FWT Magazine: food wine travel - Issue 10 Winter 2017

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Croatia | Tinjan Denmark | Skodsborg Greece | Halkidiki Japan | Hokkaido Yoichi Jordan | Um Qais

Mexico | Cancun, Puerto Vallarta Maldives | Baros Sri Lanka | Bentota South Africa | Pretoria, Cape Town USA | Charleston, Oahu, Whidbey Island

An official publication of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association Issue 10 | WINTER 2017

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6 | Spotlight Food – Dinner in the Sky 7 | Spotlight Spirit - Japanese Whisky 8 | Spotlight Destination - Kurhotel Skodsborg



9 | Charleston Lives Up to its Honor as One of the World’s Best Cities 14 | Inspired by Bawa: Sri Lanka’s Nisala Arana Resort 22 | How One Foodie Community Honors Itself 23 | A Journey on South Africa’s Blue Train from Pretoria to Cape Town


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23 WINTER 2017



52 | Go Big: Luxury on the Island of Hawaii 56 | The Pacific Northwest Gem: Whidbey Island



61 | Where to go for Sea Turtles, Underwater Art and Mayan Culture

40 | Four Reasons the Maldives are the Ultimate Honeymoon Destination


46 | The Memorable Cuisine of Croatia


28 | 10 Reasons to Travel to Halkidiki, Greece 30 | The Birds, Bees, Baskets, and Olive Trees of Um Qais Jordan


61 WINTER 2017


contributors Lois Alter Mark | @loisaltermark

Brigitte Hasbron | @thefoodtease Brigitte is the owner of The Food Tease, the Canadian capital’s only combined culinary and travel blog.

Tamra Bolton | @tamrafromtexas

Tamra is a Texas-based freelance photographer and writer who enjoys traveling, history, the outdoors, great food and wine, animals, and exploring out of the way places.

Debi Lander | @Bylandersea Debi is a freelance journalist and photographer specializing in travel, food and lifestyle. She savors local cuisine, jumps at new adventures and believes travel can open eyes and hearts around the globe.

Mary Chong | @CalculateTravel

Veronica Matheson |

Andrew Der | @AndrewTDer

Lori A. May | @loriamay

Kimberly Fisher | @kimberlyfisher1

Francesca Mazurkiewicz | @WorkMomTravels

Jacqui Gibson | @jacquigibson_

Jan M. Smith | @nvrenoughtravel

Beth Graham | @momuncorkedblog

Kaila Yu | @kailayu

Lois is an award-winning writer who blogs at Midlife at the Oasis. A Travel Expert for USA Today 10Best, she also writes regularly for AAA magazines around the country as well as Huffington Post and Purple Clover.

Mary is a travel writer, world cruiser, and executive editor of CalculatedTraveller.com based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Andrew is an environmental and travel journalist who writes about nature and conservation tourism, creative and cultural family experiences, eco-travel, and the occasional offbeat experience.

Kimberly is a freelance writer and On Camera Host based in NYC. She has traveled the world exploring everything from luxury hotels to off-the-beaten-path adventures in almost every state and 56 different countries.

Jacqui is a New Zealand-based freelancer and blog manager for FWT Magazine. She writes for the FWTMagazine blog, www.flightcentre. com and Flight Centre New Zealand.

Based in Los Angeles, Beth blogs at MomUncorked.com and is a former PR professional turned freelance writer who writes about the things that feed her soul - food, wine, and travel.



Veronica is an Australian-based food/ wine/travel writer with a major focus on international ocean/river cruising.

Lori is a Seattle-based freelancer with food and travel writing in Hospitality 21, Jrrny, Seattle Post Intelligencer, Time Out New York, Eater, Vine Pair, and more.

Francesca is a Chicago-based travel blogger and working mom of two who aims to show that working parents can still enjoy what they fancy in life.

Jan is a food, wine and travel writer (neverenoghtravel.com) enjoying a lengthy career in the hospitality and tourism industry in Southern California wine country.

Kaila is the writer and founder of KailaYu.com and NylonPink.tv. and has been featured in many high-profile magazines and news sites.

Cover photo © Andrew Der – A Favorite Playa Indios Activity.



et out your extended packing list because in this issue of FWT Magazine, we’re taking you on a very exotic road trip across the world. We’ll clatter along on the 27-hour journey through South Africa on the Blue Train, enjoying a bit of old-school luxury rail travel as we traverse from Pretoria to Cape Town. Next, we’ll go inside the Kingdom of Jordan, one of the world’s most underrated destinations, and visit the rural community of Um Qais to learn how locals make their living with bees and baskets. If honeymooning, or romance, or heck, even solo travel is on your wanderlist, pack your bathing suit and evening wear for a visit to the remote destination of the Maldives where over the top luxury packages are the norm. Our exploration of the islands doesn’t stop there. We’ll venture to the luxurious beach resorts of Hawaii’s big island and tour Mexico’s Isla Mujeres, where the island’s underwater art and culture are best seen below the water. Dinner with a view takes on a whole new dimension as we enjoy an extravagant meal, suspended 150 feet up in the sky, from a crane, at a trendy Dinner in the Sky culinary event. Join us for a nightcap after that fantastic meal at one of Japan’s surprising whisky distilleries. Anthony Bourdain once touted Croatia as “the ultimate foodie destination,” so we just had to go see for ourselves. It doesn’t get more exotic than Sri Lanka, and we’ll take you inside the boutique resort property of Nisala Arana for a glimpse of the tropical modernism influence of architect Geoffrey Bawa. Our writers are not your ordinary travelers. They’re in search of the alluring, the unfamiliar, and the most fascinating experiences in the world of travel. Explore with us!

Beth Graham

EXECUTIVE EDITOR | Beth Graham @MomUncorkedBlog



@CalculateTravel @irenelevine

Diana Russler @allegria16

Christine Salins @ChristineSalins

Melanie Votaw @TripOutonTravel

Jan Smith @nvrenoughtravel

Betsi Hill @betsihill

Francesca Mazurkiewicz @WorkMomTravels



Jacqui Gibson @jacquigibson_ Allen Cox


IFWTWA | admin@ifwtwa.org FWT MAGAZINE | admin@FWTMagazine.com ADVERTISING | ads@FWTMagazine.com


FWT Magazine: food wine travel is published by the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association. Learn more at www. ifwtwa.org Our writers reside and travel all over the world and write in their native voice.





Story by Brigitte Hasbron

Reaching New Heights in the Culinary World Up, up and off we go with Dinner in the Sky © Casa Velas


ood and wine enthusiasts are now more than ever seeking out adventurous new ways to satisfy their gastronomy and enology desires. Step aside beachside dinners and private villa soirées and say hello to a meal like no other, a feast that places you closer to the stars than ever before.

Dinner in the Sky Thanks to the luxurious hotel, Casa Velas, and its Dinner in the Sky, guests are hoisted 150 feet in the sky to experience an extravagant feast. Situated in picturesque Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Casa Velas is all about redefining luxurious indulgence and offering guests an experience like no other. It is no surprise that patrons are in awe of the sensory splendours provided. Foodies will be happy to hear that Casa Velas’s Dinner in the Sky will be available from February 2018. The hotel hopes it will continue for the next three years. Hailed as ‘one of the world’s most exhilarating dining experiences,’ guests will be mesmerized as they will have the perfect vantage point to view the striking Banderas Bay and Sierra Madre Mountains. Casa Velas, a AAA Four Diamond luxury adultsonly all-inclusive boutique hotel, has outdone itself in executing this exclusive culinary adventure by inviting top chefs in Mexico to create memorable dishes. During my Dinner in the Sky adventure, I was fortunate to have been spoiled with dishes created by the accomplished, award-winning guest chef, Massimo Fongaro.



Massimo laid out the red carpet treatment as his guests were treated like royalty the moment we were secured in our seats. Safety first! After a ceremonial shot of Tequila and Mescal (to calm our adrenaline filled nerves), we slowly ascended into the air, blending with the stunning backdrop that the Sierra Mountains offered. Dinner in the Sky was a feast for all senses. The sights and aromas accompanied by the perfect execution of the dishes’ flavours were comparable to those found in a fine dining establishment. Guests lavishly indulged, and in some cases overindulged, on Chef Fongaro’s rich lobster lasagna and his generous melt-in-your-mouth beef filet with freshly shaved truffles draped over the exquisite dish. To the delight of the guests, there was no end to the truffles. And if that wasn’t enough to seduce us into food glory, fireworks lit up the sky as we were having dessert, a tropical tiramisu filled with strawberry and passionfruit - very apropos to the paradise-like ambiance that enthralled us. Casa Velas has succeeded with its avant-garde approach to providing guests with a new culinary adventure. If you have any doubts left about experiencing this innovative bucket-list item, ask yourself this: When will you next be dining so close to the stars?!

If You Go Hotel Casa Velas


SPIRITS Story by Debi Lander

A Visit and Tasting at a Japanese Whisky Distillery Sled to move Nikka Distillery barrels in winter © Debi Lander


wee dram in the highlands is one thing, but great Scotch whisky from the mountains of Japan? I was about to find out, entering the gated grounds of the Nikka Distillery in Yoichi, Hokkaido (Japan’s northernmost principal island) to learn about the Japanese distilling industry. Japanese whisky’s star has been soaring in the spirits world lately. With many similarities to Scottish whiskies, even its name follows Scotch tradition by dropping the “e,” at least when spelled in English. If you have a penchant for detail, call it Japanese whisky, not Scotch, which must come from the land of heather and moors.

History of Japanese Whisky In 1918, a young Japanese traveler, Masataka Taketsuru, journeyed alone to Scotland. He was the son of a “sake” brewery owner. Already an expert in the use of fermented rice to make the quintessential Japanese drink, he studied chemistry at a Japanese university. However, Scotch whisky captured his imagination. Masataka wanted to learn the secrets of whisky-making, so he enrolled at the University of Glasgow, the first Japanese to study the science of whisky making. Additional chemistry courses, distillery apprenticeships and training as a blender led Masataka to the designation of a master blender. He met and married a Scottish lassie, Jessie Roberta (Rita), returning to Japan with her in 1820. He went to work for a company trying to produce Scottish-like whisky, but he wasn’t pleased with the outcome. Turns out he just needed a better environment. In 1934, Masataka established Nikka Whisky in Yoichi, Hokkaido.

He chose a site with a latitude similar to Scotland, surrounded by mountains bordering the Sea of Japan Nikka became one of Japan’s best producers, earning Masataka the title of “Father of Japanese Whisky.” In 2001, Nikka’s 10-year Yoichi single malt whisky was named the “Best of the Best” in a whisky magazine international tasting, beating entrants from the mother country for the first time.

The Tour Nikka Distillery offers free guided tours, only in Japanese. Multilingual self-guiding pamphlets let visitors follow the whisky production process tour. The site’s nine historic buildings mimic Scottish architecture and don’t look anything like traditional Japanese structures. Yoichi’s climate augments the traditional distillation method of using coal, producing a rich, peaty malt. The whisky’s distinct aroma and body come from copper pot stills heated with finely powdered natural coal – the traditional method rarely used anywhere today. Japanese religious ribbons adorn the pot stills to provide blessings. Visitors can peek inside Rita and Masakata’s home (sadly only Japanese signage) and tour a whisky museum highlighting Nikka’s history, production methods and awards. A satisfying tour end brings free tasting of three varieties: Pure Malt Whisky Taketsuru, Blended Whisky Super Nikka and Apple Wine. The Whisky Club offers rare tastings for an additional price. The “Rita House” room, named after Masakata’s wife, offers English-style tea (scones and all).

If You Go

Nikka Distillery




DESTINATION Story by Lois Alter Mark

Luxury is the Best Medicine: Denmark’s Kurhotel Skodsborg


n interesting phenomenon occurs when you leave Copenhagen and head north along the coast to the area known as the Danish Riviera. About 20 minutes into the drive, you feel your shoulders relax, your head clear and your blood pressure return to normal. It could be the sea air or the water lapping the shore but it’s more likely the Oz-like sight of Kurhotel Skodsborg, the simple yet sophisticated whitewashed complex that has become a top destination for those in need of some high-level TLC. In Danish, “kur” means everything from “cure” to “health” to “spa,” all of which accurately describe Kurhotel Skodsborg, considered by many to be the leading Nordic spa hotel. In fact, it was named Best Europe Luxury Wellness Spa in the 2016 World Luxury Hotel Awards. If it reminds you of Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, there’s a good reason why. Skodsborg was originally founded as a sanatorium in 1898 by Dr. Carl Ottosen, who had studied health and physiotherapy and was a big proponent of spa stays as a preventative approach to wellness. Guests were treated as patients and many of the therapeutic treatments they experienced are documented in original photos still gracing the walls of the hotel. “Dr. Ottosen had some very simple principles for the healthy life,” says Mai Kappenberger, CEO of Kurhotel Skodsborg. “He was a keen advocate for calm, balance and presence.” Many of those principles have been incorporated into Skodsborg’s offerings today, which include an amazing array of activities from yoga and meditation to massage and traditional Nordic bathing rituals. The spa area features 16 different warming and cooling experiences, and you’ll want to try them all.



Kurhotel Skodsborg living room © Kurhotel Skodsborg

The must-experience is their signature SaunaGus, which roughly translates as “mist sauna.” Performed by a trained Gusmester, the therapy uses heat and essential oils in a Finnish sauna. It consists of three sets of increasing intensity interrupted by short cooling breaks which include pouring ice cubes down your back or walking across the street for an icy ocean dip. It’s invigorating and the reason the Danes have such beautiful complexions. Whether you choose to spend your days relaxing on a lounge chair, taking a cross-training class on the lawn or exploring the stunning forest that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site, Kurhotel Skodsborg is good for what ails you. Plus, guests can satisfy their hunger in The Restaurant by Kroun, the hotel’s spectacular gourmet restaurant where the food is fresh, healthy and artistically presented. The service is so special; Martin Troelsen was recently named Restaurant Manager of the Year by the prestigious Danish Dining Guide. You can also enjoy a casual meal with sunrise or sunset views on the third floor Brasserie or freshly squeezed Dr. Ottosen juices with a Paleo version of the traditional Danish “smørrebrød” in the warm and welcoming lobby. Because Kurhotel Skodsborg knows wellness is as much about the mind as the body, they present Nordic Noir, where top Scandinavian authors like Sara Blaedel – Denmark’s “Queen of Crime” – talk about books in the hotel’s sofa-filled library. By the time you return to your room – your light and airy room that feels like your best friend lovingly set up in their own home – you will understand why the Danes are considered the happiest people in the world.

If You Go

Kurhotel Skodsborg

Charleston Lives Up to its Honor as One of the ‘World’s Best Cities’ Story and Photos by Jan M. Smith



Brickline Ped Walkway © Jan M. Smith

There is a reason Charleston, South Carolina holds the honor of being named in Travel & Leisure magazine’s ‘World’s Best Cities’ list for the past five years. The region’s history, architecture, emerging culinary scene, southern charm and strong sense of place are contributing to the city’s success. My husband and I decided last minute to add Charleston to our East Coast itinerary and arrived from New York mid-afternoon for a quick 36-hour visit. We checked into the Renaissance Charleston Historic District Hotel, which is centrally located in the heart of the city. It is a perfect starting point to explore the city by foot, offering the opportunity to see, smell, taste and experience what the city has to offer.

Charleston Walking Tours Walking tours are popular in the city, designed to provide visitors with interesting history and up-close views of the unique architecture found in homes and buildings. We selected a Charleston Strolls tour based on the suggestion from Explore Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau. Tour guides are sanctioned by the city and required to go through rigorous historical and architectural testing before being certified. Our tour guide, Kim, is a self-professed “semi-Charlestonian.” She shares that the true Charlestonian designation is reserved for those who are born and have family lineage within the confines of the actual city. Kim was born and raised in an area north of Charleston proper, so



Shuttered Window © Jan M. Smith

although she has lived in the heart of town for the past 18 years, she is still considered an outsider. Regardless, Kim is clearly in love with Charleston and her pride is palpable. The tour began on Market Street where we received a short city history lesson, a warning about walking on cobblestone streets and tips on how to dodge the horse-drawn carriages that were to share the streets on the tour. Well-preserved homes dating back to the mid-18th century lined the street. Confederate jasmine (known as star jasmine in the west) shared its sweet scent and offered a fragrant gift as we passed by the shrubs and walls covered with the beautiful white star-shaped flowers. The tour meandered through the historic streets past homes and churches standing for over 300 years, and moved on to Charleston’s French Quarter near Broad, Meeting and Market Streets. We walked down a street of art galleries, restaurants and the open-air City Market then stopped in front of the original Old Slave Mart building, constructed in 1859 for slave auctions. The building currently houses the African American History and Art Museum and reminded us of the city’s storied history. We passed an array of antebellum styled homes, a mix of Italianate, featuring beautiful cupolas and balconies, and Queen Anne, with colorful exteriors and ornate details. Creeping fig covered the brick walls of Georgian buildings with their ornate iron balconies and gates. Colorful shuttered windows, gorgeous

Rainbow Row Homes © Jan M. Smith

flower boxes and the occasional, welcoming red door made me wonder if a house could get any prettier and I considered mine was in for some changes when I returned home. Strict preservation laws safeguard the authenticity of the neighborhoods in the historic area. A good example of this is the famed Rainbow Row housing in an area referred to as South of Broad. Here, 13 Georgian-style homes reflect the original pastel colors dating back to the 1700s. Eventually, all roads lead to water in Charleston. At the seawall, we could see a large bay fed by the convergence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. From our vantage point, we looked across the water and viewed Fort Sumter in the distance. Built in 1860, the fort holds the dubious honor of being the point where the first shots rang out in the American Civil War. Today, it is a United States national park open to the public. Throughout the tour, our guide’s go-to word to describe almost everything we saw was “charming,” which aptly fits this unique city.

Artistic Ironwork The gorgeous ironwork adorning gates, balconies, fences and light posts throughout the Charleston Historic District was designed and produced by renowned ironwork artist, Philip Simmons. Simmons lived and worked in Charleston for nearly 90 years before his death in 2009.

Ironwork Gate © Jan M. Smith

Simmons was recognized with many prestigious awards for his work, including the South Carolina Hall of Fame and most prominently, the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor that the United States can bestow on a traditional artist. Simmons’ art is also displayed in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

Charming Streets and Alleyways There are only eight remaining streets in the Charleston Historic District still lined with cobblestones, including Chalmer Street in the French Quarter, North and South Adger’s Wharf and Maiden Lane. It is interesting how stones can add charm to a city street - the uniqueness causes these thoroughfares to be heavily visited and photographed by tourists. The cobblestones originally arrived on English ships in the late 18th century and were used as weights (ballasts) on the incoming empty boats. Once in Charleston, the stones were removed and tossed into the bay, replaced by cargo returning to England. As the city grew, city planners surfaced the beautiful cobblestones to line the local streets. The cobblestone streets are still used today by horse-pulled carriages, cars and pedestrians, although they are a good challenge to maneuver by foot. In addition, a few equally charming historic brick-lined streets and pedestrian alleyways, including Philadelphia Alley, are still present in the city.



Welcoming Red Door © Jan M. Smith



Charleston’s Emerging Culinary Scene Charleston’s burgeoning food scene is heating up fast. Last year there were as many restaurant openings as there were closures. The popularity of this tourism destination has caused a spike in rent for both business and housing, which in turn, is affecting the cost of living and sustaining business in the city. Regardless, Charleston’s food and beverage scene has attracted top chefs from around the country. Acclaimed restaurants require reservations months in advance to secure a table, so plan accordingly for your next trip. A visit to Charleston should include experiencing the unique flavors of the South. Here are two of our favorites to consider.

McGrady’s Tavern A mainstay in Charleston, McGrady’s Tavern once served President George Washington. Located off a brick-lined pedestrian alleyway, the building dates back to 1778 and is on the National Historic Register. Although recently remodeled, the tavern still maintains the original bricklined arches, fireplaces and wooden beams. Executive chef and James Beard Award winner Sean Brock offers an innovative menu that changes often based on the availability of local ingredients. The familiar low country she-crab soup and a uniquely named side dish, ‘A Pie called Macaroni’ (Thomas Jefferson, c. 1802) top the list of regional offerings. Served on vintage mismatched china, the meals are uncomplicated and flavorful. The restaurant is open for dinner and weekend brunch. Butcher & Bee This hip industrial-looking restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating and a healthy menu of various mezze platters, sandwiches and salads, each creatively designed with a Middle Eastern influence. Daily menu specials depend on locally sourced fish, meat and vegetables. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A visit to Charleston would not be complete without experiencing the South’s famous sweet tea. My first sip detects a distinct sweetness overpowering the tea itself. I ask the hospitable and friendly server the secret to making this classic southern beverage and she replies in her charming accent, “Bless your heart, it is actually simple freshly-brewed green tea and an extra helping of block sugar.” Unquestionably, this tea’s namesake is accurate!

If You Go

Renaissance Charleston Historic District Explore Charleston Charleston Strolls Walking Tours McGrady’s Tavern Butcher & Bee

Freshly-brewed Sweet Tea from Butcher & Bee



Inspired by Bawa: Sri Lanka’s Nisala Arana Resort

Story and Photos by Jacqui Gibson

Nisala Bungalow © Jacqui Gibson



Nisala Arana Walled Heritage Property © Jacqui Gibson


n the seaside town of Bentota, the genius of Sri Lanka’s most internationally famous architect Geoffrey Bawa is revealed in a small family-run resort and the public garden that was once his ultimate design experiment. I like the fact Bawa bottled out of a legal career in his mid-20s, judging himself dangerously incompetent. It’s a crisis of confidence you don’t typically pair with a high-flyer. The irony appeals to me. But dropping out like that can’t have been easy coming from a well-to-do family, and with your dad a wealthy, influential Sri Lankan judge. Just what his parents thought when Bawa then took off overseas for two years to find himself is anyone’s guess. It was the 1940s after all. But something happened on his overseas jaunt that would change the direction of his life – and the trajectory of the architectural world – forever. Bawa discovered a passion for Italy’s extraordinary Renaissance buildings and gardens. It’s this revelation that spurred him to take up architectural studies in



Nisala Entrance © Jacqui Gibson

his 30s. And it’s this revelation that led to Bawa “the Architect” and an entirely new design genre melding East and West known as tropical modernism. I first came across Bawa’s brilliance in Bentota, a coastal resort town located 64 kilometres south of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. I was staying at Nisala Arana, a boutique hotel run by Aussie-born manager Ben Pereira. It’s a tucked away, four-and-a-half acre, walled heritage property styled on Bawa principles. Purchased in 2000 by Pereira’s mum Jill, a Melburnian, and dad Kevin, a Burgher (Sri Lankan of Portuguese descent), Nisala Arana was once home to an Ayurvedic doctor noted for curing snake bites more than a century ago.

Lunuganga Gardens © Jacqui Gibson

To soothe their ills, the Sinhalese doctor would concoct medicines from the various trees and plants on the property. For venomous bites, he’d reach for neem leaves. For asthma or general coughing, the mandarin trees probably came in handy. It’s difficult to know exactly what potions the doctor administered. He’s long gone now. But Ben says the decision to keep Nisala Arana’s heritage trees was as much a nod to Dr. Leonora’s natural healing legacy as it was part of the garden’s overall Bawainspired design aesthetic. He says it was his mum, Jill, who led the six-month renovation, which included upgrading the grounds, Lunuganga Pots © Jacqui Gibson

Lunuganga Lake © Jacqui Gibson

as well as renovating the doctor’s original Dutch-style colonial home and Buddhist shrine room. Walking the property today, guests are treated to Bawa in miniature. There are crafted lawns across which squirrels, mongoose and white herons dart for cover. There’s Bawa’s seamless blend of house and garden and his deft sequencing of outdoor and indoor spaces connected by lawns, classical glazed pots and intimate seating areas. Nisala Arana has a central, open-air pavilion for dining. Each of the resort’s bungalows (including the original 165-year-old doctor’s house) is styled in Nisala Pool © Jacqui Gibson



Buddhist Monk of Bentota © Jacqui Gibson



Nisala Jill and Kevin © Jacqui Gibson

mostly mahogany and teak antiques to capture Bawa’s preference for simple, masculine interiors. And yet Nisala Arana – now registered as a heritage home with the Sri Lankan Tourism Board – is no Bawa pastiche. Ben explains, “Mum took a lot of time to understand Geoffrey Bawa’s work. She used to meet Geoffrey here in Bentota at Lunuganga gardens, his private retreat. She had a personal relationship with him and sought out his head gardener for advice and input into the grounds here at Nisala. She also made sure we had local craftsmen work on the restoration. From memory, the entire building team of 40 workers stayed on site for more than half a year.”

“Mum’s got a great eye, but she wanted craftsmen with an in-depth knowledge of local materials and techniques to work on the property. She wanted to achieve a style that was in keeping with the original buildings on the place, while maintaining a contemporary vibe. In that sense, Nisala Arana is very much mum’s take on Bawa’s notion of tropical modernism,” says Ben. Not everyone who stays at Nisala Arana is treated to the property’s backstory or its connection to Bawa, Sri Lanka’s most famous architect. Stay at Nisala Arana and you can go bike riding, visit the local Buddhist temple and dine on chef Aroy’s signature white fish curry as the sun goes down to the sound of croaking frogs. Guests commonly daytrip to nearby turtle sanctuaries, swim at local beaches and grab an airconditioned car and driver to explore the ancient fort city of Galle. Nisala Arana is also a popular yoga venue for small groups wanting a retreat from the world in the literal sense. In my Bawa-obsessed state, I opt to spend my final afternoon at Nisala Arana touring Lunuganga Gardens, Bawa’s 10-hectare homestead bought in 1948 and re-fashioned over a period of 50 years.



It takes just a short drive in the Pereira’s vintage Morris Minor to get there. There’s no signage, just a winding dirt road that takes me past rice paddies and emerald green jungle to a clearing of parked cars and chattering drivers. These days, Lunuganga is run as a country hotel of six guest rooms and cottages, with the gardens open to the public. My guide meets me at the main entrance of Lunuganga in the dappled shade of towering tamarind trees. But soon I am out in the unforgiving heat, trundling down skinny stone pathways, flanked by rippling lilyponds, taking in the story of Bawa’s life’s work. My guide explains how Bawa purchased the property as an abandoned rubber and cinnamon plantation furnished with a modest bungalow, which he promptly turned into his creative HQ. Lunuganga Chair © Jacqui Gibson



It took him over half a century to move hills, transplant woods, cut terraces and experiment with landscaping, essentially making a series of outdoor rooms from the property’s jungle setting. Out of local materials he created courtyards, water features and generally expressed his love of combining traditional and modern forms. Nisala Morris © Jacqui Gibson

Lunuganga Wagon © Jacqui Gibson

Moving between the portico and the Cinnamon Hill house, it’s easy to trace Bawa’s trademark style of black and white interiors and the clever lines of sight that take you from one outdoor courtyard to another or draw your eye to the edges of the majestic Dedduwa Lake. What is extraordinary is that Bawa had time to design such a place given his frantically successful 40-year career. In total, he designed about 70 private homes (though fewer were built) and 35 hotels, as well as schools and many commercial, religious and public buildings, including Sri Lanka’s Parliament House. Possibly, then, Lunuganga was his muse. Dotted throughout the property, my guide tells me, are some of Bawa’s favourite sitting spots – modest bench seats with bells attached. He’d simply sit in these spots, take in the views, then ring the bell to indicate precisely where he’d like to receive the pen and paper he needed to jot down his next big idea.

If You Go •G et to Lunuganga by taking the two-and-a-half hour drive from the international airport or the one-and a-half-hour drive from Colombo (alternatively, Lunuganga will arrange an airport pickup if required). •T ake a garden tour for $10.00 (tours take place at 9.30am, 11.30am, 2.00pm and 3.30pm daily). •S tay at Lunuganga Estate or nearby at Nisala Arana.



How One Foodie Community Honors Itself Let’s be honest. Food is the one thing that unites us all. Sandwiched between San Diego and Los Angeles, Orange County found itself lacking a true food identity yet home to some incredibly talented and inventive chefs. There had to be a way to make this community stand out and celebrate those in the food community. In 2012, Pamela Waitt created the Golden Foodie Awards. She found it odd that there are awards and celebrations for everything except food. “It’s the one thing that we all truly connect with,” she said. “I wanted to find a way to honor these chefs and food service workers for their hard work. Chefs love to make people happy.” Now in its sixth year, the Golden Foodie Awards are taking their rightful place among California’s award season. “In my eyes, the James Beard Awards are the Oscars of the food industry while the Golden Foodies are the Peoples Choice Awards.” Each year, the awards host a red carpet gala event to honor the recipients and celebrate the foodies of Orange County. Food Network personality Simon Majumdar has served as master of ceremonies for the sold-out event. Each year, more than 100,000 local residents vote for their favorites in 18 categories of culinary excellence: Bartender of the Year, Best Cocktails, Best Bar Program, Best Lunch Spot, Best Brunch, Best New Restaurant, Rising Star Chef of the Year, Favorite Food Influencer in Orange County, Best Wine Program, Best Beer Program, Outstanding Community Service, Restaurateur of the Year, Best Dessert Menu, Best Entree, Best Service, Pastry Chef of the Year, Chef of the Year and the Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2017, the Golden Foodies created a new category for Lifetime Achievement Award. The



Story by Beth Graham

Chef Alan Greeley accepts the Golden Foodie Awards first ever Lifetime Achievement Award © Joe Katchka of Katchka Moments Photography.

inaugural award went to Chef Alan Greeley, one of Orange County’s most revered chefs who operated the iconic The Golden Truffle restaurant for 37 years. Chef Bruno Serato of Anaheim White House was also honored with the Outstanding Community Service award for his work in serving more than one million free meals to needy children, despite a recent fire that destroyed his restaurant. The Golden Foodies focus on independent food establishments (but don’t overlook chains) mainly because they are community restaurants that local families know and love. “In Orange County, people really get to know their bartenders and chefs and feel like they’re part of the restaurant. That’s our focus,” she says. In the true spirit of celebrating and giving back to the food community, the Golden Foodie Awards support a benefactor, the Golden Rule Charity, a nonprofit based in Southern California inspired by the hard-working restaurant employees who may find themselves in need of an emergency crisis grant such as medical, food, shelter and transportation. In the past few years, 20 percent of ticket sales have gone to the charity, amassing several thousand dollars in donations over the years. “We’re all in this together,” says Pam. “You never know when a chef, or a line cook, or anyone in the foodservice industry, will find themselves needing help. Through our work with the Golden Foodies and the Golden Rule Charity, we’re here to build them up.”

If You Go

Golden Foodies Awards

A Journey on South Africa’s Blue Train from

Pretoria to CapeTown Story by Veronica Matheson

Service all the way © bluetrain.co.za




rass luggage trolleys sparkle in the early morning sun as we arrive at South Africa’s colonial era Pretoria Station to board the iconic Blue Train that will carry us south to Cape Town. We walk a red carpet to the departures hall to meet 72 other passengers – mainly in the 55+ age bracket – who will board with us. There is a mix of Americans, Australians, British, a few South Africans and the odd train buff from other parts of the world, all expecting the ride of a lifetime. Breakfast was at our hotel, so an early lunch (brunch) is scheduled soon after we board. We quickly check out our suite, see a welcoming note from our butler, Trevor, and head to the train’s rear observation car as the whistle blows right on time, and we are on the move. The bar is already open, and as it is cocktail hour in some part of the world, we sip sparkling South African wine from crystal flutes as Pretoria rolls by to the right and left. A picture window at the carriage’s rear shows our train snaking along rails that will keep us right on track. This is road-tripping as it should be, the stress-free way. En route to Cape Town, we will cover almost 1600 km at a gentle clickety-clack on the rails at an easygoing 90kph. Over 27 hours – two days and one night — we will be pampered at every turn, even having the sofa in our suite converted into a bed so that we can have a nap after too generous a lunch. We, like most international passengers, have spent a few days in Johannesburg before a transfer to the nearby city of Pretoria to board the Blue Train so jetlag will not mar our journey.

Blue Train © bluetrain.co.za





Suite for couple on train © bluetrain.co.za

When we finally catch up with Trevor, he tells us he is available 24 hours a day if we need a late night snack or early morning cup of tea. But our immediate problem is to connect our laptop to the Wi-Fi (free on board). He manages that in minutes. Our luxurious suite is a cocoon of comfort. A chair sits in prime position beside the picture window, a small wardrobe holds our clothes and the en-suite bathroom is marble tiled and gold-plumbed. A TV monitor shows highlights en route, including the hauntingly beautiful semi-desert of the Karoo that is the setting of Olive Schreiner’s classic novel “The Story of an African Farm”, which is my current bedtime story. There is no shortage of exercise as we can walk the length of the train, taking in the dining car, lounge car, piano bar and observation areas. Admittedly, we walk the corridors at a decidedly rolling gait but not, we insist, from the free-flowing alcohol on board. At one stage, there is an Agatha Christie moment when the lights go dim, and we come to a standstill. But thankfully, there are no gunshots. In spite of its lofty stature, the Blue Train has to give way to the vagaries of local trains and occasional power failures. On board, the rich wood panelling, brass fittings and plush carpeting recall days of yore when royalty, aristocrats, politicians and business tycoons all travelled by train while enjoying the comforts of home. South Africa’s former late President Nelson

Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, supermodel Naomi Campbell, the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and jazz trumpeter Quincy Jones have all been guests on the Blue Train. It was in the second half of the 20th century that long-distance train travel went “off the rails.” Air travel was faster, and cars replaced trains. But rail travel is back in fashion as passengers avoid the hassle of busy airports and highway traffic jams. From Pretoria, we ride into the sun-baked veldt (grasslands), through semi-desert areas soaring mountains, rolling hills and vast market gardens and vineyards. Much of South Africa has had three years of drought, and occasionally, we see signs of what are rivers in name only with odd puddles that were once streams. There are also glimpses of down-at-heel Africa in makeshift corrugated iron shacks where thousands live illegally in abysmal poverty. Late afternoon brings an off-train excursion to the historic diamond rush mining town of Kimberley with its great pit that is a whistle-blow off the rail tracks. It is the birthplace of De Beers, the world’s foremost diamond trader. As dusk falls, gazing out the huge picture window in our suite is mesmerizing as a blood red African sun sinks low on the horizon. “Me time” is interrupted by breakfast, lunch, afternoon high tea with requisite cucumber sandwiches

and then dinner. Pre-dinner drinks beside the bar are the perfect time to chat with strangers as train travel encourages conversation in a way that driving cannot. Dan from the UK is a train buff who loves rolling stock and occasionally treats himself and his wife, Bec, to a luxury train ride. “Africa has been high on our bucket list, but the upturn in train travel means we have to book well ahead,” he says. The history of rail in South Africa is closely linked to the discovery of diamonds and gold, with trains having been the main transport to those early mines. The first Blue Train came into service in 1939, and by the 1960s it was showing its age, having been updated twice since then to add modern touches to its venerable bones. Not surprisingly, those on the Blue Train spend a great deal of time eating, drinking and chilling out. At the open bar, we taste for the first time Africa’s delicious Amarula cream liqueur. It is made from the fruit of the Time for a nightcap © bluetrain.co.za

Room service day and night © bluetrain.co.za

Marula tree and the chatty barman tells us elephants are also rather fond of the fruit. So it has to be picked the instant it ripens, or elephants quickly strip the trees bare. Food onboard is a 5-star feast showcasing South African fare. On our journey, we cannot resist the tender Karoo lamb, the choice cuts of venison and the Kingklip, a local fish with firm white flesh that we have not come across before. South Africa’s world-renowned red and white wines are also showcased, and we settle on Pinotage, first created in South Africa as a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes. Surprisingly, we find the taste is a bit like an Australian Shiraz. By late evening, many of us are heading to the club car for Kenyan coffee, cognac, cigars and cozy chats. Life on-board continues at this easy rhythm until finally, the unmistakable silhouette of flat-topped Table Mountain and our southern destination of Cape Town comes into view. Sadly, our brief reminder of the golden age of rail travel is over, but South Africa awaits.

If You Go South Africa Blue Train



10 Reasons to Travel to

Halkidiki, Greece Story and Photos by Francesca Mazurkiewicz


alk about planning a beach vacation to Greece, and inevitably, the question will surface of which islands are best to visit. But what if an equally beautiful place in Greece isn’t an island but rather a peninsula in the north of the country called Halkidiki? Compared to the famed Greek Islands, Halkidiki is still relatively unknown as a tourist destination. But it’s worthy of consideration when planning a beach vacation, and here are 10 reasons why:

1. Unique And Diverse Landscapes

Halkidiki is one enormous peninsula that begins on the mainland near Thessaloniki and divides into three smaller peninsulas extending into the Aegean Sea. The three sub-peninsulas (known locally as “legs”) are Kassandra, Sithonia, and Athos, each distinctly unique geographically.

Private beach at Nefeli Villas and Suites © Francesca Mazurkiewicz

2. The Beaches

Depending on the peninsula, the beaches range from protected coves with calm, clear water to rocky shores backed by rugged cliffs.

3. The People

The land is gorgeous, yes, but so are the people. The locals in cafés are quick with a smile and warm greetings, and English is widely spoken. The hospitality professionals are refreshingly attentive, enthusiastic, and genuine.

4. Stress-Free Travel

The easiest way to get to and around Halkidiki is by flying into Thessaloniki International Airport “Macedonia” and renting a car. The roads are in good shape, and highway signs are well-marked in both Greek and English. A rental car allows travelers to not be limited to one location.

Karidi Beach in Vourvourou © Francesca

“Compared to the famed Greek Islands, Halkidiki is still relatively unknown as a tourist destination. But it’s worthy of consideration when planning a beach vacation...”

5. Suitable For All Budgets

Accommodations range from national forest campgrounds to opulent resorts at the pinnacle of luxury, from half-board packages to self-catering rentals.

6. Suitable For All Types Of Travel

With various levels of accommodations and diverse dining options, Halkidiki accommodates all types of travelers. Whether for the annual family beach vacation or a couple’s romantic getaway, it’s the perfect place to create memories.

7. The Food

Being surrounded by water means an abundance of fresh seafood. A common sight at beachfront restaurants is a server filleting whole grilled fish, tableside, for patrons. There is also no shortage of meze and traditional Greek dishes at the countless restaurants and tavernas.


8. Air Of Mystery

Athos has been the exclusive domain of monks and hermits for more than 1,000 years, and women are not allowed on the peninsula past the town of Ouranoupolis. Men are allowed on Athos but must have advance permission. Piques the curiosity, no?

9. Distinct Personalities

There are three peninsulas, all very different from one another. Kassandra is known for its nightlife and party beaches. Sithonia, teeming with thick pine forests, is more laid back and rugged. Lastly, there is Athos and its air of mystery.

10. So Much To Do

The beaches are what draw many to Halkidiki, but once there, travelers realize that outdoor recreational opportunities abound. Among the most popular activities are hiking, biking, fishing and boating. Of course, lying on the beach and soaking up the Aegean sun is perfectly acceptable as well.

Mount Athos © Francesca Mazurkiewicz



The Birds, Bees, Baskets and Olive Trees of

Um Qais

Jordan Story and Photos By Mary Chong



Beekeeper Yousef Adle Sayah’s Bee Hives © Mary Chong



Beit Al Baraka Bed and Breakfast © Mary Chong



Breakfast is served at Beit Al Baraka © Mary Chong

They practise their English by repeatedly chirping,

“Hello, How are You? What’s your name?” and squeal, laughing with delight when one of our party of travellers replies.


he roads are narrow and snake through the little village of 7,000 people known as Um Qais in Northern Jordan. They are so tight that our tour bus had to park on the main street a short distance away from our destination, Beit Al Baraka Bed and Breakfast. Our luggage transferred into pickup trucks to travel the remainder of the journey while we made our way on foot. As we walk the winding streets, at the sight of foreigners the neighbourhood children take a break from their game of street soccer and, like little birds, chase and flutter around us. They practise their English by repeatedly chirping, “Hello”, “How are You?”, “What’s your name?” and squeal, laughing with delight when one of our party of travellers replies. We have a busy day planned, and there is little time for this fun game with our adorable new friends — adventure awaits us.



“Bees have a world of order and any life with order is a good life.” — Yousef Adle Sayah

Beit Al Baraka Bed and Breakfast Um Qais, on Jordan’s northern border, is not a typical spot for tourists but is worthy of a visit if you are seeking a unique immersive travel experience. Beit Al Baraka Bed and Breakfast is the first of its kind and the only guest house in the village. Operated by Baraka Destinations based 100 kilometres to the south in Amman, Jordan, the mission of the organisation is to “stimulate economic growth while conserving and protecting cultural heritage and natural resources.” Specializing in sustainable tourism development, Baraka Destinations partners with local community members to establish businesses with them to connect tourists to the culture and living history of the region. As a result, guests staying at the bed and breakfast have access to many immersive Jordanian experiences such as basket weaving, cooking, foraging, beekeeping, cycling and hiking. Before Baraka Destinations’ involvement in the community, travellers would come for 2 hours, tour the archaeological site of the ancient Decapolis city of Gadara and leave. Now travellers stay a few days, and the community has flourished. Our accommodations at Beit Al Baraka are lovely and comfortable with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, the main sitting room and dining room as well as an outdoor garden. It’s shared accommodation but I don’t mind; it’s peaceful here, and a homestay is a welcome change from the large hotels in Amman. Creative touches fill the rooms. The overflowing fruit baskets that adorn the coffee table are by the local basket weaver who also skillfully wove the seats of the chairs in the dining room, a local woodworker handcrafted the furniture, and the local blacksmith forged the wrought iron bed frames. Local and organic is what it’s all about when it comes to the meals during our stay - honey, capers,



An Introduction to Beekeeping © Mary Chong

pomegranates, citrus, papaya, herbs, bulgur, wheat, grains and olives are all harvested in Um Qais.

The Honey Bees of Um Qais Beekeeper Yousef Adle Sayah’s memorized speech is hesitant, and he starts over when he loses his way. He’s quiet and reserved, and we all smile and nod with encouragement. He’s just learned English a short while ago, courtesy of Um Qais’s resident English teacher Roddy — an expat from Scotland who came to Jordan to study Arabic and never left.

As we sit in the shade of the Yarmouk Forest Reserve and sip glasses of pomegranate juice sweetened with honey, Yousef passionately explains the ecological importance of bees to the environment, the pollination process, the hive infrastructure and the purpose of the queen bee. It’s a challenging speech for someone new to English, and he does it well. Yousef tells us the story of his love for bees, a love that began at the age of 12 when he would visit his uncle’s beehive each day after school. He found the bees relaxing, and he would have a feeling of complete joy whenever he was watching them in their colony. After leaving the

military 20 years ago, he immediately turned again to his first love. A solo entrepreneur, Yousef has 60 hives and produces an average six kilograms of carob-based organic honey each winter with another harvest of honey in the summer after he moves his hives into the Jordan Valley. The best part of our visit with Yousef is when we don our protective suits and head out to the hives to witness the bees at work. The bees buzz and fuss around our group of beekeepers in training and Yousef uses smoke to calm them as we eagerly surround the hive for a closer look. It is soporific and meditative, and I can see how one can get lost amongst the world of order.



Basket Weaving with Alia We visit with Alia, a master in the ancient art of weaving, in her home. Over cups of sage tea, she shares her craft. She has a shy smile as she spreads out the banana leaves and straw in the middle of the room. With a determined expression on her face, she demonstrates how to weave. A few volunteers in our group try to create a handcrafted reminder of our visit to Um Qais while the others in our party are happy to sit back and relax on cushions, sip our tea, and watch the busy hands at work.



The shyness leaves Alia as she shows off the baskets on display that take hours to create, and with a big smile of pride, she points out the intricate patterns and the bright colours made from natural herb dyes that she, of course, forages and prepares herself. She is truly a master - we have a lot to learn. Basket Weaving Demonstration in Um Qais Š Mary Chong



Olive Picking © Mary Chong

Picnicking Amongst the Olives We sit on mats amongst the trees of the olive groves for a picnic lunch of tea flavoured with wild thyme and kishk, fried dumplings filled with cheese and sundried tomatoes. It’s olive harvest season, and we aren’t alone as other families picnic nearby. After our meal, we join the harvest. It’s labour intensive as it’s all done by hand. A sheet on the ground under each tree catches the plump Kishk, Apples and Cucumbers © Mary Chong



olives as the fruit is stripped off the branches. Our guide, Ahmed, tells us that green olives taste better than black olives, but the latter produce more oil. No part of the olive tree goes to waste as the olive pits and tree trimmings are used to burn as fuel. Later, we visit a nearby factory to watch the freshly picked olives as they go through the pressing process for oil and leave with two bottles of liquid gold for our cooking class. Picnic in the Olive Grove © Mary Chong

Cooking with Um Sulaiman in Galsoum’s Kitchen Lastly, we meet Um Sulaiman and her family in her beautifully adorned home. She smiles with her eyes - it’s infectious, warm and welcoming. Everyone I’ve met during my journey through Jordan has been incredibly hospitable, always with an offer of sage-flavoured or thymeflavoured tea, pomegranate juice or the most delicious blend of lemon mint juice. The house smells fabulous, filled with the scent of our dinner cooking in the oven, makmoora, a traditional rural dish of layered dough, onions, chicken, spices and olive oil. I can’t wait; the intoxicating aroma teases my taste buds. We are there for a cooking class, and we get to work slicing and dicing green olives, peppers, lemons and carrots, Um Sulaiman gently correcting our technique as we go along. The chopping done, the mixture is seasoned and scooped into little jars, and the luscious freshly pressed olive oil is poured over the top to preserve it. It’s our tasty little gift of Jordan that we’ll take home with us, and we all smile with our eyes just as Um Sulaiman did. Bread is next on the list of things to do as we mix and knead the dough. Olive oil plays an active role in bread-making too as it’s used both in the batter and to keep the mixture from sticking inside the grooves of the decoratively patterned wooden moulds. As night falls, our group sits on cushions on the floor of Um Sulaiman’s living room. The table is crowded with an array of platters and bowls of hummus, tabbouleh, fried bulgur and onions, and of course, the hearty makmoora as we all fill our plates and dig in. We return to the guest house, our eyes heavy and our bellies full.

Um Sulaiman making bread © Mary Chong


he next day, as the sun begins to rise, I awake to the sound of birds chirping and Morning Prayer sung over the village loudspeaker. I lie in my comfortable handcrafted bed in my shared room of Beit Al Baraka reflecting on the adventures that brought me to this point in my Jordanian journey. For a brief moment, I wonder if this is part of a dream... Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I hear my roommates begin to stir as I start to smell the aroma of breakfast cooking, I stretch my tired body and smile because this is reality.

If You Go Jordan Tourism Board NA sponsored this trip my opinions are my own.

Baraka Destinations Jordan Tourism Board NA








Destination Story by Kimberly Fisher

Dine on a Private Sandbank Š baros.com




ituated in the middle of the Indian Ocean, a group of 1,192 tiny coral islands on 26 atolls forms what is known as the Republic of Maldives, or the Maldives. The smallest Asian destination in both population and area, the Maldives are known for their azure blue waters, soft white sand beaches and unparalleled service and luxury. Spread out over just a hundred square miles, only 200 islands are inhabited, half of which are private luxury resorts. This is the ultimate honeymoon location.


The Maldives check all the boxes when it comes to exclusive, exotic and glamorous. Standard services in the Maldives include the top luxury packages, first-class spas, chefs from around the world, and much more. The Maldives have it all. Each island is private, and staff have been well trained to take care of every need.

To explore the ultimate honeymoon spot, we checked into Baros Maldives, one of the first established Maldivian resorts. Since it has been around since 1973, the guest experience has been perfected from start to finish. After landing in the capital city of MalÊ, you are whisked away on a 25-minute speedboat ride to the island. When you arrive at the picturesque dock, you are greeted by smiling staff members and warmly welcomed with a champagne cocktail. Baros Maldives is home to 75 sandstone and timber suites, which include 30 over-water villas, and 45 beach villas. Spacious accommodations can include private plunge pools, private verandahs, and sun decks. All rooms are outfitted with a flat screen TV, surround sound, iPod docking station, espresso machine, in-room bar, wine chiller, yoga mat, plush robes and pillow menu. A beach bag and flip-flops make trips to the beach extra easy, and sun loungers Traditional Dhoni in the Lagoon Š baros.com



Snorkeling in the Lagoon Š baros.com

make relaxing outside even easier. Service is of the utmost importance at Baros Maldives, and you will find that there is a staff member for every three guests, including the concierge, personal villa hosts, spa staff, dining room operations and more. Personal villa hosts are assigned for the duration of the stay and can help with anything you may need

including excursions, dinner suggestions and even history of the island and its people. Most hosts can speak between 3 and 5 languages and have been educated at schools around the world. For honeymooners, the Maldives offer once-ina-lifetime experiences. For those wanting a bit of adventure or a truly romantic experience, to follow are four of our favorite Maldivian experiences.



Sunset sail on a traditional handcrafted Maldivian boat © Kimberly Fisher

Swimming with the sharks The island of Baros is enclosed in its own coral reef and pristine lagoon, so snorkeling and diving are a must for water enthusiasts. The island has its own PADI dive shop and marine biology center, which can help you learn more about the reef and its inhabitants. Swim with friendly giant nurse sharks, colorful reef fish, playful batfish, turtles, eels and over 1,100 different kinds of fish as you observe the underwater playground. Commemorate your trip and your honeymoon with a coral planted in your name.

Dine on a private sandbank For ultimate seclusion and romance, have a meal in the middle of the Indian Ocean with only your love, private chef, and discreet staff member. The speedboat drops



you off and comes back at a designated time. Choose from breakfast, lunch or dinner and enjoy an exquisite meal on a perfectly formed sandbank in the middle of the deep blue lagoon. Take breaks between courses with a dip in the sea.

Sail the waters on‘ Nooma,’ a traditional dhoni Nothing says romance like a sunset sail on a traditional handcrafted Maldivian boat made of wood, traditional coconut palm timber, and outfitted with a thatched-roof lounge area, air-conditioned bedroom, onboard shower and loungers perfect for sunbathing and catching the rays. A full crew wears stunning traditional sarongs as they navigate the ‘Nooma” over calm waters. A steward is on board to serve refreshments, including canapés and chilled champagne.

Private Dolphin Cruise As one of the top five places in the world to watch dolphins, a private cruise to observe these magical creatures in their natural habitat is a must. Over 20 species of dolphins inhabit the Maldives, swimming freely by the boats, playing in the waves and communicating with each other. Guides can introduce you to their daily routines, offshore feeding grounds, and schedules.

Getting There You don’t need a visa to go to the Maldives, just a valid passport, proof of onward travel and necessary funds. Visitors arrive at Male’ International Airport, which

has flights from major airports in Southeast Asia, India, Singapore and more. From there you can connect to your resort via an airport transfer.

Things To Know The climate in the Maldives is tropical year-round, so lightweight, loose clothes are best. Monsoon season is from April to October. January to April is the dry season. We visited in June and only experienced light rain a few days in the afternoon. The Maldives is a Muslim country, and alcohol is only allowed at private resorts, which are exempt.

If You Go Baros Sunset off the Pier © Kimberly Fisher



The Memorable Cuisine of Croatia Story and Photos by Kaila Yu

Istrian Truffles from Prodan Tartufi © Kaila Yu




vening at the International Prosciutto Fair in Tinjan, Croatia is buzzing with energy and celebration. Wine glasses clink as thinly sliced parchments of meat are lovingly teased from immense, fatty legs of perfectly marbled pork. The fragrance of roasted chestnuts wafts through the air as they roast over an open flame. Even the ambiance feels delicious. Anthony Bourdain touted Croatia as the ultimate foodie destination when he visited and filmed “No Reservations” in 2012. “If you like food, and you haven’t come here to eat, you’re missing the boat,” he said. And the world is beginning to take notice. Tourism has increased by over five million visits per year since then. The passion for food in Croatia is evidenced by the Prosciutto Fair and countless other food festivals that pepper the year in the northernmost Istria region alone. Some of these include a truffle festival, asparagus festival, sole fish festival and countless others. If you are visiting Croatia for the food, the Istria region should be at the top of your list, as it’s famous for its truffles, wine, olive oil, prosciutto, fresh seafood and more. During my trip to Istria, we visited the Gastronomija Ville Meneghetti inside the Meneghetti Wine Hotel. The restaurant serves highbrow interpretations of local ingredients and features a highly aromatic wine and olive oil tasting. The restaurant serves its own award-winning oil, pressed from olives harvested from trees grown on the estate. One of our hosts said, “We put olive oil on everything [in Croatia].” A highlight of the meal was the perfectly grilled, delicate turbot fillet dressed with a shot of piquant Mediterranean sauce and elegant olive oil pearls. The presentation was understated, yet upscale and gave us a true experience of Istrian cuisine. For lunch the next day, we were treated to a fourhour presentation at the famed Croatian slow food



restaurant, Toklarija. Overseen by chef/owner Nevio Siroti, the restaurant was built into a converted olive mill. Siroti had turned down all other reservations to focus on our meal, as he paid meticulous attention to detail. The meal started with a delicate and flaky bread sandwiching a locally raised ham and cheese, paired with Chef’s own homemade pickles. It ended with a sublimely light and airy chocolate cake. The next day took us an hour south to the Kvarner region, also known as the Monte Carlo of Croatia. The city of Opatija there is renowned for its Kvarner Scampi, distinguished as the star of all Adriatic seafood and

Opatija Coastline © Kaila Yu

Tuna Tartare at Restaurant Badi © Kaila Yu Fish Ceviche with dashi at Pelegrini © Kaila Yu



usually caught with longline fishing traps. This method of fishing prevents bruising and is much more selective than fishing with nets. Scampi started off our first meal in Opatija at the Villa Ariston. It was a briny, buttery bite paired with sun-dried tomatoes and pomegranate seeds. The star of the lunch was the scallop course, perfectly grilled and served atop crispy, creamy spinach fritters. The accompanying sauce of celery and black truffle cream perfectly highlighted the dish. Pasta at Design Hotel Navis © Kaila Yu

Finally, we made it to the last stop on the trip, Sibenik, which has gained some recent notoriety as it was the filming location for three episodes of “Game of Thrones.” We anticipated that Konoba Pelegrini would be one of the highlights of the trip since it won the title of best restaurant in Croatia for three straight years. It has even been called “a place and experience that foodie dreams are made of” by GQ Magazine. This tavern/diner, located right next to St. James Cathedral, a UNESCO heritage site, is the unofficial symbol of Sibenik and is devoted to the preservation of Dalmatianstyle cuisine.

That night, we settled in at Design Hotel Navis. This brand new five-star hotel features stunning sea views and balconies in every room. It provides a generous buffet for all guests featuring two self-serve prosciutto legs, one deeply crimson and one generously marbled with a thick layer of fat. Local foods are also served, including a trio of sardines harvested from the island of Kali and a selection of paté, pickled peppers and vegetables.

Local Fish from the tasting menu at Toklarija © Kaila Yu

Sparkling Fish Soup at Meneghetti © Kaila Yu



Hotel Room Balcony at the Design Hotel Navis © Kaila Yu

Head Cook Rudolf Stefan prides himself on innovation as he showcases his passion for the Mediterranean region. We wondered why Konoba Pelegrini hadn’t yet earned a Michelin Star. The restaurant is celebrated for its 10-course tasting menu. The procession of locally sourced dishes included a light and airy bite of fish ceviche flavored by dashi, veal under the bell, a cuttlefish and black gnocchi. The “Veal under the Bell” course was inspired by the traditional Croatian dish of peca. It was served under a heavy stone bell that was lifted with a dramatic flourish as the smoky scent wafted into the room. The



sourdough bread was made from the restaurant’s own mother yeast. Especially memorable was the veal roll cevapcic, served as a carpaccio, dotted with a bracing mustard sauce and nestled into a bed of crispy panko crumbs. Service was performed by a synchronized waiter train that orchestrated the placement of dishes in front of each guest simultaneously. The last stop of the trip was at the KRKA National Park, a 142-square km UNESCO World Heritage site that’s so secluded it’s home to two monasteries. A threehour hike through crackling leaves while enjoying the crystalline waterfalls left us ravenous and we were treated

KRKA National Park Š Kaila Yu

to one of my favorite meals of the trip at the Stari Mlin i Kalikusa. This outdoor restaurant is located inside the park. We enjoyed a crispy, grilled local monk fish seasoned with only local herbs and olive oil, while paired with home-style potatoes and kale. The accompanying salad was dressed simply with olive oil and vinegar. We savored the meal outdoors in the fresh air as we reminisced about the trip. A friendly, orange tabby cat joined us, politely sitting nearby until we donated our generous leftovers for his enjoyment. In the end, the best meals are not only about the food but about the company and the environment in

which they are enjoyed. Croatia offers the finest of all of these aspects of dining.

If You Go Istria Tourist Board Opatija Tourism Board Sibenik Tourism Board



Sunset Luau at Waikoloa Beach Marriott © CTShier



Go Big: Luxury on the Island of

Hawaii Story by Lori A. May Photos by CT Shier

The Big Island

If you have visited more than one Hawaiian island, you will have noticed each has its own vibe. While Oahu is “the gathering place” and often a gateway to experiencing Hawaii, Kauai is known as “the garden isle” for its lush landscape and sparser population. The largest island, Hawaii, offers luxurious resorts along the coastline with a breathtaking, diverse topography perfect for day trips. The Big Island is known for its active volcanoes, lava fields, rainforest, tide pools and beaches. You’ll immediately feel a world away from the ordinary when first setting foot on Hawaii, yet completely at home at the island’s world-class resorts. Mauna Kea Beach Hotel © CTShier



Escape to Kohala Coast The 30-mile drive from Kona International Airport to resorts along the Kohala Coast offers an introduction to Hawaii’s lava fields. Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway is surrounded by evidence of volcanic eruptions, yet tucked along the water is a sandy beachfront where you’ll find Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. The resort property has all the appeal of a luxurious getaway but is far removed from the tourist vibe you’ll find along the Kailua-Kona waterfront. Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is the island’s first resort, built after Laurance S. Rockefeller fell in love with the picturesque qualities of Kauna’oa Bay. Contemporary island-inspired decor welcomes resort guests, and the serene beachfront location makes this a go-to destination for swimming and snorkeling. Calm bay waters attract manta rays to a small cove at the resort, and moonlit snorkel sessions are available for guests who wish to swim alongside these gentle gliders. Tide Pools on The Big Island © CTShier

Carrying the marine life theme into the resort, Manta is a must-visit dining venue on site. The open-air restaurant has panoramic bay views and fresh seafood from Mac Nut Encrusted Mahi Mahi to Seared Dry Rub Scallops. Koi ponds dot the path from the main building to the oceanfront pool where palm trees tower overhead, and cabanas offer relief from the afternoon sun. The five-star property also provides immediate access to the crescentshaped beach with resort chairs, umbrellas and other amenities available to guests.

Waikoloa Beach Luxury Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, located on South Kohala Coast, is a beachfront destination with ample options for shopping and dining. Directly across the street from the resort is Kings’ Shops, an open-air plaza with high-end retailers and restaurants including The KOA Table by Food Network star Chef Ippy Aiona. Around the

bend, Queens’ Marketplace has a series of boutiques, souvenir shops and grab-and-go eateries. You won’t go hungry on site at Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, though, as menu options are abundant morning through night, from the breakfast buffet at Hawaii Calls to the Sunset Luau. The luau features a Polynesian dinner and show set amid spectacular sunsets blending into ocean surf. For mild adventure, Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa provides on-site equipment rentals, including snorkel gear, boogie boards, kayaks, hydro-bikes, and stand-up paddle boards. Between the resort pool decks and the beach, you’ll also find ancient Hawaiian fish ponds with information to help identify the critters below. If you prefer to bask in the sun poolside, it’s worth noting that the expansive pool deck is open into the wee hours of the morning, perfect for a dip under the stars.

Island Exploration While the Kohala Coast includes five-star resorts to call home during your time in Hawaii, you’ll want to rent a car for a day or two to explore more of The Big Island. One requisite destination is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to see the glory of two active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Park rangers are available to share the history of Hawaii’s volcanoes, but much of the park can be self-explored. If you’re a wine lover, be sure to stop at Volcano Winery, in the town of – you guessed it - Volcano. The small vineyard has a tasting room open 364 days annually. If unique outdoor adventure is on your bucket list, head to the southeast corner of Hawaii to experience the island’s tide pools. About an hour east of the volcanoes, you’ll find Kapoho Tide Pools and other pools where warm water is protected from crashing waves. Some tide pools are perfect for relaxing during an afternoon soak, while others give you an incredible snorkeling experience.

Unearthing the Kalua pig at Marriott Sunset Luau © CTShier Seared Dry Rub Scallops © CTShier

If You Go Thanks to the diverse landscape on The Big Island, weather patterns may change throughout the day. Plan for sunshine along the coast during the day, but keep cooler evening temperatures in mind. Layer up for misty rain patches when you visit higher elevations en route to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Hawaii Tourism Authority Mauna Kea Beach Hotel Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

Volcano Winery In Volcano HI © CTShier

Story and Photos by Kurt Jacobson WINTER 2017


The Saltwater Café in Langley is a great place to sample island cuisine. © Tamra Bolton



Barboursville Vineyards Octagon wine flight

The Pacific Northwest Gem:

Whidbey Island

South Whidbey

When you arrive on Whidbey, you will find you’ve entered another world. I began to relax on the ferry ride over, promising myself I would leave Story and Photos by Tamra Boltonton “my worries and my hurries” behind. After settling into The Inn at Langley, I decided to wander a bit, hidbey Island, just off the coast of Washington trekking down the hill to see if any shops were still State, is a destination all serious travelers need open. The colorfully painted store fronts of Langley to add to their list. A 55-mile long green strip, were a treat for the eye. As I strolled, I indulged stretched between Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan in luscious, rich chocolates from Sweet Mona’s, a de Fuca, Whidbey is blessed with surprisingly moderate superb cup of coffee from Café and Books, and the weather. It enjoys four distinct seasons, but without the best lobster roll I’ve eaten outside of Maine at the extremes endured by many other northwestern areas. Saltwater Café. I was extremely pleased with the diversity of the My favorite spot to explore by far was the island’s landscape and the close-knit sense of community historic 1920’s Star Store, an honest to goodness I felt as I traversed the island from south to north. old-fashioned grocery Whidbey has wineries, store. The towering narrow distilleries, a lavender farm, “I was extremely pleased with the shelves and sometimes cattle ranches, produce diversity of the island’s landscape and the crowded aisles brought back farmers, talented chefs, fond memories of older close-knit sense of community I felt as I beekeepers, cheesemakers grocery establishments I and clever entrepreneurs traversed the island from south to north.” frequented as a child. Of and artists, too numerous – Tamara Bolton course, the Star Store was to mention. It would take brimming with colorful local several weeks to explore produce, meats, and cheeses, an extensive wine and the island properly, yet even in my three days there, I liquor selection, along with local craft beers, one of was fortunate to meet a number of these residents and Whidbey’s trademarks…everything local, if possible. enjoy the gorgeous scenery that is Whidbey Island. While walking back to the Inn around sunset, I noticed another Langley trademark – wild rabbits. Getting There They were hopping and nibbling everywhere, Getting to Whidbey Island can be a challenge, but all colors and sizes, stopping only to pose for your efforts will be rewarded. There are two ways to my camera, and then they were off in a flash. If access the island – by Washington State Ferry on the Whidbey didn’t already have my heart, Langley’s south end or by means of the Deception Pass Bridge charming furry residents certainly won me over. on the northern end. A shuttle also runs about every After a restful evening listening to the waves two hours from Seattle’s Sea-Tac airport to the island. outside my balcony, I headed for Mukilteo’s Coffee A reservation is recommended for the shuttle especially Roasters and the Café in the Woods. As I discovered, during the busy summer months. The ferry is firstjust finding places on Whidbey can be an adventure come-first-served. in itself. Following several winding roads through




Chef Scott Fraser with one of his signature seafood dishes. © Tamra Bolton

looming evergreen trees that seemed to touch the overcast sky, I finally saw a sign for the coffee roasters. An arrow pointed the way farther into the dark green woods, and the narrow road led to a rather large opening with an unremarkable metal and wood building at the center. The unmistakable aroma of freshly roasting coffee filled the parking area and drew me in. I was unprepared for the magical world behind the ordinary door I entered. Startled by a massive golden dragon’s head protruding from near the ceiling over the baristas’ station, I craned my neck to look at the nearly ten-foot silver carp “swimming” on the ceiling. Farther in, café tables were surrounded by a backdrop of Tuscan villas and Italian countryside. Mukilteo’s is a favorite with the locals, and I was starting to see why. As wonderful as the café and roasters are, I discovered it’s the owners, Gary and Beth Smith, and the outstanding staff that makes Mukilteo’s such a special place. Not only do the Smiths give back in a big way to the local community, but they also give back to the coffee growers and their often impoverished communities. I had a chance to sit down for a few minutes with Gary and Beth and listen to their amazing story. Stories are my passion, and I found that on Whidbey stories of struggle, success, determination, and courage are the norm. This is a community of extraordinary people. People from diverse backgrounds, cultures, religions, and politics together are able to create a wonderful place to live and work. To me, that is one of the best things about Whidbey.



The wild rabbits of South Whidbey are entertaining to watch. © Tamra Bolton

Another couple, Vincent and Tyla Nattress, offer cooking classes, wine appreciation, and farm-to-table dinners that will leave you wanting to start your own garden and raise hens. At Chef Vincent’s, produce is only steps away from the kitchen, and he carefully chooses local producers of seafood and meats to complement the seasonal vegetable and fruit selections. The night I was

The golden dragon of Mukilteo’s Coffee Roasters. © Tamra Bolton

Startled by a massive golden dragon’s head protruding from near the ceiling over the baristas’ station, I craned my neck to look at the nearly ten-foot silver carp “swimming” on the ceiling. Local products are abundant on Whidbey Island. © Tamra Bolton

there, some of the treats we enjoyed were Scarlet Runner Beans and Sweet Corn Succotash, Braised Beef Tortellini and Roasted Eggplant Caviar, and Ebb Tide Strawberries & Crispy Meringue with Crème Fraiche Ice Cream. The farmhouse dinners and cooking classes are popular, and reservations are highly recommended.

Coupeville Near the “waist” of Whidbey Island (which is only about 1.5 miles wide), on Penn Cove, sits the seaside village of Coupeville, famous for its delicious mussels. Penn Cove mussels are sought after world-wide, and if you pass by the cove going north, you can see the long rectangular mussel beds that produce this seafood wonder. Coupeville has its own claim to fame as the setting for the Sandra Bullock/Nicole Kidman movie, Practical Magic. You can visit the 1890’s former pharmacy building where the scenes in Sally’s shop, Verbena Botanicals, were filmed. Today, it houses the bakery Knead & Feed. I dropped by to take a look inside and sample some coffee and one of their snickerdoodle cookies that were as big as my head. The entire town was painted white for the movie, and many of the shops maintain that look even today.



I also stopped by the Lavender Wind shop on the corner of Alexander and Coveland Streets. Housed in a restored 1916 craftsman home, the shop offers dried lavender goods, gift items, and delicious baked goods you can enjoy in their cozy tea room. I’ve wanted to try baking some lavender scones, so I picked up some culinary lavender along with some great baking tips from Sarah Richards, the owner. If you have time, visit the lavender farm about three miles north of Coupeville. On a clear day, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A small shop at the farm is open in summer.

Oak Harbor Busier than the other parts of Whidbey, Oak Harbor has about 23,000 inhabitants, the island’s largest population. Here you will find the only big box stores and chains. The Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is here, and it is not uncommon for conversations to be temporarily drowned out as low-flying Navy jets do their fly-bys, but no one seems to mind. The

Coachman Inn is reasonably priced and centrally located to several attractions like the PBY-Naval Air Museum and Deception Pass State Park. My favorite chef in Oak Harbor, Scott Fraser of Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway, not only delivers a spectacular culinary experience but gives his heart and soul to the island community. Chef Fraser donates his time to several community projects. Eight out of the last 12 years, his mentorship has brought home Washington State’s “ProStart Invitational” culinary competition title to Oak Harbor High School. When you go, ask to be seated at the chef’s counter for an up-close view of the kitchen and a chance to speak to him. Fraser’s Gourmet Hideaway is an experience you don’t want to miss. Whidbey Island is a patchwork of landscapes, people, and lifestyles worth exploring. It is a destination I hope you add to your list. I’m glad it was on mine.

If You Go Whidbey Island

The Star Store in Langley is a downtown hub for locals and visitors alike. © Tamra Bolton



Punta Sur Outdoor Sculpture Garden © Andrew Der

Where to go for

Sea Turtles, Underwater Art & Mayan Culture Story and Photos by Andrew Der



MUSA Underwater Sculpture Garden © MUSA

Favorite Underwater MUSA Sculpture © MUSA

This Is Not Your Parents’ Cancun In front of a popular oceanfront hotel in off-season Mexico, a newly hatched sea turtle tickles my hand with oversized flippers paddling against anticipated currents. And later, below the electric blue water, a crowd of submerged life-sized stone sculptures stares back at me, maneuvering between sea creatures. Edgy alternatives to traditional Caribbean vacation activities abound at Mexico’s gateway to Riviera Maya from nature appreciation experiences worthy of a National Geographic program to the “Underwater Museum of Art” (MUSA) nestled between Cancun and Isla Mujeres (Women’s Island). If you know where to look, an under-appreciated cultural gateway to natural history and outstanding cuisine will reveal itself to you. Who would have thought Cancun resort hotels would host voluntary sustainable tourism activities? No need to reside there – just show up and check in with staff to find the local protected sea turtle nest-hatching areas. Here, the eggs are not able to hatch naturally on the beach but are relocated to the hotels’ beach-side hatchery shelters for protection, then excavated into buckets and released by hand. Under the supervision of trained staff, you can assist in the release of the newly-hatched little tykes into the water – bypassing predation while promoting public buy-in during a twilight beach activity. It won’t be long before you get the itch to join the sea creature fun below the water. While the regional diving and cruise ship destination of Cozumel – first made famous by Jacques Cousteau in the 1960s – captures the limelight, novices might better appreciate the closer and shallower MUSA garden between Cancun and Isla Mujeres.



Isla Mujeres Limestone Cliffs © Andrew Der

Andrew Der - MUSA Underwater Sculptures © MUSA

If scuba is not your thing, the Cancun-Isla Mujeres Marine Park area also allows for snorkeling. Short boat rides and easier water access reveal corals, sea turtles, dolphins and rays among myriad colorful fish. Underwater art and culture, consisting of more than 500 life-sized sculptures, demonstrate the interaction between art and reef structure. My favorite was the VW Beetle (my first car) replica. The Spanish named the island Isla Mujeres upon learning it served as the sanctuary for the Mayan goddess of fertility. Pirates would leave women on the island for “safekeeping,” along with alleged treasure. Consider the island a closer, smaller and less touristy “Cozumel Light” – or what that area may have been like years ago with a low-key rural flair of secluded beaches, hammocks and oceanfront dining at great prices. Spectacular limestone cliffs, a sea turtle farm, a lighthouse and a Mayan ruin are included at one end and surrounded by a modern and surreal art garden Although a bit commercial, other island attractions include the dolphin swim and Garrafon water park for tankless scuba diving with a hose, as well as ziplining, a pool and eateries. Better yet, explore on your own with a rented golf cart or scooter. Don’t miss all of the local public beach areas. A favorite is the quiet and secluded Playa Indios with beach chairs, showers and a snorkeling pier along with delicious beach-side food and drink service. Isla Mujeres “town” at the north end has shops, restaurants and competitively priced beachfront accommodations for those who might stay on the island while ferrying to Cancun. Don’t miss the less obvious historical cemetery with intricate and lavishly detailed headstones and monuments – folk artwork all on their own. I challenged myself to find the grave of Mundaca, a pirate from an obscure guidebook, and his

Newly Hatched Turtles Ready for Release © Andrew Der

headstone actually turned up crammed between others. But his grave is supposedly empty. Enjoy the spectacular sunsets while dining and enjoying the fresh fruit cocktails at Playa Norte. Some eateries have a special deal for all-day use of their beach, two chairs and shower, along with food and drink. They may even include a romantic, privately served table for two at the water’s edge. Forget what you think you know about Mexican cuisine. The Cancun region does seafood and native dishes especially well. Some of it may be a bit milder than you might expect. I’m uncertain if it reflects actual regional cooking or is toned down for possibly wimpier tastes. If you require borderline pain, ask for the freshly made habanero hot sauce on the side. Don’t leave without investing in a couple of day trips to experience fully both the ancient and modern Yucatan. Explore the Mayan Riviera to the south for the “hip” and luxurious Playa del Carmen and the offbeat and edgy, up-and-coming Tulum. Then, check out the postcard-famous Chichen Itza Mayan ruins and Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Cancun is not apologetic for being the party destination we grew up on, so if you must, try Daddy O’s, The City, Azucar, Ultra Club, Coco Bongo and Daddy Rock. Or choose to be even hipper if that’s possible by opting for Playa Del Carmen. This not only has the most popular see-and-be-seen beach for the scantily clad but after midnight, it’s considered to have the best nightlife, while Cancun is so…well… yesterday. Give Blue Parrot Bar and Fah a try. Then get back to the turtles – they miss you.

If You Go


Riviera Maya Chichen Itza





Photo by by Elizabeth Willoughby

The Tannery in Fez, Morocco – Since the late 90s, Elizabeth Willoughby has been writing professionally about travel, food and wine, maintaining home bases in North America, South America and Europe. Follow her travels on www.writeshots.com