Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The Museum of Pop Culture (formerly EMP, the “Experience Music Project”) is an inspired marriage between super-modern architecture and legendary rock-and-roll history that sprang from the imagination (and pocket) of Microsoft co-creator Paul Allen (1953–2018). Inside its avant-garde frame, you can tune into the famous sounds of Seattle (with an obvious bias toward Jimi Hendrix and grunge) or attempt to imitate the masters in the Interactive Sound Lab.

There’s a science fiction and fantasy exhibit on-site, as well as various temporary exhibits.

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Temple Mount/Al Haram Ash Sharif

Temple Mount/Al Haram Ash Sharif

There are few patches of ground as holy – or as disputed – as this one. Known to Muslims as Al Haram Ash Sharif (The Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as Har HaBayit (Temple Mount), this elevated cypress-planted plaza in the southeastern corner of the Old City is home to two of Islam’s most sacred buildings – the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque – and is revered by Jews as the location of the First and Second Temples. Queue early and dress appropriately.

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Walking the Camino del Norte, Spain

Walking the Camino del Norte, Spain

Pilgrims have been making their way on foot (and cycle) to the great cathedral at Santiago by various “Ways”, the most popular being the Camino Frances, or the French Way. These days it’s difficult to avoid the crowds so the Camino del Norte is a more strenuous alternative with less people.

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Natural Pool

Natural Pool

The Museum of Pop Culture (formerly EMP, the “Experience Music Project”) is an inspired marriage between super-modern architecture and legendary rock-and-roll history that sprang from the imagination (and pocket) of Microsoft co-creator Paul Allen (1953–2018). Inside its avant-garde frame, you can tune into the famous sounds of Seattle (with an obvious bias toward Jimi Hendrix and grunge) or attempt to imitate the masters in the Interactive Sound Lab.

There’s a science fiction and fantasy exhibit on-site, as well as various temporary exhibits.

Continue reading

Eagle Beach

Eagle Beach Aruba, Caribbean

Eagle Beach

Fronting a line of low-rise resorts just northwest of Oranjestad, Eagle is a long stretch of white sand that regularly makes lists of the best beaches in the world. There are shade trees in some areas and you can obtain every service you need, from a lounger to a cold drink.

Eagle Beach is a leatherback-turtle nesting area, so parts of it may be closed from March to July.

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Hotel Review: Karma Sanctum Soho, London

Hotel Review: Karma Sanctum Soho, London

Dubbed as a "rock n' roll venue, if Karma Sanctum Soho hotel was a person, it would indeed be a rock chick or a cool dud.

Tucked away in Warwick Street in London’s famous Soho region is the Karma Sanctum Hotel. The building has been created out of two Georgeon townhouses and turned into a funky place to stay.

A buxom gorilla meets you at reception, with vast images of Jimmy Hendrix that seem to ooze out of brooding colors.

The Karma Sanctum Hotel is the brainchild of Mark Fuller, a nightclub owner and restaurateur, who opened the hotel with Andy Talor, manager of Fleetwood Mac, and  Rod Smallwood, who looks after Iron Maiden. They wanted a place to meet and have a snifter out of hours alongside their members and residents.

So Karma Sanctum has all the credentials of being a rock n’ hotel at its core, and in case there is any doubt, there are several artworks dotted around of rock stars you are bound to recognize.

Bizarrely, there is a full-size Dalek of Dr. Who fame on the second floor.

Who for

Based in Soho, the clientele is bound to be an eclectic one. A love of good design, rock and roll music, and an easy vibe helps.

Accommodation

There are 30 rooms over four floors with door handles encrusted with diamante. Room range from Compact to large Delux Loft.

Ours was a Superior Compact room 205, which, though one of the smaller rooms, still has wardrobes and comes with a size bed with Egyptian cotton sheets, bathrobes, slippers, a huge TV, and Temple spa toiletries in the spacious, clean white wet room.

There’s a mini bar, complimentary still water, a Nespresso machine, and plenty of phone charger ports and plug sockets.Food & Drink

Hotelier Mark Fuller and Michelin-starred chef Garry Hollihead have inked a new partnership to open a new restaurant at Karma Soho Hotel in London: Wild Heart Bar & Shokudo. The style is a casual Japanese-inspired sharing concept for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

There’s also an afternoon tea with chicken katsu sliders, steamed vegetable gyozas, and sweet treats, including matcha panna-cotta with freeze-dried raspberries, mini yuzu, and red fruit tarts.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to dine there, but if three-times Michellin-starred Garry Hollihead is at the helm, you can be sure of the finest dining.

On the 5th floor, there’s a roof terrace, both inside and al fresco (lorded over by the gorilla), for cocktails or wine and snacks supplied by the Michelin restaurant. There is another party place called the Inner Sanctum in the basement.

How much

Rooms at Karma Sanctum Hotel start from £399 per night.

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Cervo Mountain Resort: a feel-good retreat in Switzerland

Cervo Mountain Resort: a feel-good retreat in Switzerland

Cervo Mountain Resort: a feel-good retreat in Switzerland

Carnaby is synonymous with the Swinging Sixties. Get there now and experience a brand new jive.

It watched me from behind wispy clouds, tall, bold, stoic and wearing what seemed to be a white shawl wrapped around its frosty peak. The Matterhorn, the jewel of the Swiss Alps was the majestic view from my terrace of Cervo Mountain Resort my neighbour and backdrop soaring to a breathtaking height of 4.478 metres.  

 

What better symbol of strength and confidence to accompany me as I ventured on my first holistic healing retreat in southern Switzerland?

The Cervo Mountain Healing Holistic Summit  

Nestled in the rugged beauty and high altitude of the Alpine landscape, Zermatt proved the appropriate location for 17 strangers to gather together to reset goals, pursue ambitions, to let go of negativity and the emotional scars of the past.  Travelling from pockets around the globe – New York to LA, London to Oxford and places in between, this retreat was billed as a Holistic Healing Summit, led by a celebrity specialist and arranged by the retreat company, Travelgems.  The group was aged from 17- 79, but there was no age limit, and no fitness level expectation.

 For some, this was a first-time experience, for others a reunion. An immersion into a new culture and miles away from that safe personal comfort zone. Each one bringing the determination to add more to their lives in a part of the world new and foreign to them.

The Travelgems Retreat Programme

The common denominator at Cervo Mountain Resort was Eloise Joan, an American celebrity fitness and life coach supremo, prominent on US networks. Each participant knew her courtesy of fitness apps, platforms and magazines. Over the months and years, she has been their online instructor, appearing on their screens and hearing through headphones and speakers but the retreat brought her into real-time.

Over the 6 days, she was the leader, coaching and guiding each individual to conquer fear, strengthen self-esteem and improve fitness levels. And, of course, to perfect the mountain pose.

Each day started with an active body session, a blend of soulful yoga, stretch, “Barre Blend”, and mindfulness. A well-deserved nutritious breakfast presented a time to share experiences and socialise in readiness for the challenges of the day, be it paragliding, a five-hour hike or sustainable wakeboarding. Success stemmed from facing and overcoming physical and emotional obstacles, or not.

No pressure, no guilt. Group support and encouragement were apparent as was positivity, friendship and fun.

Transformation

It is said that it takes 6 days to transform behaviour. At the end of the Cervo Mountain retreat, it was evident that the investment in time and personal effort resulted in dividends. Gone were the stressed expressions. Instead, there was laughter and joy. Goals had been reset, paths mapped out, friendships forged and a brighter future ahead. Before leaving I stood on the hotel terrace to see the Matterhorn in its full glory, the clouds had blown away and had been replaced with the energy and strength of nature itself. The air is fresh, the scenery breathtaking, and the Matterhorn radiates confidence from a feel-good retreat in Switzerland.

The Village of Zermatt

 Group gatherings, individual coaching and leisure time to off-load weighty thoughts and overcome deep-rooted barriers, hidden for a decade, were scheduled as well as time to build friendships and indulge in time alone to rethink and reset. And there was time to soak up the location and culture. Snuggly cradled in the Swiss Alps, the village of Zermatt is quaint and definitely a draw to tourists, come sun and snow.

Car-free, it has preserved its original character. It’s lined with shops selling outdoor leisure wear, posh boutiques and accessorized with displays of expensive Breitling watches.

Traditional restaurants serve rösti and fondues with Swiss cheeses while hand-made Swiss chocolates and Toblerones, of course, are displayed on every corner.

This is a destination popular with explorers, adventurers and pioneers, drawn to the legendary Matterhorn. British mountaineer, Edward Whymper was the first to climb this pyramidal peak back in July 1865 which led to global recognition of this area. The “Matterhorn glacier paradise” is Europe’s largest and highest-lying summer skiing region. Over 400 kilometres of hiking trails lead through and out of the Matter Valley, including the mule traders’ trails, which date back to the 13th century (a part of these paths is paved).

These natural surroundings are postcard portraits of sky-high peaks, mountain lakes, alpine meadows, larch forests dotted with cuddly, black-nosed goats and accessible by bike, rope, foot or four-wheels.

The Retreat Hotel

Perched high is the 5-star Cervo Mountain Resort, trendy, cool and laid back which provided the perfect ambience for the retreat.

A place at one with its environment dotted with contemporary alpine elements using natural materials and food sourced from local farms and fishermen.  It offers 54 rooms, suites and lodges and a contemporary spa, a haven for weary explorers.

 

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Why you must visit the Carnaby area in London’s West End.

Why you must visit the Carnaby area in London’s West End.

Why you must visit the Carnaby area in London’s West End.

Carnaby is synonymous with the Swinging Sixties. You can get there now and experience a brand new jive.

As heydays go, Carnaby’s was phenomenal and part of the tapestry of the Swinging 60s. For an entire decade, you could eat, drink, and be merry alongside music stars, including David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and style icons Brigitte Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor just by hanging out there. And, here’s a fun fact: Paul McCartney met Linda on 15 May at Bag O’ Nails Club, 9 Kingly Street in Carnaby.

Though the Swinging 60s are no longer, the Carnaby area is back in motion with its jive style. Look upwards on Carnaby Street and see the Shimmer Disc Union Flag, the Rainbow Arch, and the Carnaby Street Arch that heralds 14 streets with over 100 shops and 60 restaurants, bars, and cafés.

Shopping in Carnaby

Start at Great Malborough Street, where Liberty looks dapper in its historic Tudor building – six floors made from timbers of two ancient ‘three-decker’ battle ships amounting to 24,000 cubic feet of vessel woods, including their decks now being the shop flooring.

Swatch, Sweaty Betty, Ralph Lauren, Levi’s, The North Face, and Timberland have outlets there. Still, Carnaby’s independent boutique shops shine their light with ingenuity and creativity, making it a must-visit.

Annie’s Ibiza on 3 Newburgh Street could not be more distinct. This is where you shop to find the perfect dress to party in. The rails shimmer with glitz and sparkle. Annie’s wardrobe reflects her shop, including some vintage pieces. I would love to meet her after seeing her flair and the clothes she has curated.

Being far too bashful (and not skinny enough), I could only admire these one-off and sometimes highly revealing pieces.

There’s more creative fashion at 8 Newburgh Street. Hayley Menzies is most famous for her long cardigans and her general use of bold prints and luxurious natural fibers. You will find a highly curated mix of pieces at her beautiful new boutique, which she describes as a contemporary luxury brand creating the vintage of the future.

IKKS Paris has its bright and spacious UK flagship shop on 3 Carnaby Street. The vibe is urban style with a rock and roll attitude. The pieces are stylish, and it would be easy to shop here for a complete capsule wardrobe, not just for you but for all ages, from baby to toddler and teens to adult.

You can almost sense when a tongue is being poked at you. But it would help if you went in when it is a shop RS No.9 Carnaby, and the language is a vast red sculpture of their logo. The flagship store under the famous Spirit of Soho mural is everything Rolling Stones, and every item is exclusive to their rock n’ roll style.
At number 10 is Ksubi. This brand has existed since 1999, and many think it is Australia’s hottest fashion label. It’s best for teens/early 20s, those years when the rebel attitude suits this fashion. I liked their distressed denim and cross logo.

I nipped into a white-washed cavelike Bloobloom boutique at number 24 only to find a lifetime deal. They design and sell specs at £99, including an eye test. On top of that, they donate a pair to someone in need with each team they sell. No brainer. I am returning soon for my eye test.

Shoes can become an obsession; they must be at Kat Maconie shoe store on 29 Carnaby Street. You cannot miss them; they are instantly recognizable with dazzling colors and hardware frames on architectural heels. You cannot be more maximalist. I particularly enjoyed looking at highly colorful tasseled sandals (£330). The Great Frog on Ganton Street’s black exterior is the perfect frame for its skulls and Gothic. It has been there for almost 40 years and has served the likes of Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Motorhead among its clients. Their black diamond skull is always associated with London’s avant-garde design.
Last but not least, the quality of the local charity store must reflect the area. At 8 Ganton Street is Mind, a permanent store that curates its offerings carefully. You’ll find designer clothes topped up daily—a great place to find a bargain.

Inko Nito offers top-notch unconventional Japanese food served in tapas style. The environment is lively, the room bright and spacious, and perfect for couples and groups. The centerpiece is a robata grill, where meat is perfectly grilled and served directly. The food was flavoursome and delicious. I liked the cocktails, too. Go for the Premium Tasting Menu and taste the best choices.

Drinks and snacks: In Cahoot

Kingly Court has many enticing places, but I went deep underground in a fantasy, disused London train station called Cahoots at 5 Kingly Street. It’s darkish, all very hush hush, invoking 1946. Staff are dressed accordingly, and my Winston Curchill cocktail (a tropical number among ten other signature drinks, beers, and wins) was served in a Winston Churchill lookalike mug. Snacks arrived, sausages, croquettes, and other treats.

Here, patrons are referred to as London Scoundrels. Though I could have stayed in this underground facility, I crossed the road to check out Cahoot premises opposite, where live music was playing to channel my inner scoundrel.

Where to Stay

 Karma Sanctum Rock n’ Roll Hotel, with its late-night roof terrace, Michelin-starred restaurant, and members club, puts the fun in funky. Check out our full review of Karma Sanctum Hotel.

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St Mary Lake

St Mary Lake

St Mary Lake

Located on the park’s dryer eastern side, where the mountains melt imperceptibly into the Great Plains, St Mary Lake lies in a deep, glacier-carved valley famous for its astounding views and ferocious winds. Overlooked by the tall, chiseled peaks of the Rockies and with the northern slopes dramatically thinned from the lake shore to Going-to-the-Sun Rd by the 2015 Reynolds Creek fire, the valley views are still spectacular and punctuated by numerous trailheads and viewpoints.

St Mary’s gorgeous turquoise sheen, easily the most striking color of any of Glacier’s major bodies of water, is due to the suspension of tiny particles of glacial rock in the lake’s water that absorbs and reflects light.

The landscape-altering effects of the 2006 Red Eagle Fire is still very much visible on the southern slopes of the lake.

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Laguna Parón

Laguna Parón

Laguna Parón

The largest lake in the Cordillera Blanca — a snowcapped range of the Andes in west central Peru — and a gorgeous natural reservoir, Laguna Paron is a unique destination for hikers, rock climbers, and nature enthusiasts.

Located within the Huascaran National Park and 62 miles north of the hiking mecca Huaraz, the 17.1 square mile lake is distinguished by its striking turquoise hue due to high concentrations of dissolved lime. From its shores, visitors can take in precious views of formidable peaks blanketed in fresh snow (including Artesonraju, the pyramid peak many believe to have inspired the Paramount Pictures logo).

Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1985, Laguna Parón can be reached by car or foot. Having arrived at this awe-inspiring body of water at 4185 meters above sea level, the serene environment welcomes one to meditate, rock climb, kayak, or even set up camp near the quiet shores.

How to get to Laguna Parón
Most people visit the lake as part of an organized tour out of Huaraz or Caraz (from S/50), as the logistics of getting to Laguna Parón — whether by car, hike, or combo — can become complicated.

From Lima, Huaraz can be reached by an 8-hour bus ride (take a night bus to pass the time sleeping). Various companies whose offices are spread throughout the capital city offer the commute. One of the better recommended is MovilBus.

The city of Huaraz is not large, and a short stroll around the plaza will lead you to numerous offers from local agencies and guides for full-day tours of Laguna Parón. Be sure that the direction you hire is certified for Laguna Parón, and expect to pay between S/50-70 per person for a group tour. Reputable tours won’t set out until 7:30  a.m. or 8 a.m. the following day, so take the first day in Huaraz to acclimatize (the city is 3052m/10,013ft above sea level).

If you want to venture to Laguna Parón alone, you must commute from Huaraz to Caraz by “combi” (public shuttle van). The 45-mile ride takes less than two hours and costs between S/6-8 per person. These vans depart throughout the day and can be found on Jr. Cajamarca, a 10-minute walk north of the Plaza de Armas in Huaraz.

Having arrived in Caraz, find a taxi (no rideshare apps here) willing to take you to the lake and wait until you are ready to return. Including a wait time of 2-3 hours, a round-trip taxi ride will cost between S/150-180. The bumpy ride takes nearly two hours.

Walking to Laguna Parón
Those in physical shape and with proper acclimatization to the altitude can hike to Laguna Parón from the town of Parón, an S/8-10 combi ride from Caraz. The 8-mile hike can take three to five hours, depending on stamina, as it is steep and rocky.

Just to let you know, signs along the route are few and far between, which is another reason to hire a local guide. Apps such as Maps. me can help navigate the way even without a Wi-Fi or data connection.

Trekkers looking to return to Caraz the same day must return to Parón before 3 p.m., when the last shuttle van leaves, or should coordinate for a taxi to wait at the park entrance.

What to do at Laguna Parón
The lake continues to promote water-based activities even though its water level was lowered from 75 meters to 15 meters in the mid-1980s to prevent the collapse of Huandoy’s moraine. You can rent a kayak and navigate the smooth, frigid waters for half an hour (S/20). Families may be interested in taking a boat ride, though it is costlier and lasts far less time (S/10 per person and just 15 minutes).

Rock climbers will find a challenge at Torre de Parón, known as the Sphinx. There are at least 13 wall routes on the granite monolith.

You can take an easy hike to the lookout point, the Mirador. This 30 to 40-minute trek is well-marked and leads to a prime view (and plenty of photo opportunities) of the turquoise lake. But please take your time as you move forward in altitude.

Are you looking to make the most of your time in Laguna Parón? Campers are welcome and can camp without a fee, though no amenities or equipment are available on site. You’ll need to bring a tent, a warm sleeping bag, plenty of layers and all your food. The following day, be sure to take everything with you, including your trash, to continue preserving this pristine natural gem.

Tickets and other practicalities
Entrance tickets to the lake can be purchased once you’ve reached Huascaran National Park. The entrance fee is S/5.
Buy food and water in Huaraz or Caraz, whichever will be the final city/town, before heading up to the lake, as there are no guarantees of finding vendors at Laguna Parón.

The best time to visit is between April and September when it is sunnier and dry in the Andes.
Take a day or two in Huaraz or Caraz to acclimatize to the high altitude. The lake is over 4,000 meters above sea level, and rushing to the top can result in stomach sickness or extreme headaches.

Restaurant options in Caraz are slim, though La Peña del Gordo is a prime spot to try local flavors, including charqui, dehydrated meat, typically beef or alpaca.

Have plenty of Peruvian soles on hand, as all transportation, restaurants, and entrance fees are all paid in cash, not with a bank card.

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