Dragon Boat Festival

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Chinese history and culture fascinates me. Behind every holiday, every celebration is more than a thousand years of history and mythology.

On 2 June 2014, we celebrated Dragon Boat Festival. Locals in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong enjoyed a few days off to cheer for their Dragon Boat teams and feast with their families. While it is not officially a holiday in Singapore, it is still widely celebrated here in Singapore by local Chinese.

Dragon Boat Racers

Dragon Boat Racers

Contrary to what you may imagine, the story behind the Dragon Boat Festival is one of great tragedy. According to legend, in the third century B.C, Qu Yuan, a scholar and councillor to the King warned his king, Lord Huai, of an ominous threat from the northern Qing kingdom. Instead of listening to his advisor, the king banished him to the countryside. The king then took counsel from corrupt and scrupulous statesmen that cared not for the king and country but for money. Qu Yuan took to writing beautiful soulful poetry about the plight of the nation which inspired many countryfolk. In 278 B.C, the Qing armies conquered his kingdom and destroyed the imperial palace. Distraught, Qu Yuan threw himself into the Mi-Luo River, killing himself.

When the villagers saw Qu Yuan jump into the river, they attempted to save him, to no avail. They then tried to appease his spirit by throwing rice stuffed in bamboo stems into the river to prevent the fish from eating his body. The villagers all went out in dragon boats trying to look for his body but they could not find it. Thus, began the practice of eating rice dumplings and racing dragon boats. Isn’t it interesting how a tragic event in the past can lead to a colourful vibrant festival today?

One of the reasons I personally love Dragon Boat Festival is because I have an excuse to eat deliciously sweet rice dumplings. In my opinion, one of the best dumplings in Singapore is made and sold by Kim Choo’s Kitchen. Kim Choo’s kitchen, nestled in the heart of Singapore’s East Coast, Joo Chiat, is a true delight for the senses. Here, you can buy a colourful assortment of local confectionary, cakes and dumplings. As the dumplings and cakes are so popular, I suggest you come early during the day to be able to even get your hands on them.

Rice dumplings with tea

Rice dumplings with tea

Kim Choo’s Kitchen is an easy 25-minute drive from Capella Singapore. You may wish to spend a whole day wandering the historical streets of Joo Chiat, stopping for lunch at Kim Choo’s Kitchen. Our Personal Assistants will be able to assist you with planning your visit to Joo Chiat and share more about the Dragon Boat Festival. You can reach them at pa.singapore@capellahotels.com / +65 6591 5035.

A Look Back: The Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino Festival 2014

Bittersweet chocolate, bed of peanuts and cocoa, Cotija cheese meringue, xoconostle (a fruit of prickly pear cactus) foam, coconut cotton and a reduction of jamaica and passion fruit.

They say the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach.  And if you haven’t fallen in love with Mexico yet, our Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino Festival, would have you in head over heels, guaranteed!

Sabor + Vino 2014, which we held this past May, was Capella Ixtapa’s first culinary festival, and with the amazing feedback we received from our guests and visitors, I can promise you it won’t be the last!

Sommelier Lucian Mocanu and Chef Miguel Baltazar from Capella Ixtapa, with Guest Chef Carmen Valencia and Chef Ramiro Ortega.

Sommelier Lucian Mocanu and Chef Miguel Baltazar from Capella Ixtapa, with Guest Chef Carmen Valencia and Chef Ramiro Ortega.

“This region of Mexico has so much to offer gastronomically, offering an authentic Mexican cuisine experience.  We gathered well known chefs from different towns within the region to participate in festival Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino 2014, which established a sense of pride and honor, as we presented diverse traditional Mexican dishes, combined with exquisite Mexican wine and spirits for all attendees, complemented with a wonderful culinary event.  The feedback we received was fantastic, and I hope to see you all again at Capella Ixtapa’s Sabor + Vino 2015!” said Eliezer Quinones, General Manager of Capella Ixtapa.

The Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino Festival ran over two weekends in May, and featured Guest Chefs,  Carmen Valencia, Ramiro Ortega, Karla Chápero, Jesús Ordoñez.  Hosted by Capella Ixtapa’s Chef Miguel Baltazar, guests were delighted by appetizers based on regional cuisines, cocktail events, cooking classes, two exquisite 7 course wine pairing dinners and a special breakfast where each of the chefs prepared their own signature breakfast dish.

Bittersweet chocolate, bed of peanuts and cocoa, Cotija cheese meringue, xoconostle (a fruit of prickly pear cactus) foam, coconut cotton and a reduction of jamaica and passion fruit.

Bittersweet chocolate, bed of peanuts and cocoa, Cotija cheese meringue, xoconostle (a fruit of prickly pear cactus) foam, coconut cotton and a reduction of jamaica and passion fruit.

Sabor + Vino 2014 was an incredible experience,” said Chef Miguel Baltazar.  “Four different culinary minds came to Capella Ixtapa with the same objective; to satisfy the palate of our guests, surprise them with the magnificent flavors and show them the best of their cuisine.  It was a great pleasure having them with us and creating the first edition of Capella Ixtapa’s culinary festival together.  For me personally it was also a magnificent opportunity to create, innovate and practice with these amazing Chefs for the Chef of the Year in Mexico contest, at which I will be participating in June, and representing the colors of Capella Ixtapa and our region.  Some of the unforgettable dishes from the festival for me were jack fish with black radish, scallops tiradito, jicama fruit infused with beet and mezcal, cocoa with meringue of salt from Zihuatanejo, and crystallized nopal.”

You can see more photos from the festival here, and mark your calendars for May 2015, for the next Capella Ixtapa Sabor + Vino festival.  Our team is already hard at work planning next year’s festivities!

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival 2014

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

47 years ago, the first Smithsonian Folklife Festival was initiated in Washington, D.C.  Today, the Festival has become a national and international living cultural heritage expedition, home to over 250 artists and over 1 million visitors from all around the world.  I am so ready for this year’s lineup, kicking off June 25 to 29 and July 2 to 6 on the National Mall.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The theme of the program this year will be China: Tradition and the Art of Living and Kenya: Mambo Poa!  The China program emphasizes the themes of BALANCE and REUNION, processes of more profound importance than ever in China.  The program will also feature seasonal festival traditions, emphasize the exuberance of public life, share the meaning and preparation of Chinese foodways, engage visitors in craft and performance workshops, and highlight the country’s cultural diversity.

The Kenya: Mambo Poa program will present the ways in which the people of Kenya are balancing protection of their valued cultural and natural heritage with the challenges and opportunities for change in the twenty-first century.  Festival visitors will be able to interact with exemplary craftspeople who work with everything from clay to soapstone to recycled materials, learn about important fossil discoveries and so much more!

Smithsonian Folklife Festival China

What I love most about the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is the opportunity to meet carriers of cultural traditions in a very personal way.  You will have the chance to ask questions and engage with participants to hear their unique insider stories and experiences.  It amazes me to think how Washington, D.C. has become the quintessential cultural center, home to so many diverse groups.  This Festival is a time to learn and appreciate our fellow Americans and their family sagas from generation to generation.

To get myself ready, I’ve been listening to the Smithsonian Music of China and Music of Kenya playlists.

There is no admission charge to the Festival.  I highly suggest dressing for hot and humid weather- summer will be in full effect!  Parking around the Mall is extremely limited, so you are advised to use Metrorail.  Your Capella Washington, D.C. Personal Assistant is of course on hand to arrange transportation services to and from the Festival as well.  I look forward to seeing you there!

The Dusseldorf Altbier Brewery Tour

Altstadt - Bolkerstr.

Altbier, or “old beer” as it translates to, is one of Dusseldorf’s greatest traditions.  Altbier has been around since the 17th Century and has its roots in the region of Westphalia.  Its top fermentation brewing process is what makes it unique.  In fact, I’ve written about this special beer once before here on the Capella Blog.

Well, I am excited to announce the new Breidenbacher Hof, A Capella Hotel, Dusseldorf Altbier Brewery Tour!  Exclusive to hotel guests, this experience introduces the participant to five of Dusseldorf’s oldest breweries with special behind-the-scenes tours and tastings, perfect for both the beer aficionado and the novice alike.

According to Breidenbacher Hof Personal Assistant, Malte, this activity is an absolute favorite among guests.  Intrigued, I decided to schedule my own Dusseldorf Altbier Brewery Tour, after all, this is a tradition I already love and wanted to learn more about.

The tour began before we even left the hotel, with a tasting of the hotel’s signature Breidenbach meatballs served with ABB mustard (the Dusseldorf mustard!) and, of course, an Altbier.  Delicious – and the perfect way to start things off!

Altstadt - Bolkerstr.Our first stop was Schumacher brewery, which opened its doors in 1838, making it the oldest Dusseldorf brewery still in operation.  From there we made our way to four other quintessential Altbier breweries, Schlüssel, Kürzer, Füchschen and Uerige breweries.  At each brewery I was able to meet the Brewmaster, who shared secrets of their individual brewing processes.  Of course the highlights were the delicious tastings of each location’s signature brew.

Things weren’t all technical!  I also got a taste for the history and culture of Altbier.  At Füchschen brewery I learned an Altbier Song (definitely best sung after a day of beer tasting!), which of course was the source of much laughter.  And at Uerige I learned the funny history of the brewery’s name.  It seems the original owner, Wilhelm Cürten, was known for his unhappy disposition.  As a result locals began referring to the brewery as uerig, which means grumpy.  Ironically, these days people flock to Uerige in the afternoon for the good beer and great cheer.

Uerige-600The tour was truly a fun experience and by the end I felt like a true Altbier expert.  Be sure to schedule your own Dusseldorf Altbier Brewery Tour experience with your Breidenbacher Hof Personal Assistant during your next visit and discover one of the city’s greatest institutions.

Düsseldorfer Altbier Brauerei Tour

Altstadt - Bolkerstr.

Das Altbier ist eine der großen Traditionen Düsseldorfs. Es existiert seit dem 17. Jahrhundert und stammt ursprünglich aus der Region Westfalen.  Was dieses Bier so besonders macht ist die obergärige Braumethode.  Tatsächlich habe ich über dieses besondere Bier schon einmal hier auf dem Capella Blog geschrieben.

Heute freue ich mich, Euch die neue Düsseldorfer Altbier Brauerei Tour des Breidenbacher Hof, a Capella Hotel vorzustellen!  Diese Tour wird exklusiv für unsere Hotelgäste geplant und gibt Euch in wenigen Stunden Einblicke in fünf der ältesten Brauereien Düsseldorfs.  Mit Blicken hinter die Kulissen der Brauereien ist diese Tour sowohl für Altbier Liebhaber als auch für Neulinge ein perfektes Erlebnis.

Unserem Persönlichen Assistenten Malte zufolge ist diese Aktivität der absoluter Favorit unter unseren Gästen.  Ich war so fasziniert, dass ich direkt einen Termin für meine eigene Düsseldorfer Altbier Brauerei Tour vereinbarte. Ich mag die Altbier Tradition sehr und wollte unbedingt mehr darüber erfahren.

Die Tour startete bereits bevor wir überhaupt das Hotel verließen.  Als perfekten Einstieg genossen wir die köstliche Breidenbacher Frikadelle mit dem berühmten Düsseldorfer ABB Senf und dazu gab es natürlich – ein Altbier!

Altstadt - Bolkerstr.Unseren ersten Halt machten wir in der Brauerei Schumacher, die Ihre Pforten 1838 öffnete und damit die älteste noch betriebene Brauerei Düsseldorfs ist.  Von dort aus machten wir uns auf den Weg zu vier weiteren bedeutsamen Altbier Brauereien: Brauerei Schlüssel, Kürzer, Füchschen und Uerige.  In jeder einzelnen Brauerei wurde ich von den Braumeistern begrüßt, denen ich interessante Geheimnisse zu den individuellen Brauprozessen entlocken konnte.  Mein persönliches Highlight war jedoch, dass ich in jeder Brauerei das individuell hergestellte Altbier kosten und so vergleichen konnte.

Doch nicht alle Informationen waren nur von technischer Natur!  Ich erhielt einen einmaligen Einblick in die Geschichte und Kultur des Altbiers.  In der Brauerei Füchschen lernte ich außerdem das Altbier Lied kennen (das am besten nach einem Tag mit viel Altbier Genuß gesungen werden sollte!), welches mir natürlich großes Gelächter bescherte.  Und im Uerige erfuhr ich die  unterhaltsame Geschichte, wie die Brauerei Ihrem Namen erhielt:  Der ursprüngliche Besitzer Wilhelm Cürten war bekannt für seine schlechte Laune und so sagten die Stammgäste im besten Düsseldorfer Platt, er sei „uerig“, was übersetzt „schlecht gelaunt“ bedeutet.  Heutzutage besuchen allerdings alle Gäste das Uerige wegen des guten Biers und der guten Stimmung.

Uerige-600Die gesamte Tour war wirklich sehr unterhaltsam und danach fühlte ich mich wie ein richtiger Altbierexperte!  Bei Eurem nächsten Besuch im Breidenbacher Hof, a Capella Hotel in Düsseldorf solltet Ihr daher auf jeden Fall Eure eigene Düsseldorfer Altbier Brauerei Tour bei unseren Persönlichen Assistenten buchen und so eine von Düsseldorfs größten Traditionen kennenlernen.

Exclusivo Tour de Capella Pedregal a Todos Santos

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Hay tantos maravillosos pueblitos  alrededor de Los Cabos,  y visitarlos es algo que tanto a locales como turistas les encanta hacer. Una de las excursiones por el día más populares, es un viaje al idílico pueblo de Todos Santos. Según la leyenda, la ciudad toma su nombre de los santos colgado fuera de las casas locales. Marina, Líder de los  Asistentes Personales en Capella Pedregal, me invitó a probar Exclusivo Tour  de Capella Pedregal a Todos Santos. Acepté con gusto para poder experimentarlo en persona así contarles todo lo que se necesita saber acerca de esta experiencia única.

rsz_323Fabricio, guía y conductor certificado, me recogió a las 9:00 am desde el hotel en una hermosa Escalade (¡no es una mala manera de viajar!), e iniciamos nuestro viaje. El pueblo está situado a unos 45 kilómetros al norte de Cabo San Lucas y es un pueblo tranquilo y relajado que brilla por su comunidad artística, el surf y bellezas naturales únicas. Esta pequeña ciudad, es un oasis ubicado donde el desierto se une con el mar y la montaña de la Sierra de la Laguna. El Secretario de Turismo, nombró a Todos Santos un “Pueblo Mágico”, en reconocimiento a sus esfuerzos en mantener la riqueza cultural e histórica de México. La belleza de este pueblo tan especial ha atraído a un gran número de artistas mexicanos e internacionales que encuentran inspiración en su entorno. Todos Santos es ahora considerado un destino para artistas, músicos, poetas y surfistas.

Nuestra primera parada en nuestro camino a Todos Santos fue a una fábrica de vidrio soplado local, donde los fabricantes de vidrio me mostraron el proceso de hacer un corazón de cristal. Esto fue especialmente interesante, porque este corazón de cristal se utiliza como decoración en torno a Capella Pedregal! Pasamos unos 30 minutos en la fábrica, ya que quería tratar de soplar vidrio yo misma. Fue un proceso muy interesante y sin duda, mucho más difícil de lo que parecía. ¡En el futuro, simplemente se lo dejaré a los expertos!

Artist Carlos Diaz Castro , Indigo Gallery

Artist Carlos Diaz Castro , Indigo Gallery

El viaje hasta Todos Santos se completa con hermosas vistas del Océano Pacífico por un lado y del desierto y cactus en el otro. Una vez que llegamos allí, nuestra primera parada fue en el Hotel California, fundado en 1950. Durante varios años, fue el único bar y hotel, por lo tanto el hogar para los surfistas y gente que busca un lugar especial para relajarse y descansar. El hotel es famoso por la canción de los Eagles “Hotel California”, aunque no existen registros o pruebas de que los músicos estuvieron realmente allí. Hay una foto de uno de los miembros de la banda que fue tomada durante su visita a Todos Santos. Si escuchas la canción con cuidado, encontrarás una gran cantidad de similitudes que hacen que los aficionados crean que este es EL hotel. Cada día, los turistas van allí en busca de souvenirs y para escuchar la famosa canción que suena en la tienda de regalos.

A pocos pasos, se encuentra la Misión de Todos Santos, por la cual ciudad adoptó su nombre. La misión contiene la estatua de la Virgen del Pilar, que es el centro de fiesta principal de Todos Santos  en octubre de cada año. ¡Una visita obligada!

Sculpture Benito Ortega Vargaz showing us a mold

Sculpture Benito Ortega Vargaz showing us a mold

Continuamos nuestro recorrido visitando la  Galería Indigo  y Galería Logan, donde nos  encontramos con  la artista Jill Logan pintando en vivo. También conocimos al escultor local, Benito Ortega Vargaz, y artista de cerámica, Rubén Gutiérrez. ¡Cada rincón de esta ciudad tiene algo interesante! Después de explorar y disfrutar del arte, nos detuvimos en un tradicional restaurante mexicano para comer. Fabricio me dio la opción de tener algo de tiempo libre para ir de compras o visitar la playa de Cerritos. Decidí terminar el recorrido con un poco de ambos. ¡No me quería perderme nada!

Si estás interesado en experimentar la cultura local de Todos Santos, por favor, asegúrate de hablar con tu asistente personal, los puedes contactar por correo a pa.pedregal@ capellahotels.com . Les encantará ayudarte!