VRAI Magazine -- The Summer Travel Issue June 2019

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June 2019


A Christmas Market Cruise Toulouse, France

Mexico CDMX

Disney World A Disney Planning Guide

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico


A Disney Planning Guide: 7 Easy Ways to Make Disney Even More Magical . . 166 Beauty in Brussels . . . . 74

by Danny de la Cruz Italian-Inspired Eating from the Pacific Northwest . . . . 68 by Chef Karista Bennett

Barcelona Bound. . . . 156

Dia de los Muertos. . . . 88 by Jim O’Donnell

City of Color CDMX . . . . . . . . . . . 130 by Ksenia Skvortsova


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Christmas Market River Cruise. . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 by Danny de la Cruz

Next Stop: Toulouse, France. . . . . . . . . . . . 112 by Mabel Gago


A Taste of Japan . . . . 146

On the cover: Dia de los Muertos Photo by Jim O’Donnell

Contributor Spotlight. . . 4 Editor’s Letter. . . . . . . . . 5 Editor’s Picks: Travel Products We Love . . . . . 6 Travel Inspo. . . . . . . . . 10 Green Travel: Waste-Free Vacation Tips. . . . . . . 140 by Katie Stanwyck 3

Ksenia Skvortsova

Jim O’Donnell

Mabel Gago

Katie Stanwyck

Ksenia is a cook, writer and food stylist living in New York City. She graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education in 2011. Ksenia’s website, Saffron & Honey, is a food and travel blog focused on bringing a Provencal sensibility and joie de vivre to everyday cooking, living and traveling.

Jim is an award-winning writer and photographer from Taos, New Mexico. Both his photography and writing focus on the nexus of human culture and the natural world. O’Donnell is the author of Notes for the Aurora Society: 1500 Miles on Foot Across Finland and Rise and Go. Learn more at Around the World in Eighty Years and Jim O’Donnell Photography.

Barcelona native Mabel grew up surrounded by art with her mum as a haûte couture modiste and an aunt who worked as a bespoke tailor. So, fashion has always been a part of her DNA. Her studies in Business Administration and PR, along with her interests in learning, building projects and working in multinational environments have helped her to grow as a professional who’s good at building synergies. She now focuses her experiences & skills into her passions of fashion and communication and blogs at MabelNow.

Based in Toronto, Katie has a deep love for travel and of course, food. Throughout the years she has explored more than 25 countries and eaten her way through every single one. She’s a marketing expert who’s worked in travel and the beauty industry. While she’s home in Toronto and not travelling, she’s cooking up new recipes or finding new spots in Toronto to check out.

Karista Bennett

Special Thanks:

Karista is a food writing, farm loving chef, capturing everyday moments with extraordinary food. She works as a professional recipe developer and food photographer, living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and she is the voice behind Karista’s Kitchen.

Chiyoko Takada—Brussels Fashion Editorial


Ed Cruz—Japan photography D. Gans—Christmas Market River Cruise and Disney World photography

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ur annual summer travel issue is one that I’m always excited to share with all of you. Within the digital pages of this issue, my hope is that you get new inspiration from destinations you may have never dreamt of in a million years, to discovering a different side to popular destinations and learning some easy and helpful tips to make each adventure even more memorable. If you haven’t thought of Mexico in a while, just know that it’s a hotspot these days. Known more for its beaches and all-inclusive resorts, we take you instead to colorful Mexico City and will have you dreaming of the dead (in a colorful way) in San Miguel de Allende for the fall season. If you’d rather stay closer to home, then Disney World in Orlando, Florida is another hotspot! Aside from the weather, Disney World has just exploded with so much to offer—from new themed lands, resort hotels, transportation options to attractions for all ages—there is so much to see and do. To help you prepare, we have a great Disney Planning Guide that can help to make sure you do Disney the best way possible. For European adventures, we take you to the South of France and give you three days of ideas in the beautiful city of Toulouse. Or for a magical holiday season in late November into December, hop on board a river cruise to explore the incredible Christmas markets from Vienna, Austria to Nuremberg, Germany. And to round it all off, we bring you summer travel fashion ideas from our latest photo shoots in Brussels, Belgium and Barcelona, Spain; we also have Italianinspired eating from the Pacific Northwest and hope to inspire you to go green for your next adventure. While exploring our beautiful planet, let’s be sure to keep it that way. Until our next travel issue, safe travels and may you be inspired!

Travel Issue Volume 5 / Number 1

Publisher & Editor-in-Chief Danny de la Cruz Travel Editor Jim O’Donnell NYC Editor Ksenia Skvortsova Food Editor Karista Bennett Style Editor Mabel Gago Creative Director MJ Cadiz Contact Us VRAI Magazine LLC P.O. Box 62 Techny, IL 60082 General Inquiries editor@vraimagazine.com Advertising Inquiries advertising@vraimagazine.com VRAI Magazine is a digital lifestyle publication that delivers food, fashion and travel inspiration. With a team of creatives, storytellers, authors and talented contributors, we curate stories that represent the Style of True Living. © VRAI Magazine LLC. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means including photocopying, recording or other electronic methods without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in digital and print reviews.

Danny de la Cruz Editor-in-Chief 5


NYC Editor, Ksenia Skvortsova, discovered these accessories perfect for a summer escapade. L/Uniform—the new French brand, founded by Jeanne Signoles, offers a full suite of leather and canvas bags and travel accessories with customizable straps, handles and monograms. You’ll find everything from weekender bags (called the 48 hour bag) to colorful eyeglass cases, as well as photographer bags, foldable jewelry kits, and transparent toiletry bags that are perfect for air travel. All in one and everything you need to travel in style this summer.


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Our Editor-in-Chief, Danny de la Cruz, never leaves for a trip without these so check them out. When you’re traveling on a plane or maybe even on a daily commute, these Sony WH-1000XM3 Noise Cancelling headphones can save your sanity. Sleek and modern with extremely comfortable ear cup pads, they are perfect for any time you need some peace and quiet to drown out the world around you. Danny especially loves the “hand-cupping” function which automatically allows you to hear if someone’s talking to you—perfect for when you’re deciding between chicken or pasta for your on-flight meal. Now if you want a cheap alternative, then there’s always good old fashion ear plugs.

Picks Travel Products We Love


Traveling in style while saving the planet and keeping you hydrated is what S’well Bottles do best. S’well Travelers feature triple-walled, vacuuminsulated construction so that your beverages stay cold for up to 24 hours or hot for up to 12. Made from 18/8, food-grade stainless steel and BPA Free, be sure to pack them for your next adventure. Learn more eco friendly tips in our “Waste-Free Vacation Tips” article on page 140 by travel contributor Katie Stanwyck.

well Photo by S’

Video in 4K in a compact device with built in stabilizer for only $349? The DJI Osmo Pocket records video and snaps photos in a device that fits in the palm of your hands. Besides the small size and 4K capabilities, the battery life on this is great and it captures video beautifully even at low light. Be sure to get one today and throw it into your travel bag. Our Editor-in-Chief, Danny, always has his charged up and ready to go. 8

Photo by DJI

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Travel Archives Click below to read each one for free!


Travel Inspo There are so many travel destinations from which to choose, but finding the right one to fit your schedule, budget and interests can be difficult. Here’s a quick roundup of some unique adventures that have recently come across our travel desk as thought starters. Check them out and use them as a launching pad to discover new ways to travel and explore beyond the norm. Where will you go next?


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Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash


Glamping at Chaka Camps Ready to go glamping? Located in Tanzania’s most iconic wildlife destinations, Chaka Camps is a collection of three boutique tented lodges offering some of the best wildlife viewings in style and comfort. Each property, unique in its design, is perfectly situated to deliver extraordinary wildlife experiences. The collection’s original flagship property, Chaka Camp has just unveiled its newly renovated camp with extensive refurbishments and upgrades recently completed in early 2019. Chaka Camps is committed to creating a unique and special experience for guests which is matched only by their concern for preserving the natural ecology of the parks and the local economy of Tanzania. The tents are not permanent structures, the energy is solar, the refuse is recycled. The staff in Tanzania are all Tanzanians and the furnishings and artworks are sourced from local artisans. Chaka Camps has used more tons of recycled plastic in its decking than any other camp company in Tanzania. In addition, Chaka Camps offsets its fuel consumption with Carbon Tanzania, a locally-based NGO protected virgin forest in Tanzania. Furthermore, the management team is actively involved in efforts to offset the camps’ carbon footprint by planting indigenous trees—more than 2,000 trees planted since 2015.


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Walk the Mighty Dolomites From the dreamy meadows of the south Tyrol to the towering spires of Tre Cime, On Foot Holidays’ selfguided walk in the Dolomites of northern Italy is a longtime favorite. And now it’s even better, with improvements to the route for 2019. From the German-speaking enclave of Italy’s South Tyrol, the route meanders south via a remote refuge and the Tre Cime mountain at 2,250m, into the Italian Dolomites. The final breathtaking stretch reaches the smart resort of Cortina. Reminders of World War I are still very much evident in this part of Europe, particularly in the high country. One of the goals at On Foot is to create walks that don’t involve transfers mid-route, and they’ve now found the missing link from Misurina to Cortina, through lovely woodland and along winding mountain paths up to Passo tre Croci. This means the whole route can now be achieved end-to-end without transfers.


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Climb Africa’s Highest Peak Preparing for the climb of your life? At 19,341 feet above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro is the world’s largest free-standing mountain and Africa’s highest peak. A climb to Kilimanjaro’s summit involves a multi-day adventure through the mountain’s five climate zones and is not for the faint of heart. Though not a technical climb, most trekkers experience varying levels of altitude sickness and the summit success rate is approximately 70%. Leading safaris and treks throughout Tanzania, Duma Explorer recommends 7, 8- or 9-day climbs to increase chances of summit success. The most popular climbs are the 7-day Machame, 8-day Lemosho and 9-day Northern Circuit routes. Duma Explorer provides camping equipment, meals and support staff while trekkers provide their own personal gear.


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Hike Through Rainforests to the Top of Mount Gimie For fitness enthusiasts looking for a truly unique island experience, Calabash Cove Resort and Spa, a boutique 26-room resort and spa, arranges private climbs of Mount Gimie, Saint Lucia’s highest peak. Mount Gimie is the tallest mountain on the island of Saint Lucia. The mountain’s peak reaches 950 meters (3,117 feet). It is of volcanic origin and is covered by lush tropical rainforest. With a few days advance notice, guests just need to bring good hiking gear and a backpack and Calabash Cove will arrange a private guide, lunch and the transfer to the foot of the mountain and back. The tour takes all day with approximately 5-6 hours of hiking in steep terrain. This is not a run of the mill activity.


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48 Hour Power Jaunts Discover 48 Hour Power Jaunts, a series of carefully curated itineraries mixed in with favorite experiences, hotels and restaurants for a jam-packed, do-it-all journey that leaves time-challenged travelers feeling they’ve conquered a destination and refreshed their soul. Just a few of the destinations we’ve highlighted here include Lisbon, Portugal; Bilbao, Spain; and Marrakesh, Morocco. Each 48 Hour Power Jaunts is a trip of a lifetime, in just 2 days. Perfect for entrepreneurs, parents, and groups of friends. If you don’t see a destination on their site, ask to see if a custom jaunt can be created.

Photo by Vitor Pinto on Unsplash


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Photo by Tom Byrom on Unsplash

Photo by kevin liorzou on Unsplash


Plan now for a

Christmas Market

Danube Itinerary: Vienna, Austria to Nuremberg, Germany



uietly sailing over still water with a chill in the air, I found myself surrounded by scenic views that were ever changing on both sides of the ship. The beautiful Danube river was the lifeline for this week-long adventure from Vienna, Austria to Nuremberg, Germany. Along the way I discovered towns filled with mouth-watering treats, photographic settings and unique handicrafts that tempted from every turn. There were so many markets to be explored, Christmas markets to be exact, as the holidays were upon us and towns lining the Danube were putting out their best to celebrate the season. I had dreamt of visiting the European Christmas markets for quite some time. With so many markets spread out across continental Europe, both big and small, the VRAI Magazine

River Cruise by Danny de la Cruz / Photography by D. Gans

challenge was which ones do you visit and what’s the best way to experience as many as possible given limited time and always, money. I had heard of river cruises designed specifically for exploring the Christmas markets and in doing research, I quickly found out that booking as early as possible is key. There were years before when I had attempted to get a spot on a Christmas market river cruise, but learned that they had filled up many months prior, so you definitely need to plan early, even a year out for some. Once you’ve secured your cabin and booked your airfare, this one is basically showing up and enjoying the ride since you’ve already done the heavy lifting. For this adventure, home on the Danube was on board the beautiful AmaCerto ship by AmaWaterways. I’ve

sailed before on AmaWaterways on an Asian river cruise down the Mekong river from Cambodia to Vietnam during the sweltering summer season, so I was looking forward to experiencing a very different cruise during a much colder time of year. Upon boarding, you’re immediately immersed in the Christmas spirit as a beautiful tree towered in the ship’s foyer/reception area. The entire ship was decked out in holiday decor down to lighted wreaths hung on every cabin door. The warm and welcoming crew added that special touch of making sure that everything was perfect in our new home for the next week. continued on page 24 23

Life on Board If you’ve never sailed on a river ship before, be aware that it is a very different experience than sailing aboard much larger cruise ships. Having sailed both in the past, I knew what to expect. With a significantly smaller number of guests on board, one hundred plus compared to over 1,000 guests, maybe even several thousand on cruise ships, river cruising is a more intimate and personal experience. While days are filled with smaller tours which are included in the price of your cruise, delicious meals served by the most friendly wait staff, and evenings which take on a more relaxed and slower pace, relaxation is what you’ll walk away with from this experience. Rather than high-rolling casinos, pulsing night clubs, Broadway-like productions, massive pool decks and water slides, and countless other attractions found on the cruise ships, life on board a river ship is very different. Evening hours after dinner are often filled with music from a pianist in the lounge to learning about the culture and history of the villages and ports of call through local guest speakers and entertainers, sometimes even the crew will perform. For some, what you forego in terms of nonstop evening entertainment is counter balanced with a more personalized level of service, attention to detail and quality especially when it comes to food options and being transported to unique ports of call that the giant cruise ships could never reach because of their massive size. It’s a very different experience. For this cruise, the itinerary was for a sailing from Vienna, Austria to Nuremberg, Germany, with ports of call in between. But, due to lower water levels along the Danube, changes had to be made. Be aware of forces of nature that could require changes, but despite that, the captain and crew do their best to make it a wonderful sailing experience.


Vienna, Austria Beautiful Vienna, the capital of Austria, was the start of our adventure. Filled with a rich history, impressive architecture and coffee houses brimming with decadent desserts to tempt every taste bud, there’s plenty to explore —a few days in this city is simply not enough. By the last week of November, Christmas markets were already peppered throughout the city so there was no end to tasty treats and shopping for holiday treasures. The city center is compact and completely walkable, the best way to explore. In between the numerous Christmas markets scattered throughout, there’s the iconic St. Stephen’s Cathedral which beckons you to enter VRAI Magazine

and discover its grandeur. Just around the corner down Graben St., discover St. Peter’s Church on a side street. While less majestic on the exterior and smaller in scale, the grandeur can be found within at the golden altar which simply mesmerizes with its beauty. Around the corner in the Kohlmarkt, discover exclusive boutiques and luxury brands—there’s no end to the shopping opportunities. I discovered that most stores in Vienna are closed on Sundays, but with the Christmas markets open, there were plenty of shopping opportunities. When you’re ready for a break from the sightseeing and shopping, grab a table at historic Café Demel, which opened in 1786, to taste their apple strudel and Sachertorte, the famed Viennese dessert for chocolate

lovers. Don’t be surprised if there is a line outside the door at all hours throughout the day, but it’s definitely worth a visit. Even if you decide not to wait in line for a table, there’s a shop in the front of the cafe where you can purchase treats to go. With countless museums and palaces, one of my favorites was a visit to Schonbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer residence. Take a guided tour and explore part of the 1,441 rooms with beautiful Baroque details and then step outside in the massive courtyard to shop the countless stalls set up for the Christmas market. It’s an incredible setting. Don’t miss the giant nativity scene beneath the Christmas tree in the center. continued on page 30



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Christmas market tips (for any Christmas market in Europe):


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• Dress warmly and in layers because all the markets are outdoors. Don’t forget your hat, gloves and warm shoes/boots because you could be standing outdoors for hours. • To warm up, get a cup of Gluhwein (mulled wine) and if you don’t want the mug it’s served in, you can return it to the stand where you purchased it to get your deposit back. Or, collect as many mugs as you can as souvenirs since each market has a different design. If you don’t drink alcohol, you can always order a warm cider in the collectable mug. • There are so many savory and sweet treats to try at each market so bring along hand wipes to help you clean up. • Many of the food portions are perfect for sharing. If you’re traveling with others, order different items and split it so that all of you can get a taste. If you try to eat one full order by yourself, you may not have room to try anything else.

• There are so many beautiful items to purchase as gifts or to decorate your home for the holidays. Many of the ornaments are extremely fragile so if you plan to purchase holiday décor, set aside a carry-on bag which you can carefully pack and carry to avoid having to check it in. Better yet, if you know that you’re going to purchase fragile ornaments, bring along a plastic ornament organizer/storage piece that will fit in your carry-on. • Cash is king and very few accept credit cards. Don’t miss out by not having cash on hand. • Weekdays and daytime are usually less crowded. Evenings tend to be the most crowded, though the most beautiful once all the lights are on and twinkling amidst the night sky. If you can avoid the opening day of a Christmas market, you’ll save yourself from having to navigate through a sea of humanity. continued on page 32

Click “play” to see our Vienna Christmas Market Video


Bratislava, Slovakia Early one morning while still docked in Vienna, we boarded a bus for an hour’s drive to Bratislava, Slovakia for a half day tour to explore the local Christmas market in Old Town. While driving into the city, it was hard to miss the UFO, an observation deck rising above the SNP Bridge and river. We then disembarked and followed the cobble stone-lined streets which led us past the Bratislava Castle set high above a hill and to the Old Town Hall. Here in the main square, red and white striped stalls lined the area showcasing more local delicacies and crafts. 32

We tried two pastries—a strudel like pastry filled with a ricotta-like cheese and whole cherries, while the other was a deliciously warm pastry filled with nuts, sugar and spices and rolled into a long stick shape. After finishing these treats, we headed towards the Opera House with giant Christmas tree standing before it and discovered more stalls selling treats and crafts. This time, we finally gave in and tried the fried potato pancake. It was deliciously crispy and lightly seasoned, somewhat similar to a hashbrown and large enough to share. continued on page 34

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Durnstein and Melk Abby in Austria A short walk past vineyards, after stepping off the ship, we found ourselves in the charming town of Durnstein, Austria. On this half day tour, we discovered sweet apricot treats in a private tasting (with wine and sweets), castle ruins after a steep hike uphill, and local musicians serenading us accordion-style as we passed under arched gateways.


After a quick sailing through the beautiful Wachau Valley, the ship docked in the town of Melk, Austria. Here, we boarded a bus and after a quick ride, explored the beautiful Melk Abbey, which was founded in 1089 when Leopold II gave the castle to Benedictine monks. The impressive library and the church of the abbey, ornate, golden and simply breathtaking, were two places within which left a lasting impression. continued on page 40

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Linz, Mondsee and Salzburg, Austria On our final day sailing through Austria, we arrived in the city of Linz. From here, we would explore Mondsee, spend the afternoon in Salzburg, and then wrap up the day with a quick walking tour of Linz. Mondsee is located along the shore of lake Mondsee and is known for the Mondsee Abbey, the location of the wedding scene from “The Sound of Music”. The lake itself was a beautiful sight, especially with the morning fog gently rolling along the water with snow-capped mountains in the background. Not far from the lake is Mondsee Abbey. For “The Sound of Music” fans it’s the scene where Maria (Julie Andrews) marched down the aisle on her wedding day. After our brief stop in Mondsee, we proceeded to drive to Salzburg where we had a walking tour of the city and explored the Christmas markets. We began our exploration at the Mirabell Palace and Gardens, the setting for more famous scenes from “The Sound of Music”. Around the beautiful Pegasus Fountain in the gardens, Maria and the children danced around singing the song “Do Re Mi”. Another location made famous by the film is the cemetery and catacombs of St. Peter’s Monastery. Before exploring the Christmas markets, we saw Mozart’s birthplace, No. 9, in the Getreidegasse, the heart of Salzburg’s Old City. We crossed the Makartsteg Bridge filled with padlocks of love and learned about Mozartkugel or Mozart Ball, heaven for chocoholics. These small confections are made of pistachio marzipan and nougat, then covered in dark chocolate. Located in a dark little passage way, you’ll find, Furst, the original store which created these chocolate treasures. These wonderful treats named after Mozart, are wrapped in silver and blue foil, but there are many imitations in red and gold so make sure you are buying the original. You can definitely taste the difference. We wrapped up the day back at Linz with a walking tour of the City Hall and the local Christmas market. continued on page 52


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Click “play” to see more Christmas Markets


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Passau and Nuremberg, Germany The original itinerary for this river cruise was to end in Nuremberg, Germany. But, due to the lower water levels, the ship could only get as far as Passau, Germany. On this final day of our cruise, we explored the city of Passau on foot on a brief guided tour and then had some tasty sausage and chocolate covered marshmallow treats at the Christmas market in the city center. Soon, it was time for us to board a bus and travel to Nuremberg on a twohour ride. From here, we would be housed in a hotel for one night near the Christmas markets. On this rainy evening, it was the opening day of the Nuremberg Christmas market. We were warned that on opening day, the crowds would be shoulder-toshoulder and navigating through the pathways would be challenging. Fortunately for us, the rain kept the visitors at bay and we were able to enjoy exploring with normal, if not, less crowded conditions. Christkindlesmarkt, as it’s locally known, is one of Germany’s most famous Christmas markets. It opens on the Friday before the first Sunday in Advent with an opening ceremony and prologue delivered by the Christkind or Christmas Angel. Each Christmas Market has its own unique look and feel. Foods and crafts differ from city to city and in Nuremberg, one thing you’re bound to see are the famous Prune People, so be sure to be on the lookout as you’re going from stall to stall. Beyond the main square for Christmas stalls, the market seemed to radiate in different directions so there was plenty to explore, just not enough time to do so in one night. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to be there on opening day and Nuremberg left a lasting impression. continued on page 58


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Munich, Germany Travelling across Europe is easy with the extensive railway connections. The next morning, we walked two blocks from our hotel to the Nuremberg train station and boarded our train to Munich. A brief and comfortable ride later, we found ourselves in the heart of Munich for our last city and set of Christmas markets to explore. We stayed at the beautiful Louis Hotel which is in the heart of Munich. It’s elegantly appointed and classically styled. The location is deceptive since the entrance is set away from the main street, but located steps from Marienplatz, the central square of the city and location for the main Christmas Market. The Christmas market had countless stalls with a grand backdrop of the Rathaus or town hall and its beautiful architecture. The giant tree completed the scene to make this market one of my most favorite during this adventure. Surrounding the market were stalls that radiated into smaller streets and so the market seemed to go on and on. There were multiple markets within walking distance, but another favorite was the Christmas village at the Munich Residenze. This charming market is located in the courtyard with one entrance to get in and out. Be prepared that it can get very congested given the enclosed courtyard. What sets this apart is the location and the fact that there are animatronics towards the rear in various stalls to light up the faces of children of all ages. On this final day, we had the opportunity to experience the Munich Christmas markets by day and night. Filled with so many people, wonderful foods, beautiful sights and sounds, this is definitely another city you have to add to your Christmas market must-see list. Click “play� to see the German Christmas Markets


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from the Pacific Northwest


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By Chef Karista Bennett


y visit to Italy has inspired so many of my recipes the last few years. Each pasta recipe I tasted in Italy was simply prepared with a few delicious ingredients. The simplicity allows the individual flavors and the type of pasta to shine. When I was near the coast, the pasta was laced with seafood. When I dined in the country, it was laced with vegetables or a meat that was raised nearby. What I truly learned about the Italians and their pasta is that they like it simple. The actual pasta is to be enjoyed every bit as much as the ingredients it’s paired with. Everywhere I dined in Italy there was always a simple first course of lightly dressed greens with a bit of citrus on top. That’s it! It kind of surprised me, but it was divine. Fresh, clean flavors that complement an Italian entree. This is why I came home after this incredible adventure and created my Smoked Salmon and Pancetta Carbonara and Watercress & Citrus Salad. It’s Italy inspired with fresh ingredients from the Pacific Northwest.


Smoked Salmon and Pancetta Carbonara Serves 4

Carbonara is an enchanting pasta dish that uses a few simple, fresh ingredients to make a light and tasty meal. This recipe uses the traditional eggs, pasta water and olive oil for the sauce, but it also combines smoked salmon with pancetta for an elevated dish. I like to pair this Smoked Salmon and Pancetta Carbonara with steamed broccolini or kale rabe with fresh lemon and garlic or a salad of fresh greens with a citrus vinaigrette. Serve with a chilled fruit-forward rosé or a dry chardonnay. Ingredients


• • • • • • • • • • •

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions and reserve ¼ cup of the pasta liquid. 2. Add the ghee to a sauté pan over medium heat. Once the ghee has melted, fry the pancetta just until slightly crispy. Transfer the pancetta to a paper towel lined plate. 3. Take the sauté pan off the heat. When it has cooled slightly, stir the garlic into the warm oil and then place it back over low heat. If we add the garlic to the hot oil before it’s cooled, the garlic will brown and become bitter. So, it’s important to cool the ghee slightly before adding the garlic. 4. Crumble the pancetta and combine it with the garlic. Add the lemon juice, parsley, pepper and smoked salmon, gently toss to combine. Take the pan off the heat again, and reserve. 5. Crack the two eggs into a bowl and whisk until the yolks and whites are well combined. While you continue to whisk the eggs, drizzle a small stream of the ¼ cup hot pasta water into the eggs. This is called tempering, when we bring one ingredient up to the temperature of another ingredient. Continue to whisk for one minute to be sure the eggs are tempered and combined with the pasta water. Next whisk in the grated cheese and extra virgin olive oil until nicely incorporated. This creates the Carbonara sauce. 6. Place the warm pasta in a large mixing bowl. With tongs, toss the pasta with the egg sauce mixture. Then toss the pasta with the smoked salmon mixture. While tossing in the smoked salmon, add about ¼ cup of the chopped fresh basil. 7. Divide the pasta into four bowls. Garnish with additional fresh basil, lemon wedges and grated parmesan cheese. Serve Immediately.

1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) 4 ounces of pancetta, either sliced or diced 3 cloves of garlic, minced 2 teaspoons fresh chopped Italian parsley ½ lb. smoked salmon (not lox) Juice of ½ lemon ¼ teaspoon black pepper 12 ounces capellini or thin spaghetti 2 eggs ¼ cup pasta water 2 tablespoons grated pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese • ¼ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (this is the perfect time to use the good stuff) • ½ cup chopped fresh basil, chiffonade or finely chopped • Serve with lemon wedges and extra grated parmesan


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Watercress and Citrus Salad with Crumbled Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts Serves 4

Citrus and watercress are two ingredients that play deliciously together. The peppery notes of the watercress balances the sweet and sour of the citrus, which makes a most refreshing spring salad. The salad’s flavor profile is then completed by the tang of goat cheese and crunch of chopped hazelnuts. If I have a little extra time, I like to toast or even caramelize the hazelnuts for deeper flavor. I like to serve this salad on individual plates, but it makes a pretty presentation on the table when layered on a platter for family style meals.



For the Salad • 1 bunch watercress, trimmed to about an inch of stem with leaves • 2 cups baby spinach, packed • 1 cup assorted citrus wedges, mandarins, grapefruit, blood orange, etc. • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese • ¼ cup chopped hazelnuts • Salt and pepper

1. Whisk together the lemon juice, orange juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard and herbs de Provence. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the vinaigrette rest for about 30 minutes prior to serving so that the dried herbs have a chance to soften and infuse the dressing. 2. To serve, place the baby spinach in a bowl. Drizzle with a little of the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Divide the spinach onto four plates. Then place the fresh watercress on top of the spinach, dividing it among the four plates. Season the watercress with a smidgen of salt and pepper. 3. Top the watercress with citrus, sprinkle the goat cheese over the citrus and then top with the hazelnuts. Serve immediately with additional vinaigrette.

For the Citrus Vinaigrette • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard • ½ teaspoon herbs de Provence, crushed between fingers • Salt and pepper to taste


Bruss eauty in


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Outfit: Guy Laroche Jewelry: Guillory Model: Annie Jozie Photographer: Ksenia Gaillard Makeup: Ana Japson Hair and Nails: Noriko Narusawa Fashion Editor: Chiyoko Takada Location: Palais de Justice


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Outfit: top - Max & Moi; pants - Rahul Mishra Jewelry: Guillory Location: Place Poelaert


Outfit: jacket - Guy Laroche Jewelry: Guillory Location: Hygge Hotel


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Outfit: top - Guy Laroche; pants - Rahul Mishra Jewelry: Guillory Location: Square du Petit Sablon


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Outfit: top - Guy Laroche; pants - Rahul Mishra Jewelry: Guillory Leather Acessory: 2_bad Location: Frites Atelier, Brussels 84

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Dia de los Muertos San Miguel de Allende, Mexico By Jim O’Donnell


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he dead don’t appreciate sorrow. The Irish know this. Buddhists in Japan know this. The Mexicans know this. In fact, in many cultures the dead are thought to be insulted by mourning and sorrow. Death is not the end but rather another stage of life. At the start of each November, Mexicans celebrate Dia de los Muertos —a day that turns any sadness on its head. Dia de Los Muertos may translate as Day of the Dead in English, but the holiday is not a celebration of death but rather, of life. “It is a party. A happy festival that brings family together,” says Sharon Gonzales of Eat the Peach Travel. “A lot of Americans think that Dia de los Muertos is all about the macabre,” she says. “About death. Dying. Sorrow. No way. Dia de los Muertos is about life. And that is what brings us back every November.” Sharon


and her partner Tom run small group tours to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico the last week of each October to experience the rising festivities that take place in the days leading up to November 1st, the actual Dia de los Muertos. “The world is turned upside down and the dead can dance with the living!” Once there was an Aztec queen called Mictecacihuatl. She was known as the “Lady of the Dead”. When Mictecacihuatl was a baby she was sacrificed and sent to the underworld to wed King Miclantecuhtl—the ruler of the underworld. As one might suspect, being the wife of the King of the Underworld wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. The young bride Mictecacihuatl had several complicated roles to fulfill. One of those convoluted tasks was to watch over

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the bones of those who had passed from life on our side of the upside down. Those old bones were the seeds of new life. Her job was to make sure that no one took those bones. Her job was to stop the creation of new life. But….so goes the story, with every bone that was stolen from that bank of bones, part of Mictecacihuatl’s life-force would go with the stolen bones to continue protecting them. Every year she would turn up in the living world to check on the bones, the lives they created and the piece of her life-force that had gone away. In this way Mictecacihuatl became both the keeper of the dead and the giver of life. Life balanced death as it always does. No doubt the roots of Dia de los Muertos extend far deeper in history than the relatively recent Aztecs, but the cult of and the legend of Mictecacihuatl was the practice

when the Spanish invaded Mexico five-hundred years ago. And it’s this legend that helped create the Day of the Dead celebrations we know today. It didn’t take long for the Spanish, after seeing this Aztec tradition, to find ways of blending the Spanish traditions of All Saints Day and All Souls Day with the indigenous systems and beliefs. Anthropologists call this syncretism. One example of syncretism between Catholicism’s All Souls Day and the indigenous Dia de Los Muertos are the heavily decorated skulls and skeletons (calacas and calaveras) that inhabited both cultures. continued on page 95



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The highly decorated “sugar skulls” or calaveras de azucar are small treats sometimes eaten but more often left for the dead in the personal altars erected for the celebration known as ofrendas. They are as ubiquitous in San Miguel de Allende in the week leading up to Dia de los Muertos as is tequila and marigolds. On toasty afternoons, women in shin-length, blue skirts stack mounds of marigolds near the entrance to San Juan de Dios cemetery in the center of San Miguel de Allende, or SMA, as frequent visitors call the city. A young man clips the marigolds, building magnificent bouquets of bright orange flowers. Another woman quietly sells the bouquets of marigolds to visitors to the cemetery. Marigolds or, cempasuchil in Mexican

Spanish, drape doorways and windows throughout the city in the week leading up to Dia de los Muertos. They are scattered across table tops, worn as crowns, built into stunning tapestries and massed into giant chia-like balls. According to author and historian Joseph Toone, marigolds bloom in the autumn and their scent helps the dead move across the boundary between the living and the departed. “For the indigenous people of the area,” he told me, “the 365 petals found in the cempasuchil stand for each day of a good life.” continued on page 98



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About 100 years ago Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada got irritated. The ant in his pants, so-to-speak, was the rapid adoption of European clothing and customs by the Mexican elite. Mexicans, he felt, were squandering their own culture and traditions. In protest he drew a cartoon highlighting a female skeleton adorned with an elaborate hat. She was known as Catrina. Catrina quickly became a symbol Posada never intended —the essential representation of Dia de los Muertos. The widely-varied interpretations of Catrina have come to play a central role in the Dia de los Muertos celebrations as every man, woman and child paints their face in an elaborate variation of that original Catrina. San Miguel de Allende is often thought of as a haven for American and Canadian retirees. I’ve heard the complaint from some that SMA is so full of North Americans the Mexicans are pushed out and the town has lost its Mexican culture and feel. Nothing could be further from the truth. While there are North Americans who have set up shop in the colonial city, by far the majority of the population is Mexican, Spanish is the language of the city and SMA “feels” as Mexican as any other Mexican city of its size. The week-long celebrations cap off with a stew of tequila-drenched celebrations held throughout the city. If your face isn’t painted Catrina-style you are definitely the odd man or woman out. After dark the parties spill onto the streets. Restaurants, bars and even personal houses burst with costumed, painted revelers. Around 9 pm a thick parade forms up, clogging the streets. Partiers join the music and join hands to snake down the narrow colonial streets with thousands of others. Dia de los Muertos has grown over the years from a family celebration to a public party. “This is a way we say: there is nothing wrong with you,” a Mexican woman yelled to me. “You’re beautiful. You’re complete. You’re whole.” Visit: Eat the Peach Travel for information on the Dia de los Muertos week-long tour. continued on page 100


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Portraits of Catrina By Jim O’Donnell


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Next Stop:

By Mabel Gago


ince 2013, the partnership between Renfe and SNCF has connected Spain and France to create the very best services for travellers. The level of customer excellence goes beyond the railways due to the fact that experiences are the bestsellers as demanded by tourists. These experiences are made posible with strong collaborations between the right partners, and this case, it’s a common goal between the government of Toulouse, its tourist office and Renfe SNCF. In the last travel issue, we discovered how easy it is to travel from Barcelona to France. In this current issue, we are going to discover Toulouse, France, also known as La Ville Rose, which is only three hours and 15 minutes aboard Renfe SNCF from Barcelona. Take bucolic walks along the Canal du Midi and discover beautiful landscapes that provide amazing pictures for Instagram. But there is so much more to experience in Touluse from history, art, science and gastronomy. Visitors are invited to delight in many different activities so plan on at least two or three days to soak it all in. continued on page 114


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DAY 1 Plan your arrival for the afternoon. It’s the perfect time to take in the beauty of the landscape and the sunset. Bike along the famed Canal du Midi to open up your senses and soak up the French lifestyle all around you. After your bike ride and a brief rest, enjoy the gastronomy of the city. One of the most breathtaking restaurants is Le Bibent. The solemnity of its architecture will amaze you upon entering the main dining area. The walls and the ceilings, down to the cutlery and crockery, create a majestic dining atmosphere. During the last 160 years, Le Bibent has developed exquisite French cuisine. Select from a range of culinary creations such as Eggs Mimosa, foie gras de canard, cassoulet Montalbanais and delicious desserts such as mille-feuille with caramel, tarte citron and the tarte tatin. Don’t forget to pair your dinner with one of the amazing wines produced at Toulouse. After such a sensorial experience, take a night walk through the city center. Le Bibent is near the Place du Capitole and the city hall (dated 1750). From there, take a nice walk around the narrow historical streets that will lead you to the Pont Neuf, where you can enjoy a magical view. continued on page 120


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DAY 2 Toulouse is also known for providing a unique European experience. The Cité de L’espace invites you to discover all the secrets and advances of outer space. Feeling first hand what it would be like to be an astronaut would fulfill the dreams of any child, even many adults. You can do so in this huge scientific city which deserves almost a day to be explored and it is the biggest spacial museum in all of Europe. That’s why The Cité de L’espace hosts almost 400,000 visitors per year. You’ll find permanent and temporary exhibitions plus workshops and 3D cinemas. And for 2019, the Cité de L’espace is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first moon walk celebrating the Apollo adventure so be sure to visit on July 21 to join the special celebration titled “The Moon Party”. If you love stars, there will be a special event on August 2 where you can learn more from the experts. continued on page 123


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DAY 3 Thinking about relaxing? Toulouse has a charming luxury corner with one of the best French spas: La Cour des Consuls Hotel & Spa. This unique place is hidden in the heart of the city and offers the best relaxation and beauty treatments. All products used at La Cour des Consuls Hotel & Spa are vegan and sustainable—produced by local beauty brand Graine de Pastel. Graine de Pastel is a medical plant very popular in South West France. This plant has an incredibly high concentration of Omega 3, 6 and 9 which all help our skin to look better. If you’re hungry, you don’t need to go far since La Cour des Consuls also has a wonderful restaurant where you can continue relaxing while enjoying the best of French gastronomy and the regional wines. Ready to move? Toulouse also has a rare museum which offers an exhibition of performance machines, each moving and telling a tale: Les Halles de la Machine. It will totally surprise you and make you feel as if you are in another era between the Victorian Steampunk and the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci. Here you will discover stories and legends behind extra-ordinary “mechanical entities”: a giant spider, a wine service machine, a bread catapult, and a huge explosion of imagination! Probably the most breathtaking piece is the giant Minotaur and accompanying it during one of its daily walks. continued on page 127



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Finally, don’t forget the historical part of the city with a visit to the Basilique Saint Sernin, the Saint-Etienne Cathedral, and the Couvent des Jacobins to name a few. Other things you can enjoy this summer are: Festival de Street Art Rose Béton Festival Río Loco Festival Siestes Electroniques Tangopostale And in April each year, the city hosts one of the world’s foremost flamenco festivals: Festival Flamenco Toulouse. Don’t forget to say hello to our friends at the Tourist Office and get your Pass Tourisme so as to properly enjoy this unique city. Special thanks to Toulouse Tourism for additional photos.



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City of Color


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By Ksenia Skvortsova


he colors abound in surround sound. They come at you everywhere and all at once: on retro street vendor signs, in big slicks of paint on modernist architecture, in fresh salsas that go from hot to hottest, and on bandanas tied around dogs of all sizes. It has topped every “to-do” and bucket list out there, yet I still wonder if a first time visitor is fully prepared for the vibrancy of Mexico City. There is, truly, so much to take in and experience. The vivid pinks, azure blues, and tropical reds and oranges never fail to inspire. This makes CDMX (shorthand for Ciudad de México) one of the most stimulating places to visit. As you follow this guide to some of CDMX’s most vibrant attractions, make sure to note the cultural relevance of these hues, many of them originating from native plants like agave or rare insects like the cochineal bug. These traditional dyes and tints have helped infuse Mexican spaces with their signature style and spirit. Here are a few of my favorites of the many colorful sights to feast your eyes—and your stomachs—in Mexico City, a design-lover’s dream destination. continued on page 132


PINK You may have heard of Mexican pink—you see it on everything from cookies to official taxis and while it has been embraced as a tourism marketing color, it is not a gimmick. The color has many origin stories and has been compared to the color of the native bougainvillea plant. It is ever-present in traditional crafts and clothing such as the recognizable serape shawl or blanket. To experience swaths of pink in maximum scale, make sure to visit the Luis Barragan House and Studio. It offers amazing access to tour the great architect’s own home with intimate insights into his way of life and his design philosophy. As you walk around CDMX, you will be sure to spot other Barragan-designed buildings, many of which are private residences that still offer sporadic tours. On the outskirts of the city, the Cuadra San Cristobal estate is another modernist Barragan masterpiece. The grounds are surrounded by pink, red, purple, and white walls. The intensity of Barragan’s signature colorful accents has become synonymous with modern Mexican design and has influenced other contemporaries. It is hard to imagine that the stunning pink latticework on the exterior of the Camino Real Hotel in Polanco, designed in collaboration between Ricardo Legorreta and Mathias Goeritz, was originally painted black. You will not have any trouble finding perfectly ripe pink fruit in Mexico no matter the season, but for that extra color infusion, do enjoy fresh guava and cheese pastries from Panaderia Rosetta daily, if you can—it is so very worth waiting in the line outside the small bakery in Roma. continued on page 135


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BLUE In Centro, the Casa de los Azulejos (House of Tiles) is a lovely example of local craftsmanship as it is entirely covered in blue, white, and yellow tiles, all from the 1700s and all made in Puebla. It now houses a missable restaurant, but the facade and the interior mural by famed Mexican painter JosÊ Clemente Orozco is worth a visit. Onwards, the sprawling Papalote Children’s Museum complex is covered in what feels like miles of glazed blue ceramic tiles that form minimal shapes and mimic traditional Mexican structures. Lit up at night, it looks like a magical castle, appealing to kids and adults alike. Then there is the startling blue of the Casa Azul (literally, the Blue House), the house shared by Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera (and others, at times!). It matched the bright blue sky on the morning of my recent visit. Book in advance and expect it to be crowded, but do not pass up an opportunity to experience the space that inspired so much art and so much drama. If you are after even more crisp whites and blues, enjoy some morning churros and hot chocolate at the thoughtfully redesigned mini chain Churreria El Moro. The original location still has the classic decor from the 1930s and is open 24 hours a day! continued on page 136


RED When Cortes invaded Mexico in 1519, he was amazed to find Montezuma and other high members of society dressed in vivid red robes. The red dye was naturally obtained from cochineal bugs, and, at one point, cochineal dye was one of the main exports of the Aztecs, right after silver. Red ink thus became a customary mark of wisdom, and red remains a color immersed in Mexican traditions. Biblioteca de Mexico is an imposing red stucco building housing the state library that is a perfect representation of that seamless blend of colonial and modern architecture that is so special to CDMX. Also in Centro, the Fuente de Vicente Rojo is a stunning public art project: a fountain punctuated by over a thousand red pyramids cast of concrete by the artist Vicente Rojo, whose own last name means “red.” Utilitario Mexicano in Juarez is a one-stop shop for mostly Mexican-made design items that can be useful in the home—everything from ceramics to soaps and pans. They also sell their own line of locally made, striking copper red cups and jugs. I do insist that you try the now iconic green and red grilled fish at Contramar (one half of the flaky fish is covered in spicy salsa, the other in a milder version). Share it with friends, wrap it in fresh tortillas, and chase it with sharp margaritas, some of the best I’ve ever had, as you take in the colorful sights around you. continued on page138


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The style of true living: Food, Fashion and Travel vraimagazine.com

Š Janet Rokosz



Free Vacation Tips by Katie Stanwyck


ravel is one of the most incredible things we can do, and at the end of the day, it truly is a privilege to have the ability to see the world. The biggest cost of travel however, isn’t how empty our wallets can get, but the effect it can have on the environment. This isn’t something as travellers we like thinking about, but it’s something that we need to start talking about. The good thing is, we can start making a difference little by little when we go on vacation... starting now. Back in 2018, the World Wildlife Fund reported that “more than 200 million tourists visiting the Mediterranean every summer cause an almost 40% spike in plastic entering the sea.” This is a big problem and something that can be avoided with a bit of change. It also shows the direct effects that we can have as tourists when we’re visiting somewhere new. So the question is, how do we as people, who love travelling, make sure we’re making a positive impact when we’re going somewhere, as opposed to a negative one? Well, this is something I’ve been trying to improve myself over the years so I want to share some of my tips. continued on page 142


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Photo by Simon Migaj on 141 Unsplash

The single-use plastic problem No matter what kind of traveller you are, the singleuse plastic problem is a tough one to swallow. Why? Because we all know we need to take action on it, but it’s a bit of a lifestyle change. According to National Geographic, “18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year from coastal regions.” That’s a lot of plastic. When I started learning more about the plastic problem across the globe, I bought a reusable water bottle and brought it everywhere with me, even on vacation. If you get into the habit of carrying it around at home it’ll come second nature on vacation too. What about take

out containers? Or straws? Or snacks? It’s difficult, but I even bring a metal container while I’m travelling and usually people are okay with putting my food in there instead of using one of their takeout containers. On top of this, always ask for a drink with no straw, or you can purchase your own reusable metal straws to bring with you. There’s solutions to all this, and though it is a lifestyle change, if we all try and make these small steps we will make a difference. On The Go tours has a fantastic article in their blog that I would recommend: How to Reduce Plastic Waste Whilst Travelling. Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash


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Photo by Gian Cescon on Unsplash

Sustainability and restaurants What do we all do a lot of when travelling? Eating at restaurants. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of issues when it comes to the restaurant industry, from food waste to shipping, to plastic use and more. The good news is, since sustainability has been a big trend, it’s not too tough to find ones with good practices. Here’s some tips on what to look for when looking for a sustainable restaurant: • Check for seasonal products. This almost always means they focus on food within their country and what’s available during that season. • Always check on the seafood. Fishing practices are a huge issue for our oceans and all it takes is asking about whether it comes from a sustainable source when you order it. If you get the gut feeling that they aren’t being completely honest, you might want to think of giving something else a try.

• Go local. When you are choosing a restaurant, make sure you’re picking something local. But how do you find these restaurants? It’s tough to do, and even with these tips below, it’s hard, but they make them a little bit easier: • Ask locals that are working at coffee shops or anywhere you’re visiting where they go and what they recommend instead of the concierge or other travellers. • Venture outside of the main areas a little bit. This isn’t something everyone’s comfortable with, but oftentimes this is where you find the little gems and truly local restaurants. • Don’t always focus on the online reviews, look a little bit deeper. Usually, I look for locals who write about food in the city they live in as they often have great recommendations. continued on page 144 143

Ditch the paper planning With technology nowadays, paper itineraries and confirmations are long gone. Save paper (and the possibility of losing everything) by making sure to download it all on your phone. Airbnb, HomeAway and all the other booking websites out there make it easy for you to find your information as quickly as possible. Now the big question, “but what if I don’t have data in the country I’m visiting?” I have come across this issue a number of times since I refuse to pay massive amounts of money on data. So, all I do is take screenshots of all my confirmations, addresses of where I’m staying, and photos of my passport.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash


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Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

Bring your own reusable bag

Worried you’ll forget all this?

The majority of us probably have a good number of these around the house because we continuously forget to bring them to the grocery store. While you’re travelling, bring along a couple of them so that you’re avoiding the plastic bags at markets, malls and everywhere else. Bringing a reusable bag will help massively with reducing your plastic use while abroad. Many people opt for plastic bags while they’re away since they haven’t brought with them an alternative. Such a small thing can make a big difference!

If you’re reading this and you’re hoping that next time you travel this won’t slip your mind, check this checklist out below that I always think about when packing everything up. Waste-free travel packing checklist: • Reusable water bottle (I use S’well bottles), straw, cutlery and coffee mug • Metal food container (or just tupperware) for leftovers and take out meals • Reusable shopping bag • Screenshots and photos on an album in your phone • List of local, sustainable restaurants in each destination • Go through your fridge. What can you bring?





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JAPAN Photography by Ed Cruz



ith the rise and popularity of Asia, one destination to definitely keep in mind is Japan. Known for its people, technology and culinary experiences, start with Tokyo, the country’s capital, as your home base. There’s plenty to explore and day-trip options are abundant with the country’s efficient high-speed trains. Another reason to keep Tokyo in mind is with the Summer Olympics coming in 2020 from July 24-August 9. If you’re planning to attend, planning early is a must. For more travel ideas in Japan, check out our past Travel Issue and find out how our NYC Editor, Ksenia Skvortsova almost got kicked out of a Buddhist Temple while discovering another side to the country. continued on page 151


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Inside world famous Tsukiji Market



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Opposite page clockwise from top: World famous Tsukiji Market is located in the heart of central Tokyo. This must-see for all food lovers is where a blue fin tuna recently sold for record-breaking $3.1 million dollars. For a vampire themed dining experience, check out the Vampire Cafe in Ginza. Vampire afficionados will not be disappointed. And since we’re dealing with vampires, it’s only open for dinner. For a unique hotel experience, check into the Henn na Hotel in Ginza, Tokyo known as the Robot Hotel. Robots check you in with a smile. This page: For a taste of Japan’s martial arts, take a Kendo class where you’ll use wooden swords called bokken for samurai-style sword fighting. continued on page 155


The lights of Shinjuku. Famous for its large entertainment, business and shopping area around Shinjuku Station.


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Opposite page top: For a beautiful burst of color, time your trip to Japan to witness the cherry blossoms (Sakura). The blossoms only last for a short amount of time, 10 days to 2 weeks at the most and occur at different times throughout Japan from March to early May. Opposite page bottom: If you’re a fan of Mario Kart, here’s a way to bring it to life. Take on the streets of Tokyo in these custom go-karts made for the streets of Japan. And to complete the expereince, put on your favorite Nintendo character costume and race away! This page: Check out the famous snow monkeys at Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park. It’s a great day trip adventure from Tokyo, 2-3 hours by train (one way).




By Mabel Gago


onfidence, security and a personal style are probably easier to achieve with the rays of summer’s light. Acquiring your own style is an exercise that should go beyond magazine covers, the latest trends, celebrities and influencers. For Barcelona fashion designer Pattry Ipiales, her latest collection is filled with Inca symbols and heritage. “This is in recognition to my Native American roots and all the cultures that have contributed so much to humanity. This is my inspiration. “ “I call this collection Amawtismo fusión,” says Pattry. “This is the original term in the Kichwa language that is translated philosophically—Sacred World view of the Andes, the path to ancestral wisdom comes through Amawtism.” After many years navigating between fashion and other professions, this entrepreneurial woman finally decided to focus on her true passion. “A year ago I started my dream of being an entrepreneur and launching myself into the creation of my own fashion collection,” states Pattry. In addition to ready-to-wear pieces created in her Barcelona-based atelier, Pattry also creates haute couture and is working on her next couture collection. But for now, to embrace the current season and the perfect summer style for almost every situation—from work to a holiday getaway—we have selected some special pieces set amidst the beauty of Barcelona. It’s a city that oozes design and is the perfect backdrop to discover your unique sense of style! 156

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Photographer: Ă?oana Smerea Stylist assistant: Juanita Acevedo Model: Olga Portales Hair and makeup: Priscila Gallo Fashion Editor: Mabel Gago Fashion by Pattry Ipiales Shoes and bags by Zara


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A Disney World Planning Guide

easy ways to make Disney even more Magical by Danny de la Cruz / Photography by D. Gans


lanning is a critical component of any travel adventure and if you’re planning a trip to Disney World anytime soon, or even in the next year, we’ve got some planning tips you need to know. Disney World in Orlando, Florida, isn’t a destination where you can simply show up and just wing it, otherwise, there are too many things that you’ll miss and the pitfalls could alter whether you enjoy your vacation or not. And with the amount of money you’ll spend at Disney World, we don’t want you wasting your time and missing out on the most magical experience you can possibly have. Let’s start with the basics and go from there. Use these 7 tips as a starter to plan your next adventure and be sure to let us know if you have any others. continued on page 168


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1. When to go If you can avoid holidays, Spring Break and Summer, then you’re off to a good start. The off-peak months of January, February, mid May, September, early October and early November are great choices to enjoy the theme parks with lower crowd levels. Now, Disney World will always have crowds, but if you can avoid those times when you’re not shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers 24/7 with lines that just seem to go on for miles, then go ahead and book the off-peak months. But for many, the reality of going to Disney World during off-peak times simply doesn’t work. With family schedules, including school and just life in general, you may just have to go when the stars align. Don’t worry, there are ways to deal with crowds and planning ahead is one way to do this. Finally in terms of the time of year, keep in mind that from May through early Fall, the hot Orlando weather can be a factor, so if standing under the blazing sun while waiting for a ride isn’t your cup of tea, try to pick the cooler months (or simply go to the parks early in the morning and come back once the sun goes down). continued on page 173 Disney Tip: Even if you find yourself visiting Disney World during a busy time of year, FastPass+ and Rope Drop are a must. Click “play” below to learn more.


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169 Cinderella’s Castle


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Opposite page: Move It! Shake It! MousekeDance It! Steet Party. This page: Be Our Guest restaurant 171


Liberty Belle

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2. Where to stay If budget is a big factor, then staying at an offsite hotel is probably your best bet. While Disney World offers three tiers of resorts from which to choose, even their value resorts may still be more expensive than off-site hotels. If you do go off-site, you’ll definitely need a rental car to make sure you get around in a timely manner. Using car ride services from an off-site hotel will quickly add up and even if there is bus service from your hotel to the Disney theme parks, the schedules and frequency may not be ideal. If budget isn’t your primary concern, then staying at a Disney resort is the way to go. With that said, Disney is expensive. No one will argue about that. But, there are some pros for staying on-site at a Disney resort and there are options for all types of budgets. Disney resorts are available in three tiers: value, moderate and deluxe. Based on your budget, each resort tier will differ in such ways as proximity to a theme park, resort and room amenities and transportation options to get you to the theme parks. If you’re interested in staying close to the Magic Kingdom, then there are the resorts along the monorail line to easily get you to the park. These resorts include the Contemporary Resort, Grand Floridian, Polynesian Village Resort (all of which are on the monorail line) and there is also the Wilderness Lodge which is a quick boat ride away. If you’re interested in Epcot and Hollywood Studios, sandwiched in between both are the Boardwalk, Yacht & Beach Club, and Swan and Dolphin Resorts. Note, the Swan and Dolphin are on Disney property but not technically Disney Resorts, but, you can still get most of the same benefits as a Disney resort when you stay at these two (be sure to understand the differences). All of these resorts are located within walking distance to Epcot and Hollywood Studios and also offer boat service if you’d rather travel by water. If you’d like to be closer to Animal Kingdom, then the Animal Kingdom Lodge is closest to that park. continued on page 174 173

2. Where to stay


If you end up selecting a Disney resort, regardless of tier level, you can enjoy all of the following services and benefits by staying on site: • Free transportation aboard the Magical Express Bus to and from Orlando International Airport to your Disney hotel • Free transportation to and from your hotel to all the Disney theme parks (including water parks) and to Disney Springs. Transportation options include the monorail, boats and busses. Beginning later this year, the new Skyliner Gondola transportation system will be up and running and connecting select resorts to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. • Every guest in your party will receive a Magic Band. You can select from a range of colors and get your name printed on it. This will ship to your home prior to arrival or if this is a last minute trip, you can pick it up once you get to your resort. A Magic Band stores all your park tickets to get in, opens your hotel door and allows you to make purchases at the park and charge all your dining to a designated credit card. You never have to pull out a wallet or purse during your stay. • Extra Magic Hours at the theme parks. Disney resort guests can enter the park earlier or stay in the park later on select days than guests who stay at non-Disney hotels. This means less crowds and hopefully shorter lines to get on the rides. • Purchases you make at the theme parks can be sent back to your Disney resort so you don’t have to carry it around all day. • You can book FastPass+ tickets 60 days prior to arrival (non-Disney resort guests can only book FastPass+ tickets 30 days prior). continued on page 178 Did you know? The Disney transportation system of monorails, boats and busses is free for all Disney theme park guests. You don’t have to stay at a Disney resort to take advantage of these free modes of transportation so hop on board! 174

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175 Splash Mountain

This and opposite page: After Hours at Magic Kingdom


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Click “play” to see the After Hours event


Did You Know? Disney World in Orlando, Florida continues to be a popular destination for kids of all ages. Based on the latest Global Attractions Attendance Report for 2018, Magic Kingdom Theme Park at Walt Disney World Resort was #1 in 2018 with more than 20 million people attending, a 2% increase over 2017. Just to show how popular Disney World is overall, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios come in at #6, #7 and #9, respectively on the annual report. And just when you think Disney World couldn’t get any more popular (and crowded), get ready for the opening of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge on August 29, 2019. This new land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is one of the most highly anticipated openings ever. I can only imagine how crowded Hollywood Studios will be and the overflow effect to the other Disney World theme parks once this opens.

Prince Charming Regal Carrousel 178

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But wait, there’s even more. Disney World turns 50 on October 1, 2021. Like most other milestones, celebrations tend to happen for much of the year at Disney so expect to see the crowd levels continue to grow. And when you add on new rides like Mickey & Minnie’s Runway Railroad opening in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Tron at the Magic Kingdom, expansions and updates happening at Epcot, and a new Star Wars hotel and more new resorts, the list of new atractions continues to grow. It seems like there is always something new each year. So why do Disney theme parks remain so popular? Aside from the new attractions and events, it all boils down to the “magic” that everyone discovers once they set foot inside. What I’ve seen is that at Disney, you’re able to be yourself. Everyone is welcome. It’s a place to let your guard down and escape the realities of dayto-day and the world in which we live. This alone is a magical experience. When you add on all the little touches, the service and nostalgia, it’s hard to find an experience like this anywhere else on earth, with the exception of other Disney theme parks around the globe. continued on page 181


Slinky180 Dog Dash at Hollywood Studios

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3. Plan your days With four theme parks, two water parks, Disney Springs and multiple resort-hopping opportunities, you will never say “there’s nothing to do”. There’s plenty to do. The challenge becomes realistically planning your days and making sure that you don’t cram in too much. Identify which theme parks are of most interest to you and your family/traveling group and as a guide, plan that each park will require at least one day to explore at a good pace. Each theme park is different and you should visit each at least once. Take advantage of Extra Magic Hours (if you’re staying at a Disney resort) and remember that earlier in the day and later at night are better for dealing with less crowds and shorter lines. Mid-day is always the busiest and often-times the hottest. When you’ve decided on the theme parks to visit, you have another decision to make in terms of what type of ticket to get. There are one day tickets for one park at a time and there is the Park Hopper add-on fee to allow you to jump from one theme park to another within one day. While the Park Hopper is convenient, you’re adding on to the ticket price and when you multiply that by the number in your party, it quickly adds up even more. If you have a short stay at Disney, then I suggest you purchase the Park Hopper option, but if you’ve got a longer stretch to enjoy, then one-day tickets could work better for you. You’ll have to do some calculations to see what works best for you. continued on page 189 Disney Tip: Be on the lookout for special events such as “After Hours” or special holiday events where a limited number of tickets are sold and you can experience Disney in a different way. 181

This page: Slinky Dog Dash VRAI Magazine 182 page clockwise from top: Alien Swirling Saucers and Woody’s Opposite Lunch Box


Click “play” to see Hollywood Studios


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Opposite page clockwise from top: Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy and Municiberg/Jack-Jack This page clockwise from top: 50’s Prime Time Cafe, Voyage of the Little Mermaid show and the Chinese Theater 185


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Click “play” to see Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular

Opposite page: Toy Story Land and Echo Lake This page: Star Wars - A Galactic Spectacular


Animal 188Kingdom Lodge

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4. Beyond the theme parks There’s more to Disney World than just the theme parks (which includes the water parks). Disney Springs is another place to consider. Filled with restaurants, shopping and other entertainment including bowling, movies, shows and so much more, this is one Disney destination you’ll definitely want to explore and set up some time here. It’s also a great way to take a break from all the rides, parades and crowds, depending on what day and time you go. If you’re staying at a Disney resort, the complimentary busses will also take you Disney Springs. Another option to take a break from the theme parks is resort hopping. But, If you’ve never done Disney World before and have a limited stay, then save this for last or for another visit. If you do have more time, you should know that each Disney resort has its own look and feel. The Deluxe resorts also include more dining options and are just beautiful to explore. Animal Kingdom Lodge alone has so much to offer from the animals on site to some of the most wonderful dining options you can find in Disney. The Yacht & Beach Club have Stormalong Bay, the best pool out of all resorts, complete with a sandy bottom, lazy river and water slide. It’s also just across the water from the Boardwalk with numerous eateries and shops to explore. So defintely do some exploring beyond the theme parks because you never know what you’ll find. continued on page 193 Disney Tip: Complimentary busses will take you from your resort directly to each of the theme parks and Disney Springs. From the theme parks and Disney Springs, you can take another bus to get to a different resort.


This page: Animal Kingdom at night and Finding Nemo—The Musical Opposite page clockwise from top: Kilimanjaro Safaris, Mechanical Walker at Pandora and Terk from Tarzan


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Pandora at Animal Kingdom


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5. FastPass+ basics Once you have your hotel reserved and have purchased your tickets, you can book FastPass+ tickets. If you’re staying at a Disney resort, you can book them 60 days in advance of your arrival, but if you’re at a non-Disney hotel, you can book FastPass+ tickets 30 days prior ot your arrival. FastPass+ tickets are free for everyone who purchases a ticket and for each day you have a theme park ticket. You have three (3) FastPass+ tickets to start off with for a theme park of your choosing each day and can use however you’d like. Use these for rides with long wait times, often the very popular ones like Flight of Avatar at Animal Kingdom, Slinky Dog or Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios, Frozen Ever After, Soarin or Test Track at Epcot and Seven Dwarves Mine Train at Magic Kingdom (or basically any of the big roller coasters). FastPass+ tickets give you an hour window to ride the attraction so don’t miss your window. You’ll bypass the long line and basically walk up to the front of the line, saving you so much time. If you plan to get to a park as soon as it opens, then book all three FastPass+ tickets early in the day so that as soon as you finish using your third FastPass+, you can book another FastPass+ at the same park or you can go to another park (if you have a Park Hopper ticket). You can continue to get more FastPass+ tickets (one at a time) once you use each one. continued on page 197 Disney Tip: If you can’t get a FastPass+ for your favorite ride, don’t give up. Continue to check you’re My Disney Experience app because availability can always change due to cancellations or other factors.



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This and opposite page: Pandora by day and night 195

Monorail at Epcot


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6. Dining at Disney There are so many dining choices at Disney World for a variety of budgets and taste buds. With that said, dining on property can be very expensive. To offset Disney prices, you can always go off property to countless dining establishments throughout Orlando, but you’ll need a rental car or can rely on car ride services. Another option is to pack snacks and bring them along in the park so that you can control how much you spend and also the nutrition levels in your meals, but don’t go overboard because you will have to carry it around the entire time while at the parks. If you’re going to rely on Disney cuisine at the parks, you have many options ranging from Counter Service places (fast food where you order at a counter and then take your food and sit down wherever you want to eat) or Table Service places (you sit down and a waiter will take your order and bring the food to you). For Table Service places, there are some that are classified as Signature Dining and prices tend to be much higher than normal to match the elevated level of cuisine. Some Signature Dining places also require you to “dress up” and may also require some sort of deposit which you will lose if you don’t cancel ahead of time and skip your reservation. Be sure to check the details before booking. In addition to Counter Service and Table Service places, there are character dining meals where characters come to your table while you eat. Some are buffet and some such as the ‘Ohana breakfast and the meals at Garden Grill over at Epcot are unique since the food is brought to your table and it’s all you care to eat. The dining options are plentiful at the theme parks and don’t forget that there are many more at the various resorts throughout Disney World. Keep in mind that Deluxe resorts have Table Service options in addition to quick service whereas Value resorts tend to only have Quick Service dining halls. continued on page 200


This and opposite page: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival


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6. Dining at Disney


Dining reservations can be made as early as 180 days prior to arrival and you may think that it’s crazy to book so early, but some very popular places like California Grill at the Contemporary Resort or Be Our Guest at the Magic Kingdom fill up very fast! Finally, there is the Disney Dining Plan as a way to manage your budget and what you consume, but be sure to fully understand the details of what each plan provides so that you’re not wasting money. The worst thing you can do is pick a Dining Plan and not use all the credits for which you’ve already paid. One last dining piece of advice—remember to stay hydrated. You can always get a free cup of water at any kiosk/stand where they sell beverages. Or, bring your own water bottle and have it refilled. Remember, skip the bottled water and save your money for something else since water is free! continued on page 209 Disney Tip: For better odds at securing a reservation at some of the more popular dining places, pick non-peak times (go earlier or later).


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The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot



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Opposite page clockwise from top: The Land (exterior and interior) and Imagination This page clockwise from top: La Hacienda de San Angel and the Mexico Pavillion 203


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Click “play” to discover Epcot

Opposite page: Frozen Ever After and Elsa topiary This page: Spaceship Earth



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Opposite page: Flying Fish at the Boardwalk This page clockwise from top: Grand Floridian, Citricos and the Polynesian Village Resort 207

Click “play” to see our ‘Ohana character breakfast

Character 208 breakfast at ‘Ohana: all you care to eat

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7. What to pack • When it comes to packing, shorts and summer attire is what most people pack during the warmer months, but keep in mind that temperatures can change so bring layers. • As for footwear, comfortable shoes that you’ve already broken in are a must! You’ll be on your feet for most of the day and there is lot of ground to cover. Bring a back up pair because if you’re caught in an unexpected downpour, your shoes could get soaked and walking around in wet shoes is no fun at all. • Speaking of the weather, ponchos are a must for Disney World. You can always buy them at the parks but if you want to really save money, buy a bunch for your travel party before you arrive. • Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses are essential to protect you from the Florida sun. Don’t leave home without them. • As I’ve mentioned above, if you plan on dining at a Signature Restaurant, understand the “dress code” for that restaurant when making the reservation. You don’t want to be turned away. • For all your electronics, bring a portable power bank. Between using the My Disney Experience App to check on FastPass+ and dining reservations, to taking all those Instagrammable moments, you’ll drain your batteries fast. • Keep in mind that security checks before entering the parks and even riding the monorail can create long lines to get in. If you need to bring a bag to carry essentials for your day, try to keep it to a manageable size to make the security inspection go faster and your back will thank you since you’ll be carrying that bag all day long. • Toiletries are provided at all the Disney resorts so unless you have a specific brand of product you can’t live without, you can save some space in your bag (for those souvenirs you’re bound to bring home). continued on page 212


This page: Views from the Yacht Club Resort Opposite page: Beach Club Resort lobby and Beaches & Cream 210

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The beautiful Yacht Club Resort

Click “play” to discover the Yacht Club Resort

Now that you’ve got the basics down and have made all the hard choices, sit back and dream of the magic to come. But, once you’re Disney adventure starts, be sure to keep this in mind—be flexible because things are bound to happen and plans can quickly change. For Disney or any travel adventure, being flexible is a mindset you should always have. Also, take breaks to relax and savor the magic all around you. Disney does an amazing job of bringing magic into the smallest details so you never know where something amazing will catch your eye. Main Disney World website Download the “My Disney Experience” app on your cell phone to manage your schedule, tickets, dining reservations and FastPass+ tickets.


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