I've found true love.
My new boyfriend is dark, sleek, and zippers up the middle, just the way I like it. He doesn't need conversation or dinner. What's more he's Canadian and exotic. Just whisper his name "Canada Goose" and I get going.
Every winter I ditch my husband for a "winter soul mate," the perfect coat that will take me to the next level and keep me thermodynamically protected from New York City's winter. It hasn't been easy. My closet reads like a mall of discarded "ex's," each with a heart-wrenching story.
It's difficult to think of Brooklyn as the tundra or city dwellers as expedition explorers. But New York City is an urban arctic. It doesn't matter which country we've immigrated from or what borough we dwell in, we've all done time waiting on wind-swept platforms for non-existent trains wishing we were clad in winter burkas. Not to mention shivering in the dungeon depths of Times Square while rats scurry warmly to their destinations.
Like Iditarod "mushers" New Yorkers are continually exposed to Nature's elements, slogging from East Side to West, navigating sidewalks, weaving through tourists and unwieldy hot-dog vendors. Instead of commanding packs of well-trained dogs, we usually have kids in tow, our backpacks weighed down by books, gym gear, and school lunches. Yaks have it easier.
My quest for the flawless coat is a long, sordid story. Like going out on bad dates, I kissed a lot of trenches before I went steady.
My first fling was with an innocent, floor-length Land's End. Although its price was enticing, the cut didn't flatter (the ankle-length black trench made me look like a "creature from the deep"). After that, I moved up to a ¾ length dependable L.L. Bean. The name "Arcadia Down" suggested common sense and specificity but the quilted, puffed squares channeled The Michelin Man, not a svelte ice goddess. Finally, I committed to a North Face "Artic Parka" but the zipper snagged me. None of my affairs lasted; none of my partners were warm enough.
One night, my family staged an intervention.
My husband sat me down. "Honey, I know you're cold but where do you think you're living? This is New York City, not Iceland. Is this some kind of urban fantasy?"
My oldest, Eliza, took my hand. "Mom, you've got a problem. You need to confront this. If they have a 'CA' get yourself to a meeting."
"A 'Coat's Anonymous.' Your addiction's out of control."
I felt cornered. "Can't New Yorkers be as cold as people living in North Dakota?"
Eliza shook her head. "Is that what you're saying to yourself now, Mom? We live in South Brooklyn. Do you feel unloved or something?"
I lived a double life. Frugal by day, at night I went on-line to the Canada Goose website. Rugged, gorgeous individuals graced their home page. Clad head-to-toe in luscious gear, their models were waist-deep in snow and resembled dancers from Swan Lake. The company's sensuous visuals were the arctic equivalent of a Victoria's Secret catalogue.
Those who succumbed to their passion and bought the coats were referred to as "Goose People." I could become a part of something wild, a Canadian cult! Was there a pledge to memorize like when I joined the Girl Scouts, a ritual to be performed, a rite-of-passage?
Unlike the needy teen boyfriends of my youth, these parkas were fiercely independent. Each coat came equipped with a "Thermal Experience Index" a rating of warmth from 1-5. I could control the thermostat of my relationship.
I needed a fix. The temperature in NYC was plummeting so I hoodwinked my mother who lives around the corner from Bloomingdales and told her we were "just browsing."
The Canada Goose section was small but there were signs of a struggle. Coats were flying, women tearing samples from mannequins. Vowing that nothing was going to come between me and my Goose, I grabbed my Mom's shoulders. "Don't move. Stand here and watch the saleslady like a hawk. I'm going in."
"Honey," she shouted above the din, "are you sure you need this coat?"
I ignored her. Unleashing my inner consumer warrior, I leapt over an innocent Chinese woman who was hoping to snag a parka to Beijing and grabbed a coat that had fallen to the floor in the scuffle. It must've been a Christmas miracle but suddenly, I found myself gazing into the face of the man my dreams, my Kensington Parka ,who was even more rugged and handsome than his "URL" link.
"Take out your charge card, Mom. Give it to the saleslady. I'll pay you back. I'll get a second job, I promise."
My Mom obliged and I emerged wearing my new coat proud and flushed. Taking my time, I zipped up the hood. True to its reputation, I was instantly engulfed in a smoldering embrace. Giddy, I expected my mother to coo over my new down lover but she was confused.
"Aren't you going to be warm on the train, darling? What are you doing to do when you're indoors all the time?"
Love is blind. Besides, my coat will always make a good sleeping bag. Who knows if I'll still be satisfied come next winter!
St. John’s sister island St. Thomas might have the shopping and cruise ships, but if you’re looking for pristine white-sand beaches, natural beauty and quiet charm, St. John is the place. Over half the island is national park, which means lush greenery and hiking trails, as well as historic ruins from the island’s colonial past. Where To Stay and Dine: For an eco-friendly family adventure, try the Maho Bay campground, where pretty tent-cottages sit right near water’s edge and the resort has a load of daily activities including yoga, snorkeling and even glassblowing. The more luxurious will want to stay at the Westin St. John Resort & Villas with its beautiful rooms, spa and tennis courts. For Sunday brunch Ms. Lucy’s is an island must--be sure to try the conch fritters and callaloo soup. Where To Play: Trunk Bay, considered one of the prettiest beaches in the Caribbean, is the place to head to for snorkeling. For shopping, go to the artisan shops and boutiques in Mongoose Junction. Hikers will want to head to the Reef Bay Trail to see the petroglyphs left over from the island's Amerindians, as well as ruins of sugar plantations.
The under-the-radar "Gold Coast" town of Delray Beach is bursting with arts and culture, a blossoming restaurant scene, and wide, sandy beaches. Where To Stay and Dine: The sprawling, Mediterranean-style Delray Beach Marriott has two heated pools and spacious rooms with sofa beds perfect for traveling with a large family. Dine at one of its acclaimed restaurants such as O'Grady's Lounge or the Seacrest Grill. Where To Play: The area of Delray Beach is within walking distance of museums and ballet-and-jazz-performing spaces. In Old School Square, ride the carousel in-season, or take in exhibitions at the Cornell Museum of Art & American Culture. A few minutes drive from downtown is the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens where kids can enjoy the exhibition, Japan Through the Eyes of a Child.
A desert oasis with a mixed personality, Cabo is at the tip of Baja California Sur. Cabo San Lucas is party central, where every day feels like a holiday. Its mellower sister city, San José del Cabo, is popular with the Hollywood elite for serious R&R. Where To Stay and Dine: You'll have to drag the kids away from the kids' club and the lagoon-style pools at the all-inclusive Barcelo Los Cabos Palace Deluxe, which specializes in making families feel at home. The Mexican menus feature guacamole made at your table and served in a molcajete (stone mortar and pestle). Where To Play: There are plenty of beaches for sunbathing, but the ocean here is notoriously choppy and unfit for casual swimmers; therefore, the pool culture is alive and well. The area also boasts day-trips to nearby beaches, golf courses, and snorkel sites.
Though still sunny, winter brings light jacket weather to San Diego, famous for its zoo and large U.S. Navy and Marine military community. Where To Stay and Dine: A wallet-friendly home base is the 115-room, 80-year old La Valencia Hotel, in the middle of downtown La Jolla, with easy access to the two-mile boardwalk fronting the Pacific. Before heading to Point Loma, see the online camera trained on the line at Phil's BBQ, where diners say it's worth the wait for the price-is-right mesquite-grilled ribs and crispy onion rings. Where To Play: There are tons of family-friendly activities, including whale-watching and seal-watching at SeaWorld and the Birch Aquarium, imagination-stretching at LEGOLAND, and, of course, a visit to the San Diego Zoo, home to 3,700 animals and 700,000 plants. For more activities in San Diego, visit our City Guide.
St. George's is called the "Spice Island" because of the nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves that grow abundantly in the island setting. This Caribbean beauty is thriving again after being struck by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Where To Stay and Dine: The all-suite Calabash Hotel & Villas sits on eight acres of gardens facing L'Anse Aux Épines beach. English chef Gary Rhodes's restaurant at the hotel uses touches of spice in dishes like dorado with ginger-butter sauce and vanilla and nutmeg custard brioche. Where To Play: Busy St. George's Market in the center of town is a must for buying freshly dried herbs and pungent spices. At the Gouyave Nutmeg Cooperative, women process nutmeg and mace for export; watch their nimble hands work at unbelievable speed.
The fiftieth state is all-exotic, but Oahu is comfortingly all-American. It's a fantastic and fun location for families, and the weather couldn't be more enjoyable. Where To Stay and Dine: Hotels here can be quite expensive, but the Aqua chain, with some lanai (patios) and kitchen-equipped rooms and suites in its 14 locations around Honolulu, are made for families. With the savings -- rooms can be had for less than $100 a night -- you can splurge on shave ice, a sorbet-like ice cream that's an island favorite. Where To Play: The legendary beaches of Waikiki beckon surfers to take lessons at the Hans Hedemann Surf school. Head to Oahu's north shore for educational hula shows at the Polynesian Cultural Center.
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