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Newfoundland cod’s country

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Newfoundland cod’s country 

  A generation after the collapse of one of the world’s great fisheries, Newfoundland is thriving as the Canadian island has begun to share  its secrets icebergs in summer, breaching humpback whales, and the most charming seaside villages on this side of the Atlantic.
  On a beach draped with seaweed, on Eastern Canada’s Bonavista Peninsula, Duane and Renee Collins are hosting their version of the ‘Screech In’, the rite of passage that welcomes newcomers to Newfoundland. In the rowdy pubs of George Street in the capital, St John’s, CFAs or Come From Aways, the local name for those not lucky enough to be born on ‘the Rock’, as Newfoundland is known are made to down a shot, or three, of a dark rum called Screech and then plant a kiss on the clammy lips of a frozen cod.
  Beside a campfire, Duane pours healthy slugs of Screech into enamel mugs. He has just oared his 16 foot rowing boat over four nautical miles of swelling North Atlantic, all the while teasing his passengers with yarns of close encounters with 40 ton humpback whales. Meanwhile, his wife and business partner, Renee, has laid out a fisherman’s feast salmon steaks, salt cured cod, smoked capelin and pan seared sea trout, to be followed by rectangles of bangbelly, a dense cake made with salt pork, stuffed with tart red partridge berries and slathered with butter cream sauce.
  ‘That’s what Newfoundlanders do,’ says Duane, who runs Hare Bay Adventures with Renee. ‘At the end of the day, we like to have a chat, tell stories, and share some good food. It’s like fishing off the dock, having a boil up on the beach, or rowing in the ocean a quintessential  Newfoundland experience.’
  Then a real life ‘screech!’ rends the air. An osprey, after plucking its own meal from the waves, wings triumphantly inland. The iridescent fish wriggling in its talons is a capelin, the oily bait fish whose ups and downs map the rise, fall and gentle rebirth of rural Newfoundland.
  For 400 years, the cod that feasted on North Atlantic capelin meant survival, and even prosperity, for Newfoundlanders. Small boats, setting out from hundreds of outports small coastal communities,  most unserved by roads couldn’t dent the vast biomass that turned the Grand Banks, the fishing ground on Newfoundland’s continental shelf, into one of the planet’s most reliable sources of protein. By 1968, ruthlessly efficient factory trawlers from Europe and Asia were landing enough cod to stretch head to tailfin three times around the world. Then the catch nose dived, and in 1992 the Canadian government declared a moratorium. Overnight, 30,000 Newfoundlanders were put out of work. One in eight would leave their birthplace, many for high paying jobs in the tar sands of Alberta. Over a quarter of a century later, the cod show no signs ofrecovering. Even the capelin, whose massive migrations lured whales inshore and marked the beginning of summer, have become rarer in the water.
  But Newfoundlanders are nothing if not resourceful. While Renee and Duane joined the exodus to the Canadian mainland, not a day went by that they didn’t pine fortheir old life. Now the couple are back in Hare Bay, leading richly narrated hikes and water adventures that bring visitors up close to the local geology, ecology and culture. Two local fishermen have joined the circle around the campfire. Bryan, whose forearm sports a tattoo of a fisherman spearing a cod  adapted from the logo on the Screech label has taken to catching bigger fish. With his son Alec, he takes visitors offshore to chum for sharks on his 38 foot long liner. At time, they can bring up half a dozen, including porbeagles and 800 pound tiger sharks. It’s strictly catch and release and the season, from July to October, is short, but they make a good living at it.
  ‘The thing about Newfoundland’, says Alec, ‘is that it’s still undeveloped, as far as tourism is concerned all of this vast beautiful country we have. Now we and people like Duane and Renee are starting to tap into it. And people love what they see.
  There’s a lot of Newfoundland to see. Though its population only just surpasses that of New York’s Staten Island, the province, which includes Labrador on the Canadian mainland, is geographically larger  than Germany. Its history is equally impressive. When Sir Humphrey Gilbert arrived in 1583 to claim the ‘Newe Founde Land’ in the name of Queen Elizabeth I, St John’s harbour was already packed with Portuguese, French and Basque fishing vessels. (Archaeological evidence in L’Anse aux Meadows on the northern coast suggests Vikings may have settled here as early as 1000 AD.) Permanent settlers, discouraged by early administrations that viewed Newfoundland foremost as a source of fish and fur, stubbornly made homes forthemselves. Eventually they studded 6,000 miles of coastline with such gloriously named communities as Come by Chance, Dildo and Trepassy, where an estimated 66 distinct dialects were spoken.
  One of the grandest communities was Trinity, north of St John’s on the Bonavista peninsula. Settled by Dorsetmen who made fortunes building ships forthe cod fishery, Trinity claims to be the site of North  America’s first court case, its first fire engine and its first smallpox inoculations. When Tineke Gow came here, Trinity’s year round population had fallen from a peak of 2,000 to 300. Handsome homes, some brought stone by stone from England’s West Country, lay scattered over a grassy headland, paint peeling.
  ‘We bought a little place here for $4,000 recalls Gow, whose English stillretains traces of her upbringing in Holland. ‘The locals thought I’d been taken, paying that much for a derelict house She turned the 1840 schoolmaster’s home into Trinity’s first B&B, which had the town’s first queen sized bed An old fishing shed on the bay became the Twine Loft, now a sought after dining destination serving locally sourced seafood with European flair. With her daughter Marieke, Gow now rents out six restored heritage homes to visitors.
  Trinity, following its near death experience, now attracts young people in search of a simplerlife outside the city they staff a coffee roasting house, a cooperage and a community theatre called Rising Tide.
  ‘The tourists are the fish now, says Tineke with a chuckle, as she finishes a plate of maple blueberry chicken in the Twine Loft. Marieke shoots her mother a look, but agrees. ‘Tourism has helped to preserve a lot of culture and heritage that would have disappeared otherwise. Our staff take pride in talking to guests about what life is like here in Trinity where they go snowmobiling in winter, or how their husbands and wives go out fishing.
  But the transformation ofrural Newfoundland was well under way even before the cod disappeared. After April Fool’s Day 1949, when Britain’s oldest colony became Canada’s newest province, the new government encouraged fishing families to resettle from remote  communities served by costly coastal steamers to growth centres reachable by road. By 1974, some 250 fishing villages had been abandoned and, with them, the small, strong worlds Newfoundlanders had proudly created in improbably desolate surroundings.
  ‘My uncle Joe said sailing out of Ireland’s Eye was the hardest thing he’d ever done, says Bruce Miller, a former crab fisherman who moors his 27 foot tour boat, Rugged Beauty, in the village of New Bonaventure. ‘You’re leaving your dead parents in the cemetery. Those communities were self sufficient. You built your own house, and most everybody kept sheep and horses. Miller, who grew up in the outport village of Kerley’s Harbor, now makes a living taking a dozen visitors at a time on tours of the uninhabited islands, where steeples lie in the grass and saltbox cottages are overgrown with  weeds. ‘Modern technology and greed killed the fishery. The cod didn’t stand a chance. God love the tourism industry. It’s the only thing I ever saw grow around here.’
  While offshore oilrigs bring tax revenue to the province, they don’t provide many jobs. Snow crab and northern shrimp, which  have thrived since cod populations slumped, continue to bring in big money for fishermen and packers, but the seasons are measured in weeks,ratherthan months. Tourism is proving to be one of the mostreliable employers in rural Newfoundland, which is good news  forthose young people who find its beauty irresistible.
  Bonnie Stag is one of the returnees. After working in  mines in the Yukon and Ontario, she’s come back to her native Bonavista named by the Venetian explorerJohn Cabot, said to have exclaimed ‘O buona vista!’ (Oh happy sight) about the view in 1497 where she leads guided tours with her husband, Jordan. She reckons there’s more than enough here to keep visitors coming. On nearby rocks, birdwatchers can get up close to vast colonies of orange beaked puffins schooling their pufflings, or chicks, in the art of cliff diving. The discovery  of 560 million year old fossils, considered the oldest  examples of animals with muscles, is set to make the area a Unesco World Heritage site. Not farfrom where a replica of Cabot’s ship, The Matthew, is moored, a small iceberg can be seen a few dozen yards offshore, just one of the 2,000 or so that wander down from Greenland every spring and summer.
  Bonavista lives up to its name. Impeccably crafted wooden houses crowd coves and inlets, suggesting fishing vessels that have chosen permanent anchorage on a tantalisingly verdant shore. On Church Street, Stag knocks on the door of a wooden two storey shop, and says hello to Peter Burt, president of the Newfoundland Salt Company, who is busy skimming flakes of fleur de sel from a vat of seawater. A former chef at Raymond’s, the St John’s restaurant considered Newfoundland’s surest bet for haute cuisine, Burt and his partner, Robin Crane, gave up the city to pursue a dream they produce an ocean perfumed salt, boiled down from seawater collected from the Arctic current, that has developed a cult following in Canadian kitchens.
  ‘The oddity about Bonavista, marvels Burt, ‘is that  people are moving out here to live, so we’re a growing rural community. The hardest part of being here is finding work. But we’ve created our own work. You can’t go farin Newfoundland without striking.
  on more proof of the native spirit ofresilience and self sufficiency. Nearthe wharf at Port Union, a union built town whose former fish plant is set to become a massive growing operation for cannabis (legalised in Canada last year), a barge is moored; its owner, a former fisherman, transports icebergs inshore to be used in distilling vodka and beer. (In St John’s, the Quidi Vidi brewery uses the 20,000 year old water, frozen before humans started polluting, to make crisp Iceberg Beer, bottled in translucent blue longnecks.)
  Whales, though, can prove more elusive. While 26 species make their home in Newfoundland waters, and superpods of 1,000 or more dolphins and ‘puff pigs’ porpoises take over entire coves in the summer months, spotting marine mammals is hit and miss.
  ‘You should have been here yesterday, says Heather Gordon, the owner of Ida’s Place, a seafront teahouse in the working fishing town of Greenspond that offers a privileged place for spotting cetaceans. ‘The ocean was infested with orcas and humpbacks. They were driving the capelin into the rocks, doing belly flops to stun ’em. Every table was full with people watching. I was so busy Iwas running around like a one armedfiddlerwitha rash.
  It’s at the aptly named Inn at Happy Adventure, though, that Newfoundland delivers a perfect storm of experience. Co owner Chuck Matchim interrupts a dinner of moose burgers and cod tongues fried with scrunchions crisp rinds of pork fat at the inn’s wild-game themed restaurant to say that the wind has died down enough to take a twilight excursion into Bonavista Bay.
  ‘Pull on the life jackets,’ he says. ‘It’s now or never. Half an hourlater, a dorsal fin on a gracefully arched back rears up next to a pontoon of the Zodiac, before plunging beneath the starboard bow. ‘There’s your  whale! Matchim shouts into the wind. ‘A minke, chasing the capelin. We almostran her over Killing the engines, he drifts towards an apparition an iceberg, big as a bungalow. As the setting sun pinks  lichen furred cliffs, the berg’s sheer alabaster walls loom overhead, and it gurgles and lurches as it sheds torrents of fresh meltwaterinto the brine. It’s a sight that calls to mind a joke about the Rock. In heaven, howdo you tellwhich ones are Newfoundlanders They’re the ones who want to go home.

Samcheong-dong Sujebi

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Samcheongdong Sujebi

  A vat of soup and a plate of potato pancakes that is why you go to  Samcheongdong Sujebi. That’s why everyone else goes there, too. Those are the two things you’ll see on almost every single table And they are the things I keep going back to in my mind, even after some rather exemplary Korean barbecue and elevated bites elsewhere in Seoul. The soup in question is sujebi, wheat dumplings floating in a broth of anchovies, ginger, kelp, and clams. The soft dumplings retain their structure but aren’t even a tiny bit chewy. The broth is so comforting in its umami rich austerity it feels elemental Douse it with soy sauce or leave it be either way you’ll find solace in its homey depths.
  The gamjajeon, or potato pancake, comes in a few variations, one of which has only one ingredient potato. It’s the texture that makes it so special, the perfect balance of crisp and soft. A container of fragrant, piquant kimchi on the table adds spice and intrigue. Samcheongdong Sujebi has been open for almost four decades, serving hundreds of customers per day. It doesn’t play particularly well on Instagram. It isn’t dining engineered to inspire jealousy in others. It is simply a place that does one wonderful thing (or, more accurately, two wonderful things) better than anywhere else.

Golden Isles of Georgia

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Golden Isles of Georgia

  Along the Georgia coast lies a stretch of land that is like no other.  Here you will find centuries old oak trees draped with Spanish moss that line the streets and meet miles of sun drenched beaches. Vast marshlands, winding rivers, and plentiful natural and outdoor diversions beckon visitors who return for generations. This is  perhaps the best kept secret on the East Coast this is the Golden Isles of Georgia.
  Comprised of four unique barrier islands, St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island, each of the Golden Isles has its own charisma and personality for you to discover, and all are complemented by the mainland port city of Brunswick.
  It’s no secret that Georgia’s Golden Isles is something special. The area was recently named one of “Best Islands in the Continental U.S.” for the fifth consecutive year. On top of winning other coveted awards such as Lonely Planet’s “Top Ten Regions to Visit” and Family Travel’s “Best U.S. Islands for Families,” the Golden Isles has also won some unique accolades including Travel Channel’s “10 Best Dolphin  Sighting Destinations” and MSN’s “Spring Break Destinations to Escape the Crowds.”
  As the largest barrier island in the Golden Isles, St. Simons Island offers a unique landscape that creates the perfect backdrop for challenging golf courses, friendly inns and luxurious resorts. Complete with a variety of charming shops and restaurants, it’s no wonder St. Simons Island earned Southern Living’s “Best Vacation Spot in Every Southern State” and TripAdvisor’s “17 Beautiful Small Towns to Visit.”
  As the only resort in the world that has received four Forbes Five Star awards for eleven consecutive years, Sea Island is where luxury meets timeless tradition. Home to three exceptional 18 hole championship golf courses, Sea Island has long been a tradition for  family getaways filled with discovery and wonder for all ages. Experience the charm that makes Sea Island Resort one of U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 “Best Hotels in the USA.”
  Accessible only by boat, Little St. Simons Island is a privately owned island that can accommodate up to 32 guests at a time. So close by, yet worlds away, Little St. Simons Island transports its visitors to another world with its 11,000 undeveloped acres and seven miles of  private beaches. Explore untouched wilderness with knowledgeable naturalists kayak meandering rivers and inlets enjoy family style, garden to table cuisine and end each gorgeous day with a glass of wine and spectacular view from the Lodge. No matter what you try, it is clear that this private island sanctuary is like no other, earning Little St. Simons Island spots on Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards for eight consecutive years.
  Or visit Jekyll Island, a unique state park prized for its open wilderness and National Historic Landmark District. With unique beaches like the sun drenched, golden sand Glory Beach, it’s no wonder Jekyll Island topped Town and Country Magazine’s list of “15  Best East Coast Beaches.”
  The historic port city of Brunswick features iconic Victorian style homes and architecture. Many locally owned boutiques, distinguished galleries and up andcoming eateries line the main street ensconced with pocket parks and squares.
  Discover the untouched marshes and maritime forests, bask in the opulence of five star amenities and dining, and savor the once in a lifetime experiences and memories you create all along the way. Your visit is sure to be an extraordinary one and it’s guaranteed that you’ll want to return.

Beyond Bangkok

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Beyond Bangkok

Here are some of the must visit spots from the World’s Best Awards.
  For a taste of Thailand’s beaches, head to Hua Hin, a seaside resort town located about a 2.5 hour drive or a 4 hour train ride south of Bangkok. This onetime sleepy fishing village is now a fashionable escape for well heeled urbanites looking to swim, kitesurf, and savor fresh seafood. You’ll find high end hotels, golf courses, spas, and tennis courts, as well as natural gems like the nearby Pala ou Waterfall.
  Heading to the peninsula’s southern reaches, the Kra Isthmus is a thin strip of land situated between the Gulf of Thailand to the east and the Andaman Sea to the west. On the gulf side, Beyond Bangkok the country’s second largest island and has become a hub for ultra plush wellness resorts, palm lined beaches, and outdoor adventure. Relax in high style at sanctuaries designed for relaxation, pampering, and  general de stressing. For an easy day trip, pop over to Koh Phan, a small offshore island, and visit Wat Phra Yai, a Buddhist temple housing a nearly 40 foot high golden Buddha.
  On the southwest coast facing the sparkling Andaman Sea, Krabi is both a province and a town. It’s famous for its vibrant street food scene, sandy beaches, and undiscovered vibe. Island hop through the stunning Phi Phi Islands, or hide away in Koh Lanta, an under the radar island district home to a national park spanning several islands, snorkeling nooks, and a semi nomadic seafaring group known as the Chao Leh. Stay in a small luxury hotel tucked between mountains, one of Thailand’s best kept secrets.
  Midway between mainland Krabi and Phuket in in Phang Nga Bay, sister islands Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai are quiet escapes known for their secluded beaches and private island feel. In the early 2000s, Koh Yao Noi became a hot spot for its homestay programs offered by local residents. Today that hospitality extends to upscale resorts designed to blend into nature. Off the resort grounds, these islands are virtually untouched by tourism you’ll find water buffalo grazing on the roadside, home grown restaurants, and traditional houses.
  Just an hour by plane from Bangkok’s skyscrapers, Buriram is a great place to experience traditional festivals and events. Don’t miss Loy Krathong in November, where hundreds of small banana leaf boats filled with flowers, incense, and candles light up the sky. Also celebrated in November, the thrilling Buriram Long Boat Races feature a parade of colorful boats and an elephant swimming contest. And in  December’s Buriram Kite Festival, enjoy a procession of traditional “aek” kites and folk performances.
  Northern Thailand is an escape to hilltop temples, expansive resorts, and vibrant culture. The north’s largest city, Chiang Mai called the “Rose of the North” boasts more than 300 ornate “wats,” or temples, in the city and surrounding countryside. It’s also a foodie haven The Michelin Guide Thailand will include Chiang Mai in its 2020 edition,  showcasing the region’s distinct local cuisine.
   A few hours north of Chaing Mai, in the region known as the Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai is a place to reconnect with nature in remote hill tribe villages and in glamorous tented camps inspired by the misty landscape. With its mountain trails, bamboo jungles, and refuges for rescued elephants a symbol of Thai royalty emblazoned on everything from scarves to the sides of beer bottles this part of the country feels delightfully off the beaten path, but with all the amenities of a comfortable vacation.

Whatto Seek Out Next in Savannah

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Whatto Seek Out Next in Savannah

  From high design hotels to buzzy eateries, Savannah is one of the South’s hippest cities. Explore the sepia toned romance of shady oak trees, stately mansions, and cobblestone streets or get edgy with a tour of modern art galleries, cool new restaurants, and colorful boutiques. Either way, this stylish Southern city brims with old school hospitality and new school charm.
  The oldest city in Georgia brims with fascinating history and gorgeous mansions, some of which are transformed into museums and restaurants. From the frilly Gingerbread House to the stately Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, Savannah is an architectural masterpiece. For another side of the past, visit the beautiful  Bonaventure Cemetery and download the app for a self guided tour, featuring 31 stops narrated by notable locals.
  With a growing modern art scene and the esteemed Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Savannah is a hotbed of creativity. Exhibits at the SCAD Museum of Art feature works by emerging and  established artists from around the world while the Laney Contemporary Fine Art gallery specializes in photography and contemporary art with a focus on the South from new and well known names in the art world.
  For cultural finds, visit the Telfair Museums, encompassing the Telfair  Academy, one of the oldest art museums in the country the contemporary Jepson Center and the Owens Thomas House. Or, browse City Market, a four block hub for shopping, art, and food, including local bites like pralines and peach cookies at Byrd’s Famous Cookies. Have rooftop cocktails at The Grove, a hip, three floor  restaurant serving lunch, dinner, and latenight drinks.
  From Lowcountry staples to soul food, Savannah has one of the most exciting foods scenes in the nation. Dine in a cool, restored Art Deco bus terminal at The Grey, a hot spot dedicated to Port City cuisine dig into award winning crispy chicken wings at Cotton & Rye and savor  plant based fare at Fox & Fig. Head to Artillery bar for a lengthy wine list and serious cocktails, including the city’s signature Artillery Punch.
  A wave of newly opened and soon toopen boutique hotels captures the current spirit of Savannah, a city that celebrates its roots but isn’t stuck in the past. On the revitalized riverfront, The Alida showcases a modern design aesthetic with local craftwork accents. A short walk from Chippewa Square, the year old Perry Lane Hotel has a modern retro feel that’s polished but still soft around the edges.

Margaret River

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Margaret River

  Famous for its vineyards and perfect waves, Western Australia’s  Margaret River is our top Best in Asia Pacific destination for 2019. 
  As dawn breaks,the cool grey tones ofthe beachwarm to a golden hue. Dozens of surfers are already out in thewater, bobbing up and down with the growing swell. They’ve paddled outfrom a perfect sandy crescent backed by forested hills beyond,the land is ribbed  with neatrows of grapevines.
  This is Prevelly Beach in the Margaret River region of Western Australia, and the scene encompasses this area’s twin passions its curling surf and delectable wines. Famously, some of the top local winemakers will begin the day catching waves in the morning sun before heading to the vineyards.
  I, however, am not a surfer. My last attempt, on Sydney’s Bondi Beach, was far more entertaining for spectators than it was for me, as I bucked and lurched and launched myself face first into the waves. Also, a rather shocking admission I don’t enjoy wine. On hearing this, winemakers across the world, from the Douro Valley in Portugal to Chile and New Zealand, have attempted to cure me by plying me with theirtop vintages, to no avail.
  Given these two lamentable shortcomings, I arrived in Margaret River wondering if someone like me could truly appreciate this much lauded part of Australia’s southwest. My firstreassurance came in the form of breakfast soft poached free range eggs on buttered Turkish bread, scattered with rocket, crispy bacon and roasted baby tomatoes that burst in the mouth. I was in a window seat at the colourful beach shack Sea Garden Cafe, looking out over a long stretch of the Indian Ocean. Much of the produce on my plate was home grown, drawn from the vegetable garden out the  back and from surrounding farms.
  Twinkle eyed and bearded, Normandy native Gilles England Brassy owned this café until a few years ago, when he took up a post as executive chef at the nearby Pullman Resort. ‘This region is amazing,’ says Gilles. ‘It’s one of those few places where you can get all of your produce from the area.We have truffles,chestnuts,Albany oysters,grass fed beef… and they taste out of this world.
  Part of the secret, I discovered while chatting with otherlocals among the morning crowd, is the soil, a sandy loam resulting from a granite landscape weathered down over millions of years. This, combined with what’s known as a Mediterranean maritime climate,  creates perfect conditions for producing big flavoured cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays.It also means exceptionally  flavoursome local fruits and vegetables.
  Mike is the very picture of a country farmer, with a great bushy beard, sunleathered face and battered wide brimmed hat.I struggled to keep up with him as he marched through his 65 acre property, where a thigh deep sea of green foliage burst with colour. ‘It has to taste of  something Mike told me emphatically, popping a gumball sized Principe Borghese tomato into his mouth with a juicy crunch and nodding with satisfaction. ‘The fruit and veg you buy at the shops doesn’t have any flavour. I’m not interested in anything but the taste.’ At Mike’s urging, I plucked a brightred piquillo pepperfrom a low bush  and bit, savouring its sweetness and the pleasure of eating something still warm from the sunshine it’s been growing under.
  I meandered my way back through muted hills and eucalypt thickets, where mobs of kangaroos gathered in tufty paddocks and spine backed echidnas foraged industriously by the roadside. And, of course,I passed endless rows of vines, which follow the contours of the land over dips and rises, and seem to converge at the far horizon.
  My journey brought me to the Cullen estate, not for a taste of their acclaimed cab sav, butto eat atthewinery restaurant,where high windows look out overthe vines. The tender green leaves were lit to an almost fluorescent glow by the afternoon sun. Soon I was tucking into my best meal yet perfectly soft local lamb with houmous made with beetroot grown in the biodynamic garden, no more than a few steps from my table.
  It was with my last bite of honey mousse with ice cream and crumbling chunks of honeycomb that I decided even I, with my  embarrassing lack of appreciation forits principal draws, could be utterly smitten with Margaret River.I even found myself wondering if I should finish my meal with a small glass of dessert wine, just in case.

What No One Tells You About Tuscany

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Here's What No One Tells You About Tuscany

  Many Americans go to Tuscany for the wine. One of the region’s top retreats, for the spa and the organic gardens and the Chianti.
  On my very first afternoon at Borgo Santo Pietro, a fantasy of a grand Tuscan estate just outside the town of Chiusdino, I managed to get happily lost in the gardens on the way to the spa.It wasn’t difficult the artfully landscaped grounds have so many secret corners and intriguing plantings that I couldn’t help being distracted at every turn. Stepping out of the manor onto a stone terrace, I was surrounded by birdsong and the sound of trickling fountains.I passed through an opening in a hedge and entered a formal garden with a vine covered cottage at one end. Inside, Laura Hewitt, Borgo’s florist, was arranging apple blossoms, eucalyptus, and white oleander on a table.“This is the best office in the world,”she said.
  Burned out from juggling work deadlines and the logistics of raising three young children, I had come to Borgo Santo Pietro to rejuvenate. The resort’s spa is small but exceptional, with a focus on revitalizing stressed and aging skin. It even has its own line of natural beauty products, called Seed to Skin, that uses ingredients grown in the  gardens and around the property.
  The intimate, 20 room estate is a half hour’s drive from Siena, embedded in a landscape of forests, fields, and ancient monasteries. Seven centuries ago, Borgo Santo Pietro wasthe site of an inn where Christian pilgrims would stop on their way to pay homage to Saint Galgano, who is buried nearby. Claus Thottrup, a luxury real estate developer based in London, and his wife, Jeanette, purchased the land in 2001 and spent more than seven yearstransforming it from a ruin into a hotel that consists of a stone manor house surrounded by ornately manicured gardens, farmland, and guest bungalows.
  The spa is a large stone cottage with arched glass doors and a terra cotta roof hidden in an expansive cherry and apple orchard. When I arrived, two fireplaces were lit on opposite sides of the main waiting room. I was greeted by Laura Dellacasa Bellingegni, a young massage therapist who radiated serenity. She brought me into one of the two treatment spaces, and for the next hour gave me a firm but relaxing massage using warm natural oil from a melted Seed to Skin candle.It was one of the best and most intuitive massages I’ve ever had. For the Ritual by Seed to Skin facial, Bellingegni stroked pressure points on my face and scalp.I fell into a half sleep as she misted me with aromatic potions and gently rubbed creams onto my skin, including a charcoal and volcanic clay mask called Black  Magic. Whatever kind of magic it was, it worked. I drifted back to my suite with tingling skin and endless gratitude, knowing that there was a big, fluffy bed waiting for me.
  Jeanette Thottrup, a former fashion designer, decided to create the line when she couldn’t find the kinds of organic cleansers and moisturizers she dreamed about.“I wanted to make a product  that worked well and communicated clearly what it was made of,”she said.“Even now, most consumers think skin care is either highly scientific or completely natural. Why not combine the best of both worlds?”
  After doing months ofresearch on herbal medicine,Thottrup hired Anna Buonocore, a cosmeticsspecialist, to create an on site laboratory and develop formulas with scientifically tested organic ingredients.“Occasionally nature needs a bit of help,”Buonocore said. She usesthe estate’s organic sheep’s milk and raw honey forseveral  creams,sourcing more potent ingredients,such as algae and hibiscus flower extract, from elsewhere.
  The gardens and farm also supply the resort’s two restaurants. Trattoria Sull’Albero serves traditional Italian dishes, such as grilled Florentine steak or pappardelle with duck ragù, in an intimate dining room built around a massive oak tree. At Meo Modo, Borgo’s fine dining restaurant, delicate bites Jerusalem artichokes carved in the shape of leaves, buttery ravioli stuffed with slow cooked rabbit are served on beds of moss and vessels carved from stone.
   The evening after my massage, I ate at the trattoria, indulging in a generous glass of Tuscan red and a plate of sheep’s milk cheeses made on the resort’s farm.I started a conversation with Patton Blackwell, an artist from South Carolina who was spending her days painting in the hotel’s gardens as Borgo’s artist in residence for April. The next morning,I visited her studio,a glassand wood bungalow situated between the spa and the farm.I looked at Blackwell’s abstract works glowing greens and golds that captured the colors of the gardens and the Tuscan sunset. Thottrup had told me that she thought of herself not just as a hotelier, but as someone creating a beautiful space for people to “pause on their path and take the time to decide in which direction to go.” Armed with several lotions and two nights of the best sleep I had had in years,I decided to head  home and create my own little garden there, in whatever form that might take.

On Road In West Michigan

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On Road In West Michigan

  Along the eastern edge of Lake Michigan, a string of towns and cities  offer a wealth of art and architecture, excellent food and drink, and plenty  of summertime pleasures outdoors.
  Why has west michigan with its vibrant small cities and verdant  countryside, its rich architectural heritage and nationally renowned beer escaped wider notice? For one thing, self promotion has never been part of its culture. The Potawatomi, a tribe that called the region home until the 19th century, held humility as one of their most prized virtues. And boasting was anathema to the Dutch Calvinist immigrants who settled here in the mid 1800s.
  But don’t be fooled: the Mitten’s left side has plenty to brag about. Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo brim with breweries and distilleries and excellent farm to table restaurants. Bright-white beaches and picturesque dunes line Lake Michigan’s eastern shore. And this heartland of the American furniture industry is home to splendid  architecture and design from major names like Marcel Breuer and Frank Lloyd Wright. It all makes for a jampacked long weekend. Here’s how to explore this overlooked corner of the Midwest, from Grand Rapids to Saugatuck to Kalamazoo and back.
Friday 
  Crafted by an area woodworker, the gorgeous wooden bar at Littlebird (thelittlebirdgr.com), in downtown Grand Rapids, is your perfect breakfast perch. Order the all day eatery’s namesake breakfast sandwich sunnyside up egg, cheese, ham, and garlic mayo piled onto a brioche bun.
  GRAM’s small but exceptional collection has works by Ellsworth Kelly, Kara Walker, and Alexander Calder, but its real stars have local  provenance. I was entranced by Eight Fold Screen, a paint and gilt on walnut work by South Africa born Eugene Masselink, who lived in Grand Rapids. A onetime assistant to Frank Lloyd Wright, Masselink created the piece in 1956 for a House Beautiful editor’s Wright designed bedroom. There’s also a bold series of posters from the Herman Miller headquarters, in nearby Zeeland, and the company’s Eames chairs and Nelson benches appear throughout the space.
  Next, walk 15 minutes to Founders Brewing Co.(foundersbrewing.com). Founders is a favorite among beer geeks, taking four of the top 10 spots in the latest Best Beers in America survey from the American Homebrewers Association. The taproom’s sandwiches, from a classic Reuben to a behemoth of pulled pork, bacon, and beer cheese, are designed to pair with brews like the creamy Nitro Oatmeal Stout and the crisp All Day IPA.
  Spend the afternoon strolling in the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park (meijergardens.org), an art filled wonderland featuring works by Ai Weiwei, Richard Serra, Louise Bourgeois, and  Barbara Hepworth. A $115 million expansion of the complex, led by architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, should be finished by 2021.
  Dine at Grove (groverestaurant.com; entrées $10 $42). The small plates sampler offers a brilliant cross section of its imaginative New  American cuisine.Then take a cab across the Grand River to the Long Road Distillers (longroad distillers.com) for a nightcap.I liked its awardwinning Michigin fragrant with local juniper,mint, and fennel and its Straight Bourbon, made with Michigan grown grains.Home away from home tonight: the riverside JW Marriott (ilovethejw.com; doubles from $269), Grand Rapids’ finest hotel.
Saturday 
  Fuel up at Madcap Coffee (madcap coffee.com), a café roastery in a beautifully refurbished auto body shop.Two blocks away, the Fulton Street Farmers Market (fultonstreet market.org) has been the place to go for produce since 1922. In season, you’ll find corn and beans cultivated here since the days of the Potawatomis’ extensive gardens as well as yearround products, such as gluten free lentil pasta and Michigan maple syrup.
  West Michigan’s forests supplied the state’s famous furniture makers, including Steelcase and Herman Miller. The Main Site, Herman Miller’s headquarters, isn’t open to visitors, but the nearby Company Store (office outlet.net), its official outlet, does, and the prices are extraordinary. When I visited, I found an Eva Zeisel bud vase, normally $100, for $30; Paul Smith’s Maharam fabrics, typically $145 a yard,  for $15; and a molded plywood Eames chair, usually $1,009, for $500.
  Saugatuck, 20 minutes south, has the postcard charm of a New England coastal village and a reputation as a haven for artists and the LGBTQ community. After lunch at Grow (grow-food.com),  wander to Saugatuck Retro Boat Rentals, which rents restored speedboats to take down the Kalamazoo River toward Lake Michigan. “Speedboat” describes form more than function: the speed limit is 4 mph.That makes for a gentle journey past waterfront homes and the ruins of Singapore, a 19th century timber port whose founders had outsize ambitions.
  Head for the neighboring hamlet of Douglas and check in to the Pines Motor Lodge (thepines motorlodge.com; doubles from $139), a lovingly modernized, delightfully kitschy 1950s motel. Downtown Douglas is a short walk away; try Everyday People Café (everydaypeoplecafe.com) for an eclectic menu of globally influenced dishes like kimchi fried rice, pierogi, and duck confit.
Sunday 
  Begin your day with a hike through sun dappled woods, over towering dunes, and along the wide beaches at Saugatuck Dunes State Park (michigan dnr.com).Then drive to the Southerner (the  southernermi.com) for breakfast. You may not associate chicken and biscuits with Michigan, but chef Matthew Millar’s stellar version tells the story of how they got here.The two time James Beard  Award semifinalist wrote his menu as a “love letter to Appalachia,” honoring a cuisine brought by his forebears, who moved north in the 1950s  seeking opportunity and auto industry jobs. (You can still drive Michigan made: we road tripped in a Buick Enclave, made in Lansing.)
  En route back to Grand Rapids’ airport, choose your own adventure. Route A is for architecture geeks.Just outside Muskegon sits St. Francis de Sales (stfrancisns.org), one of two churches in the world designed by Brutalist master Marcel Breuer. Circle the bulky, steel and concrete structure, then enter at noon, as Mass ends.(You’ll find selfguided tour instructions near the baptismal font.) The forbidding exterior houses an airy nave, and the curved walls create an embracing effect, as well as optical illusions: as you move around the space, the walls seem to move, too.
  Next, stop at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meyer May House (meyermayhouse.steelcase.com), 45 minutes southeast in Grand Rapids’ landmarked Heritage Hill neighborhood.Though completed  in1909, this luminous home feels of the moment. One of Wright’s last Prairie style projects, it was built to echo the wide expanse of America’s plains, with recessed horizontal mortar lines and hedges cut to parallel the building. Steelcase, which now owns the house, offers tours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.
  Route B is for beverage lovers.Virtue Cider (virtuecider.com), set amid rolling countryside 15 minutes east of Saugatuck, was founded in 2011 by the former brewmaster of Chicago’s Goose Island. Traditional European cider making inspired its eight standard varieties and a series of single orchard ciders celebrating local farms. After you’ve sampled the wares, have your designated driver escort you an hour southeast to Grayling Ceramics (graylingceramics.com),a tiny pottery studio in Kalamazoo producing  unexpectedly elegant growlers and beer steins.
  From Grayling, it’s less than half a mile to Bell’s (bellsbeer.com), West Michigan’s other much celebrated craft brewing paragon the  perfect place to toast a journey’s end.