august pond-hopping

May 28th, 2010

hyde park

While Londoners flock down to the Mediterranean, August is the time for a Yankee invasion. Restaurants aren’t as crowded, it’s easier to get tickets to coveted West End shows, and Buckingham Palace opens its doors to visitors (see our full round-up below). Two of the city’s hottest hotels, the Metropolitan and The Halkin, are also offering discounted rates, making it easy to hop across the Atlantic for a British mini-break. The hotels sit in a prime locale, sandwiched by Hyde Park and the Buckingham Palace Gardens, perfect for summer strolls and picnics.


At The Met, book ahead with the “Ultimate Savings” offer to get a City Room from £179, roughly $257 (compared to the standard rate of £390, a savings of 55% and roughly $305) with a minimum of two nights. (Must be booked at least seven nights in advance, valid through December 31, 2010.) Over at The Halkin, “Extend that Weekend Feeling” is discounting weekend rates by 20% when guests stay three nights. A double room starts at £450 a night, roughly $650. Three nights at that rate would £1350, or roughly $1950, but with the discount it’s only £1080 ($1560), making it a savings of about $390. Use that little bonus to load up on Top Shop must-haves or to procure tickets to a West End show. After a day of finding quirky antique treasures on Portobello Road or numerous crossings of the Thames, relax and take in the green views from one of the 51 rooms overlooking Hyde Park at the Metropolitan. At The Halkin, fill up on Thai fare at Chef David Thompson’s nahm, the first Thai restaurant in Europe to be awarded a Michelin star.


Herewith, our round-up of August’s key events…

Music Festivals

V Festival

What: a two-day festival featuring artists Kings of Leon, Passion Pit, Imogen Heap, and many more

When: August 21-22

Where: Hylands Park and Weston Park


80s Rewind Festival

What: celebration of 80s music, dressing up encouraged

When: August 20

Where: Remenham, Oxon (about an hour from London)


LED Festival

What: David Guetta, Audio Bully, and more pump out dance music in the last summer festival at Victoria Park

When: August 27

Where: Victoria Park


Get Loaded in the Park

What: The last concert in August promises to be one of the best parties of the summer.

When: August 29

Where: Clapham Common



Hyde Park in the summer


Art Exhibits

Henry Moore

What: An exhibition celebrating the artist’s influence in 20th century sculpture

When: Through August 15

Where: The Tate Britain


Victoria & Albert: Art & Love in London

What: An exhibition featuring over 400 works from the Royal Collection gathered during the lives of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

When: Through October 31

Where: The Queen’s Gallery


Newspeak: British Art Now

What:  An exhibition focused on the new and exciting artists coming out of the UK in the past few years

When: June 2-October 17

Where: The Saatchi Gallery


West End Shows

La Bête

What: David Hirson’s fun 1991 play tells the story of a dramatist leading an acting company in the 17th-century court of Prince Conti, starring Joanna Lumley, aka Patsy from Ab Fab.

When: June 28-August 28


The Merry Wives of Windsor at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

What: Enjoy this comedy in Shakespeare’s own Globe Theatre.

When: August 14-October 2


Into The Woods at London’s Open Air Theatre

What: Watch the celebrated Sondheim play outdoors in Regent’s Park

When: August 5-September 11


New Restaurants

Bar Boulud – Knightsbridge

This New York gem opened a British outpost in May with two bright rooms, a charcuterie counter, and a lounge.


Petrus – Belgravia

Gordon Ramsey’s French restaurant opened in March and boasts a glass wine case with 2,000 bottles.


Viajante – Bethnal Green

Opened in April, this eclectic new spot is in the former Bethnal Green Town Hall.


The Milroy – Mayfair

Just opened in May to the public, the restaurant serves up modern European fare and occupies the space that once housed Henry VIII’s hunting lodge.



Notting Hill Carnival

What: A huge street fair set up by London’s West Indian population, full of food carts, steel drum bands, and crazy costumes.

When: August 29-30


Outdoor Opera in Holland Park

What: Operas in the open air, set in beautiful Holland Park.

When:   La Forza del Destino, August 4, 6, 10, 12, 14 at 7:30pm

                Francesca da Rimini, August 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 at 7:30pm

                Fantastic Mr. Fox, August 3, 5, 7, 10, 12, 14 at 7:30pm


Dover Street Market

What: Take advantage of summer sales at this fashion forward hot spot. The chic flock here for the latest from Lanvin, YSL, and Rodarte.

baby elephants on parade

May 27th, 2010

Anantara's 'Little Bird' Elephant

The Elephant Parade officially began in London this month. How will they fit, you might ask?

Well, the Elephant Parade is actually an open air art installation of life-size, model baby elephants positioned around the city. Elephants are painted by artists and celebrities, such as Diane von Furstenberg, Isaac Mizrahi and Lulu Guinness to inspire awareness of the plight of the Asian Elephant. With a current population of only 1,500 in the wild in Thailand (down from 300,000 at the turn of the last century), they face a severe risk of extinction.

Run by the small charity Elephant Family, these efforts require serious support from their patrons, which include Goldie Hawn and Sarah, Duchess of York. Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas is a sponsor and champion of this cause, and has a little baby of its own, known as ‘Little Bird,’ placed somewhere around Londontown. All elephants are for sale by auction and Elephant Family aims to raise over $2 million.

This is London’s biggest outdoor art event on record and runs from May to July 2010. If you are hanging out in Trafalgar Square or Green Park, these colorful creatures will be impossible to miss. So, enjoy the exhibit because it may be the only time you see an Asian elephant in London!

to the victor go the…camels?

May 25th, 2010


Last week New York Times’ T magazine took note of the annual Mazayin Competetion, AKA Camel Beauty Contest, which takes place in the desert two hours outside of Abu Dhabi.

Part of the Al Dhafra Festival, this seemingly oxymoronic tradition (Camels? Beautiful?) is actually highly competitive. There are, of course, millions of dollars in prize money to be had, but it is the old family rivalries that really get the blood flowing. There are last minute camel swaps and deals being brokered as camel owners from all over the UAE  strategize to win the ’50,’ or the title of having the most exceptional group of 50 camels.  The panel of judges will critique each camel individually, then score the contestants based on criteria from the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage.

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the Al Dhafra is all about celebrating Bedouin culture and is an ideal time to visit the region.  The desert is full of festivities: a traditional souk is set up where visitors can shop for handmade crafts and sample native dishes, there is a date-wrapping competition, a poetry contest and even camel races!

The festival takes place annually in late January into early February. We’ll be checking back once the drama begins to unfold.

“travel my way, take the highway that is best”

May 24th, 2010


Every road tripper dreams of a drive along historic Route 66. This iconic American stretch of road inspired the eponymous tune sung by everyone from Nat King Cole to the Stones to John Mayer. In its heyday, this was the major roadway that beckoned travelers to the west and sunny California. Since replaced with generic  interstate highways, one can still cruise down stretches of road marked “Historic Route 66” or discover the bits that have turned into local roads. The movement to preserve the gas stations and motels and other Americana lining the original route takes motorists back in time.

Planning to go get your kicks on Route 66? If so, the new Hotel Parq Central in Albuquerque – opening in October – will be right en route. Located on a stretch of Route 66 passing through New Mexico, this historic building would have been part of the scenery for westbound travelers.  In Santa Fe, the Inn on the Alameda sits just off the iconic roadway and its prime location lets drivers leave the car in the parking lot and stretch their legs strolling along Route 66 to nearby restaurants and galleries.

sex and the city 2, abu dhabi-style

May 20th, 2010


We know everyone has been waiting for the upcoming Sex and the City 2 movie, especially since we saw Aiden showing up in the trailer.  So when we heard our gals Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda, the forerunners of all things glamorous, selected Abu Dhabi as the new “it” place to go, we couldn’t help but wonder where they might end up.  In anticipation of the May 27 opening in theaters, we speculated a few ideas of our own.

For urbanites (the Carries of the world), the opulent Emirates Palace is fit for a Sheikh, an ideal place to escape the desert heat. What’s more, the Anantara Spa is a great place to pamper with rejuvenating body treatments and therapies in a luxurious, Moroccan inspired space.

Sybarites (Samantha-esques) can journey to the majestic Qasr Al Sarab Resort by Anantara, built into the ancient dunes of the Liwa Desert.  The “Mirage Palace” creates the perfect setting for a desert romance, with sweeping views of ocher dunes as far as the eye can see and stately rooms intricately designed with opulent Arabian décor.  Guests can enjoy gourmet cuisine at the hotel, or go off into the desert for an exotic Bedouin tent dinner under the stars. Sumptuous fruit-soaked tajines and succulent kebabs are prepared over an open flame and Arabic coffees and sweet teas help immerse you into the enchanting desert atmosphere. 

If you’re a Miranda type, you will feel right at home on Sir Bani Yas Island, where Desert Islands Resort & Spa is the epitome of island luxury (well, it’s not exactly Brooklyn but close!).  Founded as a wildlife reserve for endangered species of Arabia by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (the founder of the United Arab Emirates), this 33-square-mile island is a diamond in the rough.  Home to over 30 free-roaming species, Sir Bani Yas Island provides numerous island activities, like kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, and guided game drives in the Arabian Wildlife Park.  Back at the resort, guests can relish in luxuriously appointed accommodations, numerous dining options, or at the spa.

And lastly for the Charlottes out there, who don’t want to rough it but still want the experience, we have some good news! Two new luxury lodges are scheduled to open on Sir Bani Yas Island: Al Barari, “Savannah,” will have a safari atmosphere highlighted with roaming wildlife, and Al Yamm Lodge, “The Sea”, will have beach front lodges overlooking a tranquil lagoon with frequent visitors… flamingoes!

So pack up those Manolos, and maybe some flats too, because Abu Dhabi is the place to be! Etihad Airways can get your there, with direct flights from three North American gateways: New York, Chicago, and Toronto.

garden party

May 20th, 2010


With the weather warming up, it’s time to head to the farmer’s market to indulge in the season’s finest locally grown produce. But what happens when we eat out? With the growing trend of on-site herb and vegetable gardens, restaurants and hotels are turning over a new leaf and guests are reaping the benefits with fresher food, straight from the garden.

North America

NoMi at Park Hyatt Chicago

In the middle of bustling Chicago, NoMi has created a garden sanctuary. Its lush landscaping sits on the seventh floor of the Park Hyatt, affording diners dramatic views of the city. At night, soft candlelight makes this urban oasis the perfect spot for sharing small plates and sipping carefully crafted cocktails. With summer coming up, NoMi has created a tomato-inspired menu with dishes like BLTs with vine ripened tomatoes and caprese salads with colorful heirlooms.

Chef’s pick: Composition of Heirloom Tomato with buffalo mozzarella, shallots, and Chianti vinaigrette.

TOPPER’S at The Wauwinet, Nantucket MA

Along with savoring the delectable cuisine of Chef David Daniels, guests at TOPPER’S get an extra fresh flavor note from the herbs gathered in the chef’s own garden. Chef Daniels keeps a plot of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme growing right outside The Wauwinet.  Diners who opt for the more casual TOPPER’S Deck get a primo view of Daniel’s little Eden, so they can be assured that the seasonings are fresh and those basil leaves resting atop the spaghetti pomodoro were just plucked from their stems moments before.

Chef’s pick: Simple Spaghetti Pomodoro, with chili flakes and fresh basil leaves.


Strawberry Hill, Blue Mountains, Jamaica

This 50-acre mountain top resort in Irish Town, Jamaica, originated as an 18th century coffee plantation.  Today, the resort still boasts extensive gardens and orchards yielding copious fresh produce daily. Aromatic varieties of mint are used at the Strawberry Hill Living Spa, and lemongrass and basil spice salad dressings and teas. Bananas, pineapples, mangoes, and other local fruit grow on the property, giving guests a variety of fresh produce.

Chef’s pick: Strawberry Hill Jerk Style Lamb Rack, with lamb reduction and a guava glaze.


Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa, Interlaken, Switzerland

Between the luxurious ESPA and the outdoor tennis courts lies a garden replete with all sorts of herbs. By mid-May, this chef’s garden supplies the hotel restaurants with coriander, lavender, basil, sage, and others, including edible blooms like fiery red nasturtiums. Torsten Goetz tends to the garden, making sure all of those delicious flavors flourish and make it to the kitchen to spice up the chef’s cuisine.

Chef’s pick: Saddle of Irish lamb with Indian spices, “Cama di rapa,” sweet and sour mango pearls, and lightly smoked lamb jus.


Anantara Dhigu Resort & Spa, South Male Atoll, Maldives

Imagine eating dinner while the wafting aromas of lemongrass and hot peppers float in the air. Now imagine this garden in paradise. At Anantara Dhigu Resort & Spa in the Maldives, guests can do just that with the addition of a new chef’s herb garden. A lone hut stands among Thai, Indian, and Maldivian chilies, wild rocket, Chinese cabbage, and other edible greenery, so locavores can rejoice in the fact that herbs and veggies are no more than a few feet away, bringing new meaning to “farm to table”.

Chef’s pick: Tom Yam Pho Teak, a spicy seafood soup with fresh lemongrass and hot basil. 

Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa, Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand

The organic vegetable garden at Anantara Golden Triangle supplies the restaurant and on-site cooking school with fresh produce year round. The resort also organically cultivates its own rice paddy, and the rice harvested is entirely consumed at the property. Showing its green thumb, Anantara Golden Triangle uses natural fertilizer on all its crops, courtesy of the resident elephants.

Chef’s pick: Thick, creamy chicken curry, filled with herbs and spices such as sweet basil and kaffir lime leaves. 

Anantara Si Kao Resort & Spa, Changlang Beach, Trang Province, Thailand

At Anantara Si Kao, the herb garden holds a world of local flavors. Somewhat common names such as lemongrass, Thai basil, and chili grow next to the more exotic hot holy basil, galangal, and kaffir lime. No idea how to use them? Take a Thai cooking class – each class starts in the garden, gathering herbs for the recipes. Also check out the weekly Market Night when vendors from the local Trang Market set up stalls on the resort grounds and sell their wares, including local produce, vivid spices, and even the famous Thai street food (safely prepared in the resort’s kitchens so you don’t have to worry).

Chef’s pick: Pla Nueng Si Hio, steamed seabass fillet with ginger, garlic, chili, and light soy.

tented espa spa in india

May 19th, 2010


Ever dream of experiencing a soothing Ayurvedic spa treatment in a gorgeous luxury tent on the shores of a majestic lake?  It may sound like a fairytale, but it is the reality at the new ESPA at The Leela Palace Kempinski Udaipur, which opened February 2010 in the Rajasthan region of India.  The first branded ESPA in India, the spa comprises treatment rooms and suites ensconced in traditional Rajasthan-style tents with interiors by Jeffrey Wilkes.  The treatment tents are accessed by paths that wind through gardens designed by famed landscape architect Bill Bensley.  Set on beautiful Lake Pichola, the spa is separated into two distinct areas, the Haveli Spa and the Lake Spa.

The Haveli Spa houses the spa reception area.  From there, guests may proceed to the five single treatment tents, the crystal and anthracite glass tiled aroma steam rooms, and to separate male and female relaxation areas.   Healthy lunches are served on the rooftop terrace, which offers spectacular views of the lake and the City Palace beyond.  The Lake Spa features a Couple’s Suite and two Royal Palace Spa Suites, each with its own private pool and walled garden.  The tents feature crystal chandeliers, bespoke furniture, and rich fabrics.

Exclusive to the spa menu, the Leela Udaipur Ceremonies combine European principles with the ancient philosophies of Ayurveda.   Carried out in the private tents, all ceremonies begin with a welcoming foot ritual of exfoliating rosehip seeds and essential oils of ginger, clove, and lime.  Treatments include ‘his-and-her’ Royal Princesses and Royal Knights of Rajasthan ceremonies, complete with massages and scrubs suited to each guest.  The menu also features Abhyanga Marma point massage and Dosha-specific body therapies using both ESPA essential oils and traditional Ayruvedic oils containing powerful medicinal herbs.  Private yoga and meditation is offered in the tents and courtyard gardens.

Visit the spa’s website at  For more on ESPA spas, treatments, and products visit

himalayan happening

May 14th, 2010

Indian Himalayas

Now that winter is finally over, you may think it’s time to close up shop on the vacation planning but, in fact, it is the perfect time to go somewhere totally off the beaten track: the Indian Himalayas.

Shakti Ladakh, part of Shakti Village Experiences opens this Saturday, May 15. With Shakti, guests stay in traditional village homes which have been adapted to provide proper comforts without compromising their authenticity. Accompanied by local porters and guides, travelers go on ‘soft adventure’-style walks between the villages and through the epic landscapes surrounding them.

Experience the dizzying natural wonder of the Ladakh village, which is located at an elevation of over 11,000 feet. Traditionally a backpacker’s mecca, Ladakh is perfect for travelers looking to immerse themselves in rural North Indian life and drink in the untouched and unrivaled views of epic landscapes.

And be sure you stay at least 6 days so you can acclimatize to the high altitude and let the awesome beauty of the snow-capped peaks change the way you think about ‘vacation.’

the buffett has landed

May 13th, 2010


Calling all Parrotheads and Margarita swillers! On May 7, at 10:30 AM, Mr. Jimmy Buffett was the numero uno pilot to claim wheels down at the newly improved Boscobel Aerodrome, soon to be opened as Jamaica’s third international airport. Lots of congrats were on offer, all around. Especially to those working on the new airport which, at 8 miles down the road from GoldenEye, is just a short hop away from a jump in the lagoon. What could be better? Well, maybe a little gossip about what else is flying around, regarding our fave new port of entry in Jamaica. Our lips are sealed, but we can’t stop you from reading what The Gleaner had to say: click here.

go for the gold!

May 13th, 2010

Anantara Spa treatment room

Anything is possible in Abu Dhabi. That is why we are not surprised that the stately Emirates Palace, with its iconic roofline and dramatic, gold plated lobby, added more bling to the decor…  Gold to go, to be exact!  As if the hotel needed more that glittered and dazzled, the lobby has now been outfitted with none other than its own gold-dispensing machine.  Simply feed cash into the ATM-like apparatus and bam! Out comes a bar or customized coins of gold. Sound bizarre?  Not really when you are traveling in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

After all the time spent lugging gold bars around town, why not head to the Anantara Spa and unwind with a massage or in the traditional hammam.

At more than $1,245 an ounce, why wouldn’t you go for the gold?