Wednesday, November 19, 2008


by Barbara Barton Sloane

When you hear the word “cowboy,” what comes to mind? Rugged, strong, no-nonsense individual, right? So, Cowboy Poetry? Yes.

The cowboy’s work is often lonely and isolated, a cycle of hard, dirty, dangerous jobs from the spring round-up through the cattle drive, the end of the trail and the return to the ranch. Surprising as it may seem, the cowboy, as with the miner, the logger, the fisherman –has a poetry-seeking tradition, whether it’s reciting the classics or reading their own poetry or prose.

The Cowboy Poetry Gathering takes place in Elko, Nevada on January 24-31, 2009. Elko is located in the northeastern corner of the state, 230 miles from Salt Lake City and 295 miles from Reno. The Western Folklife Center, host to the Poetry Gathering, is based in town, and is dedicated to preserving the traditional culture of the American West. It presented its first Poetry Gathering 25years ago, so the 2009 event marks its Silver Anniversary.

The Lure of Cowboy Life
I visited Elko recently to learn more about the upcoming poetry event, staying at the 71 Ranch, a guest ranch for the Working Cowboy Experience. The “71” is a real cattle ranch right in the middle of cowboy country and during my stay there I had the chance to be a part of day-to-day ranch life for a truly authentic experience. I rode horseback over a small part of the ranch’s 38,000 acres, right alongside some of the 2,500 head of cattle belonging to the ranch. Being new to sitting atop a horse, I elicited a promise from my cowboy guide that my slow-poke horse would not, under any circumstances, take it into his head to run. He didn’t and I stayed astride and very happy. That evening, we had a typical cowboy dinner of ribs, baked beans, potatoes and pie. A group of us then gathered around a campfire to ward off the chill which crept in at dusk. We sang along with a cowboy who entertained us with well-known Western songs, and, feeling warm and toasty, we were very happy campers!

The next day we visited the Western Folklife Center where they explained the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. This is a week-long celebration of life in the rural west, featuring the contemporary and traditional arts of western ranching culture. Poetry, music, dance, stories, film, photography, food – all contribute to an event that has become an annual ritual and a place of personal meaning for thousands of people. And lest you think the performers are only the “boys,” I’m happy to tell you there are a lot of authentic cowgirls who recite their poetry as well. Among performers at January’s event will be National Public Radio commentator Baxter Black, the renowned “wacko” poet whose verse has been heard by millions. During my stay in Elko, I was lucky enough to see Baxter at the Elko Convention Center, filled to capacity, and everyone enjoying his raucous performance. The organizers of the upcoming Poetry Gathering promise that “we’ll dance all night, talk all day at the Pioneer Saloon, and enjoy all the artists being celebrated!” For tickets to the January 2009 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, go to the website: or order by phone: 888-880-5885.

Elko and the surrounding area has much to offer, from the beauty of the land, the Ruby Mountains called the “alps of Nevada,” to the endless prairies covered with sage brush, bright yellow rabbit grass, juniper forests and dotted with grazing Black Angus wherever you look. The sky is always bright blue, the clouds big and billowy, and the mountain goats, big horn sheep, and elk are never far away.

Among some of Elko’s fun activities: watch a saddle being made at the famed J.M. Capriola Company, see pottery done the old-fashioned way at Tuscarora Pottery School, visit one of the many casinos, check out the handicrafts of Native Americans, visit the Northeastern Nevada Museum for an in-depth exploration of Nevada’s early years with exhibits of mining, ranching, native culture and Old West history, and end the day with a delicious dinner at a Basque restaurant.

There’s a lovely little poem that I read at the Folklife Center, aptly called “A Cowboy’s Prayer:”

I thank you, Lord, that I am placed so well,
That You have made my freedom so complete
That I’m no slave of whistle, clock or bell,
Nor weak-eyed prisoner of wall and street.
Just let me live my life as I’ve begun
And give me work that’s open to the sky;
Make me a pardner of the wind and sun,
And I won’t ask a life that’s soft or high.

At the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, you’ll hear many poems just as heartfelt and profound as this and your experience will be a happy one.

If You Go:

Western Folklife Center
Tel: 435-657-3086

71 Ranch
Tel: 1-866-717-7171

Red Lion Hotel & Casino
1065 Idaho St., Elko
Tel: 800-447-4136

Star Hotel Basque Family-Style Restaurant
246 Silver St, Elko
Tel: 775-738-9925

Image courtesy of Sweet Light Photography

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


By Barbara Barton Sloane
Plumes of smoke rose heavenward from the base of Maunaloa. Because this is one of Hawaii’s very active volcanos, we were kept several hundred yards away from the site. Yet, even from a distance, the power and majesty of Maunaloa was awesome. Much about my recent trip to Hawaii’s Big Island and Maui was awe-inspiring. The islands were everything that one expects to find: tropical paradise, enveloping warmth, glistening blue sea and luxurious resorts. Badly in need of some serious R & R, I was delighted to find that the islands also offered a perfect destination for me to reconnect with nature – and with myself. Here I found a natural sanctuary to restore the soul.

On Hawaii’s Big Island, miles upon miles of untouched land contribute to its natural beauty. It’s a place of extremes – from fiery volcanoes to snow-capped mountain peaks; from acres of green pasturelands to vast ebony lava deserts; and from tropical rainforests and verdant valleys to white, gold, black and even green sand beaches. Out of 13 climatic regions on the planet, this island has all but two, Artic and Saharan. On the Big Island, whatever climate you’re craving, you’ll find it here.

For centuries, native Hawaiians have revered nature’s bounty from mauka to makai (mountain to sea) and have developed the powerful healing arts of Lomi Lomi massage using native plants in age-old practices and encouraging soul-searching through self-awareness and forgiveness. Dale Silva, co-founder of the Hawaiian Lomi Lomi Association says “without aloha – without love – for oneself, for the environment, for each other, how can you begin to heal? It all starts with aloha.” The aloha spirit is abundant here. You feel it in the sunshine that warms the sand beneath your feet, you see it in the clear ocean water, and you hear it in the gentle rain that falls in the forest.

Hibiscus flowers large as dinner plates line the lush drive to the Four Seasons Resort on the Big Island with deep green, velvet-like
lawns leading to the turquoise sea beyond. Greeted with a fragrant purple orchid lei placed around my neck by a pretty hostess and the words “welcome to the Four Seasons,” I had a hunch that I was in very good hands and that wonderful pleasures awaited me.

Chanting for Healing
Precisely at dawn the next morning, I was invited to participate in an Ocean Purifying Ceremony led by the resident ceremony leader, Daniel Akaka. As a group of us walked to the ocean, Daniel blew a conch shell to the four corners of the earth. He began a chant to clear the mind and start a new journey at daybreak. We stood in ankle-deep water as he instructed us to join hands, a symbol for inviting the people of all the lands to join us. His chant asked that we be instructed, educated and inspired as we go through life’s journey. As he offered a prayer of thanksgiving, he placed a Ti leaf (used to ward off evil spirits) around our necks and greeted us nose to nose. As we did this, we exhaled our breath in a “Ha” sound – the first sound uttered when we’re born and symbolizing the life force within each of us.

Daniel next took a bowl with small stones in it, emptied it and filed the bowl with pure water. He explained that as we go through life, we take on worries, problems, negativity. Each problem is like a stone, so to rejuvenate the soul, you have merely to turn the bowl over, let the stones drop away and allow pure water to refill the bowl. Simplistic? Maybe. I can just tell you that after this ceremony, the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” kept buzzing in my head and I left feeling cleansed and ready to start a fresh, new day – baggage-free.

Romance in the Air
I had dinner at the Four Seasons Pahui’a restaurant, dining en famille at a long wooden table that faced the ocean and gazing at a spectacular gold sunset as ocean breezes wafted over a tranquil blue sea. If you want a romantic setting, this is it! Soft Hawaiian ballads provided the music, tiki lamps lit the azure evening and, as the sky turned dusky, lights played on the ocean and captured creamy white caps rolling gently towards shore. As if that wasn’t enough, the food at Pahui’a was spectacular - Lobster Keahole, Dungness Crab, Sweet Waimea Corn fritters, and for dessert spice cake with sweet potato ice cream. Mother Nature herself graced the ambience of this restaurant and provided an unforgettable dining experience.

Welcome to Your Sensory Meltdown
At the Four Seasons Hualalai Sports Club & Spa, I found an oasis of sybaritic delights awaiting me. A uniquely Hawaiian spa, there is a lap pool, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms and cold plunges - all set amidst tropical gardens. Among the Signature treatments offered: The Hualalai Experience, in which you're pampered with a Polynesian Niu (cocoanut) body scrub, a Lomi Lomi massage, and a Kane facial. I opted to experience the Cocoanut Scrub which transported me into a dream-like state. After the body polish, a warm blanket was wrapped around me and I was given a relaxing face and neck massage. The last step was an application of cocoanut milk and cococnut moisturizing lotion. My skin had never felt so silky smooth and I was beyond relaxed. My goal as I entered the spa was to be pampered, relaxed and feeling beautiful. Mission accomplished!

After checking into the Fairmont Orchid Resort, I walked down jungle-like paths lined with dramatic waterfalls leading to their Spa Without Walls, whose mission is to restore the mana (power) we hold within each of us. In a cabana at ocean’s edge, I experienced their signature Lomi Lomi massage. My masseuse used long, gliding, rhythmic movements to ease tension and relax muscles using my selection of essential oils to personalize the treatment. Mission accomplished!

One of the highlights of my stay at the Fairmont Orchid: Calley O’Neill, a true force of nature and a major attraction of this property. Calley teaches a class called Compassionate Healing Yoga. I took the class thinking it would be standard yoga filled with movements like Salute to the Sun and Downward Dog. Not so. Calley’s class is yoga for the mind, and she led us through ways to quiet the mind, rejuvenate the body, balance emotions and nurture the spirit – all in 60 minutes. The key to my being inspired, moved and feeling like a million bucks as the class ended was, quite simply, Calley herself. She is calm, centered and above all, caring. My session was mind-altering. Sound too good to be true? It isn’t.

From Chill to Sizzle
Once you leave the reverie of an Hawaiian spa and slowly re-enter the real world, you’ll find much to do on the Big Island. You can snorkel with the turtles at Kahulu’u Beach Park or see them up close and personal on the black sands of Panalu’u. Stargazing atop Mauna Kea is a truly spiritual
experience. If fishing is your thing, try catching a marlin off the Kona Coast. While on Kona, don’t forget to explore the ancient petroglyphs. Night diving with manta rays is other-worldly and a visit to a “garden in a valley on the ocean,” the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden with rain forests, waterfalls, exotic flowers, fruits and plants is a must-see. Their orchid garden is a photographer’s paradise. Year-round temperatures on the Big Island average 82 degrees so anytime is the right time to go.

E Komo Mai – Welcome to Maui
The flight to Maui from the Big Island took just 40 minutes. This island is known as “The Magic Isle” and for good reason. I kept wanting to pinch myself as I experienced the sheer, jaw-dropping beauty of Maui coupled with laid-back, lovely people whose warmth and friendliness are genuine.

The Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa is a special place. Among its many charms, 40 lush, oceanfront acres, a 750,000-gallon pool with a 150-foot lava tube water slide, nightly Polynesian Luau, four uniquely themed restaurants and Spa Moana, where I had still another chance to unwind. I highly recommend the spa’s Rainforest Propolis and Cocoanut Milk Wrap. No, you don’t eat it, you allow the therapist to slather you with it! Delicious – and calorie-free!

A Cosmic Experience
That evening, sufficiently de-stressed and limp as a dish rag, I did something that was exactly what I needed to rejuvenate. Called “Tour of the Stars,” I climbed to the roof of the hotel where I met Hyatt’s Director of Astronomy. Peering through a 16-inch telescope, I saw Uranus, Venus, Polaris and several other planets, not to mention a luminescent moon and a midnight blue sky with a zillion stars. A perfect end to my day in paradise.

The Westin Maui Resort & Spa is surrounded by tropical gardens, meandering streams and waterfalls. There’s much to keep you busy here: five swimming pools, an exhilarating Wailele Polynesian Luau, two 18-hole championship golf courses, a shopping center and, of course, the ubiquitous spa, this one aptly named Heavenly. At Heavenly Spa I had their Lavender Body Butter Treatment which put me firmly on Cloud 9, gliding back to my room, feet never touching the ground! I arranged to go on a Sunset Sailing Cruise which docked near the hotel. Boarding the Gemini, a catamaran, I spent two hours smoothly Tradewind-sailing with phenomenal views of West Maui, Molokai and Lanai, sipping Mai Tais and munching Hawaiian appetizers. One of the highlights of this sail was when the captain dropped anchor and we watched a glorious sunset, tiki torch lighting and some brave young men cliff diving at Black Rock near the Westin coastline.

Culture, Traditions and Fun
To get a feel for Hawaiian culture and an understanding of their traditions, a group of us attended the Old Lahaina Luau. Just two of the many offerings at this sumptuous breakfast luau were Island Stuffed French Toast and Kalua Pork Hash with Lomi Salmon. Then we watched (and participated in) demonstrations of kappa-cloth making, spear-throwing, and poi-making. We listened to Hawaiian stories and songs and left with a deep respect for the people of this island who are dedicated to keeping their traditions alive.

Hawaii is a paradise, pure and simple. It’s impossible to list all that makes these islands special, but I’ve managed to narrow it down to a few of my favorite things:
*A wake-up call by tropical birds
*Not having to wikiwiki (hurry-hurry)
*Snorkeling with amazing underwater life
*A gentle rain –quickly followed by more sunshine
*Your nightcap: the soothing sound of the ocean
*The Hawaiian motto: Ho’okahi no la o ka malihini: A stranger only for a day

Hawaiians have a saying: I mohala no ka lehua I ke ke’ekehi ‘ia e ka ua. Easy for them to say, but the meaning is simple and sweet: The Lehua blossom unfolds when the rains tread on it. During my stay on these islands, I did, indeed, experience the warm, gentle rain. I rested, I relaxed, I unfolded. And yes, it was great!

Oh, almost forgot. There is one thing I definitely do not like about Hawaii:

If You Go:
The Big Island
*Big Island Visitors Bureau, *Kona Village Resorst
*The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai Queen Ka’ahumanu Hwy, Ka’upulehu Hi
72-100 Ka’upulehu Drive, Kaupulehu HI Tel: 808 325-7820,
Tel: 808 325-8000, *Hilo Bay Cafe
*The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii 315 Makaala St, Hilo HI
1 North Kaniku Dr, Kohala Coast HI Tel: 808 935-4939
Tel: 808 885- 2000,
*The Palms Cliff House
28-3514 Mamalahoa Hwy, Hilo HI
Tel: 808 963-6076,

Maui Visitors Bureau *Old Lahaina Luau 1287 Front St. Lahaina HI
*Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa Tel: 808 667-2998
3700 Wailea Dr., Kihei HI
Tel: 808 879-1922, *Pineapple Grill at Kapalua Resort
*Hyatt Regency Maui Resort &Spa 200 Kapalua Dr, Kapalua HI
200 Nohea Kai Dr, Lahaina HI Tel: 808 669-9600
Tel: 808 661-1234,
*Westin Maui Resort & Spa *Chez Paul Restaurant
2365 Ka anapaliPkwy, Lahaina HI 820 Olowalu Village Rd, Lahaina HI
Tel: 808 667-2525, Tel: 808 661-3843
*Sea Watch Restaurant at Wailea
100 Wailea Golf Club Dr., Wailea HI
Tel: 808 875-8080


By Barbara Barton Sloane

A more grown-up attitude toward glamour is the big news in fall/winter fashion and the good news is this signals a return to the building-block basics of chic. Making a radical departure from romantic femininity, these looks speak to strength, cofidence and sex appeal, spot-on for today’s power woman. The designs are pared down to reveal their essence and value the sophistication of the lines. Now, after a spring season exploding with pyrotechnics, designers are learning to forgo frills in favor of strong, clean lines and a newfound maturity.

Appropriate for this season, Matthew Williamson for Pucci established an icy pastel palette mixed with graphic black and white. His silhouettes were perfect for the slopes with fur-lined parkas, shapely puff jackets, and skinny leggings. Completing the mood, there were cozy looks for fireside lounging in a suite at the Kulm Hotel. His furs, shearlings and brightly colored dyed fox juxtapose glam and sport, a feat he pulls off admirably. Williamson’s “coat of many colors” is pure Pucci. He has played with a palette of geometric shapes of dizzying hues: pink, purple, white and blue. With five seasons at Pucci behind him, it appears that Matthew Williamson has hit on a formula that works – resort dressing for the rich and fabulous.

If we’re in a recession, word hasn’t reached Oscar de la Renta. He’s still laying on the gold leaf. For fall/winter, his collection is replete with impeccable designs for gals young and old accustomed to La Dolce Vita. For day, de la Renta stayed true to his basic chic. There was a lovely, lean jacket in boiled cashmere over full-cut flannel pants and a boxy jacket in cashmere knit paired with a knee-length skirt in dip-dyed silk. Understated evening elegance was personified in elegant, full-cut black silk crepe trousers and lady-like white chiffon blouse with flowing scarf. Boom or bust, de la Renta knows what his ladies like.

Fall looks found Jean Paul Gautier of Hermes in a typically quiet mode. An oriental runway carpet was reinterpreted as a pattern for skirts, dresses, boots and jumpsuits. The collection figured heavily in coats, jackets, leather trenches and crocodile blazers. Long, thick-knit cardigans, shearlings and suede jackets lined in curly lamb were all accessorized with adorable knit caps and scarves. A very wearable yet utterly chic look: his brown leather skirt, elbow length gloves, and knee-high boots accessorized with a tobacco-colored skull cap and flowing knit scarf. The appeal of this low-key presentation is the quality of the workmanship and their “hand”, (their touch and feel), a Hermes hallmark.

Dennis Basso celebrates his 25th anniversary as a furrier this year, and there was a celebratory feeling in the air at his show. Lorraine Bracco arrived bearing a congratulatory bouquet and his loyal ladies came wearing his coats despite the pouring rain. No surprise, there were plenty of lavish furs on the runway worked in interesting, intricate ways as only Basso can do. The first look to come down the runway: a trapeze coat in creamy alligator on top and Russian sable below was a good indication of the luxe designs to follow. Basso loves to show off the limitless imagination of his design team. A broadtail jacket, to give just one example, was spliced with handmade lace inserts and trimmed in silver fox. In a crisp, buttoned-up look displaying the technical innovations of his factory, his model sashayed down the runway in a short gray wool skirt with matching jacket. The wow factor of this outfit was the elbow to wrist cuffs and hem trimmed in sumptuous silver fox, all topped off with a prim white shirt tied with a bow at the neck. Basso may have a quarter century of experience in the fur trade, but he has significantly less as a designer of ready-to-wear, as witnessed with an over-the-top trapeze dress that almost suffocated its model in marabou feathers. He made up for this, however, with three understated black gowns that his devotees would adore wearing underneath a Basso sable.

The drawing rooms of the Upper East Side that were the inspiration for Carolina Herrera’s spring show have been replaced with the wide open spaces of the countryside. But not to fear as the designer has not skimped on the look of luxe. This season, she’s focused primarily on separates, capes over matching jackets, long, slim pants, cashmere vests layered over chiffon shirts, and riding pants and jackets. This horsey look was explained in her program notes as something “to grab from the mudroom and throw over a crinkle chiffon gown for an elegant dinner on the farm.” Ah yes, those rustic dinners among the animals! A bit more citified was her beige cape over tight brown leggings, shiny patent boots and a blouse accented with a big champagne satin bow. Most of Herrera’s pieces could play in the city – velvet jeans, a long chartreuse chiffon dress and a floral jacquard vest worn over a corseted china blue gown trailing several feet of gazar in its wake - all clearly destined for the Park Avenue party circuit.

At Gucci, Frida Giannini got across quintessential Gucci-ness in all its sexy, show-offy persona, integrating a Russian/ Cossack/folklore feel with a hippie wardrobe: printy, shaggy, peasant designs that the Portobello market was known for in the seventies. Happily, the looks are cleaned up to work with today’s luxury values and this collection ranks as one of Giannini’s most confident so far, with a billowy-sleeved, embroidered peasant blouse over a pair of gold, chain-laden hipsters thrust into riding boots reminiscent of Rudolf Nureyev. The show swung into tapestry coats, short chiffon dresses, and flippy skirts. One particular standout was a silver-tipped fox jacket worn with stovepipe hipsters, a brightly colored peasant belt, and high black patent boots, their fringes swingy gaily.

The antler chandeliers spray painted gold were the first clue that we were in for a change of scenery at Ralph Lauren’s fall show, as he swapped Central Park for Colorado. His family retreat continues to be an inspiration for many of his signature looks and with this show, he reprised several of them, with grand results. He opened with a series of city dresses and suits in cashmere herringbone and black double-face that hugged the body. Soon, however, he headed west to the land of border stripe, swing jackets, red and black plaid suits and a hip-hugging blanket hunting jacket in green buffalo plaid. His plaids lingered after dark but for evening Lauren was far more than one-note. There were supple, draped velvets in hunter green and garnet decorated with beads. An even more dramatic look was a black tulle gown with a cutaway back. Lauren knows that wherever his ladies find themselves, out west or back east, they always have an RL party dress on hand.

Bianca Jagger was declared the inspiration for Badgley Mischka’s fall/winter collection. The seventies were the duo’s starting point, including a brick-red, crinkled leather jacket worn with a matching flared skirt and a tight-fitting apricot turtleneck and boot-cut glen plaid pants worn with a short and sweet broadtail and fox vest. Worked in among the floral shirtwaists, floppy felt hats and high suede boots were the team’s typical, reliable and tireless clothes that the gals with a Bergdorf charge card live for: a pencil skirtsuit in buff tweed shot with metallic thread, wool crepe tuxedo pants and a little silk faille jacket with short mink sleeves.

After a spring season exploding with pyrotechnics, for fall designers have learned to forego frills in favor of strong, clean lines, newfound maturity and wearable, wonderful, very welcome basics!

Monday, April 21, 2008


Merging Sea and Sky in Cyprus

by Barbara Barton Sloane

A Zen parable says: “When a fish swims, it swims on and on and there is no end to the water. When a bird flies, it flies on and on and there is no end to the sky.” Here on this ancient island one enters into a Blue Zone. The color of the Mediterranean changes from crystal clear turquoise to lapis to azure and there is no end to blue water. With perfect weather almost 365 days of the year, the sky above remains the color of a robin’s egg and there is no end to blue sky. I have just arrived in Cyprus and as its famed golden light washes over me, my mood is far from blue!

There are few places on earth that can compare with the charm and beauty of Cyprus. This carefree, gentle island marries European culture with ancient history and offers an incomparable blend of classical legend, historic architecture and rich tradition. Cyprus is a small country of 3,600 square miles. It encompasses four major towns: Lefkosia, Larnaka, Lemesos and Pafos. Situated at the crossroads of three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa – this geographic position has, from antiquity, played an important role in the island’s 10,000 year history. Almost no matter where you go, you can be sure that you walk on a piece of the past.

As I explored the countryside, I traveled through tiny villages, visited Byzantine churches and remote monasteries and was entranced by a landscape of rugged hills, lush forests and ancient olive groves. On this island once walked Jesus’ apostles. In 395AD the Byzantine Empire flourished here and Christianity was declared the official religion. Cyprus was also a part of the Ottoman Empire for three hunded years. Fast forward to 1878. Cyprus came under British rule and remained that way until 1960, when the independent Republic of Cyprus was established and Archbishop Makarious III was elected the first President.

In 1974, Turkey occupied the northern part of Cyprus and today37% of this country is under Turkish rule. The Cyprus/Turkish problem continues although there are now on-going talks for reunification. My travel companions and I were only vaguely aware of this separation. However, when we visited villages in the north, and saw areas enclosed by barbed wire with United Nations flags flying, we knew that our travels in Cyprus ended at this fence.

Mighty Aphrodite
Our first day in Cyprus took us to Pafos, which dates from the 4th century BC. The entire town is listed as a World Heritage site and the reason for that soon became clear. Here are numerous important archaeological ruins, ancient monasteries, churches and catacombs. Last but not least, there is a big boulder that juts out of the turquoise sea and it is here that Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, is said to have risen from the foam. Legend has it that if a woman comes to the sea at midnight during a full moon and swims to the spot where Aphrodite was born, she will inherit her beauty, and if a man performs this feat, he will have eternal youth. A good reason to take the plunge. The closest I came to living this myth was visiting the Fontana Amorosa dedicated to the goddess. As the fountain bubbled forth and I dipped in a toe, I was captivated by this romantic fable. Was this liquid spouting skyward merely water? No, I preferred to believe it was the real thing: Aphrodite’s love potion!

Our group left the Fountain of Love feeling somewhat lovelier, and we were off to the Tombs of the Kings, one of the major archaeological attractions of Pafos. As we entered this underground site, we were surrounded by massive Doric pillars and a honeycomb structure with tombs carved into sheer rock vaults. The damp, gray silence permeating this site soon made us long for the Cyprus sun. We emerged into its warmth and headed for lunch. At Skorpios, a taverna-style restaurant, they served traditional food. We had our first taste of meze which means an array of 20 or more dishes including dips, vegetables, fish and meat. Some of the offerings were small Cypriot sausages, roast potatoes, avgolimono soup and my particular favorite, Haloumi, known as the cheese that does not melt. Fry it, grill it, do whatever you want and it retains its shape. It was delicious. Naturally, our meal was accompanied by good, local red wine.

Before leaving Pafos, we visited the House of Dionysos containing splendid mosaic floors that date from 3rd to 5th century AD. The mosaics here are considered some of the finest in the world and depict scenes from Greek mythology.

The next day dawned bright and sunny (no surprise!) and we were ready for a jeep ride into the countryside to the Akamas Peninsula. The ride took us through picturesque, centuries-old villages with houses deliciously painted in colors of banana, peach and cream. Here and there we saw men riding donkeys or an occasional shepherd grazing his sheep and goats. The air was fragrant with olive groves and orchards of cherry, apple and pear. Looming over all, Mount Olympus, mauve colored and topped with a dusting of white.

Bacchus and Beyond
We were looking forward to our visit to Omodos. We’d been told of this village’s 5,000 year history of winemaking, so no way were we going to miss it! The very first product produced here was a sweet, dessert wine called Commandaria that, turns out, some in our group were inordinately fond of. We lunched at the Antoniades Winery, sampling the wines while nibbling on tiny meatballs, small pita envelopes filled with cheese, an assortment of cold meats, raisins and almonds. Marios Antoniades, the Managing Director was genial and welcoming. All in all, our meal was the piece de resistance and a visit here is highly recommended. Wine lovers alert: There is an annual wine festival held in Lemesos (Limassol) in September. Attendees can drink as much wine as they want – free - for 10 full days! Lemesos is Cyprus’ second largest city, the center of the wine industry and the island’s main port. Here the famed Agia Napa Church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is said that an icon bearing her image was found in a glen (Napa) and is housed in this church.

A Capital City
Lefkosia (Nikosia),the country’s thousand year old capital, is situated in the center of Cyprus and is a large, cosmopolitan hub filled with appealing stores for some retail therapy, lively tavernas for eating, dancing to Zorba music and, if the mood strikes, for breaking plates! The Cyprus Handicraft Center is not to be missed. One observes women practicing the traditional arts of embroidery and lace making much the same as in ages past. In his day, Leonardo DaVinci visited Cyprus and was so enchanted by the Lefkeridika – intricate geometric embroidery – that he purchased an alter cover still used today in the Church of Milan. At the Byzantine Museum the dazzling rooms of Christian icons are the richest collection of art of this kind in Cyprus, covering the 9th to 18th centuries. The Cyprus Archaeological Museum was one of the highlights of my entire Cyprus experience. The museum houses the largest collection of archaeological treasures in Cyprus. Walking through its fourteen galleries chock-a-block with priceless artifacts dating from the Neolithic age to the 7th century AD was a heady experience. There was magnificent gold jewelry from the Bronze Age, and an unforgettable and captivating marble statue of Aphrodite from the 1st century BC. Her head held high and regal, her expression soft and guileless, she is missing her arms but definitely not her charms!

There is so much to see and do here. Surrounded by the sea, there’s a host of water sports, sailing, hiking, cycling and several very good golf courses. Because of Cyprus’ advantageous location in the Mediterranean, it is “Cruise Central.” Make Cyprus your home base and take a two or three-day cruise to Egypt, Israel, Lebanon or Greece. You depart early evening and arrive the next morning. Many vacations rolled into one.

Our last day in Cyprus was spent in Larnaka, one of the oldest continually-inhabited cities in the world and home to the Church of St. Lazarus, said to be the spot where he is buried. Restored in the 17th century, it houses excellent examples of baroque woodcarving. We took a walk by a large salt lake. Migratory birds and wild swans make this lake their annual stopover, and as we were about to leave, a great pink cloud descended on the lakeshore – hundreds of flamingos, a perfect photo op and a perfect way to end our Cyprus holiday.

It is said that when Aphrodite stepped from the sea foam onto the shore at Pafos, the locals welcomed her with open arms. When you visit Cyprus and are greeted with “kopiaste!” (“come join us”), I think you’ll feel just as the goddess did….most welcome.

If you go:
Cyprus Tourism Organization
13 E. 40th St, NYC
Tel: 212.683.t280
Almyra Hotel
Poseidonos Avenue 8042,Pafos
Tel: (357) 26 888 700
Le Meridien Spa & Resort
Antoniades Winery Ltd
Tel: 00357-25422638


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Jekyll Island - Symbol of the Guilded Age with 21st Century Appeal

By Barbara Barton Sloane

“Mr. Rockefeller never feels so well as when he is enjoying the secluded and exclusive life which only this Paradise on earth affords.” So reported the Brunswick News on January 30, 1917. Ah, those millionaires! In the gilt-edged times of a century ago, the country’s rich journeyed to places like Saratoga New York, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia and, of course, to Jekyll Island, Georgia, the particular paradise the Brunswick News referred to. I had the happy opportunity to visit Jekyll Island recently and can affirm that this destination continues to instill happiness and a sense of well-being in its visitors.

Fast Facts
Located on a Georgia barrier island of unusual natural beauty and recognized as a Natural Historical Landmark, the Jekyll Island Club was built in l886 as a hunting retreat for the nation’s wealthy elite and was the site of events and meetings of historic significance, including the first transcontinental phone call which was initiated in 1915 from the island by Theodore Vail, then president of AT&T. The fond memory of members of yore – J.P. Morgan, Jay Gould, Vincent Astor, William K. Vanderbilt, Marshall Field and others is kept alive at Jekyll Island by sepia photographs that line its halls.

Since that unique time in our history, not very much has changed at Jekyll Island. The Clubhouse, which is American Queen Ann in architectural style and the collection of adjacent structures have been splendidly restored, and is on Conde Nast Traveler’s Gold List and named one of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations.

The resort has 157 rooms and suites in five historic settings. There’s the Clubhouse adorned with turrets, bay windows, verandas, and views of rolling green lawns, the intracoastal waterway and vast marshlands. Additionally, there’s lodging at the Annex, San Souci, Crane Cottage and Cherokee Cottage. I stayed in the 81 year old Crane Cottage, an Italian Renaissance structure which recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. It was private, quiet, comfortable and full of turn-of-the-century charm. While there, I spent a pleasurable afternoon relaxing in the Crane Cottage gardens with a good book on a bench in the shade of a live oak tree. Jekyll Island lends itself to such pursuits, but make no mistake, if activity is your aim, there’s plenty here to keep you busy.

Something for Everyone
Jekyll Island is the site of Georgia’s largest public golf resort with 63 holes of challenging courses and year-round play. You can horseback ride, experience a horse-drawn carriage, walk the Tidelands Nature Center, go on a dolphin tour and have fun shopping the historic shops on Pier Road. For the extended, multi-generational family, this resort is ideal as most of the activities are geared for grandparents to tots. You’ll find a world of compelling contrasts: old and new, rich history and modern comforts, grand surroundings and simple pleasures, energizing sports and complete relaxation. March ushers in several fun-filled events on the island: on the 5th, the Spring Wine Event with a tasting paired with foods that complement the wines. On March 7th, the Jekyll Island Arts Festival takes place with competitions, exhibits, a raffle, a bake sale, entertainment, and high-quality art at the right price. On March 22nd, there’s the annual Easter Festival. This is a family event with children’s activities, food and art vendors, live music, a pooch parade and more! And on the last Sunday of each month, the Club holds a dinner dance in the Grand Dining Room with gourmet dining and dancing to a live band.

Plan a Stress-Free Wedding
In the day, birding on this island was a favorite pastime. Today, it is, instead, briding and romance is clearly in the air. While I was having a Victorian tea in the parlor, I watched a couple being married on the lawn as another bride in a strapless confection swooshed by my table with three of her bridesmaids. Destination weddings are popular today, and a growing number of couples want to return to traditional ceremonies reflecting family values. Choosing Jekyll Island for your wedding almost
guarantees it will be stress-free. They offer several complete wedding packages with a beachfront or riverfront ceremony. They provide the
minister, the photographer and a tiered wedding cake. Stressless and wedding? Words not mutually exclusive here.

Have a Close Encounter with a Sea Turtle
Jekyll Island is home to the new $2.5 Million Sea Turtle Center whose goal is to enhance public awareness of this endangered species and to provide rehabilitation for injured or ill sea turtles. I had the opportunity to visit
this Center and was impressed with the heroic efforts for sea turtle conservation that take place here. Later, I stopped by the Lobby Bar to
sample bartender Kenny Bjorn’s “Turtletini,” a cocktail created as a salute to the sea turtles that swim thousands of miles to Jekyll Island’s beach each summer.

Make Jekyll Island a Family Tradition
If you plan to visit, be aware that there are homes you can rent, “cottages” you can buy, or you can just simply fly down, rent a room at the Club, sit on its sprawling porch in a wicker chair and watch grass grow. Jekyll Island, an unhurried kind of place, lends itself well to just such laid-back activities. Fifty percent of the resort’s visitors are repeat customers as families pass the tradition of vacationing here from generation to generation. Visit Jekyll Island and you’ll have a truly luxurious and memorable landmark experience.

Planning to go?
Jekyll Island Club Hotel
371 Riverview Drive, Jekyll Island Georgia 31527
Tel: 912.635.2600/Fax 912.635.2818

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Saranac Lake, N.Y.

We are in the Adirondack wilderness driving a winding road, snow covered evergreens forming a narrow passageway. Ahead of us, an intricate gate fashioned from logs and branches and spelling out The Point. After punching in a code, the gate opens very s-l-o-w-l-y as if to say: “Take a deep breath. Relax. Let the wonders of this very special place envelop you.”

We’ve arrived at The Point, the last of the Great Camps of the Adirondacks, considered by many to be the premiere resort in the country and Conde Nast Traveler’s highest rated property. From the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the great depression, Gilded-age magnets built magnificent mansions made of logs and collectively called the Great Camps. The Point was built as a private retreat for the William Avery Rockefeller family between 1930-33 by the prominent Adirondack camp architect William Distin. It is situated on a 75 acre peninsula jutting into Upper Saranac Lake and today consists of a main lodge and 11 distinctive and delightfully decorated rooms for a handful of very lucky guests. The rooms have Adirondack twig furniture, huge stone fireplaces, down beds and each strikes a balance between being grand yet intimate. Here you have the romantic notion of “roughing it” in comfort, elegance and gentility.

Entering the grand log mansion, we were greeted by the General Manager, Mark Stebbings who ushered us into the Great Hall and offered a glass of Champagne. Everything about the Great Hall was great. It evoked the Adirondack camps of old with rough luxe, animal trophies lining the walls, massive native cut stone fireplaces blazing, vast sink-in sofas and a view of the frozen silver lake beyond. Mark took us on a brief walk-about to acquaint us with the property and then we were shown to our room.

All is Calm, the Fire is Bright
All was in readiness – a carafe of wine, a roaring fire in a fieldstone fireplace that reached up to the timbered ceiling, lamps softly glowing, candles flickering. We were delighted by a cloud-soft bed made entirely from branches with tree trunk posts that made it appear to be growing out of the floor. It was amusingly and deliciously grand, and Goldilocks, herself, would have pronounced it “just right!” Icicles four feet long formed a grid over our leaded glass windows like so many pieces of Swarovski crystal and the snow on our roof was deep and sumptuous as vanilla icing on a wedding cake. The warm comfort of our room beckoned us to linger but the experience of dining en famille with our fellow guests was too appealing to pass up.

Rustic Opulence
The Great Hall is where the meals are served. We dined by candlelight flickering over a table laid with fine china, crystal and silver. We had individual menus at each place setting. Turning our menus over, we saw that all of our names were listed – first names only! Quoting Shakespeare, “discretion is the better part of valour,” at The Point. Our meal was enriched by lively conversation, and generous amounts of fine wine. It made for a true house-party atmosphere. The food, prepared by Chef Kevin McCarthy, was extraordinary, from the scallops with parsnip and apple, to celery root ravioli to roasted and braised veal, and ending with a lemon-lime soufflĂ©.

The next day dawned sunny and bright, perfect for snowshoeing. Mark was our guide leading the way over the frozen lake and into the woods, up hills and down dales. Although the trek was somewhat arduous we enjoyed every minute of the silent, white forest that surrounded us, and returned back to the Lodge nearly two hours later, tired but with a sense of accomplishment.

Dinner at Eight
Each evening cocktails are served at seven, dinner at eight, and as this was Saturday, dinner was black-tie, a bow to yesteryear’s Great Camp dining. After dinner, one last experience awaited us: a snow picnic by a bonfire in the woods. Mentioning our interest to one of the staff, we quickly found ourselves being led along a path twinkling with tiny white lights to an all-out, roaring bonfire. Around the fire, twelve Adirondack chairs piled with warm woolen blankets and cushy pillows to sit on. Making this a truly memorable event: a fully-stocked bar, long branches to spear marshmallows for roasting and all the fixings for S’Mores. Who could ask for anything more?

Your Wish is our Command
This phrase defines the level of service offered by the staff. Want breakfast in bed, lunch at a fairytale cottage in the woods, or a sumptuous dinner served by a fire in your room? You have but to ask. In fact, service here is so professional and discreet it seems you just have to wish for something and – presto! As if by magic, it happens.

The Point in winter is, indeed, a magical place with a wealth of activities and diversions: ice skating across the frozen Saranac, miles of cross-country skiing right in the backyard, snow-shoeing in an enchanted forest, even ice fishing. And in summer there’s water skiing, swimming, boating or lake tours in one of The Point’s venerable mahogany cruisers. Here there’s nothing that one has to do but much one can do.

As we prepare to depart, our ever-attentive staff has prepared box lunches for our journey. Nothing left to chance, nothing forgotten. Oh wait, maybe there is one thing they’ve overlooked: a tissue to dab our eyes as we bid The Point adieu.

Planning to go?