red, red rocks

IMG_1750Red Rocks, the famous concert venue outside of Denver, was the reason behind my Colorado excursion and the capstone to this trip. (Click the bottom image for greater, groovy, detail.) The natural sandstone amphitheater has long been on my bucket list of places I need to see – and to hear a concert, of course. As a sensory experience and a spectacle it more than lived up to expectations. Firstly, you don’t just show up at the theater to hear some music: you park in a dirt field and then you hike. You hike up. And up and up and up. Red Rocks is set within the confines of a state park – the better to preserve its mystical aloofness. But what makes it so special is also what happens to make it rather inconvenient. An afternoon of steady showers did not help matters. Yet the rain let up just as I laid out ten bucks for a bin liner poncho, and the overcast sky cracked open with beams of sunlight. While the opening band played, the sun began to set and the sheer walls of rock on either side of the seating bowl radiated its flare. Once the stage lights outweighed the ambient light, the sandstone, lit from below, glowed orange, red, and purple. The atmosphere ripened into something otherworldly, like a concert on Mars: the lights of downtown Denver visible on the horizon, a deep blue sky lit up by stars, and the jarring and perfect summer sound of Vampire Weekend pulsing through space.IMG_1737


bucket list: 2010

Despite a little personal upheaval – and some surgery which kept me housebound for a while – 2010 has been another good year for travel.  I  revisited a number of old haunts and at times found myself amid familiar surroundings in a completely different context.  While I was able to get up to a few new adventures – and cross a few countries off the bucket list – the year, in retrospect, seems to have had an interesting theme: re-exploration.  Despite the number of return visits this year, I found myself seeing places as if for the first time.  I guess shifting perspectives will do that to you.  A little up-ending, it turns out, goes a long way towards reinforcing what it is I love about travel:  the adventure, chase, and sense of discovery.

In what is now officially an annual holiday tradition, I’ll be spending the next “Twelve days of Christmas” looking back.  So light the fire, grab your cocoa, and cuddle up to the year that was.


bucket list: 2009 edition – April


montauk lighthouse

MONTAUK:  April is indeed the cruellest month. (“mixing memory with desire…” thank you, T.S. Eliot)  And also a light one for travel this year.  However, I fulfilled a childhood wish by getting out to Gurney’s Inn and Spa in Montauk.  Now you need to understand that growing up on the east end of Long Island, the ads for Gurney’s that ran in the NY Times Magazine and Newsday were a touchstone for me.  They exuded a carefree, sun-bleached elegance that epitomized (to me) an aspirational moneyed style to which I’d like to become accustomed.  Little did I know deceptive they were!  I’m not one to trash talk – though the idea has crossed my mind many times – but let’s just say that no place could effectively live up to the fantasy I had built up in my mind.  And despite a breathtakingly isolated stretch of beach on the tip of Long Island, Gurney’s proved no exception.


bucket list: 2009 edition – March


2009-10-24 16.31.53

ATLANTIC CITY:  I know this is not the picture one expects to see when thinking about the East Coast version of Sin City.  Yet for me, the expanse of water – virtually ignored by everyone else – is the chief attraction in the off season. Well, that and the seedy Monopoly streets like Atlantic and Pacific, where alternating storefronts promise you live bare breasts and a good price for your gold jewelry.

ou est la rue

PARIS:  Who doesn’t like to get a random call like the one I got earlier in the year:  “Hey Michael, I have a spare ticket to Paris.  Why don’t you go?”   Honestly, that’s like asking a diabetic if they want a big bar of chocolate.  Of course I went;  spending a long weekend (without a map!) in the city that never fails to let me in on a secret each time I visit.  And speaking of surprises, I stayed in the 8th at a sleek, chic – get this – Hilton; the Hilton Arc de Triomphe, which sails with the style and grace of a vintage Art Deco cruise ship.  I told you: Paris never fails to astonish me.


bucket list: 2009 edition – January

images2009 has been a banner year for the bucket list.  There was some strange confluence of events that made it not only my biggest year for freelance writing gigs, but also a superlative year for getting the chance to experience a host of things I’d been wanting to do for some time.  So rather than kick off the merry month of December by counting down the 12 days of Christmas, I’m going to take this time to briefly look back on 12 months of fortuitous travel.  Ho, ho, ho.


Ireland sunrise 2

IRELAND:  Despite the bone-chilling cold and broken water pipes, greeting the first sunrise of 2009 as it dawned over Carlingford Loch and the mountains of Mourne was the perfect start to the year.  I had friends from Ireland and America over to the house for a bust-up party made even more special by the surprise absence of running water.


SCOTTSDALE:  I wanted to see stars in an unblemished desert sky and finally got the chance to do so while staying at Scottsdale’s venerable Camelback Inn.  It recently put the finishing touches on a two-year renovation that involved virtually every aspect of a resort that’s hosted a Who’s Who of famous faces since opening in the 1930’s.  As a bonus, there was the trek up the twin peaks of Camelback Mountain – seen here from the pool in my over-the-top suite.


SINT MAARTEN:  Having visited the dirty, down-at-heel Dutch side of St. Maarten the year before, I knew it was a place I need never revisit.  Yet an opportunity to check out the French side of the bi-national island in the dregs of a New York winter was too good to pass up.  I’m glad I jumped:  I discovered an experience more akin to St. Tropez than your bog-standard Caribbean island.  Even the Radisson here had an unexpected panache.  And the food….mon dieu!


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