Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Queen for a Day?

In the dead of winter, gardeners are poring over their seed catalogs longing for spring, athletes are counting the days til they can jump in the pool, and travelers are dreaming of far-off destinations. 

Here in Tucson, David and I are toying with trip possibilities.  We'd love to escape the desert summer heat by visiting Canada, but, then, would we be disloyal by not first exploring the pleasures in our newly adopted state?  The Flagstaff/Grand Canyon area of Arizona is just the right temperature in the summer and has much to offer a sightseer.

Then, too, David has a hankering to see Hawaii again while I find it difficult to contemplate any trip that doesn't involve France.  Since we just received these photos of Corsica, the French island with gracious harbor towns, it is difficult not to heed that siren song.

Or maybe we shouldn't worry so much about location and concentrate instead on living like nobility--if only for a few days.  Several places in Germany are on our must-see list, and we could try royalty on for size by staying in a castle.

Apartments can be surprisingly tightwad-friendly in castles where owners are struggling to pay the electric bill for these cavernous, drafty mansions. At the Schloss (German word for "castle") Sommersdorf, we could rent the luxuriously furnished, spacious Gabriele or Bird apartment, complete with kitchenette, for €58.50 per person per night.  That's a little higher than David and I usually spend, but it might be worth it to be Lord David and Lady Dru for a week!

I suppose we will spend the remaining winter months deciding on a destination, and that's just fine with us.  There's nothing more delicious than  thumbing through guidebooks contemplating exotic locales while sitting in front of the fire here in our cozy house in Tucson.

Practicalities -

This link will give you more information about rental rooms/apartments in castles in Germany.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Citrus in the Air

Look at this tree.  Can you smell citrus in the air?  Is there just a whiff of the sea carried on the breeze?  Do the glossy leaves remind you of cerulean waters, Renoir-blue skies, and red-roofed white houses clinging to mountainsides?  Can you envision those meandering village alleyways tumbling down the hill to the harbor below?  If not, you surely aren't seeing all this photo has to offer.  

For this is an Italian lemon tree.  The tag on this tree David wasn't sure I should buy (Would it live in our kitchen?  It won't survive in the Arizona desert heat if planted outdoors.) says, "Italian lemons are...more commonly known as Sorrento lemons.  They are highly prized for their use in Italian cuisine and as the basis for the refreshing Old World liqueur Limoncello."

What more could I want in the dead of winter?  The view from my study window is gray skies and a steady drizzle.   But in the kitchen....ah, in the kitchen, the whole Amalfi Coast is waiting for me.  There I have brilliant blue skies and a sea to match.  I can remember the villages sprinkled along the sides of mountains, savor again the lemon-crusted chicken from the little deli one block from the Sorrento piazza,  and conjure travel dreams that will carry me far away--far, far beyond January and into the sunshine.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lake Chapala with the village of Ajijic in the foreground   - photo by Mike D'Cruze             

No advertisements--that's my policy--so I'm not going to break that rule now.  Instead, I'll tell you about the place I used to live and some friends of mine who just happen to have opened one of the loveliest bed and breakfasts on Lake Chapala. 

Ajijic, a village nestled in the Sierra Madre mountains, clings to the banks of the largest lake in Mexico.  Although thousands of expatriates from all over the world live on the shores of Lake Chapala, Ajijic is still very much a Mexican village. It's a place where a peddler plays a tin flute advertising his services as he strolls through town; where friends (and you will always run into a friend no matter where you go) stop on the cobblestone street to chat; where the market, offering a dozen roses for a few pesos and produce so fresh it's still warm from the earth, is a weekly event no one misses.  Yes, crime has touched parts of Mexico, but it's virtually unknown here.  This is a place that time seems to have forgotten although you'll find that hard to believe when you dine in one of the cosmopolitan restaurants catering to expats.

It's also the place where friends of mine have opened one of the loveliest boutique bed and breakfast's, with three very private suites, in the Lake Chapala area.  Mike, from England, met America, from Mexico City, when she was studying in London; after traveling the world, they relocated to Ajijic to fulfill a dream.  That dream, which took almost four years to create, is named Las Cupulas.

Their bed and breakfast, where beauty is only trumped by comfort, is just a few miles from Ajijic.  Here in this quiet retreat,  you can relax in the saltwater pool or watch the birds that congregate near the lakeshore.  Or you can do nothing at all but bask in the sun of Ajijic's perpetual-spring climate and wish that America's delicious breakfast arrived sooner than tomorrow! But no matter what you do while you're there, I do not think you will regret for a moment your decision to stay at Las Cupulas.

Practicalities - If you'd like more information about Ajijic or Mexico, my book, Retire in Mexico - Live Better for Less Money is available on Amazon.  See more book details in the column at right.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Travel Tip Roundup for January

Arizona Sunset

It's been a few months since my last post, but I have a really good excuse.  David and I moved from California to Arizona, last October. Every moment since July has been spent either finding the perfect house or arranging our belongings to make our perfect house a home.

But don't think for a minute that I've forgotten you. There might be snow in your backyard, but I know your thoughts are turning to travel.  January can't last forever.  And what better way to chase away the winter chill than with deliciously warm dreams of far-off places?

If your feet itch to get on a plane, you might want to re-read my blog post about flying to Europe for free (almost).  Since I wrote that article two years