Fishing Tips from Families That Love to Fish

Fishing Tips from Families That Love to Fish

June 17, 2019

There is something inherently familial about fishing. Maybe it’s because most of us get introduced to the sport by our dads or grandparents or a favorite uncle. There’s something reassuring about making a cast or feeling a fish tug at the end of a line. Maybe it’s because fishing, like family time, can sometimes be frustrating and lead to cursing fits; yet we always— happily—come back to it.

For many families (especially the one I married into) angling along the Big Wood River, which runs past America’s original ski resort of Sun Valley and right through the heart of central Idaho, is a big part of their heritage.

“The Big Wood River is a great place to learn how to fish, especially fly fish, with its easy access and abundant, aggressive fish,” says Dave Faltings, when asked why “The Wood,” as locals sometimes call it, is so popular with families. Faltings knows. He has been managing the guides at the world-famous Silver Creek Outfitters in Ketchum for over a quarter of a century now.

Faltings explains that because of its diverse regulations—some stretches are catch-and-release only, while others are stocked regularly and allow healthy bag limits—the Big Wood has long been an extremely popular fishery for anglers of all kinds.

“It’s a really diverse river,” he says. “It’s nice for kids and fun for families who want to keep fish because there are places where it’s allowed. But it’s also a great place to learn to fly fish, because it’s a healthy freestone river so you don’t have to be perfect to catch a fish like you do on spring creeks. And there are also a lot of wild fish, which appeals to seasoned anglers.”

For all the aforementioned reasons, plus its numerous easy-access points along Idaho’s Scenic Highway 75 and close proximity to the world-class resort community of Ketchum Sun Valley, anglers of all ages and abilities return to The Wood year after year. And for five generations now, my family has been casting amongst them.

So when I take my two young sons, Jack and Sam, down to the river or to one of several “kids’ ponds” sprinkled near its banks, it dawns on me that what we’re doing consists of a lot more than fishing. Like many kids, my dad taught me how to fish … but that took place far away from the Northern Rockies. “Pops” would take my brothers and me out along the rocky shores south of Boston to drown worms for flounder, or to Sandy Neck along Cape Cod to shore-cast for stripers.

I don’t remember the catching ever being too good or ever thinking about how lucky I was to be fishing. But I do remember the thrill of feeling a fish fight against my line: the mystery, the challenge, the long periods of quiet waiting interrupted by bursts of excitement.

Now, decades later, I find myself casting on waters of a much different sort. I traded the saltwater tackle for a fly rod, the worms for wooly buggers, the salty sea for the swift currents of Rocky Mountain rivers. And now it’s my turn to be dad, passing on the gift of fishing. Yes, the gift.

And like a lot of dads in this situation I occasionally feel overwhelmed—not just by all the gear, extra clothing and wind knots from hell you have to deal with, but by how much there is to teach my young sons, beyond cinch knots, how to cast or the proper way to handle and release trout.

The Big Wood is, after all, the same river where their grandpa fished each summer when he was a boy and where he was first introduced to fly fishing by his own grandparents, who would come over from eastern Idaho each year to fish the picturesque trout stream. So I must teach them to treat the river with respect.

The Wood is the river where their grandma fished as a child herself. She and her sisters would be roused out of bed by her dad “at some Godforsaken hour to go catch trout,” she says. Raised on farms not far from the river’s banks, their grandma ate so much trout as a child she can’t even stand the smell of it now. So my boys must learn to appreciate the river, how it flows through our family heritage and all that it provides—which is far more than food and fun.

If trout are your favorite sport fish, then you’ll have a hard time finding a better place to angle than the Sun Valley, Idaho, area. The region offers nearly year-round easy access to spectacular fisheries like the Big Wood River, the Copper Basin and the blue ribbon, spring-fed Silver Creek. Countless mountain streams and lakes teeming with trout are tucked into the mountain ranges encircling Sun Valley: the Boulders, the Pioneers and the Sawtooths. It’s easy to find a quiet place to cast.

With long, warm days, summer is peak season on Silver Creek, the landmark preserve famous for its monstrous rainbow and brown trout as well as its mind-blowing mayfly hatches like the brown drake. East of Sun Valley, Copper Basin is a secluded spot well worth the excursion. Three species of trout beckon anglers to isolated waters with a great mix of pools, pocket water, riffles, and runs.

The Big Wood and a small stretch of Silver Creek remain open to fly fishing through the autumn, which can be downright fantastic as the leaves fade and drop from the trees and hungry trout rise to midges and blue-winged olives. Even the winter angling (catch and release, barbless hooks only) on the Big Wood River can be terrific, so long as it’s not too cold for down jackets and long johns. Midday and, surprisingly, snowy days are best. Double Headers—fishing and skiing in the same day—are quite common for Wood River Valley residents and visitors.

The Big Wood closes for spawning from April 1 until Memorial Day weekend. These early spring days beckon anglers north toward Stanley and Challis to chase after the seasonal sea run trout known as steelhead that make their way up the Salmon River.

These are the same fishing holes where their East Coast, Big City granddad learned the simple joy of casting a fly rod amongst the glorious backdrop of crystal clear water coursing through the mountains. It’s also their dad’s other “office.” It’s where I sneak off for a couple of hours of mental health now and again, and why I usually come back smiling. For just like other rivers much more famous than the Big Wood, there’s something magical and healing about its waters. So my boys need to learn to enjoy it all, for that’s what fishing and being a kid—heck, a human being—is really all about.

It’s during those quiet moments, when the river and the wind whisper and my son quietly and sincerely scouts the water that I’m reminded there are times in life when it’s best to just shut up and fish. And I’m reminded of the joy of simply being, and sharing, and that there are few better places on earth to do so than the Big Wood River.

Five Sensational Spa Vacations

Five Sensational Spa Vacations

June 5, 2019

A true spa vacation offers much more than a quiet retreat. It’s an ethereal escape and an opportunity to reinvigorate your very spirit. Some travelers bring home local artwork or indigenous crafts from their far-flung vacations. Others like an irreverent T-shirt, colorful cookbook or sparkly bauble to remind them of a favorite trip. Me? I prefer to commemorate my vacation with something I can’t put in my suitcase and bring home: a massage.

When I travel, I carve out plenty of time to indulge in a pampering spa treatment—preferably at the beginning of a trip to set the tone for rest and relaxation. After all, what better way to truly let go of the “daily grind” back home than with a stint at the spa? I suggest combining a massage, facial, body scrub or wrap with a steam and sauna to feel fully renewed, refreshed and get into vacation mode … for mind, body and soul.

The most luxurious resort spas offer so much more than simple body treatments. It’s easy to spend several hours enjoying spa amenities, such as private outdoor pools, soaking tubs, relaxation lounges and spa-menu meals. On-site fitness centers allow me to exercise before a treatment, so I feel I’ve “earned” my hour to zone out and lie limp on the massage table. Actually, I’m more motivated to work out on vacation since resorts typically offer state-of-the-art cardio equipment, innovative yoga classes, nature walks, water aerobics or other fitness offerings that I simply don’t have easy access to at home.

On my vacations, I’ve had my chakras balanced, tried meditation sessions and gone on a blindfolded sensory journey, courtesy of scheduled spa services. I like to sample different experiences that enhance my well-being, even if they are a little out of my comfort zone. Travel is all about expanding horizons and you certainly can do that at the spa.

I appreciate, too, that resort spas often use native botanicals in their treatments. “Local” and “organic” are common buzzwords at spas worldwide, so no matter where you travel, you’ll likely find indigenous ingredients in body products as well as techniques that reflect the area culture. That means in Hawaii, consider booking a lomi lomi massage and in the Caribbean, a seaweed wrap. You know what they say … when in Rome!

Whether you can only “get away” for a couple of hours on a family vacation or you’re planning an entire trip that focuses on your well-being and fitness, the resort spa is a sanctuary where you can renew your spirit and feel good—really good—at the same time. Sure, that souvenir sculpture might look lovely on your mantel, but a therapeutic massage in a thatched beach palapa with waves crashing in the distance and a cool ocean breeze tickling exposed skin … well, that soothing experience can evoke happy memories for years. Here are five fabulous spas at luxurious destinations that cater to discerning clients with a variety of outstanding services and amenities.

Le Sereno Spa on St. Barts Enjoy a moisturizing massage in Le Sereno Spa’s intimate waterfront pavilion or in the comfort and privacy of your villa at this intimate property on the east end of St. Barts in the French West Indies. Choose from exotic services, such as the St. Barth Sun Downer, a body mask with clay, melon mousse, aloe vera gel and mint that is ideal for soothing sun-kissed skin. Or perhaps the St. Barth Chill Out, a full-body massage that incorporates the use of warm clamshells and avocado oil. Skin-care products used in all treatments are by Ligne St. Barth, manufactured on St. Barts and featuring extracts from plants, fruits and flowers that are grown on the island.

The Spa at Pelican Hill Gorgeous Italian-inspired architecture sets the tone for pure luxury at this spa on the coast of Newport Beach, California. The Spa at Pelican Hill’s Acqua Colonnade features warm Roman soaking pools beneath a barrelvaulted ceiling, plus an herbal steam room and sauna, all to enjoy before or after your relaxing, invigorating, or replenishing treatment. Consider a soothing Amber Gold Signature Massage to relieve stress, a detoxifying Coastal Renewal scrub-wrapmassage combination that incorporates ocean algae and Mediterranean herbs, or a rejuvenating PH Sports Scrub for stimulating circulation and revitalizing tired skin.

Spa & Salon at Aria If you’ve partied too hard in Las Vegas, the spa at the ARIA Resort & Casino is the ideal place to soothe puffy eyes and nourish dehydrated skin. Unique amenities include the Shio Salt Room, where walls lined with salt bricks encourage the healing of skin irritations and a healthy upper respiratory system. Heated Japanese stone beds soothe sore muscles, an outdoor infinity pool invites relaxation, and plush seating in the cozy fireside lounge just might put you to sleep after a night on the town.

Hualalai Spa at Four Seasons Hualalai Say aloha to relaxation at this Big Island spa that honors the Hawaiian environment and culture with treatments featuring local ingredients, such as black lava salt, hibiscus flowers and macadamia nuts. Sample a Ti Leaf Wrap, Coconut Scrub or Lomi Lomi Massage in your own private hale (“house”) in the open-air Waiea Garden. With a focus on well-being, this forward-thinking spa also offers acupuncture and chiropractic treatments, in addition to a full menu of nail and salon services.

Antarctica: Losing Yourself and Finding Everything Else

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Antarctica: Losing Yourself and Finding Everything Else

May 16, 2019

Nothing can prepare you for the epic underside of our planet. I keep a list of the things I’ve seen that were, at first, nearly impossible to grasp. A few of these landmarks took seconds—even hours—to comprehend: the Grand Canyon, Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal, Ethiopia’s underground rock-hewn churches, Miss Brazil flipping her hair at a barbecue, Machu Picchu and the ice-wrapped Himalayas. After hiking through Nepal’s mind-boggling landscape, I forecast that sensory overload as matchless. Then, I beheld Antarctica.

This frosted otherworld hypnotizes with glimmering, blue-green icebergs drifting among glacial citadels. Whales hiss, seals snore and penguins return your gaze. This everlasting winter wonderland gives new gist to finally “hitting bottom,” way down under. Extremes of climate, landscape and awe found on no other continent await those who venture here. The 1,800-mile-long Transantarctic Mountains rival the Rockies in height, but only the crests break through the ice sheet. The boom of cracking glacial crests echoes through valleys as chunks of ice fall hundreds of feet into sea water.

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There are glaciers elsewhere: the lingering bits in Montana’s Glacier National Park are predicted to melt by 2030. New Zealand’s Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers, attractions I marveled at in the ’80s, now seem puny. Alaska and Norway have significant offerings, but Antarctica is a glacier that’s roughly the size of the U.S. and Mexico combined—and constantly calving icebergs into the ocean. It’s a live show.

The UN-sponsored 1959 Antarctic Treaty mandated that this continent only be explored with peace in mind—no hunting, fishing, industry, exporting, oil drilling or weapons testing. However, lawlessness prevailed here before 1959. Antarctic shores are littered with whale-bones, the unsettling legacy of a now outlawed whaling industry. The white continent lingers as an example of how our planet intended on enduring the eons. Your mind wanders during your time amid the ice. The wildlife, surviving despite being utterly vulnerable among relentless challenges, reminds us that pining and whining wastes precious time.

When you step ashore, you’ll no doubt encounter penguins—upright birds that can’t fly— that often seem as playful as puppies. Mingling with them, provided they’re willing, is enthralling. Penguins quack like a band of trumpeting kazoos while flapping their wingfins gaily. Photographing them is similar to shooting a moderately amused child; you lose them if you break the spell. Their quack soundtrack melds with whimpering seals (hairy, puppy-faced dolphins with flippers and reeking of musky low tide), screeching gulls, pleading terns, thundering glaciers and the air-releasing whooshes from whale blowholes. This is nature. Most shore excursions are about the environment, but a few of them visit research stations that double as shopping binges. Royal bargain: At Port Lockroy, a British research station, international-anywhere stamps cost $1. Similar landings and offerings to mail via Chilean post cost $5 while Argentina charges $7 for their stamp. Hmm.

And then there’s the actual trip to get here— via what can be some of the earth’s most torrential wave action. The Drake Passage is the confluence of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and it separates the South American continent and the Antarctic Peninsula. Splash in its funneling of the circulating waters around the bottom of the world, and you have Earth’s strongest current; it makes the Gulf Stream seem negligible. The westerly winds, uncompromised by mountain ranges, can blow up to 100 miles per hour. Imagine navigating this 100 years ago. Even today, there’s still no one to stamp your passport here.

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Ships rolling in waves make some people nap. Even when not on the brink of a nap, most passengers are mellower on the boat than they’d be at home—the only tension is possibly missing something gorgeous. Someone on watch is always willing to discuss life at sea, whale watching or storm navigating, even at 4 a.m. Barring ice-bashing tight spots, the captain is usually available for a chat.

Once back on land in Ushuaia, you might experience a bit of greenout—the alarm experienced by long-term Antarctic visitors upon returning to terra firma and seeing grass and trees. “Dock rocking ” is the swaying sensation felt on land after being at sea for a long time. Mine resembled a two-beer buzz and lasted days. When you wake up from your Antarctic dream, enlightened and bewildered, you’ll miss the sweet air. Penguins are happier than clams—now you know why.

How to Experience a New Vacation Destination While Still Relaxing

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How to Experience a New Vacation Destination While Still Relaxing

May 6, 2019

Sometimes we take ski vacation over winter break, but Costa Rica had long been on our “have to go” list and friends had been talking so highly about it lately, we felt we couldn’t wait any longer. When we looked and saw how beautiful the Villa Vientos on the Cacique Peninsula and that it was available, it was an easy decision.

Our main goal for joining a travel club like Inspirato was that we wanted to expose our daughter, Laina, and our family to different adventures that would otherwise be outside of our comfort zones. We like to travel a certain way. We work hard and, when it comes time for vacation, we like to be pampered. But we also like to explore new places.

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Usually our vacations are very relaxing and we don’t do a lot of action-type activities, but this week was very active. Costa Rica is probably the only destination we’ve been to where there is so much stuff to do it’s hard to choose. Thankfully we had help from a destination concierge to come up with an itinerary that covered all the bases, but had relaxing days too.

Even the relaxing days were adventurous though. Rather than going to touristy beaches, we explored these secret beaches that were five minutes away. We’d drive down a dirt road and then hike down and soon pop out onto this hidden beach. We’d never have found them on our own. Like she did with every place she recommended, she even plugged the GPS coordinates of these beaches into our Waze mobile app after the GPS that came with our rental car didn’t work very well.

Other days we did all of the activities Costa Rica is famous for: zip lining, an ATV tour, snorkeling and a wildlife riverboat cruise. Even the drive to the riverboat tour ended up being interesting. We had a guide with us in addition to a driver, and he taught us so much about the plants and animals we saw along the way, stopping for a closer look at things we totally would have missed without him. He took us to this small town square that looked pretty normal, but then he told us to look up in the trees; there were all of these giant lizards. Someone threw out some watermelon and all of a sudden the trees came alive with these creatures crawling out to the watermelon.

On the river tour, we pretty much saw anything that you could think of that would live here—howler monkeys, alligators, tons of birds. The kids really loved this, saying it was like a Disney safari trip, but better because it was real.

Heading back to the house from the cruise, our guide promised us a Costa Rican-style lunch. We didn’t understand what that was until we got to the top of this road in the jungle and there was an open-air kitchen with some small picnic tables. Two women were back in the kitchen cooking on a wood-burning, open-flame stove. We all kind of looked at each other and knew we were thinking the same thing: “Ummm, what’s this going to taste like?” It was totally out of our comfort zone. But the lunch—there in the middle of nowhere—ended up being amazing.

Another day, we had a half day of snorkeling off of a catamaran. I don’t know what was better, the snorkeling or the lunch on the boat. Even with all of the stuff we managed to squeeze into our active days, we were always back at the house between 3 and 6 p.m. The kids would jump into the infinity pool and the adults would enjoy cocktails on the deck overlooking the harbor and the mountains beyond and watch the sun set. It was perfect.

Experience Summertime In Aspen

Experience Summertime In Aspen

April 18, 2019

Known as much for its world-class culture and cuisine as its pristine, majestic surroundings, it’s easy to nurture mind, body and spirit in Aspen. The best- summer event is likely the Aspen Music Festival, which draws renowned classical musicians and top students for eight weeks of daily concerts, recitals, operas, master classes and other events.

Under the guidance of new music director Robert Spano, who previously oversaw the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the festival’s focus this year is “Made in America,” highlighting works by American composers and European immigrants. On Thursday nights, join Roaring Fork Valley locals who convene on Fanny Hill at the Snowmass ski area for free concerts programmed by Jazz Aspen Snowmass. The regional and national acts range from folk to funk. Pack a blanket and a picnic, and plan on buying a bottle of wine at the concert.

The Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival brings world leaders in politics, science, technology, the environment, health, education, and the arts to town for lively discussions and seminars on today’s current issues. Passes generally sell out in advance, so plan ahead. And keep an eye out for familiar faces around town during the fest. You might spot Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton dining at an outdoor patio.

Aspen’s budding restaurant scene is continually evolving, with classics like Cache Cache, Matsuhisa, and Pinons joined by at least one newcomer each year. Among this year’s freshmen is Justice Snow’s in the Wheeler Opera House. The Colorado-inspired menu reflects the current trend for local ingredients. The extensive vintage cocktail list is part history lesson, part inspiration.

Finbarr’s Irish Pub has quickly become a local’s favorite since opening in late 2011, with updates on traditional pub fare like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips as well as specialties like curried prawns and potatoes. The Ajax Tavern at the base of the Aspen Mountain gondola has a well-earned rep as the see-and-be-seen place to lunch. A hip alternative is poolside dining at 39 Degrees at the Sky Hotel, one block away. Pair the tuna wonton tacos with a Corpse Reviver 39 and while away an hour or so on a warm, sunny afternoon.

This summer’s hottest table—and most intriguing new concept—will be at Chefs Club by Food & Wine magazine, the brand-new restaurant at the St. Regis Aspen slated to open during the annual FOOD & WINE Classic. The seasonally-inspired menu will be created by select recipients of the culinary magazine’s annual Best New Chefs awards.

The town’s casual dress code extends to all facets of the town, as locals bike to Music Festival concerts, sip a margarita on an outdoor patio after rock climbing near Independence Pass or grab an early dinner on the way home from a hike. Classic Aspen hikes such as the ones to American or Cathedral Lakes or to the base of the Maroon Bells are justifiably popular. A favorite locals’ workout is to hike up the lung-busting Ute Trail, which starts off Aspen’s Ute Avenue and switchbacks up 1,700 vertical feet in the first mile, then snakes across Gentlemen’s Ridge on Aspen Mountain before connecting with ski-area service roads. Acclimated hikers reach the summit in about an hour and a half, though there’s no shame in taking longer. Save your knees and ride the gondola down for free. (Dogs are allowed, too.) For a mellower workout, take the gondola up to join one of the thrice-weekly yoga hikes—downward dog at 11,212 feet, anyone?

After hiking, Aspen’s biggest summer sport may be road biking. A veritable peloton heads up daily to the Maroon Bells and the Ashcroft ghost town, two of the most popular rides. To really get in your mileage, hit the Rio Grande Trail, a 42-mile multi-use path from Aspen to Glenwood Springs; other than a few-mile packed dirt section near Woody Creek, it’s paved.

With stores like Gucci, Fendi, Burberry and Louis Vuitton—along with longtime favorites such as Distractions, Nuages, and Pitkin County Dry Goods—Aspen can cater to the most sophisticated fashionista. But there’s more than designer labels to hunt down among the many boutiques within the town’s historic core. Two Old Hippies combines a comprehensive selection of guitars with an eclectic mix of home décor and fun clothing and accessories for the whole family—even the dog. Many of them embody the store’s motto: peace, love, and rock ‘n’ roll. 

Aspen women in the know go to Harmony Scott to stock up on delicate handmade jewelry with colorful gemstones and pearls. Don’t miss Souchi, which offers gorgeous women’s knits in silk, cashmere, linen, cotton and bamboo. All are hand-loomed in Portland, Oregon, where designer Suzi Johnson lived until recently when she relocated to the Roaring Fork Valley. A few blocks away, Danemann-Pure is the only U.S. outpost featuring the fresh, modern looks of German women’s wear designer Petra Danemann. The Little Bird has a carefully curated selection of vintage women’s clothes and accessories from every A-list designer you can think of, plus some new items.

Hiking the South of France Is a Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience

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Hiking the South of France Is a Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience

April 15, 2019

We were up early enough on a June morning that the doves hidden in the cypress trees across the street were still cooing when we made a quick stop at the Boulangerie Alais in Bonnieux, one of the prettiest villages in the magnificent 30-mile long Luberon Valley east of Avignon in Provence in the south of France. A bath of puffy fougasses garnished with black olives had just come out of the oven. They were cooling on the counter and filling the air with a mouthwatering  scent of herbs de Provence before joining other freshly baked versions of the same bread garnished with lardons (chunks of bacon), tomatoes and goat cheese in the display case of this friendly little shop.

As a longtime American-in-Paris who’s been lucky enough to spend many happy hours hiking the Luberon over some 25 years, I’ve learned that these delicious brioche-like flatbreads, the French cousin of Italian focaccia and a typically Provençal food, beats trail mix by a mile. Why? Not only are they delicious, they give you an energy boost and some needed salt after you’ve been walking for a while on a warm day.

There are very few places in the world that offer a setting more charming for hiking than the Luberon region. A superb web of well-marked public access trails, paths and farm roads makes it easy to discover on foot its mesmerizing landscapes of forests; fields of wheat, lavender, sunflowers and other crops; vineyards; and orchards of apple, olive and other trees. A good walk is also a great way to build up an appetite for an impromptu picnic shopped from one of the weekly markets held in the Luberon’s delightful villages or a relaxing meal in one of its friendly bistros.

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There are very few places in the world that offer a setting more charming for hiking than the Luberon region. A superb web of well-marked public access trails, paths and farm roads makes it easy to discover on foot its mesmerizing landscapes of forests; fields of wheat, lavender, sunflowers and other crops; vineyards; and orchards of apple, olive and other trees. A good walk is also a great way to build up an appetite for an impromptu picnic shopped from one of the weekly markets held in the Luberon’s delightful villages or a relaxing meal in one of its friendly bistros.

I hadn’t decided which of my preferred hikes I’d take Kit and Alice, friends visiting from Hartford, Conn., on until I was sipping a second cup of coffee just as the sun came up that morning. They had said they were keen to get up close to Provence, to really hear it—bird song, the wind in the trees, rushing water, a distant tractor, a dog barking, maybe even a donkey braying—and smell it—thyme, rosemary, lavender, arbutus, pine and wildflowers, among other scents—the way you can only do when you go for a walk. But, I suspected that like many people at the beginning of a vacation, they were doubtless more tired than they realized. Also, in good shape though they both might be, I was aware that this pair—he’s the vice president of an insurance company, she’s an architect—probably spend most of their time at their computers.

So on our first day out, I wanted to give them a good time without running them into the ground, which is why I settled on a relatively gentle three-hour circular walk from Goult, one of my favorite Luberon villages because it hasn’t been completely gentrified by Parisian weekenders, and it’s just a five-minute drive from the house we were staying at in Bonnieux. In Goult, we met Jutta, a delightful German woman who’s my regular hiking pal, and after running through the checklist necessary for any hike in Provence—map, compass, sun- tan lotion, hats, well-charged cell phone, water, small first-aid kit, plus snacks of fougasses and oranges—we were off.

Our first stop was the Moulin de Jerusalem, a windmill that once belonged to the Marquis de Donis, the last seigneur of Goult. Restored by the village of Goult, this circular stone windmill is a rare surviving example of the many windmills that were once strategically placed on ridges in the region to grind grain.

Following yellow arrows, we began our walk and 40 minutes later reached two beautifully preserved bories, or igloo-shaped dry stone huts. Bories are found all over southeastern France and the oldest date back to roughly 600 B.C. In the Luberon, the earliest bories date to the 13th century, and they were still being built by farmers and shepherds up to the beginning of the 19th century. Archaeologists attribute the development of this building style to the necessity of clearing stones from fields and the fact that few other building materials were readily at hand.

A half-hour later, we made a detour into the little village of Lumieres to stop at Château de l’Ange, where Edith Mézard, one of the most stylish and best-known home furnishing designers in Provence is based in a handsome old château next to a stream. As I suspected, Alice loved the beautifully embroidered sheets, tablecloths and other goods on sale here and immediately decided she’d come back later for some proper shopping. After a snack in the shade of the century-old chestnut trees outside Madame Menard’s château, our walk took us through a mixture of forests and fields for the next hour or so.

During this part of the ramble, Kit was fascinated by the dry stone retaining walls we occasionally came across. “These old walls really give you a sense of what an ancient and settled land this is,” he observed, adding, “They make New England’s stone walls seem brand new.”

Returning to Goult around 12.30 p.m., we arrived at the Café de la Poste, a simple restaurant in the heart of the village that’s popular with the locals and offers good, solid Provençal cooking at lunch- time, when the outdoor terrace is almost always full. I ordered a bottle of chilled local rosé and translated the chalkboard menu.

“Boy, does that taste good,” Kit said after a first sip of wine, and then we tucked into roasted cod with ratatouille, steak tartare with salad, tagliatelle with cep sauce and salad and a daily special, les petits farcis (baby vegetables, including onions, tomatoes and zucchini, stuffed with ground veal and bread crumbs and a specialty of Nice). Equally enjoyable was the high-contrast people watching offered by a place where a table of local farmers in overalls sat next to a quartet of ladies in carefully ironed linen dresses and designer sunglasses.

Back at the house later in the afternoon, I wasn’t surprised to find Kit and Alice pouring over my three favorite French hiking books—Le Parc Naturel Regional du Luberon à Pied by Topo Guides, Dans le Luberon by Glenat and Balades Nature dans le Parc Naturel Régional du Luberon by Dakota. All three of my guidebooks offer detailed maps and descriptions of some of the region’s best hikes, but I also always take along the appropriate map from the series published by the Institut Geographique National et Forestière (IGN), a French association that pub- lishes 350 hiking maps to France. The three books, which are useful even if you don’t speak French, can be ordered through Amazon, while the IGN maps are widely available at stationer’s shops, bookstores and cafés throughout the region.

The next walk we did together, the PR 12 from Le Parc Naturel Regional du Luberon à Pied, is graded moyen (medium difficulty) by the guide, which estimates that it takes four hours. It’s poetically dubbed “The Circuit of the Cedars,” since this 5-mile hike is a long, fragrantly scented up-and-downhill meander in the shade of forests punctuated by these feather-shaped dark green conifers. Before we actually hit the trail, though, we visited the Château de Lacoste, a spectacular 11th century stone castle perched on a crag over the village of Lacoste. I knew Kit and Alice would better appreciate the gorgeous views of the château we’d get later in our walk if they’d seen it up close first.

As I explained to the couple, the dramatically ruined château was originally built in the 11th century by the Simiane family but passed into the hands of the de Sade clan in 1627 when Diane Simiane married Jean-Baptiste de Sade. “Assuming there’s a connection between the Marquis de Sade and this château, I hope it’s not your way of telling us something about the walk we’re about to do,” said Alice. I assured her that despite the fact the Marquis de Sade had indeed spent time at the château—and wrote about it as ‘Château Stilling’ in several books—there was nothing about our impending hike that might be remotely construed as sadistic.

Today the Château de Lacoste is owned by French fashion designer Pierre Car- din, who has been meticulously restoring it for many years and who also sponsors a prestigious annual summer arts festival, Le Festival de Lacoste, in a theater created in a nearby quarry (festivaldelacoste.com). To further reassure Alice of my good intentions, I bought a small wooden box of juicy apricots from Lacoste’s intimate open-air market to take along with us.

If my friends were fascinated by the charbonnieres, the ancient and now abandoned stone charcoal-making kilns we came across during our earlier walk, per- haps the best moment of today’s walk were the superb views from the belvedere de Portalas, a look-out on the crest of a mountain. It was an exceptionally clear day; to the southeast we saw majestic Mont Sainte-Victoire, the mountain that so fascinated the painter Cézanne; Les Alpilles, low mountains where Saint-Remy- de-Provence and Les Baux de Provence are located; and to our surprise, a thin azure band of the Mediterranean sea on the edge of the horizon.

During a hearty lunch of a beets and feta cheese salad dressed in walnut oil, roast rabbit with olive polenta and licorice-flavored crème brûlée at one of my favorite local restaurants, Le Fournil in Bonnieux, I was about to tell Kit and Alice that they shouldn’t feel obliged to walk anymore during their holiday if they didn’t want to. After all, they’d come here to relax. But before I could let them off the hook, Alice chimed in with a desire to do a walk in the countryside around Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt the following day, and Kit asked if we could do a longer hike on Saturday after visiting the busy weekly Saturday morning market in Apt. With very little effort on my part, I realized I’d enlisted another pair of foot soldiers, but then the beauty of the Luberon when you get up close to it and make it personal is pretty hard to resist.

5 Places You Need to Add to Your Travel Bucket List

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5 Places You Need to Add to Your Travel Bucket List

March 26, 2019

The Galápagos Islands

It’s one thing to describe a trip to the Galápagos; it’s something entirely different to experience these islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean firsthand. One of the most protected wildlife sanctuaries in the world, this Ecuadorian archipelago has called to explorers since Charles Darwin visited in 1835. Ecologically speaking, little has changed.

Sailors will see penguins, iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, flamingos, crabs, dolphins, and maybe even hammerhead sharks, all while enjoying the ship’s amenities and staff. The latter includes naturalists, photography experts, biologists, oceanographers, and historians. Pictured below, a seal in Galápagos sun bathing.

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Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa

A family adventure in Africa will create a bond like no other. In addition to scoping out the “safari big five”—lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants, and Cape buffalo—you might also see a cheetah or leopard. 

Thanks to its unique location near the Indian Ocean coastline, Phinda benefits from a coastal rainfall pattern, which creates a lush landscape that is home to seven different ecosystems and earns Phinda its nickname, “Seven Worlds of Wonder.” From Phinda, you can also do kid-friendly beach safaris where you might see fur seals and more than 400 species of birds.

St. Kitts and Nevis, West Indies

The neighboring islands of St. Kitts and Nevis are hidden gems of the Caribbean. Separated by a channel less than 2 miles wide, the islands constitute a country (the smallest in size and population in the Western Hemisphere) that is home to about 50,000 people. 

The islands, pictured below, abound with black and silver sand beaches (find the former on St. Kitts and the latter on Nevis), rainforests crisscrossed with hiking and riding trails, a crater lake, green vervet monkeys, and mountains, including the 3,792-foot-tall Mount Liamuiga volcano, which last erupted 1,800 years ago. It’s not difficult on either island to find a beach you’ll have all to yourselves.

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Mougins, French Riviera, France

Travelers have long flocked to the sun-drenched South of France, where days revolve around strolling hand-in-hand through a medieval town, lounging on a beach, or lingering at a seaside café where you can relax with an order of escargot and French bubbly.

Sonoma County, California

Euripides once said, “Where there is no wine, there is no love.” Sonoma County has wine reserves in abundance, so it follows that love should—and does—thrive here, alongside gorgeous countryside, a vibrant dining scene, and countless wineries to explore. 

Explore the Magic of Maine

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Explore the Magic of Maine

March 25, 2019

In winemaking, vintners frequently talk about the terroir of a wine. This French term refers to the interaction of landscape and beverage, the influence that the soil, the topography, and the geography have on the final product. The only real synonym for terroir is somewhereness. Neither term is perfect, but they both describe something important, something essential—how place and land exert a subtle influence on everything that grows and lives there. And I am convinced that there is no place in the world that has more somewhereness than Maine.

Located at the northeastern corner of New England, Maine is a richness of wilderness. It is the most heavily forested state in the union, and, thanks to the many finger-like peninsulas that jut into the Atlantic Ocean, has more miles of coastline than California. There’s a saying in Maine: “You can’t get there from here.” Travelers to the state quickly learn its truth. Maine is made of winding roads and small towns, scenic byways, and hidden treasures.

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It’s a place where you want to get lost, because getting lost means discovering a secret beach where bioluminescence glows under the nighttime stars. Getting lost means stumbling upon a pine forest with trees that were once used as masts for the Royal Navy, tall and straight and regal (known fittingly as “King Pines”). Getting lost means finding a tiny harbor where you can buy lobsters from a fisherman out of the back of his pickup truck. Maybe he’ll invite you home for dinner. Stranger things have happened.

Although Maine has entered the 21st century alongside the rest of the world, there are elements of traditional New England life that persist here. People continue to make their living off the land and to reap the benefits of the sea. It’s not uncommon to meet a fisherman who also harvests timber and makes his own furniture from fine-grained black locust wood. There are still lumberjacks in Maine, and there are hundreds of small family farms and fragrant apple orchards, places where people submerge their hands in the dirt on a daily basis, coaxing forth golden potatoes, leafy dark green lettuce, and huge orange pumpkins from the loamy earth.

Often, on a country road, you’ll come across an unmanned farm stand with a sign that reads, “Fresh fruit and eggs.” If this happens to you during your visit to Maine, always stop and slip a few dollars into the can, for the honor system is alive and well here, and few experiences bring such pure pleasure as eating a handful of blueberries, fresh-picked by a trusting old farmer (or just as likely, her barefoot children).

Whether you’re taking a stroll on Ogunquit’s iconic Marginal Way (which runs above the rocky coastline) or climbing to the top of Mount Agamenticus in York, the coast of Maine is where you’ll most strongly feel the somewhereness of this land. But you can still find evidence of the primal, rugged landscape even in the cities and small towns that pepper the shoreline. There are charming little hamlets, such as York (a quintessential New England village located right on the border with New Hampshire), Wiscasset (the prettiest town in Maine, according to those in the know) and further north, Bar Harbor (a famous escape for the 19th-century elite), not to mention the vibrant metropolis of Portland.

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While this city has more James Beard Award-nominated restaurants than it has any right to, you can also find great eateries in Kennebunkport, Ogunquit, and Old Orchard Beach. After a day exploring tiny hidden beaches, there’s nothing better than finding a restaurant right on the water where you can sample fresh-caught seafood and farm-to-table fare. Maine’s famous for its lobster, but I taste the essence of Maine most poignantly when I slurp down an oyster. Eaten with french fries made from locally grown potatoes and you’re actually devouring Maine’s clear water, mineral-rich soil, clean air, and northern sunlight. It’s a gift, but that’s what coastal Maine is: a place of freely given gifts, honor system delights, and wilderness, unbound.

Why London Should Be on Your Travel List

Why London Should Be On Your Travel List

March 19, 2019

According to Herman Melville, there are exactly two places on the planet a person can disappear: London and the South Seas. The American novelist clearly had an understanding of how London’s quick tempo and whirlwind of culture and iconoclasm can dazzle and then consume a person. From the West End’s effusive world of theatre to the British capital’s pulsing financial hub of Canary Wharf, the city is alive with culture with a capital “C.” London is a bustling international center where British classics like Savile Row bespoke tailoring coexist alongside Indian restaurants that are, according to some, better than Indian restaurants in India. Yet its green, leafy squares and gardens, from Richmond to Regents Park, provide a much-needed respite from overstimulation. The city is an evergreen hot spot for travelers, but it seems to be more verdant than ever these days.

London—aka The Square Mile—has the distinction of being the only city to have hosted three Summer Olympic Games during modern times: 1908, 1948 and 2012. Good things seem to come in threes for the British metropolis, which has experienced three contemporary golden ages: the Swinging Sixties, Cool Britannia in the ’90s, and a current renaissance in postmillennial times. With all the buzz, fanfare, events, and general metropolitan madness, spread-out London might seem challenging to navigate.

The Olympic venues, located throughout the city—and beyond its confines—provide good starting points. Olympic Park is in the East End of London, which also encompasses some very cool and trendy neighborhoods like Shoreditch. Greenwich offers a chance to side-trip to the chronological center of the world: The Royal Observatory, where Greenwich Mean Time is set. And, of course, Hyde Park is a giant patch of nature in an urban area, near Buckingham Palace. What follows are more tips for maneuvering through the sights and customs of this sparkling, worldly city.

By tube: The London Underground is the fastest, easiest, most cost-effective way to make it to all the Olympic event venues and beyond. It’s advisable to buy an Oyster Card at the station (which you can fill up “pay as you go” at the kiosk). Dating back to the 1860s, the Tube isn’t as optimal as buses for sightseeing. But you can make your way to one of London’s oldest underground stations—Covent Garden— and give yourself an Olympic challenge by attempting to climb its notoriously Hitchcockian winding staircase of 193 steps. If vertigo is less of an issue than claustrophobia, avoid Waterloo station at all costs. With 57,000 people entering during morning rush hour, it’s London’s busiest Tube station. Find the  London Online Tube Map here.

By Car: London is such a big city that bobbing around town will cost you a bob or two, especially if you go the route of the black taxi— which is stylishly old-fashioned but notoriously expensive and generally avoided by smart Londoners. It’s wise instead to employ the services of Addison Lee, a popular first-rate “minicab” service. It establishes a set rate in advance so you can avoid screeching-halt-worthy fares. It also gives you the option to pay by credit card over the phone, and your driver will text you to alert you that your car has reached its destination. If you’re lucky, you may even be pleasantly surprised by the arrival of a sleek black Mercedes-Benz. Find the London Mini Cab Service here.

By Bus: Although terribly slow, the London buses, particularly the iconic red double-deckers, are certainly a memorable way to travel almost door-to-door and see the sights, especially if you’re lucky enough to get “the royal seat” (top level, front row center). For the first time in more than 50 years, the double-decker bus (aka The Routemaster) has undergone a makeover by English designer Thomas Heatherwick and enters service this year. Don’t worry—they’re still bright red, but they’re now also green, as in eco-friendly with a new diesel-electric hybrid drive. Find the  London Bus Map here.

The Pubs: There’s much dispute over which pubs are the oldest in London— some placards indicate roots as early as the 16th century. But there’s no argument about the fact that pub culture figures heavily into the daily lives of Londoners, even in the 21st century. People from all ages and walks of life congregate in these so-called public houses over beer and ale, the biggest and most diverse crowds assembling just after work hours to blow off steam. Londoners often put in overtime, so when the Friday whistle blows, these old watering holes become particularly jampacked and frankly undesirable. On such evenings, buses and Tubes are transformed into fluorescent-lit stages for some fairly disorderly antics. With so many dark, similar looking pubs dotting the streets of London, it can be difficult to choose one. Some pubs with notable features do, however, stand above the rest. The Elgin (96 Ladbroke Grove) in Notting Hill has free music on most nights. The band The Clash is rumored to have gotten its start there. On the last Tuesday of each month it has an open “gin club” that features gin tasting. The Churchill Arms (119 Kensington Church St.) in Kensington is hard to miss with its garlands of flowers festooning its facade (for which it has won awards). Its restaurant in the back oozes old-fashioned character and the feel of a classic beer garden.

Sunday Roast: On Sundays, in the late afternoon or early evening, Brits observe a sort of weekly Thanksgiving lite known as Sunday Roast. This is a time for family togetherness generally centered around a plump roast beef with Yorkshire pudding to follow. During a visit to London, it may not be possible to get adopted by a family and invited to such a traditional feast. But there are plenty of pubs that offer their own versions of Sunday Supper—the best of which are more upscale gastropubs such as The Grazing Goat (6 New Quebec St.) in Marble Arch or The Mitre (40 Holland Park Ave.) in Holland Park. In the East End, The Water Poet (9-11 Folgate St.) hosts a popular Sunday lunch until 5 p.m. Beyond the gastropub, Boisdale is a laid-back but high-end British restaurant/club with a whiskey bar, live jazz, a cigar terrace and library, and a caviar and oyster bar. It serves up hearty Scottish fare like haggis and fish pie in Belgravia (15 Eccleston St.) and Canary Wharf (at Cabot Place).

Tea, Anyone? Britain is pretty much synonymous with tea, casually referred to as “a cuppa.” Be aware that there are two kinds of tea services: afternoon tea and high tea (and of course the more casual a la carte cuppa which is enjoyed several times a day on tea breaks). High tea is served in the early evening from 5 onward and includes heavy meat dishes like shepherd’s pie. The multicourse tea service with finger sandwiches known to most Americans is afternoon tea, which is served from about 2 to 4 p.m. Etiquette-wise, especially when having tea in someone’s home, we’re told some Londoners consider it a faux pas to pour your tea before you add milk, as it might stain the fine china. The lavish and traditional high teas at hotels and tea houses like The Savoy (located at Strand), The Lanesborough (1 Lanesborough Place) in Knightsbridge, The Ritz (150 Piccadilly) and Fortnum & Mason (181 Piccadilly) in Green Park tend to cater to tourists but can still be great fun. Smaller boutique hotels like the stylish Hempel (31-35 Craven Hill Gardens) in Bayswater and Blakes (33 Roland Gardens) in Chelsea host memorable afternoon tea services. And the former, a beautiful 5-star property, boasts an exquisitely manicured and designed front garden.

Leighton House: Once you’ve visited the art heavyweights like the British Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, The Tate Britain, The Tate Modern and the Victoria & Albert, it’s time for something a bit more off-the-radar: Leighton House. Some locals haven’t even heard of this exotic little jewel. Tucked away by gorgeous Holland Park, the small museum was once the 19th century home and studio of Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton. Its Arab Hall is made up of more than 1,000 Islamic tiles from Damascus. Beyond the museum’s spectacular interior design, it has hosted some pretty esoteric and interesting exhibits, such as one featuring paintings of Marrakech by Winston Churchill.

There was a time when visitors to London planned their trips around the plethora of attractions that are the fabric of this cosmopolitan city. Meals were an afterthought, and the local fare had a reputation for being tasteless and bland. My, how times have changed. London today is truly a food lover’s paradise, and many a celebrated chef has set out to conquer the city. These days it’s a tasty, culinarily savvy hotspot—with Michelin stars to back it up. Goodbye fish and chips, hello global cuisine.

Japanese Zuma: 5 Raphael Street, SW7 A sophisticated blend of modern décor and innovative fare, loyal patrons continue to praise what they call the best Japanese restaurant in the city. A 10-yearold staple in Knightsbridge, Zuma has an atmosphere that combines urban coolness with seductive glamour. Whether it’s miso-marinated lamb chops seared on the robata grill, chiliglazed edamame or wine and sake from the acclaimed cellar of Alessandro Marchesan, everything about Zuma is electrifying and well worth the visit. 

Seafood J Sheekey: 28 St. Martin’s Court, WC2 Tucked away in the heart of Covent Garden in Soho, J Sheekey is renowned for its tantalizing preparation of fish, oysters, shellfish and other fruits de mer. Two of London’s top restaurateurs have created a fish-lover’s haven, and today locals and celebrities flock to the restaurant for some of the town’s greatest food, excellent service and fabulous wines. The restaurant’s clubby atmosphere is a welcome retreat, where guests can get comfortable at the counter or tuck into intimate leather booths that afford a great place to see and be seen. 

Euro Brasserie the Delaunay:  55 Aldwych WC2B 4BB New to London’s dining scene, The Delaunay is the latest restaurant of Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, proprietors of the iconic Wolseley. Situated at the edge of London’s Covent Garden, this low-key brasserie harkens back to grand European tradition, with its bowlertopped doorman, dramatic décor, elaborate desserts and dishes that rival the finest from Germany and France. Here, celebrities can be seen indulging in mouthwatering desserts such as the incredible sacher torte, or noshing on an appetizer of Flammkucken, a German dish that resembles a thin-crust pizza topped with smoked bacon and shallots. The Delaunay offers great breakfasts, but will serve up a late-night meal that is well worth the wait. 

French Brawn: 49 Columbia Road, E2 7RG A great new local hangout, Brawn’s daily menu is an interesting mix of small plates and big, bold flavors. Salads and vegetables are well-represented, but it’s the prosciuttos, scallops and, yes, brawn that entice. Less adventurous diners will love the globe artichoke with vinaigrette or the English pea and mushroom risotto, but don’t be afraid to sample some of the other delicacies on the menu. The fresh-baked sourdough bread is simply delicious, and the wine offerings are varied and fun. 

Pub Lady Ottoline: 11a Northington Street, WC1N 2JF Named for a member of the aristocratic Bloomsbury set, the Lady Ottoline gastropub was recently refurbished and restored to its former glory. The first floor encompasses a typical pub where more serious drinkers can order from a less-formal bar menu. Up the narrow staircase is the restaurant, where diners can choose from surprisingly elaborate dishes such as cured duck breast or lobster and crab risotto. The mainstay of any pub, pork belly, is as good as it gets, served perfectly cooked and flavorful.

Cafe Bar Italia: 22 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 4RT  People flock to Bar Italia for the stupendous coffee, which is supplied by Signor Angelucci, who lays claim to a secret blend that he has been using since 1947. The barista prides himself on remembering customers, and that personal service is a source of customer loyalty. Celebrities are no strangers to the place, and it’s not unusual to see familiar faces drop in, such as Rupert Everett, Kylie Minogue, Boy George, or Francis Ford Coppola.