Guns Blazing

When out-of-towners came to visit me in DFW, I’d often take them to Fort Worth’s Stockyards. It’s what you might imagine when you think of Texas: a twice-daily cattle drive, saloons, the world’s largest honky-tonk, plenty of cowboy boots, and no shortage of sustenance for red-meat fans at spots like  Lonesome Dove Bistro and H3 Ranch. It also happens to be the first place I ever rode a mechanical bull. (Not so easy!)

And while the Stockyards is plenty touristy, it still keeps in touch with its roots. For instance, on Feb. 8 of every year, a gunfight occurs in front of the White Elephant Saloon. Fortunately, the guns aren’t loaded, but that wasn’t the case back in 1887, when saloon owner Luke Short took out former city marshal Jim Courtright in what’s known as the city’s last great shootout. See it re-enacted next week in a show that blends facts and entertainment to create an engaging look at what Fort Worth used to be.

Get more details in this story I wrote for Texas Journey magazine.

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The Other Capitol Hill

The super-secret not-that-secret Knee High Stocking Company

When most Americans hear “Capitol Hill,” they probably think Schoolhouse Rock! and politics. Seattleites, though, know Capitol Hill as the place where everyone lives (it’s said to be the most densely populated neighborhood in Seattle) and all the bars are. Okay, there are bars elsewhere, but there are an awful lot of them here.

I recently covered some of the Emerald City’s neighborhoods for Journey (the magazine for AAA Washington), which you can see here, including Capitol Hill. As it often goes, only so many words can fit on a page, so Capitol Hill got a shorter representation than Georgetown (another ‘hood that shares a D.C. name) and Ballard (all our own, as far as I know). Plus, we had to leave room for some of my friend Lora‘s great photos.

And so, here’s what I would have said, if there was more space:

Capitol Hill
From atop the water tower in Volunteer Park high on Capitol Hill, a 360-degree panorama of Seattle’s best-known landmarks rewards those who put in the effort to climb all the stairs. And just as you can see everything from up here, this densely populated neighborhood has a little of everything: coffeehouses, historic movie theaters, independent bookstores, a thriving LGBT scene, and nightlife galore. In particular, a good drink for all tastes is never far away. Feeling nostalgic for the days of flappers and feather boas? Drop in to the speakeasy Knee High Stocking Company, where a lighted doorbell and small sign are the only clues a bar is hidden at the corner of Olive Place and Olive Way. Live by the motto that you should always eat (or drink) dessert first? Dilettante has chocolate martinis that delight with their decadence. Want a real feel for the ’hood? Then it’s off to The Elite, also known as the “gay Cheers,” where over stiff drinks you’ll make new friends from all walks of life. [Which, since I wrote this, has apparently closed. Sigh.]

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Slideshow Saturday: The Westin Diplomat

Location: Hollywood, Florida

(for a full-size version, click any photo)

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Being Uncomfortable = Great Vacay in Belize

My bathroom in San Jose, Belize

I’ve gotten pretty spoiled being a travel writer. In the past year, I’ve stayed at the historic Fairmont in San Francisco, with a breathtaking view of the city; the adorable Tucker House Inn on San Juan Island, with fresh-baked cookies so big it took me two days to finish one; the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood, Florida, with poolside cabanas that I kicked back in for hours; and La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe, where I curled up by my fireplace and enjoyed views of the Cathedral from the hot tub.

And while I loved all those experiences, I’ve never been one to travel only one way. So when I went to Belize last year, I traded in creature comforts for something a little more authentic. Forget drinks with umbrellas poolside and bathrooms bigger than my apartment — when I ventured into the Mayan village of San Jose, there were no flushing toilets or electricity. What they did have was an opportunity to unplug from it all and delve into the way of life of someone else. So I did just that. And I couldn’t wait to leave … and yet wanted to stay.

Read all about my fickleness in an essay I wrote for Away.com called “Why I Loved My Terrible Vacation in Belize.”

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Spa Experiences You’ll Heart

Happy Valentine’s Day! As part of Four Seasons Magazine‘s 14 Days of Love, I wrote about five great spa treatments fit for the season of love. From Shiva Shakti Couples Yoga in Sharm El Sheikh to a chocolate blend body wrap in Paris to a vanilla bean paraffin treatment and manicure (with red nails, of course) in Chicago, these perfectly pampering treatments are something you’ll heart both during the season of love and all year-round.

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Four Seasons Magazine Predicts 2012 Travel Trends

Whenever I convene with a group of travelers, the biggest question is usually: “Where are you headed next?” (The current answer: New Mexico.) People are always looking for the next hot destination, the next memorable experience. And with the new year just beginning, now is the perfect time to reflect on what will be big in the world of travel in 2012.

FourSeasonsMagazine.com asked Four Seasons Magazine contributors and star chefs to weigh in on what they anticipate seeing on the road in the coming year — read the story to get the scoop on gear, wellness, family travel, food, and more for the next 12 months. (You may recognize one of the contributors — *cough, cough* me — in the spa and global travel sections.)

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Beachy Keen: 8 Beautiful Beaches for 2012

Beachgoers wade into the waters at Huntington Beach in California.

As I look out the window, ice is raining down on a snow-white scene, the temperature below freezing long enough that I’ve had to turn the heat on — and anyone who knows me knows I try to do that as little as possible! It’s our first snow of the year, so I’m enjoying the picturesque views and winter wonderland for now, but a few more days of this and I’ll be ready to escape to the beach.

When I do get the desire to run from the snow to the sands, I’ll know where to go, thanks to this piece I did for Away.com on the best beaches for 2012. From the buoyant waters in Jordan’s Dead Sea to the quiet, under-discovered Baisha Beach in Taiwan to the rustic cabins and clam digging on Copalis Beach in Washington, these hot spots are sure to please sand-and-surf stalwarts in the coming year.

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