A New Chapter Begins

 

When it comes to embarking on a new chapter in life, I’m rediscovering that timing really is everything. The time has never felt more right for me to take an extended break from New York. So it is with the happiest heart that I prepare to leave my beloved Big Apple for LA.

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All smiles in Santa Monica (July 2013)

 

My journey to becoming an Angeleno began, in some ways, half a lifetime ago, when I fell in love for the first time with a California guy. During the year of that bicoastal romance, I was introduced to some of the West Coast’s varied attractions–from the charms of Santa Monica and majesty of the Pacific Coast Highway to quaint beachside town Morro Bay. Though the love affair ended, it was only the beginning of my fondness for Cali.

Over the years, I have enjoyed a weekend getaway to San Francisco and Napa, unexpected romance in San Diego and many, many trips to visit friends in L.A. It was during one particular visit nearly 3 years ago that my California dreaming began.

Longtime dear friend A invited me to join his wife at Malibu Winery to watch their incredibly talented daughter Ren perform outdoors. Sitting there in the sunshine with the mountains behind us, I found myself wondering–why have I never lived here??

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A glorious afternoon at Malibu Winery with A and his wife Leslie

 

That question intensified when I applied for a job in LA. The news that I didn’t get it came as I headed West for a third time in six months. At this point, the question shifted to, can this born and bred New Yorker navigate LA’s car – based lifestyle? Was I really ready to bid farewell to my hometown, or just going through the inevitable weariness that comes with living in the city synonymous with hustle and bustle?

So I settled back into NYC life, or I tried to at least. What I found, though, was that it became increasingly more difficult to keep up with the relentlessly fast pace here. Travels to other places only amplified my desire to slow down. And once again, my thoughts turned to LA.

Despite the frequent rivalry between my first and future hometowns, I have always felt that New York is yin to LA’s yang. Opposites that compliment one another. And for this Big Apple native, there’s no other city which feels more appropriate to explore as a local.

Like I said, timing is everything. Two years ago, I reached out to a Starwood colleague who was making the move from LA to NYC. She graciously shared her insights about her life and career in Cali. We had the chance to work together while she was here, and stayed in touch after she went back last fall. She is now going to be my boss and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Along with congratulations and best wishes, I’ve received some questions from family and friends. Among the most popular–how can I possibly leave NYC?

Quite easily, actually. Having already lived in Sydney, I know I’m going to love the beach – cosmopolitan city lifestyle of LA. And I’m also going to love spending more time with A and my other friends out there.

And, even though my zip code is about to change, one thing most assuredly will not–I am a New York City Gal. Forever proud to be, just ready to adopt a new hometown.

The adventure begins April 10th!

 

Two All-time NYC Favorites

I recently had the pleasure of catching up with two friends I hadn’t seen in awhile–over dinner at two of my favorite NYC restaurants.

First, I enjoyed a night out in the neighborhood with gal pal Lisa. We headed to Ko Sushi, a cozy Japanese eatery on the UES that never disappoints (best shumai dumplings ever and yummy sushi rolls).

An accomplished magazine editor and travel writer, Lisa shares my lifelong passion for NYC and I always love hearing about her latest adventures in and out of our hometown. We also talked about the profound blessing of being happy in our respective careers and never taking it for granted.

My good Stacy and I reconnected over drinks and appetizers at Pershing Square. This laidback bistro and bar right across from Grand Central serves up delicious bistro fare in a comfortable setting ideal for conversation.

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Pershing Square Cafe (photo courtesy: pershingsquare.com)

We had plenty to talk about — from memorable concerts and developments at work to the soul soothing joys of travel.

As Stacy shared her recent jaunt to London, I felt a wave of nostalgia for my other favorite city–the only place I love as much as NYC.

Well, almost as much.

A Trio of Weekend Getaways

Anyone who knows me knows travel is one of my greatest passions. And over the last month, I set a personal travel record–three back to back weekend getaways. Each one afforded the opportunity to reconnect with beloved friends and family for milestone occasions.

First, I headed to Mount Holyoke for my 20-year college reunion. A happy wave of nostalgia and pride in my alma mater infused my return to campus. There is something magical about being part of this sisterhood of uncommon women. That feeling was deeply present as we participated in the laurel parade, a longstanding MHC tradition in which reunion classes are followed by the graduating seniors. The seniors then weave a laurel chain around MHC founder Mary Lyon’s grave before singing the moving anthem “Bread and Roses.”

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Snapshots from my 20 year reunion: MHC women rock.

At reunion, I had the pleasure of catching up with dear friends Traci and Dana, reuniting with dorm neighbor Cristina and seeing first year floormate Aimee. Two decades fell away as Aimee and I talked about how our lives have unfolded since graduation. Amazing.

Getaway #2 took me to Toronto, for a girls weekend with dear friends Jackie and Belgium-based Cindy.

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Girls weekend fun: (from left) Cindy, me and Jackie

Taking advantage of picture perfect weather, we explored some top attractions in my former hometown: the CN Tower, Toronto Island and historic public buildings offering complimentary admission as part of Doors Open. Along the way, of course, we enjoyed wonderful conversations about life, love and the importance of good friends in navigating the trials and triumphs of life.

Last weekend, my beloved cousin Alexandra and I headed to Jersey City to celebrate her college graduation. Our home for the weekend – the fantastic Westin hotel. I  won the stay here during a regional Starwood employee event and it was just as rejuvenating as I anticipated. We were welcomed with a suite upgrade and wine and cake pops.

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All smiles: Alexandra and me

After spending hours chatting the night away, Alexandra and I headed across the street to Battello, a lively, sprawling bistro along the water with spectacular skyline views. Alexa is more like a sister than a cousin to me and I treasure the bond we share.

All of weekend getaways nourished my spirit and gave me much-needed quality time with some of my nearest and dearest. Traveling so much in a short span of time also reinforced that old and ever so true adage – there’s no place like home.

A Fun-Filled Florida Getaway

For as much as I love NYC, sometimes you just need a break from it, especially during a winter as frigid as this one. So I was especially excited to spend President’s Day weekend down South in Jacksonville, visiting my Titi Eneida and cousins Monica and Steven. Joining in the festivities — NY-based cousins Dana and Carla.

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Family Reunion: (from left) Titi Eneida, Dana, Monica and hubby Michael, Carla and me in St. Augustine

Our Florida getaway was perfect from start to finish. Saturday, we drove down to St. Augustine. This charming, historic town (the oldest in the US) never fails to delight with its cobblestone streets lined with quaint shops and Spanish style architecture.

After strolling around and browsing in a few stores, we went to A1A Ale Works for a delightful lunch on the balcony (lobster and shrimp tacos, mmmm). But the weekend’s most memorable, delicious meal happened later at Titi Eneida’s house.

Titi prepared a Valentine’s feast, with a festively decorated table, homemade spinach salad, pizza with sausage and peppers, chocolate cupcakes and chocolate covered strawberries.

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Best Valentine’s Day meal ever!

Sunday, we drove to St. John’s Town Center, a beautiful outdoor mall with 150 stores, where I finally found two major items for my home makeover (details to come!) and savored the sunshine in a cozy seating area outside Nordstrom’s.

Later, after a brief visit to Jax Beach, we went back to Monica and hubby Michael’s place for a laughter filled night watching Saturday Night Live ‘ s epic 40th anniversary special.

I am so happy this family reunion coincided with Valentine’s Day. It reminded how blessed I am to have so much love in my life, and be related to so many wonderful people. And really, that’s what February 14th is truly about: cherishing every kind of love — regardless of your relationship status.

An A-mazing Weekend In L.A.

This weekend marked my second visit to L.A. this summer. The occasion–celebrating a very special milestone for my dear friend A Martinez: the premiere screening of his new movie, Before Your Eyes.

The short film is A’s first foray into screenwriting and directing. And its debut made for two memorable evenings I feel so fortunate and happy to have been a part of.

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Malibu Cafe

Friday night, Malibu Cafe provided the ideal setting for an intimate outdoor dinner with A and his beautiful family. Nestled in the heart of Malibu Canyon, it offers a picturesque outdoor setting with whimsical touches like chandeliers strung from the trees and paddleboats. Joining me for the festive meal were my good friends Marilyn and Candy, and Candy’s Italy-based friend Elisa, all of whom (like me) became acquainted with A decades ago during his iconic Emmy-winning role as Cruz Castillo on the NBC soap Santa Barbara.

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(from left): Marilyn, me, A, Candy and Elisa

Over dinner, we reminisced about the magic that was SB and all of the good that has come from it — most especially our enduring friendships. With Candy in France, Marilyn in Ohio and me in NYC, we were thrilled to be together for such a happy occasion. Last night, we headed to Olandar, home and artistic sanctuary of actor Leigh McCloskey and wife Carla, for the screening. The evening began with a stirring performance by A’s son Dakota Martinez and wife Sandra Pehrsson a.k.a SandraKota.

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SandraKota performs at Olandar

Their soulful voices harmonize just perfectly together and you can feel the love between them. Sandra later told me the sweet story of how she approached Cody when they were both in the same class. Upon discovering that he shared her affinity for dates, she invited him to go to a date farm. They clicked immediately and married a year later. Seeing them together is enough to make this jaded single believe in true love again. Finally, it was time for the main attraction and Before Your Eyes didn’t disappoint. The film takes place on a climactic night for one family after their tormented father leaves. They come together to make a video in a bid to avoid losing their home. It is a powerful tale of the ties that bind and pull us apart, vividly brought to life by the talented ensemble cast. A seamlessly blends Before Your Eyes‘ dramatic story with humor and wit, grounding the film in rich characterizations and engaging dialogue. The transcendent song around which all of the action takes place, co-written by A and Cody, stays with you after the credits roll. I couldn’t be happier for or prouder of A in what he has accomplished with Before Your Eyes. As I told him afterward, he is as much a hero to me now as he was when we first met more than 25 years ago. Congratulations, my friend.

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