Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

Partners of mountain bikers, this trip’s for you

April 29, 2014

This is one of those “why didn’t people think of this before?” ideas.

Sacred Rides, a Canadian-based outfitter known for its serious singletrack mountain bike tours for experienced riders, has launched a line of Bring-Your-Partner Rides that mountain bikers and their non-biking companions can enjoy together.

 If I were with a mountain-biking partner, I’d love this. The destinations are great and I like outdoors activities and road riding, so I think I’d like to come along, thank you!

The new partner trips include hiking, yoga, hot springs, spa time and introductory mountain bike lessons for the companion, while the mountain biker will enjoy single-track cross-country riding on moderate to challenging terrain in Fernie, at Nipika Mountain Resort and Banff National Park and Kananaskis Country. Activities for couples to do together include hikes, yoga (pictured here) and paddling on the Kootenay River. More locations are expected to be added to the partner program, in North America and beyond.

Personally, I‘ll skip the mountain-bike lessons. Been there, bruised that. I’m sticking to the asphalt, because nothing bad can happen there. (Kidding!)

Sacred Rides owner Mike Brcic told me, when I first contacted him for my little New York Times item, that idea for the trips came from conversations with more than 100 clients, the majority of them male.

“Most of them are longtime mountain bikers with high incomes, but who have partners that don’t mountain bike,” he said. “With limited vacation time, it’s hard for them to get away on the mountain bike trips they dream of doing. So being able to bring their non-mountain-biking partner along is a win-win for everyone.”

Makes sense to me, Mike. All in all, though, I’m just grateful that my partner and I love doing the same things. Makes life easier!


Southport: A ‘Safe Haven’ for ‘Under the Dome’

May 12, 2013

One of the loveliest waterfront towns on the entire East Coast is Southport, North  Carolina. It’s also a popular place for shooting films. One, “Safe Haven,” just came out on DVD. Another, the TV series “Under the Dome,” debuts this summer. Here’s a story I wrote about Southport, which ran May 12 in “The Boston Globe.” 

By Diane Daniel

The Southport Yacht Basin, where the Cape Fear River meets the Atlantic Ocean, is home to several seafood restaurants

The Southport Yacht Basin is home to several seafood restaurants

With maps in hand, Nina Walsh and Mary Koehler gazed up at Moore Street Market, a popular cafe housed in a historic wood-frame building in picture-perfect Southport, N.C., on the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

“When we saw the movie, there it was, and I thought, hey, I ate lunch at that store!” Koehler said. The friends, both living in nearby Leland, with Walsh a recent transplant from Swampscott, Mass., had made a return trip to Southport after seeing the romantic thriller “Safe Haven,” based on the book of the same name by syrupy scribe Nicholas Sparks.

“They told us about this tour in the Visitor’s Center,” said Walsh, waving a “Safe Haven Filming Locations” pamphlet. “Everyone walking in the door was asking about the movie.”

The river pilots' tower has been redone to look like Station WYBS for the filming of "Under the Dome"

The river pilots’ tower is “Station WYBS” for the filming of “Under the Dome”

Because nearby Wilmington houses the largest film production facility east of Los Angeles, Hollywood is old hat in these parts. Southport’s credits include the 1986 film “Crimes of the Heart,” the TV series “Matlock,” and the just-out HBO movie “Mary and Martha.” The highest-profile show to be filmed here is still in production — the Stephen King science-fiction series “Under the Dome,” set to premiere on CBS June 24.

Waterfront Park, overlooking the Cape Fear River, is a popular spot for relaxing

Waterfront Park, overlooking the Cape Fear River, is a popular spot for relaxing

But “Safe Haven,” released May 7 on DVD, stands out as the one anointed for red-carpet treatment because the town itself plays a leading role. If you’ve seen the sentimental film, in which “Katie” (Julianne Hough) winds up on the Carolina coast after fleeing a dangerous Boston cop and then falls for local shop owner “Alex” (Josh Duhamel), you’ll likely agree that Southport steals the show. With a few exceptions, everything depicted in “Safe Haven” exists — a picturesque harbor, small retail shops dotting a lively downtown, streets lined with Victorian homes, stately oaks draped with Spanish moss, and bustling waterfront seafood restaurants. And, yes, the town of 2,900 residents really does host an exuberant July 4th parade — officially the North Carolina Fourth of July Festival — which attracts upwards of 50,000 visitors. Last year’s parade was even reenacted a month later for the filming, using townspeople as extras.


Just out: the perfect break-up gift

August 22, 2009

Love is a Four-Letter Word

On my bookshelf, from my relationship-writing days at the Boston Globe, is a book called “Make Up, Don’t Break Up.” But let’s face it, more often the more useful advice is  “Break Up, Don’t Make Up.”

When you do, whether it’s your choice or not, there’s a book for that. Hot off the press is the anthology “Love is a Four-Letter Word: True Stories of Breakups, Bad Relationships, and Broken Hearts” (Plume, $16). It was edited by my friend Michael Taeckens (say TAKE-ins), who lives here in Durham, NC, and is publicist for Algonquin Books in Chapel Hill, one of the best and coolest book publishers in the world.

Michael Taeckens captivates his adoring audience at Durham's favorite bookstore

Michael Taeckens captivates his adoring audience at Durham's favorite bookstore

What does that mean, “edited by”? In this case, it means Michael came up with the idea, sought out a bevy of bodacious writers (no small feat), worked with them on their stories, wrote his own hilarious and bittersweet essay for the book, and then hashed it all out with his editors to complete the book of 23 entries. Now he’s on the publicity trail, and I’m here to help any way I can.

Like all essay collections, contributions vary wildly, in this case a little more so because Lynda Barry and Emily Flake contributed graphic stories (for you international readers: that’s like a comic strip) and they’re in color, no less! And when Michael saw his pal Patty Van Norman’s childhood breakup notes, he rightfully had to publish those. The most inspired: “Dear Fatso. You are fat and ugly and dumb. You do not love me at all.”

Margaret Sartor reads from the book

Margaret Sartor reads her break-up story

Last night (I’m so current!), we went to a reading by Michael, Patty (hers was quick!), and two other contributors, Margaret Sartor and Wendy Brenner. Margaret‘s “The First Time” sweetly chronicled her first heartbreak, as a teenager. I chuckled during the part about her being “saved,” and moving in Jesus circles for a while. As I told her, I still have my Bible from my own period of salvation, at age 11 or so. My heartbreak came later.

Wendy read from “I Love You in Twelve Languages,“ a wrenching piece about the lover, muse, and fiance she could and could not be with. He died from alcoholism in 2007.  This, from the story (not the reading), sums up the sadness: “It is 2008 and Jim is dead. He laughs into my ear, close as ever, far away as ever.”

Michael had us laughing with excerpts from his piece in the collection, “The Book of Love and Transformation,” about his first real love, a visiting professor in college. Misbehaving Theo’s parting gift to Michael?  “After our good-byes the next morning, I didn’t hear from him again. … A few days later I couldn’t stop scratching.” (More pics from the reading, emceed by beloved Algonquin editor Chuck Adams, and apres-soiree may be viewed here.)

Margaret Sartor (left), Patty Van Norman, and Michael sign books

Margaret Sartor (left), Patty Van Norman, and Michael sign books after the reading

Other “Love” contributors  (most are youngish, like Michael) you may have heard of include Junot Diaz, Wendy McClure, Dan Kennedy, Jennifer Finney Boylan, and Maud Newton. While writing this, I was looking over a few reviews, and each reviewer mentioned his/her favorite pieces and writers, and, true to human nature,  every list was different. So I’m leaving it up to you to choose your own. For sure, you’ll connect with some of the stories, and they will make you feel better about your own sorrow, breakup, heartache because we’re all just one big loving, hurting, wonderful mass of humanity. Thanks, Michael and contributors, for reminding us of that.

Still falling in love

February 14, 2009
Wessel's first snow shoe experience

Wessel's first snowshoe experience

I remember it so clearly. On our first date, Wessel arrived at my house in his boxy 21-year-old Mercedes Benz with his rented snowshoes and recently purchased cross-country skis. I was living in Quincy, Mass., near Boston, and Wessel lived a little south of me, in Hull. He’d moved from the Netherlands only a few months earlier for work (medical diagnostics).

Wessel is a big long-distance ice skater, but he’d only recently learned to ski, and he’d never snowshoed. That winter of 2002-3 had been wonderful for snow sports, and I often went to the nearby Blue Hills Reservation to take it all in.

We had first met on Valentine’s Day 2003, at the Delta baggage carousel at Logan Airport in Boston. Two weeks later, we met up for coffee, but mostly it was for an interview for the little ditty I wrote about his crazy ice-skating odyssey for my Boston Globe travel column. Our first “real” date was on March 8, 2003.

Diane takes a break

Diane takes a break

The activities were my idea. Since he’d only recently begun to ski, I figured we’d be equals on the snow, as I’ve skiied like a beginner for a decade now. And, of course, anyone can snowshoe.

The day was perfect, with deep snow, brilliantly blue skies, and little wind. We skied first, gliding slowly over the mostly flat trails, flanked with evergreens and bare branches. The snow sparkled. We talked and laughed and shared life stories.

Out in the Blue Hills as long as daylight allowed us

We didn't leave the Blue Hills until the moon started to rise

The snowshoe portion was all laughs. Wessel thought the sport, featuring giant foot coverings like tennis racquets, was pretty hilarious. We walked through the woods, creating our own trails as we went, then climbed up a hill to a rocky outcrop, where we could see the Boston skyline. We sat on a huge slab of granite to eat our sandwiches and I remember feeling the energy zing between us. I didn’t want the day to end. We left under a rising moon.

I invited Wessel to stay for dinner, figuring, sadly, that he probably had other plans, or had had enough for one date. Instead, he said yes. Woo-hoo! I cooked a simple pasta dish, and we shared a bottle of red wine. We talked and talked and hugged and hugged, and Wessel left around 1 a.m.

We started falling in love that day, and it hasn’t stopped.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, my dear. Happy Valentine’s to all.

Tiptoe through the tulips with us

February 13, 2009
Dutch tulip fields nearby the Keukenhof in the Netherlands

Tulip fields nearby the famed Keukenhof display garden, south of Amsterdam

Why buy roses when you can have tulips? I love wild roses and garden roses, but the kind sold in stores leave me wanting … for tulips. So when you’re shopping for your sweetie for Valentine’s Day, consider the tulip, the best Dutch treat on the planet. I’ve long admired tulips, but now that I’m in a half-Dutch household, it’s our official flower.

Flowers are cut for preservation of the tulip bulbs

Most Dutch tulip farmers cut the blooms in order to later export the bulbs

Here’s a short history. The tulip was originally a wild flower, growing in Central Asia, and first cultivated by the Turks as early as 1000 AD. It was introduced in Western Europe and the Netherlands in the 17th century by Carolus Clusius, a biologist from Vienna. He became director of the Hortus Botanicusthe oldest botanical garden in Europe, one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe, at the University of Leiden, where, incidentally, I studied Dutch in 2005. (Notice I didn’t say I learned it.) His plantings marked the beginning of the incredible tulip bulb fields still famous in Holland today. If you’ve never seen them, add that to your life list.


This year's Valentine's tulips

In case you were wondering, the word tulip comes from the Turkish word for turban. The Dutch word is tulp and the plural is tulpen. (Wow, I remembered!)

Wessel and I bought our Valentine’s tulips today. Orange, the Dutch national color. What color did you get?

Van harte gefeliciteerd, Wessel!

January 9, 2009
Wessel blows candles of birthday cake in 2008

Wessel blows candles of birthday cake in 2008

As faithful readers know, the Dutch go crazy for their birthdays. They congratulate not only the birthday boy/girl, but parents, siblings, and spouses. Wessel’s parents made their birthday call this morning from the Netherlands, bright and early, as always. :O They congratulated me as well. And now I must say, gefeliciteerd to you, too, familie Kok! Being someone who has always sought birthday attention (OK, fine, all attention), I love this Dutch tradition.

So each time there’s a birthday in our immediate Dutch family, Wessel and I do a blog posting with photos. Now the sad thing is this: I wanted this post to surprise Wessel, but he’s the photo editor. So, my dear partner in life, you’re going to have to later add your favorite photos to this. Sorry!

Maroccan medley, the 2008 birthday dinner

Moroccan Medley, the 2008 birthday dinner

This year Wessel and I decided to gift ourselves folding bicycles for our birthdays (mine was last month.) So we are still in the process of shopping around. We’re mostly fixating on Bike Friday, arguably the best folding bike maker but of course also the most expensive. I’m looking forward to the end of the shopping process and the purchase of our bikes!

Diane prepares Fish in a bag, the 2007 birtday special

Diane prepares Fish in a Bag, the 2007 birthday special

As usual, I’ll be making birthday dinner for Wessel. It’s a major production, especially since I have to do a practice run each year. Here’s the lineup since we’ve lived together: Brunswick Stew, Chicken Pudding, Roast, Fish in a Bag (from “Seasoned in the South” ), Moroccan Medley (thanks to Barry Yeoman), and, this year, the sixth, he again requested vegetarian. I finally decided on Moosewood’s Risotto with Spinach and Artichokes (I’m throwing in mushrooms too), as well as some side dishes, natch, and a cake (not sure which one yet) with 45 candles.

Dear Wessel, here are 17 things I love about you:

Your genuine kindness and concern for all living creatures, including humans.
Your photo skills, from execution to organization.
Your sense of humor, including bad puns and jokes.
Your firm buttocks and shapely calves.
Your physical fitness.
Your ability to change bicycle tires much quicker than I can.
Your command of several languages.
Your healthy appetite.
Your intellectual and constant thirst for knowledge.
Your affection for your annoying cat and your care for my dogs that you could easily live without.
Your willingness to fairly divide chores.
Your total, unwavering support of me.
Your many sides.
Your adventurousness.
Your honesty.
Your willingness to be vulnerable.
Your undying love for me.


your adoring wife

Love at Logan’s luggage carousel

February 14, 2008

Would you believe that the most romantic place in the world is the Wessel & Diane at Delta luggage carousel where they met a year earlier; CLICK ON PHOTODelta baggage carousel at Logan Airport in Boston? Well, it was for me, anyway. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I feel compelled to reprint this ditty, which ran on Jan. 7, 2007, in the Boston Globe to commemorate five years of my Where they Went column in the Globe travel section. I selected my 10 favorite columns and gave updates on them. Here was the final entry, referring to the column I wrote on March 16, 2003. Here’s what I said:

“Most of the trips I’ve highlighted have been from several days to several weeks long, but one lasted less than 24 hours. That was Wessel Kok and Frans van Dinther’s whirlwind visit from Boston to Lake George, N.Y., Frans & Wessel on Lake George in front of Hotel Sagamoreand back for a mere afternoon of ice-skating on the lake. I had by happenstance met the two Dutchmen at the Delta baggage carousel at Logan Airport, when Kok, working and living in the area, was there to pick up van Dinther. The fact that they drove five hours each way to skate around a big, bumpy lake in freezing weather still amuses me. But that’s not why their story remains my favorite. It’s because it became my story, too. After I interviewed Kok we started dating. We’ve been married for two years, and that indeed continues to be a wonderful journey.”

Well, now we’ve been married three years and today is our five-year anniversary of meeting. It’s been an adventure in so many ways, but since this is a travel blog, let’s keep it to that. Here’s some of the places we’ve traveled to since meeting, with me writing away and Wessel snapping photos: Ecuador, Indonesia, Chile and Argentina, England, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, California, Colorado, Arizona, Florida, New England, the US East Coast, and of course all over North Carolina, where we live. This year’s itinerary will take us to several US states, including Colorado, Texas, Vermont, and Florida; and to the Netherlands, as Wessel & Diane make a shadow heart at the beach; CLICK ON PHOTOusual. Our big trip will be to Norway in June. Our favorite mode of transportation is by bicycle, one of the things we connected over right off.

So, Happy Valentine’s Day to my favorite travel partner and the best life partner I could imagine. Lieve, jij bent mijn nummer 1! Jij bent mijn ideaal. Jij bent de beste!

A little Valentine’s Day update: After I posted this I saw that Wessel had put little messages to me in the Snap! photo function, which you can see when you move your cursor over the photos. Very sweet and sneaky. Which reminds me to add that this blog has been a labor of love between us!