• Puerto Rico •
INTO THE WILD // The hotel is a Certified Gold Audobon Signature Sanctuary, with a prime focus on ecological sustainability. Book a free walking or river tour with a nature guide to learn about the area’s lush wildlife.
DREAM WORK >> SOMETIMES AN EMAIL IS MORE THAN YOU BARGAINED FOR | BY BLAIR KNOBEL
THERE ARE VACATIONS YOU PLAN. AND THERE ARE THOSE THAT COME TO YOU. These are unadulterated gifts from the Universe, and you should accept them, embrace them, honor them (and God-forbid delete them). Especially if they involve an island in the Caribbean. Immediately if they offer a resort named St. Regis.
The St. Regis brand of five-star hotels began in 1901 by prominent New York socialite and businessman John Jacob Astor IV. Astor built the original St. Regis hotel at East 55th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York and spared no expense in outfitting Trowbridge & Livingston’s Beaux Arts design with lavish décor and technology (a telephone in each room and central heating and air). When the brand-new St. Regis New York opened in 1904, guests stayed for $4 per night and enjoyed butler service and superior amenities. This luxurious essence of home is a hallmark of St. Regis that continues today.
LET IT RAIN // The St. Regis Bahia Beach sits near the El Yunque National Forest, with more than 200 species of tropical flora. There are numerous hiking trails and waterfalls for cooling off.
My taste of this life came by way of the relatively new St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort (opened in 2010), 25 miles northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico. For me, this was much more than a “work trip.” This was my first solo traveling experience outside of the United States, so I was a bit anxious. But after landing in San Juan and meeting Eliu, my driver graciously arranged by the hotel, I felt immediately at ease. He emanated palpable warmth and kindness, a spirit I found true of the Puerto Ricans I met.
COLOR CODE // Just outside of the hotel property is Old San Juan, dating back 500 years to San Juan’s colonial era, with cobblestone streets and beautifully preserved colorful buildings. Enjoy shopping, open-air cafés, restaurants, and street markets in Puerto Rico’s oldest settlement.
As we pulled up to the resort’s plantation house, with a wrap-around porch and chairs too comfortable for relinquishing but every hour, the St. Regis staff greeted me by name and with a coconut-flavored cocktail (my anxiety had no chance). After checking in at a single mahogany desk, with the ocean beckoning on the far side of the lobby through a panel of glass doors, general manager Jonathan Montalvo then whisked me away by golf cart to my garden-view suite through a melange of tall palm trees, tropical flora, and bird song.
BEACH BEAUTY // The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico, opened in 2010 with a focus on eco-luxury. It has received numerous accolades, including Forbes’ prestigious AAA Five Diamond distinction.
The property rests on a former 483-acre coconut plantation that lies between the formidable El Yunque National Forest and the Atlantic Ocean. It is a Certified Gold Audubon Signature Sanctuary, the first and only Caribbean hotel with this distinction that recognizes sustainable and eco-minded practices. Raised wooden paths for foot and cart traffic hover above lush tropical flowers, plants, and diverse wildlife such as iguanas, frogs, and turtles, while island birds perch overhead. Between the waves, rustling palms, and sweet trills, I was in a living sound machine.
I awoke each day for sunrise on the beach, and then indulged in a decadent breakfast buffet at Fern, Michelin-starred chef Jean Georges’ gorgeous restaurant in the plantation house. From there, the choice was difficult: lounge in the sand, by the pool, at the spa (cabana massage, ocean-side), or in my suite; roam the nature trails on the property, take a kayak tour in the Espíritu Santo River State Preserve with an expert guide, or golf on the Robert Trent Jones Jr. course. (Admittedly, golf took a backseat to the spa.) A special Champagne sabering ushered in each evening, along with cocktails on the veranda overlooking the ocean (including a ginger margarita and a Bloody Mary, which originated at the St. Regis New York), followed by dinner at either the less formal Beach Club or the posh Fern Restaurant.
The days passed quickly, despite my desire for pause, but I invested in rejuvenating activities—time in nature coupled with superior luxury. Before this, I hadn’t considered a resort vacation. But, in the sand, in the sun, by the ocean on a secluded beach, with a tropical drink in hand and shrimp tacos on the way, with no duty other than reapplying sunscreen, I thought—what have I been smokin’? I found a slice of heaven on Bahia Beach with time to unplug, indulge, and lay like broccoli. And, to think, I’ve got my inbox to thank.
St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, State Road 187 kilometer 4.2, Rio Grande, PR 00745. +1 (787) 809-8000, stregisbahiabeach.com.
• Savannah •
HIGH & MIGHTY // A view of downtown Savannah including the Talmadge Memorial Bridge. An iconic feature on the Savannah skyline, the Independent Presbyterian Church’s steeple is possibly most famous for its cameo in the opening scene of Forrest Gump.
GEORGIA QUEEN >> CHASE AWAY SUMMERTIME STRESS IN THE PEACH STATE’S SWEETHEART CITY | BY ABBY MOORE KEITH
I keep coming back to Savannah. I can’t help it. I’m sure it has something to do with the charm.
With dripping Spanish moss and oak-lined avenues, Savannah was America’s first planned city, its architecture boasting 24 landscaped squares memorialized with monuments and flower gardens blooming nearly year round. And I’m sure it has something to do with the easy hospitality of its locals— it wasn’t christened “The Hostess City of the South” for no reason. Or maybe it’s that I’m a Georgia peach myself—my roots are spread out across this region like wisteria vines—and though I’ve never made Savannah a permanent residence, there’s something about it that feels like coming home. There’s something else, too, some mystical intrigue, some essence of the city herself that makes it impossible to fully grasp who she is, like mist coming off the river in the morning. And this is why I come back time and again, and why my husband and I find ourselves here on a Saturday in early summer. I want to experience it.
The fountain at Forsyth Park has been a centric feature since the 1850s
I begin, like all decent Saturdays should begin, with brunch. If I happened to be an early riser (but let’s not talk nonsense), my day would have started with an early morning stroll through Forsyth Park. Savannah has plenty of outdoor sites offering the oak-and-moss romance so iconic to the city—Bonaventure Cemetery and Wormsloe Plantation are two such must-stops—but Forsyth is my favorite. A large elegant fountain reminiscent of Paris highlights the park’s center, which is surrounded by lush green lawns I can remember running around in as a child. Conveniently situated in the city, it’s an easy walk down Bull Street (through three gorgeous squares) to The Collins Quarter, an Australian-inspired café with exquisite bites.
Bonaventure Cemetery is filled with ornate sepulchers, some memorialized in the book and film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Styled after Collins Street in Melbourne, Australia’s café mecca, The Collins Quarter pairs artisan coffee with innovative edibles. Inside, it’s all exposed brick, sleek marble table tops, and plush red booths, but we grab a seat outside, mostly so we can eavesdrop on the guided tours as they pass by. We’re in the middle of an amusing story about Juliette Gordon Low, the Girl Scout founder who lived just around the corner, when my spiced lavender mocha arrives. Presented in a charming turquoise cup, it compliments my brioche French toast with blueberry compote perfectly. I leave happy and full and ready for a noonday nap on the beach.
We hit the Island Expressway and head southeast of the city toward Tybee Island. It’s a scenic 30-minute trip, full of blue sky and stretching wetland vistas. I can smell the salt in the air, and suddenly I’m seven years old again and crabbing off the dock at my great aunt’s house along the Wilmington River, which we cross on our way. I can’t remember the number of crabs in my basket when I hauled it up, but I do remember getting pinched by a stray claw. Crabbing is one of countless activities available on the island (fishing, kayaking, boating, among others), but after staking our beach spot with towels and a cooler, we take a quick dip and then settle in for a few hours of wave watching. The cooler is loaded with lunch and local brews, including Jekyll Brewing’s Hop Dang Diggity Southern IPA. Between the beers and the water, we keep pretty cool despite the summer sun. When we’ve had enough sand and sea (which, to me, is impossible) we pack up and drive back inland.
Savannah summers, just like in sister cities across the South, are a hot and humid mess, so spending the afternoon indoors comes highly recommended. Visiting the city’s multiple museums is a great air-conditioned option, and guided bus tours grant glimpses of the historic landmarks that make Savannah so (in)famous. I choose to chill by browsing in the commercial core that is Broughton Street. My first stop, and favorite by far, is The Paris Market & Brocante on the corner of Whitaker Street. It’s a curated, vintage shop with eclectic products that span the globe. Sometimes I go just to gawk at the gorgeous window displays, but that’s not really true—I actually go for the espresso bar and fresh macarons. Retail on Broughton swings from local to international, and includes The Globe Shoe Company, a Savannah staple that’s fit family’s feet since the 1890s.
Other stops, among many, include the Savannah Bee Co., offering a hive of local honey products. The true nectar, though, is in the back, where mead tastings are available for a small fee. A detour to the City Market off Jefferson Street, an entire block of bistros and galleries, is well worth it for a tin of Byrd Cookie Company’s key lime coolers. And as if I haven’t consumed enough sugar, I’m tempted to pop into Leopold’s Ice Cream back on Broughton, but per usual, the line is out the door, and I know I can get some of that creamy goodness at our dinner destination, The Grey.
BY THE CLAW // Tybee Island is an excellent spot for catching crabs, especially during the summer months. All that’s needed is a fishing license and a standard-sized crab trap.
The pan roasted squid is one of several seafood highlights on The Grey’s menu
When I step into the lobby of The Grey, I feel as if I’ve time-warped into an upscale travel scene from a 1950s movie (think North by Northwest). Housed in a former Art Deco Greyhound bus terminal, the 2015 James Beard Best New Restaurant nominee sports mid-century modern décor with wide navy blue booths, steel counters, and retro copies of Life Magazine on a stand in the corner. I order the most exotic-sounding drink on the list—the Far Tortuga with rum, turmeric, coconut, lime, honey, and absinthe, and when it materializes in front of me, I decide it’s much too pretty to drink. It’s neon yellow (that’s the turmeric) with a sprig of purple flower, and when I take a sip it’s decadently smooth. My dinner is a smoked brisket sandwich, crafted by Chef Mashama Bailey, who hails from New York City’s Prune restaurant.
SOUTHERN BELLE // Chef Mashama Bailey returns to her roots in Savannah from New York, where she worked under James Beard Award–winning chef Gabrielle Hamilton.
The sandwich is pickled onion and creole barbecue on a potato roll, and it’s so delicious I consume it in minutes. I top it off with two scoops of Leopold’s snickerdoodle ice cream, and this time I really am full as a tick.
Cocktail culture at The Grey offers house and vintage options
As the sun sets, we make our way to River Street, a cobblestone drive that’s bordered by the Savannah River. With light breezes sifting straight off the water, the city comes alive here at night, and though some parts may seem a bit grungy, the Rocks on the Roof bar at the Grand Bohemian Savannah Riverfront is certainly not. With handcrafted cocktails, live music, and some of the best views in the city, it’s the ideal location to end our time in this magical place.
We cross over the Talmadge Memorial Bridge on our way out, heading home toward I-95, and at the top I strain my neck to get one last look at the city, lights twinkling off the waters. I’m sure I’ll be back soon. Because I can’t help it. I’m determined to discover that eternal secret behind Savannah’s charm. And until I do, I’ll come again, and again, and again.
• Antelope Canyon •
COURSE OF NATURE // The delicate lines of Antelope Canyon—a highlight of the Navajo Nation’s Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park in northern Arizona—have inspired countless photographers and artists across the globe.
ESCAPE WITHIN >> ART DIRECTOR PAUL MEHAFFEY CAPTURES THE INTIMATE BEAUTY OF ANTELOPE CANYON | PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAUL MEHAFFEY
When Paul Mehaffey hit the road for the southwestern United States, IT WASN’T FOR THE VEGAS CASINOS, THE L.A. LIGHTS, OR EVEN A GLIMPSE OF THE GRAND CANYON. From his early days as a photographer and designer, Paul has been captivated by the sweeping beauty of a small slot in the ground in the midst of the Navajo Nation, commonly known as Antelope Canyon.
“Nothing’s perfect, and that’s what makes it great. It’s extremely organic.”
Composed of a lower and upper section—the latter’s Navajo name meaning “the place where the water runs through the rocks”—the canyon and its organic lines were formed by sandstone erosion from flash floods. The combination of lighting, contrast, and texture in the canyon’s interior make it an unparalleled dream destination for visual artists, and one Paul wanted to experience for himself. So he and his wife, Erin, headed west, and though they visited countless other places along the way, for Paul the two hours he spent within Antelope’s walls is what he remembers best.
“I wanted to see it up close; I wanted to touch the walls. It was everything I thought it was going to be and it wasn’t. It was far more.”
The small moments in Antelope Canyon were the epitome of his western adventure—the experience he keeps coming back to.
WALL TO WALL // The entrance to Antelope’s lower canyon leads to an underground labyrinth displaying more than 1,300 feet of intricately textured tunnels (right). Due to its location, a visit to the canyon requires a guided tour.
RAINBOW BRIDGE: A U.S. national monument, this natural sandstone bridge is located in southern Utah, just across the border from Antelope Canyon.
GO THE DISTANCE: Page is the closest Arizona town to Antelope Canyon, and is only a few hours’ drive from Flagstaff, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon.
• Taiwan •
STREET FOOD // There’s nothing hidden about Taiwan’s culinary culture. Handmade noodles dry in the street, roadsides are dotted with fields and fruit stands, and entire city neighborhoods are blocked off for nightly markets. As for must-haves, freshly caught seafood and beef noodle soup rank near the top.
TASTE OF HOME >> ON A RETURN TRIP TO TAIWAN, ANDREW HUANG SEEKS A CONNECTION TO HIS PARENTS’ HOMELAND THROUGH ITS RICH CULTURE OF CUISINE | WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY ANDREW HUANG
When I was younger, I thought of Taiwan as an inconvenience. I spent summers there with my mother and brothers—a month of vacation in an unfamiliar land with the intimate strangers that are my extended family.
FAST TRACK // Taiwan’s populous western side is easily traversed by high speed rail (HSR). The 217-mile line can be covered, one-way, in 105 minutes.
I remember the humidity, stagnant and oppressive with the smell of wanton tropical growth and rot; clouds of sunbaked dust mingling with sweet moped exhaust; the mosquitoes, large, vicious, and persistent. I remember sweating in our stillness as we sat in wicker chairs listening to the clatter of diesel trucks and the shouts of merchants in the alleys outside. I remember laying on tatami mats with my brothers as a window air conditioner choked on the summer air. I find it peculiar that I don’t remember much of the food, for my brothers and I ate often and well as young imposters in our parents’ homeland. I know this because it is impossible not to eat well in Taiwan.
I learned that fact when I first returned to Taiwan as an adult. I was an unemployed college graduate, and I went abroad to find myself. I didn’t. But I lived in Taiwan for six months, and in six months, there is a lot of eating to do. So I ate, and in the process, I learned about this place that could have been home.
I learned how this tiny island country has an incredibly dense and diverse concentration of food influences: a heavy dose of Japanese from Taiwan’s former colonial administration; plenty of regional Chinese from the vast mainland only 100 miles to the west across the Taiwan Strait; Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia from foreign workers; and, of course, the aboriginal inhabitants. (If you were into reductive labels, you might say Taiwan was the origin of Asian fusion.)
I learned that Taiwanese people love eating perhaps more than breathing, sleeping, and making love. Street-side fruit and vegetable stands bustle with shoppers deep into the night, and light spills into dark tiny lanes from equally tiny food stalls selling dumplings, noodles, and stir-fry to a steady stream of nighthawks. On occasion, the constant glow of these stalls flares with the glow of flames leaping up and around hot woks and clanging ladles.
I learned that if you don’t know what to eat, you should go to a night market, because there is nothing you shouldn’t try at a night market. In the bigger ones, hundreds of food stalls crowd the streets with grilled squid, fried shrimp, steam-fried buns, stinky tofu, oyster omelets, fresh fruit smoothies, bubble tea, spring rolls . . .
Night markets are no place for shrinking violets. If you want peace and refinement, go home. You will hate it. But if you are a habitual and passionate snacker, this is what paradise looks like: crowded, noisy, hot, and colored in shades of neon and rich vermilion. The textures, flavors, and aromas are no different: intense, chaotic, and bold.
I also learned to eat strange fruits—wax apples, custard apples, dragonfruit, longans, lychees; and familiar fruits that were undeniably sweeter, bigger, and better in Taiwan—pineapples, bananas, guavas, papayas, mangos.
I learned that the cliché of the “amazing hole-in-the-wall joint” is alive and well, except that every tiny town in Taiwan only has amazing hole-in-the-wall joints. Like the family-owned, 15-seat stall in Hualien that has served transcendent wonton soup, and only wonton soup, for three generations.
Or A Huo Rouyuan a stall in my mother’s hometown of Lunbei. Their specialty is the greasy-chewy-savory-sweet-herbal combination that is bawan / rouyuan / Taiwanese meatballs. This extra-large dumpling of steam-set, deep-fried, glutinous rice flour is stuffed with braised pork, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and onions topped with a thick, sweet-and-savory sauce and fresh cilantro. It is something I crave despite an inexact memory, although my mother remembers. It is the same stall she frequented as an elementary school student, and to her, those bawan taste the same 50 years later.
I learned that, in the States, we are being deceived by how bad soy milk and tofu are here, and that is a tremendous shame.
And perhaps most importantly, I learned that food is the strongest connection I have with the place my parents call home, and the people I call aunt, uncle, and cousin. I know the older my family and I get, there will be fewer opportunities and reasons to return. So when my little brother graduated from medical school in May, we went to Taiwan with our mother—the first time in five years for me, the last time for the foreseeable future for my brother as he enters his profession. We ate well because it is impossible to do otherwise in Taiwan. But I ate desperately, too, because desperation is what a fading identity demands.
EASTERN PROMISES: Taiwan’s eastern coast is mostly untouched natural beauty, with white sand beaches in Kenting, dramatic gorges at Taroko National Park, and scenic drives that rival California’s Pacific Coast Highway.
ALLEY CATS: Neighborhood gems are scattered within the labyrinth of alleys and lanes in Taiwan’s urban centers. Crowds are a sure sign of something good.