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Costa Brava: An Outdoor Explorer’s Dream

Often times an unknown part of the Spanish coast, the Costa Brava is a lovely town a little inland, off the Mediterranean coastline a little south of France. Culturally known as the land from where both Dali and Picasso hail, the Catalan history is rich of art, natural landscape and winemaking culture to say the least.

A quick side trip of a little over an hour and half from the heart of Barcelona will open your eyes to a whole different side of Spain, miles away from the tourist buses and the noisy bustle of the big city.

As this area is both on and off Spain’s coast, it’s also a great idea to savor some of the country’s most delicious seafood, ranging everywhere from grilled octopus to more national dishes, such as the breakfast staple of a tomato like bruschetta with olive oil. One dessert that is specific to the Catalan region is called “crema catalana,” which is the very similar to the french creme brulee.

This region also showcases a plethora of picturesque medieval towns, stunning beaches and some of the most beautiful, remote crystal blue water of Spain. Here are some easy, affordable ways you can explore all of the beautiful outdoor scenes of this gem.

Once you arrive in the area of the Costa Brava, a great way to start off exploring the region is by walking through some paths called the Camins de Ronda. The paths of the Camins de Ronda allow you to see the many small fishing villages that support the local economy, along with exploring some lesser know, remote areas of the coast.

Even if you would just like to hike for a little bit or head to the beach to soak up some sun for most of the day, there are actually tours in the area that offer various hikes from slower, one hour walks to hikes that last several days.

For more intense outdoor adventure, visitors and locals like often go diving or snorkelling at the Medes Islands, which is easily one of the most important marine life reserves in the Western Mediterranean.

This archipelago containing seven small islands continues to astound visitors with its gray rocky cliffs which is ideal for individuals interested in learning more about the diverse marine life in the sea. Another incredible outdoor activity is Kitesurfing in the Bay of Roses, which has several renting stations right on the beach so there is very minimal hassle in terms of the equipment needed.

A common way for Spaniards to travel locally or within a specific city is to bike in order to explore the various neighborhoods of the region. Biking throughout an area called the Emporda with an electric bicycle (burricleta) at Ocitania is one of the best routes to see the medieval towns, green foothills and the more country parts of the Costa Brava.

The primary advantage of biking or cycling of the Ocitania route is to sightsee bits and pieces of the region that are for the most part, foreign to many tourists. Essentially, this bike route is a wonderful way to get lost in the Spanish charm that continues to entrap tourists and locals in its ancient spell of both Medieval and Roman past.


Three Top Ski Resorts

When it comes to picking out the best skiing resort, one of the key aspects that separate elite resorts from good resorts is the quality and the quantity of snow.  Other important factors to take into consideration are terrain, lift-serviced vertical, skiable acreage, efficiency of lifts, town, and ambience. Here’s a list of my top three skiing resorts based on these factors.

1. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wyoming

Jackson Hole is the place to ski and more and more skiers are finding out about it. In 2014, broke its record of skier visits with a total of 563,631 visitors – an increase of 12% compared to the season before that. That said, Jackson Hole does not get annoying packed with never-ending lift lines. When you put it in perspective, Jackson Hole’s numbers are only about a third of the visits seen in Breckenridge or Vail.

One of the coolest things about Jackson Hole is the tram; it’s one of the best ski lifts out there. It scales 4,139 feet in 9 minutes while carrying 100 passengers. Moreover, the tram operator will select cool music to be played through the ceiling speakers, so you can count on riding the tram while listening to some classic Rolling Stone or Frank Zappa jams.

2. Alta, Utah

To many skiers, Alta is considered holy ground especially because they do not allow snowboarders into its snow-bound steeps, chutes and bowls. Another reason why this place so awesome is because it collects so much snow. Surrounding resorts, like Snowbird also benefit from this climate advantage, but not to the degree that Alta does. Snowfall records show that Little Cottonwood Canyon, which is where Snowbird is located, collects an annual average of 540 inches. Alta tends to get 17% more snow than Snowbird – that’s a lot of snow to rip through!

3.  Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort, Colorado

Aspen Snowmass is a combination of 4 hills together between towns of Aspen and Snowmass Village:  Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk. These four skiing areas cover a massive amount of terrain (3,000 acres to be exact), rivaling Vail just in pure size.

Buttermilk, although it is a smaller terrain, has gained popularity by hosting the Winter X-games. It also has a good ratio of beginner and intermediate runs. On the other hand, Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands are known for their advanced and expert runs. Snowmass is the largest of the four with 4,406 vertical feet, 150 miles of trails, and 21 lifts. It literally has everything a skier can ask for – steep cliff chutes, bowls, glades, cruisers, bumps, etc.

For more information about top ski resorts click here.

Horsin’ Around

One of our oldest friends, workers and pets, horses have been with mankind for thousands of years. Whether pulling our wagons or getting us from Point A to B, the horse is as much a part of the human fabric as apple pie. Today, though their necessity has been diminished with time, those statuesque creatures remain a pillar of American tradition. But what don’t we know about Horses? Below are some little-known facts about our four-legged friends that are sure to flip your lid.

Laughter: Though often mistaken for a hilarious attempt at a human smile, horses have a nasal technique called a flehmen response. By tilting their head and curling their lip, horses can direct the flow of air into their nasal passages and to a special set of olfactory glands. The flehmen Amanda Starbuckresponse is more common in males than females, as it’s the primary way a male horse can determine if the female is in heat. Remember, the next time you see a horse smiling at you, they’re just giving you a whiff.

Eyes: Some say that horses have soulful eyes, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Staring into those nearly two-inch-wide eyes (largest of any land mammal), some say they find kinship. Over nine times the size of a human’s eye, legend states that horses can see objects “larger” than a human sees them. An explanation for why the smallest objects scare such a large creature. This, of course, is not true. Science tells us that a horse’s eye is rather advanced, though. With three eyelids designed to clean the eye and keep it free from dirt, their benefits don’t stop there. Without the ability to focus like a human eye, a horse’s is designed like bifocal lenses, where one portion can see at a distance and the other is better suited for  closer objects.

Breeds: There are many different species of Horse, each with their own traits. With the advent of genetic science and cloning, crossbred horses are becoming a regular occurrence. Whether part zebra, donkey, or pony, these combinations create hilariously adorable mishmashes of each component with adorably apt names like “Zonky” or “Hebra.” However, on the other end of the spectrum runs what some consider to be the purest of all horse breeds. The Arabian horse, bred in the desert for thousands of years by horse nomads, is thought by many to be not only the most beautiful, but powerful. Years of proper breeding may have left the Arabian horse apart from its equine brothers, evidenced by their skeletal structure being almost completely different, they are amazingly strong. Able to run 100 miles without rest or water, the Arabian horse is truly a wonder.

The Healing Season

Few can deny the healing power of a walk through the woods. Regardless of the season, there’s something about being submerged in the verdant growth of nature that replenishes our spirits, cleaning us of all the buzz and furious panic of “city life.” An age-old remedy for depression and anxiety, a brief walk in the woods is good for many things. But would you believe that nature is changing the face of therapy? How are progressive therapists using flora and fauna to reach their patients?

Amanda StarbuckAbbie Hausermann, a pioneer in the world of therapy and an enterprising trailblazer, has made the great outdoors her office. Trading her leather couch for the smell of freshly fallen leaves, Abbie takes her patients on long trail hikes in any number of parks. After opening her doors in May, the response to her innovative program was unanimously positive. Offering several options to explore the wilderness with her clients, Abbie may have just unlocked the latest trend in therapy.

Offering hikes for those who enjoy opening up on their feet, Abbie’s services are more than just a walk in the park. With overnight nature adventures and camping trips on her roster, Abbie hopes that offering more than just one option for those looking for more “natural” therapy can be the key to reaching those deeply rooted issues.Beyond the benefits of being outdoors, Abbie suggests there is a subconscious mechanism that allows us to work through our problems while moving. The act of forward motion fights the notion of stagnation, literally and figuratively allowing us to move on.

Will we see more therapy sessions conducted outdoors because of Abbie, who knows? The future of nature therapy remains somewhat uncertain as a branch of treatment, but we can be sure that those willing to walk with Abbie into the wilderness may find themselves changed by the time they leave.

Tees and Trees

Who doesn’t love a bit shopping? The wonderful items under halogen lights, each begging to be taken home and made yours. Malls sprout up like seedlings, pushing nature aside to make room for our need to buy. However, in North Carolina, the Asheville Outlets don’t feel that the two need to be mutually exclusive. Why not take the love of nature and shopping, and combine them into one glorious event? Partnering with the North Carolina Arboretum, Asheville outlets is hosting an event that’s equal parts nature and shopping.

In celebration of the great outdoors, these two organizations have brought their considerable influence together to launch the first North Carolina Arboretum Outdoor Fitness and Fun Fest at Asheville Outlets. Promoting healthy outdoor activity and nature preservation, this festival is designedAmanda Starbuck around family fun. With booths promoting fitness and physical activity, along with nature facts and ways to protect your environment, the fusion of education and shopping has picked up plenty of attention.

Along with their educational offerings, music and entertainment will number among the exciting offerings at Fun Fest. With author appearances and a laundry list of activities, what isn’t there to enjoy about this fun experiment? The Arboretum draws thousands of attendees every year to their gardens, trails, exhibits, and presentations.

The proceeds set to be donated directly to the North Carolina Arboretum, this will be a home run for the community and organization. Bringing families together for some education and fun with a touch of outlet shopping seems to be the perfect formula for a strong showing. Ensuring that the North Carolina Arboretum remains open and operational for years to come, this Fun Fest will surely not be the last time we go shopping in the woods for a good cause.


Off To The Races

Far from the traditional racing tracks, a style of horse racing echoes a tradition from colonial Spain. Over 170 years ago, sailors would make landfall and unload their goods on the beach.Horses Racing The Beach Whether to blow off steam, pass the time or unwind after long months at sea, the sailors would race horses up and down the sandy beaches. The waves crashing just feet away as they galloped down the curving shoreline, these sailors sure knew how to enjoy their time off. Now, all these years in the future, the sport lives on in its native land.

Sanlucar de Barrameda is home to this spectacle, and though there are mild rules governing the game, it remains true to its rough and rowdy roots. The spectators line the beach, eager to see these riders control their powerful steeds over a course with no gates or boundaries. A simple wave of the flag is all it takes to set off the thunderous rush of hooves and roar of the crowd. This year alone brought nearly 40,000 spectators to enjoy the races. However, this level of freedom comes at a cost, and horses have been known to lose control. During this year’s race, a thoroughbred bolted off the track and into the parking lot.

Never one to eschew tradition, locals love the fusing of old and new that this sport represents. Corporate sponsors may endorse their favorite rider and social media may aid in spreading the word, but at day’s end it all comes down to the synchronicity between horse and rider. The crowd so close you can feel their cheering. The ground so soft it kicks up into the air with every motion. While horse racing in Spain suffers a recession, this fusion of traditions is thriving.

Free for beach goers and casual passers-by, this sport welcomes all who are willing to watch. For just a few euros, a private tent at the finish line with local foods and champagne awaits. Betting is welcome, but not necessary to enjoy the show. While not possessing the gravitas of a Kentucky Derby or Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Sanlucar de Barrameda is a must-see for all those who appreciate the power of a horse and the skill of a rider. For more on this event, click here.


Quechee Balloon Festival

The Count Down Until The Next  Quechee Balloon Festival.

322 Days

Once again the Quechee Hot Air Balloon, Craft and Music Festival hits the Upper Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire with over 20 hot air balloons floating everywhere. The festival includes music, entertainment for all ages, and over 60 craft artisans and commercial vendors. Children activities include train rides, a bounce house and more! Check out the beer and wine garden as well for the adults attending!

Balloon Rides are available to purchase starting April 2016! Book now with a local pilot, click here for more information!
Amanda Starbuck Amanda Starbuck

An Advocate of Rare Horse Breed

A long-time protector and expert of the Turkmenistan’s quintessential Akhal Teke horses, historian, breeder of Akhal Teke horses, and former General Director of “Turkmen Atlary” was bestowed the illustrious honor of being made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a fellow of the Long Riders’ Guild.

Geldy Kyarizov is joining an nonpareil group of equestrian explorers that have been honored by both organizations, who’ve recognized his dedication towards protecting, preserving and promoting the rare horse breed.


The Akhal Teke bloodline dates back to days of antiquity, but had almost been wiped out during the reign of the Soviet Union. In the late 1980s, Geldy rode 4,300 kilometers from Ashgabat to Moscow to petition Soviet Union government officials to intercede on behalf of the rare breed.

The petition was a success, thus began Geldy’s travels across a wide area of land in the Soviet Union, searching for prized specimens of the Akhal Teke blood line. To preserve the majestic creatures’ posterity, he began a breeding program which proved very successful in marking the breed’s resurgence. One success, Maksat, a stallion with a pedigree going back thousands of years, was bestowed upon the then British Prime Minister John Major as a gift from the Turkmen nation.


Yanardag, arguably the most successful horse in Geldy’s program, was considered so beautiful, so perfect, that Turkmenistan’s president placed the stallions image on a national stamp, ordered a statue to be erected in the horses’ honor, and named Yanardag the country’s national symbol.

Due to the program’s success, Geldy was able to secure government funding in order to establish a large equestrian complex in Turkmenistan’s capital, which subsequently introduced the nation’s first veterinary laboratory able to perform DNA testing that was necessary to set up a new stud book for the Akhal Teke.

In honor of Turkmenistan’s 10th anniversary of independence, he organized over one-thousand Akhal Tekes to march through the hippodrome in Ashgabat, an event known as the “Parade of Horses.”

A world-renowned and recognized expert of the breed, his educational conferences, equestrian journey’s, academic investigations, and DNA research have been invaluable to promoting and protecting the nation’s beloved breed.

The Best of Nantucket

Nantucket, an island about thirty miles south of the Cape Cod, is an incredibly special place. The island boasts a truly special community, gorgeous scenic views, and an array of fun and interesting sites. Here are a few of the best that help make Nantucket such a fantastic summer destination.

The Nantucket Atheneum. This is this Nantucket’s library and it serves as a great family activity for a rainy day on the island. The beautiful architecture and congenial staff are just as impressive as the extensive and unique book collection.

Rosehip and  Beach Plum Jelly: Beach plums and Rosehips actually grow on the island and tend to ripen towards the latter months of summer. If you are more the adventurous type, you can actually make a jam or jelly yourself. You can also purchase these delicious concoctions from an number of place on Nantucket. Be sure to check it out.

Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge: If you love the outdoors, you should certainly visit the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. The refuge boasts a gorgeous coastal views, and a diverse and thriving wildlife with such animals as raptors, deer, shoe birds. In fact, the 16 miles of the refuge is home to New England’s largest red cedar woodland.

Sankaty Head Lightouse: This lighthouse which was constructed in the middle of the nineteenth century stands at nearly 100 feet above sea-level. If you have time, take a nice and relaxing bicycle ride to the lighthouse.

Quahog Chowder: This is a staple of Nantucket cuisine. Quahog is actually derived from the Wampanoags (the Native American Tribe that originally inhabited the island) language, and refers to the hard-shell clams found in local waters. The Club Car is a great place to enjoy such chowder, but you will find this dish at most eateries on the island. Each restaurant has a unique version so try as many as you can and determine which you like best!

A Short Guide to Verbier

Verbier is one of the top skiing destinations in Europe, if not the world. It is the biggest attraction in Switzerland’s Four Valleys area that is famed for its great skiing.

Verbier StarbuckA combination of factors including stunning panoramic views, a great nightlife, exhilarating terrain, and sunny weather help Verbier stand out from other options. The resort is less than three hours away from the Geneva airport by public transportation and serves as one of the most popular winter destinations for visiting Scandinavians, Dutchmen, and Brits. You will also see your fair share of Americans.

Verbier boasts about one-hundred lifts that provide access to 250 miles of runs, and some of the best backcountry skiing in the entire continent. If you are at the top of of ski area at more than 10,000 ft you have access to spectacular views and can even see as far as Mont Blanc and even Matterhorn.

The terrain at Verbier hosts a number of exciting events for spectators such as the Speed Ski World Cup,  Verbier High Five, or the Xtreme Verbier. Verbier, given its altitude, has abundant snowfall early and late in the season. So do not be afraid to book for one these of months.

There are a few options to get to Verbier, but most travelers, especially Americans, will arrive by plane, and then train. After arriving at the Geneva airport, you will want to train to the Verbier area, and then take a beautiful ten-minute Gondola ride up the mountain. All in all, the transportation will take just a little more than two hours from Geneva.

The options for fine dining and great nightlife also helps separate Verbier from many run of the mill skiing destinations. Be sure to check out restaurants such as Cordée des Alpes, La Grange, Fer á Cheval, and Los Chottes. If you are looking for a night on the town, you can visit the Ice Cube Bar, Le Rouge, or Hotel Fairnet, all different but great in their own right.