Daily Pampering: Holiday wine packages from Destination Cellars

Nothing says love around the holidays like a box of wine. No, not that box of wine. This box of wine is much more civilized, and a lot more luxurious. Destination Cellars, the luxury wine club, has released its holiday offerings and the wine packages are sinfully extraordinary.

Ranging in price from $150 to over $700, you can find something for everyone from this list. The best part? Each gift box of wine comes with personalized recipes from Michelin-starred Chef Sarah Heller.

Recipes include seared duck breast, grilled striped bass, and slow-roasted beef tenderloin. Each dish pairs perfectly with one of the wines in the gift box.

Here’s a little taste of the wines you’ll find:LUXURY CABERNET SELECTION 6 bottles $649

Hestan 2006, Hestan Cabernet Sauvignon
Lamborn 2005, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Lamborn 2006, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Meteor 2005, Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Vineyard 29 2006, Aida Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Terlato Family Vineyards 2005, Episode


Chanson 2007, Clos des Féves Beaune 1er Cru
Chanson 2005, Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru
Chapoutier 2004, La Sizeranne Hermitage
Gaja 2005, Barbaresco
Il Poggione 2004, Brunello di Montalcino
Two Hands 2007, Bella Gardens Shiraz


Lail 2009, Blueprint Sauvignon Blanc
Lail 2007, Blueprint Cabernet Sauvignon
Vnyd 29 2007, Cru Vab $54.00
Clark-Claudon 2009, Wild Iris S. Blanc
Tamber Bey 2006, Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon
Tamber Bey 2008, Rabicano

With these wine gift boxes, there’s absolutely no excuse for not making it through the holidays.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

World Cup: other things to do in South Africa

While the World Cup is currently taking center stage in South Africa, the country has plenty of other things to offer travelers who venture away from the stadiums to take in some of the amazing culture and adventure there. Here are five other suggestions for things to do while your favorite team isn’t taking the pitch.

Go on Safari
If you’re going to visit Africa, you simply have to go on safari of course, and South Africa has some of the best game preserves on the continent. Chief among them is Kruger National Park, which is home to lions, elephants, zebras, and the famous cape buffalo. If you’re lucky, you’ll also catch a glimpse of the rare black rhino and the elusive cheetah. The park has a variety of lodging options as well, including everything from staying in a tent to a fancy, upscale lodge.

Go Surfing
South Africa sits on the far southern tip of the African continent, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans come together at Cape Agulhas and the Cape of Good Hope. This unique confluence of two oceans generates gigantic waves, and world class surfers from around the globe converge on Cape Town, and other South African cities, to ride the supertubes the region is famous for. Whether you’re an expert or beginner surfer, you’ll find plenty of great surf along South Africa’s spectacular beaches.

Go Scuba Diving
Scuba divers will find plenty to love in South Africa as well. The country’s ample coastlines offer some very diverse dive options for those who prefer to play beneath the ocean. For example, in Sodwana Bay you’ll find a beautiful array of coral reefs and bright tropical fish, but if you head further south to Protea Banks, you’ll get a dive of a completely different kind, complete with sharks and ship wrecks that are sure to get the adrenaline going.Go for a Hike
South Africa has amazingly diverse wilderness areas to explore some of which are best seen on foot. If you get the urge to take a walk, the Drakensberg Mountains offer up spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and trails even pass by primitive cave art that has been around for thousands of years. For an equally challenging hike closer to civilization, stay in Cape Town and make the trek to the top of Table Mountain, the 3550 foot tall, flat-topped mountain offers some great views of the city below and the ocean beyond

Go to the Winelands
When you’re done exploring the adventure travel aspects of South Africa, it’s time to relax and savor some of the other things that country is famous for. SA has become famous for its fine wines, which are exported around the globe, as much as its fantastic natural resources. There are multiple routes through the South African wine country, which is located east of Cape Town, and the region is famous for its breathtaking views and fine dining, as well as the amazing wine that is produced there. Whether you go for a day or for a week, you’ll be enchanted with region, that is a bit of a hidden gem in a country that is known for adventure.

Of course, at the moment South Africa is engulfed in a football frenzy, with travelers arriving from around the globe to watch the World Cup matches. But when those visitors are looking for a little escape from the craziness, they’ll certainly have plenty of options to choose from.

Daily Pampering: Seven chances to try a new job around the world

Do you feel a bit confined by your gig? Sure, the cash is great, but you are held hostage by it. You can’t throw it all away and chase your low-paying dream. Well, now you have a chance to turn the paycheck that keeps you in the office 14 hours a day into the chance to try something new, even if only briefly. Cox & King is offering several packages designed to give you a once-in-a-lifetime shot at living your dream.

1. The Textile Expert
The “Textiles of India” tour takes you to some of the most famous weaving centers in the country, including Varanasi (known for Benarsi silk wedding sarees), Kanchipuram (zardozi embroidery work on Mysore silks) and Jaipur (handmade block printed cotton fabrics). This experience lasts 22 days and comes at a cost of $12,735 per person (based on double occupancy).

2. Painting Papyrus
With the “Splendors of Egypt” and “Discover Egypt” tours from Cox & King, you can satisfy your jones for Egyptology and learn to paint, draw and write under the tutelage of one of the masters. Participate in the rare and fine art that dates back thousands of years (trips start at $4,075).3. Fine Wine … in Lebanon?
The Phoenicians sold wine to Lebanon more than 4,000 years ago, and it’s believed that the Lebanese brought it to Spain and Italy. The fertile soil of the Bekaa Valley is the secret behind Lebanese wine, and you can get all the details on the “Lebanon & Syria: Empires Past” tour. Spend a day at Chateau Ksara, the oldest running winery in Lebanon, and learn the intricacies of the process of making Lebanese wine. This 15-night tour starts at $6,585.

4. South American Shutterbug
Click like crazy in Argentina on the Cox & King “A Photographic Journey: Buenos Aires & Northern Patagonia” tour. You’ll travel with Diego Ortiz Mugica, known as the Ansel Adams of Argentina, and pick up some tips and tricks, against the backdrop of the Argentinean culture. This unique opportunity is only available from November 6 – 13, 2010 and starts at $5,894.

5. Study Primates in the Wild
Startin Kigali, Rwanda on the “Gorillas in the Mist” tour, and you’ll climb into the world of gorillas. After a briefing, you’ll enter Parc National des Volcans, where you’ll enter their habitat and get great views of these massive creatures. The experience lasts four days and starts at $4,195.

6. Jewelry Craftsman
You could make jewelry in your living room … but wouldn’t be more interesting to try it in Mozambique? Go to Ibo Island, and experience classes with traditional silversmiths. You can even bring your old jewelry to melt down and use as a starting point (creating a bridge between old and new) or buy materials from the locals. This trip starts at only $1,585 a person.

7. The Origami Master
Put your fingers to work on an art form that dates back to the seventeenth century. You’ll learn to fold paper into amazing creations and gain an appreciation for the history behind origami on the “Treasures of Japan” tour, which starts at $12,525 per person.

For more Daily Pampering, click here.

Wine or golf? Either works on Rocky Mountaineer

Why not make it a foursome? While most travel deals these days tack on extra nights, the latest from Rocky Mountaineer lets you add people! To celebrate it twentieth anniversary, the luxury rail service in Canada, is offering a unique program for its GoldLeaf trips. Whether you take the golf or winery tour excursion, you can pay for three and get one free. So, you’ll have eight days to hit the links or sip some wine, effectively at a 25 percent discount.

The golf and wine trips will take you between Banff, Alberta and Vancouver, British Columbia. Wine-paired meals are the norm for both excursions. Golfers will enjoy the Predator Ridge Golf Resort, Harvest Golf Club and Fairmont Springs Golf Club. Winery guests will visit Gray Monk Estate Winery, Sumac Ridge Estate Winery and Nk’Mip Winery.

“Rocky Mountaineer is committed to providing the most unforgettable travel experiences in the world,” says Hubert Wat, Vice President, Marketing of Rocky Mountaineer. “We are excited to offer our guests an opportunity to take advantage of a first-class experience that highlights some of the most beautiful and recognized areas of Canada, known for their superb wineries and golf courses.”

Rates start at $7,499 a person, with the wine trips leaving on June 17, 2010 and September 9, 2010. The golf trip departs on June 24, 2010.

It’s Rioja Restaurant Week in NYC and Chicago!

Last January, my husband and I took a trip to the Rioja region of Spain. We sampled Rioja wines and visited underground cellars by day, and hopped from bar to bar snacking on tapas and drinking Rioja wines by night. We found that there were several Rioja wines that we loved, at that the tapas served there (while not incredibly creative like those offered in the Basque country) were simply delicious. So I was very excited to see that this week, October 18 to 25, is Rioja Restaurant Week both here in Chicago and in New York City.

From now until Sunday, dozens of restaurants in both cities will offer special deals and dishes to celebrate the wine and cuisine of the Rioja area. Some will offer $12 tapas and wine pairings and others will offer $25 or $50 prix fixe menus paired with wine. Other specials offered as part of the promotion include a 15% discount on dinner or a 20% discount on a bottle of Rioja wine. Not a bad deal. This means that at Eivissa, a Catalan tapas restaurant in Chicago (for example), you can either get a multi-course dinner for two for $50, or just nosh on their signature tapas, which are half off weekdays from 4pm-6pm, and enjoy a bottle of Rioja wine for as little as $30.

Over 50 restaurants in NYC are participating, along with nearly 30 in Chicago.