Happy Memorial Day…

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…from Switzerland. When we picked up a potted edelweiss on our way home from the Bernese Oberland yesterday, we didn’t realize how sophisticated our impromptu train picnic would become! It may  not be the American BBQ we’re dreaming of, but it’s been a lovely holiday weekend. More on Memorial Day:

 

I want to go camping there…

I’m discussing camping this week…check out my post on packing and the best H20 gear.

Big Sur

Treebones Resort in Big Sur, California.

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Big Sur is my favorite place in the world and I’ve been lucky enough to visit many times, but I’ve never camped there. And what Treebones offers goes far beyond camping.

Even their basic campsites are perched on the edge of the world, with front row seats to the Pacific Ocean and Redwood Forest. Campers can also rent safari tents (pictured above on the right), but their Mongolian-style yurts are the most popular forms of lodging.

yurt-exteriorCan you imagine watching sunsets from here? Inside, the yurts boast queen beds, handmade quilts, fireplaces, sofas and running water.

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For those wishing to get closer to nature, Treebones also offers these one-of-a-kind nests.

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No one is truly “roughing it” here since all guests have access to modern showers, a swimming pool, hot tub, yoga classes, hiking, kayaks, massages and two gourmet restaurants. Hippie chic.

Big Sur 2011

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At least stop by Treebones’ Oceanview Sushi Bar if you are through Big Sur–no tent required.

As far as packing, I’m thinking:

Vince Camuto ($39) http://bit.ly/1LbBVfe

Vince Camuto ($39) http://bit.ly/1LbBVfe

Madewell ($158) http://bit.ly/1R3FXdt

Madewell ($158) http://bit.ly/1R3FXdt

iPhone case ($48) http://bit.ly/1K1owpM

iPhone case ($48) http://bit.ly/1K1owpM

I hope I’ve inspired you to go on a camping trip (or at least a picnic!). Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy these links on my favorite place on California’s coast:

Novel idea: Vacation where your favorite book is set

I originally wrote this story for ThriveWire–check it out here.

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Instead of searching for the perfect book to read on vacation, why not bring one of your favorite books to life on your summer vacation by visiting where it takes place.

Road trip down California’s Highway 1 like Jack Kerouac

Granted Kerouac traveled the entirety of the U.S. while writing On the Road, but he and his fellow Beats left their greatest mark from San Francisco to Venice Beach. Begin in San Francisco with a night at retro chic Hotel Bohème ($200). Visit the Beat Museum and after, cut through Jack Kerouac Alley to City Lights bookstore. There you will find the original scroll version of On the Road. Stop by Vesuvio Café for a tequila/rum concoction known as “The Kerouac.” As you drive down the coast, pull over at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur and Beyond Baroque in Venice.

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Take tea in Jane Austen’s Bath, England

Not only did Austen spend a decade of her short life in Bath, but the former “spa town” also served as scenery for many of her novels. While there, use the Jane Austen of Bath iPhone app to lead you around—you can even stay in her Georgian-style home ($150). Also visit the Jane Austen Centre, the ancient Roman Baths and take tea at the world-famous Sally Lunn’s. Go in September for Bath’s 10-day Austen festival. (Did you know Austen’s Emma turns 200 this year?)

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Find vampires in Forks, Washington—Twilight-style

The rainiest town in the contiguous 48 states is now Twilight central, thanks to author Stephanie Meyer’s best-selling fantasy series. Forks has taken on the honor by offering Twilight tours—complete with a map of the novels’ most important places such as Bella’s home and high school. Stay in the Huckleberry Forks Cabins ($95) and take a hike through the lush Hoh Rainforest. You’ll find signage that reads “No Vampires Beyond this Point.” This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Twilight being published with the Forever Twilight in Forks Festival.

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Sleuth in Stockholm, Sweden like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Experience Scandinavia from the perspective of Stieg Larsson’s best-selling crime trilogy’s characters—journalist Mikael Blomkvist and hacker Lisbeth Salander. The Stockholm City Museum offers an award-winning walking Millennium Trilogy Tour. The tour includes sights such as Salander’s 21-room apartment in Old Town, Blomkvist’s hillside home and the Mellqvist Kaffebar—the same café where Larsson supposedly began writing the novels. Stay in the Hotel Skeppsholmen ($250) where the cast and crew of the 2011 movie stayed while filming.

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Visit Ernest Hemingway’s World in Key West, Florida 

Getting to this tropical playground requires no passport, but you’ll be transported to another world–a world of sandy beaches and rum drinks. Visit Hemingway’s sprawling estate where he wrote A Farewell to Armsand pet one of the famous six-toed cats—descendants of Hemingway’s original pet. Stay at the kitschy Blue Marlin Motel ($100) where Hollywood stars did in the 1960s. You can’t leave without stopping by Hemingway’s favorite haunt Sloppy Joe’s Bar—start growing your beard now if you want to compete in their Hemingway Lookalike contest in July.

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Is there a place you’ve read about in a novel that you would like to visit? I took a semester on Scottish literature and have since wanted to visit the highlands. I’m also partial to Southern literature–my mother and I have often discussed visiting To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee’s hometown and casually running into her at a Sunday church service! A few more ideas:

Camping 101: Travel water bottles

I’m on a camping kick this week… Check out this post on packing for an overnight in the wild.

evian-reverse-mountain-small-77268Since we live just down the road from Evian, France–the source of the world’s fanciest bottled water–we can fill reusable water bottles any time with the good stuff out of public drinking fountains. I’ve been pathetically re-using an old Orangina bottle for a long time and am due for a serious upgrade. Also, there may be health risks associated with continually drinking out of a plastic bottle (links below on that). A few of my favorite alternatives:

Klean Kanteen has great reviews and promises to keep drinks cold for 24 hours:

Klean Kanteen ($27) http://bit.ly/1FuPbM1

Klean Kanteen ($27) http://bit.ly/1FuPbM1

Sigg is a popular Swiss brand and this Alpine design is too cute:

Vapur has got to be the best travel option with its foldable design:

Designed by former Apple engineers, the Clean Bottle promises to be the most hygienic:

Clean Bottle ($45) http://amzn.to/1SbtOF5

Clean Bottle ($45) http://amzn.to/1SbtOF5

Vargo claims its titanium bottle is the most durable–you can use it to boil water over a campfire:

Although the heaviest, the glass Lifefactory Bottle is supposedly the most ecoconscious option:

Lifefactory ($25) http://amzn.to/1AeCtRy

Lifefactory ($25) http://amzn.to/1AeCtRy

The Grayl Filtration System filters water instantly with a French Press-like process:

The MSR HyperFlow micro filter makes any water drinkable–with or without a bottle:

Which one is your favorite? I’m partial to the foldable Vapur bottle, though the Sigg boasts the most fun designs. My husband owns the MSR water filtration system and is excited to use it when we camp this weekend. No matter how you do it, drink your H20!

And if you’re still wondering where we stand on the whole BPA/BPA-free plastic controversy, here are a few articles to enlighten (or confuse) you:

Camping 101: Packing for an overnight

One of the first trips my husband and I took together was camping near St. Michael’s Island, Maryland. Although just an overnight, it was a risky proposition considering that we were still just getting to know each other. There would be no electricity, no running water and no internet.

More than anything, this trip would test how well we “survived” each other. Have you ever put a tent together with someone you didn’t get along with? Exactly. We had to lean on each other.

There was a full moon that night and the tide dropped so low that we could walk out into ocean. We stargazed and talked for hours. That trip cemented us as a team and our love of camping.

On one of our many Maryland camping adventures.

On one of our many Maryland camping adventures.

Switzerland is a camper’s dreamland. Not just because of the incredible scenery, but because the country makes it so readily accessible. Trains take campers right to the best trails and there are designated campsites around every corner. You can even skip the tent in favor of a Swiss Alpine Hut. Some of the “huts” are downright luxurious, boasting saunas and swimming pools!

This weekend we’re forgoing the huts and taking our tent for its first overnight in Switzerland. We’re traveling by train to picturesque Interlaken and then hiking to the “Valley of 72 waterfalls.”

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Since our first camping trip, we’ve developed a bit of a routine when packing for an overnight. My husband handles the major equipment–tent, gas stove, tarp. I provision the food and entertainment. I particularly love camping just one or two nights because I have more room in my pack to make our trip comfortable instead of bare bones. It is a vacation, after all.

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Women’s Osprey Kyte 46 ($160).

I spent more time researching my pack than many of the apartments I’ve lived in. Osprey is one of the few companies that designs packs especially for women and I belive it is worth the splurge. The Osprey Kyte 46 is big enough so that I do not feel too restricted, without being so cumbersome that I’ll be whining on the trail. I’d always prefer to take less and hike a little lighter.

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Sea to Summit ultra-sil compression dry sack ($25).

I’m able to compress my sleeping bag down a few sizes thanks to my Sea to Summit compression dry sack.  My sleeping bag goes in the bottom compartment of my pack. Clothes are packed in the middle, with food and other necessities on the top.

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I like to wear lightweight stretchy jeans–they look polished, but feel like yoga pants. I also wear a tank top, a long-sleeved shirt and a sweater or fleece. I bring a different tank for the next day so I feel fresh, but am taking up minimal space. I add a cotton scarf, so I look pulled together and these lightweight shoes are perfect for Alpine hiking–no need for the leather boots.

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The real survival essentials.

I would never camp without playing cards (our game is Gin Rummy), my toothbrush (instantly refreshing no matter how dirty you are), my sunglasses and a little something (like these gold earrings) that make me feel nice. As far as “beauty,” I limit it to a tinted moisturizer with a high SPF and basic lip gloss. I save most of the room for the vittles.

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Forget the trail mix…we like to eat.

Obviously we could survive on protein bars and water, but why would you for an overnight? Cooking in the wild is half the fun. My go-tos:

  • A pre-cooked sausage to grill for dinner;
  • Chopped vegetables, such as bell peppers and onions that can be a side dish;
  • A healthy snack, such as olives or campfire Jiffy Pop;
  • One sweet for an after-dinner treat;
  • Eggs for a protein-rich breakfast (they come in their own carrying case); and
  • Ground espresso and a tiny creamer–there is nothing better than campfire coffee.

Finally, I like to freeze a small, bottle-sized boxed white wine and then use it to keep the other foods cold. We could do with less, but a glass of wine with the sunset is what makes it worth it.

A few links to inspire your next camping trip:

This week I am…

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How was your weekend? We postponed a camping trip with rain forecasted…

…embracing my inner French femme with this five-piece wardrobe philosophy.

…dusting off an old bottle of vodka and using it to remove stains, keep flowers fresh, and more.

…dreaming of North American vacations, fueled by these National Geographic photos.

…still battling a near-constant case of puppy fever–how my life would be different.

…ordering these handy books on how to order dinner in any country.

…earmarking these tropical recipes for overcast Swiss days.

…using this article to persuade friends to fly to Europe this year (have you heard of WOW Air?)

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…and found plenty of sunshine in our backyard.

I want to go to there…

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…Cannes, France.

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Today’s post seems fitting given that the Cannes Film Festival is going on right now and that we’ll be visiting this beautiful place one month from today. Perched on the Côte d’Azur (what we call the French Riviera), Cannes is more than just a collection of resorts and beachside cafes.

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Cannes was established in the 10th century as a Roman outpost. Roman tombs and an 11th-century tower remain in the old part of town, known as “Le Suquet.” At the end of the 19th century, railways were built to the coast which brought travelers from around Europe to the nearly year-round sunshine of Cannes. The area became an even hotter tourist destination after World War I, especially for American writers and artists moving to Europe in the 1920s.

F. Scott Fitzgerald bought a home there, later bringing Cannes to his readers through his novel Tender is the Night. His home has since been converted into the luxury Hotel Belles Rives.

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It is little wonder that so many vintage travel posters feature Cannes and the Côte d’Azur.

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My perfect weekend in Cannes would include bicycling the oceanfront paths, taking a boat ride to St. Tropez, sandal shopping on the Rue d’Antibes and getting a sunset cocktail at Le 360 Bar overlooking the water. We’re skipping the luxury hotels in favor of an Airbnb apartment just steps from the beach. Maybe we’ll take what we saved on lodging to the Casino Palm Beach… what happens in Cannes, stays in Cannes?

As far as packing, I’m thinking:

Sundry ($138) http://bit.ly/1FhZx1K

Sundry ($138) http://bit.ly/1FhZx1K

K Jacques ($267) http://bit.ly/1Pnp7Jd

K Jacques Sandals ($267) http://bit.ly/1Pnp7Jd

Cosmetics travel bag ($26) http://bit.ly/1A4cXyh

Bikini travel bag ($26) http://bit.ly/1A4cXyh

Eberjey ($75) http://bit.ly/1Jk8WYd

Eberjey ($75) http://bit.ly/1Jk8WYd

Turkish towel doubles as a scarf and beach blanket ($34) http://bit.ly/1FcrXZQ

Turkish beach towel doubles as a scarf ($34) http://bit.ly/1FcrXZQ

It is rainy in Geneva tonight, so maybe I’ll watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Cannes-based film To Catch a Thief and pretend I’m already there… for now, a few links: