It’s that time of year again — sakura, or cherry blossom viewing season in Japan. There’s no experience like walking through a park filled with cherry blossom trees and watching the tiny floral petals float down softly like fragrant snow as they blanket the ground with color. The locals throw hanami parties, festive picnic gatherings that take place under the blooming trees, which by the way are cultivated for their flowers rather than for their cherries (they don’t bear fruit). Here are some spellbinding spring images out of Japan…
Fashionable dresses made of paper? How fun is that? These adorable creations were designed by one talented little 4 year old girl and her mother. Created out of construction paper, tissue paper, wrapping paper, and gift bags as well as silk scarves, tulle, aluminum foil and whatever else is lying around the house, the dresses are then put together with clear packing tape or glue. This mini fashion designer, who goes by the name “Mayhem,” also likes to re-create red carpet dresses, giving them her own unique paper spin.
York is one of England’s most picturesque and historically rich cities. Situated halfway between London and Edinburgh in Yorkshire, York has more miles of intact medieval city walls than anywhere else in England and also boasts what is said to be the oldest shopping street in Europe. The Romans, the Saxons, and the Vikings all left their mark on York, and now it’s also one of England’s biggest university towns with a plethora of pubs as well. Budget two days to delve in and explore this dynamic city.
Zurich is a really cool city. This was my second time here, although the last time was 15 years ago, and only for a day. (Definitely not enough time to do the city justice.) Not surprisingly, this time around I found the city to be completely different from what I remembered. Grand and bustling, Zurich has all the trimmings of a financial powerhouse capital for sure, but also has quiet old town streets that feel a million miles away from all that. The train station is one of Europe’s grandest, filled with modern art on the inside and classical European architecture on the outside. Leading off from the station is Bahnhoff Straße, the grand street that runs into the heart of town.
Napa wines are famous the wold over—and for good reason. Having recently moved to San Francisco, I was dying to head over and check out what all the hype is about.
Napa valley consists of a string of tiny towns located along Hwy 29, with Napa, California at the southern end and Calistoga towards the northern end. This glamorous stretch of farmland just an hour from San Francisco is famous for cabernet sauvignon, star chefs, and volcanic mud baths. Compared to California’s other wine regions, Napa Valley embraces an almost disneyland-like commercialism, catering to tourism on a grand scale. This means more wineries and more fantastic eateries, but it also means more people. Most wineries also require reservations (due to strict zoning laws that prohibit drop-in visitors), so the best way to go about wine tasting is to book one wine tasting and plan your entire day around it, keeping your winery count to 3 or less per day. Those seeking a quieter experience will also want to check out neighboring Sonoma Valley, or Southern California’s wine jewels: Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Valley wine country.
The Dorchester is in a class of its own. One of the best hotels in all of Europe, this five-star hotel in the heart of London’s Mayfair district overlooks Hyde Park, and is the perfect destination for an extra special occasion, or just an ultra luxury retreat. Read on to find out why The Dorchester has earned our vote as 2013’s #1 hotel in the world.
Attending a performance of the Nutcracker is one of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit. The San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker is extra special since this is one of the best dance troupes in the country and the show takes place at the War Memorial Opera House, a gorgeous beaux-arts historical theater featuring plenty of gold embellishments and old-world charm. The American premier of Nutcracker first took place here on Christmas Eve in 1944, and has continued to be a San Francisco holiday tradition ever since.
As if Mana Island wasn’t beautiful enough, we island hopped to neighboring Castaway Island next, just a 20-minute easy journey. Known in Fijian as Qalito, this island is said to be sacred, and is one of the only ones owned by a local chief.
From the cruise ship, we boarded a smaller boat with the smiling locals. Castaway Island sparkled in the emerald sea, with just a tiny mound of lush greenery sloping into a cluster of thatched roofs ringed by powdery sand. The sand jutted out into the sea in a white halo, framed by rings of bright turquoise punctuated by formations of dark green from the reef below, before dissipating into a deep blue that stretched out in all directions endlessly. It was the most beautiful setting I’d seen in Fiji, and the sight of it left me awestruck.
After spending time on the northern island of Savu Savu and on Fiji’s largest island Viti Levu, it was time to head out to some of Fiji’s purest islands for some quiet beach time, underwater exploration, and surreal turquoise waters. Saving the best for last, we headed out to the Mamanuca island chain, just off the western coast of Viti Levu. Island hopping to the Mamanucas is easy and if you keep traveling north, you’ll hit the adjacent Yasawa Island chain, which is even more isolated and rugged.
Continuing on from the Eastern Coral Coast and the interior of Viti Levu, we drove westward along the southern coast, which is dotted with resorts, villages, and local temples. This time our destination was Outrigger on the Lagoon, and as we pulled into the resort driveway, the man at the gate shouted out what must have been the biggest “BUUULLLAAAA!” in Fiji—arms extended, his voice resonating in our wake. Inside, the lobby was filled with song—musicians strumming their guitars next to a breathtaking view of the ocean spread out below, making me feel like I was perched high up in a treehouse of sorts. Best of all, we were welcomed by our very own butler who brought canapés and champagne to the room.