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One block from the main street of Ojai, California someone with a big heart is the innkeeper of a historic home turned into an elegant bed and breakfast. Her name is Kathy Hartley. Her goal is to pamper guests while they're staying in one of seven individually decorated rooms or the 1,000 sq. ft. cottage in the garden backyard. Kathy discovered a forlorn 1874 house in need of a little love called the Moons Rest Inn. The teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing purchased the inn and renovated it to be a comfortable bed and breakfast filled with antiques and local art. Located one street away from the hub of Ojai with it's art galleries, shops, and farm to table restaurants, she changed the name to the Lavender Inn and incorporated a small spa on the property. Throughout the year, couples reserve a room for a peaceful respite…
It happened so fast. I was crunching through deep snow, the top few inches of which had turned to slush in a rare morning of sunshine, carefully placing my feet in the footsteps of those who had gone before me, as instructed by our guide, Juan. Chest heaving with the effort of climbing, I planted my right foot firmly into the snow. Suddenly my boot broke through, overbalancing me and sending me sliding down the steep slope to my right. I closed my eyes in preparation for the long fall which must surely come, but instinct took over and I ploughed my arms and legs into the wet snow, icy particles showering me like cold diamonds. I opened my eyes to see a couple of trekking poles thrusting towards me, and, grabbing hold of them, was hauled back onto the path by two strong armed members of our trekking group.…
Thursday, 01 September 2016

Heavenly Hamanasi in Belize

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Charles Darwin described the country Belize in his 1842 book, Coral Reefs of the World, as “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies.” Snorkel and diving enthusiasts appreciate the 1,000 different live species, with 500 types of fish and 100 different varieties of coral. Belize has the South Water Caye Marine Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world. Stepping into the pleasant 83 degree water, the visibility is at least 100 feet. Belize borders Guatemala, Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. This Northern Hemisphere diving area has atolls and hundreds of mangroves and coral sand islands. It’s home to one of the world’s largest populations of threatened West Indian manatees, endangered sharks and marine turtles. When two American divers and nature enthusiasts traveled to Belize in 2000, they fell in love with the beauty of the beach town, Hopkins. They enjoyed meeting the people in this English-speaking nation.…
Sunday, 01 November 2015

Airbnb in Dunedin New Zealand

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“Would you like some milk?” “What?” I replied following a pause. After the long, torturous drive from Wanaka to Dunedin, it took a while to process anything. The roads in New Zealand range from curvy to torturous to slightly suicidal, the Kiwi engineers going with the mentality of “over and around” rather than “through.” Sure, sure—over and around is a fine mentality in places like Kansas, where there’s one hill and one medium-sized lake, but with as many mountains as New Zealand’s south island has, you feel like you’re following some two-year-old’s attempt at finding a way through a restaurant menu maze. “Oh like milk from a cow? Naw, I think we’re fine.” “Are you sure?” “Yeah.” She gave me a questioning look. “Well, I guess we’ll take some.” She sure was insistent. After disappearing into her house for a moment, she returned with a bottle. “Straight from the cow,”…
Saturday, 27 December 2014

Maison 557, Siem Reap, Cambodia

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We can usually tell whether we will like a hotel by the greeting we receive when we first arrive. If the staff is prepared for us and happy to see us, it usually means they are content, well-trained, and they will take good care of us. The reception we received at Maison 557 in Siem Reap, Cambodia was cordial and welcoming. Jeff, the innkeeper, warmly greeted us when we walked through the hotel’s front gate, and he was there to help with our bags and offer us a welcome drink. He asked about our backgrounds and interests and then escorted us to our room. We felt like we had arrived at a friend’s house. We were in Siem Reap to explore the nearby temples and ruins at the Angkor complex. This former capital city of the Khmer empire is vast – extending over 75 square miles – and to do…
Monday, 01 September 2014

Goldegg, Austria

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Like a perfect soft-boiled egg---marigold orange--nestled in a hand carved wooden egg cup, Goldegg, the village, is tucked into a crease of the Austrian Alps, just south of Salzburg. You couldn’t dream up a more charming location for a healthful and relaxing vacation. Easy enough to reach by car, my husband and I chose to train it; and as our railcar rattled past brimming sunflower fields and through dark mountain tunnels, escorted on our right by the turquoise Salzach River, we snaked our way to the town of Schwartzach where we disembarked with only a smattering of others, all natives save ourselves. A wink of a taxi ride up the steep slope of a mountain delivered us to the Hotel zur Post where we were to spend the next 5 days. Perched beside a small lake overseen by the local church and castle, Goldegg could be described as a hamlet.…
Sunday, 29 June 2014

Thyme in the Country

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I was feeling like a Purdue Chicken, trapped in the four walls of my concrete New York apartment, stacked over countless others. Yes, there’s a beautiful vista outside our wall of windows...but I felt contained. Trapped. Sitting at my computer, absorbing who knows what toxic rays, with only an occasional foray into the kitchen for coffee and a snack or a bit of yoga in front of the flat screen oversized TV, I was feeling achy and depressed--too frequently. Not quite as restricted as the chicken, perhaps. And eating a better diet. But not breathing fresh air. And not getting real exercise. The thought of negotiating the elevator and then NYC traffic with my bicycle or pounding the concrete walkways (even if they were in Central Park or along the Hudson) was not appealing enough to get me outside on a clammy autumn day. What to do?! Why not get…
Bamboo Nest is the ultimate rural Thai escape It’s so far off the beaten path, in fact, that the owners, Nok and Noi, had to put in a road beyond an already remote village just so people could gain access.Nok is so sweet - she will come to pick you up anywhere in Chiang Rai and drive you back to her retreat; the airport, the bus station, a guest house, or in our case... a bar. My heart was in my throat on the last part of the journey to her land; the angle is straight up at some points and we were very close to the edge of the cliff at others. I took some relief in the fact that she drives this route twice a day!Once we arrived the relaxation began as there was not much to do besides lay in the hammock on our cottage’s porch and…
Sunday, 17 June 2012

Nanciyaga Eco-resort, Mexico

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While my wife and I were cruising the back roads of a seemingly forgotten area of Veracruz, Mexico to the Eco-resort of Nanciyaga, I marveled at the untouched landscape. Roads, although paved, were filled with blemishes inviting the tires to explode; however, this was an afterthought as many treacherous single lane roads curve around steep drop-offs. We stopped countless times to take in the picturesque views, until finally my camera’s battery ran out of juice.   We were in a race against the setting sun, wanting to stop and stare after every few bends in the road, opening itself up to a new view, a new thought, a new adventure. Fruit orchards were massive, placed sporadically in the distance also near enough to reach out from the window to pluck a perfectly grown orange, among other fruits. Sugarcane was being hauled to the nearest city by a fleet of large…
Monday, 23 April 2012

A “Kashmir” in Dharamsala

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Kashmir Cottage, contrary to what the name suggests, is located not in Kashmir but at the end of a sleepy road turning left off the main thoroughfare connecting McLeod Ganj, or Molo Ganj as it is known to the local Tibetan population, and the main town of Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh. The road branching off to the cottage is narrow and winding; with thick vegetation on both sides and nearer to the cottage you are met by signs of ‘Slow Down Children Playing’, ‘Mind the Flowers’ and ‘No Horn’.  The relevance of these signs, urging one to be sober in general, becomes apparent when one realizes the claim to fame of the Kashmir Cottage – this used to be the residence of the 14th Dalai Lama’s mother, Dekyi Tsering. Now, it is owned and run as a guest house by the Dalai Lama’s sister-in-law, Rinchen Khando Choegyal and the youngest…

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