Iceland. It is like living in Jurassic World. One Glacier after the other, Volcanos, Geysers, hundreds of breathtaking Waterfalls, Lava Fields…. Still debating why Iceland is green and Greenland is covered on Ice, but from what I gather after my week research, this originated in a group of Vikings, trying to keep other to come to Iceland to enjoy the spectacular landscapes and taking over the lands.
During my week in Iceland, I took Reykjaivik as my base and from there I took day tour to different locations, to be: Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon + Golden Circle + Snaefellsnes Peninsula & National Park and beyond. I also spent one night at the Blue Lagoon – where I stayed at the newly opened The Retreat Hotel & Spa.
While in Reykjavik I spent my nights at the following hotels. EXETER Hotel + APOTEK Hotel + BORG Hotel all three by KEA Hotels Group. Now the highlight of my stays in the main capital, was the very exclusive Tower Suites Hotel, feature only 8-Suites and the the only one offering panoramic views over Reykjavik’s Peninsula and City.
Two weeks ago, I joined a week trip by Relais & Chateaux Hotels and Restaruants, to visit all their current properties in Galicia, Spain and all over Portugal. Our first stop was Santiago de Compostela at A Quinta da Auga Hotel & Spa. This is my report on that first night.
A Quinta da Auga charm and boutique hotel, with a luxury Spa and gastronomic restaurant to discover the luxury and the beauty of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia. A Quinta da Auga, the only Hotel Spa Relais & Châteaux of Galicia, is one of the hotels with more charm of Santiago de Compostela. A Quinta da Auga design hotel stands out by his carefull restorage and decoration, a unique 5 stars Spa and the high quality of The Filigrana Restaurant a real Relais & Châteaux gastronomic experience through the “Galicia Haute Cuisine”.
Our stay and visit, was warmly hosted and coordinated by no other than Mamma Luisa and her charming daughter Luisa – owners of A Quinta da Auga. These two ladies are the sweetest ever, and if you are lucky enough to meet them, they will make your stay even more special. But I must say that their energy and hospitality, extends to all their staff. THANK YOU Mamma Luisa, looking forward seeing you soon again, in Compostela or anywhere in the world.
A few weeks back, invited by LATAM Airlines Business Class, Belmond Journeys and Hotels Peru, Rubin and I decided to come for 3 nights / 4 days – ha ha ha yes you read right 96 hours, to explore to main higlights of the marvelous country and intriguing culture. This wasn’t my first time in Gay Peru – for work or leisure – I have been many times, but indeed was Rubin‘s first visit, and I mastered a well curated itinerary, that would take us from Lima, to Cusco, Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu and Sacred Valley, in a natural flow enjoying the services of all our hosts… Well, unfortunately not all came along as planned. For more photos and videos on my journey in Peru, visit my Instagram Photo Gallery of Peru.
Our journey began in New York City. There we boarded our non-stop flight, approx. 7 hiurs and minutes, with LATAM Airlines (the new South American merge between two leading airlines LAN Airlinesfrom Chile and TAM Airlines from Brazil ). Have flown them both, separately before, but I must say that together they have become stronger. Not only are they the top choice to connect North America to South America, throught their multiple hubs in the region, but also they compete in the global airline business as one of the best in terms of aircrafts and service. Members of the OneWorld Alliance.
We flew on the brand new Dreamliner Boeing 787, on their new and super comfortable Business Class. LATAM’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners are configured in a two-class layout, with 247 seats in total. There are 217 seats in economy, and 30 forward-facing business class seats in their “Premium Business Class Cabin” in a 2-2-2 layout. Dreamliner cabins give a sense of space, complimented along with the mood lighting. The 2-2-2 layout offers a fully flat bed which is 74″ in length (23″ width). Well the rest you can see by yourself on my photos. We also flew LATAM for our domestic flights from/to Lima to/from Cusco. On this flights they only offer one class or service ” Economy Class “. To learn more visit www.latam.com.
So right on schedule – 6AM – we landed in Lima, Peru. Well rested after a lovely flight, we were ready to began our short but intense exploration of the many wonders of Peru. Excited for the next four days ahead…
As we cleared immigratons and collected our luggage, the team of Belmond Journeys Peru, was awaiting for us. Our lovely host and private driver, seamlessly swift us on our way to our hotel for the night, the Belmond Miraflores Park in the district of Miraflores.
As we arrived, our suite was ready. And as we walked into our Ocean View Club Level Junior Suite, this was our view of the coast of Lima and the Pacific Ocean. SPECTACULAR right ? Miraflores is an exclusive residential and upscale shopping district south of downtown Lima. It is also one of the most affluent districts that make up the city of Lima. It has various hotels (including Belmond), restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and department stores. Miraflores is one of the main tourist attractions in Lima.
Set in one of Lima’s most fashionable areas, the Belmond Miraflores Park hotel takes you straight to the heart of all that’s best about this great capital city. Renowned for its beautiful garden location beside the Pacific Ocean, it has breathtaking views out to sea. This luxury hotel combines personalized service, exceptional dining and indulgent facilities to create the perfect base from which to explore. Colonial architecture, superb museums with Inca gold and Pre-Columbian antiquities, and glamorous shops, bars and restaurants are all just moments from the hotel.
Enjoy a refreshing swim in their heated rooftop pool, with breathtaking views of Lima and the Pacific Ocean. We were hosted at one of their Ocean View Club Level Junior Suites, with sweeping views out to the ocean, a separate sitting space and a work area with a desk. along with access to their Club Lounge facilities – these include complimentary breakfast, snacks and beverages throughout the day at the stylish Executive Lounge exclusively for use by guests staying on the 3rd, 8th, 9th and 10th floors.
IMPORTANT Book this hotel with me and enjoy the following VIP Amenities: Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability + Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests served in The Observatory + Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability + $100 USD Equivalent Spa Services credit, to be utilized during stay.
We took our time to relax at the hotel, enjoy a lovely breakfast – actually our second breakfast of the morning, since the first one was served 30ft up on the air aboard LATAM Airlines – at the rooftop restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean. By 10AM we were at the lobby, ready to meet our guide and driver, to begin our full day private tour of Lima and surroundings. During this trip, we didn’t have time to visit the Ruins of Pachacamac ( which I have visited in the past ). If you have the time, I strongly recommend it. So off we went…
First stop, conveniently located close to Miraflores, was the district of Barranco. Considered to be the city’s most romantic and bohemian, being the home and working place of many of Peru’s leading artists, musicians, designers and photographers. I would even risk to call it the SOHO of Lima. Barranco has many houses in the colonial and Republican style (called “casonas”), flower-filled parks and streets, and appealing beachfront areas. Lima’s contemporary art museum, the MAC, is located in Barranco, as well as the Museo Pedro de Osma.
One of the main highlight of Barranco is the Puente de los Suspiros, or Bridge of Sighs. I would return, to Barranco, later that evening for cocktails and a walk-around Hotel B Peru, a charming boutique hotel in the heart of Barranco.
Lima is the capital and the largest city of Peru. characterized by its historic center, archeological sites, nightlife, museums, art galleries, festivals and traditions. Lima is home to restaurants and bars serving local and international cuisine. The Historic Centre, made up of the districts of Lima and Rímac, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988. No visit to Lima is complete, without a visit to the Plaza Mayor ( photos above – also known as Plaza de Armas) and the the Cathedral of Lima (photos below).
The Cathedral of Lima, Roman Catholic cathedral located in the Plaza Mayor of downtown Lima. Construction began in 1535, and the building has undergone many reconstructions and transformations since. It retains its colonial structure and facade. It is dedicated to St John, Apostle and Evangelist.
As we walked along the Plaza Mayor, my eyer got caught into this marvelous and massive staircase, part of the Museo Palacio Arzobispal de Lima – residence of the Archbishop of Lima, and the administrative headquarters of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lima. Must visit.
Time for a break… of course Peru style, over Pisco Sour at Bar Cordano, right in the Downtown District of Lima. One of the oldest bars in the country, Cordano is a Lima institution. Other option I have tried in the past, was Maury Bar – where Pisco Sour began. For those of you not familiar with Pisco Sour, is Pisco liquor and the addition of lime (or lemon) juice, syrup, ice, egg white, and Angostura bitters.
Without a doubt, one of the highlights of our day, along with our later visit to LARCO Museum, was the private visit to Casa de Aliaga – House of the Aliaga Family, the oldest Colonial mansion in Lima. Amazing wooden art work, luxurious interiors. The ideal venue for a private or groups lunch/dinner.
And talking about lunch, off we went to our first Peruvian gourmet experience. Recommended by our local guide, we took a break from our tour, at LA MAR Restaurant Cevicheria Peruana. Peru is know by its cuisine, visiting Peru and not over indulging in ceviche is literally considered a crime. La Mar is the seafood creation in Miraflores, by chef and TV star Gastón Acurio.
After our lunch, with our stomachs full and more Piscos than we should have had, we entered the last part of our tour, perhaps the most interesting one, at LARCO Museum – one of my favorite in South America. The Larco Museum ( Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera) is a privately owned museum of pre-Columbian art. The museum is housed in an 18th-century vice-royal building built over a 7th-century pre-Columbian pyramid. It showcases chronological galleries that provide a thorough overview of 4,000 years of Peruvian pre-Columbian history. It is well known for its gallery of pre-Columbian erotic pottery.
Time to head back to our hotel, Belmond Miraflores Park, to rest and get ready for our evening. In a few hours, thanks to our knowledgable guide, we managed to see the top highlights of the city and understand better the nature and paradigm of the Limeños – of or from Lima,Peru.
The evening was upon us, and just across the street from the Belmond Miraflores Park, we’ve enjoyed this marvelous sunset over Miraflores and the Pacific Ocean. Lost of people walking by the promenade and seating at the parks, sharing this moment with us.
Was time to head back to Barranco, invited by Hotel B Lima, to sample their cocktails and famous pizza, at the Bar. A place for traditional service and excellent Peruvian cuisine in a light informal presentation with a feeling of Old Lima. The menu is a blend of traditional Peruvian ingredients and Mediterranean avors. Hotel B Lima, upscale boutique hotel, set in a Belle Époque style mansion in the heart of the district of Barranco. Tradition and eclectic art represent the soul of this charming property, inspired from the bohemian atmosphere of the surrounding district.
Dinner that night was at MAIDO Restaurant, in Miraflores, walking distance from our hotel. Nikkei: the delectable meeting between Peru and Japan by Lima-born Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura. An impressive rope installation covers the entire dining room of the restaurant, which appears as both the Peruvian and Japanese flags, depending on the guest’s position. MAIDO is ranked as #02 of Latin Americas’s 50 Best Restaurants.
During my previous visit to Lima, a few year ago, I have also visited CENTRAL Restaurant by Virgilio Martínez, ranked as #01 of Latin Americas’s 50 Best Restaurants. Our time in Lima came to an end with this dinner, and off we headed back to our hotel, following morning, was an early one, onwards to our next destination – Cusco.
And off we went, once again aboard LATAM Airlines, on our short flight connecting Lima with Cusco. Upon arrival, again we were treated by the professional staff of Belmond Journeys Peru, where we met our guide for the next 3 days, the amazing Walter.
We Checked IN at our magical hotel, the Belmond Hotel Monasterio, Grande Dame and quintessential Cusco ( this was my second stay with them – here you can see my first stay ). Right beside the lively Cusco central square is Belmond Hotel Monasterio, a former monastery and national monument dating from 1592. One of the most unique hotels in Cusco, this delightful retreat combines centuries-old charm with luxury hotel service. Discover inspired restaurants and boutique rooms and suites, all clustered around a tranquil central courtyard. The ideal hotel from which to discover the delights of Cusco, its doors open to a vibrant scene of old and modern architecture, markets, galleries and restaurants serving ‘new Andean’ cuisine.
We were hosted at a lovely Deluxe Room, featuring colonial interiors with additional space to luxuriate. Windows look across the courtyard or over the cobbled streets of Cusco. Elegant bathrooms offer shower only. IMPORTANT Book this hotel with me and enjoy the following VIP Amenities: Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability + Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests + $100 USD Equivalent Spa Services credit, on services only (not valid on Spa products, not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full) + Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability.
Stay at Belmond Hotel Monasterio, Cusco, and uncover the rich past of one of the most historic hotels in Peru. Originally built in 1592, Belmond Hotel Monasterio sits on the site of Inca Amaru Qhala’s palace. Six years later, the Spanish took it over and founded the Seminary of San Antonio Abad. An earthquake seriously damaged the building in 1650, and upon restoration the beautiful Chapel was added. In 1965, the building was remodelled as a hotel. Belmond Hotel Monasterio is now a national historic landmark, protected by Peru’s National Institute of Culture. In the past I have also stayed at sister and next door property Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, which I also strongly recommend.
So excited to be back in Cusco, and share it with Rubin. Cusco is located in the Peruvian Andes – elevation is around 3,400 m (11,200 ft). Was once capital of the Inca Empire, and is now known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. Plaza de Armas ( photos above ) is the central square in the old city, with arcades, carved wooden balconies and Incan wall ruins.
For lunch, before starting our private tour of Cusco, I booked us at my favorite restaurant, with a table on their balcony overlooking Plaza de Armas, from the second floor of the authentic Cusqueña mansion at LIMO Restaurant. A true Peruvian gourmet experience for the sybarite at heart.
After an amazing lunch, our exploration of Cusco officially began. A bit affected by the altitude, our pace was slow, but Walter our guide, knew exactly how to manage. Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983. It has become a major tourist destination, hosting nearly 2 million visitors a year. Our fist stop was Qurikancha – the remains of the palace of the Incas, (the Temple of the Sun) and the Temple of the Virgins of the Sun.
Qurikancha – also known as Coricancha – the remains of the palace of the Incas, (the Temple of the Sun) and the Temple of the Virgins of the Sun. dedicated primarily to Inti, the Sun God. It was one of the most revered temples of the capital city of Cusco. We also visited the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, but no photos were allowed.
Next we visited Saksaywaman Ruins. The indigenous Killke culture built the walled complex of Saksaywaman about 1100. A citadel on the northern outskirts of the city. The scenery is impressive, and it makes you wonder, how the Incas were able to build dry stone walls constructed of huge stones. Expect close encounters with Llamas and Vicuñas.
Back to Cusco town and to our gorgeous hotel the Belmond Hotel Monasterio, we were ready to see Cusco by night… unfortunately from here on, our trip would take a unexpected unfortunate turn…
So before dinner we took a stroll around Cusco, and Plaza de Armas, mingling with locals and tourists. The city is breathtaking both during the day and night.
The team at Belmond Journeys Peru, had recommend and booked us at Ciccolina Restaurant. Indeed a lovely option, very lively at the front bar, and a hard to get table at the the back for the formal dinning. But when we looked at the menu, and realized that it was mainly Italian flair, despite we liked the restaurant, Rubin and I look at each other, and decided we were in the mood to traditional Peruvian food – particularly ceviche. Well that one was the worst decision we could have made…
We both wanted to go back to LIMO Restaurant for dinner, but in my spirit to discover new options to share with you all, we decided to go with this other option I have heard about… well that did not go well AT ALL. If you visit Cusco, please be aware of our own experience at La Feria Restaurant, located at Plaza Mayor.
I am not going to go much into detail, but we had dinner there, food did not look too fresh ( Reason why several times we asked and brought to the attention of our waiter that food did not look fresh. And the table behind us complained that their food was uncooked ). We left, and without even know what would happen next, when we walked back into our hotel, the Concierge asked us how was our dinner and we both said at the same time ” Terrible don’t ever recommend that restaurant “.
Well at 3AM in the morning the nightmare began. We were both taken by ambulance to a local clinic, where we remained for over 8 hours connected to IVs. The diagnostic: severe case of food poisoning aggravated by the effects of altitude. I literally felt I was going to die in Cusco ( and I am not an hypochondriac nor a dramatic person, so imagine how serious it was ).
Not only we’ve got food poisoned, with all that this implied, but out plans of our 4 days visit to Peru, were totally and absolutely disrupted, to the point that we had to cancel our day trip to Machu Picchu and our tickets about the Luxury Train Hiram Bingham. A mention should be made to the local team of Belmond Journeys Peru, who took great care of both of us, and stayed with us, and assisted us till the moment we left Cusco.
Yes our Machu Picchu experience, was ruined. I felt terrible for Rubin. I have been there before. So we tried every way to reschedule this for him, but quite frankly neither of us was feeling with the energy to take over this tour. Upon being released from the clinic, we went back to the Belmond Hotel Monasterio to rest for a while, and Walter, our tour guide had a great idea.
He said ” Why don’t we pack you guys and take you by car to the Sacred Valley to the town of Ollantaytambo, there you can spend the night at Belmond Rio Sagrado, and tomorrow when you feel better and with more energy, we can enjoy a day exploring the Sacred Valley, and drive you back to Cusco in time to make your flight back to New York…. that way you can continue enjoying Peru, and it wont take much energy from you. Belmond Rio Sagrado is very relaxing and Sacred Valley is located at a much lower altitude than Cusco… ”
So trusting his expert advise, and feeling like we wanted to see more of Peru and snap out of this horrible experience, we agreed… and her was SO RIGHT. !!!! We drove for over two hours, which I think we slept half of it. We arrived around 8PM and we went straight to bed, hoping the following day we will feel better. AND WE DID.
As we opened our eyes, we woke up to this spectacular and breathtaking scenery. So relaxing and the perfect atmosphere to get our energy back. The Sacred Valley of the Incas or the Urubamba Valley is a valley in the Andes of Peru, close to the Inca capital of Cusco. The valley is generally understood to include everything between Calca and Lamay, Písac, and Ollantaytambo. The valley was formed by the Urubamba River ( river bordering our hotel ).
In the Sacred Valley of the Incas, among verdant fields and towering mountains, lies Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado. Set on the banks of the rushing Urubamba River, this is one of the most serene hotels in Peru. It is built in natural materials to resemble an authentic Andean village. Situated at a lower altitude than nearby Cusco, the hotel provides the perfect environment in which to acclimatize, and is an ideal base to explore the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.
So savour fresh produce in the restaurant, enjoy a local Sacred Valley massage or spend a few soothing minutes feeding the hotel’s baby alpacas. Slip into the spirit of Peruvian life. IMPORTANT Book this hotel with me and enjoy the following VIP Amenities: Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability + Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests in El Huerto + $100 USD Equivalent Spa Services credit, to be utilized during stay (not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full) + Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability.
Our tour of the Sacred Valley was scheduled to start at 11AM, so we had plenty of time to enjoy the hotel, have a relaxing breakfast by the Urubamba River and do nothing but recharge and unwind. I have been to the Sacred Valley before, and have done some sightseeing like visiting Pisac and the outdoor Market, Awanakancha ancentral Andean weaving, Wild River Rafting at Urubamba River, drinking CHICHA at the Markets of Ollantaytambo, Horseback ridding and lunch at HUAYOCCARI, among other….So this time we planned to explore other options…
After a long nap enjoying the soothing sounds of the Urubamba River and the birds, we were ready and feeling stronger to take over the Sacred Valley, and later that evening head back to New York, with a connection in Lima. We checked out Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado off to our last day of exploration, counting to leave Peru on a very positive note, despite what had happened the day before…
First stop, the Salt Ponds of Maras. Maras is a town in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, 40 kilometers north of Cuzco. The town is well known for its nearby salt evaporation ponds, in use since Inca times. The salt-evaporation ponds are up-slope, less than a kilometer west of the town.
Next was a visit to the ancient amphitheater of Moray. On a high plateau at about 3,500 metres (11,500 ft) and just west of the village of Maras. The site contains unusual Inca ruins, mostly consisting of several terraced circular depressions. As with many other Inca sites, it also has an irrigation system.
After a lovely scenic drive, our driver suddenly stopped by the Huaypo Lake to an incredible surprise in the Sacred Valley. We were being hosted to an outdoors lunch experience, at the most incredible location…. Funny enough, the catering was organized by Restaurant Cicciolina, the same one we decided to walk out two nights before, in search of true traditional Peruvian Cuisine. If we would have only known…. Well Ciccionlina, proved to us they can do Peruvian flair as well or even better that Italian, and well what can you say about the location – just BREATHTAKING and the best last supper of our visit to Peru.
Last stop before heading back to Cusco, and onwards to New York, was the AWAY Alpaca Weaving Foundation in the town of Chincheros. I had planned this experience, specially for Rubin, perhaps as a future inspiration for a high fashion collection. The town’s weaving co-op is an effort to preserve these ancient ways passed on to new generations.
Back in Cusco, we were ready to head back home. A journey that will take us back to Lima, and a four hours connection to fly back to New York. Our 96 Hours in Peru covering as much territory as possible came to an end. So many experiences and amazing destinations, only in 3 nights / 4 days. I will be coming back to Peru next June 2017, invited by Belmond Hotels, for the opening of their new luxury train Andean Explorer, which will connect in full luxury, the cities of Cusco, Puno – Lake Titicaca and Arequipa. So stay tuned for more Peru and Rubin will be coming along, to this time make sure he will get to see Machu Picchu and experience the Hiram Bingham Luxury Train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. Hope you have enjoyed my chronicles of Peru, till next adventure… Carlos Melia Luxury Travel Curator – www.carlosmelia.com
So I landed in Rio de Janeiro, for two weeks, during the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. I have been in Rio countless times, but always discovering new locations, hotels, restaurants and attractions. These are some of my findings during my recent visit. Also see all my minute-to-minute past/current/future posts and experiences in Rio de Janeiro.
I came to Rio de Janeiro, commissioned by my corporate client NBCUniversal, to create bespoke experiences for the VIP guests and executives during the course of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. Two full weeks of hard work, but also with time to explore the city on my own and discover new options to share with you all.
I was lucky enough to take part of most of the main Olympic events, like the Opening Ceremony at the Maracana Stadium and some of the Gymnastics Competition at the Olympic Village.
Rio de Janeiro is destination with such sex-appeal and so many layers to be explored. Of course during my time either working or on my own private time, I have enjoyed most of them. Of course during my time there, I came 4 times to the Corcovado to see the Christ Redeemer on a private experience we’ve created for our guests. Or spent time walking by Botafogo overlooking the Bay of Guanabara , Urca and the Sugar Loaf or walking by Copacabana and Ipanema Beach while enjoying a fresh coconut. But most of you know this side of Rio de Janeiro.
I had to repeat some of the top experiences I have scouted in the past, for my clients to enjoy and embrace the soul of the Carioca spirit. One of them, which BTW I strongly recommend, is the behind the scenes Samba City Experience, where you can see the world of Samba from the backstage. My choice is Escola de Samba Pimpolhos da Grande Rio. See more here. Nobody should leave Rio de Janeiro, without at least mastering a few basic Samba moves.
Also, an obligated stop, is always Lasai Restaurant, which we privatized for our group, for the opening Gala Dinner. A MUST try when in Rio de Janeiro.
But enough with the basics – which you can read more on my previous posts on Rio de Janeiro – and on to the new discoveries. It is not a secret, that my favorite district in all Rio de Janeiro, is Santa Teresa. A bohemian enclave, located atop Morro Santa Teresa. Originally an upper class borough famous for its winding, narrow streets and many opulent villas. Santa Teresa aristocratic past is long gone,but it has been revived as a fashionable hotspot. Home to several artists and art studios and galleries. The offer of restaurants and bars is also varied. Most of you might have heard of Aprazivel Restaurant, a lovely local gourmet option with panoramic views. But during my last visit, I’ve discovered some alternative options, which I consider most original and charming.
First was Espirito Santa Restaurant by Chef Natacha Fink. where you can not only try the traditional Moqueca, but also amazing fresh options and traditional recipes from the Amazons, created using international gourmet techniques. And trust me, the fusion is impeccable.
Another fantastic option, only steps away, will be Bar do Mineiro Restaurant. Perhaps this one more local and daunting, if you venture to try the classic Feijoada.
Make sure to spend sometime exploring the center of Santa Teresa, it is very interesting and its bohemian personality is rather contagious. Just walk around and do not forget to visit the famous Escadaria Selaron ( the famous stairs of Santa Teresa ). Once ready to move on, get back to the center of Santa Teresa, to take the Tram all the way to Lapa and thought the aqueducts dating from the 18th century. Next stop upon arrival to the Lapa Tram Station, would be the Rio de Janeiro Cathedral, only five minutes walk away.
The Tram service in Santa Teresa is free of charge, and it will take you on a 10 minutes ride, from Morro Santa Teresa, all the way down to Lapa neighborhood and Terminal Tram Station, after crossing the Lapa Aqueducts. The tram has been designated a national historic monument and it ranks as one of the oldest city trams in the world plus the oldest electric railway in all of Latin America.
The Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, better known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, is dedicated to Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro. Designed by Edgar Fonseca in a modern style based on Mayan architectural style of pyramids. Built between 1964 and 1979.
But the adventure continues, if you wish to do so. Next take a stroll across Downtown all the way to the new district of Puerto Maravilha. There you will find the Museu do Amanha, by Santiago Calatrava. ( I strongly recommend buying your tickets for the Museum online ).
Sunset was about to hit, it was time to look for the best options to enjoy a beer o r caipirinha, with an amazing view, followed by a nice meal. And, indeed, I found two options, totally new to me. The first one very casual and simple, but featuring stunning sunset and panoramic view at the Forte de Copacabana at Copacabana Beach. The second one, more formal at the brand new Hotel Yoo2 Rio in Botafogo.
As I’ve said, I have been many times to Rio de Janeiro, and have never before paid attention to the Forte de Copacabana, at the end of Copacabana Beach towards Apoador and Ipanema Beach. And wow, I could not believe how I have missed this place for so many years. What I did like most about it, is that like me, many other tourist are not even aware of it, therefore it is very quiet. Since it was still early, and sunset still was minutes away from hitting Copacabana Beach, I decided to explore the Forte de Copacabana, which was very interesting.
OK – 5.30PM and it was the perfect time to seat over a chilled local beer and some of my favorite cod fish balls with lime, and enjoy the sunset. Of course after sunset, once it got dark and the lamps went on, we stayed there over Caipirinhas and shrimp moquecas till 10PM. There are two restaurants, and you may choose the one that is best to your liking.
The other options I tried, on a different evening, was this time the Rooftop overlooking Botafogo, the Sugar Loaf and the Christ Redeemer, followed by dinner at their restaurant, at the brand new Yoo2 Hotel Rio in Botafogo. The hotel is lovely, the rooftop is fantastic with a nice menu of Tapas and drinks. The restaurant, on the other hand, hmmmm nothing special to be honest, decent food but totally forgettable. Let’s give them sometime to settle-down, since they have just opened.
Another day was about to begin. The sun was rising and I was awake for an exciting – still way too early – morning, scouting new venues to host a private Champagne Brunch with breathtaking view of Rio de Janeiro. Not an easy task, but we did find the perfect one, and I must say, it is my new hotel crush in Rio de Janeiro.
The rest of my time in Rio de Janeiro, went along reining the world of luxury travel – literally, planing unique and bespoke travel experiences for my clients. Oh yes … and also eating as many Cod Fish fried balls as I could… ha ha ha ….
Was time to say goodbye to Rio de Janeiro and head to my next destination…. Quite an experience attending my first ever Olympics Games.
So once again I am back in, my home town, gay Buenos Aires – Argentina. These chronicles, as a matter of fact, are the result of my last two trips, with a very small time lapse in between. The main reasons of my trips were, ( first trip ) surprise and celebrate my mother for her Birthday and ( second trip ) connecting from New York to Rio de Janeiro, were I will be during August, attending the RIO 2016 Summer Olympics, as the official travel agent for NBCUniversal’s VIP Guests and Executives. Let’s begin and hope you enjoy my insider tips of my city , chronicles of my recent visits to Buenos Aires.
I departed as usual, non-stop from JFK New York ( where I have been living for the last 10 years ) to Buenos Aires, onboard American Airlines Business Class. A 10-hour flight door-to-door.
This time dinner had a very special reason, and the main purpose of my trip… To celebrate my Mom’s Birthday, celebration which lasted a full week, spoiling her with some of the best Buenos Aires has to offer. Lovely dinner in Puerto Madero district, with my entire family.
The following morning I woke up very early, in the neighborhood of Belgrano – where my parents live, facing the Palermo Parks – aka. The Central Park of Buenos Aires, I love going there for a run.
After breakfast, I was ready to spend my morning and part of my afternoon, exploring the new Art District of Villa Crespo, on a 4 hours Private Art Tour of this new and alternative artistic destination, showcasing local Contemporary artists. A hopping tour of Galleries which are literally changing the paradigm of art in Buenos Aires. Some of the artists and galleries I truly enjoyed, whic I did not know from before were: Vicente Grondona at SLYZMUD Gallery. Marcelo Grosman at Galeria Nora Fisch and Liliana Porter at Ruth Benzacar Gallery. I very much recommend this tour.
The Birthday celebrations continued… for tonight I had planned an evening at the FAENA Hotel & Universe – yes the same one that has recently opened its doirs in Miami. Read my review and recent stay at FAENA Miami. To include, dinner at Bistro Sur Restaurant followed by my favorite Tango Show in Buenos Aires, the ROJO Tango Show at their decadent-chic Cabaret.
At Bistro Sur Restaurant, savor a meal worth remembering in one of Argentina’s most spectacular settings. Bistro Sur’s whimsical Philippe Starck decor will fascinate guests just as much as the delicate menu prepared by Faena’s local chef, Rodrigo Vazquez. Modern techniques combined with Argentina’s bests seasonal products, give birth to dishes like Beef Carpaccio with Bacon Milk, Mint and Potato Chips or Sweetbreads with Lemon Puree, Grilled Grapes and Pine Nuts.
Right after dinner, we walk down the striking corridors of the FAENA Hotel & Universe, to our next destination, ROJO Tango Show. I have been to this show countless times, but recently they have premiere a brand new repertoire, and I was invited to see it. I must say I was very much pleased with the new show, the flow through the many faces of the developing of Tango in Argentina. Buenos Aires is the world capital of Tango, and Faena Hotel experiences the nostalgic mood with intensity through music, dance, clothing and poetry. Lively and ethereal, El Cabaret is the vibrant dance of the award-winning show Rojo Tango. A dazzling live orchestra, great dancers, traditional Argentine cuisine, and a fine selection of local wines and cocktails; makes it a must see production.
The next day, I spent my late morning exploring the Teatro Colon, the Opera House of Buenos Aires. Been here many times for live performances, Opera, Ballet and so. But this was my first time taking a tour, to learn more about the history, facts and myth of the Grande Dame of South America. Teatro Colon, located off Avenida 9 de Julio, steps away from the iconic Obelisco, is ranked the third best opera house in the world by National Geographic, and is acoustically considered to be amongst the five best concert venues in the world. The present Colon replaced an original theatre which opened in 1857. After this period of huge international success, the theatre’s decline became clear and plans were made for massive renovations. After an initial start of works to restore the landmark in 2005, the theatre was closed for refurbishment from October 2006 to May 2010. It re-opened on 24 May 2010, with a programme for the 2010 season. Learn these and more during the tour. Visit the auditorium, in a horseshoe-shaped, with 2,487 seats. Luciano Pavarotti, said the Colon’s acoustics were are so good as to place it in the top five performance venues in the world. I strongly recommend booking your tickets online at www.teatrocolon.org.ar
It was time to eat again, so on this rainy Winter afternoon in Buenos Aires, I took a 30 minutes was from Retiro to Recoleta, to meet my parents at the iconic Alvear Palace Hotel, to do one of my favorite things, Afternoon Tea in style. Yes, the Birthday celebration continued, this time over Tea at L’Orangerie restaurant at the Indoor Gardens of the ground floor.
The Alvear Palace Hotel is a unique place to spend a special afternoon tasting delicious cakes, mini patisserie, fresh fruit tarts, warm scones and other delicacies especially prepared by their Chef Patissier. Fine selection of teas, including a variety from limited harvests and the most precious aromas of green, black and blended teas, as well as the traditional flavoured tea of the L’Orangerie selection. A tea specialist created their exclusive “Alvear Blend” which recreates the essence of the Alvear Palace Hotel in aromas and flavours; with the most noble of black tea leaves, almonds, and Mediterranean citrus and rose petals. Open Monday through Saturday: 4:30 to 7 pm. Sundays from 5 to 7 pm. The L’Orangerie restaurant at the hotel is a traditional meeting place in Buenos Aires. A splendid breakfast and international buffet lunch, which includes a great variety of exquisite local products, can be enjoyed daily in a delicate environment with natural lighting and meticulous decor, presented with the mastery of international culinary techniques.
Right after our Afternoon Tea, were were invited for une Coupe de Champagne, at their recentlyinaugurated CHAMPAGNE BAR. The Alvear Palace Hotel opened the new Champagne Bar, the only one in Buenos Aires. Renowned bartender Ines De Los Santos has created the Champagne Bar’s menu featuring fine and classic combinations using Moet Hennessy champagne and sparkling wines. Delicate food choices are available for pairings. The Art Deco style of the Champagne Bar creates a splendid atmosphere for the enjoyment of clients and guests. Everyday from 6PM to 02AM. After our glass of Champagne, my parents decided to head back home. Since I was meeting a friend for dinner later nearby the hotel, I had the perfect excuse to linger by my favorite bar in Buenos Aires.
As many of you know, my absolute favorite spot within the Alvear Palace Hotel, a classic and my water hole when in Buenos Aires, is the Lobby Bar. I love just seating there, watching people pass, while zipping through my Vodka Dirty Martini. From 1932, this has been a meeting place for businessmen and celebrities of Buenos Aires’ society. The heart of Recoleta beats in this exclusive place in the hotel, decorated with original French style wood panelling. The Lobby Bar of the Alvear offers delicious appetizers and the best international drinks, paying homage to the great cocktail masters.
The next morning, it was time to pay a visit to the very lovely Four Seasons Hotel Buenos Aires. If you have never been, you should keep in mind their gastronomic scene, which is very good. Been to their main restaurant ELENA before, and this time we were visiting to try their autochthonous Sunday Brunch at a very unique setting.
Nuestro Secreto Restaurant offer the traditional Sunday Brunch reinterpreted by an Argentinean classic. A major social event in Argentina, the asado (an open-fire barbecue) marks a time when friends and family gather around a traditional outdoor fire pit and spend an afternoon catching up. It is as much about tradition and being together as it is about food. It all begins with the coal; made from hand-picked woods of local tree varietals, each one providing a unique flavour. Cooking whole animals is quite common at the asado, but there is always plenty of variety to choose from – embutidos, meats, red wine and salads. With a casual eclectic backyard esthetic, Nuestro Secreto transports guests to a “secret garden” urban retreat within a bustling cityscape.
Typical courtyard decorations abound, with porous stone floors, the grill and clay oven, even a cross on the wall. Outdoor-style furniture made of wood, glass and iron lends an antique but fresh look. All of the tableware is made locally in Mendoza, with exclusive designs by Aji Diseno available for special occasions. What is most unique about this space, however, is that the roof and walls are made of glass and can be opened to create an entirely al fresco space, perfect for stargazing on clear nights.Sunday menu features a variety of dishes typically served among families on the weekend. And since the menu is designed to resemble the most-read newspaper in Buenos Aires, it will look to passersby like restaurant patrons are all relaxing with the Sunday paper.
The rest of my stay… I’ve decided to chill and be under the radar, being a local and wnjoying spending time with my parents at home. Eating as much home-made food by my mother, BTW the best Chef in town. Very busy week ahead of me in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as the official travel agent for NBCUniversal’s VIP Guests and Executives, during the RIO Summer Olympics 2016. So the plan was relax, recharge, EAT and DRINK. How does that sound. Getting ready for my next adventure…
Authored By Carlos Melia – See the Full Story at The Carlos Melia BlogClick here for gay travel resources in Argentina.
My day took me from my base at Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento, all the way to Ravello and back along the stunning panoramic road of the Amalfi Coast, with stops in Amalfi, Praiano and Positano. From the distance, I was also able to catch a view of Maiori and Minori, and drive by Atrani, which I thought I was very charismatic.
Driving along the Amalfi Coast for us was rather easy, since we were there during the off-season, but during Summer time you better be patient. Distances are not to long, I mean from town to town, there is 25 to 30 minutes drive, without traffic.
First stop was Ravello, which is the furthest point I have explored Amalfi Coast. I only did a quick overview, since I would be staying later during the week, for a night at Belmond Hotel Caruso. So I will leave this open to my next upcoming post. But most definetely a MUST visit.
Lunch at Trattoria pizzeria Cumpa Cosimo was just perfect. Unlike many other dinning experiences I had during my time at the Amalfi Coast, it was very local, rustic, grewat Italian food and and very charismatic owner and Chef Netta Bottone, who tours the tables to ensure her clients are content. Her family has owned this cantina for more than 75 of its 300. Not only I tried her cooking, but also got plenty of love and kisses from her. ADORABLE.
Next stop was Amalfi, a brief walk around, at the foot of Monte Cerreto. The town of Amalfi was the capital of the maritime republic. Amalfi is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The highlight other than the spectacular panoramic views, which you will find all along the way, is the Amalfi Cathedral di Sant’Andrea.
Next stop, for many, the star of the Amalfi Coast, beautiful – but very crowded and over the top touristy – Positano. I mean, it is GORGEOUS, the views are all you would expect when visitin the Amalfi Coast and more, now it is very hectic and happening.
I came to do a walk around Le Sirenuse Hotel, and I deeply fall in love with the property, the panoramic views and the lovely Michelin starred restaurant La Sponda. I was so pleased, that right away booked my clients there for their upcoming Summer stay in Positano.
Dinner was at this quaint ristorante called KASAI, in Praiano. Again, just what I needed, great local food and great company, along the owner of the restaurant and my new – fabulous and fun friend – Fiona Fava. Lots of loval delights and even more bottles of local white wine. Literally eating and drinking my way across Italy. This was my full day discovering the many charming towns of the Amalfi Coast.
Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, was mostly destroyed and buried under 13 to 20 ft of volcanic ash in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.
If you are staying either in the Amalfi Coast or Naples, it is an easy and interesting half day experience. In my case I did it after checking out my hotel in Sorrento – Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, and on my way to my next destination in Ravello. BTW both scenic drives – Sorrento to Pompeii along the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii to Ravello through the montains, were breathtaking. Mind I was there during off-seasons, therefore my drives were approx. one hour each way. During high season, drives might take up to 3 hours each way.
By the time of its destruction, 160 years later, its population was estimated at 11,000 people, and the city had a complex water system, an amphitheatre, gymnasium, and a port.
The eruption destroyed the city, killing its inhabitants and burying it under tons of ash. The objects that lay beneath the city have been preserved for centuries because of the lack of air and moisture. These artifacts provide an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city during the Pax Romana.
During the excavation, plaster was used to fill in the voids in the ash layers that once held human bodies. This allowed one to see the exact position the person was in when he or she died.
My favorite part of my visit, with my private guide, was visiting the houses – like Casa del Menandro, learning about their ways of leaving, preserved mosaics and frescos, and the intricated and advsnced hydraulic system and impluvium. The impluvium is the sunken part of the atrium in a Greek or Roman house (domus). Designed to carry away the rainwater coming through the compluvium of the roof.
Emperor Augustus might have been the first to land in Capri, but I was determined to conquer my day experience exploring the Island upside down in five hours. so I had to commit to my pace, and have a quick glimpse of the main atractions. and of course, find an amazing local restaurant to enjoy true Italian flair. This was my first time visit to Capri.
For those of you unfamiliar with the island, it is divided in three regions, by elevations – Capri, Anacapri and Monte Solaro. How do you get from one point to the other on the Island of Capri? There are four main modes of transportation: bus or taxi, funicular, single chairlift and if you have the time… by foot. You can also read more tips and recommendations by checking and following me on Instagram to see all my past-current-future posts and experiences while in Italy.
Capri, an island in Italy’s Gulf of Naples, is famed for its rugged landscape, upscale beach resorts and high-end shops selling handmade leather sandals and signature limoncello liqueur. One of its best-known natural sites is the Blue Grotto, a dark cavern where the sea glows electric blue, the result of sunlight passing through an underwater cave. ( Which you nay or not be able to visit due to weather conditions, winds and tides. In my case I just didn’t have time to do it).
After a lovely breakfast at my hotel in Sorrento, the Grand Excelsior Vittoria, we went down the private elevator and passage to Marina Piccola, to board the Jetboat that in just 15 to 20 minutes, accross the Bay of Naples, would have us at the very lovely Capri. Another way, as I usually plan it for my clients, I to rent a private yacht for the day, to enjoy a full day sailing, stopping at Fontelina Beach Club and Restaurant and so forth.
Upon arrival to Capri, at Marina Grande, we disembarked, and right away took the Funicolare that would take us on an uphill beautiful scenic ride through lemon groves to the heart and main Piazzetta of Capri.
Capri itself is charming, but quite frankly wasn’t the highlight of my visit. It is very commercial and overcrowded with tourists that flock for the day. And I was there during off peak season. One thing I truly enjoyed, was the bruef visit to Giardini Augusto. The Gardens of Augustus, originally known by the name of Krupp Gardens, are botanical gardens with breathtaking 180-degree panoramic views of the island of Capri, Mount Solaro, the bay of Marina Piccola, and the Faraglioni.
Of course I could not help myself being me, and I had to stop and check some hotels while there. I came to visit the following: Quisisana Hotel ( which I found lovely, but not quite the island experience I would go for ). A refreshing stop for a Lemonade at Jacky Bar at the Tiberio Palace Hotel. Unfortunately, I did not have time to see the JK Place Capri, but you most definetely should keep it in mind.
I was ready to move on the a higher altitude, and away from the hordes of tourist, onwards to Anacapri. There are three ways, again to get there, bus, taxi and walking. Of course I took a taxi – ha ha – which was approx. EUR 20 each way. Of course, I did not have much time, so I had toprioritize. First stop was lunch at Barbarossa Ristorante – for a fabulous and simple, local Italian lunch. After so many days of Michelin starred dinning experiences, going local was just what I wanted.
After lunch, I took a stroll around Anacapri, and off to the last destination on my exploration of Capri, and I must say, was my favorite. Mount Solaro, the highest point in Capri, accesible by single chairlifts or by a long panoramic hike. The views are spectacular over to the NW of the Tyrrhenian sea, the gulf of Naples. Up the mount there is a statue of Emperor Augustus who first landed on Capri.
5PM was time to say GOODBYE to Capri, and head back to Sorrento and to Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, to get ready for our evening out in town and dinner at Michelin starred restaurant Il Buco Ristorante.
I was invited by Emirates Airlines to try their new non-stop flight from New York to Milan, Italy on their Business Class, so I decided to pit together a 10 days itinerary exploring Italy, which took me to my first visit to the Amalfi Coast, onwards to yet another lovely visit to Venice and to London, aboard the overnight luxury train Venice Simplon Orient-Express.
Since I have not been in Milan for quite sometime, I’ve decided to take a suite for the day at the gorgeous Mandarin Oriental Milan, and explore a few higlights, after a lovely and relaxed lunch. Here are my comments, photos and videos. Hope you enjoy my post on this experience.
So I flew Emirates Airlines, non-stop from New York JFK to Milano Malpensa. It was on their Airbus 380, and it took approximately 7 hours, which went by very quickly. Meal service consisted by drinks at the onboard lounge bar, followed by a three-course dinner. One hour upon arrival, breakfast was served. Great entertaiment system, screen, movie selection, headseats. Full flat – comfortable – bed, as a matter of fact I passed out for 3 hours on it, and I rarely sleep when flying into Europe from New York.
My only comment would be the crew. Compared to other similar airlines, I felt they weren’t that friendly, engaging nor attentive to service, which in the end makes it for the entire experience, doesn’t it?. Regardless, the best option, today, to fly non-stop from New York to Milan.
Upon arrival to Milan Malpensa, I had my VIP Service and Transfer, by Milano Luxury Services. A Mercedez E-Class and private chauffer that in no time, had me at my hotel in the heart of Milan. Mind I was in Milan, only for six hours, connecting flights to the Amalfi Coast, each minute counted.
When I travel overseas, and have connecting flights, I usually enjoy taking a hotel room at the connecting destination, and exploring for a few hours. In this case, I landed in Milan at noon, and my flight to Naples, was at 8PM. Giving me plenty of time to enjoy my gorgeous suite at the Mandarin Oriental Milan, have a nice lunch at the Mandarin Bar and Bistro by Michelin star awarded and acclaimed Chef Antonio Guida.
At the Mandarin Oriental Milan, I checked in at the fabulous Milano Suite, decorated in true Milanese style, dedicated to the designer Piero Fornasetti – was an Italian painter, sculptor, interior decorator and engraver. The Milano Suite is located on the second floor of the hotel, also known as the ‘noble’ floor because of its high ceilings and abundant natural light. Furnished with original Fornasetti pieces, accommodation consists of a living area, bedroom, master bathroom and a separate guest bathroom.
The living room is divided by a pillar, adorned with wallpaper aptly named ‘Riflesso’ (reflection), with the ‘Ultime Notizie’ table and ‘Capitello’ chairs in the dining area, and the ‘Fly’ coffee table, ‘Guscio’ sofa and ‘Boss’ black leather armchair on the other side. Accessed via a corridor with its ‘Architettura’ console table, the king size bedroom is dressed with ‘Chiavi Segrete’ wallpaper and furnished with a writing desk, a small table from the ‘Farfalle’ collection and two large interfacing mirrors. A vast ensuite bathroom features a walk-in shower, twin vanity unit and a much-admired ‘Spoon XL’ bathtub from Agape.
After a lovely shower and a glas of local chilled white wine, I joined the General Manager and Public Relations team, for a relaxed lunch at the colorfull Mandarin Bar & Bistro. Mandarin Bar offers a seductive mix of contemporary music, delicious dishes and bespoke cocktails. The black and white marble mosaic covered floor and walls combined with a large central bar and eclectic mix of furniture creates the perfect backdrop for drinking and dining.
Catering both to guests and the city’s discerning style crowd, Mandarin Bar enjoys a relaxed atmosphere with three distinctive areas; the bar bistro, an inside lounge and an outside courtyard area featuring lounge sofas, tables, cabanas and soft lights. The bar bistro menu features a mix of Italian dishes, salads and Antonio Guida’s reinterpretation of traditional sandwiches, served with a modern twist. The octopus was delicious, and the Tiramisu, was totally worth of each calorie.
I followed with a quick tour and walk around the entire property, including Entry Level Rooms, Presidential Suite, spa, fitness center and funtion rooms. With an enviable central location, Mandarin Oriental, Milan is a 5-star luxury hotel, just steps from La Scala. And with spacious rooms, elegant suites, innovative dining and a fabulous spa, we are the perfect urban retreat. With interiors by acclaimed Italian designer Antonio Citterio, their 104 rooms and suites exude a wonderful sense of luxury. What I liked the most, is how cozy and private the whole experience felt.
Given the privileged location, I decided to go for a two hours walked around the area, and visit the Duomo, La Scala, Via Montenapoleone, and Via della Spiga, Milan’s most exclusive shopping streets, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Sforza Castle and Santa Maria delle Grazie, which hosts Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”.
By 5.30PM – sharply – I was ready to continue my journey onwards to the Amalfi Coast. Once again my private car and chauffer by Milano Luxury Services, took me – this time to Linate Airport, to board my Alitalia flight to Naples. This was my fantastic six hours layover in Milan.
Lovely week – as every year – at our Beach House in Fire Island PINES. filled with beach walks, quire relaxing time, friends and family visits, cooking and glasses of wine and lots of breathtaking sunsets over the bay.
Lucky enough 6 more weeks ahead await for Rubin, Bruna and I. Very few places in the world give me so much peace and happiness. Fire Island is one of them, and lucky enough this island is only two hours away from New York.
No need for long-haul flights. Hope you enjoy my report in photos on this experience. You can also check and follow me on Instagram to see all my past-current-future posts and experiences while in Fire Island.