Monthly Archives: May 2017

10 things you should do and see in San Diego

1.Seaport Village

This quaint waterfront shopping and dining area located Downtown on West Harbor Drive is probably a great place to start. There are 54 unique shops including a fun magic shop and plenty of eateries. Supping a coffee while looking at passing yachts and ships on picturesque San Diego Bay is a brilliant way to ease into the day. Also you can pick up The Old Town Trolley Tour, a hop on, hop off bus that passes everything you would want to see in the city including all those listed below.

2.Gaslamp District

Don’t worry, the area is not as seedy as the name suggests; it is called so because of the Victorian styled lamposts that light up the streets after sundown. The 16-square blocks in the Downtown district feature Victorian buildings alongside skyscrapers which together, offer an interesting visual. And amid them are boutiques that line the streets, and a mall – the multi-level Westfield Horton Plaza – designed as an outdoor shopping centre.

Of course there’s plenty of restaurants. Cafe 21 on Fifth Avenue is a sure thing, with wholesome food, including gluten free options, served throughout the day. At night there’s live music with some acrobatics thrown in. Some of their cocktails double as meals sometimes served with vegetables and even prawns. Far less wholesome is the raunchy Coyote Ugly Saloon (named after the film) next door where women are invited to strut their stuff on the bar alongside scantily clad dancers.

3.Old Town

The Old Town is pretty much the birthplace of California and was where the first Spanish settlement was created. The 19th century history of San Diego is brought to life in the Old Town’s shops, restaurants and historic sites – in effect it is a tourist trap. But it’s still worth visiting. It’s fun to look at the Indian jewellery, especially in the Covered Wagon – Pala and Kumeyaay Indians were the pre-Spanish native population. Browse the 40 speciality shops and the adobe properties that house them. Just a short walk down San Diego Avenue is the Whaley House, known as the most haunted house in America. They say even the ghost of the family dog has been seen.

If you like Mexican food, there are several Mexican restaurants. Cafe Coyote has a great location and fun atmosphere both indoors and on the heated alfresco terrace where you can watch the tortillas being made. There are others such as Casa Guadalajara where the most joy is in the atmosphere rather than the food.

4.Balboa Park

Considered the cultural heart of San Diego you will find Balboa Park just north of downtown. It is the world’s largest urban cultural park and inside its 1,200 acres there’s an incredible 17 museums, 8 gardens – including a gorgeous Japanese garden that has a Zen space for meditation – and sensational Spanish Renaissance architecture. And within the Balboa park is the amazing San Diego Zoo.

5.San Diego Zoo

It’s not often a zoo enters a top-10 feature, but this one really is a must-see. It sprawls over 100-acres (40-hectares) and looks after 3,500 rare and endangered animals representing more than 650 species and subspecies. There is a prominent botanical collection with more than 700,000 exotic plants.

Their “Inside Look Tour” is two hours of edutainment that offers a behind the scene look at what really happens when no-one is looking. Elephants, reptiles, giraffes, koalas are among the animals you will get to see. And you won’t want to miss the gorgeous pandas. Allow plenty of time, but get there early as it closes at 5pm.

A place to visit and try in Mallorca

Calo des Moro, Mallorca

Some say Mallorca is a beacon of calm, sophistication, beauty and A-List celebrity. It is also an Island of great wealth with its 870,000-strong population enjoying the highest per capita level of disposable income in Spain.

Some believe only what they read in the papers – tales of union jack shorts, binge drinking and abandonment of inhibitions – this classy portrayal may come as some surprise.

Mallorca is in fact breathtakingly stunning. From deserted white sand beaches to craggy pine-clad mountain ranges, the exquisite architecture of historic buildings to flower-filled fields heavy with citrus trees, Mallorca offers every kind of beauty for everyone.

The trick is to get behind the wheel of a car (or indeed the helm of a motoryacht or charter a day out on a small yacht), explore and discover your personal piece of Island paradise.

5 of the highest Valentine hot spots selected by our authors

1.Africa: Safari at Pinnon Lodges

I’ve always been in love with Asia, but recently Africa has started to catch my eye: the landscapes, the wildlife, and the sense of space and peace is supremely romantic. This Valentine’s Day, my pick is the Pinnon Safari Lodge in Kafue National Park in Zambia, run by British couple Ruth and Lyndon Pinches.

It’s intimate — maximum occupancy is just eight guests — and you’re completely secluded in the wilderness. You can sit on the deck with a glass of wine in hand, watching the puku and impala graze, take a game drive through the park to see cheetah, elephant, and lion, and then enjoy a sundowner by the river. It’s a place to get away from work and the bustle of everyday life, and spend endless sunsets with the one you love. And at $150 per person per night, it’s incredibly affordable for safari.

2.Philippines: Eskaya Beach Resort & Spa

If your idea of romance is walking hand in hand along white sand beaches, occasionally dipping your toes in an azure sea, come to Eskaya on Panglao Island in the Philippines. One of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the incredible villas look out across the water, and many of them have their own infinity pools. Drink cocktails on the lawn, treat yourselves to a his and hers massage in the Handuraw Spa, and then feast al fresco beneath the moon and stars with a candlelit dinner for two, or beside a roaring bonfire.

If you can drag yourself away from the beach, taking the butterfly watching tour is a pretty cute excursion, and likewise booking lunch and a river cruise on the Loboc, with musicians serenading you whilst you eat, is guaranteed to earn you brownie points.

3.Greece: Melenos Lindos, Rhodes

Secluded from the holiday crowds, and almost hidden above the quintessential Dodecanese fishing village of Lindos, one finds the unique Melenos Lindos Hotel. A labour of love, by owner and island local Michalis Melenos, this truly romantic property offers tranquillity and privacy, with eclectically decorated, bohemian-style guest rooms and honeymoon suites where lovers can be cocooned from the outside world.

The hotel feels more like a perfect Rhodian village, lost in time, full of creative and artistic details inspired by early 17th century Lindian Mansions. Explore the nearby ancient acropolis, meander through the hotel’s jasmine scented gardens, flirt over a candle-lit dinner in the rooftop restaurant; and watch the sunset from your private terrace, decorated with charming black and white ‘kochlaki’ pebble stone mosaics. Or just order the delicious room-service and put ‘Do Not Disturb’ on the door.

4.Argentina: Recoleta Grand, Arentina, Buenos Aires,

Buenos Aires, Argentina is one of the most romantic cities in the world, and the gorgeousRecoleta Grand (formerly Buenos Aires Grand) is the only place we’ll stay when we’re in town. This hotel has a perfect location in the heart of tree-lined Recoleta and the hotel has everything you need for a relaxing, romantic stay, including top-of-the-line finishes, and an in-house spa, pool and sauna free for all guests to use. It’s also one of our most recommended destinations for solo travelers visiting the area. Book the breakfast included option when you stay, it’s well worth the extra few dollars to have access to their killer buffet spread of local and international breakfast options.

Since your’e in the heart of Recoleta, take a stroll through the famous Recoleta cemetery, where Eva Peron (Evita) is buried, and walk hand-in-hand down the street as you snack on medialunas and empanadas. At night, head out to a steakhouse for wine and Argentina’s most famous dish: steak. Our favorite is La Brigada in San Telmo.

5Italy, Castello di Casole,Tuscany

I stayed here during my first holiday with my boyfriend, which was a 7-day road trip around Tuscany. We drove from Pisa to Florence via San Gimignano and Siena and it was the rustic Italian adventure people you might dream of. Castello di Casole is a beautifully restored Italian castle based on a country estate in Tuscany.

We were surrounded by green rolling fields, vineyards and olive trees and it really felt like an undiscovered slice of Italy. We indulged in fresh Italian pasta, drank rich red wine and spent peaceful quality time together. Maybe it was thanks to the red wine, but this trip was romantic for me as it was the place where I first realised that I was in love.

If you’re planning to visit this part of Italy, be sure to hire a car for guaranteed freedom and adventure.

What to see and visit in Miami, Florida

Art Deco and Ocean Drive on South Beach

Ocean Drive has amazing restaurants and cafes with music blasting out of every outlet. Many have live music like Katrina and Oceans Ten. As you pass it’s a a bit like having the radio change channel with every step. This is a long stretch and Thursday to Sunday, it seems everyone is out enjoying the evening air, and nightlife.

But probably its most interesting quality is its architecture. There are plenty of Art Deco examples, but there is also the Mediterranean Revival and Miami Modern (MiMo) architecture that appeared on the streets in the 1950s.

To explore, start at 728 Ocean Drive where now stands the 1950s inspired Johnnie Rockets hamburger bar. Originally it was the location for Irene Marie Models, a model agency – the first in Florida. They were pivotal in bringing the beautiful people to South Beach.

What’s more, this spot between two art deco hotels – the Beacon and the Colony – also has a claim to fame as the location of the Sun Ray Apartments where Al Pacino’s chainsaw scene in the 1983 film Scarface took place.

If you make it to 1250 Ocean Drive you will see the retro-futiristic facade of the Carlyle, where The Birdcage was filmed. On the way you will pass Gianni Versace’s former villa, Casa Casuarina and its stylish and unmissibable black and gold tipped gates. The eminent fashion designer was shot and killed in front of it in 1997 at point blank range while returning from buying a newspaper at the 24/7 News Cafe opposite.

The property has since been turned into a luxury 10-bedroom boutique hotel and restaurant called The Villa by Barton G. Inside is a spa and glamorous mosaic-tiled swimming pool designed by Versace with much Italian flare.

But be warned: You may find that when walking the length of Ocean Drive the buzzy restaurants and cafes are too much of a distraction to keep walking.

SoFi –  South of Fifth

For a change of scene and for a much quieter ambience head for 5th Street. You will find a lovely triangular enclave called SoFi (South of Fifth) – it starts at Fifth to the end of the island at the 17-acre beautifully landscaped South Pointe Park.

You may find a photo shoot happening or at least glamourous people milling around. If you want more of that you could go to Nikki Beach restaurant for brunch. There is no doubting the sumptuous and appetising food served, yet it’s hard to eat when toned, tanned bodies pass you on their way to nearby sunbeds.

If you are with the kids try breakfast at The Big Pink, very retro, very pink, family-style restaurant with hefty portions that are easy on the pocket.

Wynwood and the Miami Design District

Once a rundown area the walls of Wynwood is very much the haunt of hipsters thanks to property developer Tony Goldman who had a vision of “museum of the streets”. More than 50 artists have transformed 80,000 square feet of walls into artworks and words like “edgy” and “artsy” are often thrown at it. There are plenty of art galleries too (70 at the last count) but don’t miss the contemporary art of the Rubell Family collection with works by Andy Warhol and Keith Haring.

Separated by 1-95 highway overpass is the Miami Design District. This is where designer shops, high end restaurants, art galleries all converge to offer a stylish day out.

Lincoln Road

This is quite an extraordinary outdoor mile-long shopping and chilling out area. It’s a complete contrast to the rest of Miami offering 60 high end shops in the futuristic architecture. Big names include the likes of Tom Ford, Fenci and Marc Jacobs. There’s even a triple story Hermes as well as six home design stores. Gucci has recently come on board and so has the high-end Cuban restaurant by Emilio and Gloria Estefan. There’s also the Romero Britton gallery which is a celebration of Miami’s home grown artists.

Plenty of dining options on Lincoln Road from a casual drink or full-blown dinner. Or even some cafe culture with the chance to people-watch along the long tropical styled broadwalk. Try the Meat Market has become a hotspot offering sizzling steakhouse style dishes and a energy to match. Or if sushi is more your bag this offers alfresco dining and an indoor lounge where you can dine to the backdrop of a mural by California-based street artists Aaron de la Cruz.

Little Havana

The Cuban legacy is very much part of Miami’s DNA. Places like El Titan de Bronze still roll cigars by hand every day and locals play dominoes at Domino Park. You’ll soon get into the swing of it all especially on Calle Ocho (Southwest Eighth Street) on the main drag when all your senses become alert to the myriad Cuban experiences; the stucco houses, the street art, the sounds Samba music that escape from music stores and restaurants, rum is easy to come by, fruit markets energise the air with citrus aromas and food around these parts is pretty rustic and includes a repertoire of chicken, rice and platanos – fried sweet bananas.

Whether or not you choose to explore, the beauty of Miami is that you can just be and enjoy the cosmopolitan vibe and a wonderful beach lifestyle surrounded by as much beauty as a city can muster.

Taking the kids?

Ditch the Art Deco hotels as you may find their rooms a tad small. So check out Ritz-Carlton South Beach at One Lincoln Road as it has a great kid’s facility called Ritz Kids. Part of the offering is a choice of full or half-day supervision on the beach and poolside activities for children from 5 to 12.

There’s also family-focused Loews Miami Beach Hotel at 1601 Collins Avenue where children are the focus.

Fun things to do include Watson Island and the tropical zoo called Jungle Island where you can enjoy the beauty of tropical birds, wild cats and monkeys and plenty of close-up experiences.

There’s also the Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park at 1725 NE 135th Street in North Miami. There are two playgrounds, 22 acres of nature trails and supervised horse back riding all day long.

Best time to go

The busiest time is from November to April. This is when Americans holiday here. During the day temperatures hover min the mid 20s°C, though the odd chill should be expected.

Summer months see temperatures rise to around 30°C but tend to be more humid. In fact this is low season and hotel rates tumble – the best bargains can be had in August and September.