Reykjavik, Iceland – Honeymoon Experience Of a Lifetime

Close your eyes, imagine a place as green as Ireland, with the most dramatic water falls like Iguazu or Niagara.  Think of the most beautiful sheep of England, simple beaches and a volcanic landscape like no other, with peaks and valleys.  Open your eyes and you will be in Iceland.

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There are so many interesting and a vast variety of things that make Iceland such a wonderful experience that I don’t know where to begin, but I shall try.  This past June while visiting the breathtaking country, the sun apparently did set but it never became dark.  One glorious evening, we were casually strolling, exploring the hot spots of the region, and we stopped at one of the local restaurant and ran into a bar at 12:00am; we couldn’t conceive that it was still daylight outside nor that it could possibly be that late.

Two of the most alluring things about Iceland are Reykjavik (pronounced rey-ka-vik) as a city and the beauty of nature all around you in Iceland. Reykjavik is the capital and a harbour city which boasts the most spectacular views, but although being a city, it provides you the comfort of a small town. Reykjavik is a city of 32,000 inhabitants. Everything from fine dining to fish skewers to Thai food is available. While we had consistently good dining experiences, the main surprise was the cost. While their main exports are wool and lamb,  almost everything else is imported, hence the incredible cost of everything there. Be forewarned, prepare yourself for an expensive but worthwhile trip!

The natural environment will blow your mind. It is an active volcanic island comprised of sand, lava fields, mountains and glaciers. The most alluring part of Iceland has to be the landscape. The natural beauty is astounding from the terrain of volcanic moss to the hot and cold thermal waters that are hard to describe but beats any jacuzzi you’ve ever sat in.

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The famous Geysers, which derive from the Icelandic verb to gush, eruptions can happen infrequently depending on the geyser but will often gush boiling water metres high in the air.

One of the strangest experience is walking on the moss-like greenery that has grown over the volcanic rock and feels like stepping on broccoli but with a sinking effect. The juxtaposed views of green landscapes and ice capped mountains is exhilarating.

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The country has made a significant recovery since its meltdown in 2008 – no pun intended. There is evidence of this when you see the number of tourists, fine dining restaurants and a booming clubbing and bar scene that was fraught with people queuing to get into the various venues.

Reykjavik has just hosted the world’s most unique music festival, Summer Solstice which reigned over Reykjavik, for the first time from June 20-22, 2014. What made it different? The sun did not set over the three days and there was straight sunlight for 72 hours. The festival attracted over 10,000 people to their Icelandic shores to listen to the likes of Massive Attack, Banks, School Boy Q, Disclosure, Múm and close to 150 other artists.

The Reykjavik fashion scene is cool, trendy and stylish all wrapped up in one. Along the main road Laugavegur there is plenty of shopping for those of us who cannot resist.

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One of my favourite stores, Kiosk, is also located on the main street, Laugavegur in the heart of Reykjavik. This store is a co-op collective with creations of 9 Icelandic designers, all who take turns to work the counter and sell their designs.  Their gorgeous clothes and accessories range from silk to organza to quirky prints. Pop in, you are bound to meet one! Kiosk, Laugavegur 65, www.kioskreykjavik.com. There are many fabulous designers, too many to name but one that made a distinct impression is Eggert, http://www.furrier.is/photo-anders-engstrom/, a furrier with edgy designs, colours and stunning outerwear.

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Fine dining exists here just as it does in most major cities.
Mar Restaurant, http://www.marrestaurant.is/, is located not far from the waterfront and serves a great seafood soup, delicious fish and good lamb.

Nauthóll, http://nautholl.is/, has the most idyllic view of the beach, cool but relaxing décor and the best gin and tonics I’ve had in sometime with a little pepper added for garnish! The food is straight from the farm to the table. Healthy but sophisticated. Be sure to order any of the salads and the fish is pretty amazing too. It’s a little outside of the city centre but well worth the ride.

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Thursdays are American vintage car day where you will see bikers dressed like hells angels and cars from “back in the days” that will peak your interest. Let’s not forget their piece de resistance, the largest church in Reykjavik, the Lutheran church, Hallgrímskirkja. The design, is said to have been built to resemble lava.

Grill Markt, http://www.grillmarkadurinn.is/, presents a décor that is both cozy and welcoming, a beautiful bar downstairs along with cozy booths around the back and nice size tables for groups. You could have mistaken the ambiance for any trendy New York restaurant even playing some rap songs from the 90s. But the menu was the most adventurous with Whale, Reindeer and Lobster mini burgers. Puffin is eaten here as well but it seemed to be out of season therefore not on the menu. The grilled red fish was firm and yet full of flavour.

If you are non-European and more specifically non-Scandinavian, you will be inclined to find the costs of everything outrageous. That being said, this is an experience you are unlikely to experience anywhere else and worth every penny or in this case every króna.

Photos courtesy of Aimee Sealfon and Michelle Lowe

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Destination Dominican Republic

They say that mamajuana is an aphrodisiac. A traditional drink of the Dominican Republic, made of rum, red wine, honey, and herbs and spices, it is a very potent drink. It is served one shot at a time. They also say it will cure whatever ails you. They say you have not experienced the Dominican Republic until you’ve had mamajuana.

So visit Puerto Plata and take a shot. Puerto Plata is a very old city, founded in the 1500s. It is the home of one of the country’s greatest heroes, Gregorio Luperon, and reminders of its history mingle everywhere with its future as a burgeoning tourism destination in the country. Travelers are increasingly attracted to Puerto Plata for its tropical location and inexpensive accommodations. You can book beachfront all-inclusive resort for 5 days, which can go for less than $400 total during the low season (May-August).

Many of the resorts in the area have some sort of timeshare setup, and the staff may pointedly court you for membership. Feel free to decline the sales pitch up front unless you are truly interested; it will not affect the quality of your stay.

Be prepared to tip frequently, beginning when you land at the airport. There will be a band playing merengue at your gate, with a tip basket set up in front of them. Porters will aggressively try to carry your luggage for you. If you don’t want them to do so, don’t hesitate to say so. If you allow them to do so, they will expect a tip. US dollars are accepted widely and may be more convenient for tipping purposes than Dominican pesos, which come in much larger denominations.

Your resort may be all-inclusive, but by all means venture away from it. Book an excursion, or ask guest services for recommendations for places to go. They can also help you arrange transportation.

I took a cable car ride up the mountain that towers over the city, Pico Isabel de Torres. Do this activity early on a clear day, so that you can enjoy the view of the city and sea sprawling far below you. Atop the mountain, there is a statue of Christ the Redeemer, a smaller replica of the one that towers over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

 

View from Mount Isabel

View from Mount Isabel

 

The Brugal factory, where one of the most recognized brands of Dominican rum is manufactured, is worth a visit. In the shop, you can sample – and buy – all sorts of rum. I bought 2 large bottles of dark rum to bring home. Two is the limit that you can bring into the airport from outside, but you can purchase additional rum in the airport’s duty free shop.

 

Brugal Rum Factory

Brugal Rum Factory

 

I also enjoyed a stop at the Camilo Brugal Art Gallery to view the work of local artists. The gallery is located near the city’s main plaza, very close to the Cathedral.

Dama Morena by Jorge Severino

Dama Morena by Jorge Severino at Camilo Brugal Art Gallery

On my last night in Puerto Plata, some fellow travelers and I decided to venture out for dinner. At home in New York City, I work in a vibrant Dominican community and regularly enjoy eating Dominican food. My fellow travelers and I ended up at a nearby restaurant called El Secreto, where I savored the best mofongo – mashed green plantains – and fried chicken that I’ve ever tasted. It was tender and flavorful and the perfect way to cap off the visit.

Puerto Plata’s tourism industry is not yet as developed as that of Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic’s top tourist destination, but that is to the advantage of the traveler who seeks an excellent deal. The beach, the mountain, and the sun are all there waiting for you. As is the mamajuana.

The List -One Registry for His and Her

The Bridal registry maybe one of the most anticipated tasks for any bride. Picking your favorite items while someone else flips the bill is every girls dream. Unfortunately picking up expensive china is probably the last thing your man has planned for his Saturday afternoon. I have compiled items that will truly make this a his and hers event.

Bedding.

A good portion of your marriage will be spent in bed. What says I love you more than comfy sheets and blankets? Brides and grooms usually forget all about the cozy necessities. Jersey fabrics are light weight and perfect for spring, while flannel sheets are great for your winter time cuddle night.

Knives.

Ladies make cooking for the man in your life easier on yourself and treat yourself to some amazing cookware. Slow cookers and toasters are great but good knives are a necessity. High quality cookware may not seem like the most ideal thing to be shopping for but it can definitely improve your dishes if your still a chef in training.

 

Electronics.

For my guys! It’s definitely acceptable to request electronics on your list. Speakers, cameras, DVD players, hey why not a ipad?! Don’t indulge to much though, no one likes a greedy couple.

 

 

 

 

Honeymoon.

Everything is done online now a days, and you have been dreaming of that honeymoon in the Cayman Islands right? A honeymoon registry only seems logical. This may have been frowned upon back in the day but the cost of spa treatments and snorkeling can add up so why not put in the list?

 

Macys.com is a one stop shop for all of your bridal registry needs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top TSA-Friendly Hair Products that will help you arrive to your honeymoon destination tress free

No matter where your honeymoon or summer plans may take you, travel can wreak havoc on your regular hair regimen. My mother always said big things come in small packages. That would definitely apply to all the portable mini hair products brands are offering to all you travel beauties out there. Even with the current carry on restrictions, you can stock up on the latest and greatest without hindering your hair routine or adding extra weight to your luggage. Check out some of my favorite travel-friendly buys below.

 COAST TO COAST CURLS Don’t worry about your luscious locks going lifeless while on vacation! Ouidad’s Love Your Curls Kit provides everything you need with the Clear & Gentle Shampoo, Balancing Rinse Conditioner, Climate Control Gel, Botanical Boost Spray Conditioner, and Deep Treatment Conditioner. they are perfect for carry  on luggage and weekend rendezvous. $37 ouidad.com

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BLOW DRY ON THE GO This kit makes packing easier than ever before, with 100% air compliant, space- savers. Whether your look is beach waves or city straight, the blowpro JetBlow KitTM has you covered with Beach Blow Texturizing Mist, Blow Up Thickening Mist, and Heat Is On Protective Daily Primer. Glam on-the-go has never been easier. $18; at blowpro.com

JetBlow Mini Kit

BIG HAIR EVERYWHERE Unbelievable volume, firm holding, fast drying and ultra shining. The Big Sexy Hair Spray and Play Volumizing Hairspray will keep you looking cool, even at your hottest. $6 ulta.com Big_SprayPlay_MINI

NO WATER NECESSARY Ditch the water and say goodbye to oil and buildup with blowpro Faux Dry. This residue free transclucent dry shampoo lifts hair, gives a just washed look, and provides manageability to re-style. $20; at blowpro.com

Faux Dry

DON’T FADE AWAY Protect and clean all at once while traveling in style with Oribe’s Beautiful Color Travel Set. Made specifically for color-treated hair. This kit includes 6 elegant shampoo and conditioner packets and 1 shampoo and masque for a little extra love and care. $19.50 oribe.com and Bergdorf Goodman beautiful-color-travel-set-box-large

 

Beauty Contributor and Expert: Sonia Castleberry

http://www.bridesbysoniacastleberry.com |www.soniacastleberry.com

 

Honeymoon Bliss

Honeymoon time is a tremendous relief from all the wedding anticipation. After discussing  your wedding highlights and reminiscing on your journey this is the time to reconnect. Your Honeymoon is a amazing time to explore with your partner and become connected on a deeper level.  Instead of just taking a trip and participating in cliche honeymoon activities be open to experiences that will make your union unbreakable.  Think outside the box.  In order for a marriage to work communication is key.  Don’t be afraid to let loose on your deepest fears or most outrageous fantasies. You have made it this far you may as well let it all hang out.

You and your partner may want to go on a wilderness retreat.  Without the distractions of social media and television you can feel a connection on a different level. Enjoy a retreat to the Yellow Stone Park. Gary Matthews of Yellow Stone specializes in couple retreats.  He has building sexual awareness and financial planning workshops.  Back Packing through the park is a amazing way to reconnect without worldly distractions. It even gives you the opportunity to connect with other couples in a therapeutic and supportive setting.  When the group activities are over and you are back in your room. Read a sexy book together. Do not be afraid to reenact scenes and be creative .  Get carried away and enjoy each other! Open up Pandoras box.  Don’t be shy to bring out music, toys and the message oil.  A sexual connection is more powerful than people admit.  If your partner knows your inner most fantasies and delivers why stray?  This is also a great time for a hot a steamy photo shoot, this way you will have visuals to look back on.  When morning comes watching the sun rise together is like adding a cherry to last nights breathtaking ice cream sundae.

Go to yellowstonepark.com for details.

The Modern Day San Diego- A Desert Blist

As I make my way to the Amtrak station in Los Angeles, California, given that I only have 2 days off before my next job.  I figured why not visit our amazing celebrity Chef Rodney LoveJones in San Diego.  What could it hurt?  The train ride, round trip, was only a meager $74.00 U.S dollars.  

As I made my way to my seat, with my one suitcase, with what I deemed necessary for the short visit.  The conductor quickly helped me with my luggage. I was happy to see there were plugs so that I can charge my electronic devices that I most definitely can’t do without.  To my pleasant surprise it had free WIFI, so double bingo for me.  The ride was approximately three hours each way.  It would give me the opportunity to catch up on some notes and gather my thoughts.

The seats were quite spacious and comfortable, it would be Business class on an aircraft if I were on a plane.  It was fully equipped with a snack car should I became in need of some refreshments.  So I was all set.

To my pleasant surprise the station was absolutely magnificent, prestine.  The streets were equally clean and quite lovely.  Chef LoveJones, being the gentlemen that he is greeted me with flowers and an embrace.  At that exact moment I knew this journey would be everything I could imagine.

He showed me the downtown area of San Diego-Old Town.  The local businesses, the hotels, the restaurants just beautiful.  After getting a brief tour of the area he took me to his kitchen and began to whip me something in his kitchen.  The food was divine, pasta and vegetables served with white wine, in less then 30 minutes. After enjoying this enchanted moment, I fell asleep in total satisfaction and excited about what tomorrow already promised to bring.

For breakfast  we drove to his establishment where he is the General Manager, 2Good2B, Gluten Free bakery that promises to awaken your taste buds.  The teas, the muffins, the quiches, all freshly made right on the premises. They cater weddings and also do wedding cakes, desserts and appetizers that would definitely suit your wedding needs.  

As an accomplished Chef, Rodney LoveJones, has fed the likes of Presidents, celebrities, models and now me.  So to plan a wedding menu for him is effortless.

He later continued my tour of San Diego by showing me the parks, the art district, and the San Diego beaches, at night I might add.  The view was breath taking.  The tree lined streets, the shopping, art, architecture was definitely an experience for me.  The shops in what may come to be my favorite spot in San Diego, Solo- Salana Beach was like heaven for me as a book lover. Great gifts for your guests and wedding party.

The next day a friend called and met me for lunch and took me to experience one of the towns quaint restaurant, Thyme. The food was also divine.  The setting cozy and comfortable like visiting my mothers home.  Across the street lays The Inn At Ranch Santa Fe. This historical property sits in the heart of the small town.

If you are a lover of small quaint, artsy and chic.  Santa Fe may be the spot for you.  From The Rancho Santa Fe Golf Course, Live Music, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.  You will be in honeymoon bliss.  Should you decide to actually host your wedding in the small town of wonderful historical sights you and your guests will sure to have many memorable moments.

For more information on the great things to do in San Diego, please visit: http://www.sandiego.org.  Bon Voyage.

The Business Of Hospitality- Dubai Ramada Plaza Visit

“You can’t please everyone.” We’ve all heard these words since childhood. As adults we need to believe them to survive the harsh competition and to find success in our field.

While pleasing everyone may not be my ultimate goal, for a hotel franchise as large as Ramada the very theory can and will destroy a business while simultaneously killing an economy if ignored.

In this new age of technology the options for travel are endless. With over a hundred sites to help you buy tickets and reserve hotel rooms from cheap stays to the royal treatment, you are bound to craft a journey specific to you and businesses will need to cater to your needs.

We caught up with the managing director of Ramada Plaza Jumeirah Beach Residence, JBR, Terak Hayder, who shared with us the three formulas of building a successful hotel stay for your guests.

THE FIRST IMPRESSION

The red carpet treatment upon arrival was an understatement. From the moment we arrived our every needs were met. The location is conveniently located within a five-minute walk to the beach and easily connects to a private pool on property. The streets nearby are nothing short of a restaurant mecca. And the hotel itself is equipped with a wig spa, three restaurants and a bar that provided entertainment, both live and stemming from a jukebox that contained variety of tunes.

WINING AND DINING

The hotel is armed with the capability to host not only meetings or luncheons but entire weddings. Guests can choose to enjoy the magnificent city view from a private, intimate setting of 30 all the way up to parties of 160.

The selling point of the restaurant lies within its renowned executive chef whom I promise will not disappoint. This French born food artist is not only charming and pleasing to the eyes ladies, he also has that appetizing French accent that will definitely make an impression in the beginning of your experience for your occasion. The wait staff of women is equally as beautiful and accommodating.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

As always, I am a stickler for manners and customer service. With the exception of the shortage of front desk help that made check-in a bit slow, the offering of refreshments and acknowledgement of your presence makes it tolerable. But I guess when your hotel is at full capacity that may be not such a bad problem to have.

I don’t remember ever pressing a button once we were on the elevator. Security personnel on each main elevator were there to assist me the entire time and I was definitely spoiled.

The hotel staff serves complementary breakfast, snacks, and happy hour beverages to preferred customers leaving nothing to complain about. Except for maybe gaining too much weight after the constant eating you will be doing. Hunger calls at 4am? There is someone in the kitchen ready to serve you. Bon Appetit!

The hotel room itself and the view more then made up for any discomfort experienced at check-in. The property provides parking and a concierge desk for all your needs. There is even a shop for souvenirs and small needs.

So maybe you can please just about everyone. Or come darn close to it.