctive, body and soul-enriching experience, you select one of 5 curated Canyon Ranch Spa services on the ship to pair with your shore wellness experience.  

Shipboard Spa Experiences Pairing Menu Includes:

  • World of Relief Body Buff
  • Tangle Me Up Wrap
  • Ocean Scrub
  • Sole Rejuvenation
  • Vitamin Infusion Facial

So you're able to create your own invigorating, and customized, transformative wellness program in the practices that appeal to you most.

Furthermore, you'll be able to enjoy a robust menu of Canyon Ranch SpaClub and Fitness Center activities like

  • Reiki,
  • acupuncture,
  • fitness classes,
  • personal training,
  • educational presentations and workshops and more. 

Plus eat right at a new healthy breakfast bar at the Pool Grill and Canyon Ranch Balanced dinner selections appetizers, mains, and desserts with full flavor, full nutrition, and satisfying portions for maximum health and energy. 

For more and more people, pursuit of well-being is an essential part of a life well-lived, even, or especially, when we take time off to travel.  From eating right and exercising to practicing ways to reduce stress and experience moments that uplift the spirit, wellness is quickly becoming the ultimate luxury.

We know guests are going to love making this innovative Seven Seas Wellness program part of their fulfilling journeys.  

Trying out the specialty restaurants is one of the great pleasures of dining on cruise ships. We recently sailed on the Regent Seven Seas Explorer and loved every one of its all-included specialty restaurants:

  • Compass Rose – on most ships, this would be called the 'main' restaurant, but think again.  Compass Rose, in addition to a classic menu of courses of North American and Continental cuisine, has an innovative, 'build-your-own-meal' menu that allows you to select your meal elements and flavor preparations, so every meal is your own custom creation.
  • Prime 7 – the steakhouse of your dreams.  Modeled after the masculine havens of London or New York, with mirrors and black and white marble, screens and art (by Picasso, and Chagall even!) of bulls, this is dining that brings out the primal instinct in us all.
  • Chartreuse – the counterpoint to Prime 7.  An elegant, airy, French dream of Belle Epoque style and classic and modern, stylish French cuisine.
  • Sette Mari at La Veranda – evening al fresco dining on the deck with the breeze in your hair and Italian wine and cuisine on your table.
  • Pacific Rim – an exquisite, pan-Asian restaurant with spectacular, over-scaled Asian décor and a menu that's a delicious tour of the favorites of the continent.

Chef Enmin Wang at Pacific Rim was kind enough to share with us the recipe for the healthy, fresh, and delicious Tuna Tartare.   Watch the video as he prepares it for us, and here's our version of the recipe for you to try yourself.

For 2 Appetizer Servings

Step 1:  Prepare Carrot/Ginger Japanese Dressing:

Makes 375-500 mL

  • 250 g (about 3) peeled, chopped carrots
  • 125 g chopped whites of shallots
  • 125 g peeled and sliced fresh ginger
  • 80mL rice vinegar
  • 80 mL canola oil
  • 1 ½ T honey
  • 1 T white miso if desired
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1 T Japanese soy sauce
  • 2 T fresh lime juice
  • water as needed for consistency

Tip:  for an even silkier consistency, or if you're worried you don't have a machine that will make a smooth result, cook carrots first. 

Otherwise, put all ingredients in a blender, blend til smooth.  Taste, and add salt, pepper, adjust honey, lime juice, all other seasonings, adding water if desired and necessary for the right consistency.  Put in a squeeze bottle for maximum ease, or a jar.   This step can be done a day or two ahead of using; keep refrigerated. 

This dressing is also delightful on green Japanese salads, and you'll have plenty of leftover to enjoy in other ways.

Step 2: Tuna

  • 150 grams sushi grade tuna, in ½ cm dice

Place in a mixing bowl. 

  • To taste, add approx:
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon each mirin, Japanese soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon combined chives and scallions, cut in thin rounds (more or less, to taste)
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

Mix all ingredients. Adjust all seasonings to taste.

Step 3: Plate

On each of two decorative plates:

Create a wide pool of Carrot Ginger Dressing. 

If you have 6.5 cm rings, place the ring in the dressing and gently pack half of the tuna in the ring, pressing gently down.  Remove ring. If you don't have a ring, build a small mound of tuna using two spoons, careful not to disturb the dressing.

Garnish top of tuna with:

  • 2 Tablespoons shallots (cut in rings, fried crispy in advance)
  • 1 T spring onions, green part only, thinly sliced on a long bias

Sprinkle around tuna in the pool of dressing:

  • ½ teaspoon toasted black sesame seeds

Repeat with second plate. Serve immediately (with crisps if you wish) and do not allow to sit at room temperature.

 

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Vegan meets Michelin-star Dining on Hapag-Lloyd Luxury Cruises

If you associate modern German culture with a focus on health and world-leading quality, it will be no surprise to learn that small-ship German cruise line Hapag-Lloyd now has a first-class vegetarian and vegan dining option.

Its Europa 2 is the height of small-ship casual luxury (no ties!).  Only 500 guests share a yachting / exclusive resort atmosphere that's been awarded 5+ stars by Berlitz' Cruise Guide 2017.

With flexible mealtimes, no fixed seating plans and plenty of tables for two, gastronomy on board the EUROPA 2 is all about variety and flexibility. For only 500 guests, there are an astonishing seven restaurants to choose from, including the main Weltmeere restaurant, a sushi bar and three specialty restaurants offering French, Mediterranean and Asian cuisine.

Now, as more luxury cruise travelers than ever - both Europeans and North Americans - are looking for ways to stay healthy and follow wellness lifestyles even when traveling, dining on the premiere ship Europa 2' has expanded vegetarian and vegan offerings:

·       New: Expansion of the vegetarian menu

·       More than 80 diverse dishes

·       Partnership with Michelin-starred chef Michael Hoffmann

Working alongside Europa 2’s own chef de cuisine, top chef Michael Hoffmann developed a menu exclusively for the 5-stars-plus luxury ship, inspired by his own vegetarian cuisine. Thanks to high demand, the selection has now been expanded to give Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ guests an even wider choice of vegetarian dishes.

First-class Vegetarian and Vegan menus:

For those passengers who like to eat vegetarian food, each restaurant offers a special menu to reflect the restaurant’s culinary style.

There is also a changing menu of vegetarian dishes served at lunchtime and in the evenings at the Yacht Club, the popular, buffet-style restaurant on board the luxury ship.

These have been developed together with Michael Hoffmann. Best known as the former CEO and proprietor of the Michelin-starred Margaux restaurant in Berlin (from 2003 to 2014), Hoffmann set new standards in terms of the sustainability and ethics of cooking with his vegetarian cuisine.

The high level of demand on board the Europa 2 is proof that his vegetarian dishes are very popular with guests who can't always find premium quality vegan and vegetarian cuisine when they travel. With more than 80 different dishes, discerning vegan and vegetarian cruise guests can now enjoy even more variety on their culinary voyage of discovery.

Part of a Holistic, European Approach to Wellness:

Vegan and vegetarian gastronomy is complemented by a disproportionately vast spa/health space on the Europa 2.

Over 800 square meters/8600 square feet of health center and spa on one deck of the ship.

And so that you never forget where you are, you'll always have a fantastic view of the open sea.

Start your Trip!

 

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Cruise with Oprah on Holland America Line

Oprah Winfrey will sail on a HAL cruise to Alaska in July 2017 as Holland America Line and O, The Oprah Magazine partner to celebrate travel.

If you're a fan of Oprah, you already know that Oprah Winfrey and her magazine are all about personal growth. They've teamed up with Holland America Line to explore the life-changing power of travel.

Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King and others will join the inaugural O, The Oprah Magazine Share the Adventure Cruise setting sail to Alaska this July.

For Oprah, who has designated 2017 her 'Year of Adventure', this will be her very first trip to Alaska, and fellow cruise travelers will be a witness to her experience of America's Last Frontier on HAL.

O, The Oprah Magazine Share the Adventure Cruise to Alaska will take place July 15–22, 2017.

Four additional O, The Oprah Magazine Adventure of Your Life sailings featuring O Magazine-inspired activities will be scheduled aboard select North America ships through 2018.

O, The Oprah Magazine Adventure of Your Life cruises will include the following dates/destinations:

  • November 29, 2017 – 11-Day Southern Caribbean Wayfarer roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale on ms Koningsdam
  • March 3, 2018 – 7-Day Eastern Caribbean roundtrip from Ft. Lauderdale on ms Nieuw Amsterdam
  • August 11, 2018 – 7-Day Alaska roundtrip from Seattle on ms Eurodam
  • October 28, 2018 – 7-Day Western Caribbean, ms Nieuw Amsterdam

Living your Best Life Programming: O, The Oprah Magazine Adventure of Your Life cruises and more HAL Cruises

The O, The Oprah Magazine cruises will feature exclusive programming developed with the magazine’s editors. Members of the SuperSoul 100 — thought leaders and visionaries who use their talents to elevate humanity — will be on board sharing inspirational ideas and tips for living your best life.

In addition to the 5 specific O-partnered cruises, more than 300 Holland America Line cruises sailing in North America from August 2017 through 2018 will have a variety of engaging, stimulating activities that bring the magazine's philosophy to life, including:

  • meditation,
  • tai chi,
  • healthy cooking demonstrations,
  • an onboard book club and more.

The magazine kicks off the partnership with a contest in March 2017 awarding three deserving readers the chance to join the inaugural cruise to Alaska with Oprah and Gayle. Oprah fans can keep track of the partnership with HAL in Oprah's magazine, TV, and online channels through through 2017 and 2018.

Start your Trip!

 

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Did you know there are more bicycles than people in Amsterdam? 

It's one of the original and influential cycling cultures that helped set the trend towards urban cycling and our love for touring new destinations by bike.

The Dutch bicycle - the original workhorse urban bike for entire families - sets the bar in style, function and cool factor.  BestTrip.TV discovers cycling culture in legendary Amsterdam, and meets the maker of custom Dutch bikes.

If there's anything better than cycling through the streets of one of the world's favorite cities, it's a souvenir custom bike that will be the envy of all your cycling friends at home.

Start your Trip!

 

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High-Flying Winter Luxury at Whistler Blackcomb

Canada's Whistler Blackcomb ski resort in British Columbia has been rated top in North America for the third year in a row.  The mountain and lifestyle are already legendary for skiers and riders, but Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler is upping the ante this winter with high-flying luxury helicopter mountain adventures that will give you epic memories and stories to share.

Winter "Glamping":

A custom snow hotel experience: A helicopter takes you to the a remote ice cap to explore ice caves before arriving at your own private enclave, for a stay in a luxury "snow hotel." The encampment is custom designed and built with comfort in mind, complete with pre-warmed down duvets, gourmet meals and a hot tub in a remote wilderness setting. This experience incorporates an array of bespoke Four Seasons services, including a natural thermal spa experience with a Four Seasons spa professional and culinary offerings prepared by Four Seasons' chefs.

Wilderness Wellness Hot Springs Experience:

Your journey includes a helicopter ride over a remote ice cap before arriving at a remote natural hot spring, where you are greeted by a master yoga instructor and a Four Seasons spa therapist to enjoy a private yoga session, followed by an aqua massage treatment. The experience includes thermal pool-side cuisine and cocktails prepared by a Four Seasons Chef de Cuisine.

Ice Cap Adventure and Exploration: 

Transportation begins via helicopter over expansive ice fields, after which guests will explore the vast ice caves with a private guide through natural, aqua blue ice sculptures, ice flows and gentle slides transporting you from one cave to the next. The adventure ends with a Four Seasons gourmet mountain-style lunch.

High Altitude Dining:

A private helicopter whisks you to a remote ice cap as you sip on a glass of sparkling Moët Ice Impérial. You're wearing a Canada Goose black label parka and sleek, waterproof Sorel boots, yours to keep, ensuring maximum comfort and warmth for this excursion and years to come.

When you arrive at a glacial peak, you embark on an ice cave exploration, discovering a spectacular 12,000-year old labyrinth of chambers of aqua blue magnificence, where you gather a crucial ingredient for the upcoming cocktail session - pure glacier ice. The resort's Mixologist will shake the ice into one of their signature specialties amid the majestic beauty of Whistler's mountain peaks. 

Once cocktail hour is complete, you re-board the helicopter and take in the alpine scenery before returning to a luxurious Private Residence  featuring panoramic views where the Executive Chef prepares a memorable dinner boasting locally sourced ingredients and premium meat cuts paired with custom cocktails that complement each dish. 

It may be hard to choose which of these one-of-a-kind exploration, culinary and wellness backcountry experiences – all with the brand's renowned style and finesse – will make this winter your best season yet.

Start your Trip!

 

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Is health and weight loss at the top of your resolutions this year? Did you also resolve to travel more? 

What if you could marry your two goals?  Travel to a dream destination AND come home healthier?

Foodie BestTrip.TV travel video host Lynn Elmhirst trades in cocktails and cuisine for a juice fast at an extreme wellness, weight loss and fitness retreat in Costa Rica.

Every year, I make, like everyone else, New Year’s Resolutions. This year I wanted to hit the reset button after years of foodie travel and the good life, and an injury that interrupted my workout regime.  A serious wellness vacation.  AND create a fantastic travel video. 

So I did some research, then recruited my friend Nancy to join me on a girlfriend getaway for a two week juice fasting detox/cleanse at a resort in Costa Rica. Not just a massage or two and opting for ‘spa’ items on the menu while everyone around us is chowing down on steaks and margaritas.

We wanted to go ‘all in’, an extreme wellness retreat where we would see and feel significant results.  

Here's our experience at a no-holds-barred juice fasting resort with six hours a day of workouts beginning with a 7:30 am hike… in one of the most beautiful seaside destinations in the world.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO  and hear about our challenges and our triumphs, AND our final judgment: is an extreme wellness retreat a good travel option?

 

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Re-Visiting Jamaica

Gone are the days when a trip to Jamaica meant a week spent entirely at your all-inclusive resort. Getting around and exploring outside your resort has never been easier or more appealing. 

If you haven’t visited Jamaica in a while, we suggest it’s time to try something new on one of the Caribbean’s most-loved islands:

Run!

What’s the best way to enjoy Reggae music?  The organizers of the Reggae Marathon & Half Marathon think it’s running to the beat.  The marathon is Jamaica’s premier International Marathon Event, an internationally certified course with a Jamaican vibe that includes Reggae, refreshments, and ‘irie’ atmosphere.  Marathoners, sports enthusiasts as well as beginners, locals and visitors converge in Negril to run or cheer on the runners and join in the gourmet Pasta Party and Finish Line Beach Bash.

Explore Rural Communities!

A new web site, MoretoJamaica.com, has launched, which aims to open a new door to Jamaica’s delightful culture, music, dance, food, and language to visitors, and help transform rural communities with environmentally friendly jobs and development.

Funds from the World Bank and the Government of Jamaica have allowed the Jamaica Social Investment Fund to develop the Jamaica Community Experiences and website, which was developed in collaboration with the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Tourism Product Development Company, facilitated by Green Team Global and built by Travel Agency Tribes.

The site currently features 5 community tourism enterprises, and continues to grow.  If off the beaten path is where you like to visit, this site’s a charm.

Drive!

Visitors have more options about which airports they use, and will be better able to explore the island now that Highway 2000 has opened. The North-South highway that connects Jamaica’s capital city Kingston with the island’s north coast is a four-to-six lane, 66 km motorway. Travel from Kingston to Ocho Rios is now under an hour.

Stay!

These new resorts will give you never-seen-before, stunning backgrounds for all the photos you’re going to want to post on social media to make your friends jealous.

NEGRIL

Kids and Concierge Service at Royalton Negril Resort & Spa and Hideaway

Royalton Negril Resort & Spa opens in 2017. The new 600-room hotel comes with complete beach access, a stylish tropical ambiance and a kid-friendly atmosphere. The Hideaway next door is an adults-only, 166-room haven with butler and concierge service, afternoon hors d’oeuvres in the adults-only pool and beach areas with waiter service, in-room premium amenities like aromatherapy, upgraded room service and more.

New Yoga Pavilion at The Cliff Hotel

The Cliff Hotel, a boutique hotel known for its luxury suites and villas, has just re-opened after an off-season refresh with a new yoga pavilion and fitness centre. This is the final phase of a multi-million dollar renovation to the property located off the renowned West End cliffs of Negril. All rooms offer unhindered views of the Caribbean Sea.

MONTEGO BAY

Infinity Pools and Natural Beauty at New Adults-Only Hotel RIU Reggae

Located on the beach and surrounded by incredible natural beauty, the RIU Reggae is an all-inclusive, 450-room, adults-only hotel in Montego Bay in November. The resort features idyllic surroundings and a wide array of services and amenities including: free wi-fi, infinity pools, a gym and spa.

Hotel Royalton Blue Waters

Located in Falmouth adjacent to Royalton White Sands and sharing amenities between both luxury resorts, Royalton Blue Waters  opens in November with 225 rooms. The hotel features modern spacious rooms, beautiful architecture and sports and recreational activities for the whole family.

 

Over the Water Villas at Sandals Royal Caribbean

We’ve written about these before, and they’ll soon be here!  The much anticipated, five Over the Water Villas will be the first of their kind in the Caribbean with see-through glass floors, an over-water hammock for two and private infinity pool. They are perfect for couples looking for a breathtaking and memorable vacation or honeymoon.

Modernist Flare, Gourmet Cuisine and Parties at Adults-Only Breathless Resort & Spa

AM Resorts’ new, 150-room Breathless Resort opens before the end of the year. The ultra-modern, adults-only resort features luxury accommodations, a world-class spa, mouthwatering gourmet cuisine and a non-stop party.

Rooftop Pool Bar at Spanish Court Hotel

Spanish Court Hotel makes its entrance in Montego Bay next year. Most of the 120 rooms have spectacular ocean front views as well as grand spa bathrooms. Roman tubs and specially designed sauna-sized showers add to the feeling of decadence.  We are especially looking forward to drinks at the rooftop pool bar with views of Doctors Cave Beach and the surrounding turquoise waters.

Start your Trip!

 

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Forget Oktoberfest!

 

Michelin-starred gourmet hiking in the Black Forest is the grown-up way to celebrate Germany's cuisine and outdoors.

We hope you've already checked Munich's incredible Oktoberfest off your travel bucket list, because it really is a young person's game.  Staggering from Festhall to Festhall, raucously joining off-key, multi-lingual singing, and belting back beer and sausage with your buddies and thousands of your newest best friends is tons of fun once, but off the menu for most people after 30 or your first couple of children. 

What should be on your travel list to replace it?  Baiersbronn. 

Michelin Stars in the Black Forest

Nestled in the fabled Black Forest across the French-German border from Strasbourg, Baiersbronn is surrounded by clean air, green hills, cold fresh water, five lakes and a vast forest.  An impeccable combination of startlingly beautiful nature and delicious gourmet food, this small town of 15,400 has the highest density of Michelin stars in all of Europe.  The locals take pride not only in the eight Michelin stars that Baiersbronn has earned, but the nature and conservation of the Black Forest.

Baiersbronn has found a way to seamlessly combine both of their claims to fame - gourmet food and outdoor hiking - in a new "Culinary Hiking Heaven" program.

'Vespern' - 'Bringing a Snack'

The gourmet hiking program is an extension and expansion of the German tradition of 'Vespern', or 'bringing a snack', an important ritual of the German tradition of hiking, finding a wonderful spot with a view, and enjoying local food in the heart of Nature.

The Culinary Hiking Heaven program involves "Wild plant hosts" - restaurants and inns using natural ingredients from the local forest to prepare their dishes; "wild plant guides"- guides who take visitors on hikes and introduce them to all the forest has to offer; and the "wild plants discovery trail"- where visitors can learn all about the riches nature has to offer.

Hikers can purchase picnic rucksacks provided by the "wild plant hosts" that feature local and regional specialties and a brochure to help them identify plants along the way.

In addition to the "Culinary Hiking Heaven," Baiersbronn has many different themed-guided hikes that are planned for different seasons. There is something for everyone, and the gourmet hikes range in taste from five-course alfresco menus all the way to beer and liquor hikes. With the Black Forest Card, some tours are even free.

On a "Tasty Hiking" tour you follow guides through the forest to a beautiful romantic spot.  A small Black Forest specialty snack is waiting for you while you enjoy the unbeatable scenery. From here, follow the guides to a hiking cottage and enjoy a Black Forest meal with other hikers.

Themed herb walking tours are exciting for those hoping to learn more about sustenance you can collect in the forest.  For hundreds of years people have been looking to the forest as a means of food, shelter and medicine.  These herbs and berries had many uses that included natural remedies for infection, pain and sickness.

The "Schnappstour" centers on how to make Black Forest liquors. Hike along the path with your guide until you reach the distillery where Dr. Zimmerman produces the high alcohol percentage schnapps out of local fruits. Or enjoy the "Hops and Malt," beer tour.  That a crisp, cold beer is the perfect solution after a long hike is no mystery, but how to make delicious beer is!

Whether you enjoy hiking alone and bringing your own snack, or would prefer to hike gourmet style with a guide, Baiersbronn's Gourmet Hikes allow you to celebrate German nature and home grown flavors.

Start your Trip!

 

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Seabourn Launches Holistic Wellness Program with Celebrity Author Dr. Andrew Weil

Program will be incorporated on all Seabourn cruise ships in 2017

For ultra-luxury cruise guests for whom wellness is more than workouts, massages, a spa menu, and the relaxation of a service level where extraordinarily intuitive staff anticipate your every need, Seabourn has created a fleet-wide mindful living program.  The new offering guests a holistic spa and wellness experience that integrates physical, social, environmental and spiritual well-being.

The new Spa and Wellness program, with acclaimed wellness author and expert Dr. Andrew Weil, will be the first-ever of its kind at sea, and executed in partnership with Seabourn's Onboard Spa by Steiner. 

Dr. Weil, a pioneer in integrative medicine, will be working with the ultra-luxury cruise line to deliver an range of mind and body programs that ensure you can break away, relax and rejuvenate while you travel.

The Practice

Central to the program is the daily practice of meditation and yoga through a selection of complimentary sessions. Guests can experience Mindful Meditation, which will introduce positive affirmations and mantras they can reflect on throughout the day.

There will also be daily restorative yoga classes which will continue to focus upon the mantra and positive affirmations. Yoga classes will be varied, offering guests the ability to choose classes that focus on various physical issues, such as yoga to heal back and joint pain, headaches and body alignment, as well as yoga to enhance creativity, mental focus and happiness.

Classes will focus on mind, body and spirit over a period of seven days, and will change daily with a new theme.

Integral to the wellness program are enriching complimentary Mind and Body seminars designed to educate guests on philosophies and practices that are aligned with the program’s mission. Each presentation will aim to empower guests with ideas and practices that enhance well-being and increase the awareness of connection between mind, body, environment and wellness. Seminars are created by Dr. Weil and Steiner’s Wellness professionals, many of which will be based upon Dr. Weil’s teachings, and will explore the fields of the healing arts.

On Board Seminars:

  • Spontaneous Happiness & Spontaneous Healing: adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil’s best-selling books.
  • Anti-inflammatory foods: adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil’s nutritional guidance.
  • Healthy Aging: adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil’s research in this area.
  • Introduction to Mindful Meditation: learn what happens to the body and mind during meditation.

Guests can also book individualized one-on-one wellness sessions on select topics that will also be available for a fee.

New Position on Seabourn Ships

Guests will be led in the new program by The Wellness Guide, which is a newly-established position on Seabourn ships. The Guide will be a certified yoga and meditation practitioner who will inspire and educate all guests through various complimentary classes and gatherings throughout the voyage.

Launching with the New Seabourn Encore

The program is scheduled to kick off with Dr. Weil sailing on Seabourn Encore’s inaugural cruise in January 2017. The program will be rolled out throughout the entire Seabourn fleet in 2017, including Seabourn Ovation in spring of 2018.

Guests who already know Dr. Weil's work will be delighted to hear he will sail on a different Seabourn ship each year, where he will deliver a 60-minute lecture for guests and will also offer smaller informal group discussions. A separate team of wellness experts will also make regular visits to spa facilities throughout the Seabourn fleet.

Guests who choose to participate in this new program on Seabourn will have a cruise experience that is further enhanced by a holistic mind and body perspective.

Start your Trip!

 

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Where to Travel to Breathe the World's Purest Air?

Where would you travel in search of the world's cleanest air? Here's logic you might use:  it has to be remote, since big cities and human activity are the world's polluters; an island, even; and in the less land- and human-dense southern hemisphere.  Eliminate places that are not inhabited year round for air quality monitoring, and did you come up with…  Tasmania? 

Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.TV's Executive Producer and host, traveled to Australia's remote southern island to see if you can really breathe the difference.

 

Australia's southern-most state is an island south of Melbourne (next stop: Antarctica). Tasmania regularly registers the world's purest air.  Its aptly named Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station, on the remote, north-west shore, records air quality that sets the standard for global clean air.

 

The air that reaches Cape Grim is carried thousands of kilometers across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans by the 'Roaring Forties'.  These strong westerly winds carry pollution-free air thousands of kilometers across the southern most parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans without going over any other populated land.

Just how clean is the air in Tasmania?  Scientists record a couple of hundred particles per cubic centimeter of air, compared with the tens of thousands of particles in major cities.   As we discovered, even at the airport in the capital city of Hobart, the difference in the air is heady.

No wonder the best ways to experience of one of the world's most southerly landfalls involve getting outdoors.  Over one third of Tasmania is national park, reserve, or world heritage-protected wilderness.  We spent almost all our visit outdoors, and you can, too.  Here's our favorite ways:

Get on the water. 

It seems nearly everyone you meet in Hobart has even a little sailboat down at the marina. 'Tassies' love to sail, and you can easily get on board a sailing cruise, where you can crew, or enjoy the fresh air as a passenger. 

If you're a huge fan of sailing, plan to visiting over Christmas holidays so you can cheer at the finish line of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, one of the most grueling maxi yacht races in the world.  The 630 nautical mile race takes crews nearly two days to navigate, and is considered one of the sailing world's top three offshore yacht races.  The spectacle as the yachts arrive at Hobart is magnificent.

Kayaking is another tremendously popular way to get out on the water, especially to explore remote coastline.  Surfers will find some of the biggest breaks in the world, and divers can explore amazing kelp forests.  

 

And one of my favorites: woods walks.  Tasmania is a hiker's paradise with gentle and epic walks in hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine coastline and wilderness.  With its diverse and ancient landscape, including unique plants and wildlife found no where else in the world, including Huon Pine, one of the world's oldest trees, a hike in Tasmania is an experience you'll never forget. 

Biking trails, tree walks and climbing adventures give everyone a taste of Tasmania's wild- and mild outdoor adventures.

Start your Trip!

 

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Banya: Our Experience in One of Russia's Historic Steam Baths

Finland has sauna, Turkey has hammam, and Russia's historic version of bath house/spa is called: banya.  BestTrip.TV's Lynn Elmhirst went for a steam while filming in Moscow.

In Russia, the banya is a social as well as therapeutic undertaking; even today, a lot of business happens in the banya.  And champions of Russia's version of the spa say it treats everything from hangovers, to circulation problems, to wrinkles... to lice!

We can’t verify all the therapeutic claims (lice!), but it is a great way to ‘immerse’ yourself in traditional and current Russian culture and lifestyle.   

For the full out experience, our host suggested we try the stunning Sandunovsky Banya in Moscow’s old quarter, the oldest and most luxurious banya in Moscow.  Picture it as having a bath in Versailles.

Sandunovsky Banya dates from when the 18th century had just come to a close, and the décor is like a museum or the setting of a fairytale ball: intense blues, curlicues, elaborate iron railings and gilding, chandeliers, and that’s just the lobby! 

Public Men's Bathing Area

Bathers in the ‘public men’s bathing area’ get the real royal treatment: a cross between roman baths and a Tchaikovsky ballet, with columns and statues and stained glass and more gilding.  This is where Moscow’s political and economic movers and shakers, celebs, and international VIPs sweat out the stress and seal deals.

Private suites sound swankier still.  Actually they were built much more recently and look like your uncle’s 1970’s rec room with a sauna.  Ironic hipster heaven if you take the vaguely vulgar art on the walls as tongue in cheek.  As a mixed group of men and women (with video cameras!), we were installed in a private suite.

The Private Suites feel more like your uncle's 1970's rec room sauna

Male or female, public or private, the technique’s the same, and has been for centuries. To compare your international spa/bath house experiences: Russian Banya are both hot and wet. Finnish Saunas are hotter and dry.  Turkish hamam are just as humid, but much cooler.  In banya, you sweat it out in the hot, wet air that’s so intense you can barely draw a breath, and when you just. can't. take. it. anymore. you jump in the pool of really cold water (in the countryside, that would be a frozen lake with a hole cut in the ice) to snap you out of your stupor. 

Here's the uniquely Russian twist:  bathers use birch or oak branches in full leaf, soaked in cold water, to 'massage' (read: hit!) themselves or fellow bathers, to 'improve circulation'.  (That’s why it’s important the branches have leaves, it hurts less!)  We got a little carried away like kids in a snowball fight with the branches, chasing each other around smacking at each other.  The private suite was a good call after all. 

Sanduovsky Banya staff prepares oak-leafed branches in our Private Suite

Maybe we didn't take it as seriously as Russian traditionalists might have liked us, but what a fun and refreshing way to get a real taste for the daily lifestyle of real Russian people.

Start your Trip!

 

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One of a Kind Sports and Athletic Events in Hong Kong

When you think of Hong Kong, we bet you imagine its almost futuristic city skyline.  There's no doubt Hong Kong is one of the world's most dynamic urban centers, but it's also a travel destination for those who love the outdoors. 

Every year, Hong Kong hosts a thrilling line-up of sporting events involving international athletes and spectators from around the globe. If you love to watch – or even participate in! – athletic events and get active outdoors, pack your gear and see a different side of Hong Kong!
 

Hong Kong Cyclothon

The anchor event of Hong Kong Sports Month is the Hong Kong Cyclothon. This event features an international line-up of racers competing on a challenging course with three tunnels and three bridges. The route covers a number of iconic buildings and main roads in Hong Kong, and draws a great number of avid cyclists from around the globe. The event showcases not only the sport, but also the city’s spectacular scenery.
 

World First: Formula E - for Electric!

Sports events are exciting, but this one is ‘electrifying’!  Formula E is the world’s first fully-electric racing series, where energy, entertainment and the environment come together in urban street racing. This first-of-its-kind international event on the Central Harbourfront in October 2016 is the biggest motorsport event ever held in Hong Kong. It weaves its way through an urban circuit approximately two kilometers in length, featuring long straights, hairpin bends, and stunning views of the harbor and Hong Kong’s skyline.
 

Hong Kong Tennis Open

Anyone for tennis? The Hong Kong Tennis Open takes place in October. This event, organized by the Hong Kong Tennis Association, is a Women’s Tennis Association-sanctioned International Series Event. Players compete for a prize of USD $250,000 over seven days and draws some of the brightest starts in the world of women’s tennis.


 

Hong Kong Sprint Triathlon Asian Cup

The Hong Kong Sprint Triathlon Asian Cup takes place over on Lantau Island. This challenging sporting event, open to men and women, involves swimming, cycling and running with everyone competing for fitness and the prize purses.

Hong Kong’s Cross Harbour Swimming Race

Swimmers - or those who love to watch aquatic sports – shouldn’t miss Hong Kong’s Cross Harbour Race. The name nearly says it all, but doesn't describe the spectacle of 1,000 contestants swimming across Victoria Harbour. This is an historic event in Hong Kong which took place annually from 1906 to 1979, when it was suspended. But it was resumed in 2011 and has been going strong ever since, bringing happy memories to those who have been involved over the years and playing an important role in promoting the sport of swimming in Hong Kong and abroad.

Not Competitive? There are Outdoor Activities for you, too.

Photos: Kelvin Yuen

Hong Kong's MacLehose Trail Named One of the World's Best Hikes

memories to those who have been involved over the years and playing an important role in promoting the sport of swimming in Hong Kong and abroad. As of November, tourists are able to join guided tours to explore this world-class hiking trail, led by professional hiking guides. The entire trail covers about 100 km, but tours focus on the first section of the trail, taking you to the famous, one-of-a-kind hexagon rock columns in Hong Kong's UNESCO Global Geopark of China, then to the stunning East Dam of High Island Reservoir, and finally, to a view over the breathtaking Long Ke beach.  There are also other hiking and biking tours available, allowing you, whether you are in Hong Kong on business or pleasure, even in port before or during a cruise, to explore the award-winning routes in Hong Kong's countryside.

Start your Trip! 

 

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