Five places to warm-up and cool down
The west coast of India boasts this “Pearl of the Orient,” combining scenic coastlines, fabulous food and fascinating history. The Arabian Sea to the west and six major rivers that wind their way through the country give rise to the land’s romance and beauty. Heavily influenced by Hinduism, Christianity and the Portuguese, Goa has a distinct outlook and lifestyle unique to India. These influences can be found in the cuisine, which also relies heavily on the sea. Seafood, rice and curry can be found at nearly every meal. Coconut is another favorite ingredient, and you can almost guarantee the food will be pungent, spicy and most importantly, fresh. Centuries of Portuguese rule, and that of Eastern rulers before them, has given Goa an interesting mix of Indian and Western influences. The culture and architecture uniquely boast these themes, as does the history. A visit to Ancestral Goa, located about ten kilometers south of Margao will give you a glimpse into the Goa of 100 years ago. This is a miniature Goan village that gives visitors a peak at the country’s original splendor. The laidback attitude of the Goan people, combined with the beaches and sunshine make Goa an idyllic holiday spot.
Marvelous Mar del Plata
When can you tango the night away, sipping fine wine and wake up the next morning and roll onto the beach? Argentina, of course, and Mar del Plata is the jewel of the country’s coastline. With more than 17 kilometers of beaches, backed up to a cosmopolitan city, daytime and nighttime activities are literally a step away. The southern beaches are less populated and boast some luxury resorts. Argentinean cuisine is becoming known the world over; especially its quality wines and meats. Other specialties you’ll want to savor include tamales, a dish made of corn meal, chicken or other meat and wrapped in corn husks and humita, which brings the flavors of corn, sweet peppers and tomatoes together and surrounds them in green corn leaves. Nightlife is key here, as evidenced by the discotheques and the many theaters, offering performances of ballet, classical music and drama. Mar del Plata, located in the southern hemisphere has the bonus of being summer when we are in the midst of winter. January and February are its high season, and may be too hot, so now is the perfect time to go.
Wonderful Waiheke Island
New Zealand is a pretty spectacular place all around, but Waiheke Island, only 40 minutes by ferry from Auckland, is the jewel of the setting. Relaxation and activities blend well here, giving everyone a chance to do be as restless or as restful as they want. A beautiful blend of forest and farmland with vineyards and olive groves, not to mention the beaches, makes Waiheke Island a joy to discover. Feeling adventurous? Try sea kayaking, sky diving or mountain biking. If you’re feeling lazy, take a strolling vineyard or art studio tour. Waiheke Island’s hot, dry summers and stony soil make the grapes and olives it grows unique. Cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and cabernet francs are what it does best. Many of these world class wineries offer tastings, fine cuisine and of course, award winning wines. Accommodations on Waiheke Island are pretty special too. Lay your head in an intimate, exclusive room, only steps from the beach. Even better, rent yourself a beach cottage for a couple of weeks. This is the place New Zealanders themselves go to relax. The Island holds a Jazz festival over Easter, an olive festival in November and a wine festival in February.
Unbelievable Bora Bora
Probably every photo you’ve ever seen of crystal blue beaches, pure white sand, a lone palm tree, perhaps a hammock, has got to be of Bora Bora. Maybe not, but its beaches are some of the most photographed in the world. And it’s easy to see why. It’s also one of the most romantic places in the world. Secluded beaches, over-the-water bungalows and high quality resorts ensure feelings of romance, whether you want them to or not. The out-of-doors is why you come here, wild nightlife, or any kind of nightlife for that matter, is nearly non-existent. Turquoise lagoons swim up to ivory beaches. Lush tropical hillsides roll up, revealing their hibiscus and palm trees along the way. And lording over it all is Mount Otemanu which reaches high into a sapphire sky. The water is your entertainer, offering itself for daytime snorkeling, sunset cruising, sailing and shark and ray feeding. Everything on Bora Bora is first class, so even the sand stuck between your toes is a little extra special.
The Maldives, located on the equator south of Sri Lanka, is not one island but more than 11 hundred coral islands. About 200 are inhabited, and 87 are exclusive resort islands, meaning they give you no choice but to spend a luxurious holiday here. In fact, the country has a “one island, one resort” policy, ensuring a secluded, opulent stay. The Maldives culture is like no other. So many different people from a variety of countries have settled here throughout the centuries that there is no typical “Maldivian” prototype. Some of the local music and dancing has African undertones, while much of the food is influenced by Southeast Asia. Being a nation comprised of coral islands, makes the Maldivians quite sensitive to the environment. Much of their economy is based on tourism, and the beautiful beaches, clean sand and fresh air lures a lot of people. Coral mining is banned in certain areas, as is turtle hunting. The government actively encourages tree planting and a lot of sport fishing is now catch and release. All these factors contribute to what the Maldives have already been blessed with: pristine beaches, emerald seas and a rainbow of sea life. Protection of this natural beauty is paramount (resort buildings are not to be built taller than the tallest palm tree on the island) and you reap the benefits.