It’s Christmas time but the snow has been replaced by sand, the evergreens by palm trees, and the warm air reminds you that you are far from home. A weekend in the sun is just what you need to wrap up another busy year.
A glass of champagne is placed in your hand as you enter the hotel. “The sun is starting to set, you won’t want to miss it” The charming front desk clerk states. “Don’t worry about your bags, we will take care of them. Raya, our lobby bar is the best place to watch!” The floor to ceiling windows provide an excellent view of the ocean. There is a warm orange and yellow glow as the sun drops below the horizon and the stars begin to appear in the night sky.
It’s been a long travel day so a relaxing evening at the hotel is a great way to unwind. It’s December but dinner is outside on the terrace at 180BLU. The breeze off the water is warm but you wrap a summer scarf around your shoulders as you glance off over the railing to the beach 150 feet below. There are people gathered around a fire and a faint sound of a guitar and singing. A glance at the menu reveals a selection of small plates ranging from Brazilian Cheese Rolls to Ahi Tuna Ceviche. A light Chardonnay from Sonoma to complete the meal and then it is off to bed for a good night sleep.
The morning light reveals the perfect spot to spend your day. You grab your book and AirPods ,throwing them in your yellow beach bag, and head down the steep path to Salt Creek Beach.
A royal blue chair is placed in the sand for you. There are surfers waiting on the perfect wave, kids building sandcastles, and people walking along the waters edge soaking up the sun. You have found paradise .
I have learned a lot of things in 2020. I have learned that security does not come from money. My identity does not come from a job. How important it is to to spend time with people you love. A Zoom gathering cannot replace the warm embrace from a dear friend. And how blessed I am to have the love of my children, family, and friends.
My hope for you is that you have found some good in 2020. That the forced pause in our world has brought you some peace and joy with rekindled love and friendships.
Let’s continue to dream of traveling to far off places and exotic destinations. I would love to hear about some of your plans so we can dream together. Please share your comments.
The restaurant is the recipient of 3 Michelin Stars, a James Beard Lifetime AchievementAward and ranked by Le Liste, a French based food guide as #6 in the world. The inn has a 5 Star rating from Forbes Travel guide and a 5 Diamond rating from AAA, You won’t find it in Europe or New York as it is tucked away in a little town located at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Shenandoah National Park. A treasure for travelers and foodies alike. Can you guess what destination this is ? Before I tell you , let me share a little bit about the humble beginnings of this little gem.
A former garage converted into a catering business opened as a restaurant in 1978. The Chef had no formal training but with a $5000 investment they were able to convert the small catering business to a 30 seat restaurant in Washington, VA. Within a few months, after rave reviews, it was considered the best restaurant in a 150 mile radius of Washington D.C.
In 1984, the first guest room opened and in 1987 the 23 room inn became part of the Relais & Chateaux luxury hotel chain. I have only known about it for a few months but I have been dreaming about it ever since. Let’s pretend we are headed there this weekend.
When we arrive at the Inn at Little Washington , we are greeted with a specialty cocktail. The lovely front desk agent informs us of the events of weekend including afternoon tea. Our reservations for dinner have been confirmed for 7pm on Saturday night. “The Chef is delighted that you will be joining us”
We open the doors to our beautiful room, the Julia Child suite. The suite designed with beautiful French blues and yellows by London set designer Joyce Conwy is enchanting. Every detail of the room is designed to invoke the elegance of a room you would find in a French Chateau.
Early Saturday morning ,we head to Sperryville, just a short drive from the Inn. The day will be filled with antiquing and shopping. The first stop, Before & After Coffee, for a croissant and latte. A walk around town takes us to Cooper Fox Antiques. A delightful store with the most unique items. I am certain that I would a set of French blue dessert plates that I would have to have. Several hours and stores later we pop into the Sperryville Corner store for a snack, not wanting to ruin our appetite for tonight’s special dinner.
The moment has finally arrived. We are shown to our table in a quaint corner of the room. The Wine Director brings over the extensive wine menu- they have over 2400 wines from all over the world. After a brief discussion, he recommends a Segla Margaux Bordeaux from Chateau Rauzan. The main menu is then presented to us. Our eyes widen as we hear the details of each course, this will be a meal to remember. The hours pass as we are presented with culinary works of art. The dessert does not disappoint as it is a chocolate lover’s delight. The evening has exceeded our expectations. We will be talking about this for years!
I hope that someday you will make this dream a reality. Thank you to my dear friend Ashley for letting me know that such a place exists.
Imagine sitting at a very long table that seats about 200. You are surrounded by sky scrapers, tractors, fields of fresh vegetables as well old warehouses. The familiar sounds from a bustling city in the background yet you are on a farm. It is a hot summer evening in Chicago and there is excitement in the air. People are mingling and searching for their perfect spot at the table. We hear the tap on a microphone and the clink of a wine glass. The moment we have been waiting for is about start…..
Jim Denevan, CEO and Founder of Outstanding in the Field (OITF) begins with the story of City Farm. The Resource Center in Chicago buys vacant land in urban areas and converts them into working farms. They work with the local community to create organic farms, who in turn sell the produce to local restaurants. A large portion of the profits go back into the community to support food banks and pantries. The meal tonight has been prepared by local favorites , Abe Conlon and Adrienne Lo of Fat Rice, Fat Rice Bakery, and The Ladies Room (craft cocktails) in Chicago. This will be their sixth consecutive year with OITF and City Farm.
There is a toast, “To good friends, good health, and great food.” The first of multiple courses is brought out. Each dish comes with a story; how is was made; the care and precision that went into; what feeling or emotion the Chef is trying to draw out of you. Its every foodie’s dream. Each course is paired with the perfect wine adding to the casual but elegant feel of the night. Conversations drift from work, to dream vacations,and then on to art and music.
The sun is starting to set behind the towering buildings and the air has cooled. The volume of the event rises as the drinks are poured. A table of 200 seems intimate as laughter reigns out from end to end. Does this night have to end? After the hugs and the promises to keep in touch are through, we head out to the sidewalks of Chicago in search of our next experience.
♪ ♪ “He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below. He saw everything as far as you can see…….But the Colorado Rocky Mountain high. I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky.The shadows from the starlight is softer than a lullaby… Rocky Mountain High, Colorado. Rocky Mountain High, Colorado. ♪ ♪
I remember my first drive through the Rocky mountains listening to John Denver sing about what it feels like to be so high in the sky and surrounded with such great beauty. I remember feeling as if I could touch the sun as I traveled west from Boulder along 1-70. Great memories from that trip! Let’s hop in the car and take a drive – I have John Denver on my playlist so let’s go!
The foothills prepare us for the great journey ahead. The deep red rocks and rolling hills appear as if we are in a painting. A tumble weed rolls past , horses run along the fences of a ranch as birds soar high above us. The road curves in and around, up and down as we climb higher in to the mountain range, each mile revealing a new snow covered peak or green valley . Notice the sign as we pass through the Eisenhower tunnel, marking the crossover of the Continental Divide. You glance out the driver’s side window of my Jeep, at the Colorado river flowing below. “Has the flow of the river changed? Is it now flowing west to east?” We are not sure but decide to pretend that it is. Little towns pop up along the route, resembling something out of an old western. One of those towns, Frisco, sitting at an elevation of 9000ft, peaks our interest so we decide to stop.
Frisco, Colorado, a picturesque town set in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. Where the Main street is a mile long and hosts over 30 restaurants and shops. All that are dwarfed by the backdrop of endless blue skies and mountain tops. We stop for lunch at the Butterhorn Bakery & Café to enjoy something off their “all day breakfast” menu. After a short stack of buttermilk pancakes, we wander down Main, stopping in at Next Page Books & Nosh to grab the latest release from our favorite authors. We continue on to see what else is in store for us. There is a troubadour on the corner, singing a Dave Matthew song. The aroma of steak waffles out of one of the bistros. The stores have racks on the sidewalks, enticing us to stop in. We indulge and move on. There are families with strollers and dogs out enjoying the sunny day . We have found a bit of paradise nestled into the mountains. We pause to take in the view of the mountain peak that towers over the town. Do the people of Frisco every get tired of this view? We shiver as the cold starts to move in, a reminder that we need to get on the road before the snow starts. One last look before we head out to next adventure, noting that we need to come back to Frisco very soon.
For your enjoyment, click below to take a peek at Frisco via this webcam:
I miss traveling. I long to board a plane and wander around a parking garage trying to find my rental car. And the frustration of being lost in a new town while trying to find a hotel that doesn’t register on WAZE or Google Maps. The good ol’ days.
I can’t wait until I can explore a new area, make friends with a stranger, and find that perfect little cafe to get coffee each morning. Sigh! Until then I am remembering past vacations and dreaming about the ones I am going to take next year.
In effort to help me get through the rest of 2020 and to help my fellow travel lovers, I have created my own version of an Advent calendar. Starting on December 1st, I will share some photos and highlights of a new destination each day. I hope this feeds your adventurous spirit and inspires you to start planning travel for 2021. I would love to hear what is on your bucket lis.
With summer upon us in the north and midwest, it is nice to be out and about, enjoying the sun and warm weather. Like most midwesterners , I try to do as much outside from May to October as I can. I know winter is around the corner and it will have me hibernating. There is still some hesitation on traveling so I thought another day trip idea could be to your State Park. Pack up the bikes, kayaks, picnic baskets, and perhaps the family and let’s take a trip to some of the best State Parks in our nation.
Connecticut -Dinosaur State Park
Real. Dinosaur tracks. Yes, for real. They have been preserved for over 200 million years. Located in Rocky Hill, CT- Dinosaur State Park is just an hour or two drive from many east coast cities. Aside from the amazement of the tracks from the Dilophosaurus and Eubrontes dinosaurs there is a 2 mile trail that takes you through the arboretum. Enjoy the beautiful tapestry of juniper, ginkgo, pine, sequoia and magnolia trees as well as discover rocks that date back millions of years. Not your typical State park as there are no beaches, no biking, or kayaking but what they do have is pretty cool. For inspiriting Paleontologists, you can do Track Casting– you create your very own dinosaur footprint to take home with you. There is also the opportunity to mine for gems and fossils. Be sure to review the website as you need to come prepared with a few itemshttp://www.dinosaurstatepark.org/outdooractivities.html. The park is closed on Mondays. The exhibition center is currently closed due to Covid19 but the rest of the park is open. Bring a picnic basket and dine where dinosaurs once roamed the earth.
Kentucky- Cumberland Falls
Only a 3 hour drive from Louisville or Nashville, Cumberland Falls State Park has a lot to offer. It’s hard to know where to begin here… Do you start with the 68 foot waterfalls and catch a glimpse of a moonbow – a rainbow formed by the droplets of water when the sky is clear or the moon is full? Or are you feeling REALLY adventurous and want to go river rafting? Or enjoy the adrenaline rush from the 650 foot long zip line that reaches 35 miles per hour as you drop from the tower. Not your thing? There are stand up paddle boards, kayaking, and fishing activities as well. A lovely beach for swimming and relaxing. You can’t go to the state that hosts the Kentucky Derby each year without trying your hand at horseback riding. Take a 45 minute guide trail ride through the beautiful woods of eastern Kentucky. You may discover that you want to spend more than a day. There are cottages and cabins available for rental for 1 to 7 nights. Campsites are open again if you want to rough it and bring your own tent or RV.https://parks.ky.gov/corbin/parks/resort/cumberland-falls-state-resort-park
Maine- Baxter State Park
Known as New England’s greatest State Park, Baxter sits on over 200,000 acres and is the largest protected wilderness area in the US. It is also the northern terminus point for the Appalachian trail. There are over 200 miles of hiking trails that offer 2 hour to day long hikes through the park. There are many measures in place to protect this area, so parking reservations for hiking the more complicated trails are recommended. Open 7 days a week, you can cover everyone’s interest as activities include; fishing, canoeing, kayaking, , bird watching, hunting, and mountain climbing. Home of Mt Katahdin, peaks at 5767ft and visible on a clear day from the Quebec/New Hampshire border. This is a rugged area. No electricity. No food or gas. No cell service.Road are unpaved. Any facilities that are available are very primitive. It is a great place to go off the grid. Your only interaction for hours (or days) can be with the moose or other wildlife that roam this unspoiled area. During “non Covid” times you can also go white water kayaking on the Penobscot River (check back in late 2020). Camping is available- tent and cabins. There are glamping options near by as well, check out this resource https://glampinghub.com
I hope I have peaked your interest. Stay tuned for part 2 as we discover what the the parks in South Carolina , Michigan, and Maryland have to offer. Create that road trip playlist that has all your favorite tunes, grab your most adventurous friend and venture out to your favorite state park.
I am a morning person. Don’t hate me. I love the coolness of a Summer morning, when the heat of the day hasn’t hit yet and the world is just waking up. Everything is in slow motion. The earth is calm and the light of the sun is breaking through the trees and around buildings. The birds are singing and people are out walking their dogs and savoring the peace of the moment. I just love this time! I feel energized and optimistic about life itself. So with a coffee in hand, and a tote bag in the other- let’s head out to your favorite Farmer’s Market or explore a new one.
Maybe your favorite market is in your home town – quaint and made up of local farmers and artists. Or if you live in a larger more urban area, offering a more robust market that hosts a slue of vendors including butchers, bakers, home decor, restaurants, gardening and floral sections etc… some are year round, others only seasonal. These markets are an intricate part of the community in which it resides and exists based on the support of the community. Each a treasure in its own right. I make it a point to visit these wonderful markets like these whenever traveling to a new destination.
Let me begin with the wonderful Detroit Eastern Market https://easternmarket.org. With over 150 of history showcasing local artists, locally farmed produce and flowers as well as cultural events,Eastern Market brings the vibrancy of Detroit to life. It is open and thriving these days so let me help you plan your trip
You will want to go early, so plan on having breakfast at Vivio’s It is a popular place so there could be a wait http://www.viviosdetroit.net. Known for their Bloody Marys and hearty breakfast, it is a great place to fuel up for the day. If there is a wait, don’t worry pop in next door at Devries & Co- https://www.devries1887.com. – it is a gourmet grocery store with hard to find items, local Detroit and Michigan made products, and a great gift shop on level 2 & 3. I love the vintage Detroit t-shirts they have- Vernor’s, Farmer Jack, Pine Knob and Faygo are just a few that you can find. After breakfast, it is time to explore the area. The Saturday market tends to be the most popular. Often you will find more than 200 vendors offering their produce, their stories, and their passions for what they are doing. The Sunday market is not as traditional as it more of a showcase of local artists and musicians. Neither will disappoint. You will notice the The Murals in the Market – created by local artists displaying their talents, telling stories of Detroit’s past and future, the struggles and the triumphs. The tributes to civil rights leaders through out the ages and the influencers on the culture and people of Detroit. You can feel the time, the energy, the sweat, the tears and the passion that went into creating these wonderful works of art.
As you make your way through the different sheds, you will experience so many different pleasures. You will enjoy the sweet fragrances of the flowers displayed in magnificent rows of color. Sunflowers, Lily’s, Hydrangeas and other wonderful flowers in bloom line the market. I love the warm croissants and baguettes you will come across -it makes me feel like like I am in Paris. The temptation of fresh baked breads, muffins , and cookies are hard to resist as you pass by the many bakery stands spread through out the market. The fresh fruit and vegetables that seem to go on for miles will make even the most discerning eyes take notice to the fine quality of the produce offered. There is always a new fruit or vegetable that I discover when I am there. If you like to cook like I do, you will love the selection of fresh herbs and homemade spices that are available as well. There is homemade jam, local honey, organic soaps and lotion and more.
Eastern Market is iconic to the Metro Detroit area and an important part of the neighborhoods of Detroit. For years it has been the main provider of affordable fresh food for the people who live there. The market has the support of our homegrown celebrity, Kid Rock, who helped create a community kitchen- Kid Rock Kitchen Commons– used by small food entrepreneurs and community educators who focus on creating a healthier and happier Detroit though improved nutrition and access to fresh foods.
It is easy to spend a few hours here and still not see it all. The energy of this area is so positive and encouraging. It brings people in from all over the state and regional visitors from Ohio and Indiana. They have implemented social distancing guidelines and you will need to bring a mask. Wear light clothing as the summers can get hot in Detroit and you will need a good pair of walking shoes. The market is free, parking is easy, and it is a great way to spend a warm sunny day in Detroit.
If Detroit is too far for you, check out your city or town’s local market. Make a day of it. It’s the type of trip you can do solo, with a partner, or even bring the kids. I have had the privilege of exploring many other markets that I want to make sure I give them honorable mention;
To be honest with you, I have been reluctant to post anything about travel considering; a worldwide pandemic, the injustice in our nation, and the risk of being judged for not taking COVID- 19 serious enough. It’s true , I find comfort in traveling, it was part of my job but more so a passion in my life. I couldn’t wait to get back on the road or in the skies.
I spent the last 3 months in my home, like you ; worried about the virus, worried about my family and friends, the economy, my job, and wishing for things to go back to normal. I found things to distract me when I wasn’t working 14 hour days. I must have tried at least 30 new recipes- I think my favorite were the peanut butter brownies (happy to share the recipe if you are interested) . I tried my hand at painting ,well paint by number..but it was a tough one! I ordered books to broaden my horizon. I signed up to take a writing class. Oh and a language class to to work on my French. And then there were the daily walks that I said I would do at least 8 miles a day and the 30 minutes of meditation to keep myself calm and balanced. I was determined to use this time to become a healthier and better version of myself.
Also part of my original plan was that I could use this time to write…I have been traveling for 30+ years, I had 100’s of places I could write about during this time of “shelter in place”. Keep the blog going and my audience interested. Just waiting for things to get back to normal so we could do all the things we wanted again. I rescheduled trips with great optimism and then rescheduled them again for later this year or into 2021. When it came to writing though, words escaped me. Or what I did write was boring. Maybe its because I knew deep down, things were not going “back to normal”?
Needless to say that a lot of what I had planned for myself, didn’t really play out the way I thought it would. I have emerged a better version of myself in many ways. I have a great appreciation of simple things now; hugging my adult children or a dear friend, eating in a restaurant, taking long walks and talking to neighbors or strangers about life and family. I love meditating each morning and I do feel more calm. My French is slightly better. My closets and cupboards are VERY organized. And I have started to travel again!
Fast forward to today- I am actually on my third trip since the restrictions have been lifted. I have only been traveling by car so I am able to control my environment a bit more. I find road trips are great for listening to podcasts, audio books, quality time with your friends & family. They allow for impromptu stops in little towns along the way. Or to take a scenic route that hugs a shoreline or the curving roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I am back to striking up conversations with strangers and it feels so good to be out and about!! As I talk to people, I am finding they were anxious to travel too. Many used the quarantine time to plan family, couple, girlfriend get-a-ways, or solo trips. So even after 3 months of confinement with these people, they chose to spend even more time together and were having so much fun doing it! Everyone was friendly. People were appreciative and respectful. Masks were worn, Social distancing was observed.
It made me realize that I love travel not for the luxury of it but because it makes this big world, feel smaller. It is the perfect classroom for the soul. Traveling allows me to meet people that look different than me, have different beliefs, observe different customs and enjoy different foods. I find travel breaks down barriers and helps me appreciate all the wonderful things about our differences that make this such an amazing world to live it. If you stop and think about it…how boring it would be if we all looked alike, sounded alike, and liked to do the same things?
So join me today as we start up some new adventures. I am going to start sharing some drive / road trip destinations and we will build up to traveling by plane. Be confident that hotels, airlines, restaurants, and shops are doing everything they can to keep you safe. Be patient as hoteliers, servers, bartenders and business owners figure out how to provide you the care you desire while adhering to new guidelines.
So grab your bestie, your significant other or your family and let’s take a day trip to the
Take a deep breath. Notice how your shoulders drop, your sense of awareness awakens. Take another one. You start to gain perspective of where you are in this moment. One more and gratitude starts to sink in. Gratitude for the friends and family you have in your life. For a job that allows you to have a roof over your head. For the breath that God has put in you to bring purpose to this world. A state of gratitude is where I am right now. The sun is starting to rise, the morning air is still brisk in Texas and the only zone I am able to have WIFI is outside the little coffee shop on the beautiful grounds of Miraval Spa and Resort in Lake Travis, https://www.miravalaustin.com . The spa is located about 45 minutes outside of Austin Texas. It is only 40 degrees but my mind is set on gratitude and finding my purpose.
The lovely team at Miraval have one goal for you…to put you on a path that will bring you balance. A stay here will allow for time to reflect upon your life. Time to focus on forgiveness. On self love and care. On making an impact in the world in which we live. An opportunity find peace and self acceptance. The message here is all about investing some time in one’s self to set your intentions for your next chapter in life An opportunity for healing, re-grouping, and creating a life well balanced.
As you enter the resort, the first thing you notice is the sense of peace. Almost desert like in its appearance , Miraval Spa & Resort Austin sits on the hills of Lake Travis and is surrounded by the beauty of Texas wildlife and the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. The resort has various buildings sprinkled across the 220 acres including a Yoga barn, gym, spa, dining facilities. a Provision’s shop, and housing for guests. The intent of your trip is made very clear by the guide that welcomes you…no cell phones- take this time for yourself to reconnect with what is important in life. They give you “permission” to push aside the day to day distractions of the world and take care of yourself- mind, body, and soul.
There are so many options to choose from when it comes to how you want to spend your time here, I will try to break down to a few categories. For well being ; you are able to consult with a Wellness Counselor. They can help you through the process of addressing some of the tough issues in your life and provide guidance to move towards a more emotionally and physically balanced approach on life. Help with relationships, parenting, stress management, and inner calm. This will include developing a daily routine of mediation or prayer, healthy habits with food and exercise and connecting with others to bring peace and love into the world.
If you prefer to spend your time sharpening your culinary and wine skills, there are workshops for that as well With a working farm across the street, you can work with the chef and team to learn key steps to provide your body with the nutrition that it needs and find a healthier way of eating that brings you more energy. There is the opportunity to learn more about sustainable living as you work with bee keepers to learn about the impact bees play on our world and how essential they are to our survival. I have to admit, I opted out of this, my life long fear of bees just didn’t allow it. There are lighter workshops as well that include wine pairing and a class on chocolate.
If you are looking for more activity, there are plenty of outdoor adventures to join. There are Challenge courses, hiking trails, horseback riding excursions, and something called a “Swing and a Prayer” which has you dangling 35 feet in the air to help you face your doubts and insecurities. And of course there is Yoga and fitness. Learn to belly dance, or try your hand at kickboxing. Or maybe your style is more along the lines of Tai Chi in the beautiful Zen garden. Perhaps you want to try your hand at acrobatic yoga and hang from the ceilings while holding yoga poses. All of it is available to you – most of it included in the cost of your stay.
Are you starting to see how much there is to do at this fabulous place? I haven’t mentioned the spa yet. The Miraval spa with its beautiful infinity pool has all you could ever want. Body treatments, massages, facials- all focusing around renewal, healing, nurturing, and balance. This is not included in the daily price of the resort but truly worth a splurge to experience one of their fabulous treatments.
The accommodations are equally luxurious. The bed can only be described as heavenly…you feel like you are sleeping on a cloud. The feather bed with it’s layers of blankets and sheets will swaddle you as you fall into a deep sleep after a full day of activities.
Best time to come to Miraval? The.off season is January and February which is when the resort offers some great deals on packages for girlfriend and couple’s get-a- ways. We met women that gather here yearly to reconnect with each other. A family from Kansas City that gather together to celebrate each other each year. Season is spring and fall so the prices are a bit higher but Tuesdays and Wednesdays are their slowest days, so you still might find a deal or two.. Summers are hot in Austin- temps can reach over 100 degrees but the resort is in full swing. The nightly rates include so many of the activities that I mention above as well as 3 meals a day. You don’t need to over pack as the attire is mostly yoga pants and sweatshirts. No make up is needed. Perhaps a hat for a cool night or to cover up your bed head. You will not regret your time here and I will bet you will be eager to plan your return to the Austin location or explore one of the many other resorts they have. As an added benefit…3 months from the time you stayed you will receive a letter from yourself, mailed by the resort. Perhaps it is a letter stating your intentions in life, a reflection on your time at Miraval, or a letter of encouragement to stay on your path to a well balanced life. The journey you will experience at Miraval will have a lasting impact on you. It is well worth the trip.