Pop Culture and Travel

Easter is fast-approaching, and leading up to the springtime holiday is Holy Week, which, in Roman Catholic tradition, is the last week of Lent, taking place right before Easter (which falls on Sunday, April 20th this year). Parades, processions, traditional celebrations, lively festivities, marching bands, festive foods: These are the sights, sounds, and flavors of Holy Week around the globe, and for travelers who sample a country’s culture as much as its fine cuisine and beautiful scenery, visiting a celebratory country during Holy Week is the holy grail — no pun intended — of cultural travel. Here are our six top picks for the most festive spots in the world to visit during Holy Week.

Guatemala

La Reunion Golf Resort & Residences

Guatemala is one of the world’s most renowned destinations for celebrating Holy Week, thanks to the nation’s vibrant and ornate religious festivities. To kick off the week, Guatemalans decorate their streets and homes with palm fronds on Palm Sunday, and the celebration continues through Good Friday. In Antigua, residents scatter the country’s famed alfombras – dyed sand and sawdust, with pine needles, flowers and plants — on the cobblestone streets to create spectacularly colored “carpets” that lead the way for religious processions.

Where to Stay: Just 30 minutes from colonial Antigua, La Reunion Golf Resort & Residences gets you close to the Holy Week action but not too close: visit during the day and escape at night to avoid the pulsating — and often overwhelming — crowds.

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One of the greatest perks of traveling is the opportunity to try new foods. Even dishes that you may be familiar with are better when tasted in their land of origin (have you ever had pasta in Italy? Bellissimo!). But there’s something particularly exciting — and truly adventurous — about trying a bite of something you’ve never even heard of before. We’ve traveled the globe and have discovered some delicious delicacies… and we’ve also sampled some foods that are…well, “interesting” may be the best way to put it. Here are half a dozen of the weirdest delicacies the world over. Bon apetit!

Singapore: Fish Head Curry

fish head curry

A lot of the strangest delicacies in the world seem to involve fish and/or weird parts of animals that you didn’t even know were edible (and their edibleness is questionable to say the least). Well, fish head curry involves both fish and weird parts of it. In Singapore, fish head curry is considered a tasty, stew-like dish of veggies, rice, and — you guessed it — a fish head (generally red snapper).

Where to Stay: Hotel Fort Canning is a modern boutique in a beautifully restored historic military building. This excellent property includes luxe amenities such as three pools, an Asian bistro, a pizza bar, a cocktail lounge, and a fitness center.

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If you’re like us, you’re ready for this freezing weather — courtesy of the polar vortex — to be over. In fact, you’ve been ready for weeks now. And though the groundhog may not have predicted a quick return to warm weather, that hasn’t stopped cities across the U.S. from making plans to usher in the spring, which makes its official entrance March 20. From Atlanta to Los Angeles, from Vermont to Savannah, popular vacation destinations are already prepping for the season’s welcome with spring-themed festivals, parades, and parties. Here are seven destinations where you can celebrate spring.

Los Angeles, CA: Holi Festival of Colors, March 8

Traditionally a religious Hindu festival marking the beginning of spring, Holi has become a holiday celebrated around the globe by Hindu followers and non-followers alike, and few places stateside do the day justice like Los Angeles. This year, the festival takes place in L.A. on March 8 and includes group yoga sessions, musical performances, food vendors, and even “color throwings” ever hour. Dubbed by many as “the world’s happiest event,” Holi is all about reveling in the vibrant colors of spring.

Where to Stay: The Georgian Hotel

A picturesque Art Deco boutique hotel with a commanding view of the sea (from the sunny front porch, but not all rooms), the Georgian is a classy retreat with lovely rooms and a prime location on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. On-site amenities, however, are few. You’ll have to  drive to the festival, but when the festival is over, we recommend staying near the beach in Santa Monica to catch some rays.

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Europe is a popular destination year-round, and it becomes all the more popular as the temperatures rise and students and families opt to travel abroad during their spring and summer vacations. Those who have an extended amount of time off (and, of course, the cash to afford it) can visit numerous cities during one trip, but others with limited time and funds must decide upon one location — which can be a tricky feat. So we’ve come up with an expert guide for how to spend six months in Europe; whether you can take half a year and explore a handful of cities, or you have just a weekend in which to get away, we’ll tell you the best European destination for each month — starting right now with February!

February in Venice

venice-gondolas-canal-grande-v1787013-1600

Venice’s Carnival is one of the most famous festivals in the world, and every February locals and tourists crowd the streets of the city to let loose before Lent begins. This year the celebration kicks off on February 15th and runs for two and a half weeks; parades, contests, special exhibits, and ceremonies take place along the Grand Canal.

Where to Stay: Hotel Al Sole

This boutique hotel may have simple — verging on bland — rooms, but canal views, a charming courtyard, and a great location — the hotel is housed in a 15th-century mansion within walking distance of numerous sights — make Hotel Al Sole a solid pick.

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The opening ceremony for Winter Olympic Games in Sochi will be broadcast on Friday, February 7th, which means that Olympics fever is nearly here. Those of us who love the Winter Olympics may be looking for a taste of our own Olympics glory – without going to Russia. Luckily, many hotels are allowing guests the chance to partake in the Olympics fun through Olympics-inspired packages. Whether you want to relive Winter Olympics past or simply show off your own winter sports prowess at some of the world’s top winter destinations, these hotels have got you covered.

Resort at Squaw Creek, Lake Tahoe

Resort at Squaw Creek, Lake TahoeThe Resort at Squaw Creek is one of the largest hotels in Squaw Valley, where the 1960 Winter Olympics were held. It’s making the most of its Olympics past with the 1960 Winter Games Penthouse Package, which includes penthouse accommodations for two nights as well as two lift tickets and two adult ski rentals per day, among other offerings. The hotel has a ski-in, ski-out location with lift to Squaw Valley, making it easy for guests to ski the same slopes of long-ago Olympic greats. Read More »

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If you and your honey have VIP taste when you travel, you’ll be in good company at these romantic resorts. All of them have made headlines for hosting celebrity couples, from Brad and Angie at Caneel Bay Resort in the U.S Virgin Islands to, most recently, former New York governor Eliot Spitzer and his girlfriend at Half Moon in Jamaica (where he either did or did not suck her toes in a hot tub, depending on whether you believe the New York Post). So what makes these resorts special enough for the likes of Hollywood royalty (and in some cases, royalty royalty)? We’ll give you the inside scoop.

Half Moon, Jamaica

Half Moon, JamaicaWhen Eliot Spitzer and girlfriend Lis Smith vacationed together at Half Moon, Jamaica in early January, they made headlines for some racy hot tub behavior (specifically, Spitzer was reported to have sucked on Smith’s toes). The report turned out to be unreliable, but we imagine the pair had a lovely time at Half Moon even without the toe-sucking. The 400-acre resort has two miles of pristine beach, a dolphin lagoon, horse stables, and a spectacular spa; it’s fit not only for American political royalty (JFK and Jackie stayed here long before Spitzer) but actual royalty (Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, and The Prince of Wales have also visited). Read More »

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Forget the haunted house. Those looking for a ghostly encounter this Halloween can get up close and personal with departed spirits in the luxury of a hotel room. Because who says you shouldn’t have room service while you’re feeling spooked? These hotels across the country allegedly have some very active poltergeist activity – so prepare for some chills and thrills on your next overnight stay.

The Biltmore Coral Gables, Miami

Biltmore Coral Gables, Miami Biltmore Coral Gables, Miami

Originally opened as a playground for the rich in 1926, the Biltmore Coral Gables is not only luxurious and elegant, but is also believed to be quite haunted. The (unlucky) 13th floor served as a speakeasy during Prohibition, when the hotel saw its first premature death: Gangster Thomas “Fatty” Walsh was shot and killed at a crowded party. Years later, the U.S. government bought the hotel and converted it into a hospital for World War II soldiers, where it saw countless more untimely passings. After being abandoned for several decades, the Biltmore re-opened in the 1980′s as a hotel, and ever since then guests have experienced unexplained noises and visions. The most chilling reports, however, come from those who get dropped off by the elevator on the 13th floor, even when that button is never pushed. Read More »

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For many people across the country, fall means two things: Back to school, and football season. And for many college alumni, it can mean both of those things at once – fall is the time to visit the ol’ alma mater for Homecoming and watch your college team (hopefully!) beat the pants off its biggest rival. Because nothing says fall like tailgating and face paint. To help you plan your trip, we’ve found great hotels near a number of universities across the country; it’s hard to be comprehensive with so many great Homecoming celebrations out there, but this should help bring some of you closer to Homecoming glory.

Stanford University, Palo Alto

Garden Court Hotel, Palo Alto

Garden Court Hotel, Palo Alto

In town to watch the Cardinals play? The Garden Court Hotel is a standout boutique hotel in Downtown Palo Alto, located on a quaint tree-lined street just off of University Avenue and a short drive from Stanford’s campus.  The hotel’s beautiful rooms are the highlight; they have elegant white-and-blue decor, upscale amenities, marble bathrooms, and in many, balconies overlooking the quaint courtyard. Read More »

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The term “hipster” has a lot of connotations these days, but we think we have a pretty good idea of what it means when it comes to travel. If you’re a hipster, you’re probably the type who won’t want to stay somewhere mainstream — and certainly not a major chain. You’re the type who appreciates what’s cool, yes, but in a way that is interesting and different. You love anything eco-friendly and organic.

Sound at all familiar? Fess up. We at Oyster have a special spot in our heart for hipster travelers. After all, they, like us, have high standards when it comes to choosing a hotel. They’ll often gravitate toward spots that are uber-trendy, quirky, or extremely green, and with that in mind, we unearthed some of the best hotel options in the world for the hipster set.

Wythe Hotel, New York City

Wythe Hotel, New York City

Wythe Hotel, New York City

The Wythe Hotel is a hub for hipster travelers and locals alike. With a hopping rooftop bar boasting jaw-dropping views of Manhattan, a wonderful restaurant, and cutting-edge industrial design, the Wythe is a destination unto itself. It’s located near the subway as well as dozens of restaurants, bars, and shops in the heart of trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a neighborhood boasting one of the highest concentrations of hipsters in the country. Rooms are spacious and have high pine ceilings, reclaimed wood furnishings, and great amenities, including flat-screen TVs; local, hand-made toiletries; free Wi-Fi, and radiant floor heating. Read More »

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Whether they’re on business or leisure, with the family or solo, almost all travelers consider a book (or a Kindle, whatever) a must-have while on a trip. Personally, we love curling up with a good read while we’re jaunting from city to city. But — taking it one step further — we really love enjoying a novel in the exact same place where the author once roamed There’s just something in the air — and p.s. these wordsmiths usually stayed in some pretty nice digs. So we rounded up the literary hotels where famous authors have partied, waited arrest, you name it. Hey, some even wrote while they were shacked up in their hotel rooms. Check out nine spots where famous writers have spent some time.

Cadogan Hotel, London

The Entrance to the Cadogan Hotel

Built in 1887, the Cadogan Hotel has seen its fair share of history within the walls of the stately Edwardian townhouse. In the realm of literary history, Oscar Wilde was a frequent guest, and he caused quite a scandal when he was arrested at the hotel in 1895 (though friends encouraged him to flee the country, Wilde refused).  Poet laureate John Betjeman commemorated the arrest in his poem The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel, and the hotel has renamed the room where the handcuffing went down as the Oscar Wilde Room. At the time of the arrest, it was simply room no. 118.
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