18 Nov 2010, 7:41pm
Colorado Denver Hotels & Lodging Mountain Living Travel:
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Travel Lightly: Something to Remember During the Busy Holiday Season and Always

CME:  My Ticket to Ride

CME: My Ticket to Ride

“Travel lightly,” said my dear friend Jane over the phone.

“Oh, I will,” I quickly replied. “I’m not packing much for New York.”

“I’m not talking about traveling lightly in that sense,” she insisted. “I mean be light, as in light of spirit.”

“Oh, of course,” I answered as I pondered the full meaning of her words. “Yes, I will––-I must. Yes, I have to remember to take that approach,” I emphasized as we ended our conversation.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve thought about those two simple words these past ten days. Travel lightly. Travel lightly. This has become my mantra of late. I know that everything begins with intention and how you ease into (or respond to) a situation dictates its outcome. But it’s nice to be reminded of this sort of thing.

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Travel, Grief and Reunions

Mom’s Ratatouille: the Best Kind of Comfort Food

As many Americans hit the road this holiday weekend, it’s good to remember that not everyone you encounter is traveling for pleasure. Despite the sea of shorts, flip flops and skimpy T-shirts, not everyone is headed for summertime fun. Travel encompasses a flood of circumstances and situations, complexities that compound the stress of hitting the road in a multitude of ways.

This is fresh in my mind because just a week ago I scrambled to move up an established departure date to the east coast (from Colorado) by four days. Within twenty-four hours, I had to make the changes to my travel arrangements, which included rescheduling the flight (for me and my cat), my ride to the airport–a one-and-a-half-hour drive–as well as my pick up, my hotel stay the night before and packing and organizing for a three-and-a-half-week stay, all of which needed to be accomplished while under a certain amount of duress. Phew! It was hectic. I even had to work in a veterinary visit in order for my kitty to obtain a current health certificate for his travels.

It was worth it though, since this change allowed me to be home in time for the funeral of my uncle.

Oops, did I catch you off guard?

I often say that if you want to create an awkward moment in a conversation, bring up death and dying.

Well, I hope you’ll read on because death and dying are a part of life. And as I become older, it seems as though I have to face this more and more. And no matter how old someone is, the loss of this person still brings up a heap of emotions. Since I have learned of the passing of a loved one from afar numerous times and then have had to pull it together for a long flight home, I’d like to share with you some tips that might help to console you or a loved one during such tender times. more »

What Kind of a Traveler Am I Anyhow? Part One: Packing

I can be a bit of a kook actually. Sometimes I’m frighteningly calm, other times I’m manic. Doesn’t traveling amplify all of our crazy, quirky, compulsive traits? Travel can be about totally letting go, but it’s also about zeroing in on the most minute details. For me, I love being in this mode of complete bipolarity when it comes to touring and discovery. But when it concerns the logistics of travel—planes and packing, for example—it can make me nuts. Or I just respond with a total laissez-faire attitude that can potentially make others around me go ballistic.

Let’s take packing. I’m from the bring-a-wide-selection-so-that-you-have-a-choice mindset. That’s totally Old School, especially with the baggage surcharges enforced by the airlines today. It’s tough though since I love to look my best when traveling and that often means switching out handbags and shoes along with a few different sweaters and a couple of coats. (We’re already approaching the limit here.) I had a near breakdown when I traveled to the east coast in September which prompted a major intervention I performed on myself (in the privacy of my bedroom, thank goodness) when I prepared for a second east coast trip in October. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I almost choked at the United counter in September when I had to pay $75. for two bags that I hadn’t even registered online. And that was just for the outbound segment. What made it worse was that I was to be spending most of my time in beach communities in Virginia Beach and The Outer Banks. How much room could a couple of bathing suits, sandals and assorted casual wear take up? This is pathetic, I thought to myself at check in. Granted I had a heavy silk dress and jacket packed in there for a wedding I was to attend (with, of course, the requisite matching sandals and bag). I was cursing my boyfriend, Steve, to myself for having urged me to take my sneakers. (Now that’s a space eater if there ever was one—who walks on the beach in sneaks anyway?) I had also thrown in my hairdryer since it appeared I might be without one for a bit. (Who travels with a hairdryer these days?) And my toiletry case ended up being the joke of our ten-day trip since it was stuffed with twenty some odd bottles (mini, but still), containing my prized potions and lotions that I presumably couldn’t live without. Now really? My God, an intervention was definitely in order. Clearly I hadn’t followed my own packing tips outlined here.

I know better. But an overflow of stress, combined with a what-the-hell kind of attitude provoked me to throw all my stuff into one suitcase, a duffle bag and two carry ons. I schlepped this proliferation of possessions from plane, to car, to another car, to taxi, to bus (yes, even on the Greyhound; read Riding the Bus), then to more car, plane and car, cursing myself the whole way. You get the idea.

I swore I’d never do that again. And so I haven’t, at least not on my October trip back east. I followed my own advice and cut my wardrobe selection in half and let it hang on door handles in my room for a few days before departure. Then I thought more about all—accessories and toiletries included—and neatly folded my trim little selection into my suitcase the morning of my departure. Phew! The intervention had worked. Plus I had registered my one bag online within the twenty-four-hour period allowed. Boy was I feeling mighty!

Suddenly I’m struck with that panicky feeling again, a strange sort of anxiety brought on by pre-departure packing plans. I’m leaving tomorrow with Steve on an almost week-long jaunt to Colorado Springs. He’s the General Manager at Mountain Lodge in Telluride and he’ll be attending the annual Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association conference at The Broadmoor. I’ll be joining him at a few events in search of story ideas and more. I already had my wardrobe planned in my head (and on my door knobs), thinking I’d draw from some combination of Rocky Mountain casual and Parisian chic. (It is The Broadmoor after all.) Then suddenly he tells me he’d like to add on a day of skiing on the return trip. “Oh, sure, sure, that’s great,” I said. But then I thought about having to pack my ski pants and ski jacket, mittens, hat, the whole shabang. I had already been wondering where my skis and ski boots were located since I didn’t see them in my storage area in Montrose, an hour and a half from where I live, when I went to pick up my winter things there ten days ago. I’ve been meaning to check my other storage area in Telluride as well as my ski locker at the mountain. My heart quickened. I’ve been on the verge of throwing Getting Ready for Ski Season: Part Two into motion, but now I need to get it into full activation mode. (Fortunately I’m already well into Getting Ready for Ski Season: Part One.)

Jeez, this is really confusing. And then I wonder how many other people go through these kinds of mind games regarding travel. Our supposedly more relaxed lifestyle of The West can be thrown a curve ball when you add on “just one day of skiing” to a business trip/elegant romantic getaway. One would think I’d be a professional traveler and could handle any scenario. When I’m in full ski instructor mode I sometimes sleep in my long underwear, get up, have breakfast, wash my face, brush my teeth and fly out the door to the mountain in near record time. But this travel combo so early in the season almost seems daunting. I take a deep breath and remember all the calming words I uttered to myself during my little intervention. Ssssh, ssssh, ssssh, stop, I say to myself. So what if I have to take two different pairs of mittens, socks and a variety of layers in order to be properly prepared for any type of weather for our one day of skiing, our maiden voyage of the ski season. I can handle it, I tell myself. And you won’t bring more than one file along with your laptop, I add on, almost as an afterthought. Can it be a fat one? I ask myself pleadingly. All right, all right.

Thankfully Steve, who travels considerably for his work, is no better than me. Actually worse, I think. On our east coast trip in September, he also checked two bags and a guitar! I’m not altogether sure what he had packed in his duffels but he mumbled something about his wetsuit and booties taking up a lot of room. Like my hairdryer, his wetsuit, booties and guitar were used only once during the entire trip. He employed his surfboard considerably more but that he leaves stashed back east. I wouldn’t think of doing a packing intervention on him. In any event, I love the fact that I travel with a guy that brings more stuff than me.

I wonder how it will be for us this trip.  I’m already beginning to feel slightly superior after my October test, despite my sporadic mind chatter that has raised some new packing insecurities.  We are driving and neither of us has to worry about baggage allotments.  Hmmmmm.  Oh dear, I sense a binge coming on.

Care-taking and Top Picks for Falmouth, MA

My New Mantra

I’ve come to know Falmouth, Massachusetts quite well these past few years. So when it came to writing about this alluring Cape Cod destination for Discovery Map, I found it hard to limit myself to just two pages of content for Falmouth, Mashpee & Woods Hole. But I did because that’s what the assignment required. Take a look at Instagram-able Places and Eat Your Way Through Falmouth, Mashpee & Woods Hole to find out some of the reasons why you should visit this beautiful New England coastal area.

So how have I come to know Falmouth so well? I am lucky enough to have a few friends that live there, however, I haven’t been able to spend much time with them. The main reason I’ve visited Falmouth a lot these past few years–especially this past year–is because of my mom’s oldest and dearest friend. Let me call her El. She’s like an aunt/second mother/good friend to me and since she doesn’t have any children–or even many family members left in her life–I’m like a daughter to her. I love her dearly and have been happy to visit her in her little Cape Cod house (and during one visit by her bedside at the hospital) numerous times in recent history to bring comfort, aid and hopefully a bit of cheer.

Autumnal Glow in Falmouth

That was my mission this past holiday weekend when I cooked up a plan to drive my mom to Falmouth and spend Thanksgiving with her best friend. Well, like most of you perhaps, I took on too much and as I digest the events of our visit, I’m sifting through and cherishing the good moments and yes, well, letting the shit go. Don’t get me wrong–we had a lovely visit and there’s plenty to savor. But dealing with two very strong-minded 84-year-old ladies suffering from an array of health issues is a tall order. Add to that all the stress that comes with holiday gatherings–no matter how small–and you’ve got a scenario best handled by the truly robust. I must admit that’s not me these days because I have been working through my own health issues.

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Basic Stupidity from United Airlines

The Supervisor and the Checkin Agent at United

With all the traveling I’ve been doing these past eighteen months–mostly going back and forth between upstate New York and Colorado–I guess I was due for a bad airline experience. Sure, I’ve had upsets this past year and a half, at least two that forced me to stay over at a connecting city because of a flight cancelled due to supposed mechanical problems. (I’m told that’s what airlines say and do these days when a plane isn’t packed to the gills.) But yesterday, I felt the full brunt of lousy customer service.

I arrived with some trepidation at the airport to check in at United for my Albany to Chicago to Denver travel itinerary. I had already received a few updates stating that my flight was delayed due to thunderstorms in Chicago. OK, that’s acceptable, that’s an act of nature that has forced me to be grounded in Chicago several times before. That’s not the fault of the airlines. These storms goofed up the arrival of the inbound flight to Albany, so I just had to take a deep breath and hope for the best.

But the real trouble began when the checkin agent told me I had to check my rolling carryon at checkin. “Are you serious?” I exclaimed. “That’s not at all what I was told.”

United’s Basic Economy

“You have a Basic Economy ticket and that’s what you have to do,” the agent replied without a hint of an apology.

I proceeded to explain to him that I knew I had a Basic Economy ticket and that’s why I packed the way I did. I booked it two months ago and checked the restrictions four times over with the agent I spoke with on the phone. (I always do check, double check to practically ad nauseam. My father was in WWII and he said that was the rule of the land–no one could afford any mistakes. And I learned well from Dad.) Since this is a new reduced fare that United recently launched, I questioned the agent up and down and then planned my strategy accordingly.

It was my understanding that I was not allowed to check a bag although I could check a carryon at the gate at the cost of $50. each way ($25. for the bag; $25. for the handling fee). I thought it odd that I’d be paying for anything at the gate but the agent I spoke with was insistent upon that. (She did have a thick accent, so in retrospect, I can only think something was lost in our ability to understand each other.)

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Restaurant Pet Peeves

Food: Hopefully the Best Part of Every Dining Experience But the Rest Matters as Well

As I prepare to head out on a five-week journey—here, there and the other place—I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for the pitfalls of travel. Yes, I love to travel. But it’s not always easy as I outlined in Traveler’s Woes: Internet Hassles, Hotel Pet Peeves and What Kind of a Traveler Am I Anyhow? Part One:  Packing. I’m also recalling the wise words of a dear friend that I elaborated on in Travel Lightly:  Something to Remember During the Busy Holiday Season and Always. Yes, it helps if you get your mind straight, if you lower expectations and anticipate that it will not always be smooth sailing. (I don’t like to manifest a negative happening, however, it does help to be pragmatic.)

I’m trying to get a handle on my packing trauma by having begun to lay out my clothing, accessories and other assorted stuff last Sunday. This allows me to contemplate my piles. It all looks good so far, however, stuffing it into my bags (one duffle, plus a carry on with wheels) will be the real challenge.

Right now I’m considering the fatigue of it all, so I better start tapping into “travel lightly”—as in light in spirit—big time.

There will inevitably be many wonderful meals out and there’s no doubt that even some of the finest establishments will trigger something in me that will make me cringe. It happens all the time. Am I a pill? Maybe. But consult my list of restaurant pet peeves and I’ll bet you’ve been irked some, too:

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18 Aug 2011, 2:53pm
Colorado Hotels & Lodging Spas The Rockies:
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Glenwood Hot Springs: Swimming and Soaking Year-Round

Summer Fun Year-Round at Glenwood Hot Springs

It’s been a great summer for hydrotherapy. With record-breaking temperatures hitting much of the country, people have been discovering more than ever the healing benefits of getting in the water. Out in the West, we’re spoiled since we have access to swimming and soaking all year long at many exciting destinations in our Rocky Mountain state. Colorado has some of the best hot springs in the country and certainly the granddaddy of them all is Glenwood Hot Springs, a natural geothermal spring with a flow rate of 143 liters per second. That’s a lot of fresh, hot mineral water for easing the stress out of your tired bones and muscles.

Best of all the Glenwood Hot Springs outdoor pool, which measures over two city blocks long, is always kept at a comfortable 90 to 93 degrees. Kids and adults love this temperature, ideal for playing on the water slide or swimming laps in the pool. For more therapeutic dunks, head to the other end of the pool where this mineral-rich water hovers around 104 degrees. Here in Colorado we’re blessed with a dry climate that renders even the hottest days perfectly pleasant. But oh, those Colorado nights. As soon as the sun slips down in the sky, there’s a chill in the air that makes soaking all the more enjoyable. And, of course, when fall and winter hit, you can really strike the right formula between hot and cold, especially if you’re lucky enough to find yourself at Glenwood Hot Springs with the snow falling down gently around you.

No wonder people have been flocking to these hot springs along the Colorado River for centuries. Originally referred to as “Yampah,” or “big medicine,” by the Ute Indians, the first known visitors to these springs, the site has always been revered for its great healing power. In 1888, the world’s largest hot springs pool was created in the newly established town of Glenwood Springs and since then, people have been traveling from all over the world to this healing wonder of the Rockies. I love how the original sandstone bathhouse and lodge, built in 1890, have been beautifully preserved and that the pool is kept nice and clean with a state-of-the-art ozone purification system.

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14 Oct 2014, 8:00pm
Being Green Food & Wine French Life Travel:
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Keurig and Company Kill My Coffee, Tea and Me

Housekeeping Trying to Get My Keurig to Work on a Recent Hotel Stay

Housekeeping Trying to Get My Keurig to Work on a Recent Hotel Stay

I’m practically on the eve of departing for a big trip to France and I’m excited about many things:  the flakey croissants that taste far superior to most sold in the U.S., the fabulous runny unpasteurized cheeses  you can’t find stateside (unless smuggled in), slightly chilled red wines such as a good Fleury, rich French stews such as a daube Provençal or a boeuf aux carottes, a savory couscous, the perfect omelet–well, you get the picture. As much as I love France for its beauty and the French for their joie de vivre, I guess I am most looking forward to their food and drink.

Coffee and tea rank tops on that list, too. I’m more of a tea drinker and the French do tea–in my humble opinion–as well as the English. By mid-morning I love a good coffee, whether it’s a creamy café au lait or an espresso ladened with lots of sugar. Yes, the French do it right at home, in restaurants, cafés and hotels. It has been a while since I was in France but last time I checked, they still hadn’t adapted the American tradition of having a coffee pot in hotel rooms. Mais non, their approach was always far more civilized and if you wanted a coffee or tea–even in small, modest hotels–they’d bring it to you. And it would be delicious, served on a little tray accompanied with cold or hot milk and often un petit pot of hot water.

For breakfast, they always gladly delivered your hot beverages to your room–with or without a basket of pâtisseries, something that is tout à fait normale, or common practice. Having breakfast in bed always has been more the norm in France than not. I’m praying that this tradition has been upheld.

If I enter a hotel room–not to mention more than one or two–and find those stupid personal coffee makers à la Keurig, I think I’ll have a fit. Who ever was so stupid to invent those devices? I had a huge experience with them on a ten-day trip this summer where they were proudly displayed at every coffee station inside and out of the rooms. I can’t tell you the aggravation I had getting them to work properly–they didn’t half the time. And if they worked, often the coffee was cold. I had a few excellent cups of coffee and tea from them but none was worth the aggravation. I even had to call housekeeping a couple of times to help out and they ended up scratching their heads.

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