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

Serenity, Wellness & Charm in Spades at Upstate New York’s Old Stone Farm

October 17, 2014 by  


I randomly discovered Old Stone Farm and Restaurant in upstate New York’s Staatsburg, a stone’s throw from Rhinebeck New York where I visited godparents a few times at their farmhouse in the warmer months as a child. They lived on some rural dirt road in what appeared to be in the middle of nowhere to a 12 year old despite the fact that I was used to the remoteness of the Adirondacks.

My recollection is that they had a jeep and we used it often to get around and even as a child, I couldn’t help but remember its serenity and peacefulness, where bird calls were more prevalent than the sound of cars. It was an easy place to get lost and the trees seemed to keep their colors in the fall for longer than further north where the seasons passed more quickly and it was already chilly by mid-September.

It was late September when we ventured north to Staatsburg, getting lost on a few side streets to marvel at the nearby farms. It had my first return to the area since I was a teenager, so I was mixed with positive and warm emotion as we drove through the nearby towns, so many of which ended in burg, ville or town.

I had corresponded with Waddy Francis, the fairly new General Manager of Old Stone Farm via email before we had arrived, so learned of some of its charm and appeal before we set foot on the farm’s soil and basked in the sun to the views of horses, historical barns, vibrant trees and well manicured lawns that stretched for over 200 acres. Waddy is a wealth of information with an interesting background, so you won’t be disappointed if you take the time to ask him to share a story or two.

After a day, I found myself wanting to leave my cell phone behind when I headed to dinner and on the last day, I didn’t bring it to breakfast, nor did I retrieve it when we went for a walk around the grounds or sat in the porch chairs while we sipped our morning coffee and ate their fresh blueberries and oh so New York bagels with smoked salmon and onions.

Old Stone Farm is where rustic and luxury meet, exuding the kind of simplicity that brings you back to all the things that make you feel healthy and happy. In other words, there’s no frills, no late night bar where you can drink beer and watch a game on TV or 24/7 room service, although Jeff Newman, the on-site Manager of Guest Services who has been part of the farm for 16 years, is only a phone call away should you need anything. Not only is the service top notch but Jeff has a wealth of incredible stories to share and can even orchestrate a nature walk through the property and beyond if you coordinate in advance.

Modern frills and over-the-top features are not what founder Stu Kahn and his wife Sherry had in mind when they created their vision for the farm, which has only been open since 2013. Although Stu has passed away, it’s clear that Sherry’s commitment to the farm and its original mission remains, which is to create a place of serenity, healing and rejuvenation for those who are interested in more than just a romantic weekend away, although it’s a great option for that also.

More than just an inn, it’s a wellness and education center dedicated to social awakening through personal transformation. Perched above well manicured fields in the heart of Dutchess County, this beautiful property has stunning views of a 236 acre natural wonderland. In addition to their individualized guest rooms, Old Stone Farm touts a library, yoga barn, pavilion, horse barn, indoor and outdoor riding rings, as well as a full-service spa including massage, wet rooms and steam cabinets.

Sherry restored the 200-year-old farm with impeccable care, preserving its authentic 18th and 19th century historical buildings, hand choosing the antique furnishings and art, maintaining as much of Old Stone Farm’s history as possible (while powering with environmentally sustainable solar and geothermal energy), a fabulous factoid — I love their commitment to sustainability.

Surrounded by hundreds of secluded acres of gardens, old cedar forests and maple groves, ponds and streams, hills, valleys, hiking and riding trails, and pastures, the farm offers a whole lotta serenity and natural beauty, whether you’re staying for a night or several days. They also have a number of workshops on site as well, such as a memoir retreat, one on yoga and meditation, resilience, dream decoding and whole body healing to name a few. (See http://www.oldstonefarm.org/workshops/).

Despite the fact that you’re surrounded by nature and they encourage outdoor living and walks, it’s not as if they’re anti-technology and in fact, as a way to cater to the New York City crowd who can easily get here in under two hours by Amtrak from Penn Station (they’ll even pick you up from Rhinecliff  station gratis, which is nearby), they tout fast wifi in the main barn. Here is the peaceful haven where you’ll stay. The barn houses their 10 rooms on two floors with a cozy country living area, table and chairs and a bookcase loaded with books on the second floor.

That said, you don’t see people glued to their phones or laptops. In fact, people come here to unwind, so seeing them by day walking around the property, taking in a yoga class, reading a book outside on one of their Adirondack chairs or simply taking a nap is more the norm.

While the farm is vast, the inn itself is small so the ambiance is intimate – no one seems to lock their doors and there’s a small pantry area where you can get bottled water in the fridge, flavored organic coffees or teas and healthy snack bars anytime of day or night. There’s also a landline you can use to dial out since cell phone coverage is limited if not dead on the property itself.

Their nine rooms and one two-room suite are all named after their horses which I found charming. All of the rooms include queen size custom beds with organic mattresses and Frette sheets, private bathrooms, robes, safes, country antiques and original art.

The art is an understatement really since Sherry has been collecting original pieces for decades now and there’s plenty to go around, so much so that paintings plaster every hallway in every building, the bathrooms, every guest room and of course the main house where you go for breakfast and dinner.


They have created an exceptional space for people to explore personal transformation and growth in an intimate and exclusive setting. As you’ll see below, each room has its own charm and character and no two rooms are alike. As mentioned above, each room is each named after one of their horses – I’ve included a few so you can get an idea of what to expect. Note – they’re all charming so it’s hard to go wrong with any of the rooms in the barn, which btw, they refer to as Stu’s Inn.

Ginger is a Loft Room on the second floor of Stu’s Inn and features views of forests and horse paddocks. Ginger is named for a Swedish Warmblood who lives on the property and is used in the Epona Program.

Ditto is their two room suite which comes with a sitting room and views of the horse paddocks in the distance.  Ditto features artwork by Ernest Fiene, a Woodstock artist and the bathroom features an antique tub and a large shower.  Ditto is named for a Morgan Horse who is a Blue Ribbon champion.

Dutchess features beautiful paintings of the Hudson Valley — the room faces south with views of the forest and paddocks. Also worth noting is that Duthchess is of course the mother of Duke. :-)

Another view of the second floor.

Below is the dining room where we had a couple breakfasts and dinner one night. Note the diversity of art on the walls.

Ahhh, the healthy breakfast spread.

For those of you who are yogis, they have a Yoga Barn that dates back to 1759. Inside there are more historical paintings and a baby grand piano. They hold weekly yoga classes here, one of which we tried on a weekend morning. It was hard not to get into a very peaceful place in this serene barn that exuded such lovely energy and karma.

There’s also a spa on-site. While it’s not massive in size, nor do they have extensive facilities (no traditional steam room, swimming pool or hot tub), it’s incredibly relaxing and peaceful. Below is the sitting room area while you’re waiting for that “shut me down” massage, which you can get from one of their massage therapists, who all seem to approach massage from a holistic and healing place. You can choose from a Soothing Hot Stone, Therapeutic or Relaxation massage, Aromatherapy and Facials as well as Facial Scrubs.

There is a sauna room however (well sort of) and as you’ll see below, it’s a little different from your standard sauna in that the have two amazing cedar “steam” cabinets, so you get the benefit from a steam and a sauna at the same time. What’s also lovely is that there are two “steam” cabinets side-by-side, so you can share the experience with your partner.

Below is one of the outside barns, where when looking for a bathroom, I ran into one of the horses their many rooms are named after.

In front of the main house, they have two outdoor seating areas where you can dine (by day or night) on a separate wooden veranda as well as the outside porch to the main house. The fun part however is sipping tea anytime of day on one of their Adirondack chairs while you take in the natural beauty and watch the horses off in the distance.

Below is the entrance to the main house. The Pop’s Greasy Spoon is of course misleading since their food is organic and fresh and we never had a greasy spoon meal during our stay. How can you not love the sign though and like everything else Sherry so carefully curated, it adds to the charm of the place.

For those who travel as often as I do, you know that in the end, the magic is always in the details! (taken in the back of the house)

Although I’d recommend hitting downtown Rhinebeck for dinner at least one of the nights of your stay, you should absolutely try Old Stone Farm’s on-site restaurant. Their chef Matt is committed to organic, gourmet cuisine and sources ingredients from local farmers in the area. It’s a pre-set meal so there’s no menu to choose from, however since they are so committed to healthy holistic living, they ask for food sensitivities before you arrive, so Matt can customize meals to ensure there’s nothing in any of the dishes you can’t eat or don’t want to….

In our case, we started with a fresh tomato tartare with chive oil, watercress and green beans, and after that low calorie, low carb, and low fat dish, we had a baby kale salad, served with hierloom tomatoes, spinach, basil, mushrooms and a sherry walnut dressing. Yum! 

The main course was a Pollo Loco, which is a pan roasted chicken breast with Spanish rice. It was served with cilantro cumin, pickled tomato salsa and cilantro and they paired it with a light to medium bodied Italian Chianti. 

Since I asked to hold off on “cow dairy,” I was treated to a roasted pear with a chocolate sorbet. Thanks Matt for not taking away my chocolate. Why is it that so many sorbets only come in lemon, lime, melon and strawberry? Don’t sorbet makers realize that just because we may stay away from dairy, it doesn’t mean we don’t love all the same flavors that are embedded into the fattening and “loaded with sugar” ice cream counterparts. If someone were to ever make a Pistachio Sorbet, I’d be singing for days.

Bottom line: if you want a healthy, holistic and transformative getaway from New York City or any of the neighboring burbs…a place where you can truly relax and feel as if you’re being taken care of, Old Stone Farm is a fabulous choice for your “must do” getaway list.


Old Stone Farm

2434 New York 9G

Staatsburg, NY 12580


Note: We were hosted by all opinions expressed here are entirely our own.


6 Places to Lap Up Luxury, Culture & Spa Treatments in Zurich

October 16, 2014 by  


Lap up the luxury at The Dolder Grand in Zurich Switzerland. The 5 star luxury property touts 176 luxurious rooms and suites, exquisite cuisine, a spa covering 4,000 square metres, generous banqueting and seminar facilities and a remarkable art collection. The original “Curhaus” dating from 1899 presents itself as the luxury-class City Resort. The hotel’s elevated location, between the pulsating life of the city and a refreshingly natural green zone, provides a magnificent view of the city of Zurich, the lake and the Alps.

The rooms are oh tres modern and have stunning views of the rest of the property as well as the city.

Details: www.thedoldergrand.com. 

For the chic and healthy among you, check out the B2B Boutique Hotel & Spa which is located inside Zurich’s old Hurlimann Brewery. The rooms are quaint but funky and two key reasons to stay include the on-site spa which touts all things wellness and the historical 36 foot ceiling library lounge which has an astonishing number of books, 33,000 last we checked.

Details: www.b2boutiquehotels.com

If you have an artsy and creative bent to you, try the Widder Hotel where each room is creatively and uniquely done. If you get bored easily, you could even request to change rooms to get a taste of other rooms if you’re staying for awhile.  

Widder is a 5 star hotel and remember its Switzerland so the service is fabulous as is the attention to detail. Located in the Altstadt, the ambiance a blend of historical and artistic where inside you’ll find color and frescoes from ceiling to floor.

Details: www.widderhotel.ch

Then there’s the Thermal Baths & Spa is a unique find in Zurich since it is far from an ordinary spa. Imagine experiencing thermal baths regardless of season underneath 100 year old vaulted stone ceilings. If you love old architecture and all things unique, you’ll love this spa experience not to mention the fact that you’ll leave feeling refreshed and renewed. During the summer and warmer months, you can also take in the pool on the rooftop which has some stellar views of the city.

The experience allows you to literally bathe between hundred year-old stone vaults of the former brewery Hürlimann inside the mountain, so unique that you’ll be brought into another world.  The thermal water from the legendary “Aqui” source will give you valuable minerals and soothing warmth to aid relaxation and well-being.  

Details: http://www.thermalbad-zuerich.ch/ 

For the heavier partying hipster who is well above the more budget conscious inn or guesthouse, check out the boutique property 25hours Hotel Zurich West.

It’s all things modern both in its design and color palette, from the walls and carpets to the bedding and chairs, a work of art by local designer Alfredo Haberli. Add a little neon and funkiness and you’re in for a real treat if hip and modern is your style. It’s not the best option for the “old world” among you.

Details: www.25hours-hotels.com/en/zurich

Now onto that old world classical and traditional style!  Baur au Lac is Zurich’s prestigious landmark of top notch hospitality, elegance, and impeccable service. Historical and classical in countless ways, the hotel has been owned by the same family for over 160 years. Only recently, every room was thoroughly renovated. The unusually large and light bathrooms, an attractive blend of marble and mirrors, combine practicality with sheer luxury.

From the terrace and the adjoining park there is an enchanting view of Lake Zurich and the Alps. The Rive Gauche, a sparkling blend of chic restaurant and bar, offers Mediterranean grill room specialities for “fine casual dining.” The Baur au Lac features an exclusive fitness centre on the top of the hotel with magnificent views over Lake Zurich and the Alps. A personal trainer or physiotherapy may be arranged. The beauty salon and hair-dresser Vanity offers a wide range of luxury cosmetic treatments.

Details: http://www.bauraulac.ch/en

Photo credits: All photos are taken from each of the hotels websites. Widder Hotel from hotelling.net.

World Responsible Tourism Awards in London

October 15, 2014 by  


The World Responsible Tourism Awards rest on a simple principle – that all types of tourism, from niche to mainstream, can and should be organised in a way that preserves, respects and benefits destinations and local people.

They’re having their annual awards ceremony in London on November 5, 2014 at the World Travel Market. The event focuses on the shining stars of responsible tourism – the individuals, organisations and destinations working innovatively with local cultures, communities and biodiversity.

Food Aboard the Diamond Princess on Japanese Waters

October 14, 2014 by  


Imagine Quail & Venison Terrine with a gingered red and white onion compote over a mesclun salad, an elegantly pressed tune and salmon sushi and a twice baked goat’s cheese souffle with garlic to start you off, followed by a Skillet-Fried Orange Roughy or Broiled Scallops with a sweet Japanese wine sauce, mushrooms and asparagus as your main accompanied by a nice glass of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Now imagine the same set of dishes aboard a luxury cruise ship in the middle of Asia while you’re taking in some of the most spectacular historical sites around the coast of Japan.

Imagine while you’re not taking in the sights off the cruise ship, you’re basking in the sun on one of the decks, taking in a jacuzzi under the stars or a late night film? Or, after one of their fabulous margaritas from one of the pool bars, you sit on your room deck watching nothing but the open sea. Then, of course you’re ready for dinner again, and the next night and so on….

Princess Cruises did more than excite my palette aboard the Diamond Princess this past summer as I cruised around Japan with a stop over in South Korea. Every night, I took in savory dish after savory dish, experiencing what I would call “culinary delight,” not an easy task when you’re cooking for well over 1,000 people over the course of only two seating times. Be sure to read up on our write-up of the cruise itself which is loaded with photos and useful details including links for newbies.

And for those of you who didn’t think cruises were for foodies, think again. If quail and venison isn’t your thing, or you’re not in the mood for fish, you could opt for a potato gnocchi, a triology of lamb chop, braised veal breast and chicken kebab, or a Cocoa spice-rubbed pork tenderloin with French ratatouille and truffled mashed potatoes. Yum!! Is your mouth watering yet? That was one night’s offerings to give you a taste.

Below, the Beef Wellington.

Lobster with asparagus in a creamy sauce with capers.

Dessert, so delicious and beautifully presented.

Did I mention you can have champagne brought to the room — with dessert, cheese and fruit, chocolate covered strawberries or whatever else you desire.

The maragaritas were also out of this world – my favorite was from the bartenders who tend bar at the bar in the rear of the ship, adjacent to the adult only pool. Look at the size and presentation! The Australians turned me onto this one — thanks to my friends “Down Under.”

Below, the dining staff doing the Baked Alaska dance one night after the main meal was served in the dining rooms. It involved a bit of a congo line, dancing and clapping. See our video and you’ll get a taste of what I experienced on board.

Other options over the course of the cruise that stood out for me in addition to several salads I loved, included the game & wild mushroom pate, the chilled Granny Smith and cider soup with cinnamon and calvados brandy, the steamed cod over a lentil salad, the Red Snapper mojito ceviche with mint, mango, avocado and a splash of Bacardi Rum (yum!!), the seared Barramundi filet with pineapple papaya salsa, a pork curry and a Tandoori fire-roasted tiger prawn dish with yogurt raita and saffron basmati rice.

Notice the cultural diversity in their cooking — from Japanese influenced sauces, Indian curries and a Latin Ceviche preparation of the Red Snapper to the very English Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Gravy and the very French Coq au Vin served in a burgundy wine and bacon crisps, pearl onions and croutons.

There was also a delicious Alaskan Style seafood soup with white fish, salmon, shrimp, mussels and crostini, a chicken liver tartlet with fried onions, a tropical fruit kabob appetizer with papaya, kiwi and winter melon (bring on the by-the-sea fresh and health options), a yummy Black Bean chowder with golden fried tortilla strips, a grilled calamari steak and poached baby squid and a chilled Spanish Gazpacho with cucumber, bell pepper red wine vinegar, olive oil, tabasco (whoahh) and lemon juice.

Heavier meat options included red wine and shiitake braised beef short ribs, a spinach, mushroom and Swiss cheese quiche, a roast rack of pork with glazed artichokes and the beef pot roast braised in Barolo wine with Tuscan vegetable batons and grilled cornmeal cakes. On Italian night, I had to try the Scaloppine di Vitello al Marsala with green beans, cherry tomatoes and creamy mashed potatoes.

Dessert was always a surprise but if you didn’t want one of the more traditional cakes or richer creation, you could always ask for a lighter option or simply have cheese and grapes or a plate of fruit. It’s no wonder that so many people put on 8-10 pounds after their cruise — in other words, even if you’re not a serious foodie, you’ll likely find that you can’t resist the culinary temptations, whether it be the sit down meal offerings at dinner or the numerous options in the Harbor Court, which is always there for your convenience.

Below the Santa Fe, Savoy, International, Pacific Moon and Vivaldi dining rooms.

In addition to the main dining rooms and  Horizon Court for buffet dining noted above, there is also Sabatini’s, a fine Italian restaurant, the Sterling Steakhouse, Trident Grill for burgers and dogs, the Prego Pizzeria, a patisserie, ice cream bar and wine bar as well as 24-hour room service. Sweet!

For an added romantic touch, you can order a Champagne Breakfast, which includes a half bottle of chilled French champagne, basket of homemade pastries, cold smoked salmon with dill cream cheese and toasted lemon brioche, fresh fruit and forest berries and a Quiche, not to be confused with my champagne and chocolate covered strawberry treat above.

For the over the top romantic, you can line up a Lobster Balcony Dinner, which includes cocktails, canapes, a flower bouquet, an 8×10 photo, a half bottle of chilled Champagne, a Pacific Blue crab cake baked in a puff pastry crown, marinated chevre and mesclun field greens, a broiled lobster tail or a grilled filet of beef tenderloin with chateau potatoes, veggies and a mushroom demi-grace or a Surf & Turf, which includes both the lobster and the grilled filet of beef tenderloin. YUM!!! And, of course they include a chocolate quartet Mousseline for dessert.

Check out Princess Cruises links for more information on how to plan a cruise. They have a great website that allows you to search by destination, length, time of year and so on.

Be sure to check out other posts we wrote on the region, which include the excursions or solo trips we took of the stops on this cruise, TokyoTokyo restaurants in our Japanese Food and Japan restaurants section and hotels in our Japan Hotels (& Lodging) section, which for this trip is focused on the hotels we stayed at before and after our tour in Tokyo. There is also more information, articles, fabulous photos and videos in our Japan (Travel to Japan), Tokyo (Travel to Tokyo) and South Korea (Travel to Korea) section.

Note: I was hosted by Princess but all opinions expressed here are entirely my own opinion.

Rockport’s My Place by the Sea, Where a Romantic Hideaway Meets Culinary Explosion

October 12, 2014 by  


Perched at the tip of Bearskin Neck, a rocky protrusion of cliffs and seaweed, where seagulls soar through the skies with fabulous views in the distance, you’ll find My Place by the Sea, a charming romantic seafood restaurant. Set in the heart of Rockport Massachusetts on the North Shore, the female duo behind this delicious culinary find is chef Kathy Milbury and partner Barbara Stavropoulos.

Imagine a place where all the details are perfect, the sunsets are stunning and the ambiance is relaxing yet surreal. The lights are diffused making it a perfect choice for a romantic night out or a celebration. In our case, we celebrated Anthony’s birthday, starting on the open upper porch so we could watch the sun set and thereafter moved into what I would call the perfect seat on the downstairs patio. Here, you can still get the view without the wind and the area is sheltered in case it rains.

Ahhh yes, the craggy coastline while you watch the sun sink, something I have done many a’time in Rockport, Gloucester and the neighboring seaside towns when I lived in Boston.

Everywhere I’ve been throughout New England, if they have fresh oysters from the sea, I tend to order them and this trip was no different. We started with oysters and then moved to their Roasted Beet & Heirloom tomato salad, which is served with a Maytag Bleu Cheese, lemon olive oil and sea salt. Yum!! All of their salads are delicious and incredibly fresh as you can see below.

Main course dishes were exquisite. From the cedar plank roasted salmon filet with a ragout of shallot, nicoise olives, scallion and fresh veggies to the shucked lobster and pan roasted cod with braised leek sauce and Peekytoe crab salad, the seafood is fresh and out of this world, both from a taste and presentation perspective.  They also had a roasted swordfish served with a tangy Bearnaise sauce with pecan butter and parslied potatoes.

And, like nearly every seafood restaurant in New England, you can also get steamed lobster, which was served with potatoes. Most New England restaurants offer potatoes of some sort or corn on the cob with their steamed lobster, depending on the place and grade of restaurant.  If I’m at an ocean-side restaurant, I always order a seafood dish. Since we were sampling a few dishes that night however, we also tried the Rubbed Sirloin dish, which you can have on your own OR with Panko Crusted Scallops (our recommendation). Now to make your mouth water…

Dessert offerings include warmed apple crunch with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, chocolate cake with espresso ice cream, hot fudge and crushed chocolate covered espresso beans, lemon sorbet with pecan shortbread, Coco Daniel, a coconut cake with peanut brittle ice cream, creme Anglaise drizzed with butterscotch and toasted coconut, the “Almond Joy” which is chocolate purses with coconut ice cream, creme chantilly and almonds, and a warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.

Nothing is standard here — everything on the menu is fresh and deep thought has been put into the ingredients and the process.

One of the things that really stood out for us in addition to their fine attention to detail (romantic detail) was their passion for cooking and making customers feel like they’ve had a unique experience they’ll remember for a lifetime. I loved listening to Kathy’s story about how much time she took to refine the ingredients of the Coco Daniel and after countless versions, the result is now “perfect”. I couldn’t help but feel when I tasted it that she created a mouthwatering and memorable balance — the salt versus sweet combo taste was really “just perfect.”

We loved our experience and whole heartedly give it a two thumbs up! If you’re on the Massachusetts North Shore or planning a trip there, make sure to book a reservation.


My Place by the Sea

68 Bearskin Neck

Rockport, MA 01966
(978) 546-9667


Note: We were hosted, however all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Pamper Yourself at the Princess Cruise Lotus Spa & Izumi Japanese Bath

October 10, 2014 by  


For the serenity seekers among us, imagine a luxury spa in the middle of the ocean with stunning views on all sides? Imagine that in addition to a luxury spa, you have access to heated pools, hot tubs, a gym with the very same stunning view and lots of lounge chairs for relaxing. Imagine that you can order herbal tea as easily as you can a fabulous margarita.

Sound a little more than just enticing? Then, book a cruise with Princess, and experience their Lotus Spa and their Izumi Japanese Bath which was one of my favorite things on the ship.

What’s lovely about this spa is the vast array of services on offer, from teeth whitening (yes really) to doing a detox, losing up to 8 inches of internal toxins in one session. They also have the classic massages as well as a few fun creative ones as well, such as a Bamboo Massage where they use bamboo shoots to massage your muscles, after they soak them in oil. The Aroma Spa Seaweed Massage was very detoxifying — it includes an aromatherapy body mask and wrap, after which they proceed with a more personalized massage depending on your needs, focusing on stress points on the body.

There’s a Coconut Poultice Massage, a Hot Stone Massage, a Cabana Massage (in the cabana where you experience soft ocean breezes, you can choose from Swedish, Deep Tissue, Reflexology or a Couples Massage), and the lovely exotic lime & ginger salt glow that they combine with a massage. They use Elemis Skin, nourishing milk bath and lime and ginger sea salts. It was invigorating and relaxing at the same time.

Like all top notch spas, they offer facials (pro-collagen, oxydermy, tri-enzyme resurfacing and hydralift) as well as a number of spa services. There’s a full salon on site, so you can get hair styling, Phyto hair treatments and scalp massages, conditionings, hair cuts and colorings. Or, you can get a pedicure or manicure after your individualized personalized training session in their extensive gym, the one with the fabulous views! And, apparently Lotus Spa earned the “Best Spa on a Cruise Ship” honors by Spafinder Wellness 365 .

While we’re on the topic of fabulous views, the Princess Izumi Japanese Bath has both indoor and outdoor offerings in which to pamper yourself.


The Izumi pagoda-covered outdoor hydrotherapy pool was a joy to use. Not only did it fulfill its promise to relax my entire body, but the views were spectacular while you took it all in. The Japanese bath is only available on the Diamond Princess ship so be sure to check when you book your cruise that it is available.

This additional spa feature to the Diamond Princess is nothing short of impressive. Apparently, I learned that this 8,800-square foot Izumi Japanese Bath is the only Japanese bath system at sea onboard a Western-run cruise line.

There’s the hydrotherapy pool outside as I mentioned (LOVED THIS), four whirlpools and two saunas, one more classic in its style and the other which is misted and eucalyptus-infused. They have something they refer to as Utaseyu, which are essentially massaging waterfalls and jetted showers which we loved. The men’s and women’s sections of the Izumi Japanese Bath change regularly so you can alternate and use the features included in both.

The indoor whirlpools are separated by two rooms (two in one room and two in the adjacent one), all of them facing the sea and taking in the beautiful at-sea views. While there is an extra fee to use this area, it’s nominal and worth doing a couple of times during your cruise.


Check out Princess Cruises links for more information on how to plan a cruise. They have a great website that allows you to search by destination, length, time of year and so on.

Be sure to check out other posts we wrote on the region, which include the excursions or solo trips we took of the stops on this cruise, TokyoTokyo restaurants in our Japanese Food and Japan restaurants section and hotels in our Japan Hotels (& Lodging) section, which for this trip is focused on the hotels we stayed at before and after our tour in Tokyo. There is also more information, articles, fabulous photos and videos in our Japan (Travel to Japan), Tokyo (Travel to Tokyo) and South Korea (Travel to Korea) section.

Be sure to check out our We Blog the World Spa section / top spas in the world.

Note: I was hosted by Princess Cruises however all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

The Haunted Horseman’s Hollow Takes the Legend to Its Darkest Extremes

October 10, 2014 by  


Celebrating its fifth anniversary year, Horseman’s Hollow is a haunted experience in the heart of Sleepy Hollow New York that takes the tale of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to its darkest extremes. Historic Philipsburg Manor transforms into a terrifying landscape ruled by the undead, the evil, and the insane, all serving the Headless Horseman himself.

A fabulous Halloween-themed event which is a great for kids (above age 10) takes you on a journey beyond the infamous Legend. Haunted house professional Lance Hallowell leads a crew of award-winning makeup and costume designers and a 40-member-strong cast of experienced actors to create an immersive, interactive, pleasantly terrifying experience, with state-of-the-spooky-art special effects.

Custom built set pieces and period-correct costumes help orient the experience in Philipsburg Manor’s traditional time period of the mid-1700s.

Visitors begin walking a haunted trail, stumbling upon scary scenes of a town driven mad by the Headless Horseman. The Hollow’s unfortunate inhabitants are all too ready to keep visitors from ever leaving. Creatures, human and otherwise, lurk in the shadows, ready to terrify the unsuspecting while incredible special effects disorient and unsettle. Elaborate costumes and the work of award-wining feature-film makeup artists make it all too real.

It is located at the Philipsburg Manor, 381 North Broadway (Route 9) in Sleepy Hollow New York. Horseman’s Hollow dates are Oct. 4-5, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26, 31 and Nov. 1. Tickets are $20 ($25 on Saturdays).  More information and tickets can be found here.

Additional History on Irving’s ‘Legend’:

Master storyteller Jonathan Kruk offers a dramatic re-telling of Washington Irving’s classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, featuring the Headless Horseman, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, and Katrina Van Tassel. Flavored with live spooky organ music by Jim Keyes, Kruk’s storytelling takes place in the historic, candlelit setting of the Old Dutch Church in Sleepy Hollow. The circa-1685 stone church is across the street from Philipsburg Manor, where visitors will park. Performances last about 45 minutes.

Have An Immersive Experience at Science and Nonduality in Mid-October

October 10, 2014 by  


Science and Nonduality (SAND) is a five-day immersive experience where leading scientists, spiritual teachers, philosophers, artists, and a thriving international community gather to explore a new paradigm in spirituality, one that is based on timeless wisdom traditions, informed by cutting-edge science, and grounded in direct experience.

Each year, they come together for an annual conference in the states (and one in Europe) and the result is an explosive, miraculous, healing and serene experience – yes, all at the same time. I attended this incredible event in 2012 in Northern California and this year, they are hosting it in San Jose at the Dolce Hayes Mansion on 200 Edenvale Avenue. Be sure to read my write up from the 2012 event.

Science and Nonduality provides a forum where preeminent scientists, philosophers, teachers, artists and a large, international community gather to explore and advance the new paradigm emerging in spirituality, that is both grounded in cutting-edge science and consistent with the ancient wisdom of nonduality — the deep understanding of the interconnectedness of life.

Ultimately, SAND is a playground where these different disciplines explore and share insights or simply reflect on what is emerging in consciousness. Knowing defines life, not-knowing reminds us of the mystery and perfection of each and every moment.

For those not familiar with nonduality at all, here’s a bit of background to bring you up to speed.

Nonduality is the philosophical, spiritual, and scientific understanding of non-separation and fundamental intrinsic oneness.

For thousand of years, through deep inner inquiry, philosophers and sages have came to the realization that there is only one substance and we are therefore all part of it. This substance can be called Awareness, Consciousness, Spirit, Advaita, Brahman, Tao, Nirvana or even God. It is constant, ever present, unchangeable and is the essence of all existence.

In the last century Western scientists are arriving at the same conclusion: The universe does indeed comprise of a single substance, presumably created during the Big Bang, and all sense of being – consciousness – subsequently arises from it. This realization has ontological implications for humanity: fundamentally we are individual expressions of a single entity, inextricably connected to one another, we are all drops of the same ocean.

If in the Bay Area or can be, don’t miss this incredible event. Details here where you can also buy tickets. http://www.scienceandnonduality.com/.

Photo credit: community.omtimes.com

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