Things to Consider When Planning a Trip to the Caribbean During Hurricane Season

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Floods, storms, fires… so unfortunate all the news lately! The latest Category 5 Hurricane Irma has slammed into the Caribbean, & is now making its way to Florida..where major theme parks like Walt Disney World Resort , Sea World & Universal Orlando Resort are watching & have **refund polices** in place for visitors because of the weather.
Many Caribbean islands have been affected…& wise travelers know it IS hurricane season after all- June 1-November 30. But travelers, if you are ever thinking about booking a trip to the Caribbean, there are tremendous savings if you do end up going during this storm-prone period, along with the unlikelihood you will be caught in a disastrous storm, according to weather watchers.

On average, twelve tropical storms hit the Caribbean, & Gulf of Mexico each year during hurricane season. About six of those storms turn into hurricanes, according to the National Weather Service & the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Here is some great insight from meteorologists which outlines which islands to visit during each month to minimize your dangerous weather risk… Ways to potentially beat the storms by using science. But just know – there is absolutely no guarantee. 

High risk areas:

• June and July: Gulf of Mexico…which includes many Florida and Texas areas

• August & September: Northern Windward Islands (Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, etc.), Leeward Islands (U.S./British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, St. Maarten/St. Martin, Guadeloupe Islands, etc.), Greater Antilles (Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, etc.)

• October and November: Western Caribbean and the southeast U.S. coast

By the way – my favorite tip: The ABC islands, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, are largely free from the hurricane paths. #travel

I just want to add…we are talking about Mother Nature, and I want to reiterate there is no guarantee you won’t be caught in a storm. There is always some risk. Travel insurance is smart to purchase with the money you save by traveling during this time… that way if a storm is predicted in advance, you can reschedule and recoup any money spent. Look at all the insurance options and consider “trip cancellation” or “interruption” policies. But for the policy to kick in, you’ll nee to have purchased it before the storm is forecast. Read the fine print of everything and ask specific questions about what exactly it covers.

Our thoughts are with all those affected in the line of the storm…

 

Stargazing after theSolar Eclipse: Where to take the family

Today’s solar eclipse  has many of us in North America focused on science, space, and nature. If  you are one of those star stuck after the big event, that’s great news! There are many places around the country to explore yourself, or take your family of budding astronomers to keep everyone engaged with space. Many of these places have incredible shows with the newest technology. It’s not your mama’s telescope anymore!

Some of my favorite planetariums and why you should visit them:

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles from pachd.com

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles from pachd.com

  1. Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

The Samuel Oschin Planetarium at the Griffith Observatory (In my hometown Los Angeles) It got is “close up” in this year’s Academy Award winning La La Land, and the Griffith Observatory is a classic landmark overlooking an fantastic view of the City of Angels. The regular exhibits are a little advanced for the younger kids, but the movie inside the planetarium theater is interesting and can hold the attention of most kids.

My favorite thing about this observatory is the once a month public star gazing party outdoors.          Knowledgable astronomers are on hand to help look through telescopes, and it is an engaging experience. http://griffithobservatory.org/

Hayden Planetarium, NY photo by AMNH.org

Hayden Planetarium, NY photo by AMNH.org

2) Hayden Planetarium New York :

One would expect New York City, with all its museums and resources,  to offer a top notch experience in astronomy. The Hayden Planetarium doesn’t disappoint, and it’s located in the equally as interesting Museum of Natural History. What makes the Hayden special is the digital universe atlas it has developed, mapping our world in 3D!! This can be seen in the 429-seat Space Theater. The Museum’s Space Shows are also displayed here. In addition – Check out the incredible programs and speakers scheduled it you visit New York! In addition to the  star shows, the planetarium has live sky talks once a month, as well as lectures by prominent authors and astrophysicists. (BTW if you are a fan of the show “Cosmos,” the accomplished director of the planetarium is the host of the show!)  http://www.amnh.org/our-research/hayden-planetarium

Burke Baker Planetarium, Houston Photo by HMNS

Burke Baker Planetarium, Houston Photo by HMNS

3) Burke Baker Planetarium in Houston, TX

Houston, we have a planetarium. If your travels take you to this Texas city , the Museum of Natural Science and its Burke Baker Planetarium should be the first stop in your space museum exploration. It is an exciting place to visit as it is home to a dome theater that is actually used to train NASA astronauts in star field identification. The planetarium offers a large number of special shows.

(And while you are in Houston, take advantage of all the space edutainment offerings and visit  NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center too!)  http://www.hmns.org/planetarium/

4) Gates Planetarium in Denver, CO :

At the Gates Planetarium at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, visitors get a closer look at one of the most mysterious astronomical phenomenon, black holes. For the younger set, the museum’s One World, One Sky show takes you on a journey with Big Bird and Elmo to the moon and back in an educational yet entertaining journey.  http://www.dmns.org/planetarium/

5) Morrison Planetarium, San Francisco, CA:

Not surprisingly, the Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Arts and Sciences, near the center of the tech world , has the largest all-digital planetarium in the world. The programing lineup includes traditional star shows, live tours of the universe, live NASA feeds and broadcasts from  researchers reporting from the field. The CA Academy of Arts and Sciences was remodeled about 8 years ago, and is considered a cultural gem – so overall a lot to see at this one destination.  http://www.calacademy.org/exhibits/morrison-planetarium

Adler Planetarium, Chicago photo from Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium, Chicago photo from Adler Planetarium

6) The Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Il – This is reportedly the first planetarium built in the United States..and certainly one of the most entertaining. There are so many programs here, you are sure to find something interesting when you visit Chicago.  At Doane at Dusk, guests will enjoy nighttime telescope viewings and related discussions with Adler Astronomers after museum hours. And if you are looking for a unique date night, Adler at Dark is for ages 21 and above and is a different space-related experience once a month… Or how ’bout a truly spiritual yoga class on Satrudays in the planetarium while star gazing? Keeping up with the times, there is a special exhibition about Eclipse Chasing at the planetarium right now. http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/#h2AhH0tYMpSyIR7r.97

7) You don’t have to visit a planetarium to engage with the universe – when traveling takes you to remote areas far from big cities, where the night sky is more clear, that is an excellent time to break out the various apps that help you star gaze and identify celestial bodies. Some recommended apps:

Night Sky 4 (IOS) ..Night Sky Lite (Android)…Star Map…Star Walk 2.

And lastly… wherever your travels may take you – Here’s  a complete list of planetariums around the country:  http://www.go-astronomy.com/planetariums.htm

 

 

How NOT to get bumped from a flight

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I have been processing that disturbing video of the United Airlines passenger getting dragged off the plane, and like most, can’t believe the way that situation was handled. Yes, it is within the airline’s legal rights to remove passengers, but c’mon , there could have been more humane ways to deal with the situation…especially because they were kicking that passenger off to make room for their own employees!

Everyone has a price they will take to voluntarily get bumped –  why not just offer two round trip tickets anywhere in the US – or world – next time? Sign me up! It is now costing the airline much, much more.

That being said.. Overbooking, while rearing it’s ugly head in this isolated incident, actually makes airfares lower by enhancing the airlines’ revenues ensuring flights are booked. In 2016, airlines posted an involuntary bumping rate of 62 per 1 million fliers, according to the Bureau of Transportation.

So as we head into summer – one of the busiest travel seasons -what can you as a consumer do to protect yourself from being bumped?

According to the  Department of Transportation , “it is the airline’s responsibility to determine its own fair boarding priorities,” but for the most part, these tips reflect those priorities:

  • Check in to your flight as early as possible – print that boarding pass 24 hours in advance.. or if not possible because you are camping in the wilderness, LOL, download to your mobile as soon as you can!!! The last to arrive, the first in line to get bumped.
  • If you are loyal to one airline and have elite status, you are lower on the list to get bumped.
  • Same goes with the kind of seat you buy – the cheaper the seat, the more likely you are easily bumped.
  • If you are bumped voluntarily or non-voluntarily on a domestic flight – know this: You  are entitled to 200% of the one-way fare in compensation (but no more than $675) in cash if their delay is between one and two hours, according to a federal regulation. If the delay is more than two hours, customers are entitled to 400% of a one-way fare (but no more than $1,350) in cash. Be firm, and negotiate what you want. Check the contract of carriage on your airline.
  • Consider the airlines – according to Crankyflier.com, JetBlue doesn’t oversell flights.

While involuntary bumping could happen to any of us, consider these tips and it can be less likely. Safe travels everyone!

 

 

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Don’t Let This Storm Cost You in Frequent Flier Miles: Here’s a Little Known Secret

 

From newsline.com -FlIghts cancelled due to winter storm

 

A big winter storm on the East Coast has grounded many flights – Are you one of the many having to change travel plans? Yes, this costs the airlines money having to terminate flights – but it also costs passengers.

Don’t let it cost you in frequent flyer miles! For those of you who are mile mavens, keeping precise track of how many miles you earn and are already calculating to reach a new premier level, every little mile counts.

So if you’ve been rerouted this winter due to storms, make sure you check on how many miles the new route brings you. If it brings you LESS than your original route, you are entitled to collect higher number of miles you originally booked.

Also – if you have been rerouted to another airline, you can call the original airline and try to collect from that airline – presuming it is the airline you fly frequently.

Sometimes you then get to double dip with the airline you actually fly, and the one with which you originally booked.

All of this, of course, ONLY if you get rerouted or rebooked involuntarily.

Yeah yeah I know. It can be a hassle to call the airlines and work it out, and frankly, may people just don’t do it. But trust me.. when you are booking your summer vacation flight to Orlando and are 120 miles short of getting a free ticket, you will appreciate having laid the groundwork.

Safe Travels!

All Eyes On DC: My Top Things To Do With Kids In Our Nation’s Capital

This is probably the one non-political post about Washington DC today – so if you want a break from transition of power topics, read on!

On other days, when Washington DC is not so crowded, it is one of the best places I’ve ever been to take children – kids of all ages for that matter. Here are my top eight things to do in our nation’s capital:

 1) You gotta see the National Mall and Memorial Parks. This area is made up of greenspace, as well as memorials and monuments honoring former presidents and fallen soldiers, to name a few. It’s a nice walk all around, but it’s longer than it looks on the map. There are bikes you can take out right there – but be warned, there are few for small children.  Also – right near the Jefferson Memorial is Tidal Basin, where you can rent paddle boats and see the monuments from a distance, but from the water!  Tip: The Washington Monument is closed until spring of 2019, so you can’t go up to the top. When it reopens, there can be quite a line to go up… go around late dinner time, right before the sun sets and  when all the tourists are eating.

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2) The Capitol – Touring the Capitol is more than a look at the workings of government. The art and architecture are impressive, and stories about them are not lost on kids. Tours are free and try to book before -but if you don’t some same day tickets are available. Visitors can also see the House and Senate galleries, but that takes planning ahead. Tip: Be sure to go to the Library of Congress right next door – fascinating, and it has inauguration souvenirs and speeches on display, if you get inspired today. https://www.loc.gov/

3) The Smithsonian Museums – What people DONT tell you is that you could spend two or three days just exploring http://www.si.edu/Visit/Hours

The Air and Space Museum is overwhelming – so much stimuli, you have to take it in small doses..There’s also the Natural History Museum and the American Art Museum , just to name a few. ALL are free!!

4) The International Spy Museum – After all the culture from the Smithsonians, this is a fun, but well curated collection of spy culture history. Intriguing for mystery-seekers of all ages, it features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts on display to the public.

5) The White House – aka Mr Trump’s residence now. No matter what your politics, it’s a must see. BUT you really need to plan about 6 months in advance to get tickets through a member of Congress. When you book through your member of Congress, and need special hearing or visual assistance, you need to let them know in advance.

6) National Archives – Go on your own “national treasure” hunt and see where the Declaration of Independence is, as well as other documents from our nation’s beginnings.

7) The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing: The kids will love to see how money is printed, and how we protect from counterfeiters.  https://www.moneyfactory.gov/services/takeatour.html

8) Just outside of Washington DC , almost 15 miles away – but SO worth the trip , is Mount Vernon – the plantation home of George and Martha Washington. Right on the banks of the Potomac, this is one of the most kid-friendly and interactive attractions. The tour of the Washington home gets intimate, showing the very room where George Washington took his last breath. The museum on the property explains slavery, war, in relationship to Washington’s life, and includes a look at personal moments – like George and Martha’s relationship – in very clear terms for all. You can even see Washington’s infamous dentures!  http://www.mountvernon.org/

Happy Travels!

What I was reminded of while traveling in 2016 & will keep in mind in 2017…

I’m not going to sugar coat this – 2016 was a dramatic year. There was tension in the air with the presidential election looming… more terrorist attacks in beloved destinations… and too many deaths of well-known contributors to society.
Sprinkled in between, I took a higher number of trips than normal, which were great, but with the backdrop of unsettling world events, it felt like a little much. (Did I just say that?) This leads to my number one thing I was reminded of regarding traveling:
1) If you travel for business, or are just able to travel a lot for the heck of it, don’t underestimate the importance of pacing out the trips! If your dopp kit or cosmetic bag is still packed with your toiletries by the next trip, it’s probably too soon.
That’s just me, but I like to recharge so I can fully appreciate the next destination.

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2) I’m a fan of traveling during the off-season to avoid crowds and grab some deals. However, you need to do your research to make sure it’s still the type of atmosphere you want. For instance – I visited two hotels in Nicaragua last summer – Rancho Santana, and Mukul Resort.

Rancho didn’t miss a beat. However at Mukul, service must have been cut because it was slow season as it was hard to find anyone to help poolside or on the beach… And – one of the restaurants closed earlier.
By the way – the last couple weeks of July are still a fantastic time to visit Nicaragua – it is green from rains, but typically doesn’t rain during this time very much. We only got about 10 minutes of rain the entire week.

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3) Don’t assume it will be cheaper to use Uber in a city than renting a car, especially in San Francisco where it is ALWAYS peak hour rates. So many people use it in that tech universe, that it is so much more expensive. Take into account parking costs, then figure out if renting a car or a ride service like Uber or Lyft is cheaper…or consider a form of public transportation.

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4) When renting a home, try to talk to someone local who may be managing the property, instead of the owner who may live far away. They might be more qualified to tell you: Is there construction going on? If there are facilities like a pool or gym, will this be open while you are there? You can even go as far as to ask for contact information of guest who have recently stayed.

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5) If you can, go to Hawaii when school is in session – not in summer or any of the traditional school breaks. Even Waikiki seems quiet then! It is easier to get reservations for any activities, hotels, or restaurants…and the weather is fabulous all year round. I always say to truly appreciate the Aloha State is to get off your lounge chair and go beyond the nice hotel. That’s where you’ll find the true Aloha Spirit. Take a hike…visit a mom and pop eatery. But whatever you do, if you explore all the beaches, make sure you go to one with a lifeguard who knows the riptides, and where there are rocks.

Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, Nashville TN

Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, Nashville TN

6) Nashville is so much more than the music scene. Yes, it’s all that – but honestly, you could spend days there exploring and having a great time without ever stepping foot on Broadway! (Although, you must do that too.) There is so much culture and history… Plantations, Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, Cheekwood Gardens to name a few.

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But when you do get your dancing shoes on – wander to the strip and find the place that is right for you. There are tons of clubs – many packed with bridal showers and revelers – so do’t stop at the first one you come to. There are plenty – most with amazing music.

Happy travels in 2017 everyone – may they be safe, yet meaningful.

 

What women want right about now… places designed for you

Fall can be hectic for many women – back to school schedules for moms, and more rigorous job demands as corporate America also digs in a little deeper after a summer pace.

Some hotels are marketing to women’s daily challenges and chores this time of year by offering women’s wellness weeks – Women guests only, focusing on better living. I have heard of at least four taking place in October!

If this sounds interesting to you, you can check these out:

1) Cal-a-Vie, San Diego, CA –

cal-a-vie

Probably one of the most luxurious spa retreats in the country, this ultra luxe (and pricey) oasis in San Diego is offering a women’s wellness week Oct 13-19…with emphasis on reducing stress and living a healthier lifestyle. The message will be driven home with presentations and discussions on effects of hormones, cooking, staying fit for life… in addition to the normal mind/body/spirit program usually offered. You can participate in many different yoga classes, get spa treatments, all at the same time focusing on good nutrition.

From panachemag.com

From panachemag.com

Cal a Vie is in a gorgeous French countryside type setting… Women only will be allowed this week.

www.cal-a-vie.com

2) Staying in the San Diego area, Ocean Pearl Spa is offering Women’s Wellness Weekend Oct 4-6.

 

From Sandiego.com

From Sandiego.com

This spa is in the Sheraton Carlsbad Resort and Spa… right near Legoland. It might be hard to leave the kids at home when you are so close to a favorite amusement park, but if you decide to, here is what the weekend offers:

–Workshops on anti-aging, nutrition injection therapy, stress management.

–Sunset yoga on the terrace

–Spa treatments

–Meals

Ocean Pearl Spa form lajollamom.com

Ocean Pearl Spa form lajollamom.com

This isn’t a women’s weekend only at the resort, just womens’ special activities at the spa. The spa is beautifully decorated, with calming colors and a chic aesthetic. It offers a nice menu of treatments. The hotel location is very close to downtown Carlsbad, the beach, and other attractions in San Diego. There is a nice price point for this weekend of wellness too.

www.sheratoncarlsbad.com

3) Lake Austin Resort, Austin, TX

LakeHouse-Spa-at-Lake-Austin-Spa-Resort

Oct 1-12 is the “Gathering of Wise Women.” During this time guests can meet with relationship coaches, and listen to discussions on the power of positivity. Of course, there are fitness classes and an emphasis on nutrition too. This resort is quite lovely, on sprawling grounds. There are pet friendly rooms, which is a plus for animal lovers, and rooms with private porches to idle the days away.

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http://lakeaustin.com/spa-resort

4) How does fly fishing, mountain biking and sea kayaking sound?

From voga.org

From voga.org

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A little more active adventure than the all women packages above… but at Doe Camp with Vermont Outdoor Guide Association for women, that’s what’s on the agenda. It is the ultimate weekeend retreat for adventurous women! It takes place this year from Sept 27-29 at Jackson’s Lodge in Canaan, VT….. so it is most likely too late for this year – but bookmark for 2014.

www.voga.org/fall_doe_camp.

Looking out for you ladies! Grab some gal pals and treat yourself to some time to rejuvenate. It is important for your health and well-being.

 

 

 

 

 

A Cultural Family Trip of Epic Proportions: Machu Picchu & Peru

My spiel is to encourage families with children to travel to all sorts of destinations…and still remain sane! At the same time, I realize there are certain locations that would require so much work, planning, schlepping, and research because of the exotic or geographic nature, that we all need a little help.

Enter, stage right : Disney. They own the family brand, and rule the theme parks, but did you know they have a whole family travel division? The Disney cruises are probably the most well-known.

For the next week or so of posts, I am going to blog about the bucket list trip I took to Peru with a lesser known Disney travel area: Adventures by Disney guided vacations. Yes! We took the kids to Peru ….

Machu Picchu, Peru

…climbed the Inca Trail… and got spiritual at Machu Picchu…

Awana Kancha Llama Farm, Peru

….and went loco for llamas at a llama farm.

Was it easy? Surprisingly, yes. If you don’ t believe me, just ask my husband who is a little more the reserved roamer than the passionate pilgrim that I am.

Adventures by Disney organizes tours around the world: See the Great Wall in China…. cruise down the Nile in Egypt… or search for the Big Five in South Africa.

Let me just say that I have never been attracted to organized tours because I have traveled a lot, and like doing things on my own time. But I was impressed with how much easier an organized tour makes family travel. Do you get to pick your own hotels? No. The restaurants? Not all of the time. Make your own schedule? Nope.

However… Travel stress melts away as everything is organized for you – your hotels booked: Check. Luggage picked up at airport and you don’t have to even TOUCH it : Check. Transportation from airport to hotels, to attractions: Check . Check. Check. Key in a third world country like Peru.

Pisac Market, Peru

You also save countless hours in planning and researching every activity and hotel…and with a little Disney magic, you can avoid crowds at some of the most packed tourist attractions, and have access to true treasures otherwise off the tourist trail.

If your idea of vacation is to move around a lot, learn a bout other cultures, be chauffeured around the world without a worry, and mingle with other families – then this is something you might want to consider.

If you like slower pace with lounging at a pool – that is a different trip, and frankly, you don’ t need to pay to have guides show you that. There was little down time on the tour I took – This is a special immersive experience for which you have to have the energy.

Disney Guide and Jr Adventurer

If you don’t think you have the energy, you almost certainly will once you arrive because if Disneyland is the happiest place on earth…then the Disney adventure guides are definitely the happiest people on earth. They have the personalities and patience to have fun with the kids from all different time zones, and at the same time work hard to make sure the adults have ever single thing they need, without ever breaking a sweat.

In our group, an American Disney guide was paired with a couple local Peruvian, Disney-trained guides. The American guide is the heart and soul if you will…. and the local guides are well versed in their country’s history, know the language and customs, and can answer all questions. We tried really hard to stump ours – it became a game – “Stump Ernesto.”

If you do consider a guided tour for any trip, here are some things to think about:

1) Make sure the destination is age appropriate for your children. Only you know your child best. For example, I would recommend waiting until your child is 7 or 8 to go to Peru. Not only will they get more out of it, but if they are bored or fidgety, you will not have a great time.

2) If you think the price sounds expensive, try itemizing what it would cost to go it alone at comparable quality hotels and attractions. Often these tours sound expensive, but are better-priced because they have the power to negotiate good rates since they bring in more business… and some mistakes you may make with transportation, etc could cost you more in the long run. Plus, you have little extras that you may not even think about when calculating the cost of your trip- Disney had water bottles for us whenever we needed.

3) Find a tour group that fits your personality. Adventure? Scholarly? Volunteer-oriented? Family? Disney for example, makes family the focus.

4) If it is an international trip, I would highly recommend flying in a day before the tour begins to adjust to any time difference. Trust me, it is worth any extra money. If you are a zombie at the beginning of the trip, it is hard to recover.

Now that you have a general idea of a family vacation option, the next few days will take you on a more personal look at my vacation of epic proportions…a day by day journal of our adventure through Peru. From river rafting, to hiking the Inca Trail overlooking Machu Picchu, it was a trip we will always carry with us.

www.adventuresbydisney.com

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Happy Campers: Women reclaiming their lives over campfires, canteens, and classes

Believe it or not, it’s that time to start signing your kids up for summer camp to secure a spot. But how many of you long for the days of your summer camp youth? While signing your own child up to spend a few weeks on Sebago Lake in Maine, water skiing, swimming, and making s’mores are you secretly longing YOU were going again?

Campowerment

Campowerment

Well guess what? There is a camp for you. Campowerment. Sleep away camp for adults. It aims to bring out our your inner child, yet nurture the mature you.

Campowerment

Campowerment

Campowerment combines the magic of childhood summer camp with empowering, interactive workshops led by experts in health, wellness, love, spirituality, parenting, personal style, and business empowerment. Three days of growth, and learning from pros… and a lot of unbridled fun.

Campowerment

Campowerment

Women go to camp in the wilderness to disconnect, and end up connecting with each other, total strangers, through all sorts of camp-like activities – some challenging, some calming. From typical summer camp arts and crafts… to a ropes course and zipline… to sunset yoga, and of course – camp fires and flashlight chats. When the campers have had enough, they turn in for the night in their cabins, just like your old summer camp.

Campowerment

Campowerment

It’s a refreshing way to focus on different areas of your life with other women, while at the same time having some good old fashioned fun.

As of now, camps are in Malibu, CA… The Poconos, PA…Orange Springs, FL… and the Catskills, NY. The current price is $999, which includes all meals and activities.

The camp director, and brains behind the bunks, Tammi Leader Fuller, says she started the camp because …well, heck… I could never describe it like she does. Her story is a moving tale. Life led her to this path. She wants you to have enlightened fun. Please read it on her website when you visit. Here’s the link: www.campowerment.com/#!meet-tammi/c1asl

And here’s the homepage for s’more camp info 🙂 www.campowerment.com

Bring on the Kumbaya, Campowerment style.

 

 

Spotlight on Rio – A Stunning Natural Setting for the Olympic Games

Did you watch the Summer Olympics opening ceremonies? Are you still humming the sultry Basso Nova tune “Girl from Ipanema”?

Get ready for more spectacles. You all are going to be seeing some mind blowing shots of Rio de Janeiro broadcast back here during the Olympic Games. It certainly is one of the most photogenic places I’ve ever visited. But unfortunately, the natural beauty masks the problems there…and the neighborhoods into which travelers should not wander. It’s a true shame because it is such a vibrant city.

I was in Rio probably eight or nine years ago for work, and the beach town captivated me. It felt exotic, raw, and provided some of the most amazing topography…rugged green mountains and jagged blue coastline – the curves and colors creating dynamic synergy.

I felt safe most of the time..walking only in my Ipanema neighborhood where my hotel was.. but was told to be careful because there are so many pick pocketers and lots of crime. Beyond my hotel neighborhood, I couldn’t believe the poverty. Shanty towns lining the highways.. the sheer number of people living that way was astonishing.

I recently had conversations with people from Rio and they tell me crime and poverty have only gotten worse.

On a brighter note and for fun, I want to give you some background on the places you will be seeing in tv beauty shots..and places you should visit if the tide ever changes. And yes, I’m still grooving to Basso Nova nine years later.

1) Christ the Redeemer

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Holy holy statue. This is one amazing monument – A 125 foot art-deco  statue of Jesus Christ – or Cristo in Rio – plunked smack dab at the 2300 foot summit of Mount Corcovado… overlooking the coast and mountains.

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The best part is visitors can take a train to the top for fantastic views. There is also a chapel beneath the statue where people can get married or have baptisms.

What’s interesting is this statue took years to come to fruition. After a first proposal failed, a second proposal for a landmark statue was made in 1920, by a group of Catholics who perceived “Godlessness” in society at the time. (What would they think today?!) Donations came mostly from Brazilian Catholics.

It is listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone, and was constructed between 1922 and 1931. It’s an amazing outing.

2) Sugarloaf Mountain – A almond shaped peak on a peninsula that juts out into the ocean… but was named “Sugarloaf” because it was said to resemble a refined loaf sugar. Sugar cane trade was big in Brazil.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

It is so striking to see a mountain like this rise so close to the water’s edge. Visitors can take a cable car to the top for some more mesmerizing views.

Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

3) Ipanema and Copacabana Beaches

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Arguably two of the most famous beaches in the world. Wide stretches of sand,and the epicenter of fun in Rio.  The parties doesn’t stop at either place… take a walk at night time and the lights are on, runners are jogging along the sand, and the volleyball courts are full. I was there in Brazil’s  summer, so it stayed light longer and locals were still playing on the beach well past dusk.

Copacabana Beach Promenade, Rio de Janeiro

Copacabana Beach Promenade, Rio de Janeiro

Copacabana Beach has more hotels and a 2.5 mile promenade to stroll..

Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro

What’s special about it is you have a great view of Sugarloaf ,  lots of restaurants and clubs in the area as well.

Ipanema Beach, Rio de janeiro

Ipanema Beach, Rio de janeiro

Ipanema Beach on the other hand has some of the more expensive real estate for the area. Look not only for football, and volleyball on this beach, but a game called footvolley. Unfortunately, according to reports, this is one of the beaches affected by poor waste management – large amounts of pollutants are found in the beach water.

4)Parque Lage – I always like visiting public parks wherever I travel – I find them to be more interesting than beaches, and reflect the culture a bit more also. This particular park is such a peaceful haven in this boisterous city… it almost feels forgotten.

The land was formerly the residence of industrialist Enrique Lage and his wife, singer Gabriella Besanzoni. Their mansion still exists in the park with a cafe there, as well as the Visual Arts School . I heard once you can take a painting class there, and paint right there in the garden – if so,sign me up!

Parque Lage, from littlenomad.com

Parque Lage, from littlenomad.com

There are walking trails through a subtropical forest.. and it’s just a nice place to relax and feel like you are in a different place totally. I took a cab ride here from Ipanema.

Side note: if the mansion looks familiar to you  – it was featured in the 2003 music video for Snoop Dog’s song “Beautiful.”

5) Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa, Rio de janeiro

Santa Teresa, Rio de janeiro

Ok so you might not see a lot of this neighborhood, but I wanted to include it because it’s a charming area.

Santa Teresa is the name of a neighborhood in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is located on top of the Santa Teresa hill, by the center of Rio, and is famous for its winding, narrow streets which are a favorite spot for artists and travelers.

Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro

Traditionally Santa Teresa is a renowned gathering place for intellectuals, academics, artists, and politicians, who are inspired by its historic character, and doses of culture.

I am sure the beauty shots on television the next couple of weeks will seduce you, and will contribute to the magic of the games. I love that we can learn about places and people around the world through the games..and last night’s exhibition was just the beginning.

Go Team USA!

 

 

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