Turf homes and arctic adventures

When I traveled through Norway by boat I stopped in Nordkapp (North Cape), the northernmost point of Norway (71° N). 

The Sami are indigenous people found throughout Scandinavia (they are also called Lapps or Laplanders). They speak their own language – called Sami – and have inhabited parts of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in northwest Russia for at least 5,000 years. Why are they always in the north, do you ask? Because reindeer are arctic animals that can only survive in the north, and reindeer herding is the livelihood of the Sami people.

Traditional Sami homes are called Gamme or Goahti, meaning ‘turf home’. A gamme is built on top of wooden arch beams and covered in layers of bark and turf, which is incredibly insulating. We passed by this gamme while in Nordkapp, and I thought it was fascinating.

I love that something so basic and culturally specific can influence modern architecture. I think it’s clear to see the correlation (or evolution?) between the no frills Sami gamme and this hidden-on-a-hill beauty from Interior Design Magazine.

The past is always present.

The spirit of Malibu

Sure, I could share a photograph of the clear blue Pacific to illustrate the beauty of Malibu.  After all, the ocean is probably the first thing you think of when you envision the real-life fantasy that is Malibu, California.

One of the reasons I love Malibu is because it’s not at all what you expect it to be.  It’s not like Beverly Hills or Bel Air, and it’s not just another ritzy beach-side community: it’s a low-key, surfer haven found in the California canyons, a wonderment of old school American west, natural beauty and a dash of organic, haute hippie culture.  This is the real Malibu.

How I see it: Malibu, CA

How I see it: Malibu, CA

Storm in a teacup

These formidable dark and stormy skies were brewing up above in Chilmark, Martha’s Vineyard, just outside of the rustic and renowned Larsen’s Fish Market.  What appeared to be an ominous and threatening storm was a quick but heavy rainfall.  After the rain the skies cleared up, and the sun was bright and shining till dusk.

Chilmark, Martha's Vineyard, MA

Chilmark, Martha’s Vineyard, MA

“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.