May 24th, 2011
The beautiful, yet rugged, terrain of the mountains surrounding the Paro Valley of Bhutan was no match for the COMO Approach Team at Uma Paro.
Last week, the team delivered 60 pairs of shoes to the orphans at the Neyphug Monastary. Though the trip was indeed an extensive operation, all was worthwhile when the team saw the children’s smiling faces.
They also traveled to Kela Goemba to deliver toiletries to the nuns living in the monastery as part of the Master Card “Purchase with a Purpose” project. This project supplies an essentials package containing toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and more to this and other remote locations around the world.
What’s next for the COMO Approach Team? Help pay for a recent loan to buy a car the nuns of Kela Goemba desperately need for emergencies. The efforts of the team are in line with COMO’s commitment to the local communities, culture and environment.
May 24th, 2011
Spontaneous travels are my favorite, so when I had the last minute opportunity to jet off to Morocco and the southern coast of Spain for a week of relaxing with friends I couldn’t resist. (Isn’t that what tax refunds are for anyways?)
Four flights and 24 hours of traveling, I arrived in Malaga, Spain, with the adrenaline and excitement of the trip erasing any jet lag. The next six days were filled with sunning on the golden beaches in Costa del Sol, swimming in the (freezing) Mediterranean, sipping Sangria and San Miguel on cobblestone streets, and touring the most charming historic towns… all while picking up a few Spanish phrases along the way, à la “Soy de la Gran Manzana” (I’m from the Big Apple!)
After a whirlwind, amazing trip, below are some highlights and recommendations for travelers venturing to the Andalusia region of Spain.
The hidden town is worth the 45 minute, incredibly winding and slightly nauseating drive up the mountainous terrain. We immediately headed to the outdoor café, Buenos Aires, (don’t be confused by the name) and indulged in ice cold gelato, energizing cappuccinos, and the most delicious churros, served with a side of melted chocolate for dipping. (Five girls have quite possibly never been so excited.) After frolicking around in the ‘Corrida Goyseca’, the oldest bullring in Spain, we took in the most breathtaking views of El Tajo Canyon (a memory that I hope created a wrinkle in my brain).
Insider’s Tip: There are many clearly marked paths that take you eye level with Puente Romano, the famous bridge that spans the canyon in Ronda. Venture down the one less traveled (identified by the the broken gate… don’t worry, it’s safe!) at sunset with a bottle of wine for the most private, jaw -dropping view of the historic landmark.
If you can handle the one-hour ferry through the choppy Mediterranean, then be sure to make a detour to Tangier. We booked with Siad Tours – which I couldn’t recommend more highly for those traveling to the northern tip of Africa. During our private excursion we rode camels along the beach, rocked the Kasbah and shopped at local spice markets. An incredibly eye opening experience when walking through parts of town where running water and electricity are considered a luxury.
Insider’s Tip: Don’t spend the 200 euros on the Moroccan mirrors you’ll find in all the shops. Instead, buy authentic painted tiles in the market and create your own piece of artwork at a sliver of the cost.
The area is well-known for The Alhambra, a Moorish citadel and palace that look out onto the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains. The fine details and architecture of the palace are remarkable, especially as the property dates back to the 11th century. The grounds are complete with endless flourishing gardens filled with sprinkling fountains, blooming roses, perfectly shaped shrubbery, and secret passageways. Be sure to buy your tickets at least a week in advance because they often sell out.
Insider’s Tip: If you’re feet aren’t blistery tired after touring The Alhambra (ours were, but we endured the pain!), hop on the local bus (only 1.30 euros) and head into town. While walking around, you’ll pass calligraphers who set up shop on the street and will elegantly scrawl your name in Arabic for one euro.
As told by Lauren Wintemberg
May 20th, 2011
Paws at the Park Happy Hour
Summertime means hot dogs, and not just the delicious ones soon to be grilling in the backyard! Starting this June, Max, Buddy, Daisy, and Princess are welcome to bring along their human plus-one to cool off with some refreshing libations at Park Hyatt Washington DC’s Paws at the Park Happy Hour. Monthly pet-friendly happy hours will benefit the Washington Animal Rescue League, the oldest animal shelter in the District of Columbia. This series of events kicks off Wednesday, June 8, 2011 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm on the hotel grounds adjacent to the lobby. Mix and mingle with hotel guests and area residents, and their pets, and maybe even make a forever friend – adoptable dogs from the League will also be in attendance.
Pricing: For $12, attendees will receive two drink tickets for beer and wine, plus complimentary dog treats. A portion of the evening’s proceeds will be donated to the Washington Animal Rescue League.
Dates: June 8, July 13, August 10, September 14 and October 19 (with special Halloween-themed costume contest for dogs.)
Paws at the Park overnight Package
For those who cannot bear man’s best friend’s guilt-tripping looks while packing for a weekend getaway, Park Hyatt Washington’s Paws at the Park overnight package offers two- and four-legged guests alike the ultimate in luxury. Dogs will be treated to their own take-home dog bed, dog bowl with water, and tasty dog treats, while their owners will receive a copy of Doggie Aficionado magazine and the book First Dogs: American Presidents and their Best Friends.
Pricing: Rates start at $449 (including a non-refundable pet fee).
May 19th, 2011
“What am I going to do with them for three months?” is the question weighing on many a parent’s mind. We’ve gathered up the best kid-friendly locations – no mouse ears required!
Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa
Where: Chiang Rai, Thailand
What: Elephant Camp
Why: Kids eight years and older can learn how to care for the endangered Thai Asian elephants at Elephant Camp under the tutelage of skilled mahouts who will teach them how to feed, bathe, and ride these gentle giants. Guests can contribute to helping their elephants with a donation to the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, Anantara Golden Triangle’s charity.
Summer Perk: Summer is, contrary to popular belief, a lovely time to visit Northern Thailand, as the short bursts of rain cool the air and keep the flora lush and green. And there are deals to be had and far less tourists to contend with!
Rates: Anantara Golden Triangle offers a special Mahout Discovery package that includes accommodation in a room with daily breakfast and a three-day mahout training course. Rates for this special package begin at $402/night (not inclusive of taxes) for a Deluxe Room, double occupancy (children under 12 sharing a room with parents are free of charge and receive 50% off the daily breakfast).
Where: Treasure Beach, Jamaica
What: Caribbean fun
Why: Kids have a variety of activities, such as a mosaic tile workshop led by the artist who is largely responsible for the unique mosaic design found throughout the property as well as watercolor painting classes. There are interactive cooking lessons to teach aspiring young chefs Jamaican cuisine, trips to stunning waterfalls where kids can jump from a rope swing Tarzan-style into the water, and Farm Tours where they follow the food from farm to table.
Summer Perk: Book four nights at Jakes and receive the fifth night free.
Rates: Starting at $95 per night for a garden room
Where: Ladakh, India
What: Little ones in Little Tibet
Why: Outfitter of bespoke village walking tours, Shakti introduces children to snow-crested landscapes untouched by Western influence through a culturally-sensitive tour replete with colonial-style creature comforts. Guides lead guests on walks and activities such as monastery visits, rafting, and sightseeing between Himalayan villages, while porters supply day packs with lunches.* Families retire to Shakti’s fully staffed (and thoughtfully renovated) homes rented from villagers. Kids as young as six will love riding the region’s indigenous two-humped camels, while older ones may prefer to raft the Upper Indus, one of the great rivers of India.
Summer Perk: The weather is consistently sunny and dry on this high altitude plateau.
Rates: A seven-night walk with customizable itinerary and luxury homestead accommodations starts at $530 per night/per person, based on two to three adults, including meals, activities, guides, and ground transportation. A two-night Shayok River Rafting Journey offers ‘glamping’ in luxe-bedded tents; Western-style loos and showers is an optional add-on. Children between three and 16 will pay 50% of the adult rate.
White Elephant Hotel Residences
Where: Nantucket, MA
What: Classic New England Summer
Why: Kids can enjoy the surf at the nearby Children’s Beach and Jetties Beach – both beaches have swing sets, slides, and climbing equipment. There are also numerous activities such as whale-watching, fishing, biking, golfing, and bird-watching. The cabanas by the new members’ pool come equipped with pool toys, towels, and sun screen, and after a day at the beach, children can eat from their special menu at the delicious Brant Point Grill.
Summer Perk: Can’t beat the charm of Nantucket or the miles of beaches surrounding the island.
Rates: Starting at $350 in June for a King room with the Hot Dates/Cool Rates promotion
What: Family friendly programming, excursions, and eats
Why: Crystal Symphony offers children’s programs and activities on select sailings including the Fantasia playroom and the Waves arcade, complete with a Sony Playstation® 3, Nintendo Wii™ and Xbox 360™. A daily newsletter, tailored by age group, provides details on kid-friendly activities, like sushi making with Nobu-trained chefs, bridge and galley tours, ice cream parties, scavenger hunts, and Computer University@Sea® classes.
Summer Perk: The Alaska Summer Series has allied with the National Park Service where Park Rangers come aboard to teach children about natural history; kids and teens can even become Junior Rangers!
Rates: Children 11 and younger pay 50 percent of the minimum fare when accompanied by two full-fare paying adults. Throughout the year, the line occasionally sets special promotions in which children can sail free when sharing a room with two adults.
Royal Mansour Marrakech
Where: Marrakech, Morocco
What: Joujou Kid’s Club
Why: Along with the idyllic playroom, everyday there is a schedule of events including an Arabic course, arts workshop, writing games, modeling clay, swimming pool games, dress up, and reading. Parents can also arrange for outings around Marrakech, including camel rides through the Palmeraie.
Summer Perk: Take the whole fam to check out the Festival National des Arts Populaires where Berber music, folk dance, and street performers fill the streets of Marrakech and provide wonderful – and free – entertainment.
Rates: Rates for a full individual riad start from €1,650 per night.
Where: Turks & Caicos
What: Caribbean fun
Why: The resort introduced children’s offerings based on input from guests, with a range of tailor-made activities including shell painting, tie-dying T-shirts, making necklaces from fossilized shark teeth, organized scavenger hunts, and sailing trips around the island. These activities are particularly popular since they allow the kids to make friends with others on the island.
Summer Perk: Now through October 31, with the Extend that Summer Feeling offer, guests at Parrot Cay get four nights for the price of three or seven nights for the price of five, including breakfast. AND kids eat free all summer!
Rates: Starting at $450 per night for a Terrace Room
La Réserve Genève
Where: Geneva, Switzerland
What: La Petit Réserve
Why: Children can explore the world of La Petite Réserve and let their imaginations run wild. The property features a creative ensemble of tree huts and an open air playground on the beautiful lawns.
Summer Perk: La Réserve Genève’s exquisite wooden speedboat is the perfect way to get out on the lake and take in the Swiss scenery and the city views.
Rates: Rates start at $682 for a superior king room
GoldenEye Hotel & Resort
Where: Oracabessa, Jamaica
What: James Bond-style Family Vacay
Why: The watersports program at GoldenEye is supervised by trained lifeguards and will teach children about water safety, snorkeling, jet skiing, and kayaking, and expose them to the amazing undersea world of extraordinary creatures and corals. Kiddies can carve coconuts, embark on nature walks, learn bonfire building and fishing with Ramsey (who has worked on the property since the days of Fleming), or stay up to stargaze with Brian, resident astronomy buff.
Summer Perk: Families save 46% off high season winter rates.
Rates: Starting at $448 per night for a Lagoon Suite
Park Hyatt Beaver Creek
Where: Beaver Creek, Colorado
What: Teen & Tween treatments at Allegria Spa
Why: Tweens and teens can ditch the ‘rents for some much deserved pampering at the Allegria Spa. Eight-12 year olds can indulge in the ‘Diva Deluxe,’ which includes a bubbling footbath, nail and toe art, a primadonna updo, and sweetcheeks makeup application. 12-16 year olds can recreate their favorite makeover scene with the Uptown Girl package, which includes a cranberry orange scrub, Swedish massage, teen facial, and makeup application.
Summer Perk: Fridays at the Park, a free weekly event with snacks, live music and activities for kids and the whole family.
Rates: Diva Deluxe- 70 minutes for $125, and Uptown Girl- 120 minutes and $250