EXCEPTIONAL HOSPITALITY AND FAMILY TRADITIONS – WHITE STALLION RANCH

By Shereen Shabnam

As the world gets more accessible to travellers, destinations sought are no longer just limited to beaches and cities. Highlands, cruises, ranches are becoming more popular and our current favourite is the White Stallion Ranch.

The personal touch and hospitality of this traditional dude ranch is carefully blended with the service and amenities of a fine resort where guests can reconnect with nature, family, friends and serenity. Adventure seekers can ride through the unspoiled desert and the rugged mountains.

With a warm, welcoming atmosphere, the ranch has been the Hollywood filmmakers for years as a backdrop in Western feature films and later, as the location for the television series High Chaparral.

The guest rooms at the ranch and The Hacienda, a lovely and private four-bedroom, three-bathroom home are spacious and charming, perfect for larger families or small groups. Every guest room has a private patio with views of the cactus gardens, mountains, or corrals.  Amenities include eco-friendly soaps, shampoos and lotions, hair dryers, mini-refrigerators and personal safes in all rooms.

A premium advantage of a vacation at White Stallion Ranch is that all the cooking is done for guests with a variety of meal options using the freshest, quality ingredients in home-style recipes.

The breakfast includes a cooked-to-order menu as well as an extensive continental buffet. Lunch and dinner buffets are also available with snacks all day including fresh fruit, chips and salsa, peanuts and a homemade trail mix.  For drinks, guests can have coffee, cappuccino, hot chocolate, hot and cold teas and lemonade through the day.

Among activities at the ranch, the riding program is one of the focal points, with a large herd of hand picked horses and knowledgeable wranglers to guide the riding adventures.

Guests can also enjoy guided rock climbing, hiking, tennis, basketball, the game room, movie theater, swimming pool, hot tub, gift shop, spa, exercise room or just relaxing on one of the many charming patios with mountain views.

White Stallion Ranch was originally built in the 1900’s and began as a cattle ranch. The original property was constructed of Mexican adobe brick made of mud and straw. During renovation, wire and horseshoes were found in the walls. A small part of the original adobe is on display in the dining room, the original building on the ranch.

As a sought after destination that is also an attraction, the White Stallion Ranch has won many accolades and is recognised for service excellence and value. It is a member of the Historic Hotels of America and recognised among the fifteen best hotels in Tucson in 2017 by US News and World Report and holds the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence since 2015 to this year.

The current owners maintain the traditions of the West with many of the original buildings still in use. They have added sunken tennis courts, a movie theater, a new pool and hot tub area with a serenity patio, lighted sport courts a spa area and fitness center. They have also established one of the largest privately owned herds of horses in Arizona and a large herd of cattle.

New ranch holiday seekers should start with the best and the White Stallion Ranch is the perfect venue to get a glimpse into the ranch lifestyle.

 

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Christmas at Grand Hotel Zermatterhof

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By Shereen Shabnam

My favourite place in Switzerland, the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof Zermatt, dominated by the Matterhorn is a rare place where everything works in synergy and GCC travellers can enjoy memorable winter stays including a generous breakfast buffet during the festive season at this majestic property.

My favourite memory from my visit is the transfer to and from the Zermatterhof and Zermatt station in a horse-drawn carriage or electric bus on the day of your arrival and departure.

Guests can enjoy a generous breakfast buffet, mineral water and soft drinks from the minibar, Ronnefeldt-Tea, Nespresso coffee machine with capsules, use of the spa, pool, steam bath, saunas, jacuzzi, ice grotto and gym and wireless Internet in the room and in all public areas.

Once you step into the Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, hospitality and luxury takes on a whole new meaning. It is a hotel you want to spend time in, meet with other guests and enjoy a hot chocolate while gazing at the Matterhorn.

Zermatt is situated far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life at an altitude of 1,600 metres above sea level. The historic village oozes with charm and the high street is lined with luxury shopping, world-class restaurants and stylish bars.

And Grand Hotel Zermatterhof is where time means something different from what it means in the city. It is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

For ski enthusiasts, there is no better place than Zermatt to flirt with adventure and enjoy the sport with untouched stunning terrain and a helicopter to give you a lift there. Zermatt is the Alps’ largest heli-skiing destination and offers the best snow with the stunning beauty of the Alps.

Zermatt is a private playground for guests who truly want to get away and indulge in a memorable holiday. 

Miami Magic – Memorable experiences in Florida

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There is no place like Miami when it comes to looking for a haven that lets you relax by the day and party by the night both are done in gusto and with equal measure. The calm and serenity that I feel in the coastal parts of Miami, the creative inspiration I feel in the Art Deco areas and the diverse cuisine, sights and sounds that offer a fascinating blend of urban chic and old world rustic charm is what makes me go back again and again.

Miami has great year-round weather, the best beaches and is a cosmopolitan metropolis with an enviable arts and cultural landscape in the back drop blue skies, cotton candy clouds that makes ‘The Simpsons’ sky paler in comparison and cool breezy evenings perfect for beach walks and outdoor sports.

My first stop in Miami is of course the car museum to see the Dezer Collection being a obsessed motoring aficionado and despite taking a hundred pictures, I still discover more unique pieces during each visit. This is followed by a visit to the Everglades National Park, a 1.5 million-acre eco-system of subtropical jungle and the warm waters of Florida Bay so I get a good dose of greenery into my system.  Being a Pisces, I also love the Biscayne National Park that hosts’ lots of marine life and plants, living coral reefs as well as the longest stretch of mangrove forest.

During every visit to Miami, I have stayed in different hotels as the city, the South beach and many more areas have an inspiring collection of hotels, from casual and chic boutiques to the world’s leading luxury properties. My favourites so far include the W Hotel, St Regis Bal Harbour and recently I stayed at the Grand Beach Hotel.

The best drive is getting to South Beach and seeing the Port of Miami which clearly is the Cruise Capital of the World. Last year I went the maiden journey of the largest cruise ship in the world, ‘Harmony of the Seas’. The Port is dotted with sparkling white megaships carrying travelers to the Caribbean and back for more quality time in Miami.

During this drive I also stopped at the Jungle Island that has great wildlife shows, monkeys and exotic birds. I had a private encounter with the lemurs that initially was daunting and I was squeamish but they soon won me over with their cute antics. I wanted to stop at the Miami Children’s Museum, which is hosted in a gorgeous building designed by the award-winning Miami architectural firm, Arquitectonica, but ran out of time.

A visit to Miami is not complete unless you go to the Art deco area, which has a collection of more than 800 architecturally protected buildings from the 1930s and 1940s. If you love art, take ample time to spend here and my only regret is not charging up my camera in full when I visited. It is a photographers dream.

Being a woman, I headed to the very trendy Lincoln Road for uninterrupted retail therapy as this area is pedestrian friendly and has lots of spots to have coffee breaks and watch the locals. Not far from here is the World Symphony Centre with world-class performing arts. During my stay in Bal Harbour, I discovered the famous Bal Harbour Shops across the road which had the best designer boutiques that included Gucci, Fendi, Roberto Cavalli and lovely coffee shops.

Downtown Miami is similar to Dubai and is a hub for international business and finance with tall office towers and condominiums lining Brickell Avenue.  It also has Florida’s largest performing arts center with the Grand Opera, the Miami City Ballet and of course there is the Design District that hosts the top designers.

Close to the Design District is Wynwood that has close to a hundred galleries including contemporary urban murals and relaxation areas. Other new Miami attractions to look out for when you visit are include the Miami Science Museum, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida and the new Miami Art Museum.

One of my favourite parts of Miami is Little Havana where I discovered ‘Cassava or Tapioca’ during lunch one day. It is a root crop I love and is a staple we eat in Fiji. The vibrant area makes you feel happy naturally and one could spend a entire day exploring the cuisine, watching how one hand-rolls cigars, with the backdrop of songs that make you want to start salsa and merengue lessons right away. Another great place is the Coconut Grove with lush and tropical greenery and has lovely cafés, art galleries, retail shops and markets.

Miami has great suburbs such as Coral Gables with beautiful Mediterranean-style homes and winding waterways. The Key Biscayne area is good for hiking and biking trails, boating and sports facilities. North of Miami has great Moorish architecture, good golf courses and large Aventura Mall where I ended up spending a full day. South of Miami is great for Everglades National Park, a World Heritage site and numerous tourist destinations.

Throughout this region, and up near the urban areas to the north, you can take advantage of a wide Miami-Dade Parks EcoAdventures — a wide variety of exciting naturalist-guided excursions for nature lovers and outdoor sports enthusiasts that combine adventure, recreation, and natural history. Discover South Florida’s natural treasures as you kayak, snorkel, bike, or hike in this remarkable sub-tropical environment. Going on nature trails is also great to admire the natural beauty of Miami.

Hence, Miami Beach offers far beyond sun and sand, with world-famous nightlife and world-renowned art galleries, first-class hotels superb dining, designer retail and unique architecture that makes it one of the world’s most visually distinctive regions.

Exquisite Athenian Riviera – Grand Resort Lagonissi

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Helios Hotels and Resorts have devoted more than three decades to refining the perfect blend of elegance, personal service and exclusivity in their properties, with the gorgeous natural beauty of the Greek landscape as their constant inspiration. The exquisite Grand Resort Lagonissi is one of their most beautiful properties for holidays that offer sun, sea and sand with exceptional service and a wide range of rest and relaxation venues and activities.

In a simply glorious setting on a private peninsula, dotted with private sandy coves, in Attica on the Athenian Riviera, the impressive Grand Resort Lagonissi offers a high level of service, a wealth of facilities and an exquisite choice of award winning restaurants.

The Helios Hotels and Resorts Group has rightfully won the title of one of the most important hotel chains, not only in Greece but also internationally, as it boasts hotels of unique aesthetics and luxury, distinguished by the top quality they offer both in terms of accommodation and service.

Among their portfolio is the Grand Resort Lagonissi, which stands on a verdant peninsula, just a few miles from Athens and a few minutes from the International Airport. The resort, which is a member of ‘The Leading Hotels of the World’, combines luxurious ambience and exceptional service in a true sun and sea world.

The Grand Resort Lagonissi represents the consummate in luxury in terms of location, design, facilities and service. The highest level of pampering, relaxation, leisure and recreation are values offered to the discerning visitor who wants covert this experience. The resort is located on the south side of the Athens area, amid lush greenery.

The resort provides endless choices of luxurious accommodations in standard rooms and suites, the private Mediterranean bungalows and in the lavish villas and suites, which have their own private swimming pools. All bedrooms offer access to sandy beaches and boast a steam bath and a Jacuzzi bathtub.

A range of restaurants and bars situated on the waterfront serve an imaginative selection of local and international  cuisine in a breath-taking natural setting. The dining facilities suit every occasion and palate, from buffets to a la carte specialty restaurants serving a range of world cuisines, each with its own style and ambience. Most of the resort’s restaurants hold Five Star Diamond Awards from the American Academy of Hospitality Science.

Recreational facilities include a host of land and water based sports, outdoor pool, a children’s club, open air cinema, plus a state of the art spa where highly skilled therapists offer rejuvenating holistic treatments for mind, body and soul. The state-of-the-art Thala Spa Chenot Spa offers holistic rejuvenation in a tranquil setting. Guests may also benefit from the special balanced-diet menus.

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The water sports activities on the magnificent Mediterranean Searange from sailing and windsurfing, to waterskiing and scuba diving. Rental of yachts and Lear jets is available on request for guests keen to enjoy the clear blue seas on their own. Private sandy coves surround the hotel for those who want a day alone on the beach.

The Grand Resort Lagonissi is an ideal choice for leisure visitors and business travelers, providing a vast choice of lodging and conference facilities. It offers its guests an exclusive private ambience and an atmosphere that makes you feel truly at home without making any compromises in the style or quality of its services.

Located around a 30-minute from Athens City Centre, the Grand Resort Lagonissi certainly sets a benchmark in first-class service and facilities for business and leisure trips. It’s unique peninsula location, in south Athens, offers a peaceful Mediterranean setting and easy access to cultural attractions.

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Blending Heritage With Modernity – The Widder Hotel Zurich

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Strategically located in the historic district of the financial metropolis Zurich, the Five-Star Widder Hotel, is a glamorous location for social events and important conferences. Through its unique art collection and architecture, the Widder Hotel is also a meeting place for creative people who appreciate the exceptional personal ambience of this individually designed hotel.

The Widder Hotel is in the heart of Zurich’s old city and known for its exceptional architecture: The nine private residences from the middle Ages have been meticulously restored and renovated into one modern luxury hotel. Discerning leisure and business travelers always note that the Widder Hotel is a member of Swiss Deluxe Hotels, White Line Hotels, and the Leading Hotels of the World. Since 2010, Mr. Jan E. Brucker as the manager of the hotel took on the honorary position of President of Swiss Deluxe Hotels (SDH).

The association was founded in 1934 and includes 39 of the best, independently managed Five Star Hotels in Switzerland. Many of the historical traces, that distinguish the Widder Hotel, are found in the guestrooms. The visitor will need to come several times to experience all architectural and artistic features of the hotel. Each guestroom has its individual layout, structure and color scheme and shines with a distinct design and furnishing.

According to Mr. Brucker, the Widder Hotel attaches great importance to real values. It does not mean to be trendy, but rather stands for the true values of the arts, history and heritage and in fact the main attraction of the Widder is the preserved historical, complemented by permanent values.

The nine meticulously restored historical residences in which the Widder Hotel unfolds are unique, as each house is underlined by a subtle guide of orientation with the colour of each house also applied to the inside gangways and corridors. Moreover each house features its own wood species and stone.

Each one of the 34 guest rooms and 15 suites, the banqueting room, meeting rooms, restaurant and bar are individually styled The fusion of historical architecture and innovative modern design creates a relaxed ambience with real character. It’s the perfect setting for an unforgettable stay, private party or exclusive business event.

The hotel has been built, acquired, occupied, changed and decorated by descendants of noble families, guild masters, artisans and merchants. And their life took place in little parlours and offices just the same as in opulent salons. The room decors of these late Middle Age houses with rich murals and stucco is an expression of the owners’ social class, who made their wealth and fortune through trade and commerce. The “Rennweg”, where the main entrance of the Widder Hotel is located, was Zurich’s most prestigious street from the 17th to the 19th century.

Every room is furnished with a sophisticated lighting system by the Austrian Zumtobel Group and has two telephone lines as well as fax- and WLAN-connections. The audio system is by Bang & Olufsen. Satellite TV, a personal safe and a cooling/heating system as well as mini bar and Nespresso coffee maker are also standard facilities in each room.

Guests occupying a suite have an iPad available free of charge during their stay. Each suite is equipped with an Apple Docking-station, allowing further options for use such as playing music or listening to audio books.

A team of preservationists, archaeologists, architects and designers, through the years were involved in the reformation of this historical building ensemble. During the 18 months of archaeological excavation the scientists even found relics from the Roman Ages, among them a fire place as well as cooking utensils and domestic ceramics. In the Widder Hotel all of the ancient and antique is genuine, all new elements are state-of-the-art.

In the raised upper floor of the Steinhaus there is the light and airy breakfast room with its retractable glass ceiling. The library is located on the ground floor of the Steinhaus. The antiques and works by renowned artists, in particular from contemporary times, lend the hotel its own distinctive character. Robert Rauschenberg has designed and created a picture especially for the stairway in the Penthouse Suite.

A wealth of paintings, sculptures and artworks adorn the lobby, restaurants, conference facilities and all guest rooms from famous artists such as Augusto Giacometti, Serge Poliakoff, Max Bill, Andy Warhol.

The Widder Garden is Zurich’s most loved open-air-hideaway when the weather is good for alfresco dining. Located in the heart of the historic district, enjoy a light lunch or cappuccino-break after shopping and sightseeing, to an afterwork dinner in the evening in one of the hotel’s restaurants serving world-class cuisine.

The Widder Hotel lies in the heart of the Augustiner quarter, which offers all benefits of a central location within the historic section of the town and offers Maserati limousine transfers to and from the airport.

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Breathtaking Views: Hassler Roma

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One of the most insightful encounters I had recently was with the team from Hassler Roma. Set atop the Spanish Steps and featuring a panoramic view of the entire city, the Hassler Roma is owned by President and Managing Director Roberto E. Wirth, fifth generation of a famous Swiss hotelier dynasty.

Hospitality is in the DNA of the owners. For more than a century, the Hassler Roma continues its legacy as Rome’s five-star lodging of choice for the world’s elite and discerning travelers. Its rooms and suites, its terraces and its 1 starred Michelin panoramic restaurant offer the most breathtaking view over Rome’s city center skyline.

The hotel has 93 rooms, 13 of which are suites, individually designed with an elegant combination of classic and contemporary touches and with panoramic suites. Located on the Hassler’s 8th floor, the 400 sqm Hassler Penthouse Suite offers the most breathtaking view over Rome’s city center skyline, including the Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna with its Barcaccia fountain by Bernini and the famed Via Condotti, Rome’s most exclusive shopping street.

Speaking passionately of the contemporary elements that enhance the ambience of the property, the representatives from Hassler rave how the elegant, contemporary décor blends seamlessly with a state-of-the-art music and lighting system. The elevator provides direct access to the suite, which features two panoramic terraces in Travertine marble, a grand piano and fully-stocked cocktail bar area in the spacious and elegantly-decorated living room.

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The suites feature a dining area, two beautiful large King bedded rooms and a single room, Wi Fi, a kitchen with custom-designed fine bone china tableware, and of course the incomparable views of the city, which may be admired from every room, including the spacious bathrooms, complete with chromotherapy-enhanced rain showers.

Located on the 7th floor, the Penthouse Suite Villa Medici has a breathtaking view from its private 150 sq. mt. terrace. It is a magical space offering a unique location where to relax and enjoy the view of the city with a late afternoon cocktail, a private dinner or for private events. Upon entering the suite

Also on offer is the Presidential suite San Pietro, located on the 6th floor, is named to celebrate the view over St. Peter’s Basilica. The exclusive terrace running along the entire apartment is equipped with chaise-longues, tables and chairs ideal for an outdoor drink or simply to enjoy the spectacular view of the city and the Spanish Steps..

Located on the 5th floor, Presidential Suite Trinità dei Monti, overlooks the Spanish Steps. The bright, airy corner suite features large floor-to-ceiling windows with balconies which offer an unforgettable view of Rome The suite has black and white marble floors, as well as black/ white carpeting and the living room is decorated with original paintings and classically-styled furniture with a modern accent.

There are also the Grand Deluxe Suite Forum, the Grand Deluxe Suite Hassler and the Executive suites should you prefer even more options.

For dining and relaxation, visit the Michelin-starred panoramic restaurant, Imàgo, the Salone Eva and Palm Court restaurant and the Hassler Bar, as well as the neighboring, Hassler-owned Il Palazzetto: a hotel, wine bar and special event space.

Given its unique position, elegance, style, luxury, quality service and discretion, the Hassler Roma is the very symbol of international hospitality and the ideal location for an unforgettable and one-of-a kind stay in the Eternal City.

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MALAYSIA – TRULY ASIA

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One of the many reasons why I keep going back to Malaysia after living there for nearly ten years is for the mouth-watering food, diverse cultures, the lush green nature, enchanting islands, the beaches and the retail therapy.

It is now an accepted fact that if you want to visit Asia, all you have to do is visit Malaysia. Apart from its geographical location, right smack in the centre of Asia, strong economic base and stable political situation, Malaysia is an attraction for the tourist who wants to taste Asia but do not have the luxury of time and money.

Below are the top 10 reasons why Malaysia is truly Asia.

  1. THE PEOPLE:

Asian people or the term Asiatic people has multiple meanings that refers to people who descend from a portion of Asia’s population. And quite a number of them are found in Malaysia. The most common are the Malays, Chinese, Indians, Punjabis and the Dayak tribes or the aboriginals.

  1. THE CULTURE:

Having a multiple mixed races in Malaysia makes for an interesting potpourri of culture. The Malays will have their colourful weddings and celebrations full of refinement, the Chinese have exciting festivals that are steeped in tradition, the Indians have classical presentations that are as colourful as their sarees, while the aboroginal tribes will have their natural heritage largely encircling their practice of paying tribute to nature. These are all endemic to most Asian countries, with just some slight variations.

  1. THE MANY RELIGIONS:

I learnt more about religious practices in Malaysia in 9 yeras than in my entire lifetime. The main religions in Asia, ie Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism play a major part in shaping the beliefs of Asians and are found in Malaysia as well.

  1. THE FOOD:

Food is what makes Asia, and definitely Malaysia, so delectable. Once you have tasted the food of Malaysia, you have tasted most Asian cuisine. There is something to suit all tastes and for the Muslims, halal cuisine available everywhere.

  1. THE CLOTHES:

The standard traditional garb among the main cultures is the Malay baju, Chinese cheongsam and Indian saree. Occasionally you see the Vietnamese ao dai or the Korean hanbok as Malaysians do wear similar outfits during special events.

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  1. THE LANGUAGE:

Malay is the most common of all languages in Asia as it is spoken in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines and even Cambodia while Chinese and Tamil are equally well-spoken in certain Asian countries. In Malaysia, English is spoken vastly and I never had any problems in even the remote destinations in the country.

  1. THE CLIMATE:

Like most countries in Asia, there are only two seasons in Malaysia: rainy and sunny. You either carry an umbrella or wear your sun-shades, depending on the weather.

  1. THE HISTORY:

The history of the Asian countries is intertwined with Malaysia’s history, thanks in great part to the traders of days of yore. As such you can read about Asian history in the annals of Malaysian history.

  1. THE FESTIVALS:

There are lots of common festivals between most Asian countries and those found in Malaysia and makes for an interesting feast for the senses. It was a delight to sometimes have up to three festivals for different cultures in one week.

  1. THE TRADITIONAL PASTIMES:

The best things in life are free, like sunshine, fresh air and love, and these are prevalent in the hobbies of Malaysians, as it is with Asians. People enjoy going to the parks, movies, exploring shopping malls, indulging in sporting activities and in my case, I just enjoyed people watching in the local teahouses and coffee shops.

With such common denominators, Malaysia can rightfully claim to be truly Asia and a good reason to visit the country.