Yosemite and Rich “New Worlds”

If you are crav­ing por­tals to beauty, the Mag­nif­i­cent Moun­tain Loop (MML) of three Cal­i­for­nia National Parks offers trav­el­ers uncount­able “doors.” In one trip you can enjoy the tree giants of Sequoia National Park, the adjoin­ing won­ders of Kings Canyon National Park and the iconic delights of Yosemite.

This year, Yosemite shares the riches of nature and his­tory with a 150th anniver­sary. Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln signed the Yosemite Land Grant 150 years ago, cre­at­ing “the first pro­tected wild land for all time” and the “first state park in the world” accord­ing to the National Parks website.

Below are some quotes by past famous Yosemite vis­i­tors Ralph Waldo Emer­son, John Muir, Ansel Adams, and Pres­i­dent Teddy Roo­sevelt to inspire your own visit. There are also some tips to add lux­ury to your travel.

Every­body needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” John Muir


Accord­ing to the National Parks Ser­vices web­site: “In 1871, John Muir, and Ralph Waldo Emer­son, Amer­i­can Poet, and Tran­scen­den­tal­ist vis­ited the Mari­posa Grove of trees in Yosemite and Muir said to Emer­son in the grove: ‘You are your­self a sequoia. Stop and get acquainted with your big brethren.’ ”

Emer­son called Muir a “new kind of Thoreau” who gazed at sequoias of the Sierra instead of scrub oaks of Concord.”

In Yosemite, Grandeur of these moun­tains per­haps unmatched on the Globe; for here they strip them­selves like Ath­letes for exhi­bi­tion, &stand per­pen­dic­u­lar gran­ite walls, show­ing their entire height, & wear­ing a lib­erty cap of snow on their head.” From Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Journal.


In 1903, Pres­i­dent Theodore Roo­sevelt requested to meet with Muir in Yosemite, and Muir encour­aged him to sleep under the stars– a night that led the pro­tected area to be expanded and trans­formed into a National Park.

It was like lying in a great solemn cathe­dral, far vaster and more beau­ti­ful than any built by the hand of man.”- Roosevelt

Sleep­ing under the stars like Muir and Roo­sevelt may be the rich­est way to enjoy the nature of the park 24/7, but if you are look­ing for more pam­per­ing nur­ture in your visit, the Tenaya Lodge offers lovely lux­ury rooms, concierge ser­vices, the Embers restau­rant and the Ascent Spa with sig­na­ture organic treat­ments. The Ahwah­nee Lodge’s legacy din­ing room is worth at least one mem­o­rable meal.  Yosemite Lodge inside the Park affords win­dow views of the Yosemite Falls, and great access to the park’s sites, trails and shut­tle system.

For those that want to cel­e­brate the resiliency of nature with some per­sonal rushes,OARS is now offer­ing river raft­ing in the Tuolumne River.  (I haven’t yet tried their river trips but hear good things.)

Happy Valentines Day– Romantic Travels!

One def­i­n­i­tion of  roman­tic is “an ide­al­ized ver­sion of real­ity.”  The same could be said of top lux­ury travel.  The choco­lates are left on your plush pil­low or baked fresh to your lik­ing by a genius chef. Your flow­ers are abun­dant fields seen from your pri­vately chauf­feured tour­ing car or can­vases of Monet seen up close,  or  fresh arrange­ments deliv­ered to your ele­gant suite. Your bub­ble baths are in mar­ble tubs with views and aro­mather­apy you choose. Peo­ple want you to be happy.

Roman­tic travel gifts can be shared expe­ri­ences of ines­timable value per your own val­ues and ide­al­ized vision– from observ­ing pen­guins hatch, or a fam­ily of ele­phants while on safari, to pri­vate show­ings at a jew­elry store; from going to remote places to wit­ness cer­e­monies rarely seen, to secur­ing lux­ury booth seats behind home plate or in the royal box at a ballet.

Your idea of  “ide­al­ized real­ity” may be vis­it­ing thriv­ing, healthy envi­ron­ments with vibrant flora and fauna, and indige­nous cul­tures pre­serv­ing their ways and well-being with­out global fran­chises and homogenization.

Arguably, for today’s first-world cul­tures, sleep­ing in a five-star hotel and sleep­ing under a canopy of lumi­nous, infi­nite stars– are each roman­tic and are each luxuries.

The priv­i­lege of access can be the key to lux­ury travel– access to peo­ple, places, and expe­ri­ences. For some trav­el­ers that access must be cou­pled with com­fort and expense to be “lux­ury” — com­forts like the bed at the Pierre Hotel in New York (with a Broad­way show and fire­flies in Cen­tral Park) or the but­ler draw­ing a bub­ble bath at Le Blanc in Can­cun (after snor­kel­ing with whale sharks) or lunch at the French Laun­dry in Napa (as a way to enjoy time with dear friends). For oth­ers, like astro­nauts in space or James Cameron head­ing to the deep­est trench in the ocean, unique  “access” may be very expen­sive, but not at all comfortable.

Some­times access has lit­tle to do with com­fort or expense; it is good for­tune. I’ve trav­eled all seven con­ti­nents and con­tinue to explore in order to share the beau­ties of the planet– the roman­tic of the human and nat­ural.  But of course, moments of “wow” and “thanks!” don’t require pass­ports or first class seats; they can be in our own back­yard. At a pub­lic beach about 20 min­utes from my home, I saw a dol­phin body surf­ing a wave. At a lake five min­utes from my home, herons,cranes and egrets per­form bal­letic moves whether any­body is watch­ing or not.

The magic of the mun­dane– the extra– ordi­nary– that sun­rise that makes you swell with a sense of divine grace, the arc of the Milky Way that embraces you from afar, a song bird greet­ing the day with notes that make a tun­ing fork inside of you hum– these expe­ri­ences are free, but can feel luxurious.

Roman­tic travel can be  shar­ing the Ahhs of Awe. See­ing the syn­chro­nous fire­flies in Malaysia was a brighter expe­ri­ence for being with my hus­band. Walk­ing on the Great wall of China was warmer with him despite the winter’s sub­freez­ing wind chill. See­ing the mosques of Istan­bul with a child­hood friend mag­ni­fied the mem­o­ries.  Even an evening stroll at home, may reveal a cloud­scape worth watching.

Roman­tic travel can also be help­ing oth­ers– try­ing to make “the ide­al­ized ver­sion of real­ity” replace meaner ver­sions. Is that tak­ing your love to  the Lux­em­bourg Gar­dens in Spring sur­rounded by flow­ers, or help­ing build a school  in a far-flung out­post for you love of humanity?

It is a lux­ury to travel at all– to have the health, the time, the means, and the free­dom from other con­straints and respon­si­bil­i­ties. Some­times that travel pro­pels us great dis­tances out into the world. And some­times that travel comes from inside, sit­ting still where we are,  tak­ing time to awaken our senses– to smell, see, taste, hear, and feel.

Luxury Family Accommodations Near Walt Disney World

If a trip to Walt Dis­ney World is on your family’s agenda, one of the first deci­sions you’ll need to make is where to stay. Though many fam­i­lies enjoy stay­ing at one of Walt Dis­ney World’s resorts, some folks opt for a lux­ury resort off the Dis­ney cam­pus.  Some appre­ci­ate a break from the “magic” in the evening. Oth­ers plan to include vis­its to Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, Sea World, Bush Gar­dens, or some of Orlando’s other fam­ily ori­ented attrac­tions.  When it comes to the incred­i­ble ser­vice and sophis­ti­ca­tion the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, the Wal­dorf Asto­ria Orlando, and the Peabody Orlando have to offer, there are some trav­el­ers for whom noth­ing else will suf­fice. Here’s a brief run-down of Orlando’s finest lux­ury accom­mo­da­tions off of the Walt Dis­ney World campus.

Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes

At the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, you’ll dis­cover an oasis of sophis­ti­cated tran­quil­ity after a fun but exhaust­ing day at the amuse­ment parks.  Since it’s twelve miles away from Walt Dis­ney World, it’s close enough for con­ve­nience, but far enough to truly feel like a retreat. Tai­lored to fam­i­lies, this ele­gant Ital­ian palazzo inspired resort offers an abun­dance of fam­ily related ser­vices and activ­i­ties.  All the rooms offer a bal­cony with a lovely view, large white mar­ble bath­rooms with dou­ble sinks, sep­a­rate show­ers and tubs, and Bvl­gari bath prod­ucts. Upon request, the staff will even pre­pare your room with help­ful things such as toys, games, kid-sized robes, cribs, high chairs, step stools and children’s bath prod­ucts. You’ll enjoy their sig­na­ture robes, nightly turn­down ser­vice, and the Ritz-Carlton Spa which even lit­tle ones ages 2 and up can enjoy.

The resort offers a lovely heated out­door pool with lux­ury cabanas, equipped with lounge chairs, ceil­ing fans, flat screen TV’s and more.  For your lit­tle ones, there’s a pirate ship play­ground with splash-pad and spray­ing fish area. While the kids are at the Ritz Kids pro­gram offer­ing a mul­ti­tude of activ­i­ties includ­ing ten­nis, scav­enger hunts, dance par­ties, and crafts, you can enjoy the 18-hole Greg Norman-designed golf course or expe­ri­ence the many eco-activities such as bird watch­ing, kayak­ing, nature hikes, fly-fishing. There’s also an evening pro­gram “Kids Night Out” from 6pm-10pm. The resort also shares ameni­ties with the JW Mar­riott next door, includ­ing their kid-friendly lazy-river pool.

The Wal­dorf Asto­ria Orlando

The Wal­dorf Asto­ria Orlando sits next to Walt Dis­ney World, offer­ing easy access to the parks, and lim­ited views of the Magic King­dom and the nightly  fire­works from some of the rooms, while at the same time pro­vid­ing a sanc­tu­ary of peace and quiet at the end of a busy day. The resort has many sim­i­lar design ele­ments of the beloved Wal­dorf Asto­ria New York, such as the infa­mous clock in the lobby, but has been infused with a Florid­ian twist.

You’ll find a sooth­ing tran­quil décor in rooms, which pos­sess such ameni­ties as Egypt­ian cot­ton linens, high def­i­n­i­tion TV, and Ital­ian mar­ble bath coun­ters with dual sinks. Enjoy fam­ily time in the zero entry pool with lux­ury pool cabanas, which offer com­pli­men­tary drinks, fruit plat­ters, Wi-Fi, and HD flat screen TV’s, or even try the lazy river pool at the Hilton next door.

While the kids are off enjoy­ing the WA kids club, “Kid’s Concierge” which fea­tures arts and crafts, scav­enger hunts, relay games, and gam­ing equip­ment, you can try the Rees Jones Cham­pi­onship Golf Course or immerse your­self in the exclu­sive Guer­lain spa. You’ll have the plea­sure of choos­ing from an array of treat­ments such as the aro­mather­apy wrap, and Five-Senses Hydrother­apy. There’s also a jog­ging path, water aer­o­bics, and sur­rey bike rentals available.

The Peabody Orlando

This clas­sic lux­ury hotel is sit­u­ated next to the Orange County Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, and there­fore caters mostly to con­ven­tion guests. But the Peabody Orlando can still be a nice choice for fam­ily lux­ury, espe­cially for those with slightly older chil­dren. Like the orig­i­nal Peabody in Mem­phis, the famed Peabody ducks wad­dle through the lobby to the foun­tain twice a day, accom­pa­nied by John Philip Sousa’s “King Cot­ton March”.  The lobby’s clas­sic ele­gance and style is a wel­com­ing site for weary amuse­ment park lov­ing families.

Rooms offer such ameni­ties as flat screen HDTV’s, bath­room mar­ble counter tops, mini LCD TV’s in the bath­room mir­ror, and waf­fle weave bathrobes. Nightly turn­down ser­vice is avail­able upon request. Though not a sprawl­ing resort, the hotel still offers many ameni­ties found at them, includ­ing ten­nis courts, two pools with cabanas, and a fit­ness enter. Enjoy an array of options at the Spa such as the Sig­na­ture Mango Gin­ger Infu­sion or the Revi­tal­iz­ing Mud Wrap.  Although there is no kids club or spe­cial children’s activ­i­ties planned here, the Peabody’s major ren­o­va­tion in 2010 included the addi­tion of a children’s zero-entry grotto pool, with a slide, kid-friendly water­fall, and playground.