Where I Went 2012

Editor and friend Max Hartshorn of GoNOMAD asked me to submit to his Where We Went in 2012 article.  Here's what I came up with: 

I love to pack!  The anticipation of going somewhere and packing just the right thing makes me feel like I've aced an exam!  As a fashion stylist, I've made a whole profession out of counseling  people on just what to wear for any occasion at home or abroad.  When I travel, I'm reporting on the fashion scene and finding ways to absorb stylish ideas to use in my styling work with clients.  

As for styling work, I'm a stylist at the by-appointment Carlisle/Per Se Showroom in Greenwich CT. and I travel there almost daily. Just 40 minutes from Grand Central (NYC), Greenwich is considered one of the toniest towns in America!  Visit the Bruce Museum, the shoe department at Saks–fab, window-shopping up and down the Avenue, and of course the Ralph Lauren mansion store.  I like Morello or Terra for lunch or drinks or sometimes I'll grab a sandwich and just sit and watch the Sound (Long Island). 

Oxbow Public Market
Another cool place, on the opposite coast, to be seen and check out the scene is Napa.  My article "Take 5 in Napa" for Travelgirl Magazine described a fall girlfriend getaway sans car.  Take the Wine Train up the valley and fulfill your Agatha Christie dreams or visit the Oxbow Public Market where cool meets country. While most visitors to Napa are elbowing to get a reservation at The French Laundry, we opted for Cuvée Napa the atmosphere and clientele made for excellent style watching and the food and wine pairings were extraordinary. 

No winter is complete with out buckling up boots, ski boots!  I have a printed/laminated list of everything one needs to wear and bring skiing. If I didn't like clothes so much, I'm not sure I would love the sport!  We skied local this year.  Jiminy Peak and Butternut ski resorts in the Berkshires made enough snow to satisfy visitors while mother nature occasionally chipped in.  The fashion scene on these hills is well, non existent... My new Montclair ski jacket needs a trip to the Alps!  

Early summer in Portland Maine is all about–light houses, adirondack chairs, lobster... This stylist put on full lobsterman gear and boarded a lobster fishing boat to catch those gnarly creatures and catch them, she did!  Lunch was my lobster catch dockside.  Next was a stone massage at The Inn by the Sea's spa.  This classic, contemporary Inn is Maine at it's best.  Wear sweeping linens, straw hat and espadrilles.  You'll feel like you belong in a Winslow Homer painting!  What's more you can visit Homer's Studio while in Portland.  Follow that up with a food and wine tour of this unexpectedly hip New England town. 

Estrella Spa at the Viceroy Palm Springs
Palm Springs is HOT in August!  Skimpy summer frocks, a must!  The town is tourist free and there are off-season deals to be found.  The Viceroy Hotel makes for feeling fabulous.  It's ultra chic, goove-a-licious–everything the Rat Pack had in mind when they made this town their playground.  Make sure to visit the "design district" and stop by Flow Modern Design store.  If hiking is your thing, the desert makes for interesting vistas and a fizzy cocktail post hike is deserving and appreciated!  My choice? A margarita of course!

Day Tripping from Cap Maison in St. Lucia

Now this sounds like a great vacation side trip, especially for a girlfriend’s getaway:

Wake up in a villa at Cap Maison in St. Lucia. Next, saunter down to the restaurant perched above the sea at the northern most tip of the island. Here, the Caribbean and Atlantic meet. Waves and dark coffee say, “Good morning.” Take Cap Maison’s motor yacht to Martinique. Arrive there about 9:30am for breakfast. Discover Fort de France as you shop Parisian style at the duty free boutiques (Chanel, Hermes) or “go native” and explore the local markets. Return to Cap Maison in time for an afternoon cocktail, poolside or on the beach, made with seasonal fresh fruit. Or, keep with the theme of the day and partake in the chef’s selection of French wine and cheeses. Take a nap, or perhaps read, back at the villa, again poolside. Yes. The villa comes with a pool…

Cap Maison reminds me of a combination of architecture you might find while cruising the Mediterranean­–a little bit of Morocco meets Greece. Throw in some Southern Spain, add a little Malta. However the overall flavor of the resort puts you in Mexico. This may sound hodge-podge, but it works. The buildings are stucco, stark white, and their edges curve and slope caressing the sky. They say lack of sun can make you depressed. I wonder if boxy shaped architecture puts you in a bad mood too. Cap Maison would be the antidote for both.

The resort opened last year in time to celebrate British Airway’s direct service to St. Lucia. Jet Blue now has non-stop service from JFK too. It was the dream child of the Goblat family who lives on premises and wanted to parlay their adjacent landholdings into, “…the best of all the resorts we (they) ever stayed at.” The resort is comprised of 22, one, two and three bedroom villas. There are 49 keys; so guests have the option of staying in a private, adjacent bedroom to one of the villas. It’s deluxe and pretty much everything you could want from a swank resort.

My sunshiny moments…

• Wading in the roof deck pool of “My Villa” with views of the resort in the foreground and the sea in the background.

• Taking a sunset cruise on the resort’s motor yacht. (They offer a “Stay and Sail” package­–cruise the Islands for three to four days and then stay at the resort.)

• Eating the homemade shortbread cookies delivered to my room upon arrival. They killed me.

• Bobbing in an ocean warmer than most pools. You could see your toes through the clear water and the beach cove setting reminded me of the make-out scene from, Here to Eternity.

• Sipping a passion fruit margarita that truly was the best I’ve ever had in my life. E-v-e-r.

• Dining…waves below, the soft, smooth taste of a lovely Chardonnay matching the smooth feeling of my skin post massage (Yes, they do have a spa.) And the food; we began with lobster consommé, then were presented with a Tapas plate of duck roulade and foie gras, but I can’t tell you about the last tasty morsel because I put my pen down to savor the food and the experience!

South Coast Winery Resort & Spa

Every pedicure should come with wine.

At the GrapeSeed Spa, The Gals and I were treated to the soak, scrub and message of a traditional pedicure, but with wine and the surrounding deluxe spa and resort that is part of South Coast's Winery, we were transported, giddy really, with t
hat you're here now, pinch yourself feeling.

Post pedi, we hustled over via complimentary golf cart to dive into a wine tour that made me feel like I should go to the back of the class. If we had
been given a test
on wine making after the tour, I would have failed, sadly I think Brigitte would have too, but we would have copied off Jody who spent several years working in the spirits industry. What are friends for?

Our guide was in a hurry, she spoke too fast and much of the information was lost on me. However, she redeemed herself with the tasting that followed the actual tour. We sat down, alfresco, to a lovely table set with cheese plate and several wine glasses. Overlooking the vineyards, the scene fulfilled our romantic fantasies of a Southern California wine dynasty. Fantasy example: Hopping on the back of a Steve McQueen dude's dirt bike for a quick "tour" of the "grapes," hair blowing, the smell of fertile soil... I'm getting away from
myself. In reality, we were sitting with a very sweet gay couple.

The take-away from the tasting was twofold. 1) South Coast Winery is on the map as a premier winemaker in California. They have won, for the last two years, Southern California's Winery Of The Year. 2) The wines, to our taste buds, were outstanding! And we learned just how to taste them, what they would be good paired with, and why we should come back to this winery again and again.

• To taste: See, swirl, smell and savior
- Once it's poured, tilt the glass, hold it up and look at the color
- Swirl the glass. This allows air to "open up" the taste
- Smell, "Go ahead stick your nose right down in the glass."
- Savior, "Suck it in, swish it in your mouth and swallow."

• Why come back: Too many reasons to name here, but below are a few...
- The Villas amongst the grapes is just dreamy.
- "The Club" has activities and deals to take advantage of in person or
from a distance.
- In September and October, you can tap into your inner earth mama and actually pick grapes.
- The GrapeSeed Spa (mentioned above)–luxuriate.
- The Vineyard Rose restaurant. Savior wine and food at this mediterranean restaurant.
You'll appreciate the Tuscan ambiance. Have the antipasti, for sure!
- Romance, with The Gals, well and good, but this place screams for a romantic getaway.

Top Left; GrapeSeed Spa outdoor lounge
Middle Left; Us, tasting
Lower Right; Antipasti Plate, The Vineyard Rose

Above Photos, Brigitte Lehnert of Flow Modern Design

Photo Below, Courtesy of Temecula CVB,

Mud Sligging

Slathering mud on your girlfriend's back truly brings a whole new meaning to, "we're very close." Can you happily grab globs of red mud, spread it all over yourself and your friend, bake in the sun until your skin resembles cracked clay and then vigorously slough it off (each other), resulting in a dipped-in-brown-sugar look, all while discussing the merits of raising children? One friend, re-entering single parenthood shared the challenges of growing two boys, while the other discussed coming to terms with her childlessness. I couldn't tell if the other women slinging clay were treading in such muddy waters, but that is what makes our friendship close, extraordinary really. If you're like us, Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa is a great place to rest, relax, and talk.

We were just starting our weekend getaway. We stopped at Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa, situated west and south of the Santa Ana Mountains in Corona, CA before proceeding to Temecula. There is a skill set, or strategy involved in navigating a spa as big as Glen Ivy and my friend, Jody, was way ahead of Brigitte and I on the learning curve. Like some sort of spa shark she staked a claim to a secluded, shady, arched-way veranda. We threw our stuff down marking our territory and headed for The Red Clay Mud Bath. Brigitte suppressed her spartan German cleanliness and Jody, ever the authoritarian, schooled us on the benefits and techniques of mud bathing. It was really fun.

The three of us opted for a traditional swedish massage, fabulous, but Glen Ivy offers all sorts of rub and scrub options; Temescal Stone Therapy, Eucalyptus Body Wrap, Acorn Honey Almond Body Polishing to name a few.
After lunch (we chose salads and, well, ...nachos) we returned to our home-base lounge area and appropriately, lounged. Nearby was a small wading pool, one of 19 different pool at Glen Ivy.
We took a pass on the Mineral Baths, too crowded, although couples seemed to be enjoying them. Suana Court and The Grotto was also a walk by. We see each other just once a year, so our treatments were more for the spirit than the body.

Temecula Creek Inn

Brunch is a funny word. Technically it means a combo of lunch and breakfast, but often it is a big, bountiful, stuff yourself silly, mid-morning meal. That’s just what The Gals and I did at the Temecula Creek Inn. Overlooking a sprawling 27 hole golf course we grazed; made to order omelets, salmon in a puff pastry, seared tuna with the fixings–seaweed salad, wasabi and ginger, artisanal cheeses, eggs benedict... I’m not even scratching the surface! As for drinks, we needed caffeine, but the brunch sported a Bloody Mary bar,
Champaign and Mimosas.

The golfers in my family, Mom, Dad and brother, Michael, say Temecula Creek Inn is the golfing venue in Temecula. Mom and Dad have golfed throughout the world and they had nice things to say about the course in comparison to some others in Southern California. Michael likes a nice place and Temecula “rated” for him. Believe me, that’s saying a lot.

Us Gals aren’t golfers, but we agreed that we should take it up as we sat down with plate number TWO. That

morning eating seemed to be our sport of choice!

Friday Night Lights at Temecula Creek Inn starts at 5:30pm with nine holes of golf followed by an upscale buffet dinner. Then try your swing at an additional three

holes of glow in the dark golf ($85.00). This sounds like a blast for a girlfriend getaway, as does some of their other events and packages.

We liked the understated ranch-like feel of the Inn. Villas overlooking the course seamlessly blended with the

greens. Nice, because all too often the architecture surrounding a course can appear out-of-place, like Tiger Woods jumping horses.

Temecula Tastiness, Olive Oil

"It's begging for a tomato," said Catherine Pepe about Temecula Olive Oil Company's Fresh Basil oil. With the heady aroma of freshly cut basil filling our nostrils and the satiny feel of mission olive oil on our lips, my girlfriends and I sighed, smiled and swooned over the suggestion. Take this same oil and mix it with California Pomegranate Vinegar for a bright, tangy, peppery taste that does a cha cha in your mouth. Dress a salad of watermelon, feta cheese and basil with this oil and vinegar combo and you're transported to the Mediterranean.
The Temecula Olive Oil Company was one stop during last weekend's sojourn in Temecula, CA. The Gals and I, three pals since high school, sampled the flavors, sites and smells of this area kn
own to many as Southern California's Wine Region. We smelled and sipped wine, tasted olive oil, received foot scrubs, slathered ourselves with mud, brunched, lunched and dined–all while talking non-stop. Exercising ones jaw to near exhaustion is the happy by-product of a successful girlfriend's get-away. I'll be writing about this one for blogs to come.

But I mustn't digress from olive oil. The Temecula Olive Oil Company has been in business for
the past nine years. As you approach their retail store in Old Town you get a feeling for the
romance surrounding olive harvesting at Southern California missions of old. The store is one still life after another of everythin
g that is "olive-able." Soaps, olive wood accessories, tapanades, stuffed olives galore and creative farm to table foods.

Maneuvering toward the olive bar we were willing participants to owner Catherine's crash course in making and tasting olive oil. She passionately shared her life's work, harvesting enthusiastic oohs and awes from us. She talked of the company's olive acreage, managing other growers, a custom designed press, the cold press process and so much more. All the while we were tasting, in little tiny cups without bread, oils with names like; Citrus Reserve, Roasted Garlic, Jalapeno, Rotture di Oro and Mission. These were followed by a tasting of vinegars that just knocked my flip flops off!
Imagine, she says, this Vanilla & Fig Balsamic drizzled over vanilla ice-cream!

To paint an even more idilic vision of this family owned business, Catherine pointed out partner and grower, Thom Curry's picture. She referenced his olive credentials–certified by the International Olive Oil Council and Master Taster. Needless to say Thom became fodder for our romantic dreams of, "Hunky man of the harvest, elbow deep in olive making." (Sorry Nancy, be pleased, not peeved.)

Now, olive oil aficionados, we'll share a few oil does and don'ts:

• Skip big bottles of olive oil from the shelves of wholesale food stores.
• Don't believe extra virgin is a virgin. Know the pedigree of your olive oil and its maker.
• Stick with a tall thin bottle, minimizing the ratio of air to oil, keeping the oil fresher longer.
• Be creative with olive oil varieties–try them on everything from veggies to fish to Bloody Marys!
• Olive oil doesn't last forever. Store it in a cool dark place and use it, the sooner the better!
Photos, Brigitte Lehnert