The Virtuoso Life The Art of Travel Fri, 22 Sep 2017 14:50:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Virtuoso Life 32 32 Is This the Coolest Community Ever? Matthew Upchurch on Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronauts Fri, 22 Sep 2017 14:44:09 +0000 For Virgin Galactic's Future Astronauts, it's all about community.

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In August, hundreds of millions of people witnessed the solar eclipse in North America. The event caused people to “put aside their differences and to gaze in awe at one of nature’s rarest phenomena,” said Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic.

For the spaceline’s Future Astronauts – those who have paid deposits for flight reservations – it was an event to remember, as they gathered together in the shadow of the Tetons in Idaho for “Camp Eclipse.”

Virtuoso’s Matthew and Jessica Upchurch participated in the three-day event with hundreds of Future Astronauts and their guests.

“I thought I was going to see an eclipse. But now I say it’s more about feeling it; it was literally a physical experience,” Upchurch says.  “The temperature starts to drop drastically, you see the shadow coming over the sun, and time seems to stand still.”

Virgin Galactic’s Camp Eclipse.

But the day proved to be more about the camaraderie – and community spirit – than two minutes of totality.  “I’ve been partnered with Virgin Galactic since 2007, and when I got involved, it was all about going into space and the flight,” says Upchurch. “But a few years later, I started to tell friends they needed to join this because it’s not just about going to space – it’s about the people you meet – the Future Astronauts, the young engineers, the test pilots – and the incredible things you learn.”

Campers at Camp Eclipse.

After recovering from the tragic loss of SpaceShipTwo during a 2014 test flight, Virgin Galactic is on track to start powered test flights with its new spacecraft, VSS Unity, soon (the six-passenger vehicle has conducted numerous successful glide flights). During the program’s delays, the Future Astronauts have grown into a community that is about much more than space flight.

Virtuoso’s Matthew Upchurch at Camp Eclipse.

Over the years, Matthew has participated in a number of Virgin Galactic events: Next Fest – sponsored by Wired magazine, where they showed a mock-up of the potential interior design by Phillippe Starck, who provided the creative inspiration behind Virgin Galactic’s visual identity;  the unveiling of the world’s first commercial spaceship (SpaceShipTwo) with then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Branson in California’s Mojave Desert; and the Farnborough Air Show in 2012 from a special Virgin Galactic enclosure, to name a few.

Richard Branson with attendees at the Farnborough Air Show, 2012.

At the unveiling of Virgin Galactic’s mothership, Eve, which will carry the spacecraft to roughly 50,000 feet (at which point it will detach and blast into suborbital space), Upchurch remembers a question a reporter at the event asked him: “Isn’t this about a bunch of rich people trying to get their jollies?”

His response pointed to every single technological advancement in human history: “It always started with the early adopters. That group may pay huge amounts of money and that money funds the democratization of those technologies or opportunities for everyone else,” Upchurch replied. “How much did it cost to fly on one of the first Pan Am Clipper ships? What about the democratization of the first automobiles?”

“I’ve been in the travel business my entire life,” Upchurch says. He doesn’t consider himself a thrill seeker, but says, “What I love about travel is that it forces you out of your comfort zone to see things from new perspectives. That’s why going to space is the ultimate expression of travel, because it’s a life -changing experience.”

But about the delays leading up to that inaugural space flight? “Given that it actually is rocket science,” Upchurch says with a laugh, “it will be ready when it’s ready. But Virgin Galactic turned it into this wonderful community. As I’ve said in the past, there is a difference between flying on a Boeing aircraft, and becoming friends with Mr. Boeing and getting to know all the people who made the flight possible. Isn’t it interesting how wine always tastes better when you get to know the winemaker?”

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Cruising Kindness: Cruise Lines Helping After Hurricanes Wed, 20 Sep 2017 14:22:13 +0000 How are cruise lines are assisting in hurricane relief efforts?

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Two weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, a week after Hurricane Irma left her destructive mark on the Caribbean and Florida, and today as Hurricane Maria barrels down, Virtuoso cruise partners continue to assist in relief efforts.

“From delivering supplies to impacted areas such as the Caribbean Islands and helping to evacuate stranded tourists and families, cruise line leaders continue to work with officials to best lend their support,” says Cindy D’Aoust, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have made aid missions to deliver supplies such as food, ice, animal supplies, water, and clothing, and both lines have made rescue missions to help those stranded in the Caribbean.  The Norwegian Sky rescued more than 900 people in St. Thomas. As part of their ongoing cruise itineraries, many lines will continue to deliver supplies including medical necessities over the next several weeks. And though Royal Caribbean typically bans pets on ships, the company welcomed two dozen dogs on board the Enchantment of the Seas as they evacuated employees and their families from Miami.

Cruise lines have stepped up financially as well. Royal Caribbean will match $1 million in donations to Hurricane Irma relief and Carnival Corporation has pledged up to $10 million in matched donations– and the company and its Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation has already donated $2 million to Houston-area organizations for Harvey relief efforts.

Many cruise lines have resumed their original sailings – check with your Virtuoso travel advisor for the  most up-to-date information. For example, Holland America Line’s Caribbean cruise season begins in mid-October, and no cruises have been cancelled.

Virtuoso is a member of Tourism Cares, an organization that provides disaster relief around the world. To support Hurricane Irma recovery efforts, visit the Destination Disaster Recovery Fund.

For more information about individual island recovery, check this Caribbean Travel Update for a full list of the islands open for business and which ones are on the road to recovery.

Top photo: Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line. 

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A Perfect Day in Portsmouth, New Hampshire Mon, 18 Sep 2017 14:22:31 +0000 You’ll fall for this: boozy coffee, brick lanes, and the ultimate lobster roll in Portsmouth.

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Portsmouth is one of those places that clearly has time on its side. In this nearly 400-year-old port city on the mouth of the Piscataqua River, contemporary galleries and craft breweries commingle effortlessly with preserved cemeteries and restored colonial houses with roots extending back well before the American Revolution.

Portsmouth’s iconic tugboats, docked off Ceres Street by The Old Ferry Landing.

The cultural center of New Hampshire’s Seacoast region, “Portsmouth is a gorgeous destination, filled with a rich arts scene, historic museums, and a myriad of quality restaurants – all in a relaxed atmosphere,” says Kathy Burns Lamphier, a Virtuoso travel advisor based in the neighboring town of Greenland. Given that the city is just an hour’s drive north of Boston and south of Portland, Maine, she adds, “it’s also an ideal day trip on a northern New England itinerary.”

Hear, hear! I say. As a New Hampshire native who’s lived in Seattle for two decades, I still feel Portsmouth’s tidal pull, which brings me back every year to reacquaint myself with its lobster rolls, beloved tugboats, and brick-paved lanes that always seem to reveal some fresh find. Best of all, the main attractions in this compact, pedestrian-friendly city of fewer than 22,000 residents are all within walking distance of the main hub of Market Square. Here are a few locally favored stops that will make your day in Portsmouth a perfect one.

To a fine point: Market Square’s North Church.

Caffeine Fix

Follow most locals along Islington Street in the early-morning hours, and your path is likely to lead to Caffe Kilim. Lucky you. Kilim’s Turkish coffee and signature Dancing Goats blend are addiction-worthy, and its cozy, denlike setting – with handwoven rugs on the walls and kilim pillows piled on benches ­– encourages lots of “I’m on vacation” lingering. Also of note: Kaffee Vonsolln, serving inventive lattes and fresh-baked German pastries, and Profile Coffee Bar, home to scores of vintage jazz vinyls.

Cozy Caffe Kilim.

Best Bites

Breakfast lines at the eclectically designed, retro-inspired Friendly Toast are long for good reason. For those who brave the wait, rewards include “friendly wake-ups” such as Kentucky Coffee (starring Maker’s Mark and Baileys), and unexpected eats – think breakfast sandwiches on French-toasted doughnuts (yes, doughnuts). Also of note: For a quicker bite and better views of Market Square’s steeple-topped North Church, head up Congress Street to The Works, an organically minded, order-at-the-counter bakery café.

restaurant interior
Welcome to The Friendly Toast.

Fried-clam cravings call for lunch at the Old Ferry Landing, where pale ales and cool breezes from the Piscataqua provide the ideal antidote to muggy (New England for humid) summer days. Also of note: Family-owned Geno’s Chowder & Sandwich Shop on the river’s back channel serves homemade “chowdas” and generously sized lobster rolls.

lobster rolls
NH Seacoast staple: Lobster rolls at Geno’s.

For dinner, Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Cafe offers revolving catch-of-the-day dishes and has a raw bar of New Hampshire-harvested shellfish. Notable international plates around Market Square can be found at Cava Tapas & Wine Bar (check out the wine cave), 5 Thai Bistro (trust me: “spicy” here means really spicy), and Durbar Square Restaurant (highly suggested if you’ve never tried Himalayan food).

Portsmouth’s first vertical garden livens up patio seating at the Cava Tapas & Wine Bar.

Historical Perspective

Past is especially present in Portsmouth. For an encompassing look into its history, start with a visit to the city’s oldest neighborhood, Strawbery Banke, now a living museum highlighted by heritage gardens and preserved buildings dating to 1695. The museum also puts on seasonal events such as a family-friendly Halloween festival and sets up a skating rink in winter. Also of note: The John Paul Jones House (the American Revolution hero of “I have not yet begun to fight!” fame bedded down here in 1777 and 1781), and African Burying Ground Memorial Park, built to honor African slaves who died in Portsmouth and were interred at the site.

Revolutionary statement: A Betsy Ross flag flies from a historic home by Strawbery Banke.

To a Fine Art

Expect to see plenty of painters setting up easels along downtown streets, along with a bevy of browse-worthy galleries. Where to begin? Piscataqua Fine Arts showcases Seacoast-inspired woodcuts from local artist Don Gorvett, who’s likely to be on-site (and barefoot), ready to talk shop and show you around his etching press. Also of note: Catch a show at The Music Hall, a performing arts center with two downtown venues. Upcoming acts include Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis (October 5); Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, the Musical (November 29 through December 17); and singer José González (February 8, 2018).

don gorvett
Don Gorvett shows off his etching press at Piscataqua Fine Arts.

Time for a Pint (or Two)

Craft beer is big here, with a growing number of brewpubs where you can bend your elbow. Two favorites: Earth Eagle Brewings has an ever-expanding, rotating list of handcrafted beers that ranges from smoky Scottish ales to sour gruits seasoned with ingredients such as juniper berries and Japanese knotweed. Overlooking North Mill Pond, an inlet of the Piscataqua, Great Rhythm Brewing Company specializes in IPAs; guests can sip a flight while watching great blue herons wade. Also of note: Longtime residents are apt to point out that The Portsmouth Brewery (opened in 1991) is the founding father of Portsmouth brewpubs.

Parks & Rec

Just across from Strawbery Banke, with expansive views of the Piscataqua and the Memorial Bridge leading to Maine, Prescott Park is the spot for picnics, vibrant flower gardens, and blazing foliage in the fall. Throughout the summer, it hosts an arts festival featuring live theater and music. The adjacent Point of Graves burial ground houses artfully crafted colonial era gravestones, the earliest from 1682. Also of note: From the cemetery, a short stroll takes you across the Peirce Island Bridge to Four Tree Island, where you can explore salt marshes and tidal pools, watch fishing boats slip past, and – should the New England weather gods be propitious – see a sublime sunset.

Out for a stroll in Prescott Park.

Find a Virtuoso travel advisor to plan your New England vacation, including visits to Portsmouth and stays at Virtuoso hotels in nearby Boston; Holderness, New Hampshire; and Kennebunkport and Portland, Maine.

Advisor Tip

“Beyond the downtown attractions, don’t miss the USS Albacore Museum, where you can climb inside the decommissioned submarine for a glimpse into Portsmouth’s rich naval history. Weather permitting, I also recommend a boat ride to the Isles of Shoals. Spot seals, whales, and birdlife en route.”
– Kathy Burns Lamphier, Virtuoso travel advisor, Greenland, New Hampshire


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Spain’s G&T Craze (And Who Serves Barcelona’s Best) Thu, 14 Sep 2017 17:06:03 +0000 Over the last few years, the gin and tonic trend has exploded throughout Spain.

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Over the last few years, the Gin & Tonic (G&T) trend has exploded throughout Spain – especially in Barcelona. Bars – and knowledgeable bartenders – dedicated to el gin tonic (as Spaniards order it) have transformed the drink from commonplace to cocktail sensation. Spaniards usually drink theirs over tapas after dinner, and with the variety and complexity of offerings, it’s no surprise Spain consumes more gin than any other European Union country.

Gin & tonics in Spain use botanicals like cherries, herbs, and nasturtium flowers rather than the classic lime garnish.

Sip Stations:

Bobby Gin Barcelona

Fun and irreverent – except for the cocktails – this bar is staffed with tenders who excel at knowing what kind of G&T you’ll love, even before you do. Carrer de Francisco Giner 47.

Solange Cocktails & Luxury Spirits

Named for a Bond girl and run by Adriana Chia, the first woman to snag Spain’s World Class Best Bartender award, this sleek space is pure luxe, from the premium gins to the delicate glassware. Carrer d’Aribau 143.

Old Fashioned Gin Tonic & Cocktail Bar

For rare, aged, or artisan gins, this bar, which takes its cue from American-style Prohibition-era outposts, is the place to go. Carrer Santa Teresa 1.

All photos by Korena Bolding Sinnett.

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Beyond Rome, Florence, Venice: Try Southern Italy Tue, 12 Sep 2017 16:00:50 +0000 The beauty of Southern Italy includes Puglia, Amalfi, and Sicily.

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There are few rivals to the antiquities of Rome, the Renaissance heritage of Florence, and the fairy-tale setting of Venice, the three cities comprising Italy’s popular tourism triangle. But the south of Italy is a different animale.

“The south’s hospitality is exceptional,” says Andrew De Angelis, an Italian native and Virtuoso travel advisor based in Calgary, Canada. “Locals don’t see you as a walking wallet, as they often can in Rome, Florence, and Venice. They see tourists as people to share their heritage with.”

Until Italy was unified in the mid-nineteenth century, the south was an independent region, which accounts for its differences, such as Puglia’s trulli (conical-roofed stone huts); the couscous that replaces pasta in Sicily, reflecting its proximity to North Africa; and the lemon orchards terracing the Amalfi Coast. Greek ruins and ancient Roman cities abound, while Neapolitan pizza and Sicilian wine “are expressions of the region: simple and beautiful,” says De Angelis.

white houses in italy
Traditional conical-roofed stone huts in Puglia.

“It’s not as tidy or as organized as the north, but the south of Italy is a trip you won’t forget,” he adds. “It’s the old Italy, the motherland.”

Travel to Southern Italy 

Hydrofoil to the chic isle of Capri, let your chauffeur navigate the cliffside S curves of the Amalfi Coast, explore Pompeii’s ruins and Palermo’s markets, and taste the vintages of Sicily, all on a 17-day private tour with Artisans of Leisure.

Must-Stay Hotel

Perched atop a cliff on the Amalfi Coast, the 67-room Hotel Santa Caterina features modern Mediterranean dishes and panoramic ocean views at its two restaurants, regionally inspired spa treatments (think massages with local lemon balm), and a heated seawater pool at its coastal Beach Club.

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A Perfect Fall Weekend in Hayes Valley, San Francisco Tue, 05 Sep 2017 19:07:37 +0000 Where to shop, eat, drink, and explore in San Francisco's Hayes Valley neighborhood.

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Today, a walk around San Francisco’s Hayes Valley is bound to lead to a sidewalk café, a hidden coffee shop, or a buzzing new pop-up restaurant. The neighborhood is beloved by discerning city dwellers who come here to shop and sup, while visitors who make it to Hayes often look like they’ve just stumbled in on a secret.

In the phoenix that is Hayes Valley, atmospheric hangouts and hip boutiques rose from the ashes of the destructive 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The quake damaged a 40-foot-tall section of the Central Freeway above Hayes Valley, which, at the time, skewed far more seedy than trendy. After the bridge languished amid a city-planning tug-of-war, it was torn down in 2003, freeing up space for redevelopment and paving the way for one of SF’s most beguiling neighborhoods, a centrally located stretch north of the Mission District and west of SoMa that just keeps getting better. Visitors can’t walk a block without encountering a “Now Open” sign beckoning them into a new space.

“Hayes has a small-town feel in the middle of the city,” says Charles Bililies, the restaurateur behind Souvla, a chic, Hayes Valley Greek space with a cult following. “When I was planning Souvla, I looked at many neighborhoods [before choosing Hayes]; I even moved here nine months before Souvla opened in 2014.”

hayes street
Cocktails on Hayes Street.

Here’s where to start your exploration of Hayes Valley:

Where to Eat and Drink

For about a six-block stretch, Hayes Valley is a bastion of global culinary ambition, where restaurants (much like residents) live in historic homes and new condo developments clustered on or around Hayes Street, the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare. Dining out is a globe-spinning exercise: Go Greek at Souvla, get your schnitzel fix at the Bavarian Suppenküche, dive into Italian comfort food at recently opened a Mano, dabble with French fare at slick Monsieur Benjamin, or stay local with elevated California prix fixe at Nightbird.

souvla hayes valley
Souvla in Hayes Valley.

A couple of blocks east at Cala, a modern restaurant in a former sound studio with skylights, a fiddle-leaf fig tree, and a wall of kangaroo vines, chef Gabriela Cámara brings the flavors that helped her grow a following in Mexico City to a vast seafood-focused menu. After dinner, trip it to the tropics with a stop at Smuggler’s Cove, a tiki bar tucked behind a nondescript door, where bartenders whip up rum-centric concoctions such as the Millionaire Cocktail (No. 1) – rum, sloe gin, lime, house-made grenadine, and apricot liqueur. If umbrella drinks aren’t your thing, there’s Biergarten, where picnic tables let locals flirt with collective alfresco-drinking fantasies, but the staff doling out blankets acknowledges the reality of San Francisco’s frequent fog and chill.

smuggler's cove hayes valley
Smuggler’s Cove in Hayes Valley.

Where To Shop 

Fiercely protective of its village vibe, Hayes Valley has developed a shopping district that’s practically free of chain stores. Instead, a welcoming array of shops bring a strong eye for style and appealing offerings to the neighborhood. While the selection is wide ranging – from sake boutique True Sake to the Mexican folk-art talismans of Polanco – clothing, home decor, shoes, and sweets are the mainstays here.

Begin your spree at vintage-focused Ver Unica, one of the original Hayes Valley stores, where you’ll likely run into owner Cindy Spade, a muse with Joni Mitchell cheekbones and effortlessly inspiring personal style. Impossibly hip Acrimony stocks cool-girl and -guy pieces, while Welcome Stranger is solely dedicated to the sharp-dressed man. The contemporary design collective Minimal and artisan-focused Maker & Moss are like candy stores for designophiles, but when it’s time to satisfy a literal sweet tooth, head to Miette for cupcakes, cookies, and tarts; and Chantal Guillon for macarons.

maker moss hayes valley
Maker & Moss in Hayes Valley.

See & Do 

San Francisco possesses plenty of landmarks (hello, Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz), but mostly due to its size, Hayes trades monuments for cozy public spaces. At Patricia’s Green park, created after the freeway was torn down, locals commandeer tables for meetups and chess matches, dogs carouse on the lovely lawn, and street fairs and public art make frequent appearances. Adjacent is Proxy, an ever-evolving open-air space that throws alfresco movie nights and block parties, and hosts coffee, ice cream, and beer pop-ups. Just around the corner is the sophisticated SFJazz Center, where, at sleek new restaurant B-Side, charred chive blossoms, hominy posole, and piquant cocktails play like crowd-pleasing openers to the night’s jazz-heavyweight headliner.

For larger-scale sightseeing, head to the neighboring Civic Center, home to the War Memorial Opera House (where the city’s opera and ballet companies split stage time), the San Francisco Symphony, and Herbst Theatre. A 15-minute stroll west leads to Alamo Square Park, bordered on the east by the Painted Ladies (aka Postcard Row), seven pastel-hued sister houses made famous by the opening credits of Full House, now one of the city’s most photographed scenes. Instagram-op scored, return to Hayes Valley to soak in the village scene – a glass of rosé in hand.

Advisor Tip

“Before dinner, grab a glass of wine at Hotel Biron, a secret wine bar tucked away on a dark alley off Market Street – trust me!” – Courtney Regan, Virtuoso advisor, San Francisco

Where To Sleep

Ever since it survived the city’s 1906 earthquake, the Fairmont San Francisco on Nob Hill has been a classic SF institution, with its marble-wrapped lobby and 592 sumptuous guest rooms. Don’t miss a visit to the Tonga Room – the 72-year-old holdover from the tropical-tinged days of Hawaii-mania is one of the country’s original tiki bars, complete with dangerous drinks, pupu platters, and waiters in festive shirts.

The Palace Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel houses one of the city’s most breathtaking spaces, The Garden Court dining room and atrium, where Saturday afternoon tea is a San Francisco rite of passage. Beyond the restaurant, 556 revamped rooms feature 11-foot ceilings and marble baths, and swimmers can log laps beneath a glass dome in the indoor pool.

Downtown’s Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, a quick walk from Union Square, feels more like an urban residence than a big-city hotel, with 277 modern rooms, coastal fare at MKT Restaurant – Bar, and complimentary guest access to the adjacent Equinox Sports Club.

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Be Here Now: Prague’s Best Beer Gardens Thu, 31 Aug 2017 13:00:56 +0000 In Prague, suds rise with the sun: a toast to eight spots pouring some of the Czech Republic’s finest.

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Eight Great Spots to Raise a Mug this Fall

By Mike Dunphy

In Prague, suds rise with the sun: The Czech passion for beer amounts to the most per capita in the world – a full 142 liters (38 gallons) per person a year. That’s 40 liters more than Germany and 65 more than the United States. Morning, noon, or night, it’s perfectly acceptable to fill a raise a glass free of judgement. In nice weather, these eight beer gardens pour some of the Czech Republic’s finest.

1. Riegrovy Sady Beer Garden

This former royal vineyard on a hill east of the main train station is now the main playground for young, cool professionals and expats of the surrounding Vinohrady and Žižkov neighborhoods. At the center of the wide lawns, cobbled promenades, and shady chestnut trees, one of Prague’s largest beer gardens welcomes up to 1,000 people and shows sports on large screens. Tip: If it’s too packed, head to the smaller garden, Mlíkárna, about 250 yards away next to a sloping lawn with the city’s best sunset views.

2. Letná Beer Garden

Letná Park’s sparkling view of Prague at night. (Photo: Prague City Tourism).

Where the Vltava River turns east at the north end of Prague, the land rises to the plateau of Letná Park; nearly a million people gathered here during the Velvet Revolution to protest the communist regime. Far more tranquil nowadays, the park claims the most attention for its leafy beer garden with sweeping city panoramas.


3. T-Anker

A Communist-era slab of intersecting hexagons in Náměstí Republiky, T-Anker was Czechoslovakia’s largest shopping center when it opened in the 1970s. Today, it’s considered a wretched eyesore by some, and a work of beauty by others. No one debates the view from the beer garden up top, however, which overlooks Old Town’s towers, steeples, and terracotta roofs and serves nine rotating microbrews (many local) such as Cvikov, Matuška, and Nová Sladovna.

4. Strahov Monastery

As in so many other parts of Europe, Bohemia’s beer-making tradition owes much to monks: those at Strahov Monastery perfected their brews between the thirteenth and twentieth centuries until they were evicted by the communist regime. After the Velvet Revolution, the monks returned to their home just west of Prague castle and resumed progress. Head here to sample any of 10 varieties of Saint Norbert beer at long tables in the brewery courtyard.

Strahov Library’s Philosophical Hall, a pre-drink must, is open for tours daily until 5 PM (Czech Tourism).


5. Hospůdka Na Hradbách

Prague’s secondary hilltop castle, Vyšehrad, anchors the south end of the Vltava River. The eighteenth-century fortress contains ruins going back to the Middle Ages, as well as the Czech Republic’s most important and beautiful cemetery, where national heroes like Antonín Dvořák, Alphonse Mucha, and Jan Neruda rest in peace. The rampart’s panoramic views of Prague are best savored with cold beer at the beer garden atop the easternmost bastion.

 6. Tiskárna na Vzduchu

It’s never a dull evening at this beer garden and performance venue on the eastern edge of the city’s largest park, Stromovka, once the royal hunting ground of Holy Roman Emperors. An eclectic nightly schedule brings everything from dance and yoga classes to album release parties, movie screenings, and live music, which, together with taps from Czech microbrewers Polička and Únětická, keep everyone on their toes.

The local scene at Tiskárna na Vzduchu. (Photo: Karel Fořt/Czech Tourism)


7. Augustine Hotel

This cluster of seven buildings from the thirteenth-century cloisters of Saint Thomas now serves well-off travelers, but the Augustine‘s interior courtyard and garden are open to the public (a little-known secret), where you can sip dark St. Thomas beer beneath a shaded arcade or among medieval ruins. Although the dark lager is no longer brewed on the premises by monks, the original recipe for was passed on to the hotel owners, who partnered with microbrewer Matuška, which produces it today. As Czech writer Jan Neruda once said of the beer, “After the third glass from the Augustinian St. Thomas brewery, you are ready to sell your soul to the devil.”

The Augustine’s arcades and summer terrace and (below) house beer.


8. Náplavka Riverbank

Stretching nearly a mile along the east riverbank between Vyšehrad and Šítkov Water Tower, this pedestrian path is loved by joggers, cyclists, and dog walkers in the morning. By late afternoon it transforms into the city’s largest unofficial beer garden, where locals relax with craft brews at any of several kiosks with small patios along the route or on one of the floating beer boats moored to the bank.

Barge crawl: Floating beer gardens are a popular Náplavka attraction (Photo: Prague City Tourism).


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Now Hear This: Your Labor Day Playlist Wed, 30 Aug 2017 13:00:56 +0000 Slinky beats and bass lines with just the right amount of sheen that the season entails.

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Spread out the beach towel or spark up the grill: Summer playlists should move you whether you’re sunbathing in South Beach, setting out on a road trip, or splashed down on your oversize pool float at home. We combed a year of releases for a breezy mix of slinky beats and bass lines with just the right amount of sheen and shamelessness that summer’s last weekend entails. From electropop newcomers Sylvan Esso and Damon Albarn’s latest under his Gorillaz alias to Arcade Fire’s disco nostalgia and extraterrestrial hip-hop from Seattle’s Shabazz Palaces, the tracks below stand well as a set and mix easily into heavy rotations of your own.



“Wow,” Beck

“Don’t forget where you came from,” Beck sings in this stuttering track that proves, surprisingly, you can build a summer jam on a flute hook. The teaser single for his long-delayed follow up to the Grammy winning, folk-county album Morning Phase finds him in top form with the slack-rap that launched his career.


“Life Itself,” Glass Animals

The lead single for their latest album from Oxford, England, indie-rockers bubbles along with a more percussive drive than previous releases.


“She’s My Collar,” Gorillaz

Damon Albarn teams up with Kali Uchis for the dark, sexy, album highlight that’s hard to get out of your head.


“Feel It Still,” Portugal. The Man

Portland’s experimental rockers find their breakout formula with handclaps, a touch of swagger, and a poppy retro groove produced by Danger Mouse.


“Just Dancing,” Sylvan Esso

It’s hard to pick a favorite off Sylvan Esso’s latest round of smart, catchy electropop, but Amelia Meth’s cheeky take on Tinder dating builds so euphorically that when it finally lets go it’s bound to bring a smile to your face.


“Everything Now,” Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire has always been a go-big-or-go-home band. This rock-disco single off their new album has festival main-stage encore written all over it – they even built in the crescendo of crowd chants.


“Linnette,” Hotels

Blake Madden moonlights in a Prince tribute band, an influence that definitely shows in this brooding song that’s something of a cross between Nick Cave and the Purple One.


“Light It Up,” Pickwick

A surprising departure from their sound, the quintet’s latest hit heats things up with a haunted organ, Bee Gees-like falsetto, and a guitar that oscillates between slinky distortion and disco fills.


“Shine a Light,” Shabazz Palaces

“Shine a light on the fake” the chorus pleads on this woozy AutoTuned number that shimmers like low-slung sunrays on a bay – an apt closer for this year’s summer.


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We’re Obsessed With…This Perfect Striped Shirt Mon, 28 Aug 2017 16:56:21 +0000 Found: The perfect striped shirt by Kule, ideal for traveling.

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The Classic Kule shirt in cream/navy.

Our associate art director, Korena Bolding Sinnett, found the perfect striped shirt, and we had to share.

“The Kule striped shirts are perfectly luxe-thick. They’re going to be one of my all-time favorite travel staples. I found this interview with designer and owner Nikki Kule – she wore stripes every time she traveled. I love their branding and, as she says in the interview, the shirts are produced at an all-female factory in Portugal. I bought mine at Barneys. I’d say the fit runs a bit on the small side – order one size up unless you like your shirts super fitted.”

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Advisor Favorites: 5 Autumn Escapes Thu, 24 Aug 2017 14:40:22 +0000 Where to head for a long weekend after Labor Day? Virtuoso travel advisors share their top spots.

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Summer’s still in session, but fall is calling. Where to head for a long weekend after Labor Day? Virtuoso travel advisors share their top spots.

“For fantastic fall colors, I recommend the remote Dunton Hot Springs resort. A renovated ghost town in the San Juan Mountains, it features hand-built cabins filled with historic artifacts and luxe furnishings. Hike, horseback ride, fly-fish in the Dolores River, or just chill out in the springs under the stars or in the restored nineteenth-century bathhouse.”
– Chad Clark, travel advisor, Phoenix, Arizona

Destination immersion at Dunton Hot Springs.

“Whistler is beautiful in September and October. Stay in a mountain-view suite at the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler, bike to Alta Lake, and hit the greens at Nicklaus North Golf Course. Be sure to ride the Peak 2 Peak Gondola to the top of Blackcomb Mountain for panoramic views at Christine’s restaurant.”
– Lorraine Stobbe, travel advisor, Vancouver, British Columbia

Four Seasons guests receive special privileges (think complimentary club rentals and shuttle service) when playing the nearby Nicklaus North Golf Course.

“Only 90 minutes north of San Francisco, this stylish town is surrounded by several excellent wine appellations; autumn is an exciting time to visit, with plenty of vineyard harvest activity. Must-taste wineries include Copain, Littorai, and Kistler. Just minutes from Healdsburg Plaza, Farmhouse Inn offers wine tours and rides into town in its new Tesla Model X.”
– Michelle Murré, travel advisor, San Francisco

Fall colors near the Farmhouse Inn.
Take a seat: Wine country comforts at the Farmhouse Inn.

“In the South, college football isn’t life or death – it’s more important than that. This season is extra special, as rivals Florida State and Alabama will square off in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 2. Virtuoso-preferred partner EliteAxis has access to tickets, and the Buckhead area boasts four Virtuoso-preferred hotels.”
– Damien Martin, travel advisor, Overland Park, Kansas

“Autumn is the ideal time for a New England beach vacation: no crowds, nice weather, and all that seafood, especially in Rhode Island – think lobster, stuffed quahogs (clams), and creamy ‘chowda.’ Overlooking a beautiful beach, the Relais & Châteaux Ocean House hotel in Watch Hill is the place to see and be seen.”
– Fran Kramer, travel advisor, Rochester, New York

Beach time at the Ocean House hotel.

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What’s Hot in Luxury Travel Wed, 23 Aug 2017 14:24:36 +0000 Some of our favorite luxury travel finds in cruising, hotels, and destinations from Virtuoso Travel Week 2017.

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Virtuoso Travel Week 2017

Why You Should Care: Every year, thousands of Virtuoso travel advisors descend upon Las Vegas to shop for the upcoming year of travel.  What does that mean? We like to compare it to fashion week runway shows, where the likes of Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Dior present next season’s looks. Here, Virtuoso travel partners – including hotels, cruise lines, and tour operators – fly in from around the world to talk about what’s new in the world of travel.

After a star-studded opening session, Virtuoso advisors spent the week meeting with travel professionals from all over the world. A total of 5,670 attendees from 103 countries conducted more than 327,000 one-on-one meetings (the equivalent of 2.9 years!) throughout the week, discovering what’s new with hotels, cruise lines, airlines, and destinations around the world.

Another highlight of the week: The Wednesday night Hotels & Resorts Dinner, where Virtuoso announced the winners of our Best of the Best hotel awards. See the full list of winners, including Hotel of the Year, Best Dining Experience, and Best Wellness program.

Here are some of our favorite travel finds from the week:


  • Lindblad Expeditions’ new ship, Quest, launched this month in Alaska; another new ship, Venture, is set to arrive in June 2018. Also new: a partnership with Exhale Spa on sailings around Espiritu Santo in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. Cruises will offer beach yoga, snorkeling, and kayaking, plus onboard Exhale Spa experiences such as yoga and Pilates. They have also launched the National Geographic Global Explorers program, starting in the Galápagos, where kids have the opportunity to shadow National Geographic photographers, engage in discussions, take classes, and more.
Bartolomé Island in the Galápagos (Photo by Annie Fitzsimmons).
  • Quark Expeditions will launch their most stylish, luxurious ship yet, the World Explorer, in December 2018. The company’s innovative itineraries include the North Pole; the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, a camp 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle where you can watch thousands of beluga whales nursing their babies and frolicking in the water; and the North Pole Express, a chance to fly from Norway to the Barneo Ice Camp and the North Pole for one night, landing on a runway made of ice.

Plus, 26 reasons to take an expedition cruise.


  • The typical Greece itinerary for Eclectic Greece by Kyvernitis Travel includes Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, and occasionally Crete. But the Virtuoso tour connection mentioned two islands growing in popularity for visitors: Naxos, where Anthony Bourdain recently explored, and Paros.
  • Swiss Travel, a Virtuoso on-site connection in Costa Rica, cited more requests for voluntourism in the country, a way to combine vacation with social work. It’s especially popular for families and multigenerational groups. Still, the number one requested activity is zip-lining.
  • You can see the fjords of Norway by boat, but Virtuoso tour connection Norwegian Adventures As recommends a road trip to get up-close to the stunning fjords. Also on the trip: visiting the undiscovered small villages and farmhouses of western Norway.
  • Abercrombie & Kent Australia says the Kimberley region of Western Australia is a hot spot for American travelers who want to see untouched landscape. The region is the same size as Illinois, but only about 50,000 people live there.
  • The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto is a unique stop in the city, with thousands of pairs of shoes (plus Napoleon’s silk socks) on display, spanning centuries and civilizations, plus celebrity footwear worn by Princess Diana, John Lennon, and Robert Redford.


  • Perhaps the most anticipated hotel reopening of the year is Rosewood’s Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, unveiled in July after a four-year renovation. Occupying one of Paris’ most dramatic, historic positions on the Place de la Concorde, the hotel’s new signature suites – including Suite Marie-Antoinette and Suite Bernstein – are especially stunning. Save some room in your suitcase: Every room includes a “salon-grade hairdryer.”
  • Half Moon in Jamaica’s Montego Bay is undergoing a $75 million renovation, adding two restaurants, three bars, and 57 new rooms and suites (which will replace 44 old ones). The Half Moon Equestrian Centre continues to be very popular, offering rides and swimming with horses.
  • The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes claim to fame is that it is “minutes from the magic, miles from the madness” of Walt Disney World. The resort’s new seaplane (which launched in June 2017) takes guests on a 30-minute sightseeing tour to lakes on property and nearby natural surroundings.
  • Normandy’s Chateau d’Audrieu, built in 1715, just underwent a total renovation, taking it back to eighteenth-century style with all the creature comforts of today. Stay in a castle room or suite, or climb up to the luxury tree house perched near the property for garden views.
Chateau d’Audrieu in Normandy.

Top Photo: (Naxos, Greece; Getty Images/BIM)

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How many pairs of shoes would Sarah Jessica Parker pack for a weekend trip? Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:16:17 +0000 Virtuoso Life’s managing editor Marika Cain caught up with Sarah Jessica Parker while she was in Las Vegas to launch

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Virtuoso Life’s managing editor Marika Cain caught up with Sarah Jessica Parker while she was in Las Vegas to launch her new SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker shoe store at Bellagio.

What’s your go-to airport shoe? Meteor. Our sneaker. We cannot keep it on the shelves. It sold out in about 20 minutes when we first put it online. There’s a sandal of ours called Veronika that I wear tons. In the winter, I wear a boot of mine called Echo and it’s really, really comfortable. And there’s going to be a new boot [the Rayna] I’ll wear that we just got in from Italy. It’s so comfortable. It doesn’t matter if your foot swells on the plane – they’re shoes that will accommodate that.

How many pairs of shoes did you pack for this trip? Fourteen. Because I wanted to make sure I had shoes that exist here that don’t exist anywhere else. I wanted to make sure I had the ones that had arrived from Italy.

How many would you pack for a weekend away? Two pairs.

Is there such a thing as too many? I’m not really a shopper. I’ve never been someone who’s bought a lot of shoes. Carrie Bradshaw did, and I played her and we do look alike but there are radical differences between us. I think it depends who you are. Everybody has different rules by which they live. I think your finances dictate a lot. Shoes aren’t important for everybody. There are lots of people who function in the world who just live practically, just live by necessity and by geography, temperature, and weather. I think that’s a very personal thing.

sarah jessica parker and marika cain
Sarah Jessica Parker with Virtuoso Life’s Marika Cain.


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