After Christmas, I drove with my longtime beau and our puppy out to the Hamptons for a week. This sounds much more glamorous than it actually was. Generous friends had offered us a free place to stay, and we wanted to get away from our computers and the throngs in New York City.
Before we got there, I had made impractical plans for long beach walks and bike rides, but two of the worst words a meteorologist can say are “wintry mix” — and this was peak season. One day I packed up the car for a writing session at the Bridgehampton Starbucks, but I just couldn’t do it. I went straight back to our little retreat and wrote in bed.
On Facebook, I had friends posting gorgeous photos from Mexico, Arizona, and Palm Beach, and, on the other side of the spectrum, from Aspen, Vermont, and Scotland. It made me realize that when it’s cold outside, you either want to embrace, even celebrate, it, or you want to get as far away from it as you can. And so,with 2013 just beginning, I got to thinking of my favorite places to spend a winter week. Here’s my list:
I didn’t grow up skiing, but I have tried and fallen in various ski towns around the globe. Whistler Blackcomb is where it finally came together for me. The powder is in reliably perfect condition and the skies are almost always bright blue. I also love that my uncommon name, Fitzsimmons, is everywhere, from a great pub to the creek and ski lifts.
Must-Visit Restaurant: Crystal Hut on top of Blackcomb Mountain. You take a snowmobile up and are rewarded with delicious fondue and wine at the top.
Must-Visit Hotel: Pan Pacific Whistler Village, a two-minute walk from both gondolas and the village restaurants and shops.
Switzerland is uncommonly perfect. And Zermatt, a tiny village with 17th-century log houses that only allows electric cars, is the height of this perfection. The town is surrounded by gargantuan, snow-capped Alps, with the 14,692-foot Matterhorn visible on a clear day. The vast terrain provides an idyllic setting for skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing, snowshoeing, and more.
Must-Visit Restaurant: Go to Whymper-Stube (where Kate and William were spotted long before she became a royal) for fondue.
Must-Visit Hotel: Coeur des Alpes, a boutique property with gorgeous rooms and suites that look out onto the Matterhorn.
The first thing I thought when I drove from London to the New Forest, in Hampshire, England, was there had to be fairies hiding in the trees. I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised had I seen little magical beings sprinkling pixie dust on thatched roof homes and country pubs. This is the real deal when it comes to being cozy.
Must-Visit Restaurant: The Pig, where everything is sourced from the kitchen garden or within a short distance from the restaurant. They call it their “25-Mile Menu.”
Must-Visit Hotel: Chewton Glen, a quintessentially British country house hotel with green hunter boots lined up in the lobby. Treehouse suites were unveiled last year, where breakfast is delivered in a hamper.
Nevis doesn’t have that hedonistic party atmosphere that many Caribbean islands have. Instead, it’s an unspoiled paradise with great hiking, beaches, and food. I played tennis almost every day I was there, and loved driving around the island, exploring Charlestown, where Founding Father Alexander Hamilton was born, and poking my head into all the distinctive hotels.
Must-Visit Restaurant: Sunshine’s, a beach shack that serves the famous Killer Bee rum punch and greasy (but to-die-for) Caribbean fare.
Must-Visit Hotel: The Four Seasons completely transformed the island economy and has everything you could want in a resort. I also love Montpelier Plantation, which isn’t on the beach, but has a great pool and delicious dining.
Most travelers make a pit stop in Cusco en route to Machu Picchu, but I recommend spending at least full two days there. Though heavy rains can come in January and February, now is a great time for off-season rates. Not to be missed is the Museo de Plantas, the ChocoMuseo, the Saqsaywaman ruins, and the local Sol Alpaca stores for super-soft throws. The city’s high altitude (11,200 feet) can cause sickness in many, including me when I first arrived, but drinking lots of water and taking it easy on the steep streets helps immensely.
Must-Visit Restaurant: Pacha Papa in San Blas Square, the area known for its art galleries and jewelry shops. I’ll always remember my server, Ever, who gave me tips on what to see and do and did his best to convince me to try guinea pig.
Must-Visit Hotel: Palacio Nazarenas, which opened last year. It is a 16th-century-convent-turned-luxe-hotel with the most beautiful pool in the city, local furnishings, and incredible attention to detail.
A popular destination for both spring-breakers and honeymooners, the Dominican Republic has vastly different offerings depending on what you’re looking for. Las Terrenas has a lively village, but also that quiet, beautiful beachfront you dream about on a cold winter’s day.
Must-Visit Restaurant: The Beach Restaurant at the Peninsula House for killer seafood and killer views.
Must-Visit Hotel: Balcones del Atlantico, which has beautiful pools, a restaurant on the beach, fun water activities, and gourmet kitchens in their rooms.