St. Petersburg, Russia’s gorgeous cultural capital, dazzles with its stunning architecture, imperial palaces and spectacular gardens. Built by Peter the Great in grand European style on over 42 islands connected by 342 bridges with picturesque canals, this magnificent city of the czars is known as Venice of The North. It’s even more magical during the “White Nights” from May through July when the sun remains bright after midnight and everyone is a bit giddy basking in the daylight, the majestic Neva River glistening. Adding to the excitement, there’s a festival with stupendous music and dance performances. It’s like a fairy tale.
It’s hard not to fall in love with Umbria. This jewel of a destination known as the ‘green heart of Italy,‘ boasts lush countryside, medieval hilltop towns, fresco adorned churches, prized wines and olive oils and truffles to die for. Not to mention the acclaimed Spoleto Cultural Festival and Foligno’s fantastical Quintana, an Oscar worthy spectacular with ancient equestrian games and a lavish costume parade. With charming hotels, authentic villages and treasures around every corner plus less crowds and more value for your money than its more traveled northern neighbor Tuscany - picturesque Umbria offers a fantastic getaway for couples, families and friends alike.
Bangkok - Foodies Delight! Michelin launched its first Bangkok guide this year with a variety of exciting options. The selection of 17 restaurants with one star and three with two stars includes international dining as well as the city’s renowned traditional cuisine. This makes it easy and trés enjoyable to eat your way through this blossoming gastronomic metropolis. Even one street vendor, Jay Fai, known for scrumptious crab omelets and curries made it into the mix.
I started my culinary crawl at Gaggan, which in addition to its Michelin two stars holds the number one spot on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Chef Gaggan Anand dazzles guests with a tasting extravaganza of 25 dishes highlighting Indian spices. From king crab curry to seabass on mango tartare, everything was delicious.
Sun kissed beaches, blue Aegean waters and legendary night life have long attracted holiday makers to Mykonos. However, there’s another side to this popular destination in Greece’s Cycladic chain. The enchanting island also boasts ancient ruins, fascinating history and a charming town that still maintains its authenticity - The Real Mykonos.
It all started with Delos.
Australia’s Top End, also known as the ‘bush’ is one of the most mystical landscapes on the planet. This remote and mostly unexplored terrain, offers travelers an unparalleled experience.
Scotland captivates with its untamed landscape of dramatic mountains drenched in mists, heather clad hills, glens and moorland. The Highlands have recently upped their luxury quotient with new offerings making for spectacular stays that attract more high-end travelers to the stunning locale.
With an increasing number of high-end travelers heading down under, Australia is upping its luxury quotient with new posh hotels plus top cultural and gastronomic offerings. On my recent visit I met many American holidaymakers who were happy return visitors. Lower airline prices along with Australia’s most extraordinary offerings make this the perfect time to go.
Aer Lingus’ well priced flights to Dublin and great stopover options to other European cities was the impetus for my Ireland/Scotland itinerary. The service onboard Aer Lingus was exemplary; business cabins feature spacious seats that become comfy lie-flat beds, tasty cuisine and fine wine. The carrier offers direct service to their Dublin hub from major US cities including JFK, Newark, Boston, Washington Chicago, Hartford, Orlando, San Francisco, Los Angeles and starting September 1, Miami. My Aer Lingus flights from Dublin connecting to Edinburgh and Glasgow were short and seamless. www.aerlingus.com
With Sri Lanka’s recent tourism boom, a slew of new luxury hotel openings have created an even bigger draw for high-end travelers. Wondrous archeological ruins, palm fringed golden beaches, lush tea plantations, flavorful food, elephant and leopard safaris plus the sweet, friendly people who mainly practice Hinduism and Buddhism, make this teardrop shaped island nation south of
Estonia, the size of New Hampshire and Maryland combined, with 1,500 islands along the Baltic Sea and half the country covered in forest, is truly unique. Estonians are both creative and techie; Skype was developed here. While this may be the least religious country in the world, most people regard themselves as spiritual and believe spirits inhabit the trees. Modern but traditional with a richly diverse landscape, the planet’s cleanest air, gastronomic cuisine plus a vibrant art scene, this Baltic Beauty is fast becoming the new ‘must see’ destination.