The Race is on to Saratoga Arms on Opening Day

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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

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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.

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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!

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Care for an afternoon snack?

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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.”

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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.

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A Nostalgic and Romantic Spa Resort in the Pocono Mountains: Yes!

If you were lucky, you went to a terrific summer camp when you were a kid. Well, now you are all grown up, and your luck is holding out – because we have found the adult luxury equivalent of your bygone summers. So come with us and relive those halcyon days of yesteryear at the Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, Pennsylvania.

A region of kid’s camps and adult resorts

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We found the Lodge at Woodloch during our writing swing through luxurious vacation destinations in the Northeast Appalachians, which include the Pocono, Adirondack, Catskill, and Berkshire Mountains. Our travels took us to New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Maine.

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We stayed mainly at exclusive B&Bs, so a full-blown woodsy, all-adult resort and health retreat, was a nice change of pace.

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Just like our early memories of kid’s camp, the Lodge at Woodloch has hiking and biking trails aplenty, along with camp fires, a lake for fishing and boating – and advanced amenities like delicious wellness-centric meals, vegetable gardens, an orchard, and a first rate health spa.

A biofilic experience

The developers of the Lodge at Woodloch believe that all vacationers that have an interest in the Lodge at Woodloch have a special connection with nature, and an affinity for other life forms. The developers take this belief very seriously, and everything at Woodloch supports their conviction.

The Lodge at Woodloch is elegant and exclusive

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All the amenities we will mention (and more) are for the pampering of a relatively small number of discerning guests. There are just 57 guestrooms in the entire resort.

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This refuge truly defines the height of America’s health-conscious aristocracy.

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The lodge building fits perfectly with the natural environment, and has just the right amount of secluded niches for those seeking quiet relaxation.

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The sleeping rooms are well furnished and mindfully decorated to blend with the forest just beyond each guestroom door. We also noted that the spacious quarters elegantly avoid being trendy or thematic.

The food

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We ate all our meals at the TREE restaurant and bar, so named because of the exquisite outlook from the floor to ceiling viewing windows, featuring – what else – trees.

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If you are a devoted foodie, this all-inclusive resort is for you.

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There are food prep demonstrations, cooking classes, wine tasting, and an array of lectures for those interested in learning about the advantages of preparing, cooking, and eating proper foodstuffs.

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The in-house chefs have also one-upped the concept of “farm to table” dining, with their “table to farm” experience where a delicious meal is prepared and served in one of the resort’s three vast gardens. Really different, and great fun!

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The resort’s menu is unique and chock-full of tasty healthy treats, check out this breakfast menu.

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Here’s a photo of a succulent buffalo burger with mushrooms.

The garden

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We were privileged to spend some time in the resort’s gardens where much of what is used in the kitchen is grown. Chock full of produce goodies, the garden boasts currants, mint, rhubarb, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, and a large assortment of plants and herbs.

Since our visit, we have learned that the resort has added an orchard. Two acres and 65 trees will bring a bountiful harvest of apples, pears, peaches, and plums to be enjoyed by the guests.

Pollination

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You have undoubtedly heard about the decline in U.S. bee colonization. Well, the Lodge at Woodloch took steps to insure their 100,000 bee population would continue to grow.

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They sought, and obtained, a certification as a Pennsylvania Pollinator Friendly Property. These people are serious about natural symbiosis.

The trails and lake

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The resort’s grounds quickly envelop you in their beauty.

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Our morning at the Lodge was spent walking some of the nature trails in this pristine 150-acre wilderness.

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We ended up at the private 15-acre lake and decided to try our hand at fishing.

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All the equipment we needed was available in the “Lily Pad,” lake shed located just a stone’s throw from the water.

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A couple of casts, and voila – success.

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We caught several small, but spunky bass, which we quickly returned to the water after thanking them for participating in our holiday.

The spa

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The focal point of the indoor experience at the Lodge at Woodloch is the spa with its 27 treatment rooms, and an extensive array of customized body treatments, massages, and facials.

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We could not photograph the occupied treatment rooms, but did manage to get images of the beautifully appointed changing rooms and the Aqua Garden’s Hydro Massage Waterfall.

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What a spectacular way to relax after a massage – and we did just that!

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Guests are invited to luxuriate in saunas, steam rooms, and whirlpools, as well as separate male and female fireplace lounges for the ultimate in introspective relaxation.

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This spa and wellness center is a destination in its own right.

If you go

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The Lodge is nestled in the far northeast corner of the scenic Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, in what is known as the Lake Region. It is a scant 95 miles from NYC and many major airports.

For more information

This four-diamond resort incorporates an unparalleled level of sophistication in serene luxury. There are so many delightful aspects, that it would be impossible to present them all in this short article. We suggest you explore the resort’s extensive website at www.thelodgeatwoodloch.com

Like to stay at a resort that sports loads of awards? This is your spot. Check out this impressive list– a true standard of excellence achieved by few vacation destinations in America.

Whether you go to the Lodge at Woodloch for revitalizing, relaxation, nurturing, detoxing, a taste of good old fashioned nostalgia, or just an outing in the woods, this is the place to be.

If you can, give yourself permission to enjoy a special vacation at the Lodge. You will not be sorry.

PS – if you are looking for a family resort, look no further than nearby Woodloch Pines Resort. We did not have time to drop by, but we were told it may be an even better place to reflect on those still remembered summers at kid’s camp – because it has – kids.

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

“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 © 2015 Judy Bayliff

A Vacation on Kauai at the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas

It has been some time since we reviewed a Hawaiian vacation property, and the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas on the leafy garden island of Kaua‘i  is particularly interesting for several reasons.

Mixed clientele

The Westin Princeville is a village style resort that caters to a number of different types of vacationers. We spoke with Westin Vacation (timeshare) Owners, business people using their Starwood Preferred Guest Points for a much deserved vacation, and ordinary folks seeking a safe and diversified family vacation resort. Everyone we engaged was having a terrific time – so were we.

The resort was built in 2008 at a cost of $165 million. It has been renovated several times since 2008, with the most recent refreshers completed in 2015.

 Checking in

The spacious lobby is both inviting and befitting a family resort.

The resort offers three levels of spacious accommodations. There are studio villas, and one and two-bedroom villas. They are all designed for vacation living, and feature kitchen facilities and an unusual (and much appreciated) convenience – a washer and dryer.

There’s also a nice twist to daily maid service at the resort. On any day you opt out of housekeeping, there is a breakfast for one awaiting you at the on-site Nanea Restaurant and Bar. Now all you need to do is figure out who will be the lucky one to eat the tasty quid-pro-quo breakfast.

Looking around

The Westin Princeville is a lush and sprawling property with pleasant surprises at every turn.

There are four gorgeous pools for quiet soaking, active fun and swimming, and entertaining the kids.

The infinity pools give bathers a sense of continuity with the ocean that is 200 feet below the Westin bluff.

The kid’s pool is great fun with a slide and spouting turtle fountains.

The Wailele Bar, is a walk-from-water pool-side oasis that serves up casual lunches, afternoon appetizers, and of course, amazing tropical beverages – and the beer is ICE cold.

Self-cooking

Care to do your own grilling for lunch or dinner? There are 20 clean and ready poolside barbecue grills.

It is wise to shop in advance for the food you plan to cook on the outdoor grills or in your villa kitchen, but you can also find many of your culinary necessities at the on-site Princeville Market, which features some ready-to-cook repasts prepared by the resort chefs.

Eating out

When you don’t feel like cooking, you can walk along the pathways to the resort’s convenient Nanea Restaurant and Bar. There, you will be able to select from either a comfortable indoor setting, or a more open al fresco terrace dining atmosphere.

The menu at the Nanea is always inspired by the island surroundings. Local produce is blended with the catch of the day to produce tantalizing seafood flavors. For your inner gourmet, try their five-course Tasting Journey where seasonal dishes are paired with just-the-right wines. A nice treat.

Pièce de résistance


The poolside Papa’i Dinner for two is a special event prepared by the Nanea culinary team.

Led by Jason Sessions, the Director of Food & Beverage…

the talented chefs created a personalized menu of savory courses for us, served in a private cabana under the dazzling Hawaiian stars.

Our spectacular menu included a starter of crisp crab cake with seared scallop and edamame guacamole, sweet chili butter and macadamia nut pesto served with a German Riesling.

The salad was garnished with feta cheese and cherry tomatoes and sprinkled with tarragon vinaigrette dressing. The salad was paired with a Lambrusco, from Modena NV.

The Catch and Beef was a combination of garlic seared Ono with citrus butter and tomato garlic chutney served with a Pinot Noir from Monterey…

and the beef was short ribs with scallion mash. The ginger hoisin jus, and garlic butter put the ribs over-the-top on taste and flavor.

The sweet finish was warm pineapple cake with vanilla ice cream and a salted caramel topping – polished off with a 5-year old sweet Madeira from Portugal.

What a feast!

This romantic interlude was overseen by our personal attendant, who left no details of the service or presentation to chance.

This is an, “if you can, you must,” dining experience.

Ecology kudos

Since its opening in 2008, the resort has continually embraced the concept of “being green” and “sustainability.” To reduce the resort’s carbon footprint the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas has completed the installation of a cogeneration plant (produces both electrical and thermal energy) that allows the resort to produce over 90% of its electricity on site. The cogeneration plant’s output is also used to heat the pools, whirlpools, and the hot water throughout the resort.

For the movie buffs

Did you know that Kaua‘i was the filming location for blockbuster movies such as South Pacific, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jurassic Park, King Kong, Blue Hawaii, Outbreak, The Thornbirds, and many others? You can pick up an Official Guide Map detailing all the movie locations from the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau.

We liked the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas and recommend them for a fabulous family vacation.

How to go

The Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas is located in the serene surroundings of Kaua‘i’s north shore.

We hired a rental car at the Lihu’e Airport because we wanted to see all the famous attractions of Kaua‘i on our own time-schedule.

It took us about 60 minutes to drive the 30 miles from the south-eastern Lihu’e Airport to the Westin Princeville.

Once there, it’s a short drive to get to any number of public beaches.

It’s also just minutes west to the town of Hanalei and some really fun shops and restaurants.

If you are a golfer, you have a choice of three local links including the stunning 27-hole Makai Golf Course – another good reason to have a car.

We could not include all the amenities that we found at this resort in our thousand-word review. For more information about all that is available, have a look at their website at http://www.westinprinceville.com

If you would like to read more of our reviews of luxury Hawaiian hotels and resorts just click on a subject below.

The Royal Hawaiian in Honolulu

The Moana Surfrider on Waikiki Beach

The Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii

Snorkeling with the Manta Rays on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa on Maui

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.

We flew to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines.

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

We did it. It was easy. We fell in love with Old Cape Cod

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Last fall we traveled back east to New England to be part of the annual fall festival of colors. We put over 1,000 miles on our rental car, and were treated to great weather, superb accommodations, and exquisite dining. We also met some wonderful Americans – in the land where the country began.

There’s a lot to see in Massachusetts. On this trip we decided to stay away from the big cities and concentrate on small communities where we might discover something of that hometown flavor we yearn for, but encounter less and less during our travels around America.

Cape Cod 

Click on the Cape Cod link above if you want to set the mood for this story by listening to Patti Page singing her timeless hit “Old Cape Cod.”

It was almost Halloween when we arrived in The Cape. It would have been difficult to not fall in love with Cape Cod at this time of year. Cool breezes shuffling newly fallen leaves, the traffic of summer greatly diminished, and locals had already replaced tourists in the restaurants – where there was no wait to get a table. Also, at this time of year, lodging reservations are easier to get, and cheaper too.

It’s the shoulder season

If you follow our travels, you have undoubtedly noticed that most of our getaways are during what the travel industry calls the “shoulder season.” That’s the time of relative quiet before the kids get out of school, and after they go back. A period between peak and off-peak seasons. In much of the United States, the shoulder season is September, October, November, and March, April, and May.

Since most parents like to take their kids along on vacation – not everyone can take advantage of these relaxed vacation months. However, as empty nesters, we appreciate our road less-traveled outings.

Welcome to Falmouth Village

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The second largest town on Cape Cod is Falmouth, but calling it “large” in any context is a misnomer because the population is shy of 32,000. Falmouth is just a nice little New England village with lots of folksy charm.

B&Bs befitting the locale

We stayed at two highly recommended B&Bs while in Falmouth – The Palmer House Inn and the Captain’s Manor. Today we will introduce you to The Palmer House, and save the equally excellent Captain’s Manor for a future article.

The Palmer House Inn

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This Queen Ann style Cape Cod inn was constructed in 1901, and has been a bed and breakfast since 1983.

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Bill and Pat O’Connell took ownership after retiring from the world of business and education, and have been the congenial innkeepers at the Palmer House Inn since 2005.

They have enlarged the property to its current capacity of 16 guestrooms – however, everything seems to belong exactly where it is, so we would be hard pressed to identify the areas they have changed.

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The inn is lavishly decorated with beautiful antique furnishings and tasteful décor. Upon entering, the elegant wood clad walls, stained glass windows, and shining wood floors induce immediate feelings of returning to the sanctuary of a comfortable home in the early 20th century.

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Each guestroom is different from the others,

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and each has the usual amenities discerning guests have come to expect from top-of-the-line B&Bs.

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Every great B&B worth its salt is expected to provide a savory and delicious breakfast, and the Palmer House excels in that arena.

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There’s even a Palmer House cook book to help you remember the culinary treasures.

Steps away from history and corpses 

The Palmer House is steps from the Falmouth Village Green, and local shops and restaurants.

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We can attest to strange October goings on in this neighborhood of historic (and haunted) houses.

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After dark, the “From the Night Watchman,” ghoul-tacular at the Museums on the Green was a scary fun event we thoroughly enjoyed – along with all the kids in Falmouth Village.

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The spooky activity of the night before, did not seem to negatively influence the swarm of tikes that invaded the village stores on Saturday afternoon’s trick-or-treating.

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Great fun, and we were so glad to be part of the excitement!

When it is time to eat 

We have three restaurants to recommend in downtown Falmouth, one Irish, the others Italian.

Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub

The building at 273 Main Street has been serving one sort of food or another since the early 1900s. In 1994 it became Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub and Restaurant. The proprietors’ told us that they want to offer the same comfort and ambiance that they remember from the pubs back home.

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We sampled their Beef and Guinness Stew. A blending of slow cooked tender beef with potatoes, carrots, peas, celery, and onions in a savory Guinness reduction. Served with a side salad and Irish soda bread. A meal in a bowl.

Stone L’Oven

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Who doesn’t like a good authentic hand-tossed Italian style Pizza?

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We certainly do, and we found one at 271 Main Street. What a delicious, crispy, stone-fired Neapolitan crust.

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Yowza! It tastes every bit as good as it looks.

LaCucina Sul Mare

237 Main Street. Yes, another Main Street establishment. This street in Falmouth Village has all the restaurants you need, and they are all good neighbors!

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LaCucina Sul Mare offers an ample variety of choice Italian cuisine nicely presented. The selection of Italian table wines is deep enough to please even the most discriminating palate.

Locals tell us this restaurant is very busy during the season, and they do not take reservations. In October there was no wait.

Park and walk

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All these restaurants are a short distance from the Palmer House. By the way, if you happen to be driving an electric auto, the ecologically forward-thinking innkeepers at the Palmer House have already installed two Tesla Charging Stations on the property. Check here for details.

Stay tuned

Falmouth Village is the quintessential Cape Cod town, and a superb place for a family vacation. It is an area we particularly like photographing and writing about.

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Martha’s Vineyard is just a ferry-boat ride away from Falmouth, and in a future article we will show images of autumn on The Vineyard, introduce another first-class B&B, and tempt you with more New England vittles.

If you go

We recommend that you look at the Palmer House website and consider staying there. It’s truly a warm and friendly home away from home. 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.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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

Reno Offers Up Outstanding Craft Beer

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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

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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

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

Take the Family on a Lighthouse Tour of Quebec, Canada

Le Quebec Maritime

The Province of Québec, Canada has so much to offer the global tourist that we found the best way to present the many vacation options was to separate them into several categories; this story zeroes in on just one of Québec’s major attractions – lighthouses.

On the trail of the lighthouses

North America’s most spectacular lighthouse trek is in Canada’s Le Québec Maritime, which is located along the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the St. Lawrence River. Central to the Maritime region is the Gaspésie (or Gaspé) Peninsula and that is where our adventure begins.

Getting there

We flew non-stop from San Francisco to Montréal on Air Canada. It was a long flight and we were happy to arrive at the modern Trudeau International Airport, and even more pleased to be able to walk to the convenient and stylish Marriott hotel located right there in the airport building next to the US Departures Terminal.

After a quick dinner, we were off to bed – anxiously looking forward to continuing our venture with the rise of the sun.

The next morning we took an Air Canada Jazz flight on a small aircraft to the quaint town of Gaspé, which is situated at the easternmost end of the Gaspésie peninsula and about 575 miles northeast of Montréal.

There we met up with friends who had already secured a mini-van and within minutes, we had our luggage aboard and were off on our search for accessible lighthouses.

There are 43 historic lighthouses in the Québec Maritime, but not all are easy to reach, or open to tourists.

Our goal 

Twenty lighthouses in the Maritime have been restored and/or converted to museums, lodging, and otherwise made available to the public. We were eager to explore and photograph as many of them as our short visit would allow.

As we drove, it did not take long to realize that all of our subjects were located in gorgeous natural surroundings thick with boreal forests and vistas of the sea. At every turn, the scenery was breathtaking, and we were fortunate to be blessed with ideal weather to enjoy our outing.

Forillon National Park

Forillon National Park

Our first stop was at a large and spectacular park not far from the town of Gaspé. At the Grande-Grave Heritage House at Forillon Park, we met up with Ranger Bruce O’Connor who is a wealth of information about the area.

Ranger Bruce introduced us to the local flora and fauna, and pointed out the interesting irregularities of the topography of the park.

We also learned that this area is rich in the history of 20th century fishermen and merchants. You can read all about the history and culture on the park’s website linked above.

Tourists can easily spend days exploring the vast Forillon Park, and if you decide to do that, there are convenient overnight accommodations right in the park. There are over 350 campsites, and if you aren’t ready for the fun of sleeping on the ground, try a Yurt, or tent trailer, both are available for rent in the park at reasonable prices.

Forillon was the place where we saw our first lighthouse

The Cap Gaspé, was established in 1873 and at 30-feet in height is short by lighthouse standards. However, there was no need for it to be tall because it is perched atop a high cliff overlooking the great St. Lawrence.

In the same park, you will also find Canada’s tallest lighthouse (112-feet) from 1858, the Cap-des-Rosiers. This light was constructed at a considerably lower elevation that has easy access to the sea.

Both lighthouses are in excellent condition. Canada takes great pride in the upkeep of their historic lighthouse treasures.

“Thar she blows”

This entire area is a vast causeway for migrating whales of many species, and we were able to see several of the magnificent animals from the Cap Gaspé cliffs.

Back to Gaspé for dinner and a rest

This is an article about lighthouses so we will not dwell on the inns where we stayed – except for this one. We spent our first night at the charming (circa 1860) Auberge William Wakeham in Gaspé.

This is a vintage inn that has been scrupulously maintained by generations of owners. The restaurant ambiance is uniquely European in flavor and the food – oh my – is regionally famous and rightfully so. There are scrumptious mains from local waters and ice cream and deserts made on site. Yummy!

The 132

In the morning, we were back on Canada Route 132, the signature highway of the Lighthouse Tour that circles the Gaspé Peninsula. There are at least 15 lighthouses on this scenic drive that runs along the entire coast of the peninsula. The 132 is rich in photo ops of colorful villages, cliffs, beaches, capes, and of course – lighthouses.

Pointe-á-la-Renommée lighthouse

Established in 1880, this 49-foot charmer is called the most traveled lighthouse in the world having been moved to and from its present site. It once resided in the Port of Québec for 20-years. It was returned in 1997.

The museum on location is not to be missed. This was the site of the first North American maritime radio station installed by Marconi in 1904. The grounds are as spectacular as the seemingly endless views. This is another place where our day passed too quickly. We want to return.

La Martre lighthouse

The La Martre is located in a quiet setting near a church overlooking a panoramic coast. This 63-foot tall lighthouse was constructed of wood in 1906. It is a rare treat to see because most wooden lighthouses ceased to exist years ago. The lighthouse still works with the original cable and weight system that operates the illumination mechanism.

Pointe-au-Pére lighthouse

This is the site of Canada’s worst maritime disaster, the sinking of the passenger ship Empress of Ireland on May 29, 1914. One-thousand and twelve lives were lost.

Resting in just 130 feet of water, the old wreck has taken many more lives through the years. Subsequent deaths were mostly recreational scuba divers who put themselves in harms way by entering the wreck seeking treasures. It is now forbidden to enter the wreck of the Empress.

The original lighthouse at this location was built in 1859, followed by three more, the latest and final rendition is 108-feet tall and was completed in 1975. It was deactivated in 1998.

The current structure is one of the tallest lighthouses in Canada with 128 steps to climb – if you are game. For those who dare, a breathtaking view of the St. Lawrence River awaits you – if there is no pea soup fog.

The Pointe-au-Pére was the last lighthouse we had time to visit on our short four-day trip. We took the time to thoroughly investigate five lighthouses, but there are so many more to see. We will make it a point to add more days to the lighthouse tour on our next visit to Le Québec Maritime.

The ferry to Forestville

We decided to explore, albeit briefly, the north shore of the St. Lawrence River before returning to Montréal and our flight home. We took a pleasant ferry excursion to Forestville from Rimouski. The crossing was complete in about one-hour.

The van was unloaded in short order we were driving to Baie-Comeau and the Garden of the Glaciers. The Garden is another of Québec’s attraction that deserves its own story, so we wrote one. You can read our article about that exciting family experience by clicking on http://is.gd/caZNCg

We highly recommend the Québec Maritime for a fun-filled fly and drive vacation. There is so much to do and the sightseeing is terrific.

To see more photos from our lighthouse tour click *here.*

If you go

To avoid disappointment, we suggest you arrange your vehicle rental and accommodations before you arrive in Canada.

For more information about what the Québec Maritime has to offer, check out their great website: http://quebecmaritime.ca.

Take special note of their unique self-guided tours.

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

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.”

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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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

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

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

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craftsman workshops such as a shipsmith shop,

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nautical instrument shop, and a cooperage.

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

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

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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

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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.

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Fancy a sailing lesson around the harbor?

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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

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

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

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

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Get more information from www.automuseum.org

Happy travels!

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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

A Visit to the Historic Captain Jefferds Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine

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This was our first visit to the Captain Jefferds Inn and the famous coastal community that is home to the Bush family retreat on Walker Point.

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Long before news of presidential visits put quaint little Kennebunkport on the global tourist map, it was a favorite vacation spot for local New Englanders.

Pounding ocean waves, with seagulls gliding over sand and rocky shores all entreat the visitor to savor the sights and sounds of Kennebunkport, and we were glad to be there.

It was raining

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We ran from our rental car to the safety of the dry front porch of the Captain Jefferds Inn. It was a torrential downpour, but the warm welcome from Innkeepers Sarah and Erik Lindblom immediately brightened the otherwise gloomy day.

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They have enthusiastically greeted guests to the inn for more than a decade and obviously enjoy the activity.

Recommended by a friend, we found the inn to be the perfect elixir for a tiring and wet 2-hour drive from Boston.

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Our one-night stay at the Captain Jefferds Inn provided all the comforts one would expect from such a highly rated B&B in an area of many exceptional B&Bs and hotels. Perhaps it’s the friendly competition that keeps the area’s inns so special and inviting. Whatever the reason, we found this inn exceeded all our expectations for comfort and hospitality.

A step back to an elegant time

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The Lindbloms have scrupulously maintained the aura of a home once the domain of a sea captain and his family. Captain Jefferds built his home with the smartness and efficiency of a sturdy New England sailing ship. There’s even a removable railing on the stairs to assist in the repositioning of furniture between the multiple floors.

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Our room was well appointed with cozy furnishings and a warming fireplace – just what we needed to beat a late October chill. The bed was the perfect balance between support and indulgence, with linens that embellished the vibe.

Pet friendly

Captain Jefferds has considerately reserved five rooms for those who wish to travel with their pets. Located aside the main house, there is a smaller building, which was once a carriage house.

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The just-right furnishings add to the charm of these spotlessly clean and elegantly relaxed guestrooms.

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A screened porch, reminiscent of a lake house, overlooks a park like setting and completes the charm of the surroundings. It just doesn’t get any better than this for our furry best friends.

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Meet Kathleen — she is the summer/fall Assistant Manager, who gave us a splendid tour of the inn. A practicing nurse, she lives and works in Florida during the winter. Like the other staff at Captain Jefferds, Kathleen is full of energy and interesting insights about the Kennebunks.

Where we ate

Our innkeepers recommended David’s Kpt Restaurant for our evening dining. We gathered up an umbrella and walked the few blocks from the inn to the center of the little village of Kennebunkport.

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We had filled up on the delicious never ending fresh baked cookies and other goodies laid out at the Captain Jefferds’ sun room, so were not interested in a large dinner. We skipped what looked to be an excellent selection of soups, salads, and appetizers at David’s, and went directly to the main plates.

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The skewers of shrimp and scallops were delicious, and an unusual pairing of pork tenderloin, bacon, and balsamic apples, accompanied by maple mashed sweet potatoes and spinach was a savory treat. We were so content after our entrees that we passed on dessert, but did enjoy a warming espresso before heading back to the inn.

A breakfast to remember

We write about the best B&Bs, so we often experience sensational breakfasts. Notwithstanding previous enjoyments, the Captain Jefferds Inn served one of the finest gourmet day-starting meals in our recollection.

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The table was a picture of country food-service sophistication, and the seated breakfast guests anxiously awaited the arrival of whatever produced the tantalizing aromas wafting from the nearby kitchen.

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Once the serving commenced, the table discussion quickly turned to praises for each of the three-courses served to the delighted patrons.

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Dan, the inn’s convivial chef, made an appearance to check on the acceptability of the food. We think he knew the answer – and seemed to relish the well-deserved applause.

After breakfast, it was time for us to press on to our next lodging in Maine, but before we left we wanted Sarah and Eric to know that we would be describing our experience with tributes.

If you go

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The 16-room Captain Jefferds Inn is on the corner of Pearl and Pleasant streets just a little south-east of Kennebunkport’s town center. Check out their website at www.captainjefferdsinn.com

Unfortunately, the heavy rain precluded our visiting and photographing the many sights that bring the tourists to Kennebunkport, but we plan to remedy that happenstance on our next visit to New England. In the meantime, here’s a website of local images by Robert A. Dennis.

To learn more about Kennebunkport, look at http://www.kennebunkport.org

More Maine

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If you think you might like to sail the coast of Maine on a grand tall schooner, read about our adventure here.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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

Chuggin Along on the African Queen

As we travel, we check off places that are on our Bucket List. Being film buffs, many of the things on our list are related to movies we have seen over the years.

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We recently checked off another “to do” from our list by skippering the authentic “African Queen,” the boat made famous by Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in the 1951 Academy Award Winning film of the same name.

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The “Queen” is presently docked at a destination also made famous by Bogart in the Florida Keys, Key Largo

Finding the Queen

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We happened upon the African Queen quite by accident. We were in the Keys doing research for articles about luxury resorts and “old Florida” accommodations. A list of those articles follows this story.

The Florida Keys are fun strips of coral sand islands connected by 42 bridges and the Overseas Highway, US 1. They stretch for about 120 miles south into the Atlantic Ocean below Miami, Florida.

The Keys are ripe with salty myths and legends, and stories of true adventures like the finding of millions of dollars in sunken treasure on the Atocha. There are also unusual stories like those about Ernest Hemingway’s house of many cats in Key West.

All the excitement in the Keys make them an apropos home for the iconic African Queen.

The Queen’s history

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The Queen had an interesting past long before she came to the attention of John Houston who immediately wanted her for the movie he was directing in the Belgium Congo. She was perfect for the role of the African Queen – just beat up enough to look the part, and just seaworthy enough – to run long enough – to finish the movie.

The vessel was built in 1912 in Lytham, England, where she was named the Livingstone. Her first job was to carry cargo, hunters, and missionaries on Lake Albert and the Victoria Nile in east Africa.

Houston found her in 1951. She was sufficiently worn by then, and perfect for the material role of the African Queen in his epic adventure.

In 1968 the boat was moved from Africa to the United States by a San Francisco restaurateur. He planned to charter the famous boat to tourists.

The Queen changed hands again in 1970 when she was purchased for the price of her boatyard bill, and moved to Oregon where she was successfully chartered a few months out of the year. Finally, on to Florida for an attempt at year-round chartering – that failed.

In 1982 she was born again as a tourist attraction at the Holiday Inn in Key Largo. About that time, she also made her re-entry onto the global stage and toured around the world in ports such as Sydney, New York, and London.

The news of her re-emerging travel and popularity caught the eye of Kate Hepburn who was said to be “delighted” that the old Queen had been saved, yet again.

A new life

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Finally, in 2012, on her centennial, the most recent revival of the African Queen was completed by a new operator Lance Holmquist. She needed a new boiler, her steel hull required fortification, and her engine needed rebuilding. The work was a labor of love for Lance, and the Queen now delights vintage boat and film buffs once again.

Our wish came true

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We took the helm like Bogart and Hepburn and chugged the little 30-foot boat through the canals of Key Largo and out into the open ocean. This was high-exhilaration for two old movie buffs.

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As we approached the Queen’s home-dock at the Marina Del Mar, adjacent the Holiday Inn, Lance gave us the final thrill when he let loose the Queen’s shrill steam whistle. There is no mistaking that sound heard so many times in many places over the last century.

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Check off one more from the Bucket List!

If you go

For more information about tickets for the daily cruises on the African Queen located at Mile Marker 100 in Key Largo, look at the website here. www.africanqueenflkeys.com

Note: The African Queen is a true relic, and she wouldn’t be “authentic” if she was spit-polished. So, don’t wear your Sunday best if you plan to board her.

You will also benefit by checking out the general visitor information about visiting the Florida Keys at www.fla-keys.com

The Keys are full of luxurious and unique places to stay. Here are three stories to read about some we have visited.

Kona Kai Resort

Little Palm Island Resort

Cheeca Lodge and Spa

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Vintage black and white photo courtesy of United Artists

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

An Extraordinary Experience at a Princess Chef’s Table

 

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Dining at a Chef’s Table should always be a titillating treat of tantalizing tastes. Traditionally, a Chef’s Table is located in the kitchen – where the guests can watch, and “ooh” and “ahh” as the Chef and his/her team work their culinary magic. That was not how it was at the Table of Chef Ottavio Bellesi aboard the Golden Princess – and here’s why.

From the beginning

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Soon after boarding the Golden Princess in San Francisco, we had a meeting with the ship’s Maître d’ Hotel, Neville Saldanha, to discuss our dining preferences.

After learning that we were writing about the cruise, and knowing that food is always a popular subject with prospective passengers, Mr. Saldanha suggested that we make reservations for one of the two Chef’s Table events planned for the sailing. We quickly agreed, and a few days later our invitation was in our stateroom mailbox.

A dining we did go

On our assigned night, we gathered just outside the galley entrance with the four other lucky couples that would share our table. There we donned freshly laundered white lab coats and were led into the sparkling kitchen.

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Our first stop was the sink, where each guest was required to wash his/her hands before proceeding into the galley’s inner sanctum.

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After the salubrious ceremony, the Maître d’, Neville, introduced us to our grand host, Ottavio Bellesi, the Executive Chef of the Golden Princess. Together, they described how the evening would unfold.

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First, a toast of Nicolas Feuillatte Brut to celebrate the event.

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Then appetizers like Lobster Margarita with Avocado and Mango, and Fontina Cheese and Black Truffle Mini Quiche.

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While noshing on our hors d’oeuvres, we will watch the artistic galley staff create ice carvings, and ingenious fruit and vegetable table settings.

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Followed by a brief tour of the kitchen to look over the shoulders of the culinary crew preparing and plating the meals for the sitting dinner passengers.

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All the above will culminate in a procession into the main dining room where our specially prepared, multi-course dinner will be served.

Chef led tour

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Right on schedule, Chef Bellesi began to lead our walking tour of his vast stainless domain.

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During our sparkling wine toasts, we realized THIS Chef’s Table was not to be like any other we had previously experienced. Not only would it be conducted by a great Italian Chef – but one who was also an extraordinary entertainer with a gift of contagious laughter.

Chef Bellesi’s cheerful laughter was so genuine, and totally disarming – that there was no escaping his charm. Within minutes, he had all of us wrapped around his little finger, and totally absorbed in his every word.

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To make the situation even more hilarious, Neville, the Maître d’, was the perfect comic foil for Ottavio’s Italian-accented antics. He was Martin to the Chef’s Lewis, Abbott to his Costello, and Hardy to his Laurel. The ad hoc comedy team of Bellesi and Saldanha had us in stitches throughout the evening.

We learned and we laughed

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Our two hosts exhibited a high-knowledge of food and wine. The chef added to the group’s understanding of the evolution of Italian cuisine from the basics of simple fresh ingredients to contemporary flavoring techniques.

Italian chefs often work with fewer ingredients and less elaborate preparations than others, making the quality of the ingredients of paramount importance. Chef Bellesi explained how the composition of Italian-style grand cuisine becomes richly enhanced when blended with traditional Italian techniques of “cucina casalinga,” or home cooking.

On to the table

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A notable aspect of Italian dining is that the first course is frequently a filling dish like risotto or pasta. So it was at our table as we were presented succulent marinated poached Halibut atop a generous portion of Porcini Mushroom Risotto.

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Soon after an Amalfi Lemon Sorbet…

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came the Lobster Thermidor…

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and a Filet Mignon Rossini, accompanied by a delectable truffled herbed Rack of Lamb, Mustard Hollandaise, Rosemary Jus and Lemon Butter Fondue, Roasted Parisienne Potatoes, and Sautéed fresh market Vegetables.

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The above preceded Potted Stilton with Port Wine reduction and Walnut Bread, and all was finished-off with a delicate Marble Chocolate Semifreddo with a Raspberry soft center, topped off with a meaningful coffee and Chef Ottavio’s…

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home made Biscotti & Amaretti. What an incredible feast!

Not an easy task

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A Chef’s Table is an elaborate undertaking that puts a strain on a kitchen’s resources and staff. In restaurants, the event often takes place after the nightly kitchen rush.

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In that regard, we found our lavish affair to be a testament to Chef Ottavio’s ability to create, organize, and coordinate the serving of our event – while his galley team was seamlessly providing superb service to the main body of 1,000+ passengers in the busy dining room around us. Amazing!

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Abetted by many of his key staff, Chef Bellesi personally crafted our special Chef’s Table menu, and remained involved in the preparation and presentation of the feast from appetizer to desert.

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Along with the ship’s Maître d’, the head Sommelier was there to describe the exactly paired wines that were selected for each of our courses.

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At the end of our fabulous gourmet adventure, each participating couple received a hard-cover copy of, “Courses – A Culinary Journey,” autographed by Neville and Ottavio, along with a group picture – and the ladies departed with a rose. This was an affair to remember.

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Considering the investment in food, wine, supplies, and key staff time, we cannot fathom how Princess could make a profit on what each of the ten guests paid for the evening’s Epicurean enjoyment.

We rarely mention prices in our articles because prices change, but we found it amazing that our 3-hour gourmet spectacle cost us less than US $100 per person. Certainly, all the participants will talk about their bon vivant adventure with friends and family for years – and that may just be what Princess has in mind.

If you ever have an opportunity to participate in a Chef’s Table on a Princess Cruise ship – by all means, take it!  Seating is limited so apply early to avoid disappointment.

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And if the uber-funny pair of Bellesi and Saldanha should happen to be on your ship, absolutely do not miss their afternoon cooking demonstrations.

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There is so much more to them than cooking.

For more information about Princess Cruises click here.

Happy travels and bon appetit!

Suggested reading regarding Princess Cruises by Wayne and Judy:

The Sweetest Suites for Two Aboard the Golden Princess

Luxury Cruising from San Francisco to Hawaii on Princess Cruise Lines

Three Great Reasons to Book a Cruise Out of San Francisco 

Saved by a Princess on the Tasman Sea

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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

It’s a Wonderful Life in Wellsboro, PA

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Wellsboro, PA reminds us of the quality of life and friendly folks of Bedford Falls depicted in Frank Capra’s classic 1946 Christmas flick, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

For one thing, Wellsboro has a wide grassy median down the center of Main Street (like in the movie), and rows of romantic old Victorian gas lights that lend a warm glow to the quaint town at dusk.

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In our opinion, like Bedford Falls, Wellsboro is a great example of the best of 1940s Americana. Safe, clean, with well-maintained stately homes set back from wide streets lined with elegant elms and maples. Close your eyes, and you could easily be in a landscaped New England village illustrated by Norman Rockwell.

Outdoor paradise

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Wellsboro is a rural small town with lots of outdoor activities. The two we found most interesting were the lovely park overlooking the Pine Creek Gorge a.k.a. the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, and the nearby Pine Creek Trail.

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We visited the Gorge at Colton Point State Park overlook, where it’s an invigorating one-mile hike down to the bottom of the canyon via the steep Turkey Path Trail. The journey is worth the effort to experience the waterfalls and breathtaking views.

Not your western canyon

Very different from the Grand Canyon of Arizona, the Tioga County Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania is a dense forest. It is a sportsmen’s paradise with kayaking, canoeing, fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and hunting – all easily accessible.

Where hunting is still a family affair

Pennsylvania has more than 17 million acres of forests shared by the residents at little or no personal expense. This is fishing and hunting country, and local children are taught to respect firearms at an early age.

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Hunting is a time honored tradition in Pennsylvania, and the state’s sensible conservation rules keep the animal populations robust, healthy, and well managed – and the residents well fed with tasty game recipes!

A fabulous multi-use trail

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The Pine Creek Rail Trail was once a roadbed for lumber and coal trains, and later for tourist excursion trains – however, the railroad ceased operations in 1989. Subsequently, state, railroad, and community officials cooperated in removing the tracks and transitioning this beautifully scenic rail-bed into one of the premier bike and equestrian trails in the country.

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The trail is 62-miles long with only a 2% grade over the entire distance. A well-maintained base of hard-packed gravel is waiting for all outdoor enthusiasts – free of charge.

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Hunters, joggers, equestrians, and bicyclists all share the Pine Creek Rail Trail with mutual respect.

Eating in Wellsboro

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There are more than a half dozen fine restaurants in this little town, but be sure to drop by the famous Wellsboro Diner for a delicious breakfast, or a sizzling burger and fries with a homemade peach pie chaser.

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There is something special about an All-American diner. The sight of one brings smiles and visions of hearty heartland foods like a hot roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy, and a chilled chocolate malt from a stainless steel blender – all at sit-down prices that everyone can afford.

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The 600 or so authentic American Diners remaining in the nation are an important part of our heritage. A place where folks from all walks of life sat side-by-side and talked about important matters – like the weather and the Babe’s latest stats. A hot cup of java awaited every after movie date, and everyone had a favorite seat at the counter.

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Operating in the same location since 1939, the highly successful porcelain-enameled steel Wellsboro Diner seats about 100 and is the perfect fit for its downtown setting. Do not miss it!

Where to stay

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There are several delightful places to stay in and around Wellsboro, and a reader recommendation led us to a true gem.  The Bear Mountain Lodge is a wonderfully rural and luxuriously rustic log-cabin inn with four well-dressed guestrooms. The minute we walked through the door we felt at home.

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There is a well-stocked kitchen with gratis munchies, drinks – including Keurig coffee, and fruits for all the guests. The in-room refrigerator is also full of goodies.

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Our “Whitetail” suite was extra-cozy, and had a spacious bathroom furnished with delightful locally made soaps and potions.

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Amiable owner Jim Meade, converted his custom home into this unique guest lodge in 2005.

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The Bear Mountain Lodge is tastefully decorated with dozens of woodsy furnishings, all adding to the exclusive hunting lodge ambiance.

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The thickly treed grounds are well-maintained and the innkeepers invite guests to enjoy the wilderness and its inhabitants. There’s even a bike barn on property for those wanting to try a ride on the local trails.

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Sherri, the lodge hostess, was blowing leaves off the driveway when we arrived. She keeps the elegant inn uber-clean and neat-as-a-pin the year round.

The lodge is just minutes from town, but if you would prefer to stay right in the heart of Wellsboro, Jim Meade has the answer.

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Check out his Bear Mid-town Lodge at www.131mainstreet.com and look at the bottom right side of the website to see all three of Jim’s properties.

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All of Jim’s Wellsboro lodgings are excellent and warrant our enthusiastic two thumbs up rating. His Bear Meadows Lodge is pictured above.

If you go

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Wellsboro is located in beautiful north-central Pennsylvania, just south of the New York state border. 

Bear Mountain Lodge is at 8010 Route 6, just west of Wellsboro, and within 5-miles of everything mentioned in this article. Here’s a map.

Click here for additional details about Bear Mountain Lodge.

Get local tourist information from the Tioga Visitors Bureau at www.visittiogapa.com/

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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

Judy’s Holiday Suggestions for the Travelers on Your Gift List

In 2014, Wayne and I tested samples and reviewed books from eleven companies that sent us products. I have six recommendations for you.

Recommendation #1

 Travel sleep aids from Cabeau

My husband and I like delightfully cushy items like the Cabeau Memory Foam Evolution Neck Pillow. It has helped us sleep on long flights and enabled delightful naps on deck chairs on cruises.

Combine it with the Cabeau Midnight Magic Sleep Mask engineered to fit around the bridge of your nose for 100 percent darkness – it really works.

We have tested, like, and recommend both products for the travelers on your list. You can check-out and purchase these and all the other products at the company website at www.cabeau.com

Recommendation # 2

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On the road or at home we are burned-out by dumb-down American TV. We were pleased to find that there are still fine entertainment alternatives from Britain.

In addition to Downton Abbey, during 2014 we found several worthwhile and provocative mystery series offered by our friends across the pond. Thought provoking rather than mind numbing selections such as Midsomer Murders, Prime Suspect, Murdoch Mysteries, George Gently Mysteries, MI5, and Rosemary and Thyme.

Hook up with any of the above and your interest in the TV medium may be renewed.

These sophisticated Who Dunnits make excellent gifts for ardent mystery lovers and many are available at Acorn TV. Video purchases can also be made here.

Recommendation #3

Travel and learn a language

I must disclose that this is the only product on our list that I have not personally tested. My recommendation is based solely on a multilingual friend’s experience. He emphatically believes this specific language learning program, designed by Dr. Paul Pimsleur is the best on the market. Wayne and I thought it would make an interesting gift for certain people, so I decided to add it to my holiday list.

The program is used by U.S. government agencies and global corporations. The program is also backed by a 60-day guarantee, and is said to require only 30-minutes of study per day. It concentrates on words and phrases you are likely to need to converse in the chosen language – giving you the vocabulary, grammar, and native-like pronunciation. The way the program is set up, you actually learn by having a conversation in the new language.

Worth a look-see for the people on your list that have expressed an interest in learning another language. You can find more information about the program, and order it at www.pimsleur.com

Recommendation #4

Travel Route 66 For your book reading friends:

TRAVEL ROUTE 66 is a guide to the history and sights along the famous “Main Street of America.” Written by Route 66 expert, Jim Hinckley, this full-color guidebook offers interesting historical insights about the famous highway.

The book points out the many attractions along the route in each state, and also recommends dining and lodging stops. All material is supplemented with great new and classic photos.

Did you know Route 66 runs through eight states: Arizona, California, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas? The book is arranged with a chapter on each state and describes all with accompanying new and vintage photos.

If you have driven Route 66, as we have, or are just interested in some great nostalgic Americana, you can order Hinckley’s book *here*.

 

Recommendation #5

Travel with Route 66 TV SeriesTo accompany the TRAVEL ROUTE 66 book, you may have friends on your list who would appreciate the complete ROUTE 66, TV Series offered by Shout!Factory

This year we completed the last of the 116 episodes of the popular series from the 1960s. Bring your portable DVD player and watch all the episodes as you travel.

The complete series is available as a 24-DVD box set from Shout!Factory. The show starred Martin Milner, George Maharis, and later Glenn Corbett, and boasts exciting adventures shared by a pair of good buddies as they drove their Corvette convertible across the country on Route 66.

The series featured and introduced many well-known stars including Barbara Eden, Buster Keaton, Boris Karloff, Burt Reynolds, Cloris Leachman, Ed Asner, James Caan, Joan Crawford, Julie Newmar, Lee Marvin, Leslie Nielsen, Martin Sheen, Peter Lorre, Robert Duvall, Robert Redford, Rod Steiger, Ron Howard, Suzanne Pleshette, Walter Matthau – you get the picture.

Click on the title above for information on how to own the complete set. A great gift for Corvette fans and old TV show buffs!

Recommendation #6

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Many people use a heating pad for various muscle aches from time to time. The Sunbeam Renue is the best we have tested. First, it is a logically designed wrap that fits comfortably over the shoulders and high on the neck to provide soothing, stress-relieving heat therapy.

Use it in the office or at home – lightly weighted edges hold the wrap in place. There are four personalized heat settings for “just right” comfort.

The Sunbeam Renue wrap is easy to care for because the soft microplush fabric is completely washable.

An excellent and useful gift for the entire family.

NOTE: The wrap has a magnetic clasp to hold it comfortably in place so it is not suitable for persons with pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators, or internal insulin pumps.

You can order this product directly from Sunbeam *here*.

Happy Holidays

Wayne and I wish you all the Happiest of Holidays, Best of Health and Happiness, and Happy Travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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

Take Amtrak to Santa Barbara and Enjoy a Car Free Holiday

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We had not been on a train in years, so when invited to experience a weekend getaway on the rails that was “drive free,” we jumped at the opportunity. The adventure entailed making our way to the Diridon Train Station in San Jose, California, and boarding the southbound Amtrak Coast Starlight train bound for Santa Barbara. Here’s how it all went:

Checking baggage

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Coast Starlight passengers are allowed to check two bags each, with similar baggage restrictions to those of the airlines. However, our visit was a short getaway so we planned to carry our two small bags to our compartment.

Off we go

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Our Amtrak Coast Starlight train departed on time at 10:07am. We booked a “roomette” accommodation in what is called a Sleeping Car. The roomette amounted to a small compartment with two facing cushioned chairs that recline into a bed. There was also an upper drop-down bunk bed enclosed in the ceiling for the use of a second passenger. We had a nice window to enjoy the view, and there were curtains and a door to shut out the world if we so desired.

We found the biggest advantage of a roomette over a set of less expensive coach seats during a day trip is the privacy for conversation and making phone calls.

Travel comfort

Train travel can be bumpy, but the bouncing around is part of the fun and experience.

The Coast Starlight is one of the longest ocean-view train rides in America. There are a number of venues from which to watch the numerous passing landscapes between San Jose and Santa Barbara.

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We spent most of the day in comfortable swivel chairs in the upper-level Pacific Parlour Car. Wide windows gave us first-class views of the abundant scenery.

This car also has a lower-level theater where first run films are featured.

Eating on the train

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Sleeping Car passengers receive complementary meals and can reserve eating times in either the Pacific Parlour Car, or Dining Car. The train’s *menu* is more than adequate and includes sandwiches, fresh fish, salads, several daily entrées ­– including their famous steak in the Dining Car.

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We tried a number of offerings from the menu, and highly recommend the Angus burger – it’s full-flavored and delicious.

Hello Santa Barbara

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Our Amtrak train arrived at the Santa Barbara station on-time at 5:55 pm. The station is small, and was quiet upon our arrival.

It was a short distance to our downtown lodging at the Santa Barbara Hotel on State Street. It felt good to stretch our legs and walk the four blocks from the station to the hotel.

The Hotel Santa Barbara

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Centrally located in downtown, the Hotel Santa Barbara is a quaint boutique style hotel with an interesting history. Originally built in the late 1800s, the hotel was destroyed in the 1925 Santa Barbara earthquake. It was quickly rebuilt and became a luxury accommodation for the likes of Clark Gable and Carol Lombard who were frequent guests.

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Slowly losing traction over the years, the hotel was again revitalized in 1996 when the 75 room establishment became the elegant focal point for the renaissance of downtown Santa Barbara.

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Today, the quietly sophisticated hotel offers small groups a place to stay and meet while visiting the many attractions of the city.

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After settling into our comfortable and spacious guestroom, we took a walk along State Street and window shopped the many specialty retailers that line the cosmopolitan thoroughfare.

Our full day in Santa Barbara

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It was a typically beautiful Santa Barbara morning, and after a filling Continental Breakfast provided by the hotel in their spacious Mediterranean lobby, we began to think about the best use of our day.

As part of the Car Free program, the hotel provides tickets for the scenic Santa Barbara Trolley Tour, but a friend had suggested the best way to see the downtown area of Santa Barbara, and to enjoy some of the local cuisine, is by foot on a food tour. It was a good suggestion.

The Santa Barbara Food Tour

We signed up for the Lower State Street and Funk Zone Food and Culture Tour offered by Savor Santa Barbara Food Tours. Our tour started in Rudy’s Mexican Restaurant on W. Montecito Street.

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Claire Ihlendorf-Burke, our congenial guide, handed us a menu of delectable south-of-the-border treats. We chose the beef tacos.

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Not expecting a large amount of food on a tour, and certainly not expecting the biggest and best ever tacos, we tucked away all of the plenty that was offered in short order. The only problem was that this was the first “tasting” on the tour, and we had no idea how we could possibly eat anything more that day – but, somehow we managed.

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We were able to scrape the bowl of delectable lobster bisque at the Enterprise Fish Company,

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and enjoy the grape’s bounty at the Santa Barbara Winery in the hip, but understated Funk Zone section of Santa Barbara.

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What saved us from intake overload were the short walks between the seven sample foods and beverage stops. The entire tour takes a little over three hours and covers about two-miles.

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Claire knows her city well, and she showed us the interesting back streets, urban wine trail, and fine examples of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, for which the city is famous.

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Our tour ended at McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, an artisan creamery with delicious sweets.

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We highly recommend this tour as a great way to learn about Santa Barbara, sample some great food and wines, and get some non-threatening exercise.

Our final day in Santa Barbara

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Before boarding our train to return to San Jose, we took a walk to see the Santa Barbara Courthouse and Sunken Gardens on Anacapa Street. It is worth a visit…

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and the view from the clock tower is breathtaking.

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We also enjoyed the colorful farmer’s market that literally took over State Street the morning of our departure. The market provides residents and visitors an opportunity to purchase farm fresh produce of the highest quality.

For the economy minded traveler

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In terms of space and seats aboard the Coast Starlight, coach accommodations are akin to First Class space aboard most domestic airlines.

A nice accompaniment to the Amtrak Santa Barbara Car Free getaway is the many establishments that provide discounts to Amtrak ticket holders. Get a list of who is participating from www.SantaBarbaraCarFree.org. The website also provides insight into what is available to do while in Santa Barbara.

There is so much to do and see in Santa Barbara and we could only scratch the surface within the confines of this article. You will just have to check it all out for yourself. You will be glad you did.

If you go 

The Coast Starlight runs daily between Seattle and Los Angeles.

Airport connections are available from Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles.

Amtrak offers free city guides and walking tours, which you can find *here*

For more information about what downtown Santa Barbara has to offer click *here*

Look *here* for information about the Hotel Santa Barbara.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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

A Hawaiian Sea Adventure to Remember

Coming face to face with a giant manta ray is the thrill of a lifetime.

Manta rays are amazing and curious creatures. People are fascinated by their opposing nature of ominous looks, and sweet dispositions.

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The Sheraton Kona Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii pays homage to these gentle giants by providing a viewing area for visitors at the resort’s Rays on the Bay restaurant.

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From the restaurant’s lookout, the magnificent and mysterious creatures can be seen gliding in the night ocean far below.

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Guests can also attend a complimentary lecture about the manta rays arranged through the resort’s front desk.

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The resort can also organize a water adventure to view the manta rays up close from a local tour boat named the Hula Kai – an opportunity we eagerly welcomed.

Swimming with the manta rays

Like whales, manta rays eat plankton. The plankton are attracted to light and that is the secret to successful manta viewing from the Hula Kai. Our excursion went like this:

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We boarded the nearby Hula Kai at sunset and moved just off shore of the Sheraton Kona.  We donned wetsuits, googles, and a snorkel provided by the concessionaire. We were given a quick course on manta watching, which is done from a horizontal position floating on one’s stomach and holding fast to a length of 3” diameter buoyant pipe – set out from the stern of the boat much like a floating rectangle.

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Soon darkness was upon us, and the Hula Kai engaged underwater illumination used to attract plankton to the site. We entered the water by ladder and positioned ourselves around the floating pipe. We looked down into the clear bay water and breathed through our snorkels.

Our bodies were made buoyant by the wetsuits, so maintaining our balance was not difficult. It did not take long before the first of six manta rays appeared from out of the shadows – and the fun began.

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Manta rays are big, but harmless to humans. They, like the whale, are filter feeders. Mantas are fish related to the shark, but have no bones, teeth, barbs, or stingers. However, they do have size – up to 2,000 pounds – which they use in a very good-natured way.

Manta rays are often given names by the crew of the Hula Kai. Each ray has distinctive “spots” that make identity possible.  The same rays tend to return for evening dining and playing with the snorkelers and divers.

For a period of about one-hour we watched these graceful giants do underwater summersaults just below us – performing like rolling acrobats with gray tops and white underbellies.

Although touching the mantas is not allowed, the creatures have no such restrictions. Frequently, one or more of the rays did a graceful roll just under a snorkeler and purposely pressed its sleek white underbelly along the length of the viewer’s body – an exciting encounter that will be remembered by anyone that experiences it.  The top of a ray feels like sandpaper, and the underside is as smooth as velvet.

Tempus fugit, so do it while you can

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For nature and adventure lovers, snorkeling with the manta rays in the back of the Hula Kai in Kailua, Kona is right up there with diving with the reef sharks in the Bahamas, and snorkeling or diving with the sting rays at Stingray City in the Caymans.

Click *here* to read our story and see pictures of the beautiful Sheraton Kona Resort on the Big Island, and *here* to check out the resort’s website. To read about all the services offered by the company that operates the Hula Kai Manta Snorkel, click *here.*

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff, shark picture by Wayne Bayliff, Manta Ray pictures courtesy of Sheraton Kona.

You can see the world with Google Maps. www.maps.google.com

We flew to Hawaii on Hawaiian Airlines

Try Long Beach, California for Exciting Family Fun

Recently, we had an opportunity to experience Long Beach, California, in depth – the transformation of this city over the decades is nothing less than astonishing.

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What was an unremarkable middle class town has magically morphed into an exciting convention and vacation destination that rivals the best of what other Southern California beach towns have to offer.

Note: Everything you will read about our Long Beach holiday is available for your enjoyment. We have provided green links to each topic. Just click on a link for more details about the subject.

We started out at SFO

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Our Long Beach adventure began with a flight from San Francisco on Jet Blue airline. This was our first experience on the airline and it certainly will not be our last. We found that on our flight, the extra leg room in standard economy was enough to make Jet Blue our new coach-class favorite over the ever-shrinking, sardine-like seats we are all too familiar with on our United and American flights out of SFO.

Additionally, we liked the fact that there was no charge for our checked luggage.

As long as Jet Blue provides these benefits we will be “True Blue,” when it comes to flying coach.

LGB is a delightful airport

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We relish flying into small town airports, and although Long Beach is certainly not a little town, the LGB airport has a small, open, easy-going vibe.

Stay at the Westin

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Within minutes of our arrival at LGB we were relaxing in our room at the Westin on Ocean Boulevard.

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The hotel is close to the Queen Mary and many of the other attractions on our itinerary.

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After getting settled we were off for a tour of the Queen Mary led by Honorary Commodore Everette Hoard, followed by dinner aboard…

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at the Sir Winston’s restaurant.

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What delicious French Onion Soup!

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Our main course was classic “Surf and Turf” that was cooked to perfection.

About the Queen

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The city of Long Beach went into promotional overdrive in 1967 when it acquired the iconic RMS Queen Mary.  Like the city itself, the Queen has known good times and bad, and through it all has become a symbol of pride and enduring strength in America.

Highly visible in Long Beach Harbor, the Queen Mary humbly accepts daily accolades for her beauty and durability, and for those who know, for her valiant courage.

When launched in 1936, the Queen was the fastest ship afloat. During WW2, she made 72 wartime crossings of the treacherous Atlantic and was the prize never won by Nazi U-Boat captains determined to sink her for the Fatherland and Adolf Hitler.

During the war, Winston Churchill said he felt as safe aboard the Queen Mary as he did in Parliament.

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Churchill’s comfortable suite on board the Queen is now part of the array of staterooms available by reservation at the Queen Mary hotel. A stay on this venerable ship is an extraordinary historical privilege.

A few years back, we stayed at the Queen Mary hotel. If you would like to read about that experience on the famous ship click here for the story.

Morning on the water

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The following day we toured Long Beach Harbor on the Triumphant of Harbor Breeze Cruises.

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This is an excellent way to see all that the waterfront of Long Beach has to offer. Harbor Breeze also offers whale watching cruises.

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Next we strolled around Shoreline Village with its many interesting shops, boutiques, and attractions.

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Our walk ended with a seafood lunch at the famous (and delicious) Parkers’ Lighthouse.

Afternoon at the Aquarium

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Our afternoon at the Aquarium of the Pacific proved it to be a family attraction we could highly recommend.

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Exhibits were both entertaining and educational.

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Great fun for all ages.

Final day

The following morning we had breakfast at The Attic on Broadway. The cuisine was unique and tasty.

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How about a Bloody Mary with bacon and a pickle?

Tour with Pedego

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It was a beautiful Long Beach morning so we signed up for an electric bike tour along the ocean bike path. Our host was Pedego Electric Bikes.

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This is an excellent way to view the 5.5 miles of manicured sand and shoreline residences along the beach.

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The bikes were all in super shape, and depending on your shape, you can pedal or leave the pedaling to the Pedego.

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The outing was great fun, and there was an outstanding group of participants.

Time for culture

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There are plenty of indoor activities in Long Beach and in the afternoon we left the sun to visit the Long Beach Museum of Art.

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We were captivated by the exhibition Baroque Sensibilities by Sherrie Wolf.

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The museum changes exhibits regularly, so keep an eye on their website.

Back in time

A quite unusual attraction that is not highly publicized is Long Beach’s 4th Street, a.k.a. the “Retro Row.” It is comprised of several blocks of funky little boutiques, antique, and pre-owned clothing shops that will take you back to mother’s time – or maybe your time, if you recognize lots of the habiliments. Locally owned restaurants and wine bars add to the joy of meandering.

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The Rows landmark 1920’s Art Theatre hosts events such as contemporary and vintage films and live concerts.

A little touch of Venice 

Our next Long Beach adventure had us back on the water.

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Gliding along the waterways of Venice, Italy is one of our fondest memories, and we had an opportunity to reminisce in Long Beach on a romantic gondola ride thru Naples Island with Gondola Getaway.

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We watched the sun surrender to the Pacific – a perfect ending to an exceptional day.

Last supper

Our last dinner on this getaway was at the Boathouse on the Bay. The water oriented restaurant was busy on a balmy Long Beach evening, and the service and food were as advertised i.e., excellent.

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Our entrees consisted of the biggest-ever and perfectly prepared King Crab Legs accompanied by a chopped cucumber sprinkled with dill and drizzled with a light vinegar – a brilliant pairing of tastes.

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We can also recommend the tasty sea bass on potato mash amidst a savory sassy mix of carrots, peas and green beans. Delicious!

Things to know before you go

Long Beach boasts 345 days of sunshine and it is cold at 50 degrees in January, and hot when it’s 83 degrees in August and September. How great is that!

The outdoor activities in Long Beach are numerous and include fishing, harbor cruises, kayaking, rollerblading, biking, horseback riding, tennis and of course, golf. If that weren’t enough, windsurfing, scuba diving, parasailing, water skiing, whale watching, and sailing are also available. Whew!

There are over 5,000 hotel rooms in Long Beach, and 17 hotels that have complete meeting facilities. The public transportation is unsurpassed, and with all the available activities, Long Beach is a spectacular convention town.

As evidenced by its many nightspots and hip restaurants, the city has become an exciting destination for younger tourists.

There’s a lot to do and see in Long Beach. We recommend a visit. You will not be disappointed.

For additional information check out www.longbeachcvb.org

If you go

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Long Beach is 22-miles south of downtown Los Angeles and is well serviced by the airlines and the California Freeway System.

Happy travels.

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Cannery Row on Monterey Bay is an easy 2-hour drive south of San Francisco. Two good reasons to add Monterey to your northern California holiday are that it is a breathtakingly beautiful part of the Golden State, and it is far less commercial than San Francisco. It’s a great place to enjoy some quality down-time during your vacation.

A brief history of Cannery Row

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Oil made whales the Monterey prey of choice for fisherman until Kerosene was introduced in the late 1800s. At that time, the local fishing industry made a quick turn to sardines, and the first cannery opened in 1902 along Ocean View Avenue – now Cannery Row.

From that date until the 1960s the fishermen and businessmen of the “Row” didn’t realize it, but they were systematically fishing themselves into oblivion by overtaxing the schools of mature sardines needed to reproduce and replenish the early abundant harvests.

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The last sardine catch and pack on Cannery Row took place in 1964 on the site of the now famous Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Inspired by John Steinbeck’s celebrated story, Cannery Row is visited annually by scores of vacationers from around the world, and it is well worth a prominent place on your vacation schedule.

It’s fun to share the planet

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Cannery Row is not only a tourist’s mecca, it has also become a conservationist’s Disneyland. There’s the spectacular Aquarium, and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which can be enjoyed by tour boat, sail boat, kayak, or row boat.

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On land, tourists can comb the waterfront, whale watch, otter watch, seal watch, bird watch, and people watch. Cold water SCUBA divers also get to fish watch. There are a whopping 26 species of marine mammals, and 345 species of fish residing in the Monterey Bay Sanctuary.

Also in the area

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Golfing and touring at Pebble Beach, Carmel, and Pacific Grove are minutes away,

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and the Point Pinos Lighthouse in Pacific Grove is open to the public and is a great place to get a feel for a lighthouse keeper’s life in earlier times.

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Point Lobos State Reserve with its fantastic views of the Pacific is also in the neighborhood.

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In the area, we also visited the fabulous Holman Ranch and Winery, and *here* is that story.

Where to stay

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There is no shortage of great places to stay on and near Cannery Row. We chose the Monterey Bay Inn right on the “Row.” It is the first hotel on the water when driving east.

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The Inn’s appeal includes being slightly away from the center of the hub-bub, where most of the tourists congregate. Yet, it is just a short walk to all the interesting shops that line the Row.

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The views from the Monterey Bay Inn are impressive – especially if you are lucky enough to reserve an end room with a balcony over the water. We recommend room 320 if it is available. (that’s 320 just under the roof canopy above)

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The Inn is adjacent to San Carlos Beach Park, where visitors can picnic and stroll the beach. The park is also an excellent entry point for kayaks and SCUBA divers heading for a swim with the fishes among the ever-swaying orange and brown kelp beds.

Cannery Row eateries

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The area is awash in excellent restaurants, but there is one in particular that deserves a feature story, and that is what we plan for the legendary Sardine Factory on Wave Street.

The Sardine Factory is a world-class restaurant that is also an uplifting All-American success story. It’s about two ordinary guys that started with nothing almost 40-years ago, and today are recognized by presidents, the movers and shakers of industry, and scores of celebrities in the restaurant and entertainment world.

It’s also a tale of tradition, values, honesty and integrity – subjects that are too often forgotten in our confused times.

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So look for our story about the Sardine Factory in the near future. It is good press that will inspire you – it did us.

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The Monterey coast and Cannery Row are California treasures that should be explored and enjoyed by all lovers of the sea, nature, and fine food – definitely worth putting on your getaway list.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff
Photos © Judy Bayliff
You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com

Our Panama Canal Christmas Cruise Aboard the Amsterdam

We live in California and two of our best friends reside in Florida. We wanted to visit them during the holidays, but didn’t want to endure the stress and aggravation of crowded airports and airplanes – so an opportunity to sail from nearby San Francisco to Ft. Lauderdale through the Panama Canal was especially appealing.

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Our cruise was an anomaly for a Holland America Panama Canal Cruise because the usual port of embarkation for the Canal trip is San Diego. However, it was our good fortune that the Amsterdam had been in dry-dock in San Francisco for a two-week spruce-up before our cruise.

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That meant a few hundred lucky passengers got to see the dramatic glow of the San Francisco skyline during departure – we picked up the majority of the passengers for the Panama Canal Cruise two-days later in San Diego.

Size matters

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Our last few cruises were on much larger ships, those with capacities over 2,500, so a ship that holds 1,380 passengers and a crew of 607 felt compact, and just a little cozier because of it.

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The first thing we noticed upon boarding the Amsterdam is that her color schemes are nicely subdued and her décor is a bit more refined than found on some of the newer ships. Of course, being a member of the Holland America fleet, she is elegant and uber-clean.

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At the heart of the Amsterdam is the Planeto Astrolabium, a magnificent three-story structure that tracks constellations, and the planets.

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The Planeto Astrolabium is also the ship’s hub for customer service activities, and the area to find a bevy of nearby exclusive shops.

Cruising in comfort

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The Amsterdam’s suites are sophisticated and chic.

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They are comfortable, classically elegant,

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and successfully avoid being trendy and thematic.

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They also reflect the natural allure of privacy at sea in graceful surroundings.

Repeat cruisers

We learned very quickly that many of our fellow passengers were not disembarking along with us in Florida. Rather, they were continuing on for the 114-day round-the-world cruise. The Grand World Voyage itinerary is sailed by the Amsterdam, and a stalwart group of Holland America loyalists make the annual voyage. We did a story about one charming lady who is among those habitual world cruisers, and you can read about her *here.*

For those interested, the 2015 Grand World Voyage begins on January 5th and departs from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Cruise included holidays

Our trip encompassed both Christmas and New Year’s Day.

By Christmas Day passengers and crew alike were in a festive mood – a wonderful holiday spirit that was most evident at the crew’s inspirational holiday program entitled “The Sounds of Christmas Carols.” Hundreds of passengers genially joined in the crew’s evening group-sing.

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The merriment continued right through an impressive shipboard New Year’s Eve celebration at sea.

The seasonal gatherings aboard the Amsterdam helped form a genuine bond between passengers and crew – all from different countries, cultures, religions, and life experiences – quite marvelous to be part of it.

An amazing crew

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The staff on Holland America ships hail mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines, but on our cruise there were also crew members from 32 other nations. All were accommodating and friendly – a sure sign they were happy at their work, and with their employer, Holland America.

Meet the Captain

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Like all the other ship’s Masters we have interviewed, Captain Fred Everson set his sights on a life at sea from a very early age – he had a great mentor – his father was a captain on cargo ships. He subsequently attended and graduated from Holland’s maritime academy in Rotterdam, and joined HAL in 1980.

Everson told us, “My main concern as the Captain of the Amsterdam is the safety and pleasure of my passengers.” The captain informed us that Holland America has installed and is now testing the first thermal imaging system designed to immediately detect a person who may accidentally fall overboard.

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When asked what he likes best about his job, Captain Everson answered, “It offers me an opportunity to see the world.” His professed favorite place is Antarctica, “I love the remote grandeur, topography, and animal life.”

With a work schedule of 3 months on and 3 months off, Captain Everson has ample time to indulge in his favorite pastime – motorcycle trips from his home base in Del Ray Beach, Florida. He has logged over 150,000 miles on motorcycle tours of North America.

When Captain Everson retires he plans to continue touring, “There’s so much I haven’t seen.” A few years back the captain purchased an RV to assist him in his roaming. Happy motoring Captain!

Eating aboard the Amsterdam

We found the quality and presentation of food aboard the Amsterdam to be up to the usually delicious Holland America standards.

La Fontaine Restaurant

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The main dining room is the two-story La Fontaine Restaurant and is well designed with numerous windows for abundant natural light during day-time meals.

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Our table was next to one of the windows so we enjoyed constant vistas of the sky and sea while dining.

Lido Restaurant

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Many of our breakfasts were taken at the informal buffet-style Lido Restaurant,

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where we savored made-to-order omelets and a wide variety of meats, cheeses, cereals and fresh fruit and juices.

Specialty Restaurants

The Canaletto has introduced a new menu featuring Italian family style dining with some toothsome recipes.

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We relished our starter of Vermouth Braised Clams with spicy chorizo, garlic and basil.

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The Rigatoni with Italian sausage, Kalamata olives, and a spicy and delicious tomato sauce was a perfect pasta choice.

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The large plate entrée was a tasty Grilled Lemon-Thyme White Sea Bass with roasted fingerling potatoes, shaved fennel, and orange-olive salad.

Everything was delicious, however we found it unusual that no breads or rolls were served at the Canaletto, an Italian restaurant. Perhaps that has changed – we hope.

The best steaks and seafood

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The Pinnacle Grill is romantic and intimate and the favorite rendezvous of beef and seafood lovers. We were happy to learn that Holland American serves only seafood caught in a sustainable manner.

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A Caesar Salad prepared at the table was an excellent opener,

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followed by Dungeness Crab Cakes with spiraled shaved cucumber and sweet chili-mustard sauce. Outstanding!

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The filet mignon was a perfect size for a four-course dinner and was prepared with sun-dried tomatoes, and the master chef’s green peppercorn béarnaise sauce and maître d’ garlic butter.

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We finished with Baked Alaska a la Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream flamed with Bing cherries jubilee. OMG!

Terrace Grill

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After shamelessly feasting for days on end, it was nice to occasionally take a breather and enjoy a simple old-fashioned hamburger, hot dog, or slice of pizza. The Terrace Grill poolside was a welcome, albeit brief departure from lavish dining. May we recommend an ice-cold beer for accompaniment?

About the cruise itinerary

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Our Panama Canal voyage on the Amsterdam started on December 18, and took 17 days, and covered 5,914 miles. The same trip was an arduous 13,715 miles before the advent of the 50-mile long Panama Canal.

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The Amsterdam stopped at six countries between San Diego and Ft. Lauderdale. Ports included Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Corinto, Nicaragua; Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica; Cartagena, Columbia; and Georgetown, Cayman Islands.

The ports we favored were Cartagena, and Georgetown, but of course, the highlight of the cruise was passing through the historic Panama Canal.

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In a future article we will write about all the ports of call on the Holland America Panama Canal Cruise and include a summary of the exciting history of the Panama Canal.

An all-day event

It takes about eight-hours to transit the canal’s three locks and navigate the lake that lies between the locks and seas.

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The passengers were up at the crack of dawn to watch the Amsterdam approach the first lock,

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and be tethered to the electric locomotives that guided her seemingly effortlessly through the narrow Miraflores Locks.

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Once the Amsterdam was released from the second locks into Gatun Lake, passengers had several hours to observe the dark and mysterious waters and dense sweltering tropical jungle from on-high aboard the ship.

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Everyone watched as the liner glided along patches of small uninhabited tangled green islands – all safely visible from the glass enclosed and air-conditioned lounges and public spaces on the Amsterdam.

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Our minds wandered and considered the lives of the thousands of diggers who suffered (an estimated 25,000 died) to conquer this hostile wilderness for the betterment of mankind. How fortunate we are to be able to witness the engineering marvel they created.

Check out the related video below for a brief depiction of the passage.

by HollandAmericaFan

Don’t miss it

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A trip through the Panama Canal is one of the most interesting cruises on this planet. We recommend it highly.

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For more information about Holland America cruises, itineraries, and specials, look at their website at www.hollandamerica.com

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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

Combine St. Regis and Kaua‛i for an Unforgettable Hawaiian Holiday

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Often referred to as Hawaii’s “Garden Island,” Kaua‛i is a lush tropical paradise of towering cloud-crested green summits. The island has 50-miles of sandy beaches perpetually polished by translucent waves. It was undoubtedly the perfect island for the legendary St. Regis brand to open one of their unparalleled luxury resorts.

Behold the majestic north shore

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The Hawaiian St. Regis Resort at Princeville is surrounded by five verdant mountains overlooking the beautiful Hanalei Valley and the breathtaking Napali Coast.

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No wonder Hollywood picked nearby Lumaha‛i Beach to film scenes for Rogers and Hammerstein’s immortal “South Pacific.

Kaua‛i’s north shore is also home to Makana Mountain, better known as the mystical Bali Hai in the movie. In this case, the real thing is more alluring than the illusion.

Kaua‛i is everyone’s dream-scene of a protected rain-forest Pacific Island paradise, and having chosen it, the St. Regis is now the preferred glamour address for the elite Hawaiian vacationer.

A royal beginning

The location of the St. Regis in Princeville was named after the “Prince of Hawaii,” the official title of Prince Albert Edward, born in 1858 to King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, and godchild to Queen Victoria of England. Kamehameha IV and his family vacationed in the area in 1862. Sadly, the young prince died that same year, but out of respect, the area has retained the legacy name.

Arriving at the St. Regis

Our arrival felt like the beginning of an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. The elegant ambiance of the resort lives up to its reputation and was immediately evident.

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The reception area is part of the larger lobby, and the eyes are drawn every which way to accommodate the combined spectacle of luxury and scenic beauty.

The check-in was effortless, and the staff exhibited the training and courtesy that is the hallmark of the St. Regis brand.

A legacy of distinction

John Jacob Astor IV, opened the first St. Regis Hotel in New York City in 1904. Forty-nine openings later, the brand has retained its well-deserved image of sophistication and the reputation for successfully catering to the old (and new) aristocracy and its many fascinating personalities.

The butler did it

Each suite at the St. Regis has a butler to cater to the guests’ every wish. During our stay, our butler proved to be an invaluable resource about navigating around the resort and the island of Kaua‛i in general.

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Our Bali Hai suite at the St. Regis Princeville consisted of two levels.

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The main floor was the location of the living room, kitchen, dining/meeting room, half bath, and balcony.

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A generous sleeping room and spacious full bath were located on the second floor.

The view from our suite was sweeping and tropical

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From our balcony we had an opportunity to watch the St. Regis staff prepare for a beachfront wedding. Planned nuptials can be attended by five or 500; the St. Regis has the facility to make the event as perfect as a couple can imagine.

The Spa

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After settling in, we started our decompression in style with a massage at the luxurious Halele‘a (which means House of Joy) Spa located just off the main lobby of the resort.

This is much more than your standard resort spa. It is an 11,000 square foot facility with 12 treatment rooms, and a trained staff dedicated to your relaxation, healing, and ultimate body and mind restoration.

We chose and recommend the stress relieving Lomi Lomi Massage that involves a deep muscle therapy, accompanied by continuous gentle strokes – a technique we have learned to associate with Hawaiian therapists. Oh, so soothing.

Our first dinner at the St. Regis was a memorable occasion

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Although we found the on-site Kaua‛i Grill dining room decor to be somewhat understated for a five-star restaurant, the view of Hanalei Bay and Bali Hai at sunset more than made up for any lack in interior motif.

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The exciting bill of fare at the Kaua‛i Grill is the brainchild of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a globally recognized Michelin cordon bleu chef. The menu boasts the master’s flair for the French and Asian influence in personally selected appetizers, entrees, and desserts.

The place to start your day

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We had breakfast on the Makana Terrace overlooking Hanalei Bay.

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This is an oasis of tranquility that beckons one to sit back and enjoy the acclaimed scenery while savoring the culinary delights of the local fresh food markets.

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The restaurant so fits its place that it must have been inspired by Kaua‛i itself. If you stay at the St. Regis, don’t miss the day-opening buffet on the Terrace.

Eat at the bar

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Here we were offered light casual pub style victuals in a convivial comfy environment. Also, a great place to gather for a cleansing ale before dinner.

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There are five excellent dining venues at the resort – all with fantastic views.

For the golfers

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The St. Regis Princeville Resort’s Makai Golf Club is designed by globally-celebrated golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and is an 18-hole championship course complete with lakes, woodlands, and a spectacular view of Bali Hai and Hanalei Bay.

If you go

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The St. Regis Princeville is a luxurious resort with significant cachet and 252 guest rooms, including 51 premium ocean view suites.

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Look to the St. Regis website at www.stregisprinceville.com to choose from a range of diverse guestrooms to suit your taste and budget.

You will probably fly into Lihu‛e Airport on the east shore of Kaua‛i. If you do, expect a 32-mile drive to the picturesque north shore, and the resort. There are all varieties of available transportation at the airport. A standard taxi will cost just over $100 with tip – and it’s up from there. We reserved a rental car, and were glad we did because there is so much to see on Kaua‛i.

In future articles we will write about the many things to do outside the St. Regis demesne.

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As a preview, there are watery caves to explore…

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and the famous Waimea Canyon to photograph. We will also take you along on a fabulously romantic dinner for two under the stars in the Papa‛i Kilauea Hut at the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas.

If you are researching luxury hotels and resorts for a planned holiday in the Hawaiian Islands, you might also like to read our stories and evaluations of these other Starwood properties in Hawaii.

The Royal Hawaiian in Honolulu

The Moana Surfrider on Waikiki Beach

The Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa on Maui

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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

We flew to Honolulu and inter-island on Hawaiian Airlines.

San Francisco is Fun, and Nearby Pacifica is Breathtaking

Interesting little towns located very near big vacation destinations like San Francisco often go missing from the holiday planner’s radar. In the case of Pacifica, California, that would be most unfortunate.

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Just 15-minutes south of San Francisco on famous California Hwy 1, Pacifica is a great place to enjoy a change of pace from the hustle and bustle of a City vacation. It’s a place to stretch out and watch the waves, and experience the community life of a small Bohemian style California coastal town that marches to a decidedly different drummer.

Gaspar discovers the Bay

A 1200 foot ridge high above Pacifica was the place from which Gaspar de Portola discovered the San Francisco Bay in 1769.

We discover Pacifica

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Being a short distance from our home, we have driven past Pacifica on many occasions, but only stopped once to research a story about the town’s amiable Segway tour operators.

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Our Segway experience proved to be a pleasant day’s outing along Pacifica’s rocky coastline known for great scenery, and we told ourselves that we must return. Recently, we decided to explore what this charming town below San Francisco had to offer by way of other activities, accommodations, and restaurants.

Finding a hotel

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The first thing we looked for was a hotel room where we could hear the pounding surf on the sand. We found the perfect room at the Pacifica Best Western Plus Lighthouse Hotel, which happens to be the only full service hotel on the beach.

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Marty Cerles, the cordial hotel manager suggested mini-suite number 127, and that is the specific room that we recommend if you want the best up-front seat for the smashing surf show.

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We left our window open all night and reveled in the relaxing sounds of the churning ocean and sea birds.

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If you are in budget mode, try the nearby Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel operated by Hostelling International.

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You can stay in former Coast Guard quarters on this historic lighthouse property that boasts panoramic views that a major brand hotel would die for.

Check out the great video below. It pictures the hostel campus and its extraordinary views, and includes many things-to-do while in the area.


More about things-to-do

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Pacifica features everything from world-class surfing, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, scuba diving and hang gliding. This beachy-peach is an ideal getaway for anyone interested in just relaxing or enjoying an invigorating outdoor vacation.

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There are a bevy of quaint shops in Pacifica ranging from specialty shops to service establishments – it’s a great town to meander about and window shop.

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Check with the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce to see when the next outdoor Farmer’s Market will set up shop.

Best restaurants

Our research led us to three restaurants.

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Nick’s Seashore Restaurant at Rockaway Beach was recommended for ocean front breakfast dining. Nick’s has been family owned since 1927. As soon as we entered we knew we had found the local favorite for dining and dancing.

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Our home-style breakfast at Nick’s was a great start to our day.

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Puerto 27, has a relaxed beach community atmosphere. It was a particular delight for our first dinner in Pacifica. It offers something we had never experienced –Peruvian cuisine. We took a taste adventure recommended by Head Chef, Jorge Tupac.

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We ordered the Pescado a lo Macho, a whole fish marinated with Aji Amarillo and crispy fried. It was served with a Seafood Cream Panka Parmesan Sauce with mussels, clams, scallops, and calamari. Not something we would have chosen without Chef Jorge’s suggestion. Turns out, it is off this planet scrumptious. We recommend it highly!

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By the way, be sure to try one of their Pisco Sour Cocktails. We had the Clasico made with 3 ounces of pisco quebranta, 1 ounce of key lime, 1 ounce simple syrup, ½ ounce of egg whites, and a touch of angostura bitters – for novelty, a “27” is neatly frosted on the surface. Yum!

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The Moonraker Restaurant is immediately adjacent to the Best Western Lighthouse Hotel and shares superb views of the Pacific just a few yards away.

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For a dinner entrée, we recommend the Coriander Seared Scallops covered in a sweet corn sauce and served with mashed potatoes and baby carrots.

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After a delightful meal, we enjoyed a savory cup of robust decaf coffee and watched the far away sun slowly slip into the sea. Soon it was dark, and the end of a beautiful day in Pacifica.

Pacifica Pier

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Located at Sharp Park Beach, the 1,140 foot Pacifica Pier opened to the public in 1973.

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It has provided decades of family fishing fun with annual summer runs of salmon and striped bass, and crabbing for delectable Dungeness crabs is allowed during the winter season. The pier is also a good place for spotting whales during their biannual migration.

 

The pier is open all year from 4am to 10pm except during stormy weather. AND – no fishing license is required!

Fit in Pacifica beaches

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Pacifica boasts seven miles of multifarious surfing quality beaches in plain view of the dramatic Pacific headlands where hiking and biking trails lead to scenic overlooks of the crashing surf. These same cliffs are coveted by experienced para-gliders who ride the thermals like so many raptors spiraling in the gentle currents.

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There’s also an Alister Mackenzie designed golf course, public tennis courts, an archery range, horseback riding, biking, bowling, and a free skateboard park with ocean views. Phew!

If Pacifica reads like a great place to prepare for your next marathon, decathlon, or for just getting into better shape, it’s all true.

If you go

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Before you complete your plan, be sure to check out www.visitpacifica.com. The website will provide you with up to date information about what is happening in Pacifica along with a simple map.

Happy travels!

©Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

© Photos by Judy Bayliff