A River Tour of Northern Italy

Uniworld's river cruise "Gems of Little Italy" did not disappoint. The tantalizing itinerary promised a little bit of everything: big-city excitement, art history, charming villages, extraordinary wine, and unending culinary adventures. 
We arrived, jet-lagged, early one morning at Milan Malpensa International Airport, but a quick nap at the city’s Starhotels Rosa Grand was all that was needed to incite curiosity about our new location. Milan is tremendously walkable, and we took meandered, delighted to be within a stone’s throw of Duomo Square, elegant shopping, and endless restaurants. Ten thousand steps or so later (according to one traveler’s Fitbit) we decided on an outdoor table at a cafe near the hotel and collapsed into chairs at about 6:30 p.m. Mind you, it was somewhere in the wee hours our time, but we had inadvertently labeled ourselves hopeless Americans. After several minutes, the proprietor ambled out of the back of the restaurant where he and his staff were enjoying their dinner before the official opening of the restaurant which would not come for some time. He took pity on us, however, and poured a round of Prosecco for us to enjoy while he finished his own supper.   We were finishing up our meal when the first locals arrived. Takeaways from the excellent dinner: proper dinnertime is closer to 8 p.m. and Italians never (never!) sprinkle Parmesan cheese on fish dishes, something I was told in no uncertain terms when I requested some for spaghetti and clam sauce.
The next day began with a special tour of il Duomo, the fifth largest Christian church in the world which took 600 years to build. Not surprising, when one considers the mind-boggling details contained within its walls.  For example, a  minute opening high up in the ceiling is perfectly engineered to allow a tiny beam of light in each day to produce a line on the marble floor that traces the winter and summer solstices.
The scale of Duomo is otherworldly—the cathedral seats 40,000—and was a breathtaking preamble to our visit to the nearby small church where da Vinci’s renowned Last Supper is displayed in a setting that is both intimate and accessible. The refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where the 15th-century masterpiece is housed, was appropriately hushed on the day we visited, as we absorbed the guide’s insightful interpretation of the painting’s depiction of the 12 apostles with Jesus and the meanings behind their positioning and expression.
Dinner that evening found us in the historic Biffi Ristorante, located in the famed Galleria, an emporium of designer shops. We opted for a table outside the restaurant, which facilitated world-class people-watching, from families pushing strollers and eating gelato to young lovers window shopping Prada and its displays of leather accessories.
The next day our itinerary called for a road trip via Mercedes bus to Venice, with two side trips to Verona and a famed Valpolicella wine estate. The day happened to be a holiday celebrating workers, so Verona was teeming with people who flooded the street markets and especially the famed balcony where Juliet was purported to have awaited her Romeo.
The winery at Valpolicella, however, provided a peaceful counterpoint to the Verona craziness and we disembarked happily at the owner’s 800-year-old home for a sublime luncheon. Think creamy risotto, veal shank with a side of rich layered potato slices, followed by a strawberry mousse with chocolate and almond nougat. Then pair each offering with bespoke wines, and you’ll know why more than a few travelers napped on the last leg of the journey to Venice.
Ah, Venice! The first thing that struck us was that this picturesque city is composed of 118 different islands. Is it any wonder that Venice is known for its canals and bridges? A walking tour on our first morning there took us up and down, over and under many of them on our way to the Doge’s Palace where we met one of Venice’s real gems.  
Her name is Susan Ruth Steer, and she is an art historian from England who fell in love with Venice during her education. A resident of the city for more than 20 years, she wrote her thesis and dissertation on medieval art, architecture, and Venetian altar paintings. But even better, she’s wonderfully accessible and conversational, and you feel as if you’re strolling through the world’s masterpieces with an old friend.
The Doge Palace, of course, was the seat of Venice’s sophisticated republican government and the residence of the “doge” (Italian for top dog) more than 800 years ago.  But it is also an extraordinary art gallery with jaw-dropping works by Tintoretto, Titian, Bosch, and so many others. It also provides a fascinating peek into early Venetian justice, as the prison is located here, within view of the famed “Bridge of Sighs” which the accused passed under on their way to judgment. (After touring the grim jail, we can only assume they sighed with deep remorse.)
The afternoon was spent on our riverboat, the River Countess, cruising the beautiful lagoons, before meeting up with Susan Steer once again, this time for a private visit to St. Mark’s Basilica, after hours and far from the maddening crowds.
We arrived by valporetto water taxi (“like George Clooney!”our cruise director assured us) and were ushered into the quiet elegance of the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Venice. We could have stood in the entry passageway for hours following the chronological stories of the Bible on the ceiling, but there was so much else to see. The pala d’oro, for example, is a breathtaking enameled altarpiece made up of gemstones and gold, much of which, like many treasures in the cathedral, had been plumaged during early Turkish conquests. The crypt downstairs once housed the remains of St. Mark, but due to flooding concerns, the apostle has been relocated upstairs beneath the altar.
For a change of pace, our guides took us the following day to Chioggia, a working fishing village on the Venetian lagoon. An orientation walk was offered, although the heartier travelers opted to ride bikes, and we all convened at a local restaurant for an outdoor demonstration of the harvesting of mussels. A family-style lunch of steamed mussels, pasta with clams and eggplant parmesan followed, complemented by local wines served from carafes. Chioggia is also known for its weekly market, which is more like a traveling department store. Locals can purchase everything from dresses, shoes, and underwear to pet food and local produce. The morning scene was vibrant and noisy.
It’s impossible to know Italy without knowing the food, so another side trip, this time to Bologna, featured a pasta making lesson. Bologna is a foodie’s delight, known for its exquisite bolognese sauce which is wonderful paired with fresh egg pasta or incorporated in the area’s traditional lasagna made with green lasagne noodles and a rich bechamel sauce. But Bologna is also famed for its, well, bologna. Also known as mortadella, bologna is made of finely hashed pork, mixed with a few small cubes of pork fat and flavored with spices, olives, myrtle berries, and pistachios.
Bologna, as it turns out, is also known for its exceptional medieval architecture, such as the University’s famed Anatomical Theatre and the National Gallery of Art. But be forewarned: pushing oneself away from the local tortellini or tagliatelle is not easy, no matter the cultural offerings!
Seeing Venice from a small riverboat brought home again the realization that the city is really a collection of islands. Thanks to Uniworld, these islands seemed to have been carefully culled, as the ones we visited were each extraordinary in their own right.
Take Mazzorbo, for example. Mazzorbo is the home of the “last of the golden vines” from which the Venissa vineyards produce its famous wine. A stop at the famed winery, which was resurrected in 2005 when the elusive vines were re-discovered, allowed us to sample the rich, amber colored wine, which is produced like a red wine with the skins remaining on the grapes.
Or, Burano, home of the ancient art of lace-making. It is said that lacemakers learn one stitch, and one stitch only, so that every piece produced passes through a number of dedicated hands. The table linens, clothing, and charming accessories like bookmarks are understandably temptations for visitors. But Burano itself is a feast for the eyes, as the homes along the water are all painted different bright colors. Legend has it that sailors would be gone for long periods, arrive home in the fog, and occasionally stumble into the wrong home. Knowing that they lived in the bright orange house, or the sunny yellow house, presumably made their homecomings smoother.
Finally, no trip to Venice would be complete without checking out a Murano glass factory.  We visited a very special one on the Isle of Giudecca, where our tour began with a stunning glass blowing demonstration during which an artisan very calmly blew hot liquid silica into a figure of a high stepping horse. The showroom offered infinite examples of this art for sale, from charming necklaces and pendants to ballroom-scale Murano chandeliers that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Most evenings, after a full day of touring, we returned to our riverboat for dinner, always a treat on the Uniworld line. The company buys daily in the local markets, and the result is a magazine-worthy presentation of fresh and creative offerings to suit all palates.  At breakfast, guests find traditional American omelet stations beside cutting boards laden with olive bread and pain du chocolat, tray after tray of fresh fruits, smoked salmon and capers, and punch bowls of smoothies. The lunch buffet is equally tantalizing, featuring a pasta of the day along with eye-popping salad, sandwich offerings, and the ever-popular gelato bar. Dinner follows a cocktail time in the lounge and features three choices of appetizers, entrees, and desserts.  A recent addition to some of the cruises is a pizza oven, located on the upper deck, for those nights when travelers prefer a casual dinner. Every evening ends with featured entertainment—and sometimes dancing. It makes a wonderful day.
Perhaps a cruise is not for everyone wanting to explore Italy, but for those seeking a meticulously curated itinerary, served up with excellent food and wine, Uniworld’s “Gems of Little Italy” is hard to beat. Veterans now of four excellent European river cruises, we have become fierce advocates of this style of travel. The only question remaining is “where next?” •


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Hot Spot Day Trip

Even just twenty years ago, Greenville was far from cool.  Many described it as a decaying town with few job prospects and a waning population due in large part to the mass exodus of the textile industry in the 60s. Fast-forward to today and Greenville is on fire! It is not only a hot destination but also a vibrant and bustling city boasting a fast-growing population of almost 70,000. CNN Money has ranked Greenville as one of the Top 10 Fastest Growing Cities in the U.S. while in 2017 Condé Nast Traveler ranked it as one of the best small cities in America. The secret is out, making it a great time to plan a visit to Greenville now. 
Only an hour and a half drive from Cashiers and a little more from Highlands, Greenville makes an exciting day trip (or overnight) to experience all that this vivid city has to offer. Between their array of live music, historic sites, over one hundred restaurants, festivals, and outdoor fun, this is a small city with a fast pulse.
If you arrive early enough for breakfast, make your way to Biscuit Head for one of their specialty biscuits, like their decadent pulled pork, jalapeno pimento, bacon, poached egg, and maple syrup option. In keeping with southern tradition, their biscuits are the size of a cat’s head. This small breakfast/lunch chain based in Asheville makes you break any diet in a snap, but then again Greenville is not a place to go on a diet. It’s a foodie town.
Before even thinking about your next meal, work off that biscuit by walking or biking the Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 19.9-mile scenic path created on a historic rail bed. This well-maintained, paved trail offers gentle walks or easy rides along the Reedy River and through Falls Park, a 32-acre park that runs through downtown. One of the most photographed parks in all of South Carolina, Falls Park should not be missed with its abundant lush green spaces, scenic overlooks, botanicals, waterfalls, and the architecturally renowned suspension Liberty Bridge. For bike rentals, Reedy Rides, or Sunrift can set you up for just about any outdoor sport. For more active cyclists take the Swamp Rabbit all the way to Traveler’s Rest, a tiny town nine miles away, which was once a “resting spot for weary travelers” and home to several Indian tribes.
For guided excursions, there are tours for history buffs, food lovers, and adventurers. Greenville Glides offers a popular guided Segway tour, a refreshing way to see the sites. For baseball enthusiasts, the Greenville Drive, the Class-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, plays competitively at a downtown minor league ballpark resembling Boston’s Fenway Park where spectators lounge on picnic blankets. Greenville was home to legendary baseball player “Shoeless” Joe Jackson whose one-time residence is now a memorial library and small museum.
Greenville’s very walkable downtown has a charming Main Street area chock full of outdoor cafes, specialty stores, a historic district, museums, and even a zoo. Looking for a nostalgic place to shop with kids of all sizes, look no further than Mast General Store, which is a step back in time. For trendy home décor, Vintage Now Modern on South Main is a definite stop for one-of-kind items. A few miles off of Main, West Greenville Village is an area getting a total makeover with many eclectic boutiques, coffee houses, and artisan pop-ups. 
Greenville’s devotion to food is abundant with choices to fit all tastes, budgets, and occasions. When you are ready to break for food, a favorite eatery for a relaxing wine lunch is Le Passerelle, a casual French bistro located at the base of Liberty Bridge overlooking the Falls. For a lively culinary experience try J Rz, a family-style farm-to-table Greek restaurant. Craving a burger and a draft from one of the local breweries? Stop by the gastropub called Nose Dive. If a picnic is more your style or you want to pick up some culinary specialties for home, stop at Caviar & Bananas just off Main on North Laurens Street. Post lunch, and to settle your food coma, stroll to Methodical Coffee at 101 North Main or CR Tea off of South Main for an afternoon “pick me up.”
If you can stay into the night or overnight, catch a show at the Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre which hosts everything from ballet to plays to comedic and musical acts. Theater is nothing unless paired with dinner on the town, but with the culinary mega show going on in Greenville, the decision is a difficult one. A favorite among foodies is Husk, from the James Beard Award winner Chef Sean Brock (dinner only, closed Mondays), specializing in melt-in-your-mouth southern cuisine using local ingredients. Pre- or post-theater drinks are a must-do at either the rooftop bar of SIP Whiskey and Wine or go where the locals go for craft cocktails at Ink N Ivy. 
With so many enjoyable things to see and do in Greenville, if you should need trip planning advice for bigger groups or longer stays, professional companies like Tick Tock Concierge at will plan everything for you from soup to nuts. For day-tripping-made-easy, check out for information on current events, festivals, retail and restaurant hours, and suggested itineraries. With moderate temperatures, Greenville is a year-round destination for playtime anytime with friends or family. •

Legendary Origins: Golf in Scotland

Scotland is significant to golf lovers around the world as the birthplace of the world-renowned sport. Noted as the most prized invention of Scotland, comparatively to whiskey, it draws visitors from all over the world to tour and play historic clubs that have been around for centuries. 

Golf was played in Scotland as early as the 14th century and possibly even earlier. Other countries have attempted to lay claim to the invention of the sport. However, there was one thing missing from their game formula: a hole. Driving a tiny ball through innumerable obstacles to eventually drop it into a tiny hole is a uniquely Scottish invention.

Originating on Scotland’s east coast, the game has since become part of the country’s spirit. Once the sport became popular in the 1400s, the government tried to ban the game because it took away from archery practice. Converting to the sport, King James IV helped to build upon the legends and soul of Scottish heritage. Golf had spread throughout Scotland by the beginning of the 17th centurythe same period the game was properly organized with rules of play. The national pastime is celebrated during the PGA Tour’s visit to The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which was established in 1754. Several clubs try to claim honor as the first golf club in Scotland, as several started earlier or had to move locations to create a full 18-hole course or changed names. The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers Gentlemen dates to 1744 when it was known as the Golfers of Leith. 

It was not until the 1800s that golf became an international sensation. Tourists flock to Scotland to glimpse stone-lined historic courses and play what may become the most memorable rounds of their lives. 

Where to Play When Visiting Scotland?

Old Course at St. Andrews 
Edinburgh Area

A global household name, Old Course at St. Andrews stands iconic in the world of sports as the first complete course conceived in human history. Fairways, bunkers, hills, and greens mesmerize with hues of green and gold set among picturesque stone and architectural backdrops. The Swilken Bridge on the 18th hole has adorned television spots and photographs for years. Every name in golf has left a footprint on this par 72 course. 

About St. Andrews, Scotland - As the birthplace of golf (boasting 11 courses), this seaside village northeast of Edinburgh is rooted deep in heritage and pride. With twelfth-century cathedral ruins, along with remnants from a thirteenth-century castle and dungeon, its treasured Fife coastline remains a global spectacle for nature, wildlife, arts, and culture. 

Royal Dornoch

Set amidst a village of 1,200 people, the links are storybook picture perfect. Royal Dornoch, one of the most elite courses of the world, was ranked number five globally by Golf Digest in 2016. I was honored to test my skills on The Championship Course, both a challenge and a delight. The landscape takes even the most well-traveled player’s breath away with its natural beauty and sea views. The par 70 course can add a few strokes if the wind blows across the curving bay of Dornoch Frith. Embraced by effervescent sandy beaches, majestic fairways run parallel to the shorelines across two distinct levels of ridgeline. 

About Dornoch, Scotland - Dornoch’s motto is “you can do it all from here.” It is a fairytale setting rumored to have played host to Madonna’s wedding to Guy Ritchie. While the golfers play, others may enjoy the quaint shops and cafés, or enjoy what Scotland is famous for—Scotch. If you love five-star dining, dinner at the Royal Golf Hotel is a must. The menu changes with the season, but they always offer something fresh from the sea.

West Coast

This par 70 course set amid the sandy dunes and Atlantic Ocean winds can stimulate a challenging start to your game at the private course known as Machrihanish Golf Club. The majesty of the dunes and fescue grasses play well with the cry of the seabirds at this 19th-century course. 

About Argyll, Scotland - Experience the west coast of Scotland by viewing stone castles, exploring the sea, or getting outdoors in Argyll and the Isles. With over 3,175 miles of coastline and 60 castles, there are many activities from the mountains to the shore and 15 whiskey distilleries in between. This historic area is only a 20-minute flight from Glasgow and offers three golf courses and fresh fare from the sea. Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are found here.


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California Roadtrip: Destination Big Sur

With the top down, the cool wind plays with my hair and sunshine illuminates my face. My husband happily sits behind the wheel ready for our adventure. We both breathe in the gorgeous scents that permeate the airsalt, eucalyptus, pine, and an elusive fragrance of pepper and cinnamon that we can’t identify. We later learn this heavenly aroma comes from the bay laurel tree. California, almost a country of its own, never ceases to surprise me with its vast beauty, diverse landscape, flora, and fauna.  
As our convertible cruises south from the San José airport toward Route 1, glamorously referred to as the PCH or the Pacific Coast Highway, I manage my expectations as we travel closer towards the highly regarded and much-anticipated destination of Big Sur. A bucket list item for some time, we look forward to taking in Carmel (the wine country), Pebble Beach, 17-Mile Drive, and the remote landscapes of Big Sur. Our trip reveals this and so much more. 
As we drive south, the mosaic topography slowly unfolds with deep canyons, xeric foothills, massive mountains, thick conifer forests, and copious fields of artichokes. The vistas remind us of the Scottish Isles with their dramatic cliffs, the Spanish Rioja with the golden mountain landscapes, and Tuscany with conifers like cypress, the occasional palm, and of course, vineyards. Looking up provides another nice view with the vast blue sky, golden sunshine, and the occasional endangered condor, North America’s largest land bird. 
Our four-day, three-night trip was purposefully planned for late October to avoid the crowds that traditionally flock to Monterey County and majestic Big Sur in the summer months. We base ourselves in the small charming town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, known for its artist and writer inhabitants. It sits snugly between Monterey and Big Sur, enabling us easy access to our points of interest. 
Our bespoke itinerary plans for us to be outdoors walking among the giant redwoods, the tallest measured tree species on Earth, hiking in coastal state parks, strolling on the beach admiring the natural sculptures of driftwood, and taking in a sunset or two. Aside from seeking the natural eye candy, we find art gallery hopping is almost a sport in these parts. And the same can be said for visiting vineyards in Carmel Valley or their tasting rooms in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Of course, dining on the freshest of local seafood and witnessing the allure of the quaint towns are on our checklist. 
We had imagined the drive to Big Sur, but nothing can compare you for the journey. We marvel at how the PCH tightly hugs the coastline (thank goodness for the guardrails) as enthusiastic waves pound the enormous jagged cliffs below. Big Sur’s remote landscapes take our breath away with photo ops at every turn. How did they cut a road through here in the 1960s?  
By day four, we are rewarded with beautiful memories and adventures to share. Our souls are fed, expectations exceeded and a future trip is planned already to venture further south past Big Sur to Santa Barbara.

Day 1 
Take a Delta Airlines flight out of Atlanta to San Jose International Airport, and 4.25 hours later you arrive! Drive the scenic Route 17 through beautiful Scott’s Valley and Patchen’s Pass.  
1st Stop: Walk among giant redwoods at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park (access via CA-17 S, 45 minutes from the airport and 10 minutes north of Santa Cruz). 
2nd Stop: Drive the picturesque 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach off of Route 1. Experience the Del Monte Forest, Spanish Bay, the Lone Cypress, Spyglass Golf Course, and the most famous of all sites, Pebble Beach. If time allows, have a snack on The Lodge’s terrace overlooking the Pebble Beach course. 
3rd Stop: Carmel-by-the-Sea, where you can check in at L’Auberge Carmel, a Relais & Chateaux property with rates starting at $269, or the beautiful pup-friendly Cypress Inn with rates starting at $229. 
Stroll the town taking in the quirky houses, gorgeous gardens, and shops. With the Carmel Valley Appellation nearby, you’ll find numerous wine tasting rooms all within walking distance. Pick up a bottle at Caracciolo Cellars and drop down to the beach to catch the sunset.  
Enjoy a sumptuous Italian dinner at Cassanova just a few minute walk off Main Street. 
Day 2 
1st Stop: After a morning walk on the beach or shopping in town, drive East into Carmel Valley to experience the wine country. Favorite wine stops include Cowgirl Winery, Georis, and Bernardus. Find lunch in the garden at Corkscrew Restaurant with its mission-style architecture. Try their famous Lemon Pizza! 
2nd Stop: On the way out of The Valley, stop at Folktale Winery for a lively game of giant Jenga or bocce ball while sipping wine and listening to live music. 
3rd Stop: Uber to Passionfish in Pacific Grove for dinner, which is known for their sustainable seafood and modern menus. Feast on super fresh Dungeness crab and wild-caught tuna. You will love the super low markup they put on their hard-to-find wines. 
Day 3 
Off to see the much anticipated Big Sur! 
1st Stop: Experience Point Lobos State Natural Reserve with gently sloped paths through forests of Monterey cypress and viewing points along rocky cliffs to spot sea lions, otters, seals, gray whales (December-May), cormorants, and pelicans. 
2nd Stop: If time allows, visit Garrapata State Park with two miles of beachfront and coastal hiking. 
3rd Stop: Enjoy the slow curvy drive along coastal cliffs to the famous Bixby Bridge—one of the most photographed bridges in the world. Pull off at the turnout just before the bridge to admire this 1930s massive feat of architecture. 
4th Stop: Lunch!  
Option one: Sit outside on the terrace and enjoy the long-range views of mountains and sea at The Sur House at Ventana Inn & Spa. You may spot the stunning condor, North America’s largest land bird with a 10-foot wingspan. Almost extinct, it was reintroduced into the wild in 1997 by the Ventana Wildlife Society.  

Option two: Pick up a picnic lunch at Big Sur Deli and head to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. 
5th Stop: On the return trip back to Carmel, step back in time at the Henry Miller Memorial Library, a cozy literary retreat where one can sit by the fire, read and listen to music. 
6th Stop: A quick stop just south of Carmel is Mission Ranch, an 1880s ranch beautifully restored and renovated by longtime resident Clint Eastwood. There are plenty of photo ops of sheep in the meadow, Point Lobos, and Carmel River Beach. 
7th Stop: Dinner at the snug European bistro La Bicyclette just off Main Street in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Try the charcuterie board (enough to feed a party of four). 
Day 4 
Departure: Drive the 1.5 hours north via Route 1 to the 101 back to the San Jose airport. 



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This Is How You Beach: Experiencing the laid-back luxury of Harbour Island

Imagine, pink-hued soft flour-like sand embraces your toes as you walk down a three and a half-mile turquoise water shoreline. Warm sun trickles through the fresh sea air as it glazes your cheeks. Pristine water paired with a perfect blue sky, a feast for the eyes. Does it sound like a dream? Welcome to Harbour Island. • A three-and-a-half-mile-long and mile-and-a-half wide island of the Bahamas greets with its color-popping homes perched on the hill as you approach in your water taxi transportation. Once on the dock, the sound of golf carts, sights of wild roosters, and graceful Bay Street transport you to another world. Paradise. • “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” takes on a new meaning with the island’s favorite cocktail, Goombay Smash. In an instant, you feel the charm of the island, and welcome time standing still. • It has everything, dive bars, 5-star cuisine, R&R, salt water, sun, and sand. And that’s not all. Accommodations so perfect it is hard to choose where to stay, and conversations so delightful you never want to leave. 


/ lunch. Sip Sip - Overlooking the Atlantic ocean, this is a must for lunch. Open from 11:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Wednesday - Monday, this restaurant is first come, first serve. I personally love the chili dogs here, and I don’t usually eat chili dogs. 

/ cocktails. Miami Vice at Pink Sands - There is something special about a strawberry margarita, pina colada mixed drink while overlooking the turquoise blue waves as they gently touch the shore and whisk away back out to sea. Pink Sands is the place to enjoy a beachy afternoon sun cocktail.

/ snack. Queen Conch - Fresh conch salad, need I say more? Conch prepared with lime juice and mixed fresh tomatoes and onions is the perfect snack on a hot afternoon!

/ bakery. Arthur’s Bakery  - This artisan bakery serves the best chocolate cupcakes I have ever tasted. You must try the coconut or the jalapeño cheese bread, and the mini-donuts are great as well.


/ Runaway Hill inn  - This boutique hotel overlooking the ocean is owned by hockey great Mark Messier. It is a perfect escape on the island, and you will enjoy the palm tree-lined courtyard leading to its entrance. Indulge in an in-room massage while listening to the waves kiss the shoreline.

/ The Landing - This is a boutique hotel and restaurant with inspired design by famous Ralph Lauren model India Hicks. If you don’t stay here, you must at least enjoy cocktail hour at the bar and reserve a table for dinner. The cuisine is some of the best on the island. Try the beef tenderloin or lobster ravioli, and ask to visit the “Cellar,” it offers an incredible wine selection!

/ Valentines Resort and Marina - The yacht-filled dock is beautiful at sunset. Enjoy a cocktail with the neighboring island of Eleuthera in the background at dusk or enjoy a selection from the menu at any time during the day.

/ The Rock House - Another of the island’s incredible boutique hotels. Its ambiance will make you swoon. Make reservations to dine poolside in a cabana. 


/ Sugar Mill Trading Co. - A beautiful shopping boutique owned by India Hicks. Filled with men and women’s clothing and unique gifts. Did you know India Hicks is the godchild of the late Princess Diana?

/ Gusty’s - With a sand dance floor and good music, Gusty’s is a perfect way to end your evening. 

/ Ocean Fox Diving - Whether you are a diver or a snorkeler, Jeff Fox will take you out for an amazing under-the-sea swim, and if you love to deep sea fish, the fresh tuna is the best sashimi I have ever tasted.


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The Oscars of the Food Industry

It’s no secret that the world currently has an overabundance of celebrity chefs. They put their name on everything from spatulas to dog food. In this day of blogs and YouTube, anyone can aspire to achieve celebrity status and acquire their own show (and a cult following) on the television channel that’s wholly dedicated to food. You could even say that the celebrity chef movement spawned an onslaught of celebrity psychologists, celebrity doctors, and celebrity dog trainers.
But long before reality TVbefore cooking was even a form of entertainmentAmerica was not a place that came to mind when people thought of sophisticated gastronomy. It took pioneers such as Julia Child to bring America to the forefront of gourmet cooking. Although many consider Child to be the first celebrity chef, it was a man named James Beard who hosted the first-ever televised cooking show. 
Many know his name, but few know much about him. Born in 1903, Beard emerged from a culture of microwaved TV dinners, Jell-O molds, and Spam. He was raised in the Pacific Northwest by his self-sufficient English mother, who taught him to cook the seafood and wild berries that they gathered themselves from the Oregon beach.
A fierce student of the theater, he lived abroad for several years to pursue his dream of acting at his mother’s encouragement. After eight years of failing to break into theater or movies, Beard was forced to learn to make money some other way. He started a catering business that later blossomed into a food shop called Hors d’Oeuvre, Inc. He then began what was to be a prolific career writing cookbooks (he would publish over twenty-five of them before his death in 1985). Upon his return from the war in 1945, Beard jumped right back into the culinary world, appearing on NBC in America’s first cooking show. 

“This is Sarasota Unbleached Flour. Let me tell you what unbleached means. It means untouched, unartificial, unfooled with, untampered with, unmessed with, unfiddled with, uncorrected, unperfected,” a stout James Beard matter-of-factly touts to the camera. 
This commercial for Sarasota Flour encapsulates just what made James Beard such an icon. He was one of the first to shake America from its lazy slumber of canned food and baking mixes. Some have described this period as “the death of food.” Companies had discovered the gold mine that was the American housewife and the result was a movement of factory farming, fast food, and processed food that America has yet to fully recover from. Beard railed against the idea that easy is always better. He suggested buying produce when it’s in seasona common sense idea that was revolutionary in a time when “organic” was just thought of as a type of chemical compound. 
As his ideas gained popularity, Beard established the James Beard Cooking School, with locations in New York City and Seaside, Oregon. He spent the remainder of his life writing cookbooks, traveling, and tirelessly teaching others his concepts of good food, ethically prepared with fresh ingredients. He was eventually recognized by the New York Times as the “Dean of American cookery” for his efforts in coalescing American cooking traditions into a national cuisine.
Upon his death, Julia Child urged Peter Kump, a former student of the James Beard Cooking School, to purchase Beard’s Greenwich Village brownstone and continue Beard’s legacy. Although its purpose has expanded over time, the James Beard Foundation’s core principles have remained the same as was originally stated by a press release on the day it opened in 1986: “to provide a center for the culinary arts and to continue to foster the interest James Beard inspired in all aspects of food, its preparation presentation, and of course, enjoyment.”
The foundation now hosts over 250 events annually, featuring bourgeoning chefs from all over the world. It also launched the James Beard Awards, considered to be the food industry’s highest honor and called by Time magazine “the Oscars of the food world.” For more information about James Beard or to see the James Beard Foundation’s calendar of events, visit the foundation’s website at 

Cruising the Waters: Barging through the canals of Strasbourg, France

Located near the border of Germany, the charming town of Strasbourg, France invites with its architecture, canals, and streetside cafés. According to TripAdvisor, the number one attraction is the cathedral. Victor Hugo referred to this 12th-century Gothic structure as a “light and delicate marvel.” It is breathtakingly beautiful and the views of the Rhine River from the top of Strasbourg Cathedral will linger in your heart forever. 
Find your favorite scenes casually jaunting through Strasbourg, canal to café on a private barge (captain included), or café to café, indulging in the region’s epicurean delights. 
Quickly becoming the ultimate way to explore, traveling the canals in your private hotel on the water, a luxury barge, is a one-of-a-kind experience. Whether you are seeking wine, culinary delights, hot air-ballooning, or sight-seeing, your 6-star accommodations can transport you to where you need to go. 
Strasbourg is in the region of Alsace, and home to a lovely Crémant, a bubbly produced outside of the Champagne region of France. A private tour of the vineyards is highly recommended. The area is one of France’s exceptional wine regions, producing mostly white wines such as Riesling. Follow the Route des Vins, or Wine Route, through picturesque villages like Eguisheim and Ribeauvillé for a memorable journey.
I had the opportunity to explore the canals of Strasbourg on a privately-owned barge. Upon arriving in Strasbourg, I spent the first night at Régent Petite France, a five-star boutique hotel nestled between the banks of River III and cobblestone magic in the La Petite Historic District. We filled our senses with local food and wine, wandering through cobblestone streets and unsuspecting alleyways to dine and sip at quaint bistro tables, all while feeling transported to a simpler time. 
Afternoons across the canal locks come to life at the French café courtyards serving a selection of French cheeses, foie gras, and French wine. Regional dishes derive from German culture. In Alsace, the most famous dish, choucroute garnie, is a version of German sauerkraut—a fermented cabbage cooked in white wine, beer, or cider and seasoned with juniper berries and black peppercorns and garnished with boiled potatoes and a variety of meats. This is a traditional Sunday meal.
True to Strasbourg’s ambiance, pastries are a popular delight of the area. You will find many patisseries with beautiful éclairs, tarts, macaroons, as well as the traditional kougelhopf, a brioche-type cake, often made with dried fruits and nuts, and baked in a special round, fluted pan.  
Bretzel, a large, freshly baked soft pretzel, salted or unsalted, with options such as melted cheese or accompanying smoked salmon, or even dusted with sugar for something sweet. If you are visiting in the spring, I hear the local white asparagus are something to write about. And Foie Gras d’Alsace is a local delicacy that is often found on menus.
One of my personal favorite dining experiences was in the formal dining room of Buerehiesel, a 19th-century glass atrium. It feels as though you are dining in your own private garden with the comforts of the indoors and fine cuisine. 
Strasbourg is the perfect place to take a stroll and enjoy the moments of life. The influence of German traits remains, and the flowers of Parisian springtime bloom among the storied bridges and historical clock tower. 


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Vero Beach to Asheville

Meet Elite Airways, the airline bringing weekend flight service between East Coast Central Florida and Western North Carolina. The airline originated to enhance the flying experience. With a goal to make your time flying more personal and hassle free, Elite Airways is bringing Western North Carolina and Florida travelers good news. With a new nonstop flight between Vero Beach Regional Airport (VRB) in Florida to Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) in North Carolina, residents and visitors now have the ability to travel between the two destinations Thursdays and Sundays. 
Elite airways prides itself on customer service. As a pet-friendly airline, they never charge change fees, and the first bag always flies free. Their goal is to provide a quality and memorable travel experience. 

The airline headquartered in Portland, Maine also offers service between the following cities:

Asheville, NC and Vero Beach, FL

Bimini, Bahamas and Melbourne, FL

Bimini, Bahamas and Newark, NJ

Halifax, Canada and Portland, ME

Melbourne, FL and Bimini, Bahamas

Melbourne, FL and Newark, NJ

Melbourne, FL and Portland, ME

Melbourne, FL and Sarasota/Bradenton, FL

Newark, NJ and Bimini, Bahamas

Newark, NJ and Melbourne, FL

Portland, ME and Halifax, Canada

Portland, ME and Melbourne, FL

Portland, ME and Sarasota/Bradenton, FL

Sarasota/Bradenton, FL and Melbourne, FL

Sarasota/Bradenton, FL and Portland, ME 

Vero Beach, FL - Asheville, NC

Vero Beach, FL - Newark, NJ

Chasing a Four-Generation Dream of Traditional Malt Whiskey

In Scotland, whiskey is both an artform and a part of daily life. Distilleries can be found in every nook and cranny of the country. The tastes of this spirit vary with the style and distillation process, and favorite brands are unique to personal likes and dislikes. During a recent visit to the region of Speyside, Scotland, I fell in love with a traditional single malt whiskey.

Benromach’s story is as legendary as its whiskey. A four-generation family ambition to own a distillery came true in 1993, when the Urquhart family of Gordon & MacPhail purchased Benromach to create a true handcrafted single malt whiskey. The passion for this liquid runs deep in this family, dating back to 1898 when John Urquhart started working with Scottish distiller Gordon & MacPhail. In 1915, John was named a senior partner, and the pipeline dream of owning a family distillery was born. 

His son Michael, who joined him at Gordon & MacPhail in 1933, worked hard in perfecting the single malt essence of days past. Benromach opened its doors in 1898, however when the Urquhart family purchased the distillery in 1993, it had sat empty for ten years. It was a clean canvas to create the masterpiece that the heritage of Benromach represents. 

With the use of copper stills and local Romach Hills’ spring water, the family set out to do something unheard of today, making whiskey by hand. At Benromach, they believe in a manual distillery. Every process is done manually by feel, sound, taste, and sight. Nothing happens with the machinery if the distiller does not make it happen. The process is unique to the distillery and instills a sense of pride in the makers and the product. 

Benromach uses the finest malted barley grown in Scotland, along with a combination of brewer’s yeast and distiller’s yeast in their recipes. They took what is known as a classic Speyside whiskey recipe and made it their own.

It’s obvious while touring their facility and conversing over a tasting that whiskey is their breath of life. In speaking with Distillery Manager Keith Cruickshank, his eyes brightened and spirit poured out with his words. The product packaging and the earth floor that stored their hand-filled casks offered simple, classic elegance and a natural feel that tugged at my heart and taste buds. 

Fairly new in terms of Scottish whiskey distilleries, they are certainly making a name for themselves, and were the first to create an accredited organic whiskey. With barley purchased from a local farm and environmentally friendly casks, the soft bourbon-esque whiskey has been a hit. 

My favorite single malt at the tasting was Benromach’s 15-year whiskey. Its maturity, smoky whisper finish, and deep color from the sherry cask offered a bit of dark fruit taste up front. Its sister, the 10-year, offered a stronger smoke in the nose and could be considered a good entry-level whiskey for those trying the Scottish heritage liquid for the first time.

Traditional single malt whiskey is not a commonly produced product. Blends can mature faster, offering income to distillers two or three times faster than a single malt. The Urquharts stand by the integrity of the single malt, the process, and their commitment to their values. 
Whiskey is the Urquhart’s calling, their life’s work. Each new generation to join the family business are custodians of the legeacy of their whiskey process. ◊

Portrait of Enchantment: Discovering the Curiosity of Bali

Bali. The name alone sounds exotic, yet few will become intimately connected to the magic this island invokes. Google search Bali, and a much different portrait is painted than what you will see when you arrive. If it is purely magical beaches you seek, Bali may disappoint. 
If you have adopted the term “conscious travel,” then you will fall in love with the undeniably breathtaking architectural treasures and the culture this destination provides. 
Think of New York City or a Florida surf shop beach town and Mexico, with some magic sprinkled in. The Hindu-influenced island intrigues with the daily practice of offerings. The Balinese spiritual ritual is a small box filled with flowers, incense, leaves, and often a cracker presented on the steps of entrances to stores, temples, statues, and homes. Representing gratitude or welcoming abundance, the daily offering is a reflection of the culture and simplicity of the island. 
Listed as the number one tourist destination on TripAdvisor, Bali is accepted by the Western world as the place for a yoga or meditation retreat, and to the Eastern world as a tropic holiday. The beaches near the southern half of the island are for surfing and the place the Aussie’s escape to catch the waves. Yet, in my experience, Bali is more culture than postcard bliss. 
Many have seen the movie, Eat Pray Love, and associate Bali with finding love or peace, but the  Bali portrayed in the movies is one you must seek in remote spots. This is not to say the island is not beautiful. Majestic palms and rice terraces are stunning, as is the active volcano Mount Kintamani. And I cannot forget to mention the hundreds of ornate Temples that stir you emotionally, from sheer elegance and energetic attraction. 
Flying into its capital city, Denpasar will give you Bali’s urban perspective. With the island’s rapid tourism growth in the past ten to twenty years, getting around can take some time. Something you need to be aware of when traveling to Bali: keep your New York state of mind, and take it all in, as there is beauty everywhere you look. 


Seminyak. This vibrant beach town reminds one of SoHo in New York or Brooklyn. From incredible food to boutique shopping and local discoveries it is the “now” hot spot in Bali. 


Location and comfort is my philosophy, so here are two very different suggestions:
/ W Retreat and Spa. The pool/beach area is one-of-a-kind, and the restaurant menu selections are divine. Accommodations are top-notch and customer service and security are a level above any other place in this area. 
Travel Tip: If you don’t stay at the W, visit the WooBar for drinks and food and you can use the loungers, pool, and beach access. 

/ Tony’s Villas. There are many Balinese villas in the area. If you are traveling with a budget in mind, they offer private bungalows, pool, and 24-hour room service across the street from the W and the beach. If you want to step it up, stay in their private villa with private pool for an oasis retreat.


Coffee. Revolver - Known for their coffee, they do serve light sandwiches. They close at 6pm.

Breakfast. The Shelter - Fresh, organic, and hands down my favorite spot. Try the avocado toast. 

Dine on the Beach. La Lucciola - Pasta, fresh fish, salads, good wine list. Try the duck salad. 

Out on the Town. Ginger Moon - Asian-inspired, modern eatery. Try the babi guling (suckling pig) an authentic Balinese dish. 

Rooftop Dining. Moonlite - The view is great and the fish is incredible.

All-Around Great Cuisine. W Resort (any of the restaurants) - From tapas to complete meals and an expansive drink selection, it is an easy go-to if yo u don’t want to travel far. Try the curry at Star Fish Bloo.


/ Ubud. A city about an hour north (traffic time) of Seminyak, Ubud is home to temples, silver and goldsmith shops, and nature. Plan at least a day to see the sights. 
Batuan Temple - For a small donation of $10,000 Rupiah (approximately 75 cents USD), a traditional sarong is wrapped around you, allowing you to enter the elaborate Hindu temple. 
Monkey Forest - A tropical monkey park in the middle of Ubud city center. Monkeys are literally walking, swinging, eating, playing right next to you. Entrance is $40,000 Rupiah (approximately $3 USD). It is worth seeing, however don’t look the monkeys in the eyes, and keep your belongings close, as it is not uncommon to see a monkey escaping up a tree with a new treasure. 
Tegenungan Waterfall - Escape the busy streets to the sound of nature at Bali’s second largest waterfall. It does cost $10,000 Rupiah (approximately 75 cents USD) to visit the falls. 
Bali Zoo - If you enjoy animals and want to see what Asia has to offer, a trip to the zoo may be in store. If you are looking for an exotic experience, it is a safe place to ride an elephant, approximately $50 - $80 USD to do so. 
Tegalalang Rice Terrace - This is one of the most breathtaking scenes in Bali. Take a photo, walk the terrace, or enjoy lunch overlooking the green hills. 

/ Mount Kintamani. One of two beautiful mountain peaks in the active volcano of Bali, this bicycle tour takes you 25 kilometers downhill through the real villages of Bali. Meet a family, see how they live, and enjoy the landscape of original Bali. Anyone can do it, as there is not much pedaling, but don’t forget it is downhill!

/ Hike Mount Batur. If you want to be active (2-4 hour hike) and don’t mind waking up early, do the sunrise hike at Mount Batur. The views are breathtaking. 

/ Uluwatu and Padang-Padang Beach. Uluwatu is famous for its surf. Jump in the big waves and join the many Australian surfers or watch from terraces while sipping a cocktail or enjoying the local beer, Bintang. Accessing Uluwatu can be frightening with its many steps and mysterious scenes, but worth a view and some photos. If you are looking for something more low-key, down the road is the more relaxing Padang-Padang Beach. 

/ Tannah Lot Temple. The Hindu temple is located in the water. Watch or receive a Hindu blessing or shop for a souvenir in the busy market. Sunday seems to be less crowded here.



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