The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand
Hotel Review: The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand
If you're looking for an abode to call your own during your stay in Thailand, it can seem a little more than overwhelming. Thankfully Danielle Norton has done the "hard" work for us, reviewing a 'calm' hotel that doesn't accept guests under 10 years of age. Where The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Phang Nga Province, Thailand. One hour’s drive north of Phuket Airport. What to expect You can find us by the pool in a cabana at The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.From the moment we are collected from the airport by Sarojin staff, until the day we leave, we are treated like treasured guests. The driver pulls over, one minute into our hour-long drive, to offer us a chilled towel and a refreshment from the esky on the front seat. We connect to the car’s wi-fi and he offers us an iPad to use on the journey.   This introduction is indicative of our entire stay at the Sarojin. As the original Lady Sarojin used to say, “excellence and nothing less”. The service at this resort is next-level and we love that every time we sit down, either poolside, in the foyer or waiting for a driver at the front of the property, an icy glass of water appears.   The Sarojin property is a paragon of meditative tropical resort gardens that encourage relaxation and deep contemplation. At night, hundreds of flickering lights glow in the ponds, bobbing like boats on a river, their reflections doubling their efforts. By day, the infinity pool and jacuzzi, surrounded by floating pavilions, glistens invitingly.   The communal spaces of the resort are designed with peace and privacy in mind. In the Pandanus Room library there are a wide range of reading materials; from novels to daily newspapers from around the world. Specific titles can be arranged on request.   A hotel that offers an ‘imagineer’ to create your special experiences is one for which I had high expectations. Staff can organise any type of romantic gesture you can come up with. Dinner on a candlelit beach is one thing but a ‘message in a bottle’ scenario for a special proposal during a couple’s beach stroll, or an engagement ring in a teapot while enjoying afternoon tea underneath a private waterfall, is quite another. The romance of this resort makes it an idyllic setting for honeymooners and loved-up couples. Fabulous food Dine out on the good stuff at The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The Ficus restaurant hosts an all-day à la carte breakfast on the central resort lake, in the shade of the ancient tree after which it is named. Hundreds of water lilies float on the water’s surface and the sun shimmers; when the complimentary sparkling wine is served with our morning croissants, it feels like the most beautiful place on Earth.   The Edge restaurant and the Beach Bar look out onto a magnificent white sand beach. The degustation menu is a delicious parade of fragrant curries and delicate flavours: a brilliant way to try every dish on the menu in small portions.   Coupled with the golden light of the early evening and a cocktail, it’s the perfect end to a day in paradise. The restaurant seems casual but the service is exquisite, and the views over the Andaman Sea are spectacular, particularly the light show created by the setting sun. The accommodation The impressive accommodation inside The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.Our room has a garden view and a luxurious outdoor ‘sala’ under which we can bask on the day bed, reading or zoning out to our hearts’ content. Inside, the king-size bed with its mountain of pillows is sumptuous, hence the availability of the aforementioned all-day breakfast.   The rooms open onto an opulent, airy bathroom, lined with smooth pebbles to give the illusion of the outdoors in the wet area where there is a choice of showerheads and a huge oval bath, big enough for two. The spacious bathroom is almost as big as the 95 square metre room. If, like me, you prefer more privacy you can request curtain dividers between bedroom and bathroom.   The resort has 28 garden residences, 14 pool residences and eight jacuzzi pool suites and six one-bedroom spa suites which are like apartments with a generous lounge area leading out to the jacuzzi on the private balcony. These alternate with pool rooms, enabling a two bedroom configuration for families or larger groups via connecting doors. We loved The incredible spa bath inside the The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The moment we set foot on the boardwalk leading from the resort’s main path to the Pathways Spa, tranquil notes of music waft around us and we breathe in deeply. Staff are eager to help us exchange our shoes for soft white spa slippers and usher us to a daybed where we sink into the soft cushions and contemplate life, looking at the leafy palm fronds in the gardens and listening to the trickling of water in the adjacent pond. A cleansing ginger tea is delivered along with a cold towel. Spa therapist, Nang, offers us four choices of oils. I opt for the romantic blend, a mixture of geranium, lavender and patchouli, keeping in tune with the theme of this honeymooner’s paradise. Nang calls it the ‘lucky oil’ and I feel very lucky indeed as I succumb to her skilled massage techniques.   The treatment room is designed to feel like the surrounding ecosystem; the floors are timber and one side of the pavilion is open to the garden. It’s soothing and rejuvenating and reminds me of the ‘forest bathing’ trend. Birds chirrup in the encircling jungle garden and the sound of waves lapping against the shore lulls me into a state of complete relaxation and surrender to the moment.   The spa menu options are plentiful. We choose the oriental-style massage – a combination of Swedish relaxation and Thai stretching techniques. Afterwards, a state of calm has infiltrated my entire being. Things to note Some of the scenery at the The Sarojin, Khao Lak, Thailand.The nearby Similan Islands has some of the best dive and snorkelling sites in the world. Sadly, when we visited they were still closed (May–October) for regeneration of the coral. Check on the state of these closures before booking.   The resort restricts children under 10. Because it is a place of peace and calm, kids must be old enough to respect this and maintain it.   A garden view room including breakfast costs from $670 per night for two people.   For more information and to book, visit Sarojin, Khao Lak.
The Viking Orion feels so unlike a cruise ship – and that’s precisely the point
Iconic art and understated style: Imogen Eveson on why the Viking Orion has made her a cruise convert.
Where to eat, play and stay in New Zealand’s famous wine regions
If it’s food – and especially wine – you’re after, there aren’t many places better suited than New Zealand. Known for its particularly iconic slew of delicious white wines, it’s no surprise they’re highly sought after the world over – and though delicious when sampled anywhere, there’s nothing quite like visiting the regions from which they hail. The Marlborough and Nelson Tasman regions of the South Island provide some of the best wine touring experiences in New Zealand. Here's a guide to visiting the Top of the South. Marlborough In the Marlborough wine region it's easy to feel a little heady – and it's not just the effect of the intense, complex and sensual Marlborough sauvignon blancs that have made this small northeastern corner of the South Island a star destination on the world's wine map.   It's also the scenery: the surrounding mountains that shelter the vines from climatic extremes; the rocky, braided rivers on whose flinty alluvial plains the grapes thrive, and the vines themselves, stretching for kilometres in every direction and glowing near-psychedelic green in the sun.   This beautiful and bountiful part of New Zealand is the best place in the world for growing sauvignon blanc and the wines here taste like nowhere else on Earth. Where to taste In Marlborough, geography and technology neatly solve the wine tourist's perennial problem of where to go and what to taste. Although the landscape of undulating hills and wide valleys has three winegrowing sub-regions, the majority of cellar doors (37 in all) are clustered around the town of Renwick in the Wairau Valley 12 kilometres west of the main town of Blenheim.   The flat terrain of the valley floor makes for blissfully easy taste-touring and technology assists travellers further with Visit Us, a section on the mobile-friendly website of New Zealand Wine that provides fully searchable information on cellar door listings, dining and accommodation options, tours and other experiences in Marlborough. Wine Marlborough’s website also has a handy interactive wine trail map.   Another perennial problem for wine tourists – drink-driving – is solved by full- or half-day self-guided or small-group guided biking tours operated by several local providers, including Explore Marlborough. Tours typically visit five or six boutique wineries chosen by knowledgeable guides and include a relaxed lunch. The terrain is mostly flat, and pick-ups and returns to accommodation make the experience even more stress-free. If it rains, tours are made by minibus.   One thing to keep in mind while touring in Marlborough is that although 85 per cent of the vineyards are devoted to the production of world-class sauvignon blanc, the region also produces first-class pinot noir, chardonnay, aromatic wines and méthode traditionelle sparkling wines. A day of cellar door-hopping might also seem sufficient at first, but Marlborough is a place where visitors tend to linger. Where to eat Brancott Estate Marlborough, New Zealand.Unsurprisingly, Marlborough is a haven for food lovers. Farmers’ markets, artisan producers, food trails and regular food festivals dot the landscape along with restaurants and eateries ranging from bean-bag-on-the-terrace-style relaxed to award-winning degustation and à la carte dining. Vineyard restaurants in Marlborough attract international- and Michelin-level chefs and the cuisine is innovative and based on seasonal local ingredients.   Dining options in close proximity to Renwick include Brancott Estate (try lunch with matched wines); the Bistro (lunch and dinner) and Gourmet Restaurant (dinner only) at Hans Herzog Estate; Rock Ferry Cellar Door & Cafe (seasonally inspired organic cooking); Wairau River Wines (the blue cheese soufflé is wildly popular) and Allan Scott winery (well known for its seafood chowder). What to do If wine touring whets your appetite for seeing and tasting more, Marlborough can oblige with a host of activities including mountain biking, hiking, fishing, scuba diving, food, scenic and wildlife cruises, or just relaxing on a beach. You’ll find many of these activities in the Marlborough Sounds, a beautiful maze of ancient sea-drowned valleys in the north of the region that Captain Cook used as a base on all three of his great voyages of exploration.   The Sounds are a sanctuary for wildlife and specialist cruise operators such as e-Ko Tours can take you on dolphin swimming and viewing, birdwatching and whale-watching excursions with the chance to step ashore in pristine settings. For a back-to-nature experience with a twist, Pelorus Eco Adventures operates a guided inflatable kayaking tour along the beautiful Pelorus River where the scenes for the wild river barrel scene in The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug were filmed.   Marlborough is renowned for its delicious seafood, particularly salmon and greenshell mussels, and on the Marlborough Tour Company’s Seafood Odyssea Cruises to aquaculture farms, guests enjoy platters of sashimi-style Regal salmon, steamed Cloudy Bay clams and steamed greenshell mussels paired with local Marlborough sauvignon blanc. Calorific guilt can be expunged on the Queen Charlotte Track, a two-to-five-day hiking or (seasonal) biking experience of the region’s waterscapes that a seamless network of cruise and pack transfers lets you tackle in easy sections if you wish. Where to stay Tucked away among landscaped gardens near Renwick, five-star Marlborough Vintners Hotel offers 16 one-bedroom suites with views over the vines to the Wairau River and Richmond Range beyond. In Blenheim, five-star Chateau Marlborough, a two-minute walk from the town centre, has a good range of accommodation from a two-bedroom penthouse to one-bedroom apartments and studios.   If seclusion in the Marlborough Sounds is what you seek, Punga Cove retreat at Endeavour Inlet in Queen Charlotte Sound is accessible by scenic road or water taxi services from Picton. Getting to Marlborough Blenheim is 309 kilometres by road north of Christchurch and 115 kilometres from Nelson. Air New Zealand operates daily services to Marlborough Airport from Auckland and Wellington and the daily Coastal Pacific train service between Christchurch and Picton stops at Blenheim. Nelson Tasman It's tempting to travel the 115 kilometres north-west from Blenheim to Nelson in a comparative frame of mind, but like everyone else you quickly discard those thoughts when you arrive. Nelson Tasman does everything its own way, as it has always done, with great success.   It's a paradise for potters, painters, alternative life-stylers, food lovers and wine lovers who are drawn to the region by its beautiful scenery, fertile plains, golden-sand beaches and high sunshine hours. The regional city of Nelson has a strong artistic vibe and a thriving dining scene, and across Tasman Bay to the west is Abel Tasman National Park, the smallest and perhaps most beloved of all of New Zealand’s national parks. Where to taste Compared to Marlborough, Nelson Tasman is a small wine region with only 22 wineries featuring on its Great Taste Trail, but it makes lovely sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, aromatics, dessert wines and pinot noir. The history of winemaking in the region is long, having begun with German settlers in the mid-19th century, and it continues to evolve with the introduction of new varieties such as Montepulciano.   All but a few vineyards are located along the coast of Tasman Bay west of Nelson city and there are two sub-regions, each of which can be toured in a day. The Waimea Plains sub-region near Richmond, 13 kilometres south-west of Nelson, produces perfumed pinot noirs, rich and expressive chardonnays and vibrant aromatics. The Moutere Hills sub-region 20 kilometres further west is where winegrowing in the region first commenced. Slightly warmer and wetter than Waimea, it produces wines of complexity and depth.   For the energetic, there’s the Great Taste Trail, an off-road cycling route that is part of The New Zealand Cycle Trail / Nga Haerenga and which showcases the area’s coastal and inland scenery as it passes vineyards, breweries and orchards. As in Marlborough, there are expert operators of independent and guided tours like Wheelie Fantastic’s Moutere Wine and Artisans tour, Nelson Tours and Travel which offers a range of personally guided van tours, and Wine, Art and Wilderness which specialises in luxury tours to boutique family-run vineyards. Where to eat Boatshed Cafe Nelson. Image via Stephen GoodenoughYou won’t go hungry while wine touring in Nelson Tasman as the majority of cellar doors offer food of some kind including platters, cheeseboards, home baking and rustic fare. The region does not have destination vineyard restaurants in the same way that Marlborough does but two essential stops on any tour should be Seifried Estate in the Waimea Valley and Neudorf Vineyards in Upper Moutere. These long-established and much-awarded wineries will show you why touring in Nelson Tasman makes for a memorable wine holiday.   In Nelson, highly awarded Hopgood's & Co. in Trafalgar Street is a travellers' favourite that serves modern, seasonally based bistro-style food. The nearby Cod and Lobster Brasserie specialises in seafood and regional fare including beef, lamb and venison. Urban Eatery in Hardy Street is run by a Michelin-trained chef and no reservations are needed. On the Nelson waterfront, the iconic Boat Shed Cafe is a must-do, as is Jellyfish Restaurant & Bar at Mapua Wharf in Mapua. In Kaiteriteri, Kai Restaurant & Bar is the pick, as are Hooked on Marahau and the gourmet burgers at The Fat Tui food caravan in Marahau. What to do No visit to Nelson is complete without a visit to the World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars Museum in the birthplace of the globally famous annual design competition. Thirty-two kilometres west of the city, Mapua Wharf on the Great Taste Trail is home to a vibrant collection of restaurants, cafes, galleries, stores and attractions.   A trip to the region is not complete either without a visit to iconic Abel Tasman National Park: Wilsons Abel Tasman operates a complete range of guided walks, tours, scenic cruises and lodge accommodation. For the more active, Abel Tasman Kayaks offers a range of guided adventures and Abel Tasman Sailing Adventures enables visitors to experience the park by catamaran. Where to stay Located on the Maitai River which runs through the heart of Nelson city, Trailways Hotel Nelson is a good base from which to explore the cafes, theatres, galleries and shopping of Nelson’s CBD, and further afield. Across the road, DeLorenzo's 30 luxury studio apartments include seven interconnecting apartments and four accessible rooms. Just a few metres from the harbour on the Nelson waterfront, Wakefield Quay House is a heritage 1905 villa enjoying a new career as a stylish luxury B&B where host Woodi serves canapés and fine local wines and beers on the villa’s seafront deck.   For close proximity to the start of the Great Taste Trail and to the beach and airport, the Grand Mercure Nelson Monaco is a good pick. On the western side of Tasman Bay, the beachfront Kaiteriteri Reserve Apartments at Kaiteriteri are next to the water taxi departure point for Abel Tasman National Park. A little further up the coast at Marahau, Abel Tasman Lodge offers a small range of spacious private chalets set in tranquil gardens. In the heart of the national park, behind a magnificent beach recently purchased by the people of New Zealand in perpetuity, is iconic Awaroa Lodge. Getting to Nelson Tasman Nelson is 115 kilometres by road from Blenheim and 415 kilometres from Christchurch via the scenic state highways 6 and 7. The city has daily air connections via Air New Zealand to six other New Zealand centres.
Designer Philippe Starck is getting into the boutique-budget market with the Mama Shelter hotel in Paris.
Chic boutique hotels on a budget
Like airlines, low-cost hotels are changing the way we travel. Here's how to stretch your travel dollar without killing the buzz of a hip stay. When rifling through accommodation options in big cities, choosing budget hotels can be a miserable exercise in bullet-dodging. Tune Hotels It’s a netherworld of threadbare towels, mould-dashed showers in the hallway, sweaty box rooms more suited to prison-based fever dreams, and mattresses with the weight-bearing capabilities of a soggy cardboard box left outside in a thunderstorm. It doesn’t take many visits to the curiously interchangeable budget hotels in London’s King’s Cross area, for example, to make the Tune Hotels concept sound relatively attractive.   In short, base rates are low, while you pay for any add-ons – be it air-con, wi-fi, in-room safes, a TV or towels and toiletries. That’s not quite as annoying as it may sound. With rooms in London starting at $60, I don’t mind paying an extra $5 a day for 24-hour web access and $2.50 for towels and toiletries. (I’d not use the safe or TV anyway.) The rooms are undeniably small, but crucially, they’re furnished to a high standard with comfortable beds, power showers and an overall sense of clean, smart slickness.   CEO, Mark Lankester, reckons that low-cost airlines have conditioned travellers to recognise that spending less doesn’t have to equate to poor quality. And paying extra for some amenities is a matter of choice.   But he also points out a new breed of traveller – known in marketing speak as the ‘Millennial’. “They’re voracious travellers and world citizens,” says Lankester. “For them, the size of the room is less important as long as it’s affordably priced, comfortable and – importantly – has great internet connectivity.”   Over the last decade, a handful of other design-focused budget chains have cropped up – all pushing a variation on the quality, cool and affordable shtick. Motel One Motel One – all egg chairs, trendy lamps, iPads and rates from $73 a night – is expanding out from its German base and now has five UK properties, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Manchester and Newcastle. Citizen M and Chic&Basic The artier, minimalist Chic&Basic has invaded Amsterdam from its Spanish hub, while Citizen M has expanded into New York, Boston and Seattle after tagging in Glasgow, Paris, London and Copenhagen to its Dutch properties. The latter has buzzy common areas and canteen-style self-service restaurants to complement pod-style rooms where all electronics – mood lighting, electronic blinds, the works – are controlled from a bedside screen.   Each brand has its quirks, but in common is the assumption that guests will trade space and supposedly outdated services for affordability, connectivity and centrality.   Natasha McLaughlin, Land Product Manager for STA Travel, says these hotels aren’t just appealing to budget travellers – guests are being pinched from mid-range chains. “The likes of Novotel and Holiday Inn have their appeal as they are internationally consistent. However, everyone wants something boutique, stylish, and something a bit special, so I can understand why these hotel styles are trending.” Moxy The big boys are now getting in on the act – Marriott has joined forces with IKEA for the Moxy chain, which first opened its doors in Milan in 2014, and has since expanded across 14 European countries, the UK, Japan, Indonesia and across the USA. Mama Shelter Even legendary luxury designer Philippe Starck is dipping his toes in, collaborating on Mama Shelter, which kicked off in Paris in 2008. The brand has since expanded to other French cities,  Belgrade, Prague, and Los Angeles. GM and co-owner, Jeremie Trigano, uses terms such as “urban kibbutz” and “sensual refuge” to describe the hotels. All come with free movies, an overload of in-room technology and high-end bedding. But rates start at $73.   With all of these up-and-coming chains, however, suitability depends on mentality. For wallet-conscious solo travellers and those who use hotels as a necessary base for exploring the city, they’re ideal. For couples, the rooms can be a squash if spending more time in them beyond sleeping and getting changed. Full-on city break or non-expense account business overnighter? Yes. Romantic weekend? No.   But getting a cheap big city room no longer needs to be a grim game of Russian roulette.
Romantic Maldives accommodation on any budget
Whether you’re heading over with a little or a lot, you’re just thankful to be together in the Maldives, right? The good news is there’s an accommodation option for any budget… Got more than $2000 a night to spend? Velaa Private Island This accommodation has been designed with incredible architecture and absolute privacy in mind. You can stay in your typical overwater villa for around $2250 per night or get the ‘honeymoon suite’: a Romantic Pool Residence, which is only accessible by boat and features a sundeck, sunken bath, personal gym, butler and private chef – naturally. You can nab yourself a night there for a cool $9500, depending on season.   The hotel’s grape cellar features more than 500 bins, the largest collection in the Maldives – and the hotel’s premier golf academy is exceptional; it’s where PGA professionals provide bespoke lessons to guests. We want to stay longer, so the budget is smaller Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa The Sheraton is an incredible option both for special occasions – ideal for honeymooners who dream of celebrating the beginning of married life in an overwater bungalow – and those who are happy to simply lap up the views from the comfort of a beach villa on shore.   [caption id="attachment_43986" align="alignleft" width="600"] The bright white sands[/caption] Water bungalows feature direct access to the crystal clear ocean and depending on season, go for around $943 per room per night. If you’re happy with a beach bungalow however, you’re looking at around $516 per night.   The Sheraton Full Moon Resort & Spa is located on a private island just 15-20 minutes from Velana International Airport. It features seven unique restaurants and bars, a spa island – and plenty of watersports. Let’s do something fun and different! Finolhu ‘Beach Bubble’ tents Okay, so it’s not really a week-long solution to your accommodation needs, but the brand new glamping trend from Finolhu – ‘Beach Bubble’ tents – is the first of its kind in the Maldives, and well worth a try.   The transparent inflatable bubble allows guests to enjoy a closer-to-nature experience, albeit completely secluded from other guests, but totally on show to the world at the same time.   [caption id="attachment_43983" align="alignleft" width="600"] Spend the night in a luxurious bubble tent[/caption] If you’re worried about comfort, you needn’t be – your bubble accommodation is decked out with bespoke furnishings, a separate adjoining bubba bathroom and shower. Made from super-strong, high-tech polyester fabric, your stay will be completely UV protected, waterproof and climate-controlled. Hurrah.   For just $830 per couple, you’ll get one night in the beach bubble (7pm to 9am), a private beach barbecue and private waterside breakfast on the beach.
Beautiful places to stay in Belgium
A stay in one of these stylish Belgian hotels will place you right at the heart of the country’s cultural and historical centres, finds Lucy Cousins.
The essential guide to seven picture-perfect days in Switzerland
Looking to make the trip? We've got the itinerary for seven incredible days in Switzerland...   With more than 65,000 kilometres of marked hiking trails, 54 designated regional bike routes, 336 recognised ski resorts, 900 museums and a 29,000-kilometre public transport network linking every town and village in the nation, working out what to leave out on a Swiss holiday is the hardest decision. International Traveller suggests a seven-day itinerary that’s sure to please.   Day one [caption id="attachment_43686" align="alignnone" width="600"] Zurich Old Town.[/caption]   Long considered one of the world’s most liveable cities, Zurich wraps around the eponymous lake’s most westerly point, where a vibrant Old Town containing cobbled streets, Reformation-era churches, leafy squares and artisanal boutiques spread either side of the Limmat river. It also contains some of Europe’s best shopping, with Bahnhofstrasse rivalling London’s Regent Street and Paris’s Avenue des Champs-Élysées as one of the planet’s most exclusive shopping strips. Easy day excursions include to the Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen or to the alpine meadows that stole Heidi’s heart, above the village of Maienfeld.  Insider tip: Sip hot chocolate in Zurich’s oldest cafe, Conditorei Schober, in the Old Town’s ‘sweet corner’.   [caption id="attachment_43685" align="alignnone" width="600"] Hotel Ambassador, Bern, Switzerland.[/caption] Stay: Hotel Ambassador, Zurich   Day two [caption id="attachment_43680" align="alignnone" width="600"] The dining area of the beautiful Basel Teufelhof.[/caption]   Nuzzled up against the German and French borders an hour west of Zurich, Basel is Switzerland’s third largest city and its cultural capital – home to the nation’s highest concentration of museums, its busiest carnival and its oldest university. In mid-June, the city hosts the world’s premier contemporary art fair, Art Basel. Around Basel, visit Augusta Raurica – a Roman theatre once holding 10,000 spectators. Alternatively, ride the panoramic gondola to Wasserfallen, Basel’s local mountain, or mountain bike from Beinwil to the Laufental valley. The nearby Jura Mountains contain countless rock climbing routes for beginners to experts. Insider tip: Float down the Rhine river on an air mattress in summer.   [caption id="attachment_43681" align="alignnone" width="600"] An exterior shot of Basel Teufelhof.[/caption]   Stay: Der Teufelhof Basel   Day three With a medieval Old Town dominated by a Gothic cathedral dating back to the 13th century, Lausanne’s picturesque lakeside setting overlooking Lake Geneva (Léman) – Switzerland’s largest – is one of the finest in the land. Soak up the views from the cathedral bell tower then hire a bicycle to ride along the swanky waterfront promenade in Ouchy – headquarters for the International Olympic Committee and home to the Olympic Museum. Later, stroll down to the quay for a sightseeing cruise along the Swiss Riviera. [caption id="attachment_43774" align="alignleft" width="1500"] REGIS COLOMBO/diapo.ch[/caption] Insider tip: Jump on the hourly Train des Vignes (vine train) from Vevey to Puidoux as it climbs the terraced Lavaux vineyards cultivated by generations of wine growers. Stay: Château d’Ouchy, Lausanne     Day four [caption id="attachment_43682" align="alignnone" width="600"] The view of the breathtaking Schynige Platte.[/caption]   Grindelwald, at the foot of the infamous Eiger North Face, is Switzerland’s quintessential mountain village. Though Eiger summit attempts are best left to experienced climbers, a railway tunnel runs inside the mountain to Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station affording views over the longest glacier in the Alps. The world’s longest downhill ski race starts here – part of 200 kilometres of pistes across three Jungfrau region resorts. James Bond fans can ride a series of cable cars to Piz Gloria, the revolving summit restaurant on Schilthorn that featured in the 1969 spy film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Insider tip: Ride the historic cogwheel train from Wilderswil to Schynige Platte then walk through alpine meadows to First. It’s arguably Switzerland’s most scenically rewarding day hike. [caption id="attachment_43820" align="alignleft" width="1500"] The slopes of Jungfraujoch Keyvisual Neu[/caption] Stay: Eiger Selfness Hotel, Grindelwald   Day five Spend the day in the Hasli valley, where Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, battled the criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. Ride Europe’s steepest funicular to the glacial Lake Gelm then continue up the valley for lunch at the Grimsel Hospiz. In winter, the road is covered in snow so the hotel is only accessible via several gondolas and a three-kilometre-long ride through the power plant’s tunnel system. Insider tip: Get around the valley using the yellow postal bus services. Stay: Hotel Alpbach, Meiringen     Day six With a lakeside setting beneath picture-perfect mountains and a walled Old Town containing covered bridges and historic churches, it’s no wonder Lucerne has been described as the storybook Swiss city. Lucerne rests on the banks of what is often described as Switzerland’s prettiest lake, where a fleet of ferries, including several historic paddle steamers, connect its farthest corners and dock beneath summit lookouts accessed by cog railways and cable cars. Insider tip: Board a train to Willisau then ride back through rolling farmlands to Lucerne on an electric bike without breaking a sweat. Stay: Art Deco Hotel Montana, Lucerne     Day seven [caption id="attachment_43684" align="alignnone" width="600"] Titlis Rotair, the revolving car cable pictured high above the ground.[/caption]   Engelberg is a small mountain village at the end of a valley where the world’s first rotating cable car climbs the north face of Mt Titlis. The views alone – towards Switzerland’s second highest peak, Dom, and across the Jungfrau Range – make the trip worthwhile. Up top, burrow through a glacial ice cave, snow tube downhill or brave a cliff walk on Europe’s highest suspension bridge. When you’re done, hike back to Engelberg along grassy trails then return to Zurich for your evening flight home.   [caption id="attachment_43679" align="alignnone" width="600"] A photo of Zurich with the Limmat river in shot.[/caption]    Insider tip: Hire a Trottibike (actually a scooter) in Untertrubsee then speed downhill to Engelberg’s cable car station along a winding blacktop road.
Delicious middle eastern food platter
Live like a Sheikh in Abu Dhabi
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Where to nosh and nap in South Dakota
To get the most out of South Dakota’s great outdoors, you’ll need to fuel up on food and get your beauty sleep – Tiffany Leigh shows us where to do it.     The culinary landscape of South Dakota is interwoven with heritage and culture, resulting in foodie delights for your belly. Dining South Dakotan-style signifies a tantalising tongue tour through an eclectic melange of American comfort fare and Native American cuisine along with German and Scandinavian influences. And once you’ve had your happy food coma fill, we’ve got you covered on where to rest your head for a much needed nap – who says eating isn’t a form of exercise? Here are prime spots throughout the state for palate pleasure and places to catch up on your zzzzs.   In Rapid City Eat Tuck into Delmonico Grill’s famed Kona Crusted Ribeye. Dry-aged in-house for 21 days, owner and chef Benjamin Klinkel prides himself on a slow-food philosophy that permeates his steak and seafood dishes. The locally sourced beef is rubbed with an espresso blend, then it’s charred and cooked medium-rare; the unctuous meat is contrasted with sweet-tangy mosto sauce. The caveman-sized portion is fit for devouring with reckless abandon – here’s where you can channel your inner Fred Flintstone.   Tally’s Silver Spoon is a beloved dining institution. The ‘fine diner fare’ ups the ante with home-style American classics. Case in point, the famous Duck, Duck, Goose dish. A spin on a hash, the finessed feature sees duck confit piled mountainously-high on a bed of sautéed onions, arugula, and sweet potato cubes – which is accompanied by a fat wedge of seared foie gras. As if that’s not enough, the lily is gilded even further by topping the quacker with a sunny side-up egg and blistered gooseberries for a tart, refreshing kick.   Stay Cosy comfort and spacious suite-style dwellings makes Residence Inn Rapid City an ideal resting spot for weary and worn travellers. In addition to a free hot breakfast in the morning and a great cup of joe, its location is ideally situated near downtown Rapid City (a quick 10-minute drive) and to surrounding major attractions such as Mount Rushmore (a 30-minute drive away) the WaTiki Indoor Waterpark Resort (the largest indoor waterpark in the Dakotas), and Black Hills Caverns (a natural gem formed by Paha Sapa Limestone).     In Savoy Eat The Latchstring Restaurant is a historic property that once welcome prospectors, settlers and fortune seekers during the gold rush of 1876. In 1909, it was purchased by Martha Railback and Maude Watts who renamed it The Latchstring for the inn’s frontier-style doors; they established the space as a beacon for hospitality and great food. In the 1990s, the lodge was converted into the now popular Latchstring Restaurant whose homespun Midwestern fare is spearheaded by chef Gino Diminno. His passion for locally sourced ingredients means that you could find pheasant (that he hunted himself) and rainbow trout as specialty dishes on the menu, the latter of which sees a silky fillet draped in white wine beurre blanc sauce on two spicy corn cakes – incredibly satisfying after a long hike.   Stay Spearfish Canyon Lodge is hugged by emerald pine trees and the inimitable wilds of the Black Hills. Suites are spaciously refined with a touch of that rugged sentiment. The upscale retreat is illuminated with natural lighting, log walls, cosy fireplaces, and jacuzzi bath tubs. The hotel is on prime land and ideally situated next to Little Spearfish Creek, Roughlock Falls Trail, and a seven-minute drive to Bridal Veil Falls.     In Deadwood Eat The Deadwood Social Club is a gracious, delectable gem. Located in downtown Deadwood, chef Caleb Storm offers locals and visitors a ‘finer dining’ experience (minus the expensive price tags) which includes jaw-droppingly cheap and cheerful wines by the glass and bottle. Wine pairing suggestions are provided by senior server and sommelier Troy Gilfillan; sips accompany stellar mains such as the show-stopping Seafood Nest which arrives to the table as a crispy noodle volcano erupting with white tiger shrimps, diver scallops, red peppers, and a lava flow of decadent cream sauce. Another favourite is the Boar Bundles of joy that are stuffed with wild boar bolognese, smoked gouda and accompanied by a tangy tomato-onion white wine reduction.   Be greeted by mahogany wood tones, stone walls, and ambient lighting at the Deadwood Grille inside the The Lodge at Deadwood. Executive chef James Pesaturo offers his rendition of elevated American steakhouse classics to guests. In addition to its famed ranch-house steaks, unique dishes include heady Elk Ravioli that’s fortified with herbaceous brown butter sage sauce, or signature Grille Chop which sees a broiled French-cut pork chop cooked a juicy medium-rare and crowned with a halo of crispy onion haystacks; it’s paired with sweet-savoury caramelised pear and brie-stuffed crêpes.   Stay Perhaps one of the few places in the world where valet service is included (!) in the steal-of-a-deal daily hotel rate is at SpringHill Suites by Marriott Deadwood. It’s about a 15-minute walk to downtown Deadwood, and its location along a quiet stretch of CanAm Hwy 85 makes for an effortlessly peaceful slumber. In addition to being greeted by a complimentary breakfast buffet in the morning, look forward to happy hour cocktails on the patio. Bonus feature here is the sprawling sky-lit indoor pool that’s perfect for a refreshing dip.     In Belle Fourche Eat Stationed just off of Hwy 85 is Belle Inn, an oasis for your growling stomach. The no-frills eatery has been satiating ravenous souls since 1958.  Today, chef Robin Kidd offers what is described as homey and affordable Midwestern comfort fare. And the prices aren’t the only thing that’s ideal, portions are amply generous too. Tuck into homemade Biscuits and Gravy – the pillowy clouds are smothered in white gravy that’s teeming with crumbled salty sausage. And then there’s the Country Fried Steak Omelette – a concoction only a carnivore could dream up: it sees the homemade country fried steak chopped up and mixed with hash browns and gooey American cheddar – the whole lot gets stuffed inside a puffy golden omelette – which you’ll need to devour with the aid of a steak knife, fork, and plenty of napkins on hand.   Stay Situated a half-hour drive away from Belle Fourche, picturesque surroundings await you at this Airbnb Spearfish Creek home. Located at the foot of the majestic Black Hills, this 335-square-metre property is a serenity-inducing space fit for lingering and lounging. Its features include two master bedrooms and three large bedrooms, a covered patio, and personal private park. Along with opportunities for a leisurely stroll or hike, you can also opt for trout fishing in the nearby Spearfish Creek.
Tried and tested: where to eat, drink and sleep in Tulum, Mexico
Tuck into inventive Mexican cuisine in secret gardens and sip mezcal by campfire; sleep beach-side in boutique hotels and jump into bright blue sinkholes. Bikes cruise down a winding road that leads through the jungle. Dreamcatchers displayed outside shopfronts turn in the breeze. Street signs reading ‘Be here now’, ‘Follow that dream’ and ‘Know thyself’ sit between resorts.   Welcome to Tulum, Mexico, the hippie-luxe town two hours south of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula. Despite its steady stream of international tourists, Tulum still hasn’t lost much of the boho charm that put it on the map in the first place. Most of its hotels are eco-conscious and nearly all of its restaurants seem to be at one with their surroundings. [caption id="attachment_43035" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Papaya Playa Project restaurant[/caption] Though Tulum is beachside, it’s more than just a beach town. It’s got ancient ruins, stunning cenotes and award-winning dining. If you haven’t thought about heading here, do. Here, some picks for what to try when you’re there. EAT $ Tulum is divided into two areas: a ritzy, beachside tourist zone and a downtown pueblo with more down-to-earth prices. It’s in the latter that you’ll find Burrito Amor. The vegetarian-friendly cafe is unassuming with open sides, foldable chairs and its most expensive meal is priced at a reasonable 185 pesos (approx. $13).   But don’t let any of that fool you, the food – burritos and salads – and drinks – juices, cocktails and beers – here are top-notch. [caption id="attachment_43030" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Tacos are served[/caption] $$ Mexico’s known for its street food, but if you can’t speak Spanish and aren’t sure what to order, getting to it can often be near impossible. Enter Charly’s Vegan Tacos. The establishment at the far end of the tourist zone has created a name for itself for its colourful, flavourful meals and homemade sauces served at wooden tables scattered in front of a food truck.   Start with the fried plantain bananas with tofu and garlic cream before digging into the porkless cracklings or soyrizo and cheese. $$ Also in the tourist zone is Safari. It’s another no-frills affair with a fire pit and Airstream trailer setup, and an undercover patio dining area to the side. Inspired by traditional Mexican recipes but adding a campfire twist, the restaurant uses all local ingredients and makes its tortillas from scratch.   Among its tacos, of note are the shrimp, served with mole verde green sauce, and the fire-roasted octopus. If you’re still hungry, try the yuca truffle fries. And if you’re feeling like a drink, sip on a mezcal. $$$ Its tagline ‘secret garden’ should give you some idea of what to expect at Cenzontle. The intimate restaurant, seemingly carved into the lush forest, is an enchanting retreat set back from the tourist zone’s busy main road.   Its concise menu consists of mostly meat- and seafood-focused Mexican meals, all with an inventive twist and prettily presented. Don’t miss the beef barbacoa with bone marrow sauce and the duck carnitas tacos. And, as with most restaurants in Tulum, don’t forget to bring mosquito repellent. DRINK                                                         $ Within the downtown pueblo, Batey Mojito & Guarapo Bar is known as the place for a night out. The popular dive bar has mojitos made with sugar cane juice you can watch being crushed in a converted VW Beetle, affordable prices – all drinks are about 100 pesos (approx. $7) – and live music most nights.   Sit at the front bar or at a picnic table in the back gravel area and choose from specialty mojitos like ginger, passionfruit and watermelon. Word of warning: they’re strong here. $$ You’ll find Gitano in the tourist zone. It was such a hit that its owners recently opened a second spot in New York City. One look at it and it’s not hard to see why. Tucked into the jungle, the restaurant and bar is lit only by candles and fairy lights.   The smoke and aroma of copal, an incense used by the Mayans for spiritual cleansing, wafts through the place. Go on a Friday and arrive at around 11pm when the disco and house DJs begin playing. Slide into a booth or take a seat at one of its three bars and order yourself a mezcal cocktail. $$$ If Friday nights are for Gitano, Saturdays are all about Papaya Playa Project. If you’re having dinner here first, arrive around 8pm. [caption id="attachment_43037" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Music at Papaya Playa Project[/caption] That should give you plenty of time to tuck into a delicious feed before the party kicks off around 11pm. If you’re instead arriving around then, expect a cover charge with its rate depending on the DJ or artist performing. If you’re coming with a big group, it might be worth getting bottle service at a booth. Once a month a Full Moon party is held here and goes until 4am. SLEEP $ Though newly-opened Holistika Hotel is only a few minutes’ drive from Tulum’s main pueblo drag, a stay here will have you convinced you’re in the heart of the jungle. Walking across its sprawling grounds, you’ll hear birds chirping, leaves rustling in the wind and little else.   There’s an on-site restaurant called Tierra, regular yoga and meditation classes, two massive pools and an art walk. Accommodation is separated into adults-only and family-friendly. With only 24 rooms, you’ll want to book ahead. [caption id="attachment_43038" align="alignleft" width="800"] Bedroom at Holistika[/caption] $$ A beachfront home-turned-boutique hotel, Casa Malca in the tourist zone has attracted the likes of Elle Macpherson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Cara Delevingne.   Designed and styled by art collector Lio Malca, who purchased the abandoned mansion in 2013, the hotel is filled with striking contemporary art. Sculptures of ants crawl across the ceilings.   A piece by American artist KAWS sits near the impressive doorway. Unmarked front gates and a secret underground pool add to its edginess. $$$ Where to even begin when describing Azulik Hotel? Designed with the idea of reconnecting with yourself in mind, the eco-friendly hotel created by a self-taught architect is a maze of 48 rooms – some ocean-facing and perched above the jungle’s canopy – a spa, a clothing-optional beach club, three restaurants and a neighbouring art gallery.   Structures, mostly made from bejuco wood native to the area, are connected by winding pathways and stepping stones over decorative pools of water. EXPLORE $ There are more than 3000 cenotes (sinkholes) on the Yucatan Peninsula but within Tulum, Grand Cenote is the most popular. Right outside downtown pueblo, it’s actually comprised of several cenotes all connected by wooden walkways.   The water is bright blue in some parts, light green in others, and jumping into it in the searing heat is a real treat. Pay the extra few pesos to rent snorkel equipment and see fish beneath its surface. Post-swim, dry off near the lily pond as you watch turtles swim by. $ Despite also being minutes from the downtown pueblo, Cenote Calavera, also known as The Temple of Doom, has surprisingly remained undiscovered by tourists. The cenote can best be described as ‘jug-like’ with its rocky roof seemingly sliced off to reveal a pool of fresh water below.   A ladder is installed in the largest hole and can be used to climb down, but the two smaller other holes can only be jumped into. If you’re lucky, you might spy one of the many iguanas that live around it. $$ The Tulum Ruins is one of the only archaeological sites in the world that overlooks a crashing sea below. The ruins provide a glimpse into the town’s powerful past as a thriving seaport. Open from 8am–5pm, the ruins can get crowded with tour groups so come early.   If you’re arriving by car, skip the expensive car parks next to the site – you’ll find free parking across the main street. If you’re interested in learning more about Mayan culture, opt for a guide. Otherwise, reading the information from a Mexico guidebook or an online site should do the trick.
This luxurious train will take you on the African Safari you’ve always dreamed of
Imagine exploring the majestic African landscape while recapturing the romance and atmosphere of a bygone era in complete 5-star luxury. Imagine no further.