Endless hours of sunshine paired with sizzling heat. Sevilla in August is nothing for the faint hearted. This is when Sevillans desert their city, head to the beach and leave Seville to sun worshipping tourists. A sun seeker by profession, La bonne Vivante took the opportunity to escape the cold front which had spread across Switzerland and head to sunny Andalucia!
Seville, Andalucia’s capital offers amazing food and a fascinating mix of Moorish and Spanish design. Sevilla is a compact city and its major sights can be visited within a day. However, Seville isn’t just about its admittedly impressive historic sights. Instead, its relaxed atmosphere invites visitors to indulge in long leisurely lunches “tapeando”, an activity which consists of hopping from one Tapa restaurant to the next, strolling through the cobbled streets of Santa Cruz and enjoying the flamenco filled atmosphere. In August the sweltering heat reduces anybody’s urge to move to a bare minimum, making Seville an excellent place to decelerate.
What to do:
Cathedral: Sevilla’s cathedral is an absolute must see. It is the world’s largest gothic church and the third largest church only surpassed by the Vatican and Westminster Abby.
The cathedral hosts various monuments and tombs amongst them. Its most famous “resident” is Cristofer Columbus whose tomb rests upon four carriers who represent Spain’s former kingdoms.
Make sure you climb up the Giralda, the Cathedral’s impressive bell tower which offers a stunning 360 Degree view of Sevilla.
The Alcazar is another absolute must see. A deserving Unesco world heritage, this gem combines gothic and Moorish architecture, historic paintings and beautiful gardens. It has been the setting of many historic events and also served as a set for movies such as Lawrence of Arabia and, more recently, for the 5th session of Game of Thrones.
Tip: To ditch the queues and learn more about this impressive sight, take a guide.
Flamenco Show: Visiting a Flamenco show is an absolute must when in Seville. The unusual tonation paired with a dance performance which express a full range of emotions anywhere from utter rage to sheer euphoria can be a bit unusual for a Flamenco newbie. Go for a 1 hour show to see if you like it. Whilst I won’t be downloading Flamenco songs for my Sunday afternoon chill play list any time soon, the dance performance and guitar play were interesting to watch.
Where to eat:
Seville is arguably the capital of Tapas and whilst you will find non-Spanish cuisine here we indulged in Spanish local food. The small plate concept of Tapas makes it particularly easy to snack your way through the menu and by the end of your trip you will have selected your all-time favourite Tapas. A downside of visiting in August is that some restaurants will be closed due to the holiday season. Therefore, we were left with a somewhat smaller set of choices.
Azotea: This restaurant has an overall 3 branches spread across Seville. Compared to Seville’s mainly traditional Tapas Restaurants, Azotea’s menu is a refreshingly innovative take on Spanish cuisine. The tomato burrata salad topped with lemon sorbet was delicious and so was a chocolate cake served with orange blossom ice cream.
Tip: You can’t reserve a table here however if you call them in advance, your name will be put on the waiting list and you’ll be given seating priority when you get there. To reduce your waiting time come early (anything prior to 9.00 pm is considered early for dinner in Spain).
Lobo Lopez is a rather new outlet which offers Spanish cuisine with an interesting twist. The restaurant doesn’t offer outdoor seating however the airconditioned patio is lovely too. Try the truffled carpaccio which is amazing! The service is beyond friendly and helpful and will go out of their way to ensure that you have a good time here.
Where to have a drink:
The bar of EME hotel offers a great view of Seville’s Cathedral and barkeepers who will fill your glasses very generously. Head here for a night cap (or perhaps two).
If your itinerary allows for it, take a trip to Cordoba which is only a 40 minute train ride from Seville. This cute city houses the Mezquita, a mosque which was transformed into a church showcasing impressive Moorish architecture coupled with Castellian design. The dimly lit Mezquita provides a feel of what it must have been like to live in Cordoba 500 years ago. The city itself is well worth a stroll.
There might be people considering “dolce far niente” overrated. After a stressful 15 months completing an MBA whilst working full time, La Bonne Vivante decided to actively indulge in complete passiveness. Sounds like a contradiction? Not at all, it is an art to elegantly display yourself on a sunbed at a fashionable beach club, take a “tuffo” in the dark blue, crystal clear waters and contemplate difficult decisions such as whether lunch will be fish or linguine all’astice. Normally an active traveller, this week was all about delightful passiveness and I loved every minute of it. Let’s begin our journey where it started, in beautiful Positano.
What to do:
Positano is lives and breathes stunning views. Stroll around the pittoresque town, have an aperitif at the Sirenuse, Positano’s most luxurious hotel and pick a restaurant for dinner. This might a tough decision because most restaurants here offer fantastic pasta and seafood and beautiful views. There is also some last minute beach outfit shopping to be done here and you’ll find some cute little shops offering cotton dresses, hats and sandals.
Where to eat:
There are plenty of great restaurants at Positano. This time we had dinner at Next2 which offers an elegant setting, fantastic fish, friendly service and excellent truffle pasta, a rare non seafood option for my seafood detesting travel companion.
Where to stay:
This time La Bonne Vivante stayed at Hotel Miramare. Its rooms have a decisively local appeal with stone floors and Italian décor. The balcony offers a spectacular view and as this hotel is not so high up it is only 5 minutes to the beach and ferries.
From here, head to Capri, the most glamorous of the islands in the Napoletanian sea. The ferry takes approximately 1 hour and offers scenic views. Upon arrival you will be met with Capri’s epic beauty which has inspired countless movies and made it a jet set all time favourite. During the day the island can feel rather cramped due to the many day trip tourists which land here by ferry from Sorrento, Positano and Ischia but it depends where you go and there are places which offer a more intimate feel even in high season.
What to do:
Explore by sea: No Capri vacation is complete without a boat trip. A half day trip will cost approximately 250 Euros. A boat trip provides an overview of the island’s shape and will take you to the most important grottos, amongst them of course the famous grotto azurro. There will be a 20 minute waiting time to switch to one of the small wooden boats which will bring you into the grotto azurro. Mind the entrance which is very small and your boatman will ask you to lean on the floor so that you don’t dump your head. Inside the grotto enjoy the shades of blue which have made this grotto so famous. Swimming isn’t allowed here but take a swim at the Grotto Verde which offers beautiful green water. Have your captain drop you off at one of the beach clubs for lunch and spend the rest of the day there.
Lounge in the sun: Spend the day at the beach club. Fontelina is Capri’s most famous beach club but if you can’t score a sun bed there Da Luigi is only a few meters from Fontelina. In my view it offers more stunning views right in front of the famous Faroglini roks, a more relaxed atmosphere, a great restaurant.
Where to eat:
As the name suggests, Restaurant Panorama offers a breathtaking view of Capri and traditional Italian cuisine.
La Terrazza Brunella offers good food, and a traditional and uber-romantic dining room complete with candles and roses. The food is excellent (try the stuffed Zucchini) but the room can get a bit sticky in the summer and the loveky jazz music seemed a tad too loud when we were there.http://www.terrazzabrunella.com/
Da Paolino is somewhat off the beaten track. Once you get there you will be rewarded by a dining garden full of lemon trees which provide much needed shade. The restaurant is large but the beautiful setting give it a romantic and intimate air. The food is nothing to write home about but decent enough and of course the Limoncello is godly. https://paolinocapri.com/it/
After 3 days we leave this stunning island for Ischia, Capri’s more rustic sister. Only a 1 hour ferry ride, Ischia couldn’t be more different. It responds to Capri’s glamour, international jet set steep prices by being proudly Italian, authentic and affordable.
What to do:
A rather large island, it is advisable to rent a car for a round tour of the island and visit its thermal baths and beaches. At night head to Ischia town to stroll around the busy streets and have an aperitif.
Visit Sant Angelo by boat from Barano which will only cost you a 3 Euro ferry per person or drive there by car. The cute little village boasts some romantic restaurants and elegant shops.
Where to eat:
Despite its rustic appeal, Ischia houses two 1 star and one 2 star Michelin restaurants.
Our favourite restaurant by far and a definite must visit is Il Monastero which sits on top of the Castello Aragone, one of Ischia’s most famous sight s and offers absolutely breath taking views, fantastic food which can hold it up with Michelin starred restaurants coupled with very affordable prices and extra attentive staff. Before coming here for dinner visit the tower which is stunning. Bring enough time as it will take at an hour to visit the tower and take in all of the beautiful views of Procida, Naples and the Vesuvio.
Where to stay:
Hotels in Ischia tend to be more rustic than in Capri or Positano. If you prefer a more glamorous choice head to L’albergo Regina in Lacco Ameno or to Terme Manzi.
With this we say Arrivderci and vow to return soon.
After a few days in Kyoto it was time to head to Japan bustling capital. Tokyo blends ancient traditions and edgy modernism like no other place and although a 2.5 hour train ride from Kyoto, it evokes a completely different vibe. Dotted with countless Michelin starred restaurants and roof top bars offering jaw dropping views, Tokyo has what it takes to please even the most fastidious foodies.What’s more, countless stores ranging from edgy to elegant make it a shopping paradise.
Where to stay: The Conrad offers perfect luxury, spacious and tastefully decorated rooms and world class concierge service.
What to do:
The Sensoji is Tokyo’s unique landmark. The Buddhist temple is located in Asakusa. Completed in 645 it is also Tokyo’s oldest temple. The legend says that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always returned to them. Consequently, Sensoji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon.
Meji Jingu is a Shinto shrine devoted to the spirit of the late Emperor Meiji and his wife located amidst a serene park.
Tokyo’s Skytree is an unmissable sight in Tokio. The world’s tallest free-standing broadcast tower offers fantastic views of the metropolis.
Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto shrine which commemorates Japan’s war deads. The shrine was founded in 1869. Yasukuni Shrine is however a controversial sight as 14 war criminals have been enshrined here. The televised visits by several Japanese prime ministers including Shinzo Abe lead to regular hot debates on the issue.
Sake Tasting: If you can spare some time head to a Sake tasting to explore the variety of Sakes and apply your newly gained insights when selecting a Sake to go along with your dinner. A good place to do so is Meishu Center. You don’t need to reserve and come by anytime within their opening hours. Although the name might suggest otherwise this is a small, simple standing bar with with English speaking staff.
Where to eat:
Let us turn to the quintessential – Food. Tokyo does have a lot to offer however if you’d only come here for one night to feast on Sushi, you’d be forgiven.
Japan’s food and its Sushi restaurants are simply unrivaled and will leave your taste buds in euphoria. Yes, it is that good. I’ll admit that during my 3 day stay I had sushi every night but je ne regrette rien!
Sushi Sora: For spectular food and views, head to Sushi Sora. Situated on the 38th floor of the Mandarin Oriental. With only 10 seats, the Sushi Sora provides an intimate and elegant atmosphere. The counter, made of Japanese Cyprus is a work of art and so is the amazing array of makis and sashimis all artfully prepared by our charming Sushi Chef.http://www.mandarinoriental.de/tokyo/fine-dining/sushi-sora/
Prior to Dinner, have an aperitif at the hotel’s bar located on the 37th floor and indulge in a variety of fantastic cocktails. My personal recommendation is the Grand Bamboo, a cocktail served with a rather unusual ingredient; smoke.
Ding Tai Fung:
For me, no vacation in Asia is complete without a Dim Sum meal at my favourite restaurant “Din Tai Fung”. With outlets in many large cities in the world, Ding Tai Fun initially started at an unassuming outlet in Taipei and has since become THE restaurant for dim sums which will leave you longing for more. We ventured to a branch in one of Ginza’s shopping centers but there are a couple of them in Tokyo. Do not miss the truffle dim sums and pair them with a refreshing Bellini – Absolute perfection!
The Hyatt’s New York Bar has been famous ever since “Lost in Translation” was filmed here. Nonetheless, the great life music and cosmopolitan atmosphere are reason enough to come here.
Secret Spot: High Five is a hidden gem. Located in the basement of a quite street of Tokyo’s posh Ginza district this tiny bar has a Woody Allenish feel to it. Most surprisingly there is no menu. Instead, you will be asked for your preferences and the bartenders will whisk up something for you. Enjoy their spectularly innovative cocktails while chatting away with the international bartenders and other guests. We had a delightful evening here.
How to get there: We flew KLM Business with a stop-over in Amsterdam. Although this will take you slightly longer than a direct flight from Zurich, it is somewhat more price savvy and the service and food are excellent.
Japan offers a vast array of experiences. Sublime elegance and understatement are created by a country which seems to be on a joint mission to pursue perfection in even the tiniest of details. It is unique mix of traditions and exhilarating modernism which never fails to fascinate me. In Japan both past and future co-exist and it is this mix which represents Japan’s unique charm. It goes without saying that Japan is also a must visit for every true foodie to experience mouth-watering fresh food aesthetically displayed coupled with innovative cocktails offering intriguing taste compositions. You have come to food paradise!
This was my third time visiting Japan I spent an unforgettable time in Kyoto and Tokyo.
Kyoto is only a two and a half hour train ride from Tokyo however the two cities couldn’t be further apart. With its serene temples and gardens, Kyoto is the epitome of Japanese tradition. No other city in Japan represents this ancient culture more authentically. The city offers a vast number of temples and will leave you spoilt for choice. Wandering through the tiny alleys and shops instantly puts visitors back a hundred years. Make sure you carve out a few days to experience this fascinating city.
What to do:
The golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) is one of the most beautiful temples in Japan. The Zen Temple’s floors are completely covered in gold leaf and set in a serene garden. Locals say that the temple is best to be visted on a rainy day, providing it with a particularly mystic ambiance. La bonne Vivante was in luck, it was indeed raining when we visited.The Pure Water (Kiyomizudera) is another famous temple in Kyoto. It was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall and was added to the list of UNESCO World heritages in 1994.
Whilst in Kyoto La bonne Vivante decided to attend a traditional tea ceremony. Camellia, the tea house of our choice is located in a former Geisha residence and the original layout has been retained. The tea ceremony as such was intriguing and followed the traditional routine of tool cleaning, preparing the matcha and serving the tea whilst accurately placing the rim. Who ever thought that having a cuppa could be so complicated!https://www.tea-kyoto.com/
La Bonne Vivante loved the end result and bought her very own Matcha tea set on the return flight back home.
Buy a Kimono
There is literally no better place to buy a Kimono than in Kyoto, the city of Geishas. Venture through Kyoto’s shopping district and you will find a few specialized stores offering handmade Kimonos.
I found a beautiful cream coloured kimono patched with gold in one of these tiny stores in Kyoto’s main shopping area.
Where to stay:
This is an easy one. When it comes to places to stay there really only is one option: a traditional Ryokan. For a truly unforgettable experience choose Tawaraya which is famed to be Japan’s most beautiful Ryokan. Booking a room is an adventure already. The Tawaraya has no email address and reservations are only accepted via fax!
Frequented by the likes of Hitchcock, Jean Paul Sartre and Steve Jobs the Tawaraya has become a true institution. Whilst not particularly noticeable from the outside, this gem reveals its beauty in the small details. The service is impeccable, its design is authentically minimalistic and the traditional Kaseiki food served by a personal waitress is a lifetime experience. Make sure you visit the adorable library which features Japanese art books and is so tiny that it reminded me of a dollhouse. Take a bath in the coffin like wooded tub, then get dressed in your Kimono, enjoy a 7 course Kaseiki dinner served in your very own suite and decelerate in your private garden. The Tawaraya isn’t cheap (be prepared to pay 1’200 Euros for one night including dinner for two) however well worth this lifetime experience. For reservations call: +81 75-211-5566
Imagine a beautiful alpine scenery bathed in sunlight, crisp mountain air and a full day of skiing ahead of you. Now imagine having all of this exclusively to yourself for an entire day. What a delightful idea! For the past 6 years, the Grand Tschuggen Hotel Arosa has been offering this experience to their guests and La bonne Vivante was thrilled to take part at this year‘s 7th “Private Mountain” event in collaboration with the watchmaker Parmigiani.
Once a brainchild of Leo Maissen, the Tschuggen Grand’s hotel director Private Mountain event has long become an institution attracting loyal guests, journalists and bloggers who plan their entire year around this special occiasion.
The Tschuggen Grand Hotel is a luxurious hotel which combines traditional elegance and old-world alpine heritage. It is set on the exclusive hilltop area of Arosa, which offers a stunning view of the grand mountain scenery. La Bonne Vivante had the pleasure to stay here twice and while there are certainly plenty of luxurious hotels in Switzerland, the Tschuggen Grand Hotel stands out for a number of reasons:
The service at the Tschuggen Grand Hotel is outstanding and very personal evoking an atmosphere of pampered luxury. The very friendly and efficient reception desk checked us in at no time and the restaurant staff was both professional and attentive. Our ski gear was stowed away in our ski lockers right away and when it was time to leave, our car was packed up immaculately. What struck us in particular was the personal level with which guests are attended here. We believe much of this exceptional service has to do with Leo Maissen who is a role model of hospitality and is involved in the slightest of details to ensure that guests are spoiled throughout their stay making it their “home away from home”.
Aesthetically pleasing, this Spa is a true haven for relaxation. Designed by the famed Mario Botta, it is an architectural gem, which integrates geometry, water and various materials on 5000 square meters providing a beautiful surrounding to while away the hours. Take a dip into the pool with its very own waterfall or relax in the mountain sauna or steam bath. This Spa is a perfect precursor to an active day spent on Arosa’s slopes or hiking trails. If you are looking for a treatment, we recommend the Tschuggen’s signature massage, which combines various massage techniques all resulting in blissful relaxation.
The Michelin starred Restaurant:
Gourmets are in luck; La Vetta, the hotel’s Michelin starred restaurant offers contemporary, refined cuisine based on local ingredients. The kitchen, helmed by Uwe Seegert provides a changing menu according to available ingredients. Not to be missed!
The Tschuggen Express:
The Tschuggen Express was introduced in 2009. The hotel’s very own mini-train takes hotel guests up the hill and directly onto the slopes and hiking trails. The journey itself is a short 2.5 minutes making ski buses obsolete. With a gradient of 52% it is also a fun ride. Make sure to buckle up if you are seated on the right hand side of the train.
The private mountain experience:
After a sumptous breakfast, we got into our ski gear and took a ski lift up the Arosa mountains for a day of fun and snow. Our lift stops were sweetened by booths offering hot chocolate, wine and soup. Up on the mountain, the Tschuggen Grand Hotel’s team had arranged for a ski race including Archery and Can Throwing which we truly enjoyed. A group of nostalgic skiiers headed by Leo Meissen provided for an old-school alpine charm amidst perfectly manicured slopes albeit the lack of recent snowfall. A ski instructor was assigned to help us explore the wide slopes and provide discretionary ski lessons to those who hadn’t been on the skis for a while.
Another highlight was the launching of Parmigiani’s balloon up on the mountain top. We had lunch at Hörnli Hütte, a quaint, rustic mountain restaurant where we enjoyed hearty Älpermagronen. After a descent to the valley we completed our ski day with a delicious, hot „Aperol Spritz“. For many, this day represented the prelude to the skiing season and what a glamorous start it was indeed!
After a long day on the slopes we visited the Tschuggen’s Spa Oasis, relaxed our sore muscles and marvelled the beautiful interior design.
Re-energized and wonderfully relaxed, we dressed up in Dirndls and Leather pants to join the „Heidi and Peter“ Party which started with an apero, was followed by a delicous and hearty farmer’s meal and concluded with a fun night dancing to the tunes of the life band.
Wistfully, we say goodbye to the Tschugen Grand hotel. We had a truly fantastic stay at this very special hotel and vow to return soon!
Also referred to as the Switzerland of Asia Singapore is always worth a visit. While Singapore is a transfer stop over for some of the most splendid beach vacations such as Bali and Khrab,i it is an attraction in its very own right. With countless award winning restaurants, an Asian melting pot and the Marina bay, Singapore is definitely worth a visit. Now, its convenient small size allows for many of the attractions to be visited within a day or two. La bonne Vivante combined her visit to Singapore with a splendid beach vacation in Binan, Indonesia.
What to see:
Gardens by the bay which opens by the way showcases an array of trees, flowers and gardens in the center of the city. The Supertree hosts an Indochine restaurant. Marvel the view from upstairs. The entrance fee of 10 Singapore Dollars includes a soft drink.
Marina Bay Shopping Center includes a variety of top notch brands such as a gigantic Chanel store and Louis Vuitton’s island maison, an architectural gem. Also, you’ll find a large variety of great restaurants including my favorite Ding Tai Fun, the Taiwanese dim sum restaurant which offers beyond delicious dim sums filled with delicacies such as truffle and shrimps.
Where to stay: The Parkroyal at Pickering offers an amazing view of the city. The building, surrounded by lush vegetation is beautiful and also boasts an infinity pool with a beautiful view of Singapore’s skyline. The service is simply impeccable. I wouldn’t want to stay anywhere else when in Singapore
From Singapore it is only a 1 one hour ferry ride to the island of Bintan to Indonesia. You can buy your ferry ticket right at the Terminal however make sure to be there at least an hour in advance. Getting to the ferry from Lagoi will only take 15 minutes and most resorts provide pick up service. Bintan is a quaint Indonesian island which offers a variety of water sports such as jet skiing, scuba diving, snorkeling and stand up paddeling. It is also the perfect place for long walks on the pristine beaches of Lagoi, getting pampered and enjoying the Indonesian cuisine.
Where to stay:
The Banyan Tree is Bintan’s most exclusive resort set Bintan’s lush vegetation right on the beach. The quaint villas allow for a maximum of privacy and offer a great view. The 3 restaurants at the resort cater Indonesian, Thai and European cuisine. The Treetop Restaurant with an Indonesian menu and beautiful views of Bintan’s view was my favorite.
The Agsana resort just steps away from the Banyan Tree is a more economic option. The resort offers a great choice of complimentary activities such as Yoga and Jogging classes. The spa deserves special mentioning as it offers fantastic treatments such as a classic Javanese oil massage or an Indian head massage. The staff is skilled and very welcoming with a lot of attention to detail. Not to miss!