Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Travel Favorites of 2015

What a whirlwind of travel experiences that 2015 ushered in! As I look back over the year, it feels like I stuffed two years worth of adventures into one. I traveled to 11 different destinations and I'm grateful for the sights, sensations and memories that will always be with me. I can't adequately list every single favorite experience because there were so many but here are the standouts: Walking through the cold and rainy cobblestone streets of the Czech Republic and being dazzled by the fairy tale scenery, like in the UNESCO town of Telc, pictured above. I strolled through castles dating from the 9th century,ate dinner with singing Czech miners and explored the oldest and best preserved Jewish quarter outside of Israel. And that's just a few of my Czech memories.

The colors and vibrant culture of Guatemala immediately grabbed me, there was so much history and life, everywhere I turned. I climbed my third volcano, sampled classic Guatemalan ciusine and met Liria, shown above, a Mayan Nana (female shaman) who delivered a message from my grandmother that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

I returned to my sweet Jamaica and had the honor of visiting Bob Marley's Kingston house and Nanny Town, the Maroon Village high in the hills of Portland that was settled by Jamaican freedom fighter and national hero, Nanny. 

I sailed a stalled cruise ship (stuck for 24 hours) and landed on the Bahamian out island of Bimini by sea plane. The striking blue of the sea and sky surrounded everything on the island, including the homes of Adam Clayton Powell, Ernest Hemingway and the legendary Fountain of Youth.

My first trip of the year unfolded in Stockholm, where I learned about Swedish design and culture and met fellow journalists from India, China, Japan and Turkey. It snowed every day but Stockholm was still warmer than Chicago.

Memphis is always a good idea and I gorged on music history with visits to the Stax Museum, The Blues Hall of Fame, Beale Street, The Rock N Soul Museum and the newly opened Tina Turner Museum, shown above. The museum is located inside the one-room schoolhouse that Tina attended,

I will never get enough of St. Lucia and this year's visit allowed me to see another perspective of the stunning landscape with a stay at the iconic Anse Chastanet Resort which boasts only three walls, for up-close views. I also hiked Tet Paul Nature Trail, which rewarded me with visions like the one above and went jungle biking for the first time.

The wild and beautiful landscape of the Yukon will always be symbolized for me by Caveman Bill, shown above. I wandered the streets of Dawson City with Aussie blogger Lorraine, searching for the elusive local who lives in a cave. We found him and he took us in a boat to see the cave he's lived in for 20 years. Only in the Yukon. Here's to more adventures and fascinating new friends in 2016! What were your favorite travel memories for 2015?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Living High in St. Lucia

One of the most unforgettable experiences that I've had in St. Lucia is being enveloped by the beauty.  Being surrounded by turquoise-colored water,soaring mountain peaks and lush vegetation all at once fills all of my senses. I never have to do anything in St. Lucia, just partaking of the natural wonders is enough. So when I was invited to Anse Chastanet, the famous St. Lucia resort carved into cliffs, I was ecstatic. What better way to experience the island's assets than up close and personal?

Besides offering stunning views, many of the resort's rooms have only three walls, so that you can be completely connected to the landscape. This was my room, complete with a swing and a homemade bottle of T-punch in the fridge. I think staying in this room was the closest I've come to being hypnotized. I sat on the swing, sipping punch and gazing out at the view for hours.

When I managed to tear myself away from the view, I just wandered around the lovely room. I've slept under mosquito netting before but never on a four poster bed with billowing panels that close on both sides. I was completely wrapped in the netting with a fan on the roof of the bed. It was such fun, although it took me several attempts to find the opening in the netting to get out of bed!

But the coolest thing about my room besides the singular view, was the tree in the middle of  the shower. The room was built around the tree, which rose up through the roof. Birds hung out in my bathroom and when a storm started, raindrops from outside poured down the sides of the shower, sprinkling the plants. It was like living with the landscape but way better than camping. I'm not usually focused on hotel accommodations because I like to spend as much time as possible connecting with the destination but at Anse Chastanet, the destination and the accommodations are one.