By Barbara Ramsay Orr
Exploring possibilities for curated experiences around the corner, around the country & around the world.
Near: ‘Bee’ sure it’s the Chelsea Hotel for a Toronto sleepover
The Chelsea hotel is located right in the heart of Toronto, close to great shopping, the theatre district, major attractions and world class museums. The Chelsea is Canada’s largest hotel, with 1590 rooms, and is ideal for a couples getaway to the heart of the city, or for a family weekend of urban fun.
The hotel’s Kid’s Fun Centre has an indoor heated pool with a twisty waterslide, supervised children’s activities and a teen lounge. For the grownups, Deck 27 features an adults only recreation area. The Family Fun suites are large enough for all members of the family to relax. There are three very good dining venues, but the Market Garden is perfect for casual dining, especially with young children. And there are wonderful dining choices within an easy walk of the hotel.
One of the initiatives of the Chelsea Hotel, that deserves to be supported, is their recent partnership with Toronto Bee Rescue, an urban beekeeping operation founded by Peter Chorabik and Sarah Allinson. They specialize in the humane removal and relocation of established honeybee colonies, finding locations for the colonies where they will thrive. For their part, the hotel has established four beehives on the hotel roof, as well as a fountain to ensure the bees have access to water.
There are plenty of reasons to plan a stay-over visit to Toronto this season. The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair runs from Nov. 1-10, and there are major sports events to enjoy. Our beloved NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors, start their season, and with the Toronto Maple Leafs starting in October. The Gourmet Food and Wine Expo is on from Nov. 21-24 and the Toronto Christmas Market, in the Distillery District, celebrates the holidays from Nov. 14 to Dec. 22. The One of a Kind Show, perfect for early Christmas shopping, happens from Nov. 21 to Dec. 1.
Chelsea Hotel, 33 Gerrard St W, Toronto, ON M5G 1Z4
Tel: (416) 595-1975
Far: Las Cruces, New Mexico
Located a short drive from both the Texas and the Mexican border, Las Cruces, New Mexico is an eclectic mixture of cultures and history. It is also famously home to the world’s only Chile Pepper Institute, totally dedicated to the study and cultivation of the chili pepper. The institute was awarded a Guinness World Record for discovering the hottest chili in the world – the Bhut Jolokia, which measures more than one million units on the Scoville heat scale (the international measure for the heat of peppers).
The chili features on almost every menu in Las Cruces and surrounding communities. Many shops display a “ristra,” an artfully arranged string of dried chili peppers, and if you visit in the fall, the air is rich with the smell of chilis being roasted. Best is the Walk of Flame, the Green Chile Trail that leads visitors to 28 restaurants, retail stores and producers, where the chili rules. Sample green chili stew, green chili margaritas, green chili pizza and green chili ice cream.
There’s much to do in this historic town, close to the Rio Grande River and cupped by the Organ Mountains. There are excellent hiking and biking trails. Nearby is the otherworldly White Sands National Monument, a carefully preserved expanse with kilometres of fine white gypsum sand dunes. It is the largest such natural site in the world. Walking through the dunes is unnerving – the sand is white as snow, and it’s cool to the touch, but there’s a burning hot sun overhead in a clear blue sky. Even stranger is the sight of kids and adults speeding down the highest dunes on sleds. A guided sunset walk through the white dunes, as the sands turn pink and gold and the stars come out, feels like a lunar stroll.
Live the dream of vacationing on a tropical island – head for Fiji. On Malalo Island, in the Mamanucas, about 25 km from the international airport in Nadi, lies the isolated perfection of Likuliku Lagoon resort. In the Malolo dialect, ‘Likuliku’ means ‘calm waters’ and guests at this exclusive resort can be sure of a tranquil and luxurious getaway. Serene, naturally beautiful and architecturally stunning, the resort boasts Fiji’s only authentic over-water bures, which are Fijian style cabins. Each of the ten private bures has its own plunge pool and a clear glass section through which guests can watch the fishes below – your own living aquarium. The architecture is traditionally Fijian, using natural elements unique to the region. Each afternoon, guests in the bures are treated to daily canapés with a glass of Champagne.
Days can be spent lazing on the beach, snorkeling in the clear waters off Likuliku Lagoon, or trying out one of the many water sports. The choice of land and sea activities includes fishing, diving, sunset cruises, visits to other islands, paddle boarding, kayaking and windsurfing.
On Friday nights, there are performances of the traditional Meke (dance), and traditional Fijian stories through dance and song. This is followed by dinner of the traditional Lovo (earth oven feast) and a South Pacific BBQ. On Monday evenings, there is a traditional Kava ceremony with the opportunity to learn about the origins of Kava, the plant and its attributes and the protocols surrounding the ceremony.
The resort’s cuisine is exceptional, with a strong emphasis on Fijian dishes and ingredients, including local seafood and tropical fruits.
Guests can reach the resort by private helicopter from Nadi Airport, or take a private charter boat, or catch the fast catamaran that goes to the island daily.