Category: travel


An Exhilarating Return To San Diego

March 4th, 2014 — 9:42pm

When you’ve lived through the winter that we’ve had here in NYC, any break from it is a welcome one. Last week, I had the pleasure of escaping to the warmer environs of San Diego for a work-related conference.

The view from my room at The Westin San Diego

The view from my room at The Westin San Diego

It had been 19 years since my last visit to SD. That trip was on the tail end of my relationship with Sparky when I told him it was over. Needless to say, I was eager to re-experience this great city and it didn’t disappoint.

In addition to beautiful weather, friendly locals and uncrowded streets, San Diego offered something else I hadn’t experienced in a while – unexpected romance.

On my one free night in town, I decided to venture out on my own to the Gaslamp Quarter, SD’s buzzy bar and restaurant district. I strolled for several minutes before settling on Greystone Steakhouse. What drew me in? A welcoming hostess…and the sight of three men flying solo at the bar. Of course, they were all poring over their SmartPhones, so my expectations were low. At the very least, though, I figured it was a far better ratio than what’s typical in NYC.

No sooner had I ordered a glass of wine than M, the adorable guy to my left, looked over and asked me with a smile if I was a local. I soon learned that M was a recent transplant to San Diego, having grown up in Iowa and graduated from West Point.

We clicked immediately, sharing stories about career (M has his own consulting business), travel and the allure of picking up and relocating somewhere completely different.

Even though I’m blinking, I think you can see how much I was having :)

Even though I’m blinking, I think you can see how much I was having :)

After closing down Greystone, we headed over to SD’s version of Little Italy for drinks at Craft and Commerce—one of the best bars I’ve been to in ages. Staff are invited to create and submit cocktails for menu inclusion. I sampled one with grenadine that was a fond throwback to my Shirley Temple days as a child.

M and I talked and smooched until dawn. A few days later, he sweetly followed up with a text message wishing me a safe flight back home.

Meeting him, and my entire trip to San Diego, were much needed reminders that you never know when something great is right around the corner. And that it’s time to have a little more of that adventurous traveler mindset here at home too.

Comment » | San Diego, travel

Return To Toronto: Part Two

February 5th, 2014 — 9:19pm

My wonderful weekend in Toronto continued with a girls day out with dear friend Jackie.

Jackie and me

Jackie and me

As always, we picked up right where we left off, confiding in each other about career transitions, dating dramas and the heavy contemplation that accompanies turning 40.

Along the way, we enjoyed a fun-filled afternoon at Yorkdale Shopping Centre on the outskirts of T.O. First, a yummy lunch at Glow Press, which serves a mouth-watering variety of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. Then, we hit various stores before heading out to pick up Jackie’s little boy Ryan.

Back at their place, Jackie whipped up spaghetti and meatballs, and surprised me with chocolate birthday cake.

The decadence continued back at my hotel, where a carrot cake amenity from my Westin Grand Central colleagues was waiting for me. I must say I love extending the big 4-0 festivities (waistline considerations notwithstanding).

Saturday, snowy conditions didn’t get in the way of my next reunion — with high school buddy Emma.

Emma and me

Emma and me

Over a delightful brunch at Fran’s, one of T.O.’s venerable old-school diners, we reminisced about old times and reflected on motherhood (Emma has a young son), getting older and the ties that bind. Emma spoke fondly of my late, beloved parents, sharing with me that she told her partner—

“They had an intimacy not just as a couple, but as friends.”

It meant so much to hear Emma say this, to be reminded of the impact that Mom and Dad had on everyone fortunate enough to know them. My friends in Toronto got to know them very well indeed during epic slumber parties, prom night and the like.

These and so many other happy memories of our years living up north crossed my mind over the course of the weekend. As I walked along familiar streets, many now replaced with new stores and attractions, I couldn’t help thinking of what time hasn’t changed—my gratitude for old friends and my late, beloved parents’ enduring legacy of love.

This week, they would have celebrated 41 years together. I have no doubt that somewhere, they’re enjoying one hell of a party. Cheers to you, Mom and Dad, still my all-time favorite couple.

 

Comment » | catching up with old friends, travel, turning 40, weekend getaways

Return To Toronto: Part One

January 29th, 2014 — 10:08pm

Ever since my family lived there when I was a teenager, Toronto has had a special place in my heart. So it was with great anticipation that I returned last weekend — for the first time in 8 years– to my former hometown.

After checking in to the Sheraton Centre hotel on Thursday, I bundled up and headed out on a nostalgic tour of my old neighborhood.

My home from 1985-1989: 70 Rosehill Avenue

My home from 1985-1989: 70 Rosehill Avenue

As I approached 70 Rosehill Avenue, I  was flooded with happy memories. Recollections of living there with my beloved late parents and grandfather, of slumber parties and first kisses.

Old times also resurfaced during a walk through of Deer Park Public School. Crowding by the lockers (still a hideous shade of blue!) before and after class, adolescent angst about unrequited crushes.

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Where I spent 7th and 8th grades in Toronto

Speaking of crushes, I had the pleasure of catching up with one from high school, Oliver. It had been more than two decades (and at the prom, I think) since Oliver and I had last seen each other. The years quickly fell away, though, as we reminisced and caught up as old friends.

Oliver and me

Oliver and me

Over a delightful dinner at the Sheraton’s BNB Restaurant (roasted tomato soup, chicken quesadillas and – who knew? – Canadian Shiraz), we had the kind of conversation that felt so fitting on the heels of turning 40. Oliver and I talked about the comparatively kinder, gentler times of the 80’s, the enlightening joys of travel and the journey of finding the right relationship.

After we said goodnight, it hit me that the dread of entering this new decade was disproportional to how it feels now that I’m in it. I’m beginning to appreciate why the fortysomethings I know have raved so much about this era. You’re old enough to have accrued some wisdom and strength yet still young enough to make new discoveries. Or, in this case, be reminded of comforting truths—namely that time and distance are no match for good friends.

Comment » | catching up with old flames, catching up with old friends, Toronto, travel, turning 40

Long Weekend in LA: Part Two

July 10th, 2013 — 8:33pm

Saturday, my wonderful long weekend in L.A. continued with an afternoon at Malibu Wines.

Nestled in the foothills of Malibu on Mulholland Parkway, this winery is one of the most delightful I’ve ever visited. Umbrella-covered tables compliment two wine tasting taverns, set against a backdrops of mountains and vineyards.

The picturesque setting of Malibu Wines

The picturesque setting of Malibu Wines

The occasion for my visit — joining dear friend A, his wife Leslie and their friends for a performance by talented daughter Ren and her partner Mimo.

I had the pleasure of hearing Ren sing during my last L.A. visit in November as well and she was just as dazzling this time around. With a depth and conviction far beyond her 19 years, she has the kind of voice and stage presence that reminds you of Adele or Joss Stone.

 

Ren and Mimo delighted the crowd at Malibu Wines

Ren and Mimo delighted the crowd at Malibu Wines

In addition to performing her own original music — “That’s The Truth” is one I can’t wait to download — Ren nimbly delivered soulful renditions of classics by Bob Dylan, Melissa Etheridge and Adele too — infusing each song with emotion and taking you on a journey with every note. Mimo’s skilled guitar melodies harmonize perfectly with her. A star is born.

Head on over to her Facebook page for music downloads and info about Ren and Mimo’s upcoming shows.

After the performance, the weekend’s theme of reconnecting continued. First, over a delicious dinner a Wilshire Restaurant in Santa Monica with longtime family friends Jane and Doron. Then, yesterday, brunch with high school buddy Allison at the W Westwood‘s poolside venue, The Backyard.

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Allison and me

Allison and I talked a lot about getting older and the heavy contemplation it brings. She said she’s decided to make the next decade her “fearless forties.”  I love the sound of that, of embracing the upcoming big 4-0 with fortitude and adventure.

Catching up with Allison was the perfect ending to a fantastic weekend. My visit to L.A. did everything a vacation is supposed to do, not the least of which is feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle life back home.

Here’s to a fearless second half of 2013!

Comment » | catching up with old friends, L.A., travel, turning 40

Long Weekend In L.A.: Part One

July 7th, 2013 — 1:15am

Nothing says summer like a getaway to the West Coast — and that’s exactly what I’m enjoying this weekend in L.A. Since arriving Wednesday night, I’ve been having the time of my life.

I couldn’t have planned it any better, which is ironic given that this trip was originally supposed to be a girlfriends getaway. When my galpal ended up having to work, I opted to make the trip anyway and I’m so happy that I did.

SaraMel

Sara and me celebrating the 4th

Thursday, I celebrated the 4th with college buddy Sara and her sister’s family in Palos Verdes Estates. A delightful cul de sac block party featured homemade salads, barbecue, an array of desserts and adorable kids decked out in red, white and blue gear. Capping it all off: a dazzling fireworks display on the beach set to a soundtrack of patriotic music. God bless America.

Fireworks

We had a perfect beachside view of the fireworks

Yesterday, I ventured over to my favorite part of L.A, Santa Monica, for lunch with my dear friend A. Over a light, lingering lunch at Café Crepe on the Third Street Promenade, we enjoyed a soul soothing conversation about family milestones, career crossroads and making time to nourish the creative process.

A and me at Cafe Crepe in Santa Monica

A and me at Cafe Crepe in Santa Monica

A is currently appearing on A&E’s compelling homicide drama set in the Southwest, Longmire. This show is truly in a class by itself, don’t miss it.

After lunch, I strolled around Santa Monica before returning to the W Westwood for some poolside lounging time. Then, it was off to dinner in Beverly Hills with my surrogate mom Gwen.

Gwen introduced me to the inviting elegance and charm of The Peninsula Hotel’s rooftop restaurant. In a word….wow. I won’t soon forget the perfectly prepared scallops or heavenly caramel tree dessert — though the most memorable part of the evening was spending quality time with someone I love dearly.

I am truly blessed in my friends.

Up next…a magical afternoon in Malibu.

Comment » | catching up with old friends, L.A., travel

Florida Getaway: Part One

February 27th, 2013 — 9:10pm

When it comes to travel, sometimes mixing business with pleasure produces the best kind of trip. That’s exactly what happened with my five-day jaunt to Florida.

It began with a weekend in Jacksonville to visit my Titi (auntie in Spanish) Eneida. Titi defies her 72 years, with a vibrant, energetic spirit to match her youthful, trim looks.

Titi Eneida and me in St. Augustine

Saturday, we made the short drive to St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city. A charming beachside hamlet known for its rich history, Spanish-influenced architecture and unique shopping, St. Augustine is a fun excursion. Titi and I spent the afternoon strolling around pedestrian alleys, browsing everything from a New Age boutique and vintage candy shop to a garden flag store.

Along the way, we stopped at French Fry Heaven, a Jacksonville franchise that takes this indulgent side to a whole other level. We shared a cone of parmesan garlic fries. In a word, yumm!

French Fry Heaven's GarlicParm supreme fries are delish

Capping off our action-packed afternoon, a late-afternoon stop at St. Augustine’s Premium Outlets just in time to take advantage of Coach’s 50% off handbag sale. Huzzah.

Sunday was spent mostly in the kitchen, watching Titi cook to perfection some of the Puerto Rican dishes that remind me of growing up and my beloved late grandmother, who was born and raised on the island. Joining the festivities were my cousins Monica and Steven and their families. All of us savored every bite of Titi’s homemade arroz, platanos and meat-filled empanadas.

In between all of the shopping, eating and catching up, Titi and I did a lot of reminiscing about my beloved, late mom. The legacy of family is one of many great gifts she left me. Being with Titi was a wonderful, much-needed reminder of that.

Coming up…part two of my Florida getaway and my first-ever super-sized experience as part of the Starwood Hotels & Resorts team.

Comment » | family bonding, travel

Celebrating A Dear Friend’s Milestone Birthday

December 30th, 2012 — 8:53pm

This final week of 2012 has been an action packed one for me. After heading to Delaware for Christmas with my brother and sister-in-law, I came home, worked one day, then took off again – this time for Ohio. The occasion — my dear friend Marilyn’s surprise 80th birthday party.

Surprise! Marilyn and me at her party

Her children Karen, Laurie and Steve brought together about 20 of Marilyn’s closest friends, along with four of her grandchildren, for the party. We gathered at Springfield Grille, one of Marilyn’s favorites and a longtime annual tradition for us whenever I visit.

With her actual birthday still a few weeks away, Marilyn truly had no idea what had been planned and seeing the look of surprise on her face was such a joy. As always, she looked lovely, fit and far younger than her years.

While enjoying a three course meal that included the restaurant’s delicious signature crab cakes and yummy vanilla sponge birthday cake, I had the pleasure of sitting with Marilyn and her family.

Group photo: With Marilyn and her beautiful family

Along with talking about preparations for the party, they shared some great stories from years gone by. I enjoyed getting to know the family she is the heart and soul of with good reason.

Just before dessert, Karen made a briefly, lovely toast to the guest of honor — saying how special Marilyn is and that she is the best mom.

“And the best friend!” chimed in a neighbor of Marilyn’s.

I couldn’t agree more.

For more than twenty years now, I’ve had the good fortune to call Marilyn a friend. She is such an amazing woman — intelligent, kind and fun with a zest for life that has kept her truly young at heart.

Our mutual friend A put it best–

“You do 80 proud.”

A-men. Happy, Happy Birthday, Marilyn. You are loved.

Comment » | milestone birthdays, Springfield Grille, travel

CastleCon: Day One

November 22nd, 2012 — 1:59pm

As I mentioned, my trip to L.A. last weekend was for the Castle Fan Charity Convention.

All smiles in front of the CastleCon agenda for day one

Many of you are probably wondering–what is Castle? Because despite being one of ABC’s most popular and highly-rated shows, Castle tends to elicit two kinds of responses: love it or never heard of it. Any longtime viewer — myself included — is mystified by this considering that Castle is now in its fifth season.

The police procedural is a unique hybrid that moves seamlessly between drama and comedy, fueled by the fantastic chemistry between actors Nathan Fillion (who plays writer Richard Castle) and Stana Katic (his homicide detective muse Kate Beckett). It is also that rare show which delivers every single week, so I was truly excited to meet some of the people who bring it to life as well as, of course, fellow shippers.

Both days of CastleCon kicked with a spirited auction of autographed items, that ultimately raised about $35,000 for charity (including Hurricane Sandy relief). Headlining the agenda — members of Castle’s cast and crew.

First up for Q&A were husband wife editing team Marta Evry and [Warren Bowman] along with camera dolly grip Chris Brown.  Of Castle and Beckett’s long awaited love scene, Marta assured us no kissing footage was left on the cutting room floor. She also shared how emotional it was to edit another iconic series moment — the military funeral of Captain Montgomery — after her veteran father’s passing the year before.

During the lunch break, I got to know a handful of other Castle fans including Denver-based Colleen and Utah-based Susan.

“We’re gonna interrogate you like Beckett,” Susan quipped when I joined them.

Best introduction ever.

Castle cast members Tamala Jones (Lanie) and Penny Johnson Jerald (Captain Gates) dazzled the crowd

After lunch, cast members Tamala Jones (Lanie) and Penny Johnson Jerald (Capt. Gates) — both gorgeous and down to earth in person — delighted the crowd with sassy banter and behind the scenes scoop. Tamala would love to be in Beckett’s “supermodel” shoes this season and promised some great upcoming scenes between them about Castle. Penny revealed her alter ego knows Castle and Beckett are involved, and that she’s a real life fan of their love story.

Penny and me: Loved her!

The complete opposite of her tough cop character, Penny brought her zumba instructor and led about 50 of us in a fun zumba class. She stuck around afterward to hug each person goodbye. A true class act, just like all of her co-workers.

Up next…the scoop on CastleCon day two and what I’m thankful for this holiday season. Happy Thanksgiving all!

Comment » | Castle, celeb sightings, fan events, favorite TV shows, travel

Weekend In LA: Part One

November 19th, 2012 — 1:53am

No matter how long the journey or how brief the stay, travel never fails to rejuvenate my spirit. This long weekend I’ve enjoyed in L.A. has been a wonderful reminder of that.

Friday morning, I woke up and started the day with a dip in the outdoor hot tub here at the LAX Marriott. If there’s anything that says you’re on vacation, it’s this and the sight of palm trees.

The sun was shining as I made the short drive into Santa Monica, my favorite part of L.A. (by far). In keeping with tradition, I made a pitstop at Ye Olde King’s Head Shoppe, a charming British goods shop next to a pub of the same name. I was delighted to discover Vinto fruit soda, a good substitute for my beloved blackcurrant flavored Ribena Spark, which was recently discontinued.

With Vinto in hand, I walked over to Palisades Park to take in views of the beach and iconic Santa Monica Pier before heading to the Huntley Hotel’s Penthouse rooftop restaurant for lunch with my good friend Ross. I immediately thanked him for his excellent choice of venue. The Penthouse’s panoramic beach and L.A. views and interesting menu (lobster knuckle sandwich, anyone?) made the ideal place to catch up and savor being on the West Coast again.

Ross and me at the Huntley Hotel Penthouse

Over a delicious, leisurely lunch — including one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever had — Ross filled me in on his adjustment to L.A. life since moving here last year with his wife. Also on the conversational menu, juggling day jobs with creative pursuits and Hurricane Sandy, I heard lots of concern from Angelenos about it. Of course, they know a thing or two about natural disasters here.

After parting company with Ross, I ambled along the Third Street Promenade before making my way back to the Pier. Getting in touch with my inner child, I treated myself to a ride on the roller coaster. It was pretty quiet at the amusement park, so I happily said yes when I was offered a second ride that marked a first: riding a coaster as the only person on it. Spooky and exhilarating all at once for sure.

Next up…the scoop on my experience at the Castle Fan Convention!

Comment » | travel

By The Numbers: California Dreamin’ Edition

November 14th, 2012 — 7:07pm

Tomorrow night, I am off to Los Angeles for the weekend. It’s been more than two and a half years since my last visit — during my Great Dating Blitz so I can’t help thinking of the many memorable times I’ve had in California’s number one city.

All smiles in Santa Monica, my favorite part of L.A. (April 2010)

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed everything from star-crossed romance and reunions with old friends to celebrity sightings and TV show tapings. Here are some of the standout moments – By The Numbers:

Number of L.A. Trips: 14
Number of L.A. Trips Precipitated By Romance: 6
Number of Reunions With Old Friends: 8
Number of Visits to Santa Monica Pier: 6
Number of TV Show Tapings Attended: 3
Number of Celebrity Sightings: 2

The best celebrity sighting happened during my 2010 visit – hunky and charming Nathan Fillion, star of ABC’s hit Castle. Castle is far and away my favorite show, so I’m beyond excited to be attending the Second Annual Castle Convention in L.A. this weekend. Stay tuned for a full report.

California here I come!

Comment » | By The Numbers, Los Angeles, travel

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