img_2445 Do you feel lucky?

Jeff certainly did several months ago when he attended a charity event in London.  The way he tells it, he just felt like a winner that night.  In fact, he was so sure of success that when he was given a card for the raffle, he declined to fill it out completely and opted instead for one word: DISH.  He was clearly having a “Cher moment”.

Later that evening, the Auctioneer had a confused look at his face as he pulled out a card from the hundreds stuffed within the raffle container, held it up, cocked his head sideways, and asked as if uncertain, “Dish?

And so begins our adventure.

The prize that night was a weekend aboard The Wellesley, a 180 foot yacht in the South of France.

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For perspective, I once won a raffle at the cineplex in New Jersey when I was about 12 years old.  I sat in the dim movie theater as a person announced a number that matched my ticket stub.  I was too embarrassed to get up and claim my prize — a pack of Twizzlers.

This was WAY better than licorice!  Sweeter and more satisfying in every way.

We booked our trip for the last weekend of September to coincide with the annual sailing regatta, Les Voiles, which marks the end of the season in St. Tropez.  We left a crisp cool climate in England to prolong the summer with sunshine and heat worthy of bikinis in the south of France.

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Upon seeing the yacht in the harbour of Cannes, we all gasped at its grandeur, immediately conveying (if it weren’t already painfully obvious) that we were not Russian oligarchs or Hollywood royalty used to traveling in such style. Our mouths stayed agape as we wandered through the beautiful and well appointed staterooms, lounge areas, and deck spaces throughout.  Though confined by definition, it was possible to get lost aboard this vast vessel!

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We boarded in Cannes and took a brief cruise to the waters just outside St. Tropez.  The Wellesley was too large to fit in the slips near the harbour that were occupied by sailing boats of all shapes and sizes.  However, we travelled in style aboard the “dinghy” that was actually a proper water craft and not the meager inflatable raft I usually associate with the term.

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We roamed St. Tropez by day and night, drinking too much champagne at the legendary club, Les Caves du Roy at the hotel Byblos.

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Though quite honestly, it was hard to remove ourselves from our luxurious world on board The Wellesley.  Days were lazy as we awakened to fresh bread baked daily by the Michelin-starred chef who came with the yacht.  We lounged in the various deck areas where one of the many staff members was always on hand to refill a glass. This was helpful because the weekend’s motto was “rosé all day!”

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Lunches and dinners were extravagant affairs with table decor, linens, and flowers arranged specially for every meal. Flat screen TVs, a cigar room, an outdoor hot tub, water toys, and comfy deck chairs kept up happy on board in our 5+ star accommodations.

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The fantasy weekend passed all too quickly, and by Sunday we found ourselves ashore in Cannes, enjoying one last lunch beneath the beaming sunshine at the Hotel Martinez waterfront.

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As you can imagine, on a boat that size, you do not feel the swells of the ocean.  But, once I disembarked, my sea legs were wobbly, and I was surprised to feel like I was swaying in place for days after my return.  I can only imagine what a full week aboard The Wellesley would do to my equilibrium.  But something tells me it would be well worth it.

Boats are always referred to by female gender.  And as luck literally would have it, ours was a true beauty.

If “Luck be a lady” as Frank once crooned,

her name is Wellesley.

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The sun sets on another summer.

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Americans have returned from the beach after Labor Day. The Brits have escaped for their last summer Bank Holiday.  And so it is officially time to put my white jeans into storage.

In late August, our family spent four days together in Santorini, a picturesque Greek island populated with over 500 churches, all painted white and blue with simple crosses that stand out against the cloudless skies.  Every view was postcard-perfect.

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Here we joined together at last after spending most of the summer apart.  We took advantage of family time and set sail for a tour along the jagged coastline of the beautiful caldera, swam in the warm sea and burned our feet on the black volcanic sand, and hiked from Fira to Oia along a dusty path trailed by a wayward dog.

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Meals were leisurely and usually spent overlooking the sea.  Waves nearly washed up on our feet when we visited the small fishing village of Ammoudi, beneath the hills of Oia.  Here we ordered an obscenely large lobster, our eyes bigger than our bellies as we barely made a dent in the house specialty of lobster with homemade fettuccine.

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Donkeys were on hand to make the trip back up the steep hill for those who could not face the climb after a long lunch. Rather than hike up, we jumped off.  The rock perch made famous in the movie, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, was a perfect place for Jeff and the girls to launch into the sea to cool down.

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Speaking of movies, Mamma Mia was playing at the outdoor cinema in Fira. We  strolled into town one night, ordered a bottle of wine, and sat beneath the stars as Meryl Streep and the cast sang and danced through scenic Greece.  The locals in the audience enhanced the soundtrack by singing along and nearly jumping out of their seats during the rendition of Dancing Queen. I have never enjoyed a movie more.

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Known for its majestic sunsets, Santorini was the perfect place to enjoy the last days summer, watching the sun dip beneath the ocean and set the sky ablaze.

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September rolled in, and the girls returned to school. Katie hit the ground running at college and Jackie raced into the sprint of her Senior year of high school. During the first week at the American School, Jackie participated in the wonderful tradition of Senior Sunrise.  Awakening at 5:30 am, she and her classmates set out for the top of Primrose Hill to watch the sun rise over London, symbolic of the beginning of their year together.

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From sunset to sunrise, with endings come new beginnings.

 

 

 

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I was going to Ibiza with two couples for two days.

That was the plan….or so I thought.

SURPRISE!

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I looked up, incredulous at the sight of all my friends huddled around the tiki bar, cocktails in hand and smiles on faces.

In shock, I exclaimed:  WHAT?  WHY?

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It’s not my birthday (yet).  It’s not my anniversary.

But it is Jeff’s and my 100th birthday.  49 + 51 = 100

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And so, Jeff surprised me with a hedonistic getaway to Ibiza with 16 couples who are near and dear to our hearts.  Over the course of five fantastic days, we lived up to Ibiza’s reputation as the ultimate party island.

Ibiza is a bit like a misunderstood frat boy.  It is all party on the outside, but has hidden depth and beauty within.

Our hotel, Atzaro, was an oasis of lush fauna, hidden pools, organic gardens, and meditative tranquility.  It was nestled up in the hills away from the brash party scene in the center of town near the beach.

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We kicked off our first night at Lio.  This famous club is like the perfect cocktail of one part Vegas flesh & flash blended with two parts cabaret club song & dance with a dash of Cirque du Soleil.

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Tuxedo clad men balanced jeroboams of rosé over their shoulders and expertly poured this “pink water” throughout the evening.  Scantily dressed cocktail waitresses strutted among the tables as if they were Victoria Secret models on the runway.  Stiletto-heeled fishnet-legged dancers seductively sashayed on a stage that kept moving across an indoor pool.  Spotlights illuminated singers who belted out pop tunes and golden oldies as if they were vying for American Idol.  A contortionist showcased his impressive naked torso as he hurled himself up and balanced with one hand on the head of a mannequin.

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As the show roared to a crescendo, a boat suddenly appeared on the adjacent sea  filled with blaring music, gyrating dancers, a technicolor light show, and the master of ceremonies.  It moored next to the club as entertainers took to the stage for an incredible Finale performance.

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Women swathed in short silk kimonos appeared at our table to provide shoulder massages to further relax and invigorate our party.  This was just what the doctor ordered to keep us limber for the dancing that followed as the tables cleared and the DJs spun discs of music so loud that you could feel the vibrations pulsing throughout your body.  Then another bar literally lifted out of the floor with women perched in stilettos on the counter shimmying as it slowly rose to the surface!

How do you follow up an evening like that?  One word:  PACHA.

This is the famous nightclub in which David Guetta performs every Thursday night.  If you don’t know who that is, ask your kids.  His show is called, “F**k Me I’m Famous“.  So much for subtlety.  But then again Ibiza is nothing if not brash.

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Dressed in our best hippie chic attire, we arrived at 1:00 am, way past my bedtime, to catch a glimpse of the famous nightclub in action.  We were wisked past the kitchen into a private section with clear views of the DJ box across a jam-packed dance floor.  Once again, women seductively danced in various locations confined by “cages” of fluorescent light rays.  And again, enormous bottles of vodka, champagne, and wine flowed with ease.  The kimono clad masseuse girls reappeared as well.

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The music was dominated by a strong thumping bass in that incessant beat that both deafens you and permeates you simultaneously. I know I sound my age, but I did not act it!  When we were told that David Guetta doesn’t begin his show until 3:00 am, we all made an unspoken pact to hang in there.

When he finally entered the DJ box and put on his headphones, it was as if God himself had appeared.  An apt analogy as Guetta literally acted as a kind of DJ deity as he held his hands up to encourage worship among his dancing disciples.

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The crowd went insane: arms swaying above heads, iPhones aloft capturing every moment, mouths gaping and screaming at the same time.  Guetta was mesmerizing and created an energy that radiated beyond the techno light show and frequent blasts of ambient steam.  He was accompanied by an entourage of long-haired guys and big bosomed gals who kept patting him on the back, hugging him, shaking his hand and paying homage to the maestro in his element.

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We stumbled out of the club some time @5:30 a.m., and one of our gang remembers hearing a rooster crow as he unlocked his door and wearily collapsed on the bed.

You would think we would sleep in and recover after two such nights, but there was no rest for the weary on this jam-packed holiday.  We were up and out on the trail the next several mornings for 10:00 am hikes along the coast.  Here we experienced the other side of Ibiza.  Like nearby Majorca, Ibiza is blessed with rustic terrain, craggy cliffs, turquoise pools, and stunning scenic beauty.

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As the unrelenting sun beat down, our hikes became a bit of a death march to see who could endure as the alcohol leaked out of our pores and mingled with the sweat of exertion. Some fared better than others, but we all survived.  After all, lunch was waiting!

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Meals were noteworthy on this trip for their variety.  We dined barefoot on the sand in a casual family-run restaurant on the island of Formentera after enjoying a lazy sail across the sea.  We ladled briny seafood paella onto colorful local crockery at a seaside El Carmen restaurant perched above the beach overlooking a dormant volcano.

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We enjoyed delicious tapas in historic Old Town and Italian specialties in the charming village of Santa Gertrudis.  All of which we washed down with giant bottles of rosé.

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We dined in our hotel at a long table embellished with vibrant fresh flowers beneath a canopied trellis of fauna and fairy lights.  Every setting was magical in its own way.

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But none could top the evening we kayaked into a private cove in San Miguel at sunset.  We could hear the flamenco guitar lilting in the air as our paddles cut through the calm waters.  We disembarked on a crescent shaped beach with oriental carpets draped across the sand.  Moroccan poufs provided seating in front of the live music ensemble serenading us with traditional Spanish melodies.

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A make-shift changing station of gauzy white curtains blowing in the breeze provided privacy as we changed out of our swimsuits and into the all-white attire that was the dress code for the evening.

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A shack served a fully stocked bar and a large BBQ pit was covered in sizzling vegetables, chorizo, chicken, meat, and potatoes.   We mingled over drinks until @11:00 when we finally decided to take our seats for dinner, observing the Spanish tradition of dining late into the evening.

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Our long table was furnished with small vases of flowers and feathers, festooned with twinkling fairy lights, and set aglow with tea candles.  It was truly the most enchanting scene I have ever experienced.

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On our last day, we visited a local market in the morning, finding trinkets and clothing among the stalls of local artisans.

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Then we headed out to the infamous Blue Marlin, essentially a nightclub on the beach.  A prominently centered DJ booth kept the tunes blaring for the diverse crowd that defied easy definition: tattooed beefy guys, bikini busting breasty young women, Russian zillionaires, preppy families, and our gang mingled under the sun.

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Among this motley crew, we retired to our reserved daybeds on the beach, complete with bottle service of every variety.  We swam in the sea, lounged in the sun, and sipped whatever they were serving.  Sometime around 6:00 p.m. we sensed a shift in dynamics; the music got louder and the crowd got rowdier as the heels grew taller and the clothes skimpier.  After proving our mettle at Lio and Pacha, we didn’t feel the need for a command performance.

And so our trip regretfully came to an end.  Above all the glorious scenery, the wild nightlife, and the delicious meals was the incredible camaraderie.  Nothing tops that.  Old friends mingled seamlessly with new ones.

Jeff and I have 100 years between us, and to mark the occasion Jeff certainly pulled off the party of the century.  It will be hard to beat.  But I know we’ll try, and I hope every one of our friends will be there to celebrate with us.

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When I was in Business School, I was known to frequently shout out among my friends in unabashed emotion, “I LOVE YOU GUYS!

That still sums it up.

Because as the saying goes,

All you need is… 

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Attired for Ascot

June 23, 2016

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. — Mark Twain Sometimes clothes make the entire event. Jeff and I attended Royal Ascot for the first time this June.  We were invited on the First Day, and despite drippy weather, nothing could dampen our spirits. The Ascot invitation was accompanied by a […]

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Express Paris

June 3, 2016

The challenge: See Paris in less than 24 hours. Can it be done? You might hunch your shoulders, scrunch your nose and haughtily exclaim: Mais non.  C’est impossible! I say: Game on! I recently left London early Thursday morning and arrived in Paris mid-afternoon.  My hours in this glorious city were numbered.  I had one […]

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Flower Power

June 1, 2016

Memorial Day always does what is meant to do – it makes me remember. That Monday always provokes homesickness from abroad.  I miss the barbecues, the flags, the camaraderie of home. My brother sent me a link to Shakespeare’s famed St. Crispin’s Day speech which ran in the NY Post on Monday.  It made me […]

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The Mom Move

May 31, 2016

You all know it.  You’ve all done it.   Probably thousands of times. I can remember riding in “Big Bertha”, our ridiculously elongated blue station wagon kitted out with wooden side panels. I was in the front seat, wearing no belt (this was the ’70s).  Every time my mother stopped short, her arm flew across my chest […]

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All Hail Hadrian!

May 16, 2016

It took an ancient Roman army over a decade to build Hadrian’s Wall.   It took a group of London ladies three days to walk nearly half of it. Construction of Hadrian’s Wall was begun in 122 AD on the order of the Roman emperor, Hadrian, in an effort to separate Britain from the barbarians.  The wall runs […]

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Rounding the Tring Circular

May 5, 2016

Here we go round again. The expat whirl can be dizzying.  There is an intrinsic excitement to life in a foreign place.  Your days become enchanted as you hop on and off the merry-go-round of museums, castles, gardens, and countless other cultural adventures. After five years in London, I sometimes lose the starry-eyed wonder that […]

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Here Comes the Bride

April 25, 2016

This weekend I went to a wedding. It was the first wedding I’ve been to in about fifteen years.  More importantly, it was the first wedding I’ve been to in which a friend’s daughter was the bride. It felt a bit surreal to be at this milestone.  This was different than when Katie and Jackie used to play […]

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