Skimbaco Lifestyle | online magazine » SKIMBACO TRAVEL http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com Skimbaco Lifestyle, online magazine inspiring you to live life to the fullest. Travel, home, food, fashion, family. Thu, 25 Dec 2014 16:23:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Christmas in New York City: the Holiday Markets, Best Show & Window Shoppinghttp://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/christmas-in-new-york-city.html http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/christmas-in-new-york-city.html#respond Wed, 24 Dec 2014 03:30:12 +0000 http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com?p=43358&preview_id=43358
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Christmas in New York City by @skimbaco

Christmas around the world

What an amazing ending for our year: we got to spend the Holiday season first in Paris, and from there we flew to New York City, right on time for the Christmas markets and Christmas shopping. I know I have written about my favorite NYC Christmas spots before, and many of you also live in the city, so there is nothing new to you… However, I couldn’t resist to list a few of my favorite Christmas-things in the city and share some of the pictures from our stay in the Big Apple, the city I love.

Where are you spending the Holidays? Share on Instagram with #skimbaco or #skimbacoholidays hashtag and make sure to follow me, I’m Skimbaco on Instagram.

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5th Avenue Shopping and Christmas Windows

Because who am I kidding here…? Hello, 5th Avenue!

Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas windows 2014

I am actually not just talking about the actual shopping, but also window shopping and admiring all of the 5th Avenue Christmas windows!

Sleeping Beauty at the Saks Christmas window

Saks Fifth Avenue’s theme for this year is “Enchanted Experience”. Most of the window’s are set in classic fairy tales, retold in Art Deco style with New York City vibe with iconic NYC’s locations as the backdrop.

Red Riding Hood at the Saks Christmas window

From Red Riding Hood to Snow White – every girl’s favorite fairytale characters are in gowns at the Saks windows.

snow-white-christmas-window-saks
One of my favorites was Snow White asking which NYC street food was the safest to eat… and the poison apples in a food cart.

poison-apples-as-Nyc-street-food

And I loved the Cinderella window saying “once upon a time in New York… Cinderella fell madly in love with a pair of designer shoes.”

Once upon a time in New York... Cinderella fell madly in love with a pair of designer shoes.

bergdorf-goodman-christmas-windows

My other favorite was Bergdorf Goodman’s Christmas windows. They were designed by David Hoey with an “Inspiration” theme. Each window is dedicated to one of the arts, such as dance, literary and music.

Dance themed window at the Berdorf Goodman.

Dance themed window featured a ballet dancer.

bergdorf-goodman-music-window

The music themed window reminded me of ABBA.

bergdorf-goodman-arts-christmas-window

There were also several smaller “peak in” windows, like this one dedicated to cartography.

literature-themed-window

The bold red literature window was one of my favorites.

bergdorf-goodman-arts-themed-christmas-window-display

… but all of them were simply stunning.

arts-themed-christmas-windows

Christmas markets: Winter Village in Bryant Park

New York City has several Christmas markets, and we went to three of them on our stay. I love the vibe at the Bryant Park Winter Village. Skating ring dominates the scene, giving the Winter Village Christmas market immediately the wintery feel – regardless if there is snow or not. The skating is free if you bring your own skates – rentals are a whopping $19.

ice-skating-at-bryant-park-citi-pond

The rest of the park is full of small Christmas shops, and a few booths also selling seasonal foods. The Celcius bar is your best place for lunch or dinner, or the permanent restaurants in the park.

crepes-with-nutella

For our surprise, we were able to even find crepes with Nutella – our Parisian favorite.

christmas-shop-in-bryant-park

The shops sell handmade items, like jewelry, wooden toys and gift items, accessories, and handmade soaps.

jewelry at the Bryant Park Christmas market

Opening hours:
October 21, 2014 – January 4, 2015
Monday – Friday: 11am – 8pm
Saturday: 10am – 9pm
Sunday: 10am – 6pm

Christmas market in Bryant Park NYC

Columbus Circle Holiday Market

The Columbus Circle Holiday Market is right on the Southwest corner of Central Park, and I would have loved it on a sunny day, or even a cold day… but it was raining on the day we visited, and it cut our visit short. I also don’t have as many photos from the market, but I do want to mention two designers I found there.

headbands-designer

One of our favorite finds was Avigail Adam’s hair accessories.

avigail-adam-hair-accessories

The headbands are gorgeous, and my daughter Isabella got one for her, and she loves it.

avigail-adam-hair-accessories-photos

Another favorite designer found at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market is Marc Bernstein.

marc-bernstein-artist-new-york-city

His jewelry has a cool pirate/world travel theme that I really liked.

Marc Bernstein New York Jewelry

Marc Bernstein bracelet

The Columbus Circle Holiday Market closes on Christmas Eve.

Grand Central Terminal Holiday Fair

Grand Central Terminal in New York City

Also the Grand Central Holiday Fair already closes on Christmas Eve, but it is one of the Christmas markets to put on your favorite list for the next year. This year was actually my first time visiting, and I loved it for so many reasons. First of, it was inside the historic train terminal, and indoors, away from the rainy weather. Secondly, there were so many local New York-artisans with their booths, that I felt it had the most “New York”-feel.

Claudia Pearson gift shop

Claudia Perason’s tea towels and other printed products had a great Brooklyn vibe.

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I hope Santa shops here, the toy collection was pretty awesome.

hand-crafted-post-cards

My absolute favorite was the Verrier Boutique with the travel, New York City and fashion themed prints.

bad day in new york city is still better than good day anywhere else

Favorite Christmas Show: Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at the Radio City Music Hall

radio city music hall

Last but not the least: a New York City Christmas tradition that I love: the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at the Radio City Music Hall

Rockettes Christmas Spectacular

Nutcracker is great too, but there are parts of Nutcracker in this show too, and the Rockettes just say “New York” to me, and it is my favorite show, year after year.

PS. There is still time to get your Rockettes tickets and they are running a buy one, get one ticket sale on select seats and performances, 2 tix min, 8 tix max. Expires 12/31/14. USE CODE: DEC3WEB

radio city music hall santa clus

This was our Christmas time adventure in New York City, now I’m wishing you Merry Christmas from our new home in upstate New York!

Christmas in New York City

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

Let’s connect!

More Christmas around the world on my Pinterest board.
Follow Skimbacolifestyle.com’s board Christmas around the world on Pinterest.

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Holidays: A Southern Christmas in Savannah, Georgiahttp://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/holidays-a-southern-christmas-in-savannah-georgia.html http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/holidays-a-southern-christmas-in-savannah-georgia.html#respond Tue, 23 Dec 2014 18:19:56 +0000 http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com?p=43343&preview_id=43343
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 Christmas in Savannah, Georgia. A look at the decor.

As we reflect on our travels in 2014 on Skimbaco Lifestyle, Savannah Georgia was a highlight for me this year. It has charm, history, great food, and beautiful architecture. Savannah is one of those places that as soon as you depart then you are ready to go back for another visit. During my quick stay in the city, I was a guest of Savannah Lodging in the historic district. These beautiful holiday photos are courtesy of them, especially for us. They snapped scenes throughout the town so we could share them with you.  Some of the same picturesque spots that I spotted on my travels are now decked out for the holidays.

Homes decorated for Christmas in Savannah, GA

Happy Holidays from all of us at Skimbaco!

Beautifully decorated homes during the holidays in Savannah, Ga

 

Beautiful Savannah, GA during the holidays

Store fronts in Savannah, GA for the holidays

Festive Savannah, Ga at Christmas

Where Skimbaco Lifestyle Stayed in Savannah:

My family checked into the Holiday Express Historic District in Savannah, Georgia. It was built with the charm of the city in mind, and provided our family with a boutique experience in a fabulous location. Because this is a limited-service property with no full-service restaurant on site, it can provide families with an upscale experience at a lower price point. Rates are below $200 per night. Complimentary breakfast is included with your stay. Parking costs extra.

Holidays Inn Express Historic District has great location.

Photos taken by Savannah Lodging, especially for Skimbaco Lifestyle.

Post by Leigh Hines

Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

“I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.” Leigh Hines of Hines Sight Blog

Let’s connect

Visit Leigh Hines of Hinessightblog.com’s profile on Pinterest.

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Food Adventure at the Christmas Market in Paris (and what not to do!)http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/food-adventure-at-the-christmas-market-in-paris-and-what-not-to-do.html http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/food-adventure-at-the-christmas-market-in-paris-and-what-not-to-do.html#respond Mon, 22 Dec 2014 22:14:25 +0000 http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com?p=43290&preview_id=43290
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We will always have Paris. Photo by Katja Presnal @skimbaco

“We will always have Paris.”
The famous movie line from the movie Casablanca. The line I have been thinking a lot the past week. I can’t believe I was in Paris just a few weeks ago, so much has happened since. We have arrived back in the USA, and are planning on buying a house, something we haven’t done (or owned) in the past almost ten years. As we are calculating mortgage payments, looking at kitchen cabinets and tile samples for bathroom floors, all I can think – what if we can’t travel as much as the house and its renovations will suck us in…? I anticipated this feeling, but I did hope it would take longer than two weeks to surface. Luckily we did end our three years in Europe with a bang – with a trip to Paris to say goodbye to Europe, to celebrate our family, and to spend time in between the moving out of Sweden, and moving back to New York. And to already celebrate Christmas, although we arrived in Paris on Thanksgiving.

So, what did our family do to find Christmas spirit in Paris? Come along for the food photo tour.

It's all about the food, about that food.

It’s all about the food, about that food.

The Avenue des Champs-Elysées Christmas Market

The Christmas market in the Avenue des Champs-Elysées is the largest Christmas market in Paris, and it was partially one of the most luxurious Christmas markets we have ever been to, but at the same time, the Christmas market where we saw the most China-made merchandise for sale. I guess you could say that the market had everything to offer from cheaply made gift ideas to champagne.

Champs-Elysées Christmas lights in Paris.

Champs-Elysées Christmas lights in Paris.

The market has an artisan market Village des Artisans d’Art as well for handmade items, and some of them were great, but even the artisan village section was nothing to compared to some of the other European Christmas markets (or even New York Christmas markets) where we have visited. However, a couple of sellers impressed me.

I loved these vintage clocks made into souvenir art.

I loved these vintage clocks made into souvenir art.

What about this Alice in Wonderland clock? Love it!

What about this Alice in Wonderland clock? Love it!

Basket made out of pine cones!

Basket made out of pine cones!

Handmade jewelry!

Handmade jewelry!

Glass artist at work at the artisan market.

Glass artist at work at the artisan market.

You really just go there for food

The absolute best about the Champs-Elysées Christmas market was the Marché Gourmand, the food market. In all honesty, we ate some of the best Christmas market foods ever, anywhere!

Wine shop at the Paris Christmas market.

Wine shop at the Paris Christmas market.

Who am I kidding? We really went to the Christmas market just for the food. Our food market strategy is only buy one dish per stall, and divide in groups and then share it all among us five. That way we get to taste a little bit of everything. It takes longer time because you need to wait on each food stall, but we love it!

Oyester sellers at the Champs-Elysées Christmas market in Paris

Oyester sellers at the Champs-Elysées Christmas market in Paris

You will not find an oyster bar in every Christmas market, but at Champs-Elysées you do.

Take away champagne at the Champs-Elysées Christmas market in Paris.

Take away champagne at the Champs-Elysées Christmas market in Paris.

You can choose whether to sit your champagne at the champagne bar, or just take it home with you.

Champagne at the Christmas market.

Champagne at the Christmas market.

You can’t leave the Paris Christmas market without eating potatoes in one form! And with so many different options available (hashed potatoes, potato gratin, baked potatoes…), I recommend skipping the French fries, and tasting something more French, and tastier. We really liked the potato gratin with goat cheese.

Potato dish in the making.

Potato dish in the making.

Potato gratin with goat cheese at the Champs-Elysées Christmas market in Paris

Potato gratin with goat cheese at the Champs-Elysées Christmas market in Paris

Even in Paris you can enjoy German bratwurst!

Even in Paris you can enjoy German bratwurst!

Loved finding my favorite German Glühwine too!

Loved finding my favorite German Glühwein, mulled wine, too!

Churros!!

Churros!!

Moricettes!

Moricettes!

Pretzels!

Pretzels!

Salmon from Norway!

Salmon from Norway!

Hungry yet?

Not making it for Christmas time?

Paris Christmas market

The Christmas Market on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées is open from November 14th, 2014 through January 4th, 2015 at the Avenue des Champs-Elysées to the Place de la Concorde.

marron-chaud-paris-nuts

If you miss the Christmas market on your trip to Paris, no worries, plenty of great sights to see, and amazing street foods to find.

Crepes on bicycle!

Crepes on bicycle!

What about finding American Holiday dinner in Paris?

We sort of broke our own rule of not eating anything but local cuisine when we walked by an American style diner, Breakfast in America, in Le Marais and saw the “pilgrim’s platter.”

Thanksgiving dinner in Paris

We hadn’t spent Thanksgiving in the USA for three years, and thought it had to be a sign that we accidentally walked by an American diner in Paris on Thanksgiving, and decided to give their turkey-dinner a try.

American Breakfast diner in Paris

Their menu looked like pretty solid American food, and the online reviews of the place were positive too. But we shall not try finding another American Holiday meal in France again, it was the worst turkey-dinner we’ve ever had!

Don't try to find an American Holiday meal in Paris.

Don’t try to find an American Holiday meal in Paris.

The next time we visit Paris on a Holiday, we will just stick to the local cuisine, and I recommend the same for you! Although… the place was packed, and their hamburgers and shakes got us jealous when eating our chicken-tasting turkey dinner. Maybe just skip the turkey, there is no place like home for that.

breakfast-in-america

Happy Holidays to you and your family! Share where you are spending the Holidays with #skimbacoholidays on Instagram.

Christmas lights in Paris

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

Let’s connect!

Visit Skimbaco Lifestyle (Skimbacolifestyle.com)’s profile on Pinterest.

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Holiday Must-See: A Very Green Christmas Tree at Ritz-Carlton Charlottehttp://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/holiday-must-see-a-very-green-christmas-tree-at-ritz-carlton-charlotte.html http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/holiday-must-see-a-very-green-christmas-tree-at-ritz-carlton-charlotte.html#respond Mon, 22 Dec 2014 11:55:31 +0000 http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com?p=43275&preview_id=43275
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Ritz Carlton Green Christmas Tree. 17 feet tall and made of 789 recycled/recyclable green plastic bottles.

The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte is one of the U.S’s top green hotels. This holiday, the hotel paid tribute to its green roots by creating the very first-environmentally friendly Christmas tree in Charlotte, N.C. This tree, located in the hotel’s Bar Cocoa, is 17 feet toward the sky, constructed of 789 recycled/recyclable green plastic bottles. The LEED® Gold-certified Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte is the city’s only such eco-designated property, and the recycled bottle tree represents both a fond farewell to those enjoying the hotel’s Holiday Sweet Scenes and a joyous salute to the treasured surrounding environment.

The public is invited to view Holiday Sweet Scenes at The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily, continuing through December 28, 2014.

Read more about the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte on our website.

Post by Leigh Hines

Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

“I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.” Leigh Hines of Hines Sight Blog

Let’s connect

Visit Leigh Hines of Hinessightblog.com’s profile on Pinterest.

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Top Exotic, Cultural, Culinary and Adventure Destinations for 2015http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/top-exotic-cultural-culinary-and-adventure-destinations-for-2015.html http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/top-exotic-cultural-culinary-and-adventure-destinations-for-2015.html#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 20:51:29 +0000 http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com?p=43101&preview_id=43101
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15+ Travel destinations where to travel in 2015

I have officially moved back to the United States after living in Sweden for three years, and after traveling more in Europe. Expedia Viewfinder asked some of my favorite travel destinations, and it’s a great time to look back at some of my travels, and rank some of my favorite destinations. Hopefully they will give you some ideas where to plan your next trip in 2015. I visited 20 countries the last 3 years, and I have a few new favorite locations that I hope to go back one day, and several favorite destinations that I have now visited multiple times.

italy-fiat

Apulia region in Italy

Apulia region, or Puglia as the Italians say, is the heel of the boot of Italy, and one of the maybe lesser known parts of the country. And that’s good for you. You can find the coastal beaches & fishing villages, wine and olive region and historical sites and culture without the long tourist lines everywhere.

Take a road trip through the coast of Italy's heel, Apulia.

Take a road trip through the coast of Italy’s heel, Apulia.

Some of the coastal roads made me feel like I was riding on the coast of France in Nice or Monaco, and at times I felt like I was in Greece surrounded by white washed houses with blue windows – the area has a very strong Greek influence. The city of Lecce is referred as the Florence of Apulia because of the amount of historical monuments, and it’s cultural offerings.

Artist singing in Apulia region in Italy.

Artist singing in Apulia region in Italy.

One of the most unique cultural experiences in Apulia is seeing a Tarantella dance performance. I love the folk music of Puglia, seeing a local dancer to dance the empowering trans-like Tarantella is a performance you will never forget.

Naturalis Bio Resort in Apulia, Italy

Naturalis Bio Resort in Apulia, Italy


My favorite place to stay in Apulia region is at the Naturalis Bio Resort & Spa in the countryside just outside Lecce.

Bali island, Indonesia

Souveniers at Ubud markets in Bali

Souveniers at Ubud markets in Bali

Bali is a trendy exotic island destination, and there is a good reason: it is amazing. Your Bali experience can be very different regarding where on the island you stay. Ubud is known for yoga retreats, temples and fun shopping in the busy markets of the scenic city surrounded by rice fields. You can find inexpensive vacation villas, and experience Bali like in the movie Eat, Pray, Love.

Bring home a skill: learn to cook Balinese food.

Bring home a skill: learn to cook Balinese food.

If you especially like the “eat”-part, I recommend taking cooking classes with Anika Guest House in Kuta. Seminyak is a chic beach resort town with luxury shopping and gourmet restaurants. If you want the luxury surfing experience, head to chic W Retreat & Spa in Seminyak, where you have also direct access to surfing the waves of the ocean.

The W is a chic beach resort in Seminyak.

The W is a chic beach resort in Seminyak.

Before sunset head to Jimbaran beach to enjoy the best BBQ seafood as you watch the sun setting over the ocean. If you are looking for the ultimate luxury exotic destination, head to St. Regis Bali in Nusa Dua.

Ultimate luxury: stay at the Strand Villa at the St. Regis Bali and you'll have your private pool.

Ultimate luxury: stay at the Strand Villa at the St. Regis Bali and you’ll have your private pool.

Copenhagen, Denmark

All Nordic capitals are in my list (although I have never visited Oslo), but Copenhagen makes on the top of my list because if you want to experience Central Europe and Scandinavia, you can go to Copenhagen and sort of experience them both. Copenhagen has the most international feel out of the Nordic capitals with its ethnic neighborhoods.

Biking in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Biking in Copenhagen, Denmark.

It’s also in Copenhagen where you have bicycles in quantities like in Amsterdam. Yet Copenhagen is unmistakably Scandinavian city with it’s innovative Scandinavian modern architecture. I visited the 8tallet apartment complex just outside city center to see how Danish see the future (well, today for them!) of living in the 8-shaped apartment complex with biking paths leading on the side of the building all the way to the top floor apartments.

8tallet apartment complex in Copenhagen is a great example of Danish modern architecture.

8tallet apartment complex in Copenhagen is a great example of Danish modern architecture.

Besides design, Copenhagen, of course, is nowadays famous for the world’s best restaurant, Noma, and the local food movement they started. New Danish food in deed is more than the traditional open faced sandwiches (and even they are good!).

When in Copenhagen, visit many of the museums like Carlsberg’s Glyptotek and Lousiana Museum of Modern Art. For thrilling rides, visit the oldest amusement park in the world, the Bakken, opened in 1583, just outside the city, or my favorite the Tivoli Gardens right in the city center of Copenhagen, and also brings the old world amusement park charm (even if you are not an amusement park type of a person), as it was also already opened in 1843.

Yes - this is from Denmark! Epcot isn't the first amusement park with world case, Tivoli Gardens takes you around the world in Copenhagen.

Yes – this is from Denmark! Epcot isn’t the first amusement park with world case, Tivoli Gardens takes you around the world in Copenhagen.

Durango, Telluride and Silverton in Southwest Colorado

Did you know Skimbaco was founded in Durango, Colorado? And that “skimba” is a Finnish slang word for skis/skiing and CO in Skimbaco stands for Colorado? Now you do.

Telluride Ski Area, Colorado
Image courtesy of Tourism Media

I love the Southwestern corner of Colorado, and I highly recommend visiting the area, any time of the year. Purgatory ski resort in Durango is great for families, all of our children learned to ski there, but Telluride is maybe a nicer ski experience, because you can stay right on the mountain/resort and the downtown Telluride is a smaller cute village right next to the ski resort.

Telluride Ski Area, Colorado
Image courtesy of Tourism Media

In Durango the Main Street is a bit of a drive from the ski resort, but equally cute with Wild West-feel. It’s easy to say that skiing is amazing at ten thousand feet on the most gorgeous mountains I’ve ever seen, but summer and autumn are equally pretty.

Photo by DurangoTrain.com

Photo by DurangoTrain.com

You can take the old Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and see the amazing mountain views from the train – kids love this experience.

Erg Chegaga Luxury Desert Camp in Sahara desert, Morocco

Sleeping in a tent in Sahara desert is one of the most adventurous things I have ever done. And even that was in a luxury tent with its own bathroom!

The restaurant tent at the Erg Chegaga Luxury Desert Camp in Sahara desert, Morocco

The restaurant tent at the Erg Chegaga Luxury Desert Camp in Sahara desert, Morocco

Incredible experience: the feeling of being in the middle of sand dunes in the desert, listening the sand storm to blow right outside your tent (and inside too, I had two handfuls of sand on my pillow on the morning when I woke up) in the darkness of Sahara, far away from anything. I have never seen stars so bright, nor never been afraid before that something exotic will take a bite out of me while I am sleeping. With “something exotic” I mean bugs. Big bugs.

We climbed up on the sand dunes to watch the sunset over Sahara.

We climbed up on the sand dunes to watch the sunset over Sahara.

Ironically it was sleeping that was the scariest in Sahara… but the real adventure still was the riding camels alongside the sand dunes and watching the sunset over the desert.

Talk about exotic excursions: riding camels in Sahara at sunset.

Talk about exotic excursions: riding camels in Sahara at sunset.

When traveling to Sahara, I highly recommend going with a reputable company and doing your research well. I was glamping with Sahara-Experience, and I recommend them highly.

Marrakech, Morocco

Also Marrakech in Morocco is probably one of those destinations where you really have to know where to go and look. At least that’s how I felt when walking through the busy streets with more alley cats than pigeons in a park, and then opened doors to inner courtyards of the most amazing riads, that you could have never guessed what amazing luxuries to find behind the doors.

Riads in Marrakech are stunning.

Riads in Marrakech are stunning.

Marrakech is a place for design and fashion inspiration, and it is easy to have a sensory overload of the colors, prints and scents of Marrakech. You will come back home inspired – and maybe suitcases full of souvenirs bought from the souks, the street markets, of Marrakech.

Yves Saint Laurent owned Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech and I can why he was so inspired there.

Yves Saint Laurent owned Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech and I can why he was so inspired there.

Even famous designers like Yves Saint Laurent got their inspiration in Marrakech, and in fact, he bought the Jardin Majorelle gardens in 1980 for a place to reside and design.

Amanda Mouttaki of Marocmama showed us authentic Moroccan culinary delights.

Amanda Mouttaki of Marocmama showed us authentic Moroccan culinary delights.

For the best local culinary experience, book a food tour with Amanda Mouttaki of Marocmama. According to Amanda, the tourist food in Marrakech can be very different from the authentic Moroccan food that locals eat, and she can introduce you to the best authentic foods. She also helped me to buy spices to take with me home from the souk – I still haven’t mastered the skill of haggling. Oh, and whatever you do, two drinks you have to try in Marrakech: mint tea and orange juice. Trust me on this one!

Madeira island, Portugal

I admit, I sort of thought Madeira would be Portugal’s version of Spain’s Tenerife Island, full of beach-loving tourists and everything catered for them. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The cliffs on Madeira are stunning.

The cliffs on Madeira are stunning.

Madeira and it’s capital city Funchal were one of my biggest positive surprises this year, and Madeira is so much more than a beach destination. The enormous cliffs on the island in fact were much more impressive than any of the beaches I saw. If cliff climbing isn’t for you… you will get the adventure by hiking to mountain top of Pico do Arieiro (or just take a bus up to see the views).

Great hike: walk by the levadas of Madeira. Not for those who are afraid of heights.

Great hike: walk by the levadas of Madeira. Not for those who are afraid of heights.

Or on the other side of Funchal, you can enjoy nature by hiking the miles and miles of mini-canals on the mountain side gardens. The mini-canals are man-made irrigation systems called levadas, and there are more than 1,350 miles (2,170 km) of levadas on Madeira.

The wicker toboggan sled drivers waiting for you to sit in and enjoy the ride.

The wicker toboggan sled drivers waiting for you to sit in and enjoy the ride.

Or take the Monte Cable Car up, and the local “taxi” – the wicker toboggan sled ride down the hill.

Porto Mare Hotel by Porto Bay Hotels has plenty of options for relaxing, including a spa.

Porto Mare Hotel by Porto Bay Hotels has plenty of options for relaxing, including a spa.

I recommend staying at one of the Porto Bay Hotels, they offer a nice luxury experience for affordable prices. The best time to go is when they host the annual Rota das Estrelas Gourmet Festival where Michelin star chefs from around Portugal and the world come and cook for days for you to enjoy.

Nova Scotia, Canada

Head to Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, the Canadian province on the Atlantic coast of Canada, and after you’ve spent a day or three visiting the Maritime Museum, the Titanic Cemetery, and perhaps taking a boat tour, rent a car and head outside the town.

Peggys Cove, Nova Scotia

Peggys Cove, Nova Scotia

There is so much to see in Nova Scotia, for example the Peggys Cove lighthouse is a sight to see and makes a perfect day trip from Halifax, or I recommend continuing the drive to coastal towns of Mahone Bay and to Lunenburg, an Unesco heritage town with cute bright colored Victorian buildings.

Sailboats in Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia

Sailboats in Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia

This came as a surprise to me, but Nova Scotia also has several golf courses and wineries, and it would make an interesting choice for a golf and wine trip. I personally love the coastal lifestyle in Nova Scotia, and find the Titanic stories and history intriguing – and of course, can’t get enough of the seafood chowder, lobster rolls and blueberry-everything in the region.

Sailboat in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada

Sailboat in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada

Park City, Utah

They say the best snow is in Utah, and they are right. It might be just the tourism board of Utah, but regardless, I am sold. Park City has an amazing winter mountain village view with their Main Street full of small Western shops and restaurants, on a walking/skiing distance of Park City Mountain Resort ski area, where locals and tourists alike gather. Salt Lake City (with its international airport) is right around the corner making Park City also a very easily accessible ski spot. With several different ski resorts, Park City has something for everyone.

Park City and Canyons will be connected in 2015 creating the largest resort in the United States.

Park City and Canyons will be connected in 2015 creating the largest resort in the United States.

You will not even need to choose between Park City Mountain Resort and the Canyons anymore – they teamed up and are creating the largest resort in the United States with 7,300 acres of skiable terrain! But that’s not all: their incredible future plan includes more than $50 million worth of resort improvements that include a new gondola, a new restaurant, new chairlifts and a range of other improvements that will transform the skiing and riding experience in Park City. Park City was already my favorite place to ski, and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.

Silver Star vacation rentals in Park City are my favorite place to stay and ski.

Silver Star vacation rentals in Park City are my favorite place to stay and ski.

My absolutely favorite place to stay in Park City is staying at the Silver Star vacation rentals by Resorts West, their ski lodges and rentals are luxury retreats! There is also St. Regis in Deer Valley and the Canyons Resort is also a wonderful resort to stay in.

Rovaniemi in Lapland Finland

If you are looking for the ultimate Northern experience, head to Lapland, the Northern part of Finland in the middle of the winter. The autumn colors are great too, and the completely nightless nights of summer are equally exotic, but there is nothing like the winter magic of Lapland.

This is as high as it gets! And yes, I mean the sun during winters in Lapland.

This is as high as it gets! And yes, I mean the sun during winters in Lapland.

The quietness and cold wraps around you (although snow squeaks under your shoes in the minus thirty degree weather, minus thirty Fahrenheit), and the sun is so low in the midday that you feel you could touch it, and poof it disappears leaving only a few minutes of day light. On the cold evenings it’s lovely to cozy up in a cottage and go to authentic Finnish sauna to enjoy the heat. For the ultimate experience you will also go and make angels in the snow – directly from hot sauna to cold snow outside, naked of course.

Luxury cottage and sauna in Lapland.

Luxury cottage and sauna in Lapland.

Rovaniemi has an international airport and is easy to access too, and the adventures await you right outside the city. Winter wonderland adventures include dog sledding, snow mobile-driving, reindeer safaris with Lapland Safaris, and staying in a mountain lodge or ice hotel on the Arctic Circle.

Santa Claus in Finland. The real one.

Santa Claus in Finland. The real one.

The visit to Lapland makes everyone believers, believers in Santa Claus, that is. You can visit him at Santa Park in Rovaniemi 364 days a year – he is busy traveling around the world the 365th.

Sri Lanka

I did a press trip to Sri Lanka with short visits to several towns, and unfortunately it’s impossible to limit to one town where to visit.

Morning moment at the Cinnamon Bey Hotel Beruwala in Sri Lanka.

Morning moment at the Cinnamon Bey Hotel Beruwala in Sri Lanka.

I enjoyed everything from sunrises at Beruwala beach to experiencing elephant gathering in the nature park in Kadulla to visiting the ancient city of Polonnaruwa to walking the streets of colonial town Galle – all experiences I would recommend.

Statues of Hindu Gods in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka.

Statues of Hindu Gods in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is an experience; my travel blogger friends called it “India light” – like India with exotic culture, nature and food but with less crowds and craziness. I have never been to India, so I can not comment on that. My experience of Sri Lanka was amazing, the people were friendly and helpful. The exotic authentic Sri Lankan culture is interesting and inspiring, and in addition I also got fascinated with the colonial history of Sri Lanka, especially in the city of Galle.

Experience the colonial past of Sri Lanka in Galle.

Experience the colonial past of Sri Lanka in Galle.

I see Sri Lanka as one of the top trendiest exotic locations to visit in the next 5 years, go there before everyone else does!

Up close with the elephants in wild at the Kadulla national park in Sri Lanka.

Up close with the elephants in wild at the Kadulla national park in Sri Lanka.

Sestriere and Piedmont region of Italy

Love skiing and Italian culture? Head to Sestriere in the province of Turin in the Piedmont region.

Taking a break from skiing and enjoying an espresso by the mountain in Sestriere.

Taking a break from skiing and enjoying a cappucino by the mountain in Sestriere.

The Winter Olympic games were held in Turin and the surrounding mountain area in 2006, and one of the Olympic Villages for athletes was in Sestriere. The mountain area consists of five different ski resorts which are all linked to each others and have 146 skiable pistes and they form the “Milky Way’ – Via Lattea – ski area of total of up to 400 km (249 miles) of trails.

With sunrises like this you want to be ready to ski Sestriere early on the morning!

With sunrises like this you want to be ready to ski Sestriere early on the morning!

You could spend a week or two trying to skis all of them, but I also recommend visiting the mountain villages like Bardonecchia and enjoy the Alpine winter wonderland the Italian way. The Sestriere ski resort is the oldest ski resort in Italy, and was founded by the owner of Fiat, as the Fiat headquarters are also close by in Turin. For Nutella-lovers… Nutella was invented in Alba in Piedmont, and you will find hazelnuts and chocolate in abundance in this area of Italy.

Italian slope-side style in Sestriere.

Italian slope-side style in Sestriere.

It’s only three-hour-drive from Milan to Sestriere, and maybe it’s the Milan’s influence, or Italy itself, but the area was also one of the most fashionable ski areas I have ever been to. Also the only place where I have seen ski-bunnies take the ski lift all the way to the top in high heels just to admire the view – and then the ski lift back down. The Italians sure know how to enjoy life – and how to look good when doing it.

Stockholm, Sweden

When Copenhagen is a great gateway to Nordic cities, Stockholm is as good as it gets.

Stockholm really is the best viewed on a boat.

Stockholm really is the best viewed on a boat.

Sweden has been a kingdom since prehistoric times, and Swedes will remind you of that too, in fact, everything is a little bit better in Stockholm, and while I say it semi-sarcastically (as any Finn would do), but it is true.
The Sturegallerian shopping mall has a champagne bar and a luxury spa Sturebadet inside, and the food market food in the Östermalm’s Saluhall includes caviars and oysters.

Drottningholm Palace just outside Stockholm, Sweden.

Drottningholm Palace just outside Stockholm, Sweden.

You can visit the numerous castles, in and outside the city, and see the past and present of the mighty Swedish kingdom. The Drottningholm Palace is Sweden’s best preserved royal palace constructed in the seventeenth century, the permanent residence of the royal family and one of Stockholm’s three World Heritage Sites. The gardens and the area around the palace are huge, and you can spend an entire day strolling in and about the palace.

Artipelag museum in Stockholm archipelago is a Scandinavian design experience not to miss.

Artipelag museum in Stockholm archipelago is a Scandinavian design experience not to miss.


Take a cruise around the archipelago, even just a brunch on a boat, or take a boat from city center to one of my favorite art gallery experiences in Stockholm: to Artipelago, where art and island nature meet. Stay at Hotel J at Nacka strand away from the city center to get the Stockholm sail club feel, or in the Grand Hôtel, the most luxurious hotel in Stockholm since 1874.

Stockholm, Sweden.

Stockholm, Sweden.

Coastal towns Turku, Porvoo, Helsinki and Naantali in Finland

You can’t make me choose one favorite coastal summer town in Finland, because you can’t really go wrong with any of my favorite towns. My dream would be to visit all of them by boat – but don’t worry if you can’t: the public transportation system in Finland is easy to use, you can visit all of these by bus if you can’t do a sailing or even a road trip by car.

I wish I was in Finland ... easy to say, it's just that awesome.

I wish I was in Finland … easy to say, it’s just that awesome.

Helsinki of course is the largest, and the capital, and it’s full of majestic architecture and great modern design museums like Kiasma. Find unique fashion shopping with stores like My o My, and Minna Parikka’s show shop right downtown, or head to Kallio for more hipster finds and for artisan products. Visiting Arabia ceramics factory is a must for design lovers, and for nature head to any of the larger parks or the Suomenlinna, the old fortress on an island just in the front of the city.

Summer experience in Finland isn't the same without a god summer cottage visit. This view is right outside Porvoo in the archipelago.

Summer experience in Finland isn’t the same without a god summer cottage visit. This view is right outside Porvoo in the archipelago.

Porvoo is an idyllic coastal town, less than an hour from Helsinki, and I highly recommend spending a day or two walking the old town, taking a boat to archipelago, and enjoying the idyllic town. One of our favorite things in Porvoo was to go to the Art Factory and take art classes from the artists who have studios at the Art Factory.

Porvoo old town in Finland

Porvoo old town in Finland

Turku is close to my home town. You can’t get the sea view right downtown, but you will see the river Aura that divides the city in half. You can enjoy the riverside cafes and food in restaurants like Smör, and imagine how the sailboats used to come in town by the river and dock in the very same spot. Or enjoy an afternoon coffee at the Cafe Qwensel in the idyllic 1700’s atmosphere.

Enjoy the idyllic Old Turku at the Cafe Qwensel.

Enjoy the idyllic Old Turku at the Cafe Qwensel.

The city of Turku is lovely, but the best of Turku is the Turku archipelago of tens of thousands of islands. Your Turku experience will not be the same without hopping on a boat and experiencing it yourself. One easy way is to take Ukkopekka old steamer boat through the archipelago and head to Naantali, another favorite coastal town of mine.

Moomin World is based on Moomin characters by Tove Jansson. Photo: Muumimaailma Oy

Moomin World is based on Moomin characters by Tove Jansson. Photo: Muumimaailma Oy

Naantali has Moomin-world, an amusement park built around the Finnish fairytale characters Moomins by Tove Jansson, and Naantali has one of the most popular modern spas of Finland. My favorite is just to walk downtown Naantali and visit the small shops and stop for salmon dinner by the marina.

Würzburg, Bamberg, Nürnberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Northern Bavaria in Germany

Last, but not the least, I have to mention another one of my old homes, the Northern Bavaria in Germany, which might not be the most well-known area in Germany, but after living in the area for three years, it is now one of my favorites.

Nürnberg is the second largest city in Bavaria (after Münich), and hosts an annual free music festival that is celebrated in multiple venues around the city. The Imperial Castle is worth to see, but the best of Nürnberg is still to taste the traditional foods, the town is known for its small Nürnberg bratwurst. If you travel to Northern Bavaria in the spring time and around Mother’s Day, the local asparagus is also to die for.

Würzburg’s Residence Palace is one of Europe’s most renowned baroque castles and it is registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Würzburg and it’s surrounding area is also known for it’s wine, and you can take a walk through the world-famous winery Würzburger Stein outside the town. Würzburg is a great hub, from where you can also make several day trips to other smaller towns. Bad Kissing is a idyllic spa town, and the gardens outside the castle in Bamberg are worth to see.

Bamberg, Germany
Image courtesy of Tourism Media

My favorite little town in the Northern Bavaria is Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a home for famous wooden Christmas ornaments, and incredible Christmas market. The town is so idyllic that it was Walt Disney’s inspiration for the town in the animated Pinocchio, and the Vulgarian village scenes in the 1968 family movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang were also filmed in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The town also makes an appearance in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, and some parts of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010) and Part 2 (2011), were also filmed in Rothenburg. When you are looking for the most idyllic German little town, look no more, Rothenburg it is.

Check out the Expedia Viewfinder Image Library for inspiration to help find your next adventure destination.

Post by Katja Presnal

“My mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.” Katja Presnal, editor-in-chief and the owner of Skimbaco Lifestyle.

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Visit Skimbaco Lifestyle (Skimbacolifestyle.com)’s profile on Pinterest.

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Family Travel Idea: Get Lost with Paddington in Londonhttp://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/family-travel-idea-get-lost-with-paddington-in-london.html http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/family-travel-idea-get-lost-with-paddington-in-london.html#respond Mon, 15 Dec 2014 02:47:49 +0000 http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com?p=43089&preview_id=43089
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Paddington Movie 2015

From the maker’s of Harry Potter, Paddington Bear is coming to the big screen for the very first time in a new adventure.

At Skimbaco, we love to find holiday gift ideas that enable you to explore the world. On January 16, 2015, the movie Paddington will be released in the U.S.  It is sure to be a family favorite.  Paddington Bear was my husband’s favorite stuffed friend as a child. In fact, we still have his original Paddington Bear for our children to love.

Draycott Paddington Experience

Paddington opened in the U.K. in late November, and it out performed Disney’s Frozen in one weekend. Just in time for the U.S. release,  the luxurious boutique hotel, The Draycott Hotel, has created the Get Lost with Paddington experience for families.

I’m so ready to pack our bags for London to do this.   I’ll take four airline tickets to London, please Santa!

Draycott Hotel Bedroom with Paddington Bear

As part of a new promotion, mini Draycott guests will have the opportunity to see London through Paddington’s eyes, with a Paddington Bear of there own, an official Paddington Bear guidebook, a hop-on, hop-off tour to the many Paddington Trail statues throughout the city, designed by the likes of Emma Watson to Liam Gallagher, all in city landmarks, parks and museums and of course, your family will enjoy a a miniature tea complete with marmalade.

Paddington Bear Tea with Marmalade

Included in the Paddington Bear package is –

  • Accommodation in Family and Draycott Suites
  • A take-home Paddington Bear, received on arrival
  • Full English breakfast
  • Afternoon tea, with a miniature afternoon tea option available for younger guests
  • Tickets for hop-on-hop-off bus tour of London with an official Paddington Bear guide book
  • Exclusive scrapbook to capture your memories

Rates are as follows:

Family suites from £715.00 per night per room inclusive of VAT
Draycott suites from £1063.00 per night per room inclusive of VAT

The Get Lost with Paddington in London Experience at the Draycott Hotel is currently valid until 30 April 2015.

Photos courtesy of the Draycott Hotel and Paddington.com

Post by Leigh Hines

Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

“I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.” Leigh Hines of Hines Sight Blog

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Visit Leigh Hines of Hinessightblog.com’s profile on Pinterest.

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Slovenia’s Pure Nature Offers Great Adventures for All Seasonshttp://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/slovenias-pure-nature-offers-great-adventures-for-all-seasons.html http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/slovenias-pure-nature-offers-great-adventures-for-all-seasons.html#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 14:45:46 +0000 http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/?p=42324
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1 Boating Slovenia, the little hidden gem next to Italy is well on its way on earning a great reputation for good food and award-winning wines, but it has so much more to offer – especially in terms of nature adventures. There is something for every season from water sports to hiking and biking, caving to skiing – and then some more (such as the current trendy sport paragliding)!

Slovenia hiking

I got to discover the most South-Western corner of Slovenia, and the agenda was fully packed every day pretty much from dusk till dawn. The one thing I can definitely say is that Slovenia is a dream come true for nature-lovers with good quality roads for biking and getting around with not much traffic – and clean, beautiful and easily accessible nature with mountains, rivers, lakes and valleys everywhere, with small picturesque hamlets dotting the landscape. Just picture-perfect!

Village in Slovenia

Another thing you’ll notice is the lack of noise – although I live in the “English countryside” just outside London I can still always hear the motorway, a train, some aeroplanes, emergency vehicles or the neighbours’ lawnmowers  – and random alarms all throughout the day, as well as night also. In Slovenia it was the birds and little trickling stream, Chinese tunes on the mountain-top where people were practicing taiji and just calm, gentle whistle of the wind. It was soothing and healing for the mind – a true detox from the city buzz and noise.

Cerkno hills in Slovenia

The first night we stopped atop Cerknina Mountains, near town of Cerkno to admire the sunset from the award-winning mountain-top resort called Ski Cerkno, which offers amazing mountain bike trails in the summer time, and a great, cozy environment for skiing in the winter. I was so excited to spot the tallest mountain in the Slovenian Alps, Triglav, bathing in hues of pink and purple, and then got to witness the sun setting in burning red, slowly fading to pink and blue in this perfect spot with 360 degree views over the surrounding valleys.

Ski Cernko in Slovenia

I would love to return in winter and stay in their cozy chalet apartments, where you can enjoy instant access to the slopes, great food and entertainment on site, all while being surrounded by this breathtaking nature (with no other touristic establishments nearby).  This was an amazing start for my first journey to Slovenia!

Swimming

The following day we got to do some hiking in Vipava Valley area. This region offers a large network of short, as well as longer hikes along the mountain range (Slovenia has a total of 7000km/ 4350 miles marked trails) as well as great routes for mountain biking.

The highlight of our hike leading across meadows and along the side of a mountain was a visit to the well-known natural window Olitško Okno, through which one can see most of the Vipava Valley. The views were beautiful.  Paragliding is also popular in this area and we got to admire several gliders silently speeding over the valley.

Olitsko Okno natural window
Another highlight on the trip was a journey back in time into a cold, deep, dark network of pre-historic caves, where there is no natural light or proper paths -and where ice age cave bear remains still lie untouched. Our journey took us to a lesser-known cave in the Green Karst area called Križna Jama, which is 8 km/5 mi long network of some 20 crystal-clear lakes, stalagmites and in winter bats and ice formations.

Krizna Jama

The staff provides all the equipment needed from special torches to wellies & helmets before the discovery to this natural paradise begins – all you need is some courage and warm clothing as the year-round temperate in the caves is 8C/46F. Normally it’s possible to join the hour-long guided tour without a booking, but the 7 hour winter tour deep into the crystal mountain is limited to just 100 people annually, so you better prepare for your trip early and pray for some good luck from Lady Fortuna for the coveted tickets!

So, if you ready to bike, glide, jump, run and crawl it’s time to think of Slovenia as your next, unspoiled outdoor adventure destination!

 Disclosure: I was on a hosted press trip to Slovenia, but I am free to write whatever I want. 

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Little Girl’s Holiday Dream: the Gift of the American Girl Travel Experiencehttp://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/little-girls-holiday-dream-the-gift-of-the-american-girl-travel-experience.html http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/little-girls-holiday-dream-the-gift-of-the-american-girl-travel-experience.html#respond Tue, 09 Dec 2014 12:35:04 +0000 http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com?p=43000&preview_id=43000
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Isabelle, American Girl Doll of 2014

Yes, Santa!  A doll under the tree is special, but here’s a gift idea that really brings that doll to life in a big way.  Why not travel to a city for a weekend that has the American Girl Store. You can catalogue shop all you want, but having your child visit an American Girl store in person, and  dine in the bistro with her 18-inch special friend is an experience that she will remember for a lifetime.

The American Girl Bistro is a great experience for American Girl fans and their dolls

At Skimbaco, we believe the gift of travel is magical.

Charlotte, N.C. is now home to the 17th American Girl store location in the United States.  I took my first visit to the first store for the Carolinas shortly after it opened.  The doll salon, the bistro, the clothes, the accessories, the dolls, and the lines of little girls and parents…well, it’s an over-the-top crowded experience that we enjoyed for a few hours.  Each store has special events throughout the year for entertainment. During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it is kind of like going to Disney World on the busiest day of the year. But, what I’m about to share next will make the hustle and bustle all worth it, especially when you sip a cocktail in a hotel lounge later that night with your child’s doll sharing a milkshake with your little one.  Book an American Girl Hotel Package, and your American Girl travel experience will be extraordinary.

Pink check-in for American Girl partnered hotels

I checked into the Renaissance Charlotte South Park Hotel for the Deluxe American Girl Pink Experience with my five-year-old daughter in November.  We experienced a festive check-in with pink hot chocolate, pink cookies and milk on arrival, complimentary breakfast every morning, and a very pink decorated Renaissance hotel room. Liza’s doll, Isabelle, received a doll-bed, pink slippers and a luxury bathrobe, all of which we could take home with us.

American Girl Experience includes pink touches.

Many hotels offer American Girl packages that include a take-home doll-bed and other fun amenities such as complimentary breakfast. The packages vary  from city to city, and from hotel to hotel.  The Renaissance Charlotte South Park Hotel offers a basic package, but then staff decided to have even more fun by offering hot pink sheets, a pink beanbag, hot pink towels, and accessories like a pink alarm clock to make the experience a little more colorful. The Deluxe American Girl Package runs about $75 over normal room rates. The basic packages start at about $40 over rack rates.  This month, the deluxe package runs about $200 night.

Hotel fun with the American Girl Doll

You can visit the American Girl Store website to plan your trip. Under each city location, you will find hotels that have partnered with the company to offer extras for guests.

Below are a few American Girl Hotel experiences that caught my eye in various cities.

Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta Weekend Getaway Package: Includes doll-bed, breakfast, cookies, snack in hotel, and the option of the upgraded pink experience.

The Waldorf Astoria Chicago American Girl Place Package: Includes AG activity book, doll-bed, use of AG DVDS in room, girl-themed turndown, complimentary luxury house car service to store.

The Intercontinental Chicago  American Girl Experience: Includes themed turn-down service for girl and doll, doll-bed, popcorn and movie, complimentary breakfast.

The Benjamin in NYC: Includes gift bag with doll-bed, personal AG shopper, milk and cookies turndown, and amenities from Winks’ Kidzzz Club.

The Fairmont Washington, D.C. American Girl Package: Includes doll-bed, turndown service, AG DVDS from the lending library.

The Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Beverly Hills American Girl Package: Includes breakfast, doll-bed, luxury turndown, complimentary transfer to store in the in-house car, and welcome amenity.

Le Parc Suite Hotel Hollywood American Girl Experience Package: Includes doll-bed, chocolate chip cookies, a Le Park Suite backpack, and complimentary house car service.

Hyatt Place Dallas North by the Galleria American Girl Slumber Party: Include guided tour and personal shopper, pizza, soda, cookies and milk, doll-bed, and doll bathrobe.

Residence Inn Denver South/Park Meadows Mall American Girl Store Package: Includes milk and cookies with a tea set for two, doll-bed, welcome sign, breakfast and shuttle to the AG store.

The 18th American Girl Store opened in Orlando this month.

This story was made possible by a media visit. 

 

Post by Leigh Hines

Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

“I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.” Leigh Hines of Hines Sight Blog

Let’s connect

Visit Leigh Hines of Hinessightblog.com’s profile on Pinterest.

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Sri Lanka in 20 Instagram Photoshttp://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/sri-lanka-in-20-instagram-photos.html http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/sri-lanka-in-20-instagram-photos.html#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 13:24:40 +0000 http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com?p=42937&preview_id=42937
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sri-lanka-in-20-Instagram-Photos

I visited Sri Lanka the first time as I attended the Professional Travel Bloggers Association’s conference TBC Asia last month. The conference was organized together with Cinnamon Hotels, and with sponsors like SriLankan Airlines. (If you are a professional travel blogger, please join the PTBA, I highly recommend it, read more member benefits here. The conference was one of the most inspiring travel blogging conferences I have been to.)

sri lanka street scene

I had heard some much good about Sri Lanka from our Skimbaco Team member Reeta, that I had wanted to go ever since I saw her photos, and heard her stories. Yet, I didn’t really know what to expect, especially because this was only my fourth time in Asia. In many ways my trip exceeded all of my expectations, but I was on an organized blogger trip, and can not say how my experience would have been if I had been there on my own. Reeta from our team is a much better person to answer how to plan your own trip to Sri Lanka. But first – travel to Sri Lanka with these 20 Instagram photos as we are hosting the last Instagram Travel Thursday of 2014. Join us by sharing your own travel photos on Instagram and tagging them with #IGtravelThursday.

Beaches

Sri Lanka is an island nation, and it would be easy to say it’s the perfect semi-undiscovered exotic beach destination.

sri lanka beruwala beach fisherman going to work

One of my favorite mornings was at the Beruwala beach watching the fishermen going to work, and seeing the people on their morning walks on the beach. On our short trip we visited a few Cinnamon Hotels beach resorts, and every beach I saw was a heaven for beach lovers. Uncrowded, clear blue water (and sky). It’s OK to book your trip to Sri Lanka for the beaches – and then fall in love with everything else once you get there!

sri lanka beruwala beach

Colonial history and the town of Galle

sri lanka galle colonial town

Before you can understand about Sri Lanka’s cultural landscape, you have to have a little bit of understanding of it’s history. From Portuguese to Dutch to British, Sri Lanka has a colorful colonial history. First Portuguese found the island in 1505 and divided into seven warring kingdoms, and by 1660 the Dutch controlled the whole island except the kingdom of Kandy. In 1802 by the Treaty of Amiens the Dutch part of the island was ceded to Britain, and became a crown colony. The Independence movement in Sri Lanka has been going on since turn of the 20th, and first on 1948 Ceylon was granted independence as the Dominion of Ceylon. Dominion status within the British Commonwealth was retained until May 1972 when it became a republic and was renamed the Republic of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka had a Civil War as recently as 1983-2009, and the country started significant healing and economical progress after that. From a visitor’s point of view – people were friendly and welcoming, and excited to show off many improvements that had happened in the country after the civil war ended. There was construction everywhere, especially in the nation’s capital Colombo, and you could tell Sri Lanka was going to look a whole lot different in the next couple of years.

sri lanka galle streets

I think when I really understood what the colonial history meant, was when we visited the town of Galle in southwest. The Galle fort is a world heritage site and is the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers. The town still has the 18th century colonial feel, and it was one of my favorite places to visit in Sri Lanka. I felt in many ways how the history of the colonial past of Sri Lanka, and the vibrant economically booming future of Sri Lanka intersected in Galle.

sri lanka galle colonial musem

Visit to Kandy

sri lanka kandy temple of tooth entrance

You get a completely different kind of view of Sri Lanka, in the city of Kandy, the second largest city in Sri Lanka. The Temple of the Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) in Kandy is one of the most sacred places of worship in the Buddhist world, and we saw people coming to the temple from all around the country. The Temple of the Tooth Relicwas declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. Centrally located Kandy is also a major transportation hub of Sri Lanka, with railway and highways going to all directions, and we also jumped in a train from Kandy.

sri lanka kandy train station sign

For transportation in Sri Lanka, I would recommend the first class trains, or better yet the CinnamonAir flights within the country.

sri lanka kandy train station

Unique experiences

I have already mentioned a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka, and Sigiriya in the Central Province is one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning and it is the most visited historic site in Sri Lanka.

sri lanka sigiriya rock

The Sigiriya or Lion Rock, is 200-meter-tall rock with a story to tell. On the top of the rock used to stand a palace built by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 AD), son of Dhatusena, who came to power after he got his father killed, and seized the throne from his brother. Fearing that his brother would take the throne, he fortified his palace on the top.

sri lanka sigiriya rock stairs

The giant rock had moats with crocodiles around it, and it was difficult to access the top. (Today you can climb over 1000 stairs leading to the top – what a work out!). His brother finally conquered the palace and converted Sigiriya into a monastery complex.

sri lanka monks at sigiriya rock

In addition to the ancient and colonial history and its amazing stories you can learn in Sri Lanka, I fell in love with the nature.

sri-lanka-elephant-gathering

One of my favorite nature experiences was witnessing the elephant gathering in the Kaudulla National Park.

sri lanka lizard in temple

Of course, you can’t visit Sri Lanka without seeing exotic lizards, monkeys, and even their squirrels are quite exotic!

Culture

Speaking of exotic, you could spend weeks in Sri Lanka learning and discovering all of it’s history and stories.

sri lanka statue

The ancient city of Polonnaruwa is one of the best planned Archeological relic sites in Sri Lanka. Polonnaruwa is another UNESCO site, it has the Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, the monumental ruins of the fabulous garden-city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century. Families from all around Sri Lanka also gathered here to pay respect and pray. You can see the Hindu influence in Polonnaruwa and dind the Temples of Shiva, statues of Hindu Gods, and the Buddhist temples, the Lankatileka and Watadage, the Galpotha, the Lotus bath, the Kiri Vihare Dagoba and the remains of a former Temple of the Tooth. I is an impressive ancient city, and we rode bikes around it to get from a temple to another.

Polonnaruwa

And when speaking of Sri Lankan culture, I have to mention the Sri Lankan masks, which are used by the dancers in multiple different national dances.

sri lankan masks

We saw many different kind of dances in Sri Lanka, all of them had a story to tell.

sri lanka welcome dancers

We Stayed at Cinnamon Hotels

Our trip was sponsored by Cinnamon Hotels, and during our stay we visited several of their hotels, sometimes just for a quick lunch, and overnights of course. If you are heading to Sri Lanka, I would recommend checking the Cinnamon Hotels out.

sri lanka cinnamon hotels colombo

The conference itself was at Cinnamon Lakeside in Colombo.

sri lanka cinnamon hotels beruwala beach

My favorite hotel was the Cinnamon Bey in Beruwala, and I really liked the Chaaya hotel properties we visited. It’s another hotel brand owned by Cinnamon Hotels. I especially would recommend checking them out for beach resorts.

cinnamon hotels sri lanka pink couch

In addition I also got interior design inspiration from Sri Lanka, including from the well-decorated hotels – stay tuned for more home decorating inspiration I picked up from my trips to Asia!

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Five Ways to Experience the Emerging Wine Regions of Sloveniahttp://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/five-ways-to-experience-the-emerging-wine-regions-of-slovenia.html http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/2014/12/five-ways-to-experience-the-emerging-wine-regions-of-slovenia.html#respond Thu, 04 Dec 2014 09:23:44 +0000 http://www.skimbacolifestyle.com/?p=42779
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Vineyard at Sunset in Vipava

‘At the end of this rainbow there might be some good wine, worth its’ weight in gold..’

Wine tasting in Italy – you might already been there and done that. If you are looking for something new there’s no need to look far – just few miles across the Italian border lies first of three Slovenia’s up and coming wine regions. The locals in Italy have been wine-hopping over the border for a long time, and finally the well-kept secret of Slovenian wines is coming out. I was surprised to hear that the oldest grape wines in the world actually were from Slovenia!

There are some 28,000 wineries in the country today, and with numerous medals under their belts they compete equally with the neighbouring Italian counterparts with quality and taste, yet they are often cheaper – and more responsive to current trends such as providing lower alcoholic content (and thus less calories). Slovenian wines are here to stay and definitely worth a wine tasting trip – or a few.

Slovenia has three main vine regions - Podravska in the North-East parts of the country, Posavska in the South-Eastern parts and Primorska in the Western part of the country. Primoska is split further into four valleys, of which I visited the one called Vipava Valley.

Wine tasting at a private cellar

‘Tasting from the barrel in the cellars of Vipava Wine’

There are many ways to experience wine, and it’s great to look into new experiences while booking your tasting tours. I would recommend mixing and matching in order to get the most authentic and memorable visit and to have more variety with the wines you are tasting.

I’d recommend first seeing how the wines are produced in a main-stream, award winning winery and tour their facilities and (somewhat spooky) undergrounf cellars, then visiting a smaller boutique vineyard and enjoying a dinner hosted by the owner while sampling their stock. Another great way to experience the local wine culture is to ask your guide to introduce you to a private, recreational winemaker.

Vipava Valley wine selection

‘ Vinoteka Vipava maps out all major wine producers in Vipava Valley’

If you are short of time or want to sample several labels, you could also visit a vinoteka – a wine bar that represent all major producers in the region. And one shouldn’t miss a walk in a lush vineyard itself, where you can try to pick a bunch of grapes (if you are there in the autumn during the harvest) and enjoy the beautiful scenery with all your senses. Wine is not just about tasting it, but enjoying the overall experience… That said here are my tips for experiencing wine in Vipava Valley:

Vipava1894

‘The wine-making process starts: from grapes to juice’

1. Tour an award-winning winery, their production facility and cellars: Vipava 1894 Cellar

Vipava 1894 is one of the largest and oldest wine cellars in Slovenia and started as a co-op amongst the local producers who wanted to promote their wines, and amazingly today they still use a large number of local growers and yet manage to keep the quality consistent in that process. Here you learn about the traditional wine making processes aided by modern technology and get to tour the production facilities and see the progression from old to new wine storage cellars.

Typical to many other wineries in the area Vipava also offers a ‘hram’ – a wine cellar in a wider concept – not just a storage room for the wines, but also a tasting room, combined with a homely restaurant offering local specialties. Start your tasting meal with a glass of fresh bubbly and freshly cut ham, continue with the famous regional dish jota: a sort of casserole made of beans, potatoes and sauerkraut, and for added flavour it has generous amounts of dried pork and spices. Vipava’s tasting menu is absolutely delicious and  the food complements and brings out the aroma of the wines.

wine tasting at Miska

‘Welcome tasting at Winery Miška in their new restaurant in Ezelj- cozy sampling their hors d’oeuvres by the fireplace in the cooling night’

2. Dinner and wine tasting with the owner in a small boutique winery: Miška Cellar

Miška Winery is a true family label, with the production tracing back for more than 300 years. Once again, the next generation has taken over the reins, and current owner Primož is taking the family company to the next level with a new tasting room and dining facilities. He takes pride of his indigenous Zelen and Pinela varieties, and those wines should definitely be on one’s tasting list in the Erzelj area.

Primož is a very knowledgeable and entertaining host for the tasting, and the dinner with stories about the local history and the wine production is very entertaining. Crisp wines combined with delicious home-made appetizers, parma ham and local dishes create a memorable evening with a relaxed ambience.

Vinoteka wine tasting

3. Learning about wine-making and regional sampling in a wine bar: Vinoteka in Vipava

The Vinoteka in the centre of Vipava town is a pleasant surprise – you can enjoy a lovely film about the region’s wine-making and then sample different wines from the largest producers in the valley. The place is very contemporary and cleverly displays all wines by region and by grape variery, which makes it easier to pick which ones to try out.

Private wine cellar

4. Visiting local village and tasting home-produced vintages: private cellar in Goče

If you touring with a local guide ask about the possibility to visit a little, private cellar – there are thousands of people making small amounts of local wine and selling it mainly to other villagers and restaurants nearby without a name or sometimes even bottling (people bring their own containers) – but that doesn’t mean that the wine is automatically mediocre.

Many locals have been producing wine with knowledge passed from one generation to the next one, and their wine is so good that it sells without fancy labels and marketing – one of them was the winemaker we visited in a little village in Goče, near Erzelj where Miška Cellar is located. Our host actually had a production of nearly 10 000 liters (over 20 000 standard bottles) in his little cellar and lots of equipment to control the process in a semi-professional, artisan manner. Needless to say I was very impressed about his “hobby”.

Collecting grapes at a vineyard

‘Lucky to catch the last days of harvest and sample a few forgotten grapes in the vines’

5. Stroll down the rows of wines and observe the harvest in a vineyard in Manče

The nature of Slovenia is breathtakingly beautiful and since the vineyards in Slovenia are relatively small in size, they can be found tucked away all over the fertile valleys. Therefore a stroll along rows of vines nestled on hills is a must experience – especially if it’s September and harvest season. You might be able to join in the harvest and clip a few bunches of grapes and sample the taste of the grape varieties you later can try out in the tasting rooms. These walks were the highlights of my tour for sure!

Disclosure: This visit was part of a press trip to Slovenia, however, all opinions are my own and I choose what to write about my experiences when travelling.

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