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The world awaits, and we’re eager to help you travel again. We’ll be there for you to safely explore the beautiful wonders of the world, make new connections and enjoy life at its best. Our promise: • To be your inspiration, insider knowledge, advice, answers, and right hand. • To ensure there’s always a team standing behind you that you can count on. • To relieve you from stress so you can fully enjoy your vacation. • To create personalized experiences and custom touches just for you. • To make you feel welcome, wherever you choose to go. With our expertise, you’ll never feel more connected to the world.
Editor’s Letter This issue of Extraordinary Experiences is, well, extraordinary – true to its name, with our writers sharing their thoughts and feelings about the places and travel experiences that have left an everlasting impression. The word ‘extraordinary’ means different things to different people, which makes our lineup of stories in this issue so unique. The common thread running through all of them is that they are impactful.
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Cover image: Hot air balloons over the rocky landscape and city of Göreme, Cappadocia PUBLISHER
Ensemble Travel® Group CREATIVE DIRECTOR AND MANAGING EDITOR
Valérie Lenoir EDITOR
Michele Sponagle PROOFREADING
Isabelle Labrosse ADVERTISING
Franca Iuele CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Ozlem Aydin Evans, Bob Cooper, Vanessa Dewson, Liz Fleming, Liz Humphreys, Kristen Pope, Chris Robinson, Chris Ryall, Toby Saltzman, Cathy Senecal, Barb Sligl, Michele Sponagle, Janice Tober, Sarah Treleaven CREATIVE DESIGNER
Bertrand Richer Fleur de Lysée
Andy Thomas TurnKey Marketing Solutions Ensemble Travel Group. All rights reserved. 2022 Ensemble® Experiences, Ensemble® Exclusive, Ensemble® Hosted Cruises, Ensemble® Villas & Vacation Homes, Ensemble® On Location and Ensemble® Hotel & Resort Collection are all proprietary trademarks of Ensemble Travel® Group
Think back on your own travel history. What trips stick with you? What scenes from your journey can you recall in vivid detail when you close your eyes? And perhaps most importantly, what are the emotions stirred by such recollections? That is what is at the core of travel, creating memories in a destination near or far from home that linger, that can be savoured like a sip of fine wine. When I think of my own travel history – one that stretches out more than 25 years, there are many moments that will stick with me forever. In 1987, I took my first trip outside of North America. I went to England with my cousin Cathy and her friend, Michael. I have photos of us at the airport hamming it up for the camera, our faces reflecting the excitement we felt. Landing at Heathrow airport, I felt like I was a world away, taking in every tiny detail. It was a thrill unlike any other.
TICO #50022140 Registration Numbers: vary by agency Photos by Getty Images unless stated otherwise.
Our challenge sometimes is to keep that anticipation alive and to travel with open hearts and minds wherever we go. Travel means the most when you find the extraordinary in it. In this publication, I do hope you’ll find stories that inspire you to go find your own slices of extraordinary, whether it’s in Oman, Italy, New Zealand or Japan, or on board a luxury cruise. They’re out there, ready to be discovered. And, of course, your Ensemble Travel advisor is available to help you experience it and to put together all the components of a memorable, extraordinary journey for you. Happy travels, Michele
That was the trip that started it all for me. It ignited a wanderlust that has never quit, a kind of Michele Sponagle Editor email@example.com
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curiosity about the world that keeps me hopping from destination to destination. No matter where I go I get a thrill out of being somewhere new. I arrive with a mental blank slate, ready to be filled with fresh experiences. There’s no feeling quite like it. If you love travel like I do, you can relate to that anticipation of discovery.
Making publications eco-friendly Our printer, Solisco, was PrintReleaf’s first Canadian partner. This program guarantees every sheet of paper used within the production of a printed project will be reforested. Solisco measures our use, reports it to PrintReleaf, and new trees are planted on behalf of Ensemble Travel® Group in a certified reforestation project across the globe. For this magazine, Ensemble Travel Group will be planting more than 65 trees!
INTRODUCING INTRODUCING A BOLD A BOLD NEW NEW VISION VISION FOR FOR OCEAN OCEAN TRAVEL TRAVEL Explora Explora Journeys Journeys combines combines centuries-old centuries-old seafaring seafaring experience experience withwith superlative superlative European European refinement refinement to deliver to deliver enriching enriching ocean ocean journeys journeys that inspire that inspire exploration exploration in allinitsallforms. its forms. Designed Designed in partnership in partnership withwith the world’s the world’s foremost foremost superyacht superyacht specialists, specialists, EXPLORA EXPLORA I– I– the first the first of four of four shipsships in the inExplora the Explora Journeys Journeys fleetfleet – sets – sail setsin sail May in May 2023. 2023.
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2022 TRAVEL NEWS
What's Shaping Travel in 2022
Five travel trends to look out for this year. 10
Now Trending in River Cruises
Piedmont, one of Italy’s most renowned culinary regions, builds a more eco-friendly future. 38
From themed itineraries to brand new routes. 12
IN THE LIMELIGHT
PACK IT UP
How a trip to Turkey led one writer to her geographic soulmate and a life-changing decision. 42
Get the Latest in Travel Gear
It’s time to dust off your suitcase and get exploring again. 14 FROM YOUR TRAVELS
Art & Soul
Four artisans, four countries and one vision — heartfelt authenticity. 16 VILLAS
Vacations Elevated The comforts of home in destinations worldwide. 18 AROUND THE WORLD
A Magical Land
A stay in Cappadocia reveals an underground world. 46 SLOW TRAVEL
The Kindness of Strangers
Japan’s Shikoku temple pilgrimage highlights the warmth of fellow pilgrims and locals. 48 WELLNESS
Master the Art of Wellness
Searching for the world’s greatest coffees. 22
A trip to Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur awakens the senses with spa treatments inspired by ancient traditions. 52
ON OUR RADAR
Meeting the Maori
New Zealand’s indigenous people reveals how hospitality is at the heart of their culture. 26
Steeped in history and tradition, the country offers an irresistible, understated luxury. 56
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Mysteries of Easter Island
Giant stone statues have watched over local villages for centuries, but how did these moai get there? 30
When cruising on board Silversea’s new Silver Moon, the ship itself becomes a destination just as much as its voyage. 60
Out of the Northwest Passage
Retracing the epic route of early explorers on an expedition to Canada’s Far North. 34
Tap into the power of mana, the spirit of French Polynesia. 64
Contributors Vanessa Dewson is an award-winning photographer and travel writer based in Ottawa. She also teaches photography at the Ottawa School of Art and leads photography tours around the world. She caught the travel bug when her grandmother took her on a trip to Turkey when she was 13 and her feet haven’t stopped itching since.
Chris Robinson has been the eponymous host and producer of the Chris Robinson Travel Show for 15 years – the most popular travel program on Canadian radio. He has taken listeners to all parts of the globe and visited more than 150 countries, all the continents and every ocean. His travel stories have been published in newspapers, magazines and online.
Liz Humphreys worked as an editor in New York City before jumping the pond to Europe, living in Amsterdam, London and now Berlin. She has contributed to more than 30 guidebooks for Fodor’s Travel, Michelin and Rough Guides, and has written for Condé Nast Traveler, Forbes Travel and Time Out International, with a focus on luxury travel, food and wine.
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer who focuses on travel, outdoor adventure, science and conservation, among other topics. She’s always on the lookout for opportunities to connect with nature, whether hiking in Japan, viewing penguins in Antarctica, or spotting moose in her own backyard. She writes about her adventures for a wide array of publications.
Barb Sligl is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer that finds joy in far-flung travels and serendipitous connections. At home, amid the natural beauty of her British Columbia backyard, she’s a flâneur among the trees (keep old-growth forests standing). An em-dash enthusiast, she also dabbles in poetry and is working on her long-nascent novel.
W I N D YA C H T S
S TA R P L U S YA C H T S
M O N E MVA S I A . T R A PA N I. T H E C O R I N T H C A N A L . Small-port European destinations few truly know, and fewer still have visited. Discover them in a way only a Windstar cruise can offer: Small, uncrowded sailing or all-suite yachts serving just 148 to 342 guests, guided by a welcoming crew; unique shore excursions from local perspectives; and Cruise Only and All-Inclusive fare options to suit your style. It’s a cruise experience that’s 180 degrees from ordinary. Contact your professional Ensemble Travel Advisor for All-Inclusive pricing and exclusive amenities.
travel in 2022
As the world carefully starts to travel again, trends are emerging at a lightningfast pace, redefining what we used to consider the ideal vacation. These days, it’s about authenticity, making genuine connections, giving back, veering off the road well travelled and pursuing passions, whether it’s cooking or spas. Let’s take a deeper dive into what’s setting the standard for this year with these five travel trends. BY JANICE TOBER
BEING MINDFUL OF WELLNESS TRAVEL Wellness travel has been popular for several years, but now it is moving beyond yoga by the beach and spa time. The focus of those new experiences is on being present in the moment and the newest approach is to practice mindfulness and to savour life. On Location partner Adams & Butler, for instance, takes guests high above the Arctic Circle to a glampsite in Swedish Lapland. Enjoy hot air ballooning over the white landscape, spend days in an oasis of wellness and fine design, get active with winter activities and then indulge yourself with local gourmet meals. With a glass of wine in hand, relax around the campfire and wait for the perfect moment to go watch the Aurora Borealis. Take the experience to another level with a customized program from Trails of Indochina. In Vietnam, join a multiday retreat program to enhance your inner stillness and brave creative expression, including plant-based full-board meals. If you truly want to immerse yourself in a natural oasis, peacefully isolated from the city, take wellness retreats in Thailand. Or experience Ayurveda, an ancient technique of treatment in Sri Lanka, to revitalize your mind, body and soul through different practices that will guide you to a holistic path to achieve a balanced life. 10
SEEKING UNIQUE ACCOMMODATIONS Luxury travel has moved beyond just posh hotels in popular destinations to include out-of-the-way stays and unique properties. A desire to stay away from crowds is one reason, but another is the longing to find a serene hideaway to calm our overly busy minds. Looking out over a wintry wonderland atop a mountain is one way to get away from it all. Onefinestay's new Chalet Collection makes finding your own bit of paradise easy. Its curated selections take guests to extraordinary luxury destinations, such as Aspen and Jackson Hole. Or consider one of Spain’s Paradores, idyllic stays in some of the country’s finest heritage buildings and unique spaces. Stay at the former 15th-century convent, Parador de Granada, for exclusive access to the grounds of Alhambra after it closes. Or choose the Parador de Santo Domingo de la Calzada (in the Rioja region), which has housed pilgrims for over 900 years as they traversed the Camino de Santiago.
TRAVEL NEWS Clockwise from top left: Wellness retreat at Aurora Safari Camp © Aurora Safari Camp; Traveller volunteering in an African school; Private chalet rental at Jackson Hole; Connecting with Inuit people and culture on an experiential trip © Adventure Canada; Yoga in Thailand; Enjoying life like a local in Italy
LIVING LIKE A LOCAL Travellers seeking for a more authentic experience are digging even deeper, living like a local in some of the world’s greatest and most out-there destinations. G Adventures’ tour offering, Agriturismo Local Living, lets program participants select a destination and get settled into a home away from home, whether that’s a rural farmhouse in Italy or a rustic lodge in the Amazon. With the help of a local guide, they go undercover in some of the most interesting places to discover life as it’s lived every day. A local guide is there to set up a jam-packed itinerary or will leave it flexible depending on the interests of each traveller. GIVING BACK WITH MEANINGFUL TRAVEL Travellers aren’t just getting out of Dodge to escape anymore. They want a trip that is meaningful, one that makes the most of their experiences away from home and leads to personal fulfillment. Today, philanthropic trips, sabbaticals, volunteerism and responsible travel are what world wanderers are looking for to give meaning to a chaotic world. They serve to enhance the lives of not only those on the receiving end of a generous spirit, but those who are doing the giving. When your mom told you that it is better to give than receive, she was right. To find the right voluntourism experience for you, talk to your travel advisor who can help create a customized trip that ticks all the boxes. EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCES
DOING A DEEP DIVE WITH EXPERIENTIAL TRAVEL Vacationers are no longer content to sit back and let the world go by. Today’s intrepid travellers want to immerse themselves and experience fully every moment of life. Specializing in small-ship expeditions, Adventure Canada also offers land tours that take travellers beyond the usual offerings. Instead of just listening to throat singers while visiting Nunavut, guests gain a richer, broader appreciation of the performance by learning about the music, art, language and food of the Inuit people. For voyages to Scotland, passengers can do more than sip single malts. They get a comprehensive education on the regional differences in whisky-making throughout the country. 11
in River Cruises
From themed itineraries to brand new routes, there’s plenty to welcome passengers back on board. BY LIZ FLEMING
eady to start exploring the world again? A luxury river cruise could be the ideal choice. Set sail and find fabulous dining, elegant accommodations and unique guided shore excursions in a small group setting. Relax and inhale a big breath of the freedom we’ve all been missing. River cruise lines are confidently sailing the waters of Europe, the U.S. and South America with some companies even expanding their fleets to meet demand. Viking River Cruises not only resumed sailing in France in August 2021 but also launched four Longships – each specifically designed to sail the Seine River. Tauck River Cruises also launched a new ship, the elegant ms Andorinha, now sailing Portugal’s Douro River. “We’re witnessing a new wave of cruisers for 2022,” says Pam Hoffee, chief operating officer for the Globus family of brands and managing director for Avalon Waterways. “Travellers recognize that river cruising offers them a cruise without question marks. No crowds, sailing with just 150 or fewer fellow cruisers, no lines, no concerns about fellow traveller vaccinations, stringent health and safety protocols and an unparalleled opportunity to experience a wide range of shore excursions while also enjoying limitless access to incredible ports of call.” Avalon guests are currently enjoying its popular Storyteller Series that welcomes world-renowned artists to sail with their most ardent fans. Some of the stars include the band Sister Hazel as well as musicians Edwin McCain and authors such as Gillian Flynn, Cheryl Strayed and Candace Bushnell. Guests are treated to musical performances, readings, Q&A sessions and book signings with their idols as they sail the Rhine, Danube and Seine rivers.
Clockwise from top right: Tauck’s new ship, the ms Andorinha © Tauck; After-hours guided visit to St. Mark’s Basilica; AmaWaterways’ new eco-friendly ship will be sailing the Magdalena River in Colombia; Viking Longship sailing the Rhine River © Viking Cruises; Enjoy the passing scenery from your balcony © AmaWaterways; Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria; American Queen, the largest steamboat ever built © American Queen Voyages
Meanwhile, Uniworld River Cruises has tours including a pre- or post-cruise train travel component and has also introduced a series of Nights Out experiences on their European itineraries. For 2022, the line has created five exclusive excursions for Uniworld guests in favourite European cities. They include an after-hours, art-historian-guided visit to St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, an evening spent sipping fine wines and enjoying a concert at the stately Cochem Castle near the Moselle River, a touring and tasting introduction to 145 years of brewing history at Feldschlosschen Brewery near Basel and more. Not to be outdone, AmaWaterways has announced that the third version of the company’s longest-ever river cruise itinerary, Seven River Journey Through Europe, will begin in Paris on August 24, 2023 and return to Giurgiu, Romania on October 9. It includes adventures in 14 countries during the wine harvest and beautiful fall foliage season. Guests will sail the Seine River on the AmaLyra, or the Scheldt, Maas, Rhine, Main and Moselle rivers on the AmaCerto and the full length of the Danube on the AmaVerde. For those keen to experience river cruising beyond the European continent, AmaWaterways is now custombuilding the first luxury, eco-friendly river cruise ship to sail the Magdalena River in Colombia with trips scheduled to begin in December 2023. Although the vast majority of river cruises today are concentrated on the European waterways, cruising along the mighty North American rivers is a centuriesold tradition, made famous by Mark Twain’s classic tale The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In the book we follow in the footsteps of Huck and Tom Sawyer as they embark on a voyage along the Mississippi River. Today, Viking Cruises and American Queen Voyages offer various itineraries that help guests rekindle the sense of adventure along the shores of the mighty Mississippi. From 43-day mega-voyages to quick five-day escapes, river cruising seems to have avoided the downturn experienced by other tourism sectors. It’s well-poised to provide guests the adventure and captivating new experiences they’ve been craving. 13
PACK IT UP
GET THE LATEST IN
It’s time to dust off your suitcase and get exploring again. Perhaps a cruise vacation is in your future, or an extended stay at an incredible luxury villa. If you have not travelled recently, you may want to update your packing list with these innovative items. BY MICHELE SPONAGLE
BOSE QUIETCOMFORT EARBUDS
We often travel to seek peace and quiet. These comfortable noise-cancelling earbuds ensure you’ll always have it everywhere you go, thanks to the very latest technology. You’ll get high-fidelity audio when tapping your toes to your favourite tunes. A special setting allows you to also hear your surroundings while listening to music, ideal if you’re jogging or cycling, for greater safety. $349, bose.ca
HEYS SMART LUGGAGE 21”
It may look like an ordinary bag, but it has a lot of useful technology built into it. Made from 100 per cent polycarbonate, it uses a special app, which allows travellers to lock and unlock their bag remotely. The handle has an integrated scale feature so you know how much your bag weighs, good for preventing over-packing. Plus, this suitcase (shown in burgundy) also has a proximity alarm, which will sound when you’re a certain distance away from it, ensuring you can keep track of your stuff easier. $599, ca.heys.com
PACK IT UP DIANE KROE DESTINATION DRESS
If you have room for just one dress (shown here in wine), make it this versatile one. It can be converted into a number of styles, from an elegant halter to a classic wrap dress. It’s designed using a lightweight poly/spandex fabric that’s silky to the touch and doesn’t need ironing straight out of your suitcase. Made in Canada, it is available up to size 20. $225, dianekroe.com
VANS LA COSTA SLIDES
It’s always a battle trying to figure out what shoes to pack. Your best option is to take ones with plenty of versatility. These lightweight, flexible slip-ons are ideal for walks on the beach, time spent poolside or at the spa, and just walking around your hotel suite. Made from synthetic rubber, they offer a good amount of cushioning and support to keep your feet comfy. $45, vans.ca
Every moment of your extraordinary journey is worth savouring and remembering. Jot down your impressions, your dreams and future plans in this compact journal (just 20 centimetres long). You can easily tuck it into a backpack or carry-on bag. It has 98 unlined pages, perfect for those who may want to sketch the beauty seen during their trips. $34.90 US, airportag.com
M MISSONI SUNGLASSES
The famed Italian luxury fashion house, known for its beautiful knitwear, brings its legendary design sense to its new sunglasses. This pair from the collection, constructed from lightweight plastic, has high-quality lenses that offer protection from ultraviolet rays. Add a dash of tropical colour to your wardrobe, while attracting admiring glances at your strut on the beach. $157, edel-optics.ca
PELICAN 1060 MICRO CASE
If you’re planning an action-packed holiday, you’ll want to keep your cell phone safe. This tough polycarbonate case from Pelican is waterproof, dustproof and crushresistant. Whether you spend your days zip-lining in the rainforest, doing an ATV tour through the desert, or going kayaking on a beautiful lake, your mobile device will be very well protected. $47.95, mec.ca
FORWARD WITH DESIGN FRAME TOTE 2.0 It’s a carry-on, a knapsack and a gym bag. A separate inner compartment is ideal for wet bathing suits and sweaty workout gear. Constructed out of nylon, it’s a roomy, well-designed tote that looks modern and sleek. $110, forwardwithdesign.com
SUN BUM TINTED FACE LOTION S PF 30 When you’re trying to save on space in your toiletry bag, think multi-use products. This easy-to-apply sunscreen protects skin against UVA and UVB rays, while leaving it shine-free. It is lightweight and doesn’t feel greasy. It is also suited to sensitive skin since it is fragrance-free, vegan and friendly to the environment. $23.99, sunbum.com
*Prices subject to change.
FROM YOUR TRAVELS
Four artisans, four countries and one vision – heartfelt authenticity. Whether we call them craftsmen and women, artisans, or simply makers, there is a special place in every traveller's heart for those who create the objets d'art found in destinations worldwide. These works earn a place in our homes and, with a passing glance, they bring back fond memories from the trips during which they were bought. Each creation from these makers reflects not only the unique vision of the artisan, but also the essence of the place in which the artwork came to life. BY BOB COOPER
YOSEF “JOJO” OHAYON | DEAD SEA, ISRAEL The ethereal Dead Sea is a constant inspiration for artisan Yosef “Jojo” Ohayon and his wife, Deganit, a professional potter. Ohayon was born into a family of artists in Casablanca. After they moved to Israel, he resisted going into the family business, choosing instead to grow melons and peppers and design agricultural equipment. But art was in his blood. When he accidentally disfigured a metal piece of farm equipment, he couldn’t help but notice its odd beauty. Soon he started making metal chairs similarly contorted. And so he followed in his parents’ footsteps after all. Ohayon’s pieces range from chairs and vases to mosaic sculptures and paintings. His methods are as unorthodox as his art objects are colourful and whimsical. Drawing on his familiarity with farm machinery, he uses water pressure from electric pumps and fire hoses to shape metal objects, and bottles to disperse colours when he paints his abstracts. While the best place to see Ohayon’s work is in his Dead Sea showroom or the Tel Aviv Gallery, it can be found in galleries around the world – from Europe and New York City to China and Australia.
FERNANDO ALFARO | SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA, CHILE
Chilean National Handicraft Award-winning ceramicist Fernando Alfaro is on a mission. He wants to preserve the 11,000-year-old artistic heritage of Chile’s indigenous peoples, especially the Lickan Antay or Atacameños, who live in northern Chile and Argentina. The former art professor does this by creating masks, Pachamama and shamanic figures and pre-Columbian musical instrument replicas in his studio, Lickan Antay Ceramics. They convey to visitors the history of Chile’s indigenous peoples and teaching ancient clay modelling workshops. The 2.5-hour workshops are attended by hundreds each year, as San Pedro de Atacama is the home base for most international visitors to the Atacama Desert, one of Chile’s three most popular tourism regions. “The mission I had as a professor was to teach the art of the pre-Columbian peoples,” says Alfaro. Opening his studio 18 years ago let him continue that work, though his students are now foreign visitors. Alfaro’s workshop participants, especially if they also visit the Le Paige Archaeological Museum in town, leave with a new appreciation of Atacameños art and culture – and a memento of their visit in the form of a llama or jaguar clay miniature they made themselves.
FROM YOUR TRAVELS
Perched way out on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, Homer is a popular destination for art-minded travellers, not merely because of the abundance of galleries in town but also because of the Dean Family Farm and Art Studios above town. It’s up there, with stunning views of Kachemak Bay and the Kenai Mountains, where longtime Alaskans Ranja Dean and her husband, Jeff, share their lives as farmers and artisans with visitors. On two-hour tours, Ranja begins by introducing visitors to the farm’s menagerie, highlighted by Yeti, a 5,500-kilogram yow (a yak-cow hybrid). Next, they enter the studio for a lesson in the techniques used to form their pieces. Finally, guests tour the gallery, housed in a yurt as architecturally unique as the rest of the timber-framed buildings. Jeff specializes in metal and wood wall art. Ranja creates bronze figures, quilts and wooden utensils. Their daughter, M’fanwy – another accomplished artist – specializes in hand-carved and painted wood panels. Alaskan wildlife – including grizzlies, polar bears, moose and reindeer – are the subjects of many of the family members’ creations. “My art is made from those magical, heartfelt moments spent in the company of animals and people,” says Ranja. “It’s about the joy we feel together.”
RANJA & JEFF DEAN | HOMER, ALASKA
© Cayman Farmer's Market
LAUNA GREEN | GEORGE TOWN, CAYMAN ISLANDS
Launa Green can be found almost every Saturday chatting with visitors to her jewellery table at the Hamlin Stephenson Market at George Town’s Cricket Grounds. But it’s not ordinary jewellery. Most of her earrings, pendants, necklaces, rings, cufflinks, brooches, marine-life sculptures and custom pieces are made of caymanite, a rare, semi-precious dolomite found only in the Caymans. Caymanite is beloved for its earth-tone layers. The colours of each piece depend on the stone’s mineral composition: black from magnesium, reds from iron, and other hues from nickel, copper and titanium. “Raw caymanite is not easy to carve because its hardness can conceal hidden fractures you don’t see until the cutting, shaping and polishing is almost finished,” says Green. “So, it must be done very carefully to avoid losing the piece.” One pair of earrings can take her five hours and sculptures a few weeks. Caymanite carving has a long tradition in the islands. Green studied under a master craftsman in the late 1980s. “When I look at raw caymanite’s unique layers, colours and patterns created from water, sediment and natural metals, I can’t help but be in awe of what will emerge as I design, cut and shape each piece,” she says. “I treat each one like an expectant mother as it can only be brought to life with patience. And, like babies, no two are exactly alike. With each of them, I am shaping a piece of the Cayman Islands and sharing it with my clients and the world.” 17
VACATIONS BY SARAH TRELEAVEN
hen you’re planning your next trip to Europe, settle in and stay a while to get the most out of your vacation. These days, savvy travellers are looking to villa and apartment rentals to elevate their experience. They offer groups, from extended families to gal pals, privacy, all the amenities of home and more with the promise of enchantment just beyond their doorstep in locations worldwide. Pour a coffee and soak up the sun on your deck, take a dip in a pool without anyone around, prepare dinner with market-fresh ingredients in a gorgeous kitchen. It’s a bit of heaven away from home. Check out these incredible properties for a few highlights of what you can expect at some popular holiday spots.
© Villas of Distinction
More travellers turn to villa rentals to give them all the comforts of home in destinations worldwide.
ROME: BELLA VITA IN THE ETERNAL CITY For those enamoured by the light chaos of Rome – busy streets, uneven cobblestones, food demanding to be eaten every two feet – it’s important to find a sanctuary where calm can be restored, sleep comes easy, and spritzes can be consumed at leisure. This villa, located just off the elegant Piazza del Popolo on a quiet tree-lined street near the Tiber River, offers the perfect respite. This roomy apartment, Bella Roma, has two bedrooms and two bathrooms and sleeps up to four people, making it ideal for a small family. The elegant interiors are both homey and special, decorated with an impressive collection of antiques and contemporary art. Drenched in daytime light, the dining area seats up to six, ideal for leisurely dinners. But the biggest draw might be the generous terrace, which is lined with small trees and trellises with climbing flora, and offers plenty of room to bask in the sun, snack and sip. 18
If you and your partner are looking for a breath of fresh air, consider this waterfront spot. Villa Roxy sits alongside one of the most scenic stretches of coastline in the world. The hillsides are dotted with brightly coloured homes, domed cathedrals and rocky shorelines kissed by azure waves. Nestled between Positano and Amalfi in Praiano, this open-concept villa combines the intimacy of a cozy, well-loved family home with the jaw-dropping splendour of terraced landscape and water views. The space, with beautiful tile detail throughout, sleeps four people in two bedrooms, and there are two bathrooms, a living room with a working fireplace and a spacious kitchen. The swimming pool, set in a spacious landscaped deck overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, is a rare gem. You could easily spend most of your vacation right here lying on a sunchair with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice in hand, preparing meals al fresco in the outdoor kitchen, and exhaling audibly in supreme relaxation while counting the yachts slowly making their way across your sightline.
© Villas of Distinction
AMALFI COAST: ON TOP OF THE WORLD
© Villas of Distinction
MYKONOS: BLUES & WHITES IN GRECIAN PARADISE
With its classic white and airy design, this cliffside villa reflects the bright blue Mykonos water and sky – the iconic Greek island atmosphere. Cool stone walls give way to long white drapes that rustle gently in the warm breeze while providing a screen from the high midday sun. Sun lovers can take a plunge in the infinity pool or Jacuzzi, or wait until the sun sets, when the lights of Mykonos dot the small, picturesque island. This two-bedroom oasis, Cassiopea, sleeps four people. The villa comes fully equipped and includes both housekeeping and concierge services. Access to a shared tennis court and helipad is also available. The centre of Mykonos is just a few kilometres away. So, while it might seem impossible that you’ll ever tire of staring at the Aegean Sea from your palm-lined private terrace, you can also stroll into town to wander in the open-air markets, dine on grilled freshcaught fish and raise a glass of wine to living the good life. 19
Consider magical Barcelona and this impeccable urban retreat a cure for whatever ails you. Or perhaps the perfect spot for that family reunion you’re finally able to book? Victoria Diagonal Mar is an apartment located just outside the city centre in an area with gleaming new buildings, shops and restaurants, transit connections and one of the largest parks in Barcelona. The apartment sleeps up to eight people in four bedrooms, has a modern kitchen and comfortable, overstuffed furniture as well as two terraces. Large windows reveal panoramic views of the city and the villa is furnished with updated amenities. Wake up every morning with the city at your feet. Imagine finally getting the chance to stroll down Barcelona’s narrow streets, stopping to eat cured fish atop freshly baked bread, sip a glass of sweet vermouth, and sit on the sandy beach. As the sea winds blow through your hair, that sense of living fully feels restored.
© Villas of Distinction
BARCELONA: BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY
© Villas of Distinction
CROATIA: MODERN S PLENDOUR ON THE OTHER RIVIERA
Split is a wonderful place to luxuriate in the majestical history of Croatia, but Golden Rays offers a dynamic juxtaposition for you and your partner or your chosen family. The villa features a highly modern, geometric, glass and steel design with contemporary fittings and furnishings, creating a kind of glamour that wouldn’t look out of place in the Hollywood Hills. This ultra-luxurious villa, part of an impressive seven-villa complex opened in summer 2013, can host up to six guests in three bedrooms. Perched on the shores of the Adriatic coast, guests will share private beach access and can employ the services of a personal cook, butler, maid, private event caterer, chauffeur, babysitter and even a snorkelling instructor. Swim in your own pool just steps from the sea and enjoy additional amenities, like a sauna and stationary bike. If you can persuade yourself to leave, nearby Split offers beautiful architecture, including iconic terracotta rooftops and Roman ruins, as well as beachside bars, restaurants serving fresh seafood and local wine, and walking trails through old-growth forests.
In the heart of Tuscany, this spacious apartment is the height of refinement. Draw the curtains in the open-concept living room to reveal one of the most dramatic and romantic views of Florence, including the Ponte Vecchio and Uffizi Gallery. Open the windows, take it all in and then try pinching yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming. Turan is an apartment with wonderful details, including blonde wood parquet floors, coffered ceilings, marble bathrooms and the elegant objets of a tasteful collector. In addition to a gourmet kitchen and beautifully appointed bedrooms, it includes housekeeping services, and the option of a cook service, welcome buffet dinner (including wine), and, if you really want to crank up the romance, babysitting services. Situated in Oltrarno, just across the Arno River from central Florence, this neighbourhood offers a version of the city away from the crowds. Enjoy engaging with locals in their artisan shops, use your five senses to explore the fresh produce, meats and cheeses at the nearby markets, and take in 15th-century frescos.
© Villas of Distinction
FLORENCE: REFINEMENT IN THE HEART OF TUSCANY
JET SET: GET THERE IN STYLE WITH A PRIVATE PLANE Now that you’ve picked the perfect villa, it’s time to think logistics. Private jets are trending in a serious way, especially for groups who can split the cost. One option is Vitesse Worldwide. Over 30 years, it has built an impressive array of options for charter aircraft and ground transportation to accommodate any size of party throughout Europe and to destinations worldwide. While concerns about health and safety have driven increased interest in more boutique services, Shawn Abaspor, president and CEO, Vitesse Worldwide, says that once people try flying private and luxury car service, it’s very hard to go back. “In addition to avoiding busy airports and big airplanes, we pick guests up and take them right to the airplane,” he explains. “Within 15 minutes of their arrival, the doors are closed.” And then there’s the amenities – complimentary Wi-Fi, seats that turn into beds, delicious snacks and food, games for the kids and all the other little details. “Once you try it,” says Abaspor, “you see that you get your money’s worth.”
AROUND THE WORLD
JAVA QUEST Searching for the world’s greatest coffees takes devoted sippers to every corner of the planet. BY CATHY SENECAL
pair of giraffes loped across the savannah, seemingly in slow motion, amid a backdrop of acacia trees glowing in the pink blues of dusk. I was aboard a night train to Mombasa with aromatic Kenyan coffee in hand. “This is the best coffee I’ve ever had,” I said to a friend who has tired of hearing me say this in Costa Rica, in Greece, in Tanzania, or wherever we’ve travelled over our 30-year friendship. Like billions around the world, I love coffee. Yet, I am not one to expertly discern between arabica and robusta, and I’ll leave the coffee cupping – or scoring – to connoisseurs, who rate coffee on flavour, acidity, aroma and such. For me, an experiential moment, such as the one in Kenya mentioned above, can also enhance a cup of coffee, making it extraordinary. Let’s start at the ground level with highlights of what to order and where to help you have the best travel experience.
TRY: In Addis Ababa, order a macchiato, strong or medium, at one of six Tomoca coffee shops. The family-run business started in 1953 and specializes in Italian coffee made with Ethiopian arabica beans.
ETHIOPIA Coffee has come a long way since the jasminescented plant was discovered in Ethiopia’s Kaffa region in the 9th century, if popular local legend is to be believed. Ethiopians perform rituals lasting up to two hours for roasting, brewing and pouring coffee, and may include the burning of incense. Water with extremely finely ground coffee and sugar is brought to a near boil three times, then filtered, or left to allow the grounds to settle before drinking, typically without milk.
ENGLAND When a Turk brought coffee to Oxford in 1637, it quickly became popular among its students and teachers, who created the Oxford Coffee Club. By the mid-17th century, London’s coffeehouses were plentiful and called “penny universities.” One penny got patrons much more than coffee. Being surrounded in stimulating conversation promised intellectual jolts from the writers, artists and philosophers who hung out there.
BRAZIL Brazilians are very proud that their country is the world’s largest coffee producer. Yet despite the availability of espressos and the like, Brazilians drink cafezinho, hot black coffee with quite a bit of unrefined sugar, or rapadura, at home or at work. Once back from chasing fat capybaras (a type of South American rodent) on the Pantanal, my favourite coffee sipping milieu was among Pelourinho’s wildly colourful centre, which had me at oi, or hello, in Brazilian Portugese. TRY: In this country, the biggest notch along the earth’s coffee belt, order a cappuccino Colombo in one of the most beautiful cafés in the world, Confeitaria Colombo in Rio.
AROUND THE WORLD
AROUND THE WORLD
Previous page: Traditional coffee ceremony in Ethiopia This page, clockwise from top right: Perpetuating London’s coffeehouse tradition; Farmer collecting coffee beans; Coffee prepared in the classic Vietnamese style
Though tea is still England’s top hot beverage, lattes and cappuccinos are all the rage. Order the same as you would in North America, grab a chair and chat with locals – a tradition that began with English coffeehouses of the 17th and 18th centuries. They served as gathering places and a place for informal education.
VIETNAM It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the world’s second largest coffee producer has creations now being adapted everywhere. Egg coffee sounds wrong, perhaps, but aficionados worldwide are adapting from the original, created in Hanoi. A yolk is beaten with sweetened condensed milk and the cloud-like mixture is poured over espresso or iced coffee. Sip on an original version of cà phê trung at one of three Café Giang locations in Hanoi, then take note of the Metropole Hanoi, where, in the 1940s when milk was scarce, ingenious bartender Nguyen Giang dreamt up egg coffee and eventually opened his namesake cafés.
ITALY In Italy, you may mark yourself an outsider if you order a milky coffee after 11 a.m. or after a meal. Locals pair a pastry with a milky coffee in the morning while sitting, then a caffè macchiato as an afternoon pick-me-up, followed by an espresso later in the day while standing. 24
Espresso is everywhere, but each of Italy’s regions has its own unique regional twist. Cappuccino is equal parts espresso, steamed milk and foamed milk. Caffè latte is espresso with more steamed milk and less foam. Latte macchiato is steamed milk with a splash of espresso. T R Y : After a late dinner, order an espresso al banco, or standing at the bar. Toss it back like a 20-something downing shooters at a party.
AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND While immigrants from Italy went to both the U.S. and Australia, Australia’s wave didn’t happen until the 1940s and 50s. Italians brought piston-driven espresso machines with them, giving rise to cafés. Right behind the long black, the drink of choice is a flat white, microfoamed milk poured over a single or double espresso, creating a velvety textured coffee. Even though espresso was not popular in New Zealand until the 1990s, Kiwis believe their own Derek Townsend, who could crush coffee beans with his fists, “invented” the flat white. Australians flatly disagree, claiming Fraser McInnes was first to describe a cappuccino with weak froth as a flat white. Speaking of crushing, I recall a memorable coffee with a nimble Kiwi after a long climb up no-flat Tongariro Volcano through snow and howling wind. TRY: Order a flat white post hike in either
country but don’t ask who invented it first.
Explore the Less Travelled
UNDISCOVERED TOURS While it might be the iconic sights of the world that first entice us to pack our bags for adventure, it’s often something quite different that beckons us to return—the towns with no traffic, the coasts with no crowds, the nooks with no noise. Globus designs the perfect balance of the hero sights you mustn’t miss and the hidden gems you otherwise would, offering a deeper glimpse into the world’s most intriguing destinations. Join us to veer off the beaten path, break away from the packs, and even break bread with the locals for an unparalleled vacation beyond the guidebooks that you wouldn’t find on your own.
through Croatia’s glorious coastal cities, ancient Roman ruins, magnificent medieval architecture, and stunning natural wonders.
the flavours of Portugal as the tapas grilled seafood fill the tables, sweet port fills the glasses, and the soulful sounds of fado music fill the air.
along the dramatic Cinque Terre coastline with its pastel-coloured fishing villages.
sun-drenched ruins and sparkling coast of Sicily.
CONTACT YOUR TRAVEL ADVISOR TO LEARN ABOUT OUR INCREDIBLE PROMOTIONS
MEETING THE MAORI Living, laughing and exploring with New Zealand’s indigenous people reveals how hospitality is at the heart of their culture.
© Fraser Clements
BY LIZ FLEMING
early stumbling into one of the hot bubbling mud pits near Rotorua should have been my most exciting New Zealand moment. But it wasn’t. When I arrived at Tāmaki, the small marae (village) where I would spend three nights living with a Māori tribe, everything I’d experienced previously during my visit paled in comparison to meeting the country’s tangata whenua (indigenous people), whose warm hospitality lies at the heart of their culture. We were hungry and tired after a long day of hiking, but quickly discovered you don’t just wander into a Māori marae. Our hosts may have been dressed in the same casual campsite-chic as we were, but their welcome was a solemnly orchestrated affair. First, the chief strode to the entrance of the village and laid a taiaha (spear) on the ground and invited our guide to pick it up
to show our group came in peace. A woman behind the chief sang a beautiful karanga (call of welcome) to which the women in our group were expected to sing a reply. Ummm… Our female songsters were Canadian, French and German and had few options in our common songbook, so we warbled “Silent Night” in three languages. Definitely not Grammy-worthy, but good enough to gain us entry into the village. As manuhiri (visitors), we entered in single file, women first. “Remember your ancestors,” the chief said as we passed him. “They walk with you in spirit.” The wide-open marae was dominated by the Ancestral House, a circular, thatched-roof building. Inside, two rows of chairs faced each other for visitors on one side, hosts on the other. The chief spoke about his pride in showing us his culture and our guide presented him with a koha (gift), leading up to the main event – the hongi.
© Tamaki Māori Village
© Tamaki Māori Village
Created by the gods, the chief told us, the hongi is literally sharing the breath of life. We firmly pressed our foreheads and noses against those of our hosts, one by one, and sharing a long breath with each. Participating in this ritual made us honorary Māoris, according to the chief. We s o o n w i t n e s s e d t h e M ā o r i Manaakitanga (culture of welcome) being put to the test when a carload of grinning Italian tourists arrived, full of wine and eager for a wild night. The chief didn’t miss a beat. After another round of welcome ceremonies for these latest guests, he explained the sleeping arrangements. Everyone – tribe members and manuhiri – would all be sleeping in the Ancestral House – each with their own mattress, pillows and sleeping bag. A dinner of fish caught in the nearby river followed the ceremonies, and then came an evening of stories told back in the Ancestral House. Some storytellers talked about their intricate facial tattoos and the tradition of using them to mark important life events. Meanwhile, the chief explained how his tribe was also looking to the future by using online resources to learn new forestry management techniques. I was struck by how ancient traditions and embracing modern life could coexist in harmony. Later while lying awake in the darkness, I thought about the generosity of the Māori way of life. But then I started to think not-so generous thoughts about our guide, Paul, who was snoring like a buzz saw nearby. When I couldn’t stand it any longer, I aimed a frustrated kick at an empty mattress lying between us and flipped it over onto the human freight train near me. Miraculously, the snoring stopped. 28
The next morning, I awoke to find the chief standing at the foot of my bed. “Did you do this?” he asked, pointing to Paul, who still had the mattress covering his face. I hung my head sheepishly. “You are truly a Māori woman,” he said with a hint of a smile. There was more fun ahead. On the first day on the Tāmaki River, Mark, a fellow guest, was led to the long wooden waka (canoe) and helped into it by our hosts. After he told everyone that he had never been near water, he was dubbed the ‘canoe virgin.’ It wasn’t until the rest of us filed down and clambered into the canoe that Mark realized he’d been seated facing the wrong way. The Māori howled with laughter: “Better paddle hard!” For the next two days, we entertained one another. We hiked and canoed, ate traditionally prepared lamb and fish, as well as a few universal camping delicacies like marshmallows and hotdogs, told stories, laughed, slept (and snored) together (but apart) in the Ancestral House, and steeped ourselves in Māori culture. We were introduced to a traditional way of life that has survived centuries in the midst of prosperous, progressive New Zealand. I came to realize the secret of the successful preservation of their culture seems to lie neither in assimilation nor in segregation, but in a good-natured blending of old and new. Just as they welcome all guests who come to their gates, so too do the Māori seem to welcome new ideas for everything from wildlife conservation techniques to new technologies to help them keep step with the rest of the world. Theirs is not a culture tied to the past, but one that evolves every day and with every manuhiri they meet. I was happy to be one of them.
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OFF THE BEATEN PATH
UNRAVELLING THE MYSTERIES OF EASTER ISLAND Giant stone statues have watched over local villages for centuries, but how did these moai get there? BY CHRIS ROBINSON
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
t was love at first sight, as I knew it would be. The prelude was a flight from Santiago, the capital of Chile, which began with a spectacular sunrise over the Andes and continued westwards for five hours over the South Pacific Ocean. Finally, 3,500 kilometres from the South American mainland, there was a speck of land in the vastness of the ocean – Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, as the native Polynesians call it. It grew to an emerald triangle with volcanic cones at each corner and a necklace of white surf defining the boundary between green and blue. The runway extended from coast to coast and when the aircraft doors opened, a heady mix of warm, perfumed air elevated my excitement at having reached the most isolated inhabited place on our planet. Images of the iconic Easter Island statues have always fascinated me. Kon-Tiki, written by Thor Heyerdahl about his journey to the
mystical island by canoe in 1947, was my first travel book. That first morning, I sat on the flower-strewn terrace of my bungalow situated in the gardens of the inn where I was staying, listening to the ocean surf pound the lava cliffs nearby. I could hardly contain my enthusiasm for exploring this island of mysteries. A short walk down a red dirt lane took me to my first moai – as the giant stone heads are known – at Ahu Tahai. Massive heads atop sturdy stone platforms dot the cliffs above the Pacific surf. They face inland towards vanished villages, their eyes looking upwards in a penetrating, eternal gaze. They are massive, yet they are human. They are powerful, yet they are fragile. And every bit as magical as I had hoped. Over the next few days, I headed out in my rental car to visit many of the nearly 1,000 moai still guarding the coast of this small
Opposite page: Moai on Ahu Tongariki, the largest ahu on Easter Island This page: Anakena Beach with the silhouette of the moai of Ahu Nao Nao archaeological site
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Clockwise from top: Rano Raraku volcano has hundreds of abandoned moai scattered around; Ahu Ko Te Riku moai with restored eyes close to the Tahai Ceremonial Complex; Sunrise through the moai of Ahu Tongariki
24 by 12 kilometre island. Each was as marvellous and enigmatic as the last. The most imposing site is Ahu Tongariki where 15 towering moai stand guard on a massive stone platform beside a bay of jagged lava rocks against the background of one of Rapa Nui’s three volcanoes. Nearby is Rano Raraku, the ancient quarry from whose crater walls most were carved. Around 400 moai lie scattered in and around the crater, some fully formed, some still in the process of creation as if their makers were 32
just taking a short break. At Anakena on the north coast, the moai rise above a South Seas island beach of white powder sand lined with coconut palms. It was here that oral tradition says the first settlers arrived at an unknown time and from an unknown place. Layers of mystery upon layers of mystery. The nearest inhabited land was thousands of kilometres away across open ocean. When Europeans ‘discovered’ the island on Easter Day 1722 (hence, the European name), there were only the simplest of one-man canoes in use, yet the Rapanui people had clearly been there for centuries. How and why had the iconic moai been created? And just as perplexingly, how had they been transported from their volcanic quarry birthplace? Some weighed over 80 tonnes and the Rapanui had no wheels or large animals to move them. Why are there almost no trees on the island, and few of the endemic species found on other isolated islands like the Galápagos? To find the answers, I talked with local Rapanui and archaeologists from the UK. Oral tradition, genetics and archaeology suggest the first settlers came in ocean canoes from southeastern Polynesia around 1,000 years ago. The settlement grew rapidly, and a sophisticated clan system developed. Each clan made a statement of its importance by raising moai to watch over their villages. Clan warfare and overpopulation then caused an island ecosystem collapse: total deforestation, loss of endemic fauna and flora, and societal implosion reduced the Rapanui people from perhaps 15,000 to barely 100 by 1877. Most of the moai were torn down. No explanations are fully accepted, and questions remain unanswered. There are as many theories as to how the moai were moved as scientists who have studied the conundrum. But this just increases the romance of Rapa Nui. On my final day on the island, I returned to the moai at Ahu Tongariki once last time in the dark and awaited enlightenment, both literally and figuratively. As the sun peaked over the horizon at dawn, rays of light gilded the statues in an ethereal golden hue. I felt a wave of joy wash over me. At last, I had fulfilled my quest to experience this remote outpost of human culture.
YO UR S O M E DAY
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OFF THE BEATEN PATH
OUT OF THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE
© Victoria J Polsoni
BY BARB SLIGL
© Jasonvan Bruggen
© Rob Poulton
Canada’s Far North has intrigued explorers for centuries. Now, travellers are discovering its rustic beauty and rich culture, too, from creaking icebergs and polar bears, to mysterious mirages and UNESCO sites. By land and by sea, its allure is unmistakable.
© Michelle Valberg
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
© Martin Lipman
© Gjoa Haven
here are few places left in the world that still feel truly wild. There’s Antarctica, maybe the remote steppes (a mix of grasslands and forests) of Siberia, perhaps the ever-shifting desert dunes of the Sahara and Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. Passing through these frozen far reaches has been the intrepid adventurer’s holy grail since 1497, when John Cabot first sought a shorter route from Europe to East Asia. For centuries, this northern Atlantic-to-Pacific quest continued – some 800 kilometres above the Arctic Circle. It ranges from Henry Hudson’s failed attempt in 1611
(he only found his eponymous bay) and the ill-fated journey of John Franklin’s Erebus and Terror in 1845 (the entire crew froze and starved and the sunken ships were only discovered in this century) to the first triumphant crossing by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen in 1906 (a threeyear odyssey). And more than 100 years later, I sailed past the Nunavut settlement named for Amundsen’s ship Gjøa on an expedition called Out of the Northwest Passage with Adventure Canada. The search for this mythical route has been steeped in trials and tribulations. And ice. The icebergs were what my mother, who joined me on this trip, loved most. Crenellated, colossal, changing from palest blue to orange sherbet with the sun’s rise and fall, they groaned like some alien beast. Aboard the Ocean Endeavour sailing on the eastern side of Baffin Bay in an icy Greenlandic fjord near where journeys usually start, we slowly circumnavigated one of thousands of these icebergs for a glorious hour or so. But our voyage started at the other end of the Northwest Passage in Kugluktuk, Nunavut. There we began our documentation of a plethora of other creatures: a ringed seal, followed by Arctic hares, bearded seals, harp seals, minke whales, humpback whales, muskox and polar bears. We saw three solo bears on three successive days, the first like a dollop of vanilla ice cream atop a floe in Prince Regent Inlet. We watched the large robust-looking male paw a nest of snow in which he curled up like a dog. The next day in Radstock Bay, we saw another bear amble
© Dennis Minty
© Matthew Swan
© Scott Forsyth
© Scott Forsyth
OFF THE BEATEN PATH along an icy beach beneath a cliff. The third was in Admiralty Inlet, playfully jumping from ice chunk to ice chunk. From that first seal in Kugluktuk to the 40-plus harp seals in Sisimiut, Greenland, the wildlife we witnessed eeking out an existence in the Arctic was astounding, including 40 species of birds we spotted, from the little auk to the peregrine falcon who hitched a ride across Baffin Bay on the top deck. Every night we discovered more about the surrounding environment and sometimes sordid history. The great auk – relative to the smaller flying version – once roamed these shores in vast waddles, much like the penguins of the Southern Hemisphere, but became extinct in 1844 after early explorers decimated the fatty flightless birds for food, bait and bonfires. We heard about Indigenous culture from Inuk crew members, one of whom was once the mayor of Kugluktuk and commissioner of Nunavut and shared Inuk words, including nanuq (polar bear) and umikmaq (muskox), and introduced us to Inuit “country food” (such as frozen whale and seal blubber). We came ashore to an Inuit hamlet on Baffin Island, met the residents of Arctic Bay and had a snowball fight with local children. Other onboard education came in the form of a sing-along of Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers’ famous “Northwest Passage” with the lines: “To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea / Tracing one warm line through a land so wild and savage.” We learned of Vikings, female polar explorers, the first RCMP
© Martin Lipman
Antarctica – The Other Pole
© Scott Forsyth
posts in the High Eastern Arctic (and visited Fort Ross), archaeological sites and the fragility of life, like the polar bears I mentioned earlier. We saw bursts of lichen on a hike in Dease Strait that were juxtaposed with the sculptural beauty of bleached bones of muskox carcass. The farthest north we reached was a latitude of 77º28’N at Qaanaaq in the northwest of Greenland. From there, we retraced the first explorers’ route, going south and skirting northwestern Greenland past Ilulissat, home of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ilulissat Icefjord. There we saw three humpback whales on a sunset Zodiac trip in iceberg-dotted Disko Bay to Sisimiut. That evening – our last before flying from Kangerlussuaq across Davis Strait and back to Canada, we got another wild display – the great gleaming green ribbons of the northern lights. It called to mind a term learned earlier in this tour of the Far North – fata morgana or mirage. It’s something longago sailors saw at the start of the arduous route from Baffin Island to the Beaufort Sea. In 1818, British explorer John Ross entered Lancaster Sound seeking the Northwest Passage and found what he called the Crocker Mountains. But it wasn’t real, just a mere mirage. That rush of discovery remains strong here. Everything is extraordinary, filled with the promise of new – and real – land, centuries after the first ships sailed these waters.
© Scott Forsyth
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
V E N T U R E T O the opposite end of the globe, home of another great flightless bird that’s similar in appearance to the extinct great auk of the Arctic. In Antarctica, see thousands-strong waddles of penguins on an expedition cruise with stops on the far shores of the southern hemisphere. Adventure Canada also offers small-ship expedition cruises into the south polar region, alongside some 50 ships that sail Antarctic waters. Seabourn has a new purpose-built expedition ship that debuted last year, Seabourn Venture (with two custom-built submarines). French company Ponant also has a new ship, Le Commandant Charcot, a luxury polar-expedition and electric-hybrid vessel that can navigate through ice and extreme environments, and sails into the Bellingshausen Sea to see large emperor penguins. Silversea crosses the Drake Passage to stop at scenic spots like Neko Harbour on the Antarctic Peninsula and is launching new itineraries this year aboard the Scenic Eclipse. Set sail from King George Island, the largest of the South Shetland Islands, or board a bucket-list cruise for expedition lovers that goes beyond the Antarctic Circle – latitude 66º33’S – into an icy region less visited than the other pole. And, with Lindblad Expeditions, another cruise company offering journeys to the Great White Continent, you can experience the thrill of crunching through the sea ice on board one of three state-of-the-art expedition ships and capture eye-catching images of scores of penguins and whales, thanks to tips from a National Geographic photographer. 37
SENSATIONALLY SUSTAINABLE Piedmont, one of Italy’s most renowned culinary regions, builds a more eco-friendly future one sip and one bite at a time. BY LIZ HUMPHREYS
have been to Piedmont – the land of fabled wines Barolo and Barbaresco in Italy’s northwest – before. I attended the International Alba White Truffle Fair, where the elusive (and insanely expensive) tuber is celebrated every fall. But I’m visiting in August for a different purpose – to find the sustainable side of its luxury offerings. Increasing numbers of wineries and restaurants are focusing on minimizing their impact on the environment, creating a unique blend of luxe experiences with gentle-to-the-earth practices and hyper-local ingredients. In other words, pleasure with a purpose. My first stop is La Raia Estate, a 180-hectare property in Piedmont’s Gavi region with a biodynamic winery and farm, plus a restaurant with fabulous vineyard views. La Raia started organic farming in 2002 and gradually converted to biodynamics, a philosophy based on the balance between the living things
on the farm and the resources of the surrounding land. It has committed to biodiversity by planting fields of ancient grains, raising free-grazing Fassona cows and cultivating chestnut and acacia trees. Its Fondazione La Raia has also commissioned sitespecific artist projects to reflect the landscape. The latest, Oak Barrel Baroque by German artist Michael Beutler, repurposes old oak staves from barrels for fermentation and turns them into a structure reminiscent of a small theatre, unexpectedly perched on the edge of the vineyards. It all makes for a gorgeous landscape, and La Raia’s products – ranging from wines including the rich, floral Gavi DOCG selections, produced from the Cortese grape characteristic to this region, and wildflower honey to pasta made from their spelt grains, are equally enchanting. These ingredients, along with fruits and vegetables from the estate’s own organic gardens,
Opposite page: La Raia, a Demetercertified biodynamic farm © La Raia Estate This page, clockwise from top left: Langhe wine district of Piedmont, Italy; Wine tasting with a view © La Raia Estate; Wandering in vineyards and natural landscape © Casa di Langa
Clockwise from top left: Experience the finest expression of regional cuisine at Faula Ristorante © Casa di Langa; Waking up surrounded by Piedmont’s rolling hills and breathtaking views © Casa di Langa; Tortelli with white truffle cream sauce; Bottle of Barolo Bricco delle Viole wine © G.D. Vajra
find their way into dishes at the delightful Locanda La Raia restaurant, where I eat while watching the sun set over the rolling hills planted with vines. The next morning, I drive about 10 minutes northeast to Cascina Degli Ulivi, started by one of the fathers of Italy’s biodynamic wine movement, Stefano Bellotti. Though he passed away in 2018, his commitment to producing excellent wines while respecting the earth continues. I hear many languages other than Italian, like English, Spanish and French, as budding viticulturists come from all over the world to train in the renowned vineyard. Though our lunch here is simple – fresh goat cheese, garden vegetable salad and artichoke ravioli – it’s all fresh and tasty, using ingredients produced or grown on the farm. After lunch, I head back down the twisty streets on my drive over to the other side of Piedmont, the one you’ve probably heard of: the Langhe, a hilly, UNESCOdesignated World Heritage Site south of Alba where the Nebbiolo grape is the star and the white truffle reigns supreme. The views are breathtaking with hill after hill of vines as far as I can see. One of the highest hills in sight houses the G.D. Vajra winery, where the Vaira family has farmed since the 1880s. Son Aldo Vaira pivoted the winery in an organic direction in 1971. Today, they make one of the most renowned Barolo wines as well as unique vintages made from Freisa, a native grape related to Nebbiolo.
Grandson Isidoro takes me on a tour of the winery, pointing out the rooms lined with beautiful stained glass designed by Father Costantino Ruggeri, who created many windows for churches throughout Italy. But the pièce de résistance is their phenomenal wine, especially the justly celebrated Barolo Bricco delle Viole (translated as “Hill of Violets”), produced with grapes from the highest vineyard closest to the Alps. Made from 100 per cent Nebbiolo, the wine has notes of raspberries and flowers. It’s rather difficult to stop tasting, but it’s time to track down some food. I head to the restaurant Fàula, which means “tale” in the Langhe dialect. It’s a tribute to friends and family sharing stories. It’s housed inside a repurposed building constructed of local materials and overlooks 42 hectares of organic vines. Here, the chef creates seasonal dishes using ingredients grown in its own organic garden. I dine on hazelnuts, porcini mushrooms and truffle (just the black version, as it’s too early in the season for the famed white one), oysters, kefir and pine, and tortelli pasta filled with pigeon, a regional specialty. The sommelier chooses inspired wine pairings, many natural, and I try some wonders new to me, like the organic arneis made by Tibaldi, two sisters in Roero, north of Alba. As I savour the final sip, I reflect on just how satisfying the sustainable life can be.
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IN THE LIMELIGHT
A MAGICAL LAND How a trip to Turkey, where her late father once lived, led one writer to her geographic soulmate and a life-changing decision. BY OZLEM AYDIN EVANS
fter my father passed away, my brother and I decided to take a trip through Turkey, the homeland he’d left in the 1970s. It would be like going back in time as we revisited the places my father had taken us when we were children, including Cappadocia. It felt like it belonged in another world, thanks to its “fairy chimneys” – tall, rugged cone-shaped rock formations that dotted its desert-like landscape. We were supposed to stay there for just one night. We planned to sleep in a cave, watch the famous hot air balloons rise over the horizon in the morning, and then move on. I was anxious to head to the beach in the south of the country, where my father used to take us camping. After driving for hours, up and down the steep hills of the Anatolia region, it was dark by the time we reached Göreme, the heart of Cappadocia. “I think we’re here,” my brother said, as he turned right off a curvy road. The sky was pitch black, but the city lights greeted us like a welcome committee. They illuminated the rock formations at their base, giving them a strange, mysterious look. We could see the tiny windows of the 42
rocky caves. It seemed as though we were entering the Land of the Hobbits. I felt like a child looking outside of the car window, while my brother navigated his way through the narrow brick-lined roads trying to find our hotel. I imagined how my father had driven through these very streets decades ago. It made me feel closer to him. I had hoped that this trip would be comforting for my brother and me, but I had no clue how this trip would impact the trajectory of my life in the near future. I slept in a fairy chimney that night. Like a baby. For the first time in months, I did not wake up once. There is something very eerie, and yet soothing, about sleeping in an actual cave-turned-hotel room. It feels like the walls of volcanic rock wrap around you like a big heavy blanket. The next morning, I woke up to strange noises coming from outside – quick gusts of wind back-to-back, and then silence. As I opened the curtains of the small wooden window of my cave tower, I witnessed the most incredible sight I had ever seen. There were dozens of hot air balloons in the sky – some so close I felt like I could touch their baskets, if I could have fit my arm through the window. The sun was
IN THE LIMELIGHT Clockwise from the left: Fairy chimneys over the Milky Way; Hot air balloons over the rocky landscape and city of Göreme, Cappadocia
just creeping up over the horizon. It was magnificent. Something seemed to be shifting in me early that morning and the day had just started. We immediately agreed that we should stay another night. It turned out that there is more to discover in this strange little place. The whole region felt like one big open-air museum. We hiked in the heat so we could see the rock formations EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCES
IN THE LIMELIGHT
Clockwise from the left: Traditional Turkish breakfast with a view; Cappadocia, known as the “Land of the Beautiful Horses,” is the ideal place to explore on horseback; Unique cave hotels combine history with the luxurious comforts of the 21st century
shaped by wind, rain and time up-close. Well-maintained trails let us explore the rugged landscape. When the sun became too much, we fled into caves tucked in the valleys to cool down and catch our breath. We ate like royalty, dining on local specialties like manti, tiny dumplings filled with meat or cheese and topped with a rich tomato or garlicky cream sauce. Turkish food is the perfect union of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. Each dish is a combination of longstanding
traditions and fresh ingredients produced by the country’s many organic farms. We spent our days exploring, savouring and recalling my time in Turkey with my father. Then I fell in love. Encouraged by the magic of the place, I decided to release the inner-horse girl that had been trapped in my big-city woman’s body and take a ride through the volcanic valleys. Horses are so valued that ancient people named the region after them. Cappadocia’s former name, Katpatuka, means “Land of the Beautiful Horses.” I meet one of those horses, Elif, that afternoon. She is a full breed Arabian horse and a former champion race horse, my guide Musa told me as we began our trip. At the top of Red Valley, Musa stopped in front of me so we could take in the sweeping view of Cappadocia, stretching out before us in all its incredible beauty. Along with the area’s ties to my father, it was part of what inspired me to leave my life in Berlin. I packed up my leather boots to begin a new chapter living in Turkey. I believe everyone has a geographical soulmate. Cappadocia is mine. Perhaps it may be yours, too. You’ll find Cappadocia is a place unlike any other. It’s a destination that casts a spell and draws you in, inspiring you to dig deeper to discover its history, its culture and all of its magic.
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IN THE LIMELIGHT
CAVE DWELLING A stay in Cappadocia reveals an underground world, fairy chimneys and Turkish culture seemingly untouched by time. BY CHRIS ROBINSON
ravellers worldwide come to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cappadocia for a unique blend of history, culture and nature, especially fairy chimneys. Their creation started a few million years ago when nearby volcanoes erupted and covered the region with a soft rock called tufa. Over many millennia, it eroded into a maze of valleys and plains dotted with ‘fairy chimneys’ – tall towers of tufa protected under capstones of harder rocks. Think the hoodoos of the Alberta Badlands on steroids. With the arrival of man more than 3,000 years ago, it was discovered that tufa was ideal for carving out caves, houses and entire cities. With so many amazing sights, visitors to the area may need a base from which to experience this strangely beautiful land. Such an extraordinary destination demands an equally extraordinary place to stay. One option is the Tafoni Houses Cave Hotel in the village of Ortahisar in the heart of Cappadocia. Close to many of the main sites, the property is the brainchild of Ferit Kayrak and his wife. From 13 original cave dwellings, they created a boutique-style hotel (now with 18 suites) decorated with prints, paintings and metal work from Turkish artisans. Modern amenities and luxurious touches are grafted onto the innate coziness of the cave rooms themselves. If luxurious camping is ‘glamping,’ then this is truly ‘glaving.’ Kayrak welcomes couples and multi-generational families alike to his underground hotel. For couples, the romance of a cave room is accented by spas and inroom massage therapy. Terraces open to the birdsong and perfumes of the garden. For families, what child
would not be over-the-moon to stay in a cave and go exploring an underground city like nearby Kaymakli? It’s a unique experience for all. Back at Tafoni Houses, Kayrak ensures authenticity in every detail. The hotel’s on-site restaurant serves local cuisine and specialty dishes, like orta’asar kokumu (beef cutlets baked in a terracotta oven). And in the late afternoon, guests can partake in traditional hookah on the terrace, accompanied by a selection of teas from a charcoal fire. After dinner, they can observe the starlit sky with a vintage telescope. Tafoni Houses is a perfect base from which to enjoy the many different ways of experiencing Cappadocia. An iconic activity is a hot air balloon ride over the landscape. Horseback riding, cycling and hiking are all available from the hotel, located directly on the Balkan Deresi, one of the finest trails in Turkey. It’s a perfect way to experience the weirdly wonderful scenery, vibrant birdlife and an incredible Byzantine church carved out of the tufa rock. The village of Ortahisar is off the beaten path of tourists, seemingly untouched by time, so it has been able to maintain its traditional roots. While visiting, Kayrak recommends spending an evening at the local caravanserai – a 13th-century inn built for merchants travelling the Silk Road. Here, guests can experience the whirling Dervishes – talented spinning dancers who put on a mesmerizing performance. Between its rich culture, warm hospitality and welcoming hosts, memories of time spent in Cappadocia and the incredible cave suites of the Tafoni Houses will beckon you back, so you can continue the adventure.
IN THE LIMELIGHT
All images courtesy of Tafoni Houses
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS Japan’s Shikoku temple pilgrimage highlights the warmth of fellow pilgrims and locals. BY KRISTEN POPE
alking toward the temple gate, a tiny girl about five years old approached me, smiled and shyly handed me a small pink cloth Hello Kitty bag. I peeked inside the sack to see a pickled plum, candies, an origami ball, small beaded charm and a handwritten note in Japanese, decorated with cheerful pictures of flowers and animals. Her teacher translated the message. It said, “Have a good walk and take care.” It made me smile. The school children were sharing gifts of encouragement with those embarking on Japan’s Shikoku temple pilgrimage, a journey circumnavigating Shikoku Island with stops at 88 temples. It was the first day of our journey and we would stop at over two dozen temples during the next week and a half. The student’s thoughtful gesture was just a preview of the kindness I would experience along the way. In another town, a man saw our group walking through town and he presented our guide with a bag of treats for us to share. On another day, we met a woman and stopped to chat. She was hiking the pilgrimage solo and
Opposite page: Kan’onji Temple and Jinnein Temple in Kagawa, Shikoku This page: A moment of quiet reflection at Ryozenji Temple © Walk Japan
“THE REASONS PEOPLE CHOOSE TO EMBARK ON SUCH A PILGRIMAGE CAN VARY AND BE DEEPLY PERSONAL.”
shared her own stories about the hospitality she encountered during her journey. We exchanged biscuits and cookies, extended well wishes and went our separate ways. Such interactions built a sense of comradery among fellow pilgrims and locals. The reasons people choose to embark on such a pilgrimage can vary and be deeply personal. Our guide cautioned it was considered impolite to ask one’s reasons. For me, I saw the journey as a perfect time to slow down and look ahead at what I wanted from life. There just isn’t time for such contemplation in my day-to-day existence. This type of slow travel rooted in history was the perfect opportunity to press pause on busyness and reflect. It can take many weeks to visit all 88 temples on the rural island. While some will hike the entire distance between each temple, many others use buses, cars, taxis and other transportation to cover ground. At each stop, when the person making the pilgrimage reaches a temple, they say prayers and make offerings. Some pilgrims travel to all temples in one go, but many choose to experience a short section of the trail one at a time, returning months or years later to attempt another portion. Many pilgrims choose to wear traditional garb, including a white jacket and traditional woven bamboo hat, while carrying a walking staff and a bag containing incense sticks, offerings and a special stamp book. In it, the staff from each temple will use calligraphy to create a unique distinctive stamp. As we walked, we ascended steep mountain passes, marched beside rice fields in the blazing sun and even navigated encounters with overly inquisitive Japanese giant hornets. At times, the footing was 50
challenging, but when I slipped on a mossy stone and tumbled to the ground, there was a helping hand waiting to assist me back to my feet. Sharing snacks and encouraging words, we covered ground happily while enjoying the beauty of rural Japan. Far from the bustling metropolises of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the Shikoku temple pilgrimage is like taking a step back in time with isolated mountain trails, stunning scenic passes and wildlife along the routes. It provided a perfect opportunity to reflect, contemplate and look ahead. It felt like a far departure from Japan’s sprawling, bustling high-tech cities. After a day out on the trail, hiking and visiting temples and shrines, I would settle
Clockwise from top left: Ema wooden plaques at Terukuni Jinja Shrine; Stairs to Kumano-Nachi Taisha © JNTO; Shinto shrine of Kumano Nachi Taisha © JNTO; Pilgrim wearing traditional garb
into a relaxing evening onsen routine, when I would soak in hot springs often located right on-site in the places I stayed. One outdoor onsen was only accessible via cable car, while another one invited patrons to soak in a wooden tub with colourful flowers floating in its warm water. At night, I could relax and enjoy delicious Japanese cuisine, from mainstays like miso soup, tofu and tempura, to rare delicacies like the infamous fugu blowfish. But what stays with me most from my time in Japan is the kindness I experienced everywhere I went. The warm wishes and smiles of people I encountered along the way are truly part of a universal language of goodwill.
MASTER THE ART OF WELLNESS A trip to Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur – the land of Cézanne and Matisse – awakens the senses with spa treatments inspired by ancient traditions. BY CHRIS RYALL
h o l i d ay i n P r ove n c e a n d the French Riviera typically involves driving through scenic countryside filled with lavender fields and vineyards, combined with exploring centuries-old cities brimming with museums and street markets. But there is more to this region, known as ProvenceAlpes-Côte d’Azur, than art, culture and natural beauty. As a devoted spa enthusiast who has sought out treatments in every corner of the world, I was keen to discover the wellness offerings in this part of France with historical ties to Roman baths and relaxing holidays. My wellness journey begins in Aquae Sextiae (the waters of Sextius), now called Aix-en-Provence. Founded by Romans in 122 BC, it would be decades later that thermal springs would be discovered and baths built. Fast forward 2,000 years. Thermes Sextius Spa is located over the ancient ruins of those same baths and thermal springs. Water flows everywhere in Aix, known as the ‘City of a Thousand Fountains.’ Romans soaked in the healing waters to recover from battles but my mission was to
just relax and revitalize. Thermes Sextius is the region’s largest spa facility. It features a Finnish sauna, aromatic hammams, ice fountain, tropical showers, Jacuzzis, relaxation lounge, heated outdoor pool and fitness area. The spa with its blend of historical and modern architecture features treatments from wraps and scrubs to facials and massages. I choose the Angel in Gold Massage. My therapist, Alma, leads me into the treatment room and over the next hour uses Ayurvedic massage techniques. It’s like getting a facial from head to toe on my jet-lagged body. She applies a mixture of wood-scented essential oils and 24-carat gold flakes to waken my seven “energy centres” with her soothing, golden touch. Already missing Alma’s Midas touch but feeling energized, I hop on an e-bike. I cycled (aided by the push of a motor) along the hilly Cézanne trail to the studio of artist Paul Cézanne, Aix’s most famous citizen. I continue to the public garden, Terrain des Peintres, for views of Montagne Sainte-Victoire – one of Cézanne’s favourite landscapes to paint. Heading back into the
From the top: Marseille organic handmade soap; Villefranche-sur-Mer, near Nice, the perfect place to relax
historic centre, I make a pit stop at another Aix treasure – confectioner Le Roy René to buy calissons, a tasty, local candied fruit specialty dating back to the 15th century. Along the southeastern coastline is France’s second largest city, Marseille, where I know my palate will be satiated with a multitude of cuisines and local dishes, including the dish that gave rise to Marseille’s culinary claim to fame – bouillabaisse. Exploring the city streets, I pass North African neighbourhoods, laneways adorned with colourful graffiti and Roman ruins. My discoveries continue across the harbour dotted with fishing trawlers and yachts. I head to the Museum of Soap to take a class on DIY soap-making. Savon (soap) de Marseille is world famous for its purity and quality. Ironically, it turns out making soap is sweaty work, prompting me to head to the Le Sofitel Spa for a thorough cleansing and massage, while enjoying the scenery of the Vieux Port. I begin my purification process with alternating sauna, hammam and HydroJet pool sessions, then surrender my body to the therapist’s warm hands for EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCES
Clockwise from top left: Les Terrasses d’Èze Spa, towering over the Mediterranean Sea below © Les Terrasses d’Èze Spa; Aix-en-Provence is a city famous for its fountains; The Sofitel Spa offers a beautiful view of Marseille © Sofitel Marseille Spa
a 60-minute full body massage. Body cleansed, soapmaking muscles restored. Next, my mind. In Old Nice, I pass by and see a sign boasting “Nice Seafood.” During my visit, I feel I could add so many other words after “Nice” – landscape, locals, cuisine, beach, museums and boutiques. Nice and the surrounding area offer a myriad of cultural activities and art museums, such as the Matisse and Marc Chagall Museums, street markets like Cour Saleya selling herbs and spices and all things Nice. A short drive between Nice and Monaco is the medieval village of Èze and Les Terrasses d'Èze Spa, towering over the Mediterranean Sea below. Incorporating the latest in spa design and technology, I’m excited to try out the spa’s floating room. I get naked and lie in a capsule, filled with 25 centimetres of water, infused with Epsom salt and heated to 35 degrees Celsius. After 15 minutes, my body and mind turn to mush in the zero gravity environment. I can feel any remaining stress I had drain away. Relaxation continues with a Swedish style massage and is followed by a pleasurable circuit of treatments, including a Himalayan salt wall, four heat-experience rooms, including saunas, hammams and a tepidarium. I capped off my spa day in high-tech, sensory showers, featuring a rainbow of colours, aromas and water jets with various pressures and temperatures. It was more than ‘Nice.’ Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur’s beauty and vibrant culture makes quite an impression just as it did with painters like Van Gogh, Matisse and Cézanne, who showcased local scenes in their paintings. I left France feeling I had added a splash of wellness that coloured my world as I followed in the footsteps of these masters of art.
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ENCHANTING OMAN Steeped in history and tradition, the country offers an irresistible, understated luxury, from its stunning beaches and ancient markets to verdant mountains. BY VANESSA DEWSON
fter a night of rain, the clouds parted in time to let me take in the sunrise from Diana’s Point in the Green Mountain of Oman. This spot was named after Princess Diana who once visited the area and stood to admire the impressive gorge below. After taking in the glitz and glamour of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Oman was a breath of fresh air. Even the beautiful Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque seems more understated from the outside but reveals one of the most enchanting interiors, including the largest crystal chandelier ever built. Known as the Switzerland of the Middle East, Oman has managed to remain neutral – and helpful – during conflicts in the region. Perhaps, because of this, it has remained under the radar of most tourists. We left the man-made oasis of Dubai a few days earlier, flying across the desert sands and over rugged terrain to reach the southeastern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Nestled on the coast of the Gulf of Oman, surrounded by mountains, Muscat camouflages its wealth by sticking to traditional architecture and styles. Even new luxury hotels and businesses use the designs, allowing modern structures to blend seamlessly into neighbourhoods and lend them a timeless feel. Buildings and houses are pale in colour, from white to earth tones, with no skyscrapers in sight. Along with the Grand Mosque where intricate geometric designs adorn the ceiling and walls of the main prayer hall, stops to see the Royal Opera House, featuring beautifully manicured gardens and upscale restaurants, and the Al Alam Palace with its bold blue and gold flared columns flanking the main entrance, are musts on any itinerary. As we explored the city, I saw women wearing stylish abayas while men would typically wear flowing dishdashas – long robes with a tassel near the neck usually dipped in cologne. On their heads, they’d either wear a turban (more formal) or a beautifully embroidered cap called a Kuma, believed to have originated in Zanzibar, one of its former colonies that was an important part of the spice route.
From the left: Diana’s Point was named after Princess Diana visited the Green Mountain © Vanessa Dewson; Camels, the “ships of the desert,” have played a vital role in the region; Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the largest crystal chandelier ever built © Vanessa Dewson
Oman’s history of trade is still evident from the Mutrah Souq in Muscat to the markets in Nizwa, the former capital about a two-hour drive inland. The Nizwa Goat Market still happens every Friday morning and attracts locals from miles around to trade livestock. When we arrived outside the walls of the Nizwa Fort and walked through the gate, it was like stepping back in time. Weaving through alleys where terracotta pots for sale match the walls of the shops, I make my way to the entrance of the perfectly preserved fort and marvel at how the passage of time has left its mark on it. Built in the 17th century, only the dates on historical signs betray its age. A trip up the huge circular tower allows you to take in the best views of the city where most homes and buildings are no taller than a palm 57
ON OUR RADAR
ON OUR RADAR Opposite page, clockwise from top right: Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is one of the most beautiful and extravagant modern mosques in the world; The Royal Opera House features beautifully manicured gardens; Old sailboat anchored at Mutrah Corniche in Muscat; Local men in traditional wear © Vanessa Dewson
This page, from top to bottom: Traditional souq selling terracotta pots; Balad Sayt, also known as the hidden village, is considered the most beautiful village in Oman
tree. In the distance, the Hajar Mountain range surrounds lush fertile lands. Within the fort’s protective walls, women work on traditional crafts and shops sell everything from modern-day necessities to silver jewellery, spices and plenty of fresh dates. I never imagined so many varieties of dates existed until I sat down to sample Omani coffee in a small corner of the date souq, surrounded by countless types and flavours of dates. Served in handleless, espresso-sized cups, the strong coffee is mellowed with small bites of the sweet, dried fruit in between sips. A s we l e f t Ni z w a a n d climbed the mountain road towards Jebel Akhdar (jebel means mountain and Akhdar means green), the clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped. I went from swimming in warm gulf waters in the morning to wearing a down jacket come evening. The rain that began before dinner dampened our hopes of a glorious sunset. I spent time avoiding the downpour in the hotel shop and discovered frankincense is not only used for burning. The shopkeeper had some pieces in his water bottle, claiming it was also good for digestive ailments. Some, he said, even chew it like gum. He gave me a piece to try. EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCES
Frankincense is essentially hardened sap from the Boswellia sacra tree, found in Western Oman near the border with Yemen. Oman is one of the few places where frankin cense is harvested and is still an important export today. I reluctantly took a tiny piece and began to chew. It tasted like what I’d imagine pine sap to taste like and just as sticky. After taking in the sunrise the next morning, we received news that the normally dry wadi (valley) we were to visit was full of water from all the rain, making it impossible to drive through. Rather than wallow in disappointment, we laced our hiking shoes and explored the village hugging the cliffs near our hotel. Painted markers guided us along foot paths between houses and along small terraces where crops were beginning to grow and where we caught glimpses of a simpler life against a backdrop that took our breath away. Steeped in tradition and history, friendly and safe, the secret is starting to get out as more tourists discover Oman. Award-winning luxury resorts are cropping up along the beaches of Muscat and in the mountains, making the country a perfect and unique destination for those who want to relax in style or crave a little adventure. 59
MOONSTRUCK When cruising on board Silversea’s new Silver Moon, the ship itself becomes a destination just as much as the voyage to the Caribbean and Central America. BY TOBY SALTZMAN
hen the last gates of the Miraflores lock opened, allowing Silver Moon to glide out to the Atlantic Ocean, passengers of Silversea’s newest vessel lined the upper deck and cheered. We had risen early that morning, thrilled to transit the historic Panama Canal, one of the world’s iconic passages. We had seen the ship’s bow navigate into the narrow first lane of the Gatun Locks and watched as the steady mechanics of three successive locks slowly raised the ship 26 metres above sea level to the manmade Gatun Lake. While the Silver Moon slipped through the continental divide, we had lunch and cooled off in the pool. Lingering on deck, my mind floated in dreamy reverie. By now, I’d come to love life in my own slow lane onboard Silver Moon, which had just launched in 2021. In anticipation of the nine days of sunny sailing from Fort Lauderdale to Panama City, I thought of the ship as a destination itself. As I watched waves curl into little whitecaps, I thought about how Silver Moon was already exceeding my expectations. My enchantment with the ship started when I entered my deluxe veranda suite to find my living area set with chilled Laurent-Perrier Champagne, orchids, fresh fruit and truffle almonds. Then, my butler appeared – every suite has one – to point out a minibar stocked with wines and spirits, a Bvlgari clutch bag with masks and hand sanitizer, and a marble bathroom stocked with Bvlgari amenities. I felt confident a delightful sailing was ahead. From dinner that first night, I got the impression that every evening would feel like a special occasion. In Atlantide, the silky king scallop and enoki mushroom soup and Chilean sea bass set a very high standard that continued as I dined my way through all the restaurants onboard. My taste buds exploded over the French cuisine served at La Dame – foie gras with white port marinade, glazed breast of Périgord duck and Grand Marnier soufflé. The restaurant itself, clad with wall panels of Lalique crystal, is likely the most exquisite at sea. The first morning at sea, I attended a seminar conducted by Latin American food expert Nicholas Gill. He presented a culinary anthropology for the countries on our itinerary and talked about the importance of quinoa and amaranth seeds over centuries to indigenous people. As I sampled local delicacies and wines, I felt more connected to their history and culture. This was my first taste of S.A.L.T. (an acronym for Sea and Land Taste), an
Clockwise from top left: Enjoying immersive tastings on board; Expertly crafted cocktail made with local spirits © Lucia Griggi; Silver Moon
“WITH ALL THE ELEMENTS OF S.A.L.T., WE AIM TO ENGAGE GUESTS BY CREATING A HUB FOR CULINARY EXPLORATION THAT WOULD INVOLVE REGIONAL AND LOCAL GUEST EXPERTS TO CREATE A CONNECTION WITH PLACES ON THE ITINERARY.” innovative Silversea’s program launched on the Silver Moon. (It rolls out to the Silver Dawn this spring.) It became a highlight of my voyage. S.A.L.T. was created in collaboration with Adam Sachs, an award-winning food writer and former editor of Saveur magazine. Its goal is to cultivate a deep understanding of the culture and gastronomy of local destinations through hands-on learning, seminars, eating and tasting. As we sail toward Mexico, I ask Sachs, now director of S.A.L.T., for his inspiration. EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCES
From top to bottom: Traditional dance performance in Panama; Adam Sachs, former editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine, now curator of the S.A.L.T program © Lucia Griggi
“Wherever I travelled, I followed food to its source, meeting food producers, chefs, winemakers and spirit distillers, always delving into the culture of a place through the lens of food and drink,” he says. “With all the elements of S.A.L.T., we aim to engage guests by creating a hub for culinary exploration that would involve regional and local guest experts to create a connection with places on the itinerary.” That afternoon, I join other passengers for the first of several complimentary sessions in S.A.L.T. Lab, ready for hands-on cooking. Director Eva Mulligan taught guests the intricacies of crafting local dishes. En route to Cozumel, Mexico, I make flavourful tortitas croquettes, callaloo pepper stew and sweet Mexican Alegria candy, made with amaranth seeds that I learned about earlier. As we head to Roatán, Honduras, I cook Hudutu fish stew with creamed plantains and coconut, a savoury staple of the local Garifuna people. One evening in S.A.L.T. Bar, I indulge in cocktails crafted with local spirits. Later, I dine in S.A.L.T. Kitchen. In this first, large-scale restaurant at sea dedicated to regional and local cuisine, chef Alex Bignotti oversees the daily changing menu. Some of my favourite offerings include Peruvian squash fritters with tomato salsa and tangy aji sauce and Honduran turnovers served with a radish-based chimol salsa. Each dish brings me a bit closer to the regions I am sailing in. By the time we reached Roatan, I was more familiar with the culture of the Garifuna, descendants of indigenous Afro-Caribbeans who found refuge from slavery in Punta Gorda in 1797. A visit to their Honduran coastal village would bring together all I had learned so far about these remarkable people who were recognized by UNESCO for their ancestral language, music and dance. After a hilly ride that morning, we boarded wooden skiffs to tour Garifuna fishing huts, perched on stilts in the water among dense mangrove marshes. In Punta Gorda, we sipped cool drinks in coconut shells as the Garifuna dancers performed, flashing their skirts high, kicking up heels and swivelling hips in the fertility dance of their ancestors. Later, as a local chef served up a hearty lunch of Hudutu fish stew and fresh yellowtail snapper, my fellow guests agreed that Silversea’s S.A.L.T. program had cultivated a deeper appreciation for the destination and inspired an authentic sense of place. Life aboard Silver Moon was enriched by personal choices. While some passengers participated in daily S.A.L.T. cooking lessons, or attended lectures about the creation of the Panama Canal, others lounged leisurely on deck, sipping cold drinks under the hot sun. You had the ability to curate your own experience. I loved being able to plan my days as I wished. On my final afternoon sailing on the Silver Moon, I tried to choose my favourite day of this journey. But I was moonstruck. They were all sublime.
Our unique travel and food experience where we bring the destination to you.
Experience the true spirit of each and every destination you visit, for the most immersive and in-depth travel experience possible. Food is a voyage. It speaks to the soul of the traveler and is at the heart of every culture on Earth. Designed in collaboration with Adam Sachs and celebrated culinary experts and journalists, our S.A.L.T. voyages change how food and travel come together forever: from onboard workshops, cooking sessions or tastings of local specialities to curated, immersive experiences ashore. Get ready to taste the world onboard our newest flagship, Silver Moon, the first ship to deliver every aspect of our new S.A.L.T. culinary programme, and her upcoming sister ship, Silver Dawn. This is S.A.L.T., our new travel and food experience that brings the flavors of your destination right to your table.
Our voyages offer a carefree travel experience for you, with everything taken care of. OUR ALL-INCLUSIVE DOOR-TO-DOOR FARES INCLUDES: •
Private executive transfers (between home and airport)
Butler service in every suite category
Economy Class Air/Business Class upgrades at reduced rates or Air Credit
Premium beverages in-suite and throughout the ship
Multiple restaurants serving diverse cuisine and an in-suite 24-hour dining service including caviar
RESERVE YOUR SUITE WITH YOUR ENSEMBLE TRAVEL ADVISOR TODAY TO RECEIVE EXCLUSIVE BENEFITS. *All necessary COVID-19 protocols are in place to ensure that our guests can sail with confidence. Terms and conditions apply.
TAHITI TREATS Spa treatments, encounters with sharks, friendly locals and a crash course on pearls help one writer tap into the power of mana, the spirit of French Polynesia. BY CHRIS RYALL
ai, my Tahitian massage therapist, slides her oilcovered hands over my body, kneading and releasing the web of knots I have from head to toe. As I lay motionless on the massage table in the middle of a mangrove forest, I hear the faint, distant sound of waves rolling into shore. This idyllic setting allows me to fully embrace the concept and power of mana, the life force and spirit of Tahiti. Mention Tahiti to anyone and they immediately think of honeymooners, luxurious over-the-water bungalows, crystal clear azure waters, swaying coconut palms and white sand beaches. But it is so much more than that. Each of the 118 islands that make up French Polynesia has its own distinct character, landscape and charm. The island of Tahiti is the largest island with almost 200,000 residents. Peering out the airplane window on the final leg of my journey from Los Angeles to Papeete, the island’s verdant valleys and lush rainforest trigger an unexpected and spiritual response from me. It’s my first experience with the mana I will understand more about during my stay.
I feel it again with a taste of poisson cru, the Tahitian national dish. Featured on almost every menu whether it’s an upscale restaurant or a food truck, it usually consists of raw tuna (marinated in lime juice) swimming in coconut milk with cucumber, tomato, bell peppers and onion. Surprisingly sweet and refreshing, my taste buds approve heartily. Heimata Hall, owner of Tahiti Food Tours, is my dinner companion on the island of Moorea. He followed his foodie passion and started the company a few years ago. Tahitian cuisine, he says, is a blend of Tahitian, Chinese and French influences. In French Polynesia, seafood such as mahi mahi and tuna are staples along with the breadfruit plant (uru), coconut, bananas, pineapples, lime and root vegetables like taro. Hall, like myself, has a fondness for street food and roulettes (food trucks) and prefers taking visitors to these spots rather than high-end restaurants. I savour the robust flavours of suckling pig, chicken, local fruit pastilles and vegetables while observing a cooking demo of a traditional ahima’a (a Polynesian oven) at Chez Tara on the island of Huahine. Volcanic stones placed at the bottom of a large hole and a layer of wood and coconut husks over the food
Clockwise from top: Moorea is one of the most scenically striking islands in French Polynesia © Tahiti Fly Shoot; Sam, my tour guide during the fishing expedition © Chris Ryall; The calm water is ideal for paddleboarding while admiring the beautiful landscape © Grégoire Le Bacon
allows it to cook covered for hours. The staff methodically unwrap and release the enticing aromas of this exquisite smorgasbord. I gravitate to anything water-based. On another day, I was thrilled to go on a fishing adventure with Moorea Maori Tours. Owner Sam, whose muscular body is covered in culturally significant tattoos, introduces me to his other muscle-bound assistants, Manu and Coco. We paddle out to sea in a traditional va’a and set out the 20-metre wide net and hope for the best. After some time exposing my pale Canadian skin to the Tahitian rays of sun, we check the nets. Success – a fisherman’s dozen is caught with a mix of colourful parrotfish and surgeonfish. Manu is happy and we paddle closer to shore to clean the fish in the water. A family of hungry stingrays brush by my legs en route to the tiny morsels. 65
Clockwise from top right: Moorea has very unique sites to meet stingrays and reef sharks © Grégory Lecoeur; Enjoying a taste of poisson cru, Tahiti's national dish © Stéphane Mailion Photography; A group of travellers embracing the mana lifestyle © Hélène Havard; Local man carrying fruit © Tim McKenna
We go back to Sam’s home and his wife, Sylvie, cooks up a fish feast with the ubiquitous poisson cru as a side dish. On the island of Rangiroa, the world’s second largest atoll at a length of 80 kilometres, I join a few tourists for a day-long cruise excursion. Snorkelling amongst coral gardens, feasting on fresh fish and fruits and downing it all with a few Tahiti brewed Hinano beers make a perfect day. Oh, and not to forget – swimming and snorkelling with a shiver of sharks. Blacktip sharks, ranging from one metre to 2.5 metres long circled me. Gauguin’s Pearl is just one of many notable pearl farms located in French Polynesia. It’s a fascinating experience even for non-jewellery lovers like me. It can take up to five years for an oyster to generate a single cultured pearl. I observed the grafting and harvesting process where only one in 10,000 wild oysters will yield a natural pearl.
Then I put my olfactory skills to the test touring the internationally renowned Monoï Factory Laboratoire de Cosmétologie du Pacifique Sud. Visitors have the opportunity to create their own skincare oil. While I gave it my best shot, I don’t think my mix will be a big seller. There are big thrills available, too, on Tahiti. For the ultimate adrenalin rush, motor on up by ATV to the top of Moorea’s Magic Mountain or catch a huge wave surfing in Teahupoo, the site of the surfing competition set for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Tahiti ticks all boxes for scenery, culture, cuisine and adventure. But it goes beyond that. It affects my mind and body on a deeper, more spiritual level. The power of mana was my compass and companion. I have truly found paradise, or “la vie heureuse” as locals say, the happy life.
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