8 Travel Resolutions from Virtuoso

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We may already be a few days into 2018, but it’s not too late to set some New Year resolutions! At Virtuoso, we believe that a new year means fresh opportunities to better ourselves as well as others and the world around us – and to make every trip better with the help of  a travel advisor. Here are eight travel resolutions we’re aiming to keep.

Travel More.

The very act of visiting somewhere new makes people happier, healthier, more creative, more relaxed, and more successful at work. Don’t leave hard-earned holiday time unused. Pick a quieter time of year and book in advance. If time and money are issues, even weekend getaways will scratch the wanderlust itch.

Volunteer.

Voluntourism is rising in popularity as people welcome the chance to do good, learn and travel at the same time. After a year plagued by natural disasters, there are many opportunities to help popular travel destinations. Grace Bay Club in the Turks and Caicos Islands can arrange for guests to help with local recovery efforts in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Learn a New Skill.

Master Italian cooking in Tuscany (the 2018 Virtuoso Luxe Report cites food and wine travel as a top trend). Whether dusting off rusty school-level French in Paris or honing photography talents while capturing memories of the trip, travel comes with a built-in education and the ability to learn at every turn.

Be kind to the environment.

Discover how to make a difference as a sustainable traveller and put your knowledge into practice. El Silencio Lodge & Spa, an eco-luxury hotel in Costa Rica, offers 500 private acres of carbon-offsetting cloud forest, hidden waterfalls, and organic cuisine. Each suite sits on above-ground pillars to respect the forest’s natural topography and features bamboo ceiling tiles, energy-efficient lighting, and an energy-saving electric heater.

El Silencio Lodge & Spa.

Conquer a fear.

Virtuoso believes the beauty of travel is that it can push travellers beyond their comfort zones. From the more adventurous it may be swimming with sharks in Mexico or skydiving in New Zealand, to something less extreme like traveling solo or voyaging to an off-the-beaten path destination, the options are endless for broadening horizons.

Deepen a friendship.

Travel brings people together and strengthens relationships through shared experiences. Consider those beyond immediate family – an old university friend or favourite cousin makes the perfect travel companion. Spending quality time together deepens existing bonds and creates a lifetime of memories.

Get in travel shape.

Combine travel with the ever-popular improved fitness resolution. If your style is yoga, meditation and massages in a Zen-like setting, visit a wellness resort for relaxation and rejuvenation. If you prefer a high level of activity with an adrenaline kick, plan an adventure to help you shape up or burn calories. That could be anything from skiing in Switzerland to kayaking in Canada.

Become a global citizen. 

The United Nations World Tourism Organization reports that more than one billion tourists cross international borders each year. Travel fosters greater appreciation of other countries and cultures, and makes one realize they are part of a larger global community. Here are 7 tips for giving children the gift of global citizenship.

Top photo: Grace Bay Club. 

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Headed to Whoville? Here’s how to carve the roast beast.

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PHOTO: LISA LINDER

Manzil Diniz, the head carver at Simpson’s in the Strand, has plated roast beef with all the trimmings for celebrities and guests of The Savoy hotel for more than a decade. After closing for the first time in its 189-year history, the London institution has reopened refreshed, and, as of this week, will reintroduce the popular carving classes with Diniz and chef William Hemming. During this feasting season, we asked Diniz for tips. Your gathering’s Grinch can thanks us later.

Best seat in Simpson’s: Winston Churchill’s table, in the far left corner of the Grand Divan.

What should we expect from carving class? You’ll be shown the roast’s preparation from scratch by our master butcher, and how to slice the roast rib of beef on the bone.

Sharpness aside, the key to choosing a carving knife: It should be long enough to slice the entire roast with swift motions.

Top tip for turkey: Apply minimum pressure with the knife.

Biggest rookie mistake: Carving at an angle, as opposed to directly down. Also, you should use a consistent speed to avoid lines on the slice.

Chef Nusret Gokce, aka “Salt Bae,� recently gained internet fame for his seductive tableside carving and sassy salting move at the Four Seasons Resort Dubai:

What’s your take? Absolute legend.

What moves do you have up your sleeve? Speed and precision.

Carving classes from $250, including a three-course lunch or dinner.

 

 

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Cape Town Calling

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By Joel Centano

If you’re looking to get wild, “South Africa offers all the wildlife you’d hope to see,� says Myrna Arroyo, a Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based Virtuoso travel advisor who recently visited the country on a group tour led by National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures. “But I also love that you can combine a safari with all the attractions in Cape Town.�

With a confluence of cultural, cosmopolitan, and natural draws, the “Mother City� provides a perfect easing-in point for any South Africa vacation. Here are a few must-do urban adventures before you set out for the bush.

To Great Heights
For a city overview, start with an ascent of Table Mountain, Cape Town’s iconic plateau-topped peak. A five-minute ride in a rotating cable car leads to the 3,500-foot-high summit and panoramas of the City Bowl, Table Bay, and nearby Robben Island.

The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway (Photo: Joel Centano)

Historical Perspective
During South Africa’s apartheid era, its government imprisoned more than 3,000 dissidents on Robben Island. The most famous, Nelson Mandela, commenced his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, there before becoming the nation’s first democratically elected president. Former captives lead tours of the prison, now a museum and UNESCO World Heritage site.

State of the Art
Opened in September 2017, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) is now the world’s largest cultural repository dedicated solely to modern African art. More than 100 galleries showcase works from across the continent and as far away as the UK and United States.

Zeitz MOCAA exterior (Photo: Iwan Baan)

Local Flavor
Located in a church within Greenmarket Square, Heaven Coffee serves excellent espresso from South African-origin beans. “You’re also likely to meet its young owner who came from the countryside to make his mark in the city,� says Theresa Jackson, a Virtuoso advisor from Allendale, New Jersey. In lieu of tips, guests can make a donation toward a coffee for a homeless person.

Heaven Coffee owner Mondli Mahamba (Photo: Joel Centano)

In the Neighborhood
Cape Town’s multicultural history is on vivid display in the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, rooted in a mix of Asian and African influences. Its cobblestoned streets wend past spice shops, historic mosques, and a kaleidoscope of pastel-painted houses.

Strolling through the Bo-Kaap neighborhood (Photo: Joel Centano)

Wine & Dine
On the menu at Groot Constantia, South Africa’s oldest wine estate: cellar tours, tastings (try the Grand Constance, a blend of red and white muscat favored by Napoleon Bonaparte), and alfresco meals overlooking its vineyards. Jonkershuis restaurant’s Estate Tasting Plate offers a sampling of traditional Cape Malay dishes, including oven-baked bobotie (curried mincemeat topped with custard), Karoo lamb, and chicken curry.

Groot Constantia (Photo: Groot Constantia)

Garden Variety
More than 7,000 species of indigenous plants thrive at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Linger-worthy stops in the 1,300-acre estate include the fragrance and protea gardens, the latter to honor South Africa’s national flower. Look for the medicinal pepper-bark tree planted by Nelson Mandela in 1996.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (Photo: Joel Centano)

Talking Shop
“For a special souvenir, Prins & Prins in the city center is a wonderful stop,� says advisor Myrna Arroyo. “The jewelry store manufactures all of its pieces in-house, and its rings based on South African flowers (set with precious gems) are stunning.�

Chic Stay
Located on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the new 28-room Silo Hotel (one of seven centrally located Cape Town properties in the Virtuoso network) occupies six floors of a historic grain silo complex that also houses Zeitz MOCAA. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a 50-minute massage.

A Luxury Room at The Silo Hotel (Photo: The Silo Hotel)

Read On: For more on South Africa, read “Game On,� published in the December 2017 issue of Virtuoso Traveler.

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Virtuoso Traveler: December 2017

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Virtuoso Traveler: December 2017
Where will travel take you in 2018? From San Antonio to Slovenia, the Canadian Arctic to Australia’s “Far Outback,� Virtuoso travel advisors weigh in on the top places to visit ­– both in the headlines and under the radar – in the new year. Also inside our latest issue: New Year’s Eve in NYC, soon-to-launch ships and hotels, world festivals, close-to-home ski retreats, the lowdown on South Carolina’s Lowcountry, on safari in South Africa, and globe-trotting gifts for every travel lover on your list.

-Joel Centano, Editor of Virtuoso Traveler

Virtuoso Traveler: December 2017

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My Favorite Trips: Designer Stephanie von Watzdorf

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Stephanie von Watzdorf
Cofounder and creative director, Figue

The cofounder and creative director of boho-chic fashion line Figue travels as often as she can, with her photographer husband Michael Lucas, with friends, or alone. “People, varied cultures, and color inspire me,� she says. Sparks from her travels follow her home to her Chelsea studio, where visitors can shop for globally-inspired caftans, sandals, handbags, and more.

Stephanie van Watzdorf (Photo by: Ball & Albanese).
  • Being in the bush on safari in Kenya was a highlight of my life. I am still drawn back there to observe the wildlife in nature and feel like a small speck on our vast earth. The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya supports and takes care of Kenyan wildlife in its habitat. They also support neighboring tribes and community. I have been to Lamu in Kenya many times, including after safari, and it is so beautiful. Its beauty just goes on and on. The history and people are magnificent and it has an aura that is untouched by time.
  • I was in Mexico last year and loved Mexico City. It has such great art, food, and history. After Mexico City, we went to Tepoztlán. There’s a great market in the center of town that sells artisanal crafts and all sorts of delicious delicacies.
  • I love Marrakech – the energy and insane overload of colors, textures, and spices. I’m obsessed with hidden Marrakech. The interiors of the often monochromatic riads are full of meticulous details in the colors, tiles, and woodwork.

Top photo: Stephanie von Watzdorf, by Ball & Albanese.

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Five Favorite Coffeehouses Around the World

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Virtuoso Life contributor Jeff Koehler wrote the book on coffee: Where the Wild Coffee Grows. It’s an in-depth exploration of arabica coffee in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia, the Kaffa people’s culture, and how that region may hold the key to Latin America’s coffee industry, which has been battered by climate change and other factors. “Writing a book about coffee allows for a couple of justifiable indulgences,� says Koehler. “One, of course, is drinking coffee – lots of it. I have sipped more in the last two years than the previous ten.� Another is spending time in cafés and coffeehouses that have a patina of history, sumptuous interiors, and attentive service. Here are five cafés he advises you to seek out.

Vienna

Viennese kaffeehaus culture has played such a key role in shaping the city that UNESCO added it to its Intangible Cultural Heritage List. For centuries, artists, writers, musicians, and thinkers have treated Vienna’s sophisticated coffeehouses as public living rooms. Sigmund Freud, for instance, favored the lovely Café Landtmann. Indulge in its famous apple strudel with your afternoon coffee.

Buenos Aires

Café Las Violetas was founded in the Almagro barrio in 1884, and in the 1920s, moved to its current building, resplendent with high, ornate ceilings, curved stained glass, and Italian marble. Come for the elegance – and for a plate of medialunas (small croissants) to accompany the coffee. On weekends, the café is open 24 hours a day.

Istanbul

Set near the Grand Bazaar in a garden courtyard of an eighteenth-century mosque, Corlulu Ali Pasa Medresesi is a direct descendant of the ancient Ottoman coffeehouses once found across the city. Order a traditional Turkish-style coffee, in which the grounds are boiled with water and sugar in a long-handled cezve pot. Many patrons linger for hours while smoking hookahs.

Turkish coffee. (Photo by Rebecca Erol/Alamy)

New Orleans

Few cities have a single café with the dominating renown of Café Du Monde. Established in 1862 and always open, it’s touristy, but remains one of the best places in the French Quarter for people watching at any hour. You’ll have a café au lait, made with the house coffee, which is roasted with chicory, and a plate of sugar-dusted beignets.

Café du Monde in New Orleans. (Photo by Dani Burry/Alamy)

Trieste

In a city that consumes the most coffee per person in Italy and is home to the legendary roaster Illy, the iconic spot for a perfectly pulled espresso is Caffè San Marco. The café embraced its literary roots – James Joyce and Italo Svevo are among those who have found inspiration at its marble tables – by opening a bookstore inside. Pick up a copy of Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, Jan Morris’ paean to the city, before sitting down.

Caffè San Marco in Trieste. (Photo by: Michael Brooks/Alamy)

Top photo: Café Las Violetas in Buenos Aires. (Photo by Viviane Ponti/Getty Images)

 

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