Monday, February 24, 2014

Nature-Centered Girlfriend Getaways Near New York City

As a woman, maintaining a tight bond with my girlfriends is a priority. But, sometimes our everyday lives are so frenzied with the needs of kids, partners,and colleagues that email, texting and video chats have taken the place of face-to-face sharing. Instead of attempting to schedule and reschedule Sunday brunch with your best friends only to find that electronic devices are still too tempting a distraction, why not plan a girlfriend getaway oh-so-close to New York City?
No, this isn't all about endless shopping sprees or consuming large quantities of alcohol. Sure, you'll be putting your usual responsibilities on the back burner, but you'll be focusing on activities that will nurture your body, mind and spirit. To me that means sipping fine wines, sampling exquisite cuisine, relishing a therapeutic massage and, tree hugger that I am, embracing nature-focused activities.

My favorite spots in the Northeast that are ideal for a girlfriend getaway include St. Michaels, RI, Litchfield Hills, CT, Finger Lakes Region, NY, New Hope, PA and Newport, RI. The farthest away is the Finger Lakes Region, the closest is New Hope. But each offers abundant opportunities to reconnect with the women that brighten your life.

I recently wrote an article on girlfriend getaways for offMetro, the online travel guide for native New Yorkers or visitors to the Big Apple alike.
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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Solo Travel Safety Tips + Much More

I'm a slim packer. Whether I'm traveling for eight weeks or eight days, I only carry a backpack and a fanny pack that doubles as a shoulder bag. In order to do this efficiently, there are certain items I bring on every trip, such as a large, cashmere pashmina that serves several functions, including as a blanket on the or, when rolled up, as a lumbar support on the plane.

These are some of the many things you'll learn from an interview I just did with Flavours Holidays, a cool travel agency specializing in cooking, painting, and Pilates vacations in Italy.

You'll learn about some of my personal security tips when I'm traveling alone. For example,  if you ever carry a pursse, never ever hang it over your chair in a bar or restaurant or even place it between your feet on the floor. Find out the security situation of your destination neighborhood by speaking with women business owners in the area.

And, then there's one of my most memorable experiences: a fun, informative and exciting trip down the Amazon with International Expeditions where I met the best naturalist guide ever. You'll find out about what makes him so stellar in this interview, as well as much more information on how I plan my trips, and the circuitous course I took to becoming a travel writer.
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Friday, February 14, 2014

A Scenic Spiritual Retreat In Maine

My travels aren't always filled with joy. When a good friend and colleague recently and suddenly passed away, I needed time to grieve and reflect in a natural setting, which, for me, is the most therapeutic. Luckily, I found the Marie Joseph Spiritual Center in Biddeford Pool along Maine's south coast.

Though the seaside location fronting a long stretch of sugary sand couldn't be beat, this property is solely for those who desire a spiritually-focused time for reflection.

The behemoth castle-resembling building dates from the 1890s when it was a major hotel resort that later fell on tough times, transforming first into a girls boarding school in 1948, and much later, in the 1970s, into an adult learning center, a nursing school and finally into this spiritual center run by the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary. But men and women of all faiths are welcome at this peaceful oasis.

I spent my time taking long, contemplative beach walks, jogging a short loop to East Point and back, bird watching, meditating while gazing at one of two ponds, and mindfully eating simple but flavorful meals, often outside at one of several picnic tables set beside shade trees. (When there is a silent retreat going on at this spiritual center, then no talking is allowed at designated meal times, which is why I chose to eat outside.) There are no embellishments here, but none are needed. My room was spare but comfy with bathrooms down the hall. But, then, I spent little time in my room because I enjoyed the comfort of nature.

And, for those who do prefer to reflect in a more formal way, you can attend morning or evening prayers in the chapel as well as mass and also the afternoon rosary.
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Friday, February 7, 2014

Gear Review: Studded Snow Tires For Your Feet - Winter Footwear

Another week, another ice storm. That's what New Yorkers, like myself, have faced since Christmas. But this week is different. No, the streets are not ice free. In fact, they're slicker than ever, thanks to a recent snowstorm that dumped five-plus inches, followed by rain, followed by sub-freezing temperatures. No, this week is different because I feel like shouting "Houston, We have traction," in the fashion of a successful NASA mission. You're probably wondering if all this snow has frozen my brain. My glee comes from a product I decided to review that, as they say, puts "studded snow tires" on my feet! Welcome to the world of the STABILicers Lite Walker by 32North.

These are made of ultra light rubber with steel cleats. The boots I tend to wear all winter are North Face and, though they are comfy and warm no matter how low the mercury drops, the sole doesn't grip packed snow or ice. In fact, I feel like I've been wearing ice skates this winter.

With friends and colleagues falling in the middle of busy streets and on ice-coated sidewalks, I jumped at the opportunity to test this product this week when the sidewalks were the iciest. And that's why I've been declaring "We've got traction."

It takes seconds to pull the cleats on over the sole of my boots (or shoes) and seconds to remove them, roll them up and tuck them in my bag.  In fact, they're so light, I forgot they were in my bag. While wearing them -- and they come in five different colors -- I walked confidently at my usual brisk pace over hard-packed snow and ice while those around me, of course, fell. No problem wearing them on asphalt or dirt, either. The big problem, though, is that you can't walk across any polished surface, like tile or marble. The cardboard insert did mention this, but I somehow didn't read it and accidentally walked across a sidewalk surface that was polished. Bad news. Very slippery. But that's the only caveat with this product that I intend to carry with me until spring. Ice storm in spring? I sure hope not.
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