As much as I love everything that goes with the holidays; Christmas lights on homes, fresh baked cookies, presents under the tree and champagne on New Year’s, I am always ready for new beginning. I get out my journal, make a list of goals I want to accomplish for the upcoming year and reminisce on what I did accomplish the year that has gone by. Of course I’m usually exhausted by the second week of January. I don’t feel the need to dive right into life. Rather I like to take a moment to reflect and get my juices flowing again, in the form of a spa.
There are spas all over the world for anything you desire. Horse ranch style spas in the Mid-West, a chocolate spa at the Hotel Hershey and of course yoga retreats in just about every corner you can think of. This year while I’m living in Boston I’m thinking warm. Very warm, a place that doesn’t have snow. I’m thinking the tranquil sunny Mexico. The Rancho La Puerto Resort, where everything I need to motivate me into a new year is here.
The holidays for me mean lots of delicious food and parties. By January I’m in need of a physical jump-start. Rancho La Puerto Resort is just the place to get my metabolism back on track. The resort offers all kinds of wonderful fitness programs. Here I can wake up and do yoga or Pilates or if I feel like taking the day by storm jumping right into cardio. After a day or two of yoga I can unwind with a day of reflective fitness. Which involves walking, meditating and a silent dinner to find my inner self.
I can only exercise for so long and well, that’s not the only way to rejuvenate. Not only is fitness important but so are facials, massages and body treatments; all a necessity to get the energy flowing in a more positive direction.
The Resort offers other amenities that are not for me. But some may want to take a cooking class, go bird watching or play golf. While those options sound tempting, as far as I’ll get is to the food and I won’t be preparing it. The resort serves freshly picked fruit and vegetables and well as serving fresh fish; the type of meal to clear my mind and help me focus on my new-found goals.
Yes, this is the place to relax, find inner peace and energize for the year ahead.
This year many of us did the same thing on New Year’s Eve. We watched the ball drop with friends and family and toasted at midnight. But if you were one of the fortunate few who was in Vienna, your night was a little different.
In Vienna, Austria, the entire city turns into a party to celebrate the coming of a new year. The streets are alive with music and everyone from all over the world are in their homes and hotel rooms putting on their tuxedo’s and ball gowns getting ready for a night they shall never forget.
Palaces host the most extraordinary night. Everyone is dressed in glittering gowns and tuxedos. The women will have spent the day getting their hair just right and the makeup perfect. Their gowns will be dressed up with their best jewels.
As the night begins, champagne toasts start the evening. Ballet dancers in unique costumes come on to the dance floor and perform throughout the evening. Delicious multi-course meals are served with assorted flavors of coffee. Cocktail areas in different rooms have the latest music to dance into the early hours. Rooms are transposed into dance floors with people waltzing the night away to live orchestras. As the night draws to a close, fireworks are set off to welcome the coming year. Afterwards, breakfast will be served and the night continues until the sun rises.
This year as I watched the ball drop I imagined putting on my to do list for next year: find a ball gown and Cinderella shoes, and book my flight to Vienna for next New Year’s Eve.
I love this time of year. I bake hundreds of cookies; snicker doodles, oatmeal raisin and my favorite peppermint snowballs. I wait until midnight on Black Friday, make some coffee and shop until the sun comes up. I don’t usually buy a lot, but I do like the rush of everyone being on the streets and in the malls racing for the best bargains. I decorate my house with at least three Christmas trees and always have eggnog on hand. As the time draws closer to Christmas I try to leave my weekends open to visit New York City.
I don’t have a favorite place I go as I love all of New York City. But there are of course my favorite places to go during the holidays. I make sure I bring along gloves, earmuffs and a warm coat. Whether it’s hot or cold, I will be walking or skating. Everyone goes to Rockefeller to ice skate but not me. I opt for going ice skating at Central Park. It’s not as crowded and as far as I’m concerned more beautiful. With trees all around and buildings in the background I could stay there for hours. I’ve tried taking pictures on the ice only to have the security tap me on the shoulder. There is no standing on the ice. Who knew? If time permits, my friends and I will rent a horse and carriage and take a stroll through the park. It lasts about an hour and cost around a hundred dollars. It seems like a lot of money but it is well worth every penny. To be able to sit back, listen to the sounds of the city and the hooves touching the pavement is beyond words.
I might not go to Rockefeller to skate but I will take a quick look at the tree. It’s a must see. I have never been able to get too close as this is a definite favorite spot for tourists but if you have the time the lighting of the tree is awesome. So many lights fill the night sky. It’s magical. And speaking of magic, the windows on 5th avenue bring out the truly creative. Each one is different and magnificent. The stores display their imagination in every way possible to draw you into their stores. FAO Schwarz is in the heart of 5th avenue. The toy store made famous in the 80’s by the movie “Big” has an endless amount of toys. Any toy you can imagine, they will probably have. From huge teddy bears, Barbie’s to Harry Potter toys. I always leave with something even if it’s from their candy shop, which is just as big as some of their stuffed animals!
While I enjoy the shopping and the ice skating, I cannot miss the Rockette’s Christmas show at Radio City. The first time I went I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t even sure I was going to like the show. After the first five minutes I was glued to my seat until it was over. The show started with a movie of Santa done in 3-D. Then the Rockette’s came on stage and I was memorized until the end. They were flawless in the singing and dancing, not to mention the famous kicking. An absolute beautiful show. One that needs to be added to the yearly must do’s for Christmas.
The Radio Christmas show with the Rockette’s isn’t the only show to see. For a more traditional elegant performance, the ballet of “The Nutcracker” is only shown throughout the holiday season. With toy soldiers, a Christmas tree and children dancing in exquisite outfits, it is another must see to top off your Christmas.
This is just the start of my Christmas. New York City is bursting with shows, museums and food. I could go on forever about the food. But most of this can be done throughout the year and at Christmas time I want to immerse myself in its simplicity and remember what it’s like to be a kid again. If I’m lucky I’ll get a chance to go to Macy’s and see the most famous Santa of all.
After an exhaustive but wonderfully great time in Ireland I will be taking a short flight to Italy. As in Ireland, I plan to backpack my way through Italy too. There are many hotels to stay in but for my trip I plan to stay in hostels. Many are very inexpensive and provide food. Though, I doubt when in Italy I will be eating at a hostel. I will be in search of the best slice of pizza. I have been told it exists in Naples. I’ve been everywhere in New York City and think I found the best slice in the Bronx but I want to see if it compares to the off the vine tomatoes and homemade mozzarella found in Italy. Of course pizza isn’t the only food I want to experience. In another lifetime I plan to move to the Almalfi coast. For now, I will be trekking my way there to view the breathtaking ocean and homes that line the hillsides of the Almalfi coast. I am hoping to have enough time and money saved to take a cooking class at one of the many places that teach. It has been a dream and I can’t imagine a better place to learn the art of making pasta and sauce. I have a feeling it will take years to perfect but an authentic cooking class will put me in the right direction. Italy is all about food, family and country but before I travel into wine country I will try a gelato. Gelato is a lot like ice cream only richer and denser. I’ve tried it many times in the States but I have a feeling there will be no comparison when I try Italy’s. Afterwards I will relax with a cappuccino and enjoy the conversations around me.
The tourist attractions will no doubt draw me in as I convince my friend we must go for a gondola ride in Venice. There is a tour that includes being serenaded and dinner afterwards. I always imagined I would be with my soul mate on such a romantic outing but as they say, when in Vegas or in this case when in Venice. Isn’t this a must do in Italy? All of this romance will take me into the countryside and bask in the wonderfulness called wine country.
Tuscany. Rolling hillsides, never-ending views, vineyards and olive groves make up this beautiful land. While I do plan to stay in hostels I may opt to stay at a farmhouse in Tuscany. Where I can help with the harvesting of grapes or olives and enjoy the warmness of the host by sharing dinners with their family. Many farmhouses will organize activities such as wine tastings, horse-back riding or hiking. I want to be spontaneous on my trip but a little help is always welcomed. If I’m lucky instead of a farmhouse I will find a castle in need of help. Now this would top off my days in Italy. Many castles and farmhouses are more than my budget will allow but there are a few to be found.
I should plan out my destinations; make sure I see everything I’ve always wanted to see, but where is the fun? I will miss out on the places I might not have seen or the people I might not have met if I do have an itinerary. Granted, the Coliseum in Rome is on my list as is the Church of San Lorenzo. I want to explore all that Pompeii has to offer. Take a boat ride to Grotta Azzurra and pass through the cave opening. Go shopping in prestigious Milan. Explore the caves of Liguria. My list is endless. But if all I do is drink wine, get my feet purple and find the perfect slice I will have found heaven. My only reservation: is two weeks enough time to backpack through Ireland and Italy. I have a feeling I better set more time aside as I’m going to be extending my flight.
Want to know more about Paris besides the Eiffel Tower? The Secrets of Paris by Michael Kerrigan will take you into the world of this extravagant city. More than just a coffee table book, it is filled with more than enough photos to please even the biggest fans of Paris. As you leisurely page through you’ll notice not only do the pictures capture the typical tourist destinations but it is chock-full of places you may not have heard of.
The book is broken down into sections, each exploring that particular region. If you’re a die-hard fan of the Eiffel tower you will of course see and learn about the tower in this book. There is an entire section devoted to the tower but you’ll also get the opportunity to learn what other fascinating places are in the same vicinity; from the Musèe D’orsay Clock, an art museum with paintings and modern art, to 22 Avenue Rapp-a famous front door. This is being just one part of Paris; Kerrigan will take you to the outskirts of Paris where you’ll learn about the Place Dauphine. You’ll visit the Grand Palais in Louvre and learn about its history. Travel to Abbesses is read about the wall of Je’Taime. There are more than 1,000 I love you’s written on the wall.
Each picture has an explanation of its background making the pictures come to life. The title for each picture is written in a whimsical, romantic style. As each section begins Kerrigan gives the reader a short introduction to familiarize them with the area they are about to view. Kerrigan not only captures the most famous of places, he writes about the places to shop like the Village of Saint-Paul or have a bite to eat at Café Les Deux Magots; the many different parks to visit including one of my favorite pictures Parch Montsouris. A picture of a wide trail with its railing made up of tree limbs. And of course statues are throughout the book including Paris’s smaller rendition of the Statue of Liberty.
Unlike most coffee books, this one will have you staying up into the middle of the night not only enjoying the pictures but learning about all the wonderful places Paris has to offer.
For years I have been planning to take trips abroad only to have one obstacle or another impede my plans. December is upon me once again and I am planning my summer vacation, only this time I have a co-pilot to keep me from venturing off to anyplace but the place I want to be. We have decided on a three week backpacking trek through Ireland, on the last week making our way to Italy (unless we forgo everything and walk the Camino, I’ll keep you posted).
Instead of booking hotels and eating at fancy restaurants, we are going to forge our own way. There won’t be any guidedtours for us or luxury accommodations; that’s not to say we won’t visit touristy areas, we’ll just do it on our own terms. Weare going to buy backpacks, take only the needed clothes, guidebooks, find a road and see where it takes us, literally. My friend has done this before and tells me this is the only way to see Europe. After hearing her stories, I believe her. There is so much on my list to see but without a doubt I will visit the Cliffs of Moher. The cliffs reach for miles with the ocean crashing into them. I want to be able to stand as close to the edge of the cliffs as I can. Being afraid of heights this may not be very close. But if I can, I will walk the path next to the cliffs until it leads me to O’Briens Tower. In the distance it looks like a castle but up close it is only a tower meant for tourists to discover. Still, I’m sure I’ll be taking many pictures.
O’Briens Tower will not be enough to appease me as I’m infatuated with castles and will be visiting many. Castles are everywhere in Ireland from being fully restored to partially left standing. I will be looking for the one with the moat made of water, hidden in the forest or one standing tall on a mountainside. As much as tours do not interest me, I can see myself paying admission to explore the Blarney Castle. One can enter the castle and walk its stairs and enter its rooms, peer out its windows and observe the breathtaking landscape. On the outside of the castle are the gardens that can be enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Not to mention kissing the Blarney stone. If there’s a frog in the area, I will be kissing the stone.
Everyone visits Dublin as it is the heart of Ireland, but I also plan to visit the small villages with pubs tucked away serving traditional food found in Ireland. The black and white puddings made of sausage, Irish stew and a Sambo (a sandwich made up all kinds of meats and fillings). I’m not a huge Guinness fan but I will definitely be trying one in Ireland just to see if the beer really is better there.
If time permits a visit to the Rock of Cashel found in the county of Tipperary. A beautifully built fortress that is made up of burial grounds and churches within its walls. It has a cathedral without a roof and next to it a round table. Cormac’s Chapel at Cashel is decorated with the oldest Romanesque paintings in Ireland. Of course there are many other places I’m hoping to see in Ireland like the Aran Islands with the stone fort or Kylemore Abbey and Gardens. The list is endless. The idea of walking the hills of Ireland with only a backpack is unsettling and exciting. With all the guidebooks and tips I’ll get along the way, I’m sure my friend and I will find our own hidden discoveries and if we’re not completely satisfied (I doubt that is possible) there is always Italy.
People will be celebrating Halloween all over the place, but most will not be having a celebration quite as epic as Salem, Massachusetts. No matter what the season visitors are spellbound by Salem wanting to learn its secrets and history, but during Halloween, the town comes alive. For thirty days Salem is gushing with balls, séances and tours. Witchcraft and the supernatural envelop this town with folklore and ritualistic traditions and Halloween is no exception.
This is not your typical town and this won’t be your typical Halloween. The celebration starts at the beginning of October. It is jammed packed full of activities for the average celebrator or someone who is ready to immerse themselves for the entire month. For the not so faint of heart, a séance can be performed or if you’re curious about your future, tarot card readings are held every day by a psychic. At night, visit one of the haunted houses for a scary wonderful time. Feeling bold, go on a ghost tour and see if you can spot some unearthly creatures. Browse through magic and witch shops to find your perfect gem stone or buy your own tarot cards and learn how to tell fortunes.
For a glitzier holiday, book a cruise on the harbor. You’ll spend an hour and half drinking cocktails and listening to haunting stories. There is another cruise for a leisure afternoon of camera ready fall foliage to see and admire. If you’re like me and enjoy a little tea in the afternoon, there is a three course tea in honor of Halloween at the Hawthorne Hotel. In the evening at the same hotel enjoy a dinner in complete silence.
This year I will miss Harry Potter as J.K. Rowling branches off into a new story line but in Salem Harry Potter is still alive if only for a few days. There is a ball in honor of him as well as a place to make your own wand. Put on your favorite Harry Potter costume and walk in the parade.
As much as I like Harry Potter, it doesn’t have the eerie feeling as a psychic festival. One where you can take classes, meet mediums and watch people channel the dead. Throughout Salem, shops will be open to learn how to be a medium, learn automatic writing and how to communicate with the dead. Figure out which herbs to buy for what potions, what stones bring the happiness you seek and the type of oils you want to use for personal use. The very well-known book “Book of Shadows” is available to buy at numerous shops. Clothing of all varieties including capes and swords to polish of your costume can be found.
Many balls will be held throughout October including the Vampire Ball, but the main ball is the Witches Ball held at the Hawthorne Hotel. Special guest singers and a belly dancer will perform, prizes will be given away for the best costumes, and a DJ will be in the main ballroom where you can drink, eat and dance the night away.
Wind down with the holiday tradition of trick or treating and end at the North River by watching fireworks bring this festival month to a close. Whether you believe in ghosts and witches, or just have fun pretending you do, Salem will leave you wondering on which side of the moon of believing you fall under.
It’s that time of year again where children will be dressing up in costumes of their favorite cartoon character or superhero. The movies at the theatre will be displaying the scariest of the year. And of course the new Twilight movie is about to unveil itself. It all leads me to one of the most compelling villains always thought of during the fall season, Dracula and the place he resided, Transylvania.
The first time Transylvania came to mind as I read the book, Dracula, I thought of barren land with nothing to offer, but I have come to learn it is a beautiful, mysterious land full of magic and folklore and a place to be visited and explored. Lush greens on mountains, crumbling castles and medieval villages are sprinkled throughout this land. To say there is a perfect time to visit would be presumptuous as there are always festivals and tours throughout the year. Skiing by helicopter in the winter, a romantic holiday for Valentine’s, but of course none brings the tourists to Transylvania as much as Halloween and Dracula.
The Dracula tour is not only available during the Halloween season but throughout the year. It is a seven day extravaganza. You’ll explore Peles castle and Bran castle. Travel across the lake in Snagov and visit the monastery where Vlad was supposedly buried. Visit old citadel and have lunch in the house where he was born. As the seven day trip winds down you’ll explore his fortress in Poinari and the salt mines of Turda. During the tour a guide will be sharing myths, folklore and stories about Dracula keeping you entertained the entire time. There is also a private guided tour for five days or a shortened tour for three. According to Fodor this is a top ten must do adventure.
While tours are available throughout the year, Halloween offers a unique festival combining both the holiday and Dracula. For two or three days, depending what you prefer, you’ll go to Bran castle and see the shrine that used to house Queen Victoria’s heart. Visit the clock tower in Sighisara and by the end of your Halloween adventure you’ll meet the spider artist who uses spider webs in his paintings. And of course there will be a Halloween night where you can get dressed up, enjoy a Romanian feast and watch programs throughout the night; ranging from Witch Trials, Dracula’s Wedding, Ritual Killing of the Living Dead and many other surprises that await you.
Every year my friends and I go to the nearest orchard and pick apples, tons of apples; At least five bushels! We spend an entire weekend cooking, peeling, canning and making apple sauce and apple butter (If you’ve never had apple butter on toast or cottage cheese, I recommend finding the nearest farmer’s stand and trying this deliciousness). This will become one of the many homemade Christmas gifts I make to put under my tree. As with apple season comes apple festivals. I like to go to the festival in one of the largest apple growing counties, Adams County in Pennsylvania. Every year Adams County has two festivals, one for the apple blossoms, where hundreds of trees bloom with flowers. You can always go to Washington D.C. to see the same but there is something about traveling down a back road in the country on a spring day and enjoying the scenery that captivates me. The second festival is the Apple Harvest Festival. It’s a two week event located in the heart of Adams County. I park a mile away and take a school bus to the festival. School buses are used to take you to and from the event as there are so many people who come. Once there I am over-whelmed by all the goodies. Apples are made in every desirable way possible. I’ve tried apple fritters, apple pie, apple crumb cake, apple funnel cake, apple pancakes; it’s like being in a Forest Gump movie but only better.
As I’m munching down on a caramel apple I’ll linger over to the arts and crafts area. The vendors line up their little shops and put out their best hand crafted items. I’m always amazed at the originality. The crafters are everywhere, whether it’s outside tents or in the large buildings, they are the second main attraction, at least 300 crafters will be here. You will get lost in all the sights to see, pick up and buy.
As much as I love discovering something new to put in my home, my favorite section of the Apple Festival are the farm animals. There are usually calves, pigs, bunnies, goats, chickens and ponies. The petting zoo isn’t for everyone but if you’re curious and never been around these types of animals, this is a definite must see.
Children will have a wonderful time face painting and entering the pie eating contest. Ponies will be available for rides. A section of the festival will be carved out for crafting. Puppet shows will be held. Children can participate in Karaoke and play old fashioned games.
Farmer’s will be here with their antique farm equipment and tractors. Classic cars will be on display with their proud owners. Artists will be showing off their talent in the chainsaw carving event. You can learn to make scrapple and apple syrup, take a hay ride and tour a local apple orchard. Just like the children you can take part in the pie eating contest and apple bobbing contest. Listen to the live music from the stage while chowing down sweet potato fries, rib eye steak sandwiches and chicken barbecue.
As the festival comes to an end and you’ve exhausted yourself with all the attractions, food and activities you’re able to take home plenty of desserts. A must for me are apple dumplings. I freeze them and on cold nights, I take a few out, warm them up, dollop a huge scoop vanilla ice cream on top and enjoy the fall season and all the wonderful memories it has brought me, including apples. Lots and lots of apples!
I appreciate all the seasons, but fall is by far my favorite. I look forward to going into my closet, finding my turtlenecks, scarves and turning on the fire in the evening. I admit the fireplace comes on far too early in my house but I’m not complaining. I love seeing the pumpkins on porches, the leaves changing color and the crisp scent of coldness in the air.
Fall, with the weather changing, makes for wanting to get warm and cozy with that special someone, and while there are many places to go for a beautiful walk or a festival, one of the most romantic places to bide your time is Mohonk Mountain House. Nestled in the Hudson Valley of New York this resort and spa will by all means fulfill your romantic side. The resort itself looks like a castle and its grounds are stunning. The landscape will make you get out your camera and take picture after picture.
Once there you can take advantage of all this resort has to offer. If you’re traveling with someone you can experience the couple’s massage with a fireplace blazing in the background. Next, relax by getting a facial, visiting the wellness center and trying a body treatment. When you’re ready to venture outdoors a bike ride through the leaf changing trees will be a refreshing treat, or take a leisurely walk on one of the many trails. Get out your binoculars and go bird watching. In the morning a canoe is ready and waiting to take you on a tour. In the afternoon sit back and enjoy a horse or mule-drawn carriage ride or go on a guided horseback riding tour. If you’re staying over-night you have the option of waking up in the morning and participating in rock climbing. This is not for the faint at heart, but you’re escorted by an authorized guide. When you’re on the grounds of the resort, outdoor games will be available to you such as shuffleboard, lawn bowling and croquet.
There are always activities scheduled throughout the year and fall is no exception. During Halloween the castle will be decorated to the hilt. You’re encouraged to dress up and take part in its festivities including hauntingly scary stories to be told and live timber wolves will be on the premises.
Rooms range from basic (yet exquisite) charming country style to an indulgent two-story Victorian suite complete with a fireplace, spiral staircase and flat screen T.V. As the name hints there are tower rooms available with their own balcony. Individual Cottages can be reserved if you’re staying with a group and want more privacy.
When you’re ready, Mohonk is ready to pamper, refresh and romance you right into the winter season.
Submit your travel articles and travel photography to inTravel Magazine™. The article (or photography set) in each issue with the most votes wins our Travel Writer Contest and $100. All authors/photographers will receive a t-shirt, tote, mousepad, or custom luggage tags if your article is chosen for publication. Anyone can vote.Read more ...