Category: Budget Travel

August is not the best time to visit Paris. This I know, but with two students in the family, both with summer jobs and vastly differing school start dates, it was the only time for us to make the pilgrimage to Spain. I also find it hard to schlep all the way to Europe and NOT visit France. So a few days in Paris to visit a close friend was a must. It was predictably hot, smelly and chock full o’ tourists. My friend asked what I wanted to do. I have all my favorite haunts, and I try to explore a few new spots each time I visit, but I said I really wanted to swim in public pools. I had read about some Art Deco renovations, and she was game. It was scorching hot, so it also was a really great midday pause between touring and a late afternoon siesta.

Jenny had researched a few pools and we settled on Piscine Pailleron, in the19th, an arrondissement I didn’t know that well. She chose this pool because it was hosting a public art exhibit called ‘Museum of the Moon’, an installation by Luke Jerram. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, Culture, Family Travel, France, Paris, Sports, Swimming, health

Grover Hot Springs is one of those places I kind of don’t want to publicize. It’s so “old skool” and perfect as is, and we have enjoyed delightful hot mineral water soaks and plunges in every season. In the scorching summer sun, the cold pool is divine. In autumn, the changing colors encircle the complex and it feels nice to warm up in the hot pool. In springtime, the meadow is often wet and boggy, but wildflowers dot the landscape and snow can still be seen on the peaks in the distance. In winter, it’s just the best after a day on the slopes or cross country/snowshoe trails.

Set on a plateau in the High Sierra near the Nevada border in Alpine County, just outside of Markleeville, CA, this campground, swimming pool and hot spring public facility is popular already; particularly with cultures that cherish a good soak. Russian and Japanese conversations often waft through the air, mingling with with steam, and this visit was no different. Rosy faced corpulent men—each with their own perrier bottle—kibitzed in one corner; families frolicked—alternating between hot and cold—and others just gave in to feeling like cooked spaghetti.

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1 Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, California, Camping, Family Travel, Lake Tahoe, Northern California, Skiing, Spa/ Resort, Swimming, Winter Fun

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

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

It’s not that often a new, jaw-dropping cliff-side trail is opened. After much controversy and many years of debate, the Devil’s Slide Coastal Trail and companion tunnels are now in full swing and if you haven’t had a chance to walk, roll or run on the path it is certainly a great quick getaway for Bay Area folks. If you are planning a trip to San Francisco and want a manageable walk with Pacific Oceans views, make the trek just a 20-minute drive from the city.

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Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, California, Cycling, Day Trips, Family Travel, Hike/Backpack, Northern California, San Francisco, Tide Pools, wildlife

I have fond memories of dressing up to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC with my family or friends, and eating in the fancy cafe with marble statues and fountains. I stared at the coins in the water, thinking about how rich I would be if I could collect all the change. I can still look down and see my shiny black patent leather Mary Jane shoes scuffing along the marble. I don’t know what I ate but it was probably a tuna sandwich or BLT, something mundane, despite the posh surroundings.

Later, when I became a parent, I started packing lunches to save money, because I was unwilling to spend top dollar on crappy food, on top of the skyrocketing museum entrance fees. As my kids have grown, and museums have become more accessible again, I am pleasantly surprised by a renaissance in museum cafes. Gone are many of the gross cafeteria-style money pits and instead, some quite lovely cafes with Old World charm and even eateries with hip, family friendly fare have sprouted up. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, Cafe, California, Family Travel, Food, Manhattan, Museum, New York, Restaurants

As we careen towards Christmas, I was experiencing a bit of S-A-O, Seasonal-Autumnal-Overload. Having already relented to a trip to a giant pumpkin patch, harvest day for my son’s school, Halloween preparations and the omnipresent pumpkinification of October, from coffee flavoring, to muffins to candles…I was done.

Alas, we had a fall getaway planned to the California Gold Country in the Sierra Foothills and I was looking for some fun things to do with the family that might diverge a bit from the frolicsome fall activities I had been enjoying. We have driven past Sonora on our way to the mountains, often heading that way in summer or winter. It was exciting to think about a weekend trip that didn’t involve preparing food, camping or ski gear and with an open itinerary I could craft. I had a secret hope to see some changing leaves. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, California, California, Driving Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Fall Foliage Tours, Family Travel, Food, Gold Country, Northern California, State Parks, Theme Park, Wine Tours, wine tasting

Last month the Rim fire, Burning Man and the closing of the Bay Bridge meant our planned Labor Day backpacking trip to the Sierras was in question. Finally, after much discussion we opted to head for the Snow Mountain Wilderness Area about 110 miles north of San Francisco in California’s Lake County.

Armed with outdated maps and hopes of some lake swimming, we hit the road ready for our adventure. Stopping at a ranger station, we got the skinny on the trails and hoped to hike to some small waterfalls. We were told the driving was rough to get to the trailhead, and included fording a river, which sounded exciting till we got to it and panicked.

We promptly set up camp and found a swell swimming hole, as we were to wait till the next morning when the other half of our party was to arrive. Once our big group was assembled,  we decided to spend the day at a big lake before attempting to ford the river again.

The driving was dusty, long and we made a few bad choices. Desperate to swim in a lake, we headed for Lake Pillsbury, which sounded enchanting, but was, alas, quite a depressing scene. Lake Pillsbury is a man-made lake in Northern California, situated an arduous 33 miles east of Ukiah in the Mendocino National Forest. Reviews were mixed, but as the the temperature climbed, we just wanted to cool off. What we found was a dried up, somewhat scungy car-camping scene, with campers and giant garbage bags full of empty beer and soda containers all smooshed together in the seedy campgrounds. The bathrooms, cute store and expensive gas were welcome, but this was not what we had in mind for our backpacking adventure; we didn’t even want to swim in the lake.

Finally we decided to return to the small menacing river and attempt to get past it with an all wheel drive Subaru Outback.
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Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Budget Travel, California, Camping, Driving Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Hike/Backpack, Northern California, wildlife

Katniss from The Hunger Games, Hawkeye from The Avengers and London’s 2012 Olympic Archery Competition have all given the ancient sport of archery a jolt. Kids and adults across the country are smitten with the idea of using a bow to shoot an arrow.

A recent New York Times Fashion & Style article explores the trajectory of the sport given the cultural craze. From Staten Island to San Francisco, sales of kid-size recurve bows have more than quadrupled this year!

Whether you have a Robin Hood fan, a small Cossack (a kid into ancient weaponry) or you just love fun, free, urban family activities, you’ve got to check out the Golden Gate Park Archery Range in San Francisco when you’re visiting the city. It’s a beautiful and well-maintained piece of park real estate, near the beach. It’s easy to park and accessible by public transportation. It’s always open for folks with their own archery equipment. If you’re looking to try it out as an activity, you can swing by the nearby Archery Pro Shop, where you can sign up for lessons, rent or buy bows or investigate other equipment. You can also buy bows and arrows on-line. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Books, Budget Travel, California, Camping, Family Travel, Olympic Peninsula, Olympics, San Francisco, Urban Parks, Yosemite