Category: North America

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.

Continue reading »

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

Now that summer is in full swing and the snowmelt is finally clearing out of the mountains in the West, it’s time to think about getting out and having some adventures.

Recently I joined a mini reunion of college pals in Sun Valley, Idaho for a trifecta of outdoor activities: mountain biking, fly-fishing, and river kayaking.

Read all about it in the San Francisco Chronicle travel section: Sun Valley’s Summer Rush.

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Canoe/Kayak, Fishing, Idaho, Mountain Biking, North America, Sun Valley, Travel

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

There is a lot of competition for getting on “the best beach” lists. I have my own list, but if you want to mix a perfect beach, and nearby amenities, it’s hard to beat Kailua on Oahu, in Hawaii.

Even in season, Kailua is pretty deserted during the week. During the weekends locals descend on it, but otherwise, the long crescent beach is almost empty. It has astounding views at every step; there are ancient craters and an endless horizon to watch, with an occasional whale pod to discover if you stare long enough during the winter season.

What I like about Kailua is the absence of high-rises. This ultra exclusive beach area has no resorts or monolithic condominiums — just houses, some of which are mind-bogglingly expensive, others, more modest — but still more expensive than most of us can even imagine affording. Still, the whole feel of the place is casual. This is not a particularly showy stretch of houses and most are not hidden behind forbidding walls. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Hawaii, North America, Romance, Travel, United States

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

Santa Fe is romantic. Even when it’s so cold you wonder whatever possessed you to go in the winter.

A friend and I went to scout it out for a winter romantic getaway, and even though we worried about hypothermia a few times, my guy will benefit from this reconnaissance.

If you go to Santa Fe in winter, you own it. Imagine being alone in the picturesque square, alone chatting up the salespeople, and able to drop into even the most popular restaurants on a whim. With the touristy crowds gone, we could enjoy a spontaneous day — and get the best of everything. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under New Mexico, Romance, Santa Fe, Travel, United States

It’s fashionable to grunt disapprovingly when people say Cancun. Fair enough. It is a jumble of development — and if you are looking for  romantic isolation — this might not be your first choice. But I was providing some romance for my family: my daughter and her boyfriend and my step daughter and her husband and child. My son and I completed the party but we were without our significant others.

The Westin Lagunamar in Cancun was actually a wonderful answer to the “how do you combine romance and family” question. The Westin Villa formula on this site provides a good answer. The twenty-thirty-something contingent had studios with Jacuzzis — just about big enough for two (rather small) people — really good views of the pool, and beyond that, the ocean and beach. Critically, they also had kitchens — so everyone could have their leisurely morning alone time — and at night, we piled into my one bedroom that had a dining room that seated all seven of us. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cancun, Family Travel, Mexico, North America, Romance, Travel, Yucatan

Part treasure hunt, part spy novel, a New Yorker who went for a cross-country ski in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park after the recent snowfall is trying to find the owners of a roll of film he found lying in the snow. Developed, the black and white film shows young men evidently on vacation in New York taking arty photographs, not just snapshots, of Central Park, street scenes, Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge.

Todd Bieber, the man who found the film, tells a story in his YouTube video of a woman who pushed $26 into his hand that she’d found on the street, saying she felt awkward keeping it and insisted he do something nice for himself with it. He said he’d do something good rather than spend it on himself, and now it’s gone to the film processing and his online efforts to find the owners.

Who knows, as he says on YouTube, maybe they’ll see his video and they’ll become friends. Or not. But the story is going viral and it’s only a matter of time before the men who lost the pictures see themselves caught in black and white in frozen New York in their own film on Todd Bieber’s video. And then maybe the mystery will be solved.

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Brooklyn, Manhattan, New York, Travel, United States

With arctic temperatures in London, and Paris brought to its knees by snow, New York City is looking like a good bet for Christmas this year. Ice skating in Rockefeller Center, the Fifth Avenue store windows, the Radio City Christmas Show or a ride around Central Park in a horse and carriage all rank high on the New York holiday must do list. If you add in a few snowflakes, the dream comes to life.

But for locals and people in the know, the way hipper attraction is far out in the bowels of Brooklyn. Dyker Heights draws more than 100,000 visitors each holiday season to ogle the over-the-top home decorations. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Brooklyn, Budget Travel, Driving Trips, Family Travel, New York, Nightlife, Winter Fun

My cousin left for Cancun last weekend. She works at many UN conferences and was happy to be headed to a warm destination  for the climate talks that followed last year’s ineffectual Copenhagen summit.

I recommended places on the Yucatan Peninsula for her to visit in her off time, such as the Colonial city of Merida, Tulum, Lake Bacalar, Uxmal or Valladolid near the Chichen Itza ruins.

A recent article in The Economist, entitled Tourism in Mexico, Can’t keep them away, began with “Sun, seas and severed heads.” Mexico, a country that counts on tourism dollars, has had a miserable couple of years, first with the swine flu, then the ongoing drug wars. More than 30,000 people have died in the last four years. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, Mexico, Nightlife, Travel Safety