Travel Diaries

From Russia to Hobbiton

by Kristen Gray

This month, our intrepid explorers discover luxe restaurants in controversial capitals, hike a Colombian glacier and explore Middle-Earth.

A honeymoon, Lord of The Rings-style

“I was lucky enough to visit New Zealand and Fiji and completely fell in love with both places,” Alexis Pence says of her newlywed travels with husband Hunter, the San Francisco Giants’ right fielder. While in New Zealand, the pair—major Lord of the Rings fans—added Hobbiton, a set from Peter Jackson’s film series, to their itinerary. They stayed at Lake Taupo’s Huka Lodge, “a beautiful place right on the river surrounded by the most magnificent trees. The Queen of England actually stays there when she visits.” But Minaret Lodge, near Lake Wanaka, was their favorite place to check in. “The only way to get there is by helicopter and when you do arrive, there are only four chalets in the middle of this beautiful canyon overlooking a river. It was unreal—peaceful, private and submerged into nature.” Memorable detours included jet boating, Zorbing and getting into a snowball fight atop a glacier. Later, they relaxed at Fiji’s Laucala Island Resort for a vacation from their vacation. Says Pence: “We wanted some adventure and a tropical beach.”

A coffee fix in Colombia

Cecily Colmenares ventured to the South American country in November to explore more of the place her husband, Jaime, calls a second home. After being born in the Bay Area, Jaime grew up in Bogotá, which has a lot more to offer than how it’s portrayed in Hollywood films and TV series. “While Colombia has had its well-known challenges in the past, it is now one of the most developed countries in South America,” Cecily maintains. “It is much safer and the people are warm and welcoming.” After a week in Bogotá, where the couple visited the historic La Candelaria neighborhood, they moved on to the coffee region of Caldas. “My favorite part of the trip was hiking up to the glacier at the top of Nevado Santa Isabel, and touring a coffee hacienda. Can you believe it takes 58 coffee beans to make a single cup of coffee?”

Moscow and Murakami

“It was beautiful but freezing,” reports editor and writer Katie Sweeney of her first time in Moscow for Fashion Week. “I brought four furs and eight shoes, and really wanted to bring home a Russian fur hat but sadly there were no souvenir shops.” Sweeney traveled with friend Stephan Rabimov, Director of Social Media Center and Fashion Journalism at the Academy of Art University, and stayed at the Metropol, “an opulent hotel right off the Red Square.” Her favorite runway shows were Saint Tokyo and Mach & Mach, “which was full of over-the-top sequin styles.” Her restaurant recommendations: White Rabbit, Selfie and Ruski, the latter located on the 85th floor of a highrise and serving traditional Russian dishes like black bread and lard spread—washed down with a shot of vodka. Sweeney made sure to visit The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, “a hip new museum similar to the de Young,” she says. “Takashi Murakami’s interactive exhibit was a recreation of his actual studio.”

 

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