Category Archives: Misc.


Top Things to do in Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Go to Monaco for the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Stay for the gob-smacking glitz of Monte-Carlo’s Michelin-starred restaurants, chic shops, and palatial hotels.Monte-Carlo, Monaco's port at night. Copyright Amy Laughinghouse

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The Royal Tour: The UK Rolls Out the Red Carpet for Harry and Meghan’s Wedding

St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry will wed Meghan Markle. copyright Amy Laughinghouse

St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry will wed Meghan Markle.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are cozied up in a second story window, holding hands and smiling as they gaze toward Windsor Castle. Passers-by in the street do a double-take when they spot the marvelous Ms. Markle and her dishy ginger biscuit, and a few even hazard a tentative, finger-fluttering wave. But the celebrity lovebirds don’t move a muscle.

A cardboard cutout of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in Windsor. copyright Amy Laughinghouse

A cardboard cutout of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle creates a stir in Windsor.

The purportedly down-to-earth prince and his American actress fiancé aren’t being snooty. They simply can’t help their stiff demeanor and cardboard smiles, because, well, they are cardboard. The life-sized cutout, available on Amazon, is a fitting symbol of the larger-than-life wedding mania sweeping up royal watchers around the world.

Nowhere is that feeling more apparent than in Windsor, where Harry and Meghan will tie the knot on May 19 at St. George’s Chapel, located within the walled compound of Windsor Castle. Afterwards, the newlyweds will take a carriage ride through Windsor’s streets, which are expected to be flanked by more than 100,000 well-wishers on the day.

A horse drawn carriage ride through the streets of Windsor. Copyright Amy Laughinghouse

A horse drawn carriage ride through the streets of Windsor? That’s just how the royals roll.

If your wedding invitation was lost in the mail, don’t fret. Spring is a fabulous time to visit Britain regardless, and we’ve got the lowdown on how to rock it like a royal at three of the best British blue-blood destinations. Tap it like it’s hot to read about each city below:

Windsor

London

Edinburgh (more…)

Rock It Like a Royal in Windsor

Windsor, whose pint-sized population of 30,000 belies its royal roots, is eager to roll out the red carpet for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s marriage on May 19. “It’s a celebration, and we’re keen to make sure that we put on a show for the people who are visiting,” says Rory Shanks, one of the owners of Heidi Bakery, which has developed three-tier wedding cupcakes in Harry and Meghan’s honor.

A shop near Windsor Castle displays paper masks of the royal family, including Prince Harry’s betrothed, Meghan Markle. © Amy Laughinghouse

A shop near Windsor Castle displays paper masks of the royal family.

GET GEARED UP

Heidi sells its sugary confections at their café in Daniel, a century-old department store that holds the Queen’s Royal Warrant (basically, her stamp of approval) for supplying gifts. So presumably, given Daniel’s current range of wedding-related novelties, this is where the Queen would go to snag herself a Harry and Meghan fridge magnet and a Harry and Meghan dishcloth to dry her Harry and Meghan mug after enjoying a nice cuppa Harry and Meghan tea.

Then again, Liz could just pop into the Windsor Castle gift shop, which is hawking commemorative items emblazoned with the initials “H&M,” which should not, under any circumstances, be mistaken for representing the clothing shop H&M, purveyor of “distressed” (mauled by lions) denim short-shorts and other High Street fashions.

TOAST THE HAPPY COUPLE

Tie one on with a Windsor Knot. The Windsor and Eton Brewery originally produced this pale ale for Will and Kate’s wedding in 2011 and has rebranded their bottles for Harry and Meghan.

Alternatively, opt for a tot of Gin&’er, a ginger-infused gin that The Queen Charlotte pub in Windsor commissioned to celebrate redheaded (aka “ginger”) Harry getting hitched. The pub sent the first of 250 limited edition bottles to the prince himself, so if you wake up with a royal hangover, passed out in front of the “throne,” you’re probably in good company.

The Queen Charlotte pub in Windsor has commissioned a special ginger gin to celebrate the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Each of the 250 limited edition bottles costs about £32 ($45). © Amy Laughinghouse

The Queen Charlotte pub in Windsor has commissioned a special ginger gin to celebrate the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Each of the 250 limited edition bottles costs about £32.

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Rock It Like a Royal in London

If Harry and Meghan’s OTT wedding has wetted your appetite for the red carpet treatment, read on to discover how to rock it like a royal in London.

The Catherine Walker boutique in Chelsea, London. Copyright Amy Laughinghouse

The Catherine Walker boutique in Chelsea, London

STERLING SHOPPING SPREE (more…)

Rock It Like a Royal in Edinburgh

The Royal Mile in Edinburgh on a sunny blue sky day. Copyright Amy Laughinghouse

The Royal Mile in Edinburgh

GO THE EXTRA MILE

The Royal Mile, which is actually 1.12 miles (based on the old “Scots’ mile”), is about as royal as miles come. The sloping backbone of the Scottish capital is bookended by Edinburgh Castle, crowning the imposing Castle Rock at the top of the road, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse (the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh) at the bottom.

Golden afternoon sunshine illuminates the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. Copyright Amy Laughinghouse

Golden afternoon sunshine illuminates the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

The street in between is lined with higgledy piggledy, charming old stone buildings, most with shopfronts displaying cashmere, kilts, whisky, wine, Harris tweed and wee gifts. “Thistle Do Nicely” definitely wins for worst pun / best shop name.

CREATE YOUR OWN BESPOKE TIPPLE

Liz’s late mum, The Queen Mother, was known for knocking back her fair share of gin and tonic. The classic cocktail was actually invented by the British army in India as a tasty way to ward off malaria, thanks to the quinine in tonic water. Given that the Queen Mother lived to 101, there might be at least a little truth in G&T’s reputation as a healthy(ish) elixir.

Edinburgh gin tasting. Copyright Amy LaughinghouseHowever, you wouldn’t expect a royal to slip just any old hooch past their stiff upper lip. Surely, one would wish to create one’s own bespoke knee-wobbly, swiggly-giggly happy sauce, would one not? (more…)

Beyond Barcelona: Bicycling through Catalan Country

The Ebro River valley stretches out below the village of Miravet in Catalunya.

With a warm headwind whipping at my pigtails and my legs pumping furiously upon a pair of bike pedals, I’m ten years old again, experiencing the exhilarating thrill of freedom that only a set of wheels can bestow. But instead of cycling around the civilized suburbs as I did in those bygone days of innocence, I’m winding through the wilds of Southern Catalunya in Spain.

Get on yer bike!

Miles of olive groves, green valleys sculpted by terraced fields, and narrow passes gouged from red rock canyons sweep by beneath a blazing blue sky. Mind adrift, I lose myself in the Zen of forward momentum, serenaded by the sound of…well, nothing, save the smooth “whoosh” of tire spokes—and, if I’m honest, my increasingly labored breathing as I embark on a slow uphill ascent.

A cyclists wheels past fields and groves on the Via Verde in Catalunya.

At least I can be reassured that I’m burning some of the thousands of calories I’ve been consuming on my cycling tour of this resolutely resilient region of Spain, which maintains its own language, culture and cuisine.

Tortosa skyline with the Cathedral of Saint Mary and the Ebro River.

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On the Trail of Winston Churchill

England’s Churchill Trail Illuminates the Life of The World Leader who Inspired Darkest Hour

“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it,” Winston Churchill predicted.

As one of World War II’s most revered victors, Sir Winston’s droll prophesy proved only partially true, for his story is still being written. The cherub-cheeked Churchill is currently enjoying a bit of a Renaissance as screenwriters add their two cents, scoring millions at the box office with two recently released biopics: Churchill, starring Brian Cox, and Darkest Hour, for which Gary Oldman won a Best Actor Oscar statuette at the 2018 Academy Awards.

Winston Churchill, courtesy Blenheim Palace

Winston Churchill, courtesy Blenheim Palace

If these silver screen insights have sparked a desire to do a deep dive on the iconic UK statesman, there’s no better place to begin than England. Key sites around the country form what might be dubbed “the Churchill trail.” From his labyrinthine War Rooms to the baroque palace where he was born, visitors can take a closer look at his legacy—and perhaps still catch an ethereal whiff of Sir Winston’s cigar.

Read on for the scoop on must-see Winston Churchill attractions around the UK.  (more…)

Six Ways to Explore Istanbul

Istanbul. Been there. Done that. Bought the rug. That’s what I thought after my first visit—a frenzied, two-day stopover several years ago.

Minarets dot Istanbul's skyline on a blue sky day

Yet so many people rave about Istanbul, I wondered if they were simply smokin’ from a different hookah, or if perhaps I had missed something during my whirlwind tour of “must see” sites like the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Dolmabahce Palace.

It was architectural overload, like staring at the sun. If I had been invited to gaze upon one more mosaic, however beautiful, I thought I might bleed from my eyes.

Topkapi Palace mosaic interior Istanbul

Topkapi Palace

Don’t get me wrong. Istanbul’s wonders are worth visiting, particularly the Blue Mosque, as it’s not only stunning; it’s also an important religious centre where worshipers pray five times a day.

Blue Mosque Istanbul exterior

The Blue Mosque

But for the most part, the de rigueur list barely scratches the surface of what I had come to suspect might be the true spirit of this city, where residents respect their history, but live, love, work, dance, play and party in the present.

So I went back. I slowed down. I walked. I wandered. I got lost…more than once, actually…and I let Istanbul weave its spell around me.

East meets West in Istanbul’s Istiklal Caddesi shopping boulevard.

Whether you’re visiting this city on the Bosphorus for the first time or the fifth, here are some top tips for getting the most out of your holiday. (more…)

METAXA 12 Stars: One-Of-A-Kind Greek Spirit of the Season

METAXA 12 Stars on the rocks.

Courtesy METAXA.

There, on the bar in front of you, sits a tawny temptress in a tumbler. In its center floats a single frozen rock, like an iceberg surrounded by an amber ocean.

Swirl the glass and inhale the heady scent of honey. Taste it, and picture prunes, figs, and ripe raisins. Let it rest a moment on your tongue, and wait for another wave of flavour: zesty orange peel and the sultry spice of clove.

Swallow it, and feel the heat of the alcohol, like the smoky embers of a fire.

It is as if someone had distilled the very essence of a Christmas pudding.

“But…what is it, really?” you think, closing your eyes and searching for an answer from the spirit world. Could it be cognac? An aged rum? Bourbon, perhaps?

It is, in fact, none of the above. It is METAXA 12 Stars, one of approximately ten expressions of METAXA, a unique Greek liquor that defies categorization.

METAXA 12 Stars bottle and box. Courtesy METAXA.

METAXA 12 Stars. Courtesy METAXA.

Founded by Spyros Metaxa in 1888, his eponymous brand is a blend of aromatic Muscat wines, wine distillates aged in toasted French limousin oak barrels, and a secret mix of Mediterranean botanicals.

METAXA French limousin oak cask. Courtesy METAXA.

METAXA French limousin oak cask. Courtesy METAXA.

You might attempt to shoehorn METAXA in among its brandy brethren, but it was officially pruned from that family tree in 1989. Today, it stands on its own, proudly sporting the banner of the “one-of-a-kind” Greek spirit, METAXA.

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Take Home a Taste of London: Gourmet Gift Ideas

Two of London’s most legendary establishments are making it easier to enjoy the UK capital’s culinary indulgences at home.

The Wolseley's Christmas Hamper

The Wolseley’s Christmas Hamper. Courtesy The Wolseley.

The Wolseley, the iconic London café by restauranteurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, has launched a mail order shop for gastronomic gifts. Spoil the extra-good girls and boys (or ladies and gents) on your holiday list with a Christmas Hamper packed with champagne, wine, Christmas puddings, biscuits and more (£350).

For the restrained teetotaler, options range from silver-plated teapots (£235) and tea strainers (£49) to a set of miniature tea tins for a suitably small price (£18.75).

Art Deco silver plated teapot

Art Deco teapot…or Aladdin’s lamp? Courtesy The Wolseley.

Sometimes, though, it’s nice to be naughty. Who would say no to a box of Cognac chocolate truffles (£29.50)?

Wolseley Cognac chocolate truffles

The Wolseley’s Cognac chocolate truffles. Courtesy The Wolseley.

Claridge’s Hotel, a favourite of both crowned heads and Hollywood royalty, also debuted its first cookbook this autumn. The hotel’s executive chef Martyn Nail, together with food writer Meredith Erickson, share 160 years of Claridge’s most famous recipes and tips for entertaining.

Claridge's: The CookbookThe 260-page Claridge’s: The Cookbook includes chapters on subjects like Afternoon Tea, The Art of Carving, Cocktails, and—for the truly ambitious (i.e. masochistic) gourmand—How to Host a Dinner for 100. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to treat Santa to something posher than milk and chocolate chip cookies this year.

Available through Amazon for £10, or order a copy autographed by Chef Nail and packaged in a gift box directly from Claridge’s for £30.

 

 

 

Ten Luxe Hotels Launching in 2017

With so many outstanding hotels opening around the world this year, the question travelers face may not be so much “where to go,” but rather, “where to stay.” We’ve compiled a list of ten of the hottest properties debuting in 2017.

Alila Fort Bishangarh

Alila Fort Bishangarh presides over the countryside in Jaipur, India. Courtesy Alila Fort Bishangarh

Courtesy Alila Fort Bishangarh

If you always imagined that you were a royal warlord in a past life—and frankly, who hasn’t entertained the notion—this is the place for you. The 59-suite Alila Fort Bishangarh, opening in Jaipur, India on February 28, is centered around a historic hilltop fortress with six-foot thick walls and views of the Rajasthani countryside. A new addition houses guest accommodations and lavish public spaces.

Rendering of the Heritage Suite at Alila Fort Bishangarh. Courtesy Alila Fort Bishangarh

Heritage Suite. Courtesy Alila Fort Bishangarh

Amenities include indoor and outdoor dining, a turret filled with cigars and cognacs, a pool, bar, lounge, library, fitness center, children’s club, expansive lawns and an organic garden, as well as a spa, where the pressing of the flesh is no doubt much more enjoyable than in the old days when this space served as the dungeon. Rates from $280.  (more…)

Hot–and Cool–Destinations for 2017

Whether you’re after an epic train journey, a camel trek through the desert, or just want to kick back on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, I’ve compiled a list of five of the best—and occasionally unexpected—destinations for 2017.

Torngat Mountains National Park. Credit Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Torngat Mountains National Park. Credit Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

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Top Destinations for 2014

From Burma’s Buddhist temples to the blazing beaches of Brazil, here are my top picks for this year’s hottest holidays.

Table Mountain provides an iconic backdrop for Cape Town, World Design Capital 2014. Credit Amy Laughinghouse.

Table Mountain provides an iconic backdrop for Cape Town, World Design Capital 2014. Credit Amy Laughinghouse.

Mankind seems to possess an innate desire “to explore strange new worlds.” Just ask Captain Kirk–or Lewis and Clark, for that matter. While there aren’t many places left where you can “boldly go where no one has gone before” (without the aid of a warp drive, at least), 2014 promises plenty of novel experiences to satiate your inner-adventurer. (more…)