- Feb 03, 2014
When I first heard about Villa Ananda, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I mean, from their website I could tell that the grounds were gorgeous, and the thought of having a 4-handed massage after morning yoga next to the ocean was definitely enticing. And I’d heard that this was the secret go-to place for supermodels and designers to recover after Fashion Week. But I’d never been anywhere that the main focus was on restoring their guests back to a state of balanced and perfect health (or where their primary focus was health – period!) I’d also never been anywhere that sat me down and listened to my long list of relatively minor health complains and followed that with a completely customized week-long (or three-week long) list of daily spa treatments (including, if I wanted, enemas), fresh teas and food made with ingredients specially formulated to treat my body, and a prescription for relaxation and rest. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. In fact, I had one of the most fulfilling and helpful weeks of my life ahead of me.
Here’s how the week went down, for me. On Day One, we arrived via a non-stop flight from NYC. We were picked up at the airport, and eagerly hopped into the rugged Jeep that would take us to the resort. Taking in sights in along the way, we cruised through the windy and beautiful roads just north of Puerto Vallarta, finally arriving at the private gated community where Villa Ananda is located. Our first thoughts (besides ‘When can we explore the area?’ and ‘Wow, there are a lot of gorgeous vacation homes around here!’) were that it looked a lot more beautiful in person than photos could ever capture. Our second observation was that the energy of the place was immediately relaxing. And not just because we’d escaped the cold and crazy of New York City, but because for decades this health resort has been restoring even their most stressed and crazed guests back to a sense of calm and serenity.
The first thing we did was take our delicious Hibiscus tea and unpack in our Casita (which is basically a little villa on top of the spa, facing a private terrace, and looking right out over the ocean.) Here, everything smells, looks, and feels like a spa. That evening we were treated to our first meal. It was not only super healthy, but also specifically balanced in order to curb my late-night sugar cravings (and, amazingly, it did!)
That night, in a bed so comfortable it rivaled the most plush and luxurious 5-star resorts in the world, sleep came easy.
On Day Two, instead of the typically constant sound of angry drivers honking with the occasional siren sprinkled in, the ocean was the first thing I heard upon waking. It reminded me how lucky I was to be the only journalist in their long history ever invited to stay at, and write about, Villa Ananda. Until now, everything had been word-of-mouth. This made me feel especially good, because Mindy, the owner, saw something in me that told her I would understand what they were doing here – and why.
Check my Facebook page for notification of the next post, where I’ll be filling you in on the rest of my trip.
Love, Hilary xo
- Dec 31, 2013
The first thing that struck me about what we know as “Cancun” is that there are about a hundred thousand foreign tourists here. It reminds me of the Vegas strip in that it’s comprised of one long 16 kilometer road with mega-hotel after mega-hotel lining the beach. And I mean M-E-G-A. Like, absolutely massive. 800 to 1000 rooms massive. If that’s hard to picture, one of these hotels would take up at least twenty city blocks in NYC. Based on the acres, I figured out that our resort would take up about sixty New York city blocks. No, really.
There’s the airport, then there’s one big highway, and nothing anywhere but huge hotels and luxury shopping malls. If you go in a big circle around the “Hotel Zone”, you’ll pass exactly ninety-eight hotels (yeah, 98), any of which make the MGM Grand or Bellagio in Vegas look small. And that’s not including all the other mega-hotels on the way to Tulum (the other way down that highway I mentioned). Read more
- Dec 30, 2013
We touched down in Mexico at 5:30pm on Saturday, reasonably (or so we thought) expecting to be at our hotel within the hour, since it’s only a short 15 minute drive away. Three and a half hours later we were still at the airport.
Let’s start with this: Cancun in high-season is a mad house. Crazy packed. Tons and tons of tourists everywhere you look. Like Vegas on the beach.
Getting off the plane was an hour-long challenge, and once we were finally off the plane, trying to get out of the airport felt like trying to get into Walmart… on Black Friday. Mobs of confused and hurried tourists trying to reach the mega-busses that aimed to take them to The Strip: ie. the narrow slip of land that houses about 80 Vegas-style mega-hotels. This is the first time in my life (aside from Disney World and Vegas) that I’ve gotten to experience this sort of hotel and scene.
- Dec 20, 2013
As I write this, I’m crammed into a tiny economy seat on a sold-out American Airlines flight because yesterday’s flight got cancelled. As many frequent travelers know, and I’ve certainly been reminded over the years, there are huge differences between airlines, first class cabins, and airplanes. Below are my preferences and tips, based on my experiences so far:
- Dec 16, 2013
When we were stranded in Palm Beach, Florida because our flight was canceled this week, Kathryn and Bonnie (thank you!) at The Breakers saved us by giving us a fabulous room at a great media rate (because I wrote an article about The Breakers on a previous visit). It was a very nostalgic end to our Florida trip because The Breakers was Mike & my first trip together, so it’ll always have a special place in our heart. That, and because the whole experience is so impeccable each time, that we are constantly gushing over the incredible decor, perfect service, and gorgeous grounds and architecture.
I love everything Christmas: the music, the decor, the spirit. So I was super happy to see tons of it at The Breakers. Like the two massive Christmas trees in the lobby (which we did the obligatory photo in front of) and lots of accents all over the building.
When we got to our room, we found a nice little surprise: Read more
- Dec 11, 2013
I’m still in Florida visiting family. It’s been fun so far. We’re in a bungalow on the beach, which makes me wish I actually lived on the beach the rest of the time. Listening to the ocean –and watching it– is so super relaxing.
My super sweet aunt Linda Collie lives a quick drive from the bungalow we’re renting, and she feeds and lets people stay (for free) at a guest house in Florida and in North Carolina in exchange for gardening help, through a program called HelpX… she just got this review, which is really heartwarming: Read more
- Dec 09, 2013
Mike and I flew to Florida on Saturday for our yearly family trip. Every December at around this time, my parents, and now Mike and I, meet up in Palm Beach and rent a bungalow on the beach. I’m very fortunate to have a super close relationship with my parents (and my brother Simon, who lives in Toronto), so it’s always a treat to hang with them for a week. Luckily, Mike gets along with them as if he was their own son.
On Sunday, we headed down to Art Basel in Miami to check out a couple of art exhibitions we love: Pulse and Scope. Just the two of them take at least six hours to go through, and are enough to exhaust me. There are so many shows going on during Art Basel that it’s a bit overwhelming. Some are exciting and some are underwhelming, and unless you have recommendations, it’s hard to know which ones to go to. If you have any recommendations for next year, please let me know!
South Beach is a rowdy place. It’s become a very commercial destination that lacks the warmth and character of many other vacation spots in this country. There’s an all-day aggressive party atmosphere that I wasn’t anticipating. It struck me as the kind of place people go when they’ve given up on finding their match on Grinder or Tinder. The streets are filled with people sucking on bowl-size margaritas, getting sloppy drunk and unabashedly gawking at naked go-go dancers who are shaking their backside to thumping club beats, seeking attention from anyone who cares to look. Read more
- Dec 04, 2013
This past weekend my hubby and I were invited to stay at The Mayflower Inn & Spa for a few nights. I was super excited, of course, because I’d heard from several people that it’s one of the best hotels in the country. What I didn’t expect is that the spa would be world-class as well.
The moment we arrived and stepped into the overwhelmingly luxurious lobby, with several cozy sitting rooms to our right and left, we realized that this hotel is one of those where it has to be seen to be believed. No website, video or photos could ever do the property justice, because the luxury of the Mayflower is not only in the details, but in the ambiance.
We decided that it’d be fun to stay in two different rooms (both in the Allerton building, next to the spa), in an effort to trick our minds into thinking our stay was a bit longer (I’d live at the Mayflower if I could!) Here are some photos:
The hotel’s decor can be summed up in two words: Glamorous Luxury. Embroidered silks everywhere, Frette everything, heated bathroom floors… you get the picture. We basically wanted to lock ourselves in the room for our entire stay (and we almost did – ordering room service twice and watching more movies than I’d like to admit) Read more
- Nov 25, 2013
I woke up this morning wishing I was still at the Windham Hill Inn. We spent the past weekend at this charming Vermont B&B, and felt as if we were a thousand miles from home.
Luckily, a reader suggested I start doing videos, and I took his advice, so I can re-live the Windham Hill Inn experience a little bit. Let me know what you think of my first video, and if you have suggestions for me:
Windham Hill Inn is nestled in the valley of the green mountains. Our room felt as if we were in the biggest and most luxurious tree house imaginable. The bed was made of wood, the wallpaper reminded me of a Ralph Lauren-style smoking den, and it was super spacious, with two lounging areas and a bathtub in the main room.
With lots of big windows, we woke up to breathtaking views, a crackling fire, and overwhelming excitement about the cuisine that awaited us.
This boutique hotel is known for Read more
- Nov 22, 2013
Mike and I have both been working super hard lately, so when a great boutique hotel in the mountains invited us to stay, we jumped at the opportunity. It’s about a 4 hour drive from NYC, so we jumped in the car yesterday at around noon, put Sirius on the Christmas music station (yes, I’m one of those people), and headed out. Within in an hour we realized that we’re actually super hungry, and stopped in Greenwich Connecticut. I’d never been before, but I’d hear it’s a lot like the Hamptons. I only really checked out the main street, but yeah, it’s like the Hamptons on steroids. Every shop you could imagine, from Saks, to Tiffany & Co., to Rag & Bone… this town is set up for shopping.
- Oct 16, 2013
When I tell people I’m from Canada, I’m often asked what Toronto is like. To the naked eye, it’s not all that different. It’s got great restaurants, Broadway and off-Broadway theater, a subway system, a couple of airports, lots of tall glass buildings, and everything else you’d expect the biggest city in Canada to have.
But then you look a little closer, and you notice that, oddly, the streets are really clean. Why? Because the vast majority of Canadians subscribe to the philosophy that they share the space with other people, and they’re not the center of the universe, so therefore they should hold on to their trash until they find a garbage bin.
Here are a few more examples of typical Torontonian behavior that I experienced during this trip: Read more
- Oct 15, 2013
There’s something very comforting about going home for the holidays to the house, and town, you grew up in. The fact that everything still looks basically the same (or better) gives one a warming sense of stability.
I’d like to share my home with you, or rather, the home I grew up in. My mother was the architect and general contractor (so impressive since she’s definitely neither by trade), and my parents put this house together, brick by tile, as I was growing up.
Outside of Welcome, down several winding roads lined by trees and fields with cattle grazing, you’ll find a black mailbox marked Rowland. As you turn down the driveway, you’ll make several turns before you begin to see our blue house through the trees. As you come around another corner, you’ll see this:
One of my favorite things to do while home is to feed the many animals that Read more
- Oct 12, 2013
Two days ago I packed a bag, got on a Porter* flight, and flew into Toronto, Canada, to visit my parents for Thanksgiving. I actually grew up a couple of hours outside of Toronto, on Lake Ontario, about 20 minutes from a little town called Port Hope. Actually, the “town” closest to where I grew up is called “Welcome” (no, really!) and has exactly one stoplight and one store (well, in keeping with full disclosure, it’s really just a gas station with some candy bars and pop – yes, that means soda in Canada-speak).
So here I am, back in farm-country Canada, in my old room where I grew up. The weirdest feeling is Read more