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Speaking of Travel

IS BIGGER REALLY BETTER?

By Ewout Rijk de Vries My fondest memories of cruising date back to a port-a-day in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea aboard a small ship, the “Cunard Princess.” It was not luxurious, but there was lots of teak wood and shiny polished brass of the old sailing days. Upon arriving for the third time with escorting a group to board the “Cunard Princess” in Athens, the purser greeted us outside the terminal with a “Welcome back, Mr. de Vries” and since most of the crew worked for years on the same ship, it was like returning home. Then there ... Read More »

New York City for the Holidays

by Vickie Kelber Throughout my childhood and most of my adult life, the holiday season has been synonymous with trips to New York City, affectionately called “The City” by those who know her. When I was very young, this ritual would begin early Thanksgiving morning when my father and I would travel to the The City for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. He would hoist me on his shoulder so I could enjoy the balloons and arrival of Kris Kringle; “Miracle on Thirty Fourth Street” remains one of my favorite films. This would be followed later in the season by another ... Read More »

On the Road in Alaska – Seward to Fairbanks

by Vickie Kelber While cruising the Inside Passage or Gulf of Alaska is a great way to see this state, combining the cruise with a road trip in the western interior enhances the experience. You can do this on your own or there are many tour companies that offer an escorted trip. Most trips to Alaska begin with a flight into Anchorage. Before heading north, a journey south to the Kenai Peninsula is well worth the time. We spent two weeks in Alaska, on both land and sea, and my favorite excursion was to Kenai Fjords National Park. The Seward ... Read More »

Munich – great beer and so much more

By Vickie Kelber Although it is best known for beer, Munich, the capital of Bavaria, offers much more. True, there are hundreds of beer gardens and cellars, as well as Oktoberfest, but it is also a world class cultural center with easy access to the Bavarian alps. The most famous beer hall, Hofbräuhaus am Platzi, seats 4,500, while the Augustinerbrau claims to be the oldest. Oktoberfest runs for 16 days the end of September to the beginning of October and is host to 7 million people in a tent city a 15 minute walk from the main train station. There ... Read More »

Our own backyard

In our quest to find ever new travel adventures, we sometimes forget about the attractions in our own backyard. The Route 41 corridor heading east has a wealth of natural wonders. There is the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park with its Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk and Janes Scenic Drive; Turner River, Turner River/Birdon/Wagonwheel Roads drives, and H.P. Williams Roadside Park; Deep Lake; the Marsh Trail and Florida Trail. My favorite locations are Loop Road and Shark Valley; I like visiting there at least once a year, and they are both on my “must see” list for visitors. Loop Road is ... Read More »

Two of our National Treasures

There are 58 national parks in the United States. Two of them are just 85 miles apart in southern Utah. Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks are located on what is known as the high Colorado Plateau; other natural wonders in this area include Arches National Park, Capital Reef National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Kodachrome State Park. The smaller of the two parks, Bryce Canyon, is known for its surreal, brightly colored rock formations, called hoodoos, and ancient bristlecone forests. Zion is more formidable and diverse, with massive stone monoliths, high mesas, a flowing river, hanging gardens, and narrow ... Read More »

Fall Color in the Surrounds of Salt Lake City

When I lived “up north”, fall, as harbinger of the cold, dark winter was not my favorite season. Yet, there were aspects of it that I enjoyed: Cool crisp air. Macoun apples. The brilliant reds and yellows of the various mountain ranges of the northeast. Now, fall means the aspen glow of the Rockies for me, specifically, the Wasatch and Uinta mountains of Utah. Salt Lake City is a good base from which to explore the surrounding mountains. Peak color in this area of the Rockies is mid- to late September and into October. Mornings are chilly; afternoons warm to ... Read More »

A guide to guidebooks

A guidebook can be invaluable when traveling. But, which one? There are so many choices. Some guidebooks are focused on different target audiences; some discuss history and culture; others just travel details. Some emphasize a few major places, while others discuss an entire country. You don’t want a book about France if you are only visiting Paris. And, when traveling, weight is always an issue. To decide which book is best for you, ask yourself what you want from the guide and then visit a local bookstore to browse through the travel section to see which ones meet your needs. ... Read More »

Barcelona – Part II

As the exploration of  Barcelona’s neighborhoods continues, Gaudí’s must see Parc Güell is in the area known as  Gràcia. Originally planned as a housing development that never came to fruition,  one of the two gingerbread like houses at the entrance of the park contains a museum. The famous mosaic lizard fountain and sea serpent curved benches are delightful for all ages. Since it is quite a walk from the metro station to the park, it is best to take a taxi or Bus 24 from Plaça Catalunya to the side entrance of the park. Montjuïc Park starts at the Plaça ... Read More »

Barcelona- Part I

Located on the Mediterranean Sea in the northeast corner of Spain, Barcelona is a culturally diverse, artistically rich city; contemporary, yet rife with medieval sights. It is the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous region of Spain. The Catalans like to think of themselves as somewhat independent of Spain; it is not uncommon to see graffiti that teases, “Spaniards go home”. Residents prefer to speak Catalan, but all of them also speak and understand Castilian Spanish and many also speak English. Locations are often known by both Catalan and Spanish names. Barcelona has been the home to Miro, Picasso, and a ... Read More »

Switzerland – A Wanderer’s Delight

Ever since the 1800s, when the Brits discovered its wonders, wandering in Switzerland has been a traveler’s delight. Although we have been to Switzerland about a dozen times, it had been the same number of years since our last trip. Going to Switzerland, for us, has always felt like going home and we were curious to see if much had changed. We found that, although there were some changes after twelve years, thankfully, much was the same. We rented an apartment for the month of June in Meiringen, a place where we had spent a month back in the 90s. ... Read More »

Delightful Charleston

“Let’s give ourselves a short trip as a Christmas present,” my husband said a dozen years ago. All I could think was, “Oh no, another ski vacation” – cold, terrifying, and crowded.  He surprised me, though. “We’ve always wanted to go to Charleston,” he said. “Why not now?” What a wonderful Christmas present it was. Charleston is a friendly, welcoming city, the epitome of “Southern hospitality” and grace. I am an early morning walker; everywhere I went, I was greeted with pleasant “good mornings” and “happy holidays.” Charleston combined so many things I enjoy – walking, the ocean, shopping, eating, ... Read More »

Travel Photographs

As much as I enjoy taking photographs, when I travel I don’t want to carry more than one piece of equipment, nor do I want to take up valuable packing space with various lenses and other paraphernalia. Therefore, all I use is a point and shoot camera, albeit one with various settings and a decent zoom. If you own a digital point and shoot camera, there are things you can do to improve your photographs. The first recommendation is to read your manual. I’m sure most of you just smiled and thought, “that’s not going to happen.”  Today’s digital point ... Read More »

Mittenwald, Bavaria

Visiting Mittenwald, Bavaria (Germany) is like stepping into a scene from a fairy tale. Surrounded by mountains, with ornately painted buildings and local people who still favor wearing tracht, traditional clothing of drindl skirts and lederhosen,  Mittenwald hugs the border of Austria; the Austrian resort of Seefeld is 15 minutes away. It is on the main rail line from Munich to Innsbruck. The town is easy to traverse; it is 3 square miles of charm. Obermarkt is the main pedestrian zone, crowned by the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, with its painted tower. The trompe l ‘oeil paintings on ... Read More »

Cruising the Aegean

There are two ways to visit the Greek islands. You can do it yourself using ferries, hydrofoils, planes, or chartering a boat. Or, you can take a cruise. After 2 weeks in Nafplio with Untours and a few days in Athens on our own, we chose the convenience of a cruise on a midsize ship with 800 passengers. The various cruise lines offer a few options for seeing the islands, but most of the options are standardized across lines. Mykonos, with it’s Cycladic architecture and popularized by Jackie Onassis, is a favored location in the islands. Because we were on ... Read More »

Athens – A visit to the Ancient Wonders of Greece

A few days in Athens prior to a cruise of the Greek Islands is well worth the additional time. My first impression of Athens was that it was a large, bustling place that made Rome seem like a small village! I soon learned my way around the city, and found it’s people to be friendly and the antiquities awe inspiring. The new metro is immaculate and there are also buses and streetcars.  I felt safe throughout Athens, although there are some places to avoid after dark. In preparation for the 2004 Olympics, the entire city received a facelift; there are ... Read More »

Nafplio, Greece

Located on the serenely beautiful Argolic Gulf 2 hours from Athens, Nafplio (Nafplion), with its stepped streets, profusion of flowers, and car free old town is a charming location from which to explore the Peloponnese Peninsula. A popular weekend destination for Athenians, Nafplio is a town of parks, fountains, small churches, and enchanting seaside. Spring and fall are the best times to visit; moderate temperatures during the day, cool in the evening. The first capital of Greece, three fortresses dominate the town.  From Palamidi,  built in the 18th century by the Venetians but quickly captured by the Turks, there is ... Read More »

San Diego: something for everyone

Graced with temperate weather and an excellent public transportation system, San Diego is a destination that has something for everyone. Temperatures range from the high 50s in January to the 70s in July, with average annual rainfall less than 10 inches. Downtown is a 10 minute ride from San Diego International Airport. There is no need for a car in San Diego as just about any location can be reached by bus or trolley. A day pass for both is $5. Not sure how to get somewhere?  Just go to http://www.sdcommute.com or http://www.sdmts.com/Tripplanner.asp and put in your starting and ending ... Read More »

Speaking of Travel

When my husband and I first started traveling to Europe, we knew a tour group was not for us. Good little lemmings we are not. So, we did the “grand tour” on our own, spending a few nights in each of the locations we wanted to visit. Soon, though, we discovered the joy of settling in to one “hometown” and using it as a base to savor the sights, tastes, sounds, and culture of an area. And, we discovered a company, Untours, that makes this all the more pleasurable. Untours, based in Media ,PA has been providing a unique travel ... Read More »

Speaking of Travel – Venice Part II

In addition to the top sights identified in Part I of “Speaking of Travel – Venice.” there are many other places of interest to visit. The word “ghetto” comes from the Venetian dialect. The ghetto in Venice was once a restricted neighborhood, sealed off at night from the rest of the city by iron gates. Today, it is a bustling area, home to 5 synagogues, a museum, Kosher restaurant, and a very moving Holocaust memorial. Be sure to stop at the bakery there for dolce di veneziano, a slice of raisin bread pudding that will make you want more. Peggy ... Read More »