Viewing entries tagged Hotel Reviews
Back in the day I had an opportunity to ski Alta with a buddy and missed out on the trip. I’ve always regretted not going. At lunch we’d check out the latest edition of Ski Magazine and dreamed of making perfect ‘S’ turns in the virgin powder that was waist deep at Alta. It all looked so perfect on those glossy pages and it was! Alta is the Holy Grail for anyone who loves to ski. We were lucky to get fresh snow each morning on our recent trip. The conditions were great. It’s shaping up to be another great season at Alta.
Dreaming of Deep Snow
It’s All About Skiing
The locals all tell the same story, “I came here for one season and it’s my 15th year now.” Another mountain girl told us it’s her 35th at Alta. Somehow these lucky ones have figured it out. It seems that their souls have gravitated to this high place and they’ve found a balance. It all started with the same dream to come and ski Alta. Maybe you too can make it happen. You never know. Do you?
Happy Birthday Alta
Alta is the oldest family run Lift Company in the U.S. and is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Tradition is important to the culture here and change evidently comes slowly. Snow boarders are still not able to swoosh down the slopes in order to protect the powder. We like that Alta is a good steward of past traditions. They seem to have a pretty good thing going on here. It just feels right. Happy birthday Alta.
The Greatest Snow on Earth
So what makes this place so great? The snow has been scientifically proven to be the driest in North America and they get more than 750 inches of it annually. It’s been coined ‘The greatest snow on earth’. Its snows so much at times that you may experience a condition known as 'Interlodge'. When the snow barriers are lowered you’ll know it’s your lucky day! Everyone is required to retreat to one of the five lodges for protection while the snow can be managed. The best part of this situation is you're safe and nobody else can come up the mountain. You’ll be able to ski all the powder you want when the coast is clear and the snow barriers are still down. It’s now your very own private mountain. It’s called a ‘Country Club' day at Alta. How cool is that?
The Greatest Snow on Earth
Something For Everyone
Alta has great terrain for beginners and hardcore skiers alike. It’s a blast to be a kid and learn on the gentle green runs with mom and dad. Daredevils can hike up to ridges on the mountain and descend the chutes that are sloped at 45 degrees too. We rode the Supreme chair to the summit at 10,595’ and traversed the short distance over to Catherine’s area and dropped off into a tree lined powdery chute. It was like floating in the clouds. Peaceful. Exhilarating. Fun. There’s nothing like this back east that’s for sure!
Alta Has Great Terrain for Families Too
Good Service - Good Prices
The lift tickets are reasonably priced at $75.00 per day for adults and $40.00 for a children. The mountain is run as a Lift Company and not a publicly traded Real Estate Development entity. This enables Alta to focus on providing the best on-mountain experience for skiers. If you’re going to stay awhile and want more terrain to ski you can pay a little extra and get upgraded to a combined Alta -- Snowbird lift ticket. Please ask for the ‘One Ticket’ to get upgraded to this service. All together both resorts provide 26 lifts and over 4,000 acres of terrain. If you’d like to save some cash then ski the Sugarloaf chair lift and ride a loop between the two ski areas for free on the complimentary shuttle bus. We didn’t try that but it sure sounds like fun.
Gourmet Dining at Collins Grill
One of our pet peeves is eating cafeteria food on the mountain. It was a delight to discover the Collins Grill, which is located mid-mountain in the spectacularly designed Watson Shelter. The restaurant is located on the third floor and severs up the art of slow food. This is similar to the ‘farm-to-table’ movement, which supports local suppliers and growers. We sampled some great dishes at lunch that included:
Daily Savory Tart - This is a French style “big” pie cut in eighths, made with cream, Clifford Farm eggs, and a thin savory pastry. The flavor changes daily. Yum!
Grilled Salmon Slider - Grilled salmon on house made sourdough baguette with sliced tomato, bacon, capers and a mornay sauce.
Stuart’s Heart of Darkness Cupcake - Named after a customer from California this chocolate truffle is filled individual soufflé cakes. It was as decadent as it sounds. Delicious.
Watson Shelter • Collins Grill
Grilled Salmon Slider
Daily Savory Tart
Stewart's Heart of Darkness Cupcake
When you’re staying at Alta it’s still a family affair regarding lodging. All of the five lodges are family owned and operated and provide comfortable accommodations and excellent service. We recently stayed at Alta’s Rustler Lodge. Please check out the feature review on the main section of our site. If you’re looking for an active nightlife scene then Alta may not be the best place to plan your next ski vacation. If you’re looking to ski your tail off on the greatest snow on earth then you’ve arrived at the perfect place!
Alta's Rustler Lodge
Alta is located in the Wasatch Mountains at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. It’s approximately 45 minutes east of Salt Lake City international airport. What we like best about it's location is that you can be on the slopes by 1:00 p.m.. if you take an early morning non-stop flight from JFK International Airport in New York.
Alta Ski Area
Little Cottonwood Canyon
Alta, UT 84092
General Information: 801-359-1078
For transportation options to Alta, Utah please visit the Ski Utah website:
Alta's Rustler Lodge: Accommodations were provided by Alta's Rustler Lodge. When you stay at Alta’s Rustler Lodge, you'll experience the cozy atmosphere of a mountain lodge along with superb services and Alta's finest amenities. For reservations please call 888-532-2582.
Alta Ski Area: Lift tickets and mountain guide service provided by Alta Ski Area. General Information: 801-359-1078
Ski 'N See: Ski rentals were provided by Ski 'N See. They have 12 convenient rental & retail locations within minutes of all the major Ski Resorts in Utah. If you are unfamiliar with the area please visit their Rental Rates page to find a recommendation for which location you should reserve your ski & snowboard equipment. If you have any questions concerning our locations please call their Customer Service Hotline: 1-800-722-3685.
Rudy's Executive Transportation Services: Transportation Services for this trip from the New York Tri-Sate area were provided by Rudy's Executive Transportation. Their uniformed chauffeurs are courteous and committed to responding to customers' every transportation need. Since all Rudy's chauffeurs live throughout the Connecticut/Westchester area, they are conveniently located within minutes of your home or office. They are also completely familiar with all locations and routes within the tri-state area to get you there on time, every time. For reservations please call 800-241-RUDY.
It doesn't surprise me that many travelers shrug their shoulders at the mention of Nassau.
Most people come in on a cruise, stay for a day or two, walk through the straw markets and visit Atlantis. The harbor area is very busy and geared to sell trinkets to tourists, not something you would necessarily want to experience more than once.
When I was in the Bahamas I spent a few days on the island, and I was hellbent on finding something to connect with, a reason to come back on a plane rather than allowing it to be nothing more than a cruise-ship stop.
I stayed at the British Colonial Hilton (I could see the cruise ships from the hotel's beach), but on a free afternoon I wandered the other way - away from the noise - and went to check out the Graycliff Hotel, the island's only five-star hotel.
Not only is it five stars with a bed-and-breakfast feel, it sports an award-winning wine cellar (with over 250,000 bottles, one of which is priced at $200,000) and a cigar factory/lounge, complete with on-site hand rollers (see photo below).
A short walk from the Graycliff is Junkanoo Beach, where many of the locals hang out and we had a great happy hour and some beautiful scenery.
Enjoy these photos:
Factory worker combining business and pleasure
Junkanoo Beach - story to come!
View of My Street From the Bottom of My Steps
There is a scene in the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel where the guests arrive and the look of horror on their faces at the broken & dusty concrete structure they’ve paid to stay at sets the scene for the entire movie. You know from the beginning that they will get through the muck and dust and, once they do, the Marigold Hotel will stand to be the place where magic happens, and their lives are transformed. We know that, as the audience, long before they do.
It wasn’t quite like that when I reached my destination; the villa/apartment I had rented in Arambol, Goa, but it wasn’t too far from it either.
I am spending 3 months in Incredible India! This whole journey came by way of an invitation from a dear friend in England. “Darling, I’ve rented a 2 bedroom place, right smack bang on the beach in Goa. We’d love you to come out. Would you?” was the first thing she said to me when I called. With a quick calculation (3 seconds total) of the pro’s and the cons, I said yes.
Many things changed in the lead up to this trip, with one of the more significant of them being that my friend actually can’t make the journey at all. So, along with one of her friends (whom I’d never met) I had just rented a room in a house in India, sight unseen.
Upon arriving into Goa, by way of Mumbai and Pune, the only directions I had to find this villa was via a text which read “Call this taxi driver, Rajan and tell him to take you to ____ (insert name of English renter) house in Girka Waddo”. No address, no number, no etchings or markings to look for just ‘so and so’s house.’
So, I sent Rajan a text and within a few hours he replied; “Hello lyn may drayvar pick you there with sain of you are name. Can you give me fidbak.” It took me about 24hrs to realize that he wasn’t asking if Drayver (assumed it was the name of his friend) could pick me up, he was telling me that his driver would pick me up with a sign with my name on it. Phonetics 101; when reading a text message from an Indian, read it in their accent.
I precisely gave him fidbak. “Yes, thank you.”
Arriving into Goa
The flight from Mumbai to Goa is a little over an hour and, despite being 45min late (not uncommon) it was an easy, painless flight with Spice Jet for $75 one way.
Flying into Goa, on the right side of the plane, is a view of the Arabian Sea and a lush coastline, punctured with rivers being fed from the sea, which look like veins spreading inland. Once landed, you disembark from the plane onto a bus, which then drives you to the terminal. The terminal is small and tropical looking.
Arabic Sea From the Plane Coming From Mumbai
From baggage claim it was an easy walk to the terminal exit. Drayver was there (whose real name I can’t for the life of me remember) with his ‘sain’ which said LYN in big letters that covered the entire page from top to bottom. I liked that he took into consideration that I might have been vision impaired!
Drayver was a stocky little guy, with a gait that said “taxi driver by day, thug by night” and a slicked back hairdo that just said Indian mafia. He drove like he was all three. It’s an hour and a half drive from the airport to Arambol, the north point of Goa. The trip cost 1500 rupees ($30) and the drive was beautiful, harrowing, acrobatic and exhilarating (at different times) as we wound our way through tiny streets, bustling little villages and around hairpin corners on cliff faces – barely breaking speed (no wonder the Indians invented the concept of the aware mind – they can’t be anywhere else when they drive).
There didn’t look to be any signs, at least not to my western eye, and as we closed in on my destination, the roads became dustier, tighter and looked less like roads and more like dirt bike trails. The plume of dust, kicked up from the car stopping suddenly, signaled we had indeed arrived. It was in the pitch black of night.
My Street, Looking Toward My Apartment
Rajan, the original taxi driver, met us there whereupon Drayver (who barely spoke English) bid his farewell and left. I climbed the broken concrete stairs to my new abode but no one was about, and I had no key. So, Rajan kindly secured my bags with friends and then escorted me to the beach (only a few hundred feet away, over the dunes) where he left me to have dinner at his friends restaurant in the hopes that my friend might turn up.
Sunjay’s was my first introduction to restaurants in Goa. Sunjay himself, smiling from ear to ear, showed me to the best seat in the house; a padded lounge set right against the ocean.
I ordered a Fish Masala, plain rice, garlic naan and a beer (tuborg). It had been a long day and to end it with a delicious Indian meal to the sound of the waves lapping, while reclining on a bed, felt slightly indulgent, but only for a second. For the remaining 59.99minutes, it felt perfectly appropriate.
I eventually made my way inside my new home; a simple 2 bedroom with bathroom and kitchen, atop another family home. There is a large deck which has a west facing view and spectacular snippets of the sunset; that alone is worth the price. When I say simple I mean very little furniture, besides a mattress that lies on the floor of each bedroom and one in the main area. The floors are all marble, the white washed walls all concrete and the roof is a terracotta tiled shingle style roof. The toilet and shower are all in one room. You can almost sit on the toilet and shower at the same time! This is not uncommon in Indian homes. There is no hot water and an ant would win if it were racing against the pressure of the shower. The kitchen is basic, with a two prong gas burning stove top, a fridge and a few hundred ants. Actually, for an apartment in this area, this is quite a gem.
Sunset Veiw Fom My Balcony
I fell asleep fairly easily on my first night, eager to explore the area the next day, and dreamt of the magic that might manifest in my new home for the next few weeks; my ‘marigold hotel.
So, what’s it all about? Arambol, Goa
Arambol, Goa is a freedom seekers paradise. It is teeming with flowy, floaty, hippies whose general embrace with each other falls only a few inches short of a good ‘ol feel up and a make-out session. Extended, uncomfortably long silent stares pre-empt most conversation as young freedom seekers ‘hold space’ for each other until someone smiles bigger and then they laugh profoundly at whatever was discussed in the ethos. Without having said a word.
Artisans at the Drum Jam
The Crowd at the Drum Jam
With names like Shanti, Shakti and Vega and dreadlocks and tramp stamps as de-rigueur, you can feel safe knowing that if you forgot your deodorant at home, you’ll fit right in. When ‘long timers’ (the name for westerners who have been coming here each season for many years) find out I’m new to the area they ‘hold space’ with a smile and a vacant gaze and eventually say “Welcome to peace man”, and then walk off.
I’m being entertaining and dramatic of course, there is a really genuine feeling of freedom and creative expression in this area. It is also brimming with interesting, itinerant travelers and it has a strong western influence. However, it’s also where a lot of Indian citizens come to holiday and break free from traditional custom. One morning, as I was sitting on the beach after a swim I saw an older, rotund Indian man cartwheeling his way toward me until he made himself so dizzy he had to stop and walk in circles to re-calibrate. He was only wearing speedos. A bearded, leather skinned, tattooed man played the ukulele, a middle aged Russian man walked by in a thong and a rather buxom blonde emerged from the ocean, naked. This was all before 9am!
Playing at the Beach - Sunset
At the northern point of the beach, right before the cliff face, there is a high concentration of beach huts and restaurants and it’s where sand meets pavement, this is the main entrance to the busy Arambol shopping area. Here you’ll find a lot more drinking, raucous partying and a long stream of motorcycles lined along the beach. The southern end of Arambol, toward Mandrem, starts to widen and become less crowded.
Set back behind the beach you’ll find that it is quite rural. Cows, pigs and chickens share the dusty, dirt paths with you, which lead out to the main roads. The main roads are paved but barely resemble small country back roads. And, along with little bakeries and convenience stores, small simply constructed fruit stands, whose owners will happily cut you a coconut while you pick out fresh papaya, mango, pomegranate and various vegetables, line the back roads.
Walking Back to My Apartment, the Fequent Spotting of Cows, Sunbathing!
Cows Shop Too
Nothing in Her Size
The main ‘center’ of Arambol is quite a dusty, dirty little crossroads of activity teeming with backpackers and motorbikes. It’s not pretty but it’s where the only ATM in town is, which is often out of money (it’s a 300rupee taxi ride to the next town, which has two ATM machines that may not work either). In my experience, the ATM was always being topped up around 2 or 3pm (note: Maximum 10,000Rps you can withdraw).
There is a lot you can do here in Arambol, Goa but you can easily spend your days having long lunches a few feet away from the sea, enjoy the relatively calm waters or laze around your hotel. I do recommend you take the time to see the sunset, it will make your day complete.
What to do?
The beauty of Goa, is that there isn’t a real need to ‘do’ much. That’s kind of the point. However, there are some great activities to take part in.
In Arambol, you only need to read all the sign postings around town to see what workshop, class or event you want to participate in locally.
If you’re into the healing arts scene, head to Blue Pyramid or Magic Park. Both venues host a plethora of workshops and classes and, in general, you’ll discover a community of people more interested in talking about their chakras, than their hangovers.
Every night there is a drum jam on the beach at sunset. It starts around 5:30pm and goes until about 8pm. Hundreds of people flock to this and you can mingle with International artisans selling their handicrafts.
Crowd at the Drum Jam
Colombian Artisan and His Little Friend
As for evening partying, most of the parties you will find by word of mouth, there aren’t too many nightclubs. You can ask some of the artisans on the beach, make friends with some of the bartenders, or just follow the music. There are also quite a few bars on the main shopping strip at the north end of Arambol. Coco Loco’s has live music or live DJ’s most nights.
If you’re interested in actually exploring some other parts of Goa, the best way to see everything is to hire a taxi driver for the entire day. For about 1800Rps ($38) the driver will take you to all the ‘must see’ tourist spots. Most taxis have a picture guide in the back pocket of their front seats so you can point to what you want to see.
You will travel through the beautiful town of Mapusa and Old Goa to see the ruins and enter the Catholic Church where St. Augustine’s preserved body is atop an alter in a glass coffin for all to see.
You can go to a traditional Hindu temple where you can spend a few moments with one of the holy men who will happily take you around and explain to you the history and significance, for a small fee.
Ruins of Goa
Cross at St. Augustine's Church in Old Goa
Lighting the Candle at St. Augustines Cathedral
One of the more popular destinations is the spice plantation, where you can take a ride on an elephant and, or, get a shower from an elephant. The spice plantation is a well-oiled operation. For 600Rps you get a 45min guided tour through a small section of the 100acre spice plantation. On the tour, the guide will show you the plant form of well-known spices like cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla and All-spice and will also give you great health uses for the plants. After the tour, it’s a delicious lunch buffet and then (for an additional 400Rps) on to your elephant expedition, if that is what you have chosen. It’s basically Goa’s version of the hop on/hop off bus that you often find in the great cities of London and New York. For a quiet little hippie town, Arambol, Goa is bursting with beautiful things to see and interesting places to be.
The bridge to the Spice Plantation
The elephant just Before it Splashes
Me, Getting Washed by an Elephant
WHERE TO EAT
You won’t have a hard time getting good food here. However, many of the restaurants often have the same menu; traditional southern Indian, western, Israeli, Russian, Italian and Chinese. But there are definitely some gems that stand out.
That said, food is cheap. You can easily have a hearty meal, with a glass of wine or a beer for less than $10. Most restaurants have similar prices so you won’t have to shop for price differences and this is not the place to barter.
It’s not because Sunjay’s was my first introduction to paradise, or that he had me at the big smile when he said Hello. But, long timers will all agree that his food is some of the most delicious. His restaurant is clean, spacious and Sunjay is always present. He also opens his kitchen to his customers who want to learn traditional Indian dishes, like paneer palak (cheese in spinach).
Right next door to Sunjay’s is Sunset. The waiters here are cool and young; all friends and family. I wouldn’t say they are the cheeriest crew, you won’t be greeted with big smiles and warm conversation – (they are young and kinda cool, after all) but I came here most days to use their internet and eat grilled king prawns and eventually, once I became familiar, was greeted with great kindness.
The view from Sunset Cafe
If you’re looking for amazing fresh fish dishes, I recommend Horizon’s, Aladdin’s and Green Garden. They are only a few hundred feet apart from each other but, all with a different feel.
Horizon’s is closer to the action, next door to the banging little dance, live music venue called Coco Loco’s. It’s the largest of the three. A whole grilled fish for two, will cost around 800Rps ($16) or one which will feed 4-6 for 1000rps ($20). They all come with rice and vegetables and chips if you want them. Horizons is the slightly more expensive of the three.
Green Garden has a similar menu and is slightly cheaper. Aladdin’s is the most romantic. Set higher up in the sand dunes than the others, it is easy to feel like you’re tucked away from the crowd below on the beach, but with an expansive view of the sea.
Magic Park was set up over 5 years ago by a Dutch couple and this place has blossomed into something quite magical. It has a rather western style menu but almost all is organic and it is all vegetarian. Think of your regular vegetarian, hippie café back home; mung beans, kombucha, raw chocolate balls, eclectic salads, interesting teas and you have the Magic Park menu. It sits up behind the beach under a canopy of trees. Beautiful, bamboo lounges dot this fabric adorned haven where the temperature is as cool and breezy as its turban crowned patrons. Besides restaurants, check out the fruit stands; fresh cut coconuts for 20Rps, papaya, mango…Goa is a culinary delight.
Where to stay
The beauty of Arambol is the transient nature of it. The season is for 6 months; Oct-April, whereupon the Monsoon season settles in for next 6 months. There can be no structures on the beach during the monsoon season and, since most of the restaurants & accommodations (constructed with bamboo, woven straw and fabric; a few ropes holding them all together) line the beach, they get taken down at the beginning of April and then reconstructed again beginning mid-September. So, as you can imagine they feel more native than sturdy but you’ll be quite impressed by the engineering. Rooms are cheap here, even at peak the average price will barely peak at $25 a night. Please take note. There are no addresses given here, you don’t need them. You’ll find everything by name. Also, most don’t have websites; you simply need to call the number provided to book a room ahead of time.
A common Looking Row of Huts
Inside the Huts
Staying a few hundred feet away from the main action is highly recommended. Remember, the only sound barrier separating you and the outside world is woven straw, so it’s best to stay further south of all the action. If you’re staying on the beach, everything is close enough.
Accommodations along the beach are simple (huts) and, if you’re staying for a 2 week (or less) stay, they are a perfect place to lay your head. Any longer and the novelty of simplicity tends to get a little tiring.
BLUE PYRAMID & DESTINY has 15 huts and is priced from 800-2100Rps (depending on time and availability) Ph.: +91 915 869 6040 (Ask for Pardeep)
This place attracts quite a large yoga, meditation and loved up workshop crowd. It’s actually a great space. Large and open, with a big room in the back where they hold yoga classes and contact jam dances.
Outside Blue Pyramid and Destiny
Blue Pyramid and Destiny
SUNJAY (no website) has 19 huts and is priced at 400Rps (all season long) Ph.: +91 992 179 7556
It's by divine intervention I was introduced to Sunjay himself on my first night. All huts have wooden floors, toilet and shower. There is also a little yoga & meditation space, set up on higher ground, which has a gorgeous 360 views of the area. Sunjay has been here for 12 years and knows the area extremely well.
If you’re looking for something a little more comfortable, with modern amenities and a resort feel, I recommend Riva. It’s close to the beach but the entrance is on the main road between Arambol and Mandrem.
Long term apartment rentals are often posted around town and they are quite cheap; from $100 - $300 for the month. Unless you have some contacts in the area, however, it can be a little difficult finding a good deal. It’s best to come here and read some of the postings around town, or ask around.
The magic of Arambol, Goa is the simplicity of it. It’s not a town that boasts a luxury lifestyle. It’s all about freedom and expression, sun and sand here.
SOME TIPS & ADVICE FOR VISITING GOA
Goa is a great starting point if you’re a first timer to India because it gently guides you into some of the quirks of the country. Make no mistake however, that it is one of the wealthiest states in the country so, although you might see poverty and you will have some families approach you for money, it won’t be anything like the slums of some of the bigger cities.
Because of Goa’s many years of high tourism a lot of the feeling of being in ‘India’ is lost and some don’t feel like it is ‘truly’ India. That’s because Goa has a history of attracting people who come here to break tradition and protocol and that’s just what you’ll discover this place is about.
That said, you are still in India. Goa, in general, has turned a blind eye to westerners wearing barely anything but you will be looked upon favorably by the locals if you respect their dress code. Bikini’s on the beach are fine but, while walking around it’s best to cover up a little more.
You will get approached a lot while on the beach, whether you are male or female, by peddlers trying to sell you beads, sarongs and coconuts (they will even offer to clean your ears!) If you are not interested in looking or buying, you must be very firm when you say NO.
The Indian hygiene system is worlds away from the west. Bring a lot of baby wipes, or toilet paper wherever you go. You will often encounter a pretty basic functioning toilet (sometimes only a hole to squat in) and no toilet paper. You will find good toilets in your accommodations however.
You don’t need to pack a lot of clothing for Goa. There isn’t a need for a heavy wardrobe and you will end up buying a lot while you’re there as it’s quite cheap. Remove your shoes whenever you enter any establishment. This is one custom that is observed everywhere.
Bring a flashlight or some lighting device, and charge your devices whenever you can. The power goes out daily and for extended periods of time.
DON’T DRINK THE WATER! Use bottled water for everything, including brushing your teeth. Buy fruit from the fruit stands directly, and washing them with bottled water is advised.
You will find access to the internet everywhere although it might not always be reliable. If you are carrying your own device, Wi-Fi is available at a lot of café’s however, just like the power; it can be a bit spotty. I ended up getting the password to 4 or 5 café’s in a row along the beach so that if one didn’t work, and I was in range of another, the other often did. For 3000Rps and a bit of time you can also purchase a dongle (reliance is the most reliable company) which will give you access on your laptop. Lastly, relax and don’t try to make anything happen. It will happen all on its own here.
Typical view. The breathtaking Sunset
As for my apartment, it has truly become like the Marigold hotel where, once I swept away the dust and adjusted to the water temperature, it has become my haven of magic, and dreams coming true. And, isn’t it always the way, don’t we all emerge like lotuses pushing through the dirt and muck eventually?
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Key West International Airport
KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Two major commercial air carriers have begun nonstop seasonal service between Key West and both New York City and Washington D.C.
Water-squirting fire trucks, a red carpet and a man blowing a conch shell greeted passengers stepping off Delta Airlines and U.S. Airways flights Saturday at Key West International Airport.
Delta Airlines is offering direct flights from New York’s LaGuardia Airport Dec. 29, Jan. 5 and each Saturday from March 2 through April 6. The 1,211-mile flight is the longest commercial route ever to serve Key West, Keys airport officials said.
Direct U.S. Airways flights from Washington’s Reagan National Airport are being offered once daily through Jan. 5, and continue each Saturday through April.
Southwest is to begin daily service between New Orleans and Key West on March 9.
By the end of November, Key West International had already passed last year's passenger count of 677,581, according to Peter Horton, director of Monroe County airports. Horton anticipates the passenger count to reach more than 730,000 by Dec. 31.
The airport also achieved point-of-entry status to Cuba from federal officials this year, which permits it to stage flights directly to and from the island nation that lies just 90 miles south of Key West.
Officials at one South Florida-based company, Golden Air Charters, say it has plans to begin charter service from Key West in 2013.
The Woodstock Inn is truly the sweetest place to stay in Woodstock, VT. It's located right across from the famous town green, one of the oldest in the country and within walking distance of the town's many shops such the Vermont Flannel Co. (one of my favorites) and a plethora of other quaint establishments.
The Woodstock Inn and Resort
As you enter the Inn and at it's heart is a massive nine foot hearth with the largest logs I have ever seen burning steadily; lapping flames beckon you to stop and sit for a minute in the comfortable arm chairs. I warmed myself with hot coffee surrounded by the slight aroma of wood burning and just relished in the warmth and serenity. The decor and feel of The Woodstock Inn is actually quite unique and the ambience is soothing; it felt like I had chosen the perfect place to rest, restore and explore this beautiful part of Vermont. The Inn has both a rustic charm and a contemporary elegance. There is an intimate feel with a very happy and cordial staff. However, the Inn has the superb facilities that normally accompany a much larger hotel. The Woodstock Inn has its own lovely ski resort, (Suicide Six), three restaurants, two bars, a beautiful brand new 10,000 sq. foot spa, a racquet and fitness facility (with squash, swimming pool and tennis courts), a golf club, and even associated riding stables and trails. The recently renovated rooms and suites, some with wood burning fire-places, generally range from $150-$600.
The Woodstock Inn - Main Fireplace
The Red Rooster Bar
My room was beautiful, with a blended contemporary rustic decor that matched the hotel; the center of the king room was a stunningly crafted, classic, hardwood canopy bed dressed in a colorful handmade woven blanket. The bathroom was shiny, spotless, and furnished with organic Vermont made bath supplies and a sweet scented wick candle.
Hardwood Canopy Bed
Bathroom With Soaking Tub & Shower
While the room and food were great, what I most love about the Inn and Resort is the feel of it as a self encompassing destination with true old world character. There are so many corners within the Inn where one can find comfortable spaces for reflection and conversation, sun rooms, a library, and little cushioned benches and love seats where you see couples playing scrabble, or kids enjoying a chess game while sipping hot chocolate and munching on home made cookies. You have everything you need within the facility or within a few minutes of Resort organized transportation.
The Woodstock Inn
Toll free: 888-338-2745 Address:
Local: 802.457.1100 14 The Green
Fax: 802.457.6699 Woodstock, Vermont 05091
Last night I met my sister at the more rustic of the two hotel's bars, the Tavern, for a pre-dinner drink; we sat next to the warmth of a wood burning fire as we relaxed and chatted. Afterwards, we made our way to the Red Rooster restaurant, the inn's award winning restaurant which uses locally grown foods to prepare its Vermont style classic American cuisine. Suffice it to say that the food was both delicious and delicate, flavorful and subtle, with a unique twist on classics. The evening's meal began with a few small bite size special treats from the chef including savory roasted heirloom beets, scallops with pulled pork Napoleon, and sweet potato apple bisque which was sweet and divine. For appetizers, we had the mussels and the charcuterie board with unbelievable prosciutto and country pate. For dinner we ordered the chef's specials, rack of lamb with potato and turnip au gratin and Day boat Scallops and Lobster with Butternut Squash Risotto with arugula and radish and a pickled rosemary relish. The lamb was amazing and the lobster was smoky and flavorful; the scallops were soft and tender on the inside and just crispy enough on the outside to lock-in their light but potent flavor. Dessert was a Blondie sundae with vanilla ice cream and a toffee crisp which was sensational. We also tried the flour less chocolate cake and pumpkin cheesecake - both quite good as well. Appetizers generally range from $12-$18 and main dishes range from $24-$35.
The Red Rooster Restaurant
Reservations 1.802.457.6671 or reserve online at Open Table .
Sweet Potato Apple Bisque
New England Mussels
Rack of Lamb with Potato and Turnip au Gratin
Day boat Scallops and Lobster with Butternut Squash
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Following our rather extensive gourmet dinner and delicious wine, I ambitiously ordered a movie in the room, opening a window to the clear Vermont air and the occasional snowflake. In the end, the comfort and coziness of the bed and the lure of sleep won though and the movie was left for another time.
If you are looking for idyllic country elegance this Christmas season book a trip to this charming town and lovely resort. December 7-9 is Wassil Weekend in Woodstock which is named one of Vermont's top 10 winter events by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. The village of Woodstock will come alive with traditional Christmas festivities and decorations. Woodstock will be replete with music, craft fairs, holiday games and the culmination of the weekend is the annual parade with more than 50 horses and riders dressed in traditional holiday attire. Of course the nearby ski resorts will certainly be open then as well!
So stay tuned to hear about my excursions today to Simon Pearce, Sugarbush Cheese Farm and Shackleton's fine furniture and pottery shop, but in the meantime discover Woodstock on your own….once you are lucky enough to have found this special town you will want to keep it in your life. Each and every trip will provide new memories and rediscovery, but also opportunities to deepen existing traditions.
KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Sometimes called the Indianapolis 500 of offshore powerboat racing, the Key West World Championship is to draw national and international racing teams to compete Nov. 4-11 in the waters surrounding the island city.
Key West World Championship
The action kicks off with a parade of race boats down Key West’s legendary Duval Street, slated to start at 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4. Racing is scheduled throughout the week, with high-speed challenges taking place Wednesday, Nov. 7; Friday, Nov. 9, and Sunday, Nov. 11.
A portion of the 6.5-mile course runs through Key West Harbor, meaning smooth water where racers can achieve speeds above 140 mph and provide fans breathtaking displays of skill and power.
Because water conditions vary along the course, teams can test both equipment endurance and hull and propulsion design during the season-ending championship series. Boats compete in nine classes including the celebrated Superboat class.
On race days, spectators can get an unmatched view from grandstand areas on Key West’s Truman Waterfront — sitting so close they can practically feel the salt spray as boats roar by. The Truman Waterfront can be accessed at the end of Southard Street past Thomas Street and Truman Annex.
On nonrace days, powerboat enthusiasts can view the sleek high-speed boats, watch in-water testing runs and meet racers and crews at the race village, also situated on the Truman Waterfront. Social events for racers and their fans are planned as well, including a Duval Street party where race boats are on display.
General-admission tickets are available, as are all-inclusive VIP spectator passes for the Truman Waterfront grandstands and hospitality tent. Other popular viewing areas include waterfront hotels and Key West’s Mallory Square.
Event information and schedule: www.superboat.com
Key West visitor information: www.fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
Social: facebook.com/floridakeysandkeywest · twitter.com/thefloridakeys · youtube.com/FloridaKeysTV
The one thing about living in New England is that some good things never change. Back in the day, I used to head out for a Sunday drive. There was no better prescription to change your brain chemistry than 'bliping the throttle' on each downshift on a twisty turny road.
121 Restaurant & Bar - Route -121 Bedford, NY
My favorite stretch to unwind was Route 121 from Bedford to North Salem, NY. Driving in the open air on a mid-summer's night or a crisp fall day as the world whizzed by was always exhilarating. The best part of the drive was that just before reaching Interstate-84, there was a great out-of-the-way place called Restaurant 121. It was in the middle of nowhere but, plenty of interesting people gathered there. The bar was standing room only. It was a cool place and I always looked forward to pitting there for some comfort food and a Johnny Walker Blue neat.
Like to Drive? Fire Up Your Ride. Go!
Fast forward ten or so years and I'm back and restaurant hasn't changed a bit! It's exactly how I'd remembered it. It's the same old antique house and wrap-a-round porch. During the summer, it's a great place to sit and have lunch. Inside you'll find a casual relaxing atmosphere that guys can relate to. The dark wood, copper bar, stone wood burring fireplace and Western Americana art all add to the down home decor.
￼￼If comfort food is what you're seeking, then the menu at 121 will be sure to please. It's packed with creative selections like the Arancini Rirrotto Fritter with Porchini Truffles and Parmesan Dip - $8.00 and the amazing Goat Cheese with Caramelized Onion and Slice Tomato Pine Nut Pizza - $14.00. It's wood fired and crafted from the highest quality Neapolitan flour by Capoto. This flour makes the most fluffy and perfectly baked pizza ever. The goat cheese melted in our mouths. Yum.
We especially like the creativity and visual presentation of the seasonal Watermelon Mozzarella Salad with Chopped Basil - $14.00. On a late summer day, sitting on the porch, it was delightful to relax and nibble on this dish!
If you really want to sit and chill for for a while then order a glass of the Schramsberg Vineyards Blanc de Blanc. - $15.00. It's an effervescent sparking wine made from Chardonnay. It paired well with the watermelon salad.
Appetizers: $6 to $10. Pizzas: $12.00 to $15.00. Entrees: $22.00 to $34. Desserts: $6 to $7. Hours: Mondays, 5:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Fridays, 5:30 to 11 p.m. Saturdays, 5 to 11 p.m. Sundays, 5 to 9 p.m. Open for Sunday brunch starting next month.
121 Restaurant and Bar
Route 121 and Dingle Ridge Road
North Salem, NY
The Wrap Around Porch is Delightful
The Copper Bar is Cool. Get There Early or Lose Your Seat
Cozy Up During the Winter Months in Front of the Fire
The Lower Room is Perfect For Private Parties
The Main Dining Room at 121
The Goat Cheese Pizza is to Die For
My New Favorite - Watermelon Mozzarella Salad - Yum!
Sipping Sparking Wine... Perfect!
Guests traveling on Tauck's new "Botswana, South Africa & Zambia" safari next year will be treated to a once-in-a-lifetime experience – the chance to actually walk with and among a pride of juvenile lions as they play, relax and begin to develop the skills they’ll use later to survive in the wild. This unique opportunity comes during a visit to a lion research center near Livingstone, Zambia, where young lion cubs orphaned in the wild are nurtured and ultimately prepared for reintroduction into their natural environment.
The chance to walk among lions is just one of many amazing experiences on the new Tauck safari. Guests on this small-group adventure (featuring a maximum of just 20 travelers) will also travel offshore from Cape Town, South Africa, to nearby Seal Island, with the chance to perhaps witness great white sharks dramatically snatching fur seals from the waters surrounding the island. They’ll also explore a meerkat colony on Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pan, and get to know the colony’s quirky, energetic and entertaining residents. And they’ll view wildlife in a range of other settings, ranging from open-top, six-passenger safari vehicles to a lavishly restored Pullman lounge and dining cars during a private steam train journey (complete with gourmet dinner) through Zambia’s Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.
The itinerary will also traverse a variety of landscapes, from the dramatic coast of the Cape of Good Hope to deserts and salt plains, and from rainforests and Victoria Falls to marshlands and savannahs. The natural wonders of Botswana, South Africa and Zambia will be complemented by special Tauck “insider” experiences that reveal the countries’ history and culture. For example, in Botswana Tauck travelers will learn about long-held traditions and daily life during a visit to a San Bushmen village. And in South Africa, guests will enjoy a traditional “braai” barbecue dinner at a private home in Cape Town and visit the 17th-century Castle of Good Hope, which dates back to the region’s time as an outpost of the Dutch East India Company.
Price for the 12-day journey is from $8,890 per person, double-occupancy, plus international and on-tour air. Included in the price are all safari excursions, guides, most meals, accommodations in five-star hotels and luxury safari camps, airport transfers, luggage handling and much more. Tauck will operate departures from April through November next year. Those interested can visit their local travel professional, call Tauck at 800 468 2825, or go to www.tauck.com.
More information: Tauck
Six years had passed since I visited San Francisco, which is about five-and-a-half years too late. I love the city, or "The City" as proud citizens often term it. I was eager to return.
A trip highlight was riding the city’s historic streetcars that operate along Market Street. The F-Line runs from the Castro to Fisherman’s Wharf, a prime tourist route. Union Square and numerous other vital spots are also along the line.
A streetcar painted in the color scheme of Boston's original 1940s cars, speeds along Market Street
Seventeen of the line’s 1940s streetcars originate from San Francisco, St. Louis and Philadelphia, (most are from Philadelphia). The cars are painted in various color schemes once found on other U.S. city streetcars, with the city’s name printed on the car’s exterior.
It’s fun to see which car you’ll ride. Some examples: St. Louis, painted green and cream; Baltimore, yellow and gray; Boston, orange, cream and silver with a red stripe; Los Angeles, orange and yellow with silver stripes.
San Francisco first proposed the vintage line back in 1971, but it wasn’t until 1995 that the cars began running. New boarding islands, curbing, planting and widened crosswalks were also installed.
The F-Line fleet also boasts three 1928 streetcars built in Milan, Italy, based on a design originated by Cleveland’s transit commissioner, Peter Witt (the cars are often termed “Peter Witt” cars). They were the first cars that allowed entry by front doors and exit by central doors. Look for the bright orange design.
The streetcars’ interiors are original, although refurbished. Riding the cars is a bit like riding a toy – everything is scaled down (compared to today’s enormous bus windows). Seats are small and narrow and rows of small boxed windows are set low.
Compared to riding San Francisco’s trolley service (more like a bar on wheels as tourists hang from the cars like drunken monkeys), the streetcars offer a genuine experience. Working class people ride the line, just as they did back in the 1940s.
Beck’s Motor Lodge occupies a premium perch along the line at 2222 Market Street. The lodge was built in 1958, when rooms went for $5 a night in the former Irish working class neighborhood. Will Beck lived in a flat nearby. Land was cheap, so he built his dream hotel
Beck’s optimal location and and retro feel can’t be found elsewhere in the area. Various upgrades have been completed over the decades, says owner Brittney Beck, granddaughter of Will Beck.
Beck keeps the blue, yellow and maroon paint job fresh, and her future plans include an outdoor pool and expanded lobby. The rooms are tidy and clean, with such retro touches as 50s-style fabric upholstery on wingback chairs in rooms.
Rates range from $100 to $180 per night and include wi-fi. King Deluxe rooms overlook 15th Street, the quietest part of the building. There are also two King rooms with fireplaces ($180). Parking is free, and all guests have access to a spacious sun deck and laundry facilities.
Learn more about San Francisco’s historic streetcar service.
Visit the Beck’s Motor Lodge website.
Located at New Yor's most fashionable address and just moments away from the festivities of Lincoln Center, The Plaza is ideally situated for guests to take in the glitz and glamour of Fall Fashion Week 2012.
The Plaza Hotel - New York City
Now, chic-seekers can be wined, dined, and beautified at the iconic urban oasis with a welcome bottle of champagne, a $100 Gift Card to New Yorkers’ favorite new dining concept, The Todd English Food Hall at The Plaza, and hair and make-up appointments at the celebrity favorite Warren-Tricomi Salon. Dedicated fashionistas are officially invited to take part in the season’s most buzzed-about event.
The first five packages booked for stays falling over September 5, 2012 will include two invitations to the exclusive Angelo Galasso POLSOOROLOGIO Party in The Oak Room, giving guests the opportunity to rub elbows with New York’s fashion tastemakers and trendsetters.
"The Fall Fashion Week Package" includes:
• Luxurious accommodations in a guestroom or suite
• Welcome bottle of champagne
• Hair style and make-up application at the Warren-Tricomi Salon at The Plaza
• $100 Gift Card to The Todd English Food Hall at The Plaza
• Invitations for guests booked the evening of September 5 to the exclusive Angelo Galasso
• POLSOOROLOGIO Party in The Oak Room (available for first five bookings only)
The offer is available exclusively during Fashion Week between Wednesday, September 5 and Saturday, September 15. Rates start at $865 per night. The offer is valid on a three night consecutive stay and cannot be combined with any other special offer. The offer does not include tax and gratuities, and is not applicable to group bookings of ten or more.
To confirm your Fall Fashion Week experience at The Plaza, please call (888) 240-7775 or book online by visiting: http://www.fairmont.com/the-plaza-new-york
Celebrities always know where the best luxury hotel hot spots are. Wouldn't you like to get the skinny on where they like stay when they on their honeymoons? Check out these luxury 5-star hotels and the famous celebrities that honeymooned there:
Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica - At Peninsula Papagayo
Celebs: Andy Roddick and Brooklyn Decker
Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica
Four Seasons Hualalai - The Big Island Hawaii
Celebs: Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green
Four Seasons Hualalai
Jade Mountain Resort - St. Lucia
Celebs: Kendra Wilkinson and Hank Baskett
Jade Mountain Resort
Hotel Guanahani & Spa - St. Barts
Celebs: Bethenny Frankel and Jason Hoppy
Hotel Guanahani & Spa
As many travelers know, every experience yields a lifetime of stories and after founding Abercrombie & Kent 50 years ago, Geoffrey Kent has plenty to share. Kent is marking this milestone by traveling back to the white continent after 20 years, on Abercrombie & Kent's Classic Antarctica cruise and therefore visiting all seven continents during the Anniversary year. He will join A&K guests on board 'Le Boreal' November 27 – December 10, 2012 to commemorate a special time for the company and engage with the most integral part of A&K – the guests!
"With a trip to Australia already on my docket, this journey will find me reaching all seven continents in A&K's anniversary year — and I could not think of a more fitting way to celebrate," explains Kent. "It's a unique opportunity for me to spend time getting to know our guests — people with a passion for exploration who have made our success possible."
"I first travelled to Antarctica in 1992 and it's been calling to me ever since," says Kent. "Last time I travelled on one of the first expedition ships. I'm looking forward to returning on 'Le Boreal,' which brings an extraordinary level of luxury and style to the ends of the earth."
Kent is eager to create new memories with A&K passengers on 'Le Boreal' and will be hosting a cocktail reception for guests to celebrate, where he will share stories about exploring some of the world's most remote and challenging destinations over the past 50 years. Born in Kenya, he joined his parents in founding Abercrombie & Kent as a luxury safari outfitter with the philosophy of "shoot with a camera not with a gun." With the innate skill of a consummate businessman and the relentless curiosity of a born explorer, Kent created a company that enables travelers to literally discover the world around them - and to do it in a uniquely stylish manner. To this day, he continues to travel the world in search of the kinds of adventures that will surprise and thrill his guests. Classic Antarctica with Special Guest Geoffrey Kent November 27-December 10, 2012.
A quintessential two-week voyage scheduled during the early Austral Summer, the ideal time of year to see Antarctica at its most pristine – with dramatic sunrises and sunsets, massive glaciers and the ice pack beginning to break up. This is the most active time of year in penguin rookeries, with nest building in full swing and early chicks hatching. Highlights of this celebratory cruise include:
Cruise in style and comfort on board MV 'Le Boreal,' the only all-balcony vessel in Antarctica when chartered by A&K
Sail with A&K's pioneering founder, chairman and CEO Geoffrey Kent — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
Discover some of the world's rarest wildlife and terrain on shore excursions with expert naturalist guides
Gain a deeper understanding of the region with enriching lectures by award-winning experts, some of the most seasoned researchers working in Antarctica
Professional photographer and coach Richard Harker shares practical tips on how to capture the beauty of the dramatic scenery and extraordinary wildlife
Fourteen days from $10,995 per person, double occupancy
Hands-On Exploration with the Finest Guides
Shore excursions in Antarctica are designed to educate and inspire, with a carefully-selected team of leading naturalists, geologists, historians, marine biologists, ornithologists and photographers -- experts who give enriching lectures and provide hands-on guidance both on board and on shore, ranging from the practical (how to master your digital camera) to the personal (a first-hand account of overwintering on a remote sub-Antarctic island). With an average of 15 years' experience navigating the Southern Ocean, each A&K Zodiac driver is a certified field naturalist who provides knowledgeable commentary on the twice-daily excursions that take guests into the heart of this once-in-a-lifetime destination. With a guide-to-passenger ratio of 1:12, guests can expect personalized attention.
Adventuring in Comfort
The elegant guest quarters aboard MV 'Le Boreal' are among the most spacious and comfortable on any Antarctic cruise. Private balconies allow guests to appreciate the wildlife and midnight sun at any hour.
A technologically-advanced stabilizing system minimizes the effect of rough seas. Abercrombie & Kent's journeys are the most-inclusive way to experience Antarctica, include pre- and post-cruise lodging and sightseeing in Santiago, charter flights to and from Ushuaia, on-board lectures, twice-daily shore excursions, boot rental, most drinks, and staff and crew gratuities.
To book a journey to Antarctica with Geoffrey Kent, go to www.abercrombiekent.com or call 800 554 7094 to speak to an Antarctic specialist. Travellers unable to get away in November can still save 25% – up to $8,500 per cabin – on December voyages to Antarctica when booked by June 15, 2012.
Prices are per person, double occupancy
Photos available at: http://portfolio.abercrombiekent.com/res/sites/Antarctica
Video at: http://youtu.be/EYwd05vZDDs
The Beverly Hills Hotel has been named the first Historic Landmark for the City of Beverly Hills, as recently announced by the City’s Cultural Heritage Commission.
The Famous Beverly Hills Hotel Pool
Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, The Beverly Hills Hotel opened in 1912 prior to the founding of Beverly Hills itself, and the city grew up around the glamorous hotel. To this day, the iconic property remains at the heart of the star-studded Beverly Hills community, and it is devoting all of 2012 to the 100th anniversary celebration of its heritage not only as a newly-announced landmark and second home to Hollywood royalty, but also as a hospitality standard-bearer for future generations.
In recognition of this coveted recognition, a “Landmark Offer” has been introduced for hotel stays throughout the fall. Guests will receive a third or fourth night complimentary when reserving rooms from September 7 to December 30, 2012. Rates starting at $495 a night.
“We are truly grateful to the City of Beverly Hills for this Historic Landmark honor,” said Christopher Cowdray, chief executive officer of Dorchester Collection. “We have always been inspired by the magic and beauty of our Beverly Hills location, and it has helped provide The Beverly Hills Hotel with an iconic backdrop. As we celebrate our 100th anniversary this year, we look forward to highlighting this new Historic Landmark designation with great pride and joy.”
The hotel’s award as the city’s first Historic Landmark will be celebrated on September 12, 2012 in a special gathering for the Beverly Hills community. The event will include the opening of a historic time capsule, placed at the property’s front red-carpet entrance in 1993 when the hotel closed for a two and a half year refurbishment. The capsule’s location is marked by a gold plaque which indicates it is to be opened during the hotel’s centennial year. While its contents are reportedly ‘unknown,’ artifacts including a cigar from frequent guest Milton Berle and hand-drawings from a frequent celebrity guest are rumored to be inside. A new time capsule will also be planted, and the Mayor’s office will issue a proclamation declaring the ceremonious day “Beverly Hills Hotel Day.” Other 100th anniversary activities for The Beverly Hills Hotel include ongoing dining, spa and anniversary package offerings. An added highlight of the year-long anniversary celebration is the book launch of The Beverly Hills Hotel – The First 100 Years, by Beverly Hills resident Robbie Anderson, great-grandson of the property’s original owner and official historian for the hotel.
“Our new Historic Landmark status inspires us to continue to raise the bar when it comes to service and hospitality leadership,” said Edward A. Mady, regional director, West Coast, USA and general manager. “Dorchester Collection’s philosophy of ‘We Care’ is designed to provide not only an outstanding travel experience for our guests, but also to present a wonderful work environment for our employees and a welcoming local haven for our neighbors. We will ever be proud to call Beverly Hills home, and we thank the Cultural Heritage Commission for this wonderful recognition.”
Zermatt at night. The church marks the center of the village.
When I stepped out onto my hotel balcony in Zermatt, Switzerland, my first impression was simply, "Wow"! North American resorts like Whistler or Vail may have similar terrain, but they certainly don’t have mountains that look as dramatic as the Alps. I quickly realized that this would be the ski trip of a lifetime.
Situated at the southern end of the Switzerland, along the border of Italy, Zermatt is enclosed between incredibly steep mountains and dominated by a quiver of peaks that tower above 14,000 feet. The village was “discovered” by British mountaineers in the mid-nineteenth century, but its roots go far deeper. Roman coins found on the Theodul Pass (the gap between Zermatt and Bruel-Cervinia) indicate that the area was once an access route to Gaul and Helvetia between 200 and 400 B.C. Imagine, a ski resort that is over 2000 years old!
Today, the streets are lined with elegant restaurants and grand hotels and the resort is continually regarded as a world-class destination. Although Zermatt may appear as a real-life Disneyland (complete with its own version of the Matterhorn), its sun-browned stodels and traditional mountain culture allow its authenticity and appeal to persevere.
The train system in Switzerland really does run like clockwork. When I arrived in Geneva, I only had to make a short walk to the station, which was conveniently connected to the airport’s baggage claim area. My train was waiting at the correct gate and departed on schedule – just as the second hand swept past 12. For the next four hours, I was able to sit back and enjoy Switzerland’s sparkling landscape from the cozy comfort of my cabin.
When I arrived in Zermatt, I found myself in a bustling square where ranks of electric taxis, hotel shuttles and horse-drawn sleighs were competing to ferry me to my hotel. Cars are forbidden in Zermatt but never the less, the scene was quite overwhelming as vacationers poured out of the train. Luckily, I had made arrangements beforehand. Waiting for me at the platform was David Court from Alpine Exposure, the owner of a small tour company specializing in ski and snowboard vacations in the European Alps. Within a few minutes, we were loaded onto a small blue electro-wagon and quietly zipping off to the hotel.
David had arranged a room for me at Chesa Valese, a reasonably priced four-star establishment with many pluses. First, it’s literally within walking distance to everything – a great attribute in a car-free resort. Second, at a time of year when it is cold and icy, the hotel’s alpine decor offered warmth and color. Third, the owner and her staff were very pleasant and did everything to make me feel comfortable, cozy and happy.
My room was a traditional “Swiss” style with wood paneling, but also with a touch of flower wallpaper. The bed was topped with a comfy down duvet, the bathroom was large and modern, and the view of the Matterhorn was breathtaking. Breakfast included the an assortment of cereals, yogurts, boiled eggs, juices, coffee, tee, with the good selection of cheeses, cold cuts, fresh fruit, bread, rolls and croissants.
Chesa Valese also offered some surprising amenities including a Jacuzzi and a steam bath, which were a welcome retreat after a long day of skiing.
There’s certainly no shortage of shops that offer ski and snowboard equipment and prices are actually quite reasonable at about $150 for the week (including skis, boots and poles). TiPee Sports is conveniently located next to the Sunnegga lift station and the owner (John Tidy) is a friendly British chap who gave me some great insight about the changes that have occurred since he officially expatriated over 20 years ago.
My skiing experience began with David greeting me at my hotel on the first morning. One of the added benefits of signing up with his company includes three days of guiding – a service that ultimately helps one get familiar with the different ski areas, which collectively, are absolutely enormous.
Powder skiing. The Matterhorn always present in the background.
There are three distinct locations in Zermatt: Sunnegga, Gornergrat and Klein Matterhon. However, if you purchase the International Pass you can also ski in Cervinia and Valtournenche, which are just across the border in Italy yet completely accessible on skis.
Skiing in Cervnia, Italy
It was a clear and sunny day, but David mentioned that snow was expected later in the week, so he suggested that we make the trip to Cervinia, before access would be prohibited. He clarified that, for safety reasons, they close the runs if visibility is poor or if the winds are too fierce. Without a cloud in sight, I doubted the coming of a storm, but I also knew that David has been skiing in Zermatt for over 20 years, so I took his word and we started our long journey up a series of cable cars to the Klein Matterhorn station.
Switaly! David standing at the border of Switzerland and Italy.
From the moment we reached the top, I realized why skiing in Europe is such a different experience from that of skiing in the US, particularly since I grew up skiing in the northeast. The wide open spaces can appear somewhat intimidating at first - especially as most of the runs are above tree-line. And starting at 12,500 feet (the highest lift station in Europe) can also be a bit daunting. But David turns to me with a re-assuring smile and we begin our descent to Cervinia – more than 8 miles away!
There are precious few opportunities in the world to ski over international borders but doing so for this long without ever needing to take a lift was clearly one of my most favorite experiences. I couldn’t imagine anything that could top it – until David took me to Restaurant Bontadini, where we stopped for an amazing lunch of creamy cannoloni, a bottle of red wine, and then a coffee with a freshly made tiramizu. Wow! Italy just got even more beautiful.
Skiing in Zermatt
Just as David had expected, the weather was about to turn so we skied at Sunnegga – an area that is lower and covered more by trees. The skiing was fun, but the visibility was poor. He could sense my frustration so he did what came naturally for any European skier: he suggested we stop for a long lunch.
Having a guide is great. Fresh tracks and no crowds!
We went to Chez Vrony, a mountain restaurant that –at first glance – looked like something of a Swiss cliché hidden among the stodels along the hillside. But the interior was quite a surprise. It was decorated with modern furniture upholstered in black leather and cowhides and from the ceiling dangled an assortment of unique chandeliers made of discarded plumbing material – all the work of Vrony’s brother, Heinz Julen. Foodies will revel in the fact that they raise their own cattle for their beef and make their own cheese in the basement.
We were positioned in a small private room upstairs and started with a glass of Prosecco and the air-dried beef, which is accompanied by curls of mountain cheese, tiny pickled onions, cornichons and freshly baked black bread. My main course was a saffron risotto topped with veal and sage. To drink: a red varietal from the Valais region.
Our starter, two mains, an excellent bottle of wine, and sparkling water, totaled about 165 Swiss francs. Not cheap, but very high quality with a very pleasant surrounding, a friendly professional staff, and certainly a warm escape from an otherwise snowy day.
It turns out that Heinz Julen (Vrony’s brother) owns the most hip spot in town for late night cocktails and dancing. His place is called Vernissage and it is located in the very center of Zermatt.
Vernissage - Zermatt's most eclectic bar, theater and disco.
His place is split into three levels. From the entrance at the top floor one walks down a spiral staircase to the main bar, which, keeping to his style, is bedecked with blocky leather couches and illuminated glass tables that appear to be floating from the floor. A private lounge sits off to the side behind sheer white curtains and, walking out to it, you’ll find that it is actually suspended thirty feet above his art gallery, which is located on the next level below. Walking down those final set of stairs, you’ll also find the dance floor, which becomes quite popular by midnight.
Other hot spots: Hotel Post on the main street (www.hotelpost.ch)
Of all the resorts I’ve ever been to, Zermatt will be my favorite. On the morning I departed, I gazed up at the Matterhorn for one last time. The early sun colored its east face with a warm orange light that off-set the jagged grey crags. Despite the cold weather, the mountain looked inviting and seemed to be saying one last farewell as I was about to board the train back to Geneva. It’s an image I won’t forget and I hope that I will be able to return someday soon.
Undoubtedly, I could have planned this all myself and relied on a resort map while navigating the slopes, but David’s local knowledge truly paid off. His hotel and restaurant suggestions were spot-on and he really does have an instinct for where the best conditions will be on any given day. In the end, he was able to tailor the trip to my own specific needs. Whether I needed an extra little push to get down a black run or just a quick stop for a coffee and apple strudel, he made for a fantastic experience.
For more information about his business, go to: www.alpine-exposure.com
The Summer House :
English Invades Summer House In Siasconset
The Summer House Inn
Todd English is a busy man. Being a celebrity chef, restauranteur, author, entrepreneur, and television personality isn’t as easy as you’d think. How does a guy like Todd ever find time to smell the roses? At The Summer House of course.The picture perfect rose covered cottages and casual elegance of The Summer House is the place to take a deep breath, relax and unwind on Nantucket.
English has been a regular here since becoming best friends with proprietor Danielle de Benedictis when he opened his first restaurant in Charlestown, MA. These two have chemistry. Their amazing energy is the catalyst of an exciting renaissance movement taking place at The Summer House.
So are you ready to break some bread with Todd English? Can you take a little time to smell the roses with us? Let’s settle into Francesca cottage for an unforgettable stay at The Summer House. Come on. You’re invited too!
Read the full story.
Related blog post: Reliant Air's Nantucket Shuttle Service From Danbury Airport To ACK In 35 Minutes
Reliant Air's King Air Turbo Prop
Are you on your way to Nantucket from Westchester or Fairfield County? Would you like to avoid the drudgery of fighting your way to John F. Kennedy Airport, parking your car and clearing security?
The best alternative to this scenario is Reliant Air's Nantucket Shuttle departing from either White Plans (HPN) or Danbury (DXR). The service is provided on a King Air turbo prop at a small premium to JetBlue's offering without all the hassles. Cost is $500 each way per person from Danbury, (DXR) and $575 from White Plans, (HPN).
Today Famtripper.com left early from Danbury (DXR) at 5:00 a.m. to pick up returning passengers heading to White Plans (HPN) on a 6:30 a.m. flight.
I'm happy in the air, especially aboard a King Air. Sitting up next to the pilot in the cockpit with the sun raising over the horizon was a great way to start the new day. There is so much to see on this short 35-minute flight.
We jetted passed Montauk, Block Island, Cuttyhunk, Martha's Vineyard and Tuckernuck Islands before turning right to base and flaring for a picture perfect landing on Nantucket. I turned to Josh the pilot and said, "The flight was way to short. Nice landing." I was happy to be home again on my favorite island. Nantucket.
1 Wibling Road
Danbury, CT 06810
DXR - Danbury
ACK - Nantucket
DXR - Danbury
ACK - Nantucket
ACK - Nantucket
DXR - Danbury
HPN - White Plains
ACK - Nantucket
ACK - Nantucket
HPN - White Plains
It wasn't a bottle of white wine, although in hindsight it's obvious that cold vino would have been the way to go.
A man refreshes at Boulder Falls.
Anyone who has read The Sun Also Rises will understand what I mean when I say I "went Hemingway" on the creek, wedging my water bottle between two rocks, allowing the cold water to do its thing. It was early afternoon and quite hot in the sun - approaching 90 degrees - and as the adrenaline from the morning climb wore off I began to feel my tired muscles. Having learned my lesson hiking to 14,000 feet earlier in the week, I passed on an afternoon cocktail for a healthy serving of hydration.
Looking back that decision seems foolish now, given the calming scenery and how good the sips of wine would have tasted in the heat of the day. As if sitting on the side of the creek and hearing the water flow wasn't enough, the canyon walls, pine trees, blue sky, and cascading waterfall wrapped everyone up in an afternoon comfort. People gathered at the base of the falls, sitting and walking with their ankles in the water, the dogs jumping into the deeper pools. Some had brought picnics, others hammocks and chairs.
That morning I had climbed about 1000 ft to the top of the first flatiron, and needless to say my toes were a bit rough from the journey, from being stuffed into the purposely cozy climbing shoes (reason being a big shoe wouldn't fit in a small hole in the rockface). When I held my feet in the running water and spread my toes, the force of the current performing a makeshift massage, I felt like rehabilitation - both in mind and body - had begun. One man took it a step further, as you'll see from the photos below.
Boulder Falls is located about 12 miles from the cabins of Chautauqua Park (trail open May 1 - October 31), a beautiful drive along the winding road into the Rockies. It's less than a five-minute walk from the road, making it the perfect outdoor sanctuary for people who want to feel good about doing absolutely nothing. My advice would be to bring some friends, and wash down the afternoon with a cold drink.
Cooling off at Boulder Falls.
One of my friends told me that she usually starts to "feel it" around 13,000 feet.
Mountain goats at Quandary Peak.
We were about a mile into the three to four mile ascent, and we had just come across a pack of mountain goats on the snow-covered rocks. The dog chased them as far as he could over the ridge, stopping when the pitch became too intimidating, looking down at the goats that now stood comfortably on the side of the mountain.
I inhaled deeply. We were around 10,000 feet and I knew the air was thin, but I felt like a million bucks - the blue sky, fluffy clouds, wildlife, and distant peaks distracting me from the stress on my body. In a few minutes this would all change - this was no ordinary hill.
Classified as a fourteener, a mountain over 14,000 ft, Quandary Peak is located just outside of Breckenridge (80 miles from Denver). There are approximately 70 fourteeners in the lower 48 states, and 53 of them are in Colorado (numbers may vary depending upon source as each uses slightly different qualification criteria). It's a thing around here, for sure. People keep track of how many they've hiked, and when you tell someone you've hiked your first they are genuinely congratulatory.
I wrote in a recent feature that Denver's urban/outdoor combination attracts an active and athletic population, and now I'm starting to wonder if that might have been an understatement. Those used to living at sea level who consider themselves to be in good shape are in for a surprise - the altitude has a way of humbling visitors. Myself included.
On top of the world at Quandary Peak.
I'll give credit to the Coloradans: Despite being incredibly fit and physically capable, they carry a tremendous amount of respect for the elements and how dangerous these beautiful environments can be. Staying on the trail is an extremely good idea, and hiking without ample food and water is downright foolish. It's a good thing I was going with locals, because I was prepared to set off with nothing more than the water in my Camelback.
Let's put this all in perspective: When I went skydiving over Santa Barbara last year, I jumped out of a plane that was cruising at 13,000 ft. That's stunning to me, and probably explains why I had to stop every five to ten minutes to catch my breath once we hit 12,000 ft. Even though it's only a class 1, the hike to Quandary Peak is all uphill, from the first step to the last. As you ascend the terrain changes from covered paths to exposed rock fields, and you go from simply walking up hill to now stepping up and climbing loose rocks. Stair-stepping, if you will.
Spouts of dizziness and a thumping heart forced me to stop and regroup frequently once we hit the final mile - something I simply had to get used to and accept. While initially frustrated, I did begin to appreciate the way taking a seat brought the surroundings to my complete attention. I can't imagine it's an unlikely scenario for one to put their head down and charge up the mountain and allow the workout to drown out the scenery.
Arriving at the top of Quandary Peak was by no means anti-climatic - just take a look at the photos. The sight lines exploded and people were drinking beer, hanging out (my sorry ass stuck with coconut water). It was really the nonchalance that impressed me, that made me shake my head and laugh. You know, climb 14,000 ft, have a beer, climb down. Whatever.
Check out Colorado Fourteeners for more information on Quandary Peak (and others). Here are the photos of our journey to 14,265 feet:
The Tampa Port Authority welcomed the announcement by Royal Caribbean International of its plans to replace its current cruise ship serving Tampa, Jewel of the Seas, with Brilliance of the Seas beginning with the 2013-2014 season. Both belong to the Radiance Class of ships, with 2,112 passenger capacity.
Brilliance of the Seas
In May 2013, before Brilliance of the Seas is deployed to Tampa, she will enter dry dock to undergo a major revitalization as part of Royal Caribbean's Royal Advantage program, and re-emerge almost as if she were a new ship. This will involve introducing the highest guest-rated features from its award-winning Oasis Class of ships, to include a greater variety of new onboard dining and entertainment options, revitalized staterooms, and many other amenities including pervasive Wi-Fi, digital way-finding systems and an outdoor LED video wall. Vacationers can choose four- and five-night Western Caribbean itineraries aboard Brilliance of the Seas, sailing round-trip from Tampa and calling at Cozumel, Mexico on the four-night, and George Town, Cayman Islands and Cozumel on the five-night cruises. Aboard select five-night sailings, guests call at Key West, Fla., instead of George Town. Vacationers also can select a 13-night Southern Caribbean itinerary, departing on Oct. 27 from Boston, Mass. to Tampa. These sailing will open for sale on Thursday, May 17.
We look forward to welcoming Brilliance of the Seas to Tampa and believe the ship’s exciting new features will create a fresh buzz in Tampa’s robust cruise market and with the travel agent community,” Richard Wainio, port director and chief executive, said.