Sunday, February 8, 2015 | Section 5
How close in distance are the United States and Russia?
The Cable, Wis., area is best known for American Birkebeiner cross-country ski races, which draw thousands every February, but take a closer look and you’ll discover 2,000 miles of recreational trails, great pizza and plenty of quirky attractions. Page 5
A. 4,100 miles B. 2,800 miles C. 50 miles D. 2 ½ miles JAMES NETZ PHOTO
GeoQuiz answer, Page 3
4 romantic getaways
Out-of-the-ordinary destinations promise sunshine, water, waves and relaxation Mexico
Story and photos by Terri Colby
Special to Tribune Newspapers
Love is in the air in February, when Valentine’s Day shouts its presence. But if you haven’t already booked a getaway, you can indulge at other times of year at these accommodations in out-of-the-ordinary destinations that promise sunshine, crashing waves and a feeling of getting away from the rest of the world.
The Seychelles Getting away was certainly part of the plan when Prince William and Kate Middleton honeymooned in the Seychelles, an archipelago of more than 100 islands about 1,000 miles east of Kenya in the Indian Ocean. A tropical paradise, the Seychelles were uninhabited until the 1700s, when pirates, explorers and other sailors stumbled upon them. The French were the first settlers, arriving in 1770 to a place some viewed as the real Garden of Eden. Mahe and Praslin are the two largest islands, and the area has a tropical microclimate with year-round temperatures between 74 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The Raffles Praslin hotel (raffles.com/praslin) is an over-the-top luxury escape where the 86 villas and suites have private outdoor pavilions and plunge pools with amazing Indian Ocean views. Guests are assigned a butler to help with any planning or room needs. The hotel’s spa is open air and provides couples’ services, naturally. Rates begin at about $500 per night, but some packages give a fourth night free when you spend three nights. If you visit Praslin, there are a few things you shouldn’t miss. Anse Lazio, a short walk from the hotel, is regularly noted as one of the world’s best beaches. With impossibly soft sand, the crescent-shaped beach is backed by jungle and fronted with warm crystalline waters that glitter under amazing sunsets. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Vallee de Mai in the Praslin National Park is a primeval palm forest that is home to the coca de mer tree, which produces the largest nut in the plant kingdom, weighing as much as 18 pounds.
Anse Lazio beach in the Seychelles, with its soft sand and crystalline waters, is renowned as one of the world’s best.
Curacao is a popular destination for scuba divers and beach lovers, with a tropical savanna climate.
Casa Bonita resort in the Dominican Republic offers massages on tables set up in the Riosito River.
Casa Pericos is a three-unit, four-story boutique hotel built into the side of a mountain in Yelapa, Mexico.
In the Raffles garden, the resort can arrange for lovebirds to plant two trees in one spot so the trees become wrapped around one another as they grow. Photos are sent to couples on their anniversaries.
location, with March rates beginning at $272. One of my favorite nights in Curacao was a visit to the hotel’s Blues Jazz Bar and Restaurant. Food was OK, drinks were better, but the location — outside on a pierlike structure over the water — with amazing sunset views was unforgettable.
Curacao Once part of the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao is an island in the southern Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela. It has terrific beaches, predictably hot temperatures and a mix of histories and cultures. Curacao became a distinct country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 2010 and retains much of its Dutch flavor. Dutch and English are official languages, but the most widely spoken is Papiamentu, a Portuguese Creole. Partly European and partly African, people from more than 50 nation-
alities live on this 170square-mile island. This mix of cultures is seen in the food and architecture, with Willemstad’s pastel buildings an iconic and familiar image in the capital. With a tropical savanna climate and a dry season that lasts nine months of the year, it’s easy to see why Curacao is a popular destination for scuba divers and beach lovers. Try the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort (855590-2266, santabarbara resortcuracao.com) if you want to be away from it all. About a 40-minute drive from Willemstad, this 27-acre resort features a Pete Dye golf course, a spa, pool, sand beach and plenty of outdoor lounging areas. Rates in March are about $300 per night. The 60-year-old luxury Avila Hotel (800-747-8162, avilahotel.com) has two beaches in its downtown
Dominican Republic Sharing the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti, the Dominican Republic has a long colonial history; the capital of Santo Domingo was founded in 1496 by Bartholomew Columbus — yes, a Columbus brother. Santo Domingo is a large city, but for a more remote and romantic destination, visit the Casa Bonita Tropical Lodge (800-9615133, casabonitadr.com) in the unspoiled southwestern region of the country. Atop a jungled hill, Casa
Bonita and its 13 guest rooms have stunning sea views. Just outside the check-in area are an openair restaurant and an infinity pool edged by palm trees overlooking the water. There’s not a whole lot to do off the property, but on-site you can go ziplining and visit the Casa Bonita spa, which offers one of the most unusual massages I’ve ever experienced. The massage table is set up in the Riosito River, and the therapist stands barefoot in the water to give you the treatment. At first it seemed odd, but after I turned onto my back, the sounds of the water passing over river rocks while butterflies floated overhead made for an experience to remember. Room rates for most of the year begin at $220 per night; meal plans are extra.
A small Mexican town south of Puerto Vallarta, Yelapa isn’t an island but might as well be, because you can get there only by boat. No roads to get you there, no cars in town, it’s definitely an out-of-theway place for romance. A longtime hippie haven, it still has the feel of the lost generation, with frequent sightings of gray-haired ponytails of both genders. Out of the way and off the beaten path, it will definitely make you feel you’ve left the world behind. Especially if you stay at Casa Pericos (805-308-2209, yelapacasa.com), a very unusual and very small boutique hotel. A four-story structure built into the side of a mountain and just steps from the crashing ocean waves, it has three units open to the ocean and sky, with just waist-high concrete posts and wires lining the edge. After we arrived — hopping off the boat into the surf at nearby Playa Isabel before heading right to the third building — it was difficult to leave Casa Pericos and our 35-foot-wide perch overlooking the ocean. Snorkeling equipment and kayaks are provided and can be enjoyed just outside the door. You might be lucky enough to see whales or dolphins from your sitting area. A 10-minute walk into town takes you along rutted stone paths, through a small stream, past a tiny grocery store and to some surprisingly good restaurants (one with a Frenchtrained chef ) for such a remote location. The second-level unit at Casa Pericos is Vista Romantica, a 1,000-squarefoot space with a large bathroom built around the stone mountain wall and a jungle strangler fig tree growing through the floor to the next level. The beds all have Moroccan-style canopy mosquito nets, and multicolored glass hearts line the back wall. Highseason rates for Vista Romantica are $180 a night. Casa Pericos is perfect for alone time with your lover. But there’s one thing: You are so close to the water that earplugs are helpful for blocking the sounds of crashing waves at night. Couples will need to decide for themselves whether earplugs are helpful to their relationships. Fork in the Road: In Yelapa, come for the beach but stay for the food. Page 7
Magical ski hut in the Swiss Alps By Eric Vohr
Special to Tribune Newspapers
MICHAELA URBAN/FOR TRIBUNE NEWSPAPERS
The Findlerhof ski hut can get busy, but it’s worth the wait.
Many things make skiing the Alps amazing, not the least of which are great terrain and incredible vistas. But what makes me choose Euro skiing over the great resorts in the American West is the cultural experience; and nothing speaks more to my heart (and stomach) than a traditional mountain ski hut. Over the years, I’ve
visited some awesome huts. The Bellevue Alm in Bad Gastein is one of Austria’s oldest, accessed by a creaky single chairlift, and you can sled down to the village after dining. This year, however, during a ski tour of Switzerland, I added another classic ski hut to my list of favorites. Nestled in the tiny and quaint mountain village of Findeln, down the hill from an old chapel, the Matterhorn hovering over it like some mythical
giant, the Findlerhof ski hut is right out of the pages of a fairy tale of Swiss mountain life. But don’t let the ancient exterior (and interior) fool you. The owners of this mountain gem serve up “uber” gourmet fare that blends old Swiss charm, local ingredients and cutting-edge cuisine, making it hard to head back out to the hill. I hit the Findlerhof in the early afternoon and almost missed the last lift out.
Most popular restaurants in the area, including the Findlerhof, get pretty busy, so you might have to wait a bit for a table. But no worries, you can relax on the porch with a glass of prosecco, gaze at the magnificent Matterhorn and remind yourself how wonderful life’s moments can be. Entrees run from about $20 to $47, but the experience is priceless. [email protected]