Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Drive through Amalfi coast

Like us on Facebook

Book your vacation through Family Travel Concierge info@familytc.com or 860-830-4009

The curvy ribbon of asphalt known as the Amalfi Drive south of Naples offers the ultimate driving experience for enthusiasts. This 51-kilometer (32-mile) stretch of automotive aspiration featuring vertiginous curves and endless panoramas of sparkling sea vistas does more than link point A to point B (Sorrento and Vietri sul Mare, respectively). In fact, the Amalfi Drive is not a road to somewhere: It is the destination.
On a grander scale, La Costiera Amalfitana is a sensorial journey, and a metaphor for the best Italy can offer its visitors. In an extremely focused and compact piece of coastal geography, it delivers an impressive assembly of Italian ideals: the most beautiful views; the best beaches and important historical landmarks; the friendliest people; the most delicious food and luxurious accommodation. It’s the quintessential Italian holiday.
Highlights include the cascading towns of Positano and Amalfi, as well as Ravello, perched high above on a sea-facing bluff. Dazzling colors, sweet aromas and fresh ingredients set the tone for some of the most romantic eating venues Italy has to offer. Sate your appetite with the fresh catch of the day, shellfish, squid, creamy mozzarella and succulent cherry tomatoes. Wash the meal down with the crisp, flinty tasting white wines of the Campania region or a chilled glass of frosty limoncello.



Sorrento is a town with a musical soul and marks the westernmost point of the Amalfi Drive. Immortalized in the silky voices of Italian tenor Enrico Caruso and international crooner Frank Sinatra in the song “Torna a Surriento,” the clifftop town stirs up deep romantic sentiments and its citrus garden aromas make the heart beat faster—or so the lyrics promise.
Sorrento’s dramatic positioning high above the sea on a rocky terrace awards pristine views straight across the Bay of Naples. The main drag, Corso Italia and Piazza Tasso, is lined with outdoor cafés and gelaterie. Come in the early evening when Sorrento is alive with couples and families strolling up the avenues.
One adorable restaurant in Sorrento is L’Antica Trattoria. It has a shaded garden glowing with brightly colored flowers and serves spaghettoni di Gragnano with frutti di mare and roasted bandiera fish wrapped in lemon leaves.
Marina Grande is the picturesque fishing village of Sorrento (at sea level) and is home to Trattoria Sant’Anna da Emilia. Informal, characteristic and affordable, you can feast on cozze al limone (steamed mussels with lemon) or gnocchi alla Sorrentina. If you come on July 26, the feast day of patron Sant’Anna, brilliant fireworks illuminatethe evening sky over Marina Grande.
For a sophisticated and enlightening gastronomic experience, drive to Don Alfonso 1890 (donalfonso.com) in the nearby town of Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi. This is one of Italy’s most celebrated and critically acclaimed restaurants (with a cooking school and elegant guest suites for overnight stays) thanks to homegrown products—even the butter is freshly churned here. Alfonso and Livia Iaccarino offer pea soup with ginger and shrimp or orecchiette pasta with broccoli and tartufi di mare.

Positano's elegant hillside villas.Positano's elegant hillside villas.

Once you cross over the Sorrentine peninsula from the Gulf of Naples to the Gulf of Salerno, the jaw-dropping beauty of the Amalfi Drive begins to unfold. The 15- kilometer (9-mile) stretch includes a dramatic succession of curves, sheer cliffs, rocky twists and panoramic vistas. This section of the road, known as via Nastro Azzurro (“blue ribbon”) culminates with Positano. Here you are greeted by colorfully painted buildings and vibrant bougainvillea pouring copiously down to the sea from the steep flanks of the surrounding mountains. A former fishing village turned dolce vita playground, Positano is arguably the most beautiful town along this blessed coastline. The backbone of Positano for pedestrians is the legendary scalinatella (staircase) that snakes its way down from the top of town to the bottom, where the beach, shops and seafront restaurants are. Folk songs set to mandolin music celebrate its quick, curvy descent and establish la scalinatella as a metaphorical portal to love and happiness.
A former fishing village turned dolce vita playground, Positano is arguably the most beautiful town along this blessed coastline. The backbone of Positano for pedestrians is the legendary scalinatella (staircase) that snakes its way down from the top of town to the bottom, where the beach, shops and seafront restaurants are. Folk songs set to mandolin music celebrate its quick, curvy descent and establish la scalinatella as a metaphorical portal to love and happiness.
Positano has a high density of luxury hotels and affordable accommodations with colorful charm and friendly warmth. One favorite is the 18th-century Hotel Palazzo Murat, while the leading luxury hotel is the family-run Le Sirenuse. The hotel’s public spaces and most of its rooms open onto the Bay of Positano.
Excellent food is found at the beachfront Covo dei Saraceni. Menu items include risotto with shrimp cream and dustings of lemon zest, a fried fish platter and spaghetti with mussels and Mediterranean clams.
Another superstar hotel is Il San Pietro di Positano. A mile out of town, it offers private beaches, a swimming pool and panoramic gourmet restaurant. This is among the top five hotels in Italy and even if you don’t have the good fortune (or budget) to book a room here, you absolutely must stop by for a glass of wine on the San Pietro terrace at sunset.

Amalfi and Ravello


The coastal drive between Positano and Amalfi delivers 10 miles of picture-perfect vistas that combine brilliant sea views with the dramatic jaggedness of the coastline. The colors—the azure blues, bright yellows, pinks and vibrant verdant tones—are brilliant to the point of blinding. The air is so luminous that even the furthest point of sea glitter comes into focus with pinpoint sharpness.
Among the most celebrated restaurants in Amalfi is Trattoria Da Gemma; delicious menu items include anchovies marinated in frisella bread and paccheri pasta filled with burrata cheese, seafood and black truffle. There’s also the unforgettable “aunt Gemma” fish soup. If you have a sweet tooth, Amalfi is home to a few excellent pastry shops including Pasticceria Pansa, with outdoor tables facing the cathedral. If you’d like to stay the night, a natural choice is the Hotel Santa Caterina.
Perched 350 meters above the Amalfi with bird’s-eye views of the coast, Ravello offers another cluster of luxury accommodations and restaurants. A bit off the beaten track is the excellent and authentic Trattoria Da Lorenzo (trattoriadalorenzo.com) in the town of Scala beyond Ravello. Simple and down-to-earth, Lorenzo makes one of the best frittura di pesce (fried fish platters) you’ll ever taste.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ebury Street, Belgravia, London

Like us on Facebook

Another great apartment to rent for your vacation stay in London from our partners OneFineStay
For more information visit http://www.onefinestay.com/london/ebury-street/description/

Fine tuning

Listen, Ebury Street is a home with the grandeur of Bach, the wit of Vivaldi, the romance of Rachmaninoff and the heart-tugging beauty of Elgar. Spread across five floors, antique furniture blends with the modern in breathtaking harmony. Mozart once lived on this road, and small wonder - you’re midway between Buckingham Palace and Sloane Square. The shopping in this part of town is little less than sublime, and while you may be central, the verdant triumvirate of Green Park, Hyde Park and St James’s are all within a very short walk. This is a home that’ll send your soul soaring – play on!


When your host is not travelling the world she divides her time between Ebury Street and her country retreat in Oxfordshire. She’s friendly, creative and charming – one in a million – just like her home.

Con amore

The detailing of this home is so rich, and its ambition so expansive that any description can be but a glancing overview… Ebury Street’s sitting room is a veritable medley of styles, with an original fireplace, modern art, brooding oil paintings, and of course, a piano. There’s a decadence to the polished woods and sumptuous textiles, and, amidst all the tradition, a welcome note of eccentricity. The kitchen is country and quaint, and you can dine either in the dainty breakfast room, or the formal dining room between panelled walls and more of those exquisite antiques. The bedrooms boast furnishings that wouldn’t look out of place in a five star hotel. There’s a basement triple, opulent in its hand-blocked wallpaper and matching curtains, and a twin in deepest honey. All three bedrooms have their own bathroom, but special mention must be given to the master ensuite, with its fanciful walls, fireplace and even a library ladder.


Sloane Square will be your first port of call, with its shops, cafes and restaurants, and, by night, the Royal Court Theatre. Then, wend your way down the King’s Road, perhaps, or, over towards Knightsbridge and Harrods. Kensington and the museums are but a short cab ride away, and if you want to get into the West End, the tube from Victoria to Oxford Circus takes a miniscule four minutes.

Garden of Paradise, Medieval Mosaics Walking Tour in Rome

Like us on Facebook

This year we are presenting Medieval Mosaics Walking Tour in Rome conducted by our partners, Context Travel

Crowned by the regal basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the Esquiline Hill (yes, one of the seven) is home to several important early Christian churches in Rome. The artwork contained within often reflects a turning point in Roman history, when Christianity was emerging from the shadows and basking in the sunlight of its legalization and skyrocketing popularity. During the course of this walk, we will visit several places of worship which illustrate the changes in style and iconography and the role of art in Christian worship during the Medieval age.
The walk begins at the papal basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The origins of this church can be traced back to the 4th century, when the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in a vision to Pope Liberius, instructing him to erect a church on the Esquiline Hill which she covered in a miraculous snow fall in early August. For this reason, it still remains one of the most important pilgrimage churches in Rome. The basilica has routinely changed styles, floor plans and facades over the past 1,500 years and now boasts a complex artistic pedigree. Guido Reni, Domenico Fontana and Carlo Rainaldi, among others, have left their mark on this grand building. We will explore the visual complexities of this space as well as its historical importance for the Roman Catholic church.
From here, we will explore the two sister churches of Santa Prassede and Santa Pudenziana. Santa Prassede, a medieval jewel box of church, was built by Pope Paschal I in the 9th century. The renowned St. Zeno Chapel is a shining example of Byzantine mosaic work, a rare sight in Rome. Prassede's sister church, Santa Pudenziana, purportedly one of the earliest Christian churches in Rome, also contains wonderful mosaic work in the apse.
Throughout the entirety of this seminar we'll use each building as a platform from which to explore the ever changing face of Christian art and the complex social changes occurring within Roman society at that time. Equal attention will be paid to both the artistic and religious impacts these spaces had, emphasizing the catalytic effect between the two.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Winter Fun at Winding Trails

Its a snow day for the kids, and you have the day off. What's there to do?
Go to Winding Trails!

For those of you who haven't heard of this wonderful place, Winding Trails is a year-round recreational camp in Farmington, CT. In the summer, you can take a long swim in Dunning Lake, play soccer in the upper fields, or just enjoy hanging out with the family. And in the wintertime... there are so many options!

Walton Pond, a new, manmade pond at Winding Trails, freezes over every winter. Once the ice is thick enough, the staff at Winding Trails open up the icy rink to the public for ice skating. With the pond frozen over, you have a nice, big rink to skate on! You can bring your own skates, or you can rent a pair from the shack near the frozen pond! Bring some friends and family, and spend the day!

If you aren't too big on skating, you can also go snow tubing! One of the main attractions of Winding Trails is the HUGE hill that people sled down on! Be sure to bring your sleds or you inflatable tubes, make some handmade jumps out of the snow, and enjoy! A blast for both kdis and adults, this is a definite activity to include in your schedule!

Another exciting activity is Winding Trails' most popular, cross- country skiing. Winding Trails has miles of freshly-snow plowed  trails running throughout their woods. This is a very relaxing, and fun activity you should definitely try! Rent out a pairs of skis, and pick a trail. Each trail leads you through the magical, beautiful, peaceful paths of Winding Trails.
There are many other programs Winding Trails has to offer, but these are my personal favorites! Be sure to try it sometime when you and the kids have a day off!

Kensington Place, Cape Town

Like us on Facebook 

Located in the leafy Cape Town suburb of Higgovale, surrounded by Table Mountain and overlooking the city, this luxury boutique hotel houses just eight spacious suites. The lovely garden entrance leads you into this contemporary space that smells amazing. Sink into the total comfort of meticulously designed suites defined by a blend of luscious textures and contemporary detail. 

A dedicated concierge team will ensure that your visit to Cape Town is a unique one. The staff is helpful and accommodating and will arrange everything from dinner reservations to daily excursions. 

Each spacious suite comes equipped with an iPod docking station and beach-ready bag—a nice touch if you've left these essentials at home. The king-size beds are outfitted in gorgeous white linens, and your gas fireplace adds to the already comforting atmosphere. If the weather's nice and the view clear, opt for breakfast on your terrace. Molton Brown bath products add a luxe touch to a very sleek bathroom; be careful—the tub is a bit difficult to get in and out of.

Breakfast is served throughout the day and a seasonal menu is always on hand should you wish to dine by the pool or on your own private terrace. The city, its harbour and the surrounding mountains are all visible from each private terrace. Lush quiet gardens and an intimate pool surround the property. An urban retreat yet minutes from the city.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hillgrove Drive in Beverly Hills

Like us on Facebook 
Terrific 4 bedroom apartment for people visiting LA presented by our partners OneFineStay

Castle on a cloud

The eminent status of Beverly Hills requires no introduction, least of all for its highly discerning denizens for whom only the best will do. Just a climb up “The Hill” rests this modern palatial wonder, fortified by an elevated view of the city below that will take your breath away. And there is plenty of space throughout the rooms of this magnificent estate, regardless of whether you intend to host a throng of a few close subjects or all the members of your royal party.

The heads that wear the crown

Your hosts are a young couple – relatively new to the throne – whom are both working professionals. These days are mostly spent raising their two young squires, but they still keep the odd evening open for grand gatherings with friends both hither and yon.

Moat, curtain and keep

As the portcullis is raised, you will feel as though this home has been cut fresh from a great slab of granite – yet within its comforts are present and plentiful. The stainless-steel kitchen, vast dining and plush living areas are all adjoined as one elongated great hall, so a feast can transform to a fete with ease. The media room past the hallway houses a massive flat screen TV and enough sitting room for a small but loyal army. And accommodations in the bedrooms – a king, full, two twins, and a nursery – are fit to sleep the same band of warriors should your merriment arouse the pale moon too quickly.

Turks and Caicos – Seaside Cafe

Like us on Facebook 

Seaside - tuna sashimi
“What?  Ziggy the great foodie is writing a post on Seaside Cafe?  What’s next.. Pizza Pizza” I can hear the critics already.  For many years Seaside was a decent, casual, resort (Ocean Club West) owned dining spot, not exactly a foodie destination.  But things have changed.  New owners took over (same owners as Opus), brought in a Coco Bistro veteran, and a new foodie powerhouse is born.  This is not your old Seaside, and I’m a couple of years late to this party.
Seaside new deck
“Chef Driven” is a term used loosely these days.  Every place has a chef.  Some are great, some are ok, some are just learning on the job.  But then there are those chef who experiment, transform, and set trends.  The chefs that make me want to go there for the chefs, instead of the setting or atmosphere.  Quebec born Francois who started cooking from the young age of zero (I have trouble remembering simple facts sometimes but this sounds about right) knows a thing or three about cooking.  From dishing out all sorts of goodies in the army in Canada (Canada has an army?) at the age of 16, to sharpening his skills big time in Provo’s busiest Coco Bistro, Francois has gone a log way.
This was a first in Eating With Ziggy history.  Every single one of the 4 dishes we sampled in Seaside was a top dish of the trip nominee.  Choosing from this one will be harder than driving through a town that didn’t endorse Chris Christie.
The Escolar (aka “White Tuna” but not really) was another outstanding dish.  Another South Caicos beauty cooked expertly medium rare with jasmine rice, veggies, sweet wasabi mustard on one side and some sort of miso sauce on the other.
A note about south Caicos fishermen.  Lately those guys are simply kicking some serious ass.  Deep fishing for octopus, tuna, escolar are just some examples of what they are bringing to the table.  I don’t recall seeing so much locally caught fish on the menus, especially octopus.  Way to go South Caicos fishermen.  Way to go!
Tuna Sashimi with Wasabi mustard (top) -  A revelation!  Long time followers of Ziggy know how much I love a similar dish at Coco Bistro and it turns out that that was a Francois creation.  Fresh tuna from south Caicos, veggies, that wasabi again, and just a glorious concoction on individual tortillas.
Peruvian conch ceviche. Yet more awesomeness.  A fantastic combination of veggies (love his use of fresh veggies), fresh conch, lime and different peppers including scotch bonnet.  Addictive stuff to say the least.
Seaside is easily a top 5 in Provo after this trip!
Seaside - conch salad
Seaside - white tuna

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sultanahmet – Old Istanbul Tour

Like us on Facebook
This wonderful tour around Sultanahmet in Istanbul provided by our best Turkish partners Euphrates Tours.

Main Sites visited: Istanbul Classical Sultanahmet

Sultanahmet – Old Istanbul 

Meeting at the hotel reception at 09:00am
Visit to  Topkapi Palace, which was used by the Ottoman Sultans from the 15th to 19th centuries. We will also see the impressive collection of priceless jewels, crystal, silver and porcelain, robes worn by the sultans and relics of the prophet Mohammed.(Entrance to the Harem is extra). After lunch break we will see the Blue Mosque, built for Sultan Ahmet I, which is a unique piece of architecture with its six minarets and features 20,000 beautiful Iznik tiles. Visit the ancient Hippodrome with Obelisk of Theodosius, Snake Pillar and German Fountain of Wilhelm II. Walk through the back streets of Old Istanbul and visit the Yerebatan underground Cistern. At the end of the tour, at request, free time to see the Grand Covered Bazaar (except Sundays). *May be done as a walking tour if your hotel is centrally located.  Overnight Istanbul.
SUN : Grand Covered Bazaar
MON : Dolmabahce and Beylerbeyi Palaces, Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, St. Sophia, Military Museum.
TUE : Topkapi Palace, Military Museum.
WED : Chora (Kariye) Museum, Yedikule, Rumeli Fortress, Sadberk Hanim Museum
THU : Dolmabahce and Beylerbeyi Palaces
FRI : Most museums are open
SAT : Zulfaris Museum

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Great Migration of Wildebeest and Zebra

Like us on Facebook

At some point of your life you should visit African safari. One of the most spectacular experiences is
the great annual migration of millions of zebra, wildebeest (gnu) and other antelope in East Africa. When you plan your trip, you'll need information about the annual migration, the best times to witness this wildlife spectacle, where to stay, and when to see it in Kenya and Tanzania.

The Migration

Each year around 1.5 million wildebeest and 300,000 zebra (along with other antelope) gather up their young and start their long trek from Tanzania's Serengeti Plains, further north to Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve. They go in search of food and water. Their journey runs in a clockwise circle and the animals cover a distance of around 1800 miles. It's a tough journey, and every year an estimated 250,000 wildebeest don't make it.

One of the most spectacular sights of the migration is when the herds gather to cross the Grumeti River (Tanzania) and the Mara River (Kenya) from July through September. As the herds cross, crocodiles are lying in wait for any weak and feeble ungulates that can't cope with the strong currents or lose their mothers.
But the river crossings aren't the only spectacle. Just witnessing hundreds of animals on the plains is a sight in itself. Particularly because they attract many of Africa's impressive predators. Lions, leopards, hyenas and wild dogs follow the herds and give safari goers excellent chances of seeing a kill in action.

The Migration in Tanzania

In December through March the Serengeti plains and the Ngorongoro Conservation areas in northern Tanzania are home to giant herds of wildebeest, zebra and other ungulates. This is calving season. Most of the wildebeest calves are born in just a three week period, usually the beginning of February. Calves attract predators and this is an amazing time of year to watch impressive lion kills. It's also quite spectacular to see almost half a million little wildebeest being born and running alongside their mothers. The southern Ndutu and Salei plains are the best areas to see the large herds during this time of year. The best places to stay include Ndutu Safari Lodge, Kusini Camp, Lemala Ndutu Camp and any mobile tented camps in the area.
By April/May the herds begin to migrate west and north to the grassier plains and woodland of the Serengeti’s western Corridor. The rain during this time of year makes it difficult to follow the herds during this stage of their migration. Many of Tanzania's smaller camps in fact shut down due to impassable roads.
By the end of May, as the rains stop, the wildebeest and zebra gradually start moving north and individual groups begin to congregate and form much larger herds. This is also the time the wildebeest mate. Western Serengeti is the best place to watch the migration unfold.
By July the herds reach their first big obstacle, the Grumeti River. The Grumeti river can get deep in places, especially if the rains have been good. This is the first of the spectacular river crossings you can witness. The depth of the river makes drowning a distinct possibility for many wildebeest and there are plenty of crocodiles to take advantage of their distress.
Camps along the river during this time make for an incredible safari experience. The best places to stay are The Serengeti Serena which is a central, easily accessible lodge for viewing the migration at this time. Grumeti River Camp, Migration Camp and Kirawira Camp are also options. Seronera and Moru area campsites are the best for those on a budget. Kleins Camp is also ideally situated.

The Migration in Kenya

By late July, the grasses of the western Serengeti are turning yellow and the herds continue north. After crossing the Grumeti River in Tanzania the wildebeest and zebra head to Kenya's Lamai Wedge and the Mara Triangle. Before they get to the lush plains of the Mara, they have to make another river crossing. This time it's the Mara River and that too is filled with hungry crocodiles. The best places to stay to watch the migrating wildebeest tackle the Mara River include CC Africa's Kichwa Tembo and Bataleur Camps, the Mara Serena Safari Lodge, and Sayari Mara Camp.
September through November, the Mara plains are filled to the brim with large herds of ungulates, naturally followed by predators.
Best places to stay while the migration is in the Mara include the Governors camps and Mara Serena Safari Lodge. In Tanzania, the Kirawira camp, and Grumeti River Camp.
There are plenty more places to stay inside the Masai Mara Reserve and just outside the Reserve (equally good for wildlife spotting).
By November/December the rains start in the south again and the herds begin their long trek back down to the Serengeti plains in Tanzania to have their young.
During the short rains of November the wildebeest migration is best viewed from Klein’s Camp. Campsites in the Lobo area are also good.

Bucuti's concierge team - what a wonderful experience!

Like us on Facebook

Earlier this month I published the review for amazing Bucuti and Tara in Aruba (see here).
Our excellent experience at this resort started well before we arrived. Below is the e-mail from their wonderful concierge team describing what they offer at the resort. Not only Bucuti's Concierge team offered all that, but also they went above and beyond mentioned below to make sure that our stay is truly unique and amazing.

Dear Mr. Medvedovski,

Thank you very much for your email. My name is Madeline and I am one of the Concierges at the Bucuti Beach Resort. We look forward to welcoming you to our resort and we will do our utmost to ensure you an unforgettable birthday stay with us. I have noted your birthday and we will send you a little something on your special day.
It is my pleasure to assist you with your request and we will be able to do everything mentioned. As your visit to Aruba is approaching we would like to give you some information that will help you make the most of your vacation.

On arrival day most guests want to relax after their journey to Aruba, so I would recommend dining at our new beachfront Elements Restaurant.  We offer a new and memorable culinary experience on Aruba, with an Organic/Natural, Vegetarian/Vegan as well as international cuisine with fresh ingredients.  You can enjoy a most beautiful ocean view in a stylish setting. Reservations are recommended, so just let us know if you prefer indoor or outdoor seating and at what time, seating’s are available between 6.15pm – 7.30pm or 8.45-10pm.   You can also enjoy our daily happy hour at the bar featuring a great view of the crystal clear Caribbean Sea and white sandy beach accompanied by a live steel drummer.

We would like to suggest you also dedicate an evening to our special romantic dinner in a private hut on our beach. Bucuti has 4 romantic cabanas right on the world famous Eagle Beach just a few steps from the sea. We reserve it exclusively for intimate private dinners with your loved one. An exquisite 6 course dinner including a bottle of champagne is served either at 6pm for sunset dinner or for a moonlight dinner at 8.30pm. The fee is $125.00 per couple plus service charge and tax. This dream experience books up quickly, so we recommend you make your reservation in advance.  Please let us know which day and time would suit you best and we will secure the reservation.

We can try and make you a reservation at the Flying Fishbone on the 25th, which time would you like? Do note that at this time of the year that there are many restaurants that are already fully booked from months ago. As far as other restaurant recommendations there is a wide array of restaurants on the island. From lovely romantic dinners to specialty cuisine, beach restaurants and fresh fish restaurants, there are many options available to delight. For a nice overview of restaurants and their menus, please visit www.restaurantsaruba.com.
We highly recommend reservations for most restaurants and will be happy to assist.  Please note the date and time, preferred location, inside or outside dining and add if you are celebrating a special occasion, leaving the rest up to us.
For dinner reservations I would personally recommend the following:
White Modern (Palm Beach)
Amuse – International in Palm Beach
Aqua Grill _ Fish in Palm Beach
Gostosso – Aruban/ Portuguese
LG Smith- Steak and Chop House
Papiamento – family, local/international
Papillon- French Caribbean
Passions- Beachside and in walking distance
Barefoot - Beachside
Yemanja – Woodfire Grill downtown
Screaming Eagle (my fave and has ‘dinner in bed’ options)- 10 minute walk from the hotel.
Madame Jeanette – international and set in a garden

Carte Blanche is a restaurant for foodies, people who are open-minded and enjoy an exquisite fine-dining experience, without limitations. The highlight is Owner/Chef Dennis van Daatselaar cooking a 5-course “Carte Blanche” (chef's surprise) dinner right in front of you. Alongside the chef is Maitre d' Glen Bonset, pairing wines and mixing premium drinks. The restaurant features a 16-seat elegant bar where guests are seated in a relaxed and cozy atmosphere.
Carte Blanche Restaurant maintains a limited availability of 14 seats per evening to ensure exclusivity of your dining experience, and many diners reserve months in advance. For reservations, please visit: carteblanchearuba.comOnly online reservations are accepted.
Unfortunately Carte Blanche is already fully booked during your stay but if you like we can add you to their waiting list. Should they have a cancelation they will fill this up with the waitlist, and our Bucuti guests will get priority. Please let us know if you have any allergies that they would need to be aware off.

We also would like to invite you to our “Sweetheart Sunset Sail”, a Bucuti exclusive and Aruba’s most relaxed and romantic sunset sail. The sail includes a champagne toast on board a 42ft catamaran. Join a wonderful crew for an amazing and intimate 2 hour sunset sail. Pick your favorite cocktails and drinks from the open bar and “melt” away while watching Aruba’s famous sunset, with snacks and chocolates.  Transportation is included, and we offer this on Monday the 23rd $60 pp.
Should you wish to do something private, just the two of you we also have options available for yachts and motor yachts, so you can really celebrate in style!

Our concierge team can arrange your itinerary with all that you desire on your vacation. We can offer a variety of very memorable and exciting ways to explore the Island from land and by sea. From adventurous Jeep Tours to catching your own dinner on one of the Fishing Charters, we have a wide choice for all. Amongst our most popular activities are the Jeep Safaris, Sailing and Snorkel trips, Submarines, kayaks and the famous De Palm Island. We can arrange anything you wish for from Spa treatments, Tee times, Horseback Riding, Kayaking, Party Buses, Shows, Photography Sessions, diving and lots more! Let us help you make this the most memorable holiday ever! Please check out our website for the many activities available:  http://www.bucuti.com/resort/concierge-services/activities

If you would like to explore the island on your own we are also happy to arrange a car for you. To visit the Natural Park which is famous for its flora and fauna we recommend renting a 4x4.  A 2 door Jeep Wrangler is available for $110 per day or $300 for 3 days.
We also have economy cars available starting at $42 per day. If you have reservations for a restaurant that is further away, renting a car will cover the taxi costs plus you can use it for the whole day to explore. Please check out our website for the car rental rates;  http://www.bucuti.com/resort/concierge-services/car-rental

I am sorry to inform you that hotels in Aruba are not allowed to have shuttle buses at the airport. The best alternative is a taxi - they are dependable, available directly outside the departure hall of the airport and cost approx. $23.00 per ride each way.
Please note that there is a surcharge of $3 Sundays and Holidays and after midnight until 7.30am.

We will be happy to arrange a private transfer for you, a Lincoln Town car at a cost of $75 each way. You will be greeted by the driver in the arrivals hall at the airport; he will have your name on a sign and transport you directly to the hotel. We can arrange your return transportation too.
In order for us to confirm this reservation, we require your flight details, to include the Airline, Flight Number, Date and Time. We also require a credit card to hold the reservation and I have attached an authorization form, if you could kindly fill this out return this to us, we can then proceed with the arrangements.

We can also offer a private taxi (small van) for $40 each way; again we do require you full information-however the driver cannot accept credit cards, so a cash payment is required.

If there is anything we can do for you prior to your arrival please do not hesitate to contact us. It is our pleasure to assist you with your requests and to set up your itinerary so all you need to do once you get here is enjoy!

Many kind Regards,

Madeline Fernandez

Rue Mouffetard apartment in Latin Quarter, Paris

Like us on Facebook 

Amazing 4 bedroom apartment in the heart of Latin Quarter in Paris presented by our partners OneFineStay

Time to spare

Luxuriantly sprawled over five floors, Rue Mouffetard is an ingenious time machine. Built during the 16th century in Paris's oldest arrondissement, this bâtiment housed a nunnery during the 1700s, and today it transcends the ages. Each floor presents a new and beguiling anachronism: sleek leather banquettes offset rustic beams, contemporary accessories sit atop marble fireplaces, and Nordic-inspired furnishings rest their feet on period tiling. In fact, each room attests to past, present and future dimensions. Just ascend to your peacefully private garden terrace – H.G. Wells never imagined it’d be this easy.

Time travelers

Your hosts have shared many voyages together. Former residents of a wealth of countries, they chose to settle here ten years ago with their three children. Now they can be part of two different worlds: the modern metropolis outside, and the countryside-quiet within.

Light of ages

You’ll see the ages of Paris distilled inside this home. Fly up a brick and timber staircase and gaze over the open spaces illuminated by windows and French doors opening onto a peacefully private garden terrace. You'll wonder at the history held up by original wooden beams, smell fresh bread baked in the antique stove, or dream of centuries past in the spaciously breezy master bedroom. Don't forget about the other journeys that await you: sample delicious fondue on rue Mouffetard or take in years of culture at the Jardin des Plantes museums.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Understanding Spanish Sherry

Like us on Facebook
The simple mention of the word sherry can conjure up images of grey-haired ladies sipping a cloyingly sweet wine out of thimble-sized glasses, while playing bridge in a cold English farm house.  Or perhaps an old, dusty bottle in the back of the liquor cabinet used exclusively for cooking purposes also comes to mind? Sherry is indeed one of the most misunderstood wines of the world, offering a dizzying array of styles from bone-dry to lusciously sweet. With a bit of education, there is no reason why sherry cannot find its place again as one of the world’s most sought after wines. After years of declining sales, this fortified Spanish wine is beginning to see a renaissance in the fine wine community and is now found in the best restaurants and wine bars of the world.
Context Travel recently visited Jerez de la Frontera in the Andalucía region to learn more about these fascinating wines and their time-honored production methods. Sherry is produced from the Palomino grape variety grown in the “sherry triangle” located between the cities of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria. These vineyards form what is Europe’s most southerly vine-growing area.

The juice from these grapes is fermented into a bone-dry white wine. The next step will be to fortify this young wine with a neutral grape spirit. Not only does this step help determine the wine’s future and how it will evolve during the ageing process, it historically allowed for the wines to travel, as they could better support long journeys at sea.
After fortification, the sherry is then aged in a unique fashion: the solera system. When a newly made wine is added to the top row of barrels in the system, existing wines are blending downward to create space for the young wine. In doing so, young wines are mixed with medium aged wines, medium aged wines with older wines, and older wines with even older wines and so on. When the wine is ready to be bottled, no more than 30% of the bottom row (the oldest wine) of the system will be drawn off and sold.
This method of fractional blending gives wines of incredible complexity and nuanced flavor, while ensuring consistency from batch to batch. When you buy a bottle of sherry, the wines inside the bottle may in fact be anywhere from 5 to 50+ years old!
Here is a brief explanation of the major styles of sherry:
Fino (or manzanilla – a fino from the city of Sanlúcar): the lightest and most pale style of sherry, aged in barrels under a layer of naturally occurring yeast, or flor in Spanish, which protects the wine. Finos are the traditional pairing for tapas such as Iberico ham, olives, almonds, and seafood of any kind.  They are incredibly versatile wines and can be consumed with a wide array of lighter fare.
Oloroso: Fortified to a higher degree than a fino, this wine will never grow flor, allowing the wine to age in contact with oxygen. The result is burnished in color, rich and nutty with a dash of caramel. Olorosos pair beautifully with red meat and game dishes, meat stews and charcuterie.
Amontillado: An intermediate style of sherry that starts life protected under flor as a fino but will be exposed to oxygen after the flor dies off. The finest examples combine the delicate nature of a fino with the power and body of an oloroso, tasting of roasted nuts and toffee with an underlying elegance of a fino. Amontillados go well with soup, poultry and rich pâtés.
The above sherries are all dry, however within the Jerez region, sweet wines are also produced from the Pedro Ximinez grape which can be blended in to dry sherry to make cream sherry. Cream sherry can be served as a digestive or with dried or candied fruits, nuts or chocolate.
The region’s history and unique production methods combined with sherry’s flexibility in food pairing make it one of the most interesting wines to try. Sherry also represents an excellent value for money and an opportunity to try some very old wines without breaking the bank. I guarantee that once you try a good one, the complex and lingering flavors will continue to haunt you, drawing you back for more and making you a sherry convert for life.

Sloane Gardens in Chelsea, London

Like us on Facebook
Another great apartment from our partners in London, OneFineStay
For more information visit http://www.onefinestay.com/london/sloane-gardens/description/

Welcome to stardom

For some reason, walking through Chelsea you immediately pick up a swagger, the King’s Road featuring as your very own catwalk. There’s just something in the air that makes you feel a little bit famous. And this swanky two bed flat sits just behind Sloane Square, boasting a to-die-for address and a posh pad to match.

A love affair

Your hosts are as jet set as their address would suggest. Their roots lie in Africa – with your host running a safari company in Zambia (erm, could you have a cooler job?), and your hostess being an artist. Her African-inspired art lines the walls of their London pad.

Enjoy the premiere

The first thing you should do upon exiting Sloane Square tube station is put on oversized sunglasses and look smug. This is where you live now. You’ll find this home in a smart redbrick Georgian mansion block in a beautiful square. Sort of like the ones you’d see in Oliver Twist. You’ll be welcomed by an open-plan living space with beautifully high ceilings. The dining room table has had as an exotic life as your hosts- it’s traveled from New York to Africa, and back to London. Off the dining area is a modern kitchen, complete with granite surfaces. The eclectic mix of London chic and African inspiration is what truly makes this a fusion property with stories hidden in every piece of furniture.
You couldn’t ask for a better bedroom experience – both large and offering both double and twin beds, relax in the steaming roll-top bath before you collapse in the huge king-size master bed. 

The Hollywood touch

Everything you could want sits on your doorstep at this address. Indulge in the glitz of Sloane Street designer labels, while the Kings Road offers comfortable commercialism with a hint of glamour. Walk up to South Kensington within minutes and consume the culture of the museum district, while Harrods and Harvey Nics sit a 15-minute walk away in Knightsbridge. After all that shopping and sightseeing, you might want to take a break and enjoy a cocktail at one of Chelsea’s prestigious bars.

Hiking from Jiankou to Mutianyu Great Wall - Catherine Lu Tours

If you decide on traveling to China don't miss an opportunity for a great hiking tour along Great Wall!
This particular tour is offered by our partners in China, Catherine Lu Tours.


  • This is a great hiking trip that is fun for the whole family!
  • It includes rugged “Wild Wall” along with tastefully restored wall, making it a perfect hike for comparison and understanding more about the true Great Wall.
  • This tour is an amateur photographer’s dream. Maybe you can sell the pictures from your trip to National Geographic!
  • The entire hiking duration for 5 hours!
While this hike will be a bit long, it will easily be the highlight of your time in China. For those of you who feel the need to stretch their legs after being cooped up in an office in Beijing (or wherever you may be from), this is the perfect opportunity to get some exercise and adventure, while also having loads of fun!

Jiankou Great wall, built in 1368, is located 73 kilometers north of Beijing. This section was built entirely of white stone, which makes it easily distinguishable from all the other sections of the vast, long wall. It’s other immediately distinguishable feature is it’s steepness; this section is one of the steepest and the climb is not for the faint of heart.

The Sky Stairs and the Cloud Stairs are two sections of Jiankou famous for their steepness. So steep they’re almost vertical, and narrow besides, these stairs can be a rather treacherous climb. The most famous part of Jiankou is the observation tower built at the top of the sections highest peak, called ‘eagle flies facing upward’ because it was built on such a steep mountainside. The view from the tower is nothing short of amazing.
First, you have to climb a small village called Xizaizhi at the bottom of Jiankou Great Wall. Then, you find the mountain ridges upon which the wall is built are steep in all directions. It will take you 4 to 5 hours hike all the way from Jiankou section to the Mutianyu section. Along the wall, you can enjoy a breath-taking view without the interruption by other tourists. In order to hike on Jiankou, first we have to climb up a path for about 60 minutes to reach it. Our hike today will take about 4 hours and will cover10km/ 6 miles. The Jiankou section is known for its ruggedness and wild beauty, and you will be in awe of the marvelous views it affords. As soon as we reach Jiankou we will see a deserted watchtower that gives you a panoramic view of the entire valley. In the early morning the view is priceless with its morning fog. This section of the wall is not well known by tourists, although if you see a picture of the Great Wall from exotic traveling magazines, chances are it is from Jiankou. This is the pinnacle of exotic Great Wall scenery.

We'll start from Zhengbeilou where is the best place to take photos. This part of the wall is often empty, so you will have some peace and serenity on your hike today. Another highlight of Jiankou is the enemy observation tower known as, "Ying Fei Dao Yang", so named because this watchtower was erected on the highest peak in the area, and eagles and hawks often perch on it. Although the majestic wall is slowly being conquered by small trees and brambles, but the view from the top is still stunning! However, it is pretty far from Zhengbeilou to see "Ying Fei Dao Yang" clearly.
From Jiankou we will cross over onto Mutianyu, a section of the wall that has been largely restored. Although it has gotten a face-lift, it avoids the army of tourists that plague Badaling. You can choose to take the toboggan down the wall highly recommended, lots of fun!

Monday, January 13, 2014

10 Best Things We Ate in Rome

Cannoli from Ciuri Ciuri

I know what you thinking.  No, I’m not auditioning for a hand model job.  Although the hands are normally this photogenic this is not the main motivation behind this post, and you should really pay more attention to the beautiful Canollo (single Connoli.  Yes you’ve been living a lie).  With that said, if you insist, who am I to prevent what people want and need.  Drop me a line at ZiggysHands@Gmail.com, also on twitter @handyjobs.

Roma delivered some tasty surprises.  I was all ready to be wowed by all the Cacios and the Pepes, and the Carbonaras, but instead I was impressed by the more familiar items like Meatballs, Mortadella, Burratas and Pizzas.  So in no particular order, our top eats in Rome…

Pizza at Da Remo – Although I’ve been to Rome before this was the first time I experienced the classic Roman ”Matzoh” thin pizza.  We enjoyed this one more than the former Michelin star spot we had for lunch in Orvieto that day.  Margherita and the Diavola (like sopressata back home) were spot on, but once we added more toppings things started to get off track a little.  So stay simple with the Matsoh Pizza.  Fun and supposedly flirtatious staff (at least according to RomeDigest.com.  They probably did not notice the hands) lets you take all the pictures you want of the hectic action inside.
Pizza at Da Remo
Fettuccine Agli Ovoli at La Campana.  Ovoli (pronounced delicious) is sort of a rare, expensive mushroom that is bright, sweet, delicate, almost truffle like.  The whole mushroom is a weird egg like shape (hence Ovoli).  The Italians like to call them as they see it.  (E.G Strozzapreti obviously invented when someone witnessed a priest being strangled).  La Campana is one of those proud establishments with a rich history dating back to the 16th century.  And the best part: Open on Sundays!
Fettuccine Agli Ovoli at La Campana
Seafood Assortment at Le Mani in Pasta.  Terrific finish to an uneven meal at this popular seafood institution in Trastevere.  Fantastic hefty juicy Langoustines, wonderfully chewy flat squid, lightly breaded and grilled to perfection, and a nice whole white fish.  Borrowing from the Hummus Whisperer, we attacked this thing with full force.
Seafood Assortment at Le Mani in Pasta
Gelsi Neri Granita at Ciuri Ciuri – Nothing, no ice cream or a slap in the face, during the entire trip felt as refreshing as this dark beauty.  Sweet but not too sweet.  Is it a blackberry?  Well if it is, its not like any blackberry I ever had.  Reminds me more of the white berry I ate in Israel.  There’s a Borat “Black Not” joke in here somewhere.
Gelsi Neri Granita at Ciuri Ciuri
Burrata from Roscioli – Just edging the sleek, paper thin Mortadella which is what Mrs Ziggy would have picked.  The Burrata, creamy, rich and ever so memorable.  But what stole the show was the semi-dried peppery tomatoes I couldnt get enough of.  Promise me you will get both dishes.  Or we are no longer friends
Roscioli - Burrata
Sliced Pizza from Forno Campo de’ Fiori - Fitting entry right after my post on Sullivan Street Bakery and its room temperature pizza bianca.  If Pizza Bianca (white pizza for those scoring at home, or if you are alone) like in Sullivan was more popular in NYC it would be hot off the oven as opposed to room temperature.  We enjoyed a few slices at this Forno.  Delicious plain, chewy bianca, and one topped with tomatoes.  Bread, salt, olive oil never tasted this good.
Forno Campo de' Fiori
Meatballs from Cesare al Casaletto – Another tough choice here between the meatballs and the super flavorful oxtail.  Add the lightly fried gnocchi to the mix and you got yourself a nice meal at this far enough from the tourists stop (oh those pesky tourists).  The meatballs were some of the most unique balls I ever had.   Airy, slow cooked savory brisket meatballs with just enough creamy pesto. Yum yum yum.
Cesare al Casaletto - meatballs
Biscotti and Cookies from Biscottificio Innocenti - Like eating Biscotti and cookies for the very first time.  Tucked on the quiet side of Trastevere is this 100 year old bakery/factory.  Just walk in and ask for an assortment.  Score one big one for Katie Parla
Fettuccine from Il Sorpasso.  With pesto, zucchini flowers and sunflower seeds.  Need I say more?  Yes I probably should.  Perhaps the single best pesto sauce I ever ate.  There!  One of 3 excellent non-Roman pastas we shared here after some fantastic cheese and cured meats.  A perfect lunch spot after the Vatican
Cannoli from Ciuri Ciuri - (Picture on top).  Yes, 2 items from Ciuri. a place so good you say it twice.  The trick about good Cannoli is seeing empty shells, which means a fresh fill of that ricotta goodness when you order.  Cannoli lovers – look no further!  Well, you can look further.  Its just an expression.