Tag Archives: wine tasting

Winter Fun at Crystal Mountain Resort, Michigan

Crystal Mountain Resort

A winter escape in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; are you kidding? Most Floridians happily forgo snow shoveling, driving under treacherous road conditions and freezing rain. But the fluffy white stuff often makes the right stuff for winter fun. So, I flew to Crystal Mountain Resort near Traverse City in February to frolic in the frigid air.

I laced up cross country skis and was soon gliding along peaceful trails. Snow encrusted branches hung over the frosty landscape and sunshine sparkled through the pines. I kept warm by the constant movement of my arms and legs and rationalized the effort earned me a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

In the afternoon, I thought I’d take a shot at a new sport–paintball biathlon. I’d never fired a paintball gun before, but discovered it was rather easy. What was difficult was shushing (cross country skiing) from station to station as fast as possible, then calming the heart rate enough to aim at the target. I hardly resembled the athletes in the Winter Olympics, but sure gained a new perspective and respect of their sport.

Paintball Biathlon

Crystal Mountain Resort offers numerous winter activities and I did my best to try them all. I hit the downhill slopes but the chairlift ride seemed too cold for this Southern lady. Ice skating found me with wobbly ankles and I admit, I would have preferred an indoor rink.

Then, I discovered the Crystal Spa– oh my. An outdoor whirlpool blasted my circulatory system before I indulged in a calming massage. How heavenly to relax with therapeutic touch as warm aromatic oils and stones are applied to the body. Truly decadent as was food in the restaurants.

By nightfall the slopes were illuminated, creating a mystical aura. Snow tubing looked like a hoot but I chose to watch, pretending I was a parent observing my kids. A late evening walk took me by cute rental cottages with icicles dangling from the roofs.


Dogsledding? You bettcha. I became Nanook of the North being pulled by magnificent canines who howled and begged to run. Once they took off, the huskies quieted, content at doing what they love. Fortunately, the owner rode along and instructed me to lean in or out of the sled to balance it over the course.

I didn’t have time for snowmobiling or snowboarding, although they remain popular options in Michigan. Instead, I made a road trip to local wineries. Yes, they’re open in the winter and the view from the top of the Old Mission Peninsula was worth the drive — striking clear blue water in Grand Bay abutting white covered fields. Fabulous wine, too.

I reckon I can honestly recommend leaving Florida and submerging yourself in the snow– for up to a week. Then return to the Sunshine State and you’ll appreciate the glorious weather even more.

If you go:

Crystal Mountain Resort

12500 Crystal Mountain Drive

Thompsonville, MI 49683

800 968 7686



A View from the Old Mission Peninsula

Italy ~ A Secret Hideaway in Busy Florence

Hotel Review–Palazzo Niccolini al Duomo

Overlooking FlorenceWhy not stay above Donatello’s workshop when visiting the priceless art treasures of Florence? Discover lodgings so close to the Duomo that you need special permission to drive into the restricted historic district. This hideaway is such a well-kept secret; we had to hire a taxi to lead us into the gated courtyard. But once you find it; you may not want to leave the posh accommodations. Palazzo Niccolini al Duomo is a 16th century historical palace, renovated into an exquisite small hotel.

Leaving the courtyard, take a tiny lift up to the second floor reception to enter an elegant patrician home. Then slip into the drawing room which bursts with aristocratic details: brilliant fresco,  carved wooden ceilings, tromp l’oeil painting on the walls and comfortably arranged sofas, giving a feeling of warmth and wealth. We booked  private wine tasting of extraordinary Tuscan reds in this elegant lobby.

Wine Tasting
Wine Tasting

The welcoming staff will lead you down a long hallway or up a flight of stairs, then open the doors to reveal your luxurious accommodations. The oversized, airy rooms feature king size canopied beds amongst antique and reproduction furniture, oriental rugs and original art. The ceilings are so high; you’d have to erect scaffolding to repaint them.

Florence is a walking city and this ideal location is within easy distance of all the famous museums, churches, palazzos, and shops. Spend your days strolling the Ponte Vecchio, gazing at Michelangelo’s David and other masterpieces of art. Your hotel is always nearby, a haven to rest your tired feet.

Working in the Lobby
The Lobby

Palazzo Niccolini has just 2 large suites, 1 junior suite and five double bedrooms. Overnight stays include a bountiful continental breakfast and aperitifs.

The bridal suite or Dome Suite on the top floor drinks in likely the best view of Duomo in the entire city. Don’t deny yourself this once in lifetime lookout.

And best of all, you’re steps away from the tourist crowds and queue leading to the top of Brunelleschi’s famous cathedral dome. Though it’s a rigorous climb, you won’t regret the effort to catch this unforgettable view of russet tiled roofs. Don’t forget to have someone snap your photo for the scrapbook.

This boutique hotel is a walkable 600 meters from the train station (I easily did it) and a mere six kilometers from the airport. Perfect for a honeymoon or anniversary. Shhh. Let’s keep this gem our secret.

For information, photos and booking: www.Nicolinidomepalace.com
Telephone +39 055 282412