Monday, May 31, 2010



Top 7 Posh Hotels at Volcanic Sites

Posted: 31 May 2010 12:46 AM PDT

If you're tired of booking rooms at hotels near the beach, you might want to book somewhere near a rumbling mountain for a change. After all, aside from the Icelandic volcano which is wreaking quite a havoc in Europe, most volcanoes around the world are pretty enough for pictures and peaceful enough for a summer's stay. Below are the most posh and stylish digs you'll find near volcanic sites.

101 Hotel Reykjavik, Iceland

Once the ash settles down, you might want to book yourself a room in 101 Hotel Reykjavik. This hotel can give you a pretty unique volcanic sighting. Aside from the havoc that's already in the headlines, the landscape is unique for another thing: brining both fire and ice together. Besides, the destination is safe enough because the hotel sits on the harbor-side of the city. It's just 100 miles from the temperamental and beautiful Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
It fuses old Iceland with the new, more metropolitan cityscape as well. In this hotel, you'll get to enjoy sleek guestrooms, freestanding baths, an art gallery, a basement sauna, and of course, the hotel's popular Icelandic menu. Get to sample Iceland's best traditional cuisines while viewing the volcano from your room.

Hacienda San Antonio, Colima, Mexico

Another volcano you wouldn't want to miss out on is the Colima in Mexico. The best vantage point and lodgings of this Mexican volcano is Hacienda San Antonio. You can wake up early in the morning, backstroke across the hacienda's enormous pool, enjoy the façade of the coral-pink heritage hotel, and finally, get prime peeks at the majestic slopes of the Colima volcano.

This retreat is 120-years-old, seated strategically near West Mexico's Pacific Coast. The manor luxe with its lush gardens provides the perfect viewing point of the mountain. The best suite to take is the El Quetzal Junior Suite which has a privileged panoramic view of the haloed volcano from its terrace. Hacienda San Antonio also keeps its own organic farm so you can be sure to enjoy its delicious produce in your meals.

Later, you can order their refreshing margarita which is made from their homegrown mango grappa.

Mystique Resort in Santorini, Greece

Sitting on the Cycladic summit of the island, the vistas of Mystique is full of romance, nature, and relaxation. It offers a full view of the bay as well as the rocky heights of the Oia which sits at the northern tip of Santorini. The serene, whitewashed suites are both spacious and airy and they all come with their own private terraces providing a full view of the sea.

You can enjoy this Greek getaway the most if you book your stay in one of the hotel's Spiritual Suites. This has their own exercise machine, Jacuzzi, and spa bed to keep you looking as good as a Greek god if you wish.

The Boatshed, Auckland, New Zealand

Those who love making an entrance can hop onto a 35-minute ferry ride from Auckland to Waiheke Island just to reach the Boatshed. On the way, you'll get to see the dramatic low-lines of the Rangitoto, a volcanic island. In full view is the blood red sky, although the volcano's last eruption was 600 years ago.

The Boatshed only has seven suites, which makes for nautical, chic accommodations. Still, the hotel is relaxed enough for you to kick your shoes off. The hosts are also pretty popular because of their cooking. The hike up to Rangitoto itself takes about an hour, but once you view the crater rim, you know that the trip was all worth it. Among the 50 volcanoes that make up the Auckland Volcanic Field, the Rangitoto is the prime destination.

Hotel Raya, Aeolian Islands, Sicily, Italy

Even fashion designers like Giorgio Armani find the Aeolian Islands fascinating. The landscape of these volcanic islands probably inspires some of his creations. The Hotel Raya has vistas with a full view of the iconic Mount Stromboli. As delicious sounding as the volcano's name itself, the hotel also offers an impressive menu. During your stay, you can take prime picks at their delicious seafood dishes.

The islands are also perfect for diving and sailing. Once you're done with your day activities, don't worry because you won't be bored once the sun sets. Raya is also known for its nightlife, which means you'll enjoy the cocktails here as much as you would the dancing.

The Fiery Stromboli is only one out of seven Aeolian volcanoes you can visit during your stay. The Vulcano is also one of the favorites. You may want to plan a side trip to mainland Sicily, though, if you want to view Mount Etna.

Amankila in Bali, Indonesia

Somewhere in Asia, the Mount Agung dominates the landscape. If you ever find yourself in Bali, Indonesia, make sure that you book rooms with the Amankila resort so you can sit right below this majestic volcano. The rooms at this hotel have their own private terraces, which means that you get to enjoy the jaw-dropping views of the skyline while sipping your favorite drink.

If you're tired of staying in your room, you can also enjoy the hotel's three-tier infinity pool. The pools look like paddy fields across the reception and the shore. While the suites look like freestanding thatched-roof huts, once you get inside, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the sophisticated and modern Balinese interior.

Ace Hotel, Portland, Oregon

If you want a hotel that lies an easy distance to dormant volcanoes Mount Tabor and Mount Hood, as well as the active Mount Rainier and Mount St Helens, you might want to book a room with the Ace Hotel. This sits just downtown Portland.

Reviewers find the hotel's designs "groovy" with its edgy murals and vintage displays. The murals made by local artists never fail to get the guest's attention, and the old vinyl records give the hotel an edgy vibe over other accommodations on the same strip.

The hotel also boasts of its bar, which makes the best Pony Cocktail and Suicide Note.

Off the Beaten Path in Amsterdam

Posted: 31 May 2010 12:18 AM PDT

If it's your first time in Amsterdam, it's always safe to take the classic tours: a stroll around the outdoor flower market, the canal rides, and a visit to all of the city's popular museums. However, if this is your fourth or fifth time in Amsterdam, you might want to try something new—and there are a lot of other attractions you should see. They're just not as widely commercialized.

Below are the best offbeat Amsterdam destinations you shouldn't miss out on.


You might want to steer clear of popular hotels especially if you're visiting Amsterdam during the peak season. Alternative accommodations include houseboats, hotels, hostels, and renovated houses located along the canals. One hotel in the city, though, offers an offbeat enough experience. The Ambassade Hotel comprises 10 seventeenth century houses built along the canal. This means that you'll be living at the city's historical center.

Just off the center, though, near the Van Gogh museum, the Hilton hotel offers the same suite the Yoko and John Lennon took for their "Bed-in" for peace back in 1969. The room was redesigned to capture how it was when the couple stayed in the hotel, under the guidance of Yoko Ono herself. Lyrics and other Lennon memorabilia were also added to the room.

A word of warning, though: the Yoko Ono and Lennon suite is off the beaten path but a stay there is far from cheap. If you just want to view the hotel room, the staff will let you provided that it's vacant. You just need to ask them.

Feasting on History

To enjoy the best of history in Amsterdam, you have to go beyond the classic canal rides. For an overview of the city, you should give the Amsterdam Historical Museum a visit. This currently resides in Amsterdam's old city orphanage building.

You'll get to glimpse the highs and lows of the city when you visit this museum. Included in their collection are archeological finds, paintings, furniture and even special exhibitions.

If you happen to be in Amsterdam in August, you'll get to see The Hoerengracht. This is an art-installation made in the 1980s by Nancy Reddin Keinholz and Edward Keinholz. The installation offers a glimpse of Amsterdam's infamous red light district.

Novelty: Museum of Bags and Purses

Aside from the Cat Cabinet which can also be found in Amsterdam, you should visit the Museum of Bags and Purses. This is a worthy destination if you're looking for something definitely offbeat. There are a lot of strange collections in this city, making for an interesting stay even if it's already your fourth visit.

The Museum of Bags in Purses is practically a cathedral of this fashionable accessory. It has over 4000 pieces of pockets, purses, pouches, and bags, some of them dating as far back as the 16th century. They also include quite a number of must-have bags and purses for both men and women today.

Someone should take note of the catalogue of materials used for these purses. There are items made from ivory, beads, feathers, and even aluminum. If you think the collection is apolitical, think again. Most of these fashion accessories also symbolize big political events in history.

You should look at the oldest bag in the Museum which is strangely owned by a man, amidst the larger collection of women's purses. This dates back to the Middle Ages, has a minimalist silver frame with eighteen secret slots.

The National Museum of Spectacles

Another museum of oddities you might want to visit is the National Museum of Spectacles. This is locates, aptly enough, above an eyeglass shop and takes up two whole floors with all sorts of eyewear: from monocles, spectacles, opera glasses, spyglasses, binoculars, optician's tools and many more. For the cultural scholar, this provides a pretty comprehensive display of 700 years of fashion and the arts.

While admiring the huge collection of eyewear, make sure that you also take a look at the museums share or optical toys. These include all sorts of kaleidoscopes, optical mirrors, magic lanterns, etc. Other inventions which led to the development of film can also be found here.


Once you've toured all the historical sites and Museums of Amsterdam, it only makes sense that you should do your shopping. Open air markets in Amsterdam make for a pleasantly unique shopping experience. The most popular site is probably the floating water market. The flea markets and antique shops also turn up interesting finds.

You might want to visit the Nine Streets, which are, quite literally, nine streets lined with boutiques and galleries. This is located at the canal district of the city. You'll find a shop here filled with dental care products as well as those devoted to fashion, cheese, gourmet food, and interior design.

Right outside the Nine Streets, you'll also find the Button Shop. This has a gallery of accessories, as well as a line of shops which sell unique buttons which you probably won't find anywhere else.


If you want to see the palatial building which served as Amsterdam's city hall for more than a century, you should drop by Sofitel Amsterdam The Grand. The accommodations here might be too much for your budget, but a daytrip should be possible. Special events like weddings are held here, and while the building has been renovated through the years, distinct architectural details have been retained.

One of them is the First Class Marriage Chamber. Created by Chris Lebeau in 1926, the room is lined with frescoes and exquisitely crafted stained glass windows. The stained glass windows also tell a story of every couple's life from engagement, marriage, and the birth of the first child.

You won't be allowed to enter the room when there's a wedding ceremony being held, but when the room is vacant, you can even ask for a guided tour. The First Class Marriage Chamber is a registered National Monument.

Side trips: Hague

While it's not in Amsterdam, like the Hague make for interesting side trips. This is only is less than an hour's ride by train. The Hague was the seat of government for Netherlands and is home to about 30 interesting museums.

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