The Virtuoso Life http://blog.virtuoso.com Fri, 26 May 2017 13:45:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 http://blog.virtuoso.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Virtuoso_SWIRL-150x150.jpg The Virtuoso Life http://blog.virtuoso.com 32 32 The Great Beauty of Bogotá’s Street Art http://blog.virtuoso.com/arts-and-culture/bogota-street-art/ http://blog.virtuoso.com/arts-and-culture/bogota-street-art/#respond Thu, 25 May 2017 11:00:04 +0000 http://blog.virtuoso.com/?p=7708 Crisp, an urban artist based in Bogotá, shares his insights on the city's booming street art scene and some of the people who’ve put it on the map.

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Interviewed by Joel Centano

“Bogotá is now one of the meccas for street art in all the world,” says Crisp, an artist whose work often calls attention to political injustices and the beauty of nature. An Australian native, he’s one of many talents who’ve transformed the city’s streets into colorful open-air galleries that showcase everything from Colombia’s indigenous cultures to comic book characters.

After traveling the globe and making art in Europe, Asia, North America, and beyond, Crisp settled in Bogotá in 2009, and now serves as an unofficial ambassador for the city’s urban art scene. In 2011, he helped launch an art walk – your travel advisor can arrange the tour as part of a customized Colombia journey – that wends its way through Bogotá’s creative La Candelaria neighborhood. He also gives back by teaching art to underprivileged youth.

Following a recent Colombia trip with Big Five Tours & Expeditions that included time to contemplate La Candelaria’s canvases, I tracked Crisp down to get his take on Bogotá’s urban art scene and some of the people who’ve put it on the map.

A bird’s-eye view of Bogotá’s San Felipe neighborhood. (Photo: Crisp)

Why is urban art booming in Bogotá?
The laws have been generally permissive; street art isn’t strictly illegal. This means there’s a more open and respected environment to create in public. Saying this, laws are changing under the current mayor, who’s instructed police to enforce tougher penalties. However, if artists have permission from building owners or the city council – both are realizing that urban art and the interest it generates benefits businesses and the community – there typically isn’t a problem.

There are also a host of potent issues that inspire graffiti and street art here – just for example, social inequalities or Colombia’s 52-year civil conflict and recent peace process. Last, there is so much beauty to draw from Colombia’s people, mountains, coasts, jungles, animals, and plants.

Iconic La Candelaria: A portrait of an indigenous woman by Carlos Trilleras. (Photo: Joel Centano)

What inspires you?
My work varies from the sociopolitical to the purely aesthetic. Sometimes I like to send a message or try to make people think about an issue I feel strongly about. For example, I highlight the fact that urban sprawl and our modern lifestyle are disrupting our natural ecosystems that we all ultimately rely on to live. Other times I enjoy making blank spaces or congested parts of the city more beautiful by adding scenes that depict nature and the wild.

Colombia’s fauna, like this frog in La Candelaria, is a recurring motif in Crisp’s work. (Photo: Crisp)

A word on your fellow artists:
Grafiteros represent many different types of creators – from graffiti writers and taggers to sculptors, stencil artists, muralists, and more. They also come from diverse backgrounds and from every level of society. Many are highly educated and work as university lecturers, architects, jewelers, physiotherapists, designers, or doctors. That’s the beauty of street art – it transcends all stereotypes and reaches everyone!

Some grafiteros of note?
It’s difficult to single out a list of artists, considering the amount of talent here. That said, keep an eye out for the Bogotá Street Art Collective, which includes Juegasiempre, Toxicómano, Lesivo, and Guache. There’s a strong female contingent covering the city, so look for pieces by Erre, Ledania, Lik Mi, Leela, Melissa Vásquez, Gleo, and Mugre. Works from Rodez and his two sons, Nomada and Malegria, also should not be missed. I’ve only mentioned a fraction of the active artists here, however, and it’s best just to wander around to find your own favorites.

Malegria’s art, including this mural in La Candelaria, often focuses on fantastical creatures with pronounced eyes. (Photo: Joel Centano)

When in La Candelaria …
For lunch, you can’t go wrong at Sant Just, which serves fresh, high-quality French-Colombian fusion cuisine at decent prices. To purchase local street art, head to the Dibs by Culture Shock Colombia gallery in La Candelaria or Visaje Graffiti Colombia and Beta Galería; both are just a short taxi ride away. These places help support local artists by selling their pieces and exhibiting their work.

Flower power: “Smelling Peace” by the artist Goin on display at Visaje Graffiti Colombia. (Photo: Goin)

Farther afield …
The whole of Bogotá is covered in great works, and it’s almost impossible to find a street in the city without some form of urban art in it. Some of the other more popular neighborhoods for street art include Chapinero, Chico, San Felipe, Suba, Ciudad Bolívar, and the centro area.

What’s the value of urban art?
It’s important that politicians, police, and corporations don’t have total control over our urban spaces. Seeing only gray concrete walls and paid-for advertising isn’t healthy for humans. One of the main reasons I love urban art is that it’s free for everyone. Observers don’t have to pay to go inside a museum or gallery to see it. It’s a free space of expression, communication, and interpretation.

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Why We Love The Peninsula Beijing http://blog.virtuoso.com/hotels/love-peninsula-beijing/ http://blog.virtuoso.com/hotels/love-peninsula-beijing/#respond Tue, 23 May 2017 14:00:18 +0000 http://blog.virtuoso.com/?p=7699 BY LAURA MILLAR In China’s capital city, fifteenth-century palaces stand beside modern skyscrapers, and a quick stroll separates high-end shopping

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BY LAURA MILLAR

In China’s capital city, fifteenth-century palaces stand beside modern skyscrapers, and a quick stroll separates high-end shopping malls from more traditional outlets. The 230-room Peninsula Beijing’s recent three-year renovation emphasizes this juxtaposition with a mix of high-tech amenities and thoughtful elements honoring the city’s imperial history. Hong Kong-based designer Henry Leung commissioned several artists for the $123 million overhaul, and the result is a soothing respite of traditional feng shui and contemporary appeal. Here are five things we love about The Peninsula Beijing:

 

The Peninsula Beijing’s art gallery.

Art Everywhere.

A soaring three-story lobby welcomes guests with ornate Palisandro marble work and abstract ink art. Beyond, dozens of contemporary sculptures, paintings, and photographs by acclaimed artists such as Zhang Du and Qin Feng are scattered throughout the property, and a new third-floor gallery displays rotating collections curated by Museum of Contemporary Art Beijing executive director Michael Suh.

Local Promotion.

The Peninsula hopes to foster new work, too: An artist-in-residence program provides a purpose-built studio for local artists, which guests are welcome to visit.

One of the hotel’s Beijing Suites.

Beijing’s Biggest Rooms.

The hotel decreased its room count from 525 to 230, allowing it to double the size of each. (Starting at 645 square feet, its guest rooms are now the largest in the city.) The subtle gray and cream palette complements Italian furnishings by Cassina, and the hotel’s art theme continues within its rooms with paintings inspired by the Ming dynasty and framed architectural photos of the city’s newest buildings. The 17 Beijing Suites include living areas and family-friendly cinema rooms with 80-inch televisions.

Fresh Food.

The farm-to-table concept is relatively new in China, so it’s impressive that executive chef Dominique Martinez spent months sourcing the local fruit, vegetables, and meat used in the hotel’s updated restaurants. Those ingredients shine at Huang Ting, which serves authentic Cantonese cuisine, and at Jing, which offers more European-influenced fare.

A private dining room at the hotel’s Jing restaurant.

Traditional Touches.

All of the classic Peninsula flourishes are here: smartly dressed doormen, afternoon tea accompanied by performing string musicians, and a fleet of limos at the ready. It’s also one of the first hotels in China with 24-hour check-in and checkout. “The Peninsula Beijing is always included in my recommendations because of its history, location, afternoon tea, and more,” says Houston-based Virtuoso travel advisor Laura Woo. “It’s a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the city.”

Virtuoso travelers receive an upgrade at time of booking, breakfast daily, and a $100 dining credit.

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The Top 10 Summer Travel Destinations for Americans http://blog.virtuoso.com/europe/the-top-10-summer-travel-destinations-for-americans/ http://blog.virtuoso.com/europe/the-top-10-summer-travel-destinations-for-americans/#respond Mon, 22 May 2017 19:39:17 +0000 http://blog.virtuoso.com/?p=7663 The top 10 summer travel destinations for Americans, according to Virtuoso's bookings data.

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We know where upscale American travelers are going this summer, and apparently they want pasta and wine. The top-booked destination is eternal favorite Italy, with European destinations dominating the list, as well as a couple of other international favorites – South Africa and close neighbor Canada.  Europe is particularly appealing this year, due to a relatively strong U.S. dollar against both the euro and British pound.

Munich, Germany
Munich, Germany.

Virtuoso mined its bookings data (totaling $39.7 billion in transactions) from U.S.-based travel agencies. This data reflects future bookings between Memorial Day and Labor Day in 2017.

1. Italy

2. United Kingdom

3. France

4. Spain

5. South Africa

6. Germany

7. Ireland

Ireland
Ashford Castle, Ireland.

8. Canada

9. Netherlands

10. Denmark

All photos by Annie Fitzsimmons.

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Dim Sum 101: How to best enjoy these bite-sized Asian snacks http://blog.virtuoso.com/culinary/dim-sum-101/ http://blog.virtuoso.com/culinary/dim-sum-101/#respond Fri, 19 May 2017 17:17:17 +0000 http://blog.virtuoso.com/?p=7646 A beginner's guide to dim sum and how to best to enjoy these bite-sized Asian snacks.

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The original dim sum originated in the Chinese province of Canton. Historically, travelers stopped at tea houses for dim sum, enjoying afternoon tea and snacks.

Now popular as a festive weekend ritual with family and friends, dim sum is widely available across Asia and in cities from Sydney to San Francisco. Most people enjoy it for Sunday brunch, although some specialty restaurants serve dim sum seven days a week. To the uninitiated, the meal can be a bit overwhelming at first: A wide variety of savory and sweet dishes are stacked on carts and rolled out throughout the dining room. Plates typically contains three to four bite-size steamed or fried items meant to be shared family-style.

Order tea first, and if you like sauce with your snack, mix a little soy sauce, vinegar, and chili oil for dipping. Then, arm yourself with chopsticks and eat adventurously! Here’s a beginner’s guide:

Savory and Safe

1 – 3. Steamed Dumplings: Rice-flour parcels filled with different varieties of meat (shu mai), shrimp (har gow), or vegetables. You can sort of tell the flavor by the colors under the translucent parcels. Shrimp dumplings are my personal favorites.

4. Shanghai Soup Dumplings: Also called Xiao Long Bao, they’re filled with pork and stock. Put it on the spoon and devour in one bite – carefully, as the soup inside is steaming hot.

Pork pot stickers.

5. Pot Stickers or Gyoza: Steamed, pan seared, or fried dumplings with meat or vegetables inside.

6. Steamed Buns: Soft and pillowy, filled with sweet barbecue pork or lotus-seed paste in vegetarian versions.

7 – 8. Sticky Rice with Meat: Varieties include chicken, sausage, pork, and a range of other meats steamed inside a lotus leaf. Ask the server to cut them in half for easy sharing.

9. Chinese Broccoli: Steamed, drizzled with sesame oil, and served with salty oyster sauce on top.

10. Prawn Balls: Deep-fried minced prawns shaped into a ball.

11. Stuffed Peppers: Green bell peppers, stuffed with shrimp paste and basted with a light sauce.

12. Rice-Sheet Rolls: come with different fillings, such as pork, shrimps, or vegetables.

Intermediate to Adventurous 

13. Taro and Radish Cakes: Crispy and creamy, these contain either taro root paste or radish paste steamed with rice-flour batter, then pan fried.

14. Tofu Skin: Steamed tofu sheets filled with meat. I promise, it tastes better than it sounds.

15. Beef Tripe: Beef tripe that’s boiled, stir fried, and then steamed with ginger and green onions.

16. Chicken feet: If it looks like a chicken foot, it’s a chicken foot. Normally, I pass the plate of claws that have been steamed with fermented black beans to my dad and let him enjoy it all by himself.

Sesame balls and (right) egg custard pies.

Sweet Ending

17 – 18. My two favorite sweet bites are sesame balls (filled with sweet red bean paste) and mini egg custard pies, which are similar to Portugal’s famous Pastéis de Nata.

Dim Sum Dos: Four Favorite Brunch Spots 

My favorite restaurant for Sunday Brunch is Kirin Court in Dallas. I asked several dim-sum loving travel photographers, who shoot for Virtuoso Life, for theirs as well. Singapore-based Lauryn Ishak, recommends her local: Imperial Treasure Nan Bei. Ball and Albanese, an NYC-based duo, have high praise for Dim Sum Go Go in NYC, Imperial Tea Court in Berkeley, California, and Yank Sing in San Francisco.

All photos by Virtuoso Life art director Melanie Fowler.

 

 

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Why We Love The Towers at Lotte New York Palace http://blog.virtuoso.com/north-america/why-we-love-the-towers-at-lotte-new-york-palace/ http://blog.virtuoso.com/north-america/why-we-love-the-towers-at-lotte-new-york-palace/#respond Tue, 16 May 2017 13:00:04 +0000 http://blog.virtuoso.com/?p=7632 What we love about The Towers, the 176-room hotel-within-a-hotel on the top 14 floors of midtown NYC's Lotte New York Palace.

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On a recent visit to Virtuoso’s New York City offices, the Virtuoso Life editorial team settled in for the week at The Towers, the 176-room hotel-within-a-hotel on the top 14 floors of midtown’s Lotte New York Palace. After days packed with planning meetings and hotel scouting trips, we all appreciated returning to our quiet retreats above the buzzing city. Here are five things we loved about our stay:

Spacious rooms.

“I loved the residential feel of my Tower Executive Suite [pictured above], with its proper entry foyer, separate living area, and huge bathroom – I’m a sucker for double sinks and a separate tub and shower, and there’s even a bidet,” says Virtuoso Life editorial director Elaine Srnka. “The simple-to-use bedside tech panel lets you easily operate the drapes to take in the incredible views – or turn off the lights and shut out the city completely. The suite can connect to an Executive King room, making it a great option for families.” (King rooms start at 465 square feet, an impressive stat for NYC standards.)

Lotte New York Palace’s Villard dining room.

Breakfast at Villard.

“It’s hard to overstate the decadence of starting your day in the Gold Room,” says Virtuoso Life senior editor Justin Paul of the historic Stanford White-designed dining room. “Put the cell phone away, order the fruit plate or avocado toast, and plan on enjoying a full pot of coffee with the New York Times amid the vaulted space’s three stories of gilt ceilings, wainscoting, and walls.”

For those mornings when breakfast needs to be a bit more on-the-go, the hotel’s Pomme Palais Bakery stocks an assortment of sweet and savory croissants (made on-site), sandwiches, and, to save for later, pristine tarts, cakes, and macarons.

Macaron art at Pomme Palais. (Photo: Melanie Fowler)

Top-Notch Service.

Staff greeted us by name, made sure our preferred newspapers were delivered to our rooms, and gave us extra Molton Brown shower gel when we fell in love with the scent. “On my first day, I asked my housekeeper for ice, and for the rest of my stay, my ice bucket was never empty,” says Melanie Fowler, Virtuoso Life’s art director.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and Midtown Manhattan from the The Towers. (Photo: Korena Bolding Sinnett)

The views.

Our Towers rooms looked directly over the neo-Gothic spires of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Virtuoso Life associate art director Korena Bolding Sinnett woke up before dawn to capture the morning light in the photo above, while assistant editor Rebecca Ratterman enjoyed the twilight vistas: “I loved the nighttime views of the cathedral and the city’s glittering lights,” she says.

VIP Access: The Towers’ dedicated lobby.

VIP entry.

Upon arrival, Towers guests are whisked through the Lotte New York Palace’s bustling lobby and into a private check-in space. “The Towers’ dedicated lobby and check-in desk are a great – and quiet – place to land after the jaunt from the airport through Midtown,” says Virtuoso Life managing editor Marika Cain. “Plus you feel like someone special going through that little side door into the private lobby.”

Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 spa credit.

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You Should Be Eating More Hot Dogs This Summer http://blog.virtuoso.com/food-drinks/why-you-should-eat-more-hot-dogs-this-summer/ http://blog.virtuoso.com/food-drinks/why-you-should-eat-more-hot-dogs-this-summer/#respond Fri, 12 May 2017 13:00:44 +0000 http://blog.virtuoso.com/?p=7599 Grab-and-go gourmet street food a block from Central Park.

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Jaquez slings NYC’s most delicious dogs between 12 and 5 PM. You’ll find him a block off the park on East 77th. (Photo by Ball & Albanese.)

NYC native Manuel Jaquez currently serves the city’s best deal on a gourmet lunch: $6 hot dogs from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s cart outside Upper East Side hotel The Mark.

Why hot dogs at a five-star hotel? The Manhattan staple has always been an easy grab-and-go lunch for busy New Yorkers and travelers. Ours are elevated by chef Jean-Georges’ ingredients.

A proper dog is all about … Creativity and precision when applying the condiments – rather than a standard squirt of ketchup, mustard, and mayo, I like to take the time to be a bit more artistic.

Your personal favorite: The grass-fed beef frank loaded with sauerkraut, kimchi, and yuzu pickles, then perfectly drizzled with ketchup, mustard, and sriracha mayo.

True or false: You’d order that from a corner cart and keep your street cred. True – and false. I can’t think of many places where you can get a gourmet lunch for under $10, especially if you are looking for something organic. It’s Michelin-starred street food, a class of its own.

Most common question you’re asked: “What’s so special about these hot dogs?” See above.

So, we’re ordering the organic chicken or a beef frank? Dietary restrictions aside, it depends on your preferred taste and texture: Beef franks have that classic “crunch”; the chicken dogs are supremely tender.

Eating-while-standing skill to master: Proper bite size keeps the toppings on the dog and off the ground. You shouldn’t need more than five to finish it.

Recommended number of napkins per hot dog? At least four (two paper towels and two napkins).

The one other NYC food every traveler should taste: A really good slice of New York-style pizza – try Joe’s Pizza, Prince Street Pizza, or Roberta’s.

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Three Reasons to Throw a Wedding Celebration at Sea http://blog.virtuoso.com/cruises/three-reasons-to-throw-a-wedding-celebration-at-sea/ http://blog.virtuoso.com/cruises/three-reasons-to-throw-a-wedding-celebration-at-sea/#respond Thu, 11 May 2017 14:00:45 +0000 http://blog.virtuoso.com/?p=7615 By Stacey McKenna For couples planning a wedding, the idea of spending time with loved ones and offering guests a

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By Stacey McKenna

For couples planning a wedding, the idea of spending time with loved ones and offering guests a vacation has become more appealing in recent years. (Proof: Twenty percent of couples had a destination wedding in 2015.)  Virtuoso travel advisors can double as destination wedding planners, too. My friend Shelly Hilgers recently decided to host her wedding reception at sea (after having a family-only ceremony on land a month earlier), and as we readied to board the ship in Port Canaveral, our group of scattered family and friends popped corks and toasted the newlyweds over Champagne. We spent the next three days sailing around the Caribbean in honor of their marriage, enjoying uninterrupted time together.

Here, three reasons why getting married or hosting a wedding reception at sea are attractive options:

More Quality Time with Loved Ones

Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to maintain long-distance friendships, but that doesn’t mean we don’t crave face time. Dozens came together for Shelly and Patrick’s wedding, from all corners of the U.S. After three days in the Caribbean, sipping poolside cocktails and dining on gourmet meals, old friends had reconnected and new friends had been made.

Enough Freedom to Double as a Vacation

Just as Shelly hoped, her reception felt like a vacation for guests. On board and off, we had the space and flexibility to do as much or as little as we wanted. My husband and I spent our shore day in Nassau touring pirate ships while others went snorkeling or wandered around town. We all met up for an afternoon on the beach before heading back to the ship.

A Royal Caribbean wedding ceremony.

Less Stress for the Newlyweds

Weddings can often seem like a lot of fun for guests, but more like endless stress for the couple. By keeping the ceremony small and the reception non-traditional, Shelly and Patrick traded typical pressures for time with guests. “We were able to enjoy the reception without any planned activities like a first dance or speeches,” said Hilgers. “This made for a great, relaxing time.”

DO IT: Several cruise lines offer an array of wedding and reception packages. Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises can arrange simple or extravagant ceremonies. Smaller, more intimate river-cruise lines including Avalon Waterways and Belmond allow guests to charter entire ships. Virtuoso travel advisors can help select the right cruise, handle group reservations, and organize wedding activities.

Top Image: Courtesy Princess Cruises

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Now’s the Time to Race off to Bermuda http://blog.virtuoso.com/active-adventure/nows-the-time-to-race-off-to-bermuda/ http://blog.virtuoso.com/active-adventure/nows-the-time-to-race-off-to-bermuda/#respond Wed, 10 May 2017 14:03:56 +0000 http://blog.virtuoso.com/?p=7611 Bermuda is experiencing a sexy new awakening as host to the 35th America’s Cup yacht race.

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Famed for its pink sand beaches, British history, and quick two-hour flight from New York City, Bermuda is experiencing a sexy new awakening as host to the 35th America’s Cup yacht race. Qualifying races start May 26 on the Great Sound; the top challenger will take on defending champ Oracle Team USA beginning on June 17. Don’t forget to dress the part: Pick up your bold-colored Bermuda shorts and racing-print swim trunks from the America’s Cup collection at the cheerful TABS flagship store (12 Reid Street, Hamilton).

TABSBermudastore
Colorful options at TABS Bermuda.

Host hotel Hamilton Princess & Beach Club recently capped a multiyear remodel with a renovation of Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant overlooking Hamilton Harbor. (Shoot the breeze over a Darker and Stormier, his version of Bermuda’s classic cocktail.) The property is offering five-night stays that include passes to the finals and a visit to the America’s Cup village (doubles from $1,005 per night; five-night minimum).

Race fans at Rosewood Tucker’s Point can reserve spots on the elegant 1926 Mariner III, an 80-passenger yacht that provides prime viewing with hotel-catered cuisine and cocktails (doubles from $1,395; Mariner III race viewing from $295).

Here are more of my favorite discoveries from a recent escape to the island:

Wahoo’s Bistro

Stop at Wahoo’s in historic St. George’s after you land in Bermuda – just ten minutes from the airport – for the best (and enormous!) fish tacos and award-winning Bermuda Fish Chowder. It’s owned by Austrian expat and chef Alfred Konrad (hence, a schnitzel sandwich on the menu), and everything is super fresh and comes with a great patio view (36 Water Street, St. George’s).

Rustico

Far from Hamilton’s tourist crowds, this hearty neighborhood Italian spot in Flatts Village hits the spot. Order pizzas to share and sit on the patio on a beautiful night. You’ll be surrounded by locals – or vacationers with second homes on the island – which makes for great people-watching (North Shore Road, Flatts Village).

Della Valle Sandals

Italian Vincenzo Della Valle has made shoes since he was a child living in Capri. Last summer, he finally opened his long-dreamt of shop on Hamilton’s Queen Street, a must-stop for well-priced, custom women’s sandals. Go on your first day in Bermuda so Valle has time to finish them before you leave – he doesn’t ship (depending on your order, turnaround time is a couple of days). If I regret one thing about my trip, it’s buying only one pair (19 Queen Street, Hamilton).

DellaValleSandalsBermuda
Vincenzo Della Valle works on a pair of custom sandals in Hamilton, Bermuda.

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse

Climb 185 steps to the top of this historic lighthouse in Southampton Parish for a panoramic view of the entire island. Queen Elizabeth II visited the lighthouse shortly after her coronation on June 2, 1953 – one of four trips she has made to Bermuda.

GibbsHillLighthouseView-Bermuda
The view from Gibbs Hill Lighthouse.

Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art

This museum only shows art inspired by Bermuda, including famous pieces by Winslow Homer and Georgia O’Keeffe. It’s one of the best small museums I’ve visited anywhere – Prince Charles is an official patron. Viewing Bermuda through artists’ eyes helps you appreciate its landscape, people, and culture (such as sailing and races) even more. If you see curator and director of collections Elise Outerbridge, ask her about her encounters with David Bowie, who had a home on the island. Stroll through the small Bermuda Botanical Gardens surrounding the museum after your visit (183 South Road, Paget).

MasterworksArtMuseum-Bermuda
Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.

Tip: As of May 2017, rental cars are banned on the island – even residents are permitted only one car per family. Have your travel advisor reserve their favorite driver and/or guide, or book taxis through the hotel.

All photos by Annie Fitzsimmons.

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The Secret Science of Choosing a Travel Magazine Cover http://blog.virtuoso.com/virtuoso-life/the-secret-science-of-choosing-a-travel-magazine-cover/ http://blog.virtuoso.com/virtuoso-life/the-secret-science-of-choosing-a-travel-magazine-cover/#respond Mon, 08 May 2017 13:49:10 +0000 http://blog.virtuoso.com/?p=7581 A behind-the-scenes look at choosing a travel magazine cover.

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We create every issue of Virtuoso Life to inspire you to travel and explore the world, and we tap our network of professional photographers to bring stories to life with their images.

One of the most important (and most debated) decisions of each issue involves determining the cover image. For the May issue of Virtuoso Life, we knew the image would show a Virtuoso hotel – it’s the Hotel Issue, after all, and the feature “Small Wonders: 20 intimate hotels, villas, and lodges worth adding to your short list” provided options aplenty. Our editorial and creative team consulted with the Virtuoso Hotels and Resorts team to help us choose which of 1,200 hotels to include – in fact, half of our hotels have fewer than 100 rooms.

The editorial team presented three top contenders to Virtuoso’s Member Marketing Committee, an elected group of advisors that essentially serves as our publications’ editorial advisory board. “The advisors loved all of them for different reasons,” says editorial director Elaine Srnka, “which assured us that we were on the right track.”

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at three of our top contenders, and what we loved about each of them.

May-Virtuoso-Life-Covers

Hôtel Le Toiny
Saint Bart’s

The board loved the image of the newly renovated Le Toiny’s open-air bar, declaring it sophisticated, colorful, and stylish. Art director Melanie Fowler said she wanted the model’s sandals. One editor said the model looked like someone you’d want to hang out with, while associate editor Amy Cassell liked the clean lines of the cover with four bar stools and three chandeliers.

However, the general consensus was that the image didn’t clearly communicate that the destination was Saint Bart’s or that the setting was a hotel. The image opens “Rosé All Day,” Srnka’s dining guide to the island.

Cover-May-St.-Bart's
Hôtel Le Toiny, Saint Bart’s.

Pikaia Lodge
Galápagos Islands

Art director Melanie Fowler loved the Pikaia Lodge option. “The person in the image isn’t the primary focus,” she says. “It highlights the destination, as well as the property’s beautiful architecture.”

Managing editor Marika Cain liked the model in Pikaia Lodge, as well. “It gives it scale, as a traveler taking in the views.”

A few of the advisors wanted to picture themselves in that space, rather than see another person in the image. Fun fact: the “model” is Monica Witmer, director of sales and marketing for the hotel.

Fowler used the image on the opening spread of the issue’s “Small Wonders” feature article.

Cover-May-Pikaia-Lodge
Pikaia Lodge, Galápagos Islands.

THE WINNER

Canaves Oia Hotel
Santorini, Greece

Cain says this image ultimately won out because it beckons you to step inside and go explore. “It’s a fresh look that feels dreamy and conceptual at the same time. I love the open door inviting you in. Our litmus test for a great cover is ‘Does it make you want to go there?’”

Greece is a perennially popular travel destination, Srnka says. Santorini is iconic, and the bright pop of color on the masthead adds a modern flair.

Notice the cruise ship on the Greece cover, as well – a nod to the different ways of exploring this classic destination.

Canaves Oia-Santorini
Canaves Oia, Santorini.

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Drink This in Vegas: The Secret 100,000 People Are In On http://blog.virtuoso.com/culinary/drink-vegas-secret-100000-people/ http://blog.virtuoso.com/culinary/drink-vegas-secret-100000-people/#respond Fri, 05 May 2017 13:06:27 +0000 http://blog.virtuoso.com/?p=7568 Try the off-the-menu Verbena cocktail at the Chandelier bar at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

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By Marika Cain

There’s something to be said for going full Vegas. We’re not talking about Champagne-room shenanigans, but about embracing Sin City’s particular brand of sensory overload. Case in point: the Chandelier bar at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and its off-the-menu (but hardly under-the-radar) Verbena cocktail. Last summer, the whole Virtuoso Life staff fell for this tequila-based roller coaster in a rocks glass – and the bar’s over-the-top glitzy surroundings.

The Verbena cocktail at The Cosmopolitan. (Photo by Chris Plavidal.)

The experience goes like this: Corral a few friends, parade into The Chandelier’s Level 1.5 bar (you can get the drink on all three of the bar’s levels now, but it originated here), and order a round of Verbenas. Chew and swallow the Szechuan button garnish (the edible bud of the herb acmella oleracea), then take a sip. Your tongue tingles, the flavors intensify, and hilarious Snapchat videos ensue. “Nature’s Pop Rocks” is one description that gets thrown around for the small yellow “buzz button” flower. A natural alkaloid, it’s packed with spilanthol, a chemical compound that reacts with the drink’s citrus and awakens taste buds to near-supertaster levels.

Chandelier-Bar-Cosmopolitan-Las-Vegas
The Chandelier bar at The Cosmopolitan. (Photo by Ron Niebrugge/Alamy.)

The cocktail began as a lemon verbena-inflected seasonal special. When the herb’s season ended, so did the Verbena’s run, much to patrons’ chagrin. “I thought people were going to come and riot at my house,” says Mariena Mercer, The Cosmopolitan’s chef mixologist and Verbena inventor. She tweaked the recipe with yuzu sour and lemon, and made the drink available year-round to anyone who knew enough to ask. “I thought over time it would kind of die off and people would forget about it,” she says. But word of mouth is a powerful marketer: Last year bartenders at The Chandelier slung well over 100,000 Verbenas, and sales are on track to double this year. So if you’re in the mood for a drink next time you’re in Vegas, put on something sparkly and head to The Cosmopolitan. They have a flower for you.

COCKTAIL RECIPE: The Verbena

1½ ounces Herradura Blanco tequila
1 ounce ginger syrup
1 ounce lemon juice
2 ounces yuzu sour (such as Perfect Purée’s version)
1 Szechuan button flower (available as a “Buzz Button” at Fresh Origins)
Shake all ingredients except the flower over ice. Strain over crushed ice into an old-fashioned glass and garnish with the Szechuan button.

Plus, travel tips from Las Vegas insiders.

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