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3 Nor Cal Wellness Retreats

Escape to Bliss

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The Coast Calls

Escape to Turkey: Wonder of the World

5 Can’t-Miss Turkish Delights

Escape to St. Helena

Where Wine and Fun Flow

Oh Canada!

In 1986, my parents took us on the first of what would be frequent big travel adventures. By “big” I mean a motor home, a word that still sends chills up my mother’s spine. While us kids could hardly contain our excitement at three weeks of traveling across states in a house on wheels, my mom was less than thrilled with the bruises she endured trying to cook meals on the road. What was unique about that first motor home trip was the ultimate destination – Canada. Having never left the continental United States before, the idea of going to an entirely new country seemed totally exotic. That year, Vancouver was hosting the World’s Fair, an event that, sadly, has lost popularity on the global stage. But in 1986, it was the do-not-miss family trip of the year. And, while I have fond memories of the Expo, I also have lingering fondness for the city too. Green, welcoming and laid back, it was a pretty amazing place in my young, impressionable eyes (oh, and did I mention they have a monorail?). Today, Vancouver continues to thrive as a modern metropolis, and, fortunately, without losing any of its charms in the process. If you’re planning to head north, with or without motor home, here are a few must-sees in western Canada’s coolest town.Despite a perpetually rainy climate, Vancouver’s a city for getting out in the fresh air. Why? The parks. One of the most lush, nature-loving urban areas in the West, Vancouver offers a wide variety of outdoor spaces that should not be missed. Starting downtown, you’ll find one of the city’s most popular attractions: Stanley Park. This enormous natural refuge, one of the largest on the continent, is often referred to as a “rainforest within a metropolis.” Some of the activities and adventures you’ll find here include beaches, a water park, Children’s Farmyard, Miniature Railway and the Seawall, a 10.5 kilometer stretch popular with rollerbladers, joggers and the like. Plus, the area is home to the Vancouver Aquarium, also one of the biggest in North America. Hosting more than 8,000 marine animals, this entertaining and educational venue is a perfect afternoon stop for both kids and “kids at heart.”At the top of many “best of” lists is Granville Island, only five minutes from downtown. Like Stanley Park, the island offers plenty of outdoor activities, plus water sports like kayaking and canoeing. Grownups will love the shopping, great restaurants, galleries and theatre found here. Be sure to stop by the Granville Island Brewery for a tasty cold one.Also called “Little Mountain” because of its high geographical location, Queen Elizabeth Park will treat you with some of the best views in Vancouver, from downtown to the North Shore Mountains. If you can find some quiet time, it’s also one of the most romantic spots in the city, brimming with beautiful gardens and perfect for gorgeous sunsets.Once you’ve had more than a few breaths of fresh air, head back to downtown’s West End and English Bay, a trendy and colorful destination for fashion, beauty, culture, dining and more. Whenever I go to a big city, I love to find the tallest building and check out the view. Vancouver’s answer to this is the Lookout, a 551-foot climb in glass elevators to the top of Harbour Centre Tower. Once there, you’ll enjoy a 360-degree view of the city and surrounding areas.Accommodations in Vancouver are plentiful and varied. One of the best is the Pan-Pacific, a 504-room hotel at Canada Place on the waterfront. Its desirable location, adjacent to shopping and Vancouver Art Gallery on Robson Street, historic Gastown and the Pacific Centre mall, makes this one a top contender for your Vancouver stay. The Five Sails restaurant sits right on the water and provides fine dining, a superb wine list and great harbor views.If you’re more into the “boutique” hotel scene, then look no further than the Opus Hotel. In the downtown Yale district, the Opus similarly offers convenient access to Vancouver attractions, including Stanley Park, Granville Island and Chinatown. Freshly modern with fabulous amenities, like a fitness center and world-class spa, this hip hotel attracts a cutting-edge crowd.Vancouver is also host to a number of bed and breakfast-style accommodations. One of my favorites is Barclay House, also located in downtown. Comfortable and beautifully furnished with both local and international designs, it’s hard to resist the Barclay’s charms. They even offer two room suites, so bring the kids along!Dining out in Vancouver can be a fun and flavor-filled experience. I suggest you start your day at Sophie’s Cosmic Café. This Vancouver institution typically has a line down the block, so get there early. It’s worth the wait if you like egg dishes served with their signature house hot sauce. The environment is cool and kitschy, with photos and vintage items scattered all over its bright yellow walls. For something a little more upscale, make a reservation at Bishop’s Restaurant. Though small and simply appointed, it also serves some of the highest rated cuisine in town, having served Presidents, celebrities and countless visitors with a gourmet palate. Even if you can’t make it up to Vancouver right away, there’s plenty to look forward to down the road. In just two years they will host the 2010 Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games. There are plenty of great things in store for this amazing city…be sure to get in on the action!

Nashville

The United States is a country so large and diverse that a domestic trip can feel like an international one. Perhaps no regional contrast is starker than that between the casual West Coast and the decorous South. With its gentle yet dignified pace, signature drawl and profound sense of tradition, the American South is a veritable nation within a nation. Nashville, Tennessee is known as “The Athens of the South,” a moniker that refers to its proud heritage of higher education. This vibrant city also resembles classical Athens in its increasingly cosmopolitan character, its wealth of cultural outlets, and in the civic pride that is evident among its residents. Unless you’re a country music aficionado, Nashville may not be the first place that you think of when you’re planning a getaway, but with all of its charm, style and hospitality, it’s time that this undervalued southern gem got some attention.Where to StayThere is a wide selection of hotels, from the high-end to the budget-friendly, conveniently located in downtown Nashville. Staying in this location offers an advantage in that you will be within walking distance of many popular tourist destinations. However, if country music is your passion, there isn’t a better place to stay than Gaylord Opryland, just over 10 miles from the heart of downtown. You’ll pay more to stay at this world-class resort than you would at other area hotels, but you’ll also have access to enough amenities and entertainment options to keep the most tireless of tourists busy for days on end. With a lavish indoor atrium, on-site nightclub Fuse, over a dozen eateries and bars, plenty of shops, a nearby golf course, multiple swimming pools, and adjacent music venues, this is a virtual theme park of a hotel reminiscent of the pleasure palaces of Las Vegas. Style tip: the Radisson Hotel at Opryland is located right next to Gaylord Opryland (there is even overlapping shuttle service between the two hotels), but offers lower rates.For more on Nashville, be sure to pick up this month's copy of Style-Roseville Granite Bay Rocklin. Check out the Distribution tab on this Web site for some of our newsstand locations. Or, to order a copy of this issue, please email Gloria Schroeder at gloria@sierrastyle.com, or call her at 916-988-9888 x116.

Alaska

So you’re dreading another repressive Sacramento summer, and you’re thinking that this time around an escape from the heat might be in order. Or maybe you’re looking to shake things up a little and try something completely unconventional to avoid the monotony of yet another trip to…Fresno. You begin to salivate at the thought of exciting international destinations, but the falling value of the dollar makes Europe and many other points beyond, increasingly prohibitive. Not to worry, it’s still possible to think exotic without even leaving the country. Here’s an idea that’ll make you feel like you’ve left the continent without the hassle of international travel. How about…Alaska?If your impression of Alaska is of igloos and polar bears, then you’re definitely due for an update. Instead, think of ice masses the size of Delaware, the largest mountain range this side of the Himalayas, unimaginable wildlife viewing, and the mystical beauty of the Northern Lights, along with the opportunity to hike on a glacier, get a sunburn at midnight, or be the first to step on land that no human has ever touched before. Sorry, no penguins here, though. You’ll need to head to the other end of the planet for that. And whether you’re traveling with your family, are the honeymooning type, are with the retired set, or just flying solo, Alaska has something for everyone.With apologies to Captain Kirk and Star Trek fans, it’s Alaska where the locals consider the Final Frontier. And the stats would back them up. Alaska is largely wilderness, with more than 65 percent of the land owned by the government in the form of national forests, national parks, or national wildlife refuges. Barely boasting one resident per square mile, outside of the state’s major cities of Anchorage, Juneau and Fairbanks, the remaining population would seem to match the number of patrons at the Roseville Galleria on a busy weekend.Although Alaska might be the best-kept travel secret in the country, it might not be for much longer. The state is beginning to experience a strong surge of tourism, which for travelers, has been left to relative obscurity since it became an American territory after being purchased from the Russians in 1867. Since then, the 49th state has had its moment in the spotlight about once every half-decade. Its economy is known for two “rushes,” including the discovery of gold in the 1890s in the Yukon Territory and the 1968 discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay, the latter now responsible for 80 percent of the state’s current revenue. But the word is getting out. A new economic boom may be looming on the horizon. With cruise revenues taking off, and with more miles of coast than all of the other US states combined, there’s a seemingly infinite amount of opportunity to take in the picturesque scenery. The vast majority of nautical activity takes place around the islands of Southeast Alaska, otherwise known as the Inside Passage. A steady parade of these large ships turn their ports of call, such as Sitka, into instant farmers markets, with the locals offering everything from homemade trinkets to fresh fish, sometimes temporarily doubling or tripling the size of these towns. Although cruise ships offer the best opportunity to see a wide variety of maritime activities in a short period of time, for the traveler who runs in the opposite direction of pre-packaged vacations, there are millions of acres of vast wilderness and uncharted frontier just begging to be explored. Although Alaska’s largest cities and coastal lands generate their fair amount of tourists, it’s the breathtaking scenic wilderness that sets Alaska aside from anything else in the world. Camping, fishing, hiking, kayaking, mountain climbing, wildlife viewing, and yes, gold panning are favorite activities for tourists looking to get off the beaten path. But you haven’t experienced Alaska at its most extreme until you’ve ventured north of the Arctic Circle to the coastal town of Barrow, the northernmost establishment on the continent. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think you were on the moon – no vegetation to speak of, just sand and rocks, and for two months in winter, no sun. With no mountains or other land barriers nearby, there’s nothing to stop the frigid Arctic wind on its way down from the North Pole, creating a never-ending blizzard of dust and ice. But don’t think about driving – flying is the only way in or out, as there are no roads that lead to Barrow, just miles of permafrost as far as the eye can see. And for the ultimate travel buzz, take the tour out of town to Point Barrow, the northern tip of North America, which, on most days, is the coldest spot in the country. Open up that box of Popsicles you bought back in Barrow while sticking your feet into the Arctic, and you’ll have an instant cocktail party conversation starter. So if you’re in search of a destination to spice up your summer that won’t break the bank, a trip to Alaska is just what the doctor ordered. Not only is it easier (and cheaper) than a trip to even New York City or much of the east coast, but it will also open your eyes to surreal landscape you never dreamed existed – right here in your very own country.

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