Want a romantic getaway near Seattle? I just tested one for you. My boyfriend and I went to celebrate our fourth year together at the Willows Lodge in Woodinville and coupled our getaway with dinner at The Herb Farm. If we had been really savvy we would have realized that Earth, Wind and Fire was performing at Chateau St. Michelle Winery right down the street (Woodinville is a wine center and St. Michelle has concerts all summer) and alas I only found out about the concert when we arrived - and there is no way you could go to both a concert and the nine course Herb Farm dinner!
So, here’s what’s romantic about the Willows-Herb Farm pairing. Everything. Continue reading »
I have visited Harlem numerous times in my life but never really as a tourist. So there I was recently on a big tour bus, heading uptown on a sweltering day, escorting a group of French executives and feeling I was exploring the neighborhood for the first time. We went with the New York Visions Travel Group on the Harlem Spirituals Gospel Tour.
The architecture was majestic, the history epic, but to see the area fixed up and yet still tattered on the edges was uplifting and depressing at the same time. I really got to absorb the information as I was doing some translations into French…stories of freed slaves, rent parties, jazz, the crack years and now the resurrection of the famed quarter.
Our guide was an animated actress/French expat who, despite her arrogant attitude, gave a great tour. We made a pit stop at the Schomburg Library, a public library that is a research center for Black Culture. My dad had done research there in the ’70s and ’80s and I had vague memories of visiting as a child. Then we headed to a church to witness and participate in a gospel-music-infused service. Continue reading »
“This has got to be the craziest sport I’ve ever done,” my friend George said to me as we rested on our mountain bikes gazing down a precipitous slope toward pine forest and spiky mountains in the distance. “Here we are in one of the most beautiful places on earth and when we’re on our bikes we can’t even look at the scenery!”
The mountain bike trails from the top of Sun Valley’s fabled Bald Mountain (9150 feet elevation) wind through meadows, switchback down sheer slopes, weave through pine forests, and really get the adrenaline flowing. We were cruising (or rather, braking) down eight-mile-long Warm Springs Trail because the friendly fellow who sold us tickets for the gondola to take us to the top sized us up and said, “Take Warm Springs Trail. You’ll see when you get up there that you have two choices, Cold Springs and Warm Springs. You folks want Warm Springs. It’ll be a lot better for you.” Then he grinned and said, as if questioning our resolve, “Cold Springs is not for the faint of heart.” Continue reading »
Before I start on this post — let me make a big apology to Walla Walla lovers. I too love this place but I have gotten too casual about it (I go quite often) and so when I first wrote up this blog post, I really didn’t check my spelling, facts, etc. the way I would for most places. So, the result, predictably, was lots of errors. Fortunately, this site has keen observers and they have made corrections. I humbly put them in, grateful — and embarrassed.
My sentiments still stand…the names of inns and restaurants have been changed to their rightful spelling.
Very high on my list of romantic getaways is a wine country retreat. Most people have at least name recognition with the wine country of Napa Valley, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, and the contiguous valleys that go all the way up Humboldt county — but little Walla Walla is a jewel that is less known — but no less worthy.
This town is in the wine region of Washington state and is home to more than over 100 wineries, about 80 of which are open to the public either on weekends or by appointment. The quality of the wine is superb, the scenery is stunning, and there are fine restaurants and places to stay. Continue reading »
Cue the Deliverance Music.
It was July 4th weekend so we were expecting crowds, and save for a few kayakers and boat enthusiasts, we pretty much had the river to ourselves. We had planned a moderate backpacking trip but when one in our party had abrupt knee surgery in April, we opted to paddle to our campsite instead of forcing the kids to hike with packs a la the Bataan Death March. The preparations were similar to a backpacking trip, but we could bring comfy pads and a cooler. I was concerned about tipping the canoe, but my friend hails from Minnesota and has done this sort of thing before.
“That’s a big-fish cast,” guide Jim Santa said as my fly landed on the far side of the creek just shy of the willows lining the bank. The fly caught the current, drifted through the ripples into the shade, swirled once and flowed under the overhanging bush in the deep water. “Whoa. There’s gotta be a fish there. Put it back there again.”
I recast and landed the fly in the same spot, watched it run with the current in the shade, under the willows and through the deep water again. But no strike.
“People say they catch fish but only small ones, and I tell them they’ve got to put the fly where the big fish are. That cast was right where the big fish are,” Jim mused, as I couldn’t tempt a trout to rise to the fly.
“I’m pretty good,” he continued, “but I couldn’t make a better cast than that.”
That, of course, was music to my ears, even though I suspected that he said the same thing to everyone.
We were fishing Wild Horse Creek, a quintessential Idaho trout stream in Copper Basin in Challis National Forest 26 miles north of Sun Valley. Jim was leading me and three of my best friends through a morning of fly-fishing that promised lots of contemplation and — we hoped — a few fish. Continue reading »
But this month I was invited to a birthday party up at the Summit restaurant on top of the Crystal slopes and I realized there were new possibilities for love on resting ski slopes.
First there was the ride up. With the snow gone and the mountain temporarily ungroomed by the careful padding of ski machines, the actual contours of the mountain are easier to see and quite beautiful. It is also an adrenaline rush as you feel yourself go up the mountain and have a better idea of how high up you are. It took us two different lifts to get to the top, and then we were greeted by one of the most beautiful views on earth: Mt. Rainier undraped, no clouds whatsoever. Moreover there was a 360 view — we could see Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood and Mt. Baker, all of them topped by glaciers. We were agog.
The Summit restaurant has a $79 gourmet meal but it couldn’t compete with the view. I am told they also have a very good brunch, but the view is what makes you hold hands, glad to be seeing this together. You might have gorgeous mountains you can visit during the summer too. I’m not sure they are as spectacular as this one, but if I were you, I’d go find out.
Washington’s San Juan Islands are about as romantic as you can get. They lie in Puget Sound and mark the boundary between the United States and Canada (just beyond them in Canada is an equally gorgeous group of islands called the Gulf Islands), and I was lucky enough to be there recently.
The islands get all the tourism they can handle, but if you take the ferry with your car and go on a weekday you can miss the weekend congestion. If you must go on a weekend and take the ferry from Anacortes (about an hour and a half from Seattle) or from British Columbia, prepare to wait in line a few hours. Locals know to get their car in line for the ferry early, spend time doing something else, and then have a friend drop them at their car before the ferry arrives. Continue reading »
As a young student, I remember being so haunted by the pictures and stories. Later, when I moved to California and worked in TV, I met a few folks who had covered the story, a personal tragedy for many in the San Francisco Bay Area. So it was with shock and intrigue that I read a recent article in the New York Times discussing the possibility that the ghostly jungle compound, where 900 people lost their lives, could become a tourist attraction. Visions of Dollywood, souvenir kiosks and, gasp, People’s Temple T-shirts made me read on.
Guyana is lush and the only English speaking country in South America, in desperate need to diversify its economy. The sacred land that is now overgrown by jungle is remote, part of the original appeal for Reverend Jim Jones and his followers. Is it disrespectful? Would a research center to study cults be more appropriate? Or, should the jungle just do its thing and continue to smother the memory of the horrors there?
Williamsburg, Brooklyn never had pretensions to compare itself with its famous namesake city in Virginia, but local residents are putting a quirky twist on the idea. Perhaps it’s the recession, maybe just a pendulum swing away from commercialism, whatever it is you can count on this neighborhood to be ahead of the curve when it comes to trends.
My sister moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn from Manhattan more than 15 years ago. She shared a cute 1BR apartment and paid a fraction of Manhattan rental rates. Ownership of a yoga studio, a marriage, and two kids later, she still lives in Williamsburg, but now in a loft overlooking the Williamsburg Bridge. The area has changed, from a bustling Eastern European immigrant crowd, to hipsters and artists… to hipsters and artists with kids.
I left New York before Williamsburg became one of the cool hotspots, and every time I return I marvel at the reinvention of the neighborhood. Continue reading »