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 entrĂ©es -- 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 Diner-- 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.

Dreaming in Rome

In Rome-- love, romance, and history are all wonderfully interwoven into a tapestry that will create for a unforgettable vacation. From tossing a coin into the mystical Trevi Fountain or ascending the steep slope of Spanish Steps-  countless reminders of the ancient Roman civilization greet you at every turn.

History serves as the backdrop to a city buzzing with energy, modern-day sophistication and the commerce of Rome's city center. By embracing their legacy, the denizens of Rome have dutifully preserved the city's authenticity and unique historical feel-- and in the process, fashioned the ultimate travel destination.

Recharge the soul on the trip of a lifetime to this first-class city nestled in the heart of Italy.
Deals Abound...
With the recent merger of the two power players in the airline industry-- US Airways and American Airlines-- and contrary to popular belief, air fare deals abound. From last minute deals-- to blockbuster competitor pricing-- make no mistake about it-- airlines need to fill seats. Regardless of how you choose to arrive at your European destination, getting to Rome has never been easier.
From Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport Guide (FCO)-- you have a myriad of transportation options that will get you safely to the City Center--
The Metro Rail runs service every thirty minutes and costs a scant fourteen Euro. The COTRAL Public Buses take a seemingly forever-- hour long trip to get to the downtown area, but only run five Euro per person. Count on Taxi Service deducting fifty euro from your travel budget, for the twenty five minute journey to your hotel.
When in Rome...
With over 2977 properties available in Rome you won't be at a loss to find a room for a night or two... However, just a 10-minute walk from the Roma Termini Station is the centrally located Rome Life Hotel. For an  affordable and a satisfying vacation in Rome, be sure to book your accommodations at this property-- only half a mile jaunt from the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and other major sightseeing  opportunities.
The stylish rooms are streamline, and feature all the essential  modern day amenities-- including a private bathroom. With a roof-top terrace providing stunning views of your Italian surroundings, free internet, and air-conditioned rooms you can't go wrong staying at the Rome Life Hotel.

The Rome Life Hotel caters your health-conscious side with hypoallergenic mattresses, and a complimentary breakfast-- featuring organic dairy and gluten-free options. For that added European Touch each room is outfitted with a tea pot and an assortment of herbal teas. Also my favorite an In-room Safe.

The Vatican City
No visit to Rome would be complete without an afternoon visit to the official residence of the Pope-- The Vatican City. Once inside St. Peter's Basilica, you will be instantly awe-struck by the unparalleled artwork of the Renaissance masters. One can spend hours marveling evocative paintings, inspirational cathedral domes and of course the emotive sculpture, 'The Pieta--'
Keep in mind- when visiting the Vatican, lines into the Sistine Chapel-- for instance, can be grueling and long... Your best option is to book a tour, this will fast track you through the awaiting throngs of masses hoping to catch a glimpse of Michelangelo's fresco, The Creation of Adam. Bite the bullet on this one-- the tour operators quite possibly will pick your party up at the hotel or another convenient location--
Also, don't miss the photo opportunity of a lifetime by snapping off a few shutters of colorful and timeless Swiss Guardsman--
Shopping
From fine leather products to the sophistication of Dior--the fashion in Rome is at its best.  The look here is ultra chic--dark shades, the finest leather shoes & bags, and of course the trendiest coats--it's a look that sets the pace for the rest of the world to follow.
Whether you are looking for haute couture, old world collectibles, or unique home furnishings-- have confidence that in Rome you can find what you are looking for... and even take in wonderful historical statues and fountains as you meander through the downtown cobblestone streets. In Rome there a numerous districts that create for a shopaholic's paradise.
One of the main centers for shopping in Rome is The Via Del Governo Vecchio where you will discover untold  fashion bargains, including jewelry. Cluttered with traditional, chic boutiques, these shops stay open late and host an antiques fair. Not to mention there are many art galleries and antique shops nearby.
In the historic district, another major marketplace for antiques is the Via del Babuino. This well known street is home to many designer clothing outlets the highly regarded store, 'Alberto di Castro--' a great place to purchase some stunning lithographs.
Fine Dining
Located in one of the most beautiful streets of the historic center of Rome is the restaurant, Life. Lending a brilliant sense of intimacy to your a romantic atmosphere, the restaurant has three quaint dining areas-- as well as an outdoor terrace which is open all year for lunch or dinner.
Exceptional hospitality and service is complemented by the Ristorante Life's casual and fun atmosphere. Innovative gourmet Italian cuisine and splendid ambiance transform your Roman dining experience into a night to remember.
Their masterful chefs prepare their culinary delights using only the freshest seasonal ingredients. and homemade bread, pastas. Even the fish are freshly caught in the Tyrrhenian Sea and chosen with care at a daily auction and  the meats are hand selected from one of Rome's the best butchers.
A notable stand out is the tenderloin filet with black truffles from Norcia, Italy. 

Follow the Sun-- Ochos Rios, Jamaica

There's a popular Beatles song, whose lyric goes-- 'I'll follow the sun...'  Well you deserve the same pleasure by experiencing firsthand, 'the beauty of the tropics' in Ocho Rios... Jamaica's lush Garden Parish.

As the days get shorter and we spend seemingly longer hours under the artificial lighting of the workplace... It's time to reconnect with our families-- It's time to spend some quality time basking in surf and golden rays of the sun. Now is the season to treat your loved ones to a timeless getaway-- where you can revel in the fruits of your labor.
Doll it Up
The spacious suites are clean and well-appointed... Your entire family will feel comfortable and have plenty of breathing space. Leave your suite with peace of mind at this stylish resort that has trusted maid service and in-room safes for securing your valuables. At Beaches-Ocho Rios, you will find an all-inclusive retreat that offers unfettered access to a private beach... The only thing you will regret about booking your stay at Beaches Ocho Rios, is when you hand in the room key and are checking out.
When the kids are happy...
The kids will delight in any number of activities that include three sparkling swimming pools, a thrilling water park... even an X-Box Room and Craft Center. Your children look up to you with adoration and respect like you are 'the parent with the most...' Walk the property like you're the CEO, like you own the place... At Beaches- Ocho Rios, everyone is treated like an extended family and the smiling staff will go out of their way to ensure you stay in style.
Free Championship Golf... Wait What?
That's right, provided you bring your own Clubs and Shoes-- golfing is all complimentary-- Gratis Green Fees and Transportation to the Championship Course-- Although there is an added-in and well deserved caddie gratuity, considering they do chase after your Top-Flite golf balls all over the Jamaican countryside.
If you are lucky enough you might even run across Wesley Brown where you can pick up a few pointers from the up and coming Jamaican Tour Pro-
At Beaches-- It's not just the Hobie Cat, paddle board and windsurfing that are all included-- Guess what?? At your Beaches-Ocho Rios-- there is no additional charge The Banana Boat Rides, Snorkeling Adventures and Glass Bottom Boat Trips... Saving you hundreds of dollars in the process.
Non Motorized Water Sports
At Beaches-- It's not just the Hobie Cat, paddle board and windsurfing that are all included-- Guess what?? At your Beaches-Ocho Rios-- there is no additional charge The Banana Boat Rides, Snorkeling Adventures and Glass Bottom Boat Trips... Saving you hundreds of dollars in the process.
Something Different each Night
It is no hidden secret that Ocho Rios has some of the finest dining in all of Jamaica... but why venture out for a perilous drive into town when you have everything you could want to experience right at your fingertips at the resort. Beaches- - Ocho Rios operates a collection of six unique restaurants serving up the true flavor of the Caribbean. Feel free to do something different each night. One notable restaurant is The Venetian, that serves up classic pasta dishes to Italian fine dining all in a resort casual atmosphere. All restaurants even feature a gluten free bread, a plethora of vegetarian options, and of course a full kids menu.
Dunn River Falls
Visit one of Jamaica's most picturesque waterfalls literally a few miles from the Beaches Ocho Rios Resort. There's nothing quite like the display and crash of falling water. Wade your way up the Dunn River as the water streams by you and over you. Tweet back your candid photos of family and new friends for images that will last a lifetime.
Set in a breathtaking landscape of remarkable rock formations and dense flora the picturesque waterfall embodies Jamaica's nature garden at its best.
Chukka Horseback-Riding
Saddle up and experience an inner-peace as you gallop along Jamaica's picturesque northern coastline. Ride along miles of sandy beaches on the Papillon Cove as you and your steed wade into the refreshing waters of the Caribbean Sea. You can either hone your riding skills or simply enjoy a leisurely pace as you connect with the beautiful natural surroundings.
The enchanting and revitalizing ride is lead by an experienced guide and certainly should be considered 'a do not miss' island excursion.
Leaving There-- Airport Heads Up
A quick, little known way to cruise through jam-packed immigration lines is to sign up for Club
Mobay. For a small pittance you can gain access to a safe haven where you can relax and prepare for your flight. At Montego Bay's (MBJ) Sangster International Airport crowded departure aisle ways  are a thing of the past.
The fully equipped lounge-- complete with a full service spa, and Wi-Fi-- presents you with a distinctive opportunity to kickback and wind-down before your scheduled departure. However, after your Ocho Rios vacation-- you'll most assuredly already be in low-mode-- so look at Club Mobay as a way to skate through security and customs.