Monday, September 18, 2006


I'll be blogging at TRAVEL SWEEPS from here into the indefinite future. If you want to post a comment and you have not signed up with the new beta Blogger, you won't be able to. I hope you'll click to my new digs.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

duty free shopping: spa-di-da


This sweeps, a five-night getaway to the U.S. Virgin Islands, includes a $1,000 gift certificate to duty free shops. I’ve never understood their appeal. I suppose that’s because I’ve never been in the market for a bottle of perfume or a watch or a bottle of cognac at the precise moment I’ve passed a duty free shop. No, wait. That’s not accurate. I bought my parents a bottle of liquor in a duty free shop once. I bought the duty free gift because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do. If forced, I'm sure I could treat myself to a little something. Or get my Christmas shopping done early.

This prize also includes massages and facials, a sunset sail on a catamaran, a submarine ride (
Atlantis Adventures ) and tickets to Coral World Ocean Park. Man oh man, I want to go. The winner stays at the Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa. See the OFFICIAL RULES for details.

To enter, click
HERE. The sweeps closes on September 30.

Monday, August 28, 2006

back to school: vacation, anyone?


Okay, I’m exaggerating. Today is the first day of school. The start of the school year always feels huge. The surprises. (A favorite teacher of Isaac’s left the school over the summer.) The worries. (Will Isaac like his class assignment this year?) The meetings. (So far, back to school night and a fundraiser, with more to come.) We got all of the above and then some. That said, his teachers seem great and it’s a great group of students. Most of them have been together since kinder-garten. Call me crazy (you won't be the first), but I’m optimistic we’ll have a good year.

I’m going to enter a sweeps for Scotland today: three nights at Jury’s Inn in Glasgow plus airfare. This is Frommer’s monthly “Hot Spot” giveaway.

To enter, click
HERE and then click on the “To Enter” icon. (If I try to link directly to the entry form, it times out.) The deadline to enter is August 31.

Saturday, August 26, 2006



Isaac and his best friend and his best’s friend’s mother and his best friend’s mother’s boyfriend and I are descending upon Hershey, Pennsylvania next weekend. It’s a trip we’d talked about doing last summer, but our plans clashed. So here we are. We’re staying at The Lodge. We’re going to visit all the sites.

I love the history of Hershey's, with Milton Hershey’s early failures at candy-making, in Philadelphia, New York and Denver. Hershey (1857 - 1945) moved back to Lancaster, close to where he grew up, because of the dairy farms. He was going to make caramels with milk, through The Hershey Lancaster Company. Hershey started making milk chocolate after he saw an exhibit, a demonstration of German chocolate-making, at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He purchased the equipment, and started making chocolate in a wing of the caramel factory. The first record sale of Hershey’s chocolate was on April 17, 1895. He broke ground for a chocolate factory in Derry Township, where he grew up, in 1903. What’s amazing about Hershey, besides his persistence, is his sense of social responsibility towards his workers. He built homes and schools for them. Hershey Park was originally for his employees. It opened in 1907. I would call Milton S. Hershey a Great American.

My favorite chocolate Hershey’s product is the kisses. They make 80 million a day. Isaac won’t let me kiss him anymore. If I kiss his head, he rubs it. If I kiss his shoulder, he wipes it. When he does that, I ask him if he wants to wash it. I ask him if he wants disinfectant. A few months ago, when he was passing through an oppositional phase, I punished him with hugs and kisses. “For that, you owe me 10 hugs and 10 kisses,” I would tell him in a fun-but-serious tone. The humor in the discipline diffused the behavior. Oh, if things were always so simple.Yes, there’s a sweeps here. To celebrate its centennial, Hershey Park is sponsoring a sweeps. The Grand Prize is four nights in the Hershey Lodge and tickets to tons of attractions.

To enter, you have to include a memory or a momento, in the form of pictures or statements. Presumably this means this sweeps is only open to people who have been to Hershey. Though I suppose you could write a statement about they kept trying to get to Hershey but never did.

To enter, click

The deadline is September 4. That’s Isaac’s birthday. That means I’ll have to act quickly. We return the day before.



I wear Vétiver by Guerlain. It’s been my signature scent since 1980. It’s technically POUR HOMME, but I know plenty of gals who wear it. My best friend’s mother. My son’s pediatrician, who happens to be my best friend’s sister. Apparently Princess Diana was partial to it, too. I “discovered” it through a fellow. A fellow I hung out with back in the day. I liked how he smelled, but not enough to ask what the name of his cologne was. One day, he spritzed it all over my place, to mask the kitty-litter odor. He was funny that way. I realized after he’d left that the place still smelled like him, of him. That’s when I asked him: What is this you wear? It was Vétiver by Guerlain. I’ve worn it ever since. Sometimes it’s hard to find. But it has to be Guerlain. I tried another brand once and it was not the same. It doesn’t suit everyone, either. Perfume and eau de cologne are funny that way. Two stories: When I was in Haiti in 1980, my best friend's mother pointed to a truck. "It's vétiver," she said. And it was. My friend Scott was riding the subway in New York once and he smelled Vétiver, presumably by Guerlain. And he said, “That’s Barbara.” That’s right. That’s me.

Here’s a sweeps, sponsored by Guerlain, for a weekend in New York and a makeover at La Maison Guerlain. The winner must take the trip in January. The only other rub is this is a promotion for a new perfume, Insolence. I’m always open to a second signature scent.

The deadline to enter is September 29. To enter, click

Thursday, August 24, 2006


REMINDER: Check out the new look at TRAVEL SWEEPS.

In the five-plus months I’ve been systematically entering travel sweeps, I cannot think of a prize that rivals this one in scale: a safari in Kenya and a slot to run in the Safaricom Marathon. The marathon takes place in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy next June. A Kenyan, Paul Tergat, won the New York Marathon last year, as well as Olympic and other medals, so this is serious marathon territory.

I can’t tell from the OFFICIAL RULES if the winner is obligated to run the marathon. Here’s a clue: Adidas is a co-sponsor, along with National Geographic. So, it looks so. I almost didn’t enter for that very reason. Then I did a little math. The winner will be selected in November; that will leave eight months to train. I decided why not. I could always walk the lion’s share of the 26-plus miles. In this case, the lion’s share takes on literal meaning. Per the Lewa’s website: There are approximately 25 resident Lion on Lewa, and between 10-15 transient Lion that go between Lewa and the neighbouring ranches Borana and Il Ngwesi.

That sound’s like a respectable lion’s share.

Also from the Lewa website: The marathon is run on dirt roads, over two 21km loop for the half-marathon- through the Conservancy. Over time, the Safaricom Lewa marathon has gained reputation as one for being one of the ten toughest marathon events in the world. Run on a rough terrain and under harsh climatic conditions, it is an enticing experience which has continued to inspire distance runners and athletic fans alike. The grueling marathon is also unique in that it is run within a game reserve located at an average altitude of 5,500 feet above sea level.

Conclusion: Winning this one would be complicated.

To enter, click HERE.

The deadline is October 13.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Please see TRAVEL SWEEPS for a more visually satisfying experience.


What color is the sky?
I don’t know. I haven’t had my coffee.
Who was the first president?
I don’t know. I haven’t had my coffee.
When and where was your son born?
I don’t know. I haven’t had my coffee.

You get the picture. I’m not a morning person. The first thing I do when I get up is make a good strong cup of coffee. I use a primitive method. I put water in a pan and turn the gas flame on high. I put coffee, El Pico espresso, extra fine grind, in a filter. I set the filter on top of an Italian mug,
DeRuta Blue Arabic. When the water comes to a boil, I pour it in a Pyrex measuring cup. Then I pour the water into the grinds in the filter. I take my coffee with milk, 2%, and sugar. Es mi gasolina. The Italian mug I use is the last in a set of four, a long-ago gift for a once-upon-a-time occasion. The ceramicist was named Sanguinetti. I wonder if he’s still alive. If he is, I wonder if I could find him at work in Deruta. That’s in Italy, in Umbria. If he isn’t, I wonder if I could find someone who knew him, someone who could tell me a bit about him. I wonder if he is or was “sanguine.” A funny word, sanguine. (From The Free Dictionary: 1. a. Of the color of blood; red and 3. cheerfully confident; optimistic.) A word that makes me hesitate, a word that stokes my vocabularic diffidence. Especially when I haven’t had my coffee.

Mr. Coffee, coffee-maker maker extraordinaire, is offering a sweeps to Hawaii: $5,000 that can be used to custom-design the trip, plus $2,500 in cash. To enter, click HERE. Here are the OFFICIAL RULES.

I’m feeling sanguine about this. But it's one in the afternoon. Maybe I’ve had too much coffee.



Before I had Isaac, I sometimes found myself out of the country over Halloween. It’s an easy holiday to forego. It’s also a great time to travel. The weather is temperate, crowds have dwindled, inns generally are still open for business. If I did remain stateside, I’d do my best to ignore the celebration. The throngs of adults acting out sexual goodness-knows-what, women with ample bosoms in low-cut dresses, men with false bosoms in low-cut dresses (their favorite movie, without fail, was “Some Like It Hot”) were tiresome. The exception might have been the Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village, but in the 1980s, before it became too popular. Then along comes baby and Halloween becomes a good thing, a fun thing, with costume parties in the park and parades around the block at school.

When Isaac was four or thereabouts, I researched the history of Halloween online. That was how I stumbled upon Salem, Massachusetts’ Haunted Happenings, a nearly month-long series of events in the name of what for centuries had been a celebration of summer’s end and all that comes with seasonal death. This LINK from The History Channel nicely sums up the holiday’s origins.

I was also interested in Salem because of the witch trials. In the fifth grade, we watched the 1950s “You Are There” episode, the one hosted by Walter Cronkite, on the proceedings. It was riveting. I’m sure I was intrigued in part because some of the central characters were young girls, girls close to my age. It was one of the first times I felt a connection of possibility to history, albeit an abominably unfortunate incident. I remember thinking, "I could have been one of them." Then, when I was in college, I discovered I was the direct descendent of Winifred Benham of Wallingford, Conn.; she was thrice accused and thrice acquitted of witchcraft in the 1690s. The first accusation came in 1692, the same year that the charges started flying in Salem. So there was a pull there, too.

I was horrified that Salem didn’t give the trials proper treatment and instead had allowed any entrepreneur with the inclination and a line of credit to open up a witch museum or a haunted house. The august Peabody Museum, which houses the papers from the proceedings, has kept its distance. The last time I checked, the extent of the Peabody's curatorial recognition of the events for which Salem is most widely known was two display cases, in the library, not in the main museum, containing artifacts, a walking stick, an arrest warrant and the like. I was less appalled that Salem traded on its witch past in the weeks leading up to October 31. The commercial impulse, though not entirely forgiveable, is to be expected. The museum's disregard less so. I wrote about all this

Despite all of the above, I’ve been meaning to take Isaac to Salem for Halloween. This sweeps, for a trip to Salem for next Halloween, gives me a chance to do that. It’s to promote a Sony horror movie, The Covenant, starring a new crop of young actors.

To enter, click
HERE. The winner takes the trip next year, per the OFFICIAL RULES. The deadline to enter is October 31. At one minute before midnight.

Monday, August 21, 2006


I'm playing with a new look at TRAVEL SWEEPS and would love feedback if anyone is so inclined. This is not official. Blogger is beta-testing an upgrade as of last week. I wanted to check it out with a new site so as not to risk losing this blog in the "migration." Once you convert to the new system, there's no going back. Now, I may stick with the original design. But I'm thinking the new one is easier on the eyes. It's much easier to use. My only quibble is I've been having trouble uploading photographs this afternoon. I wish we had a few more function options, like centering photographs we add to the sidebar. Sigh. Never perfectly satisfied, this bloggist. Still, it is a huge improvement.

Cheers, Barbara


This morning I entered Caribbean Travel & Life’s “Best of the Caribbean Resorts” contest. To render myself eligible, I voted in 32 categories, including Best Island for Celeb Spotting and Best Snorkeling Destination and, most preposterously, Best Clothing Optional Beach. How the hell am I supposed to know what the best clothing optional beach in the Caribbean is? I’ve only been to one clothing optional beach in my life, Gay Head Beach on Martha’s Vineyard. What’s lovely about Gay Head is a.) a fair number of people keep their clothes on and b.) many who remove their clothing cover their bodies in clay that’s available at the base of the cliffs. The result was a fair number of people who together resembled a collection of statues in all manner of pose. For the record, I kept my bathing suit on. I can be a social conservative when you get down to it. Also, I don’t believe the gentleman I was traveling with would have approved.

26. Best Clothing Optional Beach
Orient Beach, St. Martin
Hedonism II Beach, Jamaica
San Souci, Jamaica
Sorobon Beach, Bonaire
Saline Beach, St. Barthelemy
Anse de Gouveneur, St. Barthelemy

No matter. I couldn’t pass up a chance to win a trip to the Caribbean, specifically to one of the magazine’s “best of” winners. Note: The
OFFICIAL RULES do not seem to specify the length of the stay.

To enter, click

The deadline is August 31.

That’s in ten days. That's next Thursday. Where did the summer go?

Of course, Cuba was not a choice in any of the categories. That will probably change after Castro kicks the bucket. With time. I thought of Cuba this weekend. After Isaac and I saw “Snakes on a Plane,” we went to Barnes & Noble in Georgetown. I bought a copy of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.” I started to read it to Isaac yesterday afternoon. He fell asleep, his head in my lap. He wasn’t bored. On the contrary. He was keen on hearing how the old man caught the big fish. But he was tired from a lingering summer cold. I kept reading, and finished the novella last evening. What an incredibly sad story. Life is mostly luck. Now I wish I had made it to Cuba before Castro’s demise. Nothing short of a miracle would make that happen. I also want to see lions on a beach. Santiago, the old fisherman, dreams of lions on the beach. Where in Africa can I see this? Google doesn’t help. I am not interested in sea lions on a beach. Though
LION'S DIVE, a resort in Curacao, looks tempting. But it doesn’t satisfy my original longing. It creates another.