Authentic Italian Experiences – Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

By Shereen Shabnam

 

Set in the Eternal City on the grounds of a 15 acre park, Rome, the spectacular Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Resort offers guests a home overlooking the best parts of the Vatican City. I spent a few days exploring the majestic hotel and its spa recently and left rested and relaxed for my next adventure.

Being a lover of art, I have been sponsoring the art perspective event every two months held in a five star hotel in Dubai over the year and hence, very familiar with the trend of merging the art world with the hospitality world but seeing the seeing the scale of art at Rome Cavalieri left me mesmerised. The hotel is home to over 1,200 beautiful artworks from well-known artists like Andy Warhol, Giovanni Battista and period pieces of artefacts, tapestries and furniture.

Recently, the hotel introduced a series of complimentary luxury experiences for guests who book to stay a number of days in one of the hotel’s suites this year. They can take part in a series of inimitable local activities focusing on art, culture and cuisine, with each experience offered to vary depending on the suite chosen and time of year.

Whether it’s learning to make authentic Italian sandals with an authentic, family-run Italian shoemaker, private tours of the Vatican Gardens, the Pope’s summer Residence or the gardens of Castel Gandolfo or culinary journeys in the city, Rome Cavalieri’s Suite Experiences promise a memorable stay.

Food lovers will enjoy a private culinary tour and two-way transfer to Mercato Trionfale in the Prati neighbourhood, a market frequented by locals. The tour features six venues with over 20 different food and wine tastings. Here, guests can sample local culinary delights including truffles and 30 year aged balsamic vinegar, artisanal gelateria from Fatamorgana, homemade pasta with D.O.C.G. Vermentino wine at an award-winning restaurant, caviar and foie gras topped pizzas at Pizzarium, Rome’s number one pizzeria. It also includes a visit to Paciotti, the number one gourmet food shop in Rome, offering over 200 types of cheeses and 100 types of meats. 

Guests staying in the top suites can enjoy the private use of a professional photographer to accompany them on their day around the Eternal City. Guests will receive a professional photoshoot in both Rome and the hotel, with a Mercedes at their disposal throughout the day. To cherish those memories, guests will receive an elegantly presented box with a USB drive and photo print outs, which will be directly delivered to them after their stay.

My favourite experience naturally would be staying in the Vista and Corner Suites and enjoy a luxury picnic in the hotel’s verdant parkland, accompanied with a butler as well as a private yoga session in the park and an 80-minute massage.

The spa experience in Rome Cavalieri was an amazing escape to a tranquil oasis with Roman baths, fitness centre and reputed products to indulge in. I opted for massage and once I saw the La Prairie products, I wished I had booked a facial too but had to catch my flight back to Dubai.

Overall, the Rome Cavalieri was a surreal experience. The building was designed by one of the most important architects of the period, Ugo Luccichenti, assisted by E. Pifferi and A. Ressa, with contribution from two superstar architects of the ‘60’s, Franco Albini and Pierluigi Nervi.

Ever since its opening in 1963, the hotel is known for the highest level of comfort attracting famous personalities and fifty years on, the Rome Cavalieri continues to move with the times, exceeding the expectations of the most demanding international travelers and living up to its name as an icon in the world of luxury hospitality. I certainly felt extremely special throughout my stay and would love to return with family one day to relive the experience and of course to make their spa my second home for at least a week.

 

 

 

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Exploring Taiwan – The Land of Breathtaking Beauty

By Shereen Shabnam

With rich cultural diversity and traditions as varied as it’s beautiful natural landscape alongside tall towers and a thriving business environment, Taiwan is full of surprises for visitors.

My visit began with a tour of the Taipei 101, architecturallycreated guided with Feng Shui principles as a symbol of the evolution of technology and Asian tradition with traditional design elements, works of art and modern treatments. It comes with Indoor Observation decks plus a premium multi-level shopping mall adjoining the tower with hundreds of stores, restaurants and clubs.

The journey continued with visits to Chiayi, Alishan, Sun Moon Lake and beyond wandering through cultural attractions, lakes, hillside stations, tropical forests and sampling a wide variety of cuisine including ample choice of halal delicacies.

Taiwan offers the gamut of different cuisines and I enjoyed the Chinese, Indian, Moroccan, Japanese dishes alongside the traditional local specialties like Tainan milkfish and desert dumplings in restaurants and night markets in between sight seeing and shopping.

A visit to Taiwanese temples is a must for people watching as they gather to worship, enjoy local festivities nearby and to peruse the local art house often found in each city.

Highlight of the visit was the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated each year on the 15th day of the first lunar month to mark the grand finale of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

This first full moon day of the New Year symbolizes the coming of the spring. People usually celebrate this festival by enjoying family dinner together, eating Yuanxiao (glutinous rice dumpling), carrying paper lanterns, and solving the riddles on the lanterns.

At the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Chiayi, I found the grand celebration with music, dance, light shows, 4D visual effects and the grand lanterns all around me magical. My Taiwanese friends said they sometimes write their wishes on the sky lanterns because it is believed as the lantern fly into the sky; it is a way to pass on your wishes to gods above.

A visit to the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum was a delightin Chiayi County. The museum is set on 70 hectares of land next to a large scenic lake with gardens. It has an unmatched collection of e artifacts and priceless treasures from distant places.

Another attractionlocated in Qigu District, Tainan is the Qigu Salt Mountain set close to Qigu Lagoon, the largest inland lake in Taiwan, which is rich in ecological resources and the habitat for winter migratory birds-black-faced spoonbills. There are a number of recreational activities like go-karting, antique machines exhibition and the Doo-doo trains making it an interesting Tainan tourist spot for visitors of all ages.

Other enjoyable excursions included exploring the Sicao Mangrove Preserve and the Taijiang National Parkwith ecological and cultural landscape alongside culture and history. The Alishan National Scenic Area was also memorable.

Another breath taking experience was of course Taiwan’s largest Lake, the Sun Moon Lakelocated in the mountains of Nantou. I took a late afternoon boat tour and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. The area around the lake is home to tribes and scenic views. Leaving Taiwan was not easy especially from the Sun Moon Lake.

From the UAE, getting to Taiwan was fairly easy on Emirates Airlines, which flies to direct to Taipei daily. The city is a great starting point to get to the other popular tourist spots.

Natural Sanctuary – Bled in Slovenia

By Shereen Shabnam

One of my most memorable travel destinations recently was to Slovenia with Turkish Airlines. The first stop was at a lake town called Bled,a popular tourist destination in Slovenia known for its emerald green lake, a wonderful restaurant on top of a mountain with picturesque views and a medieval castle.

On arrival, we had an enchanting boat ride across the lake, which is the highlight of a visit to Bled. It is best to take some time to take in the ambience, watch the swans and ducks on the lakes and enjoy the lush green mountains in the distance.

A hike up a hill followed the boat ride as we climbed a stone staircase with 99 steps to have lunch with panoramic views and a visit to take pictures of the waterfront, the church of assumption andthe castle of Bled.

The Bled Castle is the oldest castle in Slovenia. There is also a museum at the top with the history of the castle, some interesting fossils and archaeological findings and a tempting gift shop selling food and the arts and crafts of Bled.

Being a food lover, I stopped to taste the famous Kremsnita cake, which was as delectable as the locals claimed and better than any cream cake I have ever sampled during my travels.

Adventure tourists will enjoy the famous hiking trails that start from Bled. They are called Pokljika, Mount Stol and Triglav. For those on the look out for picturesque views, The Vintgar Gorge has a scenic route that is serene with a lovely waterfall.

Some sites I wanted to visit but missed out on is the Postojna Cave Predjama Castle and the Lipica Stud Farm that produces horses for the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Visitors from the Middle East who love equestrian sports can enjoy tours, rides and lessons that cover dressage and how to control horses.

Lake Bled is an ideal destination for a perfect summers day. Dress casual and comfortable to make the most of the visit as the activities involve rowing, hiking, exploring and enjoy the photography opportunities.

Classic Elegance – Luxury at every turn at Villa Magna, Madrid

By Shereen Shabnam

On the way to my Spanish home recently, a stop in Madrid led me and my family to discover the luxury Villa Magna in Madrid where the ambience celebrates the old and new in a space that only be described as classically elegant.

In the last century, where this modern building stands today on the Paseo de la Castellana, was the Palace of Anglada which was demolished in the 1960`s. The hotel on the same site shows the same sophistication and after an extensive renovation, the luxury hotel has become a home to regular visitors who love the Bauhaus concepts and Chinese screens that combine to create a welcoming and luxurious atmosphere.

From the moment we were picked at the airport by a private chauffeur to the moment we left, the experience we had was more than amazing. The Concierge led us to the most interesting exhibitions and fashionable boutiques in Madrid but the highlight of the excursions was our teenage daughter experiencing the VIP shopper experience at El Corte Ingles…a must for all GCC visitors.

The hotel lobby is warm and welcoming with a large window offering a marvelous view to the Magnum Patio. To add a sophisticated touch the walls were adorned with Bauhaus and Vienna Secession designs. Different styles also combine among the furnishings: Louis XVI rosewood consoles, exotic screens and rugs with their geometric shapes give warmth to the marble floors.

The Restaurante Villa Magna has beautiful natural light, complimented by the choice of light colours and a large framed mirror that reflects the space as a painting. The beauty of the carpentry work and the relaxing upholstery combine to make a perfect ambience relaxing. 

The Lounge, off the Lobby of the Villa Magna, is the ideal setting to meet friends, discuss business or enjoy a relaxing meal at any time of the day. We spent our lunchtime mainly there with a selection of snacks, light lunch dishes whilst enjoying views onto the Lounge Terrace and Paseo de la Castellana beyond.

The room we stayed in was spacious, comfortable and washed with soft lighting, bright colours and warm fabrics. It was tastefully done and every detail was taken care of…from attending to my love for chocolates to the availability of prayer mats in the cupboard.

 Our day excursions meant revisiting our favourite Madrid attractions starting from the “Art Triangle” the Prado Museum, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum, the Mercado and the Reina Sofia Museum to walking through Plaza Mayor and retail streets dotted with local and international brands.

The Villa Magna´s Fitness Club is equipped with the latest Technogym equipment and a team of fitness experts to provide a personalized fitness programme. The Wellness Club is a quiet area to be pampered with luxurious body treatments and skincare in a retreat of tranquility and naturally I opted for a massage on arrival.

Withthe city’s main shopping streets and attractions at the doorstep, the Villa Magna offers the most exclusive and ideal place to stay while visiting Madrid.

 

PEARL YACHTS: THE NEW PEARL 80 MAKES ITS WORLD DEBUT AT FLIBS 2017

The new 24-meter Pearl 80 by Pearl Yachts will make its world debut at the upcoming Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, from November 1 to 5. The new flybridge yacht amazes with numerous features, bright and open interiors, and four guest cabins.

Warwick, October 2017. Impressive manoeuvrability and sea keeping, light-filled interiors and a layout that maximises space are just a few of the main features of the new Pearl 80, the elegant flybridge yacht that will be presented for the first time ever this November at the US boat show.

The new Pearl 80 continues the shipyard’s hugely successful design collaboration between naval architect Bill Dixon, who designs the exterior, and designer Kelly Hoppen, who looked after the interior layout. As all the Pearl Yachts models, in fact, the yacht features original Kelly Hoppen interior design, with a plus. The owner has 3 style to choose from: ‘taupe’, ‘studio’ and ‘luxury’, making possible to customise the yacht while retaining the ‘designer’ interior.

The vast outdoor spaces are equalled by the beautiful calm interior literally flooded with light through the stunning side windows, which give the boat a glamorous profile designed to turn heads. The flybridge, aft of the twin seat helm station, has a covered area with sofas, low tables, a bar unit and a classic sun lounging area right in the stern, furnished with refined chaises longues. The area on the main deck that best expresses the yacht’s character is without doubt the elegant saloon, furnished with light colourways and materials. An electrically operated door separates this saloon from the cockpit area, which has a superbly crafted teak/Corian table surrounded by armchairs and sofas. Forward the galley is separated from the saloon by a rise and fall panel allowing privacy if required, the dining area opposite the lower helm and galley is flooded by light from the overhead double windscreen.

The basic layout of the accommodation has four double cabins, two with double beds and two with twin beds (although the twins can convert to doubles), and all are En-suite. The full beam owner’s suite is a class leader and situated in the centre of the yacht, and all are on the lower deck. The furnishing of these settings is reminiscent of the colours and materials of the day area, although each cabin has its own special style. The result is a sophisticated atmosphere that is also warm and welcoming.

In the engine room, two MAN V12 1800 HP engines give the yacht a remarkable top speed of 35 knots and is comfortable cruising between 25-27 knots. The range at this speed is approximately 300 nautical miles. Other features include a Jet ski garage, Hydraulic bathing platform, foredeck lounge, hardtop with sunroof and a hot tub!

Pearl Yachts will be attending the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show 2017 – Stand Red Zone DE 2

 

Unforgettable Watersports Experiences

american-river-3

Living on an island, I was fortunate to have an amazing array of water sports to choose from as a child. After all, being brought up on the Coral Coast of the exotic Fiji Islands has its advantages and amongst a host of watersports like surfing, sailing and canoeing, people from our town and visitors enjoyed river rafting as well. It may not be as dramatic as the Futaleufu River’s Terminador rapids but still provided an exciting experience.

Naturally, finding out more about the Futaleufu River brought back a host of childhood memories. Heard surging from a quarter of a mile away, the Class V stretch of white water at Futaleufu cascades over and around imposing granite boulders for eight-tenths of a mile, and it lives up to its name.

The river, which runs more than 120 miles through Chile, drops 3,000 feet from beginning to end, and through its most challenging section of rapids, the Futaleufu drops 45 feet per mile, which is 33 feet more per mile than the Colorado River when it passes through the Grand Canyon.

In Patagonia, which emerged as a world-class white-water destination a little less than three decades ago, the Futaleufu is the ultimate crown jewel. A group of kayakers first negotiated the Futaleufu rapids in 1986, and the following year a commercial rafting company from the United States attempted the Terminador and other rapids along the river.

Outfitted with a traditional rafting boat full of gear and rafters without paddles, the American company successfully traversed a handful of Class V rapids before reaching the stretch of white water that, based on the impending result, would come to be named Terminador.

The rapid offers no margin for error, and the raft, weighed down by rafters who couldn’t addle, drifted from the necessary line down the left side of the river. Instead, it was pulled down the center of the rapid, where it was trapped (and subsequently destroyed) in a large, violent hole, the section of a rapid below a submerged boulder where the resulting waterfall creates a backward-falling wave of equal strength.

All of the rafters survived, but news of the event quickly circulated throughout the international rafting community, and for years the Futaleufu was deemed unraftable. It wasn’t until 1991 that Eric Hertz and his company, Earth River Expedition decided to explore the possibilities.

With 20 years of rafting experience and supported by his fleet of specially designed rafts and catarafts (a cross between a catamaran and a traditional white-water raft that offers greater stability through rapids and better rescuing ability), Hertz and a small team of guides spent a couple of years in the early ‘90s making exploratory runs of the river. Initially, Hertz would allow only accomplished rafters with Class V experience to join him on those explorations, although today, 90 percent of Earth River’s clients are beginners.

The classification of white water is not an exact science and rapids can change classes with the rise and fall of a river’s water level. Nevertheless, as a general rule, a Class V rapid is considered the most extreme white water that can be rafted commercially. In addition to being difficult, it can be treacherous.

With the Mundaca, another famous class V rapid, there is the danger of being swept up in the current that slings everything toward a giant hole near the bottom of the rapid – a hole so large that the backward – crashing wave downriver is as high as the initial drop before it. A hole of this magnitude will flip a raft instantly.

Regardless of the rapids faced, what everyone discovers after a full day of rafting the Futaleufu is the river’s uniqueness. The river is fed by the melting glaciers in the Andres Mountains some 8,000 feet above sea level, but because those glacial waters filter through a series of high-evaluation lakes they’re about 20 degrees warmer when they reach the canyon where the river’s rapids begin to form.

Those high-elevation lakes also allow the silt to separate from the water, which makes the Futaleufu clearer than most glacier-fed rivers and gives it a Caribbean-like turquoise hue. According to Hertz, even the canyon’s geology contributes to a unique rafting experience.

The Futaleufu may be unique, but like most high-volume rivers, it’s in danger of losing its identity. From the beginning of Earth River’s involvement in Patagonia, rumors circulated about damming the Futaleufu for hydroelectric power, which is why Hertz bought land at strategic points along the river.

This allowed him to build distinct campsites, each with its own ambience, and it allowed him to block the damming of river at those specific areas. Hertz was careful to take a minimalist approach. He cut down a few trees and made sure every riverbank dwelling was concealed from view along the water.

All four of Earth River’s campsites are different. They range from a sprawling property with communal area recessed into caves, lost beaches, and natural springs to a treehouse community where guests can drift off to sleep while listening to a cacophony of frogs croaking in the nearby lake. Wooden and stone hot tubs are mainstays at every campsite, as are flush toilets and hot showers, but guest expecting luxurious accommodations with white-linen service will be disappointed.

The luxury of an Earth River trip is that novice paddlers can find peace of mind knowing that their guides can lead them down a river famous for its world-class white water.

The City of Music – Nashville

The first thing I fell in love with in Nashville, the music city was Nashville’s premier hotel, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & convention center and the beautiful guitar exhibits. I went there to attend an IT conference with Epicor and expected a simple resort but the ambience, excitement and energy of the place made me feel I could live there for years and not get bored.

The beautiful gardens beneath climate-controlled signature glass atriums, the meandering Cumberland River plus an extraordinary selection of dining, shopping and recreation options made me feel like this was more of a getaway and I thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere in between the conference.

I walked through various indoor gardens, cascading waterfalls and took a boat ride in the indoor river and still had time for the spa and fitness center. Most times, the lush greenery reminding me of my own country Fiji Islands and made me feel right at home.

Inspired by elements of music everywhere in the resort, I set out to see more of what the rest of Nashvile had to offer. Music is in the DNA of people from Nashville and the award-winning Station Inn is considered to be one of Nashville’s premier venues for bluegrass music. Notable artists have performed at this venue, which is perfect for concerts and jam sessions by up-and-coming artists.

Then there is the Tennessee State Museum that tells the story of the state’s rich history over three floors of the building. Creative visitors will love the Frist Center that hosts Visual Arts displays by local, state and regional artists along with national and international exhibitions.

Music lovers will find the ‘Two Old Hippies’ a haven as a retail store offering a large selection of guitars, music, clothing and other novelty merchandise. The shop has a stage with an organ, several guitars and a drum set as well as lighting and a mixing board in a deco where walls are full of music artefacts and memorabilia.

Alternatively, head to Curb Records, an independent music label founded by Mike Curb. The label’s top recordings include hits by legendary artists. A philanthropist, Curb has been instrumental in restoring historic buildings, including Columbia’s Historic Quonset Hut, a recording studio originally established by Owen Bradley, and the Johnny Cash Museum.

Then there is the music Row, home to several businesses and attractions related to the city’s musical heritage. Considered the heart of Nashville’s entertainment industry, the area has the historic RCA Studio B, Columbia’s Historic Quonset Hut, Owen Bradley Park and numerous shops and restaurants. “Musica,” a large bronze statue designed by Alan LeQuire, is the centerpiece of the Music Row Roundabout.

It is all about Music in Nashville. The Musicians Hall of Fame at Historic Nashville Auditorium honors the artists and session musicians who have accompanied legendary performers in a broad range of musical genres, including country, rock, jazz and soul.

Naturally I stopped at the Marathon Motors Factory in the heart of downtown Nashville. This area has an array of music recording studios, numerous shops, studios etc. If you like walking, head to ‘The Gulch’, a historic walkable neighborhood with hip restaurants, eclectic boutiques and vibrant nightlife venues.

In Nashville’s Centennial Park, the Parthenon stands as an exact replica of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. You can see the 42-foot gilded sculpture of Athena, and temporary shows and exhibitions.

There is so much to se and do in Nashville but Music is really what makes this city stand apart. I enjoyed Nashville and look forward to going back again.