“This time, like all times, is a very good one…”

I recently returned from a trip to Concord, MA, a quaint, historic town that epitomizes Americana and the spirit of the Revolution.

Emerson's hat still hangs on the wall in his Concord, MA home

Emerson’s hat still hangs on the wall in his Concord, MA home

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a 19th century American writer, philosopher, poet, teacher and transcendentalist from Concord.  While visiting the Concord Museum I was really inspired by the following quote:

“If there is any period one would desire to be born in, is it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side and admit of being compared; when the energies of all men are searched by fear and by hope; when the historic glories of the old can be compensated by the rich possibilities of the new era?  This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I always hear people say they wish they were born in another era.  Now is as good a time as any.

A taste of bohemian South Africa

Eagles Ridge Country House in Stutterheim, South Africa has an organic, barefoot, play in the forest all day kind of vibe.  

Click here to read my Eagles Ridge article on Forbes.com.

At first glance, Eagles Ridge appears to be a unique amalgamation of warm, contemporary and angular aesthetics.

The pleasant surprise is the interior, which looks like a luxury tree house.

Pure paradise, right outside the window.

Dream-catchers hang on trees that carve flower-filled paths around the property.

This is the entryway to the hut at Eagles Ridge where the Xhosas, a well-known South African tribe, perform traditional ceremonies and rituals.

A Xhosa woman preparing mealie, a type of flour made of corn.

Playing around the Eagles Ridge restaurant-art gallery before saying goodbye…an exhibit in and of itself.

Peace in the bustling City of Angels

Meet Terranea, a luxury eco-resort and spa in Rancho Palos Verdes, Los Angeles, CA.

This is a sprawling property to say the least: the 102 acre estate is spread out over bluffs that stand high over royal blue Pacific waters. Terranea is a rocky, coastal piece of perfection and is one of the most visually appealing places in SoCal.

Naturally occurring succulents grow on the bluffs overlooking the ocean

Endless wildflowers, succulents, palm and pine trees surround this expertly landscaped, Mediterranean-style eco-resort. I stayed in a spa bungalow as part of my ‘Wellness Retreat at The Bungalows’ package, which includes a fitness consultation, fitness classes, daily complimentary breakfast and lunch from the organic Spa Cafe (protein smoothies, specialty frittatas…the good stuff) and a reduced rate on spa treatments.

A variety of fresh squeezed juices, cookies and tea are found in the room every afternoon. Exercise equipment is available for use in every spa bungalow to further promote health and wellness.

A Mediterranean-style bungalow at Terranea

Guests have eight choices for food and beverages on the property…and this lovely, organic meal was my favorite. We started with a fresh juice taster, followed by a farmhouse quiche, green crunch salad (which was amazing!), olive oil poached albacore tuna and raw chocolate avocado pudding, a complicated recipe several years in the making.

A spa luncheon, served oceanside

Olive oil poached albacore tuna

The 50,000 square-foot oceanfront spa at Terranea is quite beautiful and exudes a SoCal, casual luxury vibe. During my reflexology treatment the spa therapist tapped my shoulder to show me a whale swimming out in the distance. Reflexology is an in-depth foot and ankle massage and it’s hard to master; the treatment at Terranea was the best I’ve ever had.

Spa time with travel writers

To sum it up in a word, the experience at Terranea feels like a revival. It’s the best way to kick back…every place should have a Terranea nearby.

The ethos of rural South Africa

Meet Mama Tofu, a South African legend and Xhosa tribe matriarch. A sagacious leader of Xhosa tradition, Mama Tofu offers lessons of time-honored wisdom and love.

At 93 years of age, the blue-eyed Mama Tofu counsels 20 some-odd girls (many of them are her grandchildren and great-grandchildren) who live with her in a small village called Ngxingxolo, near East London. She advises them on how to find husbands and how to be a good wife, all with a wink and a dash of irreverent humor.

Mama Tofu is a storyteller. Her life as a cultural luminary has been chronicled and celebrated by many famous publications over the years. She survived all of the stark political changes in South Africa; most notably, the beginning and the end of Apartheid.

The Xhosas are known for their special language of “clicks,” a phenomenal and rare form of tongue clicking communication (which is also called Xhosa) found in remote villages in South Africa. It’s an amazing thing to watch and hear, and the language is a dying craft.

In Xhosa tradition, a family’s wealth is measured by how many cows they have. The prospective husband’s family must pay a “lobola” (a lobola is a South African term for a set payment to the future bride’s family, and the method of payment varies per family, per tribe) in the form of 10 or so cows, says Mama Tofu.

She made it very clear that the woman should know his clan, where he’s from and confirm that he “definitely has a job.” Ha. There’s nothing quite like love lessons from Mama.

The girls shown below are performing a dance for us as we leave their village. I was honestly so impressed; they have a completely natural sense of rhythm.

And…this is why I love travel.

Unplug and ‘pause’ in the Moroccan desert

A mere 28km (17m) from the busy city center of Marrakech, Morocco, find La Pause: an off-the-grid starry sanctum in the middle of the desert with 360° views of the rolling Agafay Hills.

This is a hotel with a mission. La Pause, i.e. ‘to pause’ in French, is a place to disconnect, mentally and literally. You won’t have any wi-fi, cell service or any electricity here. It’s desert, mountains, stars, and minimalistic luxury.

lapause-marrakech.com

La Pause is a place to shut off your mind. As part of the effort to maintain a restful environment, guests have hardly any decisions to make during their stay, not even when it comes to dining; there are no menus provided for meals, and every dish brought to the table is a surprise. There’s only one place to eat, one swimming pool, and no spa.

Candelabras and tea lights lit at night provide just the right level of illumination. While the indoors may be a bit dark at certain times during the day, the rooms stay dry and cool. Suites are spacious and romantically styled, and the beds are a heavenly place to fall into at night.Trees and cushy lounge chairs surround the no-frills pool, creating a very natural, woodsy feel and a pleasing environment.

There’s no place like the desert for stargazing.

Without electricity, there’s an overwhelming sense of peace. Detachment from the outside world allows for isolated relaxation. It is impossible to engage in commotion or noise. The beauty of La Pause is in its simplicity: there is no opportunity for distraction.

Hot, bright, dry desert by day and stunningly starry at night. It’s pretty close to perfect.

Walking a path in early spring

This is the path to my room at Azzaden Trekking Lodge in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, an ecolodge that overlooks the snow-capped peaks of the Toubkal Massif mountain range.  I like that you can see the brown branches just beginning to sprout white flowers.

I will admit that the roosters woke me up earlier than anticipated and that my sleep was interrupted numerous times by the sounds of the outdoors.  But…rustic luxury? Solar powered, heated bathroom floors?  “Solitude in a dramatic location?”…yes please.