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TRAVEL: Positano on the Amalfi Coast

A visit to the Amalfi Coast in Italy will leave you enamored with the laid-back lifestyle and cliff-side views the area is known for.

The Amalfi Coast is comprised of several small towns that are all strung together along the perimetre of the Sorrentine Peninsula in the province of Naples. The towns are connected by a single narrow cliff-side highway that runs the length of the coast above the sparkling waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. One of the most popular towns frequented by international tourists and vacationing Italians alike is the charming town of Positano. As is the case with all the villages along the Amalfi Coast, Positano clambers down a vertiginous slope to the sea below.

The entire Amalfi coast is something right out of yourwildest (and most breath-takingly gorgeous) dreams. Rustic mountain rock, smooth and colourful stucco buildings, palm trees and colourful flowers, a pebble shore beach and the most incredible view of the Sea come together perfectly.

It is one of those places that is equally as impressive and gorgeous at night as it is by day.  Since the town is built up on a mountain side, it appears as though each apartment, boutique, restaurant andgelateria was shoved into any flat plane available along the steep incline. All the towns are easily visited by ferry during the day since each village has it’s own humble port. A day-trip over to the island of Capri is not to be missed, just be sure to check ferry times of departure.

One of the more popular towns for Italian vacationers and international tourists alike is Positano.  The architecture in Positano (and the neighbouring villages of Praiano, Ravello, Amalfi, Atrani and Minori) is quintessentially European-romantic in nature with a clear focus on form follows function.  Architects had no choice but to construct simple, four-sided dwellings where all corners meet at 90 degree angles in order to make the most of the limited  real estate. While a super-modern curvilinear structure would provide a funky contrast to the jagged mountain range, the interior would likely lack in the Coast’s most precious commodity: space.  It’s very tricky to make good use of space in a room with curved walls, and luckily, the people of Amalfi coast know this and have figured out a way to maximize their use of space in a beautiful yet simplistic way. On the flip side, many buildings implement curvilinear forms through the use of Romanesque arches…a lovely visual break when viewed from a distance.

Every single building, regardless of its function, is constructed out of concrete blocks and stucco. Gypsum (or drywall) would never stand against the humidity; all walls are finished in plaster – a material that can withstand the balmy coastal climate. Despite the similarity in architectural appearance, each building is painted a different colour reminiscent of a Mediterranean colour palette punctuated with saturated green hues from the lush greenery that seems to grow right out of the rocky ground.

The abundance of large outdoor patios and terraces that look out to the shimmering glass surface of the Gulf of Salerno are perfectly functional in this charming village. There is nothing more satisfying than sitting out on one of the terraces and enjoying some chilled limoncello (a liquor made from lemons harvested from the nearby town of Salerno).  For protection from the hot sun, these terraces are commonly adorned with pergola-style trellis work that permit the odd bougainvillea or creeping vine to dangle down from the soft leafy barrier overhead.

If a great view and fresh fish caught for dinner is not enough to lure you over to Positano, rest assured that there are more than enough opportunities for shopping to quiet your inner shopaholic. Positano is stocked full of beautiful boutique jewelry stores (that specialize in red coral goods), local designer clothing shops (selling quality linen and knits) and beach-side market stalls (with a large selection of stylish sandals and beachwear). All vendors and shop owners are delightful and happy to offer any assistance, especially the flip flop and sandal vendors who will literally pull out the straps of a sandal and custom-fit the leather pieces to the contours of your feet.

For more affordable shopping options, walk up along the main road (away from the beach) and browse through the goods displayed outside the shops – as a general rule of thumb, the farther away you are from the main tourist area, the cheaper the goods.

There is no shortage of local designer boutiques dotted between stretches of road-side restaurants; wasting an entire evening strolling up and down the main road, shopping, reading restaurant menus and grabbing a gelato on-the-go is quite easy in Positano…in fact, it’s about all there is to do.

TRAVEL: Hotel Pande Permai

By Tania LaCaria

I could feel the morning sun on my face, and just like any other morning, I blinked the sleep out of my eyes, turned over with a noisy stretch and pushed the crisp, cotton sheets off my legs. Except, this morning was different. It was special. I had woken up in the hotel room of my dreams with the love of my life. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t still sleeping, but before I could lift my arm the comforting scent of incense wafted into the room and enveloped us. This confirmed it: I was home…or at least I felt like hotel Pande Permai in Ubud, Bali could be my new home.

I dreamed of taking a trip to Bali to visit the artistically charged town of Ubud for a year before I finally managed to book the trip, and boy, am I ever glad I did.

Ubud was everything I hoped it would be and more – the town is bursting at the seams with culture, music, art and great food. Despite the four-hour-long journey we endured on a minibus to get there, I arrived with a giant smile that stayed plastered on my face for the whole week (I hear I was even smiling in my sleep).

I picked up my 13 kilo backpack, slugged it over my shoulder and began to walk with Jeff, my boyfriend and travel partner, in search of a hotel for the night. The afternoon sun was beating down on us and it was painfully hot outside, but the walk up the hill on Monkey Forest road soon became well worth it once we saw the wooden Pande Permai Hotel sign affixed to the grand entrance’s stone wall.  I had never heard of the hotel, but I could tell from peering through the main entrance doors that it was exactly what I was looking for.

The kind woman behind the counter gave us a tour of the pool area and showed us to one of the rooms so we could decide if Pande Permai was “good enough” for us to spend the night in. Well, I have never been so enamoured with a hotel in my life. The swimming pool was divine – a large stone wall with creeping vines and niches filled with stone Bali-Hindu statues provided the perfect amount of privacy from the street. There was an elevated platform with a sitting area overlooking the pool, and a couple of loungers and poolside tables that I immediately envisioned myself enjoying with my morning tea.

The front door of our room was an intricately carved piece of wood painted in bright gold, green, red and blue hues reminiscent of local Balinese art – I was already impressed and we weren’t even inside yet! Our room was attached to one other room via a single wall – it really felt like a semi-detached slice of paradise instead of a hotel. Once I crossed the threshold and set my eyes on the dark wood furniture, the heavy four poster bed with mosquito net drapery and the marble-clad ensuite I knew I was going to have to spend a night (or four) in this hotel…no matter what the cost.

Jeff nudged me in the ribs once he noticed that my jaw was hanging wide open in amazement at the sight of the most stunning balcony view of the terraced rice paddy field in the distance – our chances of negotiating for a better room rate were gone. I was in love with this hotel – I knew it was going to be the most romantic, relaxing, and enjoyable place I’d ever spend the night. And, I was right.

By the way: This is not a hotel that you take the kiddies to (even though I’m sure they are “permitted” to enter). No, this is a hotel where you take your lover to feel guilt-free about lounging around in your intimates until you finally manage to tear yourself from the comfy bed and soak in the Jacuzzi before your afternoon swim. If you are looking for the perfect getaway to celebrate your love for life, culture and art in a town that values the same things, then book a (one way?) ticket to Ubud, check into Pande Permai, and enjoy yourself knowing that you’ve earned the right to be pampered.

 

TRAVEL: Cruises so epic

Murtaza Adamjee is Women’s Post Web Editor

By Murtaza Adamjee

 

For over 40 years, Norwegian Cruise Line has been the leader in innovative cruise travel providing guests with some of the most contemporary ships at sea. Particularly, the introduction of freestyle cruising has provided guests with a greater degree of freedom and flexibility when on board one of Norwegian’s 11 cruise ships.

Norwegian’s latest, the Norwegian Epic, launched mid-July with record breaking sales amidst its inaugural festivities in Europe, New York, and Miami. Upon closer examination of the cruise ship, it is apparent the Epic offers a truly innovative and unique experience.

Built for 4100 passengers and weighing in at 155, 873 gross tons, the Epic has been deemed the world’s largest floating entertainment venue. Here is a closer look at some of its key features:

Accommodation:

Accommodations include a variety of suites – from the largest villa suite complex at sea, to studios designed for the solo traveler, to spa suites that offer a complete spa vacation. The ship also includes two private decks at the top of the ship that offer private restaurants, bars, and pools, and family-friendly accommodations.

Family:

The Epic offers a number of family-friendly activities: An aqua park with three multi-story waterslides, six bowling alleys, Nickelodeon at Sea which offers Nickelodeon-themed entertainment and programming, a sports complex, a rock-climbing wall, and supervised activities when adults need a little getaway.

Dinner:

The Epic includes 20 different dining options inspired by the world’s leading culinary destinations. The cruise ship offers an upscale steakhouse, authentic Teppanyaki, Italian and Chinese fare, sushi, a salad bar, and its signature French restaurant.

Entertainment:

The Epic offers world-class entertainment for its guests on board. Norwegian Cruise Line is the official cruise line of Blue Man Group, best known for their theatrical shows that combine music, comedy, and theatrics. For the first time, Blue Man Group performs their act at sea aboard the Epic. The ship also features Cirque Dreams & Dinner, an interactive theatrical dining experience with music and mayhem, and is the official cruise line of Legends in Concert, The Second City Comedy Troupe, and Howl at the Moon Dueling Pianos.

The ships nightlife includes SVEDKA, one of only 14 ice bars in the world and the first ice bar at sea, along with Spice H20, an Ibiza-inspired beach club. Throw in a full-action casino with a high-roller ambience, and the Epic is sure to offer something for everyone.

The Norwegian Epic is currently sailing her first Eastern Caribbean cruise which departed from Miami on July 10, 2010 with visits in St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Nassau, Bahamas. To book a cruise, or to find out more information on Norwegian Epic, visit www.rosedale.cruiseshipcenters.com.

TRAVEL: Windstar Cruises

Marie “Mings” Nicola is Women’s Post’s Community Manager, Social Media Gal & Food Journalist.

What if, for one week, you could cast away your cares and run off to sea? Imagine gentle waves breaking against the side of the yacht. The pristine water changes from turquoise to amber as it sparkles in the sunset. A warm Mediterranean breeze rushes past you before it gets caught in the massive white sails that tower overhead. This isn’t a dream, the experience is real, and it very well could be your next vacation. No longer are luxury cruises reserved for the elite. Lately, small-ship cruises are a rising trend and provide globally savvy travelers a cost-comparable alternative to mega-cruiselines.

Windstar Cruises, which operates a three-ship fleet of luxury yachts that explore hidden harbours and secluded coves of the world’s most treasured destinations, is such a ship. Far above any other cruise, Windstar’s fleet of four and five-mast sailing yachts offers unparalleled services, passenger space, and activities.

Seventy-four cabins carry only 148 guests (the five-mast boasts 156 cabins holding 312 guests) on weeklong voyages offering an escape from the grind of day-to-day life. Guests indulge in a slower pace of life: Read in the sun, chat with new friends, enjoy a treatment in the spa, take cooking classes, workout in the gym, kayak, sail, windsurf, snorkel and SCUBA directly off the ship’s Marina Deck, or indulge in Windstar’s Signature Collection host series – every service is offered for no other reason than your enjoyment.

When the over 20,000 square feet of sails are raised, the boat skims silently through the water headed towards rare and infrequently traveled ports inaccessible by larger ships. Sail the Baltic, theHoly Land, Europe, Costa Rica, Caribbean, or Transatlantic with itineraries that highlight dramatic landscapes, picturesque villages and ancient ruins. The sleek yacht gives guests a unique perspective of quiet coves and tucked-away harbours free of boisterous crowds. Here, you’re free to explore verdant rainforests, shop indigenous markets, or claim your own part of a pristine beach.

Dining is particularly spectacular: Chefs cater lush meals, including dining al fresco at your own schedule. Formal wear is not required because Windstar prides itself on being a casual cruise, built for your relaxation.

L’Occitane toiletries, flat screen televisions, DVD and iPod docks make each stateroom a comfortable and homey space. There’s rarely anything nicer than slipping between crisp cotton sheets while the silent rocking of the ocean cradles you to sleep.

With so much on offer, it’s impossible to consider ever taking a cruise any other way. On a small-scale yacht everyone knows your name and the experience is built to feel like you’re on your own private escape. With high-end amenities and services offered in between ports of call, Windstarmakes seeing the world an experience out of the ordinary.

For more on Windstar Cruises, visit our favourite cruise resource,www.rosedale.cruiseshipcenters.ca.

#TOpoli with Thomson Panel: Andrea Houston, Travis Myers, John Lorinc (January 13, Part 1)

Join Toronto’s political panel as these top #TOpoli journalists go over the top issues facing the city this week. Should the city government be addressing climate change? Should landuse planning encomapss the entire Toronto region to prevent disasters like we saw in this winter’s ice storm and the summer’s flood?

Tune in to hear Sarah Thomson in discussion with Travis Myers, Andrea Houston, and John Lorinc.

Your heart will melt when you see these grandfathers finally get married after 46 years together

After 46 years together these two grandfathers finally tie the knot, and you’re going to need a tissue by the end of this video.

An old war vet who thinks his granddaughter is perfect seems like the most normal thing in the world, and these two can finally get married now that the law in their state views their love as normal.

 

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

#TOpoli with Thomson: Political Panel w/ Travis Myers, Andrea Houston, Tess Kalinoski part 1

Join host and moderator Sarah Thomson for the first part of the #TOpoli political panel for the week of January 6, 2014. Panelists Travis Myers, Andrea Houston, and Tess Kalinowski discuss Toronto’s big issues this week including the aftermath of the ice storm, Rob Ford registering for the mayoral race, Norm Kelly taking the helm at city hall, and more.