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Best of the Philippines: Boracay
September 09, 2020

Best of the Philippines: Boracay

If you love the idea of an island vacation, Boracay is considered one of the best islands in Asia and well, pretty much the world. It's famous for its blue waters and endless stretches of sandy powder white beaches. Thanks to the efforts of locals and the Philippines government, Boracay’s ocean remains crystal clear and clean. With so many things to eat and do (or not do and just relax), you’ll never run out of reasons to love Boracay.      RELAXING ON WHITE BEACH Beach is a 4 km stretch of soft white sand lapped by turquoise waters and fringed by palm trees. It’s perfect for those who love swimming, snorkeling, and sailing or just getting some much needed R&R thanks to its flat, calm waters. Plus, White Beach is considered the top diving site in the Philippines.       White beach is divided into three stations. If you’ve got cash to burn and want to treat yourself, staying in a fancy and luxury resort, Station 1 is your top choice. Station 2 is bustling to say the least and a convenient area for those who love shopping and partying.   The majority of the water activities are in this area, too! Station 3 is calm and not crowded so if you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere and affordable prices, this is the place for you. It’s easy enough to walk between these three stations or, if you want to travel in style, you can take one of these colorful Philippines tricycle taxis you’ll find right on the street.  SUNSET PARAW SAILING      Simply taking in a sunset is one of the things you don’t want to miss in Boracay. You can watch the sunset from the beaches, restaurants, or even your hotel room. But the most unforgettable experience in Boracay is watching the stunning sunset on a Paraw Sailing Boat. These are small boats with two sails that look like little kites dancing on the water and a pair of outriggers like large crab-claws, called "katig."     Upon boarding the boat, you will be seated on the outriggers with your bare feet! Sea waves licking your legs, wind blowing across your face, and the yellow-orange sunset coloring the sky. Ahhh, Is there anything more lovely than a relaxing ride on the ocean to watch the sunset go down? Our guess is, no!   TROPICAL FRUITS AND COCONUT WATER   What beach day would be complete without the perfect beach beverage? It doesn’t get more refreshing than sipping out of a coconut. A real coconut! Pair it with a sweet and juicy Mangosteen fruit. These little purple treats are often referred to as the “Queen of Fruit” and can be found throughout Southeast Asia and are known for having lots of antioxidants!     Not everyone knows how to open a mangosteen. Here’s a tip: First, remove the stem end and twist it off. Second, press in on the indentation of the top. Third, gently squeeze from the side to break apart, but don’t push too hard. Finally, you can open it really easily and enjoy the sweet white soft flesh inside!    Wanna try something else special? Get a cup of Philippines Yogurt mixed with papaya, cereal and blueberry jam, and of course, there are a lot more fruity flavors you can choose!   ISLAND HOPPING   The half-day Island hopping trip is the best way to escape the crowds in White Beach. Puka Beach, Crocodile Island, Crystal Cove, Tambisaan Beach, Balinghai Beach and Magic Island are the popular destinations. If you want to explore all the snorkelling hotspots, wander around nature, and enjoy the tranquillity on the beaches, make sure you book a tour in advance! They have the most professional and friendly tour guides, so you won’t miss any must-see spot!   EXPLORE
Holi Hijinks in Hampi, India
September 09, 2020

Holi Hijinks in Hampi, India

Add a fabulous dimension to your trip by planning it around a festival. So it was the last time I traveled to India (a birthday present from my beloved nephew Brian Healy). Our destination was Hampi, the vast ruin on the Deccan plateau that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Brian arranged to visit during Holi, the ancient Hindu festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil. But that description fails to portray how much sheer fun it is....     What a blast! Before we set out, we had joked about Holi hijinks in Hampi. To celebrate, merrymakers throw colored powder on each other as they dance in the street. I wore a pair of old white drawstring pants and the white tunic bought for $1.70 at the Charminar market in Hyderabad, no good clothes ruined for me. We mistakenly purchased colored powder in little plastic bags, the clumpy kind instead of the finer powder sold in aluminum foil packets. Still, we had our ammunition.   It was a mob scene of hundreds of powder-throwing revelers, and lots of Westerners hoisting Indian children aloft on their shoulders. Our favorite character was a tall British woman with a scarf covering most of her face, who wasn’t having any of it.  Finally, she could no longer resist the Holi spirit and cracked, joining in the hilarity. A little scamp with pleading eyes implored me to give him some of my powder. I did, and he threw it in my face! LOL: Pranks are part and parcel of Holi.   The crowd was building to unmanageable levels, until the police finally thinned it out by blowing whistles from a balcony, where they also removed a number of fervent photographers. Once the balcony was cleared, the police snapped their own pictures.   Celebrants stopped us several times to pose for selfies. The funniest was a reveler wiping Brian’s face and planting purple powder on his front teeth, which he could not remove for love or money. After the police broke up the crowd, it reconfigured itself, and moved on to the temple where the music and dancing re-commenced in even louder and wilder form. We did a few more re-location stints  – then we took a tuk-tuk back to our lavish digs. In the hotel lobby, Brian posed with his arms akimbo baring his full frontal Holi powder-covered bod, while I posed with the tuk-tuk driver.   What a memory to retrace in more somber moments.   EXPLORE
BUONA PASQUA: Easter in Sicily
April 12, 2020

BUONA PASQUA: Easter in Sicily

When it comes to celebrating Easter in Italy, there’s no such thing as “too much.” The island of Sicily, sitting right off the tip of the boot, is no exception. Here, Settimana Santa, or Holy Week, traditions go back centuries and take months of planning, coordination, and rehearsal for the big event each year.      Perhaps one of the most beautiful and ancient festivities can be found in Enna, the so-called navel of Sicily. Cries of “Buona Pasqua" (Happy Easter) echo through the streets like rounds of song the whole week through and it feels like every one of its 27,000 residents is involved in some way. Visitors flock from around the world for this most extravagant of displays and it’s truly worth the trip.        A week of elaborate ceremonies commences on Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), lasting each day from dawn to dusk. Scheduled proceedings include a live reenactment of Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem, various parades between the 16 churches in town, decorating altars, foot washing rites, and, of course, music. The jam-packed itinerary is organized and carried out by Enna’s collection of confraternities or brotherhoods. These are no small clubs either with membership reaching over 2,500.    The real apex of Holy Week hits on Good Friday and it is a sight to behold. With thousands of incappucciati, or hooded members of the confraternities, flooding the streets of Enna the day is solemn, profound, and even a little creepy!      The ornate Duomo di Enna serves as a centerpiece of the day; the beginning and endpoint of the famed processione.      Enna’s streets are lined with eager onlookers who arrive to claim their seats well before things get underway. If you get there early enough, you might have time to grab a hearty arancini (fried risotto ball) from one of the many hole-in-the-wall cafés.     Or toast the day with an Aperol Spritz--the rich orange-colored cocktail topped with a signature Sicilian blood orange.  While the scene is packed, the crowd remains relatively silent as the mournful melody of the band resounds and the brothers begin their miles-long procession. In pointed hoods and colorful robes representing their different affiliations, the brothers sway under the weight of the massive statues of Addolorata (Holy Mary) and the Misteri (Passion of Christ) that they carry through the historic squares. Somehow, it feels both like a party and a funeral with excitement and sorrow simultaneously filling the air.       Day fades to night and the procession continues by torchlight. Lit torches suddenly line the streets and appear clutched in the hands of the marching participants. Ghostly and enchanting, the statues seem to float above their devoted handlers, gradually making their way back to the Duomo. As the mounted torches flicker and wane, the city empties as quickly as it filled up. But there’s no reason to clear out just yet. Not without a meal. Enna is also home to its fair share of delicious dining experiences boasting long legacies. There’s a theme here. Ristorante Centrale is located in the heart of the city and has been since the early 1900’s. This modest venue is the go-to for homemade dishes and long standing local culinary traditions. And what says “Buona Pasqua" better than a full plate of pasta? EXPLORE
ITINERARY BY NPK: LONG WEEKEND IN PARIS
September 08, 2019

ITINERARY BY NPK: LONG WEEKEND IN PARIS

I’m very lucky to say that I spend about three weeks a year in Paris for work. The Food! The style! The lights…what’s not to love about Paris?! Yes, much has been written about Paris but there is a reason for that… as we all know, Paris never gets old!    My strategy is to live like a chic local while still taking in the hits of Paris and if you stay where we stay, you are setting yourself up to have the most picture-perfect long weekend in Paris. I’m convinced we stay in the absolute best place in all of Paris. We stay at a beautiful studio apartment in the Palais Royale. It’s beautifully decorated and the owners are absolutely wonderful hosts. Sophie has created a giant binder of Paris recommendations is worth it alone. If you’re lucky (like us) and get to know her over time, she may even let you rent out her main apartment when she’s at her second home in Grasse but the studio is fabulous too.  THURSDAY 1. Angelina for lunch on Rue de Rivoli. Dessert is an absolute must here so definitely save room.2. Pop into Faure Le Page on Rue Cambon (think Goyard but with a history of leather goods made for gun-toting….a little cooler and not as played out IMO)3. Louis Vuitton Foundation4. Food shopping for breakfast and snacks (and maybe a picnic) at LeBonMarche (the food hall is directly next to the department store which is very much worth a visit too…I also usually pop into the Conran Shop which is catty-corner to LBP since the one in NYC is no longer)5. Early dinner at Bistrot Vivienne  FRIDAY 1. Musee de Beaux Arts at the Petit Palais2. Musee Rodin (Great place to picnic when the weather is nice….take a morning snack of café au lait and some fresh fruit and dine among the outdoor sculptures. Afterwards, stroll the museum, which is small and shouldn’t take too long)3. Deyrolle (the famed taxidermy store, long an inspiration of Wes Anderson)4. Stroll down Rue de Bac….eat a light lunch (or skip entirely) followed by something sweet (sweet shops line this entire street and they are as much a feast for the eyes as they are for the belly)5. Stop in to Popelini for an out of this world cream puff and to take a selfie in front of their “I Got Puffed in Paris” sign 6. Assouline on Rue Bonaparte (Note: You will be near Le Bon Marche so if you didn’t get to go the day before, go now.)­7. NapImage via Paramount Pictures8. Dinner at Le Grand Colbert. I love the smoked salmon with blinis to start, the roast chicken or a steak for my main and the baked Alaska for dessert. 9. Ice Cream at Une Glace à ParisImage via  Une Glace à Paris SATURDAY 1. Pack a picnic lunch if it’s nice out Musee des Arts Decoratifs (walk there from the Studio)  2. Picnic in the Jardin de Tuilleries (just a couple of blocks further on Rue de Rivoli…pick up some postcards en route and do your postcard-writing at the same time) Photo by Marco Verch 3. Start the evening with a cocktail at Le Meurice (during Fashion Week this is the best place for people watching)4. Dinner back at the Musee Des Artes Decoratifs at Lou Lou (make sure to book…I like doing the museum the same day but that’s just me) SUNDAY 1. Musee D’Orsay (I like the walk if it’s nice out). The impressionists and decorative arts collection are not to be missed. Take a selfie in front of the giant clock.2. Stroll along Boulevard St. Germain3. Musee YSL If you’re ambitious and have another museum in you, go to the Musee Picasso, one of my favorites (although a cab ride away)4. Dinner at Freddy’s or Semilla. Freddy’s is Semilla’s more casual little brother of a restaurant next door. It serves up small plates tapas style and a huge selection of great wines by the glass. Both are amazing experiences and are adjoined so you can’t go wrong (you’ll definitely need a reservation at Semilla). WHY Because I spend about three weeks a year in Paris for work and I’m convinced we stay in the best place in all of Paris! I’LL DO ANYTHING FOR Paris window shopping and French Cheeses I’LL DO ANYTHING TO AVOID The crowds in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre…. WHEN I go for Fashion Week (end of Sept/Early Oct. and March) which is an exciting time in Paris (at least if you’re into fashion) but April, May, June, and September are all fantastic months. I dramatically prefer Paris when it’s warmer. FAVORITE MEAL   Le Grand Colbert: Smoked Salmon and Blinis at / Steak or Chateaubriand / Crème brûlée or Baked Alaska (sure this place has gotten a little touristy since Diane Keaton raved about it in “Something’s Gotta Give” but the room is an atmospheric slice of heaven, the food is very French and doesn’t disappoint, and plenty of locals still eat here…This is about a 90-second walk from Le Palais Royale Bistrot Vivienne: Beef Tartar, Baked Camembert (not always available but if it is, get it!), / their incredible chicken and I rarely order chicken (I think it’s the Coquelet) / Chocolate Mousse is an absolute must and This is also about a 90-second walk from Le Palais Royale) I BRING HOME Goodies from Le Bon Marche, books from Deyrolle & quirky souvenirs from Colette RELATED PRODUCTS  
PEGGY’S POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE: SOUTH AFRICA
August 02, 2019

PEGGY’S POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE: SOUTH AFRICA

I HAD A FEAST IN AFRICA.  No ordinary feast, mind you – I was the luncheon guest of Pat Cavendish O’Neill, heiress and author of A Lion in the Bedroom, an utterly charming and juicy chronicle of the lavish life she led as the daughter of one of Britain’s most famous beauties, Enid Lindeman (of the Australian wine family). Pat’s mother married four times – two titles without money and two billionaires without titles, all of whom died prematurely. When, through one of her marriages, Enid became Lady Kenmare, her popular, novelist friend Somerset Maugham dubbed her “Lady Killmore.” The event was held on the edge of Africa – at Pat O’Neill’s farm, Broadlands, in Somerset West, one of the wine-growing regions of South Africa’s Western Cape.  Some 15 dogs trotted up the long, tree-lined drive to greet us. At that time Pat was 84, still young, still interested in everything, and still a beauty in her own right—no one has such wide-set pale blue eyes. “I’ve had a wonderful life" she said, ushering us to the shaded pool-side terrace. Forty years ago Pat and her mother moved from Kenya’s Happy Valley to Broadlands, a stud farm outside of Cape Town, for her mother’s health and at the behest of Beryl Markham, aviatrix, horse trainer, and a reputed lover of Denys Finch Hatton—yes, Karen Blixen’s Finch Hatton (remember the film Out of Africa?). Beryl told Pat: “Broadlands has a wonderful paddock and horses, white fencing, and trees everywhere.” Like Beryl, Pat and her mother raised champion thoroughbreds and, like Beryl, Pat fell in love with South Africa. After lunch, we toured the grounds of Broadlands to see Pat’s menagerie (and I don’t mean the glass kind)—four baboons, assorted goats, donkeys, hogs, cattle, 14 cats, 60 vervet monkeys, and another 20-odd canines. Pat rescued every last animal except for one magnificent dog, an English mastiff called Cash, so named because it’s the only creature she ever paid for. The walls of the drawing room are hung to the rafters with oils and watercolors anchored by a portrait of Pat and Tana, her beloved pet lioness who, she said, “taught me the beauty of Africa.” Tables are adorned with photographs of Fred Astaire, Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  There are paintings of her mother and paintings by her mother, of whom she said, “Men just adored her. Once they fell, they fell for the rest of their lives” (foreshortened though they might be). Sadly, Pat was swindled out of her $100 million inheritance by a series of crooked accountants and was forced to sell Broadlands, but she did so with the proviso that she could live out the rest of her days there. She’s now 93 and has opened the Pat O’Neill Sanctuary to make sure her beloved pets are and will be cared for. While you may not get to see Pat’s amazing farm, you will be able to see some other fabulous estates in Somerset West.  One of my favorites was the sublime Morgenster Wine & Olive Oil Estate, a half-hour’s drive from Cape Town.  It’s an incredibly beautiful vineyard dating to 1711. Morgenster Wine & Olive Oil Estates Go, not only for the beauty of the grounds, not only for a tasting of the excellent Bordeaux-style wines but for a formal taste-test of Morgenster’s extraordinary, award-winning olive oils. And, while you’re there, don’t fail to savor Morgenster’s excellent balsamic vinegar. I brought home a bottle for one of my sisters and it was a huge hit.  Here’s a tip from the estate: “Heating Balsamic will intensify the sweetness and reduce the acidity. A teaspoon of Balsamic vinegar will wake up the flavor of any bland soup, stew or sauce. A dash of Balsamic vinegar on freshly sliced fruit (especially strawberries) with or without a sprinkling of sugar will enhance the flavors and have you shouting for more." Another must-visit wine-growing region to meander through is Stellenbosch. One of its most vaunted venues is the Delaire Graff Estate.  British diamond king Lawrence Graff reclaimed a beautifully-sited old vineyard and built a magnificent, art-filled hotel on the grounds. The picturesque Delaire Graff Estate (Image by Delaire Graff Estate) If you can’t afford to stay there, at least go for lunch on the terrace – the food is excellent and you will be surrounded by nature at her prettiest. Needless to say, Graff opened a diamond boutique on the premises – in case you need a 40-carat fix while you’re quaffing that good sauvignon blancs. Portrait of Lawrence Graff beside the Diamond Boutique at Delaire Graff Estate  (Image by Delaire Graff Estate) South Africa’s coastal areas are as phenomenally beautiful as its wine lands.  To kill two birds with one stone, I suggest you have lunch at Harbour House on the bustling (and touristy) V&A Waterfront– not so much for the food which is ok – but for the views of the ocean that are a feast for the eyes.  RELATED PRODUCTS
THE COLLEGE PREPSTER IN IRELAND
June 30, 2016

THE COLLEGE PREPSTER IN IRELAND

Epic itinerary on thecollegeprepster.com. And the photos from the couple's trip on @Carly & @juliahengel feeds are not to be missed! ✨  
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