I am a firm believer in indulging yourself with a gift any time there is an occasion. I mean after all, who knows better what you like than you? With that thought in mind, I decided to indulge myself this year in what I consider the best vacation combo going, especially when flying solo: an exotic location, physical activity and exercise, good food, and a small group of people. ESCAPE TO SHAPE was the answer. Imagine going away to some place you never believed you would go to, meeting a super-duper group of people from all over the world, doing  yoga, biking, hiking and other great physical activities, eating calorie controlled scrumptious meals, having a mixture of interesting cultural experiences , and staying in luxurious accommodations ….well you get the gist.

My destination was Cartagena de Indias, Colombia…yes, Colombia!  With all of the trouble that country  has experienced in the past, I never thought I would ever have an opportunity to visit it, and I am so happy I did. I rounded up family members, aka sister and niece, to join me in this adventure. As I have mention before, I speak some Spanish, so this destination was more than perfect for me.  I would have a chance to practice ‘el espanol’, and to see architecture and other cultural aspects of a Latin country. With a slew of friends originally from Colombia, I was also excited to be able to share some first hand knowledge of their homeland with them when I returned.

The building above is Casa Pombo , a 17th century colonial residential palace that functioned as the hotel for all of us during our ESCAPE TO SHAPE adventure. Recently  restored by architect Alvaro Barrera,  it is stunning inside…totally modern and completely integrated with the colonial nature of the original structure.  The interiors were built around a central patio opened to the sky…want that in a house some day… and the rooms of the house circulated  around it. Here are some shots I took of the interiors:

The menu was oriented around local cuisine and local organic foods…all more than delicious. The day’s activities consisted of a perfect balance of yoga classes, hiking or biking  adventures around the city , and occasional cultural forays into the city for those interested. The  group of  13 women…yes, all women, and from a variety of walks of life…were terrific.  As were the salsa dance classes,  the Spanish classes and the cooking classes! AND walking passed a fantastic sculpture by Fernando Botero in the middle of a square was perfecto mundo for this art afficionado!

Okay, so for me the whole experience gets a big 10 rating…good times, good food and exercise, and returning back to the States feeling like a million bucks. Huge thanks to the gurus behind this wonderful adventure, Erica Gragg and Francesco Anchisi. Two more gracious hosts you will not find.  So pack your bags, and I promise you you won’t be disappointed, not for one moment.  Who knows are paths might just cross in…Laos, Morocco, Cambodia, Indonesia, Russia… seeking out the pleasures of ESCAPE TO SHAPE!!!