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Category Archives: On the road (2012)

Hotel Beau Rivage – a family affair in Geneva

The Jet d’Eau on Lake Geneva

Next time you get a chance to visit Geneva, the beautiful city on the lake, why not make your stay as comfortable as possible? Check-in at the centrally located Beau Rivage, a five star luxury hotel established and still owned by the Mayer family since 1865.

The hotel is not only luxury, good service and excellent dining but a historical landmark that has witnessed events that have shaped politics over the past two centuries. For example, in 1898, the Empress Élisabeth of Wittelsbach was killed by an anarchist just as she left the hotel; and in 1918 the “birth” of Czechoslovakia was signed on its premises. The atmosphere whispers historical references, many we didn’t know, but were happy to listen to.

Hotel Beau Rivage

Beau Rivage is basically a legend among connoisseurs who come here for the ambience but also the gastronomy offered by the two restaurants – the Le Chat-Botté and Patara (fine Thai cuisine). The bar L’Atrium is known as a top meeting point for local dignitaries and international financiers.

Our stay here was very pleasant. The location next to the Geneva lake is unbeatable and the service at the reception impeccable. The room is well planned and offered everything we could ask for. The only drawback we could find was the WiFi, it was way too slow.

Make yourself at home

Make yourself at home

In 2008, Beau Rivage became the first and only luxury hotel in Geneva to get an ISO 9001-200 quality certificate from the International Organization for Standardization. In 2009, it became a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. Not bad, not bad at all.

More reviews from Geneva: Hotel Intercontinental and restaurant Auberge de Saviese.

Rating: 5/5

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2000 under 25

Today nearly 300 men and women decided to brave the Atlantic Ocean outside Maspalomas (Gran Canaria), in a swimming competition stretching from the Meloneras beach to the lighthouse, Faro de Maspalomas. The winner made the 2000 meters under 25 minutes, an impressive result bearing in mind the pretty choppy waters. Basically it was a really fun day with plenty of people out on the boardwalk watching the race.

n the boardwalk watching the race.

Celebrating World Tourism Day in Gran Canaria

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the international tourism forecast is over one billion and will contribute $2 trillion to the global economy in 2012. This makes the travel and tourism industry one of the biggest economic sectors in the world. It also contributes to the social-economic development by creating millions of jobs world-wide. However, while looking at these impressive figures, it is of course unavoidable to start thinking of some of the negative impacts mass tourism has on global natural resources due to increased transportation, air pollution, water scarcity, littering, etc. But on the positive side, there is now an increased environmental awareness among governments, corporations and tourists.

Since 1980, the World Tourism Day (WTD) is commemorated on 27 September every year to specifically acknowledge the social, cultural, political and economic values of tourism. The overall purpose is to help reaching the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This year’s theme, “Tourism and Sustainable Energy: Powering Sustainable Development”, is trying to raise the awareness of howrenewable energy can help making the tourism industry more sustainable. In a press release issued prior the conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that: “Hundreds of millions of people around the world depend for income of this energy-intensive sector. Sustainable energy will allow tourism to continue to expand while mitigating its impact on the environment.”

The official celebration of the World Tourism Day, 2012 is taking place in ExpoMeloneras Convention Centre in Gran Canaria.

This year, the official World Tourism Day celebration is taking place in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria (Spain) – a place with a long experience in both tourism and renewable energy. Gran Canaria is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, north-west of Africa, and is part of the archipelago of the Canary Islands. It is often referred to as a “miniature continent” thanks to its microclimate and varied flora and fauna (you find here a desert, beautiful pine woods, and nearly 2000 meter high mountains, all in an area of just 1,560 square kilometers). In 2005, the island was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO and each year about 3 million tourists come here from all over the world to enjoy water sports activities, hiking, golf or just to have a leisurely vacation at one of the many holiday resorts.

Receiving so many tourists every year has, of course, raised the environmental awareness in Gran Canaria and renewable energy solutions such as wind power and solar energy are vital to make the tourism industry more sustainable. By implementing a number projects related to Research, Development and Innovation, the Technological Institute of Canary Islands (ITC) aims at improving the environmental conditions and supports sustainable development in the region. ITC has many successful projects in emerging technological fields such as water technologies, biotechnology and renewable energy.

Wind power farm in Gran Canaria.

Apart from highlighting the latest achievements in sustainable energy, the World Tourism Day is of course also the perfect occasion to get familiar with various local products. If you visit Gran Canaria you must try the delicious cow, goat and sheep cheeses, the local wine, the air-dried ham and, last but not the least, the Aloe Vera (known for its moisturizing effect and used in many skin care products, make-up, shampoo, etc.)

Delicious air-dried ham from Gran Canaria.

For more information about the activities on the World Tourism Day, 2012, visit the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) official website: http://wtd.unwto.org/en. You can also follow their latest news on Twitter: #WTD2012

Mirleft – surfers paradise and Jimi Hendrix’s secret hideaway

Not many tourists know about this hidden gem. Located on the west coast of Morocco, Mirleft is not as flashy as Agadir, doesn’t have the nightlife of Casablanca or the city pulse of Marrakech. But a few people in the circle of trust know that Mirleft is the right place to be for its pristine beaches, fancy villas and a laissez-faire attitude. Most of the crowd is French well-to-do retirees but the place is now also being discovered by a hipper and younger crowd (mostly surfers) who are finding Mirleft just as cool as Jimi Hendrix did when he came here to chill out in 1969.

In Mirleft you can either rent a villa for a couple of weeks, stay in a hotel or in a bed & breakfast (several are available). The beaches are humongous with very few people, so you can easily find a private spot to enjoy the sunshine and the refreshing Atlantic water. However, don’t expect any beach restaurants (when we talk pristine we really mean it).

If you are renting a villa and prepare your own food, it’s good to know there is an excellent butcher in the village who will happily make your barbeque a tasty one (try his pork ribs, they are really yummy). There are also a few restaurants in the vicinity to enjoy some excellent lamb, different types of Tagines and mint tea.

Mirleft is located only 130 km south of Agadir, so you can easily get here by renting a car or taking a taxi.

Mirleft beach

Hotel Martinez – old-fashioned glitter, glitz and glamour

Hotel Martinez

What can we say? It seems impossible to explain in a blog post all the history, glamour and numerous stories associated with one of the most recognized names in the business – Hotel Martinez on La Croisette in Cannes. Here enter the Sam and the dunes team earlier this summer with Sam embarrassingly barking his head off. Polite faces turn, forced smiles from the staff, “Welcome to Martinez!” Personally shown to the room, water bowl brought for our four-legged friend, impeccable, absolutely impeccable.

Martinez has the biggest private beach in Cannes; the fourth most expensive suite in the world; one of the best restaurants in France and if you really want to show off, book a sun-bed on the pier for a hefty 450 Euros per day. After some tough hours at the beach, get a treatment at L. Raphael Beauty Spa to tip off your afternoon before heading over to Bar L’Amiral. Jimmy McKissic no longer plays here (Alex knew him well and these days he is a classical pianist at Carnegie Hall in New York) but the crowd is as boisterous as always. Jazz and Blues rule and cocktails flow by the gallons.

The stories never end, who did what during this or that Film Festival, celebrities going crazy and the rich indulging in everything available. With Bentleys, Ferraris and Rolls Royces constantly parked outside (just a reminder who tends to frequent Hotel Martinez), this place is visibly a goldmine for paparazzi and tabloids.

One thing, though, some of the rooms have not been refurbished for a long time so make sure to check if yours is of the new type (the old ones are OK, but not really up to the standards of this hotel).

Will we come back? You bet! (Not you, Sam, this was the last time you stayed in a five star hotel. Period.) Hotel Martinez is a one of a kind experience that you cannot match anywhere else.

Here are some photos of us enjoying Hotel Martinez.

Hanna, in her best dress

Alex, in his best hat

Sam, relaxing on the best dress and the best hat

Alain Ducasse’s classic Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo

The 2012 anniversary menu

Early on in his career, Alain Ducasse became chef at Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo where he developed restaurant Le Louis XV. Being awarded 3 Michelin stars, this gourmet restaurant is today considered one of the best in the world.

In 2012, Le Louis XV celebrates its 25th anniversary and the Sam and the dunes team decided to check out the nine course tasting menu specifically prepared for this occasion, accompanied by one glass of Dom Pérignon and FIVE different glasses of wine.

The chanterelle mushroom soup, the tender red mullet, the delicate lamb and  the chocolate soufflé made us understand the difference between a good chef and the Master. No wonder Alain Ducasse is the only one who managed to get 19 Michelin stars during his career (so far).

We’re not going to bore you with more details about how everything was perfect that evening. We only have one question: why bring out a huge trolley loaded with wonderful cheeses just to offer us tiny pieces from three of them? Apart from this minor detail the evening was impeccable.

Le Louis XV is probably a restaurant that you visit once or perhaps twice in a lifetime; to celebrate some out of this world event (winning the Monte Carlo Rally?), a diamond anniversary, or, to write a review (as we did). To sum it up, Le Louis XV is a culinary masterpiece and Alain Ducasse never seizes to amaze.

Here comes the rain again

When we thought that it possibly couldn’t rain anymore, it suddenly started to pour again. If you by any chance travelled to Sweden this summer, you know exactly what we are talking about. The non-existing summer.

Let’s take a look at some interesting figures (weather statistics are fascinating, aren’t they? No?) The month of June was, for example, the coldest in Sweden for the past 20 years, and, as if this wasn’t unfortunate enough, it was also the rainiest summer in a 100 years. Imagine, 100 years!!  (It is not like Sweden is known for its tropical summers anyway.) But bad luck doesn’t end here. Of course, the Sam and the dunes team decided to come over on this particular summer. Boy, that’s what we call bad timing. (Later on we would end up in Rome during the worst heatwave in many years, but that’s a totally different story.)

OK, luckily we had the camera with us so we could share with you this somewhat depressing slideshow. Enjoy!

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All roads lead…back to the hotel

The Spanish Steps, 5 o’clock in the morning

We went to Rome ealier this month. OK we forgot to tell you that but honestly we don’t have very much to report. And the reason is spelled H.E.A.T.W.A.V.E.

Of course we were aware it can be apocalyptically hot in Italy during the summer months but this was ridiculous. Hanna’s nail polish and Alex’s hair wax were melting away before they even finished putting it on. Not to mention Sam who was begging to go back to the Sahara desert. For starters:

– We had to stay in our Hotel between 10AM and 8PM. We just couldn’t go outside since it was way too hot to handle.

– To see any of the most important historical sights, like the Coliseum, the Vatican (we hope the Pope has air-conditioning), we had to get up at 5AM!! This was supposed to be a relaxing holiday not boot camp, right?

The first morning we went to the Coliseum. Yep, we made it! But when it was time to go back to the hotel the heat was just unbearable so we had to take a taxi. To make a long story short – we spent a fortune on taxi rides to various historical sights. Trust us, we were NOT planning to see Rome from the backseat of a car licking on an ice cream to keep cool.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, well, it did. Later in August the temperature went up to 40C and take a look at what happened as soon as we left the city: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/climate-weather/stories/italy-heatwave-brings-down-historic-wall-section-in-rome

In the footsteps of Brigitte Bardot and Yves Montand

Shopping street in St. Tropez

Brigitte Bardot put it on the map; Yves Montand came here every year and played boule with the locals; gentry from all over the world docked at the port, descending from their yachts into the numerous restaurants and bars on offer. The clientele on the sun beaches was like a Who is Who of show business. Movies were made here and Louis de Funès became a household name in many European countries as the town’s gendarme battling both local nudists and visiting aliens.

Welcome to St. Tropez, a former fishing village turned playground for the rich and famous and the many wannabes. At first sight, it is not as luxurious as, for example, Monte Carlo, and does not have the required 10-star hotels. What it does have is a lot of charm, small cobblestone streets snaking through hills and cool restaurants. The port is packed with yachts of all shapes and sizes and the tourists overwhelm the streets during the peak summer months.

Cafe de Paris – where celebrities can find you

If you are into celebrity watching, then start your day by having a coffee at Café de Paris in the port, you may run into somebody famous (or they might run into you). Numerous sandy beaches are nearby (Nikki Beach is the famous) and you can choose between the free public ones or pay for entry and get a sun-bed with a sun-umbrella (generous, isn’t it?). Lunch is best taken at one of the beach restaurants so as not to break up the tanning routine.

The evening is made for jiving in town, have dinner at one of the restaurants piled up next to each other. We opted for Rendez-Vous and had some excellent sushi. Then off to a disco, night club or bar, depends on your preference (and age). As our readers might suspect, Hanna opted for the bar. Alex tagged along.

St. Tropez is a fun place to spend a vacation; the only drawback is that the nearest airport in Nice is almost a two-hour drive. Unless, of course, you have a yacht, then just find a place to dock and join the party!

“I don’t get it, the boat was standing right here”

Top 3 beach restaurants in Cannes (forget the hotdogs)

If you are the type who ventures into the city in the middle of the day, sweating buckets, looking for that bargain hotdog stand – stop reading now! However, if your understanding of a pleasant lunch is a glass of chilled Chablis, some exquisite food, all located a few steps from your sun-bed, then go no further, here is your ultimate guide to the best beach restaurants in Cannes.

These three places have many things in common: mouth-watering food, eye-watering prices, efficient if a bit slow service (but then again, who is in a hurry). Every summer during the fireworks festival they offer additional seating so you can view the spectacular show while chewing on a shrimp.

Miramar Plage
Miramar Plage is probably the best of the lot that caters both lunch and dinner in a pleasant setting. The food is top-end gourmet including some outstanding seafood. The wine list is extensive but avoid asking the waiter for advice, he will point you to the most exuberantly over-priced bottle and if you are as polite as Alex, you will end up buying it (poor fella). Rule of thumb: for White and Rosé pick between 30 and 60 Euros, go up slightly if you choose a Red.

Miramar Plage

Zplage Beach Restaurant, Hotel Martinez
Since we stayed at this hotel, most of the time we also ate lunch here. The food at Zplage is a concoction of traditional Mediterranean and Asian (woks are prominent on the menu). The dishes are somewhat bland, so if you are into spicy, this restaurant should not be your first choice (or ask for Tabasco, as we did). One of its claims to fame is a 54 Euro (appr. 70 USD) hamburger. We thought we found the most expensive one in Hotel La Mamounia in Marrakech, but no, this one outdoes it in price (and size). Here, Hanna recommends the shrimp wok and Alex – the Black Angus filet steak.

Carlton Beach Restaurant, Carlton Hotel
Probably the most luxurious of the three where the really glitzy crowd descends in the evening. Celebrities just can’t keep their hands and stomachs away from this place. The food, as expected, is reliably good as is the service and the ambiance. Carlton Beach Restaurant is the biggest, so during fireworks season you have a better chance of getting a table here at short notice than at the other two establishments.

Psst, between us, but keep it quiet, OK? We also went to a hotdog stand a couple of times on La Croisette. Try Le 6, top of the top. The best hotdog it town!

A peek into the kitchen at the Carlton beach restaurant

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