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Jan Schroder

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5 Cities for Tennis Fans in the U.S.

Considering the country hosts one of the four major tournaments in a Grand Slam calendar year, the United States is a legitimate hotbed for tennis. According to an article on Tennis Industry Association, the game’s participation continues to grow in the country. As a matter of fact, of the estimated 17.9 million tennis athletes in 2014, 14 million of those are Americans who are participating in the sport.

There is no denying that the US, and most of its major cities, is borderline obsessed with tennis. While some primarily focus on team sports such as baseball, football, and basketball, others are somewhat hooked to an individual game that uses a simple racket and a neon green ball. With that                                                                               being said, here are the best cities for tennis in the United States.

1. Of course New York has to be first on the list, as it has been the host city of the US Open since 1978. During the summer, players in the five boroughs in and around the Big Apple flock to neighborhood parks to enjoy the sport either casually or competitively. Cross X Court even went as far as saying that playing tennis in New York is an art form.

 

 

 

2. Another East Coast city that has a rich tennis history is Chicago. It is home to The Midtown Athletic Club, one of the most iconic sporting facilities in the United States, making it a bona fide tennis center. Despite having harsh winters and owning the nickname “Windy City,” Play Your Court describes Chicago as an “awesome tennis town” mainly due to its abundance of active players and participation rates all year round.

 

 

3. San Diego‘s temperate climate is perfect for playing or learning tennis. Locals also love watching live tournament matches, bearing in mind the Aviators WTT franchise led by Bryan brothers and Daniela Hantuchova has represented the city well over the years. When it comes to facilities, the most popular would probably be the tennis club in Balboa Park, as it is home to 24 hard courts with a 4,000 seating capacity.

 

 

4. From upcoming junior players to certified tennis greats, Los Angeles embodies every level of the sport. Big universities such as UCLA and USC dominate the NCAA Division I tennis landscape, boasting a handful of nationally ranked names. This only proves that the city is more than just home to the LA Lakers, the LA Dodgers, and Hollywood.

 

 

 

5. With arguably one of the biggest USTA chapters in the United States, many deem Atlanta as a dynamic tennis community. The city hones players right from junior level, nurturing them to become better people overall and imparting the fundamentals of the sport. Furthermore, ATL holds well-known events such as the BB&T Atlanta Open, a men’s pro tournament that has past champions including homegrown players Andy Roddick and John Isner.

This is a guest post. I hope you enjoyed it!

Guns and Roses: 5 Reasons to Love Barnsley Resort

Guests can arrange just about any type of special event for small groups or large. We enjoyed a bourbon tasting one evening on the lawn with Blake Black, bartender extraordinaire, who rose to our challenge to create a new drink – the peach old-fashioned.

I can’t sing. I can’t draw. And I can’t arrange flowers to save my life, despite my garden club membership. (I’m the token remedial member.) I can now add shooting, golfing and fly fishing to the list of things I have no natural talent for.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy all those things, and love getting a chance to give it a go. That’s one of the reasons I love Barnsley Resort, a 3,000-acre resort about an hour from Atlanta. I tried my sometimes unsteady hand at several new activities and indulged in old favorites as well on a recent getaway.

And those are just a few of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with this charming property. Here are all five:

Skip Smith showing me how to hold and shoot a gun. If any sporting clays ever attack me, I’m ready.
  1. The Chance to Try New Things 

The itinerary for our “Annie Get Your Fun” girlfriends getaway included lessons with experts on shooting clays, fly fishing and golf. Three things all our instructors had in common were a great deal of knowledge about their sport, patience with a group of novice women and the ability to teach well.

For our venture with SpringBank Sporting Club at Barnsley, one of the top facilities in the country, we drove to course in the woods and gathered in a covered five-stand layout. (Impressed with my lingo?) We got a safety lesson that included how to hold a gun – a first for some of us. We then put on our safety goggles and ear plugs and under the expert tutelage of our instructors, proceeded to shoot at flying orange clays, with loud blasts closely followed by squeals of delight when one of us hit one.

The course includes a five-station Executive Course and 26-station course where you simulate shooting game like quail and rabbits. We made our way around a few stations, with our instructors patiently guiding us as we hefted the shotguns and took aim at the darting orange discs, missing way more than we hit.

We whacked hundreds of balls on the driving range during our lesson. I’m not sure I’ll ever take up golf, as my favorite part is still zipping around in the golf cart.

The fly fishing lesson was much quieter, as we practiced casting flies on the large pond, aiming to place a straight line on the water. Time didn’t allow us a full fly fishing experience, but several options are available. We admired the trays full of carefully crafted flies, many blinged out, and learned that rather than call them pretty, we should compliment them by calling them buggy. A decidedly more manly term.

Another morning we jumped on new tricked-out golf carts and hit the Fazio-designed course for our golf lesson, starting first on the driving range. While those pros at The Masters make it look so effortless, we found it a bit more challenging to make that ball soar towards the hole. It was fun to take a whack at a huge stack of balls, resolving each time as zillions of golfers have before us, to do better with the next shot. 

  1. The Chance to Indulge in Activities I Love

 In between all that shootin, golfin’ and fishin’ there was plenty of time to relax and enjoy some of my favorite activities. Activities include hiking on the many wooded trails, kayaking on the ponds, playing bocce, tennis, horseshoes or disc golf, lounging in the pool or enjoying a cold one at the Beer Garden. A trip to the spa helps soothe any aching muscles, while evenings spent relaxing on Adirondack chairs on the lawn are a favorite memory for me.

Guests can grab makings for s’mores from the lobby and toast the night away in more ways than one.

  1. My home during my stay at Barnsley. I had a swing on the front porch and a couple of chairs on the back to indulge in one of my favorite activities – porch sittin’.

    The Charming Cottages 

With claw-foot tubs, writing desk, huge deluxe bed, wet bar and comfortable seating options, the cottages at Barnsley are some of my favorite accommodations anywhere. There’s plenty of room to spread out, work if necessary, and even room in the tub for two on those romantic weekends. Oh, and did I mention the fireplace? On a previous trip with my husband, we enjoyed a room-service dinner by the fireplace for a delightful evening on a chilly, rainy night.

Barnsley has 90 cottage guest rooms and suites, arranged in tree-lined lanes that lend it a small village feel. There are six multi-room Estate Cottages if you’re traveling with a group. More options are coming within the year when the new three-story, 55-room Inn at Barnsley Resort opens.

  1. Barnsley’s History and Ruins
We had cocktails by the fire followed by dinner in the Manor House Ruins one evening, a simply enchanting night.

Speaking of romance, Barnsley’s very existence stems from a love story.

We learned this and more from historian Clent Coker, who regaled us with stories of Barnsley, a passion of his since he was a boy growing up in the area. He has written a book on Barnsley, “Barnsley Gardens at Woodlands,” and supplied historical photos for the small museum housed in the ruins.

We enjoyed meals in Woodlands Grill and a memorable pig roast in the Beer Garden. One morning at Woodlands I ordered this cathead biscuit, big enough for three meals.

Originally called Woodlands, the estate was built by Godfrey Barnsley for his bride Julia in the 1840s. But Julia and their infant son died before the house was finished. He completed the home and ornate gardens, and his family lived there for generations.

Despite damage caused by Yankees during the Civil War, the house and family remained. But in 1906 a tornado left the house in ruins. A new owner restored the property and opened it as Barnsley Gardens in 1991. He made the wise decision to keep the Manor House Ruins, now one of the most popular spots for events on the property.

The love stories continue as many couples begin their married life on adjacent lawns of this enchanted venue.

The heirloom gardens are spectacular, and include 200 varieties of roses. The more knowledgable members of my garden club could even identify a few of them. If you aren’t able to stay in Barnsley overnight, day tours of the gardens are available.

  1. The Getaway-From-It-All Factor 
Preparations for a pig roast in the Beer Garden. We had pig, fried chicken, Brunswick Stew and fried catfish. They know how to cook at Barnsley.

I’ve always been a city girl. When my brownie troup went to visit a dairy, our photo was in a local paper with the headline, “City Girls See Cow.”

But living in a city has a certain stress factor, especially for a writer with constant deadlines. And more so now in Atlanta where the highways seemed to have gathered in revolt with some bizarre new closure every few days.

A visit to Barnsley from Atlanta is a quick and easy antidote to stress, and worth the longer travel time from other parts of the country.

When I drive through the gates and am greeted by the friendly staff, I can take a deep breath. And relax. Exactly what I’m looking for in a getaway.

Make Easy Flavored Water for Hydration and Health

Refreshing cherry lemonade made in a Fruition water bottle. (Photo courtesy of Fruition bottle)

I gave up diet drinks, and am trying to cut down on wine consumption  (the struggle is real!), so sparkling water is my drink of choice. I also enjoy flavoring my water with cucumber, mint and lemon. Apparently that combination has a lot of health benefits in addition to being refreshing and delicious. But I didn’t love the texture of the pulp and the mint leaves getting stuck in my teeth.

Now I’m using the Fruition fruit-infusing water bottle. It has a basket on the bottom that I place the ingredients in. Then I press on the bottom to give it all an extra squeeze. Now I have infused water ready to go. The bottle is BPA-free and all the parts can go in the dishwasher.

I throw in a few slices of cucumber, several leaves of mint and a half of a lemon or more, as I love lemon juice although the tips say if you use lemon, try to keep it to a quarter of the other ingredients as it tends to take over the show so I should probably give the flavors of the mint and cucumber a chance to come through.

Here’s another recipe from the Fruition website I want to try.

Orange, Grapefruit Citrus Detox 

1/2 orange, in wedges
1/2 grapefruit, in wedges

Add orange and grapefruit to the fruit basket, place the filter and attach to the bottle. Fill up the bottle up with iced water and screw on the lid. Squeeze the bottom to inject some flavor.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Hotel Review: IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraiso

The quiet pool at IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraiso

Oh, how inviting that lazy river looked. But I was just lazy enough to never make it over to IBEROSTAR Paraiso Lindo, a sister property of IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraiso in  Riviera Maya, Mexico, where I was a guest.

Located in a complex with four other resorts, Grand Hotel extends privileges at the other resorts to all its guests. But those who enjoy the stellar service, 24-hour room service, quiet pool, adults-only atmosphere and fine dining at Grand Hotel may not find a need to venture farther.

Flowers in one of the common areas.

Should they desire to dine in any of the 17 additional restaurants, take a seat at one of the 16 bars or visit the variety of pools in the the Paraíso Complex they are welcome. While I enjoyed taking a tour of the other properties, I preferred to park myself in a large comfy lounge chair on the beach and revel in my own form of laziness. Here are several other things to enjoy about this luxurious resort.

Getting There: Located about 30 minutes from the Cancun Airport, IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Paraiso is an easy long weekend getaway for East Coasters.

I slept so well in this room, as it’s pitch black with the curtains closed.

Accommodations: My oceanside room was spacious, decorated in shades of orange and beige, with a large balcony and just steps from the beach. The property has 120 oceanfront suites, 180 suites overlooking the gardens or ocean, 10 secluded villas and two presidential suites.

The large marble bathroom had two large sinks and a large Jacuzzi tub, big enough for two. The only part I didn’t like was the see-through door for the toilet – never a fan of those.

There was always a lounge chair with a fresh yellow towel waiting for me.

The Beach and Ocean: The resort is on a long beach with fine, white sand. There was a lot of seaweed in the ocean and a few rocks, so the water was more suitable for viewing than swimming.

Décor: The décor in the hotel is stunning, and I kept stopping in my tracks to stare at the beautifully painted ceilings. Beyond the first lobby is a large round tropical space with lush greenery and sitting area in the middle. Fresh flowers are found in all the lobby areas. A particular favorite of mine was the martini-glass tiled floor in the lobby bar

Pools and Spa: The main pool closer to the ocean is the place to hang if you’re looking for pool games and the swim-up bar. For a quieter atmosphere, try the next pool up – still large with plenty of cabanas, but no music or games to disturb the quiet.

The main pool by the beach.

Guests at the Grand Hotel have access to two spas – a smaller one near close to the main pool and the Paradise Beach Resort Spa where I enjoyed a relaxing massage.

Entertainment and Recreation: Those looking to burn off a few of those all-inclusive calories have plenty of options when it comes to exercise classes: TRX and kettlebell, boot camp, pilates, kick boxing, spinning and Zumba are all taught in the fitness center. Or jump in the pool for one of the daily Aqua Fit classes.

Golfers can enjoy the links at  IBEROSTAR Playa Paraíso Golf Club, while other activities include outdoor shooting facilities, archery, tennis, basketball, beach volleyball, darts and billiards. For water sports, try a kayak, catamaran, snorkeling or water polo.

The mini bar area with complimentary items. And a coffee maker I could actually work.

The theater features a show every night at 10. We enjoyed the Beatles tribute, with more costume changes than a Lady Gaga concert. The Circus Show really astounded me as I figured, how much can they perform on a small stage? A lot – performers swirled in silks, balanced and flew through the air during an hour of gravity-defying acts.

Our last night was karaoke night, and being sufficiently liquored up, I agreed to go onstage, but would never be drunk enough to actually sing into a microphone. But I can shake, rattle and roll with the best of them and the combination of a Cher song and a conga line turned out to be a crowd-pleaser.

Shouldn’t every restaurant offer you a shot of tequila as you enter?

Food: We dined at three of the four restaurants. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style, with a huge selection of items. The sushi served at lunch one day was particularly delicious. The omelet I ordered from room service for breakfast one morning was delivered promptly and was light and fluffy. There’s a steakhouse, Italian restaurant and the Haiku Japanese restaurant rounds out the selection.  

Top 5 Airport Lounges

I found a quiet spot and set up my computer in a cozy nook to get a bit of work done, enjoying a warm cup of herbal tea. I heard the chatter increase a bit, and saw a few people passing by with plates piled with fried chicken. I joined the short line to cruise down the buffet line steaming with hot dishes. On the way back, I passed a toque-wearing chef at a table lining up samples of tuna ahi and other delectables.

I was in the Centurian Lounge of LaGuardia Airport, where the plentiful and delicious food, quiet spaces and peaceful atmosphere were the antithesis of what waited me beyond when I entered the crowded, stress-filed terminals. It is generally with great reluctance that I grab my things and exit, no matter how exciting my final destination may be.

The Plaza Premium Lounge at London’s Heathrow airport was selected as top airport lounge in the world. Amenities include private resting suites, shower rooms; a Wellness Spa and a Champagne and tapas Bar. –

Ah, the joy of the airport lounge. A much-needed respite from the hassles of flying, some so nice you never want to leave. When we travel on vacation from Atlanta, we allow extra time to enjoy the lounge at Hartsfield – flying is so much more enjoyable after a Bloody Mary or gin and tonic – don’t you agree?

Priority Pass, the world’s largest independent lounge membership program, recently released their list of top airport lounges. These were chosen by Priority Pass members from a selection of 1,000 lounges in more than 500 cities.

The Hugo: Minty Memories of Berlin

The Hugo is also served in a highball glass, although I prefer the wineglass.

Visitors may flock to Germany for its beer, and I did enjoy a lovely warm afternoon in a cozy tree-filled beer garden on my last visit to Berlin. But my favorite drink was a Hugo, the “it” drink a few summers ago.

I left Berlin, but brought my appreciation of the Hugo back home with me after tasting several variations in bars across Berlin, part of the in-depth research I conduct in such endeavors.

My favorite may have been in the bar in our hotel, the 25hours hotel bikini berlin. (Weird name for a hotel, right? Not a bikini in site.) The bar at the top of the hotel is the Monkey Bar, named for its view of the monkeys in Zoo Berlin next door. I had my first Hugo here, and fell in love with its refreshing, minty taste.

But where to find elderflower syrup? I was certain it wouldn’t be in any aisle in my local Publix. A quick search led me to Ikea, where I bought a large bottle for $5. Buy fresh mint in the grocery store, or grow your own.

The Hugo

Makes one. But what’s the point of that? Go ahead and adjust it for a few servings.

2-3 parts Prosecco (100-150 ml)
• 3 parts seltzer water (150 ml)
• 1 Tablespoon elderflower syrup
• Juice of one fresh lime
• 4-5 mint leaves
• ice cubes

If you have a wooden muddler to mash the mint leaves in your cocktail glass, go ahead and use it. Otherwise, using a mortar and pestle would work, too. Or you can use a wooden spoon and a bowl – whatever method you come up with to crush the mint will work. Transfer the mint leaves to your glass and add the other ingredients. Stir and serve with a straw

6 Reasons to Use a Citypass

A view of San Francisco from the deYoung Museum

When I was in college, my friends laughed at my coupon-clipping mother when she bought me an expensive dress for a wedding. “She saves money on cans of tuna, then buys you that dress?” they said.

It made perfect sense to me. Save money when you can, and spend it where you want. So when I travel, I’ll find the cheapest coach fare available, even if it means leaving for the airport in the pre-dawn hours. And I often take my own food onboard. But then I can justify buying that one-of-a-kind handcrafted necklace in Santa Fe.

That’s why I love the CityPASS, a discount coupon booklet available in 12 cities.

Purchase the CityPASS for your destination, which is good for nine days from the first time you use it. They are good for several attractions, and in some cases, for transportation. For example, in San Francisco, the pass includes unlimited transportation for seven days on cable cars, buses and all Muni trolleys.

  1. You’ll save money.

That’s the prime reason many people purchase these popular discount booklets. On my recent trip to Chicago, a CityPASS booklet was $98. If I had purchased entrance fees separately, I would have spent $207.95.

I could save 53 percent on entrance fees to five attractions per person. My husband and I could use that $200+ in savings to go out to dinner. Or maybe even do a little shopping on the Miracle Mile.

Passion on a Plate in Savannah

Will Herrington in the kitchen at Kitchen 320 in Savannah

“This tomato tart means a lot to me. This is my mother – this dish takes me home,” said Executive Chef Will Herrington as he set down yet another of our multi-course Southern-themed dinner at the new Kitchen 320. Home isn’t too far away for this talented chef, who is from south Georgia and is now heating up the kitchen with dishes from his childhood at the signature restaurant for B Historic Hotel in Savannah, Georgia.

The tomato tart with Vidalia onion and crust flakier than a southern debutante was the best I’d ever had, which was followed by delicious Georgia white shrimp, sweet tea chicken wings and skirt steak.  (“This dish is my daddy and me cooking outside together.”)

Breakfast dishes define decadence with items like pecan-crusted French toast, country ham pancakes and eggs Benedict served on a buttermilk biscuit with tomato jam and blueberries. Every dish I had here was memorably delicious, made even more special when served with the passion of the chef behind it all.

 

‘Beach Blanket Babylon’ Still Entertains

Hats are outrageous and the laughs come fast and furious at “Beach Blanket Babylon.”

On my first trip to San Francisco we attended “Beach Blanket Babylon.” I never forgot how funny it was.

Fast forward almost 30 years, and this popular musical revue is going strong, and while songs and topics have changed with the times, it’s still spill-your-drink funny.

The script constantly changes to incorporate new pop culture references with appearances by characters playing Oprah, Donald Trump, Caitlyn Jenner, Princess Leia and Kim Kardashian with her Champagne-glass-balancing derriere.

The fast-paced production includes more costume changes than a Beyonce concert, towering hats bigger than my first dorm room and talented performers belting out hilarious lyrics to toe-tapping songs. You’ll leave feeling happier about life. And coveting that Chiquita banana hat. Or maybe that was just me.

Leap of Faith in Cancun

I figured gravity was on my side as I lowered myself into a cave. Just don’t expect me to be able to climb out of one.

“Just jump away from the platform and lower yourself slowly into the cave,” the guide said. Like that’s the easiest thing in the world. Caves kind of creep me out in the first place, so I was all on board with the slow part. But that meant I was entirely relying on my upper body strength, against my personal policy.

Harnessed and hardhatted, our group was at the start of a tour of the Cenote Maya Park in Cancun, led by Alltournative Tours. I held my breath, jumped and was thrilled to find myself not plunging into the dark cave below. I slowly let out the rope that took me gently down.

 After that the rest of the afternoon was the type of adventure I could handle. We floated through the cool waters in the cenote, a sinkhole formed when limestone collapses to expose groundwater. We ducked under spectacular stalactite formations, lit up with the lamp of our guide Riaz. At one point, we stopped to gather around on a rock to witness a shaman perform an authentic Maya ceremony.

 We went from below ground to far above the trees when we climbed towers to zipline through the forest, much easier for me than rappelling into a cave. Our day concluded with a delicious traditional Mexican lunch of soup, chicken, beans and empanadas.

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