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Five Reasons to Discover Kyoto’s Magic in Winter

MD Staff

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Discover the hidden secrets of Kyoto in winter – the magical but least-known season that the locals love. From enchanting illuminations in beautiful temples to seasonal dishes bursting with flavour; vibrant New Year celebrations to “onsen” hot baths beneath snow-capped mountains, here are five favourite Kyoto winter warmers as curated by the team at Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto:

1. Ume (plum): Winter’s Secret Blossoms

Despite spring being the best-known season of blossoms in Japan, winter visitors are in for a delightful surprise with Kyoto’s profusion of delicate ume (plum) flowers.

Decorating the city’s plum trees in shades of snow white through to verdant pink, ume blossom’s sweet fragrance and pretty five petalled composition inspired ancient nobility from the Nara period (AD 710–784) to write haiku while gazing at them.

Blooming plum trees, once a prosperous trade with China and now savoured for their unique beauty, can be seen across Kyoto from mid-January. Kitano Tenmangu, just 25 minutes from the Hotel, offers some of the best viewing, with 1,500 plum trees blossoming through to mid-March.

2. Warming Winter Dishes

Warm up from within with Kyoto’s wide variety of steaming hot pots and sizzling Yudofu 湯豆腐.

The Japanese have long adapted their diet to the country’s dramatically different seasons, and winter offers up plenty of delicacies. Try Kaburamushi かぶら蒸し, a fragrant composition of grated turnip, egg white, lily root, gingko and mushrooms atop a white fish – locals liken its appearance to a melting snowball.

Originating in Kyoto, Steamed Sushi 蒸し寿司 is a hot dish with unique seasoning while Tanuki Udon calls on the spicy warmth of ginger on a base of chopped fried tofu with thick ankake sauce.

Celebrate new year in Kyoto with festive favourite Mochi ぜんざい (Zenzai), a dainty, chewy rice speciality available in tea houses and traditional cafes across the city.

3. Inspiring Illuminations

As the sun sets low on the wintry horizon, Kyoto comes alive with twinkling lights.

From January to February, lanterns are lit only on snowy days at Kifune Jinja Shrine, making it a rare but exquisite experience to see the shrine’s pretty red steps and tree boughs aglow.

Discover an illuminated Hanatouro Bridge in Arashiyama (from mid-December for about ten days) and explore the nearby Kimono and Bamboo Forests, where LED lights create a magical woodland trail.

From the end of January for a week, marvel at the mountainous heritage site of Kayabuki-no Sato as the entire village of thatched houses gets festive with handmade snow lanterns, food stalls, dance performances and cultural activities from mochi pounding through to traditional handiwork.

Bringing seasonal enchantment to Kyoto from late November through to late December, electrical company Rohm is behind the city’s largest illumination event featuring over 800,000 lights and loved by locals and visitors alike since 1995.

4. Dive into Kyoto’s Bathing Culture

An integral part of Japanese culture, bathing is considered a daily ritual of both purification and pleasure.

Guests at Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto can enjoy a complimentary soothing “ofuro” hot bath and sauna on the hotel’s wellness floor, B2 as well as at THE SPA.

Bathing has long been considered a social activity with locals heading to one of the city’s “sento”銭湯 or public baths to catch up with neighbours. A few sensational sentos remain in Kyoto, such as art-rich Funaoka Onsen Sento and Goko-yu Sento with its scalding hot sauna, perfect after a long hike.

Chase away winter’s chill with an invigorating soak in one of the city’s nearby “onsen”温泉, a natural hot spring. Kurama Onsen, 40 minutes from the Hotel, offers the exquisite experience of being surrounded by forested mountains while Arashiyama Onsen, just 30 minutes away, has views of Arashiyama.

5. Exclusive Winter Activities

Make winter your season of discovery in a country rich with specialities.

Fushimi, a sake-brewing district fed by the pure clean water of the Horikawa river, is a great place to start your winter Kyoto experience. From December to January, the breweries make fresh sake from the newly harvested Fall rice, and offer sake tastings, perfect for warming the body on a cold day. Ask our Concierge to recommend and reserve the best sake breweries at the time of your visit (there are 50 to choose from in Kyoto, including 19 in Fushimi!)

Throw yourself into the jubilant spirits of Hatsumode – Japan’s first shrine visit of the new year – by joining with locals in beautiful traditional dress Kimono to pray for a good year, enjoy food stalls and play games with prizes. Japanese people traditionally go to temples and shrines from January 1-15 – a unique experience to be a part of, if your trip allows. Our Concierges will be happy to share their insider knowledge on the best places to go.

Marvel at nature’s majesty from the comfort of a heated boat on the Hozu-gawa river: winter views include intriguing geologic formations covered with snow alongside colossal boulders, glimpses of the surrounding mountains, mysterious deep pools, and local flora and fauna.

Soak up the splendour of rare Japanese art at the ‘Kyo no fuyu no tabi’ (means Kyoto Winter Trip, 京の冬の旅) exhibition held at fifteen different city temples every year over more than 50 years. It is a unique opportunity to see each temple’s secret treasures, usually hidden from private view. Open from mid January to mid March.

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7 Spring Break Destinations That Aren’t the Beach

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After winter, spring break is the welcome start of warmer weather, longer days and sun worshippers flocking to popular beaches. But the rush of tourists to beach towns can mean crowds on the sand and at other attractions, and higher demand for hotel rooms.

This year, why not consider skipping the beach (and the hassle) altogether to explore what else the spring season has to offer? From experiencing beautiful cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. and Japan to hiking at one of America’s most iconic national parks in Utah, there are countless non-beach destinations and experiences worthy of a spring getaway. And with hotels all over the world and in prime locations, Hilton has a front row seat to all the various ways spring blossoms. No, you won’t be at the beach, but you can use the list below to help you shore up an alternate plan.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. owns the springtime with its famous National Cherry Blossom Festival, but the city also offers much more during that time. With hot new restaurants and shopping in areas like Georgetown and The Wharf, plus free museums and premiere entertainment at venues like The Kennedy Center and The Anthem concert hall, travelers won’t miss the beach when exploring this lively, vibrant city. Washington also boasts 18 Michelin-starred restaurants and a host of interesting, new and longstanding options for food-focused travelers. Try Pineapple and Pearls on Capitol Hill for a gourmet tasting menu that earned two Michelin stars. Or head to D.C. newcomer Estuary, which is led by Top Chef alumni Bryan and Michael Voltaggio in the recently opened Conrad Washington DC. Visitors and locals celebrate the arrival of spring in Washington with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which happens March 20 through April 12. The three-week celebration includes a variety of events and activities, including a parade, boat tours, bike rides, photo safaris, art exhibits, cherry blossom-themed restaurant specials and more. Plus, The New York Times recently named Washington the No. 1 destination of 2020, making now a better time than ever to add it to your must-visit list.

Hilton Washington DC National Mall is a great home base for a spring break trip to the nation’s capital. The hotel is conveniently located next to the new International Spy Museum and within walking distance of the National Mall and the District Wharf, a waterfront stretch of restaurants, bars, shopping and live music venues on the Potomac. The hotel is also located above L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station, making it an easy ride to the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin.

Springdale, UT

Springdale in the springtime offers mild temps that are ideal for adventure seekers looking to explore the great outdoors. The small town is at the entrance of Zion National Park, which includes 229 square miles of stunning red rock formations, slot canyons, lakes and sandstone cliffs. Springdale gives visitors easy access to endless activities both in and around the park. Try an ATV tour through Zion’s backcountry where you’ll see beautiful mountain vistas and get to play in red sand dunes. Explore the park’s slot canyons on a thrilling canyoneering tour where you’ll hike, climb and rappel through Utah’s slot canyons. Or, hike the park’s extensive trail system, which offers stunning views and varying degrees of difficulty. Outside of the park, visitors can explore the charming town’s local boutiques, art galleries, farmer’s markets and restaurants. Start the day at one of the many coffee shops and then unwind by sampling local, craft microbrews at a riverside brewery like Zion Brewery.

When visitors are ready to settle in from a day of adventure, they can relax amid lush desert foliage and stunning canyon views at the historical Cliffrose Springdale, Curio Collection by Hilton. The hotel is nestled along the Virgin River and is just a short, scenic walk to Zion National Park.

Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe may have a small-town feel, but this trendy city is a melting pot of art, cuisine and culture. And with spring flowers starting to bloom, it’s a picturesque destination for a spring break getaway. Beyond the city’s historic sites and exciting museums, such as the centuries-old adobe San Miguel Chapel and the interactive art experience at Meow Wolf, Santa Fe also offers some of the best examples of New Mexican cuisine in the area. Those looking to indulge in the city’s culinary traditions can dine at Paloma Restaurant for tacos with house-made tortillas, then finish off with dessert a few blocks away at Kakawa Chocolate House to sample authentic chocolate drinking elixirs and more modern treats like truffles, caramels and even chocolate-dipped chiles sold to go. For spring breakers who aren’t quite ready for winter to end, Santa Fe also offers exceptional skiing and snowboarding. Just 16 miles outside the city center, visitors can hit the slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains through April.

DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Fe

The thoughtfully designed DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Fe reflects the spirit and culture of the southwest, with adobe-style architecture and decor. Guests can take in the beautiful New Mexico sunset from their room’s private balcony or relax in the outdoor hot tub. The hotel is conveniently located less than 6 miles from downtown Santa Fe and the historic Santa Fe Plaza, with shopping, restaurants and museums all within a short drive.

Asheville, NC

With the days getting longer and the temperatures becoming milder, a spring break escape to Asheville, North Carolina, is the perfect destination to revive after months of winter hibernation. With award-winning restaurants, trendy coffee shops, hiking and the second-most breweries per capita than anywhere else in the U.S., Asheville is one of coolest small towns in the country. To taste some of the city’s favorite local beer, visit the Highland Brewing Company, which was the first legal brewery to open in Asheville since prohibition. Asheville’s music scene is also top notch – Rolling Stone recently called it the “new must-visit music city” – with dozens of live music venues all over town. Try The Orange Peel, an iconic concert venue that draws crowds for both indie artists and big name performers. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the variety of all-level hiking trails in and around Asheville. Try Wildcat Rock Trail, which features a 1000-foot waterfall, or Lookout Trail, which offers impressive views of the Black Mountains.

Hilton Garden Inn Asheville Downtown

Asheville’s bustling downtown area is just a short walk or free shuttle ride away from the Hilton Garden Inn Asheville Downtown. Guests can enjoy more than 100 restaurants, cafes and bars, entertainment venues and locally owned boutiques. The hotel is also a short drive from Asheville’s eclectic breweries, the historic Biltmore Estate and The North Carolina Arboretum.

Montréal, Canada

Winters in Montréal can be blistering cold, making the milder temperatures in spring especially appealing. There are also fewer visitors during the shoulder season. Still, travelers looking to catch a last-minute run down the slopes can take a quick trip to Mont-Saint-Bruno National Park, located about 9 miles outside of Montréal. If the weather is warm enough, pack a picnic and head to Mount Royal Park, an “urban mountain” that offers a scenic escape from the city. After a day of exploring, the city’s phenomenal culinary scene awaits. Sometimes called the “Paris of North America,” Montréal proves spring breakers don’t have to travel to Europe to find exceptional and authentic French cuisine. Try L’Express for a traditional bistro experience, or head to Restaurant Bonaparte for a classic French meal in a historical building in Old Montréal.

Located in the Ville-Marie neighborhood, Embassy Suites by Hilton Montréal is within walking distance of some of Montréal’s most famed attractions. Guests can start their day with a free made-to-order breakfast at the hotel before heading out to explore Old Montréal and wander the city’s historical cobblestone streets. Spring breakers can walk to the soaring Notre-Dame Basilica, several museums and art galleries, shopping on Sainte-Catherine Street and a plethora of charming cafes and restaurants.

London, UK

Between the months of March and May, the temperatures in London are mild, the city isn’t overly crowded and the parks are green and blooming, making it an ideal time to visit. Explore London’s historical monuments and world-class museums and art galleries, such as the Palace of Westminster, the National Gallery and Tate Modern. Take a tour through the heart of London on a Thames river cruise, where riders can spot landmarks like the Houses of Parliament and the Tower Bridge. Start the day with a classic full English breakfast at one of London’s most well-known breakfast spots, The Regency Cafe, then enjoy a leisurely lunch or relaxed dinner at any of London’s outdoor eating places like Dalloway Terrace and River Café.  

Located in London’s prestigious Grosvenor Square, The Biltmore Mayfair, LXR Hotels & Resorts is a sophisticated and alluring hotel surrounded by gardens and greenery that puts guests in an ideal location to explore. Hyde Park is just a short walk from the hotel, as are the high-end shops of Oxford and Regent streets. Iconic landmarks like Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey are within 2 miles of the hotel. In addition to several on-site restaurants and lounges led by Michelin-starred Chef and Restauranteur Jason Atherton, The Biltmore Mayfair offers an indulgently British afternoon tea in The Tea Lounge that is complete with savories, scones and sweet delicacies made with artisanal and heritage produce sourced from across the UK. 

Osaka, Japan

Osaka, the third-largest city in Japan, is a vibrant destination filled with unique culinary, cultural and eye-opening experiences. It’s no question that spring is one of the best seasons to visit Japan, especially when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. See thousands of colorful blossoms around Osaka Castle Park and tour the 16th-century Osaka Castle, one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Spend a day at Universal Studios Japan® riding roller coasters, watching street shows and enjoying the magic of movies. Or, visit the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, one of the largest aquariums in the world. Don’t miss the Dotonbori neighborhood and see why Osaka is known as “Japan’s kitchen.” Set in the Namba district along the Dotonbori canal, the neighborhood has countless restaurants and cafes with traditional and modern Japanese cuisine. Don’t leave without trying the famous local delicacy, the Okonomiyaki pancake, available at hot spots throughout Dontonbori.

Conrad Osaka

The sleek Conrad Osaka is perfectly situated for exploring the city’s rich history, cuisine and cutting-edge entertainment, while also offering incredible views of the water and city from all guest rooms. The hotel is a short distance from some of Osaka’s most popular neighborhoods for shopping, entertainment and dining, including Umeda, Namba and Dotonbori, and it’s just an hour away from Kyoto.

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5 Reasons to Visit Europe This Summer

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Europe is a vast and miscellaneous continent. From the luxury beach to rugged mountaineering expeditions in the Alps, the attractions are countless. It is one of the most popular destinations for travelers to visit at any time of the year, especially in the summer. The warmer months of summer are hectic and peak season for tourists to visit this amazing country. Though summers in Europe can be sweltering, every year, millions of travelers decide to plan their trip to every capital city in Europe during this season as they get to enjoy long days, sunny weather, and exuberant nightlife.

But this is not it, and if you are planning your visit to Europe this summer, then there is so much more you need to know about. A summer trip through top European destinations offers travelers so much to do and see. No matter where you go in Europe, the history of this continent will be all around you. From architecture to unique cities and from festivals to European nightlife, you are not limited by the travel choices. In this article below, you will find a few best reasons to visit Europe this summer. To learn about them, continue reading.

European Festivals

If you want to enjoy a music festival, then summer is definitely the best time of the year and Europe offers thousands of summer music festivals every year to music lovers. European festivals offer tourists the best of both worlds. From sizzling boat parties in Croatia to live music in ancient coastal towns and historical cities, you will have a lot of options to choose from. When you are in France, you cannot miss out on the ‘We Love Green’ festival and when you plan to visit Hungary, you need to attend ‘Balaton Sound.’ In addition to this, the ‘Oya Festival’ in Norway and ‘BBK Live’ in Spain are worth visiting as well.

Warm Weather

The temperature during the daytime in Europe makes it easier for travelers to explore most countries. During this season, you can expect to enjoy the best and sunny weather across the continent. If you are one of those travelers who prefer to travel in summers as compared to winters, then summer is the best time for you to explore Europe. Therefore, you need to stick to the summer months of June, July, and August to get the most out of your trip. July and August are probably the most preferred months to visit Europe when travelers take advantage of their vacations and beautiful weather. Out of all the months, August is the most crowded, as both Italian and French tourists make their way to Europe’s seaside areas and major cities during this month. Particularly in August, hotels are often fully booked as well. So, if you are making your way to Europe, then to avoid the crowd, you need to book your trip in the early months of the summer.

You can Book Less Expensive Flights

Yes, you heard it right. Typically, travelers get a good discount on flights and hotel rooms during the off-season, but you can even get discounts on accommodations and airplane tickets in the peak-season as well. All you need to do is to select the right time to book your flight. Consider traveling in the first week of June, or after mid-August to find less expensive flights. Ensure that you book your tickets and hotels, in advance, so that you can prevent facing unnecessarily high fees or even worse all your options getting sold out altogether. If you want to book business class flights, then you can also get a discount on them as well. If you want to book a business class flight, then Business Class Experts are offering 30%-70% off on Business and First Class flights.

Nightlife

Europe is invincible for nightlife as it is home to some of the party capitals in the world. You will find trendy underground music scenes in every city, hip bars on high streets, and super clubs on party islands. If you feel a bit overwhelmed while planning where to go, then you can choose from Ayia Napa, IOS, Ibiza, Sunny Beach, Prague, Mykonos, Mallorca, Budapest, and many others to visit for nightlife. If you are the one who wants to enjoy the wildest summer life in Europe, then do not hesitate to visit Greece. The magnificent island of Hvar is also commonly known for its exciting nightlife.

Outdoor Dining

Since Europe offers the best weather in summer, you cannot miss out on outdoor dining as it is very much a European affair.  You can sit for many hours and watch the people as you sip on your wine or coffee. This is an experience itself. Typically, the days are long with daylight hours from 6 am to 10 pm. This will allow you plenty of time to get the most out of your one day.

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Why Princeton is The Best Place to Raise A Family & Purchase Real Estate

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As parents, we are all put through many tests. One of these tests is choosing a home where one can raise their family and offer the best quality of life possible. As such, when choosing a city to raise your kids, you need to take a lot of factors into consideration. Among many, the most important of these factors are education, crime index, the potential for earning, and recreation.

One city that stands out in all these factors is Princeton, New Jersey. This article will examine the city from the perspective of the above-mentioned factors and help you in making a decision for your family home. Hopefully, by the end of the article, we’ll have convinced you to buy a house in Princeton NJ.

A PART OF AMERICAN HISTORY BEFORE THERE EVEN WAS AN AMERICA

The area today known as Princeton was once home to the Lenni Lenape, a Native American tribe. European settlers first started to occupy the area in the late 17th century and, during the early stages of settlement, established the College of New Jersey, which is known today as Princeton University.

Princeton also played a role during the American Revolution and served as the site for the Battle of Princeton. General George Washington served the British an embarrassing defeat, forcing them to abandon the city and turning it into an early symbol of American independence.

CRIME INDEX

This is by far the most important factor, especially if you’re considering the city to raise a family. However, there’s little to worry about when it comes to Princeton. In 2018, there were 22 reported incidents of “violent crimes”, which consisted of 16 incidents of assault and 6 robbery-related crimes. Compared to the national average (286 incidents of assault and 136 incidents for robbery-related crimes), these statistics are very low and show that Princeton is a relatively safe city.

EDUCATION

The status and caliber of Princeton University notwithstanding, the city is also able to boast when it comes to the local public school system. Over the past 5 years, Princeton High School has held an average qualification rate of 95%.

The foundation is just as strong with four elementary schools in the area, all of which feed to the one middle school of the area, which in turn feeds to Princeton High School.

POTENTIAL FOR EARNING

Princeton is located almost an hour away from New York City, which is one of most important economic hubs of not just the United States, but the world at large. Many people commute from Princeton to New York City for work and still manage to lead a happy and economically satisfactory life.

In the other direction, at almost the same distance is Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a major city and holds massive potential as far as earnings are concerned. As is with New York, many people commute from Princeton to Philadelphia for work.

CONCLUSION

As you can see, Princeton has a lot to offer. You should know there’s a lot when it comes to recreation as well. The city has enough to keep you preoccupied including public parks, cafes, restaurants, theatres, museums, and so much more. All in all, one can lead a quality life in Princeton.

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