Archive for December, 2011

Discover Tanzania’s Last Tropical Coastal Resort

The View at Ras Kutani

Africa is full of surprises and many of them can be found in the tranquil country of Tanzania. Situated on the relatively undiscovered southern Tanzania coastline, just 35km south of Dar es Salaam, Ras Kutani is one of them. A unique boutique beach retreat (which also happens to score an impressive 5 stars out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor), sits within 100 acres of lush tropical, coastal forest and, as much of Tanzania’s coastline has suffered heavy deforestation, this is truly a hidden Tanzania hotel gem offering a rare opportunity to explore one of the most bio-diverse indigenous coastal forests in East Africa. The forest contains 132 different species of trees, including mango trees (famous for their spectacular fruit) and the Marula tree (prized for its rich bounty of fruit, and the oil from the kernel, which is used to make moisturizer).

The marula tree prized for it's moisturizing nut

Guests can also, of course, enjoy watching the antics of four species of monkey, including the spectacular black-and-white colobus, as well as many species of birds, baboons, wild pigs, the elusive Civet Cats and other wildlife. All of this can be experienced whilst taking the ‘From Tree To Tree’ self-guided tour which steers guests through this eclectic ecosystem on an easy, fascinating walk.

Here little civet cat...

Ras Kutani promises the epitome of barefoot-luxury and a hideaway for those seeking solace, luxury and tranquillity. The luxurious accommodation comprises nine open-fronted spacious, charming cottages, each with en suite bathroom, large verandah with a covered sand floor, seating area, hammocks and views of the clear lagoon, beach and Indian Ocean. Ideal for water babies, the temperate seas and proximity of coral reefs ensure a wealth of marine life with the chance to see colourful fish, dolphins, whales, turtles and even a shipwreck.

Ras Kutani chill area

Complimentary snorkelling equipment, kayaks and boogie boards are available for those that wish to venture from their hammock or beach bed. And in season, turtles come to nest along the beach and guests are invited to get involved in projects that look out for their welfare. I mean, how great is that??

But wait… there’s more!

A cottage at Ras Kutani

Right now, Africa Odyssey is offering seven nights at Ras Kutani, followed by a three-night sophisticated safari experience at the boutique Selous Safari Camp from $5,611 per person (saving $1,400 per person).

Valid for travel throughout June and July, the price includes international flights from various US airports, internal transfers, full board and most activities.

http://www.selous.com/ras-kutani

Toll Free 1-866-356-4691

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Shore Santa Monica’s New Green Concierge

LA's Top Eco Hotel - Shore Hotel Santa Monica

We miss Cali, we won’t lie. Even more so when we read about some of the latest developments in the realm of eco-friendly sustainable businesses. We’ve written about the Shore Hotel Santa Monica’s entrance into the realm of the latest and greatest among CA’s sustainable properties, but they’ve also just announced a progressive concierge service that makes green living easy and accessible. The Green Concierge is the hotel’s own local expert on all things sustainable and eco-friendly. From activities to services, transportation to nightlife, Shore Hotel’s Green Concierge is an innovative resource for guests going green in Santa Monica.

Shore Hotel Pool

With the creation of the Green Concierge program, Shore Hotel has taken eco-conscious service to the next level. Committed to providing guests with an exemplary experience, while promoting all things eco-friendly and sustainable, the Green Concierge ensures guests can live the good life in Santa Monica and lessen their carbon footprint without even trying. Through constant research and building relationships, the Green Concierge will suggest activites such as the best farmer’s markets, where to shop for eco-friendly clothes, how to reserve a hybrid taxi or bicycle, a list of walking tours or a spa appointment at holistic Tikkun Spa. Here are some of their picks, but be sure to hit them up for more!

Real Food Daily - Santa Monica

–  Green Denim Initiative Inc. – An eco-friendly denim shop as well as other clothing and accessories for both men and women.

–  Real Food Daily – The premiere organic vegan restaurant in Los Angeles

–  Santa Monica Surf School

–  Santa Monica Green Taxi

http://shorehotel.com/

Irish Castle? Check. School of Falconry? Check.

Irish Castle? Check.

Emerald Isle? Check. Falconry? Check. Feeling like an old gent or lady at the manse? Check. That’s right… Dromoland Castle, world-renowned for its status as perhaps the finest castle resort on the Emerald Isle, is welcoming as its lavish interiors, fine dining, deluxe accommodations, spectacular amenities, and wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities offer relaxation and stimulation alike. 

Gorgeous man with falcon? Check.

Dromoland Castle, located in Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare, was built in the 16th century.  Majestically set on the shores of Lough Dromoland, it is surrounded by over 410 acres of breathtaking scenery, including a championship parkland golf course.  Lavish interiors, fine food and superb wines complement the deluxe accommodations of the Castle’s 99 guest rooms, while Dromoland Castle Golf and Country Club, an intimate spa and traditional outdoor recreational opportunities ensure a unique guest experience.

Perhaps less well known are two other unique features that set this luxury destination resort apart: the falcons of The Dromoland School of Falconry and the ruins of the largest hillfort in all of Ireland. To celebrate the romance and power of these seminal symbols of Ireland, Dromoland Castle is pleased to offer a special package featuring not only its famous “Hawk Walk”, but the opportunity to take a lesson in flying one of these magnificent creatures while exploring Mooghaun Hillfort, right there on the estate.

Dromoland Caste... On the inside

The “Ancient Icons” package includes the following:

  • Two nights’ accommodation in a deluxe guestroom
  • Full Irish breakfast daily
  • Dinner at the Earl of Thomond restaurant
  • A Hawk Walk with the School’s falconer, who will provide a hands-on instruction in how to fly a hawk
  • A visit to Mooghaun Hillfort, which dates to 1260-930 B.C. and features three circular ramparts and stunning views of the River Shannon estuary

The package, which costs € 350.00 EUR total per adult sharing for two nights, is available until April 30, 2011. (VAT and service charges are included.) Advance booking of the Hawk Walk is recommended.

Dromoland Castle is located at Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare, Ireland. The hotel can be contacted at 011 353 61 368144 or 1-800-346-7007; website www.dromoland.ie.  Reservations can be made through the hotel (sales@dromoland.ie); through The DromolandCollection at www.dromolandcollection.ie; or through Preferred Hotels & Resort at 1.800.323.7500 or www.preferredhotels.com.

 

 

Frugal Foreign Travel Tips for Baby Boomer Ladies

Kate Forgach, Baby Boomer Specialist

This week, Kate Forgach, gives our Baby Boomer adventurer’s some travel tips for the road. Forgach has written about senior issues for 11 years and has been featured in USA Today, Detroit News, New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Yorker magazine, “ABC World News,” NBC’s “TODAY” show and many other media outlets. So, needless to say, she knows the drill.

The obviously American gentleman was eating dinner while reading at a cozy French restaurant, but I just had to interrupt with a somewhat rude question: “Why do so few older men travel alone in Europe?”

I’d been on the road for two months, touring the world as a travel writer, and this was the first American male I’d seen flying solo. He responded with just one word: “Fear.” I thanked him and went on my merry way, only realizing later I hadn’t asked, “Fear of what?”

The flat fact, however, is that older women are more comfortable traveling to foreign countries without a partner or tour group. You see them sitting in cafés, diligently scribbling in their journals and taking in the passing scene with genuine smiles. I formed easy friendships with many of these women everywhere from Abu Dhabi to Krakow, and learned quite a few frugal foreign-travel tips, which I’m delighted to pass on to men and women alike.

1. Hostels
I can’t stress strongly enough how much cheaper and more enjoyable it is to stay in a hostel. Other overnight residences are not only more expensive, they tend to segregate you from the reality of a city or region. Hostels throw you right into the mix, which nowadays includes travelers of all ages — not just the young. Hostels usually provide breakfast, the heftier ones yielding leftovers from which you can use for lunch. Free Wi-Fi access and front-desk workers who can point you to unique sites worth seeing round out the many benefits of staying in a hostel. To make reservations before you leave or while you’re on the road, Lonely Planet and Hostel World allow you to search by location, price and type of hostel, with photos and a description of the accommodations.

2. Food
Shopping local markets is a great way to interact with residents, learn about new foods, and how to prepare them. It’s amazing how easy it is to converse about food when you don’t share a common language.

You’ll want several Ziplock bags of varying sizes to store bread and dry foodstuffs. In France, I’d make a to-die-for baguette sandwich with any of their hundreds of cheeses, then stuff it into a large bag for train travel.

Arabic coffee... and dates!

A couple extra tips: If you’re heading to Spain, I found a cheap and delicious dinner of tapas came free with sangria orders placed during “happy hour.” Most stores in Arab countries will offer you a cup of coffee just for stepping across their threshold, should you need a caffeine jolt while shopping.

3. Guide Books
Thanks to online guides, there’s no need to fill your luggage with heavy books. I printed out the pages I needed and created a list of vital foreign words I’d need, like “please,” “thank you” and “How much does this cost?” Omniglot has an easy-to-use website that will get you started.

Lonely Planet has some great PDF guides and you can buy them by the chapter (roughly $5 each). ArrivalGuides.com and Hostel World offer free online guides, but they’re not as comprehensive and the selection is limited. If computers aren’t your thing, buy a bound guidebook, read it, and cut out only the pages you’ll need.

4. Trains
Boy do I love train travel. It’s cheaper than renting a car or flying, helps you meet new people, and usually drops you off close to the action in major cities. The trick, if you’re traveling to a rural destination, is to know the stops before your destination so you can be ready to hop off at a moment’s notice. Another couple handy phrases you should learn in each language:

“How much does a ticket cost?” and “From which platform does the train depart?”

It’s best to buy your Eurail train passes before leaving as it’s cheaper in the United States. My pass ran out once, however, and Eurail provided free shipping on the second one.

5. Money
Rule #1: Never, never, never exchange money at the airport. You’ll pay the highest rate possible. Instead, look for an airport ATM and take out the maximum amount (usually around $200). You’ll pay a fee, but not nearly as high as the airport exchange rate.

Rule #2: If you’re going to travel a bit upscale, buy gift cards at a discount from sites like GiftCardGranny to purchase American services found in foreign countries. This might include airlines, hotels or car rental agencies for which you can realize up to 25% savings.

6. Plastic Safety
Notify all credit card companies you plan on traveling outside the U.S. so they won’t place a hold on your account for unusual activity. Finally, note your credit/debit card numbers and foreign contact phone numbers and keep this info in a safe place, separate from the cards. I stored mine in my email account with a bogus “subject” line. You might need this info should your plastic be stolen or problems arise.

That’s about it, except I highly recommend you keep a journal. Traveling alone can be lonely sometimes and writing out your thoughts and experiences helps fill in some gaps. As a bonus, you’ll have a personal record of your adventures and the ability to reflect upon where you were… and where you want to go.

Happy trails!

Spa Week’s Latest Sweepstakes!

Two words: Spa. Week. Three more: Biltmore Santa Barbara.

Anything with the two words: Spa and Week and we’re on it like white on rice. The best part of Spa Week, however, is the concept behind it. Spa Week’s mission is to deliver affordable health and wellness to the masses, and what better time to remind yourself to slow down and de-stress than the Holiday Season? In order to help alleviate the unwanted stress, fatigue and weight-gain that often accompanies the hustle and bustle of the holidays, Spa Week has partnered with nationally recognized nutrition expert and author, Keri Glassman, in order to give one lucky winner the chance to de-stress and feel their best by entering this exclusive Holiday Giveaway – Celebrate Wellness.

Nutritionist (and Beauty!), Keri Glassman

During the month of December, visitors to SpaWeek.com can enter for a chance to win a Four-Night De-stress Getaway for Two at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara. Included in this fab prize package is a 4 night stay for the winner and guest in a premier room, two spa treatments per person, private cooking classes with a resort chef, two dinners at the resort’s gourmet restaurants, yoga, Pilates, aqua aerobics classes and more!

PLUS, the winner will also receive two autographed copies of Keri’s book, The O2 Diet, one 3-day supply of Keri’s Nutritious Life Meals, a fresh, daily, home delivery diet plan, one personalized nutritional counseling program designed by Keri herself, two Nutritious Life Water Bottles and $100 in Spa & Wellness Gift Cards by Spa Week® at his/her choice of over 4,500 spas nationwide.

Who needs a massage now?

www.spaweek.com

What’s SUP? Punta Minta’s Latest Surf Paradise

The view from Hotel Cinco's pool

Hip. Slick. Surf. What more do you really want when you escape to Mexico’s chic rustic coastline? Add in one of our favorite places to hang – otherwise known as Punta Mita – and you have a luxe, yet unpretentious escape; a pristine organic living experience in a refined atmosphere. It’s so us. Here, a healthy lifestyle is paramount, but shoes are optional.

Hotel CINCO at night

Punta Mita’s secret gem of a hip hotel, Hotel CINCO has 2 and 3-bedroom CINCO Starfish and CINCO Signature suites ranging from 1,400-2,700 sq ft in size (perfect for you and your honey, you and your family, you and your hot friends, or you and your board).

That's what we're talkin' about...

Think beach-sweet design, a complete kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances and state-of-the-art electronics. Posh digs for sure, but this is a place where no one blinks twice if you track sand on the marble floors and put your feet up.

Chef Thierry Blouet

You can also dine at the appropriately named restaurant on the property. One of Punta Mita’s freshest: Café des Artistes del Mar, owned and operated by the award-winning and internationally recognized chef, Thierry Blouet. Awarded the rank of Maitre Cuisinier, distinguishing him as one of an exclusive group of culinary professionals and an ambassador of French cuisine throughout the world, Blouet is a member of the Academie Culinaire de France, an organization that brings together French chefs with those of other countries such as Mexico, Canada and the United States. The food is locavore all the way, highlighting the freshest seasonal ingredients from regional fisheries and farms in the Nayarit region of Mexico with touches that only a fine French chef can deliver.

Another fave? Rooftop casual dining at CINCO’s Local Harvest restaurant where new friends can be made over the community table. Cold cervezas are always on hand or, if you’re like us, you’ll want to try exotic organic libations at the adjacent Barefoot Bar, heaven-made for watching the sunset or counting stars.

If that’s not cool enough, they also plan Culture Camps:  As they say, “Life at CINCO supports and promotes the art of living a healthy, active lifestyle. Not only the body, but the spirit needs nourishing, and so we are pleased to present an ongoing — and changing — selection of Culture Camps.

Another Room with a View

Look to CINCO to offer creative learning experiences in a fun, group atmosphere.” Culture Camps may be combined with room stays — but need not be. They are also open to residents in the area, or those staying nearby. In fact, should they not have availability, or you prefer a different type of accommodations, let them know, and they’ll be happy to help arrange that for you too.

Hotel CINCO's Rooftop Bar

Shopping? Yes, thank you: snap up beyond-the-ordinary treasures from Pachamama frocks to Panama hats at Revolución del Sueño. The hotel also offers the complete Gerry Lopez AquaCenter with Surf/SUP (Stand Up Paddling) Concierge for aquatic adventures of every sort, and the CINCO Athletic Club & Spa to soothe and restore. You’d be nuts not to put this place on your list of New Year’s Resolutions. You’re an eco-adventure culture hound, aren’t ya?

Rooms starting at $290 USD ($350 USD in high season)

Website: cincopuntamita.com

O.N.E. Essential Body Product to Rule Them All

O.N.E. Skincare

We recently came across the best smelling organic solution to our winter weary skin so we had to share. O.N.E. Skincare  is an all-in-one product that can be kept around the house or on-the-go. Not only does O.N.E. smell deliciously clean and pure, but it also incorporates organic olive oil as a base, sunflower oilvitamin E and lavender and geranium essential oils.  The result is an all-in-one product that feels truly soothing on anyone in the family’s skin. And, because it’s organic, it can be used as a moisturizer for face and body, a deep conditioning hair mask, or a gentle healing ointment.

Retails: $29.99

www.one-skincare.com

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