Tag Archives: Travel

7 Cruise Ports Where You Should Rent a Car

There are times when it is more convenient, and possibly more prudent, to see the sights of a cruise port via tours. Driving in ports like Piraeus or Istanbul can be intimidating for even the most adventurous drivers. How about driving on your own in Montego Bay Jamaica? Anybody think that’s a great idea? There’s no reason to rent a car in ports with good public transportation or where the main sights and activities are accessible on foot from the port. But there are a handful of ports where you might really want to go beyond what the tour and taxi drivers want you to see, where it would be safe to do so, and where you can explore at your leisure.

Car rental basics

• Reserve in advance when possible.

• Always use a credit card that includes foreign rental insurance, but know that in some places, they will still make you pay for primary coverage.

• Do your homework; knowing what you hope to see while you have the car and what type of vehicle will get you there is key. Is four-wheel drive needed? Is there parking at your intended destination?

• Take a folded soft-sided cooler with you so that you can stop for snacks.

• If pre-purchase of fuel is an option, take it. Your time in port is limited; the last thing you want is to have to find a gas station near the rental office to refuel.

• Make sure you get a map. If there is any doubt, print computer maps before you leave home.

• Watch your time carefully. You don’t want to be left standing on the shore as your ship sails away because you didn’t allow enough time to return your rental.    

Here are examples of ports where rentals are an easy and fun way to enhance your experience.


Renting a car on Aruba is made easy by the fact that there are rental agencies located at the cruise terminal. You can reserve in advance, then walk off the ship and start your adventure. Having your own car makes it possible to drive to secluded beaches beyond the crowded hotel area. Try Santo Largo Beach for a true Aruban escape. Rates run in the $35-40 per day range. Try Speed Car in the cruise terminal.


You can arrange for the rental company to pick you up at the pier and take you to a rental office. Bonaire is perfect for driving a rental. Traffic is light and a car gives you the opportunity to see a large portion of the island a little easier than via the golf carts rented at the pier. A car works really well if you plan to snorkel or shore dive. You can rent gear and tanks at the Dive Friends Bonaire location near the pier, then head out to find your own perfect dive spot.  Rates run in the $35 range, some trucks are set up for diving. Try AB Car Rental.

Freeport Bahamas

A day on Grand Bahama Island can be greatly enhanced with your own car to explore from. Drive to Gold Rock Beach or Lucayan National Park with a picnic you can pack from markets in Lucaya. The driving itself is an adventure worth re-telling — remember it’s on the left side of the road. Rates run in the $75 range. Try Island Jeep Rentals.

Grand Cayman

If snorkeling or shore diving is your thing, having a car at your disposal on Grand Cayman gets you away from the crowds and into the water without a boat. Use the information at ShoreDiving.com to help you locate great options. If beaches are your goal, there are choices far quieter than the famed Seven Mile Beach. Packing a picnic and driving to Smith Barcadere or Starfish Point will give you a whole new impression of the island.  You can get a Jeep for as low as $69.95 per day. Try Cayman Auto Rentals.

Hawaiian Islands

Obviously, the islands are too big to see all of any one while on a cruise ship stopover, but renting a car might get you a better overview of the sights, or at least allow you to escape the usual tourist hangouts. The best example is on the Big Island. If your ship docks in Kona, rent a car and drive down the coast a bit, sampling public beaches, coffee plantations, and unique shopping and food along the way. It’s a great way to see the island. Thrifty may be the best choice here. Rates start at $75 per day.

Greek Islands

There are a few stops on a cruise through the Greek Islands where having a car gets you to the good stuff easier than on a tour. It’s not recommended on Santorini, but Crete would be worth looking into. The best choice might be on Lemnos. In the Port of Myrina, Holiday Car Rental is near the docks. Stop in one of the nearby shops for cheese, bread, & wine before you pick up the car. Driving on the tiny roads in town is crazy, so head south on the coast road where you will find secluded beaches and quaint shops. Holiday Car Rentals has options starting at $75.


We saved the best for last. A rental on Cozumel allows you to escape the tourist attractions in favor of the secluded beaches and scenery on the wild east side of the island. Or maybe you want to do both. Take a scenic drive, enjoy your own private beach break, then head back to the fun at Chankanaab Beach Park, with its abundance of facilities, before returning the car. Alamo has cars for under $20 per day and Jeeps under $50.




Aruba: Where to stay, what to do

Can you ever go wrong with staying at a Ritz Carlton property? The answer is no, and this property is one worth checking out. In conjunction with the exceptional service and attention to detail we have all come to expect with the brand, each of the 320 spacious guest rooms has access to a private balcony—perfect for watching the sunrise or sunset over the ocean. The property has four different restaurant options (ranging from poolside grill to white tablecloth seating) and gives guests the option of requesting a romantic dinner on the beach, with a butler and personalized menu. There are two swimming pools (one of which is adults only), a luxury spa and a state-of-the-art fitness center with enough equipment to keep you on your gym routine while on vacation. The hotel also offers a 15,000-square-foot, 24-hour casino located in the hotel for guests and non-guests.


Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino

Located in the heart of Aruba’s busiest tourist district, the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino offers guests an unparalleled experience. The resort has 40 acres of exclusive beach sand and shore, which are home to a flock of wild flamingos and countless iguanas. Guests arrive to the private oasis by water taxi, which leaves from the lobby’s canal. The resort is divided into two zones: adult only and family friendly, allowing you to choose the type of vacation you wish to have. Rooms come complete with free Wi-Fi access and most have access to balconies that offer ocean or garden views. The resort also has a luxury spa, outdoor pools, easy access to Renaissance Mall and a 24-hour casino.


Flying Fishbone

This locally owned restaurant gave me one of my favorite beach dining experiences to date. Diners are treated to a table in the sand (that quickly turns into “a table in the water” as the waves come in) amid the backdrop of a breathtaking sunset and an ocean that never ends. As the sun sets, colored lights reflected on the water creates a magical feeling under a starry sky. But the views aren’t the only reason this restaurant is named No. 8 on the list of “best beach restaurants around the world.” The menu is filled with delectable seafood and steak plates that use local ingredients and techniques to create a culinary experience you won’t soon forget.



Renaissance Aruba Private Island

Even if you aren’t a guest at the Renaissance, you can purchase a day pass for $99 per person to their private island (if their hotel isn’t at capacity). A water taxi will take you on a 10-minute ride to the island, where you can spend the entire day soaking up the sun with wild flamingos and iguanas, getting pampered at the Spa Cove with a view of the open sea, partaking in water sports or beach activities and enjoying a good lunch at Papagoyo Bar and Grill.

Arikok National Park

With more than 7,000 acres (18 percent of the entire island) designated as a national park, Arikok is a must if you’re visiting Aruba. The park is made up of three distinct geological terrains: the rough hills of the volcanic Aruba lava formation, the mysterious rocks of the batholithic quartz-diorite/tonalite and the limestone rocks with fossilized coral. The park has huge significance in the history of Aruba as it has traces of the earliest human activity—the Caquetío people left rock paintings in Cunucu Arikok and Fontein Cave. Within the park is one of the island’s most sought after attractions, Conchi (or the Natural Pool), which is a calm pond created, in part, by the massive rocks that block out the rough seas, but it can only be accessed by foot, horse, ATV or four-wheel drive vehicle. The park also has several mini-beaches throughout, giving guests the opportunity to stop during their exploration. And visitors can see most of the island from atop Arikok Hilltop. The park is open Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $11 per person, or free from anyone 17 and under.

Sunset Cruise

Aruba is known for having some of the best sunsets in the world, thanks to its location in the Caribbean Sea. Book a sunset cruise so that you can enjoy the view of the pink and orange sky from the sea. Most cruises last approximately two hours and offer guests snacks and cocktails for the duration of the cruise. While sailing along the coast, you’ll have the opportunity to glance at oceanfront properties that you can’t see from the main roads. Tickets are $55 per adult and $29 per child (ages 3 to 11).

Megan Pinckney (@shadesofpinck) is a retired beauty queen turned lifestyle blogger who loves exploring the world and writing about it.




How Travel Leads to Stronger Romantic Relationships

Travel is at once a never-ending source of new experiences and memories, but also a testing ground for a relationship’s strength.

Last year, a flight delay almost ended my marriage.

My wife and I were en route to a West Coast wedding when a storm diverted us from our layover in D.C. to an unexpected landing in Richmond, Virginia. Ever easygoing, my wife embraced the situation, securing us a flight out the next morning and reserving a room at a boutique hotel. Prone to panic, I soon broke the serenity when I realized our bags were still on the original flight. To save our orphaned luggage, I forced us back on the plane to our nation’s capital—headed to an airport we no longer had tickets out of. Tensions were high; regrets were immediate. As we approached, the pilot announced that another squall had us rerouted, once again, to Richmond. We submitted to fate, and ended the evening sharing laughs, Korean tacos, and one-too-many craft brews in the historic Virginia capital.

Though the stakes may be exaggerated, the point is sound: Travel is a test kitchen for a committed relationship. When a couple spends uninterrupted time together for an extended period in an unfamiliar setting, the challenges that arise truly test their mettle. But for those who endure through adversity, the rewards of a travel-eccentric relationship are bounteous—and research backs this up.


A 2012 survey by the U.S. Travel Association revealed that couples that took regular trips reported higher levels of satisfaction with their relationships, and considered their vacations an important venue for romance. Similarly, a 2013 Journal of Travel Research article by experts at Texas A&M found that partners who traveled together experienced improved communication, and that connectivity extended into their life back home—with one important caveat. For a couple to reap such benefits, they must want the same thing out of the vacation, and that experience must include shared activities that nurture the relationship.

“Vacation experiences are made up of seeking and escaping motives. Some are seeking adventure; others are escaping and want to relax. The dyad has to match up,” says Dr. James Petrick, professor of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences and co-author of the Texas A&M review. “Outside of your usual environment, you have to process much more and evaluate situations in an in-depth manner. Vacations awaken all your senses. You’re more in tune with each other, with the environment around you.”

Cincinnati residents Jocelyn Gibson, 34, and Justin Leach, 33, were married last October after dating since 2014. Part of what drew them together was a mutual love of travel—the pair have already flexed their compatibility on excursions to Madrid, Copenhagen, Marseille and Berlin in that three-year span. While they cop to the occasional argument—Justin likes to plot things out, while Jocelyn prefers to wander—they have similar interests, leaving much to bond over.

“We are constantly noticing the historic architecture, street life, public spaces,” Gibson says. “We both love food, so our meals are satisfying and memorable. On countless occasions we will be doing something ordinary, and we’ll recall a specific memory from one of our trips and be struck by nostalgia.”



Travel insurance could become compulsory to visit Thailand

That’s because Thai tourism officials are pushing forward with a proposal to require all visitors to Thailand to obtain travel insurance before entering the country.

Apparently our misadventures in the South East Asian country are costing local hospitals a fortune.

Officials at the Ministry of Tourism and Sports are deliberating over the proposal raised in a meeting last week to make the insurance compulsory.

According to Jaturon Phakdeewanit, director of the Tourism Safety and Security Standards, visitors without travel insurance have cost Thailand at least 3 billion baht ($A117 million) a year for their medical treatments at state hospitals.


“We need to push this through as soon as possible because the problem is becoming more serious,” he said.

Government officials will be discussing with tourism operators about the best approach to implement the new rule, before submitting the proposal to the cabinet for approval.

Travel insurance documents will likely be inspected at immigration counters upon arrival, as many visitors do not need visa to enter the country.

Travel insurance policies can cover you for unexpected accidents or illness, lost luggage, theft, personal liability and unforeseen trip cancellation.


The cost of purchasing insurance can vary greatly depending on a range of factors such as age, itinerary and level of cover, but according to a guide on CompareTravelInsurance.com.au, a policy for a person aged around 30-years-old travelling to Thailand for a one-week holiday could cost anywhere from $30 to $250.

Tourism is a major industry in Thailand, with more than 14 million people visiting the country since January 1, generating $US20.5 billion ($A27.4 billion) dollars in revenue.




Medellín, Colombia: My Ultimate Live And Invest Destination

The first place I ever recommended Americans think about retiring overseas was Costa Rica. That was back in 1985…30 plus years ago. A few years later I organized and promoted the first conference of my career, in San José.


Thinking back, I have to give it to the 40-odd souls who joined me in Costa Rica that year. What interrogations they must have endured from their family and friends. I mean, who retired overseas 30 years ago?


I continued to recommend Costa Rica as an appealing and affordable place to retire outside the box for maybe two decades. In that time, I also went on to recommend Ambergris Caye, Belize…Roatan, Honduras…Cuenca, Ecuador…and Boquete, Panama, among other places that, likewise, nobody at the time was talking about in this way.

I’m not overstating things. When I began making these kinds of suggestions, I was ignored, questioned suspiciously, and sometimes attacked as part of the lunatic fringe.

Today the idea of retiring outside the country where you happened to be living up until that point is no longer considered crazy. Today, The New York Times, the AARP, USA Today, cable news, and the rest of the mainstream media make these recommendations, too. Which is great. It’s nice having company in these ideas.


I make the point to provide context for the recommendation I’d like to offer now, which may seem like the craziest one of all.


About six years ago I finally took the advice of friends who had been nagging me for a long while to go see for myself a city they knew well, a city they described as pretty and pleasant, sophisticated and chic, welcoming and affordable…a city that was, most of all, they assured me, nothing like what I was probably expecting.



I knew within hours of arriving in Medellin, Colombia, that everything my friends had said was true. Medellin, I became convinced very quickly, was on track to become one of the world’s most sought-after destinations, for both retiring and investing.

Specifically, Medellin offers:

  • Pleasant weather, meaning you can leave your windows open to the breeze and dine al fresco year-round…
  • World-class health care, including 5 of the top 35 hospitals in Latin America…
  • A rich cultural scene, with theater, orchestra, art galleries, and festivals that draw crowds from around the world…
  • An affordable cost of living…
  • Real-world infrastructure…living here you don’t want for anything…
  • Property costs that are a bargain on a global scale; it’s possible to buy at the best addresses in the city for as little as US$1,000 per square meter…
  • Investment upside, both in the form of rental yields and potential capital appreciation…

The best case when going overseas is when you can identify a place that is appealing both as a lifestyle choice and as an investment market. That’s the case in Medellin.

Three types of people should be paying attention to Colombia right now:

  • The investor: Prices are an absolute, global bargain. Costs of getting in are low, and demand is growing at an accelerating rate. Right now in Medellin, you could buy almost anything and feel confident that you could make money. Rental yields are running from 8% to 14% on good properties…
  • The retiree: This City of Flowers and Eternal Spring is going to become a top destination among North American retirees…mark my words…
  • The second-home buyer: More and more, I’m seeing people who are spending their summers in the United States or Europe but skipping out on the ice and snow by wintering in places where they can leave their windows open day and night, all year. These folks are bypassing the old-school snowbird haunts like Arizona and Florida and opting instead for the romance, the excitement, the adventure, and the affordable high-end lifestyle on offer in cities like Medellin.

We don’t always have the vision to jump when opportunity presents itself. Imagine if you had bought in Costa Rica in the mid-1980s…on Ambergris Caye, Belize, later in that decade…or in Panama City 15 years ago…

I recognized the opportunities in all these places at precisely those points in time, and I urged readers and friends to take advantage.

I see that same potential again right now, in Medellin.

The best way to appreciate the opportunity on offer in Medellin (or anywhere) is to come see for yourself. This, of course, is the big idea behind the country conferences that we sponsor each year. Could Medellin be the retirement or investment haven you seek? The best place in the world right now for you to think about reinventing and relaunching your life or diversifying your investment portfolio?



Australia to ban convicted pedophiles from travelling abroad

Australia plans to ban convicted pedophiles from travelling overseas in what the government said is a world-first move to protect vulnerable children in South East Asia from exploitation.

Australian pedophiles are notorious for taking inexpensive vacations to nearby South East Asian and Pacific island countries to abuse children there.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she would cancel the passports of around 20,000 pedophiles on the national child sex offender register under legislation that will be introduced to Parliament soon.

“There has been increasing community concern about sexual exploitation of vulnerable children and community concern is justified,” she told reporters.

Almost 800 registered child sex offenders traveled overseas from Australia last year and about half went to Southeast Asian destinations, she said.

“There will be new legislation which will make Australia a world leader in protecting vulnerable children in our region from child sex tourism,” Bishop said.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan said no country has such a travel ban. He said 2,500 new convicted paedophiles would be added to the sex offender register each year and would also lose their passports.

The register contains 3,200 serious offenders who will be banned from travel for life. Less serious offenders drop off the register after several years of complying with reporting conditions and would become eligible to have their passports renewed.

Independent Senator Derryn Hinch, who was molested as a child and was jailed twice as a radio broadcaster for naming paedophiles in contravention of court orders, took credit for the government initiative.

Hinch said he had not known that convicted paedophiles were allowed to travel before he received a letter from Australian actress and children’s rights campaigner Rachel Griffiths soon after he was elected to the Senate last year.

“If we can take a passport from a bankrupt, why can’t we stop our paedophiles from travelling to Myanmar?” Griffiths wrote. Under Australian law, a bankrupt person cannot travel overseas without a trustee’s permission.

Hinch, who was involved in drafting the legislation, said temporary passports could be provided to paedophiles who need to travel for legitimate business or family reasons, and for paedophiles living overseas who need to return to Australia as their visas expire.

“This will not apply to a teenager who has been caught sexting to his 15-year-old girlfriend,” said Hinch, referring to sexual phone communications.

“I know sometimes, I think unfairly, they go on registers, but we’re trying to work it out so they don’t,” he added.

Bishop said governments in the Asia-Pacific region wanted Australia to do more to stem child sex tourists.



My New Travel Book Cover

My new travel book cover arrived today and I think it’s one of the most beautiful covers I’ve seen so far.  I order them early to give me that added motivation to finish and publish. This book will be broken down by regions. Also i’m doing research to make sure it’s different from other travel books but provides quality. The audio book will also be available this year. Adidas Wilson on Amazon, Itunes, and B&N. 


7 Ways Miami Maintains Relevancy

Whether it’s been a month or six since your last trip to Miami, you’d barely recognize The Magic City. Historic downtown is taking on a modern day revival with classic cocktail rooftop bars, craft coffee cafés and gilded boutique hotels, while the Wynwood Arts District and Brickell have expanded their pedestrian-friendly streets to include pop-up music venues and California-inspired vegan cafes. From your morning cold brew to your nightcap, here’s how Miami keeps up with an ever evolving world.


1. Downtown Mornings

Starting the day downtown used to mean strolling out of Club Space in time for brunch Sunday. With the population doubling over the past decade, this historic side of the city is finally undergoing a much-needed facelift with cafes setting up shop on side streets near notorious late-night venues. Just around the corner from 24-hour nightclub E11even, you can get your caffeine fix at All Day, with nitrogen-infused Brooklyn blend and Florida eggs served four ways: caste iron-fried, soft scrambled, poached or baked with pecorino and citrus on sourdough. The Scandinavian-meets-midcentury modern Miami cafe is the work of Panther Coffee’s Camila Ramos and The Corner owner Chris MacLeod, so it’s no surprise the cafe not only looks sleek in its minimalist design (think loft-style spaces, dark wood banquets and branches hanging overhead), but it also nails both the coffee and the cuisine. From the street, the one pop of color standing out against the stark white interior is a neon green sign glowing with words spelling out 10 different types of coffee options, from double shot to hot drip. Espresso is brewed in the custom-crafted La Marzocco Strada machine—the largest in the world—from small-batch beans expertly sourced from roasters like Birmingham’s Revelator and Miami’s Per’la. The menu, meanwhile, is the work of Charles Lutka, who pulls from his previous stints at Michelin-starred Marea in NYC and Miami’s late-night Korean barbecue joint Gigi to craft locally inspired brunch fare with a haute twist. Expect decadent dishes like French toast with tres leches batter and pecan butter and lamb merguez tartine served with za’atar on olive toast. Anything you order will also pair perfectly with one of the 10 caffeine fixes, from the double shot espresso with sweet Florida milk to the nitrogen gas-infused “royal tea.”

2. Wynwood Expansions

The arts district has seen its fair share of pop-ups from galleries to drive-thru cinemas, but the Wynwood Yard is combining all of these concepts with a multipurpose space perfect for a food truck-served lunch during the day, as well as live music and yoga in the evenings. What started as a 10-month pop-up has become more permanent with a bar, a garden by Little River Cooperative and cuisine ranging from omakase sushi food truck Myumi to healthy bowl test kitchen Della. Order one of Della’s popular vegan bowls filled with quinoa, black coconut rice, tangy ginger tempeh and Maduro-style ripe plantain and dig in at one of the picnic tables placed out front. Wi-Fi is free, so this spot easily doubles as a co-working space, but if you would rather work in the comfort of an air-conditioned coffee shop, drive over to nearby Panther Coffee, a locally based roaster with brew just as good as their people watching in the typically packed cafe. Order a cold brew and one of Cindy Lou’s Cookies’ Morning Glory Muffins before setting off on a street art and shopping tour of the neighborhood.

The highlight is the living street art gallery Wynwood Walls, which started in 2009 on six buildings spanning the 25th-26th Street complex. It has now expanded to over 80,000 square feet of walls painted by more than 50 street art and graffiti artists from around the globe, including French artist Invader (behind video game-inspired space invader mosaics) and South Africa’s Faith47. Start at the beginning, exploring the street art, before weaving in and out of the galleries lining Northwest Second Avenue. Here, you’ll also find a number of boutiques like Melbourne-based skin care line Aesop and vintage-inspired glasses showroom Warby Parker. In addition to some of the larger labels, Wynwood also houses independent boutiques like Plant the Future, with its living art installations and hand-blown glass terrariums, and Mexican concept and design shop Malaquita, featuring everything from rainbow-colored sacred string artwork to hand-painted cowboy boots.

Miami is home to a slew of restaurants branded by big name chefs like Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, but the city is turning over a new leaf with the trend veering toward plant-based cuisine. The celeb chef behind California-based Matthew Kenney Cuisine brought his concept down south and gave it a Florida spin, opening up the seasonally focused Plant Food + Wine in Wynwood’s new Sacred Space. Take a seat on the patio next to the reflecting pool in this oasis-style spot and get ready to dig in to a list of dishes that taste almost too good to be purely plant-based. Start with the flora artisanal cheese plate of white truffle, smoked cheddar and mixed pepper cashew and macadamia-crafted cheese before moving on to one of the mains like the banana leaf tamale with cacao mole and shiitake mushroom or the coconut ceviche tacos with sunflower chorizo.

For a meal just as beautifully presented but delivered in a quick service setting, head to wellness bar DIRT in SoFi and order from the paleo, vegan or gluten-sensitive menus filled with clean dishes like the kimchee-spiced Seoul Bowl or the Santorini salad with housemade harissa-spiked hummus (both pictured above). This is a spot that caters to all dietary requirements, so if your friend wants an option topped with organic, grass-fed meat, they’re in luck. One of the top picks: the dirty sandwich with homemade chicken apple sausage served on locally baked Zak the Baker bread.

4. Beach Bootcamp

Miami is a city known for its beaches and sex appeal, and while you’ll find plenty of upscale fitness studios like SoulCycle and Exhale, trainers are taking to the shores making the most of Miami’s natural resources. Dubbed the “wellness power couple,” celeb trainers Christopher and Tracie Vlaun behind V Art of Wellness have brought their boutique fitness brand of beach bootcamps to the sand in front of the newly opened beach house-inspired hotel, The Confidante. Based in Miami and hosting retreats in the Caribbean and Cabo, the duo have brought together their areas of expertise (from Tracie’s 15-year career as an Elite model and Chris’s functional fitness training background) to develop intimate beach-based fitness classes that range from high intensity interval training to TRX body sculpting taught by top trainers like former Division 1 athletes.

miami 5 courtesy of El Tucan

5. Cuban Cabaret

Cuba is in the spotlight right now, and in turn, so is Cuban culture. Supper clubs are making a comeback in Miami and one of the hottest acts in town is the 1940s Cuban cabaret-inspired El Tucán, with an 11-piece Latin orchestra playing as the house act and cocktails curated by Bar Lab, the team behind local favorite Broken Shaker. Music ranges from DJ sets to bands playing Parisian pop, while the tapas-style cuisine from chef Jean Paul Lourdes highlights Caribbean and South American flavors. Sister venue to the French-themed Bâoli, this spot in Brickell has a personality all of its own, capturing vintage Cuba from the tropical-style bar to the golden palms lining the theater. Take a seat for one of the two dinner shows and indulge in a cocktail just as decadent as the setting, such as the namesake El Tucán, a vodka-based libation with lemon and watermelon juice served up in a copper toucan glass.


6. Down to Earth Rooftops

In this one-upping society, every hotel is clamoring to create the highest and most enticing rooftop bar on the beach. But what visitors don’t know is that the better rooftop is more down to earth, providing a closer look at the true sultry Miami scene. Part of the Downtown revival, boutique hotel The Langford opened up a little over a year ago in the historic 1925 Beaux-Arts Miami National Bank with throwback travel-inspired rooms (think vintage trunks) and one of the city’s best restaurant groups, Pubbelly, behind their restaurant PB Station and rooftop bar Pawn Broker. While the rooms capture one part of the vintage element, the bar captures the other through its cocktails. Sit al fresco staring out at the city’s skyline while sipping on a Prohibition era cocktail like the bathtub gin-inspired Giggle Water, a bubbly version of a gin and tonic served in a ceramic bathtub.


7. Midnight in Paris

With six sister restaurants in Brazil, Paris 6 has taken its French-meets-Latin American concept to Miami Beach with the opening of the 24/7 bistro. The first of the Brazilian-owned bistros to open in the U.S., this contemporary brasserie is a nice addition to Miami’s late-night dining scene of empanadas, sandwiches and fast food joints lining South Beach. Venezuelan-born chef Atilio Padra whips up a menu of traditional fare like entrecote Béarnaise and filet mignon au poivre vert alongside some of the more modern twists like duck croquettes and lamb over apricot couscous in a setting that looks straight out of Paris’s sixth arrondissement. With a Midnight in Paris-esque design, the bistro every bit fits the bill from its Damask-covered walls and chandeliers to the red banquet seating and signature green bar with gilded gold etching, designed just for the Miami location. The one whimsical touch: caricature celebrity paintings commissioned by Brazilian artist Flavio Rossi. Whether you’ve missed dinner or are looking for a late-night feast, this is the perfect spot unassumingly tucked along bustling Collins Avenue just across the street from some of the city’s hottest nightlife venues like Wall at the W South Beach.



Essential Vietnam: Food and Sightseeing Guide to Saigon and Hanoi

Compelling and astonishingly beautiful, few places in the world offer the spectacular (and often overwhelming) splendor that Vietnam does, and this magic is especially apparent in its largest cities. In Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City), you’re met with staggering French architecture dating back to the 18th century, endless stalls selling the famed banh mi sandwich, and meticulously landscaped parks boasting temples and palaces. Hanoi’s streets are alive with the sounds of motorbikes zooming past, the clamor of pots and pans from street vendors slinging noodle soups and sizzling grilled pork, and the glistening sparkle of its picturesque pagodas. Whether you’re going for the first time or the 15th, this guide to Vietnam’s most bustling cities will take you deep into the heart of one of Asia’s most resplendent, resilient, and humbling countries.

Ho Chi Minh City
Formerly known as Saigon (most of the locals still refer to it this way), Ho Chi Minh City is the perfect representation of old meets new. You’ll find colonial French architecture juxtaposed with whizzing motorbikes and crowded markets. Gleaming skyscrapers are flanked by centuries-old temples and pagodas. It’s a city that demands a few days of exploration to truly understand the interesting contrasts.


Vietnam’s food differs from north to south, and with Ho Chi Minh City located in the south, the delicacies you’ll find here tend to be more flavorful and spicy than the ones in Hanoi. These are the dishes you have to try when wandering the busy streets.

Banh Cuon: A hearty rice dish that’s steamed to perfection, banh cuon is a thin rice sheet filled with a hearty serving of ground pork, mushrooms, and shallots. It’s served in bite-size pieces and is often enjoyed for breakfast with a drizzle of fish sauce (a necessity in most Vietnamese cuisine), bean sprouts, and cucumber. Tip: If you can, order it from a street vendor so you can watch the locals prepare it on their larger-than-life metal woks.
Where to try it: Banh Cuon Hai Nam, 11A Đường Cao Thắng, phường 2, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Banh Xeo: Another dish that’s as fun to watch as it is delicious to eat, banh xeo is basically a large and savory crepe. Named after the sizzle it makes when it’s cooking, this crepe-pancake hybrid is topped with equal parts pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts. It’s served for breakfast or lunch with, you guessed it, fish sauce.
Where to try it: Banh Xeo 46A, 11A Đường Cao Thắng, phường 2, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Banh Trang Tron: This is one dish you won’t find outside of Ho Chi Minh City. Created by the street food purveyors who set up shop along Van Kiep Street or Su Van Hanh Street, this bite-size snack is a mix of rice paper that’s served like a salad with eggs (usually quail), sliced green mango, squid, beef jerky, basil, mint, sometimes shrimp balls, and peanut, as well as a hearty serving of chilis.
Where to try it: Street stalls on Van Kiep Street or Su Van Hanh Street



Banh Mi: Unless you live under a rock, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of, or tried, the famed banh mi sandwich. All cities in the country have their own version, but Banh Mi 37 Nguyen Trai, a hole-in-the-wall stand on Nguyen Tai, serves up one of the best. The bread is freshly baked and is filled to the brim with grilled sausage, thinly sliced pork, cucumber spears, cilantro, and chili.
Where to try it: Banh Mi 37 Nguyen Trai, 37 Nguyễn Trãi, Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Pho: A staple that can’t be left out, pho varietals can be found all throughout the country. However, don’t confuse the ones you enjoy in Saigon with the ones in Hanoi or Halong Bay—or vice versa. The pho in Saigon is slightly sweeter and fishier.
Where to try it: Pho Le, 414 413, Nguyen Trai Street P.7,Q5, Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam’s capital is nothing short of a street food paradise. The labyrinth of bustling alleyways, motorbike-clogged avenues, and streets of the Old Quarter and the Truc Bach area are full of vendors selling bowls of pungent soups, crispy fried meats glazed with spicy sauces, and veggie-laden rice paper rolls. Like Saigon, street food culture reigns supreme here; however, an international influence can be found in some of its most revered bites.

Bun Oc: Snails are savored in Hanoi, which is why you’ll find bun oc, or snail vermicelli soup, on many local menus. The snails are roasted, dumped into a broth, then mixed with thin rice noodles, green bananas, fried tofu, prawns or fish cakes. Like most soups in town, it’s topped with a big serving of herbs, like mint or basil, and chili sauce.
Where to try it: Bun oc Co Them, 6 Hàng Chai, Hàng Mã, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Cha Ca: As distinctive to Hanoi as bang trang tron is in Saigon, this crispy fried white fish is typically served on a bed of fresh herbs, like dill. The filet itself is seasoned heavily with garlic, ginger, and turmeric, and the fish is served alongside a big bowl of rice noodles, peanuts, spring onions, red chili slices, and a mouthwatering sauce. It’s meant to be mixed together, which is how you’ll see the locals devouring it on Cha Ca Street in the Old Quarter.
Where to try it: Cha Ca Thang Long, 21 Đường Thành Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam


Bun Rieu: This is comfort food at its best. This creamy soup is much like pho, with big servings of rice vermicelli noodles, crab, and a fresh assortment of herbs, like mint, basil, and dill. The main difference is the broth: Here, it’s tomato-based. You’ll find many renditions of this soup all throughout the city, some with ground pork, minced dried shrimp, and tofu.
Where to try it: Bun Rieu Cua, 40 Hàng Tre, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

Banh Goi: The perfect street snack for when you’re on the go, banh goi is a fluffy deep fried pastry filled with mushrooms, minced pork, steamed quail eggs, and a spicy seasoning. It’s often served alongside sweet-sour dipping sauces made with garlic, chili, sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce. It also pairs well with a cold Hanoi Beer.
Where to try it: Street food carts in the Old Quarter; or for a vegan option, try Banh Goi Chay, 66B Tran Hung Dao Street, Hoan Kiem District

Nem Chua: A delicacy for locals, nem chua can be hard to stomach for foreign visitors. This raw fermented pork dish is made by mixing ground pork, chilies, sliced garlic, white peppercorns, Thai chilies, sugar, and a spicy seasoning. The garlic, chilies, and sugar are placed inside the pork and rolled up like a sausage, or they’re spread out in a large baking sheet and wrapped in plastic. The whole dish is then fermented for up to three days, sliced into small squares and served inside a banana leaf.
Where to try it: Street food carts in the Old Quarter




How to Pick a Travel Agent

Finding the right travel agent is like finding the right doctor, according to David Kolner, who oversees the travel agent membership program for Virtuoso, a network of more than 15,000 agents globally. “This may sound extreme — after all, they’re only booking your travel — but your leisure time is one of your most valuable assets, so why would you trust just anyone with it?” he said.

Here, he shares his tips on how to find the perfect agent:

DO YOUR HOMEWORK Finding the right agent requires research. Start by asking friends and relatives for recommendations — if people you trust are happy with their travels, Mr. Kolner said, chances are you will be, too. You can also ask for recommendations on Facebook. In addition, Virtuoso has a catalog on its site of 4,000 advisers; you can search by geographic location, areas of specialization and languages spoken. Other travel networks with agents include the American Society of Travel Agents, the Signature Travel Network and American Express Travel. You can also check out reviews of agents through a Google or Bing search or sites like Yelp.

FIGURING OUT YOUR NEEDS Do you want someone who is a specialist in a particular destination to assist with planning one specific trip, such as a gorilla trekking adventure in Rwanda? Or are you looking for someone who can help plan your travel for years to come, effectively someone who becomes a specialist in you? These can be the same person, Mr. Kolner said, but knowing what you want from the outset may lead you to a different adviser.

HOW INVOLVED DO YOU WANT TO BE? Some advisers like to plan every aspect of a trip, from booking airfare to making dinner reservations, while some are happy to offer a second opinion about your own research. Some prefer phone interaction, while others are comfortable conversing via email or text. It’s important, Mr. Kolner said, to work with an adviser who matches your travel planning personality. You can find out if advisers are happy to hold your hand or leave you alone by asking them directly. “You’ll find that most are forthcoming about their communication style and travel planning process,” he said.

DON’T BE SCARED OFF BY FEES It’s not uncommon for advisers to charge a fee for their services, which could range from $50 to several hundred dollars, depending on the complexity of the trip. Mr. Kolner said charging fees was a growing practice because advisers spent several hours planning their clients’ trips and would have difficulty making a sustainable living without being compensated for their time. “You are paying for an adviser’s knowledge and for the perks they’re able to score for you,” he said. The extras advisers can get their clients at no cost could include room upgrades, early check-ins and late checkouts at hotels and airport transfers.



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