Holmes County: Back to the Past

          The road to Charm—population 65– takes me deep into the heart of Holmes County, Ohio, the second largest Amish region in the United States. It’s all buggies and horses, mares and their foals nuzzling in fields and girls in bonnets and boys in black hats riding in carts pulled by ponies as I make my way south along the winding narrow road. My destination is Amish Country Riding Stables, where the horses are already saddled and ready for our hour long trail ride through the woods and fields of Doughty Valley, an expansive stretch of land surrounded by tree-covered hills. 

          The stables are located at Guggisberg Swiss Inn & Winery and afterwards, of course, sampling their award winning wines is a must. I’m admiring the scene—a large gazebo overlooking a pond when I feel a gentle nudge. I turn and am eye-to-eye with one of the horses from our ride. Allowed to free range throughout the grounds, the equines like to join the party, softly prodding an arm or a shoulder in order to get the attention—and the petting—they think they deserve.

          This is one of the delights of Holmes County, a patchwork of villages, small towns and side roads that lead to new discoveries.

Sugarcreek

          If you were ever wondering what the world’s largest cuckoo clock looks like, travel no further than Sugarcreek, a small village with Alpine facades and a 23-feet tall and 24-feet wide clock in the center of it all. On the half hour, a cuckoo pops out followed by a polka band and twirling dancers. To get the full Swiss experience, consider attending the Ohio Swiss Festival, held the fourth weekend after Labor Day each year. It’s a chance to indulge in all things Swiss including steinstossen (competitive rock throwing) and a yodeling contest. No wonder Sugarcreek is known as the Little Switzerland of Ohio.

          A mega shopper destination, the Village of Berlin goes from large—the 20,000-square-foot, multi-level Berlin Village Gift Shop, once a dairy barn and now packed with clothing, jewelry, handbags, home décor, garden accessories and quilts. Even larger, are the 26-000-square-foot Berlin Village Antique Mall and the supersized Holmes County Flea Market, a 55,00- square-foot building with 350 spaces featuring more than 60 vendors.

          So many goodies, so little time. Dating back almost 60 years, Troyer Country Market in Berlin carries an amazing array of foods including small batch, naturally-made jar goods ranging from the typical (but yummy) apple butters, salsas and  pickles to such intriguing food items as hot pickled asparagus, brandied peaches, Bluegoose jam (a mixture of blueberries and gooseberries) and candied jalapenos as well as their own house-made sausages.

          Just a mile north of Berlin, take a tour at Heini’s Cheese Chalet founded by Swiss immigrant Hans Dauwalder in the 1920s. The family-owned business sends its cheeses all over the country but continues to operate as it did all those years ago with early morning deliveries of old fashioned metal cans filled with fresh milk from Amish farmers. Back in the 1970s, the family also developed their Original Yogurt Cheese, a big seller as is their unique and tasty cheese fudge. Visitors can watch cheese and fudge making as well as taste before they buy, choosing from samples of over 50 varieties of cheese, meat, jams, and fudge.

          Across the road, Kauffman’s Country Bakery offers a large assortment of breads, rolls, cookies, pies and cakes at. During the holidays they make 500 different varieties of fruitcakes and their signature German Stollen Bread.  Other items include seasonal breads– Sauerkraut Rye, Irish Soda, Kolachi Poppyseed and Braided Challah and sweets like Pumpkin or Mint Whoopie Pies. Smoothies, ice cream and sandwiches are available at the café.

Mt. Hope

          Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen, north of Berlin in Mount Hope, doesn’t show up on my GPS. I ask a young Amish boy leading a big draft horse for directions and he points down the road.  Go past Miller’s Buggy Repair, he says, and turn left—it’s right across the street from Mount Hope Livestock Auction. I expect something small but it’s a big, modern restaurant with a full parking lot, hitching posts for horse and buggies and an old fashioned Amish menu– think fried chicken, beef and noodles, mashed potatoes and great pies.

Millersburg

          Hotel Millersburg opened its doors in 1847 in downtown Millersburg, the county seat, making it among the state’s oldest hostelries. Located in the Millersburg National Historic District, the hotel has a courtyard, full-service restaurant and tavern. In keeping with local history, they also offer one of the largest quilting retreat centers in the region, equipped with cutting tables and ironing tables, all handicapped accessible.

          There’s more than handcrafted beer at Millersburg Brewing Company, a cool combination of historic façade and urban element interior.  The menu is eclectic and offers a great variety including such sandwiches as their Shrimp Po Boys– cornmeal breaded shrimp and chipotle slaw served on a warm bun and Boss Hog BBQ. Savor the food and the beer while enjoying live entertainment.

          19th century time travel starts at Yoder’s Amish Home in Millersburg with horse and buggy tours, tours of their schoolhouse and 1885 barn where in the spring newborn animals including, in the spring, newborn animals—think lambs, colts, bunnies and Beagles.  Yoder’s is an Old Order Amish heirloom farm and owners Eli and Gloria Yoder are dedicated to the preservation and education about Amish culture and lifestyle. On site, there’s a petting zoo, gift shop, covered picnic area and a bakery.

Loudonville

          Nicknamed the “Canoe Capital of Ohio” because of the many liveries offering access to the beautiful Mohican River, Loudonville has other attractions as well such as the Ugly Bunny Winery featuring wines ranging from sweet to dry and bourbon barrel-aged and live music.

          Also in Loudonville, Landoll’s Mohican Castle surely is one of America’s most unique lodging and dining venues, just as they advertise. The castle, a bold mix of cobblestone paths, cupolas, balconies, spires, pitched rooftops and wrought iron railings, surrounded by lushly landscaped gardens. Gordon Ramsey stayed here, filming an episode of his “Hotel Hell” series here. Gordon’s no longer there but you can enjoy the show’s menu he created at the hotel’s Copper Mug Bar & Grille.

For more information, Holmes County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, 330-674-3975; holmescountychamber.com  or visitamishcountry.com

El Floridita: An Opening into the World of Cocktails and Hemingway

         When Piña de Plata or the Silver Pineapple first opened in 1817, the location in what is now La Habana Vieja, Spanish for Old Havana would have been just known as downtown Havana back then. Located at the end of Calle Obispo, across Monserrate Street from the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana, the streets in front of the muddy pinkish-red stucco exterior with its famous neon sign bustles with cars with fins in Easter egg colors and matching interiors. It’s a sea of pinks, purples, sky blues, two tones of white and maroon and other combos. We could be in a scene from “Mad Men,” but instead of crystal clear martinis, we’re heading to El Floridita.

200 Years and Counting

The name changed from the Silver Pineapple happened in 1914 about the same time that Constantino Ribalaigua began learning to mix drinks from his father. Four years later, Ribalaigua, who later earned the nickname of “El Rey de los Coteleros” or The Cocktail King of Cuba, had earned enough money to buy the place. He was only 26 and would own it for decades, creating more than 200 cocktails and adapting dozens more.

Creating the Hemingway Daiquiri

         It was one of Ribalaigua’s adaptations that made him famous—the recipe and the person who frequently left his apartment down the street after spending the morning writing and relaxed with a couple—or maybe even more—daiquiris. A concoction of white rum, maraschino liqueur or cherries depending upon the recipe, freshly squeezed lemon juice or pineapple juice and sugar or a sugar syrup, it pleased Ernest Hemingway so much, that soon El Floridita, daiquiris, and Hemingway became an icon of the bestselling author’s days in Cuba. El Floridita soon earned a subtitle, becoming “la cuna del daiquiri” or the cradle of the daiquiri.

Historic Architecture

         At opening time, the doors open and people stream in. They’re a mixed lot. College students, older literary types, locals probably bemoaning that they can’t have a quiet drink because of all these tourists, men who looked like artists and musicians, women in exotic outfits looking like poets and writers. The shiny mahogany bar is an extravagant piece of beautiful wood where red-jacketed bartenders swiftly add ingredients and then buzz them in the blender.

Daiquiris for All

These bartenders are smooth, able to mix and pour two daiquiris at a time. They need to be, the surge of people is endless. There’s a neo-classicist style to the decor. Huge paintings back up the bar and line several large walls. Chandeliers drip from the ceiling, the tables in the large dining room have white tablecloths and louvered doors. The bar itself is rather dark though streaks of the stunning sunshine stream through the door. Musicians come up on the small stage and play Cuban music, jazz, Bolero, Timba, and their own compositions as well including music from the eastern end of the island.

         You don’t have to imagine Hemingway sitting at the bar, a bronze bust of him in his favorite corner was sculpted in 1954. And it’s easy to pause when my eye captures the lifestyle statue of him at the bar that was added almost 50 years later. Another honorific is a plaque with a Hemingway quote: “My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita.”

         But probably the best indication of the author’s prestige and power as a tourist attraction is the lure of the blender as it mixes another daiquiri (there are four varieties associated with Hemingway and I’ve included two of them below) and the clinking of glasses as patrons toast the author and, of course, his drink.

Recipes

Floridita Daiquiri

  • 2 oz. white rum (Floridita uses Havana club)
  • ½ oz. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. maraschino liqueur
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1½ cups crushed ice

Mix the lime juice and sugar in a blender and pulse to combine. Add the maraschino and crushed ice and blend on high speed, gradually adding rum to the mix. Pour into a chilled large cocktail glass.

Floridita Cocktail

  • 2 ounces white rum (I prefer Brugal)
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ½ ounce fresh grapefruit juice
  • ¼ ounce maraschino liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup

Shake with ice, and strain into coupe. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Eight Historic Hotels for Those Who Love History and Travel

Knowing how much I love historic architecture and enjoy immersing myself in the grandeurs of centuries past, Sara Martin sent me a list of resorts and hotels dating back a century or more. All are in the U.S. except for one in St. Croix. But because it is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands passports are not required for American citizens. Whether you’re looking for a warm weather, winter, an urban or country stay all are relatively easy places to get to by plane or car. So take this step back into history and have a wonderful time.

The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, Trademark Collection by Wyndham in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

Back in 1653, Charles Martel, a Knight of Malta, constructed the first building on the eastern end of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. After the Denmark purchased St. Croix 80 years later, a sugar mill and home were built on the estate. Later the land was used for growing cotton and raising cattle. In 1922, the Armstrong family took over the property and continued raising cattle until when, in December 1947 they built and opened an 11-room inn. Now the Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort, Trademark Collection by Wyndham remains in the Armstrong family and is today considered one of the Caribbean’s finest resorts.

Don’t expect to find a lot of cows mooing around now days. Instead of hay bales, the Buccaneer boasts 131 elegant guest rooms, three restaurants, three beaches, two pools, a water sports center, a full-service spa, a 24-hour fitness center, an 18-hole golf course, eight tennis courts, and more. Committed to remaining an individually owned and operated resort, the Buccaneer recently partnered with the Trademark Collection by Wyndham. Located just a short drive to Christiansted, the capital of St. Croix.

Because the Buccaneer is located in the U.S. Virgin Islands no passport is required for U.S. citizens.

The Otesaga Resort Hotel

Located in Cooperstown, New York, The Otesaga Resort Hotel, which opened in 1909 has been the crown jewel of this lovely town nicknamed “America’s Most Perfect Village.” Commissioned by the Clark family, who still owns the hotel today, The Otesaga was a very model of what was state-of-the-art back then featuring such luxuries the many Americans didn’t have in their own home like a telephone in every guest room, individually controlled central heating, and a refrigerator cooled with 30 tons of ice.

Maintaining its old-world aura of charm and grace while evolving with time, The Otesaga today features 132 luxurious guest rooms, including 26 suites, spread among a diverse collection of accommodations. A sampling of all there is to see and do at The Otesaga includes golfing at the resort’s highly rated Leatherstocking Golf Course, swimming at the outdoor heated pool, rejuvenating services at Hawkeye Spa, playing tennis at the two all-weather courts, fishing in Otsego Lake using equipment provided by the resort, and more. Guests can also enjoy a rich diversity of dining options at the resort including The Hawkeye Bar & Grill, which serves comfort foods and delicious cocktails.

Though formerly a seasonal hotel, closing in October, The Otesaga is now open year round.

HOTEL DUPONT in Wilmington, Delaware

In the early 1900s, the growth of the DuPont Company and the need for hotel and entertainment venues lead the company’s president and secretary-treasurer to commission the development of HOTEL DUPONT. The building, which originally served as the headquarters for the DuPont Company, was the first skyscraper in Wilmington. When it opened in 1913, the luxurious European-inspired hotel featured 150 guest rooms and served as a financial and social epicenter for Wilmington’s elite. A 1918 expansion brought such additions as 118 more guest rooms, a “Gold Ballroom,” and a theater that is today known as the Playhouse on Rodney Square. Throughout the years, the iconic hotel has undergone renovations true to its original roots but with all the amenities expected by discerning travelers. A prime example is the reimagining of the legendary Green Room, originally serving as a venerable gathering place for politicians, business leaders and the occasional celebrity, after a recent remodel, it now is known as Le Cavalier at The Green Room, a French brasserie with a relaxing and inviting vibe.

Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa in Montchanin, Delaware

The Inn at Montchanin Village & Spa, located in the beautiful Brandywine Valley and at one time part of the Winterthur Estate. Its name is a homage to Alexandria de Montchanin, grandmother of Henry Francis du Pont who founded the DuPont Company. One of the few villages or what were also known as company towns still remaining, thee village was where those laborers working the DuPont mills lived. Comprised of 11 restored buildings dating back to 1799, the Inn’s 28 guest rooms and suites today blend historic charm with luxury and modern comforts. Furnished with period and reproduction furniture and marble baths, several of the rooms include cozy fireplaces and many offer beautifully landscaped private courtyards. The property also features a spa, a restaurant housed in a renovated blacksmith shop, and a private “Crow’s Nest” dining room for up to 40 guests.

Hotel Gunter in Frostburg, Maryland

Hotel Gunter, located along Historic Route 40 in the heart of Frostburg’s growing Arts and Entertainment District, was originally named Hotel Gladstone when it opened in 1897 on the National Road, America’s first federally funded highway. The name changed in 1903 when William Gunter bought the property and embarked upon a 20-year, $35,000 renovation adding such enhancements using electricity instead of gas lamps with electricity. Other improvements meant adding a dining room that sat 175, and when Prohibition loomed, a speakeasy in the basement bar. A savvy businessman Gunter added a jail cell—but not for regular guests. Instead, it was a place for federal agents transporting prisoners to house their charges and enjoy a wonderful stay themselves. T Marhe jail cell is still there but now it’s just a place for the guests to explore. As a nod to its past, the speakeasy was restored though there no longer is cockfighting as there was one hundred years earlier. Amenities also include cozy rooms and event banquet facilities. Hotel Gunter also shares space with Toasted Goat Winery and Route 40 Brewing and Distilling Company.

Town Hill Bed & Breakfast in Little Orleans, Maryland

Sitting atop Town Hill Mountain and surrounded by the 44,000-acre Green Ridge State Forest in Allegany County, “The Mountain Side of Maryland,” Town Hill Bed & Breakfast was originally built as a fruit stand in 1916. By 1920, it had become the first tourist hotel in Maryland offering accommodations to those traveling by machine as automobiles were commonly called at the time. Up until then, car gypsies as they were sometimes called, when ready to get off the road, would stop at a farmer’s house and inquire if they could camp on their property. The prices were typically right–$5 might get you a spare room in the house and a homecooked breakfast by the farmer’s wife. Camping was even cheaper.

Like the Hotel Gunter, Town Hill Bed & Breakfast is on the historic National Road. It’s also near the C&O Canal National Park, a perfect place for cyclists and hikers traveling along the historic canal’s towpath. The Inn retain much of its original woodwork and furnishings loving preserved during its many renovations. Today, the 101-year-old Inn offers such amenities as 27 guest rooms, a 65-seat dining room where their legendary breakfasts are served, campfire area and easily accessible hiking trails. Another plus is the overlook with its panorama view of three states and seven counties.

Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa

The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa in Mobile, Alabama

The site of the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa dates to the beginning of the 19th century when it served as the headquarters of General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. The first hotel to debut here was the Franklin House in 1825. In 1829, new hoteliers opened the Waverly Hotel on the site, before the Battle Brothers – James, John and Samuel – constructed their own hotel here in 1852. After operating as an independent hotel for more than a century, the proprietors sold the company in 1958 and is now one of Marriott International’s prestigious Renaissance Hotels brand. The Battle House has 238 sleeping rooms, including 31 luxury suites; a 10,000 square-foot European spa with eight treatment rooms; a state-of-the-art fitness center; and a rooftop pool. Unique dining experiences include The Trellis Room, which serves family-style Italian cuisine at dinner; Joe Cain Café, which serves soups, sandwiches, pizza and salads; and Royal Street Tavern, featuring a menu of appetizer favorites.

Fort Condé Inn in Mobile, Alabama

MBCVB Facebook Banner shots – Thanksgiving Season

The Forte Condé Inn, the second-largest house, built in 1836, was an elegant mansion but time isn’t always kind and the hotel fell into disrepair before being expertly restored in 2010. Now the Inn, alongside nine other restored historic properties that are part of Fort Condé Village. Located in the heart of downtown Mobile, Forte Condé Inn is among the city’s most historic landmarks. A four-star boutique hotel, guests can immerse themselves into the unique charms of its past but have the most modern of amenities. Featuring dozens of one-of-a-kind accommodations in the village with its cobblestone streets lined with century oaks, and verandahs lit by gas lanterns. The inn, known for its legendary breakfasts that pay homage to the many cultures and cuisines in Mobile, recently opened Bistro St. Emanuel.

Hauntings, History, Chocolates & Cheese: In Vermont’s Green Mountains

          I follow the aptly named Covered Bridge Road which winds and twists its way to Emily’s Bridge that spans Gold Brook in Stowe Hollow not far from Stowe, Vermont where I’ll be spending the week. It’s an old bridge, built in 1844 and I wonder, as I park my car and grab my camera, about Emily. As I go to shut my door, I suddenly hesitate, listening to an internal voice telling me not leave my keys in the ignition. That’s silly, I tell myself as I put the keys in my pocket, who would steal my car out in the middle of nowhere. Who is even around on this narrow road? Even Emily has been gone since 1844.

          That’s where I’m wrong. Emily, it seems, despite her sorrows, has a mischievous streak. She wouldn’t take my car for a joyride—after all back in her day it was horse and buggy not Rav-4s. But she might have locked my door with the keys inside. That, it seems, is one of the mischievous tricks that Emily likes to play, though others have reported more vindictive acts such as shaking cars with passengers in them and leaving scratch marks, first upon the carriages that once rode over these boards and now cars.

          Who was Emily and why has she spent almost 180 years doing these things? In Stowe I learn there are several tales, all with the same theme. Jilted or maybe mourning her dead lover– Emily either hanged herself from the single-lane, 50-foot-long bridge or threw herself into the creek below. Whatever happened, it ended badly for Emily and now, at night, people sometimes hear a woman’s voice calling from the other end of the bridge—no matter what side they’re on–and see ghostly shapes and sometimes, Emily obviously being a spirit who has 21st technological knowledge, maybe their keys will get locked in the car. As for the romantic name of Gold Brook, the answer is prosaic enough–gold once was found in the water.

          But those who live in Stowe, Vermont, a picturesque 18th century village tucked away in the Green Mountains, don’t let a ghost, no matter how fearsome she might be deter them from selling Emily’s Bridge products such as t-shirts, puzzles, paintings, and even tote bags. Etsy even has an Emily’s Bridge Products section. I wonder if that makes Emily even angrier.

There are no ghosts as far as I know at Topnotch Resort in Stowe where I’m staying. It’s all hills and history here and each morning, I sip on the patio, sipping the locally roasted coffee named after the nearby Green Mountains.

Located on 120-acres in the foothills of Mount Mansfield on what was once a dairy farm, the sleek resort still has traces of its past in the silvery toned whitewashed barn and vintage butter tubs found in the resort’s public rooms counterpoints to the sleekly designed furniture that manages to be both cozy and comfy at the same time.  

The local and locally sourced mantra is stamped on this part of Vermont like the differing shades of light and dark greens mark the mountains. Organic animal and vegetable farms and small cheeseries, chocolatiers and dairies dot the countryside.

But before heading into town, I have the resort’s experiences to explore.

Though I haven’t played tennis for many years, I take a private lesson at the Topnotch Tennis Center, ranked by Tennis Magazine as No. 1 in the Northwest and among its Ten Best U.S. Tennis Resorts.

As we work on general ground strokes, the pro, one of about 10, all of whom are USPTA/PTR certified, helps me correct an awkward backhand.

“It’s all about muscle memory,” he tells me noting that I need to reintroduce myself gradually back into the game, as my muscles relearn lessons from long ago.

Retraining muscles makes me sore, so my next activity — a gentle horseback ride on one of the experienced trail horses at the Topnotch Equestrian Center— seems perfect.

We an hour-long path that meanders across a wooden covered bridge—one that isn’t haunted–spanning the West Branch of the Lamoille River, climbs Luce Hill past patches of shamrocks and weaves through wavy grasses dotted with pink yarrow and painted daisies.

Then it’s on to my own self-created food tour. At Laughing Moon Chocolates in downtown Stowe, I watch as salted caramels are hand dipped into hot chocolate and ponder the difficult decision of what to buy. It’s a delightful place, in a century old building, with wooden display cases and such yummy and intriguing chocolate fillings such as blue cheese using an artisan blue cheese made by a local creamery.  Who could resist?

Following the winding Hill Road, I stop to chat with Molly Pindell, who co-owns, with her sister Kate, the 27-acre Sage Farm Goat Dairy. We walk amongst the Alpine goats that look up from the sweet grass and fall apples they are munching on to watch us. Goats, Molly tells me, are friendly and loyal. Think dogs with horns.

          After watching the goats frolic, we head to the creamery where Molly needs to pack up her latest cheese, Justice, a 100% raw goat’s milk, bisected by a layer of vegetable ash, and aged just over 60 days. It’s truly a family farm with Molly’s husband Dave and their two children and Katie’s partner Bob, the couples live I think how great would this life be? Cute goats, great cheese, and a chance to get back to the land.

          Though, on second thought, milking goats everyday early in the morning when it’s cold and snowing may lose its appeal pretty quickly. Better just to buy goat’s cheese at wonderful places like this.

          To relax after my endeavors, I head to Topnotch’s spa for their signature massage and then a swim in the slate lined outdoor pool. Slate being another Vermont product. I have just enough energy to end the night as I began my morning, sitting on the patio near the outdoor fire pit with its flicker of flames highlighting the garden art on the grassy hillside, while watching the Green Mountains fade into dark.

The following recipe is courtesy of Laughing Moon Chocolates.

  • ½ pint heavy cream
  • 1¼ pounds Yucatan chocolate chunks
  • 1½ ounces sweet (unsalted) butter
  • 1½ ounces vodka
  • ⅓ ounce or 500 milligrams Elmore Mountain Therapeutics CBD oil or other CBD oil

Pour the cream into a saucepan, stirring over medium heat until it begins to steam (190 degrees). Turn off heat and add the chocolate, butter, and liquor, stirring with a wire whisk until mixture is blended smooth and no pieces of chocolate remain. Add CBD oil and whisk well. Pour mixture into shallow baking dish and let cool overnight. When ready to prepare, scoop chocolate mixture with a spoon and roll in cocoa powder.

Additional flavor options are endless! Some favorites include:

Chamomile and Lavender: Steep ⅛ cup tea with the cream on low heat until it steams. Strain into a larger pot to remove herb or tea. At Laughing Moon, they use Vermont Liberty Tea Company’s Moonbeams and Lavender.

Maple: Add Vermont maple syrup to taste.

Substitute vodka with raspberry liqueur, peppermint schnapps or a liquor of your choosing for a subtle additional flavor.

Celebrate Autumn with These Wonderful Libations

Now that we’ve finally come to terms that summer is definitely over, my friend Victoria Cohen advises to embrace fall with these amazing cocktails from some of the coolest restaurants around.

Nearly Ninth at Arlo Midtown – New York, NY   

Cocktail Name: The Applejack Sazerac 

It’s time to say goodbye to the days of rosé and warm up with the seasonal fall cocktails at Nearly Ninth at Arlo Midtown. Now available are the Cider-Car, Apple Cider Mimosa, Chai-Town, Hopscotch, Bourbon Smash and the gorgeous Applejack Sazerac (pictured below). The Applejack Sazerac is the ultimate autumnal cocktail, including Laird’s Applejack, Woodford Reserve, Honey, Peychaud Bitters and finished with Absinthe and a rinse of Allspice. 

Zuma Miami – Miami, FL 

Cocktail nameJapanese Old Fashioned 

A drink crafted to the warm the soul, Zuma’s Japanese Old Fashioned is garnished with a freshly cut orange slice and two berries and takes a new twist on a timely classic. Made with Toki Japanese Whisky, Hokuto sugar and bitters this rich, smooth and silky cocktail will leave you begging for another.  

 
Marker 92 Waterfront Bar & Bistro at The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village  


Cocktail name: Pumpkin Spice Martini 
Westin Cape Coral Resort’s restaurant, Marker 92 Waterfront Bar & Bistro, is serving up the delicious Pumpkin Spice Martini, made with Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Pumpkin Liquor. This festive drink is then topped with Whipped Cream, a dash of Cinnamon and Nutmeg. For those traveling to Cape Coral for Thanksgiving this fall, Marker 92 will be celebrating with a dedicated holiday dinner menu, as well as additional festive cocktails like their Apple Cider Mimosa, Cranberry Apple Sangria and Thanksgiving Punch. Price: $14 

The Irvington – New York, NY  

Cocktail Name: The Cider Car  

If you’re looking to shake off the chilly fall weather, look no further than The Irvington. Located in Union Square, the bartenders are now offering chic fall cocktails including the Bourbon Smash and our personal favorite, the Cider-Car (pictured center, below). Served in a coupe and topped with a dry apple chip, this Insta-worthy cocktail features Cognac, apple cider, lemon juice, apricot liquor and a hard cider float.  

The Bar at Deer Path Inn Lake Forest, Illinois   

Cocktail name: The Birds Poison Punch  

The English-inspired boutique hotel is renowned for its innovative (and oftentimes whimsical) cocktails, and someone who plays a large role in that recognition is its chief spirits officer, Jorge Centeno, who spearheads the property’s beverage program and mixes up some of the inn’s most popular, Instagram-worthy creations. Now, visitors to the inn can embrace spooky season all autumn long with Jorge’s fun play on Alfred Hitchcock’s creepy fall classic, The Birds, with The Birds Poison Punch cocktail – infused with mezcal and tequila, tepache, blue curaçao, lemon juice, mineral water and lavender smoke.  

Mahina & Sun’s at The Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club – Honolulu, Hawaii  
Cocktail name: Cacao Muerte  
Name of bartender: Ian McKinney, Bartender at Mahina & Sun’s at The Surfjack Hotel  
Recipe:

1/2 oz SelvaRey Chocolate Rum  

1/2 oz Casamigos Anejo Tequila   

1/2 oz St George Nola Coffee Liqueur   

1/2 oz Campari  

3/4 oz Carpano Antica Formula Sweet Vermouth   

Combine ingredients over ice & stir for 30 revolutions. Can be served up or on a large format Ice cube. Garnish with an orange twist.

What makes it unique: “For those chocolate lovers. A savory balance of incredible spirits that accentuate the beautiful dark chocolate flavor you crave. The orange & vanilla notes from the Anejo tequila pair deliciously with the bitter notes made famous by Campari. A wonderfully warm and cozy libation for the fall” – Ian McKinney 

MDRD atop the Amway Grand Plaza, Curio Collection by Hilton – Grand Rapids 

Cocktail Name: Spanish Coffee 

With temperatures dropping as fall arrives, the newly opened, Spanish-inspired restaurant MDRD atop the historic Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, MI boasts flavorful twists on classic warm Spanish cocktails, including its cozy Spanish Coffee, which is crafted with rich overproof demerara rum and orange curacao flamed to perfection, both mixed into European roast coffee. The drink is then topped with whipped cream and a garnish of freshly grated nutmeg and gold leaf, satisfying imbibers’ taste, smell and sight on chilly autumn evenings.  

LIQS 

Our favorite fall vegetable is tequila. LIQS, the world’s first premixed cocktail shot, is bringing you all the fall flavors with their Tequila Cinnamon Orange shot. In European countries, it’s common to take a shot of tequila with a cinnamon-sprinkled orange slice instead of salt and lime; thus, LIQS’ version was born. This mind-blowing flavor combination will change the way you look at tequila for a sweeter, smoother shot. Portable, pre-packaged, and premixed, LIQS’ lightweight four-packs are perfect for taking on-the-go. The shots are low carb, low sugar, low cal and gluten free and available across the U.S. for $9.99 – find the Tequila Cinnamon Orange here on Total Wine

MILA Restaurant – Miami, FL  

Cocktail: Spice Market  

Price: $21  

Akin to a premium rum punch, the Spice Market is made from Plantation three-star rum and Plantation original dark rum, mixed with complimentary sweet, spicy and sour flavors: charred banana, Orgeat (a nutty floral syrup), aromatic fall spices, and lime. This autumn orange-colored cocktail is topped with smoked banana foam and garnished with a peony.  

Estiatorio Ornos – Miami, FL 

Cocktail: Smoke of Hephaestus  

Price: $16 

This deep orange cocktail is a more riveting spin on a classic margarita, using fresh ingredients from tropical environments and mezcal, giving it a smokier flavor. Garnished with a mint leaf and a tajin-crusted glass, this one puts a fall twist on a summer staple. 

The Bar at The Spectator Hotel – Charleston, SC 

An Apple a Day 

Channeling the refreshingly crisp autumn air that engulfs the Holy City, the “An Apple a Day” cocktail utilizes organic apple cider, apple brandy and vanilla liqueur to provide immediate refreshment and invoke memories of fall days spent at the orchard. Combined with bourbon, a spritz of fresh lemon juice, and house-made fall spice syrup, it’s the ideal drink to sip on after a beautiful fall day exploring Charleston. 

Grand Hyatt Baha Mar – Nassau, Bahamas 

Pumpkin Mojito 

This cocktail from T2, a sophisticated rum and cigar lounge at Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, an expansive oceanfront luxury resort in the Bahamas, gives a kick to the classic Caribbean mojito combining rum and fresh mint leaves with house-made pumpkin syrup and pumpkin whipped cream, topped with a dash of soda. Guests can sip and savor as they take in the surrounding tunes of live Bahamian music and indulge in cigar pairing suggestions from in-house mixologists to create an all-encompassed experience. 

Fargo Bar & Grill at the Inns of Aurora – Aurora, NY 

Cocktail Name: Lost Moose 

The Inns of Aurora, a luxury lakeside boutique resort in the Finger Lakes, serves up the warming “Lost Moose” cocktail at their Fargo Bar & Grill, a tavern serving elevated eats and late-night drinks. Cozy up with hazelnut liqueur, Jack Daniels honey and apple juice, with a splash of ginger ale, in a mug – served hot. 

 
DenimatThe Joseph, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Nashville 
Cocktail name:Life Is But a Dram 
Comfortable luxury, seasonally-inspired craft cocktails and an all-day menu of American and Italian favorites by Chef Tony Mantuano and team await at The Joseph Nashville’s rooftop bar, Denim. One of Denim’s signature cocktails perfect for Fall, Life Is But a Dram, is a spirited take on a Manhattan made with Heaven’s Door whiskey and The Joseph’s “Highway 61” whiskey blend, espresso-infused Carpano Antica, Angostura bitters and orange bitters.  

 Recipe

Life Is But a Dram // Heaven’s Door and The Joseph’s “Highway 61” whiskey blend, espresso-infused Carpano Antica, Angostura bitters, orange bitters Denim at The Joseph, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Nashville

1.5 oz Heaven’s Door Highway 61 The Joseph Blend whiskey 
1.5 oz espresso-infused Carpano Antica sweet vermouth 
2 dashes of Angostura bitters 
Orange twist or orange oil 
Dehydrated orange slice (optional) 
 
Add ingredients to mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 45 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass. Spray with orange oil or express oils from a fresh orange peel. Garnish with a dehydrated orange slice. 

Espresso-Infused Carpano Antica 
1L Carpano Antica sweet vermouth 
1/4 Cup whole espresso beans 

Add espresso beans to vermouth and allow to soak for 12 hours in the refrigerator. Strain out the espresso beans, and store infused vermouth in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. 

InterContinental New York Barclay – New York, NY 

Cocktail Name: Chili Mule  

Find the perfect fall respite within Manhattan at The Parlour Restaurant and Bar, where the Chili Mule is the perfect blend of classic fall spices. Made with premium Scottish Vodka, Arbikie infused with Chili, Ginger Beer, Fresh Lime Juice, and Rosemary Simple Syrup, it’s the perfect drink to enjoy on fall nights along with The Parlour’s Jazzy Wednesdays, featuring the Café Society.  

Brugal 1888  

Cocktail name: “East to West” Cocktail  

Cocktail enthusiasts looking for a drink to sip during the crisp fall months should try Brugal 1888’s “East to West” cocktail. This unique fall-themed recipe fuses the premium rum – produced in the Dominican Republic by the 5th generation Brugal family – with maple syrup and apricot liqueur, adding a sweet flavor with hints of fruity and citrus notes.   

 
Merriman’s Hawaii – Hawaiian Islands 

Cocktail name: Merriman’s Coconog  
Sip on Merriman’s Coconog this holiday season for a tropical twist on the classic eggnog cocktail. Highlighting tastes of coconut and cinnamon, Merriman’s Coconog uses an Old Forester Bourbon and Licor 43 base mixed with coconut milk and freshly ground nutmeg. Top it off with whipped cream and enjoy in paradise!   

Recipe:  

13.5 oz Coconut Milk  

6 oz Whole Milk  

3 whole eggs  

1/2 cup granulated sugar  

3/4 tsp freshly ground Nutmeg  

1/4 tsp Cinnamon  
 

Blend on high speed for a full minute.  

Whisk over double boiler until mixture reaches 160 F.  

Chill overnight.  
 

Shake 6 oz of chilled Eggnog Mix with:  

1/2 oz Licor 43  

1/2 oz Old Forester Bourbon  
 

Pour in carved Coconut  
Top with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and a sprinkle of ground nutmeg.  

MR CHOW – Miami Beach 

Cocktail name: Lychee Martini

The Lychee Martini is one of MR CHOW’s most popular cocktails, featuring Absolut Elyx Vodka, lychee and a touch of ginger for a delicious twist. 

Texas Winter Lights at Marriott Marquis Houston 

Cocktail name: Spiced Apple Pie  

Marriott Marquis Houston’s completely reimagined holiday lights event, Texas Winter Lights, will be serving innovative, boozy fall cocktails for any crisp autumn day. High Dive (the rooftop restaurant & bar) curated an all-new hot “Spiced Apple Pie” drink inspired by the aroma and taste of a delicious homemade apple pie. With the smell of cinnamon and spiced apples, this cocktail is sure to put anyone in the fall mood.   Other fall cocktails will include a “Spiced Pear Martini,” a fruity seasonal punch with a crisp cranberry and orange finish, and a glow-in-the-dark “Starry Night” ginger mule (that even chan

Board the Belle of Louisville for a Halloween Cruise on the Ohio River

It’s not too late to book passage on the Belle of Louisville for one of their Halloween-themed cruises. Built in 1914, the Belle is now the last authentic steamboat from the great American packet boat era, a time when these medium-sized boats designed for domestic mail, passenger, and freight transportation plied the waters of European countries and North American rivers. Both a National Historic Landmark and an icon of the Louisville waterfront, the Belle is the most widely traveled steamboat in American history.

October 30: Hull-o-ween Family Cruise

 A family event, guests get to explore the 107-year-old boat accompanied by their very own Ghost Guide, stopping along their journey to hear terrible tales inspired by the antique steamboat’s own history and the murky depths of the Ohio River. Beyond the spooks and frights, the cruise also includes Halloween-themed crafts, activities, music, and at the cruise’s end trick or treating.

Costumes are encouraged but not required. This Hull-o-ween Family Cruise takes place on Saturday, October 30 from 1 P.M. to 3 P.M. Tickets are $35.99 for adults (15-64), $34.99 for seniors (65+), $14.99 for kids (5-14) and children 4 and under are free.


October 30: Haunted River Cruise

Come aboard the historic Belle of Louisville and meet your Ghost Guide who takes visitors on a tour while telling terrible tales inspired by the antique steamboat’s own history and the murky depths of the Ohio River. Continue on to the Captain’s Quarters for a Tarot care reading by a mysterious psychics. Need a drink? Head to the Ballroom Deck for cursed cocktails, costume contest, and music by DJ Jill at the Halloween Dance Party.

This adults-only (ages 21+) cruise departs at 8 P.M. and returns at 10 P.M. Costumes are encouraged for this Halloween cruise, but not required. Tickets are $35.99 for adults (21-64) and $34.99 for seniors (65+).

Why Not Begin or End the Trip with a Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel

While visiting Louisville, either book an overnight at the iconic Brown Hotel or at least stop by long enough to enjoy their famous Hot Brown invented by the hotel’s Chef Fred Schmidt in the 1920s who went way beyond anything a like typical sandwich or bacon and eggs to serve to late night guests.  Instead, he whipped up a concoction that would become famous throughout Kentucky and beyond—an open faced turkey sandwich topped with bacon and a delicate but rich Mornay sauce,

  • 2 oz. Whole Butter
  • 2 oz. All Purpose Flour
  • 8 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 8 oz. Whole Milk
  • ½ Cup of Pecorino Romano Cheese
    Plus 1 Tablespoon for Garnish
  • Pinch of Ground Nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 14 oz. Sliced Roasted Turkey Breast, Slice Thick
  • 4 Slices of Texas Toast (Crust Trimmed)
  • 4 Slices of Crispy Bacon
  • 2 Roma Tomatoes, Sliced in Half
  • Paprika
  • Parsley

In a two‑quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and forms a thick paste (roux). Continue to cook roux for two minutes over medium‑low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream and whole milk into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2‑3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

 For each Hot Brown, place two slices of toast with the crusts cut off in an oven safe dish – one slice is cut in half corner to corner to make two triangles and the other slice is left in a square shape – then cover with 7 ounces of turkey. Take the two halves of Roma tomato and two toast points and set them alongside the base of the turkey and toast. Next, pour one half of the Mornay sauce to completely cover the dish. Sprinkle with additional Pecorino Romano cheese. Place the entire dish in the oven. Suggested bake time is 20 minutes at 350º. When the cheese begins to brown and bubble, remove from oven, cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.

The Chicago Flamenco Festival 2021

Flamenco, that artistic expression of music, movement, song, and dance originating in Andalucía Spain and possibly dating back to the 8th century, is on display during the Chicago Flamenco Festival 2021 presented by the Instituto Cervantes de Chicago, a non-for-profit center for the Spanish language and cultural exchange.     

Chicago Flamenco Festival 2021

“Flamenco is a dance of passion,” says Teresa Hernando Rojo, cultural activities coordinator at the Instituto Cervantes and director of the festival which runs until November 13 “It takes great skill and dedication.” 

Best described as a solo dance with three components, canto (song), baile (dance) and one of three forms—intense, grand, and intermediate, flamenco is also an energetic and a highly expressive art form incorporating hand clapping, fancy footwork, elaborate hand, arm, and body movements all accompanied by music. It’s enthralling to observe—percussive footwork and clicking castanets, elaborate and richly colored costumes often patterned (at least for the women; the men seem to prefer black) with the music and movements expressing a wide range of emotions.

The attention to detail is amazing, even the way the bailaora or female dancer ties her long hand-embroidered shawl is representative of differing moods. Adding to the visual impact are ornate fans, perfectly coiffed hair, ruffled dresses cut high in front to enable movement, veils, and combs.

“Even the costumes are very traditional,” continues Hernando, noting that the costumes often worn during the performers at the festival are handmade by people who specialize and only make flamenco clothing.

It’s also a family tradition, flamenco is often passed down through the generations. Performers learn from parents who have learned from their parents, fathers to sons and mothers to daughters.

Performers during the five week events include Kati Golenko, one of the few women professional flamenco guitar players, and Miguel Reyes Jimenez, a master of the flamenco cajon who has written books on the subject. Golenko, who was born in Chicago and Jimenez, who is from Mexico City, met in Madrid and believe that flamenco is not only for people who were born into the tradition. They invite foreigners to join what they describe the clan of flamenco bastards, ‘The global tribe of #flamencobastards are all of us who were born outside of Spain, lacking flamenco purity in our veins, but for some strange reason, palpating with flamenco in our blood. We can´t speak to purity, but we can share what’s ours: technique, feeling, and strength.”

Other performers include Nino de los Reyes who was nine years old when he performed in “Campanas Flamencas,” directed by Paco Sánchez, founder of the legendary Cumbre Flamenca and Amparo Heredia, known as “La Repompilla,” who premiered her own show, “Herencia Flamenca,” at the Tío Luis de la Juliana festival in Madrid in 2017. This year she won La Lámpara Minera, the most prestigious and highest International flamenco singing award.

“The great thing about flamenco is you don’t have to understand the language to understand its power and beauty,” says Hernando. 

For information on the Flamenco Festival and shows, click here, or contact the Instituto Cervantes at 312-335-1996; chicago.cervantes.es.

Castillo de La Mota: In the Castle of the Queen

         Well, this isn’t going well I think as I approach the gates of Castillo de La Mota, a medieval fortress in Medina del Campo, a town known since the 15th century for its fabulous fairs and markets as well as being one of the places Queen Isabella of Spain called home.    

         A man behind me grouses to his wife “another day, another castle” but then stops as he sees what is in front of us. Lined up in a row blocking the entrance to the drawbridge are women archers dressed in long skirts layered with magenta jumpers each stitched with an insignia of a yellow bird with spiky feathers. But what is most daunting about the scene is that their bows are raised, arrows notched, and the strings pulled back. If they let go, we’ll be hit with a barrage of arrows.

         “Password,” shouts a tall woman who looks like she’s in charge.        

“Isabelle,” I call back without even thinking.

         “Isabella,” she responds.

         Oops.

         But it’s good enough. The archers lower their bows.

         We are not only in Isabella’s castle, we’re also in her time. Men, women, and children are dressed in the everyday garb of 15th century Spain, soldiers wear bright red doublet cut with yellow inserts, red pantaloons that stop above the knee, white stockings and leather shoes ranging in colors like blue, red, and beige.

I don’t know much about 15th century weaponry beyond bow and arrows and swords–and even that is very limited. But here the soldiers not only carry broad swords and rapiers, but also pikes and spears. Silver helmets top their heads and somewhere metal collars, part of a suit of armor.

         La Mota isn’t a fairy tale castle, it was a large strong fortress that the townspeople as well as the King and Queen could go for refuge. She and her husband Ferdinand II lived in a royal palace in the town’s major plaza though Isabella wrote her will and took Last Rites at age 53 at La Mota. Dating back to the 11th century, it grew through the centuries becoming the largest castle in Castile.  Called La Mota because it is on a small hill rising above the town, it has turrets (2), towers (4), thick walls and a courtyard.  Unguided tours are available as are guided tours which can be booked here    

         In her day,  Isabella, one of the few women rulers at the time, would have dined on rabbit, deer, bear, lamb, and bread. She would have enjoyed leeks but little else in the way of vegetables. Juan Alejandro Forrest de Sloper whose blog Book of Days combines his passions for world cuisine and as an anthropologist with a focus on rituals and celebrations. De Sloper was a professor of anthropology at Purchase College, S.U.N.Y for 32 years but he also spent time living throughout the world and learning to cook in all sorts of kitchens.

 In his post on Isabella he shares a dish from Libre Del Coch, a Catalan cookbook—the first written cookbook–written by Robert de Nola who went by the pseudonym Mestre Robert who was the chef to King Ferdinand I of Naples. The Catalan version was published in 1520 in Barcelona and translated to Castilian Spanish five years later. Parts of the cookbook are based on a famous medieval cookbook titled Llibre de Sent Soví.

The cookbook includes classic dishes that were popular with the wealthy (and Isabella was surely that) during the 1400s. Casola de Carn or Meat Casserole is like many recipes or receipts as they were called then, there’s no list of ingredients or amounts. It’s all a little murky for 21st century cooks, and phrases like “all the fine flavorings” are a little—no make that a lot baffling. There are also ingredients such as aggrestal (spelled in the recipe as agressta) means wild plant which can sure cover a lot of ground.

Casola de Carn

(Meat Casserole)

Cut the meat into pieces the size of a nut and fry it in pork fat. When it is well fried put in some good broth and set it to cook in a casserole. Add all the fine flavorings and saffron and a little orange juice or agresta and cook well until the meat begins to fall apart and only a small amount of broth remains. Add three or four eggs beaten with orange juice or agresta. When your master is ready at table, turn the meat four or five times to let the sauce thicken. When it is thick, take it from the fire and serve it in bowls, sprinkled with a little cinnamon on each.

There are some people who do not add eggs, or spices except cinnamon and cloves. The meat is cooked as stated above.

They add vinegar, for the flavor. It appears that many people do it in the following manner: the meat is left whole stuffed with cinnamon and cloves, and with the other spices in the broth. The meat must be turned from time to time so that it doesn’t cook more in one part than in any other. You can leave out the cloves and cinnamon if you follow the other directions correctly.

As wonderful as Isabella’s meal might have been, our luncheon at El Motero in Medina del Campo probably was equally good. Because Medina del Campo is a stop on the wonderful Rueda Wine Route, we indulged in the local wines and dined on fish, baby lamb, and a variety of whimsical dishes such as canelón de mango relleno de frutos de mar y gelatina de gazpacho (Mango cannellon stuffed with sea fruit and gazpacho jelly),  tartar de tomate, aguacate,salmón marinado ,wakame sobre pan de Cerdeña (Tomato Tartar, Avocado, Marinated Salmon, Wakame on Sardinian bread)and  Mini san Jacobo de lomo asado y salsa de piña (Mini San Jacobo roasted loin and pineapple sauce).

I did indeed dine like queen.

Safe Traveling During COVID-19

For many travelers, packing away their suitcases and trying to get airline ticket refunds really put a damper on the last year. However, with vaccination rates increasing and many areas open, travel is becoming safer once again.

If you have a bug to hit the road, you’re probably wondering what you can do to have a great trip while still staying safe. Well, it doesn’t take much, Guest Blogger Lisa Walker offers these five tips for COVID-friendly travel.

1. Choose the Less-Beaten Path

Instead of booking a vacation to the most popular tourist attraction around, opt for a location that is less well-known and will thus be less crowded. The fewer people you are around, the less likely it is that you’ll end up testing positive for COVID-19.

2. Consider a Road Trip

Getting on a packed flight for several hours probably doesn’t sound like fun, whether there’s a pandemic or not. Instead of flying to a destination, choose somewhere a little closer that can be reached by car. Hitting the open road is a great way to see the sights, but it also allows you to keep to yourself and stay safe.

If you decide to go on a road trip, you may want to invest in some tech gear to improve your travels. If you aren’t convinced that your smartphone is truly up for the job, a GPS system can ensure you are on the right track and will get to your destination without having to stop and ask for directions. And don’t forget to invest in an extra car charger or two to ensure your battery is always powered up.

3. Go Camping

While some people balk at the idea of sleeping anywhere but in a hotel bed, camping is a great option for those who want to avoid coming into contact with others. If you’re already a fan of camping, you likely have all the gear you need, from tents to camp stoves. If not, you can either purchase all new items or rent some. There are websites that specialize in outdoor gear rentals, a great tactic that can help you decide if you like camping enough to buy your own gear.

4. Book a Vacation Rental

As mentioned above, there are many travelers who don’t want to risk bumping into others in the narrow hallways of a hotel. Vacation rentals are ideal because they allow you to have a comfortable place to stay that you can call your own. Most are cleaned extremely well between guests, so you can rest easy knowing that everything has been sanitized. Airbnb even requires hosts to follow CDC guidelines or risk losing their ranking.

5. Spread Out in a B&B

As more vacation options open up, bed-and-breakfasts are ideal for those who want the luxury of a hotel without the hassle. Some locations are still not at full capacity, making it easier for travelers to have space to enjoy time away from home. Plus, when you stay in a B&B, you’ll have easy access to activities like wine tasting, antiquing, horseback riding, and more.

Traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic is likely something you’ll never have to deal with again, but it is possible to do it safely if you’re willing to be flexible and think outside the box. Don’t wait to book your next getaway; just do so with safety and comfort in mind.

Igloos With a View: Enjoy a Finnish Lapland Journey with Stays in Glass-topped Igloo Cabins That Showcase the Aurora Borealis,

A new six-day tour opens up the skies for the ultimate views of the Aurora. The Stars of Scandinavia tour from Off the Map Travel takes visitors to Kilpisjärvi, Finland and Rovaniemi, Finland, known for their magnificent views of the Aurora. The six-day tour includes uniquely luxe overnight stays in igloo-style, glass-roofed cabins surrounded by the Finnish tundra.

Talk about user friendly. Guests can enjoy a comfy and warm experience luxuriating in queen-sized beds in rooms custom designed views of the night sky above. Special low-level red lighting aids viewers’ eyes in adjusting to the night sky.

The Stars of Scandinavia tour begins in Tromso, Norway and then first travels to Kilpisjärvi, Finland where the new two-story Wow House “igloo” cabins face North for optimal viewing of the Northern Lights. Just 30 miles from the Arctic Ocean, tiny Kilpisjärvi (population just over 100), has virtually no light pollution making it an ultimate aurora and star gazing destination.

Traveling south, second stop is in Rovaniemi, Finland, the capital of Lapland, located right on the Arctic Circle. As an aside Rovaniemi is the official home of Santa Claus though we can’t promise you’ll meet him. The ecologically designed Lappish Kammi Suites combine both pristine viewing of the Aurora as well as sustainable accommodations. The igloo design encompasses full glass domes over the mezzanine level bedrooms for crystal clear night sky gazing.

But it isn’t only stars and dark nights. There’s plenty to do during the day such as quintessential Lapland adventures that shouldn’t be missed. Think dogsledding, fat bike tours over the frozen tundra, and snowmobiling journeys to the Norway-Finland-Sweden border to meet reindeer and indigenous people in an exploration of Sami culture.

The current starting price, based on double occupancy, for the six-day/five-night “Stars of Scandinavia” tour is $2454 USD per person includes some meals, all transfers, four-star accommodations in Tromso with four nights in luxury glass-roofed “igloos,” and all activities. Airfare is additional. The tour is available from December 2021 through March 2022.

Developed by travel experts at Off the Map Travel as a way for those wanting an exciting, sustainable, and socially distanced holiday, this trip has it all.

“With two top locations for viewing the Northern Lights, plus a range of outdoor activities, we can offer a trip that’s both fulfilling and safe,” notes Jonny Cooper, founder of Off the Map Travel. “The snowy magic of Lapland makes for a special winter experience.

Here is the full itinerary:

Day 1: Arrive in Tromso in northern Norway, often referred to as the “Paris of the North.” Guests are transferred to a harborside hotel with stunning views of the fjords evening. Next up is a nighttime adventure into the snow-covered wilderness on a husky dogsled looking for the Aurora in the sky above.

Day 2: After breakfast, transfer across the border to Finland. Tonight, after a 3-course dinner, you will sleep in a design-forward igloo cabin with the chance to see the Northern Lights from the comfort of your bed. With little light pollution, the region of Kilpisjärvi provides optimal viewing dark sky opportunities.

Day 3: Enjoy an exhilarating snowmobile experience to where the borders of Finland, Norway and Sweden meet. In the afternoon, fly across the snow and ice while on a fat bike tour. 

Day 4: Continue your Arctic adventure with a transfer south to Rovaniemi for a stay in an igloo-style suite for two nights. Enjoy dinner and sit back to watch the skies.

Day 5: Meet Lapland’s most iconic animal–the reindeer and enjoy a short reindeer sleigh ride. Learn about Sami way of life and enjoy a short reindeer sleigh ride. Hopefully, the Northern Lights will be out, creating the perfect ending for your journey. Enjoy the lights while staying warm and comfortable in your suite as you gaze upward through the sky-view, windowed dome.

Day 6: Check out after breakfast and transfer to airport. 

About Off the Map Travel

The team at Off the Map Travel creates experiences and destinations for guests to explore hidden wonders of our planet. Specializing in Soft Adventure, Off the Map Travel also curates tailor-made holiday itineraries that showcase authentic experiences not offered by many larger travel companies. For more information on Off the Map Travel itineraries visit www.offthemap.travel; call +44 (0) 800 566 8901; email info@offthemap.travel  or join in the conversation on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube or

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