Reprinted from my February 22, 2011 article for Mount Vernon Patch.

The only, and I mean only, good thing about having my sister, Marie, live across the country in San Francisco is the yearly trip we take together to make up for the fact that we live so far apart. For the past twelve years, we fell into the habit of meeting up at least annually for a weekend. These trips have become therapeutic for me and have made our bond even tighter.

Marie has no children and lives in the great neighborhood of Bernal Heights in one of the greatest cities in the world so, for me, just going to visit her at her home is a fantastic getaway. Over the years, we have taken yearly trips to Mexico, New Mexico, and all over California.

We have several criteria when choosing a destination:

1- Good food. Marie is a vegetarian and I just love to eat. We based last year’s trip to Napa around a dinner at Thomas Keller’s incredible Bouchon Bistro in Yountville ( and recently had a memorable meal at Santa Fe’s Café Pasqual’s (

2- A new adventure. We try to try something we’ve never done before every time we travel together. This has meant a trapeze class at a circus school in San Francisco (a first for me), whitewater rafting on the Rio Grande (a first for her), and snowshoeing in the Sierra foothills (a first for both of us).

3- A long weekend. Marie has a demanding job and I have a demanding bunch of boys so we limit our trips to three or four days.

4- A spa visit. What would a sisters’ weekend be without a spa day? We have spent a great afternoon at Kabuki Spa in San Francisco (, a Japanese style spa where I had my first communal bathing experience, and two days at the incredible Ten Thousand Waves in the mountains above the city of Santa Fe ( a small luxury spa resort built like a Japanese onsen. We once followed a hiking map written late-night on a cocktail napkin at a saloon in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, to an idyllic hidden hot springs surrounded by pine trees.

5- Meeting local characters. We love meeting people on our travels and have met some memorable characters, including Tattoo Tammy in Madrid, New Mexico, who creates intricate motorcycle sculptures from desert road kill, like rattlesnakes and coyotes.

My sister and I have only gotten closer as the years go by. I think these trips have a lot to do with it because they give us time to focus on each other and the space to deal with family issues. Of course, I would trade it all in for us to live closer to each other but, in the meantime, we’ll be united in travel.