Carmel-by-the-Sea is Magical

My husband and I recently visited Carmel to celebrate our 23rd Anniversary and it was magical.   The meaning of magical is “beautiful or delightful in such a way as to seem removed from everyday life”.   This describes Carmel perfectly.  Synonyms for the word magical include extraordinary, remarkable incredible, amazing – I think you get the idea.  It was a perfect anniversary trip but I guess that shouldn’t be a big surprise though since Carmel has been rated as #3 “Best City for Romance in the World” by Travel Leisure Magazine!  Our trip was memorable from start to finish!

Carmel-by-the-Sea, called Carmel for short is a small town in Northern California about 150 miles south of San Francisco.  This isn’t your typical California beach town with miles of beach and lots of palm trees though.  Carmel does have a beautiful white sand beach and it is next to the ocean but instead of palm trees it has tall pine trees and wind sculptured cypress trees.  Add the adorable storybook like European style cottages that are scattered throughout the town and you feel like you just walked into a fairy tale surrounded by a beautiful forest.   The town was founded in 1902 and was originally inhabited by a large population of artists, writers, and poets and definitely has a European feel to it.

Carmel is small (only one square mile) but it is loaded with charm and interest.   The town is also known for being one of the most dog friendly towns in the world thanks in part to the actress and dog activist, Doris Day.  Over 20 years ago she and a partner opened the most famous dog friendly hotel of all,  Cypress Inn.   The Inn not only welcomes dogs but also has a “dog parade” each night in the hotel lobby!   Many other hotels, restaurants, and stores welcome them as well.  There are adorable dogs everywhere you go!

Day 1

We arrived in Carmel and checked into the absolutely charming Hofsas House.  Hofsas has so much Bavarian inspired character that you will feel like you just landed in Germany! This family owned hotel embodies European Hospitality and is celebrating 70 years of providing guests with comfortable accommodations and personal service.  There is so much about this warm and welcoming hotel that will delight you in many ways.

Hofsas is one of the larger hotels in town and includes 38 uniquely furnished rooms.  Our room was cozy and roomy with a small fireplace and wet bar.  It also came with a great view that overlooked the beautiful pine trees and a view of the ocean in the distance (ask for the 5th floor).   All the rooms at Hofsas have Dutch doors which allow you to open the top door to let in the cool and crystal clean ocean air.  Being from Texas where it’s frequently hot with the air conditioning going all day long, this was like being in Heaven.

We also had access to a patio area on the top floor where we enjoyed quiet and beautiful sunsets with our wine and cheese pairing (and a couple of extra friendly seagulls).

The Hafsas House provides a delicious continental breakfast each morning with fresh baked pastries from a local bakery and French roast coffee plus fruit and juice.  It is also one of the only hotels in Carmel that has a heated swimming pool which is a great bonus if you like to start or end your day with a swim!  Other amenities include European Style Dry Saunas, pet friendly rooms, wine pairings, Carmel Wine Walk Passports, and much more.  They have a meeting room available that includes a full kitchen and fireplace for gatherings such as family reunions, business retreats/meetings and wedding receptions.

The Hofsas staff was friendly and helpful and the owner, Carrie Theis can answer any of your questions about the interesting history of her family operated hotel (she’s the original owner’s granddaughter) and Carmel itself.  She gave us lots of suggestions on dining and activities.  The hotel is on the west side of San Carlos between 3rd and 4th streets.  For information about Hofsas House go to:  Hofsas House  or call # 800-221-2548

 

 

The downtown area is just a short walk from the Hofsas House and is  loaded with it’s own charm.  The weekend was beautiful (60ish degree weather) and we enjoyed strolling through many of the cute and unique shops.  Carmel has tons of cozy and delicious restaurants, amazing art galleries (over 80 of them), and courtyards that you just want to hang out in for a while and soak in the scenery.   Carmel Valley is home to several wineries and in recent years Carmel has added at least 14 wine tasting rooms to downtown Carmel!  You can buy a Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea Passport and easily walk (at least at first – ha) to all the tasting rooms.  We enjoyed tasting all the different wines, learning about the wineries, and meeting lots of new people!

After our day of shopping and wine tasting we walked down Ocean Avenue to the beautiful Carmel Beach area.  The beautiful white sand beach hugs the width of  village of Carmel and overlooks the Pacific Ocean with a beautiful view of Pebble Beach Golf Club in the distance.  The area also provides scenic paths along the beach for walkers, joggers and dog walkers.  We enjoyed hanging out there for quite a while just gazing at the ocean, the surrounding scenery, and marveling at how lucky we were to be there!

Our first night in Carmel we dined at a local restaurant called The Forge in the Forest that’s been voted “Best Outdoor Dining” in Monterey County for almost 20 years.  The Forge  has tons of history which includes being a well-known blacksmith’s forge that produced much of the hand-wrought hardware that still adorns a lot of buildings in Carmel and served as a meeting place for many famous artists and writers such as Henry Miller and John Steinbeck.  The restaurant’s interior is decorated with antique copper walls and the patio is literally a forest of beautiful gardens surrounded by a canopy of pine trees and vines. The patio has outdoor fireplaces and seating which lends itself to a perfect patio setting and therefore a perfect experience for outdoor dining.   The food and service was wonderful. The Forge is also known for its dog friendly patio called Dog Pound Patio where pooches can order specialty items from their own menu while you enjoy the patio.

Day 2

The next day we got up and grabbed a picnic lunch from 5th Avenue Deli.  The deli is also just a short walk away from our hotel and has a huge delicious variety of sandwiches, salads and desserts.   We chose Point Lobos Reserve just a few miles outside Carmel to do some light hiking and check out the ocean scenery.  Point Lobos is at the Northern end of Big Sur and the scenery is breathtaking!  Jagged and rocky cliffs, beautiful ocean scenes, deep forests, wildflowers, and wildlife galore!  Points of interest in this oasis of beauty includes Whaler’s Cove (where we ate our picnic lunch and watched scuba divers enjoy the cove) and the amazingly beautiful and slightly hidden China Cove.   If you go to Carmel don’t miss the opportunity to see the incredible natural beauty surrounding it!  There are endless places for scenic runs, hikes and walks to be experienced and all of them are breathtaking!  For more information go to:  Scenic Runs Hikes & Walks

Another must see is  historic Mission Ranch Resort.  The Ranch was one of the first dairies in California in the 1880’s and was purchased and preserved by former Carmel Mayor, Clint Eastwood. He rescued this landmark resort from condo developers, and renovated the entire property and turned it into a resort.  The Inn now consists of  unique hotel rooms located within ten buildings on the property and includes a restaurant. This beautiful patch of land has a wonderful view of the Pacific Ocean,  Point Lobos, and a picturesque scene of  sheep grazing in the pasture with the Pacific Ocean in the background.  Does it get better than that?  Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant

The second night of our European influenced trip continued with a trip to Switzerland as we dined at Lugano’s Swiss Bistro located in The Barnyard in Carmel.  It was a completely delightful experience!  The large menu includes Swiss traditional cuisine such as fondues, Schnitzels, seafood, salads, sausages, and pastas.  From the creamy cheese fondue through the slightly breaded schnitzels and ending with chocolate fondue, I’m just not sure I’ve ever eaten so much and so well.

Everything was delicious, authentic, and memorable.  Owner Nargis Lengacher and her late husband Andre created this one of a kind restaurant with a love for all things Swiss and the food and interior reflects that.  The red and white checkered tablecloths and a wide array of charming collections of cuckoo clocks and wooden figures make it a fun, warm, and inviting place to be.   The restaurant also includes live music on some nights and has a dog friendly patio.  Andre Lengacher was the originator and promoter of Oktoberfest Monterey Bay for the last 7 years and was known to many locals as Mr. Oktoberfest. For more information about this Carmel treasure go to:  Lugano Swiss Bistro Carmel

Day 3

My husband and I got up the next day and said a sad farewell to Carmel and headed off to the Scenic 17-Mile Drive in Picturesque Pebble Beach with a short stop at one of the most beautiful golf courses on the planet Pebble Beach Golf Course.

After checking out the pro shop and the club house, admiring the incredible view, and accidentally  meeting the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Course owner Peter Ueberroth (what a thrill and what a nice man) we continued our scenic drive.  It did not disappoint.    With every twist and turn of the road  another breathtaking scene is revealed.  Dramatic coastal cliffs, crystal blue water, white sandy beaches all surrounded by huge green forests.  In the middle of this incredible drive is one of my favorite spots on earth, the famous iconic Lone Cypress setting on it’s pedestal over the water.    Magical.

Our trip was perfect in every way and we can’t wait to go back!  It’s hard to explain the magic that you feel when you’re in Carmel but you will understand when you go and experience it for yourself.

Fun Facts about Carmel:

Former Mayor of Carmel

It has been over 20 years since Clint Eastwood, also known to his fans as “Dirty Harry,” was mayor of the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea, but visitors still ask “Is Clint Eastwood still the mayor?” referring to his one term that ran from 1986 to 1988. His campaign slogan was “Bringing the Community Together,” and he stressed his desire to build bridges between the business community and the residential community. His strategy worked and though he enjoyed his experience, he did not to run for a second term.

Permit Required to Wear High Heels

Though often mistakenly thought of as an urban myth, the municipal code of Carmel bans wearing shoes having heels more than 2 inches in height or with a base of less than one square inch unless the wearer has obtained a permit for them. While the local police do not cite those in violation of the ordinance, this seemingly peculiar law was authored by the city attorney in the 1920’s to defend the city from lawsuits resulting from wearers of high-heeled shoes tripping over irregular pavement distorted by tree roots. Permits are available without charge at City Hall.

No Chain Restaurants

With no fast food restaurants in the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea, the city’s charming eateries and tasting rooms offer a full range of cuisine and wine tasting all within walking distance from the over 40 hotels and inns. From Wine Spectator award-winning restaurants to casual eateries and pubs, great dining is abundant, but don’t plan for your typical Starbucks venti frappuccino instead plan a stop at one of the many family owned coffee shops for specialty drinks and your morning cup of joe.

Ice Cream Ordinance

An unusual law of prohibiting selling and eating ice cream on public streets in Carmel-by-the-Sea was on the books and the repeal of the law happened to be one of the pro-business focus points of Clint Eastwood’s campaign for mayor in 1986. He and the new council elected along with him to overturn the ordinance and other similar laws that they considered to be too restrictive to businesses and visitors.

No Street Addresses

Unwilling to see their village become “citified,” Carmel’s founding fathers rejected the practice house- to-house mail delivery in favor of a central post office. To this day, there are still no addresses, parking meters or street lights, and no sidewalks outside of Carmel’s downtown commercial area. Those seeking directions receive hints such as “fifth house on the east side of Torres Street, green trim, driftwood fence” or by the legendary names adorning most houses, such as “Hansel” or “Sea Urchin.” It is, by the way, bad luck to change the name on a Carmel cottage.

Source:  Carmel Fun Facts

There’s so much to do and see!  For more information about this beautiful city by the sea go to:   www.CarmelCalifornia.com and  www.carmelfun.com 

#StrongerMovie Starring Jake Gyllenhaal Opens this Friday!

What happens when we make heroes out of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances?   Find out in the new inspirational and heartwarming movie opening this Friday, September 22nd starring Jake Gyllenhaal called Stronger.

Almost everybody recognizes the photo that dominated the news after the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013.  The photo was taken of Jeff Bauman being whisked away by a guy in a cowboy hat after his legs were tragically blown off by the terrorist’s bomb at the finish line at the Marathon.  It quickly became a symbol of all that is both good and bad about mankind.  This is the true story of an ordinary Boston citizen, Jeff Bauman who became an unwilling symbol of survival and hope for not only Boston but for the world after a cruel and heartless act of terrorism.  This is Jeff’s journey through the destruction as the easy going guy with no real goals and his rebirth as a double amputee who finds himself responsible not only for his family and girlfriend but for world who wants him to be their hero.

We’ve seen the story of tragedy and perseverance before but this movie is different and special in numerous ways.  First of all Jeff is a lovable guy who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He’s every man and it’s easy to see yourself in his situation.  Jeff’s family and city are all supportive of him almost to the point of suffocating him.  Second of all and this is big, Jake Gyllenhaul’s performance is everything in this movie.  He gives a quiet but powerful and award winning performance.  He doesn’t have that much to say about the new situation he finds himself in  (Jeff is not a real emotional guy) but Jake says it all with the wide ranging of emotions that you see in his face but doesn’t have the words to say.   Jeff is suffering in a million different ways but he doesn’t want to let anyone down and your heart will break over and over for him.

The other outstanding performance is by Tatiana Maslany who plays Jeff’s girlfriend, Erin.    This is a couple that dated for a while and broke up.    Jeff wants her back so he decides to show up at the marathon that she’s running in with a sign and faithfully waits to win her back at the finish line.  That might have worked except that a huge thing like terrorism completely destroys them both.  Erin is guilt ridden beyond comprehension that it was her fault he was there.  She wants to help but feels pushed away at every attempt she makes by everyone who surrounds Jeff – his family and in particular Jeff’s long suffering but loving mother who is effectively played by Miranda Richardson.

A pivotal point in the movie is the meeting of Jeff and his rescuer, Carlos – the guy in the cowboy hat who in my opinion is the true hero of this story.  This is the guy that risked his own life and ran towards the bomb to save people and in particular, Jeff.  At times I believe Jeff wished that Carlos hadn’t saved him.  Carlos has his own tragic story of loss and regret and at last Jeff gets it.  Not only did Carlos save him but it gave Carlos a reason and purpose to redeem himself.  This is the moment that Jeff finally understands how important his story is and that he needs to find the strength to do what’s necessary to get on with life and Carlos rescues from himself this time.The director gives a voice to the survivors of this horrific act and victims everywhere.  He creates a subtle but inspirational movie that doesn’t focus on the terrorists and for that I’m glad.  It’s the very personal and inspiring story of one average guy who becomes a symbol of not only Boston’s tough survivor character “Boston Strong” but of Americans’ tenacity in the face of tragedy.  Jeff is the perfect hero for America –  he’s just like us and I’m glad he is.  Go see this important movie.

I attended a Question and Answer presentation after the Stronger Movie showing in Dallas this week with the star of the movie, Jake Gylenhaal and the subject of the story, Jeff Bauman.  The movie was attended primarily by people with disabilities, amputees, and healthcare workers.  There was a lot of gratitude in their voices and their comments that Jeff’s story of recovery as a bombing victim means so much to them.  The movie sheds a light on the difficulty and challenges of recovering from the loss of a limb or a debilitating illness.  It was a very emotional and uplifting night.    The actor and hero did not disappoint, they were both warm, authentic, and caring.   As Jake pointed out that night, we have all been through something in our lives that has challenged us. This movie sheds a light on how one man overcame what seemed to be impossible circumstances.

Website:  www.strongerthefilm.com

#STRONGERMOVIE

Stronger opens in theaters this Friday, September 22 in Dallas/Fort Worth at the following theaters (check for times):

Legacy 14                                                                   Plano, TX
Cinemark West Plano 20                                       Plano, TX
Angelika Film Center and Cafe                             Dallas, TX
North Park 15                                                           Dallas, TX
AMC Village on the Parkway                                Dallas, TX
Tinseltown 17                                                           Grapevine, TX
Southlake Town Square                                        Southlake, TX

Provost, Y’all! Chamberlain POPS UP at Addison Oktoberfest

One of the most authentic parts of Addison Oktoberfest is the amazing Chamberlain’s Brauhaus, which allows guests to enjoy the same type of VIP seating one might have in the brewery tents at the famed Munich festival. Richard Chamberlain has created a DELECTABLE menu – buy your tickets for the limited seating TODAY!Chamberlain’s Brauhaus is really an exceptional bargain – for only $55, guests get complimentary admission to the event, three-course meal paired with pairing, reserved seating with a view of the dance floor, a commemorative Paulaner stein, PLUS a $25 promotional gift card to either Chamberlain’s restaurant!

Starters
* Locally-made Pretzel with Reisling Honey Mustard Sauce
* House Made Bavarian Ham, Leek, Potato and Vegetable Soup

Entrées (Guests will receive both)
* Paulaner Hefeweizen Beer Braised Pork with Horseradish Mustard and Roasted Onion Potatoes
* Bratwurst, Grobe and Weisswurst Sausages and Local Kobe Bacon-Braised Red Cabbage

Dessert
Warm Bavarian Cherry Strudel with Port Wine Cherry Compote

Seatings are limited and are available the following times:
* Thursday, September 14 – 7 p.m.
* Friday, September 15 – 6:30 & 8:30 p.m.
* Saturday, September 16 – 5:00 & 7:30 p.m.

Make your reservations for Chamberlain’s Brauhaus here: www.chamberlainssteakhouse.com/ticketsAddison Oktoberfest information and other packages are available at AddisonOktoberfest.com.

Cannot wait for Oktoberfest to come mid-September?! Then, we have the recipe for you from Richard Chamberlain. This comfort food will get you ready and sustain you throughout the fall season. 🙂

Chamberlain’s Brauhaus Roasted Onion Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
12 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Instructions
1. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, sauté the onions in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
2. Transfer to a blender and process until blended; set aside.
3. Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once at a rapid boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes, or until tender enough to pierce with a fork. Drain the potatoes well.
4. Place potatoes in a mixer and add in the roasted garlic cloves, butter, sour cream, cheese, heavy cream, salt, pepper and onion mix. Beat potatoes until light and fluffy. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm.

It’s Island Time – Galveston Island!!

galveston-starlogo

Looking for a great place for that next girl’s trip?!  Go to Galveston, Texas!!  It’s just a short drive or  plane ride away from all major cities in Texas and you will love it!! It’s not just a beach destination or a port to catch a cruise – it’s much more.  We discovered how much more recently when my sisters and I decided to take my mother there for her birthday weekend!

Let’s start with shopping.  Okay, my family (2 sisters and mother) love to shop.  That’s our entertainment and that’s how we bond.  Galveston has a treasure trove of cute boutique shops. I have been to the Historic Strand area of town many times before but on this trip we discovered the quaint downtown shops in the Historic 2100 block of Postoffice Street.  The Naked Mermaid (love the name!) carries very unique and chic home décor and gift items.  It’s worth a visit just to meet the adorable “shop” cats (see photo).   We also shopped at The Style Co. next door which has very cute clothes and jewelry (I bought both).    Just Add Sparkle is just across the street and carries fun Halloween/witch themed gift items.  Down the street in this area are several restaurants such as The Gumbo Bar and Rudy & Paco Restaurant and Bar.  Love this group of unique shops and restaurants!

 galveston-postoffice-shps


galveston-style-co-2

galveston-the-naked-mermaid

galveston-just-add-sparkle

We took some time out of our shopping spree on Postoffice Street and and walked down to The Shrimp Fest in Downtown Galveston.  What a fun happening that was!  Over 200 booths served samples of some of the most awesome gumbo I’ve ever had. The Festival also included  activities such as a Shrimp Gumbo Cookoff,  an official 5k, Lil’ Shrimps Parade, live music, a kid’s area, and  a Strand Merchant Walk­About.  This is just one example of some of the fun and community type happenings that Downtown Galveston hosts every year.    After thoroughly enjoying the scene we checked out some of the chic shops on The Strand such as:  Head to Footsies and The Admiralty.  Both have unique boutique clothing and sea inspired home decor, jewelry and art.

galveston-shrimpfestival

galveston-jackie

We wrapped up our afternoon shopping spree by treating ourselves with ice cream at  La King’s Confectionery on The Strand.  La King’s features a working 1920’s soda fountain serving malts, shakes, ice cream sodas, sundaes, splits, floats and fountain treats.   Don’t miss visiting this old fashioned soda fountain and confectionery – it’s a family tradition when we visit Galveston!

galveston-la-kings-2

Saturday night we had the opportunity to visit Galveston’s historic The Grand 1894 Opera House which is also on Postoffice Street.  What a jewel The Opera House is and a wonderful example of the long history Galveston has of being a major cultural center over 100 years ago. The Grand is one of the few remaining opera houses in Texas and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  The Grand hosts several musical performers and musical theater performances throughout the year.   We were very fortunate to see the incredibly talented Ben Vereen sing and dance for two hours!  To see what is coming up at The Grand go to: http://www.thegrand.com

galveston-the-grand-opera-house

galveston-grand-opera

Our second favorite thing to do when we’re together is eat.  There are some incredible restaurants in Galveston and we had the opportunity to sample several.  Here are just a few that you should not miss!

galveston-nonno-tonys

The Sunflower Bakery and Café.  This is a must.   It’s located in Galveston’s Historic East End and 99% of their food is homemade and made with fresh local ingredients and their bakery is heavenly!   This place is a double win – after you finish eating you have the opportunity to shop at the adjoining retail store called The Bacon Farm.  They have a beautiful selection of antiques, art and jewelry.   www.thesunflowerbakeryandcafe.

galveston-sunflower

galveston-bacon-farmMiller’s Seawall Grill.  If you want some great fresh seafood go to Miller’s Seawall Grill.  It’s home cooked food and serves huge portions!  Don’t miss the homemade Italian Cream Cheese Cake – one slice will feed a family of four for sure!

Nonno Tony’s Grill.  It’s at Pier 21 and offers Italian, Asian, Creole and traditional fare and features an open style kitchen.  After dinner  you can stroll around the Pier and check out the ships and water. http://www.nonnotonys.com/

galveston-nonno-tonys-world-kitchen

Also worth checking out:

Tremont Hotel has a lovely rooftop bar for watching the sunset. www.thetremonthouse.com

The Olympia Grill at Pier 21 has a fantastic patio dining on the water.  The menu includes greek influenced fresh seafood.  It’s next  to the 1877 tall ship Elissa, Harbor House Hotel, and Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig & Museumhttp://www.olympiagrill.com

We had the best time in Galveston doing what we do – shopping, eating, checking out the historical flavor of the city and visiting the beach.   It was a great girl’s weekend!  A big thank you to Galveston’s Visitor Bureau for helping make our weekend a huge success!

Check out the official website of Galveston Island  to find out the many things to do during your visit: http://galveston.com

Downtown Galveston also has a website and will keep you updated on all things downtown:  www.downtowngalveston.org

Coming up in October!

  • Ghosts of Galveston
  • ARToberfest
  • Oktoberfest

Did you Know?

  • Galveston is steeped in history in the downtown area, the seaport and it’s historical homes.  Galveston was once called  the “Wall Street of the Southwest” and has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark for its outstanding collection of 19th century architecture.  You can explore on foot, ride in a horse drawn carriage and visit the many museums has to offer.  You can also tour the 1877 tall ship Elissa or the 1892 Victorian residence “Bishop’s Palace”.  Want to know more go to: http://www.galvestonhistory.org
  • Galveston has several wonderful museums!  Allow time to visit a few your next trip there:  Go to:  www.galveston.com/attractions-museums
  • Galveston has a temperate year round climate which makes it a very popular destination.  The temperatures range from winter highs in the 60’s and lows in the mid 40’s.
  • Galveston Island has over 25 miles of beaches – lots of room to find a spot for your beach umbrella and chairs!

 galveston-beach-with-umbrellas_162315

No visit to Galveston is complete without visiting Moody Gardens!  I have taken my kids there several times and it is definitely a great place for families.  It has a golf course and hotel but it also includes an Aquarium, Rainforest Exhibit, theaters, museum, amusement park, ropes course and zip lines and seasonal exhibits.   Want to know more?  Go to:  www.moodygardens.com

The latest addition and great family attraction is Pleasure Pier!  It features waterfront fun and entertainment with family-oriented attractions including rides, midway games, a wide selection of food venues and retail shops. http://www.pleasurepier.com/

Shops:

https://www.facebook.com/theundressedmermaid.

https://www.facebook.com/The-Style-co

https://www.facebook.com/justaddsparkle

http://www.headtofootsies.com

https://www.facebook.com/theadmiralty

galveston-its-island-time

Marriott Rewards Summer Travelers

DFWDT ExteriorSummer is quickly slipping away, but you still have time to be rewarded for a last-minute trip deep in the heart of Texas. Marriott Rewards® members can pack their bags and take a road trip driving to several destinations while racking up points to use at future destinations. Read more why a Marriott Rewards credit card is worth! From San Antonio’s Alamo Mission to Fort Worth’s Stockyards and renowned art museums, you can enjoy more points with more stays.

Enjoy finger-licking BBQ at Woodshed, seafood at Waters – Bonnell’s Coastal Cuisine, homegrown fresh fruit pies and hand-churned ice cream, to name a few of our summer favorite foods. Texas’ major cities offer magnificent museums such as Dallas’ Nasher Sculpture Center in the middle of the largest urban art district in the United States and Fort Worth’s incomparable Arts District, which includes the Kimbell, Amon Carter, Modern Art Museum, as well as, the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.20130317_123941kimbellartamoncarter

Now through September 5, 2016, stay at a participating Marriott listed below, and Marriott Rewards® members can earn 2,000 Marriott Reward® points. It’s free to join the program and points are earned right away. Members also enjoy free standard in-room Wi-Fi and other exclusive offers and promotions just by registering for the program.

Participating Summer Splash Down properties:
Renaissance Austin Hotel
Renaissance Dallas Hotel
Dallas Marriott City Center
Dallas/Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center
Dallas/Addison Marriott Quorum by the Galleria
Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Marriott
The Worthington Renaissance Fort Worth Hotel *** OUR FAVORITE!!!
JW Marriott Houston
Houston Marriott Medical Center
Houston Airport Marriott at George Bush Intercontinental
San Antonio Marriott Riverwalk
San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter

What’s Included:
· 2% discount during midweek stays, 5% discount for weekends
· Rewards Members may earn 2,000 bonus points for every stay between May 26, 2016 and September 5, 2016, starting on the second stay
· Rewards Members may qualify for 100 prizes of 100,000 points each; a 10 million bonus point giveaway during the summer to Rewards Members

Happy Trails to You!

POSH City Club Debuts Members-Only Lounge in NYC

POSH-City-Club-2016At the POSH City Club, members are treated to an experience that takes the stress out of spending time in the city that never sleeps. The POSH City Club is an exclusive members only lounge where travelers, suburban commuters and city dwellers alike can kick up their heels between work and meetings, after an outdoor run or while sightseeing with their families.

When members open the doors to the POSH City Club, they’ll be welcomed into a world of clean, comfort complete with immaculate private restrooms, sitting areas and sanity-saving private lockers. Parents can breathe easier in a space that will allow them to regroup and take care of their small children’s needs worry free, while individuals looking to freshen up after work or avoid rush-hour can do so with ease.

Loaded down with the day’s shopping, but expected for a lunch date? The POSH City Club’s private lockers are a convenient space for stowing purses, shopping bags and extra coats when there’s no time to run home. They’re even equipped with charging stations for electronic devices and complimentary Wi-Fi for all those last minute e-mails and travel directions.

While stopping in at a locker, members can also take advantage of the club’s luxury bathrooms. These are not the typical rows of toilet stalls as seen at the office or gym, but rather individual restrooms that are completely private. Touch-less toilets and sinks, personal showers, changing stations and soundproof bathrooms all await for those in need of a quick pick-me-up. In order to meet a high standard of quality, full-time attendants are at the ready to ensure restrooms are freshened after every use.

Membership packages start at only $15 a year, with day passes available at four pricing tiers. The different tiers determine how many day passes members will need to purchase at minimum. The more passes purchased, the better the savings. Each pass gives the member full access to all the lounge’s services for the entire day and can even be gifted to an accompanying friend regardless of whether they’re a member or not.

Finding Neverland Delights on Broadway

Finding_Neverland_Broadway_PlaybillThe classic musicals of Broadway past will always have a special place in my heart. I walked down the aisle to “Wedding Processional” from The Sound of Music to marry a man who won me over by gifting me an entire DVD collection of Rogers and Hammerstein movie musicals including Oklahoma and The King & I. However, at some point during my adult years living in New York I developed a stronger taste for that darker and edgier theater with adult themes that usually fills my itineraries when I visit my old home. So despite frequent excursions to see local school and community family-friendly productions with my daughter, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen a good-hearted, family-friendly, positive musical at the Broadway level. Thankfully, last week in New York City I had that opportunity.

 

At the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on West 46th Street, I was transported back to the Finding Neverlandmagical and sentimental world of the classic musicals of my childhood during a matinee of Finding Neverland, the musical based on the 2004 movie starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet that came to Broadway earlier this year. Currently the show stars Glee’s Matthew Morrison and Broadway stars Terrence Mann (Pippin, Cats, Les Misérables, Chorus Line, Beauty & the Beast) and Laura Michelle Kelly (Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, Mamma Mia!, Sweeney Todd), and all three of them blew me away with their voices and presence. Like the film, the show follows playwright J.M. Barrie as he summons the courage to become the writer – and the man – he yearns to be. Barrie finds the inspiration he’s been missing when he meets the beautiful widow Sylvia and her four young sons: Jack, George, Michael and Peter. His journey rediscovering his childhood imagination leads to the now renowned stories of Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and the lost boys of Neverland.

Surrounded by a packed audience of all ages, from young children on a special holiday adventure with their parents, to elegant ladies from upper Manhattan known for frequenting matinees, to even otherwise cynical teenagers, I was swept up in the magic and spectacle of a musical that brought me back to why I fell in love with theater in the first place. Finding Neverland BroadwayA highlight was the scenic design by Tony Award®-winner Scott Pask (Pippin, Book of Mormon), particularly in the number Stronger (see video), where we first get a glimpse of the Neverland in Barrie’s imagination. And while mainstream audiences may at first be disappointed to no longer find familiar TV star Kelsey Grammer in the double role of the producer and Captain Hook, I was beyond grateful to instead get the theater legend Mann who has delighted us as a natural on the stage for decades.

Listed this month as one of Time Magazine’s Top Plays and Musicals of 2015, the funny, charming, and beautiful Finding Neverland plays at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater (205 West 46th Street) Tuesdays at 7:30pm, Wednesdays at 2pm & 7:30pm, Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm & 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets and more information can be found online at www.FindingNeverlandTheMusical.com, in person at the Lunt-Fontanne box office. Follow the magic on Twitter and Instagram: @NeverlandBway.

Dallas’ Northpark Center Celebrates 50 Years with Special Events!

Northpark 50 years

The iconic Northpark Center in Dallas, TX  recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary on August 22, 2015 and is celebrating this huge milestone with a series of unique and very fun events that you will not want to miss.  If you’re familiar with Northpark you know that it’s not just a shopping center, it’s a cultural experience!

First, here’s a little background on Northpark:  It was named as one of the “7 Retail Wonders of the Modern World” by Shopping Centers Today.  NorthPark Center is a luxury shopping experience with over 235 unique retailers, restaurants and legendary department stores, and a clientele from around the world.  NorthPark Center is also very unique because it also features an incredible display of art, architecture and landscaping throughout the mall.   The center has won countless awards, including the American Institute of Architects’ Best Design of the Decade, and features internationally-acclaimed 20th century artwork on display throughout the light-filled space and amid the 1.4-acre landscaped garden, CenterPark Garden.

northpark

Here are some of the events that are happening at Northpark as part of their 50th Anniversary Celebration:

Northpark 50 years of fashion

FASHION EXHIBITION

Art Meets Fashion1965 – 2015
August 22, 2015 – January 3, 2016

A definite “must see”!   This exhibition features specific examples of dress that reflect the synergy between art and fashion from 1965 to the present. The exhibition includes The Texas Fashion Collection at the University of North Texas (which is considered to have one of the most important historic fashion collections in the country).  The exhibition is located on Level One between Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.  Garments on display include designs by Oscar de la Renta and Giorgio di’ Sant Angelo.

NorthPark fashion photos 1

Northpark fashion photos

Guided Tours
Saturday, October 10, 12:00 pm and 1:30 pm

Free guided tours of Art Meets Fashion: 1965 – 2015 with Texas Fashion Collection Director and Curator, Myra Walker.

RUNWAY SHOWS – Friday, October 9th and Saturday, October 10th

For the  schedule of runway shows go to:   http://www.northparkcenter.com/pages/northpark-northpark50-fifty-years-of-fashion

Reserve tickets for October 9 Runway Trend Presentation.

Seating for all shows is limited and must be reserved.

Northpark garden

 Saturday, October 17, 2015
7:00 PM, CenterPark Garden

NorthPark Center invites you to a free family concert in CenterPark Garden. Enjoy the magnificent 60-piece orchestra performing popular selections by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Gershwin, as well as scores from JawsPirates of the CarribeanFrozen and more. Open seating in CenterPark Garden. Reserved seating will be available on the Bread Winners patio by calling 214.303.0049.

ArtROCKS! 
Featuring a concert by Gravity Feed and a performance by Dallas Ballet Company

Sunday, October 18, 2015 
1 – 4PM, CenterPark Garden

Children can participate in hands-on art activities led by important artists from North Texas, including Joanne Cervantes, Nathan Green, Kelly Kroener, Annette Lawrence, Suzanne O’Brien, Shamsy Roomani, William and Thoele Sarradet, James Thurman, and more! The event open to the public, and food and drinks will be available for purchase.

Leo Villareal Exhibition
Coming Soon

In celebration of the 50th anniversary, two major works by Leo Villareal will be on view within the shopping center, including a newly commissioned piece inspired by his iconic Buckyball sculpture. His work can otherwise be found at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, The National Gallery in Washington D.C., and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Northpark HammeringMan

IN-STORE EVENTS

For a complete listing of the many “In Store” Events at North Park go to:

http://www.northparkcenter.com/pages/northpark-northpark50-fifty-years-of-fashion

7 Amazing Swimming Pools Around the World

Summer is here, and you know what that means – POOL TIME! One of our favorite things to do whenever we are visiting a new place is to see where there is a pool! Even when my family road tripped across Greece last month, it didn’t matter what time we arrived at St. George Lycabettus Boutique Hotel, as long as there was still some time to use the pool. We quickly checked in, and the kids changed into their swimsuits at record speed for some pool time. Our obsession with pools reached even new heights where despite living across the beach on the Adriatic Sea, we actually drove an hour away just for the infinity pool at Porto Montenegro! (It may cost to drive and utilize, but it was soooo worth it!) Oh, and we still talk about our time poolside during the Spark.Me conference at Hotel Splendid, which lived up to its name. Who said the coast is not also a great place to enjoy a pool?! 😉

Anyway, as our thoughts remember all the great pools we have visited, it is time to pull you into our obsession with splashing, cooling off and laying by the pool this summer, here are 7 amazing swimming pools around the world that will leave you reaching for swimsuit and a plane ticket to one of these amazing destinations across the world.

1. Lido Pool, Porto Montenegro, Tivat, Montenegro. It sits in Montenegro’s dramatic Bay of Kotor.LidoPool
2. St. George’s Rooftop Pool, Athens, Greece.stgeorgepool
3. Arena Badeschiff Pool, Berlin, Germany.ArenaBadeschiff
4. Berkeley Rooftop Pool, London, England.
Beyond the green leaves and scented blooms of The Berkeley’s secret garden is a pool tiled in iridescent white and gold mosaic that sits beneath a sliding roof, retractable when outside temperatures permit.TheBerkeleyPool
5. Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch, Scottsdale, Arizona.HyattRegencyPools
6. Giola Lagoon, Thassos, Greece.
This is a natural pool in the Greek Islands.GiolaLagoon
7. River Bluff Water Experience, JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa River, San Antonio, Texas.
It has a Cyprus tree-lined 1,200-foot lazy river, zero-entry pool with its animal-shaped fountains and five water slides.jwmarriottpool
We cannot think of a better way to spend the summer than being poolside with a good book. What do you enjoy to do in the summer? What pool amazed you around the world?

10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Travel

 

Truly understanding and appreciating a new culture can take months or even years. When traveling, most of us don’t have that luxury. Those for whom a few days to a week is about the best that can be hoped for have to figure out how to get the most out of limited time. A checklist of museums and attractions is a common instinct, but it won’t give you the deep connection that makes travel rewarding. After years of planning events around the world I have learned that taking a few simple steps allows travelers to better connect to new places, make amazing memories, truly feel at home in a strange land, and always have the best travel stories to tell.


Beijing1. LEARN THE LANGUAGE
. I know that this is obvious, and the obvious response is that it’s difficult and time-consuming. But you don’t have to be fluent to get the benefits of putting in a little effort, and it will make you much more comfortable. Learn the most important phrases: “Hello,” “Where is the bathroom?” and the most important in any language: “Thank you.”  I also like to learn to ask for the check and how to say the equivalent of “Cheers!” every place I go. Ask a native speaker to check your pronunciation; with those basics you may even convince passerby you are a local. And on that note…

2. DRESS THE PART. The more different you look the more different and isolated you will feel. People in obvious Paying respects to Shakespeare in Budapesttourist garb always look so awkward, and are easy targets for scams. Do some quick research – Pinterest is a fabulous resource – on what the locals wear and pack your suitcase accordingly. Are they more casual or more dressy than you are used to? Are they having fun with colors and prints or are they in muted earth tones? Do they all have scarves or head coverings? Most importantly check out the shoes, because they will tell you what the most fashionable and practical choices are. Are most of the women wearing cute ballet flats? Low heeled boots? Wedges? They probably know that it’s the best way to be comfortable in the lifestyle and climate and look fashionable at the same time. Nobody in New York City is wearing white or super high heels; follow their lead because they know something you don’t. Dress like a local and you may even find other tourists asking you for directions.

Love In the Time of Cholera at the home of the author in Cartagena, Colombia3. READ LOCAL LITERATURE. You may not be able to pick up the language in a week, but pick up a translated novel that takes place in the city or region you will be exploring and start it before you leave, giving your mind a head start on adapting. In Paris read Émile Zola, J. M. Coetzee in South Africa,  Haruki Murakami in Tokyo, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar in Istanbul, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Colombia. Walking the streets of Cartagena reading Love in the Time of Cholera imagining Florentino Ariza spying on his beloved Fermina Daza from his park bench gave me a stronger connection to the city, as if we shared a secret. And during the afternoons when it was too hot to do anything but lay by the hotel pool, my mind was still exploring as I turned the pages.

4. CATCH A LIVE PERFORMANCE or festival, outside of the tourist zone. While I’m sure the hotel’s dinner buffet hula dance extravaganza is lovely (and you should learn the history of the hula in Hawaii), find out where the locals go for a good show. One of my favorite traditions is finding a great jazz club no matter where we are, from Shanghai to Krakow. Sitting in a small club, surrounded by locals and visitors from around the world with a shared love for jazz, introducing ourselves to the band members (from Poland, playing New Orleans jazz, in Istanbul) after the set and drinking with them and their friends until 4am is still one of my favorite memories. In New York or London, skip the long-running big spectacle shows that everyone has seen, and pick instead an avante garde performance. Go downtown to see an Off-Off-Broadway play. You are much more likely to be surrounded by locals and to feel as if you are one.

Krakow, Poland5. HANG OUT IN A CENTRAL SQUARE. There are the classics like Washington Square Park in New York and Trafalgar Square in London, but try hanging out in Krakow’s Rynek Glowny and Prague’s Old Town Square too. Learn the history. See the commerce. Listen to the conversations and the protesters. Take pictures, but also eat the street food, tip the musicians, feed the birds and read your book on a park bench. Don’t rush on to the next attraction; just sit, rest your feet, take it all in and fall in love with your surroundings.

6. And while you’re at it? TALK TO PEOPLE. As always in a big city anywhere in the world be cautious and streetwise, but often the locals are as genuinely curious about you as you are about them. Ask them questions. If they’re interested, buy them a pint and get their life story. Some of my favorite travel stories are just repeating someone else’s. In a tiny restaurant in a hillside German town we ended up spending hours with a chef from Ibiza, his Russian winemaker friend, an American GI (who was initially just looking for an ATM), and a dog named Snob, all of whom remain seared into my memory years later. It all started because we asked questions.

7. JOIN A TOUR LED BY AN EXPERT DOCENT. There are plenty of big group options that teach you less than a common guidebook, but with a little research you can find engaging, unique, and highly intellectual tours. A 6am bicycle tour through Montmarte, while the shops are just opening up and the empty wine bottles still litter the streets of Paris, will give you a unique perspective of the city. An artist-led graffiti tour of Bogota will teach you more about the culture, politics, and history of Colombia than any other. A historian who has hiked the entire length of the Great Wall of China can point out things nobody else would notice.

Early morning bike tour through Paris
We were guided around London a few weeks ago by a docent from Context Travel, a network of scholars and specialist in disciplines including archaeology, art history, cuisine, urban planning, environmental science, and classics who lead in-depth walking seminars for small groups (6 or less). With her we not only got a personalized tour helping us to understand the city’s history and major landmarks, we discussed the upcoming election, the conflicted feelings on currency and immigration, and the true purpose of Her Majesty the Queen, and were surprised with a visit to what once was The Texas Legation in London. The company’s website makes it easy to pick a city (they currently operate in 25), pick an interest, and reserve a guide. It is well worth it.

8. FOLLOW CURRENT EVENTS. Watch or read their news (BBC World is a great resource when traveling). Even if you can’t IMG_7971take a tour, do a little online digging to understand the struggles of the people. What are they concerned about? What have they been through? No matter how pretty and peaceful a place can seem, there is always a group of people who are unhappy. Understand them and you come closer to understanding the whole culture. If you are in a place where your country’s policies are not appreciated, find out why and try to see yourself and your politicians from their perspective. People around the world want to be heard; offer them an ear.

9. MEET UP WITH A FRIEND. If you know someone who lives there, even if only casually or from years ago, reach out and ask them to meet up. If you don’t know somebody, chances are there’s a friend of a friend somewhere. Maybe a coworker once studied abroad and maintained some connections. In this global village, you can find people with similar interests via Twitter or Instagram in advance of your trip and meet up when you get there. You will let down your guard and forget you are in a strange land for an hour or two. Locals anywhere rarely get to experience their own tourist attractions, and usually love to show off their neighborhoods when someone visits. Give them that chance.

Off-Broadway Play in NYC10. Most importantly, BE YOURSELF. What do you like to do at home? If you’re into sports, arrange to see a game while traveling or find out where there’s a pub showing a match. Soccer isn’t my favorite sport, but watching a big match with a rowdy crowd in a European pub is an experience everyone should have at least once. Do you enjoy live music? Hiking? Theater? Exploring new restaurants? People do those things around the world. Find your passions and experience them in a new place, because it will make you feel at ease, it will ignite your spirit, and it will show you how alike we all really are on this planet. And that is the very purpose of travel, isn’t it? That and the stories.

Tea in Beijing

 

 

For more information about CONTEXT TRAVEL: https://www.contexttravel.com

 

Follow my travel adventures on Instagram at @SeeJayneGo