Take An Insider Tour Of Georgetown

Georgetown Waterfront

If you’ve visited Georgetown, you’ve seen the quaint cobblestone streets and know of the rich history this charming D.C. neighborhood holds.  I have always been a very big fan of the beautiful waterfront neighborhood that is unlike any other in the Washington, D.C. area.  Capella Washington, D.C., Georgetown is fortunate enough to be located right in the heart, next to the historic C&O Canal and a short walk to the Georgetown Waterfront.  For those who have yet to visit D.C. and Georgetown, I wanted to share with you a tour of some of my favorite things to do in this beautiful neighborhood.

I invite you to take a tour of Georgetown with me as I visit my favorite 4 places on a Saturday!

Baked and Wired#1 – Visit Baked & Wired
If you’re like me and you need to start your morning off with an energizing cup of coffee, I have just the place for you!  Family owned artsy coffee shop and bakery located on Thomas Jefferson Street has the best espresso drinks and cupcakes to match.  Choose from over 20 options of creatively baked options while enjoying the local ambiance.

Georgetown Waterfront#2 – Stroll Down The Georgetown Waterfront
When you are all fueled up on coffee, make your way down one block to the Georgetown Waterfront to enjoy boat watching and family fun water sports.  Whether you get behind the wheel of a kayak and steer through the Potomac River or relax on the steps leading to the Waterfront, you’ll be sure to enjoy your time in the sun!

#3 – Visit Dumbarton Oaks
Treat your eyes to a beautiful renowned landscape gardens by visiting Dumbarton Oaks.  Enriched with history from the early 1800’s, the home offers rooms of original art from different eras.

fried duck egg burger#4 – Indulge in a burger at The Grill Room
After walking around town, feast on one of my favorite burgers in The Grill Room made by Executive Chef Frank Ruta, the Fried Duck Egg Burger!  It will satisfy your every craving.

I love sharing the gem of Georgetown with everyone that comes to visit.  There is so much to see and experience while you’re in Washington, D.C., being in the Nation’s Capital has all the advantages any traveler would look for.  I would love to see pictures of your D.C. travels and Georgetown finds.  Share your photos with me at @CapellaDC so I can share them with our community!

24 Hours: What To Eat In Singapore

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As Singapore turns 50 this month, our nation is in a grand party mood.  And one of our favourite ways to party is to indulge our palates.  We are in love with our food, and fussy to a fault when it comes to eating.  And you can hardly blame us.  Most of our dishes are born of our multi-racial culture, and the best dishes are Singaporean-ised over the years to perfectly suit our taste buds.

So if you are in Singapore for a short visit, join me on a food trail that is sure to impress.  This is 24 Hours: What To Eat In Singapore:

Prata for Breakfast

Roti Prata picture from Your Singapore (http://www.yoursingapore.com)

Roti Prata picture from Your Singapore (http://www.yoursingapore.com)

When I’m up bright and early, I usually make a beeline for roti pratas.  When done right, this South Indian flat bread is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the perfect morning nosh.

My personal favourite is what we call prata ‘kosong’.  ‘Kosong’ means ‘zero’ in the Malay language and refers to plain prata, which tastes best when dipped with fish curry.

However, if you are craving something a little more sweet or savoury, many prata stalls also offer modern variants such as cheese, onion, chocolate and bomb pratas – a flakier dough with margarine, sugar and condensed milk.  Enjoy these with strong local coffee for the perfect early morning pick-me-up.

Chicken Rice for Lunch

Chicken Rice picture from Your Singapore (http://www.yoursingapore.com)

Chicken Rice picture from Your Singapore (http://www.yoursingapore.com)

Though chicken rice has its roots in the Hainan province in China, it is widely hailed as our national dish.  In fact, it’s rare to walk more than five kilometres anywhere in Singapore without passing a chicken rice stall with a row of cooked chicken hanging from the stall front.

While this may seem a little shocking to tourists at first, it adds to the distinct flavour of the cuisine.  In fact, Singaporeans tend to like to see our meat in its entirety, and associate this with freshness and wholeness.

Quirks aside, Singaporean-Hainanese Chicken Rice is very different from the original version from China, which tends to feature a bonier fowl with green chilli dip.  In Singapore, we prefer tender spring chicken served with fragrant rice steamed with chicken stock and ginger.  This is accompanied by a tangy red chilli dip, minced ginger paste and thick sweet soy sauce.

Widely available at humble hawker centres and renowned restaurants, this national dish has inspired our nation so much that we have named movies such as Chicken Rice War after it!

Kaya Toast for Tea

Kaya Toast picture from https://yakuntoast.wordpress.com - a national favourite

Kaya Toast picture from Ya Kun (https://yakuntoast.wordpress.com) – a national favourite

As far as Singapore’s tea culture goes, the Kaya Toast probably sums it up.  Kaya is a local jam made from coconut milk, eggs, sugar and pandan leaves, which lends it a unique fragrance and distinctive green hue.  Served with toasted bread and generous slivers of butter, it the perfect mid-day energy booster.

Singaporeans love enjoying a Kaya Toast even when we’re not hungry.  It is most commonly savoured with local milk tea, or what we call ‘teh’ during a casual catch-up with friends, especially on a lazy weekend.

Chilli Crabs for Dinner

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Whenever I host overseas friends for dinner, I love to take them for some authentic Singaporean chilli crabs.  Usually served with the shell intact and drenched with a savoury chilli-tomato gravy, this is a messy eat.  Be ready to get your hands dirty, and expect a lot of splatter.  However, if you ask any Singaporean, this simply adds to the flavour of the crabs, and makes it a unique bonding experience for diners.

My three tips for enjoying the iconic chilli crab: 1) Never wear white or pricey clothes for this unless you are prepared to go home with stains.  2) Request for a female crab if you enjoy roe.  3) Always order mantou (fried buns) to soak up the chilli gravy after you’ve polished off the main!

Satay for Supper

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Think of this as the Southeast Asian version of the ubiquitous kebab, marinated in a piquant bouquet of local spices.  Satays tend to be sweeter than your regular kebabs, and served with a distinct sweet and spicy peanut dip.  Usually available as bite-sized chicken, beef and mutton sticks with a side of raw cucumbers, onions and ketupat (rice cakes), they are my favourite after-dinner snacks!

Since the best satays are freshly grilled over an open charcoal fire, they are usually only available from evening till late night.  Bear in mind that you can’t order one or two sticks of satay – nor should you.  Stall owners offer satay beginning from 8-10 sticks. And believe me, once you’ve tried it, you’ll wish you had ordered more.

 

Capella Singapore serves many of these delightful local cuisines.  Alternatively, if you are spending time around town, ask your Personal Assistant for recommendations.

 

Ixtapa Zihuatanejo Travel Tips

© iStock / YingYang via Forbes.
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© iStock / YingYang via Forbes.

While traveling is an adventure, it is always important to have a plan on how to manage certain tasks.  I asked one of the Capella Ixtapa Personal Assistants how they recommend dealing with everyday tasks visitors often must deal with.  Of course, they not only had an answer but a plethora of information on how to eliminate these little stressors!  When staying at Capella Ixtapa your Personal Assistant and the entire team will make sure to help you with any request and information, but I thought these tips may help put your mind at ease before you even set foot in Ixtapa.

Medical Services in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo
At Capella Ixtapa we have medical assistance available 24/7.  In case of emergency when you’re out and about, you can call us and we’ll immediately organize help for you.  There are several hospitals and private clinics that can provide you with necessary treatment.  And if you ever need an ambulance with urgency, dial 065 from any fixed phone or 114 from a cell phone. See the list of Clinics and Hospitals in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo here.

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Tips about Water in Mexico
The running water at Capella Ixtapa is purified and safe to drink.  Most restaurants in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo have purified water (but we recommend that you double check with your waiter), but we advise caution when eating on the street.  According to the saying “better safe than sorry,” we suggest that you drink bottled water when strolling around town and pay attention how your street food or drinks are prepared.  If the water for the dish needs to be boiled, you have nothing to worry about.

Electricity in Mexico
Mexico’s electricity system is the same as that of the USA and Canada with 120 V.  Any devices that you use at home you will be able to use in Mexico with no problem.

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Photo via: ixtapa-zihuatanejo.triangulodelsol.travel

Money & Currency Exchange Tips in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo
The official currency used in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo is the Mexican Peso ($), but most businesses and service providers will probably accept American Dollars as well (check the exchange rate with the provider before you decide to pay in your currency).  VISA and Master Card are the most widely accepted credit cards.  American Express is also accepted, but sometimes with added fixed fee.  To ensure a more favorable exchange rate and to ease getting change back from a vendor, we recommend exchanging your money into pesos.  Banks are open on weekdays, closed on national holidays and a few are open on Saturdays.  Hours are (normally) from 9:00am to 4:00pm.  You will need a photo ID to complete transactions. In many cases, a driver’s license is not accepted; you will need to show your passport. ATMs are very common in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and are the easiest source for cash.

Tips about tipping in Mexico
Tipping guidelines for Mexico are nearly the same as  tipping guidelines used in the United States or Canada, with some exceptions.  In restaurants the tips range between 10% – 15%, depending on your satisfaction of the service received.  If you feel that the waiter did an exceptional job in welcoming you and creating an amazing experience, you can leave 20% or a tip of your preference.  See more tipping & etiquette tips on Trip Advisor here.

Swimming in the Pacific Ocean
Ixtapa Zihuatanejo has many beautiful beaches (see some of my favorite beaches in Ixtapa here, and Zihuatanejo here).  Travelers should understand that hotel managers, lifeguards and other interested parties operate a flag warning system for the beaches.  Red flags mean you should not enter the water, not even to wade.  This could be because of a strong undertow or that a school of stinging jellyfish is making its way through Ixtapa.

Language
People working in the hotel industry normally speak English, and the majority of locals speak enough English so your every day communications should not be a problem.  If you master some basic words in Spanish like Thank you (gracias), Please (por favor), Where is it? (donde está?), locals will appreciate your trying.  In fact, most of people will help you learn some more words as well!

Tips on Rental Cars in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo
To rent a car, you must have a valid drivers license, be 18 years or older and leave a deposit with a credit card.  Your Capella Ixtapa Personal Assistant will be happy to arrange a car rental for you if you desire, but can also arrange alternate services to drive you.  Try to limit driving to daylight hours as some of the highways have free-roaming livestock; keep your eyes on the road and drive defensively.  There are Pemex gas stations all throughout the area.  Mexico has a government-funded highway patrol, the Ángeles Verdes or “Green Angels”; these are green trucks that patrol the major highways twice a day and provide emergency service.  The service is free, but you will be charged if supplies are needed.

Tips About Public Transportation & Taxis in Ixtapa Zihuatanejo
Taxis are available 24 hours a day.  They are located at all major hotels, downtown and at the airport.  Negotiate the fare before accepting the ride and keep in mind that the cost is per cab, not per person.  To call a taxi, call your Personal Assistant.  There are also public buses that run between towns.  We recommend renting a car or a taxi, or hiring a driver to explore the downtown, marina, remote beaches and enjoying other experiences in the area.

Ixtapa Zihuatanejo Time Zone
Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo is in the Central Time Zone and observes daylight savings time.

US Consular Agency (an extension of the Embassy in Mexico City)
The closest US Consular Agency to Ixtapa Zihuatanejo is located in Acapulco.  Phone: +52(744)481-0100, Phone/Fax:(52)(744)484-0300, E-Mail: ConAgencyAcapulco@state.gov.

For more information on Ixtapa Zihuatanejo travel tips, please send us an email to pa.ixtapa@capellahotels.com, or call us at: USA Toll Free: 1 (877) 296-8889, Canada Toll Free:1 (855) 842-3399, Mexico Toll Free: 01-800-838-6501, Mexico: +52 755 5551100

Have more questions?  Please leave them in the comments below!

Capella Washington D.C.’s Gin Cobbler Cocktail

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Nothing says “summer!” like a refreshing iced cocktail on a warm day. Here at Capella Washington, D.C., Georgetown, our bartenders at The Rye Bar and our Rooftop Bar and Lounge are especially known for their delicious and creative creations. In my opinion, you can do no wrong when it comes to ice cold beverages during the summer, but I wanted to try something unique and different than what I typically make at home.  I knew just the person in The Rye Bar to go to for an easy and fun recipe.

Bartender Andrew always knows just what to suggest and this time he didn’t hesitate in offering a Gin Cobbler Cocktail.  As soon as I tried it, I knew I wanted to serve it at my summer cookout.  Fortunately, our bartenders love to share and I can now pass the delicious recipe along to you.

Gin Cobbler Cocktail

Ingredients:
1½ ounces Gin (The Rye Bar uses London Dry)
½ ounce Orange Curacao (The Rye Bar uses Pure Ferrand)
¼ ounces Simple Syrup
½ Wheel slice of an orange
½ Wheel slice of a lemon
Crushed Ice

Ingredients - Gin Cobbler

Directions:

1. Combine all liquors in a julep cup.

pouring cocktail

2. Lightly muddle the orange and lemon wheel slices together.

Andrew - Muddle

3. Pour mixture over the muddled fruit.

Andrew - Gin Cobbler finished cocktail

4. Fill glass with crushed ice and garnish with mint, berries, and an orange wheel slice.

GIN COBBLER

Et Voila! Now you have a refreshing Gin Cobbler Cocktail, perfect for any summertime occasion! If you want to visit Capella Washington, D.C., Georgetown, I’ll be sure to save you one of these while we are relaxing and soaking up the Georgetown city views from our gorgeous Rooftop Bar and Lounge! Otherwise, give our recipe a try at home and share your version with us on social media @CapellaDC so I can share them with our community! Hope you’re all enjoying your summer!

Celebrate 50 Years: 6 Unique Singapore Experiences

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If you’re in Singapore over the next few weeks, you’ve picked the best time to visit!  On the cusp of our golden jubilee, Singapore is one of the most exciting cities to be in.

We may be just a tiny red dot on the world map, but our small size simply makes us better at packing a lot of flavour into every experience.  And to celebrate our 50th birthday, our nation has gone the extra mile to orchestrate unique Singapore experiences in the month of August.  Here’s a peek at my personal calendar this month!

#1  Watch Fireworks Light An Iconic Skyline

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There’s something magical about watching firework light up the night – the dancing lights juxtaposed against a spectacular urban skyline is truly unforgettable.  Although catching the National Day Parade fireworks is a yearly ritual for me, I am particularly excited this year.  To celebrate 50 years of independence, the fireworks next month will be at an unprecedented scale, and specially designed to reflect the theme of ‘Majulah Singapura, or ‘Onwards Singapore’ in Malay.

This year, in additional to fireworks on National Day (9 August) and at the National Day Preview (1 August), you can also catch fireworks on 7 and 8 August at the Marina Basin.  The best part is, you won’t even need a ticket to the parade to witness these spectacular light displays.  Simply find a good spot along the Marina Bay Sands Waterfront, Esplanade, Marina Barrage or Helix Bridge for an unblocked view.

#2  Soak In Local Culture At Singapore’s First UNESCO Site

Singapore Symphony Orchestra  Palm Valley

I’m extremely proud to share that our garden city finally got its own UNESCO heritage site!  And fittingly, it is one of my favourite gardens in the world – the Singapore Botanic Gardens.  The minute you step into this green sanctuary, you will pick up a whiff of exotic herbs, flowers and lush foliage.  From the exquisite National Orchid Garden to the finely sculpted Bonsai Garden, our trees reflect our nation’s unique history, culture and personality.  I also love exploring the century-old heritage trees, which always inspire me to appreciate the fleeting beauty and transience of life.

After an afternoon of exploration, I particularly enjoy kicking back and enjoying an evening concert or outdoor movie screening accompanied by a cool evening breeze.  To celebrate Singapore’s birthday month, the Singapore Botanic Garden’s August line-up include local films such as It’s A Great Great World and Singapore Dreaming.  If you’re visiting Singapore for the first time, this will offer you an instant immersion in local culture and common expressions.

#3  Try The 50-Finger Massage At Capella Singapore’s Auriga Spa

7. Couple's Spa at Auriga

I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for spa treatments. Carving up me-time is my secret to staying young, and beating everyday stress.  Auriga Spa is one of my favourite places because it instantly transports me from the mundane demands of life and the ceaseless bustle of the city.

For the month of August, Auriga’s Spa director Shanti has designed the ultimate indulgence – the 50-Finger Massage.  As you can imagine, this 50-Finger Massage was inspired by SG50 and Singapore’s 50th birthday, so no expense is spared to ensure your utmost comfort and relaxation.  Performed by five therapists in synchronised motions, this massage soothes the legs, body, hands, neck and scalp, kneading away every tensed muscle in the body at once.  It takes one through Auriga’s four signature moon phase therapies – the New Moon to awaken the senses, Waxing Moon to loosen tight joints, Full Moon for balance and Waning Moon for detoxification and cleansing.  I felt utterly renewed after this treatment.

#4  Go Museum-Hopping Around Singapore

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Museums are the best place to soak in culture, and Singapore offers some of the best museums in Southeast Asia.  From art to culture, history and science, museum-hopping is one of the best ways to indulge my inner geek.

One of my favourite museums is The National Museum – also the oldest museum in Singapore, and a haven of intricate artefacts.  Singapura: 700 Years is currently on display at this museum, and chronicles our nation’s transformation from a fishing village to modern Singapore.  Also worth a visit are the Asian Civilisation Museum, the Singapore Art Museum, and The ArtScience Museum.

#5   Shop For Quirky Souvenirs

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Whenever international friends visit Singapore, I love presenting them with Singapore-inspired souvenirs.  However, one thing I do not love, is ‘Singapore Is A Fine City’ T-shirts.  If you’re looking for more design-driven and less clichéd options, two of my current raves are Naiise and Mandy T.

Naiise is a Singapore-based shopping portal that stocks curated designs by more than 250 brands from Singapore and around the world.  This includes homeware, art, T-shirts and fashion accessories that allude to local humour and expressions.  Many of these designs are modern, clean and intelligent.

Beautyphiles will also adore Mandy T, an artisan natural skincare atelier that will give many large brands a run for their money with tasteful and personal creations.  Mandy, founder of the eponymous label, is a former marketer and publicist who cooks up beauty remedies free from synthetic dyes, artificial fragrances, parabens and petrochemicals.  Many of her products feature fresh herbs from her very own garden.

#6  Toast To 50 Years Of Singapore At Bob’s Bar

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If like me, you’ve had one too many Singapore Slings, it’s time to discover a new Singapore-inspired cocktail.  Exclusively for the month of August, Bob’s Bar unveils a new national cocktail crafted by bartender Vincent Zheng.

The Red Island is made with ingredients that represent the four main ethnicities of Singapore – Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian.  It is as complex and unforgettable as it sounds.  An ode to Singapore’s cultural diversity, this Shiraz wine concoction is an ideal way to round up my Singapore adventures.  Cheers to more amazing travels!

For more activities in Singapore, please visit the Capella Singapore’s website here, or contact your personal assistant for recommendations.

 

 

Eating Well: Healthy Tips For Summer Travel

Steven Fowler - Director of Food & Beverage DC

Longer days, children buzzing about outdoors, and warmer weather can only mean one thing – summer has finally arrived!  My family summer vacations always included fun road-trips, action-packed plans, and a ton of laughter while creating memories that I continue to cherish until today.

Often a key component of our traveling was the dining.  My parents always attempted to find a balance between summer indulgence and making sure we stayed healthy and well nourished.  Today, this is still a priority for me, as I love to take part in local flavors, but not at the expense of taking care of my body.  Taking this into consideration, I thought it the perfect opportunity to sit down with the Capella Washington, D.C., Georgetown culinary team to find out what they recommend for maintaining a healthy, but enjoyable, lifestyle during summer travel.

Healthy Tips For Summer Travel:

Chef Frank Ruta - DC

“Always ask the locals and those around you, even your waiters while dining out what the healthiest options are on the menu or local spots to try.  Insider tips are always helpful and they know what they’re talking about!”   ~Executive Chef, Frank Ruta

Chef Aggie - Pastry Chef DC

“Remember it’s a vacation!  It’s a time to enjoy everything that’s going on with the activities and with your family and friends surrounding you. Enjoy the food and desserts and have a great time.” ~Pastry Chef, Aggie Chin

Steven Fowler - Director of Food & Beverage DC

 “Sitting in a cramped position for long periods, whether in an airplane, car, or bus, can lead to an increased risk of potentially health related issues.  To minimize risk, drink plenty of water and stay active to allow the blood to flow.  Always carry around with you bottles of water and try to drink plenty of fluids to prevent from becoming dehydrated.” ~Food & Beverage Director, Steve Fowler

Kelly S - Catering Sales Manager DC

“The first thing I do when I travel is to search for the local markets and grocery stores to stock up on fresh veggies, fruits, and snacks.  Sourcing our breakfast meals from fresh local markets was a great way to save some extra cash and getting in touch with how the community in that particular destination lived.  You can ask for a complimentary mini-fridge to be sent to your hotel room to store these items as well.” ~Catering Sales Manager, Kelly Schneider

I hope these tips will come in handy for healthy and delicious summer of traveling!  Please tag @CapellaDC on social media and share your own healthy/delicious summer traveling tips so that I can share them with our community.  Have a great summer!