Slow down on Reunion Island
Are winter's grey and dreary skies weighing you down? In need of some tropical sun to recharge your batteries? Reunion Island is just what you need for a wellness-focused holiday. Give slow tourism a try as you leisurely explore this charming island, soak in the surrounding nature, and savour local encounters and flavours.
The incredibly diverse landscapes – more than 40% of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites – offer a plethora of gentle outdoor activities surrounded by astonishing views. You can climb the sinuous slopes of Piton de la Fournaise shield volcano with a guide who will choose a route suited to your level. Is the sea more your style? Yoga Bulle gives classes on the lovely Hermitage beach for guaranteed relaxation and well-being! You can also go stand-up paddleboarding along the shores of the lagoon, focusing on staying balanced as your paddle cuts through the clear water.
When you are ready to put your feet up, you will be spoilt for choice. La Maison du Lagon, a small and cosy hotel, has spacious rooms overlooking the beach. If lush vegetation is more up your alley, leave your luggage instead at the Lodge Roche Tamarin, tucked into the heart of a verdant tropical estate and equipped with a relaxing spa.
To discover regional products, there is nothing better than the local market stalls. The Chaudron market, held every Wednesday and Sunday in Saint-Denis, is without a doubt one of the most typical, especially as it is not well-known by tourists. Make the most of your time in the neighbourhood by stopping for a bite to eat at Le Vieux Kréole, a veritable institution on the island that serves up local cuisine.
Écuries du Volcan
28 Rue Du Domaine De Bellevue
Plaine des Cafres
+262 692 66 62 90
Plage de l'Hermitage, Boulevard Leconte de Lisle
+33 7 83 54 04 19
La Maison du Lagon
72 Rue Auguste Lacaussade
+262 262 24 30 14
Lodge Roche Tamarin
142 chemin Boeuf Mort
+262 262 44 66 88
Marché forain du Chaudron
Rue Jean de Villele
Le Vieux Kréole
5 Rue du Dancing
+262 262 46 70 77
Corsica in the snow
Do you automatically think of summer when you think of Corsica? It is time to broaden your horizons as the “Isle of Beauty” has many hidden treasures such as skiing, snowy hikes and local gastronomy.
Breathe in the dry mountain air and let your gaze wander over the spectacular views of the Gulf of Ajaccio before hitting the slopes at the Val d'Ese ski resort. France's southernmost resort covers more than 20 hectares and is equipped with chairlifts. Skiers of all levels will be thrilled here. The crunch of the snow seems to echo the sound of the waves from the crystal-clear sea, which stretches out from the foot of the mountain. If you are more of a walker, the tourism agency A Piuma offers a full day of snowshoeing from the resort along the magnificent crests of Giovanni, covered with beech and chestnut trees. Follow along as your guide leads you past extraordinary views before stopping off in a small traditional tavern. You can try figatellu, a typical local sausage, and brocciu, a specialty cheese that ages during the winter months. For a family-friendly hike, the Vizzavona forest, located 40 minutes from Ajaccio, is ideal. While the trails are easy to manage, the views are nothing short of spectacular.
In winter, you will find sea urchins on dinner tables across Corsica. From mid-December through mid-April, they can be caught in strictly limited quotas and mark a special tradition in multi-generational families. On the beaches along the Route des Sanguinaires, you can see entire families out collecting the delicious echinoderms. Join them for a feast on a sun-drenched terrace of a beachside restaurant. They say that Neptune Restaurant is where the best sea urchins can be found. By the end of the day, you will deserve some hard-earned rest in the spacious and light-filled room of your hotel, the Dolce Vita, that overlooks the natural coves.
Val d'Ese Ski Resort
+33 (0)7 68 44 86 48
Quartier U Palazzu
+33 (0)6 64 82 67 32
Hôtel-restaurant Dolce Vita
51 Route des Iles Sanguinaires
+33 (0)4 95 52 42 42
Route Des Sanguinaires
+33 4 95 52 00 11
An art-filled winter in Miami
From December to March, Miami is in high season: bright sunshine, summery temps and little rainfall. What better conditions to visit this ever-changing city that is constantly renewing itself? Bling-bling is out and art is in – Miami is currently becoming one of the trendiest cities in the US.
Each year in December, the Art Basel contemporary art fair attracts a huge number of amateurs and professionals. The biggest galleries in the US, Europe, Asia and Africa all come into town to show creations by more than 4,000 artists, from acclaimed names to new up-and-comers. You can see monumental installations in the immense ballroom of the Miami Beach Convention Center. Gigantic sculptures play off the enormous volumes of the venue. If you are one for new discoveries, head straight to the Nova area, which showcases emerging artists. If you are out and about with the family, make your way to the workshops designed for kids aged four to 12 to stimulate their artistic side.
Art has also taken to the streets in Miami. The epicentre of the city's hip renaissance is the Wynwood district. The Wynwood Walls, painted by some of the most famous street artists, have been declared an “outdoor museum”. When you get your fill of art, it will be time for a bite! Just a few minutes away is Alter, a restaurant that will win you over with its elegant seasonal fare and extensive wine list. Your meal will include vegetables grown in the chef's small garden behind the restaurant.
After all this artistic and culinary excitement, it will be time to return to your bed and breakfast, the Copper Door. This B&B pays homage to jazz culture, which had a strong presence in the neighbourhood since the mid-century, through the Art Deco architecture, the forties-style furniture and the many concerts that are held here. In Miami, art is never very far away.
Art Basel (Miami Beach Convention Center)
1901 Convention Center Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
223 NW 23rd Street
Miami, FL 33127
The Copper Door B&B
439 Northwest 4th Avenue
Miami, FL 33128
Winter in Beijing: history, skiing and gastronomy
According to locals in Beijing, visiting the Forbidden City in the snow brings you closest to its ancient history. Although Beijing experiences hard winters, its historic wonders are shown in a new light when the first flurries begin to fall. As the snow blankets the Imperial Palace and surrounding areas in white, the urban hustle and bustle is muffled. The silence amplifies the majestic presence of this exceptional monument. You would need days to visit the complex, even though only half of it is open to the public. The building façades alone are worth the detour, while one of China's largest national museums is hidden inside several of the pavilions. All of the collections are extraordinary and organised around three central themes: “imperial treasures”, “ceramics and porcelain” and “Chinese painting”. The Hall of Clocks and Watches includes a fascinating display of hydraulic clocks that combine technical skill and artistry.
If this history-laden experience makes you want to learn more about the culture and customs of this country, the hutong district will give you an in-depth look. It is in the midst of these narrow stone streets, built nearly a thousand years ago, that you will live for a few days. The Cote Cour, a former school transformed into a hotel, will give you an inside peek at the typical local architecture. As is customary, the rooms are built around a paved and covered courtyard. Delicate engravings adorn the walls of your room while the bathroom exudes elegance with painted woodwork. Staying in this neighbourhood gives you the perfect home base from which to explore the local winter dish, huoguo, AKA Beijing hot pot. Seated around the bubbling pot of soup flavoured with ginger, seaweed and goji berries, you add your favourite ingredients yourself: veggies, mushrooms, tofu, egg dumplings or minced meat (mutton is traditional in Beijing). These additions cook while you chat away with your table companions. There are many places where you can enjoy this specialty. Beijing Copper Pot is one excellent option where warm ambiance and high-quality ingredients can be counted on.
Winter is also a time to grab your skis and hit the slopes around the city. The Huaibei International Ski Resort, which can be reached by bus or taxi from Beijing, has more than 22 kilometres of slopes that are especially great for families. You can ski to your heart's content and take in the splendid panoramic views. The resort is surrounded by the snow-covered Great Wall of China. This special and unique viewpoint is just one more good reason to go to Beijing in winter.
Hotel Cote Cour Beijing
70 Yanyue Hutong
Beijing Copper Pot Instant Boiled Meat (北涮铜锅涮肉)
40 Bei Xin Qiao near Yonghegong Dajie
Huaibei International Ski Resort
Huaibei Town, Huairou District
Casablanca: a winter city break on the Atlantic coast
Winter in “Casa”, as it is known by locals, is especially pleasant. The mild wintertime temperatures range between 10°C and 20°C, which are perfect for discovering this dynamic metropolis full of healthy restaurants, sports and cultural activities.
Casablanca owes its mild winters to being on the Atlantic. The sea air will guide you to La Corniche, just over the ocean. You will discover a new side of Casablanca, which is so much more than its historic centre, the medina. Here, the natural landscapes covered with sand and sea foam provide a backdrop to the architectural triumphs such as the Hassan II Mosque, while running enthusiasts can get in their miles along the recently renovated promenade as those seeking more hedonistic pleasures sip a cocktail at sunset. To fully immerse yourself in this revitalising atmosphere, drop your bags at the Four Seasons, located along the Boulevard de la Corniche. Everything has been designed to give you a “modern seaside retreat” experience. When you return from your outings, you will appreciate the crackling fire in the lounge followed by a little rest and relaxation in your comfy room, decorated in creamy shades with sea views from the large bay window.
Casablanca has plenty of sports activities such as surfing and golfing, which can be done all winter long. Less than 15 minutes away is the golf course designed by famous South African golfer Gary Player. It has a reputation as one of the most beautiful courses in North Africa and has adopted an ecological approach that earned it the ALM Ecology Trophy. The mild temperatures make playing a round of 18 holes especially enjoyable, and even more so with the incredible ocean views in the background. Winter is also a good time for water sports, and is the season with the best waves according to those in the know. If the thought of chilly water gives you goose pimples, no need to worry – the Ain Diab and Ain Sebaa surf schools at the end of the corniche have full wetsuits available.
If you would also like to squeeze in a little art and culture, the city has many activities to offer. Casablanca aims to be a key centre for the arts in North Africa, an ambition that is clear in the Biennale Internationale the city will be hosting from 24 September to 1 November 2020, the theme of which will be “The words create images”. The Villa des Arts, an immaculate Art Deco building, also features artwork from many emerging talents on the local and international contemporary art scene. About a ten-minute walk away is Organic Kitchen, the city's first restaurant to serve up all-organic fare. This restaurant-slash-caterer-slash-delicatessen-slash bar is a hybrid spot where food lovers can find healthy and eco-friendly sustenance. Grab a table in the Zen ambiance and savour the healthy-yet-decadent menu offerings, which include a wide range of salads, bowls and warm dishes. The winter red mullet deserves special mention, and this local and seasonal fish comes with onion compote, sautéed leeks and new potatoes. In Casablanca, well-being comes in all shapes and sizes.
Four Seasons Hotel Casablanca
Anfa Place, Boulevard de la Corniche
+212 529 073 700
Mazagan Golf Club
Route de Casablanca
+212 523 388 080
Villa des Arts de Casablanca
30 Boulevard Brahim Roudani
+212 522 295 094
6-8 rue Ahmed El Mokri (formerly rue d'Auteuil)
+212 522 943 775
Northern Peru: get away from the Machu Picchu crowds
Peru has more to offer than the famous and riveting Sacred Valley and gastronomic capital. From Lima, you can explore the northern part of the country, with its immense archaeological sites, sublime beaches and Amazonian flavours. There is something for everyone.
The lovely city of Trujillo, 550 kilometres north of Lima, offers visitors a varied and rich look into Peruvian history. The metropolis, which is known as Peru's “Capital of Culture” for having been home to many important artists and thinkers, like poet César Vallejo, also has many colonial-style buildings. Its cathedral, the bright yellow Santa María, is one emblematic example you will not want to miss. The colourful geometric shapes of this majestic building seem to cut through the sky, which is a brilliant blue at this time of year. The region, which sits along the Pacific Ocean, is renowned for its quality fishing: local ceviche are simply delicious. Throughout the city you will find huarique, small local restaurants known for their tasty dishes that will set you back only a few soles.
Trujillo has a raft of other cultural secrets to discover. The city is the starting point for an expedition to see the archaeological vestiges from the Pre-Inca Chimú, Mochica and Lambayeque civilisations. The first stop on your itinerary is Chan Chan, the former capital of the Chimú Empire which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can see various carvings in the adobe walls that bear witness to the local lifestyle that was influenced by the city's proximity to the sea. Nearby is the Huaca de la Luna pyramid, which was the most important site in the Moche kingdom. The structure houses extremely well-preserved murals showing scenes of divinities and legends.
Your next destination is Chiclayo, the city known as the “City of Friendship” for its welcoming locals. Túcume, the birthplace of Lambayeque civilisation, is just a few kilometres away. Climb to the top of the archaeological site's hill: the monumental dimensions of the Huaca Larga temple come into full view, and you can see the Templo de la Piedra Sagrada, which was key to studying the religion of this people.
As you go further north, you will get closer to the beautiful beaches of this country whose entire west side sits on the ocean. From December to March, the conditions are perfect for spending time with your toes in the sand. According to the locals, the best place to go is Punta Sal, near Tumbes. You will step right into an earthly paradise: clear waters extend as far as the eye can see, set against the green vegetation that lines the soft, sandy beaches. Set your suitcases down at the Baja Canoas hotel, a space decorated in natural wood furnishings. You can take in the paradisiacal landscape a little longer from your own private terrace. The hotel can help you plan kayaking trips or stand up paddleboarding on the lagoon.
Catedral de Santa María
Between Jr. Orbegozo and Jr. Independencia
Huaca de la Luna
Carretera Campiña de Moche
Baja Canoas Hotel
Panamericana Norte Km 1198
Canoas de Punta Sal-Tumbes
+51 936 257 263
St Petersburg: a winter wonderland
As winter comes around, the former imperial capital becomes the perfect place for romantic wanderings. Bundle up and set off on foot, on a sled or with your ice skates to discover the city's unique architectural heritage and imposing nature.
Wrapped in a blanket of snow for more than 100 days a year, St Petersburg seems to be almost a dream with its colourful palaces, gold cupolas, 42 islands and countless canals. The city, which was founded in 1703 by czar Peter the Great, has its own unique architectural style that mixes elements of the Baroque and Neoclassical periods, adapted with original details by Italian and French architects. The city seems more intimate at this time of year, making it feel more romantic than usual.
Just outside the city limits is Yelagin Island, which sits at the mouth of the Neva River that traverses the city and is the origin of St Petersburg's nickname “Venice of the North”. Cars are not allowed here. Enjoy wandering through the silent, striking nature. Two ice rinks, one artificial and one natural, will give you a chance to show off your skating skills, where you will mostly be alongside local residents as there are very few tourists here.
One must-see sight regardless of the season is the State Hermitage Museum, built in 1764. In winter, the galleries tend to be less crowded. You may even find yourself totally alone – if you visit outside the end-of-year holiday period – as you admire some of the 60,000 works of art and masterpieces on display in one of its 1,000 galleries. In terms of pictorial art, the somewhat crowded salon-style hanging of some 16,900 paintings – it is the biggest collection in the world – is known as “Petersburg hanging” in some languages.
After getting your dose of art and culture, go on and brave the cold for a short and invigorating stroll along the icy Neva. Your next destination is the Museum of Russian Vodka, just a 20-minute walk from the Hermitage Museum. This is the perfect time to learn more about “little water”, Russia's national drink. The museum's pride and joy is its collection of old bottles made by the country's most talented glassmakers. After your visit, enjoy a tasting – in moderation, of course – of a selection of vodkas served with traditional hors-d'oeuvres in a charming little room decorated in the early 20th-century style of the workers' bars.
When your stomach begins to growl, Gogol will send you straight back to 19th-century St Petersburg. This inviting dining spot features a typical decor of the last century, complete with an old piano, warm ambiance and attentive wait staff. Everything is ready for you to savour traditional Russian dishes such as beef stroganoff or salmon coulibiac.
Extend your evening into the wee hours with an unexpected spectacle along the Neva at one in the morning as the drawbridges are raised. Hundreds of onlookers gather on the banks of the river to watch as dozens of boats and cargo ships seem to race through to music, as spectators take pictures and squeal with joy.
State Hermitage Museum
2, Dvortsovaya Ploschad (Palace Square)
+7 (812) 571-3420
Museum of Russian Vodka
4, Konnogvardeisky Blvd.
+7 (812) 312-9178
8, Malaya Morskaya Ulitsa
+7 812 312 60 97
Fireflies and lanterns: ecotourism and festivals in Taipei
The winter months are an excellent time to visit Taiwan and its capital city as this is a less rainy season. The mild climate will give you a chance to discover the rich biodiversity of the island, a proponent of ecotourism, as well as its cultural offering that mixes traditional practices and cutting-edge architecture.
As you land, one of the first things you will notice is Taipei 101, the tower that epitomises this philosophy. The 500-plus-metre tall building features details resembling a traditional pagoda. Since 2011, it is the tallest eco-designed structure in the world. On the 89th floor, an observatory with large widows –blocking UV rays– overlooks the entire city and metropolitan area. A guide is available in eight languages to help you locate various points of interest around the city.
You may just glimpse the green silhouette of Daan Park. The urban lung of the city is where local scientists are working to reintroduce firefly larvae. Their efforts have not been in vain: at nightfall, you can see the magical ballet of these small hypnotic insects. The park has been fitted out with special LED lamps that mark the paths to take while not bothering these insects, sensitive to light pollution.
The Daan District is a bonanza for your taste buds. Just 20 minutes away on foot, the restaurant MUME will give you a culinary experience you will not soon forget. Three top chefs hailing from Australia, Hong Kong and the US combine their respective culinary forces to create a spectacularly delectable menu. For example, you can order fresh shrimp topped with ricotta mousse or miso and plum-glazed pork chops.
In Taipei, night-time is a festival. The fireflies are aflame, the night markets awake and the buildings awash in light. Fifteen days after the Chinese New Year, paper lanterns can be found throughout the city's streets, gardens and temples. Locals parade through the streets carrying decorated lights, putting on dances and acrobatic spectacles, and paying homage to the new year's zodiac animal.
When you rub the sleep from your eyes at the Humble House Hotel, you may think you are still dreaming. Luxurious gardens cover the fifth and seventh floors of this hotel. Recharge in this cocoon of greenery before setting out to explore this multi-facetted and fascinating city again.
7, Xinyi Road
+886 2 8101 8898
Daan Forest Park
Xinsheng South Road
+886 2 2700 3830
28, Siwei Road
+886 2 2700 0901
Humble House Hotel
18, Songgao Road
+886 2 6631 8000
Biarritz: sport and well-being in France's Basque Country
The French Basque Country is a popular summer holiday spot. Although less crowded in winter, it is just as enjoyable and especially good for those looking for a sport-filled and relaxing getaway.
As you amble along the Grande Plage beach in Biarritz, you cannot help but notice the surfers skilfully slipping through the waves. The winter temperatures – even those of the water – never chill their enthusiasm for the sport, as long as they are properly equipped. The many local surf schools offer classes (and full wetsuits) to teach you all the ins and outs.
To unwind after a day in the waves, head over to the ultra-modern spa at your hotel, the Sofitel Biarritz Le Miramar, where the rooms offer stunning ocean views. Choose from a selection of themes – relaxation, nutrition, sleep and more – and let the well-being wash over you.
Just a few minutes away is the Le Phare golf course. The green cliffs that separate Biarritz from Anglet make it one of the most beautiful courses in the region. If the great outdoors are what you are looking for, you may want to try climbing La Rhune, the local peak that stretches up to 905 metres above sea level. For this escapade, you will leave from the village of Sare. Follow the yellow “De col en col” markings to easily find the trail, which is rated “moderately difficult”. The reward for your efforts will be awe-inspiring 360° views with the ocean to one side and the snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees to the other. Upon your return, take some time to wander around Sare, which is listed as one of France's most beautiful villages. Its charming traditional half-timbered houses with red painted woodwork and Basque pelota court will give you a glimpse into local life.
As you come back to the coast, stop off at Saint-Jean-de-Luz. The town where Louis XIV was married is home to quite a few fine dining establishments. Rising star Instincts, with its sleek decor, is a good one to try. The chef prepares local seasonal products with true virtuosity: the shrimp with celery confit or local beef with parsnips and walnuts will have your mouth watering. Basque Country has everything you could ever want.
Sofitel Biarritz Le Miramar
13 rue Louison Bobet
+33 5 59 41 30 00
Golf Le Phare
2 Avenue Edith Cavell
+33 05 59 03 71 80
20 rue Garat
+33 05 59 24 66 98
Chicago: where freezing temps mean fun!
In Chicago, people actually look forward to winter. Low temperatures and snow are par for the course – bundle up so you don't miss out on any of the fun! The Windy City becomes a giant playground that is especially great for families.
Magic fills the air of the streets shrouded in snow. The sky is blue and the air sharp as you gaze out at Lake Michigan, which is partly frozen over at this time of year. The famous freshwater lake – one of the five biggest lakes in the US – looks almost like an ice floe. Head towards the lakeside Field Museum, one of the largest natural history museums in America. It condenses several billion years of biological history, telling the story of life through giant skeletons and all kinds of other fossils.
As night falls, Chicago shines. The skyscrapers light up the night sky, and during the Christmas season, more than a million strings of lights decorate the trees and façades. The holiday season is a major celebration here, where a festival and Christmas market are held every year. The Winter WonderFest has a programme of indoor entertainment, attractions and decorations that will have kids jumping for joy. At the Christkindlmarket, you can find hand-made gifts and traditional food items like potato pancakes, grilled sausages and mulled wine served in a souvenir mug.
Another thing you must add to your to-do list while in Chicago is ice skating at Millennium Park, a favourite spot among locals. If you are here on a Sunday, you can even get a free lesson. For another typical experience, go to United Center to see a Blackhawks match, the city's local hockey team. The season is in full swing in winter and the atmosphere is sure to be charged. Afterwards, you can rest your weary feet at the Public Hotel. In your room, a fire will be lit just before you arrive. Warm up with a hot chocolate and listen to the crackling of the flames as you relive your day after being won over by the third largest city in the US.
1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
6 December – 12 January
600 E. Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
15 November to 24 December
50 W. Washington Street
Chicago, IL 60602
201 E. Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60602
1901 W. Madison Street
Chicago, IL 60612
1301 North State Parkway
Chicago, IL 60610