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Nature and Heritage at Jamaica's First UNESCO World Heritage Site

A first for Jamaica and a first for the Caribbean. In 2015, Jamaica's Blue and John Crow Mountains became the country's first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and also the Caribbean's first World Heritage Mixed Site for both natural and cultural riches.

The emerald mountains define the eastern part of the island and cover an area of 480 km2. The UNESCO site is 260 km2 within Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park.

Nature and Biodiversity

It's a rare 'tropical mountain' environment on the steep (nearly 1,000-meter) slopes, with cloud forest, a unique ecosystem that only occurs in 2.5% of the world's tropical forests.

The Blue and John Crow Mountains are a global biodiversity hotspot, one of the world's 78 most irreplaceable protected areas for plant and wildlife species conservation.

The park has 1,357 species of flowering plants; a quarter of them are only found in Jamaica, and 87 are found only within the park.

It is the last of two known habitats of the giant swallowtail butterfly, the largest butterfly in the Western Hemisphere, and the habitat for 200 species of birds including the endangered Jamaican blackbird. It is one of the largest migratory bird habitats in the Caribbean. It's also the home of the Jamaican boa and the threatened rodent hutia.

Culture and Heritage

This is where indigenous Tainos and former slaves fled to escape colonial enslavement. The thickly forested mountains provided the seclusion and natural resources for the Maroons' survival and fight for freedom. They developed a profound knowledge of and spiritual connection to the mountains, creating a cultural legacy that survives in modern Jamaica.

Tangible history of the Maroons' life and resistance in the mountains also remains today. The Nanny Town Heritage Route includes settlements, trails, viewpoints, and hiding places.

The Blue and John Crow Mountains sustained Maroons and supported them as they struggled to survive and achieve recognition and liberation. Their example influenced other slave resistance in the region, and is a powerful story of humanity for all people of the world.

Jamaicans and Visitors

The Blue and John Crow Mountains' designation as a dual UNESCO World Heritage Site was a momentous occasion for Jamaica and Jamaicans.

It was dedicated to the legacy of the Maroons of Jamaica, "strong, cunning and resourceful persons who found ingenious ways to dismantle a system that blighted peoples of the region… They have helped to shape our identity of self, and community."

As a Mixed World Heritage Site, the Blue and John Crow Mountains' one-of-a-kind environment and profound cultural heritage will be preserved for ancestors of the brave Maroons, and for visitors to the country looking for a deeper connection to Jamaica.

To plan your visit, contact  the Office of Park Managers, Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust by email at jamaicaconservation@gmail.com; or by phone at (876) 960-2848-9 or (876) 960-8278-9. Photo Credit - Jamaica Social Investment Fund

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Gentlemen Prefer... Barbers: London Shopping Icon Becomes Destination for Men

The iconic Fortnum and Mason department store in London's Picadilly is an essential shopping stop if you have an evening off of business meetings in the City, a half-day of 'bleisure', or a relaxed schedule of pleasure in one of the world's top travel destinations. 

Originally a purveyor of fine foods, 'Fortnum's' is any discerning traveler's go-to department store to procure its house blends of tea, original-recipe biscuits (cookies), jams and more.  If it's good enough to earn a 'by appointment to' seal of approval from senior members of the Royal Family, it must be good enough for even your excellent taste.  

Show that good taste by ordering one of their coveted hampers to thank your London hosts, or dropping by to get a gift for your dog sitter at home. (One of the best things about doing favors for friends traveling to London is seeing them return holding a Fortnum's signature pale green bag out to you!)

 

Above Photo Credit  All other images courtesy Fortnum & Mason

Though Fortnum's has a renowned Men's Department on the 3rd floor, until now, Fortnum's may have been seen as more of a 'girlfriend getaway' or a Mother/ Daughter destination. Some men dash in to find a perfect, or emergency tie or an essential souvenir / gift. Others just get to hold the ladies' shopping bags.

No more.  Now you or the gentleman in your life is going to want to stay a while. Fortnum & Mason has 'beefed up' the 3rd Floor with the introduction of services that let any man channel his inner James Bond or Lord Grantham by…

Getting a Proper Cut and Shave from the Barber

After a hiatus of over 50 years (since 1963) Fortnum's Gentlemen's Department is once again home to an in-house Master Barber.  Now you can experience a cut above Piccadilly with The Barber.

A one-stop shop for the discerning gentleman, The Barber at Fortnum & Mason offers everything from haircuts and hot towel head massages, to bespoke beard styling (where your inner Gentleman meets your inner Hipster), wet shaves and hair treatments. 

A beautiful blend of the traditional and the contemporary, visitors to The Barber can expect first-class service that aims to put a little of the ceremony back into the art of male grooming.

There is a fully stocked (and fully complimentary) drinks cabinet in place too, should the need for a mid-snip sip of Martini arise. (And why wouldn't it?)


 

On one wall of The Barber are the ‘Keeps’ - beautiful wooden lockers designed to hold a gentleman’s personal grooming accessories - which are available to purchase for an annual fee of £850 which includes twenty haircuts and shaves throughout the year.

We think this is going to become a new ritual for any man lucky enough to regularly travel to London.

Ordering a Cocktail from the Barman

Set in the heart of the 3rd floor Gentlemen's Department, the newest bar at Fortnum's is a relaxed, intimate spot for all visitors to enjoy.  The '3 and 6 Bar' is for gentlemen and ladies alike who want to enjoy the perfect cocktail and bask in the height of British bar service.

And in typical Fortnum's fashion, its name hides a fascinating story you'll love. In the 1930s, customers could pay to have Fortnum's throw a cocktail party in their home. (How divine!) The price per guest (for everything excluding the alcohol, unfortunately) was three shilling and sixpence - written as 3'6 in old money and pronounced '3 and 6'. The current bar stands near the location you'd go to order your home cocktail party.  Converted into modern money, 3'6 is almost exactly £11 - which far from coincidentally, is the price of the most iconic cocktails on the menu too.

A huge range of spirits, from cognacs to whiskies and all points between, are also available. So too, Fortnum's famous tea. Also boasting a delicious food menu of light bites and sweets - including Steak Tartare, Potted Rabbit, Welsh Rarebit, Raspberry Trifle and Treacle Tart - 3 and 6 Bar combines Fortnum's signature sense of luxurious British comfort with a home-from-home, snug-bar atmosphere.   It's open from noon seven days a week.  

Outfitting your Travels like a Gentleman

While you're on the 3rd Floor Gentlemen's Department, treat yourself to your own souvenirs in the form of the ultimate British gentlemen's travel essentials. 

Perhaps a Fortnum's travel tag or Atlas.  A travel shaving brush to keep your new shave its best.  A Ghurka vintage leather travel tray that packs flat and snaps up quickly, making the perfect place to store your keys, spare change, jewellery, and valuables in your hotel room.  You know, when you've left your valet, or 'gentlemen's gentleman' at home.  Or an air-safe manicure kit that's hand-made in Germany, and has everything a modern man needs to put his best hand forward to close that deal. 

We're excited there's a new place for every man to discover his inner British gentleman in London.

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Hanami Tips: View Cherry Blossoms Like the Japanese

Springtime cherry blossom viewing has become one of the best-known Japanese festivals around the world.

BestTrip.TV's Producer and Host Lynn Elmhirst shares her experience of 'Hanami', and some tips if you are lucky enough to travel to Japan during those magical few weeks every spring.

I'm a tree hugger. I love nature, woods walks, gardens and flower shows, making fresh bouquets for my home… I've even studied Japanese flower arranging (ikebana). So imagine how excited I was to be in Japan during the season when their famous cherry blossoms are in bloom. And to be invited to join a 'Hanami' party. (Top image credit).

'Hana' means flower in Japanese, and in this context, means almost exclusively cherry blossoms (sakura), although it can also mean other flowering fruit trees, especially plum (ume). 'Mi' is from the verb to see or view.

So Hanami is just a simple Japanese word 'Flower blossom viewing', but it has become one of the most revered Japanese traditions.

Hanami as a custom is believed to go back over a thousand years, even as far back as the 700's, during a time of tremendous cultural growth in Japan.

At that time, the practice was more closely related to agricultural and divining purposes, to announce the rice-planting season and predict the harvest. Naturally, offerings were made to the spirits in the fruit trees. This eventually evolved into including sake drinking in the offering.

Well you know where it went from there. Parties.

Image Credit

Once an Emperor in the Heian period started holding flower-viewing parties with sake and feasting beneath the blossoming trees, he set the scene for centuries to come. Poetry was written about the lacy, delicate flowers, seen as a symbol of the short-lived beauty of life itself. Masses of plantings in full bloom appear from a distance like fluffy pale pink clouds, inspiring generations of artists. Paintings, wood block prints, and tapestries celebrated the barely-pink blossoms and their increasing meaning to Japanese society. Where royalty and artists set a trend, the rest of society follows. Soon, even common people were planting cherry trees and taking picnic meals and drinking sake under the boughs of blossoming cherry trees.

Fast-forward to today, and that custom remains. I had some vague notion in my head that we'd stroll in awe under bowers of blossoms in the castle grounds, perhaps ending the uplifting Nature experience with some tea.

Instead, one member of our group went out at 6 am that morning with plastic picnic sheeting to lay out and stake a claim to a prime picnic spot under a particularly beautiful tree with a broader view over the park. By the time we joined him late afternoon, other parties had clearly been going on for hours. And the sake, beer, and shochu (sometimes called 'Japanese vodka') had been flowing. 

The blossoms were breathtaking, but they didn't seem to be the star of the show. Cherry blossoms were just the set. It was all about the party. Barbecues, drinks, portable karaoke machines created a raucous scene – in an admittedly pretty magical atmosphere. In many places, hanami viewing starts after work – is even a work /colleague event – and continues late into the night. Some parks hang paper lanterns to light the trees. 

Night Hanami. Image credit

The contrast between the charm of the blossoms and trees and twinkling lights and the noisy parties below is shocking to a first timer like me.  I found myself trying to block out the noise to find a sense of the wonder and spirituality of the earliest Hanami participants.

And for all the seeming irreverence, the Japanese take viewing very seriously. People past the age of enjoying raucous parties still do hanami, often more in temples, where they follow prayer rituals. TV news and papers forecast the 'cherry blossom front', following the season from the warmer south to the cooler north, only a couple of weeks in each place, and only a few days of truly prime viewing.  In the big cities of Osaka and Tokyo and the ancient capital Kyoto, cherry blossom season normally takes place at the end of March and early April.

A blossom forecast with the predicted dates of blossoms. The numbers are for dates (3.22 is March 22). Note the "cherry blossom front" moves from South to North. Image credit.

If you are traveling to Japan on pleasure or business any time near cherry blossom season, find a way to participate in a party. If you do 'hanami', there are some etiquette rules to follow:

  • Tips for Hanami in Japan:Be respectful of the mass of blossom admirers and the cherry trees themselves; don't shake branches, step on roots, or pick blossoms.
  • Many blossom parties and venues can be rowdy, but not always. If most admirers are in prayer or quiet contemplation, a loud foreigner can wreck that experience for them AND the reputation of foreigners in Japan. Don't be that guy.
  • Although parties with sake, beer, shochu (sometimes called 'Japanese vodka') are part of the modern ritual, be warned that not all parks permit alcohol; hopefully, you're going with Japanese friends, a guide, or colleagues, and they'll know if you can toast the blossoms with spirits.
  • Similarly, not all parks permit barbecues, so your packed Hanami picnic may have to be cold and pre-prepared.
  • Some parks don't have garbage collection capacity for the huge flow of Hanami traffic; be prepared to dispose of your garbage in your own bags.

The Japanese National Tourism Organization publishes a list of the best places to view cherry blossoms. You can find it here: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/interests/cherry.html

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40 Years Later: Where is the 'Hotel California'?

It's one of the most loved travel songs of all time. And February 26th, 2017 marked the 40th anniversary of the Eagles' Hotel California. It really was forty years ago, in 1977, the band's most popular song was released as a single from the Eagles' album of the same name, and entered the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Hotel California quickly won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1978. But it also became a cultural icon for generations since. Its guitar solo is consistently named one of the greatest ever, and the roadtrip song is now in the Grammy Hall of Fame.  Want it playing in your head the rest of the day? Here's a link to the Eagle's performing it. (Photo: The Eagles in concert performing Hotel California, 2010 tour in Australia. Photo Credit.)

So where is Hotel California? Well, the album cover art made it pretty clear. It featured a picture of the fabled Beverly Hills Hotel.

Photo Credit

Somehow, fans with big imaginations wove conspiracies about a deeper, hidden meaning, but the band members say it's just not so. Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Don Felder share writing credits for the song, and Don Henley has made it very clear that the song was about 'a journey from innocence to experience... that's all…'

'We were all middle class kids from the Midwest, ‘Hotel California’ was our interpretation of the high life in L.A.'

The Beverly Hills Hotel is still the essence of Hollywood's luxury pedigree. The Mediterranean Revival style hotel, in its trademark pale pink and green, is one of the most renowned hotels in the world. 

Photo Credit

Constructed in 1912, in the middle of bean fields where rich polo players used to practice, the Beverly Hills Hotel was built BEFORE that city's existence. The hotel was strategically built on a prominence above the main road, and resembled a palatial, colonial mansion. Each of the rooms has its own balcony and is designed in the Beverly Hills Hotel colors. The Sunroom of the hotel, containing Californian craftsman furniture, provides vistas of the Pacific Ocean.

Polo players were quickly replaced by the cream of Hollywood society: film stars, studio bosses, celebrities, and rock stars.  In its earliest days, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Rudolph Valentino, and Will Rogers flocked to the new destination, ultimately building homes nearby.

They transformed the bean fields to one of the most prestigious addresses in the world. The Beverly Hills Hotel is the prime occupant of Sunset Boulevard, in the city that established itself around the hotel, and adopted the hotel's name.

Beverly Hills became a symbol of the glamorous 50's and 60's, and the Beverly Hills Hotel welcomed royalty like Princess Margaret, Princess Grace, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, who rubbed elbows with leading lights of Hollywood: John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, the Beatles… the list goes on and on.  

The Beverly Hills Hotel became known as the 'Pink Palace', with legendary stories emanating from the hotel's guest rooms, bungalows in the 12 acres of gardens, and the Sand and Pool Club, whose white sand was imported from Arizona, and made the pool area look like a beach.

Old Hollywood lives on today. The Beverly Hills Hotel had a100-million-dollar-plus renovation in the 1990's, and more remodeling and restoration for its 100th anniversary in 2012. That year, the hotel was named the first historic landmark in Beverly Hills.

Today, the Eagles' 'Hotel California' is part of the Dorchester Collection of luxury hotels, and guests can still soak in the atmosphere of legendary Hollywood glamour.

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Video: Man vs. Jetstream and other things you didn't know about St. Maarten

From the outrageous antics on Maho Beach at the end of the airport runway, to the hidden gems (literally!) of the island, this BestTrip.TV travel video shares our favorite - and most unique - things about the island.

So is it St. Maarten or St. Martin?  If you don't know why both of those names are correct, you need to watch this video!

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How to Eat Like the Irish on St.Patrick's Day

A foodie exploration of Ireland is an island-wide adventure involving the favorite Irish pastimes of eating, drinking and socializing – from cafés and pubs, to stylish Michelin-starred restaurants.

In the 'Emerald Isle', food is intimately connected to the rich green landscape, regional farming and cooking traditions, the freshest seasonal ingredients and supremely talented food-meisters who magically inject ‘art’ into artisan Irish produce and modern interpretations of Ireland's culinary heritage. Not to mention Ireland's famously colorful turns of phrase.

On the one day a year that 'everyone's a little bit Irish', up the ante on your green beer. Here's a guide to ordering authentic flavors of Ireland. And some tips about where and what to eat and how to celebrate Ireland's food culture on your next trip.

Boxty

Where: O’Holohan’s on the Barge, Belfast

Climb on board O’Holohan’s, moored at the Belfast Waterfront. This restaurant-on-a-barge is famed for its boxty: a traditional potato pancake, which it serves with pan-fried hake, organic veg and shellfish cream.

Home-Smoked Salmon

Where: Delahunt, Dublin

Bring on one of the best fish dishes in Dublin. This is a thing of brains and beauty: lapsang souchong home-smoked salmon, served in the incredible surroundings of a converted Victorian building on Dublin’s Camden Street. It’s the very essence of contemporary Irish cooking – creative, fresh AND delicious.

Coddle

Where: The Woollen Mills, Dublin

Overlooking the iconic arc of the Ha’penny Bridge, the Woollen Mills has a light, modern-industrial interior – a great counterpoint to a dish that dates back to the 1770s, Dublin coddle, a no-nonsense bowl of bacon, sausages, onion and potato. Honest, hearty and very Dublin.

Seafood Chowder

Where: Canteen at the MAC Belfast

In the super-cool open-brick surrounds of Belfast’s premier arts venue, MAC, you can enjoy one of Ireland’s most popular seafood dishes: seafood chowder. MAC’s version uses sustainable fish, and comes with Guinness and treacle bread. Come for the art, stay for the chowder.

Cockles and Mussels

Where: The Exchequer, Dublin

Fever-ridden Molly Malone wheeled her wheelbarrow around the Dublin streets selling these fresh local molluscs. But to dine on the cooked combination, you need to check out the Exchequer gastro pub and its gourmet version with spiced sausage, Bulmers cider and homemade bread.

Oysters

Where: Mourne Seafood Bar, Belfast

Traditionally served with pints of Guinness, sample some of the finest at the Mourne Seafood Bar in Belfast. In this relaxed informal space, seafood takes centre stage. Try local oysters three ways: au naturel, Japanese-style or Rockefeller. Either way, they’re delicious, so get shucking.

Or:

Celebrate Oyster Season

September is the month of the oyster and in Northern Ireland the annual Hillsborough Oyster Festival (1-4) holds the world oyster eating championships – you’ll have to eat around 223 in three minutes if you want to seriously compete! But the pretty Georgian village is alive with music, Ulster’s fine food, golf, dancing and pageants if you don’t.

The world-famous Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival (23-25) is also a major event in Ireland´s social calendar – London’s Sunday Times has called it one of the 12 greatest shows on earth. Walk through the city and you’ll see passionately fought-out Irish and international oyster opening competitions, celebrity cook-offs, and fantastic live music events on the streets and pouring out of the pubs. Few can resist a Galway oyster tasting (with the perfect accompaniment of a pint of Guinness), a ‘seafood dine-around’ some of the city’s best restaurants or a glam night out at the Gala Oyster Ball.

A Fresh Fish Supper (Fish and Chips)

Where: John Long’s, Belfast

A philosophy of simple but impeccable fish and chips runs through this Belfast institution, which has been described by the Belfast Telegraph as “the holiest of holy culinary shrines”. Grab a space at a Formica table, order a cup of tea, and wait for some of the best fish and chips you’re ever likely to taste.

The Waterford Blaa

Where: Hatch & Sons, Dublin

Waterford locals love their ’blaa’ – a soft bread roll introduced by the French Huguenots in the 17th century. Paired with dry-cured bacon, it’s a real delight. To try one in Dublin, head to the Georgian kitchen-café of Hatch & Sons on St Stephen’s Green. Go old school with rashers (strips of bacon), or take it upscale with spiced beef, rapeseed mayo, Coolea cheese and onion relish.

Or

Visit September's Waterford Harvest Festival. The city's famous fluffy breadroll blaa is centerstage, along with other local delicacies. Over 10 mouth-watering days, foodies will relish the cookery demos and workshops, seminars, foodie films and tastings, dinners, banquets and restaurant trails. Street performances and big outdoor music gigs are also on the Waterford menu.

And For Serious Foodies…

If you want to take your love for food a bit deeper you can sign yourself, your family, your colleagues or your pals up for one of the excellent cookery schools located around the country. Serious foodies can also opt for a food tour – counties Cork, Mayo and Dublin are excellent for these.

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Video: Culinary School in Provence, France

Has it been your dream to go to a cooking school in Europe? Immerse yourself in local produce, ingredients and culinary secrets shared by a chef in a scenic destination?

BestTrip.TV traveled to Provence in the South of France, a region famous for its sun, breathtaking vistas, vineyards, beaches and cuisine. Our culinary school experience was learning to make aioli, which you sometimes see on menus called 'garlic mayonnaise'. But silky, mellow, aioli, made by your own hand - a glass of ice-chilled local rose wine in the other - as part of a Provencal meal on the terrace of an historic manor house? Incomparable.

A memorable way to experience hands-on the cuisine of one of the legendary destinations in Europe for couples, a group of friends, even a girlfriend getaway.

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Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Makes 5-Star Award History

Business, leisure luxury hotel brand earns more Forbes 5-Star Ratings in a single year than any other hotel brand. 

2017 is a banner year for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.  It marks the second consecutive year the hotel brand, loved by fans of luxury travel, has topped Forbes Travel Guide ratings with a record number of Five-Star Properties.  How many have you stayed at?

Forbes Travel Guide has awarded a Five-Star rating – its highest honor – to 30 Four Seasons properties worldwide. The recognition marks the largest number of Five-Star ratings awarded to a hotel brand in a single year in the list’s nearly 60-year history.  

Star ratings are awarded by a team of professional inspectors, who anonymously evaluate properties against up to 800 rigorous and objective standards. The guides' goal is to provide consumers like you the insight to make better-informed business and leisure travel decisions.

In the words of Forbes Travel Guide, its inspectors “travel the world to assess hotels, restaurants and spas against up to 800 objective standards.” Star ratings ultimately emphasize quality of service. Five-Star properties are defined as “outstanding, often iconic properties with virtually flawless service and amazing facilities.”

Forbes Travel Guide rates properties in 42 countries throughout the Americas, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, with plans to add the Middle East and Africa for 2018.

4 Four Seasons properties earned their first Five-Star designation this year, including Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay (pictured top of page), Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan (pictured above), Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest (pictured below) and Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel (pictured second from top).

The 30 Four Seasons properties that earned Five Stars in 2017 are:

  • Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta
  • Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay
  • Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan
  • Four Seasons Hotel Boston
  • Four Seasons Hotel Chicago
  • Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
  • Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva
  • Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
  • Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris
  • Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest
  • Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou
  • Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake
  • Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
  • Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
  • Four Seasons Resort and Residences Jackson Hole
  • Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
  • Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane
  • Four Seasons Hotel Macao, Cotai Strip
  • Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
  • Four Seasons Hotel New York
  • Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach
  • Four Seasons Hotel Pudong, Shanghai
  • Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, Mexico
  • Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco
  • Four Seasons Hotel Seattle
  • Four Seasons Hotel Toronto
  • Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver
  • Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC
  • Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler
  • Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel

Forbes Travel Guide formally bestows the ratings at a Five-Star Awards Ceremony and Banquet in New York City on March 1, 2017.

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Montreal Celebrates 375th Anniversary with a Year of Music

5 Can't Miss Music Events in Montreal in 2017 from Leonard Cohen to Pink Floyd Opera to an Electronic Music Parade.

On May 17, 1642, a small colony called Ville-Marie was founded by a small group of 50 explorers from France. The little colony would soon be known as Montreal and 375 years later, a city of 1.7 million is celebrating a milestone.

Montreal's 375th anniversary conveniently falls alongside Canada's 150th, and makes Montreal one of the top Canadian destinations to visit in 2017 thanks to an exciting line-up of festivals and events throughout the year. Montreal has always fostered and celebrated its musical scene, and in its 375th anniversary year, music reigns.

Here are five musical experiences you can't miss in Montreal this year.

World Premiere of: Another Brick in the Wall: The Opera

When: Select dates between March 11th and 24th

Another Brick in the Wall: The Opera is based on Pink Floyd's 1979 album The Wall and is a collaboration between Opera de Montreal and Pink Floyd's former bassist and chief songwriter, Roger Waters.

Starting out as a concept album (1979) and then a film (1982), The Wall is a psychological drama inspired by Waters' life.  Waters got the idea for The Wall after a concert at Montreal's Olympic Stadium in 1977, so the iconic composition is in a sense, coming home with the premiere of its operatic interpretation on the Montreal stage during the city's 375th celebrations.

Waters will also be a librettist in the production.

Free Montréal Symphonique Concert at Foot of Mount Royal

When: August 19th

Montreal's inner-city mountain has been central to the city since the start, and nowadays, it's a green urban retreat for locals and visitors.  Mount Royal takes center stage of 2017 birthday celebrations during a free performance at its base. The concert brings together major artists and Montréal's three great orchestras: the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, the Orchestre Métropolitain as well as the McGill Symphony Orchestra for the first time, under the direction of Simon Leclerc.

This extravagant, far-reaching concert will feature over 300 musicians, pop artists and choral singers. The theme of the concert is: seasons, and a series of tableaux will evoke the city, its inhabitants, its history, its landmarks and its vibrant personality. 

Electro Parade Around Montreal

When: September 2nd

The first Electro Parade in North America will feature local and international DJs on parade floats equipped with state-of-the-art sound systems and wandering through the streets of Montréal - turning city streets into dance floors.

This global trend has already become popular in Paris and Zurich, where similar events have taken place. 

Full programming, names of guest DJs, and the parade route will be announced soon.

Leonard Cohen Exhibit at MAC Museum

When: November 9th 2017 to April 1st, 2018

Well before he passed away last year, the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montréal (MAC) was preparing a retrospective on this famous Montrealer's life.

Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything will be one of the last major Montreal 375th events in 2017. The exhibition will pay homage to this global star and feature a collection of new works created by artists who were inspired by Cohen's works and include visual art, performance art, music, written word and film.

One More Thing:

Cité Mémoire Brings History to Life

When: Every night throughout 2017 and beyond - except April 10th  to May 10th

Cité Mémoire (pictured, top) invites visitors to experience Montreal's history through a series of multimedia projections around Old Montreal - on buildings, cobblestone streets and even on trees.

For the full experience complete with music and narration, visitors can download the "Montreal en Histoires - Cite Memoire" app before your trip and take along your headphones. The free app is available in four languages and has a map of Old Montreal that shows each projection location and lists the best times for viewing each piece.

This is a self-guided walking tour that visitors can do every evening at your own pace, but there are also Cite Memoire staff along the route to help with interpretation and questions.

Favorite installations include "Suzanne", a love story projection on the Clock Tower Quay set to the iconic song by Leonard Cohen, and "The Face of Montreal", projections of various Montreal faces on trees along Jacques-Cartier Quay.

For a complete line-up of Montreal's 375th anniversary celebrations, visit: www.375mtl.com/en.  

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Spelunking in Jamaica

It might be the most polar opposite activity to a day on the beach in Jamaica. Escaping from the sunny, hot, breeze of the beaches, to explore one of the island's networks of cool, dark, damp cave systems.

Jamaica is one of the special places in the world with 'Karst' topography, where flowing water has carved paths through soluble limestone terrain, resulting in spectacular underwater rivers and caves.

Exploring caves is irresistible. Our earliest ancestors used caves for protection, a place for worship, where they created art, stored their treasures, even buried their dead. There's something about being in a cave that taps our most primal instincts, returning to the refuge of Mother Earth. Feeling just for a little while that we're exploring the unknown.

It's a magical environment inside caves. Like entering another world, transitioning from sunlight, heat, and breeze, to dark, damp, stillness, with the Earth encompassing you, not just beneath your feet. Where light does leak in through openings from the world above, it's filtered and bounced off the limestone walls, dancing off particles in the air, creating a mystical ambiance.

Jamaica has long been on the map for the global community of experienced cavers drawn to the wild highlands of the island where some claim are a thousand cave systems, some descending hundreds of feet into the bowels of the Earth. Now, Jamaica is also a destination for spelunking – amateur caving – where travelers with no caving experience at all can work with guides who have intimate knowledge of the maze of caves, and can provide safety equipment and instruction so you, too, can discover a completely different world in Jamaica.

If you are not part of a very experienced, well-equipped caving team who has safety training for these conditions, working with a reputable cave tour company is the only safe and responsible way to experience Jamaica's caves. First, you don't want your actions to damage the cave or its wildlife inhabitants. Then there's your own wellbeing. Cave interiors are dark and can be muddy with difficult footing, low ceilings, and twists and turns that can make you lose your way.

You need more than flip flops, a camera phone and enthusiasm! Spelunking tours in Jamaica provide you with everything you need to become an explorer of this fascinating, underground side of the island. You'll discover not just new scenery, but perhaps also a new, mystical relationship with the earth that might be one of your best memories of a trip to Jamaica.

Cockpit Country Adventure Tours offers half and full-day caving trips. Their experienced guides lead trips of all levels of difficulty. Whether you're a first-timer, or an experienced spelunker, you'll have an unforgettable adventure. For more information, or to book a trip, click here.

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Did you know there are more bicycles than people in Amsterdam? 

It's one of the original and influential cycling cultures that helped set the trend towards urban cycling and our love for touring new destinations by bike.

The Dutch bicycle - the original workhorse urban bike for entire families - sets the bar in style, function and cool factor.  BestTrip.TV discovers cycling culture in legendary Amsterdam, and meets the maker of custom Dutch bikes.

If there's anything better than cycling through the streets of one of the world's favorite cities, it's a souvenir custom bike that will be the envy of all your cycling friends at home.

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Time To Get Back to the Caribbean! Escape To One of These Unique Beaches

You don't really want to try to tough out this tough winter without a beach escape. And luckily, it's not too late to book a break from winter weather.After the destruction of recent hurricanes, communities have pulled together, and many beach destinations are ready to welcome travelers again. Booking a cruise or a land trip and supporting the local economy is one of the best ways you can help affected destinations that rely on tourism to continue to recover.

And even if your favorite winter beach isn't quite ready for visitors again, that's a great motivation to discover a new beach this year. Here are some of our favorite under-the-radar beaches to try in your quest for sun and sand this winter.

1. Crane Beach, BarbadosCrane Beach was originally a harbor, is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with its dramatic cliffs and surrounding vegetation. If you think 'Crane' beach means it's best for birdwatchers, you're wrong: it refers to the large crane that once sat on the top of the cliff loading and unloading ships in the harbor. The waves in this area make the Crane beach a great spot for body surfing and boogie boarding, and the famous hotel (said to be the oldest in the islands) perching above the beach is a gem of Caribbean hospitality. (Photo Credit)

2. Trunk Bay, St. John, US Virgin IslandsThis white sand beach has been a showpiece of the US National Park Service since it was donated by a Rockefeller family member to the Virgin Islands National Park. A one-of-a-kind, 650-foot underwater snorkeling trail provides terrific viewing of colorful fish and corals, including the rare, indigo-blue tunicates – in less than 20′ of water, perfect for every member of the family.

3. Eagle Beach, ArubaAruba is as far south as you can go in the Caribbean before you hit South America, and its uniquely dry, sunny, almost dessert-like environment, so different from elsewhere in the Caribbean, is worth a few more minutes in the air. Wide and white, Eagle Beach (above photo credit) is home to two of the most photographed and renowned divi divi trees in Aruba (pictured top, credit) with their trademark silhouette shaped by the constant, refreshing trade winds. Low rise resorts line the beach, which is also a famous turtle nesting and hatching site.

4. Mosquito Bioluminscent Bay, Puerto RicoThis might be the only beach in the Caribbean best seen at night! Tiny micro-organisms, up to 160,000 of them in every liter of water - give off a supernatural, blue-white glow year round. It's the most luminous bioluminescent display in the world - and makes this the beach experience on Puerto Rico's Vieques island unforgettable! Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the island, interrupting the bioluminescent bay's ecosystem. For weeks after the hurricanes, the bay was dark. But happily, the water is starting to glow again as the water chemistry recovers. Don't miss the opportunity for the nighttime kayak of a lifetime.

5. Horseshoe Bay, BermudaThis is the most famous beach in Bermuda, and one of the top-rated in the world. A very popular tourist spot, it lies on the main island's south (Atlantic) coast, shaped in, you guessed it, a horseshoe. Fringed by limestone rocks, the pink sand and turquoise water are mirrored by the British Caribbean island's pastel architecture. (Photo Credit)

Don't miss an island escape from the winter weather. Discover a new favorite beach in the Caribbean. Start your Trip!Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Eataly's $106 Million Italian Culinary Destination in Bologna

They don't want you to call it a 'theme park'. But if you're one of the foodies around the world who love the wildly popular, Eataly franchises, the field-to-fork destination that has opened near Bologna, Italy is the culinary 'theme park' of your dreams.

The Eataly phenomenon has been described as a premium Italian grocery store 'with tasting rooms'. You shop, you eat, you love; authentic, from-the-source Italian food and food products. When it launched in New York City, there were lineups around the block, and it's still packed. There are dozens of other Eataly outlets worldwide, including a dining venue on the MSC Divina at sea.

FICO Eataly World outside Italy's culinary capital of Bologna is a whole new level of interactive culinary experience. FICO stands for Fabbrica Italiana Contadina - Italian Farming Factory. It's the culmination of Eataly's food 2.0 vision; a game changer for Eataly and global food culture.

The 20-acre complex is a hub connecting six million annual visitors to Italian agriculture and gastronomy: food production, education, dining, tastings, and retail, all in one eco-responsible space powered by 44,000 solar panels, said to be the largest solar property in Europe.

The numbers show the awesome scale and scope of FICO Eataly World:

EARTH AND FARMS

  • 2.5 acres of fields, stables, pastures, gardens and farms, where all of Italy’s best-known crops cultivated and prime livestock breeds raised.

PRODUCERS

  • 40 areas of fresh production with raw ingredients managed by the best Italian companies
  • 2000 Italian companies participate in the project, sharing their crafts, innovations and passion for the food they produce.

MARKET:

  • 97,000 square feet of retail marketplace selling iconic 'Made in Italy' seasonal food products

RESTAURANTS: a paradise for gourmands looking discover the best of Italian gastronomic biodiversity.

  • 25 restaurants, including themed restaurants and street food stalls including:
  • Meat
  • Cured meat and cheese restaurant
  • Pasta
  • Vegetable restaurant
  • Winery
  • Fish
  • Regional restaurant
  • Piadina bistro
  • Smoothie street food stall
  • Potato street food stall
  • Prosciutteria
  • Pastries
  • And more…

EDUCATION

  • 1,000 courses for adults per year
  • 40 workshops, where visitors can learn Italian culinary skills like pasta and cheese production first-hand.
  • 5,000 educational activities for schools
  • 500 internships per year for aspiring young people and adults who wish to master food production, learning from on site experts

EVENTS

  • 500 cultural events per year related to food, wine, and agriculture

FICO Eataly World is an extraordinary culinary destination. A vision come to life of a hands-on, for-the-people celebration Italy's rich culinary heritage and groundwork for its future, educating the next generation of food producers, diners and home cooks, and engaging in environmental best practices.

Definitely one of the most exciting culinary experiences for anyone planning to visit Italy.


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Kung Hei Fat Choy! 

BestTrip.TV discovers the traditions, the spectacle and the little known facts behind one of Hong Kong's biggest festivals.

Chinese New Year - or Lunar New Year - is celebrated not only in mainland China, plus Hong Kong and Macau, but also in Chinese communities around the world, as well as throughout South-East Asia: Singapore, Viet Nam, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines and others.

Chinese New Year falls on different dates every year in January or February, with each year dedicated to a different creature of the Chinese zodiac. Celebrations last days in Hong Kong, and include adorable lion dances, temple activities, special foods, flowers, and plants, wearing red, exchanging gifts and other traditions for good fortune, a magnificent parade in downtown Hong Kong... and fireworks!

We visited Hong Kong on Chinese New Year, and we think it's one of the most exciting times to visit one of the world's most exciting cities.

It's hard to imagine the awe-inspiring Hong Kong harbor front skyline become even more spectacular... but this Chinese New Year fireworks show takes it to a whole new level.

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Celebrate Music and Modern Architecture in Hamburg

The landmark, modernist Elbphilharmonie, designed by 'starchitects' Herzog & deMeuron, has opened its doors at last this month. The complex adds three world-class concert halls, a hotel, and a public area with a panoramic view to the city famously associated with the music of Mahler, Brahms and the Beatles.Hamburg is Europe's second largest port. It handles large, ocean-going ships, so it's considered a seaport, even though it's nearly 70 miles (110 km) inland from the North Sea on the Elbe River at its confluence with 2 other rivers.

The Elbphilharmonie is in a unique location in Hamburg’s historic port. It's part of Europe’s largest inner-city urban revitalization project, in direct proximity to the Speicherstadt warehouse district UNESCO World Heritage site. 

In location, in design, and in function, the Elbphilharmonie serves as a symbol of the city’s past, present and its future.

Spectacular ArchitectureThe renowned Swiss architecture firm Herzog & deMeuron designed the exciting structure to perch on top of a brick warehouse that used to store tea, tobacco and cocoa arriving from abroad. 1700 reinforced concrete piles support the modernist, glass structure, whose wave-like roofline rises above the water of the port that surrounds it on three sides.

The Plaza is the area that links the warehouse and the new structure, and it's the central meeting place in the Elbphilharmonie. There's a viewing platform here that's open to the public. Even getting to it is an experience: an 82-metre-long (over 250 foot-long) curved escalator transports visitors through the building. Once you get there, you have a stunning panoramic view over the city and port of Hamburg.


The heart of the Elbphilharmonie is the spectacular, Grand Concert Hall. 2,100 seats are arranged around a centrally located stage, designed to remind you of visits to terraced vineyards. Amazingly, no member of the audience is seated more than 30 metres (about a hundred feet) from the conductor. Being so unusually close to the action turns this new acoustic space into a place of unforgettable musical encounters.

In order to achieve optimum acoustics, the architects developed a special wall and roof structure together with internationally renowned acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota. 10,000 individually shaped fibre panels cut with millimetre precision ensure targeted sound distribution that reaches you in every corner. For the Grand Hall, the German organ builder Klais developed an extraordinary concert hall organ with 4,765 pipes that are located in, next to and even behind the audience stands.

A Boundless Music ExperienceIn addition to the one-of-a-kind Grand Hall, the complex includes the acoustically outstanding, wood paneled Recital Hall and The 'Kaistudios', the Elbphilharmonie’s interactive music education area for people of all ages. The 'Kaistudios' are also home to the new 'Elbphilharmonie World of Instruments': diverse workshops in which children and adults can try out instruments from all over the world.

Are you thinking this all sounds fantastic, but you really aren't a fan of classical music? Don't fear: there's a line up of concerts and performances that not only include orchestral and operatic performances with the best orchestras in the world; piano, string quartet and German 'lieder'; but also world music, popular, and even electronic music.  Music for every fan, and a reflection of a city that not only supported famous composers, but also has had a world-celebrated club scene since the earliest days of the Fab Four.

They call it 'a perfect symbiosis of architecture and music'. We agree. The new Elbphilharmonie highlights Hamburg on the map of must-see global destinations for lovers of music and celebrated modern design.

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Go Island Hopping in the South Pacific

The very word 'Tahiti' evokes the mystique of one of the most remote and romantic island destinations in the world.

An island hopping escape to even a few of the 118 islands and atolls in this South Pacific paradise is not only the ultimate escape from northern winters, it's the trip of a lifetime. Picture your arrival, welcomed by Tahitian music and fragrant Tiare flowers… and use these highlights of some of the key islands to start planning your island hopping fantasy escape:They call the island of Tahiti 'The Queen of the Pacific'. It's the largest and most populated island, and is the starting point for travelers, who fly into the capital city Papeete. Don't miss Marae Arahurahu, an ancient Tahitian outdoor temple, or, in the centre of town, the market with tropical produce and fresh local fish and Tahitian arts and crafts, including the biggest selection of pareus (sarongs) in the country. Outside the city, Tahiti boasts spectacular scenery: lush green peaks tower over cascading waterfalls and rippling pools in the interior, and black- and white-sand beaches and turquoise lagoons at the sea.

Photos: Chris McLennan

Moorea is a mere 11 miles across the Sea of the Moon from Tahiti. If that doesn't already sound like a fairytale, consider Moorea's nickname: 'The Magical Island'. It is even said to be the inspiration for the mythical island of Bali Hai. You've seen it in the movies, from Mutiny on the Bounty to Love Affair. But film can never do full justice to the dramatic beauty of the island. Make sure you go to Belvedere Lookout, with its breathtaking views of Moorea’s twin bays, Cook’s and Opunohu. Look on Moorea's hillsides for its signature produce, pineapples, and visit a local distillery to sample exotic liqueurs from pineapple, mango, coconut, vanilla and other Tahitian flavors.

Here's another magical nickname: the 'Garden of Eden'. Huahine is 110 miles northwest of Tahiti, and actually consists of two islands joined by a bridge. Its main town, Maeva, means 'welcome' in Tahitian! Drive into the hills for spectacular views over white-sand beaches and brilliant turquoise lagoons, and visit restored Tahitian marae (temples), centuries-old stone fish traps, and plantations of melons, vanilla, coffee, taro, mango, and flowers. Do you surf? There are world-class waves at Avamoa Pass, and the world’s largest outrigger canoe race begins here each October.

Bora Bora is a tiny island with a big reputation. 'The Romantic Island' has been called the most beautiful island in the world. It's only 18 miles around, circled by a necklace of coral. Lush mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for the indescribable turquoise, lapis and aquamarine of the famous, sheltered lagoon. Bora Bora is home to world-class resorts and quaint continental restaurants, where celebrity A-listers vacation in luxurious seclusion.

The Tuamotu Atolls are the largest of the Polynesian archipelagos, Tahiti’s 'Strand of Pearls' with 76 islands and atolls spread over more than 7500 square miles. Four of these atolls – Rangiroa, Manihi, Tikehau, Fakarava – offer world-class scuba diving, horseback riding, shark feeding and deep-sea fishing. In addition, the ecosystem in the Fakarava atoll is a UNESCO biosphere reserve. And Manihi is 'the Pearl Island', the site of the first of many pearl farms that have made Tahiti famous for prized, cultivated black pearls.

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Celebrate the Holidays French Style Around the World

You say: Christmas, the French say: Noel. Paris is always a top holiday escape destination, but the City of Light is not the only place to have a 'Joyeux Noel'.


Here are my other favorite places in the world to celebrate the season with French 'joie de vivre'.By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer and Host, BestTrip.TV


Provence, France:

In the wondrous South of France, Provence isn't just for summer tans. Winter in Provence is one of the most magical times to visit. There's still sun and fresh air and charming, uniquely Provencal seasonal traditions.

There's the 'Big Supper' on Christmas Eve, culminating in a ritual of 'The Thirteen Desserts', said to represent Jesus and the 12 apostles. Local and family traditions vary, but the desserts often include almonds, figs, dates, and other local fruits and flavors.

My favorite Provencal Christmas tradition is one that visitors can enjoy year round… and even take home as a souvenir or a gift. Santons are small, hand-painted clay figurines (the word is derived from Provencal dialect for 'little saint'). Santons make up table-top nativity scenes, but in a traditional Provencal nativity scene, it wasn't just the Holy Family, three wise men, angels, a shepherd and some farm animals. Traditionally, there were 55 figures that included characters from everyday Provencal life, like a fishwife and a vegetable seller.

Santon-making is a family craft that is still passed down through generations today, and you can buy santons from workshops through the year. Marseille holds a December Santon fair, and there are also children's holiday santon painting workshops.

New Orleans, Louisiana:

Wherever the royal French motif, the fleur de lys, pops up around the world, it's a clue to that area's historic French ties. In New Orleans, the fleur de lys city symbol joins Creole and Cajun dialect, culinary and other traditions in an enduring, beloved, and unique culture. Two of its holiday traditions were originally observed only on Christmas Eve, but these days, visitors can celebrate the season with locals through the month of December.

Photo by Rebecca Ratliff/NewOrleansOnline

Bonfires on the Levee date back to the earliest Cajun settlers. They were set along the banks of the Mississippi originally to light people's way home for the holiday, or to Midnight Mass, or it's said most recently, to light the way for 'Papa Noel' – Cajun Santa Claus. They have become extravagant in size and design, some accompanied by fireworks and concerts, drawing crowds that feast on bowls of hot gumbo and community good cheer. A hundred or more may be lit every year in neighboring parishes, and visitors can take guided scenic tours of the experience.

Reveillon Dinners were also once exclusively on Christmas Eve, following Midnight Mass. Now, instead of dinners starting at 2 am at home, Reveillon ('awakening') dinners are usually family and friends gathered at conventional dinner hours in a restaurant. Dozens of top city restaurants offer Reveillon menus through the month of December, not just on Christmas Eve, so it's easy for visitors to the city to participate in the tradition.

James Beard Award-winning chef Frank Brigtsen of Brigsten's Restaurant is at the forefront of a new generation of New Orleans chefs who are revitalizing Creole/Acadian cooking, creating modern dishes that pay tribute to Louisiana's culinary traditions. He shared his Reveillon Dinner menu recipe for Oysters Bienville, named after Jean Baptiste le Moyne, the Sieur (Lord) de Bienville, the founder of New Orleans.


Brigsten's Oysters Bienville - Makes around 3 dozen oysters

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup diced ham (1/4-inch pieces)

4 cups finely diced yellow onion

3 cups finely diced celery

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon + ½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon dried whole-leaf thyme

½ teaspoon dried whole-leaf oregano

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

2 cups sliced scallions, white part only

½ cup diced shrimp

2 Tablespoons brandy

1 cup oyster liquor

1 cup milk

2 cups cream

1 cup unsalted butter

1 ½ cups all-purpose white flour

36 oysters on the half-shell

1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pot over high heat. Add the ham and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the onions, celery, and bay leaf. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions become soft and clear.

3. Reduce heat to low. Add the salt, white pepper, cayenne, thyme, oregano, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute.

4. Add the sliced scallions (white part only). Cook, stirring occasionally, until the scallions become soft, 2-3 minutes.

5. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp turn pink, 1-2 minutes. Add the brandy and cook for 1 minute.

6. Add the oyster liquor and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pot.

7. Add the milk and cream and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Transfer the mixture to a tall container and purée until very smooth. Transfer the puréed sauce back into the pot.

8. Make a blond roux: Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Gradually whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Bring the Bienville sauce to a boil and gradually add the roux, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat. Refrigerate until fully chilled.

9. To serve, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Using a pastry bag, top each oyster on the half-shell with about 3 tablespoons of the Bienville Sauce. Bake at 500 degrees for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Bon Appetit!

Martinique, the French Antilles:

It's a little piece of France in the Caribbean. Over the years, residents of the island of Martinique have combined the best of both worlds in their unique local Christmas traditions.

One of the most charming must be the 'Fleurit Noel': the 'Christmas Flower'. This delicate white flowering shrub made its way into local Christmas traditions due to a blooming season that runs December to March. It certainly makes me think of an angel's cloud! It's also thought to cure colds and flu.

Photo: Tourism Martinique

If you travel to Martinique during the holiday season, experience Christmas caroling like you've never experienced it anywhere else in the world. Chante Nwel are get togethers with traditional Martinican holiday cuisine - much of it pork based from a history of households keeping a pig in the backyard and making it the focal point of holiday meals - and singing accompanied by the goatskin tambour bele drum, and call-and-response.

Photo: Tourism Martinique

The carols are collected in a booklet of local versions in Antillean Creole, and you'll never forget the first time you sing - to the tune of 'Jingle Bells' - joyful song lyrics “Gut the Pig”, or other unique local twists on traditional carols.

Quebec, Canada:

Quebec City, the cradle of French civilization in North America, is unforgettable. Built over 400 years ago, it is the only walled city north of Mexico, a UNESCO World Heritage site of stone buildings and steep rooftops true to the French architectural style of the day.

Photo: Quebec City

Wandering the streets of historic Quebec City feels like a taste of Europe at any time of year, but during the snowy Christmas season it's truly magical – the city has been voted one of the top 10 places in the world to celebrate the holidays.

The province's biggest French city, Montreal, is Quebec City's slightly younger sibling, celebrating its 375th birthday this year with the tallest Christmas tree in Canada. Quebec is world famous for its music scene; make sure to attend caroling and concerts in both cities during the Christmas season, and do not miss the opportunity to go to Christmas Eve midnight Mass in one of the historic cathedrals.

Photos: Tourisme Montréal. Giant Christmas Tree: Eva Blue. Place St. Jacques: Matthieu Dupuis.

My mother's side of the family is French Canadian, and we follow the tradition of midnight Mass and a traditional 'Reveillon' meal, including tourtiere, Quebec's traditional meat pie, served with pea soup.

Here's my family recipe for you to enjoy during the holidays or any time of the year.

Photo: BestTrip.TV

Lynn's Family Tourtiere Recipe (Quebec Christmas Meat Pies)

Makes 2 pies or 24-30 tarts

3 lbs ground meat (We use 2 lbs beef and 1 lb pork. Some use all pork, or game, or even duck)

2 large onions, grated or finely minced

2 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons salt

1 t thyme

½ t sage

½ t pepper

¼ t ground cloves

½ t allspice

Brown meat with onions and spices til onions and meat are cooked and still moist. Add

1/3 c red wine

2 large potatoes, peeled, boiled, mashed

Mix thoroughly and cook 5 min. Let cool to room temperature.

Mix in 1 egg

Pack into pie or tart shells, top with a pastry cover, cut slits for vents, and

Wash tops with 1 egg beaten with 1 t water.

Cook in pre-heated 410 degree oven til pastry deep golden. Serve hot.

Bon appétit and Joyeux Noel!

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Go Glamping in Antarctica

Antarctica may be on your travel bucket list, but what if even the prospect of being one of the few people ever to set foot on the surreal, winter wilderness of the South Pole isn't enough to convince you to rough it?Well, you don't have to. We've discovered a tour operator that takes only a dozen visitors at a time to what they call the 'real' Antarctica, inland from cruise shore excursions, all the way to the actual Geographic South Pole.

And they do it in style. Inspired by luxury safaris of yesteryear complete with china, chefs, hampers and fine linens, White Desert creates an encampment of luxury pods that furnishes almost as unique an environment inside as outside.

Taking off from South Africa, it's a half-day's flight to the camp. While nothing to look at from the outside (and why would you want to when you're surrounded by scenic glaciers and ice waves?), the interior design would be at home in any luxury lodge. It's 'glamping' – that's 'glamour' meets 'camping'.

All photos: White Desert

The camp has six sleeping pods for two, equipped with a bed, desk, and wash/toilet area.

There are separate structures for showers, a kitchen, and lounge and dining areas, and your meals are catered by an award-winning chef. With your comfort assured, it's time to explore.

Guests can choose from two, eight-day trips, and even an extraordinary, 'best day ever' single day to Antarctica and back. Expert polar guides help you discover the wonders of the immense 'white desert' continent through different excursions out from base camp. You may trek to a magnificent colony of 6,000 majestic Emperor Penguins, explore exhilarating ice formations and tunnels, go technical rock climbing, abseiling, kite-skiing, even take a trip to the actual Geographic South Pole and the science station nearby. Imagine standing at the single place on earth where all points lead… only north!

Your actual footprints will be swept away by the snow, and the company ensures no ecological footprint will be left behind in this pristine environment either. The company's zero impact policy is complete: the camp is temporary, and re-created each season; all waste – including human – is removed; solar and wind power the camp; and even your flight emissions are offset through dedicated carbon projects around the world.

It's an Antarctic luxury 'safari' where you can have the world's rarest scenery, rushes of adrenaline, and stylish comfort, too.

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Opening Weekend for Germany's Christmas Markets

So many of our modern Christmas traditions hail from Germany (via England, thanks to Queen Victoria's German husband, Prince Albert); for a real injection of the spirit of Christmas, no better place to go than the source. Plus, Germans are nothing if not sticklers for authenticity – no plastic or made in China items. Only genuine evergreen branches, music, food, drink and shopping traditions allowed!

Lynn Elmhirst, BestTrip.TV's producer and host, shares her tips for visiting Germany's Christmas markets.

When to go:

Markets are traditionally open during Advent, the last four weeks before Christmas, ending Christmas Eve, the day most Germans celebrate. This year, Advent begins Sunday, November 27th; many opening ceremonies are the Friday before the first Sunday. One more tip about when to go: for an extra special experience, visit in the evening – when twinkling lights, bonfires and torches kindle the magic and spirit of the season and transport you back to the ancient origins of this winter festival.

What to eat and drink:The fir branch-draped, traditional wood stalls include the best German standards: hot sausages, pretzels, and beer, plus the seasonal delights: hot, mulled 'gluhwein'; stollen, a particularly addictive fruit bread; gingerbread or lebkuchen.

And marzipan, oh, the glorious marzipan. Forget the icky, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth goo slathered on top of cheap fruitcakes here at home. Once you taste the real thing, you just can't get enough. Marzipan in Germany isn't just for cake topping. It comes formed in all shapes. Look for the quirky Christmas traditional 'marzipan kartoffeln' – marzipan 'potatoes', little marzipan balls dusted with coco to look like… miniature potatoes. Other shapes are delightful, hand painted confections – a favorite in southern Germany is little pigs, a symbol of good luck. Take some home for gifts! I would love forever anyone who put marzipan kartoffeln in my stocking!

What to buy:Markets are laden with high quality, and often, artisan-crafted German Christmas traditional items like nutcrackers, ornaments, religious items and toys, toys, toys.

You are going to want to buy the unparalleled handmade glass ornaments and you are going to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how and if you can get them home safely. Sheepskin slippers and mittens, and lots of boiled wool. I admit to an obsession with boiled wool, a northern European tradition I can indulge easily at Germany's Christmas markets, buying myself and loved ones hats, mittens, vests, jackets and more with a European design flair you don't find at home. Every market also has local specialties like the iconic blue and white china in Dresden, in everyday and Christmas designs.

How to get there:Any trip to Germany during Advent and up to Christmas Eve gives you the opportunity to visit the local Christmas market. Land tour companies and river cruise companies offer Christmas market specialty tours this time of year that take you to multiple Christmas markets so you can compare the atmosphere, food and shopping. A Christmas market cruise on the Danube, for example, could include flying into Frankfurt and visiting its market before your cruise, and sailing to both Nuremburg's (possibly the most famous) town square market and Regensburg, in the castle grounds.

Even 'grinches' discover genuine Christmas good cheer in the historic, traditional atmosphere of Germany's Christmas markets. And lovers of the season add to cherished memories of Christmas celebrations.

Start your Trip!

 

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Swiss Summer Sips

In the heat of the summer, even cooler regions of Europe look for ways to beat the heat.

Switzerland may be famous for chocolate and cheese, green meadows and snowy alps... but even they have some secrets to quench your thirst in the summer:

Mountain Fountain Water.

You might not want to try this anywhere else in the world, but in Switzerland you can drink the water flowing from fountains – in the mountains AND in cities. Bern has over 100 fountains, Zurich boasts 1,200. Unless there’s a sign that says not for drinking, the water is safe to drink. Not just safe, but delicious! Its source is usually the Swiss Alps – the source of much of the expensive bottled water around the world – or some other pristine body of water, which Switzerland has plenty of. And the best thing: It's free. You just need an empty bottle.

Apple Juice from Thurgau.

The apple is the most popular fruit in Switzerland. The Swiss harvest 140'000 tons of apples each year – most of it in the cantons Vaud, Valais and Thurgau. Due to the apple growing and its shape the latter is known as "Mostindien" (Cider India). On the Mostindien tour you can discover apple adventures and delicacies – like the apple juice spritzer "Shorley", produced by "Möhl", a typical cider and juice mill.

Gazosa from Ticino.

This traditional drink evokes the feeling vacationing in the South. Gazosa Ticinese is a traditional beverage with modern style. Bottled in a small town near Bellinzona since 1921, Gazosa has never lost its charm, and in fact, is enjoying a revival, with it becoming increasingly popular north of the Alps. In any stylish bar or restaurant, you will find a line-up of these charming glass bottles with metal lids and retro/ hipster styling. Flavors include anything from lemon to raspberry. But for the original taste, order "La Fiorenzana" with bitter orange flavor.

None of these delicious summer sips is exported outside of Switzerland, so you'll have to book a trip there to enjoy.

Start your Trip!

 

(Photos Courtesy Switzerland Tourism)

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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