Got $22,300? Celebrate New Years Twice In One Night, In A Private Jet…

Happy New Year everyone!

Did you have a great holiday?  I had a superb time with friends and family, travelling around a lot and partying hard.  So sorry if the blogging’s taken a bit of a back seat 😉

Let’s kick 2018 off with an idea to celebrate next NYE, from PrivateFly

If New Year’s Eve goes all too fast for you, what if you could fly back in time – and experience the whole evening all over again?

It may sound like a sci-fi adventure, but it is possible. With a carefully-designed itinerary, in the world’s fastest and furthest private jet.


The Gulfstream G650ER is the world’s fastest and furthest private jet. Image: Gulfstream

Dedicated partygoers – with the budget and stamina – can gain 11 hours of party time, by flying eastwards across the International Date Line. Starting out in Sydney, Australia (which will be one of the first places to see the start of 2018), and ending up in Honolulu, Hawaii, where the time is 21 hours behind.

With the world rotating at 1,038 miles per hour, you can experience the same evening in both places, by minimising travel time and flying on a bespoke itinerary on a Gulfstream G650ER, which has a nonstop flight range of 7,500 nautical miles and a top speed of Mach 0.9, just under the speed of sound.

Here’s how it works:

20:00, 31st December 2017, Sydney: Get the (first) party started
Start your evening in Sydney, one of the world’s most iconic party cities. Whether it’s a VIP party or dinner at a top restaurant, you’ll want to bag a spot with a view of the spectacular harbour fireworks.

12.00, 1st January 2018, Sydney: Celebrate New Year – for the first time
There’s plenty of time to celebrate and enjoy the start of 2018, before making the short 12km drive to Sydney Kingsford Smith airport (open 24-hours for private jets).

Sydney fireworks 700x393

Sydney is one of the world’s iconic cities on New Year’s Eve, and will be one of the first to see the start of 2018.

02:00, 1st January 2018, Sydney: Depart in your Gulfstream G650ER
Your Gulfstream G650ER ultra long range jet will be waiting, ready for a 2.00am departure time. There are no queues so you’ll take off just minutes after you arrive.

The G650ER is the fastest long range private jet in the world – the party aircraft of choice, offering a sleek interior configuration which accommodates 13 passengers.

G650 interior_seats converted to bed

The G650ER’s divan area can be converted into a private double bedroom suite. Image: Gulfstream.

During the 9 hour 40 minute flight, dedicated partygoers can continue the celebrations, VIP style, with a high-spec entertainment system, fine wines and spirits, champagne and VVIP catering served by a private flight attendant.

Or if you’d rather recharge, you couldn’t be in better hands. The spacious G650ER cabin offers exceptional, luxury comfort, with a master suite bedroom option; floor-to-ceiling wardrobe and mirrored vanity; the latest bespoke lighting and temperature controls; and further ergonomic, fully-reclining seats. Low cabin pressure enhances your comfort and reduces jet lag.

15:40, 31st December 2017, Honolulu: Ready to party all over again
While others have woken to sore heads back in Sydney, you’ll land on the beautiful island of Hawaii, refreshed and ready to start over – it will be back in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve so the night is young!

Honolulu beach sunset

Celebrate the start of 2018 for the second time, in beautiful Hawaii.

12:00, 1st January 2018, Honololu: Celebrate New Year – for the second time
There’s no shortage of luxury nightspots in Honololu. Or you might choose to party on the beach. Either way, as you see in 2018 for the second time, it’s undoubtedly been a memorable night.

How much does it cost by private jet?

Whole aircraft charter cost $290,000 Sydney – Honolulu (one-way). Or from $22,300 per person, if a group of 13 passengers travel together.






A Sushi Masters Guide To Sushi Eating Etiquette…

If I had to live on a desert island with just one type of food to eat for the rest of my life it would be sushi – without a doubt.  It’s quick, easy, varied, healthy, nutritionally balanced and unbelievably delicious.

But what I simply wasn’t aware of was all the etiquette surrounding the consuming of said yumminess.  We all know that the Japanese have stringent social rules,  but how much of this can you say you actually knew..?

There’s something terribly exciting about experiencing true sushi. It’s exciting because the food will forever change you – and it’s terrible because you don’t want to look like an idiot. At top establishments of the world’s sushi masters, there are often only 12 seats, so there’s no place to hide. Here’s a guide to eating sushi like a true pro, as told to my mate Gilbert by a multiple Michelin starred Kyoto sushi chef…

Don’t Rub Your Chopsticks

Japanese people believe in a culture of honor and integrity. By rubbing your chopsticks together, to start the meal – you’re instantly insulting the sushi house. You’re insinuating that their chopsticks are of cheap quality. Who gets paper cuts at dinner, anyway?

Don’t Ginger Your Sushi… Or Sashimi

Ginger is a palate cleanser. It’s there to refresh your tastebuds in between courses, and for that purpose only. Putting ginger on top of your sushi is often the first nod to a great sushi chef, that you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.

Eat Right Away

Like a great piece of music, a masterful sushi meal is all about timing. It’s also about temperature. Much care goes into the temperature of the rice, and how it interacts with the fish. Be sure to eat any pieces of sushi immediately when they’re brought to you, to fully respect the occasion.

Soy Sauce: Dip Or Don’t Dip?

The best sushi and nigiri is about pure, direct and powerful flavors. A light brush stroke of soy sauce may already be added in by the chef. If in doubt, ask the chef if the specific piece should be dipped. Some will absolutely be dippers, while others may already have soy.

Bright, Crisp Drinks

If you enjoy Champagne, Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling, you’ve picked the perfect meal. Bright, crisp flavors are perfect for sushi. You never want over powerful wines, drinks or aromas to take away from the beautiful delicacy of a top notch sushi meal.

Don’t Go Rice To Soy…

Assuming you’ve navigated the dip or don’t dip conundrum, the next stop to avoid novice land is to turn the piece of nigiri over, so that only the fish touches the soy sauce. Never put the rice into the soy sauce. Never- just don’t.

Chopsticks for Sashimi, But Not…

Chopsticks are standard practice for sashimi, but don’t feel as if you need to use them for other parts of the meal. It’s not rude to use your hands for a nice piece of nigiri or sushi. Just make sure your hands are clean. About that…

One Bite Deal

Most sushi, sashimi and nigiri (non rolls) are meant to be eaten in one lovely bite. A sushi master will make portions designed to perfectly fit, without too much effort. Always endeavor to take it one bite. No one (including the chef) wants to watch you tear fish and rice apart.

Use The Towel

Part of the ritual of a delectable sushi meal is cleanliness. The fish and rice are treated with the utmost cleanliness, and you should follow suit. Use the towel provided to clean your hands and feel free to go back to it, as you get into fishier bites. Especially if going by hand.


Gilbert Ott is chief writer, editor and founder of GodSaveThePoints,

The World’s 10 Best Bars, According To The People That Judge Them…

From Gilbert Ott at GodSaveThePoints – and who the trek am I to disagree?!  😉

A martini is not just a martini. A Manhattan is not just a Manhattan. Mixology is the art of creating the perfect drink- from classic staples to cocktail trends yet to be realized. When it comes to this highly competitive pursuit, a few bars have separated themselves from the pack- offering other worldly service, bespoke liquors and recipes you’ll only find in house. Here are the world’s best cocktail bars- according to people who research and judge that kinda thing. Just don’t confuse them with the world’s best rooftop bars

  1. The American Bar– London, UK
  2. The Dandelyan – London, UK
  3. The NoMad Bar– New York, USA
  4. The Connaught Bar– London, UK
  5. The Dead Rabbit– New York, USA
  6. The Clumsies– Athens, Greece
  7. Manhattan Bar– Singapore 
  8. Attaboy– New York, USA
  9. Bar Termini– London, UK
  10. Speak Low– Shanghai, China

Ok let’s pause for a moment. Of all the bars in the world- the best five of them are only found in London or New York? Amazing! Cocktail culture in both cities is as historic as it is progressive, and while it’s shocking not to see any other cities in the top 5, it’s pretty impressive from both world class destinations. If your travel plans do not include London, New York, Athens, Shanghai or Singapore- fear not. The rest of the World’s To 50 Bars List includes other great cities and bars like Tokyo, Paris, Mexico City Miami, Oslo, Melbourne, Buenos Aires and more. You’ll just have to drink your way around the world. Is alcohol tourism a thing..?

HT: Worlds50BestBars






Europe’s first underwater restaurant revealed

Wow – simply stunning! 

Designs for Europe¿s first underwater eatery have been revealed - and it¿s stunning

If you’ve got an appetite for dramatic, never-before-seen restaurants, look no further.

Designs for Europe’s first underwater eatery have been revealed – and it’s stunning. The concept is that of a half-sunken monolith where diners will be able to view the seabed through a 36ft-wide panoramic window.

Called ‘Under’, the restaurant has been designed by the imaginative Snohetta agency and will be located at the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline by the village of Baly.

Called ¿Under¿, the restaurant has been designed by the imaginative Snohetta agency and will be located at the southernmost point of the Norwegian coastline by the village of Baly. Guests will have a view of the seabed through a 36ft window

It will also function as a research centre for marine life.

The structure, Snohetta says, will ‘surface to lie against the craggy shoreline. The structure will become a part of its marine environment, coming to rest directly on the sea bed five meters below the water’s surface’.

The structure, Snohetta says, will ¿surface to lie against the craggy shoreline. The structure will become a part of its marine environment, coming to rest directly on the sea bed five meters below the water¿s surface¿

Diners need have no fear of the walls caving in, because they’re a metre thick. And the structure, it’s hoped, will become a reef for mussels.

The restaurant has been designed to hold between 80 and 100 guests, who will be able to watch the wildlife on the seabed through a window that’s 36 feet wide and 13 feet high.

There will be three levels altogether, with a cloakroom on the first floor, a champagne bar on the next and the restaurant at the bottom, where food rustled up by Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen will be enjoyed.

Seafood is likely to be a key feature on the menu.

There will be three levels altogether, with a cloakroom on the first floor, a champagne bar on the next and the restaurant at the bottom, where food rustled up by Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen will be enjoyed

Outside opening hours, parts of the restaurant will be dedicated to marine biology research.

Snohetta explains that researchers will come to the building to study, among other things, whether wild fish can be trained with sound signals.

The design firm adds: ‘Through its architecture, menu and mission of informing the public about the biodiversity of the sea, Under will provide an under-water experience inspiring a sense of awe and delight, activating all the senses – both physical and intellectual.’

Outside opening hours, parts of the restaurant will be dedicated to marine biology research. Snohetta explains that researchers will come to the building to study, among other things, whether wild fish can be trained with sound signals

Construction on the restaurant is scheduled to start in February 2018. Estimated completion is February/March 2019.

Snohetta is currently working on a number of projects internationally including The French Laundry Kitchen expansion and Garden Renovation in Yountville, California, the Le Monde Headquarters in Paris and the Cornell University Executive Education Center and Hotel in New York.

Ice hotel plus midnight sun makes for a very cool combo

The Mail on Sunday‘s Jeremy Head spent a night in Sweden’s Icehotel, 150 miles above the Arctic circle. Its new 365 facility operates an array of frozen bedrooms during both the winter and summer. Jeremy slept in a room with mermaid ice sculptures, and had a thrilling but somewhat restless night…

I spent last night in a fridge with two mermaids. I hoped we’d all get on, but they were cold as ice.

It wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve had, but it was certainly one of the coolest things I’ve done.

Sweden’s Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi is world-famous. Every winter they build a hotel from ice and snow filled with shimmering sculptures of ethereal creatures.

Jeremy spent a night in Sweden's Icehotel (pictured), 150 miles above the Arctic circle, which for the first year is now open during the summer and not just the winter

Jeremy spent a night in Sweden’s Icehotel (pictured), 150 miles above the Arctic circle, which for the first year is now open during the summer and not just the winter

At least it used to. My night in an Icehotel room took place in mid-summer.

They still build a new ice hotel each winter, but those clever Swedes have also added permanent ice suites and an ice bar.

They call this bit Icehotel 365. It’s just opened. Now you can sleep in an ice room, while outside there’s sunlight all night.

He slept in a room with mermaid ice sculptures (pictured), and had a chilly, thrilling but somewhat restless night

He slept in a room with mermaid ice sculptures (pictured), and had a chilly, thrilling but somewhat restless night

This being Sweden, it’s high-tech and environmentally friendly. I wandered around a chilly warehouse stacked with vast blocks of ice: 2,700 tons of it.

They harvest it in spring when it’s at its hardest and store it to build next winter’s hotel. The warehouse and Icehotel 365 are kept at -5C by solar energy, powered by panels on the warehouse roof.

I prepared for my night on ice with a sauna ritual. I thwacked myself with birch branches, washed with tar soap, sweated buckets, jumped in the icy river and wallowed in an outdoor hot tub.

Then I feasted on the special Ice Menu, which included smoky reindeer steak and arctic raspberry sorbet before I chilled in the Ice Bar. Even late at night, midsummer sunlight cascaded in through a window.

The resort also boasts an ice bar (pictured) in addition to a spa and a warm restaurant where guests can thaw out

The resort also boasts an ice bar (pictured) in addition to a spa and a warm restaurant where guests can thaw out

There are 20 rooms in the cold section of Icehotel 365, created by sculptors from around the world (there are also ‘warm’ rooms with heated stone floors). One of the 20 cold ones features a vast stag sculpture, another is full of huge jellyfish.

I picked up a thermal sleeping bag and headed to my room. It’s called Mermaid Fitness. Two 8ft mermaids with bulging biceps were ‘working out’ either side of my bed. Zipping the bag right up felt claustrophobic but it was freezing.

It took me a while to drop off. The air felt clammy and I was glad I’d brought a hat. After a restless night, I woke with a start next morning when someone brought in a cup of hot lingonberry juice.

The mermaids were still exercising. It didn’t look as if they’d even broken sweat.



WINE TIPS From YEARS Of Travelling Around The World …

… And Drinking Lots Of WINE!

By Gilbert Ott

Wine is fun whether you know a lot about it or virtually nothing, but the more you know the more exciting each pour becomes. I am most definitely not a sommelier, but I am absolutely an enthusiast with a good palate. Travel has played a large part in the never ending pursuit, adding so much enjoyment, rare experience and memory. Here are a few reflections accompanied by tips and ideas for people deciding whether it’s fun to know the finer points of what you’re tasting… or if it’s better just to get hammered.

Drink Regional Wine, Wherever You Go…

Don’t order Californian wine in Italy, just don’t. Prices and quality are largely best if you stick to continental wines of your destination, plus you occasionally get access to non distributed but sought after wines, which either don’t make their way to wherever you live, or are charged at a gigantic premium. There are so many fantastic new world regions producing incredible wine, that if you’re true fan, you’d be a fool not to try it for reference, at the very least. I tasted the most remarkably obscure and wonderful wine of my life in Manarola, Italy. I asked a local sommelier for something non distributed and received a white wine like nothing I’d experienced.

Stick To Bold Wines On Planes, Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Pairings…

Airlines are investing more than ever in their beverage programs, with Emirates rumored to have recently spent $500 million on theirs. If you’re lucky enough to travel in business or first class you’ll likely get to try some interesting stuff. Sample as many as you can, taking names of any that stand out, for fun comparison at home down the line. The differences can be fascinating. Pay attention to things like how long a bottle has been open and what temperature it’s being served. Pinot Noir’s are often best served ever so slightly chilled, while Bordeaux’s and bolder wines are best at room temperature. If your red wine is too cold, wait, or cup your hands around the glass. Also, be sure to ask your cabin crew for food pairings, they should know them!

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Work Your Way Around The World One Grape At A Time…

I drank wine for years before developing an understanding of the flavor profiles and unique characteristics of certain grapes and regions. Over the last few years I’ve stuck to one region or varietal at a time, perhaps for a month or two and now am more often than not spot on in blind tastings with knowledge of the grape and where it was grown. Try as many wines of the same grape or region as possible, when you feel like you “know it”, move to another. I also drink less and buy more expensive wine now, which really adds to the pleasure and terroir you can taste.

Do Vineyard Tours, They’re Often Set In Beautiful Places…

Australia, Cape Town, San Francisco, Vancouver, France (et al), Spain, Auckland, Italy, Portugal, Argentina, even Sofia, Bulgaria. All of these cities and countries feature incredible vineyards with unique processes of making wine, complete with complimentary gorgeous views. While at a vineyard you’ll find really easy setups to ship wine internationally at great rates. In Australia and New Zealand it can actually be much cheaper to export than to buy and take it back to the hotel. In all cases, definitely see if your credit card has any benefits (like free tastings) and see if there are any private guides who can get you into private vineyards for the most authentic stuff!

Drink The More Expensive Bottle First…

A lot of thought goes into proper enjoyment of a great wine. Before you open something meaningful be sure to research suggested decanting times, opening the bottle early enough and pouring it into something that gives it the surface area necessary to take on its best form. A great wine really, really does change as it gets air. On that note, a real rookie mistake is that people often open “the good stuff” after they’ve already had some drinks, when just like in the air, your taste buds and sense of smell are their weakest. Crack the good stuff first, if you go for another one just have something palatable.

Look For Wines “Grown, Produced And Bottled By”…

There are exceptions, but many of the finest wines would never let outside hands touch their grapes or decide how long to leave them in oak, steel or any of the other paramount decisions which shape the taste. At any price point you’ll often find the best and most passionate results from wines which are grown, produced and bottled by the same company. Since demand has skyrocketed many people grow wine grapes just to sell them and many “vintners” buy the grapes in bulk and then take it from there. Having total control over the whole process often leads to the best taste, so try to look for that on the back of a label if in doubt…

Try The Same Wine From Different Vintages…

It’s hard to explain tannins to people. The easiest way to explain how tannins and bottling change wine over time is just to try it. Find a wine you like and see if you can find an older vintage and a more recent vintage. Perhaps try a 2014 and a 2006, or something along that ratio of time. Without a doubt you’ll taste an interesting and enjoyable difference between the newer and older bottles, generally finding the older bottle to have a longer, more complex and in some cases smoother finish. This is particularly true with Barolo’s and Bordeaux’s, which are designed for age more than Californian or South African wine.

Bring A Bottle Home From Every Place You Go…

My cellar doesn’t have a very impressive price tag. There are no 1975 Petrus or other fabled wines in there, but its personal memories are priceless, as cheesy as that sounds. I have wines that mean far more to me than the price tag, and in the words of my father in law, I can almost taste the soil, sun or air that I remember so vividly from each place they were sourced. Most countries allow a duty and tariff free allowance of two regularly sized bottles per person, so be sure to never come home without a great memory ever again.

Get more great travel tips from Gilbert and the team at GodSaveThePoints

An Old World Christmas in Bratislava, Slovakia

Bordering Austria, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic and Austria, Slovakia sits in a fascinating mix of cultures.

Here are 7 things I bet you didn’t know about Slovakia:-

  1. It joined the European Union in 2004 and the Eurozone on 1 January 2009
  2. It is also a member of the Schengen Area, NATO, the United Nations, the OECD, the WTO, CERN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the Visegrád Group
  3. It is the world’s biggest per-capita car producer with over a million cars manufactured in the country in 2015 alone
  4. 90% of the population own their own homes
  5. The oldest surviving archaeological artefacts from Slovakia – found near Nové Mesto nad Váhom – date from 270,000 BC, in the Early Paleolithic era
  6. Slavic tribes settled in the territory of present-day Slovakia in the 5th century
  7. The Tatra mountain range is represented as one of the three hills on the coat of arms of Slovakia

HuffPost writer John Mariani gives us his own personal take on the Christmas scene in Bratislava.


There’s no denying that Bratislava, Slovakia, is a convenient way stop between Vienna, Prague and Budapest, all far larger cities. But Bratislava shares with all those a legacy of cross-culturization, Baroque, Austro-Hungarian, Secessionist and Art Deco architecture and a devotion to large public squares that makes it an ideal two-day trip. And during the Christmas holidays the town lights up, makeshift markets are assembled, the spiced wines perfume the frigid air, hot pastries, and pretzels are displayed, and the townspeople take their time strolling through and enjoying it all in the car-free Old Town of the city.


Over the centuries Austrians, Croats, Czechs, Germans, Hungarians, Jews, and Serbs all brought their own cultures to Bratislava, which was the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary in the 18th century. As of World War I Slovakia was united with what is now the Czech Republic, as Czechoslovakia, and after occupation by the Germans in World War II, it was taken by Soviet troops and became part of the Soviet Union. On the outskirts of Bratislava you can still see the never-varying, tick-tacky box apartments the Soviets built by the thousands. In 1993 Slovakia and the Czech Republic separated amicably.


Today the Old Town is marvelously restored. Its scrubbed-clean attached façades and tidy red roofs glow in the sun, its fountains flow, and you can still pass through Michael’s Gate that in the Middle Ages was part of the walled fortifications. The Gothic St. Michael’s Cathedral is remarkably well preserved, its rococo interior cleaned and well lighted.
The impressively rococo-baroque Grasakovic presidential palace dating to 1760, sprawls along Hodžovo Námestie, and there are 50 museums in the city, including the National Gallery in a huge castle perched above the city, originally Gothic but reconfigured in the baroque style.
The Old Town and shopping streets, and the Main Square of Halve Námestie fills up with the traditional Christmas markets. There is always music playing and a set-up ice rink, and the dozens of colorful stalls sell everything from tree ornaments and toys to Slovakian sausages and waffles.
By the way, English is widely spoken everywhere in Bratislava, especially among those under 35 years of age, who learn the language very early in grammar school. Russian was abandoned by most into the dustbin of the city’s history.


Restaurants tend towards traditional Slovakian food, which is, shall we say, very hearty, similar to German, Austrian and Hungarian fare. One of the most charming spots, right on the Market Square, is Zylinder, whose charming Old World look of pea green ceiling beams, crystal chandeliers, cream-colored furniture and striped booths, along with outside tables that are ideal in good weather, is a complement to the refined style of cooking.
You might begin with a sampler of starters ($12) that include beef tartare, home-made jelly with shallot vinegar, duck liver pâté, and smoked specialties. I loved the rich, tangy sheep’s cheese soup with smoky bacon “demikát” ($4), and the bright red stuffed peppers that come with round bread dumplings the size of hockey pucks with which to soak up all the delicious tomato sauce ($9).


Here the tafelspitz of boiled beef ($16.50) comes first as a marrow bone with grilled bread, followed by a hefty beef broth full of chopped vegetables and meat, then generous slabs of the juice-riddled boiled beef itself accompanied by creamed spinach, roasted Austrian grated potatoes, and a chive sauce with applesauce and horseradish.
Far more Old School is the curiously named Bratíslavská Reštaurácia Flagship, located within an old movie house set on two floors, with grand staircases and what used to be a stage and screen. It looks like a place where Quentin Tarantino would film a bloody fight scene for a movie set in eastern Europe. This is a huge room, always packed with patrons who come the housemade draft beers and for the rich cooking, like the pungent garlic soup served inside a sliced-open round loaf of bread ($3.75), whose interior mixes with the soup to form savory clumps. Sauerkraut soup ($2.25) was also good, and the goulash here is more soup than stew ($6). 2016-12-19-1482160238-7826339-BRATFALSGHIP.jpg
Order the three kinds of dumplings, served on a wooden board—a pirohy, stuffed like ravioli with potato, another a kind of spaetzle with sauerkraut, and the last egg noodles in a rich creamy bacon sauce ($12.50)—that easily feeds two or three people.
Everything at Flagship is unbelievably cheap, the young waiters extremely amiable and the service fast, as it should be in a café with so much history on its side—definitely a unique place and a must visit in Bratislava.
Far more modern and quite out of the ordinary is Massimo (Dvořakovo Nábreẑie 4), which is set overlooking the Danube River. Back in 2005 owner-chef Massimo Atanasio decided Bratislava was ready for a first-rate, upscale Italian restaurant and he’s given the city a romantically lighted, glass-walled interior and bar —with outdoor tables in summer—with a backdrop of a photo of the Bay of Naples, where he was born. Here you’ll find modern and traditional cucina Italiana, starting off with very good bread and olive oil.

There’s a carpaccio of beets with a cheese sauce drizzle ($14), and the misticanza of salad greens ($6.25) is very welcome after the heavy food of Slovakia; the housemade tagliatelle with black truffles and quail egg—“cooked to 63 degrees C”—(market price) will put you in mind of the best in Tuscany (right). Massimo also knows how to handle fish, demonstrated by a branzino fillet served atop bright carrot-ginger puree ($24). For dessert have the dense dark chocolate torta di caprese. And to top it off, Massimo carries a first-rate wine list with Italian and other European bottlings at fair mark-ups. Cocktails run a very genial $6.25.




Dream job for a cold-blooded trekker?

An ice hotel in the Arctic Circle is advertising the perfect job for anyone who loves skygazing

Fancy working here? (Picture: Facebook/Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos)

If you favour donning your thermals and trekking through the snow, wrapping yourself in blankets and staring up at the night sky over packing in your nine-to-five and moving to the Caribbean, Metro may have found the perfect job for you.

Seriously.  This is the definition of a dream job.  As long as you don’t mind the cold…

The Arctic SnowHotel, located right in the Arctic Circle, is searching for a Northern Lights spotter.  Yup.  They’re advertising a job that mostly involves looking at one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

The position will require the Northern Lights spotter to, well, spot the Northern Lights.

They’ll need to analyse weather data to predict when the Aurora Borealis will be visible in the night skies, and let guests know when they’re most likely to see them.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: Facebook/Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos)

When the North Lights do appear, the spotter will need to alert the guests so they can come out and take a look.

They’ll also need to help out with the hotel’s Aurora Alarm Service, which gently wakes up guests when the Northern Lights appear.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: CEN)

Now the only thing holding us back a bit from quitting our jobs and applying for this one immediately is the fact that the hotel hasn’t revealed how much their Northern Lights spotter will be paid.  Maybe it’s dependent on how much experience you have looking at the sky.

What we do know, however, is that the successful applicant will get free accommodation in the hotel – in a room made of ice or a glass igloo – throughout the Aurora season, which runs from December to March.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: Facebook/Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos)

As well as getting paid to look at the sky, whoever gets hired for the position will get to enjoy all sorts of perks, including access to a snow sauna, outdoor hot tubs, and three fancy lakeside restaurants.

They’ll also be able to learn how to ice fish, make ice sculptures, and make snow shoes.  Fun.

Of course, this does all mean that if you fancy applying, you’ll need to be able to handle the cold.  Not only is it pretty nippy outside, but the rooms themselves are all kept at a temperature of between zero and minus five degrees celsius.  So you’ll need to pack some warm PJs.

An ice hotel n the Arctic Circle is advertising what might be the perfect job for lovers of spectacular night skies

(Picture: Facebook/Arctic SnowHotel & Glass Igloos)

If this all sounds like your snow-covered dream, you can apply for the position by directly contacting the hotel.

If you’d prefer something a little warmer, we’d recommend going for the sausage expert job.  Sounds nice…



How South Africa’s Eastern Cape is ready for adrenaline junkies

Zip wiring, helicopter riding and open-sea kayaking: South Africa’s Eastern Cape is rising in popularity with those who like a splash of excitement on holiday.  From sea water kayaking to quad biking, there are plenty of activities for adrenaline junkies there, but with elephant tours and wonderful luxury hotels, there is also lots to lure those who want a relaxing time.  For those who live in the UK or Europe, you can arrive ready to start the day as there are overnight flights and only a one-hour time difference from GMT.

Thanks to Olivia Foster Mail Online Travel for the tips!

Swinging through tree canopies, canoeing across swelling seas and quad biking through the undergrowth, these are just some of the adventures waiting for the adrenaline junkie on South Africa’s beautiful Eastern Cape.
Whilst areas such as Cape Town and Johannesburg are well-trodden, the Eastern Cape has remained a relative mystery, until now, thanks to its rising popularity with the slack-packing generation.

What’s more, now you can arrive there ready to start your day, because South Africa Airlines offers an overnight journey from London Heathrow – and there’s only a one-hour time difference.

Guided by knowledgeable South African Craig Duffield of Mosaic Tourism we had a terrific time discovering what South Africa can offer adrenaline junkies and first-time adventurers, from Durban to the Tsitsikamma National Park.

Sea water kayaking

Go sea water kayaking with Untouched Adventures for an adrenaline-filled experience. Once out in the ocean you’ll paddle out through the rolling waves and round under the famous Storms River Suspension bridge

Go sea water kayaking with Untouched Adventures for an adrenaline-filled experience. Once out in the ocean you’ll paddle out through the rolling waves and round under the famous Storms River Suspension bridge

As you emerge under the bridge you’re greeted with caves, cliffs and the type of landscape that wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of Lost

As you emerge under the bridge you’re greeted with caves, cliffs and the type of landscape that wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of Lost

Once further up the river you’ll be transferred over to lilos (yes, lilos) to continue your journey up stream

Once further up the river you’ll be transferred over to lilos (yes, lilos) to continue your journey up stream

Looking out at the rolling waves coming into the Storms River Mouth you’d forgive even the most expert of adventurers for being a little bit scared.

But once out in the ocean you’ll paddle out through the rolling waves and round under the famous Storm River Suspension bridge, where you’re greeted with caves, cliffs and the type of landscape that wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of Lost.

Once further up the river you’ll be transferred over to lilos (yes, lilos) to continue your journey up-stream. Anyone looking for an extra thrill might want to try the cliff jump, but beware, the fresh water is very cold!

Top tip: Keep your wetsuit rolled down to the waist for the sea kayaking, when the waves get big, you’ll want the full use of your arms to paddle you through.

Booking: Price approximately £24pp. Visit

Canoeing down the Sundays River

Those keen for a more relaxing journey down the river should try canoeing down the Sundays River

Those keen for a more relaxing journey down the river should try canoeing down the Sundays River.

Sit back in your two-man canoe from CrissCross Adventures and let the power of the current pull you most of the way down stream.

Seriously, for this three-hour-long cruise you’ll need minimal arm power, which leaves more time for trying to spot the elusive African fish eagle.

More common sights include seven different types of kingfisher and the goliath heron.

With drinks included you might be tempted to take one of the local beers, passed to you by your guide on the tip of his oar (even if the trip does start at 8.30am).

Top Tip: When you head towards the rapids (don’t worry, they’re not that fast!) make sure you heed the advice of your guide, or you may end up stuck in the reeds like we did!

Booking: Price is around £24pp. Visit

Quad biking

Extreme sportsmen will love exploring the South African undergrowth on an Automatic Yamaha Grizzly quad bike

Extreme sportsmen will love exploring the South African undergrowth on an Automatic Yamaha Grizzly quad bike

Climb onto your Yamaha Grizzly – also from CrissCross Adventures – slip on your protective goggles and take a precarious ride around the Vally Bushveld.

With rocky paths and steep slopes this is not an activity for the first time driver as the hour-and-a-half-long trails take you through the South African undergrowth. Just be careful you don’t drive into the river!

Top tip: Take a few laps around the practice course before setting off into the trees where the paths can be more than a little bit rocky.

Booking: Price approx £21pp. Visit

Segway ride through the forest

Take a relaxed Segway ride through the Storms River Village and into the surrounding forest with Segway Fun

Take a relaxed Segway ride through the Storms River Village and into the surrounding forest with Segway Fun.

Before setting off your guide will give you a comprehensive tutorial of how to use your vehicle, before letting you loose on the training area. Don’t worry, it’s easier than it looks.

Then, with the speed dial turned up, you’ll have an hour-long tour taking in the sights and smells of the beautiful woodland as you zoom along on your Segway. Just make sure you stay in single file as the guides warn you to avoid any unwanted crashes.

Top tip: When stepping off the Segway be sure to take one foot off at a time, keeping a firm grip on the handle bars as you do, or you may end up running over your foot!

Booking: Price approximately £13-£15 pp. Visit

Africa’s longest double zip-line

Thrillseekers will love the Adrenalin Addo zip line, which travels 250 metres across amazing scenery

Thrillseekers will love the Adrenalin Addo zip line, which travels 250 metres across amazing scenery

When you’re standing at the bottom of the Adrenalin Addo zip line you’d be forgiven for thinking it wasn’t very high, but after a steep climb up the mountainside there’s no mistaking that vertigo feeling once you’ve got to the top.

Join up with a partner for this experience as you travel 250 metres across the amazing SA scenery over the valley and down past the Sundays River. If you’re anything like us – or the other groups we spotted enjoying this experience – you’ll be screaming all the way.

Top tip: If you’re not feeling too fragile after the zip line itself, the Adrenalin Addo team also has a giant 18-metre-high swing you can have a go on.

Booking: Price approximately £14pp. Visit for more information.

Tsitskamma Canopy Tour

Ok, so ten zip lines doesn’t feel like a very novice thing to do but with the expert team talking you through them all step by step it certainly feels less scary – especially after their extensive and informative safety briefing.

As you swing through the trees on lines of varying lengths (and speeds) the expert guides will talk you through the surrounding forest life even giving you a pop quiz on what you’ve learnt along the way – which is certain to take your mind off the heights.

Top tip: Make sure to check out your DVD at the end of the trip, quickly edited before you’ve even got back to the Village. There’s nothing funnier than watching yourself swinging through a tree.

Booking: Price approximately £27pp. Click here for more information.

Surf’s up!

Whilst the waves might look too big for a beginner to take on – and you’ll definitely wipe out more than once at Surf Camp South Africa     Whilst the waves might look too big for a beginner to take on – and you’ll definitely wipe out more than once at Surf Camp South Africa

At Surf Camp South Africa beginners are instructed on the art of riding waves at St Francis Bay.

Surf Camp South Africa’s instructor Cody Futeran gave up a corporate life to become a surf instructor at St Francis Bay and he’s been inspiring novice surfers ever since.

Whilst the waves looked too big for a beginner to take on – and you’ll definitely wipe out more than once – Cody managed to have our whole group of six riding the waves by the end of our hour-long session.

At one spectacular point we were joined by dolphins leaping through the bay to check out our efforts.

Top tip: While you might want to look like a beach god in your wetsuit by choosing one that’s tight fitting, opt for a looser one and you’ll have more freedom to move around in the water.

Booking: For a day’s surfing and overnight stay prices start at £45pp. Visit for more.

Addo National Elephant Park, Sundowner Tour

Into the wild: Wrap up warm as the sun starts to go down and take a drive through the Addo National Elephant Park in an open sided jeep

Wrap up warm as the sun starts to go down and take a drive through the Addo National Elephant Park in an open sided jeep.

At this time of night the spotting of elephants can be slightly more difficult as they retreat as the sun sets, but we saw warthogs, jackals and – the more impressive of the bunch – two male lions.

Sitting just metres away from us this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be close to these infamous predators. Shortly after we were driven up to the top of a hill for sundowner drinks and snacks before retreating to our beautiful cottages on the grounds of the park.

Top tip: It might sound pretty obvious but keep your arms inside the jeep, whilst there are no windows to allow you a great view and great photographs, moving yourself outside of its parameters can scare the animals.

Booking: For a half-day tour prices start at approximately £36pp. Visit for more information. 

Up, up and away 

Take the time to stop off in Durban where you can take a four-seater helicopter ride above the stunning coastline and crashing waves, giving you that total James Bond feeling.

Visit more information.

Where to stay

Olivia stayed at Dune Ridge Country House (pictured), which boasts rooms with four-poster beds and a pool area that's the perfect chill-out zone

Olivia stayed at Dune Ridge Country House (pictured), which boasts rooms with four-poster beds and a pool area that’s the perfect chill-out zone

Dune Ridge Country House in St Francis is a four-star property with rooms boasting four-poster beds, your own private terrace and a free standing bath (perfect for soaking those muscles after a day of surfing).

At night you can enjoy dinner cooked by the friendly staff or have a tinkle on the piano, whilst in the day the pool area provides the perfect chill-out zone.

For more information visit

At Tsitikamma stay on site in their beautiful garden apartments. Wake up to see the mist rising above the nearby mountains whilst enjoying a cup of tea on your own little terrace before heading to the omelette bar at the nearby breakfast room. At night stop by the Tsitsikamma micro brewery to try out some locally brewed beers.


Where to eat

The Oyster Box restaurant in Durban boasts a stunning sea-front setting and a speciality curry buffet that has a host of famous fans, including Prince Harry.

Beware the over friendly local monkeys though – they have been known to sneak up and steal from the plates of unsuspecting diners.


The Moroccan Scam that wasn’t

“Even with all the trouble in the world, sometimes a friendly invitation is simply an invitation, and a humble robe can be a treasure.”

Bill Fink from BBC Travel recently travelled to Morocco and encountered a couple of dodgy-looking blokes on a train.  Here’s his fascinating but heartwarming tale with a twist…

A Moroccan woman’s hands are decorated with henna (Credit: Simon Russell/Alamy)

Two men on the train invited me to their sister’s wedding, but they didn’t look at all like brothers.

Tall, fair-skinned Achmed and short, swarthy, moustachioed Mustafa entered my cabin midway between Marrakech and Fez. “A thousand welcomes to Morocco,” they said, putting their hands over their hearts.

I gave them a noncommittal nod, wary of yet another scam, having spent most of my time in Marrakech fleeing from touts, tour guides and con artists. Lacking contacts, a guidebook or much cash, I was essentially a refugee in this land, dependent on the good will of people I didn’t know.

The duo asked why I was visiting Morocco. I was too embarrassed to say it was actually just a cheap side trip from my stay in Spain. I didn’t want to admit I chose Marrakech because of a Crosby, Stills & Nash song and that I was travelling to Fez because of the funny hats.

So I made up a story with the old clichés, telling them I had always wanted to visit the land of the Arabian Nights, snake charmers and exotic desert adventures.

They laughed.

Looking over Fez

Looking over Fez (Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty)

“Well, perhaps those tales have some truths. But if you want to see the real Morocco, you must come to our sister’s wedding tonight,” Achmed said.

“Really?” I said, slowly looking them up and down. “I’m supposed to believe you two are actually brothers?”

“We have different mothers. Our father has three wives, you see. And 15 children! What do you think about that?”

“Your father must be a very energetic man.”

“Oh yes! He once played for our national football team. But nowadays, we usually only take one wife here in Morocco. It is too expensive to support all those women.”

“Plus it’s less trouble with one – you don’t have to worry about the other wives ganging up on you.”  They laughed.

“You will see all this and so much more at the wedding.”

You will come, yes?”

They both looked at me intently, awaiting my reply. The rhythmic “ca-chunk, ca-chunk” of the train filled an awkward moment of silence.

I tried to find a face-saving excuse.

“But I’m just backpacking here,” I said, gesturing to my dirty bag on the luggage rack. “I don’t have anything to wear to a wedding.”

They smiled at each other. Achmed said, “Oh, not to worry at all!  Of course, we will help you buy a genuine Morocco djellaba robe at the market!”

The author and the brothers

The author and the brothers (Credit: Bill Fink)

Mustafa then asked me if I had a hotel already. “No? Of course we will find you a good hotel in Fez, very safe, very clean and very, very good price!”

Ok, I thought, this was the old “help for a commission” scam. They’d lead me to a hotel and market and get a cut of my purchases. Still doubting the wedding story, I shrugged and agreed, figuring it would be a small price to pay for temporary guides.

But when we arrived at Fez, Achmed grabbed me just before we exited the rail station. “I will say goodbye for a moment. You will meet me at the end of the block, by the cafe, in a few minutes. It wouldn’t look good if we walked out of the station together.”

“What, why not?”

“People in Fez are funny. Don’t worry. No problem.”

Confused, I walked to the end of the block by the cafe and waited. A few minutes later, Achmed emerged, leading me to a dingy nearby hotel where he negotiated a rate and had me store my backpack.

We then went me to Fez’s Old Town market, where shouting merchants stood behind stone counters covered with kaleidoscopic arrays of shimmering cloth. He asked me to choose my favourite robe and secretly signal it to him so he could haggle for the best price.

Walking through the medina in Fez, Morocco

Walking through the Medina in Fez, Morocco (Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty)

I selected a long white robe with an embroidered collar and a silvery hue, with a pocket on one side and a slit cut in the other. The shop owner declared that such a fine robe could not be sold for less than the absolute final and rock bottom price of 550 dirham – double the price of my hotel room.

“Achmed,” I said, “I can’t pay that much for a robe I’m only going to wear once.”

“No, no, this is a fine robe, you have excellent taste. It will be very comfortable. And useful. You can wear it around your house, in your garden, anywhere. Cool in summer, warm in winter. How much can you pay?”

“I only have about 350 dirham to spare.” [about £32]

Achmed returned to say he was able to purchase the robe for 340 dirham, with 10 left over for a rope belt. “And to get that price, I tell you it was like pulling teeth.” He made vigorous yanking motions with his hand.

After leading me back to my hotel, Achmed promised to return in an hour to drive me to the wedding. I figured now that they had collected their commissions, it would be the last I’d see of the so-called brothers.

Robe in a plastic bag at my side, I sat outside at a nearby cafe. The smell of grilled lamb wafted through the air, the smoke rising to meet the call to prayer from the tower of a nearby mosque. Well-dressed Moroccan men, alone or in pairs, filled the cafe tables, sipping tea and sodas, smoking cigarettes. Not one of them was wearing a robe.

The man sitting at the table next to mine leaned over to say, “A thousand welcomes to Morocco,” with his hand over his heart.

“A thousand thank yous,” I answered, not knowing the proper response.

“So did you meet some men on the train?”

“What? How did you know that?”

“I saw you with them at the train station. Did they bring you to a hotel? Ask you to buy things?”

“Um, yes.”

“Be very careful,” he said, then stood and walked away, inclining his head and tapping his heart again as a farewell.

My worry increased. I knew little about my current location and two men had promised to drive me somewhere completely unknown. And a stranger had just warned me about them.

A man wearing a traditional djellaba walks down the street in Fez

A man wearing a traditional djellaba walks down the street in Fez (Credit: Nadia Isakova/Alamy)

As I picked over a pastry and sipped a cup of mint tea, a beat-up Honda pulled to the curb. Mustafa smiled and nodded from the driver’s seat. Achmed jumped out of the passenger side and opened the back door. “Hurry, it is time to go!”

“So soon? But where are your robes?”

Achmed laughed, “Oh, we have them in the trunk. We change at the wedding. Get in, we go now.” A car honked behind them.

I wondered what I should do. This could very well be a kidnapping, a robbery or worse. In my moment of internal debate, the deciding factor was my robe. The purchase of traditional formalwear seemed like a totally unnecessary step in an abduction. So I grabbed what had now become my Moroccan security blanket and hopped into the car.

Instead of a short ride to a hotel or convention hall for the wedding, we drove out of town and into the darkness of the desert.

“So where, exactly, are we going?” I asked.

“To the wedding, of course,” was all Achmed would say.

The car jostled along a bumpy road into the countryside. In the front seat, the brothers chatted in Arabic while local music played on the stereo. I began to panic. Should I open the door and dive outside on the road? Where would I run to?

We drove for nearly an hour, finally pulling into a small desert village. The car wobbled along gravel streets; half of its low-slung concrete apartment buildings demolished, the other half under construction, as though recovering from some recent war. My visions of the Arabian Nights were replaced by replays of CNN clips of Al Qaeda hideouts. Was my robe to wear for my beheading video?

I exited the car and stood on an empty street with the two “brothers” behind me.  They motioned for me to put on the robe and enter the darkened building in front of us. A few men milled about in the shadows in the alley; one was viciously kicking a mule. Mustafa saw my concern and asked me what I thought.

“Being a mule is a bad job in Morocco,” I replied.

He laughed and nodded.

Feeling beyond the point of no return, I pulled the robe over my head and walked to the door. I half expected to open it and see dark, bearded men squatting around a fire, maybe armed with rifles, gazing with fierce blazing eyes and lurid smiles toward their victim dressed for slaughter.

A Berber woman attends a group wedding ceremony in Morocco's high Atlas Mountains

A Berber woman attends a group wedding ceremony in Morocco’s high Atlas Mountains (Credit: Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty)

Instead, I entered a bright, modern room crowded with a dozen sharply dressed Moroccan men in khakis and sport coats, daintily holding cups of tea. They howled with laughter at my outfit. A young girl peeked out of the kitchen and giggled. I stood stunned in the doorway, my bright red blushing face contrasting with my fresh-out-of-the-bag white robe.A peppy older man with ramrod straight posture marched into the party, wearing a similar robe to mine. He smiled, eyes bright with mirth as he cross­ed the room to take me by the shoulder. He patted his heart and spoke to me in Arabic.

Mustafa translated: “My father says, ‘A thousand welcomes’. He is honoured that you have travelled so far to join us for this special occasion. And he says he really likes your djellaba.“

Relatives began plying me with orange sodas and an assortment of home-cooked sweets. Achmed and Mustafa led me upstairs to the pre-wedding feast on a rooftop patio, where I joined a group of men and boys sitting on the floor around a giant platter. Together we broke bread and dipped it into sauces tinged with mint, saffron and honeyed yoghurt, along with some garlicky, creamy tahini. We grabbed hunks of grilled lamb on the bone, and washed it all down with sugary mint tea as we looked out over the moonlit Moroccan countryside. I felt like I had arrived in an Arabian Nights tale, and the night was only beginning.

Dancing the night away

Dancing the night away (Credit: Bill Fink)

After dinner we gathered outside the building for the wedding procession. Drummers warmed their animal-skin drums over small fires to tighten the tops. Trumpeters carrying the traditional brass nefar horns tuned up with a flurry of toots. The bride in a shimmering white gown and jewelled tiara mounted a precarious white throne atop the long-suffering mule, while the groom leapt on another. In a cacophony of clapping, drumming, honking and ululating, this group of about 50 colourfully dressed men, women and children (and one white-robed foreigner) began a midnight march through town. Villagers emerged from their homes, rubbing sleep from their eyes to smile and clap along with the celebration.

Our procession concluded in front of another nondescript cement apartment building, where the wedding party climbed to a rooftop covered in rugs, tables full of yet more treats and an endless supply of orange soda, all illuminated with strings of bare light bulbs hanging from wires. A slick-suited Moroccan band, complete with electric guitars and keyboards, burst forth with music. The brothers pulled me out to the gender-segregated dance floor for a few songs.

The bridal procession

The bridal procession (Credit: Bill Fink)

Befitting this mixed Arab-Berber wedding, the band left to be replaced by a traditional Berber horns-and-strings ensemble, while the bride and groom re-emerged to the roof with a new set of Berber wedding clothes, the groom dressed in a desert nomad’s robes, the bride in a billowing white dress bedecked with swaths of dangling multi-coloured jewellery. Fuelled by sugar and tea, I clapped, sang and danced along with the extended family as the band and costume changes continued until sunrise.

When the party ended, I dozed in the car as the brothers drove me back to town, trusting they would get me wherever I needed to be. Still wearing my robe, I slept past noon in the comfortable hotel, the only effects from my abduction being a sugar hangover and a newfound appreciation that even with all the trouble in the world, sometimes a friendly invitation is simply an invitation, and a humble robe can be a treasure.


The Cosmopolitan Crossroads of the Middle East

Paris has the Champs Elysees, London has Oxford Street and New York has Fifth Avenue. But while life in Amman may not be as fast-paced as the world’s major metropolises, the Jordanian capital has Rainbow Street, one of the most colourful and multi-ethnic streets in the Middle East.

Mike MacEacheran from BBC Travel explores the Jordanian capital.

Multi-ethnic Rainbow Street in Amman, Jordan mixes European cool with Arab pride to be a focal point for some of the most cutting edge trends and cultural initiatives in the region.

While Middle Eastern cities often replicate European and North American trends, Rainbow Street is a world away from the new-money glamour and in-your-face glitz of Beirut or Dubai. Not only is it the spearhead of the city and country, the street is becoming a focal point for some of the most cutting edge trends and cultural initiatives in the region.

Located in the cosmopolitan hilltop hub of Jabal Amman, the mile-long cobbled strip of real estate is where you will find the most exciting coffee shops, book stores, boutiques and late night bars. The side streets that fan out from it are home to a number of cultural and environmental agencies, including the Royal Film Commission and Wild Jordan — and in this blossoming street network you get a sense of a new creative national identity sprouting up. It is where urban European cool mixes with a renewed sense of Arab pride, due in part to Jordan’s largely absent role from the Spring Revolutions that engulfed its neighbours Egypt and Syria.

Start at the First Circle roundabout, a hub of taxis and fast food joints, from where Rainbow Street tumbles down the hill towards downtown Amman and the historic Roman Forum. You will know you are in the right place when you see an outpost of the garish Buffalo Wings and Rings restaurant. Though Amman has absorbed plenty of influences from its large US-educated population, this American fast food chain is the antithesis to the street’s other locally-owned shops – set up by Palestinians, Lebanese and Jordanians.

If you dream of starting everyday with the finest Italian coffee, then continue past the Saudi Arabian Embassy for a couple of minutes to Café Strada, just off Rainbow Street on Mohammad Rashid Ridha Street. One of the newer start-ups in the city, its Jordanian owners are proud of their former life in Italy and coffee-making credentials (they get their roasted beans from outside Bologna). If tea is your preferred choice, then make the short walk to the Turtle Green Tea Café, across the road from the historic Rainbow Cinema; its iced jasmine tea is the perfect morning thirst-quencher. For something more local, try a cup of Southern Sweet, a zesty concoction that mixes black tea with lemon and home grown mint.

Thanks to its hilltop location, Rainbow Street is spoilt with panoramic views across the city, glimpsed from between the neighbourhood’s 1920s houses. Past the Turtle Green Tea Café and a short walk from the graffiti-covered walls of the British Council building is the best of these. The small, tiered, picnic-perfect Viewpoint Park has jaw-dropping views of the ancient Roman citadel, located on the opposite side of the city atop Jabal Al-Qala’a, a historic fort that could not be further removed from Rainbow Street’s modernity. Budding photographers should visit in the late afternoon to make the most of the red sunsets that coat the downtown rooftops in a rosy glow.

Come Friday during summer, this stretch of Rainbow Street is also the focal point for the Souk Jara market. Like a mini-carnival, it is a popular place for local artists and craftsmen to sell the latest paintings, wood carvings and jewellery from their makeshift stalls. You are advised to come hungry as there are plenty of homemade snacks to choose from. Jordanian cuisine is being rediscovered by Generation Y – spearheaded by new start-ups like Jordanian cookery school Beit Sitti – falafel is still king on Rainbow Street, mostly thanks to Falafel Al Quds which has been serving crisp-fresh fried chickpea sandwiches and wraps since 1966. Do not be put off by the queues outside of the tiny takeaway joint, hidden behind vintage wooden décor – it is definitely worth the wait and Al Quds falafels are widely-regarded as being the best in the country.

Further along the street, you will pass more coffee and cake shops – of particular note is Café des Artistes, with fantastic Californian-style cheesecakes and local artwork — before you come to Sufra, a unique Jordanian eatery. One of King Abdullah and Queen Rania’s favourites, Sufra is a new concept that brings classic Jordanian dishes like mansaf (lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt) to the fore. The royal seal of approval means that it pays to book in advance for one of its terrace tables – you may find yourself competing for elbow space with some of the Jordanian royal family.

But it’s not just during the day when Rainbow Street impresses itself upon you. Cantaloupe is the country’s first gastropub; Amigos bar (Al-Imama Malek Street; +962-6-463-3001)has pool tables and the city’s best happy hour; and La Calle (Rainbow Street; +962-461-7-216) is an Italian restaurant with wraparound windows that ensure diners and drinkers linger for hours to people watch. All of these are populated by an easy-going mix of Jordanian, Lebanese, Egyptian and Palestinian twenty-something’s looking for a good time.

Before checking out the street’s most popular nightspots, however, pop into art gallery Jacaranda Images. While owner Barbara Rowell hails from down under, you are likely to unearth photographic prints or paintings from local up-and-coming artists like Tariq Dajani and Mike V Derderian.

Next door is Books@Cafe, a two-storey house with a vast bookshop-cum-late-night-bar. It regularly hosts events and concerts and has a vast terrace that overlooks the white-washed rooftops of downtown. Ask any long-term Amman resident and they will tell you that you have not really been to Rainbow Street unless you have sat under a star-filled, inky-black sky at Books@Cafe and shared a fruit-flavoured hookah or drank an ice-cold beer.



Top 21 Under-the-Radar Destinations

From Canada’s Yukon wilderness to the mountaintops of India, these unconventional holiday destinations found by BBC Travel will lead you off the beaten path and on to an adventure all your own.

Fermanagh Lakelands, Northern Ireland (Credit: Gareth Mccormack/Getty)

Fermanagh Lakelands, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s answer to the Lake District is blissfully unhurried, although the G8 summit being held here this June may bring it fame. Fermanagh is about one-fifth water, and most of that belongs to fickle Lough Erne – a lake in two parts. Upper Lough Erne is a watery maze of more than 150 islands, often difficult to recognise as a lake between its reedy bays and meandering backwaters. Lower Lough Erne however is a more traditional open body of water.

Many of its islands have a sacred legacy – on Devenish Island there are the remains of an Augustinian monastery, including a superb 12th-century round tower, and on White Island, six enigmatic Celtic stone figures greet visitors. The stately homes of Castle Coole and Florence Court are later additions to the area’s historic mix. Fermanagh’s waterways are choice spots for trout- and salmon-fishing, or for exploring by motorboat and canoe. Be sure to take in the view from the top of the Cliffs of Magho – a limestone escarpment running along the south of Lower Lough Erne. (Gareth Mccormack/Getty)

Yukon, Canada (Credit: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty)

Yukon, Canada

The Yukon is where Canadians go when the rest of the country feels a little too crowded. Hugging the border with Alaska, this area of wilderness that is twice the size of the UK has fewer residents than Liechtenstein – once you’ve discounted the caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, lynx and bald eagles. Interest in this region surged during the Klondike gold rush of 1896, but it soon reverted to normal, leaving just a few reminders of Canada’s version of the Wild West, such as the old prospectors’ town of Dawson City, and Jack London’s novels Call of the Wild and White Fang . In the south of the territory is the Kluane National Park – its icefields, which spill over into Alaska, are the largest outside the polar regions. Road trips across the Yukon make for an adventure, whether you take the historic and well-paved Alaska Highway, or the more rough-and-ready Robert Campbell Highway or Dempster Highway. Off road, canoe and kayak trips open up the Yukon River to exploration. (Alexander Hassenstein/Getty)

Inchcolm Island, Firth of Forth, Scotland (Credit: Scott Campbell/Getty)

Inchcolm Island, Firth of Forth, Scotland

With its ruined abbey spread across a verdant sliver of land, Inchcolm looks every bit the remote Scottish island, though it’s easier to reach than most – located in the middle of the Firth of Forth, it’s a mere half-hour boat ride from Edinburgh. The trip’s well worth making, as Inchcolm, often dubbed the ‘Iona of the East’, possesses the best-preserved monastic complex in Scotland. Founded in 1123 by Augustine monks and dramatically sited over a sandy bay, it offers an intriguing glimpse of hermetic life – and from its tower, rather more complete views over the Firth. The site has served as a hauntingly realistic venue for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s performance of Macbeth. Beyond the abbey, the island merits a wander – it’s riddled with tunnels, lookouts and bunkers from its time as a garrison in both WWI and WWII. Nowadays its only permanent inhabitants are animals – look out for puffins and grey seals basking on rocks. (Scott Campbell/Getty)

Kiso Valley, Japan (Credit: Judy Bellah/Getty)

Kiso Valley, Japan

Two hundred years ago, the thickly wooded Kiso Valley was one of the main routes through central Japan. It’s more out of the way these days, with the happy result that it preserves a number of old post stations along the Nakasendo – the mountain road, celebrated in the work of woodblock print artists, that ran from Edo (modern Tokyo) to Kyoto. The most attractive of the stations is Tsumago, where modern development has been restricted and dark-wood, lattice-fronted houses line the car-free main street. An hour or two is enough to browse the tasteful souvenir shops, sit down in a traditional restaurant or visit the former rest stop for retainers of travelling samurai lords, with its moss garden. It’s worth extending your stay however to take the five-mile hike along the route of the Nakasendo, past farmland, forest and waterfalls, which connects Tsumago to the village of Magome – another time capsule. (Judy Bellah/Getty)

Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park, California (Credit: Mark Rakston/Getty)

Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park, California

What is it about California and trees? Not content with having the world’s tallest (coast redwoods) and oldest (bristlecone pines), the state is also home to the largest tree by volume – the giant sequoia, which grows only to its full size in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Many of these behemoths are found in the Yosemite National Park, but for more quality time with the trees, it’s best to head south to Sequoia National Park, which gets a quarter of Yosemite’s visitor numbers. Quieter still is King’s Canyon National Park, adjacent to and run jointly with Sequoia. Besides the giant sequoias – including the daddy of them all, the General Sherman Tree – the parks feature a cleft deeper than the Grand Canyon (King’s Canyon itself), mountain trails and stalactite-draped caves. At the eastern edge of Sequoia is 4,421m-high Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the US outside Alaska. (Mark Rakston/Getty)

Providence, Rhode Island, USA (Credit: Kenneth C Zirkel/Getty)

Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the US – more like an English county in its expanse. Its capital, Providence, has many of the attractions of Boston, an hour’s drive away, but in a city a quarter of its size. Ivy League member Brown University and the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) give the city a strong student influence, dignified campus buildings and the impressive RISD Museum of Art. Providence has the only downtown area in the US that is listed in its entirety on the National Register of Historic Places and, up on College Hill, east of the Providence River, are leafy streets lined with 18th-century wood-framed houses. More colourful districts include Federal Hill, with its Italian restaurants and food shops, and Fox Point, home to a Portuguese community and increasing numbers of coffee shops and small galleries. Try to time your visit for one of the 10 or so weekends a year, between May and October, when 100 flaming braziers light up the city’s waterways during WaterFire. (Kenneth C Zirkel/Getty)

Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey (Credit: Chris Hondros/Getty)

Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey

A world away from cosmopolitan Istanbul or Turkey’s laid-back coastal resorts, little-visited Southeastern Anatolia deserves equal fame. Once the northern frontier of Mesopotamia (the ‘cradle of civilization’), the region encompasses an astonishing array of sites, reaching far back into human history. The recently excavated stone circles of Göbekli Tepe, for example, are thought to comprise the world’s oldest temple. Comparatively youthful at just a few millennia old are S ̧anlıurfa (‘the Prophet’s City’) – an ancient spiritual centre of mosques, shady courtyards and a labyrinthine bazaar – and the beehive houses of Harran. Equally captivating are Mardin, where golden stone houses look over sunbaked plains, and the colossal ancient statues that crowd a remote mountaintop at Nemrut Dag ̆ı. Several of these places are stops on the recently inaugurated Turkish section of Abraham’s Path, a 100-mile trail through sites linked to the prophet’s life, sleeping in homestays along the way. (Chris Hondros/Getty)

Arunachal Pradesh, India (Credit: AFP/Getty)

Arunachal Pradesh, India

Arunachal Pradesh, the ‘land of the dawn-lit mountains’, is surely high on any list of candidates for the mythical realm of Shangri-La. Sitting at a confluence of countries – India, Bhutan, Tibet and Burma – it has historically been inaccessible from any, an unknown place so remote that few of its thunderous Himalayan peaks have been named, let alone climbed. Now, however, easing travel restrictions and improved infrastructure ensure that this extraordinary place is ripe for exploring. Here, nature reserves teem with a diversity of wildlife unmatched in India, forests host delicately tattooed tribal peoples, and mountain valleys are dotted with majestic Buddhist monasteries, such as 400-year-old Tawang Gompa, one of the world’s largest. Be sure to visit the Mechuka Valley, a hitherto unexplored Buddhist realm amongst the towering, snow-draped mountains of the region’s remote west. Making the trip on the newly opened road is one of the most exciting adventures in India. (AFP/Getty)

Northwestern Tasmania, Australia (Credit: Universal Images Group/Getty)

Northwestern Tasmania, Australia

Long known for its apples, Australia’s island state of Tasmania is fast emerging as the country’s best destination for food, full stop. Its unspoilt countryside and pristine waters provide a bounty of lovingly-harvested local produce, much of it then served up within the state’s country-leading crop of restaurants. Tazzie’s northwest offers a choice of delicacies that’s hard to beat, from seafood and cider to chocolate, cheese and cool-climate wines. Amidst the rolling green hills of Deloraine you’ll find farms purveying cherries, raspberries and even organic salmon, while at laid-back King Island you can feast on bries, cheddars and pungent blue cheeses, plus crayfish and oysters from the surrounding ocean. Elsewhere, sample over 50 varieties of honey, including Tasmania’s creamy Leatherwood variety, at Chudleigh Honey Farm, or head to the vineyards and distilleries around scenic Barrington Lake for a glass of dry Pinot Noir or cider to wash it all down. (Universal Images Group/Getty)

Kosrae, Micronesia (Credit: Yvette Cardozo/Getty)

Kosrae, Micronesia

First of all, allow plenty of time to reach this island, whose nearest international connections are Honolulu and Guam. Kosrae (pronounced ‘ko-shrye’) is the easternmost of the 607 islands dotted across a million square miles of ocean that make up the Federated States of Micronesia. This isolation has at least one big bonus – the island is fringed with coral reefs that count as some of the most remarkable and undisturbed in the Pacific Ocean, sheltering groupers, lionfish and a host of other marine life. In summer, the visibility in the water can be an amazing 60 metres, enough to see the submerged remains of an American flying boat and a Japanese freighter sunk during WWII. The rainforest-covered interior and delightful beaches are also highlights of the island. The nearby islet of Lelu has jungle-covered ruins that look like a smaller version of the mysterious ‘lost city’ of Nan Madol, on the main Micronesian island of Pohnpei. (Yvette Cardozo/Getty)

Ávila, Spain (Credit: Javier Soriano/Getty)

Ávila, Spain

Pity the army that tried to take Ávila. Set on the cool, high plains of Castilla y León in central Spain, this historic bastion is a sight to behold. Thick, hulking walls loom 12 metres high in a crenellated ring around the city, interrupted only by a series of monumental embellishments: eight gates, dozens of towers and turrets in their thousands. Built in the 12th Century on top of the remains of earlier Roman and Muslim battlements, they rank among the best-preserved medieval walls in the world, and despite their age, can, in part, be walked along. Climb up for views over the snow-dusted mountains around Ávila, or the rooftops, spires and quiet medieval streets of this beautiful, deeply religious ‘city of saints and stones’. For the best view of the walls themselves, make for the plains around the city at night: you’ll see them snake like a golden ribbon through the undulating dark. (Javier Soriano/Getty)

Sylt, Germany (Credit: Patrik Stollarz/Getty)

Sylt, Germany

Sylt is no secret to German tourists, many of whom have been flocking here for years. It’s not hard to see why – this large anchor-shaped island in the North Sea combines wild romance with a distinctly civilised drinking and dining scene. Away from the glamorous excesses of its most popular corners, this is a place of quiet beauty, where red-thatched houses sit in flower-thick gardens and candy-striped lighthouses keep sentinel over green meadows and vast, shifting dunes. Head to the western coast for mile upon mile of secluded fine-sand beaches and dramatic surf, or wander east to the serene Wadden Sea, where gentle waters recede to reveal a natural haven of tidal mudflats. In the evening, tuck into local specialities at one of Sylt’s scores of eateries – from beach bistros to Michelin-starred restaurants, there’s no shortage of fine food. (Patrik Stollarz/Getty)

Meknès, Morocco (Credit: Abdelhak Senna/Getty)

Meknès, Morocco

While visitors pour into Marrakesh, Fez and Rabat, Meknès, the fourth and most modest of Morocco’s imperial cities is rather unfairly overlooked. With its maze of narrow streets, busy medina and wealth of grand buildings, it’s undoubtedly cut from the same beguiling cloth. Set amidst fertile plains below the Middle Atlas Mountains, Unesco-listed Meknès’s monuments include numerous palaces, 25 miles of historic walls, dozens of mosques (its nickname is ‘city of a hundred minarets’) and the vast, ornately-tiled Bab el-Mansour gate; located opposite Meknès’s lively medina, it’s the grandest in Morocco. Most of these date back to Meknès’s 17th and 18th Century glory days as the sultanate’s base. Nearby is a rather more ancient attraction: Volubilis, site of the largest Roman ruins in the country. With its partially restored buildings and beautiful, on-site mosaics, it’s unmissable. (Abdelhak Senna/Getty)

If you’re anywhere near the wonderful port of Tangiers, I can heartily recommend the stunning Grand Hotel Villa de France and gorgeous El Minzah – I’ve stayed at both. These historic properties are part of the Le Royal Hotels & Resorts group owned by Iraqi-born British businessman and philanthropist Sir Nadhmi Auchi.  – Ned

Byblos, Lebanon (Credit: Flickr/Getty)

Byblos, Lebanon

Though Byblos looks, at first glance, like simply a picturesque fishing harbour, beyond its shimmering waters you’ll also find a real historical heavyweight. This serene settlement north of Beirut has been around for a long time (some claim it’s the oldest continuously inhabited town in the world), during which it has featured in the Bible, been conquered by Crusaders and given the world the modern alphabet (courtesy of the sea-trading Phoenicians of the first millennium BC). Today, its many ages are well-represented in its patchwork of ruins, which include ancient temples and tombs and Neolithic houses. Three sites in particular steal the show: the reconstructed Roman amphitheatre, set on a cliff overlooking the sea; the imposing 12th-century Crusader castle, with its commanding views; and the beautifully restored medieval souq, where you can buy everything from antiques to fossils. That’s another few millennia ticked off, then. (Flickr/Getty)

Ned’s tip: for five star plus luxury and the best water park in the Med, treat yourself to Le Royal Hotels & Resorts – Beirut

Toruń, Poland (Credit: Janusz Leszczynski Photography/Getty)

Toruń, Poland

While WWII spelt devastation for many of Poland’s finest historic towns, Toruń – a walled medieval port on the Vistula river – miraculously escaped entirely intact. Today it continues, puzzlingly, to be overlooked, meaning that visitors have its wealth of glorious Gothic architecture largely to themselves. From towering churches to ornately decorated houses, the impressive red-brick buildings of its Unesco-listed old town form one of the best-preserved collections in northern Europe. Standouts include a light-filled cathedral that glitters with beautiful stained-glass windows, the medieval ruins of its castle and walls, and the 14th-century town hall – head up to its tower to enjoy sweeping views over the city. Directly below, the old town’s grand market square is a fine place to watch the world go by – grab a café table and sample Toruń’s signature snack of pierniki (gingerbread), famous country-wide. (Janusz Leszczynski Photography/Getty)

Jambiani Beach, Tanzania (Credit: Bruno Morandi/Getty)

Jambiani Beach, Tanzania

Even among Zanzibar’s embarrassment of powder-sand riches, Jambiani beach is a clear standout. Located on the island’s east coast, which is protected by offshore reefs, the beach is a long, palm-fringed sweep of fine coral sand sloping ever-so-gradually into a startlingly turquoise sea. This mesmerising landscape, one of the quietest places on the east coast, is also a good introduction to the age-old rhythms of rural Zanzibari life. Spread before the fishing village of Jambiani, a somnolent, sun-baked collection of coral and thatched houses, it’s animated by the daily routines of inhabitants. During the day, women gather seaweed and lay it in the sun to dry, ngalawa (outrigger canoes) bob in the shallows just offshore, and, at sunset, fishermen in dhows sail towards the reefs, the silhouettes of their triangular sails serrating the sky. Hitch a ride with one for unbeatable vistas of both beach and sea shimmering in the setting sun. (Bruno Morandi/Getty)

Arras, France (Credit: Philippe Huguen/Getty)

Arras, France

If the town of Arras in northeastern France rings any bells, it’s most likely to be for its position near the thick of frontline action in WWI. However, with its vertiginous belfry and colourful arcaded squares, the town exuberantly defies the expectations of its sombre history. Its two ancient market squares, the Grand Place and nearby Petite Place, are surrounded by a confectionery of Flemish-Spanish houses, pastel-hued, gaily decorated creations erected in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Together, their 350 or so columns form an arcade that’s unique in France. Petite Place is also the site of another focal point – the ornate city hall, whose Unesco-listed belfry shoots up 75m above Arras’s streets and offers heady views. Beneath the square is another site worth a visit: the historic souterrains (tunnels) that became British command posts, hospitals and barracks in WWI and which, each spring, blossom into a uniquely life-affirming garden. (Philippe Huguen/Getty)

Sãotomé and Príncipe (Credit: Tiago Petinga/Getty)

Sãotomé and Príncipe

São Toméans like to live life ‘leve leve’ (slowly and calmly) in this one-time Portuguese colony that was formed from two islands in the Atlantic, 150 miles from the African mainland and a six-hour flight from Lisbon. São Tomé Island is as tropical as can be – the equator passes through an islet off its south coast, and the volcanically formed interior shelters virgin rainforest and a huge variety of plant and bird species. Its smaller neighbour Príncipe is even more untouched. The islands produce some of the best cocoa and coffee in the world, and at lunchtime nothing can beat grilled fresh fish. Outside the modest capital, with its Portuguese-era buildings painted in ice-cream shades, there are beaches, hiking trails through the rugged landscape, and plantations. (Tiago Petinga/Getty)

Richmond, North Yorkshire, England (Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Richmond, North Yorkshire, England

There are more than 50 places called Richmond around the world, from a London borough to the state capital of Virginia, but the original can be found just outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park, in a prime spot on the River Swale. Since the days of the Normans, Richmond Castle has sat on a rocky outcrop above the river – one of the oldest stone fortresses in the country. The true heart of the town however is the straightforwardly named Market Place. Based on a charter from Elizabeth I, an outdoor market takes place here every Saturday (a farmers’ market on the third Saturday of the month) with a permanent indoor market off to one side. Cobbled streets fan out from the sloping, half-moon- shaped square, lined with handsome Georgian buildings and stone cottages, with glimpses of the dales beyond. (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Ikaria, Greece (Credit: Chris Christo/Getty)

Ikaria, Greece

If you’re after somewhere to eat, drink and unwind, look no further than Ikaria, a place so restorative that living to 100 years here is no big deal. No-one’s quite sure what accounts for residents’ exceptional longevity, but the sheer serenity of the place must have something to do with it (the hot springs probably help, too). A hilly isle in the northeast Aegean mostly bypassed by tourism, it’s strewn with crumbling ruins, secluded bays and tiny villages where residents gather to tell stories, play backgammon and drink. Vineyard-rich Ikaria’s a particularly fine place for this last pursuit, being the mythical birthplace of both Dionysus, god of wine, and of his favourite tipple. Enjoy its signature red over a plate of local produce in the cascading village of Karavostamo or in the easy-going port of Agios Kirykos. Summer is the best time to experience the joie de vivre of Greek island culture, when panigyria (all-night festivals) ring in saints’ days with feasting, drinking and dancing galore.(Chris Christo/Getty)

Trieste, Italy (Credit: AFP/Getty)

Trieste, Italy

If you had to choose one city to serve as the capital of Europe, Trieste might be the fairest choice. A piece of Italy largely surrounded by Slovenian territory, and which was once imperial Austria’s cosmopolitan main port, it lies at the crossroads of the continent’s Latin, Slavic and Germanic cultures. This is reflected in the city’s food habits, where panini and fritto misto (fried seafood) might be followed by beef brisket and horseradish. Triestini love their coffee just as much as Romans and Viennese do, and many of the cafés evoke more gilded times. The huge, pristine central square is an elegant triumph of Austro-Hungarian town planning, now ironically named the Square of Italian Unity. Beyond it is the Borgo Teresiano, a graceful 18th-century district that straddles Trieste’s very own Grand Canal, a mosaic-laden Serbian Orthodox church and a richly decorated neoclassical synagogue. The city also has literary note as the place where James Joyce lived for 10 years before the outbreak of WWI. (AFP/Getty)

Eat your way around the world in Beirut

If you’re looking for the real East-meets-West so talked about in the Middle East, you need look no further than Beirut. Fast-paced, fashion-conscious and overwhelmingly friendly, it’s not a relaxing city to spend time in – it’s too crowded, polluted and chaotic for that – but its magnificent array of museums, restaurants, bars and clubs make it an essential stop on every Lebanese itinerary. In fact, the country is so small, and day trips to every city and major site so easy, that most travellers tend to base themselves here for their entire visit.

And is there anything more distinctly Lebanese than a greasy late-night kebab? Perhaps not. But while Beirut may have built its culinary reputation on a lamb grill or falafel wrap, the city’s restaurant critics are nowadays more likely to extol the virtues of Chinese dim sum or Californian sushi. The cafe owners and restaurateurs that fled for Europe and the Gulf states during the decade-long, 1980s civil war have returned in droves, bringing tastes and flavours from around the world. Nowadays, the city’s motto is make lunch, not war.

Lonely Planet‘s Mike MacEacheran explores the city’s culinary offerings…

Beirut city

Photo: le Royal Hotels & Resorts

Walk in any direction, from an early breakfast to a late Lebanese dinner, and it is hard not to be wowed by the city’s epicurean charms. Take the temperature of the city’s eat-fast, party-hard attitude at Momo at the Souks, the latest venture from celebrated Algerian restaurateur Mourad Mazouz, who already made his mark in London, Paris and Dubai with his hip mix of North African cuisine and New York-style cocktails. Part of the gargantuan Beirut Souks, a multi-brand shopping complex in downtown Beirut, Momo has to be seen to be believed — its exotic Yves Saint Laurent-inspired fine-dining room is a mash up of surreal mirrors, antique furniture and one-off Cubist couches. Do not miss the Moroccan pastille (meat pie) with wood pigeon, washed down with a house-signature vodka mojito. In the same complex, check out La Cave de Joël Robuchon a wine cellar from the world-renowned French chef and Michelin star restaurateur.

Nearby is Le Gray Hotel, owned by Scottish hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray. More famous for hosting five-star soirees at his luxury escape Carlisle Bay in Antigua, he surprised everyone by opening his second hotel in downtown Beirut. The art gallery-styled lobby is the entry point for a number of restaurants and bars, including Indigo on the Roof, a 360-degree panorama restaurant that has some of the best-trained bartenders in Lebanon. What is really getting Beirutis excited though is the arrival of high-end Japanese eaterie Zuma. With outlets already in Miami, Hong Kong and Istanbul, it is expected to open in Beirut at the end of the year.

It is not all fine dining though. The city’s food and drink scene can be low-key, and in certain parts of the Gemmayze and Hamra neighbourhoods, it literally spills onto the streets. In Hamra, the Alleyway is the latest in-the-know backstreet, with a number of new bars are popping up. Check out Big Shot (The Alleyway; 961-01-34-2140), the country’s first dedicated R&B and hip-hop bar, and February 30 (The Alleyway; 961-01-73-6683), a topsy-turvy bar with tables and chairs on the ceiling, upside down street lamps and bar stools made from mannequin legs. Its off-kilter decor would be the perfect backdrop for Lewis Carroll and Salvador Dalí to share a beer against, most likely one chosen from Beirut’s in vogue micro-brewery 961, the only one thus far in the Middle East.

Students at the nearby American University of Beirut are also embracing the latest craze for New York-style hot dogs, with dozens of all-night mobile stands are dotted across the city. The best of these is Charlie’s in Gemmayze, serving up various toppings like sweetcorn, fried eggs, crunchy onions and pickles. If you are tempted to stay out later, the big open-air nightclubs White, Sky-Bar and BO-18 will make you feel like you are in Ibiza, Spain.

Of course, this all sits alongside what made Beirut great in the first place – classic mezze restaurants, like La Tabkha and Mayrig, and the Lebanese’s love of having a good time, made famous in the 1950s and 1960s by regular visits from Brigitte Bardot and Marlon Brando. This is evident in the Achrafieh district in east Beirut, where Al Falamanki’s (Damascus Street; 961-132-3456) leafy sheesha garden has drawn in a mixed Lebanese and ex-pat crowd for its mezze for decades. From here, it is only a five-minute taxi ride to the achingly hip suburb of Gemmazyeh, once a focal point for the civil war troubles. The area is now jammed with cafes and bars. Alcazar (Saint Nicholas Stairs; 961-144-8141), a three floor meat and seafood mezze specialist, is still scarred with bullet holes.

While Beirut’s culinary scene has great diversity, there is something equally satisfying about not having to choose. So for something with a local yet modern twist, visit Beirut’s take on the seasonal food movement, Tawlet Souk el Tayeb. Set up by Kamal Mouzawak, the man behind the city’s first farmer’s market, Tawlet is an open kitchen, where every day a different Lebanese cook prepares a seasonal dish from their hometown. Its menu changes daily, but popular choices include kibbeh nayeh, the Lebanese speciality of spiced, finely ground meat, and there are salads aplenty. It is bringing local Lebanese cuisine back to the table, without a greasy kebab in sight.


For five-star luxury accommodation pamper yourself at Le Royal – Beirut:


Secret Amman

As Middle Eastern cities go, Amman is a relative youth, and though it lacks the storied history and thrilling architectural tapestry of other regional capitals, there’s plenty here to encourage you to linger awhile before making for Petra, the Dead Sea or Wadi Rum. In fact, Amman is one of the easiest cities in which to enjoy the Middle East experience.

The city has two distinct parts: urbane Western Amman, with leafy residential districts, cafes, bars, modern malls and art galleries; and earthy Eastern Amman, where it’s easier to sense the more traditional and conservative pulse of the capital.

At the heart of the city is the chaotic, labyrinthine ‘downtown’, an Amman must-see. At the bottom of the city’s many hills, and overlooked by the magisterial Citadel, it features spectacular Roman ruins, an international-standard museum and the hubbub of mosques, souks and coffee-houses that are central to Jordanian life.

Lonely Planet writer Mike MacEacheran tells us a bit more about this fascinating Middle Eastern city…

Much of the time, visitors to Jordan follow in the footsteps of Indiana Jones — rushing straight to the Treasury and Monastery tombs that bookend the ancient Nabataean city of Petra. But in doing this, they are overlooking some of the best that this country has to offer. Jordan, and its laidback capital Amman, hide a treasure trove of unmissable, authentic Arabian experiences. And the best of all, you will have most of this to yourself.

The Siq and Treasury lit up with candles for an evening of Bedouin song and storytelling. Photo by Mark Read

Through no fault of its own, Amman has become the forgotten city of the Middle East. It is also the most underrated. The streets have ancient monuments and dusty history to rival Cairo, without the grinding traffic or pollution. Its suburbs have a vibrant restaurant and cultural scene to match neighbouring Beirut, but locals have kept it to themselves.

To see the city at its best, start your day early at the Jabal al Qal’a, or Amman Citadel. In the morning sun, it is the perfect vantage point from which to get your bearings. The seven main hills of Amman spread out below like a rumpled carpet, each mound helping to define a different neighbourhood within the city. Under your feet, meanwhile, lie more than 7000 years of history, and the crumbling pillars, arches and staircases of the Citadel are testament to Amman’s claim as one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities.

Do not miss the Roman-era Temple of Hercules, a honeycomb-coloured jumble of columns and beams, and the hilltop’s Umayyad Palace, believed to date back as far as the 8th Century. Before you leave, take a peek into the hill’s onsite museum – even some locals do not know that it has priceless Dead Sea Scrolls in its collection.

Honking horns from the baying taxi drivers outside will bring you back to modern day Amman before you can say la shokran elak (no, thank you). Resist the urge to be ferried across the city (save the Royal Automobile Museum for another day), and head to one of Amman’s best-kept secrets, the Darat al Funun gallery, on the nearby hilltop Jabal al Weibdeh. A champion of the local arts scene, the gallery is located in a series of three 1920s whitewashed mansions that can be hard to find up a series of crooked steps —  but it is worth the effort. Darat al Funun regularly hosts artists in residence and impromptu concerts and is a great place to dig deeper into the soul of the city. On the way, you will pass one of Amman’s strangest claims to fame: that it is home to one of the tallest flagpoles in the world.

Up the steps outside the gallery and across a few side streets is Paris Circle, one of the city’s most talked about suburbs and home to the coolest fashion store in the city, Jo Bedu. Its Arabic-inspired retro t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts play on a number of Arabic phrases and in-jokes, making for a perfect streetwise souvenir. Favourites include Wadi Rum and Coke and tongue-in-cheek twists on the Facebook and Twitter logos.

Le Royal Hotels & Resorts, Le Royal Amman, Nadhmi Auchi, GMH,

Jordan at twilight. Photo: Le Royal Hotels & Resorts

From here, retrace your steps back down the steep side-streets to the hustle and bustle of downtown, also known as Jabal Amman. Here, the clichés of Arabian Nights spring to life, in the muezzin call to prayer and the smell of spices and flavoured tobacco smoke wafting from the surrounding souk and shisha cafes. Make sure to stop by Hashem, the finest falafel cafe in the country bar none (it has a picture of King Hussein dining here on its wall, if you need any further recommendation) and Habibah, a hole-in-the-wall baker selling Palestinian knafeh, a syrupy vermicelli-like pastry that locals swear by. There is a lack of street signs, so they can be hard to find – just follow your nose.

Nearby, the city’s ancient Roman forum and amphitheatre – the largest in the country – rises above the surrounding buildings. A tiered structure squashed at the end of a busy traffic junction, the amphitheatre is built into the side of a hill and once had room for 6000 spectators. For a handful of pocket change, you can climb to the top of the parapet for God-like views over the rest of the Roman ruins.

No trip to Amman would be complete without a walk down Rainbow Street, a kilometre-long stretch of rag-bag antique shops, art galleries, coffeehouses and low-key bars in upper Jabal Amman, a five-minute trip away by taxi from downtown. It is home to the city’s most happening creative community — do not miss Café Des Artistes, Books@Cafe, Wild Jordan or Jacaranda Images to get a real sense of where Jordan is heading. Located in an old townhouse halfway down the street, Sufra is another favourite of King Hussein and Queen Rania, and even though it has only been open for six months, it is already regarded as the best Jordanian restaurant in the country.

Should you want to get a glimpse into the story behind some of these cherished Jordanian dishes – like muskhan (chicken with pine nuts) or mansaf (lamb, yoghurt and rice) – pop into Beit Sitti on Jabal Weibdeh, a Jordanian run cooking school where you can eat and cook to your heart’s content with no one else around. Be quick, before the word really starts to spread.


For five-star luxury accommodation pamper yourself at Le Royal – Amman:




Gïk Live – the wine that really could make you feel blue in the face

Read this in the Guardian.  Now as you know I looove my wine so this had me thinking…   – Ned

Blue wine

Vintage or gimmick? The ‘world’s first blue wine’, Gïk Live

A company is trying to shake up the wine industry by producing bright blue bottles of the boozy beverage. But will it help the taste?

Blueness and alcohol aren’t strangers, as anyone who has drunk one too many gins and wept into their lap on the night bus will know. But last week, a Spanish company decided to make that link a tad less metaphorical by launching a wine that is the same shade as the WKD Blue alcopop.

The “world’s first blue wine”, Gïk Live, is the brainchild of six young entrepreneurs with no previous experience of the wine trade, who are attempting to “shake things up” in what they call “the most traditional and close-minded industry out there”. They take a wine “base” that mixes red and white grapes, and add two organic pigments, one of which, anthocyanin, is found in grape skin. Then, hey presto: you’ve got an alcoholic drink that wouldn’t look out of place at a student union happy hour.

Gïk Live’s creators say there is some psychology behind what they’re doing. (And not just such a desire to be anti-establishment that they’ve called their tasting notes an “anti-tasting sheet”.) The reason that they’ve opted to colour their beverage a light shade of Harpic Toilet Duck is because: “In psychology, blue represents movement, innovation and infinity” and “is frequently associated with flow and change.”

So by drinking a beverage that is a light shade of Toilet Duck, you will presumably be more psychologically open to enjoying new experiences and will find your mind opening up to a world-changing way to drink wine. Unless you ask a psychologist.

“People have an expectation of the way drinks will taste based on their colour,” says Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology at Somerville College, Oxford – an expert in the multisensory perception of food who has collaborated with Heston Blumenthal, such as on Blumenthal’s Sound of the Sea dish. “They might expect a blue drink to taste of raspberry or blue curaçao or even mouthwash. If you don’t get the taste you’re expecting, it can be disconcerting.”

But what about the element of surprise? After all, when you see a blue drink, you’re not thinking: “Ooh, I bet that’s got a lovely buttery mouthfeel.” If it tastes nicer than you’d anticipated, surely it could enhance the experience?

“If you get something that’s a little bit better than you expected, that’s a good thing,” explains Spence. “But if it’s very different, more often than not your brain goes: “Have I been poisoned? What’s gone wrong in my head?”

Gïk Live isn’t the only blue-coloured alcohol to launch recently in the UK. In 2014, The London No 1 launched a range of blue gin. And it’s part of a growing trend to turn our foodstuffs into the shades you’d find in a packet of kids’ crayons, given the recent popularity of rainbow bagels and cheese toasties, the shade of which also looks as if it was dreamed up by a five-year-old. Given the column inches devoted to what, essentially, seem to be little more than marketing gimmicks, lurid food and drink is something we are likely to see more of.

“Actually, it’s not a new phenomenon,” offers Spence. “The Italian futurist art movement would serve blue wine to guests at their dinners in the 1930s.”

Traditional tipple … blue curaçao. Photograph: Alamy

Ah, so it’s not a fad. It’s a traditional and long-established way to render foodstuffs more enjoyable. A spot of culinary wizardry with more than 80 years worth of research into how to tantalise people’s tastebuds.

“Well, no: they were doing it to shock people into an altered state of consciousness. It wasn’t meant to taste good.”

Even if the makers’ marketing claims may be psychologically flawed, at least there’s one advantage. It should be very easy to enjoy this wine until you’re blue in the face.



Just gorge-ous: the world’s most tantalising food markets

There’s no better way to get under the skin of a destination than to gorge on local food. And markets provide an unrivalled way to eat stunning, affordable dishes, as well as see a city in all its messy glory. If your appetite rules on the road, then these are the places you need to go according to those tasty tipsters at Lonely Planet.

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo Japan

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo Japan Arrive early for Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market © Peter Adams / Getty Images

Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo’s most famous market is due to move to a sparkling new facility outside of the city centre in November 2016. That means time is running out to visit the original, first built in 1935. For the renowned tuna auction, get here early, before 5am, as only 120 tourists are allowed in. You can apply to enter at the market’s Kachidoki Gate. If you’re not an early riser, you can still trawl the outer halls and grab a bite in one of the myriad sushi and tempura stands which dot the market’s edges.

Key delicacy: The sushi here is legendary and more affordable than most places in Tokyo. Just be prepared to queue. The tempura joints are easier to get into and just as delicious.

Once you’ve eaten: Walk off all the rice bloat in the pretty Hamarikyu Gardens, just a short stroll from Tsukiji.

Cheese stall at Borough Market, London, UK

London’s Borough Market lures thousands of visitors every day © Alex Segre / Getty Images

Borough Market, London, UK

The epicentre of London’s foodie scene has been given a major overhaul in recent years, but still retains its charm, and most importantly the stalls which make it such a draw for locals and visitors alike. At weekends Borough gets seriously hectic, the clatter of trains rumbling into London Bridge overhead adding to the Victorian vibe. Brave the crowds though and you can pick up organic veggies and fresh fish if you fancy cooking yourself or some sensational meals for far less than you’d pay in most London restaurants. Pieminister’s pie and mash is a British institution you can’t afford to miss.

Key delicacy: Borough is blessed with dozens of first rate food stalls. But Brindisa’s chorizo and piquillo pepper rolls are the standout snack. Find them opposite The Market Porter pub.

Once you’ve eaten: Sink a pint at The George Inn on Borough High Street, one of the oldest pubs in London.

Fish sellers in La Pescheria (fish market).

Sicily’s La Pescheria is not for the faint-hearted © M. Gebicki / Getty Images

La Pescheria, Sicily, Italy

Few places are as obsessed with food as Sicily. And nowhere embodies this Italian island’s love of seafood more than La Pescheria. This Catania fish market buzzes with life every morning from Monday to Saturday, as the daily catch is brought out for sale. It’s as much about watching fishmongers and locals indulging in brash bartering over tables of the freshest fish the Mediterranean has to offer as it is about eating. Fortunately, you can do plenty of the latter at a string of superb restaurants which pack the side streets around the main marketplace.

Key delicacy: Prawns cooked over open flames with a wedge of lemon on the side is as simple and delicious as it gets. Add some fresh bread to mop up the juices.

Once you’ve eaten: Walk though the nearby Piazza Duomo and across to the spectacular Cattedrale di Sant’Agata.

Women selling fresh produce at Central Market.

Hoi An’s Central Market provides a contrast to the peaceful town © Peter Stuckings / Getty Images

Central Market, Hoi An, Vietnam

Tucked on the banks of the Perfume River, Hoi An’s Central Market throbs with activity all morning, a stark contrast to this Unesco-protected town’s chilled backstreets. The colourful arrangements of spices and vegetables will stop you in your tracks, and if you look hard enough, you’ll find plenty of snacks to tide you over while you mooch around. Bowls of pho and rice paper rolls can be snaffled for less than a dollar a pop. A morning spent here and you won’t be needing lunch.

Key delicacy: Banh mi, a delicious sandwich of cold cuts, fresh greens, pate and chili all stuffed into a fresh French-style baguette is the one thing you must eat.

Once you’ve eaten: Stroll along the waterfront and visit the stunning Japanese covered bridge.

La Boqueria market, Barcelona

Pull up a seat for some pintxos at Barcelona’s La Boqueria © Terry Williams / Getty Images

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain

Tucked away at the top end of Barcelona’s La Rambla, La Boqueria is one of Europe’s most historic food markets. It opened in its current guise in 1840, but a market is said to have existed on this site since 1217. The passion for food here is obvious from the moment you work your way through one of the narrow entrances and into the aisles. Piles of fresh fruit and veg and cured meats make this the ideal spot for pulling together the ultimate beach picnic. If that seems too much like hard work, pull up a seat at a pintxos bar and order the best small plates Barcelona has to offer.

Key delicacy: Arroz Cardoso con Bogavente, a seafood and rice stew, is the dish to look out for. Bar Pinotxo, just inside the main entrance, does the best.

Once you’ve eaten: Take a wander down La Rambla and head to the beach to rest after a morning of heavy eating.

Fishmonger at Mercado Central.

Fish features heavily on the menu at the Mercado Central in Santiago © Brent Winebrenner / Getty Images

Mercado Central, Santiago, Chile

Santiago’s beautiful Mercado Central, housed in a wrought iron building designed in Glasgow, Scotland, is a sight to behold in itself. But step inside and you’ll find all manner of treats to satisfy hungry travellers. The focus here is on seafood. Trawl the aisles to get a look at the wide array of shellfish and deep sea creepy crawlies on offer before heading to one of the food stalls at the edge of the market for a proper feast. The touristy restaurants in the centre are best avoided.

Key delicacy: Caldillo de congrio is a classic Chilean dish that’s easily found at the Mercado Central. This fish stew is renowned for seeing off even the worst hangovers.

Once you’ve eaten: Head over to Plaza de Armas, Santiago’s main square. It’s home to the city’s main post office and cathedral.

Asian food court in New World Shopping center Flushing Queens NY

All Asia is represented in the food hall at Queens’ New World Shopping © Randy Duchaine / Alamy

New World Mall, Queens, New York, USA

From the outside it might look like your average shopping mall. But pull back the plastic curtains, head down to the basement food court and prepare to be amazed. New World Mall, in the Flushing area of Queens, is home to NYC’s best Asian food. Food stands line the walls and there’s a central seating area, meaning you can mix and match until you’re stuffed. All Asia is represented here, from Korean dumplings to Chinese tripe noodles, via Japanese takoyaki and Vietnamese broths. Dishes cost less than $10, so it pays to try as many places as possible.

Key delicacy: Xiao Yuan Huang’s pork belly and pickled green buns take the crown of best dish here from a very crowded field.

Once you’ve eaten: Jump on the subway and head to Flushing Meadows Corona Park to see the iconic Unisphere globe from the 1964 New York World’s Fair.


Crazy-Easy Rainbow Sangria

Love love LOVE this laid-back idea for a long slow dreamy summer’s evening.  Thanks to Ali on GimmeSomeOven.

Easy Rainbow Sangria | #drinks #vegan #glutenfree

“Yes, yes, I know that the fruit-to-wine ratio in these photos is much higher than usual.  And that was the first comment from my friends, after they ooohed and ahhhed over the color.  But you know what?  We just kept an extra bottle of white wine handy, and refilled the glasses when someone wanted theirs topped off.

But I served the drinks with straws and spoons, and everyone had a great time using both!  I intentionally chose all immediately-edible fruit for this recipe (instead of lime or lemon wedges, etc.) so that the drink would be easy to enjoy – and my friends did just that.  And loved it.

I also chose not to muddle the fruit, but instead poured the drinks about 30 minutes before my friends came and let them rest in the fridge for a bit so that the flavors could meld, which actually worked really well.  But if you don’t mind the colors bleeding together, muddle away so that you can taste even more fruity goodness with that wine.

All in all, everyone gave the sangria a big thumbs up on flavor and presentation.  Which was awesome, because they truly did not take long to make.  Which means I will absolutely be making them again soon.  Which makes this color-obsessed, sangria-loving, quick-recipe-making food blogger extra happy.

Cheers, friends!”



How to Create a Perfectly Healthy Meal at an Airport Newsstand

We’ve come a long way since the 1980s, when eating at the airport generally meant grabbing something out of a snack machine or, if you were REALLY lucky, a burger from some pioneering fast-food chain with an outpost IN (whoa!) the concourse. Today’s airports, however, have celebrity chefs, first-rate bars, and so much good food the guys at Thrillist ranked it to make your next trip that much easier.

But what happens if you don’t have time to sit down for Wolfgang Puck’s finest airport fare? Or if you’re in a concourse where the best options are still stale pretzels and a lonely looking hot dog at the “snack bar?” In that case, your best move is to pick up something quick at the newsstand and/or gift shop. And there’s no WAY you can make a decent meal there, right?

Not so fast. Believe it or not, it’s totally possible to put together a balanced meal out of snacks sold next to the I ❤ South Dakota sweatshirts and this month’s copy of ¡Hola!. We asked a dietitian which specific foods we should look for to do just that, and here’s what she recommended.


First, what is a balanced meal?

So glad you asked… our nutritionist told us a meal should be — for persons intending to maintain their current bodyweight — about 600-800 calories for men and 500-700 for women. This, of course, depends on your body size, muscle mass, and other things that make us all special.

The calorie breakdown should be about 45 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 25 percent fat, and the meal should contain about seven grams of fiber. So, knowing all of this, here’s what our expert suggested you pick up en route to your gate, with some lower-calorie alternatives thrown in for good measure.



Beef jerky

Price: $7.99
Calories: 240 per 3.25oz bag
Protein: 36g
Carbohydrates: 6g
Fat: 1g
“It’s a good idea to eat protein first to keep you sated and not indulging in fun stuff like candy and other hi-cal snacks. Jerky is great, although it is high in salt.”


Hard boiled eggs

Price: $1.99
Calories: 120 for 2 eggs
Protein: 12g
Carbohydrates: 0g
Fat: 8g (3g saturated fat)
If you’re a vegetarian and/or want a lower-salt option to jerky, these are a great source of protein at a cheaper price.” Pair them with some high-fiber crackers to add good carbs.”



Smartfood popcorn

Price: $2.29
Calories: 320 per package
Protein: 6g
Carbohydrates: 28g
Fat: 20g (4g saturated)
Fiber: 4g
“Research shows an inverse relationship between high fiber intake and a lower risk of major diseases. Look for snacks with at least three grams of fiber and be sure to consume 7-10 grams per meal.”


Pop chips

Price: $2.99
Calories: 120 per bag
Protein: 1g
Carbohydrates: 19g
Fat: 4g
Fiber: 1g
A lower-calorie, lower-carb alternative to popcorn. Less fiber but also fewer calories.



Price: $1.29
Calories: 105
Carbohydrates: 27g
Fat: 0g
Fiber: 3g
“Bananas are available at most airport newsstands and are not only a healthier way to end your meal, but also high in potassium and other vitamins.”

OR (if you MUST have something sweet)


Dove chocolate covered blueberries

Price: $6.99
Calories: 200 per serving
Protein: 2g
Carbohydrates: 28g
Fat: 10g
Fiber: 2g
“This is the best alternative to candy if you’ve got a sweet tooth. For the antioxidants, obviously. Kidding!”



Bottled water

Price: $2.99
“No nutritional info for water, but a zero-calorie way to wash down all of that popcorn.”


Fruit juice

Price: $3.99
Calories: 250
Protein: 2g
Carbohydrates: 55g
Fat: 0g
Fiber: 0g
If you skipped the aforementioned banana, this is an excellent way to get your vitamins — as long it’s fresh juice and not made from concentrate. Pro tip: “I hate to waste food, but these things are loaded with sugar — only drink half of it.”

Putting it together


If you take our top suggestion from each (jerky, popcorn, banana, and water) your meal looks like this:

Cost: $14.56
Calories: 665
Protein: 43g
Carbohydrates: 61g
Fats: 21g
Fiber: 7g
And that breaks down to 48% carbs, 35% protein, and 17% fat. Yes, slightly higher in carbs and lower in fat than recommended but you can fix that number by adding a slice of cheese (80 calories, 7g of fat) or opting for the blueberries.

The key takeaway though is that even if you DO have time for a meal at the airport, this snack menu is probably healthier than whatever you’d order at a fast-food joint. And much more appealing than that lonely hot dog at the snack bar.

Matt Meltzer would like the thank security at Sacramento International Airport for not asking why he was photographing Pop Chips on a baggage carousel. Those and other outtakes are on his Instagram @meltrez1.

No Translation Needed!

You know that feeling of utter frustration when you can’t understand what the locals are telling you?  Or the cafe bill is double Dutch?  Or you simply don’t know the word for “hostel” in Vietnamese?  Well this is one of the neatest ideas to help that I have ever seen in my many years of trekking.  Thought up by three mates just like me after a difficult time in Asia, this tee-shirt by IconSpeak is nifty beyond words.

Photo: IconSpeak

The simple design features easy-to-understand icons of some of the most common items travellers may have questions about: food, transportation, accommodation and so on.  Read the guys’ blog to learn more about how this simple sartorial innovation may change your future travel experiences.



Small is beautiful! Spain is so proud of its tapas that it wants the food style protected by Unesco

When it comes to Spanish food, tapas is perhaps the way of eating that carries its reputation across the world.

Consisting of small plates of food traditionally served on top of a cold beverage, tapas is intended to provide a nibble while protecting the drink from flies and insects.

But now the president of the Royal Academy of Gastronomy of Spain, Rafael Anson, is calling for UNESCO to declare the humble tapas an intangible cultural heritage.

An interesting little morsel from the Mail Online.

Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy wants Unesco protection for tapas as an intangible cultural heritage

Spanish Royal Academy of Gastronomy wants Unesco protection for tapas as an intangible cultural heritage

Anson told Spanish radio broadcaster Cadena Ser on April 14 that ‘Tapas are the very model of food’ according to The Local.

He said: ‘Pizza in itself is not intangible, but the concept of the Mediterranean diet, for example, is.

‘Tapas, too, are a way of eating.’

Anson added that the Spanish Ministry of Culture will make a formal presentation for tapas to be included but UNESCO is said to be ‘already looking into it’.

In order for tapas to be considered, it will have to fit a number of criterion, including that its cultural heritage status will contribute towards its visibility and awareness as well as its protection.

Academy president Rafael Anson called the snacks ‘the very model of food’ and said a formal presentation will be made

These will need to be included in the presentation alongside a formal definition of tapas.

However, in the Basque country and Navarre in northern Spain, there’s also a style food food similar to tapas called pintxos.

These small plate dishes are typically served skewered on toothpicks.

It’s not clear whether these will also be included in the official presentation to Unesco.

Spain currently has 15 items on Unesco‘s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, which includes fiesta of the patios in Cordova, Chant of the Sybil on Majorca and Silbo Gomero, the whistled language of the island of La Gomera (Canary Islands).

Alongside Cyprus, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Morocco and Portugal, it’s also one of the countries where the Mediterranean diet is considered an intangible cultural heritage.

Ned’s tip: if you’re planning a visit to Madrid you won’t find better service than the Hotel Miguel Angel, part of Sir Nadhmi Auchi’s Le Royal Hotels & Resorts group.



Girl Power – Indian Style

Inside India’s vibrant 500-year-old market where there are over 4000 traders… and all of them are women

From the dazzling array of fresh fruit, spices and textiles, the sprawling Imphal market in Manipur could be mistaken for any other bazaar in India but it has one distinct difference – all 4000 traders manning its stalls are female.

Ima Keithel which translates as ‘mothers’ market’ is a meeting ground and trading hub, run exclusively by women and is reportedly the largest all-women market in Asia and possibly the world.

Although there is debate over when exactly it was established, some say the market dates back to the 16th century. This female-only workforce originated during the ‘Lallup’ era when men from the Meitei community were called upon to serve the King leaving the women the responsibilities of commerce and farming, according to Oddity Central. 

Only married women are allowed to run the stalls and family members pass their trade on to the next generation keeping the enterprising spirit alive.

Despite threat of closure over the years, the market is still thriving. It did however take a battering during an earthquake in January which killed nine people and destroyed some of its structures.

Tourists visiting the region will be greeted by friendly traders offering a lively blend of traditional handcrafted items, modern clothing and local produce.

Although Ima Keithel was damaged in the 4 January earthquake, it has returned back to normal. Nine deaths were reported from in and around Imphal due to falling debris. Imphal has a population of some 270,000 and people were jolted from their sleep and ran out of their homes in panic when the earth shook. A woman reads the news at her vegetable stall (pictured)

This female-only workforce originated during the ‘Lallup’ era when men from the Meitei community were called upon to serve the King leaving the women the responsibilities of commerce and farmingThis female-only workforce originated during the ‘Lallup’ era when men from the Meitei community were called upon to serve the King leaving the women the responsibilities of commerce and farming
Local delicacies: A Manipuri woman sells smoked and dry fish in Ima Keithel marketLocal delicacies: A Manipuri woman sells smoked and dry fish in Ima Keithel market
A woman vendor on her way with 'Yongchak' to Ima market.   Khwairaman Bazar, known as Women's Market, the market stalls are all run by women, the main market of Imphal, Manipur, India
A woman vendor on her way with yongchak to Ima market (left) and one of the 4000 traders at the market sells garlic (right)
This market is said to reflect the empowerment of the women of Manipur. A woman vendor sells Yongchak (pictured)This market is said to reflect the empowerment of the women of Manipur. A woman vendor sells Yongchak
Female shoppers look delighted at the selection of traditional handcrafted items, modern clothing and local produce available to buyFemale shoppers look delighted at the selection of traditional handcrafted items, modern clothing and local produce available to buy
Tools of the trade: Women sell farming and kitchen implements and other hardware at the mother's marketTools of the trade: Women sell farming and kitchen implements and other hardware at the mothers’ market
Fabric of life: A view of the section of cloth and textiles being sold at Ima Market in Imphal, ManipurFabric of life: A view of the section of cloth and textiles being sold at Ima Market in Imphal, Manipur
Family members pass their trade on to the next generation keeping the enterprising spirit alive at the market. Vendors wait for customers (pictured)Family members pass their trade on to the next generation keeping the enterprising spirit alive at the market. Vendors wait for customers
Despite threat of closure over the years, the market is still thriving. Women buy fish at Ima Market (pictured)Despite threat of closure over the years, the market is still thriving. Women buy fish at Ima Market

13 of the World’s Best Cities for Vegetarians

Although I’m a fairly red-blooded meat-eater, I have to say I do love my fruit and veggies too.  I came across this article on Matador network, the world’s largest independent travel publisher, and thought it’d be good to share.   – Ned

1. Seattle, USA

Not only are there are some spots around town that cater directly to the plant-eating crowd, like Plum Vegan Bistro (and food truck) in Capitol Hill and Silence-Heart-Nest in Fremont, but there’s usually at least several vegetarian options on every menu.

So many vegans and vegetarians call this city home that even the burger and BBQ joints have options like veggie burgers and fried seitan, so you’ll never feel like you’re missing out if you’re eating with carnivores. Within walking distance from hot dog carts and sports stadiums downtown are dishes like the vegan mac n cheese at Bang Bang Café. And oh yeah, the hot dog carts will have veggie dogs available, too. A bevy of authentic Thai, Japanese, Mexican, Vietnamese, Indian, and Ethiopian restaurants here are largely vegetarian in their menu options as well.

Year round Sunday Farmer’s Markets in Ballard, Fremont, and Capitol Hill also promote an abundance of local and organic produce — lots of apples, pears, blueberries, strawberries, kale, chard, potatoes, and leeks. You can easily get your week’s worth of healthy fruits and veggies for under $10, and often the farmers will throw in a little extra. For the stuff you can’t find at the market, many health food stores surround the city and carry a large variety for vegetarians.

Special thanks: Elisbeth McKinley

2. Chiang Mai, Thailand

Photo: Connie Ma

If you’re heading to Chiang Mai, your first stop should really be Pun Pun. Although they do operate two restaurants within Chiang Mai city, Pun Pun is really an organic farm on the outskirts that calls itself a ‘center for self-reliance.’ Their main mission is to teach seed saving, which is an ancient tradition that connects us to the foods our ancestors grew but has since fallen by the wayside because of commercial seeding operations.Pun Pun also teaches organic farming, natural home building and they even make their own products like kefir shampoo, organic jams and soaps. If you’re a gardener, which if you’re a vegetarian you should be, the seeds from Pun Pun are sent all over the world.

For less learning and more eating, Italics & Rise has some interesting pizzas with its fusion of Thai and Italian food and Anchan Vegetarian restaurant has a menu that changes weekly — the cinnamon, ginger, green iced tea should be the first thing you order. But honestly, just walk around and you’ll find a vegetarian meal, for cheap — just be careful of fish sauce, it’s a common ingredient.

Special thanks: Blaze Nowara

3. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Fifty percent of Ho Chi Minh City’s population has Buddhist roots, so the word “chay” (vegetarian) can be found on nearly every street corner. The Vietnamese have perfected the art of tofu manipulation and created things that, frankly, haven’t even made it to America yet. Thin sheets of seitan get pressed together around lemongrass stalks to form weirdly accurate-tasting chicken drumsticks. Then there’s the shrimp that actually looks and tastes like shrimp. Then there’s the dozens and dozens of varieties of balls, patties, and squares that are somehow more unidentifiable and yet more delicious. I

To see and taste this in all its glory, hit up Thuyen Vien, though driving around the city and stopping at the first hole-in-the-wall with a large sign out front that says chay likely won’t disappoint, either. It might literally be some of the best vegetarian food you’ve had in your whole life, and for what equates to your own personal buffet, you’ll throw down nothing more than a few bucks.

Special thanks: Jacqueline Kehoe

4. Melbourne, Australia

If you’re from Melbourne and you happen to be a vegetarian, the Moroccan Soup Bar is your ‘institution in the heart of North Fitzroy.’ There’s no printed menu, and even though the place is clearly not hurting for attention, there’s still a good chance you’ll get to chat with the founder, who recently published a book: Moroccan Soup Bar — Recipes of a Spoken Menu. The chickpea bake is a good stand-by, which Matador editor Debbie called ‘legendary’ and claimed it left her ‘speechless.’ So yeah, try that.

When you’ve exhausted everything on that menu, try The Vegie Bar, Lentil As Anything — especially if you’re a student on a budget — and Enlightened Cuisine. The great thing about Melbourne as a vegetarian destination is that it’s so diverse, so it should be easy for you to sample traditional vegetarian cuisine from around the world.

Special thanks: Debbie Gonzalez

5. Seoul, South Korea

If you’re from North America, you may only think ‘meat-heavy barbecue’ when you think about South Korean cuisine. But of course, you’d be wrong. Kimbap (also called Gimbap) is basically Korean sushi, but vegetarian — and you can get it at mom and pop-type restaurants across the city. There are literally at least 1,000 different chains of places where you can order Kimbap, but a good place to start is Kim Ga Ne in the Jongak area, Jinsunja Gyeranmali Kimbap at Yeongdeungpo or Mo-nyeo Woncho Mayak Kimbap in Gwangjang Market.

Bibimbap is another Korean dish that’s actually getting pretty hip right now. It’s super simple and traditional. Dolsot bibimbap is the best order — the rice, julienne veggies and egg come out in a super hot dolsot stone pot and the whole thing just looks like a work of art. Then you ruin all that beauty by smashing the egg right into everything else so you get a kind of delicious fried rice. At the bottom of the stone pot there are crispy crunchy bits of jewel-like rice that have been overcooked by the stone pot. They’re the best bit.

Of course the Buddhist temple-type restaurants in Seoul are also worth mentioning, many of which are in the Insa-dong area. And if you stay overnight on a Templestay — which is a very inexpensive way to learn about Buddhist culture, stay the night at a temple and do a Buddhist program — you’ll get your vegan dinner and breakfast prepared for you by a super chef nun.

Special thanks: Ailsa Ross

6. Grand Rapids, USA

Here’s what’s great about Grand Rapids, Michigan: Little Africa Ethiopian Restaurant. This is a place where you may need to call ahead to make sure the place is open, but if it is, you can relax in a booth, drink a glass of mango juice, sop up an all-you-can-eat special with light and airy injera (Ethiopian bread) and just be a vegetarian.

If that place isn’t open, there’s actually a ton of other excellent options. Bartertown Diner, which now serves breakfast, is probably the first place you think about when you think about the Grand Rapids vegetarian scene. Stella’s has the best ‘buffalo wings’ that aren’t really buffalo wings and the goat cheese and artichoke pizza at Vitale’s Pizza in Ada is the bomb. Honorable mentions have to be Marie Catrib’s, Global Infusion Cafe and the classic staple of Brickroad Pizza.

Special thanks: Cathy Brown, Sarah Schneider

7. London, England

London has a monumental range of vegetarian options, and we’re talking inventive vegetarian cuisine, not a bunch of green salads.

When it comes to vegetarian-only restaurants, Mildreds is one of the best. This is where you can get charcoal-roasted peppers and leeks with smoked chili jam or some gyoza dumplings with chilli sauce, enough said. There’s also The Gate and Manna, which kind of just says it in the name.

Many non-vegetarian restaurants in London have impressive vegetarian options too though, for example, Nopi-Ottolenghi is Mediterranean inspired, The River Cafe is Italian, Ember Yard has veggie tapas and Franco Manca is where you go if you absolutely need to have a sourdough pizza. If you’re looking for a tasty burger, try Honest Burgers, which serves up a crispy cauliflower and sweet corn fritter or Byron, which makes their burger out of a portobello mushroom, some goat’s cheese and roasted red pepper. Oh, and since you’re in London, try an authentic Indian vegetarian curry at Potli.

If you really just want to grab something and get out, Leon offers healthy and interesting fast food options such as the super food salad and grilled halloumi wrap.

8. East Nashville, USA

Okay, so the South isn’t usually the first place you think of when you’re trying to get down with some vegetarian food — especially Nashville because, you know, fiery baskets of Hot Chicken. That being said, East Nashville is a pocket of Music City that has tons of meatless options. You can get tofu hot dogs from I Dream of Weenie food shack, plates of peanut tempeh tacos from Wild Cow, and BBQ Asian tofu sandwiches from Mitchell Deli. Even if it’s a meat-eating restaurant, you’ll usually be able to find a vegetarian option on the menu and most of the time, it will be a little more sustenance than just ordering all the sides — collard greens, potato salad, and cole slaw. But as far as East Nashville ganging together to create a vegetarian’s version of Hot Chicken? That’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, some things are just sacred.

Special thanks: Shannon Dell

9. Vancouver, Canada

Van is no joke when it comes to vegetarianism. For all the Matador staffers who reside or have resided in Vancouver, The Foundation is at the top of the list. It’s a bit of a trendy spot that’s known for its loud music in the evenings (so go for lunch instead if you’re looking to have a meaningful conversation) but it’s got excellent salads and some serious vegetarian nachos. Over in Kitsilano, there’s The Naam, which is a little bit of a Vancouver institution seeing as it’s been running 24/7 since 1968 — so that has to be a necessary trip.

Honorable mentions have to include The Acorn, Bandidas Taqueria, Heirloom and Nourish Vancouver.

Special thanks: Carlo Alcos, Morgane Croissant, Stefan Klopp

10. Ghent, Belgium

Photo: Visit Gent

If you’re a vegetarian in Ghent, your lifestyle is basically backed-up by the officials in office. Ghent’s local government mandates that every restaurant must have at least one vegetarian item on their menu. And beginning in 2009, every Thursday became “Veggieday” and many restaurants just go full vegetarian for 24 hours, while the schools make a vegetarian meal their main staple of the day. It all started as an experiment to bring more awareness to climate change and obesity.

Basically, the entire city is a paradise, but if you’re looking for specific options, you can’t go wrong with Avalon for something a little fancier, the vegan buffet at Komkommertijd and Greenway Foods if you’re looking for a quicker, budget place.

Special thanks: Ana Bulnes

11. Delhi, India

Photo: CIAT

Vegetarianism is a massive part of India’s culture, so going there will basically be a dream for you. Delhi, as India’s teeming, vibrant capital has among the best selection of Indian and international restaurants in the country and its one of Matador contributor Elen’s favorite vegetarian destinations — especially because of the rich selection in street food.

If you’re used to dismissing street fare while traveling because it’s so often meat-heavy, you’re going to keel over in Delhi when you see how many options you have. Elen claims that the two best places to find street eats are the lanes of Old Delhi and the Lajpat Nagar Central Market — and both are best explored in the evening.

In Old Delhi, Parathewali Galli is famous for its array of parathas, which are flat bread stuffed with fillings and fried. The lanes around this famous street are just as good though, with all sorts of fried savouries and sweets. An Old Delhi specialty is daulat-ki-chaat, a fluffy sweet dish that can only be made in the cold of winter. Street food walking tours are a great way to navigate the congested lanes of this part of the city.

On the other side of Delhi, in the more upmarket South Delhi, the Lajpat Nagar Central Market is the best place to go for a more relaxed street-food experience (although it can still get crowded). A large variety of mainly veg food can be found here, from Tibetan momos (dumplings) to pav bhaji (buttered bread and potato curry) to gol gappe (hollow balls of deep-fried dough filled with a tangy, spicy sauce, and eaten in a single gulp). Many of the menus at street stalls are in Hindi, so if you can’t read the language, ask the locals what they recommend and you’ll soon have a whole line of dishes to try. This is a city where you can comfortably be a vegetarian, and not miss out on anything.

Special Thanks: Elen Turner

12. Dublin, Ireland

Cornucopia Dublin should be your first visit. They’ve got granary bread, savoury scones and delicious, chunky, fennel soup. This is the kind of place that’s small and friendly enough to see strangers sharing tables, even since they’ve expanded and made the place a touch fancier. Matador staffer Morgane Croissant claims Cornucopia makes the best vegetarian food she’s ever eaten and she even owns the restaurant’s cookbook (and uses it all the time).

Govindas, which has three different locations in Dublin, is also worth mentioning with its subji specials changing daily and often served with some homemade panir. It also serves as a companion restaurant to the Hare Krishna community in Dublin.

Special thanks: Morgane Croissant

13. Ithaca, USA

If you cook at home, you’ve probably made a handful of meals out of the Moosewood Cookbook series — the first step to vegetarianism is probably getting lost in the enchanted broccoli forest, right? Ithaca is actually where the Moosewood Restaurant resides, and their Mediterranean Chickpea Basil Burger is probably way better than the one you tried to make at home last week. Ithaca also has a committed farmer’s market that’s been open four days a week since 1973. For your own shopping, there’s the GreenStar Natural Foods coop and you can get vegetarian and vegan offerings pretty much everywhere else around town — from the corner bagel store (Collegetown Bagels, Ithaca Bakery) to the ice cream shop (Sweet Melissa’s) to the sandwich shop (Gorgers) to the many ethnic restaurants (Ciao) to your standard upscale American bistros.

Special thanks: Liz Burnham



How to Stay Trim on Holiday

How to Stay Trim on Your Vacation

(Photo: Thinkstock/

Getting in swimsuit shape for your next trip? Sadly, we have some bad news: a recent UK study found that 6 out of 10 travellers gain weight over two-week holidays, and they typically put on a frightening five to seven pounds (3kg) during their time away. Talk about excess baggage!

But here’s the good news: vacation bingeing doesn’t have to bring you down. Smarter Travel interviewed licensed nutritionist Monica Reinagel for her top tips on staying fit and eating right while away – whether you’re on an island, in a city, or on top of a mountain. Here’s the skinny on how to come home looking as svelte as the day you left.

Take a Walk

Take a Walk

(Photo: Paul Lowry via flickr/CC Attribution)

Whenever possible, avoid hailing a taxi or hopping on the subway. As long as it’s safe, walking is the best way to take in your destination’s sights and sounds—all while squeezing in some exercise. For example, go on a guided walking tour or download an audio guide to your smartphone. While you’re in transit, avoid airport malaise by taking a walk through the terminal. According to Harvard University researchers, walking at a moderate pace for just a half hour can burn around 170 calories, so make sure your layover isn’t a lazy one.

And for the simplest tip of all: Skip the hotel or cruise-ship escalator and take the stairs. Just a few minutes of walking up a staircase will keep you reasonably active with limited investment. Do the same in museums, airports, train stations, and theme parks. All told, climbing five flights of stairs just three times per day will net you 75 calories.

Drink Smart

Drink Smart

(Photo: ruben i. via flickr/CC Attribution)

“The only bad alcohol is too much or what is mixed with it,” says Monica Reinagel. (These are words we love to hear!) So while that creamy pina colada may look like paradise in a glass, hidden inside are 500 or more nutrient-devoid calories, mostly from the corn-syrup-laden mix. Reinagel recommends that you forego bucket-sized tropical drinks brimming with fat and sugar. Instead, stick to a glass of wine or your favorite liquor and club soda. Rule of thumb: “Avoid anything with an umbrella in it.”

Also, keep in mind that at higher altitudes, your body will process alcohol less efficiently. In high-in-the-sky destinations like Denver, Colorado “You want to cut your normal consumption in half, at least for the first day or two,” says Reinagel, lest you end up with a horrible (and ski-prohibiting) hangover.

Adapt Your All-Inclusive

Adapt Your All-Inclusive

(Photo: Jacrews7 via flickr/CC Attribution)

Unlimited meals, drinks, and snacks can lead to a gluttonous getaway. Human nature dictates that the more options and flavors that are available to us, the more likely we are to overindulge, notes Reinagel. If possible, choose the a la carte, or “European,” plan during your stay. If the all-inclusive option is inevitable, eat smart. Limit yourself to the amount of meals you would normally eat at home, and balance your guilty pleasures with wise choices. For example, consider planning one or two indulgent meals at the resort’s flashiest restaurants while keeping the rest limited to plates of lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables.

And as Reinagel points out, “These resorts are all-you-can-exercise, too.” So any late-night French-fry binges are easily outweighed by that scuba lesson you signed up for.

Dine In

Dine In

(Photo: Marriott International, Inc.)

Rent a vacation home with a kitchen, or book a hotel room with cooking facilities. Preparing your own meals is a sure way to keep your eating in check. Upon arrival, visit a local farmers’ market for fresh produce, and stock your rental’s shelves with truly local, healthful treats. And even if you just have a cooler or a minifridge, “Keep string cheese on hand,” recommends Reinagel. “It’s a nice, high-protein snack, a way to get some calcium, and easy to grab.” Baby carrots, sugar snap peas, and hummus are also great items to buy.

If dining out is a must, Reinagel suggests the Stop & Go Fast Food Guide app will help when convenience is key and fast food is unavoidable.

Snack Often

Snack Often

(Photo: Betsssssy via flickr/CC Attribution)

Snacktime isn’t just for kids; travellers need a little mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up, too. Stash protein-packed snacks in your bag before hitting the town. “Avoid PowerBars and other performance bars,” warns Reinagel. These are wonderful for athletes who need endurance, but being filled with sugar, they’re not the casual traveler’s best pick for a between-sights nibble. The same goes for packaged granola bars, which can be slathered in corn syrup, chocolate, and preservatives. Instead, “Stick to loose granola, nuts, and dried fruit.” These foods are portable and rich in fiber, which will help you feel full well until your next meal.

“Long drives can get boring, and one of the reasons that we snack is that we’re trying to entertain ourselves,” says Reinagel. So if you’re planning a road trip, bring a healthy, easy-to-eat meal and some automotive amusement—or prepare to endure several hours of “I Spy.”

Stay Hydrated

Stay Hydrated

(Photo: Steven Depolo via flickr/CC Attribution)

Carry a refillable water bottle wherever you go, especially in tropical locales. Moderate dehydration can make a traveller feel hungry, when what one really needs is just H2O. If the drinking water in your destination is unsafe, pack extra bottled water for your daytime excursions. Avoid sodas and fancy hydration drinks, which may be high in calories (and pricey at that).

When flying, “You do need extra water, because the air is extra dry,” says Reinagel. “You are losing excess water just through your skin and through respiration.” She advocates accepting water whenever the flight attendant offers it and carrying a water bottle onto the plane. If you can sit through a seven-hour flight without using the facilities, you’re under-hydrated.

Hit the Gym

Hit the Gym

(Photo: Jean Philippe Piter)

When choosing a hotel for your stay, make sure the facilities include a gym or pool. If not, find out if your hotel offers discount passes to a local fitness center. Or, just use your hotel room! Reinagel recommends Ben Greenfield’s How to Work Out in a Hotel (the most equipment you’ll need is the furniture your room comes with). Taking even 15 minutes to do some in-room squats or to hit the elliptical at the hotel gym won’t cut into your leisure time one bit.

Best of all, researchers have found that your body continues to burn calories up to 14 hours post-workout, which gives you a little more leeway when mealtime comes around (and makes that dessert much, much sweeter).

Cruise Control

Cruise Control

(Photo: Royal Caribbean International)

When stuck at sea, it’s hard not to go overboard, at least where eating is concerned. Reinagel recommends taking advantage of your cruise’s activity-inducing amenities. (Think jogging tracks, rock walls, volleyball courts, and ice-skating rinks.) Snack smart between meals and use your dining plan to eat well. According to our sister site Cruise Critic, several lines publish nutritional information for their dining room options, while others offer spa menus that include nutritious, never-fried choices for the health-conscious cruiser. “This doesn’t mean that ships are dispensing with 24-hour pizzerias or unlimited soft-serve ice cream, but healthy options abound,” says Cruise Critic’s Ben Lyons. Good; we like to have our cake and eat it, too … after a splash in the wave pool.

Splurge Wisely

Splurge Wisely

(Photo: Paris Tourist Office/Amelie Dupont)

Vacations are all about new experiences, so save up for what counts: the local specialties. Don’t blow your diet on foods easily found at home. Instead, indulge on the local fare.

“When you are travelling, you need to know what your priorities are,” says Reinagel. “Some vacations are legitimately a time to indulge and enjoy—consciously and mindfully. This isn’t about draining all the joy out of vacation.” So if you’re in Paris, by all means, enjoy that baguette … but skip the frites. You can always have fast food at home, and you don’t want to waste time, money, and calories on something you’ve had a hundred times before. In other words, be adventurous and expand your palate—not your belt.



7 Foods You Should Eat Before Flying

And to complement my last piece, here are the superfoods you should eat before hopping on that next plane.

While some foods are definite no-nos at 35,000 feet, not all of your favorite culinary choices are off the table. Feast your eyes (and your mouth) on these seven foods you should eat before flying—and never be at the mercy of an in-flight airline meal again.

7 Foods You Should Eat Before Flying

Low-Sodium Items

Low-Sodium Items


Too much salt can cause “jet bloat,” so stick to low-sodium snack choices in order to minimize discomfort. You can find many snacks and dishes specially marked as low-sodium, or choose foods that are naturally low on salt, like fresh fruits and non-cruciferous vegetables.




Airports, airplanes, and, let’s face it, air travellers themselves are full of germs. Give your immune system a blast of vitamin C by snacking on an orange before take-off. Not only will you get vitamins, but you’ll also nab the added bonus of hydration—a sneaky way to get some liquids past the TSA.

Herbal Teas

Herbal Teas


In large amounts, caffeinated drinks like coffee can dehydrate you. Choose herbal teas instead. They’re naturally decaffeinated and can help keep you hydrated. Select a peppermint blend for added stomach-soothing benefits.




Flying can do a number on your stomach. The human body was not designed to digest food at seven miles above sea level. Guard against a future stomach bug by eating yogurt with natural probiotics, which, according to some experts, can help regulate your digestive system.

Water with Lemon

Water with Lemon


Ever feel tired when you get off a plane? Don’t be so quick to blame jet lag—it could be dehydration, which can make you feel sleepy. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, and throw a lemon slice or two in your cup—the citrus contains antibacterial properties that can alleviate sore throats.

Lean Protein

Lean Protein


Lean protein will give you energy and satiety that you won’t get from, say, chicken fingers. Choose a protein source that’s not deep-fried or crusted with bread crumbs. You’ll stay full for a long flight, and your body won’t be overloaded with hard-to-digest fats.




Smoothies combine two of our in-flight food superstars: yogurt and fresh fruit. They also provide hydration. Just watch out for smoothie bars that add tons of sugar to the mix, as that can lead to an unpleasant in-flight sugar crash. Stick with smoothies made from lots of fruit, plain yogurt, and ice.



12 Superfoods That Will Keep You Healthy While Travelling

12 Superfoods That Will Keep You Healthy While Traveling

Travel puts our bodies through a lot, whether we’re stifling our circulation on long flights or shocking or digestive systems with new foods. SmarterTravel has shared a lot of tips and tricks about how what you eat can affect the way you feel when travelling, but now we’ve discovered that it’s not just about avoiding the junk food. Certain foods known as “superfoods” are packed with vitamins and other health benefits and can prevent some of the worst travel symptoms. Incorporating any of these foods into your diet before and during travel will ensure that you’ll have a healthier and happier trip.



(Photo: Thinkstock/Zoonar)

When it comes to superfoods, quinoa is one of the most popular. It’s easy to find this grain incorporated into crackers, breads, and cereal. It’s high in fiber and iron, which makes it perfect for combating altitude sickness. Since the body compensates for reduced oxygen by making more red blood cells, you’ll want to keep your diet iron-rich to ease any nausea caused by altitude. For this reason, any meal with quinoa is perfect whether you’re about to board a long flight or go for a hike.



Nothing ruins a trip like getting sick, which is why you’ll want to get in the habit of asking for water with lemon. Because lemons are rich in Vitamin C, they act as an immune booster that will help you ward off fevers and colds.



Anyone who’s spent a long day sightseeing while simultaneously combatting jet-lag after a long-haul flight with no sleep knows how tiring travelling can be. To prepare for long and exhausting travel days, you can fill up on beets to boost your stamina.

Dark cherries

Dark cherries

If you have trouble falling asleep on planes, dark cherries are the perfect mid-flight snack. They are a wonderful natural source of melatonin, which eases your nervous system and helps you fall asleep.



(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

When you’re perusing the hotel fruit salad, make sure you don’t skip the cantaloupe. This super fruit is rich in Vitamin C and potassium, which will give you more energy. It also contains adenosine, which can help reduce the effect of altitude sickness.



(Photo: Thinkstock/Wavebreak Media)

For pretty much any ailment, ginger is the perfect remedy. Ginger helps your muscles relax, reduces headaches, relieves congestion, eases your stomach, and when ground up and applied as a paste, it can even help treat sun damage. Whether you incorporate ginger into your meals or just treat yourself to a cup of tea before bed, keeping this super root around is a good idea.



(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Persimmons, also known by the Greeks as “the fruit of the gods” are extremely tasty and also extremely good for you. These sweet fruits aid in the creation of red blood cells, which reduce your chance of motion or altitude sickness.



(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

If you’re feeling nauseous or suffering from digestion troubles, peppermint is a great way to fight back. Like ginger you can drink it as tea or you can chew on mint leaves to relieve nausea.



When you’re trying a lot of new and foreign foods, indigestion is never far away, which is why yogurt is the best food to combat an unhappy stomach. Probiotic yogurts are filled with good bacteria that will support a healthy digestive system.

Goji Berries

Goji Berries

These tart little berries are the perfect snack to keep in your travel bag, especially when you have some long days ahead of you. Goji berries are a natural source of energy and also help ward off sickness by boosting your immune system and your circulation.



(Photo: Thinkstock/moodboard)

Everyone knows bananas are a great source of energy in the morning, but did you know they are also muscle relaxants? Because they are rich in potassium and magnesium, bananas help support the production of melatonin. So whether you’re ready to jump start your day or relax before bed, a banana is the perfect snack.



(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Related to the ginger plant, it’s no surprise that turmeric is a healthy and powerful spice. It not only supports your immune system, but also improves your circulation. It’s easy to add this any meal before your flight. May we suggest this recipe for quinoa, turmeric, and ginger curry for the perfect pre-flight meal?



10 Types of Seafood You Really Shouldn’t Eat (and 10 You Should)

And now for something a bit tasty.  Thrillist has come up with a delicious guide to what seafood we should be eating and what we shouldn’t.

Happy fishing people 🙂

It may seem like the ocean is just a bottomless pit of fish sticks and sushi, but the reality is that our supply of seafood is finite. Through rampant overfishing and just generally treating the ocean like a cheap buffet, we’ve depleted the populations and ruined the habitats of some truly delicious fish.

To find out which species are in the most danger, we spoke with Reid Bogert, sustainability coordinator at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, who in addition to scaring us skate (zing!), offered some tasty alternatives. Read on to learn more about which salmon is safe, which seafood certifications to look for, and why grouper are basically screwed.

Atlantic salmon

Reid says: “The stocks on the East Coast where these are native have just not been managed as well as in Alaska and California, where the salmon are plentiful and healthy.”
Another option: “Pacific salmon is only available a few months of the year, but Arctic char is in the same family and is available year-round. It has a similar beautiful pink meat and flavor profile that’s rich in fatty acids. They don’t require much fish feed, so they have a smaller footprint.”


Reid says: “Swordfish is a popular dish all over the world that has been overfished using a certain technique called longline fishing. It puts other wildlife at risk because you can have miles of baited line trailing a boat. All of that fishing line makes other sea life vulnerable. Sea turtles, sharks, even albatross can grab a line and become what’s called bycatch.”
Another option: “Look for swordfish with a third-party certification from a non-profit, like Marine Stewardship Certification or Best Aquaculture Practices. But you could also go with mahi mahi. It’s a smaller fish, which tends to be a bit healthier and reproduces quicker. The meat is similar to swordfish. It’s dense and has a wonderfully natural citrus flavor.”

Wild-caught sea scallops

Reid says: “In the past you always had to take a big dredge and dig into the bottom of the ocean to get the scallops out. That was disrupting the habitat and making it so the shellfish couldn’t reproduce at an acceptable rate. Now you have divers out there collecting them by hand, but it’s just a much more involved process.”
Another option: “People are often surprised that farmed shellfish are one of the most sustainable seafood types you can find on the market. Scallops, clams, mussels, oysters, anything with a shell can be farmed and harvested sustainably.”

Bluefin or bigeye tuna

Reid: “It takes them longer to reach maturity than most fish, and what that really comes down to is the nature of how they reproduce. They also swim in schools, which makes them more vulnerable to very large nets that can catch a lot of fish at once. And there’s such a high market demand because it’s such a great-tasting fish.”
Another option: “Skipjack tuna reproduces more often, grows quickly, and is smaller so there’s less of a concern about mercury.”

Imported shrimp

Reid says: “We import something like 90% of our shrimp. Some of the issues are just the way those fisheries are managed. They’re often in sensitive habitats that don’t regrow after they’ve been impacted by a shrimp farm, and they’ll often use antibiotics and pesticides to manage those fisheries, so you’re dealing with chemicals in the water.”
Another option: “Here in the Midwest, there’s a growing movement of sustainable aquaculture, so there are several farms doing things like tilapia or shrimp that are based on land or produced in systems that are recycling the water, using fewer chemicals, and ensuring the health of those animals and also people on the table side.”

Atlantic cod

Reid says: “This is a deep-water fish whose population basically collapsed in the ’90s and never really recovered.”
Another option: “There’s a fish called hake which tastes very similar. It breaks off in big chunks, which is a signature feature of cod. Or a softer whitefish like catfish, which believe it or not is very sustainable and amounts to nearly two-thirds of the aquaculture in the US.”

Spanish mackerel

Reid says: “This has been overfished and not well managed. Basically, this is off the table.”
Another option: “Most other types of mackerel tend to be sustainable because they reproduce a lot and they’re so healthy to eat because of their Omega 3.”


Reid says: “This is a really common seafood item on many menus, but there’s the same problem: since these are so large they’ve been overfished. They also have an interesting mating ritual where they aggregate in huge spawning grounds in one location, so fishermen can go there during breeding season to collect more than is sustainable.”
Another option: “Any kind of flakier whitefish is a nice alternative. They tend to come into season in the summertime, and there’s usually a regional option. We have great whitefish in Lake Michigan, for instance.”

King crab

Reid says: “This is a matter of locality and what type of regulations are in place. In places like Russia or Japan, they’re not regulated in a way that’s sustainable, and it has a negative impact on the habitat and other wildlife.”
Another option: “Blue crab or stone crab come from well-managed fisheries in the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. Just thinking closer to home is important. And if you’re looking specifically for those really long, meaty legs, Alaskan king crab would be a smarter choice.”

Atlantic halibut

Reid says: “This is an enormous fish. It can get up to 7ft long and weigh up to 800lbs. Because of its long period of time before reproduction, it’s susceptible to overfishing.”
Another option: “Pacific halibut is a great alternative. In general, the Pacific fisheries tend to be in better shape than the Atlantic because they’ve been fished for fewer years and the Pacific Ocean is just so much bigger that the seafood seems to be in better condition.”

Dan Gentile is a food/drink staff writer at Thrillist. He is basically a bottomless pit of fish sticks and sushi. Follow him to treating life like a buffet at @Dannosphere.

Mate Is The South American Drink That Puts Our Coffee Game To Shame

Via HuffPost

The Brits might have a deeply-steeped tea tradition. The Italians’ espresso game is surely strong. Americans know where it’s at when it comes to iced coffee. But none of that compares to the strong tradition that South America has with its energy-boosting beverage of choice, mate.

Yerba mate

Mate is an infusion made by steeping the dried leaves of the yerba mate plant (a species of the holly family) in near-boiling water. It is traditionally drank from a calabasa gourd — though these days the drinking vessel can be made out of just about anything — with a silver metal straw called a bombilla. The straw is integral to the drinking process because it filters out the leaves. Drank straight, a sip of hot mate will taste a lot like a strong, slightly bitter tea and it has been enjoyed in the Southern Hemisphere for hundreds of years. This is what yerba mate looks like before it’s steeped.

Yerba Mate

Mate has a long history in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Southern Brazil and Bolivia. It is not uncommon to see people walking the streets with mate in hand in those countries — some even with a thermos of hot water in the other hand to refill the drink as it gets low. It’s custom to add water to yerba mate around 15-20 times, until it loses its flavor. Drinking mate is often times a group experience; it’s a symbol of hospitality and friendship. A host will commonly pass mate around in a circle so every one can have a few sips. But why is it so beloved? Our best guess: the energy the drink imparts.

Sunset mate

Mate gives the same amount of energy as a cup of coffee, without the jittery feeling that some people get from caffeine. The LA Times proposes that it’s because one cup of yerba mate contains 80 milligrams of caffeine, which is twice as much as black tea but significantly less than a cup of coffee. (Other schools of thought believe that mate does not contain caffeine, but another type of stimulating compound which is the reason for the cleaner buzz.) One thing everyone agrees on is that it’s loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals which only adds to its energy boosting power. We think the fancy metal straw adds to the appeal too. Some people believe that mate is loaded with health benefits, but there are no studies as of yet that back up the claim.

Mate can be served sweetened with sugar or not. And these days, one can even find it sold in tea bags with all kinds of added flavors. Whichever way you try it, just be sure to drink it with friends.



16 Kitchen Scraps That You Can Re-grow

If you’ve paused your travels and are living somewhere on the cheap, you don’t want to have to shop more than you can – but you also want to get the most out of the local food.  Here’s a great little feature on regrowing kitchen herbs and veggies to save you buying fresh.


All of us want to be able to have fresh fruit and vegetable at our disposal when working in the kitchen, preparing a delicious meal. The truth is you can have your veggies and eat them too! There are a number of plants which you can throw away after eating, not knowing they can be re-grown in the most easy of methods. Here is the list of those vegetables and how you can make some more in the comfort of your home.

• Fennel, Scallions, Onions and Leeks can be re-grown if using the white root end. Put it into a glass jar and pour a bit of water over it. Keep it in a well lit area (like the kitchen window) and soon enough you will be able to notice the green leaves sprouting. When it’s of a decent size, cut it away and use in your dishes. Freshen up the water supply and your vegetable is ready to grow again.


• Cabbage, Celery, Romaine Lettuce and Bok Choi are very similar to the previous category. Meaning the secret of re-growing powers lie in its white root end. Like before, cut and put it into a bowl with a bit of water in, under direct sunlight and after a couple of days new leaves will begin to rise once more. You could do this with soil, but then you should water it excessively in the first week.


• Lemongrass is not much different than a normal grass. The root end should go into a jar with little water but transferred into a pot when it begins to grow again. Ready to be harvested when the stalks have one foot height.


• Potatoes are maybe the easiest of the foods to re-grow at home. If a potato has `eyes` than it can be made to give some more potatoes. Cut the potato into pieces of 2 inch square which each must have an `eye` on it. Place it in a dry area and after a couple of days plant them in a high-nutrient soil, with the `eye` facing up at 8 inches deep. Add extra soil when the plant begins to grow. • Ginger is also very easy to work with. The part you are interested in is the thick knobby bit, known as the rhizome. Put one such piece in some potted soil with the buds facing up and in a moist and warm setting, although not in direct sunlight. When the new roots rise up and the plant is fully grown, just repeat the instruction here to re-re-grow a ginger fruit.

• A single clove of a piece of Garlic is enough to use in order to re-grow the entire vegetable. Plant with the root end downward in direct sunlight and see the impressive results of Nature. Keep in mind that cutting the shoots will force the plant to make a big bulb. The important thing to remember is that – like in the case of ginger – you can re-grow it again and again without buying a new one soon


• Onions shouldn’t be thrown away but re-grown, mostly because they do classify among the easiest vegetables to sprout `from their ashes`. What you need to do is cut off the root end but ensuring half an inch of onion is on the roots. Put this entirely in soil in your garden in a well lit area and keep watering. A cold weather is not recommended for this vegetable.

• Sweet Potatoes can be re-grown by planting a part of it under a thing layer of soil. The place in the garden should be well `seen` by the Sun. At a height of 4 inches, remove the shoots and re-plant them with 12 inches of space in between. A long waiting time (around 4 months) begins and after that, feel free to rip the benefits of re-growing your own vegetables.

• Carrot Tops are something to be played with or nicely decorated, but not eaten! Remember this when you want to re-grow a carrot from the eating table. The top and an inch of the root of the carrot should be balanced with toothpicks on a water filled glass jar. Filtered sunlight will make the roots sprout in a couple of days.


• Mushrooms, although are hard to re-grow, it’s not impossible! The preferred medium for mushrooms is a pot filled with a mix of soil and compost. In daytime, filtered light will do the job, while during the night, it’s better to leave it a cool temperature. The part which should go into the soil is the stalk with the head removed. But be careful to leave the top part unburied. In a matter of days you will know if the base has re-grown a new mushroom.

• Pineapples are delicious and will surely be among the top choices of re-grown fruit in your home. The sad part is it takes very long (almost a couple of years) until you can rip the fruit from the pineapple tree you grow at home. Simply place the green top piece (with no fruit attached to it!) in a warm environment. Also, make sure the surface is well drained. Pour water regularly at first and then weekly. Good luck!



Moroccan Is the Breakfast You Need to Try

I find Morocco a fascinating country to explore and have stayed there many times.

So imagine my delight when I was in New York recently and came across this great restaurant in the East Village.  To start my day, I went for a typical Moroccan breakfast – here described in Gear Patrol:

By Matthew Ankeny on 6.10.15 – Photo by Eric Yang

9:20A a.m. ET | 1st Ave and St. Marks, Manhattan – Peace in Manhattan comes in small moments. On the patio of Cafe Mogador, the city is slow to wake. Dog walkers jostle by, women return from workouts, people pass in slacks. Most move silently. One pug comes to check out the scene, sniffing around the base of our red metal table. He smells spices, roasted tomato, pita. A few feet above his stunted nose, work is being done at deconstructing the yolks of poached eggs. One slice and the yellow liquid moves out like thin mortar, bonding together flavors.

A wrap of the house merguez sausage sits next to a casually sliced avocado. I sprinkle some salt on the avocado, mix it through the yolks, halumi cheese, olives. Plates begin looking more like color studies. There’s a calm here as the summer temperatures start to rise. Most people in Manhattan are at desks, but here in the East Village, humidity hovering around mid-60-percent with a minimal breeze, it’s still breakfast. We work on plates full of Moroccan spices. The order? Halumi eggs, poached, with roasted tomato, halumi cheese, olives, a salad and zahatar pita, alongside Moroccan eggs, also poached, with spicy tomato sauce, home fries and pita bread. The sides? Merguez, avocado, and a little bit of peace.

Learn More: Here


Ned’s tip: for the best hotels in Morocco, stay in Matisse’s favourite the Grand Hotel Villa de France or the equally splendid El Minzah, both part of Grand Mediterranean Holding’s Le Royal Hotels & Resorts

40 Ways The World Makes Awesome Hot Dogs

The Ultimate Hot Dog Style Guide

from Food Republic

It’s not just a sausage in a bun; it’s a beautiful blank canvas. It’s a hot dog, which is a foodstuff eaten worldwide. Here are 40 distinctive varieties from around the globe — from iconic NYC “dirty water dogs” to fully loaded South American street-cart dogs to Japanese octo-dogs. There is a tubesteak out there for every craving that ever was.


ManMade Guide: Step Up Your Summer Drinks with Grown-Up Flavored Ice Cubes

Here’s a really cool website with loads of ideas for….(ahem)…men – no ladies, I’m NOT an arch-chauvinist, I just like the site OK?!

This post is all about enjoying the long summer days………….

created at: 04/16/2013

Around here, we’ve moved past the short glass – the whiskey in a tumbler, the shaken 3 oz. cocktails of spring -and opting for the long and tall. With sunshine comes all-day drinks: those mixed with plenty of ice and fresh ingredients to keep you cool.

How to make flavoured ice cubes

Of course, it’s ice that keeps ’em cool, and when your glass sits around in the heat…well, ice melts. So, this summer, make that a good thing. We’re sharing our technique and recipes to allow the ice to actually contribute to the flavor of a drink or cocktail, not just its temperature or dilution. Check it out!

How to make flavoured ice cubes

The Basics:

First off, making flavored ice cubes is super easy. It’s like making regular ice, but, you know, with not just water. The process is simple: flavor a liquid, and freeze it. Good to go.

For tools you’ll need:

  • Measuring cups and/or spoons
  • Sauce pan
  • Ice cube trays (we recommend silicon trays as they are easier to handle and won’t break your ice cubes to pieces). These are our favorites. 

For ingredients:

  • Liquid (e.g. juice, water, wine)
  • Flavoring/infusing agents (spices, tea, aromatics)
  • Sweetener (agave syrup, rice syrup, honey)

how to make flavoured ice cubes

The Method:

1. Infuse: heat or boil liquid with add-ins, or let them sit together in the fridge overnight for 24 hours.
2. Cool liquid, strain, and place in ice cube trays.
3. Enjoy!

So… easy, right? Now here are a few extra tips:-

  • Ice is only as good as the water it came from. Consider using filtered water, spring water, or boiled water to remove cloudiness. Don’t go crazy – the 80¢ gallon jugs from the grocery store work perfectly.
  • For ice cubes you want to infuse the liquid as much as you can. The cold makes the flavours harder to detect, so if you’re gonna do it, go big.
  • Taste the liquid before freezing and make sure it’s strong – and we mean STRONG. Since it’s going to slowly melt, you want the flavour to really come through. So don’t be shy!
  • If using spirits, heat them up to remove most of the alcohol so it can freeze. Spirits with high levels of alcohol should simmer longer. And, of course, choose something with flavour…Vodka-flavoured “ice” is really only cold vodka. If you’re gonna reduce the liquid, make sure there’s something besides ethanol and water.
  • Always strain your mix before freezing, as sediments could settle at the bottom of the cubes making them gritty.


Dark Chocolate Ice Cubes

How to make flavoured ice cubes

These cubes are the perfect companion for a cold-brew coffee, a White Russian cocktail, or even with plain cold milk! Super tasty and all homemade.


  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup


  1. Place all ingredients in a heavy-bottom pan and whisk until combined. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat.
  2. Let mix cool completely and place in ice cube trays.
  3. Remove from trays and serve with your favorite drink (or even munch on them!)

How to make dark chocolate flavoured ice cubes

Cinnamon, Star Anise and Cardamon Ice Cubes

How to make cinnamon, anise, cardamon infused ice cubes

These flavourings are perfect for straight up cocktails like an Old Fashioned, a Manhattan, or even a whiskey on the rocks. You can also add them to your favourite iced tea to spice it up.


  • 2 Cinnamon sticks
  • 1 Star anise
  • 8 Cardamon pods
  • 2 cups of water
  • 3 tablespoons of agave syrup


  1. Brew all ingredients for about 5-10 minutes, until fragrant.
  2. Strain, let brew cool down, and place in ice trays. You can add a cardamon pod in each cube as garnish.
  3. When ready, remove from tray and immediately place in your drink.

Angostura, Black Tea, and Thyme Ice Cubes

Use in everything.


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 black tea bags
  • 20 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 5-6 sprigs thyme, leaves picked


  1. Heat water to a boil, turn off the heat, then add tea and bitters. Allow to cool a bit, to 150-160° or so, then add thyme leaves. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Remove tea bags, and pour into ice trays to freeze.



What does rosemary do to your brain?

I’ve got a rubbish memory – that’s why I always carry around with me my camera and a small notebook.  I was intrigued to read this BBC article about rosemary…

Rosemary oil in bottle

In folk medicine, rosemary has been associated for centuries with having a good memory. But is it worth investigating whether it really has any powers, asks Dr Chris Van Tulleken.

In scientific terms there are different kinds of memory.

There’s past memory – your experiences and what you learned at school. There’s present memory, which is your working minute-to-minute memory. And there’s future memory or “remembering to remember”.

This is for many of us the trickiest one. When it fails bad things happen – we forget to take our vital heart medicine or worse still to buy our spouse’s birthday presents. It’s the reason letters decompose in my back pocket over months even though I cycle past a postbox every day.

There are plenty of examples of people who have enormously improved their past memories, committing decks of cards to memory or whole new languages. But remembering to remember is more complicated. Like most people I would do almost anything for an improved future memory.

Medicine has little to offer. There are some drugs for treating the memory loss that happens with dementia but they are not hugely effective. They give some measurable benefits but whether they are “clinically significant” is controversial. Certainly they are no miracle cure for people with dementia, nor do they improve the memory of anyone else.

So I was not that hopeful travelling up to Newcastle to see Prof Mark Moss at Northumbria University. His team is running an experiment to test whether rosemary essential oil could benefit future memory. I’ll be honest – this seemed hokey.

Rosemary has been linked to memory for hundreds of years. Ophelia in Hamlet says to her brother Laertes: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” But that’s no kind of basis for a study. She had after all gone insane after the death of her father and was to kill herself shortly after this scene.

Ophelia’s speech

Ophelia from William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Sir John Everett Millais’s 1852 painting “Ophelia” depicts her death after going insane

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray/ Love, remember: and there is pansies. that’s for thoughts… There’s fennel for you, and columbines: there’s rue/ For you; and here’s some for me: we may call it/ Herb-grace o’ Sundays: O you must wear your rue with/ A difference.” (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5)

Rosemary is used in aromatherapy for similar reasons but this hardly seems like stronger evidence. Briefly, here’s my position on alternative therapies – I think they’re great. They have few side effects and they empower people. From my own work in remote communities around the world I think that ancient traditions of healing have much to teach us and historically they have provided many useful drugs. For me aromatherapy falls at that end of the therapeutic spectrum where I would expect to find little effect. It uses nice smells to make people feel… well, nice. Or so I thought.

Here’s how the experiment worked. The team at Northumbria recruited 60 older volunteers to test the effects of not only rosemary oil but also lavender oil. They then tested these volunteers in a room infused with either rosemary essential oil, lavender essential oil or no aroma. Participants were told they were there to test a vitamin water drink. Any comments about the aromas were passed off as irrelevant and “left over from the previous group to use the room”.

lavender essence

Lavender oil had a sedative effect on volunteers

The volunteers (and I) then took a test which was designed to test their prospective memory. It’s a clever test with many layers so you never quite know what’s being tested.

At the start, objects are hidden around the room in places which you have to remember at the end of the test. Then you perform a series of distracting but fun word puzzles while increasingly complex demands are made of your memory by the testers (in my case two extraordinarily nice and competent graduate students, Kamila and Lauren). “In seven minutes’ time from now can you hand me this book?” or “when you come across a question about the Queen in the word puzzles can you remind me to call the garage”.

My marks were squarely average. I didn’t remember to remind Kamila to get her car from the garage in much the same way that I would have forgotten myself.

What Mark’s team found was remarkable. The volunteers in the room with the rosemary infusion did statistically significantly better than those in the control room but lavender caused a significant decrease in performance. Lavender is traditionally associated with sleep and sedation.

Was the lavender sending our volunteers to sleep and decreasing their performance? How could vaporised essential oils possibly have this effect?

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)


  • Perennial herb with evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple or blue flowers
  • Name derives from Latin “dew of the sea”
  • Mediterranean in origin, the plant is nevertheless hardy in colder climates and is used as flavouring for many foods

BBC Food: Rosemary recipes

It turns out that there are compounds in rosemary oil that may be responsible for changes in memory performance. One of them is called 1.8-cineole – as well as smelling wonderful (if you like that sort of thing) it may act in the same way as the drugs licensed to treat dementia, causing an increase in a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.

These compounds do this by preventing the breakdown of the neurotransmitter by an enzyme. And this is highly plausible – inhalation is one of the best ways of getting drugs into the brain. When you eat a drug it may be broken down in the liver which processes everything absorbed by the gut, but with inhalation small molecules can pass into the bloodstream and from there to the brain without being broken down by the liver.

As further confirmation Mark and his team analysed blood samples and found traces of the chemicals in rosemary oil in the blood.

The implications of this kind of research are huge, but they don’t mean you need to spend your days smelling of rosemary and your night sleeping on a pillow of lavender. The effects were measurable but modest and they give us a clue that further research into some of the chemicals in essential oils may yield therapeutics and contribute to our understanding of memory and brain function.

It’s also important to remember that any drug that has a measurable effect, even if inhaled from a traditionally prepared essential oil, may also have a measurable side-effect. You can’t tinker with brain biochemistry and expect things to be simple.

But if these studies may help eventually contribute to new drugs to treat dementia there is another very nice benefit – they also restore some credibility to the much maligned alternative health field.

Traditional healing practices weren’t all quackery. Modern medicine of the kind I practise in London may have many sophisticated treatments but it comes with side effects and can leave people feeling disempowered.

We have spent many years rubbishing alternative treatments but there is, I believe, a real benefit in allowing people to take control of their own health with treatments that make them feel better – even if we haven’t been able to prove how.


Dr Chris Van Tulleken presents the BBC’s “Trust Me I’m a Doctor”





Forget crisps and a can of Coke: The world’s most over-the-top hotel mini-bars offer everything from oxygen canisters to aged Japanese whisky

Source: Daily Mail Travel   

  • Many hotels now boast extensive and extremely quirky mini-bar offerings
  • At the Little Nell in Aspen the mini-bar has canned oxygen and Brain Toniq
  • Hotel 41 in London has traded the mini-bar in favour of a lobby ‘maxi-bar’

Today, hotel mini-bars offer so much more than a bag of nuts and a chocolate bar.

From farmer’s market produce stocked in a Fresh Fridge, delivered to your room upon check-in, or your own in-room ice cream freezer, the world’s most luxurious hotels sure have upped their minibar game.

Here, MailOnline Travel looks at some of the most unique offerings from around the world. Go ahead, tuck in…

Epiphany Hotel in California    Here, guests have access to a fully-stocked Fresh Fridge, which can be delivered on demand.

There’s no standard mini-bar at the Epiphany Hotel in California – instead a fully-stocked Fresh Fridge can be delivered on demand

Epiphany Hotel, Palo Alto, California

Who says that mini-bars need to be havens of unhealthy snacks? At the Epiphany Hotel in northern California, healthy food and drink options from local purveyors are readily and widely available, courtesy of their impressive Fresh Fridge offering.

But, here’s the catch – you’ll need to pay $95 (or about £61) for the entire fridge.

Still, if you plan to eat all of the farmer’s market produce, biotic yogurt, seasonal salads and superfood-infused power bars, the price tag isn’t quite so hefty.

In fact, you might even save money over eating out each night.

Baccarat Hotel & Residences, New York

At the Baccarat Hotel & Residences in New York, the in-room bar offering is anything but mini. All of the premium liquor bottles are full-sized and the snacks are imported from France

At the Baccarat Hotel & Residences in New York, the in-room bar offering is anything but mini. All of the premium liquor bottles are full-sized and the snacks are imported from France

 The Baccarat Hotel is one of the most luxurious hotels in New York

The Baccarat Hotel is one of the most luxurious hotels in New York

This is essentially the opposite of a mini-bar, considering that all of the bottles stocked in the Baccarat Hotel & Residences in New York are full-sized – and, of course, extremely high quality.

The champagne is Ruinart, one of the oldest in the world, and the water is Badoit,

And should you care to tuck in to a treat, Parisian macarons and truffles from Fauchon are available to purchase.

Plenty of gorgeous glassware is also provided to add that touch of elegance.

Andaz Tokyo

At the Andaz Tokyo, all guests can imbibe in the local whisky with the hotel's Japanese styled mini-bar. There are two fine spirits on offer, as well as okaki (Japanese rice crackers) and yokan (jellied bean paste)

At the Andaz Tokyo, all guests can imbibe in the local whisky with the hotel’s Japanese styled mini-bar. There are two fine spirits on offer, as well as okaki (Japanese rice crackers) and yokan (jellied bean paste)

The snazzy Andaz Tokyo, which opened in June 2014, occupies floors 47 to 52 of the Toranomon Hills skyscraper

The snazzy Andaz Tokyo, which opened in June 2014, occupies floors 47 to 52 of the Toranomon Hills skyscraper

Imbibe in the local whisky at the Andaz Tokyo hotel with their Japanese styled mini-bar.

There are two fine whiskies on offer: Hibiki 12 years and Hakushu 12 years, which is a single malt whisky from the country’s Southern Alps.

And don’t forget to try the okaki (a Japanese rice cracker) and the yokan (a bar of sweet jellied adzuki-bean paste) from some of the city’s finest establishments.

QT Sydney

    Stocked with everything from booze to bowties, the in-room bar prepares guests for any contingency.

At the QT Sydney, their mini-bar has everything you could need – from booze to bowties to intimacy kits

This mini-bar quite literally has it all.

Chock full of premium spirits, like Belvedere vodka and Patron XO Cafe, there’s also organic beetroot tips and gingerbread cookies.

And preparing you for just about any contingency – it also comes stocked with vintage games, an emergency bowtie and an Intimacy Kit.

Mondrian London

At the Mondrian London, guests don't need to worry about mixing their own cocktails. The mini-bars at this hotel offer premade bottles of the bar's signature cocktails - simply pour and enjoy

At the Mondrian London, guests don’t need to worry about mixing their own cocktails. The mini-bars at this hotel offer premade bottles of the bar’s signature cocktails – simply pour and enjoy

At the Mondrian London you can sip your mini-bar cocktail while looking out over the Thames

At the Mondrian London you can sip your mini-bar cocktail while looking out over the Thames

At the posh Mondrian London, guests need not worry about mixing their own cocktails – the hotel’s signature drinks are already made and available for them to enjoy from the comfort of their rooms.

The premixed concoctions from Mr Lyan include a Beeswax Old Fashioned, a Frosted Martini and a Bright-Eyed Collins and indulging requires nothing more than simply opening the bottle.

This brilliant (and extremely convenient) idea is the brainchild of Ryan Chetiyawardana, the man behind the hotel’s Dandelyan bar and the White Lyan in Hoxton.

The Little Nell, Aspen, Colorado

The extremely well-stocked mini-bar at The Little Nell in Aspen is complimentary - and re-stocked everyday

The extremely well-stocked mini-bar at The Little Nell in Aspen is complimentary – and re-stocked everyday

As well as snack staples and premium spirits, there's also canned oxygen and Brain Toniq available

As well as snack staples and premium spirits, there’s also canned oxygen and Brain Toniq available

The famed hotel is a favourite among celebrities, especially during the ski season

The famed hotel is a favourite among celebrities, especially during the ski season

The extremely well-stocked mini-bar at The Little Nell in Aspen is entirely complimentary – and refreshed every single day.

As well as snack staples, such as nuts and crisps, the hotel also offers some entirely unique items, such as canned oxygen (pictured in the blue can labelled ‘tru’) and Brain Toniq, a drink designed to give you a boost of mental clarity.

There’s also plenty of top shelf spirits, like Patron tequila, and an acclaimed selection of white, red and sparkling wine options.

Hotel Gansevoort, New York

The mini-bar gets one serious makeover at New York City's Hotel Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District. Their Glamour Bar offers an in-room arsenal of beauty products from To Faced, Bumble and bumble. and Hampton Sun

The mini-bar gets one serious makeover at New York City’s Hotel Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District. Their Glamour Bar offers an in-room arsenal of beauty products from To Faced, Bumble and bumble. and Hampton Sun

The Gansevoort is in New York's trendy Meatpacking District and is known for being a celebrity haunt

The Gansevoort is in New York’s trendy Meatpacking District and is known for being a celebrity haunt

The mini-bar gets one serious makeover at Hotel Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District of New York City.

Their Glamour Bar offers beauty enthusiasts an in-room arsenal of premium products from Too Faced, Bumble and bumble. and Hampton Sun.

Available on-demand, the staff will install a custom-made Hollywood vanity mirror fully outfitted with all you need to banish all signs of jet-lag.

The beauty bar also offers complimentary hair straightening irons and hair dryers for guests to use throughout their stay.

Le Quartier Francais Hotel, South Africa

For an authentic taste of South Africa look no further than the country's Le Quartier Francais Hotel

For an authentic taste of South Africa look no further than the country’s Le Quartier Francais Hotel

In the complimentary mini-bar, guests can sample confit citrus rinds and twice-baked Afrikaan biscuits

In the complimentary mini-bar, guests can sample confit citrus rinds and twice-baked Afrikaan biscuits

Those who are eager for an authentic taste of South Africa – and who happen to be staying at Le Quartier Francais Hotel – you don’t even need to leave your room to find it.

In the complimentary mini-bar, guests can sample some unexpected treats, such as confit citrus rinds encrusted with sugar and oak dust-smoked nuts.

Vanilla fudge and rusks, as well as twice-baked Afrikaan biscuits are also available to sample.

Athenaeum Hotel, London

At the lavish Mayfair hotel, guests who check in to one of three categories of room get quite a cool surprise

At the lavish Mayfair hotel, guests who check in to one of three categories of room get quite a cool surprise

At the Athenaeum Hotel in London, the mini-bar offers complimentary Ben & Jerry's ice cream in a freezer compartment.    The mini-bar at Hotel Football in Manchester is meant to remind guests of their youth.

At the Athenaeum Hotel in London, the mini-bar offers complimentary Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in a freezer compartment (left), while the mini-bar at Hotel Football in Manchester is meant to remind guests of their youth

Check into the rooftop suite, an apartment or any park view room at London’s lavish Athenaeum hotel in Mayfair and you get a rather cool surprise – complimentary Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in a freezer compartment.

Flavours include cookie dough and chocolate fudge brownie.

An adjacent mini-bar is stocked with gin, crisps and chocolate. MailOnline Travel recommends enjoying all these on the private balcony, which has superb views across Green Park to some of London’s most famous landmarks.

Hotel Football, Manchester

The in-room bar at Hotel Football includes Space Raiders, Wham bars, Fizzy Vitmo and Drumsticks

The in-room bar at Hotel Football includes Space Raiders, Wham bars, Fizzy Vitmo and Drumsticks

The newly-opened property is backed by former Manchester United players, Gary and Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and Nicky Butt, and is chock full of sporty charm.

And yes, that includes the complimentary mini-bar, which is meant to remind guests of their youthful days spent out on the pitch.

Treats inside include Space Raiders, Wham bars, Fizzy Vitmo, Curlywurly and Drumsticks, just to name a few.

And for the bigger kids, Cafe Football beer is also included.

Hotel 41, London

At Hotel 41 in London, the customary mini-bar has been replaced by a full-service maxi-bar in the lobby. The  'Plunder the Pantry' services offers round the clock treats - from freshly baked breads to cured meats

At Hotel 41 in London, the customary mini-bar has been replaced by a full-service maxi-bar in the lobby. The ‘Plunder the Pantry’ services offers round the clock treats – from freshly baked breads to cured meats

Hotel 41 has super-sized the mini-bar concept for its well-heeled guests

Hotel 41 has super-sized the mini-bar concept for its well-heeled guests

Forget about the mini-bar! At Hotel 41 in London, it’s all about the maxi-bar.

Known as the ‘Plunder the Pantry’ service, guests are free to help themselves to a wide array of complimentary snacks around the clock – from freshly baked bread and quiches to platters of smoked salmon and cured meats.

Several sweet treats are also available, including a mini fridge stocked with Haagen Dazs ice cream.

There’s even an Honesty Bar where guests can pour their own night cap.

The Easiest, Tastiest, Summer Corn Recipes Ever

Source: huffpost

From chowder to cakes to straight off the cob (with some crazy-good ideas for toppings), these dishes remind us why we love this farm-stand classic.

A Time-Tested Corn Chowder

photo: Keller + Keller Photography

When Brooke Dojny was researching her book, Chowderland, she found a chowder version of succotash (a simple Native American dish made with stewed beans and corn) in an old cookbook, its headnote claiming that the recipe could be traced back more than 250 years to one Maine family. This version adds a bit of fresh tomato and basil for some liveliness; and, the hearty, unfussy soup is great with a pan of skillet cornbread to bring the corn theme full circle.

A Rich Pasta Dish that still feels Right on a Hot Night

photo: Phyllis Grant

This fresh recipe is the definition of low-maintenance, from leaving shallots to steep and melt into butter, olive oil and balsamic vinegar for 20 minutes (just stirring them occasionally) to tossing in any kind of mushroom to join them while you cook the pasta. The result: a delicious alternative to a tomato-based summer pasta dish. The corn comes in toward the end, when you stir three cobs-worth of kernels into the veggie mixture you’ve got simmering on the stove; then, mix it all up with some crème fraîche and spaghetti or linguine. The soft and creamy noodles with mushrooms, mellow shallots and tender corn make a terrific combination.

A Reinvention (3, actually) for Corn on the Cob

photo: Andrew Purcell

Whether you grill, boil or steam it, corn on the cob is a beloved seasonal side. And while the usual butter and salt work for traditional barbecue fare, a more international menu is a good reason to try a spiced-up spin. If you’re having Mexican food, spread the ears with a cumin mayo, roll them in crumbled cotija cheese and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. An Indian meal calls for a cool yet spicy topping made from yogurt, onion, coriander, cayenne and turmeric. Corn can even work for Italian dinners: Coat the cobs with a mixture of Parmesan, garlic and parsley.

A “Burger” Packed with Seasonal Ingredients

photo: Alison Gootee

These lightly fried corn cakes are as satisfying as any meat patty but burst with vegetables (in addition to corn, they include potatoes, scallions and diced cucumbers and tomatoes). You coat the cakes in panko and cook them in a pan for about five minutes per side, so they get nice and crunchy. Cool sour cream and a big spoonful of diced tomatoes are the only accompaniments you need.

Tacos You may not have Tried Before

photo: Hirsheimer and Hamilton

Corn often pops up in salsa, yet we’d never tried the vegetable inside tacos until we discovered this unusual recipe, which uses some of the best summer produce in a surprising way. You roast poblano peppers and combine them with cream to form a soft, pleasantly lumpy base; then mix with cooked zucchini [courgettes] and corn kernels. Pile everything into soft tortillas for a delicious Mexican meal – no salsa necessary.



5 Essential Life Hacks for the Modern Drinker

Thanks again to Huff Post’s for this totes essential advice:


Ever been out on a date, having fun, drinking a glass of red wine and then later notice that your teeth are stained purple? Or maybe you accidentally spilled a bit of your sticky pink cocktail on a pair of work pants?

The troubles that go with being a booze lover can be vast and varied, but more often than not there’s a remedy. No matter if you need to quickly clean off your purple teeth, remove a pesky stain or figure out how to BYOCocktail, there’s a simple (enough) solution.

1. Remove Stains

If you’ve ever wished that “BYOB” automatically included cocktails and not only beer and wine, well–are you sure it doesn’t? While there are multiple ways to stash a cocktail on the go–this is why bottled cocktails exist, right?–one of the easiest ways to mix and go is with a trusty Mason jar. You can not only mix one drink in a half pint-sized jar, but you can also mix for a group. Keep in mind, though, that if you go this route, you’ll want to stick with simple drinks. Egg whites and cream won’t travel, but a Manhattan, Martini or Margarita will keep its consistency well. You can even ask for a glass of ice or a bucket to re-chill the drink once you’re at the table.

Spilled a bit of red wine down the front of your shirt? Again? Fear not: This supposedly unbeatable stain does, indeed, have a match: cold water, lots of salt and, if the situation is dire enough, vinegar. While it may seem too good to be true (and may be if the stain has set too long), Real Simple shows how the formula works.

For all other stains, including sticky cocktails, beer and really most everything else, you’ll want to be sure you have a Tide to Go pen handy. Pre-treat the stain right away and you’re most likely in the clear. But if all else fails, take your stained party-wear to the dry cleaners and let the professionals handle it.

2. BYO…Cocktail

If you’ve ever wished that “BYOB” automatically included cocktails and not only beer and wine, well–are you sure it doesn’t? While there are multiple ways to stash a cocktail on the go–this is why bottled cocktails exist, right?–one of the easiest ways to mix and go is with a trusty Mason jar. You can not only mix one drink in a half pint-sized jar, but you can also mix for a group. Keep in mind, though, that if you go this route, you’ll want to stick with simple drinks. Egg whites and cream won’t travel, but a Manhattan, Martini or Margarita will keep its consistency well. You can even ask for a glass of ice or a bucket to re-chill the drink once you’re at the table.

3. Say Nay to Purple Teeth

The red-wine struggle is very real, and stains extend far beyond your favorite shirt. It’s not uncommon to find yourself at a nice dinner, sipping on a glass of delicious Pinot Noir and then, out of nowhere, get self conscious about your possibly purple teeth. While you could carry travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste along with you, you could also be sure to have on hand a product designed especially for this predicament: Wine Wipes. That’s right, a wipe made specifically for your vino-colored teeth.

4. Oh, Your Beer’s Not a Twist-Off?


At one point or another, everyone falls into the twist-off trap: It looks like there’s an arrow on that cap, but it’s not coming off–no matter how hard you twist.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to remove that pesky lid without breaking the bottle. If you’ve got a countertop, lighter, key or another bottle on hand, you’re golden. Household Hacker demonstrates each of these fool-proof ways get to your brew.

5. And When There’s No Corkscrew…

Though a similar predicament to not having a bottle opener, the absence of a corkscrew is much more daunting. Sure, you could push the cork all the way into the bottle with a high heel (no, we’ve never done that…), but it’s best to avoid the resulting shards of cork in the wine–especially if it’s a nice bottle.

Instead, try the innovative screw, screwdriver and hammer method if you’re handy (no, you won’t be smashing anything). You could even go the way of a kitchen knife or one of these other ingeniously creative techniques.



The Wine Expert

Absolutely fascinating documentary about one of the world’s great wine experts.  Cheers!

Steven Spurrier

June 3, 2015 / 7:00 am

In this episode of MUNCHIES Presents, we introduce you to Steven Spurrier, possibly the single most influential living figure in the world of wine. If it weren’t for him, the industry would still be run by French aristocrats, and none of us would ever have heard of the Napa Valley. From his personal cellar to a tasting of Spain’s greatest wine to the Dorset vineyard where he’s making English bubbly that upstages Champagne, we’ll find exactly what it means to be a world-class wine expert and hear the story of how Spurrier changed wine forever on one day in 1976.

Everything you ever wanted to know about…


OK, so some of you don’t really do wine.  Well then let’s take a look at the best amber nectars.


I couldn’t really find a definitive beer site such as the wine and cheese ones, but if you sniff around there are loads of good ones out there.  And the winners are:

Everything you ever wanted to know about…


This is really interesting and extremely helpful when you’re in another country.  Thanks to

African Toasts

Toasts are not appropriate in Muslim societies.

Alcohol is prohibited, and you should never request it.

If you wish to honor those present, say something such as, “We would like to extend our best wishes to …”

Egyptian Toasts

Toasts are not common.

South African Toasts

For a toast, South Africans raise their glasses and say “Cheers!” On less formal occasions, they sometimes clink their glasses together and say “Chin Chin.”

Asian Toasts

Chinese Toasts

The host will make the first toast. If it is to you, then you should respond with a toast to your host. Toasting will continue throughout the meal. Touching the other person’s glass below the rim is a sign of respect. After the first toast and touching of the glasses, glasses are tapped on the table for the following toasts. Typical toasts are “gan bei” (bottoms up) and “kai pay” (drain your glass).

Toasting, usually with beer, wine or Chinese white liquors, is an important part of Chinese business etiquette.

You will often find three glasses on your table: a glass for your drink of choice [toast with this glass], a wine glass, and a shot glass for a liquor called ‘maotai’ or ‘wu liang ye.’

The host of a banquet offers the first toast. If you prefer not to drink alcohol, it’s perfectly acceptable to toast with a soft drink, glass of juice, or mineral water.

Toasts will be proposed throughout the meal. Two popular toasts are ‘ganbei’ [‘bottoms up!’] and ‘kai wei’ [‘starting the appetite!’].

Sometimes, the Chinese enjoy testing the ability of a foreigner [‘lou wai’] to handle his or her alcohol, especially ‘er gua toe’, a potent clear alcohol that one might compare to airline fuel. A good practice would be to eat something beforehand.

Filipino Toasts

A more formal toast would include the traditional “Mabuhay!”—which means “Long life!”

Indian Toasts

Toasting is not a normal custom in India. However, in business meals where drinks are served, it is normal for the host to toast by raising the glass and saying ‘cheers.’

Indonesian Toasts

Since 90% of Indonesians are Muslims, alcohol will not be served. If your host happens to be Indonesian of Chinese heritage and not Muslim, alcohol may be served. There is no tradition for toasting with alcohol.

Japanese Toasts

Typically, toasts are only made at the beginning and end of Japanese parties or drinking and dining sessions, usually by the Japanese host. Foreigners shouldn’t feel that they must make a toast in return.

On the first drinks, someone will perform a toast, or simply say ‘cheers,’ which would be ‘kampai’ in Japanese. Generally the most senior person on the hosting side would have the honors.

Malaysian Toasts

The only times toasts might be given is when you are with Chinese or Indian hosts. The term “Yam Sing” is often used when everyone drinks at the same time.

Singapore Toasts

The most common toast is a simple “Cheers.” A common Chinese toast that you might want to learn and use is “Yum seng!” which literally means “Finish drinking!” (Equivalent to the North American toast “Bottoms up!) There is no set protocol observed for making a toast.

South Korean Toasts

The most common toast is “gonbae,” which is the equivalent of “cheers!” If the toast is proposed as “wonshot” (one shot), guests are expected to empty their glasses in one drink. Formal toasts are usually made only by the host. Visitors may offer to pay for the bill, but the host will usually decline the offer.

The most common South Korean toast you will hear is ‘Gun-bae.’ When you raise your glass, be sure to do so with your right hand. To confer extra respect toward the person being toasted, support your right arm with your left hand. Be aware that the minute you drain your glass, it is a cue to your host that you would like a ‘refill.’

Taiwanese Toasts

Toasts are usually made toward an individual. As a visitor, you are likely to be toasted by every person at the table. The toast is to welcome you. Hold the glass in your right hand and place your left hand under it. Hold the glass up to toast and then hold it up again after drinking the toast.

Thai Toasts

A popular toast is simply ‘Good Luck!’ or in Thai ‘Chai Yo!’

Vietnamese Toasts

The occasion may begin with a toast of wine or champagne and will conclude with tea or coffee.

A typical toast would be “To your health!” It is always best to allow the Vietnamese host to make the toast. It is most appropriate to suggest that the highest-ranking Vietnamese at the table make the toast, even if the foreign visitor is the host of the evening.

Australian and the Pacific Toasts

Australian Toasts

If you are toasted, return the favor. In Australia, ‘Cheers!’ is a popular toast.

New Zealand Toasts

Toasts are informal. People are likely to wish each other good health, to toast to a good business meeting or to imply that the All Blacks (the national rugby team) will win at their next outing.

Caribbean Toasts

Dominican Toasts

“Salud,” which means “health,” is a common toast.

Puerto Rican Toasts

It is not uncommon for hosts to offer a toast for the visitor at the first and the last meals that they share. In these cases, the visitor should smile graciously and stand with the others if they do so after the toast.

Eastern European Toasts

Belarusian Toasts

It is gracious to learn a few toasts. The most common are na zdo ro vie (to your health) and an ancient Polish toast, sto-lyat (a hundred years)

Czech Toasts

The most common toast is “Na zdravi!” which means “to your health,” upon which each person clicks glasses with everyone at the table. Make eye contact with each person you click glasses with, or you will be considered rude.

In Slovak, the toast is – “Na zdravie!”

Hungarian Toasts

When dining, the man should pour the wine, as it is considered unfeminine for a woman to pour wine. When toasting in Hungary, make eye contact, raise your glass up to eye level, say “Egészségére!” (for your health), take a drink, make eye contact again, and then place the glass back down on the table.

The guest of honor usually proposes the first toast which generally salutes the health of the individuals present.

At the end of the meal, someone toasts the hosts in appreciation of their hospitality.

An empty glass is immediately refilled so if you do not want more to drink, leave your glass ½ full.

Never clink glasses if drinking beer.

Polish Toasts

Expect frequent toasting throughout the meal. The host offers the first toast.

Do not begin drinking until your host has proposed a toast to everyone at the table.

If your host stands when proposing a toast, so should you.

Toasts are only made with hard liquor (generally vodka).

You should reciprocate with your own toast later in the meal.

If you propose a toast it is important to maintain eye contact.

You may also toast your hosts or the success of the business venture.

The most common toast being “Na zdrowia!” (pronounced nah ZDRO-vee-ah, meaning “To your health!”).

Alcohol is served in small glasses so you can swallow in one gulp.

Russian Toasts

Begin eating only after somebody says a toast, even if there is no alcohol on the table [which is almost impossible]. Toasting is a very important part of dining.

Toasts are common The host starts and guests reply. Do not drink until the first toast is offered.

After a toast, many Russians like to clink their glasses together. Do not do so if you are drinking something non-alcoholic.

Not drinking is a serious handicap to doing business in Russia. It’s the way things are done. In all but the most Westernized circles, you will have trouble winning trust if you do not get drunk with your hosts. It’s considered a way of breaking down barriers and getting to know the real you. Refusing to drink is unacceptable unless you give a plausible excuse, such as explaining that health or religious reasons prevent you from imbibing. Also you may smile and pretend that you are drinking, to show that you accept the toast and respect those around you.

If you feel that you’re getting intoxicated, avoid signing anything.

Ukrainian Toasts

The Ukrainian meal is punctuated with frequent toasts. Everyone at the table will be expected to propose at least one toast during the meal. The host always will make the first toast, usually to everyone’s health (bud-mo!). The second toast is usually to welcome the guest or guests of honor, at which point, the third toast is given by the guest. Appropriate toasts include: za vas! (here’s to you) and za-ho-spo-da-riv! (here’s to our hosts).

Don’t clink glasses during a toast if you aren’t drinking alcohol.

European Toasts

Austrian Toasts

Traditionally, the host of the meal or event will initiate proceedings with a toast. Until then, no one should raise a glass. The host will lift his or her glass while making eye contact with the most senior guest and say Prost! The guest of honor should reply with a toast of thanks at the end of the meal or event.

Belgian Toasts

Wait to see if your host offers a toast before sipping your drink.

The guest of honor may also give a toast.

Women may offer a toast.

It is polite to stand for a toast.

The Flemish raise their glasses twice during a toast. The glass is initially raised during the toast and then at the completion of the toast.

Raising your glass and saying “Sante” is the typical toast. A toast is always made to the host or to the one who buys the drinks.

Dutch Toasts

The host gives the first toast. An honored guest should return the toast later in the meal.

The Dutch word for “cheers” is proost (rhymes with boast). Quite often in small gatherings where people actually clink their glasses, it’s appropriate to look people in the eye when you clink, but this is not always necessary. Proost! is not so much for wine, but more for beer and soft drinks. For wine, people may say the French Santé or nothing at all, since a friendly exchange of glances with all present while slightly raising the glass in their direction is more important. The toast may then be repeated after the company takes the first sip.

Finnish Toasts

The host will usually propose a toast to the visitors and to the business relationship. This should be reciprocated with a toast led by the leader of the visiting group. After that, there is no particular protocol, although speeches might be made and further toasts offered.

French Toasts

“A vote santé” (to your health) or the shorter “Santé!” or “Tchin” (cheers) are standard toasts. Glasses are generally raised as the toast is made and are sometimes clinked together before the first sip is taken.

German Toasts

The host gives the first toast. An honored guest should return the toast later in the meal

The most common toast with wine is ‘Zum Wohl!’ (‘good health’).

The most common toast with beer is ‘Prost!’ (‘good health’).

You should always touch all the glasses you can reach at your table when someone makes a toast.

When making a toast, it is important to maintain direct eye contact from the time the glass is raised, until it is placed back on the table. If many people are being toasted, make eye contact with each individual around the table as you make the toast. This rule becomes even more important to remember as you move west to east through Germany.

Greek Toasts

The host gives the first toast.

An honored guest should return the toast later in the meal.

The most common toast is “to your health”, which is “stinygiasou” in informal situations and “eis igían sas” at formal functions.

The typical toast in Greece is “ya mas” meaning “to our health.” You may also make a toast to your hosts, as well as to a successful business relationship.

Irish Toasts

Toasts are usually reserved for occasions among family or friends, such as weddings and birthdays, but it is not uncommon to make an informal toast at a business meal. If you make a toast, keep it short.

Italian Toasts

The host gives the first toast.

An honored guest should return the toast later in the meal.

Women may offer a toast.

“Salute” [to your health] is a common toast, or, more informally, “cin-cin.”

Norwegian Toasts

The host makes a small speech and offers the first toast.

It is not expected but would be appreciated if you toasted your host, especially if you are invited to a private home.

You will generally find that during a dinner party there might be many toasts throughout the evening. At a large dinner party, speeches will take place throughout the evening.

People usually stand to make toasts. On such occasions, the person seated to the left of the host will make a takk for maten (thank you for the food) speech. If you find yourself seated to the left of the host in this situation, it is unlikely that they will expect you to know that you should make a toast to thank them for the food.

Business dinners might not include constant toasting.

The Norwegian word for cheers is skol. For a formal toast, look into the eyes of the person being toasted and give a slight nod, then sal Skal. Before putting your glass down, meet the other person’s eyes and nod.

Women may offer toasts.

Toasts are made with alcoholic beverages, but not beer.

When someone is being toasted, raise your glass, look at the person, take a sip, look at the person again, and then return the glass to the table.

Women must put down their glasses first after a toast.

Portuguese Toasts

Portuguese people will often toast to health, “Saude!” (pronounced sah-ood), or will merely say “Tchin tchin,” an onomatopoeic toast replicating the sound of glasses clinking.

Spanish Toasts

The host gives the first toast.

An honored guest should return the toast later in the meal.

A typical toast would be “Salud,” which means “Good health!”

It is acceptable for a woman to make a toast.

Swedish Toasts

The most common toast is ‘ skål’, pronounced ‘skoal.’ Do not consume your drink until the host or hostess has said ‘ skål ‘; only then, should you take your glass and raise it.

Always wait for the host to say ‘welcome’ before you can start sipping your wine. The welcome toast will always be said with the wine and not with the aperitif. Wait for the host or hostess to make the first toast; after that, you can propose one.

Maintain direct eye contact from the moment the glass is raised to the moment it is placed back down on the table. If many people are being toasted, make eye contact with each individual as you make the toast. Do not begin eating until the host has proceeded to do so.

Allow hosts and seniors in rank and age to toast first.

After making a toast, the men wait for the women to put their glasses down first. Do this immediately. It can be annoying for men to wait too long for women to put their glasses down.

Swiss Toasts

When proposing a toast, wait until everyone has been served a drink (whether it is wine or mineral water) and then say, “Prost” (cheers, in German).

The toast in German-speaking Switzerland is prost; in French-speaking Switzerland, it is votre santé or simply santé; in Italian-speaking Switzerland, salute. After your host has proposed a toast, look directly at him or her and respond, preferably in the local language. Then, clink glasses with everyone at the table, or at least those within your reach. Only then may you take your first sip.

Middle Eastern Toasts

Toasts are not appropriate in a Muslim society. Alcohol is prohibited, and you should never request it.

Israeli Toasts

The toast “lechaim” (to life) is said whenever alcohol is served. Toasts are only made at formal occasions or sometimes when a contract is signed.

It is acceptable to just touch the glass to your lips if you don’t wish to swallow the contents.

Pakistani Toasts

There are no toasts in Pakistan.

UAE Toasts

Simple, informal toasts involve raising a glass and saying “Cheers.” At more formal gatherings, glasses are raised in response to a speech, and a group response is elicited.

Central American Toasts

Columbian Toasts

Allow the host to be the first to make the toast; then you might wish to make one.

Costa Rican Toasts

Toasts are made more often than not. Ticos make toasts to their families mostly, for it is the core of their daily lives.

Salvadoran Toasts

When proposing a toast, people just raise the glass and say, “Salud!”

You should always offer your own toast and should say something to the effect that you are pleased to be in El Salvador after hearing so much about it. Then commend the people for treating you in such a family-like manner.

At the beginning of a meal, someone says “Buen provecho!” (Enjoy your food!). This is the most common social toast, and while not said as a toast in the strictest sense of the word, it’s a must for anyone eating with Salvadorans.

Guatemalan Toasts

The standard toast is to raise your glass and say, “Salud!”

You should always offer your own toast: say how pleased you are to be in Guatemala and commend everyone for treating you in such a family-like manner.

Panamanian Toasts

Panamanians sometimes say “Salud!” (health) before a drink. Otherwise there are no typical toasts or specific protocols to follow when making toasts.

North American Toasts

American Toasts

The guest of honor is toasted and should reciprocate by giving a toast of thanks.

Simple, informal toasts involve raising a glass and saying “Cheers.” At more formal gatherings, glasses are raised in response to a speech, and a group response is elicited.

Canadian Toasts

Simple, informal toasts involve raising a glass and saying “Cheers.” At more formal gatherings, glasses are raised in response to a speech, and a group response is elicited.

The host normally offers first toast. Wait until everyone is served wine and a toast is proposed before drinking. it is acceptable for women to propose a toast.

In formal situations, the host gives the first toast. An honored guest should return the toast later in the meal. Women may give toasts.

If you are invited out to a pub in Canada, please keep in mind that each person is expected to pay for a round of drinks. Neglecting your turn to pay for a round will create a bad impression.

Mexican Toasts

Only men give toasts.

The common toast is Salud! (for health). The most senior host or visitor usually initiates a toast.

South American Toasts

Argentinean Toasts

If you are toasted, return the favor. In Argentina, ‘Salud!’ or ‘Cheers!’ are popular toasts.

Bolivian Toasts

Wait for a toast to be made before taking the first sip of your drink.

The host makes the first toast.

The most common toast is “Salud!”

When you lift your glass, look at the person being toasted.

Chilean Toasts

Wait for a toast to be made before taking the first sip of your drink.

The host makes the first toast.

The most common toast is “Salud!”

When you lift your glass, look at the person being toasted.

If you are toasted, return the favor. In Chile, ‘Salud!’ or ‘Cheers!’ are popular toasts.

Before taking the first sip of a drink, you say “salud,” which means “to your health,” and be sure to look your host in the eyes. If a formal business proposal is being discussed, a toast is made to the success of the future deal, contract or agreement or to the person or company involved.

Ecuadorian Toasts

Toasts in Ecuador are usually impromptu.

The person making the toast stands when proposing the toast and remains standing until all present have had a taste of wine.

If the toast is directed to a visitor, the visitor will be expected to reciprocate.

Peruvian Toasts

Peruvians say “salud” for a toast, and everyone lifts their glasses and drinks the first sip at the same time. It is rude for a visitor to start drinking alone (for the first drink). Once a business deal has been achieved, the host may make a more formal toast. The guest may respond with a brief speech or may simply smile and thank the host.

Venezuelan Toasts

Wait for a toast to be made before taking the first sip of your drink. Venezuelans typically toast with the word ‘salud’.

The host makes the first toast.

Toasts are common in Venezuela, and it is not unusual for a host to offer a toast in honor of a visitor. A toast of this kind should be acknowledged with a smile and a cheerful attitude. A visitor should be careful not to drink before the toast or while the toast is being offered, as this may be considered insulting.

Everything you ever wanted to know about…


Do you like a Childwickbury or do you prefer a bit of Corleggy? Fancy a Cropwell Bishop or are you more of a Cave Rebel kind of chap?

What on earth am I talking about?  CHEESE!


From Abbot’s Gold to Zigljen Iz Mosta, from as far north as Iceland to the very south of Chile, this has been a staple of our diet for thousands of years.

And so after the world’s best wine website, here’s undoubtedly the best cheese site to complement it perfectly:

Dinner trains delight rail fans & foodies alike

Here’s a great article from USA Today on a must-do train journey in California’s delicious Napa Valley!

The Napa Valley Wine Train completed a program for the experimental conversion of an ALCO locomotive to 60% natural gas and 40% diesel fuel mixture. Starting in 2003, the locomotive went into service using 100% compressed natural gas. (Photo: Napa Valley Wine Train)

The Napa Valley Wine Train completed a program for the experimental conversion of an ALCO locomotive to 60% natural gas and 40% diesel fuel mixture. Starting in 2003, the locomotive went into service using 100% compressed natural gas. (Photo: Napa Valley Wine Train)