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
Set in a historic neo-Classical building overlooking Prague Castle, the AVA Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Prague is all things decadent. You might think that the spa offerings would be not unlike what you’d find at any Four Seasons spa around the world, however given the historical connection to thermal baths in Karlovy Vary, a great wellness travel escape less than two hours from Prague, the AVI Spa offers thermal baths as part of their spa offerings.
AVA features five treatments rooms, including a couple’s suite, spa bath and a vitality pool in addition to separate steam and sauna rooms and a lounge area. They use natural water and mineral rich products, offer exclusive facial and body treatments with moor muds, and use three cosmetics lines: Omorovicza, Sodashi and Swiss Perfection. Since I went for a massage over the Mandarin Hotel Spa and had tried the classic thermal baths at the Imperial in Karlovy Vary, I decided to opt for a facial, a great choice I felt given their wide variety of anti-aging choices and products.
From the oh so luxurious and elegant lobby area, it’s not as easy as you’d think to find the spa when I asked a bellman to direct me. “First time here?” he asked. “Yup,” I nodded. Apparently, the spa has been expanded, so much so that it’s on an upper floor and in its own wing. Just so I wouldn’t get lost, I blindly followed him up the elevator as he escorted me to the spa reception desk.
Located in three Old Town buildings featuring baroque and renaissance styles, this ever so refined 5 star property is less than a minute’s walk from a metro station and a mere five minutes’ walk from the Charles Bridge. For those interested in staying here, the rooms can best be described as sophisticated with marble bathrooms; and many rooms having chandeliers or vaulted ceilings. Opulent suites add living areas, and some include additional bedrooms. There’s a modern-chic Italian bar/restaurant as well as a fitness center on-site.
Since I was running a little late, I quickly dressed into the white terry robe they gave me and settled into a cushy chair in the waiting lounge.
There are lots of ‘fine’ details throughout the spa, from the lounge areas to the treatment rooms themselves, and like most Czech-based spas, they take pride in using many natural ingredients.
I’m a huge fan of loose leaf tea was was thrilled to see that they offered it and would prepare a pot of tea for you with some assorted almonds, dried fruit and biscuits.
The treatment rooms are bright and airy but elegant and luxe…
Since they offer a few different product lines, they have a nice array of offerings for anti-aging facials. One such treatment is called a Cellular Lift Concept, which is a five-step lifting treatment that works on firmness, sagging and wrinkles. It naturally lifts the skin and brings long term benefits. They also offer something they refer to as a Cellular Hydrating Rejuvination, which also targets wrinkles, but through hydration and product that helps with irregular skin texture to leave the skin feeling smooth and rejuvenated. There’s also a Cellular Brightening Radiance Facial (gotta love the name), which direct targets the cells responsible for hyper-pigmentation. It is designed to specifically lighten dark spots, leaving you with an even and brighter complexion. I tried a facial they refer to as PURE RADIANCE, which uses the Sodashi product line. It both softens and exfoliates in the beginning and then uses a nurturing face mask rich in herbal extracts to purify and hydrate the skin. Sodashi Plant Essence Synergies will leave your skin feeling revitalized and fresh. I felt as if my skin had a better overall glow afterwards and my skin was tighter than when I arrived, always a good thing.
Sodashi also offers a Samadara ULTIMATE Age-Defying Facial which in hindsight, I wished I tried. They give you a Rose Quartz Crystal facial massage followed by the line’s Age-Defying Crème to deeply penetrate the skin for maximum gain. It’s also a bit longer than the standard facials, giving you more treatment time as well.
Of course, they have body treatments, offer pedicures and manicures, have a fitness center on-site as well as a sauna inside the men and women’s changing rooms. And, if you do want to do one of those traditional Czech-inspired healing baths, they offer them — the water is enhanced with essential oils and flower petals. Signature rituals include body wraps, a La Boheme Massage with uses linden blossom oil and is apparently very detoxifying and those inspired by Karlovy Vary tradition as mentioned above. You can also go for a body scrub and massage combo or something they refer to as a Signature DETOX. In this treatment, they start you off in a Rhassoul Steam Bath, then move onto a full body exfoliation, followed by a pink clay mask. The idea is to stimulate your lymphatic system using essential essences of juniper berry, lemon and cypress during the full body massage. The spa offers lovely salt therapy exfoliant procedures as well where they use organic green tea salt or vanilla and sandalwood.
My favorite part of the experience however, was AVA’s vitality pool which has a wide variety of massage jets and accessories for the ultimate hydrotherapy. And, it was dead quiet when I was there so only had to share the pool with one other person. Pure bliss!
Four Seasons Prague & AVA Spa
Veleslavínova 1098/2a, 110 00
Praha 1 – Staré Město, Czech Republic |
Useful Articles and Links for Spa & Wellness Travel in the Czech Republic
- Head to Karlovy Vary for its Healing Thermal Springs & Storyland-Like Walks
- Discover Heavenly Spa Town Marianske Lazne in the Heart of Bohemia
- Wellness Travel: Danubius Health Spa Resort in Mariánské Lázně
- Chateau Mcely, For Luxury & Serenity in the Czech Countryside
- Hotel Imperial Spa & Health Club in the Heart of Karlovy Vary’s Hot Springs
- Medical & Wellness Spa Programs at Karlovy Vary’s Imperial
- Get Upscale Pampering at Prague’s Mandarin Hotel
- Pure Radiance and More at the Four Seasons in Prague
- Spa Culture in Prague & Beyond
If you are traveling with kids, then opting for a two bedroom condo where the second bedrooms has twin beds is a great way to go. Our suite had two main bedrooms, one with a King bed and one with a Queen and both of them had TVs. In the living room, the sofa also pulls out into a queen-sized bed, making this an ideal family travel stay! You also have access to a full kitchen, which has a large fridge, a dishwasher, tableware, cooking utensils, plates and glasses, etc. One other significant thing is that they also have a washer and dryer in the condo, which matters when you’re on the road for longer than a few days. All of the layouts are slightly different however the furniture and kitchen is modern and the condos are extremely spacious.
We had two full bathrooms in our unit, and one of them had a jacuzzi hot tub, which is lovely after a humid afternoon on the beach or swimming in the Newport sun all day. For those traveling during colder months, having your tub turn into a jacuzzi in your condo is an obvious godsend.
There’s a gym on-site as well. We also loved the fact that they had a large movie collection and you could take out two movies to watch per night, which is a great feature when traveling with kids. Parking is also complimentary and you are a stone’s throw from a variety of restaurants, cafes and shops that run along Thames Street. History and architecture fans will appreciate the cobblestone streets nearby and quaint side streets that house creative cafes and boutiques.
The best part of the property however are the outdoor amenities and the views, especially at dusk and dawn. The below shot was taken from our room, so you can see just how close of a walk it is to the edge of the pool, again a perfect scenario if have children.
Did I mention the sunsets? They’re about as breathtaking as they get — two thumbs up for this perfect family stay in Newport Rhode Island. We would definitely return!!
551 Thames Street
Newport, RI 02840
If you go to Newport Rhode Island and it’s warm enough to sail, then getting out on the water should be on your must-do list, even if you haven’t a clue how to sail or ever been on a boat. We explored a number of options, from kayaking and paddle boarding to day cruises and also had a couple of private lessons with Sail Newport.
Newport Day & Sunset Cruises
If you don’t want to invest that much time on the water (I’m a water baby so it’s hard for me to understand why anyone wouldn’t unless of course you get sea sick), you can easily opt for a cruise that runs anywhere from a couple of hours, to a half day cruise or full day cruise on the New England waters surrounding Newport’s harbor.
We went with a company called Classic Cruises of Newport to experience the boat they call the Madeleine, which does both day sails and sunset sails. What I love most about sailing is that you never know what you’re going to see out there, but one thing you can be assured of, you’ll inevitably be surprised by the variety of boats you’ll come across and the breathtaking views you’ll have along the way.
The boat is a 72 foot schooner that takes you through Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay. Madeleine is a traditional Bermuda rig schooner and is apparently the oldest operating and most popular sailing vessel open to the public in Newport, a quirky factoid we didn’t know in advance. Day trips offer complimentary bottled water and soft drinks and the captain let Jake steer the boat which he loved….under supervision of course.
They point out the many historical points of interest along the waterfront including a number of estates, islands and lighthouses. Rather than complimentary water and soft drinks on the day cruise, they offer champagne and beer on the sunset cruise, all while basking in the warm glow of that sunset you’ve been waiting for on Narragansett Bay.
While some companies offer faster sightseeing options including Classic Cruises of Newport, I’m all about the ’natural sailing’ experience. It was nice to be on a smaller boat when we had our lessons with Sail Newport and on a much larger boat a few days later in the same waters. When you’re on a larger boat, it also means that it’s much easier to get up and walk around and take in some of the sights rather than focus on what the wind was doing and how we were supposed to respond.
The sail and the jib on the Madeleine was obviously much larger than the smaller boats.
We had a l’il photography fun before we took the boat back to the harbor — I have to admit, I fell in love the majestic-ness of the sail and the beauty of the boat’s wood.
While we went with the Madeleine, there’s a number of options to choose from and while I have noted some of them here, it is not an exhaustive list.
Madeleine & the Rum Rummer II: they offer sailing harbor tours and sunset sailing cruises aboard a 72-foot schooner sailing yacht Madeleine, which maintains 19th century sailboat style with a 21st century sailing yacht comfort and convenience.
Not quite traditional sailing, but as briefly referenced above, you can opt for their high speed motor boat Rum Runner II, which takes you by Newport mansions and former speakeasies that were fueled by seaborne smugglers back in the 1920s and 30s. This restored Elco Motor yacht carries you swiftly and safely through local waters of Newport Harbor on an adventurous motor yacht tour. Originally powered with three Packard airplane engines, she has been re-powered with twin turbo-charged 350HP Caterpillar Marine Diesels. Both can be booked through Classic Cruises of Newport. Details: Classic Cruises of Newport, 24 Bannister’s Wharf, Newport, RI 02840 | 401.847.0298.
The Schooner Adirondack II: this elegant, 80-foot, turn-of-the-century-style pilot schooner has been a local mainstay in Newport since it joined the Scarano boat fleet in 1999. The Schooner Adirondack II features plenty of seating, teak decks and impressive mahogany trim. They offer private excursions as well. Details: Bowen’s Wharf | Newport, RI 02840 | 401.847.0000.
Schooner Aquidneck: this boat is a beautiful, traditional eighty food schooner with a blue hull, billowing sails and wood trim. You’ll see the major sights including Goat Island, where the U.S. Navy made most of the torpedoes used in WWII, Fort Adams, one of the largest forts on the East Coast, Hammersmith Farm, the summer Whitehouse of JFK and Clingstone, an iconic home perched on a rocky outcropping. Vintage America’s Cup boats, lighthouses, super yachts and weekly races are common sights. Details: Sightsailing, Inc. 32 Bowen’s Wharf, Newport RI 02840 | 401.849.3333.
Jamestown Newport Ferries: originally on our agenda was an afternoon with Jamestown Newport Ferries, but we opted for a more personalized experience on the Madeleine instead and also because it was a shorter time commitment. That said, the ferries are a great way to see a lot of the bay while offering the opportunity to get off on the way and if we had more time, we would have loved to experience it. For example, they stop at Jamestown, Rose Island, Fort Adams, Ann St. Pier and Perrotti Park, and they do a bit of a loop, so you can get on and off as you’d like.
Sailing Lessons With Sail Newport
We actually started with sailing lessons before we ventured on the larger boat options above. Note that I grew up on a lake, so have had plenty of experience on small sunfishes and Catamarans but it’s a whole lot different sailing on the ocean than it is a lake. Even though I also spent time working on a mid-sized yacht in Greece and Turkey in my early twenties, and have sailed as a passenger several times in the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston before that, it had been a long time since I had to pay attention to the process of sailing rather than enjoying it as a passenger.
Sail Newport offers sailing lessons on much smaller boats (four is comfortable) that leave from Fort Adams. Sail Newport is home to New England’s largest public sailing center and is considered Rhode Island’s premier public sailing site. We had two private lessons with them on subsequent days so we could build on what we learned the previous day, which I’d strongly recommend, even if you’re only in Newport for a short stay.
Sail Newport’s mission is to promote and operate affordable public sailing instruction, rental programs and to create opportunities to attract new sailors to the sport. Applause applause – we’re huge fans!
For the sailboat savvy geeks among you, their fleet that people can take out consists of 12 J/22s and 2 Rhodes 19s. While yes, they offer instructional programs and private lessons, they also have fleets of rental boats you can rent on your own if you’re already an avid sailer. If you happen to be in the area for longer or can arrange an extended stay, they offer weekly group adult learn-to-sail lessons, as well as adult intermediate and adult advanced courses from late May through Labor Day weekend, and then on weekends in September and October. Each session consists of six hours of instruction over a three day period.
Below is the port from where the boats leave from at Fort Adams.
Our experience was very different on each day; one instructor was a little more casual and had us pick things up through watching and then doing “hands-on” work whereas the second instructor was a bit more formal, giving us a list of things to do in order, from setting up the sail, to tacking at appropriate times depending on the wind’s direction to taking the sail down. We put the jib up together, went through best practices for steering versus loosening the sail, as well as how to handle the boat when the wind was dead. It was awesome that nine-year old Jake was able to take the helm and get a feel for navigating at an early age; we quickly learned that he was a real “natural” and has the sailor’s gift.
More shots taken out on the wide open sea with my slightly scratched fisheye lens….it was absolute bliss!
Planning Details & Logistics:
- Sail Newport | 60 Fort Adams Drive, Newport RI | 401.846.1983 | sailnewport.org
- Madeleine and Rum Runner Cruises | Classic Cruises of Newport, 24 Bannister’s Wharf, Newport, RI | 401.847.0298
- Rose Island Lighthouse Tour | 401.847.4242 | roseisland.org
- Jamestown Newport Ferry, Perrotti Park | 39 America’s Cup Avenue, Newport RI
- Schooner Adirondack | Bowen’s Wharf | Newport, RI | 401.847.0000
- Schooner Aquidneck: Sightsailing, 32 Bowen’s Wharf, Newport RI | 401.849.3333
T’was a blast! Thanks Newport and your waters. Below, a selfie taken of Anthony, Jake and I on the Madeleine and then run through a Prisma filter.
Note: we were hosted by Madeleine and Sail Newport but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.
What I had in mind wasn’t quite the chic Valoria Castle & Garden Restaurant when I first arrived in Prague, but my experience at this gem with breathtaking views was above and beyond what I expected. Quite frankly, it couldn’t have been a better choice for my first night in Prague. Thanks to the guys at Lindner for the recommendation.
Located in the top section of Neruda Street in house No. 40, St. John’s Cellar, the restaurant is based on a Baroque cellar. It started as a town house with a terraced garden and it is uniquely based adjacent to the walls of Prague Castle, which ultimately provides for stunning views of the city and an even closer view of Lesser Town Square and Prague’s famous towers on both banks of the Vltava River. There’s a whole lotta WOW in this exquisite view, especially while dining outside on a warm summer or fall evening. You can vividly see the majestic dome of St. Nicholas Cathedral in nearby Lesser Town Square.
The food combines the best of Czech and French recipes and this is extended into their wine menu offerings as well. While it was hard to choose, I went with a Goat Cheese salad with leeks, walnuts and walnut oil to start. Fresh and beautifully prepared, wouldn’t you agree?
This was followed by a scrumptious Beef carpaccio made with sun dried tomatoes, capers, arugula and parmesan cheese. A Czech chardonnay was paired with this, which was oak barreled for six months (I asked). It was a Pinot Vinarstvi Gala although I also tasted the Chardonnay Vinarstvi Baloun which just didn’t have enough body for me.
Other appetizer options included Tiger prawns with chili, garlic, creme fraiche, cucumbers and peppers, a couple of soups, one which was Thai influenced with coconut milk, a Smoked salmon with quail egg, lemon confit and creme fraiche, a ravioli made with goat cheese, sage, butter and tomatoes, and a rocket salad with white wine, ceps and parmesan cheese.
The Czech cuisine list was small but included beef with root veggies, cream, cranberries, bacon and onions and Veal Cheeks made with dill,cream and whipped egg whites. While it was a very warm evening and I was sitting outside, I was too tempted by the Wild Boar since they offered it and I always think of Eastern Europe when I think of boar. I knew it wouldn’t disappoint and it didn’t. They prepared it with peppers, aubergine, courgettes, and added a chocolate demi glace.
I paired the boar with a Merlot Vinarstvi Tanzberg (the best red wine option on the menu by the glass in my opinion) and later with cheese a smokey Pinot Noir Vinarstvi Spielberg — I stuck with only Czech wines since my Valoria dining experience was my first night in Prague after all. Truth be told, I wanted to get a variety of Czech wine tastes to get a better idea of different regions to better educate myself on the days ahead.
They also had a Rib Eye with green pepper corns, Tuna made with peppers, courgettes, aubergine and butter, Tiger Prawns, Trout with grenaille, celery, carrots, cucumbers, yoghurt and dill, and a Veal Escalope made with panko breadcrumbs, potatoes, butter and cucumbers. Notice how much they use cucumbers and courgettes in the Valoria kitchen.
The views kept getting better as the evening wore on.
The long open courtyard, which extended from the inside of the restaurant, faced the best of what this part of Prague had to offer the eye. The inside of the restaurant was opened up because it was so warm — you could easily see how its charm wouldn’t end on a warm summer night. In other words, Valoria has both the ambiance and the food, a winning combination any time of year. It exudes old world charm while maintaining an air of elegance; this combo is one of the things that makes this restaurant so attractive, and that’s before you even see the sweeping views.
Desserts included chocolate with orange, cocoa, almonds and vanilla, Peanuts with chocolate, caramel and Sabayone, a vanilla creme brulee with fruit, sorbets, a cheeseboard selection and chocolate fondant with raspberry sorbet, which I opted for.
Oh yeah, and even the bathroom was lovely — Valoria pays attention to the fine details which adds to the overall dining experience, from the moment you enter her doors to the time you leave.
Valoria Castle & Garden Restaurant
Nerudova 40, 118 00
Prague , Czech Republic
From Prague Castle: Valoria Castle & Garden Restaurant sits right on the wall of Ke Hradu (To the Castle) street. The shortest way to get there is to follow the Castle street west, which opens into the upper part of Neruda Street. Turn left again and after just 40 metres you will find house No. 40, St. John’s Cellar, where our restaurant is located.
From the Lesser Town Square: head uphill from the square following Neruda Street. Its history dates back to the thirteenth century, and virtually every house can tell its own story. When you arrive at the house, typically someone should be on the ground floor and can bring you up the elevator to the restaurant which is on the upper level.
For those of you who have been to New England know, there’s no better time to visit than in the late summer or the Fall. Many may disagree, particularly if they look to the area for its incredible winter skiing and other natural beauty which is prominent year round, however there’s something magical about late summer. Why? As someone who grew up in upstate New York, late summer was the time when the sweltering heat subsided a bit, mosquitoes were on their way out and kids were preparing to go back to school, so the crowds were gone and yet the weather was still, well…..perfect.
Photo credit: Howard Arndt (taken of a bald eagle on Squam Lake)
Late fall goes without saying for the leaf peeping lovers among you and in some parts of New England, those leaves turn sooner than others. While New Hampshire has no shortage of natural wonders and things to do, from mountain activities to its vast number of lakes, our August visit was to the Lakes District of New Hampshire. As someone who grew up on a lake in the Adirondacks, I’m a particular fan of New England lakes and think there’s no better way to introduce your kids to nature — that magical pulse of nature as well as her silence will be instrumental to their lives later on. See my view on this in my article entitled: Nature From Your Roots is Your Best Serenity Source. Anyone living in an urban area should take advantage of getaways with their kids and New Hampshire’s Lake District is an easy drive from Boston, Providence and easily doable from Philly and New York as well with a little planning.
Above, the view from our hotel suite at Steele Hill Resort in Sanbornton NH
Let’s start with a list of lakes you’ll want to research, though we did not have enough time to experience all of them. Those on your list should include Lake Winnipesaukee, Squam Lake, Lake Sunapee, Newfound Lake, Lake Opechee, Lake Winnisquam, Ossipee Lake, Pleasant Lake, Highland Lake and Kezar Lake. Most of them are easily accessible, however let’s start with the gem among them in my opinion: Squam.
Located just south of the White Mountains, straddling the borders of Grafton, Carroll, and Belknap counties, Squam is one of those lakes that has been well preserved and has a whole lotta rules to keep it that way. The largest town center on the lake is Holderness which is where we discovered Experience Squam and the force behind it, Cindy O’Leary. Experience Squam allows you to see the magic of pristine Squam Lake via a private boating excursion, which frankly, if you don’t know the area, is the best way to go. In Cindy’s 23′ Sea Ray Bow-Rider, you’ll explore the nooks and crannies of the lakes while basking in the sun and you set the pace, whether that’s anchoring in quiet coves or off sandy beaches, or jumping off the boat for a swim.
Cindy brought us to infamous “Jumping Rock” but we were too lazy to jump. Since we out in the afternoon and stayed out until dusk, I was more interested in taking in the magical light at every turn, from seeing bald eagles in the distance and their nests to well renowned Golden Pond movie sites and the precious historic Church Island. The latter is known to be one of those breathtaking spots to have a wedding — imagine having your entire wedding party on a private island with stunning views and they all have to make the effort to get to the Chocorua Island Chapel via boat since that’s the only way to visit it. Another quirky factoid is the island’s 1903 organ which remains there year round.
Photo credit: HomeDec.biz.
As for the views and the experience? It’s about as pure as it gets and nature lovers will want to make sure it’s on their bucket list.
Before you leave the area, you should visit the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, which is a must do if you’re traveling with kids. Nature lovers, environmentalists and historians will also appreciate this gem which has been open to the public since 1969. Located in Holderness, the center is an environmental education center and zoo brings you into another world through spectacular live animal exhibits, natural science education programs, an informal public garden, and lake cruises.
Much more accessible and a whole lot smaller is Kezar Lake where we stayed for several days at an old fashioned stay called Follansbee Inn, which sits immediately across from the lake with boat and swimming access. What’s really lovely about this spot is its size and the fact that a road runs around the lake, making it a fun way to get exercise while taking in the natural beauty of the area. Follansbee offers its guests complimentary boats and bikes, so we not only kayaked and canoed around it a few times, but we cycled around it twice, which can easily be done in an hour or less, making it a nice family travel activity if you’re traveling with kids. Below is a shot I took on our bike ride on late afternoon in August.
More shots from another day’s bike ride around Kezar Lake….
What’s so lovely about this option in addition to the cycling and boating activities is its size and the fact that it doesn’t get as crowded as some of the other lakes. Wadleigh State Park offers swimming on the lake and is surrounded by woody pine trees and has picnic sites located adjacent to the beach, making it an ideal location for families and group outings. Amenities in the park include a bathhouse, picnic tables, and playing fields. The Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Greenway is a 75 mile loop trail that links four New Hampshire State Parks: Sunapee, Winslow, Rollins, Wadleigh. The trail also links three New Hampshire State Forests: Gile, Kearsarge and Shadow Hill as well as one Wildlife Management Area: Bog Mountain. See the Sunapee-Ragged-Kearsarge Coalition website for more information.
In the Sutton / Sunapee area near the lake, you’ll find the Wild Goose Country Store, which is a great place to get a hot dog, a cream soda or ice cream. We loved the authenticity and charm of this place!
There’s also a cemetery a block or so away, a stone’s throw from the backyard of the Follansbee and a two minute walk to Kezar Lake’s edge.
A short drive away, you’ll find the incredibly traditional and quaint Peter Christian’s Tavern on North Main Street in New London. It’s only been around since 1975, but with its low ceilings, odd-shaped old wooden tables that sit back in the corners, you’d think you were in a tavern from the turn of the century. It exudes all things comfort and antiquity and they have crayons for the kids while you wait for your meals. They also sell their Original Mustard sauce in jars as you enter. From buffalo wings (baked, never fried), burgers, Mussels sauteed in beer (Switchback Ale to be precise) and garlic, and burgers, to an assortment of salads, crab cakes topped with a roasted red pepper aioli and Peter’s Cajun Shrimp, it’s a great family hang out for dinner.
Did I mention how hard it was to leave?
Blissful on my final morning…..
Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake of New Hampshire’s Lake Region and from Weirs Beach, which is a great place to bring kids for its arcade games and ice cream shops, you can catch a variety of boat cruises from there, many of which have food, sweets and drinks on board.
Photo credit: John Burk taken from Fine Art America.
We opted for a fairly large ship to counter our small boating experience on Squam Lake. Mount Washington Cruises offers Scenic Cruises and Sunset Dinner Dance Cruises on Lake Winnipesaukee. They visit 5 ports on the lake and stops in Wolfeboro, Meredith, Center Harbor and Alton Bay on alternating days of the week with daily cruises from Weirs Beach, which is where we boarded. A cool factoid about Lake Winnipesaukee is that it is spring fed and surrounded by mountain ranges, contains more than 300 islands and covers 44,000 acres of crystal clear water. Home port is actually at Weirs Beach on 211 Lakeside Avenue in Laconia and more information on logistics can be found at Cruise NH.
Have a look at some of the scenic views….
Places to Visit
While we didn’t cover all the lakes, the Lakes Region website has a boat load of information on the others we didn’t cover, which includes tips on what to see, where to go, places to stay. The Inn at Pleasant Lake is incredibly charming is not so much of a family stay as it is a quiet getaway for couples who want peace, relaxation and fabulous food in the evenings — their chef is top notch. We dined there one evening, so be sure to read my article which has a lot of scrumptious photos to entice you to visit as well as information on accommodation. Those who enjoy the serenity of New Hampshire’s natural beauty, mountains and lakes but who are also into fine dining, will want to book a dinner there (reservations required), however if you have kids in tow and want a mid-ranged option, then T-Bones in Laconia is a fun spot that caters more to families, has booths and mini Etch A Sketch pads for the kids. While it’s largely known for its steaks, I tried their lobster and all of their desserts were incredibly delicious. We were pleasantly surprised to find a Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon by the glass on the menu, which is a rarity for a restaurant in this category (impressive!!). See my write up on T-Bones for more including appetizing photos.
Located next to Church Landing, you can rent stand up Paddle Boards, Aqua Cycle, Kayaks, Canoes and Bicycles at EKAL Activities Center at Mill Falls in Meredith, so if you have kids in tow, this is a great option. Other fun things to explore in the area is the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad which you can pick up a various stops, Hermit Woods Winery, Moulton Farm, the American Police Motorcycle Museum and the Marina. There’s also a children’s museum nearby. The railroad ride will take you through a nostalgic scenic excursion along the shores of the lake — they travel between Meredith and Lakeport always within view of the lake. The railroad line has been there since 1849 and it is a downhill ride most of the way from Meredith to Weirs Beach after of which you’ll catch an unobstructed view of the lake with Mt Belknap in the background. We give it two thumbs up and a lovely afternoon or morning activity for your Lakes Region list.
The Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad – photo credit: lakewinnipesaukeenh.com
When you’re hungry, head to the Town Docks Restaurant, which is quite a local “scene”, and a fun place to hang your hat while you grab a burger and a drink in between activities.
Above shot is of Town Docks; photo credit: winnipesaukee.com
Wolfeboro & Around
There are adorable little shops and restaurants here as well as a beautiful walk along Ossipee Park Road from the old train station. From Wolfeboro, we’d recommend heading to the Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough where you can also go horseback riding. When you’re up there, be sure to stop dine at Carriage House Restaurant – the views are absolutely breathtaking and you won’t be disappointed. You can even opt to dine in the original horsestalls if you want.
For those new to the area, Castle in the Clouds is a 16-room mansion and 5,500-acre mountaintop estate that is owned and operated by the Castle Preservation Society. It boasts a whole lot of WOW magic moments and for romantics, it’s not to be missed when in the area. You can also visit the castle Lucknow, which was built in 1913-1914 high in the Ossipee Mountain Range. The house is an unusual example of Arts and Crafts architecture in New England, expressing that aesthetic movement’s philosophy of living in harmony with nature. It also features a number of technological innovations of the early 20th century. Talk about idyllic!!
Photo credit: paigenicholl.wordpress.com
For a stay, check out the Wolfeboro Inn, Wolfeboro’s only full-service luxury Inn, which combines a lakeside courtyard flourishing with lawn, apple trees, a garden gazebo, and a landscaped pathway that leads to their private beach on Lake Winnipesaukee. From cozy inn rooms to spacious suites with lake views, each room offers complimentary Wi-Fi, upscale amenities, and evening turndown service. It’s about as historical as it gets with a quaint, romantic touch that makes it great for a long weekend escape or when you want some serious down time. Oh so lovely!
Photo credit: Wolfeboro Inn
Beer Tasting: Head to the Nearby White Mountains….
Head to the Woodstock Inn’s Station and Brewery in North Woodstock. While technically in the White Mountains, you could do a side trip overnight, stay at the ever so classic inn and get a taste of what New Hampshire’s beer scene has to offer. They have 40 rooms, a restaurant, two pubs, entertainment, outdoor patio during warmer months and a company store. The brewery has a traditional seven-barrel system which churns out premium hops from around the world blended with imported English grains and then brewed with pure, deep-well water to produce a superior selection of seasonal ales. You can watch their brew masters at work! There’s a long list of signature ales to choose from including a Scottish ale, a Pig’s Ale Brown Ale and an Old Man Oatmeal Stout. YUM!!
Photo credit: Woodstock Inn.
Architecture & Old Barns
Stop in Historical Fitzwilliam en Route
The Loon Center
While this may be an odd thing to find on a “to-do” list, it’s important to note that locals take their love of loons seriously. I know this because it’s not specific to New Hampshire, but it is specific to places where loons spend their time, including Maine, and upstate New York where I grew up. They have a lovely sound to them, almost mesmerizing and have helped me fall asleep on more than one occasion. The Loon Center is in Moultonboro, so you could stop by here when you visit the Castle in the Clouds. This center which is also the Markus Wildlife Sanctuary is a great spot to learn about loons and the ecology of New Hampshire. There are exhibits, nature trails and videos…
On the lake where I grew up, there was concern about preserving the safety of loons. Apparently the Loon Preservation Committee (LPC) was created in 1975 in response to concerns about a dramatically declining loon population and the effects of human activities on loons. LPC’s mission is to restore and maintain a healthy population of loons throughout New Hampshire; to monitor the health and productivity of loon populations as sentinels of environmental quality; and to promote a greater understanding of loons and the larger natural world. For over 40 years, the Loon Preservation Committee has undertaken state-wide monitoring, research, management and outreach to preserve loons and their habitats. I love that this place exists! Not familiar with what a loon looks like? Have a look – they’re beautiful and I love spotting them on a New England lake.
Photo credit: loons.org.
It’s not what they look like that makes them so magical, however, but the “call” they make, especially at dusk. You can find them in many parts of the states, but certainly they are plentiful in the Adirondacks where I grew up, New Hampshire and in parts of Minnesota as well as other areas. There’s a sense of peacefulness and serenity to their call and frankly, there’s nothing quite like it. Here’s a grew video narrated by Greg Budny that gives you an idea of the magic that I am referring to…
Gunstock Mountain Adventure Park
While this is largely an attraction for a family trip, it’s a beautiful place to go if you love nature as you can paddle board around the small pond on the premises and there’s skiing during winter months.
You can venture down Ziplines (this takes a couple of hours, so be sure to plan for it), climb in the trees at the “Aerial Treetop Adventure”, which is the longest aerial obstacle course in New England (this is so great for kids), go summer tubing, take an off-road Segway Tour, enjoy a scenic Lift Ride to the top or have fun on their latest addition which was newly opened when we were there: the Gunstock Mountain Coaster. It was such a blast that we went on it three times – yes really! This is a must visit if you’re in taking a family trip to New Hampshire’s Lake District!
On the same premises as La Tourelle Resort, which is nestled on very pretty rural settings just outside the center of Ithaca New York, you’ll find the luxurious French-influenced August Moon Spa, which offers all the services you’d expect from a destination spa, plus two Tranquility Rooms where you can relax and enjoy any of the offerings from the on-site restaurant The Bistro.
Above shot taken of the outside of the resort — photo credit: La Tourelle
Above shot taken from our room which overlooks the peaceful grounds – you can see just how green it is; there are areas to sit and relax amidst a large lawn surrounded by trees…
I spent more time in the spa’s tranquility room with the fireplace, however the room pictured below is even more calming with lit candles, wooden statues, comfy pillows and soft lounge chairs. There are tea and water stations in both relaxation rooms where you can breathe it all in before or after your treatment. Even if you don’t have a treatment, you can enjoy their on-the-premises sauna and steam rooms which I wished I had more time to experience.
Consider their spa a bit of a sanctuary that will bring out all your senses — they tout their spa as a “fusion of where East meets West.”
Many, myself included before this trip, may not realize the natural resources that come from the Finger Lakes region. August Moon apparently incorporates many organic and local ingredients from the region into their treatments, including top-grade maple, and vino-therapy from the local wineries which I was thrilled to discover. I’m always a fan of a spa that truly utilizes natural resources from their own region and uses as many organic products as possible.
Above photo credit: August Moon Spa
I love the fact that not only do they offer traditional facials and massage treatments, but they have a variety of unique treatments as well, including a maple walnut sugar scrub that uses local maple sugar to gently exfoliate blockages and is followed by a sweet orange deep moisturizing application. There’s also something they refer to as a Wide Awake Coffee Scrub, which combines coffee grounds with organic cane sugar and sesame oil and subsequently a Cypress and Eucalyptus deep moisturizing application.
Above shot taken just outside the door to the spa
Their Finger Lakes Riesling and Sea Salt Scrub is designed to exfoliate the skin though it also uses a Pure Lavender deep moisturizing treatment after the scrub process. The ever so fun and detoxifying Antioxidant Wine Trail Wrap repairs and restores aging skin using powdered regional grape seeds and lavender grape seed oil. Another detoxifying treatment is their Algae Wrap which not only acts to detoxify your system but stimulate your skin with a lemongrass and ginger application at the end of the treatment. Next time, that’s what she’ll do, “she thinks” out loud!
For those into mud wraps (that would definitely include me — I love them), consider the Moore Mud Wrap which promotes collagen synthesis in the muscles to plump and tighten the skin. I didn’t get a wrap this time around, but went for a combo massage and facial treatment which I would recommend — in other words, a dual treatment that touches on different modalities and parts of the body is an integral and powerful way to relax your entire ‘being,’ in addition to the benefits it provides your skin. After all, wellness is truly about the inside out more than it is the outside in. Being present while you have a treatment will go a long way in getting you “grounded” and actually feeling the experience you signed up for – I can’t emphasize this enough!
Photo credit: JimmyMcCloud
The favorite part of my August Moon experience was spending time in the tranquility room and experiencing their Zen Hot Stone Massage, which is a full body massage that uses heated basalt stones to calm and release deep set physical tension – love love love this!. Their approach to hot stone massage is a little more delicate here vis a vis other places I’ve been; very little pressure is applied — my experience having a hot stone massage has been different at other spas in that they actually use the stones to go a little deeper (be clear about what you want before you sign up for a treatment, whether that be at August Moon or any massage center or spa — clear, honest communication up front is the best approach to having a successful experience).
What I love most about hot stone massage is the heat that penetrates your skin, allowing your muscles to relax in the process and afterwards — I was incredibly loose and zoned out at the end, which made relaxing in their lounges even more unwinding especially with a cup of mint tea and fashion magazine in hand.
Facials worth noting include their Enzyme Therapy Facial, which is a non-chemical, fruit based enzyme treatment that clarifies, brightens and softens the skin, their Pigmentation Therapy Facial which uses Lactic or Alpha-Beta solutions and the best anti-aging option which I tried, the Oxygen Therapy Facial, which targets fine lines and wrinkles and aids in boosting your skin’s natural collagen synthesis. I noticed a smoother skin texture afterwards and 24-48 hours later, I found that my pores were smaller and my forehead was tighter with less creasing. Bravo — two thumbs up!!
Above shot taken as you enter the resort, a quirky and creative addition which adds to the place’s charm
August Moon Spa
1150 Danby Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
Note: my “technical/actual” description of the treatments was extracted from their website to ensure I provided an accurate description of what they provide, the ‘materials’ they use and their approach. Albeit hosted for this treatment, as always, all opinions expressed are my own.
Meet the ever so comfortable Aetrex Shoes, where you can literally feel the difference in every step. We wore a few pairs of their sandals frequently out on a recent trip back east, putting them to the test on the trails of New Hampshire as well as on the streets of Newport Rhode Island, which included walking down many uneven cobblestone streets that New England is so well known for.
Let’s start with the Danika Laser Cut Slide Wedge Sandal, which comes with adjustable straps, a forefoot elastic for extra stretch, an adjustable double band slide, the Aetrex Healthy 3 (will explain this in a minute) and its bottom is a lightweight cork sole. The key word here is lightweight and it really is super light, which is a godsend for avid travelers. The other thing we love is its short 2 ¼” heel. They were perfect for me during our sailing lessons in Newport and I’d typically only recommend a flat footed rubber sole for a boat. With the easy to remove straps, I could easily kick these on and off but their durable soft soles that have good traction worked in this case and our instructor didn’t even bark at my shoe choice.
Take a look at the bottom fo the soles to give you an idea of their attention to detail.
The Aetrex Healthy 3 referenced above refers to the following:
- Lynco Arch Support: by aligning at the optimal position to property balance your foot, Aetrex shoes provides incredible support and improves how your body functions from the ground up. If you’re walking long distances on hard concrete, this matters a lot.
- Memory Foam Cushioning: they feature a thick layer of slow recovery memory foam that customizes to your feet, so it feels as if you’re wearing comfy slippers, except that you also have support.
- Anti-Microbial Technology: this technology is embedded in the shoe and helps to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi to keep your feet free of odor.
I also love their Arielle Wedge Sandals which are equally comfortable. Half vintage, half city-chic, the Arielle wedge stays light on your feet while providing full support for maximum comfort, even on a heel. Like the others, it features the Aetrex “Healthy 3”, the removable Lynco orthotic footbed for support, balance and alignment, hook and loop straps fully adjust for optimum fit, memory foam cushioning for customization and support and the Mozaic Customization Technology on bottom of footbed for pressure distribution. Their advanced technology around comfort and support is core to what makes their shoes not just stand out, but oh SO wearable on every single trip you take. Comfort is key when you’re on the road for long stints like so many of us are — Aetrex does the trick at keeping your feet super comfy.
I went for the Antique Red which is just subtle enough that it goes with a ton of things, from a classy pair of jeans, to a casual skirt or a pair of shorts. Our second hotel in Newport was about a 20-25 minute walk from the city center and even after walking all day in these shoes, my feet still felt refreshed at the end of the day. In other words, I was pain free as I made my way back to the hotel after dinner one late night.
They do come in other colors as well; I really love the ivory but it’s currently out of stock however there’s also black and latte as well. There’s so many choices to select from that even if one color is out of stock, there are plenty more to interest you.
Then, there’s the Candace Adjustable Thong, which is a beautiful, unique take on the classic thong sandal.
A few of their other sandal styles below to give you an idea of their diversity in styles and colors, two of the things we really loved about the line…
If you want to feel like you’re wearing slippers but be stylin’ at the same time, then Aetrex is the next shoe brand you want to order before your next trip. They’ve been around since 1946 so they have quite a history of doing things right. You can also have a foot scan from them in thirty seconds. Their Aetrex patented iStep Foot Scanning Technology identifies your arch type, foot size and pressure points, then, it custom selects the ideal Lynco orthotic styles for your personal needs. More details can be found on their website at http://aetrex.com/ including how to order.
This past August, we went on a Lakes District tour of New Hampshire with two kids in tow. Let’s be honest, it’s not easy to find the perfect lodge with so many amenities that caters to kids, even in New England, where so many families drive to their summer getaway from the nearby cities of Boston, New York and even Philadelphia. Only a couple hour drive from Boston and you’re surrounded by some of New Hampshire’s most beautiful lakes and woody trails, ideal for boating and hiking.
We landed at an old historic bed and breakfast called Follansbee Inn, which is right on the ever so serene Kezar Lake in North Sutton New Hampshire. Full disclosure if you have kids who are addicted to TV and the digital world: this is probably not the place for you. That is, unless you want to give them a healthy detox from that digital world. The inn is right across the street from Kezar Lake, so the views and serenity is about as ideal as it gets. While in my opinion, this getaway is a better choice for a solo reflection trip or a romantic long weekend away for those who love nature, the reason it also makes a good choice for families is its absence of the distracting things from our busy urban day-to-day lives.
First of all, there’s no TV — not in the any of the rooms or in the main sitting areas on the ground floor. For me, this was a godsend, but for others who need a daily dose of TV or movies, it may not a good choice. That said, we did stream movies one evening during our five day stay using their complimentary internet, which was speedy enough to run a movie. The biggest draw of the place is the fact that it’s literally surrounded by trees and nature on all sides, boasting lots of interesting walks and hikes you can take straight from the inn itself and within a few minute drive. My recommendation? Do a digital detox and be okay with it — the rewards will be well worth it!!
A shot taken in the side garden of Follansbee Inn. I really loved this fish.
Follansbee Inn has 18 individually decorated guest rooms, each with a private, en suite bathroom. One of the things that makes this place so unique is not just the fact that each room is completely different, with its own style, decor and colors, but the hallways are loaded with history from its relics, paintings and book cases which will keep you busy for a couple of evenings alone. There’s also a piano on the ground floor which they encourage you to play and a game room. Rather than turn the TV on, how about challenge your k ids to a card or board game in a quaint room oozing with stories to tell. They also have an area where you can keep things cold in a fridge and they offer bottled water, which is useful before heading out for a morning hike.
North Sutton is south of New London in the Sunapee/Dartmouth region of New Hampshire, an area known far and wide for year round activities including canoeing, kayaking, sailing, fishing, hiking, leaf peeping, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling to name but a few. While we were there in the late summer, it’s worth mentioning fall and winter activities as colder temperatures in New England are around the corner. For winter sports enthusiasts, North Sutton is close to Mount Sunapee and Ragged Mountain, two well known New Hampshire ski resorts. Cross country skiers, snowshoe enthusiasts, and snowmobilers can do it all right from the doors of Follansbee Inn. In the summer, it’s all about boating, cycling and hiking of course. And, pure natural beauty that makes rural New Hampshire so special. The old fashioned outdoor porch was one of my favorite things about the place — and yes, there’s a swinging bench for two.
A lake lover? Kezar is absolutely beautiful. Another great feature about the inn is its unlimited use of their canoes and kayaks, which you can take out any time of day as long as one is available. Below is a shot taken a few minute walk down the road to the right of the inn and below it is the same road a little further along where we went bike riding on two separate afternoons. You can literally make it around the entire lake on a bike (even with kids) in about an hour or so — and, I stopped in a few locations to take photos. Follansbee Inn also conveniently offers use of their bikes on the premises — they have quite a few of them in their garage, which is available for your use during your stay. They have several sizes available, as well as helmuts to ensure your safety. We took them out a few times — I’d recommend the route around the lake since the road isn’t very busy and the scenery is lovely!
Inside, the general area is made up of several rooms, so if you want to escape to either the porch or another room, there are a few to choose from — OR, you can find a bench in one of the wide hallways as there are several floors.
The dining room is incredibly traditional with formal table settings. The owner who is from Louisiana heritage, takes great pride in his homemade breakfasts, which change every morning. From fresh fruit, cereals, yoghurts, eggs and sausage, to homemade pastries, some of which had a Scottish influence and others had a German one. There’s a microwave which you can use anytime of day or night and there’s always coffee and tea on hand. Entrees include baked cheese grits, praline bacon, asparagus, goat cheese and caramelized onion frittatas, Angel Biscuits, homemade donuts and more. You can opt to dine alone at one of our two-top tables, or dine with a group of four to eight at one of our larger dining tables, which we chose to do so we could meet some of the other guests. (I’d encourage this, even if you’re on a romantic weekend away).
A traditional Scotch egg anyone? They were incredibly delicious!
Onto the rooms themselves — here are a few shots I took during our stay. Bear in mind that they were taken on an iPhone so the lighting isn’t the best, but you’ll get an idea of just how traditional and quaint the rooms are, all of which will bring you far back in time. Given the absence of digital distractions and noise from TV’s next door, it’s a perfect place to relax and unwind — note that there are plenty of books to read if you forgot to bring one.
The view from our bedroom window…..
If you’re a water lover, then the access to boats will be a huge draw. In addition to kayaks and canoes (which we used), they have a sailboat if you know how to sail and a rowboat which is useful for the fishing enthusiasts among you. Given that we’ve moved into Fall season, its worth noting that nearby in Warner, there’s the annual Fall Foliage Festival which has been running since 1947 on Warner’s main street. Of course, it’s a great area of New England to take in the glorious foliage as well — a leaf peeping heaven for those looking for new destinations to explore from September through November. There’s also farm stands for fresh veggies, apples, fresh pressed cider, and pumpkins. Follansbee Inn runs special fall packages from September 12 through October 21 so be sure to check out their page for more info at http://www.follansbeeinn.com.
For the lazier minded among you, don’t forget that they have a hammock that faces the lake, which is a great way to spend a few hours in the afternoon while reading that novel you’ve been putting off for months. There’s never been a hammock I didn’t like — two thumbs up!!
Follansbee Inn on Kezar Lake
2 Keyser Street, North Sutton, NH 03260