Naked Therapy

July 28th, 2014

European spas—they’re not like American spas. They’re more like sanatoriums, where staff dressed in white whisper softly and serious health treatments take precedence over beauty.

My first experience was in Italy, outside of Siena. I had had a particularly stressful week with The Entitled–a group of family (their family, not mine) and friends who refused to believe that Italy was no longer a country of peasants, and that said peasants, including myself, were suppose to cater to their every whim…at no additional cost.

Even though I hadn’t met anyone in the group before agreeing to host their tour, I had heard some of the names, seen one on TV and had read about another in HOLA!, the Spanish speaking equivalent of People magazine. But even with this important information, I was still not prepared for what I would encounter. Neither were the two women I was working with. In order to relieve the stress, Katy began chain smoking again after a 20-year hiatus, Sonia repeatedly chanted Madonna!! swirling her cigarette in the air, and I alternated between chomping on Advil and Xanax. The week ended with a multimillionaire pounding his fist on the dinner table—in a very elegant restaurant—demanding the car (or in this case, minibus) be brought around immediately. He was ready to go, even though the majority of people were still eating. That’s when I started to drink—white wine, red wine, limoncello, grappa. Whatever was available…It didn’t matter, I just needed to dull the memory of that man’s existence.



No, not the multimillionaire, but…

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Not for the Faint of Heart: Shaman Boot Camp continued

September 7th, 2013

Over a breakfast of sliced papaya and a health conscious Egg McMuffin wannabe, Doris told us about the time Lonely Planet asked her to explain Washuma ceremonies to their readers. She was the expert and they wanted to know what the most important part was. “Vomiting,” she replied. And like the people before me, I looked at her in horror and exclaimed, “What are you talking about? That can’t be part of the ceremony!”

Oh, but it is…if you’re lucky.

Traditional Peruvian costume

Traditional Peruvian costume

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Shaman Boot Camp

August 31st, 2013

As you may have gathered by now, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into when I jumped on that plane to Peru…and it just got worse.

Our first day was billed as a field trip—a journey to sacred hot springs high in the Andes. Our bodies needed to be cleansed before we could begin. We stopped at a small market and Francoise and I each bought two bags of coca leaves: one for altitude sickness, the other for readings when Doris would check our progress as well as give us tidbits about our future.

Back in the van we soon turned onto a narrow, dirt road that hugged the edge of a jagged mountain. There was no guardrail on the pot-holed path, only a view of hairpin turns and a desolate valley below—WAY below. In the distance, herds of llama munched on yellow grass and stone huts dotted the barren landscape.


Living in the Andes

Life in the Andes

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The Shaman

August 10th, 2013

I wasn’t home for more than a few weeks when my friend, Francoise, told me that she was going to Peru to study with a shaman. How interesting, I thought, and then went about my day.

I continued my routine of watching continuous episodes of Downton Abbey while fantasizing about Ivan and Victorian cookery and holding office hours at my cafe. This isn’t time allotted for bookkeeping or employee relations, rather it’s a series of sacred moments set aside for friends to stop by and gossip, drink bottomless cups of coffee and pop hot-from-the-oven cookies into their mouths. But, even with all these distractions, I couldn’t get the shaman out of my head.


Heritage Corn: Peru

Heritage Corn: Peru

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Summer Love

June 25th, 2013

I had a crush on him before I met him. Not a heart thumping, weak at the knees kind of crush…because I didn’t even know what he looked like. It was more a crush of intellect and intrigue.

I first heard of Ivan Day from a friend of mine, a Cambridge historian, who raved about his cooking classes in England’s Lake District. He was one of her mentors, a true scholar, a man of quirky, obscure knowledge. I knew from her description of him that we were destined to meet.

My opportunity arose with the French airline workers’ strike. Semi-stranded, bidding my time in Paris, eating too many buttery croissants and sipping café au lait, I moved on to greener, and I mean much greener pastures. I hopped the Chunnel in anticipation of meeting my crush and indulging in a weekend of Victorian Cookery.



16th century kitchen

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June 15th, 2013

The email arrived that morning: Your flight has been cancelled due to an airline workers strike. I was just about to leave my small hotel near the Marseille airport, but the message stopped me in my tracks.

After more than an hour on hold the airline representative gave me two choices: take the next available seat–a week from Tuesday, or receive a full refund.

“But I have to get to London in order to catch my flight home. I can’t wait until next week!” No one seemed to care, so I took the refund.

Perched Villages

Perched Villages

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The Art of Eating Well

June 5th, 2013

Most of you know by now that I’m a proud member of I often boast of my month in Prague living next door to the Prime Minister, my summer in Vermont lazing around a picturesque 18th century farmhouse, and let’s not forget my posh apartment in Manhattan.  I don’t look for these experiences–they find me.

Wanted: a place in San Miguel in exchange for our home in Provence, or our beach house in Bali.

I’ve more than once sprained my finger hitting the reply button. (It’s a contest you know, getting to your fellow exchangees before anyone else does.)

I chose France, three weeks in the foothills of the Alps, near the Luberon, the region made famous by Peter Mayle and his book, “A Year in Provence.“ It’s home to the Cote du Rhone wine route as well as numerous lavender farms, ancient olive trees and quaint medieval villages.

Lavender Before The Bloom

Lavender Before The Bloom

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Innocence Lost, Dental Knowledge Gained

June 1st, 2013

In June of my 17th year I went to Germany on a summer exchange program. I lived with a family in a large house on Lake Constance, a picturesque body of water that borders Germany, Switzerland and Austria. My German father was a former movie director turned naturopath, my temporary mother an ex-movie star. The children slept in a separate wing of the house, connected by a kitchen that was the realm of a full-time cook who showered us with cakes and tortes, three-course lunches and late night snacks.

There was a pool and a sauna, as well as a patio and a garden that backed onto a French army barracks. It was a relic from World War II when the Allies divided the conquered country into zones. I loved waking to the sound of soldiers singing as they passed by on their morning run.

My German family usually gathered in the sauna after dinner and I joined them… once, excited and eager in my one-piece bathing suit. They were there waiting, as promised, but had forgotten to dress for the occasion. To say I was shocked by their naked bodies would be an understatement. After all I was a quiet, somewhat conservative girl from Texas who had never sat around naked with anyone before, much less my own family. It’s just not something we did. I remember looking at the ceiling as we discussed who killed JR. They assumed, as a Texan, I had all the answers.


garlic at market

I can’t show you my naked German family, so here’s some fresh garlic at a market in Provence instead.

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The Truth About Venetian Sports

May 25th, 2013

The term “bucket list” never appealed to me, instead I prefer to say that I’ve compiled a list of future experiences—a wish list that will take me around the world and allow me to discover new places and entertaining people. For the moment joining a rowing club in Venice is high on that list. Even though I’ve never been particularly athletic, I discuss going to the gym and even playing tennis like it’s actually going to happen. But I don’t do these things; I only talk about doing them over coffee and cake. So, when I learned Venetian rowing was more about eating and drinking than actual exercise I knew I had discovered my “sport.”


A Two Man Row Boat

A Two Man Row Boat

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The Red Boot Diaries

May 15th, 2013

I heard angry murmurs of “lazy thieves” and “Why do we pay taxes?” as I waded in knee-deep water spilling over from Venice’s canals. My fellow pedestrians, with their legs individually tucked inside large trash bags, were not in the best of moods.

I knew something was up this morning when a friend handed me a pair of bright red rubber boots and said, “Take these.” I hesitated, thinking she was being overly cautious. I mean, red boots really aren’t my thing. I’m not very good with bright colors, preferring to blend in with blacks and browns instead.


venice acqua alta


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