Old Town, Prague

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Staré Město

The 12th century Charles Bridge, a link between Old Town and Lesser Town, is so popular there are occasionally people-to-people pileups from one end to the other. For that reason, it’s best enjoyed at sunrise when you’re sure to meet canvas- or camera-wielding artists at work.

Arguably the city’s most famous attraction is the much-touted Astronomical Clock Tower. Crowds gather at the top of each hour in anticipation of its rotating rings, moving figures and chiming bells. Though the finale may underwhelm you, the artistry—and the fact that it’s survived Prague’s violent history—makes it worthy of attention.

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Dabble Savvy

365 traditional Czech names are carved onto the outer ring of the lower face. Czech natives celebrate their Name Day with small gifts such as chocolates or flowers.

Jewish Quarter, Prague

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Josefov

History is inescapable in Prague, its citizens having emerged from communism some 22 years ago. And World War II, though it’s somewhat more distant on the calendar, is vividly remembered in the well-preserved Jewish Quarter. It’s chilling to consider as you wander this sacred territory that it owes its preservation to Hitler, who wanted the ghetto preserved as a museum to an extinct race.

Old New Synagogue

Europe’s oldest active synagogue may get its unusual name from the fact that it was originally built in the 12th century and called the Great or New Synagogue. Later, as new synagogues arose, it became known as the Old New Synagogue.

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Pinkas Synagogue

After WWII, Pinkas Synagogue (above) was turned into a memorial to the 80,000 Jews of Bohemia and Moravia murdered by the Nazis, their names inscribed on the walls. Perhaps most haunting is an upstairs exhibit of children’s drawings from Terezin, a transit camp where prisoners were held before shipment to extermination camps.

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Old Jewish Cemetery

The oldest tombstone dates from the year 1439. The cemetery today contains some 12,000 tombstones though the actual number buried here is far greater. When you tour, note the small stones (not flowers) on top of markers, sometimes holding a paper with a wish or prayer on it.

Dabble Savvy

Jewish Quarter buildings are closed to tourists on Saturday to observe the Sabbath.

A Guide to Old Town Prague

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Featuring prominently in Old Town Square is the bronze Art Nouveau fountain, a memorial to protestant reformer, Jan Hus. In the background, the shell-pink Kinsky Palace where Czech native Franz Kafka attended prep school.

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While people watching often takes precedence over sightseeing in Prague’s busy main square, Staromestské Námestí is home to a number of worthy sites. The imposing Gothic construction of the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn (Tyn Church) with its not-quite-identical towers dominates Prague’s Old Town Square.

Shop

Hit the shops in nearby Ungelt Square which has a branch of contemporary glassware store Material as well as Botanicus, a Czech institution for lotions and potions. Nearby Dlouh Street is one of my favourite shopping destinations.

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Eat

Toasty warm, this traditional Slovakian treat (trdelnik) is dusted with cinnamon, sugar and nuts. Look for open stalls or bakeries selling this perfect late afternoon pick-me-up.

Passersby are tempted by the cinnamon sweetness of trdelnik, a traditional pastry made daily in bakeries across the city.

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Stay

Four Seasons (Veleslav.nova 2A). If perfection is desired, look no further than this renowned chain where the setting, service and amenities are unsurpassed. Book an evening meal at Allegro to enjoy riverside views and the award-winning cuisine.

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Kimberley takes time out from filming to pose before heading out with CityTV’s CityLine cameraman Patrick Reynolds on the unusual seven-seater bike.

New Orleans Travel Guide

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New Orleans is a haunted place. However, it isn’t inhabited by ghosts and vampires as popular tours would have us believe. Instead, it’s steeped in a history so rich and vast the present pulses with it. a0 Dabble walked NOLA’s celebrated streets, met its unique characters and discovered its historic and modern charms. Oh… and to had a little fun too.

Where to Stay

Soniat House: Staying at Soniat House is a bit like spending the week with your favourite great aunt. Provided she has fine European antique furnishings, a private courtyard and bubbling fountain and wakes you from a blissful sleep with homemade biscuits. Divine. 1133 Chartres Street. (504) 522-0570

Hotel Ritz-Carlton: First class is the only style available at the Hotel Ritz-Carlton. If you’re due for a splurge, add club level service to your bill and enjoy an open bar throughout the day, excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner bites and an attentive concierge staff. As you step off the fourth floor elevator there’s even a cookie bar. Heaven. 921 Canal Street. (504) 524-1331

W Hotel: Worldwide, the W Hotel caters to a youthful fashionista set. In New Orleans there are two locations to choose from. W Hotel New Orleans on Poydras is just a little removed from the Bourbon Street fray while the W New Orleans – French Quarter is right in the centre of activity. Both have swimming pools and a lively bar scene. 333 Poydras Street. (504) 525-9444 ~ 316 Chartres Street. (504) 581-1200

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Getting Around

Big Easy Scooter: For $60 a day, the adventurous can rent a Buddy 50 scooter in bright pink or another sorbet colour. Expect to get some envious stares while zipping through the French Quarter and Garden District. 3926 Magazine Street. (504) 269-6465

United Cab: For long treks, grab a cab. United uses only licensed drivers and provides the most reliable ride in town. (504) 522-9771

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What to Do

Honey Island Swamp Tours: Offers a two-hour boat tour that’s sure to satisfy the gator hunter in your family ($23 adults, $15 kids). Visitors to the Cypress River swamp learn about folklore, history and the ecology of the swamp and its inhabitants. 41490 Crawford Landing Road, Slidell. (985) 641-1769

National WWII Museum: History buff or not, a trip to the National WWII Museum is time well-spent. The museum is divided into two distinct sections: one focusing on the European effort and a second centred on the Pacific conflict. Beyond All Boundaries, a new film produced by Tom Hanks, shows daily on a 120-foot wide screen. On-site restaurants, American Sector and The Soda Shop, thrive under chef, John Besh. 945 Magazine Street. (504) 528-1944

Oak Alley Plantation: Historically, Oak Alley Plantation served as a sugar cane estate before the Civil War. Its antebellum (Latin for ‘before the war’) mansion is typical of other estates along the Mississippi River, taking its cue from French Creole and Caribbean plantation design. Though disappointing to learn the slave quarters are no longer there, its architectural and historical significance makes it a worthwhile visit. 3645 Highway 18. (225) 265-2151 Check out Plantation Adventures to book a tour. 1-866-671-8687

Horse-Drawn Carriage: Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the French Quarter is a must. Choose a floral adorned mare and a chatty driver from the lineup outside Jackson Square. But wait for dark, when the ghost and voodoo stories seem eerily possible.

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Mardi Gras World: For a $20 admission, visitors to Mardi Gras World in the Warehouse District get up close and personal with enormous parade floats while learning how they’re made and what’s involved in this annual tradition. Lead by a knowledgeable docent, the tour begins with a brief video and a slice of king cake (traditional sweet bun with colourful icing). Fun for the whole family. 1380 Port of New Orleans Place. (504) 361-7821

French Market: Set beside the Mississippi River is the permanent location of the French Market, an ideal spot for souvenir shopping. If you love hot sauce, there’s a shop devoted to nothing but the spicy stuff. You’ll also find the feathered Mardi Gras masks for a lot less money than the same versions on Bourbon Street. 1008 North Peters Street. (504) 522-2621

Longue Vue: Quite possibly the best way to learn about interior design and architecture is through historic home tours. Be sure to visit Longue Vue, its Classical Revival home and garden setting a delicious way to peek into the past. 7 Bamboo Road. (504) 488-5488

Hermann-Grima: If you’re keen to step inside a 19th century French Quarter home, then put Hermann-Grima on your must-visit list. The horse stable and functional outdoor kitchen from 1830 are part of the reason it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974. 820 Saint Louis Street. (504) 525-5661

Garden District: Stroll the Garden District to enjoy one of the prettiest neighbourhoods in the USA. Located north of Magazine Street. While there, take in the eerily exquisite Lafayette Cemetery. Save Our Cemeteries offers knowledgeable and respectful tours. (504) 525-3377

Shop the French Quarter: Sure Magazine Street has the largest selection of home design, but there’s still plenty to shop in the French Quarter. Nadine Blake is a tiny gem. 1036 Royal Street. (504) 529-4913 For antiques, Soniat House and Ann Koerner carry an impressive selection. 1133 Chartres Street. (504) 522-0570; 4021 Magazine Street. (504) 899-2664

 

Guide to the Jewish Quarter in Prague

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Shop

Between Jewish Quarter and Old Town Square lies Prague’s most exclusive shopping street, Parížská. Big names like Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss and Burberry dominate the tree-lined street.

Eat

Be prepared to sit in the basement if you ask for the no smoking section at Kolkovna (V Kolkovne 8). Instead, opt for a street-side table with a view of the Spanish Synagogue.

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ABOVE Prague’s most exclusive shopping street, Parížská.

1-2-3 Days in St. Pierre and Miquelon

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A Passion for Travel

When American Express Canada approached me to test drive the American Express Gold Rewards Card, I was interested to see how far these points could take me.After using my points to book a round trip flight to St. John’s, I was pleased at how easy it was to supplement my travel using points I earned on purchases. In total I saved approximately $500 on my fare to Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, which of course gave me yet another great excuse to go shopping.Earning points is easy; the hardest part is deciding how to spend them. But I sure had fun in St. Pierre and Miquelon doing just that. Thanks American Express Canada.

Day 1

SAINT-PIERRE

MORNING After a breakfast of coffee and croissants, jump in Jean-Claude‘s roomy mini-van for an island tour. Stop at historic homes, abandoned fishing plants, the Pointe aux Canons lighthouse and Les Salines Fishing Stations to bask in the local colour.

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12 NOON Lunch happens. You made a reservation, right? At Cyber Poly Gone Home relax with a glass of wine and the special of the day.

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MID-AFTERNOON If the urge for carbohydrates hits, Patisserie Guillard has an eclair with your name on it. Properly fueled, head to Musee Heritagefor some island culture.

EVENING Dinner at Ongi Etorriis a trip highlight. Then off to bed because tomorrow is an early start.

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Day 2

MIQUELON ET LANGLADE

MORNING Catch the 8:00 am Le Cabestan ferry to Miquelon. Disembark at 8:55 am and head to Le Petit Indien for coffee and breakfast. Get a taste of local history at Musee de Miquelon and local crafts at Art Passion.

LUNCH The pizza is delicious, but you may be ready for a light salad at this point. Brasserie Mikhael in Miquelon serves both. NOTE: There are no restaurants on Langlade, so be prepared.

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AFTERNOON Enjoy the unpredictable landscape and wild horses on your drive to Langlade Village. On the way back to Miquelon, scan the sea rocks for visiting whales and seals.

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MID-AFTERNOON There’s time for one last coffee at Le Petit Indien before the 7:00 pm ferry returns to Saint-Pierre. Say good-bye to Miquelon and promise to stay longer next time.

EVENING Reserve a spot for dinner at L’Atelier Gourmand, which is conveniently near the ferry landing.

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Day 3

SAINT-PIERRE

MORNING Time to shop. Pick up French writing supplies at Nouvelle Papeterie, hip fashions at Diabolo-Menthe and French soaps and gifts at La Maison du Cadeau. While you’re at it, some chocolate from Arts et Delice is a great idea.

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AFTERNOON A trip to France without a crepe? Can’t imagine it. Enjoy the selection at Restaurant Creperie du Vieux Port before you walk along the harbour and bid a final adieu to Les Salines Fishing Stations and Pointe aux Canons lighthouse.

LATE AFTERNOON By now, you’ll have adapted to the slower pace of the island, so enjoy a leisurely walk up and down the town’s narrow hilly streets. Stop for coffee at the aptly named Pause Cafe (look for the building with the ‘Loto’ sign).

EVENING Tucked under trees at the top of a short incline is Auberge Quatre Temps. After a superb meal, enjoy a final stroll in the fresh night air.

Santa Monica Travel Guide

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Smitten with sun, sand and surf? Then pack your bags and grab your sunscreen. Dabble’s team agrees, Santa Monica is a traveller’s triple threat: coastal chic, healthful eats and an urban beat.Santa Monica’s iconic pier is a colourful backdrop to the city’s liberal politics, healthful living and laid back beach style. We hit the streets, boardwalk and sand to discover what makes this urban beach town tick.

Stay

Picking a single hotel is difficult thanks to outstanding local choices. Ultimately, a design crush on Kelly Wearstler sways us towards the Viceroy Santa Monica with its eye-popping colour and near-beach location. The pool side cabanas are a perfect place to linger after a leisurely day shopping.

Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel offers a beach side seat near the fire place and a perfect ending to an LA day. The Huntley Penthouse bar gets an honorable mention for its great view and the fun atmosphere for a GNO (girls’ night out).

Shutters on the Beach is hand’s down the best lobby bar in all of LA. Relaxing on comfy sofas, listening to the house pianist and watching sun-dipped patrons is pure bliss. Although it’s a splurge to spend the night, seaside views are unparalleled.

Eat

Main Street has an easy-going vibe that makes a leisurely day wandering the shops feel like a vacation. Take a seat in the outdoor courtyard at The World Cafe and you’ll feel transported to somewhere exotic. Try the poached pear salad.

Breakfast. The most important meal of the day is off to a good start at Cora’s Coffee Shoppe. Sit under the bougainvillea canopy and order the orange pancakes. Huckleberry’s location on Wilshire is not nearly as picturesque, but there’s ample parking in back and the sauteed spinach and roasted potatoes with sunnyside up eggs are divine.

Two out of three dabble contributor’s agree, the Gruyere and spicy mayo burger from Father’s Office is the best they’ve ever eaten. The place is always jumping and you’ll have to share a table, but it’s a great night out. Just don’t ask for ketchup. They don’t have any.

If you’re on a budget, check out Veggie Grill and try the yummy sweet potato fries and vegan Bali Bliss, an Indonesian style tempeh, grilled with chipotle ranch sauce.

Shop

Wander off the main shopping streets and there is still more to see. Make sure to visit Fred Segal on Broadway with its over-the-top housewares section (celebrity spottings are practically guaranteed). On Ocean Avenue take a break from gazing at the ocean to shop at Carlyle Design, which is tucked behind garden gates. The furniture is large scale and nicely tailored without fussiness. They have a great selection of Indian and Turkish style coffee tables and enough small accessories that you’re sure to find something to squeeze into your suitcase.

Fresh fish rules at Santa Monica Seafood Company, a family-owned business since 1939. A retail space, oyster bar, indoor/outdoor cafe and over 70 varieties of fish on ice makes us giddy. Do park in the rear as empty meters are ticketed frequently.

See

Impressive doesn’t begin to describe the hilltop setting or extensive collections at the world famous Getty Center. Richard Meier’s architectural masterpiece is clad in cleft-cut travertine and features a curvilinear design that wanders through a variety of natural gardens. Admission is free but you do need to make a reservation.

Originally a stop on the now-defunct Red Line trolley, Bergamot Station is currently a groovy arts centre with 30 plus galleries, shops, a museum and cafe. Free general admission.

Do

Lining the walls at Salute Wine Bar, is a most unusual sight, an adult version of a soda fountain that dispenses — wait for it — wine samples. A prepaid card lets you choose from 40 different bottles. The martinis are mighty fine too.

The Santa Monica Pier ought to have a star on the walk of fame, it’s been in so many movies: Forrest Gump and The Sting to name two. And, did you know solar panels drive the eco-concious ferris wheel by day, and 160,000 LEDs light it up Hollywood-style by night?

Saint-Pierre and Miquelon Travel Guide

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If you’re dreaming of France, I have the perfect solution. Simply make your way to Newfoundland, that is, and catch a short flight to Saint-Pierre, a charming wee dot on the Atlantic, in France. Et voila .

Design Express

When American Express Canada approached me to test drive the American Express Gold Rewards Card, I was interested to see how far these points could take me. Earning double points on travel and everyday spending at the grocer, drugstore and gas station made it quick and easy to rack up the points. So, when Dabble headed to Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, the first thing I did was book a round trip flight to St. John’s, Newfoundland. Saving $500 by booking the flight on points made it that much easier to enjoy all that St. Pierre has to offer.

Here are a few highlights…

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The food in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon satisfies all French cravings–from wine and seafood to chocolate and delicate pastries. Order the salad from Mikhael Brasserie on Miquelon.

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La Maison du Cadeau carries a robust selection of French wines and champagnes.

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Fisherman Joseph Admond untangles his nets as he prepares for a day on the sea.

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Once a week, a huge cargo ship like this one arrives with wine, fresh produce cheese, cars, and you-name-it from France. On the day it arrives in Miquelon, tour guide Anja Duthel makes sure she gets to the market in time to pick up a supply of fresh fruits and vegetables for her young family.

To read the full article, check out Travel by Design: Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, Issue 3 July/Aug 2011.

Guide to New Town in Prague

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Wenceslas Square
Václavské námestí

A sweeping avenue developed in the 14th century, Wenceslas Square is rarely deserted, but an easy stroll nets a vast selection of shops and restaurants to enjoy. At its apex is the National Museum, seen just behind the statue of Duke Wenceslas on horseback. (It seems the Christmas carol gave him a boost in title.)

Eat

At tea time head to the splendidly restored Grand Café Orient (Ovocný trh 19) to get a feel for 1912 Prague. Or, visit Municipal House Café for a light lunch in an exquisite Art Nouveau setting.

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Sit in the wine bar and soak up the urban contemporary vibe while nibbling contentedly at KOGO’s Slovanský Dum location (Na Pr.kope 22). Or, descend into the cellared depths of Klub Architektu (Betlemske Namesti 5a) for hearty Czech fare at great prices.

Shop

Decorative arts enthusiasts go ga-ga over the tableware, books, furniture and writing papers on display (and in the gift shop) at the Kubistz Museum, located inside the House of the Black Madonna.

The city’s only Moser store, creating the finest Czech crystal since 1857 is their flagship (Na Prikope 12). A must visit.

If you’ve been to Paris you are familiar with shopping passages that house stores and restaurants. Lucerna Pasáž is a popular Czech passage but most of the shops still have a communist-era feel to them. In contrast, Pasáž Slovanský Dum (Na Pr.kope 22), has a branch of the Belgian design shop Flamant Store, clothing stores such as Mexx and Tommy Hilfiger, and a movie theatre with English subtitles.

Prague’s Performing Arts

Attending a concert in Prague is a memorable experience. There are dozens of locations where you can enjoy orchestras, ensembles, theatre and comedy. Performances change frequently so read the literature available at each location.

Puerto Rico Travel Guide

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Spanish colonial architecture, a pulsing Latin beat and 580 kilometers of unspoiled coast- line have Kimberley Seldon saying, ‘Que Rico‘ to La Isla del Encanto. After all, they don’t call it the Island of Enchantment for nothing.

Opening my eyes just the tiniest bit, I let the bright sunlight sink into my brain slowly. ‘Right,’ I say to myself with a wee grin, ‘I’m in Puerto Rico.’ And just like that, I skip out on the end of winter in Toronto. ‘Well played,’ I think to myself.

Ramada, Ponce

Stay

The seaside setting of Ritz-Carlton San Juan Casino and Spa is unparalleled.

Casual boutique hotel, Hosteria del Marrents simply appointed beachside rooms. Its onsite Uvva Restaurantis good enough to return to nightly.

Chic and sophisticated nicely describes La Concha Resort. Splurge on an ocean or pool view. If you prefer to overnight in a setting that feels residential, Acacia Boutique Hotel is a charming choice.

A former convent from the 17th century, Hotel El Conventois ideally situated beside the Catedral de San Juan.

True luxury is what guests find at St Regis Bahia Beach Restort. Close to El Yunque National Forest, there’s an adjacent golf course as well.

In Ponce, you can stay at the bright yellow Ramada Ponce. However, golfers will prefer the green appeal of the nearby Hilton Golf and Casino.

Dining in Puerto Rico

Eat

St Germaine is the kind of casual cafe, where locals gather to linger over coffee and gossip. Come for lunch or brunch.

La Mallorca is a not-too-fancy local haunt for sweet buns and hot coffee.

Lusty describes the setting and menu at Dragonfly, Puerto Rico’s first Latin- Asian restaurant. Red walls, beaded curtains and fringed lamps are right out of Shanghai Surprise, but the food is memorable.

Tuna kebobs with cucumber slaw are a perfect match to chilled sangria at Torro del Salao Enjoy both in the lantern-lit courtyard patio.

In perfect harmony with the vibrant white and candy-hued interior, the menu at Marmalade is full of flavour. The white bean soup is muy popular.

Enjoy a rare and blissfully quiet dining experience at 311 Trois Once Cent. As the name suggests, the menu is French.

Foodies will rush to reserve a table at Fern, whose chef is world- renowned Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Order the pechuga relleno de queso blanca y guayaba, aka chicken stuffed with guava and cheese at Dulce Fruta Bistro y Cafe and thank us later. Yum.

Stories above Plaza de las Delicias (Ponce’s main square) is the modern interior of Archipielago. The food is a fusion of Creole and continental. The halibut with coconut rice and vegetable curry is exceptional.

Cueva Clara Cave

Do

Cueva Clara, the largest of the Camuy River Park caves, has visitors arriving early to see the spectacular site. Step onto the tram and journey down to the natural wonder.

If you’re travelling with children, a trip to Arecibo Lighthouse Park can extend the day’s adventures. The small theme park is well kept and its replicas of Columbus’ ships, the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, remind you of all that history you learned back in school.Head to Puerto Rico’s Riviera, Luquillo Beach. This public beach is a crowd pleaser with dozens of the picturesque kiosks nearby so popular in Puerto Rico.

Adventurers will want to explore Puerto Rico’s other islands, Vieques and Culebra. Situated off the eastern shores, head to Fajardo and catch the ferry to either island.

Beach

A must see, the phosphorescence or bioluminescence generated by microscopic organisms (dinoflagellates) causes the water in La Parguera to glow with an eerie blue light whenever the surface is disturbed, an effect that is particularly powerful on moonless nights.The month of February is peak season for Humpback whale watching off the coast of Rincon.

Shopping for Panama hats in Puerto Rico

Shop

If you’re looking for Panama hats, hand-made cigars or folk art, then El Galpon is the place. Dabble Savvy: Above the Calle del Criston shop is an apartment to rent.

Handmade tote bags line the walls at Eco Eco.Owner, Angie Ortiz Rivera is on site and eager to serve.

The owners are rightfully proud of the original, contemporary Caribbean art on display at Galeria Exodo.

Board games are popular in Puerto Rico. At Kamel International Bazaar we found a chess set with nearly naked Ta ed no Indians squared off against the fully armed Spanish army. Not much of a match.

Old San Juan

Design Express

As it turns out, racking up rewards points is a breeze in Old San Juan. Flight, hotel and rental car garner double points, and I still earned a point for every dollar spent on shopping. In total, I earned 8,000 points on my trip to Puerto Rico simply by using my American Express Gold Rewards Card.

1-2-3 Days in Puerto Rico

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My passion for travel is well documented, and certainly part of the reason I launched Dabble. Following our successful launch, the folks at American Express Canada approached me to test drive their new travel rewards card, The American Express Gold Rewards Card. Since it offers double points on purchases I make regularly, the grocer, drug store, gas station, and on all travel spending I was keen to see what it could do. Even more enticing for a frequent traveller like me, the points transfer 1:1 with Aeroplan, don’t expire and have no restrictions or blackout dates.

To get me started, American Express offered me 50,000 Membership Rewards points, in addition to the 15,000 bonus points I received (enough for a roundtrip flight to Paris, London or Rome) when I signed up for the card. Let’s just say, I had some fun earning points over 3 days in Puerto Rico.

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Day 1

MORNING Wake to the gentle sound of rolling waves and remember, ‘Yes, I really am on vacation.’ Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it’s even better when someone sings to you. So, visit Mares at the Ritz-Carlton when Jeremy Baptiste is working the omelette station. Jeremy moved from Boston two years ago and says he hasn’t stopped singing since. On Sundays, there’s also an unlimited Mimosa bar.

AFTERNOON Fortified with a proper breakfast, find a spot pool, or beach-side. Pack a juicy paperback and a big bottle of sunscreen.

LATE AFTERNOON Seriously, do you really want to move now? If you must, a walk on the beach and a swim in the ocean are restorative.

EVENING Dinner at Jose Enrique is guaranteed to be memorable, once you find it. Your cab driver can help.

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Day 2

MORNING If you’re enjoying the food (and I bet you are) an early morning yoga class at It’s Yoga may be in order. Following class (let’s face it, you worked hard) cross the road to Kasalta and order a cordatito, espresso with a sheen of steamed milk. Then, good luck choosing just one of the tempting pastries on display.

MID-MORNING Make your way to Old San Juan and enjoy a leisurely day exploring. Kimberley’s suggestions are on page 132.

Include a visit to El Morro (seen here) with its 18-foot-thick walls rising some 140 feet above the sea. Open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

San Juan’s sister protector, Castillo de San Cristobal covers 27 acres. As a strategic defense it’s something of a masterpiece, built around five self-sufficient, independent units connected by moat and tunnel. Open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

EVENING Having enjoyed the shopping, history and setting of Old San Juan for the day, you’ll want to stay for dinner. In the mood for romance? Try 311 Trois Cent Onze.

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Day 3

MORNING Whether you are renting a car or participating in an organized tour, you’ll want to set out early to explore El Yunque National Rainforest. Hike the trails and take a dip in the crystal clear waterfalls. Perhaps these are the fabled Fuente de Juventud (Fountain of Youth)?

AFTERNOON It’s a short drive to rest and relaxation at Luquillo Beach. Parking is tricky, but be patient and you’ll find a spot. If you’re hungry, there are 50 roadside kiosks at the ready with deep fried (and fried again in some cases) snacks. For lighter fare try Ceviche Hut #38 or Martes #26 for puertorriquenos meat tacos. It’s worth saying the kiosks at Pinones are more picturesque, so if you’re staying in San Juan it may be worthwhile to head in that direction.

EVENING For a casual beachside dining experience, you can’t beat the setting or the food at Uvva Restaurant. For an urban, NYC bistro vibe, try BLT Steak. They serve fresh pop- overs at the start of the meal and provide patrons with a copy of the recipe. The house red, Gnarly Head cabernet, at $8.00 per glass is great value.

Buen Provecho – Eating in Puerto Rico

With few exceptions, the dining scene in Puerto Rico is unpretentious, so come as you are. Expect excellent food in a casual setting and a welcoming wait staff to wish you, ‘buen provecho’.

Puerto Rico Dessert

BREAKFAST 

Kasalta Panderia
Everyone eats at Kasalta—politicians, school kids, housewives and secretaries. The glass countered bakery serves tempting pastries and a divine Cubanito (mini ham and Swiss).

Panadería España Repostería
Another reliable local hangout with a similar atmsophere to Kasalta. Consider the cheese and wine selection if you’re planning a picnic.

Dabble Savvy: Save on restaurant meals by ordering water like the locals do: “I’ll have the Carraiso Springs.” A joke that references the city’s main source of tap water.


LUNCH

It’s not fancy, but the burrittos and tacos are delicioso at La B de Burro in Ocean Park. In addition, ginger and tamarind are the finest companions to tequila imaginable, so ask about 2 for 1 margarita specials.

Bebo dishes up well-priced local fare to its dedicated clientele. Try arroz mamposteado (rice and beans) or empanada de pollo (chicken empanada) and ripe plantains.

Under the Trees
Sit on the outdoor patio, order a mimosa and a fabulous brunch experience is assured.


DINNER

Once you find the well-hidden restaurant, José Enrique is a fine dining experience that is unparalleled. Start with the cheese plate and order the red snapper as a main. You won’t have room for dessert, but the three chocolate dish is to die for.

I celebrated a recent (delicious) birthday at Uvva Restaurant in Hosteria del Mar. Almond crusted lamb chops in mint chimichuri sauce are every bit as tasty as they look (see photo page 124). As we sat on the beach the next day, the owner noticed our group and sent over a round of drinks—matching our order from the night before. Now, that’s service.

Chef Robert Trevino (of Iron Chef fame) masterminds the Budatai fusion menu, serving elegant sushi and divine seared ahi.

Chef Wilo Bennet’s Varita in Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza revitalizes local delicacies such as roasted pig. Start with the lettuce wraps and save room for mini coconut tembleque (coconut flan).

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DESSERT

When pastry chef Raquel Holcman launched Sweet Sentations, her fanciful concoctions became instant classics.