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Travel Feature

Corsica, Hollywood, & Chocolate!

OlivierCorsica, Little-Known Jewel of the Mediterranean

Where do actors George Clooney and Kathy Bates, singers Tom Jones and Alicia Keys, and even socialite Paris Hilton (just to name-drop a few of Hollywood’s elite) go to escape the rigors of being in the spotlight day in and day out? Why, the tiny island of Corsica, that’s where.

Every day we read stories of Hollywood’s crème de la crème going on holiday to such destinations as the tony island of St. Barth’s in the Caribbean, Hollywood’s backyard playland, Cabo San Lucas in Mexico's Baja Penninsula, or the chi-chi ski slopes in Aspen, Colorado. But now a discreet group of Hollywood stars have discovered the crown jewel of the Mediterranean.

This writer has known about this enchanting island for over 20 years when there was only one automatic car on all of Corsica, and it was reserved for yours truly. Well, I knew my secret couldn’t stay hidden forever...

Corsica is a rock-hard, fragile paradise. It’s for beach lovers, hikers, divers, and culture buffs alike, combining dazzling white beaches with dramatic mountain ranges and picturesque old towns. There’s plenty of activities for your body and some rich history to engage your mind.

Read more: Corsica, Hollywood, & Chocolate!

Meet the Queen of Burgundy

Jeanne Marie twoThere are legends born every day. But sometimes it's not until after they're gone that we appreciate their greatness. Fortunately, there's one heroine in our midst who is very much alive and with us. She’s responsible for some of the best winemakers in the heart of one of the wine world's most prestigious regions. Her name is Jeanne-Marie de Champs, and for those who know her, she is truly the Queen of Burgundy. For this amazing woman, it's not about power. It's not about money. It's all about having the greatest wine in the world. And as Jeanne-Marie will tell you, there's only one way to accomplish that. "In Burgundy, the secret is in the vines!"

Read more: Meet the Queen of Burgundy

Ski Vermont and Snow Magazine Show The Fabulous Side of Snow

stowe mountainIt's hard to think of anything remotely cold when we're sweltering through record-breaking temperatures. However, at this year's Snow Magazine Showcase and Ski Vermont, we had a temporary reprieve as we got a glimpse of the latest skiwear and resort amenities.

At the annual Snow Magazine Showcase, we were treated to a fashion show that will heat up any ski slope. The international line-up included well-known brands such Rossignol, Descente, Andrew Marc, Bogner, Kjus, and Arc’Teryx showing the latest ski (and to some, even more important, the après ski) wear from parkas, skiwear & accessories. Canadian haute fourrurre Leonard Gorski showed off their luxury fur collection with coats, jackets and wraps made of or lined with fur.  In addition to the fashion shows, we were treated to menu tastings by Telluride, wine tastings from Valle Nevado, as well as a preview of the latest skiwear accessories from Transpack.

Vermont is known worldwide for its pristine landscape and back-to-nature wholesomeness. Images of verdant mountains and break-taking fall foliage seduce travelers from all over the world. While most only consider Vermont as the ideal winter location, Vermont is rebranding itself as a year round destination. Literally living up to its "Green Mountain" name, Vermont is focused on highlighting its "greeness" – with resorts offering amenities beyond the winter months to offering farm-to-table cuisine from local producers. 

At the annual Ski Vermont event, we got to know more about the locavore movement by sampling delicious organic dishes and appetizers prepared by chefs from some of Vermont's most famous resorts who were specially brought in, while hearing about the latest developments in some of Vermont’s most famous resorts. Chef Scott EMerson (Okemo Mountain Resort) prepared a smoked trout micro green salad, while Chef John Carter (Jay Peak Resort) whipped up a melt-in-your mouth baby veal Osso-bucco with polenta dish.  As a side dish, Gerry Nooney (Sugarbush Resort) delivered fried local wild mushrooms with an onion pickled pepper relish.

Stowe Mountain Resort is considered the best ski resort east of the Rockies. Having a legion of fans throughout the US & Canada, Stowe is known for its luxury snow & golf amenities. Comprised of two separate mountains, Mountain Mansfield (Vermont’s highest peak at 4395’) and Spruce Peak, the 116 trails  provide 39 miles (63km) of skiable terrain.

The Stowe Mountain Golf Club, a new addition to the Resort complex, was recently hailed in Condé Nast Readers Choice Poll as the #1 Golf Resort in the Northern US, as well as one of Golf Magazine “Top ten new courses in the United States”.

http://www.stowe.com

Killington Resort (aka “the beast of the east”) is a year-round destination resort and is the largest in the Eastern United States with the widest variety of terrain. The resort area spans seven mountains that are all interconnected by a system of 87 miles of trails.

For ski-lovers, it offers the most geographically expansive lift network and snowmaking system in the East and has one of the longest ski seasons in eastern North America.  Its ski amenities consist of 200 alpine ski and snowboard trails, 22 lifts, two gondolas, and the largest vertical in New England at 3050 feet (Killington Peak). The extensive lift network features two high-speed gondolas that service everything from groomed cruisers to classic New England tree runs, terrain parks and one of the east's largest half-pipes.

During the non-ski season, golf-enthusiasts can enjoy the 18-hole championship golf course, while nature lovers can amble through the 45 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. Killington remains a popular ski resort by New Yorkers due to its proximity and ski trails for all levels.  A ride on the Metro North and a shuttle bus gets you there in no time.

 http://www.killington.com

 

Mount Snow Resort is located in the Green Mountains in southern Vermont.  It is the closest big mountain to many Northeast metropolitain areas, making it an easy stop. The resort has 135 trails covering 633 acres serviced by 26 lifts.

New for the 2011-12 season is the Bluebird 6-seat bubble chairlift, America’s only high speed detachable six-passenger bubble chair. A total uphill capacity of 8,100 skiers per hour greatly increases the time skiers spend on the ski trails instead of waiting in lift lines.  While providing shelter from the elements, the chairlift enable skiers and snowboarders to keep their ski gear on while riding unlike traditional gondola cabins.

Mount Snow’s new natural wellness spa is available year-round, while mountain biking, hiking and golf facilities are open during the warmer months.

http://mountsnow.com

 

Jay Peak is also located in the Green Mountains. Located just 4 miles south of the Canada–United States border, you’ll no doubt see visitors from both sides of the border and hear French intermingled with English at this popular spot. 

Offering off-piste skiing, Jay Peak Resort offers 24 tree-skiing areas, or Glades, covering approximately 100 acres. Having Vermont’s only Aerial Tramway – one of eight lifts accessing 76 trails, covering 385 acres of skiable terrain. Its vertical drop of 2,153 feet (656 m) is the eighth largest in New England and the fifth largest in Vermont.

It has upgraded its facilities with the recent purchase of Berg Mountain.  A recently installed $25 million water park (Pump House) consisting of a 5000-sq foot indoor waterpark ensconced in glass, makes it a year round hit.

http://www.jaypeakresort.com

 

Bolton Valley is a mid-sized ski area in northern Vermont consisting of 70 trails, and 5000 acres of alpine forest. Less than 10 minutes from I-89, less than 30 minutes from Burlington, and an one-hour flight from JFK Airport, the family-friendly mountain offers skiers and riders of all abilities three mountain peaks with 70 trails and 6 lifts, plus 3 terrain parks. In addition to downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross country and backcountry skiing are also available.

Bolton Valley is one of only two ski resorts in the U.S. (Vermont’s first) to implement wind power as an energy source and is the recipient of the National Ski Areas Association’s 2010 Silver Eagle Award for environmental initiatives.

Approximately 100km of high elevation Nordic terrain, a complete Sports Center and Indoor Amusement Center (indoor pool, spa, Jacuzzi and sauna, basketball court, aerobics & weights, and a sports bar) and Vermont’s only top-to-bottom night skiing and riding are just a few of the extras available to guests.

http://www.boltonvalley.com

 

Magic Mountain in southern Vermon offers the area's best downhill skiing, riding and tubing terrain, in a classic New England atmosphere.  It features a 1,700-foot vertical drop, 40 trail runs over 195 acres of skiable terrain.

The new TimberQuest Park at Magic Mountain consists of a series of tree-top obstacle courses and zip lines throughout the park, offering a challenge and sense of self-empowerment in self-discovery, thrills, and excitement, in an authentic, natural outdoor experience. The park is situated at the base of Magic Mountain ski area with 18 zip lines going downhill, across hill and even uphill. There are 65 elements ranging from beginner to advanced levels.

http://www.magicmtn.com

 

Woodstock Inn & Resort offers both Alpine and Nordic skiing, a golf course during the warmer months and year-round spa facilities, all in a picturesque setting. Its old-fashioned quaintness harkens years gone by while providing contemporary convenience and amenities.

Woodstock's Ski Touring Center is one of the country's pre-eminent nordic centers which boasts 60 kilometers of groomed and tracked trails for classic nordic and ski-skating enthusiasts. Just out from the ski center are 10 km of gentle “meadow” (Nordic) skiing that connect the fitness center to the 20 km of woodland trails on Mt. Peg. There are also 30 km of trails located across the village green on Mt. Tom, putting you on century old carriage roads in the midst of Vermont’s first tree farm and Vermont’s first National Park site.

The Golf Resort has been named one of the world's "top 100 golf resorts" by Golf Magazine. The 6,000-yard, par-70 course 18-hole masterpiece designed by legendary course architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr., is a challenging sequence even for the most seasoned golfer.

 http://www.woodstockinn.com

 

Sugarbush is one of the largest ski resorts in New England. Located in the majestic Green Mountains, the resort encompasses more than 4000 acres total of which 578 acres are skiable, making it the second largest in Vermont after Killington, and the third largest in New England.  It provides the only catskiing in the East which involves off-trail, downhill skiing that is accessed by a snowcat.

With 111 trails spread over 58 miles, 18 additional marked wooded area, substantial off-piste skiing and riding, a summit elevation of 4,083 ft, a vertical drop of 2,650 feet (810 m), and over 200 backcountry acres in the wilderness area, Sugarbush has so much to offer. Ranked #1 in terrain variety by Ski Magazine and Outside Magazine as “The Best Ski Town in the East.

During the warmer months, the resort offers a variety of outdoor activities such as golf (18 hole, par-71 golf course), disc golf, mountain biking, hiking and plenty of fun for the kids and kids-at-heart (bungee trampoline, rock gym, zipline).  A health and racquet club and spa is available year round.

http://www.sugarbush.com

With so much to do, in all types of settings, Vermont’s ski resorts offer something for everyone. From couch potatoes to the athlete-in-training, why not go away and enjoy Vermont at its best – year round!

Cityscape: Little Rock, Small City. Big History

little rock highLocated two hours southwest of Memphis on Interstate 40, Little Rock, Arkansas’s charming capital city has frequently found itself on the front lines of 20th century American history.

In the fall of 1957 President Dwight Eisenhower had to send in the National Guard to ensure that nine African-American students could enroll in what had been all-white Little Rock Central High School. Newsreels from that troubled time, including Eisenhower’s stare-down with Arkansas governor Orville Faubus, as well as a replica of the Esso gas station where reporters phoned in their stories from across the street from the school, are part of the Little Rock National Historic Site.

Incidentally, Little Rock Central High School is still a functioning high school and one with a sterling academic reputation. NBA All-Star and current Brooklyn Nets forward Joe Johnson is an alum.

President Bill Clinton got his political start here and served two terms as a governor of Arkansas. A portrait of a 35 year-old Clinton, then the youngest governor in the United States, hangs in the rotunda of the Arkansas Capitol Building which so strongly resembles its namesake in Washington that it has stood in for it in various films and television shows. A portrait of another famous governor, one-time Republican presidential candidate and current Fox News personality, Mike Huckabee, is also on display. Incidentally, the brass doors of the Capitol were manufactured at the Tiffany Factory located in Queens in the 19th century.   

Although Clinton has resided in the Westchester town of Chappaqua since leaving the White House in January 2001, Little Rock still considers him one of their own. The William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum opened here in 2004 and spending two hours here will certainly bring back memories of what now seem like the carefree 1990s. There is a replica of the Oval Office; copies of legislation that were passed during his term; gifts given to Clinton by foreign leaders; a brief biographical film in which Clinton talks about his presdiency; as well as thousands of archived documents that are available to researchers. Yes, there is a one-line mention of Monica Lewinsky and his impeachment in a second floor exhibit.

Little Rock does not fit the stereotype of a sleepy southern city. The Arkansas Arts Center has quietly become one of the nation’s premiere art museums as it features works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Roy Lichtenstein, and Diego Rivera, to name just a few.

clinton center

 Many of the city’s restaurants, such as Ashley’s and Forty-Two, take pride in providing  farm-to-table cuisine cooked in a healthy manner as opposed to fried, fatty fare that you would expect. Be sure to try an heirloom tomato which tastes like it should be served as desert instead of being part of a salad.

The city has been in the forefront of the green architecture movement. Both the Clinton Library and the Heifer International headquarters (a non-profit that tries to eliminate poverty by providing livestock to the impoverished) utilize recycled materials and energy-efficient windows to conserve energy.

A fun way to sightsee as well as enjoy a tasty buffet dinner and live music is to cruise the Arkansas River on the Arkansas Queen. This paddle-wheeler is quite luxurious and modern despite its 19th century showboat exterior.

The Little Rock Zoo, in spite of its small size, has one of the best cheetah exhibits you’ll find anywhere. It’s also home to the second-oldest gorilla in captivity, 55 year-old Trudy. A baby gorilla was born here in August.

The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame located in the Verizon Arena pays tribute to Arkansians who have succeeded in both professional and amateur sports. Former Mets outfielder Kevin McReynolds is one of the inductees.

Neighboring Tennessee has is well-known for its production of whiskey but surprisingly Arkansas has only one spirits manufacturer, Brandon’s Distillery, owned by Phil Brandon. The plant is located just a stone’s throw from theark sports hall Clinton Library and Phil will show you how whiskey, gin, and bourbon is produced.  

Getting around town is easy thanks to the Little Rock trolley system that will take you to nearly every attraction. The fare is $1 per ride or $2 for an all-day pass.

The Capital Hotel is the city’s most famous hotel as it was built on the site of a 19th century bank as is evidenced by its high ceilings and marble columns. The guest rooms are bigger than most Manhattan apartments. Locals routinely stop into its lobby on hot days to quench their thirsts with the complimentary lemonade that is served every afternoon.

A great time to visit Little Rock is in early June when the city holds its annual film festival.

For more information, contact the Little Rock Visitors Bureau at (800) 844-4781 or log onto www.littlerock.com.

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