Autumn escape to Lake Como

Boutique hotel Villa Vittoria Lake Como, Italy

It may not have been the most obvious time of the year to travel to Lake Como in late October, but it was a good choice. No crowds anywhere, just some locals walking around, it was so quiet and beautiful. Many of the restaurants were already closed after the busy summer season, but some of them still remained opened over the weekends offering delicious Italian food and wines.

Lake Como in autumn colours in October

Hotel Relais Villa Vittoria lake como, ItalyAll the little villages around the lake were shining in autumn colours under the autumn sun. The temperature was a bit above +20C degrees, so rather ok compared to many other European destinations at this time of the year.

We stayed in a lovely boutique Hotel Relais Villa Vittoria, which looks over the Lake Como. We managed to book our room just a night before our arrival, and we really enjoyed our stay in this charming place. The service is friendly, a bit like staying someone’s gorgeous holiday home. I hope we can return here next year again…

Villa Vittoria, your living room at Lake Como

Relais Villa Vittoria, Lake Como - living room

Reception Villa Vittoria Lake Como

Pool at Villa Vittoria Lake Como

Lake Como in autumn colours

Riquewihr, a picturesque village in Alsace

Welcome to Riquewihr, Alsace!

I was recently spending my weekend in Alsace, France.  Recommended by our friends we decided to drive to a little village called Riquewihr.  The Alsace area is famous for its Riesling wines and for no exception you can buy them also in many little shops in Riquewihr.  But that is not the only reason to visit this picturesque village, the old town attracts visitors with its many little shops and restaurants, old tiny streets and beautiful buildings in full colours, everything that you need to nourish your body and mind. When in Alsace, I would recommend visiting Riquewihr, I think these pictures tell why…

Beautiful flowers in Riquewihr, France

At the heart of Riquewihr, France

Rainy day in Riquewihr, Alsace, France

Little interior shop in Riquewihr, France

Buying Riesling in Riquewihr, Alsace

Wine shopping in Riquewihr, Alsace

Riquewihr vineyards

 

Weekend escape to Burgundy

This is chic!

Sometimes we like to do things spontaneously. And this was one of those escapes better not to plan in advance. We saw in a travel magazine an article about Burgundy, the well known French wine region with excellent restaurants and got an idea to try one of the praised restaurants. We called the place on Friday evening and managed to get a table – three stars waiting for us in Joigny, a little village I haven’t even heard before.  A closer look at the map revealed that we have over 500 km ahead of us!

Wine Shop - La Boutique Des Domaines

Wine bottles

In the village

DrinksOn our way on Saturday we visited picturesque Burgundy villages with little wine stores and lovely restaurants offering French specialities.  Closer to evening we reached our final destination, restaurant La Côte Saint Jacques in Joigny. The village was empty, there was almost no-one around. We had our drinks on the hotel’s terrace looking over the quiet river. It was perfect way of relaxing after driving the whole day.

La Côte Saint Jacques in Joigny, France

The food in the restaurant was amazing, as you would expect from tree stars. I had asparagus with morels and snails as a starter and guinea fowl as a main course – both beautifully served. The food was excellent, but the real experience was their five courses surprise desert, as you can see from my pictures.  The restaurant itself may have rather boring interior, but the food was excellent – well worth of driving over 6 hours.

La Côte Saint Jacques in Joigny - starter with aspargus with morrels and snails

La Côte Saint Jacques - main course with guineafowl

La Côte Saint Jacques - little desert

La Côte Saint Jacques - desert 1

La Côte Saint Jacques - desert 2

La Côte Saint Jacques - desert 3

La Côte Saint Jacques - desert 4

La Côte Saint Jacques - desert 5

Before checking out from the hotel – which was also very nice, we had their state-of-art breakfast. With a traditional idea of breakfast in mind, but delivered through an innovative setting this was a great enhancement to our stay.

La Côte Saint Jacques - breakfast

Vosne Romanee, BurgundyOn Sunday morning we decided to visit see some vineyards and drive around Burgundy area before returning back to home. As you may know one of the most famous French wines are from this region and it is also a home for many of the most expensive ones in the world.  The highlight of our visit was a little walk around Vosne-Romanée, a stunning wine village where the region’s most celebrated wines are being produced.

Visiting Chablis Wines

Visiting Burgundy

Wine shopping in Burgundy

Vosne-Romanee vineyard map, Burgundy, France

Rue de la Tache, Vosne-Romanee, Burgundy, France 

Vineyards in Vosne-Romanee

Vineyards in Vosne-Romanee

As I love castles, we needed to make a quick visit to this beautiful castle before driving the other 500 km back to home.

Castle with vineyards

My tips for Burgundy:

Vosne-Romanee little wine shopThe destination restaurant and hotel: 
La Côte Saint Jacques in Joigny

Where to visit:
- Dijon
- Besancon
- Vosne-Romanée
- And any little village in the area…
- The little vineyards selling their own products

What to do in Seoul? My top 10 highlights

 

Greetings from Seoul, the soul of Asia, as the locals say. I visited Seoul in May and I liked the city’s modern and lively atmosphere flavoured with historical palaces and spacious parks. Seoul is one of those cities which never sleep and where there are probably more to see than time permits. Everyone says the spring is the best time to be there, and I must agree. While the weather was turning warm and sunny, the pleasant wind made it absolutely perfect to discover the city. Here are the top 10 highlights of my visit.  

walking around Seoul

1. Walking around the city
Seoul is an amazing place and there are many different areas to visit. The best way to discover the city is to take an underground to the place you would like to see and walk from there. The underground is very clean, easy to use and you can buy the tickets from the self-service machines (in English) at every station.  With a population of 10 million, the city is very clean, relatively safe and beautiful to walk around. Of course you need a good map and comfortable shoes too.  

Gyeongbok Royal palace

2. Gyeongbok, Korea’s most famous royal palace
Any kind of palace could be probably included in my list, as I like castles and palaces. However, Gyeongbok palace is really gorgeous with its numerous pavilions, little ponds and lots of green around. This is a place I spent at least a half a day just walking around the area admiring the beautiful old buildings and everything in between. Originally built in the late 1300s, the palace has been destroyed and reconstructed numerous times to what is today one of the charming palaces in Asia, and just in the heart of the city at the northern end of Seoul’s main boulevard.

Korean Barbeque in Seoul

3. Korean barbecue
If you fancy good food, Korean barbecue is definitively worth trying. The barbecue is cooked in front of you at the restaurant. There is a small round hole in your table for the fire on top of which the meat, fish and vegetables are cooked.  The meal is healthy and so delicious – I think this was the best dinner we had during our visit in Seoul.  

Cheonggyecheon Stream Seoul

4. Cheonggyecheon Stream
This is a very nice part of soul with many waterfalls and bridges crossing over. Being in the middle of the busy city, this is still a nice and rather quiet place to relax. You can walk up to 5.8 km along the stream and enjoy a different flavour of the city.

Rodeo Drive Seoul

5. Rodeo drive
This area is the home to many trendy restaurants, bars and high-end designer boutiques. I probably liked this area most because of all the fancy restaurants and funky stores…

Seoul by night

6. Seoul by night
The city is the most beautiful at nights with all its dazzling lights and numerous tall buildings. The best place to take pictures is probably in one of the restaurants located in any tall building. I would assume anyone of them can do. I took my pictures in our hotel Park Hayatt and the view was stunning.

Gucci flag ship store Seoul

7. Shopping luxury
Cheongdam-dong is the area to visit all the flag-ship stores of big designer names. They all have their four or five floor stand-alone stores in this area. Even if you are not for luxury shopping, these buildings are just worth of seeing.

Eating out in Seoul

8. Eating out
Like in any big city, eating out is great in Seoul and I would definitively recommend trying local specialities. Rodeo drive has many interesting restaurants, and if you walk around you can find all kind of innovative settings, or what do you think about the picture above…

Artbox stationary paradise

9. Artbox, the stationery paradise
Artbox is a lovely stationery shop with little, cute accessories, fashion items and interior stuff. They have very nice cards, papers, envelopes, pens and other little things that make nice souvenirs…

Taxi driver in Seoul

10. Taxi drive
I must include this as my last picture. Where else a taxi driver manages to do this? This was a taxi stop next to the main railway station in the area where you can’t even drive fast.  Well, despite this first impression, all our taxis were safe and comfortable.

PS. I hope you like my refreshed blog design. It is a bit of a while since I have been writing last time as I have been updating my blog behind the scenes.

Where to travel in Easter: My top 5 destinations

Easter holiday ideas

Where to go on Easter? I start planning my Easter every year very early and then end up making the decision last-minute.  Spring is the best time to travel in many locations and there are so many places I would like to travel. Easter is great time for a healthy holiday, visiting Europe, Asia and Middle East. Here are my top 5 Easter holiday destinations:

Chiva Som - Thailand health reatreat

1. Healthy holiday in Chiva Som, my favourite retreat
Chiva Som is my favourite destination Spa.  One week of healthy food, lots of exercises and spa treatments in beautiful surroundings will make a difference. No fuss about Easter egg hunting, but if you are lucky, it is time for Songkran water festival, and you will get your share of sparkling water as a symbol of washing bad away and giving good fortune for your future…

Venice, Italy

2. City break in Milan and Venice
Good Friday is not a public holiday in Milan, so what would be better way of spend a day for shopping, while the city is once a bit less crowded.  Most of the local people head to East on Friday, so leave your travel for Saturday morning and drive towards Venice.  Spring is one of the most beautiful time to visit the city and less touristic than summer.

Banyan Tree Bintan resort

3. Shopping in Singapore, relaxing in Bintan Island (in Indonesia)
Singapore is a good, but maybe not so obvious destination for Easter.  It is a great way of combining a city holiday in Singapore with few days in Bintan holiday island, just about an hour by ferry from Singapore.  We stayed in Banyan Tree Bintan, which is a gorgeous resort with beautiful natural surroundings, delicious food and daily yoga glasses relaxing your mind and body totally.

Easter Break in Miami

4. Miami + Caribbean Escape
Couple of years ago we combined a fitness week in the BodyHoliday resort in St. Lucia with a few extra days in Miami. Beautiful, warm weather, a week of 4-5 hours exercises and a pampering spa treatment every day in the BodyHoliday resort renewed my body and mind. After a week of fitness it was quite rewarding enjoy few days in Miami just by walking around, running in the beach, eating well and do a bit of shopping before flying back home. 

Easter in Switzerland - Park Hotel Weggis

5. Switzerland
Switzerland is a nice destination for Easter.  Depending on the weather you can make day trips to France, Italy, Germany or Austria. If Easter is early in the year you can still go skiing and later in spring enjoy the beautiful spring weather. One year I stayed in Park Hotel Weggis near Luzern. The hotel has a picturesque view over the Lake Vierwaldstattersee  and they Easter Bruch is really great!  

And what I was looking for this year?
I have been looking for plenty of last minutes options:

  1. Long weekend in Istanbul
  2. Culture break in Marrakesh
  3. Relaxing holiday in Abu-Dhabi, combining city and the new Anantara desert resort Qasr al Sarab
  4. Healthy holiday in Verdura resort in Sicily or Sha Wellness Clinic in Spain
  5. Shopping in New York

Engelberg Faschnacht – Carnival of Engelberg

Engelberg, Switzerland: This is the time of Faschnacht, carnivals in Switzerland, and it seems to me that the whole country is celebrating before the Lent begins. While the biggest and most famous carnival in Switzerland is maybe the one in Basel, many local villages have their own celebrations with fabulous costumes and lively music, definitively worth of seeing.   

We visited this weekend Engelberg, the biggest mountain resort of Central Switzerland, and on Saturday the whole village of Engelberg was celebrating their local Faschnacht.  The highlight of the day was the Faschnacht parade on Saturday evening. The people with wonderful costumes and the most amazing “vehicles” greeted the curious audience gathered on both side of the streets to see the best outfits and themes of the year.  Here are some pictures of the celebrations…


Theme Saluna with live music


Celebrating the Faschnacht


Indian climbing…


…serving tea


Maybe the longest vehicle I have ever seen…


…with a special cabin in the middle…


…and mobile bath in the end.


And someone was even able to sleep…

Travel year 2011: My top 10 destinations

St. Moritz - skiing in the Swiss Alps

Happy New Year 2012!! For me the year 2011 was a great year of travel. I visited over 20 different destinations, discovered new places and returned to many of my favourite ones. This post is a collection of my top 10 travel destinations in 2011.

1. Travelling around Yunnan province and Tibetan plateau in China
Ringha, China

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2. First time in Hong Kong
Hong Kong by night
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3. A day trip to Macau
Macau

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4. My friends’ wedding in Athens, and first time in Acropolis
Acropolis, Athens

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5. Discovering the Austrian Alps in Lech and St. Anton
Austrian Alps St. Anton, Austria

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6. Wellness holiday in Kamalaya, Koh Samui (despite of eight rainy days)
Kamalay resort, Koh Samui, Thailand

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7. Culinary trip to Paris
L'Ami Louis, Paris

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8. Mini holiday in Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca - Weekend destination

9. Hiking in the Swiss Alps in autumn: Murgtal
Murgsee - walks in Switzerland

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10. Mysterious Grand Hotel Orologio and why it was closed?
Grand hotel Orologio, Abano Terme, Italy

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Where to travel in 2012?
I also started collecting some travel ideas for 2012. There are so many interesting places I would like to visit, but I think these are quite on the top of my list: