Find a spa nirvana at California's Cal-A-Vie

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Escaping Houston on an oppressive summer day was heaven in itself. I arrived in San Diego to crisp blue skies, a subtle warm breeze and humidity so slight that taking a deep breath felt pure and invigorating. Two sun-tanned young men greeted me at the airport wearing big smiles and aviator sunglasses. "Is this your first time to Cal-A-Vie?" one of them asked, referring to the luxury health spa owned by Houstonians Terri and John Havens. "You'll love it. It's like heaven." I had heard that from other Houstonians who had visited and returned rested, recharged and even spiritually awakened. They described it as a French chateau in Southern California where everyone speaks English, eats farm-fresh food, explores every imaginable fitness option and gets pampered with spa treatments. Now, I was about to see what the fuss is all about. Would I find my own nirvana over the course of a brief visit? More

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Escaping Houston on an oppressive summer day was heaven in itself.

I arrived in San Diego to crisp blue skies, a subtle warm breeze and humidity so slight that taking a deep breath felt pure and invigorating.

Two sun-tanned young men greeted me at the airport wearing big smiles and aviator sunglasses.

"Is this your first time to Cal-A-Vie?" one of them asked, referring to the luxury health spa owned by Houstonians Terri and John Havens. "You'll love it. It's like heaven."

I had heard that from other Houstonians who had visited and returned rested, recharged and even spiritually awakened. They described it as a French chateau in Southern California where everyone speaks English, eats farm-fresh food, explores every imaginable fitness option and gets pampered with spa treatments.

Now, I was about to see what the fuss is all about. Would I find my own nirvana over the course of a brief visit?

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Relax, Galveston is just a causeway away

You can't help but feel relaxed when you drive across the causeway to Galveston Island. With more than 6 million visitors a year, it's a small place, yet bustling with things to do, places to see, food to try and ways to unwind. WHAT TO DO Eco-Art Kayak Adventure: During this scenic kayak tour, a guide takes participants through coastal marshes. The Artist Boat staff provides kayaks, More

You can't help but feel relaxed when you drive across the causeway to Galveston Island. With more than 6 million visitors a year, it's a small place, yet bustling with things to do, places to see, food to try and ways to unwind.

WHAT TO DO

Eco-Art Kayak Adventure: During this scenic kayak tour, a guide takes participants through coastal marshes. The Artist Boat staff provides kayaks,

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Telluride is a vacation gold mine

(Houston Chronicle 2009. Photo by Joy Sewing) TELLURIDE, COLO. - It was as if painter Roger Mason knew I was coming. He stood in the middle of the street with his easel, canvas and brush working on a colorful vision of Telluride's dreamy downtown. I dropped my luggage at the door of my hotel to watch him work. Blue clouds settled over the rugged San Juan Mountains in the background. It was early morning, and locals with large, friendly dogs strolled down Colorado Avenue -- Telluride's main street -- heading for their jolt of coffee at one of the many cafes. More

(Houston Chronicle 2009. Photo by Joy Sewing)

TELLURIDE, COLO. - It was as if painter Roger Mason knew I was coming.

He stood in the middle of the street with his easel, canvas and brush working on a colorful vision of Telluride's dreamy downtown.

I dropped my luggage at the door of my hotel to watch him work.

Blue clouds settled over the rugged San Juan Mountains in the background. It was early morning, and locals with large, friendly dogs strolled down Colorado Avenue -- Telluride's main street -- heading for their jolt of coffee at one of the many cafes.

More

How I came to meet 'Mexicanoes Negroes' — and racism — in Mexico

(Source: Houston Chronicle July 17, 2005. Photo by Joy Sewing) The "N word" was not something I expected to hear while I lived in Mexico. A middle-aged man shouted the racial slur from a moving car as I and several other journalists — another African-American woman and a Puerto Rican man — left a restaurant in Cuernavaca. The verbal assault took my breath away. In a country where I had grown to identify with its rich, colorful culture and brown faces, I was slapped with a racial insult, and I was stunned. I spent more than five months in Mexico in 1997 on a National Press Foundation fellowship to study Spanish. During that time, as I struggled to improve my language skills, I also tried to understand how racism could exist there. "There's no racism in here Mexico," I was told frequently by teachers and friends. Economics, they said, was the issue. The poorer you are, the worse life is. More

(Source: Houston Chronicle July 17, 2005. Photo by Joy Sewing)

The "N word" was not something I expected to hear while I lived in Mexico.

A middle-aged man shouted the racial slur from a moving car as I and several other journalists — another African-American woman and a Puerto Rican man — left a restaurant in Cuernavaca. The verbal assault took my breath away.

In a country where I had grown to identify with its rich, colorful culture and brown faces, I was slapped with a racial insult, and I was stunned.

I spent more than five months in Mexico in 1997 on a National Press Foundation fellowship to study Spanish. During that time, as I struggled to improve my language skills, I also tried to understand how racism could exist there.

"There's no racism in here Mexico," I was told frequently by teachers and friends. Economics, they said, was the issue. The poorer you are, the worse life is.

More

New Orleans is the perfect place for a girlfriends' getaway

(Source: Houston Chronicle, June 5, 2015) NEW ORLEANS - The last time I went on a girlfriend getaway, I wound up - unexpectedly, to be sure - sharing a moonlit sulphur bath with nudists at a yoga retreat in California. So, ironically, the idea of girls' trip to New Orleans, where the good times always roll, seemed much more tame. A short flight (or five-hour drive) from Houston, followed by a few days of fabulous food, creative cocktails and fun? Perfect. Reconnaissance was needed. More

(Source: Houston Chronicle, June 5, 2015)

NEW ORLEANS - The last time I went on a girlfriend getaway, I wound up - unexpectedly, to be sure - sharing a moonlit sulphur bath with nudists at a yoga retreat in California.

So, ironically, the idea of girls' trip to New Orleans, where the good times always roll, seemed much more tame. A short flight (or five-hour drive) from Houston, followed by a few days of fabulous food, creative cocktails and fun? Perfect. Reconnaissance was needed.

More

A first timer's guide to exploring Oahu

(Source: Houston Chronicle April 12, 2013) HONOLULU - The Hawaiian waters off Oahu's leeward coastline were the deepest blue I had seen. The rich, dense waves gently stroked the sides of the boat and carried us some miles away. We had set out for a day of snorkeling, but I grew uneasy as we continued traveling to what seemed to be the middle of the ocean. Looking out into the blue abyss, I tried to muster up my courage to jump in. I lost the nerve. But Armin Cullins, the boat's captain and owner of the Wild Side Specialty Tours (sailhawaii.com), didn't judge me. Instead, he offered assurance that I would still get amazing views of the Hawaiian spinner dolphins, which we came to see. My brother, Jon, looked at the water with consternation as well. Nevertheless, he suited up with a life preserver and goggles. "I guess I have to take one for the team," he said, before reluctantly sliding into the water with the rest of the group. More

(Source: Houston Chronicle April 12, 2013)

HONOLULU - The Hawaiian waters off Oahu's leeward coastline were the deepest blue I had seen. The rich, dense waves gently stroked the sides of the boat and carried us some miles away.

We had set out for a day of snorkeling, but I grew uneasy as we continued traveling to what seemed to be the middle of the ocean.

Looking out into the blue abyss, I tried to muster up my courage to jump in.

I lost the nerve.

But Armin Cullins, the boat's captain and owner of the Wild Side Specialty Tours (sailhawaii.com), didn't judge me. Instead, he offered assurance that I would still get amazing views of the Hawaiian spinner dolphins, which we came to see. My brother, Jon, looked at the water with consternation as well. Nevertheless, he suited up with a life preserver and goggles.

"I guess I have to take one for the team," he said, before reluctantly sliding into the water with the rest of the group.

More

On a mission in South Africa

(Source: Houston Chronicle Jan. 9, 2009. Photo by Joy Sewing) JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA — The auditorium of the Soweto YMCA, where Faithways Community Church holds its weekly services, was cold and drafty but filled with a congregation bundled for warmth. As if a spirit moved across the massive room, voices of the parishioners, mostly women, swelled into a high-pitch shrill — an African call of excitement. On this winter day, more than 40 members of Houston’s Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, including the Rev. Marcus D. Cosby and his wife, Audrey, were in attendance for a Sunday morning service. (The seasons are opposite in South Africa, so while it was cold there the summer sun was baking in Houston.) The delegation made its way down the main aisle. Some received gentle handshakes; others were greeted with soft, comforting words from the Soweto congregation: “Welcome home,” they said. More

(Source: Houston Chronicle Jan. 9, 2009. Photo by Joy Sewing)

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA — The auditorium of the Soweto YMCA, where Faithways Community Church holds its weekly services, was cold and drafty but filled with a congregation bundled for warmth.

As if a spirit moved across the massive room, voices of the parishioners, mostly women, swelled into a high-pitch shrill — an African call of excitement.

On this winter day, more than 40 members of Houston’s Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, including the Rev. Marcus D. Cosby and his wife, Audrey, were in attendance for a Sunday morning service. (The seasons are opposite in South Africa, so while it was cold there the summer sun was baking in Houston.)

The delegation made its way down the main aisle. Some received gentle handshakes; others were greeted with soft, comforting words from the Soweto congregation:

“Welcome home,” they said.

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Cuba: Forget all you have heard

(From Houston Chronicle 2011) HAVANA, CUBA - A United States flag is one of many international symbols hanging from the ceiling at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport. Its presence seems peculiar given the historically strained relations the United States has with Cuba. It was one of things I noticed when I arrived. I was one of six black journalists visiting Cuba to examine racism in the country on a fellowship sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies. The Institute, which is housed at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C., was founded by USA Today columnist and veteran journalist DeWayne Wickham, who has traveled to Cuba for more than a decade and has developed a network of Cuban journalists he now calls friends. Our goal was to interview key players in the areas of art, culture, journalism and politics to discuss the issue of racism, something that is rarely talked about in this country. More

(From Houston Chronicle 2011)

HAVANA, CUBA - A United States flag is one of many international symbols hanging from the ceiling at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport. Its presence seems peculiar given the historically strained relations the United States has with Cuba.

It was one of things I noticed when I arrived.

I was one of six black journalists visiting Cuba to examine racism in the country on a fellowship sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies. The Institute, which is housed at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C., was founded by USA Today columnist and veteran journalist DeWayne Wickham, who has traveled to Cuba for more than a decade and has developed a network of Cuban journalists he now calls friends. Our goal was to interview key players in the areas of art, culture, journalism and politics to discuss the issue of racism, something that is rarely talked about in this country.

More