Best Family Ski Trip: Mont Tremblant


I do uphill skiing.

Downhill skiing

is for nerd amateurs.

Judah Friedlander


Mont Tremblant Village

It will probably take another lifetime for me to attempt skiing, but when that day comes, I know exactly where the experience is fun for the whole family in the Northeast. Mont Tremblant in Quebec, Canada has 96 trails from Green to Black Diamond where you have the option of watching your ski bunnies from your warm and toasty hotel room.

Save yourself the trouble of parking the car and schlepping everyone’s skis by staying at one of the ski-in ski-out hotels in Tremblant’s quaint pedestrian village. If not, between the bunny hill and gondola is a kiosk known as the Tremblant Ski Valet where you can keep your skis and poles at the base of the mountain.

The best hotels with the ski-in/ski-out advantage are:

Fairmont Mont Tremblant.   Sits overlooking all the action on Place St-Bernard, a hop to the best coffee shop in the village, Au Grain de Cafe, Centre Aventure (where you pick up your lift tickets and rentals), the tour-booking office, the gondola that takes you to the summit, a chair lift, and the bunny hill that’s converted for night tubing most nights from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. The hotel has its own, free valet service on the terrace level where your skis were taken in, dried daily and packed up in your ski bag the day you check out.

Sommet Des Neiges. You’ll get very spoiled by the convenience of having your ski lockers right next to the gondola! All rooms are one bedroom suites with your own washer/dryer and kitchenette. Right below the window of your mountain view room is the bunny slope where there’s all day entertainment watching adorable ski “midgets” (3 to 12 year olds) and their ever patient instructors who help prop them up when they lay helpless toppled over. The $13 overnight parking fee must the best deal in the entire town.

Restaurant options within Tremblant’s village:

La Savoie Restaurant has excellent fondues and wine.

The Creperie (La Maison De La Crepe) has sweet and savory selections–delicious for most though not intended to be held up to the French standard.

The Pizzateria has a fun vibe, with a lovely terrace in summer.

Le Forge Bar et Grill for apres-ski pub far has delicious burgers and grilled salmon on a plank.

If you don’t mind a short drive:

La Petit Cachee (considered a must when in Tremblant) looks like a quaint ski lodge with fine dining and a kids’ menu. Try the grilled salmon with foie gras or their famous Normand’s braised ribs.

Seb L’Artisan for the more serious foodie–it even has its own published cookbook.

Le Cheval de Jade another very well-rated restaurant in a homey atmosphere.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your winter holiday favorites.



Gondola and bunny hill right outside your Sommet Des Neiges window

Spoiled for choice with 96 Trails!

Top of Mont Tremblant

Cafe at the top of the mountain

Northern View from the top of the world

Looking out at the Fairmont Hotel across the slope



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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman




The 5 Classiest Cocktail Bars of NYC

I drink 

to make other people

more interesting.

Ernest Hemingway

Thank Goddess It’s Friday! Alcohol may not like me, but I do love the concept of extending “Happy Hour” to “Happy Days and Nights” where there are high ceilings, fancy chandeliers and lovely decor and/or views to go with it.

My absolute favorite for elegance is The Baccarat lobby bar, a glamorously French interpretation of the American long bars of old. It is the sparkliest new addition to New York City since cut crystal and its picture can do all the talking. The Baccarat Hotel is right across the Museum of Modern Art.

Baccarat Bar

Baccarat Hotel, 20 West 53rd Street, NYC

(212) 790 8800

Baccarat New York Bar

The Top of the Standard with live jazz most nights is Art Deco with virtually 360 degree views of Manhattan–even the Ladies’ Room has a view! Get there before dinner or stay and enjoy their light menu so you don’t have to  bother with queues for “The List” after 8:00 pm.

Top of the Standard Hotel

848 Washington St, New York, NY 10014
(212) 645-4646

Top of the Standard Hotel

The lobby lounge of the Mandarin Oriental is my favorite for views of Columbus Circle and Central park. Get there before sunset to see very far.

Lobby Lounge of the Mandarin Oriental

80 Columbus Circle, NYC

(212) 805-8800


Spyglass is a small space on the 22nd floor of the Archer Hotel with a personal view of the Empire State building. Fancy toasting your latest international caper with James Bond as you sip Joe Goglia’s specialty cocktails and mill among a better dressed crowd.


Archer Hotel, 22nd Floor, 47 W 38th St, NYC
(212) 730-0538


The Rose Bar at the Gramercy Hotel is pink and sexy with velvet seats and pretty waitresses. Get there before 10:00 pm to skirt “The List.” You can order from the menu of the Gramercy’s restaurant, Maialino, if you get hungry,

Rose Bar

Gramercy Park Hotel, 2 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10010
(212) 920-3300


Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your favorites. Cheers! (Photographs courtesy of Google Images.)


Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Where I Left My Heart in San Francisco


The major advantage of domestic travel is that 

most locations are conveniently situated

right here in the United States.

Dave Barry

In the last two decades, I’ve traveled everywhere else in the world but here.  Guess where?

Garden Court at the Palace Hotel San Francisco Luxury Starwood Preferred Guest

The Palace Hotel

Can’t beat this excellent location between Union Square and the Embarcadero! The BART train to/from the airport stops right at the hotel door (Montgomery station.)  Ask Front Desk for rooms on the 8th floor facing the street for a large arch window.  The room carpet is a bit tired, but the the staff members are kind, bathrobe and  pillows are plump, and their Garden Court is absolutely magnificent! Pianist Gea plays jazz and classical music after 5:00 pm.

The Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco travel sightseeing things to do

The Palace of Fine Arts

My absolute fave in this town and a glorious photo opp!  For best photos, visit early in the morning when the sun shines on the majestic columns and all other people are still in bed.  Or just sit on a bench by the pond and soak in the beauty of the architecture.

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco travel bike tour

Golden Gate Bridge

You don’t seriously believe I biked here, do you?  I gave up dodging other tourists to take an unusual shot and on my way back to the car, I spied these bikes posing for a photo.  Climb up the hill on the far side of the bridge to get the best scenic shots of Alcatraz and the city.

Castillo Di Amorosa romantic castle vineyard in Napa Valley

Castello Di Amorosa Vineyard

In Napa Valley, the vineyard you must visit is Castello di Amorosa for the romance of the castle and its adorable little farm.  Dine nearby at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.

Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay luxury hotel San Francisco travel

The Ritz Carlton at Half Moon Bay

Escape the city crowds and take a scenic drive on the Pacific Coast to the Ritz at Half Moon Bay.  Stop for a romantic lunch or dinner, maybe a round of golf with an ocean view or stay the night.

Christian Louboutin Impera red sole pumps heels San Francisco

Christian Louboutin Shop on 29 Maiden Lane

What’s a trip without a souvenir?  And if you can’t find anything made in San Francisco, something bought in San Francisco is quite fun, too!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your San Francisco favorites.



© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Best of Venice

Venice is like eating

an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.

Truman Capote


As a passionate night owl, I was pleasantly surprised by the pleasures of catching the sun rise over Venice, soft blue making way to gray or sunny skies.

The one thing to know aside from timing your visit with Carnival is that there are no porters nor cars past its train station.   Walking is how everyone stays fit.  As a tourist dragging heavy luggage, your back will thank you if you choose a hotel with direct canal access.   Skip the queue for the bus, the vaporetto and the schlep over a few bridges by hiring a private taxi from the airport (110 Euros or share a ride for 30 Euros per person.)  To buy a private taxi ticket at the Marco Polo airport, keep left when you walk out of baggage claim.  Their booth sits like an island in the middle of the hall.

Money matters:  get the best exchange rates using your ATM or credit card.   If you want to watch your dollars magically halve, cash exchange counters charge about 30 Euros per transaction.   Tipping is generally not expected but with wages that have not caught up with the Lira’s conversion to the Euro, why not?   Service and/or cover charge are automatically added to your bill at restaurants.

San Marco Square

Join the early birds in owning the town before the street lamps go off at 6:30 am. Be the first in line to see the Basilica interiors and climb the second level to better admire the artwork on its golden domes.  But as soon as you notice puddles of water spreading on the pavement, get yourself out of San Marco quickly before the tide floods the square.

Doge’s Palace

A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the Doge’s Palace (aka Palazzo Ducale in Italian) is a landmark of building elements and ornamentation.  The public entrance is through the Porta del Frumento, under the colonnade of its 14th century waterfront façade.


Cafe Florian

On San Marco square, the place to see and be seen especially during Carnival is Cafe Florian.  The crowd that gathers here adore elegant period costume that transport you back in time amidst authentic 18th century decor.

Terrace with a View

Because I love rich velvet on everything, I had to dine where the seats are upholstered in it!  Hotel Danieli faces the water next to the Doge’s Palace. Service at fancy hotels has its share of critics because of the expectations that are as high as the price they command.  Know that you are coming here for its unrivaled view of the city.   (Photo from


Rialto Bridge

For almost 300 years since it opened in 1591, the Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto) was the only way to cross the Grand Canal on foot between the districts of San Polo and San Marco.   Probably the most visited structure among tourists today, it is best photographed when you’re on the water from a gondola, water taxi or the vaporetto (public water bus.)   Three walkways cross the bridge:  two along the outer balustrades and a wider one in the center with shops on both sides.  (Photo by National Geographic.)

Bridge of Sighs

This bridge behind the Doge’s Palace has a bleak history.  A more romantic version comes from local legend that promises lovers eternal love and bliss if they kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs as the bells of St. Mark’s Cathedral toll.  This legend is the plot line of the movie A Little Romance starring Laurence Olivier and Diane Lane.


San Giorgio Island

To get to the island with the brick church steeple that beckons across the water, take the #2 Vaporetto in front of Hotel Danieli.  Twilight is the best time to photograph the city lights and panorama.


Murano and Burano Islands

Murano Island is the home of hand blown glass and the famed Venetian chandeliers.  It is the first stop of the same ferry that takes you to Burano Island known for its lace and colorful house facades.



Even without a charming gondolier, Venice has no better known icon.
Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your Venetian favorites.


© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Email me

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

On The Beach

The ant is knowing and wise,

but he doesn’t know enough to take a vacation.

Clarence Day


If you have more than 7,000 islands, you run a pretty good chance of making the list of the world’s best beaches.  Boracay Island in the Philippines is renowned for its powdery white sand and clear blue waters.  Though its main stretch now feels more like Miami’s South Beach with rundown buildings sandwiched among the new, this island and many others in the archipelago have beaches that remain untamed.  My vote for best beach always goes to the one with soft sand, calm waters, tree lined shade and service with a smile nearby.  After almost a decade away, even I am impressed by Filipino hospitality.

To me, paradise means basking in loving kindness and cheerful helping hands, a dinner table that stretches as far as the horizon full of friends/family, and large platters of my favorite seafood!   Neither luxury nor squalor, relentless heat nor humidity gets in the way of everyone sharing an easy laugh and a lilting accent.  Among the variety of cultures I’ve observed in my travels, wealth always brings many comforts that are easy to love.  The indomitable Filipino spirit and charm are  powerful reminders that happiness exists with or without it.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share your definition of paradise.

To get to this beach, you must…


Cross a deep ocean or two,


Brave flipflop traffic,


And risk being charmed by the locals.


What is a beach without palapas and coconuts?


My kind of charcoal grill has style


Tinikling is the traditional Philippine dance between 2 bamboo poles

that relentlessly snap at your heels


My favorite breakfast, snack, drink, shade, souvenir, etc…


Catch of the day


A little shell of a crab poked my toe–

making sure  this night owl wasn’t just sleepwalking on the beach at sunrise


Not all crabs are created (or cooked) equal


Many happy returns!


© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Email me

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother


The Tryst

Be kind to your mother in law,

but pay for her board at some good hotel.

Josh Billings

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Now that the kids are home for the summer, I find myself imagining the thrill of a tryst with my man or, at least, being someplace quiet by myself.   A hotel room can be a sanctuary to get away from it all, a cocoon for a private adventure where you can disappear and pretend to be unfindable.  The bed is a blank canvas where a new story awaits to be written.  And at the very least, the simple pleasures of 24/7 room service and clean, crisp sheets we don’t have to launder are extremely sexy–even if the kids must come along!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to add your tips for snagging a fabulous deal at your favorite destination:

1. Loyalty pays.  Avail of perks and benefits of hotel membership which usually costs nothing to join.  Even if you don’t have elite status, it never hurts to ask.  Club Floor rates may be higher but they can offer real value.

2. Bundles. Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity could save you up to 20% when you bundle hotel and flight bookings.  If like me, you like variety in hotel brands, Expedia has its own loyalty program where you earn points for airfare, hotel, and car rentals through their site.

3. Social Media.  Use Twitter to search ongoing deals (enter the hotel name and “deal”).  Introduce yourself with a “Like” or announce your enthusiasm for your upcoming visit on the hotel’s Facebook page.


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© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Email me

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother


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