Saturday, October 18, 2014

Idle Free Vancouver

The most common mistake made by cruise ship passengers is to completely overlook the hosting city as a vacation destination. In the haste and excitement about getting onboard and to the holy grail of all food buffets-- 'rookie cruisers' will regularly make a beeline from the airport to the cruise ship terminal.

Port cities, like Vancouver B.C. are often overlooked and offer much more than just a random docking location. For the price of a few measly shore excursions you can stay a couple extra nights in the spectacular city of Vancouver-- set against the Canadian backdrop of mountains and sea.  

On a Vancouver vacation, there's a time to be in low-mode and a time for the opposite-- to get moving and take in all the attractions. With all the things to see and do in this British Columbia port city-- I suggest you become idle-free by hitting it and getting it..

Getting There

Conveniently situated within Vancouver's  International Airport there is a SkyTrain or Rapid Transit stop--  and don't let the luggage stop you. The SkyTrain system is world renowned for wide cars, hallways and large elevators and wide cars-- So needless to say,  it's easy to get around the city with personal belongings and just a 23 minutes jaunt directly from the airport... A taxi from the airport Vancouver to downtown runs approximately $30 CAD.                                 translink.ca

Opus Hotel--

For a residential vibe Award Winning Boutique Hotel, be sure to book your accommodations at the Opus Hotel. Located in the fashionable Yaletown district, this Forbes-rated 4 Star boutique hotel is within walking distance of quaint shops, unlimited spas and top tier restaurants. With Award Winning Boutique HotelAward Winning Boutique Hotel96 unique and comfortable rooms-- you will feel like you're home, but away.

The rooms retro 70's colors and playful turndown service are sure to bring out your inner child... instead of the usual chocolates on the mattress, they leave fun candies like Pop-Rocks or Charms Blow Pops. All rooms offer complimentary Wi-Fi and even come equipped with an Apple - iPad and iPhone that you can use throughout the journeys inside the city.

With complimentary car service and a Cruise Package Special, where they will reimburse the cab fare from the ships dock, you can't go wrong with a stay at this marvelous  hotel.

http://vancouver.opushotel.com/

The Places to be Seen--

If you are looking for a departure from the run of the mill, conventional style dining establishment then look no further than the West Oak Restaurant. This chic bistro draws a throng of younger diners that crave an upbeat, energetic, casual yet elegant dining experience.

The West Oak Restaurant seasonally changing menu sets the standard with new delectable trends that create an ideal palate experience. The kitchen staff use locally sourced-- farm fresh ingredients, grass-fed beef and  free-range chicken. From perfectly seared scallops with citrus and spices to their savory steak gold standard-- tenderloin beef-- the delicious fare will melt in your mouth.

Whether you take in a wonderful dinner or sip a cocktail in their stylish cocktail bar... you can't help feeling like you've just stumbled into one of Vancouver's most highly prized restaurants.

westoakrestaurant.com

Brunch Worth the Wait

How long would you wait at for brunch at Vancouver's highest rated breakfast eateries? Ninety minutes? Two hours in the pouring rain? Well that's what the locals do, just to get a coveted seat at Café Medina... so you know it's going to be good.

There is always a wait for brunch at Café Medina, and with good reason-  the menu is innovative, it's hearty, smart, and prepared beyond everyone's expectations. With trademark dishes like Saumon Fumé, a fried egg with smoked wild salmon and cream cheese over arugula-- Executive Chef Jonathan Chovancek's kitchen staff live up to the hype and then some...

And don't forget to order 'The Caesar,' a classic Canadian version of the Bloody Mary.

medinacafe.com

Idle-Free Suggestions
Spend an afternoon at one of Vancouver's most well-liked draws, Granville Island. And it's fun getting there too-- little Aquabus ferries set sail every 5 minutes from the West End of downtown Vancouver to Granville Island. Packed full of craft studios, boutique shops and pubs you won't be at a loss for things to do...
granvilleisland.com

Gastown

Best known for its festive atmosphere and amazing souvenir bargains, Gastown is one the City's oldest neighborhoods. This popular historic borough blends elegance, with cobblestone streets. Easily walkable with open-air shopping kiosks that also feature food carts and street entertainment.

Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Every June through September, Bard on the Beach professional Shakespeare Festival conjures up the enchantment of the playwright's great works. The festival performs Shakespeare in two open-ended performance tents, located on the scenic waterfront in Vancouver’s Vanier Park.

 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Go Your Own Way... Alaska by Land + Sea

We have all heard tall tales of prospectors carving their path through the Canadian Yukon during the 1890's gold rush... well now it's your turn. But instead of lugging a thousand pounds of provisions up the Chilkoot Trail, you can do it in luxury and style by taking a Holland America Line-- Alaska Land+Sea Journey.

On this adventure you will be granted an all access pass to Denali National Park as well the opportunity of experiencing the mightiness of Mt. McKinley up close and personal. On this one of a kind cruise experience -- not only will you have the possibility of spotting whales, sea lions, and dolphins... but also take in the likes of grizzly bears, moose,  and elk.

As we all know the glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, soon they will be evaporated, dried up and gone. It's time to gather the whole family together and see the glacial ice mass before it's too late. This is no ordinary vacation... this is a bonding experience that will last a lifetime--

http://www.hollandamerica.com/YukonDoubleDenali

Getting There--

It is wise to arrive in Anchorage, your city of embarkation, a day or two early. Your body will need to have time to adjust from a long flight-- pretty much guaranteed, no matter where you depart from...

Thankfully the Anchorage International airport is well thought out and very navigable. Outside of baggage claim they even run a municipal bus system-- on the hour-- that will get you to the hotel district for a mere $4.50. Taxi's are very affordable as well... a short 10 to 15 minute  jaunt into the city will only set you back-- $25.00 and that includes a gratuity.
http://www.muni.org/Departments/transit/PeopleMover/Pages/Route7.aspx

Where to Stay--

With overnight stays at the Westmark Hotels in Fairbanks AK, Dawson City and Whitehorse YT--  you'll become familiar with this hotel brand. Seeing that their parent company is the same as that of the Holland American Line-- the property is what you would expect from a hospitality driven enterprise-- tidy, outfitted with comfortable beds and have an exceptionally conscientious staff.

Another nicety they offer is a wake- up call for the Northern Lights. If any of their staff spies the aurora borealis throughout the dark of night-- The front desk will give your room a ring-- so you can grab your camera and snap a few photos of the dramatic spectacle of nature.

http://www.westmarkhotels.com/
 
Planes--
For a treasured experience, Air Denali-- not only offers a flightseeing tour of Mt. McKinley-- the highest peak in North America-- but they also will land on a glacier near the summit. Nowhere else can you take in unspoiled and unfettered views of the mountain top unless of course you are an avid climber.
The sturdiness of their planes lend themselves to your confidence, although the pilots self deprecating humor gets a little tired--- But considering the chatter over the headset sounds so cool, you forgive the staleness of their corny jokes.

http://flydenali.com/

Also, don't pass on being one of the proud-- the select few that venture in to the Article Circle. You'll even walk away with a certificate to prove you made it this far north.

Upon your arrival in the tiny community of Fort Yukon, don't expect to be greeted with much fanfare from locals... They aren't the most all-embracing of outsiders, but then again who would want to feel like they are put on display as a tourist attraction--

Nevertheless, you made it to the Arctic Circle and a village so remote that it is accessible only by plane and river transportation-- with no roads leading in or out.

Don't forget the mosquito repellent.
Trains--
Take a peaceful 7.5 hour train ride slicing through the pristine Alaskan countryside on the domed rail cars of the McKinley Explorer.  A half hour of out of Anchorage, there's the possibility of sighting Mt. McKinley-- weather permitting of course.
Take in some good eats on white table clothed tables as your dining car swiftly rambles along the railway. The tasty cuisine is delightful and the service is welcoming and gracious.
Hop aboard the White Pass and Yukon Route,  a train ride that careens past mountain rock pools, scenic gorges and dramatic waterfalls. On this unforgettable train ride experience you will journey along virtually the same path that the Yukon prospectors originally summitted during the 1890's gold rush.
This wildly popular pleasure trip lasts a surprisingly quick 3.5 hours and will allow for some memorable photographs-- provided you will brave the whirling cold and stand in-between the cars as they bump and whisk down the tracks.
Motorcoaches
On much of the Holland America Land + Sea Journey you will be shuttled from place to place on a narrated luxury coach. You'll feel like a Rock Star of the Canadian Yukon-- being on the tour bus and living out of a suitcase.

Sure many mornings you will be leaving at the crack of dawn, but your meticulous tour host will always see that the shuttle picks you up and arrives on time. As an added bonus-- it's as though they have like invisible luggage Sherpa's-- simply leave your belongs outside your room and poof they're gone... Only to reappear the next day upon your arrival  and inside your new hotel room--
And a Cruise Ship-- for Good Measure


Once you arrive at the Cruise Ship terminal in Skagway and board the ms Zuiderdam, you will feel like royalty. All of the ship's crew will be scurrying and working to ensure your voyage is the best possible.
Often times on cruise ships you can't help but hear the murmur of other passengers complaints-- People complain about the weather-- People complain about the food-- people complain about their health... Well on Holland America Line--you will hear no complaints. The staff performs at such high standards and with such gladness in their heart-- you can't help but be amazed.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Summer of Loving... San Francisco

The ding of the cable car is in the air, the ding of the cable car cuts through the morning fog... Where else can you be-- none other than in the city by the Bay, the city of  San Francisco.  This is a resilient community that has bounced back from natural disasters and persevered through cultural clashes that have defined a nation.

It's a diverse municipality where each neighborhood is more authentic and distinctive than the one that preceded it. Any trip to San Francisco is guaranteed to be a thrilling mix of incomparable dining, activities and nightlife that will easily occupy each day of your vacation.

We are all aware of San Francisco's trademark attractions, from the Golden Gate Bridge to the brooding prison Island of Alcatraz and of course Chinatown--to mention a scant few. But be sure to bring along some bread and we're not talking the sourdough variety, because they have plenty of that.... Trust me you'll need it for this memorable of a vacation.

BART

Getting to downtown San Francisco has never been easier on the Bay Area's subway system. Out of the Airport, simply hop on the Air Tram to the International Gate-- there you will find the entrance way to the city's rapid transit system.  A nominal $8.65 per person will secure passage directly into the downtown hotel district.

At times, the wheels get mightily squeaky and loud on the Bart Tram, so bring along your favorite MP3 outfitted with noise cancelling ear buds... and as an added bonus they will assist in you avoiding eye contact with several of the subway's, let us say,  more colorful characters.  bart.gov/schedules/bystation
Union Square

Suffice to say that in San Francisco, you have several options of where to stay... My favorite being Union Square, which is centrally located and loaded with inexpensive transportation options that will allow you to navigate the city like a breeze.

'All Pleasure'
Where else would you pamper and indulge your awesomeness in San Francisco than with a stay at the Hotel Diva? Pamper yourself in a discreet room that marries the Old San Francisco with a stylish,  new contemporary vibe.

Actually the Hotel Diva is only one of three 'Personality Properties' located in the posh Union Square district.  These hotel's set themselves apart with clean paint schematics, vaulted ceilings and a good flow. Personality Properties' Kensington Park Hotel offers up European styling-- a tight yet efficient use of space... you also will appreciate the crisp bay breeze cascading through the room's open windows.

Hotel Union Square-- is steps from the upscale department stores, and  their rooms are surprisingly quiet considering the bustle of foot traffic on the street below. If Hotel Diva has no vacancy, feel comfortable opting with one of these other sister properties for an escape to remember.
'All Business'
On a  tight schedule? In town on an assignment? Looking for a consistent room product  with a trusted hotel brand that is detail driven and run by a skillful management team? Look no further than the Parc 55 Wyndham smack dab at the core of Union Square.

This is easily one of the Union Square's largest hotel's boasting 1024 rooms and seemingly hundred's of stories tall . When you are this high above the fray-- each room's  large Bay windows will translate into grand, sweeping views of the city below-- Their full size room combine a no frills style with a straightforward design. 
With over 30,000 sq feet of meeting room space, and a fitness center that overlooks Union Square this is a great option for large groups and business minded traveler.

Dine About Town

When in the City by the Bay don't toss away your hard earned dining budget on a quick bite at a greasy spoon restaurant... Make sure to hit each one of these standouts-- you can't go wrong, and you'll understand why San Francisco is world renowned for their cuisine.

Historic John's Grill-- Their signature clam chowder is considered the tops in all of San Francisco. With some of the most succulent and mouthwatering steaks around-- Historic John's is not the place to be starting a vegan diet. This three story dining landmark even served as inspiration for Daschle Hemet's, The Maltese Falcon--   johnsgrill.com
Parallel 37 Restaurant-- Tucked inside the swanky Ritz Carlton Nob Hill this fine dining gem is famous for its art deco setting and ever pleasing cocktails-- Their standout chef outduels the rest with creative offerings and cuisine of great finesse.             parallel37sf.com
Piperade-- 'Movers and shakers' come together in this financial district dining hotspot. Snap a great photo of the Transamerica building-- be sure to stop by the Financial district for dinner at Piperade.   piperade.com

Bix Restaurant-- This dining establishment harkens back to when the nights smoldered and jazz was in full swing. One of the city's best for crab cakes, hand-cut steaks and old fashioned cocktails. Also, featuring exemplary service where the water glass never reaches-- half full.       bixrestaurant.com   
Palio d'Asti-- The next best thing to having visit Italy. The wood fired pizza here is delicious and the Italian entrées -- top notch. Affordable, busy, and a great atmosphere set this trattoria apart. Service tends to be on the slow side but the food is worth the wait.             paliodasti.com
Urban Tavern-- Attentive service is the benchmark for an outstanding dining experience at this centrally located establishment. Their crispy battered Fish & Chips are the perfect lunch option and explode with tasty delight.   urbantavernsf.com
Fog Harbor Fish House  One of the great fish houses in San Francisco with a breathtaking view of the Bay. Featuring fresh caught Alaskan Halibut, Sea Bass and mouth-watering Prime Rib their menu will offer something for everyone… Set in a casual Pier 39 environment.   fogharbor.com
Fog City-- Enjoy their laid back morning vibe for an incredible Sunday Brunch-- Featuring succulent French Toast and a signature Bloody Mary that is a meal all unto itself-- Don't forget their patented doughnuts and homemade ice cream.   fogcitysf.com
Definitely Do:
Beach Blanket Babylon-- Club Fugazi hosts this over the top cast of bubbly and spirited characters. Even the Queen of England and Prince Charles have taken in this mad capped musical revue during their San Francisco stay. beachblanketbabylon.com
Tower Tours Wine Country-- This exceptionally picturesque and guided drive into Wine Country is a sure bet for the avid wine enthusiast. Tour historic wineries and snap the quintessential photo of a California vineyard that is suitable for framing. When visiting the Napa Valley-- if you've quit drinking... let's be honest-- it's a good time to start back.     towertours.com

Adventure Cat-- Choose this Sailing Crew for a wild evening of raucous fun and dramatic views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Gale force winds tousle the hair and the sea splash will  invigorate your core. However, they do have an inside cabin for those wanting to remain warm and fuzzy.    adventurecat.com
Little Italy Walking Food Tour-- Sample the tastes, sights and sounds in this celebration of North Beach. Lead by a knowledgeable guy named Jimmy-- a wise guy-- who's to say? But I sure did laugh loudly at all of his jokes.             sffoodtour.com

Hornblower Dinner Cruise-- Hop aboard the San Francisco Belle for those wanting a tranquil, romantic and unforgettable dining cruise. Spectacular imagery awaits as you witness firsthand the evening fog that envelops the small town Sausalito. hornblower.com/home/sf
Aquarium by the Bay-- Studies show when fish are in the tank-- there's a natural lowering of one's blood pressure... Just think how many points will drop when you take a 'Behind the Scenes tour' at this Pier39 mega-attraction. aquariumofthebay.org

Friday, June 13, 2014

Cozumel-- Uncompromisingly Beautiful

Wouldn't you love to feel  like you are on your very own 'mini-leg' of the Amazing Race?  Scurrying through a congested international airport to jump in an awaiting taxi that will whisk you off to a large ferry--  After navigating the tumultuous waters off the Caribbean Sea, finding yourself in a charming town square, where you must then locate another shuttle bus which will transport you to the final destination-- the resort.

Well, no 'pit stops' on this journey of a lifetime, the sheer adventure of getting to Cozumel, Mexico will bring every couple or family closer together-- After all, relying on each other's resourcefulness and cleverness will bring out the best in any relationship.
The small island of Cozumel, located a short distance off the Yucatan Peninsula is understandably touted as one of the World's Safest as well as...Greatest Diving Destinations. The Mexican locals take great pride in keeping with past generations- dutifully upholding the hospitality values and virtues with which they were raised. This trustworthiness gives any sophisticated traveler piece of mind .
It's certainly worth the extra effort and energy to get there... Cozumel is very reasonably priced, serene and uncompromisingly beautiful. With water so transparent and calm, even the waves in Cozumel are too lazy to lap... up on the beach.
Getting There--
By now, I am sure all of you have signed up and armed yourselves with a US Airways credit card--  Which of course will enabling free passage anywhere inside the continental US, and Caribbean... For an additional $99 you can bring along your favorite travel companion-- who wouldn't want to pass up a free Standby Flight to Cozumel. With all the money you will save on airfare, you will be able to reinvest in the resort's scuba package.
Always remember mis amigos, Passport Required-- Do not forget them and get left behind.
When the Boat is a Rockin'
Sit near the back or near an open access on the choppy, forty-five minute Water Jet to Cozumel... Unfortunately, we all know what can happen on ferries and it is better to be safe than sorry. Besides, the fresh air will do you good-- although you still may want to bring along some Dramamine in an effort to combat motion sickness--
Olympus Tours--
On the 'shared transfer' shuttle ride from Cancun International Airport to the Playa del Carmen Ferry--  Drivers are all business and that means-- no stops.  No bathroom breaks, no convenient store,  no sodas, chips or even cervezas -- so make your precautions before you embark on your journey to the exclusive island community.
A Tale of Two Resorts--
'Everything... All the Time'
Nestled on a secluded stretch of beach-- a rarity on the small Island-- is the romantic and upscale Occidental Grand, Cozumel. This elegant resort is located on the island's western side, which translates to tranquil and crystal clear waters... ideal for taking a dip, snorkeling  and soaking up the sun.
This striking all inclusive property has a quiet and private 'feel' to each building... almost as if you've been swept away to your very own tropical oasis. You may want to familiarize yourself with the resorts grounds or risk getting lost a time or two on the way to the pool or one of the many fine dining facilities.
Although you are on vacation, as we all know serious Scuba Divers tend to keep a tight schedule-- so you will most assuredly appreciate the resort provided, Dive Coordinator- a guest liaison that will help keep you abreast of all the daily dive activities and the resort happenings.
The Occidental Grand is considered by many, to be the island 's most convenient location for diving, as a majority of Cozumel's best dive sights are located minutes from the property's pier--  As an added foresight, there's also an Onsite Paramedic in the event of any emergency.
A Community of Divers
For a more budget conscious and family-type atmosphere on your Dive-cation,  consider booking your stay at the neighboring Allegro Cozumel. This sister property to the Occidental Grand maintains the same high quality of cleanliness, fine dining and wide-ranging amenities.
The thatched roofs lend the buildings an authentic Mayan-esque feel to your island vacation.. The spacious and somewhat dated rooms are comfortable, but lack the stylishness at the Occidental Grand, Cozumel. Sure the phone or internet connection might be spotty at times, but when you are on a getaway of this magnitude-- is that really a bad thing?
The Allegro Cozumel takes your Diving Experience to a whole new-- 'Ultimate' level... Not only are you granted access to the same proficient Dive Coordinator, as the Occidental Grand... but their affordable scuba diving package is complete with deluxe rooms-- a posh divers-only lounge, free boat dives and even a private pool. Talk about the personal 'divers' touch.
The Vail of all Dive Sites

Cozumel is the Perfect Diving experience for scuba divers of all levels. We are talking something for everyone, Easy Diving-- Shallow Reef-- Mountains of Coral -- Mysterious Shipwrecks-- Wall Dives... do I need to go on?
You slowly descend into the pristine water and then effortlessly drift, letting  the underwater current do the all work, as you are swept past a myriad of beautiful sights.
The fish have such distinctive personalities-- There's the two 'sister' fish, standoffish and reserved-- The 'clumsy swimmer,' a puffer fish that seemingly has troubles navigating the waters. Beautiful yellow and purple fish that not even art can do justice. A sleeping nurse shark that simply lays there, allowing for close scrutiny...
Don't forget the nefarious and menacing-looking barracudas that hang out over the sandy bottom flats-- like teenage thugs looking for trouble outside the local convenience store. And there's only one way to see and experience these sights -- Pro Dive Mexico. Their instructors are patient, understanding and come equipped with a wealth of Knowledge.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Breeze-- Fort Lauderdale, Florida

There's something nice about packing light-- Simply tossing the Bermuda shorts, a few loose tee shirts and of course a pair of loose fitting flip-flops into a rolling duffle. Who doesn't love heading to the airport for a Florida Visit? Clear skies, toasty beaches, an unruffled sea-breeze floating in off the ocean... what more could anyone ask for?

In Fort Lauderdale there is something for everyone to enjoy.... sport fishing, seeing the sights, not to mention-- pier-side dining.
With plenty of discounted airfares and judging from all the packed flights-- Fort Lauderdale must be a popular destination. Even if you are just passing through Port Everglades for a Caribbean Cruise, be sure to spend at least a few days discovering all this coastal haven has to offer the savvy traveler.
Pack and Go--
There's nothing complicated about booking  a trip to Fort Lauderdale-- even the car rentals are easy. At Firefly Car Rental, a fledgling discount agency from Hertz-- you will find fares for as low as $80.00 a week. Although, there are a few caveats--
FireFly Car Rental is an offsite hub-- meaning you will have two Shuttle transfers from the airport terminal. Unfortunately one of the stops has you baking in the direct sunlight-- with no awning provided-- while you wait on a bus. So even though you want to be dressed nicely for your flight, be sure to dress comfortably.
Also-- Fire Fly proudly boast that they have a Plate Pass program that will allow you speedily bypass all of South Florida's toll roads-- Driver beware, you will be charged a hefty 4.95 daily fee if you use the service-- as well as the cost of the toll. And here's the hitch-- if you only use the Plate Pass one time-- you will incur this daily fee for every day you rented the car. Just take the added time and pay the tolls with cash... your wallet will thank you in the long run.
Hotels-
Pre Cruise:
Upon entering the lovely il Lugano Hotel you will be immediately struck by the modern design and art deco furnishings. This luxurious boutique hotel offers its guests breathtaking views of the Intracoastal Waterway. Smart travelers will have access to superb amenities and attractive suites outfitted with a near complete kitchen. Strong shower heads will blast off any residual ocean funk and the only thing the bathrooms aren't equipped with is a garden-style bath tub. The ocean is a close three block walk-- although they are more than happy to cart you there in a beach buggy.
Be sure to drop by their contemporary on-site Italian restaurant, Osteria... for their signature  appetizer, fresh pulled mozzarella-- the chef actually comes to your tableside and create this delicious, fun, and tasty indulgence.
And leave your auto-- they will even securely park your car for the entirety of your cruise.
Post Cruise:
The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa
This lavish hotel has long been favored by celebrities since the golden age of Hollywood-- Florida, that is... Beautiful, lavish and attention to detail at every turn. Clean lines and no gaps in the curtains will ensure the bright morning sunshine doesn't disturb your restful sleep. After a stay at the Westin Diplomat you know will truly come to understand the timeless idiom, 'the lap of luxury.'
However, resorts on this grand of scale-- cast large shadows... So make sure you get to the beach and pool early because the afternoon sun will quickly become eclipsed by the resorts large stature.
Also, don't hesitate to drop in their onsite 14,000 square foot, Heavenly Spa -- for a Signature Massage Treatment-- which is a unique blend of Swedish and Deep Tissue treatments.
Ways of the Water-
Swim with 'da Fishes
All you need is a set of fins, snorkel mask, and of course the highly trained professionals at The Number One Dive Shop in South Florida-- Sea Experience. For any outdoor enthusiast, snorkeling off the coast of Fort Lauderdale in the Atlantic Ocean is a one of a kind experience. This guided Snorkeling tour is perfect for beginners and anyone that craves a great adventure. Round-trip transportation and all equipment are provided.
Water Taxis
Get to resorts, shops and waterfront parks the trouble-free and practical way... by water taxi. On this leisure boating tour of Fort Lauderdale's inland waters you will be ferried past multi-million dollar mansions and awestruck by an endless array of docked yachts-- most larger in size than the average house.
With access to a myriad of Intra Coastal Waterways it's easy to see why the 'haves and the have-mores' consider-- Fort Lauderdale-- 'The Yachting Capital of North America.'
Chic Gone Wild-
In Fort Lauderdale there is no better place for shopping lovers to discover designer labels and the hottest trends than Las Olas Boulevard. Located in the heart of downtown, fashionistas stroll down brick alleyways lined with quaint shops and popular restaurants.
On occasion, they will even cordon off the Las Olas Shopping district for wickedly fun festivals-- like Wine and Dine samplings-- and even toss in a fashion show for good measure--

Friday, April 18, 2014

Skies so Blue-- Colorado Springs

Who doesn't love crisp mountain air and sunny blue skies? If you are looking for a health conscious family outing that will rejuvenate the mind, body and soul-- Colorado Springs will suit you to a T.

With dozens of recreational attractions and leisure pursuits, it's easy to see why, 'The Springs' is quickly becoming a world-wide popular travel destination. Although some activities are seasonal, the climate is mild and when it does snow-- it is breathtaking and melts quickly.
Not to mention the hiking trails--a do not miss-- for an exhilarating healthy lifestyle and taking in the surrounding beauty of nature. The grand Colorado high-country offers a source of never ending clean oxygen that will invigorate your body and make you feel more alive than ever.
The Ideal Car Rental:
Considering all the wide ranging activities, and high altitude walking you will be doing once you arrive in Colorado Springs-- you will need to rent a car to make the most of your trip. The perfect timeframe when leasing a car? Go online and rent an auto-- precisely one and a half weeks-- before your arrival date--
I can assure you with confidence, the price you will secure-- will beat 'last-minute' or 'months before you need the auto' rates. If you can find a rate of fifteen dollars-- take it-- snatch it up and look back with no regrets.
Lie Down with Dogs... or Where NOT to Stay:
Snuggly set against the backdrop of the scenic mountain-side, is the outdated and inadequate Cheyenne Mountain Resort which proudly boasts it's 'pet friendly' environment. In Colorado many lodgings accommodate dogs-- under 75 lbs-- which is usually good a thing-- but when not done properly it's kind of like staying in a smoking room-- when you're not a smoker-- the residual effects of past guests creep in...
Immediately upon entering the room-- you will be confronted by 'throw blankets' on the beds that are covered in pet dander and fur. Wonderful, now when the weather turns chilly, you can lie awake with the inescapable fear of contracting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever dancing through your head. Unattended animals, stained carpets and other guests complaints landing on an inept management staff's deaf ears. Enough said-- book elsewhere. Especially if you are considering a corporate event or destination wedding.
Spa at The Broadmoor:
Regardless of where you decide to stay in Colorado Springs be sure to make an appointment at this luxurious 43,000 sq ft spa. Escape from the rat race and reconnect with one's inner health and well being-- to a place where you are treated like royalty.
As soon as you step into the posh reception area, you begin to anticipate what an upscale spa truly has to offer.  Lounge in the dry sauna, or aromatherapy room to detoxify all body systems and rediscover true peace of mind. 

broadmoor.com/luxury-spa-resorts/

The Ivywild School:

Of all the reclamation projects I've seen lately, Colorado Springs'-- Ivywild School-- has set the new standard.  What used to be an abandoned, rundown school is now a modish place for the locals to congregate, shop, and eat wholesomely. 
The clever use of old school-rooms now artfully display a variety of homespun products from a tasty bakery to a full-blown micro-brewery.  You can even drop in the principal's office and then lament about your visit over an Pale Ale in a full bar setting.
This attractive, ever-evolving establishment raises the bar for all of us to become mindful of responsibility to our communities.  The Ivywild School gets an A+ in all subjects-- cool.
Venture Out: 
Pikes Peak Cog Railway
Take an exciting train ride up to Pike's Peak on The Cog Railway. Bring along all members of the family on this half day excursion up to the mountaintop. On a clear day the vistas are unparalleled and you can see, literally all the way back to Nebraska.
Shutterbugs delight-- Each of the train's cars are outfitted with large glass windows, which allow for excellent photographs of the Colorado Rockies and surrounding valley.  One can certainly appreciate how Katharine Lee Bates was so inspired to pen "America The Beautiful," after making the summit to Pike's Peak.
Manitou Incline--
Not for the faint of heart on this Hike of Epic Proportions-- The Incline goes straight up! We're talking the ultimate Stair Stepper-- This is a great way to bond with family and friends as you justify why you couldn't reach the summit on your way down the mountainside.
www.manitouincline.net/ 

Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Explore each nook and cranny of ancient cliff dwellings reassembled into a canyon wall that overlooks the small enclave of Manitou Springs. The sense of wonder and discovery of the ancient stone village adds value to every kid's delight. If you are pressed for time, simply drive slowly through the park and pull over at your own pace.
Garden of the Gods--

Capture jaw-dropping nature photos of the unique landforms at the Garden of the Gods nature refuge. The distinctive Colorado environment supports flourishing greenery accompanied by dramatic erosion-chiseled red rock formations during your visit to this popular tourist attraction. Cavorting amongst the of red rock formations with friends and family is an experience of a lifetime.
Cave of the Winds
Watch your head on this walking cave tour. Spelunker's of all ages will witness-- firsthand-- the unhurried process of nature's unique geological intricacies in this underground cavern. As an added bonus, you do always have the option of buying a hard hat  at the gift shop before your descent into the darkness begins.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

St. Kitts-- Beauty Smolders

When the four walls of your workplace seemingly begin to close in...  and you find yourself longing for the wide open spaces... If, only in your mind, you can visualize palm trees swaying and the smell of fresh topical air... If the call of seagulls beckon, then the time has certainly come to pack up the family and simply get away. 

Provided you have an inherent love of nature, the urge to hike a dormant volcano or even spend an afternoon lazily bird-watching-- then St Kitts is your ideal Caribbean destination. With comparatively untouched beaches, brilliantly sunny days and mysterious natural beauty... this tiny Island offers something for everyone. Especially those wanting to escape the chaos and chatter of the daily workspace.
Getting There:
Three of the major US Airlines run once weekly service, into St Kitts', Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw (RLB) International Airport. Only American Airlines, has twice daily service from Thursday through Sunday out of Miami International.
But that's it-- for the most part, and probably all for the better-- you are stuck there.
Getting Around:
If you are planning to rent an car there are a few hidden costs involved... Be advised, you will need to secure a temporary driving license and that is one for either St Kitts or its small companion island-- Nevis. Any St. Kitts Rental Car Agency will happily steer you in the right direction when it comes to your Island hopping plans-- so don't hesitate to ask and they will more than willingly oblige.
On the Island's Southeast Peninsula, there is an Auto Ferry Service between Nevis and St. Kitts... So if you plan on touring each island, don't take a gamble without the proper driving documentation... No one needs a silly or hefty fine putting a crimp in their vacation.
Where to stay:
Located in South Frigate Bay, the exclusive Timothy Beach Resort is nestled into the hillside with sweeping views of a calm Caribbean cove. All of the condominium suites are outfitted with private balconies, complimentary beach towels and free internet. Full kitchens makes a huge difference in vacationing budget as you can stock up on provisions and save yourself the expense of not eating out the entirety of your stay. Although the tropical decor and rattan furniture seem dated, the villas are clean and very comfortable.
The hotel is in close proximity to a plethora of shops, outstanding dining, world-class golfing and even a casino. Timothy Beach Resort proudly boasts that they are located at a privileged point on the coastline--  as 'the only St. Kitts hotel on a Caribbean beach...'.
Speaking of Monkeys--
Get this-- they have drunken monkeys that maraud and roam the island with impunity-- The well known, 'Green Vervet' Monkeys of the Caribbean have apparently developed quite a penchant for Rum Punch. These wily and crafty simians are renowned for swiping a tourist's frothy libation. So hold on tight to your hootch when you see the cute little pranksters approaching.

Also, at Independence Square in Basseterre-- is The Monkey Bar. This social hotspot serves as a favorite haunt of those that love to party-and also has a terrific seafood restaurant. Be sure to catch the lively steel drum band every Friday night.
Summit to Sea
Whether you are a certified diver with many hours of undersea time or a newbie to the sport, you will not want to miss, 'The Wreck of the River Taw'. Divers from all regions of the globe flock to this dive-spot, rated one of the top twenty Shallow Reef wrecks in the Caribbean.
With good visibility, an abundance of sea life and warm water makes this wreck dive site immensely popular in the diving community.
Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park
This expansive fortress dates back to the 1700's, and features majestic views of the neighboring Caribbean Islands. For a reasonable ten dollar (US) entrance fee, visitors can stroll at their leisure through the mostly renovated historic site. Many of the restored quarters actually show life as it was in the 18th Century-- much to the delight of children and the historian in all of us.
The well-preserved fort unfortunately is not as handicapped accessible as we are accustomed to here in the States-- but hey, you are in the Caribbean-- and they have different codes than the US... So be sure to respect their lifestyle and tastes.
Amazing Place
When in St. Kitts, regardless of your religious convictions, you will not want to deprive yourself of this one of a kind and inspirational experience. The correlation to the small island's checkered history and the beloved hymn will inspire even the hardest of skeptics.
Unbeknown to many, but the serene Sandy Point in St Kitts-- served as the inspirational backdrop and life changing events of slave trader, John Newton. It was here that he composed the well-known tune, Amazing Grace.