Category Attractions

Ten Napa Wineries with Great Visitor Experiences

Napa is a short trip from San Francisco

California’s Napa Valley is a Holy Grail for wine lovers yet it can be hard to figure out how to enjoy the best wine touring. Here is the low down on ten wineries with great visitor experiences as well a guerilla guide to making the most of a Napa visit with tips on how to avoid the crowds and engage with the locals.

A guerilla guide to understanding Napa

Just over an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, Napa is tiny…just eight kilometers wide and 48 kilometers long….yet it is home to more than 450 wineries.

Napa is Cabernet country. All the experts agree that it produces the world’s best big, elegant, full-bodied Cabernets with plenty of structure and age-ability. Chardonnay is the second most planted variety, especially in the Los Carneros region. Other grapes include Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc (the classic Bordeaux blending varieties) as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel and even the occasional Pinot Noir.

The Napa produce...

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Hallstatt is the Heart of Austria’s Beautiful Lakes District

Austria's village of Hallstatt reflected in the lake of the same name

Hallstatt

UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hallstatt is reflected so perfectly in the lake that it is often described as one of Europe’s most beautiful villages. The Chinese admire it so much they’ve built an exact replica. But it is just one of many “screensaver worthy” scenes in Austria’s Lakes District.

Set between the foothills and the Alps, this region, called Salzkammergut in German, is about 300 kilometers west of Vienna and just an hour’s drive southeast of Salzburg. With 76 lakes and soaring limestone mountains, the Salzkammergut offers exquisite scenery and water sports not to mention hiking, biking and fishing.

It is difficult to believe there are so many different blues, but each lake lays claim to its own unique shade. Centuries-old, flower-decked wooden holiday houses, simple lakeside cottages, and rustic boat sheds adorn each lake shore. Wildflowers carpet rolling fields; woodpiles are stacked with designer precision (Austria wins Olympic gold for wood stacking); small boats tootle on the waters; huge trout and arctic char slither underneath; walkers and cyclists breathe the clear mountain air.

The name Salzkammergut...

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An Insider’s Guide to Melbourne’s Laneways

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Centre Way. Photo by Robyn Lea

Melbourne’s laneways are the soul of the city. Learn your way around these hidden pathways and you will discover that Melbourne, not Sydney, is the center of art, fashion and café life in Australia. (And for those who don’t know the term, a laneway is a collective term for narrow streets and alleyways that weave around Melbourne’s central business district.)

“The laneways are our bloodlines. They are where our heritage blends with younger entrepreneurs making their mark in the city,” says Fiona Sweetman, director of Melbourne’s Hidden Secrets Tours.

Melbourne’s character was forged after the 1850s gold rush when for a short time it became the wealthiest city on the planet.  Large ornate public buildings were built on the bullock-dray-wide avenues whilst in the narrow streets behind, small workshops, stables and factories serviced the burgeoning city...

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Hoshinoya Kyoto: classic Japanese inn with a twist

Hoshinoya Kyoto has been built with traditional Japanese craftsmanship

Hoshinoya Kyoto is a unique contemporary ryokan inside a noble’s retreat on the banks of the Ooigawa River in Arashiyama, just outside Kyoto. It offers a rare vision of authentic Japan incorporating a reverence for traditional culture with a whimsical modern sensibility. There are few Japanese high-end inns, indeed few resorts in the world, whose aesthetic appeals both to well-heeled locals and an informed international clientele. Hoshinoya is breaking new ground.

To get to Hoshinoya, I arrive at a dock near the famous moon-viewing Togetsukyo Bridge for the ten-minute trip in a covered boat along the forest-lined river. Tomoko Tsuchima greets me and shows me around the re-imagined interior and exterior spaces of this protected heritage site. Hoshinoya’s designers have utilised centuries-old techniques of Kyoto craftsmen…hand-crafted washi paper, latticework, ceramic roof tiles, sand plastered walls…to create a modern gem embodying the lightness of touch inherent in good Japanese design.

At t...

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Four of the Best Sydney Harbourside Walks

Sydney Harbour walks mfp

Sydney may be a city of five million people but it also has more than 400 hectares of natural harbor waterfront that is best accessed by a remarkable network of walking trails.

We can thank the early colonists’ fear of being invaded for the creation of the Sydney Harbour National Park, which was established in the 1970s when numerous military and naval installations on prime harbor-front property were decommissioned.

Today, in conjunction with a patchwork of local preserves, you can walk through stands of Sydney red gums, she oaks, heath land and sub-tropical rainforest alive with native bird life, explore fascinating historical sites and enjoy jaw-dropping harbour views. Not only that, there are aboriginal middens and rock art as well as secluded beaches far from the madding crowds. Many of the trails also pass alongside some downright spectacular waterfront mansions so you can get your fix of the lifestyles of the rich and famous too!

Taronga Z...

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Five of the Best San Francisco Bookstores

two colour MFP City Lights

The book is alive and well in San Francisco, in spite of the fact that many of the Bay Area’s IT businesses appear to be hell-bent on destroying it. A quirky collection of fiercely independent bookstores have become lynchpins of the city’s diverse, walkable neighborhoods.

Here are five bookish hangouts worth checking out.

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L.L. Bean: Super Store in a Shoe Store

Discover the Outdoors with LL Bean...one step at a time
L.L. Bean’s famous boots

Pioneer American outdoors outfitter L. L. Bean has been a fixture on Main Street in Freeport Maine since its showroom opened in 1917. When Leon Leonwood Bean created the Bean Boot by combining lightweight leather tops with waterproof rubber bottoms, he offered a revolutionary 100-percent satisfaction guarantee.  To this day, customers can return any item for a complete refund, no questions asked.  In 1951, he also threw away the keys to keep the store open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Today L.L. Bean’s five stores (hunting and fishing; bike, boat and ski; retail apparel; kids; and factory store) make up an enterprising shopping campus, which has attracted more than 200 upscale discount outlets to this quaint coastal Maine village.

You could spend days meandering in this mecca to outdoor adventures. There is every conceivable item of clothing and outdoor gear for the hiker while the selection of bikes, canoes, skis, hunting and fishing gear leaves you speechless. I have never seen so many different types of flies, each one delicately copying an insect from the New England woods. In short, LL Bean offers an ode to all those classic New England outdoors pursuits.

But it...

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Berlin Street Art Tours with Local Artists

Jack Nicholson Street Art by MTO in Berlin Kreutzberg neighborhood

How do you get a sense of the real Berlin and where do you find this urban mecca’s best street art?

A few taps...

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Photo Friday: Fishing boats at La Grande Baie in Mauritius

Fishing boats at dusk in La Grande Baie in Mauritius

I took this Photo Friday at dusk one day at La Grande Baie in the north-east of Mauritius. A calm had settled on the waterscape and all the fishermen and kids had left the boats. I love the saturated colors and the reflections in the waters.

What to do at La Grande BaieLa Grand Baie is the country’s burgeoning St. Tropez whose bay is filled with catamarans and big game fishing cruisers alongside traditional fishing dinghies. Seafood restaurants frame a wide sandy beach and upscale boutiques offer the latest fashions. Nearby beaches at Pereybere, Mont Choisy or Trou aux Biches offer even better swimming.

Take a day-sail on a large catamaran out to Flat Island where you can snorkel around fringing coral reefs to see clown and parrot fish darting around anemones and brain coral. You’ll enjoy a barbecue on board the boat and often catch sight of humpback whales breaching on the way back into Grand Baie.

Where is Mauritius and what is it like

It seems to be in the middle of nowhere in ...

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Adrenalin adventures in Rotorua: raft waterfalls, ride the Schweeb, bungy jump, then soak in natural hot pools

The thermal area of Rotorua in New Zealand has plenty of adventures on offer

Rotorua is New Zealand’s coolest hot spot and it is easy to see why. The region is renowned for its geothermal activity with geysers, mud pools and hot springs not to mention 18 lakes, rushing rivers and majestic native and exotic forests. It offers a veritable feast of adrenalin and nature-based adventures.

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