The summer is coming to an end and I’m not quite ready to grow up, head back to college and get back to responsibility. I can’t say I want to be a kid all the time but the thought of staying in a tree house and remembering younger years is a definite plus. Just like my child self, I still love animals, especially large animals; elephants, lions and anything else that isn’t the norm.
Africa, a place that doesn’t immediately come to mind for tree houses and relaxation, rather than four wheel drives and jungles, but on closer inspection is one of the most beautiful and romantic. Depending on where you stay, you will get a variety of options. Chole Mjini in Tanzania is on the top of my list. With open rooms, four poster beds and your own private bathing area it is the place to unwind, relax and get back to nature. Each room is private yet open. You can walk around without feeling intimidated someone at one of the six other tree houses can see you.
When you’re ready to leave your room you can go down to the picnic area next to the ocean for an intimate dinner; dining on fresh fish, coconut milk and lemon papaya soup. During the day you can go to the sand bank “Funguni” and have a picnic. It is a sand strip only assessable by boat and only appearing every day for six hours. The perfect spot to swim, read a few pages in your favorite novel and admire sea creatures. You can also learn to dive and swim with sea turtles. You will also share the sea with the Whale shark. It lives in these waters, eating as much plankton as his fifteen ton body can eat. Nearby the nest of Green and Hawksbill turtles are monitored by the Sea Sense Project giving guests an opportunity to watch baby turtles hatch out of their shell. There aren’t too many ways to get closer to nature than this.
As the days come to a close there are many possibilities of how you’d like to end it. You can travel to the nearby village for a stroll, head to one of the bars for an evening refreshment and watch the fruit bats, or for the ultimate experience go on a sunset sail.
While this isn’t your typical backyard tree house, this gives new meaning to sleeping under the stars, as the stars you see here will be among the brightest you’ve seen anywhere.
I am always in search of your not so typical vacation. While my family loves cruise ships I had yet to fully understand the intrigue until I stumbled across The World. The World Ship is more than your ordinary cruise ship it caters to the select few who can afford it. And if you can afford it, is beyond any expectation you may have.
Unlike other cruise lines, you purchase and own your apartment. Whether you want a studio, one, two or three bedroom apartment, it is yours for the taking; the apartments - while being luxurious -cost in the millions, but are well worth it. The idea is to travel for as long or as short as you like. The World has a yearlong itinerary, constantly going to a new destination. The apartments are fully furnished with bluetooth internet and satellite T.V. As serene as your apartment will be, it isn’t the only place you can spend the night. If you want to feel the ocean breeze while you sleep, you can sleep outside on a Bali-bed beneath the stars.
In the morning the possibilities are endless. You can start your day off with a yoga session or play tennis on one of the courts. Perhaps golf is more your sport, where a professional will help you with your swing. You can go kayaking on the open sea, take a dip in the pool and have lunch at one of the restaurants on board. Enjoy the afternoon in the library reading one of the classics or take one of the classes being offered including learning a new language, dance or cooking style. In the evening, meet at the bar for cocktails. After drinks indulge in sushi or put on your formal best and enjoy a romantic intimate dinner for two. Afterwards, the cigar room makes for a relaxing end to your day or a massage at the spa to end the night.
While all of this and more awaits you on The World this is only the icing on the cake. The true delight is traveling all over the world. Every year brings new places you will see and explore. Whether it be on the shores of Europe, the Caribbean or the coast of Ireland you will have plenty of time to go on land. The ship will spend three to five days at each port providing you with ample opportunity to explore each place The World stops. The itinerary is co-designed by the residents to make the most of each destination.
If you’re like me and the chances of owning an apartment are slim, there is hope. You can stay as a guest in one of the apartments. Along with booking the trip, you will also be responsible for any purchases you make at the restaurants aboard The World; as a resident dining is included but not as a guest.
Get ready to stay in a five-star hotel on the ocean complete with a casino, art gallery and more. The vacation will last as long as you like or if you’re one of the lucky few you can purchase a home away from home and travel 365 days a year.
Having traveled all over the United States, on holidays like Labor Day, I like to go back home to spend it with friends, family and enjoy the Kipona Artsfest. The Artsfest is held at the capital of Pennsylvania. The city closes part of Front St. next to the Susquehanna River and sets up for a three day event. Blocks upon blocks are closed down for vendors lining the street. People from all over the state come to enjoy this spectacular holiday and I am one of them.
Saturday morning I make some coffee, plan out the weekend and walk down to the festival. Having friends in the area I am saved from the burden of finding a parking spot but there is designated parking to help you from getting discouraged. As soon as I get close I can smell aromas of food from all ethnicities. I tell myself to wait until I’ve been here a few hours before I sample the deliciousness around me. It lasts for about five minutes. Between the cheesesteak, chicken on a stick, homemade fudge and lemonade, I’m in heaven. I start with strawberry shortcake, piled with strawberries and whipped cream. Delicious! Diet? What diet? Not only are my taste buds singing praises, the music coming from strategically placed stages is a delight to hear. Groups and solo artists come to play their music; bands just starting out and hoping this is their big break to singers who are well known in the area. You can hear anything from country to modern music. After spending an hour or two listening to the music I head over to the Artsfest, which is in a separate area. The fee is small but well worth it. Over a 100 crafters will be here displaying their finest items. I have found one-of-a-kind treasures from pottery (bowls, goblets, plates, etc.), clothing and a wide variety of jewelry. The paintings and drawings are unique to each vender; from items of the Indian culture to someone who has traveled the world and is trying to sell their pictures. I have even found risqué paintings that the artist has since won awards for and sells at a significantly higher price.
There are many events planned throughout the three days. A chili cook-off is held on Saturday, fishing tournaments, bingo, the annual Native American Pow-Wow and Karate tournament. A small section of Kipona will be designated for children. They can participate in face painting or mix multi-colored sand to make designs in bottles. In the past there has been a wellness area including Zumba and Tai Chi.
Boat races take place on the river throughout the day. You can sit on the steps leading down to the river and watch ‘til your heart’s content. Or you can take a walk across the bridge to City Island. Once there you can play miniature golf while eating a snow cone. If you are traveling with children they may like the train that will give them and you a tour of City Island. There is an area for volleyball and a beach to go swimming. Small huts line one side of the island selling anything from ice cream to kites. You can sit on one of the benches next to the huts, enjoy a snack and feed the ducks that have made a home here. The Harrisburg Senators play their home games on this island; while you won’t be able to walk on their fields you can still see a glimpse of their stadium. Years ago Hollywood came here and filmed Major League II using this same field. If you do some exploring on the Island you’ll find secret passages in the trees.
As the evening winds down you can rent a horse and carriage and take a tour of the city. The bridge lights up for the night making the Artsfest feel alive. The Festival continues into the night with more live bands playing their music. The smell of kettle corn being popped throughout the day and night will linger in the air. By the end of the festival and having watched the fireworks display, I’m exhausted but feeling happy. I have eaten more than a person should. Have stared at and spent too much money on art I fell in love with. Listened to wonderful music and reminisced on the fact, summer is over. And Fall is right around the corner.
While I’ve heard of Stonehenge, I was fascinated to learn of a new place to visit and be overwhelmed by, Neolithic Orkney. I have always been in love with Scotland and this makes my wanting to go all the more appealing. Located on the Scottish Islands of Orkney, there are four monuments or sites dating back almost 5,000 years ago, the Scara Brae, Ring of Brodger, Maeshowe and the Standing Stones of Stenness; each one having its own characteristic and design.
The Scara Brae is a settlement built out of stone. It consists of stone beds built into the side walls, stone furniture and fireplaces. There is even a drainage system for toilets. Passages have been discovered that connect the ten clusters of houses. The village was found after a winter storm uncovered the settlement. It wasn’t until 1924 when another storm damaged part of the site that anyone took a serious look.
The Ring of Brodger is a large circular structure (originally sixty stones) made up of twenty seven stones. The width is approximately 341 in diameter. About a mile from here is the Standing Stones of Stenness which only consists of four stones (originally twelve). Many traditions were held at these stones including engagements by holding hands through the hole of the Odin stone. In 1814 the land owner was tired of people coming on his land and tried to destroy the stones. He was stopped by the time he got to the second stone.
Also near the Ring of Brodger is Maeshowe. Maeshowe is a grave and chambered cairn. On the outside Maeshowe looks like a small hill covered in grass. On the inside is one of the largest tombs in Orkney. During winter solstice the rear wall of its central chamber is illuminated.
Each place has tours but only the Ring of Brodger and the Standing Stones of Stenness are free. There is a fee to visit Scara Brae and Maeshowe though easily worth it.
Archeological findings are always being made. One of the best ways to be in the know for these wonderful monuments is reading the “Stonechat.” An up-to-date online magazine that follows and reports on new findings of Neolithic Orkney.
I had been to the beach with friends and family every year but when I was almost twenty years old I had the notion to live there for a summer. I had been living on my own for a year but wanted a new surrounding to call home and Rehoboth Beach was everything I was looking for.
When I arrived I found a place to stay at a campground. I lived in a camper with two bunk beds, a small kitchen, living room and a bathroom that had running water. It wasn’t the most ideal of situations but I loved it. Well, I loved everything but the spiders. On occasion I’d even see a snake, though snakes never bothered me. The beach was only a few miles away but my campground was immersed in trees, a small forest. I had the best of both worlds. I met people who came every year for the summer, some had boats docked down the road and would leave for the afternoon only to return to grill what they caught for the day.
Unfortunately I arrived too late in the season, arriving at the end of June when most of the jobs were taken. The coveted job at the pizzeria Grotto’s on the boardwalk was booked solid. If I wanted a job there I should have applied long before beach season started. I wanted to work on the boardwalk but ended up finding a waitressing job at a crab shack next to the place I was staying. It was huge with fine dining on the inside and a deck on the outside. It was always busy. I never saw so many crabs in my life. As much as I enjoyed the job I made every excuse not to walk through the kitchen and see the crabs trying to escape the boiling pots. They were piled on top of one another, over-flowing and the ones on top were always trying to get out. I tried not to think about it when I had to serve them. Every Friday and Saturday night was band night. A local band would come in and play their music. Guests would be drinking and dancing and I would look in awe. Men would flirt with me. I never knew how to act or how to respond; most of the time I pretended I didn’t notice and walk away.
When I wasn’t working I would be at the beach getting a suntan or browsing the stores on the boardwalk. The stores were endless. The gallery became my go to store. I would pick out pictures I wanted to buy when I saved enough money. If I was feeling rich that day I would go into the exclusive area of the boardwalk that had specialty stores and imagine I could buy anything from the pricy clothes to expensive pottery or gifts. Of course the boardwalk had the typical stores too; a taffy store, jewelry, t-shirts galore and all types of restaurants whether you wanted breakfast or a full course meal. Once a week I would go to the used bookstore and browse the endless selections.
When my shift was over at the Crab Shack I would head back down to the beach and listen to the water. I never noticed the signs about not sitting on the lifeguard stand. Only when I was already up there with my cousin looking out at the ocean and the police officer flashed his light at me did I finally get the message. I was fined and sentenced to court. If I failed to show up there would be an arrest warrant and I would go to jail. Who knew? I was early for court. The judge took one look at me and realized I wasn’t the criminal type and let me go; my first and last brush with the law.
I only stayed a summer and never went back, at least not to live. I had planned on going every year but life always got in the way and there was always something else I was involved in. I have now set my sights on staying for a summer on the Amalfi Coast. But I never forgot my time there. I grew in ways I wouldn’t have had I stayed in my home town in Pennsylvania. I met people from all walks of life, such as the gay culture Rehoboth has embraced, and I learned to depend on myself. I had already lived on my own but there’s something about living away from the place you grew up and having to think on your feet when the going gets tough that I never experienced before, and at the beach I had to make it on my own. It was the first time I felt like I was in charge of my life and I liked it.
I packed up the last of what I owned in my car, put the cat in his carrier, turned on the ignition and drove away. I didn’t look back. I had given everything away and there was nothing I wanted more than to leave the state behind. For the first few hours the cat cried at the top of his lungs until we came to an understanding. I wouldn’t turn the music up loud enough to where I couldn’t hear him talk just in case he had something to say and he would remain silent until he wasn't.
I had decided to travel across country, as far I could get from Pennsylvania to California. I didn’t have anything against Pennsylvania. It’s a beautiful state if you’ve ever traveled through or visited. Wide fields and farms that go on over the horizon, woods you can get lost in for days. But I was running away and running to all at the same time. Since I was ten I had the dream of living in Southern California but gave up on that dream when I met someone and stayed in a relationship for far too long and gave up on my dreams until now.
I had all kinds of maps, though I had already decided to go straight through the middle of the Country. I left in September, right before the heavy snow starts to fall in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. My friends had warned me I could be stuck there for days if I didn’t leave soon. I thought about site-seeing as I went but that meant keeping my dream at bay even longer and I had waited long enough.
I wasn’t even out of Pennsylvania when I took the wrong highway putting me in West Virginia. I had only been there once before to visit a boyfriend’s family. They lived in a large log cabin home in the mountains. I stepped out of my car to pump gas and get a snack when men in pick-up trucks were now focused on staring at me. Not in the hi can I help you look but in the you don’t belong here and we know it kind of look. I did my best to look nonchalant, waving and smiling goofily until I was done. In this moment I was glad I decided not to travel alone. My future room-mate was traveling in his car as well, pumping his gas. I only hoped he tried not to talk out loud. I wasn’t sure how his Bronx accent would fare here in the country and I didn’t want to find out. Of course he did what he always does, gave me the look and walked inside the convenience store. He came out laughing and off we drove. I called him on my cell-phone. He answered in a country accent. I am sure, though never verified he talked that way in the store. I could only hope nobody took my license plate, got into their General Lee car and followed us.
We drove until we got to St. Louis, Illinois finding a hotel and settling in for the night. I found a semi-cheap hotel with the absolute most fabulous bedding I had ever experienced; down pillows and a down comforter on top of a lush mattress. I knew it must be a sign, a good one. There was only one catch. The place didn’t take pets. Most places don’t. No matter, I brought a boy from the Bronx, I wasn’t worried. He told me to pull around and wait for him. A few minutes later, more laughter and my cat bouncing up and down in his carrier as my room-mate went running into a back door. This would be my cat’s first experience at a hotel but not his last. We left early morning, leaving a few grains of kitty litter on the hotel room floor. While getting on the highway we made a stop at a park with large 3-D statues of turtles. After pretending to ride a few and taking pictures we were on our way again.
The cat and I came to a new understanding over next few days. I would leave his carrier door open and he wouldn’t try to get out. If I locked it, he would scream holy hell until I opened it again. He was like me, always wanting to have the freedom to do what we wanted even if we weren’t going to use it. We just wanted to make sure everyone around us knew we knew we could go at any time, yet we never left.
We drove straight through Kansas until we got to Denver, Colorado. Along the way, I got a postcard in every state, took as many pictures as I could and tried to put every mile into my memory so I wouldn’t forget even one moment of this experience. Kansas was a sea of green textures pulling in all directions. At times I wanted to get out of my car, pretend I was in a movie and run through the fields. I even found a store for Route 66. I don’t know how I had gone through life not knowing the history around the highway but when I entered the store I was brought back to another time. There were Elvis memorabilia, I Love Lucy items, Marilyn Monroe, The peanuts; virtually anything I could think of was here, knick knacks ranging from a dollar to hundreds. When we entered Denver I was exhausted and tired and ready to turn around.
I never had doubts about driving across the country to get to California until this moment. I couldn’t get the cat carrier out of the car. I had the carrier door wedged into the dashboard and everything had slid behind the car seat. With intoxicating clarity, standing there staring at the cat and he at me, I understood I had just given away my business and was without a job. I was about to go into debt again. The debt I just got out of from my previous relationship. And above all I had no T.V. I gave it away, along with all of my furniture, most of my clothes and personal belongings. If it didn’t fit in my car, I didn’t own it. Maybe it was the thin air in Denver but I wasn’t sure I had made the right choice. The hotel we found wasn’t as nice, the breakfast in the morning was cold and most of it wasn’t available at the time we were leaving. I was off kilter but I still packed the cat back in his carrier and kept driving.
I wasn’t ready for the mountains ahead of us. Neither was the cat. We traveled over 10,000 feet reaching the top. I had a bag of cheese curls in the back seat that popped from the air, my ears and head hurt, I heard talking coming from the carrier in a low, soft meow. By the time we were going back down the mountains I swore I would never go the same route again. This is not to take away from the beauty I saw or the fact I had just traveled over the Rocky Mountains. It was impressive as was the Starbucks in the shape of a log cabin. I regret not stopping and looking inside. These are the little things as I’ve gotten older to remember to do. The little things, you don’t think you have time for but fulfill your curiosity.
We stopped in Utah for a late lunch. As it was with West Virginia it was again here. We found a diner and decided to try it. When we entered everyone stopped talking and stared at us. We sat at one of the tables and ordered. The entire time we ordered, ate, paid and left not one person talked. We ate in under ten minutes. We didn’t stop again except to get gas until we were in Las Vegas.
As we approached Vegas I looked at the sky. It was evening and a rainbow was going over the city. I smiled. I let the cat out of the carrier, put him in my lap and told him everything was going to be o.k. We had made it to the other side of the country. I saw the sign I had waited for all my life “Welcome to California.”
I had made it. I got out of my car and had my room-mate take my picture. I stayed a few minutes reflecting on the past few days and years and how I had finally gotten here. The highway ahead went up another hill. It reached up to a place I couldn’t see from where I was but I was ready to make that last climb. In a few hours I was in Los Angeles. I had passed through a check-point making sure I was not smuggling fruit into the city. It took a few more hours to find a motel in Orange County. One I could afford. They also didn’t take pets but that was o.k. I was getting used to sneaking my cat in and out of hotels.
We traveled 3,000 miles in three days. We stayed in Orange County for a month taking the cat in and out of the room along with his food and kitty litter pan every day until we found a guest house in the Hollywood Hills. I lived on Arby’s five roast beef sandwiches for five dollars. I didn’t care. I was about to start a new life. It was everything and nothing I thought it was going to be. It was better.
There are an abundance of places I want to see and experience. So many in fact I doubt I’ll get to do them all. But as a kid I never had the gumption to go anywhere except the swimming pool, an amusement park or a friend’s house. But every now and then during the summer months my mother would get the family together and my cousins and I would all head to the drive-in. For a five year old in the early eighties this was more than exciting, this was planned out for a week in advance. It was all I could talk about.
My best friend at the time was my cousin. He would come over and we’d discuss what movie we were going to see. At the time it was Fox and the Hound. We’d stay up for hours wondering what was going to happen to Copper and Tod.
day of the big event I would get everything ready. First I’d pick out some
pillows, always the good kind; never too soft, never too hard. It was going to
be a long night and I wanted to make sure I was going to be comfortable. Next
I’d get my blankets; one to lie on and one to use as a cover. My mother would
be in the kitchen getting our snacks together. Popcorn was first on the list. A
lot of popcorn. We also brought along Middleswarth bbq potato chips in a
barrel. My favorite chips made in
We got there a few hours early. My aunt would get our dinner ready while we played on the swing set under the big screen. All the kids who came would be there. When it started to get dark I’d get out a jar with holes and catch lightning bugs. Once I saw the screen light up, I’d run back to my mom’s van, hop on top of the roof and settle in for a fun filled night.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve had less chance to go to a movie theater and rarely ever think about going to the drive-in. Let’s face it. It’s a dying tradition. Everything being high-tech and gadget filled, it’s rare you’ll find a drive-in. You might see one as you pass by, an old screen left over from a time before but usually not in operation.
On my days off, I like to travel as much as possible. Whether it’s a day trip or a few days at a bed and breakfast to a place I’ve never been before. A few days ago I opted instead to visit a place closer to home. I decided once again to visit a vintage movie house. It was almost the same. I got there a half hour early to wait until it opened. It’s always better to be first in line than last to get the best spot. You never want to be behind the person with the bigger vehicle. I made my way into the open area and found the perfect spot. The first thing I noticed that was missing was the speaker for the movie. Now the car radio serves as the speaker. It takes away from the vintage feel but I was o.k. with this. There was still a food stand filled with all same kind of goodies as before from hamburgers, sundaes, popcorn and cotton candy. I still saw children passing a football and families with their lawn chairs, setting up for the evening.
As I did when I was younger, I packed some snacks and a cooler and watched as the screen lit up. The same type of ads made from years ago came on and I was reminded once again of a time gone by. I stayed into the night watching two movies and reminiscing about my childhood.
drive-in has become as familiar with the
A few years ago I stumbled upon a book from Shirley Maclaine. While I don’t always agree with her spiritual preferences, I am always intrigued by what she believes. I decided to read her book and was amazed I had never heard of such a walk before; the Camino, a spiritual and physical journey in Spain. In a past life I have studied different religions trying to find the answers to life and the after-life. This walk intrigued me.
People from all over the world come here for the journey of inner discovery. The Camino is a pilgrimage to St. James, one of the twelve apostles in the bible. He is supposedly buried under the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrimage started in the 9th century with only a few thousand people a year taking the trip but has grown to over 200,000 a year.
The pilgrimage can be as long or as short as you like. The starting point is your choice but the most popular trek is 500 miles and can be completed by foot or bike. By bike it will take approximately three weeks but if you’re like me and want to travel by foot it could take up to six weeks. The task of walking 500 miles seems daunting but at the end the reward will be overwhelming. There is a saying “stop and smell the roses” and I believe it applies here.
There are options of where to stay. I plan on staying as the pilgrims before me did, in hostels. I’ve never been the type to use a sleeping bag, I’ll always opt for the hotel but here I want to get the real sense of beauty and discovery. I don’t want to miss out because I lack the discipline of not being without a pillow made of down.
I’m not sure what has drawn me to take on this journey. I’m curious of the people I’ll meet along the way; all coming for different reasons and different walks of life. I know I’ll be packing light. The idea of carrying a backpack with everything I’ll need over 500 miles is one of the few things I won’t be looking forward to but I know I’ll have a journal and a camera to record every feeling, every moment. I don’t plan to bring food as the hostels will have some sort of cooking facility or I’ll stop at one of the restaurants along the way, all being very affordable.
There will be some pride and self-respect when I receive my “pilgrim passport.” A cardboard pamphlet I’ll carry throughout my walk. Every day I’ll get it stamped and at the very end hand it in - getting my certificate stating I have completed the Camino. I wonder if I’ll be a changed person, having found something I didn’t know was missing inside me. Will I have the same experience as Shirley Maclaine, having out of body experiences and interacting with Adam and Eve? Probably not. Will I have an experience I couldn’t have anywhere else. Absolutely. There are many places I want to travel but the Camino isn’t just another place on the map for me. For whatever reason, this is something I have to do, something I’ve been drawn to do ever sense I read about it. As every spring passes I am reminded of what I should be doing and what I’m not doing. Walking the Camino.
Some people go to the beach or find a cabin in the woods, break out their fishing pole and a good book to unwind from life. While I have no objection to any of these ideas, when life gets too much for me, I’m in need of a great slice a pizza or homemade pasta, a cappuccino and the city life. There is only one place that offers me this with tranquility. The place is Arthur Ave. in the Bronx.
I hop in my car, take Pelham Parkway, get off the Fordham exit and I’m there. I sit in my car for a moment, take a deep breath inhaling the city life of Italian food, its culture and the feeling of being in a place this country girl never thought she’d be.
Twenty years ago I never thought I’d be comfortable enough to go into the city alone, especially a well-known place like the Bronx. But I’ve come to understand its culture. Sure, there are areas I still wouldn’t travel but in the Belmont section I feel safe and able to be myself.
I venture down streets going into the shops filled with crystal gifts and figurines. For the most delicious bread I’ve ever tasted I’ll go to Terranova bakery and get a few loaves. I’ve been known to freeze a few. Depending on my mood I’ll go to Full Moon for a slice of pizza or I’ll go to my favorite restaurant Roberto’s and order an eggplant appetizer. It is to die for. There are only male waiters who appear to be very attractive, though it could be the Italian accent, that wait on you. When the appetizer comes out they use a huge spoon and fork, cut it in two using only one hand and scoop it onto my plate. The cheese oozes everywhere, the smell is decadent and the taste is out of this world. If I’m lucky on their special of the day board they’ll have seafood risotto. Between the risotto, wine and eggplant I’m usually feeling like a whole new person but my trip isn’t over yet.
I head to what has become my place of sanctuary. A cafe called Palumbo. I don’t usually drink espresso but when I go to the Bronx I have to have at least one. It isn’t just about the cappuccino and the pastries. The pastries while they are very good at Palumbo, aren’t my favorite, but I always have at least one. For me this place is about the atmosphere, the synergy. When I enter I see a group of gentlemen in the corner drinking espresso with suits on, talking about things I definitely don’t want to know about. A group of girls will be sitting at another table speaking in a foreign language. Almost everyone will be speaking Italian except me and the tourists that have come to visit. You can always spot them. The clothes aren’t quite right, the cameras are at the ready and they are always way too happy and polite. Here I can sit back in my chair and say nothing. I’ve often thought about finding a place in the area and coming here as a daily visit. I’ve been known to drive over an hour in the morning to Palumbo just for a croissant with raspberry jam spread on top. This is the place when the time is right, I want to come and write my book. Not about New York, Arthur Ave. or the next Goodfella’s, no just a book. Every writer has their place and this is mine.
When it’s time to go I take one more stroll through the streets heading to my favorite pastry shops. I have a few. I take home a small cheesecake to eat on my ride back to wherever I have come from.
This year as summer approaches and I’m doing what every girl dreads, finding a bikini or a tankini to a one piece and ending with I don’t need to go to the beach after all. I’m planning my next adventure which has nothing to do with a hot sun, sand and skinny people eating nothing but water for the summer. It includes ice, snow and lots of clothes, the kind of clothes that will hide anything. Needs for the beach: suntan oil and a towel. Needs for my trip to Sweden: gloves, earmuffs and thermal underwear.
In a place called Jukkasjärvi, Sweden there is a hotel made out of ice and snow. Architects from all over the world come once a year to construct this magnificent site. They will design a deluxe suite, art suites, group rooms and a bar area. In total there will be over forty rooms. Each will have its own art design on the walls, ice sculptures and ice chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
The beds are made of ice and snow with reindeer skins layering the top. Before you head to your suite, you will make a detour to the “warm” building connected to the ICE HOTEL to gather your sleeping bag and sheets. They will also store your personal belongings as they would freeze over-night if you brought them to your ice room. As you wake in the morning, hot lingonberry juice will be waiting by your bedside. It tastes like apples, cranberries and raspberries mixed together. All of the bathrooms are located in the “warm” building; remember not to drink too much coffee or wine right before bed. This will not be a pleasant experience having to get bundled up again and trudge through the cold. After drinking your lingonberry juice a warm sauna will be awaiting your arrival for a morning wake up.
Staying at the ICE HOTEL is not the only action in town. Depending when you decide to come, you can put on your snowshoes or cross-country skis and go for a day tour. For something a little more adventurous, hop on a snowmobile for the day. The main attraction I cannot wait to enjoy is dog sledding! There are many different tours you can choose from. A dogsled can pick up you up and transfer you from the ICE HOTEL to the airport or you can seat yourself on a sled and learn about the life of a husky. You can even choose to be a musher for a day. If you’re like me and really want the adventure you can book an over-night excursion in search of the Northern Lights. You will learn how to drive your own dog sled, stay at one of the wilderness camps and enjoy a visit to the kennel.
The ICE HOTEL is not only known for its beauty, it is also known for its food and ICEBAR. The ICEBAR is open until one a.m. and you can stay for as long as you like. It has all kinds of specialty drinks as well as champagne and wine served in ice glasses. The floors are made of ice and snow where you can dance the night away.
The restaurants are top notch and the food has been displayed in gourmet magazines. You can stay at the ICEHOTEL restaurant where your food will be served on plates and bowls made out of ice from the Thorne River or you can try the Old Homestead restaurant which has an a la carte menu. There is a dress code. It doesn’t have to be formal but it does have to be in good taste.
I love the cold and can imagine staying at the ICEHOTEL. Can I stay for more than one or two nights in the freezing cold? Probably not, but the luxury is: there is an option of staying at the ICEHOTEL for a night or two and staying at a warm hotel in the area. This is not for the person who is on a budget and looking for an inexpensive destination.
For me the only question is, when do I book my flight? When they first open and I can still see them designing and building the hotel in the beginning of December or wait until everything is done and enjoy what has been created. Either way, I will be there. If not next year, very soon in the future.
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