Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • I arrived into Quebec City on Thursday evening to get a taste of Quebec’s Winter Carnival, which is held annually in this 400-year-old city. I have been so busy having fun, that I haven’t had a moment to sit down and write a proper post. Until I have the chance to give you all the facts so that you and your families can plan a winter adventure to Quebec CIty, I thought I’d show you some of the great activities for families, couples, friends, and solo travelers. For more information visit the official Winter Carnival site. If you can’t see the video below, you can see it on the Traveling Mamas YouTube Page.

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  • January is the time when people look back at the past year and make resolutions for the year ahead. This day last year, we loaded our first post on a WordPress.com travel blog. We started TravelingMamas.com with a few dollars and a little bit of common sense (we trademarked the name). Along the way – 438 blog posts later – we’ve grown into what you see today.

    Each of us feels blessed to have TravelingMamas.com as a fun and rewarding outlet. We four have full editorial control of what content we feature, and our goal has always been to help mothers and travel researchers find useful and practical information to plan how to spend their hard-earned money.

    Over the last week, we all dug through our old photos, emailing to each other and laughing at how goofy we all look (may perms never come back in style). We recalled our times together on trips, and now we are planning our next getaway so we can all bond in person! Hawaii last May was truly magical.

    Here’s a little reflection of our first year that gives a brief background on how we came to this moment. Thanks for sticking around through our first year; we really appreciate the support. We absolutely love hearing from readers, and making connections with other travel bloggers and travel-industry folks means the world to us! We look forward to seeing what 2009 will bring for the Traveling Mamas. Onward and upward!

    If you can’t see the video, here’s the direct link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5UboFwF2AQ

    And Mamas – I MISS YOU! Thanks for making 2008 a rocking year of travel blogging. Here’s to 2009 and the Year of the Traveling Mamas. I hope ALL mamas out there start planning their travels now, both with their families and their mama friends.

    Like the music? The song featured is Everything I Need by Chris Michols. His entire album can be downloaded for free at ChrisMichols.com.

    And special thanks to Terry Shibao of Digital Imaging Plus, who took the great photos of us at the Westin Maui.

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  • El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa, nestled at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Taos, NM, is an environmentally friendly spiritual experience that nurtures the soul. The atmosphere of this resort provides the perfect setting for couples to renew their relationships and grow closer together. It is a place for a spiritual retreat.

    View of Taos Mountain at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort
    View of Taos Mountain at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort

    El Monte Sagrado was developed around a Native American sacred site, The Sacred Circle. A few years ago, my good friend told me about her amazing visit at El Monte and how it will always stay in her heart. I became intrigued and began to plan my own visit, to see if it would suit for a romantic getaway. The resort is hidden from the bustle of Taos, but close enough to visit the shops on foot. There were 32 rooms during my friend’s visit, but they now have 48 new guest rooms and a spa expansion.

    I wrote this a while back, when I visited to help my soul recover from a major surgery. I really enjoyed relaxing in one of the new rooms, which all have a large soaking tub, perfect for couples, an oversized shower, and luxurious bed. The fireplace provides a romantic ambiance and the view from my balcony is phenomenal. The room is decorated with suede, river rocks, and turquoise accents. The room is just made for snuggling. I did take a peep into the casitas and suites, each decorated in their own worldly theme. Some of them have their own private courtyard and hot tub.

    Mountain View Room at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort
    Mountain View Room at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort

    I decided to take a walk around the property before I had a spa treatment. The original rooms are hidden in alcoves built around the Sacred Circle. I felt a pull and stepped over a grassy knoll to sit on a rock near the circle. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, smelling a slight scent of wood burning on the breeze. The golden Aspen leaves fell gently all around me, like a light rain and the trickling of the water was a concerto for my ears. The wind caressed my neck and a deep calm came over me. I can see why many couples choose to bless their vows at this particular spot and why my friend insisted I visit this place.

    Pool at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort
    Pool at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort

    On my walk to the The Living Spa, I stepped into the enclosed pool area, which was similar to a grotto. Guests can swim year ‘round, so if you should plan a visit, be sure to pack a swimsuit. I had previously looked through the spa menu, which offers intriguing and unique specialties. Their special offerings include such treatments as Spiritual Cleansing with Grandmother Jean, The Soul’s Blueprint with Julie Kelly, Egyptian Anointing with Maria Mikhailas, and Trauma Recovery with Terri Picard. These treatments need to be booked in advanced, so keep that in mind. I opted for the Signature High Desert Body Treatment.

    My therapist, Jack, really made me feel comfortable and relaxed for my treatment. I was led to one of the new treatment rooms, a round, Native American style room with a skylight in the wooden ceiling. It reminded me of the kivas of the pueblos. The treatment began with a Zuni salt exfoliation that included a special oil blend of indigenous plants and flowers. The next step was a wrap of volcanic ash mask that draws out the toxins in the body. It was completed by a gentle massage that left me renewed in spirit and mind. I don’t write this lightly, but this was truly the best spa treatment I have ever experienced.

    Pork Loin Entree at El Monte Sagrado in Taos
    Pork Loin Entree at El Monte Sagrado in Taos

    Couples also look for fine dining during their romantic getaways, and El Monte Sagrado covers the cuisine aspect, as well as the spiritual well-being. Chef Ruben Tanuz prepares a menu full of fresh, organic dishes that delight all the senses. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner all offer surprises for the visiting couples. The onsite Anaconda Bar is also a favorite with visitors and locals alike. The bar’s mixologist, Jesse, is talented with his libations. Be sure to try Jesse’s Ginger Zen or the signature Kessler Kiss.

    This resort offers so much, that I hardly left the property. Fortunately, local artist Stephen Long offers customized guided tours through the property’s gift shop. He can take couples to Taos Pueblo, escort them around the art galleries, or even bring them to the nearby hot springs hidden in the mountains. Stephen took me to a few notable historic sites, but I was anxious to get back to El Monte and relax on the grounds. I took a quiet walk and noticed a couple sitting at the Sacred Circle, holding hands. Another couple was sitting on their verandah sipping champagne. Even a famous celebrity couple (who shall remain nameless) spent a weekend here and enjoyed a couple’s massage.

    El Monte Sagrado is not inexpensive, but well worth the visit. I would encourage couples looking for that special romantic getaway for Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, or anytime for that matter, to make plans to experience a personal couples retreat in the arms of this beautiful and intimate resort

    To learn more about El Monte Sagrado, visit http://elmontesagrado.com. This property is part of the Kessler Collection and The Leading Small Hotels of the World, as well as being a AAA Four Diamond Resort.

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  • Stephenie Meyer may have never dreamed that her research visit to the small town of Forks, WA would bring much needed revenue into the travel industry. Her successful Twilight Saga and now the film Twilight has become the focus of the female teen scene (and also a number of mamas) and has renewed the idea of Vampire Tourism that first began with Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

    Mamas love movies, books, and their locations. I decided that it was time to read the Twilight Saga before watching this movie, to see what the hype was all about. The books are very engaging and I can understand the appeal it has to teenage girls. Many fans have fallen in love with the fictional characters Edward and Jacob. I spoke briefly with a film critic acquaintance who wished to remain anonymous for copyright reasons. I think he just doesn’t want anyone to know that as a 30 something male, he actually enjoyed the movie. He was surprised that he liked it and recommends it as a date movie that guys can sit through.

    Just in case you’ve ever wondered where some of the places mentioned in the books or movie are, I thought it would be nice to help you in your quest for more Twilight in your lives. Here are a few of the top travel spots mentioned in the books or movie that YOU can visit:

    Forks, Washington – The town is not fictional, but is actually located on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. Here, fans and tourists can find the actual places listed in the series, such as Bella’s House, Forks High School, Forks Police Station, and even take a shopping trip inside of Forks Outfitters. Is the Miller Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast really the setting for the Cullen’s home? It is close enough for many fans, and you can spend the night here also. The Forks Chamber of Commerce offers guided tours, which must be reserved in advanced. They’ll even take visitors to the Quillayute Prairie Cemetery, which serves as the Cullen’s baseball field in the book.

    La Push – The unincorporated community of La Push is near Forks, WA and is part of the Quileute Indian Reservation. The fictional Jacob Black lives in La Push and it is here, at First Beach, where Bella and Jacob spend a good deal of time together.

    Hoh Rainforest – This rainforest is located in Olympic National Park, a 30 minute drive from Forks, WA. It spans 70 miles, from the glaciers of Mount Olympus to the Pacific Ocean. Rustic cabin lodging is available at Hard Rain Café starting at around $69 per night and campsites are $15 per night.

    Port Angeles – La Bella Italia Restaurant is where Bella and Edward (well, maybe just Bella) ate a dish of mushroom ravioli, which was just recently added to the regular menu. Diners can also order a glass of vampire wine and finish the meal off with Twilight cupcakes.

    If you plan on exploring the Olympic Peninsula, Nerd’s Eye View offers great suggestions on a quick visit.

    Volterra, Italy – This town is located in the Tuscany region of Italy and is home to the fictional Volturi, considered to be the royal family of vampires. This ancient city’s underground is where the Volturi lead unsuspecting tourists to their deaths.

    Film Sites – Due to movie industry incentives and overall film budget, the screen adaptation of Twilight was filmed in the Oregon cities of St. Helen’s and Portland. FanTrips.Travel offers guided tours (with lodging and meals) that take fans through the film sites, including the Columbia River Gorge, View Point Inn (where Bella and Edward spend time after the Prom), and the Historic District of St. Helen’s serves as the stand in for Forks, WA. This tour runs between $800-$1000 per person.

    This quick video of First Beach in LaPush, WA by striatic gives an idea of the atmosphere Bella and Jacob shared during their discussions on the beach.

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  • Last year around this time, I enjoyed a day of shopping and visiting with my mom and aunt in Nashville. We walked through the Gaylord Opryland Resort, where I was astonished at the amount of Christmas lights that were on display. We spent hours catching up, admiring the various holiday scenes, and even enjoyed a few martinis at the Jack Daniels Grill. It provided the perfect spot for a girlfriend afternoon or even a family vacation for a few days. The horse drawn carriages in front of the resort provide the setting to make this a romantic escape, as well.

    The Gaylord Opryland Hotel’s Winter Wonderland will be one of the holiday “hot spots” for families and friends alike this year. Held in the resort’s Ryman Exhibit Halls, this beautiful wonderland features many activities for “kids” of all ages, like Photos with Santa, Treasures for the Holidays Crafts Show, Hall of Trees display and a charity fund-raiser, a Christmas train and the return of Gingerbread Corner with gingerbread decorating classes taught by elves. Winter Wonderland begins Nov. 23, 2008.

    Gaylord Opryland is the only place in the world where the beloved Christmas story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss, is being retold in frozen form. ICE! featuring How the Grinch Stole Christmas! will run in its final year Nov. 14, 2008, until Jan. 4, 2009. Starting at the Grinch’s frozen mountaintop lair, to the 20-foot high slides for kids and built-in photo opportunity stops, down to the picturesque Who-ville, complete with feasting Whos, ICE! featuring the How The Grinch Stole Christmas!will make even the coldest of hearts grow three sizes.

    Don’t miss your chance to be a part of the 25th anniversary of A Country Christmas and ICE! Vacation packages are available with two- to three-night options. To make reservations or for more information on A Country Christmas events, please visit www.gaylordopryland.com or call 1-888-999-OPRY (6779).

    Gaylord Opryland has graciously offered a pair of tickets to ICE! for one of TravelingMamas.com lucky readers. Just leave a comment telling us a special memory you have that involves ice. Leave your comment before Tuesday, November 4 at midnight. Must be at least 18 years old, US citizen, and not be an immediate relative of a Traveling Mama. Winner will be announced sometime on November 5.

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