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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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A Guide To Exploring Penang, Malaysia

A trip to Malaysia wouldn’t be complete without heading over to Penang, a haven of white sandy beaches, hidden street art, trendy cafés and the best street food you could ever imagine. Here is our guide to what to eat, where to sleep and what to see on the island.

A Guide To Exploring Penang, Malaysia

STREET ART SPOTTING

George Town, the capital city of Penang, is renowned for being the street art hub of Southeast Asia. Visitors could spend days wandering around Georgetown, enjoying all types of street art from cartoon steel art pieces to public paintings mixed with 3D objects such as swings and motorbikes. Keep your eyes peeled for Penang’s most iconic paintings – ‘Reaching Up’ on Cannon Street, ‘Little Children on a Bicycle’ on Armenian Street and ‘Boy on a Motorbike’ on Ah Quee Street – blink and you’ll miss it!

A Guide To Exploring Penang, Malaysia 

Food, food & more food: Going to Malaysia without trying their street food would be like going to Canada and not having poutine! Street food is a way of life for most Malaysians and definitely a ‘must-do’ when visiting Penang. Whether a backpacker or a flashpacker, Penang’s street food offers authentic dishes and allows visitors to experience the real culture of the island – so pull up a plastic chair and enjoy. Which are the best local dishes? Assam Laksa (spicy noodle soup), Char Kway Teow (traditional Malaysian noodle and prawn dish), Wanton Mee (noodle and dumpling dish served with hot broth), Nasi Lemak (rice with a little bit of everything – egg, prawn, chicken, etc. – and is a popular breakfast dish among the locals), Char Koay Kak (imagine the flavours of carrot cake in a stir fry), Popiah (sweet and savory spring rolls) and Ice Kacang for dessert (shaved ice, topped with jelly, nuts and coconut milk). Stretchy pants are mandatory!

 A Guide To Exploring Penang, Malaysia

Hipster Cafés: 

Wheeler’s Coffee – a bicycle-themed café and pancakes delivered with a syringe full of syrup – does it get any more hipster? Located on the iconic, Love Lane, Wheeler’s Coffee offers the ultimate coffee fix with bicycles used in every way possible, from light fixtures, tables and stools to flower pots, wall decorations and even the tip jar.

A Guide To Exploring Penang, Malaysia

Another one to add to the list is China House, three heritage buildings linked together by an outdoor courtyard and best known for their endless choices of delicious cakes. Crayons are even provided for doodling right on the tables.

A Guide To Exploring Penang, Malaysia

Finally, Awesome Canteen is another top pick and well it’s…. awesome! No two pieces of furniture are the same and tall, skinny trees are growing right in the middle of the café.

A Guide To Exploring Penang, Malaysia

Let’s go to the beach, beach: Second, to Georgetown, Batu Ferringhi is one of Penang’s most popular destinations offering white sandy beaches, water activities, horseback riding and night markets. Cocktails at a beach bar while enjoying the spectacular sunset is a must – favourites include Bora Bora or Sigi’s Bar & Grill. Batu Ferringhi is easy to get to – an hour bus ride from Georgetown and costing just $0.82 per person each way. 

A Guide To Exploring Penang, Malaysia

Where to stay: 

As Georgetown is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, many of the old heritage shops and houses have been restored into cool and quirky hostels and guesthouses. The Frame Guesthouse is a three-storey heritage building, originally a frame maker shop and now one of the best places to stay in the heart of Georgetown. Most of the space was left how it was found before renovations, therefore the guesthouse now offers a minimalistic, trendy space, with the heritage feel being very much still alive. Private double rooms cost from $19 per person per night. Dorm rooms cost from $9 per person per night. To switch it up, check out The Frame’s sister properties, Old Penang Guesthouse and The 80’s Guesthouse.

A Guide To Exploring Penang, Malaysia

How to get there: International flights are available from Canada’s major cities to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital city. From there, Air Asia offers flights to Penang costing as little as $17 per person each way and it’s just an hour flight. Alternatively, the buses are extremely safe and comfortable, costing from $10 per person each way and taking five hours.

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5 Unexpected Things To Do In Panama

When someone mentions Panama, the first thing that pops into travellers’ minds is the 80-km waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans—the Panama Canal.

Listed as one of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ “Seven Wonders of the Modern World,” the Canal is certainly a must-see for anyone visiting the Central American nation, but there is a lot more to Panama than spectacular feats of engineering.

With an eye for adventure, we’ve rounded up the top five unexpected things to do in Panama:

5 Unexpected Things To Do In Panama

1. Have a beach day on volcanic black sand: Long stretches of Panama’s stunning Pacific coast are lined with unique black sand, darkened by volcanic ash from an eruption by Volcàn Barú thousands of years ago. Take a day trip to Playa La Barqueta near Las Olas Resort—just a short drive from David, Chiriquí, a popular ex-pat community close to the Costa Rican border—and you’ll find an endless stretch of remote, pristine beachfront with only a few locals nearby. Just be sure to pack some sandals—the black sand and scorching sun make for a fiery walk to the water.

5 Unexpected Things To Do In Panama

2. Trek through a cloud forest: You may know about rainforests (does the Amazon sound familiar?), but not many people know about cloud forests—an abundance of vegetation growing on mountain tops with constant, low-level cloud cover, and a favourite place for howler monkeys, sloths and tapirs. Take a trek through the cloud forest on Volcàn Barú, the country’s active volcano in Boquete, and you’ll find The Lost Waterfalls: Three Cascades with dramatic 300-foot cliffs, crystal clear pools and a hidden cave.

5 Unexpected Things To Do In Panama

3. Ride the waves in Santa Catalina: What was once a secret beach in a small fishing village has turned into a thriving surf community on Panama’s south west coast. Offering some of the best surfing in Central America with 15-foot waves, and one of the longest waves to crash a coast, Santa Catalina is a tropical paradise for beginners and experts alike. If you’re looking to learn or improve, join Santa Catalina Retreats for some surf lessons in the warm Pacific spray, taking relaxation to a new level with a post-surf yoga session.

5 Unexpected Things To Do In Panama

Photo: @jagerknights

4. Snorkel the coral gardens in Bocas del Toro: There aren’t many places where you can roll in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea on the same day, but Panama is one of them. After a drive through the mountains (or a short flight from David and Panama City), prepare to marvel at the beauty of the Bocas del Toro archipelago, and take a catamaran cruise for the best views. Opt for Jager Knights for an unforgettable experience with Captain Maga, diving along vibrant coral reefs, swimming with jellyfish and watching bottlenose dolphins play in Dolphin Bay lagoon.

5 Unexpected Things To Do In Panama

Photo: @andresmadrigal

5. Take a trip down memory lane: Though its civil engineering and ever-growing collection of skyscrapers put Panama on the map as a destination for the modern traveller, there’s enough history in Panama City’s Casco Viejo (Old Town) to designate it a UNESCO World Heritage site. Settled in 1673, the centuries-old cobblestone streets are now filled with vibrant music, traditional food and a wealth of arts and culture. Be sure to check out the National Theatre; the remains of the Compania de Jesus Convent, which housed the first university and synagogue in the city; and take a walk on the original sea wall, with unrivalled views of the Panama City skyline.

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A Long Weekend Escape To The Bahamas

Palm trees, warm sands, ocean breeze.

A tropical destination is calling your name. It’s about time to pack your carry on because with direct flights to Nassau only 3 hours long, why not swap a long weekend up north at the cottage for an exotic escape to The Bahamas?

With so much to see and do in the Caribbean locale, we’ve narrowed it down to the top spots you must experience on your visit!

The Bahamas

@darkwave_x

See: Government House

Government House, located in Nassau on Duke St., is the official residence of the Governor General of The Bahamas and dates back to 1801. For history buffs, it is fascinating to see a true remnant of Bahamian-British colonial architecture. For everyone else, the stately pastel pink and white home makes for quite the pretty picture.

The Bahamas

Photo: @bakertw

Eat: Graycliff Hotel & Restaurant

With an elegant dress code in effect and a must-see wine cellar, a dinner at Graycliff makes for a lovely evening out. If you’re looking for the ultimate in romance, the restaurant offers private dining experiences right in the wine cellar. For those looking for some lunch, Graycliff offers Wine Luncheon’s which are hosted by a certified Sommelier and include a five-course, gourmet meal. A delightful Afternoon Tea is also available by reservation on Monday’s through Fridays from 1:30 PM – 4:00 PM.

The Bahamas

Photo: @nassauparadiseisland

Do: Sunset Cruise

There are plenty of tour operators in Nassau offering private sunset cruises. This is the perfect way to wind down and enjoy a romantic evening onboard a luxurious charter. Pop a bottle of champagne and toast to your spontaneous but amazing decision to visit The Bahamas.

 

The Bahamas

@mthojx3

Stay: Atlantis Paradise Island

After an exciting night at Aura, head on up to your comfortable suite in the stunning Atlantis Paradise Island. Wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready to take on a day chalk full of fun activities. Race down the Leap of Faith waterslide into the acrylic tunnel submerged in the shark-filled lagoon. Once you’re ready to wind down, lay by the pool or grab a bite at one of 21 restaurants on-site.

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How To Spend 48 Hours In New York City

You’ve arrived in New York City with your luggage in hand and your hopes in store. With only 48 hours in the big city, where do you start? As the city that never sleeps, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the hundreds of things to do and see.

Lucky for you, New York has something for everyone. Your 48 hours starts now!

Gansevoort Meatpacking District

Photo: @gansevoort

For the shopaholic:

Among the Big Four fashion capitals of the world, New York coined the phrase “shop till you drop.” The optimal day for the shopaholic starts in SoHo – one of the city’s most eclectic shopping regions. From designer boutiques to bargain emporiums, SoHo seems to have it all. After a morning in SoHo, make your way to Greenwich Village, stopping at Washington Square Park to refuel and recharge. The Bleeker Street shopping scene entirely plays tribute to the village’s rich musical history. On the weekends, your likely to catch local musicians and vintage street markets. Next on the shopping tour is the modish Meatpacking District. Don’t be misled by the cobblestone streets – this trendy district defines high-end shopping. Cap off a long day of shopping with a cocktail at the Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC rooftop.

Wake up the next morning and do it all over. Spend the day with Tiffany, Cartier, and Prada on the famous Fifth Avenue.

Best food in NYC

Photo: @smorgasburg

For the foodie:

Whatever your taste, New York is home to hundreds of Michelin-star restaurants and authentic dives for locals and tourists alike. We recommend beginning the day with brunch on the Lower East Side. From Sadelles to Stanton Social, this progressive neighbourhood has quickly become an NYC brunch hotspot. Walk off that boozy brunch on the High-Line in Meatpacking District, taking in picturesque views of the city. Still hungry? Check out Chelsea Market for a range of delectable bites and snacks. Time for happy hour. Head over to the Standard Biergarten for a well-deserved beer and a game of ping-pong. We promise your food coma is well worth it and is sure to give you a good nights sleep.

Cross over to Brooklyn on day two for the infamous Smorgasburg food market. As the largest open-air food market in America, Smorgasburg is sure to be a foodie fan favourite.

Top of the Rock

Photo: @msharaf

For the tourist:

Spend your morning surrounded by the history of Ellis Island, accompanied by the Statue of Liberty herself. Catch the ferry back to the city and head over to the Rockefeller Center. Tour Radio City Music Hall and take the elevator up to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck for exquisite views of the city skyline. More views? Spend sunset at the Empire State Building, ending off the night with a visit to Times Square. The day may be over, but the action never sleeps.

No trip to New York is complete without Central Park. Wake up the next morning and embrace your inner New Yorker. Grab a coffee and bagel to enjoy throughout your stroll down Central Park. Make sure to visit the John Lennon Memorial, if you’re lucky you may stumble across a private concert!

Best of New York City

Photo: @lizzygra

For the culture vulture:

As a cultural capital of the world, New York boasts a variety of galleries, museums, and theatres. Visit the world famous Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. Spend the afternoon at a Broadway Matinee, and cap off the night laughing at the Comedy Cellar. You never know who will show up and surprise you.

Spend day two in hipster-haven Brooklyn. Explore Williamsburg, grab a book from Mermaids and pass the afternoon reading in McCarren Park. You’re sure to enjoy some peace and quiet away from the bustling city. While in Brooklyn, make your way to Dumbo. Often overlooked, this waterfront neighbourhood boasts breathtaking views of the Manhatten skyline. Ride your bike around town and embrace the culture.

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Bali, Indonesia Travel Diary: Uluwatu

I’m back with my Bali travel guide. Today, I’ll be sharing everything you need to know about Uluwatu. Uluwatu was my first stop in Bali, and was the reason I fell in love with the island so quickly. Located on the southern end of Bali, right on the coastline, it is famous for its beautiful beaches. It is full of eco resorts, concept cafes, beautiful beach clubs, and everything in between. Here’s my little black book:

Bali Indonesia

Food in Bali, Indonesia

Beach in Bali Indonesia

As a part of my collaboration with The Asia Collective, I stayed in La Joya Balangan. The property is comprised of several villas and is the definition of shabby-chic. I highly recommend this hotel to those who are looking to be immersed in nature but be warned, it is not for those who are looking for the comforts of a luxury resort. The villas are essentially large huts which have gorgeous interiors, but also have a portion between the wall and the roof that is open. La Joya Balangan is located right next to its sister hotel, La Joya Biu-Biu, which boasts the most incredible view of the ocean. You will most definitely need to hire a driver to get around from here as Uluwatu is quite expansive.

Where to eat

Uluwatu, like Seminyak, is full of gorgeous cafes, these were my favourites:

Drifter Surf Shop & Cafe: An Australian concept shop and cafe which has delicious avocado toast, acai bowls, and basically all things delicious.

Food in Bali Indonesia

Nalu Bowls: Hands down, the best acai bowl I have ever had in my life. Order the Maverick, it’s incredible. Nalu Bowls has several locations around Bali, but the one in Uluwatu is at Single Fin Beach Club, which boasts a spectacular view of the ocean.

Food in Bali

Restaurants in Bali

Coco & Poke: Also located at Single Fin Beach Club, Coco & Poke offers fresh and flavourful poke bowls.

Food in Bali

Restaurants in Bali

Bukit Cafe: This joint serves all-day breakfast. We ended up going for dinner where I ordered their shakshuka and my brother ordered the burger – delicious.

Hamburgers and French Fries in Bali

What to do

Uluwatu Temple: Located on top of a cliff on the ocean, the Uluwatu Temple offers a view that will literally take your breath away.

Uluwatu Temple

Uluwatu Temple

Uluwatu Temple

Sundays Beach Club: Since it is on the coastline, Uluwatu is known for its beach clubs. With limited time in hand, I decided to check out Sundays Beach Club. I’m happy to report that I could not have been more pleased with my decision. It is located inside the Ungasan Clifftop Hotel, where, upon entering the property, you are greeted by a hanging infinity pool. After this, you take a cable car down a cliff to go to the beach. I’ll never forget the jaw-dropping view of the beach and jungle on the cable car ride down; I had goosebumps. The beach club itself is phenomenal. The water is pristine, the music is upbeat, the service is spectacular, and the food is to die for. During sunset, there is a bonfire where you can make smores and admire the view. The entrance fee is IDR 300,000.

Sundays Beach Club Bali

Sundays Beach Club Bali

Food at Sundays Beach Club Bali

Bukit Sari Agro Coffee Luwak: Luwak coffee, the most expensive coffee in the world, is made from poop. No joke. The Luwak is a mongoose that picks out the best coffee beans, eats it, and then poops it out. The beans are then cleaned, roasted, ground for consumption. At Bukit Sari Agro Luwak Coffee, we were offered 12 variations of teas and coffees are grown at their farm for free and charged IDR 50,000 for a cup of Luwak coffee. I wasn’t brave enough to try the coffee, but my brothers really enjoyed it!

Coffee in Bali

Waterfalls in Bali

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The Perfect Prince Edward County Weekend

Lover of quaint cafes? Small town enthusiast? Wine Connoisseur? Then the weekend should find you in the loveliest county there ever was. Prince Edward County. Situated just a two and a half hour drive from Toronto, Prince Edward County is a gem that transcends your weekend into the perfect escape.

Where to Stay: 

All the hipsters are staying at Drake Devonshire Inn. Situated on the banks of Lake Ontario in the small town of Wellington, this quirky boutique hotel will make you feel as if you are starring in a Wes Anderson movie. 

Right at the heart of Picton, The Ferg is the perfect choice for anyone that is looking for comfort, entertaining friends, and a pet-friendly environment. Inspired by minimal Scandinavian design, this heritage home will leave you breathless with its historic elegance and quaint charm. 

What To Do: 

Sandbanks Provincial Park

Baymouth sandbars and sandy dunes, Sandbanks Provincial Park has something to offer to everyone. Whether you want to stroll down the white sandy beach, go on a scenic drive if you do not feel like getting sand in your shoes, or for a quick swim, this Provincial Park is a must see spot when visiting Prince Edward County.  

Coriander Girl

A girl loves her flowers, and Coriander Girl is the cutest flower shop in the town of Picton. Grab a freshly made bouquet of flowers or chat with the owner who is just a lovely as her creations.   

Wine Tasting in Prince Edward County: 

Not only are wineries in Prince Edward County pet-friendly, they are also the most picturesque wineries I have ever seen. It may prove to be merely impossible to visit all 33 wineries in just one weekend, so thankfully I did the scouting for you. Here are my top 6.

Closson Chase Vineyards: This winery not only has amazing wine, but its purple barn walls make it a very Instagramable destination.

County Cider Company: Those that are not big wine drinkers will appreciate the mouth-watering ciders offered. 

Karlo Estates: Apart from the fact that this is the first certified vegan winery in the world, Karlo Estates also offer a large variety of wines with the most delicious food pairings.

Norman Hardie Winery: If you are looking to pair your wine with a slice of wood-fired pizza, you have come to the right place. 

The Grange of Prince Edward County Winery: Rustic and submerged in nature, nothing makes you feel as if you are sipping wine in an enchanted forest like the Grange does. 

Waupoos Estates Winery: Offering a stunning lake view and great lunch choices at their Gazebo Restaurant.

Where to Eat: 

The Courage: Casual and fun, this is another quirky spot in the County that will leave your taste buds and coffee cravings 100% satisfied. 

Drake Devonshire: From brunch to dinner to cocktails, you will be definitely coming back for more. Make sure to try their Devonshire Burger and rhubarb cake.

The Hubb Eatery & Lounge: Located in Bloomfield, this farm to table restaurant is a favourite for locals and tourists.

Vic Café: The Vic Cafe puts Parisian cafes to shame with its perfect decor. Whether you want to catch up on your daily news by drinking a cup of chai latte or have a light lunch, Vic Café is my go to choice in Picton.

Whatever the reason that brings you to Prince Edward County, you will not want to leave. 

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A Local’s Guide To Exploring Austin, Texas

We fell in love with Austin, Texas and all of its weirdness. The state’s capital has adopted the slogan “Keep Austin Weird” and intends to maintain the city’s fun and unique identity. Austin is unlike any other city in the South. It’s a little bit hipster and a lot of that unmistakable southern charm.

Music lovers can rejoice as Austin is also known for its world-class live music, playing host to famous music festivals including South x Southwest and Austin City Limits. People flock to Austin to be a part of something different, something special. The consistent warmth of the people matches the year-round warm weather and the city’s energy is always at an all-time high. Siren wants to help you navigate this one-of-a-kind city that has gorgeous sunshine, delicious food, amazing music and Matthew McConaughey.

So get ready, y’all – we’re going to Austin.

EAT

Photo: @torchystacos

The OasisFamily-oriented

Situated on the stunning Lake Travis hills and known as the “sunset capital of Texas”, this restaurant is the definition of “dinner with a view.” The hilltop scenery is unbelievable – it feels like being in a villa overlooking Lake Como. This favourite Austin locale serves up some delicious Mexican fare along with incredible live music Thursday through Sunday. We know you’ll go for the food and music. We bet you stay for the sunset.

Torchy’s Tacos (the original truck)- Road less travelled

Torchy’s queso tastes heavenly so no wonder it has been voted the best in Texas several years running. The secret? Guacamole mixed into the middle of the creamy cheese dip. Any local you ask where to get the best tacos will rave about Torchy’s. They are also likely to tell you the story of the legendary taco joint, which started out as a food truck and has now expanded to cities all over Texas. A true Austin must-try. You can even buy a bottle of Torchy’s hot sauce to take home with you but good luck trying to savour it until your next trip to Texas.

Green Pastures RestaurantStylish/cultured

Nestled on the lush pastures of a 19th-century estate is a restaurant that transports its patrons back in time – a feeling that can only be described as nostalgia for the era of true southern belles and debutante balls. This is the best place to enjoy a mouth-watering Sunday brunch or gourmet dinner while watching the resident colourful peacocks stroll by. Must-tries at this famous brunch are the sweet and salty confection: chocolate-covered bacon and the Southern milk punch: a concoction of bourbon, rum, brandy and ice cream.

STAY

Photo: @fairviewaustin

Omni Barton Creek Resort and SpaFamily-oriented

Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa offers a wide range of activities that caters to all family needs. This cozy family resort offers golf and mini golf, children’s day camp and activities and a relaxing spa for day-end wind-down. Truly something for everyone.

The Fairview B&BRoad less travelled 

Stay in this opulent, white plantation home and get a real taste of southern hospitality. This B&B is pretty, tranquil and a little off the beaten path. It also happens to be dog-friendly so if you want to bring your pup to Austin, this is the place to do it!  Staying here also offers a unique juxtaposition of modern-day Austin because it allows for a look into the city’s past.  The grandeur of the southern plantation homes with their tall columns and expansive porches offer a small glimpse of what once was. Mint julep and a rocking chair, anyone?

The Driskill HotelStylish/cultured 

Our jaws dropped when entering the marble grand lobby of this historic hotel. Located in the heart of the city on bustling 6th Street, The Driskill is Texan comfort at its finest. We love this hotel for its rich history and classy atmosphere. Luxury is dripping in every detail of the decor, from the crystal chandeliers to the immaculate, plush leather sofas in the cigar lounge. The rich oak panels and stained-glass ceiling make this a must-stay for those looking for lavish accommodations in Austin.

PLAY

Photo: @rprfirm

The Broken SpokeFamily-oriented

We couldn’t come to the south and not learn how to cut-a-rug, so we headed over to The Broken Spoke to watch some classic country artists and learn how to two-step with the best of them at the “last true Texas dance hall.” A tip from one novice two-stepper to another: the faster the song, the smaller the steps. Enjoying live music with your loved ones and learning how to dance is one of the best ways to make the most of your trip in this music-centric city.

Burnside’s TavernRoad less travelled

We couldn’t write about Austin without suggesting a bar on infamous 6th Street. Located on downtown Austin’s liveliest street sits Burnside’s Tavern. We can’t get enough of the “Civil War chic” decor with glamorous crystal chandeliers hanging in a row above the bar and oil paintings of historical figures hung on the exposed brick walls. The bar is frequented by locals, rarely visited by tourists. The drinks are cheap, the music is good and we love the young, energetic atmosphere.

CU29 Cocktail BarStylish/cultured 

A little removed from the youthful, party crowd on 6th Street, it’s all about the specialty drinks at this upscale cocktail lounge. Each drink takes five to 10 minutes to make but is totally worth the wait.  For those with a sweet tooth, the Samoa Girl Scout Cookie martini is a must-try. It’s basically dessert in a martini glass. The atmosphere is welcoming and the decor is incredible – exposed brick and floor-to-ceiling shelves full of the best local and imported liqueurs. This is by far the best place to mingle with the Austin-elite and sip on the most unique, hand-crafted drinks.

SPEND

Photo: @oliviabrutto

 

Toy JoyFamily-oriented

With the slogan “Keeping Austin Fun since 1987″ families cannot resist a stop into Toy Joy, located in the heart of downtown Austin, right across from City Hall. This local toy shop’s shelves are lined with thousands of toys to entertain all families. Not to mention every board game imaginable lives here.

Shops on South Congress Street – Road less travelled 

This street is lined on both sides with funky shops where the locals spend their hard earned money. We found everything here, from hand-crafted jewellery to homemade toffee at Susie’s South Forty Confections. South Congress has it all, and quite unexpectedly too.

The DomainStylish/cultured

One word: Nordstrom. This upscale shopping mall offers high-end shopping in a contemporary setting. Nothing says luxury shopping trip like ending the day with a nice gourmet meal, so we suggest Flemming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, located right on The Domain property.

DO

Photo: @lanternfest

The Lantern FestFamily-oriented

The Lantern Fest is something that you must see to believe. Thousands of lanterns being lit and let out into the night sky on a warm evening in October is pure magic. But the lanterns are only one small part of the spectacular festival, which includes a day full of live music (of course), dancing and some of the most delicious smores we’ve ever tasted. This is the perfect event to make family memories to last a lifetime.

South x SouthWest Music Festival (SXSW)– Road less travelled

If you find yourself in Austin in March, you’re in luck. We highly recommend attending SXSW festival. Over 50 performers come to town to share their music and their art. SXSW, although attended by people from all over the world, is a local tradition and thousands of Austinites gather each year to enjoy the beautiful sounds of the city.

Austin Museums & Arts Scene– Stylish/cultured

Austin is brimming with creativity. The city is home to world-class museums such as the Blanton Museum of Art and Harry Ransom Center which houses rare books and historical literature collections. There are plenty of art galleries to roam and theatres to duck into. Check out the Austin Ballet and its prima ballerinas. The most amazing thing about Austin, perhaps, is that even when you’re not in a building dedicated to art, you are surrounded by art even when walking the city’s streets.

DONT MISS

Everyone visiting Austin must head down to South Congress Street and have their picture taken by the “I love you so much” wall. Located on the right side of Jo’s Coffee Shop, this iconic mint-green wall, spray-painted with those five meaningful words in red swirling letters has served as the backdrop for hundreds of thousands of photos. Stand with your significant other, mother, father, brother, sister…whomever, and take what is sure to be your next profile picture. Caption it: I love you so much!

GET AROUND

While Austin does have the Capital Metro public transportation with several bus routes and schedules, it is important to note that the best way to get around the city is by car, taxi or Uber. The roads are not overly congested with traffic so getting around by car is the easiest and most time effective mode of transportation.

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City Guide: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - February 5, 2016: View of Ipanema beach and Morro Dois Irmaos (Two Brothers Mountain) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Your curated guide to the best bites, sleeps and spots, as seen through the season Siren lens. 

Rio de Janeiro is the second-largest city in Brazil with a population of 6.5 million cariocas. It is best known for its world-famous sights such as Christ the Redeemer, Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain; Carnival; football; samba and bossa nova; and beaches, such as Ipanema and Copacabana.

Rio is a year-round destination, but its high season runs from December to March, when the weather is hot and Carnival’s in full swing. Off-season, when prices are lower and the temperatures not so steamy, runs May to October.

Rio Hotel Room

Solid Mid-Range Sleep:  Porto Bay Rio Internacional Hotel
Photo: @
portobay
Av. Atlântica, 1500 – Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22021-000, Brazil

This is a great four-star option located in a prime spot on Copacabana beach. Spacious and modern rooms, sweeping beach views from the rooftop pool and bar, a decent breakfast spread, and private beach area make this a good base in Copacabana without breaking the bank.

Old-World Luxury Sleep: The Belmond Copacabana Palace
Av. Atlântica, 1702 – Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22021-001, Brazil

This property is the crowning jewel of Copacabana beach. This elegant, historical hotel has a stunning facade, posh restaurants, and beautiful courtyard pool. If booking a room is out of reach, the poolside courtyard offers a romantic spot for pre-dinner drinks.

Off The Beaten Path Sleep:  La Suite by Dussol
R. Jackson de Figueiredo, 501 – Joá, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22611-000, Brazil

This high-end design boutique hotel dramatically set cliffside in Joatinga. A good alternative for travellers who want the seaside views without the hustle-and-bustle of busy Copacabana, Ipanema or Leblon.

Best Stay: Hotel Fasano Rio
Av. Vieira Souto, 80 – Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro – RJ, 22420-002, Brazil

The it hotel located on the it beach, Ipanema, this Philippe Starck-designed boutique hotel can be summed up in three words: glamorous, sexy and sleek. The rooftop pool and lounge offers spectacular views of the beach and surrounding mountains; plus, it’s a brilliant spot to people watch. Rooms are ultra-modern, yet warm and comfortable. Tip: opt for a beach-facing room, it’s worth the splurge.

Seafood Dinner Rio Brazil

Photo: @barespiritosanto

The Best Bite & Why:

For traditional home cooking inspired by Amazonian techniques and ingredients, Espirito Santo Restaurante in Santa Teresa is a neighbourhood gem. The Banana Stew—a semi-sweet stew made with bananas cooked in coconut and herbs—and the Chayote in Xinxin—Brazilian squash and mixed vegetables sautéed with a mixture of ginger, peanuts, cashews and herbs—were inspired and delicious.

A must-try snack is the pão de queijo, doughy balls of cheesy heaven. Our favourite were served steaming at the Fogo de Chão churrascaria in BotaFogo.

Book well ahead for Olympe restaurant, the flagship restaurant by carioca chef, Claude Troisgros, in Lagoa. Olympe remains Rio’s top European dining experience with one of the most innovative tasting menus in the city.

Rooftop Patio Rio Brazil

Photo: @fasano

The Best View:

The best city views can be seen from Christ the Redeemer statue—one of the New Seven Wonders of the World—at the peak of Rio’s Corcovado Mountain.

For those who prefer their vistas paired with a caipirinha, the trendy rooftop pool bar at the Hotel Fasano Rio is unmatched. Go for sunset.

Notable Excursions:

More intrepid travellers can arrange a private or small group tour of one of Rio’s favelas, offering a unique perspective on these communities.

For an adrenaline rush, try hand gliding from the top of Pedra Bonita, towering above the Tijuca National Park at 2,283 feet.

City View Rio Brazil

Photo: @gucopa

Best Local Hot Spots & Top Attractions:

Rio Scenarium, located in the Centro neighbourhood, is a fun and non-intimidating samba bar with some of Rio’s best live samba bands.

Not To Be Missed:

Be one with the locals and catch a football match at Maracanã Stadium, one of the world’s largest football stadiums, when one of Rio’s four major teams are playing (Botafogo, Flamengo, Fluminense, and Vasco da Gama). The sheer spectacle of the game and energy of the crowd is amazing.

Have we mentioned the beaches? Ipanema, Copacabana, and Barra da Tijuca, to name just a few, each with their own distinct personality.

Cultural Events:

Regarded as the “Carnival Capital of the World”, Rio’s famed Carnival is considered to be the largest in the world, with two million people per day on the streets. This year Carnival runs from February 5 until February 10, 2016.

Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2016 Summer Paralympics, marking the first time that a South American nation has hosted these events.

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The 10 Best Brunch Spots In Paris, France

Oui, Oui, Paris.

If you find yourself in the city of light (and definitely love) this sunny season, we urge to check out a few of our top brunch spots. Of course, we could point you in the direction of the usual suspects including lunch at the Eiffel Tower or outside of the Louvre – but we won’t.

We recently spent 48-hours in Paris and filled those two days galavanting around the city, hitting up landmarks and local’s only spots that easily reinvigorated our mind and soul. If you’re heading there for a quick add-on or a short layover, definitely add these foodie spots to your must-eat list.

Here are our top picks on where to feast for 48-hours in Paris, France.

Café de Flore

Photo: @mssa_90

1/ Café de Flore: This is one of the oldest and most noteworthy coffee houses in all of Paris. If you’re looking for the quintessential boulevard seating this is a must-visit. This 6th arrondissement café is also known for their famous clientele and superb menu offerings. Enjoy!

Photo: @sto.let.odinochestva

2/ Republique Of Coffee: Mexico meets Paris at this 10th arrondissement coffee shop. With a regular rotating variety of beans sourced from around the globe, you can expect seasonal sips including chai lattes paired with a delicious slice of pumpkin bread.

Le Pain Quotidien Paris Charonne

Photo: @veronicaegelund

3/  Le Pain Quotidien Paris Charonne: We’re not over avocado toast! This 11th arrondissement eclectic foodie spot is turning out some of the best dishes in all of Paris. It also happens to be located in a neighbourhood that celebrates art and culture, so grab your coffee to go and galavant around some epic galleries.

Photo: @lisakastleen

 4/ La Comete: This modern bistro celebrates simplicity with the finest selection of luxurious lattes and buttery croissants. Located in the 11th arrondissement, this charming location boasts an interior that warms the heart and food that feeds the soul.

Photo: @parisinfourmonths

5/ Café Oberkampf: This tiny foodie spot is cooking up some of the healthiest bites and bold cups of coffee around town. We recommend their all day brunch offering or the absolutely decadent Halloumi tartine.

Photo: @charlenedahan

6/ Muscovado: If you’re looking for a no-fuss brunch, this is the spot! From bagels to pancakes and everything in between, you simply can’t go wrong with this American-style eatery.

Photo: @celinablanche

7/ Cafe Kitsuné: With several locations around the globe, this it-girl coffee spot will prove to get you more likes than you imaged if you post a snap to social.

Photo: @jadazjjj

8/Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse: Housed inside one of Paris’s most gorgeous hotels, this Michelin-rated decadent brunch spot is not for the faint of heart. Except high-tea offerings paired with local ingredients sourced from France.

Photo: @thefrenchbrunett

9/Ladurée: Perhaps the most famous macaroon in the world, this French eatery also boasts dishes that will leave your soul satisfied and your sweet tooth smiling. This quintessential Parisian tea room is perfect for a bridal shower, or even a brunch with your bestie.

Photo: @majamalnar

10/Hôtel Plaza Athénée: Is this not the most photographed spot in all of Paris? We’ve definitely seen this photo before! If you’re looking for a breakfast that will fill your Instagram feed with gorgeous shots of food and the Eiffel Tower, look no further. Be sure to book your room in advance, as this luxury hotel is a highly sought after spot.