Katie Lara

Correspondent

  • New York City, New York, USA

Katie Lara is a freelance travel journalist and video host based in New York City. In addition to writing with Forbes Travel Guide, her stories and photographs have appeared in U.S. News and World Report, The Huffington Post, Fodor's and Fox News. Keep up with Katie's adventures on her award-winning travel blog Travelingpanties, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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  • On November 5, 2012
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    What's new in Montreal?

    Retaining its beauty for being a historically charming city, Montreal has seen plenty of luxury hotel openings and restaurants that will have your mouth watering upon first glance. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors had the chance to discover what's going on in this unique Canadian city. Here's what's new in Montreal:
     
    Where to Stay
    We finally had a chance to check out The Ritz-Carlton, Montreal, which celebrated its upcoming 100th anniversary with a four-year, $200 million renovation that began in 2008. The hotel reopened its doors this summer with an overhaul designed to integrate the old with the new and bring all the splendor of its past into the modern age. The makeover preserved and restored the building's façade, lobby, Palm Court and Oval Room — all while embodying the Belle Époque period. Historical elements like the front entrance, original crystal chandeliers and marble, as well as a winding staircase, maintain the hotel's heritage, while guest rooms marry the classic luxury of the Ritz with contemporary elegance.
     
    But we couldn't help but revel in the cutting-edge technology in our room. The water closet really makes a splash (we loved the Toto toilet's heated seats and automatic lids). You can even customize your experience via a touchpad on the wall, which adjusts the toilet's cleansing, water temperature and drying options. In addition to these impressive $1,000 toilets, the bathrooms also employ air-purification systems, extra-deep tubs with flat-screen televisions, towel warmers, heated floors and counters, de-fogging mirrors, and of course a rain shower filled with high-end toiletries.
     
    The rest of the room features similar state-of-the-art technology: window shades that adjust with the touch of a button, thermostats that remember your climate preferences and light sensors that know when you enter the room. These amenities are sure to impress the most seasoned travelers — and the most eco-conscious. The renovations emphasized eco-friendly and energy saving measures. You'll love it so much you just might want to move in — and you can. Luxury condos and condo-suites on the property are available for purchase through Sotheby's International Realty. 
     
    Where to Shop
    "La Grande Dame" of Montreal, as The Ritz is affectionately known locally, has impressed socialites and celebrities like Presidents Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush, and the Rolling Stones for nearly a century. The original Hollywood power couple, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor even tied the knot back in 1964 in the Royal Suite. If you can't afford the same lush accommodations (it runs between $7,000 and $10,000 per night), you can still impress your sweetie with some Liz-like baubles at the newly opened Tiffany & Co. located right on The Ritz-Carlton's property. The 2,000-square-foot store is reminiscent of the iconic Fifth Avenue location in New York and is sure to make you feel like a star the moment you arrive. Whether you're in the market for some classic Tiffany silver, some of its new, acclaimed Rubedo metal or even an engagement ring, there is something for every occasion and every budget.  
     
    If you are looking for other high-end shopping, head to Montreal's premier department store, Holt Renfrew. The store is packed with premium brands like Chanel, Hermès, Gucci, and all your other favorite international designers. However, if you are looking to shop like a real Montreal local, visit the Plateau. Shopping and strolling along Saint Denis and Saint Laurent Boulevard will give you an authentic Montreal feel. Be sure to stop at Zone on Saint Denis, which offers unique home goods, but also jewelry, watches, books and bags.
     
    Where to Eat
    Star chef Daniel Boulud recently opened his first venture in Montreal, Maison Boulud. The restaurant serves locally sourced French cuisine from an open-concept kitchen. The menu is creative and adds a modern twist to classic French cuisine. The space is located in The Ritz-Carlton and also blends the hotel's ideals of modernism with a warm and classic feel. Tokyo's inventive design team, Super Potato, mixed its minimalist Asian design concept with classic touches to achieve the perfect trendy hot spot. Boulud actually played a large part in the design as well, adding personal touches like fabric he handpicked for the walls, as well as a "crystal" chandelier composed of wine goblets. A very special part of Maison Boulud that was retained from the original space is the hotel’s famed terrace and pond, complete with baby ducklings.
     
    In a town ripe with foodies, there are so many great restaurants just waiting to delight. What many tourists don't know is that many of Montreal's most well respected restaurants offer late-evening menus (cleverly coined "Dine After Nine") for gourmands looking to indulge their appetites without breaking their bank accounts. This way you can eat at the chicest restaurants for a fraction of the price. We highly recommend Leméac's late night menu. Also, a must for any manly appetite is Au Pied du Cochon, which is famous for its massive plates of charcuterie and its signature duck in a can. 
  • On September 18, 2012
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    What is the best day trip from Chiang Mai?

    Guided day trips that commonly include lunch, visits to a butterfly farm and elephant camp and a ride down the peaceful Ping River on a bamboo raft are popular with travelers based in Chiang Mai who only have a few days to spare in northern Thailand. However, if you have more time to explore this lush part of the country, Forbes Travel Guide’s editors think a visit to the Golden Triangle in Thailand’s Chiang Rai province is the best excursion from Chiang Mai.
     
    The Golden Triangle, where you can straddle the Thailand, Laos and Burma borders at the meeting of the Ruak and Mekong rivers, is only about a 2-3 hour drive from Chiang Mai. Once infamous for its connection to the opium trade, today the Golden Triangle captivates visitors with postcard-perfect scenery and a breathtaking ambience found aboard boat rides along the Mae Khong River. Yes, it’s all gotten to be a bit touristy, but we still think it’s a worthwhile stop on any tour of Thailand.
     
    Be sure to visit the Hall of Opium while you’re there to get a history of the old opium trade and to learn about the plant’s cultivation process, and on your journey to the Golden Triangle consider stopping to soak your feet in the Mae Kajan Hot Springs.