(Seattle, WA) – MIR Corporation is excited to announce an intrepid 21-day journey delving deep into the cultures of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. Guests will share stories and warm meals in mountain villages, sample natural wines and fantastic local cuisine, and meet craftspeople who work in clay, stained glass, metal, and wood — all set to a soundtrack of polyphonic singing and traditional instruments playing the old songs of love and heartbreak. The tour is slated for July 29-August 18, 2018 and starts at $7,995. More info can be found at https://www.mircorp.com/trip/village-traditions-of-the-south-caucasus/.
Itinerary & Highlights:
Days 1-4: Baku, Shemakha, Lahij, Sheki
The journey begins in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan and black gold boomtown, exploring the narrow stone streets of the charming medieval Old Town. Near Shemakha, visit a copper master’s studio to learn about casting and engraving with the malleable metal. Stop for a family meal in Lahij, home to coppersmiths and carpet weavers, trades which have been practiced here since the Middle Ages. Traveling overland, visit Sheki, a 14th-century architectural preserve and one of the oldest towns in Azerbaijan.
Days 5-6: Signagi
Crossing the Georgian border, discover Georgia’s wine country, Kakheti. NearSignagi, take a walking tour of the vineyards at renowned Pheasant’s Tears Winery, producing organic wines from regional grapes. Enjoy a traditional “Georgian Table” feast, laden with fine examples of the country’s rich culinary and winemaking legacy. Georgia is where the wine grape was first cultivated and the flowers and fruits of the Mediterranean flourish.
Days 7-8: Shenako, Dartlo (Tusheti Region)
Load up into a 4WD vehicle for the drive into the mountains of the remote Tusheti region. Most of the region’s former year-round residents have moved to winter quarters, only coming up for the summer. Overnight in a guesthouse in Shenako, a tiny mountain village set on the south slope of a grassy ridge of the Caucasus Mountains. Only a few hardy souls stay here all winter. Participate in a mountain village celebration in Dartlo, a jumble of two- and three-story slate-roofed stone houses with wooden balconies.
Days 9-10: Tbilisi
Explore Tbilisi’s red-roofed Old Town, its houses sporting carved wooden balconies beneath the fourth century Narikala Fortress. Enjoy lunch and a wine-tasting in the art nouveau Sololaki District, built in the 19th and early 20th centuries by Georgian and European architects. Visit Georgia’s National Museum for a look at some of the country’s most significant archaeological finds, including the 1.8-million-year-old Homo erectus skulls unearthed at Dmanisi, Georgia.
Days 11-13: Kutaisi, Mestia (Svaneti Region)
Set out toward remote Svaneti, known for its massive tower architecture and its proud mountain people. Stop in at the workshop of a ceramicist who makesqvevri, the 200 to 900-gallon earthenware vessels used for fermenting and storing Georgian wines, and at a winemaker's to enjoy regional wine and snacks. Before heading into the mountains, overnight in Kutaisi. Enjoy the dramatic drive into the gorgeous mountains of Svaneti, a remote and distinct region of Georgia, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its remarkably preserved medieval appearance. Svaneti has maintained its own way of life for centuries.
Days 14-16: Batumi, Akhaltsikhe, Vardzia
Drive from the mountains to the Black Sea, stopping in Batumi, whose 19th-century oil barons’ homes contrast with the slick, modernized waterfront. On the way to Akhaltsikhe, drive through a region of summer pastures and meadows, stopping at a tea plantation and a tobacco farm. Explore the recently renovated Rabati, or Old Town, of Akhaltsikhe, sitting on the hill above town surrounded by ramparts and towers, and enjoy a meal with a local family. Take a walk through the rock-hewn monastery of Vardzia, begun by 12th century King Giorgi III.
Days 17-21: Phoka, Gyumri, Yerevan
On the way to Armenia, stop at the delightful Phoka Nunnery of St. Nino to meet with some of the nuns and enjoy a tasting of the many varieties of cheese they produce. In Gyumri, visit the workshop of a master metalsmith, who demonstrates the art of working iron by hand. Enjoy lunch at a 170-year-old home, where meals are served in the beautiful old wine cellar. In the Armenian capital, discover medieval shrines hidden behind imposing Soviet-style facades; the narrow lanes of the Old Town with its stone walls; Republic Square; the new icon of the Cascade; and the soaring Mother Armenia statue. Enter a local home for a friendly meal of Armenian specialties, and visit a master rug and carpet maker. Stop in at the studio of one of the finest makers of the traditional Armenian reed instrument, the duduk, to learn about Armenian instruments and enjoy tea or coffee with the craftsman. Gather for a farewell dinner, featuring Armenian folk music and dance, to toast your journey.
Photo Rights: MIR Corp
As you know, we recently took a great family-friendly trip to Chattanooga, TN. If you're anything like me... I sometimes wake up in the morning and plan our day around the places that we're going to visit... and where we're going to eat next!
Since we were traveling with kids -- we thought we'd share our top list of kid-friendly restaurants we found in Chattanooga:
Tony’s Pasta Shop - in the Bluff View Art District. Located in the carriage house of a Victorian mansion, Tony’s features classic Italian cuisine in a casual atmosphere. The restaurant has gorgeous views of the Walnut Street Bridge, Tennessee River, Maclellan Island, the mountains and Coolidge Park.
The district is made up of 2 restaurants, 1 coffee shop, 1 B&B (consists of 33 homes), a gallery, 2 museums, bocce court and an outdoor sculpture garden. The Bluff makes their own bread, pastries, pasta & chocolates; roasts their own coffee; & grows herbs in their own garden.
212 High Street, Chattanooga, TN 37403 | bluffviewartdistrict.com
Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant - located downtown next to the Tennessee Aquarium. They have live pickin’ performances just a few feet from your table and serve authentic comfort food like barbecue, smoked slow ‘n’ low over cherry wood, home-cooked sides, and even a few upscale dishes like a delectable, hand-cut filet mignon.
2 Aquarium Way, Chattanooga, TN 37402 | puckettsgro.com/chattanooga
Good Dog - Locally owned and operated hot dog shop at Coolidge Park on the North Shore; grilling all-beef, natural-casing hot dogs, veggie dogs, local bratwurst, Italian sausage and chicken sausages. All menu items are available vegetarian and boasts a “made-without-gluten” menu. The restaurant also has a breakfast menu, which is offered all day. Good Dog offers great food, focuses on friendly service, has created a funky decor using re-purposed materials, and believes that fast food can be fresh and local.
34 Frazier Ave, Chattanooga, TN 37405 | eatatgooddog.com
Lupi’s Pizza Pies - Where they have a passion for pizza! Their delicious pizzas (as well as calzones, lasagna, and salads) are made with the freshest local ingredients and served up with
friendly service, colorful surroundings, and the bestv hand-picked beer selection in town. There are five Chattanooga locations: Downtown, Hixson, East Brainerd, Cleveland, and Ooltewah.
Downtown: 406A Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402 | lupi.com
Blue Plate - Chattanooga’s metropolitan diner, with a beautiful front-row view of the Tennessee River. Contemporary comfort food, mixed drinks, and house desserts are their
specialties. Their food is chef-prepared from scratch using homegrown ingredients from local farms, bakeries, and ice cream shops.
191 Chestnut Street, Unit B, Chattanooga, TN 37402 | theblueplate.info
CELEBRATE LOVE AT FONTAINEBLEAU MIAMI BEACH
Iconic Miami Beach Resort Offers Spa Packages and Unique Gifts for Valentine’s Day
Fontainebleau Miami Beach is playing Cupid this Valentine’s Day with packages and monthly specials available for guests at the 40,000-square-foot Lapis Spa, unique gifts from the hotel’s boutiques and lavish dining options. Spa-goers can book full-day packages to enjoy with their special someone or take advantage of a list of deals, including massages, facials, scrubs and discounted treatments available throughout the month of February.
At Lapis Spa, guests enjoy two-levels of restorative and renewing relaxation, paired with mineral-rich water journeys through mist, rain and steam experiences and a co-ed jetted pool and lounge area. With 30 private treatment rooms, including two couple’s oceanfront massage suites that feature a shower and soaking tub for two, and two spa suites that feature a Vichy shower, tub, private shower and relaxation and dining area, couples and singles alike can choose their ideal room or suite to relax this Valentine’s Day.
A full list of packages and specials include:
My Funny Valentine Certificate | $169++ per person
This certificate is valid for use from February 19 through December 21, 2018, My Funny Valentine Certificate includes the following:
Blackout dates may apply. This service is subject to availability. Tax and service charge is not included. Certificate will not be replaced if lost or stolen.
A Day at Fontainebleau For Two | $369++ per couple
A Day at Fontainebleau For Two invites guests to relax, bask in the sun and swim, and includes the following:
Tax and service charge is not included. Discounts and promotions may not be combined. Must be taken by the same person, same day. All services are subject to a 6-hour cancellation or change policy. A 20% service charge is applied to each service.
February Spa Specials
Offered during the month of February, guests can enjoy the following spa deals in celebration of Valentine’s Day:
*Terms and Conditions:
Specials must be requested at time of reservation and are subject to availability, change and/or cancellation without advance notice. Discounts and promotions may not be combined. Must be taken by the same person, same day. Specials valid for groups of eight (8) or less. All services are subject to a 6-hour cancellation or change policy. A 20% service charge is applied to each service.
To purchase or for reservations, please visit: https://fontainebleau.com/packages/miami-beach-spa-packages or call (866) 750-4772.
About Fontainebleau Miami Beach
A spectacular blend of Golden Era glamour and modern luxury, Fontainebleau Miami Beach merges striking design, contemporary art, music, fashion and history into a vibrant guest experience. A revered landmark and symbol of style and sophistication since its opening in 1954, Fontainebleau Miami Beach boasts 1,504 guestrooms and suites appointed with lavish amenities; the world-renowned LIV™ Nightclub, 12 restaurants and lounges including two restaurants from Chef Michael Mina – StripSteak and Pizza & Burger; two AAA Four Diamond signature restaurants, Scarpetta by Scott Conant and Hakkasan; the 40,000-square-foot Lapis spa with mineral-rich water therapies and invigorating treatments; a dramatic oceanfront pool-scape offering lush cabanas; and is home to BleauLive, the innovative concert series that combines intimate performances with memorable weekend escapes.
Songbirds Guitar Museum - Children will explore the museum with a guide while learning
about the origins of rock and roll and the evolution of the electric solid body guitar from the 1950s through present day. Each exhibit features the guitars that made the music as well as the stories and artists that brought them to life. Songbirds Guitar Museum is historically accurate, educational and fun for both guitar enthusiasts and those new to the world of fretted instruments. Songbirds Guitar Museum is a guitar-oriented, pop culture museum experience for the whole family with extensive permanent and revolving exhibits featuring nearly 500 instruments.
35 Station Street, Chattanooga, TN 37408 | songbirdsguitars.com
Creative Discovery Museum - In the museum’s newest traveling exhibit, America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far, families will travel through 50 countries without ever leaving Chattanooga. Children and families can explore ancient trade routes on a two story Indian Ocean dhow (boat) or on a camel. They’ll thrill to the excitement of a global marketplace as they pretend to buy, sell and trade fruit, fish, spice, ceramic, textiles, and rugs. The exhibit environment is rich with art, architecture and design elements from across the globe. Visitors will marvel at a 3D exploration of mosque architecture from the Maldives to China. There’s even an interactive replica/interpretation of a Pakistani truck for children to decorate. Families can also compose music using an app featuring the rebana, tabla, kora, oud, ney, and ghijak, listen to stories and view objects shared by America Muslim families and even learn how
to write and say “My name is ...” in 21 languages.
321 Chestnut Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402 | cdmfun.org
Chattanooga Zoo - Observe and learn all about the world around us and the wildest creatures that inhabit it. As you explore the Chattanooga Zoo, you will encounter chimpanzees, jaguars, komodo dragons, red pandas, meerkats, and more! Explore what it’s like to be a Zookeeper by observing creatures during the Animal Meet and Greets; chatting with zookeepers to learn about the animals and how they are taken care of; watching the zookeepers train the chimpanzees and why it is important to the chimpanzee’s health; touring different areas of
the zoo; helping the zookeepers distribute animal enrichment; and so much more.
301 North Holtzclaw Avenue, Chattanooga, TN 37404 | chattzoo.org
Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum - Grab an engineer cap to be an imaginary conductor for the day as you jump aboard the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum’s rumbling locomotive train and take a ride along Missionary Ridge. When you step aboard the train, ask the conductor if you can punch your own ticket! This 55-minute Missionary Ridge Local excursion includes: traveling six miles (round trip) on one of the original rail lines into Chattanooga; narration of the local history historical points along the route; riding through the Missionary Ridge Tunnel that was built in 1858, especially noted for its uniqueness as a horseshoe tunnel; witnessing two unique methods of turning a train around: the better known turntable, and the wye (think of doing a three-point turn with your car and you’re close); and a brief tour of the train restoration shop.
4119 Cromwell Road, Chattanooga, TN 37421 | tvrail.com
Tennessee Aquarium - The Southeast is home to an astounding array of animals, yet many of them lead secretive lives. Kids will explore the Aquarium’s two huge buildings with the eyes of a scientist while encountering native and exotic species. Kids can become backyard scientists during spring break as they meet fascinating animals and the experts who care for them. Extra programs will be offered each week between March 9 and April 8 to give youngsters a scientist’s view into the hidden lives and wonderful adaptations of the region’s creatures. They’ll also discover how the Tennessee Aquarium’s scientists are saving threatened and endangered animals. Once their curiosity is aroused, kids will see the Aquarium’s myriad other animals — from alligators, turtles, and frogs to lemurs, penguins and butterflies — with more inquisitive eyes.
1 Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402 | tnaqua.org
High Point Climbing and Fitness - During this special Spring Break Climbing Camp, kids will get to spend some quality time with experienced climbers as they learn all about climbing. Spring Break Day Camps are the perfect way to get kids moving during their break. High Point’s dedicated and experienced staff will spend one-on-one time teaching kids all about climbing, including an introduction to the gym, equipment usage, climbing techniques, knot tying, bouldering team, building, and the importance of trust and communication. There will also be some entertaining and engaging climbing-related activities and open climbing sessions. As the kids are learning these new skills, they will also build confidence, muscle development, coordination, balance, and problem-solving. Everyone will finish our climbing camps with a sense of self-confidence & accomplishment. Rock Climbing Spring Break Camp is a two-day session designed for children ages 5-14. Camps are available on a first-come, first served basis. They fill up fast so be sure to make your reservations as soon as possible!
219 Broad Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402 | highpointclimbing.com
Rock City Gardens - There are two exciting activities at Rock City Gardens. First the Enchanted Trail leads you to view more than 400 varieties of native plants and flowers. You’ll trek through massive rock formations formed thousands of years ago and have the chance to dig for your very own geode - and then break it open to find the crystal treasure inside! Your RockQuest Guide will help you look for clues to many of the geological wonders at Rock City. You’ll journey along the Enchanted Trail where you can dig for your very own geode, see 7 states from Lover’s Leap and spot a gnome or two. Rock City Gardens is a true marvel of nature featuring ancient rock formations and panoramic views 1,700 feet above sea level. The self-guided tour along the Enchanted Trail takes you through some of the south’s most spectacular natural scenery where you’ll learn about sedimentary rocks, minerals, crystals and the forces of nature that created this unique attraction.
Travel to a faraway kingdom where you’ll learn basic archery and how to use a sword as well as meet Beauty & the Beast, Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother, and many more characters. Don't miss this chance to make magical memories! Be a sword fighter and make your dreams come to life during Fairytale Nights, an enchanted adventure awaiting you high atop Lookout Mountain. While in the enchanted forest, meet beloved characters such as Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother, Snow White and Merlin; follow Jack as he ventures off the beanstalk into the giant’s lair; enjoy the radiant gardens with Cinderella; climb the 25-foot castle wall; and learn basic archery and sword-fighting skills like a real knight at the Knights Training Academy. Those completing the academy will be knighted by Queen Guinevere.
1400 Patten Road, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750 | seerockcity.com
Ruby Falls on Lookout Mountain - Learn about rocks and geology and view the cave’s mysterious chambers and amazing rock formations! Another name for a cave explorer is speleologist – someone who studies caves, their history, make-up structure, physical properties and how they change over time. As you journey deep underground to Ruby Falls, use your Safari Guide to discover the answers to questions during your cave and waterfall tour. This is a recreational activity of exploring a cave, also known as caving and spelunking. You will be dazzled as your guide shares tales of folklore and history and teaches you about the rocks and geology throughout the cave’s mysterious chambers. Ruby Falls is America’s deepest cave accessible to the public and has the tallest underground waterfall! Show your completed Ruby Falls page to the staff at the end of your tour and receive a free geode – that is cracked open for you to see inside the rock!
1720 South Scenic Highway, Chattanooga, TN 37409 | rubyfalls.com
For more travel ideas and inspiration, you can visit the Chattanooga blog and find fun things to do in the city!
Special thanks to the Chattanooga CVB for hosting us for a week!
Saint Lucia Offers Special Valentine’s Day Promotions
Castries, Saint Lucia (February 5th, 2018) - For romance, rejuvenation or adventure and so much more, travelers can enjoy an unrivaled experience in Saint Lucia. The island boasts some of the most stunning scenery in the Caribbean from unspoiled rainforests and idyllic bays to beautiful palm-fringed beaches and, of course, the iconic and magical Piton Mountains. As well as its golden beaches and tranquil spas, Saint Lucia offers an abundance of activities including zip-lining, snorkeling and Segway tours. The island packs a lot into its size; it’s just 27 miles long and 14 miles wide and offers a wide range of award-winning diverse accommodation from boutique hotels and all-inclusive resorts through to spacious villas and luxury retreats. Lauded by the World Travel Awards as the World’s Leading Honeymoon Destination nine times, Saint Lucia boasts the ultimate romantic settings imaginable. No other island in the world is so completely dedicated to couples in love which makes Saint Lucia the perfect destination to celebrate Valentine’s Day with loved ones.
Below is a roundup of Valentine’s Day special offers from hotels on the island:
Capella Marigot Bay & Resort
Calabash Cove Resort & Spa
February Is for Lovers
Valentine’s Special 2018
Serenity at Coconut Bay
Grand Romance Package
The Harbor Club
Red Heart Month
The Landings Resort & Spa
February Is For Lovers
St. James’s Club Morgan Bay
Ready for Romance?
Stonefield Villa Resort
St. Lucia Romance Package
Ti Kaye Resort & Spa
20% Winter Warmer
Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort
Romance Package (All Inclusive)
About Saint Lucia
One of the Windward Islands of the West Indies' Lesser Antilles, Saint Lucia (pronounced Saint LOO-sha) is nestled halfway down the Eastern Caribbean archipelago. The "Helen of the West Indies," Saint Lucia is known for its natural beauty and diverse attractions, including the signature Piton Mountains - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - a tropical rainforest and one of the world's few drive-in volcanoes. Culturally rich offerings include the bustling marketplace in the capital of Castries, quaint fishing villages along the coastline, and the annual Soleil Saint Lucia Summer Festival. Saint Lucia's wide range of accommodations includes world-class five-star resorts, all-inclusive resorts, intimate inns and value-oriented properties. Saint Lucia is also home to world class cruise and yachting facilities. The island is continually recognized as one of the leading Wedding and Honeymoon destinations worldwide.
We’ve all heard the saying, “The world is your oyster.” But honestly, that doesn’t even begin to crack the shell of our planet’s infinite wonders, natural phenomenon and cultural intricacies that are waiting to be discovered by even the most casual travelers. So ditch the armchair, put electronic devices in hibernation, and drop foot in these top 10 travel destinations for 2018.
Triphop is an online hotel booking platform that rewards travelers with unrestricted cashback via their UNLoyalty Travel Rewards program. As a points-free hotel booking site, Triphop makes freedom of choice their number one priority.
Here are Triphop’s pick for Top 10 Travel Destinations of 2018:
Bring Back the Caribbean in St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
This is the year when luxury travel and “cultural awareness” happen to collide in a big way. St Croix, slowly emerging from the devastating hurricanes of 2017, is still the same island the world loves to love – and for good reason. Descriptive adjectives abound in better times, but let’s just say: playful Caribbean breezes, lush tropical rainforests, cubbyhole snorkeling coves, ancient forts, shipwreck diving and even a flashy modern casino. The Buccaneer, an iconic pink colonial plantation inn, is welcoming the world to stay-and-play as they’ve done for generations. This is how mindful travelers can pitch in, just by spending 2018 vacation dollars where they really count.
Encounter Wild Horses, Gullah Culture and Financial Ghosts in America’s Eastern Sea Islands
The Sea Islands of America’s Eastern seaboard harbor tales of pirates, shipwrecks, Civil War battles, and financial titans charting the course of history in lavish summer cottages. It’s also the heart of Gullah and Geechee culture, dating back to antebellum sugarcane and cotton plantations on the islands. Visit the genteel Jekyll Island Club for a romp through the former summer homes of America’s elite families bearing names like Pulitzer, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt. Within a couple of hundred miles of coastline, you can discover Gullah folk art and devour a Low Country seafood boil on St Helena Island; Stay at the Holiday Inn Resort in Jekyll Island and take in the view of tabby-shell architecture in the tiny Sapello Island community of Hog Hammock and see feral horses running wild with the wind on Cumberland Island National Seashore.
Harvest Olives, Saffron and Truffles in Umbria, Italy
Just a one-hour train ride from Rome drops you into the heart of Umbria, a land of endless olive groves stretching lazily in the shadow of the Mount Petrarvella, along with golden fields of delicate saffron and deep damp forests harboring elite black truffles. Help bring in the harvest and delve into the Italian “slow food” movement at places like Il Fontanaro, a family-owned organic olive farm with centuries-old villas and a slow-food culinary school. You’ll roll out thin ribbons of handmade pasta, and then pat rising mounds of dough into flatbread foundations cradling freshly-picked tomatoes, basil, local sausages, fresh mozzarella and the Pinelli family’s own olive oils – all under starry Umbrian skies. The medieval gated village of Paciano is only a short stroll away, where old men really do sit on benches amidst cobblestone streets and tiny ancient cottages. BONUS TIP: Make the most of your visit by staying at Residenza Paolo VI in Rome for 6 nights and get $53 cash back to spend any way you like.
Go Forest Bathing in Japan
Shake off the idea that “forest bathing” has anything to do with nudie soaks in the Japanese evergreen forests. Known as Shinrin-Yoku and sanctioned by the Japanese government with 200 dedicated trails, the practice is really all about breathing in the natural essential oils, known as phytoncides, that exist naturally in many trees and plants. This triggers a plethora of health benefits such as reducing the production of stress hormones, lowering blood pressure and boosting the immune system. In keeping with Japan’s devotion to the environment, and a deeply held belief based on politeness and respect, forest bathing is an eco-travel trend that lines up with Henry David Thoreau’s admonition in “Walden” to “smell the whispering sedge” and embrace the “tonic of wildness.”
Breathe the Heady Aromas of Zanzibar’s Spice Plantations
Blanketing this East African island with ancient intoxicating aromas, the spice plantations of Zanzibar are like something out of colonial-era movies. Wafting through the humid evening air, the distinct presence of nutmeg, ginger, pepper, cloves, coriander, tamarind, vanilla and ylang ylang is overpowering. Unpack your bags at African House Hotel in Stone Town amidst the well-known red-tiled rooftops and you’ll find local guides who are more than willing to transport you into the world of exotic spices and fruits growing unfettered on fertile plantations and small farms in Kizimbani and Kindichi. They’ll arrange for traditional Swahili meals and baskets brimming with custard fruits, papayas, mangos and jackfruit. Back in Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, you can roam through “duka squares” and colorful small markets offering Zanzibar handicrafts, textiles, ukili palm-woven jewelry and – of course – spices. If you’re lucky, you’ll wrangle an invitation to a Dada cooking class in Matemwe Village.
Glide With Sea Creatures in Galapagos Islands
Ever since Charles Darwin accidentally landed in the Galapagos Islands aboard the H.M.S. Beagle in 1835, this aquatic archipelago off the shores of Ecuador has held a mystique that even today’s intrepid voyagers have yet to quell. As the ship’s resident naturalist, enthralled with raw undisturbed nature, Darwin based his now-famous “Origin of Species” on his return explorations of the San Cristobal, Floreana, Isabela and Santiago Islands. Little has changed in the Galapagos of today, where you can swim freely with Galapagos Sea Lions in their unfettered, natural habitats. Due to a lack of natural predators and minimal tourism, these playful sea creatures bobble on beaches like floppy cartoon characters and nurture their young by the thousands in La Loberia Nature Reserve on San Cristobal Island.
Find Castles and Yeats in County Clare, Ireland
Spoken by W.B. Yeats, one of Ireland’s favorite pen-pushers, “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” You can count on that happening almost instantly when you set foot in the County Clare, about a 130-mile train ride from Dublin. It’s like suddenly being plunged into the past with ancient castles and rolling emerald-green meadows that are seemingly untouched by modern civilization. Make your way to Bun Ráite castle, commonly known by its English adaptation of “Bunratty,” and tromp through medieval bed chambers, ballrooms, chapels and banquet rooms towering over the Raite River. Continue your travel through time by laying your head at Temple Gate Hotel which sits at what used to be a convent in the 19th century. Then make your way through the surrounding folk park, a living-history village dating back to the 1800s, and then stay into the evening for a rowdy, decadent medieval banquet with dancing and live music.
Plunge Into Mimosa Heaven in Herceg Novi, Montenegro
Having nothing to do with champagne and citrus, and everything to do with the flagrant beauty of native mimosa flowers, Herceg Novi flaunts its floral pedigree with festivals, foodie events, carnivals and entire weeks centered on these colorful blossoms. Get decked out in February and March for a Mardi-Gras style mimosa carnival with street dances and masquerade balls, culminating in the crowning of a mimosa king and queen. While in town, visit the wild and wonderful Luštica Peninsula, and explore the Bay of Kotor. Rent a kayak and paddle over the quaint fishing village of Rose with its white-stone cottages, magenta bougainvillea and trailing grape vines.
Celebrate 300 Years of New Orleans Culture
When the words “celebrate” and “New Orleans” appear in the same phrase, it’s a good bet that visions of raucous-Bacchus Mardi Gras carnivals pop into your brain. But resist the urge to pigeonhole NOLA, especially when it comes to their 300-year birthday celebrations in 2018. As one of the world’s most diverse communities, New Orleans was a city even before America was a country and you can bet there will be no stone unturned in recognizing the intricate multicultural influences. The New Orleans Tricentennial celebration continues through most of 2018 with events ranging from authentic NOLA jazz to Argentine tango, Chinese opera and a “Portraits of Influence” exhibition by José Salazar, Louisiana’s earliest known artist. Look for everything from antique “tall ships” to U.S. Navy ships, a Burlesque Opera by the makers of Tabasco, and dozens of events recognizing women’s contributions to New Orleans jazz, Cajun cuisine, the Louisiana National Guard. A high-tech Luna Fête light festival highlights New Orleans architecture and iconic landmarks. A stay in the iconic Hotel Monteleone will place you in the center of all the festivities and bring this celebration full circle.
Find Your Soul in the Matrimandir Outside Pondicherry, India
Silence is deafening inside the white-marble, gold-domed Matrimandir, sprawling across the countryside near Pondicherry, a French-colonial village on the Bay of Bengal. Although India is one of the noisiest places on earth, it harbors a pocket of absolute silence. After relinquishing your worldly goods (yes, all of them, including your cell phone, wallet and shoes), you are granted entrance to the other-worldly Matrimandir, a semi-ashram/temple that followers call a place of “individual silent concentration.” They actually mean that, as not one sound is uttered while curving quietly along solid-white marble stairs into a solid-white marble inner chamber crowned with a genuine gold-disc dome. An optically perfect glass globe allows a single shaft of sunlight through a heliostat mounted on the roof. This focal point aids concentration as you sit cross-legged in a circle inside the dome, experiencing the eerie “sound of silence,” perhaps for the first time in your life.
Luxury Italian Villa Brand Expands to Bring Enthusiastic Travelers New Properties Across Europe
An established and recognised luxury villa business is rebranding to celebrate the expansion of its beautiful holiday rental portfolio. Aria of Puglia, which has built up an incredible reputation among discerning travellers, has changed its name to Aria Journeys, reflecting the brand’s expansion beyond the stunning Italian region. Holidaymakers will now be able to use the customer-focussed business to visit charming tourist hotspots across Europe.
Specialising in indulgent villas and chalet rentals, Aria Journeys is the go to platform for tourists that want a trip that exudes luxury. With a hand picked portfolio spanning over 200 lavish properties, from the breathtaking Alps to the relaxing Canary Islands, Aria Journeys has something that appeals to every travel style. The business’ growth has been driven by customer demand after experiencing the exceptional level of service that it delivers to each of its guests. Aria Journeys will now be rolling out the service it’s become renowned for to new villas and designations. Through working carefully selected indigenous partners, Aria Journeys provides an experience that is second to none, bringing each visitor first hand information on where they should be visiting, heading to for food, and revealing the location of hidden gems.
Chiara Tenuzzo, Director of Aria Journeys, said, “We’re thrilled to be reaching new dentations and taking our unique brand of customer service to even more travellers. To ensure that Aria Journeys lives up to expectations we’ve scoured Europe for the most luxurious and inviting holiday rentals, hand picking those that really stand out to add to our collection. As a result we’ve been able to incorporate some wonderful new destinations into the brand, including charming Tuscany and the vibrant Balearic Islands.”
Tenuzzo added, “The team behind Aria Journeys are continuously on the lookout for those beautiful properties that will really give a holiday the wow factor. Our range of properties is set to continue growing, bringing even more choice to travelers wanting to experience an authentic, deluxe, and memorable trip in Europe.”
Aria of Puglia was launched in 2013, combining Tenuzzo’s passions for delivering exceptional customer service and travel with a love of her home
region of Puglia in Italy. Through hand picking properties, the brand quickly grew a devoted and loyal following of holidaymakers. Keen to experience the luxury of the brand’s properties with its in-depth local knowledge in other areas of Italy and beyond, the business’ customers asked for more holiday locations featuring exquisite rental properties and the business has responded with Aria Journeys.
To find out more visit ariajourneys.com/.
Aria Journeys is a UK based luxury villa and chalet rental company. With many years of experience working in the industry, as well as a deep seated passion for its destinations, the brand is well placed to offer those looking to explore regions, cities, and towns in luxury.
KENNETH JACQUES NAMED GENERAL MANAGER OF
AC HOTEL NEW ORLEANS BOURBON
Newly-renovated property welcomes overnight guests
Irvine, Calif. (November 29, 2017) – Pacific Hospitality Group (PHG) is pleased to announce the appointment of Kenneth Jacques as general manager of the AC Hotel® New Orleans Bourbon. In his new role, Jacques will manage the daily operations of the hotel, including recruiting, hiring and training of all personnel. He will also oversee bringing to life AC Hotels by Marriott’s innovative and elevated guest experience, catering to the modern business traveler.
With more than 15 years in the hospitality industry, Jacques most recently served as general manager at Marriott’s Moxy New Orleans property where he was awarded General Manager of the Year in 2016. Before joining Moxy New Orleans, Jacques held several management and leadership positions at The Westin New Orleans Canal Place, Loews New Orleans Hotel, W Washington D.C. and W New Orleans. He was also recognized as Manager of the Year on multiple occasions during his time at these properties. A New Orleans native and Louisiana State University graduate, Jacques’ educational background includes additional certifications in lifestyle hospitality programs.
“Kenneth’s deep roots within the New Orleans community coupled with his award-winning operational experience make him a great asset to the AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon,” said Paul McCormick, senior vice president of operations at PHG. “His extensive market knowledge and leadership experience will provide the competitive advantage that will assist this property in becoming one of the top lifestyle hotels in New Orleans.”
The AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon features 220 newly-renovated guest rooms, a sixth-floor outdoor atrium with downtown views, fitness center, and 4,680 square feet of total meeting and event space, with the largest space accommodating up to 168 people. It also includes the AC Kitchen, serving a European style breakfast, the AC Lounge with delicious small plates and craft cocktails in the evening, a business center and laundry facility.
Located in the historic Cotton Exchange building in the Bourbon/French Quarter area of New Orleans, the hotel’s central location and proximity to many dining and shopping options allows guests to immerse themselves in the authenticity of New Orleans’ most iconic neighborhood. The eight-story building also boasts a classic European design with sleek, clean and crisp lines that create a feeling of harmony and inspire creativity.
For reservations and more information, please visit pacifichospitality.com or http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/msyac-ac-hotel-new-orleans-bourbon/, and follow AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon onFacebook, Instagram and Twitter.
For images of the AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon and General Manager Kenneth Jacques, click here.
About AC Hotels by Marriott
AC Hotels by Marriott®, a lifestyle brand that celebrates a new way to hotel complemented by a European soul and Spanish roots, boasts more than 100 design-led hotels in 13 countries and territories. Design-driven AC Hotels by Marriott® edit away the unnecessary to remove friction, providing thoughtfully designed moments of beauty, allowing guests to focus on what’s important to them. The properties modern design for modern business include buzzing AC Lounges, the perfect place for locals or visitors to get work done in style or to enjoy handcrafted cocktails and tapas. High-design guest rooms and public spaces with sleek furnishings and intuitive technology features such as the Media Salons and AC Libraries inspire and connect. AC Hotels by Marriott® is proud to participate in the industry’s award-winning loyalty program, Marriott Rewards® which includes The Ritz-Carlton Rewards®. Members can now link accounts with Starwood Preferred Guest® at members.marriott.com for instant elite status matching and unlimited points transfer. For more information, visit ac-hotels.com. For more information, visit http://achotels.marriott.com and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
About Pacific Hospitality Group
Established in 1987, Pacific Hospitality Group (PHG) is a growing hospitality company with 11 hotels in California, Hawaii and Louisiana. Based in Irvine, California, the company owns, manages, finances and develops hotels in iconic destinations. PHG serves as the parent company to a portfolio of lifestyle and luxury properties known as the Meritage Collection. Meritage Collection hotels include Paséa Hotel & Spa in Huntington Beach, Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach, Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa near San Diego, Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort in Kauai, The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa Valley, and the Village at The Meritage Resort, an all-new resort and wine-tasting experience at the storied Meritage Resort (Opening summer 2018).
Pacific Hospitality Group also serves as the franchisee of the following properties: Wyndham Anaheim Garden Grove, AC Hotel Phoenix Tempe/Downtown, AC Hotel Irvine, AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon/French Quarter Area, DoubleTree by Hilton Irvine Spectrum, and DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Ana /Orange County Airport. Other PHG affiliations include Trinitas Cellars, Balboa Bay Club and the Newport Beach Country Club. For more information, visit www.pacifichospitality.com or www.linkedin.com/company/pacific-hospitality-group.
My family and I recently had the opportunity to stay at the new Marriott dual-branded Residence Inn and SpringHill Suites on Clearwater Beach and LOVED our experience! We spent one night in the Residence Inn side of the property and my boys are already asking to return.
The brand-new property opened in the summer of 2017 and boasts oversized guest rooms with a coastal vibe, flexible living, working and sleeping space, stunning views of Clearwater Bay and a wide array of shared amenities. Both brands stay true to themselves: SpringHill Suites offer stunning décor from West Elm and comfortable features, while Residence Inn offers a kitchenette and ample space for extended stays and families. They share the lobby, pool, business features, and exercise room.
Start off the new year right by getting outside and on the slopes of Vermont in 2018. Join the resorts for their never-ending list of activities from family friendly days on the hill to après wine tasting and movie premiers. Save money in the new year too by taking advantage of discounted lift tickets, ski and stay deals and beginner learn-to-turn packages.
Early January Events
January 1, 2018 – Holiday Week at Sugarbush Resort
Come to Sugarbush to find your source of holiday cheer this season. New Year’s Day will wrap up Holiday Week with traditional activities such as Kid's Pizza & Movie Night, S'more Cookouts, Torchlight Parade & Fireworks, Annual Dog Parade, Live Music and more.
January 1, 2018 – Holiday Week at Burke Mountain
New Year's Eve at Burke means their annual party at the Tamarack Grille (21+), featuring live music and a fireworks display. Not looking forward to cooking New Year's Day? No problem, they’ve got you covered. Join Burke Mountain for a New Year's Day Brunch in the Willoughby's Restaurant from 10am-2pm.
January 3-13, 2018 - Wine Tasting at Trapp Family Lodge
Trapp Family Lodge is back at it again for the month of January with their frequent wine tastings. Start off on January 3rd with Carmeneres from Chile, then Nero D’Avola on January 6th where visitors will try wines from Sicily’s best known red grape, White Wines of Austria on January 10th and finally, a tasting full of big fresh fruit flavors during the Argentine Wine Tasting on January 13th.
January 4-25, 2018 - Thursday Trivia Night at Burke Mountain
Gather your friends, and your wits, and join the folks at Burke every Thursday evening from 6:30-8:30pm in the View Pub in the Burke Mountain Hotel. Entry is free for teams of up to 4 who will test their knowledge of a range of topics from local history to geography to music and more while enjoying drink specials and competing for weekly prizes. Participants in 6 or more trivia nights throughout the season will be eligible to enter the grand prize raffle in March.
January 4, 2018 - Okemo’s Grommet Throwdown at Okemo Mountain Resort
It’s time for the little jibbers to show off! Okemo designs a special park for kids 13 and under. Spend the morning training in the rail garden under the guidance of some of Okemo’s Park and Pipe instructors and then show off those new skills after lunch for some great prizes.
January 6, 2018 – Mario the Magician at Okemo Mountain Resort
Mario "the Magician" Marchese is an artist and inventor who creates his own props. He is known for his clever integration of DIY electronics and robotics into his performances. Okemo Clock Tower base lodge doors open at 7 pm.Proceeds benefit OMARA, a non-profit booster club that was founded to support the athletes, families, and coaches of Okemo Competition Programs.
January 6, 2018- 24 Hours of Stratton at Stratton Mountain Resort
The 6th Annual 24 Hours of Stratton is a one-of-a-kind opportunity, for all ages and ability, to ride around the clock, as Stratton lights-up its trails for the weekend. Ski all day and ride all night until the Sunday 9am finale! Ski under the stars, camp out in the base lodge, enjoy fireworks, music and giveaways, relish first tracks at sunrise, and share in the spirit of the event that gives back to the community.
January 6 & 14, 2018- Volkswagen Presents Warren Miller’s Line of Descent at Stowe Mountain Resort
The lineage of mountain lifestyle continues in Warren Miller Entertainment’s (WME) 68th full-length feature film, Line of Descent. In this year’s film, WME travels the globe, by land, air, and sea, exploring the ties that bind ski culture. Movie will premiere at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center on January 6th and January 14th at 7pm.
January 7, 2018- Subaru and Hyundai Day at Bolton Valley
If you're a Subaru or Hyundai owner, prepare for some fantastic news. Once again, Bolton Valley will host four special days for Subaru and Hyundai owners. Each day will include a different lift ticket deal for owners with a valid registration. On January 7, owners can receive up to 4 all access full day lift tickets at 50% off the current rate for that day.
January 7, 2018 – Youth Day at Mount Snow Resort
Youth ages 17 and under pay just $17 when they visit Mount Snow for this great deal and enjoy a fun day on the mountain. Money saved on the lift ticket can be used for treats like a slice of Tony’s pizza or a Waffle Cabin waffle with extra chocolate sauce.
January 8, 2018- College Week at Mount Snow
Round up your friends and join Mount Snow for College Week and enjoy a week full of activities, parties and deals. This week will feature a wing eating contest at Cuzzins, a free night of tubing, live music, and more!
January 13-14, 2018- Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Weekend at Sugarbush Resort
Take off to the Green Mountains for an exciting weekend of activities for all the skiers and riders in your family. This weekend features a Kid's Cooking Class, late-night music, a local artisan market, kid’s pizza and movie night, specialty dining options at Rumble's Kitchen and Castlerock Pub and more. Enjoy the torchlight parade and fireworks on Saturday night.
January 13, 2018- Mini Shred Madness at Killington Resort
This rail jam is for the groms! Join Killington in the park and compete for prizes in a friendly and fun environment. Grom skiers and riders, 13 years and under will get a feel for park riding and experience the rules and navigation of the park. Mini Shred Madness is all about having fun in a competition setting. There will be Killington Park team riders cruising through the event offering help and motivation to participants. Not to mention, there will be all sorts of free giveaways being handed out at the event to competitors.
January 13, 2018 – Let It Glow Laser Show and Fireworks at Okemo Mountain Resort
Okemo presents a laser light show spectacular with colorful lasers projected on the snow and into the night sky just outside Okemo’s Clock Tower base lodge. A fireworks finale follows. Okemo’s Sitting Bull will be open for beverages and rocking live music.
January 14, 2018- Torchlight Parade and Fireworks at Mount Snow Resort
Mount Snow Ski and Snowboard School instructors will descend upon the Canyon ski trail in a beautiful torchlight glow. Immediately following the torchlight parade Mount Snow will light up the sky with a huge fireworks display.
January 14, 2018- Winter Farmers Market at Bolton Valley
This season Bolton Valley is creating some extra reasons for you to stop by their local neighborhood resort by introducing the new Winter Farmers Market held at the Sports Center. For seven Sundays from 1 until 5 p.m., you can meet the local vendors who will be here to offer you local products from around the region.
January 15, 2018 – PHAT Day at Okemo Mountain Resort
To commemorate National Safety Month, the PHAT (Protect Your Head at All Times/Protect Your Head on All Terrain) team will be on hand at Okemo to extol the virtues of wearing a helmet while skiing and riding. They’ll have stickers, posters and helmet raffles.
For a full list of January events please visit SkiVermont.com.
Early January Deals
January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month nationwide and to help spread the joys of skiing and snowboarding Ski Vermont is once again offering our $49 package for beginners. This package includes a beginner lesson, lift ticket and rentals for one full day on the mountain. Ten Vermont resorts participate in this program and purchasers can choose to redeem this package anytime during the month of January, excluding holiday periods. To learn more about this great deal visit SkiVermont.com.
Stowe Mountain Resort
Save 30% on lift tickets to Stowe by purchasing at least 48 hours in advance online.
At Sugarbush, they know that once you get the feel for sliding on snow, you'll be hooked. To help you discover the joy we all can find in skiing and riding, they offer their award-winning First Timer to Life Timer program. The program includes rentals, lift tickets and a three-lesson series to get participants hooked on skiing and snowboarding. Once all three lessons are completed Sugarbush will reward participants with a season pass for the remainder of the 2017-18 season. Also at Sugarbush this season, take advantage of Thursdays at Mt. Ellen with $30 lift tickets.
Killington offers visitors many ways to save this season with their in advance online savings, Bring a Friend, Ski Free program to their 4 Day Discovery Program for Adult First Timers. Their innovative 4-day Discovery Program for adults includes a two-hour lesson, rental equipment and a lift ticket each day, all for just $399 for the Elan ski program or the Burton snowboard program. Learn on Elan skis and Burton snowboards, and receive brand new versions of these skis and boards mounted with bindings prior to completing the fourth lesson (MSRP $575).
Bromley Mountain Resort
Purchase the Sun Mountain Card and your first lift ticket is free. This discount card virtually pays for itself the moment you buy it. Present the Sun Mountain Card to the Ticket Office upon your visit and save $30 off Monday through Friday, $20 off Saturday through Sunday (non-holidays) and $10 off on holidays. Purchase before December 15th and save an additional $10 on the Sun Mountain Card.
Stratton Mountain Resort
Save big at Stratton with their One Nighter deal, where visitors spending one night and two days on the slopes can access rates starting at $238 for two people.
Mount Snow Resort
Mount Snow lift tickets are now on sale with incredible savings for the 2017-18 ski season when you purchase in advance. But hurry, prices increase as more tickets are sold.
Looking for a place to stay during your visit? Find all the best lodging options local to your favorite resorts on our Lodging Finder. To explore more deals and money saving opportunities visit our Deals page.
Did you know that Vermont has 20 alpine resorts and 30 cross country centers? Explore them this season with the Ski Vermont 2017-18 End-to-End Tour. Participants will visit different resorts each week and be entered to win tickets and prize packs when they submit photos.
Looking for a new destination for a girls getaway, couples retreat, or family vacation?
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