Photo by Trey Ratcliff

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Gear Review: Slick Looking but Non-Slip Water Worthy Shoes

When I do a restaurant review, I’ve found that even top-tier restaurants often fail on the desserts. Everything from appetizers to entrees are creatively prepared with surprising flavors and textures, but the desserts almost always revolve around the tried and true: cheesecake, creme brulee, molten or a dense chocolate cake, and ice cream or sorbet. This analogy seems to hold for shoe manufacturers. Everything about shoe aesthetics, form and function seem to hold up until you deal with the sole. Specifically, I’m referring to soles that are constructed of materials with no traction whatsoever, making it unsafe to walk across a slick, wet surface. This can be a metallic embellishment on a pavement, or a marble floor in a hotel, or a wooden floor that’s just been mopped. In all these cases, even a good-looking, high-priced shoe fails, leaving the consumer off balance. As a traveler who walks exceedingly briskly, I’m always in the market for a fashionable, functional shoe with a sticky sole. Astral to the rescue.

I just found out about this company that manufactures shoes. which all have a sticky outsole made with a rubber that provides significant grip. And that’s the case even for their stylish Mary Janes and even their flip-flops. In addition, Astral’s shoes are designed to hold up even in a drenching rain. Another plus is that the company is committed to sustainability.

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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Chattanooga, Tennessee in Pictures

Say "Chattanooga" and the first thing most people think of is Choo Choo. Not me. I think contemporary art, beyond the Hunter Museum of American Art. Two sculpture gardens: one in the Bluff View Art District and the other is a short bike ride away: Sculpture Fields in Montague Park, are both worth a visit. But there's art whether sculptures or murals along Main Street or MLK Boulevard or in several smaller galleries all over town. This YouTube video slideshow is a window into Chattanooga's edgy art scene.

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Artisan Chocolates in the Finger Lakes

Wherever in the world I happen to be, there are several things I make it my point to find: parks or gardens, coffee shops, wine bars and chocolate emporia. The Finger Lakes region of New York State has all of these. But, one of the most memorable experience of my visit was sampling the artisan chocolates Claire Benjamin creates at her shop: Rue Claire Lavender Farm & Artisan Chocolates.  It's such an atmospheric place inside and out that I felt I had momentarily been transported to France. This is my article I recently wrote for ForbesLife.

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

More Travel Health Myths

When I travel, I’m often shocked by the myriad old wives tales, myths and down-home health advice that persist, even among some of the savviest people. On one of my recent trips, when I sat down to lunch with my guide, I was a little surprised to see him order a shot of whiskey, something he ended up doing before every meal! I finally asked what was up with this? He replied: “I do it to prevent getting a stomach flu from eating bad food.”  I recently wrote an article for Berkeley Wellness, a collaboration with the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health on travel health myths and misconceptions, including whether drinking alcohol can prevent gastrointestinal woes.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Gear Review: Lightweight + Organic Cotton Tunic

When I pack for a trip, I want clothes that are lightweight, perform well and look good. Anything to do with sustainability would be a bonus. So I’m happy to have just discovered Aventura Clothing Their ethic is revolves around using cotton that’s organically farmed and doing as much as possible to reduce their carbon footprint. I recently tried their Newberry shirt, a comfortable flannel fabric that’s actually a tunic, and one that pairs well with a pair of leggings. (It’s 100% organic cotton.) This works well as a practical outfit on the plane. If it gets too warm, you can roll up  the sleeves, fastening them with the buttoned tabs. And, though many women may wear their male partner’s flannel shirt around the house, this tunic has a feminine silhouette, complete with decorative buttons on the back.

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

How to Choose a Biking/Hiking/Walking Tour

Who wants an unexpected and unpleasant surprise on a biking, hiking or walking tour? I’ve signed up on numerous active adventures, some solo, others with a friend, and sometimes with a group and a guide. But, on any of these, untoward things can occur, including finding out that the roads are in poor conditions, the bikes don’t have low enough gears, the terrain is more mountainous than you imagined, wildlife roams free on the roads, the list can go on. A romantic hiking tour in Italy may leave little time for stress-free romps through wildflower-laden meadows or espresso breaks with the locals because of the hair-raising and heart-pounding treks up precipitous paths in the Dolomite Mountains. How do you assure that the tour you signed up with is what suits your needs and interests? Check out this article I wrote for Berkeley Wellness so that you’re not unpleasantly surprised on your next adventure.

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Gear Review: Yeti Rambler Mug

Whether you're going car camping, headed to the beach, or an outdoor event, this mug -- the Yeti Rambler -- can keep cocoa and coffee hot or water cold for some four to five hours or so. A lot of people may already be familiar with the ever popular Yeti coolers that are over-engineered in a good way. (No wonder they're so pricey.) The mug runs around $24 and it weighs some 14 ounces, not light. But any mug that performs so well -- and looks good -- may be worth it. It's comfortable in your hands, has a wide mouth so it's perfect for soups, stews or chili, is durable and can be easily cleaned in the dishwasher. It's made from heavy gauge steel and has a double-wall vacuum insulation.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Reykjanes, Iceland in Pictures

Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula is a magical place that few visitors ever really see because, after arriving at Keflavik Airport and maybe stopping at the Blue Lagoon, they zoom into downtown Reykjavik. Too bad, because they're missing dramatic scenes. Reykjanes is rife with plumes of steam and bubbling mud pools, from geothermal activity, as well as otherworldly craters, fissures and stacks of lava. Even a sandy beach! And a "ghost" ship that had long washed ashore after the violent surf hit the rocky coastline. This YouTube video slideshow provides a window into this under-appreciated landscape that's worth many days of exploration.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Packing Light for Winter Travels

Visiting Greenland in the fall with only a carry-on weekender tote bag for five days of travel seems impossible. But not for someone like me who never checks luggage. I simply wore  my heaviest clothing -- including boots -- on the plane. (I removed these as soon as I was seated; rolling them into an ultra-light tote bag that I then used as a pillow. Below are some of the heaviest items, including a wool hoodie, two jackets -- one fleece and one insulated -- and the snow boots that have cleats. I also wore black leggings, a Merino wool sleeveless dress and a Merino wool long-sleeved shirt. In my bag I packed one pair of winter pants, two tee shirts, a rain jacket, several pair of wool socks, two pair of Ex-Officio underwear, three wool skirts, and two Merino wool long-sleeved shirts. Aside from the clothing, I packed my first-aid kit, a zip-lock with liquids (shampoo, toothpaste, body wash, deodorant). My small personal bag -- a tiny backpack -- contained my iPad, camera, notebook, and all of the personal in-flight items I recently blogged about here. When my flight landed, I was the only passenger who didn't have to wait at the carousel for my luggage.

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