I never thought summer would arrive. And quite frankly I’m not sure it has in my small world but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to travel. At night when the cool air approaches and the stars come out I think of all the beaches I’d like to be sunbathing on. However, I can’t say that’s what I think about during the day. One place that has drawn my attention is Phuket, Thailand. I have always been fascinated with the Asian lands and Thailand is no exception. Phuket is one of Thailand’s largest islands and one of the most beautiful.
Just like most islands you can do all those fantastic activities like snorkeling in the blue lagoons, or if you want to get certified - scuba diving: getting up close and personal to a leopard shark, lion fish or an octopus. Don’t want to get wet? Charter a boat and go sailing on the waters. Check out the bays with rock formations jetting out of the water covered in greenery. Spend the day on a yacht with a hot tub drinking wine while watching the sunset over the water. The next day, rent out bikes and travel around the island. When you’re done, switch out your bicycle for an elephant and go on a safari.
Some of my personal favorites to do on this magnificent island is sky diving and if you’re daring, rent a motorbike and do some serious riding. Still not daring enough? Well. Put on some gear and get ready to climb some very high trees. After you get to the top, look over your shoulder. It’s time to climb across to the next tree using only ropes. Maybe that yacht with champagne is looking better? You’re on vacation. Get wild! While you’re climbing the sky using only cables you are harnessed in. The only thing to fear is….Well, you know the saying. After you try all the extreme adventures you and your stomach can handle, make your way to a spa and relax with a massage. At night visit a cabaret or a dinner theater. As the night unwinds, make your way back to your resort when you can sleep in and do it all over again in the morning.
As I look out my window and still see inches of snow melting off the trees, it has me reminiscing on the days I lived in California and the palm trees that are standing tall, soaking in the sun while I’m bundled up in my wool socks and pajamas. In a few weeks people will be dancing under those palm trees for two weekends in a row for one of the biggest concert festivals of the year.
Coachella attracts every type of person. From the performers who will be there to the ones who will be in the crowds listening to the talented musicians that will be playing. This is not your typical concert you go to for a few hours and then go home to look at the selfies you took of yourself with your favorite artist in the background. This is a two weekend event that happens once a year in Coachella, California. Hotels in the area prepare for the thousands of people that will arrive. There are campgrounds where you can stay off and on the grounds, depending how close you want to be. You can carpool with others if you’re not on site and if you are, you may just win lifetime tickets to Coachella and VIP passes for the events.
Music from all genres will the there. Musicians like AC/DC to Drake will be playing to bands like Bad Religion and a personal favorite, Florence + the Machine. Whether you like country, rap or rock and roll, you will find it here. For those music enthusiasts, there will be a vinyl store where you can browse for your favorite music. A boutique with clothes, art and collectables will be on the premises. Not only will the music be outstanding, the food will be just as amazing. There will be your usual concert food. However, there will also be an assortment of deliciousness to choose from homemade ice cream, craft beer paired with selected dishes, tacos and for those with special diets vegan, gluten free menus to choose from. Some of the best up and coming chefs will be on hand to display their talents. If you’re lucky enough to have VIP passes to the Rose Garden, you will dine in the beautiful Coachella Rose Garden and taste some of the finest food you will ever have the pleasure of tasting.
While jamming to your some of your favorite music and chowing down on a specialty dish from the restaurant Eggslut (where everything is made with egg), walk around to discover the art that will be displayed. Last year a chain of hot air balloons were in the air, a large caterpillar was created for sitting under to enjoy some shade, and robots and a giant astronaut were on site to engage the audience.
This isn’t exactly a tropical paradise where you sit lazily by the ocean and drink Pina Coladas or travel to some far away mountain, hiking until you reach the top. This is for the diehard music lovers who want a once in a lifetime experience, where those who are performing are some of the best up and coming musicians or have already proven themselves. This is where those with talent come to shine whether it is with their guitar, their prose with musical lyrics or creating that fabulous dish you’ll have to Instagram. And when you find you just need to take a break from your senses, a Ferris wheel that reaches into the clouds will be on hand to take you away for a few moments to catch your breath and get ready for the next day full of laughter, songs and dancing.
At the moment, it feels like I live at the North Pole. Over the past few weeks, the state of Massachusetts has watched almost four feet of snow drift down from the clouds above. As I looked out my foggy window watching the snowflakes pile up I thought about where I’d rather be. Quite honestly, I came up with a long list but I only booked one vacation, to Costa Rica. Of course it’s only the beginning of February, anything can happen. My passport is up to date and I’m ready for anything but another snowstorm.
There are so many places to stay in Costa Rica. My desired choice this time around will be in the Guanacaste area. Besides finding a beach after I check into my all inclusive resort where room and food are included, I want to experience a few excursions. And there are many to choose from. First and foremost I will be zip lining through the rainforest. There are a number of ways to do this. The one I’ve chosen will be to go over the waterfalls. I will fly by at least eleven. To say I’m afraid of heights is an understatement but to experience life, one must put away the phobias. If only for a day (as long as I don’t see spiders).
After my personal flight I will take an excursion to one of the volcanos in the area. Again, there are a few options. I plan to visit one where afterwards I can sit in the hot springs and forget about life for a few hours. Afterwards there is usually a lunch or dinner served. I may even go on a horseback ride on my way to the volcano.
If I have time I want to visit the butterfly garden where I’ll see many different types of butterflies and possibly other wildlife. If I don’t have time for butterflies, I will be visiting the rainforest tour where all types of critters can be seen including three different species of monkeys and over two hundred kinds of birds. There is also the Tortuguero National park which you’ll travel by boat as you take in the scenery. Or instead hop on a raft with a tour guide and make your way to the Jaguar Rescue Center. Here you will see how jaguars live in their own habitat and how to save these beautiful creatures.
If you have a sweet tooth you can take an excursion and taste locally made chocolate or if you like a little bitter with your chocolate, visit one of the many places that produces coffee.
Before you leave, don’t forget to visit the marketplace and do a little shopping. After all the excursions, head back to your hotel, get out a beach towel, grab a fruity drink with an umbrella and relax by the ocean.
The summer for me means time to catch up on personal goals I pushed into the corner of my life throughout the winter and spring season. There are many things I catch up during the summer months but the most important goal is writing. I have been writing since I was ten years old and find I feel the need to reach for a pen and a piece of paper at least once a week but with the holidays and demands I don't always find the time until the summer. I make a point of searching for a retreat to steal myself away from every day life and write for a solid week or at least attempt to. This year I have opted for a place in a Danish castle far from my home.
Off the cliffs of Denmark sits a castle called Liselund and a writing retreat aptly named Hamlet's Retreat. Here two women have created a place where writers of all experiences can come and submerse themselves into their writing. The retreat is a week long writing event where one can be involved in all the wonderful workshops. The workshops consist of how to do research and write a scene to how to write fiction and nonfiction. There is even a workshop discussing how to pitch your work for publication. The Workshops last for six nights and seven days. It is all-inclusive stay with a restaurant on the premises along with a cafe. Anja Klemp Vilgaard and Shawna Kenney, the teachers of this wonderful retreat only accept seventeen people for the workshop as to give undivided attention to each writer.
Even though there are quite a few workshops you can immerse yourself in, they are purely optional. You have the opportunity to discover the castle ruins, or enjoy yoga in the morning and venture off by yourself to work on your writing. The rooms are beautifully furnished as well as tables set up inside and out to dine on while you find the next line for your book. If you're looking for a place to run away and find your writing muse again, this is the place.
During the colder months I crave a mocha cappuccino but once summer is upon me and the sun is warming the beaches I go to my favorite wine shop, choose a few tasty reds and whites, come home and make a pitcher of sangrias for me and my friends. This year will be no different except I have recently finished a two year course in Italian and all I want to do is try out my new found speaking skills in Italy; at a vineyard of course. There are so many wonderful places to visit in Italy, I’m quite certain any of them will be outstanding but the one I’ve chosen is Vignamaggio; a beautiful villa outside of Greve in Chianti. If you’re a Shakespeare fan, you may have heard of it before. The movie Much Ado About Nothing was filmed here in the early ‘90s. It is also rumored the famous Mona Lisa is from the villa, her name actually being Lisa Gherardini.
The villa is spread out over 140 acres of land with 50 of them used for growing grapes turning them into different types of Chianti. Depending on when you go, you’re able to take a tour of their vineyards and at the end taste different selections of wine. While on the tour, you’ll see rows of grapes, and olive trees (they also make their own olive oil), barrels of wines and the estate itself. There are three types of tours depending on your preference. You can tour the vineyard, cellar and gardens without tasting or you can choose to do a tasting with lunch or if you really want to be extravagant (I know I do) have dinner with your tour that will include different wines and olive oils from their fields.
The villa has beautiful cottages you’re able to stay in with all the amenities you may want. Each of them decorated with antique furniture. You can even bring your fur babies with you! This is a pet friendly villa as well as kid friendly. Enjoy an authentic meal at their restaurant dining on locally made olive oil, fresh vegetables, pasta and of course one of their many wines. You have a choice of sitting inside or dining outside on their patio surrounding by the hillside. The villa even has a spa. This is not your typical spa. If you want something a little different you can take a bath in wine. Yes, in wine. Now that is a splendid way to end a two year Italian course; being surrounding by cypress trees, drinking wine and dipping freshly made Italian bread into olive oil. Molto bene!!!
May-June 2015: David Clewett
March-April 2015: Joslyn Gadwah