outside-our-window.jpgMy husband and I were approaching a big anniversary and wanted to celebrate. As we considered lovely and exotic locales, we realized what we really wanted was a touch of wilderness and fresh air that involved no time changes from our California home. The Wickaninnish Inn, a straight shot north to British Columbia, bills itself as “rustic elegance on nature’s edge.” One look at the hotel’s web site, and we both sighed. It was perfect.

Wickaninnish was the name of an 18th century chief of the Tla-o-qui-aht band of First Nation people. First Nation band is in Canadian parlance what we Americans call a Native American tribe. Wickanninish means, “He who no one sits in front of in the canoe.” Based on our experience, the Wick, as it is called by the locals, clearly deserves the front seat among hotels. From our room, the windows looked out on one side to the Clayoquot Sound and Chesterman Beach and on the other side to volcanic rocks and rain forest. We woke to bald eagles flying by with prey in their talons. One sunny morning, a family of sea otters made their way down the rocks and flipped into the Pacific. A little brown marten emerged from the woods, looked all around and scooted among the rocks and disappeared. At breakfast, a gray whale on its annual migration to Mexico puffed out a big spout of water from its blowhole. 

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boats.jpgOn our recent trip to Chicago, my husband and I found ourselves fairly secluded from the outside world as we cared for my aging father-in-law while my mother-in-law got a much needed vacation. With only one day to ourselves – thanks to the brief appearance of his brothers – we decided to meet up with some friends on the shore of Lake Michigan, in Michigan. It would have been easier to hook-up on the Chi-town side of the water (they only live 20 minutes away from my in-laws), but since they were off boating there, we like to road-trip and I had never been to Michigan, we tentatively agreed to meet in a small town on the lake called New Buffalo.

Spontaneous is a word rarely attributed to me, especially when I travel. The advent of the Internet has been a godsend to my obssesive need to pre-plan and find exactly the right place to go before I leave my living room. Sure, I might miss the best local "whatever" that just opened yesterday or is too obscure to be on the web because of my control-freak nature, but I'm too old and particular to leave lunch to chance. If I'm going to make the effort and take the time, I want better than even odds that I'll enjoy the excursion.

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dublinoverview.jpgWhat was supposed to be nothing more than meeting my good friend Robert – who is like a brother to me – in Dublin, Ireland to celebrate our birthdays in December, turned out to be something of an excellent extravaganza. Robert is the CEO of Clive Christian, "the world's most beautiful kitchens" according to their monthly ad in Architectural Digest. He had a meeting in Dublin that happened to fall on my birthday 2 days after his. He appears to be a stuffy, British guy with his finely tailored 3-piece suits with Hermes ties who speaks the proper "Queen's English", but his biggest claim to fame is that he was a 'roadie' for ABBA back in the 80's. Depeche Mode, another rock band from that decade was playing in Dublin at the time, so that's what we decided to do for our birthdays. 

Word got out and next thing I knew, six of my closest girlfriends signed up to come along. It is no easy feat to organize a trip with six women, traveling across the big pond. However, I had some things working in my favor. Being a 'stewardess' for 20 years, I have a bit of seniority and get 8 buddy passes per year to give to whomever I want. Don't get excited as they are not free and you have to fly standby. Thanks to a fancy computer program I have to see the bookings and the fact that few people travel to Ireland in December, the odds were stacked in my favor. It was amazing that we all managed to get Business Class seats coming and going.

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palm_beach_life_postcard.jpgThere are strict rules to live by in Palm Beach according to the Shiny Sheet (our local newspaper). Rule Six, for example, is - No socks. Ever. If your feet tend to become cold easily, consider purchasing a pair of Stubbs & Wootton slippers, but Rule Number One - the one broken that could destroy one's standing at Club Collette is the following:

"One does not travel over a bridge.  In the event of a hurricane evacuation or a gala benefit at the Norton Museum, this rule can be waived, but only under those circumstances." In other words do not be caught dead in West Palm! Bill and I, however, gladly risk our rep to eat at Sushi Jo's - a storefront, plate glass dive in the middle of a strip mall in West Palm Beach Florida, proclaiming itself "sushi for sexy people", whose chef is named Jo Clark - Can it get any better than that!

Sushi Jo's chef, Joseph Clark's first "joint" was at the Ritz-Carlton in Manalapan, after having apprenticed at Yama in Lake Worth. This chef is Occidental, L*O*C*A*L and Unashamed!

"Fresh" also comes to mind! Everything at Sushi Jo's is deliciously fresh including the sexy wait-staff, and it is always fun waiting to see if you actually get what you order.

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IrishCastleLately, almost everything is out of my comfort zone. Even a drive across town has been moved to my bucket list. A trip to the east side of the 405 Freeway feels like I’m a contestant on Survivor.

An invitation arrived in the mail. Come to a wedding at a castle in Ireland. Three days of free food and board. What to do? Are you kidding? Who could resist? I answered yes. And then went into a panic.

Too many planes, trains and automobiles. Being in a car in LA is unnerving enough. Driving on the “wrong” side of the road in County Mayo? That’s my idea of terror.

I decided to be my own travel agent. This would give me some control and help me get used to the whole idea of the trip. A trip, as Rod Serling might say, to the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, to the pit of man’s fears: My Discomfort Zone.

I enlisted an Irish actor I know and asked for travel advice. He was very detailed about which hotel in Dublin to stay at and even suggested a visit to a second castle.

My own research revealed that it would be silly to land at Dublin Airport since the wedding castle is closer to the one in Knock. But you can’t fly to Knock airport directly from the U.S. So we’d travel first to England and stay for three days. London is sort of within my zone of comfort. I’d been there several times and love it. And I’d be visiting with good friends who live there. More comfort.

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