Discover The Monuments of Washington, D.C.

Living in Washington D.C. is an amazing experience.  I try to never take for granted living in the U.S. capital, which isn’t hard to do when you’re passing by the most historical monuments in our country on a daily basis.  I love that Capella Washington, D.C., Georgetown is a short walk to The National Mall and I can get my history fix whenever I want.  Taking a tour down The National Mall never gets old, I always end up exploring and finding something new and exciting.  Journey with me as I take you on a tour of my favorite monuments of Washington, D.C..

Capitol Building

Capitol Building

A tour of the monuments is not complete without a visit to the Capitol Building. There are so many intriguing passageways around the historic building like the water well fountain behind the building, the spring garden of tulips in front, and the cascading steps leading into the building.

Insider Tip: The Capitol holds insider tours if you book in advance, you can visit their website or ask your Capella Washington, D.C. personal assistant to make your reservation.

The White House

The White House

There is nothing that can compare to the captivating view of The White House. It’s almost an overwhelming feeling when you think of all the influential leaders that have passed through these halls and of all the monumental decisions that have taken place inside. One of my greatest D.C. moments was being able to visit The White House during their 4th of July celebration and getting to see the President and his family up close and personal!

World War II Memorial

World War II Memorial

One of my favorite views is staring at the gorgeous water show at the WWII Memorial. I love that the memorial splits in half to show you the Pacific Coast states and the Atlantic Coast states.  Visitors often look for their state ledge and gather around for a great photo-op.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Finally, you must visit the famous Lincoln Memorial. Whether I’m starting my morning with a jog down the infamous Lincoln steps, or daydreaming about life, there is something so magical about the Lincoln Memorial.

Insider Tip: There is a small café off to the side of the memorial where you can buy ice cream or refresh with an iced tea.

Get in touch with all the historic monuments during your visit to Washington, D.C. and share your photos with me! Just tag @CapellaDC on Twitter and Instagram so I can share them with our community.

And one more Insider Tip: After a day of touring the city, retreat back to The Rye Bar and enjoy our signature Barrel-Aged Manhattan cocktails. Cheers!

7 Green Spaces in Singapore

Nature is the best healing balm in the world.  So when city life gets overwhelming, I love to escape to Singapore’s green spaces.  From heritage gardens to beach parks, treetop walks and wetland reserves, these seven sanctuaries will lift the stress and fatigue, and magically restore you.

#1 Singapore Botanic Gardens

Picture via www.sbg.org.sg

Picture via www.sbg.org.sg

The only tropical garden in the world to be named a UNESCO World’s Heritage Site, this 157 year-old garden is home to more than 10,000 species of flora.  I love taking a walk in the Ginger Garden, unwinding at the Swan Lake, joining a workshop at the Botany Centre and enjoying a concert at the Symphony Lake.

Must-Do: Visit the National Orchid Garden, and discover the largest orchid collection in the world with 1,200 species and 2,000 hybrids!  Don’t miss the VIP Orchid Garden, with some 100 orchids named after celebrities, dignitaries and heads of states.  Look out for the Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher orchids.

#2 Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Picture by www.nparks.gov.sg/sbwr

Picture by www.nparks.gov.sg/sbwr

First discovered in 1986 by a group of birdwatchers, this 202-hectare of mangroves, mudflats, ponds and forests are home to diverse wildlife.  I love strolling through the meandering wooden stilts, and spotting crabs, shellfish, herons, kingfishers and sunbirds.  From September to March, you could even catch sight of migratory birds on their way to Australia – some of them have flown all the way from Siberia!

Must-Do: For a deeper appreciation of the wetlands, book a free guided walk in advance to identify flora, as well as birds and other natural inhabitants.  Art enthusiasts may also join an art class and create nature-inspired pieces. 

#3 Jurong Lake

Picture by www.nparks.gov.sg/juronglakegardens

Picture by www.nparks.gov.sg/juronglakegardens

Surrounded by verdant parkland, this freshwater lake and reservoir is an excellent spot for jogging, cycling or water sports.  I personally love coming here for brisk morning or cool evening strolls to decompress and escape the city bustle.

Must-Do: Visit the Chinese Garden. Stroll along the stone bridges, explore the pagodas and rest your feet at the teahouse.  The garden really comes to life during Chinese festivals such as Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival, where children will light up the gardens with whimsical lanterns.

#4 MacRitchie Reservoir Park

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 4.16.32 pm

If you love nature, you’ll love this reservoir park.  Its 11km of hiking trail are lined with gorgeous trees, long-tailed monkeys, squirrels and monitor lizards.  Fringed by Singapore’s first reservoir, it’s also a great place for kayaking and canoeing.

Must-do: Take a morning walk with your head above the trees – the Treetop Walk is a 250-metre suspension bridge.  Linking two of the highest points within the nature reserve, it’ll offer you majestic views of the forest.

#5 Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 4.15.24 pm

A mere 12 kilometres from the Central Business District, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is one of two tropical rainforests in the world located within city limits.  This ASEAN Heritage Park is home 840 species of flowering plants and 500 species of fauna.

Must-Do: Ascend to the summit of the Bukit Timah Hill.  At the height of 163.63 metres, it’s the highest hill in Singapore!  This summit trail is only open on weekends from 7am to 6pm.

#6 East Coast Park

Picture by www.nparks.gov.sg

Picture by www.nparks.gov.sg

50 years ago, East Coast Park didn’t even exist – all 185 hectares of this beach park is built on reclaimed land.  Today, it has become one of the most iconic hangout spots in Singapore, and my personal favourite.  With a cycling track lining 15km of gorgeous coastline, it’s the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors.

Must-Do: Enjoy seafood and local cuisine at East Coast Food Lagoon.  Try the satay (spicy meat skewers), wanton mee (dumpling noodles), sambal stingray and barbequed wings.  Or, rent a pit and enjoy your own outdoor barbeque by the sea.

#7 Southern Ridges

Picture via www.yoursingapore.com

Picture via www.yoursingapore.com

Connecting some of Singapore’s most iconic green sanctuaries – Hort Park, Mount Faber Park, Kent Ridge Park and Labrador Nature Reserves – this 10km trail offers panoramic views of the city and nature.

Must-Do: I love walking along the Henderson Waves, which connects Mount Faber Park to Telok Blangah Hill Park.  At 36 metres height, this wave-like pedestrian bridge is gorgeous when alit at night.

For more cool ideas, speak to your personal assistant at Capella Singapore.

 

Singapore Festivals in 2016

If you didn’t manage to squeeze Singapore into your recent year-end vacation, you’ll be glad to know that Christmas is not the only time to enjoy the festivities in Singapore.  Thanks to our multi-cultural and multi-racial society, we celebrate many festivals round the year.  So if you’re visiting Singapore in 2016, here are three of my favourite festivals to plan your trip around.

Thaipusam
24 January 2016

Photo by www.yoursingapore.com

Photo by www.yoursingapore.com

The first key festival of the year, Thaipusam is celebrated by Tamils to commemorate the day Parvati (the Hindu goddess of love, fertility and devotion) gave Murugan (the god of war) a divine javelin to slay the demon Soorapadman.  During this two-day festival, Hindus fulfil vows, offer thanks and seek blessings for the year ahead.

If you’ve never witnessed Thaipusam, it’ll certainly be an eye-opener.  In Singapore, the celebration begins on the eve, with a colourful chariot procession from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple.

And at the crack of dawn the next day, devotees will walk from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.  Women will carry a pot of milk to symbolise fertility and abundance, and men will balance kavadis, chanting hymns and playing music along the way.  Some devotees balance towering kavadis on their shoulders, while others may carry spiked kavadis that pierce the body and tongue and weigh more than 30 kg!  In other words, these processions are nothing short of spectacular.

Lunar New Year
8-9 February 2016

Photo by www.yoursingapore.com

Photo by www.yoursingapore.com

Also known as the Spring Festival, this is the first and most important day on the Chinese calendar.  Legend has it that the mythical beast Nian had been eating villagers until a visiting god revealed that the beast was afraid of the colour red and loud noises.  Since then, the Chinese have worn red clothes, hung red lanterns and scrolls, and set off firecrackers on this special occasion to ward off the beast.

In our modern society, Lunar New Year is simply a time to celebrate family, friends, good fortune and great food.  On the eve of Lunar New Year, family members from near and far will gather to share the most important meal of the year – the Reunion Dinner.

The following days will be spent visiting relatives and friends, and the littles ones will receive red packets stuffed with money.  The highlight for me, however, is the delicious snacks such as bak kwa (sweet barbequed meat), pineapple tarts and shrimp rolls served at these gatherings.  If you’re invited to visit a friend during Lunar New Year, take the opportunity to sample everything you’re served!  And don’t forget to bring a pair of mandarin oranges for your hosts – these are symbols of good luck!

Festivities begin a month before Lunar New Year, so visit Chinatown for the street light-up, festive markets and lion dances.  Or, watch the Chingay Parade, the largest multi-cultural street performance and float parade in Asia on 19 and 20 February!

Hari Raya Aidilfitri
6 July 2016

Photo by www.yoursingapore.com

Photo by www.yoursingapore.com

For the Muslim community in Singapore, this is one most important festivals.  As you know, during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, and devote their time to worship and charitable deeds.  This special day marks the end of fasting.

Also known as Hari Raya Puasa of Eid, it is a day of joyous celebration.  Families will put on bright new clothes and head to the mosque for special prayers.  They then spend the day visiting their parents, elders and relatives.

If you’re invited to a Hari Raya meal, you’re in for a rare treat.  Nothing beats home-cooked beef rendang and chicken rendang, spicy stews that will whet your appetite.  I’m also addicted to homemade sambal (chilli paste), as well as traditional cakes!

In fact, you don’t have to wait for an invite during Hari Raya Aidilfitri to enjoy these irresistible Malay dishes.  Geylang Serai offers a wide variety of mains and snacks, and they may be enjoyed even before Hari Raya Aidilfitri during the month of Ramandan!  Since I personally love spicy food, these are some of my greatest guilty indulgences.

For more information on festivals celebrated in Singapore, speak to your personal assistant at Capella Singapore.

Talking Rum With A Master Distiller

Navegante

A new cocktail is making its debut at Bob’s Bar, and it’s fast becoming my all-time favourite.  Specially crafted by Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados for Capella Singapore, this single-blended rum is rich, round and mature.  Newly christened Navegante, which means “Navigator” in Spanish, this rum will inspire wanderlust and elicit your thirst for adventure.

Intrigued by this intoxicating spirit, I caught up with the man behind the magic.  Join Richard Seale, Master Distiller of Foursquare Rum Distillery, as he takes me behind the scenes of rum-making and shares some rare tasting tips.

Richard Seale, Master Distiller of Foursquare Rum Distillery

Richard Seale, Master Distiller of Foursquare Rum Distillery

What is the profile of the Navegante rum?

Richard: Beautifully balanced, soft and elegant, it has a velvety texture, complex flavours and a long finish with hints of caramel and honey.

How is the Navegante rum crafted? 

Richard: We begin with the fermentation of molasses for three days to make a molasses wine.  This wine of about 9% alcohol is then distilled both in a traditional ‘coffey’ still and a pot still.

The distilled spirits are blended in a proprietary ratio before being transferred to 200-litre ex-Bourbon American oaks casks.  After three years of tropical ageing, the rum is transferred to 350-litre ex-cognac French oak casks to be aged for another five years.

The rum is then reduced to drinking strength of 40% with pure Barbados water from underground coral stone aquifers.  No flavourings, sugar or colour is added during the entire process.  The gorgeous rum is then bottled with care and shipped to Capella Singapore.

3

How is it best enjoyed?

Richard: I’d recommend enjoying it as a Rum Old Fashioned, with aromatic bitters and sugar, or simply over a large ice cube.  If you’re enjoying your rum neat, pre-chill your glass.  This will bring the temperature of the rum just a little lower for the perfect experience.

Any pairing tips to share?

Richard: Serve it with chocolates or preserved cherries.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest trend in the rum world today?

Richard: Authenticity.  Connoisseurs are discovering that the very best rums are worlds apart from the ‘industrial’ mass produced rums, thanks to their artisanal distillation in pot stills, transparent age statements and pure authentic flavour.

Discover the Navegante exclusively at Bob’s Bar at Capella Singapore.

 

5 Top Festive Experiences In Singapore

Christmas always fills me with a sense of child-like wonder.  The nights twinkle with fairy lights and soft jazz drifts through the air.  It’s a magical season.  This year, I’ve picked my five favourite festive experiences that you shouldn’t miss if you happen to be in Singapore.

Enchanted Gardens

GBB2

High on my list this year is Gardens by the Bay, where toys and childhood fantasies come to life.  The gardens have been carpeted with poinsettia, Christmas rose, winter heather and holly; and towering over these yuletide florals is an 11-metre tall pyramid decked with toys.

To add to the sense of festive magic, the Supertree Grove also features a Spiegeltent (a century-old travelling ‘mirror tent’ from the Netherlands); and hosts a European-style festive market with Christmas gifts and delicious food.

Don’t miss the nightly light shows at the Supertrees that are now synced with beautiful festive tunes; as well as the series of ‘live’ performances on the multi-tiered traditional German wooden carousel at the Flower Field.  Look out for classical opera, stand-up comedians, string quartets and Enid Blyton storytelling.  Schedule here.

The Iridescent River

Singapore River

Always alit with soft shimmering lights, The Singapore River is peaceful during weekdays, and a bustling hub of activities on weekends.  It’s one of my favourite places for an evening stroll in Singapore.

This Christmas, it comes to life with a luminous forest of LED-lit tree-like structures from Robertson Quay to Boat Quay.  Christmas carollers and roving festive troopers will also add to the merriment on specific days of the week.  I’m really looking forward to the Artisan Pop Up Christmas Market at Clarke Quay’s Central Fountain Square from 5-7 December, and the fireworks display on 12 and 26 December at 9pm!

Party Under The Stars

Picture by www.yoursingapore.com

Picture by www.yoursingapore.com

December always puts me in a party mood, and Zouk Out is arguably one of the best dance festivals in the region.  Last year alone, this sunrise beach festival welcomed more than 50,000 revellers from Singapore and around the world.

Besides a diverse and electrifying line-up of techno, trance, indie-electronic and hip-hop music, festival-goers can also expect ‘live’ performances, art installations, costumed buskers, food stalls, fireworks and endless fun from dusk to dawn.  Zouk Out will take place from 11-12 December.

Christmas Movie Magic

Picture by www.rwsentosablog.com

Picture by www.rwsentosablog.com

If you love Christmas blockbusters as much as I do, here’s a chance to spend the yuletide season with your favourite characters.  Universal Studios Singapore‘s programme this year is nothing short of amazing.

Catch the Sesame Street Saves Christmas Show, Dancing Christmas Light Show, Fairytale Remix Show, and other festive performances featuring beloved characters such as the Penguins of Madagascar, Marilyn Monroe, toy soldiers and Scrooge.  Plus, it’s one of the few places to experience snow in Singapore, and catch a dazzling display of fireworks on 12, 19 and 29 December.

#5 Cuban Festival in Singapore

_MTC8413

One of the things I love best about travel is experiencing festivals around the world.  And this year, Capella Singapore re-creates a Cuban festival under the stars – El Ritmo de la Noche – for its New Year’s Eve Party.

Watch aerial performers whiz across the night sky, as well as fire dances, stilt walkers and magicians.  In the tradition of the best Latin American parties, a ‘live’ Cuban band Havana Social Club will also serenade you as you welcome 2016 with the finest champagne.  Join me on 31 December from 10pm!

For more exciting festive experiences around Singapore or Sentosa, speak to your personal assistants at Capella Singapore.

 

 

Get To Know Marie: Sales and Marketing Intern

Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Marie, our wonderful Capella Washington, D.C., Georgetown Sales and Marketing Intern.  Marie joins the Capella family from Australia and has very quickly made her lasting mark with guests and in D.C.  Coming from a family of hospitality professionals, Marie brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience.

Marie Belean - Sales and Marketing Intern

Tell me about yourself. You are joining us for a 6-month internship from abroad, how has your transition to D.C. been?

I studied hotel management for three years in Brussels in which I gained a Bachelor degree.  During that time I did two internships.  The first internship was during my second year at Marriott Brussels, Belgium in HR and the second one was at Hyatt Regency located in Perth, Australia as an F&B attendant in Event Services.  During my time in Australia I decided to study a second degree, (International Business and Hotel Management) at the International College of Hotel Management in Adelaide.  In order to successfully finish my degree I have to do a 6 months industry placement which brought me to D.C.  So far it has been a very smooth transition although it required a lot of preparations to move to the United States.  This city and country is very different from Australia, but D.C has a lot to offer and I am looking forward to discovering more of its beauty in the next couple of months.

You have a special connection with Capella, can you tell me about this connection and why you are an admirer of the Capella brand?

My brother, Thomas Belaen, used to work for the Capella Hotel and Resorts in Cabo San Lucas together with our General Manager, Mr. Bustamante.  He always spoke with such high passion about his work and how excited he was to be a part of the Capella family.  During one of my holidays in Mexico I got the opportunity to visit and was extremely impressed with the service the staff had provided.  From that moment I knew I wanted to gain experience within Capella Hotels and Resorts.  Because of the connection with Mr. Bustamante, I was able to apply for an internship in D.C.

Sales and Marketing Intern

What do you love most about being a Sales and Marketing Intern? Are there any projects in particular that are especially appealing to you?

The Sales and Marketing department is new to me so every project is exciting and interesting.  There is always so much to learn and everyone on the team at Capella Washington D.C., Georgetown is available to help me get the most out of my internship.

What are your current top recommendations in Washington, D.C.? From museums, to dining, to a night out?

I have been here for a little over two months, and I still want to discover so much more about this fascinating city, but I love Georgetown and everything it has the offer.  I love walking around the National Mall with it’s impressive monuments and museums.  During the weekends, I find myself venturing off to DuPont Circle, as it has a lot to offer in dining and nightlife options, but my absolute favorite restaurant is Barcelona on 14th Street.

What advice can you give to guests traveling to Capella Washington, D.C., Georgetown from around the world?

The best advice I can give to guests is to try and get to most out of their visit.  There are so many exciting things to do and see in D.C. and its surrounding areas.  Capella Washington D.C., Georgetown offers many exciting tours and our Personal Assistants will be more than happy to give suggestions and arrange anything you may need to discover the city.

What do your future plans hold?

My main priority is to graduate in September 2016 from ICHM.  After that, I would love to continue working for Capella Hotels and Resorts and expand my knowledge and experience through this amazing hotel chain.

Thank you, Marie for sharing your D.C. experience thus far! I look forward to hearing more!