About Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.

Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett

Behind the Scenes at the Moser Glassworks Factory in Bohemia

October 7, 2016 by  


If you’ve traveled long enough or are an art or glass lover, you’re bound to know about the world famous Bohemian glass. Truth be told, I’ve always been more of a pottery and ceramic lover than glass, but when you’re in Bohemia, you can’t not marvel at the artistry, especially since it’s a cut above other glass works you’ll likely see on your journeys. It’s such a cut above the rest, that I even bought myself a little bowl before leaving the Czech Republic.

Where to go and how to find the best? There are no shortage of glass shops throughout the city, a large volume of them being in old town Prague, but the prices there tend to be a little pricier than if you find an out of the way glass shop or travel to nearby Moser Glass Museum and Glassworks Factory. You can take day trips out to the museum however I’d suggest at least an overnight in the area since Moser is located in Karlovy Vary after all, the oldest and most traditional spa town in the Czech Republic. I can’t marvel enough about the picturesque town along a storybook-like river and you can stay in a historical hotel and get pampered at one of the spas – what’s not to love?


The Moser Glassworks has a historical past and dates back to more than 155 years. Inside their shop, you’ll find yourself thinking you just walked into a museum rather than a shop. They call it a Sales Gallery but where else would you get such a high-end vast collection of so many different glass works and styles of Czech glass masters, cutters, painters and engravers? There’s a whole lot of WOW here!

You don’t start out in the sales showroom however, but in the factory, where you can get a comprehensive look at how the glass is made, and I might add, right up close! You can also watch a ten minute documentary film in nine languages and audio guides are also available if you don’t have a personal tour guide. Visiting the heart of the glassworks is a mind blowing experience — here, in the magic atmosphere of glass being blown and shaped, you can actually smell the wooden moulds smouldering with the heat and in real time, watch the beauty of molten glass come together. All of it is before your eyes, from the glassmaking raw materials, to the tools and in the process, you’ll learn about the production techniques.

Apparently they use high quality raw materials which are melted with the admixture of precious soils and metal oxides. Moser colors are the result of semi-precious mineral colors amethyst (violet), rose, blue, aurora (orange), reseda (yellow-brown) and green or popular six-colour sets consisting of crystal, aquamarine (light blue), rosaline (pink), beryl (light green), eldor (light yellow), topaz (honey brown) and alexandrite (light violet) which changes its intensity and colour shadow from bluish to dark violet depending on the kind of lighting.

Join me in the factory to get a taste of what it’s like to create beauty with glass.

Outside, their creative glassware was displayed as well, which are quite frankly, astonishing pieces of art. Have a look!

Back inside the gallery….

Below is some video footage I shot of the day – ENJOY!!!

Ludwig Moser (1833 – 1916), one of the most outstanding personalities of glass manufacturing in the world, is the force behind it. He first opened his own shop and engraver´s workshop in the centre of Karlovy Vary and in the same town in 1893, he began his own glass workshop, which has been operating successfully until today. Within a short time he gained the reputation as the most prestigious producer of crystal in the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. Nowadays, the glass manufactory is a joint stock company with entirely Czech capital and has approximately 320 employees.


MOSER Glassworks, Museum & Factory

Kpt. Jarose 46/19
360 06 Karlovy Vary
Czech Republic

T: 800 166 737 (only in the Czech Republic)
T: +420 353 416 242


Hotel Imperial Spa & Health Club in the Heart of Karlovy Vary’s Hot Springs

October 5, 2016 by  

If you don’t know much about medical spas, then you may not know how they differ from traditional spas. In Eastern Europe, medical spas have been around for many years and  in some countries, the government even pays for a chunk of it if a doctor prescribes it necessary, the Czech Republic being one of those. Two of the most well known spa towns in the Czech Republic are in Bohemia, and less than a two hour drive from Prague, a must visit if you love nature and are open to alternative health practices. Even if you don’t have an illness (no one in our small group did), the towns of Karlovy Vary and Mariánské Lázně are so storybook picturesque and serene that your body, mind and spirit will thank you later.  People flock to Karlovy Vary (also known as Carlsbad)  for their thermal springs and spas which are often attached to all inclusive luxe hotels. Luxury wasn’t always a thing in this region however a few properties used to be popular with the Russian political intelligentsia, such as Hotel Imperial Spa & Health Club, which is nestled in the stunning mountains above Karlovy Vary.
Above, this was the view from my hotel room balcony in September
This palatial landmark hotel which goes back to the early 20th century was apparently made famous by Lord Richard Westbury. It has had a myriad of famous guests over the years, including renowned politicians and leaders, such as the Bulgarian Tsar Ferdinand I, the Grand Duke Paul Alexadrovich Ramanov, the Archduke Franz Salvator of Austria-Tuscany, the Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa el-Nahhas Pasha, members of the Rothschild Dynasty, presidents from Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, film director Gustav Machaty and singer Seal to name a prestigious handful.

It looks and feels more like a castle more than it does a hotel, with its majestic panels, high ceilings and lofty stairs leading up to the entrance. My favorite part of staying here was breathing in the spectacular views of the mountains every morning from my fourth floor balcony; as the clouds would lift, the visual impact is so dramatic that you might just find yourself in awe more than once. Gratitude is bound to set in.

All of the shots below were taken from my hotel room balcony in September.

Hotel Imperial is roughly a kilometer from the Mill Colonnade, which contains a number of Karlovy Vary’s hot springs, is 1.1 kilometer from Grandhotel Pupp, which hosts the city’s annual film festival, and 17 kilometers from the medieval Loket Castle which we also visited on our adventure through the countryside.  It’s one of the more decadent hotels in the area, with its large colorful and refined rooms, long list of amenities, which include a separate fitness center, and formal dining rooms. All of the rooms feature free Wi-Fi, minibars, and bathrooms with bidets and upgraded rooms have sitting areas, and suites offer dual-basin sinks. I’d recommend booking a room on one of the upper floors to take advantage of the property’s breathtaking views. Below are a few room shots to give you an idea of what to expect.

If you really want to go upscale, then they have two luxurious suites on the premises that are oh so divine — ask for the Deluxe Suite when you book!  Unlike all other rooms Deluxe Suite has not only separate living and sleeping areas but a Jacuzzi tub and its own kitchen. Another odd quirk is that you can choose from three kinds of pillows and four sizes.

Then of course there’s my favorite getaway: the swimming pool and alongside it, were two hot tubs, though they were more like warm tubs rather than hot. I later learned that this is the case throughout most of the Czech Republic countryside — their jacuzzis tend to be a lot cooler than the traditional American hot tub which often exceeds 100 degrees.

Above three photo credit credits: Hotel Imperial.

The lobby area is equally decadent and luxurious.

There are two restaurants on the premises that serve Czech and French food, and there’s a Viennese-style cafe and an English-style bar. Breakfast is included for all guests and it’s buffet style — below is a shot taken of my colleague’s dinner when we first arrived since I went for a simple salad which I thought might be a bit too boring to post. There were a wide variety of options to choose from, however, including cut meats (ham, turkey, chicken, beef), potatoes, fish, salads, veggies, cheeses, a dessert table and more.

Outside, the lawns and bushes are well manicured and its gardens are brimming with colorful flowers and herbs. International flags hang from the top giving it an even more austere and grand flavor. Because of the prestigious early guests who came from aristocracy, politicians, businessmen and financial magnates, suddenly tennis courts, golf courses and a race course were all built in the area, so Karlovy Vary continues to attract an upper class clientele.

Below are a few shots of the front entrance of the hotel! Majestic in every way, the property demands your attention the first time you make your way up her stairs, and every time after…

Below, the property from a distance. 

Photo credit: Panormio

Spa Therapy

They do traditional spa treatments like massages, but they also offer more health-oriented programs, especially for digestive and musculoskeletal system and metabolic disorders.  They have a 24 hour nurse on-site, one dietician, seven doctors, six physiotherapists, eight masseurs, and three lifeguards. The hotel provides over 100 medical interventions and procedures in a 1.600 meter area. Spa treatments use local natural medicinal sources, which are supplemented by medical rehabilitation, physical and exercise therapy, health education, diet and wellness programs.

One of the natural medicinal resources in the area is Spring Vřídlo, which gets cooled down to 50 ° C and is available to guests to drink. You can find it on the top floor of the hotel lobby. Thermal Spring Water is mainly used for medicinal purposes, therefore they consume an average of 10,500 liters a day, which corresponds to approximately 21% of total daily consumption of mineral water in Karlovy Vary. Other natural resources they use include muds and medicinal gas (carbon dioxide).  Medical specialists at the Imperial include internal medicine, physiotherapy, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurology, pediatric neurology, surgery, gastroenterology and sonography and they cooperate with external doctors who specialize in cardiology, dermatology, psychiatry, acupuncture, cosmetic surgery, urology, dentistry and ENT. Refer to my more extensive write-up on the Imperial Spa, which includes a little more background on what to expect from booking a one, two or three week stay.

Below is a shot of their external gym, a mere few minute walk from the main building.



Hotel Imperial Spa & Health Club
Libušina 1212/18, 360 01
Karlovy Vary
Czech Republic
353 203 113

Medical & Wellness Spa Programs at Karlovy Vary’s Imperial

October 5, 2016 by  


wrote about the Imperial Hotel in the Czech Republic countryside as a great wellness stay and loved my experience in this awe-inspiring castle-like property in the mountains surrounding Karlovy Vary. Since the hotel has such an expansive spa that specializes in both traditional spa therapy and medical spa treatments, I wanted to cover their philosophy, services and program offerings in more depth.  Imperial is known for their health-oriented programs that specialize in digestive and musculoskeletal system and metabolic disorders.  On-site, they have a 24 hour nurse, one dietician, seven doctors, six physiotherapists, eight masseurs, and three lifeguards. The hotel provides over 100 medical interventions and procedures in a 1.600 meter area. Spa treatments use local natural medicinal sources, which are supplemented by medical rehabilitation, physical and exercise therapy, health education, diet and wellness programs.  And, of course, let’s not forget about the incredible healing thermal waters in the area they will encourage you to drink daily as part of your stay.

One of the most natural medicinal resources in the area is Spring Vřídlo, which gets cooled down to 50 ° C and is available to guests for drinking right on the premises. You can find it on the top floor of the hotel lobby. Since Thermal Spring Water is mainly used for medicinal purposes, they consume an average of 10,500 liters a day, which corresponds to approximately 21% of total daily consumption of mineral water in Karlovy Vary. Other natural resources they use include muds and medicinal gas (carbon dioxide).  Welcome to a very different spa experience in the heart of Bohemia and why you should know about the various spa and medical spa properties in the Czech Republic.

Medical specialists at the Imperial include internal medicine, physiotherapy, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurology, pediatric neurology, surgery, gastroenterology and sonography and they cooperate with external doctors who specialize in cardiology, dermatology, psychiatry, acupuncture, cosmetic surgery, urology, dentistry and ENT.

They say that spa stays once a year for a few weeks is ideal depending on the state of your health. Their belief is that prevention is the most effective method of treatment, so whether you are ill or merely want to keep disease at bay, there’s a program that will likely work for you. I noticed that they have an interesting detoxification program, something I’m a huge supporter of — keeping our bodies alkaline is key to staying healthy. They also believe in the folk wisdom which says:

“Repetition is the mother of wisdom.”

Spa Medical Check and In-Body Examination

As soon as you arrive, you go for spa medical check which starts with an in-take of your medical history with a doctor. At that time, they will check your pulse, blood pressure, breathing rate and lab work, which includes blood count, glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol tests, liver function tests, bilirubin, electrolytes and metabolism, stool, calcitonins, kidney, an EKG, thyroid glands, sonography,  gall bladder, prostrate and pancreas checks for men and for women, a check of your uterus and ovaries. You then meet with a nutritional therapist to get a list of dietary recommendations based on your lab work and physical ailments. They also do an IN-BODY measurement of your body fat, which measures different segments using 8-point tactile electrodes. This test can determine what percentage of your total body weight is made up of muscle tissue, proteins, bone tissue, subcutaneous and intracellular water, adipose issue, mineral substances (in bones and elsewhere) and cellular tissue.

What Does a Spa Treatment Consist of?

Medicinal balneology is a medicinal system anchored in tradition, especially in the Czech Republic. The characteristic of baineology therapy is given by the local natural medicinal resources and by how they’re applied. After specialists evaluate your health, they will prescribe a set of procedures for the best impact during your stay. Typically, you would receive around three treatments a day but what you receive and the frequency depends on your condition or if you don’t have an illness, then a series of therapies that best matches what you’re trying to accomplish from your stay. In addition to medical services and activities, you go to the springs three times a day and can complement your time with swimming, walks and cultural activities. Rather than chemical treatments, it’s all about returning to nature. Their belief is that thermal and curative waters can be used for treating many types of diseases and conditions, including gyn and digestive issues, chronic complexion diseases, cardiovascular illnesses, problems with breathing, infertility, kidney illness and nerve exhaustion.

Water therapy is a minimal of course giving the curing properties of the mineral waters in the area. Hot spring gas, which is practically pure carbon dioxide, springs out in mofettes and is applied in two forms: through gas injections (releases the muscle and fibrous spine corset and pelvic girdle after surgeries) and gas gynecologic baths, which are used to speed up the blood circulation. Again, recommendations will depend on the state of your health and how long you plan to stay (one week, two weeks or three weeks, which they say is optimal).

General thermal water baths can help with circulation issues, improving metabolism rates and help with chronic inflammation. They use peloids for wraps and for baths, which help to stimulate the thermoregulatory mechanisms of your body. A treatment of this nature also incorporates something they refer to as Aqua Therapy, reflex and underwater massages and other physical therapy from artificial sources, such as warmth, light, sound, electric therapy and others.

Drinking Cures

Drinking the healing thermal waters from the various springs in the area is best before food and they say that it’s best to drink slowly and while walking. They also recommend a break of 5-10 minutes between individual cups. Karlovy Vary mineral water for healing come from 12 different springs, which vary in temperature and the amount of gaseous carbon dioxide. The temperature of the water can vary from 30-72 degrees C and because of the different content of carbonic acid, temperature and trace elements, the effect of each spring on your body is very different.

The above shot was taken during our walking tour of Karlovy Vary, of one of the dozen thermal springs in the area, all of which have a different temperature. 

The richest source of mineral water is the “Thermal Spring,” which is the oldest spring in the area and it’s temperature is around 72 degrees C. Its discharge from the spring is around two thousand liters per minute and the quality of this mineral water hasn’t changed throughout the centuries. Guests have access to the mineral Thermal Spring in all of the hotels.

Baths & Ultrasound

There is a long list of procedures and therapies that range from hot stone, Butterfly, Shiatsu, and Aromatherapeutic massages to Oxygen therapy, wraps, bubble baths, pilates, ultrasound, whirlpool baths and mineral baths with herbs, seaweed or peat (yes, really). Here’s a description of a few of them to give you an idea of what to expect:

  • Mineral Carbonated Bath: its effects are derived from the chemical effects of CO2 on peripheral circulation. It is useful for cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, chronic heart ischemia and vascular illnesses.
  • Mineral Whirlpool Bath: the main effects of this bath is the micro massage of your skin which helps to relax your entire body. With a soothing effect on your entire system, it can help with neurosis and diseases of kinetic apparatus.
  • Bath with Peat: this is a hyperthermal procedure which is useful for kinetic apparatus diseases.
  • Inhalation: ultrasound is used to create an aerosol which can have a positive impact on the upper and lower breathing tracks.

Our small group of travel writers had a general thermal bubble bath given that none of us had a ‘medical condition,’ and were there merely to experience the spa facilities. Below is a shot of what the facilities for the traditional bubble baths look like — it’s a long hallway with changing rooms on one side, tubs on the other. In the small changing rooms, there’s a massage-like table where you can rest after the bath, wrapped up in towels which they provide.

Photo credit: Imperial Hotel Group.

Alternative Therapies, Hydro Therapy Procedures, Thermal & Massage

Other more unusual treatments they offer include services for your colon, vagina, teeth and gums, not what you’d expect right? For example, they offer a Gums Irrigation procedure which helps heal the gums, a vaginal irrigation treatment which has apparently had positive results on the genitals (prescribed in conjunction with an on-site gynecologist of course), and a Hydrocolon Cleansing, which flushes out the large intestine using mineral water. The procedure is considered beneficial for those with serious constipation and other intestinal diseases.

Hydro therapy procedures include Alternating Water Jets, an Aromatic Bath, which uses extracts from medicinal plants to help stimulate, rejuvenate and relax, a Whirlpool bath, an Alternating Leg Bath which alternates cold and hot impulses on your lower limbs to improve blood circulation among other things and something they refer to as FLOATING, which is a Bath in Dead Sea salts, which is noted to have a vasodilatation effect, helping to stabilize blood pressure. According to their notes, its suitable for psoriasis, eczema, skin inflammations and allergies, psoriatic arthritis, arthritis, spine and neurological degenerative issues, such as sciatica, to help heal wounds and burns.

Massages range from classic and underwater massage to Aroma Therapeutic Massage, Shiatsu and Hot Stone therapy. Additionally, thermal procedures are offered for diseases of your kinetic system, the digestive track, metabolic diseases, urologic and gynecologic and nerve diseases. A few include Parrafin wraps and something they refer to as Cryo Therapy.

Rehabilitation, Reflex, Electric & Physical Therapy

They also have group fitness, pool exercises, Pilates, Nordic walking and water aerobics. Physical therapists are on board to help with conditions that require PT, and they use balling, postisometric relaxation, mobilization of your spine and joints, acupressure, soft mobilization techniques, reflex massage, acupuncture, Pneumopuncture and gas injections. Their medical staff also uses Ultrasound for neuritis and neuralgia, Diathermy for muscles and inflammation, Magnetic Therapy, Galvanization for chronic and inflammatory kinetic diseases and Interference Streams, which they use for kinetic diseases as well, but also for some digestive issues, such as constipation, and poor circulation.

Oxygen Therapy and the Power of Salt

In this treatment, you breathe in oxygen-enriched air, which is meant to improve your immune system and strengthen the body and helps to prevent progressive pulomonary hypertension. Our group experienced an Oxygen therapy but in the other well known spa town of Marianske Lazne, so be sure to read up about our hotel and spa experiences there as well. They have the ability for you to try out a Salt Cave here, which helps to improve breathing problems, immunity overall and allergies.

Salt Cave: photo credit: Imperial Hotel Group

The above list is an overview to give you an idea of some of the types of traditional (and medical) services they offer and while I didn’t mention even more intense therapies like Lymph Drainage or more moderate relaxing ones, like Chocolate body wraps or Indian head massages, know that their offerings are extremely vast. In fact, a 50 page booklet is dedicated to the various treatment, procedures and therapies they offer. Note that I am not recommending any of Imperial’s wellness or medical programs, but merely sharing some of their offerings and my experience there — all decisions should be based on a consult with your own doctor or health practitioner. I was not there for a medical reason, but more for a relaxing one and to better understand the difference between some of the medical and general spa facilities in the Czech Republic.

Useful Articles and Links for Spa & Wellness Travel in the Czech Republic



Hotel Imperial Spa & Health Club
Libušina 1212/18, 360 01
Karlovy Vary
Czech Republic
353 203 113


The Hercules Laptop Backpack Makes it Easy & Fast to Get Thru Airports

October 4, 2016 by  


Meet the ecbc Hercules high quality laptop backpack, which is crafted with nearly very tough Kodra nylon, a great choice if you have fragile gear, including laptops and camera gear. We were keen to take a look at this backpack, largely because of its endless pockets and sub-pockets, which if your’e an avid traveler who has a lot of tech gear, is a MUST! Need I say more?

Toughness and durability is equally important, especially if you do have tech gear — keeping it organized is increasingly a challenge and I’ve tried a number of packs out. With so many compartments, I am now wishing these guys would come out with a slightly bigger pack (not by much) with those fabulous swivel wheels on the bottom that all of our favorite luggage now has (we love you Briggs & Riley).

Frequent flyers take note: the high quality Hercules backpack features the ecbc FastPass System allowing you to unzip the specialized electronics compartment, lay the bag flat on the security conveyer and go through TSA without having to unpack your laptop, tablet and cables. It can store laptops up to 17” and features self-repairing YKK zippers, high density protective foam pockets for smaller devices, a phone pocket, and a moisture wicking air mesh back panel for superior comfort and best of all, this pack only weighs in at around 2.7 pounds. They tout the pack as durable and rugged as well and we’ve yet to put that to the test, but will report back if it doesn’t “endure.”


It has self-repairing, water-sealing YKK Zippers, can fit up to 17” Laptop with Removable Modular Insert for Smaller Devices, has a Padded iPad / Tablet Pocket, a 20 Liter Capacity, 21 Storage Compartments (our FAVORITE part of this pack), its high density protective foam for the laptop pockets, a phone pocket, a quick access/ticket pocket, a zippered water bottle holder, multiple organizational compartments, a moisture wicking air mesh back panel, Duraflex adjustable padded shoulder straps and a padded top handle. It is also water resistant, which is a great feature for adventure travelers.  I went for the ivory/cream colored pack although they offer a few options: green, a dark blue, black and a berry red. Note that the cream is more like a tan than it is an off-white/cream for those who are color sensitive.



The Hercules bag below in the berry red…..


Let’s take a look at the ridiculous (in a good way)  number of pockets! The below Hercules bag is pictured in green and opened up, you can get a pretty good idea of just how flexible the bag is and how well is can organize your life. For busy travelers who cart around a lot of stuff, especially tech gear, this is really a great bag choice!


The founder’s passion for creating this bag came after hundreds of thousands of miles of travel having to deal with the constant unpacking all of their expensive portable electronics into TSA bins after waiting in long lines watching others doing the same routine. In addition to other types of luggage and backpacks, they also make messenger bags that offer modern travelers a more functional, fashionable and comfortable way of transporting their technology and everyday essentials just like the Hercules does. They refer to their products as “checkpoint friendly bags and luggage,” with the goal of making it easier to go through airport security.

More information including how and where to order can be found at http://www.ec-bc.com/.

Get Upscale Pampering at Prague’s Mandarin Hotel

October 4, 2016 by  

Less than ten minutes walk from Charles Bridge, you’ll find Prague’s Mandarin Hotel on a secluded back street with a majestic entrance, at least for old town Prague. What makes it so wondrous leading up to it could be because this luxurious hotel is built on the site of a former 14th-century monastery. Spices, their upscale Asian-inspired restaurant is on-site where you can sit indoors or outdoors depending on the weather. We included Spices in our Ultimate Food Guide to Prague, so be sure to check it. If you’re a foodie, you might just book a flight to Prague based on the scrumptious photos alone.
Prague hasn’t always been this luxe, but every year, it seems to add more upscale options for travelers and the Mandarin should be one of those stops on your pampering list, whether that means staying in one of their chic rooms or suites, dining at Spices or booking a spa treatment. Their rooms (and the hotel lobby and lounge areas), all have plush furnishings, the rooms have private limestone bathrooms with heated floors and some rooms add terraces, monastery garden or castle views. Suites feature lavish decor and accents such as vaulted or arched ceilings, as well as living rooms. Wellness travelers will also appreciate the fact that the Mandarin has a gym on the premises as well as a sauna, which I tried the moment I arrived.
When you arrive, the first thing they do is slip you into their open toe sandals right in the lobby while you fill out your paperwork — tea and a hot towel is brought to you while you wait. The lobby area is very calming and relaxing, so your mood is set even before you make it to the relaxation lounge or the treatment rooms.
The entrance itself incorporates a l’il Eastern style, and a stone Buddha greets you as you make your way to the door.
Their products are available for purchase and are beautifully presented on a large display table, including a lovely collection of Gaylia Kristensen — I left with a sample of their anti-aging serum. Over 40, you can never have enough anti-aging products in your bathroom cupboard in my opinion.
Below, inside one of the treatment rooms….

The other areas beam of serenity and tranquility in every direction. It goes without saying that you should feel relaxed at a spa, especially one in a 5 star hotel, although I’m always astonished at how few spas focus on attention to detail from the moment you walk through the door. The Mandarin has that down in spades and makes you feel like a princess for as long as you’re there.

Below, the changing room area — they have all the things you’d expect from an upscale spa, such as razors, cotton, combs, Q-tips and throw-away knickers, which is more common in Europe than it is the states.

Inside the hotel lobby, the feeling of luxe and decadence continues — how’s this for an additional WOW factor?







































Outside, there’s even more luxe, so even if you don’t stay at the hotel, be sure to spend a pampering afternoon here, at the gym, in the sauna and for one of their spa treatments.


Signature Spa Therapies

Developed in consultation with specialists in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and master aromatherapists, each signature therapy consists of a relaxing, hands-on body massage ritual that combines the powerful effects of oriental meridian massage with the therapeutic benefits of custom-blended essential oils. Each treatment begins with a private therapist consultation in order to determine each individual’s personal and current state of well-being and then the treatment and oils are then tailored to each guest.

One of the more interesting body therapies on their menu is something they refer to as Coffee Indulgence. If you’re a coffee lover, you’re bound to be curious. The goal of the treatment is to help rejuvenate dry, out-of-condition skin. An intensive salt and coffee body exfoliation stimulates the circulation and sloughs off dead cells to revive dull, tired-looking skin. Hands and feet are given special attention with applications of Vitamin E oil to cuticles and heels and a freshwater mud mask to truly soften and condition the skin. Your body is layered in hydrating and mineralizing marine algae and then massaged, while the skin is then protected with velvety moisturizing body butter.

They also offer traditional Thai massage, unique body treatments and a repairing and Anti-Aging Facial which uses natural oils of Inca Inchi and Larch Extract to stimulate collagen formation to deliver firm and tightened skin. They add Pomegranate and Rosehip Seed Oil which are anti-inflammatory, always a good thing. While I’m a huge fan of anti-aging facials, I went for their Oriental Essence Body Treatment since I had a facial over at the Four Seasons, so wanted to try something a little different. It combined massage with a mini-facial — absolute bliss and strongly recommended!

Other treatments worth mentioning include Oriental Foot Therapy, a Quintessence Body Scrub, a Petrin Ritual which includes a foot bath and a full body brushing treatment, and something they refer to as a Vltava Treat, which is inspired by Czech spa traditions. This experience mineralizes your body with a wrap in freshwater mud as well as a relaxing bath. They do entire spa programs as well, which consist of full day packages that combine treatments and modalities and a half day Bohemian Ritual. For locals, they also offer a 12 month membership program that combines unlimited use of their Fitness and Wellness Center, bonus spa therapies and discounts at their spa.


Their main product line was developed by Aromatherapy Associates, and includes five body oils, five bath and shower oils, generic body scrub, body wash and body lotion. All of the products use natural ingredients and are paraben free.


Mandarin Hotel & Spa

Nebovidská 459/1, Malá Strana

Prague 1, 11800 Czech Republic


Useful Articles and Links for Spa & Wellness Travel in the Czech Republic




Note: I was hosted by the spa however all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Piano Nobile, When You Want Exquisite Food in a Czech Countryside Chateau

October 3, 2016 by  


Ever want to dine in a chateau? How about a chateau in the Czech countryside? What if the restaurant was ranked the fifth-best restaurant in the Czech Republic, at least according to Maurer’s Grand Restaurant Guide? Meet the ever so delicious Piano Nobile, which is the main restaurant of five star property Chateau Mcely which I had the fortune of staying at towards the end of my stay in the country this past fall.

Above, a scrumptious whipped creamy concoction that I tried upon arrival – it is combined with orange and crispy chocolate that just pops in your mouth!!

The executive chef Honza Štěrba and his team focus on preparing five star gourmet experiences, which includes a seasonal à la carte menu and a degustation menu. During the summer, the chateau patio with its view of the surrounding countryside is the perfect setting for lunch or dinner — I comment on more than one occasion in my review of Chateau Mcely, that the patio is my favorite room in the castle despite the fact that the formal dining room is oh so lovely and divine that I did have a cup of tea here one day just to breathe in the ceiling and beautifully adorned walls.  While I also had lunch and breakfast experiences at the restaurant during the course of my stay, let’s start with some of the dishes that had me at hello for dinner.

To start, they brought me a Roast Beef ‘bite’ with horseradish (locals really love their horseradish), mayonnaise, dill and tomatoes.

On the official appetizer list, you can choose from a Trout from Liban with celery ice cream, Apple and Quark, Mussels with Beef, Salicornia and Comte cheese, a soup or salad or Wild Duck Foie Gras with Beetroot and a Smoked herb raspberry sauce. I naturally went with the latter. There was so much WOW here; its presentation matched its delicious description and my taste buds were excited after the first taste. I paired the first two dishes with a 2015 dry French Rose from Provence although I should note that the restaurant manager was also pushing a Riesling on me.

Main courses are equally decadent. My options were about as heavenly as it gets, from Halibut with Lentils, Black Sesame and Green Beans with Dandelion Honey, a Cod with sauteed grenaille potatoes, sundried tomatoes with capers and garlic in a white wine sauce, Squid ink risotto with Marjoram and Sheep’s Cheese, to Pigeon with Quinoa, Jerusalem artichoke and Rosemary, Tenderloin of Beer with Boletus, Spring Onion and Roasted grenaille potatoes cooked in a Truffle sauce and my choice, the Rack of Lamb with Raviola and Pureed Spinach prepared in a London Dry Gin sauce. Oh so scrumptious and hard to choose!!

To finish, they offered a Cardamom Sorbet with white chocolate, cherries and vanilla, Apricots with chocolate, cedar and pine nuts, Creme Caramel with edible flowers (I loved this) and Geranium, homemade ice creams and sorbets and a plate of assorted French cheese with Walnut bread and homemade marmalade. I didn’t write down all the individual cheeses (unusual for me) but let’s just say the combo of their wine pairings and a perfect end-of-night decaf cappuccino was the perfect way to end my last night in the Czech Republic.

Below is a shot of the front porch terrace during the day.

The formal dining room, which is an alternative to the more casual but elegant front porch (below)

If you’re not convinced yet of their culinary capabilities, I’ll entice you with one more entree shot since I didn’t order fish for dinner.

Photo credit: Chateau Mcely

Below, breakfast at Piano Noble in the morning which is buffet style. Think caviar, smoked salmon, luscious organic cheeses from nearby farms, homemade breads and pastries, sausages and more. Oh so decadent and oh so delish! Opt for organic coffee, champagne or an assortment of teas.

Lunch and afternoon lounging on the front porch

One happy camper after my mid-afternoon lunch.

Did I mention the scrumptious and incredibly fresh lobster salad, my favorite part of lunch? It was paired with a dry’ish local Riesling.

Or, how about the chicken and sausages on the lunch buffet table?

OR, the homemade cakes that are so beautiful you dare take a bite in one?



Two thumbs up for the property, their spa and the restaurant. Also be sure to read up on some of my top Prague restaurant picks, like Michelin star La Degustation, Valoria and Kampa Park, as well as my extensive Prague Foodie Guide which includes so many gems, you won’t want to miss reading it if you’re heading to Europe any time soon.


Piano Nobile

Chateau Mcely 

Mcely 61, 289 36

Mcely, Czech Republic

+420 325 600 000




Note: I was hosted by the restaurant however all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Move Over Paris, Prague’s Energy Had Me At Hello!

October 2, 2016 by  


As I made my way down the Hradcanske nam, something about the walk seemed vaguely familiar, though I couldn’t put my finger on it. Of course I had likely gone this path before, but I doubted it was on my trip to Prague five years ago, so was it the one 25 years ago or in a previous life? The smell, the sights, even the stone walls I passed felt like they were part of me. Given that more than half of my heritage stems from Eastern France and Eastern Europe combined, it could be that my cells inherently remembered the soil I was walking on, as if my ancestors were in fact with me on that late night walk through the streets of Hradcany.

By the time I did the same walk three times to get to and from my hotel, it was so familiar that I began to think of it as my daily commute, and only wished my time in the Czech Republic was two months, not two weeks.

Of course, the city has changed over the years, dramatically so since my first trip before the wall came down when Eastern Europe was not an easy destination. I was a student during my first visit but remember those Bohemian cafes as if it were yesterday. While food wasn’t plentiful at the time, there were still old world eateries in dark cave-like quarters, ones lit by candles and some melancholy voice or instrument could be heard nearby. Sometimes musicians would perform in restaurants as they did in Budapest during the same period, and other times, you’d hear them as they walked by, all looking for a coin or two.

My mid-eighties visit to Prague was one of the first memories I have of eating boar but back then, it was mostly served as a stew. Today’s Prague is internationally recognized on the culinary scene with three Michelin star restaurants and several more deserving one. I couldn’t help but notice how much French cuisine was influencing some of the higher end restaurants, including my favorites from my trip: La DegustationValoriaKampa Park and Piano Nobile an hour outside of the city. My palette has always hungered for cooking with so many layers and textures that your mouth pops.

While I had plenty of scrumptious traditional and modern-European influenced dishes during my recent stint to this tasty city, it wasn’t the food that stood out most, nor was it Prague’s old town square, her magical clock or castle, and nor was it her incredible architecture I took in by day and night, as majestic as all of the city’s landmarks can rightfully claim to be.

Aren’t the best destinations always about the people in the end? The Czech people exude the sophistication and curiosity of Berliners and the warmth and authenticity of the Poles and a whole lot more, but it’s a starting point. While everyone will clearly have their own interpretation and no doubt, many may be a far cry from mine, it is that blend of whimsical, creative and intellectual with an almost sweetness that you don’t find in most of Eastern Europe that had me at hello.

How this correlates with the fact that per capita, they drink more beer than any other nation in the world or that Prague houses the second ugliest building in the world I can’t say, but wandering through her streets made me feel alive in a way that few European cities do.  Late summer and early fall truly is one of the best times to visit Prague since the weather hasn’t yet turned cool even in the evenings when it’s the perfect time to sit outside by the river whether for a meal or a late night glass of wine.

On more than one night, I did just that, breathing it all in. Prague exudes an insatiable amount of romantic energy without even trying. Like Paris, people respond to her beauty automatically and naturally and the culture seems to embrace “romance” in a myriad of ways. Music, movies and quaint cafes with candles, book cases and flowers engulf you on many a’ Prague street, from the inner city center along Uhezd, a main cable car route, to quirkier neighborhoods on the outskirts.

Quite frankly, it’s impossible not to have a “romantic experience” here unless you’re dead set on not having one and by romantic experience I don’t necessarily mean with someone else. Simply put, I mean ‘feeling Prague’s romantic energy’ which simply means feeling alive in that youthful beautiful dream-like way.  You can feel the romance of old world Europe simply by walking through Prague’s streets, buying a decadent piece of dark chocolate and slowly eating it on the bridge as you watch the boats pass by, sitting at a corner café sipping your cappuccino as if tomorrow will never come or reading a Milan Kundera novel in an ancient bars, some of which still have preserved wood and stone from as far back as the 1200’s. Like most European cities, you can see remnants of wars gone past with bullet holes in some of the buildings. There’s also graffiti, wall art, murals, bars that pour some of the best beer you’ll ever taste and youthful energy throughout the streets, especially along the river.

Every night before turning in however, I tried to have at least one exchange with a local as the last thing I did for the day. It is in this exchange that I remember what makes Prague so special above and beyond her incredible architecture, deep-rooted history, culinary delights on every corner and world renowned beer. The children are precious and will always bring on a smile……

This musician that I randomly met on the tram offered to play for me as we got off conveniently at the same stop. And, play he did in a park at midnight. His fingers lit up this string instrument as if it had been waiting to be played all day and echoed through the park, waking up the birds and delighting all those who passed by.

Quirky and creative is abound in this historical city by one of the most picturesque rivers in Eastern Europe. (Sorry Budapest!) There’s no shortage of musicians, artists and performers who will also have you at hello.


So yes, you will love the people on your Czech Republic journey, even in bustling Prague. That’s of course not to say that Prague’s art, culture, history and architecture isn’t worthy of seeing — they will also have you at hello. Be sure to also take in early morning and late night walks and by all means, please don’t be afraid of getting lost or trying new restaurants and bars. I can assure you that my Ultimate Foodie Guide to Prague should keep you busy for weeks.

From this place and with these memories, I climbed into the black car waiting to take me to the airport on my last autumn morning and bid the romantic city with grace a temporary farewell. I will be back!!!

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Under the Water Magic in the Turks and Caicos

October 2, 2016 by  


You’d imagine that snorkeling and diving would be incredible in the Turks and Caicos Islands, right? Well, yes and no, but mostly yes. From Grand Turk and Providenciales, you can find some incredible reef and marine life, as well as West Caicos for deeper water diving. South Caicos also has some notable diving and snorkeling spots but less so on North and Middle Caicos where I hung my hat for the duration of my stay in August. That said, if you do find yourself on either North or Middle Caicos, you do have a few options.

Three Marys Cays on North Caicos are three limestone iron shore rocks found close off the north coast and it’s a great spot for picnics, swimming and lazy beach lounging. In other words, it’s absolutely stunning, whether you head to Sandy Point Beach or Hollywood Beach, or anywhere in between. Despite the fact that the waters were a little rough when we were there, we were surprisingly able to see some stingray, small colorful reef fish in a variety of vibrant colors, a black fin shark that some of us wanted to get closer to than I did, and lots of brain coral.

Middle Caicos: Mudjin Harbour

Mudjin Harbor is a three mile long section of coastline off the north of Middle Caicos and is considered by many to be among the most beautiful. Think high limestone cliffs throughout from the well known Conch Bar out to the far northwest point of the island. A very cool factoid that stems from its colonial British past….the name for this area was originally “Bermudian Harbor”, after the country it resembles and then over time, got morphed into “Mudian Harbor”, and later to Mudjin Harbor.

We swam at the Mudjin Harbor Beach when we were at Blue Horizon, one of the properties our group took over for the week. Below, me hamming it up on this breathtaking beach with warm water and beautiful white sand.
In this area, snorkeling will yield groove reef formations, coral arches and yellow sea fans and the occasional grey reef shark can be spotted as well depending on conditions. They advise that your luck with what you see is largely dependent on the weather. If its windy, they recommend going on a different day. That said, it was mildly windy when we headed out from North Caicos by boat and the wind picked up while we were there and so….we continued for several hours regardless of the boisterous waves because we already made the commitment to go.

North Caicos: Getting to Three Marys Cays

Until recently, Three Marys Cays could only be reasonably accessed from Whitby part of North Caicos, but due to road improvements, you can drive from Sandy Point. From the marina, go two thirds of a mile and then turn left onto the unpaved road (No name or sign at this time, and newly resurfaced. You’re on the right road if you can drive more than a thousand feet). Continue for 1.85 miles, and you should see the small sign for Three Marys Cays on your left. Turn on to this one lane track and follow for 2000 feet to Three Marys Cays. This track will have an abrupt left, and then a right before arriving at the cays. All beaches in this area are free to access and parking is never a problem. We went much further out by boat so we could get closer to the reef without having to go too deep.

If you’re planning to go to North Caicos, I’d recommend the simple but beautiful Pelican Beach Hotel – ask Miss Susie, the owner, to set you up with one of the local drivers who takes people out on his boat for a day or half day of snorkeling. They generally have gear for about ten or so people.

Here’s a bit of what we saw that sunny albeit windy afternoon. While this area may not be the best in the Turks and Caicos for snorkeling and diving, we managed to see some beauty under the sea — all taken with my Olympus TG-4 waterproof camera which I first reviewed last November.

All in all, it was a glorious experience — Middle and North Caicos are so incredibly beautiful, it’s hard to go wrong with its pristine waters in all directions, even if you don’t have a bunch of stingrays following you under the water.


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