About Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.

Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett

The Adirondack’s Mirror Lake, From Breathtaking Dawn to Sun Break

October 9, 2015 by  


The loons are echoing in the background and I can hear their call much louder than I can on Caroga Lake’s waters for some reason, my old stomping ground. I’m not sure if part of it is the fact that I’m a hundred feet higher than I normally am when the loons call to me or the fact that we’re further north in the Adirondacks – either way, as I sit here reflecting on Mirror Lakes serenity and magic, the loons are part of it all and it’s a beautiful thing.

Small as it is, Mirror Lake is large enough to tire your arms as you paddle from one end to the other. The loons are in the middle and along the edge. Frogs too. I never tire of lily pads and their slimy underpinnings that keep them connected to the lake’s murky black bottom. As I slide by them in my canoe, I hear nothing but the soft sound of the paddle jolting the still waters. I bring my paddle inside the canoe and then the real magic starts….I wait a moment or two and then…nothing but silence.

Silence gives more to humanity than almost anything else I know and yet so few of us have ever been shown the beauty that lies within its oh so solo echo chamber. Within that echo chamber is a kind of fearfulness; it’s about as tangible as it gets. When all the sound and clutter disappears, we are left with nothing but ourselves and that can be a frightening thing at times.

I bring my hand under the lily pad so I can scoop one up as I did as a child and in doing so, it brings a smile. It flops down onto the bottom of the canoe as I scoop up one more. As I do, I can’t help but notice that the sky is changing.

The sun isn’t quite up yet but it is fighting to make its way through the mist, through the fog, through the clouds, through the murk of dusk before the sun finally breaks. As the minutes go by, the skylight changes, and as I look around, no one has yet joined me on this mysterious and blissful journey that brings in the tranquil Adirondack dawn.

Finally, the sun emerges as naturally as water flows down a river, falling into its rightful place at 6:25 am, and then to its new rightful place at 6:45 am, 7 am, 7:21 am and so on until the lake slowly but surely wakes up to a new day. Gratitude sweeps over my body for I realize there’s simply nothing more perfect than this — and, more importantly, no time and no other place I’d rather be.

On the other side of the lake, there’s no color in the sky at all. Pure mist flows left to right evenly as I spot another couple on the lake paddling as quietly as I had been doing for the past hour. It’s clear that morning has broken however and I think about what the afternoon will have in store. Even when it’s a clear day, the clouds are not as bouncy and fluffy as they are in America’s mid-west, the mountains are not as luminous as they are in the Rockies or as blue as they are in the Carolina’s, but they are genuinely calm in that knowing sort of way that only natives truly appreciate and understand.

We all have a knowing of the soil that enriched our earliest days on this earth and for me, it was the Adirondacks. While my hood is further south than Mirror Lake and Lake Placid, which almost border each other, and were apparently even connected 5,000 years ago, I know them both as if there were my own native waters. The lakes on the Adirondacks share so many of the same nuances, including the crunchiness of empty snail and clam shells below your feet as you walk in shallow waters, the endless lily pads, the glow that hits the lake as dusk approaches 7 pm on a late summer evening and of course, the magic of early morning dawn on the lake when you alone take her in and she you.

If you haven’t grown up on a lake or spent a significant amount of time on one, you may not realize that every voice echoes and you can hear conversations across the water. It was one of the ways we learned about our neighbor’s lives and their neighbor’s lives, just as we did on the Timberlane Blueberry Farm where our family picked cans of berries religiously every late August.

It is here where you learn not just about the community around you (your brethren) but nature’s wonders, which is what ultimately opens you up to life’s happiest moments. The key is to listen carefully and be present when the paddle is moving and more importantly to the silence when it’s not. And of course, the textures beneath that silence…

The dog’s fastidious bark.

The loon’s melodious call.

The eagle’s rustling nest.

The purring motor in the fisherman’s cove.

The child’s precious and innocent laugh.

The waves crashing upon shore after a boat passes.

The woman’s call to her loved ones as dinner is near.

The snore of the old woman who fell asleep in the chair across the way.

The hum in the background that becomes so familiar, we never question what is….

The little girl who asks ‘where’s Peter?’ curious about her brother’s whereabouts five minutes after he pokes fun of her for nothing at all.

The chatter of the boys at the fire with beers in their hands before the family arrives.  

The sound of a soft splash as a small child jumps off a float nearby.

It’s the sound of pure Adirondacks but if you listen to what isn’t being “played”, you begin to experience the sound of silence for it is here where nature rules. Nature is honored. Nature is adorned. And, nature dictates the order of the day. It is a smooth order, like following the tune of a river and the direction it is naturally designed to flow. No fighting, no conflict, no friction…..just going. Just being. Just silence.

Then, a stirring. I was becoming aware that morning was emerging and faster than I wanted it to. The sky was beginning to grace us with her precious blues and the sun was shining upon the trees so their green could truly be seen as green.

Reflections on the lake remained as perfect as they were, but the mist had given way to a bright sun that would warm our bodies while we splashed and played on the lake for the day.

I turned the boat around, back to civilization, back to where camps, a couple of hotels and homes lie scattered around her edge.

Ducks, Adirondack chairs, canoes, the transition of trees, lily pads, loons echoing off in the distance and the soft sound of waves crashing upon the shore. Pure Adirondacks.

Dusk….another muted time of day worth observing – mist turns to a soft Victorian blue, but never luminous, always calming, at least to those who know these mountains and embrace these waters.

And, just when you think that the Adirondacks is all about pine trees and furs, you’re blessed with the vibrancy of local summer flowers along the side of the road or in front of someone’s camp and remember that nature is not just an integral part of her glory, it IS her glory! Dear Mirror Lake, don’t forget that you are an incredible part of an Adirondack treasure. In gratitude to the luscious days you gave us.

Be sure to read some of my other articles on the Adirondacks, including a loop we took last fall (Fall of 2014), a reflective piece on Caroga Lake, a trip to Lake George, the lure of an Adirondack summer, the heart of the Adirondacks (farmlands), the Adirondacks Trap Dike Hike, Timberlane Blueberry Farm, this year’s Lake Placid to reference a few.

This post is published on October 9 in remembrance of my great grandmother Bertha Blodgett Herkel who raised me for part of my life, my grandparents raised me for most of it. She was born in the 1800′s and part of my early Adirondack life.

The 2016 Buick Enclave, Ideal Family Travel Choice Also Exudes Luxury

October 8, 2015 by  


The more time I spend in a Buick, the more I want to own one. We had an opportunity to test out the brand new 2016 Buick Enclave this past August during a family travel adventure to the beautiful Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York.

If we didn’t have two kids in tow, I would have loved to be buzzing around in a blue Cascada Convertible, which is so far, my favorite line. That said, when there’s four of you and two of them are children, the Enclave couldn’t be a more perfect choice. It certainly was for us!

She was a 2016 model and so her gleam shone wherever we went, whether it was in a sun-filled parking lot, on a golf course (above) or on a shady street.

This car is ideal for family road trips, largely because there’s plenty of space and luxury amenities throughout that simply make your trip so easy and more importantly, seamless from smart packing and organization to navigation and technology.

Separate Back Seat & Individual Charging Stations

Unlike previous cars we’ve used for road trips including our own, the kids had their own separate seats and that division made a big difference; it kept them quieter than normal because they weren’t on top of each or blaming each other for a random annoying thing. If you’ve ever been on a long road trip with kids in the back seat, you will resonate.

The individual seat design meant that we also had extra space for storage, so we piled bags in the middle which gave the kids a sense of privacy from one another. In the back seat, there’s a Charging Station on both sides, which meant that they could keep their devices charged during the 6+ hour trip north. And, they didn’t have to compromise — one of them listened to new age and the other to a Spanish music station.

Enclave offers three rows of seating, available in seven or eight passenger configurations, with the second-row seats using something they refer to as the SmartSlide system. With the pull of a single handle, SmartSlide allows easier entry to the third row, which in our case, we used for luggage storage. There is 23.3 cubic feet (660 liters) of cargo space behind the third row and a maximum of 115.2 cubic feet (3,263 liters) of cargo space available behind the front row of seats, ample for a road trip for a family of four.


Signature design elements on the Enclave include sculpted styling and a black-chrome waterfall grille, signature wing-shape LED lighting and monochromatic paint schemes accented with chrome.

While we drove a white car for the week, Enclave offers three new exterior colors for the 2016 model year, which include Summit White and premium colors Ebony Twilight Metallic and White Frost Tricoat.  The car’s wheels are standard 19-inch aluminum or you can opt to get 19-inch chrome-clad wheels instead.

If you go for the Tuscan Edition, you’ll get a striking bronze waterfall grille and 20-inch chrome-clad wheels with bronze pockets. Sweet!

And, all models are powered by a direct-injected 3.6L V-6 that delivers an EPA-estimated 24 mpg on the highway (FWD models) which is fairly decent given the size of the car.

Let’s add the LED daytime running lamps and accent lamps, blue translucent rings around the standard Xenon HID headlamps and this baby shines on the road. Articulating headlamps are part of the Premium model’s content package, which also includes power-folding, heated outside mirrors, as well as interior features such as power tilting/telescoping steering column and heated/cooled front seats. Who doesn’t love temperature control?

A chrome finish within the rear fascia frames the exhaust outlets, for an integrated appearance that exemplifies Buick’s attention to detail. LED-accented taillamps give the vehicle a distinctive signature at the rear that reflects Buick’s elegance. A power-operated liftgate is standard and the front lights are creatively and elegantly designed.

Photo credit: GM and Buick Corporate

In addition to the three new hues offered on 2016 models, additional exterior color choices on Enclave include Crimson Red Tintcoat, Dark Sapphire Blue Metallic, Dark Chocolate Metallic, Midnight Amethyst Metallic, Quicksilver Metallic, Sparkling Silver Metallic and Iridium Metallic.

Buick’s signature QuietTuning engineering process, which uses laminated glass and extensive sound blocking and absorbing materials, makes Enclave’s cabin quieter than a Lexus RX350.

Luxury Seating & Internal Design

Inside the Enclave, high quality Nuance sandstone leather combined with the installed IntelliLink makes it feel as if you’re never left the comfort of your living room. Color matters and the more muted sophisticated style and color Buick offers makes you feel more at home — after all, think about how much time you spend in a car, especially on a road trip.  One choice is an exclusive Dark Plum interior color, which offers a higher degree of visual warmth — a great choice when so often, you’re faced with black, gray or white.

Below is an interior shot of the 2015 model in a different color (LOVE the richness and depth here), and in the front seat, the style is similar to the 2016 — luxury and decadence at its best!

Photo credit: GM and Buick Corporate

We also really liked the Wood-Trimmed Steering Wheel which is not only elegantly designed but entirely heated and comes standard on Leather and Premium models. While this wasn’t needed during our August road trip, what a godsend for colder New England and I’d argue even useful for cooler San Francisco mornings where we live when not on the road.

In other words, a heated steering wheel can be handy even if you don’t live in a snowy cold state. Other notable interior design features include:

  • Ice-blue LED ambient lighting around the dash that highlights Enclave’s flowing lines
  • Eight-way power front driver seat with power recline and lumbar support (standard on Convenience models)
  • Eight-way power front driver and passenger seats with power recline and lumbar support – and driver memory – (standard on Leather and Premium models)
  • Heated front seats standard on Leather models and heated/cooled seats standard on Premium models
  • Power-tilting/telescoping steering column standard on Premium models
  • Soft-touch materials, real stitching and chrome accents throughout the cabin (sweet)!
  • Available dual moon roof; power front, fixed rear
  • Standard storage system under the floor in the rear cargo area (this is incredibly useful for #FamilyTravel)
  • Standard power windows with driver and passenger express up/down feature
  • Standard rear view camera
  • Standard remote vehicle starter
While we didn’t have a chance to try the standard remote vehicle starter, we know this is a godsend feature, particularly if you want to get your car warmed up on a cold morning before you head out. The fact that so much can now be controlled from your smartphone turns driving your car into a luxury experience. Bravo!

Connectivity & Infotainment

The Enclave comes with Seamless Connectivity which we all used during our trip. Buick’s IntelliLink color touch radio is standard on all models and enhances the driving experience with a higher level of wireless connectivity and customized options.

For me, it was a godsend to have my laptop connected so I could upload photos and answer email. Through the OnStar 4G LTE and a standard built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, we essentially had a mobile hub so we could keep connected en route. This was also beneficial when we were driving through poor cell phone areas as it didn’t interfere with our GPS navigation which was essential on some of those more remote mountain roads. The hot spot allows you to connect up to seven personal devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets to high-speed wireless Internet whenever the vehicle is on.

4G LTE is the most current and fastest mobile data network – 10 times faster than 3G and 100 times faster than the previous generation of OnStar hardware. And with OnStar, it also offers stronger, broader coverage than smartphones on the same network. OnStar 4G LTE comes with a three-month/three gigabyte data trial.

IntelliLink is intuitive and easy to use, and includes the capability of setting up a “Home Page” for favorites. It integrates online services such as Pandora internet radio and Stitcher SmartRadio using hands-free voice and touch-screen controls via Bluetooth-enabled smartphones.

Photo credit: GM and Buick

Since it was a family trip, it’s worth mentioning their Enclave’s great Safety record. The predecessor received a 5-star Overall Safety Rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and it also ranked high in J.D. Power 2015 Dependability StudySM, where it outperformed several luxury brands.

The 2016 Enclave offers you the luxury of playing music or making calls hands-free using voice commands thanks to the Buick IntelliLink† system with natural language voice recognition. You can also organize your home screen so you can easily access the features you use most. Also Pandora†A, SiriusXM† Radio (three-month trial standard) are never more than a touch or voice-command away.

Connectivity, Voice Control & Alerts

Enhanced connectivity and convenience includes a Text Messaging Alerts feature for smartphone users with Bluetooth profile (M.A.P.), which reads incoming texts through the vehicle’s speakers, and Siri Eyes Free for iPhone iOS 6 and iOS 7 users. Each enables voice-controlled connectivity, to help keep phones in pockets and hands on the wheel, another great safety feature.

Additional features include:

  • 6.5-inch diagonal high-resolution color display with touch-screen control
  • Bluetooth with hands-free (for phone calls) and A2DP audio-streaming protocol support
  • Address book download and hands-free calling
  • USB port
  • Auxiliary audio input port
  • Steering wheel controls
  • Enhanced voice recognition powered by Nuance
  • AM/FM/HD Audio CD/MP3 CD
  • SiriusXM Satellite Radio and data services, including available NavTraffic
  • Selected smartphone apps can be controlled through the IntelliLink interface via the touch-screen, steering wheel controls or voice commands. The first apps to be supported are Pandora and Stitcher
  • Supports playback of MP3 files stored on flash memory drives.

IntelliLink is standard on all Enclave models, including those with the available navigation system and DVD capability and the IntelliLink screen also serves as the display for the standard rearview camera system.

Photo credit: GM and Buick

Of course, even if you use Google Maps on your phone for navigation, it’s never as seamless or eyes free as an internal advanced navigation system is, especially one with a large enough screen to zoom in and out of streets when necessary. We used the voice control feature of the navigation system more often than not and found this to be a more convenient way to go.

Oh So Smooth of a Ride

Now, a bit about the engine. Not only is it a smooth ride, but a powerful one. The Enclave finds its power in a 3.6L V-6 engine featuring fuel-saving direct injection technology and continuously variable valve timing, matched with a six-speed automatic transmission.

Direct injection helps the engine produce power comparable to a V-8 – SAE-certified 288 horsepower (215 Nm) and 270 lb-ft of torque (366 Nm) – with good efficiency. EPA fuel economy estimates of 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway for front-wheel-drive models are very competitive with other three-row crossovers and utilities. We thought this was fairly decent considering the size of the vehicle — remember the trade off here for ample storage room, advanced tech and spacious comfortable seating, which is critical for a long road trip with multiple people in the car.

The strong V-6 engine also enables Enclave to tow up to 4,500 pounds (2,045 kg) when properly equipped, and it can be flat-towed in both FWD and AWD configurations. The available intelligent all-wheel-drive (AWD) system provides increased traction on slippery roads by actively managing the torque distribution between the front and rear axles, based on factors such as wheel speed, throttle and surface conditions.

There is no driver intervention; the system automatically decides how much torque to apply and delivers it to the wheels that have the best traction. This is a great feature during tougher weather conditions. Some of their chassis and suspension features include:

  • MacPherson strut front suspension, with a direct-acting stabilizer bar and aluminum knuckles. Isolated mounting points help reduce noise and vibration
  • Compact linked “H” design rear suspension, with an isolated mounting system to reduce noise and vibration transmitted to the passenger compartment
  • Power-assisted, variable-effort rack-and-pinion steering
  • Four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock are standard on all models, with additional brake features including dynamic rear proportioning, hydraulic brake boost and panic brake assist
  • Nineteen-inch wheels are standard and 20-inch wheels are available.

OnStar for Safety & Security

Six months of OnStar Guidance service is standard on every Enclave so we were able to play with it a bit to test it out, which we did on occasion, including the first time we tried to enable the Wi-Fi in the car. As noted above, OnStar is a godsend especially for family travel. The OnStar service is available simply by touching a button on the rear view mirror so whether you’re lost and need help, stranded and need more serious assistance, or you want to tap into Wi-Fi settings.

Photo credit: GM and Buick

OnStar’s RemoteLink Mobile App allows you to use your smartphone to control vehicle functions, access vehicle information and send directions directly to the vehicle, which is really cool to make your trip that much more seamless. An opt-in service called FamilyLink allows you to stay connected to family members by checking the location of their vehicle online or by signing up for vehicle location alerts. Here’s where this gets really interesting — when you’re wanting to keep better tabs on your kids who may be new to driving or to your parents who are getting older and you want to have an additional safety feature in place for their well-being on the road.

Photo credit: GM and Buick

If you opt for an extended Basic Plan with OnStar, you get the RemoteLink Key Fob Services, which allows you to remotely start and lock/unlock a car (a great feature for cold winter months) and activate the horn and lights from anywhere with a data connection. It also includes OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics, which runs monthly checks of a vehicle’s engine, transmission, antilock brakes and more, and Dealer Maintenance Notification, which sends diagnostic report directly to a preferred dealer to make service scheduling simple.

The Enclave includes the industry’s first standard front center side Air Bag which was developed to help protect drivers and front passengers in far-side impact crashes. It deploys from the inboard side of the driver’s seat and positions itself between the driver and front passenger, which is aimed at delivering a more comprehensive occupant restraint system.

Standard safety features also include StabiliTrak, traction control, panic brake assist, rearview camera system (noted and shown above) and seven air bags – including head-curtain side air bags covering outboard occupants in all three passenger rows.

Camera and radar-based safety features monitor areas around the vehicle and provide alerts to help the driver avoid collisions. Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are radar-based, while Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning are camera-based. Forward Collision Alert detects a possible crash threat and alerts the driver, giving him or her extra time to stop and/or change course. With Side Blind Zone Alert, the driver is alerted to vehicles in the blind sport during a lane-change or merging maneuver. The rearview system is enabled by default as are the others, however the side blind zone alert can be turned off, which depending on where you’re traveling to, might be worth doing — we found it a little sensitive on wide open highways, but useful particularly for city driving.

An Additional Note on Luxury:

New for 2016, the Enclave offers a Tuscan Edition on the 1SL Leather and 1SN Premium trim levels. We haven’t seen it yet, but it looks simply gorgeous!

The Enclave Tuscan Edition is available exclusively with premium paint choices White Frost Tricoat, Dark Chocolate Metallic or Ebony Twilight Metallic. The Tuscan Bronze Package includes 20-inch chrome wheels with bronze pockets and a waterfall grille clad in bronze.

Photo credit courtesy of GM and Buick

Also, a premium 10-speaker Bose audio system with 5.1 surround sound is available and is optimized for the Enclave’s refined interior acoustics. Entertainment and audio are not an afterthought, another godsend for luxury family travel.

Photo credit: courtesy of GM and Buick

There’s also great front and back window visibility and when you’re on a spectacular adventurous road trip where the scenery is stunning all around you, great visibility is important.

We can strongly recommend the Enclave as an ideal family trip road trip car as well as a great solution for home use — think of all that back storage space for Home Depot runs, or for storing kid’s sports equipment when you’re bringing them to and from soccer games.  Even if you’re not on a summer road trip like we were, it’s a convenient choice for weekends away as well.

The other aspect which I alluded to several times throughout the review is Buick’s gorgeous design and luxurious fine touches, which can’t be emphasized enough. Think about how often you spend in your car? Imagine feeling pampered and taken care of, surrounded by decadent design and sophisticated interior every time you get into the front seat. Isn’t it time?

Two thumbs up!

More information on specs and details can be found here: http://www.buick.com/enclave-mid-size-luxury-suv.html.






Haven on the Lake, Where Yogis, Pilates & Wellness Affinciados Meet

October 7, 2015 by  


I’m not sure we would have discovered Haven on the Lake if it weren’t for our Tourism Board pals who suggested we must experience the place given our increased coverage of wellness. We were traveling down the Eastern Coast in late August, making a stop in Baltimore and later, Columbia, and this yogi, pilates and wellness gem of a spot is only a stone’s throw away, a mere 20 or so miles from Baltimore.

We learned fairly early on that Haven on the Lake’s biggest draw is pilates since they have great equipment and fabulous instructors on-site. The pool of course is oh so lovely and where I spent most of time, migrating back and forth between the main pool and the over-sized hot tub.

They have something called HEALING ENVIRONMENTS at Haven on the Lake, which btw, is indeed on a lake, on the ground floor of a Whole Foods, which is convenient stop after your classes. KidSpace offers an interactive play area at the resort with opportunities for both individual and group participation so your kids can “play” while you do.

The healing environments include the following:

Cold Water Plunge: Cold water plunges, independently or as part of a more extensive approach involving contrasting exposure to moist heat and cold, aid in recovery from muscle soreness brought on by exertion. Cold water shocks the body, stimulating circulation and resulting in reduced recovery time and rejuvenation of tired and sore muscles. You can experience it on its own or in combination with one of the other healing environments such as the sauna, steam bath or hot tub.

Crystal Salt Therapy Room:  Salt therapy, also known as Halotherapy, is an ancient European healing technique used to treat common respiratory ailments and skin conditions. Over the last decade, salt therapy has emerged as a new modality used in the practice of complementary and alternative medicine. Salt therapy has been shown in clinical studies to have a beneficial effect in providing relief from many common respiratory ailments (e.g., asthma, sinusitis, hay fever) and skin conditions such as acne and eczema. Essentially you to into their Crystal Salt Room for around 40 minutes long.

Steam Bath: For those who may not realize, the Steam Bath dates back to the times of the Ottoman Empire, when they adapted bathing rituals first practiced by the Romans. I’m a huge fan of steam rooms and always go in them when a place has one, whether it be a hotel spa or a standalone wellness center like this one.

Hot Tubs: their over-sized hot tub with waterfall is divine!

Sauna: I use them often and love them, so was glad to see one on the premises.  If you’re not a regular user, consider its healing benefits, including muscle relaxation, detoxification and healthier skin. In many cultures, a short session in the sauna is followed by quick exposure to cold water, such as immersion in the cold plunge.

Tropical Rain Shower: this is a combo of water temperatures and pressure, and used to tantalize the senses while providing a peaceful and relaxing experience. While tropical showers are great on their own, they are often best combined with other healing treatments such as the steam bath, sauna, hot tub or crystal salt room. And, of course, I tried them all.

They have a number of classes at Haven on the Lake, with Pilates and yoga being core. They also have in-pool classes (AQUA) and something called BARRE, which is the combination of ballet, Pilates and yoga, which is great for a strengthening, body-shaping workout.  We thought we were going to a yoga class and ended up in a Pilates class instead, which is a great core workout even when you’re new at it.

I love the fact that they have Tai Chi and Qi Gong on their class schedule, which helps to moderate blood pressure, reduce stress and improve overall well-being. I’m a huge fan.

I had a massage on-site (the relaxation lounge area is so relaxing and detoxifying on its own), but they offer a number of other fabulous services as well, such as acupuncture, therapeutic treatments for your feet and hands, facials, holistic skin care, body treatments, and individualized programs for health and wellness, sunless tanning, natural waxing and naturopathic therapy, which integrates nature with modern science.   They also have events throughout the year, such as Pilates and Walking Yoga on the Lake, to name a couple.

We loved the graciousness of the staff and the overall healing environment and would love to return with more time. Two thumbs up for a unique and incredibly rich in wellness concept, something I hope expands throughout the states.


Haven on the Lake

10275 Little Patuxent Parkway

Columbia, MD 21044 


Where to Wine, Dine & Hang Your Hat in Lake Placid New York

October 6, 2015 by  


I grew up in the Adirondacks albeit a little further south than the more frequently hit tourist area of Lake Placid and the surrounding area, largely because it was once home to two winter Olympics. This fact alone no doubt added to the increased number of restaurants in the area, which isn’t always readily available when you go a bit off the beaten path. When your trip is about nature and the outdoors, chances are that you’ll wind up in a destination where the food is only mediocre and your choices are limited. While that may be the case with the Adirondacks in general, there are plenty of gems in upstate New York, including farm-to-table and chefs who have won awards at four and five star properties and then moved on to more well known restaurants.

Our trip to Lake Placid centered around the outdoors and with kids in tow to boot, so food options had to be kid-friendly and accessible. We dined well in the region and have come up with a round-up of fun and delicious eateries, cafes and restaurants for your “to dine at one day” list when you next head to this stunning region. If you’re not sure why you should go, just read a few of our articles to entice you, from bobsledding, 4×4 expeditions, tubing and skiing, to mere reflection time on the ever so calm Mirror Lake, which is a wonderful place to wake up on a summer morning. There’s even great spa experiences to be found in the area and a host of other great activities to keep you busy.

Whiteface Lodge & Kanu Restaurant 

This luxury Lake Placid stay is off the lake, but they have a quick five minute shuttle that brings you to and fro anytime you wish. Our timing was lucky as we were able to take part in one of their weekly barbecues on the lake, which couldn’t have been a more perfect choice with kids. They had barbecue chicken, burgers, hot dogs, watermelon, cupcakes, cookies, corn and more, as well as a bar near the water, with plenty of choices, from wine, margaritas and beer to soft drinks.

Kanu is their main restaurant on the grounds and where you want to go for high end dining.

Since we were staying on the property, we also had an opportunity to experience their daily breakfast — the place is oh so very Adirondack in style. Below, they hang an Adirondack canoe on the wall which hangs over the outdoor patio, a perfect place to sit during the warmer months. This canoe was among my favorites and there was a lot to love in this one-of-a-kind lodge.

Breakfast is extensive, from croissants, cereals, eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, pancakes, oatmeal and more…and it’s beautifully displaced on a couple of buffet tables in the main dining room.

Featuring sophisticated, Adirondack-inspired American cuisine, Kanu offers a la carte options in the evenings as well as three or four-course wine-pairing experiences. An open kitchen showcases the culinary team as they prepare dishes featuring fresh ingredients sourced from local farms.

There are two rooms in the main dining room to choose from — romantic by evening and classic Adirondack warm but bright and refreshing by day.  You can sit outside during warmer months, which is a must do in summer, especially for breakfast and lunch as mentioned above.

The dishes were exquisite – the lighting was dim so it was hard to get great food photography that night, but the presentation and preparation were both top notch. Starters range from salads and sweet corn chowder to lamb meatballs with Italian eggplant, mint, garlic and tomato confit and Wild Mushroom Risotto.

They also had a Saranac Sourdough Bruschetta which I passed up because of the carbs, but they served it in a creative way that was hard to say no to — avocado-Asgaard Farm Goat Cheese is coupled with Strawberry-Mascarpone and black pepper! Yum! Oh so delish, and they pair it with a Chateau Ducasse French White Bordeaux. Can you say perfect?

Entrees are fairly traditional but delicious and includes dishes like a Roasted Poussin with artichoke puree, chanterelles, asparagus, poached farm egg and poultry jus, a Sirloin Steak, a Troll Caught Salmon from Washington state with cornbread, northern Beans and Hazelnuts, a Beeler Farms Pork Chop with grilled peach, smoked bacon, swiss chard and potatoes, a Black Angus fillet, a Garganelli Pasta (yum!), and a Handline Caught Bluefish from Montauk New York — they served it with a carrot-yogurt puree, tapenade oil, cucumber and Moroccan couscous.

Next to the dining room is the slightly more casual Kanu Lounge, which serves traditional cuisine and signature cocktails, with live music entertainment. Its wine list features more than 400 regional, domestic and international vintages.

Above three photos, courtesy of Whiteface Lodge.

Caffe Rustica

Of course, Italian food must be an option on any foodie list, so if you’re a fan of pasta and pizza, then this is a great spot. Appetizers include classic crab cakes with tomato remoulade, prosciutto wrapped in mozzarella and arugula, stuffed mushrooms with fennel sausage and red peppers, spicy meatballs with mozzarella, marina sauce and basil, and charcuterie for the meat and cheese lovers among you. They also have plenty of great soup and salad options as well, from pan roasted goat cheese and beet salad with fresh herbs, to a caprese, arugula and heart of palm with avocado salad and a classic Insalata with watermelon, snap peas, pickled red onions, feta and a delicious blueberry champagne vinaigrette.

Of course they do traditional pizzas as well with an unusual twist — from eggplant and goat cheese with garlic, sausage, bacon, pepperoni and oregano to roasted chicken with pesto and how’s this for a teaser? A Bianco Vesuvio pizza with fig jam, prosicutto, chevre, arugula, carmelized onions, olive oil and garlic! Yum! Certainly not a variation I expected to find in upstate New York.

Entrees are beautifully prepared and there’s plenty to choose from if you’re staying away from carbs, like I was during this trip. If you love your carbs, then there are pasta dishes as well as meat combos. They offer Veal Scaloppini, capers, mushrooms, lemon, white wine and cream over linguine for example.

There’s also a traditional Chicken Saltimbocca with sage and prosciutto di parma, a wild mushroom ravioli with organic egg and pancetta and peas, a classic Lasagna, littleneck clams over linguine with garlic and basil and homemade Italian sausage with broccoli rabe, tomatoes, crushed red peppers, garlic and goat cheese. I love how much they use goat cheese over more commonly available cow cheese, which often gives me trouble whereas I seem to be fine with goat and sheep cheese, particularly when imported from Europe where they still thankfully have tighter regulations in place.

Taste Bistro

Taste Bistro is a casual bistro restaurant which is part of Mirror Lake Inn, where we hung our hat for a few nights. They have three restaurants in total, including the more formal “The View” and The Cottage, both of which are also on this list. While more casual than The View, Taste Bistro still managed to make it on the Conde Nast Traveler Lake Placid’s Finest list. Below are a few snapshots (courtesy of the Inn) to give you an idea of their Adirondack style interior and some of the delicious offerings.

We loved the ambiance and there’s live music on certain nights of the week, which is another reason to give them a try. While it is positioned as The View’s more casual sister restaurant, the menu offers plenty of finer dining options some of which overlap with The View’s menu.

With kids at the table, their Bistro Fries went over well to share, which they serve with white truffle aioli and housemade clove catsup (none of that high fructose corn syrup to fend off). I’m a huge oyster fan and while they didn’t have them raw on the half shell, they did have an exquisite Oysters Rockefeller dish, which they bake and serve with Spinach-Herb cream sauce and Pernod.

Above Toasted Asgaard Chèvre Croutons, photo courtesy off Yelp (it was too dark to get adequate food shots while we were there)

Above, the fabulous ambiance of the bar area of the restaurant, which is a great place to get a drink and absorb the live music even if you don’t have dinner reservations — courtesy of Mirror Lake Inn

Generations Restaurant

Generations Restaurant is the main restaurant connected to the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, where we also stayed while in Lake Placid this summer. One of the more quirkier and great facts about the place is their commitment to sustainable architecture and living — they even have a green roof which you can reach from the restaurant. Particularly in the summer months, the green roof makes for great views of Mirror Lake and the mountains in the distance — it’s a stunning ecological backdrop that is worth seeing. Whiteface Mountain and the High Peaks are one of the many view “perks” you’ll get from the property.

Photo courtesy of Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort

In keeping with the philosophy of Golden Arrow’s Green Roof, they serve many foods that are grown and raised locally. Their goal is to keep it as fresh and local as possible, an aspect we absolutely loved. In other words, they integrate “green living” into every aspect of the resort, which you can learn more about in our hotel write-up. Below is one of the many delicious entree options served on the Generations menu.

Above photo, courtesy of Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort

We ate at the restaurant on more than one occasion and also dined here for breakfast since we were staying at the resort. In the summer months, they have a lovely deck where you can sit outside and watch the local culture pass by along the main drag of the town – Main Street.

Appetizer options include Blue Crab Cake which is house-made and served with lemon confit and creole rémoulade, Calamari in a light puffed rice breading with a spicy marinara sauce, Chicken Wings with celery, carrots & blue cheese, Shrimp Spring Rolls Crispy shrimp and vegetable spring rolls, served with a sweet red chili-Sriracha cream sauce, a delicious Spinach Artichoke Dip, which is a great one to share for the table, Spinach Salad Baby spinach with Applewood smoked bacon and a beet and goat cheese salad. What is nice is that you can add Grilled Chicken Breast, Crab Cakes, Salmon, or Strip Loin to any of your salads, turning it into a healthy main meal.

You can create your own pasta, which was a godsend choice with kids. (you can choose both your pasta type as well as your sauce and toppings….a great idea. You can even add chicken or Italian meat balls). Mains include New York Strip Steak, Ribeye Steak, Roasted half chicken finished with a Four Roses bourbon glaze, Rainbow Trout with a sweet antebellum cornmeal crust, Atlantic Salmon topped with a cool cucumber and fennel relish, Slow cooked baby back pork ribs with a smoked jalapeno BBQ sauce and of course fabulous sides like Cajun Sweet Potato Fries, Steamed Broccoli, Scalloped Potatoes, Beer Battered Onion Rings and Brussel Sprouts. A couple of our dishes are pictured below.

I’ll also point out that the bartender makes a mean Jalapeno Margarita which had a kick to it. It was so delicious that I ordered one two days in a row and sipped it leisurely while paddle boating around Mirror Lake — what a great relaxing way to spend an afternoon.

The View Restaurant @ Mirror Lake Inn

The View is Mirror Lake Inn’s signature restaurant in its main building, which is located directly across from the beautiful and serene Mirror Lake. Below is a horse made in chocolate which is on display near the entry way to the restaurant in the Mirror Lake Inn lobby. How creative is that?

Chocolate is far from all — there are many creative and fun aspects to Mirror Lake Inn and it’s 3 restaurants. The View offers an extensive breakfast every morning as well, which includes an omelette station, crispy bacon, pancakes, French toast, an assortment of cereals, eggs, a fruit table and more.

For dinner, it gets even better. Just a bite for your palette of course and a starter salad before we dive into the entrees, both so beautifully displayed and unexpected for a small town in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains.

For appetizers, they had Crab Cake with saffron pickled fennel and shaved radish on the app list, as well as house smoked trout with creme fraiche and trout caviar, Hudson Valley Foie Gras with grilled figs, buttered brioche and fig vincotto (delish!!) and traditional starter salads as well as a chilled Cucumber and Watermelon Gazpacho which we tried. (it was served with Greek yogurt which made all the difference)

For entrees, they had a number of great options to choose from, including Atlantic Cod with roasted sweet corn chowder, house-made Gnocchi with veggies and oyster mushrooms, Free Range Chicken Breast with foie gras and black truffle farce and King Trumpet mushrooms, Prime Beef Filet with Tarragon butter, Lyonnaise potatoes, Zinfandel glazed cipollini onion and a Zinfandel glace, Grilled Sea Scallops with rosemary and olive oil, as well as the more unusually prepared Braised Pork Cheeks, which they prepared with an orange, sweet pepper and verjus sauce, creamy spring onion Polenta, Rapini and Pickled Jariniere. Notice the French influence in this round-up!

Below are a few examples of dishes we tried over the course of our stay.

Delta Blue

Delta Blue is a unique bar on Main Street, the primary drag of Lake Placid. Chances are if you’re staying in one of the more central hotels, you can even walk to it. They have a pool table and late night crowd ambiance even during the day time, however that’s largely because they are open late, play blues music regularly and have “pub fare,” such as their popular Buffalo Wings with a choice of unique sauces (Carolina Mustard BBQ, Maple Chipotle, Honey Cajun, Bourbon Molasses (my favorite although it’s a tad on the sweet side), Minnie P’s Original BBQ and Dirty, which is nothing other than “Cajun rubbed.”

Of course if you want to keep it healthy, they offer a varied selection of salads, from cobb (as a salad or wrap) and Caesar to Zydeco Shrimp salad with roasted corn and black beans to the more atypical house salad they offer, which is served with roasted pumpkin seeds, sliced apples, raisins, Asiago cheese and balsamic! Delish to say the least.

They have a host of Southern Specialties, which frankly is a rarity in the Adirondacks given how close you are to the Canadian border. From smoked chicken and sausage gumbo and Crawfish Etoufee to Classic Carolina BBQ sandwiches, Shrimp n’Grits, Crawfish Mc N’Cheese (yes really) to St. Louis Ribs, and Smothered Chicken Fried Steak with pepper onion gravy, corn and fries, they’ve got you covered! Whoah Nelly!

Of course, it’s great for kids during the day since you can get a variety of burger choices, a foot long Delta Dawg (translation: hot dog) with chili, kraut or plain and subs with everything on them from blackened catfish and Buffalo chicken to Pastrami Reuben, Pulled pork and Fried Oysters. Again, not your standard upstate New York menu.

The influence of course came from the south, hence the authenticity of the menu and the food. While the food has its draw especially in this neck of the woods, the real draw is the Blues Music, but then again I’m a huge blues fan. Be sure to read our write-up on our trip through the Mississippi Delta Blues earlier this year.

They have theme days and nights, such as Bloody Mary and Mimosa specials on Sunday afternoons, Why Not Wednesdays which are open mic Delta Blues Jam nights, and live music every weekend. Who knew that I could find authentic blues even further north than where I grew up? Apparently Lake Placid also has a Blues and Heritage Festival every year and it should be no surprise that Delta Blue participates and sponsors.

The Cottage

The Cottage is the third restaurant of Mirror Lake Inn, that lovely romantic and precious luxury lodge we stayed in for a few nights that takes up a gigantic chunk of land and sits proudly across from the shores of Mirror Lake. This bistro is the most casual of the three and a great place to bring children given their variety and the fact that you can sit out on the patio when the weather is nice, which we took full advantage of when we arrived. The patio boasts incredible views of the lake and is a great place to spot birds and other local wildlife.

Casual doesn’t have to mean uninteresting however, and their Apricot Chicken Salad Sandwich with sliced almonds, scallions and sesame ginger mayonnaise is just one example where the chef gets creative at this fun bistro on the lake. Worth noting is their Tomato Caprese Avocado salad, which we loved — they use vine ripe tomatoes, whole basil and of course, the ever so traditional balsamic glaze.

Their tacos have a nice kick to them and also worth ordering – choices include Baja Fish (they use Mahi Mahi) with a tangy cabbage slaw, hoisin BBQ, spicy aioli and fresh cilantro or the Caribbean Smoked Pork Taco, which is served with the same accompaniment. YUM!

Plenty of salad options as well…..while not shown below, they had a cottage house salad which I wished I ordered in hindsight. How’s this for a fabulous combo? Sweet greens, dried cranberries, heirloom cherry tomatoes, roasted butternut squash, sweet and spicy almonds and aged cheddar. For the kids, we went with Artisan Flat Bread Pizzas, which was great because they have a healthy spin on pizza, from the addition of arugula and carmelized onions to wild mushrooms, spinach and fresh tomato sauce.

And then there’s dessert of course which changes regularly. Let’s just say the portions were large enough for us all to share.

Breakfast Club

If you love diners, then The Breakfast Club is a great choice for breakfast and lunch as it’s also conveniently located along Lake Placid’s Main Street, smack in the middle of the town. Classics on the menu are the breakfast favorites such as BC Benedicts — eggs with your choice of Canadian bacon, Rosemary dijon sausage, cheddar biscuits, smoked salmon, tender sliced filets and crab cakes.

This isn’t the place to visit if you’re on a diet or trying to cut down the carbs. On the griddle, they have classic French Toast, but a Fondue style, so that means that there’s a boast load of butter (cinnamon butter in this case) and maple syrup on the top. You can also order waffles, buttermilk pancakes, or the heftier Black Forest Ham with Cheddar and eggs.

While breakfast is what they’re known for, they also serve lunch and offer a whole lotta more fried options, like mozzarella sticks, crab cakes and cheese fries as well as Burgers. One interesting addition on the menu that’s worth noting since I’ve never seen it elsewhere, is the Coffee Rubbed BBQ Burger, which is a burger rubbed with coffee and spice and then served with an espresso BBQ sauce and cheddar. We were leaning on the healthier side during this trip so didn’t order it but I am still curious what it tastes like, aren’t you?

Lake Placid Pub & Brewery

If beer is your thing, then you should stop by the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery where they have plenty of choices on tap. Handcrafted ales and lagers include Ubu Ale, 46′er Pale Ale (both from Chicago), Lake Placid IPA and Moose Island Ale to name a few. They also offer seasonal rotating brews depending on the season and locals think so highly of this active popular pub that it was voted #1 Brewery and #1 Bar in the Adirondacks by Adirondack Life readers.

Some of their rotating seasonal beers include Leaping Cow ESB, Twice Bitten Barleywine, Ectoberfest Lager, Maibock, High Peaks Hefeweizen, and Dr. Fogg’s Oatmeal Stout although they have brewed more than 80 different styles of beer over 18 years of being in business.

For colder days and nights, they have a stone fireplace and during the summer, they have a tent in their beer garden so you can sit outside. Downstairs you can experience the legendary P.J. O’Neill’s, a true Irish pub with the warm character of aged wood and brick. Their third floor, The Hop Loft, opened in February of 2013, and features another outdoor deck overlooking the lake, another bar and seating area, as well as a kids room featuring activities to keep the kids busy while you enjoy your time at the Pub.

Their menu features pub classics like an assortment of flatbreads,  cheeseburgers, delicious BBQ ribs, and Buffalo wings. You can also get a Spicy Black Bean Burger or Mahi Mahi Tacos, both of which are a lot of fun after a day’s summer activities on the lake or on the mountain in the winter. And, if you’re a pizza lover, how’s this for mouthwatering? A sweet sausage and apple OR a BBQ chicken and gouda flatbread pizza? Bring it on baby!

One last mention is the Adirondack Creamery Ice Cream and penny candy by the pound, which is a favorite stop for kids and adults with a sweet tooth.

Restaurant Details:

Breakfast Club

2490 Main Street

Lake Placid, NY 13946

(518) 523-0007

Caffé Rustica

1936 Saranac Avenue

Lake Placid, NY 12946
(518) 523-7511

Delta Blue

2520 Main Street

Lake Placid, NY 12946
(518) 523-3106

Generations Restaurant

2543 Main Street

Lake Placid, NY 12946
(518) 837-5052

Kanu Restaurant @ Whiteface Lodge

7 Whiteface Inn Land

Lake Placid, NY 12946

(518) 523-0500

Lake Placid Pub & Brewery

813 Mirror Lake Drive

Lake Placid, NY 12946
(518) 523-3813

Taste Bistro

77 Mirror Lake Drive
Lake Placid New York 12946

(518) 302-3000

The Cottage

77 Mirror Lake Drive

Lake Placid, NY 12946
(518) 523-2544

The View Restaurant @ Mirror Lake Inn

77 Mirror Lake Drive

Lake Placid, NY 12946
(518) 302-3000

Quin Hotel For Decadence Amidst Chaos on New York’s East Side

October 3, 2015 by  


Let’s face it — when I used to go to New York on a frequent basis, whether that was for overnight jaunts on business when I lived in Boston or for a week or longer on a press trip or conference since I’ve been in San Francisco, clients usually had their favorite stays or had a deal with some hotel or another. On business, it was never less than a 4 star, mainly because 3 stars in New York City tend to be a little more dubious than many other cities or destinations in the world — the rooms are small, service is non-existent and attention to detail isn’t the best, including cleanliness. There are exceptions of course.

When I’ve stayed in five stars, it’s often been a chain of some sort or the Waldorf Astoria, so I was thrilled to be able to take a look at the Quin Hotel on New York’s East Side at West 57th and Sixth Avenue. Truth be told, we didn’t have a lot of time as we were passing through but unlike so many other trips, we had a car and usually I’m taking a cab in and out from La Guardia or JFK. And so, we had to valet, an interesting and expensive endeavor in New York, so if you can avoid it, take a cab from the airport and if you need a car for the rest of your trip, cab it to the rental car company and pick it up right before you’re ready to head out.

That said, we valeted our fabulous Buick Enclave, the ultimate in luxury family vehicles, which was a godsend for the remainder of our trip as we had two kids in tow. Given our exhausting drive from Baltimore, we didn’t have a lot of energy for painting the city red especially with an even longer drive the following afternoon, but we did explore the hotel, including the attached restaurant and bar where we had a quick drink before meeting up with friends.

The hotel itself is artsier than I expected it, each floor with its own unique masterpiece painting that adorned the wall as the elevator opened its doors. I loved the energy on our floor, which was a mixture of modern and Victorian.

The lobby is creative but sparse, focusing on the color and energy of the wall backdrop behind the main reception desk. Quin is all about clean, crisp lines and modern chic and sophisticated.

The lobby extends into a lounge sitting area, which is a great place for meeting people. There is also a book shelf and place to work if you wanted to get out of your hotel room space for awhile.

Below, the drawing room.

Another view of the lobby lounge area.

Above lobby shots courtesy of Quin Hotel. Shot of reception area desk and two wall shots by Renee Blodgett.

The front is elegant and there’s a door man to greet you in that oh so quintessential New York City kinda way. It’s only been open since 2013, so people are still learning about its cool factor. Deemed at the intersection of art, music, and fashion, the hotel has 208 room rooms and while on the East Side, it’s central to all mid-town activities, including theatre, shopping and nature — Central Park, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and Fifth Avenue couture are all a stone’s throw away. Think of it as an establishment that melds modern opulence with artistic heritage.

Photo courtesy of Quin Hotel

They have an Executive Boardroom for 10, complimentary high speed Wi-Fi, an Apple-equipped Drawing Room—a relaxed and quiet study space, and the restaurant next door has a top notch chef and signature cocktails and wine. Sweet! Renowned architecture and interior design firm, Perkins Eastman, transposed a contemporary masterpiece on the classical foundation that was once home to cultural icons like pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski and artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

We had a slight upgrade, so were tucked away in the corner, which I believe meant a little more room and a better view. Below are a few different room types so you can get an idea of what they offer – our room was closet in style to the last shot of the four. Cosy, elegant and and chic with modern artistic influences throughout the hotel (and the rooms).

And, if you want room service, then by all means splurge. Since we were hosted, the “on-top-of-it” management and marketing folks sent up a l’il wine and cheese for sampling before we headed out to dinner that evening — frankly, given that we had been doing so many restaurant reviews the previous week and were planning to have a lighter night than normal, the timing was impeccable and just what we needed, so much so that I considered staying in.

For those of you who know how ideal the location is, you might be surprised, but I’ve spent so much time in the Big Apple that to have a luxury spot with quieter than normal air conditioning in a quieter than normal neighborhood was a delight. There’s no doubt I love the excitement of Tribeca and the lower east and west side, but when I stay downtown, I’m far too tempted to take in the night life and always pay for it the next day.

While we did end up venturing out for the evening, which included a late night walk and horsing around in front of monuments and buildings, our heads hit the sack by midnight, after a late cuppa mint tea to wind down. Ahhh bliss!

Before we set out on the road, we took in a cuppa Joe and hit the on-site gym, which had a few weight machines and free weights as well as a few treadmills and Elliptical trainers. They also had a basket of apples and a fridge with cold spring water so you didn’t have to think twice — just what we needed before we getting on our way. Our only wish was that we had time to have one of those long lazy nights in the restaurant including dinner rather than just a quick drink, but we’re egging to go back at a future time, so stay tuned. It’s a great spot when you need to be in mid-town — two thumbs up!

Above five shots of the inside of the hotel room and gym, all courtesy of Quin Hotel.


Quin Hotel

101 West 57th Street at Sixth Avenue

New York, NY 10019


Beyond Baltimore’s Crab Cake Culture, From the Arts to the Sea

October 2, 2015 by  


I may be biased of course since I originally hail from the East Coast and spent my childhood summers there, but spending time back East makes my heart skip a beat when the weather is warm, the air balmy and the moon and stars sharp. Her soil, her air, her energy, her vibe, her sunsets, her clouds and her skies all resonate with me more intimately than anywhere else in the country.

In our research and outreach, a few were surprised (more astounded) that we were going to spend around 4-6 days in Maryland, half of that time being in Baltimore. I couldn’t help but thinking “were these folks not proud of their city enough to react with more of a ‘how cool that you want to give Baltimore so much time?’” And, while our evening sunsets may not be the deep rich sunset you might get in the west, bit sure doesn’t disappoint, especially with the harbor in the background. There’s plenty to keep you dive under the hood so to speak and are prepared to wander into known and unheard neighborhoods.

We feel that you need to give a destination time, not just to “see stuff,” but to FEEL what the destination is truly about – for us, that involves talking to a lot of people and hanging out with them in their natural environment as much as possible. While frankly I don’t feel we had enough time, we did get an opportunity to tour off-the-beaten path bars & bistros in the city’s neighborhoods and burbs with Michael Ransom, the chef over at B&O Brasserie, which we reviewed during our stay.

I’m actually astounded when travelers zip through cities without getting a sense of the true essence of a city, docking in a few “tourist” activities, checking them off the list and moving on. For me, the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had over the course of every continent except Antarctica (still on the list), is because of the people or the wildlife in a destination, which boils down to physical interactions with living breathing things. Buildings are just buildings after all, whether they be monuments or a global renowned gem like the brand and impressive Eiffel Tower, which while it continues to move me every time I see it, doesn’t hold a candle to the interactions I’ve had with Parisians over the years.


I don’t want to discount Maryland’s buildings, since frankly, the architecture is worth noting. Be sure to walk through the city, stop locals, ask questions and keep doing so until you learn 5 unusual things you didn’t expect to learn.

I couldn’t help but feel that the landmarks and people of Baltimore were a nice blend of Philly, Providence and the pure South — a little edge and culture saviness from the north combined with the warm generosity and hospitality of the south. We loved the people we met along our journey, from random people we talked to in cafes, stores, shops and on the streets to boat operators, taxi drivers, chefs, waiters, bellmen, concierge and hotel staff. We stayed at two distinctly different properties – modern luxury at the Four Seasons and chic boutique at Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco. Both were treasured stays and true stand-outs (be sure to read my write-ups).

Water Taxi Around the City

Near the Four Seasons (since you’re so close to the harbor), you can grab a Water Taxi, which is a great way to get around, especially in the warmer months. All day passes are around $14 and you can hop on and off  as much as you wish. Like a subway, there are a few different lines – green, red and so on. Not every color goes to all destinations, so it’s important to learn the routes before you jump on the wrong boat, as you could lose an hour of your time that way. We NEARLY made that mistake, so be sure to ask the driver before you assume its going to your preferred destination.

The water taxis cover most of the known tourism spots, like Fort Mc Henry, Canton Waterfront Park, Locus Point, Maritime Park, Captain James Landing, Harborview, Harbor East (the closet point to downtown hotels including the Four Seasons), Pier Five, Rusty Scupper, Science Center and Harborplace.

A bit about some of these known landmarks. Maritime Park is a hands-on experiential museum, which is also a boat building complex. Harbor East is where you’ll find the city’s Italian influences alongside an upscale neighborhood. Harbor East features high-end shopping, a seven-screen art-house movie theatre (how cool is that?) and of course, great views of the marina. Little Italy is nearby, where you’ll come across lots of family owned restaurants and foodie gems.

At the Science Center, you can take in over 170,000 square feet of science, a great place to also take kids if on a family trip. The Aquarium is equally interesting and kids will love it – over 17,000 animals are on-site and you’re closeby for other kinds of local entertainment and restaurants.

The Arts

The Rusty Scupper is the stop we jumped off to visit the American Visionary Art Museum, a true stand-out and must visit. It’s the only museum in the country dedicated to works by untrained artists. The museum specializes in the preservation and display of outsider art (also known as “intuitive art,” “raw art,” or “art brut”). The city agreed to give the museum a piece of land on the south shore of the Inner Harbor under the condition that its organizers would clean up residual pollution from a copper paint factory and a whiskey warehouse that formerly occupied the site. And, what’s even more special is that it has been designated by Congress as America’s national museum for self-taught art.

Across 67,000 square feet, you’ll get a taste of 4,000 pieces. The permanent collection includes works by visionary artists like Ho Baron, Nek Chand, Howard Finster, Ted Gordon, Mr. Imagination (aka Gregory Warmack), Clyde Jones, Leonard Knight, William Kurelek, Mary Proctor, Leo Sewell, Judith Scott, Vollis Simpson, Ben Wilson, and others. It’s creativity extends inside and out. If you have time, try to have lunch or dinner at their inside restaurant called Encantada, which has a lot of interesting items on the menu as well as some healthy veggie options. Read my write-up on Encantada where we sat on the outdoor patio, taking in the creativity around us.

Below are shots I took outside as we walked around the museum.

Fell’s Point

Fell’s Point is the place to go to explore small streets and listen to stories in fun pubs and bars. There’s a whole lotta authenticity and character in this neighborhood, and not only great for people watching but learning about the city’s rich history and culture. Fell’s Point is the oldest deep water seaport on the harbor, and you’ll find pubs, live music, antiques, collectibles, unique shops, history, theaters and spirits (they note — both spooky and bottled). Speaking of which, don’t miss the Baltimore Tours & Crawls (443.333.4774 for more info) or the Baltimore Ghost Tours, which frankly we wished we had time to do (410.357.1186 for more info).

Creativity also reigns, particularly in the summer when so much of it can be displayed and appreciated outside.

Speaking of culture and history, be sure not to miss the Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail -- when the weather is warm enough to take long walks in Baltimore, be sure to do so — on foot, is where you find the best magic.

 VIP Pass Program

You can get a VIP Pass, which gives you entry to more than two dozen Baltimore attractions, museums, tours and historical sites. We used this for a variety of things including the water taxi. Some of the attractions include the American Visionary Art Museum as noted above, the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, Homewood Museum, Jewish Museum of Maryland, Maryland Science Center, Port Discovery Children’s Museum, Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, the Walters Art Museum, the Urban Pirates Cruise and others. For railroad buffs (I run into them everywhere), the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum is on West Pratt Street, and a great place for kids and lovers of history.

Baltimore Museum of Art houses works by Matisse, Picasso and Cezanne and there’s also a scenic sculpture garden and celebrity chef John Shields’ acclaimed Gertrude’s Restaurant. The Jewish Museum is home to the third oldest standing synagogue in the United States. They have immersive exhibits which allows you to walk through more than a century of change in East Baltimore, visiting homes and businesses of people who once lived there. You also learn how Jewish and Roman Catholic congregations that once occupied the space transformed it and the community around it.


The Urban Pirates Cruise as mentioned above is a blast – see below. They’re out and about in and around the harbor for several cruises a day and also do an evening cruise for adults only, where you can bring your own booze. By day, its a delight for kids who get to see a pirate in action and water is a big part of it….it’s very interactive.

You’ll see a ton of great boat energy in the harbor and out to sea depending on how far out the cruise takes you.

American Sailing Tours is behind a boat called Summer Wind who Cap’n Tom is behind. We had a great time on his late afternoon leisurely tour with wine and cheese as part of the experience. He’s a wealth of stories as well if you can get him to share some of them, from Maine to Maryland. Be sure to read my write-up on our experience with Cap’n Tom - he’s about as down-to-earth as it gets.

We took a couple of other short trips across the harbor in addition to the Water Taxi. Other cruises worth noting however are Cruises on the Bay — more info at cruisesonthebay.com. They offer TGIF, City Lights, Legends of Maritime, Thirsty Thursday cruises and more, ranging from 60-90 minutes. There’s a lovely New Year’s Eve Charm City Dinner and Fireworks cruise as well — you can buy a ticket with open bar all inclusive as well for the evening.

Drinks & Dining

Baltimore has no shortage of restaurants to explore. Here are a few stand-outs:

  • Blue Agave Restaurante Y Tequileria on Federal Hill for casual upscale Mexican.
  • Gertrude’s in Charles Village for American modern cuisine.
  • Wit & Wisdom at the Four Seasons – this place is a gem; be sure to read our write-up. Two thumbs up!
  • Woodbury Kitchen, an organic eatery on Clipper Park Road, which specializes in getting their food from local growers.
  • Ouzo Bay on Lancaster Street, because we like Greek food and had to mention one.
  • RA Sushi Bar also on Lancaster, because we love sushi – here you can get hip music with chic decor as well.
  • Oceanaire Seafood Room for retro 1940′s style supper club motif.
  • Encantada in the American Visionary Art Museum; Encantada (inside and outside seating) quirky, interesting and artsy. It’s also got a great selection of veggie options – be sure to read my write-up.
  • Fogo de Chao Steakhouse on Pratt Street – it was our first time trying Fogo de Chao, so read up on our experience.
  • Tir Na Nog Irish Bar & Grill, because you’re in Baltimore and should try a local Irish pub.
  • B&O Brasserie is a fun casual place with plenty of oysters adjacent to Hotel Monaco where we stayed. Chef Michael Ransom is a hoot as well – ask him to prepare one of his crab cakes – photo at the bottom of my review.
  • Rusty Scupper Restaurant for fresh seafood and panoramic views of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
  • Magdalena in the Hotel Ivy; classic, elegant, chic with an interesting wine list and creative preparations. Read my restaurant review of Magdalena Restaurant — we also loved the ambiance.
  • Aldo’s in Little Italy – Zagas gives it one of the highest scores in Maryland – they also offer a complimentary shuttle in case you want to drink and not think about parking or driving.
  • French Kitchen in the Lord Baltimore Hotel – when you’re in the mood for French and Versailles historical ambiance.
  • Restaurante Tio Pepe for Spanish food on Franklin Street, its a popular among several we talked to late night.
  • Ambassador Dining Room for Indian food – apparently has romantic ambiance as well which is rare for an Indian restaurant – wished we had time to go there.
  • Petit Louis Bistro – cozy French bistro in Roland Park neighborhood – it’s important to get out of the city center.
  • Miss Shirley’s Cafe in Roland Park – several people told us to go here.
  • Lebanese Taverna for Lebanese food on South President Street.
  • Maggie’s Farm on Harford Road – we like the concept, but didn’t have enough time to explore.
  • Bluegrass Tavern for southern fare on S. Hanover Street.
  • The Land of Kush for vegetarian food on N. Eutaw Street.
  • Canton Dockside Restaurant on Boston Street – a few people told us to try it out.
  • Mo’s Crab & Pasta Factory - as above, perhaps a good choice with a group or kids in tow.
  • Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament - feast on a four course meal while watching pageantry, horsemanship and more.
  • Iron Bridge Wine Company is not based in Baltimore, but in Columbia, about an hour drive. It’s a great spot though if you can take the time — be sure to read my review.

Nature, Family Fun & Sports

A few call outs include the following:

  • Carroll Park Bike & Skate Facility – this is particularly useful for family travel; they have extreme sports to experience every day.
  • Carroll Park - has athletic fields, a neighborhood playground, outdoor skating rink and a 9 hole golf course. Sweet!
  • Clifton Park – there’s an 18 hole golf course here, clay tennis courts (wish we had our rackets) and an English landscape garden.
  • Cylburn Arboretum – has 200 acres of public garden flowers and nature preserve. There are 3 miles of nature trails for walks as well.
  • Baltimore Zoo on Druit Hill Road – houses more than 1,500 exotic mammals, birds and reptiles.
  • Family Skating Center – this is inside of course, but great for the kids — there are ice hockey and skating lessons from October to March.


There are plenty of places to get antiques, including at the nearby (under an hour drive) Ellicott City, which is a charming little town that boasts a lot of history. Read my write-up on Ellicott City as it makes for a great day trip. That said, we happened to be in Baltimore during their Summer Antiques Show at the Baltimore Convention Center so went for a few hours one afternoon.

They had antique and estate jewelry, furniture, porcelin, sculpture, glass, silver, decorative arts, textiles, Asian antiquities, fine books and manuscripts and more. While the prices were hefty for most, I found a great pearl ring that was reasonable and some prints. The people were also amazing and as always, had great stories of yesteryear. Worth attending if you’re in Baltimore during August.

Baltimore Basilica

We didn’t have time to take this in, but I read up on the basilica and we walked past it one day. It’s apparently the first metropolitan cathedral constructed in America after the adoption of the constitution, so also a great stop for history buffs. It is a symbol of religious freedom and an historical treasure.

Photo credit: LewisContractors.

During the last 200 years, visitors to the Basilica have included dignitaries from around the world, including Pope John Paul II, Teresa of Calcutta, President Andrew Johnson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Chief Whitefeather of the Sioux Tribe (how cool is that?). Another interesting factoid is that apparently at least 15 saints or potential saints have prayed here.

In 2008, the Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden was opened up at the corner of North Charles and Franklin Streets, just around the corner from the Basilica. Try to visit the garden if you get a chance. You can also go to mass at the cathedral as well.

Events & Festivals

In the greater Baltimore area, you’ll find some fun cultural festivals and events throughout the year.

  • Hot August Music Festival at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville.
  • Maryland State Fair in August/September.
  • Festival Latino de Maryland in August.
  • African American Cultural Festival in September.
  • Kennedy Krieger Institute Festival of Trees is a Thanksgiving weekend tradition.
  • Star Spangled Spectacular in July takes over Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville.

Outside the Center

  • Piedmont Wine Trail – there are 9 wineries along Piedmont Wine Trail in Baltimore and Harford counties – www.piedmontwinetrail.com
  • Horseracing – steeplechase and timber racing can be found in the outskirts — they have the My Lady’s Manor Grand National in April, the Legacy Chase in September and the Timonium Race Track where you have horseracing every August and September during the Maryland State Fair.
  • Baltimore County Sailing Center – more info at bcsailing.org.
  • Dog Parks – the county has four dog parks so if you’re a dog lover, be sure to check them out.
  • Golfing: ones worth noting include Greystone, The Woodlands, Diamond Ridge, Rocky Point and Fox Hollow Golf and Training Center. Of course, there’s Turf Valley in Elliott City as well where we stayed and hit the driving range one afternoon.

Hotels & Spas 

We only stayed at two hotels in the center of Baltimore and one about 20 miles outside of town — listed below including links to my hotel reviews.



Note: we had assistance including some hosts via the Maryland and Baltimore Tourism Board but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

The Oh So Adirondack Whiteface Lodge in the Heart of Natural Beauty

October 1, 2015 by  


When I did my scouting of upstate New York gems for the summer, I ran across Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid and could have sworn we had dinner there many moons ago as a child. It could be that there was a lodge with a similar name but the truth is, the lodge hasn’t been around for that long.

Above, private access to Lake Placid via their Canoe Club, a five minute drive from the hotel property – courtesy of the hotel.

It was originally created to be provide that upscale feel in the heart of an old Adirondack town with great skiing nearby. The upscale, all-suite lodge is only one mile from the shores of Lake Placid which is fabulous for summer and fall visitors and 22 miles from the ski slopes of Whiteface Mountain.  Well positioned in the High Peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains and tucked into the picturesque woodlands of the town that was once home to two Winter Olympics games (1932 and 1980), the latter of which I came as a child to see a bobsledding race.

With a 5-6 hour drive from New York City or Boston, it’s not the easiest to access, but that’s key to its charm. Personally, I was thrilled to be off the grid and didn’t flinch every time my cell phone struggled to get access.  Evoking the splendor of the historic Adirondack Great Camps, we felt as if we were in the rustic wild however within the confines of luxury amenities and exquisite food.

The property itself is surrounded by woodland on all sides with a charming fishing pond on the grounds — here, they have fishing gear and even bait lying around if you want to have a go at catching something. The property’s design is rustic timber and yet true to Adirondack style, uses traditional wood and stone – including local timber milled on site, coupled with hand-crafted furnishings and details.

The rooms are loaded with hand-crafted Adirondack-style furnishings, including a cast iron gas fireplace, slate floor, wood paneling, custom cabinetry and fully equipped kitchen with granite counter tops. While we didn’t need the radiant floor heating feature in the summer, it must be a godsend in January. Each suite has private cedar and mahogany balconies, a bathroom with jetted tub and heated floors, custom pillow-topped king beds (oh joy), a pull-out queen size sofa in the living room, which is a godsend when you have kids in tow, a European style washer and dryer, which we in fact used, and the ever so tempting warm, homemade cookies at turn-down, not a great temptation for my low carb diet.  That said, Anthony and the kids devoured them before I closed the door.

They thought of the luxury wedding scenario when they created the 3,100 square foot Presidential Suite, a two-level suite with four bedrooms and four full bathrooms, a private elevator entry, a hand-crafted stone fireplace, a fully equipped gourmet kitchen and a screened-in porch. It accommodates up to 10 people, so perfect for families, friends, 5 couples or celebs.

There are 94 suites in total, a three-story game room, three restaurants, a spa, magnificently manicured grounds, open air lean tos, swimming and a variety of gaming and athletic activities throughout the property. Since we were all about Family Travel this venture, its worth noting the fabulous stuff for kids and the Kamp Kanu kid’s program.

Kamp Kanu Kids Program

After Labor Day, they offer weekend Kamp Kanu for children ages 3-10 and there’s also a Summer Kamp Kanu which runs from late June till Labor Day Weekend. It is a complimentary children’s program offered seven days a week during the summer months for children ages 3-14.  Kids will make new friends and play indoors and outdoors, with each program being led by highly qualified and trained counselors. Sample activities include: games, relays & races, tag games, obstacle courses, orienteering, treasure hunts, spy games and more. Indoor activities include scavenger hunts, games, arts & crafts, storytelling, science experiments, movies, Wii, and more.

Open Air Lean Tos

The lodge offers two spacious, open-air lean-tos, which we wished we had more time to enjoy. I grew up using lean-tos, both at my first summer camp and when we went hiking (and camping) in the woods. It would have been nice to hang in one after hours for a week or more, while telling late night stories and roasting marshmallows, an activity that always brings me back to childhood.

They provide guests with an inviting, sheltered spot to gather for cigars, cocktails and hors d-oeuvres. Each is furnished with comfortable seating, warm blankets and a fire pit, and a dedicated phone line connects guests to the services of a concierge. The lean-tos are sheltered on three sides, with the fourth open to majestic mountain and sky views.

Gaming, Fitness Center & Athletic Option

There’s an extensive fitness center that is open 24 hours a day as well as group fitness classes.  There’s a game room complete with billiard, shuffleboard, foosball and two-lane bowling alley, basketball, tennis and paddle tennis courts, snowshoe and cross-country ski trails, ice skating in winter (skates provided), fishing in catch-and-release pond with all equipment provided (below), and a 56-seater surround sound movie theater. How cool is that? Perfect for kids as was the game room, which we used one evening. (popcorn over a pool table, ping pong and foosball kept us going for hours).

The tennis courts.

The pond after making an attempt with pole in hand, where we sadly caught nothing.

Pools. Spa & Wellness Classes

Exercise classes include aqua aerobics, yoga, yogilates, stretch and mobility, to name a few. The Spa fitness center is open 24 hours a day which is how it “should be” but not every resorts get that — they have Life Fitness Treadmills and Upright Bike, Precor Elipticals, True Recumbent Bike along with Nautilus Strength and Conditioning Equipment. Signature treatments at the Spa include traditional massages and facials to Maple Butter Body Wrap and an Apple Cider Masque.

Their 5,800-square-foot spa offers a comprehensive menu of relaxing massages, revitalizing body treatments, facials and salon services, and an exclusive line of branded spa products. There’s an indoor and outdoor heated pool, sauna and steam room, and outdoor hot tub. And of course, we used them all but didn’t have time to get a treatment unfortunately, so can’t speak to the services specifically.

The Lodge Itself

Only ten years old, Whiteface Lodge is the vision of a former Olympian and developer who used decades of building experience to create this lodge, all built from timber which was apparently hand-milled on-site. Its wood-beamed exterior is unique as are its cozy carpet-strewn sitting rooms and cast-iron fireplaces.  Have a look at its luxurious yet rustic fine touches, so much my style.

Above shots of the lodge, courtesy of the lodge.

The Oh So Adirondack-Centric Rooms

The all-suite rooms range in size from 700 to 2,300 square feet, so they’re ideal for both a romantic getaway and a family stay. Each room has a kitchen, radiant-floor heat, jetted tubs, plush-top beds, flat-screen LCD TVs, and a sitting patio or balcony. Take a peak at some of the room/suite styles available.

Above hotel and suite shots courtesy of the lodge.

Above five inside hotel shots, courtesy of the lodge.

The outside patio where you could sip a cup of tea in the morning or a glass of wine at night — oh so perfect!

Lake Placid, The Lake

They give you private access to Lake Placid via the Canoe Club and there’s a private shuttle that brings you to and from the lodge, a mere five minutes away. Here, you could take out complimentary paddle boards, canoes, kayaks and paddle boats, or simply laze around on the beach or in one of their comfy lounge chairs. There’s also a bar on the grounds where you can order bites like burgers, salads and cocktails such as summer margaritas.

Lakeside Barbecue & Picnic Just for Guests

We were lucky to be there for one of their lakeside barbecues, which they only have for guests. Live music plays on the beach, while a full buffet table is set up of grilled barbecue chicken, burgers, hot dogs and salads — of course, there’s watermelon, cupcakes and homemade cookies as well, which is great for the kids.


Featuring sophisticated, Adirondack-inspired American cuisine, Kanu, the lodge’s premier restaurant, offers diners an extensive menu of a la carte options as well as three or four-course wine-pairing experiences. An open kitchen showcases the culinary team as they prepare dishes featuring fresh ingredients sourced from local farms.

There are two rooms in the main dining room to choose from — romantic by evening and classic Adirondack warm but bright and refreshing by day.

You can sit outside during warmer months, which is a must do in summer, especially for breakfast and lunch.  Below, the view from the main porch.

This canoe hanging on the wall on the outside porch was among my favorites and there was a lot to favorite in this one-of-a-kind lodge.

For a more casual dining experience, Kanu Lounge serves traditional cuisine and signature cocktails, with live music entertainment. Its wine list features more than 400 regional, domestic and international vintages.

Above two photos, courtesy of Whiteface Lodge.

The dishes were exquisite – the lighting was dim so it was hard to get great food photography that night, but the presentation and preparation were both top notch. Starters range from salads and sweet corn chowder to lamb meatballs with Italian eggplant, mint, garlic and tomato confit and Wild Mushroom Risotto.

They also had a Saranac Sourdough Bruschetta which I passed up because of the carbs, but they served it in a creative way that was hard to say no to — avocado-Asgaard Farm Goat Cheese is coupled with Strawberry-Mascarpone and black pepper! Yum! Oh so delish, and they pair it with a Chateau Ducasse French White Bordeaux. Can you say perfect?

Entrees are fairly traditional but delicious and includes dishes like a Roasted Poussin with artichoke puree, chanterelles, asparagus, poached farm egg and poultry jus, a Sirloin Steak, a Troll Caught Salmon from Washington state with cornbread, northern Beans and Hazelnuts, a Beeler Farms Pork Chop with grilled peach, smoked bacon, swiss chard and potatoes, a Black Angus fillet, a Garganelli Pasta (yum!), and a Handline Caught Bluefish from Montauk New York — they served it with a carrot-yogurt puree, tapenade oil, cucumber and Moroccan couscous.

Adirondack Creamery Ice Cream and penny candy by the pound make the lodge’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor a favorite stop for kids and adults with a sweet tooth.  Speaking of kids and sweet tooth tendencies…..

Late Night S’mores by the Fire

Who doesn’t love a late s’mores by the fire, particularly when accompanied by old fashioned historical stories, and well, if brave enough, ghost stories too. We certainly had them and I had visuals of the blue ghost from Blue Mountain Lake for years.

Storyteller Chris Grubb from Planetarium Adventures: Brings the Universe to the Classroom, reads stories to kids around the fire and teaches them about the universe and our solar system on a regular basis.  He read this to us while we were there that night and I loved it so much, I asked him to send it to me:


“Late at night, as the coals of the fire deepen into black, we tell of our great souls. Silent were their footsteps through the pine forests, across buffalo grass, and into the canyons. Steadfast in their teachings, with their lives they blazed a trail for our people to follow with honor.

And when their footsteps brought them to that chasm beyond which men venture only once, they vanished from our midst. It is likely that we shall never see their equal again.

But as they left their and spirit forever with us, their people, so even now as they journey on, they leave an imperishable mark upon the sky. For there, arching across the heavens is the pathway of the souls.

We do not know where their journey now leads them. Nor do we know what sights they may behold. And, in the night each bright star is a campfire blazing in the sky where they have paused in their journey to look down on us, their people, as we huddle for warmth around the campfire.”

And so it was….and so it was. I shared this time with other couples and some random children as they burned their marshmallows. I propped my head back and took in the stars that I don’t see every night at home and couldn’t help but feel grateful for being back in the Adirondacks on such a cherished beautiful night.

Be sure to read my reflective piece on Mirror Lake where we also spend time the same week.


Whiteface Lodge

7 Whiteface Inn Lane

Lake Placid,New York 12946





Note: we were hosted for our stay and some activities in Lake Placid but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Mirror Lake Inn Spa, For Pampering Amidst Serenity & Stunning Views

September 29, 2015 by  


We had an incredible stay at Mirror Lake Inn this past summer and during that stay, I tried out their top notch spa in the middle of paddle board and kayak spins on the lake. The resort faces the glorious Mirror Lake which is serene even when it’s windy out, so much so that you’ll find yourself having one meditative moment after another. Combine a warm and classic meets rustic and luxury inn with stunning views of a calming lake and you have a perfect wellness travel escape in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains.

This AAA Four-Diamond property gets many of its kudos no doubt for its stunning views of the lake, but rest assured that their exceptionally friendly service and the fine touches inside the rooms deserve a huge call out as does its spa which is on the ground floor of the inn, below the lobby area where you can get warm homemade cookies and tea anytime of day.

Above photo credit, Mirror Lake Inn.

There are a variety of treatments you can choose, from body wraps and massages to facials and customized deals. All treatments include exclusive use of their separate men’s and women’s sanctuaries, with plush sitting lounges with fireplaces, tumbled Italian marble tile floors, soaking whirlpool that faces a gas fireplace on one side, a eucalyptus steam room and classy mahogany lockers and grooming areas.

They have a fun Tuscan Orange Body Scrub, which uses sugar scrub to soothe and renew your skin, combined with shea butter & aloe lotion. The Maple Sugar body scrub uses local maple sugar, allowing you to experience a wonderfully hydrating and re-mineralizing full body exfoliation. Your therapist performs this treatment in their Vichy Shower which is kinda cool.

Above shot was taken on Mirror Lake while on a leisurely canoe ride in the late afternoon – lily pads and flowers are only one example of what makes this lake so soothing and relaxing, a great combo with a spa treatment. 

Since you get so much sun during warmer months, particularly if you’re on the lake all day, they have a body peel treatment which helps to resurface the skin to visibly correct signs of skin aging and improve skin’s quality. After a full body exfoliation and an acid body emulsion, they apply a neutralizing serum and nourishing body cream application. So bliss! One of my favorite treatments is the Seaweed Body Wrap, which helps to reduce cellulite and detoxify your entire body while cocooned in something they refer to as the European Soft Pack.
I love the idea of their Mirror Lake Ceremony treatment, which is also an exfoliation process. After a cleansing rinse, this ceremony is completed with a luxurious crème which is therapeutically massaged into your skin to help ease your muscles and provide your skin with a soft glow.  Their three dimensional body treatment targets the mind, body, and soul.  They start with a marine-based exfoliant that helps stimulate the lymphatic system and rids toxins after which a relaxing mask infused with aromatherapy claims your internal environment while marine seawater tightens and smooths the appearance of skin. Sweet!
Their facials use natural ingredients, the luxurious Phytomer facial using things from marine bio-technology that are scientifically proven to immediately plump the skin and smooth wrinkles. The idea is to reduce the signs of aging. Speaking of aging, they have a Bellanina Facelift Massage (gotta love it!), a process which helps to tone and firm your skin and over time helps to retrain your muscles to be firmer and tighter.  The face is cleansed, toned and exfoliated, with a full 30-minute facial massage followed by a honeylift invigorating mask with steamy hot towels in between. There’s a balancing four layer facial too which sounds interesting, as it is designed to infuse missing ingredients your skin so needs, particularly as it gets older, like the trace elements found in super food seaweed.
Special Asian-influenced treatments are also available. For example, something they refer to as Shiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy uses deep tissue massage techniques as well as stretching the myofascial layer of tissue and muscle to improve posture and relieve pain. They also have an interesting sounding Thai Herbal Ball Massage, where they steam healing herb bundles which are then applied to acupressure points and joints throughout the massage. Swedish techniques improve circulation and target specific muscles while Thai stretches keep ligaments, muscles and tendons limber. In hindsight, I wished I had tried that one. Thai massage utilizes deep stretching to release tension, improve joint mobility and increase range of motion.  Reflexology is also offered, which I’m noticing is becoming more popular — it helps to re-establish energy flow and enhance circulation through pressure points on your feet.
Of course they have traditional and non-traditional massages, which special kinds for men and women. There’s also a salon where you can get a Paraffin treatment, manicures and pedicures.
I loved using the smaller hot tub in the women’s changing room and lounge area while waiting for my treatment, largely because of the gas fireplace that relaxed me as I sipped mint tea while roasting. I also used the steam room and sauna before my treatment. In the evenings, we found ourselves swimming since they have a heated swimming pool on the same level as the spa, which is also where the gym is for the fitness conscious among you.
On the same floor is their oversized hot tub, with a dry sauna nearby. You can move back and forth between the pool, the hot tub and the sauna for optimal impact. We loved the hot tub so much that we ended up here every evening after dinner – my only wish was that we had more time.

The lounge chair area near the pool; you’ll notice tons of natural plants and flora surrounding the area, which makes it even more meditative and relaxing — a perfect combo with one of Mirror Lake Inn’s spa treatments.

Below is the outside of the Mirror Lake Inn. Notice that the driveway is surrounded by rows of flowers on both sides as you make your way to the back where the main parking area is located.

Flowers are a precious and integral part of every Adirondack summer and their beauty did wonders to this magnificent inn by the lake which we felt privileged to stumble across. Their marketing head and staff were incredibly helpful — knowledgeable about the area and warm and hospitable when we had questions.  The flowers and view beyond them below were taken next to The Cottage Restaurant, which is one of the more casual eateries connected to Mirror Lake Inn – see my foodie write-up on Lake Placid for more on Mirror Lake Inn restaurants and other dining establishments worth noting in the village of Lake Placid.

A luscious view of Mirror Lake from the inn — serenity at its best!

Be sure to read my write-up on our stay at Mirror Lake Inn itself as well as our other Lake Placid and Adirondack articles.


Mirror Lake Inn Spa

77 Mirror Lake Drive

Lake Placid, NY 12946
(518) 523-2544




Note: we were hosted by the inn but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.


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