November 1, 2003 by  
Filed under Dining

Indian Indulgence

by John DeMers

If you can’t say something stupid about something, don’t say anything at all. That must have been my operating philosophy the first time I met Chef Kiran Verma of Ashiana Indian Restaurant on Dairy Ashford and her business partner, Dr. Jack Sharma.
Verma was collaborating with Monica Pope of Boulevard Bistro on another of those east-west-see-what-happens dinners, each course paired with some interesting or even surprising wine. So, of course, it didn’t take me long – despite my then-newness to Houston and my general ignorance of, well, most things – to declare what was really most significant and newsworthy about this particular dinner.
“How does it feel, Dr. Jack?” I asked, picking up the mode of personal address that nearly everyone uses with him. “I mean, come on. All these people drinking all these wines with Indian food – when wine doesn’t even go with Indian food!”
I knew what I was talking about. Indian food went with beer, the perfect cold and cooling liquid to follow its incendiary spices that are known everywhere (except, it turns out, in India) as curry. I’d always had beer with Indian food, including one called Kingfisher that came in the world’s largest beer bottle all the way from India. Quite a few Indian waiters on more than one continent had assured me beer was the chosen drink for this always-fiery cuisine.
Well, for the rest of that evening, Dr. Jack ignored other folks at our table on an express mission to set this poor soul straight. Indian food, he said, isn’t always the least bit hot – though it always features a unique and complex blend of exotic spices. Indian food isn’t always curry – certainly never made with “curry powder,” which was merely a British shortcut to the painstaking (and ever-changing) mix of spices that Indian chefs, domestic help and even housewives have always created themselves. And about this silly business of the beer –
Indian food is perfect with and for wine, pronounced Dr. Jack, who recently had the honor of seeing his own smiling face in the Wine Spectator. Indeed, the rather subtle flavors Verma served us that evening flipped their fascinating way through vintage after vintage, white and red alike. If anything, Indian food went better with wine than a lot of things I’d tasted at wine dinners by chefs from actual wine countries. The biggest bombshell of all: India itself used to be a wine country.
Spinning a tale worthy of Kipling (a Brit who probably drank nothing but gin and beer), Dr. Jack told me about the Greeks in India – the Greeks? – armies led into the country’s north by Alexander the Great. The Greeks, like the Romans who later copied their every good or bad habit, wouldn’t cross the street from the Parthenon without knowing that where they were going had decent wine. Or else, happily for all of us, they took grape cuttings and set to planting.
For centuries after Alexander was a memory (a godlike one, if we believe Kipling’s story “The Man Who Would Be King”), the people of India enjoyed glass after glass of their own local wine. It was the coming of Muslim culture (creating the tangled issues addressed with the formation of Muslim Pakistan and largely Hindu India), with the Koran’s strict prohibitions on alcohol, that ended the “glory days” of Indian winemaking. Still, no British soldier anywhere could stand being sober for long, so these guys brought their own preferences to their long reign in India. And those preferences were, to the ease and delight of later Kipling quartets, gin and beer.
I’ll never forget that east-west dinner full of surprises, with Verma and Dr. Jack of Ashiana. Yet for me, as for many Americans, Indian cuisine is always about surprises. It’s mouth-burning hot less often than not – though “hot stuff” can always be found or avoided by uttering the single word vindaloo. Indian food is far more varied than we tend to give it credit for. Rather than turning everything into curry, Indian chefs can treat each dish as a separate entity demanding its own cooking method, its own careful cooking time and, of course, its very own blend of 14, 21, maybe 27 different spices. (The Indian spice rack is a wonder to behold.)
One of the few simple words to remember is tandoori. A ‘tandoor” is an unusual, super-heated clay oven that many Indians use to cook almost everything: from served-everywhere tandoori chicken to shrimp and fish to the collection of incredible breads known as naan. Most tandoori items are marinated first in a liquid blend that’s usually very red (except at Ashiana, where both colors and flavors are subtler). They tend to remain moist during cooking, taking on only a minimal char on the outside like the very best stuff you ever cooked on your backyard grill – except, with that spice-yogurt marinade, much better.
For the uninitiated (and/or intimidated), Ashiana does what most Indian restaurants in Houston do – though only reluctantly, says Verma. The place sets out a dazzling, palate-pleasing lunch buffet that gets gobbled up so fast the foods remain fresh. These tables feature most “colors” from the Indian palette, including the best pureed lentil dal I’ve ever had in Houston, New York or even that hotbed of large and small Indian restaurants, London.
Don’t tell Verma I sent you to her buffet because she really wants you to try her tender, voluptuous rack of lamb, her jumbo prawns marinated in ginger-garlic sauce and her surprisingly creamy chicken tikka masala. Turns out, all three totally different tastes and textures involve the same Indian tandoor. And as Dr. Jack will be happy to assure you when you come rushing back for dinner that evening, they all pair really well with wine. Really. H

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November 1, 2003 by  
Filed under Edit

Stores to Adore

Abejas Boutique
(713) 522-3025

Packed to the gills with designer gear, this hip boutique is a Houston find. Whether you are looking for a classic suit or a trendy top, Abejas Boutique is dressing people in the know with internationally known duds. From Rebecca Taylor and Lillian Ford to Pearl River and Cherry Pie, fashion, jewelry, gifts and more top the style meter here.

The Antiquarium
3021 Kirby Drive (southeast corner of Kirby and Alabama)
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 622-7531

The Antiquarium is Houston’s largest repository of fine antique prints and maps dating from the 15th to 19th century. This unique gallery offers a wide variety of subjects, including early maps of Texas, the United States and North America; rare celestial maps; beautiful botanical prints and prints of birds, fish, animals, architecture, landscapes, children and more. Stop in to find gifts that combine original antique art with history and science in vivid, hand-painted color.

Maggie Children’s and Nursery Room
2542 Amherst
Houston, TX 77005
(713) 535-3600

Maggie is the place to go if a new or expectant mom or little one is on your list. This beautiful boutique, conveniently located in Rice Village, offers an abundance of choices. Owner Diane Emge offers specialty and vintage clothing, special blankets, unbelievable diaper bags, custom-made baby and children’s furnishings, linens and accessories – all fit for any prince or princess.

Stephen’s Gallery
518 Shepherd (between Memorial and Washington)
Houston, TX 77007
(713) 880-4447

This fabulous gallery carries a wide variety of Impressionist art ranging from original art, sculpture, glass art and their specialty – seriographs. Discover works from well-known artists Viktor Schvaiko, Don Hatfield, Luidmila Kondakova, David Schluss, S. Sam Park, Ming Feng, Kerry Hallam and Thomas Stiltz. Custom framing is also available.

Thomas Markle Jewelers
4417 Kingwood Drive
(281) 360-4367

7692 F.M. 1960 W
(832) 237-1100

If something glittery is on your shopping list, you must visit this fabulous jeweler. With locations in Kingwood and in The Commons at Willowbrook, owner Thomas Markle has combined the best quality jewelry and watches, excellent pricing, more than 25 years of jewelry experience, a warm inviting atmosphere and the best customer service available. With jewelry and watch lines such as Lagos, John Hardy, Mastoloni, Rolex, Tag Heuer and Raymond Weil, to name a few, you are sure to find something to delight that special someone.  Photo: Kevin McGowen


Spa Guide

November 1, 2003 by  
Filed under Blogs, Edit

Roula’s Nail Spa
3017 Kirby Drive
Houston, TX 77098
(713) 528-8500

Roula’s Nail Spa is an upscale retreat for your hands and feet. Delight in a host of luxurious services that are so unique and tantalizing they sound as self-indulgent as an extravagant meal. This boutique introduces a state-of-the-art sterilization process that brings cleanliness previously only found at dental offices to the nail profession. Fear not the ominous chip – here you’ll be sent home with a free sample-sized bottle of polish, nail file and buffer.

1409 S. Post Oak Lane
(713) 439-1414

Celebrating 18 years of beauty in Houston, Tovas offers nothing but the best. Conveniently located in the Galleria area, Tovas has more than 7,000 square feet in which you can be pampered. The staff is European trained and offers such services as manicures, pedicures, facials, massage and more. Indulge your family and friends this holiday season with a gift certificate to Tovas – it’s the perfect gift to give or receive. They are available in increments of $25, or you can purchase spa packages. Some of the most popular packages include the half-day for $198, the full day for $298 and the spa sampler for $220. Call today for the perfect stocking stuffer.

Ernie Manouse

November 1, 2003 by  
Filed under Edit

Been There, Done That

Discussing the “one who would be mayor” with the ones who once were mayor

by Ernie Manouse

With the race for mayor on everyone’s mind in Space City, Houstonians are making decisions and voting for candidates that they hope will make a difference. Looking back at past mayoral terms, Ernie Manouse got a chance to speak with former Mr. Mayors about their terms and what leading the Bayou City was like. In a joint venture with Channel 8’s “the connection” and HoustonPBS, we bring you a bit of wisdom from three men who used to run our city.

Bob Lanier
In office 1992-1997
EM: What does it take to be a good mayor?
BL: I think you need to have a vision of where you want to take the city. You need to be a good leader. You need to have a program that earns and gains the trust of all our people, whatever political party, whatever ethnic group – and then the skill set to carry it out. You need to have articulated that vision in the campaign, and then you need a crackerjack team to help you to carry it out. And I think if you do, it can be such a rewarding experience.

EM: What makes someone right to be mayor?
BL: I think a person needs to have integrity. I think he needs to have vision – look out and see the future. I think he needs to look at things from other people’s viewpoint and to understand how the problem looks to somebody living here in River Oaks, at the same time understand how it looks from Navigation or Jensen or the Third Ward. To understand the desires of and be able to put yourself in the shoes of other people and see the city from their vantage point, see what their real true concerns are. To be able to listen to them, not just in a mechanical sense, but almost listen to their soul and see what is it they’re really after.

EM: Any advice for our next mayor?
BL: State your vision. Serve with integrity. Bring a very competent staff of people around you because you’ll be no better than your staff. Decide what’s important to you, and go for it. Recognize that we are a diverse city and capitalize on that. Keep up this city’s infrastructure. Tend to this city’s finances. Tend to this city’s administration. Tend to the 20-odd thousand people that work for it.

Fred Hofheinz
In office 1974-1977
EM: What advice would you give today’s mayoral candidates?
FH: I’ll tell you what I tell everybody that comes by to see me that wants to run for office: That they have no idea at this point in their life what they’re getting into because it is an all-consuming, completely consuming job for as long as they want to perform it. It means that you’ll be doing virtually nothing but being mayor. You know, your family will suffer. Your private life will suffer tremendously. You’ll have no private life because everywhere you go, everyone will know who you are. And they better make up their mind if they want to be mayor of Houston, if they are willing to give up all that. It’s a totally consuming occupation.

EM: What do you think the candidates need to be watching for when they campaign for this office?
FH: Anyone who?s elected mayor can’t just do it by standing up and saying, “I want to be.” It’s not an “I want to be.” It’s not an “?I – I – I” thing. It’s a”?we,” and you don’t get elected mayor of Houston unless you’re part of a movement that gets you there. There has to be reasons for people to vote for you. It’s not a personality contest. And everybody that I’ve advised about running for mayor, and there’ve been several in the last few years, I always advise, don’t do it unless you see that wave out there. You see what it is that the community wants, what the vision of the community is. Not your vision, but the community’s vision, and you get out there and follow that wave to the goal. If you just stand up and say, “I want to be mayor because my face is pretty,” you’re not gonna have much luck.

Louie Welch
In office 1964-1973
EM: What does it take to be a good mayor?
LW: I think they have to have a recognition that you don’t have all the answers. You have to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are. What I’m saying is, surround me with people who know what they’re doing and know how to do it well. When I say the biggest job the mayor has is to pick up the garbage, that’s something that’s done every week, twice for everybody in Houston. And so many things that are relatively important fade into insignificance if the fifth day comes and no garbage has been picked up. It puts it in perspective. The basic job of the city government is to perform for the citizens things that they cannot do for themselves, or they cannot do it economically.

EM: What are the qualifications you look for in a candidate?
LW: No. 1: integrity. And I would put intelligence probably second or third. But integrity, character, intelligence, and I like for them to have some kind of knowledge of what the job is about. I don’t think you can choose the chairman of the board of the biggest bank in the United States and put him in the mayor’s office and know you’ve got a guaranteed success. The objective of business is to make a profit. No city can make a profit. The object of a city is to render service, and it’s always been that way.

EM: When voters go to the polls, what do you think they are looking for?
LW: Many times they’re just looking for change. They don’t like what they have, and they think anything will be an improvement. Many times they’re looking for a way to get rid of the incumbent, and sometimes they are just tired of the status quo. The issue may be a water rate, it may be a tax rate, or it may be a bump in a road. And more people vote when there’s a bump in the road, and I think they’ll have plenty of reason to vote this year. We have plenty of bumps in the road.

Maui, Hawaii

November 1, 2003 by  
Filed under Blogs, Edit

Maui Wowee

Fun and fashion in the Aloha state

It’s not a cliché after all. It’s official – they really do wear Hawaiian shirts in Hawaii. They are bright, flowered and simply everywhere. If you’re planning on taking Continental Airlines’ brand-spankin’-new direct flight from Houston to Maui, plan on adding a loud festive shirt to your wardrobe in order to enjoy the pristine sandy beaches peppered with dark volcanic rock, lush green hills and plenty of fabulous meals by tiki-torchlight of Maui. So grab some flip-flops and some sunscreen – in just eight hours, you can be on the beautiful island of Maui.

Despite its big reputation, in Texan geographical terms, Maui is really pretty small. The island is entirely contained within 120 miles of coastline, yet this little island packs a big punch. You can shop the day away in the energetic beach town of Lahaina, frolic on the family-friendly beaches of Ka’anapali or relax in the beautiful serenity of Hana. (Photo: Debbie Porter)

Luxurious Lahaina
Depending on where you go, you’ll hear that Maui is the “couple capital” of the world. Well, if you are not one-half of a couple, then Lahaina is where you should take your single self. Lahaina is Maui’s fun, busy little beach town with a beachfront street crammed with shops, restaurants and, most of all, people.

This is where you do your typical Hawaiian shopping – you can pick up the mandatory crazy shirt, update your flip-flop collection and buy any number of flavors of macadamia nuts. And of course, if your penchant for flower leis hasn’t yet been sated by the time you get to Lahaina’s Front Street, this is where you do that, too.

Dig in
One of the best things about shopping is, naturally, that it works up an appetite. Add to that the thirst for something fruity with an umbrella, and you’re really onto something festive. The atmosphere that Cheeseburger in Paradise has to offer is possibly even more festive than its name. Cheeseburger in Paradise, perched just over the ocean, is a casual, open-air beach dive, with walls cluttered with entertaining nonsense such as street signs and wooden beach carvings and a menu that boasts two kinds of wine: “cheap white wine and cheap red wine.” This is the perfect Jimmy Buffet-inspired atmosphere in which to spend countless hours listening to (and eventually, singing along with) live music on the upstairs deck. Just remember to shift every few minutes to keep the direct sun out of your eyes and order plenty of Cheeseburger namesakes while washing them down with a few rounds of their famed Trouble in Paradise tropical cocktails. On any given sunny day, the lines at this joint will be long but well worth the wait.

If you can pull yourself away from the basket of home fries, prepare your taste buds for Pacific’O Contemporary Pacific Cuisine. This restaurant is perhaps Maui’s culinary pinnacle with awards from national magazines such as Travel & Leisure and Wine Spectator, as well as local accolades, including “Best New Restaurant 1999” by the Maui News. Put yourself in the expert hands of Executive Chef James McDonald, and prepare yourself for culinary bliss.

Pacific’O is Pacific-fusion cuisine, a marriage of Polynesian and Southeast Asian influences – hard to describe yet oh-so-easy to enjoy. Allow Chef James to pair his own wine selections with your dinner courses. The results may include Taste of Lahaina’s “Best of Show 2001” Yuzu Divers, seared scallops over coconut rice with yuzu lime sauce and dabbed with caviar and adorned with a fresh orchid, washed down with a chilled glass of rich Rombauer chardonnay. Or it may include Taste of Lahaina’s “Best Seafood” Fresh Hapa Hapa Tempura, tuna sashimi blocks in white miso dressing, paired with Louis Latour Pouilly Fuisse. And if you’re really lucky, it would include a sesame-crusted lamb mini-rack with roasted macadamia nuts and Hawaiian chutney. Chef James’ cuisine alone is worth the flight.

Can’t live without Ka’anapali
If you actually intend to do something in Maui in addition to eating and drinking, there is plenty of that, too. Maui hotels enjoy the benefit of breathtakingly beautiful settings and enough visitors to cater to a specific segment of the tourist population. Whether you have a family with rambunctious small children (or just adult friends that act like rambunctious small children) or are looking for a sultry relaxing ambience, Maui’s got it.

If a fun, active hotel scene is your ultimate destination, the Westin Maui Ka’anapali Beach Hotel will do the trick. Located on the west coast of Maui just north of Lahaina, this 87,000-square-foot beach resort is an aquatic playground. There are five interlocked, cascading swimming pools (one of them, importantly, is adult-only), a secluded Jacuzzi, multiple lounging areas – and a waterslide with 270-degree turns and a 23-foot drop. If that’s not enough to keep you busy, there are private and group activities for snorkeling, scuba diving, beach volleyball, windsurfing and chartered catamaran adventures. If you have time, there are two championship golf courses, an 11-court tennis center and a full-service health club and spa with complete massage and facial services. Oh yeah, there is also the beach: beautiful, sandy, natural Ka’anapali Beach is just at the edge of the property.

Wondrous Wailea
As you head south from Lahaina, the landscape turns from plush to desolate. With the Pacific Ocean to your right, it’s about a 30-minute drive south to the town of Wailea. A more romantic and secluded location than Ka’anapali, the town of Wailea boasts natural beaches with lava rocks that jet out into the ocean. Adding to this romantic setting is the coastal walk that connects the resorts to one another, as well as providing paths to coveted pockets of swimming beaches. Not only is this hike a great aerobic workout, it provides views of the Crescent of Molokini, which is famous for snorkeling and diving.

The Outrigger, which is now a Marriott, was the original hotel in Wailea. Soon others followed suit, and now hoteliers such as the Four Seasons and the Renaissance hang their hat here, but the true standout is the Grand Wailea. Its grounds take you back to the days of early Polynesia with bronze statues, beautiful gardens and an array of waterworks including exquisite fountains filled with mermaids and dolphins. The picturesque wedding chapel, with its colorful stained-glass windows, plays host to five weddings a day.

Let’s Eat
Dining in Maui should not be taken lightly. Chef Beverly Gannon of the Hali’imaile General Store and Joe’s in Wailea is a Texan who got her start catering for rock bands when they came through town. In 1988, she opened the General Store as a takeout gourmet food shop. It became a restaurant when people started eating their takeout meals on-site. It’s American food with Hawaiian regional touches, but we can see hints of Texas in some of the signature dishes. For example, the Paniolo ribs are doused in homemade barbeque sauce and served with mashed potatoes and onions. An appetizer like you’ve never seen before is the crab pizza. More nods to Texas include the brie and grape quesadilla and the Asian pear and duck tostada. A signature appetizer, which has been featured in Gourmet and Bon Apetit magazines, is the Sashimi Napoleon, which is a sushi roll with smoked salmon, ahi tartare, sashimi ahi and crispy wontons.

Just up Piilani Highway is a great part of town filled with restaurants and fun things to do. Locals will tell you Sansei is the place for sushi. The casual atmosphere makes you feel right at home, as the fresh sushi makes its way to your table. For a real treat, Chef Eric Arbogast’s tasting menu gives great breath to the menu at Sansei. It’s hard to agree on a favorite, as the hits keep on coming: edamame, miso soup, mango crab salad hand roll, Asian rock shrimp cake, Panko-crusted ahi sashimi and lobster crab ravioli. The Japanese calamari salad was unique with a spicy sauce similar to that found on barbeque wings. The Sansei special roll contains spicy crab, cilantro, cucumber, avocado and sweet Thai chili sauce. The desserts blew us away, especially the Granny Smith apple tart.

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The Road to Hana
It’s a leisurely three-and-a-half-hour drive along the Northern face of Maui to Hana. For the more adventurous, you can make a day out of the trip to Hana and enjoy true Hawaii along the way. Remember to fill up with gas before you leave Kahului; once you are out of town, gas is almost impossible to find. Take the road to Crater Park in the center of Maui. You ascend to more than 10,000 feet, the temperature drops, the wind picks up, and you see the wondrous effects of time and erosion. To some, the crater looks like “just a bunch of rocks,” but it truly is an ecological miracle.

Descending the mountain, you’ll hit the Haleakala Highway; a right turn will take you to Hana via the shortest, most common route. A left leads down the road less traveled (and less ready for travel). Past the botanical garden and small towns, the vistas are breathtaking with waves crashing into the dry volcanic rock. The two-lane, winding road lines the coast and ascends high on the cliffs on the southwest side of Maui. As it bends back to the east, the road narrows and loses its shoulders, becomes very crooked and finally turns into a very narrow one-lane road. At points it’s paved, and others not. As you travel down this road, it’s easy to believe that you are going where few men have gone before – that is, until you run into one of the many cruising tour buses. Unfortunately, the “Falling Rocks, Drive Slowly” and “One Lane Bridge” signs don’t seem to raise any alarm to tour bus operators.

Along the way, you’ll pass some churches, one small store and some stunning waterfalls. Once you hit the northeast side of the island, the landscape turns lush, and you are now on the rainy side of the island. Despite the scenery, the windy road full of switchbacks and other tourists has you wishing you were in Hana long before you arrive.

Heavenly Hana
You’ll feel at home at the Hotel Hana-Maui. On a property that was once a sugar cane plantation, the staff is excellent, the rooms remarkable and the roots – Texan. That’s right. Houston’s billionaire Hunt family owned the property for more than ten years and added a touch of luxury. The sea ranch cottages here are some of the resort’s most attractive rooms. We recommend rooms 217, 218 – close to the sea, premium pricing and well worth it!

Here, Vegas-style hotel towers, prominent throughout most of Hawaii, are replaced by spacious cabins carved into mountain slopes overlooking the ocean. Well furnished with native teak and wicker furniture, the cabins boast hardwood floors, spacious bathrooms and giant private lanais (porches), many with built-in Jacuzzis. As exquisite as the atmosphere, Hotel Hana leaves many things out of your vacation. You won’t find minibars that charge by the item, rental fees for hammocks and lounge chairs or salespeople peddling condos. The management at Hotel Hana looks at things differently than most. You will find a complimentary gift basket in your room filled with cheeses, fruits, crackers and banana bread. They fill your minibar every day with water and assorted beverages at no charge, as well. Room service is available if you want it. Other options include the local general store (established in 1870) where you can buy food and wine at reasonable prices. This place is all about relaxing your way.

The town of Hana echoes the atmosphere at the hotel. So small you’ll drive right through it if you blink, Hana is the perfect escape. The air is full of sounds: the surf crashing onto the lava-lined shore, birds singing, horses galloping through lush pastures and children playing in the deserted streets. Hana feels like the Hawaii you dream of – relaxed and beautiful.

Houston Celebrities

November 1, 2003 by  
Filed under Edit

Houston Celebrity Watch

by Phaedra Friend

With the Super Bowl rolling into town in mere months, the city will be invaded by not only football fans but lots and lots of celebrities. With the plethora of events that spring up around the big game, stargazers will have ample opportunity to get an eyeful of their favorite celebs.

It may come as something of a surprise that several celebrities got their starts – of one kind or another – right here in our fair city. Some of our city’s sons and daughters have gone on to occupy the limelight in the fields of acting, music, sports and more. And others, while not born here, got here as quickly as they could and found a community that nurtured their talents and provided a home.

For example, did you know that Houston is home to not one, but two of the original “Charlie’s Angels?” Or that the ultimate television mother of the 1980s hails from the Bayou City? Or that the director who gave us such diverse entertainment as “The West Wing” and “So I Married an Axe Murderer” got his start here?

Here are some of the personalities who share a Houston connection. Most either were born here or are current (some part-time) members of the community. They are ranked based on their star power (plus a few other X factors) to present our Houston celebrity breakdown:

1. Beyoncé Knowles
You’ve got to love this chick. This Cinderella slips right into every Manolo Blahnik pump that the public puts before her, whether her role is singer, actress or spokesperson. A fabulous example for young girls, this diva embraces her family, her talents, her natural beauty and her hometown. She got a few extra points for talking to us a couple of months ago and for being such a down-home kind of gal. She’s at the top of everyone’s A-list these days, so it makes sense that she’s at the top of ours.

2. Renée Zellweger
She’s big on screen, but itty-bitty in physical size. Her Katy roots make her the girl-next-door, while her catapulting career transforms her into a bona fide Hollywood icon. Despite the fact that claims that her hometown was so small and po-dunky that “it possessed neither cable television nor a movie theater” (yeah right, we’re talking Katy, not Ozona), she claims us and sometimes even lets her lovely Texas accent filter through. Jealousy points deducted for making Bridget Jones impossibly thin despite her doughnut diet.

3. Jennifer Garner
She sparked her acting career with a guest spot on “Felicity” and has really gotten the fire going in the starring role of Sydney Bristow in “Alias.” Massive butt-kicker and strong woman extraordinaire, Garner was born in Houston but moved to West Virginia as a young child. Points deducted for leaving, but more added for beating up all those bad guys and managing to stay realistically feminine. Hi-ya!

4. Hilary Duff
AKA Lizzy McGuire – yes, she is from Houston. Disney hit a gold mine with this young talent. She can sing, she can dance, she can act – and the public loves her wholesome youthfulness. Watch for big things to come from her.

5. Yao Ming
This Chinese Houstonian has brought new life to the Houston Rockets. He’s tall, he’s talented, he’s humble; and we love that commercial for the credit card. Yo!

6. George Bush Sr.
Prez No. 41, that is – the original

7. Patrick Swayze
With multiple sexy dance moves, one hit song and loads of female fans, he continues to support Houston charities. He was spotted at the Houston Grand Opera Ball this year.

8. Lyle Lovett
Part simple man, part mysterious artist, this singer/songwriter from Klein may have gotten a couple of minutes of fame for his short-lived marriage to Julia Roberts, but his talents have continued to keep him on the music radar.

9. Denton Cooley
The man who made it cool to give your heart.

10. Mary Lou Retton
Producer and star of the PBS kids program “Mary Lou’s Flip Flop Shop,” this Olympic gold medal gymnast tumbles around town raising a family of her own.

11. Fred Couples
This Houston Coug alumnus captured the 2003 Shell Houston Open.

12. Phylicia Rashad
“Cosby” mom Claire Huxtable

13. Dan Rather
This 20+ year veteran anchorman of the “CBS Evening News” cut his teeth here with the Chron and others before hitting the big time.

14. Hakeem Olajuwon
The Dream. Need we say more?

15. Roger Clemens
As of press time, this Yankee pitcher was still trying to add a little more hardware to his already impressive collection of sports memorabilia. He plans to retire after this season and get reacquainted with his family and his hometown.

16. Tommy Schlamme
With a portfolio that includes such TV success stories as “The West Wing,” “The Practice,” “Ally McBeal,” “Mad About You,” “Boston Public” and “Spin City,” it might be easier to list which projects this prolific director hasn’t worked on.

17. Randy Quaid
Everyone’s favorite Cousin Eddie from the National Lampoon “Vacation” movies learned his acting chops – along with younger brother Dennis – at the University of Houston School of Theatre. Since his early films, which included parts in “Paper Moon” and “Midnight Express,” Quaid has brought a unique flair to his acting.

18. Dennis Quaid
The younger Quaid brother has gained attention for his inspired acting performances in such acclaimed films as “Breaking Away” and “The Right Stuff” and for his choice of significant others, including Lea Thompson and Meg Ryan, to whom he was married for ten years.

19. Richard Linklater
“Dazed and Confused” audiences with his tales of misspent youth

20. George Foreman
Born in Marshall, Texas, this retired TKO king still lives out in the sticks, or at least he will soon. He’s moving from his Kingwood digs to Huffman. We do love his grill, but we still question his son-naming system.

inued from page 1

21. Clint Black
Considered among the best in mainstream country music, this New Jersey native got to Texas as fast as he could. Along with wife Lisa Hartman Black, he helped raise money for flood victims after Tropical Storm Allison.

22. Eva Mendes
This Cuban-American actress was born in Houston but raised on the West Coast. Her roles in “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” have propelled her on the fast track to stardom.

23. Billy Gibbons
ZZ zesty

24. Dusty Hill
Bearded cohort and Rockets aficionado

25. Alexis Bledel
“Gilmore Girls” teen co-star

26. Matt Stone
Along with Trey Parker, this co-creator of “South Park” forever changed the way people think of cartoons.

27. Wes Anderson
Film maker who brought us “Bottle Rocket” and “Rushmore,” the latter filmed all over River Oaks and the Heights

28. JoBeth Williams
“Poltergeist” parent

29. Jaclyn Smith
Originally from Houston and now returned for her husband’s medical career, this “Charlie’s Angels” star had her own clothing line with now-defunct Kmart along with being named one of the “Fifty Most Beautiful People” by People magazine in 1990.

30. Farrah Fawcett
The most famous of “Charlie’s Angels” joins the ranks of Jennifer Aniston and Dorothy Hamill for creating a mob of fresh, young girls with the same haircut. Her parents live in the Champions area, and therefore she does, too, occasionally. She can be spotted at Astros games whenever visiting.

31. Debbie Allen
“You want fame?” Choreographer, dancer, director, actress and sister to Phylicia Rashad was born and raised here in Houston.

32. Robert Earl Keen
Texas music pioneer and Aggieland college buddy of Lyle Lovett

33. Clyde Drexler
This Phi Slamma Jama cohort of Hakeem’s got back to town just in time to help the Rockets secure their second NBA title in 1995.

34. Nolan Ryan
Inextricably linked with some of the highs (signing as a free agent, Nov. 1979; threw no-hitter, Sept. 1981; all-time strikeout leader) and lows (signed with Texas Rangers) of Astros baseball, few sports figures garner as much attention or recognition in Houston. Catch him soon before he moves on to Round Rock to help son Reid with the Astros minor league club.

35. Shannon Elizabeth
Born in Houston but graduated from high school in Waco, this actress became every high school boy’s fantasy in “American Pie.”

36. Kenny Rogers
“The Gambler”

37. Ann Miller
Ginger Roger’s tap-dancing partner

38. Tara Lipinski
You’ve probably caught a glimpse of her gliding across the ice at the Galleria, she receives fan mail in Sugar Land, and now she has soap opera guest star behind her name, as well.

39. Carl Lewis
Track star and Houston Cougar, he lived here for years but now has moved to California to pursue his acting career.

40. Lisa Hartman Black
“Knot’s Landing’s” Ciji hit it big when she hooked up with fellow Houstonian Clint Black.

41. Shelley Duvall
Actress and producer

42. Sean Patrick Flanery
Star of the “Young Indiana Jones” series in the ’90s went to University of St. Thomas.

43. Robert Horry
Former Rocket of championship glory days. Played for the Lakers last season, but came back east, winding up in San Antonio this season. Look for him around town from time to time.

44. Anna Nicole Smith
Bigger doesn’t always mean better. It’s a well-known fact that this beyond-buxom blitzed-out blonde met her multimillionaire meal ticket while stripping here in the Space City. Annie, get your guns – you just might find another lonely man and make him your own. Just please stay away from “reality” television.

Photo: istock


November 1, 2003 by  
Filed under Travel Blog


White sandy shores contrast against dry fields of cacti, whimsical divi-divi trees and rough rock ledges on the paradise of Aruba. A small island located in the Dutch Caribbean about 15 miles off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba’s 70 square miles support a vast array of vegetation, sea life and landscapes.

With Spanish and Dutch influences, the official language of Aruba is Dutch, but much of the population speaks a uniquely native blend of Dutch and Spanish called Papiamento, as well as English. Natives are friendly, beeping and waving as they pass each other on the roads and beaches throughout the island.

This friendliness is extended to tourists, as well. The people of Aruba are extremely proud of their slice of paradise and truly want others to enjoy themselves while experiencing it. The small population of Aruba is committed to making visitors feel relaxed, eagerly greeting and helping tourists as if they were old friends. Even the national anthem of the island tells visitors of their great hospitality, saying, “the greatness of our people is their great cordiality.”

The economy of Aruba was originally based on gold, then aloe, and now much of the island is geared toward tourism. Although they strive for more and more people to celebrate and appreciate their little island, they have made a firm commitment to preserve the environment and have put a limit on the number of resorts on the island.

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The divi-divi trees of Aruba point toward the white-sand beaches. Due to refreshing trade winds sweeping the island, the divi-divi trees grow in a permanent 45-degree angle. Appreciative residents follow the signs to the quiet beaches of Aruba. With crystal-clear water and whispering waves, the beaches of Aruba soothe the weary.

On the other side of the island, dramatically carved lava rocks line the edge of this paradise. Waves crash high against these divine barriers, creating a visual border to the sanctuary of Aruba. Along this edge of the island, native beliefs support an ongoing tradition of the Wishing Gardens. A stretch as far as the eye can see produces a touching monument of the wishes of thousands. Local lore says that stacking ocean-weathered rocks in this area will make a hope come true. A tiny rock metropolis sets the stage for hopes and dreams along this beautiful expanse of paradise.

The island’s interior is distinctly unique. Iguanas scamper across rocky roads and cacti create natural fences. The pancake landscape, white sand and multitudes of cacti attempt to convince travelers that the ocean is more than a mere 50 yards away, creating a tripartite diversity throughout the island. A quaint donkey sanctuary welcomes the inquisitive creatures, ensuring their safety and encouraging visitors to treasure the noisy animals. Windows and doors are left open in the clusters of homes that spot the island, attesting to the cool breezes, safe surroundings and trusting nature of the island.

Whether you are seeking a quiet day at the beach or an afternoon of scuba diving through sunken shipwrecks, the island of Aruba presents a vast selection of activities for visitors. The waters surrounding the island support myriad species of fish and welcome sea turtles happily swimming through. There are a number of shipwrecks to explore, one of which is from World War II. Catamarans lazily coast across the waters with basking bathers eager to snorkel, as 4-wheel drive adventurers scour the rustic sands. The trade winds make Aruba’s water one of the best sites for windsurfing and kite surfing. The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino owns a private island a short boat ride away with a European beach for tan-lineless sun worshipers.

The Natural Bridge is a coral formation 25 feet above sea level which affords a picturesque view of the expanse of water beyond. An abandoned gold mine encourages rock-climbing visitors to explore the building’s multilevel rooms built more than a century ago. Shopping offers guests an array of knickknacks, local art and products. Spa services at many of the resorts are renowned for their professional relaxation techniques and services.

Many of the resorts provide day activities for children beyond the typical day-at-the-beach fun. The Wyndham Aruba Beach Resort & Casino has Sponge Bob Square Pants-themed activities and prizes for lucky youngsters.

The island of Aruba is as unique as the culture that resides there. The people of Aruba know how to pamper their guests and do so every second of the day. Their hospitality extends beyond congenialities, beyond beauty – Aruba is the perfect destination to realize dreams of paradise. H

Paraiso de la Bonita

November 1, 2003 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Paraiso de la Bonita

How often have you yearned to get away from it all, only to wind up somewhere alongside everyone else? Then, Paraiso de la Bonita is your daydream realized. “Paraiso de la Bonita” means “the beautiful woman’s paradise,” and this adult-only resort has paradise down to a science.

While writing this, I’m lazing in a hammock on the second story balcony of my 1,500-square-foot suite. I’m comforted by the gentle breeze through the palm trees and the sound of the low tide coming in. It’s official, I’ve found paradise and it’s just a two-hour plane ride from Houston.

Once you land in Cancun, it’s a 20-minute drive to Paraiso. Off the main road, the drive cuts through the jungle. Then, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Paraiso rises from the brush with pleasant rust color hues, beautiful fountains and lush greenery. This intimate beach resort is nestled on the secluded sugar-white beaches between Cancun and Playa del Carmen on the Mexican Caribbean.

The open-air lobby greets you with a symmetric and stunning view of the pool and pale blue ocean. This all-suite hotel is actually owned by the renowned Intercontinental chain, but it’s nothing like any of their other properties. With this location, the Intercontinental has done what everyone always thought it should do: create a boutique hotel.

The Intercontinental clan didn’t hold anything back on this venture, either. Each suite is individually decorated in an eclectic and elegant style. If you’re lucky enough to be on the first floor, you have a plunge pool. The all-marble sunken bathtub makes having a soak a must. Each room is even equipped with its own tequila and lime to help you say “hola” to your vacation and get you in the mood for a Mexican fiesta.

Looking out on the Caribbean ocean, you can see a reef, which extends all the way to Belize. A short boat ride from the resort, you are plopped into a fabulously colorful underworld of fish, stingrays and beautiful coral. You can also take a day trip to the Mayan ruins nearby. Although it takes a couple of hours to make your way around all of the rubble, the many temples and the great view of the ocean make this a worthwhile trip. The hotel can arrange for your transportation and a guide.

The restaurant at Paraiso de la Bonita is a great place for breakfast and lunch. Don’t miss the huevos rancheros and the homemade breads that change daily. The ceviche is available with Caribbean flavoring, the tortilla soup is breathtaking, and the grilled shrimp with mango sauce is the perfect mixture of sweetness and freshness. For dinner, the restaurant La Canoa specializes in fresh fish dishes. There is also a traditional Mexican menu that changes every three days. Spa cuisine is available for those who are watching their waist, as well. But for those who aren’t, the guacamole salad and fresh chips are a must.

One of the main attractions of the resort is the Thalassotherapy Center, the only one of its kind in North America. Thalassotherapy is a world-famous type of treatment that is known for its preventative qualities. The treatments use freshly heated seawater for massage to aid in body rejuvenation. Signature treatments include a Dead Sea mud wrap and saltwater massage. After, being covered with mud, a heated blanket creates a comfortable cocoon for maximum relaxation. This is followed by a salt exfoliation and rinse. A similar treatment is available with seaweed. It is recommended to follow either of these treatments with an under affusion massage. While lying face down on a table, warm salt water is poured over you. A vigorous massage follows to help push the healing elements of the water into your skin. If you are lucky enough to experience a couple of Thalassotherapy treatments a day, it’s said you can lose a couple of pounds. There is also a sauna, steam room and exercise facility, including water aerobics classes led in the outdoor, saltwater pool at the resort.

Most people come to Paraiso to do nothing – nothing but enjoy a good book and a mango margarita. It’s no wonder that more than 60 percent of the visitors here are from Texas.

Photography by Laurette Veres

Cabo San Lucas

November 1, 2003 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Cabo San Lucas

The tip of the Baja Peninsula was once a haven for pirates who cherished the safe harbors of the Sea of Cortez. Today, Los Cabos attracts travelers of a different kind, those seeking harbor from their normal, everyday lives. They hide beneath the sun on pristine beaches, lose their troubles tackling hiking trails and golf courses, escape by shopping in the quaint towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose Del Cabo and experience all the ocean has to offer.

The two towns that make up the Los Cabos area are uniquely different. Cabo San Lucas, population 25,000, boasts night life and some modern architecture while San Jose provides a quiet, romantic setting you’d expect to find in Old Mexico. The two towns are joined by the Pacific Corridor, an excellent four-lane highway lined with luxury beachfront hotels.

Our affordable suite at the Hilton Los Cabos boasted fantastic views and luxury amenities. If you really want to splurge, the Presidential Suite offers 4,500 square feet of living area, multiple hot tubs and terraces.

When you combine the qualities of old and new Mexico with the ocean, you create an infinite amount of activities. Los Cabos has something for everyone.

There is no better excursion in Cabo than a sunset cruise over the ocean. There are various charter services offering cruises; we enjoyed ours through La Princesa. Once you exit the marina, skirt past the giant luxury cruise ships anchored in the harbor and pass the fishing boats heading home with the day’s catch, the true beauties of Cabo are yours to behold.

As you approach Lands End, the point where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez, birds fill the air, sea lions bark, sea turtles surface and manta rays fly out of the water, dancing in front of your boat. The point is composed of various rock formations intertwined with glorious beach. The sands along the Sea of Cortez side are called Lovers Beach for the calm, clear waters and romantic setting, and the Pacific side of the point is dubbed Devil’s Beach due to the harsh waves of the ocean continually beating the shore. Between the two is the Arch at Lands End, which is a natural rock formation that resembles a door connecting the two beaches. It is inaccessible at high tide, but romantic to walk through when the tide goes down.

As you pass the arch and head into open water, the giant humpback whales become the main attraction. The whales stay in the Cabo area January, February and part of March and are easily viewed from boats or the shore.

The grand finale of the cruise is watching the magnificent Mexican sun sink into the Pacific as the sky explodes into various shades of orange, pink and gray.

The waters surrounding Los Cabos contain some of the best fishing anywhere. Known as the Marlin Capital of the World, more striped marlin are caught within 20 miles of Cabo than anywhere else. Just be prepared when the fish nibble. As the fishing pole bends, the reel whines as line is tugged out. A crew member rushes to the fishing pole, picks it up, gives it a couple of hard yanks to set the hook and then hands it to the fisherman in the fighting chair. As the fisherman begins battling the unseen fish at the other end of the line, crew members set out more poles with live bait to snag other members of the school. Action, excitement and anticipation blend together as the fish start hitting the bait. With marlin, dorado, sailfish, yellowfin tuna and wahoo abounding, the waters yield many catches that exceed 1,000 pounds.

If catching fish doesn’t reel you in, how about swimming with them? The Sea of Cortez and Cabo San Lucas Bay teem with marine life. You can see sea turtles, sea lions, giant manta rays, whale sharks and hammerhead sharks, along with more than 800 species of fish. Floating along gentle currents in the warm waters, a wide array of brilliant colors teases your eyes. Cabo has snorkeling and scuba trips for all levels of experience. Whether you choose to dive deep into shipwrecks at night or spend an afternoon along a shallow reef, the view is spectacular and the experience unforgettable.

Turks and Caicos

November 1, 2003 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Turks and Caicos

I know you’re not supposed to look directly into the sun, but I couldn’t ignore that right above me a complete rainbow was circling the sun. Wow, a rainbow with no beginning and no end. Was I at the end of the rainbow? And if so, had I found the pot of gold?

If Turks and Caicos is not the pot of gold, it’s close: pristine beaches, turquoise water, friendly stingrays and fresh, fresh seafood. I’d certainly found a place that makes it easy to forget my troubles and focus on what’s really important: getting away from everything.

“Would you like rum punch or fruit punch?” asked the man at the front desk of The Sands Resort at Grace Bay in Provo, Turks and Caicos Islands, British West Indies. “Hmmm,” I wondered. If this is the most difficult decision I have to make all day, I’ve come to the right place. Welcome to Turks and Caicos, a set of 40 beautiful islands located 575 miles southeast of Miami. The nearly-deserted sandy white beaches on the islands’ coastlines beckon the getaway seeker in all of us. The real beauty is that you won’t see a lot of other tourists while you’re there. Get ready to forget yourself and forget your cares.

The major airlines that fly here service the Providenciales airport. The islands’ hub of activity, this is where the journey begins. Driving around the island, a particularly breathtaking view is just a short hike up a hill to view the beautiful coastal water in Sapodilla Bay. Dick Clark enjoys spending time here. Continuing on Blue Hill road, the sites turn to churches, ocean-side gravesites and seafood shanties. The most intriguing find is Bugaloos, where you can see the famous conch shells harvested from the ocean, shucked and served ceviche-style in a conch salad.

A boat ride to the exclusive resort Parrot Cay puts you in good company. Barbara Streisand, Paul McCartney and Donnatella Versace are all building getaways here. Other celebs that visit are Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson and Shakira. Turks and Caicos is a great place to get married, just ask Donna Karan’s daughter, who got married in Parrot Cay; Juwan Howard of the Denver Nuggets celebrated his nuptials here, as well. The intriguing part about Parrot Cay is the completely private beach. How else would Bruce Willis enjoy time at the beach?

Inside the Turks and Caicos Club on the Grace Bay Beach is a hidden dining treasure: Simba. The dining focuses on French and Asian cuisine with an eclectic Caribbean flair. Another hot spot, Mango Reef specializes in Caribbean food with a Cuban influence. According to Jimmy Buffet, the Tiki Hut in the Turtle Cove Marina is the best restaurant in the Caribbean. Inside the Sands Hotel, a new restaurant called Hemingway’s has just opened. This is the type of beach bar where you’d expect to see Jimmy Buffet, but in his absence, some of his tunes are piped in.

All this and golf too? Tee up at the Provo Golf and Country Club, and you’ll be in the company of such celebrities as Michael Jordan and Richard Gere. If the water is more your cup of tea, the crystal-clear waters excite the swimmer in all of us. As you head to the Leeward Marina, you’ll see some picturesque houses with private boat docks and immediate access to the magnificent turquoise waters of the Caribbean. The Silver Deep Excursions beach cruise visits Iguana Island, the wooden planks around Little Water Cay and the coral reef where the striped, blue and colorful fish scurry under you while you search for sand dollars. The tour ends with searching for shells or relaxing on the sandy-white beaches.

Other islands that make up Turks and Caicos can be visited as day trips from Provo. A one-way airline ticket is 75 USD and takes you in an eight-seat plane from Provo to Grand Turk. Be sure to venture out and uncover the hidden treasures as each island possesses their own charm and mystique.

Landing in Grand Turk is like going back in time; the hustle and bustle of Houston is worlds away. Grand Turk was the first island to be settled by the Europeans. Salt was the main industry here from 1780 to the mid 1960s, and remnants of the historic salinas are still on the sides of the roads. A quiet street named Duke Street is the center of town containing small bed and breakfasts and boutique hotels with wonderful views of the ocean. The movie “Paradise Virus” with Lorenzo Lamas and Melody Thomas Scott was recently filmed at the Turks Head Hotel.

There isn’t a whole lot going on in Grand Turk if you’re not a scuba diver. According to one proprietor, “People come for seven days and dive every morning.” At Oasis Divers, all of the equipment is available for rent – the tank and all the extras are prepared and loaded onto the boat for you. The reefs are kept pristine because they are under a National Parks System protection plan. Not far from the town is the area on the reef known as Coral Garden. On this breathtaking wall, you just might meet a particularly friendly Nassau Grouper named Pretty Boy. He loves divers and isn’t afraid to come right up and say, “Hello.” If you’re really lucky, he’ll join you on your dive for a while.

While some scuba dive, the snorkeling tour includes diving for fresh conch. Then, everyone meets up on an uninhabited, gorgeous, sandy beach called Gibbs Cay. The stingrays are obviously used to guests, as they were waiting for us to feed them. After relaxing on the beach and a barbecue lunch of burgers and hotdogs, the guide whips up the freshest conch salad you’ve ever tasted.

If you’re looking for a little more in your hotel, try the Island House, which offers a freshwater pool, a stunning view of the ocean and the use of a car during your stay. The Manta House is owned by two Canadian sisters who visited Grand Turk, fell in love with it and bought a bed and breakfast. Located just 20 feet from the ocean, it’s the perfect place to stay and enjoy the beautiful coral reefs.

The eight-seat plane from Grand Turk to Salt Cay only operates on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. So, don’t be late because you might have a longer visit than you bargained for. Locals aren’t exaggerating when they call Salt Cay the island that time forgot. With only 78 residents, 13 elementary school children and the remains of the now-defunct salt industry, you’ll see local wildlife wandering the unpaved road and find the most down-home hospitality imaginable.

If you dream of a beach that is totally isolated from the rest of the world, it’s on the island of Salt Cay at a beach resort called The Windmills Plantation. To aid in your relaxation, you have difficult choices to make, such as: whether to use the clear-bottom kayak, snorkel or beach towel for the saltwater pool or two and one-half mile beach. Here, there are no phones and no televisions, nothing to invade the peace and quiet of the island.

Currently, there are four jobs for every person in Turks and Caicos, and they are making a concerted effort to preserve your island experience and not overdevelop the area. In theory, the pristine beaches you experience today will still be here for your enjoyment 10 years from now. But, why wait?

The Bahamas

November 1, 2003 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

The Bahamas
The Islands of the Bahamas are truly a magical paradise, offering diverse destinations and an amazing array of vacation options. From hidden escapes to resort relaxation, the 700 islands that make up the Bahamas enrich and entertain every age of traveler.

When making your way to the islands you have many choices of places to stay. In Nassau, the Radisson Cable Beach & Golf Resort boasts an all-inclusive refreshing and relaxing retreat. From the moment you arrive, you are engulfed by complete paradise. Each of the 700 guest rooms and suites offer breathtaking views of the waterscape and lush gardens. This resort also extends abundant amenities with six restaurants, five bars and lounges, a newly redesigned golf course, supervised activities programs for children and free weddings.

The Atlantis is a resort destination like no other. Located on Paradise Island, this is not just a hotel, but an entire vacation destination. It is the world’s largest island resort with an 11-million-gallon marine habitat, more than 200 sea species and 50,000 individual animals. Atlantis has 11 swimming areas and a seven-acre snorkeling lagoon teeming with tropical fish and more than 40 waterfalls. For the gambler at heart, the Atlantis casino is the largest in the Caribbean.

For an intimate retreat, the Graycliff Hotel is a 260-year-old mansion in Nassau. The 20-room boutique hotel exudes elegance and charm; it’s restaurant is internationally known for its cuisine, exclusive wines, ports and cognacs and a distinctive selection of cigars. Watch as their experts roll custom-made cigars for you as you wait.

There are many activities to engage in on the islands of the Bahamas. Flipper and 15 other Atlantic bottlenose dolphins reside at Dolphin Encounters, an exciting tourist attraction. Located on the beautiful Blue Lagoon, Dolphin Encounters offers visitors the opportunity to interact one-on-one with these amazingly intelligent animals. Whether you choose to watch, hug or take a dive with these creatures, this is an experience that everyone will love.

For an adventure, try discovering the island of Eleuthera. One of the most breathtaking escapes in the Bahamas, Eleuthera’s 110 miles yields exotic fruits and vegetables along its plush hillside. With pink beaches, lagoons, caves, bluffs and cliffs, the landscape provides a myriad of sights for visitors to behold and experience. The waters surrounding this island are colorfully diverse with the Atlantic Ocean meeting the Bight of Eleuthera. Out-Island Adventures offers guided adventure tours and camping safaris, including kayaking, snorkeling, surfing, boogie boarding, exploring caves and blue holes and relaxing on the island’s many beautiful beaches. During the evenings filled with stars and crashing waves, an extraordinary dinner is prepared over an open fire.

North of Eleuthera is a spectacular getaway called Harbour Island. Known as the “Nantucket of the Bahamas” for hosting celebrities and royalty alike, this quaint community is surrounded by pink beaches and filled with narrow streets traversed by strolling visitors and golf carts laden with friendly vacationers. The Landing, an exclusive seven-room inn, is filled with old-world charm mixed with new-world sophistication. Built in 1800, this Colonial escape promotes afternoons spent watching the day slip into night. Sip wine from the wine cellar along the mahogany bar for the perfect end to a fantastic day in the Bahamas.