January 23, 2015

Inspire Romance in Paris

Intimate cafés, sensuous cuisine, timeless architecture, priceless works of art, chic boutiques, luxury hotels and fine lingerie; the “City of Light” has all the ingredients for an unforgettable rendezvous for two. No other city in the world is quite like Paris. Its seductive, intimate backdrop a character in numerous love stories - both on and off screen.

Paris is magical all year round. Nothing inspires the magic of romance like a stay in one of Paris’ historic palace hotels that know how to roll out the red carpet and make you feel like a princess. Marble bathrooms, fine linens, antique furnishings, Michelin-star restaurants, luxury spas and impeccable views of Paris’ spectacular skyline, all invoke romance.
The quintessential definition of romance is embodied in the opulent Le Meurice that sits opposite the beautiful Tuileries Garden. Their luxurious suites and rooms offer breathtaking views of the Eiffel Tower, Jardin de Tuileries, Musée d'Orsay, Musée du Louvre and the scenic Seine River. It is the picture-perfect setting to sip champagne with your love, as you watch the sun set over the most romantic city in the world. Within walking distance of Paris’ most iconic sites, its incredible location is perfect for you to set out and explore.
Paris is a haven for chocolate lovers, and there is no better place to indulge then at the renowned Salon de Thé and Pâtissier Angelina, located next to Le Meurice. Start your day with a cup of their famous chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) while strolling through the picturesque Jardin du Tuileries. This beautiful garden was once the private site of many royal residences. On a warm day, do as Parisians do, and unfurl a blanket to enjoy a picnic in the park.  
Immortalize your love on a padlock or take a romantic selfie on the Pont des Arts, the famous “love-locking” bridge, then make your way towards the striking Musée d'Orsay on Paris’ Left Bank in Saint-Germain-Des-Prés. The museum is located in a former Beaux-Arts railway station and houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world. If you prefer older works, on the Right Bank you will find the massive centuries-old palace known as the Musée du Louvre. The building itself, with its famous glass pyramid is worth seeing, especially at night when you can sit back with a bottle of wine and marvel at the amber lit view.  
Paris’ culinary scene is one of the most enviable in the world. Enjoy a meal of steak frites at the ever popular Le Relais de L’Entrecôte. This 80 year old traditional Parisian restaurant only serves steak and an endless supply of golden frites coupled with their secret sauce and a selection of delicious desserts. It is the perfect Parisian meal.  
Paris’ quaint streets are lined with chic boutiques and art nouveau cafés filled with wicker-chairs and the chatter of patrons enjoying the French Art of Living. Take a stroll through the Faubourg Saint-Honoré district to see the luxury boutiques or visit the grandiose Avenue des Champs-Élysées for shopping. Afterwards, sit back and people watch while savouring light and colorful macarons at Ladurée.
Guarding this grand boulevard is the impressive Arc de Triomphe commissioned by Emperor Napoléon in 1806. A visit to the top of this monument will provide you with unobstructed views of Paris that will leave you breathless.  
At nearby Porte Maillot, dine on oysters and wine at L’Auberge Dab. This elegant brasserie serves traditional French food and fresh full-flavoured shellfish in a warm and intimate setting; it’s the perfect ending to a perfect day.
Breakfast or High Tea at the Plaza Athénée to savour the creations of celebrity pastry chef Christophe Michalak is a must. His butter caramel religieuse is a decadent work of art. If you prefer an evening visit, stop by for late-night cocktails in their stylish bar. If you are travelling to Paris in the winter, the iconic property will not disappoint, as their alfresco Cour Jardin (interior court) turns into an ice-skating wonderland from December to January – wonderfully romantic for a winter honeymoon.  
The picturesque neighbourhood of Montmartre is home to the majestic Sacré-Coeur Basilica. The vista from its parvis is postcard perfect. Listen to musicians play, picnic on the hillside park, or stroll its narrow, winding streets hand in hand. Home to some of the world’s most famous artists, it is sure to inspire romance. If you’re up for an authentic Parisian treat, catch a cabaret show at the famed Moulin Rouge.    
Countless couples have declared their love at the impressive Eiffel Tower. Take your darling to new heights by sharing a toast high above at the Champagne Bar. In the evening, this Paris landmark lights up and twinkles in the night sky. Though some may consider it a little cliché, its effect is still magical.
Enjoy a romantic evening bateau-mouche ride on the Seine River. Glide past Paris’ timeless cityscape and the dominating Notre-Dame Cathedral as you sneak kisses under the bridges. For a more luxurious experience, book the Yachts of Paris and delight in a romantic gourmet dinner for two as the City of Light sparkles around you.     
Paris is a feast for the senses with endless possibilities and a magical place to share with a loved one. Its timeless beauty will remain etched in your heart, and will have you longing to return and relive those exceptional moments.

Look for my article in the new issue of DestinationVows Magazine featured in their new U.S. and Canadian edition.   

December 31, 2014

New Year Blessings

My New Year's Wish for YOU...

May you embrace each new day with Fearless Abandon; fully and joyfully surrendering yourself to life, trusting that everything you need will be provided for you. Take deeper breathes. Fill each day with magic and wonder. Don't be afraid to dream. Let go of all fear and expectation by living in the NOW. Don't allow the past to make you sad or the future anxious. Know that every moment on your journey is meant to be; each delicately woven into the tapestry of your life.

Pursue your passions. Sing, dance, paint, write . . . make more time for things that make you truly happy. I hope you kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful and that you are never afraid to love fully and deeply. Live the life You Want because it is Yours to live - Allow yourself happiness!

Thank you for the incredible moments and beautiful memories shared together this past year. I know that 2015 will bring with it new adventures. That it will be better than ever, and filled with love and light.

Cheers to tasting the stars in 2015!
Travelista73 xo

December 17, 2014

Discover the Allure of Havana - Cuba's Fiery Capitol!

Once described as an old woman with bright eyes, a walk along the narrow, tattered streets of Havana – Cuba’s capitol city – will reveal a place steeped in Spanish, African, American, and indigenous Taíno influences that have created a rich cultural tapestry and fiery energy that will lure you at every turn.

The sultry island of Cuba sits among the crystalline waters of the Caribbean Sea. A stomping ground for pirates and a fortified slave port for the Spaniards, for centuries Havana enjoyed the luxuries of being a beautiful, prosperous and renowned city. 
In its 30s, 40s and 50s heyday, Havana was the legendary playground for America’s rich, famous and notorious jet-setters. Mobsters like Lucky Luciano and famous celebrities the likes of Marlon Brandon and JFK would come to enjoy the Tropicana’s legendary cabaret shows and girls, high stakes gambling, premium cigars and cocktails. This celebration continued well into the night until the day the party stopped when Fidel Castro forever changed the fate of this once thriving capitol.    

Today, years of socialism have turned Havana and the rest of Cuba into a shell of her former glory with most of its grand Spanish Colonial and Beaux Arts buildings in ruins. But life goes on, its energetic streets filled with rumbling old American cars, Che Guevara iconography, laundry on wrought-iron balconies, lively characters and remnants of a celebrated past. Though disheartening to see such magnificence weathering away, this is also part of its charm, and much like Cuban’s themselves, a symbol of beauty and endurance in the face of adversity.  
A stroll into the UNESCO protected district of Old Havana where restored buildings line its cobblestoned streets will provide you with a glimpse of what Havana must have been like in the 1500s and 1600s when it was the Western hemisphere’s most beautiful city.  Sites not to miss in La Hababa Vieja as the Spanish call it, are the Castillo de la Real Fuerza castle, Plaza de Armas, the Artesanía crafts market, Santa Clara Convent, Paseo Martí and the Museum of the Revolution. In Plaza de la Catedral, colourfully dressed, cigar-chomping women fill the square and will happily pose for a picture for a tip. There are also plenty of museums, art galleries and bars.

In the evening, take a walk along the spectacular Malecón boardwalk where waves crash against the seawall and the Bay of Havana is illuminated by the setting sun.
For music and drinks, head over to Ernest Hemingway’s favourite bars - El Floridita and the Bodeguita del Medio – where you can enjoy the best daiquiris and mojitos. Though filled with tourists eager to experience a piece of the literary legend’s beloved Havana, thankfully they don’t lose their appeal as a result. Hemingway found an abundance of inspiration in his adopted Cuba. It was here he wrote some of his most celebrated novels: For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea, and A Moveable Feast.

The streets of Havana echo with pulsating Rhumba, Salsa, Afro-Cuban Jazz, and native Son beats. Enjoy a live performance at Café Paris, Bar Monserrate, Café Habana, the Bodequita del Medio, or the Benny Moré Rehearsal Lounge. This infectious music will have you dancing all day long!
Havana is the birthplace of premium cigars and here you will find the world’s best, along with a superb selection of rum. Take a journey back in time by visiting a Cuban cigar factory where they are expertly hand rolled. Then visit one of Havana’s cigar shops where you will be inspired to purchase at least one.

Finding the perfect accommodation in Havana is made easy with the IBEROSTAR Parque Central. Long considered the best hotel in Havana by Trip Advisor fans, this elegant Spanish colonial-style property perfectly echoes the rich beauty that surrounds it and is located in the heart of Havana within walking distance of the city’s greatest attractions.
After a few days of enjoying Havana’s vibrant culture, why not end your holiday by relaxing on one of Cuba’s spectacular beaches. With more than 4000 smaller cays and islets that surround this tropical island the selection is endless. Here are two worth noting.  

Located two hours east of Havana is the award winning, colonial inspired IBEROSTAR Varadero that occupies a privileged location on one of the Caribbean’s most legendary beaches where warm turquoise waters kiss the sugar-sand shore.
Built on Cayo Ensenachos next to two unspoiled beaches amidst lush vegetation is the magnificent IBEROSTAR Ensenachos. This expansive colonial style paradise has two stunning white sand beaches that stretch more than 2.6 km with turquoise-green waters that will take your breath away, Playa Megano and Playa Ensenachos.

A vibrant culture, unspoiled beaches and renowned hospitality have made Cuba a preferred holiday destination. When planning your winter getaway this year, think Cuba!
Images are all taken by me and feature Cayo Ensenachos, Havana, the town of Remedios and Varadero Beach.
Look for this article in the new issue of Whatever Vaughan Magazine on newsstands now.