5 Spring-Break Tips for a Rejuvenating Beach Vacation

The beach at Grace Bay in Turks & Caicos is magnificent.  Photo© Laurel Kallenbach

Time for a break! Winter-weary travelers seeking a sunny, healthy recharge on a tropical island need look no farther than The Palms Turks & Caicos on the Caribbean island of Providenciales. Here’s how it stacks up as a relaxing, revivifying destination—whether you’re traveling with your sweetie, BFFs, or kids.

Tip #1: Bliss Out on a Beautiful Beach

Nothing’s more restoring in winter than a sun-kissed beach. The Palms is located on Turks & Caicos’ Grace Bay, consistently rated among the best beaches in the world. It’s got white sand—miles of it to walk or jog on—and a barrier reef a mile or so offshore that creates a naturally sheltered area with calm water. Oh, the color of that water! If you like water that changes from luminescent light-aqua into ultramarine blue the deeper you go, you’ve found paradise.

Tip #2: Chill by the Perfect Pool

Yes, resort waiters will deliver food and drinks to the beach, but sometimes nothing beats hanging by the pool. The Palms’ serpentine infinity pool offers gorgeous ocean views; a hot tub; and Plunge, the pool bar/restaurant that offers in-water tables so you can sip and beat the heat!

Tip #3: Rejuvenate at a Holistic Spa

If you want to shed stress and nurture your skin with all-natural and organic treatments, get thee to a spa! The Palms’ world-class spa offers innovative treatments—including a conch-shell body polish and a bamboo massage—created from Asian and Caribbean healing traditions. Just reclining in the spa’s outdoor lounge and looking at the tranquil reflecting pool shaves 10 points off your blood pressure.

The outdoorsy spa at The Palms is centered around a gorgeous reflecting pool lined by private treatment cabanas (the white buildings that flank the pool). Photo© Laurel Kallenbach

Tip #4: Lounge in a Luxurious Room

Vacations are all about catching up on your shut-eye. Everything about the rooms and suites at The Palms Turks & Caicos says “relax”: from the spacious bathrooms with all the amenities to the fluffy beds to the daybeds on the balconies. Plus the bougainvillea-draped property is beautiful to wander through.

Tip #5: Eat Healthy, Delicious Food

The Palms’ courtyard is colorful with bougainvillea, which brightens the indoor/outdoor restaurant, Parallel 23. Photo ©Laurel Kallenbach

You need to eat right—even on vacation! Parallel 23 restaurant at The Palms serves innovative fine cuisine, and the resort sources about 40 percent of its ingredients organically. The spa has a separate menu that includes light but flavorful fare. And here’s another idea: Sign up for a cooking class and take home some of the chef’s healthy cooking secrets.

Eco-Efforts

Island life always makes people aware of resources. The people at The Palms take care to conserve where they can, including:

  • Kitchen food-scrap composting
  • An organically grown kitchen garden for herbs and tomatoes.
  • Rainwater collection for use in watering the landscaping.
  • The resort recently installed new air-conditioning controls that adjust automatically to minimize A/C use when guests leave their rooms.
  • Switching to energy-saving bulbs as current ones burn out.
  • Bottled water is widespread among guests, and recycling all that plastic is difficult on an island. However, the hotel management is investigating ways to recycle plastic bottles.
  • The staff participates in island-wide clean-up crews that collect trash on land or that washes up on the beach.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

The serpentine pool at The Palms Turks and Caicos.  Photo © Laurel Kallenbach

 

 

Christmas Market Dazzles in Wiesbaden, Germany

I grew up with a lot of German Christmas traditions, and for years I’ve thought going to a Christmas market in Germany, would be fun way to kick off the season. My hunch was right: Germany knows how to celebrate Christmas in an Old World way.

Wiesbaden’s Old Town Square fills with people enjoying the annual Christmas Market. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Wiesbaden, just a half-hour train ride from Frankfurt, hosts the lovely Sternschnuppen Market (sternschnuppe translates as “shooting star”). I was enthralled at its beauty, which combines traditional seasonal décor with contemporary lily-shaped light sculptures above the marketplace. (The lily, or fleur-de-lis, is on the town’s motif.) The whole affair—wooden huts where vendors sell foods and handcrafts—is held in the old town’s historic square, in the shadow of the church, or Marktkirche.

Tree ornaments are just some of the goods for sale at the Christmas Market. ©Laurel Kallenbach

At the annual market, locals and tourists alike gather to hear live music—one night I caught a quartet of alphorns (you just don’t hear that every day in the States!)—to shop, to mingle, and to toast the season with glühwein (hot, mulled wine sold in specially designed mugs that you either keep as a souvenir or return for your deposit).

Tempting Christmas cookies sold at the Sternschnuppen Market, Wiesbaden. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Flavors of Christmas

I quickly discovered that German Christmas Markets and glühwein go hand in hand. When the temperatures drop, nothing warms you more than a mug of steaming red or white glühwein held between your mittens while you sip and chat with friends while admiring the Christmas lights.

And who can resist the aromas of cooking? There are plenty of traditional market foods as well, including bratwurst and other sausages of various kinds and sizes, and potato pancakes (kartoffelpuffer) served with applesauce.

The Germans are passionate about sausages. Giant grills cooked all types of bratwurst, including the long, half-meter brats (cut in half to fit them on a bun. ©Laurel Kallenbach

I tasted these yummy, crisp-fried treats with Wiesbaden’s mayor, who happened to be at the Puffer Christ’l stand at the same time as I was. Owner Christl Glöckner joined us and brought some white glühwein for us to share.

Through my handy translator and guide Yvonne Skala, of Wiesbaden Marketing, the newly elected mayor told me one of the things that makes the city’s Christmas Market so special is that the organizers select vendors who sell handmade or German-made crafts.” No “Made in China” stickers here.

Mayor (Oberbürgermeister) Sven Gerich and Christl Glöckner, owner of Puffer Christ’l potato pancake food truck, toast to the Wiesbaden Christmas Market with some glühwein. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Indeed, as I browsed the huts, I found traditional ornaments, carvings, candles, nutcrackers, knitted gloves and hats, handmade lace, wooden toys, local cheeses and game, and more. For amusement, there’s a colorful, Baroque-style carousel for kids of all ages to ride.

Presiding over all the festivities is the high-spired, Marktkirche church, built in the mid-1800s.

As a special treat, Yvonne took me to the daily weekday 5:45 organ music inside this Protestant church. We sat in one of the pews and gazed at the star-painted ceilings and neo-Gothic arches while the organist pulled out all the stops on the pipe organ. Compared to the revelries outside, it’s a welcome, contemplative timeout for some reflection on the quieter side of Christmas. Visitors are welcome to stay for the following Advent church service, but we continued out into the marketplace.

Wooden incense smokers ©Laurel Kallenbach

Shelter and Relaxation

I stayed in posh digs in Wiesbaden: the Hotel Nassauer Hof, a historic hotel that has hosted the likes of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Tsar Nicholas II, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, the Dalai Lama, and Vladimir Putin. Among the hotel’s many attributes was a location just a five-minute walk from the Christmas Market.

Another plus was that the Nassauer Hof has its own thermal spring, which feeds into the hotel pool. The result is naturally warmed mineral water, slightly salty, which buoys you up. Floating in heated water was the perfect antidote to several hours at the chilly outdoor market.

Another way to warm up during the Wiesbaden winter is in the saunas, steam rooms, and mineral baths at the Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme. This spa is built on the ruins of the ancient Roman baths, and the current baths were built in 1913, and restored for the centenary. I’ll blog more about this later, but it’s a truly unique place to visit and “take the waters.”

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

(Originally posted on December 21, 2103)

Read more about Germany’s Christmas markets:

The stage at the center of the market often has live performances, such as the four alphorn players I listened to. ©Laurel Kallenbach

3 Reasons I Love Yoga on a Tropical Island

On any given day, yoga makes me feel alive in body, mind and spirit. I’ve found, however, that doing yoga in a tropical setting adds color to my practice. I’ve had the pleasure of taking a yoga class in several exotic places, and there’s nothing like hearing the instructor say, “Turn your head toward the waves,” instead of “Turn toward the mirror.”

Here are some of my other discoveries about doing yoga outdoors:

1. Turks & Caicos: Contemplate Infinity by the Ocean

While practicing Warrior pose and gazing over the ocean, I can’t help but gain some perspective. How tiny I feel compared to the endless sea and sky!

Regina Radisic teaches a sunrise yoga class overlooking Turks and Caicos’ Grace Bay at The Palms resort. Photo copyright Laurel Kallenbach

The spa at The Palms Turks & Caicos resort holds sunrise yoga classes at the beach. The morning I was there, a shower passed through right at the 6:00 a.m. starting time. We waited under an umbrella by the pool, then did yoga on the boardwalk overlooking the beach rather than putting our mats in the wet sand. We were rewarded partway through the class by a rainbow on the horizon.

2. Jamaica: Revel in Your Senses

Everything seems more alive when you do yoga outdoors: the color of the water and tropical flowers, the scent of flowers and salt in the air, the twitter of exotic birds, the feel of the breeze on my face.

Jacqueline Sheehan leads a class in the garden pavilion at Bromley Estate in Jamaica. Photo copyright Laurel Kallenbach

On Jamaica, at a guest house and retreat center called Bromley, yoga classes were held in a garden pavilion, surrounded by bougainvillea and other flowering trees and shrubs. During Savasana, I couldn’t help but open my eyes when a doctor bird—a hummingbird with long tail feathers—buzzed nearby. The same thing happened when the Bromley dogs, who were fascinated by our Fish Poses, stopped by to lick our faces.

 

3. Antigua: Move in Different Ways

Sunset yoga is held on the dock at Carlisle Bay resort in Antigua. Photo copyright Laurel Kallenbach

When the yoga environment changes, you adapt—which takes you out of your usual box. At Carlisle Bay resort on the Caribbean island of Antigua, I joined the sunset yoga class on the dock right over the water. Boat Pose took on a whole new meaning as I imagined myself buoyed by ocean water. (I think I even held this asana longer because I felt that water was holding me “afloat.”)

Because of the movement of the gently lapping waves around me, balancing poses such as Tree Pose or Dancer’s Pose were more challenging than usual. Even when I closed my eyes, the sound of waves created the sensation of motion.

As the sun dipped closer and closer to the horizon, our small class did gentle Sun Salutes to end the day. The sky turned a hundred shades of pink.

Now that’s the way to do yoga!

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and traveling yogi 

Winter Blues in the Caribbean’s Turks & Caicos

Sea kayaks on Grace Bay beach, Turks and Caicos ©Laurel Kallenbach

When temperatures hover below freezing and the winter color palette consists of dirty-snow white and dormant-grass brown, I either book a trip to the tropics or gaze longingly at photos of an island. Just seeing the aquamarine Caribbean water meet the sunny blue of  the sky makes me sing with happiness. Here, neon sea kayaks on Grace Bay beach, Turks and Caicos, are calling me to paddle out to the horizon on a quest for a rainbow. Now these are the kind of blues I want all winter long!

Read more about Turks and Caicos:

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor