Posts Tagged ‘coast’

Exploring Montenegro: A Stay at the Aman Resort Sveti Stefan

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A view of the Aman Resort Sveti Stefan and the Budva Coast

Montenegro has only been an independent country since 2006. This emerging Balkan destination seems like an unlikely location for an upscale Aman resort, but after spending a few days at the Aman Sveti Stefan, I totally get it. The vibe is chic European Bond villain lair, with the former island resort now connected to the mainland by a narrow narrow isthmus, with an active security detail making sure only guests get to the resort.

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One of the pools at the Aman Sveti Stefan

Sveti Stefan’s coastal location has been used as stronghold on the Adriatic coast since the 15th Century. It has a Game of Thrones luxury resort vibe that is highly unique.

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Stunning from every angle: the Aman Resort Sveti Stefan

During the communist era, Sveti Stefan was occupied by the Yugoslavian government and used as a posh resort for guests. In 1972, the hotel received a Golden Apple award for it’s exclusive upscale excellence. Now, as Montenegro gains traction as a bubbly destination for the European yachting set, the Aman Sveti Stefan is once again very well positioned.img_4194

Boats on the Adriatic

Since Montenegro gained independence it’s Adriatic coast has been an emerging destination. This Balkan country is beautiful. The Adriatic coastline is picturesque and stunning, and is not yet overcrowded. The Aman makeover of this former fishing village has restored the red-tiled roofs to perfection, and magically kept a few small churches intact (including one next to a swimming pool). They’ve even maintained some of the fortress-like elements so it feels as though the resort’s history is incorporated in it’s design.

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Balkan Zen at the Aman Sveti Stefan

The Aman brand of Zen goes Balkan in a way that keeps it luxe yet understated. But you still feel ancient bones of the resort. The water closet in my room was clearly located in what was once a closet. The stone walls and fortress windows don’t have the cross ventilation you would expect from a new build. But the curving streets are immaculate and the outdoor dining areas dotted with Olive trees and gorgeous infinity pools with stunning views of the Adriatic.

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A view from my room at the Aman Sveti Stefan

The understated vibe of the Aman Sveti Stefan is a nice counterpoint to the flashy Porto Montenegro, located 33 kilometers away, where the “more is more” asthetic reigns. The closest airport to the resort is Tivat, but that is only going to help you if you’re flying in from Kiev or Moscow. Most guests fly into Podgorica or Dubrovnik, which are are hour and 2 1/2 hour drive away. NOTE: The drive from Podogrica to Sveti Stefan is not great for those prone to car sickness. The stretch of road is beautiful but dizzying. I found this drive nauseating, and I am usually unfazed by car travel.

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Aman style bathtub

Like all Aman resorts, you never feel like Sveti Stefan is crowded. The resort has 58 rooms and is well laid out. There are gorgeous spaces for meals inside and out, a gorgeous spa I did not have time to check out, and some lovely public spaces and courtyards. The service is top notch. The food… well, there is a reason that Montenegrin cuisine is not yet “a thing.” The Aman’s restaurant was as good as any I tried during my time in Montenegro, but there was not a dish on it that I wanted to order twice.

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Pool and church next to the Adriatic

I am just not a fan of the cuisine in this part of the world. It’s vaguely Mediterranean but not and somehow the disconnect is especially jarring for me. I’ve had similar dining experiences in Croatia and just found the food underwhelming. This could be personal preference, but I did not get this feeling Montenegro is the next big foodie destination. Fortunately cocktails are delicious and the environment lends itself to an Aperol spritz (or three).

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A gorgeous spot for a cocktail at the Aman Sveti Stefan

Yet I am now more intrigued than ever by the Balkans. This is an interesting part of the world with some interesting not-so-ancient history. The new influx of money makes Montenegro kind of fascinating.

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Left: Linguine with clams Right: Adriatic oysters

The resort offers all sorts of interesting experiences (including several by boat). All come with the price tag one usually associates with Aman properties. Boat experiences are weather dependent and ours got cancelled due to rough seas.

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Spritz o’clock in Montenegro

The Aman Sveti Stefan is a great choice for travelers who are interested in exploring the Balkans and want to stay at a highly atmospheric and unique property. It is a logical extension of a trip to Croatia.

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The view towards Budva from the Aman Sveti Stefan

Montenegro is a great place to visit if you’ve already done the coast of France and Italy, but it’s not really a substitute. This destination is best suited for the more adventurous traveler. The scenery is just as stunning but the surrounding vibe still has some post-communist charm. Service outside the resort can be hit or miss.

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Vertiginous views at the Aman Sveti Stefan

Like all Balkan supermodels, the Aman Sveti Stefan has great bones, and no bad angles.

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The atmospheric streets of the Aman Resort Sveti Stefan

May’s weather was temperamental, and cooler than I would require to lounge at the beach. But Budva had plenty of beachgoers that found the Adriatic warm enough. The resort would be especially appealing during the peak summer months.

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Gorgeous details on a small church on Sveti Stefan

Without doubt, the Aman Sveti Stefan is one of the most atmospheric luxury properties I’ve ever experienced. But I don’t think it’s for everyone.

View of @Amanresorts Sveti Stefan from Budva is today's virtualvacay #Montenegro

Adriatic coast framed by the old fortress of Sveti Stefan

This property is slightly edgier than other Amans I’ve visited… but that is also it’s appeal. It’s unique and isolated and wildly historic. You can’t help but feel like you’re wandering through the streets of King’s Landing as you find your way to dinner.

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Luggage cart still life at the Aman Sveti Stefan

This is the Aman of choice for GOT fans and intrepid travelers looking for someplace a bit different.

Sveti Stefan 85315
Montenegro
Tel: (382) 33 420 000
Fax: (382) 33 420 222
Email: amansvetistefan@aman.com

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Searching for Freddie Mercury in Stone Town, Zanzibar

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Calm sunrise in Stone Town, Zanzibar

I recently returned from my big trip to Africa, where I visited Tanzania, Rwanda and South Africa. The first stop on this trip was Stone Town, Zanzibar.

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Changing planes in Dar es Salaam

Zanzibar was the first place I ever visited in Africa, and I hadn’t been back in over 15 years. Located off the coast of Tanzania, in East Africa, Zanzibar played an important role in both the Spice Route and was a key port in the slave trade. But Zanzibar’s most famous export is the late singer and legendary Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury.

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Rainbow at the DAR airport

Born Farrokh Bulsara, Mercury was born in Zanzibar to Persian immigrant parents who lived on the island to avoid religious persecution. On my first visit to Zanzibar over a decade ago, I was surprised by how little the tour guides knew about Mercury. Mercury’s openly homosexual lifestyle was at odd’s with Zanzibar’s prominently Muslim culture. I remember saying to my tour guide at the time, “yes, but he’s still FREDDIE f*cking MERCURY.”

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School girls in Stone Town, Zanzibar

I’m a huge music fan. And I’m not the only Queen nut who has come to Zanzibar to pay homage the legendary singer. Fortunately the island has warmed to Freddie since my last visit. There are now Freddie Mercury tours and even a Mercury House (part of the Tembo Hotel). Vice even wrote this piece about the uptick in Freddier Mercury related tourism.

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Left: a shaft of light in the slave holding quarters in Stone town Right: Park of the East African Slave Trade Memorial on Zanzibar

Zanzibar has made peace with it’s notorious roots in the East African slave trade. I have to think that it’s just a matter of time before it softens to Freddie Mercury’s lifestyle. At least I hope it is.

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The Tembo Hotel in Stone Town.

If you’re still not convinced that Freddie Mercury wasn’t incredible, I suggest you listen to this isolated track of vocals of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie singing Under Pressure.

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The new Park Hyatt Zanzibar in Stone Town

I understand Zanzibar’s tourism industry’s need to change the conversation regarding their most famous export. But Freddie will never be the island’s Favorite Son. What hit me, while I wandered the streets of Stone Town listening to Queen’s Greatest Hits, is that Freddie Mercury was always the odd man out.

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Giant doors in Stone Town

His Parsi parents were outsiders who lived in Zanzibar to escape religious persecution. And Freddie was gay at a time when it wasn’t socially acceptable, making him an outsider to his outsider parents.

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I have no idea about the authenticity of the Mercury House in Stone Town

If you chat with the locals, they love to discuss EPL soccer. But if you mention Freddie Mercury, they noticeably stiffen.

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Pictures of Freddie Mercury on display in Stone Town

I saw Bob Marley t-shirts and pants for sale in Zanzibar, and he was Jamaican. Freddie Mercury-related tourism may be on the upswing, but no one was selling souvenirs with the Queen front man’s face on them. And there were certainly no locals wearing Queen t-shirts.

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The Mercury House in Stone town

So if you are fellow Queen fan who finds yourself in Stone Town, I suggest wandering around town with your earbuds in, listening to Queen, and taking in what it feels like to be an outsider.

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Spices for sale at the market in Stone Town

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Woman cooking breakfast in Stone Town

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Locals cooling off after a hot day in Stone Town

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 Soccer on the beach is a nightly ritual in Stone Tow

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Playing football in flip flops

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Sunset soccer on the beach

Or watch the locals play soccer on the beach at sunset while listening to Somebody to Love.

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 Dhows at Sunset in Stone Town

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Visiting Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park: a Photo Essay

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Rocks along the rocky shores of Ruby Beach

I plan to explore much of the Pacific Northwest this summer, and decided to start with a road trip to Olympic National Park. Located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, one of the park’s big draws is the proximity between the coastal beaches and rainforest. Ruby Beach was such a gorgeous discovery.

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My lab, Zeppelin, exploring Ruby Beach

Rocky with a rugged stretch of coast, Ruby Beach reminded me a lot of the beaches along Big Sur, in California. It’s nice to know that same Pacific goodness stretches all the way up the coast.

Ruby Beach Hyperlapse

Ruby Beach is pet-friendly, and many dogs were there and loving it. My two labs enjoyed sniffing the surf and got their paws sandy.

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The view from one of the caves on Ruby Beach

Every dog has it’s day on Ruby Beach.

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Ruby Beach is a dog lover’s dream GIF

 Driftwood along the beach was a popular spot for visitors to build piles of rocks. The rockitecture was impressive.

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This driftwood was a popular spot for visitors to stack rocks, and children to knock them over

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Another view of the rock formations along Ruby Beach

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Waves, sand, and rocks along Ruby Beach

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Stacks of rocks along the Washington coast

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Water along Washington’s Ruby Beach

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Driftwood, rocks and water along Ruby Beach

 

Ruby Beach is located within Olympic National Park.

Olympic National Park

3002 Mount Angeles Road

Port Angeles, WA 98362

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