Feb 25, 2013

Old Site, New Eyes

I've been doing a lot of traveling lately and am always excited to discover a new place, be it Vancouver, Canada, where I just spent a few days, or Tucson, AZ for a girls getaway. Yet, when I arrive back to San Francisco, I am always giddy about calling this great city home.

On approach to the airport I looked out the window of the plane and caught this fabulous perspective of the city's famous icon. For a few seconds I just stared as it sailed slowly by, mesmerized by the beauty of something I've seen hundreds of times.

It reminded me that there's always a new way to see the same old place.

A change in P.O.V. is like a new set of eyes.

Feb 20, 2013

Whistler, Canada at the top of the appropriately named "Seventh Heaven" lift. Fabulous!

Feb 12, 2013

Single On Valentine's Day? San Francisco Hearts You!

Photos courtesy of Legion of Honor and Yoshi's 

With all the hype and hoopla surrounding Valentine’s Day, happy singles might feel they’re being chased out of town by chubby, arrow-wielding angels. But stand your ground! There’s more to February 14 than canoodling couples and tables for two. Here in the Bay Area, these fabulous and fun-for-one activities celebrate your first love — you!
Spend a day in Paris at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor Museum, where an array of exquisite pieces is on display, direct from the Musée du Louvre. The collection of decorative arts spans the French monarchy from Louis XIV to the French Revolution in 1789, and is on display for the first time in the U.S.A. Exhibit runs until March 17.  Read the full article

Jan 30, 2013

Spotted By Locals Has Arrived (and is coming to a city near you)!

Bart and Sanne van Poll of Spotted By Locals

It's the dream of most of the wanderlust-afflicted folks I know to journey the world, meet local people in far-flung locations, and maybe earn a few bucks while doing it.
This was also the dream of these fabulous Amsterdam-based travelers and married couple Bart and Sanne van Poll, a dream born over a beer in Brussels in 2007. The dream quickly blossomed into their reality -- a popular alternative travel website calledSpotted By Locals where over 240 hand picked contributors, called spotters, in 44 cities across Europe wax lyrical about their favorite places in their home cities.  Spotted By Locals just announced their launch in the America, with spotters already on the ground in San Francisco and New York.  Read the rest of the interview

Jan 14, 2013


Fishermen's Bastion Budapest
I love Europe in winter. Maybe it's because the first time I ever set foot on the continent was in the early '90s when I landed in Paris on a fabulous icy and snowy December day. There were no café terraces spilling onto the frosty streets, elbow-to-elbow with tourists. There were no love birds lounging on the metal chairs and grassy patches of the Tuileries Gardens. Paris had been dressed in snow, and with Christmas approaching, had been bejeweled with white twinkle lights.  It was if I had been given the key to giant snow globe and had the place all to myself. The unexpected boon of being alone in winter in a place like Paris was the self-scrutiny and liberation that anonymity brought. In a place rife with foreign tongues, where no one knew who I was, I could be whoever I wanted. The grand boulevards I wandered shot across the city like arrows aimed at distant compass points and ignited my wanderlust. With every footstep and scene, I felt that shiver from being touched anew. By the end of the trip, I was smitten.  

On a recent Eurail journey through Austria, Hungary and Slovakia, the same excited feeling returned. And what I remember about my first glimpse of Paris I can now recall about Budapest. High on Castle Hill, overlooking the Danube and the Parliament Building, Budapest had been dusted in fine white powder. The city looked like frosted cake and the memory of it, I suspect, will remain just as sweet.  A writer friend, also on the same trip, asked me many times during long stretches of train track travel what I thought were good reasons to visit Europe during winter. We went back and forth and listed the obvious reasons. He summed them up nicely and pragmatically here.  While I agree---there are numerous sensible and economic reasons to count, but my reason is more romantic, sentimental and intangible. I go to recapture that feeling I found 20+ years ago on a Paris street. That first flutter of beginning anew and the breathless euphoria that comes from the touch of an unknown place. Travel, especially in winter, does that to me.
Dusting in Bratislava

Orange light and snow in Budapest
Magical glow of Trencin, Slovakia
Winter windows
Snow benches

Dec 22, 2012

A Christmas Story

Skating in Brussels.  (Photo by Eric Danhier)

A fabulous trip to Brussels' Christmas market reminds me of the meaning of the holiday.

The smell of warm sugar stopped us before we even made it to the Grand Place, Brussels’ gilded and glorious main square, the epicenter of the city’s annual Christmas Market. My nose twitched as I sniffed the air until the sweet source revealed itself. A man in short woolen jacket and hat with furry flaps over his ears stood on the street, flipping a black waffle iron that oozed batter drippings as it huffed and breathed sweet clouds into the cold night.

“Deux gaufres, s’il vous plaît.” Two waffles, please, I said to him.

With what looked like a stubby barbecue fork, he peeled the crenellated confections off the knobs of the iron, folded them between squares of wax paper and handed them to us one at a time. We cradled the waffles in our hands like pieces of fragile foreign glass. My daughter Chloe and I had only been in Brussels four months, having moved at the end of the summer for my husband’s job. A new friend had enticed me to visit the market with her fond recollections of similar ones she’d visited as a young girl with her parents. The waffle in my hand, I’d later learn, was called a Liège (pronounced lee-ezh) waffle, named for a city in the southwest of Belgium. 

This ginger brown, oblong gem, about the size of an iPhone, was nothing like the whipped cream-topped IHOP version I’d grown up with. We bit in, and the caramelized coating gave way to the chunks of pearl sugar burrowed in the chewy, vanilla- infused dough.

We ate as we followed the heralding sound of brass horns down a cobblestone lane that opened onto the Grand Place. Before us, a 30-foot fir tree was brilliantly lit, on its own an impressive sight. But beneath ancient gabled rooftops and the towering spire of an ornate square, once dubbed the most beautiful in Europe by Victor Hugo, we oohed and aahed as if we had just witnessed a miracle. 

Nearby, a band of eight merry men blew their golden trum- pets until their cheeks glowed cherry red. Although we didn’t recognize the song, the cheer was contagious, and even I bounced in time, caught up in the festivity; something I hadn’t done, or wanted to do, for a long time.

Confession: I’m a recovering Christmas Scrooge.  Read the rest...

Nov 9, 2012

Good Laughs, Good Travels, Hot Mamalah---Oh My!!

It's getting to be that time again. The halloween decorations are barely off the houses and the holidays are breathing down our necks, which can only mean one thing---SHOPPING! ---and maybe a little vacation. Naturally, you're going to want to give the gift of a good read, and maybe pack a few too. Whether you're on the beach, the ski slopes, or curled in your favorite armchair by the fire, these books are guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, and take you far away, at least for a little while. Of course, my own book is on the list. Shameless? Whatever.  I'm happy to sign it for you too, and ship it right out!   Happy Travels. Happy Holidays.

 If you love to travel and love a good story, the the newly released (last month) anthology by Travelers' Tales, The Best Women's Travel Writing,  Volume 8 should be at the top of your must read list.  The women and stories presented will take you on spiritual, adventurous and emotional journeys to the far corners of the earth, from clubbing in Abu Dhabi to river rafting in Zimbabwe, and just about every compass point in between. From the moment editor Lavinia Spaulding's introduction told me how her friends, her 'tribe', are often the people she meets on the road, I was hooked. Each story will have you mining your own travel memories, as well as internet searching the places mentioned . These tales of travel are the perfect  gift for your wanderlust afflicted friends, and should accompany you on your winter vacation or stay cation. Curl up with a cup of tea, and travel the world.   To order go to www.laviniaspalding.com

Give the gift of laughter with  Leave the Lipstick, Take the Iguana, the ninth book in the best-selling Travelers' Tales humor series, and is a rib-tickling collection that will resonate with experienced travelers and novices alike, and includes hilarious misadventures with packing, travel fashion, border crossings, language faux pas, weird encounters with exotic cuisine, and romantic overtures abroad. Editor Marcy Gordon writes "Come for the Wine" a popular blog about wine and wine tourism destinations around the world. In addition to her blog, she partners with tour operators, vintners associations and wineries to help promote travel to their regions using social media, and conversation marketing strategies. She is also the founder of Writing Between The Vines , which will offer residencies to writers in vineyards around the world.  Order here.

Hot off the presses is Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for Every Woman of the Tribe, a start-to-finish celebration of the strengths, challenges, and triumphs of Jewish women—the good, the great, the PMSy, and the menopausal! This book-a-licious smorgasbord includes everything whole-y and holy feminine, tips  for having fun and having chutzpah, with humorous essays, amusing illustrations, lists and more lists, recipes, and more. From cocktails to cupcakes, Purim costumes to bar aliases, Hot Mamalah whets an appetite for getting the most out of life, love, and your closet. Hot Mamalah is the much-anticipated follow up to Cool Jew, from award winning writer Lisa Alcalay Klug whose passion for joie de vivre and Jewish culture will have you toasting L’chayim! with the best!  Order at Amazon or on Lisa's website.  GIVEAWAY---Enter before November 28 for a chance at $300 worth of prizes!  Click here

Pull up a chair and visit the Dordogne (called Périgord by the locals) the way it should be visited: one bite at a time. Walnut Wine and Truffle Groves won the coveted GOLD 2012 Lowell Thomas Award this year for Best Travel Book, but is more than just a guide. The hardcover book is is a culinary travel book that navigates the back roads—as well as the menus and markets—of the southwestern region of France with newfound excitement---and a knife and fork. Through interviews with local home cooks and chefs, visits to local farms, historic sites and wineries, market tours, detours, and recipes, readers get a rare inside glimpse into this unspoiled corner of France. The coffee table style book is a wonderful gift with over 80 photos, 40+ recipes, and enlightening tales  that leave you yearning to visit France's most beautiful and less trod-upon provinces.  Order by emailing the author (moi) directly and I'll sign and ship (within the USA) directly to you with a Lowell Thomas 2012 sticker affixed to the front.  Only $9 per book plus shipping.  Order 10 or more and the cost is only $7 per book, plus shipping. Paypal accepted. email:  kimberley@kimberleylovato.com

Overlapping history with personal observation, this inspirational memoir, The Way of Stars and Stones, follows one woman during her personal pilgrimage along the Santiago de Compostella, an ancient journey of more than 500 miles through northern Spain. Introduced to fellow pilgrims and their inspirational stories along the way, the author's thoughtful work is filled with commonsense advice and spiritual guidance as the winter blusters around the travelers on the historic path. Emotionally confronting the reality of a loved one being diagnosed with incurable cancer, the South African author, Wilna Wilkinson, generously shares her experiences with heart and humor, while keeping us gripped with the physical and emotional tension of traveling this path with only the voices in her head as company. Wilna is a writer, a motivational speaker, and one of the most adventurous women I know. When she's not hosting guests at her riverside castle in France, she's trekking continents. Right now, she's somewhere in Sierra Leone. Order her book here.

Oct 31, 2012

A Taste of Tampa

A little something I wrote for National Geographic Traveler magazine's November issue.  I've been craving a good Cuban ever since. Anyone have any tips where I can find one outside of Tampa?

Oct 29, 2012

Rooms With A Boo!

I have a secret to tell---I do not like Halloween (Gasp!)  Maybe it's the whole don't talk to strangers, but dress up and knock on stragers' doors one day a year and ask for candy hypocrisy. Maybe I'm just over thinking it. Whatever the case, it's no treat for me. I do, however, like a good trick, or better yet, a ghost story!  Add some  travel to the mix and i'm game!
 Check out these five hotels that are worth the Halloween scene.

Look closely for the ghost bride at the Stanley Hotel  (photo courtesy of visit Estes Park)

1.      The Driskill (Austin, TX) – This hotel is considered the most haunted building in Austin, and maybe in all of  Texas, said to be frequented by the ghost of  namesake Colonel Jesse Lincold Driskill himself, a cattle baron during post civil war America. Room 525 is rumored to be the most ghostly on the property. Book it if you dare!  From October 28 – November 3, the Driskill is promoting an “All Hallow’s Eve” package that includes overnight accommodations, two Batini cocktails at check-in, a trick-or-treat turndown amenity (including a selection of sweets from the 1886 Bakery), prime access to downtown Austin’s sixth street (a Halloween hot spot) and preferred reservations for the Driskill’s “Mad Scientist” dinner on Halloween night.Package starts at $279.  Contact the hotel for booking.  

Read about the other four at Hotel Scoop.

Oct 9, 2012

Facing Fears

Anyone who knows me knows this---I hate to fly. I love to travel and would never let my fear stop me from taking a trip, but the sweaty palms, restless sleep, and thoughts of doom cripple me, and that's before I even step on the plane. But I get on anyway. The idea of seeing new place, meeting new people, tasting new food the only antidote for my anxiety. Well that and a Xanax. Of course I get lots of advice.  "You know it's safer than driving right?" is the common response to my declaration.  Yes, I know.  "You know you are more likely to get killed by a donkey kick than die in a plane crash right?" Actually no, I didn't know that, but thanks. I'll avoid donkeys from now on. I've always heard that if you face your fears, they will will disappear. But that's not true, at least not for me. My fear of flying  has never gone away, despite the hundreds of thousands of flying miles I've logged during my life. But neither has my desire to discover and wander. I find that by letting the two rent space inside me, I can step aboard each time, and keep myself in the locked and upright position.

On a recent trip, we pulled up to a spot surrounded by fields of what looked like miles of and miles of grain. I was told we'd be taking a spin in a helicopter, something I'd never done before. I was also told it would be the best way to see the landscape and topography not visible from the car. Sweat, fear, quick check of jeans pockets for Xanax.  In the end, like always, I stepped on. I even asked the pilot to remove the door (double and triple checked my seatbelt) so I could take photos. I didn't love it. I was uneasy and keenly aware of every shift of wind, and pushed away thoughts every few minutes of a flaming spiral toward earth . But the views were spectacular.

Oct 1, 2012

Good Times In The Badlands

Mention Alberta and the first thing that comes to mind is ....Banff.  Not that there's anything wrong with that. Banff and the Canadian Rockies are up there on most bucket lists, and if they're not, they should be. But for something a little different, I decided to head east from Calgary (a fantastic City FYI) to the Badlands of Alberta. What I found was an authentic taste of the region's pioneering past swaddled in that famous Canadian hospitality that makes the country feel like home each time I visit, eh. There are not many places on the planet where you can climb into abandoned coal mine,  dig up a 75 million year old fossil,  drop into a hidden valley that's home to a thriving theater community, creep through a ghost town, helicopter above a prehistoric river valley,  drive towards a golden horizon and never encounter a soul, share stories with a Blackfoot Indian, and feel the power of an ancient medicine wheel on a 34,000 acre cattle ranch.

When Robert Frost said, "I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference," maybe he too had just returned from the Badlands.
Abandoned tracks
Last Chance Saloon, Wayne

Brad Tucker finds a dinosaur toe as we are walking
Hiking out of the Atlas Coal Mine

The Rosebud Theater 

Sep 13, 2012

1001 Thanks Is Not Enough

I am honored and humbled to be a recipient of not one but TWO Lowell Thomas Awards.  I'm especially proud to say that my book, Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves, received the TOP award for best travel book. Anyone who knows me knows that France long ago seduced my traveler's spirit. But the Dordogne region, the setting of my book, captured my true heart and soul. I'll avoid the labor of love cliché (but it's true). 

Here is what the judges had to say:

 “Walnut Wine & Truffle Groves” has everything one could want in a travel book: a deep appreciation of the culture of the Dordogne region of France, insight into how the people live and think, fascinating information about history and geography, practical tips for visiting there and outstanding photographs by Lou Lesko. And then there’s the bonus: chef Laura Schmalhorst’s recipes for re-creating the exquisite dishes Lovato sampled on her culinary adventures. The reader does not have to be a chef or even try the recipes to enjoy this book. Lovato uses food as the unifying theme for her exploration because food is so important to the culture — food, and a lifestyle that suspends time in order to fully appreciate the bounties of nature, the culinary arts and the human society that gathers at the table.

While I am beyond grateful my work was recognized and my peers at SATW saw the region through my eyes and experiences, I am more thrilled that a spotlight has been aimed at the gracious people of this glorious corner of France.  It's to them that I am indebted and it's to them that I owe this award. Mille fois merci. My story, Lost and Liberated, about an encounter in the Dordogne also won an award.  It is featured in this year's Best Women's Travel Writing 2012, but first appeared here, at gadling.com  

Click here to see a list of all the talented winners.