Dispatches from Darya Mead

As I once again dig through bins of snow gear to prepare for a trek to the Sierras, I think about growing up on the East Coast. My mom hails from Upstate New York. That fact, combined with the brutal winters and my family’s enthusiasm for all things ski, skate and sled related, has shaped my winter wanderlust.

We are headed to a house, inaccessible by road in winter. Set on 100 acres of land, the generosity of the owners allows us to live out my alpine fantasies.  We snowshoe or ski one mile into the house, carrying backpacks and pulling a sled full of all our gear, food and an occasional small child. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Books, California, California, Cross Country Skiing, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Feature, Hike/Backpack, Lake Tahoe, Northern California, Olympics, Winter Fun

The Sundarbans, in Bangladesh is a natural wonder. The largest coastal mangrove in the world, it covers nearly 1500 square miles. Endangered Bengali tigers draw tourists during the dry winters. In the summer time, monsoon rains bring unpredictable flooding. This inhospitable environment is also home to the extremely rare and endangered Ganges river dolphins and Irrawaddy dolphins. Local fishermen do not target them, but they often unintentionally get caught up in their nets. Now, to help protect the beautiful beasts the Bangladesh government is declaring three areas in the southern Sundarbans mangrove forest as dolphin sanctuaries to protect the majestic and nearly extinct animals. Officials say waterways will be clearly marked. Accidental fishing is not the only danger to the dolphins; experts say climate change and pollution are contributing to their decline. There are hopes that the new measures will help protect one of the worlds most endangered graceful creatures.

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, wildlife

Even if you have never made the pilgrimage to Giverny, France, it’s not hard to visualize the glory that was…is…Claude Monet’s famous garden. From the well-known water lilies and irises to the many iconic Impressionist works, this small, intimate garden on the outskirts of Paris inspired many of Monet’s masterpieces.

A recent cameo in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris reminded me of my rushed trip to Giverny many years ago. I traipsed through the garden taking in the amazing palette of colors, the pinks and yellows, fuchsias, purples and oranges. How could one NOT love the feast for the senses? Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under California, Culture, Europe, Feature, Films, Museums, art

We drove through Yosemite a few weekends ago. It was packed with summer travelers and waterfall gawkers. The major falls are glorious, and fuller than they have been in years. New, smaller falls have even appeared much to the delight of park goers.

As we drove through the park, out past Mono Lake, we were stunned by the high water levels and snowy peaks in early July. We laughed, thinking that we could even cross-country ski in some spots above 7000 feet.

Record snowfalls this winter and heavy unseasonable rain in summer have made conditions epic for nature lovers but also hazardous.

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Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Budget Travel, California, Canoe/Kayak, Cross Country Skiing, Cruises, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Food, Hike/Backpack, Lake Tahoe, Mountain Biking, Northern California, Travel Safety, Yosemite, wildlife

Summer is finally and officially here!

Sand between my toes, melting popsicles, chlorine-y or salty hair, ripe tomatoes, fresh corn, eating outdoors, thunderstorms and fireflies—a few of my East Coast childhood summer memories. The idea of fireflies, or lightning bugs, as they are sometimes called, is just so charming, and in some ways a symbol of a simpler time. No iPhones or email, no TiVo or Internet, just a bug catcher and a jar….

Fireflies are everywhere this June. My kids listen to about 10 songs, as much as I try to curate their musical tastes, they’ll have to discover their own style. One of their favorites right now is Fireflies by Owl City. It’s a sweet song and the lyrics are very uncontroversial. My husband is also hooked on an old TV series called Firefly dubbed an America Space Western, by those in the know. Add to that, a great little restaurant, Firefly, in San Francisco, that we love…and then I came across this New York Times article about fireflies drawing hordes of tourists in Tennessee. This was the antidote to fast-paced modern life I needed to read about.

Apparently, there is a light show every night at this time of year in Elkmont, Tennessee near Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Folks gather at a trail head with camping chairs and wait for the Mother Nature’s ritual performance. Called “mind-blowing,” “a silent symphony” and likened to the aurora borealis or a solar eclipse, this is no small show. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under Budget Travel, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Hike/Backpack, wildlife

Both sets of my grandparents, one set Jewish, the other WASP-y, were avid golfers. They lived in Florida, traveled to Arizona and Scotland and belonged to various clubs in the ’60s and ’70s, when middle class folks could actually retire and spend their time golfing.

On a recent trip back to NYC, my mom dug out a pair of chiffon yellow Bermuda golf shorts with my grandma’s initials embroidered on them and gave them to me. Thanks Mom, maybe I can wear them in some hipster renaissance outfit somewhere in SF.

My mom pulls crazy things out of boxes and storage places in her small Greenwich Village apartment; like hordes of clowns coming out of a circus car, the treasures just keep coming. These were pristine and had probably been cloistered away for more than 30 years. Suffice to say I am NOT a golfer, save the mini golf experiences with my kids. I get the appeal though, and can perhaps imagine, that some day it might be of interest to me.

Golf, however, is a huge part of the travel market and I have written about golf courses and destinations for years. Two recent stories got me thinking about the symbolism of golf in today’s world. The New York Times story: Revolutionary Cuba Now Lays Sand Traps for the Bourgeoisie and the NPR story charting the golf course casualties of the recession, seem to encapsulate so many of the changes rocking our country, the global economy and the geopolitical shifts in the world.

Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Cuba, Golf, Luxury Travel, Venezuela

When we think of Brazil, we think of soccer, over the top Carnival celebrations, samba dance, Bossa Nova music, and unfortunately, lots of crime. The 21st century, however,  has brought many changes to this giant of Latin American countries. These days, Brazilians are preparing for two huge international sporting events…The 2014 Football World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The motto for the Olympics is “live your passion.”

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Leave a Comment | Filed Under Brazil, Culture, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Films, Music, Olympics, Rio de Janeiro, Soccer, South America, Sports

Tulips and daffodils, cherry blossoms and birds galore, the charmingly decrepit Central Park of my youth is now ancient history, as I learned on a recent trip. Defunct buildings are now sparkling hotspots like the Boathouse, refashioned and refurbished as a posh eatery with 19th-century Parisian charm.

Civilized cafes have sprouted up and scary bathrooms are well lit and clean, even the carousel seems perkier. Just a few years ago I took my kids on it, and an ex-con type was running the controls. The merry-go-round went so fast I feared my toddler son would fly off. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Birdwatching, Manhattan, New York, Urban Parks, wildlife

Tonight, my seven-year-old made origami cranes for the children of Japan. Tomorrow, at school is a bagel breakfast to raise money for those in need, following the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

It is also cherry blossom season, here in San Francisco, in our nation’s capital and of course in Japan, a rite of spring and a life-affirming, annual natural event. As I wheeze through the days full of blooms and pollen I stop to think about the brutality and generosity of what we call Mother Nature.

Traditional custom this time of year in Japan is to picnic under the cherry blossoms with friends and family. Sake, poetry and karaoke often accompany a spread of bountiful treats. This year though, as the country mourns, many are avoiding conspicuous consumption and opting to forgo the annual ritual, or to tone it down considerably. The elderly mayor of Tokyo has erected signs to ask residents to avoid the spring fun as a show of solidarity for those suffering in the northeast of the country. Mother Nature, or the force in nature, whatever you want to call it, can be so cruel and so glorious. The cherry blossoms are beautiful, fleeting, and fragile…like life itself. There is poignancy this year, but certainly the pink blossoms offer a small glimmer of hope, that life goes on.

2 Comments | Filed Under Asia, Culture, Festivals, Japan, Urban Parks

The first time a friend suggested a trip to Sea Ranch, I had visions of seahorse cowboys and underwater rodeos. I soon discovered it to be anything but a SpongeBob SquarePants circus. It proved to be one of the most restful places I’ve ever been.

100 miles north of San Francisco, the drive takes a good three hours if you take time to gawk at the Oscar winning coastline. We often stop in Bodega Bay for a fish and chips or clam chowder lunch to break up the drive. This time, my seven-year-old discovered he gets carsick, and if you are prone to motion sickness this drive will surely bring it on.

Sea Ranch was a pioneering eco-community begun in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The connection between the landscape and the architecture is beautiful and certainly contributes to the serenity of the place. I dislike gated communities or housing developments in general, but this place really has captured the benefits of a uniform style with strong community ethos. The sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate wood-frame structures were inspired by the local ranches and are designed to cope with the weather and integrate well with the topography. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Books, Driving Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Food, Hike/Backpack, Mountain Biking, Northern California, Spa/ Resort, Yoga, wildlife