With the launch of Julia Roberts’ new film, Eat Pray Love, also featuring actress Viola Davis, women of every hue are trying to imagine themselves on a similar spiritual quest. How different would the experience be if the movie — or the memoir it’s based on — had an African-American central character? Surprisingly, not so much. Sure, the locales might change: Feeling welcome is a huge criteria for black women. But the ultimate goal of finding peace, finding love and finding oneself is the same.
Jackie’s On the Reef
In the right hands, dining can be a sacred experience. According to Jackie Lewis, founder of Jackie’s On the Reef, digestion begins when tempting aromas first engage then senses. Thereafter, what we see, feel and touch is just as important as what we taste. Jackie’s inspires the senses with healthful Jamaican, Indian, Chinese and Creole-inspired dishes cooked on an open wood-burning stove and garnished with seasonal vegetables and herbs grown on site. Before each meal, guests join hands and bless the food. “Each body is a sacred temple. Our goal is to help people eat slower, digest better and enjoy their food,” Lewis said.
Sag Harbor, NY
You expect culinary perfection from the first lady of hospitality. B. Smith’s in the Hamptons delivers. Adventurous diners have a choice of oyster shooters, cherrystones, little necks and other fresh, raw delights. Traditionalists can savor diverse entrée options, including rack of lamb, pan fried swordfish or grilled Black Angus sirloin. Try the scrumptious shrimp dumplings with sweet Thai chili dipping sauce for an appetizer, and save room for dessert. Best bet: creamy coconut sorbet.
Chevy Chase, MD
What’s not to love? La Ferme brings French cuisine and a robust wine selection to the heart of Maryland. It’s pricey — most entrees are in the high twenties — but the service, food and atmosphere are worth every cent. Seafood lovers relish the Australian sea bass with garlic mashed potatoes and fava beans. Red meat eaters find the veal tenderloin a delight.
New Orleans, LA
They call it French Quarter Creole cuisine, and the food is so good people talk about it reverently for years. Olivier’s boasts dishes representing “five generations of Creole tradition, beginning with the woman known in the family as Gamma Gaudet.” Dinner entrees include Creole rabbit, crawfish etouffe, pork medallions, catfish and duck. “I’ve been to a zillion, billion restaurants but none compares to Olivier’s,” said Trina McQuire. “Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.”
First African Baptist Church
Founded in 1773 and resting on land slaves purchased with money saved to buy their freedom, America’s oldest African American church is a testament to courage, strength, faith and the ability to persevere. After toiling long, hard days in Georgia fields, ancestors worked by lantern light to build the sanctuary still used today. Their indomitable spirit is evident in the building’s exquisite structure — and in hearts of today’s congregation.
Not everyone can travel the world to find tranquility, so Spa Universaire offers the next best thing. Themed rooms and authentic décor reflect owner Caren Griffin’s reverence for cultural and personal diversity. The sweet mix of intoxicating essential oils, sensory inspiring body treatments, soft, native music and rich herbal teas make it easy to begin a spiritual quest. “Our belief is that stress relief leads to self awareness and peace of mind. Better understanding of oneself leads to better understanding of others,” Griffin has said.
St. Anne’s Spa
With dozens of spa treatments to choose from and sumptuous cuisine for breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea, it’s easy to see why some guests overlook St. Anne’s splendid grounds. That’s too bad because the spa’s 400-plus acres of lush, Canadian countryside offer ample room for spirit-renewing walks and thoughtful introspection. A five-minute trek from St. Anne’s main building is all it takes to enter a world that is quiet and serene.
The City of Accra
Sprawling, coastal and steeped in history, Ghana’s capital combines 21st Century modernity with stark reminders of the city’s ancient practice of slave trade. For recent college grad, Sydney Thomas, Sunday service in a tiny Ghanaian church with a few pews and an “almost nonexistent ceiling” brought an awakening. Here, familiar hymns felt more authentic, spiritual and true. “I felt closer to God than in any other place I’ve visited,” Thomas said. “Being able to look to the sky during worship was transformative.”
The City of Savannah
There’s a reason the Savannah Area Convention & Tourism Bureau refers to the city as “she.” The city’s many venues are designed make men’s hearts quiver and women swoon. Enjoy a quiet lunch in an intimate restaurant by day then tour the city in a horse-drawn carriage at night. Savannah is the perfect setting for romance.
Footprints Beach Grill
Palm Beach, Aruba
Imagine dining by candlelight on the beach. You’re barefoot. Warm sand and warmer water tickle your toes. That’s Footprints Beach Grille at Hyatt’s Aruba Resort. With just five tables available per evening and an unobstructed view of sunset over the Caribbean Sea, the Grill sets a new standard for privacy, elegance and romance. “Years ago, I enjoyed sharing excellent wine and scrumptious food with a good friend,” Sylvia Cordy reminisced. “The view of the sunset was magnificent.”
Sarah P. Duke Gardens
Named for the widow of Duke University co-founder, Benjamin Duke, the perfectly manicured Gardens offer five miles of allées, walks, and pathways for lovers — and others — to stroll. Step off the path for a picnic, take the Waterlily Walk or enjoy a bowl of hot, whisked tea at the Japanese Pavilion.
The Peace Lodge
Vara Blanca, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Before you launch an all-out search for Mr. Right, Donna Whittington, founder of LoveConnections, LLC, suggests taking the time to fall in love with yourself. And just because self-love is your goal, there’s no reason to skimp on quality. Nestled in the heart of Costa Rica’s La Paz Waterfall Gardens Nature Park, Peace Lodge boasts a Jacuzzi tub, stone fireplace and waterfall shower in every room. Balconies are equipped with hammocks and rocking chairs. And the lush rainforest is always a few, short steps away.