DRIFT Travel Magazine Holiday 2020

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While we wait for the world to heal, indulge in a little dream now and travel later. In this holiday issue of this DRIFT, we invite you to come along on the journey - no passport required. Good food, warm destinations and best kept secrets are waiting for you in this issue.

this issue
DRIFT GIFT GUIDE Christmas gift ideas for travelers 26 HOTEL SPOTLIGHT Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski 24 WELLBEING IN THAILAND Amatara Wellness Resort 66 A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY A unique look at Cuba and its people 10 8:00AM IN FRANCE Spending the perfect day in Paris 48 TRAVEL PHOTO TIPS Easy ways to capture memories 62 LOVE AT FIRST BITE Reimagined Spicers Sangoma Retreat 52 BEST KEPT SECRET America’s national parks in winter 42 SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL 15 ways to travel responsibly 56 ISLA HOLBOX, MEXICO A Mexican paradise worth protecting 34 TASTY TRAVEL A culinary road trip through Mississippi 4

A Culinary Road Trip Through Mississippi

“To understand the world” William Faulkner once said, “you must first understand a place like Mississippi”. And to understand a place like Mississippi, you must first understand its food - a cuisine deeply rooted both in its fertile land and its difficult history, from civil war to civil rights. Zoey Goto take us on a road trip through the Magnolia State, from Jackson down to the Gulf Coast, soaking up its cuisine and culture, and having a Huckleberry Finn moment on the Mississippi River.

Mississippi may have given us megastars such as Elvis and B.B. King, but it still remains the kind of place where you can walk into a rustic juke joint and hear mind-blowing, undiscovered talent. This is particularly true of Jackson, the state’s capital, where the best food and music spots are hyper-local. Ask a Jackson insider and they’ll tell you that Hal & Mal’s Sunday evening open-mic sessions are not to be missed. Each week, this former warehouse in the Downtown area springs to life with the sounds of home-grown musicians playing blues and R&B, as an appreciative crowd props up the neon-lit bar and devours cups of the legendary gumbo.

Visiting Hal & Mal’s on a balmy evening, a hushed reverence fills the room when a local singer steps onstage for an emotional rendition of Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come, making Mississippi’s past feel ever more present. The brutal slave

era and the civil rights struggles have cast a long shadow in Mississippi, and the following morning I explore this further at Jackson’s Civil Rights Museum, which focuses on local developments between 1945-1970. The emphasis is on telling the individual’s story, including activists such as Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer, and this personal approach makes the overall narrative evermore powerful. Evenly and sensitively handled, this museum offers a great foundation for understanding the history of race relations in Mississippi.

At daybreak the following morning I head over to Vicksburg to be met by the charismatic John Ruskey, AKA Captain Driftwood, a waterborne adventurer who knows Mississippi’s rivers like the back of his hand. Standing with his trusty canoe by the mouth of the Mighty Mississippi River, with a handsome paddle steamer in the distance, our


introduction had all the elements of a Mark Twain novel.

“Once you feel the mud between your toes, you’ll keep returning to the Mississippi River” Captain Driftwood assures me, as we climb into the canoe and paddle along the chocolate colored waterways, passing vast tanker ships, and thankfully avoiding the alligators known to lounge close to shore. Having navigated our way across the flow of the great river, which is the second largest in North America, we tether up at a picturesque castaway island, with a swampy forest fringed with white sands. Captain

Driftwood serenades us with a few blues classics on his guitar, as we bask on the banks and watch carp leap out of the waters.

Safely back on dry land, the next stop is a tour of the Vicksburg National Military Park. The huge battleground was the scene of the 47-day siege during the civil war, resulting in the Union taking control of the Mississippi River. In keeping with the military theme, that evening I dine at the opulent Anchuca Historic Mansion, an antebellum house that accommodated wounded soldiers from both sides during the war.



Driving past fields of blossoming cotton, pillared plantation homes, and restaurants with evocative names such as Fat Mama’s Tamales and Biscuits & Blues, the following day I make a pit stop in Hattiesburg for a Po’Boy lunch at the Coney Island Café. This third-generation diner opened during The Great Depression and is an authentic slice of pure Americana. The interiors and menu have changed little since the mid-century, and the lonesome horn of the passing freight trains only adds to the nostalgic vibe of this culinary relic.

The surrounding area of Hattiesburg was a crucial site for the civil rights movement during the Freedom Summer of 1964, where volunteers, many from out-of-state, campaigned for increased African American voter registration. History was made just a few steps from Coney Island Café, when high school teacher Sandra Adickes was arrested for attempting

to take her class of African American students to eat at a local lunch counter. The ensuing court case ruled in her favor and forever tweaked the course of the American legal system.

Hitting the road again I head to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, a surprisingly picturesque stretch of coastline, with vanilla-sand beaches lined with palm trees. It’s here that a crop of hip young chefs are redefining Southern food. First stop is the White Pillars restaurant in Biloxi, where Mississippian chef and owner Austin Sumrall has created an award-winning restaurant, championing Southern dishes with a progressive twist – think mac & cheese topped with a fried chicken skin crumble or BBQ pork belly cooked Korean style – made with locally sourced ingredients. “I would feel unfaithful to the native fish if I brought from further afield” laughs Austin, gesturing to the wide expanse of water dotted with


fishing boats, clearly visible from his restaurant window. Seafood is the lifeblood of this region. The start of the shrimping season is marked with colorful festivities, including a blessing of the fleet ceremony and the annual crowning of the shrimp queen, a kind of aquatic version of a prom celebration.

At the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi, chef Robby Holmes gives a cooking demonstration convincingly showcasing that Southern food can be both healthy and forward-looking. “You may be surprised to hear that it’s now possible to eat vegetarian in The South!” Robby jokes, dishing up hoppin’ john beans served with preserved lemons, alongside a skillet-cooked corn bread. “Southern food is really an anagram for different cultures,” he notes, proceeding to trace local dishes such as shrimp and grits back to the Native Americans and gumbo back to early French settlers.

“Aside from its rich historical heritage, Mississippi food is worth sampling as we have an innate sense of hospitality in The South” Robby muses “If anything is going to make food taste good, it’s love. And Mississippi food is made with a whole heap of love”.

For Mississippi trip ideas visit: visitmississippi.org


CUBAN CULTURE A Photographic Journey

Featured Photographer: Sumit Dua

Instagram: @sumit.dua

Website: sumitdua.com

Sumit Dua is an international award winning photographer who is passionate about traveling and capturing fleeting moments, especially countries with rich culture and color like Cuba and India. Sumit is a radiologist by profession and his other hobbies include magic, technology and learning new things. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

A saxophone hung on the wall against the texture of time. A symbol of the vibrant music scene in Cuba.

Havana’s classic cars roam the streets. Even though original parts are no longer available, people have creatively adapted newer parts to service these old cars. The old buildings serving as the backdrop to an evening ride in a classic car on a bustling street is quintessential Cuba.

A woman enjoys a cigar in downtown Havana.

In the late hours of the day, a young boxer trains in an old dilapidated gym that had a certain charm. His speed and power against the punching bag is evident. One day he may be a force to reckon with.


Art, music, and culinary techniques are flourishing in Cuba. Street art as well as galleries continue to flourish. Here we see a simple banner on a side street promoting “Art.”


Trinidad is a small town with a bustling restaurant scene. In the background, restaurants with outdoor terrace seating are visible. In the foreground, taken in pre-COVID times, many tourists are gathered on their phones, accessing the sparsely available Wi-Fi.


Cuba is an explosion of color and this image captures it with the bright orange and reds. Smoking is very prevalent in Cuba even amongst its youth. Cuba has developed a lung cancer vaccine, Cimavax, which is now in clinical trial in the US.


A peek into a dimly lit office with pictures of Che Guevara. Also on the wall is a well known saying of Guevara, which roughly translates to “Until victory, always.”


Sometimes, the lighting after dusk is perfection. Here it helps to capture the vibrant colors of Cuba. The two neighbors’ homes are connected through a small door and the two ladies converse in the evening hours.

A girl enjoys her snack and having her picture taken at a dance school.

Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana

Cuba has a rich history and culture: in fact Old Havana is a designated UNESCO world heritage site. And this is where the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana has opened its doors. It is the most exclusive hotel development in the district and will set new standards for Caribbean hospitality.


Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana offers guests a choice of 246 luxury rooms and suites. Extra high ceilings and French windows, which open out onto the old city, create a sense of old-style grandeur and European luxury.

From the rooftop terrace, with its infinity swimming pool, guests will enjoy spectacular views over Old Havana. Spa Albear by Resense is at the heart of the hotel’s wellness and fitness facilities, which offer more than 1,000 square meters of pure relaxation.

The hotel’s three restaurants, one of which provides panoramic views from the sixth floor, present dishes inspired by culinary culture with a distinctly European twist, as well as Caribbean cuisine.

Guests, non-residents and locals too have a choice of three bars and lounges in which to meet and relax. They include a cigar lounge and Constante Bar, which overlooks the worldfamous El Floridita Bar.



The best gift ideas for every traveler on your Christmas list...

YOGA JEANS comfort + style

Yoga Jeans embody ease of wear, approachability and timeless fashion. From a good pair of midrise to the iconic boot cut neutral denim tones and washes, elegant cuts that include the brand’s unique 360 stretch, vintage laser effect and four-season denim, Yoga Jeans will be your denim default this season.



DYSON SUPERSONIC copper gift edition

Limited holiday edition features a copper/silver colorway. Get the fastest drying (perfect for when you’re rushing out the door in the cold), with no extreme heat to help protect your hair’s natural shine. Fast drying. No extreme heat. Engineered for different hair types. Dyson presentation case and copperedged storage bag included. Suitable for domestic travel only. dyson.com

DYSON CORRALE hair straightener

Enhanced styling. Half the damage. Cord-free. Flexing manganese copper alloy plates shape around your hair. This extra control allows you to create the same style but with less heat - and half the damage. Suitable for domestic travel only. dyson.com


THINK TANK convertible rolling backpack

Roll smoothly through the airport then deploy the backpack straps to carry over rough terrain. Sized to meet most airline carry-on requirements*, the Essentials fits two DSLR or Mirrorless bodies, a mounted 70–200mm, multiple lenses, and a 16-inch laptop. And because it’s from Think Tank, the bag will roll long into the future. thinktankphoto.com

DEITY d4 duo microphone

The V-Mic D4 DUO lets you capture the story you want to tell from every angle. With its unique dualcapsule design, the V-Mic D4 DUO allows you, for the first time ever, to record the audio coming from behind the camera in full fidelity. At only 40 grams the V-Mic D4 DUO is one of the lightest compact camera microphones on the market. deitymic.com


JELT metal free travel belt

Packed and ready to go - don’t leave home without this essential travel belt, made from recycled plastic bottles. The lightweight, low profile and metal-free Jelt belts can be worn through airport TSA security and other metal detectors with no hassle. Versatile and virtually invisible, Jelt metal-free belts are perfect for people who travel, hike, bike, ski, golf, or just be comfortable in their favorite jeans. jeltbelt.com

GRAYL GEOPRESS water purifier

Fast, simple and effectiveness, the GeoPress makes safe, clean drinking water in just 8 seconds. Tap into the world’s water sources and safely drink from sketchy spigots, hotel sinks, murky rivers, wells or lakes. GeoPress protects you from global waterborne pathogens (virus, bacteria, protozoan cysts), pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals, and even microplastics. grayl.com

HEAT HOLDERS no more cold feet

The warmest socks ever! Heat Holders are over 7x warmer than regular cotton socks and nearly 3x warmer than ordinary thermal socks - thanks to thermal yarn, looped cushion pile and intense brushings. heatholders.com

SAWYER TAP FILTER portable/packable water filtration system

Removes biological contaminants, guaranteeing immediate clean drinking water when you need it most. Great to use when traveling, during boil alerts, or in emergencies when safe drinking water is compromised, the Tap Filter is easy-to-use and will filter to up to 500 gallons of clean drinking water per day.



SCOTTeVEST pack windbreaker

19 Pocket windbreaker for men and women. Offers easy access to essentials in this amazingly lightweight jacket. And, if you’re not sure what the weather will bring, fold the Pack Windbreaker into its own back pocket.


INSTASTEAM packable steam cleaner/ deodorizer

The world’s first hands-free, electricity-free clothing steamer that smooths wrinkles and deodorizes in as little as 3 minutes using mineral-based, non-toxic ingredients. instasteampod.com


KINFLYTE unity zip top

Multi-functional top, perfect for travel. Features built-in bra cups with removable inserts, and shaping fabric smooths tummy. The diagonal front zip makes for easy on/off. Stay fresh and dry: antibacterial, sweat-wicking, and odor resistant. The innovative design cues your body into better alignment, while comfortably supporting your chest, shoulders, and back, all without wires. kinflyte.com


The most convenient way to carry hand sanitizer with you. On the go with refillable silicone wristband. Hypo-Allergenic and FDA Approved. Can be filled with hand sanitizer gel, sunscreen, bug/mosquito repellent and more. handiguru.com


MELITTA heritage series pour-over™ coffeemaker

Vintage-inspired Pour-Over set is an homage to the mid-century Melitta porcelain coffee brewing sets that have become a symbol of good taste. Includes a porcelain Pour-Over cone, a matching 20 oz. porcelain serving carafe and a porcelain lid for carafe melitta.com

THEMAGIC5 swimming goggles custom fitted to you

Through 3D facial scanning, robotics, and 3D printing technology, THEMAGIC5 makes the world’s first custom-fitted swimming goggles, specifically designed and made to match the contours of a user’s face.



Holbox, MX A Paradise Worth Protecting

Just north of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico is a safe and slender island called Holbox. The name translates to “black hole” in Maya, and after experiencing four glorious days here, I am confident that this off-thebeaten-path paradise has the power to pull even the most jaded traveler in.

Isla Holbox began attracting tourists over a decade ago and determined locals (about 3000 of them) have been staving off big box development and mega-resorts ever since. Lucky for us, this determined group had seen some great success. Many of the hotelitos here are still family run and built using local materials. None of the structures on the island can be over 40 feet high and stinky, polluting cars are not welcome. Instead, residents and visitors navigate the 42-km-long island by golf cart, cruiser bike or flip flop. Google Maps doesn’t recognize many of Holbox’s sandy streets and pathways, so get ready to get lost in the best possible sense.

Yet even with all its bohemian sensibilities, the island somehow manages to deliver the lively Mexican resort vibes we all love. There are more than 50 unique restaurants and bars serving everything from lobster pizza to pulpo tacos, and a colorful, art filled Zocalo. Holbox is also home to a handful of design driven boutique hotels – like the wonderful oasis dreamed up by Cuban artist and collector Sandra Pérez Lozano. Casa Sandra is widely known for its artsy interiors and whimsical take on local cuisine. In fact, the food it so beautiful, you may just have to snap it for ‘the gram’. I mean, just look at this masterful creation from Chef Roberto Solis. Deliciosa!


There’s also the eco-chic, Holbox staple known as Las Nubes. Las Nubes, or ‘clouds’ in English, was home base during my island adventure and – corny jokes aside – it was truly heavenly. It features 28 charming, TV-free rooms, a fantastic restaurant and beach bar and a team committed to protecting the island’s stunning natural environment. Owner Barbara Hernandez has been a champion of Holbox conservation for years and she makes sure that sustainability is evident in everything Las Nubes does. And the location – tucked away at the very end of the beach surrounded by acres of pristine jungle - cannot be beat.

As you are probably beginning to realize, nature really is the stand out star of Isla Holbox. It’s part of Yum Balam, Mexico’s largest ecological reserve and nearly 75 percent of it is a jungle of wild mangroves and empty beaches. Cotton candy-colored flamingos and other busy migratory birds wade and play on the sandbars and in its protected lagoons. From early June to mid September, magnificent whale sharks pop by to snack in the phytoplankton-rich waters. Along the northwestern shore near the terribly named Mosquito Beach, sea turtles nest and manta rays and dolphins frolic.

And all you have to do to reconnect to your inner nature, is relax in one of the many colorful hammocks strung around the island and soak it all in.



For the best weather, I recommend December to April, but if it’s whale sharks you’re after, be sure to visit sometime between early June and mid September .


Cancun to Holbox is the most common route. You can either rent a car, book a private transfer or take a bus to Chiquila and take the scenic 15 minute ferry or arrange a private flight.


Your reusable water bottle and coffee mug. Holbox has banned single use plastics and we all need to do our part to protect their paradise.

Self-Care: Reliving Travel Amidst a Global Pandemic

Because of COVID-19, we are spending much more time at home and traveling a lot less, if at all. Many months into this global pandemic, and our wandering souls are yearning to travel to countries near and far, experience traditions new and familiar, and to savor that amazing ritual of immersing ourselves in foreign cultures.

In decades past, avid travelers would revel in travel adventures loaded on slideshows shared with friends and family, and thoughtfully curate photos albums that sat proudly on coffee tables and bookcases.

Fast forward to 2020… and if you are like me, every travel photo and video you have is stored on your smartphone; locked away in the deep dark digital caverns of your phone’s image library or uploaded to your cloud (wherever that actually is). Honestly, I could not recall the last time I printed a photo from my phone.


At home during the first wave of the virus, I found myself thinking about recent trips to Iceland, Spain, France, Indonesia, Canouan, Grand Cayman and Morocco. I wanted a way to relive my favorite moments of these countries and after chatting with fellow travelers, and doing a little sleuthing online, I found Mixtiles! I had a blank wall in my condo that was crying out for artwork and what better way to add happiness to my home than filling that wall with memories of my travels.

Mixtiles (mixtiles.com) is an online company that takes photos from your phone (or from your Instagram account) and prints them onto 8x8 tiles and offers a variety of frame options. I chose white matte borders and black frames but you may want to choose white frames or frameless canvas style depending on your home, and décor style. I uploaded my 20 chosen photos – 13 from my


iPhone and 7 from my Instagram account - and received my Mixtiles package in 8 days. Each tile has a sticky strip on the back that allows you to move the framed tiles around without damaging your walls. After some quick measurements and resolving a spacing issue, we had this 20-frame art wall up in a little over an hour - easy peasy!

A few honorable mentions in my research included Blurb (blurb.com) that turns your travel images into a coffee table style flip book; and The Case Studio (thecasestudio.com) which custom creates phone cases with your favorite image!

It truly is an act of self-care. Having a travel focused art gallery provides hours of enjoyment during this time of isolation; a lovely reminder of not only the places I have visited in the past few years, but also the countries that await me and my passport when it is once again safe to travel the world.


National Parks in Winter America’s Best Kept Secret

Visiting America’s National Parks in the wintertime is beautiful, enchanting and exhilarating. Just because the weather changes, keep the hiking boots close at hand, add some warm layers of clothing, and experience the magical winter sights of these National Parks. Yellowstone, Zion, Death Valley, and Grand Canyon South Rim are open year round and are full of adventure during the winter months. These parks are quickly becoming knowns as America’s best kept secrets and the number of visitors are much less during the winter months which makes social distancing easier. All of the parks have different types and price points for lodging. It is best to contact the parks to learn about the options each has to offer for visitors.

Yellowstone National Park is approximately 3500 square miles in size. Located mostly in Wyoming, this vast parks spreads also into the states of Montana and Idaho. The park is full of beautiful canyons, alpine rivers, lush forests, hots springs and gushing geysers. The park is also home to hundreds of animal species which include bears, elk, antelope and grey wolves. During the winter months is it common to see grey wolves moving amidst the snowy landscapes. Geyser viewing opportunities are also heightened during the winter months. Temperatures do plummet, however so do the levels of guests visiting, and in an age of social distancing this makes the experience even better.


Named for the Hebrew word "refuge," Zion National Park in Utah, known for its apricot colored canyon, is one of the most beautiful places on earth. After careful consideration and consultation with local and state health authorities, Zion opened in May and will continue to welcome visitors this winter. Zion is famous for seemingly endless breathtaking views. This beauty is located only166 miles from Las Vegas, and the juxtaposition of city verses nature could not be more apparent. There are many sunshine filled days with moderate temperatures throughout the winter. The winter months can be a good time to bike the scenic drive, hike, cross-country ski, snowshoe up to Kolob Terrace Road, and view the wonderful wildlife.


Death Valley National Park, the largest national park in the Lower 48 States is approximately 3.4 million acres, which translates to about 710 acres of land per staff and guest. Social distancing, for that matter civilization distancing, is one of the resorts primary features. Death Valley is very accessible. It is a two hour drive from Las Vegas, and a four and a half hour drive from Los Angeles. Death Valley is warm in the winter with an abundance of sunshine, almost no rain, and earth warmed waters of 85 degrees. The average high temperature in January is 68 degrees and 75 degrees in February. This is where escape artists find the great escape, that romantic getaway, stunning landscapes, the darkest of star-filled skies and seemingly endless outdoor activities, including a must-play USGA golf course which is the lowest elevated golf course on the planet. This beautiful National Park is legendary not only for its location and spectacular views during the day, but also is a great location for stargazing in this “gold tier” dark sky park.


Winter at Grand Canyon South Rim is magical and offers a very different perspective on this world wonder than in the summer months. This majestic park is known for its mild temperatures, beautiful sunrise and sunsets, smaller crowds and amazing wildlife. During the winter months the crowds thin out to less than 10% of the number of annual visitors, the pace slows down, and everything at Grand Canyon’s South Rim is quieter. Sunrise and sunset are phenomenal because the winter sun is lower in the sky meaning it doesn’t set directly over the canyon, but instead cloaks the rocky peaks and crevasses in lovely purple, pink, and orange hues. The nights sparkle in this certified dark sky park where you can see the Milky Way with your naked eye. Sunrises can be equally spectacular. In-the-know photographers appreciate this time of year for the clarity of the light, especially just after a snowstorm. Due to clear skies, the visibility is highest in this season. Mountain peaks some 200 miles away can be seen from some viewpoints on a clear winter day. Additionally, wildlife is plentiful and is easy to spot against a new blanket of snow. You may see mule deer, elk, ravens, rock squirrels, and other creatures foraging among the ponderosa pine forests and soaring overhead on the rim.




Early morning….for many people this is the best part of the day. Greet a new day full of joy and anticipation. What could be more wonderful that waking up to early morning adventures in beautiful Paris - the city of Love. Watch the sun rise, savor scrumptious pastries in world famous bakeries and boulangeries, find treasures at local flea markets, check out some of the early cruises along the Parisian canal, exercise, take in a movie, arrange a back stage tour at CDG airport. These are some favorite activities that will be sure to kickoff your day off in this fabulous city.

Sunrise, the symbol of birth, rebirth and awakening. Marvel at the beauty of sunrise in the panorama of ButtesChaumont, located in the 19th arrondissement. Buttes-Chaumont is one of the largest parks in the capital and is open 24 hours a day from May 6th to June 30th. During the summer and winter months, the park opens at 7:00 a.m. This is also where Parke de La Villette, which never closes, is conveniently located. Other spectacular places to enjoy this beautiful ritual is Plateau de Romainville, and Montmartre.

There is lots to do for the early bird in the City of Love. Here are some ideas to get your started.

Paris without bread is like Paris without the Eiffel Tower, and an early morning visit to a bakery or boulangerie is a must. When it comes to baguettes and croissants, Paris’ famous bakeries (also known as boulangeries) have no competition. In 2016 Boulangerie Utopie was named Best Boulangerie for their specialty breads and pastries. Circus Bakery is famous for its memorable sticky cinnamon buns which quickly sell out. Du Pain et Des Idees is another popular bakery famous for its pastries, as well as for its stunning interior. The very popular famous croissant or pain du chocolat is a must to try at Maison Lendemaine which has multiple locations throughout the city. “Tous sont vraiment delicieux”.

What better way to start the day than with the sights of this beautiful city cruising down the Parisian canals. If you are feeling the need for some alone time, you can rent an “Electric without license” boat and sail on the canal de l-Ourcq starting at 9:30 a.m.

Scour the markets and flea markets to find that special treasure for you or your special friend. The flea market in Montreuil opens at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. You can bargain hunt at the stalls in SaintOuen and enjoy flavorful coffee at one of the many Parisian bistros at the flea market. The Saint Denis market is open early, and offers a wonderful selection of eclectic items from all over the globe.

If a movie is what you are yearning for, you can catch early morning movies at several cinema houses. On the city’s North East side, they offer early movies at reduced rates.

Rise and shine, and enjoy a brisk walk or rejuvenating jog along the canal banks. Here you will enjoy beautiful paths and lovely surroundings bringing you an energetic start to your day.

If you are at Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG) with a layover between your flights, you can experience the backstage of the international Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport with a fascinating tour that is conducted in French language only. Check out


other activities to do at this huge, international airport that is the second busiest Airport in Europe.

Paris holds a certain charm, an allure beyond most other cities. Get out your camera or iphone and capture breathtaking scenes around the city in the morning to share with family and friends. The city of Paris is without doubt an architectural masterpiece and her visuals are mesmerizing.

The Parisian nightlife offers something for everyone. Whether you are searching for the best bars in Paris, cheap pints with the locals, or wanting to try out the city’s craft cocktail scene, Paris nightlife will not disappoint. Now that you have been

up all night, try an early check in at a hotel that accommodates partying guests and late departures at reduced rates. Hotel Declic at Montmartre, and Golden Tulip Little Palace at Republique are great places to stay!

Cafe culture, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Moulin Rouge, pastries, and fashion. Just a few of the multitude of things one can enjoy in this majestic city. Early morning is a perfect way to start a perfect day in this perfect city.


love at first bite

The newly renovated Spicers Sangoma Retreat is a peaceful haven with plenty to offer, not least of all the memorable cuisine.


August saw the relaunch of Spicers Sangoma Retreat, following a six month multi million-dollar refurbishment. The eco-retreat is a haven of eight suites in the Bowen Mountain township of New South Wales’ Blue Mountains and about an 80-minute drive from the CBD.

As part of the refurbishment, two new Escarpment Suites were constructed, designed by the original Spicers Sangoma architect with a view to keep the design language consistent across the property. In addition, the property now comprises three Bush Suites and a Lodge, Chief’s and Tent suite, plus a lounge and dining space, outdoor space with fire pit, infinity lap pool, tented spa and sauna.


The open-plan suites at Spicers Sangoma Retreat have been designed to exist in harmony with the natural surroundings, with large windows revealing the bush setting beyond. The Escarpment, Bush and Chief’s suites each comprise a lounge area, private balcony and bathroom with two-person Philippe Starck bathtub. The Escarpment Suites are the largest option, while the two-level Chief’s suite offers an upstairs bedroom with panoramic views and a private plunge pool. The Bush Suites feature African-themed décor, and The Lodge Suite is located in the main lodge with a north-east outlook and has a separate lounge area. We spent the night in the Tent Suite, which was glamping at its best. Beneath the canvas canopy was timber flooring, a king-sized bed, freestanding bath and even a large crystal chandelier. Relaxing on the lounge in front of our wood-burning stove in the evening, with the sounds of nature all around us, was a spectacular way to end the day. And just as wonderful was an early morning bath in the giant tub with the sliding doors wide open looking out onto the bushland.

“The open-plan suites at Spicers Sangoma Retreat have been designed to exist in harmony with the natural surroundings, with large windows revealing the bush setting beyond”


Spicers Sangoma Retreat is an allinclusive getaway, with dining taken care of by head chef Sam Hardinge. The menu features dishes made from fresh, organic and locally sourced seasonal produce. Dinner is a set menu of four courses that changes each night, and guests can dine out under the stars during the warmer months. After my first bite of the main course – a slow roasted braised pork neck with chili fennel, red shiso, and buffalo milk – I did something I have never done. I jumped up and walked straight over to the kitchen to tell Sam that was the best thing I have ever tasted –in my life! I’m not exaggerating. I would drive to Sangoma for just one bite of that pork – it was absolutely incredible.

When not relaxing or indulging in a meal or massage treatment, guests can embark on nature walks, mountain biking and visits to nearby Blue Mountains attractions. For something a bit different, how about a bird’s eye view of the Blue Mountains? Book a helicopter flight with Sydney Helicopters and they will pick you up on the helipad located on the lawn at Sangoma. We spent nearly half an hour soaring over the treetops checking out rivers, valleys and waterfalls – it makes you realize just how vast the area really is.


Be a Sustainable Traveler.

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the travel industry accounts for 10.3% of the world’s jobs. Unfortunately, there are many negative impacts from traveling that harm the environment, like airline fossil fuels, over tourism lack of tourism dollars going back into the local economies, and travelers leaving waste behind.

However, there are many eco-friendly travel options for us to consider–from planning our itinerary to exploring a new destination. From the flight you book to the toiletries you pack, every travel decision you make impacts the environment. It’s imperative we educate ourselves and incorporate sustainable travel solutions that will help preserve the beauty of this world for future generations.

Here are some helpful tips on how to make your next trip more eco-conscious.



Put your house in sleep mode when you travel

When leaving for a trip, consider using this checklist to make a big dent in your energy savings and the environment.

1) Adjust the thermostat. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests raising the temperature to 85°F in summer and lowering it to 50°F in winter to avoid heating or cooling an empty house. 2) Unplug electronics and appliances. 3) Use your water heater’s “vacation” setting. Keeping the tank hot can account for up to 25 percent of your home’s energy. 4) Close the curtains.

2 Fly direct

Whenever possible, try to book direct flights. This is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint and also relieves your stress of making it to a connecting flight. Of course, not all destinations have direct flights and often these types of flights are more expensive. However, if you are able to find and afford direct flights, opt to book them instead.



Consider airlines that use renewable biofuels

Airlines acknowledge the need to be more eco-friendly and have started implementing sustainable initiatives. These initiatives don’t just stop at a plastic-free policy. They extend into renewable biofuels (produced from biomass such as plant oils, wood chips, agricultural waste) to reduce the carbon footprint when flying. NASA determined that even by using 50% aviation biofuel mixtures, it would be able to cut air pollution from air traffic by 50-70%.


Stay at eco-friendly properties

Eco-friendly doesn’t stop at sheets and towels anymore. Opt to stay at hotels that give back to the environment and support the local community. One green accommodation platform is Kind Traveler. They help you find eco-friendly and socially responsible hotels for your trip. The company encourages travelers to positively impact the destinations they visit. As an incentive, users get access to special rates—typically 10% to 15% off the hotel’s best available rate—when they give $10 to a local charity.


Opt for sustainable activities that support local economies

The World Tourism Organization states, “of each $100 spent during a trip, only $5 benefits the destination.” This is an unfortunate missed opportunity because these dollars could be going back to support local economies. If you’re looking to book a guided tour while you’re at your destination, make sure they are local tour operators. Research how they give back to the local community and what measures they have in place to protect the environment.

Some companies that work to give back to the local economies include Intrepid Travel and Airbnb. Intrepid Travel is a brand that offers over 1,000 trips led by 1,000 local leaders and works to ensure tourism dollars go directly to communities. Airbnb Experiences is another example. Take for instance booking a bike tour from a local. This is a win-win situation as the environmental impact of a bike is basically zero and your dollars are going to a local guide.


6 Consider clothing rental companies to reduce luggage

If you’re about to buy outfits for your trip, you might want to consider renting your clothes instead of buying. The fashion industry is notorious for the negative impact it has on the environment. Trvl Porter helps to reduce your environmental impact both in fashion and travel. Renting clothing reduces fashion consumption. While saving you the time it takes to pack and giving you access to many items over actual ownership. Additionally, the less weight you bring onto a plane (aka the clothing in your suitcases), reduces the amount of fuel required to keep it aloft, which reduces CO2 in the atmosphere.

7 Carry-on always

All you really need are the bare essentials. Not only will it be much easier to get around during your trip, but it will save you any unwanted baggage fees. For the items you need, but don’t want to tote around, rent from Trvl Porter.

8 Buy local souvenirs

With the extra space in your bag, you’ll have more room to collect handmade souvenirs along your journey. Buying locally is much better than buying from fast fashion stores as you can be sure the money will go back to support the local artisans. This will help to sustain their livelihoods and communities.

9 Use greener ground transport

Instead of booking private cars, opt to use public transportation if it’s safe to do so. If you need to rent a car, ask the agency for a fuel efficient or an electric model. You can also hop on a bike or opt to tour on foot during your adventures to further reduce your carbon footprint.

10 Offset your carbon footprint

Buying offsets to counteract your travel related carbon emissions may curb some green guilt. An offset is an investment in an action that pulls the same amount of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere that you’re putting into it. Calculate your flight emissions and then offset the impact by making a donation to plant more trees.



Watch out for destinations with overtourism

As the world is becoming more accessible than ever, overtourism has become a major problem in many cities. A way to be more mindful about this situation is to book your trip during the off-season months. This is more beneficial than battling selfie sticks at every monument and tourist attraction you want to explore. Supporting the local community–whether it’s restaurants, hotels, shops and tours–can leave a positive impact on the people, environment, and economy of a destination. 12

Incorporate eco-friendly habits daily

After you check-in, vow to keep your environmental commitment alive once you arrive. Such ecofriendly habits may include turning off the lights when you leave your hotel or AirBnb, re-using linens for multi-night stays, supporting local restaurants, and carrying a reusable water bottle when seeing the sights.

13 Leave no trace

Make sure the only impact you make is a positive one. At the coast use reef-safe sunscreen as some chemicals in SPFs can cause coral bleaching. Pick up your trash, especially plastics. Every year millions of tons of plasticbags, straws, bottles, fishing lines–wind up in the ocean and can be detrimental to marine life. In a national park stay on the trail. You’ll avoid causing unintentional damage to the vegetation and be less likely to endanger the local wildlife.


Be conscious of water consumption

Just like how you’re constantly told to switch off the lights when you leave a room, keep this in mind for saving water as well. Try to take short showers and don’t leave the water running when you brush your teeth. Just because you’re not paying the bills doesn’t mean you need to be wasteful of our natural resources.



Share your sustainable travel tips with others

In order to spread awareness, it’s important to share your sustainable travel tips with your friends and family as they plan their future trips. Social media has become such a powerful tool in raising awareness and you can easily share your trip and eco-conscious choices for other travelers to consider when booking.

Sustainable Travel is Here to Stay

As travelers, we’re hooked on discovering the unknown beauty the world has to offer. Our decisions–small and large– impact the amazing planet that we live in and get to explore. Becoming a more sustainable traveler, starts with education. Know what you can do to help protect the environment and start making small changes to your habits. When you get the opportunity to explore the world in all it’s beauty, know that you’ll be leaving a lighter footprint.



With a career in travel photography, Lee Thompson who gained viral status for his ‘Selfie With Jesus’ photo in 2014 offers up these tips on improving your travel photos.



■ The best beach pictures are all about the light, which means getting up for sunrise. Point your lens at the sun and it creates a sunburst or dramatic rainbow-type effect. Doing so also gives anyone in the foreground a beautifully dark outline — perfect for cool silhouettes.

■ In Rio de Janeiro I visited the famous Ipanema beach and found really good-looking people playing volleyball and football, and others who took coolness to a whole new level as they passed me on skateboards. Even somebody eating fish and chips in the UK helps capture the personality of a beach.

■ Treat yourself to a waterproof case that can be used on both professional cameras and mobile phones. For unusual shots place half of your encased camera in the sea and dip it down so the bottom of the lens is underwater.



■ Don’t carry lots of equipment. It’s more important that you’re ready to take a picture quickly when you see an opportunity. I rely on my iPhone for capturing the moment.

■ I recommend about 20 shots per subject. I once photographed a witch doctor in Kenya. I took about 40 pics of this guy and only two worked out.

■ Building a relationship with people quickly is fundamental so wherever you are in the world say hello, smile and offer to send the pic to them. I went into the slums in India, despite being warned it was dangerous, and it became one of my favorite moments.

■ Avoid taking a picture from too far away. Get in close to tell your story and if people are dancing, dance among them.


■ A common mistake when snapping food is to have a really nice dish while leaving a dirty teacup or similar on the table behind it. Compose your image properly and put the dish of food in the nicest part of the table.

■ Focus on the most beautiful part of the dish and blur the rest into the background.

■ Food markets anywhere from Thailand to Trinidad will give you some of the best photos. They’re vibrant, colorful and full of character.


Amatara Wellness Resort, Thailand

When it comes to health and wellness, Thailand remains at the forefront of pure bliss.


Thailand has to be one of the top locations in the world for health and wellness experiences. I’ve visited more than a dozen times and am yet to find another country that provides the highest level of luxury and hospitality combined with a multitude of treatments from top-tier therapists at very reasonable prices. But with so many resorts to choose from, how do you determine what is right for you? Are you looking to detox, be pampered, lose weight, enhance your yoga practice, or all of the above?

I’m staying in Phuket at the newly rebranded Amatara Wellness Resort retreat in Cape Panwa. Formerly The Regent, Amatara Wellness Resort recently launched a range of wellness programs and a stunning Thai hammam. If you are new to hammam, think traditional Turkish and Moroccan bathing rituals combined with the luxury of Thai spa therapies.

There are several options to consider when choosing a wellness program, but after hearing rumors of just how good the food is, I decide to pass on a detox that restricts what I can eat and instead indulge in a spa retreat. During my five-day stay I am treated to daily massages, scrubs, body wraps, a manicure and pedicure, a cooking class and the Thai hammam experience. For those who wish to raise the heart rate, never fear, there are also several fitness classes offered throughout the day, scheduled nicely between treatment times.


I arrive in the evening following an easy direct flight from Sydney. I am met at the airport by an Amatara representative sporting a beaming smile, and am taken to an awaiting van for the 45-minute drive. The luxury transfer has an iPad, Wi-Fi, several movie options and cold drinks. Already I feel completely at ease.

The check-in process is efficient and I am soon whisked away by buggy to my room, although the word room is an understatement. I am staying in a 150-square-meter Ocean View Pool Villa. With vaulted ceilings, marble floors, dark timber and sliding glass doors that lead to a private pool and patio, this villa is very impressive. The bathroom is huge and features an oversized free-standing circular tub. The complimentary mini bar is stocked with healthy snacks, coconut water and even a few alcoholic beverages. There is also a generous eight items of clothing laundered per day and a 24-hour butler service.

On my first day I am twisted like a pretzel during the morning yoga class. The instructor, Uttam, is from Rishikesh in India, known as the yoga capital of the world. Let’s just say the yoga is a lot stronger than the class I take in Sydney. It’s challenging, but I love it and I know that I am in the safest of hands.


After attending practice every morning, by the end of the week I have confidently achieved the headstand on my own – I know yoga is not supposed to be about ego, but deep down I’m feeling pretty good.

After yoga I wander to the spa and meet Yana, my wellness consultant. After a few necessary health checks we discuss what I would like to gain from my time at the retreat. Following my consultation I meet with the physiotherapist who masterfully assesses my posture and alignment, teaches me some exercises and shows me some stretches I can use to alleviate the tightness in my shoulders.

I have decided I want to experience as much of the retreat’s diverse offerings as possible so Yana kindly helps to organize my daily treatments so I can fit yoga, meditation, Muay Thai boxing, fitness ball movement classes, and a bike tour in during my stay.

The bike ride is a highlight and a great way to immerse yourself among the locals going about their daily life. My guide and I ride for about two hours through several villages. We explore the local markets, stop to watch a band of wild monkeys causing trouble overhead, and pass by some men who have set up a small cockfighting venue on the side of the


road. There is a bike lane the entire way and the bikes are good quality, which makes for easy riding.

The resort has a private beach overlooking the calm, clear waters of the Andaman Sea, which makes for the perfect place to relax in the afternoon. You can borrow a kayak, try your luck at stand-up paddle boarding, or simply relax on one of the extremely comfortable sunbeds.

With three restaurants on site you are guaranteed to find what you’re in the mood for, whether it’s traditional Thai at The Restaurant, organic free-range grilled beef, fish, pork, chicken, or seafood at The Grill, or healthy cuisine at The Retreat. Executive chef Justine Bazuik has worked in renowned restaurants around the world including Dubai, Australia, and Singapore. Part of my personal objective was to try to stay healthy so I ate most of my meals at The Retreat. Thankfully, the portion sizes were generous and I never once felt deprived. Breakfast was usually house-made probiotic rich yogurt with local honey and organic fruit, and buckwheat soba noodles with a smoky chicken broth and Asian vegetables. There were several healthy juice and smoothie options on the menu and, of course, being in Thailand I also enjoyed coconut water straight from the source – nature’s best hydrator.

I will happily keep searching the globe for the best wellness retreats, but for now I think Thailand holds the winning spot.


Lunch was char-grilled octopus on a bed of quinoa with the best gazpacho soup I have ever tasted (so good I eagerly ordered it everyday). Dinners are equally as delicious; Tasmanian salmon with buckwheat noodles, or if you’re indulging, you can’t beat the Wagyu striploin with truffle French fries at The Grill. I’m no steak expert but I know enough to realize this cut of beef was seriously special.

The high point of the retreat for me was the Thai hammam. A recent addition, this huge underground area is drop-dead gorgeous and features tiles imported from Italy, pink sea salt bricks sourced from high in the Himalayas, gold and crystal chandeliers, and enormous slabs of European marble. Built by Bulgarian craftsmen, the three king-sized heated marble tables are like nothing I have ever experienced. The 165-minute treatment includes a sauna, steam, Moroccan black soap skin scrub with an authentic hammam kessa glove (intense but not painful), shampoo and conditioning treatment, thermal mud therapy, hot and cold showers, Himalayan salt cave therapy and a relaxing massage to top it off. Honestly, my skin looked and felt incredible and I was in such a deep state of bliss that I ended up canceling the whole afternoon’s activities, instead opting to settle in on the library couch before enjoying a delicious high tea.

I will happily keep searching the globe for the best wellness retreats, but for now I think Thailand holds the winning spot, and Amatara Wellness Resort is certainly making a name for itself.

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