Category Archives: travel

Hotel San Cristobal

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We spent a week in Cabo San Lucas recently, a departure from our regular Mexican beach destination, the Yucatan. The stunning views and dry desert air were lovely, but my heart belongs to the friendly beaches of the Riviera Maya, where I can happily bounce between the clear waters of the Caribbean and the shade of my beach umbrella. Swim-able beaches can be found in Cabo, but they are not the norm, as cold water and dangerous currents make much of the coastline inhospitable. I was happy to have finally visited the Baja, however, and can certainly understand why many find it so appealing.

A highlight of our trip was checking out the new boutique Hotel San Cristobal, located fifty miles north of Cabo San Lucas and just outside the sleepy village of Todos Santos. I was eager to see the newest project by Austin’s own hotelier Liz Lambert, who owns the uber- cool San Jose and the Hotel Cecelia (both in Austin), as well as Hotel Havana in San Antonio and El Cosmico in Marfa. The San Cristobal is the first hotel outside Texas for Lambert’s development company, Bunkhouse Group. My visit was limited to just an hour, so I can only attest to its being very peaceful, tasteful, and photogenic. Oh yeah- I can also vouch for the cocktails served in the open air lounge by the pool.

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The hotel has thirty-two rooms and overlooks the Pacific. No one was on the beach when we were there, and the beach is not touted on the hotel website, so I suspect it is not particularly swim-friendly. It does make a lovely backdrop, though, doesn’t it?

The glittering green-tiled pool was most inviting, surrounded by chairs and loungers that were equally tempting.

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We had a summer cocktail in the open-air lounge next to the pool, and I wasn’t the only one who wished we could have lingered all afternoon.

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I was crazy for this tile!
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The entrance had me at “pink wall”.

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Well hello there, gorgeous.

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Of course I shopped the merch, which was limited but enticing. I really wanted one of these great towels, but resisted.

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The hotel has barely been open a month but so far has great reviews. It would be a great spot for a small wedding, and I would love to nab a place on that guest list!

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Save this seat for me!

Adios, amigos, and thanks for stopping by!

 

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We Are Here

Bonjour mes amis! I know we are all happy that spring has arrived, although some places are looking springier than others. Austin is almost completely leafed-out, and the bluebonnets arrived early and are already packing up again. Spring always seems too short here- like if you take a long nap you just might wake up to summer, which always seems WAY too long. All the more reason to make the most of each day.

That reminds me of Amy Krouse Rosenthal, beloved writer and mom who died a few weeks ago at 51. If you somehow missed her beautiful essay in the New York Times, read it here, but grab a Kleenex first. After reading it, I wanted more Amy so I looked her up and listened to this Story Corp recording of a conversation she had with her teenaged daughter shortly after the recurrence of her cancer. If you didn’t use your Kleenex while reading her essay, you will definitely use it while listening.  Amy’s mantra, even before she had any idea she would be dying at 51, was this:

Make The Most Of Your Time Here

Her daughter mentions in the recording that Amy had engrained that command in her for a long time. These words have been bouncing around in my head ever since I heard Amy say them. Even though I do feel like I make a conscious effort to ensure my days are meaningful and intentional, this phrase gets to me because of the last word: HERE. It’s a not- so- subtle reminder that we have a return ticket waiting for us, and none of us knows when we will have to use it. So while “make the most of your time” is good and familiar advice, Amy’s addition of “here” adds urgency that we might otherwise choose to ignore. It’s particularly poignant that Amy, who lived each day with those words, ran out of time here so quickly. When I am tempted to go back to sleep, or to keep scrolling or clicking, I hear Amy reminding me that I am lucky enough to have life here today, and to get on with it. Thanks for that, Amy.

That life I am lucky enough to be living has been full of new places lately. Mark and I spent a weekend in Mexico City at the beginning of the month. My favorite spot was the Frida Khalo house, “Casa Azul”. I had just watched “Frida” on Netflix, making the tour much more meaningful.

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Our small hotel in the historic district was a converted villa, with wonderful architectural quirks.

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Fortunately the windows were sound- proofed, because there are a lotta people on those streets. That is one crowded city.

Last week we drove an hour to San Antonio for two nights at a fabulous hotel in an old beer brewery. I hope to do an entire post on the Hotel Emma, because it was so photogenic I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Here is a teaser of the lobby.

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Finally, we loaded up our old SUV with camping gear and drove an hour and a half to Colorado Bend State Park for a night. It was primitive and peaceful, and the stars were superb.

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When we haven’t been gallivanting, we have been slowly settling into our new house. Window treatments and furniture will arrive some day, but in the meantime its more comfortable than the tent and less comfortable than the Hotel Emma. Here is a sneak peek at my study. I am seriously in love.

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May your days here continue to be full of what makes you happy, and I hope to be back in this space with you soon.

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Still Here!

I know a few of you were wondering if I had permanently departed the blogosphere, but I am still here. I am on a “summer” schedule,  as I attempt to discern the future of this space. I have no shortage of time for pondering, as I seem to be spending a lot of time in my car. We are still living in our lake house, which is  twenty to thirty minutes from everywhere I regularly go (the gym, my new house, the grocery store, my mom’s, my sister’s), so I am becoming way too familiar with my dashboard.

Mark and I did what every Texan would like to do in July- fled to Colorado for two weeks. We had never done an extended road trip without a car full of kids, snacks, and frequent requests for potty breaks. I thought we did really well, although there were only a couple of long driving days because our route was dotted with hospitable friends who generously shared their homes with us.

In observance of the centennial of the National Parks, we stopped at Bandelier National Monument for a gorgeous walk through a dry canyon. We had only a few hours, but were completely wowed by this amazing park just outside of Los Alamos, New Mexico. I don’t know why it took us so long to make it there.

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We walked for over an hour without seeing another person or even a piece of trash, and returned to our car feeling calm and re-energized. Don’t drive by this beautiful place if you find yourself in the vicinity. (Another “don’t miss” is this IMAX  on the National Parks currently in theaters. It will make you feel good about America, which might be a nice change, given the current political climate).

Next stop was Pagosa Springs, where our friends had arranged for us to watch the full moon rise from atop a mountain. Sadly, we were chased down the mountain by an impending storm before the moon ever appeared, but not before we enjoyed a stunning view topped by a dramatic sky, and accompanied by Charles and his Native American flute.

Telluride was just as pretty as we remembered it. The hikes kind of kicked our flatlander butts, but they were worth it for the views. Our friends were polite enough not to ridicule our gasping for breath on the ascents.

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We spent a few days with some friends who have just built a beautiful house in Carbondale, outside of Glenwood Springs. Mark and I were so well-behaved on the river float the first day that they decided to take us on a nine-mile hike near Independence Pass on the next day.

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“Lost Man Trail”? Hmmm. We hoped to finish with both the men we started with.

 

The hike was breathtaking (literally) and we paused for frequent water breaks and photo ops.

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About two miles from the end of the hike I experienced my own Cheryl Strayed moment when I noticed that the sole was half-way off my right boot and flopping like a dying fish.

looks like a shadow but is my sole

I thought we might lose a man on the trail, but not my sole.

Luckily, my resourceful husband thought of shoving a sock onto the toe of my boot, AND he had extra socks in his pack (along with my water bottles, which he was carrying for me because I am a wimp). And that’s how I was able to complete the hike without hurling my boot off a cliff. He is a handy companion to have on the trail of life.

The sock was a bit worse for wear at the end of the hike.

The sock was a bit worse for wear at the end of the hike.

 

It felt like more.

It felt like more.

 

Final stop was Boulder. Wow! We had never been there and I am wondering why not. Boulder is such a cool town! The Farmers Market was amazing.
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We rented bikes and rode along the creek path, where people of all ages and sizes were fishing, throwing pebbles, and enjoying the gorgeous day. You win, Boulder. So cool, and yet so approachable. And there was this!

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Boulder Books was amazing, sitting so pretty right there on Pearl Street, a lively pedestrian area bubbling with activity on a sunny day in July. Of course I showed this wonderful inde bookstore some love, because places like this are gems.

Speaking of books- what are you reading? I am almost finished with this

and oh my gosh it’s so good! I also loved its companion, Life After Life, but you don’t need to have read it to enjoy this fabulous novel set primarily in WW II England. Kate Atkinson kills it with both of these novels. Anyone else read them?

In other news, this wall of flowers at a wedding reception I attended totally blew me away.

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And this wall of knobs brought me great joy. Because who doesn’t love picking out jewelry for the home?

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I’ll take them all please.

That about wraps it up here at sunny Lake Travis, where it is threatened to be 104 degrees tomorrow. I think I will stay inside and finish my book. And maybe daydream of cooler days in Paris.

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Onward and Westward

I bet you were getting worried I was going to leave you in Marfa. No way. We are moving on through Santa Fe toward Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Ready?

We were only three hours from our destination when we reached Santa Fe, so we didn’t linger as long as we would have liked. I was in Santa Fe last summer during Indian Market Days, when all the galleries on Canyon Road were hosting shows and welcoming guests with wine and cheese. The atmosphere in March was completely different. Many galleries on Canyon Road  were closed, and the ones that were open were very happy to see us (although they didn’t offer us any wine). Sadly, we were not in the market to purchase any art, although I did fall in love with this one.

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Although the sun was shining brightly when we were there, the snow of the previous day still frosted the exterior art that graces Canyon Road.

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Although we were reluctant to say goodbye to Santa Fe after such a short visit, we were excited about our lunch destination, El Farolito, a six table dive that appeared to be the only place with a pulse in the tiny town of El Rito, New Mexico. We loved our lunch so much that we placed an additional order to go and ate it again for dinner. If you love green chile and don’t mind the owners’ grandson toddling around your kinda sticky table, this place is not to be missed! Unless you blink as you drive by it, in which case you will miss it.

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We were so satisfied with our lunch that we didn’t need see, eat, or drink another thing in the town of El Rito. And that was a very good thing.

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El Farolito was our final stop before our destination, which was my friend Martha’s brand new house in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. We pointed my very dirty (and fully loaded) car in that direction and made it before sundown.

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We made it!

Yes, the garage is lovely, but wait til you see the rest of this house that Martha and her husband have just finished building. You gonna love it!

Coming soon. Right here.

 

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Roadtrip II- Marfa

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Even people who have never crossed the line into Texas have probably heard about Austin and how cool it is. It is possible, however, they might not have heard about another Texas town that is super hip right now- Marfa, population around 2000. Possible, but not likely, as stories of Marfa’s burgeoning artistic and culinary scene have been bouncing around the media for over ten years now. NPR described Marfa as “An Unlikely Art Oasis In A Desert Town”.  The New York Times marveled at its culinary evolution here. For a tiny dot on the desert, Marfa garners a lot of attention.

Nestled at the base of three mountain ranges and close to the entrance of Big Bend National Park, Marfa entered the art world when the late artist Donald Judd moved there from New York City in the early 1970’s  and permanently installed his minimalist art. Other artsy types followed, and now the little town is home to numerous galleries and a venerable art space located in a converted 1926 dance hall.

There was little sign of anything burgeoning in Marfa when we stopped in a chilly Tuesday. The town was  quiet and appeared not quite out of its winter hibernation. That suited us fine, as we were interested in Marfa as a model for some photographs, and she was more than willing to accommodate us.

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St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is a sweet building covered in river rock.

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Many of the buildings in Marfa appear untouched  from the day they were built.

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I’m sorry that the pinkness of this fire station is masked in the shadows. It was lovely.

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#dishtoweljunkie

#dishtoweljunkie

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My friend rents out this beautiful little house on Airbnb.  Hidden behind it is a totally kickass patio with grill and fireplace.

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We loved our short time in Marfa, despite not seeing a single piece of art nor a plate of food. If you should find yourself in the desert of West Texas, you should check out Marfa.  All the cool people do it.

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Heading West

We meet again, mes amis! Life has been moving at warp speed as we attempt to resettle in Texas, closing out our Houston home and moving (oh so gradually) into our Austin lake house. I took a time- out from the fun and games of relocating and drove to Colorado and back with a friend. We both are married to men who, though princes of guys, happen to focus more on the destination of a road trip than on the journey. We were justifiably giddy at the prospect of taking our time, exploring back roads and small towns, and looking for cafes along the way. And that is just what we did. If it said “antiques” or “homemade” or “scenic,” we jumped on it, with little concern for how far down the road we had gotten that day. We listened to two audio books (When Breath Becomes Air and Forty Rooms), pausing frequently for discussions in our Book Club Of Two. We listened to several podcast episodes from All The Books and The New York Times Book Review. We discussed our last meal and fantasized about what and when our next meal might be. It was slow. It was full of surprises. It was heavenly. I want to do it again.

If you have ever driven across Texas, you know that it can be a glimpse into eternity. You can’t rush these things. You just keep driving, and at some point the landscape changes, offering a taste of bigger things to come.

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I think that may be a hill on the horizon!

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Yes! Hills!

Neither of us had ever heard of Fort Lancaster, but who were we to pass up a good fort?

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We learned that the fort was established in 1855 to protect military supplies, commercial shipments, and immigrants (what- no wall?) moving along the San Antonio-El Paso Road. The ruins of 29 buildings still stand on this plot of desolate but beautiful land. A chilly wind was blowing as we walked among the ruins, and we imagined how cold those soldiers must have been in the winters, and how hot in the summers. This is not a landscape for sissies.

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Our next stop was Marathon, a tiny west Texas town best-known for its proximity to Big Bend National Park and for its historic Gage Hotel.

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Built in 1927, the Gage was a luxury hotel designed to accommodate the throngs of oil men who were expected to descend upon the town when the oil boom hit. Unfortunately, the oil boom never happened in Marathon, and the hotel eventually fell into neglect until rescued in 1978 and restored to its current state of loveliness.

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Marathon is also home to The Famous Burro Bar.

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And this cool sign.

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That’s as far west as your wagon goes today, but stay tuned for more adventures (and more cactus) as we continue our trip into the wide open spaces of West Texas and beyond.

 

 

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I Was A Mal-Diva!!!

Bonjour y’all and I hope you have all enjoyed your President’s Day here in the U.S., or your regularly scheduled Monday elsewhere. Speaking of elsewhere—–

When Mark and I were in London we decided that we would end our extended holiday with a trip to a beach we probably wouldn’t visit from Texas. We considered the Seychelles, Mauritius, and the Maldives, and chose Cocoa Island in the Maldives. We flew from Paris, where we had been for the last week, and changed planes in Dubai before the final five-hour flight to Male. There we were met by a crew of six (!) guys who took our meager baggage and loaded us into a medium-sized speed boat, and then drove us across the water for forty-five minutes to the lovely Cocoa Island Resort on Cocoa Island.

By the time we arrived we were bleary -eyed and travel -rumpled, and very happy to be on the ground. It took us awhile to take in the beauty of this spot. Can you believe this water?

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All of the rooms were set over the water and connected by a boardwalk. The one on the left was ours.IMG_6082The bathroom was behind the bed and the space where I stood to take this photo was a large sitting area. The doors from the sitting area opened onto a deck where we relaxed on the lounger and enjoyed the view.

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When we got hot we walked down these steps right into that crystal water that was THE perfect temperature.

IMG_6098I didn’t take a photo of one of my favorite features of the room- an outdoor shower off the bathroom! It  was tastefully hidden behind the wooden fence you see in the top photo. Anyone else love an outdoor shower?

The resort was quite small- only thirty-three suites- and probably only two-thirds were occupied. The atmosphere was totally serene and private. If you wanted to avoid seeing other guests during your stay, it would not be difficult to do. We spent our days on our deck or on beach chairs close to the bar and the pool and beach.

IMG_6074There was only one restaurant, with tables under the roof or out on the sand. We ate all of our meals outside and enjoyed the gentle breezes and candlelight, and on two nights, very nice live (but quiet) music. We were blown away by the quality of the food, which was amazingly good and beautifully presented.

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the bar

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IMG_6073IMG_6091The hotel was beautiful yet understated, with impeccable service. Mark did a scuba dive and said the dive staff were professional and the equipment and boat were top of the line.

I skipped the scuba and opted instead for a massage. The spa was small, clean, and quiet- just as I like them to be.

Our five days went by all too quickly, and then we flew back to Paris, spent the night, and the next morning caught a plane to Houston.

We were tired. We were happy. We were home.

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Cocoa Island

Maldives

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