Croatia..beautiful surprises are waiting for you

In Croatia, almost anywhere the land meets the water, rough steps carved from pure white limestone jut into the teal waters of the Adriatic Sea. The country’s impressive coastline is among the largest in the Mediterranean and has quickly gained recognition as one of Europe’s most beautiful.

Here, white sand beaches and towering palms are scarce. Instead, in July and August, when the heat from the sun is at its strongest, locals young and old can be found sprawled out on the nearest rock ledge that hangs over the sea, the rays turning their skin to a deeper shade of burnt bronze, while fishermen set up their boats and inspect their nets in preparation for a day on the water.

In 2011, 8.5 million international tourists trickled into Croatia. That year was also the same year that the first episode of what would eventually be one of HBO’s most popular television shows, Game of Thrones, aired with scenes filmed throughout the old town of the medieval city of Dubrovnik.

Now, a decade later, Croatia’s tourism numbers have more than doubled. Dubrovnik, though enchanting with its symmetrical orange clay roofs and ancient stone walls should by no means be the only city on your itinerary. As one of the five main airports in the country (Zagreb, Pula, Split, and Zadar being the others), Dubrovnik serves as the perfect jumping point for an extended Croatian holiday.

With its colourful coastal towns, balmy weather, and reputable culinary scene, Croatia is a country that can easily be explored from top to bottom.

Story & photos by CHRISTINE HOGG

HVAR

With more than 1,000 combined islands, reefs, and islets, Croatia’s archipelago is the largest in the Adriatic Sea, and the country has the second largest number of islands in the Mediterranean, second only to Greece.

The majority are inhabited, though some are home to only dense pine forests, wild boar, wolves, and bears, and secret beaches, whose crystalline waters can still be reached by boat for an exciting day trip.

Perhaps one of Croatia’s best islands, Hvar, is to Croatia what Ibiza is to Spain. Easily reached by ferry from Dubrovnik two times per day during the high season, Hvar is a destination that’s steeped in rich nightlife, making it an ideal spot to escape the larger crowds of Croatia’s landlocked regions, while still enjoying the social comforts a city can bring.

Hvar island is also home to the town of Hvar (not to be confused with the island itself ), which dates back to the 13th century. It’s the biggest settlement on the island, and where the majority of restaurants, bars, and shops are located. Hvar acts as an open-air museum to the past, with many well-preserved sites, like the Stari Grad Plains, an agricultural landscape that were constructed in the fourth century by the ancient Greeks.

One of the best ways to take in the entire island, including Stari Grad (just 25 minutes outside of Hvar town) is by renting a gaspowered scooter or a quad for the day.

From mid-June to mid-July, the island of Hvar is bathed in a sea of blooming, violet-coloured lavender fields, with the majority of the fields being on the stretch of road that connects Stari Grad back to Hvar town. When lavender is in season, the fragrant floral also makes its way onto the gelato menus all over the island, where a popular flavour combo is one scoop of lemon, and one scoop of lavender.

SPLIT

Split, Croatia's coastline from the Adriatic Sea features the towering white Cathedral of Saint Dominus

Head back to mainland Croatia for a brief visit by taking the ferry from Hvar to Split.

Arriving by water, Split’s picturesque skyline which features the towering white Cathedral of Saint Dominus, constructed in 305 AD, is the first glimpse visitors will have into the city’s thrilling past.

Split is Croatia’s second largest city and one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, thanks to its easy link to the surrounding Adriatic islands. It’s a city whose history is as beautiful as it is complex, and in the heart of it all lies a nearly 2,000-year-old compound built for a former emperor, known as Diocletian’s Palace. Its immaculately preserved grounds form a protective rectangle around the historic city of Split, with hundreds of shops, bakeries,
and restaurants found on the grounds.

Visitors to the palace are greeted by a 3,000 year-old Egyptian sphinx made from black African granite, which is said to have been dragged all the way from Egypt to Croatia under orders from the emperor himself.

Don’t miss the massive underground market inside of Diocletian’s Palace where tourists can purchase anything from genuine coral jewellery to stuffed lavender pillows and silk ties.

ZADAR

Continue heading north along Croatia’s Dalmatian coast to the city of Zadar, unmistakable for its dazzling white limestone streets and lively waterfront. In the evenings, listen along to the strums of soft guitar music and sing along to traditional Croatian songs that eventually lead to dancing in the streets.

The city of Zadar has a striking promenade with major fashion labels and an overwhelming restaurant scene that extends well beyond North America’s traditional palette.

A country that’s famous for its creative expression, whether through the visual arts, theatre, or, perhaps most importantly, music. Zadar is also home to several modern art installations, including the Sea Organ (2005), an experimental architectural instrument that uses the waves of the Adriatic Sea to produce randomized chords of music, which occur when the water flows into a series of pipes and a cavity constructed below a set of concrete steps, and the Greeting to the Sun (2008), a large circle made up of 300 glass solar panels. In the evening, the panels emit coloured lights, and the art installation transforms into a dance floor.

PULA

At one of Croatia’s northernmost points, and directly across The Adriatic Sea from Venice, Italy, lies one of Croatia’s best-kept gastronomical secrets —Pula.

Most easily reached by plane from Zadar aboard the regional carrier, Croatian Airlines, Pula is Croatia’s eighth largest city, located in the Istrian Peninsula. Much of its tourism stems from its impeccable food and wine offerings, which are much different than the cities further to the south.

The Istrian region gained even more recognition in 2012, when the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain traversed through Croatia to film an episode for his series, “No Reservations”. During the episode, Bourdain hunted for rare white and black truffles that nowadays can fetch upwards of 2,500 euro for even the smallest mushroom. 

While the restaurants found along the Dalmatian coast all serve the freshest catch of the day and a series of traditional pastas, including frutti di mare (grilled squid, clams, and shrimp done in white wine garlic or tomato sauce), in Pula, the diet becomes largely influenced by the proximity of Croatia’s next door neighbour, Italy.

Here, the wine flows as freely as the olive oil, which is poured on everything from woodfired pizza crusts to hearty traditional stews and soups. Homemade olives make their way onto charcuterie boards and meat dishes are featured more prominently on the menus.

Croatia is home to more than 300 geographically-designated wine regions, with a history of winemaking that dates back 2,500 years when the Ancient Greeks inhabited the area and planted the first grapes. Istria’s rich, red soils and sub-Mediterranean climate enables the wines made here to be flavourful and full-bodied. Food and wine tourism continues to dominate the Istrian Peninsula, and many culinary tours are available for booking.

Eat Istria, led by Istrian-born Goran Zgrablić, is one such company that offers both private cooking classes and organized wine tours. Guests can try their hand at rolling out traditional Croatian pasta (fuži), or chopping vegetables and preparing meat to make a traditional žgvacet or brodet goulash.

Not to be missed in the quiet city of Pula is the Pula Arena. Constructed between 27 BC and 68 AD, this Roman amphitheatre is one of the world’s largest six surviving arenas, and the only one of its kind to have all four walls preserved. Purchasing a ticket grants entry to the ancient seating area, where gladiators and beasts once faced off for royal entertainment, as well as a museum located beneath the arena where ancient artifacts can be viewed.

With their endless historic archaeological sites, modern attractions, breathtaking beaches, and culinary delights, these four regions are among Croatia’s most popular tourist destinations, and all provide yearround entertainment, whether visitors come in the high season or the low season.

Visit offshoretravelmagazine.com for more Croatia and updated information on travel arrangements.

Special spots to tie the knot

In 2020, newly-engaged couples were forced to rethink their wedding day plans. Some couples cancelled their celebrations completely while others embraced the idea of a smaller, more intimate celebration. Meanwhile, the pandemic caused a massive backlog in rebookings for wedding halls, churches, and other traditional venues. As a result, a spike in demand rose for unique venues that could house all the traditional components of a wedding, but at a smaller capacity. From beachfront ceremonies to exchanging vows with wild butterflies, here are several special spots to consider in 2022.

Story by Christine Hogg

Ashford Castle, Galway Ireland
Ashford Castle with red foliage and a groomed lawn on its grounds

In Galway, Ireland, you can experience your very own fairytale at Ashford Castle, an 800-year old medieval castle that was built in 1228, and is now a world-famous luxury hotel. With its ancient stone gate, impeccably manicured gardens set across 350 acres, and exquisite interior that’s reminiscent of its colourful past, Ashford Castle excels in the business of creating magical wedding ceremonies.

The castle has welcomed and accommodated its share of royalty over the years, including the Prince of Wales. With its towering turrets that overlook the water, rooms furnished with antiques and heirloom textiles and paintings, there’s no shortage of spaces to delight couples on their big day. The grounds at Ashford Castle are ideal for supporting indoor or outdoor ceremonies big or small, whether you prefer an intimate setting with a few close friends or family, or a lavish party that’s reminiscent of centuries prior on the castle’s grounds. Ashford Castle also offers the option to book the entire estate — its 83 bedrooms, suites and Lakeside Hideaway Cottage will sleep up to 160 guests. The bridal suite, Reagan Presidential Suite (named after former president Ronald Reagan, who was a notable guest of the hotel), has two bathrooms and can be combined with two adjacent rooms to complete a private three-bedroom wing of the castle. The Hideaway Cottage is also an option, and is an exclusive, one-bedroom suite on the water’s edge of the lake. Ashford Castle also offers couples the opportunity to book exclusive access to the hotel’s restaurants and bars, including the underground wine cellar, which can make for an unforgettable pre-wedding event. As for the ceremony itself, there are plenty of options on the castle grounds, including outside in the castle gardens, or, for more traditional couples who prefer to be married in the Catholic church, Saint Mary’s Church Cong is a brisk three-minute drive from the Ashford Castle estate.
(ashfordcastle.com/weddings)

Kualoa Ranch, Oahu, Hawaii
Kualoa Ranch, Oahu, Hawaii

Kualoa Ranch Private Nature Reserve is a 4,000-acre natural park in Oahu, Hawaii (on Honolulu island), roughly 35 kilometres outside of Waikiki, on the eastern shores of the island. It offers several spectacular ceremony and reception locations within its property, from very remote, like Jumanji, (in the Ka`a`awa Valley) to spots like Moli’i Gardens, which features a beautiful two-tiered garden setting that borders an 800-year-old Hawaiian fishpond, and includes the use of an open-air cottage that’s perfect for cocktail hour, or for the bride or groom to get ready in. The site at Moli’i Gardens also includes a covered pavilion, a main lawn area and a grand staircase that leads down to a lower garden area. Managed and owned by eight generations of the Judd-Morgan family, who are committed to preserving the culture and natural beauty of the land, it is a beautiful and unique venue for weddings.

Kualoa Ranch offers a number of optional add-ons to make the big day even more special, including a “bridal boat” entrance, or the option of holding a beachfront ceremony at the nearby Secret Island, which includes a boat and driver to provide roundtrip transportation. If Kualoa looks familiar in pictures, it is probably because it has had over 170+ Hollywood movies and TV shows filmed there; perhaps most famously, its valleys were home to the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park. Two luxury hotels, the Four Seasons Resort Oahu and the Kahala Hotel and Resort are both just under an hour away from the ranch, and can provide accommodation for large parties.
(kualoa.com/weddings-events/ )

Sandals South Coast, Whitehouse, Jamaica
A bride stands in front of a white chapel on a dock leading out to a clear blue ocean and cloudless sky. The bride is smiling over her shoulder, bouquet in hand, and dress train flowing behind her on the dock. The bride is pictured at Sandals South Coast.

The newest resort on Jamaica’s south coast, Sandals South Coast is an adultsonly, all-inclusive luxury resort that’s part of a 500-acre nature reserve. It includes a two-mile stretch of white sand beach, as well as a series of included perks for couples that make a destination wedding to Jamaica even more magical.

Sandals South Coast is home to the brand’s first-ever Rondoval Swim-Up Suites, a private luxury oasis that features a private plunge pool, a spa-like bathroom with a soaking tub for two, over-the-water hammocks, and a private deck to soak up the Caribbean sun. Known as the go-to brand for romance, Sandals South Coast currently offers the Over the Water Butler Honeymoon Bungalow, which is a private cabin set amongst a series of other bungalows that jut out into the Caribbean Sea in the shape of a heart. Couples who stay in the honeymoon suite also unlock access to private roundtrip airport transfers from Sangster International Airport (MBJ) and Norman Manley International Airport (KIN).

On the big day, there are several stunning venues throughout the resort to choose from. The romantic over-the-water chapel features an aisle made of glass, allowing for a peek at the crystal ocean waters below. This picturesque wedding venue also features a wooden chapel deck, a wrap around balcony and railings, and a shaded/palm leaf covered roof. Couples can work with their Sandals wedding planner to customize the chapel with their own decorations as well.

The standard capacity for the Sandals South Coast Over the Water Chapel is 50 people. Every Sandals wedding includes a personal wedding planning team to ensure all details are taken care of, a selection of pre-recorded music, a one-hour cocktail reception with premium spirits and hors d’oeuvres, a romantic honeymoon breakfast in bed, and more.
(sandals.com/south-coast/)

Private chicken farm, Prince Edward County, Ontario

Under the shady branches of a 100-year old oak tree, couples can exchange their vows in a small, intimate ceremony led by wedding officiant Susan Laurin. Following a successful 40-year career in the travel and tourism sector, Laurin decided to become an officiant in 2019, and currently offers small receptions on her private two-acre residence in Prince Edward County. The property also features a gazebo, a greenhouse, and, perhaps best of all, 17 hens, which couples can pick up and hold for wedding photographs done on site. The property can accommodate both indoor and outdoor wedding venues that are more intimate in nature, usually with no more than 15 guests. “I find in the last few years, this is what people are really looking for,” Laurin says. Laurin is also the official wedding officiant for Signal Brewery (the site of the old Corby Distillery), located in nearby Belleville, Ont. While vineyard weddings continue to be a popular choice in venues for couples, brewery weddings are also gaining steam, thanks to their ability to house large groups of guests. Signal Brewery’s kitchen and patio has a capacity of 240 and can seat 130 guests.
(facebook.com/SelebrationsBySusan)

A newlywed couple stands beneath the lush, green foliage at the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory holding each other in a close embrace. The groom is wearing a grey suit and the bride a long white gown with a veil. There are lights hanging within the branches of the trees around them.

A dreamy, whimsical venue that needs little to no decorations, the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory is set on 107 acres, and is home to hundreds of tropical plants, waterfalls, ponds, and of course, nearly 2,000, dainty wild butterflies from Costa Rica and the Philippines. The 25,000 squarefoot venue includes the 10,800 square-foot garden, which is a popular spot for couples to exchange vows and pose for wedding photos, amidst the fluttering of free-flying butterflies and moths and fragrant flowers. The Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory offers a wedding ceremony package that provides exclusive, private use of the entire butterfly conservatory for the reception and photographs, as well as a commemorative release of the wild butterflies inside the conservatory.

A two-hour time frame is offered in the morning or in the evening, freeing up the afternoon for an off-site cocktail reception or picture-taking. The wedding reception package, on the other hand, includes exclusive use of the entire facility including the butterfly conservatory, front foyer, both galleries, dining room, and private bridal suite. Chairs, linens, a dance floor area, menu customization, wedding cake service (including cutting) and more
are all included. Depending on the venue the couple chooses, current capacity can accommodate up to 160 guests. Both the wedding ceremony and the wedding reception packages offered by Cambridge Butterfly
Conservatory have included a photography permit.
(www.cambridgebutterfly.com/wedding-packages-2/)

Europe’s most beloved Christmas markets

Christmas markets in Europe are a sensory experience. From picking up and touching artisanal products, to sifting through a heavenly assortment of homemade baked goodies; to graciously sampling chocolate or cheese, there is so much to see and do. Some of the world’s most beloved Christmas markets in years prior, after a two-year hiatus, have returned, back with measures to ensure that your experience is as safe as it is memorable.
Safety protocols in place, combined with high vaccination rates and low case counts, has earned several countries a spot on the list of Europe’s safest Christmas markets. While Germany, France, and Austria have world-famous set-ups, this year, Eastern Europe continues to enchant.

Story by Christine Hogg

Tallinn, Estonia Christmas Market lit up at dusk

Estonia’s capital city is home to an annual Christmas market that takes place from Nov. 19 to Jan. 2, 2022 at the Town Hall Square, in the centre of Tallinn Old Town. Every year since 1441, a towering Christmas tree is set up in the middle of the market and decorated in a display of dazzling lights. This year, the festivities will extend throughout the city’s Old Town. Estonia is currently open to fully vaccinated travellers with zero restrictions in place, which means this year’s Christmas market will be in full swing, with local artisans selling everything from traditional Estonian cuisine to hand-painted ornaments.

Many of the various products and goods found in Talllinn’s Christmas market can’t be found anywhere else throughout the year, including fur coats and hand-carved wooden ornaments.
(visitestonia.com/en/tallinn-christmas-market)

The Gdańsk Christmas Fair runs from Nov. 23, 2021 to Jan. 1, 2022 in Targ Węglowy, which is a square in the city centre. Don’t miss the beautiful Christmas tree next to Neptune’s Fountain at Long Market (Długi Targ), or the ferris wheel on Granary Island (Wyspa Spichrzów)., which, despite sounding like a remote spot, can be reached in five minutes by car from Gdansk’s main square. During the Christmas fair, four street names have been cleverly changed to Chocolate, Cinnamon, Angel or Christmas Eve Street. For the very first time, a five-metre-tall gate that’s decorated with Gdańsk’s largest advent calendar will open a new window every day to mark the Christmas countdown.

Santa himself will be at the fair starting Dec. 6, handing out sweets to children. Since the market is located right in the old town, there are also plenty of side streets to wander down to do some last-minute Christmas shopping at the many inviting boutiques.
(poland.travel/en/travel-inspirations/the-annual-gdansk-christmas-market)

Taking place this holiday season from Nov. 25 to Dec. 23, 2021, Basel’s Christmas market can be found in the centre of the Old Town in the cozy squares of Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz. With two Christmas markets on offer, visitors can expect no shortage of ways to get into the holiday spirit. At the Barfüsserplatz, market stalls with white roofs offer an assortment of handmade ornaments, gifts, and treats, including famous Swiss fondues and milk chocolates. The Christmas market at Münsterplatz is set at the base of the breathtaking Basel Minster cathedral, done in Romanesque and Gothic architecture, and dating back to the year 1019. At Christmastime, more than 180 vendors are on site, and food plays a major role, with all kinds of delicacies, sweet and savoury, available for purchase to eat on site or to take home, including the famous Swiss raclette and sizzling grilled sausages. This year, there’s plenty to see and do. Guests can enter St. Martin’s tower from Dec. 2 to Dec. 20 to take in the sea of tinkling lights across the square. The Basel Wish Book has also returned for another year, and allows visitors from around the world to write a special note to Santa Claus, or send well wishes out into the world.
(basel.com/en/events/christmas/christmas-market)

Considered the oldest Christmas market in Germany, and the oldest authentic Christmas market in the world, the Dresden Christmas market (also called the Striezelmarkt) began as a one-day event back in 1434. Now in its 587th year, the Dresden Christmas market takes place this year from Nov. 26 to Dec. 24. and is one of the best Christmas markets suited for children and families, thanks to attractions like a puppet theatre, merry-goround, and a children’s railway in recent years. A stretch of the market on the Prager Straße, known as Winterlights of Dresden, features a 15-metres high Christmas tree as well as a series of dazzling light displays. Meanwhile, the Christmas market at the Frauenkirche, one of the city’s most historical churches, includes an eight-metre tall climbable pyramid that’s covered in handcarved wooden figurines, and a series of traditional products for sale by local craftsmen.
(dresden.de/en/tourism/attractions/events/christmas-season/dresden-christmas-markets.php)

Vienna

Vienna, Austria

Whether it’s the smell of roasting chestnuts or the draw of the countless markets selling artisanal products that lures you in, Vienna is a must-see destination around the holidays. The city’s Christmas markets date back to medieval times, when in 1296, permission to host Vienna’s first-ever Christmas market was granted by the Duke of Austria, Albrecht I. Just like the age-old carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Vienna has a total of 12 Christmas markets and pop-ups taking place throughout the city. Not to be missed are the Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace (Nov. 19 – Dec. 26) and the Christmas Market at Schönbrunn Palace (Nov. 20, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022). Both markets have enchanting backdrops that show off some of the city’s most famous Baroque-style architecture, and serve an assortment of tasty Austrian treats, like freshly-baked gingerbread, sugar pancakes with raisins, and mulled wine.
(austria.info/en/things-to-do/skiing-and-winter/christmasmarkets/vienna)


Zagreb, Croatia

Over the years, Croatia has emerged as a leading Eastern European travel destination, thanks to its stunning beaches, impressive culinary scene, and overall affordability. Advent Zagreb is the capital city’s take on a Christmas market. While dates are still being finalized, the Market normally begins on the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent and runs through the first week of January. While Advent Zagreb used to be a Christmas market confined to a square, two years ago, the decision was made to expand it into an experience to be had throughout the city. From cheering on runners of the Santa Claus race, to visiting the giant tree at St. Mark’s Church, or grabbing a tasty Croatian pastry (try the savoury bureka or the poppyseed roll) from one of the many stalls set up around town, there’s no shortage of festive moments this time of year. (visitcroatia.com/christmas-markets/christmas-in-zagreb/)

Where to work remotely this winter

It’s been just over a year since Canada entered an economic shutdown that saw a majority of businesses transition their employees from an in-office, five-day work week to a remote work-from-home culture. According to Statistics Canada, at the beginning of 2021, 32 per cent of Canadian employees aged 15 to 69 worked most of their hours from home, compared with just four per cent back in 2016, and the number continues to increase.

While some employees are eager to swap their sweatpants for slacks and their slippers for heels once more, studies show that working from home has more benefits than disadvantages. These benefits include increased productivity, reported feelings of enhanced overall wellbeing and mental health, and financial savings, as daily spending on things like commuting costs, food and drink, and business attire have been eliminated. In fact, large proportions of individuals have reported accomplishing more work per hour (48 per cent), which can be due in part to less in-office distractions like chatty coworkers, meetings, or other interruptions. As a result, more employers are seeing the value in keeping their employees home, integrating various communication channels to adjust to the new normal. Remote work has also seen a rise in “work-from-anywhere” culture, so long as the employee has a stable internet connection and can
communicate with the employer. In anticipation of another year of remote work culture, here are four properties in the U.S. and Canada to consider for 2022.

Story by Christine Hogg

Four Places in North America to Check In When You're Feeling Checked Out

CLUB MED CHARLEVOIX

Quebec, Canada

Opening Dec. 3, 2021, Club Med Charlevoix will be Canada’s first-ever all-inclusive, all-season resort. Set on the St. Lawrence River in the Quebec wilderness, approximately an hour’s drive from the heart of Quebec City, Club Med Charlevoix is a 302-room resort that was designed to reflect the local landscape.

There are several cozy room categories to choose from, but the Exclusive Collection Suites offer the perfect work-from-home set-up, with a beautiful spacious living room, an oversized bathroom, and breathtaking views of the St.Lawrence River. Guests of the suites also have access to the premium Exclusive Collection Space “Le Saint-Laurent” that includes concierge service and a cozy welcome lounge with a fireplace, which is another perfect spot to get some work done. As an all-inclusive resort, guests of Club Med Quebec Charlevoix can enjoy perks like an in-room mini-bar that’s restocked daily, free unlimited high speed Wi-Fi throughout the resort, all-day gourmet dining and bar options, and more. When the work day is done, unwind with a dip in the heated pool, take a trip to the sauna that offers a panoramic river view, or take advantage of one of many included activities, like ice skating or snow-shoeing through the woods.

Rates for Club Med Quebec Charlevoix start as low as $210 per adult per night. The nearest airport is Quebec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB).
(clubmed.ca/r/quebec-charlevoix/w)

GRADUATE ROOSEVELT ISLAND

New York, NY

Looking for a different kind of island escape this winter? The Graduate Roosevelt Island is a colourful, scholastic retreat in the middle of the East River on the Cornell Tech Campus. In the lobby, guests are greeted by 5,000 square feet of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, which are the ultimate setting and inspiration to get to work.

There are four room categories available, including two suite classes. Each room is done in contemporary style, and comes equipped with a writing desk and complimentary Wi-Fi. The hotel’s largest suite, the Presidential, can be found on the seventeenth floor and includes a spacious living room with floor to ceiling views of the Queensboro Bridge. For those who intend to stay a while, other amenities include a full-sized fridge and dining room table, which makes cooking an option. There are three restaurants on site, including a coffee cart that offers the perfect pick-me-up for in between those morning meetings. Recognizing that many travel with their pets, the Graduate also offers a special Pup Package– during your stay, your room will include a bed, bowl, and treats for your furry companion, and you’ll both have access to the dog runs on the island.

The Graduate Roosevelt Island is easily accessible by taking the F Train, the Roosevelt Island Tramway, the NYC ferry, or by car – from Toronto, it’s about an eight-hour drive. Alternatively, guests can fly from Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ) aboard Porter Airlines, and get to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in an hour-and-a-half. The Graduate Roosevelt Island is then an hour away by car or public transit.
(graduatehotels.com/roosevelt-island/hotel/)

POINTE HILTON TAPATIO CLIFFS RESORT

Phoenix, AZ

For those who want the added perk of escaping the cold Canadian winter while continuing to work remotely, the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort is the perfect solution. Conveniently located 15 minutes from downtown Phoenix and 20 minutes from Sky Harbour International Airport, this desert oasis is a 584-all-suite resort that doubles as a stand-out golf and wellness retreat. All of the spacious two-room suites include wired and wireless internet access, a separate living area with a desk and chair, a private balcony (which doubles as a nice spot to work outside), and dual line telephones with data ports.

Sneak in a round of 18-hole golf on your lunch break (we won’t tell your boss!) at the resort’s award-winning Lookout Mountain Golf Course, with the Sonoran desert and towering Phoenix North Mountains as a backdrop. There are four restaurants on site, including fine dining options. There are also a selection of grab-and-go options for coffee and a light breakfast. An ideal home away from home for Canadians this winter, Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort also has a number of discounted packages available that offer great perks for extended stays, including daily complimentary dining vouchers.
(tapatiocliffshilton.com)

THE JOSIE

Rossland, BC

Luxury boutique hotel The Josie recently became a part of Marriott International’s exclusive Autograph Collection Hotels portfolio. The perfect retreat for both relaxation and inspiration, The Josie is an upscale ski-in/ski-out 106-room property that sits at the base of RED Mountain Resort, an independent, 3,850-acre winter and summer playground, ranked ninth largest in skiable acres in North America. The remote location of the hotel in Rossland, BC provides a sense of escape from everyday 9 to 5 responsibilities.

With a collection of stylish guest rooms and suites designed to bring the outdoors in, alongside crackling fire pits, a premier spa and fitness facility, and ski concierge services, The Josie offers the ultimate work-from-home away from home experience. All of the beautifully-appointed rooms offer a functional workspace complete with a table and chair. For guests who prefer to work outside of their rooms, the downstairs lobby is outfitted with plush leather couches and floor-to-ceiling windows that offer stunning views of the resort year-round. The Josie is located 35 minutes away from the West Kootenay Regional Airport, which is served by Air Canada/Jazz. An airport shuttle bus service, Mountain Shuttle, operates daily between Castlegar and Rossland.
(www.thejosie.com

Which luxury St Martin Villa is the right choice for you?

As the temperature begins to drop and our clouds turn drab hues of grey, many Canadians are dreaming of Caribbean beaches and planning their escape. For those craving sun, sand, sea and the finer experiences in life, these luxury villas in St. Martin provide the perfect oasis for your winter escape.

VILLA AMANDARA

Located in Terres Basses on the French side of St. Martin, Villa Amandara is the quintessential multigenerational villa. A sleek yet dramatic interior blends soft cream travertine and dark hardwood features, harmoniously complementing the natural surroundings. The inclusion of glass doors offers stunning panoramic views and the blue mosaic tiled infinity pool creates a sense of continuum from land to sea. Offering five bedrooms, six bathrooms and catering to ten guests, this villa is only an eight-minute drive away from Marigot, rich with restaurants, shopping, and art galleries.

VILLA CASA CERVO

Perched on the ocean’s edge, Casa Cervo brings stunning views across the water to Anguilla and the mountain peaks of St Martin. With picturesque views from every window and easy beach access, the tropical beauty of St. Martin is well-represented. The ample open plan features, fine glass doors and expansive outdoor areas create a sense of fluidity throughout the space. A sea-facing verandah connecting all rooms within the main house allows guests the opportunity for a versatile dining, lounging and entertaining experience during their stay.

VILLA TRUFFLE

This free-standing five-bedroom villa is situated on a three-acre lot tucked within a hillside in Terres Basses. Offering uninterrupted views of the sea from the property’s expansive private gardens and lawns, this is an intimate property ideal for friends and families. With a state-of-the-art gourmet kitchen and a terrace boasting seven different seating and lounging areas, this is the perfect property to come together, connect and entertain. Mixing tranquility with convenient proximity to some of the best dining and shopping experiences available on the island, this modern architectural masterpiece gives guests an exclusive taste of luxury within its chic interior.

Story by Christine Hogg

Resort Report

With cold weather in full swing and Canadian winter just around the corner, a sunny escape down south is long overdue. Many sun-soaked destinations have been busy this past year and a half, and have quietly opened, or are all set to open a series of striking new hotels and resorts. From adults-only getaways, to family-friendly adventures, here are seven breathtaking, luxurious five-star properties to keep an eye on.

Story by Christine Hogg

HOTEL XCARET ARTE

Hotel Xcaret Arte, from Grupo Xcaret, officially opened on July 1, 2021. Located in Riviera Maya, Cancun, this adults-only hotel (welcoming guests 16 years and older) features 900 artisanal suites that were carefully curated to reflect the traditional arts of Mexico.

At Hotel Xcaret Arte, guests can enjoy the brand’s signature “All-Fun Inclusive” which offers hotel guests unlimited access to Grupo Xcaret’s parks and exciting experiences including roundtrip transportation to the parks, hotels, and airport. The hotel’s ecointegrated design and architecture pays homage to Mexican art in its various iterations, highlighting the most important symbols and artistic expressions of Mexico’s culture through the creation of six distinct Casas. Casa de los Artistas will inspire guests to paint, Casa del Diseño, a textile workshop, offers weaving lessons, Casa de la Música holds dance lessons, Casa de la Pirámide explores Mexico’s rich and diverse pottery traditions, Casa del Patrón will serve as the resort’s main event and convention space, and Casa de la Paz offers cooking workshops.

Gastronomy is a large focal point, which is heightened by the sheer talent that can be found in the resort’s nine restaurants, and includes cuisine served by 3-Star Michelin chef Paco Méndez who is behind the menu at Encanta. Hotel Xcaret Arte also has two convention centres and an entertainment stage that can host between 1,140 and 2,065 people, as well as a chapel facing the Mexican Caribbean that seats 120 guests.
(hotelxcaretarte.com/en/)

SANDALS ROYAL CURACAO

Situated on 44 acres within the Santa Barbara private estate, an exclusive 3,000-acre protected preserve, Sandals Royal Curaçao is slated to open Apr. 14, 2022. The luxury resort has undergone $72 million in developments and is conveniently located just 15 miles from the airport. Its three oceanfront wedding venues and an admirable west-facing position captures the allure of one of the Caribbean’s most spectacular sunsets, making it a highly sought-after spot for couples looking to tie the knot.

With 351 luxurious rooms and suites in 24 room categories, Sandals Royal Curaçao debuts two new signature suite categories, the Awa Seaside Butler Bungalows and Kurason Island Poolside Butler Bungalows, complete with tranquility soaking tubs, private pools, and butler service. In true Sandals fashion, guests gain access to complementary convertible MINI Coopers to drive around and do some sightseeing on the island. Sandals Royal Curaçao will also be home to the brand’s first Dos Awa infinity pool with views overlooking the sea and the rugged mountain landscape, and The Duchess, Sandals’ first-ever floating restaurant and bar, constructed from a 92-foot authentic Dutch ship with nine on-site 5-Star Global Gourmet restaurants. Couples can also dine on-the-go at three new beachside gourmet food trucks offering traditional Curaçao fare, Spanish tapas, and Asian fusion, or grab a drink at any of the resort’s 10 unique bars. Sandals Royal Curacao will also feature a luxurious Red Lane Spa with six outdoor spa cabanas and treatment rooms; expansive pools; access to the neighboring 18-hole Pete Dye championship golf course; 38,000-square-feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, the largest on the island two on-site marinas and 70 dive sites. (sandals.com/curacao/)

SIX SENSES LA SAGESSE

Set to open in late 2022, the all ages Six Senses La Sagesse in St. David’s, Grenada, marks the luxury brand’s debut in the Caribbean. Located on the southern part of the island and 15 minutes from Grenada’s airport, Six Senses La Sagesse features a resort and residences that are spread over 38 acres and include stunning views of the turquoise sea, thanks to two beaches. The resort will offer 56 guestrooms, seven one-bedroom and five two-bedroom oceanfront villas. For those who yearn to extend their stay, a selection of three- and four-bedroom greenroofed residences are available to purchase. Each has a 56-foot horizon-edge pool and wrap-around pool decks. Six Senses La Sagesse will feature a community hub (the Experience Center) where guests of the resort can go to book spa treatments from Six Senses Spa at La Sagesse, which will offer a menu of specialty spa and beauty treatments using indigenous plants and traditional practices.
Several sensory dining experiences await from several eateries on site, including a signature restaurant which will serve a mix of local, Creole-inspired dishes including plant based and locally foraged menus. In a nod to sustainability, Six Senses La Sagesse will bottle all of its own water from a water bar, and all of the ingredients for the restaurants and spa will be picked from the kitchen gardens, herb gardens, and native fruit trees found on property, and seafood will be sourced from local fishermen.

(sixsenses.com/en/residences/la-sagesse-grenada)

ALAIA BELIZE

Alaia Belize opened in the historic district of San Pedro, Belize in May 2021, marking Marriott International’s first-ever luxury boutique resort in Belize. A part of the Autograph Collection Hotels, Alaia Belize spans more than 20 acres and rests on more than 1,000 feet of direct beachfront access. The resort is a 155-unit complex, ranging from studios to three bedrooms, including eight oceanfront villas. All of the rooms were done in natural colour schemes to complement the ocean views, and offer an average of 1,200 square feet indoors and almost 900 square feet in open air, per unit. Alaia Belize is the first true four-diamond resort on Ambergris Caye. Raising the luxury bar in Belize, the resort complex is also home to Belize’s first-ever suspended rooftop pool and lounge with 360-degree views. Other amenities include a dive shop that also allows guests to receive a PADI certification onsite, the K’in Spa & Wellness Center, a piano bar with a self-playing baby grand piano, a kids’ club, adventure concierge, swimming pools with live DJs, and branded golf carts and bicycles available to book. Alaia Belize has five restaurants including Sea Salt, where the freshly-caught fish of the day is the main event, as well as the Vista Rooftop, which offers 360-degree views of the Caribbean and small plates and cocktails. A spa, beach club, wedding venue, and beach club are all found on the property.
(marriott.com/hotels/travel/sprak-alaia-belize-autograph-collection/)

THE RITZ-CARLTON TURKS AND CAICOS

The Ritz-Carlton Turks & Caicos made its grand seaside debut on the world famous Grace Bay in Providenciales in June 2021. Keeping the region’s natural beauty in mind, endemic local cacti, sisals, and sponges are thoughtfully incorporated in the hotel’s surroundings. The resort features
147 refined ocean-view guest rooms, including 23 suites, which show off the remarkable turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
The Ritz-Carlton, Turks & Caicos also offers five three-story penthouse suites with private rooftop plunge pools and endless horizon views. A signature Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge offers an exclusive sanctuary that features private check-in, a dedicated Club Concierge, and multiple culinary presentations throughout the day, in addition to dedicated service at the beach. The Ritz-Carlton Turks & Caicos has an extensive array of amenities, including an adults-only pool with private cabanas and a recreation pool, both set within lush tropical landscapes. The resort also has its own private catamaran, the Lady Grace, which lets guests explore beyond the shores, while activities such yoga on the beach are also available. A signature Ritz-Carlton Spa with an holistic approach to wellness offers therapies inspired by the calming power of the ocean and treatments that embrace indigenous plants. As far as dining goes, Coralli features cuisine prepared with a local flair, while BLT
Steak offers modern steakhouse fare. The Lobby Lounge provides the
ultimate spot to wind down with a handcrafted cocktail in the evening
and offers spectacular views of Grace Bay.(ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/caribbean/turks-and-caicos)

OCEAN EDEN BAY

Opening November 2021, Ocean Eden Bay by H10 Hotels is a new five-star, adults-only resort located in Montego Bay, Jamaica. There are seven room categories available including swim-up and rooftop suites. The sea-facing resort grants guests access to a spectacular white sand beach and features modern rooms, a large swimming pool with bar service, and a wide range of dining options, including an exclusive dinner-show restaurant with themed
performances, the Senses Dinner Show. In addition, it has a Despacio Spa Centre which includes a 24-hour gym, an indoor pool, and a Jacuzzi, sauna, and steam bath. Indoor and outdoor massages can also be booked through the Despacio Spa, as can personalized health and beauty treatments. All guests of Ocean Eden Bay will also have full access to the services and
amenities of the adjacent sister resort, Ocean Coral Spring Resort, which is all-inclusive and all-ages. It features a lazy river, a water park, two tennis courts, and both a family and teen club.
(oceanhotels.net/en/jamaica-hotels/ocean-eden-bay)

Taking Off In New Directions

The company has been steadily broadening its sky-high presence, happily willing to connect with southern Ontario residents who plan to travel near and not quite so near.

FlyGTA, which operates out of Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport, began by carrying people between Toronto and such Ontario locales as Niagara, Muskoka and Waterloo, airborne service that allows travellers to avoid the Toronto area’s often famously bad traffic.

FlyGTA CEO Chris Nowrouzi acknowledges the pandemic has created challenges for his company but also delivered some selling points.

PRIVATE BECOMING POPULAR

“Needless to say, using private jets for both essential service and leisure travel became more popular,” he states of a form of transportation that minimizes the contact passengers have with other people en route to their destination.

Planes in FlyGTA’s fleet can each carry eight passengers.

Nowrouzi notes FlyGTA – which has been offering private aircraft charters for over 6 years — decided to create a tour operator division, combining private jet service with stringent safety protocols to offer vacations he says lead to major time savings.

LOW-RISK LUXURY

The company has set its sights on offering what Nowrouzi describes as “low-risk, luxury destinations” in the Caribbean.

Among choices FlyGTA decided upon was a 007 package that has a private jet carry clients to Jamaica, staying at Goldeneye, the oceanside retreat of Ian Fleming, who wrote the James Bond novels.

Goldeneye is now a luxury retreat that enables guests to see Fleming memorabilia.

Nowrouzi reports “some of the greatest” Bond novels were written at Goldeneye.

He says going from carrying people to and from points in southern Ontario to taking clients to destinations in the Caribbean marks a major advancement for his company.

But carrying clients through Caribbean airspace is not the most distant service FlyGTA can undertake, he notes.

“We are able to fly anywhere in the world,” Nowrouzi proudly states.

Story by Ian Stalker

Adventure awaits aboard Tradewind Voyages’ Golden Horizon

The world’s largest square-rigged sailing vessel, Golden Horizon, will have its guests remembering a time when the sea beckoned for all those seeking to abandoned dry land for an adventure at sea. A near replica of the 1913-built ocean vessel, France II, the Golden Horizon retains the charm, adventure and romance of an historic ship. And it attracts like-minded adventure seekers for a sailing experience that will allow guests to connect with the elements of the natural world.

The ambience on board is relaxed, casual, elegant and without unnecessary formality – an environment that encourages guests to return time and time again and to share their stories and experiences. All of the Golden Horizon’s 140 cabins are outside facing, providing breath-taking views and evoking the luxury and facilities expected of a boutique cruise ship, but retaining the charm, adventure and romance of a truly historic sailing vessel.

Powered by its billowing sails, the tall ship will follow the sun as much as possible, providing guests with the chance to discover a new-found freedom and the time to connect with the beauty of the natural world. In fact, Tradewind Voyages makes it clear that on its cruises, it intends to spend as much time as possible using the Golden Horizon’s sails, rather than using its main propulsion engines. And its Captain will endeavour to plot courses using the local winds and currents to give guests a true sailing experience and adventure on every voyage.

From May to October 2022, Tradewind Voyages’ Golden Horizon will be based in the Mediterranean before repositioning to the Caribbean for winter 2022 season. It will operate three new collections — Western Mediterranean, Central Mediterranean and Eastern Mediterranean (including Greece and Turkey) – for its Mediterranean summer season 2022. The extensive program will offer 22 different voyages and include visits to Spain, France, Italy, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece and Turkey.
(tradewindvoyages.com)

Holiday Gift Guide

1. COCKTAIL KIT
Impress and treat your guests with a professionally handmade cocktail from The Cocktail Box Co. Choose from six classic on-the-go cocktails to be enjoyed from anywhere, including the citrusy Moscow Mule or the smoky signature Old Fashioned. Each cocktail kit serves six and features high-end organic ingredients, a  bartender’s spoon and muddler, three cocktail picks, as well as a hand-knit cocktail napkin. Alcohol sold separately. $24.99.
(thecocktailboxco.com/ca/ )

2. LUGGAGE
Stuck choosing between checking a bag or cramming everything into a carryon? Away makes it easy, with their newest piece of luggage, The
Bigger Carry-On. Available in nine sophisticated colours, including Coast, Sand, and Asphalt, this smart suitcase features a durable polycarbonate hard shell and 360° spinner wheels, as well as a hidden interior laundry bag. There’s also a built-in TSA-approved USB charger which makes it easy
to stay connected on-the-go. $325-$355.
(awaytravel.com)

3. SANITIZER
My Paume is a luxurious, eco-friendly hand sanitizer that not only wards off harmful germs, but nourishes and protects skin as well — thanks to a unique blend of essential oils like lemon, cedar, citrus, rosemary, and lavender, and
premium plant-based emollients like certified organic aloe vera powder, and 69% ethyl alcohol. The Essentials Kit from My Paume features a refillable pump that can hold 8 oz of product, a 170 oz refillable bag, and a 30 oz
refillable bag (perfect for the car or the plane), for a total of 500 applications. All of the packaging from My Paume is crafted from biodegradable materials or recycled plastic. $72.
(mypaume.com)

4. ESPRESSO MACHINE
De’Longhi’s dishwasher-safe Dinamica LatteCrema automatic coffee and espresso machine features a one-touch LCD display that can create 18 unique espressos and specialty coffees at the touch of a button. An included milk frother creates the perfect foam every time, and the machine’s dual thermoblock system lets you create iced versions of your favourite lattes, cappuccinos, and coffees. There’s also a built-in conical Burr grinder that features 13 settings to freshly grind a variety of coffee and espresso beans. $1,299.95.
(delonghi.com)

GiftGuide-cocktail

5. ELECTRIC WINE OPENER
Tired of getting the cork stuck halfway? Rabbit, a leading maker of wine accessories and barware, has developed an electric wine opener with a non-stick worm that removes stubborn corks with ease at the touch of a button.
Finished in soft navy matte and satin-finished champagne steel that looks great on any kitchen counter, the Rabbit also comes with two wine stoppers. $109.95.
(crateandbarrel.ca)

6. BED SHEETS
Cold winter nights call for a cozy sleep. Proudly Canadian, these wrinkle-free sheets from Benji offer the ultra-soft luxurious feel of 1,500 threads per square inch, without the extravagant price tag. Made from high-quality double-brushed microfiber that’s both breathable and moisture-resistant,
these sheets are also environmentally-certified and free of harmful fibers or contaminants, making them the perfect pick for those with allergies or sensitive skin. Benji offers a variety of colours and patterns to choose from,
and also sells duvets, pillowcases, and comforter sets all made from the same soft fabric. $95.
(benjisleep.com)

7. CARD GAME
The holidays are meant for spending time with loved ones. “Hygge” is a Danish word that refers to a feeling of togetherness, which is why The Hygge Game is the perfect gift to unbox after dinner. With more than 300 thought-provoking, inspirational, and family-friendly questions, The Hygge Game aims to spark conversation and meaningful discussion based on a recollection of memories or moments, big and small. The Hygge Game is suitable for ages 14 and up and requires two or more players. $25.40.
(amazon.ca)

8. SKI PACK
Hit the slopes in style over the holidays with a stylish new ski pack from Mountain Hardware. The Powabunga was designed for those who enjoy backcountry skiing. Made from a durable, super bomber nylon fabric, it includes a padded hip belt that is attached at multiple lash points to allow for free movement, including while standing. The tuckable front helmet hammock allows for the helmet to be stowed below the pack, giving unobstructed access to the large-zip front navy tool pocket. $260.
(mountainhardwear.ca)

9. SLIPPERS
Perfect for the cottage or at home, L.L. Bean’s Wicked Good Moccasins are constructed from superior sheepskin and lined with cozy shearling that keeps feet warm and dry. Featuring rawhide laces, a contoured memory foam footbed, and also a durable outer sole, these moccasins can also be worn outside. Available in women’s from sizes 5 to 11, and men’s in sizes 7 to 14. $129.
(llbean.ca)

10. IPHONE 13 PRO
The camera is the focus on the all-new iPhone 13 Pro. Made from surgical-grade stainless steel and coated in a ceramic shield, this is Apple’s most advanced camera phone to date, with next-level hardware and superintelligent built-in software and a lens that can focus as close as two centimetres. Macro video capabilities that support time lapse and slow motion are also possible. Perfect for low light conditions, the iPhone 13 Pro brings night photography to life, with an even wider aperture, a faster sensor and all-new autofocus. It’s available in four trendy colours, including Sierra Blue, Graphite, Silver, or Gold. $1,399.
(apple.com)

Story by Christine Hogg

Planning the perfect Girls Getaway

It’s been literally forever since you’ve caught up with your besties over Mai Tais or manicures, hasn’t it? Well, now’s the time to start planning your reunion tour! Whether your girl group is into chilling, shopping, adventuring, eating, drinking, or a little bit of everything – let this list of luxurious locales inspire your next long weekend away with the ladies. 

 

PALM SPRINGS  

Pools and palm trees, what more does a girl need? Palm Springs is an oasis of quirk, kitsch, and cool in the California desert. Take a self-guided tour of some of PS’s most photogenic and colourful front doors. Sip on a famous date milkshake from the State Fare Bar + Kitchen at the Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage. And don’t forget to pack a fun floaty for that perfect pool pic. 

Photo by Visitgreaterpalmsprings.com

PORTO 

Calling all food and wine lovers! Perched  on the Douro River, Porto is Portugal’s second-largest city and the world’s most famous  producer of Port wine. Become a connoisseur with endless options for Port tastings and tours. Explore the labyrinthine cobbled streets of the Ribeira District, revel in the vibrant nightlife, and eat to your heart’s content with local dishes like Bacalhau, cod prepared every which way; Francesinha, a baked sandwich; and Queijo da Serra da Estrela, a regional cheese. 

DUBLIN 

Of course, when visiting the Irish capital you have to hit the highlights like Temple Bar, Trinity College, and the Guinness Storehouse. But Dublin has a glamorous side too! Stroll Henry Street with its chic boutiques, shops, and Arnotts department store. Spend the day luxuriating at The Shelbourne Hotel’s spa before meeting for a lavish afternoon tea at The Merrion, or climb aboard the Vintage Tea Tour for a sweet ride that combines a guided tour of the city with high tea. At night, you can’t miss the live music and pub culture that Dublin is known for – Sláinte!

Story by Ashley Rochefort