Watching your kids grow up and move away is bittersweet. Part of you wants them near and part of you wants them to venture out, finding their independence. Distance is just logistics and can easily be remedied with phone calls, email and even Facebook. However, there’s no better way to reconnect with your far away loved ones than to plan some vacation time together.
Julie Guill called me saying her daughter Audrey was celebrating her 30th birthday. They wanted to take a cruise together somewhere “interesting and different” and they’d already experienced the Eastern/Western cruise destinations. They just wanted to have fun, see more exotic ports and and spend time together. I knew the natural fit would be the Southern Caribbean.
Flying into Puerto Rico puts you closer to the more remote islands of the Southern Caribbean. You visit more ports with less sea days…something that appealed to Julie and Audrey. Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas had the ideal 7-night itinerary. Audrey flew in from Arizona to join her mom here in MiraBay for some pre-cruise pool and pedicure time before hopping an easy nonstop flight from Tampa to Puerto Rico. They then set sail from San Juan for the islands of St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Antigua, St. Lucia and Barbados.
Our mother-daughter duo wasn’t looking to schedule lots of actives and tours ahead of time. They really just wanted play it by ear, taking time to stroll the different locations, stopping for a bite to eat and a local brew from each destination. Julie remarked, “we had a wonderful flying fish sandwich in Barbados. We weren’t even hungry when we saw the sign but oh well, it’s vacation.”
One exception to the “no plans” plan was in Antigua where Audrey wanted to go horseback riding, much to Julie’s dismay. Audrey remarked, “I got mom to ride horses with me…without a saddle...in the ocean. That makes me the best salesman in the family.” Ah yes, parents will do anything for their kids, and when it was done, Julie admitted to having a great time.
Without any game plans, they still found a way to maximize the fun and embrace island life in each destination. They enjoyed whale watching, snorkeling and lots of shopping. I wasn’t surprised at all to hear, on arrival to the island of St. Lucia, how incredibly gorgeous they found it to be. A UNESCO world heritage site, the twin Piton Mountains rising thousands of feet right out of the ocean are a sight to behold. Decorate them with swaying coconut and banana trees and you have paradise perfected.
Back to that flying fish sandwich. While savoring every bite, suddenly the local trinkets for sale began jingling and things started to shake a bit. It was a small earthquake. Looking at each other, Julie says to Audrey, “do you think we should head back to the ship before a tsunami hits?” Audrey’s response, “let’s finish our beers first.” And that sums up their relaxing, fun, mother-daughter, Royal Caribbean reunion.
If you’ve never visited New Mexico, you should. It’s called “The Land of Enchantment” for good reason. The landscape is breathtaking, the food incredible, and the cultural scene in its artist chic cities of Taos and Santa Fe is enriching. You’ll feel like you’ve left the good old USA, no passport required.
Several of our clients have called upon the charms of New Mexico. Many years ago I lived in Santa Fe and on the Navajo Reservation finding myself drawn back by a fondness of Native American culture. Clients, Brad and Abby Jacobs are hiking fans that rave about the scenery and unusual terrain in places like Kasha Katuwe Tent Rocks. While savvy world travelers, John and Susan Leitner fell in love with Christmastime in the desert.
New Mexico is a vast and fascinating place that one visit won’t do justice. But for first timers, Taos and Santa Fe are the perfect places to get yourself hooked on the desert magic.
The best way to start your exploration is by hopping on the “Enchanted Loop”, a circle drive between Santa Fe and Taos. Take the “Low Road” to Taos. It’s a spectacular route following the Rio Grande River, between towering walls of granite and volcanic rock cliffs. The river rushes by on your left, teeming with white-water rafters emerging out of the gorge onto the Taos Plateau. Your first vista is incredible, with the Sangre de Cristo mountains ahead, and the canyon to your left.
Lay your head at the El Monte Sagrado resort in a historic, pueblo style casita, complete with your own fireplace and courtyard. The entire experience is designed to connect you to the land and its Native American influences. You’ll find it hard to pull yourself away but Taos awaits.
In just one day, you can visit the Taos Pueblo, continuously inhabited for over 1000 years. Then drive up the canyon for beer and schnitzel at The Bavarian Lodge, served on their outside deck by a waitress in traditional lederhosen. Heading back into town take a slight detour to the Rio Grande Gorge. If you’re afraid of heights…don’t look down! The drive also passes several “secret” hot springs. Clothing optional, oh my!
Returning to Santa Fe, take the “High Road”, stopping in tiny Chimayo to tour the fairytale-like El Santuario de Chimayo. Built in 1813, it’s rustic construction is otherworldly and the lure to investigate the famed “holy dirt”, reportedly curing thousands of their ailments is irresistible. Right next door, El Potrero Trading Post carries the most amazing chile powders known to man. Our pick? The 200 year old sundried Chimayo Heirloom variety at a whopping $44 per pound.
In historic Santa Fe, try the Hotel St. Francis. It’s the oldest in town, built in 1924 and a perfect hub for exploring. You’ll get lost (in the good way) walking around. Pop into The Palace of the Governors, built in the 1700’s and see their onsite archeological dig showing ancient structures right under your feet. Stroll up Canyon Road. With countless galleries in Santa Fe, Canyon Road sets itself apart with a stream-front, tree-lined setting and independent galleries showcasing artworks from fine to folk. You’ll leave with a sense of how quirky and diverse Santa Fe really is.
Santa Fe has numerous churches to visit but remember that biggest isn’t always best. The small Loretto Chappel has a fascinating history housing the “Miracle Staircase”, sometimes referred to as the “Staircase that Jesus built”. No nails, no support column and the man who built it for the appreciative nuns, vanished without ever being paid.
Dining in Santa Fe is a foodie delight. As a vegetarian, Abby Jacobs loves the fact so many restaurants cater to both her and Brad’s tastes. New Mexican cuisine is described as a fusion of Spanish and Mediterranean, Mexican, Pueblo Native American and Cowboy Chuck-wagon. It’s similar to, but not quite the same as Tex-Mex and you’ll constantly be asked, “red or green”? A choice of red or green chile that accompany most meals. Your trip isn’t complete until you’ve tried Green Chile Cheeseburgers, Navajo Tacos, Chile Rellenos, and Green Chile Stew.
The history, cuisine and blending of cultures. The art, spirituality and outdoor activities. Each one is a reason to visit the Land of Enchantment in itself, but our travelers fall in love with them all.
We're going places and so are our clients.