As an expat in Europe, I am still completely in love with traveling by train. And as much as I adore Berlin, I am always quick to jump on an opportunity to get outside of the city and into nature. I took the train 3.5 hours northwest of Berlin to the Ostsee to spend a few days at Hotel Whitman, a lovely design and wellness hotel. It’s the perfect place to unwind for a few days. The hotel is located directly on the beautiful and peaceful Plöner See with misty views stretching over the horizon from your bedroom. There is something about waking up to the calming pattern of waves washing ashore and the birds singing that reset your mind and spirit.
The design hotel has been completely renovated and brilliantly curated. The minimalistic theme boasts pops of colors, modern lighting, and draping green plants in every room. All of the rooms are designed by world renowned designer, Werner Aisslinger, only using natural and sustainable materials. The hotels restaurant has lovely views over the lawn and lake offering organic, fresh, and high quality food, only made from the best local products. The wellness center also makes it possible for you to come for a few days and never want to leave the hotel itself. There is a large pool at the center, a sauna along with a steam sauna, a cozy relaxation area with lakefront views, and 8 brand new state of the art treatment rooms.
From the hotel there is so much to do and see in the region. Our first stop was checking out the gorgeous Prinzeninsel, an island in the middle of the lake with 360 degree views of crystal clear water and a sprawling forest. We then drove to the adorable and quaint village of Plön which is a red bricked old town leading up to the famous Schloss that overlooks the lake. The lake is absolutely massive and in the warmer months the perfect place to relax, swim, or for the adventurous type, plenty of water sports. We then drove on to the beach town of Scharbeutz with turquoise clear water and white sand beaches. It amazed me that you can find such a beautiful beach so far away from the Mediterranean. We strolled the long beach, had lunch at a cozy outdoor terrace with heaters and blankets on the beach front, and enjoyed coffee with endless ocean views. Before heading home we stopped by the Milk Farm, Käsehof Biss, where the hotel gets their cheese from. We got to meet and pet all the adorable cows, and learned all about the milking process.
Coming from Berlin you can choose two different train routes, one stopping in Hamburg, and the other stopping in the town of Lübeck. As I have already been to Hamburg many times I decided to check Lübeck out. The old brick gothic architecture is at the doorsteps of the train station and everything is easily reachable by walking. I researched the train station beforehand and found that they have storage lockers where you can store your luggage for only 3 EUR. So it’s a perfectly convenient way to do a half day trip on your way to the hotel. I would suggest you only need a few hours there to enjoy a traditional German coffee and cake, walk along the canal, and snap shots of the incredibly unique architecture.
Spend the night in a modernized warehouse from the early 1800’s that resides directly on the notorious Nyhavn canal amongst rich a history of sailors, fisherman, and trade. Situated directly at the gates of the Copenhagen harbor, the 71 Nyhavn Hotel, comprised of two warehouses, one red and one yellow, that are attached to frame the hotel. With the original wood beams holding the building together, the insides have had a brilliant make over. With a mix of rustic, old world, and comfort, the hotel brings the Danish term “Hyyge” into full effect.
The historic harbor of Nyhavn was manmade in the 1600’s to experience centuries of prosperous trade, a flourishing economy, a gateway to the rest of the world, followed by war, conflict, and an economic collapse. Then after rehabilitation, it was culminated into a wonderful transformation. Up until the 1960’s Nyhavn was only somewhere you went for business and tourists were taken around by bus but discouraged to go site seeing there alone because of the dangers of getting robbed or assaulted. Today, Nyhavn is a thriving canal with boutique hotels, charming cafes, cozy restaurants, and dozens of picturesque and colorful, iconic vantage points.
In 1970 the warehouse was sold to the master builder, Alf Arp-Hansen where he then opened the doors to the 71 Nyvahn in 1971. Over the years both the older and newer warehouses have been remodeled, keeping the original charm intact but modernizing the every day comforts that you want in an hotel. Every aspect of design from the bathroom water faucets to the rustic farmhouse sliding doors and the warehouse window shutters, all accentuate the unique waterfront atmosphere.
I must admit that one of my favorite parts of traveling and staying in hotels is getting to try the breakfast buffets. You can enjoy the hotels “Morning Stories” by making your way through the huge breakfast buffet while discovering more about the food- Danish pastries, crispy bacon, potent French cheeses, homemade pancakes, smoothies, and plenty of hot dishes. Later in the day the restaurant Sea by Kiin Kiin opens up where you can enjoy flavors from the Southeast Asian kitchen. Within Kiin Kiin is another restaurant, Omakase which was just honored with 6 out of 6 stars! It only has 6 seats and serves a 32 taste testing menu.
While exploring the hotel you will find the hotel’s very own art collection from the COBRA avant-garde movement consisting of work from Asger Jorn, Karel Appel, Carl-Henning Pedersen and Ejler Bille. The contemporary surrealists established the movement in 1948 in Paris, playing a very important role in the modern art world.
To book: https://www.71nyhavnhotel.com/
It’s no secret that the Danes are famous for their impeccable design. Located in the historical citadel of Frederiksstad, Hotel SKT Annæ brings the Copenhagen street design indoors. While being located in the heart of the city, you’re right around the corner from the Nyhaven canal, dotted with colorful houses and old fisherman boats. You can sink into a big sofa with a book or coffee in hand next to the crackling fire in their cozy lounge, instantly bringing you quiet and tranquility. On the other hand, you can sit in the enclosed courtyard for breakfast under strung lights and Copenhagen sky. Whether it be winter or summer, you get the feeling you’re outside. It’s the kind of hotel you’re going to want to get lost in while exploring the old building connected to the new. You can wander to the rooftop which gives you panoramic views of the architecturally brilliant city. I loved watching the autumn sun go down and the lights from the homes warm the city streets. With 145 rooms and suites you can always expect plenty of peace and quiet while they are tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city. While preserving the hotel’s history and charm, they have managed to integrate modern and important amenities into the rooms to make you feel even more at home.
HISTORY OF THE HOTEL
The hotel dates back to the 18th century where the citadel of Frederiksstad was founded. In 1851, Mrs. Svendsen opened up a “speak easy” type of hotel called “Neptun” in the building without a license. Since the hotel was illegal she mostly hosted guests that were criminals and outlaws. In order to come into the hotel, you had to know the secret password, “Neptun.” The hotel’s design was heavily influenced by the legendary Danish painter, Vilhelm Hammershøi, who was deeply inspired by Copenhagen which is evident in his paintings. He is famously known for his strict color palate of black, white, and darker brown shades. In 2015 the hotel underwent its first renovation where 21 new rooms were added and the lounge along with reception were remodeled. Many old sketches of the builders were found within the old walls during the renovation, not matching at all to the real floor layout, causing delays in the renovation process and quite a bit of humor. In 2016 with the hotel renovations came a new name, changing from from Neptun to Hotel SKT. Annæ. With the second round of renovations in 2017, 99 new Deluxe rooms where born and while the hotel keeps it’s old charm intact, the inside is brand new.
There are a few things that Copenhagen is famous for- Hygge (art of coziness,) cycling, unparalleled Danish design, and being the new foodie’s paradise. I took the short 45 minute flight from Berlin to Copenhagen to explore the city’s gastro scene this week because lately it’s been all the hype. I checked into Nobis Hotel Copenhagen as my home away from home for a few days. The hotel resides right next to Tivoli Gardens along with the Central Train Station, putting you right in the center of it all. The historical building was constructed in 1903 and while its elegantly timeless roots remain, it has been transformed into a luxurious 5 star contemporary hotel. The Swedish architect, Gert Wingårdh was the genius behind the creation and manifested the brilliant ambience. Additionally, in the midst of the culinary boom in the city, they are launching a brand new restaurant NOI under culinary pioneer Fredrik Danber. The restaurant harmonizes European influences and focuses on a sharing style eating concept.
#1 CLEAREST WATER ON THE PLANET
I'm not going to lie- I've always been pretty scared of swimming in any water other than a pool. I have these super nerdy water shoes I'm always wearing. I was in luck though in Crete. I had never seen anything so incredibly clear! The Mediterranean was ice cold after being out in the blistering sun. We grabbed some googles and set off exploring every day. It was a whole new world for me. We would trek away from the touristy beaches in search for a private cove without a soul in sight and would swim around for hours.
#2: AMAZING SUNSETS EVERY SINGLE NIGHT
I have unwillingly accepted the title as "most annoying person to travel" because I always push to be at the best spots for sunset. My friends always thank me in the end though. As a photographer, I have found myself on many trips waiting for the colors to appear as the sun goes down, but many times I'm left with a cloudy, colorless display. Although in Crete, not even one night (out of our 12) was a disappointment. Whether I was on a beach, in a village, or in the mountains, every night dazzled for us.
#3: MOST FRIENDLY PEOPLE
I've said it once and I'm sticking by it. Greek people are, from my experiences, the friendliest in all of Europe. Not only are they super friendly and helpful, but also have a great sense of humor. A few nights we ended up at a bar with locals and I became fascinated learning about the every day life and culture of the people there.
#4: PINK SAND BEACHES
Most people would see an image from these beaches and think... "totally photoshopped. No way! There really ARE pink sand beaches." I am also guilty of it. But to my sheer bliss, I found them to be REAL. I could barely believe my own eyes. As a girly girl who has always loved the color pink- I was walking around in a dream.
#5: ANCIENT VENETIAN HARBOR TOWNS
Chania, Agios Nikolaos, and Rethymnon are all must sees on the island. These ancient venetian harbor towns all have stunning architecture and unbelievable views. They're jam packed with family run authentic Greek restaurants around every corner. The boutiques are unlike others in touristy European towns. They aren't cheesy giftshops but instead have beautiful artisan textiles, hand-painted pottery, and handmade goods.
#6: REMOTE BEACHES YOU CAN ONLY GET TO BY STEEP HIKES OR BOAT
Some of the beaches are not for the faint hearted (... like myself.) The hikes are treacherous and steep but once you reach the beaches- they're mind blowing. The one pictured above had no restaurants, no toilets, no lounge chairs and umbrellas for rent. Just purely off the radar, completely free, and one of the craziest places I've ever been.
#7: BALOS LAGOON BEACH aka HEAVEN ON EARTH
Also not the easiest place to get to but I'm starting to realize the best places never are. You drive 30 minutes on a one lane, cliff side, dirt road all the way to a deserted parking lot. From there you walk another 30 minutes before you can even get a glimpse of the gem itself. We spent our last afternoon on the beaches here until we were the last ones left. A lot of the ships (with all the tourists) set sail around 6pm so you're left the rest of the evening with only the sounds of the ocean waves rolling in. We hiked all around, swam in the crystal clear coves, and watched the sun go down.
#8: SOARING MOUNTAIN RANGES
This is a drone photo of the Balos Beach from above. The backdrop from the cove is a giant mountain range that covers almost half the island. All of the harbor towns also are engulfed in the steep mountains, only making everything that much more picturesque. I always ask people, "which do you prefer the most, beach or mountains?" But on Crete, you don't have to choose. You can have both in one day... or every day for that matter.
#9: OLD AND CHARMING VILLAGES
We spent 3 days in an Airbnb in a tiny village, barely on the map. I immediately fell deeply in love. I would wake up early to go on walks, greeted by the alley cats and the friendly neighbors. I walked amongst the locals in their Sunday best as the church bells rung. Every evening I would set out again after dinner. As it was summer, everyone had their doors open with the sounds of the music or laughter filling the streets.
#10: ENDLESS EXPLORING
From gorges, to wineries, and mountain tops, to the sea floor- Crete is a place I could spend the rest of my life exploring. Typically after a trip I feel like I've seen enough, and don't need to return anytime soon. Crete was different somehow and I cannot wait to return again someday. Between the delicious food and the kindness of the locals along with the extraordinary beauty, I deem Crete one of the special places on earth. To be fair, it is right in the middle after all.
Deep in the rolling green hills of South Gloucestershire, resides Thornbury Castle, which was once owned by the infamous King Henry VIII. This is no ordinary castle though because despite it's fascinating history and secrets that it retains, you can actually sleep there! The hotel catapults you into medieval times where you find yourself immersed in the fortress, imaging what life must have been like in this era.
With 28 rooms to choose from- we slept in the Tower Suite where we climbed the 77 steps up the stone spiral staircase to the top of the tower to find our grand suite with views all the way to Wales. Wood floors, fire places, a clawfoot bathtub, and brilliant ancient paintings were just a few things manifesting the charming accommodation. Our four-poster bed is actually known as the biggest bed in all of Europe- practically the size of two king beds- truly the most comfortable thing I have ever laid down on. From our bathroom we had views of the St Mary Church towering outside above the ancient graveyard.
Outside you can wander the precious gardens and get lost in the endless maze of lavender and greenery, stroll beneath the tunnels of hedges, and walk alongside the original walls of the castle. Plunge into former Tudor England and you play croquet on the yard, try your luck with archery, and even learn about falconry. At Thornbury you can dine in a hidden medieval dungeon with a wine cellar, tie the knot on the romantic lawn, and walk the same steps that prominent nobles and monarchs once used. The newly opened Castle Farm allows you to wander the greenhouses, check out the chickens, and discover all of the wonderful produce growing on the property of which you can of course enjoy in their award winning restaurant. You can also explore the castle's vineyard which backs up to original ancient ruins. I would imagine that visiting Thornbury would be an incredible experience in any season of the year.
From the castle you are just steps away from the adorable town of Thornbury. The colorful villages has great restaurants and beer gardens as well as cute shops. One afternoon we actually even jogged to the River Severn splitting England and Wales. We got to stand on the river banks at low tide surrounded by hundreds of sheep. From here you are also a short drive away from the bustling town of Bristol as well as Bath, known for its Roman Era Bath and impressive Georgian architecture. You're also right at the base of the Cotswolds, where you can drive through rolling hills and explore one charming medieval villages after the other.
Ever since I first came to England on a work exchange program after college, I fell deeply in love with everything about this country: The incredibly friendly people, the lush green rolling hills, and the medieval villages that take you back in time. At this point I've traveled to nearly 30 countries and for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on, England will always have a very special place in my heart. I'm not sure if it's because my ancestors are supposedly from there, or if it's the feeling you get sitting in a local pub with the locals sipping on cider, but I love this country more and more every time that I go.
WHAT TO SEE
It's hard to narrow down recommendations- as you truly can't go wrong anywhere in the region. I would suggest allotting for several hours in each village and try to avoid the super touristy hours if possible (before or after all the buses of visitors are unloading.) I always love the lighting early morning or evening but that is not always feasible to manage when you have a lot to squeeze in.
Bibury: For the adorable weaver's cottages of Arlington Row. Known as the "most beautiful village in England."
Bourton-on-the-Water: a quaint village with a river flowing through. Low bridges along the water where children and dogs play and splash along the river. Go check out the Model Village which is a replica of the village from the 1930's. I also really enjoyed just wandering around the neighborhood to see all of the traditional stone houses.
Burford: Known as the gateway to the Cotswolds. From the top of the village you can admire the steep downhill street and its charming houses.
Chipping Campden: One of my favorites from the region because of it's rural farms that surround the town. It's known as a small market town but I was completely mezmorized by the elegant houses dating back to the 14th century.
Castle Combe: A tiny village but still worth seeing. Wander the main street and sit along the river for nice views. Definitely go check out the Manor House and its gardens.
WHERE TO SLEEP: THE PAINSWICK
The town of Painswick was once originally known for its wool trade but now infamous for its parish church yew trees and Rococo Garden. Painswick embraces winding streets leading you to impressive vistas, immaculate gardens, darling cottages, and scenes of cow farms in the distance. The Painswick Hotel has recently been refurbished into a trendy and chic boutique hotel a few years ago, but its origins date back to the 18th century. From the outside, the historical grounds exude rich history and fits in with it's neighboring village. But inside, one can only be pleasantly surprised. With modern touches and colorful decor- the hotel has everything a traveler would want from comfy beds, contemporary amenities, and captivating views. In the mornings we would wake up for a jog to explore the village followed by visiting in the breakfast parlor with the other guests. During the afternoons we would explore the never ending mazes of backwoods leading from village to village, never missing a chance to indulge in local cuisine and cream teas. Upon evening we wandered the church grounds through barely legible grave stones and beneath the tunnels of the yew trees, ending with a cocktail on the patio of the hotel. Guests gather on the lawn and terrace to enjoy the sunset over a drink before dinner. While the hotel is perfect for an over night stay (or 3)- it's also well known for it's modern and innovative kitchen. The dishes stem from traditional British recipes to an imaginative and delicate plate- filled with color and brimming with flavor and better yet, on the healthier, less guilty side of things. The progressive kitchen is one of its kind in the region.
When people think about Greece, a lot of times they opt for the touristy Santorini or Mykonos. This time we headed somewhere authentic, full of charm, and much more off the radar. We flew into Heraklion and started driving west and then down through ancient villages, orange orchards, and winding mountainous roads south to Moni. Surrounded by staggering mountains, olive farms, gorges, and views to the sea, we made our way to the Monastery Estate Guesthouse which was originally built in the 1830's. Olive oil producers, wine makers, and shepherds occupied the village dating back to the 13th century! The renovated rustic guesthouse has 5 spacious self catering apartments but are soon opening 12 more all equipped with private pools and views of the Lefka Ori mountain range. Each morning we enjoyed our feast of a fresh Cretian breakfast with home made jams, juice, a variety of toasts, meats, local olives, and of course, delicious feta. The guesthouse offers modern amenities but with a traditional feel where you can walk around the grounds admiring the fresh fruit (lemon, grape, chestnut, pomegranate, and fig) all of which grow directly on the property. Each apartment has a spacious living room, a comfy bedroom, and a private terrace with brilliant views. The fully equipped kitchens also make it super easy to load up on local produce at the market and cook at home.
From the guesthouse you can hike down to the Monastery, surrounded by orchards and a steady hum of bees busy in the flower bushes. Around here you can explore the Byzantine Chapel of Saint Nicolas and the Panagia Kera Chapel. You can continue along to hike the Agia Irini Gorge where you adventure through staggering cliffs along a riverbed. From Moni you can drive just a few minutes south and be in the adorable Cretian beach town of Sougia where you can have a real local experience. The coastline is dotted with traditional restaurants and sprawling patios right on the ocean. The mountains slide down into a heap of turquoise and cobalt blue endless water.
Monastery Estate Hotel: Venetian Harbor
The main hotel resides in the stunning harbor town of Chania- Monastery Estate Hotel Venetian Harbor. The hotel is just steps away from the Ahmet Age Mosque with views of the iconic lighthouse. In 2015, the 16th Century Mansion of a Venetian nobleman was renovated into a wonderful holiday hotel. With a garden patio, Turkish Hamam, and unique Arabic design- the hotel is one of a kind. The spacious and modern equipped suites are built into the ancient building but fully luxurious and comfortable. Some have private patios with outdoor jacuzzis while others include rooftop terraces with panoramic views of the Old Town. Surrounded by the picturesque harbor, beautiful boutiques, and hundreds of restaurants- you won't find it hard to stay busy here. You are also only an hour away from the mesmorizing Balos Beach.
As someone who comes from a flat desert like Texas, I've always been drawn to the mountains and smitten with snow. At this point in my life, I've done my fair share of mountain trips but I must admit I've never seen anything as vast or steep as in Chamonix. You know that scene in the movie Inception when the city starts to cave in? You get that feeling, except for with mountains that seem as if they could swallow you up at any given moment. It's terrifying and breathtaking all at the same time.
We took the historic Montenvers red train up from Chamonix to the Terminal Neige - Refuge du Montenvers hotel for a few days of relaxing and views of the Mer de Glace glacier. The pioneer hotel dates back to 1880 when it was first built for mountaineers and explorers hailing from far away lands to gaze upon the Mer de Glace, also known as the "Sea of Ice." The hotel resides on a cliffside at a whopping 1913m high (over 6,000 feet!) The cozy hotel welcomes you with a warm atmosphere, dark woods, pops of red, and rustic decor mixed with modern comforts. There is 17 rooms here- all with an old fashion cabin like flair. There are cozy rooms for couples, suites for families, and dormitories if you're traveling with friends. They're equipped with leather trunks for nightstands, miner's lamps to read at night, and in some rooms a free standing footed bathtub. Thick winter curtains preserve the intimate and warm ambience with mind boggling views behind them. Upon booking you receive "half board" on top of accommodation which includes a breakfast buffet and 3 course dinner. We got to try delicious local dishes paired with French wines and even fondue on our last evening!
There is plenty to do and see around this region at any time of year. We took the gondola down and then the 480 steps even further (which was definitely a work out coming up) to explore the "Grotte de Glace, a fascinating Ice Cave right in the middle of the glacier. There is also a new exhibition at the top of Montenvers called The Glaciorium, where you learn all about the evolution of the glacier over the centuries. Of course there is plenty of hikes around the region amongst some of the steepest mountains in the world. Our brave ancestors were mountain pioneers and through their exploration they discovered this beautiful region for us to enjoy. Food-wise there is plenty to choose from on the mountain. In the summer you can lounge on the terrace at The Panoramique Mer de Glace which offers a modern and industrial feel with the craziest views that you will ever eat in front of. You can also eat at the hotels Montenvers Restaurant for some authentic alpine cuisine in a true mountainside dream setting. Lastly you can grab a snack, or 5 like we did, at the Glacier Bar which offers beer on tap, ice cream, sandwiches, and French pastries.
Ever since I fell in love with travel photography- the Matterhorn was at the top of my list of things to photograph. Several times I was not too far from Zermatt but never quite made it there. This May we were invited to a wedding in Lyon- a 4 hour drive from Zermatt and I knew it was my chance. Packing for the trip was hard, as it is for anywhere in Europe in May. It was predicting nothing but rain, a bit of snow, and pretty chilly temperatures. Although we were completely baffled at how lucky we were weather-wise. We experienced nothing but warm and sunny days- perfect for hiking, picnics outside, and searching for the famous Valais Blacknose Sheep. Although many hotels and restaurants are still closed in May, as it isn't quite yet peak season, we found it to be the perfect time to go! The streets weren't crowded yet, getting a seat in a restaurant was easy, and we had the hiking trails all to ourselves. Even at the top of the Gornergrat where you have 360 degree views of fresh white Swiss Alps, there were no crowds! We were delighted to not have to elbow people out of the way for those epic Matterhorn shots (kidding, kidding...)
People hail from all over the world to soak in all that is Swiss culture and some of the earths most mind-blowing peaks. Famous for the dark wood Swiss Chalet's, overflowing flower baskets, green lush meadows, and sheer mountainsides, Zermatt is easily one of the most beautiful places on earth. It's a haven for snow sport fanatics, avid hikers, adrenaline junkies, and photographer lovers. As if Zermatt isn't special enough, it is proudly a car-less village. That's right... no cars! The town is incredibly walkable though and it makes for a more relaxing place to hear the water flow down the river, the fawns grazing in the meadows, and the birds singing.
What to do:
- Take the Gornergrat Bahn up for epic views of the legendary Matterhorn. From here you have restaurants, hiking trains, and views for as far as the eye can see. From here you have a panoramic view of 29 peaks where some stand higher than 4,000 meters high.
- Visit "Hinterdorf"- the oldest part of Zermatt where you'll find 30 something ancient barns, stables, houses, and stores. They were preserved for over 500 years and are still standing on flat stone slabs that are balanced on stilts. The adorable old buildings have doors that you would have to crouch to walk through.
- Hike to Zmutt, where you can have a picnic alongside a 500 year old hamlet. The hike takes about an hour up, with the Matterhorn standing tall in the foreground. There are several different routes- some easier, and others for more experiences hikers.
Eat fondue in a traditional cozy restaurant. We really enjoyed eating at Hotel Pollux, where we ordered fondue (with white wine, not red- we learned that's the traditional way,) and baked spätzli.
Hike up behind the village for twilight! We did this two out of our three nights because there is nothing I love more than watching a towns lights come on right after sunset. We took some beer and popcorn and waited for the magic to happen.
If you're super brave (which I'm not)- go on a helicopter ride above the alps or paragliding! We saw tons of paragliders soaring over the town and I couldn't even imagine how wonderful those views would be.
Year-round skiing at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. You can find snow 365 days a year. From here you can even see as far as the Italian Alps and on a clear day even the Mediterranean Sea!
Where to stay:
We stayed at the lovely Schlosshotel Zermatt and couldn't dream of a better place to spend our time. The hotel is a 2 minute walk from the main train station and also right in front of the Gornergrat Bahn train station. The hotel has a castle-like flair mixed with traditional Swiss chalet yet fully equipped with modern and luxurious amenities. With spacious rooms, wonderful views of the town or Matterhorn, along with lavished fabrics and details- you'll find yourself comfortable enough to not want to leave. Although the hotel is in the heart of the city, you still feel a bit more remote and easily able to relax. The hotel has a contemporary gym along with a Olympic-style lap pool which I found myself swimming in first thing in the morning. Although I'm typically not a morning person there is something energizing about the town, making you want to rise early and get moving. I also loved the wellness center where you can unwind in the sauna or steam room, bask under rainforest showers, or loosen up with a massage from an in house specialist. They have plenty of varied room options along with a penthouse suite with the Matterhorn out of your window. The hotel is a wonderful choice for everyone- whether you are a solo traveler, a family, on a honeymoon getaway, or celebrating a special weekend with friends. Breakfast was also one for the books- an epic traditional style breakfast buffet is offered where you can chow down on everything from mini donuts, local meats, home made baked beans (my favorite,) local cheeses, hardy breads, fresh fruits, and anything else you could dream of. The perfect start to a day on the mountain.
France is a country that never ceases to surprise me. Just when I thought I had seen it all- the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Chateaus in Loire, chalk cliffs of Étretat and the brilliant villages alongside the Mediterranean- I discovered the Beaujolais region. Just a bit northwest of Lyon, Beaujolais is a region notorious for its rolling hills, vineyards, romantic and charming villages, castles, and the most picturesque landscapes.
We stayed at the lovely Le Clos des Anges, a beautiful 16th century Bed and Breakfast in Bagnols. The delightful B&B was once a farmhouse which was recently remodeled. The blending of Moroccan design and French elements curate the eclectic charm, where every piece of furniture tells a story. The rooms were all incredibly spacious, lit with warm and romantic lighting, and with views over the private courtyard and the shaded garden.
My favorite part about staying at B&B's is sharing breakfast together with guests from around the world. On top of enjoying local juices, yogurts, bread straight from the nearby boulangerie, we were fortunate enough to hear stories from fellow travelers. I loved the slow and relaxing mornings there and the emphasis put on meal time. Afterward we set out for a long jog along the paths that surround the property. We jogged past meadows with cows grazing, along paths through thick forest, and through vineyards with scenic views for as far as the eye could see. Each enchanting village we went through was overflowing with charm. After our afternoons exploring we would take a swim in the indoor heated pool and relax in the Turkish Hammam.
We were invited to a wedding in a neighboring village by an old friend from college. Being a romantic, I can't say I have ever seen anything more fanciful. French dainty Hors d'oeuvres, a hillside chateau with views of a medieval castle, and elegant fashion straight out of a Vogue catalogue. We found ourselves still eating dinner almost near midnight (the French wouldn't have it any other way.) The wedding was dripping in elegance and an unforgettable experience. The friendly people, culture, cuisine, and demeanor, exceeded all of my expectations.
I had never heard about Tenerife until a few months ago when we were looking for a warm weather getaway from the dark, cold, and dreadful Berlin winter. Someone had mentioned surfing in the Canary Islands and just like that our flights were booked and we were packing up for the beach. Tenerife is the largest of the 7 islands that make up the Canaries and also the most populated. The island was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions, shaping its rugged and fascinating landscape. The north is mountainous, green, and lush with the most steep and jagged terrain I've ever seen. The mountains meet the ocean in a dramatic and stunning way. There hasn't been a volcanic eruption though in over 100 years since 1909. Although the island was conquered by Spain in the 1400's, it actually resides less than 200 miles off the west coast of Morocco. In the northern part, when you start out driving along the coast you'll see tropical plants and tons of cacti, along with flowers and lush vegetation, but the higher you go the more it turns into a thick and dark pine forest and you're quickly in another realm.
We stayed at the gorgeous Hotel Jardín Tropical on the south end of the island which faces the La Gomera Island. The average temperature in the town of Costa Adeje is 23ºC all year round. The massive hotel grounds reaching about 12,000 m2 are overflowing with subtropical vegetation where birds chirping fill the air and clear blue skies open up above you. 1,700 different species of exotic plants call the hotel grounds home. The white Moorish style hotel is by far the most dazzling resort on the island and has over 400 hotel rooms and suites although it doesn't feel overwhelmingly huge. To the contrary the hotel still obtains an intimate feel where you still have plenty of your own quiet space. Sprawling levels spread around the pools and gardens, facing the Atlantic Ocean. Behind the hotel soars giant barren mountains that create storm clouds above, leaving the land below it a microclimate where the sun tends to gleam. The rooms are wonderfully decorated with gorgeous furnishings, super comfy beds, large balconies, along with spa like bathrooms with products from one of my favorite brands, Rituals. When it comes to food, be prepared to have your mind blown here. If you're a foodie like me, you'll enjoy the endless and exciting options that the hotel has to offer. For seafood lovers- Las Rocas Restaurant resides cliffside over the ocean and focuses on seafood with the freshest ingredients. If you are a fan of all you can eat, the Laguna Food Market offers a fresh take on a buffet with innovative and unique options from salad bars, a sushi table, chefs cooking your choice of seafood on the grill in front of you, along with Spanish style tapas, a fondue chocolate fountain, and endless treats in between. If you're craving Italian food the newly opened Ugo & Vandino has launched where you can enjoy dinner. Outside throughout the grounds there are plenty of other bars and restaurants to keep you busy. The activities are limitless- if you're a golfer you can play on some of the most beautiful courses on the island. The hotel has water aerobic courses (aqua fitness, boxing, and stand up paddle) and the outdoor gym with ocean views offers a daily program of fitness classes like yoga, pilates, zumba, and bodypump!
Top picks of things to see and do on Tenerife:
Mount Teide National Park- This enormous volcano stands 3718m (12,198 ft) above sea level. We had intentions of driving there, taking the cable car up, and then hiking around the top but once we got to the base of it the entrance was closed due to high winds. Within our time of waiting out the snow the sky cleared completely and we got to see the top of the volcano. It's ranked as the third tallest volcano in the world! While driving from our hotel town near the ocean all the way to the volcano base, the terrain changed what seemed to be a hundred times. Once we hit higher elevation, the pine trees dwindled off and there were fields covered in solidified lava formations. We went from the sunny resort within 20 minutes and were in a complete snow storm on our drive to Teide. The weather there can change faster than the blink of an eye.
The Lost Village of Masca- the "mini Macchu Picchu" village is tucked away high in some of the worlds steepest cliffs. You drive through winding zig zag roads slowly making your way down to the gorgeous setting. We got there right in time to snap photos while it was still sunny before the sky opened up and poured rain on us.
Playa de las Teresitas- The man-made beach is the most photogenic on the island. Gorgeous Saharan sand, the most clear turquoise and calm water protected by the lagoon, surrounded the gorgeous green mountains of Anaga and views of an adorable fishing village.
Anaga Forest- The higher we drove up into the steep mountains the less tropical it became, growing into a dense and obscure forest. It went from a warm and sunny coastline to a much colder and rainier place. The change of landscape was fascinating, allowing us to be in two completely different worlds in one day.
La Laguna- We drove in right at sunset into the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The long and wide promenades stretched throughout the city with the mountains hovering in the background. It was a Sunday evening so families were all together heading to mass and out for an evening stroll. I was so impressed with the pristine town and architecture. Historic buildings stood, vibrantly painted, while new and trendy cafes dotted the streets.
There are hundreds of other incredible things to do on this magical island but we only had 4 full days. I would recommend a solid week or longer if possible so you can enjoy all the beauty Tenerife has to offer.
Driving up to the Gran Hotel Atlantis Bahía Real 5* is something straight out of a dream. The gorgeous resort resides in the north of Fuerteventura right on the white sand beach of Corellejo. You have stunning views across the sea of Lobos Island and Lanzarote making your view nothing short of picturesque. The 5 star hotel is dripping in luxury from the minute you walk in down to every detail that makes up your elegant room. The island is known to be "blessed with eternal spring" offering sunshine basically all year round. It was the perfect escape for us from a dark and cold Berlin winter. Behind the hotel stretches miles of pristine, white rolling sand dunes with inactive volcano's in the background framing the scene.
The hotel has 242 suites and rooms with stunning sea and tropical garden views. With 8 different style and sized rooms to choose from, each one has a unique flare of elegance and comfort. Everything from the soft bed sheets, embroidered robes and towels, and jet spa bathtub, to the grand balcony and huge flat screen tv- the rooms make you feel like royalty throughout your stay.
The Bahia Vital Spa is a whopping 3000m² with plenty of space to relax and unwind. You can swim around in the indoor heated pool, beautifully lit by windows facing the ocean. Here you can pamper yourself with the hydrotherapy circuit which incorporates spa jets and hydro jet water seats along with whirlpools, a shower temple, and a cold foot plunge. You can also indulge in the Finnish sauna and solarium (my personal favorite after coming from a cold city like Berlin!) There are many treatments offered at the spa and we got to enjoy a relaxing couples massage before we went for a swim. Haircuts are also offered in their in house salon. Before your relaxing spa day you can work out in the hotels own Fitness Club where you can hire a personal trainer for a one-on-one session. Outside of the gym is a private terrace with a giant Jacuzzi waiting for you to relax in after your work out. You can also participate in classes such as yoga, pilates, spin, and even kick boxing!
After settling into the hotel on our first day we headed out on the pier to enjoy lunch at the Coco Beach Lounge and Club. The bright and airy restaurant has panoramic windows to the sea and beach. The restaurant serves a unique version of seafood fusion tapas: garlic shrimp, croquettes, salmon ceviche, crispy scallops served in sea shells, and tons of other delicious dishes. They also have a stellar cocktail menu if you just want to relax seaside.
Beach Club Las Palmeras is a gorgeous lunch spot with views over the tropical gardens and pools along with sea views on the other side. Sounds of birds singing fill the air while a nice breeze sweeps across the patio. They serve traditional Mediterranean dishes, rice plates like the famous Spanish dish of paella's, delicious fresh seafood and salads.
On our last night we headed to Yamatori, the hotels Japanese and sushi restaurant. We got to enjoy the Teppanyaki experience where chefs cook at a giant shared table for you. You can order à la carte or from a set menu where you have a feast! Ours started with miso soup and salad followed by a beautiful display of sushi along with tempura veggies and then the final main course of fried rice and salmon or tofu. Of course, it is all topped off with a dessert- green tea and ginger ice cream along with sautéed bananas.
Fuerteventura is the perfect location for water sport lovers. You can go on sailing adventures across the crystal clear turquoise waters, deep sea fishing if your heart desires ( and if you have good sea legs,) surfing of course, and one of the most popular activities in the island- kite surfing. Don't worry, if you aren't a water person there are plenty of other activities for you to enjoy land inward. The island is a dream for hikers where they can explore the volcanos and mountain bikers have plenty of downhill action as well. For the real adventurous soul they have plenty of quad and jeep safaris. Put on your best goggles and tie that bandana around your neck Burning Man style and hit the desert for a day of off roading. One of my favorite experiences from the trip was the Oasis Park which we went to on our last day heading to the airport. It is home to 3,000 plus animals where you can be up close and personal with sea lions and lemurs. They also offer a camel safari through the desert and along the beaches. The park is a giant botanical garden where you can enjoy some shade and breeze in the middle of the dry and arid island. All the animals have plenty of space to roam and are treated with great respect.
One afternoon I headed over to visit the sister hotel- Suite Hotel Atlantis Fuerteventura Resort. It also resides just near the amazing sand dunes of Corralejo and close to the white sand beaches. The 4 star hotel is catered to all ages with something fun for everyone. One special feature is that they offer an "all inclusive" experience. You can begin your day with a huge delicious breakfast buffet in Restaurant Gaudi where you also enjoy your dinner of local and international dishes. Your all inclusive deal includes poolside snacks and drinks. The hotel has a wide range of other premium restaurants and bars so that every day you can plan something a bit different. You can also sign up for the adults only area for those of you wishing for something more quiet, perfect for couples, or when you leave the kids with the grandparents for a few days. Some exclusive services that are offered for the adults only are the newly renovated suites, dinner at La Scala, a brand new restaurant with hands down one of the best buffets I've ever seen. Imagine your normal buffet but then with fancy treats and a gorgeous display of international flavors and concoctions. You'll also have access to the Premium Club Lounge where you have internet, newspapers from around the world, games and tv along with coffee and tea all day long! Lastly and most importantly you get entrance to the exclusive solarium and Balinese beds with a cocktail and snack menu.
We took the train from the Black Forest in Germany to the idyllic winter wonderland village of Engelberg. The ski resort town is less than an hour away from Lucerne and a beautiful train ride through snowy mountainous villages. We headed to the Hotel Bellevue-Terminus to spend 3 days in the village for some skiing, Swiss fondue, and post New Years relaxation. The hotel is directly across the street from the train station- literally the best location in town. With soaring views of the mountains, the hotel is the perfect central home for your visit. Not only is it practical but it's stunning in its chic design and known for its "urban living in the middle of the Alps." The building dates back to the late 1800's but has been fully remodeled within. You walk in from a snowy resort town straight into a luxurious yet welcoming place. The hotel has 73 rooms, all of which are filled with light and have overwhelmingly beautiful views. The modern, fresh, and swanky decor is upscale with an inviting sense of warmth and comfort. It's the little details that matter such as outlets next to the bed, attractive lighting, and plenty of storage space to tuck luggage away. The bathroom floors are elegantly tiled surrounding the walk in showers (some rooms also have free standing bathtubs) and the beds are dressed with plush sheets to fall into after a tiring day on the slopes. On the ground floor you will find the "Living Room by BT," where you can enjoy the epic breakfast buffet, cozy up by the fire, drink a cappuccino and watch the snow fall. Eclectic furniture styles, vintage floral wall paper, sparkling chandeliers, and giant windows make the living room spectacular. The breakfast buffet is one of the best that I've ever seen. Colorful tropical fruit, veggies and dips, hearty breads and pastries along with a giant array of local cheeses, eggs, bacon and sausage. There were also adorable mini donuts and tons of other surprises. Several nights of the week you can also enjoy dinner here. The food was modern European cuisine with plates to share between each other. Each dish was creative and fresh unlike any kind of cuisine I've tried before. We got to enjoy our wine and dessert by the fireplace in the end. For an entirely different experience, the famous Yucatan restaurant is downstairs, where hotel guests have a secret passage to enter. Yucatan is well known in Switzerland for its event space and club along with hip fusion cuisine. In the early evening there is a mixture of people right off the slopes, casually dressed and ready to unwind along with couples on date night sipping margaritas or Aperol Spritz over twinkling candlelight. The menu offers a wide variety of options from Asian food to Mexican food to giant mouth-watering burgers. Later on the restaurant turns into a music pumping club where you can dance the night away to DJ's and great tunes.
ENGELBERG: A WINTER WONDERLAND
In a deep valley in the northern part of Switzerland, Engelberg is home to one of the most legendary ski villages in the world. We were there for 3 days but with all of the activities and things to see we will definitely plan for a longer visit next time. The unspoiled and pristine nature entices you to explore and soak in all of its breathtaking scenery. Mount Titlis towers at a whopping 3,238 meters high and has Europe's highest suspension bridge "Titlis Cliff Walk." Beneath is a glacier cave that you can stroll through! On the mountain you can do any activity your heart desires- sledding, tubing, drinking a beer in an igloo bar, ski and snowboard of course, rent snowmobiles, snowshoe around, ice-skate on lake Trübsee. At the base of the mountain there are plenty of places to get your Après-ski on, along with wonderful streets full of charming shops, the coziest restaurants for a traditional fondue meal, and plenty of quaint neighborhoods to saunter through with sprawling views.
This holiday season I have teamed up with Hyatt to share with you #placesyoucanexplore all from your Hyatt hotel. This year we want to explore a world of unfamiliar places only to find a familiar sense of belonging. My favorite part about living in Berlin is that the city offers never ending excitement. From fascinating museums, a booming culinary scene, the worlds best artists collaborating and creating brilliance, along with innovative start ups, films, music, and galleries. People from all over the world visit Berlin because it's pulsing with vibrance, a mixture of new and old architecture, a melting pot of cultures, celebrating openness and uniqueness- a city that not too long ago was reunited as one. There is one thing though, that Germany does better than any other country in the world and that is celebrating the holidays.
GENDARMENMARKT CHRISTMAS MARKET
Gendarmentmarkt is the most beautiful square in all of Berlin, and when it's magically lit up for the Christmas Market, it's nothing short of enchanting. Berlin has 80 something Christmas Market's but this one is one of my favorites. A collection of a concert hall and two churches, the brilliant architecture towers over the historical square. The square was built by Friedrich I at the end of the 17th century and still stands today. During the month of December the square is filled with quaint wooden booths where locals sell fine art, traditional culinary treats, beautiful craftsmanship, and the most festive holiday trinkets. I would consider this market one of the fancier ones, incredibly charming and romantic (and it only costs 1EUR to get in!) Angels walk on stilts, magicians perform tricks, and music echoes through the aisles. When it's too cold outside to bare, there are heated tents where you can order food and drinks, staying warm but still enjoying the scene. Various dance and music performances entertain guests from other over the world.
GRAND HYATT BERLIN- POTSDAMER PLATZ
Grand Hyatt Berlin is a dream location for the holidays. Right in the middle of idyllic Potsdamer Platz, the hotel during the holiday season is surrounded by charming Christmas Markets, an ice skating rink, tube sledding, and everything else your inner child could dream of. It's also a prime location for shopping with the Mall of Berlin around the corner. Fancy theaters, fine dining, and beautiful strolls are all at the doorstep of the hotel. Although, one would be fine never actually leaving. Inside the hotel there are several different bars and restaurants. Vox Restaurant, flooded with light, serves seasonal dishes with international influence as well as authentic sushi along with an open show kitchen and a stunning whiskey bar. Jamboree Bar allows you to travel back to the 80's with its funky and vibrant decor. The Tizian Lounge, an Italian restaurant, offers a relaxed and warm environment with a flickering fireplace to cozy up next to. After checking into the hotel, I made my way up to the rooftop to enjoy a beautiful colorful sunset over Berlin. I then took advantage of their modern gym with epic skyline views followed by a sauna session. I finished off my spa visit with an amazing massage treatment by one of their fantastic in house masseuses. In the evening we wandered around the Christmas Markets and marveled in the fascinating architecture that makes up the neighborhood. To top it all off we ended our stay with a colorful and delicious room service breakfast filled with fresh fruit, berry topped waffles, Eggs Benedict, loads of pastries, cheeses, and juices.
SHOPPING AT KaDeWe
An empire of fine shopping. The giant historical building that is KaDeWe stretches a whopping 60,000 square meters filled with luxurious brands, fine dining, and stunning views over the city. It's been referred to as the "Harrod's of Berlin." It attracts somewhere from 40,000-50,000 visitors every day. Near the center of former West Berlin, the mall is at the footsteps of Wittenbergplatz in the dazzling district of Schöneberg. The building is over 100 years old and was built by the famous architect Emil Schadt. During the holiday's elaborate Christmas decorations fill the mall putting shoppers in the holiday spirit. The window displays viewed from the outside are ornate and imaginative- brilliantly done. The top floors have gourmet food halls with all sorts of decadent treats, gifts, and stands to enjoy a glass of bubbly and fresh fish- not to mention the sprawling views of West Berlin.
ICE SKATING AT BERLINER WEIHNACHTSZEIT
The nostalgic Christmas Market is surrounded by iconic landmarks such as the historic Neptunbrunnen, Rotes Rathaus, and Marienkirche. The ice skating rink is the main attraction right in the middle of the market. A ferris wheel towers over the festive market and can be seen from all around Mitte. It has panoramic and stunning views of the city from the top of it's gondolas- you can even see the Brandenburg Gate, Potsdamer Platz, and the Funkturm. The 600m2 ice skating rink has free admission and costs only 4 euros to rent some skates! The market has an open bonfire where you can warm your hands and sip on mulled wine. The smells of chestnuts roasting on open fires along with fresh baked pretzels and bread linger through the market. The market is perfect for a family gathering, after work happy hour, and suitable for a romantic date night.
BERLIN CHRISTMAS GARDEN
Imagine a world filled with brilliant colors and lights, Christmas music, hot Glühwein, bonfires, and endless paths to wander around- Berlin's Botanischer Garten has been miraculously transformed to a magical place for the holiday season. The days in Berlin are dark and cold but this place will surely cheer you up. You're able to stock up on warm drinks to warm your hands, and venture off into a colorful and illuminated forest. As you explore the enchanting path, you'll come across several ponds all dazzling in a vibrant spirit. While some of the Christmas Markets can get super packed and stressful, this is a perfect relaxing alternative with plenty of space to wander alone. You can enjoy warm traditional soups, grilled specialties, crêpes (my favorite with cinnamon sugar) roasted chestnuts and of course mulled wine. Fun fact: the 1,500,000 lights illuminating the the Christmas Garden are 100% sourced from renewable energies!
To book this holiday season and save up to 25% on more than 160 Hyatt hotels from London to Mumbai- Click here *booking period: Nov. 15- Jan. 15, stay period: Dec. 15- Feb. 28*
When I saw there was an Urban Treehouse surrounded by nature but STILL in Berlin... I knew I had to go check it out. Someone once told me that everything in Berlin takes an hour max to get to, and I'm finding it to be true. From Alexanderplatz it took me exactly an hour to get to the treehouse, and I must add, it was a beautiful trek. The surrounding neighborhood was breathtaking. There were German timbered houses, mansions, chalets, and gorgeous gardens on the walk from the train station to the house. In the lovely neighborhood of Zehlendorf , you'll still find plenty of restaurants, cafes, supermarkets, and easy train connections into the city. Nevertheless, you're welcomed by a slower, more relaxing pace- birds chirping, endless forest to wander in, and the feeling like you've just arrived on a vacation. My favorite thing about "staycations" are that they don't require an airplane ticket, too much planning, or travel time. They are a quick and easy way to relax, reset, and escape the bustling city briefly.
The property is made up of a giant private garden with two matching urban tree houses. In the middle is a fire pit, of which we took full advantage of, especially since the trees were vibrant in autumn colors. It was the perfect place to lounge, drink coffee, and catch up with a friend. The tree house is completely equipped with modern amenities but with cozy rugs, blankets, and pillows. The huge windows allow you to live amongst the trees and birds, an experience that I'll always cherish. My favorite part was the sauna at the bottom of the tree house- it had plenty of oils to chose from to add to your water, making it super relaxing and steamy. I'm finding saunas in Germany to be very useful when the cold months are long and dark. There are two bikes that are free to use as well so we road around the forest (literally the backyard) and around the lakes. The kitchen is also fully equipped with anything you could need to cook up a feast. They also provide (the best smelling) coffee beans from local Berlin roasters, The Barn. We made pizza, drank wine, listened to the blues, and 100% escaped from a stressful city life for a few days.
I would imagine staying at the treehouse would be beautiful any time of year. Although it was so nice and cozy with all of the colorful leaves changing and seeing the twinkling evening lights on the lake and beaming warmly from inside houses. There is a ton to see and do in the area:
- Fischerhütte: The historical guesthouse restaurant is right on the Schlachtensee Lake. There is a beer garden, a lovely terrace to soak up the sun in, a fireplace, and a lovely view of the lake and forest. They also do Sunday Brunch!
- Mexikoplatz: With a village like atmosphere, the square dates back over 100 years. Tons of cafes to choose from and a weekly market. The architecture is stunning and a lovely stroll from the treehouse.
- Haus Am Waldsee: An exhibition venue of international contemporary art in Zehlendorf. The villa was build almost 100 years ago in the 20's and is today is an influential part of Berlin's art scene.
- La Gondola Due: Fine Italian dining at Mexikoplatz. The perfect place for a date night outing from the treehouse.
- Bruna Tate Settlement: Modern utopian architect who strived to create an environment where urban planning and nature coexist.
- Peacock Island ( Pfaueninsel): Only a short ferry ride from the mainland to the island where peacocks roam freely! You can also do tours of the ancient castle that still remains on the island to date.
With a unique and exclusive membership, the treehouses are available year round for access. There are only 20 available memberships that come with full benefits. For members, the treehouses are ready to use, just like the owner without obligations. The cleaning, maintenance, and gardening is all taken care of! The membership fees include all of the laundry as well as final cleaning along with the use of the gas grill, bicycles, sauna, etc. There are several membership options:
- GREEN MEMBERSHIP: With the monthly fee of 160€, you get 14 nights in the treehouse per year
- SILVER MEMBERSHIP: With the monthly fee of 210€, you get 21 nights in the treehouse per year
There is a super easy booking service so you can grab the nights you want in advance and rest assured that you will get to go enjoy the treehouse. You can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to apply to the Urban Treehouse membership!
We took the train from Berlin an hour away to the lovely Spreewald to celebrate my birthday at Bleiche Resort & Spa. The resort is near the quaint town of Burg but completely tucked away from any busy city life. The minute you drive into the lush grounds of Bleiche your problems quickly drift away and relaxation mode is in full swing. I couldn't believe how vast the property was. All the buildings are connected in some way and you could spend your entire time there just exploring the marvelously decorated rooms, each entirely different from the next. There are cozy nooks for enjoying a coffee and a book, a vibrant bar where guests gather in the evenings for music and chatting before dinner, and trails around the property if you want to get some exploring and quiet time in. The resort is surrounded by the winding canals that make up Spreewald where you're able to rent canoes to paddle around the enchanting region that is rich in history and tradition. The unique landscape that has been designated by UNESCO a "biosphere reserve," was formed by the ice-age and is made up of over 200 little canals that were used for traditional irrigation.
SPA& fitness center
The layout of the resort is sprawling. Quite literally- never ending. Even in the middle of the week, the hotel was at full capacity- but you would never know it. The spa portion has a few big main pools, a cornered off lounge and pool area for the kiddos, and then winding hallways through rooms with saunas, showers, relaxation rooms, and hot tubs. There are giant comfy lounge chairs with furry warm blankets next to roaring fire places. In each corner you'll find different flavors of citrus, cucumber, or fruit infused water. Guests wander around in their bath robes and slippers (provided at the hotel) from one pool to the other, from sauna to shower, and from reading in lounge chairs to swimming in the outdoor heated pool. People come with the intent of turning off the outside world entirely. At the spa, you can find a wide range of packages whether it be an oil or milk bath to body wraps and massages along with facials, nail treatments, and hair cuts. You can also get quite the work out at Bleiche beyond just swimming laps. There is a fully equipped work out gym with the newest, most modern equipment or you can hire a personal trainer or attend a work out course. Outside is a giant field with soccer goals and plenty of space for your outdoor fitness routine.
The entire eating experience at Bleiche was unlike anything I have ever witnessed. You can choose the "Halbpension" option which is all inclusive breakfast and dinner. Imagine your normal hotel buffet and then multiply that by 10x. You're given the choice of where you would like to sit for your meal whether if be in the luxurious dining room with floor to ceiling windows to watch the sunrise at breakfast, or tucked away in a rustic warmly lit "fisherman's cabin" with fur throws, antique furniture, and giant cushy pillows to sink in to. The restaurant is divided up into sections where you help yourself to whatever starters you prefer. There is a bread and sausage room (along with a local Spreewald Schnapps) and the famous cheese platter room where you can find a giant selection of authentic cheeses and jams. Next you can head to the open kitchen to choose your main dish and watch the chefs preparing meals. They have a meat or fish option along with a full vegetarian and vegan menu, accommodating all dietary requirements. Dinner is a full 5 courses ending in your choice of dessert at the end. During the afternoon there is another cozy cafe that is flooded with light on a pretty day. You can snack on cakes, soup, fresh baked bread along with sip on a coffee or bubbly if you're in the mood. The best part is you're welcome to saunter on in wearing your bathrobe on the way to the pools.
There are plenty of different rooms to choose from, whether you're traveling alone or with your family. We had a gorgeous suite with a huge living room looking out over the property. It felt like being in a remote cabin or tree house but with plush linens and chabby chic touches. The bathroom had truly the largest bathtub I've ever seen, along with a sauna dividing the bathroom from the living room. The sauna came with oils to add to the water for the coals, making it virtually a steam room. No room is exactly like the next. Each room has antiques that have been tastefully chosen by the owners, each piece telling a story and bringing pieces of history from all over the world into the resort.
The HENRI Hotel was built in 1911 and is located in the middle of the charming old West Berlin. It's near the brilliant shopping district of Kurfürstendamm and right in the center of Charlottenburg surrounded by fancy restaurants, deluxe boutiques, art galleries, quaint movie theaters and of course luxurious bars and clubs. The building once was the infamous Hotel Bogota, which reigned from 1967 until 2013 when in closed it's doors. The famed hotel was frequented by celebrities such as photographer, Helmet Newton, which is where he first learned photography. He photographed tons of celebrities in the historically rich hotel.
The hotel is dripping in vintage charm, with several different grand salons to enjoy coffee or tea in and a stunning kitchen where Frühstück and Abendbrot is served. My favorite part about staying in boutique hotels is the warmth and cheerfulness you experience when everyone is having breakfast together. The kitchen has the most beautiful tiled flooring along with modern amenities mixed with antiques. Copper pans hang on the wall with heirloom platters along with a vintage SMEG oven. Breakfast was served with bacon and eggs on the stove where you could help yourself- warm baked bread, croissants, fresh cut veggies and fruit, cheeses, yogurts and delightful musli with seeds, nuts, with dried fruit toppings. In the evenings they serve a traditional German Abendbrot with bread, meats, and cheeses so you don't have to worry if you don't want to trek into the city for a meal. It felt so cozy and warm, with classical music echoing through the rooms, goodnight stories being read to children, businessmen discussing grand plans over espressos, and couples dressed up for a night on the town.
There are 3 different kinds of rooms to choose from- the cozy "cabinet" rooms, the "Les chambres" rooms, and the remarkably spacious "Salon" rooms, where we stayed. All beautifully decorated with hand picked antique furniture, English wallpapers, high ceilings with crown molding, with brilliant attention paid to every tiny detail. Our Salon Room had a 4 post canopy king size bed, luxurious linens, a gorgeous antique green velvet sofa, french doors opening up to a long balcony, and the most beautiful state of the art rug.
We met at HENRI for our second anniversary for some wine and then went out for some authentic Italian food at Romero for some of the best gnocchi and limoncello in Berlin. From there we made our way over to The Hat Bar, a warm and smokey Jazz club with stellar cocktails and old-timey vibes. HENRI Hotel is the perfect place for guests visiting the city, but even if you live in Berlin, it's also a dreamy location if you want an escape and a romantic place to spend a special occasion.
The original HENRI is in the city center of Germany's harbor city, Hamburg while their third location is due to open in Dusseldorf by 2018.
Recommendations for things to do from henri:
- Schloss Charlottenburg - Experience a traditional German palace, incredible during the Christmas Markets
- Monkey Bar - For epic views of West Berlin and the zoo along with delicious cocktails
- Berlin Zoo- 1,400 species and a giant zoo, right around the corner
- Bikini Berlin- The world's first concept shopping mall, carefully curated with local designers and pop up shops
- C/O Berlin acclaimed art gallery with photography and visuals
- Museum für Fotografie - Showcasing Helmet Newton's masterpieces of photography
Switzerland has always been a dream of mine- jaw dropping snowy Alps, mouthwatering Swiss fondue and chocolate, fresh mountain air, and some of the friendliest people on the planet. I teamed up with Raileurope to see as much as I possibly could in our 3 days in Switzerland. We flew into Zurich and then made our way down through Bern and Interlaken to the Bernese Alps where the stunning village of Grindelwald sits. I've always had a bit of a fascination with country. In a small country of only 7 million people, 4 national languages are spoken and every region varies greatly. I was thrilled to explore the German region and immerse myself in the overwhelming beauty of some of the worlds most impressive mountains.
BERGHAUS BORT GRINDELWALD
The Alpine hotel sits high in the mountains at a whopping 1,600 meters above sea level. We took a beautiful gondola ride up from Grindelwald to stay at Berghaus Bort for 2 days. The 4th generation family hotel was built in 1947 and has remained in the family ever since. The "ski in/ski out" chalet is right next to the first stop of the Gondola line on the way to "First" surrounded by hiking trails, sky slopes, and green rolling hills. The hotel has recently been remodeled- retaining the traditional infrastructure but with fully luxurious and modern amenities. The views from all the rooms are straight out of a dream. Each morning I watched the clouds roll over the hills below us and the jagged mountaintops disappear and reappear before my eyes. If you're a nature lover like me, then this is the perfect hotel for you. You're close enough to the village to shop and hang out but far enough away so you can have peace and quiet. You can hike, bike, and ski, along with wander in endless nature. My favorite part was hanging with the Swiss Cows who roam around the hills with their bells making music in unison. The hotel has a restaurant so you really don't ever have to leave. We did the "half board" option where you have a breakfast buffet and then an incredible 4 course dinner. The food was fresh, modern, and exactly what you want after a day on the slopes. We ended our last night after a long hike with a pot of Swiss Fondue and white wine- truly a memory that I'll never forget.
GREULICH DESIGN & LIFESTYLE HOTEL
On our last day we headed to Zurich. I immediately fell in love with Greulich the minute I stepped foot into our "Living Design Loft Room." The hotel is warm and welcoming, making you feel like you belong. It's found in the fashionable 4th district surrounded by one of the trendiest neighborhoods around. The cozy atmosphere quickly makes you feel like you're at home. The hotel has 28 rooms surrounding a courtyard, giving you a small escape from the bustling city life. They offer free bike rentals (very stylish ones, I must add) which we took advantage of to explore the old town of the city along with the stunning lake. Our more than spacious room was bright and airy with a minimalistic design yet offering all the amenities you would need. With a full kitchen, dining room, comfy living room, and wall to wall windows, the room is perfect when you're ready to get comfortable and make yourself at home.
Upon arrival, we made reservations to attend a work out class in the yoga studio within the hotel. It was so nice to just slip on some comfy clothes and the house slippers provided and wander down to the studio. I was so excited to get a good work out in, especially after several days of delicious fondue and Swiss Chocolate. We were immediately greeting by friendly faces (regulars to the class) and had one of the most amazing work outs of my life. We had the honor of David Suivez, a young yogi, skater, and DJ, lead our class called "Play Date," which is an "Investigations and sharing on Play-Fighting and Contact Improvisation." It was absolutely one of the most exciting and exhilarating few hours of my life. I cannot recommend this class enough.
We ended our evening at HERMAN'S LIVING ROOM, the cozy restaurant in the hotel, drinking wine, enjoying a cheese and meat plate along with a superfood salad. It's one of those hotels that you never want to leave.
GETTING AROUND: RAILEUROPE AND JUNGFRAU- TOP OF EUROPE
Everyone was right when they said Switzerland is the most efficient and punctual country in the world! I was totally blown away by how easy the trains were to navigate and how simple it was to use my Swiss Travel Pass from Rail Europe. With our passes, we were able to quickly jump on trains, boats, and buses without having to worry about waiting in super long ticket lines or having cash to use the ticket machines. We simply just kept our passes along with our passports safely tucked away in our backpacks so we could freely jump on and off as we wished. The pass also includes entrance to more than 500 museums for free! I truly have never seen more jaw dropping views. In some of the carts on the slower speed mountain pass trains, you can pull the window down for some fresh alpine air. Every train has a monitor listing the stops and letting you know where to switch, what platform to go to, and how many minutes you have left. Out of all my travels, I have never had an easier time getting around. We loved traveling 1st class as well which has even more perks like the restaurant carts, never having to worry about standing, and charging outlets. Another favorite aspect of the trip was that the train stations have super easy to use lockers to store your luggage right outside of the train. We were able to explore Interlaken on our day trip back to Zurich from Grindelwald. We also had a giant (American sized) suitcase which even fit in the locker. It's the perfect way to see more and get the most out of your trip. Rail Europe provides all kinds of options for passes depending on the amount of time you're traveling and how many countries you wish to see. The passes also make a brilliant gift for graduation trips, honeymoons, or even birthday gifts.
Another highlight of our trip was taking the gondola with Jungfrau up to our hotel which was the first stop from Grindelwald to First. Grindelwald is world renowned for it's adventurous activities and everything is accessible from the station First. You can zipline, ski, mountain bike, ride mountain carts, take a glider with birds of prey wings for 800 kilometers above the rolling hills- literally anything your heart desires. There are tons of trails for hiking that are accessible from the top along with the stunning Bachalpsee Lake. We also loved enjoying a beer and some warm food at the restaurant with dramatic Alp views. If you're brave you can try the Cliff Walk by Tissot that was so high up I think our knees were shaking. I would recommend getting a pass so you can hope on and off as you wish throughout your stay.