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Monthly Archives: February 2018

Reasons to Visit Chicago

The Windy City is not for the faint of heart, literally – the food is some of the richest on offer in the United States, and the harsh winters are likely to test one’s resolve as well. Chicago, one of the Midwest’s few notable and renowned cities, is a treasure trove of world-class food, cheap beer and glorious architecture. The city retains an inherent friendliness and charm, and its food, mix of cultures and storied history are a big part of its appeal.

1. A hometown feel in Logan Square

Logan Square is quickly becoming the new it neighborhood in Chicago. As opposed to super hipster Wicker Park and Bucktown, Logan Square retains a more Midwestern, down-home feel to it. Visitors can give their heart a break with some truly delicious vegan food at The Chicago Diner, or with Mexican at cheap and cheerful Taquería Moran. For drinks, Telegraph has a great wine list and Longman & Eagle melts away stress with excellent cocktails. Congress Theater hosts everything from rock concerts to lucha libre fights. For a more subdued evening, simply stroll along Logan Boulevard, especially around Christmas for some dazzling light displays.

2. So many neighborhoods, so little time

With 77 distinct neighborhoods to choose from, there must be something for everyone. Looking for a great gay scene? Chicago’s Boystown has one of the largest LGBTQ communities in the United States, and Lakeview’s Pride Parade sees around 750,000 revelers every year. Fancy a trip to the Caribbean? Travel to Puerto Rico via Humboldt Park, where 60-foot high metal Puerto Rican flags decorate the gates of Paseo Boricua, where visitors can gnosh on elote and other street food while checking out the huge murals, the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture and plenty of parks, lagoons and pools. Want a bit of everything? Head to Hyde Park, home of the University of Chicago, Hyde Park Art Center, Museum of Science and Industry and President Obama’s house.

3. It’s 5 o’clock all the time

When the price is right, it’s hard to say no to beer, and several places in Chicago take this sentiment seriously. Cash-only Happy Village offers $2 PBR and Old Style, an all-season beer garden and free ping-pong to test drinkers’ hand-eye coordination. In Logan Square, pay $8.50 for a PBR, a shot of Jack and slice of pizza at dive bar Boiler Room. While not as cheap, local brewery Revolution Brewing offers up some supreme stouts, IPAs and more as well as year-round favorites and seasonal tastes.

4. A slice of divisive deep-dish

Pizza or pie? There’s not much gray area when it comes to opinions about Chicago’s deep-dish pizza. With the fillings and cheese melting together under a thick layer of sauce, it’s one of those dishes that you’ll refuse to regret taking a second slice of even though it’s clearly against your arteries’ best interests. Order from North Side favorite Lou Malnati’s, Burt’s Place, which is the home of the caramelized crust, or Lincoln Park’s Pequod’s, which offers pizza and beer lunch specials for just $5.

5. Feed your brain at the many museums

The Art Institute of Chicago is practically endless, with more than 300,000 pieces under its roof. Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte are on permanent display, and the museum also houses a vast display of African American art. The National Museum of Mexican Art is home to a wonderful collection of 1,400 pieces covering the Chicano Movement. Back at Navy Pier, the Stained Glass Museum features Tiffany stained glass windows and a portrait of hometown hero Michael Jordan. Many other museums reflect the history of the various groups that have settled in Chicago, including the DuSable Museum of African American History, Oriental Institute, National Hellenic Museum and Swedish American Museum.

6. Architecture and shopping downtown

Start the day on Michigan Avenue and see how long it takes to set credit cards alight on the Magnificent Mile. Once past the call of consumerism, take a gander around Tribune Tower, where one could spend an entire afternoon gaping at the architecture. Pieces from famous sites, like the Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat, Abraham Lincoln’s tomb, Notre Dame and more have been incorporated into the lower outside levels of the building. See the view from above on the 103rd floor at Willis (that is, Sears) Tower. The glass deck is not for everyone! Right on Lake Michigan is Navy Pier, an all-American, family friendly good time with rides, a museum and a great view. After marveling at all the brick, take your picture in front of the Bean, a huge mirrored sculpture, and head to the lakefront.

7. Everything’s at the lakefront

Chicago’s lakefront remains unmarred by piers and large docks. It does, in fact, get warm enough to head to the beaches in summer, and they get plenty crowded. In winter, it’s incredible to see Lake Michigan freeze. The lakefront is home to practically everything and is an ideal place to hang out if just in town for a day or two. Grant Park, Millenium Park, Lincoln Park and Soldier Field are all there. A leisurely drive along Lake Shore Drive puts the nation’s largest freshwater lake on one side and the city’s brick-and-glass skyline on the other. For a more eco-friendly alternative, a bike ride or run along Lake Shore Trail is equally gorgeous.

8. Go outside to Oak Park

Technically, it’s not part of Chicago proper, but Oak Park is a still has plenty to offer. Those into architecture can join the Frank Lloyd Wright tour, which takes visitors to his first home and studio and Unity Temple in Oak Park as well as other sites in the city. Another tour well worth the time is a walk through Ernest Hemingway’s childhood home and museum. Get your brain ready for the onslaught of knowledge with a healthy vegetarian lunch at Munch.

9. Get serious about sports

Pick your loyalties wisely, because fair-weather sports fans will never hear the end of it in Chicago. The city is home to several teams across the four major sports. Da Bears, as they are affectionately known, are much more than an American football team – they’re a Chicago institution that dominate Sundays during the season. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen’s legacies still tower over the Bulls’ history, but the current basketball team has done an excellent job of making it to the playoffs several times in the last decade. Baseball splits the town, as Northsiders inevitably side with century-long underdogs the Cubs, while Southsiders cheer on the White Sox. Hockey team the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013.

10. Eat, eat, eat in Fulton Market

Chicago is undoubtedly a red meat town, but even the pickiest of eaters can find something to soothe salivating taste buds in the Fulton Market neighborhood. Go later in the afternoon to enjoy the Mr. G sandwich at Chicago’s oldest family owned Italian market J.P. Graziano without having to wait in line. Publican Quality Meats smokes, cures and cooks all their meat, making the hometown crowd proud. For those who just can’t see why deep dish pizza is a (good) thing, head to Piece, which specializes in New Haven-style pizza. Settle heartburn with the slightly healthier option of a bowl of pho at Hai Yen.

The Best yoga holiday and retreat

You can’t move for downward dog opportunities these days. The explosion of yoga in western countries means there’s a studio on every other street and such a variety of styles and options, that choosing a holiday or retreat can be overwhelming. So where to start? It makes sense to try a weekend away before committing to a whole week. One possibility is to choose a teacher you know or like the sound of and see if they’re running anything that suits. Or you could pick a venue you fancy and see what teachers are hosting holidays there. Think about what you want too – some combine yoga with other activities (maybe good for those with non-yogi partners), some are vegan, some don’t ban booze – it’s always worth asking before you book.

Most retreats will cater for all levels, with teachers listening to individual needs, but I’ve marked those particularly for beginners suitable with a B. We think all the places we’re covering here offer good value, but those that stand out price-wise are marked with a £.

There is a glossary of yoga terms at the end of this article.

BEST UK RETREATS

Moor walks, North Yorkshire

The yoga weekends at The Orange Tree, a lovely small retreat in the North York Moors, are led by personable owner Edward Harpin and his sister Helen. They teach hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation in two or three sessions a day, which may include music, periods of silence, mantras, breathing techniques and a gong bath to enhance relaxation. There’s an outdoor jacuzzi and sauna, massages and time for moor walks before a three-course homemade veggie supper and yoga nidra prior to bed.

Go with the flow, Kent

Jean Hall and Liz Lark are among the UK’s most experienced and inspiring yoga teachers. They draw on a range of yoga styles in their teaching, and on their joint retreats they offer tuition for beginners and more advanced students in separate classes. Their Oxon Hoath base (near Tonbridge) is a stately home on a country estate where participants can expect one pranayama class in the morning and a couple of two-hour flow classes late morning and late afternoon. Mix in walks, massage, open fires and veggie meals – with wine allowed.

Doze in the Downs, East Sussex

At the end of a long country lane on the South Downs, elegant Tilton House near Lewes offers weekend yoga retreats all year round, with up to three classes a day from a changing roster of teachers. They include affable Stewart Heffernan, a former actor who teaches vinyasa and yin-based classes to all levels. Between classes, guests can go hiking, doze in the sauna, read by an open fire, have a massage or visit the Bloomsbury group’s Charleston Farmhouse nearby. Meals use ingredients from the orchard and kitchen garden.

Solar and sauna, Argyll, Scotland

The rustic retreat of Ecoyoga at Inverliever Lodge features a bath by a wild river, an underground sauna and a solar-powered hot tub for some mindful cold plunges and hot soaking between classes. Mainly ashtanga-based teachers run retreats here all year, including the ashtanga and mindfulness expert Scott Johnson, who teaches a self-practice method and encourages you to practise on your own during the retreat. There are usually two, two-hour-long classes a day with chanting, talks on yoga and healthy veggie meals (including raw chocolate cakes, naturally).

Kriya me a river, south-east Devon

A light-hearted, instinctive teacher, London-based Tania Brown leads seven, one-hour classes over a weekend at comfy, organic Trill Farm near Lyme Regis. Wake up with traditional kriya (cleansing techniques), then after a nourishing breakfast and a walk, join in dynamic yoga in the middle of the woods. There’s also massage, foraging and a restorative yoga and meditation session each evening. Meals by a River Cottage chef are seasonal and organic. Detox or indulge in organic wines.

All the right ingredients, East Sussex

Popular restorative and yin yoga teacher and personal development coach Julie Bickerton and yogi and cookery writer Mary Gwynn have teamed up to launch new retreats in East Sussex. Based at a studio in Hartfield village, in an area of outstanding natural beauty, they combine five yoga sessions designed to help deal with seasonal changes, and two cookery demos that focus on sourcing and cooking food that is in season. Largely vegetarian meals will include wine, cake and caffeine. Rooms are split between the hub and a boutique B&B in the village.

BEST FOR ACTIVITIES

Snowdon walks, North Wales

On the Isle of Anglesey Zest Life Retreats teams yoga with wild swimming, standup paddleboarding, hiking on Snowdon, walking, detoxing, relaxation, fitness and seashore foraging for engaging, restorative weekends. The base is a secluded, country house estate, and the two, 90-minute classes a day include music, meditation and pranayama either with vinyasa flow with Zest Life founder Laura Bell or yin with partner and dru yoga teacher Kate Hamilton-Hunter.

Alpine aura, France

AdventureYogi has been offering a great choice of yoga trips for the past 10 years, including fun, intense healthy weeks in the French Alps. Wake up at 7am with an energising hour of hatha yoga with Chetana Thornton, enjoy a day of skiing or snowboarding, then unwind with a sauna or a good book by a roaring fire before a 90-minute early-evening restorative class. Your base is an apartment by the slopes at Sainte Foy. Three-course gourmet vegetarian feasts include local organic wines. All levels of yogis and skiers welcome.

Ionian inversions, Zakynthos, Greece

Soulfood London runs a creative retreat combining daily yoga and photography lessons at Villa Zaharoula, which overlooks the Ionian sea. There’s a fast-paced but accessible 90-minute yoga class to music each morning, and relaxing meditative classes each evening with dynamic vinyasa flow teacher Charlie Morgan. Professional photographer Chloe Read finds something new to inspire every day, from still life to moving waves, and there’s a trip to a hilltop town and wild swimming in a quiet cove. Organic meals include meat and fish.

Circle of relaxation, Norway

This four-night retreat is pricy, but there’s nothing else like it. At this site above the Arctic circle, four 90-minute dynamic vinyasa flow yoga classes with Swedish-born teacher Minna Skirgård are followed by four personally guided adventures, including a boat safari and a trek along scenic paths. Expect to flow, sweat and connect with uplifting tunes, pranayama and mindfulness sessions. Boutique Lyngen Lodge has a sauna, outdoor jacuzzi and mountain views, and local, seasonal meals include fish from the fjords and local reindeer.

Heavenly Himalayas, India

Run by Tamsin Chubb, founder of popular Little French Retreat, this fabulous adventure features a two-hour classical hatha yoga class each morning, plus mountain walks, tiffin-style packed lunches, sunset meditation and workshops on local bio-diversity, organic farming, cooking and yoga philosophy. Tamsin teaches a relaxing, calm style of yoga inspired by sivananda and yin practices, and your base is a homely forest retreat – the Foundation for Contemplation of Nature’s Himalayan Centre – in the Almora district with a timber-framed studio and organic, vegetarian alcohol-free meals. You get to see the Taj Mahal and Delhi on this trip too.

Align your anatomy, Italy

Set on a private hillside estate near Ponte a Moriano, Reclaim Yourself’s fun-filled healthy week features classes with jivamukti expert Emma Henry and alignment-based vinyasa teacher Adam Husler. Start with a power smoothie and a 2½-hour flow class each day with Adam or Emma, then in the afternoons work with Adam on anatomical alignment, turn up the volume in an advanced class with Emma or take a healthy cooking class with chef Sabar Rahbar. There are trips to nearby Lucca and Florence and vegan feasts under the stars.

BEST FOR SUN

Hatha in Ithaca, Greece

International teachers lead different weeks between May and October at Itha108, a gorgeous island retreat just five minutes from the Ionian sea, where accommodation is split between a Venetian-style house and five Mongolian-style yurts. All levels will enjoy weeks with Laura Gilmore, director of Bristol City Yoga, who teaches two, two-hour long hatha yoga classes a day, the second being a restorative class. Fish is served for those who want it, alongside the veggie meals.

Life of Pi, Costa Brava, Spain

With hammocks and a saltwater swimming pool just a 10-minute stroll from a beach, Pi Blau is an eco villa which enjoys 9-11 hours of sunshine a day during the summer, when Destination Yoga runs retreats here. Twice-daily, one-hour yoga classes are led by visiting experts, including vinyasa flow teacher Joanna Najduch(in June) who is particularly patient with beginners. Between times there’s walking, massages and healthy veggie meals. Guests can detox or enjoy local wine and beer.

Yurts and yin, Turkey

Sunshine is almost guaranteed from May to October in the secluded Huzur Vadisi Yoga Retreat in its mountain valley 10 minutes from the coast. Guests stay in yurts among olive groves, and do two classes a day with a changing roster of expert teachers in a spacious shala. Yin yang teacher Simon Low runs a retreat here each year, while other experts include the Scaravelli-influenced (gentle, gravity-based yoga) duo Tuesday McNeill and Marc Woolford. Between classes, guests can sunbathe, swim, walk, read, go to the beach or take boat trips. Food is mostly veggie, with fish or chicken twice a week. All levels.

Restorative riad, Morocco

Come to riad-style Hotel Tigmi in a laid-back Berber village outside Marrakech for yoga with vibrant Jonelle Lewis in May, whose classes are often set to an urban soundtrack, or for an insightful week with iyengar-trained Jim Tarran and Khadine Morcom in June. Twice-daily, 1½- or two-hour classes are punctuated by swims in the two pools, trips to the souks of Marrakech, a massage or hammam and local walks. Veggie and meat meals, cake and alcohol are all on offer.

Mediterranean meditation, Crete

On a cliff on the island’s southern coast, where the sun shines almost continually from May to October, is Yoga Rocks. Swim, sunbathe or hang out in a hammock between classes and pick a teacher who feels right to you. Reema Datta, from 13-20 May, teaches a gentle style that incorporates yoga philosophy, chanting, meditation and her own music, while Sky Akasha Tobias in September runs a funky, immersive retreat influenced by tai chi and dance. Expect gigantic vegetarian buffets including cakes.

Feel the magic, north Goa, India

India, the spiritual home of yoga, is a great place for escaping the British winter and there’s a multitude of yoga holidays to choose from. Yoga Magic is a bit special, with tented eco-lodges in beautiful gardens. There’s yoga twice a day in a shala made from mud with a palm leaf roof, led by great local teachers drawing on a range of traditions, and incredible organic Indian cuisine. There’s a natural pool and Ayurvedic and homeopathic treatments available too.

BEST HOLISTIC RETREATS

For mums and children, Derbyshire

These new yogic glamping breaks from Pachamama Yoga Retreats give tired mums – Pachamama means mother earth for indigenous Andean people – time to bond with their little ones (of any age) in a Peak District woodland setting. Stay in luxury safari tents and wake up with two hours of vinyasa flow each morning with the honey-voiced Kerry Wilde while your children enjoy forest school. Afternoons are free, then there’s a 90-minute yin yoga session each evening plus meditation, massages, vegan food and an African dance workshop.

Peak peace, Oleiros, Portugal

Restorative retreats at family-run Vale de Moses in the foothills of the Serra de Estrela mountains offer a morning silent meditation walk along rivers and through forest before an invigorating two-hour yoga class suitable for all levels. There’s also therapeutic massage and acupuncture, workshops exploring aspects of yogic life, meditation and wild swimming, while some retreats focus on sleep. The main yoga teacher is owner Barbados-born Vonetta Winter, who teaches dynamic hatha yoga focusing on strength, balance and stability. Meals are vegetarian and Ayurvedic.

Wellbeing in the raw, North Yorkshire

The women-only Healthily Happy Retreat, led by raw food expert Dr Claire Maguire at Split Farthing Hall, the 18th-century countryside base of Raw Horizons, mixes a daily 90-minute class of kundalini yoga with two daily 90-minute sessions covering wellbeing coaching, chakra balancing, aromatherapy and healthy chocolate-making. Guests can soak in the outdoor hot tub, use the far infrared sauna, have a massage or put their feet up in the cosy library. Meals are cleansing and raw, alcohol- and coffee-free, and yoga includes music.

Alpujarras ashram, Spain

At Kaliyoga’s base in the Alpujarras you can pick from a variety of activities to mix with your yoga, including hill walking, raw food cleansing and juice fasting with nutrition lectures, colonic cleanses and guided meditation. Chill by the pool, have a treatment, use the infra-red sauna and take two yoga classes a day. Resident teachers include Lely Aldworth, who teaches dynamic yoga, encouraging guests to experience yoga as a moving meditation. Alcohol-free meals are veggie and vegan.

Fruitful stays, Sri Lanka

At the soulful Sen Wellness Sanctuary, in a nature reserve, there are yoga classes on breathtaking Rekawa beach as the sun rises, followed by breakfast of fruits and a fresh coconut, and ayurvedic treatments or sessions with a resident osteopath before sunset yoga in the shala overlooking mangroves. Excellent acupuncture is available, and meals are veggie with some fish. Yoga teachers in residence in 2017 include kundalini teacher Maren Lander and Pleuni van Hulten, who teaches two Scaravelli-inspired vinyasa flow and yin yoga classes each day, giving a lot of useful hands-on adjustments. All meals are ayurvedic Sri Lankan curries, and you’ll see wild monkeys in the trees.

Healing hotspot, Thailand

At Sanctuary, a jungle and beach retreat on Koh Phangan, guests can indulge in spa treatments, use the steam room, have a healing session at a Tea Temple, take a Pilates class and follow an intense detox programme. Choose a three-, seven- or 10-night yoga retreat with visiting expert teachers, who include Peter Clifford, an Australian yoga master who teaches a flowing classical hatha style. Veggie and seafood meals can be healthy or indulgent, and there are movies under the stars.

Detox and cleanse, Wiltshire

On its retreats at 17th-century Littleton Mill, Jiva Healing cleverly mixes yoga with detoxing and healthy eating a few times a year. Choose the Creative Cooking, Conscious Eating and Yoga retreat for nutrition talks and cookery demos, or the Juice Fasting and Yoga retreat to cleanse with organic juices and coffee enemas. On each retreat, daily hatha yoga classes are taught by Chetana Thornton, whose husband Will plays live relaxing music throughout. There’s also bodywork and vegan meals.