I am on-the-go in Washington D.C., and it certainly doesn't seem like the middle of March.
I feel so lucky to be visiting when the weather is this pleasant. I remember days as a kid touring the Nation's Capital in the middle of summer, the heat and humidity making the walk from the Monument to the Capital building lose all its romance.
Nice weather is a double-edged sword for me - it motivates me to get out of the house, however once I am under the sun and feeling the breeze I have a tendency to sit very still, to breathe it in very deeply and not worry about moving so much.
Being the Publisher of a luxury travel website is a wonderful thing. You get to experience the finest resorts in the world. You get spoiled. This isn't necessarily the best way to learn about a destination and experience the local culture. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've used the cliché, "I only stay at the best hotels." Silly.
Off the beaten track experiences add depth to a travel painting filled with texture and color. Brush aside your preconceived travel expectations. Let go. Create an authentic travel "study" of your own. You'll be glad you did!
We recently had the opportunity to visit the quaint little town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. It encompasses about a square mile on Carmel Bay. Back in the day, before Clint Eastwood was the Mayor, you'd think that Walt Disney was one of the founding fathers responsible for the building codes. Carmel by-the-Sea looks like Walt's vision of an 18th century English village that meets Hansel and Gretel. It's storybook charming.
Accommodations When it comes to accommodations in Carmel by-the-Sea, it's a family affair. There are forty-five cozy inns to choose from and virtually no luxury hotel brand options. If you're not into experiencing the local color, then stay at the Pebble Beach Lodge just up the road. However, you'd be missing out on a great authentic experience. You'll save a fistfull of dinero too, which can be better spent at Clint Eastwood's Mission Ranch sipping your favorite libation watching the sunset. Then head over to Mundaka Restaurant on San Carlos Street for some amazing tapas and live music. You'll be way ahead of the game!
Hofsas House • Carmel-by-the-Sea
It all starts when you check in at the Hofsas House. This quaint property is centrally located on San Carlos Street, north of Fourth Avenue. From here, you can walk to everything in town.
This family operated hotel has been in the same loving hands for three generations. It's this history and DNA that make the place shine! If you're seeking an authentic lodging experience, it awaits you here. The genuine hospitality and going that extra mile makes guests feel at home. Carrie Theis is the granddaughter of the founder Donna Hofsas. Carrie now runs and operates the hotel. She is all about customer service and goes beyond the call of duty--she helped me gain access to Clint Eastwood's gym so I could work out! It's obvious that she loves her job and takes pride in the family business. Her joyfulness will enable you to prime your brush and begin your "study" on Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Hofsas House • King Room
Hofsas House The property has thirty eight oversized rooms; each with a different floor plan and most have peaking views of the Pacific Ocean. They come equipped with private balconies, wet bars, and kitchens. My favorite touches were the wood stove fireplaces, heated bathroom floors and the Dutch doors. The WiFi is complimentary and works well. It's best to request a room that's centrally located in order to get the best reception. Leave your car in the Inn's parking lot for free. (This is a big bonus since parking is always hard to find in town.)
Rooms range from $139 November through January and $139 - $200 February through October. You can always negotiate a walk-in rate and promotional discounts are honored for AAA and AARP memberships. Dogs are welcome!
P.O. Box 1195
4th & San Carlos
Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA 93921
Carmel Beach One of the cool things to do is to make a fire on the beach just before sunset. Carrie at the Hofsas House will hook you up with a complimentary beach fire kit, which comes complete with a bottle of Carmel Vineyard wine and a S'mores marshmallow package. We highly recommend taking advantage of this as you'll find that some of the locals will come by and chat with you. You'll make some new friends and feel right at home.
The beach is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. There is a no leash law for dogs and fires are permitted on the beach south of 10th Avenue. You can also plan ahead and join the locals on the fourth Saturday of each month to help cleanup the beach.
Me Doing the S'mores Marshmallow Thing
Getting There Carmel-by-the-Sea is a two hour drive from San Francisco on Highway 101 South. If you'd like to fly, the Monterey Peninsula Airport is a short drive from downtown Carmel-by-the Sea. The airport has direct flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix and Las Vegas. Rental cars are available at the airport concession. If you're driving, please be aware that there is a two hour in-town parking limit. If you happen to park in a green curb zone you'll be safe for only 20 minutes! It's a $45 fine. Yikes.
We are always excited to share our discoveries of local restaurants. If you are planning a trip to the Monterey Bay area Tarpy's Roadhouse is an authentic find. It’s located directly off of the Monterey Salinas Highway, and next to the Monterey Airport. It’s the perfect off the beaten track choice and only a ten-minute drive from Carmel. Drop by before your flight leaves. Plan ahead.
The building resembles a Tuscan villa. Set on five lush landscaped acres the gardens, hanging plants and vines provide a beautiful backdrop while your enjoying your meal. Tarpy's is a casual American country dining experience. You’ll have many different seating options to choose from including the The Stone Room,The Shell Room, The Courtyard , and my favorite the outdoor covered patio aptly named“The Front Porch.” It’s a delightful setting to enjoy great food and the glorious weather. The day we were there it was 70 degrees and sunny. Bring your sunglasses. Here’s a sampling of what we were served:
Crab & Shrimp Cabbage Salad $14.95
Shrimp & Lobster Quesadilla $9.10
Fresh Chesapeake Bay Oysters $13.75
Cobb Salad W/ Chicken, Goat Cheese & Beats $14.95
From Carmel, CA:Take Ocean Avenue east, away from the ocean to Highway One North. Take Highway One North To Highway 68 East to Salinas. We are four miles on 68, left side, bottom of the hill, one mile past the airport.
From Downtown Monterey: Take Del Monte Avenue going North for approximately 3 miles, the Ocean will be on the left. Turn right on Canyon Del Rey (218) Proceed on Canyon Del Rey until reaching the Highway 68 intersection. Turn right towards Monterey. We are located five hundred yards from the intersection on the right side of the road.
Had I been here before? Was I experiencing dejavu as I turned up Old Golf Course Road in Monetery, California on my way to the Hyatt Regency Hotel? Is this possible? Everything seemed so famililar. As it turned out, I had visited this property 25 years ago. I'd been traveling for a week during the holiday season and had stayed in a myriad of accomodations. I remembered saying to my girlfirend, "Let's stay at the Hyatt-- at least we know it will be comfortable and the service will be good too..." The Hyatt is a brand you can trust day in and day out. This oldie but goodie doesn't disapoint. Especially with the recent multi-million dollar renovations.
Hyatt Regency Hotel Monterey Suite
We stayed in a Monterey Suite this time ($385 - $499 per night) and it was a very well thought out setup. The design was contemporary art deco influenced. The earthtone decor matched the craddle-to-grave recycled materials used to create eveything from the drapes to the coffee table.
The generous 685 square foot suite sported one and a half-baths. It featured a functional living room area with a sofa you'd actually like to lounge on. Thanks, Hyatt!
You enter the bedroom though art deco sliding doors and the first thing that hits you is the stylish King size Hyatt Signature Grand Bed. I must admit that it was very comfortable with the thick down blanket pulled over me.
The bathroom was over-the-top. Kudos to the Hyatt designers. It had everything a modern bathroom should--including an dual Grohe® hand-held and 18" waterfall shower heads, Portico bath products, marble flooring and countertops and a raised sink.
Unique indoor & outdoor settings for weddings and social gatherings
Innovative catering for onsite and offsite events
Expert planners and AV company on-site
Del Monte Golf Course
Golf your thing? Then this deal is for you! You and your golfing buddy can play a round on Del Monte Golf Course (Pebble Beach Company's championship Course) and stay for as little as $199.00 per night. That's an amazing offer. I'll put it in perspective for you. Just up the road is the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links. It costs over $400.00 to play a round with no accommodations included. Del Monte Golf Course is owned and maintained by the very same greens keepers and crew that service the PGA players and major championships like the US Open. Needless to say, the course is in tip-top shape.
Discover Pebble Beach Company's historic Del Monte Golf Course at the Hyatt Regency Monterey
Reserve By: March 30th, 2012
Stay: January 3rd, 2012 - March 31st, 2012
Knuckles Sports Bar
With the big game coming up check out Knuckles Sports Bar, voted #1 sports bar on the Monterey Peninsula seven years in a row. They've got a flat screen to patron ratio that can't be beat. Best Buy watch out! We also thought the Tap Table was very cool too. Here you can pull your own favorite brand of draft beer by the ounce. Domestic $.37/oz and Craft $0.39/oz. You can also try your luck every Tuesday night ! Toss a coin and if you win Hyatt will pick up the tab! Here's a sampling of what we were served:
Knuckles Sports Bar Shrimp Quesadilla
Monday – Friday, 4:00p.m. – 2:00am / Kitchen open until 11:00p.m.
Saturday and Sundays, 11:00a.m. – 2:00am / Kitchen open until 11:00p.m.
We also had a chance to check out the Accista Spa. It's a bit of a walk to building #7 but the valet will fire up one of the covered golf carts and quickly zip you over there. Just ask. The spa has a facebook page so you can view the latest news and offers. Visit Them on Facebook.
I enjoyed my 60- minute sports massage. The cost was $135.00.
Muir Woods National Monument Mill Valley, California
Happy New Year from Muir Woods National Monument in Mill Valley, CA. I woke up this morning and this magical place was top-of-mind. It was beckoning to be the first place I visited this year. I'm so happy it was too.
Walking amongst the majestic Sequoias is a moving, spiritual experience. Some of the trees have been standing since before Christ was born. I'm moved and amazed when I'm hiking in their presence. It's nature's cathedral--I'm always welcome.
Muir Woods National Monument was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908. The park is constantly blanketed by fog that rolls in off the Pacific Ocean. This fuels the Sequoias constant thirst for water and enables them to soar to the heavens. Daytime temperatures range between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The park is named after John Muir, a Scottish-born American naturalist and founder of The Sierra Club.
Come alone. Bring a friend or the whole family. If you're planning a visit to the San Francisco Bay Area, this will certianly be one of the high points of your trip. Don't miss it.
The entrance fee to Muir Woods National Monument will be increased from $5 to $7 beginning on January 1, 2012. Children 15 years and younger will continue to enjoy free admission. On weekdays, getting to Muir Woods via public transportation requires hiking into the park from the nearest bus stop. Muir Woods is open everyday at 8 AM, including holidays. For visitor information, please call (415) 388-2596.
Muir Woods is located 12- miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Take Highway 101 to the Highway 1/ Stinson Beach Exit. Follow the signs to Muir Woods. Roads to the park are steep and winding. Vehicles over 35 feet long are prohibited. Parking is very limited and space fills quickly on most days. There are no RV parking facilities.
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
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.
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.
Steps up to Aladdin's
Magic Parkwas 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?
Dream Getaway Sweepstakes
In the U.S., sweepstakes entries must be available with no purchase required. That’s to distinguish them from lotteries, which are subject to more rigorous federal oversight. So while the sweepstakes may be worded in such a way as to suggest that a purchase is required to enter, there’s almost certainly a clause buried in the terms and conditions that explains how to participate without buying anything.
"Super Bowl Experience” Sweepstakes
Through January 21, 2013
Five trips for four to New Orleans, Louisiana, including air transportation, double-occupancy hotel accommodations for four nights, four tickets to Super Bowl XLVII, and ground transportation to/from airport and hotel.
To enter, “Like” the Bud Light Facebook page to log in to the sweepstakes page, provide your contact information, and press “Submit.”
Music fans are invited to join Mark McGrath, lead vocalist of Sugar Ray, when he and his friends set sail on the Carnival Imagination from Miami Oct. 18-21, 2013, for three music-filled days. Joining McGrath and Sugar Ray for the cruise is an all-star lineup that includes popular bands such as Smash Mouth, Gin Blossoms, Cracker, Spin Doctors, Vertical Horizon, The Verve Pipe, and Marcy Playground, along with special acoustic performances by Ed Roland of Collective Soul and Ed Kowalczyk of Live.
Presented by Flying Dutchmen Travel, the Mark McGrath and Friends Cruise is a terrific opportunity for fans to get an up-close-and-personal look at their favorite bands while spending three days at sea enjoying exciting live performances, intimate concerts and much more.
A full-blown 90s musical extravaganza, the Mark McGrath and Friends Cruise features live performances each night in the Carnival Imagination’s 1,300-seat Dynasty Lounge, as well as in different venues throughout the ship. Exclusive perks include:
Surprise unplugged performances and jam sessions
Question and answer sessions and photo opportunities
Late night dance parties and other events
In addition to a stellar lineup of some of the most popular bands of the 1990s, participants can enjoy all the Carnival Imagination has to offer — an expansive water park with a 300-foot-long water slide, a completely renovated spa, a variety of delicious dining options, including a 24-hour pizzeria, a Serenity adults-only retreat, full casino gambling and more. The ship also spends a full day in Nassau, The Bahamas, home to white-sand beaches and interesting sites and landmarks.
As Colorado completes its transformation into a winter wonderland, the destination features special celebrations and festivals, ranging from ski joring competitions to a milestone winter carnival. Following are some of the top winter festivals for Colorado in winter 2013.
WinterBike, Copper (January 19). Winner of the NSAA’s “Most Unique Event” in 2012, the 2nd annual festival encourages participants to slip, slide and ride their way through Copper Village to a finish line celebration complete with fireworks. The kids can join in the fun this year with LittleBike, the free kids-only ride. Registration for WinterBike is $20.
Winter Brew Fest, Denver (January 25). A celebration of craft beverages from around Colorado and beyond, the Winter Brew Fest features live local music, food tastings, and other entertainment.
Snowdown, Durango (January 30 – February 3). Celebrate snow at Durango’s annual quirky winter festival, where this year’s theme is “Get Your Geek On” iSnowdown 2.0.13. Guests will enjoy more than 60 unique and zany events: evening torchlight parade, ski softball tournament, Snowdown Balloon Rally, wine tasting, beard growing contest, Snowdown Follies, Bed Race, a magnificent fireworks show and more.
Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival, Steamboat Springs (February 6 – 10). This historic winter festival, celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2013, pays tribute to the area’s skiing and ranching heritage and is a celebration of all things winter. Events include: the snow sculpture contest, ski races, snow tubing, live entertainment and performances by the Steamboat Springs High School marching band — the world’s only marching band on skis. The event also supports continued athletic development and education for competitors involved in Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, the oldest and largest winter sports club in the country.
WinterFest Weekend, Pagosa Springs (February 7 – 10). Join in three snow-filled days of fun as Pagosa Springs celebrates winter. Some events include Nordic races for kids and adults, Anything Goes Downhill Sled Race, Snow Sculpting Contest, Snowshoe Stop and more.
Telluride’s Gay Ski Week, Telluride (February 23 – March 3). This spirited yet unpretentious week offers a unique blend of top-rate skiing and entertaining events. From the Academy Awards watching party, to the popular White Night Party, ski week guests will enjoy 10 days of skiing and events.
The Ski Joring & Crystal Carnival, Leadville (March 1 – 3). Ski joring is a competition where a horse and rider pull a skier at a fast pace through a course that features gates, jumps and rings. The skier is timed through the course, and penalties are assessed by missing gates or jumps, and by missing or dropping any of the rings. Additional activities include a children’s parade, Nordic and winter mountain bike races and more.
Big Air on Elk, Crested Butte (March 9). Each year, Crested Butte is home to an epic ski jumping competition in the middle of its downtown. A snowmobile tows top local skiers and snowboarders, launching them off of a five-story, park-style jump at Third Street and Elk Avenue.
Bora Bora Wedding
Under a one hour flight from the island of Tahiti or Moorea, the island of Bora Bora, with a lagoon resembling an artist's palette of blues and greens, is love at first sight. Romantics from around the world have laid claim to this island where the castle-like Mount Otemanu pierces the sky. Lush tropical slopes and valleys blossom with hibiscus, while palm-covered motu circle the illuminated lagoon like a delicate necklace. Perfect white-sand beaches give way to emerald waters where colored fish animate the coral gardens as they greet the giant manta rays. This could be easily be described as the center of the romantic universe, where luxury resorts and spas dot the island with overwater bungalows, thatched-roof villas, and fabled ambience.
Pora Pora - the ancient name, meaning "first born," came from legends describing this as the first island to rise when Taaroa, the supreme God, fished it out of the waters after the mythical creation of Havai'i, now known as Raiatea. Although the first letter "B" does not exist in the Tahitian language, when Captain Cook first heard the name he mistook the softened sound of the Tahitian "P" for "B" and called the island Bola Bola.
From the dramatic scenery to the privacy and amenities of the overwater bungalows, everything in Bora Bora equals a 10 on the romance scale. Resorts have been welcoming couples for over 40 years and their special amenities have been fine tuned to perfection. From sunrise to sunset, each resort has designed their own blend of unique romantic experiences for their guests to choose from.
And if you are planning to take the vows this year, just escape to the Bora Bora island to make your special day all the more special.
Hear Dinosaurs Roar At Sea World in 2013
Sea World’s newest attraction takes visitors back 65 million years to the age of dinosaurs. The amusement park’s first animatronics attraction features an indoor jungle display, a full-size skeleton and real dinosaur fossils.
Dinosaur Island Sea World
Dinosaurs Roaring Sound Effect
Outside gets wilder with 14 life-size dinosaurs that move and roar including favorites like the Triceratops, a Velociraptor and the fearsome, 18-metre long Tyrannosaurus Rex. Kids can get involved in a dig at the Excavation Site or use interactive panels to control some of the dinosaurs’ movements.
SCOUT KEY, Florida Keysrime viewing of southern constellations, comets and stars is to draw hundreds of amateur and professional astronomers to the Lower Florida Keys Monday through Sunday, Feb. 4-10.
Winter Star Party
The 29th annual Winter Star Party is to take place at Camp Wesumkee, a Girl Scout camp at mile marker 34.5 off U.S. Highway 1 on Scout Key, formerly known as West Summerland Key. The Lower Keys’ southern location and relative absence of artificial lighting at night create optimal viewing conditions.
As many as 600 amateur and professional astronomers from around the world are to participate, attracted by the chance to view the Southern Cross and other southern constellations. The Florida Keys are among the only places in the contiguous United States where those celestial objects can be seen.
Tim Khan - Astro-Photographer
In addition to nightly stargazing opportunities, Winter Star Party participants can attend lectures and presentations by nationally recognized astronomers and guest speakers. They include astro-photographer and event director Tim Khan and star party founder Tippy D’Auria, a widely renowned planetary astronomer and astro-photographer.
Astronomy Photo Contest
Participants also can shop for astronomy equipment from on-site vendors, display their skills in photo contests, take lessons to enhance their mirror-grinding prowess, compete for raffle prizes and exchange information with fellow astronomy aficionados. Special “Kids Kamp” activities are arranged for young astronomers.
Miami’s Southern Cross Astronomical Society
The gathering is hosted by Miami’s Southern Cross Astronomical Society. Founded in 1922, the SCAS is one of the oldest amateur astronomical societies in the Western Hemisphere.
Viewing of the night skies is scheduled to begin at approximately 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Feb. 4-9, and continue until dawn. Event participants must depart Camp Wesumkee by 10 a.m. Sunday.
The Winter Star Party is open to the public as well as to SCAS members, though advance registration is required for the event. Tickets are not available for sale at the event.