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

EPIC Steak for Top Cut Steak With Views to Die For

August 24, 2015 by  

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I hadn’t realized I had actually been to EPIC Steak along San Francisco’s Embarcadero until I arrived at its doors on an unusually warm August night. Within the last year or two, I attended a VIP networking bash on one of its private decks and there we drank chilled glasses of Kistler chardonnay while doing meet-and-greets for a few hours one night.

While I knew they had epic views of the renowned Bay Bridge, I didn’t realize they had outdoor romantic seating with heat lamps and candlelit tables. While you can valet your car or park on the street, we opted to take the Muni, largely because I was so unfamiliar with San Francisco’s Muni system. Truth be told, driving or going via BART and walking the ten minutes from there would have been more efficient, but the Folsom Muni stop does unload you right in front of the restaurant.

Facing San Francisco’s scenic waterfront, the panoramic views of the Bay, Bay Bridge, Treasure Island and the San Francisco Skyline are simply breathtaking. Chef Ulrich focuses on sustainably-sourced meat and seafood, along with organically-grown produce, all of which we had a chance to try. Ulrich’s menu features modern interpretations of traditional steakhouse favorites, drawing inspiration from different preparations of meat from around the world.

While a couple of classic combos on the menu included EPIC Steak’s expanded 28 oz. Dry Aged Cote De Boeuf (for two) procured by Bryan Flannery, and the “Epic Meal for Two” featuring a 32 oz. Tomahawk Ribsteak and 2 lb. Maine Lobster, we decided to start with seafood and end with steak entrees, beginning with a combo shellfish platter, which included crab, shrimp, oysters and ceviche (it was a smaller version of what they typically serve to a table of 5 or 6, which normally includes lobster as well). A little teaser to begin.

The platter was topped with a sprinkle of cilantro and lime and the crab was mixed with a delicious avocado puree. Their oyster selection included the Beausoleil from Miramichi Bay (New Brunswick Canada), Kumamoto from Humboldt Bay California and the Drakes Bay from San Quentin Baja California. (yummy, large and briny with a touch of bitter herb). They serve them with Mignonette, Lemon and Crackers. We paired this with a buttery 2013 Lewis Chardonnay from Russian River Valley. Oh so delicious!!

They also offer American black caviar with fingerling potato crisps and sour cream croquettes, and a take on the classic shrimp cocktail can be ordered oven roasted with garlic, chilies and Meyer lemon or chilled with lemon and cocktail sauce.

If you want to go a little more traditional, they had a house made Charcuterie platter with Bresaola, Lamb Tarrine, Lardo and Soppressata which is an excellent choice for a table to share, particularly given their incredible wine list. While I didn’t order it, I wanted to try the Foie Gras Mousse, which they served with compressed melon, duck crackling and Shichimi Cracker. So much of the foie gras I see on menus today is from Hudson Valley New York, where we spent a chunk of time last year.

The wine list is extensive offering varietals from around the globe with plenty of white options to keep you on seafood all night long should you wish. They had a Grilled Hawaiian Spearfish with Avocado Gazpacho, Padron Peppers and Maitake Mushrooms from the coast of Honolulu and a whole roasted Branzino with sweet fennel, garlic confit and spicy tomato broth that our waiter bragged about more than once. That said, what EPIC is most known for of course is their steak.

I had a hard time passing up the Slow Raised Short Ribs however (Black Angus Beef from Montana), especially when I eyed their equally fabulous red wine list. And they had plenty of grilled steak options to choose from, including a classic Tomahawk Rib Steak, Tuscan Style Porterhouse Steak, Filnet Mignon from California and Whole Salt Roasted Prime Rib from Creekstone Farms in Kentucky. I was particularly keen on tasting the whole salt roasted prime rib until I saw the Miyazaki Wagyu Steak which is naturally raised in the prefecture of Miyazaki, Island of Kyushu Japan.

Because I had just traveled to Japan for the first time only last year, I had a chance to experience Wagyu steak while I was there, but it’s rare to find on an American restaurant menu. While you mostly think of seafood when you think of Japan and this is for the most part true — sushi and sashimi can be found pretty much everywhere and it’s incredibly fresh, the Wagyu Steak is special….and unique. It tends to be very rich so you don’t need much of it to be satisfied and for that reason, it’s pricey. They only offered it in 4 ounces and 8 ounces compared to a 20 ounce New York steak and a 28 ounce Prie Cote de Boeuf.

To put this into perspective, however, the richness and fatiness of the meat means that very little goes a long way.  Below is a portion that we split with only a few organic raw greens on the side. YUM!!!

If you want to split another decadent choice for 2 (or frankly even 3), you could get the Tomahawk Rib Steak with a two pound Maine lobster. For another time I told myself, for another time…..

Above shot courtesy of EPIC Steak website.

In order to get a very different style steak than the Wagyu, we went for a Prime Dry Aged Ribeye Steak (pictured below) which is procured by Allen Brothers out of Chicago. Another great recommendation from our waiter, it was incredibly moist, juicy and cut just right, which they do on a wooden platter at your table.

They had wines from Greece, New Zealand, South Africa and Portugal, French Bordeaux, Super Tuscan reds from Italy, Sangiovese, plenty of Burgundy’s, and 2001 Borgogno Piedmont, Barolo Riserva I was dying to try, but it would have required decanting it for longer than we had that night and so I hate to admit that we played it safe, but we did and ordered a classic 2005 Silver Oak, as recommended by Chilean born sommelier Valentina Moyá who was a real hoot to talk to…I’ve never gone wrong with a Silver Oak Cab.

What’s nice about their menu is that you can build your own salad with a variety of different lettuce and toppings to choose from, and choose variuos sides you want to accompany your main course. Included on the menu were Julia Child potatoes, French Fries with Bearnaise Sauce and Spatzle Grain, all of which I skipped because of my current high protein/low carb diet. We went with the Seared Summer Squash with sweet basil (below) and the Chanterelle Mushrooms. You can also order seafood sides to go with your steak as well (Dungeness Crab, Softshell Crab, Lobster, Shrimp and so on), which I thought was a great idea.

The ever so tender and perfectly seasoned Chanterelle Mushrooms.

Easy to fit into my high protein diet was the Artisan Cheese plate to finish — I opted only for Midnight Moon Goat’s Cheese from Arcata California and Manchego Sheep cheese from La Mancha Spain. They serve it with a variety of nuts and berry jams.

Other options for those who are not watching their carbs so closely included the Nectarine Blackberry Crisp with Linzer Sables and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (ouch!), the Chocolate Decadence Bouchon with Black Mission Fig, White Chocolate Powder and Vanilla Bean Custard and a lovely Ginger Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with candied tangerine gems and brown-butter ice cream. Can you imagine? Something tells me I’ll be returning at a later date just to try that dessert alone.

Anthony who isn’t quite as strict with his carbs as I am and is a huge lover of ice cream went for the Build Your Own Epic Sundae option. While you might think only kids would get big eyes over an Ice Cream Bar “List” you can check off just like you do when you order sushi, think again! You can choose from one to three flavors so of course he had to get blueberry with vanilla bean which he topped with fudge, chopped almonds, sliced bananas and chocolate chip dough. OMG! You could also add things like blackberries, hazelnut streusel, brownie chunks, marshmallows, wet walnuts, toffee bits and butterscotch sauce. This dessert is not for the diet-conscious foodie among you! The result? I’m told it was pure heaven!

In addition to the exquisite food and top notch service from the moment you enter the restaurant, what we loved about this restaurant the most was its attention to detail and stunning views, which make it a great romantic dinner out choice as well as a fun group choice, including for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary. Two thumbs up!

We would definitely return and hope to during a different season to see how the sun shines on the bridge a different time of year. See below for the soft pink lighting we experienced on our night out and remember that the photo below as well as all of the food shots except for the one noted below it, were taken on my iPhone 5, not the Canon we sometimes have when we do our restaurant write-ups. Not bad, eh? How’s this for romantic?

THE DETAILS:

EPIC Steak

369 The Embarcadero

San Francisco, CA 94105

Phone:(415) 369-9955

 

 

 

 

Note: We were hosted by the restaurant but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Arcopédico Shoes From Portugal, the King of Comfort & Great Design

August 23, 2015 by  

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When I first discovered the Arcopédico brand around a year or two ago, I had no idea I was about to be greeted with the most comfy walking shoes I had ever worn. As avid travelers know, when you’re prancing around a city for hours on end, you need comfortable shoes, but how often have you been in comfort yet the design was something you’d rather hide than show off? Here’s where Portuguese manufacturer Arcopédico comes onto the scene.

They focus on high-quality women’s comfort shoes but here’s what’s so unique and special about their shoe line: many companies use adjectives as if they’ve been pulled off a random shoe’s site as a way to describe their own. I may be slightly exaggerating here, but my point is that the description on Arcopédico’s website about their shoe’s uniqueness is precisely what makes them unique. Their shoes are lightweight, have an anatomically-designed, arch- and circulation-design that really supports your step AND they come in fabulous colors and styles.

Meet the Leta walking shoe, which comes in a versatile navy blue or black. I LOVE LOVE LOVE these shoes! You don’t need to worry about lacing them up because they simply slip on and off easily. They’re super lightweight (and small), making them a perfect add-on for any sized luggage. Even if you bring hiking shoes or bulkier sneakers with you, you’ll want a pair of these Leta shoes along. They go with everything (jeans) or a dressy pair of pants. You can wear them with shorts or even a summer beach dress.

This walking shoe is so incredibly comfortable that you’ll feel like you’re walking on air as you trek your way around a busy European city this summer.

Another style that is also very airy and light is the 1151 Arcopedico LS. While we don’t have a pair of their latest and greatest in to test out, it’s made from the same lightweight material and what we love about this particular style is its wide variety of colors.

We’d love to test out a fun color like Fuchsia, or an incredibly versatile one like Brown Starry Night on a future trip to a country that exudes vivid colors, culture and light, like Spain or Brazil for example. The line comes in Beige, Black, Bordeaux, Fuchsia, Marron, Navy, Olive, Orange, Red, Sky Blue, Violet, Brown Starry Night, Red Starry Night, Navy Starry Night, Black Starry Night, Denim and Yellow. Wow!

Here’s a little visual to give you an idea of the “science” and magic behind how they build their shoes. They use Techno-Elastic Uppers, an anatomic footbed for better body weight distribution and create a Twin Arch Support system, which helps to correct the positioning of the vertical columns. And, what’s great about this method is that you can actually feel the difference when you walk. Arcopedico footwear exercises the foot, strengthens the muscles, assists the circulation of the blood and ensures more comfort in walking and MAN, are they comfortable!

While they have plenty of casual walking shoes to choose from that make for perfect summer and spring companions, they also offer a variety of boots for when the colder temperatures hit. Unlike so many other comfortable shoe brands, this Portuguese family-run team love STYLE and great DESIGN! On their site, you can really tailor what you’re looking for by searching by color or style for example. Here’s a link to some of their boots – http://arcopedicoshoes.com/store/style/boots.  You can also visit their USA only site at http://www.arcopedicousa.com/.

Touted as the most comfortable shoes on earth on their website, so far I have to admit, I feel as if I’m gracefully walking on water they’re so light on my feet. Take a look at this creatively designed boot, that comes in a fun rich elegant red with a pattern which they refer to as “Bordeaux” and also in a black with patchwork.  The fine touches of the black straps on the side are lovely, allowing you to either dress them up (or down). They go well with a skirt, which is great for casual dressy evenings when you’re on the road.

What’s also nice about them is that they’re very soft (and lightweight), so you can fold them up or even roll the top of it down, making for easy packing.

Below is a close up of the back of the boot and a more detailed shot of the sole itself — you can see just how layered and padded it is, providing that extra comfort that so many other boots and shoes lack.

Below is the above boot in a plain red, which they refer to as Cherry Red and it also comes in a plain black.

And here is the same style Arcopédico boot in black with the lovely patchwork design. (center photo).

The hallmark of all Arcopédico shoes can be seen in two fundamental design principles: the “barefoot” upper—a soft, non-binding design that that conforms to the top of the foot to allow circulation and all-day comfort—and the patented, metal-free twin arch-support soles (made from molded polyurethane), which protect the foot arch and allow the distribution of body weight through the entire plantar surface.

They use a patented Lytech material, which is an innovative, ultra-light blend of polyurethane and Lycra, which allows the shoes to be easily packed for traveling (shoe pairs weigh as little as 10.9 oz.) and you can also safely machine wash them, another godsend for travelers. Arcopédico’s Lytech shoes are also BioCalce Certified, which means eco-friendly, vegan, water-resistant and biodegradable. BRAVO!

Arcopédico shoes is a must buy for any women who values comfort but wants to still look stylish wherever she goes. It’s the lightweight, anatomically-designed and washable nature of the shoes in addition to the comfort factor that make them especially ideal for travelers. They are also useful for women working on their feet, or women who suffer from chronic circulation problems, sore feet, or dropping arches. OR, all of the above.

We are huge fans of the Arcopédico shoe line and highly recommend them for any female traveler. TWO THUMBS UP!!!

Summer Getaway: 6 Fun Foodie Spots in South Lake Tahoe

August 20, 2015 by  

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It had been awhile since we had last made the 4 or 5 hour trek from the San Francisco Bay Area to Lake Tahoe, so we thought we’d try it out in the summer.  Read our most recent write-up on the Summer Adventure & Nature Guide to South Lake Tahoe from our August adventures as well as our experience with Spring Skiing at Heavenly and our Spring Spring Adventure Guide  to the area. Here, we focus on food, one of our favorite things to do in a destination. There are countless choices of course, but you’ll get a taste of what is on offer by the diversity of our Top 6 Selection.

Michael’s at The Landing

During the spring time, we stayed at The Landing, a lovely boutique luxury hotel in South Lake Tahoe when it first opened around two years ago and at the time, had a lovely dinner with the owner and restaurant manager at the time. We loved our stay — it was relaxing and yet simple and the service was top-notch! The food and wine pairing was divine and so we thought we’d return to see what they’ve been up to and rest assured, the quality was still as we had remembered!

The first call out goes to the Maple Farms Duck Breast with orange infused farrow, marinated cherries and fennel, although the fish of the day with fennel puree, fennel slaw and a citrus beurre blanc made for a great lighter option, especially as I was in the mood for white wine all night.

Delicious mussel appetizer, which they served with cherry tomato, fennel and ouzo in a delicious garlicky broth.

They surprised us by bringing out a plate of bacon — it’s hard to admit it, but we finished the whole thing with two entrees on their way.

Fresh fish of the day…I paired this with two chardonnays, both of which were distinctive. I fell in love with the De Tierra Sargenti Vineyard Chardonnay from Monterey (yup, it had that classic buttery finish to it I love so much) and the Carmenet, which surprised me. From Sonoma, it had flavors of apple, vanilla and butterscotch with are not that uncommon, but banana as well, which really made the wine stand out.

Getaway Cafe

Luxury this little cafe is not, but it’s quaint, authentic and delicious. Getaway Cafe is a very casual spot for lunch, and makes for a great stop over on your way out of town since it is located right after a toll gateway on your way out of town.

In the summer, you can eat outside in their lovely courtyard area and while they don’t tout anything out of the ordinary or unique, their standard lunch options are fresh and the service is great. We went for salads since we overdid it on sushi the night before, however they were so flexible that they allowed us to alter our meat and cheese options to mix and match what we wanted.

Anthony had a delicious blackened salad with bacon, avocado, tomatoes, red onions, bleu cheese and gorgonzola ranch dressing (above) and I went for a traditional classic Cobb, however with a whole lotta avocado and a burger on top! Yes, really. It was fabulous accompanied by fresh onions, hard boiled eggs and bacon to boot!

ECHO Restaurant

This is a casual restaurant located inside the very family-focused Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel but with a fabulous menu selection and great food. Sal, the well known chef on the property takes great pride in getting “creative” with his dishes and because we were on a high protein, low carb diet, we made some modifications such as having the sauce on the side and staying away from any pasta or carb-rich dish. That said, there were plenty of options to choose from, such as our favorite: the Buffalo appetizer with mozzarella and tomatoes — the yellow tomatoes were sweet and delicious and the meat was tender! Bravo Sal!

Our second favorite was the Lamb – below.  Truth be told, this was so good, we took a “doggy” bag and I munched on a chop in the morning cold and it was delicious!

A couple of other delicious high protein choices…..we have been staying away from carbs lately. Notice the fresh Rosemary twig! They used a number of fresh root vegetables which they grilled on a couple of their dishes – they were incredibly fresh and to be honest, hit the spot on every mouthful.

They make lovely salads as well and you can have it topped with shrimp, salmon or chicken if you wish. The salmon was a perfect option and they have a nice selection of white wines which you can pair it with, or one of their fabulous cocktails.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their cocktails a second time — be sure to try their Coconut Mojito! It’s simply to die for — YUM!

Samurai Sushi

You may not expect a lakeside resort to do much with sushi but this neighborhood place has been around since 1984 and my understanding is that two of the founding chefs are still there. Since I was staying away from carbs, I let Anthony and Jenn go to town with their many scrumptious rolls…..

So many choices, so little time. I stuck to sashimi all night long, but pretty much tried them all, from torro to himachi and everything in between. They had butter fish as well which was so tender, it melted in your mouth. The chef below had a great sense of humor and so I had to see what he was up to behind the counter. Yum!

Located on Lake Tahoe Boulevard, it’s not a fine dining ambiance, but it is most certainly a fun one. They are known for hosting groups and larger parties and even have their own room in the back for such an occasion. In addition to sushi and sashimi, they offer cooked entrees and the service was definitely a stand-out!

Blue Angel Cafe

Blue Angel Cafe is a special place and not just because they offer a wide array of vegetarian and vegan options. Located in a convenient spot on Ski Run Boulevard, this husband and wife team has created a warm ambiance with a whole lotta tender loving care that trickles down from the top. We were there for lunch but had we hung our hat there later, I would have gladly tried their homemade mulled wine.

The Blue Angel Cafe offers fresh innovative food from around  the world and they tout fresh, organic and of course a variety of vegan options. They cook Thai-styled curries, fish tacos from Baja and hand rolled pizzas from Italy. Their salads are scrumptious and so is their craft beer selection, locally roasted Alpen Sierra coffee and boutique wine selections.

They also do catering as well for those wanting to farm it out. Starters are equally out of this world, from extra firm tofu crusted with coconut panko and flour with a Thai sweet chili sauce, gluten free mussels with rosemary-garlic butter, chicken wings and our favorite of all, this chicken curry salad with grapes and COCONUT — Yum! It was to die for and let’s just say there wasn’t any left over on Anthony’s plate.

Lucky Beaver Burger & Bar

Let’s move onto burgers, since every location has to have their favorites. While there are several places to get a burger in this town, Lucky Beaver Burger & Bar is about as casual as it gets, is a stone’s throw from the casino’s and is open 24/7. That’s right — you want a burger at 3 in the morning, you can order one. They boast their signature 100% chopped steak burgers, refreshing brews and the loosest table slots in Northern Nevada with locations in both Reno and South Tahoe.

We all went for the BEAVER burger of course, which was massive in size and oh btw, there were bigger ones on the menu as well. You had topping choices of course, from cheese and onions to tomatoes, lettuce and pickles. Bring it on! My colleague had fries but I stayed away from the carbs and had mine minus the bun! Oh so delicious.

There’s a story behind the meat apparently. Mark Pastore, who was called the “Magician of Meat” by the New York Times, is the man behind Pat LaFreida Meats, which is 100% Black Angus Choice, Upper Choice and Prime cuts, and that’s what they use at the Beaver Bar.

I have to admit, it was mighty delicious and the service was great despite the fact that this is about as casual of a joint as it gets with outdoor and indoor seating. The bar is a bit noisy and you can gamble solo if you’d like and it’s a tad on the young side, but if you’re hungry at midnight, and in the mood for a burger, this is your spot.

Sauvage Swimwear, Where Luxury, Chic Design & Diversity Meet

August 17, 2015 by  

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You’ve probably noticed that we’re starting to do a lot more with Fashion at We Blog the World and part of that is due to the fact that we see an increasing need for identifying and curating products, gear, clothing, shoes and beauty products that are both functional but also stylish, elegant and chic. Ever notice how hard it is to find functional and gorgeous in one outfit? Or a pair of shoes? Or active wear? You’ll start to see more active wear from us in the coming weeks and months and as part of our ramping up of our style and wear coverage, we’re diving into the world of swim suits.

In our research, we came across SAUVAGE swimwear! There’s one word to start things off: WOW!! Here’s what blew me away about their site and their approach to swimwear even before we got suits in hand. They tout themselves as designers of luxury swimwear, active wear, and accessories for men and women. They’re certainly not new to the market, having been around since 1985, but what they are when compared to so many other brands at the same price point, is fresh, elegant and chic. For some of their offerings, there’s an artistic flare as well, like the stunning one piece number below.

While the model makes the suit look fabulous, what I love about their line is that they have so many choices that will look equally well on a forty something year old woman as it would on a twenty something year old. If you have a few pounds on you and are looking at the below number and wondering where you would hide it all, let me elaborate. While the suits we have in tow to review are all two pieces, and certainly they have a number of skimpy suits I would have LOVED to prance around in in my twenties, they have a variety of suits that offer more coverage than many luxury swimwear lines we’ve been looking at…

They also offer some fabulous cover-ups which are nothing short of elegant and feminine. When a swimwear line specializes in the only over 30 or only over 40 age range, I find that the options are a little more classic, and a whole lot less fun. It’s as if feminine, romantic and sexy were removed from the design, as if you’re slightly overweight or no longer a 25 year old size two, those words are no longer for you.

Let’s start with my favorite of the bunch we fell in love with from the woman’s line. The below Mon Cheri Bikini in Navy is a standout. It provides great coverage for a bikini regardless of what shape you’re in and it comes in a fun Turquoise as well.

The Spider Bikini in Jade….it also comes in a gorgeous electric blue (my favorite but they were out of stock) and black.

Loved this number and I wore it several times on a recent trip to the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain — for lounging around at the pool, in the hot tub with the flowing water fall and of course, the water slide. It held up again and again and was incredibly comfy throughout.

The Rosa D’Oro Buckle Bikini in Black also comes in a Coral and a Hawaii color, which is a pretty light turquoise blue.

Sadly, I couldn’t do the above suit justice compared to the stunning model, but let’s just say I found this piece elegant and wore it while lounging around on a luxurious Ritz Carlton day bed with magazine and cocktail in hand. Below, the above bikini on a more average sized forty something year old. :-) It’s a fabulous suit!

Ones we didn’t get in, but are so worth sharing include the Amore Pushup in Coral.

If you have nothing to hide and want a taste of something totally sexy and fabulously wonderful, how’s this Asymmetrical Chain Black Bikini? LOVE IT!

OR, this fabulous Bali Blue Pearls number?

While swimwear and cover-ups are their main set of offerings, they also have several “to-die-for” dresses we fell in love with. This Turquoise Silk Caftan comes in a couple of other rich colors as well — t’was so hard to decide, but we opted for turquoise as it fits more in line with travel. And, it’s a stunning color that just blends so well with a natural environment.

Below, I am wearing the above cover-up at the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain in Arizona on a hot July afternoon. I LOVE this piece! It’s also so soft and comfortable I didn’t want to take it off.

We also had fun playing in the desert nearby the resort.

They have more tailored dresses and cover-ups as well. Take a look at this beautiful Bardot French Lace Dress!

How cute is this Canary Yellow Silk Tunic?

We fell in love with this Goddess Caftan, which could be worn as a casual summer dress, on the beach or as a swim suit cover up. It comes in cream, teal, yellow and coral. I had a hard time deciding between this one and the Turquoise Silk Caftan pictured above.

Sauvage offers as many fabulous choices for men as it does for women. Our favorite two include the Hunter Surf Short (below) and the Underwater Board Short (a fun mixed blue surf and white motif). Here’s what we loved most – the wide range of fabric and style choices (for both genders). The material for the men’s shorts is soft, yet durable and fairly true to size, which isn’t always the case with clothing we test out. They really focus on beautiful styles while keeping things functional, which is a must for any avid traveler.

We haven’t had time to put the above shorts through a bunch of washing cycles or in and out of pools for weeks on end, however I have worn two of the Sauvage suits on six occasions so far and they have held up well under a lot of pool and hot tub time as well as salt water from a salt water pool and ocean. We wanted to get this review up while there was still some summer left, although for the serial travelers out there, no doubt, you have plenty of hot weather trips planned well into the Fall and Winter where you can use a new suit or two. They have far too many choices for you to only order one!

A few other great shots of male shorts from their site to give you an idea of their breadth and depth of range.  Their shorts range from traditional and classic to artistic, Hawaiian, au flare and chic. And, there’s no shortage of sexy models on their site showing off their latest and greatest.

For more information and to order any of these fabulous suits or a host of others they have on offer, visit their site at: http://www.sauvagewear.com. We are huge fans and absolutely love the quality, the designs, the choice of colors and their incredibly gracious team. Two thumbs up!

 

 

Note: they sent us some suits to test out but all opinions I can assure you are entirely my own.

The Summer Adventure & Nature Guide to South Lake Tahoe

August 16, 2015 by  

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We loved our time in South Lake Tahoe the last time we were there, which was nearly two years ago for some Spring Skiing at Heavenly, a lovely time to be in Tahoe — there are also plenty of adventurous things to do  outside of skiing. Here’s a fun guide for exploring South Lake Tahoe in the summer, although I include one activity you’d not quite expect in Tahoe over the summer, which was held in North Lake Tahoe. This is by no means an exhaustive list but it will give you some fun options to do whether there as a family or a romantic getaway from the foggy San Francisco Bay Area in the summer.

Boating

This goes without saying I suppose, since Lake Tahoe is most known for….well, it’s lake, at least in the summer when there’s no snow on the mountains. It’s no ordinary lake however, and if you do a little digging, you’ll soon discover there’s quite a bit of history and mystery around the lake. The lake is the second deepest lake in America extending to 1,644 feet and it’s also extremely cold. While the temperature at the surface of the lake varies, from a low of about 40 degrees in February or March to a high of about 75 degrees towards the end of the summer, you’ll note that even in the winter, it’s not cold enough to freeze over completely. Below the surface, the temperature is a chilly 39 degrees.

Located along the border between California and Nevada, west of Carson City, it is apparently also the largest alpine lake in North America, and as noted above, the second in the states after Crater Lake (1,945 feet) which I’ve also had a chance to visit. I also learned for the first time that the lake was formed about 2 million years ago and is a part of the Lake Tahoe Basin with the modern lake being shaped during the ice ages. It is known for the clarity of its water and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides which you can easily see when you’re out on any kind of boat.

How and why did we learn so many facts about Tahoe this time around? We rented a boat at the Ski Run Marina from Tahoe Sports, which has a number of options to choose from, from Class A to G and Bronze (Patio Pontoon which is around $600 a half day), Silver (Patio Tritoon, which is around $660 a day) and Gold, which gets you a larger Patio Tritoon at roughly $720 a day. We had a speed boat and Chad drove since we didn’t want to think about it – you can drive yourself or opt to have one of their staff show you the lake. This was easier for us to get great photography and of course, just relax on the boat.

Chad (below, on the left) is a born storyteller from Virginia who shared with us a legend we somehow missed — the mystery behind Cousteau who apparently saw something he preferred not to share at the bottom of Lake Tahoe. Rumor has it that it could have been bodies of gamblers who crossed the Mafia in 1950s Reno or Tahoe Tessie, the Loch Ness likeness of the lake. But, other sources say that he never actually visited Tahoe so whether it’s a myth or not, it has added to the allure of the lake.

The rock underneath the lake sank down to form a flat-bottomed basin called a graben, which is the word is German for “grave” and refers to the lake’s low-lying nature—and perhaps also lending to the mysterious myth about what really could lie at the bottom of the lake’s 1,000+ feet.  We drove into the infamous Emerald Bay — see below, our view on the left as we drifted into the Bay.

Emerald Bay

Emerald Bay warrants its own description since it’s a famous bay, not just for Lake Tahoe but in the country. It is a renowned bay for photography lovers and is one of the most photographed bays given its raw and pure beauty in America. Below, a shot from within the boat.

Below, a wider view from land, just so you can get an idea of its stunning views and what makes it so magical. In 1969, Emerald Bay was designated a National Natural Landmark for its brilliant panorama of mountain-building processes and glacier carved granite. The natural beauty, geology and history of this unique island make it one of the highlights of any visit to the Lake Tahoe area regardless of any time of year.

Emerald Bay State Park includes 2 campgrounds: Boat-In Camp (accessible by boat or foot only) and Eagle Point Campground (closed through 2015). The scenic Rubicon foot trail wraps around Emerald Bay, with trailheads at Eagle Point campground, Vikingsholm, and DL Bliss State Park. The park features Vikingsholm, one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the western hemisphere and the “Tea House” on Fannette Island, the only island to be found in all of Lake Tahoe.

There is no vehicle access to the lakeshore of Emerald Bay or Vikingsholm. Visitors walk to the lake from the Vikingsholm Parking Lot (1 mile walk) or via the Rubicon Trail. Some visitors arrive by kayak or private boat, which is what we opted to do. People lounged around, jumped off rocks into the water or simply sunbathed on the top of their boats.

Emerald Bay was designated an underwater state park in 1994. It is the resting place for many boats, launches and barges used in the lake before the turn of the century, during the heyday of Emerald Bay Resort and used in the construction of Vikingsholm. We noticed quite a few swimmers and kayakers when we were there on a Sunday afternoon as well as other boaters. Ahhh yes, bliss!

Below is a shot of us cruising the boat into the dock at the end of our afternoon.

Day Cruises

There are a number of cruise lines where you can take short cruises out onto the lake, such as Lake Tahoe Cruises in the Ski Run Marina, which tout time on the lake on the Tahoe Queen and the Princess.  You can also take the M.S. Dixie II or the Tahoe Queen out to Emerald Bay with Lake Tahoe Cruises, which also has dinner cruises. These tend to be the larger paddle boats, similar to what we did in Lake George New York a couple summers back.

While the paddle boats are fun, we’re fans of smaller more intimate experiences. Year round, Zephyr Cove Resort & Marina cruises out to the pristine waters of Emerald Bay to the impressive homes on the East shore, and even provide a day package to Homewood Ski Resort!

Photo from the website.

They have wedding packages, lunch cruises, sunset cruises and private cruise charters. This is a better option if you want a more secluded and less crowded experience on the lake since the boats are smaller and there’s a cap on how many people they take out to keep the experience a l’il more refined and comfortable. Oh, tres romantic. In the summer months, the lunch cruises are a lovely option since they’re buffet style and include a free drink for only $65, which is a great deal for a leisurely 2′ish hour cruise.

Photo from the website.

Gorgeous Drives

Tahoe and around Tahoe is known to be one of the most scenic drives in America. At 22 miles long and 12 miles wide, you can circle around its 99 percent pure waters. You can begin anywhere along the lake and take in a 72-mile (not including side trips), so count on a few hours to allow for stopping, pondering and photo taking.

A few suggestions. If you follow Highway 50 west to Highway 89 north, which we did, you’ll pass Emerald Bay, Meeks Bay, scenic beaches and state parks. There’s also a great Emerald Bay Lookout area and you can trail to Vikingsholm Castle in the summer.

If you head north on 89 between Tahoe City and Truckee, you’ll hit Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics and from here, you can take a side trip along the Donner Pass Road. If you return to Tahoe City via Highway 89, you can go on Highway 28 east to visit Watson Cabin, a historical cabin with 1900-era furnishings, a historic fish hatchery, Kings Beach and Crystal Bay. Sand Harbor is also nearby, where there’s an outdoor amphitheater, which is home of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.

If you take Highway 50 south from Highway 28, you’ll hit Spooner Lake, Cave Rock Vista Point, which is the sacred site of the native Washoe Indians, and Zephry Cove, which is where the Bleu Wave cruises leave from. You can also go out on paddleboats from here, go out on a sailboat and horseback ride.

Hiking

With no shortage of hikes in the Tahoe area, I could in fact, do a separate article alone on hiking. We did a short hike to the beautiful Fallen Leaf Lake, which every local told us to do. It’s a little easier to see its beauty from above however. Located one mile south of Lake Tahoe near the California and Nevada border, Fallen Leaf Lake is at 6,377 feet and is  oval in shape. Fallen Leaf Lake has an average depth of 240 feet with the deepest point at 415 feet deep, so not quite the depth of Lake Tahoe but Tahoe is unique in its depth and character.

Photo credit: www.stanfordsierra.com.

It’s a lovely short hike to get to it however and has water activities in the summer, such as kayaking, waterskiing, wake boarding and rowing to name a few. You can also fish for brook and rainbow trout. Glaciers flowing down the Glen Alpine Valley created Fallen Leaf Lake. An excellent example of the lake’s glacial formation is the terminal moraine visible along the northern end of the lake. Cathedral Peak and Mount Tallac are at the Southern end of Fallen Leaf and are popular hiking destinations.

Other great hikes include the following:

  • Rubicon Trail, Lighthouse Trail and Balancing Rock Nature Travel (6.3 miles one way)
  • Vikingsholm Castle (there’s a tea house on Fannette Island, which is the only island in Lake Tahoe). It’s a one mile walk to get to the castle, beach and visitor’s center.
  • Cascade Lake, Cascade Falls and Bayview Trail: It’s one mile one way and at the end of the trail, you’ll walk over large boulders to view the streams that flow into the 200 foot high Cascade Falls.
  • Angora Lakes: This is an easy .5 mile one way which you can get to from Fallen Leaf Lake Road, then up 2.4 miles to Angora Ridge Road and turn right. It’s a narrow road, but at the end of this 2.7 mile road, the trail begins.
  • Floating Island Lake, Cathedral Lake and Mount Tallac: The trailhead sign is on Highway 89, which is across the entrance to Baldwin Beach where we spent an afternoon. Beyond Cathedral Lake, the trail becomes steep and strenuous as it continues up the peak of Mount Tallac (5 miles one way from the trailhead).
  • Glen Alpine Trail and Falls: Trails lead to Grass Lake on the Half Moon Bay Trail, Gilmore Lake (3.9 miles one way) and Mount Tallac (5.7 miles one way). Lily Lake and Glen Alpine Falls are an easy walk from the parking lot.

SummerFest Classical Concerts

We were lucky to be there on opening night of the Summerfest Classical Concerts, which takes place on the other side of the lake in Incline Village in North Tahoe. While this is technically a South Lake Tahoe guide, it was only a 45 minute drive to get to the venue and well worth the effort.

We loved the energy of Joel Revzen, the artist director and conductor, who led the orchestra. He has held prestigious positions at the MET and other symphonies including NYC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas and Vancouver. BRAVO!

It is now in its fourth season, and this year, the “Passport to a World of Music” featured Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn to our ears on opening night. The series runs across three weekends where they have nine concerts in total. The orchestra has 40 players and different guests throughout the concert series.

Some of those guests include guitarist Ana Vidovic, cellist Paul Watkins and pianist Joseph Kalichstein, who blew us away with his performances of Mendelssohn: Sinfonia No. 10 in B minor, Mozart Symphony No. 36, Linz and Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5, “Emperor.”  Let’s just say that he got a standing ovation. Joseph made his debut with the London Symphony under Andre Previn and attended Julliard, where he teaches and also, he performs regularly with the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio.

Beaches

There are plenty of great beaches in the Lake Tahoe area. We did a lovely drive north around the lake, which took us past Zephyr Cove and up towards Spooner Summit, which is right before the turn off to Carson City. If you head the other way around the lake, you’ll ultimately hit Emerald Bay as you’ll read about in this article and be hit with plenty of great photography. Before you make it to Emerald Bay, you’ll hit a few great beaches worth hanging your hat in the summer.

Right along the water as you leave Stateline and Heavenly Village, you’ll hit Regan Beach and El Dorado Beach, but if you keep going, you’ll hit Pope Beach which is nice. Next up is Camp Richardson, which is a viable option if you have kids in tow. Warning: in the summer, it’s very crowded, so the traffic can be fierce on weekends. That said, it has a ton of options if you are there with a family, such as horseback riding, and bike rentals. There’s also a quaint community store and an ice cream shop that is fabulous.

Just beyond Camp Richardson is Baldwin Beach (pictured above and below), which is where we ended up on the last afternoon.

Further north, beyond Emerald Bay, you’ll hit D.L. Bliss St. Park, which is a secluded beach and picnic area with great views, Rubicon Point which has fabulous views and Meeks Bay, which is the former home of the Washoe Indians. There’s also a beach and campground here and the Sugar Pine Pt. State Park is nearby.

Rock Climbing

We hadn’t thought of rock climbing in the area before we arrived and nor did we try it, however our waitress at Getaway Cafe, where we had lunch on our way out of town, is a heavy duty rock climber and was beaming ear-to-ear as she recounted some of her rock climbing moments in the area. An avid climber herself, she recommended climbing 90 Foot Wall in the Tahoe area at Whiskey Creek.

The wall has a solid, compact rock, steep to overhanging routes, and a variety of difficulty all in a 200 foot section of wall. This, combined with the easy approach and south facing exposure that allows early spring and late fall climbing combine to make this an enjoyable place to climb. While it is possible to lead here, most climbers top rope. Anchors are available on the top of the cliff which is accessible via a gully to the left of the cliff.

Photo credit: Mountain Project.

The difficulty of the climbing increases as you move right on the wall which is largely due to the steepness and length increasing to the right. The climbing is on dark, solid metamorphic rock with lots of angular blocks and holds and there is both crack and face climbing available. Most people top rope here, using the bolt anchors provided along the top of the cliff. It is advisable to bring lots of webbing to back up the existing anchors.

The 90 Foot Wall is a terrific place to take novice climbers and there are often many first time climbers trying out the sport. It brought back memories of my early experiences with rock climbing in of all places Dorset England, which was a lovely weekend jaunt from Surrey which is where I lived for a few years in my early twenties.

Meditation Time

I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Need I say more? There are plenty of viewing options along the way leading in and out of Lake Tahoe on Route 50. The views are breathtaking and even on a summer weekend, it wasn’t so busy that we couldn’t get a l’il quiet time on a rock overlooking some of the most spectacular views in this part of California.

 

Parasailing

While we didn’t have time to go parasailing, we saw some boats on the lake pulling people who were having a blast. This is SO on the list for our next trip to Tahoe! How can you go wrong seeing the views of Emerald Bay and the surrounding mountains from above? It is so freeing and a must do if you have the time and are an adventure traveler. And, if you’re not, isn’t it time to step outside your comfort zone?

Photo credit: www.markzak.com.

Note, you can parasail from both North and South Tahoe.

Zip Lining

The ski run gondola is open for summer and this year, Heavenly added a second zip line that holds up to four people. You can race your family down the mountain before heading over to the ropes course. This is also an add-on for our must do list next time we’re in Tahoe.

Photo credit: Heavenly Mountain Resort.

Golfing

While we’re not huge golfers (although truth be told, I used to go to the driving range often when I lived back east), there’s plenty of golfing options in the Lake Tahoe area. The Tahoe South region has six distinctive golf courses, each with its own vibe and views. Whether you’re a fan of argyle or tie-dye, you’ll likely find a green where you feel at home. Who knows, you may find yourself on the putting green right behind a celebrity.

Photo credit: TahoeSouth.

For more information on the golf courses and their features, visit the http://tahoesouth.com/explore/golf/ website.

Spa & Massage

If you STAY luxury, you can opt for a massage on-site, however if you’re in Tahoe for a family getaway and are staying at a lodge or villa, a suite resort which is what we did this time around, or opt for camping, and you want a l’il pampering, a day spa is the thing to do in Tahoe. We discovered a funky and quaint little day spa in central South Lake Tahoe called BIO SPIRIT. We loved the name and here you can get a variety of massages, facials or other body treatments.

While it’s small and they don’t have a hot tub, they do have a dry sauna and a steam room, which I took full advantage of before my massage. Since I had such a great hot stone massage at the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain recently, I decided to go for another hot stone massage and thanks to Cocoa, I left feeling rejuvenated and at peace. You can also get a couples massage in a private room if you want to go the romantic route.

Their body treatments are divine, from a body glow where you exfoliate and remove all those dead cells to a luscious hydrating and detoxifying wrap. I love creative body wraps since you always feel so renewed afterwards. They use chlorophyll and essential fatty acids to detoxify and improve elasticity and a scalp or foot massage is included in their body glow wrap. Speaking of feet, they have a great foot treatment as well with reflexology, which is followed by essential oils for moisture and massage.  Also, warm stones are used for warmth and relaxation, which of course was also used for my hot stone massage — so divine!

They use the Demalogica skin care line, which are non-comedogenic and contain no occlusive mineral oil or lanolin, no irritating artificial colors or fragrance, and no drying S.D. alcohol. They’re located at 1116 Ski Run Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe and you can find out more on their website or by calling 530.542.4095, where you can also book an appointment before your trip to Lake Tahoe. While they have around 10 therapists on-site, it’s smart to book in advance during summer months as it tends to get busy.

Dining

You all know we love food and wine here at We Blog the World if you read us often enough. There are so many fine and casual dining possibilities in the area, be sure to read my write-up on 6 Fun Foodie Spots in South Lake Tahoe for what we sampled during our last trip. Below, is a shot of the ever so delicious buffalo appetizer with mozzarella and tomatoes at ECHO Restaurant in the main part of town.

Also see our write up on a family resort stay at the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, which boasts all suites and is centrally located along one of the main drags in South Lake Tahoe.

Dove Mountain Ritz Carlton For Luxury, Desert Views & Spiritual Healing

August 15, 2015 by  

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As we made our way onto the land that Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain calls home, I couldn’t help but notice the enormous cactus all around us even at night fall; they almost glowed in the dark they stood so tall. It was if the property had a vast number of natural kings watching over it but in the form of primitive green fauna humans call cactus.

I’m not new to Arizona or having cactus in my midst. In fact, I lived in this beautiful state for a stint in high school and have been back to Arizona countless times for both business and pleasure and yet, somehow the cactus that lie 40 or so minutes from Tucson’s airport were older, more grandiose and I’d argue, even more elegant.

It was these creatures of the desert that greeted me in the night as we pulled into Dove Mountain. Our driver talked the whole way without taking a breadth, clearly proud of his home turf and everything that it stood for.

Like many 5 star properties, apples in a bowl and complimentary bottled water greeted us and a bellman I was too tired to remember the name of five minutes after we left the lobby never mind a week later. Outside, a massive fire pit was sizzling and the fire created an almost illuminous effect. Despite the dry hot night air that exceeded 95 degrees according to my phone, I still wanted to sit around it.

After dropping our bags off, we opted for a walk instead – there’s nothing like getting lost on a sprawling property when you first arrive and at night, it’s even more interesting. I never take a map, which was a huge mistake at Sedona’s Enchantment Resort earlier this year, but this resort, while large enough to give you plenty of food and activity options, felt a little more intimate – perhaps manageable is the right word.

We easily found the two pools which we could see from the outdoor lobby fire pit – the lights in the blue pools glowed in the distance making it easy to navigate your way to regardless of the time of day. Plenty of towels were piled into a rack as we made our way into the pool area and a couple snuggled on a hammock near the main pool. Nearby was a table tennis table and my mind quickly went back in time to childhood when I aggressively attempted to win game after game with all of male cousins.

We headed down to the lower pool which also housed the infamous water slide on the grounds and ducked our feet in and located the hot tub I knew had my name on it at some juncture the following day. It was calling my name even before we left the airport.

Alas, we had arrived in the desert and I couldn’t wait to hangout in the dry desert heat for a few days. Truth be told, the mattress was beyond perfect when our heads finally hit those glorious goose down pillows.

Each morning, you can opt to have room service and take in breakfast on your patio which either has a pool or canyon view (or a little bit of both), or head down to Ignite Restaurant on the ground floor where you can sit outside or in the cooler air conditioned main room. Here, you have a wide range of options, from a cold buffet which has a variety of cold meats, eggs and cheese to a hot buffet, where you can get your typical omelet, pancakes, sausage and bacon. Oh glorious day! I was looking forward to testing out the main lobby restaurant for lunch so had a taste of their smoked turkey and a large pot of Earl Gray tea and I was ready to greet the day.

AND, greet the day we did, starting at the main pool, which is largely where families hang out given the size and close vicinity to the water slide. That said, I saw plenty of couples relaxing in the lounge chairs scattered around the pool and a few that were placed in a very shallow area of the pool, a perfect choice for a sub 100 degree day, which were the temperatures we had during our stay. The hottest day reached around 111 apparently and yet because the humidity was low, we even managed to take in a desert walk towards the end of the day.

Rooms, Suites & Casitas

In addition to traditional hotel rooms and suites, they offer Casitas, which are perfect for families. They can comfortably accommodate four adults and come with a king bed, a crib or rollaway bed if needed, a connecting room and a queen sleeper sofa, all upon request. You can get them with canyon views which you’ll want to take full advantage of since the overlooks are gorgeous in the morning and at dusk.

The bathrooms are luxurious as always, with full marble bathrooms, a separate shower with a Rainforest shower head, oversized soaking tubs, and a vanity room. They’re also very spacious, another great reason it makes for a fabulous family stay option. At 1,133 square feet,  everyone can have their own privacy. They also have lush 100% goose down and non-allergenic foam pillows which we found incredibly comfy.

Below, one of the suites:

Standard rooms, all with various views (pool, canyon and so on).

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I absolutely fell in love with their luxurious spacious bathrooms with the deep soaking tubs.

The lobby area is also very inviting. As you walk towards the elevators, you’ll be greeted by three massive pieces of Tamarind Wood, which is apparently from Java. They’re majestic, impressive and beautiful, one of many find touches that add a natural flavor to the resort.

Below is a broad view of the oh so modern and yet elegant lobby.

Just outside the main lobby area, you can lounge around in comfortable chairs taking in the fresh air or keeping cosy around the fire on cooler nights. (we were there in August, so didn’t quite need the fire pit although it added to the romantic ambiance nevertheless).

Pool Time

The pools are where we spent most of our time and there’s a few to choose from and of course, one of them has a fun water slide that is well worth experiencing regardless of how old you are. We took full advantage of it, returning for more of it after every pool dunk at the end.

Below, the luxurious spa pool.

Spa Time

There’s a cascading waterfall flowing into the hot tub at the spa pool – it’s bliss and provides such a relief to sore muscles and tendons.

Outside, you can relax on one of their numerous outdoor double beds where you can be protected from the sun’s rays while you catch up on a magazine or good novel. The spa itself is worth going to, whether it be for the spa pool and facilities or to experience one of their treatments.

When we weren’t taking in the oh so fun water slide, we got some peace and quiet at the spa pool and then had a few treatments, which can be done inside or out (for massages). Take a look at our spa write up, which goes into detail about the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain’s spa and fitness offerings.

Imagine Native American-inspired treatments, indigenous design, fireplace, spa dining, a fitness center, fitness classes, a salon, water features and therapies, the spa serenity pool pictured above, a tanning island, day beds, cabanas and of course, scrumptious mixed drinks by the pool.

Dining

A Ritz Carlton wouldn’t be what it is without a selection of fine dining options — they always do and their restaurants never disappoint. Given that you’re in the middle of the desert, we drank a lot of water but as evening rolls around and it’s still warm (but not humid), it’s a perfect time for a glass of cold white wine or a summery cocktail.

On-site, they have several restaurants and cafe’s to choose from, ranging from more casual like the Turquesa Latin Grill and Cayton’s Burger Bistro where you can dine outside to more formal options like Ignite, where you can also get sushi every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5 to 9 pm. They also have scrumptious sake and Japanese beer to accompany any of your sushi rolls or sashimi options.

Ignite is a great place to take in the resort during the day as it is set against the backdrop of the stunning Wild Burro Canyon. They also serve smoky and peppery gastro-pub fare, hand-crafted signature cocktails and a collection of 120 scotches and whiskeys from around the world. Ignite offers live entertainment on some nights as well.

Ignite Bar dining (above)

We tried a little of each throughout the course of our stay with our last night at the ever so romantic CORE Wine Bar where we sat outside by candlelight – doesn’t it look just about perfect? We left it to the chef and team to do the wine pairings for each of our courses, most of which were heavy on the protein given our recent high protein/low carb diet that we’re doing.

We started with a delicious Humbolt Fog goat cheese paired with a 2012 Dr. Hermanne Riesling. Despite my conscious effort to stay clear of carbs and sugary wines, I couldn’t stop myself from taking a sip or two — it was divine. We then moved onto the Hass Avocado Tartare with asian pear/wasabi, which on-site sommelier Mike West paired with a crisp Argentinian white before we moved onto a Voignier from Columbia Valley with the Crispy Skinned Rainbow Trout, which they served with citrus orzo risotto style with a frisee fennel citrus salad.

The California rock sea bass was divine, which we had with broccoli spigarello, shelling beans and fennel sausage. Since I was craving Chardonnay all night, it was the perfect time to bring the Dutton Goldfield Chardonnay out from Russian River. We stayed with Dutton Goldfield but went with their ever so delicious 2013 Pinot Noir with my favorite dish of the night — the Pork Chop with roasted corn salsa, cotija and tomatillo sauce. Yum!

Other dishes at CORE worth mentioning for those who love their carbs, are the Chiocciole Pasta with mushrooms, spinach, oven-dried vintage wine tomato with micro greens. It can be served with shrimp or scallops if you wish. Other fabulous high protein options included a Pepper Bomb Beef Mignon with sherry mustard jus boursin creamed spinach and hazelnuts (YUM!), a Rib Eye with grilled vegetables and a Roasted Half Chicken with toasted fregola, fig (divine), kale and citrus demi-glace.

The food at each of the restaurants was absolutely delicious, even the ever so simple bar plate they serve of olives and nuts.

You can get healthy lunch options as well and given my experiment with high protein and low carb dishes for eight weeks, a blackened chicken and avocado salad with a boat load of lemon did just the trick — a lovely Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc goes perfectly with it on a sunny afternoon and what’s great is that wine only has around 3 carbs compared to four times that for a beer or more than twice that amount for a Margarita, which I have to admit, I craved on more than one occasion during our visit.

They apparently make an incredible one in the bar, rumor has it…..! The other thing I would have tried had I not been so anti-carbs this trip, was the Avocado Fries.

While we didn’t get any shots of our desserts at CORE Kitchen & Wine Bar because of the candlelit lighting (oh so romantic), it is worth mentioning them. Anthony did the honors of tasting and absolutely fell in love with the Peaches & Cream sundae with peach ice cream, fresh peaces and whipped cream, and the Toffee Cake which is made with dates and vanilla ice cream. Locally, it’s apparently called Sticky Toffee Pudding.

His verdict? Pure heaven.  A young girl named Michelle apparently makes homemade ice cream on-site and she was so proud of them that she came out to fill us in on the details.

Golfing

Their golf course is on another part of the property, easily reachable via a few minute shuttle bus. Golf lovers will be happy to know that it’s not an ordinary golf course, but a 27 hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course to boot. On the grounds, there is also a restaurant and bar where you can dine inside or out.

Breathtaking Hikes Around the Property

Around the property, even if you don’t venture out on one of the hikes you can take with Ranger Ron, you’ll find plenty of natural beauty, flora and fauna. The cactus is stunning and larger than other parts of Arizona, mostly because you’re so far south. They can grow to 100 or more feet tall and of course, there are the small round beautiful ones as well throughout the property.

Sunsets are also quite magical — if you haven’t experienced an Arizona sunset yet, you don’t know what you’re missing!

If you do venture out on your own, be sure to carry a compass and bring plenty of water.

I have to admit, we loved our hike with Ranger Ron – they have various rangers on site to guide you on group and individual private tours. I’d definitely recommend doing this during your stay.

We were in the desert until past dusk when the scorpions and snakes come out; I am thrilled to report that we didn’t see any. Be sure to read my write-up on our hike however, as we did come across a rare Gila Monster, which is an unusual looking lizard of sorts – in the article, you’ll see a snap we took right before the sun went down.

Spiritual Music & Native-American Tradition

Lastly, Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain has a special tradition worth mentioning since it weaves in the true character of the place, its unique location and local culture. Every evening at dusk (around 5:15 pm), you’ll hear the echoes of a Native-American flautist as the spiritual sound of an acoustic flute echos across the desert. It’s beautiful, eerie, reflective and soul-stirring, a historical event that has been going on at Dove Mountain for years. The tradition honors the ancient Hohokam tribe that once inhabited Dove Mountain from 300 B.C. until 1450 A.D., and it’s a great way to reflect upon the day.

Photo credit: Dove Mountain Ritz Carlton (dang….I didn’t bring my zoom lens with me).

Below is a short video snipped to give you an idea of just how special the experience was — we caught his playing every day, once from the desert, on-site in the outdoor lobby area where you can get the best views of him on the hill and from our room balcony, which is where the below video was taken from. Enjoy!

 

DETAILS:

Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain

15000 N Secret Springs Drive

Marana, AZ 85658

(520) 572-3000

 

 

Note: We were hosted by the hotel but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Tommy Bahama, the King of Flexible & Fun Mix and Match Swimsuits

August 12, 2015 by  

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I used to love shopping for swimwear, after all, there were so many choices and I was as thin as they come in my twenties. Designs have changed over the years but a mainstay I wore in my twenties and can still wear today in my forties are suits from the classic and well known brand Tommy Bahama. If you know the brand, but don’t know what they’ve been up to lately, you’ll be happily surprised by their diverse and comprehensive selection.

What I love about shopping on their site is the navigation — you can choose a suit by type, color or style, or you can choose by body shape and they have a guide to help you figure out where you fall. You can also mix and match since they sell tops and bottoms separately, which is a godsend for detail oriented people like me. Personally, I like to have lots of style and color choices.

And so, off I went on the site to search for some suits in blue. Why? In my forties, my greatest assets are sadly no longer a flat stomach and tone legs like they were in my twenties, and so I decided to go with a suit to compliment my blue eyes.  Besides, every other suit I own is in either leopard, some complicated pattern or black. And, then there’s that loud orange number I can’t believe I ever purchased.

The first thing on their site that struck my eye was a silky looking Chaftan adorned with a vintage map – how cool is that? A long cover up that is sheer and has a map from top to bottom couldn’t be a more perfect choice for the travelholics among us.

Their Vintage Map Long Caftan (worn above on the grounds of the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain spa pool) and pictured below, brings a beautiful waterside style to the four corners of the globe in a captivating print. The other thing I love about it is its flowing and featherlight material with an attractive V-neckline for a flattering fit. The Italian fabric is made from a silky, premium material and the design has Kimono-style sleeves and slits at the sides for a free fitting fit, which is exactly what you want when you’re hanging out by the pool or going for a walk on the beach. While it looks and feels silky, it’s 100% polyester making it easy to wash, fast to dry and low maintenance when it comes to wrinkling.

The other nice thing about it is that its long and sweeping, making you feel even more feminine when you lounge about or go for that beach walk.

Every suit I own is a classic bikini, so I decided to try a Tankini top,which is a little more slimming and let’s face it, whether you’re in your twenties, thirties, forties or fifties, who doesn’t want a l’il slimming effect? The Tommy Bahama Pearl Halter Tab Tankini comes in a few different colors, but I found a nice one in Navy that goes well with the vintage map cover-up above.

It has a flirty sweetheart neckline, a comfortable tummy-control panel and soft shirring at the waist. It is made with premium Italian microfiber, so effectively retains its shape, and ties at the neck which even more perfects the fit. Given its premium material, it dries quickly and resists fading.

Their Xtra Life Lycra resists the effects of chlorine and other pool chemicals 5?10 times longer than unprotected elastane, allowing garments to keep their shape much longer. The material is 80% nylon, 20% Xtra Life Lycra Spandex and has tall foam cups for additional support and coverage. What else is cool is that the fabric offers UPF 50+ sun protection, which is great on a hot day, especially when you’re in and outside the sun. Below, it holds up well as I stand under this warm waterfall at a Ritz Carlton pool for a non-stop thirty minutes.

The back is also elegant, allowing you to get a little coverage on your upper back and shoulders while covering up any of the rolls you might have around your middle — that’s the great thing about the Tankini’s from Tommy Bahama – they cover up what you don’t want to show while staying elegant and sexy.

The great thing about choosing a suit with Tommy Bahama is their ability to mix and match as noted above. Since bottoms are sold separately, you have several options to choose from, whether you want a higher cut or a lower one.

For example, the Vintage Map High-Waist Sash Hipster Bikini Bottoms are fun sash bikini bottoms that provide a little dazzle to a plain colored tankini top. And, if you are lucky enough to have one of those flatter tummies, you can choose a more classic bikini top to accompany it, OR better yet, get one of each so you have choices depending on you feel on a particular day. What woman doesn’t want to have a few options in her suitcase?

I love the mesmerizing map design and the bottoms have a higher than normal waistline, providing full coverage for a more flattering fit. Also made in premium Italian microfiber, so it resists fading and dries quickly, an important factor when you’re in and out of the pool, lake or ocean. It’s the obvious suit to match the above vintage map navy cover-up I fell in love with when I first started browsing their site.

An alternative to the above bottoms is the Vintage Map Skirted Hipster Bikini Bottoms, although frankly, I’d argue you’d want both. The skirted hipster bottoms can fit comfortably over a more fitted pair of bottoms. It has a cute skirt with side tie over a full coverage, again, providing that more flattering and slimming look that is sure to give you a little more confidence on the beach.

While I had to go for the map combo (what traveler wouldn’t want to own this fabulous suit?), I fished around on the site and found some other fun choices as well in both prints and solid colors. For example, this Multi Ombré Chevron Tankini would make a fun colorful choice for any Caribbean vacation.

The back is equally fun — and flattering. It’s made of 92% nylon and 8% spandex and comes with foam cups for added coverage and support. Like the navy blue one, it has a tummy-control panel for that wonderful slimming effect.

Another favorite for its slimming factor and fabulous color is the Pearl underwire tankini.

 
With flattering style and a slimming silhouette, this tankini has an underwire for amazing support, comfortable tummy-control panel and soft shirring at the waist. Xtra Life Lycra resists the effects of chlorine and other pool chemicals 5–10 times longer than unprotected elastane, allowing the suit to keep its shape much longer. This tankini is also made of fabric that offers UPF 50+ sun protection.
Here’s a couple more combos to give you an idea of how creative you can get….
They also have a number of fabulous bottoms. I love these, especially with the flattering blue/green and white top.
And, if you’re a vibrant and bright color gal, they have plenty of choices:
Another cool discovery on my recent trip to the Dove Mountain Ritz Carlton is that they actually carried a few Tommy Bahama suits as well as a fabulous multi-colored cover up (knee length) that I never saw on the site. When I asked about this, she said they had the last of it, so perhaps no longer available? Dang. They did carry the same Tankini I am wearing above, but in a fun and vibrant purple and white.
Tommy Bahama has so many options that regardless of whether you mix and match online or find something fabulous at a luxury resort, you won’t be disappointed with their style, color choices and quality. We love their suits and would love to review something from their men’s line at a later time.  Two thumbs up!

Hiking Arizona’s Wild Burro Canyon With Tales of Mojaves & Saguaro

August 12, 2015 by  

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While our plane was somewhat on time, another one took our gate and so we twiddled our thumbs while we waited for another United flight’s passengers to disembark hoping our driver was more patient than we were at the time. I think our driver said his name was Jim when he greeted us at the luggage carousel — it’s all such a blur.

Realizing that we may not reach the hotel until close to midnight, I decided to nap on route as my plan was to get up early the next day and hit the pool. Jim had other plans for us however as he proceeded to tell us every historical fact about the area from Tucson all the way to Marana, where a comfortable bed and goose down pillows were waiting for us at the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain.

I couldn’t help but smile despite my fatigue since there’s nothing more precious than finding a passionate local who is so proud of his home that he wants to make sure you’re as proud of it as he by the time you part ways.

Hardly new to cactus, having lived in Arizona and graced her soil countless times since then, I couldn’t help but notice the size of the cactus in southern Arizona, massive compared to other parts of the state. They almost felt like they were the granddaddies of them all, regal almost.

It was almost as if they appeared to glow in the dark they stood so tall, as if the property had a vast number of natural kings watching over it but in the form of primitive green fauna humans now call cactus.

The next day was the first time we had a chance to observe Ranger Ron in all of his natural glory. Decked out in tan and khaki hiking gear with a pouch, hat and knife looped through his belt buckle, he was prancing around the lobby with a snake wrapped around him. Children seemed to take great delight in this visual however I was keen to walk the opposite direction and so we did. I saw him again a bit later and little did I know at the time that he was to be our private guide for a hike through the local canyon.

I made sure he wasn’t hiding a snake when we first met up but snakes was the last thing he was thinking about when he first met me. I was wearing a mini skirt, a wide one, not a tight number designed for a cocktail party. It was the coolest thing I had with me that would be easy to walk in with the exception of a swim suit and since it was an au natural number in olive and earth tones, I figured it would make for great photography once we were in the middle of the desert terrain.

It wasn’t my skirt he was looking at however, but my shoes. As an avid hiker, I was well aware what shoes were inappropriate for a desert walk and yet I figured because we were leaving from a five star resort, how tough could it be?

The truth is that it wasn’t necessarily a “tough” hike as there wasn’t much of an incline anywhere through Wild Burro Canyon, which was part of the surrounding Tortolita Mountains. What I had forgotten about however was the number of critters you’re likely to see and how prickly the bush was and I’m not just talking about traditional cactus.

After his eyes said “you’re not wearing those open toed sandals are you?” I tossed them in my bag and put my Arcopédico walking shoes on, quite honestly, one of the most comfortable set of walking shoes I own.

This of course led to Ranger Ron needing to justify his raised eyes but frankly he didn’t need to – he had one of those faces you could trust and frankly, I knew better, but just wasn’t in the mood for a hike given the 105 degree air.

And so, off we went while he began to tell us stories about all the scorpions and snakes he has seen over the years while hiking in the canyon. Just what a girl wants to hear, although Anthony loved all of it, especially given that it was an afternoon leading to dusk hike, which is when all the spiders and snakes apparently come out of hiding.

“How often?” I asked him looking down at his knives and other contraptions hanging from his belt.

“Oh, all the time,” he said cheerily and proceeded to tell us about all the critters he sees almost daily and how many of them he has in his office – alive of course. Crikey I thought, thrilled that we met him in the lobby rather than his office. Anthony seemed to be intrigued but I wanted to change the subject to something a little tamer and calmer, like the flora and fauna.

While the canyon wasn’t dense, especially when compared to a forest  hike you’d take in the Washington or New Hampshire, the brush was thick and you could never tell when it was going to show up and catch on your sock or pant leg if you happened to be wearing one.

Interspersed of course were some of the largest cactus you’ll ever see in Arizona and perhaps some of the oldest. He pointed to one after another giving us an estimate of their age based on the size of their “shoots”, particularly the second highest one. Many of them were well over a hundred years old, some so majestic that I found myself wanting to stare at them for awhile.

I quietly named one such majestic cactus Henry and gazed at him while Ranger Ron returned to stories of snakes up ahead of me.

I named him Henry….

Did I know that the mojave snake was one of the most dangerous snakes in the canyon? Nope, can’t say that I did and without knowing what a mojave looks like, I wasn’t sure I wanted more information.  After all, the more we talked about snakes, the closer we’d be getting to dusk which is when we’d be most likely to see them on and off the trail.

There are apparently 17 species of rattlesnacks in the U.S. and 13 of those species can be found  in Arizona and of those 13, 6 or 7 live in the same canyon where we were hiking. I finally managed to get Ranger Ron off snakes and onto cactus and trees, which is a helluva lot more interesting to the nature lover in me and got my mind off visualizing mojaves suddenly appearing from nowhere, for awhile.

We heard about the saguaro cactus, which apparently has a 250-300 year life. They apparently grow a white flower, which blooms for 24 hours and then turns into a fruit, called quite logically, the saguaro fruit. It tastes a bit of a cross between a strawberry and a fig.


He then took one of those knives out and broke off a little piece of “meat” from a Jumping Cholla (also known as a Chain Link Cholla) and we sampled the inside of it, which had the texture of okra and the color of an avocado. Frankly, it didn’t taste much like anything but apparently is a good source of protein, which must have been great for natives living in this part of the world at the turn of the century.

Fiber sources came from peabods which grow on meskeet trees and there are plenty of them in the canyon. They were ground down into flour and apparently very sweet in taste and locals made flatbread out of it.

In addition to meskeet trees, we were able to marvel at the Blue Palaverde tree which has brilliant yellow flowers on them, not to be confused with foothill palaverde trees, which could not only be found in the canyon, but also on the Ritz property – the luminous green bark makes you think of how wet green frogs look as soon as they jump out of a pond.

Ironwood is also plentiful in the canyon, which is apparently the hardest known wood to man. This hearty tree can live up to 1,500 years and after it dies, it can stay intact for another 1,000 years.  At one point, we came across a live one right next to one that had been dead for over several hundred years at Ron’s best estimate.

Within Wild Burro Canyon is more granite than anything else however there is some marble. You can also find Petroglyphs, which is ancient rock art that tell stories from our ancestors through drawings that demonstrate war, weapons, art or an event.  There are apparently six of them in this canyon dating back to 6,500 BC.

Dusk was falling upon us quickly and so while for the bulk of the hike, I kept my distance from the guys taking shots on my trusty Canon 7D, I kept close to them as the sun began to sink. It was the “time” of day” according to Ron that the creatures came out, his favorite part of the day, my least…

Suddenly, Ron got excited and began to walk briskly towards a “find.” “Oh gawd,” I wondered. “What was it?”

“This is so rare, SO rare,” Ron kept saying. “They spend 95% of their time underground and unspotted – they rarely ever come out.”

“Come out to play?” I thought. Is that what he was hoping for?

Anthony piped up almost as excited as Ron and asked, “what is it?”

“Ahh my friends,” he said. “It’s a Gila Monster, nothing to be afraid of – they won’t hurt you.” I crept up to see what all the fuss was. I had to admit, he was an unusual creature, a cross between a lizard and well, I dunno. Maybe a lizard with chicken pox? His colors blended well with the environment, so much so that you had to get up close to see his markings. Anthony took off with his own Canon in hand clearly committed to getting a close up of this rare desert find.

I realized that he had a wide angle on and the F stop was not set properly to capture this little guy so I snapped one on my phone instead. In hindsight, we really should have had our zoom lens with us to get that award-winning Gila Monster shot that everyone at home was clearly waiting for.

While there’s no doubt that I’d rather shoot a Giraffe than a Gila Monster, I found the desert adventure compelling somehow, because there was an element of danger to it. I had faith in Ron’s knowledge and experience in the desert, so what could possibly go wrong after all? He had his knife, Anthony was carrying his Kung Fu Bo Staff and I had my Canon.

While the Gila Monster doesn’t pose immediate danger, if they feel threatened, they will grind their venin into your skin. Oooohhhh! Did I need to know that? Apparently they eat eggs, rodents and rabbits I learned, since of course Ron knew the answer to that as well. There’s nothing greater than going out into nature with a pro who knows the answer to everything and a passionate one at that.

As the sun began to sink deeper, Anthony and I took our sticks and started to play, taking a Martial Arts stance as we gazed into the cascading sky. The sunset was as breathtaking as all Arizona sunsets are as we walked behind Ron listening to his tales of Germany to Arizona. Echoing into the dusk light were the sounds of morning doves and gamble quails and none of it was a dream.

 

 

 

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