National Parks In the US You’ll Want to Visit

There are so many national parks to visit in the US, and when you vacation with Elite Destination Homes you’ll be in for a treat! Our United States locations are close to many national parks that feature beautiful panoramas and fantastic options for hiking. As we’re wrapping up National Parks Week, there is still time to spend at one of our excellent destination vacation rentals! Here are four fabulous parks you’ll want to visit when spending time at our luxury vacation homes.
 

Yellowstone National Park

Primarily located in Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park is home to the very first national park in America. This park remains one of the most popular locations that people enjoy visiting. From the otherworldly like hot springs to the mudpots, beautiful waterfalls and geysers. You’ll love spending a day or two just exploring all that there is to see!

When you visit Yellowstone don’t forget to check out our stunning Garnet Lodge, in Jackson Hole, where you’ll be close to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.
 

The Great Smoky Mountains

The Smokies are a sight to see in the morning, capturing their nickname due to the rolling fog when dawn breaks, you’ll want to capture the beauty of these mountains through a lens. With a wide range of flora and fauna, you’ll be able to see the bustling wildflowers and wildlife that make up the wonders of this National Park.

Forge Lake Lodge is where you’ll want to kick your feet up at the end of the day. With stunning Forest Lake views, rustic charm and ultimate luxury experience, you’ll enjoy every moment spent at this beautiful destination vacation.
 

Bryce Canyon & Zion National Park

Declared a National Park in 1928, Bryce Canyon is home to a jaw-dropping vertical view of caved Paunsaugunt Plateau. Lace up your shoes and hike your way through this natural wonder. You’ll be able to wind through the lovely canyons as you take your time strolling along. We suggest you catch the sunrise or sunset as the colors meld into the canyon, creating a peaceful moment in time.

On the Southwestern corner of Utah rests, Zion National Park, a gorgeous spot that spans several geographic regions. With plenty of activities, the highlight has to be the stunning canyon carved by the Virgin River. There are hiking options for different skill levels as well as swimming in the river.

If you’re ready to experience the canyons for yourself, take a look at our Bryce Canyon Estate!
 

Destination Vacation

When planning your trip to a National Park, you’ll find lots activities the whole family is sure to enjoy, but the most significant part is where you’ll sleep at night. Let your destination vacation take you to some magical lands when you book a rental with us at, Elite Destination Homes. With four convenient locations to get you near one of these lovely National Parks, you’ll enjoy creating memories and find things to do both on our properties and off-site at one of the parks. Get ready to make the most of our your ultimate getaway when you opt to journey through America’s National Parks.

3 Essential Items for your Beach Vacation to the Caribbean

The Caribbean is a magical place, with lush palms and vibrate flowers, where the ocean breeze and waves dance along the shoreline, this stunning beauty ultimately makes for an unforgettable getaway, and when you stay at one of our luxury Caribbean villas, you’ll find more than just the gorgeous views and lovely abodes. Packing for your vacation can seem tough at times, you never know what you might need when you head to the Caribbean, but here at Elite Destination Homes, we’ve got you covered, with our three essential items to pack for your beach vacation of a lifetime.
 

The Right Clothing

Everyone has to pack when traveling and it’s important to know how to pack for the places you’re staying. In the Caribbean, the temperatures are tropical and with most of the days being humid, having the right fabrics is crucial. Fabrics like rayon and synthetics don’t allow clothing to breathe, which can increase sweat and keep you warm. Breathable fabrics like cotton and linen are ideal for the Caribbean. As many items with these fabrics are lightweight and tend to wick moisture, you’ll be able to enjoy the entire day in what you’re wearing, plus clothing like this packs up small which means you’ll have more room in your luggage for other things.

 

Clothing can include:

  • Swimsuit
  • Beach cover-ups
  • Dresses: Sundress, Maxi Dress, Mini Dress
  • Rompers
  • Tops: Blouses, T-Shirts
  • Outerwear: Light Sweater, Lightweight Jacket
  • Bottoms: Jeans, pants, shorts, skirts
  • Undergarments
  • Shoes: Walking Shoes, Sandals, Heels/Wedges
  • Plastic Bag for wet clothing

The Essential Accessories

Accessories are must-haves at the beach, and there are so many to choose from when it comes to what you should have with you during your beach vacation. We recommend some reading material which can be useful on long plane rides or when you’re lounging poolside at one of our luxury Caribbean villas. A water bottle is also a must, so you don’t get dehydrated while you’re under the hot sun! If you want to float away in your pool, with style, purchase a fun floatation device, they are easy to fold and pack in a suitcase, and the fun shapes allow for sweet Instagram photos. Finally, you won’t want to forget your sunglasses and a hat! These items help protect your scalp and your eyes from the harsh sun rays.

 

Accessories:

  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Hair-ties
  • Book/magazine
  • Floating device
  • Water-bottle

The Items for Your Toiletries

Your third must have for the ultimate Caribbean getaway is sunscreen! SPF is excellent for those days you’re going to spend outside, even thirty minutes under the sun can cause damage, primarily if you’re not used to the heat. We also suggest you bring aloe vera for those days you spent too much time in the sun! You may also want to consider an insect repellent or a medicated ointment in case you get bit during your stay.

 

Toiletry Examples:

  • Facial toiletries: wipes, makeup removing wipes, face wash, moisturizer, eye cream
  • SPF Sunscreen
  • Aloe Vera for sunburn
  • Insect Repellent
  • Medicated ointment
  • Tooth Paste
  • Toothbrush
  • Deodorant
  • Shaving cream
  • Razor
  • Feminine care products
  • Tweezers, nail clippers
  • Safety Pins
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body Lotion

Bonus: What You Need in Your Carry-On

When flying on a more extended trip, you’ll want to have a small carry-on bag with you and what you pack in that, is equally as important as your checked luggage! You’ll want to be prepared for delays, or in case your checked bag doesn’t make it right at your landing time. In your carry-on, you’ll want to have at least a 1-2 day/nights worth of clothing, accessories, and toiletries to help reduce stress levels in case of a luggage mishap.

 

Carry-on Examples:

  • Any necessary medications/allergy medicine
  • Pair of pajamas
  • 1-2 days of clothes
  • Extra undergarments
  • Toiletries in your approved liquids bag.
  • Water
  • A few granola bars, a bag of nuts and another snack, just in case.

 

No matter what you choose to bring with during your amazing Caribbean getaway, you’re going to want to be comfortable! View the extensive range of rentals and beautiful, luxury Caribbean villas at Elite Destination Homes, then when you use our checklists and guides, we can help you reduce stress from packing and bring back enjoyment and excitement towards your vacation!

 

Whale Watching: Best Spots in Mexico!

It whale be a good time

Whale watching in Mexico has become a top-rated event that takes place from November to April when California Gray Whales migrate South to warmer waters of the Pacific. You’ll find that when traveling to Mexico this time of the year you’re going to want to spot some of these majestic animals. When you reserve one of our fabulous luxury villas Los Cabos is known for, you’ll be in for a treat especially when it comes to catching a glimpse of these ocean creatures.

Luxury Villas Los Cabos

Some of the best views of potential whale sightings are from the windows of our very own luxury villas located in Los Cabos. As many of our rentals in Mexico allow beach access or views of the ocean, you’re going to want to book one for your stay so you can hang out in your private oasis while keeping your eyes peeled on the water for these ocean beauties.

Beach View

If you’re planning a day at the beach, opt to go to one of the South West beaches near Cabo San Lucas. The direction of these beaches facing South-West tends to have more sightings of whales than if you’re on the South-East side due to the proximity to the Pacific coast rather than the Gulf of California as many whales do not venture to that side of Baja California.

On the Ocean

If you’re wanting to dive into finding some whales while on vacation this spring, check out a charter boat? Charter boats or expedition rides will ensure you see some of these mighty beasts. Plus, you’ll get to experience the stunning panorama of the ocean. Here are three excellent charters to get you started on boat tours.

 

Whale Watch Cabo

Marina Boulevard s/n, Tesoro Los Cabos Resort, Lote 10, Local E-16 Plaza de la Danza, Centro, Marina, 23450 Cabo San Lucas, B.C.S., Mexico

https://whalewatchcabo.com/

 

Cabo Expeditions

Blvd. Marina s/n, Plaza de la Danza Local 6, Centro, Marina, 23450 Cabo San Lucas, B.C.S., Mexico

https://www.caboexpeditions.com.mx/

 

Cabo Whale Trek

Boulevard Paseo de La Marina Local A-20, Tesoro Hotel, Centro, 23450 Cabo San Lucas, B.C.S., Mexico

https://cabowhaletrek.com/

Don’t Forget These Items

You won’t want to head out on a whale watching expedition without some necessary gear to help you spot the whales. Binoculars and a camera are items that will come in handy, especially if you’re near a beach or one of our luxury villas Los Cabos has to offer. Your binoculars will help you see whales that are farther away, and a camera with a great telescopic option can let you capture the moment even at great distances.

 

No matter if you catch a glimpse of these beautiful ocean mammals or you thoroughly enjoy your trip to Mexico, there is so much to do here. From the dining experiences to the luxury villas Los Cabos is known for, you’ll find just what you’re searching for when you book the ultimate getaway to Elite Destination Homes.

3 Things to do in Paris in the Wintertime

When thinking about a trip to Paris, France many people imagine the soft breeze of the spring and warm summer air, but one of the hidden gems of Pairs is that vacationing during the wintertime is unbelievable. Not only will you experience a stunning winter wonderland, but you’ll also get to experience the city without as many visitors. Plus, there are still plenty of fun things to do when you book an elite Paris getaway. Here are our top three favorite things to do in Paris when it’s cold outside!

Ice Skating on the Terrace

Paris and winter activities like ice skating go hand and hand, and there are lots of locations to skate. One of the most notable areas is the first-floor terrace of the Eiffel Tower. Featured with lovely winter decor, you can skate here until February 18, 2018. Don’t forget to check out The Cacao Corner where you’ll be able to warm up with tasty beverages such as hot chocolate.

Lots of Chocolate!

With Valentine’s Day coming up and the month of love, Paris makes for an unbelievably sweet getaway for two, especially when you stop at a cute cafe, pastry shop, or chocolatier. Sipping hot chocolate on the Eiffel Tower won’t compare to the decadently sweet and creamy warm treat of hot chocolate by Cafe de la Paix. Located right next to the fantastic Opera Garnier you’ll feel as if you stepped into another world with the decor featuring a mid-1800’s style. If you’re looking for something even more opulent, head to Angelina’s where your frothy hot chocolate will be served in pitchers and don’t forget to try their winter pastry collection which pairs perfectly with a warm beverage.

The Big Wheel

There is still plenty of time to see The Big Wheel in Paris, and with the stunning winter views, you’re sure to be in for a treat! Going on now, until May 5, 2018, you can hop aboard a gondola on one of the world’s most massive, movable Ferris wheels. Located at Place de la Concorde, this fantastic and sky-high option is only available during the winter season. So, you’ll want to go for a ride before it goes away, until next year!

No matter what you opt to do during your winter wonderland stay in Paris, France, Elite Destination Homes will make sure you get the most out of your vacation at one of our European rentals. Whether it’s skating on the Eiffel tower, searching for the best hot chocolate and treats, or you marvel at the view, your elite Paris destination vacation is waiting!

 

A Vacation to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions!

5 of the Top New Year’s Resolutions you can do while on vacation in the Turks and Caicos

1. Lose Weight and Eat More Healthfully

Providenciales is noted for its culinary sophistication and offers a variety of healthy options any menu.

Another fantastic option is utilizing the gourmet kitchens featured in our villas and go to Graceway Gourmet for any healthy grocery needs. Graceway is an upmarket type of store right in the heart of Grace Bay. Graceway Gourmet features a great selection of meats, fish, produce, plus all the other necessities for breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snacks. The store also has a complete wine and spirits selection, and of course, ice cold beer for a relaxing day on the beach on the water. There’s even in an in-store deli, salad bar and coffee shop.

 

2. Exercise More

Enjoy yoga on the beach or Providenciales is home to a world-class gym called Wrightfully Fit.

Grace Bay Beach also provides a great opportunity to start getting into shape.

At over 12 miles of beach, it’s perfect for walking and jogging, as well as some activities can only be experienced in the Turks and Caicos.

A great workout for your core, paddle boarding and kayaking is also a fun way to get out and move your body while exploring the natural environment of this pristine corner of the Caribbean.

 

3. Spend More Time With Your Family

Coming to Providenciales makes it easier to reconnect with your family, and pay attention to the moments that matter.

While on your family vacation, charter a private cruise or go horseback riding. Or just build a massive sand castle with the kids on Grace Bay Beach. There are endless opportunities to reconnect with your family while you’re here.

 

4.  Try Something New

When you’re in the Turks and Caicos you’ll have the time to try something new. The challenge will be deciding what you want to do. Providenciales is one of the best places in the world to try kiteboarding, it is a real workout and provides some spectacular stories to tell your friends and family back home.

 

5.  Work Less Play More

You will be on 12 miles of powdery white sand…kick back and relax.

Family Friendly Homes at Elite Destination Homes

Destination Homes, Elite Vacations/Rentals, Elite rentals, Family Friendly Vacation Homes

 

Elite Destination Homes isn’t just for couples or groups of friends. Bring the whole family and experience a fantastic vacation with everyone! No need to leave the kids at home with a babysitter, let them join you on your getaway of a lifetime. Here are our favorite family-friendly villas to enjoy your Elite rental.

 

Orlando Family Vacation

Ready for your Florida vacation? Our Lakeland Estate is perfect for families! Not only does it have four bedrooms, accommodating up to nine people, but one of the bedrooms is a kids room. It will be hard to pull your children away from this rental; the kid’s room comes fully stocked with PS4 console and games, bunk beds, and there is a full basketball court outside. Plus, this estate is only a few minutes away from fun in Orlando. Experience Legoland, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and Seaworld (15-45 minutes depending on location) when staying at this fantastic home.

Destination Homes Elite Vacations/Rentals, Elite rentals, Family Friendly Vacation Homes
 
The Rich Coast

Our Casa La Big Sur is located in Costa Rica and ideal for families or gatherings. Designed with beautiful coastline views in mind, everyone will enjoy the coast when visiting. On 9 acres of land and gated, this home boasts an on-site security and alarm system so you shouldn’t have to worry if you leave the kids playing in the game room while you get groceries. Plus, the area is full of life and activities at every corner you and yours won’t ever get bored!
 

Beautiful by Nature

There are plenty of islands to fit every family’s needs in the Caribbean, but we recommend visiting Villa La Percha in Turks and Caicos for an unforgettable and unique experience. Right next to Taylor Bay your family will enjoy spending their days kayaking and snorkeling with new gear. The primary focus of this rental is it’s large, spacious pool deck, perfect for gatherings. You’ll love all the family time you’ll get when renting this beautiful Caribbean home.

 

Create an incredible vacation with your family when picking one of our amazing Elite rentals. Elite Destination Homes will help make sure your family has the best getaway, whether stateside or out of the country. You’re just minutes away from your luxury vacation of a lifetime.  Book your rental today and start planning for your delightful retreat.

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.

A Romantic Evening that ended in an Enjoyable Fight.

By Garin Hamburger | Travelog

Very recently I was lucky enough to tie the knot with the most amazing woman!   I don’t want to bore you with all of the details, so I’ll just leave it at, ‘it was a fantastic wedding’.  And like many newlyweds, we knew that we wanted to go on a honeymoon right after.

After some extensive research, we decided to honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  The once small fishing town that was transformed into a tourist spot after Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton filmed their movie, “The Night of the Iguana”.  We didn’t know that until we got there, however every cab driver in town made sure they told us about it.

After a few nights exploring the city, the attractions, and the night life, we decided to have a romantic dinner on the beach.  A few of our friends back home told us about this restaurant, ‘La Palapa’ and once we asked the locals about it, we knew it was the place to go.

We arrived just before sunset and the hostess showed us to our table in the sand.  We were showered with attention and one of the gentlemen that worked there even dug a hole in the sand to place an umbrella to block the setting sun.  The food was amazing, the setting was gorgeous, the whole experience was unforgettable!  They even got to know us so well, that they made us an amazing dessert and wrote us a fun message on the plate… “Have a nice trip!”

After our spectacular meal we weren’t quite ready to retire for the evening so we decided to go into town and find a place where we could catch a little more entertainment.  While walking around the town we noticed a lot of street vendors, locals, and tourists surrounding an establishment.  Thinking this was the place to be we got in line and waited to enter.  Once through the line we walked into a huge room decorated in Mexican and American colors.  Not knowing exactly what we were walking into, we ran into some Americans that we had met earlier in our trip.  They were excited to see us and asked us to sit with them for ‘The Fight’.  Not knowing exactly what they were talking about we decided to stay and find out more.  Come to find out a very popular fight was about to happen to between Floyd Mayweather of the USA and Canelo Alvarez of Mexico.  So, we stayed and watched the fight with our new found friends… and what a great night it turned out to be.  I can honestly say that I’ve never had an evening that enjoyable that ended in a fight!

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

The Summer Vacation You and Your Family Should Take!

By Laurie Flum | Steamboat Springs

I thought Steamboat Springs CO was only a ski village so when work called for me to go in October I thought “what am I going to do in October in Steamboat”. You know the old saying “all work and no play…”

So I started by listening to a few people that told me to land at DIA (Denver International Airport) and drive the three hours to Steamboat.  The best drive you will ever take is I70 West and onto US40 – both are gorgeous! This drive takes you through the most unbelievable scenery. Three things you must do:

  1. Take 170 during the day (it has been voted the most scenic route in the US multiple times!)
  2. Paper, Scissor, Rocks – the loser has to drive. (Views, as stated, are WOW. I had a hard time staying on the road while site seeing. My attention was certainly challenged by mountains majesty and winding, sloping roads.)
  3. Rent a car with SYNC and bring your music list (there are no music stations for 80% of the drive). Tip……bring “The Cello Song” by Steven Sharp Nelson and play it after you are 90 or so minutes out of Denver. It will feel as though the mountains are actually playing some of the most beautiful music choreographed to the most majestic scenery you can imagine just for you.

When you get into Steamboat, you can’t help but notice how “Minnesota Nice” the locals are, even if they aren’t from Minnesota.

There are so many things to do in the summer in Steamboat that you will have a hard time choosing which items get put on the vacation list. Hiking, fishing, biking, soaking in the hot springs, listening to a free concert, wandering through the art fairs, dining at the many establishments and shopping are a few of the things you will find to do. There are miles of hiking and biking trails. You’ll want to go with a buddy however because at Cimarron (the beautiful townhome I stayed in) we had fox daily and a bear interested in our trash 2 out of 4 nights.

I had enough time after my morning appointments one day for two fun events. I decided to visit one of Mother Nature’s most remarkable gifts, the hot springs, and go horseback riding.

Strawberry Hot Springs are fabulous. The drive there was beautiful and unlike in the winter, the “required by law” four wheel drive and chains were not in force. The springs are warm (just on the edge of hot actually), clean and friendly. No crowds like in winter, only 7 or 8 others were there. We had the pick of pools to bathe in and it was luxurious. The 65 degree air felt wonderful and I felt rejuvenated and was able to completely relax. A warm sunray, a trickling creek, a cooling breeze and now Steamboat hot springs are some of my favorite gifts from Mother Nature. This water amazed me.

My second choice was to go horseback riding at Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch. Normally in winter there are a dozen horses following each other on this trail ride. That means you are stuck between two horses and at the mercy of others riding abilities. Going in the summer however I was gifted with a one on one horse trail ride in which we saw a family of five mule deer and a herd of 100 or more Elk. The elk were 200 yards away from us when I first noticed him. I say him because I only saw one HUGE buck and Michele (my guide) pointed out that the entire background was moving as well. It was a herd made up of female, male and young elk. They made a call that sounded like a bugle – it was lovely. When they caught wind of us they took off through the forest up the mountain. The thunder of their hooves and the cracking and snapping of all the dead, fallen timber was amazing.

So my advice is to rent an awesome home, bring the entire family to Steamboat in the summer and have the time of your life hiking, biking, horseback riding, swimming, or whatever else your hearts desire.

At least four of the locals I spoke with told me they came on a ski trip and never left. I learned what ended up to be a common phrase in Steamboat;  ”you come for the skiing and stay for the summers”. I love to ski, I do, but I couldn’t imagine missing this place in the summertime. Next time I’ll go mid September as more of the leaves will be on the trees and I’m told the colors and scenery are even more remarkable (I can hardly imagine that).

This is a hidden summer vacation oasis. Go to Steamboat in the summer, you will not be disappointed.

By the way….if you have a wait at the DIA try the Chop House for a meal and atmosphere that will put a very nice end to your trip!

Happy Travels…..

Laurie

 

Mad, Mad, Madeline

By Bill Bisanz | Apostle Islands

She’s beautiful, mysterious, and elusive. And she would drive most mad if you had to live with her year-round.

Madeline Island, the largest and only permanently inhabited of the Apostle islands is a 13-mile island set off the Bayfield peninsula on Lake Superior. My first visit was nearly 10-years ago when I chartered a sailboat just two weeks after receiving my basic certification. It took me two days of what felt-like death defying maneuvers before I was brave enough to take on all three miles of the protected waters of the channel between Bayfield and Madeline. Our sojourn was just one night. We docked at a transient slip in the Madeline Island Yacht Club, walked into town, had dinner at what seemed like only restaurant serving dinner (which is no longer there) and retired to the boat for a night of floating slumber. Even after such a small taste, I had a sense that Madeline could be, if given an appropriate amount of time and attention, a truelove. Little did I know how right I was.

This summer I spent two weeks on the island. Oddly, most of that time was without cell-phone coverage. In today’s uber-connected world it is truly a luxury to unplug from technology and plug into nature. Whether it was sailing in the Around The Islands race, collecting driftwood on the uninhabited Long Island, or swimming in the exhilarating brisk and clear water of later Superior, the natural beauty of Madeline Island and her surroundings rival some of the world’s greatest natural treasures. At times as I looked out from our porch and took in the island dotted vistas I recalled visits to the Adriatic or North seas where tree-adorned archipelagos collide with big, blue water.

La Pointe, Wisconsin is the town on the island. It was founded in 1834 and it boasts a year-round population of 220 souls, although this swells to over 2,000 in the summer. Madeline Island traces its European roots to the mid-1600’s when French explorers and missionaries established a presence and the island become an important outpoint for French and British fur traders. Ojibwae Indians inhabited the island before and during the European newcomers.

The most interesting part of the Madeline experience is the water. Whether you are taking a ‘lake bath’, jumping from cliffs at ‘Eagles Nest’ (Big Bay State Park), kayaking in sea-caves, on the Madeline Island Ferry in your car, or just swimming in the lake, i.e. Lake Superior, one cannot help but feel a sense of excitement and humility. Exciting because the water is cold. Darn cold mostly. In July and August the temperatures reach the high 60s so it’s brisk in a nice way. The water feels incredibly clear and clean and it has excellent visibility with very little visible vegetation or marine life. One is presented with a sense of humility because of the inspiring scale of the lake. Lake Superior is the largest body of fresh water on the planet, 2nd largest after lake Baikal in Russia in terms of volume of water. So when you float over, swim in, regard on a map or simply gaze upon it, Lake Superior makes you feel small and simple – in a nice way.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the 4th of July parade in the town of La Pointe. Other than the Susan B. Komen for the cure float and accompanying bright pink bracelets, it feels like this parade is completely stuck in time. It is a very charming slice of old-school Americana.

Lastly, I have to mention Tom’s burned down bar. The story as to its provenance includes several different names, locations and owners but in the end there was a fire, a large tent was erected over a bar and a creative guy named Tom put his imprimatur on it. Madeline Island has a small, year-round group of residences that are young, granola, hippy-types (with respect). At Toms, which is right in town, this group intersects with the weekly vacation visitors, sailors and those that live on the island full and part time. There is great music, out door fireplaces and a collection of hundreds of pithy sayings that are mostly too crude or politically incorrect to repeat here that are painted on to small pieces of wood or right on to the walls of the bar its self. It’s a great place to catch a drink and one of the more unique watering holes I’ve been to.

If you like nature, remote peace and scenic beauty you will likely very much like Madeline island. If staying for more than a day or two bring a good book, food to cook and let your friends know that your cell phone probably wont work most of the time (even if that’s not always true!).

Mountains and Moose and Bears, Oh My!

By Jeanne Larson | Jackson Hole, WY

It was a long October weekend, and we had decided to head to Jackson Hole. My family and I love to ski, so although it wasn’t the season, we viewed this as a good scouting expedition. The car trip from Minnesota across South Dakota was pretty uneventful, until we crossed the Missouri River. The terrain suddenly became more sculpted and hinted of mountains.

The four of us arrived in Jackson at night, picked up a few goodies for the next day, and made our way through intermittent fog several miles along the Snake River to Teton Village, the slope-side hamlet of Jackson Hole Mountain. The carved wooden bear at the front door welcomed us and confirmed we had made it to Bear Paw Lodge. When morning came, I was anxious to see the surroundings. I looked out of the floor to ceiling great room windows to a gorgeous view of Sleeping Indian Mountain, when some movement in the foreground caught my eye. A lone moose was munching tall grass about 100 feet away on a neighboring rise.

Teton Village was an easy walk from Bear Paw, and the weather was crisp and clear, so after breakfast we took a stroll to the village center, the concert hall, and the base of the Teewinot Tram. I suppose we were all curious about the ski runs so our walk soon turned into a trek, kids leading the way to the top of the tram and summit of Rendezvous Peak. The scenery and quiet were striking.

As spectacular as the views of the valley and the snow-covered mountains were, I think the free flow of wild animals was the highlight. Our concierge, Meredith, tipped us off that the best viewing of animals was at twilight. Following her instructions, we drove into Teton National Park at dusk. It wasn’t long until we spotted an enormous herd of antelope. We watched them graze for a while, and then learned from other onlookers that moose were to be found in the river. So off we went. By the time it got really dark, my daughter and I decided we had had enough fun and walked back to the security of the car. My husband and son nevertheless ventured down the river banks and managed to get pretty close to a mother moose and her calf wallowing in the water.

The south entrance to Yellowstone is about 60 miles from Teton Village. Making our way the next day toward the geysers we skirted Jackson Lake, where the Grand Tetons rise out of the crystal waters. It was a magnificent setting to skip some stones. We felt lucky when Old Faithful treated us well by performing its magic within two minutes of reaching the geyser area.

My most vivid memory of the entire excursion was encountering a herd of buffalo on a narrow two-way road as we left Yellowstone at night. At first it didn’t seem the big animals cared much that we were there. Drivers from both directions lined up since the buffalo didn’t let us pass. But the mood changed dramatically when an impatient driver leaned into her horn. We turned our attention to the buffalo which, two cars in front of us, started to paw at the ground, tilted their massive heads downward, and spewed vapor out of their nostrils. I thought we all might have been the object of a stampede, but fortunately they didn’t charge and very slowly made room for the honker, and then the rest of us. Now we felt really lucky.

We keep a couple of rocks from Jackson Lake in our kitchen. And hope to go back to Jackson with skis.

Paris by Sail

By John Pollack | Paris

John Pollack is an accomplished author and journalist who won the 1995 O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships and was a Presidential Speechwriter for Bill Clinton. Earlier, he worked as a foreign correspondent in Spain, as a field assistant in Antarctica, and as a strolling violinist on Mackinac Island. You can learn more about his adventures in his books The Pun Also Rises and Cork Boat.

For those hoping to see Paris by boat, there is no shortage of willing vessels. Most common are the Seine’s long, glass-enclosed tour boats that – glittering with the flash of a thousand cameras – slip through nighttime waters past the ancient towers of Notre Dame.

For those with a few more sous in their pockets, luxurious private yachts await at the Arsenal Port La Bastille marina, on the Right Bank, not far from the site of the fearsome prison whose storming came to symbolize the French Revolution. And if a more bohemian experience is what you seek, some of the old houseboats that tie up along the Left Bank will even rent you a bunk for a night, though these colorful barges rarely, if ever, leave their stone quais.

But for those with a true spirit of nautical adventure, I recommend setting sail on a more whimsical voyage aboard one of the toy ships that, for at least a century now, have heeled before the winds sweeping the Grand Basin at the Luxembourg Gardens. Yes, these diminutive vessels are too small to accommodate anyone but a Lilliputian, but they are nevertheless grand in their capacity to carry one’s imagination.

For those drawn to the water, the emotional pull of a boat – even a toy boat – is hard to describe. But John Masefield, who as a young, penniless vagabond crossed the Atlantic aboard a windjammer in the last days of sail and eventually went on to become Britain’s Poet Laureate, captured the feeling well in his 1902 poem, Sea-Fever.

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea
and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song,
and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn
breaking.

 

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of
the running tide
Is a wild call and clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds
flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the
sea-gulls crying.”

And so it was that, on a recent June morning as I walked through the Gardens with my friend Olga – clouds scudding overhead and gravel crunching underfoot – we decided to run off to sea.

There was no need to go far, nor even to stow away. For a mere two euros, a young, somewhat indifferent French harbormaster with a dwindling fleet handed us a bamboo pole and command of a red, gaff-rigged Moroccan sloop. The moment I began carrying our little ship to the water, its sails seemed to snap with impatience.

It’s important to note that these little tall ships at the Luxembourg Gardens are not radio controlled. In fact, they’ve probably changed little, if at all, from those that Ernest Hemingway referenced in A Moveable Feast, his classic memoir of 1920’s Paris. The accompanying bamboo pole, which a captain can use to gently shove his or her boat off, offers one only modest control, and then only when the boat is within a few feet of the basin’s edge.

As it happened, our little Moroccan ship needed no such encouragement or direction. Once in the water, sails tightly hauled, it set off smartly on a beam reach in hot pursuit of a Yankee clipper flying the Stars and Stripes. With not a moment to lose, I set off running for the other side, circumnavigating the fountain while trying not to collide with the little children who – each clutching their own bamboo pole – raced in pursuit of their boats, too. I don’t know who among us was more gleeful.

Half an hour later, having survived the ferocious typhoon of a spouting fountain, the placid indifference of Moby Dick, and the depredations of a marauding pirate ship, Olga and I returned our dripping vessel to the harbormaster. Rejuvenated by our unexpected voyage, we continued onward afoot, into the Latin Quarter, with vague intentions of finding a good boulangerie.

And this, in essence, characterized our week in Paris. We wandered as our desires carried us, guided not by a list of museums or monuments or must-see attractions, but by the winds of whimsy and serendipitous discovery.

Admittedly, it takes some determination to break the demands of popular expectation, especially when it comes to visiting a city as famous as Paris. Just look around, and you’ll see more than a few visitors who are so intently focused on commemorating their experiences that they see much of the city only through the digital screen of their camera.

Now, I’m not entirely immune to the lure of popular attractions. Did we see the Eiffel Tower, and snap a picture? Yes, from a distance. But the Arc de Triomphe? In that, we failed even to try, and let the Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile grace others, too. But if our Paris was a little more eclectic, it was still just as enthralling.

From a narrow, cobbled street, we watched an old man in a blue smock sit high atop a scaffold. Oblivious to the world below, he carefully lettered French prose onto an old stone wall, his slender brush dipping – every few strokes – into a small can of paint. Later, we picnicked on a bench in the Jardin des Plantes, listening to the music of a distant carousel and savoring a delicious, runny cheese that stank like the innards of a junkyard tire. Such is the perfection of random moments.

One special pleasure in this city of haute cuisine was, ironically, dining by candlelight in our EDH apartment on Rue du Four, in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. With seared tuna and an arugula salad, a bottle of white wine and old jazz on the radio, it seemed the perfect, relaxing Paris evening after a long day on the cobblestones. It reminded us that staying in a pied a terre – not just a nice hotel room – can change one’s entire perspective on a foreign city. Yes, we had voyaged to Paris from distant ports, but still felt entirely at home.

Too soon, our brief Parisian idyll ran its course and vacation ended. Olga returned to Ibiza, and I – after eight hours jammed into coach next to a fat man with halitosis – emerged into the honking cacophony of a humid Thursday night in New York City. Not surprisingly, the journey, the jetlag and this sudden, jarring juxtaposition with Paris left me feeling a little deflated.

It was almost midnight when I finally made it back into my walkup studio in Greenwich Village. I was grateful to finally be done schlepping my duffel through airports and subways, and happy to drink the cold bottle of beer I found waiting in my fridge. Then I lay down in my own bed, turned out the light and, too exhausted to dream, fell into a sound sleep.

Now, as I write this essay a few days later, the clock tower down my street is tolling the hour, much as the bells must be tolling, an ocean away, across the Île de la Cité. And as I listen to them pealing across the rooftops, the sails of my imagination are once again filling, and a red Moroccan sloop carries me toward distant shores.

A Zest for Global Living Experiences

By Jeanne Larson | Madrid, Mexico

I was lucky to spend three weeks traveling throughout central Mexico with my family as a child. That trip was the beginning of a strong attraction to other cultures and a zest for global living experiences that have transcended my life.

I headed to Europe after business school, determined to begin an international career in Spain where I had a rudimentary knowledge of the language and had studied at different points. After a sales career in Madrid, opportunities led me to Buenos Aires, and later Mexico City.

When it was logically time to settle down, my husband, who I met in Mexico and who relishes other cultures as much as I do, and I uprooted again to live in Europe for a few years. Our two children were born there, one in Barcelona, the other in Fontainebleau outside of Paris.

Now back in Minnesota, and living with my family on the farm where I grew up, I look forward to every opportunity to work with owners who wish to share their special home and its local culture with guests.

Yoga On the Road: Barcelona, Paris & NYC

By Bill Bisanz | Paris, New York

On a recent trip to three of my all-time favorite places I practiced yoga…everywhere. Normally my trips, whether for work or pleasure (this was both), are a departure from my normal routine. For sure travel is meant to be a break from the ordinary but why miss out on the extraordinary parts of the ordinary just because we’re on the road.

With this in mind I set out to maintain some of the same practices that help me feel happy and balanced when I’m at home in St. Paul, e.g., yoga, exercise, meditation and food. Yoga was the easiest of these to integrate into the jam-packed days of big-city travel and exploration. Waking up at 6 or 7 and going to bed at mid-night or later and in between meandering around these magnificent urban cathedrals, yoga is a great way to stay balanced while integrating so many new experiences.

In Barcelona, I practiced yoga in two studios – Yoga Studio Barcelona (www.yogastudio.es) and Happy Yoga (www.happyyoga.com) both located adjacent to the Placa Universitat about a five minute walk from Placa Catalunya. I would very much recommend both of these studios. For those of you who like vegetarian food, there is a simple but quite good vegan place called Veggie Garden at 3 Calle Dels Angels, very near both of these studios (try the great smoothies).

In Paris, Elite’s apartments are on the left bank in the St. Germain neighborhood so that is where I tend to spend most of my time. Oddly there seem to be more yoga studios in Barcelona than in Paris and there are more studios on the right bank in Paris, than near our homes on the left. Fortunately, I was introduced to a studio on the left bank Rasa Yoga (www.rasa-yogarivegauche.com), where we enjoyed a couple of different class types. By far my favorite was the Ashtanga class with Malena, a sexy Argentinian who glided as easily between English, Spanish, French and Sanskrit as she did across the floor of the yoga studio.

New York is home to my favorite yoga teacher, Sri Dharma Mittra; true spiritual teacher and gentle man. (www.dharmayogacenter.com). Dharma has been teaching yoga for over 40 years and I find this community to be welcoming warm and inspirational. Can’t say enough about what an amazing experience it is to visit and practice with this group of yogis!

Besides the yoga we enjoyed a rocking good time with our friends in Paris at the timeless Chez Castel, a private club so exclusive it doesn’t even have a website, facebook page or sign at the door. We also crashed the Paris marathon on Sunday morning for a few miles as well as David Lynch’s new club, Silencio. So the trip wasn’t all yoga, meditation and veggies!

Returning from my recent trip to Barcelona, Paris and New York City, I’m again struck by the unique opportunity to be inspired that travel offers us. Exposure to new ideas, people, perspectives, experiences are the reasons that those of us who love to take our journeys on the road just cant stop travelling.

Where the Real Magic Is

By Alex Bisanz | Steamboat Springs

For a lot of people, Steamboat Springs means skiing, hot chocolate, and winter fun. And in their defense, the skiing truly is fantastic – and kids ski for free! But for the select few that have had the privilege to experience the hot springs, that’s where the real magic is. The hot springs were actually what gave Steamboat Springs its name – before construction quieted the springs, they made noises like a steamboat coming down the river.

We really wanted to take advantage of the Hot Springs during our stay in Steamboat, and had two very different options to take try while we were there. The larger of the two springs is the Old Town Hot Springs in the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center. Located in the heart of downtown, the facility is open to the public and features eight hot springs pools. This is a great kid-friendly option, with water slides, climbing features, and more of a “water-park” feel. There is also a locker room, snack bar and fitness center, which makes it easy to change and store all of your stuff.

My personal favorite, however, was the Strawberry Park Springs. About seven miles from downtown Steamboat, the Strawberry Park Springs are a little bit smaller, and significantly more rustic. I would recommend scheduling a massage during your time that you spend there – the hot springs will only enhance the benefits. Strawberry Park Springs seeks to place an emphasis on the beauty of the natural surroundings, and as a result there is limited heat and electricity on the property. If you plan to go at night, pack a flashlight! You won’t be able to enjoy the mountain scenery, but the stars are amazing.

Back in town, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the quality of the restaurants and service in Steamboat. Steamboat in general is an incredibly friendly place, but the quality of the staff was better then I have experienced anywhere else. We ate out most nights – some of our favorites included the Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grille, Mazzola’s Italian Restaurant & Lounge and the Bistro CV. At the end of the day, it was a pleasure to return back to the Cimarron Chalet. The Chalet was the perfect place to enjoy family time- big enough that we were able to be close, without feeling crowded. And on top of that, the concierge staff and amenities made it feel like we were staying in a four-star hotel. After the experience – I can’t wait to go back!

Release the Kraken!

By Mark Hoiland | Turks & Cacios

If you’ve ever tried to go hunting for lobsters, you’ll quickly find that it isn’t as easy as reaching down and scooping them up. On my last trip to the Turks and Caicos, I was out snorkeling in the water behind our villa, and had discovered that there were tail lobsters hanging out after low tide. A number of years prior, on a trip to the Bahamas, I had learned from a local gentleman that the only way to catch lobsters was to hook them. If you aren’t careful, they will quickly bury themselves into whatever rock they were hanging out on, deep into a hole that may not be the smartest to stick your hand into.

I decided that I would quickly run into the house and make a hook from a coat hanger, some tape and a stick. When I got back, my hook (quickly made and poorly constructed) promptly fell apart in my effort to hook the lobsters. During all the commotion, I managed to disturb an octopus that had been lolling about near the lobster’s rock. Curious, I hooked the octopus and brought him in to take a better look. After examining the octopus, and releasing him back into the water, I swam away in pursuit of more lobsters when I felt something akin to a kidney punch slam into my side.

The octopus had returned! Octopuses are fairly aggressive by nature, and I had clearly managed to offend this one that was repeatedly ramming its head into my side. To avoid getting hit again, I reached out and grabbed the octopus at which point he promptly wrapped himself around my hand. Since I couldn’t dislodge him, I stood up (the water that I had been snorkeling in was only about waist deep) to better attempt to pry him off. At that point, my wife, who was standing around the corner, made her way over to see why I had been splashing around and making such a fuss. When she discovered the octopus on my arm, she quickly called our six other friends down to the dock.

Given the situation, I was more then inclined to fry the whole thing up for supper, but kinder hearts prevailed and the octopus (after inking me several times) was finally set free. Although he had lost a couple of tentacles, once he was back in the water he still made a show of indignantly zooming away from me in three fell swoops. At that point, since I had neither lobster nor octopus for my dinner, I went back inside to reinforce my hook. When I returned with the Cadillac edition of lobster hooks, my lobsters (probably scared by the octopus) had unfortunately, vanished.

Paris from a “Newbies” point of view

By Laurie Flum | Paris

Paris in the spring….I’d heard so much about it; in the movies, from friends…well you know. So when my job sent me to Paris I can admit my slightly introverted personality was a bit anxious about the trip. How would I get around, EUROS instead of dollars? – Hmmm, and what about the language barrier when I’m standing lost in the middle of the city!

Well from the moment we met the cab driver things were looking up. His English was excellent and he was so proud of his heritage as he told us all about Paris during the drive from the airport. Paris is LOVELY, from the consistency of the architect, to the beauty of the parks and the cleanliness of the city. The continuity of the cities ebb and flow relax you as you navigate your way through the city. You can walk for miles and never run out of old churches, statues, parks, museums and a never ending list of wonders.

There are a lot of stairs and a lot of walking, but then that gives validity to the enormous amounts of food you eat. Foods that are so outrageously rich you have no choice but to consume vast amounts and try as many as possible. Try the Loic Raison Cidier Breton – it is a delightful Cider Ale and ranks up there with the almond croissant from Gosselin Bakery, the Beef Bourgeon at a small side street cafe or the café crèmes at any of the many bistros.

The Arc de Triumph, Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum are everything and more than you’d expect. Landmarks unlike anything I’ve ever seen and are overwhelming in their design and beauty.

I’ll go back again soon – maybe with my daughter. I now understand why she threatened to move there when she studied abroad for three months.

Go to Paris!

Laurie Flum

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!