Costa Rica and the Pura Vida

squarebird

According to the calendar, Spring is approaching!  Thank God!  This has been a tough winter to say the least.  In December, I headed down to Costa Rica to shoot this Meet Me There episode with my crew from Denver and Los Angeles.  It was fast and furious and we covered more ground and went on more eco-adventure excursions that I can really recommend in such a short amount of time!  You can catch the action in the episode below.  I’d love for you to like, share, and subscribe to the episodes on Exclusive Resorts You Tube page in this link.  Enjoy the show!

Norwegian Getaway on the Hudson River

 

All aboard!

All aboard!

Travel is a big part of my family’s life.  Ever since Corbin was born, Mark, Corbin and I have logged some serious miles traveling across the world.  However, in all of those trips to some really amazing places, none of them have ever been on board a massive commercial cruise ship.  While cruises are one of the best ways to see a lot of places in the Caribbean, we have never spent any time on one.  So when I was invited to get a first hand look at the brand new Norwegian Getaway while it is docked in New York City, I was very curious to see what the fuss is all about when it comes to cruise ships.

Within minutes of being on board, Corbin said, “Mom, I wanna spend two weeks on the ship this summer with some friends! Can we do that?” We hadn’t even sat down for lunch or taken a tour and this kid knew he wanted to hang out on the Norwegian Getaway.  The feeling for him was obviously a welcoming one! He became even more smitten with the idea of a floating vacation after finding out from Julie, the cruise director, that he could play on water slides, ropes courses, a rock climbing wall and various sports courts.  We didn’t get to do any of that on Sunday because of the arctic temperatures in New York City.

Over lunch in the Illusionarium Room, we got a first hand look at snip-its from four of the fantastic family friendly shows.  The dance group Burn the Floor kicked it off with an over the top energetic dance number followed my an illusionist who really wowed the kids with a levitating table.  The cast of Legally Blonde The Musical performed and the cast of some of Nickelodeon’s most popular shows like Spongebob, Dora and Diego wrapped up our lunchtime entertainment. Speaking of lunch, it was delicious!

Burn the Floor, baby!

Burn the Floor, baby!

Nickelodeon Red Carpet royalty

Nickelodeon Red Carpet royalty

While I was touring the ship, Corbin was whisked away to Splash Academy.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any personal photos to show you what he got to experience.  Why?  Because it is a parent free zone!  That’s right!  No parents allowed except in the area to drop off and pick up your little munchkins! What I can tell you is that Splash Academy takes two floors on board and divides the kids into age groups. The Getaway also offers childcare for parents with infants, too. Corbin tells me he played Wii, GaGa and made some new friends – GIRLfriends that is!  He’s quite the Casanova!  Oh and in his own words, he said, “I had a blast!”

Splash Academy - parents not allowed

Splash Academy – parents not allowed

I was blown away by the size of the ship.  It is massive and has just about everything you could ever want to have on a floating city.  There were more restaurants than I could have ever imagined.  One highlight is Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian’s Ocean Blue.  Another fun place to hang out, if only for a maximum of 30 minutes is the Svedka Ice Bar.  It’s about 17 degrees inside the ice bar which means you gotta wear a coat of some sort and sip on your vodka really fast or risk freezing while you float!  There is even a multistory social hub that has everything from a disco bar, casino and a comedy club.

Image 42 Image 21

Image 14 Image 17

The maximum capacity on the ship is 4700 passengers.  Our tour guide mentioned that the ship is usually never fully booked though. Hopping on board the Norwegian Getaway in New York City makes for an easy start to a vacation.  All you have to do is take a cab to the pier along the West Side highway and set sail.

Denise Albert and Melissa Gerstein from The Moms were out hosts for the fun event. Ladies, thanks for making my first experience on a Norwegian cruise ship a memorable one.

Here’s to happy travels on the high seas! It is the #ultimategetaway

All smiles on Norwegian Getaway

All smiles on Norwegian Getaway

Laguna Beach Magic

 

Travel Intention

Travel Intention

The Instagram snapshot above – written in crayon –  contains my intentions for the week I spent recently at The Montage in Laguna Beach.  Who needs to set intentions for a luxurious vacation?  Well, I do! I actually think you should set an intention every morning before your feet hit the floor and you drag your lazy bones out of bed!  But when you are investing in a luxurious vacation, it is imperative to keep your intentions in the forefront of your mind.  Why let the stress and worries you left behind infiltrate your time away?  Especially when you are camped out on the cliff over looking the Pacific Ocean at The Montage.

A View to a Chill

A View to a Chill

This magnificent view never gets old. The Montage is one of my family’s favorite get aways and this stunning view from the lobby terrace is one of the reasons why.  That pool is the prime place to Be Happy.  Be Relaxed.  Be Grateful! See the photo below for proof!

Jet Lagged Traveling Du0

Jet Lagged Traveling Duo

Even when you arrive 6 hours before check in time, you can check out at the pool and slip into vacation mode immediately!  When you are perched over the Pacific, it is really easy to start to unwind and slip into vacation mode.

Majestic Montage

Majestic Montage

One of the reasons my family loves this place is that it has something for all of us, especially Corbin.  He LOVES The Paintbox, which is the kids program at the hotel.  The staff is top notch and most often Corbin doesn’t want to leave when it is time to go. They even send him birthday cards every July. No trip here is complete without the obligatory face painting session. Or the trip across the street to CVS to get some make-up remover to get all of this off of his sweet little face! I don’t recommend doing this the day before your family photo shoot on the beach, though.  All of that black face paint can be a real pain to get off of an 8-year-old boy.

Facepaint Creature from the Paintbox Girls

Facepaint Creature from the Paintbox Girls

This year, we made the trek down to LegoLand.  I have to confess, I am not an amusement park fan AT ALL.  But, as parents we do things with our kids that often times we’d rather not be doing, right?  Legoland did not disappoint.  The weather was perfect. There was not a huge crowd. We all really enjoyed the day and the fun photo ops!

He's So ... Stiff

He’s So … Stiff

I Will Not Look at you or smile...no way.

I will not look at you or smile…no way.

As I mentioned, I dislike hate amusement parks.  But I adore LOVE my child.  And look at his face in the photo below…that’s a look of shear excitement on his face.  And one of complete terror on mine!

Last photo of the day at Legoland

Last photo of the day at Legoland

There really is no huge reason to leave The Montage but we wanted to shake things up a bit since we were there for seven days.  The SoCal food scene is always intriguing.  The Watermarc was recommended and we found ourselves there TWICE on this trip.  One of my favorite dishes was the watermelon, tuna and tomato skewers. As a southerner, if an entree offers up tomatos and watermelon in the same dish, I’m going to order it.  The tuna and touch of seaweed salad really amped up the flavors.

Tomato Watermelon Tuna skewers..second order!

Tomato Watermelon Tuna skewers..second order!

But I have to tell you, when I found out about the home made Ding Dongs on the dessert menu, I had to order them. As a child, my grandmother always kept a box of Ding Dongs in her “treat” drawer.  Some foods make my soul happy. These chocolate dipped cakes do it for me.  And bring them to me in a Rolling Stones lunch box and I’m a really a happy camper.  Momma’s gettin’ some satisfaction!

The Lunch Box

The Lunch Box

With all of the time I have spent at The Montage, I have yet to find a bad view. Even the view from the gym is spectacular. I snapped this from the treadmill following my evening of Ding Dongs! Afterwards, I checked into the spa which I highly recommend. They offer a wide selection of amazing services and have a great boutique that is well edited with skin care products from Eminence and super stylish clothing from R and R Surplus. Speaking of shopping, if you can drag yourself away from the fabulous boutique in the spa and gift shop, I recommend two other places in Laguna Beach for some retail therapy.  First stop is 11th Moon for a well curated selection of clothing and accessories from Peter Pillota, Raquel Allegra and Rachel Comey.  Second stop is Tuvalu.  I picked up some great treasures for my apartment in this shop on Forest Avenue.  My basket of shiny sea shells and my huge chunk of coral make for great conversations and are reminders of one of my favorite vacations spots.

Workout View over the Adult Only Pool

Workout View over the Adult Only Pool

My absolute favorite thing about The Montage is just relaxing by the pool.  It takes a bit of time to unwind from the frantic pace of living in New York City.  But once I’ve turned down the dial and quieted the committee of monkeys in my head, there is no better place to chill than in a lounge chair here with the breeze coming off the ocean.  I can read a highly recommended thriller tabloid magazine, people watch celebrity watch, sleep off a hangover nap and play with my filters on Instagram!

I see you end of summer....I know!

I see you end of summer….I know!

Our poolside lounging includes some fantastic food and beverages from The Mosaic Grill. I’m typically a Veuve Clicquot champagne lady but opted for something new.  I found myself craving something green and this is what was suggested.  The Cucumber Crusher.

Cucumber Cooler Crusher

Cucumber Crush

Wanna make one for yourself?  You will need the following on the rocks:

Grey Goose La Poire Vodka

Muddled Cucumber

Agave Nectar

Fresh Lime Juice

Splash of Soda

Priceless in every way

Priceless in every way

After a full week in my version of paradise, Corbin came back from dinner with this heart stopping note and sparkly ring from the gift shop.  This child slays me.  He knows his Momma well.  And we can all use an evil eye to keep bad things away from us. I wish I could just bottle him up sometimes and keep him 8 forever.

Leaves me speechless

Leaves me speechless

I leave you with this stunning sunset photo.  There is my joie de vivre, y’all. Words really can’t do any more for it.

Thanks for Kim-Marie at www.luxurytravelmom.com for sharing the word about Instagram Travel Thursday.

Instagram Travel Thursday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cruising around Europe on The World

Imagine seeing the world from a ship and docking in different ports of call around the globe.  Can you see yourself popping off the ship in ever chic Monaco? Or even packing up your scuba gear and heading out for a day of diving along the Great Barrier reef in Australia?  I think that would be an awesome way to live and see the world.  It’s hard to comprehend how that would actually work in my present day life.  My 8-year-old would be the victim of home (ship) schooling and my husband would most likely wanna throw himself overboard after a months of not physically being in his office!  But, one day I would love to do that.

How do I know this about myself you might be wondering?  We spent seven days on The World along the coast of Portugal and Spain recently. The World is a luxurious residential cruise ship that travels the entire world over a two year time span.  Think of it as a mega high end floating neighborhood.  The “guests” on board are actually residents who own the apartments.  For many, this home is most like not their one and only.  There are residents from places like Texas and the Congo or Britain and Utah.  Some, like myself, are Exclusive Resort’s members who enjoy a trip on board when we can get a highly sought after place during the leg of a journey that we want to be a part of!

We boarded The World in Lisbon, Portugal.  I’ve traveled to many destinations in Europe but this was my first visit to Lisbon!

The World docked in Lisbon

The World docked in Lisbon

The World was docked near the Ponte de 25 Abril suspension bridge.  And yes, it looks very similar to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.  FYI -The Ponte de 25 Abril bridge is the longest of its type in Europe.

Ponte de 25 Abril bridge

Ponte de 25 Abril bridge

Our time was short in Lisbon so I do what I like to do best, first!  We found some food and beverages!

Sangria, anyone?

Sangria, anyone?

Maybe it was the jet lag and over load of sangria, but I was not overly impressed with Lisbon.  The one thing that stood out in my mind were the beautiful tiled buildings. They are stunning. As are the hand painted tile murals that can be found all over this city.

Blue tile Blue sky

Blue tile Blue sky

We set sail late one night and I knew immediatley that we were heading into some rough water.  Needless to say, I was ill and horizontal for over 24 hours.  The only thing worse than sea sickness is morning sickness! When the seas calmed down and we cruised closer to Ferol, Spain, I drug myself up onto the top deck of The World and took in this amazing sunset from the Bali beds.

Sunnies at sunset on The World

Sunnies at sunset on The World

Profoundly hung over from being sea sick, I finally got off The World in Ferol, Spain on Sunday afternoon. Just in time for the weekly market and octopus boil.  The market sounded fantastic.  The octopus?  Not so much.  I was still on a diet of crackers and water!  But I’m journalist who loves a photo op and couldn’t let this pass me by.  Although the thought of the moment when I actually took this photo still makes my stomach flip!

Yummy....not so much!

Yummy….not so much!

If you travel enough, there will come a time when you get sick.  Really sick. And can’t take in all that there is to do where ever you are.  This happened to me in Ferol.  I wish I had an amazing bit of advice to offer to you about Ferol, but I do not.  I can tell you this though.  Everything in Ferol on Sunday is closed with the exception of a few restaurants.

Ferol, Spain from The World

Ferol, Spain from The World

I was more than ready to head to Bordeax.  The captain navigated The World down the Garonne River to Bordeaux.

You are here...blue dot!

You are here…blue dot!

With a ship full of oenophiles, there were lots of people on deck sipping wine checking out the vineyards as we made our way down the river.  We learned all about the regional wines from the chateaus that were lined up along the river.

Chateaus along the Garonne River

Chateaus along the Garonne River

The World garnered a rather large group of on-lookers as we docked along the river in the heart of Bordeaux.

Docking in Bordeaux

Docking in Bordeaux

With my land legs back under me and an appetite for some real food, we set out for dinner.  The World’s concierge Pierre highly recommended Le Garbrielle which was a short walk away from our new floating home. Dinner was well, you can see for yourself…

First and last time with sea urchin

First and last time with sea urchin

When you have to rely on your waiter to translate the menu for you, sometimes you end up with things like fancy pants sea urchin for dinner.  I speak a little Spanish and but no French other than joie de vivre, y’all!  I could only eat one of them, much less all three.  When the waiter returned to the table, he asked me if this was my first time eating sea urchin.  I told him it was my first time eating this version of the fishy dish. And he says in his smug, French accent, “and I’lll assume your last time?” “Indeed, sir,” I replied. “But I’ll take another glass of that Chateau Brown white wine!”

The wine and dessert were the winner of the evening.  Shocker, right?  I even had some of the Chateau Brown shipped back home.

The best part of the meal

The best part of the meal

Bordeaux was such a beautiful city.  We had a great time just walking around the city. We didn’t have a huge agenda which is not normally the way I ltravel.  I did have one small agenda.  I came across a list of sought after European beauty products and picked up a few along the way.  I typically scout out all of the best places to shop and dine. But for many reasons on this trip, I just decided to wing it.  I found some great food wine. I also found some great shops shoes!

Sights from Bordeaux

Sights from Bordeaux

The most impressive part of this European adventure was our apartment on The World.

The best way to see The World

The best way to see The World

Here is small peak into what it looked like.  We had a lot of space in the two bedrooms and the living and dining rooms.  This is not your typical “cruise ship” experience.  The only similarities between a cruise ship and The World is that they both float and carry a lot of people.  That is really where it ends! I’ll have more about the details on The World in another post.

A look inside The World

A look inside The World

And I leave you with a few of my favorite Instagram photos and selfie’s of me and my traveling partner in crime!

Selfie with my traveling partner

Selfie with my traveling partner

Bubbles and giggles in Bordeaux

Bubbles and giggles in Bordeaux

Traveling has been a huge part of my life for the last 10 years.  But there is truly no. place. like. home!  Or even JFK International.  Instagram’s filters a.k.a. ‘smoke and mirrors’ makes everyone look photo ready after the longest of trans Atlantic flights!

Kiss the ground....okay maybe not!

Kiss the ground….okay maybe not!

Travel.  It is part of my joie de vivre, y’all.

Instagram Travel Thursday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Southerner and the City talks Sundance, Snow and Sex


JosephGordonLevittplanewindowFor the last six years, I have spent a week in January in Park City, Utah taking in the Sundance Film Festival. It is an action-packed week full of documentary films and premiers sandwiched in between some time on the slopes in Deer Valley and celebrity watching. The festival includes a huge selection of over 100 films to pick from ranging from light hearted comedies to really dark documentaries that leave you in tears.

The word on the street this year was that there was a whole lot of sex at Sundance. As it turns out, that was true. Don Jon’ Addiction set the tone for what really was a festival laced with a lot skin on skin action. The film opens with what I would guess is a triple x-rated sex scene from a pornographic movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt writes, directs and stars in the film based around his character, New Jersey playboy Jon Martello. He is a modern day Don Juan, who is addicted to on-line porn. He soon finds himself romantically and physically involved with Scarlett Johansson. After realizing she is only interested in yanking his chain, so to speak, he leaves her to return to his first love – porn. A heart broken Juliane Moore infiltrates Gordon-Levitt’s world giving this intensely sexed up film a happy ending.

Afternoon Delight is just what you might imagine it would be! This film tackles the stale and lack luster life of Rachel, a thirty something year old married woman, played by Kathryn Hahn. Rachel is drowning in the monotony of what appears to be her perfect life of planning play dates for her son, volunteering time at school and dealing with the treasures and pitfalls of her perfect life. Through some strategically planned but not so fulfilling midday hook ups with her husband, Rachel decides to really shake things up a bit. After her husband buys her a lap dance in a strip club, Rachel later hires the stripper/sex worker as a live-in nanny proving to be problematic on many levels. Hahn shows you can indeed deliver some very important lines while wearing only nude, control top panty hose, a black bra and a pair of stilettos. Note to self – never EVER let your lover see you in a pair of control-top panty hose.

Between these two highly sexed up movies, I saw the following films and have included my very abbreviated thoughts on them.

Life According to Sam – be thankful for a healthy child
Running From Crazy – be thankful you are not a descendant of Ernest Hemingway
Manhunt, The Search for Osama bin Laden – be thankful your husband let you sleep while he went to see this film with your friend at 9 a.m.
After Tiller – be thankful for the Roe v. Wade decision
jOBS – be thankful for your iDevice so you can snap photos of eye candy Ashtyn Kutcher who plays Steve Jobs in the film

JOBSmovie

You can keep up with DJ’s adventures in the Big Apple and many other places by following her on Twitter @mrsdjduckworth and on Facebook. DJ is a contributing writer for New York Family magazine. She lives in Manhattan with her three boys – Mark, Corbin and Leo – woof, woof

 

Southerner and the City – Greetings From Abroad

airplaneviewsmallItalyWhat is your dream vacation? I have too many to list but at the top of the list is Italy. Technically it’s a dream come true because I’m sitting in a bath robe in my hotel in Positano writing this post! Don’t hate me. I am not one of those smug travelers who visit exotic places only to mention it and then tell you nothing about the trip! Has that ever happened to you? “We just returned from a month long African safari. Did you see that story about the congressman from New York and his inappropriate text messages to those girls?”. REALLY! You can’t mention a fantastic trip to me and not plan on me asking you a zillion questions! That’s the journalist in me. I’m going to ask whether you want me to or not!

ItalyTo avoid sounding like that annoying relative who tells you in detail about every excursion and pulls out all of their photos and videos, I’ll keep it short and sweet. We started out in Tuscany at Castolle di Casole. It’s the perfect Tuscan setting. We were about an hour south of Florence. With the rental car, we day tripped around the area. The first stop was in San Gimignano —  one of my favorite Italian villages. If you visit Italy, I highly recommend seeing this walled medieval city high on the hill. We also took in Volterra. All of you Twilight fans should be familiar with this city. At least that’s what I’ve been told. I’m not into the whole vampire genre and probably won’t be anytime soon. There was also trip to Montepulciano to visit a beautiful winery.

Having seen Florence on previous trips, I knew I’d go back again. Florence is just an amazing city full of life, art, and history. It’s a place I never get tired of seeing. From the Uffizi Palace to the Duomo there is an enormous amount of art in this city. Which is probably why there are about 30 different universities represented there. I decided I wanted to see Florence from a local perspective this time. Our tour guide put together a day that was full of artisan shops that included a 4th generation Florentine paper maker, Alberto Cozzi, and an alchemist/jeweler/pharmacist, Allesandro Dari, who makes some of the most amazing jewelry I’ve ever seen. There were many other stops and shops along the way, but again, I don’t want to bore you too much with details.

ItalyOn Saturday, we took off for Capri. One word for Capri – UNREAL. The island is limestone and climbs straight up out of the ocean. As with any island, it’s most enjoyed from the sea. Capri is a geologist’s dream come true. There are so many different rocks, cliffs, formations and grottos to see. The most famous of the grottos is the blue grotto which we went in to see. I’ll explain this excursion in more detail on my blog at www.djduckworthyoga.com/blog We crashed at La Scalinatella and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Capri. After three days in Capri, we headed over to Positano – the vertical city. That’s what I’m calling it anyway because once you get off of the boat, the entire city is laid out or more accurately up from the beach. I’ve never seen anything like it before. We spent today touring along the Amalfi coast and visiting Amalfi and Ravello. Both are ancient and magical places to see. Just when I thought I’d seen the most amazing view, we’d make another hairpin curve and I’d see another one! The hotel San Pietro has one of the best views of the Mediterranean I’ve ever seen. The outdoor bar area rises high above the shore and extends out, well, to infinity and beyond! Our driver pointed out a massive yacht below which he said belonged to Rupert Murdoch.

I’ve enjoyed this trip immensely. It has really been like two vacations in one. The first week was completely different from the second week. Traveling has been a part of my life for the last 10 years and I’ve had some good trips and some fantastic trips. I’m out of adjective to describe Italy 2011. Guess I’ll use the long flight back to New York to come up the perfect word.

Italy, baby!!!

planewindowTwo years ago Mark said, “we are going back to Tuscany in 2011.”  I looked at him and said, “sure, whatever.”  He’s a big planner and I’ve gotten used to him saying things like this.  I mean, who can even think that far in advance, right? So, it’s 2011 and I’m in Tuscancy.  Glad I have a super-planner, travel agent in my life…even though it wears me out most days!

DJ and Mark in Casole d' Elsa

In Casole d’ Elsa with my favorite travelerThis photo was taken last night before the high intake of carbs started. If you look closely you can see that I’m not with the “pasta baby” just yet!!

There are so many things to see and do along with many great places to just chill…

Pool in Tuscany

The View to a Chill

Ciao, for now.  We are off to San Gimignano!