A Long Weekend in Sonoma

A Long Weekend in Sonoma…
June 2016

A long weekend filled with wine tasting, biking, spa-ing and lounging by the pool…what could be better? I do not think there is much that could be more glorious than a weekend in Sonoma, California.

The perfect backdrop for this fantastic weekend? The Farmhouse Inn, a boutique resort just south of Healdsburg. After a few days in San Francisco, we escaped the city and made the short drive up to the Russian River Valley with a list of appointments at “off the beaten path” wineries and a mission to relax. Arriving at the Farmhouse, we checked into our understated luxurious room and prepared for our first tasting.


Healdsburg is an adorable town and the restaurants are top notch. With the help of a friend who is a sommelier, we had planned two tastings each day (the Russian River Valley is known for it’s wide range of Pinot Noirs, each one unique thriving on the cool air from the nearby Pacific) with leisurely lunches and sumptuous dinners in between. We also found time to lounge by the pool – with a bottle of chilled white of course!

One of the most fun things we did that weekend was to take a private bike tour, complete with tastings at various vineyards and a beautiful picnic lunch on one of the properties. Biking through vineyards is a beautiful thing and the rolling hills, well-maintained roads and bike-friendly traffic will please even the most serious biking enthusiasts.


Our fantastic guide, Dave, brought along a peddle-assist bike “just in case” and by the end of the tour they had put me on it…apparently I could not keep up after a few tastings and a big lunch. It was actually a fun bike to ride!

 

 

Another treat was attending a 4th of July party with a group of wine makers. A woman giving us a tasting at a smaller wine maker’s warehouse spontaneously invited us to her home for the celebration. It was so much fun to talk wine, food and life with these winemakers who brought unmarked bottles of their latest offerings.

As a mentioned previously, Healdsburg is a “foodie mecca.” Most of the restaurants are farm-to-table and the presentations are spectacular. Special mention though for the food at the farmhouse. The three-course breakfast (included if you book through me) was a daily treat and dinner at their Michelin starred farm-to-table was incredible.

We returned home with memories of fabulous meals, delicious wines and a thought that maybe we had joined a few wine clubs! We would not find out how many until the cases started arriving at the house!

 

If you would like any further information or are ready to plan your escape to Sonoma, please contact Jennifer at 917.741.7409 or [email protected]

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Cartagena, Columbia

A Long Weekend Getaway to Cartagena, Columbia….
February 2017

Cartagena was never a destination that was on my “must-see” list. However, based on the recommendation of colleagues in Bogata, it was on my husband’s. I really didn’t give it much thought until I started reading about Cartagena as the hottest long weekend getaway with direct flights that are under five hours from New York. In a spur of the moment decision, we decided to forgo our annual out-west ski trip and booked a flight to Cartagena…..we did not regret that decision!

Given that we were traveling with kids, we chose to stay at the Sofitel Santa Clara. They have nice connecting rooms and a large pool. The location can’t be beat…inside the walled city. You just need to step outside the doors to be immersed in the charm and culture of the city.

If we did not have the kids in tow, I would have considered more of a boutique hotel such as the Casa San Augustin, The Charleston Santa Teresa, or the Bastion Luxury Hotel.

The trip was busy, but we were able to find a few hours each day to lounge by the pool….

An obligatory horse drawn carriage ride was the perfect welcome and orientation to the city. The following day, a full-day privately guided tour helped us to really get to know the area. We visited Popa Hill, San Felipe Fort and the Mercade do Bazurto market. A highlight was the “pirate” who took the kids on a little treasure hunt around the fort….maybe a little old for the game, they played along and had a blast.

 

 

 

A can’t miss is a trip to El Totumo Volcano about an hour outside the city. El Totumo is a mud volcano that you can “bathe” in. You basically leave everything you own at the bottom (leave all jewelry at the hotel), give a random guy your camera, climb the stairs to the volcano and are shuffled down a ladder into the mud where men slide you over to other men giving massages….it sounds strange, but feels right when you are in it – trust me! You can hang out for a bit in the mud before climbing out and are escorted over to a lagoon where ladies help to wash the mud off. Again, modesty isn’t a consideration as she asks for your bikini bottoms to wash out. It was a completely unique experience…unfortunately I did not notice any benefit to my skin or hair!

 

A sunset biking tour around the Gestemani (a colorful neighborhood beyond the walled-city) and along the city’s walls was an adventure. I always love being the only one in the group who feels we are in imminent danger! The rest of the family was comfortable with the guide leading us into traffic.

 

Another highlight was our day trip to the the Rosario Islands. We chartered a motor boat and headed out to some of the most amazing snorkeling in the Caribbean. We then docked one of the smaller islands and relaxed on the beach while a lunch of fresh fish was prepared. My kids enjoyed hunting for coconuts and spent hours working on cracking them open!

 

I can’t wrap this up without mentioning to food!! The ceviche and fresh fish were so incredible it would be hard to pick a favorite meal. We ate simply on the beaches….whole fish grilled or fried served with coconut rice and plantains and enjoyed some of the most fabulous gourmet dishes at local restaurants. Some of our favorites: Maria, Alma, La Cevicheria and Cuzco.

 

 

* Cartagena is a fantastic weekend destination or can be made into a longer stay combined with the coffee region of Columbia. If you have any questions or would like further information on a trip to Cartagena, please contact Jennifer at 917.741.7409 or [email protected]

 

 

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New Year New You New Body

 

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The turn of each year means renewed resolutions to improve our life, health or fitness level, save more money, travel more … But how many of us give up on those resolutions within days or hours of the New Year? Work takes over and we quickly throw out our good intentions out of the window and return to past unhealthy habits. I know I often do!

Two of the most common resolutions are to exercise more and enjoy life. There is no better way to enjoy life than to travel and explore new places and cultures.  And now you can combine the joy of travel with the resolution to live a more active life as more and more hotels are offering fantastic fitness classes, personal trainers and wellness packages.  You can check off that next destination off your bucket list AND start a new healthy fitness routine.  Here are some of our favorite hotels for fitness:

W Hotel Barcelona

W Barcelona

Barcelona is one of our favorite cities. This vibrant city enchants us with its boundless culture, world class dining, exciting nightlife and of course the world famous architecture by Gaudi.  For fans of the architectural giant, this year is particularly important as it marks the 90th anniversary of his death and the city is be celebrating the life and works of Gaudi by offering an interactive exhibition “Walking with Gaudi” at the Gaudi Exhibition Center. And to stay on top of your “workout more” resolution, the hip sail-shaped and W Barcelona hotel offers a fantastic fitness program to its guests.  The hotel’s 300-square-meter state-of-the-art FIT fitness facility with Technogym equipment overlooking spectacular views over Barcelona’s coastline just begs to work out. And yes, the gym comes with a team of personal trainers lead by Sergio Micó López who is responsible for the GLOBALFITSTYLE program. Not into indoor gym workouts? No problem. The hotel partnered with Nike and offers a weekly session of beachside running with Nike+ Run Club lead by a world-class athlete Nacho Cáceres, a Nike Training Coach. Yoga fans can stay in shape with Strala Yoga, a revolutionary workout created by yoga rebel Tara Stiles. Finally, W Barcelona is also offering fun yet challenging Stand Up Paddle board classes making the Mediterranean your sport ground. Tone up with fantastic & experienced instructor Ely Merino from Pilates SUP & Beach, who will make your body so fabulous you’ll want to show it off.

Parrot Cay by COMO, Turks and Caicos

Parrot Cay

For a fitness-friendly beach getaway, Parrot Cay by COMO is your go-to hotel.  The stunning ultra-luxurious resort located on its own private island in Turks & Caicos with powdery soft beaches is currently offering a Curry Sisters-led six-night yoga retreat with a focus on embracing strength while learning the art of surrender.  Offered between April 24 and April 30, 2016, the package includes six nights accommodation at Parrot Cay, daily breakfast, lunch and dinner from COMO Shambhala Retreat Wellness Menu (and the restaurants in this resort are fantastic), one 60-minute COMO Shambhala Massage (at the resorts divine spa), five days of yoga instruction and roundtrip airport transfers.  Say Namaste to new you!

Golden Door Spa Resort, California

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The Japanese-inspired resort and spa tucked away among acres of serene gardens, citrus groves, koi ponds, waterfalls and woodland walkways is offering weeklong packages devoted to recharging body, mind and spirit. Limited to just 40 guests, your stay will include a private room with deck or patio, daily massage, up to four sessions with a personal trainer, fitness classes, spa treatments, meals, cooking class, lectures and more. In addition, this Virtuoso Exclusive experience includes three months of fitness follow up with the guest’s personal trainer and $100 USD equivalent Spa Services credit to be utilized during stay.  Golden Door is known for providing the tools for healthy eating, lasting fitness and inner reflection, helping you create long lasting effects to take away with you when you finally have to leave this top-notch spa and resort.  No breaking resolutions this year!

Chiva-Som International Health Resorts, Hua Hin Thailand

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The philosophy behind this world-renowned wellness resort is “learning to live,
enjoy and appreciate every moment, and in so doing, creating a personal path to health and wellness.” Located on the beachfront of the royal resort of Hua Hin, Chiva-Som, meaning Haven of Life, is a beautiful secluded world of its own hidden within 7 acres of lush tropical gardens. The resort is a magnet for A-list celebrities thanks to its mile long list of wellness offerings such as thai massages, body wraps, cleansing, firming and relaxing facials and Oriental foot rituals, Tai Chi, Qi Kong, Pilates, and personal training sessions. Chiva-Som offers treatments for everyone from weight loss and stress reduction to total relaxation and pure pampering.

D-Hotel Maris, Turkey

Turkey

The D-Hotel Maris, a top secret address among celebrities and Turkish high society, is a real gem! This stunning property boasts breathtaking views over the Aegean Mediterranean Sea and is surrounded by volcanic mountain views.  The backdrop reminds us of islands like Seychelles. In addition to 5 fantastic beaches (they had sand flown in from Egypt for the best fluffy sand feeling!), 6 restaurants and a fabulous spa with Balinese therapists, the D-Hotel Maris also offers a wide range of fitness activities such as paddle boarding, fully equipped gym and hiking trails. It is also the home of the first European Bodyism Clean & Lean. Bodyism, practiced by such celebrities as Lara Stone, Rosie-Huntington-Whiteley and Hugh Grant, believes in creating long, lean, healthy, athletic bodies. The resort has a team of elite personal trainers from London who specialize in creating long, lean, athletic bodies. They will help you strip fat, improve posture and give nutritional advice. The hotel also offers tennis lessons with the world famous Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, known for one of the greatest serves in tennis history.

Do not wait another year to make your resolution a reality, book your fitness friendly getaway right now!

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Find the True Meaning of Relaxation

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Holidays can be a very stressful time, taking its toll on our bodies and minds, making the beginning of the new year the perfect time to get away, destress and get pampered. There is nothing like a week or even a weekend at a destination spa resort to get the mind primed, the chi pumped, and the beauty rebooted. Retreat to these resorts in the new year to invigorate your mind, body and soul:

Alila Ubud

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Bali has been a popular wellness and spirituality destination for quite a while now and continues to wow us with organic treatments and holistic massages. Alila Ubud Hotel‘s spellbinding location on the edge of the breathtaking Ayung River Valley will immediately impress you with its zen-like atmosphere. As will their emerald infinity pool overlooking the valley. Alila’s signature treatment is the Moonlight Remedy, offered twice a month on the 1st and 15th day of the lunar month. The treatment is performed in the resort’s outdoor garden and draws on the energy of the moon to promote healing and spiritual growth.

Brenners Park Hotel & Spa

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Brenners Park, located in the Black Forest and close to the city of Baden Baden, is one of the best spas in Europe. Full of elegance and glam and with a Michelin-starred restaurant, Brenners Park is a favorite of many celebrities. It has been known to host Bill Clinton, Dalai Lama, Heidi Klum and Victoria Beckham. These A-list celebrities flock there for the top-of-the-line spa treatments designed to pamper and rejuvenate. The hotel’s five floor, 5,000 square meter spa is the largest one in Germany, and includes two health and beauty spas and a medical spa that offers everything from dermatology to dentistry. For the ultimate day of pampering, we recommend booking the Spa Suite which comes with its own whirlpool, terrace, Japanese blossom steam bath and a spa butler.

Ananda in the Himalayas

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This stunning property, housed in former palace estate of the Maharaja of Tehri-Garhwal, allows us an opportunity to combine a wellness getaway with a trip of a lifetime to the foothills of the Himalayas. As Oprah described this special resort “Going to Ananda is more like a pilgrimage than a visit, with every moment designed to cultivate presence.” Ananda offers two, three and five-night spa packages designed to balance the five senses through the wisdom of the Vedas. Our favorite is the Ananda Detox-Starter. The four-night program targets toxins that constantly build up in the body due to pollution and other environmental factors and lead to lack of energy, weight gain and low mood. The program integrates the essential elements of Ayurveda and Aromatherapy, Yogic Kriyas, Meditation and Personal Fitness – and all with a dosha-based customized diet that leaves you refreshed, toned, glowing and energized for the new year.

Calistoga Ranch Auberge Resort

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For a pampering getaway easier to get to, we recommend the remarkable Calistoga Ranch Auberge Resort located in a secluded Upper Napa Valley canyon (side trips to wineries anyone?!). The resort stays true to its motto of “responsible luxury” by integrating elements of nature into its opulent lodges offering an unforgettable sensory experience. This motto is also translated into the use of the healing waters of Calistoga in the resort’s fabulous spa. You can sink into Calistoga’s heated mineral pool surrounded by woodlands and private Lake Lommel. The soothing pools will relax your body and mind, making it the perfect prelude to a treatment in the Spa. Our favorites is the Calistoga Cure, an invigorating and therapeutic body scrub followed by a private outdoor mud or mineral salt bath. Rest quietly while receiving an energy balancing session, and finish with the resort’s Classic Ranch Massage.

Gili Lankanfushi Maldives

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Inspired by Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Gili Lankanfushi is a five-star barefoot luxury resort offering exquisite food, immaculate service and some of the best beaches in the world. It is not just a resort, it’s a sanctuary on water – a place where you can escape the all the pressures of day-to-day life! Only problem – once you get there you may never want to leave! The resort’s Meera Spa, our favorite part of the resort, is a member of the prestigious Healing Hotels of the World. As with all of the villas, the spa is located overwater and in addition to offering a long list of massages, it also offers Holistic therapies such as Reiki, Yoga, meditation, Tibetan Singing Bowls and several advanced well being services with the “Masters in Residence” program. This program, offered throughout the year, is conducted by visiting holistic practitioners and renowned healers to provide additional wellbeing services. All specialists have their own gifts to offer and some of these include sound therapy, crystal therapy and Craniosacral therapy, among many other alternative healing methods.

Borgo Egnazia Luxury Resort, Puglia, Italy

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Borzo Egnazia has been on everyone’s radar ever since Justin Timberlake celebrated his wedding with Jessica Biel here. We promise you that this sudden fame does not take away from the resort’s service, luxury and attention to detail. This architectural gem recreates a traditional Apulian village amid olive groves and lemon trees and is surrounded by deep blue shimmering ocean. The beautiful resort is a place of stone and sky, sea and history and words and silences. Borzo Egnazia is also close to the town of UNESCO World Heritage town of Alberobello for some exploration. And then of course there is the resort’s enormous Vair Spa offering three to five night packages. We recommend the 5-day Nghiane Package, a life-changing treatment program designed to get you back in touch with yourself, be more open with others and get in sync with your body and your life. It includes sessions with artists’therapists, deep massage treatments, private Yoga lesson, Roman bath ritual and and a relaxing massage for a complete mind and body makeover. A perfect way to start the New Year!

Contact Classic Travel for your ultimate “pamper yourself” package.

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