Archive for the 'Romance' Category

Follow the Impressionist Painters Along the Normandy Coast

Like a beret perched askew on a Frenchman’s head, the 360-mile Normand coast curls along the north and northwest of France. After visiting Rouen, I headed for the coast to soak in the beaches and soft-green landscapes bathed in shifting light.

Cliffs of Etretat. Painted by Monet.


I count on doing a large canvas of the cliffs of Etretat, although it is certainly bold of me to do that after Courbet who did it admirably, but I will try to do it differently …” Claude Monet, January 1883

For several years Monet visited the seaside resort of Etretat to paint the white cliffs, beach and fishing boats.

You can stand in the exact location along the beach where Monet painted the rock arch and needle sculptures jutting into the sea. He painted in all light and weather conditions.

After an exhilarating, windy walk along the green hillsides above the precipitous cliffs for views of vast sky, sea, and beach.


The port of Honfleur attracted painters, including Turner, Boudin, Corot, Courbet, Pissaro, Braque, Seurat, and Bonnard

The port of Honfleur attracted many English, Romantic and Impressionist painters, including Turner, Boudin, Corot, Courbet, Pissaro, Braque, Seurat, and Bonnard, who were captivated by the light of the bay, the old streets, the lighthouse and Sainte-Catherine church. Monet visited Honfleur many times and painted numerous canvasses here including the bell-tower, Le clocher Sainte Catherine. Take time to absorb the fine workmanship of the interior as well as the exterior of the half-timbered Sainte Catherine, the oldest wooden church in France.

In the center of the old town a long dock with colorful yachts punctuates the picturesque harbor built in the 17th century. Across the water half-timbered and slate-fronthomes and a parade of open-air cafes and restaurants vie for your attention.

Unlike Le Havre, which was almost entirely bombed during World War II, Honfleur escaped the destruction and the streets and locations painted by the 19th-century artists have been well preserved.

Helpful Websites:

Outstanding Restaurants  Rouen: Etretat :  In the Pays D’Auge:

Where is the Riviera Maya and Why go?

For pure alabaster white sand, turquoise-blue water, and a seamless vacation of R&R, you should know about the Riviera Maya; a strip of coastline stretching south from  Cancun, on the Gulf Coast of Mexico, to the Mayan ruins of Tulum.  And, due to the large number of all-inclusive hotels, there are fabulous deals for serious sun-worshipers for a week or a quick getaway.

Although the coast no longer has small fishing villages or undeveloped jungle, the beaches are delightful, with warm water, sea breezes and easy living in resorts that are gated, guarded, safe and clean.

My daughter and I enjoy an evening of Folkloric Dancers

Recently I took my daughter, as a graduation gift, to the luxurious  Riu Palace near Playa del Carmen, the hippest city along the coast. It was the perfect place for a mother/daughter trip. We saw numerous groups of women, boomers, and honeymooners.

The Riu Resorts were voted the best all-inclusive hotels in the world in 2011.  Now I understand why. The Palace offers personalized service (IE: waiters on the beach delivering you the free margaritas, strawberry daiquiris, beer or whatever drink you desire). It’s hard to grasp the concept that a resort will include all food, specialty restaurants, evening entertainment, all alcohol for such a reasonable package price.


Swim up bar at the pool at the Riu Palace, Playa del Carmen Mexico

The chic Europeans, Brazilians, wealthy Mexicans and Canadians have discovered the Riu. Check their website for amazing deals. For example, a fellow from Washington DC obtained an off-season 6-night (7 day) package, including air, all food, all alcohol and transfers from Cancun for $ 1400.  He calculated that the daily rate, without airfare, was $130-a-day. The price is right and the level of luxury and service is amazing.

The area has a significant Mayan legacy, with important pyramids (check out Tulum and Coba) and cenotes – sinkholes and water bodies used by the ancient settlers of Yucatán.

Mayan Archeological site at Tulum

Nowadays they are very popular for diving and snorkeling. It’s a thrill to take a ladder down into the earth and then swim through the multi-colored cenotes.

Snorkel or dive in a cenote

And fantastic nightlife, excellent golf courses and delicious gastronomy await you in Playa del Carmen.

You’ll eat better than you do at home; steaks, fresh fruit (papaya, mango, pineapple, watermelon), salads, salmon, jumbo prawns, seafood and elaborate desserts.  At the Riu Palace, we dined in all the Specialty Restaurants where we were greeted  with champagne, (or saki in the Japanese Restaurant).  I couldn’t pass up the chocolate fondant (warm brownie with warm liquid chocolate center, served with ice cream).

At night, it’s all about music, dancing or quiet walks on the deserted beach. After a couple of hours of dancing, we finished off the night with a fresh mint and lime  mijito at the bar in the palatial lobby, under dangling crystal chandeliers. We chatted with international guests before heading to bed tired and sun burnt. We were eager to see what towel art would await us in the room.

And what do guests love, in addition to the service, great food, luxury accommodations and stunning beach? Included in the price are all the drinks you want, opulent buffets open all day, mimosas for breakfast, wine or beer for lunch and dinner.

All that said about the night life and drinks, guests include boomer couples, multi-generational families and couples with small children who were having a great time.  One thing we all had in common; we were having a blast.

Remembering Valentines & Romance in Kathmandu

“Do what you love and love will follow,” my mother told me.

So I took off alone around the world to walk, hike, climb, cycle and kayak my way through six continents and more than 70 countries around the world.   Along the way I never celebrated Valentine’s Day.

I was sitting on a low sofa in the lobby of the Kathmandu Guesthouse having just returned from the trails of Annapurna. I hadn’t washed my hair in ten days; the last thing on my mind was romance.

Then, I saw his legs: long, lean and muscular. I heard he was leaving the next morning for a month’s trek to Mt. Everest. Our paths crossed for one moment. Long enough to light a spark.

I continued my travels for another year (alone). And, within days of my return to San Francisco, we met again at a mutual friend’s party. Romance, then marriage.

It was meant to be.


Top Picks for Romantic Spots in San Francisco

Sand Beach and walking trails at Chrissy Field

From Gogobot with changes and additions by the Gutsy Traveler, Marybeth from her book

50 Best Girlfriends Getaways in North America.

1. Gary Danko

“This place is absolutely amazing in so many grand and subtle ways… As usual, the service was impeccable and cannot be disputed. Everything from the greeting to the entry to the wine pouring was perfect down to the last drop.”

2. Napa Valley

Okay, this isn’t technically in SF, but it’s an “easy drive north of San Francisco, Napa Valley is a perfect weekend getaway! It’s great for couples.”  Visit romantic wineries like the Mondavi Vineyard or Frogs’ Leap, and take a hot air balloon ride over the valley complete with a champagne breakfast.

3. Dosa on Fillmore

“Our dining experience was extremely enjoyable–great service, ambiance, and fancy cocktails. I would HIGHLY recommend Dosa on Fillmore to anyone interested in Indian cuisine. True, although many dishes have been slightly modified from their original state to compliment San Francisco, you will be hard pressed to find a spot that serves such high quality, South Indian inspired cuisine.”

4. Chapeau on Clement

“The place is quiet and the entire experience screamed something cozy, seductive, and most definitely French.”

5. California Academy of Arts & Science

“If you were here to enjoy the night it’s definitely a spectacular experience filled with live music, great DJs, alcohol and cooking demonstrations full of great food and useful learning resources.” Be sure to take your sweetheart to the 2 and 1/2 acres of live plants and flowers blanketing the roof and watch the sunset over Golden Gate Park.

6. Ana Mandara in Ghiradelli Square

Ana Mandara means “beautiful refuge” in a Vietnamese Dialect. Its dramatic interior transports you to an Asian tropical garden accented with potted palms, a koi pond and cozy alcoves defined by dark carved wood. Ana Mandara is my favorite New Vietnamese restaurant (with French accents) restaurant because of its opulent beauty, the gracious service and the fabulous cuisine.

7. Gitane Restaurant and Bar

“Gitane is tres sexy in every way. The ambiance, the staff, the food and the cocktails are all incredibly sexy. It’s the … quintessential date spot in SF.”

8. La Mar Cebicheria Peruana

I discovered La Mar in the Mira Flores district of Lima, Peru and was ashamed to learn that there’s a sister restaurant in San Francisco. Now it’s one of my favorites. If you feel like a gastronomic adventure for the land of the Incas, this is a great choice.

9. Chrissy Field and the Fort Point National Historic Site

Chrissy Field's Location along the Bay

The view here is understatedly indescribable and breathtaking at the very least and grandeur … and amazing as well. Walk on the sandy beach and look across at Alcatraz, the Marin hills and the Golden Gate Bridge. Have a hot chocolate or double latte at The Warming Hut.

10. Golden Gate Park

“This park is very serene and nice in many areas and contains specialty places such as conservatories and museums with a huge … selection of specialty gardens such as the Japanese Tea Garden.”

About Marybeth Bond

Marybeth Bond is the nation’s preeminent expert on women travel. She is the award-winning
author-editor of 11 books.

Marybeth has hiked, cycled, climbed, dived and kayaked her way through more than seventy countries around the world.

She was a featured guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Marybeth has appeared on CBS News, CNN, ABC, NBC, National Public Radio and National Geographic Weekend.