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St. Lucia Spotlight

Unlike more developed Caribbean islands, such as Aruba and the Bahamas, the sparsely populated island-nation of Saint Lucia still maintains a sense of unspoiled, exotic beauty. Its landscapes of pristine beaches and mountainous terrain are among the most stunning you’ll find anywhere in the Caribbean (and that’s especially true at Jade Mountain, an uber-luxe getaway popular among celebrities).

Though it doesn’t offer much in the way of dining, shopping or nightlife for its tourists — apart from the few jazzy rum punch joints hugging its cruise ship ports — St. Lucia has seen an increase in restaurants and shops as more and more visitors arrive, which is a blessing and a curse. Nonetheless, the island has a decidedly tranquil vibe for a beautiful, calm vacation. A romantic boutique located on a historic cocoa plantation, Fond Doux offers a solid value, as does the family-friendly Windjammer Landing, with numerous pools and water sports.

- Oyster.com Staff

Barbie's Dreamhouse

Whether you are a Barbie girl who wants to live in a Barbie world or you’re about to embark on your first solo trip, there’s something that will pique your interest in our weekly travel news roundup.

Visitors to the life-size “Barbie Dreamhouse” in Berlin can try on Barbie’s clothes in her walk-in closet and bake virtual cupcakes in her kitchen. The “Dreamhouse” will move on to other European cities later this year according to ITV News.

Gadling has a map of “Forbidden America,” incase you were wondering which areas were no-go zones for Soviet tourists in the 1950s.

Are you a travel snob? Read Lonely Planet’s “In defense of the ‘tourist trail’” and find out. How could you not see the pyramids while in Cairo or the Taj Mahal in Agra, right?

Seeing the world on your own leaves less room for error, so the Solo Traveler has compiled 7 mistakes to avoid (from the obvious to the insightful).

Plus, Go BIG or Go Home reveals the World’s largest ropes course at sea on the Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship.

Want even more travel highlights from this week? Check out our This Week in Photos slideshow!

Because of its status as the seat of the government, DC boasts more landmarks than any city in the country (save New York). Most of them sit along the 2-mile-long rectangle known as the National Mall, bookended by the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol building. The monuments and memorials, named for America’s greatest heroes (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln) and some of its bloodiest wars (WWII, Korea, Vietnam), are most tourists’ starting points. Also high up on the list: the incomparable Smithsonian museums. Nowhere else in the country can you visit so many world-class institutions without dropping a dime.

It’s also worth spending some time outside the Mall. Georgetown is a pretty spot for a stroll, and visitors also enjoy a walk along the Potomac River. Both the luxury brands Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton have hotels in Georgetown. The Four Seasons is within walking distance of great shopping, and the hotel’s spa is enormous (and beautiful). The Ritz, located in an historic industrial building, is a lovely boutique option with elegant, spacious rooms. Visitors looking for a more budget-conscious option (that still has nice rooms and solid amenities) may consider Hotel Madera in Dupont Circle.

- Oyster.com Staff

Paris

Paris is the “city of light,” the most romantic city in the world, the art and fashion capital of the world — no wonder it is also the most visited city in the world. As France’s capital, Paris boasts a plethora of museums, monuments, and astounding examples of architecture, ranging from the iconic Eiffel Tower, built in 1889, to the Gothic-style Notre Dame Cathedral, dating back to the Middle Ages. Visitors often stroll along the Seine to take in the many sites, or walk down the Champs-Elysees, lined by high-end shops and crowned by the Arc de Triomphe. The city is very walkable and tourists are never at a want for things to do.

Each of Paris’s 20 arrondissements offers a range of hotels to choose from — from the tres-chic hotel to the quaint B&B. Generally speaking, the Right Bank is home to classically elegant hotels, whereas the Left Bank has artsy-er, more bohemian options that fit the area’s vibe. Hotel Apostrophe Rive Gauche, for example, is home to 16 rooms that feature distinct themes — like the “Musique” room, which has a hand-painted musical mural on the wall. It’s not a place for conformists — even the exterior is painted in a tree design, making it stand out among its more traditional neighbors. The Standard Design Hotel, on the Right Bank, is a solid upper-middle-range hotel that is a top value pick. This boutique property features creative, black and white decor in the common lounges, cozy breakfast room and bedrooms. The most iconic Parisian hotel, however, is likely the Plaza Athenee, which features gorgeous upscale rooms and views of the Eiffel Tower.

- Oyster.com Staff

Grab the girls and hit the road for a spring getaway. Get inspired with our fun picks for trips that include all your favorite things: music, nature, yoga, sunshine, culture, wine … and of course, your best buds.

1.  Groove at a music festival.

Missed Coachella? Don’t worry; the music festival season is just getting started. From Jazz Fest in New Orleans to the Sasquatch Festival in Washington State, there’s a music fest this spring for every kind of music lover.

2.  Savor spring outdoors. 

Are you and your BFFs in desperate need of a little outdoor adventure … or at least craving more than a glimpse of nature outside your office window? Get the endorphins flowing by hiking at a national park or trying stand up paddle boarding by the beach.   

3.  Go “om” with your BFFs.

Need a recharge? Down dog by day and dance under the stars at night at Wanderlust:  a music-meets-yoga-meets-outdoors festival. Or check out Jennifer Aniston’s yoga teacher’s best places to go “om” for more yoga getaways.

4.  Soak up some Vitamin D. 

Escape to sunny Florida for a girls-only weekend. We’ve found some sun-soaked spots perfect for a carefree weekend in Palm Beach (and not the ones your grandma would recommend, either). And for an unabashedly beachy moment before summer gets here, enjoy an umbrella-topped cocktail at one of South Florida’s best beach bars.

5.  Channel your inner Southern belle.

Soak up the lowcountry (and low-stress) culture of Charleston, a city that’s on everyone’s radar this spring. Stroll through garden plantations sipping on a sweet tea cocktail, dish over shrimp and grits or add a little Southern style to your wardrobe with the offbeat shopping on King Street.

6.  Sip and swirl with the girls.

What better way to bond with your best buds than on a wine tour weekend? Sip and swirl your way through Napa Valley and Sonoma or check out a wine festival. And don’t want to hear any whining about being a DD? Hop aboard the Napa Valley wine train and all the girls can have a glass.

Check out more ideas for Girl Getaways.

This week in our travel blog round-up, find out how your favorite novels and legends are becoming reality.

Could the fabled sword in the stone of the days of King Arthur actually exist?  Once thought of as just a folk tale, the sword in the stone in Italy’s Montesiepi Chapel dates back to 1100 AD, meaning the legend  could have originated in Italy — not England.  Check out Excalibur in Tuscany, and decide for yourself whether the relic is authentic or just a myth.

In honor of the highly anticipated Great Gatsby film, fans can experience the roaring 20s with a stay at a Gatsby-themed hotel suite. Channel your inner Daisy or Jay, and book a room at one of these hotels.

With rooftop pools, stunning views and unique decors, new hotels seem to be getting more innovative and luxurious every year — check out Conde Nast Traveler’s list of the world’s best new hotels for 2013.

There are 58 US national parks in total, but which ones are the best? Check out Fodor’s selection of the must-see parks to visit this year.

What even more travel highlights from this week? Then visit our This Week in Photos slideshow!

San Antonio

Without a doubt, San Antonio is best known for The Alamo — the site where numerous Texans gave their lives during the Texas War of Independence. The city capitalizes on The Alamo’s popularity and offers numerous tours of the mission, as well as tours of other 18th-century missions in the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.

San Antonio is a cultural city as well. La Villita, the oldest neighborhood in San Antonio, boasts an old-fashioned market, complete with wool blankets and turquoise and silver jewelry. During the spring and summer, festivals are held almost every week and flamenco dancers often perform. To escape the oppressive summer heat, the young and hip cool down with maragaritas on River Walk, a winding street lined with restaurants and bars. The city has plenty for kids as well, with numerous amusement parks, bike paths, parks and gardens, and a zoo.

The downtown area is a popular place to stay, as it is close to the River Walk as well as numerous other attractions and businesses. The Mokara is undoubtedly the most luxurious option; swanky amenities include a beautiful rooftop pool, a premium spa and fine dining. The nearby Hyatt Regency, with a large pool with poolside dining, and spacious rooms with iPod docks, flat-screen TVs and “pack and play” sets upon request, is a family-friendly hotel. Budget-conscious travelers may consider the Four Points in the downtown area.

- Oyster.com

Before you jet off on your Spring Fling, you’ll need to book a sexy hotel. We’ve got you covered, whether you’re planning to spend most of your trip at the spa, the bar … or in bed.

Sexy Hotels

1. Slip under the crisp, white sheets of your 4-poster bed at Jamaica’s Round Hill Hotel, where the rooms were designed by Ralph Lauren. Like what you see? This is just one of the many Sexy Hotel Beds we’ve come across.

 

2. Cozy up with a good read at New York’s book-themed Library Hotel, one of America’s Most Romantic Hotels.

 

3. Looking for a great hotel for a one-night stand? Your in-room private “love tub” at the Dominican Republic’s Tortuga Bay Hotel will put you in the right mood.

 

4. The spa at the LA’s Terranea Resort is a whopping 50,000 square feet and has 25 treatment rooms as well as its own pool and outdoor hot tubs, making it one of Oyster.com’s picks for the Sexiest Hotel Spas.

 

5. The 1970s-inspired lounge at the Dream in South Beach, Miami, is complete with a rooftop infinity pool and sexy seating arrangements, making it one of our picks for the Sexiest Hotel Bars.

 

6. The Ventana Inn and Spa in Big Sur, CA, makes our list of hotels with the Hottest Amenities. Take advantage of their free yoga classes, discovery walks and afternoon wine and cheese. Plus, one of their pools is clothing optional. Now that’s sexy!

From the world’s most eco-friendly resorts to finding the best seat on a flight, here are our favorite tips from travel bloggers this week.

In honor of Earth Day, why not save the world through travel? Or at least lessen your carbon footprint by relaxing at one of these eco-friendly resorts.

From a Spanish town painted blue to promote the Smurfs movie to a South African town filled with an array of colors to celebrate the end of apartheid, brighten your day with the world’s most colorful cities.

Want to take a year off to see the world, but too afraid of the consequences? Lonely Planet Blog debunks myths that surround taking a break to travel, encouraging readers to take the leap.

Getting stuck in the middle seat on a long flight can be the worst — but that doesn’t have to happen again!  Check out Travel and Leisure’s tips for how to get a good airplane seat.

Don’t forget to check out This Week in Photos for even more timely travel inspiration!

Though many visitors flock to Sydney during the winter (to enjoy the Australian city’s summer), spring is a great time to head Down Under, as autumn kicks off Sydney’s cultural season. And the cultural scene in Sydney should not be overlooked. One of the city’s most recognizable landmarks is the Sydney Opera House House, and both the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Gallery of New South Wales feature impressive collections. The Koala Park and Taronga Zoo are also popular among tourists, where they can spot kangaroos, wallabies, and koalas. And of course, Sydney has over 60 beaches, and the weather is still warm enough in early autumn for a dip in the water, and at the very least, a stroll along the sand.

For culture buffs, the Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour overlooks the water, and is less than a 10-minute walk from the Opera House. The nearby Sir Stamford is another upscale option, but as a boutique hotel, it has a more intimate vibe. Perks include beautiful common spaces, filled with fireplaces, chandeliers, and antiques, spacious rooms, and an upscale restaurant and tea service. Budget-conscious travelers may consider Hotel Altamont in Darlinhurst. With a pretty rooftop garden, a location within walking distance of numerous attractions, and freebies such as breakfast and Wi-Fi, it offers a solid value.

- Oyster.com Staff

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