It’s not often I make an effort to do touristy things with my kids, and it’s certainly less likely in my hometown of New York City. I had, however, balked last visit on an attempt to go to the top of the Empire State Building, I just could not stomach the cost and long lines. This visit, in August — the dog days of summer — I promised we would do one super touristy thing, and we opted for a trip to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

I had not been on this tour since the late ’70s and was thinking the boat ride would be pleasant and the breeze appreciated. Having booked the tickets online, I insisted the kids bring hats and water bottles and pack lightly. Of course, it’s one of the most popular attractions in the Big Apple, so the crowds and diversity represented were impressive.

Booking online saved us some hassle, as the will-call line was brisk. The boat was packed, and I almost felt like an immigrant in steerage. I was glad we had snacks and water, because they were pricey on the boat.

I have to admit, on a sunny day I was quite gobsmacked by the proximity of Lady Liberty, her majesty and the thought of generations of immigrants arriving on our shores. My younger son caught me tearing up a bit as we approached. I was mostly moved by the array of visitors from all over the country and the world.

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Camping sauvage, wild camping, dispersed camping, whatever you want to call it. It’s not for everyone—the lack of loos puts many off—but if you are into getting away from the zoo-like atmosphere at some campgrounds and have an all- or four-wheel drive car, it can be a spectacular option.

I first was introduced to this in France, driving a tiny tuna can, Renault-5 company car with Plasti-Chenaux—a window fixture company—written across the white car in blue and red. We camped on beaches, on farms and in public spaces often asking if it was all right with the farmer or property owner. It felt wild and crazy to this city girl, but waking up under plum trees or near the crashing waves was memorable.

Cut to many years later and after many a backpacking trip, we now—with two kids in tow—enjoy both hauling our gear on our backs and packing the car to the gills with all of our ramshackle gear and hitting the road. We have camped in the desert, in the mountains, and it is always an adventure. It’s not easy and certainly takes some effort, but with two strapping boys now able to do their share, this trip seemed extraordinarily gratifying.
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Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, California, Camping, Canoe/Kayak, Hike/Backpack, Lake Tahoe, National Forest, Northern California, Swimming, wildlife

Giant saber-toothed tigers, dire wolves and wooly mammoths right in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum are really a “lost in time” attraction in two senses. You’ll sees Ice Age fossils and life size replicas of prehistoric beasts, ongoing research you can watch—as paleontologists work on fossils for all to see—and plenty to enthrall dinosaur lovers and history buffs of any age.

There is also something very low-tech and appealing about the place. In the midst of glitzy L.A., where everything seems to be on overdrive, this sleepy spot has drawn parents and kids for decades. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under California, Family Travel, Museum, Southern California, Urban Parks

As winter gives way to spring and wildflowers replace snowbanks in mountain meadows, I’m having alpine dreams. Those usually take me to Switzerland and the Jungfrau region, one of my favorite places in the world, but today I’m thinking about Germany. It’s been decades since I’ve spent any real time there, for no good reason that I can think of.

So what’s the best way to see the country? Car, bike, or boat? Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cycling, Driving Trips, Europe, Germany, Germany, Hike/Backpack

I was tantalized by articles touting the super bloom in the desert this year. In the wake of a wetter than usual winter, visions of colorful desert flowers danced in my head. When planning a brief SoCal trip to visit my sister—who recently moved to L.A. from Brooklyn—I suggested an overnight to Joshua Tree.

A visit to the National Park, more than twenty years ago, is seared in my memory. Following a glorious day of rock climbing for the first time, I proceeded to lose my camera, which I never recovered. I fantasize about that day and have created an epic tale in my head, mostly because there is no documentation that it actually happened. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, California, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, National Parks, Palm Springs, Rock Climbing, national park

When I’m sitting in traffic, driving the carpool or taking out the mulch I dig deep and try recall the joyous and cleansing feeling I had spending five days in the snowy wilderness of the High Sierra. Between Christmas and New Year’s, my family joined another for a winter adventure that I replay often in my head; it really was just what the doctor ordered.

This is the first year in a long while the snow has been this deep and this good. The drought in California has taken a toll, and although hardly the most important problem caused by low, or no precipitation, the lack of snow has been hard for winter sports enthusiasts.

Thanks to Global Warming and/or El Nino, this year is different! The weather report seemed perfect. Clear skies for travel days, fresh snow upon arrival and one day of flurries. We packed our backpacks, pre-cooked our beef stew, waxed our cross country skis and prayed our old car could manage the mountainous trip.

It was cold, maybe 10-15 degrees when we arrived. The kids donned snowshoes, my husband I the skis and we tried to balance the weight in our packs. Our friend pulled the sled with much of the food. In the summer you can drive in to the house but in the winter the journey is part of the adventure. It’s only about a mile but you feel you’ve really earned it! Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Budget Travel, California, Cross Country Skiing, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Hike/Backpack, Lake Tahoe, Northern California, Snowboarding, Sports, Uncategorized

When you travel to the same place often, to visit family, it is important to have ritualized outings and to sprinkle in some new experiences each visit to keep things fresh. We are lucky, my in-laws live on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington and it is always fun to travel there.

We have our list of musts, which includes over-the-top breakfasts at the Oak Table, swims in Lake Crescent, visits to Lavender Farms, maybe a day trip to Victoria, British Columbia and walks on the Dungeness Spit to name a few. This summer we had a longer visit planned and decided to explore some spots farther from our home base in Sequim.

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Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, British Columbia, Budget Travel, Canada, Culture, Driving Trips, Family Travel, Hike/Backpack, Museum, Olympic Peninsula, Pacific Northwest, Sequim, Washington, art, wildlife

One of my favorite things in the world is to plunge into a lake, preferably in the mountains, fed by snowmelt. The Pacific Northwest drought and climate change have sadly warmed the temperature of many of these glorious lakes. The upside is that swimming is more pleasant. It used to be, numbness and a deep bone chill was assumed after a mountain lake dip.

This summer, as I embark on a big birthday, I was feeling a bit shy, or let’s say not really embracing the idea of a blowout celebration. I have never reveled in birthday glory, despite being a Leo, a theatrical being, and anything but a shrinking violet. It felt so dismal to ponder, plan and pretend to be festive when I wasn’t feeling it. Instead, I just said yes to a variety of unconnected plans and invitations, and inadvertently (perhaps a little by divine design) got to experience numerous lakes this summer. I’m choosing to call it “The Summer of Lakes“ and not my big birthday summer.

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Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, California, Canoe/Kayak, Driving Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Hike/Backpack, Lake Tahoe, National Parks, Northern California, Olympic National Park, Olympic Peninsula, Oregon, Pacific Northwest, Sequim, Swimming, Washington, Yoga, national park, wildlife

I have wanted to pick stone fruit since I moved to California more than twenty years ago. In the interim I have picked blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, apples and some cherries from my urban backyard tree. The lure of fuzzy pink peaches, iridescent plums and, as comedian Mel Brooks would say, “I love a nectarine; It’s half a peach, half a plum, it’s a hell of a fruit” is tantalizing.

Dreams of picking fruit, fresh off the tree dance in my head, particularly in summer. One of my happiest memories was wild camping in Provence waking up in our tent under a reine claude plum tree. We ate so many as we noshed on our fresh croissants and coffee.

Somehow, I always seem to miss the season here, maybe it’s my East Coast sensibility or the craziness in May and June, but finally this year, my dream came true! I had planned a day with my younger son, a good friend and her son. We would pack a picnic, drive to the East Bay and pick fruit in searing heat and then cool off in a pool or watering hole. There are many lists of U-Pick fruit orchards, I picked this one: Farmer’s Daughter Produce and U-Pick Farm.

I tried to maintain that buoyant feeling despite a wrenched ankle, that had me hobbled, and the whining complaints of the the two tween/teen boys we had brought along. I knew they would rather be playing video games, but I also knew that this was going to be fun and rewarding!

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Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, California, Day Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Farmer's Markets, Markets, Northern California

I recently went for my thrice annual hair trim, and I love these sessions because my hair guy and I talk books, music, film and travel. I’ve sent him my top recommendations and links to things I have discovered and we always discuss details of his travels and reading list.

So this time, I asked if he had any fun trips planned and he said he was headed to Cambodia in the fall for a working/volunteer vacation. Intrigued, I asked if it was teaching English, building infrastructure or joining a medical support program. He said he was so excited to be teaching Cambodian sex traffic survivors the high end hair and cosmetology skills to help create a new path for them. It was through an organization called Justice & Soul. The program, started by two passionate activists connected to the beauty and fashion industry, seeks to “transform the lives of trafficked young women, young men and children globally into confident, self-sufficient and financially independent individuals.”

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1 Comment | Filed Under Asia, Fashion