Saturday, August 15, 2015

Between a Rock and a Fun Place-- Gibraltar, UK


Rising up, like one of the Pillars of Hercules-- The Rock of Gibraltar stands as an indomitable sentinel guarding the entryway to Mediterranean Sea. Steeped in history, this iconic monolith stands as a
testament to human resolve, for signs of this- simply stroll through the labyrinth of tunnels burrowed out of coarse limestone during World War Two--  in an effort to preserve a continent.
 
The British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar is lined with vibrant city streets, and numerous historic landmarks. It's like the perfect English dream vacation without the inclement weather. You will find plenty of tax-free shopping, high flying Barbary Apes, as well as numerous beaches on your unforgettable vacation to the southern-most tip of the Costa del Sol.

If it's good enough to be the wedding site of John and Yoko in 1969-- "Yeah, baby, yeah!" lets pack our bags and see what this Austin Powers-esque- shagadelic place is all about...
 
Getting There:

The Gibraltar International Airport serves the entire Iberian coastline-- from Seville to Malaga as well, of course as visitors to the Rock. The North Front Airport, as it is also known-- takes up a major portion of the entire British Territory. So to drive from Gibraltar into Spain, vehicles must literally cross the airport's runway... much like you would at a school bus crossing or waiting for a train to pass...

Pretty informal considering the nefarious times we live in-- but not to fear-- there is a tunnel under construction and should be completed soon--  However, for nostalgia's sake-- foot traffic into Spain will still be able to continue across the runway. Consider leasing an auto (in advance) from Avis Car Rental and as an added bonus you get to 'cross the runway.'

 Staying There:

 Situated in the heart of Old Town is the storied hotel O'Callaghan Eliott Hotel. A perfect 'pied-a-terre' for exploring-- guests are always never far the popular restaurants and romantic destinations along the Iberian coastline. The stylish Inn features room's with warm and contemporary Irish styling. Most room are outfitted with all the comforts of home as well as spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Eliott has a health club, a sauna and a bistro with views over the Strait, Rock of Gibraltar and city views. And don't forget your swimsuit for the rooftop swimming pool. This pleasant hotel features clean rooms, and a more than accommodating staff.  


Gibraltar Cable Car

No trip to Gibraltar would be complete without hopping on a cable car to the top of the Rock. The ride up the summit provides sweeping views and children will delight in a fifteen minute journey.

But, it doesn't come without its peril. If you are scared of heights-- forget about it--  the ride can be mind numbingly scary. Suspended only by the cable two cables above- the cable cars creak and will lurch without warning- as the crowd, packed in like sardines, collectively gasp in fright... swinging mercilessly in the high winds.

Once you arrive at the summit, it will all be worth it as you are greeted by the overly friendly-- yet somewhat aggressive Barbary Macaques (Apes).


Shopping

In Spain

Considering Spain's economic downturn-- not all the bargains can be found in the tax free haven of Gibraltar--  Across the border in La Línea, values abound and they are everywhere. So be sure to take a day trip to explore the Spanish countryside-- you won't regret it.
Main Street in Gibraltar

Main Street is lined with typical English shops, hard to find items and exquisite jewelry. The scenic cobblestone pathway runs several blocks, almost to the border of La Linea. You may want to consider avoiding Main Street when the cruise ship pulls into port, and find all the daily bargains already have been scooped up. Also-- be advised-- even considering the tax free offerings, prices are still over-inflated, so ask for discounts and haggle in the jewelry shops.

The Great Siege Tunnels
Step back in time while exploring history with a to visit the Great Siege Tunnels. You will discover many nooks and crannies to duck into-- each of which are filled with fables tales as well as  historical relevance. The openings of the tunnels provides unique vantage points of the surrounding topography and fantastic photography views from high up the rock. Just one look through the canon turrets will let you know what your grandfather's generation did to save the European Continent from the Nazi menace. The climb back is steep so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water for hydration--  they even post signs to advise you of the ascent you will endure.

 The Original Dolphin Safari

Experience beautiful sea life on this extraordinary dolphin outing with family and newfound friends. Dolphins seemingly are ubiquitous-- and the views of the Ivory Coast and the Rock of Gibraltar are unparalleled. The Dolphin Safari prices average 25 to 30 Euros per person with several trips offered daily. They even offer a 99% guarantee that you will see dolphins-- hopefully there's a refund if you are the .01 percent that doesn't-- But then again, who really cares... you're on the water basking in the sun and loving every minute of it.


Roy's Cod Place

Don't you ever wonder-- how so many restaurants can screw up a simple recipe like fish and chips? They come out cool- soggy, laden in grease... well not here! At Roy's Cod Place-- they get it right every time! light, crispy-- flaky cod that melts in your mouth. And guess what? The chips are amazing as well... The serving sizes of full order are so large you may only need two servings to feed a family of four... is the only way to go. The only drawback? When you have to return to the states and muddle through a pedestrian serving of what is labeled as-- fish and chips.

Be sure to sample an order of the Mushy Peas with Curry Sauce... The Shrimp Scampi is another crowd favorite that the local's highly recommend.

 Brunos

You won't break the bank by dropping in for a bite to eat at this raucous and high energy eatery. Prices of the food aren't designed to gouge the patrons, yet the quality of the food always remains consistently high. Bruno's is located in Gibraltar's sailing marina of Ocean Village and home to superb dining with a highly competent staff.

Enjoy a homemade juicy burger homemade medium burger-- without busting your belt-- featuring their low calorie healthy recipe. Teriyaki chicken noodles are another outstanding option that should top your list when dining here. As an added bonus, don't miss out on their two for one cocktail special-- it's like a nonstop happy hour. This joint can get rockin,' so expect to pay as you go... Euros are always gladly accepted.  

http://brunosgib.com/index.html

Monday, July 20, 2015

Bridges over the Willamette-- Portland, Oregon

Father's day has come and gone-- you've gotten the ceremonial Hallmark card along with serving up the traditional BBQ dinner. But now you can make up for those years of mundane celebrations by sending Pop and the rest of the family on  a one of a kind, outdoor adventure-- to the City of Roses-- Portland, Oregon.
Sure it's a smaller West Coast destination, but Portland doesn't suffer from an inferiority complex. Forget about walkable, this city is 'bike-able.' Portland Oregon is comfortable in its own shoes and doesn't strive to be the San Francisco or Seattle. Portlander's are an accepting lot and a non-judgmental group where you are encouraged to "be true to yourself."
Some cities are built on silver and other's are built on gold-- but Portland, Oregon is a gem with a certain 'visit-ability' where everything's right at hand or within quick access. It's an easy town to figure out and simple to navigate from the funky vibe of the Alberta Arts District, to the city’s posh Pearl District and out as far as the stunning Silver Falls State Park. Nestled against the picturesque backdrop of Mt. Hood- Portland, Oregon is not only a haven for the micro brewery scene-- but also serves up some of the world's most renowned wines.

Getting There:
 
Flights into Portland's International Airport (PDX) are a straight shot and wide open... Fly US Airways while the getting is still good-- and before they are swallowed up by American Airlines.
Once you arrive, for only $2.50pp  you can take the TriMet's MAX Red Line light rail that will drop you off literally feet from your hotel in the city center. The TriMet does a great job providing peace of mind, even conducting random security sweeps before you board. However if you are dragging carry-on luggage, be prepared for an arduous trek through the lengthy airport--  you may want to consider checking your bags so you can pick them up at the baggage claim which is closer to the light rail boarding area. Once there-- consider a seven day pass on the TriMet or simply hop one of the ubiquitous cabs that prowl the city streets, as rates usually never rise above ten dollars a ride.
Staying there:
In the Lloyd District, on the east side of the Willamette River is the sparkling-- Hotel Eastlund. This brand new boutique property is appreciative of all things intimate and luxurious... Their room have tight, modern feng shui that is softened up through the use of textured throws, headboards and nice finishing touches that lend to an unparalleled sense of comfort. and thoughtful of all the essential amenities... including free Wi-Fi and personal service.
Within steps of the Oregon Convention Center and Portland’s Moda Center, Hotel Eastlund is easily accessible by Portland Streetcar as well as the MAX light rail system, making the property the perfect base camp point for exploring all nooks and crannies of the city. Hotel Eastlund is so new, however, that most taxicab drivers don't even know it's completed and have trouble finding the entrance so allow for some time waiting for your cab to arrive.
 

Hotel Vintage Portland
However, the ideal launching pad for any extended Portland stay is the exclusive, yet pricey Hotel Vintage. Being centrally located in the heart of downtown grants you the flexibility of walking-- or use of their onsite bicycles-- to Portland's most vibrant downtown destinations... like Pioneer Courthouse Square, Pioneer Place mall, Powell's Books and the Pearl District.
Everything you need for unforgettable Portland travel experience is right here in this stylish, urban retreat that has been a mainstay of the city for generations. Hotel Vintage offers you the best of everything including gourmet food, leisure activities in their gaming area, and of course-- luxurious accommodations.

Whether you choose to stay at the property be sure to take in some outstanding dining at their Pazzo Restaurant. The Pazzo Restuarant is arguably one of downtown's finest restaurants and a bastion of good eats for Portlanders and visitors alike.
 
Things to Do:
Willamette Valley Wine Tour
The Evergreen Escape's shuttle van will meet your party right outside your hotel... Then you will be whisked away on an enchanting tour of the Willamette Valley, home to home to many of the regions award-winning Pinot Noir wines. Your conversant guide will enlighten you with rich history of Oregon wine country and why soil is ideal for handcrafting world class Pinot Noir.  Bring out your inner wine connoisseur on this half day-- all things grape-- (or should I say,  great) expedition. evergreenescapes.com
Portland Saturday Market
Every Saturday, under the Burnside Bridge Portland hosts one of the largest craft markets in all of the Pacific Northwest. Get there early and enjoy the festive atmosphere and energy as the local vendors prepare for a day of brisk sales. Located in historic downtown feature the highest quality arts and handmade crafts. If you looking for a few one of a kind gifts to bring home to the family and friends, this is the place to find them. portlandsaturdaymarket.com
The Washington Park Area- hosts numerous activities for the entire family to experience. Below are just a sampling of family fun:
Stop! And smell...
If the park's Japanese Gardens aren't enough to excite the visual senses-- all you need to do is cross the road and discover why they refer to Portland as,  'The City of Roses.' As you descend into the bountiful array of rose varieties, you will immediately be greeted  by the flower's potent fragrance. Photo opportunities are never ceasing and the Portland International Rose Test Garden  will be appreciated by all ages.
 
Hoyt Arboretum
Take a stroll around the trails of the Hoyt Arboretum, featuring a collection of trees and perennial display gardens. Kids will delight in the exploration of the raw nature of the Pacific Northwest as they meander through groves of humongous trees. hoytarboretum.org
The Oregon Zoo- Children's excitement is palpable, literally when they are here-- their feet do not touch the ground. Be the hero parent by taking the kids to this wonderful zoo. oregonzoo.org
Dining There:
Embrace life's unexpected delectability with a Breakfast at Tasty and Sons - Dominating Portland’s popular brunch scene, the two Tasty restaurants serve up an eclectic and innovative menu--. The flavorful culinary collision of their signature dishes are simply scrumptious. The small plate servings are meant for family-style sharing. The restaurant's Bloody Mary's are the perfect antidote to a late night out. www.tastynsons.com
Natural Selections
Go meatless in one of the city’s most funkified and beatnik neighborhoods--the Alberta Arts District. Chef and owner Aaron Woo conjures up his sophisticated 'mostly vegan, and completely vegetarian' menu featuring only the freshest of Oregon’s produce. Trust me, seats in this intimate of a setting are coveted... so book your reservations now, or there will be little opportunity dining at this wildly popular (but expensive) vegetarian restaurant.

Trifecta Tavern and Bakery
It must be named Trifecta-- 'cuz they nail it right -- one, two  and three-- Where else can you find an appetizer consisting of American ham on  hot rolls covered with drizzled honey alongside raw oysters on the half shell? This mash up blend of bistro, bakery and bar-- is a do not miss anytime you visit Portland. A strong old school cocktail and wine approach complement the wide array of comfort food available in this Eastside gem of a restaurant.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Parks and Recreation-- Anchorage Alaska

Through a unique combination of unspoiled nature and a multitude of family-fun activities-- Anchorage, Alaska offers the backdrop for a perfect summer vacation. You'll find every outdoor activity imaginable and more. But, let's be clear on this-- this is not a place of leisure-- we are talking recreation on steroids. Discover endless acreage of park lands, tree-lined nature trials, and landscaped gardens during your stay to this wildlife mecca.

 Anchorage city limits span nearly fifty miles, that's roughly the size of Delaware.  At every turn, the opportunities for exploration and adventure are never-ending. There are trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding... There's fishing, boating, and camping... However, always remain mindful of wandering moose or the omnipresent brown bear-- to mention a few.

Gateway To Alaska
The most frequently used port of entry and departure for international flights into Alaska, is Anchorage's-- Ted Stevens International Airport. What the airport lacks in style, it makes up for with convenience. It is simple to navigate, not too large and passengers are never far from their gate.

Take public transportation directly out of the terminal to your downtown hotel. Since the airport is located a scant four miles from the city center, at $7.50 the short bus ride is a less expensive alternative than a local taxi ($25.00).
http://www.muni.org/Departments/transit/PeopleMover/Pages/Route7.aspx

Copper Whale Inn
Whether you are traveling through or planning to visit Anchorage for several days, staying at this bed and breakfasts is an outstanding option. Treat yourself to a refreshing night's stay at the Copper Whale Inn situated in the heart of Anchorage and only a stone's throw from the Cook Inlet. The B&B's rustic appeal combined with a fresh costal breeze make this a relaxing retreat that offers the weary traveler peace of mind. Elfin ponds and waterfalls all add to the charm of the properties multi-colored gardens as well as rejuvenate your spirit. Choose from rooms offering private baths or many other unique amenities.

Re-live a more simple time as you sit on the patio with sipping your morning coffee. At this charming Bed and Breakfast you will able to explore, unwind and take pleasure in popular Anchorage, Alaska. Complimentary continental breakfast is served from 6:45–10 a.m.
www.copperwhale.com

Anchorage Excursions-
For a healthy dose of Alaskan hospitality visit the campy downtown visitor center with the grass-sod roof. They won't steer you wrong. Word has it-- if you are lucky, and stop in at the right time-- you may even catch a glimpse of the man, the myth--the living legend, Jack Booney.
www.anchorage.net

Portage wildlife and glaciers
Sometimes-- seeing a small glacier up close and personal is more advantageous than seeing a large glacier from a great distance. All aboard the m/v Ptarmigan for one hour roundtrip cruise with fantastic views of the face of Portage Glacier. This pleasant scenic boat ride on the Portage Lake includes narration from the National Forest Service.
 
After you return stop and shop for valuable keepsake and children's mementos at the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center. The gangway to the vessel is wheelchair accessible and safe for children of all ages.
www.portageglaciercruises.com

Bike Anchorage Multi-Use Trails
For an inexpensive and adventuresome afternoon-- venture out on bike ride along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.  This trail is perfect for hiking, mountain biking, even horseback riding.  Bike rental kiosks line the city streets and it's quite easy to navigate the ten mile trail which follows the coast of Anchorage or one of the hundred and forty miles of paved trails the city has to offer. All of which are shared-use paths-- so if you have a hankering to huff them on feet or inline skates-- suit up to your hearts healthy desire.

Save Endangered Species
At the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, you will find yourself mastering the art of wildlife photography. Creating powerful wildlife images is a breeze in the stress-free confines of this hundred-acre nature preserve. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center also rescues and rehabilitates native wild animals that are orphaned or have been injured.

Located at the entrance of the Portage Valley...  so needless to say, a visit here is in close proximity as well as an outstanding accompaniment with your glacial cruise outing. To bring out the next generation of conservationist in your child, simply pay the cost of admission: $12.50 for Adults and $9.00 Children & Seniors.
www.AlaskaWildlife.org

Dining:
Snow City Café
Popular is an understatement... the locals are jawing about this downtown brunch spot before the airplane even lands in Anchorage. With menu items like Stuffed French Toast & Ship Creek Benedict-- poached eggs, over smoked salmon cakes... you  know this hotspot is not to be missed. Best of all the restaurant is right around the corner from the Copper Whale Inn... so just forgo their pedestrian breakfast of cereal and bananas and dine here every morning of your stay.
www.snowcitycafe.com

Glacier BrewHouse
The name says it all... handcrafted brews and fresh Alaskan seafood. The Glacier BrewHouse has acquired a strong reputation for quality menu offerings and a great value. You can't go wrong stopping in for a night of fine dining and revelry with family and friends here.  In a city known for its fresh seafood, the BrewHouse tops the list of upscale restaurants. From moist and tender Halibut fillet to Salmon, you'll will find every imaginable Alaskan fish entrees at this eatery.
www.glacierbrewhouse.com

The Kobuk
This coffee and gift shop serves-- amazingly good-- homemade donuts. The donuts have a slightly crispy exterior while the cinnamon-sugar frosting keeps them light, and moist on the inside. Located in the historic Kimball's Store, dating back to 1915. Find your way to this little known gem, it's worth the effort.
http://www.kobukcoffee.com/

The Bake Shop
In the mountain town of Girdwood, lunch at the Bake Shop, Girdwood. a home-style restaurant that offers healthy dishes and made from scratch, too. They offering specialty cakes and homemade desserts, some even with healthy ingredients. The Bake Shop is renowned for it Famous Sweet Roll-- melt in your mouth and one will feed a family of four.
www.thebakeshop.com 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

the French Riviera-- old world opulence

With a litany of posh resorts and perennial sunshine the French Riviera provides the ideal backdrop for an idyllic European retreat. Everyone from adoring couples and families will appreciate the sheer raw beauty of the southern coast of France. Dramatic coastal cliffs meet the calm Mediterranean Sea... The setting is absolutely gorgeous, quiet and peaceful.

The Cote d'Azur's high-style, unashamed splendor and luxurious resorts-- will impress the most discriminating of tastes. When vacationing in French Riviera, Nice is a comparably inexpensive option as opposed to star-struck Cannes or lavish St.-Tropez. Nice, the country's fifth most populated city is replete with a wide assortment of shopping, perennial sunshine and superb dining.
Getting There:

Most visitors to the South of France will fly into Nice Cote d’Azur Airport, services flights from all over Europe including the UK's Heathrow and Gatwick International airports. Rapide Cote d’Azur provides safe and reliable bus service from the Airport throughout the coast.

Staying There:

A conveniently located boutique hotel, The Splendid- Nice is few blocks from the Promenade and train station. Although a bit dated, the airy rooms remain well maintained, large and comfortable. Their roof top restaurant serves a hearty continental breakfast and provides a picturesque view of the city. The rates are reasonable and offer a good bang for your buck.

http://www.splendidhotelnice.com/homepage.html

Monaco:
No trip to the French Riviera is complete without a day trip to the small principality of Monaco. Monte Carlo is a city known for fast cars, opulence and their world famous Grand Casino. The twenty-two minute scenic train ride from Nice only costs a scant $5.00 USD. It’s best if you hail a cab for exploring the steep and congested streets of Monte Carlo. If you decide to huff it on foot to the Prince’s Palace-- good luck, and allow plenty of time for breathers. Tourists flock to the city's old quarter for a quick bite to eat and another notable attraction, The Oceanographic Museum of Monaco.

www.oceano.mc/en

Kultours - Day Tours:

For a backstage pass to the French Riviera, reserve your private guide with Kultours - Day Tours. Open the doors for you to experience the beautiful countryside and shoreline as you enjoy a custom tour of coastal France. Kultours combines  all the essential ingredients of a best tour operator... experience, trustworthiness and fun. A luxuriously appointed van complete with beverages and snacks ushers you through the beautiful countryside and coastlines. Another viable option is to have their private shuttle meet you at the airport and spend the day touring breathtaking new sites. The roadside picnic adds charm and creates a memory that will last a lifetime.
http://www.kultours.fr/pruk.html

Theatre de la Photographie et de l'Image:

When it comes to the nature of art, beauty, and sophistication nothing beats the creation of pure photography. Theatre de la Photographie et de l'Image is one of France's largest and most respected photography galleries.
 
This dedicated space for fine art photography houses a mind-bending collection of vintage and modern photographs. The viewer walk away take away images of beauty in this form of art and be left speechless contemplating the thought provoking works behind the photos they've just seen.


Shopping and Fashion:

One of the best shopping districts in picturesque Vieux Nice is Cours Saleya. This is the epicenter of unique fashion emporiums and designer brand boutiques. Visitors will stumble upon great dining opportunities and shoe tapping street performers as they ferret out that one of a kind art or antique selection at the local Flea Market. All in a friendly old world setting complete with no major parking hassles -
Eat All the Time

Let's be honest, you don't go on vacation to diet-- however, a Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest ways to eat. At the cornerstone of this healthy fare is Extra Virgin Olive Oil, featuring hints of pepper and ground cardamom.
One of the best places in the world to immerse yourself in fabulous recipes featuring this essential ingredient is at the Oliviera Restaurant. For gluten-free goodness-- order the fresh the Chicken with Vinegar Roasted Peppers another standout is their Mediterranean Olive Bread. Located in Old Town-- Vieux Nice
No Need For Lethargy:
We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so you may as well blow it out... At the Boulangerie Multari Bakery nothing will lift the enliven your senses better than the smell of fresh baked buttery croissants first thing in the morning. Besides breakfast they offer ready-made salads, sandwiches and bite-sized desserts for the taking... Seating is scare and extremely limited in the tiny bakery so grab your morning coffee to go and get your motor running.  Boulangerie Multari  has several bakeries peppered throughout the Cote d'Azur so odds are you won't have trouble finding one.
Le Sentier du Littoral, Cap d'Antibes:
One of best ways for you to get a treasured feel for this Mediterranean region is by your feet. Grab a cold beverage and experience firsthand the thrills of walking through rich vegetation on this legendary walking area. The perfect complement to your vacation and behold nature at its most dramatic. Along the scenic walking route you will take in many species of sea birds and sparkling ocean views of the South of France. Allow one to two hours possibly longer...

Friday, February 13, 2015

Roll Out the Red Carpet-- Playa del Carmen

It's all part of the travel experience. Boarding the plane... Passengers squeezing between tight aisles-- Luggage straps snagging on armrests-- Cramming the duffle bag into the overhead bin. A flight attendant's reassuring smile. The smell of the airplane's lavatory permeating the already stale cabin air. On the airplane's monitors-- waves crash on some random exotic beach... and that portends something good.

Getting pushed back from the gate, in a matter of hours you will arrive at your sought after breezy and balmy destination. Judging from the packed 767 flight, everyone must be well aware of the intrinsic beauty and hospitality of the Mayan Riviera. Upon approach to the Cancun Airport the Caribbean Sea grows shallow and the water becomes more turquoise. 

Each of us like to relax in their own way and at our own pace... Well on a Playa del Carmen getaway you can do just that... Whether you like to get toasty on the beach, take a little longer at the food bar or linger a little longer at the Cantina--  Regardless, the Mayan Riviera offers each of us something on our pathway to rest, relaxation and recreational nirvana.
But be advised, between the ancient Ruins, Cenotes, and tantalizing beautiful underwater sea life...  a long weekend's stay will only scratch the surface of what this tropical jewel has to offer.
Getting There
Since you will find yourself returning again and again, you may as well familiarize yourself with making quick work of the Cancun International Airport. After what seems to be a relatively short domestic flight will land you in the tropical climate of the Mayan Riviera. This is the second-largest airport in Mexico and serves more than 10 million passengers per year. The airport is located 31 miles from Playa del Carmen.
On your way out of the airport, many tour and  timeshare sales people descend on you and for some inexplicable reason, you feel obligated to talk with them-- well you don't. Proceed directly to the airport exit doors where you will find the awaiting shuttle operators either holding a sign with your family's name or their clearly marked logo.
Transportation rates are to Playa del Carmen are an affordable $31US per person. If your flight is delayed or cancelled, simply contact the transportation vendor-- either by email or phone-- to update them with your new flight arrangements. Tipping the driver is recommended but at your discretion.
Playacar--
For the ideal romantic retreat in Playa Del Carmen do not hesitate to book your  accommodations at the luxurious beachfront Royal Hideaway. Pampering and graciousness are par for the course at this adults only resort. This is where you can be seen -- but other guests are not heard. This place is as intimate as it is stately. There is a reason they have so many repeat clients-- considering the high level of style and sumptuous comforts.
Nestled in a gated and secure community, the sixteen year old Royal Hideaway Playacar was the community's first all-inclusive resort. You can't go wrong considering the temperate ocean breeze, attentive service and air conditioned rooms-- so good your sunglasses fog with condensation upon leaving the suite. You could easily spend a month at this property, which would unfortunately feel like a week. Or a week, which would feel like a few days.
There's an overly attentive concierge for each bungalow-- to meet whatever vacation whim or protocol you might have-- six gourmet restaurants, and nightly entertainment on an impressive scale.
The Royal Hideaway's Chef's Table-
You've seen all the top cooking shows... You've waited for this day since you've booked your vacation.... You probably had trouble sleeping the night before due to the sheer anticipation of treating your taste buds to the experience of a lifetime. Finally, now is the one of a kind opportunity to be welcomed into the inner sanctum of an International Master's operating room.
The dining experience includes an exquisite multi-course private dinner hosted by one of Mexico's most esteemed culinary wizards, Executive Chef Eugenio Villafaña. He is world renowned for his inspirational blending of up-to-the-minute and traditional cuisine... Without question, you'll find this to be a treasure of your vacation.
However, doesn't come without a cost-- $250 extra per person.
Get your Hibachi on...
A Japanese steak house at a Mexican all inclusive resort-- yes, you guessed it! At another one of the Royal Hideaway's six gourmet restaurants, guests will delight as a Teppanyaki chef prepares succulent steak, chicken, and seafood dishes. In accordance to the ancient Hibachi style of food preparation and all the qualities of a perfect dining experience. Enjoy the finest in steak and seafood skillfully prepared and presented with great flair by a over a table top grill.
You won't pay extra for this foodie delight-- but there are only two serving times nightly so to make your reservations as early as possible-- Check in is as good of time as any.
Go Holistic or Go Home--
For stress release, and pain management, awaken your inner healing at the Royal Hideaway's Luxury Spa. Drawing on techniques from many traditions, a holistic treatment aids your body in mending itself and increases your well-being. As for that matter-- why opt on a fifty minute massage, when you can have eighty... it's not as though you have anything else going on.
No need to scuba to go deep-- your massage therapists soft hands will guide you into the far reaches of the cosmos--  mysteries of the universe will soon be revealed. Walk away feeling brain dead, yet on the pathway to personal enlightenment.
Xcaret- México Espectacular
As evening unfolds, relaxation will set in at one of Playa del Carmen's wildly popular dinner shows. Combining stage combat, special effects and aerial theatrics the México Espectacular is one of the top rated attractions to take your family on a Mayan Riviera vacation. This dinner theatre extravaganza will help you feel connected to the Mayan culture in a way that you never knew was possible.
Gain a deeper appreciation of the Mexican heritage through music, song and dance as well as taking in a delicious entree. That's what happens when dinner and theater collide at the Xcaret Eco-archeological Park.
If you get there early-- don't miss the Equestrian Show and lariat spinning exhibition. The México Espectacular Dinner show runs at least two hours long and approximately $49US per person.
What happens in Playa...
With all this laid back approach to your vacation, you naturally will want to mix it up a little and kick up your heels. A night at the legendary discothèque Coco Bongo will have you and the throng of other tourists basking in glow of neon strobes & hopping to deep bass rhythms.
Tecate and tequila will assuredly be flowing, but the prices are reasonable to enjoy an evening of mischief-- complete with all the best clubbing songs. But the most booty shaking will be on the dance floor's top tier... That's right, this venue seemingly recreates a Mayan Temple where everyone feels connected the stage show.
Well. it's getting near dawn and your trip is drawing to an end-- no troubles, simply means it is time to book your next trip to the Mayan Riviera.

Friday, January 16, 2015

beauty happens-- Yosemite National Park

You have heard the tales of Mist Trail and Bridalveil Falls. You have seen the iconic images of El Capitan and the Half Dome. Even the famous Tunnel View is on the California state quarter. Sometimes in life we need a source of power that will double the output of our current energy. If that's the case then Yosemite National Park is the place to recharge, rewire and replenish ourselves.
 
This is a magical place where children's smiles beam and there are sparkles in the eyes of every adult. Utter beauty and diverse landscape greet you at every turn. The natural vistas are soothing and invigorating. This is a wondrous place of nature that should be on everyone's list of Lifetime Places to Visit... you cannot help but fall in love with the gorgeous scenery and spiritual rejuvenating power.
But plan ahead, make provisions and use forward-thinking... As in-- make your reservations now. Most all of the National Park is-- No Occupancy-- during the peak Yosemite summertime.
Getting Around--
If you choose to lease an automobile out of San Francisco-- be sure to secure Tire Chains at the car rental agency. The window for NO snowfall in Yosemite National Park is short-- realistically June through August. There are public transit options that run between Bay Area airports and the small Yosemite town of Merced. Amtrak train service is also available to the scenic Valley.
Once you arrive, hop on the free Half Loop Valley Shuttle that runs throughout the year. The Valley Floor Loop starts at the Lower Yosemite Falls Trailhead, shuttle stop #6. Hiking the 6.5 mile loop takes approximately 3 hours.
The Hefty Price Tag
Crusaders of the national parks Teddy Roosevelt and naturalist John Muir would cringe at the cost of booking a four night Yosemite vacation nowadays. Lodging inside the Valley can run to an astronomically high rate of $955 per night. For a more affordable hotel alternative stay just outside the National Park. Located a scant five minutes from Yosemite entrance is the well-appointed
Cedar Lodge Hotel
This lodge appears to have seen it's better day but no worries... With fresh linens and clean rooms you can still find time to immerse yourself in the local landscape. A short walk across the property's road yields a romantic gazebo-- nestled up alongside the swift moving Merced River.
They proudly feature an indoor as well as outdoor swimming pool. But bring along some groceries-- there is one on-site restaurant, but no really exciting dining opportunities for miles. They even have a YARTS (Yosemite Regional Transportation System) Bus Stop located outside the rustic Cedar Lodge.
No Missteps:
With descriptions of Yosemite like 'the glorious place,' or 'breathtaking,' you knew there was going to be a catch. And there is-- this place is as dangerous as it is beautiful. At Yosemite, one misstep doesn't come without a price-- Watch out for mice-- or hantavirus. Hikers hit by lightning atop the famed Half Dome. Drowned bodies plucked from the Merced River. A large tree or boulder falling... Getting swept off a 317 foot waterfall...

Even on a short hike to the mighty Sequoias one can hear the warning growl of the mountain lion. They even have a website dedicated to the people that have lost their life at this legendary National Park.
Aren't Enough Hours in the Day--
Self-Bailing Rafts
Shredding tight channels and whisking past incredible scenery is more than just speed and fun. Zephyr Whitewater Expeditions sets the standard of performance on the Merced River. Whitewater paddling adventures through twisting torrents with friends and family will never be forgotten. These long lasting memories of  the fast-moving and a powerful streams will live on.... If you're looking for a whitewater raft expedition to sneak away to, this is the group to trust.
The length of the Yosemite rafting season changes from year to year and depending on river depths, water temperature and atmosphere weather conditions.
Hike, Hike, and More Hiking
Yosemite Guide Service
Why follow the masses along the Yosemite Valley loop when you can strike out on your own-- with a personalized guide, of course. Backpacking and  Day Hikes can be an extremely humbling and rewarding experience. They build affordably priced trips around you or your family interests.
By pacing the difficulty level to abilities of your group this is your opportunity to trek the daunting Sierra Nevada Mountains. Commune with Nature and don't miss this one of a kind this private hiking tour to feel you are one with the elements. Yosemite Guide Service offers an optimal guide to client ratio and specializes in backpacking.

Crushing Takedowns
This is where fantasies of crushing takedowns, taunt fly lines and strong runs-- meet reality. When it comes to angling on the river, Jimmie Morales offers the sport fishing exploit of a lifetime. Few experiences rival the adventure and thrill of fly fishing. After spending an afternoon with Sierra Fly Fisher Tours you'll be able to spin a few yarns-- recalling the aerial acrobatics and how you reeled in the big feisty one. No need to feel left out-- fly fishing classes and trips are customized for anglers of all skill levels.        
Nature Photography

Get the most out of your camera at the Phil Hawkins Workshop. Participants will to take their wildlife and nature photography to the next level. The two full days course will set you back $450 US...  But a bargain considering a signed poster reprint of a professional costs easily that much.
Have a good time capturing quality imagery and getting the most zing from your Digital camera. What's best still... no more than six participants per instructor. Landscape & Night Photography Classes, Workshops and Photo Tours in an inspirational setting-- you can't ask for more..

Sunday, December 21, 2014

blaze a trail-- Roatan, Honduras

There's nothing like carving your own path-- forging ahead and leaving the masses behind. Discovering unchartered territory is what a true vacation is  all about... Yes, finding that unspoiled and attractive plot of land you can stick a flag in (or plunk a beach towel on) and call it-- your own. Well that's what a Roatan, Honduras vacation will have you feeling like... the bold, intrepid explorer.

At every turn in Roatan-- you’ll be immersed with deep green views of Honduran hillside as well as rich hues of blue bouncing off the sea. The world’s second largest coral reef lies just offshore, making this Bay Island a popular destination among those in the diving community. However, Roatan is uncongested and not overflowing with the familiar tourist crowd that often taint other commercial Caribbean Islands… Roatan, Honduras is an excellent option not only for its exquisite beauty but for a truly inexpensive vacation.

Ground Transportation

On a cab ride from the Roatan International Airport to the West End of the island expect to pay $25.00 US. However, like everything else in the Caribbean-- the taxi fare is negotiable... So a little lighthearted haggling with your driver will ensure the best rate. Also, you can usually find lower prices outside the airport gates.

The island's most reliable shuttle service-- Detour Roatan-- guarantees curbside “pick up or drop off” service to the airport at all hours of the day.

 Bus fares connecting the island are relatively inexpensive... but the vans are unreliable, jammed-full and often not air-conditioned. The public transportation run along the major roads, generally on the half hour.


 A Bungalow with a View:

Located a short distance from the popular West Bay Beach is one of the island's most quaint and charming hotels on the Honduran coastline... You can't help but revel in the tranquil setting and panoramic views at the Las Rocas Resort And Dive Center.

The charm of their nautically decorated, large one bedroom Bungalows will not go unnoticed. Each room is outfitted with the customary amenities-- wireless internet, air-conditioning, and mini-bars.

Needless to say the island's best diving, snorkeling as well as paddle-boarding are conveniently located right offshore. For additional communing with nature--there are many paths nearby for exploring and reflective walks... even a dock for swimming. A complimentary full breakfast is served each morning and leave the bulky hair dryer at home-- they have you covered....


Dining Out:

On the Island's renowned, West End there are wonderful dining options to satisfy everyone's palate as well as-- budget. However, the Roatan Oasis Restaurant should top your list when it comes to dining out on this Honduran Island. The restaurant is nestled into the countryside overlooking the scenic jungle. Their succulent Wasabi Flank Steak and farm to table fresh Chicken Caesar Salad come highly recommended. A standout entree has to be the tender Chipotle Glazed Baby Back Ribs... cooked to perfection and falling off the bone. The owner, hailing from Scotland, is extremely personable and the service staff goes out of their way to see that your entire evening has been a magical dining experience.


Enjoy Roatan:

South Shore Canopy Zip Line:

Experience the restorative power of the Island as you careen down a zip line at break neck speed. You will fly like Superman over the jungle canopy on the ultimate Roatan thrill-venture. South Shore Canopy Zip Line offers several aerial and zip line tours with something for everyone and all without breaking your budget. Gear up, toss on the safety harness and bring home some incredible family memories.


Arch's Iguana and Marine Park:

Visitors and children of all ages will delight in taking a closer look at this amazing reptile.

The program aims to create awareness of how vital these colorful creatures are to the ecological balance of the Honduran habitat. The entire family will find this tour captivating as you get up close and personal with many young iguanas. But, be sure to have a keen eye as most of the resident iguanas are blending-in with the trees. Admission is $8 to this campy Iguana farm in French Harbour.


Cooking Classes with Chef Paul:

Love to Cook?  Love to cook? Want to do something unique during your Island stay? Then by all means drop in the Ooloonthoo Restaurant for a fun cooking class. Chef Paul focuses on assimilating healthy foods with mindful preparation to enhance the flavor and tasting experience. He has been entertaining the masses and teaching the art of Indian cooking to home chefs for years.

On The Water's Edge:

You've always dreamed of a guided horseback ride on the sandy-white beach, right? Who hasn't... but thanks to all the swimming, kayaking-- and other relaxing activities you do on vacation-- an unforgettable horseback tour always seems to be pushed to the back burner.

Well not in Roatan, Honduras-- you will get to ride in the remote portion of the Island that few ever experience thanks to the professional handlers at Rancho Barrio Dorcas Horse Riding. All dates and times are scheduled to coincide with lowest tide possible to ensure that you have the widest stretch of coast.

Don't put it off any longer-- they do two rides at the beach almost every day.