Monday, January 16, 2012

2011 The year in retrospect

2011: The year in Retrospect
By: Janet Steinberg

When someone tells you about a place, you hear it.  When someone shows you a picture of a place, you see it.  But when you discover that place yourself, you remember it.
Be it volcanoes or earthquakes, sunshine or storms, glaciers or gastronomic journeys…the experiences we have are what we remember throughout our lifetime. Come along with me as I share with you my favorite experiences of 2011.

SOUTH AMERICAN CRUISE: SILVERSEA’S SILVER WHISPER dream cruise sailed me south…way south…on a 3902-nautical-miles voyage from Buenos Aires, Argentina, through the Strait of Magellan, to Valparaiso, Chile. Port stops included: Punta del Este and Montevideo (Uruguay); Puerto Madryn (Argentina); Port Stanley (Falkland Islands); Punta Arenas, Laguna San Rafael Glacier, Puerto Chacabuco, and Puerto Montt (all in Chile).

Silver Whisper docked in Punta Arenas, Chile.

CARIBBEAN CRUISE: SEABOURN’S QUEST sailed me to paradisiacal islands such as Isla Catalina and Mayreau where Seabourn Quest included a unique “Caviar in the Surf” beach barbecue with complimentary water sports. Even if the Quest hadn’t stopped at any ports, sailing on this magnificent new (2011) luxury vessel would have been enough of a destination in and of itself.

Seabourn Quest staff sets up Caviar in the Surf at
Isla Catalina, Dominican Republic.

AEGEAN CRUISE: CRYSTAL SERENITY’S “Aegean Dreams Cruise” from Istanbul, Turkey to Venice, Italy sailed me some 1920 statute miles to far away places with strange sounding names like Kusadasi (Turkey); Mykonos, Santorini, and Athens (Greece); Kotor (Montenegro); and Dubrovnik (Croatia).  Perfect weather, perfect seas, perfect cruise!

Crystal Serenity docked in Kotor, Montenegro appears
to be sitting on the sidewalk.

MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE: CRYSTAL SERENITY’S “Capitals of Art & Architecture” cruise sailed me some 1852 miles from Barcelona, Spain to Venice, Italy.  Her ports of pure pleasure included over-nighting aboard the ship in Barcelona (Spain). Cannes (France); Sorrento and Venice (Italy). Day stops included visits to Rome and Florence (Italy) and Dubrovnik (Croatia).

EUROPEAN HOTEL: ISTANBUL’S CIRAGAN PALACE KEMPINSKI, dramatically situated on the shores of the Bosphorus, is the only Ottoman Imperial Palace in Istanbul that is a five-star hotel.  Once the home of Ottoman sultans, the Ciragan Palace Kempinski graciously combines Ottoman-era sophistication with 21st century technology. Ciragan Palace Kempinski blends luxury, grandeur, glamour, and history in perfect harmony.

Ciragan Palace Kempinski, Istanbul.

SOUTH AMERICAN HOTEL: ALVEAR PALACE, the legendary Buenos Aires hotel is consistently voted one of the world’s best hotels.  A true palace and undisputed symbol of the Belle Époque era, the Alvear Palace formally opened its doors in 1932.  Guests are pampered with the likes of personal butler service on every floor.  Old World European elegance meets state-of-the-art technology at the Alvear Palace.

DOMESTIC HOTEL: EMBASSY SUITES FT. LAUDERDALE is not a 5-star luxury hotel like the above hotels, but it ranks #1 as my best bargain hotel of the year.  This all-suite, reasonably priced hotel, offers daily complimentary cooked-to-order breakfasts and cocktail hours. Also complimentary, are a business center, an Internet Kiosk, and a Fitness Center. The hotel runs like clockwork because of its most competent General Manager Don Friedman.

 Swimming pool at Embassy Suites Ft. Lauderdale.

BEACH LUNCH: HOTEL MARTINEZ’S Zplage, a private beach club on La Croisette in Cannes, France is la dolce vita on the French Riviera.  Whether you soak up the Mediterranean sun on one of their 400 sun-beds on the fine sand beach, or on one of the hedonistic pontoon lounges, you must top off your lunch with the incredible edible dessert named “L’Or, L’Or, L’Or, Lipstick. By L’Oreal Paris.” Unique!

CELEBRATORY LUNCH: THE HOTEL CIPRIANI RESTAURANT in Venice, Italy served up a birthday lunch for my husband that was fit for the royalty that call Hotel Cipriani their home in Venice.  From the Carpaccio, that looked like a still life painting by Vincent van Gogh, to the chocolate circle of heaven known as a birthday cake, the lunch was magical.  The only thing missing was dreamy George Clooney who had checked out of the hotel the day before we arrived.

Carpaccio prepared tableside at the Cipriani Hotel Restaurant.

LUNCH WITH A VIEW: TERRAZZA BOSQUET, the open-air restaurant in Sorrento’s Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, is precariously perched on a cliff overlooking the Bay of Naples.  As I lunched on the savory Mediterranean specialties of the Campania region, I soaked up spectacular island sights.  Over the terrace’s balustrade, I glimpsed the distant mauve shades of Mt. Vesuvius.

ISLAND LUNCH: “Monk-ey Business” rules at LA TONNELLE on the water’s edge of ST. HONORAT ISLAND, the unique Lerin Island 15-minutes off the coast of Cannes, France.  St. Honorat is home to the monks of the Abbaye de Lerins who occupy the island, grow grapes, and make wine that is known to oenophiles around the world.  La Tonnelle is a convivial haven of peace offering great wines, great food, and great views of the crystal clear Mediterranean.

RESTAURANTEUR: HARRY (ARRIGO) CIPRIANI is the quintessential proprietor of some of the world’s finest restaurants.  For two decades, I have been privileged to know Harry and to dine at his restaurants around the world.  In 2011, my tastes were gloriously indulged at his newest restaurant, The Cipriani Istanbul in Turkey, and at my longtime favorite Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy.  Great host, great ambiance, great food, and great fun!!!

Harry's affable staff welcomes visitors to Harry's Bar in Venice.

TANGO SHOW: ROJO TANGO, at the Phillipe Starck-designed Hotel Faena in Buenos Aires, is the most sophisticated tango show in Buenos Aires.
This sensuous dinner show, presented in the hotel’s El Cabaret, will seduce you from the moment you take your gold seat in the velvety red room. It is the city’s most expensive tango show, but also the most passionate and the best.

TURKISH DELIGHT: TUGRA RESTAURANT, located in the original Çıragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul, presented an exquisite, romantic, dining experience. The feast began with ambience … rich Ottoman décor, live Turkish music…and the ever-stirring backdrop of the Bosphorus.  It ended with classic Ottoman cuisine and the traditional candy stick trolley "Macun" that is designed to take you to sweet dreams.

Traditional Turkish "lollipop" made tableside at Tugra.

ITALIAN FEASTS: Harry Cipriani’s CIPRIANI RESTAURANT ISTANBUL, (at the onset of my Crystal Serenity Aegean Dream Cruise from Istanbul to Venice) started my Italian culinary adventure off with their traditional Harry’s Bar Bellini (sparkling Italian Prosecca wine and peach nectar).  It culminated when that same Crystal Serenity cruise ended in Venice and I headed straight to Harry Cipriani’s HARRY’S BAR VENICE to begin my next Italian feast with another traditional Harry’s Bar Bellini.
Janet Steinberg pours a few Bellinis at Cipriani Istanbul.

SWIMMING POOL: CIRIGAN PALACE KEMPINSKI ISTANBUL’s heated infinity pool is a pool for all seasons. While minarets of steam rise around you, you can swim alongside the boats in the Bosphorus.  The stunning pool defies the summer heat with a pre-cooled towel served by the pool butler, or you can lap up the winter sun in a heated cabana.

Infinity swimming pool at Ciragan Palace.

Janet Steinberg is an award-winning travel writer and travel consultant with The Travel Authority/Altour in the Mariemont/Cincinnati office.

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