Every year, I like to look back and take stock over travel moments from the year. I have started to find patterns and themes in my various destinations. 2014 was filled with thrill seeking and animals as my friends and I rafted stormy rivers, zipped through cloud forests, kayaked with monkeys, and chased whales and crocodiles through Costa Rica. The year before that was exotic. I got lost in foreign markets eating dishes like dried crickets and Amok, rode elephants through the jungle, and explored ancient temples throughout South East Asia. This year seems to be rife with color and texture. It was a year of shear beauty. From lavender fields as far as the eye can see to vast canyons of geological wonder to the vibrant colonial architecture of Nicaragua, it was always a visual feast. In no special order, I am excited to share these 20 post card destinations from 2015.
- Chamonix Chamonix, a resort area near the junction of France, Switzerland and Italy, is renowned for its alpine skiing. It sits at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest summit in the Alps. Year-round, cable cars take visitors up to several nearby peaks with panoramic views, including Aiguille du Midi, Pointe Helbronner on the Italian border and Le Brévent.
- Page Page is a city in Coconino County, Arizona, near the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. In the Navajo lands east of Page lies the narrow slot canyon dubbed Antelope Canyon. Remarkable feats of creation, slot canyons are formed over the course of millions of years as bits of rock, sediment and water carried via flash floods erode deep channels into the earth. To older Navajos, entering a special place like Antelope Canyon was like entering a cathedral.
- Lac de St CroixThis magnificant turquoise lake was formed by the Barrage (dam) de Ste. Croix, built on the Verdon river in 1975. Sitting on the open Plateau de Valensole and the Grand Plan de Canjuers, this French provencal lake has a feeling of endless space and light. At the northeastern end of the lake at the Pont du Galetas, an almost invisible slot in the mountain wall hides the deep, wild Verdon canyon where the rushing green waters of the river enter the lake. They often call Verdon the French Grand Canyon.
- Serene LakesIn Tahoe National Forest most people flock to Lake Tahoe, the great jewel herself. However a bit further south, there is a gem waiting to be discovered. My girlfriend has a cabin in the area and during a trip here this year, I was caught in rapture over the nostalgic scene – little kids digging moats and catching minnows, teenagers pushing each other off a floating dock, dads in aprons cooking at the community picnic. Serene Lakes, a time warp of a Sierra mountain resort in the backyard of Donner Summit’s Royal Gorge ski area, is what Lake Tahoe used to be like when I was a kid. It is an enchanted land hiding in plain sight that seems to appear only when you’re not looking for it – or when you take a wrong turn off the frontage road at Soda Springs on your way to Sugar Bowl or Donner Lake.
- Bryce CanyonThis playground for hikers is a sprawling geological reserve in southern Utah. It is known for its crimson-colored hoodoos (spire-shaped rock formations). The park’s main road leads past the expansive Bryce Amphitheater, a hoodoo-filled depression lying below the Rim Trail hiking path. If you really want to get in there and see the best this place has offer, hike from Sunrise Point to Sunset Point or vice versa. This is also known as the figure 8 loop. Watching the moon rise over the amphitheater was something I will never forget.
- Simiane La Rotonde Talk about story book land. This magnificent little village is perched high on a hill surrounded by fields of lavender, between Forcalquier and the Luberon in the south of France. Classed “cité de caractère”, the village posseses a rich historic past and you will discover some fascinating architectural details dating back to the middle ages and the Renaissance. I loved the layout of this little Provencal town so much we came back for sunrise and sunset.
- GranadaOn the shores of Lake Nicaragua, this little city is rich with brilliantly colored buildings and even more colorful people. The city’s main plaza, Central Park, is dominated by the great neoclassical facade of the Cathedral of Granada, and surrounding it are multiple Spanish colonial landmarks that have survived repeated invasions. We spent our time here getting lost down the checkered alleyways, shopping in the main square marketplace, and admiring local arts and crafts. It was one of my favorite stops in all of Nica.
- San FranciscoI know the tech takeover has everyone’s panties in a twist. But not living in the bay, I don’t have to suffer the onslaught of rising real estate prices and changing culture. On a good day, I will always say this city is my favorite city in the world. There are a thousand view points in this beautiful bay and a million and one things to do. I think Anthony Bourdain said it best. “Anyone who doesn’t have a great time in San Francisco is pretty much dead to me.”
- RustrelDeep in the heart of Provence, Rustrel is a tiny village nestled at the foot of the Plateau d’Albion in the Luberon. It merits a detour because of its amazing ochre cliffs and some stunning sunflower fields. Throughout our entire stay in Provence we stayed in this charming little town at a bed and breakfast called Clos Du Rohan. I highly recommend it if you are planning a trip to the south of France and have an urge to get off the grid. Its impossible not to be charmed by the humble shop keepers, 200 year old stone farmhouses, and rolling fields of flowers. A place like this reminds you how happy the simple life can be – some table wine, a baguette, and some cheese you are one happy camper.
- Convict LakeSituated at the base of Mount Morrison just five minutes from Mammoth, the deep blue waters of Convict Lake invite you to enjoy a leisurely picnic or stroll along the lakeside trail. The epitome of peacefulness today, Convict Lake got its name from an incident that was nothing but peaceful. In 1871, six inmates from a Nevada prison escaped here, and eventually battled their way out with a shootout, ultimately giving Convict Lake its name. We got to discover this magnificent part of the Southern Sierras as our two friends chose this spot for their nuptials this past September (geologists of course).
- AnnecyAbutting the northernmost rim of Lake Annecy, the town bearing the same name is a wonderful mixture of its fortunate geographic placement: it has all the charm one would expect from a medieval French town, the majestic beauty of Swiss mountains and lakes, and a dash of the cuisine that has infiltrated from neighboring Italy, which lies just a 90 minute drive away. The town of Annecy is known for its picturesque old town, comprised of flower-lined canals, narrow alleyways packed with terraced cafes, and medieval buildings and bridges dripping with history.
- NapaJust an hour’s drive northeast of San Francisco, the you will find yourself driving through these vine-covered hillsides. With lush green vines in spring and summer and a warm golden hue in the fall, Napa is reminiscent of Tuscany or some far off romantic region of Europe. It is home to nearly 400 wineries, producing mostly Chardonnay, Pinot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot varietals. You could easily spend a week here flitting among tasting rooms and other sensory pleasures including spas, idyllic sightseeing, and some of the country’s best locally sourced cuisine. In mid July we fled the heat of Arizona to basque in the wine and all other earthly delights this rich land has to offer, as only a group of girlfriends should do.
- FlagstaffFor our 2 year anniversary we hiked out to a yurt and had a rustically romantic celebration amidst this aspen studded oasis. Flagstaff is an old Route 66 railroad town, located in the high plateau of the San Francisco Mountains. The city has the second highest altitude among metropolitan areas, and thus escapes the desert heat associated with much of Arizona. Serving as a gateway for the Grand Canyon National Park, this charming college town is full of activities for the outdoorsy inclined. From skiing, to hiking, to yoga, to mountain biking it has become one of my new favorite retreats. I always rant and rave about Sedona throughout my posts, but truthfully, Flagstaff is the truly authentic version of Sedona without the big red rocks and massive crowds of tourists.
- Moustiers Sainte-MarieSince 1981 Moustiers Sainte-Marie has been listed as one of the prettiest villages in France. The church, the village walls, chapels, the aqueduct, the fountains – an alliance of water and stone, the pastel colors of the tiles and the tuff together create a simultaneous homogenous and living architectural whole. It is built high into a limestone cliff and at twilight when the sun on a clear day strikes the south-facing cliff, a diffuse pink light glows across the village.
- ParisWhat can I say about Paris that has not been said? While Paris can be a cliche for those disgruntled by the sappy nature of its existence, it is a manifestation of what you feel inside. If you are in love with someone, with yourself, with life, this city can inspire every inch of you. If the love you have inside is overshadowed by hate or fear or distrust in the world, you might not be ready to understand the significance of strolling the Champs Elysees or the magic of the colorful carousel outside the Eiffel Tower. But for those of us still willing to let that magic in, it is waiting for you here. I sometimes think the recent attacks happened here because this city has the heart to survive it.
- Zion National ParkIn the heart of desert slot canyon territory in southwestern Utah lies one of the most awe-inspiring place on the planet: Zion National Park. While Zion is fairly small compared to other national parks, it has an abundance of hiking opportunities through much diverse terrain. From arid desert sections to breathtakingly majestic viewpoints to lush forests and claustrophobic slot canyons, this park always calls you higher or deeper into its majesty. Upon first sight, my lasting impression was that of a perfect lovechild between Yosemite and Sedona.
- San Juan Del SurIs San Juan Del Sur in southern Nicaragua a paradise or the new party destination for wayward souls? Well it just may be both. While you do have your typical beach front watering holes that get dirty and overcrowded with beachcombers looking for a good time, you also have moments of serenity such as this sunset. And just down a dirt road 15 minutes away, you find idyllic little surf haunts such as Playa Maderas. At Playa Maderas, you can find yoga themed hostels at $12 a night or the more spendy but pristine Buena Vista Surf Club. Nothing to do here but play in the sand, eat ceviche, and watch the sun slip away.
- GordesItalian sculptor and painter Michelangelo used to say, with a burst of modesty, that his sculptures were not really his merit, but that they were already inside the blocks of marbles and his duty was merely to bring them out. I feel like some cities have the same destiny. So perfect in their composition it beckons to exist, to inspire poetry and art. Gordes is one of these cities. It will seduce you with its expansive views, quaint sidewalk cafes, and lively markets. It is easy to see why this is one of Provence’s most impressive villages.
- Laguna De ApoyoAs one of our first stops in Nicaragua, my sister-in-law told me she was taking us to a volcanic crater lake. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Well, by the time we crested around the bend and saw what lay before us, we were spellbound. There she was, endless, bright blue, and deep. In a region with as much geothermal activity as Nicaragua, the water is naturally heated and full of igneous minerals. Swimming in the lagoon was such an unusual experience, I have a hard time putting it into words. The water was so warm against the windy air. I kept expecting to taste salt and was momentarily confused. I’d float on one of the docks and my skin would feel gently tightened, an effect of the volcanic minerals. Just as the lake tightens your skin, something about the atmosphere here bonds people too. We spent the night drinking and laughing with strangers from around the world, soaking in the warm night air and throwing back maybe a little too much Flor De Cana, the local rum. Because it was one of the most unique, surprising, and delightfully simple destinations of the year, I can say it was my favorite.
- Rousillon With this 20th destination, let me tempt you back to France. Lavender, lavender, and more lavender. From Sault, to Valensole, to this quaint spot outside of Rousillon, I was up to my ears in this purple gold. Rousillon lies on a hill between the mountains of the Vaucluse and the Luberon. The lively happy village sits atop a palette of rich land. From ochre colored outcrops to azure blue skies to the deep green of pine forests and surrounded by those rolling purple fields. There is a harmony of enchanting colors. The field here was not the biggest but it may have been the most charming. It was intoxicating: that sweet scent that enveloped the warm air coupled with the cutest little french girls selling lavender bunches on the side of the road and the buzz of the local market taking place just up the street. I think I may have found my own version of heaven.
Wrapping up 2015
I look back and laugh a little when I think about the goals I had for 2015. Travel more (obvious) and conquer inversions in my yoga practice. I’ve defined myself as a yogi and lover of travel, but only this year was I really able to understand what lies beneath all of that. The destination is not the goal. The yoga pose is not the goal. Collecting passport stamps is not the goal. Standing on your hands is not the goal. Climbing the highest mountain is not the goal. The goal is to create space where you were once stuck. To unveil the layers of protection you’ve built and to appreciate your body and the world in which you exist. It is easier said than done. Horrible things happen – relationships fail and houses burn down. People die. But there is a duality of light and dark in our world and one would cease to exist without the other. I have a feeling that 2016 will be the hardest and most rewarding year of my life and my resolution is to just accept the balance and find the beauty in it all. Happy New Year to everyone! 2016, ready or not, here we come.