Category Archives: Travel

Without health everything is nothing

SHA Wellness Clinic motto

The room keys at SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain do more than unlock doors of rooms.

I’m on what the beau calls my WST, or World Spa Tour. We’re not talking spas where people go just to get a massage, a facial and seaweed wrap. Rather where folks go to detox, lose weight, retain their youth and for medical purposes. My research is for a story that will appear in Elite Traveler’s September/October 2012 issue.

Yes, it’s a plum assignment but it’s also one that makes me focus much more on my health and wellness as I encounter the 1 percenters who can afford to stay at such places as SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain, Cal-a-Vie in San Diego County, Miraval in Tucson, The Ranch at Live Oak in Malibu, COMO Shambhala Estate in Ubud, Kurotel Longevity Medical Center and Spa in southern Brazil and Ananda in the Himalayas — just some of the other spectacular places I’ll feature. Rates can soar up to $10,000 for the week, which may seem rather astronomical to most of us, at some of these places. But really, can you put a price on health?

I’ve just left SHA, on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. It’s relatively new to the scene, having opened just a couple of years ago. People stay anywhere from a few days to usually a week  and sometimes longer. I met a couple of people who extended their stay by another week because it took nearly a week before their body adjusted to the program. I heard that one American man had stayed a whopping six months!

And why not? If you’ve got the money why not stay in swank digs with views of the Mediterranean, where you don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat that day because you know whatever they serve is going to be healthy and delicious, an array of lectures, fitness and cooking classes and activities are available daily, a fitness center and personal trainer await not to mention the spa and oodles of health professionals who can guide you with stopping smoking, sleep disorders, losing weight, stopping the aging process of Father Time, etc. Yeah, I’d stay for six months too if I could because I’m worth it.

The motto at SHA, “Health is not everything, but without health everything is nothing,” is on each room key. Reading that saying several times a day reminded me that one can have all of the money in the world but without good health, what good is being a one percenter? Take care of yourself. It’s the best thing you can do for your body.

SHA Wellness Clinic in El Albir, Spain

SHA Wellness Clinic in El Albir, Spain

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Filed under Aging, Beauty, Spa, Travel

It’s time for a tune up

SHA Wellness Clinic

Me on a morning hike in El Albir, Spain while at SHA Wellness Clinic

Now that I’m several months shy of a milestone birthday, it’s time for me to get my butt in gear. I expect to look a certain way when that big day comes in November and I won’t accept anything less. We all have our standards and mine are high. I thought I was my worst critic until I saw the experts at SHA Wellness Clinic on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.

After hearing from Dr. Ken Prange that my nerves were frayed and that the excess of refined sugar I consume is apparent in my fingernails and tongue, I figured I would stop ordering “a muffin for my muffin top” during my occasional visits to Peet’s and Coffee Bean in the States And I really would make a concerted effort to cut down on my red wine. Although wine is available at SHA, I’m not ordering any. It’s not like I can’t go a few days without it.

Dr. Prange was just one of the doctors I saw during my stay at SHA, one of the spas I’ll feature in my story on the top spas in the world’s in the September/October issue of Elite Traveler. People don’t come to SHA because they’re perfect. They come in search of perfection. Therefore, there is no coddling by the experts, who specialize in a variety of areas.  Dr. Dolores Antón Rico, who specializes in advanced anti aging skin techniques, was generally pleased with the elasticity in my skin but nonetheless showed me a video on Thermage. Intrigued by it, I asked her if it could help my thighs, which had started to sag several years ago.

“Let me see,” she said.

I was still wearing the running tights from my morning walk and warned her that I wore no panties.

“I’m a doctor,” she said with authority.

As I peeled my Brooks running tights away from my skin, she nearly gasped when she saw my bulging belly. I can’t remember if she asked if I was pregnant or had had children because her reaction to my muffin top caused my brain to stumble. Whatever she asked, it didn’t matter. The answer was NO! She examined my thighs, lifted my tush and told me Thermage could help both. But, she added, not the belly. As if I didn’t know. But thanks anyway doc.

My next stop was with the doctor who heads up aesthetics medicine at SHA Wellness Clinic. I pointed out the ever-so-slight lines that appeared in the creases when I smiled, asked if a little filler in my cheeks would help. She took it a step further and rattled off some other things I may want to consider as well.

I was feeling pretty good about myself when I came to SHA. Now I think I need to stay for about two months and rob a bank to pay for all of the work I need done that I didn’t know I needed done until I arrived. We tune up cars. We change timing belts around 100,000 miles. Our bodies are machines and need work too. Some more than others.

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Filed under Aging, Beauty, Spa, Travel, Wine

Is it me or Spain?

Kelly E. Carter Lucy Carter Madrid

Kelly E. Carter and Lucy Carter in Madrid

Spain is one of those places that I can’t quite figure out. Most people love the country but I don’t. Someone tell me what I am for I know it is something.

My first trip to Spain was in 2004 when I was dispatched to Madrid by US Weekly magazine. Ben Affleck was in Madrid and happened to be in the midst of ending his inexplicable relationship with Jennifer Lopez. I was asked to get a comment from him and gladly obliged since it meant going to Spain, a country that everyone just seems to love.

I packed a change of clothes and off Lucy and I went in search of Ben. The assignment was only for one day and after I finished I decided, since it was a Friday, to go to Barcelona for the weekend. I had heard so much about Barna, as the locals call it, that I just had to experience it for myself. Although I enjoyed the tour around the city from atop a double decker bus and the popular tapas joint Cal Pep and drinking Claras, I wasn’t impressed.

Hoping for a different experience this time, I arranged for a three-day stay in Madrid before heading south for my spa assignment on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. My mission: to fall in love with Madrid. I was blown away by the elegance of the Hotel Villa Magna, where Lucy and I stayed in a luxurious Villa Magna Suite suite that I could live in forever. And the neighborhood had every designer store imaginable. A shopper’s dream! A visit to the Prado museum with a friend and her beau, who coincidentally were visiting from Germany, was educational and enjoyable. And I thoroughly enjoyed the Mandarin restaurant Tse Tang in the courtyard of Hotel Villa Magna so much that I ate there twice.

Yet there was still something missing. What could it be? Warmth, perhaps? Spaniards are wonderful people once you get to know them but as strangers I find that they keep their distance, don’t make eye contact and certainly don’t say “Buenos dias,” in the way that Italians greet people they don’t know with “buon giorno” when you pass them on the street. Catch a Parisian on a good day and even those snooty, chic folks will even say “Bon jour,” to a stranger.

But not the Spaniards. I discussed this topic with an American family that I met my final night in Madrid. I struck up a conversation first with the husband as we all hung out in the hotel bar watching a soccer game none of us cared about. While the patrons in the jam-packed bar rooted for Real Madrid to beat Barcelona and sang after their team won, I couldn’t help but note how the Spanish expressed tremendous passion when it came to futbol. Then why can’t they treat strangers the same way?

Or maybe it’s just me they don’t. I’m not going to give up on you Spain. I know there’s a chance for us to have a relationship at some point. When you’re ready, let me know and I’ll be back.

Hotel Villa Magna Madrid

Villa Magna Suite at the Hotel Villa Magna Suite in Madrid.

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Filed under Italy, Travel

The trip that almost wasn’t

It’s a miracle that my 21-day European adventure began on time considering I couldn’t find my passport when I went to check in for my Iberia flight at LAX. I knew I had put it in the front pocket in my massive BET tote bag, where I could retrieve it easily. Yet it wasn’t there.

I took everything out of the tote bag (laptop, iPad, still camera, Flip video camera, BlackBerry, electrical cords, datebook, folders and more) couldn’t find it! Then I took everything out of a raggedy BCBG tote I am so attached to and still, it wasn’t there.

“Can I check in without my passport,” I sheepishly asked the lady at the counter.

“No,” she said sweetly.

She let me know that the flight was delayed about 30 minutes and for once I was grateful for a delay. I hadn’t arrived the recommended two hours early for international flights because it never takes long to check in.

My beau Bill suggested I go through my luggage. To appease him, I opened my humongous suitcase and pretended to look. He asked if there was any chance I put it in my dog Lucy’s carrier. No, I said.

I knew exactly where the passport was — in the taxi we had taken to LAX.

“Try to reach the taxi driver,” I said to Bill, as if the cabbie was a neighbor whose number he had.

I’ve left a lot of things in taxis. Sometimes I’ve managed to get them back, such as my favorite jacket in Athens and a tote bag in New York, and some I haven’t, such as a darling mink scarf in New York and on another occasion, a winter hat in New York.

But a passport? I flashed back to 30 minutes earlier when the cabbie opened the trunk at LAX. My BET tote bag was upside down. As my luggage was unloaded, I saw that the front flap of the pocket wasn’t shut and made a mental note to make sure all pockets were always closed in the future. I thought I quickly glanced around the trunk to make sure nothing had fallen out. Obviously I was wrong.

As Bill talked to the taxi company on his cell phone, I replayed the day in my head. I had packed my belongings and moved them into storage. Had I mistakenly put my passport in my computer bag that was now in storage? Was there time to jump in a cab, rush to the storage unit and find out? Or worse yet, maybe I had put my passport, which I keep in a holder, with things for the movers to pack. It could be in any of a number of boxes that were stacked so perfectly in the storage unit. Yikes!

I thought about my options. How long would it take the U.S. government to issue me another passport? A day? Two days? A week? I had flexibility so if I had to push the trip back then I could but everything had been so neatly arrange.

“Come to San Francisco,” Bill said when I told him I didn’t really have to go to Madrid. It was just a stop en route to my final destination.

That wasn’t an option. I knew in my heart that the passport was in the taxi. It was just a matter of finding that damn taxi! Bill called back and explained the urgency in the situation. He had his own flight to catch and had sweetly accompanied me to the international terminal after checking his luggage.

Finally, the cab driver was located and he confirmed to dispatch that he had my passport. I passed along my mobile number to the dispatcher for the cab driver to call me and waited patiently. Bill marveled at his accomplishment.

The man never keeps receipts and I’ve been on him to do so for months. Despite all of the advancements in technology, errors still occur on credit card bills. I save every receipt (yes, I’m a hoarder) until my statement arrives and then shred them, or keep them even longer. It amazed me that Bill never, ever, ever bothered to take his receipts. Until this day.

I literally thanked God that Bill, for the first time in his life, saved a receipt. Without it, we never would have tracked down the cab.

With the assurance that the cab driver would call me, Bill gave me $40 to give to the cabbie and scurried to make his flight. He now realizes the importance of saving receipt the same as I realize the importance of making sure every zipper is zipped and every fastener is fastened on my tote.

Eventually the cab driver called me. “Hey Clipper fan,” I said when I answered the phone after seeing an unrecognizable number on Caller ID. Bill had the cab first from his hotel and they had talked sports before they picked me up. The three of us continued talking sports to the airport and while Bill waited in line to check his luggage, the cabbie and I chatted about life in New York, where he is from and where I spent four years. By now, he was like an old friend.

The cabbie let me know he was in Culver City and it would take him about 15 minutes to return to LAX. “Hurry please!” I said. When he arrived, he handed me my powder blue passport holder and I gave him the $40. I’ll never forget the appreciative look on his face. It truly made his day.

I know I should have told him the $40 was from Bill but since black women have a reputation for under tipping (it’s why Oprah over tips but she can afford to do so) I decided not to divulge that information. Sidebar: Wasn’t there a Seinfeld episode about someone always taking credit for something someone else did?

When we spoke after I landed in Madrid, Bill and I applauded ourselves at how well both of us handled our first minor crisis. Neither of us panicked, freaked out or shouted.

“I still can’t believe we pulled it off,” he said, as if it was a heist.

And in a way, I guess it was.

Kelly E. Carter Lucy Carter Iberia

Kelly E. Carter holds Lucy Carter on their Iberia flight from LAX to Madrid

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Filed under Lucy, Travel

Now that The Jet Set Pets has launched

I can’t believe that it’s been five months since I’ve updated this Eat, Drink and Pray for Love blog! Well, I have a good reason for neglecting my personal ramblings: my pet project, literally, The Jet Set Pets.

Finally, after 13 hard months, The Jet Set Pets finally launched in March. I don’t know which was more challenging: delivering the manuscript for Come to Win or building a website. Just like the hard work Venus Williams, the publisher Amistad (an imprint of Harper  Collins) and I put into Come to Win helped the book become a New York Times bestseller, I’m convinced that I have an award-winning site that wouldn’t have been possible without my biz partner/marketing guru Regina DiMartino and the rest of the terrific team.

If you haven’t checked out The Jet Set Pets yet, please do. And if you have visited, please return for the latest information for pampered pets on the go and share the link with others. The site is not only beautiful thanks to a clever icon from talented graphic artist Kimb Manson and dazzling illustration from the fabulous Marina Rankovic but functional and informative due to the brilliance of web developer Clint Crisher, who is as creative (it was his idea to perch me on the wing of the plane in the illustration) as he is on top of the latest in web design.

I know this reads like I’m delivering an acceptance speech — and I haven’t won anything. But I am super proud of the site, which has something for every pet lover whether your furry friend travels first class or economy, by Ferrari or bus or to St. Tropez or the local dog park. An abundance of pet-friendly travel information awaits but there’s also a Community section so pets can have virtual play dates in the Chat Room, a Forum for pet lovers to share their thoughts and a Directory that allows businesses to reach consumers and which gives back by donating part of its revenue to charities.

In time, I would like to start The Jet Set Pets Foundation to provide free and reduced-rate veterinarian services to the financially challenged.

But first, I have to continue delivering content essential to pet lovers and presented in a user-friendly way. Feel free to send comments and make suggestions on the site.

Now that The Jet Set Pets is off the ground, I hope to find time to update this blog on a regular basis once again. I love writing in the first person as much as I take delight in reading how much you enjoy my ramblings. Few editors allow me to write in the first person, my favorite style.

My pooch Lucy and I jet off to Spain on Wednesday then we’re on to France, followed by Italy, our adopted country and former residence. (I can taste the Bellinis now.) I’m sure we’ll have our usual exciting adventures, which I’ll write about in my (hopefully) usual witty fashion on this blog beginning later this week.

Check back for frequent posts, or better yet, subscribe so the posts are delivered right to your Inbox.

Hasta luego!

À tout à l’heure!

A presto!

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Filed under Books, Italy, Travel

I Love Lucy!

Today would have been Lucille Ball’s 100th birthday and in honor of this amazing actress, there’s an I Love Lucy marathon running on the Hallmark Channel that is keeping me up. I hope to see the hilarious wine-making episode in Italy, which is much more relevant to my life now than when I first saw it decades ago.

Personally, I would rather drink wine that stomp grapes to turn into wine but I understand there are wineries that let you stomp grapes and pretend to be Lucy in Turo, Italy.

Few people know just how much I thought of Lucille Ball when I was a kid. In grade school I read every book on her that I could get my hands on and made her the subject of papers. I was smitten! I always knew whenever I got a pet of my own, I would name her Lucy. One person who does know is my friend Maureen, whom I met in Italy and who writes the Urban Travel Girl blog. I still treasure the two DVDs of I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show episodes that she sent me to Positano.

Back to the Hallmark Channel. Right now they quartet is headed to Hollywood and have stopped in Albuquerque to visit Ethel’s father. What’s your favorite I Love Lucy episode? When Lucy and Ethel took jobs in the chocolate factory? Lucy making bread? Vitameatavegamin? Would love to know.

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Filed under Italy, Lucy, Pets, Travel

To Italy and back in a few days

I’m back from Italy! And this time I didn’t even need my passport. You may not have even realized I was gone but I was. At least in my mind as I read Susan Pohlman’s delightful book Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home, which I just finished this morning and had to write about because I was so moved.

If you read the “postcards” I wrote when I lived in Italy then you may recall Susan. I shared her inspirational story then and continue to do so every time a parent tells me they can’t move somewhere because of their school-age kids. I point to Susan and her husband Tim, who on the spur of the moment during a business trip to Italy, made the courageous decision to give up their fast-paced lives in LA and move their daughter Katie, 15, and son Matthew, 11,  to the boot-shaped country, where life is slower and the family could reconnect.  We moved to Italy within a couple of months of each other but didn’t meet until several months later when Lucy and I stopped to visit them en route to Monte Carlo. Tim is a major player in the radio business and two of my friends in radio suggested I contact him, which I did.

Today I went back to see what I wrote about the Pohlmans (that’s Tim and Susan below on ONE of the three terraces in their apartment in Nervi, Italy)  in Postcard 7, dated March 25, 2004, and found this:

I spent the night in the small town of Nervi at the Pohlman’s, an American couple who moved to Italy from suburban L.A. last year. A couple of you guys put me in contact with them. You might recall I was going to meet them last fall but I never did make it as our schedules conflicted. I’m glad I finally got to meet them as they are so inspiring. Their story: a husband is on a business trip in Santa Margherita, which is on the Italian Riviera and near Portofino. His wife is with him. As they relaxed by the hotel pool they said, wouldn’t it be nice to move here. They both agreed and said, but what about the kids. They asked the pool man if there was an American school nearby and he said yes and told them where it was. The wife has a master’s in education and grilled the schoolmaster. Convinced that their kids could receive a proper education they wondered where they would live. They went to a nearby real estate agency and were shown a fabulous, and I do mean incredible, three bedroom, three-bathroom, rooftop apartment with three terraces facing the sea. They had to decide that day whether to take the apartment because other people were interested. They signed the rental papers, which were written in Italian, not even knowing what they were signing as the extent of their Italian was “Ciao.” They went home and told their kids, now age 16 and 12, that they were moving, sold their house, their furniture, their cars and the husband quit his job. Within two months they had moved to Italy. Is that incredible or what? After a torturous 6-week period to adapt to Italy (they moved in late July, there was a heat wave and their air conditioning didn’t work) the kids fell in love with their new surroundings. But not every story has a happy ending and sadly the Pohlmans have decided to return to the States in August. Like all the Americans here who don’t earn money in euros, the weak dollar is killing them. The American school costs $20,000 annually for two kids. Prices are as high as Los Angeles. They really don’t want to go but sometimes one has to be sensible when you’re talking about an entire family.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Susan had planned to tell Tim she wanted a divorce as soon as they returned from that fateful business trip. The move to Italy saved their marriage! The couple is still married today and lives in Scottsdale. I know what my two years abroad did for me personally. Multiply that by four and I know, after reading Halfway to Each Other, what it did for the entire Pohlman clan.

Of course I connected with the book because I was able to reminisce about the disorganization of Italy’s bureaucracy when it comes to things like getting a permesso di sigiorno (permit to stay), the lack of air conditioning during the horrific summer of 2003 when record-breaking heat killed thousands throughout Europe, adjusting to grocery shopping, the infamous transportation strikes, parallel parking Italian style, being reluctant to cook for Italians, and the sheer joy of waking up without the stress of being anywhere or having to do anything at any certain time. I laughed out loud while reading this book and teared up at passages relating to the simplistic beauty of tender moments the Pohlmans shared.

Because Susan is brutally honest in her book, it was educational for me, a true singleton, to read about real experiences of the joys and struggles of being married and constantly compromising. She doesn’t sugar coat what marriage or motherhood is.

Susan envies me for being so brave to move to Italy on my own (okay, so I did have Lucia too) but I marvel at what she did with a husband, a teenager and a pre-teen. It was not easy but my goodness, what an experience to savor for the rest of their lives. That family, especially Katie, was forever changed for the better.

If you’re not able to spend a year in Italy like the Pohlmans, do the next best thing and read Halfway to Each Other. You’ll swear you were there. I know I did.

Ciao!

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Filed under Books, economy, Italy, Travel