The most expensive vacation of my life. And worth every dollar.

We loaded up the SUV with the family one early Friday morning over Labor Day weekend and began our journey from Las Vegas for our first Southern Utah vacation.  As we wound our way up through SR 14, just outside of Cedar City, we came upon these towering bright red, pink, and orange rock formations of Cedar Breaks National Monument. The Indians called this millions of years old formation the “Circle of Painted Cliffs.”  After taking in the beautiful rocks, we continued our journey up to the peak of the mountain pass. Once we reached the summit I checked my altitude smartphone app and it read 10,020 ft. We rolled down the windows to inhale the crystal clear air and the aroma of subtle pine – and you can definitely feel the thin air at that altitude.

As we began our descent from the peak, we viewed the diversity of the Southern Utah landscapes as we passed by giant volcanic fields, birch and aspen trees, as well as alpine lakes and streams. We made a quick stop just before Duck Creek Village to watch a fly fisherman reel in a beautiful rainbow trout. As we made our way to our vacation rental we could see a family enjoying an ATV ride though the marked trails of the Dixie National Forest and knew that would soon be our family on our own ATV adventure. Once we arrived at our vacation rental we looked over into the pasture of the estate and saw a herd of wild Mule deer doe’s with their babies making their way to drink from the onsite watering pond.

Jordan, the onsite caretaker, welcomed us as we pulled up to the estate. He opened the front door to begin a tour of the home. That seemed secondary at the moment; we stood there in the great room and admired the breath taking views of the Dixie National Forest and Bryce Canyon though the large picture windows. It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you are surrounded by the natural art that God has created for us to experience. The kids quickly made their way to the deck to see the deer come to the pond and feeders. I thought the squeals of the excitement from the kids would scare them off, but it only caused them to take a quick glance and they went about their business. The home is amazing, it has everything you would want for five star accommodations and the craftsmanship of this large log home is exceptional to see.

I could write a book about the details of the experience we had over the 3 days we stayed, but to make a long story short, we rode ATV’s directly from the property, hiked the trails of Bryce and Zion, fed the horses, collected fresh eggs for breakfast from the chicken coup, picked fresh vegetables from the garden, roasted smore’s over the firepit, enjoyed a glass of wine at sundown with my wife in the hot tub, and cooked some amazing food on the bbq. It was a bonding experience for my family that we will never forget.

So you may be wondering why this was the most expensive vacation of my life? It’s a special place that profoundly impacted me and my family so we decided we wanted a place to call our own. We bought a lot just across the ridge and are planning to build our own mountain retreat this spring.

What’s So Special About Off-Season Travel?

By Kathryn Lynden | Travelog

Well, I just returned from Cabo san Lucas, Mexico and what is so amazing about off-season travel is the access to everything.

No Line at Customs

To start there are no lines at Customs, you walk right through.

Access to Everything

Second, you can actually wake up in the morning and figure out what you may want to do that day! Everything is available to you from fishing expeditions, to zip lines, to horseback riding on the beach, to surf lessons and boat rides to picnic on secluded beaches. No need to decide beforehand, just call the day of and off you go!

Local Host Spends Time with You

The Concierge Team at Palmilla Retreat, Paul & Evelyn, had time to spend with us. He offered to take us to a local restaurant for dinner. I mean local. We agreed! I had never been in Los Cabo during a storm and that night it decided to rain — sideways, with the winds whipping. Paul arrived to pick us up and I asked him if the restaurant had an inside area. He looked at me funny and said, “Of course not.” I ran back into my villa to get my umbrella. We arrived and the restaurant had plastic tarps overhead that were cascading water down the sides. The waiters shoe-surfed to our table to take our order. We actually saw one waiter go down — guacamole and chips went flying everywhere! The guitar player never stopped playing even though he was soaking wet. As I tied my umbrella to my chair to keep myself dry, I ate the best self-made tacos I had ever tasted – sliced cactus and all!

Fractional Ownership Amenities Abound

At Palmilla Retreat, as one of our shared owners, you have access to the exclusive Beach Club 96 and a brand new world-class Fitness Center, Espiritu. They were both empty….chaise lounge chairs to be found, the lap pool to myself, and a massage whenever I wanted one. They suggested I order room service to the villa!

It’s Cheap

But the best thing is how cheap it is compared to high season….an exceptional, memorable vacation for a fraction of the cost. I just loved it.

You can have this type of off-season experience at any of our Elite homes – take a look.

Happy traveling!

Elite Destination Homes

What’s on your Bucket List?

By Kathryn Lynden | Travelog

I recently have discovered the beauty of weekend get-aways.  I pack up my bag on Friday night and leave town for just a few days.  I come back to work on Monday full of stories and refreshed from getting out of the normal weekend routine.  Okay, I will admit, I am a little tired…but it is worth it!

By doing these weekend trips, I am finally crossing off some of the items on my bucket list. Take a look.

Riding a mechanical bull

I actually did it!  As the professional bull rider hoisted me up onto the bull he was rattling off a myriad of tips with the final one being “If you put your legs around it’s neck… you might stay on longer.”  So, I wrapped my legs around it’s neck, put one hand over my head… and….. well…. by 30 seconds in, I was hugging that bull with every single thing I possibly could and by 45 seconds my head whipped around so fast, my entire body flew off!  Once I realized I was still in one piece – I got up – brushed myself off and made a decision that that was a once in a lifetime activity!

Experiencing the Indy 500 Time Trials

So, I am not a Nascar gal.  In fact, I could not name any of the famous drivers except Andretti. But, it was on my list.  I ended up at the Indy 500 Time Trials one week before the actual race.  What was so great about going to the Trials is that it was not crowded.  I was able to get really close the race cars and chat with the pit crews!  I changed locations in the stadium at least 5 times and I bought the obligatory Indy 500 shirt that you end up wearing as pajamas!  I could not believe how many international drivers there were, and to my surprise – 3 women – my favorite was Ana, from Brazil, driving her very cute blue and yellow car.  The day ended with dancing to a band called the Mummies, imagine it – mummy wrapped horn players, drummers and lead singers…crazy, but very fun!

Hiking in the Poconos

What?  The Poconos?  I never dreamt of going to the Poconos, but between the cascading waterfalls, the well-groomed hiking trails and the “Tickle My Pig” BBQ shack, this part of the United States makes for a delightful weekend trip.   So, I added it to my bucket list and was able to immediately cross it off with delight!

So, what is on your bucket list?  Could we help facilitate any of your dreams in our beautiful homes?

  • Girls shopping trip to Paris
  • Hand gliding off a mountain top
  • Hiking the Redwoods
  • Culinary classes in Italy
  • Discovering the Sonoma Wineries
  • Jet skiing on a mountain lake

With Summer coming  — just leave town for a few days. You won’t regret it!

Happy travels — Kathryn

Elite added value to my real estate.

“Elite quickly and efficiently brought my Vineyard Estate home to a level it would have taken me much longer to achieve, and that includes rental revenue.  Guests love their experience here.  Elite added value to my real estate.”
– Mike F, Owner in Sonoma County, CA

“It’s a wonderful dream, isn’t it?”

By Bill Bisanz | Los Cabos, Mexico

Those were the words my companion uttered from the edge of the infinity pool at Las Ventanas mere hours after we arrived in Cabo. I followed her gaze past the white sand beach and into the glistening Sea of Cortez in time to catch a glimpse of a glossy blue whale breach and slip back into the ocean.

It is wonderful, but it’s not a dream, I thought. Then I pinched her just to prove it.

Paul picked us up at the airport and kept a running commentary on the landscape and history of this end of the Baja peninsula. He included restaurant and club recommendations and when he delivered us down the majestic drive-way to the stone gates of Las Ventanas, unloaded our luggage, and explained that our rental car would shortly arrive at our villa, my hard-to-impress friend winked and smiled at me. She was pleased, and over the course of the next hour, from the fresh limeade we were offered as we stepped across the threshold of the incredible resort, to the personal butler who guided us on a tour of the pools, restaurants, and spa as we made our way to our chambers, to the villa itself: vaulted ceilings, balconies spilling bougainvillea, spectacular views, her smile grew broader and her eyes lit up. But it was that moment at the edge of the pool that I knew I had her attention. For a week, anyway….

We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening by the pool, ordering drinks and an incredibly fresh, and incredibly expensive, tray of salsa and guacamole, shrimp cocktail and flatbread. The waiters brought bottles of water and repositioned the giant umbrella as the sun moved across the sky. Occasionally they would come around with tiny cones of coconut sorbet, or kiwi popsicles, or supplies to clean and polish our sunglasses. That evening we drove to San Jose for dinner and the Thursday night art crawl. From Las Calaveras Catrina dolls – eerily beautiful little statues of well-dressed skeletons, to traditional Mexican paintings of brightly clad subjects and in bucolic settings and modern amorphous bronze sculpture, the San Jose del Cabo art scene is an exceptional cultural microcosm of Mexico. After we were thoroughly aesthetically sated, it was time for dinner. Up and down cobblestone streets, we had passed dozens of restaurants, each with a modest storefront that belied the interiors. We settled on Tequila as much for the atmosphere as the menu with all of its fresh fish and organic produce. We dined under colored glass and woven lanterns scattered amongst the tree branches and twinkling stars from the open sky. The waiters brought heaters and even offered blankets to keep my companion warm in the cooler night air and when the mariachis came through, they sang “Brown Eyed Girl” to my blue-eyed friend with strong Spanish accents and tons of Mexican enthusiasm.

The rest of the week was just as magical as the first day. Espresso and breakfast on our private balcony, mornings and afternoons spent by the pool, and walking along the beach, watching whales and in one instance, ensuring that a baby sea turtle made it into the surf before the birds got him. Evenings were a series of wonderful meals in open air restaurants, or on the surf under thatched pagodas.

One day we got up early and drove north to La Paz, stopping at a roadside taqueria for breakfast. Once there, we rented a boat and hired a guide to take us into the Sea of Cortez to swim with whale sharks. Yes, we went swimming with those gentle, primordial, spotted behemoths of the deep! It was an experience I will never forget. Proximity to the slow grace of the massive beasts was awe-inspiring and exhilarating. Equally exhilarating was the moment I convinced myself to jump into the choppy waters along with them and even more exhilarating was the second I hit the water and realized how unbelievably cold it was. Good thing I had adrenaline in addition to my wetsuit to keep me warm!

A must see restaurant when traveling through Cabo is Flora Farm. Make a reservation, because it’s a popular place and set your GPS, because it’s at the end of a convoluted series of dirt roads but the experience is well worth it. The vegetable farm surrounding the restaurant is landscaped like a flower garden. They have incredible cocktails and world-class food made from farm fresh meats and vegetables, and local seafood. Tuesday is fried chicken night if you’re longing for something that doesn’t involve avocado and lime, and they top it off with homemade coconut cream pie.

Alas, it was eventually time to go home to Minnesota and we had to say farewell to the infinity pools and the cactus, the butler and the kiwi popsicles. The frigid cold of St Paul in winter was a startling reminder that Cabo and Las Ventanas were a world away. But was it all a dream? No, señor.

The Ultimate Place to Play, Discover or Recharge

By Adrienne Clairmont | Los Cabos

Ceviche. Deep-sea fishing. Horseback Riding. Jet skiing. Turquoise Jewelry. Amazing sunsets. Desert forest. Tequila. Golf.  Nightclubs.

When asked what my favorite things about Los Cabos, Mexico are, I found myself struggling to narrow down the options to a concise list. Every time I visit Los Cabos, I find myself discovering new favorites, often in places I thought I had exhausted. Offering a myriad of entertainment options, Los Cabos is the perfect destination no matter how you are looking to spend your vacation.

For fishing enthusiasts, charter an expedition into the Pacific and spend the day deep-sea fishing. We wound up in the battle of our lives and after almost three hours, pulled a four hundred pound Marlin out of the water. If you prefer to stay firmly on dry land, Los Cabos offers some of the world’s best golf courses, including Cabo Real, Cabo del Sol, and Campestre.

In downtown Cabo, take a stroll along the Marina and stop at one of the many restaurants for some fresh ceviche and lobster tacos. Down the street from the Giggling Marlin, one of Cabo’s wildest nightclubs, is one of my favorite restaurants- El Coral. Solomon, the bartender, is a charming conversationalist and the bar is a prime location to watch all the street performers. Afterwards, take in some of Cabo’s famous nightlife and barhop your way through El Squid Roe, Cabo Wabo, and the Nowhere Bar.

If you get tired of the glitter of Cabo San Lucas, journey to the nearby San Jose del Cabo. This historic artist’s town is the known for its many galleries and high quality paintings, as well as the Art Crawl that occurs every Thursday. The galleries stay open late and there is an abundance of wine, and of course, tequila. There is a festivalesque feel to the air as locals and tourists come together to celebrate local treasures.

Of course, the crowning jewel of Los Cabos is its position on the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific. At any of the spectacular beaches in the area, you will find a number of walking vendors, whose wares range from hats and scarves to exquisitely crafted silver and turquoise jewelry. Take in the vista lounging in a hammock, racing on an ATV, or prancing through the surf on horseback.

Whatever you choose to do, Cabo is the ultimate place to play, discover or recharge. Come and see for yourself!

In Search of the French Johnny Depp

By Bill Bisanz | St. Bart’s

During a recent trip to St. Barth’s, the French jewel of the Caribbean, we encountered at least two fellows that could have been the French incarnate version of the great American actor. The first, named Gael was reminiscent of Depp in Chocolat while Jacques was the spitting image of Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, right down to the swashbuckling regalia. Ladies- beware, as either of these French look-alikes could steal your heart while on this romantic and beautiful island.

Historically, St. Barth’s has had an eclectic history including acting as a staging base for pirates and as a trading port. It was too rocky and small to cultivate for agricultural exploitation, so it was never as highly contested as some Caribbean islands. It has been under the jurisdiction of Britain, Sweden, Knights of Malta and  most currently, France. It makes sense as you hear French spoken on the street, spend Euros, enjoy delicious pastries while admiring pretty women and paying entirely too much for drinks!

Planes are not allowed to land after dark on St. Barth’s, as it has one of the world’s shortest commercial airstrips-tucked in between a hillside on one end and the popular St. Jean beach on the other. So if you arrive in St. Martin in the evening, you will need to travel to St. Barth’s by boat. Due to the ferry schedule we took the longer ride that departed from Marigot, on the French side of St. Martin (the shorter ferry departs from Oyster Pond). The ride over was sublime as the seas were calm and the clear skies showcased a universe of stars that unfolded as we made our way to Gustavia harbor – a more spiritual way to arrive, if not the quickest.

The roads are narrow and hilly on this island so prepare for a driving adventure. I suggest renting a fun and stylish car like a Mini Cooper, as you will want to be exploring the island and its many secluded beaches. I also suggest getting a car with an automatic transmission unless you want to get a PhD in driving a stick shift.

Beware of the wildlife on the island… wild goats, iguanas and tortoises can wreak havok on the landscaping at your dream villa or leave little presents on your hotel terrace. The iguanas are a protected species but, as seen in this photo, the lucky ones enjoy the good life at the chic hotel Isle de France on Flamands beach. We took in some snorkeling at the Guanahani Hotel on the Grand Cul-de-Sac beach and saw a stingray, several species of tropical fish, some of the largest Conchs I’ve ever seen and most impressively a paddle surfer avec dog!

For a hip and trendy daytime scene check out Nikki Beach on St. Jean. For a mellow scene, check out any of the 20+ amazing beaches on the island. My two favorites are Saline and Gouverneur. Shell Beach in Gustavia is also pretty cool especially considering it’s the town beach.

At night, the infamous Le Ti is amazing. For anyone who has experienced chez Castel in Paris, you will feel right at home à la crushed red velvet, low-ceilings,  and dimly lit atmosphere, along with great DJ’s mixing a healthy dose of 70’s and 80’s dance classics for after dinner dancing. We had heard it was fun, but didn’t quite know what to expect. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Jacques, the French Johnny Depp look-a-like. During our meal we were amused by a fashion show with French models flaunting stylish outfits. More incredibly, the restaurant was doing a brisk business in selling these various fashion pieces to the diners. The fashion show ended up evolving into a burlesque dance party (rated: PG-13) with the restaurant’s guests joining in and dancing on the tables. For those who like the night life, Le Ti, is a wild, highly combustible place to have fun a la Francaise!

Here are some of the restaurants we checked out:

  • Bagatelle – Gustavia Harbour – this is the third installment for this NYC/LA trendy eatery
  • Hotel Carl Gustav – try the chef’s special mystery dinner as you overlook the lights of the harbor
  • Le Ti St. Barths – See above
  • Bar Le Oubli – great goat cheese salads!
  • Nikki Beach
  • Le Select

St. Barth’s is to the Caribbean as Aspen is to the Rockies; i.e. like no other!


Lime Squash Anyone?

By Bill Bisanz | Barbados

English, preppy, exotic, Rihanna were just a few of the thoughts that came to my mind prior to visiting Barbados. Located at the southeastern end of the Lesser Antilles in the Atlantic Ocean, this independent state is one the most developed islands in the Caribbean and still has many ties to its former colonial past as part of the British Empire.

Settled by the English in the 1600’s, Barbados was an important economic powerhouse for England, mainly due to its sugar cane plantations and sugar exports. Vast fortunes were made, unfortunately at the cost of many lives, setting the stage for Barbados as a place of wealth and privilege.eveloped islands in the Caribbean and still has many tiesto its former colonial past as part of the British Empire.

Today, Barbados is still home to a privileged few, especially on its golden west coast, where several large estates dominate parts of the coastline. However, the country also has a healthy middle class and what appeared to be a well-integrated, vibrant society that, in my experience, was extremely welcoming during my first visit to their lovely island.

We spent most of our time in the Holetown area, located in St. James Parish on the west coast in the heart of the most beautiful homes and hotels the island has to offer.  I was astonished at the scale and grandeur of some of the estate homes we viewed, including the former home of the late Pamela Harriman, former US Ambassador to France. Most of the nicer homes belonged to English families, as the UK has a much greater tradition of travelling to Barbados than US citizens. In addition to the opulent beachfront estates, Holetown is also the home to the most expensive hotel I have ever heard of- the Sandy Lane Hotel. During Christmas the minimum booking is two weeks and the lowest price for a single hotel room is reportedly $2000/night. Polo and Cricket are alive and healthy in Barbados, although we didn’t check either out due to our lack of proper attire and soft ground conditions given the recent rains.

The Holetown area has a lot to offer with nice beaches, a good assortment of restaurants, several golf courses and a wide range of luxury villas for rent, most of which include a 2-4 person staff. From a family travel point of view, I think Barbados is an undiscovered gem. You can rent a luxury 4-5 bedroom villa for prices comparable to other Caribbean markets, e.g. Turks and Caicos or Anguilla, but you also get a cook, maid, laundress and butler, depending on the villa. For anyone with young kids (like me), you understand that even a luxury vacation can feel like parenting in a different location with the incumbent duties of cooking, cleaning and laundry.

We didn’t have time to fully explore the available dining options, but we did eat at a few restaurants in Holetown all of which I would return to.

  • Sitar – Indian food located on 2nd street
  • Spago – Italian food, also located on 2nd street
  • The Tides – located on the west cost road right in Holetown
  • Opa – a Greek lunch joint in the upscale, new Lime Grove shopping mall
  • Lone Star – didn’t eat here but had a drink – nice atmosphere

Other Notables:

  • Lime Grove Shopping Mall – for those with an affinity for Louis Vuiton and Ralph Lauren
  • Speightown – a charming seaside village just a few miles north of Holtetown, further up the west coast in St. Peter’s parish
  • Fresh coconut water for sale on the roadside – excellent, refreshing and healthy
  • Beautiful, historic and architecturally significant Anglican churches including the St. James Parish church on the West Coast Road
  • Several government-run fish markets dot the coast road including the MILLIE IFILL market in St. James
  • Green monkeys live all over the island including in residential neighborhoods
  • Old Year’s Night is Barbadian speak for New Year’s Eve

Overall, I was pleasantly impressed with Barbados. I felt a sense of history, culture and style that was particularly unique to the Caribbean. I look forward to my next journey to Barbados to more fully explore, enjoy and relax in this charming and beautiful island.

Oh yes, and,…. a Lime Squash is a lime-aid with fizzy water!


Goats, Reggae and Sandcastles

By Bill Bisanz | Anguilla

Anyone who has driven around Anguilla has probably developed the underappreciated skill of maneuvering around the goats that freely roam the island. And as you’re supposed to do this while driving on the ‘wrong side’ of the road in this British Overseas Territory, you may start to feel a little like James Bond — even if you’re not behind the wheel of an Aston Martin.

Thankfully, these bearded billies are slow, friendly and happy to step out of the way (with a little encouragement). That pretty much captures the low-key, casual vibe of the island. On Anguilla, the locals are a wonderfully sunny blend of reggae music meets British colonial. These endearing Anguillan characteristics are great for visitors, as part of the adventure of Anguilla is asking for directions as you get lost exploring the numerous, pristine beaches that are tucked into the island’s ruggedly beautiful coastline.

Some of my Anguilla favorites include:

  • Homemade Johnny Cakes and ribs at front-yard weekend BBQ stands
  • Reggae music with my feet in the sand at Gwen’s Reggae Grill
  • Hungry’s food truck in The Valley – Try the Kingfish Creole!
  • Wild stingrays gliding next to us through the illuminated shallows while dining at Cap Jalucca’s elegant Pimm’s Restaurant

Anguilla is an unspoiled treasure where development has been held in check, and where the soul of the island still beats strong. The food is amazing (dozens of exceptional restaurants) and the beaches are hard to beat. Make sure you bring a good book and good company or you might be spending more time relaxing with the goats than you planned on!

Setting Sail

By Edward Hoiland | Apostle Islands

It only takes one good trip to catch the travel bug and once you got it there’s no stopping it! I caught the bug while sailing around the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. The fresh air, crystal-clear water and the gentle rocking of the boat captured my heart and left me wanting more. Exploring islands, beach bonfires, shore lunches and freezing plunges into the lake. Nothing could beat sense of adventure of being somewhere new and the liberating feeling of leaving your problems behind.

Since my first sailing trip when I was a little kid, I’ve been back to the Apostle Islands several more times. It is dear to me and always will be, but I have my sights set on something more. It’s high time that I experience something less cold and a little more tropical.

The travel bug is calling me down to the Caribbean. While I have been working with Elite I’ve learned more and more about what those turquoise waters can offer. I want my feet in the sand, the sweet smell of the ocean air and the warm waters to wash worries away. Some day I’ll be exploring different islands sailing on a different boat, but the feeling of adventure will always stay the same.


Love, Light & Gastronomical Delight

By Adrienne Clairmont | Paris


Paris is, without a doubt, one of the singularly most intoxicating places on earth. Without meaning to you can stumble into the world’s best Pâtisserie or Fromagerie and experience pure bliss with each bite that you take of the macaroon or triple-cream cheese. And of course, unless you are very careful, you will never be able to find that same corner shop again. In my opinion, however, that’s half the fun.  As a lifelong Francophile, and a Parisian at heart, I was the happiest person on earth when the opportunity was presented to me to study abroad in Paris while completing my undergrad. While I was there, I had some of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.


Paris is a city best seen on foot, and one of my favorite walks is the famous Champs-Élysées. The glittering strip is home to the best shopping in the world, and beyond that, a window into the different eras of French history. I have always been attracted to the bohemian Paris that gave rise to the impressionist movement, as well as lending inspiration to writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Victor Hugo. One of my favorite things to do after a morning walking around was to grab a cup of café au lait, sit at one of the sidewalk cafes, and watch the world go by.

I would highly recommend attending sunrise mass at Notre Dame. In my opinion, it is the best way to fully take in the stained glass. The cathedral is positioned so that as the sun begins to rise, the first rays of the morning gently touch the glass, slowly illuminating it from the bottom to top, until all of the colors are glowing. I don’t think I heard a single word from the service; I was so transfixed by what was happening. Afterwards, I would recommend grabbing a nutella crepe from one of the many sidewalk stands in the area and going to visit Les Bouquinistes- the booksellers whose open-air stalls are arranged along the Seine.

One of the city’s must-sees is Père Lachaise Cemetery. It is home to some of the cities most celebrated figures – such as Edith Piaf. You will also find the graves of other notables such as Oscar Wilde, Frederick Chopin and Jim Morrison. Another one of my favorite areas of the city is the artist’s quarter of Montmartre. There you will find Sacre Coeur, the original Moulin Rouge, as well as any number of street artist’s who will sketch your portrait for a few Euro.

In the city of love, light and gastronomical delight you will regularly find yourself falling head over heels. Every day is an opportunity for a new adventure and each of those adventures will remain unforgettable.


Taking it All In

By Jacob Semling | Los Cabos

Posted 11/10/2011
I was lucky enough to visit Elite’s Cabo homes for my first ever trip out of the country!  Having travelled during the Minnesota winter, the first thing I noticed upon stepping out off the plane was the warm sea air.

My first couple nights were at Palmilla Retreat.  It was a very comfortable and luxurious stay.  The highlight was being able to take advantage of the guest membership at Club 96!  All of our guests at Palmilla Retreat receive free access to this wonderful resort with an infinity pool, lap pool and of course a hot tub.  After eating lunch poolside with my colleagues, we spent time on the private beach.  It was a blast!

The next several nights were spent at Las Mananitas Penthouse.  My favorite memory would have to be enjoying an authentic Mexican meal that was prepared by a fantastic cook, the mother of our Cabo Concierge.  We dined at sunset on the terrace while overlooking the resort pools, the sandy beach and the pristine ocean.

Lastly, I stayed at Casa Celina, which is located in the world-class resort at Las Ventanas.  As we got out of our car we were immediately attended to by the wonderful staff, who assisted us with our luggage and guided us to our room.  I very quickly understood why they call Las Ventanas a “world class resort.”  They provide a very indulgent and unique experience, one of my favorite touches being the elaborate sand drawings that they display nightly by firelight. And again I could spend the entire time eating, as the restaurants there were so decadent and delicious.

I also had the opportunity to explore San Jose del Cabo.  I went whale watching on a private boat and words cannot describe what it was like to be so close, arms-length away, to the calm, majestic animals.  I also went on a sunset ATV tour that took our group through the hills and ended on the beach, just as the sun slipped away.  An adventure I will never forget!

I look forward to the day that I can return to Cabo.  It was a trip with so many memories that I would love to experience again!


My New Favorite

By Mark Stevens | Turks and Caicos

In my first career I was blessed with the opportunity to travel all over the world and work with people from very different cultures. There simply aren’t words to describe how different the Monday event in Italy was to the Wednesday event in Tokyo. I have since left the life of a “Road Warrior” to the next generation of folks that measure their successes with mileage and yet my passion for travel has never been stronger.

These days I prefer places with a very different pace. The Turks and Caicos has become a fast favorite of mine. There is nothing like the calm blue waters off Taylor Bay. I am convinced that there are few beaches in the world that rival the powder white sand, the calm shoulder-deep water and most importantly the lack of people in this protected cove. One could literally take a nap in the 80-degree shallows and not hear another person for hours – perfection!

The island is also home to one of my favorite restaurant experiences in the world – Coco Bistro. The restaurant features really tasty and fresh Caribbean inspired food. It is served outdoors under the stars and a backlit canopy of palms. The atmosphere fosters infectious conversations that seem to spill out from the boundaries of any given table. Before you know it all of the diners have joined in what can best be described as a spontaneous party.

The Turks is simply put one of the great places on earth. Get lost on the beach or caught up in the action at a favorite spot. It’s your trip – you decide.

Okay, now I am hungry, lonely and cold here in St. Paul…

I think it is time for another trip!


Running Shoes and Coffee

By Kathryn Lynden | Paris

There are two things I could not live without.  A pair of running shoes and coffee.

I have been blessed with the gift of travel, and my absolute favorite thing to do in any new city is to tie on my running shoes and hit the streets. I never quite know where I am going, but that is the beauty of the journey.  I let my feet take me wherever they want to go.

In Paris, after 7 days of work (did I really just say that?), I kept the 8th day open.  I woke up very early, had a large cup of coffee, put on my running shoes and headed out.  It was so early the streets were empty, I ran down the middle of the street.

I believe the most magical time of day in a city is before it wakes. I encountered real life — an old man was walking his dog, a few young kids were stumbling home, a shopkeeper was sweeping his sidewalk, I could smell coffee brewing. Nothing was moving fast, except my feet.

As I passed Notre Dame, the sun was rising right behind that magnificent church.  I wound through a maze of streets and found myself at the Panthéon. From there I could see across the city to the Eiffel Tower – it looked tiny. I set my intention to run to the Eiffel Tower passing as many of the Paris landmarks I possibly could along the way.

My first stop was Jardin du Luxembourg.  The cute Parisian fireman were running in the park, I joined them.  They look inquisitively at me and asked, “You are not from Paris are you?”  “No” I answered, “Why?”  “Paris girls do not run like you.”  I think it was my baseball cap that gave me away.   I took it as a compliment.

Onto St. Sulpice, where I saw the famous Meridian Line from the Da Vinci code.  I continued down rue du Buci, lined with trendy restaurants and Paul’s Patisserie, where I devoured the most amazing almond croissant.

The Musée du Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries were right across the Seine River.  I stopped at the Musée de l’Orangerie to see Monet’s Water Lilies, which I had always wanted to see but had never taken the time.  Next, the Place de la Concorde, the largest public square in Paris, to the Petit Palais where I peeked into the windows to see the current exhibit. There were extremely large slabs of metal tilted in awkward positions, I decided not to go in.

I stopped to shop on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées with a break at Ladurée for one of their famous macaroons and a café latte. I ran up through the Arc de Triomphe, then down and across the golden eagled Pont Alexandre Bridge. On the other side I saw hundreds of people sprawled on the green grass in front of the Les Invalides.  I slowed to a stroll.  Couples who were very fond of one another were spotted in between the shirtless soccer players. I definitely took my time.

I picked up the pace and by dusk I approached the Eiffel Tower. I had to go up. The sun was setting. The city lights came on.  The sky lit up with the whirly bird toys the vendors were selling below.  At the top I took the time to thank those that have given me this great gift of travel.

Under the lights of Paris, I ran down the Seine River all the way home and drew a hot bath.


A Relaxed Pulse on Life

By Laurie Flum | Los Cabos

As I walked along the beach in complete awe of the calming waves and soft sands, I glanced back over my shoulder and found my footprints following me. At that moment I had a sense of accomplishment, not for the footprints that I saw in the sand but for what each step meant to my life. My husband, children, our home, my 25+ year career with EDH….many things that were behind me….well done. It teased me to think of what is still ahead.

Something about the wonderful views (all you need to do is look around), great food at Zippers and the local relaxed pulse on life allowed me to relax, reflect and rejuvenate in a way going to the cabin or Wisconsin Dells just never allowed. Don’t get me wrong, all of the family trips to the cabin every summer were great and Wisconsin Dells is the capital of water fun, but combine them and that’s an Elite Destination vacation.

Paul Thrane took such good care of me. His concierge style put me to ease the minute I met him. I even talked him into teaching me to boogie board…..well at least trying to teach me. It was an experience of a life time and I would certainly go again and again!

Cabo is wonderful and I’ll always consider it one of my top vacation destinations!


Yacht Papa

By Bill Bisanz | St. Barts

If I could do anything in life, I would sail around the world with my family and dog, experiencing the far-flung lands and cultures of the globe. Exploring the world with my kids and learning about foreign peoples, languages, history and food while travelling along in a floating house, inspires my imagination.

While having young children has considerably slowed my sailing adventures, I’ve been fortunate to get a taste of this seafaring life during my travels where some French friends  and I rented sailboats and set out exploring the Mediterranean. A younger man at the time, I often found myself wondering, “how did I get here?” like the time we sailed into the Grand Canal of Venice at sunset. In just a few weeks we would visit small seaside villages, uninhabited rock-lets, inhabited volcanic islands and iconic destinations like Capri. Simply amazing!

It was this sort of curiosity and sense of exploration that was at the heart of my desire to start Elite. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to explore new places with the help of others who had travelled there before. This is a big part of what we are up to at Elite; providing people with the opportunity to explore and learn through travel and sharing of personal experiences.

Lately, I think my favorite place to visit is Saint Barthélemy, or St. Barth’s, the French island located just a short hop away from St. Martin in the Caribbean. St. Barth’s is a small place with only about 8,000 full-time residents, although this number can double during the season when visitors from around the world visit.

My favorite beach on the island is Saline (the non-nude side), and one of the most fun nights one could ever have is a dinner and show at ‘Le Ti.’  Gustavia is the capital and, for me, it is very reminiscent of a Mediterranean seaside village. That’s probably why I like it there so much as it reminds me of my past sailing voyages.

Another dream of mine is to return to St. Barth’s with close friends to enjoy the New Year’s Eve fireworks from aboard a sailboat in Gustavia Harbor.

Un jour bientôt, j’espère ….


Girls’ Guide to Paris talks with Paris Apartment’s with EDH’s Kathryn Lynden

I love real estate, especially real estate in Paris. I’ve bought and sold a place in Paris and now own a place near Bordeaux, and if I could I’d buy and fix up many more houses and apartments around the globe. It’s my second passion, right behind travel. So it’s only natural that I’d meet Kathryn Lynden, who like me is from the American Midwest, and who with a partner or two has bought 50-plus homes around the world, fixed them up and sold them as “fractionals.” Continue reading “Girls’ Guide to Paris talks with Paris Apartment’s with EDH’s Kathryn Lynden”