A penthouse in Zurich

When we arrived in Zurich, the drive across the bridge, then shoreline conjured visions of romance. How could it not? Glimpsing a couple walking under the trees lining the lake, I rolled down the window, feeling the breeze, watching the sailboarders zip by, wondering…what would it be like to live here, work at a high powered job, go to clubs and find love? ahh….that was the beginning of the Danielle Grant series, the last book which just released.

This was the first picture I snapped driving in to Zurich, going across the bridge to the (west) side of the lake where our place was located. Looks like just about every other lakefront strolling area….until you see the magnificent buildings on the left.

One of the elements I love about Zurich is modern convenience with trolleys and cobblestones, the metro quietly zipping through town, yogi’s on bikes navigating between Lambo’s and Ferrari’s. I also loved (and hated) the narrow paths leading up the very steep hillsides. Great for my calves but oh….hard on my fanny. Because they made (and left) such an impression, I use them to my advantage in each book of the series…up and down in the sun and snow.

The narrowed paths between the buildings in Zurich–the coolest little bars and hard to find delis were hidden in these alleys/paths.
Recall the scene where Lars and Danielle break up. right there, on that couch facing the fireplace. Imagine the fern replaced with a Christmas tree and grab a tissue.

There is was. The beginning of the three-book series on Danielle Grant, an American trader recruited to Switzerland. Of course, Danielle Grant, the lead character, didn’t come to mind until later, as we explored the streets of Zurich, noting the incredible number of wealth management and financial institutions. The owner of the unit is a physician, and while I initially thought that was interesting, the fast-paced, secretive world of trading appealed to me. Besides, the physician’s well-built, tattooed, very handsome but slightly mentally underpowered boyfriend was simply not believable—or rather, a reader would think it was cliché. The hot doctor (she was hot, and blond, and brilliant) with an equally hot enforcer-like boyfriend was beyond the realm of reality. I know you are thinking: but that would be cool?! Well, I thought it cool as well, but wouldn’t sell, and as I’ve already digressed terribly, I will tell you I raised this scenario up to my agent, who agreed with my initial feeling.

“Nope, you’re right,” he said immediately. “It is cliché and unbelievable.”

“But I actually witnessed this!” I said with frustration. Not that I was going to run with it anyway, but the notion that real life wasn’t acceptable was annoying.

“Sad but true,” Peter reaffirmed.

Let’s just have a collective sigh together and move on.

As I dutifully kept my eyes off the boyfriend and paid attention to the physician, I appreciated everything about the building, unit and details therein—all of which made their way into Made for Me, book on. When she slid in the card for the penthouse located on the fifth floor, I was impressed. The two-bedroom flat with views of the lake from every room was lovely. All glass and modern, shiny counters and cabinets, metallic tile butting against French maple—the vision was coming together. The grand piano in the living, the glass-enclosed dining room with sliding doors, the sauna off the second bedroom. I wondered to myself—who lived like this, really? I asked the physician.

“I have a much smaller flat downtown closer to my office,” she said. Okay, that answered the question. Not her. She then offered she has five similar units in other cities around the country (Bern, Lucerne, St. Moritz to name a few) and this was her second business. Rog was impressed.

Office on the other side of the glass-enclosed dining room, and the right is a (pretty poor) shot of the master bathroom, built-in sauna on the left side
Not behind in the scenes. In the scenes

Volumes have been written about real life inspirations behind a character, scene or setting, and I have fun blending fact with fiction, or rather, improving fact when I want something a little off. Well, I will give full credit to the unit’s owner who made it really easy for me to catalog every detail, up to and including the 5-inch solid steel door. It also came with five, count them five, different locks. So, imagine this: secured building, private elevator, five-inch steel door with five locks. It’s Switzerland, as I say in my book, the safest country in the world. Wasn’t this a little bit of overkill?

“One can never be too secure,” was the physician’s answer. Well then.

Upper left: one of the two decks opening up with views to Lake Zurich, Upper right, view from the kitchen, over modern office buildings (aka pull the blinds!) the bottom pic is on the waterfront, a ten minute walk from our rental to downtown along the waterfront
Left: Imagine this hallway where Danielle greets Andre in the foyer, and then upper right, in the second bedroom, which she transforms into a second bedroom

A little factoid in the book is the heat of the city. Few, if any, places in the city have air conditioning outside the hotels. The logic is that for the few weeks a year its unbearable, the winds gust off the lake, and up the hillside (or the reverse). In fact, our landlord told us that we were going to be liable if we left the penthouse without drawing in the awnings covering the decks. So we’d close everything up in the morning, arrive in the afternoon, open the windows and it cooled down immediately. The evenings were lovely.

Back to the door….

Guess what kind of door we have in Idaho, on a property in the middle of nowhere, which has a gate, and lots of security. Yep. That five-inch steel door. But lest you think we got crazy and had it especially installed, we didn’t. The house came this way. You see, the previous owner is a Swiss architect who built it for himself, and told us the same thing: “All good homes have doors like this.” Well then, there it is. At least he didn’t put on the five different locks.

Seriously, you just can’t make this stuff up. Five solid inches of steel in our front door, emulating just about every front door we’ve had in Zurich.
Feature image: A water Polize, who’s big task for the afternoon was saving two geese that were ensnared in a net. The crowd cheered, including us.

Tricks & bits for the best shopping deals

Four step process to getting the best product & price

When we return from traveling, men ask Rog how much money we spent. The women ask what we spent it on. Notice the difference? Second to this is: “Where’s the best shopping?” I’ll tell you what I tell them, then I’m going to reveal the real truth.

Five places are failsafe. Italy first and foremost, because the goods are beautiful and inexpensive. Milan (across the from the Duomo Cathedral) has this amazing mall with lots of goods we can’t get in the States, and if we can, the price is quadruple. No kidding. Lugano, a township on Lake Cuomo, offers different brands but similar deals, then Bellagio, which is the peninsula on Lake Cuomo. Lille, France, downtown, always offers great prices on French-made goods. In Germany, if you like Porsche brand products, go to the car factory, hit the store and pick up watches, leather clothes and windbreakers also for one-fourth the cost in the States, assuming it would even be available.

Shopping rule of thumb: the brighter the street the worse the deals. The darker the streets, the more the proprietor will negotiate because they have to drive volume.

Examples? $800 Hermes belts for $250 in Bellagio. $1,750 Ferragamo purses for $400 in Lugano. Porsche jacket (unavailable in the States, but was listed at $350 on the website) for $75). Diamond and ceramic Mercedes watch in Milan (at the Mercedes clothing store—yes, that exists), not listed on-line or available in the States: $350.

Now the real truth, aka Sarah’s secret

Yes, all of the above are amazing, but there’s more. The real truth is you save your money, go to Old Town in Prague, wander up and down the narrow streets looking at the items—whatever your preference. You see which stores offer well-tailored, high-end leather goods. You walk in the store, which is on the main floor, and check out the wares. Typically, the okay stuff is in the front, the medium goods are in the middle, and near the back are the finer items. Once you identify an interest in the finer items, you ask “If they have more goods elsewhere,” which is a shameless rip-off of a similar line from Gone with 60 Seconds, and I’m happy to say, it works!

Captain Candy is a great store full of weird concoction, including candy eggs that look grossly-real but taste amazing. This is about one street away from the store I reference below for the great deals on coats.

You are then invariably led upstairs, to a warehouse-size room where you feel like Meghan Markle has just entered the private chamber for the Queen’s jewels. Stars are shining from above and every item is there, hanging by type first, then color, ordered by price.

What’s the price?

This is European-code for “whatever you can negotiate.”

Negotiation tip 1. Forget credit cards, this is all about the dollars. The first question you will encounter is “Will this be case or credit?” And if this isn’t raised by the salesperson, you need to raise it. This gets you a 50% slice right off the bat, not just the 3% fee saved in the States. Why? The transaction is unlikely to be traced on their end, because the owner of the establishment is running that entity according to their own rules.

I’m not sure why this little fact always perplexes American’s; probably the same reason foreigners are so annoyed they can’t negotiate the price on a piece of clothing. It’s just the way transactions are completed. If you think about it, negotiating isn’t all the foreign, it’s just that American’s usually only negotiate when they go to Mexico, not Europe. When we are south America, we dicker all the time. Then again, here in the States, both Rog and I always offer to pay cash to get the best deal, and why not? Money is hard enough to earn; who wants to give it away to easily?

Negotiation step 2. Real cash dollars, or money order? Hard currency all the way. This yields yet another discount.

A pause here for a moment. You are probably thinking we are idiots to be carrying around lots of cash. We don’t. Because banks are open, cash is easy to come by and we carry less than $100 on us at any given time. It’s just not prudent; the salient point is that you can get easily get cash, which leads me to step 3.

Negotiation step 3. Never buy that moment. No matter what we have on hand, we say we will come back. Did you know a sales statistic is that if you don’t get the target (e.g. customer) to spend that day/night and they walk off the premises (lot or store), the likelihood they will spend at all goes to below 50%? That’s quite an incentive to get you to spend!

It’s at this point, that Rog brings up the “what kind of deal can you give me?” e.g. buy one get the second free, or at least half off. (That just sounds like Rog, doesn’t it?) Me? Well, I’m just the long-suffering mother of two tired children who isn’t really sure she wants to spend the money in the first place.

It plays really well, and you know what, half the time it’s accurate. I’m usually vomiting about the money we are spending to feed our ravenous beasts of children, but on the other hand, I know I simply can’t get the shoes, purses, coats or watches at the same price anywhere near the quality, never mind the brand mark-up us American’s pay.

Negotiation step 4. The last-minute enticement to not back out

Rog had already committed to returning that evening, but the man needs to make totally and completely sure we are serious. I’ll give you an example of how it went down (and this is common).

In one store, we told the gentleman we’d be back around eight p.m. to pick up a coat. The girls were hungry, my feet were hurting, the coat I selected was a great deal and I loved it, but was ready to leave.

At that point, the salesman asks if we could be back by 7 pm. Nope, I tell Rog as the girls groan in the background.

“If you can be back by 7 p.m.” he starts, “I’ll give you a mink-lined black leather baseball cap.” That was a weird enticement. I don’t wear baseball hats of any kind because they don’t shield my face from the sun, and the rim invariably leaves a nice long dent on my forehead which doesn’t come out until the following day.

As I’m shaking my head no, the man lifts one off a shelf, encouraging me to try on. “It’s perfect for you,” he says.

Actually, it looked pretty good, but I didn’t need it, and I give Rog a gentle tug as I try to hand back the hat.

“How much?” Rog asks.

“$250 US,” the man replies.

“Seriously, I don’t need the hat,” I interject, handing it back. “The girls need to be fed. Let’s just come back later,” giving Rog the ‘lets-get-going’ eye.

“$150,” he says, hoping to entice us. I shake my head, already grabbing the girls. “Tell you what,” the man says, “I’ll give this to you for free if you come back tonight by 7.”

The man really wanted the money, and must have a hot date.

Rog looks back at the guy as I pass the had to my oldest daughter, not bothering to put it back on, and the guy goes to the next level.

“Tell you what,” he begins. “I’ll give you 75% off a second coat if you come back by 7, plus you can have the hat for free.”

Rog looks at me. I look at him. We go back to the top floor and try on more coats. We look at the prices and do the math. We figure out exactly what returning one hour earlier will save us so the man can get out to his hot date.

Done deal.

And that, my friends and readers, is how you end up with two coats and a mink-lined, leather baseball hat in your closet; by getting the very best shopping deal in Europe.

Happy shopping wherever you do it!

Feature image: a view of Old Town from one of the many entry points

Avoiding weight gain while traveling

Traveling is a great thing, but it does have its consequences, weight gain being first and most obvious. I’m like that person who is stuck on an all-you-can-eat inclusive cruise line, except there’s nary a boat or ocean in sight. The world is my culinary oyster and I want the all-in, shooter version. No messing around with me and my food.

Straight up, I’ll confess my desire to maintain my weight while traveling is all rooted in vanity and money. First, I want to wear what I’ve brought on the trip, which is hard to do if my thighs increase like Christmas sausage being stuffed in casings. Second, I want to spend my hard earned (or saved) money on frivolous things, like purses that are meant to bulge, unlike my bathing suit. So, from my shameless-yet-helpful self to you, here’s how I keep my weight within 5 pounds of my starting point.

How I eat tiramisu…with two spoons…don’t come near me or I will spoon you!
Eat breakfast, every day, without fail

I’ll confess. After high school, I stopped eating breakfast. It wasn’t until the weight started to pile on did I look back in wonder at those glory-days and connected the dots. Mom would rise early, make oatmeal, eggs or some variation thereof. I’d be stuffed until lunch, and even then, not that hungry. In my late twenties, I worked out in the same Oakland Gym as a Mr. Olympian runner-up, who trained folks from all walks of life. I couldn’t afford him, so I did what any smart girl does, I chatted him up. He put it this way:

“I’d be out of business if everyone did one thing without fail: eat breakfast. Eggs and oatmeal.” The other thing he said is: “Eat every two hours to keep your metabolism cranking.”

2 eggs (anyway you like), whole, not just whites (“Only hard core body builders who don’t want a lick of skin skip the yolks,” continued Mr. Runner Up. “It’s just not healthy.”

1 cup steel cut oatmeal. I add a dollop of butter and either honey or natural (grainy) brown sugar and a little milk (or whipping cream. Real women use cream).

On the egg

The yellow is the fatty part, which actually keeps you full. My doctor repeatedly says: “God, or nature, whichever you prefer, created the perfect food in the egg. Why would anyone want to strip away one part?” I never knew bodybuilders and doctors had so much in common, but I digress.

As for the oatmeal, the steel cut oats are coarser and I’m a texture girl, so this works for me. Also, I completely fail at any food plan when I strip away the good stuff in life such as milk, butter etc. So I use the age-old “moderation-in-all-things” approach to life. I am full, satisfied and don’t have a bit of craving.

I was actually pleased to read that Patrick Vellner, the “second fittest person on Earth,” has eggs and oatmeal as well for breakfast. Read more about his diet here. It’s not just us lowly Authors and Olympians!

Steel cut oats in the U.S. but variations of this exist everywhere overeas
No fail lunch routine

Is lunch the biggest meal of the day, or a pitstop on the way to the finish-line called dinner? I’ve vacillated back and forth on this philosophical quandary until my brain hurts. The reality for my family and traveling is this: we are seriously starved between 12-2 p.m., and invariably end up eating a really late, robust lunch. Then we have the afternoon activities.

The golden rule: Salad with protein, eating off the plates of others

I love starting a fuss, so let’s get right into it, shall we? Mom raised me right: “Do not lower yourself to eating off the plates of others.” Yeah, I abided by that until I had kids. My two girls are eating demons, because they devour everything in site and look for more, usually going for what’s left on my plate (because every well-mannered female eats and chews, to slow down the actual consumption size, thereby eating less, and losing weight, right? I think that’s right out of a 1960’s Miss Manners. Oops. I’ve digressed again.

The consequence of spawning two voracious rats is that they always order off the adult menu. That means three adult meals, giving me the opportunity to have my salad of choice and take a couple of bits of three other dishes (hence eating off plates). The financial hawk in me loves the $20 I’ve just saved as well, and the others barely notice my fork dipping into their food as their culinary fever takes hold.

Dinner

This is sort of the forgotten meal when we travel because my body chemistry is unlike my husband or girls. Whereas they sleep better on a full stomach, I’m the inverse. I sleep terribly after a heavy dinner. Sugar throws me to the ceiling, bread just makes me bloaty (so attractive the next day) and water…well, let’s just say I like to sleep through the night.

What do I do? If we go out for dinner or make something, I stick to whole foods, but I’m not militant about raw or cooked. A raw food, for those who have no clue what that means, is simply defined as a food product in its essence, without being changed around by the cooking process. All fruits and vegetables, streamed, broiled, baked cooked or raw, all count. My husband will look at me and say “I feel so bad for you,” to which I retort “why? I have an entire world of food to choose from and be happy.”

The details…what to eat and avoid

My doctor has always said this: “Red is worst, white is better, fish is best and pure vegetarian is perfection.” Well, clearly, God knew that I wasn’t gonna reach perfection in any form, so I tend to bop between the three. Still, here are few things I’ve learned.

Meat and headaches

Now, far be it from me to gross you out, but I subscribe to the idea that knowledge is power, and when it comes to my body, and specifically, why I was getting headaches I had to get knowledgeable. I realized that I was getting migraines about 15 minutes after eating. Through the process of elimination, I realized the culprit was meat. Yet the type and severity was inconsistent. Through more trial and error (and lots of journaling) I sorted through meat types (red, white, fish etc) and organic vs farm raised vs fresh for all the above.

Eating boar…as in the pig…in Lichtenstein….no headache issues there!

Guess what? Any meat, regardless of color, with fins or legs, that was inorganic, was triggering migraines. It was then that I learned about the US processing requirements and usage of…get ready for it, chlorine washes for chicken, ammonia for meat processing, carbon monoxide to keep the color of the meat an even red (because really, would you want to eat a steak with uneven coloring?) were all contributing to the issue. Read more in this article from a reporter who covers the food processing industry, and this doesn’t even get into all the nitrates that are used in the US. More on nitrateshere.

U.S. versus Europe

When traveling (and living) in the U.S., I avoid eating meat at any restaurant because I hate to hurt. Contrast with Europe. Due to their wonderfully militant stance on anything mutated or chemically processed, I can pretty much eat any thing I want without so much as a twinkle of pain. It’s divine. But that doesn’t mean I won’t gain weight or spend a crazy amount of money on food. As such, I apply my lunch rules, with a slight modification. I will have protein on my salad, fish or any kind of meat that’s local.

Oh! and the chocolate. Don’t get me started. I can barely eat any chocolate made in the U.S., but I’m in heaven overseas because it lacks all the bad stuff that’s filling up our stores here. Translation: I can literally eat 2 huge chocolate bars of any kind–Swiss, Belgian, Czech- you name it- and a) I don’t get headaches and b) I don’t gain weight!!! I kid you not. It’s unreal.

What to avoid

Soups. Soups usually have a lot of salt. If you want your face and body thin the next day, avoid the soups unless the server can guarantee the chef isn’t using a salt-laden bullion base.

Breads. What’s the point of working out and crunching sit-ups if you look like a four-five month pregnant woman the next day (regardless of your gender)? The note here is the same with chocolate. I can eat breads galor in Europe without headaches or bloating, but not in the U.S.

Note: Breads turn into simple carbs, which means sugar. Often, a woman will get a UTI on a trip and wail “but I haven’t been eating lots of sugar.” When I ask about break, she’d admit that yes, lots of breads, pastries and the like. Think of that as poison to the system, and running to the bathroom in pain is not what anyone wants or needs on a trip.

Tip: If you do get a bladder infection and don’t have access to a natural remedy, prescription or doctor, do two things. Drop the sugar in all forms immediately (breads, alcohol and deserts). Get a couple of lemons and use half, or a whole, in 8 oz of water. Drink as much as you can…16 oz, 32 oz with as much lemon as you have or can stand. It will push the evil out of urinary tract and out of your system. This simple, home remedy has saved my little self on many occasions.

Overload of dairy. Puffy face and bloaty belly. Two things that should not be in the same sentence, or on your body. I read a piece on the actress Eva Longoria a year before she actually was pregnant, the magazine proclaiming her bulging belly was the result of becoming pregnant by her new husband. She laughed and said “No! I just ate a lot of cheese the night before.” You and I may not be globally famous, but that doesn’t mean we want to be bloated in all the wrong places.

Absolute Must do: Flush that body

Drink water. Lots and lots of water. This doesn’t mean you risk your sodium levels collapsing, but you seriously need to have a gallon a day. It will wash out and wash away a lot of culinary evils. Plus, if you are downing lots of sugar, either by sodas, alcohol or desert, it will lower the risk of you getting a bladder infection, which is most often triggered by too much sugar in the system.

The mother-of-all aids: Sleep

How many times do we need to read that 8 hours of sleep is critical for metabolism and weight loss or maintenance? The only thing I will add is that in my experience, it’s not only the length of sleep. When I got to bed is at least as critical is the length of sleep. For example, when I sleep from midnight to 8 a.m. I’m groggy and feel terrible. When I get to bed 10 p.m. or early, I wake up and feel energic, happy and full of life. For most of the week, 6 our of 7 days, that’s what I do. Yeah, I might have a late Saturday night here and there, but I value productivity and joy; without getting to bed at a good time, I’m not either of those, which makes for a less than happy homelife. It’s exacerbated when traveling.

Note on the cover photo: that was shot at a convenience store in Prague, Czech Republic. Entire rows of chocolate….bliss.

Be brave & explore: rent that car

Don’t let your fear of signs, getting lost or wrecking stop your adventurous self

“What? You rented a car? You must be crazy.”

My parents just about had a heart attack when I said we’d driven from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara, over the hills and through the desert to see the zoo, fearing we were going to be kidnapped along with our daughters. I related that we’d arrived at the zoo and ate the churros we still claim are the best in the world. We also got lost in the suburbs on the way back, found a canyon that’s larger than the Grand Canyon right off housing community and met wonderful townsfolk in an artsy enclave. That’s been our experience around the world; adventure and the unknown, merging together to give our trips meaning. It’s also made me a car advocate for seeing the most in the least amount of time.

without a car, we would have missed all these sites….
Face the fear

For the first ten of our twenty years of marriage, we took cabs out of fear and the convenience factor. We truly thought those who rented cars were, in fact, crazy. What changed our mind was our increasing desire to go places cabs wouldn’t. We were pushed over the edge when kids arrived.

Getting lost, unfamiliar road signs and parking are the top of all the concerns voiced about car rentals. Road signs can be learned easily enough (thanks Google), and taking a wrong turn is a part of the fun. In fact, this has resulted in seeing some of the most amazing destinations we’d never have located on our own. And parking? Bah. In Milan, a city that we’d been told was impossible for American’s to navigate, we used Google Maps and had no problem finding the Duomo and getting a spot two blocks from the Duomo Cathedral (that part we found on our own).

What’s the worst that can happen?

Tickets and fraud. When you don’t read German, tickets will happen. We’ve received more than a couple at castles or destinations because we didn’t properly understand the signs for permits (and didn’t bother ask). Had we used Google translate (or heaven forbid, asked someone who speaks better English than we do), we could have saved the ten bucks. Regarding fraud, our singular bad experience came about when a front desk worker at the rental office in Frankfurt decided to steal our credit card. The silly boy started making purchases about the time we drove off the lot, but was apprehended a few days later.. In 20 years however, that was the lone instance of pain, and it was rectified with a few days.

A few learnings

In Mexico, the rental policies are nuts, because you are expected to pay all sorts of premiums at the counter (even with Hertz, Avis and the others). Further, they require the credit card to be charged authorized for insurance, and security, which can increase a standard $400 for a two weeks to $3,500. No kidding. If you don’t have this kind of room on your credit card, you will be in a bind. Otherwise, here’s how the money breaks down. Tip: most credit cards cover car accidents, so we never purchase insurance. Check with your credit card company.

Yucatan Peninsula/Cancun Area

Cab from any one of the Gold Coast hotels, Isla Blanco or Punta Sam to town: $30 one way (US), round trip, $60.00. If you are going further south, tothe famous Playa del Carmen, tack on another $40 ($20/each way). For a single night in to town, it’s easily $100. Compare that to renting a car, which you can drive to Tulum (2.5 hours south), Chitzen Itza (3 hours west) or anywhere else, and you have already come out ahead.

Cabo San Lucas

This is one place where we found a car is NOT necessary, but this is because our lifestyle during our visits is….lounge lizard. We aren’t going to golf courses, visiting the dunes, or eating anywhere we can’t walk to. So the car we rented (once) stayed in the hotel except for the trip to and from the airport. A total waste.

Puerto Vallarta, Suyulita, Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo

We always get a car now, but in the early days, (pre-kids) didn’t bother when in PV, because the cab ride was 5-7 minutes to downtown. Once we started staying further from the center, we got a car. For the other three, yes, cars, always.

Europe

Of course, nothing compares to a train ride through the Alps (the journey isn’t even possible by car), and you still need to take a water taxi in Venice or a boat tour on the Danube to see the buildings from a different viewpoint, but these are not every day occurrences. Yet that leaves several dozen countries to explore with four tires. With open borders, the only thing you need to worry about is a full tank of gas, although a map is helpful.

A few tips for renting a car in Europe

The pick-up location makes all the difference in the world. The same car picking up in Calais France (for 5 weeks) is $3,400, whereas that car is $2,400 in Frankfurt, Germany, but $1,200 in Aachen, German. Guess where we are picking up our car? And it’s not a Volkswagon. It’s a four-door 5-series BMW touring model.

I’ll give you another example. One year, we picked up a Volkswagon Golf in Zurich, Switzerland for two weeks. Price tag? $1,100. The next year, we went for an Audio Quatto, but go it out of Frankfurt, Germany for 4 weeks. Total price with tax? $1,098. Are you seeing a trend here? Automobiles, for the most part, originate out of Germany. If you rent in another country, you are going to pay a LOT more. While we have used Hertz and others in the past, we find amazing deals with Sixt luxury car rental.

Last example. This year, we decided to see a bit of England, and are landing in Manchester, getting a car, driving over the channel. We are dropping the car off in France and taking the train up to Aachen. Even with the cost to rent a car for two days ($120), then the four-hour train ride ($600), we are still saving over nearly $1,500. Is a bit inconvenient? Only if you think the train ride through France  and the Black Forest of Germany is ugly.

The summary here is to not be fearful of renting a car. The benefits dramatically outweigh the risks or issues you may encounter, so on your next trip, be brave and start exploring. Your future self will thank you!

The truly happy smile of a girl with a car who is seeing a lot, including the handsome security staff at the Duomo Cathedral in Milan

*Products and services mentioned are not sponsored by the respective entities. This is an independent editorial review based upon real experiences paid for by the author.

The traveling author


My readers know that the works I create are based on the people I meet, the experiences I’ve enjoyed and the places I’ve traveled. Therein lies the essence of the Traveling Author, for that’s what I am. Where some sit and write book after book, my lifestyle is one where I take a break, traveling to rejuvenate my mind, body and soul, absorbing all that I’ve encountered, then I return to my home and produce a novel.

From reading to reality

It’s always been fun for me, as a reader, to visit a place that’s been well described by an author. The first book in the Danielle Grant series, Made for Me, set in Switzerland, takes readers to Zurich, through the Alps, to St. Moritz and the world-famous gondola in book one. Book two, Destined for You, continues through Prague and Lake Cuomo. The last book, Meant to Be, includes the jazz clubs and famous eateries that you’ll want to be sure to visit when in Zurich and the surrounding areas. By complete contrast, the Lava Bed National Monument and Captain Jack’s stronghold is the setting for Chambers: The Spirit Warrior (book 2 of the series) which blends history and fiction, while Ouray/Telluride is the home for the Incarnation, a series revolving around DNA manipulation. I’m always wondering what I’m going to find on my next trip that will be delivered up to the masses when I turn it into a book? It lends itself to a completely new level of excitement for each new adventure.

This local jumps in front of me and shouts “You need this!”

Travel with Me

In the past, I’ve posted my journeys real time on Instagram and then a novel comes out. Going forward, I’ll publish a general itinerary on my refreshed web site, adding details as the date nears. Through Instagram, I will offer up cool details before, during and after. If a reader wants to/show up and have me sign a book, great! In Destinations, my upcoming five-week journey through 12 countries is published. You electronically Travel with Me as I search out new experiences for my next novels.

Refreshed site

In addition to the Destinations page, you will also find my Essentials for traveling. Also in this section are my top-of-mind issues, such as how to cope with migraines while traveling, note taking for novels or and other real-life subjects.

Feedback

Countmeinsarah@gmail.com is the best place to send messages, but I manage my own Instagram (sarahgerdes_author). If you have a suggestion for travel sites, locations, scenes and people for books or other inspirational comments, feel free to share either in email or for fastest response, Instagram.


Perfect Skin Secrets – Products & steps

Over the holiday, yet another layer of my rose-colored classes were scratched. I recently learned that many of the women in my circle have been using products for years, and I had no clue.

Sorry to do this-but you had to see the
skin results–no injections etc etc. a’course,
I’ve since gone back to blond, but the skin
remains the same…43 yrs old

 “No one reveals beauty secrets,” I was told by a female relative as she listened to my story, her voice including a bit of humor for my denseness. When I left San Fran for the netherlands of civilization, I didn’t have a need to apply facial products. Now that I’m older and have gotten a clue, that has all changed. A good moisturizer no longer suffices. From the articles on what men do for their faces, they’ve figured it out as well. Products help, especially those that get rid of the top layers of dead skin. Like every other non-sacred topic in my life, figure I might as well share what I’ve learned about facial products. Heck, I share everything else, so why hold back on the most important–or rather–most visible line of learning I’ve had??

Like other women, I paid a Dr a visit, got a slew of products, handed over my credit card, closed my eyes and followed this regimine precisely.

1.       Neova Herbal Wash, 8 oz. $24 w/out tax
2.       Neova Smooth Gel, (Glycolic 10%), 2 oz, $26.00
3.       Neova Complex HXplus, (Hydroquinone, 4%) Rx only, 2 oz $65.70 (includes tax)- this is the skin lightener for spots (the prescription version above can’t be had except from the Dr. This lower version is available on line).
4.       Neocutis Bio Crème, Bio restorative with PSP, Anti-aging. $109.00
5.       Neova TI-SILC GT SPF 60, 4 oz, $43.00
6.       Neova Retinol ME .30%, 1 fl oz, $49.00 (this is prescription only and I couldn’t find it on line)
7.       Vivite Replenishing Cream, 2 oz $79.00

For the 6 week regime, the routine was different than the one I am now on. During the 6 wk period, where I had dramatic results, I didn’t use the night cream (#7) nor did I use the Bio Crème at night (#4). The whole point of the intensive regime is to dramatically tighten and lift the skin, which it did. I noticed a huge difference after just 2 days. That’s because of the twice a day application of the smooth gel, and then retinol every 2nd evening. For my face now, I am on a maintenance program, and it’s a bit more laid back, and includes the moisturizer.

Here’s the starter program.

1.       Herbal wash (w/luke warm water), pat dry face
2.       Apply glycolic smoothing gel and leave on for 3 minutes
3.       Rinse off w/herbal wash. Apply the #3, skin lightener (if you have dark spots). Leave on.
4.       Apply #4 (restorative crème) then #5 (SPF 60).
5.       Put on make-up as desired.

For the evening:
1.       Herbal wash (w/luke warm water), pat dry face
2.       Apply glycolic smoothing gel and leave on for 3 minutes
3.       Rinse off with herbal wash.
4.       Apply retinol (avoiding the corner of the eyes and the corner of the mouth. It will burn and make wrinkles worse. Also, not on eyelids). Leave on overnight. Remember to rinse off first thing in the morning, as the skin will be ruined if the sun hits the skin and you have it on (burned red permanently).

When you are done w/the 6 wk routine, you modify by:
1.       Cutting back on the retinol to once a week (Saturday is best, since it leaves the skin a bit reddish). And replace with:
2.       #4 restorative lotion followed by
3.       Vivite night cream.

A few tips:

1.       when you use the smoothing gel, you also can put on the eyelids and around the eyes. It’s makes a huge difference.

2.       Go all the way down to mid-neck. If you limit it to just the jawline, it looks freaky. A smoother transition to the neckline is natural.