Grand Cayman

GRAND CAYMAN has all the Caribbean musts—beach, snorkelling, marine life, sunsets…and enough food and drink to warrant an annual festival.

Ensconced beachside, on an alabaster swath of sand guarded by elegant hotels, stretching 10 km along Grand Cayman’s west coast, nuzzled by waters so clear you can see starfish on the bottom, I wonder how I’m going to fill tomorrow.

Right now, entertained by a perfect sunset (one of the Caribbean’s best), I don’t feel like doing anything, though tonight it’s fine dining at Abacus at Camana Bay (camanabay.com), a modern town centre boasting boutiques and other fine dining options beside the water. Wherever I dine, I’ll be sated: many consider the Cayman Islands the Caribbean’s culinary capital. It’s also home to the annual Cayman Cookout festival with renowned host, Chef Eric Ripert (this year it’s on from January 12–17, @caymancookout).

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Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix has plenty of Arizona’s desert heat but it has also sparked a spicy and vibrant art and culinary scene…with some sweet spots to rejuvenate

img_2657After my Lotus Blossoming Chakra massage, I discover that some of my seven chakras aren’t quite as aligned as they should be. Apparently I need to meditate more. I try to remedy this immediately by walking the labyrinth at The Boulders Resort & Spa. Round and round I shuffle, the scent of sage wafting over me, the sun warming my face, the dry desert wind softly fluttering my robe. I think it’s working.

Or it could just be this place, the huge rocks the resort is named for, the tall saguaro cacti, the amber and rusty hues of the baked landscape. The next morning I rise early in my adobe-style casita at The Boulders (theboulders.com) and venture into the desert for a run as the sun is just starting to spread its heat. I feel my chakras realigning…
img_3240The Sonoran desert may seem harsh but it teems with beauty. Closer to Phoenix (The Boulders is in Scottsdale, just outside Arizona’s capital and largest city), I walk through the Desert Botanical Garden (one of only a few botanical gardens accredited by the American Association of Museums; dbg.org) and then hike nearby Camelback Mountain to marvel at the range of colour this arid land sprouts, like the magenta spikes of a barrel cactus.

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Munich

Munich or Munchen is the mecca of beer, especially during Oktoberfest, but there’s so much more to this Bavarian city—from BMW to bespoke shoes

When you fly in to Munich it’s to a five-star airport. MUC achieved the first such five-star designation in Europe, offering everything from “napcab” sleeping pods to Weissbier or white beer (with Weisswurst or white sausage, of course, sauerkraut and a pretzel) at Airbräu, the airport brewery. Sehr gut. And, this year, MUC was named Europe’s Best Airport—again (it’s the ninth time in 11 years)—and it’s ranked third in the world after Singapore and Seoul (munich-airport.de). It even has a huge square in the grand tradition of European cities that’s one of the largest roofed outdoor spaces on the continent. Here, you can surf (there’s a wave pool), play polo or beach volleyball, watch a tennis match and experience a full-on traditional German Christmas market. Or sit in the beer garden.

2So, think Munich and, yes, think great beer (this is where the famous 1516 purity law, Reinheitsgebot, was written in 1487 before it was adopted across Bavaria, decreeing the use of just a few key ingredients: water, hops, barley), but also some serious style. Like the sleek BMW headquarters (bmw-welt.com/en/). The award winning architecture evokes the dynamic movement of a four-cylinder engine and propeller. BMW Welt or World, as it’s aptly named, is an altar to German engineering and for those with the means, you can even personally pick up a car on site and drive your new machine down the spiral ramp and out the building.

332More exquisite craftsmanship is found at the centuries-old shoemaker and clothier Ed Meier (edmeier.de). Peter Eduard Meier is the great grandson of the original purveyor to the Bavarian court and, if you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the impeccably dressed gentleman at the flagship store.

A short walk away (perhaps in some new custommade shoes) is the Kunstareal or arts district where Munich’s museums are clustered, including three Pinakotheken museums (the Alte or Old, Neue or New and Pinakothek der Moderne), the Glyptothek (founded in 1830 by Bavarian King Ludwig I to showcase his collection of Greek and Roman sculptures), the Lenbachhaus (showcasing local modern art), the Museum Brandhorst and more. The newest is a stark modern cube on Königsplatz (Kings Square) with the wordy name of the Munich Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism (ns-dokuzentrum-muenchen.de). Inside, it’s a stripped-down look at the very-close-to-home Nazi past; this, after all, is where the Nazi party was born and made its base. The museum is built atop the ruins of Hitler’s Nazi headquarters, Das Braune Haus (Brown House).

52After this, it’s probably a relief to get back to beer. And, better yet, a stein at the loveliest Schwemme or taproom anywhere, Hofbräuhaus, which has served the likes of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (hofbraeuhaus.de). And, if you don’t make it to the Oktoberfest tent grounds alongside six million others (it’s the world’s largest fest, going on since 1810, and taking place this year from September 17 to October 3), then you must at least make it to Augustiner Keller (augustinerkeller.de), one of Munich’s oldest and most famous beer gardens under ancient chestnut trees. It’s a slice of Bavarian bliss with a stein of local favourite Edelstoff in hand. Edel means special—on the level of a gemstone—and it seems that paean applies to much in Munchen. Ja, sehr gut. —Barb Sligl

For more info on Munich, go to muenchen.de and for
Bavaria, check out bavaria.us

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