Travel Trends 2023 – Shoulder Season is Dead.

Where to GO – Japan, better book now for 2024, Cherry Blossom Journeys for this year sold out last summer. A combination of Covid rollover reservations and cherished Cherry Blossom Customs, this tradition has always been popular. It may be a secret, but spring in South Korea is just as magical as the country shrugs off winter and reemerges bearing the pop of Cherry Blossom shades and scents. The most popular place to see cherry blossoms in Korea is the Jinhae Gunhangje Cherry Blossom Festival, which has attracted over 2,000,000 visitors per year in past years.

Cherry Blossoms, Japan

Sicily, led by the outrageous popularity of White Lotus, clients clamor to trek the trails and plop at super swanky Four Seasons San Domenico Palace in Taormina. Even if you just make the hotel your only seaside destination, the 14th-century Dominican convent turned luxury hotel in the coastal town of Taormina, has stunning views not just of the Ionian Sea, but also of Mt. Etna volcano and the Greek Theatre of Taormina, a historical landmark. Famous guests, including our chic clients, who have shared their praise include Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren, King Edward VIII and Oscar Wilde. History, art, and delicious food – everyone loves Italy, even if you are island based. Sicily’s luxury hotel scene has been enriched in the last few years, by the classic Belmond properties, Grand Hotel Timeo, and Villa Sant’Andrea, as well as newer hotels Il san Corrado di Noto and Rocco Forte Hotel Villa Igiea. Imagine two weeks crisscrossing the island – I once settled into a village for an inspiring week in summer to participate in a David Tanis cooking school.

Italian charisma, is that redundant?

Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, Sicily

Spring Summer or Autumn in Paris? – if you haven’t booked yet, get out your candle’s, rosary, and Bhutanese prayer beads. The Rugby World Cup train visits 51 cities in France during a 4-month Journey.  Veuillez m’excuser” – please accept my apologies if you have not reserved Paris yet. One of our savviest sophisticated couples will spend a glorious month as Parisians at La Réserve Apartments. At home in Paris with the Eiffel Tower as your neighbor.

Sleekly neutral and lavishly roomy, the first-class serviced apartments facing the Eiffel Tower, are perfect for travelers wanting to blend as chic locals, invite the entourage. This is not Emily in Paris! Carry your cashmere and smart walking shoes.

La Réserve Apartments, Paris
La Réserve Apartments, Paris

Bhutan was one of my most glorious adventures ever. Slowly western culture will invade and diffuse the pureness of the Happiest Kingdom. Visit before the traditional values, beliefs are modified. Nothing prepared me for my Journey to this tiny Himalayan country, memories still wash over me in waves. Staying in five individual Amankora properties, meeting gentle and kind locals, hiking through mountain landscapes unlike any other, dining on local delicious delicacies, wandering through colorful ancient temples, and learning Bhutanese customs. With the recent opening of the Trans Bhutan Trail, a 250-mile sacred hiking trail for the first time in 60 years, more hikers will be drawn to this mountain Paradise!

Captivated by rich history and ancient culture? Egypt is overrun by Americans this year, plan now for next spring or fall. In sharing once in a lifetime adventures, it’s hard to ignore the allure of Africa and the Middle East, and in particular, Egypt – the pyramids are still magnificently standing, having withstood every imaginable world crisis. The history, the pyramids, the sphinx, and the ancient burial tombs all standing amid a hectic twenty first century life.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

Morocco – if you read my posts, you appreciate my obsession! Our clients are following my lead, as is most of America, Morocco is one of The Hottest travel destinations. Book in advance for the best five-star properties and stand by in fall, as I uncover the new luxury hotels in Tangier and visit a small riad in the Atlas Mountain’s – opened by well-known Marrakech hotelier, giving Kasbah Tamadot a little healthy hotel competition.

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Also, on the hot list is Colombia. With world-class coffee plantations, amazing beaches to the north and west, remarkable dining, rich history, and friendly people, Colombia tourism is exploding. Colombia’s diversity runs from mountain peaks to tropical grasslands, from spectacular museums and private art collections to coffee plantations, from ancient history to natural wonders.

Ancient mysteries come to life in cities rife with culture and charm. Near the city of Agustin more than 500 life-sized carved volcanic stone figures and tombs litter the Forest of Statues, amid native trees and flowers.

Four Seasons Vasa Medina Bogota

Cartagena has become one of South America’s most vibrant cities – and the undoubted queen of Columbia’s northern coast. Offering old-world luxury, exquisite fine-dining options, and a hip nightlife. Having witnessed 500 years of piracy, wars and slavery, Cartagena’s Walled City is steeped in history. Every house and street here have meaning – right down to the intricate door handles used to signal your hierarchy in society.

Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, Cartagena

Colombia’s capital of Bogota is rich with vitality, a blend of world-class restaurants, and sophisticated shopping. The energy and creativity of Colombia’s capital city are best experienced with a stay at Four Seasons Hotel Bogotá. In the buzzing Zona Rosa area, find yourself just steps away from the city’s best shopping, nightlife, and cafés, then come back to settle in at the intimate, modern Hotel, where contemporary elegance is found everywhere from the spacious suites to the perfectly poured Colombian espresso.

More than 99.5% of Colombians speak Spanish. Oh dear, un poquito Español!

My Enduring Moroccan Fantasy, Frolics on the Beach!

My Morocco Fantasy is to deeply explore more and more of this fascinating country, region by region. My 19 Day Camel Caravan in November took me to the interior areas, the picturesque sand dunes of the Sahara with perfectly contoured ripples and undulating crests, the rugged Atlas Mountains, miles and miles of jagged peaks, and a mesmerizing stay in the oldest royal city, the ancient fortifications of Fez. 

My recent Camel Caravan Journey II, focused on the sand and the sea. La Sultana Oualidia is the petite sister hotel of the luxury La Sultana Riad in Marrakech, described as the Sea and the City properties. This hidden gem nestled on the Atlantic coast, between Safi and El Jadida, sits above a greenish lagoon, dotted with oyster beds. The tides provide the rhythm of life for guests and the delectable oysters in a landscape of hypnotic beauty. El Jadida is a cozy little fishing town, famous for its seafood and in particular, its yummy oysters. 

La Sultana Oualidia Infinity Pool

The first “royal beach” designated by King Mohamed V when he built a palace in the 1940’s, it was eventually abandoned but has now been rediscovered by ‘those in the know’. In fact, the beach area closer to Agadir has a prime big name luxury resort under construction. The Coast is calling in Morocco! Surfers flock here for awesome waves.

On Morocco’s western coast, this sleepy sister hotel to La Sultana Marrakech rests on a prime perch of wild coast, fringed by protected birdlife and surfing beaches, with miles of sandy beaches, perfect for beach walkers. The five-star resort includes two pools, beautiful rambling gardens, an extensive spa and a wonderful restaurant featuring fish – including live lobster & crab tanks – pluck your supper directly from a tank. 

La Sultana Oualidia is designed as a family home, with private terraces, unique collections by designers, beautiful objects unearthed in markets, and contemporary paintings, guests can opt for getting away from it all, or setting off to discover nature. 

Oysters arrived to Oualidia via an innovative Frenchman in the 1950’s; observing the rich environment of the tidal lagoon and an opportunity and aspiration were born! Portuguese oysters were first raised here, giving way later in the 1970’s to a Japanese variety which is principally the type of oysters cultivated today and valued throughout Morocco.

The Concierge team at La Sultana Oualidia work their magic suggesting a wide array of activities intended to keep you active or help you plan quiet sedate activities. I opted for leisurely on property activities at a slower pace! For those who prefer movement, we can organize yoga, surfing, fishing, picnics facing the ocean, birdwatching, horse-riding. Our Moroccan team can also plan off property excursions and a Camel Caravan seaside route, which is how I travel!

La Sultana Oualidia offers 12 stylish rooms and suites, with private terraces and Jacuzzis, a newish small cabin suite is perched like a mini-bird house in the trees, a dreamy infinity pool floats on the edge of the lagoon, a heated indoor pool, a small but well-equipped gym, an authentic Hammam and spa, several restaurants, and a delectable oyster-bar with views of the sandy lagoon. For a petite property, many offerings. This is the Montauk of Morocco!

Sheltered from the wind, thanks to the lagoon, the temperature is mild all year long. I would suggest off season as summer is buzzy and the size of the property is conducive to quieter months. My March visit was perfect – lovely beach weather, warm star-studded evenings, and very few guests!

La Sultana Oualidia Dreamy Evening View

The concierge organized a lavish private picnic on a secluded Atlantic beach. Crossing the lagoon in a fisherman’s rustic boat and visiting the oyster beds, I hopped out and hiked through a flower filled field to the top of a hill – to gaze down at a long sandy beach and the crashing Atlantic Ocean. A transformative change in scenery, two hotel staff provided a soccer ball, and a kite for play. The breeze rippled the canvas shelter, I sat watching kids explore tide pools. Sipping a glass of chilled Moroccan white wine, lost in thought and plotting more Moroccan Fantasies!

Fresh crab, little langoustines and just caught fish were barbecued by the staff, multiple courses of salad and couscous emerged from big straw baskets, an opulent beach banquet! A customary Moroccan nap under the undulating canvas concluded my enchanting picnic before crossing the lagoon at high tide! 

La Sultana Oualidia Lagoon

The striking main building of La Sultana Oualidia, is a stone casbah-like building with turrets protruding toward sky. Suites are traditional in style, featuring stained-glass windows decorated with Moroccan symbols. The property is studded with greenery, gardens merge with small pools, wooden bridges span Koi filled pools. Birdsong, bees, and sea birds compliment the gardens. 

Breakfast is served in a small pavilion, or as I do, brekkie delivered to bed! Highly recommend the homemade vanilla yoghurt and tender clouds of scrambled eggs. The green ‘restorative juice’ must have been sent by the Champagne Police! Wander below the terraces to a jetty which serves local oysters. Slurp a dish of briny oysters with a chilled flute of bubbly!

You come to Oualidia to relax! End a day as I did with a private Berber Tent dinner on the beach at sunset. Fire-pits illuminate the cozy space at the edge of the lagoon restaurant. A lobster trifecta feast sated me over my three nights – live lobster from the tank, barbecue lobster under the Berber tent and Lobster Paella on the sand.

Birdwatching is very popular in spring and autumn when migrating flocks travel from Europe to Africa. Exotic birds including graceful flamingos, white egrets and huge storks are just a few of the flying feathered creatures. 

La Sultana Oualidia is 2.5-hour drive from Marrakech and a 2.5-hour drive from Casablanca airport. The two-lane road from Marrakech is well paved and has many turnouts to break the drive, peer over the edge of the tall cliffs and observe massive waves rolling in from an infinite horizon. A windy day transforms one into a human kite or a wobbly windmill tilting in the breeze on the edge of the steep precipices. Mother Nature owns her world on these windy bluffs. Surfing and windsurfing aficionados revere these beach areas, not far from the secluded lagoon of La Sultana Oualidia. 

There is a weekly market on the weekends if you desire a souk stroll. Moroccans from the village and surrounding areas come for their shopping. Wander the stalls tasting gorgeous produce and home goods. 

Who can resist fluffy Flamingos, succulent lobster, an indoor plunge under a glass gazebo, an authentic Hammam, bountiful beach picnics, Berber Tent dinners under a jet black sky, and the wild untamed Atlantic beckoning along the coast?  Oh, did I mention the briny oysters!?

La Sultana, Oualidia a coastal Moroccan sanctuary, feed your fantasies.

Irresistible and I Highly Recommend!