Several years ago, I had the privilege of covering the opening of the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas casino resort. It was a really wildly splashy affair (in the recession, no less) that involved a spectacular black-tie New Year’s Eve dinner designed by Colin Cowie, and a concert in a rather intimate ballroom by such up-and-comers as Jay-Z, Coldplay, Beyonce, Kanye West — you know, no biggie. Of course, the fabulous food and champers flowed, and surprises like poolside concerts and other treats popped up around the property all weekend. After that, David and I decided, “OK, we don’t have to do New Year’s Eve anymore. We can put the whole holiday to bed. We’ll never top this.”
Valentine’s Day in Paris was kinda like that. From the second deck of the Eiffel Tower after sunset, we declared, “It’s a wrap on Valentine’s Day.” Read more…
I’ve been a vegetarian for so long (20-plus years!) that I don’t experience any sense of active compromise when I’m quickly scanning menus for the limited dishes I can eat. And certainly when I travel, I don’t necessarily expect to eat that nation’s specialty, and I don’t bemoan it if I can’t. I’m very used to this, and I like to think I’m low maintenance in that regard, though I do actively seek out vegetarian restaurants when I travel if it’s a possibility.
You’d think that a babymoon in Europe (France, Italy, Spain) would be kind of a perfect scenario for a pregnant vegetarian: first-world cleanliness practices, and tons of bread and pasta and cheese as national specialties, available anywhere from street corners to fine dining rooms (especially compared to some of the more far-flung or meat-loving places where we’ve traveled recently, like Indonesia, Istanbul). Easy peasy, right?
Totally wrong, as it turns out. American pregnant women are not advised to eat unpasteurized cheese (or milk, or juice), and it turns out Europeans are not real big on pasteurizing their stuff. Ironic, right? Given that Louis Pasteur‘s birthplace was indeed France. Read more…
First of all, just to put it out there: The word “babymoon” is pretty obnox, right? But the concept, of course, is something I can totally get behind.
Obviously, when I found out I was pregnant, there was zero chance we were going to miss heading out for (at least) one last hurrah abroad. Of course, we got the doctor’s OK (he was relievingly unconcerned), and then we tossed around a ton of babymoon ideas.
Where to go? In recent years, our travel has tended to favor remote and third-world places, often accessed by super-long flights from Los Angeles. This time, we had a few specific criteria: Read more…
I want to tell you guys about a really wonderful woman, and a really special little place in the world.
The woman is named Madi Collins, and the place is the colorful little PAW Animal Sanctuary on the tiny island of Caye Caulker in Belize.
I found Madi (that’s her pictured above) several weeks ago, while asking relatively pettier questions about hotels and such on TripAdvisor’s Belize forums. (Sidebar: Do you know about/use TripAdvisor’s travel forums? They’re the best wellspring of info ever.) She popped up there in a somewhat desperate search for a donated laptop for her animal sanctuary — and as a devoted animal lover, I reached out to her in the hopes we could help.
Just before our trip, we’d not yet turned up a spare laptop we could donate, but I emailed Madi to tell her I had a never-used smartphone, still in the box, if perhaps she could use it for her organization? She emphatically said she could, so I put it in my suitcase and we set off for Belize. Read more…
Belize is well known for its world-class diving along the western hemisphere’s largest barrier reef, yes. But there’s a littler-known activity on the mainland that’s a total must for adventure travelers: the absolutely amazing ATM cave tour.
When I read about the sacred ATM cave — that’s for Actun Tunichil Muknal, no relation to the cash machine — I knew we had to try it. I did some research on the web (thanks, as always, trusty TripAdvisor!) and reached out to Carlos, who goes by “Carlos the Cave Man.” People seemed to love his expert leadership and charisma on tours through world’s top sacred cave, according to National Geographic. He’s one of only 23 guides in the country certified to lead the experience. Read more…
Readers of this blog will know that my short career as a scuba diver has been less glorious marine brochure and more P.S.A. warning.
It began with four treacherous certification dives in the frigid Southern California winter, and continued immediately with a Vietnamese dive in near zero visibility that saw me separated from the group and forced to practice my just-learned skills immediately. (Now what were they?)
I’m writing now after a pair of dives off Tranquility Bay on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize, and I’m happy to report: I get it. I totally, totally get it. The appeal of diving, when it’s good, is intensely powerful and wonderful and undeniable. Read more…
A chunk of years ago, now-hubby and I had a hankering to go to Belize. But it was the recession and everything was more spare, so we opted for a relatively budget friendlier Hawaii trip. There, he popped the question on a hike in Maui, which is an absolute setup for romance. (Try playing your “We just got engaged!” card for free dessert in Hawaii — then look around and see that every last dude in the restaurant is on bended knee.) Obviously, no complaints about our destination pick for that trip. It was the magical stuff of dreams. (Followed eventually by a Tahitian honeymoon that was like, the stuff of dreams’ dreams. I mean — gulp. Speechless.)
But the idea of Belize remained under our skin, and now that we’re open-water dive certified (which readers of this blog know is a whole other dramatic story), we knew we had to get there, where the diving is supposed to be some of the best in the world. Read more…
I’ve written extensively about Palm Springs-area properties and where to stay in Palm Springs, but I want to come back to the topic to quickly give a shout out to the Riviera Palm Springs Resort & Spa.
We’ve stayed at the resort before, but visited again for a last-minute overnighter during Independence Day weekend. Yes, sweltering summer is the desert’s slower season, but we were still seriously impressed with the below-market $99 rate — such that it actually inspired the spontaneous trip. Read more…
One of the truly wonderful things about Hamburg, Germany is the convergence of old and new happening everywhere.
On my recent visit, I like to think I experienced the best of both after staying in two unique hotels: Gastwerk and the Hotel Atlantic Kempinski. Read more…
I arrived in Berlin solo on Saturday afternoon after traveling all night on a fully packed and airless 747, during which I remained awake and eagle eyed merely inches from my seat mate who was a ringer for Gary Coleman, but that’s neither here nor there.
I was a jet-lagged zombie on my first day in town, but had a short weekend to explore before my scheduled departure for Hamburg Sunday afternoon and wanted to make the most of it. As I was feebly showing myself the sights in Mitte near my hotel, I asked a couple of traveling Americans to take a photo for me, and they turned out to be those extra vigilant people who take enough shots that you’ll be sure to be happy with at least one, and who actually pay attention to lighting and framing (the best kind of people). They also told me about this free tour I really ought to pick up the next day at 11 a.m. from the Starbucks next to the Brandenburg Gate to make the best use of my short time in town. A fortuitous meeting, as it turns out! Read more…