JEWEL: Journal for Experienced Women Enjoying Life

Leisure and Travel

Mexico City…Sophisticated, Vibrant, and Art-Filled!

Mexico City, having lived and worked there for over 20 years, has always held a special place in my heart.  I had not been back for about five years and was eager to see all that was new. The city, located in a mountain valley 7000 feet above sea level (built over a major Aztec city in the early 1500’s by the Spanish) is home to more than 20 million people.  The New York Times just ranked it #1 on its top list of 50 places to visit in 2016. There is no doubt why!

My first stop was the National Anthropology Museum. The museum is world class and would take about a full day to appreciate all that it has to offer. The section devoted to pre-Colombian is vast andmexico city1 displayed with great sophistication.  Several outside areas were created as if you are in the Maya jungle. Beyond pre-Colombian, there are hundreds of exhibits of indigenous groups which existed both before and after the Spanish invasion.

Next, I went to the new museum “Soumaya”.  It was built by Carlos Slim (reported to be one of the richest men in the world), who after creating this museum, donated it to the Mexican people and insisted on free admission for all. Outside you find avant garde modern mecixo city 3architecture. Inside there are gorgeous displays of his personal collections ranging from world renown sculptors like Rodin and Dali, to vast collections of 14th- 18th century European and Mexican paintings and collectors’ items. This museum is located in the “happening” Polanco area.  Known for its expensive apartments, homes, shops, restaurants and designer stores, it offers a great chance for  some retail exploration and relaxation while enjoying a coffee or pastry.

Then it was on to the Maximilian’s Castle located high on a hill in the middle of Chapultepec Park.  Once arriving there, usually by tram, you will be delighted with the presentation of the rooms where Maximilian and Carlota lived as well as the beautifully manicured gardens around the castle.

One afternoon we headed south and stopped at the home of the famous artist, Frida Kahlo.  We also visited the home of Delores Olmeda, a wealthy woman who built a mansion to display her collection of art primarily from Rivera as well as her elaborate Chinese collection. Surrounding Olmeda’s home is a peaceful garden filled with wandering peacocks. On another afternoon we concentrated on the historic old section of the city to see the majestic murals which Rivera painted in the National Palace as well as in a Government Education building and the old cathedral built by the Spanish over Aztec city(now a live archeological dig). We stopped in the Bellas Artes Theater, an Art Deco building which houses a grand theater but also stunning murals painted by the most famous of the Mexican muralists.

There is just no end to what you can do and see in seven days here in Mexico City. Of course where you stay is important and where you eat too (Forbes noting it for its ingenious world class cuisine). I have hardly touched on the Itinerary which I have created for March 2017. Why don’t you join me then?

Article by: Linda Stack Chenok, Travel Consultant
LLStack @


Know The Passport Rules!

There are several important passport rules you need to know before you travel to be sure that your next trip goes smoothly.passport

  • Be sure your passport has 6 months left on it at the end of your trip. Some countries are starting to enforce that rule, so be prepared. They could deny you entry.
  • Be sure to travel with your passport, not with a passport card. If you are doing any international “air” travel, this is a necessity. I just heard of a traveler using only her passport card being returned to the U.S. from Mexico, after she arrived there with her husband for an all-inclusive beach vacation. She arrived back in the Denver airport without money or credit cards as her husband was holding all of those. He arrived back 12 hours later! What a sad situation.
  • The U.S. Government is reporting that there will be a surge in passport applications this year. The surge will be due to the new state regulations regarding having a valid ID for travel, combined with people whose 10 year passports from 2006 and 2007 are about to expire.  Don’t wait to get your passport at the last minute and apply early for your renewal.  It would be a shame to get caught in a backlog when you are ready to travel!

 There is so much to see and do. I think the top three places to travel this year will be Panama (not a cruise but a land trip), Portugal and Mexico City.

Article by Linda Stack, Travel Consultant,



San Miguel….One of The Top 20 Cities in The World to Visit

In 2013 Conde Nast Traveler selected San Miguel as the #1 city in the world to visit and in 2014 as the #5! Why? It is a combination of many different things…sunlight bouncing off earth-tone walls, flowers, restaurants in old haciendas, stores, history, museums, music, art and with everything in walking distance. The city itself is a UNESCO heritage site, maintaining its Spanish colonial charm from over 500 years ago. Here are some of the reasons that make it one of my favorite spots to visit, having been there over 30 times!
There are many wonderful hotels and B&B’s, as well as very sophisticated five star properties. No matter what your budget, you will find a place that suits your taste. Depending on how much you like to walk, you can stay right in the center or a bit farther away near a beautiful park and the bull ring.
In the evenings, I love to decide where to eat. There are over 100 restaurant choices that fulfill all international tastes with great food and ambiance. Either before or after dinner, I like to sit on the San Miguel Pic 1gorgeous rooftop of the Rosewood Hotel for a drink in the outdoor bar and catch the sun going down over the hills.
One of my favorite events is to visit the Mask Museum, owned by Heidi and Bill, which is part of their beautiful home. Bill has created a world class museum of Mexican masks and loves to share his knowledge about his collection. Heidi is a well-known authority in folk art, working and supporting many Mexican artists.
While there is an abundance of things to do in the city, there are also many short trips available outside. One of my favorites is a visit to a small UNESCO church in a dusty little town where it is hard to San miguel pic 2imagine there are things of great beauty. Many people say this is the Sistine Chapel of Mexico! Also, not far away is the city of Guanajuato, an old colonial city filled with churches, parks, a grand opera house and the home of Diego Rivera. I also love to visit private homes/galleries. These can range from amazing folk art collections, to large sprawling haciendas that take your breath away. And if you like to cook, there is a variety of cooking classes to choose from.
San Miguel continually beguiles you. It is always evolving with something new and different to offer. If you want to visit San Miguel why not come on my escorted trip? Please contact me for more information.
Article by Linda Stack-Chenock


The Lost City of the Incas, One of the Seven Wonders of the World!
Macho Piccho
Machu Picchu, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is definitely one of the most fascinating and sought after travel destinations today. While I had traveled to Lima many times, I never had the time to visit it until a few months ago. It was everything I envisioned and more.

It was discovered in 1911 by a Yale archeologist, Hiram Bingham, and is hidden away in a rain forest 8000 feet above sea level. It is isolated on a mountainous Andes ridge, built around 1450 by the Incas but abandoned 100 years later.Linda at Macho Piccho

While Machu Picchu is the ultimate goal of travelers, the journey prior to reaching the ruins is equally enthralling. Your trip likely starts with a flight to Lima, located at sea level on the western coast. Lima provides a simpatico atmosphere of tree lined areas filled with old mansions, magnificent ocean views, shopping, restaurants and open air cafes.

From Lima, you fly to Cuzco, located in the southeastern part of Peru, about 10,800 feet above sea level. It was designed as the center of the Inca Empire (1200-1532) but today is a busy cosmopolitan city reflecting both Inca and Spanish culture.woman in Peru

From Cuzco, most people take one of the efficient Peru Rail trains to Machu Picchu, unless they decide to walk the Inca trail. These trains offer spectacular views as you wind along the foothills of the Andes and the canyon walls of the Urubamba River. Also the train staff knows how to deliver great service and fun during your ride!

Upon arrival, you have finally reached one of the most inspiring destinations in the world! Hiking in the many different areas and relishing the spirituality of this magnificent place is one of the many ways to fully appreciate it’s splendor. It is no wonder that Machu Picchu is one of the seven “Wonders of the New World”.

Written by Linda Stack-Chenok, Travel Consultant.


A Hidden Treasure


Are you planning next summer’s getaway from the unending heat? Arizona has its own hidden treasure that could be the answer to your search for a “cool” retreat. Pinetop-Lakeside is located
in the White Mountains, 15 miles south of Showlow on Highway 260. At 7000 feet elevation it offers pleasant temperatures, daytime highs between 70 – 85 degrees, June through September.

Located in the pines, it’s the perfect setting for a mountain vacation. There are an abundance of hotels, time shares, and vacation rentals available to meet a range of needs.

Pinetop-Lakeside is an outdoor paradise. Hiking trails are plentiful. Arizona Wildlife Trails, ( provides a guide to specific trails that offer opportunities to see the plentiful wildlife and scenic streams and lakes in the area. Golfing is a popular pastime as there are several public and private courses available. Pinetop Lakes Golf and Country Club is an award winning 18-hole executive course in Pinetop, and Showlow has several courses including Silver Creek Golf Course and Bison Golf Club.

Pinetop also offers a variety of dining experiences. It boasts Pinetop Brewing Company, a local brewer; Darbi’s Café, a local favorite; Baked in Pinetop, an amazing bakery; several wonderful Mexican restaurants and upscale restaurant, Salt and The Chalet Restaurant and Bar. The locals and tourists alike also enjoy a night at The Lion’s Den which could include a famous “wineburger”, a brew, and some dancing to live music.

Summer in Pinetop-Lakeside includes a variety of other activities. A few of them include art fairs and craft shows which are offered most weekends. Hondah Indian Casino provides entertainment in their showroom. Shopping the local antique and gift stores is a must! The Run to the Pines Car Show the last weekend of a September is outstanding.

If you haven’t experienced this Arizona gem, you are missing out on a real “jewel”.

Article by Claudia Barnes


Cuba….Once Forbidden Fruit Now Ready To Enjoy

I had heard so much about Cuba that I had an intense desire to visit before it became developed. My intrigue for the country seems to be based on wanting to re-live the glory days of the 50’s, besides enjoying the exquisite Spanish colonial architecture, the art and music, and of course learning about the revolution.

I spent a long weekend in the capital city Havana. The city is spread out in many directions that include the old city and the famous Malecon (sea wall). Hotel_Nacional_y_Malecon_de_La_HabanaThe Malecon stretches for a long way and serves as a nightly gathering place where Cubans and their families socialize. We were fortunate to stay in the famous “Hotel Nacional”, built in 1930. It was well kept and was swarming with tourists from all parts of the world including a large group who had just arrived from Norway.

Our long weekend was based on a number of interesting excursions and events. One highlight was a late night visit to the famous picture cubaTropicana show, an extravagant presentation of live music, singing, dancing and elaborate costumes. We toured Hemingway’s home as well as enjoyed several meals in private home/restaurants (many in tiny third floor flats) called paladars. On Saturday night at nine o’clock, we observed the weekly Cannon Firing Ceremony which takes place at a walled fortress above the sea.

IMG_1138 (Small)While there, we visited the home/studio of a prominent mosaic artist and an old mansion which now is a museum for Havana Club Rum. We shopped in a large indoor crafts market and rode around the city in iconic 1950 convertible. One of my most interesting experiences was an interactive session with a renowned professor from Havana University. He discussed all aspects of Cuban culture and society and qualified our trip as a “people to people” exchange which he believed still necessary. We ended our last night in a lovely restaurant in the old city, complete with a live jazz trio.

For Americans, the revolution is a major curiosity, as the Cuban government is all encompassing and involved in every aspect of daily life. I found the Cuban people interesting, attractive and charming. Cuba is certainly worth a visit. Whether you enjoy great sand beaches, lively night time shows, exquisite Spanish architect, or serene countryside scenery, Cuba offers it all. Let me help plan the right trip for you to visit Cuba!

Linda Stack-Chenok, Travel Consultant,



When you think of the Yucatan, what comes to mind first? Gorgeous beaches in Cancun and the Riviera Maya? Yes…but that is really just a small part of what you will find in the tropical jungle areas of the Yucatan, a peninsula in the southeastern part of Mexico, snuggled into the Gulf of Mexico. The interior is filled with fascinating and unusual things to see and do.

Having just returned from there, I am eager to share some of the highlights of my visit. Let’s start with Celestun, a biosphere reserve on the western part of the Gulf, a sanctuary to over 200 species of birds and home to one of the largest migratory flamingo populations in the world. That is a sight, floating through dense tunnels of mangrove trees bordering this inlet. Cenotes, deep fresh clear water holes in caves, are numerous in the Yucatan area. The word “cenote” was created by the Spaniards from a Maya word and were the only way to obtain fresh water in the jungle. map yucatan

Today, they are popular sites to swim in, certainly something that everyone might want to do once. The Yucatan was the major producer of sisal, the strongest fiber in the world, till after WW II, when it was replaced by plastic. Sisal haciendas dotted the Yucatan countryside, where each hacienda was a self-contained small town, with vast acres of agave plants from which sisal was created. Today, many of these hacienda estates are still there. Sisal (called “green gold”) made so many landowners rich. The word “sisal” is a bit of misnomer as when it was finished and crated to be shipped around the world, it was taken to a port called Sisal so all of the crates were labeled on the outside “Sisal”. People mistakenly thought that was the name of the contents which in real terms was “henequen”! inside shotVisiting a working hacienda is great, but it is even better to stay in one which has been converted into a five star hotel.

These hotels are awesome! Of course the Maya influence and culture dominates the Yucatan. Some of the most splendid Maya ruins are found here, such as Chichen Itza, considered one of the largest Maya cities ever built and a UNESCO world heritage site. Here you find the massive Kukulkan Pyramid, noted in 2010 as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Kukulkan means plumed serpent and was an important snake deity to the Maya. But there are many impressive Maya ruins dotting the countryside which are worth visiting, such as Uxmal and Kabah, some of my favorites.




Barge Cruise

Barge Cruise

Barge Cruising

Five years ago River Cruising took off and is still very popular.  I love river cruises and there are many rivers I still want to explore.  Now, however,  people are eager for something new and are jumping into Barge Cruising.

The major differences, when comparing the two, are in the style of the boats, the number of people they hold (4-24),  and where you can cruise …mostly on canals (NOT rivers). The majority of barge cruises are  smaller  boats  traveling  on the canals of Holland, France, England, Scotland and Italy.

France dominates with many different cruises in the Burgundy, Loire and Provence areas. One of the most sought after tours is the Canal du Midi, a UNESCO heritage site in the south of France built in the late 1600’s.  Even though barges are very different in size  from river cruise boats, they can be very elegant in the interiors and the owners pride themselves with their superior personal service.  You can expect great gourmet food and wonderful wines on many of the barge cruises.

One important aspect of barge cruising is how up close and personal you are to land.  It is a joy for bikers  (most barges carry bikes) to ride along the canal paths or meander off elsewhere enjoying the scenery while the barge is slowly cruising down the canal.

 People ask me how one spends time on a barge…and I tell them each day is different. Most trips are about 7 days, and each day is filled with various tours that take you off the barge and  into the countryside viewing interesting villages and historical sites. Evenings are occupied with great food and wine with much attention to a high level of personalized service.

Given the fact that the boats are so small, often private groups rent them out for their families and friends so you can enjoy each other ‘s company and the cruise in an intimate  setting. Whether you are celebrating a special event or just on vacation, barge cruises are amazing and should should be considered if looking for a unique experience.  

Written by Linda Stack-Chenok, Travel Consultant,

golf course

Port Ludlow Golf Course

Golf Vacation

For all of you golfers trying to escape the heat, we have found a beautiful vacation getaway. Nestled along the shores of Puget Sound with incredible views overlooking the water and the Olympics lies the Port Ludlow Resort. The quaint inn with delightful suites and spa services also boosts an award winning restaurant. A short distance from the resort is the challenging 18 hole golf course designed by Robert Muir Graves. Nestled among the pines you will enjoy abundant wild life along with incredible water and mountain views. If you are inclined to want more exercise, there are many trails close by for hiking or a marina to launch your kayak. We spent two memorable days at the marina on our 52′ trawler taking advantage of their stay and play program. Shuttle service was provided to and from the golf course. We thoroughly enjoyed the challenging but fun course covered with beautifully blooming rhododendrons in every color imaginable. After our game, we returned to the Inn for a relaxing glass of wine on the patio followed by a delicious bowl of local Penn Cove mussels. As we were finishing up our chocolate lava cake dessert we were rewarded with sunset views that were absolutely breathtaking. A perfect ending to a two day perfect golf retreat.