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Thursday, 05 February 2015 00:00

Escaping the Winter

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      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. 

Sunday, 15 June 2014 02:28

Liselund, Denmark

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    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. 
    

Thursday, 29 May 2014 01:46

Ready to speak Italian…

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       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!!!

 

Wednesday, 30 April 2014 20:26

Salt and Sun

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        The beginning of May brings flowers, rain and the best part, margaritas. May 5th is Cinco de Mayo day and that means it’s time to celebrate. The holiday has many meanings depending where you’re from but in America we celebrate to honor Mexico’s heritage.  All over the United States you can find a restaurant or a city celebrating the entire day; however if you’re looking for the largest, most expansive celebration that would be in Los Angeles, California. 

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated for an entire weekend in Los Angeles and expands over to the surrounding areas. On Olvera St. there will be live music including folk dancers, and mariachis. Piñatas will be about and activities will be set up for the younger crowd. Olvera St. is home to a Mexican marketplace as well as the oldest structure in Los Angeles, the Avile Adobe ranch house.  The museum of Latin America will have a beer tasting event in honor of the holiday that will include live music. In Santa Ana there is a carnival with rides, games, all kinds of food and music. The LA plaza museum will have free tickets for the holiday. On Sunday in West Hollywood there will be a huge block party for the afternoon and all the proceeds will go to the Project Angel Food. 

At the end of April the largest festival will be held. It consists of a 24 block party with over half a million people. Just like the weekend of Cinco de Mayo, there will be numerous activities, more food than you can imagine and music being played all across the festival. 

If you want to go to your local restaurant and have a few margaritas to celebrate the day or if you want to go to the biggest block party with some of the most fabulous Mexican food you will ever taste, the options is yours. 

 

Saturday, 19 April 2014 16:47

Grand Canyon

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Spring is in the air…Okay, well not really in this very cold city of Boston. I can still look at the calendar and remember only a few short days ago, it snowed during the night. Still, I’m ready to move on to warmer days with flowers blooming and trees budding. I’ve traveled across country twice in my life. I enjoyed every minute of it and when I did I always had the desire to see the Grand Canyon. But I never stopped because I had in the back of my mind what movies always depict it as. You go, you see (for a few minutes) and you leave. I don’t know. It never seemed worth it. I realize how wrong I was and am ready to make the journey across the country and actually stop this time. 

The Grand Canyon is located in the state of Arizona in the southwest of the United States. The Grand Canyon is approximately three hundred miles long and twenty miles wide. Not a small canyon by any means. Going through the bottom of the canyon is the Colorado River. The actual walls of the canyon are about a mile long from the top to the bottom floor. 

Get your cameras ready. First and foremost when you get there you’ll want to take in the scenery of this magnificent place and enjoy its view. Afterwards, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know you can explore the area in more ways than one. There are guided tours you can take, what type of tour is up to you. You can travel by foot, bike or if you really want to be outside the box, a mule. Depending on how long you stay you can hike for a day or you can gather up your gear, grab a backpack and explore the canyon for multiple days. The trails range from a few miles to twenty miles. When you’re done hiking head down to the Colorado River and you can do a little rafting (book well in advance).  This can also be a one day rafting event or several days. If you want to see the canyon from the sky, go on an airplane or helicopter tour.  If you have family with younger adults there are programs just for them. They will even receive their own certificate, badge and patch by completing activities listed in the junior booklet.

The places to stay near the Grand Canyon vary depending on your taste. There are upscale inns, old lodges, and campgrounds. I am always pleasantly surprised at how naïve I am when it comes to the world and traveling. The Grand Canyon is no exception. While it is beautiful to pull over on the side of the road and take a quick peek at the canyon, knowing I can explore the area and learn some of its secrets has certainly caught my interest and has made its way onto my bucket list. 

 

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