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TRAVEL: Das Stue Combines History & Luxury in Berlin

How often do you step foot into a hotel to be greeted by a life-sized bronzed crocodile? At Das Stue, Berlin’s first luxury boutique hotel, this is just one of the many delights that await you.

Once I stepped foot out of my taxi, I was met by a grand entrance complete with two sweeping marble staircases as well as a door man who graciously offered to take my bags. As the former Royal Danish embassy, Das Stue offers a relaxing stay within their walls of modern design and neo-classical architecture. Let’s just say, the second you walk into Das Stue, there is a feeling of grandeur.

Das Stue

Location
Situated in the city’s embassy district, Das Stue is just a ten minute drive from Mitte, Berlin’s city centre, where many of the sights and museums are located. Most buildings near Das Stue precede World War II. With the help of refurbishments, you can still see the history within the architecture of this peaceful neighbourhood.

Das Stue also offers a breath of fresh air – literally. Just next door is the city’s Tiergarten Park and Berlin’s Zoological Garden, which features more animal species than any other zoo in Europe. In fact if you’re lucky, some of the rooms on the upper floors have an expansive view of the grounds, which means you can spy on the ostriches and antelopes from the comfort of your room.

Das Stue TiergartenDas Stue Room Park

Accommodations
Within Das Stue, there are 79 guest rooms and suites, ranging in size from 27 to 110 square meters. All rooms are equipped with large windows and some are complete with floor to ceiling windows, balconies or terraces. Aside from the natural sunlight, the rooms are also furnished with a rain shower (some have oversize bathtubs), Wifi and a full HD entertainment system by Apple, incorporating both internet access and a flat-screen TV.

Das Stue Room

Our room was located in the old part of the building, which meant sizeable windows and very high ceilings (well over 4 meters high). The room was quite spacious and offered modern decor, which was clean, relaxed and comfortable.

Across from our room was the library. As I attempted to fight my jet lag, I failed miserably and found myself awake at 3am. I sauntered across the hall and wandered through the library in the historical front part of the building. The neo-classical architecture in this section is complemented with an expansive landing, original parquet floors, French doors, restored hardware and comfortable seating arrangements. The perfect spot to lose yourself in a wide selection of Taschen books.

Das Stue StairwellDas Stue Library

Lounges, Bars and Dining
With two separate restaurants as well as a lounge, bar and private dining space, Das Stue is bound to satisfy your taste buds.

For those who prefer something more avant-garde, Cinco, the Michelin starred restaurant by Spanish chef Paco Pérez, is truly a gastronomic experience. In an intimate room embellished with an overhead explosion of copper pots and pans paired with copper lamps, you can tempt your senses with oyster and caviar tartar or fully amuse your palette with a tasting menu reaching up to 22 courses.

Das Stue CinchIf you prefer comfort food like Spanish tapas, step across the hall to The Casual, where natural light streams into a triangular space from skylights above. Here you can indulge in Pérez’s take on Octopus, Salmon Tataki or Thai Salad.

Das Stue The Casual

Sometimes you just fancy a drink. Das Stue offers a bar, lounge and outdoor terrace. Throughout this area, you can spot beautiful artworks including a large giraffe made of painted chicken net as well as stunning black-and-white vintage fashion photography and portraiture. The drinks will take you back in time to the 20’s, and spirits include unusual whiskies and cognacs not otherwise available in the German capital. For those who prefer vino, you can choose up to 400 German and Spanish wines – the options are pretty close to endless.

Das Stue BarDas Stue Bar

Added Extras
If the library isn’t enough to relax your mind, the spa might do the trick. Right off the lobby is a discreet hallway, leading to a lap pool and sauna, as well as three private treatment rooms offering Susanne Kaufmann products and treatments. You can go for a swim and then treat your muscles to a massage or your skin to a facial. If this doesn’t combat the jet lag, I’m not sure what will.

Das Stue PoolDas Stue Spa

Das Stue truly is luxury at its finest. Their name is derived from Danish meaning living room, and Das Stue creates a comfortable and relaxing experience without any pretension. That’s reason enough to stay at this upscale hotel, but it’s just one facet of an unforgettable experience in Berlin.

Details
Prices start from $290/night for a room and $410/night for a suite.

Das Stue Hotel Berlin Tiergarten
Drakestraße 1, 10787
Berlin, Germany
+49 30 311 722-0
das-stue.com

– Chenessa Lam

Disclaimer: Our media visit was hosted by the hotel, however
the opinions expressed in this post remain our own.


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#SETRAVELS: Prague is a Fairy Tale City that’s a Feast for Your Eyes

When I realized, I had yet to visit Eastern Europe, it was immediately on my list. On the top of that list was Prague. Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about the Czech Republic but knew that there was something intriguing about their capital. With only 72 hours to play with, I booked my flights and made my way to this fairy tale city.

Style Empire, Travel - Prague, Vltava 1

The second I landed, I made my way to my hotel, andel´s hotel Prague. Once unpacked, I took a short (less than 10 minute) tram ride into the city centre and realized that the city is very walkable and offers a great public transit system. With less than 72 hours to go, I knew I had to narrow down the to do list: walk along the River Vltava, cross the Charles Bridge, people watch in Old Town Square and climb up to Prague Castle.

I meandered down the Vltava, the longest river in the Czech Republic, before crossing over into the Old Town. Although much of the city is quite touristy, I managed to find a few quiet spots along the river to soak in the view. Along the Vltava, there are many bridges but the Charles Bridge is the one you want to take. It may be full of tourists, but this stone bridge offers both history and architecture and boasts 16 arches and 30 statues of religious figures along the way.

Style Empire, Travel - Prague, Vltava 2 Style Empire, Travel - PragueStyle Empire, Travel - Prague, Charles BridgeStyle Empire - Travel, Charles Bridge

Once I crossed the Charles Bridge I sauntered over to the Old Town Square, where you could easily people watch for hours – and I’m pretty sure I did. The square takes you back in time. With the Old Town Hall with Astronomical Clock, Gothic Church of Our Lady before Tyn and Church of St.Nicholas, you’re surrounded by beautiful history. There are rumours that Walt Disney was inspired by the Our Lady before Tyn Church and created a Disney castle based on the architecture. I’m not sure if there is any truth to this but either way, you really do feel like you’ve wandered into a fairy tale. Style Empire, Travel - Prague, Astronomical ClockStyle Empire, Travel - Prague, Old Town Square 3 Style Empire, Travel - Prague, Old Town SquareStyle Empire, Travel - Prague

Style Empire - Travel, Prague CastleStyle Empire, Travel - Prague, St Vitus CathedralStyle Empire, Travel - Prague, View from Prague Castle

Speaking of fairy tales, Prague also has the largest castle in the world (according to Guinness World Records). Within the castle district we spotted the beautiful St. Georges Basilica and St. Vithus Cathedral, with stunning gothic architecture and incredible stained glass windows. But make sure you bring your walking shoes! It’s a nice (hot and sweaty) walk to the top. But once you get there, the views are definitely worth it.

Did I mention the food? Ohhh the food! Czech food is not exactly what anyone would call dietary – insert eyebrow raise. At dinner one night, I ordered duck with a side of cabbage and baked apple. Here I thought I would get a duck breast, a small side of cabbage and slices of baked apple. WRONG. I apparently ordered a whole duck, dumplings, caramelized cabbage, red cabbage and a whole baked apple sprinkled with cinnamon. I thought I was ordering dinner, but apparently it was a feast for one. Either way, I savoured every moment of it and it was delicious. My taste buds and stomach were happy but my hips, not so much.

Style Empire, Travel - Prague, Duck Dinner Style-Empire-Travel-Prague-Dinner-e1408806188183-739x1024

Unlike many other cities of Europe, Prague emerged from World War II relatively intact. With so much history littered in the streets, you can easily lose yourself for hours just walking around the city. As you wander the cobblestoned streets and look up at the castle, it really does feel as if you’ve been transported into a fairy tale. All I’m missing is the glass slipper.

– Chenessa Lam

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#SETRAVELS: Busy Streets and Breathtaking Sights in Turkey

I’ve been wanting to go to Turkey for a few years now and last month I finally buckled down and booked a ticket. I flew into Istanbul and spent four days there before catching a flight to Cappadocia, a bus to Pamukkale, another bus to Antalya and then flying out. Two weeks later and I hardly scratched the surface but I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Style Empire - Istanbul

After landing in Istanbul Ataturk Airport, we caught a taxi to our hotel in the Old Town, Sultanahmet. We spent two nights there and visited a few historical landmarks such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Mosque, Basilica Cistern and even went for a Turkish bath. Everything was very walkable but there is a tram for those who prefer transportation and taxis can be found fairly easily. We sauntered along the streets and were lost more often than not but we found ourselves at the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar before making out way to a few of the mosques.

Style Empire - Istanbul, Basilica Cistern
Style Empire - Istanbul, Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque)Style Empire - Istanbul, Chenessa Lam outside of the Blue Mosque
Style Empire - Istanbul, Sultanahmet Mosque
Style Empire - Istanbul, Grand Bazaar
Style Empire - Istanbul, Spice Bazaar

For our second (and last two) days in Istanbul was spent in Beyoğlu, a district located on the European side of Istanbul. We stayed at the Misafir Suites located right off Istiklal Street, a bustling pedestrian street with plenty of shops, restaurants and cafés. Unlike Sultanahmet, where life calms down once the sun sets, in Beyoğlu, it seems that life lights up once the sun goes down. During the day, there are many sites to see, such as the Dolmabahçe Palace, the Galata tower and the Bosphorus sea. Beyoğlu is basically open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Style Empire - Istanbul Istiklal CaddesiStyle Empire - Istanbul, Galata Tower (Chenessa Lam)Style Empire - Istanbul, Dolmabahçe Palace

There were two other destinations I wanted to visit while in Turkey: Cappadocia, known for its spectacular landscape, and Pamukkale, known for its hot springs and travertines. From Istanbul, I took a flight to Kayseri, the closest airport to Cappadocia and spent one night in Göreme, a city within Cappadocia, in a cave hotel and explored all the area had to offer.

Cappadocia offers a landscape unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. From centuries past, the elements have eroded layers of volcanic ash forming conical rock formations. In the early hours of the day (usually from 5am to 8am) hot air balloons litter the sky and that is a sight in itself. From fairy chimneys and rock churches to underground cities, Cappadocia is bound to take your breath away.

Style Empire - Cappadocia
Style Empire - Cappadocia Zelve
Style Empire - Cappadocia, Hot Air Balloons
Style Empire - Cappadocia Hot Air Balloons

From Cappadocia, I took a 10 hour overnight bus to Pamukkale. There is no other way to get from point A to point B, so I sucked it up and made way way over. Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, consists of natural hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water. The ancient city of Hierapolis surrounds the travertines and when visiting Pammukale, one must bathe in the calcium infused waters.

My last few days in in Turkey were spent in Pamukkale and it was incredible. Unlike the bustling streets of Istanbul, Pamukkale is much quieter with many family run hotels and restaurants and although tourists flock to see the Cotton Castle, it still remains untainted.

Style Empire - PamukkaleStyle Empire - Pamukkale TravertinesStyle Empire - Pammukale Travertines (Chenessa Lam)

After two weeks, was time to say “Good Bye”. I didn’t want to leave but I had a plane ticket and couldn’t miss my flight. Instead of going back up north to Istanbul, I took another bus (this time only 5 hours long) to Antalya, and parted ways with this beautiful country and everything it had to offer.

What We Ate
– Mezes: Turkish tapas which may be hot or cold and may include beef, lamb, or fish. You’ll also find fresh green beans and cacik (yogurt, cucumber and garlic).
– Pide: Turkish pizza. A thin crust is topped with cheese, egg, meat, chicken or fish and then heated in an oven.
– Kofte: Turkish meatballs. They can be found as street food (often wrapped in a pita) or in restaurants served with rice and salad.
– Kebab: Large skewers of chicken or beef are cooked slowly on a rotating grill. The cook slices strips from the skewer to serve in a wrap or on a plate, usually with lettuce, tomatoes and onions. This is often found as street food but can also be found in restaurants.
– Baklava: Layers of phyllo pastry filled with nuts then covered with honey or syrup. This ought to satisfy any sweet tooth.
– Turkish Delight: A sweet solid jelly (which comes in different flavours) dusted with icing sugar. Another one for the sweet tooth!

Good To Know
– The local currency is the Turkish Lira. Most places take the Lira or Euro but it’s best to have Lira on you for the best exchange rate. In larger cities, you can also use credit cards but in smaller towns, cash is best.
– In Mosques baring shoulders, knees and excessive skin can be offensive. Headscarves must also be worn in the mosques. If you don’t have one, they have ones you can borrow but keep in mind, they have been worn many times before.
– Hotels are plentiful, no matter what your budget. Research the area you want to stay in (Asian side vs European side) and then search online for the best prices. We stayed in a 4* hotel in the Sultanahmet district for just over $100 CAD.
– Getting around is fairly easy. We walked most of the time and when we went from city to city, flights are relatively inexpensive if booked in advance. Busses also run regularly, however they will take up more time.
– Get lost and enjoy the scenery!

– Chenessa Lam

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TRAVEL: Comfort and Contemporary Design at Misafir Suites 8 Boutique Hotel in Istanbul

Situated in the heart of Istanbul on a small backstreet is Misafir Suites 8. This luxury boutique hotel features contemporary décor within a 19th-century building, right in the heart of Beyoğlu. If you’re planning on visiting Istanbul, this is the perfect spot to set up base.

Misafir 8 Suites Boutique Hotel, Exterior
Misafir 8 Suites

Location
A short walk from Taksim Square and just one block from Istiklal Caddesi, one of Istanbul’s busiest pedestrian streets, Misafir Suites 8 is surrounded by small bars showcasing local acoustic artists and quaint coffee shops where locals come to drink Turkish coffee (which is stronger than an Italian double espresso) over a game of backgammon. The street itself is a picturesque cobbled road with vines between the historic buildings – you would struggle to believe you are only a block away from the main shopping street. Within walking distance are the highlights of the area, including the Galata tower, offering spectacular views of Istanbul, a river cruise of the Bosphorus river (suggested by the helpful staff), and a nostalgic tram ride to the main square.

Istanbul Istiklal Caddesi

Accommodations
Upon our arrival to Misafir Suites 8, we were greeted by the friendly reception member who checked us in and showed us to our room. With recent renovations, the hotel has expanded from 7 suites to a total of 21 rooms. We stayed in the Junior Suite, it was spacious and embellished with minimalist furniture design and complementing textiles. The suite was outfitted with in-room amenities such as a fully-stocked minibar, a flat screen TV and a jacuzzi bathtub. The king size bed is fitted with quality linens and the living space is comfortable and offers helpful guide books about Istanbul. Armed with free Wi-Fi, we were left with the promise that if we had any questions to call down or ask at the reception desk.

In the lobby, the reception staff are happy to offer local knowledge about the area ranging from restaurants to eat and the best street food vendors, along with travel/transportation advice, to the ‘must see’ things to do while in Istanbul.

Misafir 8 Suites Boutique Hotel, LobbyMisafir 8 Suites Boutique Hotel, Junior SuiteMisafir 8 Suites Boutique Hotel, Bathroom

Lounges, Bars and Dining
Sekiz, the Misafir Suites 8 bar and restaurant is situated on the hotel’s ground floor. It offers an inviting atmosphere with a good selection of drinks from around the globe, and an impressive Scottish single malt whiskey selection that could rival bars in Edinburgh. From breakfast to dinner, guests can indulge in a multitude of flavours at Sekiz. This is also where the complimentary breakfast is served, which offers traditional Turkish pastries, toast, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggs, fresh fruit and pancakes, along with coffee/tea and our favourite drink during our trip of freshly squeezed orange juice.

Misafir 8 Suites Boutique Hotel, Restaurant

A variety of different rooms are available, however I highly recommend one of the suites as a base for your city break. It’s well worth it! With design and comfort in mind, Misafir 8 Suites is the perfect sanctuary within the bustling streets of Istanbul.

Details
Prices from $220/night
Kuloğlu Mah. Erol Dernek Sok. No:1, 34433 Beyoğlu Istanbul, Turkey
+90 (212) 249 89 30
8istanbulsuites.com

– Pete Healey

Disclaimer: Our media visit was hosted by the hotel, however
the opinions expressed in this post remain our own.

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PHOTO DIARY: Fall in Love with the Maltese Islands

Malta may be one of Europe’s smallest countries, but what this archipelago lacks in size, it makes up for in history, climate and culture. While wandering Malta, you can see evidence of its previous colonies including Roman, Moorish, French and the British (to name a few), all within the streets, monuments and architecture.

We spent one week in Malta and split our time in two parts of the island. For the first three days, we were up north where the island is quieter and the beaches are plentiful. We also took a day trip to Malta’s sister island Gozo, mainly to see the Azure Window, a natural limestone arch, which happens to be a filming location for Game of Thrones (insert geek out moment here).

After our days up north, we ventured down to Sliema and St. Julian’s, two towns situated on Malta’s Northeast Coast. Known for shopping, restaurants and nightlife, this area was busier but more central. We took a day trip down to Marsaxlokk, a small fishing village as well as the ferry across to Valletta, the capital of Malta. Within the walled city of Valetta, we crossed churches, palaces, museums and strolled through the piazzas.

malta mosta rotundamalta 4malta valletta
malta mdinamalta malta st juliansst julans maltamarsaxlokkNella Bella London in Malta 1maltamalta st. juliansmalta 6

There’s a reason why Malta is a favoured tourist destination. The country is laid back and relaxed but offers both the calm beach life or some fun nightlife. With its many heritage sites, it’s easy to lose yourself in history and fall in love with this country, all at the same time.

– Chenessa Lam

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