Our First River Cruise: Eastern Europe on the Danube

After writing scores of articles about ocean cruises, we decided to see what motivates vacationers to take European river cruises. We are glad we did.

So much to choose from

There are endless selections of river cruise itineraries on the internet, so we sought the guidance of three prominent river cruise companies in Europe – Amway, Uniworld, and Viking.

Viking River Cruises comes through

Viking River Cruises was most generous with their public relations department and customer service time, so we selected their 11-day Budapest to Bucharest cruise on the Danube.

Casting off

We boarded our Viking longship, the Jarl, in Budapest. We pulled away from the dock just after dark.

If you have seen the Viking commercials featured on shows like Downton Abbey on PBS, you know what the Hungarian Parliament Building looks like by day. The picture above, shows it at night – it is a spectacular sight!

Our itinerary

Our chosen itinerary would take us to five eastern European countries including Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Croatia.

This is the first story from our first river cruise experience.

Romania

Romania is a country steeped in mystery and shadowed folklore. Brahms Stoker never visited the country, but he borrowed from the harsh legend of Romania’s 15th century Prince Vlad Tepes of Transylvania to create his eerie and unforgettable character, Dracula.

Another famous (in Romania) real-life character was King Decebal. He was the last king of Dacia, an ancient land located in present day Romania. He is the subject of the historical curiosity in this story.

King Decebal

Decebal was a strong and popular leader who dared defy Rome and Emperor Trajan’s conquering legions. 

The thundering silence of Decebalus Rex

Decebal is immortalized in an enormous stone likeness of his solemn face gazing toward the far (now Serbia) shore of the Danube – the place where the Roman armies camped and prepared to attack – two thousand years ago.

After many years of struggle, the Romans finally crossed the Danube River and decimated the Dacian armies in circa 105 AD.

Surrounded by faceless generals of stone, Decebal’s ghostly visage stands alone to witness the final defeat that took his country, and eventually his life. He is fated to stare into the distance, and relive his humiliation, throughout time.

A giant undertaking

At 140 feet tall, the Decebalus Rex monument is the tallest rock structure in Europe. It is considerably taller than the more famous U.S. Mount Rushmore at 59 feet.

The stone monument appears ancient, but was actually just completed in 2004 after a difficult decade of site preparation and carving. The project was funded by a private Romanian citizen, Giuseppe Constantin Drăgan.

The Tabula Traiana

Just across the river on the Serbian side lies the Trajan Table. It is an ancient carved memorial at the Danube’s edge commissioned by the great Emperor Trajan to commemorate his victories over the Dacians in the first century.

Trajan considered the ending of the Dacian Wars to be one of his greatest triumphs; so important that Trajan had another monument constructed to commemorate the event – the famous Trajan’s Column in Rome.

Pressing forward

Our Viking river boat glides silently under the brooding face of Decebal and past the ancient Trajan Table, and on through the Kazan Gorge, one of the four narrow gorges that make up the legendary Iron Gate of the Danube. This is the most scenic part of a Danube river cruise.

Our next stop will be Bulgaria.

About our river cruise ship

The Jarl is one of the 60+ longships in the Viking river fleet. She’s a sleek 443 foot vessel with 95 comfortable water-view staterooms.

She has a crew of 50 and moves effortlessly and quietly through the water with a modern diesel/electric hybrid powerhouse.

Most of the Jarl’s staff is multi-lingual, and all are well trained in the nuances of excellent customer service.

On our cruise, the food was good and ample. The chef featured cuisine from the countries we visited. If you have a palate for paprika, you will be delighted.

River ship’s hierarchy

Aboard a river cruise ship, the Captain is responsible for the operation of the vessel and the safety of the passengers. Everything else is the responsibility of the Hotel Manager.

During our 11-day cruise, we changed our Captain once. Our Hotel Manager, the genial Franz Wusits, was with us the entire trip and kept the ship’s staff on their toes – everything ran smoothly.

We interviewed Franz in our Explorer Suite located at the back of the ship.

The suites aboard the Jarl are large, and well appointed without being trendy.

Franz’s “river stories,” will provide smiles in future articles about our Viking River Cruise. Stay tuned.

More to come

We will also write about several of our excellent bus excursions on the Danube trip, which by the way, are all included in the price of the cruise. A nice bonus to river cruising.

If you go

Viking River Cruises has an itinerary to please every taste. Check out their website at www.vikingrivercruises.com.

Viking made the arrangements for our flights to Budapest and back to the US from Bucharest. We appreciate the effort.

This will not be our last river cruise, and we highly recommend the experience.

As always, if you have questions, write us at the2writers@gmail.com

Happy travels!

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© 2017 Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © 2017 Judy Bayliff

A Romantic Walled City Just for You

03-100_1874

Established in the 7th century A.D., the ancient and scenic port city of Dubrovnik lies in the southernmost part of the Republic of Croatia, – almost directly across the Adriatic Sea from the “spur” in the boot of Italy. It is a beautiful city of colorful red-topped tile roofs and cobblestone streets, all of which looks very much like it did centuries ago.

The Pearl of the Adriatic

09-100_1886

Among the city’s many admirers was Lord Byron who called Dubrovnik, “the Pearl of the Adriatic.” A century later the famous playwright, George Bernard Shaw proclaimed, “If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik.” If you visit Dubrovnik, you will see that it is indeed worthy of high praise.

19-100_1906

To spend time in Dubrovnik is to feel the drama of a city tossed through time and finally settled in recent history as a place of peace and beauty.

Early Dubrovnik

24-100_1946

The years have put many unique stamps on Dubrovnik. The city may very well be the world’s first planned community. As early as 1272, there was a town diagram, and in the following two centuries, the avant-garde citizenry opened a pharmacy (still in operation), a home for the aged, a quarantine hospital, and an orphanage.

Libertas

Most extraordinarily, 74 years before Columbus discovered America, the aristocracy in Dubrovnik abolished slavery and slave trading. In honor of the visionary proclamation, they adopted a new flag that was seen throughout the trading routes of the world. Dubrovnik’s mighty fleet of merchant ships sailed under a white flag inscribed with the word Libertas (Latin for “freedom”)

The wall

12-100_1893

Dubrovnik is renowned throughout the world as the “ancient walled city.” The wall that surrounds the city was originally constructed in 900 A.D. – and was further fortified in the 15th century. The wall, which is a popular walking attraction from which all aspects of city life can be viewed, is 1.3 miles long, 10 feet thick along the sea, and 20 feet thick elsewhere. There are substantial fortifications on all four corners.

22-100_1935

A cruise-tour group rests at the ancient water cistern

Although some of the fanciful architecture dates back to the 7th century, most of the public buildings were rebuilt after a great earthquake killed 5000 residents, and leveled many dwellings in 1667.

A couple from Florida enjoying the ocean breeze on the wall

Florida cruisers enjoying the pleasant Adriatic breeze on the Dubrovnic wall

Old wars

In the succeeding centuries, Dubrovnik suffered bombardment by a Russian fleet, and conquests by Napoleon, the Nazis, and Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia. In 1973, the old city declared itself a demilitarized zone in hopes that it would never again be a casualty of war. Unfortunately, fate was not yet ready to bestow peace on Dubrovnik.

Recent conflicts

23-100_1936In 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia, and on October 1, 1991, under a mantle of dispute, Serbians of the Yugoslavian People’s Army laid siege to Dubrovnik. Once again, the ancient city with so many historical treasures was barraged as if it were a common piece of dirt, and the rest of the world stood by and watched. The attacks lasted until May 1992 when the Croatian Army liberated the city.

Most of the damage from the latest conflict has been repaired. The renewed city has taken its rightful place as the jewel of the Adriatic – complete with storybook architecture and picturesque twisted streets and alleys.

Bucket list

11-100_1892

We highly recommend Dubrovnik to photographers and tourists interested in antiquities, history, and architecture. The old city is a superb vacation site with an ideal climate and gracious and hospitable inhabitants – both to be enjoyed in a genuine fairytale setting.

07-100_1884

Click here for more information.

Happy travels!

*************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

A Winter Adventure on the Coast of Oregon

beach-10-17-16

Much of the Oregon coast consists of miles and miles of beautiful sandy beaches, which may be exactly what you are looking for if you seek total relaxation.

However, if you crave excitement, check out the wild 40 miles of rocky shoreline that begins in the north at Waldport, Oregon and zigzags south along curvy Highway 101.

08-img_6109

Here, for your winter touring pleasure, nature provides scenic headlands and lofty volcanic outcroppings that plunge precipitously to the unbounded Pacific several hundred feet below.

22-img_6131

The best of the stretch is known as Cape Perpetua. The views are so exceptional that the rugged expanse has been federally designated a National Scenic Area.

Local history

Captain James Cook discovered and named Cape Perpetua in 1778. The mountainous wooded territory remained virtually unreachable until it became part of the Siuslaw National Forest in 1908.

In 1914, the U.S. Forest Service carved a rough road around the Cape and joined the two small neighboring towns of Yachats and Florence by constructing a wooden bridge across the Yachats River.

21-img_1678-001

By 1930 the old wooden bridge had been replaced by a span made of steel. The road was greatly improved and is now part of historic Highway 101 stretching 1,500 miles from Port Angeles, Washington to Los Angeles, California. The panoramic Central Coast of Oregon is now accessible to all.

Thank you CCC

The Civilian Conservation Corps was created in 1933 to provide jobs to thousands of America’s youth during the Great Depression. The result of the CCC effort in Oregon made Cape Pepetua a unique travel destination with miles of inviting trails.

47-img_1910-001

Imagine being young and strong and working in this pristine domain of breathtaking beauty where you can see for miles along the jagged coastal shoreline. 

Visualize waking to a crackling fire amid a silent coastal fog, and gathering with your fellow workers for that first warming sip of morning coffee.

84-img_6234

The work was hard, but satisfying, and the participants of the CCC experienced life in convivial communal encampments — the remains of which are still visible at Cape Perpetua.

27-img_6145

These were the lucky ones in hard times, and although most of them are now departed, their lasting legacy of trails and shelters are still in use today.

Attractions at the Cape

72-img_6218

There are three major natural attractions within a short walk from the parking lot of the Cape Pepetua Visitors Center. Thor’s Well, Spouting Horn, and Devil’s Churn – the most exciting being Thor’s Well.

In simple terms, Thor’s Well is a collapsed underwater volcanic cave that formed a large round hole on the surface – think very big blow hole. 

25-img_6194

The hole is about 20 feet deep, and during incoming tides and rough seas, the water rushes into the submerged cavern and erupts into a mighty blast of foaming ocean that can easily tumble curious onlookers that venture too close.

74-img_6221

Seconds after the upward explosion, the Well dramatically inhales the ocean that it just hurled-up.

44-img_6166

Be careful, you don’t want to be on the ride back to the sea!

Trails

It’s an intermediate-level hike across the rocky shoreline and up through dense spruce forests to the outlooks.

81-img_6230

Fortunately, the trails adjacent to the Visitor’s Center are paved for easy access by all. There are 11 trails to choose from; a total of 27 miles of hiking adventures and spectacular views.

Sea lion caves

08-sea lions

Approximately five miles south of the Cape Pepetua Visitors Center is another unusual natural attraction – The Seal Lion Caves. This is North America’s largest sea cave, and well worth a visit. You can learn more about what to expect at the caves by viewing our photos and reading our article on the subject here.

Heceta Lighthouse

09-view of heceta

While in the area, plan to visit the historic Heceta Lighthouse. We spent two nights in the lighthouse keeper’s residence — a unique experience indeed. You can read that story here.

If you go

1-yurt

For campers there’s the nearby Washburne State Park Campground where you can pitch a tent, and park a trailer or RV. For under $50, there are also several yurts for rent.

For more creature comforts

10-img_6238

If you prefer something more comfortable than living in the great outdoors, we highly recommend the Three Rivers Casino and Resort  in nearby Florence, Oregon.

07-06-img_6056

This is our favorite casino, and is less than 15 miles from Cape Pepetua.

15-img_2361

The rooms at the Three Rivers Casino are reasonably priced, clean and spacious, and just steps away from an exciting gaming facility.

13-20160427_111258

We are non-smokers, so the separate smoking and non-smoking gaming halls are most welcome.

Outstanding buffet

03-2-p1020004

If you love great food, you cannot beat the World Market Buffet at the Three Rivers. The buffet offers a wide selection of savory entrees, with several made-to-order specialties. We have reviewed many buffets, and we rate this one – tops.

06-05-img_6053

For more information or reservations, click on the Three Rivers Casino website.

08-08-img_6061

A Winter Odyssey

For an awe-inspiring look at the Oregon Coast, check out this excellent video from Uncage the Soul Productions.

We love the Oregon Coast in winter. We think you will too!

Happy travels!

*************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

A Sad Day Always Remembered: December 7, 1941

The USS Arizona Memorial is a national monument honoring those who served in the Pacific Theatre during and after the Japanese naval assault on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The memorial structure is built on and directly over the rusted remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona. This is the final resting place of 1,177 Americans killed when a bomb penetrated the deck above the ship’s munitions magazine during the Japanese air attack on Battleship Row.

The loss of life on the Arizona represents more than half of all the Americans killed on December 7, 1941. It also represents the greatest number of casualties on any American warship in history.

Now a garden setting

If you have not been to the memorial lately, you will be much impressed with the park like setting at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center.

While at the Center, be sure to see the 23-minute film and audio tour that brings that fateful morning at Pearl Harbor to life.

Well done

The exhibits at the Center are designed to pull visitors deftly into that specific moment in history, as they relive the politics and events leading up to the Japanese attack.

The presentations are poignant – be prepared for a holistic experience you will not forget.

A solemn journey

When their background education is refreshed, visitors board a launch operated by the Navy and are ferried across the harbor to the waiting memorial. It is a short and quiet ride.

After pulling alongside the monument, passengers disembark and walk up to the cenotaph resting on the Arizona.

At the far end of the memorial, look for the Wall of Honor with the names of those that gave their lives on the ill-fated Arizona. They are now resting beneath your feet.

Visitors speak in whispers, tears are visible, eyes are cast downward into the entombing water, and minds imagine the confusion and utter chaos of that December morning so long ago. It all seems surreal to the observers who now stand in the gentle Hawaiian breeze – safely atop the remains of the Arizona.

The ultimate sacrifice

One can only wonder what life might have held in store for the one-thousand plus soldiers and sailors below – if they had not been aboard the Arizona on that fateful day. Had they lived, what famous Americans might they have fathered for our generation, what greatness might they have achieved? America moved forward, one-thousand heroes remain at their post.

The tears of the Arizona

Seventy-five years later, oil still seeps from the sunken battleship. It randomly appears on the water’s surface – then like a spirit – it floats slowly away. Observers have named the oil manifestations “the tears of the Arizona.”

Be sure to visit the USS Arizona Memorial

Save a day during your vacation on Oahu and take your family to see the USS Arizona Memorial. For some, it is an awakening and first time realization about the many Americans that have sacrificed everything to keep our nation free.

The USS Missouri

The Arizona Memorial is now symbolically guarded by the ever-vigilant USS Missouri battleship. “Big Mo,” is permanently docked in Pearl – just up-harbor from the Arizona. The Missouri fought in and survived WWII and her deck was the historic site of the official surrender of Japan in 1945. It seems fitting that a battleship that participated in ending the war in the Pacific, should rest near the dreadnought that was the earliest casualty of the conflict.

The great Missouri went on to fight in Korea, and Operation Desert Storm. She was decommissioned in 1992, and took up her post as silent sentinel for the Arizona in 1999.

The USS Missouri has the distinction of being the last active battleship in the world.

If you go

The USS Arizona Memorial is located in Pearl Harbor, which is two miles west of the Honolulu International Airport.

Look *here* for more information about the USS Arizona Memorial, and *here* for the USS Missouri Memorial.

Heroes are still being interred on the USS Arizona. This video explains – http://youtu.be/MgE2KiPd3xg

Happy travels – Remember our troops, not only today, but always.

*******************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Celebrate Veterans Day With A Visit To The Famous Hotel At West Point

Few public inns in the United States can boast the patriotic pedigree of the Thayer Hotel at West Point.

We paid a visit to the award-winning Thayer Hotel during the holiday season, and felt it especially appropriate to write about this unique hotel on Veterans Day, when we honor the members of the military that have gallantly served our country.

General Douglas MacArthur stayed at the Thayer whenever he visited the military academy. Dwight D. Eisenhower did the same – both as a general and as president of the United States. Four other presidents including John F. Kennedy enjoyed visiting the hotel – you will too.

The beautiful Hudson River Valley

It is little more than a one-hour drive along the Hudson River Valley to reach West Point from New York City. At the entrance to the military academy, you are required to stop at a small stone guardhouse. There you advise the sentry of your intentions to visit the hotel, and he or she will direct you to your destination atop a steep driveway to the right.

As you slowly drive up the hill, you are drawn to the many leaded glass windows of the fortification like building. You immediately sense that this is a special place, and it is.

The Thayer Hotel

Completed in 1926, the hotel is situated on a prominent bluff that offers breathtaking views of the Hudson River far below. As you walk the manicured lawn towards the adjacent woods on the riverside of the hotel, you will see many stone outcroppings – an assurance that the hotel, like the academy, is built on very firm ground.

There is a short marble staircase leading from the old wooden front door to the grand reception lobby. Flags decorate the overhead between the first and second floor of the hotel. There is a large fireplace directly across the room from the top of the entry stairs.

The whole picture is that of the interior of a castle or military fortification – yet at the same time, there is an extraordinary warmth about the lobby that is quite inviting.

Guest Room Dedication Program

We were at the Thayer to attend a ceremony where a guestroom is named after a distinguished graduate of West Point. Honorees are selected from academy graduates that have made significant contributions to the United States and the world.

The dedication program is part of a recent multi-million dollar renovation at the hotel. The program is a work in slow and deliberate progress of the hotel’s 151 guestrooms.

Honoring outstanding United States Military Academy graduates

The officer being honored with a dedicated room at the Thayer at the time of our visit was General Roscoe Robinson, Jr., a 1951 academy graduate, and the first four-star African-American general in the history of the U.S. Army.

General Robinson served in both Korea and Vietnam. He was the recipient of many service awards in his 34 years of service to his country. In April 2000, the USMA named a new auditorium in his honor. General Robinson died at the age of 64 in 1993.

We had an opportunity to chat with a few of the cadets that attended the dedication. The experience was refreshing and left us with an appreciation for the caliber of our future military leaders being schooled at West Point. They are bright, dedicated, and most impressively, patriotic.

The room we occupied during our stay was dedicated to Dr. Thoralf M. Sundt, Jr. of the class of 1952. The walls of this guestroom are filled with great period pictures of Dr. Sundt as the cadet that later became a pre-eminent brain surgeon at the Mayo Clinic. Other photos include Dr. Sundt’s family and one of him with President Ronald Reagan who was a patient in 1989. Dr. Sundt was the subject of a segment on “60 Minutes” before his death in 1992. He was just 62 years old.

Great place for conferences and reunions

While we were there, we also had an opportunity to talk with several alumni of the 101st Airborne who were attending a reunion at the hotel. It was an honor to meet these retired soldiers and defenders of our American way of life. Humble to a man, they came to celebrate life, but also to remember fallen comrades.

The Thayer has eight meeting rooms and six boardrooms and has become a favorite location for corporate conferences. What better place to instill team spirit and inspiration!

Duty, Honor, Country

Walking the Thayer’s historic hallways is a lesson in patriotism and heroism. There are pictures and mementos everywhere to remind visitors of the motto of West Point – Duty, Honor, Country.

Dining at the Thayer

The hotel’s MacArthur’s Restaurant is a stately dining room with leaded glass windows that in daytime cast an oneiric light on the walls and the historic photos of soldiers past, and in evening, add to the rich ambiance of the dining experience.

Glowing light from the vintage chandeliers enhances the pleasing sensation of a comfortable setting that is equally fit for a romantic rendezvous or an elegant social gathering.

There is also a cozy bar/restaurant at the Thayer. It is appropriately named “General Patton’s Tavern.”

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point  

We learned some interesting trivia while at the Thayer Hotel:

The military academy at West Point dates back to 1802. Since its inception, West Point has been in the center of U.S. history.

George Washington paraded his troops on these very grounds.

The USMA encompasses 25 square miles – a piece of real estate just a bit smaller than the island of Manhattan.

West Point graduates commanded troops on both sides of 55 of the 60 battles of the U.S. Civil War. Of the remaining five battles of the war, a West Point graduate commanded the troops on one of the sides.

Edgar Allen Poe attended one semester at West Point, and General George Armstrong Custer is buried there.

Two U.S. Presidents graduated from West Point, as did 18 NASA astronauts, 74 Medal of Honor recipients, and 3 Heisman Trophy winners – and scores of great statesmen, diplomats, business leaders, doctors, and engineers.

A hotel for all seasons

Our visit to the Thayer Hotel and West Point was in December, and even in the cold of winter, the terrain is magnificent to behold. We plan to return to West Point so we can savor the woodland setting in the green of summer – and the fall when the cool air creates a kaleidoscope of changing colors. This is a truly beautiful part of the eastern United States.

If you go

When you walk the land at West Point, you walk in the footsteps of many who gave all for their country. If you are an American, you are on hallowed ground.

The Thayer Hotel is a Historic Landmark Hotel. Staying at the Thayer is like living inside history.

Their website is full of information about the hotel and surroundings. Check it out at http://www.thethayerhotel.com

Happy travels!

*************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff. Photo of General Robinson courtesy of U.S. Army

Sitka, Alaska: Apart from the Ordinary

Sit eagles volcano x800

Stepped in history and culture, and surrounded by picturesque forested islands, towering mountains, a distant volcano, and soaring eagles – Sitka is what most tourists imagine when they think of Alaska’s natural wonders.

Founded by Russian explorers in the eighteenth century, Sitka (once called New Archangel) is within easy view of Mt. Edgecombe, an extinct volcano that adds drama to an already rich and colorful landscape.

Sitka before Juneau

The city of 9,000 residents was the capital of Alaska between 1867 when the United States purchased “Seward’s Icebox” from Russia and until 1912 when the territorial seat of government was moved to the current state capital, Juneau. The site where the transfer of ownership of Alaska took place is a brief walk from the cruise-tender dock on Sitka Bay.

Things to do in Sitka

100_3371

A visit to Sitka offers the traveler an opportunity to participate in Russian cultural tours, and outdoor activities that include fishing, hiking, biking, kayaking, and nature walks and other attractions.

Visit the cemetery

IMG_1281

We always try to offer up something a little different in our travel reviews, and our choice for Sitka is the Old Russian cemetery, which dates back to the early 1800s.

100_3348

Noted on tourist maps, but not on any organized tour, the old burial ground is located a short walk from the center of town.

Sit cem x800

The graveyard entrance is not conspicuously marked, and judging by the narrow footpaths, it is not frequented by many visitors.

The cemetery was built on a difficult landscape of densely forested hills – along dark winding paths lined with moss and ferns – not particularly conducive to carrying a casket.

The grounds are not maintained. Most of the century’s old weathered headstones have sunk into the wet peat soil and rest at odd angles to the surrounding terrain – resulting in a macabre geometric mélange of ghostly forms. If you like reading Poe, you will enjoy a visit to this eerie yet enchanting graveyard.

Eagles everywhere

Sit eagles signs x800

The last time we saw a bald eagle was at Big Bear Lake in California, when a fellow tourist spotted one soaring high above the water. The sighting caused quite a stir among the onlookers.

Sit eagles school x800

Contrast that single sighting experience to Sitka where there are bald eagles everywhere – hundreds of them.

Sit eagle soar2 x800

The proud and beautiful American symbol with the white head and huge wingspan is an integral part of life in Sitka.

Sit eagles tree cabin x800

Bald eagles soar overhead – constantly, and look like white Christmas ornaments as they perch in the tall evergreen trees that line the shore.

How to get there

100_3364

Sitka is situated midway up the Inside Passage in the Alexander Archipelago on Baranof Island, and is frequented by most of the cruise ships that sail the Passage.

Sitka is also serviced by the Alaska Marine Highway ferry fleet, and Alaska Airlines.

Sit boat mts x800

If you travel the Inside Passage, be sure that Sitka is on the itinerary. You will not be disappointed.

Happy travels.

**************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Party in a Cave in Florence, Oregon

The famous San Francisco sea lions that occupy prime dock space on Pier 39 first appeared there shortly after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Then in 2009 they mysteriously disappeared for three months. Where did they go? 

?

Oregonians believe that the celebrity sea lions headed north to holiday on the turbulent and exciting shores of the central coast of Oregon. To be exact, they headed for the famous Sea Lion Caves in Florence. 

As evidence, the Oregon locals point to the massive increase in the annual sea lion population soon after the SF lions turned off the lights in their famous City by the Bay. 

Sea lions everywhere 

Sea lion fans rejoice. Currently, nature is providing ample amounts of the odoriferous mammalia to go around.

Along with the flabby fellows comes the infamous sea lion aroma. The gamey bouquet is pervasive on the famous California pier, and is inescapable in the celebrated Oregon cave. Take heart, most people recover rapidly from the first initial shock.

When they are in Oregon 

From about December to August the jolly lions inhabit the largest sea cave in America, which is located just 11 miles north of Florence, and some 200 feet below the roadbed of busy US Highway 101. 

The cave is 25 million years old, tall as a 12-story building, and about a football field in length. It’s big.

30-building

The building entrance to the cave sits on a curve in the road that during the summer months percolates with tots and teens under the watchful gaze of parents – all anxious to view the famous pinnipeds in their natural habitat.

14-walkway

 Once you have paid your admission fee inside the gift shop, it’s a relatively-short and scenic walk down to the elevator pavilion. 

15-elevator

The elevator was installed in 1961, and today it’s fun to watch people cheerfully bunch into the hoist that transports them 208 feet down to the giant sea grotto below.

22-displays

The cave’s resident Steller and Northern Sea Lions are viewed in their natural habitat from behind a metal mesh screen, which can be a challenge for picture taking, but it is doable. 

Now you see them and now you don’t 

08-sea lions

The lions come and go from the Sea Cave on a loose schedule determined by Nature. The choice rock space begins to fill up around December 1st of every year, and the last of the several hundred cave inhabitants usually have somewhere else to go by mid-August. 

10-empty cave

Even when there are just a few – if any – sea lions in the cavern, the Cave is a worthwhile experience. 

?

Over the years, the owners of the Sea Cave have embellished the attraction with ample parking and a great topside gift shop (try the delicious homemade fudge – yummy). 

What you will find down under 

07-displays2

Look for the natural rock room where the public can view an engrossing film about the sea, cave, and the flora and fauna of the area.  It’s interesting to note that there are several species of endangered birds nesting in the cave.

Additionally, there are educational displays, and creative colors and lights that are conducive to the grotto setting.

23-stairs2

From the subterranean sea lion viewing level, walk up the staircase to the observation platform.

11-heceta view

There you will find a dynamic panorama of the sea – an excellent place from which to view the historic Heceta Lighthouse* perched on a cliff just a few miles north of the cave. 

18-walkway judy

The Sea Lion Caves is a fun family activity. We suggest you give it a go.

Where to stay 

06-front of hotel

On this visit we chose to stay in Florence at the Driftwood Shores Resort, the only oceanfront hotel in the area. 

The view astonishes

31-driftwood_shores_room_961

Every room and suite at the Driftwood Shores has a spectacular view.

02-hotel beach

All the rooms overlook miles of pristine beach, and the fresh air, and roar of the crashing waves is a welcome sleep inducer.

32-driftwood_shores_room_102

In addition to the usual hotel conveniences, our generous lodging had a full size kitchen,

05-sunset 3

and a front row seat to breathtaking sunsets from our private balcony. 

Other unique amenities include an indoor aquatic center, and an electric car charging station.

01-hotel parking lot

The resort offers ocean cuddling accommodations from single rooms, to one bedroom suites, and three bedroom condos. It is a comfortable base from which to explore the many attractions and activities offered in this scenic part of the Oregon coast. 

The Driftwood Shores Resort would be a great venue for a wedding, large family, or small corporate gathering. There’s ample gathering space for about 100 people. 

It’s a beachy-keen accommodation that we think you will like.

Where to eat

33-Restaurant_1

The Surfside Restaurant and Lounge is located right on property. The food is first rate. Open seven days a week, the restaurant is a celebration of the region’s produce in a striking setting with panoramic views.

If you go 

For more information about Sea Lion Caves reach out to their website at http://www.sealioncaves.com 

To check on current specials or make reservations at the Driftwood Shores Resort click here

*To read our story about the historic Heceta Lighthouse look here

Happy travels! 

**************************************** 

“Get out there, but be prepared.” 

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance

You can plan your trips with Google Maps

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2016 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff 

Photos Copyright © 2016 Judy Bayliff – some Driftwood Shores facility photos courtesy of Driftwood Shores Resort.

Another Adventure on Princess Cruises: New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park

The “Other Down Under” destination of New Zealand is on the Bucket List of many Americans — and justly so. Problem is, New Zealand is a long way from anywhere U.S.A. Consequently, most tourists want to see as much as possible on their first visit. Our suggestion for an orientation trip to New Zealand – book a cruise.

The rationale

A cruise will visit several ports on the two islands of New Zealand, which is a great way to get a taste of the entire country – and all without packing and repacking. And, if you fancy an endless array of delicious gastronomical delights included in the price of your vacation, all the more reason to choose a cruise.

On our fourth trip to Australia and New Zealand we blocked out time for a voyage on one of our favorite ships, the Golden Princess.

There is not enough space in this brief article to adequately describe all the picturesque ports-of-call we visited in New Zealand, so let’s just concentrate on one very special destination…

Fiordland National Park

Established in 1952, New Zealand’s largest national park (3 million acres) was formed over the eons by gigantic glacial flows that gradually crushed and moved the earth into the sea leaving deep navigable canyons of water in the South Island coast.

The park fiords are lined with steep cliffs from which giant fingers of gushing water emerge to crash-dive into the sea below.

This park is extraordinary because of its almost incomprehensible size and unsurpassed isolation. Much of the flora and fauna found in the rainforests of the park are just as they were many thousands of years ago.

Entering the park

On the previous night, the ship’s captain alerted us that we would be entering the park at the break of day.

100_1572

We woke about 5:30 and walked up to one of the observation decks just as the sun started to peek over the majestic mountains on our port side.

100_1596

The sea was quiet, and there was a veil of still mist in the air.

100_1567

At first we could only hear, but finally did see, our first waterfall. There were “oohs,” and “ahhs,” aplenty.

Watch for the bears

DSC02269

We had a naturalist on board who narrated our passage through this otherworldly wilderness. He jokingly entreated the passengers to keep a keen eye out for bears along the nearby rocky shoreline (there are no bears in New Zealand). A fellow passenger retorted, “Bears hell, look out for dinosaurs.” It’s that kind of place.

100_1619

At sunset we left the park for the open sea.

That evening at dinner, we joined a group of passengers celebrating the experience of spending a day cruising through time. None of us will soon forget the primitive beauty of Fiordland National Park.

If you go

The New Zealand Department of Conservation administers the fiords, lakes, mountains, and rainforests of the Fiordland National Park. Check out their website here.

100_1629

The next sailing with our exact itinerary on the Golden Princess will be January and March 2017, but you needn’t wait because Princess has other ships that cruise throughout New Zealand. Check out other dates and itineraries here.

Happy travels!

If you have an interest in cruising, the authors suggest reading their four other articles involving Princess Cruises and the Golden Princess.

A Table Rendezvous with Italy’s Chef Ottavio Bellesi on the Golden Princess

The Sweetest Suites for two on the Golden Princess

Luxury Cruising from San Francisco to Hawaii on Princess

Princess Cruise Ship Rescues Canadian Yachtsman

******************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

The Inn at Jim Thorpe Remembers The World’s Greatest Athlete

 

The name “Jim Thorpe” may no longer be a household name in America, but in the early 1900s there was nary a child or sports fan that did not know of his legendary sports achievements.

02-02-02-IMG_3802-001

Enrolled in the Carlyle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania in 1904, the Sac and Fox Native American from Oklahoma, was destined to become one of the most celebrated athletes of the 20th Century.

Pop Warner and company 

Coached by the famed Pop Warner, a team led by Jim Thorpe from the little known Carlyle school became a national football powerhouse in 1907. The “Indians” regularly competed and won against eastern Ivy League colleges like Brown, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and also Army and Navy. In 1911, the little Indian school posted an impressive 11-1 gridiron record against much better-known colleges.

In 1912 the Indians won a highly publicized football game against a nationally ranked Army team and its celebrated linebacker – Dwight D. Eisenhower.  The future general – and president-to-be was injured in the contest and never played football again.

The world’s greatest athlete

After reviewing his extraordinary sports achievements, Jim Thorpe was awarded the title of “The Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century” by an Associated Press poll in 1950, and again by ABC’s Wild World of Sports in 2000.

For starters, Jim Thorpe had won both the grueling five-event pentathlon and ten-event decathlon in the 1912 Olympics. Further, he excelled in all track and field events, as well as boxing, golf, hockey, rowing, and swimming.

As a professional, Jim Thorpe dominated the early days of pro-football (he was also the first President of the NFL), and additionally played professional baseball and basketball during his phenomenal career.

The town of Jim Thorpe

Thorpe was a true sports legend, and when he died in 1953, two small towns in Pennsylvania – located 100 miles from his old Carlyle school – wanted to capitalize on his fame for tourism and commercial purposes. They made an agreement with Thorpe’s widow, and in 1954, the neighboring boroughs of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, merged to become Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

The new municipality entombed Thorpe’s remains, and erected a stately monument with two statues in his memory. The monument sits on soils from his native Oklahoma, and from the Stockholm Olympic Stadium where he won his gold medals.

Worth a visit

010-010-010-IMG_5197

We planned to visit the borough of Jim Thorpe primarily because of the sports legend, but also because we heard the town was charming – and offered a unique perspective on Pennsylvania coal-country Americana. We decided to spend a few days there, and hoped it might turn out to be a worthy destination to write about. It was.

109-109-109-IMG_529929-29-P1000741

The now quiet hamlet is teeming with exciting stories about big coal throughout the 19th century, early tourism in Pennsylvania, and the famous hangings of the Molly Maguires in 1877.

The town stats

085-085-085-IMG_5275

Jim Thorpe has a population of approximately 4,700, and is peacefully situated in a valley under craggy Mount Pisgah with its many hiking and biking trails.

Nestled in the Lehigh Valley Gorge, and alongside the Lehigh River, the little town is a photographer’s potpourri of interesting landscapes and 1800s architecture. There is much to discover about Jim Thorpe that is not immediately obvious.

Where we stayed

065-065-065-IMG_5255

A subscriber to our travel stories, had recommended a local hotel because of its well-preserved architecture and period charm. We found the hotel a gentle step back in time and quite delightful.

The Inn at Jim Thorpe

035-035-035-IMG_5223

As we climbed the outside entry stairs and passed through the old wooden doors, we knew we had chosen the right place to compliment the classic character of the town.

022-022-022-IMG_5209

039-039-039-IMG_5229

We checked in and ascended the long-serving staircase to our second floor room.

004-004-004-IMG_5191

Like the hotel entrance, our room and furnishings were a perfect extension of the town’s yesteryear aura. We quickly became immersed in the subject of our work.

007-007-007-IMG_5194

Sitting on the hotel’s veranda on Broadway was an enjoyable way to take in the activity of the town below.

018-018-018-IMG_5205

The Inn was re-built in the commercial center of town after a fire in 1849. Like most 19th century lodgings the Inn at Jim Thorpe has had several names, seen good and bad times, and had many opportunities for rebirths. The latest took place in 1988 when the Drury family purchased the Inn and faithfully restored it to its early glory.

If you enjoy the unassuming ambiance of small historic hotels with a very different vibe from your run-of-the-mill lodging establishments, this one is for you. 

Don’t forget to eat

033-033-033-IMG_5221

The Broadway Grill and Pub is owned by, and adjacent to the Inn at Jim Thorpe. It is a friendly bar serving both local brews and top-shelf spirits. The tempting menu includes some local favorites.

For dinner we indulged in a traditional Pennsylvania dish. Haluski, which consisted of fried cabbage and kielbasa, sautéed with onions and a touch of sauerkraut. The entrée included a glass of smooth Yuengling Lager. Close your eyes and you could be dining in a bistro in Central or Eastern Europe!

051-051-051-IMG_5241

Our daily breakfast, the “Broadway Breakfast,” consisted of two farm-fresh eggs, bacon (but available with sausage, ham, corned beef hash or scrapple), served with fresh garden potatoes, toast, coffee and juice. At the time, just $10. Yummy!

If you go

137-137-137-IMG_5327

Jim Thorpe has been called the “Switzerland of Pennsylvania,” as well as the “Gateway to the Poconos.” That should give the reader some idea about the scenic value of a visit.

043-043-043-IMG_5233

There is plenty of cultural and outdoor activity in and around Jim Thorpe. Check out the Jim Thorpe Visitors Guide, and the town website for an up to date review of things-to-do.

For more information about the Inn at Jim Thorpe click on their website *here*.

If you have an interest in differing styles of Pennsylvania and Pocono Mountain lodgings, we invite you to read our other articles on the subject:

The Fabulous Lodge at Woodloch

Rustic Luxury at the Bear Mountain Lodge in Wellsboro

The Main Street Boutique Hotel in Kutztown

PA Jim Thorpe PosterIf you have an interest in the man and athlete that became a 20th century sport’s icon, you will enjoy the 1951 movie classic “Jim Thorpe – All-American.” The film stars Burt Lancaster in the starring role and features some archival footage of Thorpe’s Olympic feats. Charles Bickford is excellent as Glenn “Pop” Warner, who was Thorpe’s lifelong friend and mentor.  

Happy travels!

*************************************

 

Photos Copyright © 2016 Judy Bayliff

The Brewery Gulch Inn: A Romantic Destination on the Rugged California Coast

We love off-season travel because of the reduced crowds and bargain accommodation rates. Last winter we drove from San Francisco to Mendocino to attend the annual Crab, Wine & Beer Days – a fun family experience – especially if you savor the taste of freshly cooked Dungeness crab.

Getting to Mendocino

Starting at San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge on highway 101, the drive to Mendocino takes about 3 hours. The last half of the trip from Cloverdale along highways 126 and 1 will take you back to a time when all rural California roads were scenic and fun to drive.

It was a beautiful day, and we zipped along 126 dashing between tree cover to sunshine, and constantly pointing out new exciting sightings in the ever changing panorama.

IMG_7596

We arrived in Mendocino around 3pm and drove directly to the Brewery Gulch Inn just off picturesque highway 1. This highly recommended B&B would be our home for the coming event days.

Our welcome

IMG_7947

The appearance of wild turkeys next to the gravel parking lot was a nice touch, and a precursor to the unusual rustic luxuries we would find during our stay at the this AAA Four Diamond inn.

IMG_7982

When we plan to write about a place we stay, we look for the little details that will help us define the property. In the case of the Brewery Gulch Inn there was an old wheel barrow near the inn’s entrance, and a seen-better-days motor boat in the side of the parking lot. Both these unusual accoutrements got us wondering about the inn’s reputation for richness, but any misgivings on first appearances vanished upon entering the building and experiencing the homey reception and the elegant, designed for living, Great Room.

IMG_7700

We were greeted at check-in by owner/innkeeper Guy Pacurar. Guy purchased the inn in 2007 to fill a “Bob Newhart” fantasy. Guy is a congenial host and the go-to-guy for information about Mendocino and the Brewery Gulch Inn.

The accommodations

IMG_7955

The Great Room is the focal point of the Brewery Gulch Inn. At its center is a magnificent four-sided steel and glass fireplace enshrined in a room of towering wood and 13-foot high redwood French doors.

IMG_7655

The doors open to a spacious deck with sweeping views overlooking the ever-changing Pacific and Smuggler’s Cove. This is an architectural design perfectly suited to its setting.

IMG_7628

Add a measure of overstuffed leather chairs and 1930’s style oak dining tables, and you have the makings of the ideal gathering and dining room.

The Pelican Room

IMG_7617

Climbing the stairs to our second floor guestroom, we noted the inn was much larger than we anticipated. You can choose from eleven sleeping rooms to suit your taste along with an unattached cottage.

IMG_7609

All the rooms and suites elegantly avoid being trendy or too thematic. All are finely appointed with a warm touch of appropriate place and kind furnishings.

Time for dinner

We had heard rave reviews about the inn’s complimentary evening “light” buffet. Don’t believe the “light” description. We enjoyed two great dinner meals at the inn’s casual buffet. Additionally, this every-evening event is carefully calibrated by the management to assure a sense of comfort and informality.

Served with a variety of wines, beers, and soft drinks, the inn’s nightly all-you-can-eat spread was more than enough for any evening meal, and it was delicious.

First night menu

IMG_7644

Tuscan Ragout of Beef in a Deep Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Tri-Color Marble Potatoes with Horseradish Sour Cream

Crab-Cocktails, with Meyer Lemon Slaw

Balsamic Glazed Grilled Endives

Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Sweet Chili Sauce

IMG_7987

We finished off with a delectable Cinnamon Banana Brioche Bread Pudding

So who needs to eat elsewhere!

Dreaming about tomorrow

After a restful night on luxurious bed linens, and a delicious breakfast (more about that later), we headed out for our first adventure.

100_4239

It was a crisp morning and perfect for exploring the many sites of Mendocino. After walking around town and checking out the boutiques and shops, we headed for the Point Cabrillo Light Station.

IMG_7751

Still working off our hearty breakfast, we were grateful for the opportunity to walk the half-mile from the parking lot to the Light Station.

IMG_7712

The clean salt air was brisk and the walk invigorating.

IMG_7744

We chatted with the light station attendant in the museum/gift shop, and spent a good part of our sunny afternoon walking along the headlands and gazing out over the vast Pacific. On our day, we saw hundreds of whale spout sightings far off in the distance.

IMG_7604

Returning to the inn just in time for some complimentary wine — and an opportunity to rest our weary feet — we settled into two of the easy chairs on the inn’s deck overlooking Smuggler’s Cove.

IMG_7774

Time passed quickly, and it was once again the hour for another of the inn’s extraordinary “light” buffets.

IMG_7989

If it all looks good, it was! A perfect ending to a wonderful day.

The following morning

IMG_7681 

Light streamed through the tall glass windows illuminating the rich interior of the Great Room with its period oak tables and upholstered furniture.

The breakfast at the Brewery Gulch Inn is magnificent.

IMG_7672

On this morning we had our choice of a crab and avocado omelet,

IMG_7664

or cheesy eggs, and blueberry pancakes – both of which were mouth-watering delicious. They also served “Millionaire’s Bacon,” which is a thick slice of lean bacon seasoned with hot peppers. Actually, not our cup of tea, but other guests raved about it.

After breakfast we headed for the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.

IMG_7938

Even in winter, the Mendocino Gardens are worth a visit.

IMG_7924

There are ample species of flowers to enjoy, and the trails to the ocean are a terrific way to pass a sunlit afternoon.

IMG_7819

Be sure to take along your best buddies, because the gardens are pet friendly.

IMG_4233

It took us several minutes to walk to the ocean where we sat and once again watched the distant whales frolicking on their way to the warm waters of Mexico.

Time for crab tasting

IMG_7760

Because these were Crab, Wine, and Beer Days we were anxious to sample the best of what the local restaurants had to offer by way of crustacean delights. We decided to have dinner at a highly recommended establishment, the Little River Inn.

IMG_8036

The Little River Inn is well known for excellent crab cakes, and we were in the mood. The Brewery Gulch inn and the Little River Inn are just a short distance apart.

IMG_8000

Dining at The Little River Inn restaurant is comfortably elegant. The atmosphere and service were outstanding, and the menu was designed to reflect the location. We found the menu choices to be sophisticated, yet approachable.

We made our selections from the Crab Specials Menu prepared especially for the days of the event.

IMG_8005

Our starter was a Dungeness Crab Cocktail with home-made cocktail sauce, celery, and crackers. There’s nothing quite like the delicate taste of chilled and fresh Dungeness crab to excite and delight the palate.

IMG_8002

We next tried the inn’s award winning Crab Cakes. We can’t describe what makes these crab cakes best in class, but we can report that they were definitely some of the best crab cakes we have tasted anywhere in the world. If you go, do not miss this delicious delicacy!

IMG_8016

Keeping with the symphony of flavors, our next foray into Crab Days was the Dungeness Crab Pot Pie baked under a flaky crust and teeming with leeks, celery, onions, potatoes, and sweet peas. Exquisite!

IMG_8025

Everything crab was topped off with an Olallieberry Cobbler,

P1020005

and a Hot Fudge Sundae.

Having feasted to fatigue, it was back to the Brewery Gulch Inn for another night of snuggly slumber.

All too soon

We found the Brewery Gulch Inn to be an idyllic place for discriminating travelers, and we wish we could have stayed longer, but before we could say “more crab, please,” it was time to head for home.

There are so many interesting things to see and do in Mendocino that we are already looking forward to our next visit. Guy and wife Sarah have some super site recommendations; look here for their description of a perfect getaway to Mendocino and the Brewery Gulch Inn.

100_4254

One of the activities they recommend is the 2.25 mile hike to Russian Gulch Falls. We did it and it is spectacular. Be sure to put it on your list.

IMG_7627

In 2016 the Mendocino Crab, Wine and Beer Days will be held on January 29 and 30.

For more information and reservations at the Brewery Gulch Inn click here. Book now, and avoid disappointment.

IMG_8040

Happy travels!

*****************************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

The Inn by the Sea: A Great Resort on the Coast of Maine

Inn by the Sea on Crescent Beach, Cape Elizabeth ME hi res

We were making an autumnal writing swing through New England and the surrounding states, visiting some of the regions finest B&Bs and resorts. A week or so into our trip, we hit a nor’easter just outside Cape Elizabeth, Maine, the home of our next destination. We found that a few days in a storm can be great fun – if you happen to be staying at the inspirational Inn by the Sea.

A very different resort

The Inn by the Sea is an eco-luxury, pet friendly, beachy rustic resort, located on mile-long Crescent Beach, a short 7 miles from Portland, Maine.

04-04-04-P1010111

As we drove up to the inn’s portico, the wind was lashing the entry plants to and fro, and the rain was bouncing off our rental car hood like miniature ping pong balls. We waited a few minutes, then made a dash for the front door.

06-208-IMG_6167

What a comfort to be inside the well-appointed lobby and right next to the registration desk.

The staff attitude at the Inn by the Sea was the first thing we noticed. Smiling faces everywhere, even on this dark and dreary day – how refreshing.

The accommodations

There are 61 diverse guestrooms, suites, and cottages to choose from in this luxurious Four Diamond property.

11-11-11-P1010121

In a matter of minutes we were escorted to our second floor suite overlooking the ocean — we think, but it was raining so hard that we couldn’t see much of anything beyond the dense vegetation below our balcony.

43-245-IMG_6210

Before long the fireplace was making a cozy room even cozier.

14-216-IMG_6175

A pot of tea from the well-stocked kitchen and we were ready to snuggle-in.

We nestled-down in front of the fire and the chill quickly left our bones. We had arrived, and were happy to be dry and comfortably situated in our weekend retreat.

Time to work

51-253-IMG_6218

13-215-IMG_6174

We took several photos of our one-bedroom suite, and the larger two-bedroom suite next door. Both were spacious, spotlessly clean, and furnished in a tasteful beachy mode – very open and inviting.

49-251-IMG_6216

The bathrooms were especially noteworthy, quite large and airy.

Outside photos

27-27-27-P1010671

Not so much. We could tell that the grounds were lovely, but the heavy rains were relentless, so we were only able to shoot a few photos in-between downpours.

pool in summer

It is not our usual practice to use stock images, but the sunny outside pictures in this article (like the one above) are all courtesy of the resort.

This is a hotel serious about being “green,” a “good citizen,” and “animal friendly.”

06-06-06-P1010114

Named a top ten American green Hotel by MSNBC and Forbes Traveler, this socially conscious resort practices what it preaches. Like growing attractive and sustainable edibles just outside the back patio.

Here’s another example 

Non-indigenous plants had overgrown and choked out local vegetation and wildlife in the brush area between the inn and the beach. The inn assumed responsibility for removing the offending species, and replacing them with indigenous plants.

rabbitAlso benefiting from the flora project was an endangered Cottontail Rabbit species being squeezed out of its habitat by the invasive vegetation.

The inn created a ‘Rabitat’ in the brush that soon had the bunnies hopping for joy – all to the delight of inn guests who now see them running about during their trek to the beach (the guests not the rabbits). That’s biodiversity in action! 

beach path 2

Pet friendly

24-24-24-P1010668

The Inn by the Sea invites guests to bring their canine companions on vacation. The big news is that there is no extra charge for the doggie guests! Just tell the inn that you will be accompanied by a canine family member, and request a pet-friendly room.

Not only that, but Bowser and Bowsie are treated to water bowls, beach towels, cozy blankets – and treats at turndown. There are also grooming services, pet massages, gourmet pet menus, a dog walking service, and a doggie day care for additional fees. How about that pet fans!

This is fantastic

168-IMG_7368

There’s also a Foster Dog Program where the inn works with the local animal refuge and keeps a foster dog at the inn until it is adopted. They currently have their 11th dog in house. What a great idea!

And for the humans

Couples Room at SPA at Inn by the Sea

There’s a wonderful SPA to help you relax, refresh and rejuvenate. For tension relief, try the Deep Tissue Massage – one hour is just enough.

A superb restaurant

Flatbread Prep

Chef Sicinski  courtesy Inn by the Sea

The Sea Glass Restaurant, and nearby lobby bar, have great views and memorable meals created by Chef Steve Sicinski. Chef Steve, who is classically trained by Cordon Bleu, believes food should be about taste and health – but also be playful and energetic. His attitude makes for some delightfully delicious combinations.

01-01-01-P1010108

How about this hearty and delectable breakfast!

06-06-06-P1010649

And this unusual and delicious salad of marinated Braised Beets, Feta Cheese, and Granola dust…

04-04-04-P1010647

Or a succulent variation of the “Wedge,” with Romaine Lettuce, Apple Bacon crumbs, Cherry Tomatoes, and Blue Cheese with homemade Ranch Dressing.

Everything we ate left us satisfied and gratified.

19-19-19-P1010663

Opps, almost forgot the dessert. Apple Galette with roasted Apple Gelato, crisp Apple Salad, and Cider Caramel. Yummy!

One unusual aspect of growing food for his tables is Chef Sicinski’s working partnership with Cultivation Works a social enterprise that teaches people with disabilities to grow fresh, healthy produce in a sustainable way.

The chef can handpick salad ingredients such as baby pea sprout tendrils, baby beet tops, cilantro, and other herbs and produce grown in 11” by 22” flats in the inn’s kitchen that were started by the Cultivation Works’ “Teenie Greenie” farmers.

“Challenged adults come to the Cultivation Works’ greenhouses to learn about good agricultural practices.” They grow their micro greens with non-GMO seeds and organic soil. The program helps develop practical skills for sustainable farming, and the producers gain confidence in their abilities. This is a wonderful program. Learn more about it *here*.

A great place to vacation

The remainder of our days at the Inn by the Sea were spent tasting great dishes at Sea Glass, chatting with the other guests, enjoying the fire in the hearth, listening to the rain, and catching up on some good books. It was soul-settling, and we so enjoyed the change of pace. We reckon there’s not a better place to spend rainy days in Maine.

The Inn by the Sea has been selected for recognition for Conde Nast’s Gold, and Travel & Leisure’s Best Hotels in the World. It is Maine’s premier beach destination, and for that, and all the other reasons mentioned, we recommend it highly.

For more information about the Inn by the Sea, click *here*.

Rockland Headlight 7-001

For general tourist information about the area including the famous Portland Head Light, look here.

Pack up the kids and dogs and take a beautiful ride to Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

If you aren’t driving, Portland is serviced by major airlines and Amtrak.

You might pray for sun on your vacation, but even in the rain, you can have a wonderful time at the Inn by the Sea!

Happy travels.

*************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2015 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff.

Photos Unless otherwise noted – Copyright © 2015 Judy Bayliff – unauthorized use strictly prohibited.

The Race is on to Saratoga Arms on Opening Day

18-Saratoga Race Course

Historic Saratoga Springs, in upstate New York, is a fun place to visit any time of year. However, there’s a special excitement in the air with the approach of another annual opening day at the historic Saratoga Race Course – the oldest thoroughbred racetrack in America.

Health, History, Horses

That’s Saratoga’s slogan. The earliest recorded history goes back to the mid-1700s when the area’s Native Americans were said to be using the healing powers of the naturally carbonated mineral springs that dot the area. The springs became even more famous when General George Washington drank from the High Rock Spring in Saratoga in 1783.

The naturally carbonated springs soon made Saratoga a popular venue in which to be seen. Visits from the likes of JP Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Diamond Jim Brady, made Saratoga famous. Important people from across the globe came to socialize and soak in the bathhouses featuring the healing effervescent mineral waters. However, it soon became evident that horse racing was destined to play an equally important role in the city’s future.

As untimely as it seems, just one month after the famous Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, the Saratoga Race Course for Thoroughbred racing was opened, and became the first sports venue in America.

Six weeks of racing

19-Saratoga Race Course - Copy

This year, the world-renowned Saratoga races, will begin on Friday, July 24, 2015 and conclude on Labor Day, Monday, September 7, with racing conducted six days a week, Wednesday through Monday.

Sports Illustrated calls the annual Saratoga Race Course summer meet, one of the top ten must see sports events in America. The track is also considered by many to be the most beautiful racetrack in the United States.

Iconic name dropping

Familiar Thoroughbreds that have raced at the Saratoga Race Course include Man O’War, Secretariat, and Seattle Slew. Famous movies featuring the race course are “Billy Bathgate,” “Ghost Story,” ” Diamonds are Forever,” “Saratoga,” “Seabiscuit,” “The Horse Whisperer,” and “The Way We Were.”

Where to stay

17-36-36-IMG_6579

When it comes to lodging, the choices are many in the Springs. On a recommendation, we stayed at the historic Saratoga Arms – a brilliant choice.

12-04-04-IMG_6547

Operated as a luxury concierge hotel by the Smith family since 1997, the historic (circa 1870) brick building on downtown Broadway in Saratoga Springs, had been a rooming house during the 1950s to the 1990s when it hit its proverbial bottom. There were pigeons living in the third-floor rooms.

04-84-IMG_6506

We love to see such old structures repurposed, refreshed, and preserved. The Smith’s restored this old building with loving care and a flair for turn of the century ambiance. It now has every modern comfort, but retains its yesteryear charm.

08-98-IMG_6520

In addition to the elevators, there’s a beautiful old staircase that leads to the upper floors (see pictures). As we climbed the steps, we reflected on the many thousands of people who had preceded us in climbing these same stairs over the past 145 years – we wondered about their circumstances and lives – all so different from our own.

03-82-IMG_6504

The restoration was obviously calibrated to gain a sense of sophistication with informality. It was well done. Urbanity now dominates and permeates throughout.

01-68-IMG_6490

02-72-IMG_6494

Hotel guests have a choice of 31 sleeping rooms that will suit the most discerning of tastes.

The entire hotel is lavishly decorated with beautiful antique furnishings and just-right décor.

A B&B hotel

05-87-IMG_6509

We had breakfast in one of the hotel’s elegant dining rooms complete with white tablecloths, fine china, and fresh cut flowers. Very cheerful.

10-05-03-03-IMG_6534

The buffet breakfast is an occasion full of local farm fresh goodies like honey and homemade muffins and jams, delicious cereals, assorted berries, bagels, yogurt, and freshly squeezed orange juice. The coffee is also extraordinarily robust and flavorful.

11-19-10-10-IMG_6543

Our main breakfast dish consisted of locally smoked Canadian bacon, and a mushroom and gruyere cheese scramble – accompanied by home style potatoes. We had never tried the gruyere cheese and egg mix before – delicious idea!

06-92-IMG_6514

Care for an afternoon snack?

07-94-IMG_6516

There is an abundance of treats and beverages in the guest services pantry.

Our recommendation

The Saratoga Arms is a lodging we wholeheartedly recommend, and we are in good company, because it is also TripAdvisor’s #1 current choice hotel in Saratoga Springs.

For more information about the Saratoga Arms look at their website at www.saratogaarms.com

Planning a trip? Make your reservations now to avoid disappointment.

If you go

Saratoga Springs is an easy 45-minute drive from Albany, and less than four-hours from New York City, or Boston. It is also five-hours from Niagara Falls.

The closest major airport is in Albany, New York.

Closing notes

Today, there are 18 mineral springs throughout Saratoga Springs for free public tasting, and two places to enjoy a mineral bath, the Roosevelt Baths and Spa, and the Crystal Spa.

Probably the most famous, and still active, of the mineral water springs is the Big Red Spring located right at the Saratoga Race Course. This spring is named after Man O’War, and Secretariat, the two famous thoroughbred champions. Both horses were chestnut in color, and each in its time was called “Big Red.”

15-29-29-IMG_6572

14-13-13-IMG_6556

In 2014 Yahoo listed Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs (the location of the Saratoga Arms) as one of best main streets in America for its architecture, restaurants, shops, and people watching.

There’s more to enjoy in Saratoga Springs than water and racing. Look *here* for a list of other activities in this happening area.

Happy travels!

*********************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2015 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2015 Judy Bayliff – unauthorized use strictly prohibited.

Sports photos courtesy of Saratoga Arms.

Reno Offers Up Outstanding Craft Beer

06-127-IMG_7327

Reno is still a bit of a wild-west town with a distinct pioneering vibe. Over the last few years, it has attracted youthful brewer types seeking to make their mark with innovative taste alternatives to what we commonly call “beer.”

Researching this story about enterprising brew-pubs, and microbreweries in Reno, was refreshing and satisfying on several levels.

Quick history

17-180-IMG_7382

Even if you are not a craft brew aficionado, you probably have noticed the surge in numbers of beer labels, boutique brew-clubs and tap-rooms, and microbreweries.

President Jimmy Carter signed a bill deregulating the brewing industry in 1979. That legislation provided opportunity and encouragement to thousands of home-brew hobbyists who yearned for the old early American days of “brewery taverns.”

By the 1990s, a number of those home brew-buffs had launched businesses based on their refined beer flavors, and the burgeoning American microbrewery industry was born.

In 1979, there were less than 100 breweries in the United States. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, that number jumped to almost 3,500 in 2014 – the majority of which were considered craft breweries. Good job Jimmy!

Our research

The three craft breweries we visited in Reno were all start-ups in the same urban development neighborhood providing nurturing environs to boot-straps entrepreneurs – a working formula that includes creativity and reformation.

Pigeon Head Brewery

03-121-IMG_7321

Located in a renovated old veterinary hospital at 840 East 5th Street, the Pigeon Head Brewery is Reno’s first lager brewery.

04-122-IMG_7322

Opened since May 2014, the Pigeon is as relaxed and funky an atmosphere as you will find in a public tap-room. We talked to some locals that converted to regulars as soon as they discovered that lager beer can be very flavorful when brewed with the right ingredients and by the right brew master.

09-145-IMG_7345

One of the owners, James Mann explains how the brewing equipment is used.

For more information about the Pigeon Head Brewery look here.

Under the Rose Brewing Company

19-188-IMG_7390

Scott Emond considers brewing an art form, and he knew what he wanted to achieve in craft brewing when he and wife Jesse Kleinedler opened Under the Rose as the first brewery to return to Fourth Street in the fall of 2013.

14-165-IMG_7365

Scott, the brewmaster, likes to experiment with seasonal and locally sourced ingredients to create special tastes and unique flavors.

12-155-IMG_7355

Under the Rose Brewing Company is located at 559 E. Fourth Street in an old auto-body paint shop in yet another building eager to reclaim its early 20th century history via a cultural renaissance. Check out their website here.

The Depot

20-191-IMG_7393

21-196-IMG_7398

This aptly named upscale craft brewery and distillery took over the empty three story brick building at 325 East 4th Street, and did a multi-million dollar, painstaking job of restoring the early 20th century building to its glory days as the headquarters for the Nevada-California-Oregon Railway.

the Depot opens

The Depot, which opened on New Year’s Eve 2014, has a strong architectural profile that fits well with its multi-level eating/entertainment concept.

23-215-IMG_7417

Part owner and General Manager Justin Stafford, explained that the Depot concept is to pay particular attention to quality brewing practices – even to using vintage equipment no longer used by bigger breweries who deem them too time consuming and labor intensive.

27-35-P1010370

However, Justin believes that certain pieces of vintage equipment provide him with the ‘edge’ in making that better brew.

Find out more at the Depot website.

Sky’s the limit

If you are one of those who thinks that the US cannot absorb another fast-food hamburger joint, that problem will never apply to microbreweries. In the craft beer industry, each new tasty entry re-defines the market on flavor, ingredients, and brewing technique. The variance in taste of artisan craft brews is huge, and growing.

Even with the fast growth of artisan breweries, the whole lot still accounts for less than 15% of America’s beer volume. There’s a growing market and a lot of market share to be had.

Vive les entrepreneurs 

Our hats are off to these and similar youthful establishment and culture shakers that are building grass roots businesses in Reno. They are providing much needed jobs, and bases for repurposing many underutilized buildings and neighborhoods.

Each of the ambitious and passionate owner/brew masters we spoke with seemed willing to bet their personal bank on their reading of American’s changing tastes. Let the best tasting beers win!

Happy travels!

********************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff.

Photo “The Depot with customers” courtesy of “The Depot.”

The Museum of America and the Sea at Mystic Seaport, Connecticut

We love Connecticut. It is a beautiful state that is teeming with interesting tourist attractions. Today, we focus on the historic maritime coast of the Constitution state in “Mystic Country.”

35-235-235-235-IMG_5785

The seaside towns and villages of Mystic Country run 30-miles along Long Island Sound, starting at the town of Old Lyme and ending at the border of Rhode Island to the east. Our story begins with a visit to famous Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut.

08-22-01-005-005-008-IMG_3889

The Mystic Seaport sign proclaims, “The Museum of America and the Sea.” The catchphrase was well chosen because Mystic Seaport is an exciting playground for maritime historians, boaters of every persuasion, kids of all ages, and folks who just love the sea.

19-037-037-037-IMG_5587

We arrived early so we had the streets of the historic port village to ourselves.

09-23-02-012-012-015-IMG_3896

Everywhere we looked there were tall ship’s masts and sails in the background of the village’s authentic 19th century homes and shops.

It was a quiet fall day, and a slight whisper of falling leaves in the breeze made the many historical settings that much more alive and imaginative. We were walking back in time, and looked forward to the experience.

The last of the whalers

15-35-17-092-092-095-IMG_3980

Our feet rustled through the leaf covered village green as we made our way to tour the Charles W. Morgan – a sturdy looking wooden whaleship that is now a National Historic Landmark.

10-25-04-028-028-031-IMG_3913

In the 19th century, there were over 2,500 wooden whaling ships in North America and now there is one. The Morgan, launched in 1841, is America’s oldest surviving commercial ship still afloat. She has resided in the Mystic Seaport since 1941.

During her more than 80-years of service, the Morgan made voyages ranging in time from nine months, to five years. It was on just such a ship that the morose Captain Ahab sailed from nearby Nantucket to seek the elusive great white whale named Moby Dick. Arrr!

Signing on to crew a whaling ship in the 19th century was the fast-track to a harsh life involving hard work and long voyages. Thankfully (for the sake of the whales), whaling was greatly curtailed with the invention of kerosene in the 1840s.

The Joseph Conrad

11-26-05-033-033-036-IMG_3918

From the deck of the Morgan you can see the steel-hulled Joseph Conrad. The Conrad was built in 1882 as a training ship for the Danish Merchant Marine Service. For years she sailed with a cadet crew of eighty, and all went well until 1905 when the ship was rammed by a British freighter near Copenhagen and sunk.

Sadly, 20 young cadets went down with the Conrad. However, the vessel was quickly raised, repaired, and continued her mission until 1934 when the ship was sold. The new owner privatized the ship and took her around the world for two years covering 58,000 miles.

25-47-29-101-101-101-IMG_5651

The Mystic Seaport gained possession of the Joseph Conrad in 1948, and it has been in the museum ever since.

13-31-10-065-065-068-IMG_3952

As we walked the decks, we could appreciate the vast amount of maintenance that is necessary to keep such an important maritime relic in ship-shape.

The Authentic Seaport Village

36-57-39-238-238-238-IMG_5788

The faithful Seafaring Village has an active shiplift – that’s the seasonal touring steamboat Sabino being readied for winter in the photo above.

33-55-37-190-190-190-IMG_5740

There’s also a sail and rigging loft – chandlery,

27-49-31-111-111-111-IMG_5661

craftsman workshops such as a shipsmith shop,

26-48-30-108-108-108-IMG_5658

nautical instrument shop, and a cooperage.

20-43-25-041-041-041-IMG_5591

There’s also a bank, drug store, school house, and a tavern.

30-51-33-128-128-128-IMG_5678

Be sure to visit the small catboat exhibit with its many beautiful varnished toys for grown-ups,

32-54-36-179-179-179-IMG_5729

and the Henry B. DuPont Preservation Shipyard to see what wonders marine craftsman can perform in the restoration of a boat or ship.

The kids will love it

31-147-147-147-IMG_5697

Mystic Seaport is the #1 family vacation destination in Connecticut, and for good reason. This is a place for every mood, and every taste. Kids are treated to fun seafaring experiences they could not find elsewhere. Click *here* to see the many learning opportunities available at this 19-acre maritime park.

12-30-11-064-064-067-IMG_3951

Fancy a sailing lesson around the harbor?

16-36-18-096-096-099-IMG_3984

Get all the additional information you need about Mystic Seaport by checking their website.

If you go

Mystic Seaport is easy to reach and lies betwixt New York City (134 miles) and Boston (102 miles) on I-95 – exit 90. Mystic Seaport is located right on the banks of the Mystic River that flows into nearby Long Island Sound.

Where to stay

We chose two delightful inns for our stay in the Mystic/Stonington area – appropriately, both were on the water.

The Steamboat Inn

01-06-06-IMG_3852

Strategically located in downtown Mystic, and close to the famous Mystic River Bascule Bridge,

04-16-57-057-057-IMG_5482

the Steamboat Inn is an uber-comfortable 11-room luxury hotel. Each guestroom has distinctive furnishings that are in harmony with the nautical theme.

02-09-50-012-012-IMG_5435

We were in room #2, apply named, “Mystic.” Great views of the river activity taking place just outside our windows.

03-12-54-037-037-IMG_5461

The inn projects comfort at every turn, and the delicious full complimentary breakfast served in the common room is a great way to start the day in Mystic Country.

To view all the rooms and learn more about this recommended inn click *here*.

The Inn at Stonington

37-009-251-IMG_5801

Just ten minutes from Mystic lies another village with a seafaring history, the Borough of Stonington. The Inn at Stonington is nestled into quiet Water Street with nearby upscale 18th and 19th century homes. The back of the inn is a stone’s throw from Stonington Harbor.

40-62-71-110-352-IMG_5902

It’s just a short walk down Water Street to the Old Lighthouse Museum constructed in 1840 at Dubois Beach.

39-69-091-333-IMG_5883

The lighthouse is no longer active, but the old stone building provides an excellent museum of the history of the village and surroundings.

The little Dubois beach is relatively secluded and just the sort of out-of-the-way place where busy tourists can enjoy a measure of relaxing solitude.

43-34-34-034-IMG_5957

You can chose from a range of bedroom types to suit your taste at the Inn at Stonington. Our room overlooked the harbor and Fisher’s Island Sound beyond. Each of the 18 classily decorated rooms reflects the ambiance of the surrounding quaint village.

We arrived at the inn just in time for the evening wine and cheese reception. Nicely selected area wines were accompanied by an ample assortment of artisan cheeses. Yummy.

38-052-294-IMG_5844

This boutique inn also provides a complimentary and substantial continental breakfast in the sitting room that overlooks the harbor.

42-03-03-003-IMG_5914

Tasty and filling – another good start for a day of intensive touring.

Look at the website for more information about the Inn at Stonington, availability, and pricing.

Where to eat 

This part of coastal Connecticut is noted for seafood restaurants, and you will have no trouble finding palate pleasing fare of any variety in the 80+ local restaurants.

There are four family dining facilities located right at Mystic Seaport. We were told by nearby residents that the dining facilities are all quite good, but we did not eat during our tour of the park, so cannot personally comment.

07-21-59-104-104-IMG_5533

Another place we didn’t eat, but should mention, is the famous Mystic Pizza restaurant – the inspiration for the 1988 coming-of-age movie starring Julia Roberts. It is right on busy West Main Street in downtown Mystic.

05-19-63-31-46-P1000983

We did enjoy some excellent, mega-portion New England fried seafood at the Seahorse Restaurant in nearby Noank. This place we do recommend. The Seahorse serves tasty full-bellied fried clams that are favored by the regulars. These clams taste a little like fried oysters, but not as pungent. Delicious!

There was also a seafood restaurant at the dock across the parking lot from the Inn at Stonington called Swooner.

17-02-02-119-IMG_4004

We had lunch there, and mercifully, it closed soon after our visit. Our helpful tourism contact has informed us that another restaurant named the Breakwater will open at this superb waterfront location in May 2015.

The new proprietor has a reputation for operating successful restaurants. The Breakwater will feature classic American seafood in a casual contemporary atmosphere – not fancy. Can’t wait to try it the next time we are in Connecticut.

Also for next-time, how about a day on the Ice Cream Trail meticulously organized by www.Mystic.org – a good reference website to remember.  48 sweet places to relish America’s favorite dessert. 48!

We highly recommend Mystic Country for a quality family vacation. In addition to what you see reported here, the area is also home to the Mystic Aquarium, the Goodspeed Opera House, Gillette’s Castle, two casinos, and a submarine museum.

The reader may also be interested in the following Connecticut stories and reviews by Wayne and Judy.

Fall Colors in New England at Brainerd House

Visit to Extraordinary Gillette’s Castle

Best of Connecticut Resorts and Spas

A Storybook Christmas in Connecticut at the Tidewater Inn

A True New England Holiday Experience

A Historic Inn along the Shore of Fashionable Westport

An Intimate Bed and Breakfast on the Backroads of Connecticut

The Elegant Delamar Greenwich Harbor Hotel

The American Revolution and Curtis House Inn

Happy travels!

 

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

A Vacation Hideaway Worthy of Heads of State and You: The Chalet of Canandaigua

When TV newscasters show two or three global leaders meeting in seclusion to talk peace, we are often impressed with the beautiful woodland surroundings the planners choose for such discussions. Well, we found a retreat these meeting handlers have missed, and the world leaders will be disappointed – however, you needn’t be.

It’s in the Finger Lakes Region of New York

Eleven thousand years ago, glacial activity formed five lakes in the shape of outstretched fingers. American Indians believe the lakes came to be when the hand of the Great Spirit touched this beautiful land. Regardless of how they came to be, these lakes are a bountiful four-season delight for locals and visitors alike.

16-190-190-IMG_6789

Our destination in the Finger Lakes was the Chalet of Canandaigua. We found it neatly tucked away along the west side of 16-mile long Canandaigua Lake.

13-125-125-IMG_6723

The elegant rustic log cabin sits back from the road on 30 acres of pristine forest fronted by an expansive lawn, winding private road, and a tranquil pond.

15-165-165-IMG_6763

This little gem was recommended by a reader, who turns out to have a keen eye for pastoral luxury.

We arrived for our visit in late fall. It was a chilly and rainy afternoon, and amiable Innkeepers Margaret and Pattie had a welcoming fire rumbling in the hearth. We immediately sensed this was a place we would be happy to write about.

About the chalet

07-093-093-IMG_6691

The inside of the chalet is spacious, but exudes an air of intimacy. There are only three guestrooms, so it is possible to occupy the entire building for a family gathering. However, the chalet is popular, so it is necessary to plan ahead to avoid disappointment.

04-067-067-IMG_6658

Ours was the Lee Suite, but we would have been equally satisfied with either of the other two. The guestrooms are all spotlessly clean, and the king-sized beds and linens are first rate. Wireless internet access is available free of charge, as are little snacky-goodies.

02-005-005-IMG_6596

Guests are free to roam the huge kitchen and enjoy a nosh at the table or counter. The kitchen is also a great meeting place…

03-059-059-IMG_6650

…and the grand living room is ideal for games, chats or just relaxing in front of the fire.

06-079-079-IMG_6677

The welcome room, where entering guests register, is the site of the DVD and print library, and a great place to find one’s personal serenity space.

The secret service

Many of the high-end bed and breakfast inns we review have superb bones and fine furnishings. The thing that separates the real thoroughbreds from the also-rans in this exclusive luxury B&B club is – the breakfast.

12-123-123-IMG_6721

Breakfast at the Chalet of Canandaigua is where the world leaders are really missing out. The day-opening meal at the Chalet is beyond exceptional and exceeds extraordinary.

09-111-111-IMG_6709

Take for example the Fall Bruschetta which consists of multi-grain cinnamon crostini with pear, fig, date, raspberry and caramelized walnut with pumpkin mousse. Oh yeah.

10-37-16-16-IMG_6715

Or how about Poached Bosc Pear in cranberry juice topped with cranberry crème fraiche, grapes, raspberry and toasted almonds – drizzled with pear sauce. Oh boy.

11-121-121-IMG_6719

We also enjoyed a Peach Prosciutto Croissant with an egg over-easy and gruyere cheese topped with a whole grain mustard-balsamic sauce, and a side of butternut squash triangles and blackberries. Off the planet!

The highly creative innkeepers pride themselves on never repeating a breakfast recipe for any guest.

The Finger Lakes Region is a four season destination

The Finger Lake business people plan early for active spring and summer seasons when vacationers enjoy excellent fishing, boating, golf, hiking, biking, water skiing, etc.

Judy Hartness Ballooning

It is even possible to go hot air ballooning from the front lawn of the Chalet.

After a hectic summer, autumn is exceptionally beautiful as the lakes reflect the surrounding orchards and hills laden with fruit and forest trees anxious to show visitors their seasonal colors before they settle in for the winter.

01-01-01-IMG_4104

Winters are cold, and the hills are alive with opportunities for cross country skiing, snow shoeing, snowboarding and downhill skiing at Bristol Mountain.

There’s always something great to do in the out-of-doors of north-western New York State.

The region is also home to a burgeoning wine industry with guided and self-guided tours of the vineyards and wineries. Click on Canandaigua Wine Trail for a map and details.

If you are keen on horses, you can experience the thrill of 160-days of live thoroughbred racing at Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack.

For more information about the Finger Lakes click *here*

The town of Canandaigua

What we noticed immediately upon entering the town of Canandaigua put a smile on our faces. The town was thriving! All too often as we drive through small-town America, that is no longer the case. We were glad to see over 100 shops, galleries and restaurants with clean windows and streets, all open and welcoming shoppers. Here’s a list of Downtown Canandaigua businesses.

Lake Canandaigua is an easy 45-minute drive from airports in Syracuse and Rochester. It is a 1.5 hour drive from Buffalo’s International Airport, and 2-hours from Niagara Falls. Take Exit 44 off the NY State Thruway (I-90). For an even more scenic drive take Routes 5 and 20, which run parallel to I-90.

Finding the Chalet of Canandaigua

14-129-129-IMG_6727

The Chalet is located just minutes from town at 3770 State Route 21. For more information click on Chalet of Canandaigua.

05-069-069-IMG_6660

Great news. The Innkeepers at the Chalet have been collecting TripAdvisor awards for some time. #1 B&B in Canandaigua, #1 B&B in the Finger Lakes Region. They recently emailed us with the exciting news that they have been notified of being awarded TripAdvisor’s 2015 Traveler’s Choice Award – #4 Best Inn in the United States! Way to go Pattie and Margaret! Well earned. Well deserved.

Happy travels.

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Wherever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

A Whale of a Good Time on the Baja Peninsula of Mexico

 

37-050-198-IMG_4466

The next time you get tired of winter, book a flight to La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. During the months of January through April, the weather in La Paz is absolutely perfect, and it is a wonderful time to take the opportunity to get up close and personal with gray whales and their calves.

Getting there

La Paz has its own airport, but the bigger Cabo San Lucas airport to the south has more flights and services.

73-087-332-IMG_4615

When we arrived in Cabo, we took a taxi for the almost three-hour scenic ride on Mexico Route 19 from Cabo to La Paz – the road was good and we zipped right along.

89-013-001-RIMG0017

It does not take long to confirm that Baja California is indeed a desert, and we found ourselves imagining that the thousands of cacti along the highway were humorous stick “characters.”

Route 19 runs parallel to the pristine sandy beaches of the Pacific for about 50 miles north of Cabo and before cutting east across the peninsula to La Paz.

We stopped only once for a bite to eat in the small town of Todos Santos on the Pacific side of the peninsula. We ate at La Coronela restaurant in the Hotel California. We dined in the hotel’s comfortable courtyard, the food was excellent – and the beer was ice cold.

 The city of La Paz

La Paz is a city on the Sea of Cortez with some 200,000 residents, but much of the tourist activity is near the water where La Paz’s flavor takes on the vibe of a prosperous seaside village.

34-76-090-339-IMG_4635

Traffic wasn’t bad coming into town along the shore and picturesque La Paz Malecón, so we reached our hotel in short order.

53-IMG_8285

The Hyatt Place is a new hotel in the exclusive Costa Baja area of La Paz.  It’s right in front of a marina that is home to magnificent yachts from around the world. The hotel rooms are spacious and modern, and each booking comes with a tasty hot breakfast with eggs your way, pancakes, fruit, juice, coffee, etc.

Our videographer friend Richard Williams was on the trip, and put together a creative film clip about the Hyatt. See it *here*

Up in the morning

It was breakfast at sunrise and into a van for the 170-mile drive across the Peninsula, to the Pacific side and Puerto Lopez Mateo.

29-71-085-321-IMG_4589

The journey took about 3.5 hours, with a brief stop for a delicious lunch (we had fresh fish) in the small town of Constitucion.

04-04-016-016-IMG_4284

When we arrived at the whale watching dock in Puerto Lopez Mateo, we were anxious to don our life vests, board our boat, and be introduced to the mighty gray whales that were waiting for us in the inlet.

About the whales

Every year,  traveling at speeds of about 5 miles per hour, 10 to 15 thousand gray whales make their way from the freezing waters of Alaska’s Bering Sea along the Pacific Coast of America to the warm waters of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. It is here that the female grays bear their calves.

16-40-053-212-IMG_4480

There are only three places in the world where gray whales give birth, and all of them are in Baja, Mexico. After birthing, the mothers and their offspring stay in the safety of the lagoons for several weeks in order for the mothers to teach their newborns to feed, swim, and socialize with other whales.

The male grays leave Baja first, and by April the majority of the whales are on their 5,000+ mile trek back to Alaska.

An organized adventure

State and federal licenses are necessary to go whale watching in Baja. Your tour company will instruct you on how to obtain them.

05-05-017-017-IMG_4285

Only guides who have been tested and certified in the nuances of protecting the whales can lead a tour that intends to get close enough to touch the gentle giants.

Our tour boat, like all the others in the fleet, had to pass a passenger safety inspection.

06-11-024-055-IMG_4323

There is a limit to the number of boats that can congregate in a given area, which assures that the whales are not threatened, and have ample room to maneuver.

About our tour boat

09-20-033-118-IMG_4386

The whale encounter boats are called “pangas,” and are 22-feet long. They are specifically designed for the purpose of whale watching.

11-22-035-140-IMG_4408

Jose, from the Cortez Club, led our tour and helped us into an uber-clean panga that easily and comfortably seated the eight people in our group. The quiet outboard motor moved us briskly along the placid water of the lagoon as we searched for whales.

The weather was a pleasant and dry 78 degrees, and when we stopped to visit with some grays, there was just a slight chop on the water.

Calling the whales

19-45-058-225-IMG_4493

Jose advised that by slapping the water on the side of the boat we would attract whales, and sure enough it took just minutes of splashing before a 50 foot long, 70,000 pound gray whale, accompanied by her calf, decided to play.

08-19-032-114-IMG_4382

The photo above shows a baby whale approaching a neighboring panga.

At first, it was a bit disconcerting to watch this shallowly submerged creature, the size of a school bus, bearing down on the center of what felt like our quickly shrinking panga.

However, in every case, the breathing bus slowed to a glide as it neared the boat. At that point, the whales cruised closely along-side, and we quickly comprehended they were encouraging a friendly pat on the head.

14-32-045-185-IMG_4453

As they approach, the whales might do a shallow dive under the boat only to appear on the other side spouting plumes of water high into the air – what fun for them!

13-31-044-182-IMG_4450

Be sure to keep your camera lens protected for the duration of these momentary monsoons.

20-55-068-246-IMG_4514

Sometimes, mom will hang back and watch her calf interact with the excited guests, but most of the time she is right there in the thick of the action – getting her own strokes.

18-43-056-217-IMG_4485

During these encounters, there is no doubt in any passengers mind that these are highly intelligent mammals that fully comprehend their enormous power and prowess.

What a thrill

22-60-073-252-IMG_4520

It is all very exhilarating, and any concerns of personal safety are quickly dispelled as everyone lunges to get in a back slap, head pat, or a chin tickle on the gigantic mama whale or her frolicking 20-foot calf.

This is fun of the first order, time passes quickly, and it never gets boring. Some people laugh, some scream like they are on a roller coaster, and some cry with joy over the spiritual connection they feel with these magnificent animals.

17-42-055-214-IMG_4482

Eventually, and probably when mom thinks that junior has had enough attention, she heads off towards open water.

Several whales gave us fluke or tail waves as they departed – maybe it was coincidental, but we choose not to think so.

12-IMG_4410

It is safe to predict, that all the thousands of people that experience this annual celebration of life and nature become life-long advocates for the complete banning of whale hunting. These gentle denizens of the deep, who are so much more powerful than we mere mortals, deserve our ultimate respect and protection.

24-63-077-279-IMG_4547

We heartily recommend this adventure for anyone yearning to fully experience the beauty and grandeur of nature – on a very large scale.

For more information about whale encounters and the other wonders of La Paz, check out this website: www.en.golapaz.com/

Be sure to view our friend Richard’s film clip about our whale encounters. Click *here*.

For other exciting sea adventures, see our stories about:

Shark diving in the Bahamas

A night encounter with giant Manta Rays in Hawaii

Diving in a submarine in the Cayman Islands

Sailing the coast of Maine on a magnificent schooner

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

The National Automobile Museum In Reno, Nevada, is the Home of the Famous 1907 Thomas Flyer

We found an American treasure in the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. 

26-19-11-77-P1010327

Hidden in plain view among hundreds of classic cars is the 1907 Thomas Flyer, the winner of the first and only Around the World Auto Race.

01-01-17-53-P1010850

After decades of neglect, in 1964 the dilapidated Thomas Flyer was painstakingly restored to her original condition by forty car craftsmen in the Harrah’s Classic Car Museum workshop.

29-21-13-80-P1010330

The project took six weeks and the end result was the Flyer, exactly as she looked, when she crossed the finish line in Paris on a hot summer day in July, 1908.

07-07-23-78-P1010877

Today, this matriarch of motor cars sits silently in the National Automobile Museum. However, if you stand before her and close your eyes – you can imagine the roar of the 350,000 people cheering her as she crossed the finish line in Paris.

06-06-22-77-P1010876

Listen quietly for the exhilaration of the crowd at the huge Manhattan ticker-tape parade held for her and her drivers on their victorious return to New York City.

08-09-25-80-P1010879

Feel the vibe of a quieter time in the company of President Teddy Roosevelt at his summer White House in Sagamore Hill, Long Island – she was there for all of them – over a century ago.

The amazing story

Interested in boosting circulation in the early part of the 20th century, the New York Times and the French Le Matin newspapers conceived and sponsored an arduous automobile race that would start in Times Square in New York City, and end in the City of Light, Paris, France – a total distance of 22,000 miles across three continents.

16-40-P1010289

Four countries rose to the challenge, and on February 12, 1908, six automobiles representing France (3), Italy (1), Germany (1) and the United States (1) headed west on a route to Chicago, San Francisco, Valdez, Seattle, Yokohama, Kobe, Vladivostok, Omsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin, and on to Paris.

The torturous race was won in five-months and 19 days on July 30, 1908 by the United States entry.

30-23-15-82-P1010332

The race was started in winter so the competitors could drive across the frozen Bering Straits, but the weather was so bad in Alaska that the course was re-routed back to Seattle, where the cars were shipped across the Pacific to Japan and on to the continent of Asia.

The Great Race of 1908 was the first time an automobile had crossed the United States in winter, and is the only global race of its kind on record. The feat has never been equaled, and it was undertaken at a time when there were few paved roads and no roads at all in many parts of the world.

27-20-12-78-P1010328

The winning driver of the Thomas Flyer was George Schuster, a mechanic with the E.R. Thomas Motor Company, of Buffalo, New York. George died in 1972, but not before seeing his beloved and restored Flyer placed in the Reno museum.

Legacy

25-18-10-76-P1010326

The publicity from the punishing 1908 race is given credit for the advancement of the motor car as a dependable means of transportation, and for instigating plans to pave roads and provide automobile road services in many parts of the world.

The Flyers present home

21-66-P1010316

The National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada is home to the Thomas Flyer and more than 200 other beautifully crafted and renowned motor cars that make up the history of the automobile.

22-17-09-68-P1010318

Among other famous cars to grace the museum are James Dean’s 1949 Mercury from “Rebel without a Cause”, Elvis Presley’s Cadillac Eldorado, James Garner’s Oldsmobile 442 from the Rockford Files. Frank Sinatra’s 1961 Ghia L6.4, John Wayne’s 1953 Corvette (too small for Big John), and John F Kennedy’s 1962 Lincoln Continental.

09-10-26-81-P1010880

The museum also houses the trophy won by the Thomas Flyer Team in 1908. It is the world’s heaviest sports trophy and weighs over 1,600 pounds.

31-24-16-84-P1010334

The museum is located at the corner of Lake and Mill Streets in downtown Reno. Don’t miss it.

02-02-18-71-P1010870

Get more information from www.automuseum.org

Happy travels!

32-25-01-46-P1010417

While in Reno, we stayed at the GSR, Grand Sierra Resort and Casino. Great gaming, entertainment, and restaurants that we will present in upcoming articles.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com