Nosara is a village and district in the Nicoya canton province of Costa Rica on the Pacific Coast with a population of 5800 people…mostly surfers, yogis, and those lucky enough to be living and working off the fruits of the land. It seems from the 21/2 hour drive from Liberia airport, it’s the last of the large areas of unpaved roads. When I told my sister I was flying into Liberia…she was a little taken aback and said this time I’ve gone too far. I had to assure her it was not Africa or Ebola territory. Nosara, unlike Tamarindo on the northern coast of Costa Rica, lacks nearly any development directly on the beach and they are working hard to keep it that way. It’s known as a surfing mecca “playa guiiones” because it has the most consistent waves in the world with over 330 days per year of rideable conditions. With that statistic, even the dogs surf. So of course, I had to ride those waves even though I’m not a surfer. I did manage to impress my teacher Tanello a handful of times by following his 7 step process of ready-set-stand. Cowabunga! It’s a good thing I do yoga cause balance and concentration are key elements to mastering this sport. Yoga is aplenty in this town since 1994 when Nosara Yoga Institute put Nosara on the map as they train teachers from all over the world. The place has a magnificent Perch high up in the hills along with the Bodhi tree where I took a sunset yoga class overlooking the breathtaking views of the ocean listening to the sounds howler monkeys coming from the jungle below. It was Music to my ears. I love monkeys! But the best yoga I found on the island was Mark’s class at Tica Massage across the street from where I was staying at the beautiful but basic Harmony Hotel. He was the Aaron King of Nosara who is my favorite yogi in Aspen. His music was inspiring, thought-provoking and soulful. I even managed to get some of his playlist (after stalking him) and now trying to figure out how to download it. The small yoga room was mat to mat as he seems to have quite a following. His style is peaceful warrior and he totally practices what he preaches…living off the land, driving an electric golf cart, vegan, no drink, and no drug! As he says, your body is your temple and i treat it as such with hyper-local ingredient food and sustainable sourcing here on Nosara. Pretty impressive for a San Diego boy. Well, I certainly got the vibe of the place during my 4 day stint. As I sit writing this blog in my office watching the rain pour outside my window, I can only dream about those long walks on the beach every morning followed by a healthy juice, yoga, surfing, and biking to get my coconut water fix. Also wondering, Is a coconut a fruit or a vegetable? Yes Nosara, I will be seeing you again and those the insane sunsets on the beach. Adios for now.
Thousands of years before European pioneers trekked into the American Southwest, Native Americans were thriving in this arid land in Southern Utah. And they continue to thrive in the region today. Amangiri which means peaceful mountain is situated right smack in the middle of the Colorado Plateau which has the highest concentration of National Parks in the United States. All Aman resorts try to have minimal impact on the environments they occupy, but this one particularly blends most magnificently into the dramatic landscape of these deep canyons and towering plateaus while tucked into a protected valley with sweeping views of the Escalante Grand Staircase, a Unesco World Heritage site. The Sunrises and Sunsets were extraordinary. It’s a very powerful spot indeed and certainly one reason we chose to have our “partner strategy boondoggle” here in the wild and wind carved sandstone desert with very little cell service. We started off with a bang as our guide Kyle swept us up along with the views to the famous Hoodoo Via Ferrata which in Italian means iron road. He instructed us how to put on our harness while explaining that he’s had a 6-year-old and a 70-year-old climb this impressive peak and it’s no big deal. For some of us it was no big deal (guess who) but not all have no fear. It was challenging to say the least but in a good way as we laughed and cried our way to rappelling safety before crossing a ridiculous suspension bridge over a 600 foot deep gorge…think Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The next day, our guide Yermo picked us up in a hummer and told us we were going on a surprise hike into Escalante called Yermo’s canyon….he had quite an ego! He said that he has never taken anyone here and in fact it’s so secretive that he’s never seen anyone in the area before. Comforting. Was he ever pissed when we ran into 3 other hikers well into our “3 hour tour”! He was a character with stories galore about this living laboratory in the desert that we couldn’t stop humming “king of the road” by Roger Miller (we had to goggle it). Again, there were a few hairy moments as we had to shimmy up a slot canyon and scramble through a bevy of rocks en route out of there but I am here to tell the story! Our last day we decided we were done with life threatening adventures so we hired Captain Legacy to take us out on Lake Powell with almost 2000 miles of shoreline, pristine water, over 90 picturesque side canyons and secluded bays with sandy beaches where our kayaks awaited. Mr Powell sure must be proud to have this reservoir on the Colorado River, straddling the border between Utah and Arizona welcoming 2 millions visitors a year named after him. We just experienced a snippet of this lake but I could really feel its magic even though the water was too cold to swim. That being said, I couldn’t wait to get back to another magical experience in Amangiri’s huge flotation tank filled with 2 feet of very warm water and buoyant dead sea salts. Loved the de-stress meditative time spent floating in space and enjoying the indoor/outdoor spa area. The oh so many in staff were attentive and the food as varied and fresh. It was a perfect 3 nights spent with our loving partners in crime. Go West my friends, this is a do not miss bucket list kind of place especially if you like to be pampered.
Uruguay is my new favorite place. Particularly its eastern coast and the small fishing village of Jose Ingacio. Skip Punta del Este and head straight to this cool bohemian yet sophisticated town 20 miles down the coast. Think Montauk and the drive out to the Hamptons and you can envision the scenery. But its more than meets the eye and I found this rural stretch of coastline and the understated glamour of Jose Ignacio charming as hell. We stayed at one of the Vik properties called the Estancia set on a seemingly endless landscape of Africa-evoking plains. It’s the brainchild of a half Norwegian, half Uruguayan billionaire with incredible taste. Each of the 12 suites have been designed and decorated by a local artist and very contemporary in design. It was a perfect backdrop for a family vacation except maybe the horses on property that my son is highly allergic to. The Beach was only a 10 minute drive but we had our own bikes to ride to and fro. After all, we needed the exercise to counteract all the gorgeous food we consumed. The restaurants are insane as the best nightlife options revolve around food. It’s a foodies delight. At the edge of the dunes on the main beach in an inconspicuous bungalow, Parador La Huella is the best place to be and be seen so we tended to frequent there. It was also very close to THE yoga studio as Isabella, a teacher from BridgeHampton just opened her adorable place for the season. Our bike rides were a highlight as the landscape is so beautiful from larger than average sand dunes and picturesque cow fields to serene horses in the distance. One evening we ventured 40 minutes to a charming town founded in 1892 called Garzon where we dined at Mallman’s Michelin star restaurant in the middle of nowhere. He’s known as a seedbed of gastronomic talent…who knew? It’s such a low-key, laid-back, rustic-chic scene now but I fear that the word is out and it will be a changing. The locals have tried to keep Jose Ignacio a little under the radar but I hear that an international art fair is on the agenda! We had the pleasure of visiting one of Uruguay’s most famous artist Pablo Atchugarry at his nonprofit arts center run by his 27-year-old son Piero. They were so gracious showing us his intricately shaped abstract sculptures carved out of marble that we are actually contemplating a commission. I feel blessed to have been able to spend a little less than a week here with my boys sans significant others. It’s only a matter of time when things change in our nucleus and I will embrace that as well. As Diego Sanchez, a local energy healer, says “Uruguay is maybe the most undramatic place imaginable, but people get here and they find themselves hanging around”. Well, we did just that and I would go back in a second to Playa NICE. This chalkboard says it best as I felt like this as soon as I entered the country.
“People go to Florida to die but they come to SMA to live” goes an old often repeated saying amongst locals in this colorful Mexican town just 2 1/2 hours or 166 miles northwest of Mexico City with year-round eternal spring climate. Well, it is supposed to take 2 1/2 hours but not on a friday afternoon on a holiday weekend. Who knew they decided to celebrate Black Friday weeks before thanksgiving and an American holiday yet. But once you do arrive in this quaint mountain town, it is totally worth the long commute as we were greeted by our charming Casa de Sierra Nevada as mi casa su casa. It’s no wonder this pretty as a picture town attracted so many ex-pat retirees, artists, entrepreneurs, and just plain old good-life seekers like us STAT trippers (11 of us ladies) looking for adventure…our first one just getting used to walking in high heels on the narrow cobblestone streets to dinner in the dark AND back after a few margaritas! Comparatively, hiking and biking seemed like a breeze so we thought. Jorge, our wonderful guide for the long weekend, was perfection on all fronts. Gina couldn’t even rattle his feathers when she nonchalantly asked him if he minded if we were all “naked” in the closing ceremonial sweat lodge…more on that later. We started our mornings with a nice brisk walk to the local yoga studio where we enjoyed a wonderful preparatory stretch for our daily activities. Our first “3 hour tour” (think castaways) started straight away from our casa in town to a nature reserve called El Charco del Ingenio where we enjoyed a major hike down and out a relatively small canyon. It was quite challenging and required some bouldering skills which we quickly acquired. Ok, so some of us had some verticality issues but persevered while others were clearly out of their box. Love that! Did I forget to mention that SMA is 6,100 feet above sea level? It may explain some shortness of breath but the challenges kept coming the next day as we biked right out-of-town through San Miguel Viego on dirt roads through La Press on a combination of road and dirt to Atotonilco where we ditched the bikes for a walk through the 250-year-old Santuario de Atontonilco where nearly every inch of wall and ceiling space is filled with detailed biblical scenes and passages, which is why the church is known as Mexico’s Sistine Chapel and why is was named a Unesco World Heritage site. It was a full day of exploration as we were not quite back in time for scheduled massages but certainly in time to clean up and get ready for cocktails at the Rose Bar with the other gringos before our most authentic mexican meal in town…no street food for us! Town square was hopping with taco stands, street musicians, and burros but the most amazing sight is the Parroquira which is a parrish church regarded as the symbol of San Miguel in all pastel pink and orange… especially gorgeous at night. We really got the lay of the land on our last big hike together as we started at the top of the city and hiked on private reserve property all around the north side of the mountains that form the San Miguel valley. The views were spectacular from all sides as was our healthy picnic lunch Jorge prepared for us from his day at the local market. What a treat…he even carried his own salad bowl. But that was just the beginning of the special treats for the day. In the afternoon, we had the honor of visiting our philanthropic element of the trip and because SMA is such a big retirement community, 80% of the people here grow old and need assisted living facilities. So, my STAT girls and I went to visit ALMA, one such retirement home that is particularly in need of donations. It warmed our hearts to meet 92-year-old Lisa who referred to us as her “fellow comrades”as she proceeded to explain that she has no idea how she ended up here in Mexico but is happy she did. And we were happy to help make her stay more comfortable. Feeling good about our visit and giving back to the community, we were off to participate in yet another local endeavor with the beautiful Dayana Paz. One of Mexico’s most honored and oldest rituals is the temazcal, a sweat lodge healing ceremony to purify the body and mind and perhaps experience a spiritual rebirth or at least a deeper sense of peace and reflection. It was an intense experience for some of us as we chanted and received the indigenous blessings and prayers that were offered. It’s always a moment of gratitude for me to be able to take part in such spiritual rituals. A big “wow wow wow” as Dayana would affectionately say every time a new volcanic rock was brought into the lodge. Serious gratitude for this closing ceremony of a beautifully articulated and special journey with amazing women. The icing with the cherry on top was all of us actually rallying for an early morning departure to see the Teotihuacan Pyramids, just north of Mexico City on the way to the airport. As we stood as a group at the pyramid of the moon staring out towards the sun in this mystical place, the journey for me took on a life of its own. We were able to be in the present moment yet reflective and futuristic. A perfect way to live our life. All my relations. Ho.
The Netherlands. At once quaint and edgy, famously tolerant, and tremendously likable, Amsterdam is like no other European city except maybe Venice with even more canals. While the Dutch capital may lack the grandeur of Paris or Rome, it more than compensates with its charm, beauty, art museums, food and flower markets as we walked for hours around this city surrounded by water. And as you walk around the canals, you can’t help but notice the multitude of row houses looming and leaning so forward with big hooks visible at the top. Neal (aka google) explains that’s the way they used to get goods in the house…by hoisting up the outside! Of course, you wouldn’t want to chance your goods getting soaked in the basement being on these canals. Amsterdammers seem like a laid-back bunch as I caught 4 young men enjoying happy hour outside their shop. Our weekend visit felt like we were joining the city-wide party in the most glorious fall weather. What a treat staying at the Conservatorium, a new stylish property directly across from the haunting portraits, landscapes and still-lives at the Van Gogh, the Calders surrounding the Rijksmuseum, and the solo “dark” Marlene Dumas exhibition at the newly reopened Stedelijk dedicated to modern and contemporary art. We were culture vultures even catching a production of Sweeney Todd at the Carre theater. We splurged on a meal at De Kas, serving homegrown food in a greenhouse setting and rented and rode bikes with the locals around Vondelpark. But most importantly, we slipped into prayer for Yom Kippur services at a Portuguese synagogue in the old jewish section of town to atone for our sins. John Green sums it up best “Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.”
Otherwise known as Paul’s Icelandic Adventure for his 60th! And it was a celebration to remember for a long time. Why Iceland I was asked. Why not? Because Iceland is a unique destination that offers pristine nature, breathtaking landscapes and vibrant culture in its capital city of Reykjavik. But that didn’t seem to fly for this motley crew of Paul’s 22 besties. They wanted to go to St Barts where the wine flows like water and bikini clad hotties are on display. I wanted a captive audience where no one has been YET and I found it in Iceland although we almost got sidetracked with the erupting volcano still threatening to surface. Besides, anyone can go to St Barts. Volcanos, Waterfalls, Geyers oh my! Glaciers, Rainbows, Hidden people oh dear! Sheep’s balls, Shark, Pork dogs, and the World’s biggest hot tub OH yeah! Just a few of our favorite things that 4 days in Iceland can bring. It’s the land of Fire and Ice and yes we were cold and wet most of the journey but troopers we were. As they say in Iceland, there is no such thing as inclement weather when you have the right gear. So off we went shopping to support the local economy and surely because those Icelanders have damn good outdoor gear. They know rain sideways and upways. Interestingly, Iceland remains largely uninhabited, with more than 320,000 people living in the capital city of Reykjavik where geothermal energy is used to heat more than 90% of all homes and buildings. We learned “How to become Icelandic in 60 minutes” from a one-man show at the beautiful new Harpa concert hall. A must see in Reykjavik. Then it was off the grid from the moss-covered lava fields throughout the highlands to the soaring fjords. We traveled in our very own bus on the Ring road to see and experience the land. It looked similar to being on the moon and reminded me of the big island in Hawaii, treeless with all the volcanic rock. Our first Bus stop was Seljalandsfoss where we walked behind a 180 foot waterfall and lunched at the Old Cowshed before proceeding to the Solheimajokull glacier where we strapped on crampons and took our ice pick for walk in the country. This was a first for most and as adventurous as it gets. So fun. For the next couple days, we switched gears and headed into the wilderness area of Thor’s forest in 4×4 vehicles on the north side of Eyjafjallajokull (AY-yah-Fyad-layer-kuh-tel) volcano, the one that erupted in 2010 and held up Europe’s air traffic control for a week. It seems to me that the volcano is still a little angry in that it proceeded to rain and blow wind harder than the Icelanders have seen in a long time. We dodged huge rivers and streams like nobody’s business with only a handful of us actually braving the elements for a hike while the others “patiently” waited in the warming hut for us! Hotel Ranga was ready and waiting for us as well, an absolutely charming little country place in the middle of nowhere where the conditions for viewing the Northern Lights are optimal…if it’s not cloudy and the stars are all aligned! It didn’t happen for us even though we got a false alarm wake up call but I have a picture of what they are supposed to look like…Dorothy’s house in the wizard of oz! Good enough for me until I’m in the neighborhood again. Our next BUS stop was Gullfoss, Iceland’s most scenic waterfall although they say that about all of them, and geyser, the hot spring that gave its name to the phenomenon worldwide. The biggest treat was our lunch stop in a family-run greenhouse ranch where they grow hothouse tomatoes and show off their pure breed Icelandic horse brought here by the Viking Settlers 1000 years ago. Fascinating show! and comical how they gallop so gingerly while the rider drinks from her mug. Then it was off to Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the location of Iceland’s Parliament between 930 and 1798. Again, the rain prevailed and cut our major hiking day in half opting instead to get back to Reykjavik to shop for some more outdoor gear (cause god knows we need it) and for our final celebratory evening together with more toasts and roasts for the man we hold dear to our heart. But we saved the best for last because no visit to Iceland would be complete without a visit to the Blue Lagoon who’s mission is the same as mine…to promote wellness and energy for life through forces of nature. HA. Our closing ceremony at the Blue Lagoon brought us full circle into the healing powers of pure nature. It was an unforgettable adventure and I savor the moments, the friendships, the camaraderie, the laughter, the kind words, the love in the cleanest air ever, and my special sons. I was looking for something unexpected, out of the ordinary, rugged yet beautiful, and rich in culture just like my 60-year-old man. We not only learned what makes Iceland special, but we experienced what makes friendships so special and how to love and celebrate life in the good times. As they say in Iceland “Petta Reddast” – everything will work out in the end and this trip was perfection. For an encore, Paul’s 70th will be the cruise.
Nova Scotia is a land and people shaped by the cold, clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Even the name meaning “New Scotland” tells of its complex and interwoven history. When I told people I was going to Nova Scotia for a quick week on a hiking trip, they shivered and said “have fun”. So I was little put off but trusted my guide Ken and my friend Sus and Sam and besides I’m always up for an adventure. After all, it was only a short 2 hour flight from NY to Halifax, boasting one of the highest concentrations of pubs per capita in North America, where our journey started and ended. Sadly, I didn’t get to experience the rowdy pub culture but Sam did. She loves her beer. We started driving to the North Shore out-of-town in our trusty mini van we affectionately named “whitey” as you can probably imagine…it was big and white. Stopping in the town of Grand Pre, we meandered through a beautiful place called tangled gardens where we tasted all the local maple leaf country’s specialties including the syrup and savory jams even before our lunch in the Annapolis Valley at the Luckett winery. Obviously, We needed our energy for our afternoon hike dedicated to the memory of over eleven thousand Acadian settlers that were expulsed from the Maritimes. As we walked for hours amongst the old dykes built by the Acadians to control the world’s highest tides to the town of Wolfville, we felt the history of this beautiful landscape that was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was an absolutely charming place to stay for the evening in preparation for our legendary next day hike in the Bay of Fundy from Minas Basin known for the world’s largest tides. We ventured out early to catch the weather right on Cape Split but the fog rolled in as we neared the top so we huddled together under Ken’s yellow tarp and made the best of our picnic lunch as the wind picked up. I actually love inclement weather because I get to test out my gear because everyone knows there’s no such thing as bad weather if you have good gear. Sam loves gear to…maybe cause it rhymes with beer! Our night was special in Annapolis Royal where we stayed in a storied house in a storied land near the Port-Royal National Historic site where the first French habitation in North America was established in 1605. The history in this area is astounding. And those Scallops from Digby were delicious. Then onward and upward to Kefjimkujik National Park, locals call it Keji, in the middle of the province rich in Mi’Kmag history of life on the peninsula, where we experienced a multi-sport day hiking/canoeing all while looking for extinct turtles to rear their head but only spotted frogs! Sam and I were the winners in the water “loop” here as Susan and Ken seemed to just coast along enjoying the marshland. Ho Hum. And that was it for the North Shore as we made our way to the South Shore where traditional fishing villages are in abundance. If you blinked, you would miss our beautiful Hunts point beach cottages for the evening as in Ocean Front. Small ocean indeed but you can even drive “whitey” right up to your front door. Awww…and I had the best refreshing sunset swim in the very cold North Atlantic water. Authentic would describe my “lobster again” dinner at the quarterdeck grill. The sky was all different shades of mesmerizing purple. Mornings are always glorious on the water but this one on Boyd’s Cove around Port Joli to Harbour Rocks, watching the turquoise water-waves crashing on granite headlands as seals bask off shore in the distance was divine. My last hurrah (or so I thought) was lunch at the seaside stop…lobster again…fried this time just to keep you guessing. It reminded me of the lobster roll in the Hamptons on the side of the highway that I used to frequent in the old days with absolutely no atmosphere. A complete dive. My Mercer’s taxi ride from there back to Halifax turned into a most informative one in which actually brought my journey to an introspective close. I had a wonderful local fisherman driver from Lunenburg who lived for generations in the area and was so damn proud of being a Nova Scotia Canadian. He decided since he was a fast driver and we were early that he would show me around Lunenburg and where he grew up, went to school, met his wife, had his 3 daughters, where he hurt his hand pulling in the scallops which ended his career and on and on. I loved it. It’s a land full of history and the people are simple and happy. Just the way life should be.