Kasbah de Toubkal is an Authentic Berber Lodge in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains

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The Kasbah de Toubkal is a beautifully restored stone and thatched-roof village compound that offers guests an insider’s experience of Berber life in the heart of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.

I love hotels that help you engage with the locals while still enjoying a touch of luxe. National Geographic Traveler writer Daisann McLane captured the sentiment perfectly when she wrote a piece about her favorite South American hotels. “A hotel is a threshold to an unfamiliar culture…Good hotels have a strong sense of place.” The Kasbah de Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco is a perfect example. And to emphasize this fact, it isn’t even called a hotel but rather ‘a Berber hospitality center.”

Re-imagined by British adventure guide Mike McHugo and his friend and fellow guide from Morocco, Hajj Maurice, who grew up in these mountains, the Kasbah de Toubkal was a crumbling fortified village at the top of the Imlil Valley, which at the time had no electricity...

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Cruising the Australian Kimberley Wilderness Coast

The rocks in the Australian Kimberley region are incredibly ancient

We are 400 kilometers by sea from Broome, on one of Aurora Expeditions’ many land-based adventures during their 10-night cruise between Broome and Darwin along Australia’s rugged remote Kimberley coastline.

The Kimberley was the first area in Australia settled by Aboriginals when sea crossings from the north were a mere 30 kilometers. There is compelling evidence that humans have lived here for more than 50,000 years.

Remar...

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How to Have a Great Time at the Henley Royal Regatta

 The Henley Royal Regatta

The five-day Henley Royal Regatta is the most famous rowing regatta in the world. But this being England, it is not just a sporting event but also a highlight of the English summer social season alongside Ascot and Wimbledon, which together form a sort of trifecta of Olympic-quality pomp and circumstance. But of all these events, the Henley Royal Regatta is the easiest to participate in all the fun. Get dressed up and have a picnic by the river while you watch some of the best rowers in the world whoosh past.

A visitor from another planet dropping in on the Edwardian town of Henley-on-Thames in early July, could be forgiven for thinking that they had overshot prim and proper Britain and landed instead in the home of its flamboyant alter ego, the straw-boater, candy-striped-jacket wearing, fascinator-bedecked, Pimms drinking set who have elevated riverside picnicking to pure art.

“The very essence of the English is found each year at Henley with the soft breeze, youthful fitness and elegance of the boats cutting through the Thames.  I loved it. The trick is to appreciate that spectators are dressed to the nines for it is pure fun to stand in the sun in boaters and blazers with Pimms in hand,” says visiting Australian barrister James Bell.

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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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Eric Frechon’s Three-Michelin-starred Epicure Restaurant in Paris

In the heart of the fashion district of Faubourg Saint Honore across from the official residence of the President of the French Republic, the five-star Palace Hotel Bristol exudes the very essence of French elegance. This family-owned hotel may be grand but it is not stuffy. Two beautiful Burmese cats, Fa-Raon and Kleopatre, are the official welcoming committee and always enjoy a gentle stroke wherever you may find them.

We walk through the spacious flower-filled lobby to be welcomed warmly at Eric Frechon’s three-Michelin-star Epicure Restaurant. It is named for Epicurus, the Greek philosopher who believed that pleasure without excess is the surest path to happiness and wisdom.

The light and airy dining room opens out through French doors to Le Bristol’s fragrant courtyard garden with its towering magnolia trees. Floor-length floral curtains and bowls of fresh flowers bring the garden inside as do the crystal butterflies that are found on each table...

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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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One World Alliance Frequent Flyer Points: Why all is not equal

 

American Airlines frequent flyer points give much more bang for the buck than Qantas

How to get the most value from your One World Alliance Frequent Flyer Points

One World is the name of the biggest frequent flyer airline alliance, which includes Qantas, American Airlines, and British Airways. So you’d think that it would be the best way to earn and make the most use of frequent flyer points. However, all is not equal in frequent flyer land and the value of frequent flyer miles on some member airlines is MUCH better than others. This post will give you the lowdown on why.

We all have our favorite ways to use frequent flyer points. Some of us use them for upgrades to the pointy end of the plane. Others for getting free tickets to a special destination. There are those of us who will only fly with one airline alliance to be sure to maximize the benefits of all their frequent flyer points. Others fly with so many different alliances their frequent flyer points are like petals in a pool, pretty but not very useful...

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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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Six Simple Tips for Taking Terrific Travel Photos

terrific travel photos

Have you ever had the experience of looking at your photos at the end of your trip and been really…I mean really…disappointed with what you see. How is it that the gorgeous beach shots, those fun portraits with famous landmarks and the fabulous action photos are so terrible even though you could swear that you’d captured all those magical moments on your travels.

Photography is painting with light

All too often we can forget that photography is really painting with light. Our eyes adjust to different light conditions automatically. In bright light our pupils contract while in low light they expand.  Too often in the process we don’t actually notice how the prevailing light affects photographs.

So we have to train our eyes to see the way light falls across our subjects whether they are landscapes or cityscapes, portraits, close-ups or action shots...

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