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Toronto Star: Two Ways to see the Wonders of Hong Kong

28 May, 2013
Masada Siegel
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HONG KONG—From high to low, here’s how to see and stay and play in Hong Kong.

Accommodations:

High

The Peninsula Hotel built in 1928 is Hong Kong’s oldest hotel and is a mix of colonial and classic, but with all the modern amenities and breathtaking views of Victoria Harbour. Buffet breakfast is served daily in The Verandah. Price for adult is $37 and $26 for children. Rooms from $640 a night. peninsula.com. Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.

Low

The Salisbury Hotel, also known as the YMCA, is a two minute walk from the Peninsula and It boasts the same spectacular views for a fraction of the price. A buffet breakfast is available from 7 to 11 a.m. and prices start at $9. The rooms are clean and the beds comfortable. Single room from $130. ymcahk.org.hk. 41 Salisbury Rd., Tsim Shat Tsui, Kowloon.

Shopping

High

Check out Shanghai Tang’s new flagship store on Duddell Street. It is located in a three-story building, dubbed as the Mansion. This luxury brand is known for a modern take on Chinese clothes, and the store itself is as well-designed as the products. In 2013, year of the snake they are selling a new purse, the “Shangri-La” Python Satchel for $1,883. 1 Duddell St., Central. 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. shanghaitang.com

Low

City Super is an international gourmet market selling everything from Korean Kimchi to high end cupcake papers, cheeses, wines and sake. The panda rice ball maker ($13) lets you shape rice balls like a panda’s head. The sake gift set starts at $42. citysuper.com.hk. IFC Mall Level 1 Shops 1041-1049, Central, Hong Kong. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

Dining

High

Step back in time and enjoy the classic afternoon English tea at the Peninsula Hotel. Indulge in the crumbly scones mixed with melt-in-the-mouth pastries. Experience the ceremony of a traditional tea while listening to live classical music. Reservations suggested. From $68 for two. Served from 2-6 p.m. daily. Peninsula Hotel, Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. Reservations: 852-2315-3146 or at peninsula.com.

Low

Hong Kong restaurants located in the Central area are expensive, try Tsui Wah for a tasty meal without spending a fortune. The extensive menu, ranges from toasted sandwiches to noodles, fried rice, and Malaysian curries. Mains from $8. 15-19 Wellington St., Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Hong Kong. tsuiwahrestaurant.com

Masada Siegel is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona

Destination Wedding Story in Toronto Star March 2013

28 Mar, 2013
Masada Siegel
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Wedding Travel: Say I do with a destination wedding in Arizona, Hawaii or Europe
Planning on a romantic destination wedding? Try saying your vows in Scottsdale, Hawaii, or Scotland. Or try a cruise wedding.

The decision to have a romantic but casual beach wedding will set the stage for all the wedding decisions to come, from the dress to the decor.

By: Masada Siegel Special to the Star, Published on Fri Mar 15 2013
Planning a wedding is one of the most stressful events in a woman’s life. It is challenging to organize the big day in your own city, let alone plan a destination wedding. However, if your dream is to get married outside in November or plan an intimate event just for close friends and family, there are a myriad of options and ways to turn your dreams into reality without completely losing your mind.
Where you decide to say “I do” will determine every aspect of your special day from the dress to the decor. So the first decision is the location. Does the desert with its golden sunsets appeal to you, or are you more of a beach person? What about a romantic city? Places to consider for an outdoor winter wedding would be Arizona, Hawaii and the Caribbean. If old-school charm is a desire, perhaps Florence, Italy. For a fairy tale come true, a château in France or Scotland might be the perfect place. And for those who want an extended party, getting married on a cruise is an option.

Outdoor Spring Wedding
Scottsdale, Ariz., has an average of more than 300 days of sunshine yearly, so the odds are in your favour for a picture-perfect day. Getting married at sunset on a golf course with purple mountains glowing in the background is a spectacular way to walk down the aisle.
The Hyatt at Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale offers fantastic views, delicious food and helpful staff. The resort has outdoor pools, hot tubs, waterfalls and a man-made beach. hyattregencyscottsdale.com. Scottsdale also offers wedding guests plenty of activities. They can hike nearby Camelback Mountain, shop at Scottsdale Fashion Square and take in native American culture at the Heard Museum.
Art Lovers
Florence is an over-the-top romantic city. There are endless museums as well as spectacular backdrops for photos. It is a unique city because it hosts stunning and historic locations for many religions. For instance, a Catholic wedding can be celebrated in one of the Renaissance churches, while a Jewish wedding can be held at the Great Synagogue of Florence, which was built in a Moorish style and is one of the most beautiful in Europe.
The Lungarno Hotel Collection has a wedding team that can arrange all the details, from the religious to the reception. They can also help with photography, floral design, music, accommodations, wedding party and a gala dinner. lungarnocollection.com
Princess Bride
For the bride looking to create an elegant wedding, the Château de Challain located in the Loire Valley region in France will wow the imagination. It is the venue of choice for any bride wishing to live out a fairy tale, as it appears to be straight out of a storybook.
The château can be rented out to host a wedding and also provides fabulous accommodations; wedding guests can continue to feel like royalty while sleeping in an ornate canopy bed in a tower. Wedding ceremonies at the château often conclude with fireworks. châteauchallain.com
For an intimate affair, Balfour Castle located on Shapinsay, one of the Orkney Islands, is just a short distance from the north-east coast of the Scottish mainland. It’s a dreamy choice, with its own, tiny chapel and receptions held in the elegant dining room and conservatory. Castle accommodations include a bridal suite and rooms for another six couples. balfourcastle.co.uk

Beach Bum

Hawaii might be one of the easiest places to plan a destination wedding. Many hotels have entire staffs devoted to planning weddings. The packages are all-inclusive and the resorts provide detailed websites with photos of venues and menu choices.
Couples can tie the knot by waterfalls, the ocean and in coconut groves at the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii, which is nestled on 12 oceanfront hectares on the Kohala Coast of the Island of Hawaii. fairmont.com. Another option is the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua in Maui. They offer wedding packages for intimate ceremonies of two to four people all the way up to 500 people. ritzcarlton.com

Adults Only

The Caribbean offers endless beaches, tantalizing choices for fine dining, luxurious spas, golf courses and plenty of water sports. An ideal place to say “I do” is at the adults-only Royal Suites Turquesa by Palladium in Punta Cana Dominican Republic.
The resort offers a variety of wedding packages with options to personalize them. Also they have a free wedding website where family and friends can make a contribution to the wedding day itself or for the couple to enjoy their honeymoon with tours or upgrades. royalsuitesturquesaresort.com

Bridesmaids and Mermaids

Getting married at sea is fabulously romantic and a way to keep the party going for a few days. Holland America offers a plethora of options ranging from a marriage ceremony on board, on an exotic Caribbean island beach or on top of a majestic Alaskan glacier.
Packages include a personalized ceremony, flowers, a cake and wedding certificate. However, co-ordinators will customize the couple’s special day according to their wishes. It’s an ideal way to extend the party and celebrate with families as well as the bridal party. hollandamerica.com
Masada Siegel is a freelance writer based in Arizona.

Denali National Park- Alaska on Yahoo

11 Nov, 2011
Masada Siegel
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Alaska is filled with beauty- but you have to plan well if you want to see Denali National Park as the rules are changing on how many and how people are allowed to see the park…. Click on the link below…..

Yahoo News- On Camera Story- Denali National Park, Alaska

Sparkling White

21 Mar, 2011
Masada Siegel
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Jpost-logo

Sparkling white

01/20/2011 22:47 By MASADA SIEGEL

Take a moment to notice, appreciate and enjoy. If you do, your own inner light will glow, and you might make the world a brighter place.

Lake Louise, Canada.
Photo by: Courtesy

The snow sparkled as it whizzed past my face and the light of little diamonds danced over the slopes. As I skied down the mountain, the wind pushed the corners of my lips into a huge smile. The air tasted as pure and sweet as glacier water. At any moment, I expected a Hollywood director to walk out of the trees and yell, “Cut!”

I skied over to the stands to watch the fastest women downhill skiers in the world whiz down the slippery slopes. I was in Lake Louise, Canada, watching the Women’s World Cup ski races.

As they raced down the mountain at breakneck speeds toward the cheering fans, I couldn’t help but think about the talent, hard work, dedication and determination it takes to be an elite skier. But it also got me thinking about the greatness in all of us, the untold beauty we hide in our hearts and the magical abilities we bury deep within.

I don’t know if it is life hammering people down, bad experiences or growing up, but many people tend to lose their magic, their optimism and get stuck in downward spirals of unhappiness.

But happiness is within. Israeli author and professor Tal Ben-Shahar, who taught a class on positive psychology at Harvard, explained that one of the ways to be happy is to “express gratitude whenever possible. We too often take our lives for granted. Learn to appreciate and savor the wonderful things in life, from people and food to nature and a smile.”

The great outdoors is filled with many adventures, so besides skiing I decided to go dog sledding in Lake Louise. While the weather was 10 degrees below zero Celsius, I braved the elements and went for a ride.

Black, white and brown barking dogs with bright blue eyes greeted me, but as soon as we started to move, their focus shifted and we smoothly glided over the pristine white snow. The air smelled fresh, and the green trees were blanketed with snow. I could hear the majestic quiet of the wind, and the blue-tinted winter wonderland seemed straight out of the pages of a novel.

So it came as no surprise to me that in a Gallup World Poll of 155 nations, Canada, Israel, Australia and Switzerland all rank as the eighth happiest countries.

I have been lucky enough to spend time in all of them, so the high ranking seems appropriate. All four are filled with natural beauty; three out of four have beaches good for surfing, snorkeling and frolicking in the waves. They all have picturesque mountains from Ayers Rock in Australia to Masada in Israel. (OK, so I am biased about loving my namesake.) The chocolate and skiing in Canada and Switzerland are both alluring and addicting.

Always one to try to surround myself with images of brilliance and people of good character, I spent time dreamily staring out my window at the famous Fairmont Hotel in Lake Louise. My mind got lost in the grandeur of the glacier and the frozen lake where I skated earlier in the day. I saw the clouds roll away from the mountains and the rays of sunlight shimmer on the treetops. It was like watching the brush strokes of an artist in action.

Touched by the ultimate work of art, I wondered why nature’s beauty evokes strong responses, often bringing people to tears.

My conclusion: Nature is real, honest and straightforward.

Nature is not afraid, nor does it hide imperfections.

It is admired for its raw beauty, not criticized.

Nature rages and expresses itself with angry storms, and cries with torrential rainfalls. Nature blows off steam with tornadoes, hurricanes and volcanoes.

It got me to thinking, if people would shake their fears, share their hearts and be themselves, chances are they would sparkle and radiate light just like the snow reflects the sunshine.

Every day, in every place, nature’s gifts are evident: Whether in the pure white snow, spectacular sunsets, wide open fields, glorious mountains and endless oceans or simply in a flowerpot on your windowsill.

So while it’s easy to see the diamonds sparkle in the light of Lake Louise, there is beauty surrounding you too. Take a moment to notice, appreciate and enjoy. If you do, your own inner light will glow, and you might make the world a brighter place.

Captivating Cape Town

1 Dec, 2010
Masada Siegel
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December 1, 2010 Wednesday 2 Tevet 3871 18:27 IST

The Jerusalem Post

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Photo by: masada siegel
Captivating Cape Town
By MASADA SIEGEL
26/11/2010
The South African city offers visitors a wide range of outdoor activities amidst a myriad of breathtaking vistas.

Cape Town is the second largest city in South Africa, and to sum it up in the words of the locals, it is simply stunning. The tight-knit Jewish community in South Africa dates back to the 15th century with the early explorers and directors from the Dutch East India Company. However, the first congregation in South Africa was founded in Cape Town in November 1841.

The scenic backdrop of Cape Town is Table Mountain; it has a perfect view of all the areas of the city. If you face north from the top of the mountain, you will find the city center, where the docks are filled with ships. On the west side there is a magnificent mountain range known as the Twelve Apostles. It borders a beautiful beach called Camps Bay, which is filled with bustling bars and restaurants.

On the south side, the mountains are filled with historic vineyards and the gorgeous, must-see Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Beyond the gardens and the Constantia suburbs is False Bay, which curves toward Cape Point. As you tour the mountain, over on the east side you can see Cape Town’s international airport.

Cape Town is a city filled with outdoor activities. There are adventures waiting to be had, such as windsurfing around Table Bay or jumping off Lion’s Head and paragliding close to Clifton. There are a myriad paths for mountain biking and hiking all over the city, whether it be Kirstenbosch, one of the most magnificent botanical gardens in the world, or anywhere on the huge stretches of beach.

The Jewish community is extremely welcoming, and the people I met had a wonderful sense of humor. Late one Friday afternoon, I knocked on the door of a store in Camps Bay because I wanted to buy the beach towel hanging in the window.

The shop owner, who was just closing, smiled, unlocked the door and let me in. While I was paying, he noticed my name, told me he had been to Masada, and with a wicked grin asked me, “Shouldn’t you be going to synagogue?” I smiled and agreed with him. As we got talking, I found out he was close friends with my father’s first cousin, who had died more than 10 years ago. Talk about Jewish geography.

I stayed in the Sea Point area of the city, and it felt like a mini-Israel. On Shabbat, lots of families were walking back and forth from shul. There are a few kosher restaurants to try, and even more synagogues.

While staying in Cape Town, besides enjoying the city, there are a few day trips to areas that are breathtaking. These can be taken with a tour, or you can drive yourself if you feel confident driving on what for many visitors is the other side of the road. The first is South Africa’s world-famous Cape Wine Lands around Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek.

The enormous mountains are filled with valleys full of vines. There are dozens of wineries where you can go wine tasting, have lunch or simply enjoy the beautiful scenery.

One winery called Spier is lovely but extremely touristy. It has a beautiful outdoor garden filled with couches where one can relax and have lunch. Women come around and, if you want, they will paint your face with traditional African symbols. I had a fallen star painted on me, symbolic of the word “lady.” Spier also has a gift shop filled with interesting African items, as well as a cheetah sanctuary where, for a nominal fee, you can pet the animals.

There are many wineries to see. While I would recommend Spier, definitely continue because the landscape changes and becomes more beautiful as you drive along toward all three cities.

Another day trip is to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic. The winding roads are filled with glorious views of green mountains with steep drops into the blue ocean. This is where sailors rounded Africa en route to India. It’s not the southernmost point, which is at Cape Agulhas, but it is certainly worth a visit because of the stunning scenery.

On the way you will pass Muizenberg, a beach town that has long white sandy beaches and is where Agatha Christie went surfing 80 years ago. On this side of the peninsula, known as False Bay, the sea is warmer and some of the best whale-watching spots can be found.

This drive is dotted with little markets on the sides of the roads, filled with beautiful carvings. The vendors sell a variety of African goods, such as soapstone statues from Zimbabwe, which are gorgeous, as well as jewelry and wood items.

One of my favorite stops on this day trip was Boulders Beach. It is past Fish Hoek and south of Simon’s Town, historically an important naval base for the British and now the principal South African navy base. The well-preserved 18th-century streets are filled with shops and are architecturally pretty, but you can’t beat the penguin colony just south of town at Boulders Beach.

Boulders Beach has a nature reserve set aside for the penguins. For a small fee, you can get a wonderful view of them marching out of the ocean and hanging out. Nearby is a small beach, where the penguins were resting on the rocks and swimming alongside people in the water. I sat with the penguins for a bit and was so close to them I could touch them, truly a remarkable experience.

(From what I hear, they are often there.) Cape Town is a must-see city. To help you plan a trip there, here are a few helpful websites: www.uos.co.za/; www.jewishweb.co.za/; www.paarlonline.com/; www.simonstown.com/; http://www.southafrica.net/.

fungirlcorrespondent@gmail.com

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