Friday, August 31, 2012

Great Sleeps: Red Mountain Resort, Ivins, Utah

Red Mountain Resort  1275 E. Red Mountain Circle, in Ivins (near St. George), (877) 246-4453, (435) 673-4905.  82 rooms, 48 villa suites; up to 210 guests.  1 indoor pool, 1 outdoor pool; 3 hot tubs.  3 meals/day included.  Pets ok.  $230+/person/night (no minimum); no surcharge for singles; high season is Sept-Nov.  This highly rated spa resort is set on 55 acres abutting a beautiful red-rock canyon.  The modern terra cotta-colored, pueblo-inspired compound consists of low-rise buildings that blend in nicely.  Everything you need to relax, renew, and rediscover your passion for adventure awaits.  Morning hikes through the surrounding crimson rocks and in nearby Snow Mountain State Park lure hikers of all levels.  I took one hike along Anasazi Ridge to see an impressive group of petroglyphs,




and another one that led to a reputed vortex where we laid down our yoga mats on a warm flat rock and meditated to the sound of a flute being played by our multi-talented guide.  Healthful cuisine reflects a focus on fitness, and the well-prepared meals are presented with an artful eye.  A staff member says, “We don’t advocate deprivation.  Individuals should be empowered to make their own choices.”  A nutrition key to calories is provided for each item along with information regarding which is gluten free, dairy free, kosher, vegetarian, or vegan and more.  Lunch and breakfast are self-serve, while dinner is selected from a menu.  Fresh fruit and both hot and cold drinks are always available between scheduled meals.  Rooms are simple but comfortable, each with a deep soaking tub; more expensive villas are also more spacious and luxurious.  Sagestone Spa operates within a geodesic dome and offers a menu of health and beauty treatments as well as some mineral cures (many incorporate native therapies and indigenous plants unique to southern Utah).  Separate men's and women's areas have saunas, steam rooms and lounges.  An assortment of yoga, fitness, and personal discovery classes are scheduled throughout the day in a Wellness Center, and personal trainers are at the ready to create custom workouts.  Many activities are included in the basic price, while others are additional.  A large spiral labyrinth is spectacular to walk at dusk.  Trips to the nearby national parks and monuments—Zion, Bryce Canyon--can be arranged, and golf, tennis, and stables are nearby.   Bike rentals are available, and addictive hammocks are scattered throughout the grounds.  Guests do become very fond of the property, and many return annually.

More things to do in Southern Utah.  

More travel articles to inspire you and help you plan some spectacular getaways.

image and video c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Great Sleeps, Good Eats, & Sights to See: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park  79 miles E of Cedar City, (435) 834-5322.  $25/car/good for 7 days.  Not a true canyon, Bryce is actually a series of ravines carved from limestone with red rock spires--known as hoodoos--left behind.  The Fairyland Overlook, located just outside the park entrance, is one of the best viewing spots.  Thor’s Hammer--the park’s tallest hoodoo--is best viewed from Sunset Point and can be seen up close by hiking a short way down the steep, echoing Navajo Loop Trail.  There are many more spectacular view points at the top, and many more trails that wind down into the dramatic canyon leading through the multicolored rock formations.  Shuttles are available.  An elevation of around 8,000 feet and lack of city lights makes Bryce famous for good star-gazing. 

The Lodge at Bryce Canyon  (877) 386-4383, (435) 834-8700.  114 rooms.  Open Apr-Oct.  Restaurant (B-L-D; $$).  Built in the 1920s by Gilbert Stanley Underwood--the same architect who designed Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Lodge and Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Lodge--this atmospheric  park lodge is furnished with replicas of its original hickory-wood pieces.   A row of rocking chairs on the long front porch invite resting.  Rooms are in two-story motel-style buildings and in cabins.  The lodge dining room has a rustic-yet-refined dining room, in the style of the 1930s, and serves a tasty menu.  When I ate there recently I dined on a strawberry and greens salad with goat cheese, beef short ribs braised for 6 hours in chipotle barbecue sauce, and a gorgeous fresh fruit tart with cream Anglaise.

More things to do in Southern Utah. 

More travel articles to inspire you and help you plan some spectacular getaways.

images c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Bryce Canyon Lodge on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 27, 2012

Great Sleeps & Things to Do: Cedar City, Utah

    The town of Cedar City makes a good home base for a visit to the many striking national parks in Southern Utah.  Getting here is about a 2 ½-hour drive from Las Vegas, which makes a good entry point by air. 

Crystal Inn  1575 West 200 North, 2 mi. from downtown, (888) 787-6661, (435) 586-8888.  100 rooms; 2 stories.  Heated pool; hot tub; sauna; exercise room.  Full buffet breakfast; restaurant (L-high tea-D daily).  Free WiFi.  This inn is considered the best in town, with large, comfortable rooms and cool cotton-swathed beds.  A shuttle van is available into downtown.

Frontier Homestead State Park Museum  635 N. Main St., 435-586-9290.  M-Sat 9am-5pm.  Displays include rare horse-drawn vehicles used from 1850 to 1920 and a collection of pioneer artifacts.  An iron industry exhibit features the only known remaining artifact from the original foundry--the town bell.

Utah Shakespearean Festival  On the Southern Utah University campus, (800) PLAYTIX, (435) 586-7878.  June-Oct.  Children must be age 6+.  This regional theatre has a 5-month season of plays and musicals.  Settings include both an open-air theater patterned after Shakespeare’s Globe and a modern facility for contemporary plays.   In the 2012 season, I saw “Mary Stuart,” and the quality of the performances was top-notch.  It was well deserving of the standing ovation received.  A free pre-performance Greenshow features music, song, and dance on the grass outside.  Atmospherically dressed hawkers sell Renaissance Faire-style foods, including favorites with locals--dessert tarts and “puck” candy (a large, round, puck-like “turtle”  made of milk chocolate with a caramel-pecan center).

More things to do in Southern Utah. 

Things to do in Vegas.

More travel articles to inspire you and help you plan some spectacular getaways. 

image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, August 24, 2012

Things to Do: Caesars Palace Casino & Forum Shops, Las Vegas, Nevada

Caesars Palace  3500 Las Vegas Blvd. S, (800) 634-6661, (702) 731-7110

The Forum Shops at Caesars  3500 Las Vegas Blvd S, (702) 893-4800.   Daily 10am-11pm.  With high ceilings painted to resemble the sky, long shopping lanes fan out here from a high central dome above an ornate fountain filled with statues.  Shopping choices include more than 160 stores, including Christian Louboutin shoes (the one with the red soles), Tiffany’s, and the world’s largest H&M, plus you can eat at branches of L.A.’s Cheesecake Factory, NYC’s P.J. Clarke’s, and Israel’s Max Brenner. 

        ●Fall of Atlantis  At Festival Fountain.  Daily, on the hour 11am-11pm; fish feeding at 1:15 & 5:15 pm; behind the scenes tour M-F at 3:15pm.  Free.  The lost undersea city is surrounded by a 50,000-gallon saltwater aquarium.  The show consists of an epic battle with fire and smoke in which Roman statues come to life for 7 minutes. 

More things to do in Vegas.


image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Great Sleeps & Things to Do: Bellagio Casino & Gallery of Fine Art, Las Vegas, Nevada

Bellagio  Don’t miss the famous Dale Chihuly glass-flower extravaganza on the lobby ceiling of this Tuscan-style casino. 

Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art  Casino level.  Reservations advised.  Daily, hours vary.  $15, 65+ & students $12.  Shows change.  When I visited recently,  I saw "Claude Monet: Impressions of Light" showcasing the French impressionists and some of his contemporaries.  A wand explains most paintings in detail. 

More things to do in Vegas. 

image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Monday, August 20, 2012

Great Sleeps & Good Eats: Aria Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

Aria Resort & Casino  3730 Las Vegas Blvd. S, CityCenter, (877) 580-2742; .  4,000 rooms.  Full-service spa ($30 fee without a treatment).  Set back from the strip, this sleek crescent tower delivers spectacular views from every guestroom.  Accommodations are lavish, with posh beds and advanced technology.  Luxury Sky Suites begin on the 27th floor and include complimentary VIP services such as a snack lounge and a limo to the airport.  All rooms greet guests with button-controlled drapes that open welcomingly when you arrive, an oversize deep bathtub with tiny powerful jets all around the bottom plus bath salts, and a Japanese Toto toilet with heated seat.  My favorite amenity was the mouthwash infused with organic spearmint leaf oil.  If you become fond of the Sealy 12-layer foam bed, you can order it and the bedding to go (the only problem is the delicious white Egyptian cotton sheet set doesn’t include a fitted bottom; both sheets are hotel-style flats).  The huge casino is glitzy and fresh, the restaurants include some famous chefs, and the mega spa features both a salt-block-lined meditation room that promotes dewy skin and improved breathing and the only Ganbanyoku heated stone beds in the U.S. (they improve metabolism and soothe tired muscles).  A free tram runs to the Bellagio, Monte Carlo, and adjacent Crystals Shopping Center with its exclusive upscale retailers and restaurants.  CityCenter, which Aria is a part of, is an urban resort complex with hotels, residences, restaurants, shopping, casinos, and entertainment--all within walking distance of each other. 
Jean Philippe Patisserie  Casino level.  Daily 6am-midnight.  This confection of a cafe displays an array of colorful sweets.  Choosing is difficult.  There are crepes, fresh pastries (the almond croissant is a don’t-miss), desserts, gelatos, coffees, candies, and more, more, more.  It’s hard to beat enjoying your selection at a casino-side perch perfect for people-watching, but some do choose to carry out their goodies.

Jean Philippe Patisserie (Aria) on Urbanspoon

Julian Serrano  Casino level.  Celebrity chef Julian Serrano prepares creative tapas, tasty housemade sangrias, and posh seafoods.  Plan to share.  Best of the bunch includes lobster salad, stuffed piquillo peppers, brava potatoes, and gambas (prawns sautéed in olive oil).  If room permits, also try albondigas (pork-beef meatballs in a light tomato sauce) and grilled Angus flat-iron steak.  For dessert, there is always room for molten chocolate cake with blood orange sherbet.


Julian Serrano (Aria) on Urbanspoon



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images c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Great Sleeps: HaGoshrim Kibbutz & Resort Hotel, Kiryat Shmona, in Upper Galilee, Israel

HaGoshrim Kibbutz & Resort Hotel  12225 M.P., Kiryat Shmona, in Upper Galilee, 972-4-6816000.  161 rooms.  No children under 14; no pets.  Located on the ruins site of Emir Fa'ur 's winter palace (the Emir controlled the northern Hula Valley in the days of the Ottoman Empire), in the Galilee Hills a few miles from the Lebanon border, this simple but comfortable hotel lies in the center of a valley facing the Golan Heights and the snows of Mount Hermon.  It combines ancient and modern architecture with a pastoral landscape, splendid views, and crystal-clear air.  Facilities include two swimming-pools (outdoor and indoor), sauna, Jacuzzi, gym, basketball court, squash court, and spa.  Guests can visit the property’s flour mill, horsetail plant reserve, and nature reserve with springs, babbling streams, and the tributaries of the Jordan River, and a tractor-drawn wagon tour of the kibbutz is offered in spring and summer.  A mini zoo on a Dan River tributary is home to a variety of birds and animals.  The hotel is kosher and has a synagogue.  An expansive breakfast buffet is served in the lobby restaurant, and the fish-and-cheeses Gosh Restaurant on the banks of the Koren Stream flowing just below the hotel serves a refined cuisine.  


More things to do in Israel.

image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sights to See: Zippori National Park, Lower Galilee, Israel

Zippori National Park  In the western Lower Galilee, 04-6568272.  This national park displays the remains of a large ancient city that is believed to be the home of the parents of Mary, mother of Jesus.  Rosemary grows wild here, as it does almost everywhere in Israel.  The site has a small amphitheater dating to 20 BC and glorious mosaics.  A small fortress offers a panoramic roof-top view that includes the main excavation, Nazareth, and Hosaya--a modern orthodox village with a nice B&B and the ancient Kefer Kedem tourist village. 


More things to do in Israel.

image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Things To Do: Río Secreto, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Río Secreto  3 miles south of Playa.  Operated by a local cooperative, this cenote was discovered in 2007.  It is the longest partially-flooded cave in the Yucatan and a protected nature reserve.  Most caves here are completely underwater, requiring specialized training in cave diving to explore, but Secreto has more than 7.5 miles of semi-sunken cave that can be explored by walking and swimming.  Water shoes, a wet suit, a life vest, and a helmet with light are all loaned to you as part of the admission package, and changing rooms, towels, and snacks are included.

More things to do in the Riviera Maya.

image c2012 Rio Secreto

Monday, August 6, 2012

Things To Do: 5th Avenue/Quinta Avenida, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico

5th Avenue/Quinta Avenida  Playa del Carmen’s pedestrian-only main street runs parallel to the ocean.  It is lined with open-air bars and restaurants and shops and for pedestrians only.  You’ll find everything from designer clothes and upscale jewelry to Maya carvings and colorful Mexican handicrafts.  More shops are found on cobblestone side streets.

More things to do in the Riviera Maya.

image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sights to See: Coba, Riviera Maya, Mexico

COBA  Is about 40 miles/30 min. inland from Tulum.  This sprawling, atmospheric ruin is right in the jungle amid lush vegetation.  Most of it remains unexcavated.  The main pyramid, Nohuch Mul, is 138 feet tall and the highest Maya pyramid in Mexico.  You can still climb it, and a safety rope is strung along the steps.  Visitors can walk between the ruin sites, but it is more fun to ride a bike (they are free) or take an inexpensive bike taxi for two.  You’ll see beautiful peche trees with multi-colored thin trunks that match the tones of the stone ruins, smell the citronella from insect repellant, and hear loud, loud birdsong.  Coba is estimated to have had at least 50,000 inhabitants at its peak.  The site has two ball game courts. 

More things to do in the Riviera Maya.

videos c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Great Sleeps: Ana y Jose Charming Hotel & Spa, Tulum, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Ana y Jose Charming Hotel & Spa  In hotel zone, 4 mi. S. of Tulum archaeological site, 011-52-998-880-60-22.  23 rooms + 1 villa.  4 rooms with TV.  Pool; full-service spa.  No smoking; no pets.  Begun with just four guest rooms in 1984 and still owned by the same family, this hotel was then a simple palapas-on-the-beach-style lodging that attracted an alternative clientele.  Located off the main highway, down an ungroomed, jungle-edged side street, about four miles south of the Tulum archaeological site, it remains simple but has upgraded to subtle luxury.  The hippies are gone now from this area, and it has become a favorite of celebrities.  Politicians from around the world have stayed at Ana y Jose’s, as did one of the Fab Four not too long ago.  Because the hotel is located in a natural national park, strict policies require hotel staff to do many things themselves, including produce electricity both by a generator and solar energy and to use a water treatment plant.  Guests check in upstairs in an open-air, tree house-like lobby.  The answer to a problem seems to always be “no problem.”  The bulk of the resort is located across the quiet street, right on the sand.  The sand-floored restaurant has an ocean view and plenty of good wine.  The specialty is Mexican cuisine and sea food--chilaquiles for breakfast, a great ceviche.  Flaming dishes and Cuban cigars are also on the menu.  Italian and Argentinean restaurants are nearby off property.  A communal freshwater swimming pool is surrounded by full-size beach beds, and beach equipment includes palapas, chairs, and netted lounge beds.  Guest rooms have thatched palapa roofs and both a ceiling fan and air conditioning.

More things to do in the Riviera Maya.

image c2012 Carole Terwilliger Meyers