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No Boredom In Bucketlist Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand is a non-stop contradiction – from old world temples and makeshift markets to sky-soaring architecture and luxury boutiques. There is no such thing as boredom in Bangkok. This colourful capital has something for everyone’s budget.

Here are the ‘highs and lows’ of this South East Asia gem.

EAT:

Photo: @dear.rt

High: If you can brave the Bangkok view from 61 floors up, then you must try Vertigo Grill and Moon Bar. Enjoy BBQ seafood and Thai delights among the stars. After dinner, stay a while and enjoy a sky-high martini. Note: Vertigo shuts down during high winds, so check the forecast before you head out.

Photo: @irenemarcolin

Low: Bangkok is probably THE most budget-friendly cosmopolitan capital city. Food stalls along the cramped streets offering simple al-fresco dining are plentiful, delicious and easy on the wallet. Beef noodle soup, pad Thai and a fresh mango shake for dessert costs less than $5. Not bad for a three-course meal!

SHOP:

Photo: @bopinyapach


High
: Spend the day at Siam Paragon, one of Asia’s largest shopping complexes.  It’s also the most expensive in Bangkok. Spread across 13 acres, Siam Paragon features everything from designer duds like Armani, Valentino and Jimmy Choo to Thai silk boutiques and even an opera concert hall! Don’t forget to check out Siam Ocean World on your way out, South East Asia’s largest aquarium.

Photo: @sinsinsie

Low: Get lost in the mayhem at Chatuchak Weekend Market, the largest weekend market in the world. New and vintage clothes, Asian antiques, colourful lanterns, Buddhist statues and more are all for sale at bargain prices – if you can find it! This market mecca is full of surprises. Exploring the maze is half the fun!

EXPLORE: 

Photo: @peepy_and_mother_lee

High:  If you’re looking for the ultimate East Asian spa experience, the Oriental Spa at Mandarin Oriental Hotel was voted the best spa in the world, according to Travel + Leisure. Spend the day being luxuriously pampered in an exquisitely restored century-old teakwood house. The full-body scrub using grated coconut, green bean, jasmine rice and coconut oil smells like pure bliss (or so I imagine!).

Khao San Road

Photo: @seohyenna

Low: The infamous book ‘The Beach’ describes Koh San Road as “a halfway house between East and West”. The iconic Bangkok street is jam-packed with backpacker bars, cheap guesthouses, tour agencies, quirky shops, market stalls, tattoo and massage parlours, eateries and much more. There’s no doubt that the legendary Koh San Road is a smorgasbord of everything and anything. Be prepared for the masses!

Photo: @mixxpst

Also: Be sure to visit Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, where both the revered Emerald Buddha carved from solid jade and the King of Thailand reside. Intricately tiled facades, shimmering gold Buddha statues and exquisite wall murals are the centre focus of this top culture spot. Note: Don’t forget to take a cute pic with one of the stern-faced Palace guards.

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10 Unique Hotels That Are Worth The Splurge

Finding hotels that fall into stylish city stays, romantic rural retreats and chic coastal getaways can be hard to come by.

From Istanbul to the Dominican Republic, Portugal to Thailand — and a handful of destinations in between — these 10 properties that will get even the most modest of travellers hunting down their next trip.

Best Hotels Bermuda

Photo: @rwbermuda

Rosewood Tucker’s Point: Bermuda
Style: British colonial charm

Have the tennis whites and golf plaids pressed and ready for Rosewood Tucker’s Point hotel in Bermuda, a luxe playground for the country club set with views of the glittering pink beaches of Castle Harbour and Harrington Sound. As Britain’s oldest colony, you’ll catch sight of a bobby directing traffic or a heated cricket match. But this sun-splashed island is decidedly tropical, moving to the rhythms of calypso and reggae and the resort’s four stylish swimming pools, spoiling spa, manicured golf course and pro-worthy tennis courts are at your whim for playing the days away.

Santo Domingo Hotels

Photo: @casasdelxvi

Casas del XVI: Dominican Republic
Style: Charismatic colonial casas

Dominican Republic hotel Casas del XVI invites guests to quantum leap back to the colonial era – with the added benefit of all mod cons, naturally. Two casas, in the centre of Santo Domingo’s UNESCO World Heritage site Colonial City, have been lovingly restored (dare we say, improved upon) and fashioned into seven luxury suites. However, a supernaturally helpful private butler, peaceful palm-strewn courtyards to siesta in and a bygone setting support the illusion that you’re a fresh-off-the-boat hidalgo paying homage to the New World.

Panama Hotels

Photo: @elotroladoportobelo

El Otro Lado: Portobelo, Panama
Style: Native arts and culture

Tucked away across a cerulean Caribbean bay from the historic port town of Portobelo, El Otro Lado hotel is a laid-back, yet luxurious, outpost of traditional Panamanian culture that’s right at home in the jungle-blanketed wild. With original artwork adorning every room, local woodworkers carving sculptures on site, creative Caribbean cuisine and an ambitious list of activities for outdoor enthusiasts, this jungle retreat is the ideal mix of art and adventure.

Photo: @liz.bonney

The Byron at Byron Resort & Spa: Byron Bay, Australia
Style: Relaxed rainforest resort

Bed down in the rainforest at The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa, a tropical treat with an excellent restaurant, award-winning spa and flocks of resident birds and butterflies. Toast the forest from the glittering green pool, stroll to the beach or laze around in your fig-and-fern-surveying room.

LA Hotels

Photo: @acedtla

Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles: Los Angeles, United States
Style: Rock ‘n’ LA noir

Where else can Spanish Gothic, art deco, noir, rocker chic and hipster cool coexist so peacefully but at the Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles? Located in the revamped United Artists Theatre building in the up-and-coming neighbourhood’s once-great Theater District, the hotel has generations of cool, and uses them to its utmost advantage, from its scenery rooftop bar to its Brooklyn-meets-California restaurant.

Istanbul Turkey

Photo: @smallcrazy

Vault Karaköy, The House Hotel: Istanbul, Turkey
Style: Historic bank, modern makeover

Originally the Ottoman Bank, Vault Karaköy by House Hotels in Istanbul has kept its classic architecture and charming historic features (including the eponymous vaults) but added plenty of modern delights: there’s a spa, stylish modern decor and even its own in-house art curator. Rooms from $263 per night. 

Photo: @royalcrescent_hotel

Royal Crescent Hotel: Bath, United Kingdom
Style: Georgian perfection

The neoclassical finery of Bath’s Royal Crescent Hotel, in the centre of one of the country’s most evocative streets, makes it the English escape of which elegant dreams are made. Add the first-class food and top-notch spa, and you’ll never want to leave.

Photo: @out.of_office

Point Yamu by Como: Phuket, Thailand
Style: Paola Navone perfection

At Italian-influenced Point Yamu by Como, rooms are immaculately styled by Paola Navalone and brilliant pizzas are served poolside at La Sirena restaurant. Thailand sings through, too, thanks to the Phuket-inspired artworks in the lobby, Peranakan-Thai cuisine in Nahmyaa restaurant and the jaw-drop views of Phang Nga Bay.

Memmo Alfama Hotel

Photo: @thehautepursuit

Memmo Alfama: Lisbon, Portugal
Style: White and wonderful

Once used as a shoe polish factory, Memmo Alfama hotel is a bright and breezy townhouse tucked away in a maze of cobbled streets twisting between ancient churches and Fado restaurants. Inside, smooth lines, crisp sheets and laid-back lounges beckon; outside, the river-view pool bar is Lisbon’s latest spot to see and be seen.

Photo: @toppingrosehouse

Topping Rose House: Hamptons, United States
Style: Gallerist’s beach house

If someone with a summer home in the Hamptons decided to build a hotel, it would be Topping Rose House. With just the right doses of gallerist-curated art, historic and modern architecture, anything-you-can-dream-of service, farm-to-table cuisine and the understated luxury that well-heeled New Yorkers expect, the Bridgehampton hideaway might actually be better than your own private Hamptons home. Or, does your summer home come with a free car and beach passes?

Eco-Friendly Destinations For Chic Travellers

By choosing green travel, you can help reduce your carbon footprint without sacrificing the quality of your experience – many resorts and hotels are doing their part to be eco-friendly while remaining truly luxurious.

We’ve rounded up a selection of eco-friendly hotels that use sustainable approaches and provide a memorable stay.

Photo: @odile_archambault

Ritz-Carlton Montreal:

The Ritz-Carlton Montreal has been the most elegant address in the city since 1912, but following its recent renovations, it has also become the destination for green travellers. Take a dip in the hotel’s saltwater swimming pool that is heated using reclaimed-energy. Thermostats that remember a guest’s temperature preferences upon check-in and motion sensors that will activate the lights are other eco-friendly amenities.  Guests can also dine in a 46-person greenhouse featuring herb garden that provides some of the restaurant’s fresh produce.

Costa Rica Hotels

Photo: @elsilenciolodge

El Silencio Lodge & Spa’s,  located in Costa Rica, boasts 15 mountainside eco suites are set on stilts in the cloud forest canopy and are made with eco-friendly materials. 90 percent of the luxury hotel’s grounds are designated as a private forest reserve and the restaurant’s cuisine is provided by local farmers or the hotel’s garden.  Bonus: each suite is assigned an EcoConcierge to personalize your stay.

Eco-friendly resorts

Photo: @masseriacervarolo

Masseria Cervarolo in Puglia, Italy, has been awarded an EU Ecolabel for its environmentally sustainable practices.  A family-run 18-room farmhouse, Masseria Cervarolo has a knack for repurposing materials. You will find barn doors as headboards and bathroom racks made of recycled driftwood.  The eco-friendly retreat generates its own solar power and supplies only Malin + Goetz green toiletries.

Dominican Republic

Casa Bonita in the Dominican Republic is a 12-suite hotel set in the rugged Barahona rainforest, a leading eco-tourism destination.  The retreat was built entirely from locally sourced materials and uses a hydroelectric generator.  On-site, you’ll find Pat’s Organic Garden, which provides produce for the restaurant and the rest of the restaurant’s food is sourced from the surrounding community.  The Tanama Eco Spa, a haven for butterflies, is set in the rainforest. Enjoy therapeutic treatments inspired by natural elements.

Eco-Tourism

Photo: @atlantisbahamas

Atlantis, Paradise Island:

Atlantis, Paradise Island is passionate about ocean conservation and animal rescue; in fact, the Atlantis Animal Rescue Team successfully rescued Georgie, a West Indian manatee and relocated her to the Atlantis Dolphin Cay Marine Mammal Rescue Centre earlier this year.  After a successful rehabilitation period, Georgie was released in August to Great Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands.  The rescue centre is a haven for injured marine mammals with a fourteen-acre habitat and the Dolphin Cay features an education centre allowing guests to learn about the ocean and conservation.

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

The holidays are a hot time to travel according to Stats Canada, with over 4.3 million Canadians leaving the country each December.

For Canucks looking to spend some quality time celebrating Christmas with friends and family, or for snowbirds just looking to escape the cold, there is no time like the present to begin planning a winter retreat.

We’re celebrating the season early by rounding up the top places around the world to spend the holidays abroad:

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

Photo: @adventurefaktory

Aria Budapest Hotel

Embrace the romance and enchantment of winter by cozying up with loved ones at Aria Hotel Budapest by Library Hotel Collection, recently named the number-one hotel in the world by 2017 TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards. Just steps away from the Christmas market in Budapest—one of the most charming markets in Europe—Aria Hotel Budapest is the perfect place for a beautiful holiday getaway, offering multiple holiday packages each year that include a range of delicious hot toddies, complimentary spa treatments and special Christmas treats. 

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

photo: @torfronts

Bisha Hotel Toronto

Escape Toronto’s cold winter weather and immerse yourself in the newly launched, Bisha Hotel Toronto. Right in the heart of the Entertainment District, Bisha Hotel specializes in laid-back luxury with an edge. Enjoy winter-themed cocktails on the hotel’s 44th-floor rooftop bar or indulge in celebrity chef, Akira Back’s namesake restaurant offering modern Japanese cuisine with a Korean accent. The much-anticipated hotel is the perfect place to plan a company Christmas party with venues including a 2,300 square-foot event space on the 43rd floor or for a more intimate gathering, reserve the Bisha Suite with a 1,000 square-foot terrace with views of the CN Tower peeking through its two story windows. 

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

Photo: @@eandmbambrick

Dominican Republic:

Trade in your caroling for Merengue music this Christmas and head down to the Dominican Republic. The country celebrates Christmas the right way, with festivities beginning in October and lasting right through to January. Visitors to the DR can experience a Christmas like no other with traditional fireworks and Christmas cuisine over the course of three months. Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) is the ultimate night for celebration and those staying in Santo Domingo have the unique opportunity to experience the most elaborate Christmas mass in the country at Cathedral de Santa Maria in the Colonial Zone. 

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

Photo: @artistoswald

Gansevoort Park Avenue, NYC

The Big Apple is calling all Christmas lovers. Take a stroll by Rockefeller Center to visit the famous Christmas tree and take in all the lights. Frequent the many renowned Christmas markets that the dazzling city has to offer before retiring to the swanky Gansevoort Park Avenue. After enjoying a warm, delicious meal at Asellina, head on up to the Rooftop Lounge for a night-cap of festive mulled wine. 

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

Photo: @passionforcruises

Silversea Cruises

“Lido deck” the halls this holiday season by celebrating with a Silversea cruise. Decorated from bow to stern with traditional greenery and ornaments with an old-fashioned flair—including cheery and whimsical gingerbread cottages—each Silversea ship is a glittering oasis for a holiday abroad. Guests can sip on eggnog, mulled wine and hot chocolate while caroling with the crew, or indulge in traditional meals, Hannukah and Christmas services, holiday specials in the show lounge or delight in a visit from Santa Claus. 

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

Photo: @foodienationtt

The Crane Resort, Barbados

Dreaming of a pink Christmas? With the famous Crane Beach’s soft pink sands in place of white snow, The Crane Resort is just the spot! Indulge in a well-deserved holiday getaway to this historic hotel in Barbados. Make sure to book a reservation on Christmas Day at The Crane’s top-tier, on-site restaurant, L’Azure, which offers specialty Christmas menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nothing says Christmas like a good meal followed by the gift of a luxurious treatment at Serenity Spa. 

7 Ways To Spend The Holidays Abroad

Photo: @thecurtainldn

The Curtain London, UK

One of the best times to visit London, UK is in the winter as the city offers visitors everything from Christmas markets to the iconic Winter Wonderland festival in Hyde Park. For the hottest and hippest place to stay, head to The Curtain. Recently opened, The Curtain offers visitors an eclectic atmosphere infused with luxury and the fun and dynamism of trendy east London. Guests can spot the city’s Christmas lights from the hotel’s rooftop bar, LIDO or hideaway in the hotel’s cozy and iconic restaurant, Red Rooster – they bring comfort food to a whole new level with their famous Fried Yardbird and mulled wine. Also don’t miss the weekly band performances including funk, soul and contemporary jazz – Christmas themed of course!

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A Girl’s Guide To Memories Jibacoa, Cuba

Both Dani and I are Toronto-based Instagrammers, and we were both craving an escape after a busy Summer filled with photo shoots, new projects, and tight deadlines. My birthday seemed like the perfect excuse to get out of town, and our attention quickly turned to Cuba. Neither Dani or I had ever been, and it seemed like the perfect colourful place to explore, eat, sip and shoot content.

We arrived at the Memories Jibacoa Beach Resort an hour outside Havana with no idea what to expect. We were met with sticky hot sunshine, sprawling white sand beaches feeding into the bright turquoise sea, Piña coladas at every turn and the best hospitality we’d ever encountered. Every minute in Cuba was bursting with energy, excitement, and friendly faces, whether we were on a catamaran to the reef at the resort or wandering the streets of Old Havana. This tropical country was loaded with endless candy coloured photo opportunities laden with lush greenery and unexpected historical details. In short, it was an Instagrammer’s dream!

Dani and I both have our own specific creative perspectives and see the world through a unique lens, and though we were in the same place at the same time we saw things a bit differently.

Scroll down to see Dani’s photo diary from the trip, and read each of our takes on the trip!

Dani Roche and Alyssa Garrison

Alyssa of Random Acts of Pastel: There’s something oh so lovely about mixing up your routine and escaping to somewhere completely new. The colours, friendliness, and energy in Cuba was a welcome change from days in Toronto spent tracking down even the tiniest corner of pastel! Some of my favourite elements of the trip included the super friendly dogs and cats “on vacation” at the resort, snorkeling around the coral reef surrounded by fish, donuts for breakfast, the crazy amazing hotel staff, splurging on dinner at one of Havana’s best Paladares (aka. hidden family-run restaurants) and searching the city for pink taxis. Memories Jibacoa was an only an hour from Havana, so we got the perfect mix of fast-paced urban exploration and laid-back resort life.

Dani Roche and Alyssa Garrison

Dani of @daniesque: When work is busy, tackling 100+ hour weeks seems like a no-brainer. However, as I’ve witnessed first-hand, the burnout is real – and maintaining the reputation of being someone “bad at going on vacations” is not sustainable. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to crave new experiences outside my insular reality – which, for the past few years, has consisted of dividing my time between Toronto and New York. Unfortunately, the hustle and bustle gets exhausting quickly, and I recognized it was time for some time away.

From bright blue water to colourful buildings in Havana to Piña coladas for breakfast to warm sand between your toes as you run to listen to a live band playing Despacito, my trip to Cuba with Alyssa is one I will never forget. For a few days, I got to see what an alternative reality could look like – one that purposely removed me from my work when I thought I needed to be there most. Memories Jibacoa – with friendly staff, sprawling beaches, and a plethora of photo opportunities – proved to be the most hospitable home-away-from-home I could have ever hoped for, and I know I will be back to visit soon. Until then, I will carry memories of singing “Summer of ‘69” at the Piano Bar with me for the rest of my life.

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All images by Dani Roche

The 5 Best Coral Reef–Safe Sunscreens

We’re so concerned about protecting ourselves from the sun’s rays (as we should be) that we sometimes don’t realize the cure can also be a curse, at least for the environment.

Chemicals from some sunscreens coming in contact with the ocean have become enough of a problem to contribute to the larger environmental threat to delicate coral and other marine life. Oxybenzone, a UV-filtering chemical compound found in thousands of brands of sunscreen worldwide, is the name to know and avoid when looking for reef-friendly sunscreen. It’s toxic to coral, and contributing to the decline of reefs around the world, according to a  new study by the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. (It’s been estimated  14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion end up in coral reefs each year.)

Craig Downs, who led the research found the highest concentrations of oxybenzone around coral reefs popular with tourists. Downs cited polluted reefs in Hawaii and the Caribbean as illustrations in the study. This research and environmental organizations such as The Environmental Working Group and The David Suzuki Foundation are forcing sunscreen pollution to the forefront of skin care and environmental conversations. The David Suzuki Foundation recommends the products the EWG recommends. “If the EWG recommends the product, it almost certainly meets the rest of my criteria’ David Suzuki said via a post on  The Suzuki Foundation website. Otherwise, the Suzuki Foundation has come up with a five point cheat sheet of what to look for in a reef and otherwise environmentally safe sunscreen, again, largely based on the EWG.

Admittedly their first pointer is not that much fun:  “The most effective sun protection is covering up! Choose sun hats and tightly woven, loose-fitting, long sleeved shirts and pants to keep harmful rays away from the skin. And always seek out shade.” But if we want to flash a little skin on the beach, there are more accommodating options. The EWG’s Environmental Working Group’s SkinDeep database and the Suzuki Foundation  recommend what to look for in a reef-friendly sunscreen and chemicals of concern: First, as mentioned previously, avoid sunscreens which contain, oxybenzone an ingredient the   EWG rates it an alarming “eight”.  The Suzuki Foundation stated: “— Oxybenzone is added to stabilize avobenzone, a UVA-blocker. The combination is marketed as Helioplex. Find safer UVA protection in mineral-based sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, or non-mineral-based European sunscreens containing Tinosorb S and/or M, or ecamsule (trade name Mexoryl SX)”. Three other substances also commonly found in chemical sunscreens —  parabens, cinnamate, benzophenone and camphor derivatives — are also said to be coral reef killing culprits. Even if we don’t stick a toe in the water, spray on sunscreens can do damage. Sprays hang in the air and get absorbed in the sand which then is carried out into the ocean when the tide comes in, or it can get buried in deep sand where sea turtles typically lay their eggs, potentially harming them. So another key pointer is to use creams and lotions, never sprays.

Here is a partial list of skin care companies who are stepping up, creating ocean friendly, effective  sun screens  that meet the Suzuki and EWG foundations’ approval :

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Island Hopping Around The Philippines

Less touched than the islands of Vietnam and Thailand, the Philippines boasts a unique, low-key, Jurassic Park-like heaven. Not even Chris Pratt can save you from falling in love.

The Philippines’ vast in beauty and nature would take months to explore in its entirety. However, we have laid out our top spots to hit when planning a short getaway to this one-of-a-kind destination.

Start your trip by flying from Manila (The Philippines’ central city) to the south-west island of Coron. Continue along to The Bacuit Archipelago off the island of El Nido – a necessary stop in exploring the beauty of the Philippine islands that can only be described as paradise.

Coron: Coron is a must-see for your first experience in the southern Philippines. Its crystal clear waters, limestone cliffs, and beautiful reefs speak for itself. Put your feet up, grab a San Miguel beer, and enjoy the view.

@denim.and.dreams

Sleep: Spend your mornings enjoying a traditional Filipino massage, your afternoons diving next to World War II Japanese shipwrecks, and your nights unwinding by the sea at the Two Seasons Coron Island Resort and Spa.

@shynrivera

Devour: Coron prides itself on its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful landscapes. If you’re itching to venture away from the resort for a night, we recommend you order a San Miguel while watching the sunset behind limestone cliffs at La Sirenetta Seafood Restaurant & Bar. Look no further than Bistro Coron for the best seafood on the island. As a local favourite, this casual hole-in-the-wall will not disappoint (tip: order the tiger prawns).

@backpackerstory

Experience: Book an island hopping tour (Tour A & C tend to be the best) with your hotel. Make sure you go for a dip at Kayangan Lake (or Cayangan Lake); known as the cleanest lake in Asia, the limestone rock underneath is perfectly visible, making you feel like you’re swimming in a different galaxy.

Philippines

@thetravellerguide

Bacuit Archipelago: The town of El Nido is the perfect starting point for travelling through the Bacuit Archipelago. Ranked as Conde Naste Traveller’s list of “20 Most Beautiful Beaches in the World,” Bacuit Archipelago is a must-see on your trip to the Philippines.

Philippines

@xaintly

Sleep: Situated on Miniloc Island (just west of El Nido), book a private water lodge at El Nido Resorts Miniloc Island and enjoy your breakfast at the base of overarching limestone cliffs, while overlooking Bacuit Bay.

@solorebeleats

Devour: Enjoy a wood-fired pizza at Trattoria Altrove – the restaurant prides itself on its homey-feel, insisting each guest take their shoes off upon arrival.

@bysmo.photo

Experience: Rent a motorbike or take a taxi and venture to Nacpan beach. There’s a good chance you’ll get to enjoy the vast, pristine beach all to yourself. Hidden by a rocky road, Nacpan possesses an untouched beauty of sea, sand, and sun.

Island Hopping Around The Philippines

@garlandehaney

When In Rome: A City Of Wonders

Have you ever witnessed something so beautiful it took your breath away? Well, it happened to me on a recent trip to Italy. I remember the exact moment when I walked into the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican and stared up at the hand painted masterpiece created by Michelangelo. In that moment I actually had to remind myself to continue to breathe.

Rome, Italy

I came to the Vatican with City Wonders Tours on a recent trip to Rome, Italy. During my time inside the Vatican walls, I learned about the incredible history of the Popes that shaped this world, and the stories of the artists that really made the Vatican a must-visit. I was not the only one who just had to get a glimpse, apparently, the Vatican gets over 30,000 visitors a day.

The tour didn’t stop there. A full day of history lessons took us deeper into Ancient Rome. From the Vatican it was straight to St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world and another true masterpiece. The floors are covered in marble and the walls are decorated with priceless sculptures. Did you know that the ceiling is so high it can house the Statue of Liberty? It’s a sacred place, where only the Pope himself is allowed to pray because the burial site of Peter himself is beneath the floors.

When in Rome

I then travelled even further back in time as I stepped inside the Colosseum walls. The massive amphitheater which housed 65,000 Romans took only eight years to build. While most of the building has been lost in time, it was once a grand stadium decorated with life-size statues and marble seats. As a sports journalist, I tried picturing a time when gladiators would fight beasts for large crowds, as this is where my industry technically started.

The tour finished in the Roman Forum. I walked through what was left of the grand palace, past the homes of gods, and I even laid eyes upon what was left of the memorial to Julius Caesar. It was during this part of the tour that the guide mentioned something truly amazing, “Rome is like a lasagna.” Those were his exact words. Instead of tearing down the old, they would just build the new on top, meaning that the majority of ancient Rome is still hidden below the surface. In fact, only 6% of Rome has been excavated. With new homes and buildings on the surface, excavating the area has become a lot harder, but with archaeological advancements, there is hope that more of the past will be uncovered.

As I walked back to my hotel I couldn’t help but imagine what ruins from that ancient world lay beneath me.  Was it beautiful sculptures? Was it pieces of the ancient palaces? Was it stunning marble floors from old homes? The truth is, these questions may never be answered, the past may remain the past, but the truth is what does remain on the surface, and it will truly take your breath away.

Rome, Italy

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Beyond BBQ: We Explore Houston, Texas

Houston, Texas – known to many as the birthplace of Beyoncé and great BBQ – is a must-go for anyone looking for a quick weekend escape to a fun new place chalk full of pretty architecture, quaint eateries and that unmistakable southern charm.

Here is your city guide to Houston Texas, baby!

@oliviabrutto

Eat – The Kitchen at Dunlavy
For a gourmet brunch experience in a gorgeous atmosphere, head over to The Dunlavy. Situated in lush trees with floor to ceiling windows and dozens of crystal chandeliers, the dining space makes for a perfect mid-morning hangout. You cannot go wrong ordering the Avacado Toast or the Chinese Chicken Salad. If you’re in the mood for a delicious smoothie, we recommend the Banana & Jam.

@oliviabrutto

Indulge – Sweet Paris
With crepes to die for and the cutest decor, we just had to do a visit to Sweet Paris. The menu is extensive and any crepe you can dream up, Sweet Paris can offer. Nutella, caramel, strawberries and bananas – our mouths are watering just at the thought. Are crepes not your thing? No problem because waffles, milkshakes and Nutella hot chocolate are also up for order.

@oliviabrutto

Do – Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Head over to Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to get your fill of incredible artwork. With many exhibits to marvel at, there is something for everyone to admire at the museum. Get to the museum before September 17 to enjoy Pipilotti Rist’s Pixel Forest and Worry Will Vanish. The twinkling lights, plush floor pillows and screens projecting thought-provoking imagery invite you to take it all in and stay awhile.

@thehoustonianhotel

Stay – The Houstonian
Lay your head down to dream at the stunning Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa. The Houstonian is a popular place to tie the knot with its lush surroundings and its luxurious pool has been the backdrop to many vacation snapshots. The renowned spa offers the utmost in pampering with treatments like Diamond Experience Rose – a body treatment using diamond dust and rose oil – and Stone Therapy massage.

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What To Pack For A Week In St. Lucia

The beauty of St. Lucia’s stunning coastlines and lush greenery is unsurpassable—between the island’s natural waterfalls, authentic culture, pristine rainforests and majestic mountains, it’s easy to be swept off your feet. But before getting lost in the breathtaking landscape, be sure to pack what you need to make the most of your time in the sun.

Sunglasses

Throw shade. Protect your eyes with a millennial pink pair of sunglasses—perfect for living life on the beach through rose-coloured glasses. Qilalla Cat Eye Sunglasses in Pink, $16, aldo.com

Clinique SPF

Burn Prevention. An oil-free water-resistant sunscreen is a must when facing the sunny skies of St. Lucia. Clinique Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Cream, $31, sephora.com

Vitamin SEA Bathing Suit

Suit Up. A cute one-piece with a pop of colour will make frolicking along the stunning shoreline that much more majestic. Saltwater Collective Vitamin Sea One-Piece in White, $94, thesaltwatercollective.com

Nordstrom Beach Cover Up

Wrap Around. When you just can’t stay away from the beach, find a stunning printed beach kimono, kaftan or sarong to cover up for a little glamour under the sun. Surf Gypsy Cover-Up Tunic, $81, Nordstrom.com

Floral Maxi Dresses

Max out. A flirty maxi dress is a must for formal nights and dinners under the stars. Linger Here Dress in Pina Colada, $79, billabong.com

Swell Water Bottles

Hydration station. Beat the heat with some H20 sans sea salt while still feeling like a tropical princess. S’well insulated water bottle in Waikiki, $35. Swellbottle.com

Straw Beach Bags

Packing pretty. Let your carry-all speak for you: you’re ready for a day of relaxation. Poolside Out of Office Tote, $219, shopbop.com

Minimalist Strappy Sanadals

Kick back. A minimalist sandal keeps your feet cool in the hot sun, without sacrificing style. Angilia Flat Sandal in Light Green, $50, aldo.com