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Flying Turtles, Hidden Treasures: My TradeWinds Adventure

Have you ever seen a chelonian fly?

I was basking in the Caribbean sun on the trampoline when it happened, watching the twin bows of JimJams, our 60-foot catamaran, pierce the waves as we sailed with the wind toward the island of Anguilla.

It was a hawksbill turtle, pale yellow and mottle-backed. He shot out of the water with his flippers spread wide like wings, leaving a trail of glittering seawater in his wake before disappearing once again beneath the surface.

It happened so quickly – and was so extraordinary – that I would have doubted myself had it not been for first mate Micky Eichhorn, who bellowed from her perch on the yacht’s mast, 15-feet above my head. When I looked up, she was hugging the mast, a foot and a hand each dangling free, grinning wide at what we’d both just witnessed.

Photo: @britneylhope

I looked to the cockpit above, where Captain Andre de Klerk was chatting with my fellow passengers from his spot at the helm, but clearly, none of them had seen the turtle. They were all thoroughly mellowed, draped across a semicircle of soft white cushions, cradling icy rum punches in their laps. Their mouths moved occasionally to speak or to sip, but their bodies were otherwise slack with the delicious leisure of it all. Hats and sunglasses concealed any legitimate attempts at consciousness. Phones laid forgotten in the cabins below.

It hadn’t taken long for any of us to ease into the TradeWinds lifestyle. To anyone on a neighbouring boat who caught a glimpse of our party loafing around the deck, highballs in hand – or being served rock lobster by Micky and Andre – as we luxuriated in the utter absence of task or technology, they may have thought we were the kind of people who lived that way all the time. Based on the available evidence, they may have surmised we just slept, snacked and sailed every day. We certainly looked – and acted – like we owned that chartered yacht.

Of course, when it comes to TradeWinds, that’s entirely the point.

Photo: @britneylhope

Guilt-free luxury and surprise moments of natural wonder are all part of the package on a TradeWinds luxury charter. Whether sailing across the Caribbean, Central America, the Mediterranean or the South Pacific, the intimate size of this five-star catamaran company means voyagers seeking a slice of their own private paradise can explore the sort of latent locales otherwise unreachable by traditional cruise ships.
With premium yachts offering customizable, private or shared charters to some of the world’s most beautiful and untouched destinations, guests can stroll along the shores of uninhabited enclaves, swim in quiet seclusion, or simply soak up the serenity of quiet sunsets over open waters.

We did all that and more on our voyage around St. Martin, Anguilla and the countless little islets scattered in between. Mornings were defined by the fresh coffee, charcuterie and tropical fruit overlooking the sunrise on a secret beach. One afternoon found us snorkelling at the foot of a remote cliff face while Micky, a skilled diver, moved mermaid-style among the reef, pointing out parrot fish, barracuda and at one point, a spiny purple urchin to our collective delight. In the evenings, we were plied with meals like fresh-caught Mahi Mahi, perfect homemade pavlova, and exceptional South African wine. Bedtime was often early; once filled to the gills with the kind of sun kissed, multi-sensory extravagance that never failed to take us by surprise, we’d all retire below deck to the gentle rocking of our queen beds, drift into sleep, and dream of the diversions that were yet to come.

On our final night, we all resolved to stay up late – to make the remaining hours last as long as we could. Taking to the front deck, where I’d once seen my now famous flying turtle, we stretched out on the lacework of the trampoline under what I swear was an entire galaxy of stars. We were moon drunk, laughing about how easy it had been to disconnect, to forget about our worries, jobs or favourite TV shows. We swapped barely-made memories from the week, like when we’d jumped in the ocean for sunset, sipping Mai Tai’s off the back of a surfboard. As we were all seasoned travellers, the conversation inevitably turned to our former adventures, and we began to wax poetic on all the beautiful sights we’d seen, the things we’d tasted, our most unforgettable wow moments, and our all-time favourite exotic escapes.

That is, they were our favourites, we all agreed – before TradeWinds stole the show.

Photo: @britneylhope

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Why We’re In Love With Lisbon, Portugal

Situated off the Western coast of Spain and engulfed in culture, cuisine and art, Portugal is fast becoming the hottest spot to visit in Europe.

There’s no question as to why either. Think of yourself being surrounded by the most genuine people, all the while remaining inspired by a beautiful country. Check out my top picks for the top eat, sleeps and views in Lisbon, Portugal.

Lisbon: 

A colourful city surrounded by narrow cobblestone sidewalks, err, streets rather, the classic yellow cable cars and of course, tuk-tuks honking about. This is a city like no other.

Stay:

Corinthia Hotels Lisbon
Av. Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro 105, Portugal

A friendly, welcoming hotel with a chic interior and the best breakfast buffet you could ask for – order the customized omelettes and espresso. Decked out in shiny floors, marble tables and cream-coloured chairs in the lobby, this hotel puts your worries at ease for travelling to a new place with their helpful staff at reception and eager to please concierge.  Take a dip in their indoor pool outfitted in the typical Portuguese tiles amid the stunning blue hue and once you’re cooled off, get some R&R on their patio outside overlooking the busy city.

Savour:

5 Oceans Lisboa
Doca Alcântara, 1350 Lisboa, Portugal

If you’re a fan of a restaurant overlooking a bridge (much like the golden gate bridge in San Francisco) amid a beautiful viewpoint of the marina at the Alcantara docks than this should be your go-to spot. Not only does it offer sweeping views of boats and yachts, but it serves some of the best seafood around. Opt for the grilled sea bass, it’s to die for – just watch out for the bones. For desert, let the glasses of Portugal’s famous port flow alongside platters of pastries.

Do:

Start at the Port of Lisbon for a day of adventures and walk through the colourful streets and alleys. Grab a bite to eat at the oldest restaurant in Lisbon, Café Restaurante Martinho Da Arcada for a real cultural taste of the city.

Take the metro to Belem and visit the Torre de Uclem, a fortified tower that is a symbol of Lisbon and a UNESCO world monument. Dip a toe into the cultural commercial square (read: Praca do Comercio) and visit the Jeronimos Monastery and the Maritime Museum for a good dose of history.

Next, catch a tuk-tuk back and towards the Alfama Portas do Sol, which is the oldest Moorish district in Lisbon. Stop at a charming shop called Ai Maria for a shot of Ginja, a Portuguese liqueur made by infusing ginja berries in a chocolate cup.  Tour around the Alfama district for a wide breadth of culture amid the narrow, old cobblestone streets and whitewashed houses surrounding. Afterwards, hop back on the tuk-tuk where your friendly tour guide will take you to the best lookout point in the city at the Miradouro de Santa Luzia monument. Snap a selfie while you’re at it.

You can’t visit Lisbon without checking out Sintra and its multitude of beautiful, breathtaking palaces and castles. If you’re in shape and wanting to get a workout, hike up to the Pena Palace in Lisbon, or for those wanting to save their calves, catch a bus to the top. This hike is not for the faint of heart though, but the ascent is worth it for the tour at the top. The Pena Palace is engulfed in bright oranges, yellows and blue tiles, one of the prettiest palaces you could ever lay your eyes on. While in Sintra, visit the Quinta de Regaleira castle, which, while it isn’t decorated in bright colours like Pena, it makes up for in intricate gothic renaissance styles.

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, so there is great shopping around; it’s a mixture between the designer retailer stores and local Portuguese shops too. I even picked up my Dior sunglasses at the Dior store in town.

Algarve:

Drive to Carvoeiro, in the Algarve region. This region is the utmost southern part of the country’s coastline. The Algarve should definitely be on your list as it has much to offer, think the famous orange cliffs, caves, lagoons and the bluest water there is. There is much to explore while you’re here and it’s a great place to get some well deserved R&R.

Stay:

Tivoli Hotels Carvoeiro
Vale do Covo, Praia do Carvoeiro, 8401-911 Carvoeiro, Lagoa, Portugal

This hotel has the best view money can buy, with a pool situated right in front of the ocean and the stunning rugged caves. Spend a day by the water and walk down to the village for dinner.

Savour:

Restaurante Villa Medici
Estr. do Farol 90, 8400-505 Carvoeiro, Portugal

Just a few minutes away from the hotel, take a trek down to the village and go for the best Italian in Portugal at Villa Medici. For appetizers, opt for the garlic pizza, yes it’s a thing and it’s fabulous.

Do: Drive up to Cape St. Vincent, next to the Sagres Point, in Algarve, southern Portugal where you will find a handful of surfers descending the steps of the cliffs to the water. This place isn’t a huge tourist trap, and should definitely be on your list. The Romans liked it too as they used to think of it as the “End of the World’ because they considered it a magical place where the sunset was much larger than anywhere else, and because it’s the south-western most part of Portugal closest to Africa. The view is as far as the eye can see, with rocky cliffs just below you and the bright turquoise blue ocean, there is really no place like it.

Leave early and drive to Evora, one of the hottest cities in Europe, get some culture in and visit the Igreja de São Francisco, one of the most prominent Gothic monuments in Portugal. This cathedral is gilded in gold, and intricate woodwork, covering almost the entire church; it’s considered one of the most outstanding of Portugal. Next, walk over to the Chapel of Bones, where yes, you guessed it, the interior walls are covered with human skulls and bones. There is a message waiting for you upon arrival (“We bones that here are, for yours await”). Pretty crazy, cool too.

After a long day out exploring, drive to Cascais, Europe’s version of the Hampton’s. What was once a sleepy fishing village, Cascais is now a bustling beach town.

Stay: Fortaleza de Guincho

Change things up and stay at a fort, well, in my opinion, what was really a castle. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing spot right on the beach with the sounds of crashing waves, or a quiet place to get some work done, this is the place to stay. Boasting views of the waves crashing on the shore, and the rugged rocks below, Fortaleza de Guincho presents a true European experience. With suites outfitted in gilded wooden décor, round rustic doors, and sprawling bedrooms with embroidered drapes there is not much else you need. The bathrooms are even enriched in the original Portuguese blue tile, complete with Hermès products, proving this is the place to be when you’re in need of a beach oasis.

Savour: Fortaleza de Guincho Restaurant

Stay in the hotel for dinner and eat at the world-renowned restaurant where you will find the best fish and seafood from the Portuguese coast as well as the highest quality of service, with a Michelin 1*. This isn’t a fast dining restaurant, this is all about the experience, with a philosophy based and inspired by the Atlantic, you get the true feel for the Portuguese cuisine. Opt for the Sea Bream, a delectable white fish served with fennel and barley, and try the Memories of my Childhood for dessert, served with plums, chocolate, and edible flowers.

See you next time, Portugal!

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Sleep Here: 10 Mediterranean Hotels

Soleil… sol… ilios… sole… sunce.

No matter the language, you’ll find sunshine and sea views in abundance on the Mediterranean.

From coastal Spain to Croatia, we have the ideal villa, casita or cluster of ancient caves for the ultimate sun-kissed retreat.

Sleep Here: 10 Mediterranean Hotels

Hoppen and Jumpin’
Murmuri Hotel: Barcelona, Spain

Located in the upscale Eixample district on the busy promenade of Rambla de Catalunya, Barcelona boutique hotel Murmuri is a place to see and be seen. All understated elegance – interiors have been designed by British style maven Kelly Hoppen – and quiet intimacy, it hits the right notes for well-heeled locals and visitors alike.

Sleep Here: 10 Mediterranean Hotels

Neutral, Natural, Nautical
Villa Dubrovnik: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Villa Dubrovnik is Croatian through and through: built from grey Brac stone, styled by two local designers, and boasting Adriatic views that a seagull would migrate for. Days here are idled away at the flower-flanked outdoor pool, serene spa and ambitious Mediterranean restaurant that’s worthy of a Michelin star.

Sleep Here: 10 Mediterranean HotelsGaudí-contoured Caves
Perivolas: Santorini, Greece

Santorini hotel Perivolas marries stunning scenery with a handsome hunk of history. An alluringly renovated cluster of 300 year-old caves, once the homes, wineries and stables of fishermen and farmers, is now 17 private houses that hug the edge of a cliff overlooking the brilliantly blue Aegean horizon.

Sleep Here: 10 Mediterranean Hotels

Art-graced Guesthouse
Locanda al Colle: Versilia, Italy

Locanda al Colle hotel, an art-filled guesthouse set in a Tuscan olive grove in Versilia, combines the best aspects of home and hotel and welcomes guests like old friends. Candlelit dinner parties replace run-of-the mill room service on these gorgeous grounds lush with leafy gardens and an inviting outdoor pool. You won’t miss the TVs, replaced by Cubist art, big reading chairs, and views out to the sea. 

Sleep Here: 10 Mediterranean Hotels

Minimalist Shore-side Luxury
Anemi Hotel: Folegandros, Greece

The buildings of the all-white Anemi Hotel on Folegandros look, from a distance, like giant sugar cubes overlooking the turquoise Aegean. And, once you get up close, this Greek-island getaway guarantees a stay as stylish as the views are stunning.

Sleep Here: 10 Mediterranean HotelsSnow-white Sun Trap
JK Place Capri: Capri, Italy

Sweet scents waft around olive and lemon trees in huge pots outside JK Place Capri, a Fellini movie in hotel form, that’s far away enough from the buzz and night-life noise, yet somehow still managing to feel in the thick of things. This gleaming white, shore-side hotel is the kind of place you want to re-book as soon as you leave.

Sleep Here: 10 Mediterranean HotelsThe White House
Avaton Resort & Spa: Santorini, Greece

If we were doctors, we’d prescribe a stay at Santorini’s Avaton Resort & Spa: its white minimalism will calm you, its sea views will soothe you, and its spa and restaurant will indulge you, and its sea-and-caldera views will mesmerise you.

Sleep Here: 10 Mediterranean HotelsVerdant Village
Kapsaliana Village Hotel: Crete, Greece

Kapsaliana Village Hotel’s history-steeped settlement, set in the island’s largest olive grove, has an 18th-century olive press and its own museum. The original press and pitharia (clay storage vessels) can still be admired and there’s a homely restaurant and a flower-flanked outdoor pool. Rooms are soothingly simple: stone interiors and arches.

Sleep Here: 10 Mediterranean HotelsSparkling Boho Hangout
San Giorgio Mykonos: Mykonos, Greece

Housed in a cluster of white-washed stone buildings overlooking the Aegean Sea, boutique hotel San Giorgio Mykonos is a pared-down retreat for island hedonists. Flop in a hammock by the pool, explore the rocky shores of the private beach, then dance the night away under the starry skies – crashing in San Giorgio’s sleek boho rooms will feel like coming home.

Sleep Here: 10 Mediterranean Hotels

Med à la Mode
Cavo Tagoo: Mykonos, Greece

Ingeniously engineered into the cliff-side, Cavo Tagoo is a multi-pooled paradise of a boutique hotel, minutes from Mykonos Town in the Aegean Islands. Spacious and contemporary, this luxury getaway offers five-star spa pampering, peaceful privacy and Jacuzzis for all.