Destination: RIO

Rio has one of the most spectacular settings of any city I’ve ever been to.rio1No matter which direction you turn it has the most magnificent scenery.  Dramatic and breath taking. It’s a city famous for its beaches but there is also plenty of culture, great food and of course year round mild temperatures.  The people are vibrant.

I was lucky to have had the opportunity to visit on several occasions while living in São Paulo.  The flight is less than an hour and it made a perfect getaway.

At the time I didn’t have Instagram on my phone so when I saw these photos published in Allure Magazine (a popular womens beauty magazine to do mostly with makeup & skincare) I found them well…alluring to say the least.

With the Olympics starting this Friday in Rio and a friend who has just left to volunteer I thought it would be perfect timing to share Instagram photos and a couple of my own of this fabulous city.

 Pão de Açúcar
Pão de Açúcar

1. Pão de Açúcar

Sugarloaf Mountain, as it’s known in English, gets its name from its shape and is one of the most iconic stops in Rio. You can start your day by taking the cable car up to the top of the rounded peak. But don’t wait until you get to the top to take out your camera—the panoramic views from the car are just as impressive (and Insta-worthy!). People have been enjoying this breathtaking ride since the bubble-shaped cable car opened in 1912—it was even featured in the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker.

Christ the Redeemer
Christ the Redeemer

2. Christ the Redeemer

This landmark is one of the most recognizable symbols of Rio. Standing 125 feet tall, it’s practically impossible to miss. The sculpture is located atop Corcovado Mountain, and it’s listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. This is definitely a place where playing with a camera drone pays off, allowing you to capture both the sculpture and the city at its feet. A view like this can definitely leave you feeling #blessed.

One of my photos taken from a helicopter ride
One of my photos taken from a helicopter ride
 Ipanema Beach
Ipanema Beach

3. Ipanema Beach

Spend the afternoon sunbathing on the steamy shore of Ipanema Beach. This world-famous beach is located in one of the most affluent neighborhoods of Rio. Pack a big sun hat and a teeny bikini and get ready to sip coconut water while the hustle and bustle of the city melts into sea foam. All you have to do is wait for sunset’s magical light to capture the shadows of sunbathers and the mountains in the back.

Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden
Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden

4. Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden

The Rio Botanical Garden is a tropical jungle you can get lost in and still easily find your way back to the city. The beautiful greenhouse, many gazebos, and flowing fountains are complemented by the lush nature that surrounds them. Find your way to the Avenue of Royal Palms located within the garden. This long road flanked by enormous palm trees makes it easy to spend hours taking amazing photos.

 Mirante Dona Marta
Mirante Dona Marta

5. Mirante Dona Marta

Who doesn’t love a good panoramic view? Located inside the Tijuca Forest, this lookout offers one of the most all-encompassing views of Rio de Janeiro, covering everything from Christ the Redeemer to Sugarloaf Mountain and the city in between. If sunset photos of this amazing skyline leave you wanting more, the observation deck also functions as a helipad, from which you can take thrilling helicopter tours of the city. Be sure to carry an extra set of memory cards for your camera just in case.

my photo
my photo looking towards Ipanema

Of course the city has its well documented down side with poverty and corruption which should not be forgotten amid the natural beauty and the thrill of the games.

Leave you wanting more?

Source: Julie Cid for Allure.com

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Travel: Tourist in my own Town

Have you ever been a tourist in your own city?

  Like take a tour bus or be the tour guide?  It can be lots of fun.  I had the pleasure of re-discovering some fabulous places when a friend visited who I have not seen in over 20 years.

Masako
Masako
Kits Beach
Kits Beach
Wild Ones
Wild Ones

I first met Masako in the early 80’s when we both lived and worked in Tokyo. We became fast friends.  I knew she was someone I wanted to keep track of because she’s really smart, funny, hard working (international investments), well traveled, a nature lover, caring and curious.  In other words, the perfect friend.

The tourist photo
The tourist photo on Canada Day (July 1st, 2016)
With Took (from Thailand) and Masako
With Took (from Thailand) and Masako

When I moved to Vancouver and Masako moved to London, England  we continued to stay in touch.  Since that time she came to Vancouver once to visit me and I visited her once while I went to take in London theatre with a girlfriend from New York.  I was in London more recently but unfortunately we were not able to meet up.  She’s a single mom of a very bright 14 year old boy who speaks fluent French and is also an avid tennis and golf player. She dropped him off at Stanford University in S.F. for a 3 week math tutorial and spent time there before visiting me.  She never stops.  But we managed to pick up where we last left off as if no time had passed.  That’s when you discover time is a moving and so much has happened but you’re still the same person.  Almost as if time has stood still. When we first met I was calling my mom in Montreal every day to check in and get her advice on everything from cooking to the men I was dating.

Sunrise on Piers Island
Sunrise on Piers from the house

So during her stay I too felt like I was on holiday.  Vancouver and its environs has an abundance of picturesque places to see but we had to narrow it down.  Two nights we visited Whistler with a stay at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.  Masako went peak to peak on the lookout for wildlife (specifically bears) while I took in the Audain Art Museum and wildlife at the Scandinave SpaAll amazing by the way.  There was a cute Canada Day parade in the village and the VSO gave a free outdoor concert in the evening. We ate well too.

View from our room
View from our hotel room
Lunch at the hotel
Lunch at Fairmont Chateau Whistler

 The day after we got back we took the ferry to Victoria.  The first time she was here we went directly to Butchart Gardens.  This time from Victoria we were picked up and boated to one of the charming little gulf islands. A car-free little gem of an island called Piers where a friend has a stunning ocean front home where little Jack (the J.R. terrier) resides when I’m not looking after him. We met several interesting locals in the evening at a barbeque.  What I’ve noticed is that island people are artists, musicians, writers, photographers, actors and zoologists.  I was talking to a man who takes people on treks to Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas (a guest had just come back and said they were so close that one gorilla brushed right by him) and also to Churchill, Manitoba to see the Polar Bears (who are now starting to mate with grizzlies should you want to know this fascinating piece of information).  He met Jane Goodall, the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees – a person I’m in awe of and would love to meet.  Future trips to consider.  Sidenote: Lowland gorillas and polar bears are sadly on the endangered list.

Jack & Jia Jia with Took
Jack & Jia Jia with Took
Selfie with bronze dog statue
Selfie with bronze dog statue
Jack eyes the homegrown strawberries after he ate a cherry (he spit out the pit)
Jack eyes freshly picked homegrown strawberries after eating a cherry (he spit out the pit)

The next day we boated to Saltspring island (separate post to come) while seeing many seals (not bears, but still...)

In Vancouver we stayed mostly local biking around a couple of times, eating out and also cooking at home.  Next

Scandinave Spa
Scandinave Spa

time the Okanagan and Tofino is high on the list of places to take Masako.

His spot waiting, waiting
Jacks waiting location
Too much excitement for one day
Off to bed – too much excitement for one day
Overview of the Spa. No photos allowed inside.
View of the Scandinave Spa, Whistler from the inside. No photos allowed outside.

I’m not sure when the polar bear trip will fit into schedule; certainly not in the summertime.

By the way, you are guaranteed to see these gorgeous giants in close proximity.

And my friend just left but I already miss her

Photos: (moments in time) d. king    Photos: (airport, kits beach, boat) kind stranger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food for Thought – Best Beaches

It’s officially barbeque season and even though I’m no authority on how to barbeque, I can manage a pretty mean homemade rub and barbeque sauce. But my thoughts are elsewhere right now.  It’s on cobalt water and wearing a white bikini while walking barefoot on white sand (in a perfect world). Long days and margaritas are part of the picture. Yes, I love culture and nature….

 borabora TAHITI.COM BEST FOR STRAIGHT-UP RELAXING: MATIRA BEACH (BORA BORA) Photo: Tahiti.com
BEST FOR STRAIGHT-UP RELAXING: MATIRA BEACH (BORA BORA) Photo: Tahiti.com

Museums are nice. Nature hikes have their place, But when it comes to vacation, I also want a beach, dammit. It’s not only for the pure beauty and relaxation,  there is so much to discover beneath the sea.

BEST FOR FUN AND GAMES: IPANEMA BEACH (RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL) Photo: AMRA/FLICK
BEST FOR FUN AND GAMES: IPANEMA BEACH (RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL)  There’s too much activity, beauty and *teensy bikinis at this photo-worthy stretch of sand. photo: amre/flickr

*Talk-show host Ellen said she flosses her teeth with more string than the bikinis.

Over time I snorkeled in the Philippines, Hawaii, French West Indies, Cayman Islands and the Red Sea; scuba dived in the Bahamas, Mexico and all over Jamaica. It was all I wanted to do for a long period of time.  I met lion fish, parrot fish, nurse sharks, sea turtles and almost everything in between and it was my favourite finding Nemo world. But I also got to appreciate that we need to protect – our vast eco system.

BEST FOR PEOPLE WATCHING: BAIE DE ST. JEAN (ST. BARTS, FRENCH WEST INDIES) photo: John M/flickr
BEST FOR PEOPLE WATCHING: BAIE DE ST. JEAN (ST. BARTS, FRENCH WEST INDIES).  See sunbathers plucked straight out of Vogue.  No, really! photo: John M/flickr

So on this post, nine vacation places in the world every sand-worshipper needs to take once in her lifetime.

 hawaii2 BRIAN HANCOCK/ FLICKR BEST FOR SWIMMING: LANIKAI BEACH (OAHU, HAWAII)
BEST FOR SWIMMING: LANIKAI BEACH (OAHU, HAWAII).  The name translates to “heavenly sea” – you’ll sea why!  Photo: Brian Hancock/flickr
 bondi IMPRESSIONS/GETTY IMAGES BEST FOR SURFING: BONDI BEACH (SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA) photo: Impressions/Getty Images
BEST FOR SURFING: BONDI BEACH (SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA) photo: Impressions/Getty Images
BEST FOR SUNSETS: CAPTIVA BEACH (CAPTIVA ISLAND, FLORIDA)
BEST FOR SUNSETS: CAPTIVA BEACH (CAPTIVA ISLAND, FLORIDA) photo: Ray Terril/flickr

Set just off Florida’s Fort Myers beach, Captiva is known for its jaw-dropping sunsets, due to its westward-facing direction and unobstructed horizon toward the Gulf of Mexico. When visiting my uncle I ran here with my dog Jia Jia at sunset. Ahhh those days….

PARAISO BEACH (TULUM, MEXICO)
BEST FOR EXPLORING, FOR KIDS AND IGUANA SPOTTING: PARAISO BEACH (TULUM, MEXICO) photo: Christopher Gonzales/flickr

This hippy-bohemian beach enclave on the Mayan Riviera is a family-friendly town that offers hotels and all-inclusives at every budget. The beach, less crowded than those of nearby Cancun, has soft, white sand and water so clear and calm, you can see tiny fish swimming by. (It’s also pretty close to the Mayan ruins of Tulum, if that interests any budding historians in your brood.) I’ve been here twice – this beach ruined me!

BEST FOR SNORKELING: HONDA BAY (PALAWAN, PHILIPPINES)
BEST FOR SNORKELING: HONDA BAY (PALAWAN, PHILIPPINES) photo: Caryl Joan Estrosas/flickr

If you love snorkeling in the Caribbean, you owe yourself a trip to this hidden paradise, nicknamed the Philippines’ last frontier. Arguably the best site for swimming and diving in the world, the aquamarine waters of Palawan are home to over 1,600 species of fish. You’ll see everything from starfish and seahorses to sea turtles and sea cows (that don’t say “Moo”).

BEST FOR INSTAGRAMING: PRAIA DONA ANA (LAGOS, PORTUGAL) Thanks to yellow cliffs and jutting rock formations, this place is pretty much impossible t
BEST FOR INSTAGRAMMING: PRAIA DONA ANA (LAGOS, PORTUGAL) photo: Benito Sevilleja/flickr

Notes:

OK, a Bora Bora trip probably doesn’t come cheap, but I’m told there is seriously no better spot for romantic relaxing than secluded Matira Beach. The only public beach on the island, Matira stretches from the Hotel Bora Bora to Matira Point. Think: palm trees, thatched-roof huts and translucent water. At low tide, you can even wade right out to the coral reefs.

I’m thinking, I’m thinking…..

 

 

 

 

Travel: Roman Holiday

The New Trevi Fountain, Rome. photo: Colleen Kohse
The Newly Opened Trevi Fountain, Rome. photo: Colleen Kohse

romanholiday2

Audrey Hepburn & Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday
Audrey Hepburn & Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday (taken from google images)

I’ve been meaning to do a  travel post since my last holiday but it’s been so crazy lately that I ended up having to hire a friend to go around Italy to capture some nice shots for this post.

Well that’s not exactly true. It’s just that a friend got to go to places in Italy that I’ve not yet been to and took some remarkable photos and of course she had the most amazing time.  Because as she puts it “when you need a ‘spiritual’ lift, there’s no better place than the sights and delights of Italy!”  So much history, so much art, so much fashion, so much food, so much style, so much…….everything.

My new favourite scooter. photo: Colleen Kohse
My new favourite scooter. photo: Colleen Kohse

I agree. Twice I’ve been to Italy but never made it to Rome.  Crazy, right?  I’ve seen Milan, Venice and almost every quaint little corner of Tuscany including Florence.  On my second visit I had to make a choice for a little side trip either to Rome or to Florence. Because of my timing situation I chose Florence.

Sunset in Florence. photo: Colleen Kohse
Sunset in Florence. photo: Colleen Kohse

Florence is smaller, there’s lots of fabulous famous art everywhere and it’s such a beautiful, walkable city.  I need to make a separate trip to Rome.  And then I need to go to Lake Como and Capri.  Sooooooon!

These pictures will whet your appetite for your next viaggio molto bella.

Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo, on Lake Como. photo: Colleen Kohse
Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo, on Lake Como. photo: Colleen Kohse
photo: Colleen Kohse
photo: Colleen Kohse
Outside a perfumery in Montipulsiano. photo: Colleen Kohse
Outside a perfumery in Montipulsiano. photo: Colleen Kohse
Sorrento. photo: Colleen Kohse
Sorrento. photo: Colleen Kohse
Mini mannequins (taken thru window) Rome. photo: Colleen Kohse
Mini mannequins (taken thru window) Rome. photo: Colleen Kohse
photo: Colleen Kohse
photo: Colleen Kohse
Funky Hotel Furniture. photo: Colleen Kohse
Funky Hotel Furniture. photo: Colleen Kohse

 

Colleen’s impressionIt’s all about colour in Italy. From pastels to brights, the shops are springing up in splendid colours.

Market in Como. photo: Colleen Kohse
Market in Como. photo: Colleen Kohse
photo: Colleen Kohse
photo: Colleen Kohse
Holy Cannollis
Holy Cannollis.  photo: Colleen Kohse
Anti Pasta
Anti Pasta in Como Market.  photo: Colleen Kohse

tanti motivi

Ciao Bella!
Ciao Bella!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel-good Friday: celebrating the joys of colour

Now that summer is around the corner we should embrace all the colours of the rainbow.

photo: Colleen Kohse - Amalfi Coast
photo: Colleen Kohse – Amalfi Coast, Italy
photo: d. king
photo: d. king – Victoria Falls, Zambia

Because life is more than black & white

photo: Colleen Kohse public sculpture, Brittany, France
photo: Colleen Kohse
public sculpture, Brittany, France
photo: Lisa King Zanzibar, Africa
photo: Lisa King – Stone Town, Zanzibar, Africa
photo: d. king taken from a closed window, Salt lake City, Utah.
photo: d. king
taken from a closed car window – Salt Lake City, Utah.

Seize the moment!

My Pinterest Travel Board:

An Out of this World Experience – afternoon at FlyOver Canada

If you live in VANCOUVER or are just visiting you must experience the HOTTEST NEW ATTRACTION over at Canada Place.

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king

 I went with three others yesterday and absolutely loved it.  It was so thrilling and you really feel like you’re flying and can even feel sensation of the elements.  I loved it so much that I wished it lasted longer.flyovercanada2

It’s the ULTIMATE VIRTUAL FLIGHT over Canada’s most spectacular sights along with a limited time same admission price, Flight of the Dragon ride over iconic Chinese sites.  flyovercanada1

You will fly above the electrifying city of Shanghai, the snow-peaked Himalayas, and the majestic Great Wall before immediately lifting off again for an absolutely amazing flight over Canada (including Niagara Falls and the Rockies), as part of this limited-engagement event.  I can’t say it enough….it was extremely exhilarating.

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king – this is where you ENTER to Experience the Thrill

See Flight of the Dragon (for a limited time only) and FlyOver Canada back-to-back!

January 14th – March 6, 2016
Daily from 10AM until 9PM

What to Expect

Giant Raindrop Sculpture Photo: d. king
Raindrop Sculpture Photo: d. king

Start your experience off in our pre-show room, where you will see beautiful festive theming and still images of Chinese New Year celebrations.  Then, buckle up your seatbelt and get prepared for the virtual flight ride. First, follow a mythical dragon as you soar over some of China’s most spectacular landscapes and scenery during Flight of the Dragon, a unique 6 minute flight ride experience. Then, stay seated and take off again to experience, the Ultimate Flying Ride, FlyOver Canada, a thrilling virtual flight ride that takes you across Canada from east-to-west. Both rides incorporate state of the art special effects including wind, scents and mist.

The complete experience will last between 20 – 25 minutes.

Entrance/Show Times

Entrance times are every 20 minutes

Please note that the queuing area is partially exposed to the elements. Please dress accordingly for the weather particularly on weekends when it’s possible there may be wait times. To purchase tickets now, click here!

 

 

 

 

Travel: On the Road  – The Glamping Life in Style

There is a certain style to GLAMPING and it means No Tent Required.

Photo: Mikael Jansson, Vogue
Photo: Mikael Jansson, Vogue    (OF COURSE, YOU MUST DRESS THE PART)

Nothing wrong with those adventurous, real outdoorsy, down to earth types who lug around a backpack and set up their tent and make a fire to cook their food.  It’s just not for me at this stage (and it never was).  But I love the outdoors, breathing in fresh air and sleeping partially outside.

I forgot my gown for this trip but at least I brought my heels - taken 3 years ago.
I forgot my gown for this trip but at least I brought my heels!

The next step up from tent camping is owning a VW Eurovan Camper that comes equipped with a fridge, a 2 burner stovetop, a furnace, 2 fold down beds (you can call it a two-bedroom but it’s a bit of a stretch), storage space, surround sound for music and a pop top so you can actually stand up and move around a bit.  And a shower…out the back (you have to open up the back so it’s better in warm temperatures and it’s not always the best idea to use it completely naked). Just ask me how I know this!

The best thing about a smaller camper is that you get to park it almost anywhere rather than having to stay in an RV park.  Almost…because many places don’t let you camp overnight just anywhere but there are countless beautiful state parks which means you can drive into a spot either right on, or much closer to lakes, rivers and the ocean.  It feels like camping…just much more comfortable.  That, and wearing my cashmere pajamas. Having a dog or two wagging along is a big bonus.  In fact, I wouldn’t want to do it without them.

The added advantage of a smaller camper is we’ve ended up in places and spaces that could not accommodate a large RV, like the middle of the Redwoods, Ca, the Badlands in S. Dakota and on top of Dead Horse Canyon, Utah (where Thelma & Louise drove off that same cliff, we decided to take the slow road down).  It’s an adventure in itself.

glamping with Debbie & a flask helps!
glamping with Debbie… a flask comes in handy!

Having a luxury RV like a Country Coach or Prevost is a way of life for many people and I can relate to the charm of life on the road and stopping here and there for a length of time.  But you should see some of these RV’s…I’m talking luxury homes away from homes.  Million dollar+ homes on wheels that are nicer than many people’s condos.  I have a few friends who live like that.  They have a home base but drive their luxe coaches from place to place and set up anywhere from a few weeks to several months. The true beauty of travelling this way is that you get to see so much more than if you were to hop on a flight to go straight from A to B.  You must also have the luxury of time.

Owning a vehicle/home like a large RV means that you must reside in RV parks that are setup for that size of home away from home.  There are only a few RV parks that I’ve encountered (one is “Outdoor Resorts” in Las Vegas where our friends stayed – it was beautiful with a  huge outdoor living space complete with tiki hut, living area and kitchen) that I can imagine myself staying in, except no VW’s allowed.  Anyway, it’s whatever works for you.  These people end up paying each night to park, more than some hotels charge.

So even though I love the roominess  of some RV’s I’ve come across, what I really want is…. drumroll…..an AIRSTREAM. Only people who really know me will understand this. Yes, since the first time I saw one I’ve wanted one.  There’s just something about the Airstream. It has a caché of its own.

Owning one for camping purposes is the equivalent to owning a Vespa for scooting purposes.

Allright allright allright… it’s the stylishness I confess.  I’ve been eyeing them for a while now.  One guy even caught me taking pictures of a vintage model in Palm Springs a perfect place for one wouldn’t you say?.. and there I was snapping away and it turned out to be his Vintage Airstream.  Then we had a whole conversation on them becoming more mainstream now (aw, I hate when that happens), more pricey and more exclusive and definitely a collectible.  He owns two but has homes elsewhere….blah, blah, blah…(airstream talk). His name was Matthew.

If you don’t believe me just refer to the paragraph below from a recent article in Vogue Magazine.  I mean….it’s Vogue, so let’s talk about style. 

The first Airstream was built in 1929, and almost 90 years later, the iconic aluminum trailer still has quite a following: Matthew McConaughey and Lenny Kravitz are proud owners, and many restaurants, shops, and hotels have invested in Airstreams as new forms of food trucks, showrooms, or guest room options. And let’s not forget the Airstream’s supporting role in Karlie Kloss and Taylor Swift’s BFF road trip for Vogue back in February.

See? I told you so!

I bought this one in the meantime but it's a bit tight
Mini “V” and  Airstream in Los Olivos, Ca. Adorable, and let’s just say – more affordable!
me driving away in my red pickup truck
driving away in my red pickup truck

Stay tuned for Part Two

Travel: Wining in Santa Ynez Valley

Once upon a time there was a picture-perfect country with unending rolling hills with ranches and horse trails.  There were olive farms, countless vineyards and a lot of nice wine made from their good grapes. This place still exists. It is the essence of the California Central Coast that lies in beautiful Santa Ynez Valley, located in Santa Barbara County (photo below).

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 It’s where I discovered at least three outstanding Pinot Noirs (one of my favorite reds) out of the several excellent ones I sampled.
wineblog1

Wine Merchant Cafe
Wine Merchant Cafe

Why am I so into Pinot?  I don’t know; it’s like a thing with me.

The erratic, inconsistent counterpart to my favorite white – which is Chardonnay.  They’re so unpredictable and difficult to get just-s0-right (for my liking).

I started to pay more attention to this fickle but food-friendly wine right after watching the movie “Sideways” starring one of my favourite actors Paul Giamatti.

From the wine soaked movie Sideways
From the wine soaked movie Sideways

I think this movie really helped put places like Los Olivos on the map.  If there was only one place to visit while in the area it had to be the Hitching Post in Buellton, Ca.  It was where *Maya (played by Virginia Madsen) worked as a bartender.  And as it so happens I went at the start of Santa Ynez restaurant week (similar to dine out in Vancouver) so I started with a highly recommended grilled artichoke appetizer which was superb followed by a steak dinner and a take-home bottle of HP Kicking Post Pinot Noir ’09.  But it didn’t end here.20160126_105041The next day I visited Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café (also in the movie) and sampled some premium tastes of the Central Coast – all excellent choices.

Los Olivos Wine Merchant Cafe
Los Olivos Wine Merchant Cafe

For 20 years, The Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café has been a local favorite and a must stop for anyone wanting to experience Santa Barbara wine country. It stands at the center and heart of Los Olivos. This laid-back friendly town dates back to the 1860’s. There’s casual cafés, gourmet restaurants, lovely little boutiques & festivals throughout the year for art, jazz and olive lovers.  Bring your cowboy boots.

Fess was a former Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett star.
Fess was a former Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett star.

Then it was off to the Fess Parker Winery which I must fess up (pun intended) to say I didn’t expect the wines to be as superior tasting as they really are.

The last stop was nearby Los Alamos and a watering hole at The 1880 Union Hotel, a 14-room landmark that’s hosted many a gunslinger of yesteryear –  a one-exit rural township in northern Santa Barbara County, on the way up to Santa Maria. It’s owned by actor Kurt Russell.  His GoGi label, inspired by his childhood nickname (and pronounced GO-Ghee), launched in 2008, the culmination of the actor’s own decades-long love for fine wine.

Hey, the bartender looks a lot like that guy in "Hateful eight"
Hey, the bartender looks like a cleaner version of that guy in The Hateful Eight

 

1880 Hotel
Los Alamos 1880 Hotel

I’m sure over time this small cowboy town of Los Alamos will open up to become more of a wine mecca.

20160126_135516Although it lacks in plenty of places to eat wouldn’t you know I ended up at the opening of a restaurant named appropriately…”Plenty”.  Best grilled cheese sandwich!

Maya (Sideways): “I like to think about the life of wine . . . How it’s a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it’s an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I’d opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it’s constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks, like your ’61. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline . . . And it tastes so fucking good.20160126_105138

Have you been?  

 

Lifestyle: Laguna Living

LAGUNA BEACH IS SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA’S PREMIER COASTAL DESTINATION IF YOU LOVE SURF, ART, HEALTHY FOOD AND A LAID-BACK NATURALLY BEAUTIFUL ATMOSPHERE.laguna13

It’s where I met Aristotle, a handsome 34 year old native New Yorker who blurted out “I love you” within a minute of meeting me.  I immediately fell for him but he was living with someone else. Then, when I left hesitatingly he said “later baby.” Such is life. I saved his photo for last.laguna10laguna11

This seven-mile stretch of sand and surf is located midway between Los Angeles and San Diego.  It offers a year-round retreat for art lovers, nature enthusiasts and beachgoers. 

A re-cap of my second visit to Laguna Beach and certainly not my last.20160111_151324
laguna5

Some Abstract
Some Abstract
Sign Posts
Artful Sign Posts
Sapphire's fine coffees, cheeses, wines & prepared foods.
Sapphire’s globally inspired fine coffees, cheeses, wines & prepared foods. They cater too.
Surfer dude. My drawing from a from photo I took.
Surfer dude. My drawing from a photo I took.

SHOP LAGUNA

The main shopping street
The main shopping street
Design mixed with surf and upscale boutiques
Design stores mixed with surf and upscale boutiques.  Lots of ART Galleries.laguna1

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The best salads, rice bowls & gelatos
The best salads, rice bowls & frozen yogurt.
This is Michael. He's the friendly official "unoffcial" greeter of Laguna.
This is Michael. He is the friendly official “unoffcial” greeter of Laguna.
Aristotle
This is Aristotle, my 34-year-old looker that talks back!

 

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Photos: d. king

Travel/LifeStyle: Holiday Hotel CLASSICS

TO TRAVEL WELL IS AN ART...part of which is knowing where to stay.  Some places become life long memories.

View from hotel room in Recife, Brazil. Photo: d. king
View from hotel room in Recife, Brazil.  Photo: d. king
Ipanema, Rio. Photo: d. king
Ipanema, Rio.  Photo: d. king

I have my reservations when booking places to stay for somewhere I’ve never been.  There’s always research involved as to the whereabouts, cleanliness of the place and of course, the price.  All in all I’ve had pretty good luck and have managed to stay in some very special hotels, Inns, and even B+B’s.  In fact some of them I’d even consider going back and staying as a holiday in itself, kind of like a staycation away from home.  I never thought about that before because usually they’re just comfortable places to sleep while enjoying the rest of the vacation scenery, restaurants, museums, etc.  There was one time I stayed in just a decent hotel in South beach, Miami and booked there for a second time because I liked the location and the price was under $300 per night (yeah, high priced South beach).  But to my horror the second time around was not so pleasant because they were in the process of making upgrades and the place was in shambles. Luckily for me I was able to get my money back and find a great cosy little art deco boutique hotel only a few blocks away and closer to the beach for only a bit more money.  You must do your homework and sometimes crying helps…but don’t count on it! But it has worked twice for me so….

This leads me to one question:

Is a hotel just a place to sleep and store your belongings, or a special retreat? 

Copacabana Palace, Rio
Copacabana Palace, Rio.  The pool is phenomenal even though the beach is right across the street.

Thinking back on all of the places I’ve been, I thought it would be a good idea to let you in on some of the more special hotels I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in along the way.  Some are classics and some are lesser known but equally extraordinary discoveries.  Should you plan to be in any of these locations, dreams are made of this:

In no particular order (because just like ordering a special from Wilensky’s in Montreal, some things don’t change over time):

Maison Boulud, Ritz
Maison Boulud, Ritz

Speaking of MONTREAL, the RITZ-CARLTON is the place.  I’ve always loved it and remember having many brunches here by the garden pond watching the swans swim by.  This is the romantic hotel where Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton married, I was a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding and the rooms come equipped with Hermès soaps and lotions.  This Ritz is a more intimate little Montreal gem.

Ritz-Carlton, Montreal
Ritz-Carlton, Montreal – a landmark

Blame it on the COPACABANA PALACE in RIO for spoiling me for all other hotels:

Copacabana Balcony
Copacabana Balcony

Fit for a KING. You don’t have to be a connoisseur of hotels to know that it’s hard to top this one.  Two words: Rolling Stones.  Yeah, Mick and the gang have stayed here too.  I think this place was partly responsible for his final breakup with Jerry Hall but I had nothing to do with that and don’t quote me.  I wanted to live here.  The Copacabana beach view, the staff, the pool, the food (particularly the brunch by the pool except I thought they said $17; not $70).  Outstanding!  Rio itself though, just be wary.  Don’t park anywhere you’re not supposed to for more than 15 seconds otherwise a cop might wave a gun in your face and try to extort thousands of dollars from you….just because they can.  I worked it down to $50 without one tear and a phone call to the concierge at the hotel.

Alvear Palace, Buenos Aires
Alvear Palace, Buenos Aires
Alvear Palace Dining, Buenos Aires
Alvear Palace Dining, Buenos Aires

ALVEAR PALACE, BUENOS AIRES –  this 5 star luxury hotel is located in the heart of  upscale La Recoleta  and combines European elegance with cutting edge technology.  Even if you don’t stay there make a reservation for high tea and it will make your visit to the Empress in Victoria seem like.. just toast.  Plus there is live music (harp anyone?) while you enjoy.

Nile Hilton, Cairo
Nile Hilton, Cairo

NILE HILTON, CAIRO –  sits right in the heart of the city and offers all the refinement of an old world Hilton hotel but on the banks of the river Nile.  Our balcony was facing a panoramic view of the Nile and our suite and the rooms in general are huge and elegantly decorated. This one is a popular meeting place for business travelers, tourists and locals alike.  It’s right next to the Egyptian Museum and close to the Khan el-Khalili market and Old Cairo. It’s also only eight miles from the pyramids. The on-site restaurants serve Lebanese, Egyptian, Italian and international cuisine in fantastic locations like a romantic terrace on the Nile and a rooftop deck overlooking the bustling city. Leisure options include a gym, sauna and swimming pool, tennis and squash courts, a disco and a casino.  I lived here for almost one month while on business.  I got to know the staff quite well, the business centre and the tea room on the roof with time to see all of the Museum across the street.  Okay, maybe I wasn’t really working much. Word of advice: don’t wear shorts even if it’s hot out which it will likely be.

OUT & ABOUT in AFRICA:hotel8

SAROVA STANLEY, NAIROBI fit for a QUEEN.  In the early 1900s when the Sarova Stanley opened its iconic doors, Queen Victoria presided over the largest empire in history, Conrad penned Lord Jim, Picasso painted Le Mouline de la Galette, and American R.A. Fessenden transmitted human speech over radio waves. The first luxury hotel in Nairobi, it has launched itself into Kenyan history.  The gracious host of prominent world leaders, renowned authors, and international celebrities – a beacon of luxury and unrivalled hospitality.  And they had a famous Thorn Tree where people including Hemingway used to leave notes for each other.  We saw it. It was there for over 30 years but sadly It has been replaced by a small sapling and there are bulletin boards surrounding it.  This sits smack in the middle of the Thorn Tree restaurant. The mystique is no longer.

Dine 'n Dive
Dine ‘n Dive – Sarova Stanley, Nairobi

The verdant location for numerous films over the years, the Sarova Stanley welcomed classic Hollywood luminaries such as Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner, Clark Gable, and Gregory Peck, and offered them a quiet repose under the shade of the acacia trees that frequent the outdoor gardens. A lavish oasis in the undisturbed Kenyan desert, the hotel entertained royal guests, including the resplendent ball for their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Gloucester in 1928, and a regal luncheon banquet for Prince Philip and, then, Princess Elizabeth during their world tour in 1952, shortly after which Princess Elizabeth succeeded to the throne to become queen.

ROYAL LIVINGSTONE HOTEL, VICTORIA FALLS, ZAMBIA – a dream vacation.

Royal Livingston charm. Photo: d. king
Livingstone charm.  Photo: d. king

hotel10

Overlooking the spectacular Victoria falls, is where 5-star luxury meets nature’s majesty. Easily accessible from Johannesburg, South Africa, The Royal Livingstone feels like it is a million miles from ordinary. Offering guests a once in a lifetime experience right on the banks of the Zambezi River overlooking the thundering Victoria Falls with lots of zebra and monkeys on the property. Renowned for its colonial-inspired décor, The Royal Livingstone owes its existence to its named in honour of the explorer David Livingstone.   Who’s that knocking at the back door? Oh, a monkey – how cute!  Word of advice: do not feed the monkeys candy.

Zebras on the Royal Livingston property. Photo: d. king
Zebras on the Royal Livingstone property. Photo: d. king
Hanging out with a monkey on the R. L. grounds. Photo: d. king
One of many monkeys on Livingstone hotel grounds. Photo: d. king

SEA CLIFF HOTEL, Dar es Salaam, TANZANIA

Sea Cliff Hotel, Tanzania
Sea Cliff Hotel, Tanzania

A privately owned hotel with unmatched personal service, immaculate grounds, great staff, excellent food, pampering atmosphere close to amenities and  you can watch them roasting coffee beans in the little shopping mall  right next door.  The aroma is amazing.

 A little closer to home:

INN AT THE OPERA, San Francisco

Inn at the Opera, S.F.
Inn at the Opera, S.F.

 Located just steps away from the city’s civic centre, Opera House, Symphony hall and a great little trendy neighbourhood called “Hayes Valley”.  A place for foodies and performing arts lovers.  But I booked this on a whim when I had to find a place when I was running the Nike Women’s half marathon in San Francisco.  I made sure to stay here for the second run.  Rooms are small but comfortable and the boutique hotel has a luxurious French-style and antique European ambiance.  It was built more than half a century ago to house visiting opera stars.  The illustrious opera house is just outside your door, and the diverse charms of the city are all within your reach.   It took us about a 20 minute walk from here to Union Square where the start of the run takes place (not to mention all fabulous shopping you can ever imagine).  Can you imagine?

The Algonquin Resort St. ANDREWS BY THE SEA, New Brunswick

St. Andrews by the Sea, N.B.
St. Andrews by the Sea, N.B.

This hotel for the second year in a row has made Condé Nast Traveler’s list of Top 20 Resorts in Canada: Readers’ Choice Awards 2015!  It’s a beautifully located resort complete with golf course.  The town is lovely and very quaint.  We stayed in a room on the 4th floor where Joan Collins previously stayed in.  When we went out for dinner the radiator in the room exploded. I can’t remember the room number but found this out:

According to the website “Haunted North America”, Room 473 is haunted by a jilted bride who died in the room in the early 1900s.  Hmmmm

WICKANINNISH INN. TOFINO – stormy weather!hotel16Super, Natural British Columbia – like the ads say, this is it!  Experience total relaxation too.  Enjoy island nature at its wildest during storm watching weather while enjoying the comfort of this world class Tofino hotel with ocean views, cd player & library in each room, Pacific Northwest Cuisine (in the restaurant with piped-in live ocean sounds) and Ancient Cedars Spa (used to be Aveda) services in a smoke-free natural environment.

The Spa
The Spa – every room has a VIEW

Alright,  there seems to be many more unforgettables than I recall. heart I have left my heart in so many of them

More to follow…