Category Archives: Misc.

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.


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


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…)