Tag Archives: Travel

Colorado in December

The arrival of February reminded me that I had never written about our December trip to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Mark, Wonder Chien, and I drove back to our friends’ mountain house so that Mark could help them finish up some construction on their barn/workshop/overflow guest space.

We like to drive to Santa Fe the first day, spend the night, and then drive the last few hours to Pagosa the next day after enjoying the beauty of Santa Fe for a bit.

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Sawyer thought he needed a turquoise and sterling collar.

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We have never stayed at the St. Francis, but I love its front porch.

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and its logo

I was thrilled to be returning to Martha and Leigh’s mountain house, a place that brings me much joy. As in previous stays, I was mesmerized by the changing colors and shadows outside the windows.

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Mark and Leigh worked tirelessly in the barn and got much accomplished. Martha and I, meanwhile, cooked and talked and tried our skills at cross-country skiing. Sawyer had the best time of any of us, totally untethered and free to test out the snow, chase rabbits, and dig for burrowing critters.

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dirty and happy

img_8374This is the barn where the men were working day and night. It was full of manly stuff.

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Martha and I, being delicate flowers, preferred the gentler arts.

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Remember this gorgeous piece that Leigh made for the kitchen?

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Yes that is a zinc counter. Love.

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It was a great week for all of us, and we got home just in time to put the finishing touches on Christmas and wait for the kids to come home. I highly recommend going to the mountains in mid-December. It was much better than stressing about how many more things I could get done for the holiday, and no one seemed to miss anything that did not get done. I need to remember that.

Happy February, mes amis. Let’s share the love, shall we?

 

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Budapest Baths

Budapest has 123 natural springs and two dozen thermal baths, which have been enjoyed since the time of the Romans. One of the highlights of our trip was the afternoon we spent at the lovely Szechenyi Baths, located in Budapest’s City Park. To be honest, we probably would not have been bold enough to go to the baths had Rick Steves not raved about them. Rick describes them as “the quintessential Budapest experience”, so we really had no choice. The bath building was beautiful. I loved the gold color. IMG_5385 Following Rick’s explicit instructions, we entered the building, paid for the baths and a locker, and then found our way to the women’s dressing area. There wasn’t a lot of English being spoken around us, but once in the dressing room we found that we were not the only tourists trying to figure out how everything worked. There are three large pools outside and some thermal baths inside. We stuck with the outdoor pools, which felt perfect in the cool spring air. The pools were divided by temperature from 86 to 100 degrees. They had jets and bubbles and were so comfortable. The people watching was primo, too. IMG_5386 IMG_5387 IMG_5389 The best part was there was no smell of sulphur- just clean, warm, bubbly water. So glad that Rick talked us into going. Another nice indulgence, though not nearly as adventurous, was evening cocktails at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace. This gorgeous Art Nouveau building has been beautifully restored. We didn’t venture beyond the bar and the bathrooms, but both were really nice. IMG_2165_2 IMG_2162_2 I am so happy I was able to explore this beautiful city with my daughter. Add it to your list, and don’t forget the baths!

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Budapest 2

Budapest is home to the largest Jewish synagogue in Europe, and second largest in the world. The Great Synagogue was built in 1857 and was based on the biblical descriptions of the Temple of Solomon, which explains the two towers.

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Deterred by the long line to enter the synagogue, we opted instead to visit only the Memorial Garden along side of it.

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Prior to World War II, 25 percent of Budapest’s population was Jewish. Hungary was the first European country to enforce “Jewish Laws” in the 1920’s. Although aligned with Germany in World War II, Hungary resisted executing its Jewish citizens. Hitler grew impatient and invaded Hungary in 1944. Jews were forced to live in a small walled ghetto surrounding  the synagogue and were allowed no contact with the outside world. Within two months, trains full of Jews were heading to Auschwitz. During the Soviet siege that ended the Nazi occupation, many Jews who had not been deported died in this ghetto of starvation, exposure, and disease. Soon after the Soviet liberation, a mass grave was dug here for over 2000 Jews.The trees and headstones were added later.

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This sculpture represents the forced march of the Jews to death camps.

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The same sculptor, Imre Varga, created the moving “Tree of Life” in the garden just behind the synagogue. It is a weeping willow in the shape of an upside-down menorah.

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Each metal leaf bears the name of a Holocaust victim.

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stained glass representing the burning bush

stained glass representing the burning bush

We also toured the “House of Terror”, an excellent museum recounting the terror endured under both the Nazi regime and the Soviet regime. This building was actually the former headquarters of both the Arrow Cross (Nazi-occupied Hungary’s Gestapo) and the AVO/AVH (communist Hungary’s secret police). No photos were allowed inside, but I recommend it to you highly.

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These two visits really heightened our awareness of what a painful and dark recent history Hungary has suffered.

Against that backdrop, it was comforting to take an evening boat ride showcasing the enduring beauty of the city.

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Istanbul

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Bonjour from Turkey! I am enjoying a week in Istanbul with some Houston friends and a wonderful tour guide from Ottoman Passport. I don’t have my computer with me but I wanted to share a photo or two from this amazing city.

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I return to Houston on Tuesday and will gradually get caught up on my blog. See you then!

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Look Mom- I’m in Spain!

Disclaimer:  This post in no way reflects our lifestyle or typical mode of travel.  This is a business trip and doesn’t happen very often.  So no hatin’, please.  That said……

This morning I flew in my first private jet, and it was an experience I could get used to.  13 seats, one flight attendant who brought me breakfast, no lines, crowds, or pat-downs- yep, it was pretty sweet.  We landed in Logrono and took a small bus to Elciego, where we toured a 300 year winery.  It was lovely and came with lots of snacks.

After that “light apertif” we went to another winery, where we saw these gorgeous barrels.

This wine is for the king--says so right on the barrel.

This incredible hotel is a Westin and is called Marques de Riscal.

It was designed by a famous architect named Frank O. Gehry Isn’t it pretty?  We had a multi-course lunch in a private dining room at the hotel (I’m so full) and then rode the bus 2 hours  to San Sebastian.
 We are staying at the Hotel Maria Cristina, and here is my room.
And here is where I am diving now.  See below.
Don’t know why the italics and too tired to figure it out.

Buenos Noches, Amigos!

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Mexico- redux

What struck me the most about Grand Velas was not the lovely rooms or the gourmet food or the amazing pools- it was the special attention to details that made the place more beautiful than it needed to be.  I hope my pictures can tell you what I mean.

The lobby, rooms, gym, pools and restaurant of our Jungle Wing were connected by this incredible long walkway.  Although you can’t tell from the pictures, the walkway was lined with vegetation – it really felt like you were walking right through the jungle. I loved it.

Walkway in daytime

Lit for evening

I was also completely enamored of , if you can believe it, the sidewalks.  They were plain cement with black stones set in them on edge in beautiful patterns.  They were everywhere.  I couldn’t get enough of them.  My girls thought I was weird.  But that is no surprise.

 

So that’s it- my new favorite rack in Mexico.  Go try it for yourself if you get the chance.  And be sure to check out the sidewalks.

Every marriage needs a little Mexico!

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Mexico!

You must go here

I have just one word for this hotel.   GO.   The Grand Velas, a long half-hour van ride from the Cancun airport (longer if your van stops at two other resorts on the way, both of which require driving for several miles down a narrow road off of the main highway).  After two hours in the customs line at the airport, we were hungry and grumpy by the time we arrived.  Our displeasure quickly evaporated, however, when we entered our peaceful and  incredibly beautiful resort.  Our rooms were in the “jungle wing” of the resort,  which was a quick van ride from the “beach wing”.  We never waited more than 30 sec0nds for a ride, and we loved how peaceful our area was.

 

 

NOTE: the sliding door to the patio will lock you out if you close it all the way while your husband is out of the room on a business call.

Even the doors were lovely.

There were many connected, gorgeous pools in our jungle complex.  These were very peaceful and Zen-like.

There was a swim -up bar and a crew of a very attentive staff who were happy to bring drinks or snacks.  “It is a pleasure” was their response to our thank yous.  No, really, it was OUR pleasure!

 

 

 

 

Martha was hating it.

 

Mark was pretty miserable, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we wanted more activity, we would head for the beach side of the resort.  It wasn’t too shabby, either.

Ok , I am having a terrible time making this look like I want it to, so I am going to post this one and follow with a Part II.  Be patient with me- I’m new at this.

Adios!

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