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Speaking of Travel

Ah! Tuscany


SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber The abundant art in the cities. The countryside dotted with dark green cyprus trees and golden fields. The vineyards. There are so many wonderful places to visit in Tuscany, it is difficult to know where to begin when writing about this region of Italy. Within the 10 provinces of Tuscany, there are the tourist draws of Florence, Siena, Pisa, San Gimignano. Then there are the small hill towns such as San Quirico d’Orcia, Castelnuovo dell’Abate, Sant’ Angelo in Colle, or the tiny La Befa that offer charm and not more than one or perhaps a ... Read More »

Christmas Magic at Disney World


SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber  Christmastime is magical for the child in all of us at Walt Disney World in Orlando. The crowds can be massive, but visiting early in the season helps avoid the mayhem and many hotels within the resort have special offers the first part of December. First, a few statistics about the holiday decorations at Disney World. It takes 150 semi trailer truckloads of decorations to adorn the theme parks, resorts, and Downtown Disney. This includes 1300 decorated trees, 15 miles of garland, 1314 wreaths, 300,000 yards of ribbon and bows, and 8.5 million lights. Phew! ... Read More »

Gifts for the traveler


SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber  This time of year, in anticipation of the holidays, I usually write a column recommending gifts for the traveler. This year, I am going to highlight some of those items I like when traveling, as well as mention some popular and new travel items on the market. For easily traversing the airport, I use a neck strap passport holder with compartments. I fill it with my passport or driver’s license, boarding passes, money, and credit card. Not only are my documents conveniently located, but I have ready access to money if I want to purchase ... Read More »

Tuscany’s second city

The Piazzo del Campo is the center of activity in Siena.

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber  While Florence is the big city draw in Tuscany, its ancient rival, Siena, is a favorite of ours. Florence has the art; Siena the charm. Once as great and strong as Florence and fierce adversaries, the Black Death in the 1300’s destroyed a third of the population of Siena and caused irreparable economic harm. In the 1500’s, the final defeat by the Florentines resulted in the cessation of further building. If you are a history buff, that between these two competitors is a fascinating read. Siena is built on three hills; the clay in these ... Read More »

Quiet moments in Firenze

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber Firenze, or Florence, Italy is a beautiful city full of impressive art and churches that are works of art. It is a Renaissance city that invites a lot of walking and some of the most uneven cobblestone I have ever traversed. There is a long list of “must see” items….the Duomo, the Uffizzi, Piazza Signoria, the Pitti Palace, Ponte Vecchio, the San Lorenzo Market, the weeping “angels” surrounding Michaelangelo’s tomb in the church of Santa Croce and his statue of David in the Accademia. Consult any guidebook and you will find the tourist favorites. Because ... Read More »

Seasons of smoke

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL  Vickie Kelber  Summer and early fall in Park City, Utah were marred by countless days of smoke filling the atmosphere, obscuring the normally bluebird skies and bright foliage. Fortunately, it was all smoke and not too much fire. There were two nearby small fires, one caused possibly by sparks from a truck traveling down the highway and another by someone shooting at metal targets. The west is dry, drier than we in southwest Florida can really imagine, even during our driest months. Tinderbox dry brush is easy prey to a spark, lightening, or inane acts such as ... Read More »

The City Built By Religion

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber Visiting Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah, one can’t help but be touched by the influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (LDS), commonly called Mormons. Although the area was inhabited early by Native Americans and later the property of Mexico, the city was founded by LDS pioneers led by Brigham Young. The roots of the LDS church date to the early 1820’s when the angel, Moroni, appeared to Joseph Smith, Jr. and told him he had been chosen to translate the book of Mormon which had been written on ... Read More »

The Art of Eating in Italy

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber One of the joys of traveling is the opportunity to sample the cuisine of a country or region as well as the culture and rituals surrounding it. In Italy, that joy is manifold. We learned quickly that eating a meal can be an event there. In small towns, and even for some in large cities, shops close for a few hours in the afternoon for pranzo, lunch. On one of our first extended trips to this country, we stayed on a vineyard for a month and learned why. In the main house in which our ... Read More »

SoBe Teaser

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber The Renaissance Academy of Florida Gulf Coast University provides programs for “lifelong personal revitalization” and their offerings include day trips. I’ve taken two of them and while they are well organized and the leaders cordial and informative, their overambitious planning has resulted in some frustration for attendees. There just wasn’t sufficient time to enjoy the main features of the trips. I’m not one to take a lot of time at museums and other locations. Usually, I walk through fairly quickly, but do try to get a good sense of a place or collection. On both ... Read More »

Traveling with today’s technology

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber When we first started traveling abroad, my “technology” consisted of a phone card for calls back to the states, a paper notebook, and a pen. Pay phones were ubiquitous then and it was easy and reasonable to make calls stateside. The notebook held my journal and any important information I might need. Occasionally, we would purchase an International Tribune to catch up on the news. On our most recent trip to Italy, my packing included a smart phone and an iPad 3G. When we purchased our new iPhones, we kept the old ones to be ... Read More »

Amalfi Triumphs – Coastal Breeze exclusive

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber It was almost too close to call, but in the end, Amalfi nosed out Venezia to win the Regata Antiche Reubbliche Marinara Italiano…..and Coastal Breeze was there to cover it. During the X to XIII centuries, the city-states of Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa, and Venice were the four great maritime republics which competed against each other for trade and power and provided significant support for the Crusades. In the 1940’s, to commemorate the importance of these powers, an annual regatta among the four Ancient Maritime Republics was proposed. It took about six years to research the ... Read More »

Il dolce far niente

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL  Vickie Kelber If you are a regular reader of my column, you know that we prefer independent or semi independent travel. The few times we have taken a tour or cruise (with the exception of one of our cruises, but more on that one later), we’ve not enjoyed the experience. I think that part of what we enjoy so much with independent travel is what in Italian is called, il dolce far niente…. translated to mean the sweetness of doing nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing all that a place has to offer, but my ... Read More »

The Palm Trees of Switzerland

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber Ah, Switzerland. Land of cheese, chocolate, snow capped mountains, palm trees. Palm trees? Yes, palm trees. Think of Italian ambience and food along with Swiss efficiency and you will have one of my favorite regions of Switzerland, Ticino. Switzerland has four official languages and is divided into 26 cantons, or states. The southernmost canton in which Italian is spoken is known as Ticino in Italian or Tessin in German. Its location south of the alps makes it favorable for a milder, more Mediterranean climate. Its sparkling blue lakes along with its diverse terrain – its ... Read More »

There’s an App for That – Part II

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber In continuing to explore travel apps for smart phones and tablets, here are some that will help you once you are at your destination. There are numerous apps that offer guidebooks for specific locations. Rather than focusing on the traditional such as those offered from Fodor’s, these emphasize recommendations from locals. Many of them are fairly new, so their list of cities available may be limited. The Concierge Insider Guides from the Intercontinental Hotels Group are free; they hope that after using their app you will consider a future booking at one of their hotels. ... Read More »

There’s an App for That – Navigation

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber Last year, I wrote an article, “There’s an App for That” ( and with the now more than 600,000 Apps available for the iPhone/Android and iPad, there are sure to be some that are invaluable to travelers. In fact, there are so many that I am going to divide this update into two columns, the second to follow in two weeks. This week, I will identify some of them that will help you navigate to and from your destination. I won’t repeat any from my March, 2011 column. Next time, I’ll focus on Apps that ... Read More »

History abounds in St. Augustine

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber Living here in Paradise, it’s easy to confine my sphere of in state travel to Marco and Naples with the occasional jaunt to Ft. Myers, or at least to Estero for shopping. With that in mind, I have been trying to make an effort to see more of what Florida has to offer. That is what led me to explore St. Augustine, a delightful place to visit for history buffs and shoppers alike. It can be a bit touristy with its various sightseeing vehicles including trollies, “trains,” and Segways, but the historic charm of the ... Read More »

Cruisin’ the Pacific Coast Highway

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber Some years ago, while visiting San Francisco, we drove the north central part of the Pacific Coast Highway (CA Highway 1) all the way to Big Sur, with its dramatic scenery. Our trip included the 17 Mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula through Pebble Beach with its “Lone Cypress”, one of the most photographed trees in the world located on a rocky ledge jutting out over the sea. In Monterey, we stopped for lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf, watched the amusing sea lions, and visited the aquarium, as well as John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, once a ... Read More »

Websites revisited

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber Last year, I wrote a column about the world being at your fingertips through the use of the internet and identified a number of useful websites. In this column, I’ll continue that discussion with more sites. I will not repeat any of the previous ones mentioned; you can access last year’s article at The online options for planning a trip seem to be endless. I usually start out by Googling a location and selecting a link that looks promising. From there, I find other links; I save them all in a folder on my ... Read More »

In search of Dalí

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL Vickie Kelber Salvador Dalí is an artist whose work my husband and I enjoy. Perhaps it is his quirkiness and symbolism or his immense talent and sheer genius. He was able to paint in any style; some of his classical works are as affecting as his surrealist pieces. His double image paintings that suggest optical illusions are brilliant. He started as an impressionist, dabbled with cubism, progressed from classicism to surrealism, embraced science and math into his art. In some works, you can see the influence of Picasso and Miró, with whom he was friends. He is ... Read More »

Victoria, the Royal

SPEAKING OF TRAVEL  Vickie Kelber With its mild climate, diverse First Nations, British and Asian influences, and proximity to Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Colombia (BC), Victoria, BC makes an enjoyable day excursion from either location. Stay longer to leisurely enjoy all the city has to offer. Situated on Vancouver Island, the best ways to reach Victoria from either location is by air, boat/ferry, or bus via the ferry. A friend, upon hearing I was going there, noted that I would think I was in “Jolly Olde England without the British accent” and indeed, with some of its 19th century ... Read More »