Know Your Japanese Hotel Etiquettes

Ryokan is a traditional Japanese style hotel or inn, with its own customs that guests must follow. These are mostly found in the countryside or small towns all over Japan. If you choose to stay at a ryokan, which may be your only choice of lodging in some locations, then you need to know few things beforehand.

Room Charge – Most ryokans charge per person, not by room. So you can get a single room and pay $100 or a shared room and pay $200. This is because the room charges include breakfast and dinner as well. Many hotels are small with 5-12 rooms, therefore during peak season, sharing is encouraged. Additionally, there is a bathing tax of 150 Yen per night per person, whether or not you use the bath during your stay. There is no tipping for bellboy or housekeeper.

Slippers – It takes a day or two getting use to the slipper change traditions of Japan. Just like entering a Japanese home, the hotel guest are requested to take off their shoes, and instead putting on slippers at the entrance. These are not to be worn in the bathroom or sleeping areas. When you enter your room, you will find a separate pair of slippers for the bathroom. Only bare feet and socks are allowed on the tatami areas where guests will sit and sleep on the floor.

Japanese slippers

Room – The floor of the major sections of the Japanese room is typically covered with tatami (Japanese floor mat). Japanese rooms are described for size according to the number of tatami. The usual sizes are 6, 8, 10, etc. During the day, the tatami section is used for a multipurpose way as a living and dining room, and at night, as a sleeping room.traditional Japanese hotel room

It is funny to walk into one’s room for the first time and to see nothing but a table and low seats or cushions on the floor. There is a tv, phone, air conditioner,refrigerator and tea set, but you will find no bed in the room. Instead there will be thick padded blankets and mats called futons stored in the closet. You can layer the futons if you need additional padding. The pillow at Japanese inns is hard and beady, something westerners may not like. Bring your own pillow if you need extra comfort. Sometimes you will need to make your own bed, other times the chambermaid will make it while you are out for dinner.

futon in Japanese hotel

Yukata – Yukata is a light cotton kimono used at home for relaxation, and these days worn by young ladies at summer festivals. Yucatas are provided by the hotel for all guests to wear in the evenings. Both men and women wear yucata (gown) with belt, and tanzen (a padded jacket to wear over). Always, the left side of the yucata goes over the right. If you wear it incorrectly, a staff member will point it out to you.

couple wearing yucata

Baths – Very few hotels have private toilets or baths attached to the rooms. There are onsens – hot spring bath houses for the guests, and sometimes even locals for a charge.  These are separated by men (look for blue flag) and women (red flag). When you enter the onsen, leave your slippers at the door. Individual bins are provided for clothes and personal items. You must go in the bathing area complete naked. No swimwear is allowed. Here you squat onto a low stool to bathe with a tumbler or shower. Once you are clean, you can soak in the hot springs (still naked) along with the other guests. Soap, shampoo and conditioner is provided. Hair dryers are available. Generally, the towels are very small washcloth size, so  bring your own towel if you need a bigger one.

Japanese onsenJapanese onsen bath house

What does a B&B in Greenland actually mean?

Search for hotels in Nuuk (Godthåb in Danish) and TripAdvisor results in only two hotels and one Bed and Breakfast. Nuuk is the capital and the largest city in Greenland, with a population of 16,000. It is south enough that you don’t see snow, only a few glaciers floating around. It is very difficult to find a room, not only here, but practically in all of Greenland, which has led to the concept of hostels and guest houses.

city of Nuuk

When I was informed by Tupilak Travel, a Nuuk based travel agency, that my reservation had been made at Bed and Breakfast Hansine for two nights, I pictured a cozy cottage with a few rooms, a sitting area with Greenlandic style decorations, and perhaps the innkeepers serving fresh pastries and coffee for breakfast.

Read about my First Time at a Bed and Breakfast in Georgia.

Little did I know that the concept of B&B in Greenland is a little different than that in the US. As Tupilak explains, “Bed & Breakfast entails a stay with a Greenlandic family either in the city center, in the suburbs of Nuussuaq, or in the newest part of town Qinngorput with breakfast included” in the price. Basically you are inside someone’s private home, sort of like an AirBnB.

Bed and Breakfast Hansine really meant the house of Hansine, a charming 67 year old Danish lady, which she opened up to visitors to make extra income. From the outside, the metal building looked like a run-down housing project. There was graffiti on the walls and wooden walkways in need of repair. You had to buzz the resident to be let into the building and climb three floors of stairs (there weren’t any elevators) to get to her flat.

bed & breakfast hanse from outside

Upon arrival, we took off our shoes by the door as its customary in Greenlandic homes. Mrs Hansine greeted us with all smiles, gave us a quick tour of her two bedroom, 1 bath apartment, her cozy living room decorated entirely in purple, and a tiny kitchen with a balcony. It overlooked the harbor and had an amazing view of the Davis Strait.

Our room had a twin size bed, dresser and chairs. There were family photos and knick knacks all over, hinting that this was probably her own bedroom. There was another smaller room with a single bed, occupied by another American tourist at that moment. We had one bathroom for all four of us to share. A few rules were explained regarding opening of windows and doors. No internet was available.

Hansena wasted no time. She immediately took me to her living room and started showing my photo albums, guest books, family trees, certificates of descendants, and family pictures. She spoke some English, but her accent was hard to understand. She told me that her family was from Denmark and Sweden, she had grown up in Copenhagen and moved to Greenland over 30 years ago. She use to work at a reading glass store in Nuuk, but is now retired because she’s too old. Repeatedly, she informed me that today was her daughter’s 26th birthday, but she was away in Copenhagen, studying at a technical school.  Among many stories, many of which I only half understood, she referred to her Danish ex boyfriend several times.

hansine serving breakfast

We were given a key to the flat so we can go in and out as we please. The city of Nuuk is small and walkable. You can’t really get lost. In just an hour, I came to know where everything was – the harbor, museums, church, tourist office, shopping mall, two grocery stores and handful of restaurants. Buses and taxis take you to the new side of Nuuk, which has modern residence and taller buildings.

When we would return to Bed and Breakfast Hansine, we would often find her sipping tea in the living room, reading tarot cards or watching American TV shows. She would ask us about our day and repeat the ritual of story telling/ photo watching once again.

The following morning, Hansine prepared a big spread for us as well as the the other American guest. We sat by the window and enjoyed scrambled eggs with peas, carrots and crispy bacon, loaves of fresh bread with cheese, jam and butter, and coffee. This was a good opportunity to have a conversation with Hansine about the Greenlandic lifestyle, especially relating to her as a single elderly lady living by herself. She seemed pretty happy with her life, always smiling, sharing her memories and meeting friends.

Tupilak Travel arranges stay with host families for 500 DKK (US $100) per night for single room and 900 DKK (US $180) per night for double occupancy. The cost of a hotel is approx. $400 per night and is usually sold out during the peak season.

Mediterranean Oasis: The Grand Hotel Miramare

When deciding where to stay in the Italian Riviera, think like a real estate agent, “location, location, location.” Imagine standing on a private balcony enjoying the cool sea breeze of the Gulf of Tigullio and the panoramic views of coastal Italy. Picture waking up and walking out onto a terrace to see Mediterranean style buildings, fisherman preparing their boats, million dollar yachts in the port, and families playing on the beach. Take a breath of fresh air, mingled with the aromas of caramelized Italian cappuccino and homemade marmalade filled croissants. Welcome to The Grand Hotel Miramare!

Santa Margherita, Italy The Grand Hotel Miramare is a historic award winning 4 Star Hotel, in Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy. Your imagination becomes reality as the Italian word miramare means panoramic view. The white fresco building, dating back to 1904, with aqua marine shutters, can be seen for miles off land. The front façade and its floral décor are not the only features that leave a lasting impression; the engaging staff, elegant accommodations, delicious meals, and a strong historical presence make this hotel the preferred lodging location in the area.

Hotel Miramare: Pesto alla GenoveseTemperate weather of the Mediterranean brings guests to the city of Santa Margherita Ligure, a seaside resort in the Province of Genoa. Located in Northwestern Italy, foreign visitors are drawn by its geographical proximity to popular locations in France and Tuscany. Locals and visitors from afar come to Santa Margherita Ligure, which is easily accessible by car, train, boat, and plane. Clientele of The Grand Hotel Miramare visit the Basilica of Santa Margherita that dates back to 1968, and the neighboring city of Portofino; they attend cultural events, and jazz and classical music festivals. Water lovers jump into sailing, rowing, boating, and diving into the fabulous emerald green waters of the area. Then, if time and energy permit, there is walking, hiking, running, horseback riding, tennis and golf as well. The hotel staff is certain to recommend the Circolo Golf and Tennis Rappallo, one of the finest golf courses in all of Italy.

Hotelier, charming gentleman, and city socialite, Andrea Fustononi, stops by the front desk and greets guests “Buongiorno!” creating an intimate family hotel atmosphere. It is inspiring that this highly successful owner of one of the oldest grand lodging destinations on the Italian Riviera, preserves the intimacy and charm of the family owned hotel by personally greeting his guests.

When the activities of the day draw down, weary tourists and sports enthusiasts return to the care of the resort’s personnel, who greet them by name and immediately propose a relaxation filled evening of pampering and in-house dining sure to give the mind, body, and palate an unique and pleasurable experience.

Hotel Miramare: RestaurantTrust the gentle hands of the professionals at e’SPAce, a richly jewel hued indoor full service spa retreat. e’SPAce also extends massage services to clients in a peaceful outdoor gazebo retreat in the Great Park, amid the lush greenery, oleanders, camellias, lavender and other aromatics. Ready to wind down, but still awestruck by the outside views, then dress appropriately, that would be swimwear, and stroll to the Mediterranean Garden, where the patron, spellbound by the views of flora, fauna, mountains, and the gulf, favor unwinding in a poolside lounger, while sipping a refresher from the pool bar, or taking a dip in the saltwater swimming pool.

Conclude the day with an enchanting dinner at Ristorante Les Bougainvillées. The stark white stucco against the contrast of intricate fresco paintings on the ceiling creates a classical Italian aura. The dining room is a formal setting, but diners may choose to dress at a level of formality that suits their style. Regardless, the service of the wait staff is warm and diligent to all guests. The menu of Les Bougainvillées features the traditional cuisines of Ligure including Trofie pasta, Focaccia Recco and the exceptional Pesto alla Genovese, made with the light buttery tasting olives of the Ligure region.

Patrons retire to the comforts of their private space decorated in hues of pale white, blue and grey. Renovated old world luxury waits in the oversized rooms showcasing delicate refined furniture and minimal fanfare. Unwind after the nightly turn down preparations have been completed and slippers set out.

Hotel Miramare RoomWhat makes The Grand Hotel Miramare so special? It is an exquisite establishment perfectly positioned in a stunning location. Genuine conversation with management and personnel exemplifies unwavering commitment to excellence in the patron’s experience. Get superb recommendations from Andrea Fustononi about anything in the city, whether local attractions or a community staple, like Seghezzo, the 100 year old family owned grocery store. Guests are impressed by the personal attention and consideration given to them, and like countless other annual lodgers, look forward to their next stay at The Grand Hotel Miramare.

~ Words & photos by Kaylah Burks, an athlete, who enjoys traveling the world while staying health conscious. Follow her on Instagram@jadenlie

Book your stay now through TripAdvisor

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 11.48.06 PM

Hotel Byblos: Jewel of Saint-Tropez

Hotel Byblos, a 5 star sprawling paradise of unimaginable delights, is everything its reputation suggests. Located in Saint-Tropez, in the South of France, the resort has a Mediterranean sleepy sea-side village appeal and its terracotta and stucco like exterior painted in brilliant colors of salmon, mint green, and gold are perfectly striking. Make no mistake; there is nothing “sleepy” about Hotel Byblos as there are more than enough amenities to keep guests totally engaged.

It must be said though, that upon arriving at the hotel’s address, anticipation turns into a few seconds of bewilderment, as the entryway does not signal “world-renowned” hotel. Surprisingly, after descending a very impressive staircase, large glass doors lead into a modern estate, which honors its architectural past. Expansive windows, wide corridors, and well appointed sitting areas welcome guests to their Saint-Tropez home.

hotel byblos exterior

The hotel opens from mid April to the end of October. Peak months are between May and September when the entire beach town area is in full fashion. There are endless parties, nights that last until morning, and people waiting to get into their preferred venues. Like Saint-Tropez, at this time the entire vibe of Hotel Byblos is electric with energy.

hotel byblos balcony

As with this trip, some travelers may prefer to visit during shoulder months April or October when there are fewer crowds and shorter ques. The atmosphere of Hotel Byblos also becomes serene but still enjoyable. There are many amenities to compliment the most discriminating of patrons: an exquisite pool with a poolside bar and lounge, spa, fitness center, two restaurants, onsite coiffeur, boutique shops and more. The signature customer service of the hotel has no rival. It includes complimentary shuttle service to and from nearby beaches. Why, the gym was immediately made available to a guest who arrived ahead of the scheduled opening time.

room at hotel byblos

The magnificent pool around which the Hotel Byblos is centered adds to the coastal feeling of being on the French Riviera. It is maintained at a comfortable 28 degrees Celsius so patrons may enjoy it at their convenience. Surrounded by beautifully appointed gardens, the pool becomes a private oasis, and can be a nice alternative to going to the ocean waves.

Dining options are made easy as the Byblos has two restaurants of high acclaim. Guests will surely want to begin the day with a scrumptious breakfast at the B, a Mediterranean inspired bistro with indoor and patio seating. The endless choices include: mini waffles, madeleine, chocolate croissants, artisan breads, and more; delectable jams, spreads, and cheese compliment the exhaustive list of fresh baked goods. A pâte à tartiner or “spread” made of chocolate and hazelnut is a hotel specialty. The B’s accommodation of casual and formal diners and the presence of alfresco seating contribute to “a top of the morning” flair.

Rivea at hotel byblos

The Rivea restaurant is among the enterprises of the critically acclaimed Chef Alain Ducasse. This place is busy all the time and for good reason. With a tapas style menu drawing on Provençal, Spanish and Italian influences, there is something for everyone. Starters such as the traditional charcuterie platter, pizzetta with rocket and Parmesan, and herb cannelloni are flavorful and light. Selections for main courses include meat, seafood and vegetarian options. The lamb chop and fillet with summer savory chickpeas and panisse is perfectly prepared. Delectable chickpea panisse fries, a play on French fries, are crisp and fluffy. A palate tantalizing dessert of candied and frosted lemon with limoncello sorbet is tart, refreshing and shocking with the flavor of citrus. The commitment to local, quality natural French and Italian resources is a staple in the success of Rivea. Take, for example, the Minuty Rosé 2013 that is lovingly served by the restaurant, its pale pink color and floral notes originate from the little-known Tibouren grape, grown at the Minuty Chateau located on the Saint-Tropez Peninsular.

fresh pastries at B

At what venue does everyone wait in the same entrance line regardless of status, economics, or fame? Of course, it is the internationally acclaimed nightclub, Les Caves du Roy, of the Hotel Byblos, in Saint-Tropez. Les Caves de Roy is one of the world’s most exclusive nightclubs and is a place to be seen for everyone from Hollywood stars, billionaire business tycoons and families on vacation who are lodging at the Byblos. During April to June and September to October, the venue is only open on the weekends.

Hotel Byblos is a destination for wealthy discriminating lodgers as well as those among us who occasionally splurge in life. Rent the Byblos’ private villa and live like French aristocracy. Hire the hotel’s luxury yacht for a day and cruise the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. Step into the award winning Marrakesh themed spa and be lulled away by the services. No matter the fantasy, this world-renowned luxury resort is perfect for the traveler who craves chic hospitality and unparalleled lavishness.

~ By Kaylah Burks, an athlete, who enjoys traveling the world while staying health conscious. Follow her on Instagram @jadenlie

Book your stay at Hotel Byblos on TripAdvisor

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 11.33.00 PM

6 Ways to Wind Up with the Best Deals during Shoulder Season

  1. Book early—reserve a room in advance to reap benefits like peace of mind, plenty of selection and discounts that are only available if you book ahead. For example, the oceanfront Courtyard by Marriott in Carolina Beach is currently offering 20% off when you book a weekend stay 14 or more days in advance.1605-Final
  2. Stay standard, but be prepared to upgrade—as with rental cars, it can be worth the risk to book a standard room, or the cheapest available, and hope for an upgrade upon check-in. Often, when reservation agents hear the reason you’re visiting—i.e. honeymoon, anniversary, long overdue vacation—they’re happy to offer you a free or low-cost upgrade if they have the rooms available. Chances of getting an upgrade are greater during shoulder season when more rooms are available.
  3. Look (and book) online first—before you pick up the phone to call the reservation agent, look at the property’s website to see if they’re currently offering any online-only specials. For example, the Blockade Runner Beach Resort at Wrightsville Beach has weekly e-specials that are only available online.courtyard 3
  4. Consider a longer stayVictory Beach Vacations in Carolina Beach is running a deal for buy three nights, get the fourth free. Often hotels don’t advertise their discounts for extended stays, so be prepared to bring up the subject.
  5. Shoulder, shoulder season—stay during the week for cheaper rates. Many properties such as Dolphin Lane in Carolina Beach and Darlings by the Sea in Kure Beach offer double discounts in the shoulder season. Not only are rooms cheaper because it’s not summer, but they’re also discounted again for stays that fall between Sunday and Thursday.Kure Beach
  6. Don’t limit yourself to discount websites—while websites like Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia can be convenient for quickly finding hotel rooms, they often lack the more charming accommodations that offer character, and in some cases—lower rates. Leave it to the locals—a.k.a. visitor bureaus—to provide the best inside information on accommodations in the area. For example, the Wilmington and Beaches website lists accommodations for all three neighboring beaches and regularly posts updates on special packages and promotions. This is information that comes from the proprietor and is information that discount websites may not be privy to.

~ Courtesy of Wilmington and Beaches CVB

Blackberry Farm Guinea and Dumplings Recipe

After you taste the Chicken and Dumplings at the Blackberry Farm, you won’t want to eat your mom’s recipe again. Hand made pasta, shaved black truffles and melt into your mouth roasted guinea are just few of the ingredients that make this recipe so special. It is served at The Barn restaurant located at the resort, which is run by award winning chefs.

chicken dumplings

Here’s the recipe for guinea (or chicken) and dumplings…You will want to eat this all winter long!

  • 2lbs Guinea Hen Leg quarters
  • 1C salt
  • ¼ C sugar
  • 20 sprigs thyme
  • 2qt chicken fat (can substitute duck fat)

Combine salt, sugar and thyme sprigs. Coat chicken leg quarters in mixture and place on a wire rack and allow to cure overnight.  Next, rinse mixture off of chicken and pat dry. Place chicken into a half 4-inch hotel pan and cover with chicken fat. Place in a 250 F oven and cook until tender (approximately 2-3 hours). Remove chicken from pan, and when cool enough to handle pick the meat from the bone and discard skin and bones. Reserve chicken.

  • 1 lb. Idaho Potatoes
  • 2 Eggs (beaten)
  • 1 cup Flour (approximately)
  • 2T Salt
  • 2qt +1C Chicken Stock
  • 1T Chicken fat (can substitute duck fat)
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to 148 F and poach eggs in their shell for 55 minutes and reserve.

Bake potatoes in 350 degree oven until tender. Rice potatoes through a food mill and allow potatoes to cool slightly, but still warm. Fold in egg, 2 teaspoons of salt, and truffle. Add flour gradually until mixture comes together and is not wet. Roll mixture into cylindrical shapes and cut desired length.

In a sauce pot over medium high heat bring 2 quarts of salted water and to a simmer. Blanch gnocchi in until they float. Next, shock in ice water and reserve.

In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, heat chicken fat until shimmering. Place gnocchi in pan and toast until golden brown, add reserved chicken and 1 cup of chicken stock. Finish by adding chives and seasoning with salt and black pepper. Crack egg over the top.

~ Courtesy of The Barn at The Blackberry Farm

Blessed by Saint Naum

Just a few miles outside Ohrid, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Macedonia, is the Monastery of Saint Naum. The monastery overlooks the pristine Lake Ohrid, that borders with northwestern Macedonia and eastern Albania. One can drive around the lake in under thirty minutes or take a day cruise aboard a ferry to visit the monastery. Continue reading “Blessed by Saint Naum”