Category Sleep, Spa, Shop

Esalen Institute: New Age Adventures on California’s Big Sur Coast

The Esalen Institute opens new horizons on ancient ground in California's Big Sur

Esalen’s Hot Springs are cantilevered over the Pacific in California’s Big Sur

The world’s best massage

It was the best massage I had ever experienced.  And let me set the record straight.  While I have enjoyed massages on four continents, I am no massage junkie.  I find too often that the promise and the pitch fall way short in reality…the touch is too tentative or too uneven, too rote or too rough.

I am also no great meditator.  My busy, restless mind wanders across the white noise of minutiae instead of stilling itself.

But here, now, lying on a table in an exquisitely minimal building wedged into a cliff, its huge sliding glass doors thrown open to the Pacific Ocean crashing onto the Californian coast, I am in the moment, naked except for a towel and a masseuse is kneading my back with long rhythmic strokes that mirror the rumble of the surf a few meters below.  A seagull rides the airwaves at eye level when I gaze for a moment at the sun’s rays...

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Sydney’s Guest Houses offer Great Locations at Affordable Prices

Cremorne Manor is located in one of Sydney's prime harborfront suburbs

Cremorne Manor has a terrific location just near a Sydney Harbourside park

Have you ever considered how nice it would be to live like a local by staying in one of Sydney’s harborside or beachfront suburbs? Believe it or not there are a number of affordable guest houses offering accommodation overlooking Sydney Harbour or down the road from the beach? These ere are four delightful guesthouses that make Sydney’s flash (and expensive) CBD hotels look rather sterile.

Bondi Beach House

Just a short stroll down a quiet residential street from all the action on Bondi Beach, the classy peach stucco Bondi Beach House, tucked behind frangipani and bougainvillea trees, offers three suites, four double rooms (two with shared bath) and two single rooms all decorated in beachy chic style. There’s an airy kitchen and breakfast room and spacious front and back decks where you can relax all day long...

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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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Best Luxury Resort in New South Wales: Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa

Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa: luxury and conservation

The Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa offers a beguiling mix of unbridled luxury and environmental sustainability.  If you are looking for the best luxury resort in New South Wales, this is it. Even better, it is immersed in a dramatic outback landscape which the resort has gone to great pains to preserve, restore and protect.

It feels like you have entered a lost world when you arrive. The 4,000-acre conservancy reserve is located at the base of its own hidden canyon surrounded by ancient sun-drenched escarpments in a tucked-away part of the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains several hours’ drive out of Sydney.

It is the first carbon neutral resort in the world to be certified through an internationally accredited greenhouse gas program and one of its key initiatives has been to restore the indigenous habitat of the former cattle property, including planting of more than 175,000 indigenous plants and restoring of the original 1832 homestead.

Occupying just two per cent of the reserve, the $125-million resort features a two-story barn-like main homestead building, constructed of wood, sandstone and glass, plus on-site recycled building materials, and an entire flotilla of 40 free-standing luxury Federation-style bungalows.

The r...

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Byron Bay’s Best Aussie Beach Cottages

Imeson Cottage has a spectacular view of Clarkes Beach in Byron Bay

Byron Bay beach cottage with panoramic ocean view

Byron Bay on the North Coast of New South Wales has the answer to all our fantasies about the perfect Aussie beach cottage. They have beach cottages to suit just about every family and friend configuration and better yet, they are actually right behind the beach!

There is something built into the Australian DNA that summertime must be spent with family and/or friends in a simple beach house as close to the water as possible. Memories of salty sun-kissed bodies, towels thrown over veranda railings, surfboards propped against the fence, and casual barbecues within earshot of the surf bring us all back to those carefree days.

Problem is that in most cases our aesthetic has grown up a little and there is a huge gap between those wistful fantasies and the real life comforts we all now seek on holiday...

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Romantic Paris: best hotels, best restaurants, best experiences

There's nothing more romantic than a Parisian sunset.Ah, Paris and Romance…the two go hand in hand like, well, those in love.  And the only way to enjoy Paris as a couple is to be “flaneurs” or saunterers. It’s not about rushing around ticking off the sights.

The City of Light makes a perfect backdrop for couples: from its tree-lined boulevards and parks to the quays and bridges of the Seine. Forget the tourist-clogged Champs Elysees and Eiffel Tower and stroll arm in arm with your beloved admiring the city’s voluptuous sculptures and luminescent light.

Why not indulge in a sublime pastry then choose an art exhibition or a performance at the Opera Garnier or buy your sweetheart a bouquet of blushing roses. You won’t find more exquisite blooms than those in Paris’ tucked-away flower shops. Luxuriate on a café terrace clinking glasses of the palest pink rose. Eschew a cab, and take out a free Velib bicycle to peddle slowly along a boulevard bike path under the dappled light of plane trees...

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Allenvale Cottages: Two hours from Melbourne, three minutes from Lorne on the Great Ocean Road

Allenvale Cottages along The Great Ocean Road offer the best of the beach and the bush Two hours from Melbourne, three minutes from Lorne and a million miles from anywhere, Allenvale Cottages offer the perfect low-key retreat that combines the best of the beach and the bush in a bucolic valley behind Lorne along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. My husband and I and our two teenage daughters arrive in Lorne in the middle of the madness that is Christmas week. The main street is clogged with cars, the campground is chockers, surfers jam into milk bars, and couples push prams along crowded footpaths. Then we drive over the hill, past Qdos art gallery and restaurant, and down a dirt road to the entrance of the Great Otway National Park, which encircles Allenvale’s 50 acres.Allenvale Cottage are surrounded by the bush outside of LorneA rust...

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Saffire Freycinet: Tasmanian Luxury Lodge by a Secluded Beach

Saffire Freycinet on Great Oyster Bay in Tasmania

I have always thought that Tasmania’s Saffire Freycinet is one of Australia’s finest luxury lodges, not only because it is in a stellar location by a secluded beach but also because it offers exceptional intuitive service and a wide range of luxury experiences.

Tasmania’s Saffire Freycinet was named 2014 Grand Award Winner in Andrew Harper’s world renowned luxury Hideaway Report. Harper describes Saffire Freycinet as a “superb contemporary 20-room resort nestled in a eucalyptus forest beside Great Oyster Bay. Floor-to-ceiling windows in three-story main lodge grant magnificent views of the pink-hued Hazards Mountains across the bay.”

This is another huge stamp of international approval for Luxury Lodges of Australia, which is a collection of independent luxury lodges and camps offering unforgettable experiences in Australia’s most inspiring and extraordinary wilderness locations.

The award is richly deserved.

Saffire Freycinet offers a design-rich but low-key and sophisticated retreat in exquisite natural surroundings on the edge of Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula. The name itself conjures up its setting with the merging of the sapphire blue waters of Coles Bay with the fiery hues of the pink granite Hazard Mountain Range at sunset…ergo the jewel of Tasmania.

With its swooping stingray-shaped roof, its dramatic ceiling made of ribbed golden celery-top pine and its wall of windows overlooking the water and mountains, the main lodge makes a grand statement but is also warm and welcoming. The lounge area offers comfortable couches and chairs, with Tasmanian Huon pine stumps for tables, lots of games and a long gas fireplace providing warmth in wild and wintry weather.

While the design is stunning, it is...

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Kusatsu: a classic Japanese hot springs town

Kusatsu is Japan's number one hot springs town

With more than 100 hot springs producing 36,000 liters of hot water per minute, Kusatsu has the highest volume of naturally discharged hot water in Japan. Its Hot Water Field is almost a national onsen shrine.  In fact, Kusatsu onsen has been chosen by the Japan’s top travel agents as the country’s number one hot spring for 10 consecutive years in the 100 Best Hot Springs in Japan. Here is my guide on how to enjoy both the indoor and outdoor onsen is this classic hot springs town.

Bathing evokes an almost religious fervor in Japan. Since it is very active geothermally, more than 28,000 onsen hot springs dot the length of the country, the styles varying from a water hole on the side of a river to complete onsen theme parks. While many hotel and ryokan hot springs deliver a five-star experience, municipal bath houses and foot baths offer everyone the opportunity to take the waters...

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How to Shop Brimfield Antiques Market

Brimfield market is one of the biggest antique fairs and flea markets in North America

One of America’s largest outdoor antiques markets takes place three times a year at Brimfield in the heart of New England. This post will give you the lowdown on how to shop Brimfield like a pro.

There is something delightfully unpredictable and charming about tracking down second-hand treasures. You never know what you might find: an ancient map, a hand-embroidered pillow slip, a whale weather vane or a steamer trunk.  Three times a year, in May, July and September, the bucolic Massachusetts town of Brimfield is transformed into a sprawling circus of dealers and buyers who trade in the artifacts of times past.

The greatest antiques fair and flea market on earth

It ha...

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