The Peninsula Shanghai

I went to Shanghai in the summer for a business trip. I booked a 4-day, 3-night stay at the Peninsula Shanghai simply because it was right in front of The Bund where historically designed buildings lined up the street. It was also the first hotel to be built in the area after a few decades.

The Architecture

My first impression of The Peninsula’s facade was that it was bland. Its walls were a brown-gray color and its windows took a shade of green because of the curtains. It looked serious to me save for the green awnings near the entrance. However, it looked very big. It towered among trees and the nearby buildings and I could say that its architecture was meant to be at The Bund.

It also had its own driveway that doubled as a courtyard. Right in front of the hotel’s entrance were small fountains that gave life to the hotel.

The Interiors

When I entered the lobby, I found myself in a high-ceilinged room where a restaurant was right in the middle. There were barely any walls. Instead, there were giant columns made of marble. Since I went there for the summer, the marble was a welcoming sight.

If I could describe The Peninsula in one word, it would be “Paris”. Although I was in Shanghai, The Peninsula brought me to a time when Paris was full of architecture like this. There were cream and beige colored walls, carpets, and marble posts. This theme was consistent everywhere, but what made it unique to The Peninsula Shanghai was that it retained features of Shanghai – there were ivory and celadon green ornaments everywhere.

The Amenities

Since I was taking a business trip, I did not roam around the hotel as much as I wanted. However, I made sure that I used their swimming pool every morning. The Peninsula’s pool is located at the third floor and it opens at 6 AM. It was convenient for me because it gave me enough time to relax without having a lot of people splashing around.

The pool is a vast marbled room. It’s indoors and it made me feel like I was in Beverly Hills. The ceiling had glass on it and you can see the sun’s rays pass through it. This room was my favorite among the other amenities because the water was heated to the right temperature, there was a fireplace at the end of the room and a terrace where you can eat a healthy meal overlooking the British Consulate.

The Staff

Last but definitely the best of my experience was the staff. Upon arrival at the airport, The Peninsula already had a ride for me going to the hotel. When I arrived, they had people carry my luggage straight to the room without stopping at the reception. It was a great relief for me because, with the people in the restaurant, I wouldn’t want to hear the chatter of the whole room when I arrived.

The staff was warm and welcoming and they made my whole stay feel very hassle-free. Since it was my first time in Shanghai, they helped me navigate through the city, emphasizing how beautiful The Bund is which was a few steps from the hotel.

Ballyfin Demesne

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Ballyfin Demesne has a rich history although the mansion that I stayed in is nothing like the mansion that was here years ago. This 600-acre estate was owned by a few prominent Irish families and it was first converted to a school until it was again transformed into a country house hotel.

On my trip to Ireland, I stayed at the Ballyfin Demesne simply because I wanted to experience what it was like to live in a mansion. It’s been considered as Ireland’s most lavish Regency mansion and it’s also a five-star hotel. Complete with Irish customs, design, and scenery, Ballyfin Demesne invites people to their estate of 600 acres.

Location

Ballyfin Demesne is at the heart of Ireland and right at the foot of the Slieve Bloom Mountains. As a traveler, I am often used to hotels near shores but rarely do I come across a hotel very close to a mountain. I don’t know the safety precautions for that, but I am sure that the hotel has the best location for a peaceful stay.

My intention when I visited Ireland was to have some peace and quiet away from the work I was doing. Ballyfin Demesne offered exactly that because it only had twenty rooms in the hotel. There wasn’t any crowd when I went there and even if I saw a few families, the place was so big it didn’t feel like it was crowded at all.

Interior Design

When it comes to design, nothing is like Ballyfin Demesne. I immediately fell in love with the interiors because it barely reminded you that you were in a hotel. Instead, I felt more like a big celebrity or politician living in a mansion.

The Entrance hall as they call it has mosaic tiles that you wouldn’t think could match the orange of the walls. But the wooden furniture, the deer’s head, and the cream-colored lamps made everything come together perfectly. Moreover, all the other reception rooms each had a character of their own – the Rotunda being the most state-like.

But apart from the actual design, there is one more part of the mansion that I think is underrated. These are the paintings hung on the walls. They were all made by famous Irish painters that portrayed landscapes of Ireland.

Amenities

Ballyfin Demesne has at least six reception rooms, some are facing the lake, the mountain, etc. It also has its own library which I personally enjoyed. It had its own fireplace and at least a thousand books on walls and cases.

Unlike other luxury hotels, Ballyfin Demesne focused on having amenities that will make you feel like you’re at home. Instead of having state-of-the-art fitness centers, business rooms, and recreation rooms, the hotel gives you gardens, walks, and sitting rooms.

My stay at the Ballyfin Demesne was a memorable one. It really does feel like a vacation because it didn’t feel modern at all. The whole place was reconstructed to resemble how the old mansion looked like and I can say they did a great job. The management of the hotel did not bother you and this was a break from all the socializing and the bustling of the people. Staying at the Ballyfin Demesne is definitely the perfect vacation for a retreat to country life.

Mandarin Oriental Tokyo

 

When I was invited to an event at the Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower, I was surprised that it had a hotel in the same building. Usually hotels have buildings of their own or they occupied space on their own so they can house the amenities, rooms, suites, and many more. To my surprise, this particular hotel, the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo, only occupied the top floors of the Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower.

Location

Nihonbashi Mitsui Tower is located at 2-1-1, Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo. It is only a few minutes’ walk to the Tokyo Stock Exchange (you can actually view it from the hotel) as well as the Tokyo Station.

To be exact, Mandarin Oriental occupies the top 9 floors of this building, specifically from the 30th to 38th floors. My room was located on the 32nd floor and this fact alone scared me because of my fear of heights. Don’t get me wrong, the view was nice and the location was strategic. I was able to go around to shop during my free time and I got to the Imperial Palace gardens on foot in no time.

Interior Design

In spite of my fear of heights, the interior of the hotel made up for the fact that it was occupying 9 floors in a building the establishment did not have all to themselves. It was all glass and lights that I felt every bit as luxurious in every corner of the hotel.

The lobby is a high-ceilinged room with posts on the sides. All the windows are made of glass and it took advantage of the sun. The light that it cast on the furniture and floors illuminated the room and it was the most beautiful sight.

I had the same lighting effect in my room. You can easily spot the Japanese-inspired design because of the technology and the minimalism that went with it. At the same time, the color scheme was composed of white, orange, and brown hues that blended with each other perfectly to make the room feel oriental.

Amenities

For a hotel that only has 9 floors, it also has 9 restaurants. A few of those restaurants like the Tapas Molecular Bar and Sense have been awarded Michelin Stars. Mandarin Oriental also has an indoor spa which was commended for being one of the 25 best spas in the world.

I took the time to try out the spa for myself. Everyone who makes a spa appointment was offered a foot ritual which was a symbol to wash away all the bonds to the material world. There was also a menu of Western and Asian spas. After my appointment, I found myself wanting for more so I went and visited their Sanctuary Chapel.

Staff

For a very Asian hotel, I did not have any trouble communicating with the staff. They were very accommodating especially to a foreigner like me who did not know much about Japan. I think they noticed that I did not know how to go around and so they helped me understand the directions from maps. They were also very open to all the questions I asked which was more than I could ever want from a hotel staff.

Overall, I would say that the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo is a great hotel. I had a great time and my fear of heights was easily allayed because of the warm and cozy feel of the place.

Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo

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I was planning a leisure trip to Italy when I first encountered Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo on one of the trip review sites. At first, I thought it would be one of the hotels that would scare me since it looked old and located just across the Greek Theatre. Fortunately, I took a chance and booked myself for a 4-day stay there. It was single-handedly one of the best hotels I’ve ever been to.

Location

Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is nestled at the heart of Sicily. It is situated perfectly between views of the Greek Theatre, Mount Etna, and the Sicilian Coast. Without stepping outside the hotel, you would already feel as if you’re in those three places. Although it’s a 45-minute drive from Catania Airport, it’s a good enough price to pay for what awaits you in the hotel.

Interior Design

Stepping inside the hotel, I didn’t know what to expect. Well, I thought it would look like any other Sicilian-inspired hotel since it is just fitting to have the same design in that area. However, Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is more than just Sicilian architecture. The moment you step out of your car, you will be greeted by a bougainvillea walk. Flowers are weaving around a trellis as you make your way to the doors. Even if the hotel is at least a hundred years old, you would think that it was just there for a few years. There were polished yards everywhere (not to mention trees lining the pool). The interior was well-maintained with mixes of beige, light pink, and blue windows all around. If you ask me, it’s one of the best subtle color palettes you’ll see in a hotel.

Amenities

Now let’s talk about amenities. At a glance, the hotel has around 70 rooms and suites combined. Of course, it has its own pool which I love because there was something uniquely Sicilian in its design. Just beside it is a restaurant that offers an American buffet breakfast, but there are days where it also serves Mediterranean cuisine. There’s also a wellness center for people who want to exercise and meditate. You can even ask for a private massage to your room.

Staff

Since the hotel is so huge, what made it easier for me to get around was the hospitable staff. Most of them are locals and it was a great experience knowing that they personally make me feel welcome in their town. They were very helpful in directing me to the different amenities of the hotel, too. And even when I asked for a ride going to the beach, they easily reserved a slot in the shuttle for me.

Overall, a stay at the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is something I would repeat over and over again. Unlike other hotels that stand out from their surroundings, this hotel fits perfectly with its interiors and design similar and yet very captivating. Just by walking around their halls made me feel that I was whisked away to a different time and place.

How to Make a Portugal Vacation Memorable

Everyone wants to have a holiday to remember, because of the great times and not because of unfortunate experiences. Visitors to Portugal can easily have the best vacation of their lives, as long as they prepare properly. By following these tips, you can relax and enjoy your time in this beautiful country.

1. Do Not Hesitate To Get A Tourist Card

One of the biggest letdowns during a holiday is to worry about going over budget. While spending is a natural part of a vacation, it does not mean you cannot control your expenses or save some money. You can opt to buy a tourist card, like the Lisbon Card that will allow you to take public transportation and get discounts on some entrance fees.

2. Learn Some Basic Portuguese

It is not that difficult to get around the country when you speak English, but learning some phrases in the local language is always a good tip when you are traveling. Beyond learning how to say hello and good morning to be friendly and respectful, you can learn some important words you might need, like medicine, doctor, toilet, help, and many more.

3. Protect Yourself From The Sun

Visitors from the cooler parts of the world are always eager to go out into the sun, not realizing that their skin can get burnt quickly. While this is not a health emergency, a sunburn can make you very uncomfortable and ruin your holiday. Make sure you are ready to stay under the sun by stocking up on sunscreen with high SPF and avoiding the sun between 12 and 3 pm when the sunlight is very intense.

4. Pack Light And Wear Comfortable Shoes

Tons of visitors to Europe do not realize that many of its cities are full of cobbled streets dating back hundreds of years. While they make the streets look beautifully old, they are definitely not friendly to heels and stilettos. You should pack sneakers or sturdy sandals instead to allow you to walk without any problems. These cobblestones are also a menace for big suitcases, as they can run down the wheels especially if they are heavy. Pack light instead with a backpack or invest in suitcases with sturdy wheels.

5. Taste The Local Cuisine

One of the highlights of a Portugal holiday is the food. They have many delicious dishes that you should never miss out on, especially if you have the chance to dine at the local restaurants. Avoid fast food restaurants and ask the locals for recommendations where to try out the cuisine.

6. Drink Coffee

Coffee lovers will love the local cup that will certainly put Starbucks to shame. Watch out, however, because they use strong espresso so you might not want to order too many, otherwise you cannot sleep at night. To make it easy for you, a meia de leite contains 50% coffee and 50% milk, while a galão contains an espresso shot with triple the amount of milk.

Thanks to their beautiful beaches and charming cities, Portugal tops the list of favorite destinations around the world. With these tips, you can plan your holiday perfectly and have a hassle-free time.

Why Try Cornwall for a Holiday or Vacation

The UK’s leading holiday destination is undoubtedly the picturesque county of Cornwall. Located right next door to Devon, which is also popular with tourists, Cornwall offers an amazing experience for holidaymakers. Cornwall has attractive beach towns and fishing villages, exceptional sandy beaches, jaw-dropping sea cliffs, rugged moors, dense forests and rolling countryside to discover. It is a fantastic location to visit for a holiday or vacation, consisting of many natural, historical locations and picturesque destinations such as castles and Celtic ruins. And now with a big selection of fantastic tourist attractions, activities and restaurants, it’s no wonder that Cornwall holds the title of the UK’s leading vacation destination.

Great Weather

But why is it so great? To start with, the weather is milder in this remote, south westerly part of Great Britain. Because of that the Cornish peninsula boasts subtropical gardens which motivate and impress visitors. Its steep cliffs are natural tourist attractions worth the journey alone. With its location at the far fringes of mainland Britain, this peninsula is almost surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and bordered on its north eastern edge by the River Tamar, giving it an island feel. This helps to offer Cornwall it’s own character and culture, and a real sense of pride and self-reliance in its citizens.

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All this makes Cornwall an original and celebrated holiday location for visitors from the UK and many places worldwide. it is always voted the UK’s leading tourist area and for fantastic reason. It’s an amazingly spectacular location with its own laid-back culture and wonderful environment. No wonder families return here again and again to holiday in Cornwall holiday cottages and have fun together in this stunning location.

Celtic Heritage

Cornwall has rich Celtic heritage still intact from its days as a backwater far away from English power. It is at Tintagel where the legend of King Arthur was created. And there are Celtic crosses and monoliths to check out everywhere.

In more recent centuries Cornwall became one of the nation’s important places as its production of tin and clay were exported worldwide for the manufacturing of industrial materials. The remains of these markets can be seen dotted around the landscape. The noticeable outlines of tin mining engine houses are obviously all over and permanently connected with the county of Cornwall. And it’s this human communication with the landscape and environment that is now safeguarded in lots of UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the county.

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Untamed Beauty

In spite of it’s industrial past, Cornwall remains an untainted and rural location. There are still wild, wilderness areas and sensational countryside to check out and farming stays a big part of the economy below. If you step away from the towns and villages, and crowded beaches, to find the interior, you will find yourself in a landscape untouched by time and raw and reliable in its spectacular charm.

It is a backwoods with a laid-back environment, you should not be mistaken for thinking Cornwall is old-fashioned. Just recently Cornwall has actually experienced a little a revival and end up being a little bit of a trendy area, with a huge array of trendy hotels, great dining establishments, art galleries, cool stores and hip bars, coffee shop’s and dining facilities opening up in all corners of Cornwall. Star chef Rick Stein has really originated the culinary revolution in Cornwall, now followed by other Michelin starred dining facilities and wonderful dining establishments up and down the county.

Excellent Accommodation

There are many excellent hotels, bed and breakfasts, guest houses, self catering lodges and hundreds of holiday cottages for rent in Cornwall. There are many local holiday companies who can help you find the perfect base for your adventures in this beautiful part of the country. Using these holiday accommodation options as a base, you can explore and enjoy the best that Cornwall has to offer. For those people looking for a less costly vacation, there are various exceptionally located caravan parks and campsites around Cornwall to choose from.

Newquay is among the primary destinations for a holiday in Cornwall and is world-famous for the sport of surfing. The coastline in Newquay and throughout Cornwall routinely produce great waves to be enjoyed by surfing enthusiasts of all abilities. Together with kite surfing, stand up paddle boarding, mountain biking and other modern-day activities, surfing is one of the main reasons for adventurous people to visit Cornwall. But it’s also an excellent destination for people who want to do nothing more than a short walk along the beach.

Perfect for a Holiday or Short Break

Whatever you prefer to do on holiday, Cornwall has something for everyone. From romantic couples, to groups of friends, to families with kids, teenagers or students, Cornwall is a superb place to visit for a really special vacation.

Obscure But Spectacular Travel Locations in Europe

Europe has indeed so many cities to explore that many tourists only tend to visit the biggest and most popular ones. Everyone seems to head to major hotspots like Paris, Barcelona, Venice and Athens. However, even though they are not as well-known, the following word travel destinations are secret jewels that have inspired visitors with their charm and beauty, but without the crowds and top prices.

Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg Germany

This small city overlooks the Neckar River, offering visitors with beautiful walks along its banks. However, it is the quaint old town that makes it quite unforgettable, making you feel like you are in a different era altogether. Do not forget to visit the castle on top of the hill, which is actually nothing more than just ruins.

Bruges, Belgium

Though rising in popularity, Bruges is still relatively unknown compared to the other Belgian cities Brussels and Antwerp. However, this city boasts of medieval architecture and the many canals, which is why it is called “Venice of the North.”

Ferrara, Italy

This walled city gives visitors many palaces that date all the way back to the 14th century, as well as breathtaking cathedrals. The nine kilometers of ancient walls around it and the wide streets will give you much to see even just walking around.

Padstow, United Kingdom

Boats in Padstow, Cornwall

Travellers from around the world may have heard of Cornwall – a beautiful coastal area in the South West of the United Kingdom. But will have heard about Padstow – a charming fishing town in an amazing area of spectacular seaside scenery and long golden beaches. Padstow is a thriving holiday town where tourists flock for the natural beauty and quaint Cornish way of life. There are plenty of great places to stay in and around Padstow.

Valencia, Spain

Known for its famous paella and the fresh oranges that grow just outside the city, it also has numerous sights for visitors who love architecture and old towns. Beyond the historical buildings, the futuristic structures of the City of Arts and Sciences provide an interesting contrast. The city does not just have beaches, but also a park crossing one side of the city to the other.

Porto, Portugal

This lesser-known city in Portugal is not to be missed, especially if you are into festivals. But the city itself will marvel you, as the old town boasts of cobblestoned streets, a gilded baroque church, and even a truly majestic palace.

Biarritz, France

Beach in Biarritz France

Located in the French Basque Country, this is a top beach destination, especially for surfers. The waters of the Bay of Biscay gives them exciting waves that will challenge their skills on the board. This is why the annual Biarritz Surf Festival draws together surfers and fans from every corner of the globe. If you are not much into surfing, enjoy the unique Basque cuisine and culture by having your fill of pintxos.

Innsbruck, Austria

While this is more well-known as a literal winter wonderland, having hosted the Winter Olympic Games twice, it is also a great destination during the warm months, giving visitors lots of options for hiking, climbing, and even mountain biking.

Gothenburg, Sweden

The fresh and young vibe of this city can definitely be attributed to it being a university city, but it also draws young people to their popular film and music festivals. You can also enjoy the unique Scandinavian architecture as you stroll through the city.

Budapest, Hungary

Of the many underrated capitals of Europe, Budapest is on the top of the must-visit list. Not only does the romantic and historic Danube River flow through this city, it also has old buildings that are simply picture-perfect.

Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn - wonderful travel location in Estonia

This medieval city has also managed to mix together Baltic, Scandinavian, and Russian culture, which by itself is a huge reason to come and visit the city. The old town is also a UNESCO heritage site without the hefty price tag of more popular European cities.

So the next time you plan for your European getaway, forget the usual tourist draws and find yourself touching more authentic cultural destinations like the 10 on this list. You can, at the same time, enjoy a more relaxed holiday away from the hoards of tourists.

The Boulders Resort and Spa

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I was in search of a perfect place to unwind in America and I found myself in the comfort of the Boulders Resort and Spa, a 1,300-acre richness of the Sonoran Desert foothills. I did not only spend quiet moments at the Boulders, but even had an adventurous experience with the different outdoor activities they offered. My energy is refreshed, my soul is renewed.

The Natural Beauty of the Resort

Located in the state of Arizona, The Boulders is set on a strategic location where over 12-million-year-old boulder formations are found filling the panorama. The vastness of the space and the magnificence of the natural architecture altogether create a picturesque view of the hotel. If you ask me, it is the resort’s natural sprawling beauty complemented by cabin-like design that sets the Boulders apart from the high-rise hotels with manmade landscapes.

Ultimately, I appreciated the Boulders because of its friendliness to the environment. The concept of the place is vintage as evident in the deep wood furnishings used and the native furniture pieces and indoor accessories displayed. They filled the spaces with cacti, to stay true to the Arizona scenery. It is indeed a confirmation of what they say about the relevance of details. Even in the selection of their cleaning products, the hotel is very conscious, according to the room attendant I randomly asked. They only choose those that have green seals; some toiletries are organic. This information was consistent with their website profile. I double-checked and indeed the resort has earned the Environmental Award of Excellence from the Urban Land Institute for good reasons. More so, if you are also craving for healthy delicious meals, you will find them at the Grill.

Outdoor Adventures

While my room offers a relaxing ambiance that is conducive to sleeping, I spent my time mostly outdoors. I couldn’t resist the activities offered, particularly the horseback riding and hot air balloon. Naturally, I love horses and the thought of galloping in the foothills excites me. The staff are friendly and the safety gears are provided. The hot air balloon was a scary idea at first since I am used to ground and water adventures, yet the staff are better able to orient and debrief us. Thus, I was able to conquer my fear and truly enjoy the desert view. I was even able to catch a view of the infamous Grand Canyon.

For golf lovers, the Boulders is also a perfect venue to test your precision. They have a wide 18-hole field and a fantastic view of the desert. If golfing isn’t your sport, you have the option to swim your heart out or play tennis with friends or newly-found friends. I also had the amazing wildlife encounters with bunnies, birds, turtles and fishes. You may traverse to the Downtown Cave Creek to experience more of the wildlife.

On my third and last day at the hotel, I availed of their deep tissue massage and dozed off in the process. My stay in Arizona is truly one for the books because I had a taste of the Boulders service. For first timers, I suggest you to bring comfortable shoes as the property is so expansive you may do a lot of walking. Overall, my Boulders experience was a rewarding one.