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

 View CME Events Near/In Munich

Seattle (USA)

The “Emerald City” of SEATTLE is laidback west coast but also cutting-edge, the birthplace of grunge music and also some über-modern architecture.

Seattle is often referred to as Emerald City. And while that’s a reference to the fantastical place in The Wizard of Oz, it’s also a moniker for the lush and green coastal wonderland of Seattle on Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest. Washington State’s largest city is known for many “wonderous” things; it’s ground zero of grunge music and tech-forward companies like Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing. There’s a new-world gleam here as well as a rebellious spirit. This is the birthplace of the Starbucks coffee empire (its Pike Place roast is now ubiquitous but is named for Starbucks’ very first location at Seattle’s public market). And yet the city’s caffeinated can-do spirit is tempered with an easy-going PNW vibe that puts the outdoors (Seattle comes by its Emerald City nickname because of thousands of acres of parkland) and west-coast lifestyle first and foremost.

seattle3 While the Space Needle (a legacy of the 1962 World’s Fair) may still be the city’s most iconic landmark, there’s far more futuristic architecture to behold in Seattle. Within the Needle’s shadow is the sinuous EMP MUSEUM. It stands for Experience Music Project and as such its mission statement states that it’s a “leading-edge nonprofit museum, dedicated to the ideas and risk-taking that fuel contemporary popular culture.” And gazing up at its gleaming, undulating Frank Gehry design (made of 21,000 aluminum stainless steel shingles and 280 steel ribs), one can envision the cross-sections of cur-vilinear guitars that the architect says inspired him and served as building blocks. And inside “boldly go where no one has gone before” via the Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds exhibition (opening May 21). {empmuseum.org}

seattle8
Courtesy of Provenance Hotels and The Miller's Guild

Also currently showing at the EMP: Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses. The band most associated with grunge music also embodies Seattle spirit. Local label Sub Pop Records signed the band in 1989, over 25 years ago, and to relive some of that era stay at the HOTEL MAX, the art- and music-filled boutique bolthole that recently revealed an exterior mural (proudly proclaiming that “Seattle doesn’t settle” in six-foot tall letters and a redesigned lobby that shows off vibrant art (including an original Warhol and a bass guitar signed by Krist Novoselic of Nirvana), along with a retail shop collaboration with Sub Pop. Also on offer: free samples of local Caffe Vita brew in the morning and craft beer in the afternoon…and there’s a Sub Pop floor in which to hole up and listen to tunes. {hotelmaxseattle.com}

seattle6
Courtesy of Provenance Hotels & The Miller's Guild

Attached to the Hotel Max lobby is THE MILLER’S GUILD, where a custom-made nine-foot-long Infierno wood-fired grill is a fiery centrepiece. The name is inspired by the building’s past as the 1925 Vance Lumber Company Hotel, where workers rested between harvest-ing and milling trees in the surrounding forests. Now it’s all about nose-to-tail cuisine and other fire-roasted PNW fare, as well as cask-aged craft cocktails
{millersguild.com}

seattle9More of Seattle’s creative spirit and innovative pioneering is found at the central branch of the SEATTLE PUBLIC LIBRARY. The multi-faceted structure, as if a bright gem nestled in the downtown core, is the creation of another internationally renowned architect, Rem Koolhaas and former Seattleite Joshua Ramus. Take a free guided tour of its award-winning architecture, including a maple floor that’s made of 556 lines of raised text in 11 languages {spl.org} - Barb Sligl

For more visitor info on Seattle go to visitseattle.org.