European Christmas markets have been a festive tradition since the 13th century and today offer a wealth of spectacular holiday scenes and experiences in the picturesque river towns and villages of Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland. Twinkling lights covering medieval town squares provide a magical backdrop for large, tented markets lined with wooden stalls trimmed in thousands of colored lights and overflowing with handmade decorations, dolls, toys, artisan wares, porcelain and endless other gift items, while the holiday melodies of wandering minstrels and choral groups, tantalizing aromas of gingerbread and other baked goods fill the air.
European Markets from Nuremberg to Vienna features some of the most delightful holiday scenes in Central Europe including the Nuremberg Christmas Market, named for the infant Jesus and also known as Christkindlesmarkt. At each market, you’ll find wooden stalls displaying traditional items that range from quirky little characters made of fruit and dressed in Bavarian costumes to beautifully carved and painted Nativity figures, exquisite ornaments and fine contemporary crafts, along with fairytale villages decked in holiday finery.
Parisian Royal Holiday, roundtrip from Paris dressed in her stylish holiday best takes you to see the Christmas tree at Notre Dame, the Champs-Élysées glittering with even more sparkling lights and other city highlights. A private tour of Versailles takes you through the Hall of Mirrors, Queen and King’s chambers, and Marie Antoinette’s Le Petit Trianon. Back in Paris, you’ll have a private cocktail reception hosted by the owners of the luxurious 17th-century Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, and in the medieval city of Rouen, indulge in delectable holiday treats at La Couronne, the restaurant made famous by Julia Child. Those sailing over New Year’s will welcome 2018 in the shimmering City of Lights.
The cruises are aboard luxury vessels averaging 130 passengersand are renowned for their elegant decor, lavish furnishings, antiques, original artwork and fine dining. Luxuriously-appointed staterooms have every amenity including flat-screen TV with infotainment center and satellite, marble bathrooms, robes , slippers, complimentary WiFi and many have French balconies.
A wide selection of additional cruise programs are also available at Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.
It’s one of the biggest annual events in international horse racing, and L’Auberge Del Mar is ready to party!
Held this year for the first time “where the turf meets the surf” at the iconic Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s racetrack in Southern California November 3 and 4, the 33rd Annual Breeder’s Cup will have a purse of up to $6 million attracting the racing world’s top thoroughbreds, jockeys, elite, celebs, and multitudes of fans.
For out-of-towners and locals who want to get in on all the action, conveniently located near the racetrack is the charming L’Auberge Del Mar overlooking the Pacific. Offering a relaxed, seaside resort experience similar to that of a private estate, there are 121 guest rooms and suites, a 5,000-square-foot spa, 24-hour fitness center, pool area with leisure and whirl pools, tennis courts, and a private pathway for easy beach access. The variety of dining and beverage options includes the award-winning KITCHEN 1540, waterfront al fresco dining at Coastline, poolside Bleu Bar for nips and nibbles, and The Living Room Bar for socializing and people watching while enjoying handcrafted cocktails and appetizers.
The hotel traditionally celebrates the opening of the Bing Crosby Racing Season with a series of festive events. Returning this year is famous hat fabricator Christine A. Moore Millinery who will create a Hat Pop-Up in the hotel’s Living Room Nov. 1-3. Having adorned stylish race goers and celebrities with men’s and women’s hats and fascinators for more than 20 years, she has been named “Official Hat Designer of America’s Best Racing.”
Admission to all events at the hotel is complimentary for guests and the locals, food and beverages not included. This year’s official line-up includes:
Wed., Nov. 1, 5pm – midnight: L’Auberge Del Mar’s Bing Crosby Party kicks off the Del Mar fall racing season with hotel guests and local racing fans donning their finest and enjoying live entertainment in the resort’s Living Room. Cocktails include this year’s winning “Off to the Races” cocktail created with Hudson Bourbon Whiskey, ginger beer, honey and Memphis Barbeque Bitters, with tasty bites from KITCHEN 1540 — both available for purchase. The signature drink can also be enjoyed at other Breeders’ Cup events and in the Living Room, Bleu Bar, Coastline and KITCHEN 1540.
Thurs., Nov. 2, – 5 pm – midnight: Del Mar Traditions. The build-up to the 33rd annual Breeders’ Cup continues with live music, specialty drinks and food pop-ups.
Fri., Nov. 3, 5 pm – midnight: Breeders’ Cup Opening Day After-Party. Home to Del Mar racing seasons’ after-parties, L’Auberge Del Mar is a great place to toast the day’s winners with the “Off to the Races” signature cocktail and rehash the excitement of the Breeders’ Cup Opening Day. Held in the Living Room, Coastline and Bleu Bar and Sunset Terrace, L’Auberge Del Mar’s Opening Day After-Party features specialty drinks, food pop-ups and a live musical performance.
Sat. & Sun., Nov. 4 & 5: After-Party Activities
After all the excitement, party-goers can relax around the pool or on the beach with their favorite beverage or rehydrate with a moisturizing treatment and massage at Spa L’Auberge.
Giant panda mother Bai Yun and cub Yun Zi at San Diego Zoo
You can also discover the delights of Del Mar Village with its old-world charm evidenced in the quaint half-timbered Tudor-style architecture, and Del Mar Plaza with its upscale shopping, fine dining, fashion boutiques, galleries, fountains, sculptures and palazzo-style terraces overlooking spectacular views of the Pacific. You are also within 20-30 minutes of Sea World, San Diego Zoo and the many other attractions in and around San Diego.
With this being the first Breeders’ Cup to be held at Del Mar, it is recommended that you make your reservations at L’Auberge Del Mar early.
Marco Polo Suite
San Clemente Palace, the historic private island resort in the Venice lagoon, just reopened as the newest member of the Kempinski small luxury hotels group. Situated in a former monastery amid lush gardens, quaint historic courtyards and a 12th-century church on the private island of San Clemente, the property is just a 10-minute boat ride from St. Mark’s Square.
Ideal for the sophisticated traveler, the San Clemente Palace Kempinski’s 190 guestrooms and suites have sweeping views of the Venice skyline, Giudecca, the lagoon and Lido, gardens or romantic courtyards. There’s also a pitch & putt golf course, tennis court, heated outdoor pool and outdoor jogging trails. The Kempi Kids’ Club also offers a range of activities for younger guests.
The three bars and lounges situated throughout the property offered difference ambiences and settings. Featuring locally-sourced ingredients, dining venues offer various options. Acquerello Restaurant features a gourmet fusion of modern Venetian and Mediterranean-inspired flavors. For breakfast, Insieme Restaurant is less informal and during
the summer, you can enjoy breakfast in the picturesque monastery churchyard dating back to the 15th century. Opening in May, La Dolce Restaurant located in the heart of the historic park by the swimming pool serves lunch and dinner, features antipasti and entrées from a grill and wood oven.
Here, you can enjoy the enviable seclusion of a luxurious private island resort with the rest of Venice easily accessible within minutes by boat. Click here for further details.
Vintage Estate Entry
Yountville offers the quintessential setting for sampling some of the best of the Napa wine country. For dining, your choices include numerous internationally-renowned, award-winning Yountville restaurants such as Bistro Jeanty, The French Laundry, Bouchon, Pacific Blues Café whch received a New York Times recommendation; Michael Chiarello’s Bottega featuring rustic farm-to-table Italian cuisine, and a dozen more of Napa’s finest.
For vineyards and wineries, you have Chiarello Family Vineyards, LLC , Cliff Lede Vineyards, Cornerstone Cellars, Domaine Chandon, Gemstone, Hill Family Estate, Hopper Creek Winery, Jessup Cellars, as well as limo wine tours, bike tours and other options.
Vintage Estate Pool
A great place to stay is the elegant French country Vintage Inn on the Vintage Estate. The AAA Four Diamond inn features 80 guestrooms, suites and villas blended to mirror the natural beauty of the French countryside and Napa Valley wine country. Accolades include being named to Travel+Leisure Magazine’s “2015 500 World’s Best Hotels and “2014 500 World’s Best Hotels” and Condé Nast Traveler Magazine’s “2014 Gold List – California Hotels & Resorts,” “2014 Top Resort Spas in the United States,” and “2013 World’s Best – Top 15 Resorts in North California.”
Vintage Inn King
Recently-renovated guest rooms are appointed with distressed plantation shutters, wing back chairs, a farmhouse-style desk and end tables that frame the luxurious bed. Design elements include natural Acacia hardwood flooring, hand-tufted wool area rugs woven in India, and original photography shot by local Napa Valley artists. Bathrooms showcase dual ceramic sinks and either spacious walk-in dual headed showers with Carrera marble mosaic tiled floor or an oversized sunken whirlpool jetted bathtub. Completing the perks are wood-burning stone fireplaces, mini-fridges and private balconies or garden patios with oversized Brown Jordan wicker patio furniture.
Vintage Inn Lobby
The Vintage Inn is part of the 23-acre The Vintage Estate that includes the V Marketplace, a lifestyle shopping collection housed in the former 145-year-old Groezinger Winery listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and Spa Villagio‘s 16 treatment rooms and five private spa suites.
For more information, call 800-351-1133, 707-944-1112 or visit www.vintageinn.com.
Originally Malcolm Forbes’ family hideaway in the Fiji islands, Laucala opened its doors to visitors in 2008 after being purchased by Dr. Dietrich Mateschitz, co-founder of Red Bull Energy drink. He spared no expense adding 25 lavish villas, five restaurants, a spa, 18-hole golf course, and village for its 358 employees.
Described by Travel & Leisure magazine as “the world’s most extravagant resort,” Laucala (pronounced “low-THA-la”) is a magical private island paradise spanning 3,500 acres. Here you are immersed in lifestyle luxury with expert management and highly-trained staff. Rates include everything from the services of a chauffeur or nanny to use of sailboats, a fishing boat — even a personal submarine.
The 25 one-, two- and three-bedroom villas are discreetly placed around the island so that you may not even see a neighbor during your stay. The island, itself, is pure natural splendor with its sandy beaches, turquoise lagoons, jagged mountains, coconut plantations, and self sustainability projects ranging from organic fruits and vegetables to Wagyu beef. Everything is yours for the asking from a full spa, several bars, pools, and restaurants to visits to the village, a day of golf, horseback riding and long list of water activities.
Each villa has free Wi-Fi, a yoga deck, its own swimming pool and designated golf carts for transportation around the island. Other amenities include a fully-stocked health bars and mini-bars in each bedroom, iPod and iPhone docking stations, Bose home entertainment system with satellite TV in each bedroom, and lounge area with four in-house movie channels.
The variety of accommodations includes the Plantation Villas which on a private beach of the old coconut plantation. Seagrass Villas are in a tropical jungle setting with lush vegetation and coconut trees set against the white sand coastline while the Plateau Villas on Nawi Mountain provide unlimited panoramas of the sea and neighboring islands. There are also two over-water villas and an extravagant hilltop estate complex with 360 degree views.
Culinary delights include all meals, snacks, fine spirits, and an extensive wine cellar. Most of the fresh foods served in the five restaurants come from Laucala’s own 240-acre farm which provides organic crops including everything from fresh vanilla and teas to tropical fruits as well as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and wide variety of vegetables. You’ll also enjoy the finest Wagyu beef, poultry, pigs, quail and Peking duck, goats and coconut crabs. With more than 25 percent of the island covered with coconut groves, this versatile resource is found not only in a variety of culinary choices and cocktails but homemade wellness products.
Dining options include Plantation House, a colonial-style structure offering gourmet dishes, an excellent wine list with older vintages, as well as demonstrations and cooking classes. Seagrass Lounge & Restaurant, which can be reached by land or boat, features authentic Asian delicacies with Laucala influences along with panoramic views. There’s also the Beach Bar where you can order tropical toddies and nibble on treats including freshly-caught barbecued fish. Pool Bar offers a more “Fijian avant-garde” experience for the enjoyment of island cocktails and menu of light, Mediterranean cuisine. Rock Lounge boasts some of the most splendid sunsets and offers the ultimate in relaxation complemented with delectable drinks and tempting finger foods.
In addition to the spa, resort activities include everything in water sports from scuba diving, snorkeling, water skiing, jet skiing, paddle boards and wind surfing to catamarans, sailboats, sunset cruises,kayaks and more. There’s also horseback riding, tennis, mountain bikes and golf on the 18-hole championship course which comes with cart, club rental and golf lessons from a NZPGA pro.
For details, visit www.laucala.com
If you and your family enjoy exploring in the comfort of your car, Just Ahead is a must. This handy mobile app turns your smartphone into a hands-free audio tour guide that notably contains more points of interest and anecdotes than other audio travel guides. Awarded the 2014 North American Travel Journalists Association Award for the Best Travel App, Just Ahead is professionally written and narrated, immersing you in an entertaining, informative and accurate scenario instead of fragmented, often inaccurate crowdsourced commentary.
And Just Ahead doesn’t even require cell phone coverage or Internet connection. Utilizing GPS, it knows precisely where you are and delivers narratives and maps relevant to your immediate surroundings. This hands-free, driver safe and easy to use app also helps keep you from getting lost by providing suggested directions, telling you why you should or not turn, what to do after the turn, and sifts through multiple route options to recommend the best direction. The audio guides are also less costly than most printed travel guides which quickly become outdated and can be a driver distraction. And they are frequently updated so you can focus upon the beauty your surroundings instead of the words on a page or fear of taking a wrong turn.
On the tech side, founder and CEO Gregory Morse, who honed his technical, corporate and leadership skills in Silicon Valley, is an avid adventurer, instrument-rated private pilot, long-distance cyclist and sailor. Editor Bob Howells, one of the travel industry’s most experienced and respected journalists, has penned articles about national parks, the environment, and adventure travel for National Geographic Adventure, National Geographic Traveler, Outside, Men’s Journal, Smithsonian, Travel + Leisure, and many others. He also co-authored three National Geographic books: Guide to the National Parks of the United States, Secrets of the National Parks, and Ten Best of Everything: National Parks and has twice won the Lowell Thomas Gold Award for adventure travel writing and, in 2009, was named the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year silver award winner.
Currently, Just Ahead audio guides cover five national parks –Yosemite, Zion and Cedar Breaks, Bryce Canyon, Joshua Tree, and Death Valley. An additional 12 national park guides for Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Petrified Forest, Canyon De Chelly, Monument Valley, and Mesa Verde are soon to be released. Because the US national parks are national treasures visited by 292 million people annually from around the world, the company felt this was the best way to introduce its award-winning app. Future guides will include major road trip destinations including California Highway 1, Route 66, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Hawaiian Islands, and many others.
The Just Ahead app is a free download with each destination guide costing $7.99 – $9.99 as an in-app purchase which includes a free trial and free updates. For more information and downloads, go to http://www.justahead.com/