Even in the winter months, there are plenty of great opportunities in Charleston, South Carolina for catching fish either on the fly or with a spinning rod. A friend and I caught about 15 of these redfish. Good times!
In the days leading up to departure to Sayulita, Mexico, I had purposely repressed any potentially misguided excitement. Reason:I had no clear indication as to whether it would be one of those propped up touristy towns, or one that has actually preserved some semblance of authenticity? I’ve been to a few other places in Mexico, as well as Costa Rica and Peru. Sometimes culture will stand up and shake its rattle at you. Other times it is disappointingly absent or smothered. But after arriving at the Puerto Vallarta airport and promptly being whisked north to Sayulita, I began to think that I was going to be pleasantly surprised.
Upon waking the next morning and gazing up towards the jungle covered mountains, and then out towards the deep blue Pacific, I still reserved final judgement. I needed to have a good look around what appeared to be a rather quaint little town tucked into a big sweeping bay. As I walked the stone streets I passed by the Escuela where children played in their black and white Catholic attire. Outside the walls women swept the street. A man rode by shouting, “Camarones!” while flashing a large one by the tentacles. Crossing the river I could see surfers moving across the reef.
Sayulita turned out to be a wonderful little stop off by the sea. The locals have not only managed to preserve their town as best as they can, but they are quite warm to tourists as they seem to recognize their contributions to the economy. There are wonderful galleries and restaurants and recreational activities abound. I happened to be there during their Mexican Revolution Day, and I have a vivid memory of watching a fantastic music performance in the square downtown after a colorful parade. None of that mariachi crap you always think of but instead men, for example, adeptly playing clarinets in plain clothes while friends and townspeople cheered and danced along.
Just south of Sayulita is Punta Mita which offers several surf breaks composed of both reef and sand. During the winter months whales migrate through the area, and it is common to see them close to shore. Fishing is excellent and there is no shortage of boats and captains strewn across the bay waiting to take you out for a chance at hooking up. There are day trips available that run the gamut from mountain biking to bird watching. It is all there if you want it, including a comfy chair, warm sand and a view for when you are not up for much of anything.
Would I go back? Absolutamente!
Conveniently located next to the Blue Ridge Parkway and just 8 miles from Waynesville, North Carolina stands the quaint and majestic 100-year-old Balsam Mountain Inn. Sporting 50 bead board rooms complete with claw foot tubs and a decidedly mountain cottage-style feel, reservations include breakfast and as much rocking in the rocking chair as you desire. Dinner is also available onsite if you choose not to venture out. If you do, the Frogs Leap Public House is an excellent choice. Of course, there is plenty of access to hiking, kayaking, and exploring Smoky National Park.
Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Award for “Top City in the U.S.” recently went to my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. Stephen Colbert accepted the award on behalf of THE City.
Just back from Boston. Charming city with much more to do than I had time for, unfortunately. But I did manage to trek the Freedom Trail, which is a must for any first-time visitor.
The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red-brick walking trail that leads you to 16 nationally significant historic sites, every one an authentic American treasure. Preserved and dedicated by the citizens of Boston in 1958, when the wrecking ball threatened, the Freedom Trail today is a unique collection of museums, churches, meeting houses, burying grounds, parks, a ship, and historic markers that tell the story of the American Revolution and beyond.
Was recently in Phoenix, Arizona for the Suburban Newspapers of America Fall 2011 Conference. It was nice to catch up with clients and visit with a few new prospects.
Newspapers are exploring Groupon-esque and Daily Deal strategies to further monetize their existing web presence and corresponding connection to their local communities. There were some interesting approaches that are delivering strong ROIs and capturing solid customer data.
The conference was held at the Tapatio Cliffs Resort. At the top of the hill there is a rather nice restaurant called Pointe of View – aptly named. Nice resort overall even if it is a $50 cab ride from the airport.
This was not my first time to Paris, so I had no interest in battling it out for a hunchback’s view of Notre Dame, or elbowing my way towards the gaze of Momma Lisa. Instead, I did the Louvre on roller skates and then spent the rest of the time poking around arrondissements, riding bikes and running on the Seine.
I threw enough Euro around to feed a small village, and www.agapesubstance.com was no exception. But it was worth every unfair conversion because, well, it is Paris and there simply is no other.
Tip: Stay in the St Germaine district.
After a few wonderful days in Paris it was off on the train to Aix-en-Provence where a rental car was commandeered and put in to perpetual motion around one particular roundabout. Signs for Marseilles, Aix and Avignon passed by repeatedly. The Earth traveled around the sun and then the car was shot in to the gravitational pull of another roundabout.
Tip 1: Get a rental car with GPS, roadmap and a guide book specific to the Provence region.
Tip 2: Always be clear about what side of Aix you are leaving from and relate it to where you are going. Highway exits where you can turn around are not as predominant as they are in the U.S.
Tip 3: There is a parking garage on the south end of town as you enter – use it.
Tip 4: Musée Granet is worth a visit to get a good understanding of what life was like in Aix in the early days, as well as see some of the works of Cézanne, Picasso and others.
Eventually a village with a name that stands for putrid or rotten flesh appeared in the headlights. The Romans obliterated a few testy Galls at the base of Saint-Victoire in 100 B.C. Unfortunately Cézanne was not alive yet to catalogue the blow by blow, but apparently they started to stink up the place and the name Pourrières was born.
Tip: There is no reason to stay in Pourrières but there are some great vineyards to visit in close proximity, and the trailhead to hike Saint-Victoire is nearby.
Lacoste & Bonnieux
The Marquis de Sade called this area home and settled in a little
hilltop village called Lacoste. Interestingly enough, the Savannah College of Art and Design recently did as well. The best route to the ruins is walking through the village. His chateau also serves as a museum of modern art and there are some provocative sculptures and installations.
The nearby village of Bonnieux is also well worth a visit if not simply for lunch and a stroll to the top of the hill.
Tip: There is great road and mountain biking in this area.
Picasso purchased a not-so-shabby chateau in the nearby village of
Vauvenargues; in fact, he’s buried on the grounds. I know, I know, he’s gotten to be a bit of a cliché, but it is for good reason. The man was a master of many mediums, and you will certainly appreciate them here.
Tip: You must schedule a tour ahead of time as they do fill up.
If you want to look headlong in to Mary Magdalene’s eye sockets then this is the town to visit. I’m not buying the oarless floating boat fable, but it is purported to be Jesus’s very mother that is entombed at the Basilique, which was constructed in the 1200s. The religious fervor extends not only to the beautiful architecture of this cathedral but also to the Sainte-Baume mountains where you will find a spirited walk up to a cave containing another place of worship. The views are gorgeous and granite is all around.
Tip: Another 1.5 km from the cave and you are presented with panoramic views of the Mediterranean.
I regret not having made it to Arles, Avignon, Cassis, and about a billion other places, but I think we often forget to actually relax on our vacations. I did not forget. Keep in mind there are some wonderful wineries in the Provence region, and plenty of cafes and street corners to sit back and soak it all in.
Upon returning to Paris, I was struck by the deep connection to America. Not only are there prominent statues, for example, of Washington and Jefferson, but we share many common bonds when it comes to revolution, liberty and education. In the 1800s many Americans traveled to Paris and the Sarbonne to learn more about medicine and architecture. The Brooklyn Bridge and a myriad of medical procedures wouldn’t exist without the French. Chances are we would not have won the Revolutionary War without them.
So any of you still eating freedom fries, get over it.