About 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
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.
Recently, we headed to South Lake Tahoe for a little getaway time, to retreat from the fog of San Francisco’s summers and to see what the area was like during a busy time. First off, it had been years since I had visited Tahoe during the summer and I realized previous stints were to North Lake Tahoe where I stayed with friends who had property near the lake. Our last experience with South Lake Tahoe was in the Spring when we did a little Spring Skiing at Heavenly, which was divine. Also see my write-up on adventurous and fun things to do in Lake Tahoe in the Spring.
My first takeaway is that Tahoe is equally fun and gorgeous during the summer, but unless you have kids in tow, which we didn’t on this particular trip, I’d avoid July and August weekends since the crowds add to the traffic, detracting from the rest and relaxation factor, if that’s what you’re after that is.
While we didn’t have kids with us this trip, we ended up at a family resort largely because the summer properties were booked up during such a busy time of year. If you do have children, the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel is a viable option if you want to be in the thick of it all.
Centrally located along one of the main drags and a short walk to the lake, the Lake Tahoe Resort is South Lake Tahoe’s only all-suite lodging option. Below are a few shots of their bedrooms, which are separated off from a sitting lounge area which has a sink, separate TV, fridge and coffee maker, making it easy for family travel. Below, one of the more upscale suites but please note that not all suites are the same and during busier times, it may be harder to get one this large.
Below one of the bedrooms of a suite on the property.
Here, you can see how one of the suites is separated — if you want a ton of light, be sure to ask for a outward facing room with plenty of windows.
It is also located at the base of Heavenly Mountain Resort, so an even better option in the winter if you want to bring the family skiing. It is equally great for corporate meetings & retreats, social functions and groups since the resort is massive. If you’re after a romantic or luxurious quiet weekend away, this isn’t the place for you but if you want a large property that is close to everything and has the space you need, then this is a good choice.
There are also various size suites — if you want one of their larger premium suites (which we’d recommend — they’re also quieter as they’re on higher floors), then book early if you want to go during busy summer times. Ours was on the small size but mainly because it was a fairly last minute reservation and over a summer weekend.
Rooms include a two-room suite, free breakfast buffet, and a nightly happy hour and there is an indoor pool, hot tub and small gym with free weights and a few machines for your use — entry with with your key. Below is the Stateline Suite Bathroom — note that the bathrooms for regular suites are much smaller, so this is a great option if you can reserve it well in advance to secure it before it books up.
Below is the inside ground floor, where they have a beautiful greenery area with a pond, which is loaded with colorful fish and an active turtle. (the shot is a tad blurry since unlike the others, I shot it with my iPhone).
This is a great thing for kids to view and is located near where they serve the buffet breakfast every morning. The atrium has a Podocarpus, which has been on the property since the beginning when it stood only 8 foot tall. Now after 24 years, it stands at around 65 feet tall and reaches the bottom of their 7th Floor.
The property was originally built as an Embassy Suites, but when it changed brands, they brought more of a Tahoe feeling into the property, from Norfolk pines to Monterey Cypress. It’s a great way to teach kids about the value of nature and taking care of it.
Nearby, you can also take the kids up the Gondola for the views or to go n their new zip line course that holds up to four people. Also in easy access is golf, cruises (M.S. Dixie II or the Tahoe Queen are two great choices), or you can go bowling with the family or head to the Arcades.
For sports lovers, they have a sports bar and games are playing on TVs on a regular basis — they hand out a calendar for who’s playing when and against who. Whether you want a classic beer to view those games or one of their fabulous mixed drinks (we had the Coconut Mojito and it was divine), you’ll have a leisurely evening in or outside. They also have an usual Fruit Basil Collins which I’d recommend.
Below are some samples from the ECHO Restaurant – entrees and appetizers, which you can have for lunch or dinner. In the summer, we recommend sitting outside on the patio and watching people walk by. Our favorite? The Buffalo appetizer with mozzarella and tomatoes — the yellow tomatoes were sweet and delicious and the meat was tender! Bravo!
Our second favorite was the Lamb – below. We asked for sauce on the side, but typically they serve it over the entree. Yum!
A couple of other delicious high protein choices…..we have been staying away from carbs lately. Notice the fresh Rosemary twig!
Luxury dining and ambiance it is not, nor is it position itself that way. There are plenty of smaller more intimate restaurants in both South and North Lake Tahoe for a little quiet time, but if you want a great option with kids, then ECHO is well suited as they also have a kid’s menu you can choose from, which ranges from burgers and pizzas to sandwiches in smaller portions.
Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel
4130 Lake Tahoe Blvd.
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
We were hosted by the hotel but all opinions expressed are our own.
I’ve had plenty getaway experiences, whether they were for pure adventurous fun, to merrily eat and drink all weekend long, a romantic escape on an island or a wellness retreat. For those of you who are keen on a holistic approach to wellness, and therefore your life, keep reading, since this is one of a series of posts we’ll be writing in the coming weeks and months ahead that will be focused on what wellness really means philosophically and in the context of an experience….shall we say, a transformative one. This post focused on a transformative spa experience, et hem, the way every spa experience should be in our opinion.
When you head off to a spa, whether it’s the luxury one at home you splurge on every month or when you’re on vacation, it needs to be more than just luxurious and pampering. Pampering goes without saying, but imagine a whole lotta pampering and service, but surrounded by remote desert tranquility where the environment itself supports your system in a nurturing and balanced way.
You may recall that we had a very integrative experience at the El Conquistador Spa in Puerto Rico recently, which offered yoga outside on the lawn with sweeping views and a series of holistic experiences. We love resorts that think about their spa as a holistic part of a guest’s stay, not just a separate building that offers facials and massages. Meet another such A+ property in an entirely different environment in the great American West. While in Puerto Rico, we were surrounded by ocean breezes, margaritas and infinity pools, at the Ritz Carlton in Dove Mountain, we were surrounded by some of the rawest desert nature you’ll ever encounter in the United States. And, it was absolutely beautiful!
Because it’s dry heat, if you suffer from arthritis or achy joints and pains, your body will love the low humidity in this decadent southern Arizona resort. Roughly a 45 minute drive from Tucson in the south, you’ll soon escape the urban shopping scene and be greeted by some of the largest cactus you’ve ever seen. I lived in Arizona for a stint of my life and have been to Phoenix and Sedona countless times over the years, but have never been so taken away by the size of the cactus that sprawls in all directions.
I think that the nature which surrounds a spa (if not in a city center) is a critical part of your spa experience. The air, the sun or lack of it, the kinds of trees and soils…..all play into what kind of experience you’ll have at the spa, perhaps including what products they’re most inspired by. There’s no doubt spas have used very different products during my treatments in Fiji than they did in Germany or Massachusetts.
If you’re worried about the dry heat, try to relish in it, even if you have dry skin. The Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain property has both a dry sauna and a fairly large steam room — put a little Mexican arginine oil in your hair and wrap it up for the afternoon and coat your skin with some luscious hydrating moisturizers and sip on a cocktail while you wait for a treatment. They have a lovely inside relaxation room with lemon and rosemary infused water and herbal teas or two areas outside — the pool itself which has comfy outdoor beds and cabanas or a smaller same sex area where there’s a hot tub and access to both the steam room and sauna.
A stone’s throw away, you can be hiking around the resort to take in the majestic cactus, many of which are well over 100 years old, and then return to an enclave that is quietly surreal, even when the resort has a lot of family bookings. The lovely thing about the resort is that while it attracts many families, Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain has an adult only outdoor pool behind the natural stone walls of its spa on the opposite side of the property.
So, even for busy mom’s who want to escape to a l’il serenity while they have kids and hubby in tow, the Dove Mountain spa is waiting. You’ll notice at the spa pool, you are surrounded by beautiful and pure nature in every direction — it reminded me a bit of Enchantment Resort and Spa in Sedona, which apparently sits on land that is part of a vortex, believed by many to be a very healing and transformative experience. I have found Arizona to be very soothing in many ways over the years, as evidenced from friends who have fled to its desert land for its healing properties to my grandfather who moved our family to Yuma for a year for the sun and heat following grandmother’s cancer treatments.
Because it’s an adult only pool, you’ll find women here lapping up all the serenity the spa has to offer (I can’t be sure, but it appeared that there was a women’s weekend getaway on-site when we were there), or couples getting quiet time away from their otherwise hectic lives. It’s a place where you can escape reality for awhile, so much so, that you may find yourself leaving that laptop packed in your carry-on luggage. We did!
I have to admit, I loved the outdoor beds — they were private, cushioned and incredibly comfy. There’s nothing more relaxing than sipping a cold ice tea or a Pina Colada on a hot summer day when there’s an inviting pool within a few feet. The other lovely thing about Dove Mountain’s spa pool is that it’s natural salt water, rather than chlorinated water. Even though it wasn’t fresh water, I spotted a little bird taking a quick sip at the poolside edge one afternoon.
They also have a fabulous salt water jacuzzi at the spa pool, which has a cascading waterwall – oh so lovely for the sore muscles and joints. I found it hard to get out of the hot tub on more than one occasion.
Shortly before we left on our trip, I received Tommy Bahama and Sauvage swimsuits and cover-ups, so what a better place to test them out than at a luxurious spa pool, and so I did — I wore a different one each day! I’ve never understood people who only own one swimsuit — it’s like only owning one pair of jeans.
It’s great to have choices. For heartier water play like this one, a Tankini is perfect! I’m a huge fan of both swimsuit brands and happened to notice that the on-site gift shop had a soft pastel rainbow cover-up by Tommy Bahama in the window and my above navy blue Tankini top in a deep rich purple and white.
Below, I’m in a Tommy Bahama vintage map cover-up which has a matching swimsuit that goes with it. I’m soaking up the sun at one of the spa pool outdoor beds where you can relax for the day and read a book.
Below I’m in a Sauvage cover-up, which is well matched with their two piece turquoise spider swim suit as well as any of their chic and sexy all black ones with the gold trim. The spa pool area is incredibly private and very relaxing!
The other thing worth noting is that the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain resort has an extensive Fitness Center on-site, which is larger than most 5 star resort gyms. Equipment includes Cardiovascular & Strength Training which you can do in the gym itself or nearby studio, which they use for classes, including yoga. There’s Elliptical trainers, Stationary bikes, Treadmills, Free weights, Weight training machines, and a Movement Studio. I’ve never understood hotels and resorts who limit when you can use the gym — it should be 24/7 since everyone’s body clock and schedule is different. I was thrilled to learn that they allow access anytime of day with your room key. A huge plus!
Every day, they offer Yoga, Pilates, H.I.I.T., and Zumba. We had a private yoga class while we were there, largely because we wanted the individual treatment. I still have a nagging shoulder and neck issue, so it was great to get personal recommendations on different poses I could do for ones I still find particularly tough, like Downward Dog, which is a staple of nearly every yoga practice.
We also opted for a full body assessment by one of their advanced trainers. It’s not a whole lotta fun learning what your optimal body fat percentage is, but it’s important to know what it is if you’re going to make any vital changes in your diet and exercise regiment. We thought it was a great offering by the Ritz Carlton spa and fitness team.
Part one is measurement in a process called Accu-Measure, which is a way to test your personal body fat. Since the majority of fat on the body is located directly under the skin, a practical way to measure your body fat percentage is skinfold measurement. The Accu-Measure caliper is designed to make this a very simple and accurate procedure that you can perform on yourself.
The trainer took measurements of various parts of my body, including my waist, arms, thighs, hips, bust and so on. We did a variation of “the skin pinch” method — while the trainer did measure various parts of our body, she measured a set number of inches based on a formula and then used a tape measure to capture the data.
Then, you have to squeeze a machine after the fact, which has an input of your weight, height and age.
The next step is SWEAT!! We both had to perform a number of exercises, including push-ups, sit-ups and stretches. OY!! It was great to get a benchmark however…again, useful if you’re watching your diet, what you do for exercise and how often.
I’d recommend doing as much of your swimming and sun worshipping during the first leg of your trip and on the day before you’re slated to leave, book a few back-to-back spa treatments, which will help to relax your muscles and most importantly, re-hydrate your skin.
The entrance to the spa itself is very modern, with clean simple designs throughout the lobby area. The great thing about the above spa pool which I reference again and again because it’s so fabulous, is that there’s a private entrance to it from the spa, making it a quiet escape from the larger outdoor pools on the property which tends to get traffic from a lot of families. (there’s a fabulous water slide btw, which we took advantage of).
Once you’re inside the spa, be prepared to be surprised. It’s relaxing, meditative and nurturing, whether you’re spending time reading a magazine or book after your salt water swim, or whether you’re waiting in the relaxation room for one of their many treatments on offer.
The ambiance is blissfully serene in more ways than one….
I had a lovely facial which was regenerative in nature and included anti-aging oxidants and creams. You can choose to have your treatment in either an indoor or outdoor treatment room, and there’s an over-sized treatment suite for couples and small groups – complete with a private fireplace and courtyard. As noted, the luscious serenity pool terrace where guests are able to view ancient Native American carvings in nearby rocks.
The official name for it is age defense facial, which is the most effective treatment for aging skin: This treatment stimulates collagen production in the skin to strengthen and improve elasticity. It is designed to deliver results that reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots for a dramatically healthier, stronger, and more radiant looking skin. They also have a deep pore cleansing facial and a signature facial as well as one specifically geared to men.
We both had the HOT STONE MASSAGE, a treatment I’ve always been a fan of over the years, but not all spas offer it. Here, they call it a Hohokam Stone Massage, which is based on Native American traditions. Warm (I’d say closer to hot) mineral-rich basalt stones are used to give your body-earth energy.
I love this treatment. The therapist warms your muscles up by placing them in areas where you’re most tight and then using a soothing oil, she works your tightest areas — she was able to go deeper because of the heat. I felt more than just a little revitalized after this treatment — how about renewed? Perhaps transformed is more appropriate.
They offer Reflexology and an Indigo Herbal Poultice which a synergy of warm, steamed herbal poultice used with Royal Thai and traditional massage techniques. This massage channels the healing power of indigo, used traditionally by Native American shamans to treat muscle aches and pains.
Something I wish I had time for, but perhaps on a future visit, is the Detox Body Wrap. This purifying treatment helps remove body toxins and discourages water retention. They start with a detoxifying oil massage which is then followed by an exquisitely warm body wrap which is designed to subtly tighten the skin an detoxify the tissues leaving you with a renewed sense of vitality. BLISS!
On the grounds, within a stone’s throw from the spa and immediately out the wooden door that greets the pool, lies desert – raw, pure desert. It’s peaceful and tranquility at the best, which is an essential and integral aspect to holistic living and healing. We had fun romping around in the glorious hot dry heat, a godsend for anyone from the East Coast who is accustomed to hot sticky humid summer days.
Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain Spa
15000 N Secret Springs Drive
Note: we were hosted by the resort but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.
From August 11-15, 2015, the second annual Los Angeles Photo Festival will host Concept: Turkey, a major exhibition of recent Turkish street photography. Launched in 2014, the festival celebrates photography and its unique ability to translate culture into a single language.
A panel of six judges has selected a total of 35 pieces for inclusion in the gallery. These works delve into Turkey’s regional traditions and social issues, and together serve as important documentation of contemporary Turkish culture. Guests are encouraged to participate in the Art Walk Special Event, held on August 13, 2015 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., where they can enjoy the artists’ work and indulge in wines from the Turkish-owned winery Sevtap, the 2015 California Travel Association’s “Winery of the Year.”
Images will be presented from over 35 photographers, promoting diversity and cultural understanding in the United States. This opportunity is suited for a variety of tastes, from art enthusiasts and culturists to anyone wishing to learn more about contemporary Turkey.
It will be held at the Hatakeyama Gallery, 905 S Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90015.
Photo credit: www.petersommer.com.
I’ve been wanting to expand our luggage reviews for awhile now. We first started out doing a lot of tech products (and well, we still do given my 20 years of experience in the tech world), but when you think of the kinds of products (and accessories) which can be transformative on the road, luggage is certainly high on the list for most of us. Truth be told, luggage never used to be important to me. In other words, it wasn’t a priority as long as it was big enough and didn’t have a hole in it.
I love luxurious products and am a fan of all things elegant and yet, with luggage, it was always purely functional for me for some reason. Purses…..well, that’s an entirely different story! Now that I’ve experienced and am using high end luggage lines on a regular basis, there’s no question that it matters….and, it matters a lot.
Older style wheels are pathetic and draining to say the least. Imagine walking the full length of Dallas, Paris or Chicago airports dragging two heavy pieces of luggage on small non-rotatable wheels. It’s not only laborious, but by the time you arrive at your gate, you’re exhausted and possibly even sweating from the effort. Travel needs to be seamless and the more airlines and product companies targeting the travek industry can do to make the traveler’s life seamless, the more likely we’ll be brand loyal.
Most of the top end luggage brands today have made major upgrades to their wheels. I discovered Briggs & Riley one day by accident well over a year ago now when I was doing some research online about something not pertaining to travel OR luggage. Elegantly designed colors jumped off the page and I fell in love with a red commuter bag in their Transcend line; it had four double swivel wheels for effortless 360° navigation too.
As I then started flipping through their luggage choices and other collections, it was the Transcend line that made the biggest impression, at least initially, because, hey, I’m a fan of glorious color. I had been wanting to test out a few carry on roller bags since my earlier reviews primarily focused on large and small accompanied checked bags. Alas, Transcend also had a carry-on wheeler bag in RED, but the carry-on didn’t have those easy-to-navigate swivel wheels. It’s a beauty regardless….
Then I came across the Rolling Cabin Bag from Briggs & Riley’s Baseline collection and they had an elegant soft olive green, perfect for a woman who loves clean streamlined design, sophisticated colors and functionality. Their rolling cabin bag has effortless 360° navigation of four double swivel wheels, all rolled into one. It’s perfect for carrying on board and laying flat under your seat or in the overhead compartment. And so, I opted for this one because of its state-of-the-art wheels and neutral but pretty color choice. If I had my druthers, I’d love to see them come out with the above design from Transcend in a rich Victorian Blue with the four double swivel wheels as a carry-on roller. Even as a fashionista luxury travel gal, I love having a side stretch pocket for a bottle of water or juice while running to my gate.
I opted for the more flexible blue color which can go with more outfits and match more bag combos — I have a few checked luggage in blue that I love! Be sure to check out some of the other great performing luggage brands I have reviewed: Heys, Samsonite, TravelPro and Kipling.
While we’re talking about “blues” and great colors for female travelers, I have to be honest – I LOVE the vivid blue of the new Briggs & Riley Sympatico shopping tote. It makes for a perfect personal piece when headed to your next destination and is ever so stylish. While it does coordinate perfectly with the same color Sympatico hard spinner, you could also mix and match and go with one blue and one burgundy piece and let’s be honest, either color goes really well with black as well.
The tote is made out of a lightweight Micro Nylon outer fabric which resists wear, water, dirt and abrasion, is 13.5 inches by 18.5 inches by 7.5 inches in size and is priced at $119.00. It only started shipping to the public in mid-July of this year, so it’s a newer line and oh so fun! I feel fortunate to have gotten one of the first ones on the market.
For the male travelers among us, the blue and black make great options for hard spinner options and Briggs & Riley has plenty of options with a variety of bold colors and if you’re not as courageous as us fashionistas, you can always get a more neutral or black color from nearly any collection they have.
Note: the folks at B&R sent me product to review but all opinions expressed are my own.
For the sports minded among you, no doubt, you have experienced pain over the years from an injury or overuse, whether that be from playing basketball, tennis, golf or simply doing too much in the back garden. As an avid traveler knows, you’re also lifting heavy bags even if you’re smart enough to own luggage with the advanced wheels that ride smoothly alongside you. Ultimately, there’s always some lifting involved on the road or at home.
Let’s face it – a big part of what I do on a daily basis is write, whether that be articles about travel or great products or writing plans and content for clients. If you don’t have a desk job, you will likely be using your limbs differently, perhaps more rigorously. The other thing activity which has increased over the last five years is cell phone use — it’s hard to get away from demands placed on us when people have the ability to text and email us wherever we happen to be; the pressure to respond immediately is astonishing. Every day at the gym, there are women in their twenties who bring their cell phones into the sauna with them – their thumbs flailing up and down vigorously as if the respond must be made instantly. Then, it should be no surprise that people’s arms, hands and fingers — particularly thumbs — are feeling beaten up.
Photo credit: Healthcarezone.net.
While I’m a huge fan of using dictation software and in fact, am testing out the latest version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking on my laptop and regularly use Siri on my iPhone, we’re still forced into repetitive motion with our hands and arms regardless of what we do for a living. Writing aside, like many of my fellow avid travelers, I am never far from my Canon 7D, which is heavy on the shoulder, particularly if you’re in love with the numerous lenses like I am. Shooting, particularly wildlife and sports events, requires a steady hand in one position, often in a situation when you can’t rest your arms.
And, so here we are. I realized after having discussions with others on the road, that arm and hand pain was more common than I thought. This led me to doing a little research on what solutions could be helpful. Certainly, you want to have an ergonomic keyboard and mouse when you’re not on the road (we’d like to explore what’s on the market in a future review — I am using a fairly outdated Logitech keyboard now), and you want your desk setup to be the proper height and distance from your monitor so you’re not over straining your arms.
I’m a huge believer in acupuncture also and as mine so rightfully points out, your limbs need to experience different motion than the repetitive motion it gets all day long. It may be tougher to incorporate ergonomic setups and regular acupuncture or massage appointments when you’re on the road, but certainly in the southeast Asia, alternative health options are plentiful and easy to find.
Photo credit: Hughston.
Since I do type and text a lot — see our Instagram feed if you want to see just how much I love mobile photography — I have a fabulous ergonomic system set up at home base, but when I’m traveling, like most of you, there’s no easy way around it. There are props and small devices that might alleviate pain and strain that could easily be packed into your suitcase and while we don’t explore “props” in this review, we are going to look at a series of products by 3 Point, which I found in my research as having a very comprehensive offering, from alleviating arm and elbow pain to hands and thumb issues.
Friends and doctors have suggested picking up a support splint at a drug store like CVS or Walgreens, but the solutions I tried didn’t do the trick. After 20 minutes, my hand was in more pain than before I put it on. The problem with many over the counter solutions is that they’re often cheaply made and not really suited for specific issues, but moreso to be a “catch all” which does have its purpose.
When I’m traveling, I suffer from shoulder pain since I often carry a bag that is heavier than my purse, loaded down with Canon camera gear and lenses. I also have to lift my carry on bag to the overhead bin in airplanes and I need to work from hotel rooms, where my ergonomic setup is sadly far far away. For travelers who have similar patterns, the level of support needs for you may range from tennis elbow and wrist and thumb pain from writing, shooting photos and simply carrying too much gear.
The 3 Point Elbow Wrap is a great solution for tennis elbow or golf elbow for the golfers among us. They also have a product called Wrist Control, which is more suitable for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Fully cushioned, their Wrist Control Splint offers moderate support to rest and relieve pain from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and wrist pain. Below is the Elbow Wrap which comes in black or this lovely soft gray color. The wrap should fit snugly on the forearm just below the elbow joint as shown below.
The 3pp Elbow Wrap works by compressing the muscles and tendons to help relieve pain in your elbow from twisting or lifting motions. As mentioned above, it is used for Tennis Elbow (lateral epicondylitis),Golfer’s Elbow (medial epicondylitis), cumulative trauma disorders or tendinitis, which an increasing number of travelers I know suffer from.
The Elbow Wrap consists of a base sleeve and two straps for adjustable tension — it can be trimmed with scissors if needed. It comes in a small/medium and a medium/large size. I now wear it when I’m at the keyboard for long periods of time and when I’m traveling with a ton of gear in tow. Since it took me awhile to figure out exactly how to “fit it” properly so that it was providing me with the right kind of pressure, I thought I’d include their video so you can see how to correctly put it on and what the pressure should feel like. What I love about the product, is its soft material and flexibility, so it’s comfortable to wear, unlike so many over-the-counter options. It is also very light and small, so easy to throw in your luggage for short or long trips.
Then, there’s the soft 3pp ThumSpica wrap-on splint, which supports your wrist and thumb to relieve pain from tendonitis or overuse problems. The3pp ThumSpica is used to treat DeQueryain’s tenosynovitis, Gamekeeper’s thumb and CMC joint arthritis. Gentle compression provides control while allowing full hand function – see below. It also comes in a nice soothing to the eye soft gray color. You don’t have to have one of these conditions to get relief however; for those of us who text often or are often on our cell phones using our main finger and thumb frequently for scrolling and navigating, it might be helpful and provide some support.
Since I’m on the phone a lot navigating through social media threads, my thumb takes a beating, even if I use Siri’s voice control and dictation, which I increasingly do more and more. Like the wrist wrap, it’s lightweight and easy to pack in your luggage. Out of all the products in the round-up I decided to review, I probably use this product the most. Why? It’s COMFORTABLE and soft, and easy to slip on and off when you need to. It also gives my hand the added support I need when I may not need the full support of a wrist control support product like the one I discuss below.
Not all wrist splints are created equal. Meet the 3pp Wrist Control, which is designed to fit securely so it can best work to relieve the pain and tingling of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and to rest conditions of the wrist. It is used for tendinitis, cumulative trauma, wrist sprains and strains, whether that be from sports or overuse.
Softly cushioned (a great feature of all their products is the flexibility in design), this splint features a single supporting stay in the palm to protect the wrist and hold it in proper alignment. The Wrist Control is carefully contoured to avoid pressure on the thumb and allow full finger motion. It is easy to apply D-ring straps which provide closure to hold the wrist securely for control and comfort. Three separate straps allow for a custom fit and easy adjustment for changes in wrist circumference throughout the day. Below are views of the front and back — again, I applaud them for providing a little color to a product that is normally only available in a bland tan (gets dirty too easily) or a masculine black.
It provides decent support but because it’s more flexible than others I’ve tested, I don’t feel like I’m fastened in so tight that its impossible to do my work — this was one of the things I liked most about this product. It’s also so attractive that you don’t feel adverse to wearing it in public locations. I felt moderate relief from using it, particularly when at a keyboard for awhile.
The material is elastomeric foam, nylon and Lyrca — it contains no latex. You can wash their products in cold water with a mild detergent. They recommend air drying them and say do NOT place in dryer. Good point to note in advance.
Bottom line, I’d be surprised if any product gave you complete pain relief . The best you can hope for is healthy support while being comfortable AND relief when you need it most. I found the thumb support to be useful when I’m overdoing it on a mobile phone — anyone who texts a lot knows how painful this is over time. I love the fact that as a traveler, the 3 Points Products are flexible and can fold, so you can easily pack them in your main luggage or even in your carry on bag.
Specializing in splints and supports for hands and feet, 3-Point Products and splints help treat Thumb Arthritis, Mallet Finger, Trigger Finger, Tennis or Golfer’s Elbow and foot conditions such as Hammertoes, Plantar Fasciitis and more. The company was founded by an occupational therapist and orthotist (brace maker) and their team has 30+ years of clinical experience.
Note that the above overview of these products are merely written from my own personal experience and I am not making any medical claims whatsoever nor making a recommendation for a condition. I was simply looking for a solution to alleviate pain while at the keyboard and overuse when traveling and at more severe times at home. I have also been getting acupuncture, which I love and highly recommend as an integral part of any holistic health regime (it’s very relaxing and calms your soul so useful for those of you with no pain issues at all). Acupuncture has also been a great alleviator of short term pain relief in my case.
The review of this product is entirely from a non-medical perspective. It is advised that you first consult with a healthcare professional or specialist who can do an examination for a correct diagnosis and recommended treatment plan, including, if appropriate the right type of splint/brace recommended for your condition.
You can find out how to get these products and others they offer online at www.ohmyarthritis.com/.
If you travel and in particular love adventure travel, no doubt you have plenty of gear. I know I certainly do and I live in a small abode in San Francisco, so don’t have the luxury of space that many may have if they live in more rural areas or a suburb.
Let’s be honest — the basement, closets and attic overflow with stuff that you collect over the years. Your patio or backyard could look neater. One of the things that occurred to me as I started visiting friends for barbecues earlier this summer is how many people didn’t either cover their gear or if they did, the covers looked dingy, as if they were falling apart and frankly, unattractive — in other words, they didn’t all look like the lovely visual you see below, where the covers blend in with the environment and are matched with the furniture itself.
When you leave home on a trip, it’s important to cover your gear so it’s protected from rain and other climatic ailments when you’re gone — even in the summer. Rain rusts your gear and I’ve noticed, even after staining and putting weather resistant slabs on my outdoor wooden tables, its pealing back and starting to rot. Wood needs protection. Metal needs protection. Steel needs protection. We’ve all been there. Even if we have covers, we might get lazy at times and forget to cover up our gear and furniture. Some of you may have found covers in a local hardware store or Home Depot because it might seem like the simplest thing to do.
I realized that even though my grill at home was under a covered area and even had a cover for it, it was ugly, beaten up and I rarely wanted to use it. I wondered how big of an issue it was for others who travel a lot and had even more gear and outdoor furniture than I had.
In my research, I came across CLASSIC ACCESSORIES, which seemed to have a boatload of covers that protected everything from boats, fishing, golf, garage, patio (chairs, chaise, umbrella, fire pit, love seats, tables and more) to pet beds, RVs, summer gear and toys. Whoahh Nelly! I found that I couldn’t stop browsing their site.
We had mocked up a cover for our heat lamp (you need one if you live in San Francisco) which started flapping in the wind, annoying and ineffective at best. If you have durable and reliable covers that LOOKS great, you’ll want to proactively cover your gear and it won’t be an afterthought.
Take a look at this attractive blue/gray slate colored Heat Lamp Cover in a two-tone style that fits well and isn’t an eyesore for you or your neighbors. The Classic Accessories StorageSaver system includes an attached stuff sack which makes storing easy. Also, the tough but lightweight weather-resistant fabric takes up less space when not in use. The drawstring in hem ensures a tight, clean fit and a stylish silhouette and the covered vents reduce moisture buildup and prevent cover from ballooning. The model below fits heaters up to 95”H x 34” DIA dome with 18.5” DIA round base although there are plenty of size options for most of their covers.
One of the things I really love about Classic Accessories lines is how many options they had to choose from — not just for different types of gear, but color choices AND varying degrees of durability, which is a huge factor if you want the covers to last for awhile. Take a look at the Hickory Grill Cover below, which comes in tough Weather 10 Fabric which is really rugged, weather protected and also looks great.
The Weather 10 fabric features a rugged fabric top with a protective water-repellent and wipe-clean PVC undercoating. The heavy-duty fabric and tough interlocking seams that they use add strength and durability, making it a great choice for Weber, Charbroil, Jennair, Cuisinart & Napoleon and other propane and natural gas grills. There are air vents which reduce inside condensation and wind lofting and padded handles for easy fitting and removal. ( I LOVE their handles)!
The other thing I love is the elastic hem cord with a toggle allows adjustment for a tight and custom fit and their click-close straps which snap over legs. Also, the material and the look-and-feel is “classic.” In other words, their covers are tasteful and beautifully designed. Have a look at a close up of the above cover to get an idea of the level of detail in their stitching and design.
This is apparently a Classic Accessories customer favorite, largley for its fashionable design, durability and extensive collection of covers. The Veranda line features heavyweight Gardelle woven polyester fabric and special water-repellent and resistant undercoating. Like the grill cover, it has tough Weather 10 fabric and a protective dark splash guard skirt (useful and not all covers provide this feature).
Air vents reduce inside condensation and wind lofting and they have padded handles for easy fitting and removal as well as an elastic hem cord with a toggle allows adjustment for a tight and custom fit and click-close straps. This one covers with a 3 Year Warranty — each cover offers a warranty but they differ in length depending on the durability of the style you choose and which line.
A few other fire pit cover styles to give you an idea of their diversity of range.
Okay, so you may not have a fire pit, but nearly everyone has a love seat and Classic Accessories offers a wide range of choices from color and shades to style and durability. I fell in love with their Hickory Series, which again offers an attractive style with rugged material in a neutral color that will go with most patios or backyards. In my research, I hated the fact that so many other cover manufacturers only provided covers in black or that dark masculine green that is so common (and boring….)
Like their other products, their love seat covers are made with the Weather 10 fabric, a protective water-repellent, wipe-clean PVC undercoating,and tough interlocking seams for additional strength and durability. Regular features as already noted include their air vents, padded handles, elastic hem cord with a toggle allows adjustment for a tight and custom fit and click-close straps snap over legs to secure cover on windy days. I can’t praise the click-close straps enough, especially for a love seat. They also have a few different sizes too depending on your set, allowing you to choose a snugger one for a better fit. We made the mistake of getting one that is too large for the love seat and should have gone with a small size, so be sure to measure your furniture and gear correctly before ordering.
Other gear you have may be oddly shaped so it’s easier for a cover to stay put when the wind is up, however for a fairly square structure, it makes it so much easier for your cover to simply fly off. I started to use this cover for a love seat on the front patio which gets excessive wind on a regular basis — I don’t even need to secure all of the straps — one or two will easily do the trick to keep the cover securely fitted and in place. I LOVE this feature!
A few other designs to give you an idea of colors, two-tone options and styles. If you read this site enough, you know how much of a fan I am about color choices! Bravo team at Classic Accessories!!
They have durable bags and accessories for carrying firewood.
They tout themselves as animal lovers and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they have plenty of gear and covers for dog owners — for inside the car, a very cool folding dog bowl, which is GREAT for long road trips with your pets. They even have a kennel jacket for transporting your dogs from A to B, all of which are godsends for travelers who don’t want to leave their dogs home.
Since it’s summer, many of us spend time on lakes and oceans. The Classic Accessories folks also offer pontoon boats and float tubes where they’re proud of their attention to detail that demonstrates that they understand the demands of the sport.
TWO THUMBS UP – we love the wide range Classic Accessories has to offer, with its diverse colors and varying degrees of durability.
All stock photos from the Classic Accessories website.
Italy is one of my favorite places in the world, and while I love the busy city breaks of Milan, Venice and Rome, nothing quite beats a week exploring the beautiful Italian lakes. Out of the lakes I have visited so far (Maggiore, Como and Garda), Lake Garda is my favourite. Whilst it is the biggest lake and naturally comes with plenty of tourists, it also offers plenty of activities and attractions to keep you busy, as well as the beautiful lake front to just sit and take a breather from time to time. If you want to plan a bit before you go I found this explore Lake Garda page on the Thomson Lakes site that was pretty useful. There’s enough to do in Lake Garda that you could go back year after year and never get bored but if you’re just after the basics, here are my favourite things to do.
Hire a Car & Road Trip Around the Lake
There are so many towns and fishing villages to explore in Lake Garda, I think it’s a shame to not see or visit as many as possible during your trip. The distance around the lake is around 100 miles long, meaning that driving from town to town doesn’t actually take too long (although watch out for traffic in peak summer!). The last two times I’ve done this, I’ve booked hotels in three towns per week stay; that way I got at least a full day in each town, plus I had time to stop off in smaller villages during the drive. As well as experiencing the different quirks of each town, road tripping allows you to see the lake from every angle, including a beautiful close up view of the Dolomites which you wouldn’t get if you stuck to the east.
Take a Cable Car up to Monte Baldo…
Malcesine is one of my favourite towns on the east side of the lake. It’s a small town but very picturesque, with its medieval streets and very own castle, Castello Scaligero. Malcesine lies on the lake shore, and behind is the beautiful Mount Baldo ridge which can be reached by cable car from the town. Once you’re at the top, you can explore the trails to the left and right, both which have unbelievable views of Lake Garda and its surrounding mountains. There are also a few cafes to stop at if you want to rest and soak in the scenery.
There are many sports which Lake Garda hosts but paragliding has to be my absolute favourite! With a wide selection of mountains to paraglide down (we went with a company called Fly2Fun) but Monte Baldo has to be my absolute favourite for the views. It’s a 1,700 metre drop which is terrifying but completely exhilarating; there is honestly no other feeling like it. If you’re an expert paraglider you can choose to do it alone, but for novices like myself, tandem paragliding (with an instructor) is still an unbelievable experience.
Enjoy a Gelato on the Lake Front
While there is tonnes of things to do in Lake Garda, one of my favourite pass times is simply to enjoy the peace with a book in one hand and an authentic Italian gelato in the other. My favourite gelato place in Bardolino is Gelateria Cristallo as it is literally on the lakeside, and there is a huge range of delicious flavours of ice cream to choose from – I’ve tried most and genuinely can’t choose a favourite! If you arrive in the early afternoon and want to spend a few hours or so watching the world go by, their pizzas are also incredible.
Enjoy the Rides at Gardaland Park
Although Gardaland Park can be massively overcrowded; if you go outside of June and July you’re in for such a fun day! The rides are brilliant – much better than any theme park I’ve visited in the UK, and there’s a huge variety, with enough loops, steep drops and water rides to suit everyone’s needs. They also have an app that, if you’re happy to use your phone abroad, gives you the real life queue times for each ride so you can pick and choose on convenience, and the park is open until around 10.30pm so you can easily fit all the rides in in one full day.
Have a Picnic in Brenzone
Most Lake Garda towns are extremely tourist-oriented, which is why I love driving and spending a day in the district of Brenzone. Many of the towns are quiet, peaceful and tourist free as they lack accommodation, making it the perfect day trip out away from crowds. The district is on the east, bordering on to Mount Baldo and as such has some of the most beautiful wooded mountain trails I’ve visited. The beaches in Brenzone are beautiful too, made of beautiful contrasting white sand and sparkling emerald water. My favourite thing to do is grab some Italian meats, bread and olives from local shops and spend the morning hiking, then have a picnic in the afternoon on the beach when it gets too hot to move.
Surf the Wind
After paragliding, my favorite Lake Garda sport has to be windsurfing. The conditions are perfect and if you do fall into the water, it’s at least warm and you’ll dry off pretty quickly. There are plenty of water sports businesses around the lake, so you can pretty much go wherever you’re staying, and depending on your skill level you can take a class, go as a group, or just hire the equipment. A few hours windsurfing really builds up an appetite, meaning you can find a good quality restaurant and splurge on pizza and dessert no matter what time of the day it is.
The above post was provided by guest partner Thompson Lakes.
Photo credits: https://pixabay.com/en/