Natalie Wearstler

Correspondent

  • Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Natalie Wearstler is a Forbes Travel Guide correspondent based in Atlanta. She was the managing editor of White Publishing Company, covering lifestyle topics for Jacksonville Magazine and its sister titles. Wearstler also has contributed to GO! The Airtran Magazine and The Florida Times-Union. Her nomadic upbringing in a Navy family instilled a love for travel. She daydreams about seaside destinations like Greece and Italy, but is equally prone to spending an afternoon exploring antique shops in rural small towns or taking in a museum exhibit (and maybe a craft brew or two) in landlocked cities.

  • On July 19, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    How can I get an engraved bottle of Double Cross Vodka?

    The sleek and modern style of Double Cross Vodka bottles already catches the eye, but if you’d like to engrave a bottle with something special — say, a name, message or logo — simply visit DoubleCrossVodka.com. There, you’ll find a page where you can fill in all of the necessary details, including your text (which is limited to 20 characters and two lines) as well as the billing and shipping details. Each bottle costs $39.99, plus tax and shipping, and orders are typically ready to ship within 24-48 hours. Like every part of the renowned label’s distillation process, great care is taken to ensure that your order is accurate. That’s why you’ll receive an email to confirm the message, final cost and payment details before the first engraving mark is made.
  • On July 19, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What makes Double Cross Vodka different from other premium vodkas?

    From the distillation process to the unique, eye-catching packaging, there are many things that make Double Cross Vodka different from other premium vodkas.

    To start, the vodka is created in Stará Ľubovňa, a small, 13th-century town in the Tatra Mountains of Slovakia. Here, the meticulous distillation process begins with estate-grown winter wheat and spring water sourced from 200 feet below the surface. The vodka is then distilled and filtered seven times to produce a vodka that’s clear, crisp and refreshing, with a hint of richness that can be enjoyed neat or with premium mixers in a cocktail.

    Double Cross Vodka isn’t just appealing to the taste buds, though; the details of its packaging are just as intriguing as its flavor. Take, for instance, the rectangular glass bottle, which is made of high-end French crystal. The shape visually stands out in an industry filled with too many cheap and uninteresting vessels. To further enhance the intrigue, each bottle is engraved with the Double Cross logo (a nod to the two crosses borne on the Slovak coat of arms) and an inscription of Slovak poetry. The metal bottle top is sealed off with a detachable metal closure. If you’re willing to pay a bit extra, the metal can even be engraved with a name, logo or message of your choosing. Finally, an individually numbered and labeled tamper seal conjures images of an old-world tax stamp.

    A captivating flavor, encased in an intriguing container — that simply isn’t something you see every day. But when you purchase a bottle of Double Cross Vodka, that’s exactly what you’ll get.
  • On July 18, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Hong Kong?

    ©iStock/oksanaphoto There is plenty of wonderment to be found in Hong Kong — something that you and your kids can appreciate equally. From Ocean Park theme park and Hong Kong Disneyland to Ngong Ping 360 and the Peak Tram, you’ll reach new and thrilling heights together in this Southeast Asia metropolis. 

    1. Opened in 1977, Ocean Park, a giant homegrown theme park, has survived the competition from Hong Kong Disneyland since the latter’s arrival in 2005. Kids will love the park, which features rides that range from thrilling ones like the aptly-named Hair Raiser roller coaster, to gentle kid-friendly options like the Frog Hopper and Clown A Round. Save time to explore the park's many exhibits, including giant pandas An An and Jia Jia, and rare Chinese sturgeons, and don't forget to take advantage of the cable car system that links the Lowland and Headland sections of the park; it's a perfect way to give your legs a rest and enjoy amazing views of the South China Sea.

    2. Hong Kong Disneyland is the famous Asian outpost of the happiest place on earth, and has all the familiar attractions (It’s A Small World, Mad Hatter Tea Cups, Space Mountain), plus a chance to meet Mickey and friends. There are seven "lands" built into this enormous park: Mystic Point, Grizzly Gulch, Toy Story Land, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland and Main Street, U.S.A. Getting to the park is easy, as there is a dedicated MTR line that will take you right to Mickey's front door. 

    3. Ngong Ping 360 knocks your average theme park zip line ride out of the water. The 3.5-mile cable car journey allows you to see Hong Kong International Airport, South China Sea and the Tian Tan Buddha Statue from a whole new vantage point. Both you and your kids will let out plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” as you glide above the rolling grassy slopes of North Lantau Country Park. Most of all, the 25-minute ride provides a positively serene escape from the bustling city.

    4. Hop aboard the Victorian-era Peak Tram for the scenic ride to the top of Victoria Peak. One of Hong Kong’s main tourist attractions, Peak Tram inspires long lines daily. The tram starts on Garden Road and climbs ore than 1,200 feet to the Peak. In some parts, it’s so steep, you’ll feel yourself tipped back almost flat on your back. Tip: The best views are on the right-hand side near the front.

    5. Line up on the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui with the many locals who come to watch A Symphony of Lights. This 15-minute long light and music show, which begins each night at 8 p.m., is a free spectacle that is fun for the whole family. After the show, explore the famous Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong's version of the famous Walk of Fame in Hollywood. 
  • On July 17, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What is Hong Kong’s restaurant scene like?

    ©iStock/mhchungmhchung Rightly known internationally as a destination that wants for nothing in the dining stakes, Hong Kong brims with thousands of great restaurants — which makes choosing one in which to dine a difficult task. Cantonese restaurants are prolific, ranging from small brightly lit cafés and noodle shops to opulent hotel dining rooms. Regional Chinese food (think spicy Szechuan) is also well represented, as is Southeast and South Asian food. You’ll find plenty of authentic dishes at the scores of tasty Thai, Indonesian and Indian restaurants that pepper the city.

    In the past decade, more and more Western restaurants have spring up outside the confines of hotels. The Soho district in Central is where you’ll find the highest density of ever-changing upscale restaurants, from steakhouses to Italian trattorias offering the biggest new trend of fusion tapas plates. Hotels in the Central area offer some of the finest Western fare in town. Celebrity chef-led kitchens have also made their way to Hong Kong; today, well-heeled Hong Kongers make reservations at the eponymous outposts of world-famous chefs, such as L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Spoon by Alain Ducasse, which is located inside the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star InterContinental Hong Kong hotel.

    Shopping malls usually harbor a wide spectrum of restaurants, from reasonably priced food courts to mid-range and fine-dining eateries. As with the rest of Asia, the coffee culture has boomed in Hong Kong, and these days finding a decent café, sandwich or pastry is easy. You’ll see Starbucks everywhere you go (as well as Pacific Coffee Company, a much more local chain that has locations throughout Hong Kong, China, Sinagpore, Macau and Malaysia), in addition to plenty of local, independent cafés. Although the traditional street-food stalls are disappearing for government policy reasons, you’ll have more than enough options to get a taste of Hong Kong’s homegrown culinary scene.
  • On July 16, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the five best food experiences in Hong Kong?

    Leave the jacket and tie at home, and take to the city’s neighborhoods for Hong Kong’s best food experiences. At these restaurants, ambience complements delicious, authentic food made from the freshest ingredients. Here are a five places to get a local's taste of Hong Kong:

    1. At Yung Kee restaurant in Central, diners jam into the noisy space to dig into traditional Chinese cuisine. This busy dining room may not be the best place for a romantic evening out, but the roast goose is considered by many to be the best in the city. Cantonese specialities like braised supreme bird’s nest and sautéed frog legs with bamboo shots will give you a taste of authentic Hong Kong cuisine.

    2. The most popular place for dim sum for tourists and locals alike is Central City Hall Maxim's Palace — perhaps because Maxim’s is one of the few restaurants in Hong Kong to still use a trolley to carry steamed baskets of pork buns and dumplings to each table. Sample classic dishes such as steamed chicken and mushroom buns while sipping chrysanthemum tea, then finish a meal with a traditional moon cake.

    3. You can't leave Hong Kong without trying a plate of fresh seafood, and local residents know that one of the best places to find flavorful crab, prawns and fish is Lamma Island. The small fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan is where most visitors go, and for good reason; once you step off the ferry (you'll have to board at Central Pier 4 for the 30-40 minute journey), the first thing you'll notice is a row of seafood restaurants. Most of the dining options on this strip of the island allow guests to choose their own dinner from a tank of the day's fresh catch. Take your pick, have a seat at an outdoor table and order a round of Tsingtao for the table — you're about to dine on some of the finest fresh seafood in all of Southeast Asia.

    4. Under Bridge Spicy Crab serves one of the most famous crab dishes around. In Hong Kong’s early days, the restaurant’s neighborhood of Causeway Bay was where diners came for fresh seafood caught in the harbor and cooked to order the same day. The traditional dish of typhoon shelter crab (made with crab meat, garlic, scallion, red chili and black beans) originated in this area, and today, it's made to perfection at this curiously named local joint.

    5. Tsui Wah Cha Chaan Teng is a great place for everyday dining. In fact, “Cha Chaan Teng” means local diner in Cantonese. The first Tsui Wah opened in San Po Kong, and today, you can find the popular chain in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Macau and Wuhan. Still, the first location is a bit of a legend, so make a trip to enjoy an inexspensive lunch of fish balls and sliced fish cakes with rice noodles in fish soup noodles and a sweet cup of milk tea.
  • On July 15, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    Which five Hong Kong restaurants are best for brunch?

    ©FourSeasonsHongKong When Americans think of brunch, they usually envision hearty egg dishes and towering stacks of pancackes. But in Hong Kong, the brunch menu is devoted to dim sum (which translates to “heart’s delight”), or steamed or fried dumplings filled with vegetables, chopped seasoned meat, seafood and just about any combination of ingredients that will fill the tiny pouches. Families of several generations gather on weekends to dine on dim sum and sip hot tea, filling up on many kinds of dumplings usually selected from steaming carts presented tableside. Here are five of the best restaurants to experience Hong Kong’s version of brunch:

    1. Harbourside Grill at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Intercontinental Hong Kong hotel has all you’d want in a brunch buffet: An amazing view with very tall ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows, good service and excellent quality western and Chinese brunch cuisine. Their displays are elaborate to say the least, with both western and Asian dishes, a roast carving station and homemade desserts (ask your server about the cake of the day).

    2. For more upscale (but no less delicious) dim sum, book a table at Lung King Heen inside the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong. Executive Chef Chan Yan Tak is considered a master of contemporary Cantonese cuisine, and the restaurant's weekend dim sum lunch (offered on Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., and on Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is a perfect opportunity to experience the talented chef's craftsmanship. Start off your day with dishes like steamed lobster and scallop dumpling, baked whole abalone puff with diced chicken, steamed Shanghainese pork dumplings with crab meat or crispy tofu rolls with shrimp and enoki mushrooms.

    3. Refined Cantonese specialties and a handful of regional Chinese favorites are expertly executed at Summer Palace at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Island Shangri-La hotel. Famous for its dim sum lunches, Summer Palace also features signature plates that include sliced barbecued suckling pig, hot and sour seafood soup and braised sea cucumber with garden greens in shrimp roe sauce. The dining room is open to midday diners from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday (throughout the week, lunch is served during the same hours as Saturday). The afternoon tea menu feature a wide selection of authentic Chinese teas, which your server will suggest according to your current state of health and even your mood.

    4. The Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne brunch at The Peninsula Hong Kong, a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel, is almost too good to be true. The lavish affair is held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the hotel's iconic Lobby each Saturday and Sunday. While guests enjoy brunch classics like eggs Benedict or waffles, the sounds of live music fill the air (courtesy of The Lobby Band) and Champagne glasses stay filled with as much bubbly as you'd like.

    5. At Grissini in the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Grand Hyatt Hong Kong hotel, you’ll feel as though you were transported to a fine dining room in Tuscany when you see the rustic décor, authentic Italian menu and the length of the wine list — it boasts more than 1,000 bottles. Floor-to-ceiling windows give diners a stunning view of Victoria Harbor to enjoy along with their meal. It’s the perfect backdrop for an Italian-style brunch in Hong Kong, with brunch service starting on Sunday afternoons at 12 p.m. and ending at 2:30 p.m. If the live pasta cooking station or the tantalizing antipasta and salad spreads don't whet your appetite, the homemade gelato, tiramisu and panna cotta will.



  • On July 15, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    Which five Hong Kong restaurants are best for brunch?

    ©FourSeasonsHongKong When Americans think of brunch, they usually envision hearty egg dishes and towering stacks of pancackes. But in Hong Kong, the brunch menu is devoted to dim sum (which translates to “heart’s delight”), or steamed or fried dumplings filled with vegetables, chopped seasoned meat, seafood and just about any combination of ingredients that will fill the tiny pouches. Families of several generations gather on weekends to dine on dim sum and sip hot tea, filling up on many kinds of dumplings usually selected from steaming carts presented tableside. Here are five of the best restaurants to experience Hong Kong’s version of brunch:

    1. Harbourside Grill at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Intercontinental Hong Kong hotel has all you’d want in a brunch buffet: An amazing view with very tall ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows, good service and excellent quality western and Chinese brunch cuisine. Their displays are elaborate to say the least, with both western and Asian dishes, a roast carving station and homemade desserts (ask your server about the cake of the day).

    2. For more upscale (but no less delicious) dim sum, book a table at Lung King Heen inside the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong. Executive Chef Chan Yan Tak is considered a master of contemporary Cantonese cuisine, and the restaurant's weekend dim sum lunch (offered on Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., and on Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is a perfect opportunity to experience the talented chef's craftsmanship. Start off your day with dishes like steamed lobster and scallop dumpling, baked whole abalone puff with diced chicken, steamed Shanghainese pork dumplings with crab meat or crispy tofu rolls with shrimp and enoki mushrooms.

    3. Refined Cantonese specialties and a handful of regional Chinese favorites are expertly executed at Summer Palace at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Island Shangri-La hotel. Famous for its dim sum lunches, Summer Palace also features signature plates that include sliced barbecued suckling pig, hot and sour seafood soup and braised sea cucumber with garden greens in shrimp roe sauce. The dining room is open to midday diners from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday (throughout the week, lunch is served during the same hours as Saturday). The afternoon tea menu feature a wide selection of authentic Chinese teas, which your server will suggest according to your current state of health and even your mood.

    4. The Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne brunch at The Peninsula Hong Kong, a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel, is almost too good to be true. The lavish affair is held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the hotel's iconic Lobby each Saturday and Sunday. While guests enjoy brunch classics like eggs Benedict or waffles, the sounds of live music fill the air (courtesy of The Lobby Band) and Champagne glasses stay filled with as much bubbly as you'd like.

    5. At Grissini in the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Grand Hyatt Hong Kong hotel, you’ll feel as though you were transported to a fine dining room in Tuscany when you see the rustic décor, authentic Italian menu and the length of the wine list — it boasts more than 1,000 bottles. Floor-to-ceiling windows give diners a stunning view of Victoria Harbor to enjoy along with their meal. It’s the perfect backdrop for an Italian-style brunch in Hong Kong, with brunch service starting on Sunday afternoons at 12 p.m. and ending at 2:30 p.m. If the live pasta cooking station or the tantalizing antipasta and salad spreads don't whet your appetite, the homemade gelato, tiramisu and panna cotta will.



  • On July 9, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the five best kid-friendly restaurants in Hong Kong?

    Because Hong Kong is such a cosmopolitan city, its restaurants tend to focus more on fine dining than family fare. To find a dining room with booster seats or kids menus, you might need to stick with tried-and-true Western brands. Consider saving Hong Kong’s traditional dim sum for an adults-only outing, and take your kids instead to one of Hong Kong’s many American-style restaurants for comfort food served in a kid-friendly environment. Here are a few of the best:

    1. Though it’s known as a crowded tourist trap on weekends, Café Deco Bar & Grill on The Peak has been one of Hong Kong’s landmark restaurants since opening in 1994 — and it caters to kids, too. You can find everything from sushi and Indian tandoori specialties to homemade pizzas and salads on the menu at this spacious and ornate family style eatery. The restaurant even has an Italian Bar that serves coffee and homemade cakes. For an uninterrupted meal, you can drop your children off in a designated kids' corner where they can play with other children (under supervision, of couse).

    2. Chow down on some ribs and American steaks at Dan Ryan’s, a Chicago-style restaurant where group dining is encouraged. The fact that this restaurant is completely westernized is a point of pride for the owners, as their goal is to serve authentic American food that you’d find in any restaurant back in the states. Based on that alone, your kids will love it — and if they don't immediately find something to enjoy on the kids' menu (which is filled with classics like grilled cheese, mini burgers and hot dogs), the blueberry pie or American brownie on the dessert list will probably be enough to bribe them into behaving through the meal. Dan Ryan’s salads, sandwiches and burgers will be a nice break from traditional noodles found in many of Hong Kong's typical lunch and dinner joints. You'll find Dan Ryan's at Pacific Place in Admiralty and at Festival Walk in Kowloon Tong.

    3. The expats who live in the area come to The Boathouse in Stanley, a charming fishing village on the southwestern coast of Hong Kong Island, for the beach-casual atmosphere and upscale Italian food. The restaurant is located in a quaint Victorian-style building overlooking Stanley Bay. Inside, the décor is clean and nautical-themed — something the whole family can appreciate. The food, however, is anything but simple. Dishes like porcini mushroom risotto and smoked eggplant or braised veal ravioli, paired with a beautiful view from the balcony, make this restaurant a memorable dining experience.

    4. Families with adventurous eaters should make their way to Café Too at the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Island Shangri-La. The buffet at this casual restaurant delivers just about every kind of cuisine in the world, from dim sum to crepes and Italian antipasto. Kids will love the incredible array of desserts (after they’ve tried some fresh fruit, Hainanese rice or steamed vegetables, that is).

    5. For breakfast favorites 24 hours a day and a kid-friendly menu with standards such as grilled cheese or PB&J (peanut butter and jelly) sandwiches, try The Flying Pan in Central or Wan Chai. The casual atmosphere and vast menu of familiar egg dishes make this traditional diner a hit with families.
  • On July 8, 2013
  • On July 8, 2013
  • On July 8, 2013
  • On July 8, 2013
  • On July 8, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What is the best way to see Hong Kong in two days?

    ©iStock/winhorse A weekend’s worth of time will give you the opportunity to explore much of Hong Kong Island and its many attractions. On day one, start your day with a visit to Statue Square in Hong Kong's Central neighborhood. There, you'll find four of the most important buildings in the city: HSBC building, the Legislative Council building, City Hall and the Bank of China Tower. Grab your camera and ascend the elevator to the 43rd floor of the Bank of China Tower — you'll want to take a few pictures of the cityscape laid out before the observation deck. Once you've had your fill of skyscrapers, walk over to the Central Ferry Pier and catch a boat to either Lamma Island or Cheung Chai Island, two of the most popular outlying islands that surround Hong Kong. Enjoy a fresh seafood lunch, and spend a few hours exploring the villages and beaches that dot both islands. Don't let time get away from you, though — you won't want to miss the last ferry back to Central! Once you're back on the Central Ferry Pier, head back to one of the city's Forbes Travel Guide star-rated hotels to freshen up before heading out to Lan Kwai Fong and Soho for dinner, drinks and dancing.

    On day two, rise and shine with a tea and pastry from a nearby bakery and plan your voyage to Stanley for a memorable day of DIY sight-seeing. There is no MTR (light rail) terminal in Stanley, so ask the concierge at your hotel about the best way to get to the area — you may be advised to take the MTR to Chai Wan and then board a mini bus, or you may have better luck taking a bus the entire way. Regardless of how you arrive, spend the morning out and about in Stanley Market as you hunt for souvenirs and bargains. Remember, the rule of haggling is to offer half of the posted price, and stay confident — most vendors will eventually meet you at your price, though you may have to actually walk away first. After you've crossed all the sourvenirs off your list, indulge in a hot lunch along the waterfront at one of Stanley's many restaurants.

    Ready for more shopping? Take the MTR to the Jordan stop in Kowloon to wile away a few hours at the Yue Hwa Emporium for silks, cheongsams and souvenirs. After that, make your way to Mong Kok for the Ladies’ Market and Bird Market. If you still have the energy that evening, go to the Temple Street Night Market. However, if you'd prefer to sit back and relax your tired feet, consider ending your two-day tour of Hong Kong with one of the city's most iconic dining experiences: Dinner on one of the floating restaurants in Aberdeen Harbor, Jumbo or Tai Pak.
  • On July 3, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What is the best way to see Hong Kong in one day?

    ©iStock/itpow A one-day sightseeing tour of Hong Kong can deliver a good flavor of this bustling metropolis.

    Begin with a morning tram ride up to Victoria Peak, where on a clear day you can see Hong Kong and Kowloon stretching for miles before you. Take a picture with that sweeping scene behind you; it's a requisite tourist activity, but you'll be glad to have that photos when your vacation has ended.

    Head back down to Central and get ready to shop Hollywood Road and Soho as soon as stores open at 11 a.m. Mosey around the Mid-Levels Escalator, the largest covered outdoor escalator system in the world. You'll quickly realize that this unique transportation system is actually comprised of several short escalators, leaving you with plenty of opportunities to step off and explore a trendy boutique or hip bistro.

    Once you've had your fill of Soho, take the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbor to Tsim Sha Tsui, just in time for high tea at The Peninsula Hong Kong, a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel. Tea is served from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. — if you're hoping to get in and out in a hurry, plan to arrive early as reservations are not accepted. Of course, there's nothing wrong with taking your time for this beloved Hong Kong tradition.

    After tea, while away the time with a reflexology session at one of the many parlors on Nathan Road or book a soothing massage at one of the best spas in Hong Kong. Regardless of where you choose to relax, make sure you're back on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront promenade at 8 p.m. for the world-famous Symphony of Lights, a dazzling display that has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the "Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show" in the world.

    Wrap up the day with dinner at one of Hong Kong's finest restaurants before heading back to your hotel for a well-deserved night of peaceful slumber after your whirlwind day.