Kaua’i = Paradise

Kauai is a magical place.  It’s an island that welcomes you with warm alohas, gorgeous blue skies filled with little puffy white clouds, but not enough to take away the sunshine, a fascinating coastline, and a remarkable canyon.  Kaua’i will sweep you off your feet with its beauty and romance.  If you are celebrating an engagement, wedding, anniversary, or just a special getaway, Kaua’i will enchant you with its beautiful hotels, hiking, sailing, scuba diving and perhaps one of the most breathtaking ways to see the island, by helicopter.   The oldest of the Hawaiian islands, Kaua’i is beautiful throughout, but has a different flare depending on where you are on the island.   My trip took me around the island with the opportunity to explore different properties.  Below is a suggested itinerary if you’d like to do what we did, or you may choose to plant yourself at one resort and explore the island each day by car.

Start off in the north at the prestigious St. Regis.  You’ll enjoy a magnificent view of Hanalei Bay.  Eating their delicious and comprehensive breakfast buffet overlooking the mountains and water each morning does wonders for your soul.   Plus, you can feel a little less guilty about how much you eat, because the morning boot camp class will give you an invigorating workout on the beach.  With the view of palm trees and the ocean, you’ll be motivated for any workout, no matter how challenging!  Their spa is also a great place to unwind and enjoy treatments utilizing organically grown products from the island.   If you choose to stay on Poipu Beach, the Sheraton Kauai Resort is a great choice.  With an oceanview room, you will enjoy gorgeous sunsets on your own private terrace.  The beach is beautiful and if you like relaxing at the property, they have two great restaurants, which also provide great sunset views.  After dinner, hang out with friends at the bar or relax on the beach with your loved one and listen to the sound of the waves and feel the tropical breeze around you.   Another option for accommodations is the Kaua’i Marriott Resort and Beach Club.   This is a great property if you’re looking for something close to the airport.  They provide a complimentary shuttle and also provide free parking, which is a nice perk if you rent a car.  You can also get some great souvenirs at unexpected stores like Walmart , Kmart and Cosco, all very closeby.

When in Kaua’i, there are many activities from which to choose.  I would recommend choosing activities that enable you to see the amazing scenery of the island by sea, on foot and by air.   Kayak Kaua’i  offers hiking and kayaking tours as well as surfing and paddle board lessons, which are very popular in Hawaii.  Hiking the Na Pali coast will provide you with sweeping views of the ocean from above.  We hiked the first two miles and stopped for lunch on some rocks at the beach.  It is a great hike, but can be slippery at times and a little challenging at others.  However, I saw people of all ages and body types on the trail.

Taking a sail up the coast and looking up is equally breathtaking.  Captain Andy’s Sailing Adventures will take you on a half day sail up the Na Pali coast and  if you look close enough, you can see the hikers climbing the mountains you were climbing the day before.  You’ll pass by caves, and if you choose to take a zodiac ride, they will take inside some of them.  After a great sail, you’ll stop to snorkel and possibly see some nice sized turtles swimming around with you.  After working up an appetite, you’ll come back on the boat for a freshly cooked bbq lunch and drinks.

You’ll also want to spend part of a day exploring Waimea Canyon.  Even if you don’t have a chance or want to hike it, there is an easy drive up to 4000 feet in elevation with a few lookout points along the way for some great picture taking.  The Allerton Estate Tour of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens is a beautiful place to stop as well.

If you’re a seasoned scuba diver or even a beginner, SeaSport Divers is a top dive operation located in Kauai with multiple locations, with the main store in Poipu Beach. Their other store is on the east side of the island in KAPAA.  Seasport Divers is a multiple Rodale’s Readers Choice Award Winner.  They were Voted #1 on Kauai, #5 in the Pacific and Indian oceans and rate as one of the 10 Best Scuba Diving Operators in the US, with a straight “A” rating.  Seasport Divers is the only scuba Diving Company on Kauai with multiple locations.  I had such a great dive experience with them.  From the moment I walked in the door, Frank was extremely welcoming and set me up with everything I needed.  I felt a sense of confidence with this company, especially during the safety briefing.  They were extremely thorough before even getting on the boat.  A lot of dive companies do not explain as much as he did or go into such detail.  While on the boat, divemasters James, Meghan and Frank, made sure all of our gear was set up and working properly.  Captain Andrew led us to the amazing dive sites of Nukumoi and Sheraton Caverns.  While down under, they always made sure everyone was together and when one diver decided to take off on his own, Frank took measures to find him immediately.   James was great with the new divers and took them in a separate group so they didn’t feel the pressure of keeping up with everyone else for their first time out.  Meghan took us down for the second dive in which there were huge turtles everywhere!  I’ve never seen so many turtles in one place, so it was a real treat.  She captured everything on video so one could take it home to always remember the dive.  Frank, James and Meghan were not only a skilled group of divemasters, but also a fun one, and made the Kauai dive a memorable one.  

Perhaps the most spectacular way to see the landscape of the island is by helicopter.   Island Helicopters offers an exclusive Jurassic Falls Landing Adventure.  In addition to your hour and half ride over the island, you will land at the Manawaiopuna Falls, the falls used in the movie Jurassic Park and only accessible by air.  As we rode deeper into the Waimea Canyon and along the coastline, I was overcome with emotion by the sheer beauty.  With everything we had seen while hiking and from the water, I couldn’t imagine it could get anymore gorgeous.  But it did and I think I had a huge smile my face for the entire ride.  If you’re looking for romance, do not leave this out!

All of the food on the island was delicious with lots of fresh fish.  However, one restaurant is an absolute must visit.  Joesslin’s Tapa’s Bar and Grill is a favorite among locals and tourists and for good reason.  The world renowned chef, Jean Marie Josselin prepares organic, fresh dishes in with impeccable style and creativity.  Many of the dishes we tasted included ingredients I had never had before, but were local to the region.  The dining experience was incredible and you should definitely make a dinner stop here.

I’ve seen some places over these past few years, but I can definitely understand why so many people visit Kaua’i for their honeymoons.  It exudes romance without even trying.  As soon as you step off the plane, an air of relaxation will fulfill you and you’ll realize you’re in Paradise!  As they say in Hawaii, Mahalo for reading my article and I hope I’ve inspired you to begin or renew your relationship in Kaua’i!



Thompson Beverly Hills: Swank and Sophisticated

I love traveling to Los Angeles.  Everytime I visit, I vow to move out there. The weather is spectacular and there is always so much to see and do.  In the past I’ve stayed with friends, but this time I decided to stay at one of the newer, hipper hotels in Beverly Hills and see the scene from a new perspective.   The Thompson Hotel brand has hotels in cosmopolitan areas including New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Chicago and two in Los Angeles, including the Roosevelt in Hollywood and the Thompson Beverly Hills, built in 2008. Upon driving into the hotel, which is discreetly located on Wilshire Boulevard, the valet attendant will help you with your luggage and take care of your car.  Right inside is reception with a cozy lobby.   The hotel is modern and the architecture, sharp.  When I stepped into my room, I knew this was different from any hotel I’ve stayed in.  With 107 rooms, 12 of which are suites, the architecture and furniture gave off a sexy, sophisticated and edgy feel.   It was upscale and smart, but reasonably priced.   The hotel and its fabulous rooftop bar and pool has been home to many fashion and television shoots, but is also a perfect spot for business meetings.  Overlooking downtown Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills, one can order drinks or dinner and relax on couches and chairs under a heat lamp.   In addition to the traditional drink menu, they also serve up some delicious signature cocktails.

Many couples will get married at the nearby Four Seasons Hotel, which is quite beautiful and lavish, but also outside many people’s price points, so the wedding party will stay at the more affordable, yet fun and hip, Thompson Beverly Hills.  It’s a great place for locals and tourists alike, and I would highly recommend staying here if you are looking for a sheek, comfortable hotel in the middle of the swank neighborhood of Beverly Hills. Plus, with the winter upon us on the east coast, there’s no better time to visit Los Angeles, especially with fares as low as $149 each way from New York. If you are traveling to this or any of the other Thompson property, be sure to check out their blog called Room 100, which talks all about the exciting events and openings in and around the property.  Whichever Thompson Hotel you choose, you’ll enjoy a stylish, memorable stay in your city of choice.

Skydive the Ranch!!

As some of you know, I went skydiving in Fiji back in November and I was petrified, but it was a thrill of a lifetime and I was so glad I overcame my fear and jumped. Well, when I returned, my brother said he’d love to try it one day, so I decided I would brave it once more and go with him so he could share the same experience.  We decided back in March to go for his birthday, and it’s taken us until just a couple of weeks ago to finally go, and I’m so glad we did!  I have to admit I was nervous all over again, but also enjoyed seeing how excited yet full of fear he was.  At one point he said he thought he’d vomit as they opened the door to plane 14,000 feet in the air.  I watched him jump in horror, but when we met up in the sky ( I jumped 30 seconds later), he was so thrilled and was having the time of his life.

This time around we went diving at a place called Skydive the Ranch in Gardiner, New York, near New Palz.  A friend of mine had gone diving there before and had told me what a great operation they run, and he was absolutely right.  I was very impressed with how organized everything was.  I almost felt completely at ease when we got there and looked up to the sky.  There were so many parachutes up there at once with people having just jumped from the plane.  When I went in Fiji, it was just me and I didn’t see anything beforehand except the training video.   I have to say the scariest part of the whole process was filling out out the waiver!  After the waivers were completed and I acknowledged that skydiving could lead to death more than enough times, we were given detailed instruction on what would go on in the plane and for the jump.  Then it was time to suit up and get paired up with our tandem jumper and cameraman.   They offer the option to jump with someone who will take pictures and video of the jump and since this will probably be a once (or twice) in a lifetime opportunity, you should take them up on it.   The guys who we were jumping with went over our equipment several times to make sure everything was tight and secure and explained to us again how it would all go.  Next, we were all lined up in the plane and climbing high in the sky.  As they opened the door and the wind rushed in, that scary but exhilerating feeling came over me and before I could really have a chance to question myself, I arched back, leaning into him, and we were off out of the plane and falling several thousand feet per second.  The free fall was awesome and then before I knew it, we pulled the parachute and were floating through the sky gazing out at the sunset over the horizon.  When it was time to land, I lifted my feet in the air, and John landed us safetely on the ground (ok in a mud puddle, so it’s good I was wearing their jumpsuits!) 

As we were getting ready to leave, one of the other intructors began explaining how the parachute system works.  Not only do they dive with two parachutes, but there is also a jump computer that figures out when to launch the parachute if for any reason you don’t.  He said most of the jumpers feel safer outside the plane than inside, because outside, they have full control over where they will land.   He said that despite what people think, jumping out of a plane is probably the safest thing you’ll do in your day.

I have to say I was very impressed by Joe’s operation at Skydive the Ranch .  Everyone I spoke with over the phone was always very friendly and informative and once I was there, I knew I was in good hands.  If I were to go again, I would definitely feel confident in coming back to Skydive the Ranch.  I think every couple before getting married should dive together or make it part of their honeymoon! It’s also great for family bonding!  Check out the videos here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3Smq15Ly7A and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkMwJEOOJNM

Previous Post:

Hello Gorgeous!

It’s been awhile since I’ve done an installment of South Jersey Spa finder so this time I thought I would tell you about a South Jersey Salon and Spa.  I had asked someone at my gym awhile ago who did their hair and they had mentioned Hello Gorgeous.  At the time I did not go, but always thought her hair came out great.   Then someone else had mentioned them to me, so I decided to give them a try.  I am always very hesitant to try anyone new for my hair, because ladies, as you know, it can be very easily messed up and I’ve had my fair share.  For the past year, I had been going to Ana at Ouidad in Manhattan, who is terrific, but I really wanted to find someone closer to home.  Hello Gorgeous has seven locations in South Jersey.  I went to the one in Marlton and met with Lisa Fiorentino who is also the owner of all of the locations.  She spends one day in each location, so no matter where you live, if you’d like her to do your hair, which I would highly recommend, it can be convenient for you.

When I stepped into the salon, I had a feeling it would be a good experience.  It was clean and spacious with a contemporary look.  When I first met Lisa, she asked if I was scared.  Of course I was!  But as soon as we started talking, I knew I was in good hands.  I told her what I had done before and after examining my hair, went to mix up my colors.  They use Chi color products that supposedly contain very low ammonia compared to other products.  I was happy not to leave there with the chemical smell in my hair.  As she was putting in the foils, we talked about the products I’m currently using in my hair in the way of shampoo and conditioner and she recommended a Keratin shampoo and conditioner, which I’ve used a few times so far and love how soft and curly it leaves my hair!  My hair had been feeling a bit dry before I went for my coloring, but she put some color back in and with the change in products, I’ve already seen a difference.   After she washed my hair, she finished off with a nice glaze to blend all the colors.  I was so happy when I left there (not to mention relieved!) because the highlights were popping and it was a nice contrast with the lowlights.  It came out exactly how I had envisioned it and looked great for my recent TV work!

In addition to their full service salon, they also have a spa where you can enjoy a massages, facials, waxing, scrubs and makeup applications.  The pricing for all services is very reasonable and I as I was watching other stylists and their work, I can comfortably say you will get great results for your money.   I’ve always believed that your hair is one of your most important features, so while it’s tough justifying paying so much for a cut and color, I’d rather pay a little more and know it’s not going to be a botch job.  However, at “Hello Gorgeous,” you are guaranteed a great cut, color and style and it won’t break your pocketbook, which means you can actually get a full head of highlights for the price some places charge for just the hairline.   Hello Gorgeous definitely lives up to its name!

Previous Post:

Fly Like A Bird!

A few months back a friend was telling me I should go skydiving and I never thought I’d be able to do it, but when I was in Fiji I decided to take the plunge, and was I glad I did…so exhilarating!  So when this same friend told me he was going hang gliding, I ‘you tubed’ it and figured, why not go with him. He was going to be moving for a job in a few days and I thought it would be a fun activity to do before he left.  He had told me about it in the past, and as much as I loved scuba diving, the thought of going up in the air and then having someone snap a cable connecting you to the plane was not something I thought I could do.  However, after looking it up, I tried to compare it to parasailing in which you are up in the sky and feel like you’re floating while enjoying the scenery around you.  I tried to forget the fact that for this, I’d be at least 2500 feet in the air and not attached to a boat. 

When I told my friends I had done this, they remarked how adventurous I am.  Maybe so, but I believe everything can be done if you are in the right frame of mind.  Just because I did it, does not mean I was not initially nervous and scared.   I was petrified, but also excited at the same time.  My friend let me go first because he knew if I watched it, I’d probably freak myself out even more.  He was right.  However, as soon as I met Tom Atkins, the guy to whom I’d be tied, I knew I was in good hands.  Tom has over 20 years of hang gliding experience and can land the glider on a dime if he had to (at least that’s what he told me!)

The process was very easy.  I climbed into my pouch on the glider, which was tied to Tom’s and we tipped forward, getting ourselves to face the ground.  The plane took off and we followed, slowly lifting into the air.  After a gradual ascend, we were 3500 feet in the air.  While climbing, Tom turned and chatted a bit with me which helped me feel very much at ease.  There were handles on the side of him to hold onto.  Then when we were at a height where we could play around, he separated us from the plane, which at first was a bit scary, but then it just felt as though we were floating, taking in all the scenery below.  It was fun to see planes flying and landing below us, as well as the trees, birds, and highway.  I can’t imagine how many car accidents have occurred with people looking up into the sky at the hang gliders!  Once in the air, it was so peaceful.  You have the opportunity to fly the glider yourself by pulling the bar closer to you and shifting your body weight.  Then after a bit, Tom takes over, and does some fun tricks like a fast drop and a quick turn.  Felt like I was at an amusement park in the sky!

When it was time to come in for a landing, we descended slowly as he monitored the drop rate.  Then as we got closer to the ground, we felt the speed and hit the ground smoothly.  Since there are wheels on the glider, you don’t have to worry about landing on your feet like in skydiving.  What a rush and such a cool experience!!   There is no reason to be scared and I think everyone should try it at least once!  He was telling us he has taken people in the 70s and 80s hang gliding, so if they can do it, you definitely can!  Check out the videos here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xatSxY5F0c4



If you’d like to book an experience of a lifetime, check out Hangar 3. You can email Tom at  thomas20a@aol.com or call 917-270-5669

Next Post:

Rejuvenate Without Going Far

With the price of airline tickets on the rise and gas prices so high, the idea of having a great getaway close to home is priceless.   And I’m happy to say, I have a found a place just two hours from New York City and from most regions in New Jersey in the Pocono Mountains.  It’s a perfect romantic getaway, girlfriend getaway, and solo retreat…a spa at which you can recharge and rejuvenate.  It’s the Lodge at Woodloch. 

At The Lodge at Woodloch, your all-inclusive visit comes with three delicious, healthy meals, most fitness classes and outdoor activities and cooking clinics.  Breakfast and lunch include a buffet as well as a sit down meal.   Dinner is a three course menu with a full drink list for puchase.  All soft drinks, tea, freah squeezed juices and smoothies are included.  Each day you are given an itinerary of the day’s fitness classes and activities which include hiking, biking, kayaking, and classes that range from spin, and kickboxing to drumming on exercise balls.  There’ also a full day of mind and body classes including Qigong, yoga and pilates.  For a small fee, you can enjoy a wine tasting class as well.  In addition to all of the activities, they have a wonderful spa with a steam room, sauna and whirlpool in each locker room, as well as a co-ed outdoor whirlpool, two whirlpools with waterfalls that give a great back massage and a pool big enough to swim laps or take one of their many aqua classes.

Of course with a great spa comes a wide variety of treatment options.  You can choose  from a traditional Swedish or hot stone massage, a number of facials, body wraps, or manicures and pedicures.  The treatment I’d most recommend is not your typical massage and you do keep your clothes on, but will hit on all your pressure points, and if you are having any issues, herbalist Nathaniel Whitmore will work magic.  I was having major stomach pain from something I had eaten a few days prior and he focused right in on the stomach and other pressure points that corresponded to the area.  While he was working on the different spots, he was also giving me great information on natural herbs and cures. I left there feeling not only better but very relaxed.

So if you are looking for an active yet relaxing getaway close to home, you must visit the Lodge at Woodloch! You will leave feeling refreshed and fit!  I can’t wait to go back!

Previous Post:

Find your Inner Curl!

For all you women with curly hair, you know how difficult it can be to get a good haircut.  You try to get rid of the bulk around your face, so they take a razor to thin it out and before you know it, your hair never curls the way it used to.  So many places can give you a good haircut if you are willing to blow your hair straight everyday, but how many places really know the intricacies of curly hair, keeping each curl full of bounce and vibrancy so you’re not a slave to your blow dryer or flat iron?  Don’t get me wrong, for professional meetings and work, I blow my hair straight, but on an everyday basis, I would like to be able to throw in some gel and go.  

When I lived in NYC, there were a few curly hair salons that I heard about, but I had never tried one out…until now.  It was a Friday and I decided I needed a fresh look so I called up Ouidad, an upscale but friendly 5000 sq. foot salon specializing in curly, wavy and kinky hair on 57th street between 5th and 6th avenues.  I worked with Ana, the artistic director and educator, who has been at the salon for over fifteen years and before we even got started, she talked with me all about my hair..what I like, what I don’t like, etc.  She made sure to know exactly what I wanted before getting started.  Right away, I knew I’d be in good hands.  She suggested brightening up my color a bit for the summer and added beautiful highlights around my face and to the crown of my head.  She knew the perfect color combination.  It came out looking natural, but bright with contrast.  She mixed three different shades to achieve the look, which also worked to fix a bad color job from another salon.

Next up was the cut, and again, we discussed the length and look I was going for.  I like my long hair, but I wanted something fun and sassy, so she cut a few inches.  But it was more than just a trim off the bottom.  Ouidad’s stylists use a technique called carving and slicing as they address each individual curl.  Throughout my cut and color, Ana’s assistant, Sondriel, explained everything to me, from how to shampoo and condition my hair for the best looking curls to the types of products to use and how to style.  She also kept asking if I had any questions.  I think it’s great how much time they spend with you explaining everything, unlike in many salons where you almost feel like you’re bothering them by asking any questions.

A big part of managing your curly hair is how you treat and style it so Ana showed me a technique for getting a certain look when blow drying it straight and then explained the rake and shake technique they use for keeping it curly.  It definitely takes some practice, as I’ve not yet perfected it, but it’s a pretty simple way of getting the full head of curls and volume you’ve always wanted!  Even without spending the time doing the shake and rake throughout my hair, it still comes out really curly with just some gel.  I was amazed at the all of the beautiful curls on the women as they left the salon.

After you are done with your appointment, they hand you a booklet with their products and directions for how to style your hair, but I was so surprised that they did not pressure me into buying any of the products.  Usually at salons like these, they will tell you that you must buy their products to achieve the same look.  Instead, Sondriel suggested I finish the products I have at home first and then I can always go back in or order them online.  I know I will be getting the Ouidad products because I believe they work well, but it’s nice to know there’s no  pressure of adding a long list of products onto your bill that day.   I walked out of the salon feeling confident with my new found curls…ones that were always mine, but were hiding under a bad cut.  Thanks Ouidad!

Next Post:

A Vacation in a Weekend!

Many of you have heard me talking about Club Getaway on “After Hours.”  I decided to head up there for Memorial Day Weekend, as I had returned from their singles cruise a few months ago and was eager to see the new friends I had made.  The last time I was at Club Getaway was four years ago, and I forgot just how much fun I had.   It’s a beautiful place to visit and one that offers water and land sports galore.  Take workout and massage classes, arts and crafts,  trapeze,  go hiking and biking in the breathtaking mountains, and kayak, water ski and sail on the lake.  Plus, enjoy great food, drinks, entertainment, and a ton of fun people.  The camp is easily accessible in scenic Kent, CT. and is just a few hour drive from anywhere in the tri-state area.  They offer a bus from NYC which makes it very easy and convenient.  Their themed weekends start Friday evenings and end Sunday evenings, unless you go up for their extended holiday weekends, so you don’t have to worry about taking any time off from work.  While it’s only for a few days, you’ll return feeling refreshed and full of memories.

Click here for all the details and a list of the different weekends catering to various ages, singles, and families.  I will be going back up for J-weekend in July and with Scott, my producer, August 13-15 for the Sports and Fun weekend and look forward to seeing you there!

NJ 101.5 and Club Getaway Cruise 2010

I’m sitting on the top deck of the Costa Atlantica, the sun’s in front of me high in the sky reflecting on the glistening water below.  Many in our group are on the pub crawl, others  relaxing in the hot tub. This has been a phenomenal week.  With over 150 men and women on the Club Getaway Sports and Adventure Cruise, in addition to the few thousand already on the ship, there have been lots of new friends made, some hooking up, and possible budding romances.   The days were packed with excursions in the Western Caribbean, when not at sea, and the nights filled with cocktail parties, dancing, dinner and spectacular entertainment from the ship’s performers.   Club Getaway did a great job in making sure everyone was having a great time from morning until night.  While in port, we had the option of doing set excursions with the group or going off on our own.

Since I love scuba diving, I had to dive while in port, considering Key West, Roatan and Cozumel are all known for their incredible reefs and wrecks.  In Key West, I dove with Dive Key West and we dove the Vandenberg, a  world class wreck that’s a 520 ft. long steel hulled troop transport and missile tracking ship.  It is the second largest artificial reef in the world and sits a mere 40 ft. below the surface making her accessible to divers of all levels.   Everyone at Dive Key West was top notch and they’re definitely the shop to dive with while in Key West.  Bob Holston is the owner and has been operating for almost 40 years.  They really pride themselves on safety .  There was one person in our group who wanted to dive with me but since it had been awhile since his last dive, they turned him away rather than just taking the business, knowing he needed a refresher.  Greg was a great divemaster and lead us through the inside of the wreck which was really neat.  For the second dive, we dove a coral reef and saw a nurse shark, midnight parrot fish, sergeant majors, french angel and squirrel fish.

Having been to Roatan a few months ago, I was excited to go diving again with Anthony’s Key Resort.  Normally their dives are just for resort guests, but they also handle the cruise ship passengers.   I’ve been on four dives with them now and each one has been so enjoyable.  They really make you feel at home and are also very conscious about safety.  With every new diver, they do a quick check out dive to make sure you have the right weight and know the basics.    The first dive was beautiful through the “Spooky Channel”…Wayne’s Reef.  We saw huge grouper, hogfish, cowfish, scorpionfish, lionfish and a huge king crab.   If you are taking a cruise into Roatan and you’re a diver, this is the activity you’ll want to choose while on the island.  With the time we had in port, I was able to do a two tank dive and for the second one, I had the opportunity to dive with the dolphins which was so much fun! Everytime I interact with them, they put such a smile on my face.  It was really cool to see them swim around in their own habitat.  They seemed to love the camera and would swim towards you so you could rub and play with them.   If you are going to Roatan and not on a cruise, you definitely want to stay at Anthony’s Key Resort.  The cottages are right across the water from the dive boats and they will ferry you back and forth all day.  In between dives, I put myself in a hammock and fell asleep to the sound of the birds chirping.

I was really looking forward to diving in Cozumel since the last time I was there for a day, I was not yet scuba certified.  At first when we arrived, the port was closed for all water activities because of the rough winds.   I went with the rest of the group to Chankanaab Park, which is a great place to go for snorkeling, diving, the beach, and playing with the dolphins.  They’ll also give you a tour of their Mayan ruins.  About an hour in, they changed the flag to yellow and announced the water was open.  I ran to the dive shop and they hooked me up right away with gear and took me diving right off the shore.  It was a one on one dive and we saw a huge lobster, sting rays, and an eel in the cave we swam through.  After we got back, I really wanted to find a dive shop with whom to do a boat dive because I had been told that what you see by boat is incredible.  The dive shop in Chankanaab recommended I head to Mr. Santos and to the Ramon Zapata’s Diver’s dive shop.

I had just missed the boat and normally they need to have at least four people.  It was already 2pm and I knew that if I couldn’t go diving with them, I would be in Cozumel for a second time without having seen the magnificent underwater life for which it’s known. When the owner, Ramon Jr., came back from the dive, his sister, Aldarita, who also helps run the diveshop, spoke with him and they said they would send me out with divemaster Abraham even though I was the only one.  I was so thrilled and happy I had found such a friendly operation.  Family run, their father, Ramon was a pioneer of diving in Cozumel.  Having been born in 1925, he started the dive shop and his son and daughter took it over.  Turns out the shop I went diving with in Chankanaab was owned by them as well.   The whole staff really made me feel welcome and was so enthusiastic to share with me their family history in diving.   In addition to the dives you can do from Mr. Santos Beach Club and Chankanaab Park, they will customize any dive for you depending on where you’d like to go, including bullshark diving in Playa del Carmen.   You can also do a discover scuba with them if you’ve never been diving before, and you can get your certification in just a few days.   Divemaster Abraham was great in pointing out many things on our dive.  The coral was absolutely beautiful and the fishes magnificent.  Just as I was posing for a picture near some coral, a huge green moray eel crawled out from a rock under me.   I would highly recommend diving with Ramon Zapata’s Divers if you’re headed to Cozumel.  You can make a reservation by emailing them at ramonzapata_divers@hotmail.com.

Overall the week was a ton of fun and if you did not make it on this cruise, you definitely want to make sure you’re on the next one.  We  had some great laughs and met  new friends that we know we’ll see again.  And the best part, while we were partying it up in the tropical Caribbean, the tri state area was getting hit with yet another snowstorm.

Previous Post:

The Historical Hermitage Hotel

For our downtown part of our trip to Nashville, we stayed at the magnificent historical Hermitage Hotel and enjoyed a delicious four course meal at the Capitol Grille on New Years Eve and a wonderful brunch on Sunday.  The restaurant is located inside Tennessee’s only AAA five diamond and Mobil Five Star Award winning hotel.  The restaurant was decked out for New Years Eve with gold and black balloons and a jazz band to set the festive and romantic mood.  In the corner, one waiter was working hard to set the table for one couple by putting down rose pedals and champagne for the nervous guy who was about to propose to his girlfriend.  Executive Chef Tyler Brown prepared an exquisite dinner with a wide variety of choices including market fresh seafood, game, and fresh local Southern cuisine.   I had the smoked salmon belly, Maine diver scallops, Moulard duck  breast and poached winter fruits for dessert.  My cousin tried the butter fish, squab, and porchetta.   I can’t say I’ve ever had squab (pigeon) or butter fish (from Hawaii) before, but they were both very good.   Since the food was so good on New Years Eve, the idea of Sunday brunch sounded perfect when friend from Nashville suggested we meet there. We enjoyed a salmon omelet, steak and eggs, and a squash and pumpkin soup which was delicious.

Locals and tourists come to the Hermitage Hotel for tea in their spectacular lobby.  Commissioned by 250 Nashvillians in 1908, The Hotel Hermitage was named after Andrew Jackson’s hermitage estate and opened on Saturday, September 17, 1910.  The hotel promoted itself as fireproof, noiseproof, and dustproof and only the finest materials of Italian sienna marble in the entrance, wall panels of Russian walnut, a cut, stained glass ceiling in the vaulted lobby, Persian rugs, and massive overstuffed furniture starting at $2.00 a night.
As Nashville’s first million-dollar hotel, it was the preferred gathering place for the city’s socialites and  attracted everyone from presidents and war heroes to actresses and gangsters. After switching hands a few times and a major renovation, today it remains a place for celebrities and businessmen as well as those  simply looking for a luxury experience  at this Nashville AAA five diamond property.  The average room is 475 square feet, has a beautiful marble bathroom with a soaking tub and separate shower, and double vanity. The bed was very comfortable and our room had a beautiful view of the capitol building.

So if you’re looking for a luxurious experience in the heart of the downtown area of Nashville within walking distance of the honky tonks and shops, hands down, you’ll want to stay at the historical Hermitage Hotel.