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I am so excited to announce my collaboration with Cobblestone Freeway Tours and our incredible 10-day itinerary for the Ukraine and Georgia! Last year, I visited the Ukraine for the first time with them and absolutely fell in love with the beautiful countryside, historic cities, delicious food, and fascinating culture. Cobblestone Freeway Tours showed me the best of the Ukraine and I’m delighted to journey with them again to Eastern Europe in 2019. Best of all, you can join me on this trip too! Nothing would make me happier than to enjoy this trip with my fellow readers and travel enthusiasts. Without further ado, let me share with you our exciting itinerary!

Quick Overview:
-2 Countries
-5 Cities
-3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
-15 Excursions & Tours
-Guide in Ukraine and Georgia

What’s Included:
-Escorted tour from beginning to the end
-All land transportation in an air conditioned quality bus with professional driver
-All events included in the itinerary
-Entrance fees
-All hotels (4 stars)
-Flight from Kyiv to Tbilisi
-Most meals (9 breakfasts, 8 lunches, and 9 dinners, 1 wine tasting)

10 Days in Ukraine & Georgia | May 22-31, 2019 2 Nights in Lviv – The Paris of Ukraine! DAY 1:

-We’ll check you in to a nice centrally located hotel and give you some time to rest before giving you a brief city orientation.
-Spend your time exploring this picturesque city, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, see some of Lviv’s most famous attractions. Enjoy Lviv’s enigmatic atmosphere, its rich music and culinary scenes. We’ll make you completely fall in love with this city!
-In the evening, we’ll treat you to a delicious welcome dinner in one of our favorite local restaurants.

DAY 2:

-The city, often called the Paris of Ukraine, got this name for a reason – once a princely state, part of the Austro- Hungarian Empire and then of the Polish Kingdom, today Lviv is a modern European city that has, nonetheless, preserved a very special ‘old-European’ feel.
-In the morning, we will take you on a city tour on a retro train to discover more of a history.
-Coffee break in Lviv Coffee minery.
-Tour to the Lychakiv Cemetery, UNESCO World Heritage Site, that’s rightfully called an outdoor history museum. -Lunch in Masons restaurant, secret place that you wouldn’t find on a map, prepare to be impressed!
-Then take the time for shopping and sample the different kinds of coffee, chocolate and foods this city boasts. —We will then get together for a dinner with some special guests joining us – enjoy Galician cuisine and traditional music!

2 Nights in Kyiv – Ukraine’s Capital City! DAY 3:

-In the morning, we we will travel to Kyiv by intercity fast train.
-Arriving in Kyiv, we’ll transfer you to your hotel and give you some time to rest. After, we will show you around and get you oriented.
-Lunch in traditional Ukrainian restaurant.
-We will take you to Independence Square, better known as Maidan, Khreshchatyk Street – the main ‘artery’ of Kyiv, Taras Shevchenko park and famous red University building.
-Evening at your leisure.

DAY 4:

-We have a busy time planned for you in the ‘City of Golden Domes’!
-First to introduce you to Kyiv, it’s fascinating history, architecture and traditions, we’ll take you on a city tour, taking you through iconic sights: Golden Gates, St. Volodymyr’s, St.Michael’s & St. Sophia’s Cathedral.
-After the tour, you can enjoy free time for shopping at Andriivsky Uzviz. This is a street that’s home to the city’s artisans, craftsmen and vendors – explore items starting from souvenir trinkets, to authentic costumes and Soviet times memorabilia.
-In the evening, we have a special treat – a traditional Ukrainian zabava, where everyone will have a chance to learn some traditional central Ukrainian songs and dances from our special guests!

3 Nights in Tbilisi, Georgia! DAY 5:

-We will transfer you to the airport. It’s time to travel to Georgia! (Flight PS515, depart Kyiv at 11:25am – arrive in Tbilisi 04:15pm)
-Arriving in Tbilisi, we will meet you in the airport and transfer to your hotel where you’ll check-in.
-We will have dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. Evening at leisure.

DAY 6:

-It’s time to introduce you to Tbilisi!
-Here myth and history, culture and traditions, diverse nature and hospitable people; all intermingle with one another, inspired poetry, polyphonic songs and elegant dancing. A blend of cultures, a smell of spices, different nations meeting on street corners, different faiths sharing the same courtyards…This is Tbilisi, the city that has been dominated by traders, warriors, tyrants and dictators in turn.
-Take a walk around the old town and breathe in the living past. We will visit the oldest surviving church in Tbilisi, Anchiskhati Basilica of 6th century, Metekhi Church of Assumption, Georgian Synagogue, Sioni Cathedral and the main citadel of the city where you can enjoy the wonderful views of Tbilisi from Narikhala Fortress.

-We will then have lunch in a local restaurant.
-Then we will continue our tour around the city with well-known museums and theatres, art galleries, churches and archaeological excavations, Sulphur bathhouses, narrow streets with inner courts, surrounded with balconies decorated with laces, which overhang over abysses.
-In the evening, enjoy dinner in a traditional Georgian restaurant accompanied by a folk show!

DAY 7:

-Today we will explore the most fertile and picturesque part of Georgia – Kakheti, which borders the Great Caucasus range from the north Alazani Valley, summits of which are over 3,000 m. This region is known as a birthplace of viticulture and wine-making. The reach land, burning sun and hard work have developed about 500 varieties of vine in Georgia.
-Visit Bodbe Nunnery (9th c), the place where St. Nino, the 4th.c female evangelist of Georgians is buried.
-Explore Sighnaghi, a fortified town famous for its wine and carpet making culture. Enjoy breathtaking views of the Kizikhi area and unusual Charm of Sighnaghi Royal Town. Have a walk in the narrow streets of the town in shadows of wooden balconies richly decorated with the lace of carved ornaments.
-Visit a local family where the hostess will show you how Georgian bread is baked, and you’ll learn how to prepare famous Georgian pork barbeque “Mtsvadi“and participate in the Churchkhela making process. Churchkhela is a traditional Georgian sweet snack made of walnuts and grape juice.

-Enjoy lunch and wine tasting with the local family.
-Visit Tsinandali Family Estate and wine cellar, which once belonged to the 19th century aristocratic poet Alexander Chavchavadze. The residence consists of a summer home, garden and winery featuring several vintages of white wine.
-Return to Tbilisi and dinner in a local restaurant and evening at your leisure.

2 Nights in Batumi, Georgia! DAY 8:

-In the morning, we will travel to Mtskheta – the ancient capital of Georgia, located at the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers.
-Visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Jvari, the 6th century cross-shaped monastery built on the top of a cliff, overlooking the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers. At this place, St. Nino, a female evangelist, erected a large wooden cross on the site of a pagan temple; Svetitskhoveli, the fortified cathedral dating from the 11th century. Svetitskhoveli is a sacred place where the Robe of Christ is buried.
-Next we will travel to the center of Shida Kartli region – Gori, known as the birthplace of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Visit Stalin’s Museum in Gori where you can see the house where Stalin was born, along with his personal railway carriage.
-Visit Uplistsikhe (“Fortress of God”) rock-hewn town (1st Millennium BC). Uplistsikhe is located on the left bank of Mtkvari river and is notable for unique combination of various styles of rock-cut cultures and the co-existence of pagan and Christian architecture. Here you can see ancient wine presses carved in stone.
-Lunch at a local restaurant.

-Travel to Batumi. Upon arrival to Batumi, check-in to your hotel and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Evening at your leisure.

DAY 9:

-Time to explore Batumi, one of the oldest cities in Georgia and inhabited from as early as the third century BC. Batumi is mentioned by Greek and Roman sources as one of the Black Sea’s principal ports.
-Visit seaside park and old-city district with lots of cafes, shops and churches, streets of Old Batumi, decorated with ornaments of nameless mythical creatures, Batumi Sea Port, Piazza Square, statue of Medea and Governmental buildings.
-Visit Batumi Botanical Gardens located 9 km from Batumi. The garden occupies 111 hectares of hilly land, composed partially of red soils. Garden consists of the following floristic sections: Transcaucasian humid subtopic, New Zealand, Australian, Himalayan, East Asian, North American, South American, Mexican, and Mediterranean. With this excursion, you will get a chance to see the beauty of flora from all over the world and enjoy an amazing view of the Black Sea.
-We will then have lunch in a local restaurant.

-Gonio Aphsaros Fortress is located 12 km south to Batumi, on the left bank of River Chorokhi, on the place where Colchian Bronze culture and first Georgian statehood found its birthplace. Its history is closely connected to the Myth of the Argonauts. According to the legend, this is a site where King Ayet buried his sun Aphsaros, who was killed by escaped Jason. The oldest archeological layer excavated here belongs to 17-18cc.
-In the evening, we will get together for the farewell dinner – polyphony ensemble will join us at traditional restaurant. Our group will feel the atmosphere of an authentic Georgian dinner party, with traditional songs and the speeches of “Tamada” – toast master!

DAY 10:

-After some free time to stock up on souvenirs, we will transfer you to the airport where, sadly, it’s time to go back home or continue on to new exciting destinations!

PRICE:
  • Starting at $2825 per person, based on double occupancy in 4* hotels.
  • Discounts and monthly payment plans are available!

Join me on this fabulous trip and reserve your spot by September 1, 2018! Contact Vincent Rees from Cobblestone Freeway Tours: vincent@cobblestonefreeway.ca or 855-787-7482 (toll free). 

The post Join Me For 10 Days in Ukraine & Georgia With Cobblestone Freeway Tours! appeared first on Carmen Edelson - Luxury Travel Blogger.

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Looking for the perfect mix of luxury and discovery? My family and I found just that at a luxury safari lodge located in the South African Bush. Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve, a National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World can be found in one of South Africa’s largest and oldest reserves, the Sabi Sand Wiltuin. Located on the edge of a waterhole, Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge offers all of the creature comforts that one can desire along with the rare chance to experience the untouched wilderness of an unparalleled reserve.

Luxury Villas at Sabi Sabi 

Sabi Sabi’s motto “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” is embraced by all four luxury lodges, with each representing a different point in time. Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, where we stayed, represents “Today”. All 25 suites showcase African contemporary design and an inviting atmosphere. There are two Luxury Villas, each complete with two bedrooms, a private pool, a library/lounge, and a view of the iconic waterhole that can be admired from the patio. The well-appointed Mandleve Deluxe Suite features spacious interiors, delightful views of the bushveld, and a private plunge pool.

Our en-suite bathrooms were incredibly spacious and had a bathtub as well as indoor and outdoor showers with wonderful views of the bushveld. Having an outdoor shower in such unique surroundings was such a nice touch!

I really enjoyed the contemporary and culturally inspired decor as well as the attention to detail! Every corner of these rooms are beautifully designed.

Dining Options at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge

Most meals at the Bush Lodge take place in the central dining area just outside of the reception. Breakfast, lunch, tea time, and dinner all offer an extensive and exquisite buffet arrangement that has something for everyone, no matter the food restrictions. I have a couple dietary restrictions and felt perfectly taken care of here, no fuss at all. Weather permitting, dinner sometimes takes place in the Boma, a wide area under the stars where guests are joined by their guides for a relaxing meal. My family and I were lucky to enjoy a few meals under the stars here, including New Years Eve!

Safari and Activities at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge

Safaris take place twice a day, once early in the morning and again in the evening. Guests are each assigned a couple of knowledgeable staff members as their guides and drivers. These guides are regularly tested on their proficiency and wildlife knowledge: on the same day we arrived, they were undergoing an exam on identifying different species of birds based on their coloring and calls. It was wonderful to see how Sabi Sabi’s staff members are complete experts on animals in the South African Bush. Our guides, Ronald and Doctor, answered every question we could come up with during our trip. On a safari, we saw plenty of Big Five animals (elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions, and leopards) as well as hyenas, antelope, and one bush baby. This was such a huge bucket list moment for me!

Guests are invited to go on morning walks after the morning safari. These walks gave us an opportunity to step out of the open-air rovers that we usually drove around in and to explore the Bush from the ground. We were accompanied by two guides who showed us the properties of several plants and just how heavy an elephant skull can be. While it was very hot, it was well worth the venture!

An additional option for those who wish to learn more about the area is a day trip to a nearby Huntington village. Our driver, Doctor, took us to his own home and gave us a tour of a nearby school.  On our way, we were greeted by a group of kids off the road who were very happy to see us, and even entertain us with a  little dance routine. They were so fun-loving and this was certainly a memorable moment for our family.

One of the most fascinating highlights of the tour was the chance to meet a traditional healer and to see her in her element. She demonstrated how she used the bones of animals, such as hyenas and elephants, for her trade while Doctor translated for her.

Shortly after, we were met by some of the wives and daughters of the village chief who performed a dance and led us to their store where they sold crafts that they had made by hand. This trip was such a great way to experience the culture up close and personal!

While there are many fun things to do outside of the lodge, sometimes you need time to just relax and sit by the pool. Bush lodge has two pools for those who want to take a dip or lounge on the patio chairs that overlook the waterhole. For unique gifts and souvenirs, there is also a boutique stocked with jewelry made by local artisans and books about South African wildlife.

If you’re traveling with children, EleFun Centre has you covered. Sabi Bush Lodge is open to families with children of all ages, and the EleFun Centre has designed fun, environment-themed activities for different age groups.

Amani Spa at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge

What vacation is complete without a spa day? My experience at Amani Spa was the blissful break from reality that I had been craving. My Lefika Hot Stone massage left me feeling totally relaxed and rejuvenated, a great pick-up after the days of travel from the States to South Africa. It was also the first time I’d ever gotten up from a massage just to see an impala outside of my room! With a plethora of treatments varying from nourishing facials to aromatherapy massages and couple’s massage, I highly recommend that any guest at Bush Lodge plan a visit to the Amani Spa.

From start to finish, our stay at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge was perfect. From the expert service to the luxury accommodation and exciting safaris, I would happily return again with my family and friends!

The post Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge – Africa’s Luxury Safari Reserve appeared first on Carmen Edelson - Luxury Travel Blogger.

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Located in the vibrant art district of Wynwood in Miami, Palmar’s hole-in-the-wall feel and culinary expertise make this the perfect dinner spot for a night out. Executive chef, Albert Diaz, describes the fare as “Chinese cuisine with a Latin twist”, including highly revered traditional dishes such as dim sum and mixing them with flavors that pop. Our host chef de cuisine, Raymond Li, shared that he whimsically changes the menu at Palmar on a regular basis, depending on the fish selection available at the multiple local fisheries he frequents as well as what he is in the mood to make that day.

I had the pleasure of dining at Palmar on a Friday night, before the dinner rush began. As soon as my companion and I walked in, we were greeted by the staff and led to our table. The interior is small yet spacious, with eye-catching pink vinyl booths, elegant wooden tables and chairs, and, my favorite detail, low-hanging red lights with woven-basket shades. As the evening passed, the restaurant grew more populated but never to the point of feeling overcrowded, making Palmar a great intimate setting for a dinner with friends or a date-night.

The meal began with a delightful sparkling rosé and an assortment of dim sum. We started with the crispy prawns accompanied by Sichuan chili, an incredible house-made sauce with just the perfect amount of kick to it. This was followed by duck confit dumplings with a mouth-watering 5 spice aioli and pickled red ginger. Then came the veggie egg roll with pickled ginger, charred cabbage, and juniper berry juice and the shrimp har gow in a vinegar soy sauce garnished with an original Palmar twist: powdered sesame. Before the main course, the chef sent out what was easily one of the front runners of the night: Chinese broccoli served with a hibiscus-infused tonkatsu (cabbage) sauce. Not only was this dish beautifully presented, but the slightly flowery infusion mixed with crisp vegetables and crushed pistachio had us talking about this plate for the rest of the night.

After a brief respite and a round of floral Chokaisan sake (highly-recommended), the chef brought out a generous portion of fried rice with scallions, coriander, and duck egg yolk. The richness of the duck egg was balanced by the fresh coriander, and the texture of the rice was soft without being overcooked. Although we felt that we couldn’t possibly take another bite, we magically found room for the scrumptious lychee and granny smith apple slices and 5-spice egg custard for dessert. The egg custard was an incredible gastronomical experience: the top layer included a fluffy coconut espuma covering a yuzu-mango marmalade with a delectable coriander crumble at the bottom. It was the perfect amount of sweet with just a little savory, a hint of spice, and a delightful crunch to top it off.

From start to finish, I enjoyed every moment during my dinner at Palmar. The ambiance is exactly what you would hope for when dining in Wynwood, the service was stellar, and the food was exquisite. The food selection is diverse enough that anyone could find an option suited to their preferences, yet refined enough to not overwhelm one with choices. I do not exaggerate when I say that I greatly look forward to my next dining experience at Palmar!

The post Enjoy Chinese Cuisine with a Latin Twist at Palmar in Wynwood, Miami appeared first on Carmen Edelson - Luxury Travel Blogger.

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Taking time out of our busy schedule to travel can be very entertaining. There are many destinations you can check out on your holidays. Singapore has the best hospitality and also has some of the best sites you can visit. Accessing Singapore is not difficult because they have simplified the process of obtaining a tourist visa to Singapore.

You can also check visa singapore office address to have your tourist visa processed very quickly. Traveling as a family can be fun and challenging at the same time. You have to plan your travel in advance. The sites you will visit should also be part of your plans. Here are ten family attractions you can visit in Singapore.

National Museum of Singapore

This is one of the most monumental buildings in Asia. The museum was founded in 1887. You will find artifacts and paraphernalia that explain the history of Singapore in detail. Your children will learn a lot about the history of Singapore. It is also well stocked with a variety of restaurants, exhibitions and even outdoor movie-screening venues.

Singapore Zoo

This zoo is ranked as one of the most popular tourist attractions in Singapore. It is a rainforest zoo that provides a habitat to over 300 animal species. It offers a variety of animal shows and also feeding experiences.

Night Safari

You also get to enjoy a night safari when you visit some of these attractions in Singapore. It is located next to the zoo and is usually opened after the zoo closes. You can traverse the thick rainforest and see different animals like tigers, elephants and leopards at night.

Universal Studios

The studios, which opened in 2011, is an excellent movie-related stop for tourists visiting Singapore. It is one of the best-established movie theme parks you will find in Southeast Asia. You will discover seven zones packed with rides, street entertainment, shows and shopping areas. You can enjoy movies on a clear big-screen display.

ArtScience Museum

It is one of the best architectural structures and houses some of the best exhibits made using avant-garde technology. Young children can visit this site for free on specific days.

Singapore Flyer

This is the largest viewing wheel in Asia. You can catch a bird’s eye view of the city. It is about 165 meters tall, which allows you to have a scenic view of the city. The flyer is also modern and super clean.

Port of the Lost Wonder

This is a site meant for families with young children. It has a variety of play areas, climbing frames and theme slides. You will also find restaurants that can keep you and your children happy.

Wild Wild Wet

It is one of the best of Singapore’s water parks. You can take your children to cool off here when the heat becomes too much. There are a lot of adrenaline-charged activities like water slides that will keep your children entertained.

Gardens by the Bay

Located in Marina Bay, these gardens will leave your children amazed especially at night. The exhibition of light at night, amazing structures and trees make the place look beautiful and attractive.

Jurong Bird Park

This park provides shelter to over 300 species of birds. Some of the birds you will find in this park include flamingos, penguins and pelicans. Your kids can feed the birds, and there is also a bird-themed water playing area where they can have fun.

The post The Best Family Attractions in Singapore appeared first on Carmen Edelson - Luxury Travel Blogger.

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One of my travel highlights last year was visiting Ukraine for the first time. Thanks to Cobblestone Freeway Tours who kindly hosted me, I got to see the very best of Ukraine. The sights were absolutely stunning, the people were so welcoming, and the fascinating history really blew me away. I loved exploring cities such as Lviv, Chernivtsi and Kiev, but also enjoyed getting out of the city centers and exploring the beautiful and tranquil scenery of this special country. My journey through the Carpathian Mountains was a memorable one and here are my favorite highlights!

The Carpathian Mountains are the second longest mountain range in Europe that stretch across 7 countries, one of them being Ukraine! My diverse tour with Cobblestone allowed me to breathe in the fresh air of the Eastern Carpathian Mountains and enjoy natural beauty, traditional villages, and experience a lifestyle that has remained unchanged for centuries.

Kolomyia

Our first stop was Kolomyia, a quaint mountain town where you can visit two incredible museums. We started off at the Hutsul Enthography Museum to learn all about the ethnic group who resides throughout the Carpathian Mountains. In this museum, we admired Hutsul costumes, arts, crafts, musical instruments, tools, and other village life objects. The collection houses more than 50,000 pieces that perfectly document the history and folk culture of the Hutsul’s. It was a great introduction to the life in this lovely region.

However, the main star of Kolomyia is the Pysanka Museum which is an impressive collection of intricately decorated Easter Eggs from around the world. The word ‘pysanka’ in Ukranian translates to Easter Egg and it’s the only museum in the world dedicated to them. It was opened in 2000 to celebrate the 10th International Hutsul Festival and after being recognized as a landmark of modern Ukraine in 2007, visitors from near and far have flocked to see its collection. The museum itself is shaped like an Easter egg and even parts of the inside are painted to resemble one. I found each and every one of the 10,000 pysanky’s to be unique and beautifully detailed.

Yaremche 

As far as stunning natural landscape, I was blown away by what Ukraine has to offer. In a village called Yaremche in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, we were given time to browse and shop in a traditional Ukrainian market. The locals were so extremely dedicated, passionate, and talented with needlework. We saw the magnificence of the Probiy Waterfall located on the Prut River. At 26 feet high, it is one of the most powerful waterfalls in the Ukraine. It is full-flowing and a very popular place for locals to kayak and river raft.

I was very lucky to visit in the springtime where everything was lush, green, and blooming. While driving to and from destinations, we often pulled over to take in and capture the spring scenery. One afternoon, while we were driving through the countryside to Bukovel in the mountains (one of the Ukraine’s best resorts, especially for skiing), we stumbled upon the most fabulous fields. They were filled with bright yellow, canola flowers (used to make Canola Oil) and I couldn’t resist frolicking in them. I felt like Julie Andrew’s in the Sound of Music!

Bukovel

Bukovel is the largest ski resort in Ukraine. It meets all of the high European standards for skiing and is very impressive. Being the spring season, there was no snow on the ground but we excitedly rode the chair lift up to the top and had a guided tour of the mountain.  Taking in the stunning views from that height was definitely a memorable moment. For those adventure seekers in our group, they opted to ride the zip-line roller coaster and hike down the mountain which is another great option!

Kryvorivnia

In the village of Kryvorivnia, where you can see traditional Hutsul homes from the 1800’s, we visited an authentic Hutsul church and the Hutsul Grazhda Museum. We were surrounded by beautiful natural landscape and it was such an authentic and serene part of the country that I felt very fortunate to visit.

During our visit, we had the pleasure of touring the Hutsul Grazhda Museum. The Grazhda was built in 1995 and represents a typical Hutsul mansion with its shape being similar to a fortress. This shape obviously helps protect from predators but also strong winds. We learned that Hutsul huts were never located close to each other, but instead spaced out in the mountains around the villages.

Kosiv

One of my favorite aspects of exploring these ancient mountains was meeting numerous talented artisans and craftsmen in the many villages and towns we visited. While in Kosiv, which is considered to be the arts capital of the Hutsul region, we visited the Arts College. Here we saw firsthand what local craftsmen produce, including pottery, woodcarving, Easter Eggs, woolen blankets, embroidery and so much more!

After visiting the Arts College, we drove to a nearby village call Babyn to visit the home of Bohdan Petrechuk who is a renowned collector of Hutsul costumes.  He explained some of the history behind the costumes and needle work, and some of us had the opportunity to actually try on the costumes! It was a fun opportunity to learn and engage.

After learning so much throughout the week about Hutsul traditions, we actually got to participate in one! An unforgettable experience here was not only watching part of their church’s mass, but also participating in a traditional Hutsul wedding!  The wedding mesmerizes with its old traditions of respect, wisdom and never-ending fun. The bride and groom are dressed in traditional wedding outfits and all guests come to the celebration in traditional embroidered clothes of their region. A skilled woman crafts special head bands for both the bride and groom. We watched how they dressed the couple in a very festive traditional outfits, while decorating the wedding tree.

When everyone is ready, the procession continues to the village church. The couple rides there on a horse decorated for this festive occasion. When the official ceremony in the church is over, everyone is invited to enjoy the celebration with a festive meal. 

One of my favorite parts of traveling is being able to learn and embrace different cultures. Thanks to Cobblestone Freeway Tours, I not only saw the very best of the Ukraine and Carpathian Mountains, but I also connected with the locals and experienced firsthand their ancient and most meaningful traditions.

I loved visiting the Ukraine and enjoyed my experience with Cobblestone Freeway Tours so much that I will be returning next May and will be planning an incredible itinerary with them! This is a collaboration I am so looking forward to and I would love for anyone interested to join us on the trip. If this is something you want to learn more about, please visit their Contact page and get in touch!

The post Exploring the Beautiful Ukraine Carpathian Mountains with Cobblestone Freeway Tours appeared first on Carmen Edelson - Luxury Travel Blogger.

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Pier House Resort and Spa was the perfect setting for a romantic, weekend getaway in Key West! This luxurious resort has been a Florida Keys’ icon for over fifty years. At Pier House, you can certainly expect a wonderful combination of scenic beauty, rich history and five-star accomodation.

There are some unique features at Pier House Resort that certainly makes this a memorable and comfortable island experience. I noticed their Tesla Charging station which my husband was very happy to use. Like most resorts, the Pier House has a daily resort fee of $35. However, unlike most resorts, I truly felt like I got my money’s worth. This included services such as complimentary parking, shuttle services to Duval Street, wifi across the whole resort, welcome drinks, and so much more. If you can’t bear to be separate from your furry friends, Pier House Resort is also pet friendly!

I also enjoyed contemporary features such as OpenKey. This is an app that anyone can download from the Apple or Google Play Store. It allows all hotel guests to enjoy free, mobile, and keyless hotel room access. I must admit, I lose or forget my hotel key way more often than my phone so this can be very convenient.

On the way to my room, I passed by a beautiful turtle pond which is a very impressive feature for a hotel!

My Accommodations at Pier House Resort & Spa  

My room was located in the Spa Building and was a Spa Junior Suite, tucked away just steps from a secluded whirlpool and one of the best spas in the Florida Keys.

These rooms are perfect for a romantic escape. They feature an incredibly comfortable king-sized bed, a spacious bathroom with a rain shower and plenty of closet space, an aspect I always appreciate! The sitting area looks out over a garden where you can admire some native foliage. The room is very quiet and serene with its warm, coastal decor. I felt very far away from any hustle and bustle which is ideal for a romantic stay!

 Full service luxury Pier House Spa & Fitness Center

Since I was located so close to the hotel’s spa, I naturally had to pay a visit in the afternoon. This serene haven is actually Key West’s only full-service spa – lucky for me! My stress started to evaporate just a few minutes after entering, thanks to beautiful waiting area with fresh flowers and flavored water, as well as a veranda surrounded by lush greenery. You can choose from a vast spa menu featuring massages, facials, body treatments, and hair, nail and make-up services. I enjoyed a classic 50-minute Swedish Massage which melted away any tension my body had. I walked away feeling so relaxed and rejuvenated, exactly how any person should feel while on vacation!

The fitness center is located right next to the Spa for those who want to burn a few calories and work up a sweat. The space is light and bright with several updated fitness machines and weights to choose from.

Restaurants On Site at Pier House Resort

There is truly no reason to leave the Pier House Resort during your stay thanks to their three award-winning restaurants and bars. On our first evening, we treated ourselves to a romantic dinner at the resort’s signature restaurant: One Duval. This elegant restaurant offers oceanfront dining as well as contemporary, stylish and intimate interiors.

One Duval 

I was particularly excited to taste Chef Maria’s fresh, organic, farm-to-table cuisine that she is known for. For my entree, I ordered the Key West Yellow Tail that includes pan seared yellow tail snapper, a scallion potato cake, and sautéed garlic spinach with a citrus reduction.

My husband went with the Seared Ahi Tuna which comes with chilled sesame udon noodles, braised baby boy chop, toasted nori and a soy vinaigrette. Both of our dishes were extremely flavorful and so beautifully presented!

We loved everything so much that we returned the following morning to eat breakfast outside on the deck that overlooks the sparkling blue water. I enjoyed a deliciously healthy omelette.

Beach Bar

Another great dining option that offers a more casual, laid-back environment is the Beach Bar. Here the motto is “No shirt, no shoes, no problem”. After some swimming and sun tanning, I worked up quite an appetite for lunch. I enjoyed the flavorful beef sliders while my husband had the locally caught Grilled Mahi. Do yourself a favor and order a tropical drink when you’re at the Beach Bar! I absolutely loved my Piña Colada. They have live music there as well which is such a nice touch.

Chart Room Bar

It would be an absolute shame to stay at the Pier House and not enjoy a visit to the historic Chart Room Bar. Since 1968, this iconic watering hole has offered a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere for thirsty locals and travelers. It is lovingly known as “a weird little bar trapped inside a luxury resort.” The Chart Room Bar was a favorite of Mel Fisher, a famous American treasure hunter, who would often end his days of treasure hunting here. He was best known for discovering the 1662 wreck of Nuestra Seńora de Atocha, a Spanish galleon that sank in a hurricane off of the Florida Keys. Mel loved the Chart Room so much that he even donated a round wooden table that was found on this 17th century shipwreck. With the low-key atmosphere, cold beers, classic American snacks, and fascinating history, it’s no surprise that Key West locals are so in love with this place.

Possibly one of my favorite aspects about the Pier House Resort is their private, white-sand beach. What more could you possibly want while enjoying some holiday fun in the sun? Amenities such as beach towels, chairs, and umbrellas are provided for all guests. I especially loved how they offered a fruit infused water station. They offer everything you need to enjoy quality beach time!

If the beach isn’t for you, you can relax by the pool in one of their comfortable lounge chairs. Thankfully, this pool is heated and can be enjoyed any time of the day. There is also a Poolside Bar incase you get hungry or thirsty.

Hands down, one of the best features of Key West are the epic sunsets. They are absolutely breathtaking and although a picture can speak a thousand words, it’s better to experience these sunsets in person to truly understand how beautiful they are! Fortunately at the Pier House, you have a front row seat to the sunsets every evening. From their private beach or oceanside dining, I enjoyed watching sail boats go past while the sun dipped into the ocean. It was the perfect way to end the day at Pier House Resort!

Whether you’re a Floridian enjoying a staycation (like me!) in the Keys or a tourist, the Pier House Resort & Spa provides the perfect setting for a romantic island getaway.

Disclaimer:  I was a guest of the Pier House Resort & Spa, and absolutely loved my stay there.  All the opinions here are all my own.

The post A Luxurious Weekend in Key West: Pier House Resort & Spa appeared first on Carmen Edelson - Luxury Travel Blogger.

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From its southern tip to its northernmost neighborhoods, there’s no denying that Manhattan is full of history. However, when it comes to historically and culturally significant sights, Harlem trumps them all. From the Harlem Renaissance to today, the neighborhood has been home to some of New York’s foremost visionaries, from writers to chefs, each imbuing the neighborhood with a little bit of magic. While the neighborhood is more desirable than ever today, thanks in no small part to elegant new residential developments like The Rennie on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, it hasn’t lost a bit of its vintage charm along the way. If you find yourself in Harlem, make sure to hit up these must-see sights.

The Apollo Theater | 253 West 125th Street

One of the most famous performance venues of all time, The Apollo Theater is a must-visit for anyone who loves the arts. The 1,506-seat theater, which opened for business in 1914, has been designated a New York City Landmark both inside and out, and with good reason: in addition to its famed amateur nights, the theater has hosted a long list of top-tier talent, including James Brown, Patti LaBelle, B.B. King, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Abyssinian Baptist Church | 132 Odell Clark Place

Even if you’re not personally religious, the Abyssinian Baptist Church on Odell Clark Place (formerly 138th Street) is well worth visiting during your trip to Harlem. This stunning Gothic Revival-and-Tutor-inspired  church, which was designated a New York City landmark in 1993, has hosted countless notable guests and worshippers over the years, from Adam Clayton Powell to Nat King Cole, the latter marrying there.

Sylvia’s | 328 Malcolm X Boulevard

Feeling peckish on your trip through Harlem? Better stop at Sylvia’s. Owner Sylvia Woods, known as “The Queen of Soul Food,” has been serving up the city’s best soul food from this modest eatery since it opened its doors in 1962. In addition to its famous clientele, which includes pasts guests Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, and Magic Johnson, the menu here can’t be beat, with everything from grits to cornmeal-dusted catfish to chicken and waffles gracing her famed menu.

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture | 515 Malcolm X Boulevard Schomburg Center photo New York Public Library Schomburg Center photo New York Public Library

Want to learn about the visionaries who made Harlem tick? Head on over to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. This New York Public Library research unit has been  integral in terms of recording and preserving the black culture that has shaped Harlem over more than 100 years, from the original manuscript for Richard Wright’s Native Son to more than 5,000 hours of recorded oral history.

The Studio Museum of Harlem |144 West 125th Street

Harlem is home to one of the city’s dynamic—if often overlooked—museums. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, take some time to explore the Studio Museum. This unique arts institution not only champions work from artists like Firelei Báez, Maren Hassinger, and Jamel Shabazz, but offers inventive teaching programs where aspiring artists can listen to lectures from experts in the industry and  hone their own skills, as well.

Manhattan is loaded with must-see sights, but there’s perhaps no neighborhood with as much history as Harlem. From storied 125thStreet to Malcolm X Boulevard, the neighborhood is packed top to bottom with sights you just can’t afford to miss.

Note: This is a guest post by Candace Schaffer; the views and opinions expressed are those of the author. Candice Schaffer works at Knightsbridge Park, a leading digital marketing firm for luxury real estate brands such as The Greenwich Lane, EVGB, One Dalton, and Modern Spaces.

The post The Top 5 Landmarks to See in Harlem appeared first on Carmen Edelson - Luxury Travel Blogger.

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Known in French as the Cote d’Azur, French Riviera is the Mediterranean coastline of the southeast corner of France. This coastline is one of the first modern resort areas. The town started on the 18th century as a winter health resort for the British upper class. After World War II, French Riviera became a popular convention site and tourist destination. In fact, many famous celebrities have homes in the region. It is also the main yachting and cruising area with many marinas along its coast. As a tourist center, French Riviera benefits from 310 to 330 days of sunshine per year, long coastline and stunning beaches, golf courses, French Riviera home rentals, ski resorts, and restaurants. From fields of lavender to sea scenes, here are the must-see spots you can’t miss on your next trip.

La Colline du Chateau – Nice, France

Any trip to French Riviera should begin with a stop in Nice, overlooking the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean. Start your tour with a climb up to Castle Hill (La Colline du Chateau) to witness what the excitement is all about. Once you reached the top, you’ll surely amaze by the stunning views of the Baie des Anges, the boardwalk of nice, Old Town, and the variety and vibrant architecture. There are few crumbling walls remains on the castle on the hill, green park that is perfect for a picnic or for relaxation after a full day of sightseeing tour.

Old Town – Nice, France

Old Town or Nice’s wonderful Vieille Ville, is a charming maze of narrow streets chock full of different shops, galleries, and eateries. Cafes are all around the many squares in the Old Town, so grab the opportunity to sit down, sip a cup of coffee, and people-watch. You can also try other restaurants such as Lou Pilha Leva and their Nicoise cuisine such as pissaladierre (onion pizza).

Eze, France

Another great addition to your itinerary is the medieval village of Eze, located in craggy cliffs high above the sea. Don’t forget to bring your camera, as this dramatic Mediterranean backdrop, well-preserved stone buildings, and winding alleyways make this small village looks like a set staged for a postcard. Bring also a pair of walking shoes, as steep paths within the village will bring you to the summit which is 1,400 feet above sea level.

Grasse, France

An impressive medieval village, Grasse holds the important part of being the perfume capital of the world. There are famous perfumeries like Fragonard that offer a free tour to their factory. Enjoy the never-ending fields of lavender that covered the entire area of the hilly landscape. Grasse is located between Nice and Cannes, so you can add in your itinerary a quick stopover in this place. Pick up a few bottles of perfume or just smell the lavender.

Monaco

Surround by France on three sides, Monaco is an outwork of glitz and glamour. This principality is known as the place for the mega-rich people, but for those short on cash, can still enjoy the sightseeing in places such as Fort Antione, the Cathedral of Monaco, and Prince’s Palace. You can also visit the luxurious yachts at the harbour and the Monte-Carlo casino.

Menton, France

Arguably the best-kept secret on the French Riviera, the town of Menton has all the glamour and beauty of the well-known coastal villages. The extraordinary beaches of Menton are all but empty in the off-season, and its boutiques are relatively free of bargain-hunting visitors. You’ll surely enjoy the town’s old world ambiance. Menton, France has over 300 days of sunshine a year, beautiful gardens, and its world-class Italian cuisine due to its location on the Franco-Italian border. You can spend your afternoon here for a great complement to your Riviera trip. If you’re traveling here in February, don’t miss out their annual Lemon Festival, the entire town goes all out to celebrate the spring and town’s colorful history, when it survived on the production of citrus. Witness the gravity-defying floats which mostly made of oranges and lemons, parading through the streets of Menton.

Promenade des Anglais – Nice, France

Enjoy the scenic seaside location of Nice, added with balmy weather, and beautiful Mediterranean character. Promenade des Anglais is the most popular street in Nice, a charming pedestrian area that follows the curve of the beaches of Baie des Anges. The promenade boasts its luxurious and tallest buildings such as the Palais de la Mediterranee Theater and the lovely Villa Massena. The Villa Massena houses a museum of history and art and is open to visitors. It is also covered by amazing landscaping including formal French gardens. Aside from strolling and sunbathing on the beaches, cycling along the promenade, or rollerblading, there are plenty of historic and cultural landmarks and attractions nearby such as the Cours Saleya, an interesting market in the traditional Provencal style. The market is open daily except for Mondays, it offers flowers and local artisan food products. Another attraction in Nice that you should include in your itinerary is the Jardin Albert I which is a walking distance of the Promenade des Anglais. This huge garden was one of the first public parks in Nice and it features towering palm trees and monumental fountains.

Saint-Tropez

Saint-Tropez is an elegant seaside resort that is famous to tourist from all over the world. This town was once just a humble fishing village. It was made stylish by the popular actress Brigitte Bardot in the 1950s when she was shooting for her film. Saint-Tropez boasts its interesting old-world ambiance of cobblestone streets, cafes, and shady squares. This town is a great place to explore with a stunning beach-town vibe and many fun activities.

The post The French Riviera: 8 Must-See Spots appeared first on Carmen Edelson - Luxury Travel Blogger.

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When I travel, I personally enjoy the space and freedom of a house or apartment, along with the luxury amenities and service of a five-star hotel. If you feel the same way, then renting a luxury villa is the perfect option! Luxury Retreats offer the most gorgeous luxury rental properties around the world, and they are my go-to booking website. I am particularly in love with their amazing selection of villas in the Caribbean. Whether you’re celebrating a honeymoon for two or planning a getaway with your entire family, there is a luxury villa for you! Let’s take a look at some of my favorite Caribbean properties and the benefits of booking with Luxury Retreat…

Excellent Service

Luxury Retreat prides themselves on excellent service and they personally inspected all 4,000+ villas on their website.  They understand that your vacation time is valuable, which is why they want to make sure there are no unwanted surprises. Every guest is appointed a Personal Concierge, with local services available in key destinations. Upon arrival, you will have access to a Concierge 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No matter which villa you pick and how much you end up spending, this incredible guest support is complimentary to everyone. Big or small, they can handle anything! At the end of the day, their main goal is to find the perfect luxury retreat for you and provide the best possible vacation experiences. 

Price Match Gaurantee 

When people think luxury, they think expensive! And while that can be the case, Luxury Retreats firmly believes in top quality and great value. They work hard to make sure their guests are enjoying competitive nightly rates. Therefore, they offer a price match guarantee, which in all honestly, I haven’t had to use yet. I find their rates are excellent for what they are offering but I appreciate having this option. It definitely makes me feel more confident and secure with their services. 

Beautiful Properties in the Caribbean 

Last but certainly not least, Luxury Retreats offers some of the most stunning properties I have ever seen. I’d love to plan an upcoming Caribbean getaway and I have found some incredible villas that tick all my boxes.

In Turks and Caicos, two people can call Villa Bari their home away from home. This beachfront property would be perfect for a romantic getaway. With one bedroom, 2 bathrooms, and a private pool and terrace, you are guaranteed rest and relaxation. If you are traveling with two more couples, they can also stay in the two other identical properties right next door. As far as modern amenities, you can expect air conditioning, TV’s, Wi-Fi and more. 

If you’re heading to Jamaica, the romantic Little Waters on the Cliff Villa might be the perfection option. It is nestled on a cliff side at the western most point of the island. This allows guests to enjoy uninterrupted sunset views. What an incredible way to end the day every evening! Three elegantly appointed bedrooms can comfortable accommodate up to six guests. With a natural sea water pool, alfresco dining, and fitness equipment, you could easily never leave! Although, you have the best of both worlds here because you’re only minutes from town where they have premier golfing and the famous Seven Mile white sand beach. 

Another Luxury Retreat in the Caribbean that caught my eye is the Turtle Reef Villa. This one also accommodates 6 people so it is perfect for an idyllic getaway with friends or a relaxed holiday with family. I love how you don’t have to choose between the beach or the pool… you can enjoy both here! You have your own private piece of white-sand beach, as well as an oceanfront pool and full-service marina. What more could you possibly want?! 

With their impeccable service and diverse portfolio of villas, I know I will be choosing Luxury Retreats for my next island getaway. 

The post Enjoy The Ultimate Caribbean Vacation with Luxury Retreats appeared first on Carmen Edelson - Luxury Travel Blogger.

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Paris’s charms are truly legendary. The city is the role model (or perhaps runaway model) of a European city with its world-class museums, high-end boutiques, inviting sidewalk cafes and equally impressive restaurant scene. The city exudes confidence, beauty, fashion and inspiration at every turn. Paris is truly an opportunity to try new things, learn about the amazing history of Europe, explore popular landmarks that you have only ever seen on television, rent a castle in France, and, of course, to try out some of the most luxurious and famous cuisines on the planet.

Take your time to read on and discover how to avoid the mistakes of the first time visitors as they make their way through the City of Light.

Don’t spend hours at the Eiffel Tower

For extra safety and security, Paris has installed security checkpoints around the famous tower. Before, anyone could just walk straight underneath the tower to either appreciate the monument or take pictures. Now, visitors need to endure a winding security line.

Instead, find a view and shorter lines

If you want a great panorama shot that includes the Eiffel Tower, there are numerous places where you should go instead. There’s the Arc de Triomphe, the top of the viewing deck located at the Montparnasse Tower or you can even book tickets to climb the Tour Saint Jacque which cost approximately $12. It is open to visitors from June to September comprising of five people at a time or a maximum group of 17 people.

Don’t expect to see everything at the Louvre

The Louvre is indeed massive. As a first time traveller, we have this thinking that we put so much pressure on ourselves to try to see everything it showcases. Unfortunately, it won’t work up at Le Louvre since it is not set up that way. It is suggested that you create a plan in advance and manage one’s expectations instead of trying to attain the impossible. Check out the wings or works that you really want to visit and spend quality time there.

Instead, split your time between the Louvre and smaller museums

There are numerous smaller museums that you can visit when in Paris that also contains significant and beautiful art. At the Musée de l’Orangerie, you’ll find Monet’s famous water lily (Nymphéas) murals. Another one is the Musée Marmottan which is home to the world’s largest collection of Monets. Don’t forget to drop by the Musée Rodin being one of the most romantic places in all of Paris because of the luminous villa with a lovely garden that can be found here.

Don’t shop on the Champs-Elysées

It is a fact that Champs-Elysées is one of the most beautiful avenue recognized worldwide. Presently, it has been overrun with global chain stores, dealers of auto and even movie multiplexes. The cafes here even prey on tourists.

Instead, follow the footsteps of locals

Thinking beyond couture-lined boulevards and congested high streets are what really shopping in Paris should mean. There are good things that can be found in the developing shopping vicinities like the North Marais. You can buy brands of crafters like Officine Générale, Sessun, Papier Tigre or Kitsune. For accessories, you can spot numerous varieties at rue du Château d’Eau in the 10th arrondissement and home goods at Atelier Couronnes, Jamini or La Trésorerie. Right at the centre of the town located at Les Halles, you’ll find Parisian-designed goods coming from Sept Cinq or developing French designers at L’Exception. For menswear stores, head at the Printemps Hommes where you can buy limited edition collections from Jacquemus to Y/Project, one of the hottest designers of the moment. Their collections can only be found in this place.

Don’t spend all your budget on a Michelin-starred dinner

In the last few years, Parisian dining has shifted into more casual though upscale and formal dining still sways and to give you an idea it can set you back $400 to $500. There are numerous Michelin-starred restaurants like Le Clarence which is owned by Prince Robert of Luxembourg to Dame de Pic, known as Anne Sophie Pic’s only Parisian restaurant, have reasonably priced lunch menus that are under $150.

Instead, go for evening meals at laid-back modern Bistros

Recently, some Michelin-starred chefs open welcoming bistros that serve simple yet outstanding meals. And honestly, locals are just so crazy about them. Tables at Yves Camdeborde’s pioneering Le Comptoir du Relais are often booked months in advance. But once you try their famous foie gras terrine, you’ll understand why it’s hard to get a table. If you’re not able to get in at dinner time, try it for lunch since they do not accept reservations and it will be on first come first serve basis. As an alternative, you can also dine at the Clover Grill where you can taste the food from sustainable produce greens and grilled or smoked beef prepared by the Michelin-starred chef Jean-Francois Piège at his modern steakhouse.

Don’t commit a Fashion Faux Pas

If you don’t want to be like a touristic thumb, you must avoid few clothing mistakes. Worry no more since shorts and even trendy sneakers brands like Nike, Veja, and Vans aren’t necessarily off limits nowadays. On the other hand, Parisians will be onto you if your outfit is excessively baggy and even have cargo pockets. Adding up to that, avoid the selfie stick altogether since it attracts attention from pickpockets and scam artists alike.

Instead, dress as the locals do

Parian style is quite casual these days. They’ve embraced the art of the clean and harmonized look. Here are some tips to keep your attire tidy, simple and well-coordinated: pick neutral colours; for accessories, pick a single scarf, had or jewel and assure that things fit all together. To complete your outfit, you can wear a fitted jacket and score the best shoes in your closet. The result should imply an entirely effortless and convey a message of confidence.

Don’t get around the town in a Cab

It’s difficult to find a taxi and using this form of transportation in getting around the town only leave you vulnerable to the congestion in Paris. Rolling along the narrow one-way street while watching the meter goes higher while you are being trapped on a double-parked car is definitely not a good experience.

Instead, know the French word Flâner

Flâner, when translated to English, it technically means “to stroll”. It further suggests to just go through the city by walking to experience it. The centre of Paris is just a couple of miles wide and maps will surely help you to roam around. The rewards of walking around allow you to witness the world-class window shopping, inviting sidewalk cafes and even eating of extra croissant. If you want to go on longer distances, you can hop on the Métro. It is much cheaper and often faster than the cab.

The post Best Things to Do in Paris, France (And What Not to Do) appeared first on Carmen Edelson - Luxury Travel Blogger.

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