February 5, 2022
How do you know you’ve picked a trendy hotel? In San Juan, it’s where the new governor of Puerto Rico, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, chooses to have his inauguration party! Just my good luck to arrive there on that festive day. Loud speakers drew me to a nearby park where the political movers and shakers of the island had gathered for the swearing in.
Then people headed for the tall white Caribe Hilton a short walk away! They had picked my hotel!
This landmark of the San Juan beachfront would first be the site of private cocktails and some hours later a grand buffet and dance in a collection of connecting ballrooms. Puerto Ricans being laid back and welcoming, my companion and I joined the revelry. Ladies in elegant dresses mixed in the open-air lobby with the shorts-clad guests, a few airline crews and bright caged parrots, then with their escorts moved into a swirl of Latin music and seafood paella. (The Madrid-San Juan Restaurant and Tapas Bar, one of nine hotel eateries, serves the same.)
That night I stepped out on the balcony of my room to gaze at the lit stone remnants of a fortification at the edge of the sea: a bit of old history to end a day of modern history. The next day, it was time to spend some lazy moments at the pool, an azure, palm-tree studded oasis looking out to the Atlantic.
I regretted not having time for the tennis courts or spa, just for a bit of wandering through the patio, along the quiet private beach and out to the end of a jetty.
And then to a sumptuous champagne brunch at the Ritz Carlton San Juan Hotel Spa & Casino in Isla Verde at the eastern end of San Juan’s long oceanfront. The beach at the Caribe Hilton and hotels in the Condado area to its east drew tourists for years. Then a new section of beach was developed, in Isla Verde, spiffier than Condado and home to new sophistication. The Ritz stands out here, its cool white walls with brown trim encircling subtle elegance, a casino and spa, and outside the artistically designed pool area, tennis courts, and a smooth beach dotted with palms.
We started the champagne brunch with caviar. And then we went on to the open groaning board of oysters and other seafood, made-to-order crepes, salads, deliciously sauced meats, fish and chicken, and scandalous deserts. The cool room with rattan chairs looks out on trees bordering the pool area.
As the champagne flowed, we were glad that just outside there was a pristine beach with chaises and hammocks where one could snooze away the bubbles.
But visiting San Juan isn’t only about food and libations. What I love most about the city is Old San Juan, the village of narrow streets and surprising gardens and the wonderful mysterious fortress called La Fortaleza set on a cliff looking out on the sea. It was once the residence of the Puerto Rican governor, Acevedo Vilá’s long-ago predecessor. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to live there now – it might not get cold in San Juan (the winter weather is 80s perfect), but the fortress’s stone walls look like they’d make the interior damp! Perhaps for nostalgia, government house is also called the Fortaleza. (Check it out at http://fortaleza.govpr.org/)
The Caribe Hilton is the closest beach hotel to the old town, but if you want to be in the middle of it, stay at the Sheraton as we did (moving hotels to check out prospects for you, dear reader).
It was past midnight when we arrived, and there was a party going on, in the dining room a scruffy group of musicians on drums, bass and guitar happy making music for guests quaffing champagne and rum and coke and moving dreamily to the Latin beat.
Evy Garcia was there for Tishman Hotels, which owns the Sheraton, to welcome guests at the door and make sure everything ran smoothly. The Sheraton is strategically located. The balcony view from our room looks onto to the docks where cruise ships drop anchor. And inside, you couldn’t miss the casino! But the next day was much too nice to spend inside. We decided to skip the outdoor pool as well and move straight into touring.
After breakfast at the Sheraton’s Spanish style café, we took a five-minute stroll to la Casita (the little house), the tourism information center, to pick up a walking tour map and guide.
Old San Juan is a charmer. It was restored in the early 1970s, so the palaces and colonial houses have regained their old elegance. The intricately carved wood of what is now the U.S. Customs House evokes the Moorish influence of Old Spain.
Just up from la Casita, local residents engage in the “paseo,” the promenade along the royal palms of the Paseo de la Princesa, the walk of the princess. La Princessa, once a prison, how has a gallery of works by local artists. In late afternoon, we joined townsfolk gathered at the nearby waterfront Plaza de la Marina for a band concert and community dance.
The old town is full of carved 17th century gates and churches and statues and pastel row houses with balconies. A full walk around the historic district would take about two hours. Unless you stop for a rum drink at one of the cafes or decide to hang out at the Plaza de Armas across from the city hall. Or visit any of the 33 art galleries, 12 museums, and 79 shops. Museums of art and history cluster near the Fortaleza.
San Juan is not just a beach place to visit in winter; it’s full of history and culture. And it’s both foreign and familiar. People speak Spanish, but of course they also speak English. And the currency is dollars! Hey, if you’re American, it’s part of your country. Isn’t it time you discovered it?
Caribe HiltonLos Rosales StreetSan Geronimo GroundsSan Juan, Puerto Rico 00901(787) 721 0303 Fax: (787) 725 8849Toll Free (877) GO-HILTONPublished rate range for double in winter: $380.00 - $420.00.Often you can get discounts via the internet.$185 for a double in spring, via the email@example.com/http://www.hiltoncaribbean.com/sanjuan/
The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan Hotel, Spa & Casino6961 Avenue of the GovernorsIsle VerdeCarolina, Puerto Rico 00979(787) 253-1700 Fax: (787) 253-1111Toll Free (800) 241-3333Champagne brunch $60 a person.Published rate range in winter $409.00 - $639.00Often you can get discounts via the internet.$279 for a double in spring, via the internet.http://www.ritzcarlton.com/hotels/san_juan/
Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel100 Brumbaugh Street San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901 (787) 721-5100 Fax (787) 721-1111Toll Free (888) 625-5144Published rate range for double in winter: $255.00 - $385.00.Often you can get discounts via the internet.$125 for a double in spring, via the internet.http://www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton/search/hotel_detail.html?propertyID=1497
January 5, 2022
The Club at Hammock Beach - Palm Coast, Florida
The Club at Hammock Beach brings a new level of luxury to northeast Florida. Its 11-story tower houses 225 suites equipped with everything from high-speed Internet access to kitchenettes, garden tubs, and balconies with ocean or golf course views.
Edged in more than two miles of Atlantic shore, the Spanish revival-style private club and resort encompasses 1,000 acres of vacation activity. By day, the Jack Nicklaus–designed Ocean Hammock Golf Course, owned and operated by Lowe Ocean Hammock Ltd., challenges players with 18 seaside holes.
A multilevel water pavilion provides adults-only and family pools, a three-story water slide, and a lazy river. Guests in the mood for pampering indulge at the European-style spa.
The club’s Seaside Grille serves specialties by award-winning chefs, while the new Sushi Bar features raw and cooked delicacies. After dinner, guests often regroup at Loggerheads Lounge and Piano Bar for music and late-night dancing. Private gatherings take place day and night in two ballrooms for groups of up to 475. Outdoor areas, such as the 15,000-square-foot Grand Event Lawn, serve as popular meeting venues as well.
This year the Yacht Harbor Village at Hammock Beach will debut with a marina, tennis center, condominiums, and shops—adding an exciting new dimension to guests’ northeast Florida getaway.
Within easy reach of Jacksonville and Orlando, The Club at Hammock Beach provides an elegant resort on Florida’s northeast coast, complete with a 10,000-square-foot spa, over 50,000 square feet of meeting space, and nearby access to outstanding championship golf.
Next year will see the completion of the resort’s new 18-hole, 72-par Tom Watson signature golf course at The Conservatory at Hammock Beach. Until then, guests play next door at the Jack Nicklaus Signature Ocean Hammock Golf Club, owned and operated by Lowe Ocean Hammock, Ltd. The superbly landscaped layout’s final four holes confront the most formidable water hazard of all, the Atlantic Ocean.
At the Spa at Hammock Beach, soothing aromas, ambient music, and caring hands transport guests to a tranquil world. Therapies range from moisturizing body wraps and hot-stone massages to invigorating scalp treatments. Sun-damaged skin becomes silky smooth with the mineral-rich Litho-Cal Seaweed Exfoliation.
Another guest favorite, the Moroccan Cocoon with Rassoul, combines deep exfoliation with aromatherapy salts and warm, aromatic moor mud. Salon services, deluxe manicures and pedicures, and a choice of outdoor or in-room treatments complete the spa experience. Workouts in the new 3,929-square-foot fitness feature touch TV screens on all cardio equipment.
Just outside, the Water and Swimming Pavilion boasts a lazy river, three pools, ocean views, and refreshments for a quintessential day in the sun.
For business gatherings, the resort presents two ballrooms that hold up to 579 guests and a Grand Event Lawn that hosts receptions for up to 1,500. The creative event-planning team can arrange a poolside dinner party among cascading waterfalls, a theme party on the Fantasy Pool Deck, a beach bash, or a black-tie ball—plus customized recreational adventures.
Best of all, every guest receives a personal concierge to arrange everything from tee times to spa treatments—yet another reason why The Club at Hammock Beach provides the ideal place to blend work and play.
- Location: 75 minutes from Jacksonville International Airport and 90 minutes from Orlando International Airport, in Palm Coast, Florida
- Property: 1,500 acres
- Accommodations: 210 suites
- Range of Rates: $300-$630
- Reservations: (386) 246-5440; in the U.S. (888) 246-5500; fax (386) 246-5445
- Mailing Address: 200 Ocean Crest Dr., Palm Coast, FL 32137
- Golf: Jack Nicklaus Signature Ocean Hammock Golf Course: 18 holes; 7,201 yards; par 72 Designer: Jack Nicklaus, 2000 Green Fee: $170-$240 (seasonal) Amenities: Driving range, pro shop, restaurant, and golf carts with GPS Reservations: (386) 447-4611
- Spa Facilities: Ten treatment rooms, inhalation room, steam room, sauna, and full-service salon Specialities: Moroccan Cocoon with Rassoul, Green Coffee Slimming Body Wrap Products: Pevonia BotanicaReservations: (386) 246-5580
- Meetings Facilities: 24,314 indoor square feet, including two ballrooms, three boardrooms, and nine breakout rooms Tech Support: Conference concierge, on-site audiovisual assistance, business center, high-speed Internet access, and Wi-Fi in lobby, pool, and meeting areas
Reservations: (888) 696-6730
- In-Room Air Conditioning
- Daily Maid
- VCR/DVD Player
- Iron/Ironing Board
- Kitchen/KitchenetteMicrowave Oven
- Non-smoking rooms
- Pool (Outdoor)Pool (Indoor)
- Concierge Services
- Multi-Lingual Staff
- Room Service
- Health Club
- Horseback Riding
- TennisChildren's Pool
December 7, 2021
You know you are in the right place for romance when your destination has an entire 200-page guide with activities dedicated to the subject. And, in
, many of these will not break the bank. Hold hands strolling through downtown (the Asheville, North Carolina of the South), fall for each other on a waterfall hike, and get cozy at an incredible-and-breakfast – The Chestnut Street Inn. Paris
Located in the
Smoky Mountains, is a small college town with a thriving arts, culture, and alternative lifestyle scene. It is home to the Biltmore Estate, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, and Carl Sandburg's birthplace in nearby Flat Rock. With the Asheville Blue Ridge Parkway nearby, the area is also great for driving tours and shopping trips to numerous crafts and pottery shops .Asheville is filled with galleries and funky boutiques in its very walkable, art-deco downtown that is a national historic district.
The city has a lively music and cultural scene, its own symphony orchestra and lyric opera company. Drum circles and old-time bluegrass music coexist. Film and dance also thrive. It has sidewalk art and street musicians, and gourmet restaurants that feature local fare. It loves to stage festivals and to party.
A great way to begin your visit is on a historic Trolley Tour. See the best of
on board a vintage trolley and enjoy the fully narrated 75-minute tour, which includes humorous stories and historical information. Fully narrated, the Trolley covers all major points of interest in Asheville including: the Grove Park Inn, Biltmore Village, the Grove Arcade, the Montford Historic District, the downtown shopping and restaurants district, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, and the Asheville Museum and Art Gallery district Asheville
By night, what better romantic way than to take a limo arranged by your hosts at The Chestnut Street Inn.
: Wandering through a European city is the perfect way to spend a romantic afternoon. Downtown Asheville has European charms without the expensive transatlantic flight. Brick-lined alleyways meander past art deco architecture, boutiques, and European-style sidewalk cafes, including an authentic chocolaterie, The Chocolate Fetish. Downtown's lively street scene—with buskers, street festivals, and art galleries galore—will woo you two for free. The Woolworth Walk at Asheville 25 Haywood St. in downtown is the largest of the folk art galleries. More than 160 artisans have work on display in the dime store that dates to 1938. The old soda fountain has been restored. Nearby is the distinctive Grove Arcade that was built in 1929. It is filled with restaurants and shops. For more on the Chocolate Fetish, click here. Asheville
Waterfall hike: Refresh your romance on a waterfall hike in the
North Carolina mountains just outside of . Start small with a rainforest walk to the 120-foot Rainbow Falls, then head over to the highest waterfall east of the Rockies—the Upper Whitewater Falls, where water plummets a heart-stopping 411 feet. Asheville may be slightly smaller but the trail to get there—the dramatic Skyline-Cliff Trail—has views to inspire and complement any number of romantic moments. Hickory Nut Falls
Chestnut Street Inn:
176 E Chestnut St, 1-800-894-2955 Perhaps THE most romantic place to stay. Chestnut Street Inn is a decades old grand Colonial Revival home that was converted into a romantic inn. .A grand home that offers a feeling of relaxed sophistication and elegance. A quarter-mile from downtown . Asheville
A romantic weekend needs the right accommodations, and this bed-and-breakfast beats them all. Sumptuous rooms, private baths (some with whirlpool tubs), and a gourmet breakfast. Heat things up and ask for a room with an old-fashioned fireplace, or book one of their first-class Romance Packages. The inn is located only blocks from
's vibrant downtown and world-class restaurants and cafes. For more on the Chestnut Street Inn, click here. Asheville
Start your morning off right with the next best thing to breakfast in bed. Let your hosts at the Chestnut Street Inn pamper you with a seated gourmet three course breakfasts complete
with fresh ground organic Sumatra Coffee each morning and home made goodies each afternoon.
48 College St, 828 254-8980. Spend a night at Table, an “urban” comfortable, friendly environment in downtown with exceptional, welcoming service by Jacob Sessoms, who attended The French Culinary Institute, earning two prestigious culinary accreditations. He shares an over-riding respect for “farm-to-table” cuisine for its effect on the palate, the plate and the strength of local economy. market-driven seasonal New American. Sit down at the mahogany and maple bar or one of the hand-made maple tabletops and watch Jacob’s sagacious yet simple food fill the dining room. Get there early as the place is packed with a lively crowd. Asheville
The daily written menu covers the bases of fine dining style cuisine. And if you ask for something not on the menu, trust that these folks will whip you up something so unique and delicious, you will find it nowhere else.
This is definitely a foodie hotspot; innovative menu, excellent service, minimal/modern decor, great wine list. The food was to die for. But don’t do it yet, because we will want you to save your taste buds for another fine dining adventure, unequaled anywhere at….
85 W Walnut St, 828 232-1060. Zambra serves Tapas and Spanish cuisine in a very romantic atmosphere. They create a feast for the senses, presenting contemporary twists on the food of Spain and North Africa and have assembled the region's finest selection of Spanish and New World. The lighting and atmosphere are perfect for a night of romance and the smokin’ hot band makes you wish they had a dance floor to work off the sumptuous tapas! Tapa were made to share and nowhere is more For more on Zambra, click here.
December 6, 2021
French artisans came to
Asheville in the late 1800s to work on what became 's biggest house, the Biltmore. The 255-room mansion on 125,000 acres was the home of George and Edith Vanderbilt. Today the Biltmore is the No. 1 tourist destination in America , where tourism is the No. 1 industry. Asheville
Biltmore Estate provides the ideal location for romance with a century old French Renaissance chateau. George W. Vanderbilt's 8,000-acre estate with its 250-room Biltmore House, 75 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, and the nation's most visited winery offers plenty of opportunities. Spectacular gardens and woodlands are perfect for leisurely strolls. From the house, walk hand-in-hand through gardens designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, best known for designing Central Park in
. The lush and beautiful reflecting ponds of the New York City are a fitting entry into a stunning world of garden paths. A short walk takes you to the four-acre Italian Gardens and adjacent Conservatory. Walled Garden
Special arrangements can even be made for a sunset carriage ride complete with Biltmore Estate sparkling wine. A horseback ride takes you along trails through fields and forests to a ridge overlooking Biltmore House.
The Biltmore is
's must-see attraction. It gets in excess of 1 million visitors a year and employs 1,600 people. By some estimates, it provides $350 million a year to Asheville 's economy. The four-story French Renaissance mansion opened in 1895 with 34 bedrooms, 65 fireplaces, 23 bathrooms, three kitchens, a library with 10,000 volumes and a bowling alley and swimming pool in the basement. It covers four acres or 175,000 square feet. Be sure to check out the Biltmore's conservatory and gardens that cover 75 acres. They are among the largest, most colorful and most magnificent that we have ever seen. Asheville
Biltmore House, Gardens, Winery and
Inn http://www.biltmore.com/ 800-858-4130
December 5, 2021
French artisans came to Asheville in the late 1800s to work on what became America's biggest house, the Biltmore. The 255-room mansion on 125,000 acres was the home of George and Edith Vanderbilt. Today the Biltmore is the No. 1 tourist destination in Asheville, where tourism is the No. 1 industry.
Biltmore Estate provides the ideal location for romance with a century old French Renaissance chateau. George W. Vanderbilt's 8,000-acre estate with its 250-room Biltmore House, 75 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, and the nation's most visited winery offers plenty of opportunities. Spectacular gardens and woodlands are perfect for leisurely strolls. From the house, walk hand-in-hand through gardens designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, best known for designing Central Park in New York City. The lush and beautiful reflecting ponds of the Italian Gardens are a fitting entry into a stunning world of garden paths. A short walk takes you to the four-acre Walled Garden and adjacent Conservatory.
Special arrangements can even be made for a sunset carriage ride complete with Biltmore Estate sparkling wine. A horseback ride takes you along trails through fields and forests to a ridge overlooking Biltmore House.
The Biltmore is Asheville's must-see attraction. It gets in excess of 1 million visitors a year and employs 1,600 people. By some estimates, it provides $350 million a year to Asheville's economy. The four-story French Renaissance mansion opened in 1895 with 34 bedrooms, 65 fireplaces, 23 bathrooms, three kitchens, a library with 10,000 volumes and a bowling alley and swimming pool in the basement. It covers four acres or 175,000 square feet. Be sure to check out the Biltmore's conservatory and gardens that cover 75 acres. They are among the largest, most colorful and most magnificent that we have ever seen.
Biltmore House, Gardens, Winery and Inn www.Biltmore.com 800-858-4130
November 5, 2021
The Bottom Line:
Boutique hotel in the historic Napa Mill complex on the Napa River.
What's Special About Napa River Inn: Centered in a 19th century mill on the Napa River, this historic boutique hotel shares space with upscale restaurants, shops and the Greenhaus Day Spa. Tastings from boutique wineries are held in the lobby, and ensuite breakfast from Sweetie Pie's Bakery is included. Seasonally, musical and theatrical performances are held outside.
Guest Rooms and Rates: 66 guest rooms and suites. Accomodations range from Victorian furnishings in the original Hatt building, with the white maple tongue-in-groove floor that once served as a roller skating rink; to modern California furnishings in the newer Plaza building. A third building, the Embarcadero, has a nautical theme. Guest rooms include refrigerators with complimentary water and wireless Internet access. From $159.
Pet Friendly Hotel:
The Very Important Pet (VIP) program includes a logo pet blanket and place mat, stainless steel food and water bowls, Cab-Bone-Nay dog biscuits and a list of local pet services. The fee is $25 per night.
Extra people in the room (including children over two years old) are charged an additional $25 per night; cribs are $25 per night.
In-room refrigerators with complimentary water are provided. Also complimentary is wireless Internet access, parking, daily newspaper, daily breakfast, in-room coffee makers, downtown shuttle and evening wine tastings.
Check out time is 12:00 noon.
Historic Napa River Inn: Constructed in 1884 by Captain Albert Hatt for use as a warehouse. One son, Albert Jr., took over the family business. Sadly, two of his young children died in 1899, and his wife Margaret died a few years later. Albert struggled with business and raising his other five children, but in 1912 committed suicide. The building is said to be haunted by Albert, Margaret and Robert Keig, who purchased the building later.
Photo Tour: Take a tour with pictures of the Napa River Inn.
Location of the Napa River Inn: In downtown Napa, on the Napa River, in the historic Napa Mill complex; about a forty-five minute drive from San Francisco.
Contact the Napa River Inn: 500 Main Street, Napa, California 94559phone: 707.251.8500, 877.251.8500; fax: 707.251.8504;web site: Napa River Inn
Families looking for a vacation spot that offers old-fashioned charm, extraordinary service, and activities for kids, will find Mohonk Mountain House delivers on all points. The historic Victorian castle transcends the centuries meeting the varied needs of contemporary families. It is a naturally fun vacation place.
Gracefully perched on a rocky bluff and surrounded by 2,200 thousands of acres of woodlands and fields, Mohonk is one of the unique natural wonders of the northeast. The white stone ridges shadow the deep blue waters and intriguing wildlife habitats. It is nature at its best; a peaceful a resort for all seasons. Centering the resort’s dramatic beauty is Lake Mohonk, a half-mile long, 60-foot deep mountain lake, perfect for a swim and ideal for embracing tranquility.
The resorts accommodations are in harmony with the surroundings. Quietly luxurious and welcoming, the ambiance of a slower paced time sets the stage for guests of all ages inviting serenity to prevail. Polished woodwork, inviting period furnishings, and cozy fireplaces await guests making it easy to feel at home. The sleeping arrangements, varied and elegant also include charming mountaintop cottages.
The rich menu of vacation activities ensures that no one will be bored. At the top of the list is the impressive list of hiking venues available within the resort as well as the surrounding area. Guests may enjoy more than 85 miles of adventure, beginning with the well-marked trails that weave through the Mohonk woodlands and encompassing a few rock scrambles along the varied cliff pathways that frame the lake.
The organized programs for children relate directly to pre determined age groups and allow children to share time with age peers. The youngest tykes the enjoy art, sing-alongs, dramatic play, storytelling, “furry friend” hikes, and pony rides. Ages four to six have flexibility based on personal interests, the more active child may choose hiking and a frog hunt in the morning, while another child may pick swimming and arts and crafts. For ages seven to 12 activities include rock scrambling, tennis and golf clinics, orienteering, team building, and sports tournaments. For teens ages 12-18 mountain biking, day-long hikes, rock scrambles, golf and tennis clinics fill the days. Evening options include the Teen Lounge-- a special place where teens may listen to music, watch movies, play games and make new friends.
Each season Mohonk offers vacation packages created to meet the needs of busy families. The inviting mountain family escapes frequently include a free (or half price) stay for children ages 4 to 12; family activities and children’s programs; complimentary seasonal sport activities (tennis, midweek golf, boating, ice skating, cross-country skiing, and snow-shoeing); three meals daily, plus afternoon tea and cookies.
Throughout the year Mohonk Mountain Place provides quests with interesting programs that add vacation value making each stay unique and memorable. For example: During Nature Week in June join John Serrao or Mohonk naturalist Ann Guenther and enjoy nature the old-fashioned way. Also in June guests will receive the benefits of music —from classical to contemporary, baroque to jazz, and opera to rock. Roger Thorpe, leader of the Sammy Kaye Orchestra and trumpeter extraordinaire, and Barbara Thorpe will conduct this week-long medley of musical days and nights. In August when the night sky is filled with patterns from the famous Perseid meteor showers, astronomer Bob Berman will lead guests on a meteor hunt. At the end of August families may enjoy still enjoy a breakfast cookout, garden and nature walks, lake swims, square-dancing, a History House tour, and events hosted by Smiley family members.
The resort is an ideal place for togethering with friends and family. They provide family reunion options that make the idea of getting together at the “lake in the sky,” easy and memorable. They offer hospitality with a soft touch, enabling family members to enjoy time together without worrying about the details. Bonus points: To assist in the planning and hosting, the resort provides a family reunion coordinator to do the details. Options include a private dining room or outdoor setting; social rooms for family private time; organized sport activities; a scavenger hunt or family camp fire.
Mohonk Spa and Fitness Center will open during the summer of 2005. Enjoy recreation and renewal of body, mind, and spirit in a beautiful, natural setting complimented by the new facility. Sensitively designed to blend with its surroundings, the new 30,000-square-foot wing is a three-story facility dedicated solely to comfort, contentment, relaxation and rejuvenation. The state-of the-art complex includes an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, motion room, for Pilates™, aerobics, yoga, qi gong, and meditation. In addition, the new full-service spa will feature signature Mohonk treatments. The mountaintop spa menu includes manicures, pedicures, facials and many massage selections.
Location: 1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz, 12561. 1(845) 255-1000 or 1-800-772-6646 or go to http://www.mohonk.com/
Editor’s Note: Remember Rip Van Winkle? This is the region that inspired the legends. The tales of Washington Irving reflect the mid-Hudson Valley, the sleepy home of Rip Van Winkle. Irving’s tales include localized German and Dutch lore and uniquely American tales and legends. His timeless stories create a sense of place. Stories like ‘‘Rip Van Winkle’’ and ‘‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’’ remain timeless signatures of the area.
In the Area: The entire Shawangunk region of the Hudson Valley has been named “one of Earth's ‘Last Great Places’” by the Nature Conservancy. The Shawangunk Ridge supports a multitude of forests, lakes, rivers, wetlands, and rare plant and animal species.
October 5, 2021
Fat raindrops poured from dark clouds on to the red roofs of Florence. Lightning flashed over Brunelescchi's dome, followed by rumbles and claps of thunder. As I sipped my Chianti and took in the view from Villa San Michele in Fiesole, I couldn't help but gloat. Past the cypress and olive trees down in the city, I knew tourists were hovering under umbrellas and jumping puddles, while I was having one of the most serendipitous moments of my visit to Italy.
The Villa San Michele is a Michelangelo-designed arched facade, converted from a 15th-century Franciscan monastery.
My plan had been to drop my bags and then hop a hotel shuttle right back into town - see the Duomo, the Botticellis in the Uffizi and shop for sandals. So what if I was heat-wilted and tired from days of indulgence and hiking the Tuscan countryside - I was determined to cover a bunch of Florence "must dos". But the moment the cab pulled up to the Michelangelo-designed arched façade of this converted 15th century Franciscan monastery, I could feel my "be-a-good-tourist-see-all-the-sights" resolve melting away into the old world comfort and elegance of Villa San Michele.
Danytza Contreras, (the guest relations manager) greeted me in the chapel-turned-lobby, looking as though she'd just stepped out of the pages of Italian "Vogue." With her bright-eyed charm, she coaxed me into haveing a look around, leading me through the grand, airy downstairs rooms, furnished with plush antiques and a masterpiece fresco of The Last Supper in the Cenacolo dining room. By the time we had reached the neatly terraced Italian gardens where we could see the sky darkening over Florence, I'd taken Danytza up on her suggestion to have lunch at the hotel's Loggia restaurant.
Visitors can enjoy the spectacular view while dining at the Loggia restaurant at the Villa San Michele.There, handsome tuxedoed waiters hovered about, serving me Tuscan specialties - a delicately spiced lentil soup, a glass of Chianti, followed by a tower of vibrant berry gelato. Taking in the delicious flavors and the dramatic view of the storm, I knew what it must have been like to be a Medici. There I was, escaping Florence's dog days of summer in Fiesole, just like those merchant-princes had done centuries ago.
The spacious suite where I spent the night was a far cry from the monk's quarters it had originally been. In the Carrara-marbled bathroom's Jacuzzi tub, I soaked away the aches I'd gained from previous days of touring. Before collapsing into the luxurious king-sized bed, I caught from my window a dreamy glimpse across the twinkling gardens - there on a private patio a couple was enjoying a candlelit dinner outside their suite, which had once been the monk's limonaia.
The pool at the Villa San Michele is just one of the many activities travelers can take part in.
The sun streamed through the glass roof of the former winter garden onto the breakfast buffet - two massive wood banquet tables displaying an assortment of fresh fruits, breads, cheeses, sausages and sliced meats. Pumped up by a cappuccino, I practiced my Italian on the waiter, even though he spoke perfect English. As I rattled off my Florence tourist plans for the day, he simply smiled, pointed to the sun and asked, "La piscina (the pool?)…"
At the top of the villa gardens, I floated in the still clear water, staring up at the blue sky. Behind me were the lush old Fiesole woodlands, in front of me a breathtaking view of the Arno valley, looking just as the Renaissance masters had painted it.
It was as if the archangel Michael, for whom the Villa is named, had intervened and done his saintly work; giving a weary traveler a vacation from her vacation … sweeping me up to heaven (or at least to a heavenly spot), tossing away my schedule, and giving me time and rest to prepare to take in the glorious treasures of Florence with freshened eyes.
If You Go
Villa San MicheleDi FiesoleVia Doccia, 4 - 50014 Fiessole - Florence, ItalyTelephone: 011 - 39 - 055 567 8200Fas: 011 - 39 - 055 567 8250e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
August 5, 2021
A summer family vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains means cool nights, sunny days, natural beauty and a dozen ways to enjoy being in the wild.
We have had the good fortune to experience the natural beauty that surrounds Pigeon Forge and enjoy the lively, friendly atmosphere of the mountains. In reality, it is hard to beat summer in the mountains. We have assembled an action list for a terrific family vacation.
Rock and roll.
Rafting the Big Pigeon River, edged by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Pisgah National Forest, is a wild time. Class lll and lV rapids set the pace with names like “Vegamatic” and “Razor Blade.” The day trips provide cool water, thrills and laughs amid dramatic natural surroundings. The best news, no previous experience is required to enjoy the river run. Bonus points: During the summer months water is released from the dam at the hydro electric plant so a strong river run is a sure thing.
Tube-time for all ages. The West Prong Little Pigeon River runs through Pigeon Forge and provides anyone who likes to float a waterway of fun at a slow pace. It flows through a beautiful river gorge framed by the Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains. Tubing on the river is wet-and-wild and ideal families with young children. Discovery: The Little Pigeon River is natural flowing rather than dam fed, water flow can vary day by day. It is lazy, easy and fun.
Bait the hook.
Summertime and the fish are biting. From stream fishing along East Tennessee's 3,000 miles of pristine, scenic waterways to trying out one of the area’s 11 lakes, it’s all about being in the wild and having fun. Anglers may fish for largemouth and smallmouth bass as well as crappie and bluegill. Find a mountain stream and practice new skills on sometimes elusive trout. Rocky Top Outfitters offers a variety of ways for anglers of all ages to enjoy fishing together. Bonus points: They have a private lake and they’ll even clean the fish for their clients.
See ancient mountains.
Residents of Pigeon Forge will openly certify that the Smoky Mountains are among the oldest mountains in the world. Not far from Pigeon Forge, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of America’s natural treasures established to protect a portion of the ancient mountain range. Almost 95% of the 800-square-mile park is forested, with about 25% being old-growth. It is a not-to-be-missed paradise for naturalists. Discovery: Awesome and refreshing, the park is a species epicenter. Within the boundaries more than 10,000 species have been identified yet scientists believe the species population may be as high as 90,000.
Hike or walk almost forever.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a dream for hikers. More than 800 miles of trails await footsteps. Routes follow river beds and logging trails to mountain rims with gorgeous views and cascading waterfalls with mountain pools. We walked the 1.3-mile walk to Laurel Falls. It took us about 45 minutes. Paved all of the way, the walkway is ideal for parents with young children in strollers. Discovery: Agile feet may descend to the bottom of the falls and feel the power of the water. We did it. It is worth the effort. Best bet: For families looking for an easy outing, we found the Cucumber Gap Loop Trail offers a beautiful river, birds, squirrels and shade along the way. For all the trail options, obtain a copy of the Great Smoky Mountains Trail Map distributed by the national park office.
Visit a secret valley.
Cades Cove, a 4000-acre open space within Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is known for peace and quiet. The bucolic valley provides the perfect postcard mix of forests and meadows framing pioneer cabins and cantilever barns. The Cades Cove Visitor Center provides visitors with a rich menu of vacation activities well-suited to families.
Live the history. In addition to natural beauty 24/7, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has more than 70 historic buildings scattered within its boundaries. Cades Cove is its historic heart. Log cabins, barns, churches and mills stand erect in tribute to early pioneers. Cades Mill area is well-known for its dramatic vistas and the interesting remnants of pioneer life. The 11-mile one-way loop road is an outdoor museum. Discovery: Instead of walking families can meet at the stables to take the two-hour hayride with a park ranger onboard to describe the pioneer connections to the land. Bonus points: We really enjoyed the clever documentary style this excursion option. It is like going on a field trip.
Bike with the kids.
The area offers an extensive variety of biking trails designed to provide fun for beginners and to challenge experienced bikers, including an array of scenic secondary roads ideals for cyclists. The paved routes weave through beautiful forests along meadows, over swinging bridges and past country stores (a.k.a. ice cream stops) and allow kids of all ages to feel the pleasure of being free. Discovery: From April through October bikes of all sizes may be rented in Townsend and Cades Cove.
Ride the trails.
For another viewpoint of the area, saddleback is a popular option for families. In Cades Cove Riding Stables guides are available on a first-come first-served basis. For six generations Bonnie (Myers) McCampbell’s family has been providing excursions on horseback with storytelling as a bonus. Our guide took us along streams, over meadows and down mountain paths. He supplied us with information about the wildflowers and rare plants that we saw along the trail. We saw deer grazing in a meadow and a hawks nest above the trail. Discovery: This is the only trail ride facility that allows double riders so children younger than the age of six may ride with an adult.
Don’t feed the wildlife. Cades Cove has a picnic area near the riding stable. Grills and tables are provided; nearby, lunches are available from Apple Valley Farms Country Store. Signs in the area clearly state that no one should feed the wildlife and not to leave any trash because bears frequent the area. Bear advice: Remain watchful and never approach a bear. If one approaches camp, do not turn and run. Slowly back away to safety watching the bear while doing so. Sounds easy? We didn’t see any bears, which was a good thing.
Hike in and sleepover.
The hike to Mt. LeConte is a dream hike that has been discovered. The summit is 6,593 feet above sea level making it the third highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains and sixth highest peak in all the Appalachians. For a day junket the Rainbow Trail-Mt. LeConte-Bullhead Trail loop offers a 15-mile continuous loop without backtracking. Discovery: There is a wilderness lodge and cabins at the top. Hikers may find refreshments and friendly faces but to sleepover it is essential to make arrangements almost a year in advance.
Enjoy a bonfire.
Walden Creek Riding Stables provides the Smokies with the spirit of the “Old West”, Tennessee style. During the day they ride the trails introducing riders of all skill levels to the natural beauty of the 500-acre ranch land. Each week during the summer months, they offer a free cookout s complete with frontier style entertainment. Beginning with a wagon train hayride guests become immersed in non stop cowboy antics which include a pretend Western shoot-out, a singing posse, and plenty of storytelling. Discovery: The supper is free for those who have ridden at the stables during the week. The vittles include hot dogs, veggies, chips, tea or lemonade. The bonus item marshmallows toasted over a 14-foot long open bonfire.
Bike in the mountains.
Mountain biking enthusiasts will find both trail variety and natural challenges surrounding Pigeon Forge. Mountain biking is limited within Smoky Mountains National Park therefore the best bet for bored-no-more trails is Big South Fork National Recreation Area. Mountain biking choices include marked off-road bike trails, equestrian trails and 4-wheel drive roads. Terrain is varied offering wilderness challenges. The free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River nourishes the area and provides wide range of natural and historic features. Discovery: Not just for mountain biking, one of many special events during the summer months is 1790's pioneer camp featuring frontier activities including firings of blackpowder muskets and rifles.
Pigeon Forge has vacation packages, discounts for activities and dining available online. To make planning a wild summer in the mountains easy, more than a dozen family vacation packages have been created for inspection.
For more great family vacation ideas try http://18.104.22.168/cgibin/redirect.exe/afe55fca?REGION=Pigeon_Forge&CAMPAIGN=&ACCOUNT=FamilyTravelFiles&BANNER=PigeonForgeSpring_homepage&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;LOG=TRUE
Pigeon Forge Spring Vacation Packages
More Pigeon Forge Vacation Ideas
USA Raft. They offer rafting day adventures on the Upper and Lower Pigeon as well as on the Nolichucki River also in Tennessee. 1-800-USA-raft, 1-800- 872-7238 or http://www.usaraft.com/
Rafting in the Smokies. The River Run headquarters in Pigeon Forge, 3249 River Road. They also run the Ococee River and the Nantahala River. 1(865) 436-5008, 1-800-PRO RAFT, 1-800- 776-7238 or http://www.raftinginthesmokies.com/
Rocky Top Outfitter. 3361 Parkway Pigeon Forge, 37863. 1(865) 429-3474 or http://www.rockytopoutfitter.com/
Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 107 Park Headquarters Road Gatlinburg, 37738. Visitor Information Recorded Message, 1(865) 436-1200 or www.nps.gov/grsm
Great Smoky Mountains Trail Map. Distributed by The National Park Service, 1(865) 436-1230.
Cades Cove Riding Stables. They also offer hayrides with a park ranger for $8 a person for a two-hour narrated ride. A naturalist hayride is offered from June through October. 1 (865) 448-6286.
Walden Creek Riding Stables. 2709 Walden Creek Road, Pigeon Forge, 37862. 1 (865) 429-0411 or 1-888-577-4901 or http://www.waldencreekstables.com/
Day Hiker. To organize a guided Mt. LeConte adventure, contact Joe Guenther. 1(865) 908-9942 or http://www.dayhiker.com/
Big South Fork National Recreation Area. The Bandy Creek Visitor Center 1(423) 286-7275, 1(606) 376-5073 or www.nps.gov/biso/
Mt. LeConte Lodge. Reservations can be made each year beginning in October at http://www.leconte-lodge.com/
Mountain View Canoe Rentals. Canoes and tubes. 1(865) 428-6112.
River Romp. For tubes in the mountains. 1-888-390-1190.