Monday, June 28, 2010

The Getaway Girl on Better TV

Better TV, a nationally syndicated lifestyle TV show, aims to make your life "better" by focusing on trends and hot topics that affect your family and relationships. Past guests include Paula Abdul, Kim Kardashian, Jerry Seinfeld, Vanessa Williams, Ivanka Trump, Naomi Judd and Maria Shriver. Watch The Getaway Girl® on Better TV during her NYC interview on Great Girlfriend Getaways. To watch the segment, visit

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Goodbye Beaches of South Walton

As I returned home, I was very happy I made the decision to invite the Marianna girls on this trip. I love making new friends, and I know I made three life-long friends this weekend. Thank you ladies for bringing such joy and enthusiasm to this trip. You are the reason why I do inspire other women, who need a change of scenery, to travel out of their comfort zone and create new memories and new adventures in their lives. I love all three of you and cannot wait to see you again!

A special thank you to the Beaches of South Walton CVB and Seaside Cottage Rental Agency for accommodating five women on an unforgettable and life changing Girls Getaway to the Beaches of South Walton.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Girls Getaway to the Beaches of South Walton - Day 3

After a late night that involved many cocktails and shots (thank you Lorenzo), the only thing that could coax us out of bed the next morning was the thought of massages at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Resort’s Serenity by the Sea Spa ( I arrived a bit hung over, but was looking forward to laying on a table with someone (anyone) rubbing oil all over me. It was just what I needed after our crazy night at the Village; many thanks to Joann for a wonderful treatment.

Although there were so many things for us to do and see after the massages, we all agreed to drive back to Seaside for lunch, beachtime and some shopping. We ate lunch at Bud & Alley’s Taco Bar, then walked just a few steps to the beach for some R&R. As we arrived on the beach, the sand, weather and water was absolutely gorgeous, and I fell asleep in our cabana chair. As I woke up (a few hours later), I overheard a conversation about tarballs on the beach. I didn’t believe it until I saw it myself....small tarballs from the recent Gulf oil spill had started coming ashore while I was sleeping. The area officials were aware this may be an issue, so they had clean up crews ready and waiting. The clean up started immediately, and most people didn’t even realize what had happened. It was heartbreaking to listen to the locals tell us how devastated they are and how this will undoubtedly impact their beloved beaches.

As my friends know, I love to eat and I had spent a few hours without food, so it was time to get dinner. However, this dinner was going to be a very special one as we were celebrating Rooster’s birthday. We arrived at The Culinary Gallery ( and met Chef Scott Nelson who explained we would be learning to cook a fabulous Gulf Coast Seafood meal. My motto is “I am better at eating than cooking,” but I thought I’d give it a try. With Chef Scott’s great tips (and tasty wine), the cooking wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Plus, everything tasted amazing! We made Thai Shrimp, Blanched Asparagus, Roasted Vegetables, Mahi Mahi, Grilled Steak (only seasoned with salt and pepper) and Bananas Foster. Plus, we had birthday cupcakes just for Rooster. I cannot believe I ate all this food!

We ended the night and trip with a visit to The Red Bar in Grayton Beach. As I drank my last Beaches of South Walton cocktail, the Marianna girls invited me to some of their favorite outings, which include the Annual Possum Festival & Funday (Wausau, FL) , Rattlesnake Round Up (Op, AL) and Mule Day (Calvery, GA). Guess I will have to add these places to my list! Given the fact that I grew up on a cattle ranch, I assured them I would fit in just fine.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Girls Getaway to the Beaches of South Walton - Day 2

Friday morning started with a bicycle ride through Seaside with John, our tour guide. He explained the concept behind Seaside, an 80-acre beach town community where everything is focused on community, ease of lifestyle and comfort. It certainly has accomplished that. From the architecture to the names (not address numbers) of the cottages, Seaside has a special ambiance that makes you feel like you are home even if you just arrived. Each cottage has a name that is proudly posted where a typical address would be. We laughed at names like: Julie Got Her Way & Tom Had to Pay, Changes in Attitudes, Four the Girls, Hooty Hoot, Wilder by the Sea, SeaEsta and Mom’s Day Off. In addition to the cottage names, the names of the owners and where they are from are also posted out front.

The town center (which is actually shaped like a horseshoe) is the hub of activity for Seaside. In the center, which is across from the beach, is a row of about six airstream trailers that sell everything from cupcakes to BBQ to cocktails and they are decorated so cute! Here you can also find great boutiques, a wine bar, local market, sushi, bicycle rentals, galleries and more.

After working up quite an appetite, we drove about 10 minutes west to Grayton Beach where we met Tracy Louthain who works for the Beaches of South Walton CVB ( and organized this fantastic trip for us. We ate lunch at Shorty’s Surfside and Topside (, a great little beach joint with an open upstairs so we could see the Gulf of Mexico.

Next, it was off to try YOLO ( YOLO stands for You Only Live Once, and YOLO Board is a Santa Rosa Beach, Florida company that is dedicated to creating awareness of what is soon to be the world’s fastest growing watersport and recreational activity: Stand-up Paddleboarding. We were greeted by Tom and Justin who gave us a quick overview of the boards, how to paddle and what to expect on the water. The ladies were doubtful they could stay on the board, much less stand up. To their surprise, everyone was standing up and paddling around Eastern Lake within about 10 minutes. It was so much fun! I am so proud of Jennie Ann who did not tell me she could not swim, but she got out there and YOLO’d anyway. Woo-hoo! That’s was travel is all about...getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things.

After some fun on the water, we were ready to re-hydrate and a stop at the Raspberry Rhino in The Village of Baytowne Wharf, which is located along the shores of the Choctawhatchee Bay, was the perfect place. We met Laurie Hobbs for a quick tour of this village, which includes boutiques, restaurants, galleries and nightlife, within the gates of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort ( After cocktails (aka Liquid Courage) we got in our harnesses and climbed to the top of the Village’s newest amenity - ziplining. We all took turns ziplining across the lagoon. Even Tanya, who was very nervous once she got to the edge, jumped off like a pro and flew across the line.

After zipling, we made our way to the Village’s karaoke bar where we made several new friends, including Lorenzo (his real name is Larry, but when he sings he likes to be called by his stage name). Good thing we had several cocktails...they made Lorenzo sound good as he belted out Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Girls Getaway to the Beaches of South Walton - Day 1

Who knew you could have one of your best Girlfriend Getaway experiences with complete strangers? That’s exactly what I did during my Girls Getaway to the Beaches of South Walton. A few months ago, I received a wonderful, heartfelt letter from Jennie Ann Dean (no relation to Paula although upon meeting her you may think otherwise) explaining that her best friend Sondra (aka Rooster) was in desperate need of a Girls Getaway but they had limited budgets to work with. Jennie Ann simply asked, “is there anything you can do to help us?”

I get a lot of random emails, but this one was different. As I read more about Rooster, I couldn’t help but want to help her. Rooster’s only son recently passed away after a multi-year battle with cancer. Weeks after the funeral her husband left her for another woman. Then came the torturous stalking and harassment from the husband’s girlfriend, which eventually led to the woman’s arrest. Yes, Jennie Ann was right....Rooster needed a fabulous Girls Getaway.

Jennie Ann and I communicated only via email and agreed to celebrate Rooster’s birthday at the Beaches of South Walton during one of my upcoming Girls Getaway press trips.

Not knowing anything about these “new” friends of mine, I was reluctant to travel with them by myself. So my friend Tanya and I flew the new Southwest Airlines route from Orlando to Panama City, FL and rode with Roy about 45 minutes to Seaside, which is just outside Destin. Seaside is where the movie The Truman Show was filmed and is every bit as quaint and charming as depicted in the movie.

Once we arrived in Seaside, FL ( at Seaside Cottage Rental Agency (, we were greeted by our three new friends; Jennie Ann, Sondra (Rooster) and Becky who are all from Marianna, FL. Rooster has had some hard times the last few years, and her friends decided she needed a Girls Getaway, so we met up in Seaside to help Rooster have the time of her life as she celebrates her 44th birthday! We checked in to our “cottages” and Michelle gave us not only our entry codes, but also four bottles of wine! This is going to be one great trip!

We got settled in to our new homes for the next few nights... the Marianna girls stayed at the three-bedroom Sisters Three-by-the-Sea. Tanya and I stayed at the two-story Mahogany Fun. The accommodations are super cozy and decorated really well. We all decided we weren’t going to leave.

With our stomachs growling after the travels, we walked to the town center to eat at Bud & Alley’s Restaurant (, a 15-year Seaside tradition named after a dog and cat. I had THE BEST pork chop I have ever eaten, while the rest of the group loved their Grilled Grouper, Crab Cakes and Salmon. During dinner we laughed and laughed so much that my cheeks hurt. It was so great to finally meet the Marianna ladies, and I could already tell we were going to have a great time together.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Girls Getaway to the Beaches of South Walton

Looking for a relaxing beach getaway in Florida? Travel to Northwest Florida and experience a complete escape in the Beaches of South Walton, an upscale yet casual place to unwind, rejuvenate and recharge. Charm and scenic beauty define this stretch of Northwest Florida's Gulf Coast, and these sugar-white sand beaches and emerald green waters offer a natural setting for a soothing retreat. Follow my getaway on Twitter (@GetawayGirl) or on my Facebook Fan Page (Girls Getaway Guide).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Girls Getaway to The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes - Goodbye

Our last day at the Ritz-Carlton started with a peaceful, guided eco-tour via kayak down Shingle Creek, which is the headwaters to the Florida Everglades. For Grande Lakes guests who want to explore the resort’s natural surroundings, they can take advantage of morning rows and private guided eco-tours of Shingle Creek either by kayak or canoe. During our tour, Carlos pointed out the different flora and fauna and how Grande Lakes is working with nature conservation efforts to properly restore the ecosystem.

It was the perfect ending to a perfect trip. Grande Lakes is proof that you can still enjoy the natural wonder Central Florida has to offer. Thank you to the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes staff and Laura Davidson Public Relations for coordinating such a wonderful and insightful trip in my home state of Florida!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Girls Getaway to The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes - Day #2

After breakfast at the Club Room, we made our way by van to the Adventure Course (for adults) and Exploration Course (for kids). The Adventure Course was designed a few years ago to cater to groups who wanted team building activities. It now accommodates all types of traveler and includes a zipline, ropes course and giant swing. The staff ensures a “safety first” approach is always taken, so you never feel too uncomfortable. We zipped and swong (is that a word?) to a terrific first part of the day. I did scream as I dropped straight down for the first few seconds of the giant swing. I wasn’t quite ready for that and will not be jumping off the platform next time.

After building up quite an appetite, we had lunch at Fairways Pub and then made our way to the driving range for our PGA Tour Academy Golf Lesson at The Ritz- Carlton Golf Club with Gol Pro Kim Healey. While none of us had any golfing experience, we got a full lesson in the basics of golf, from stance to grip to terminology. With laughs and giggles along the way, we all improved 100% and were hitting the ball well. Annika Sorenstam....look out!

Although we were sad to leave Kim and the course, we were eager to get to our spa appointments at The Ritz-Carlton Spa. I had my first ever Ashiatsu Massage. In this ancient form of bodywork, utilizing a pleasantly hypnotic essential oil of peppermint, specially trained therapists use bars set in the ceiling to balance themselves while their feet perform broad, deep compressions to bring about structural change in chronically tight muscle tissue, while invoking a state of deep relaxation. I could not believe Joanne was using her feet to massage me. It felt just like someone’s hands. It was very cool!

That evening was a five-course dinner at Norman’s Restaurant in The Ritz-Carlton, which is the award-winning restaurant featuring celebrity Chef Norman Van Aken's acclaimed New World Cuisine as the culinary centerpiece. I started with the Creamy Cracker Conch Chowder, which was out of this world. Then the Pan Cooked Fillet of Key West Yellowtail was absolutely perfect.

PHOTO: Casey Wohl jumps off the platform and swings on the Adventure Course's Giant Swing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Girls Getaway to The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes - Day 1

While driving the winding entrance to the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes you automatically get a sense of the sophistication and elegance this property has to offer. One often thinks theme parks and cartoons when they think of Disney, but the Grande Lakes property, which include the Ritz Carlton Orlando and the JW Marriott, will prove that theory wrong.

From the moment I arrived at the front door, I was greeted with the personal touches that the Ritz-Carlton brand is known for. Megan greeted me at the reception desk with a bottle of water and escorted me to the elevators. I opened the door into my Club Level room to find a fruit basket, welcome letter and assortment of goodies to enjoy during my stay. Best of all, I had an amazing view of the golf course and lakes that make Grande Lakes so special.

We started our festivities with a Garden Party at Primo Garden. Here Chef Juan grows many of the herbs and spices used in his restaurant. The hotel is very dedicated to using locally-grown produce and meats, which only enhance the freshness and taste of their cuisine. In the garden we found tomatoes, herbs, spices, lettuce, potatoes, okra and edible flowers.

During our dinner at Primo, we sat at the Chef’s Table and faced the active kitchen area. I fully enjoyed my Pan Roasted Atlantic Mahi w/crab risotto & fava beans (no chianti), and the desserts were as delicious as they were artistic. They make all of their own bread at Primo, so bread could honestly be your dessert as the sweet aroma fills the air as soon as they place it on the table. A great way to end a great first day.

PHOTO: Garden Reception in Primo Garden at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Getaway Girl Brings "Sex" to Orlando

For 125 lucky ladies, the highly-anticipated Sex and the City 2 Movie Premiere & VIP Pre-Party will remain one of their best Girls Night Outs (GNO) ever! The May 28th evening started with an exclusive pre-party at Neiman Marcus at the Mall at Millenia in Orlando, which included martinis, Manolos and makeovers. The women also got a sneek preview of Neiman Marcus‘ summer shoe sale, enjoyed participating in the Rearview Art and tried on the fabulous Neiman Marcus apparel.

After the pre-party, the attendees moved on to Universal CityWalk where The Getaway Girl® Casey Wohl rented an entire theater (complete with bartender) just for this GNO event. While the women watched everyone’s favorite NYC girlfriends jet set to Abu Dhabi and deal with life’s ups and downs, the group laughed and cried yet were thoroughly entertained for more than two hours.

Many thanks to Blue Martini for the cocktails, CRAVE for the food, Pinkberry for the dessert, and our location host, Neiman Marcus.

“Maybe some women aren't meant to be tamed. Maybe they just need to run free til they find someone just as wild to run with them.” - Sex and the City

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Getaway Girls Talks Travel with Better TV

Want to know some of the best destinations to travel to with your gal pals? Watch my interview on Better TV re: Great Girls Getaway Destinations at

What are your favorite Girlfriend Getaway destinations and why?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Goodbye Trinidad and Tobago!

After my last snorkel, it was time to say goodbye to Trinidad and Tobago. Although I felt like I was on a whirlwind tour, I already plan to return to experience the infamous Carnival celebration and enjoy some downtime in February 2011. Thank you to Kiran Maharaj, Newton George, Trinidad and Tobago Tourism and Cheryl Andrews Marketing for a wonderful trip!

PHOTO: On Maracas Bay in Trinidad with Kiran Maharaj.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Girls Getawy to Tobago - Day 2

We woke up early Saturday morning for a hike through the Tobago Rainforest with Newton George. This rainforest is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere and was originally established by the French. This forested area has incredible biodiveristy including many species of birds, mammals, frogs, (nonpoisonous) snakes, butterflies, crabs and other invertebrates. You normally don’t see a celebrity while hiking through a rainforest, but The Getaway Girl travel sightings never cease to amaze anyone.

While hiking, we “ran into” Dwight Yorke, who recently returned as a professional soccer player for Manchester United. My UK co-hikers were overjoyed at the opportunity to met him and get our photos taken with him. It just goes to NEVER know who you will meet on a Girls Getaway! After the hike, I toured the Villas at Stonehaven (, where celebs such as Shakira, Chaka Khan, Elton John and others stay when they play the Tobago Jazz Festival.

We arrived at Pigeon Point Heritage Park for lunch and a Buccoo Reef Tour. Buccoo Reef is the largest coral reef in Tobago and was designated as a marine park in 1973. The popular dive site contains a reef system of five flats separated by deep channels. A major feature of the excursion is Nylon Pool a veritable tranquil paradise in the ocean. This unique feature of the reef complex allows swimmers to enjoy their own private swimming pool. Depths are no greater than 7-10 feet at high tides. The Nylon Pool is shallow and ideal for swimming, with a soft sandy bottom. Local folklore promises that a swim in the waters of the Nylon Pool will make you look five years younger, but I don’t see much difference yet.

PHOTO: Girls Getaway to Tobago. While hiking through the Tobago rainforest, we met pro soccer player Dwight Yorke.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Welcome to Tobago!

I woke up early the next morning to catch my flight from Trinidad to Tobago, which was about a 20 minute flight and costs about $50 (US) round trip. I arrived in Tobago, met with Nigel (my tour guide) and Roger (my driver) and they drove me to the Bacolet Beach Club ( where I stayed for the next two nights while in Tobago. I had just enough time to appreciate the rose petals scattered over my bed, drop my bags off and get back in the car as we headed to Argyle Falls.

A 15-minute hike took us to the island’s highest falls. The Argyle waterfall is located on the Roxborough Estate which was a thriving sugar estate up to the 1870s. Ruins and artifacts of the old sugar mill are still in place. Today it provides a natural area for residents and visitors to enjoy. After the falls, we had lunch at Jemma’s Seaview Kitchen & Treehouse Restaurant, which serves sides family style with your choice of fish, chicken, lobster or shrimp for your main course. A great meal with a fabulous view!! During our lunch I met Newton George who is widely recognized as the leading bird watching, wildlife and natural history tour guide leader on Tobago. Bird watchers from around the world come to Tobago in order to see amazing, one-of-a-kind birds here, as well as learn from Mr. George. Nearly 470 birds have been recorded on Tobago and Newton knows them all by sight, sound and often nests.

After lunch we departed from Blue Water’s Inn for our Little Tobago Tour, which included bird watching with Newton George. This small, forested island just offshore of Speyside is one of the most important seabird sanctuaries in the Caribbean. The nature series "The Trials of Life" by Richard Attenborough was filmed here. It plays host to the Red-Billed Tropic Bird among others and at one time was home to transplanted Birds of Paradise from New Guinea. The Tropic Birds are most prevalent during the months of October to June, so I was just in time. It was a real honor to be guided by Newton as he knows everything there is to know about wildlife in Tobago. We not only saw the birds, but learned about their habitats, feeding habits, mating rituals and life cycle. It was truly amazing! After the island tour, we stopped at the reef for some snorkeling. Randy pointed out several different kinds of fish, such as the Blue Tang, Grouper and Parrotfish. After our snorkel, we enjoyed dinner at Kariwak Village Holistic Haven and Hotel (, which included a delicious buffet and live music (dancing optional).

Photo: Girls Getaway to Tobago with Newton George, Tobago's #1 bird and nature guide.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Girls Getaway to Trinidad - Day 1

The next morning consisted of a visit to the Heartbeat Radio for Women office in Trinidad where I phoned the U.S. station for my weekly Travel Segment (airs every Thursday at 9:30 AM). Best Life Barb was jealous I got to visit Trinidad before she did, but we agreed we’d come for their famous Carnival celebration in February. After the radio segment, Kiran drove me to the popular beach area of Maracas Bay for some beach time and my very first Bake N’ Shark. What is Bake N’ Shark you ask? It is basically fried dough and highly seasoned fried fish (shark), which does not sound all that amazing or innovative but it is very popular with the locals (also known as Trinis). I learned is that the popularity of this sandwich is all in the execution. The condiment bar is often as large as the fish stand that cooks it and contains everything from cilantro sauces to garlic sauce, tamarind sauce, chopped vegetables and of course pepper sauce. There are several fish shacks near the beach that sell Bake N’ Shark, but be sure you go to the one with the longest line as that is usually the best!

After a tour of Maracas Bay, we drove to Pax Guest House for Afternoon Tea. I was so exhausted and the setting was so relaxing that I almost fell asleep. That evening consisted of dinner and cultural entertainment at Spalkers. I had no idea what limbo dancers were, but now that I have seen it firsthand I am amazed at “how low they can go.” Incredible!
PHOTO: My Bake N Shark served with a Stag Beer!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Welcome to Trinidad!

Located just seven miles off the coast of Venezuela, Trindad and Tobago are the southeasterly islands of the Antilles. This is the birthplace of calypso music and the steelpan, which are both evident in the variety of musical events held throughout the year. I arrived at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad (, dropped my bags and went directly to their spa for four hours worth of spa treatments, which included a soak, scrub, massage and facial. These were amazing treatments that were much needed after all the traveling I had been doing before I even got to Trinidad. After the spa, I was off to Trinidad & Tobago’s Fashion Week, which was held that night at my hotel and where we watched some of the best fashion designers from the two islands showcase their fashions.

PHOTO: Ode to the steelpan at Trinidad airport.