Best Places to Stay Along the Northern California Coast: The Benbow Inn is an Oasis of Comfort and Luxury Among the Giant Redwoods

Wherever you decide to stay, a drive along the northern California coast is visually breathtaking, and if you find a comfortable inn to lay your head, so much the better. The Benbow Historic Inn is just such a place. It is also as interesting an auberge as you will find anywhere along the great and scenic Redwood Highway.

We reached exit 636 on highway 101 at 3pm and at the onset of a downpour. The Inn appeared within seconds of leaving the freeway. It was a welcome sight, sitting on a hillside surrounded by a crown of the deepest green trees. If we didn’t know we were in California, we could be convinced we were in England.

First open to the public in July 1926, this historic Tudor style hotel elicits old world charm inside and out.

In a place where private bi-planes parked to disembark the elite of Hollywood’s past there’s now an extensive parking area for guests and visitors to the Inn.

The list of Golden Age screen icons that frequented the Inn includes Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Alan Ladd, Charles Laughton, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, Joan Fontaine (honeymooned twice), and Basil Rathbone. Dignitaries included Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and more recently the King of Jordan, as well as entertainers Danny Glover, Matt Leblanc, and Cher.

The renovation

The lobby is new and part of an extensive renovation and improvement project completed in 2018, but it has a sense of place that fits well into the original structure.

Note for those who have not visited the Benbow of late: Further to adding space and upgrades, the new addition has made the Inn ADA compliant. Also, an elevator has been installed – blissfully ending 9 decades of hand carrying luggage up several flights of stairs.

Walking to our sleeping room we felt a sensation of leaving the present and being drawn into a nostalgic journey back to a more reserved 1930s and 40s. After a long drive in the rain, it was a welcome adjustment.

The haunting

We had been assigned the Burtis Benbow Suite. A beautiful room well decorated with period antique furnishings, tasteful décor, and a fireplace. We loved the room, but there were two problems.

The thermostat was set at 70 degrees, but the room was 82 degrees. Wayne clicked on the bathroom lights, but nothing happened. He tried several times to no avail. Judy tried once, and voila, there was light.

We called the front desk, and the clerk immediately assigned us another room. Wayne clicked off the bathroom light, but it remained on. Judy clicked, and the light went out. Surely, there was a reasonable explanation. Consider that Burtis Benbow was the 4th Benbow child and considered a mechanical genius. Perhaps his genius extended to apparitional mechanical pranks?

During our stay at the Benbow, we learned of numerous ghostly incidents experienced by other guests and employees. Small anomalies like unexplained changes in room temperatures, pillows relocated, sherry decanter tops missing, furniture moved, office paperwork shuffled, and phone calls from empty rooms. No reports of any guest possessions being moved, only manor property.

By all reports, people experiencing these oddities seemed genuinely thrilled at the thought of being part of a friendly ghost encounter. We concluded that for the first time in our many years of staying at supposedly haunted lodgings, perhaps we had finally experienced our first paranormal event.

Outdoor activities

It’s easy to see why the old Hollywood crowd, and the motoring public traveling on the new Redwood Highway in 1926, enjoyed the Inn – the relaxation. Originally, 1290 acres of pristine wilderness provided opportunities to horseback ride, hike, bicycle, swim, boat, fish, lounge in a garden setting, and commune with nature. Almost 100 years later, much of the attraction remains.

There’s now a 9-hole golf course; the lake is gone, but the Eel River still flows gently along the Inn and under the old stone bridge. The scene is still peaceful and serene.

The outdoor patio is inviting. Our visit took place in winter, but it’s easy to imagine relaxing on the Parisian style patio with book in hand, enjoying the sound of birds and the delicate scent of flowers. We are anxious to return when everything is in bloom.

A short 20 mile scenic drive north from the Inn puts you at the gateway of the 31 mile long Avenue of the Giants 101 bypass near Humboldt Redwood State Park. We took the Avenue road, but it was raining hard, and not enjoyable. We look forward to the drive in better weather.

Indoor amenities

The main gathering room of the Inn is called the upper lobby. It is a large space and can easily accommodate a sizable crowd.

A cozy fireplace warms the room, which is conducive to a friendly conversation, reading, game of chess, cards, or just relaxing.

The library is yet another comfortable space for guest enjoyment.

The bar

The bar was part of the renovation, and completed with painstaking care to give it an appropriate stance in the overall atmosphere of the Inn.

The bar menu is inviting and Wayne’s special request for a grilled cheese sandwich and Caesar salad rendered an appetizing meal, artfully presented.

Judy delighted in a kale and farro salad embellished with, butternut squash, candied figs, caramelized onion, cotija cheese, toasted pepitas, and topped with a maple vinaigrette.

The Inn’s deep and diverse wine list of over 450 selections has earned the Inn several years of Wine Spectator Excellence Awards.

The dining room

Delicious foods are enhanced by scene and spirits.” Surrounded by elegant wooden muntin framed windows, the dining room at the Benbow Historic Inn has a decidedly British panache that demonstrates the designer’s refined taste in old-world décor.  The experience is like dining in a fashionable English country house.

Our morning meal consisted of eggs, delicious sausage, and the absolutely best crushed potatoes imaginable. The chef revealed, “The secret is to boil the full skin potatoes, fry them crisp, lightly pepper and gently crush.” Delightful!

A country lodging

If you enjoy being in a place with history, step across the threshold of time to a golden age where luxury was expected, and attention to fine dining and personal details was always the order of the day.

The erstwhile glamour and sophistication are still there in the northern California forest – at the Benbow Inn. In 1983, the Inn was placed on the National Register of Historic Places – kudos to the selection committee.

Other things to consider

In 2018, Historic Hotels of America bestowed the Best Small Historic Inns Award (under 75 guestrooms) on the Benbow Inn.

The Inn is an excellent venue for a corporate retreat or wedding for up to 225 guests.

Electric car aficionados: In these parts, it’s a long way between charges, and Benbow Inn has charging stations!

Our recommendation

In our fast-paced world, any opportunity to get away from it all, even for a short while, can do wonders to re-energize our lives. The Benbow Historic Inn offers its own special magic from another time and place.

So, choose from a range of guestroom types to suit your taste, soak in the refined ambiance, and enjoy a getaway at the Inn.

For more information

The Benbow Historic Inn has an excellent website that provides everything you need to know.

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel 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 © 2019 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2019 Judy Bayliff – Vintage photos courtesy of Benbow Historic Inn. Fake ghost image by Wayne Bayliff

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Princess Cruise Ships: What Makes Them Sparkle

We recently took a Princess cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Grand Princess. This was our third sailing on the Grand since she was commissioned in 1998. You might wonder, after 20 years of service and tens of thousands of passengers, how does Princess keep her looking fresh and appealing to prospective guests.

We interviewed the Captain and Hotel General Manager, and along with inquiring about their work we asked some questions about the age of the Grand Princess.

Meet the Captain

The present Master of the Grand Princess is Captain John Harry Smith. Captain Smith started his career at sea as a deck hand on an oil tanker. He worked his way up the ranks and has been with the Princess Cruise Line since 2007.

In our years as travel photojournalists we have interviewed many ship’s Masters. Captain Smith manifests the same professionalism and confidence that we have learned to expect from all the members of his highly trained and respected vocation.

On the subject of maintaining older ships in the Princess fleet, Captain Smith commented, “Having an inspired crew, and paying attention to details when it comes to cleanliness and appearance gives any ship vitality. Constant and vigilant maintenance allows older ships to remain seaworthy and popular among new and repeat guests.” To that end, each Princess ship is removed from service every three years, and the Grand Princess is next in line.

In March 2019, the Grand Princess will enter dry dock in Portland, Oregon for repairs, maintenance, improvements, and inspections. She will be worked over from stem to stern, top to bottom, inside and out, by 1000 contractors from around the world. The work will be performed 24-hours per day, and the workers will live aboard the ship. Service will be provided by the ship’s regular hospitality crew during the entire process. All the work and numerous inspections will take just 13 days. Now that’s precision planning!

We asked the Hotel General Manager

While the Captain is responsible for literally everything, his primary areas of concentration are guest and ship safety, navigation, operations, and the environment. The Captain puts great trust in the person who is directly charged with keeping the passengers happy, i.e., the Hotel General Manager. The HGM is responsible for all guest services, including dining, entertainment, and housekeeping. Helmut Leikauf is the Hotel General Manager aboard the Grand Princess.

There’s a ratio of about 2 guests to 1 crewmember on board a Princess ship. Approximately 900 of the 1100 hundred crew aboard the Grand Princess are guest-centric and report to the hotel organization. The HGM is an important officer indeed.

Mr. Leikauf fits the profile of his job, perfectly. He hails from Austria, a country noted for its prestigious hotel schools. Helmut is the epitome of what one expects at the top echelon of a first class hotel – on land or sea.  He is gracious, gregarious, and exacting, and his leadership by example is evident throughout the ship. He offered, “A happy crew makes for happy guests.”

We asked Mr. Leikauf about how long a ship might expect to be part of the Princess fleet. His answer was that such decisions are way above his pay grade, but he did offer that the Princess’ head office is highly focused on an excellent guest cruise experience. In his opinion, “There will be a place for any ship that continues to uphold and perform to Princess high standards, and remains popular with the guests.”

We recommend this cruise 

Our ten day cruise to Mexico exceeded our expectations. The Grand Princess performed like the great ship she is, and the attentive officers and crew made it an exceptional vacation.

We will write about other aspects of our Princess cruise to the Mexican Riviera in future articles.

Our next cruise will be to Hawaii or Alaska, and since it will depart from San Francisco, it will be on the renovated Grand Princess. We look forward to being aboard one of our favorite ships once again, and seeing her new “sparkle.”

For more information

Contact your favorite travel agent or Princess Cruises directly.

Happy travels.

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel 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 © 2019 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2019 Judy Bayliff

Best Places to Stay Along the Northern California Coast: Scopa at the Sea

Preface

Lodging preferences are so personal. With the advent of the internet, travel magazine advertisements have given way to lodging websites and individual reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp. Of course, lodging websites are no more objective than print ads – which leaves us to depend on personal reviews to help us decide on the best places to stay. Unfortunately, personal reviews run the gamut of “wonderful,” to “horrible” for the same property. So what’s a traveler to do? One suggestion is to single out reviews written by dependable travel writers.

Luxury travel writers’ goal 

As travel journalists specializing in luxury travel, our mission is always to find, photograph, and write about a unique lodging where discriminating travelers would enjoy a stay. In addition to cleanliness, we look for something unusual, historic, or really special. If we happen to pick a place that turns out not to meet those standards, we don’t write about it. We may have wasted our time, but we won’t waste yours.

How we found Scopa at the Sea Bed and Breakfast

We were heading down the picturesque Oregon and California coasts along highways 1 and 101 to the port of San Francisco. We were scheduled to write about a Princess Cruise to the popular Mexican Riviera.

We thought the drive would be an excellent opportunity to point out some genuinely special places to stay along the route.

The northern Pacific coastal drive is a breathtaking adventure, and we wanted to find lodgings that would complement the excitement of the trip. We found three properties to write about. The first is Scopa at the Sea.

Scopa at the Sea’s location in Crescent City, California fit perfectly into our self-imposed daily drive limits. It turned out to be a stellar choice! We rate it as one of the top boutique B&Bs of the hundreds we have reviewed.

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The weather was not cooperating and it had been blustery and raining all day. In spite of the bad driving weather, we felt fortunate to see some super-exciting ocean scenes along the way.

The Scopa is in a residential neighborhood, and on an oceanside street with amazing panoramic views. We arrived at the 3 p.m. check-in hour.

The house has been recently remodeled and redesigned for the purpose of becoming a B&B for discerning guests seeking a special haven apart from the ordinary.

The public rooms include a cozy living room with a creative mantel made from parts of a vintage organ that had been played in that same room years ago.

Following on, there is a spacious gathering room, dining room, and kitchen. A perfect layout for socializing or finding a private corner to enjoy the exclusive company of your roommate.

Deborah, the gracious innkeeper is a delight and an excellent baker and cook. Waiting for us was a home-baked banana cake with banana walnut frosting – all made from scratch. Yummy! Other guests arrived at approximately the same time, and dove into the cake before we could tempt you with a fresh close-up photo.

Around seven, Deborah laid out a selection of local cheeses and we did a little wine and cheesing along with a bit of friendly conversation before retiring.

The ambiance

It’s difficult to explain why this house has the aura of a lighthouse keeper’s cottage. Certainly, the tasteful nautical décor and paintings are part of the reason, as is the restless and magnificent ocean view from so many windows, but there’s something more.  If you stay at the Scopa, we invite your input.

Views

Our second level sleeping room is named the Whale Horizon Spa Suite. It is a nicely appointed, spacious room with an inviting bath.

Its stunning views entice you to gaze at the marvelous ocean and rugged outcroppings that make up the rocky northern California coastline. The beach below our window, and just across the street is known for agates and is appropriately named Pebble Beach.

Our fellow guests were a congenial and interesting couple from Miami, Florida. We had planned a quick getaway after breakfast, but ended up staying right up to the 11 o’clock check-out time.

Our new friends were pleased to have stayed in the suite next to our own. It’s named the Seal Song Suite, aka the Hugh Jackman Suite. It’s probably unusual to have a celebrity stay in the little town of Crescent City, so we applaud the Scopa folks for unofficially promoting it. A photo of Hugh Jackman in the living room is available in the guest photo gallery on the Scopa website.

Call to breakfast

We woke from a sound sleep in a luxurious king-sized bed to the wafting aroma of freshly ground brewed coffee and sizzling bacon. We thought this was a great way to entice all guests to the communal morning table.

Breakfast consisted of apple waffles with homemade apple syrup, pecan topping, eggs, bacon, and baked sausage.

After the morning feast, we bid farewell to Deborah, who by now felt more like family than an innkeeper.

For more details about the finer points and reservations look at the website www.Scopaproperties.com. Scopa at the Sea prices are very competitive considering what you get in indelible vistas, luxurious furnishings, conveniences, an exquisite breakfast – and other foodie treats. There are only three guestrooms on property, so it’s best to reserve early to avoid disappointment.

By the way, don’t be confused by the Scopa properties website. There are actually two buildings on one property, and one more at a different location. Scopa at the Sea is the three guestroom bed and breakfast inn where we stayed (above right), while the building to the left is called the Seaview Beach House and has three spotless and lovely housing units, Agate – Fern – and Pebble.

Two units have mini-kitchens, and one has a full-size kitchen. These are fitting homes for any duration.

The local lighthouse

On the short drive back to Hwy 101 to continue our trek south, we passed the picturesque Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City. It was a windy day with sweeping punctuated rain. Fortunately, the stormy weather added to the kaleidoscopic colors that showcased this remarkable landmark.

Next stop, the Inn at Newport Ranch in Fort Bragg, but that’s a story for another time.

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz 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 © 2019 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2019 Judy Bayliff

Notes to Self: On Becoming Lighthouse Innkeepers

There are certain jobs that people dream about. A frequent fancy in a troubled world is being a lighthouse innkeeper where one can enjoy the peace and serenity of the ocean and abundant sea life. 

We wanted to see if the lifestyle of a lighthouse innkeeper might be in our future. We arranged for a visit to East Brother Island and its popular light-station located just 30 minutes from San Francisco. Join us, this just might be your cup of tea.

Where are we

East Brother Island is in San Pablo Bay, which connects to San Francisco Bay.

East Brother Light Station is managed by a Richmond nonprofit preservationist group, which in 1980 obtained permission from the Coast Guard to renovate and maintain the active light station.

The organization has many volunteers to help with the constant maintenance, and pays most of the bills by renting out the island’s five bedrooms, four days per week.

Getting to the island

After a series of email communications, we arranged to meet and interview the lighthouse innkeeper couple on East Brother Island.

On Monday morning, we were waiting at the less than luxurious Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor when our Captain/innkeeper pulled up to the dock in the island’s aluminum tender.

Before we could board the boat, the Captain first assisted the guests that were leaving the island. The visitors must have enjoyed their island experience because they were all laughing and carrying on as if they were old friends.

After introductions, our host started the engines and headed out of the harbor for a short 10-minute ride to the island.

He immediately gave us a briefing about what to expect when we arrived dockside. He described how we would be required to climb a very vertical stainless steel pool type ladder that extends from the boat deck to the landing pier that is joined to the island.  Depending on the tide, the climb can be as much as 12 feet. Think about that before you make reservations if you are not physically able to climb a ladder. Also, the island is unfortunately not able to be ADA compliant.

Buildings and facilities on the island

 

The one-acre island has two vintage buildings in addition to an 1874 Victorian Lighthouse. The old work shed has been converted into a cozy innkeepers’ cottage, and the other out-building houses the machinery necessary to power the working foghorns.

The island has electric power supplied by an underwater cable from the mainland, and a self-contained water system that holds about 90,000 gallons of rainwater stored in a white-clad underground cistern and an above-ground redwood water tank.

Because of the ever-present danger of water shortages in the Bay Area, there are no showers available for guests staying only one night. No one seemed to mind the inconvenience.

After gathering our photo equipment and walking up the steep ramp between the pier and the island, the Captain gave us a tour of the first building we encountered, which houses the machinery to operate the foghorns. For our benefit, he cranked up the diesel generator and gave us a live performance of the horns. Give a listen.. EBLS Foghorn

Becoming an Island Innkeeper

We soon found that our hosts had only been lighthouse keepers for ten weeks, and as of this writing they have already moved on to their next adventure. Lighthouse keeping is fun, but demanding work, and the turnover is quite high, but that’s apparently not a big problem for the stakeholders.

How many folks would love to run a Victorian Bed and Breakfast on a small island in California complete with a good salary, room and board, seals, pelicans, and a five-star view of the San Francisco skyline? Lots, that’s how many.

We are told that the number of applicants for the job is usually large, but there are serious knockout factors in the innkeeper application.

One of the applicants must be an excellent cook and capable of preparing and presenting food for a table of ten.

Another qualification is that one of the applicants must have a Coast Guard commercial boat operator’s license.

Lastly, both of the prospective innkeepers must be charming. Now we are getting somewhere.

About the work

In the case of East Brother Light Station, the island is open for business four nights per week starting on Thursday.

Prepping for the guests

On Wednesday morning, the innkeepers are on land shopping for provisions for up to 40 guests (5 rooms x 2 guests x 4 nights). They select the food for the menu, pick up the mail, laundry, fuel, and anything else they will need for the coming week on the island.

On Thursday morning, they boat back to the island with the supplies, unload their cargo into a large wire cart waiting on the pier, and winch the cart up a steep ramp that connects the pier with the island. They unload and store the supplies, and get the island ready for visitors.

A day with guests

On Thursday afternoon promptly at 4pm, the designated Captain/innkeeper returns to the marina dock at Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor to board the guests for Thursday night.

Upon arrival back at the island, the hosts provide a tour, hors d’oeuvres with champagne, and show the guests to their rooms.

The visitors then have ample time to explore the small island and enjoy the sea birds, animals, and fabulous views before dinner.

At dinner, the visitors are served an exquisitely prepared multi-course meal of the finest fresh ingredients.

All the guests are seated at one large table, which makes for a convivial atmosphere and an opportunity to socialize.

Friday morning would come all too soon, but a sumptuous gourmet breakfast would await all guests. Pity those one-night guests who must now head back to the mainland to resume their everyday lives.

After transferring the guests and their baggage to the mainland dock, the captain returns to the island to help his partner clean and prepare for new guests on Friday afternoon.

Saturday and Sunday are a repeat of Thursday and Friday.

After bidding farewell to the last guests for the week on Monday morning, the innkeeper heads back to the island and the chores that couldn’t be completed during the workweek.

Later in the day, the innkeepers load the laundry along with the empty bottles and trash into the island wire cart. The cart is pulled to the opposite end of the island and hooked and lowered by winch down to the island’s waiting boat. The innkeepers depart for the harbor, unload the cargo, and start a well-deserved Tuesday day of rest.

It’s not for everybody  

East Brother Light Station innkeepers live a romantic life full of guest kudos, fresh air, sunshine, seabirds, and seals. There are probably several of our readers that would trade places if they could. Life is short, you might want to give it a try! However, we decided not.

If you would like to be a guest at East Brother Light Station click here. Safety is important so there are several unique restrictions, be sure to check them out before making reservations.

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 © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © Judy Bayliff – unauthorized use strictly prohibited.

How to Plan a Storybook “Christmas in Connecticut”

We originally researched and published this article in 2012, and it has proven to be a winter holiday favorite among our readers ever since. We believe there is magic in the air in the small towns of Connecticut at Christmas time. See if you agree. Here is our story:

In 1945, Hollywood coined the phrase “Christmas in Connecticut” after the movie of the same name. Since that time, romanticists around the world have dreamed of spending at least one winter holiday in a quaint Connecticut hamlet complete with a town common crowned with freshly fallen snow and carolers strolling by storefronts and elder homes.

The scene that is presently in your mind’s eye is not a figment from a Currier and Ives print – it actually exists – and we found it.

Our research

We spoke with tourism friends and officials in Connecticut and asked for the names of towns that would fit the homey Christmas characteristics of Bedford Falls, a fictitious town in another popular holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Arriving in winter

We landed at JFK airport on a cold day in early December. We rented a car and headed for nearby Connecticut at a time when many small towns and villages throughout the area are preparing for the upcoming holiday season.

Janet Serra, the Executive Director of the Western Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Anne Lee, the Executive Director of the Central Connecticut Regional Tourism District provided us with valuable holiday tips for our project. They also gave us several places to consider. After reviewing what each location had to offer by way of Christmas spirit and activities, we settled on the little town of Madison.

Driving to Madison

First settled in 1650, Madison was renamed for President James Madison and incorporated in 1826. Madison is a pleasant little community along historic Route 1, the Boston Post Road in the “Connecticut Shoreline Area.” The town lies approximately equidistant between New York City and Boston. Yale University is just 20 minutes away.

By the time we arrived in Madison, the small shops that make up the bulk of retailers in the village center were ready for the holidays. Most were sporting holiday decorations and touting special sales – many to benefit local charities and civic projects. 

The Tidewater Inn

Before we walked the entire town, we decided to check into our chosen lodging for our time in Madison. We had searched for a place that was like a relative’s warm and inviting home – an inn that properly fit into our pastoral Christmas picture. The Tidewater Inn (circa 1928) is a bed and breakfast that proved to be exactly what we wanted, and it was an easy walk to downtown Madison.

Meet the Innkeeper

Congenial Victoria Kolyvas, is the owner of the Tidewater Inn, and she was the perfect personality to help us with an itinerary that would give us a flavor for all the seasonal activities and events that would be taking place in and around Madison during our brief stay. She pretty much planned our visit for us, and we could not be more grateful. We will also mention right here and now that Viki is a superb host and cook!

Innkeeper Kolyvas already had the Tidewater spruced up for the holidays. A beautifully decorated tree sat next to a cheery fire in the hearth in the dining/tea-room.

We ate some bountiful breakfasts and had friendly afternoon chats accompanied by local wines and cheese at a large table in that same room.

Staying at the Tidewater Inn is very much like going to grandma’s house for Christmas. It provides a feeling of sanctuary – of returning – coming home. Each of the nine guestrooms is pleasantly decorated with beautiful antique furnishings and other tasteful décor. Our room was cozy and warm, and we slumbered each night in luxurious comfort.

The events of Madison

After a sumptuous gourmet breakfast at the Tidewater, we took our air with a brisk walk to the center of Madison. We visited a number of shops and craft fairs and found one event particularly delightful – the “Décor Encore” at St. Margaret’s Church. It was advertised as the place to find “previously loved Christmas decorations revived and ready for a new home.” The fair also featured beautiful homemade quilts for sale. What a treat!

Parade day

In early December, the Madison Chamber of Commerce has a homespun Holiday Parade that brings out the entire citizenry.

Some colorful participants and unusual costumes and floats gave us big smiles. It was a wonderfully crisp winter day, perfect for this wholesome family entertainment.

Santa, his wife, and a comely elf stopped by a local café to chat with the kiddies. Donations for the needy of non-perishable food items were accepted to help the Madison Food Pantry.

We also dropped by the local bookstore to watch Santa Letter Writing – great fun.

Tour of Madison historic inns

During parade day, the Tidewater Inn, along with one other local inn, provides a Christmas Open House and Tour of Madison’s Historic Inns via a horse drawn wagon that clops from place to place, and stops for passengers to imbibe on Christmas cheer and sweets – all for the benefit of local charity.

On to the Shoreline Soul Concert

Later that afternoon, we enjoyed the “Soul Concert” at the local First Congregational Church. It featured holiday songs sung by an accomplished volunteer choir in a beautiful church. The entire scene was truly inspirational.

The singers were led by a highly talented conductor who had the choir and audience hand clapping and singing along. This is an annual event you do not want to miss. Any freewill offerings from the event went to support the Village Mountain Mission. 

The tree lighting

As dark descended on the expansive town green, it was time for the annual Christmas tree lighting. Three, two, one – Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah!

Families and friends gathered around the lighted tree to drink complimentary hot cocoa and watch the children wonder at the magnificent tree and colors.

Everyone was holding candles and having fun talking with their neighbors. It was a scene right out of Norman Rockwell, and we could not help thinking that once upon a time, much of America celebrated Christmas in just such a grand manner.

Saving the best for last

Victoria told us that we would run out of time before we ran out of things to do in and around Madison – at any time of year. We found that during the holiday season she was most certainly correct. Fortunately, she planned enough time in our itinerary for a wonderful event.

Ahavah: A Christmas Story

We had never heard of Ahavah, which is the Hebrew word for love, and we soon learned that it was also an original ballet about a young girl’s search for the true meaning of Christmas. It is performed annually in early December by the Christian Academy of Dance at the Morgan High School in nearby Clinton. Do not be put off by the venue. This is excellent entertainment professionally written, choreographed, and directed.

Photo: Ahavah by Christian Academy of Dance

The talent that appears in this ballet is exceptional. We found this Psalm written in the program handout:

“Let them praise his name in the dance: Let them sing praises unto Him with the timbrel and harp. For the Lord taketh pleasure in His people.” The young performers in this ballet seemed to take the ancient words to heart.

A bittersweet farewell

We hope we can return to Madison and the Tidewater Inn for another holiday season one day very soon. It was everything we had hoped.

If you go

The website for the Madison Chamber of Commerce is www.madisonct.com

Look *here* for more information about the Tidewater Inn.

To learn more about Ahavah – A Christmas Story, click *here*

Happy Travels – Happy Holidays – Remember our troops!

To read more of the journalists’ articles about Connecticut and great places to stay, click on the abbreviated titles below:

Enjoy the fall colors of New England

Visit Kent Falls, Connecticut

A family budget hotel in Shelton, Connecticut

A historic inn in fashionable Westport, Connecticut

An intimate B&B on the backroads of northwestern Connecticut

The countryside elegance of the Mayflower Inn and Spa

The Delamar luxury hotel in the Greenwich harbor

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff – Ahavah photo by Christian Academy of Dance

“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.

 

The Best First Cruise for Seniors

On our last cruise we were delighted to meet a number of first-time cruisers in their 70s and 80s.

When they heard we were travel photojournalists, they were more than willing to offer opinions and comments that helped form the foundation for this article, which we dedicate to them.

The perfect first cruise

We had not planned to write about senior cruising when we signed up for a 7-day cruise to the Western Caribbean on Holland America’s ms Oosterdam.

However, a little coaxing from some enthusiastic golden-agers (like this amicable septuagenarian couple from Florida), had us agreeing that an article that provided insight for prospective elder cruisers was a pretty good idea.

It turned out that the group thought this was the ideal first cruise for seniors, and here are the reasons why:

Celebrated cruise line

Holland America Line (HAL) has long had the reputation of providing quality cruises at affordable prices.

‘Consistency’ and ‘dependability’ are important words in grandma and grandpa’s travel book, and HAL is uncompromising in its commitment to reliable service on all its 14 ships.

Comfortable ships

As a rule of thumb, the larger the ship, the longer it takes to board and disembark, but the smoother the ocean ride.

The Oosterdam, with less than 1,000 staterooms, is small enough for expedited disembarkation at ports of call, but large enough to allow her to ride rough seas comfortably – and that helps to greatly diminish the odds of becoming seasick.

Important Note: Should you ever become ill for any reason, there is a doctor on board every Holland America cruise ship, and gratefully, he/she is much closer than you will normally find medical assistance at a hotel or resort on land.

Looks count, and the décor of the Oosterdam is tasteful without being trendy. The color schemes are soothing and sophisticated.

Shipboard activities

On our cruise most passengers were 55+. Consequently, the on-board activities were geared to that audience.

Pool side hairy chest contests and madcap revelry are not de rigueur on Holland America.

Such activities are happily traded for quieter pools, interesting and educational talks on a myriad of subjects including ports of call, shopping, live entertainment, bingo, yoga, social imbibing, ritual noshing, and just plain relaxing.

There are also card games, movies, dance lessons, computer classes, art and wine auctions, culinary demonstrations, and exercise classes.

Pictured above is an active senior exercising at the pool.

Senior activities on a cruise ship are often centered around the practiced art of eating.

 On the Oosterdam, the food is excellent, and the restaurants do not feel crowded, nor do the pools, casino, bars, wellness center, or any of the public spaces. We had 1,906 passengers on our voyage, and it never felt crowded.

On our third evening at sea, we ate at the Pinnacle Grill, one of the specialty restaurants aboard the Oosterdam. Super food, and a great place for a special celebration, or a quiet romantic interlude.

Great port facilities

  • Our cruise departed from the port of Tampa on the west coast of Florida. Any port in Florida is a good choice for a first cruise – the ports are easy to access by air from anywhere USA.
  • All airlines cater to the Florida tourist trade, so there are often good ticket deals to be had if you are diligent.
  • Once on the ground, all Florida ports are easily accessible by ground transportation from the airports.
  • Florida cruise terminals are often staffed with retired seniors living in Florida. They understand the special needs of vacationing seniors and can be very helpful to first-time cruisers.

  • The embarkation and debarkation processes at Florida’s cruise terminals are relatively fast – and it’s nice to know that after “check-in” there is a wonderful buffet luncheon awaiting every passenger that boards the ship.

Desirable itinerary

It’s hard not to like a Western Caribbean itinerary. Ours included Key West, Roatan, Belize, and Cozumel, Mexico. All great places for tours, or just meandering about on your own.

Accommodating Crew

We always interview the Captains on our cruises. Above, Captain Michiel Willems opines that a friendly crew demeanor, and excellent customer service, are the top hospitality hallmarks of the Holland America Line.

Everywhere aboard the Oosterdam, the genial crew was eager to uphold the HAL tradition.

If you go

If you decide to look into Holland America, start with its website *here*. HAL can handle your entire travel plan, including air, or you can make your own travel arrangements. It’s up to you.

Should you think you are just too old to enjoy cruising, read our story about our nonagenarian friend “Julia.” She and her husband are passengers on the Holland America world cruise every year!

We encourage every senior that still wants to experience new adventures – take a cruise.

Happy travels.. and smooth sailing!

To learn more about HAL, and see additional pictures of the interiors of its ships, check out these other stories we have written about Holland America cruises.

A Christmas Cruise Aboard the Amsterdam

Vacationing Aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam

Exploring the Amenities Aboard a Holland America Ship

A final note: If you are worried about the rigors of going ashore at the various ports of call, there are many passengers that never leave the ship. We often stay aboard when we visit ports we have seen several times. It’s an excellent time to catch up on reading and emails, watch a movie, take a nap, and get ready for the next round of serial feasting!

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“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

© 2017 Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Viking Luxury on a Longship Vacation up the Danube River

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

So much to choose from

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

Viking River Cruises comes through

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

Casting off

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

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

Our itinerary

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

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

Romania

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

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

King Decebal

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

The thundering silence of Decebalus Rex

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

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

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

A giant undertaking

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

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

The Tabula Traiana

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

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

Pressing forward

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

Our next stop will be Bulgaria.

About our river cruise ship

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

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

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

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

River ship’s hierarchy

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

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

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

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

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

More to come

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

If you go

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

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

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

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

Happy travels!

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

© 2017 Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © 2017 Judy Bayliff

The Royal Hawaiian: Luxury on Waikiki Beach

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Rainbow from the beach at the Royal Hawaiian Resort by Judy Bayliff

If you have ever marveled at the iconic “Pink Palace” on Waikiki beach, and wondered about its colorful origin, so did we. Here is what we found out about its interesting history.

In the early 20th century, a group of capitalists with substantial interests in Hawaii had the foresight to envision a burgeoning tourism future for the Hawaiian Islands – Oahu in particular.

The first luxury hotel, the Moana, had been successfully catering to the carriage trade for over 25 years, and it was evident that with the right combination of transportation and accommodations the Hawaiian luxury travel market could be profitably expanded.

Regal location

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Touring the artwork at the Royal Hawaiian Resort

King Kamehameha I conquered Oahu in 1795 and built a residence on the pristine oceanfront that was destined to become Waikiki Beach. During the prosperous 1920s, that same prime land was acquired by the Matson Navigation Company from the Royal Family of Hawaii and was to become the future site of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

The development of tourism in the area was arrested until 1920 when the Ala Wai Canal was built to drain the wetlands and swamps that were just inland from the unspoiled beach. The construction of the canal, which runs parallel to the ocean and the main street of Waikiki Beach, opened the door to rapid expansion.

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The early Royal Hawaiian Hotel from the Royal Hawaiian Gallery

Construction on the Royal Hawaiian started in 1925. She was built of sandstone block covered in stucco. Her contemporary Spanish-Moorish architecture was fashionable in California at the time, and fit quite nicely into the coconut palm groves at Waikiki. Pink was a popular color on the mainland, and again, it too was well suited for Hawaii.

One thousand and two hundred celebrants greeted the opening of the Royal Hawaiian to island high society on February 1, 1927. She quickly attained the nickname, “The Pink Palace of the Pacific.”

How they came

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Rich tourists from North America first came by ordinary steamship. Then in the mid-20s, the Matson Navigation Company built the Malolo – a luxury cruise ship with 650 1st class cabins. She could do 21 knots and made the crossing from San Francisco to Honolulu in 4.5 days. The Malolo was built specifically to cater to the affluent guests that would occupy the new Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

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None of the other luxury hotels in Oahu was considered opulent enough for the passengers of the elegant Malolo.

The Great Depression

Business was brisk at the Pink Palace until the advent of the Great Depression, then like the mainland, hard times hit the islands.

The silver lining

Counterbalancing the ill effects of the Depression, air travel in the mid-30s was making access to the Hawaiian Islands faster. No longer tethered to lengthy steam ship journeys, the working rich began taking the weekly flight to Hawaii – that led to more flights and cheaper fares for everyone.

It soon became possible for tourists of limited means to reach Oahu for short vacations. A boom of ‘everyday’ hotel construction on Waikiki was followed by more services for all.

The luxury hotels, especially the Royal Hawaiian and Moana ultimately did very well during the travel renaissance.

World War II

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In January 1942, the US Navy leased the Royal Hawaiian and transformed it into a Rest and Recuperation Center for sailors. The famous Coconut Grove Cocktail Bar was made over into a soda fountain, the tennis court became a basketball court, and a new baseball diamond was built on the property.

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The hotel was turned back to its owners almost four years later in November of 1945, at which time a major renovation ensued. Twenty years to the day the Royal opened, she re-opened with a gala celebration on February 1, 1947. It was the end of war, and the beginning of great times for Hawaii and the Pink Palace of the Pacific.

Matson takes a bow

With less demand for steamship travel, Matson officials decided to concentrate on their core competency of shipping goods and materials, and subsequently sold their hotel interests in Hawaii. It was an end of an era, and Matson can be credited with a commendable job of developing the tourist industry on Oahu.

The Royal Hawaiian today

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The Royal Hawaiian regularly undergoes changes to keep her competitive with other luxury hotels in Hawaii, but she will never lose her main advantages of location and historic charm. The Royal Hawaiian is a truly extraordinary hotel in every sense of the word ‘hospitality.’

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If you go

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The Royal Hawaiian is located just off fashionable Kalakaua Avenue on Waikiki Beach and nine miles from Honolulu International Airport. For more information check out their website at www.royal-hawaiian.com .

If you have an opportunity to stay at the historic Royal Hawaiian, take it. You will find that the experience cannot be duplicated. There is no other luxury hotel quite like it anywhere in the world.

Happy travels!

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“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

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

Photos Copyright © 2016 Judy Bayliff – vintage photos courtesy of Royal Hawaiian Gallery.

Sitka: The Old Capital of Alaska

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

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

Sitka before Juneau

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

Things to do in Sitka

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

Visit the cemetery

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

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

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

100_3358The cemetery was built on a difficult landscape of densely forested hills – along dark winding paths lined with moss and ferns – not particularly conducive to carrying a casket.

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

Eagles everywhere

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

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

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

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

How to get there

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

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

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

Happy travels.

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“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Luxury Cruising on the Golden Princess Through New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park

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

The rationale

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

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

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

Fiordland National Park

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

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

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

Entering the park

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

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

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

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

Watch for the bears

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

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At sunset we left the park for the open sea.

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

If you go

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

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

Happy travels!

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

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

The Sweetest Suites for two on the Golden Princess

Luxury Cruising from San Francisco to Hawaii on Princess

Princess Cruise Ship Rescues Canadian Yachtsman

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“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

The Poet and the Dictator that Shaped the Destiny of Italy

By Bob and Janice Kollar

A Surprise Discovery in Gardone Rivera

We selected the town of Gardone Rivera on the shores of Lake Garda because of its proximity to the Sirmione Peninsula, and the archaeological site of well preserved “Roman Ruins”.

We usually plan some “open time” in our travel itineraries to allow us some flexibility to explore an interesting town, or museum, or just take a spontaneous side trip.

The “Vittoriale degli Italiani” (The Shrine of Italian Victories) Museum worked out perfectly and it was only five minutes from our hotel.  We actually discovered a fascinating introduction to one of Italy’s most famous, as well as, interesting personalities… Gabriele D’Annunzio.

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D’Annunzio’s Villa

 The final residence of Gabriele D’Annunzio is now a museum dedicated to his life and accomplishments.  A review of this incredible man’s life makes an excellent read, and provides an entertaining glimpse into the political side of Italy’s history leading up to World War II.

In the era before World War I, he was one of Italy’s most influential politicians, and a charismatic leader adored by his followers.  He served valiantly in the Navy, Air Force, and Army as a true war hero known for his boldness and outright courage. His many medals and awards are on display in the museum.

D’Annunzio was also regarded to be a national treasure.  A “Renaissance Man”… he did it all as an artist, poet, journalist, playwright, and one of Italy’s most popular, as well as, controversial writers of the 20th Century.

But another part of his lore was derived from his legendary affairs as he boasted to have seduced over 1,000 women.  Being married to a young aristocrat with three sons did not stop him from his constant affairs (sometimes multiple at once) throughout his adult life.

At 5’ 4” and not terribly attractive (some said ugly) he possessed a sexual magnetism that proved to be quite irresistible.  Perhaps this attraction also attributed to his outlandish, exhibitionist lifestyle, his purported suave Italian demeanor, and presumably his many erotic publications that may have peaked their interests… it had to be something!

The Era of the Fascist Regime

During World War I D’Annunzio became a powerful figure and began asserting his very strong ultra-nationalist doctrine.  But at the same time Benito Mussolini was developing his movement with a more extreme right leaning tilt.  After the dust settled, Mussolini had more power, influence and aggression than D’Annunzio and created a more dominant form of Fascism.

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The Dictator and The Poet         

Photo Credit —  Vogue Italia  —  Corbis

D’Annunzio supported Mussolini and his rise to power but did not participate in the Fascist political party, remaining neutral. One consistent thing; he did not like Germans and the Nazi movement and continually counseled Mussolini to avoid an alliance with Hitler… to no avail.

 Eliminating the Competition

On the evening before a fateful assembly to determine the “meeting for national pacification”, the Poet was thrown out a window of his Lake Garda Villa onto the courtyard and his active career came to a bone crushing halt.

Two months later, Mussolini did his march on Rome and took control of the country. IMG_7242

The Bone Crushing Courtyard Landing Zone

 Mussolini and his followers adopted a great deal of D’Annunzio’s ideas, his approach to government, his skills with motivating and influencing masses of people, the elaborate nationalistic ceremonies, etc… right down to the Roman Salute.

 Maintain and Control

The Dictator kept D’Annunzio on the side lines and out of his way.  Mussolini was known to have said… “With a rotten tooth, you either pull it out, or fill it with gold!  With D’Annunzio I have chosen the latter treatment.”

So he vastly enhanced D’Annunzio’s villa into a monumental residence, and provided him a constant supply of cocaine… in essence he literally paid him to remain out of politics… the window drop would have done it for me!

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Vittoriale degli Italiani

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Entrance to the Auditorium

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Garden Sculpture atVittoriale degli Italiani”

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Amphitheater

Also on display at the museum are his books, uniforms, medals and art work as well as a few of his war relic mementos… such as a torpedo boat, the front half of an armored cruiser, and even the hero’s airplane.

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D’Annunzio’s Actual Combat Aircraft IMG_7227

One of Many Military Installations

 On March 1, 1938 D’Annunzio died at the age of 75 of a cerebral hemorrhage.  His funeral was a large Fascist state affair and Mussolini walked with his coffin.

Mussolini was quoted to say… “You may be sure Italy will arrive at the summit you dreamed of.”

In Summary

The visit to Lago di Garda and the town of Gardone Rivera provided us with memories of beautiful scenery, excellent cuisine, and exposure to the absolutely wonderful, warm and friendly people.

A definite highlight was the surprise history lesson.  By leaving some “open spots” in your daily itinerary, it is amazing what rewards come your way.

Please follow us in the next article… Exploring the Roman Ruins of Lago di Garda.

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar

Built for Luxury: Ahwahnee Hotel to Lose Historic Name

The grand Ahwahnee Hotel

The Ahwahnee Hotel photos by Judy Bayliff

Because of a legal dispute over trademarks, some of the best-known places in Yosemite National Park may soon change their names. If something is not done, the historic and world-famous Ahwahnee Hotel will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel.

This is not simply a name change, it is another gross humiliation for the people of America. A case where an ineffectual federal government squanders 100 years of American history and heritage through incompetence and maladroit negotiating.  The people who love our national parks are rightfully angry.

An extraordinary feat and justifiably celebrated name

Stephen T. Mather was the first Director of National Parks in the United States. He accepted the position in 1915 when there were only 16 national parks – today there are 58. Mr. Mather used the iconic Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley to propel the success of the entire National Park System. Here’s how it all happened.

The Ahwahnee History

Mather built the Ahwahnee Hotel in his favorite park in Yosemite, California in 1927. It was to be the Crown Jewel of National Park Hotels, and for a very good reason.

Interest the rich and benefit the masses

Stephen Mather wanted his Yosemite hotel to be a wilderness destination for the rich. Not because he wanted to cater only to the wealthy, but because he knew that if he could interest influential people in the National Park System, he could build better parks for everyone. His plan worked beautifully.

The Ahwahnee was built with the best of everything, from newly invented electricity to bathrooms in each guestroom, and an elaborate kitchen that would provide extraordinary dining to the hotel’s privileged guests.

Two electric elevators were installed and manned by staff operators.

Noise reducing plaster was applied to interior walls to assure that guests were not disturbed by the roar of nearby Yosemite falls.

The siding and beams appear to be wood but are actually cement

The Ahwahnee Hotel structure looks to be made of rock and timber, but in reality the primitive looking exterior siding, balconies, and beams that appear to be timber are actually constructed from cement castings superbly stained to match the surrounding redwoods and pines. We have visited the Ahwahnee Hotel many times over the years, but until we did the research for this article, we had no idea the exterior walls were indeed made of cement.

Building the Ahwahnee Hotel was a monumental undertaking

It was the largest such task for the burgeoning young American trucking industry of the 1920s. Trucks ran on dusty roads day and night, seven days a week for over a year to bring materials to the Ahwahnee worksite.

Valley road to Ahwahnee Hotel

All building materials for the six-story hotel were imported from outside the park. That meant hauling nearly 700 tons of steel I beams along with 5,000 tons of building stones, and 30,000 feet of lumber and logs with early model trucks along bumpy dirt roads. Add to that the many tons of hotel furnishings, and the kitchen and maintenance equipment necessary to run a luxury hotel. It was a huge undertaking for more than 250 drivers, workers, and artisans to create the timeless lodging masterpiece that we now so revere.

Stephen T. Mather did himself, and America proud.

The hotel had its grand opening on July 14, 1927.

The dining room

Dining was important to the wealthy, and in the Ahwahnee Hotel, the master architect Gilbert Underwood provided Mather with one of the most memorable grand dining rooms in the world.

The dining room stretches 130 feet from the elevator lobby toward Yosemite Falls and spans 51 feet from side to side. Its vaulted ceiling crowned with stripped pine rafters and trusses is 34 feet high.

Imagine the difficulty of trucking the dining room’s 11 plate glass windows that are 24 feet high on early California furrowed roads up to the building site of the Ahwahnee. One can only guess many windows were broken along the way. Consider also that once the windows arrived on site they had to be positioned without the aid of modern moving equipment – fascinating.

The great dining room timbers are huge bare pine columns that support a weighty truss ceiling. Unknown to the observer is that the pine columns are actually hollow concrete encased steel pillars. Once again, the genius of the architect is displayed. The rustic appearance of the dining room echoes the overall woodsy splendor of the plan. The immensity of this magnificent room dwarfs the 350 guests it can seat.

The dining room alcove – a magical place

 Located at the far end of the dining room, the alcove appears as an add-on to the vast main room before it. It has one of the 24-foot high glass windows, and in this instance, the window provides a showcase for the Upper Yosemite Falls and makes for an unforgettable setting.

The alcove has hosted many historic events including a round table dinner with Queen Elizabeth and Price Phillip during their visit in 1983. The Queen and Prince hosted a small dinner in the alcove after attending services in the park’s historic little wooden chapel.

When not arranged for special events, there are a number of tables for two set up in the alcove. The window center table is often reserved by newlyweds. Your authors had the distinction and privilege of having dinner at that special honeymoon table on their wedding night many years ago.

As we did on that night, we have often thought about the destinies of the hundreds – perhaps thousands of newly married couples that toasted and celebrated their future at that very spot over the last 90 years.

The beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel is host to about 200 weddings per year. If you are planning a wedding – it is an incredible venue.

The Ahwahnee Hotel design theme

The Ahwahnee has a Native American theme, and the chosen decorators did a superb job of blending the furnishings with the overall character of the property. Much of the furniture at the Ahwahnee is original with only subtle changes in fabric and design made to please contemporary tastes.

The Ansel Adam years 

When the stock market crashed in 1929, the number of visitors to the national parks dwindled, and the Ahwahnee fell on hard times.

The president of the Yosemite and Curry Company (YP&CC) decided that publicity would boost the Ahwahnee occupancy rate and he hired a young aspiring concert pianist, who was also a part-time photographer, to photograph and promote the hotel and the Yosemite experience. The young man’s name was Ansel Adams. The rest is history. His work, like that of John Muir will live as long as there is a Yosemite Valley.

Adams was in love with the beauty of Yosemite from an early age. He finally moved from San Francisco to Yosemite in 1937, and although he created visual masterpieces in other parts of the west, he remained intimately connected with the valley and the Ahwahnee Hotel for over 40 years. He retired in 1972 and died in 1982. He left behind a treasure trove of photographs of natural wonders.

The war years

The US Navy appropriated the Ahwahnee Hotel to be a convalescent hospital for sailors in June 1943. Before it was returned to the YP&CC in December of 1945, more than 6,700 patients had been treated at the Ahwahnee.

When the Navy vacated they left behind many buildings including a bowling alley, gymnasium, machine shop, pool hall, and foundry. The buildings were quickly dismantled and the salvage was put to good use in the valley.

Other changes through the years

The guest elevator was automated in 1963.

A small swimming pool was added in 1964 in a non-obtrusive space next to the bar.

Air conditioning was added, and all the windows in the guestrooms were replaced in 1976.

There was a golf course, but it was removed before 1980 in order to preserve the primordial nature of the surroundings.

TVs made their first appearance in the guestrooms in 1989.

The Ahwahnee Hotel was put on the National Register of Historic Landmarks in 1977.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) has designated the Ahwahnee a Four Diamond Hotel.

If you would like to read more detail about the Ahwahnee Hotel there are two short, but excellent books on the subject. . The Ahwahnee – Yosemite’s Grand Hotel, by Keith Walklet and The Ahwahnee – Yosemite’s Classic Hotel, by Shirley Sargent. Both books are available from Amazon.com.

If you go

Road to Glacier Point

There are several entrances to Yosemite Park and you can choose your route from the park website.

As you drive through the park, watch for signs to the Ahwahnee Hotel. A magnificent stone gatehouse at the entrance to the hotel gives the visitor an exhilarating sense of arrival. The leafy, tree-lined drive beyond the gateway increases the anticipation, and the Sequoia lined parking area provides a warm welcome to all visitors.

You are privileged to be about to enter one of the grandest rustic hotels in the world. Whatever it is eventually named, it will always be the “Ahwahnee,” to many generations of proud Americans.

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 Drive from Innsbruck, Austria to Bolzano, Italy

By Bob and Janice Kollar

We left Innsbruck and crossed into the northern region of Italy known as Alto Adige via the Brenner Pass.  The lowest of the Alpine passes, it is situated about 4,500 feet above sea level and has played a major role in Italy’s history.

Centuries ago it was an important trade route for Rome, and eventually becoming the strategic roadway for invasions into Italy by Austria and Germany to name a few.

Today the Brenner “Highway” remains a very significant route between Italy and Austria. But this time the invaders are holding credit cards and shopping bags as it is a major tourist gateway between these countries.

Alto Adige

The region’s cultural fusion is fascinating as the native Alpine (Austrian) people are rooted to the land and their heritage.  The impact of the World War II “adjustments” to the borders of both countries resulted in a blend of traditions, customs, wine making, cooking, and the language having a slight twist.

With German being the predominate language at hotels, restaurants, and even the street signs… we asked ourselves… are we really in Italy?

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Finding the Schloss Hotel Korb        

Finding Bolzano was easy, but finding the hotel was a challenge especially with an address like this one:

Schloss Hotel Korb ag-spa,

Hocheppanerweg 5 via Castel d’Appiano

1-39050 Missian/o – Eppan/Appiano

South Tyrol / Italy

The GPS got us to the right area but that was it.  The hotel came up as unknown.

We now had to depend on our language skills (using that term lightly) and began asking directions to the hotel near Bolzano.  We wound up in a vineyard, on a gravel road, with a new car, four wheeling under a beautiful blue sky.

Bob said, “No problem, I’ll find it!”  as he reached for the cell phone to call the hotel. The Schloss Hotel Korb was very helpful and tried to find a landmark to pin point where we were and to guide us to their property.

With questions like: “Can you see a church steeple?  Does it have a cross or an onion on top?”  OK, it has a cross… now what?   We were instructed to simply drive towards that structure and we will be right on course for the hotel.

No we cannot make this stuff up… classic isn’t it?

We asked yet another local and through his 7 year old daughter (the interpreter) we were told to go down this road and turn left at the fountain and the church is down the hill on the right.

As we are finally making our way out of the vineyard, a peloton of cyclists (about 50 +) were going by at a rapid pace… where the heck did they come from?

Following the cyclist was a bunch of celebrating wedding guests, plus the bride and groom, and a dozen or so cars blaring their horns and having a great time.

There we sat, in a cloud of dust, just looking at each other. We smiled and said…welcome to Italy!  

The Schloss Hotel Korb Experience

We finally found the Schloss Hotel Korb sign and navigated our way through more vineyards but this time on paved roads.

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The hotel is set on top of a hillside surrounded by vineyards, overlooking the Dolomites and the valley below leading up to the village of Bolzano… picturesque is an understatement.  IMG_6859

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     Manicured to perfection and almost ready for the harvest 

 Schloss Hotel Korb Ambiance and Setting

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 Welcome to Schloss Hotel Korb

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The Tower IMG_6862

Outdoor Dining with a View IMG_6871

Registration Area and Foyer in the Castle

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The First Floor Foyer View

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Sissi the Guard Dog and Greeter IMG_6853

The Battlement Suite in the Castle Building with an Expansive Outdoor Balcony 

In Summary

A visit to Northern Italy is not complete until you experience the Alto Adige region.  The people, Italian & German blends of cultures, food and wine… bellissimo!

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar

Staying at a Lighthouse Keeper’s House May Not be Luxurious, but it is a Fun Experience!

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We had heard so many fascinating stories about lighthouses along the scenic Oregon coast that we decided to make a road trip from San Francisco to visit one. Here’s what we did.

Breaking up a long drive

Ours was to be a considerable drive of 552 miles, estimated to take approximately 9-hours, so we decided to break our journey into two days. 

The first thing we looked for was a convenient bed and breakfast along the route.

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We contacted the Old Thyme Bed and Breakfast, 217 miles north of San Francisco in the town of Redding, which came recommended by a subscriber to our articles.

The inn is just minutes from Interstate 5, where we spent most of our driving time, and gave us the perfect break in our travel.

After a super slumber and a delicious breakfast, we were ready for the final leg of our adventure.

On the road again

Interstate 5 traffic continued to be light from Redding to Weed, California, and the scenery improved with each passing mile. The intermittent views of Mt. Shasta from I-5 were often breathtaking.

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The most picturesque route to the central Oregon coast begins after leaving I-5 at exit 136 and connecting to Oregon state highway 138. Be sure to make the drive along 138 in the daylight, because you do not want to miss the panoramic blend of lush forests and verdant mountains.

We arrive

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By mid-afternoon we were approaching the coastal town of Reedsport, Oregon. From there it’s a quick 20-minute drive along historic highway 101 north to the art-deco inspired Siuslaw River Bridge that spans the river running along the Florence waterfront.

It was a beautiful crisp day on the Oregon coast.

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We took lunch at the Bridgewater Ocean Fresh Fish House in the quaint “Old Town,” section of Florence.

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Our selections were fish and chips and fried oysters. Exceptionally fine sea food at reasonable prices.

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The ambiance of Florence is “American Quaint,” and we were immediately comfortable with the town and our surroundings.

On to the lighthouse

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One of the reasons we chose Florence for our base camp was its close proximity to the Heceta Lighthouse.

History

In 1891 President Benjamin Harrison reserved a coastal headland known as Heceta Head, in Lane County, Oregon, for the sole use of a lighthouse, which was subsequently constructed and dedicated three years later.

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The lighthouse, boasts a 1.2 million candle power light — the most powerful on the Oregon coast. It can be seen from far out at sea, and also, from various points along Hwy 101. 

The last keeper left when the giant light was automated in 1963. Thereafter, the keeper’s notably unique residence went vacant.

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The Heceta lighthouse keeper’s dwelling was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

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Twenty-two year later in 1995, Lane County opened the building for tours and a six guestroom B&B.

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We had the privilege of spending two nights in the Mariner II (the one we recommend) guestroom at the Heceta Lighthouse Keeper’s Bed and Breakfast.

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Our room was one of three with an en suite bath. If you enjoy traveling back in time, this is a place you will not want to miss.

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Painstakingly furnished with period antiques, the vintage Queen Ann style keeper’s house is a giant step back to the late 1800’s.

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The house is reputed to be haunted, and the setting is perfect for the phenomenon, but alas, we did not see any ghosts.

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The view from our room was inspiring. The windows were like a powerful lens through which our expectations of the beauty of the rugged Oregon coastline became a reality.

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A stay at the Keeper’s home includes a house tour, lighthouse tour, wine and cheese social, and a gourmet breakfast. All worth the price of admission.

See the lighthouse in daylight and after dark

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It’s a brief walk from the keeper’s house to the lighthouse atop the craggy knoll.

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There is also a cliff trail that rises above the lighthouse.

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The view from that vantage point invites your gaze over the shimmering ocean and the southern aspect of the Siuslaw National Forest and its rocky shoreline.

A flashlight is provided in every guestroom in the inn, along with encouragement to climb the easy trail after dark.

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At night the lighthouse is showcased in the dramatic glow of its illuminated Fresnel lens, which tirelessly scans the sea under the gaze of a million stars.

Do not miss breakfast

Original innkeepers Mike and Carol Korgan are both certified executive chefs. They are retired now, but their daughter Michelle, and partner Stephen have upheld the tradition of fine dining at the house.

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A seven-course day-opening meal awaits each guest. At this table, delicious food keeps coming until every guest is fully nourished and satisfied.

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Accompanied by rousing coffees and teas, the multi-plate tapas style breakfast was a great way to start the day. The experience was further enhanced by the congeniality of our fellow guests.

Our recommendation

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For those heading to Oregon and ready for an authentic 19th century lighthouse keeper’s experience accompanied by a gourmet-envy seven-course breakfast, we think you will enjoy the Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B. Learn more about it here.

Because this vintage B&Bs has very few guestrooms, be sure to make reservations several weeks in advance to avoid disappointment.

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Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

A Luxury B&B for the Crab, Wine, and Beer Festival in Mendocino, California

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

Getting to Mendocino

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

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

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

Our welcome

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

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

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

The accommodations

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

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

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

The Pelican Room

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

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

Time for dinner

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

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

First night menu

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

Tri-Color Marble Potatoes with Horseradish Sour Cream

Crab-Cocktails, with Meyer Lemon Slaw

Balsamic Glazed Grilled Endives

Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Sweet Chili Sauce

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We finished off with a delectable Cinnamon Banana Brioche Bread Pudding

So who needs to eat elsewhere!

Dreaming about tomorrow

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

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

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

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The clean salt air was brisk and the walk invigorating.

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

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

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

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

The following morning

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

The breakfast at the Brewery Gulch Inn is magnificent.

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

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

After breakfast we headed for the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.

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

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

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

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

Time for crab tasting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Everything crab was topped off with an Olallieberry Cobbler,

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and a Hot Fudge Sundae.

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

All too soon

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Cape Cod Luxury: The Captain’s Manor Inn

Our favorite travel season is upon us. The summer heat has ebbed, the kids are back in school, traffic is a bit more tolerable, and most lodgings are dropping their prices in anticipation of winter. Best of all, the leaves are getting ready to put on their autumnal extravaganza of color. This is an exceptionally rewarding time to visit New England.

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We are particularly fond of everything Cape Cod in the fall. There is a certain serenity in the air as October ushers in the cool breezes off the bay.

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Last fall we stayed at two magnificent B&Bs in the village of Falmouth, Massachusetts. In an earlier story we discussed the town of Falmouth, and the first B&B, today we want to tell you about The Captain’s Manor Inn, a fabulous inn with a maritime history.

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The Captain’s Manor Inn was the first summer home built in Falmouth, Massachusetts in the year 1849. It is hard to think of it as a summer house because from the very beginning it was a stately manor.

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The architecture was uncommon for the Cape. It was the idea of Captain Albert Nye, who built the manor as a gift for his bride Ms. Henrietta Forbes of New Orleans. Ah, that explains the Southern Plantation style of this grand house.

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In 1872 the house was sold to a retired whaling ship master by the name of Captain John Robinson Lawrence. The Captain’s son was a horticulturist of note, and it is apparent that he plied his trade in the house’s garden, which boasts several unusual trees. The son’s name was H.V. Lawrence and he lived in the house while managing the first florist shop on the Cape.

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As you walk the grounds of the Captain’s Manor Inn, it is easy to imagine the pleasant life that the younger Mr. Lawrence enjoyed for so many years as he observed the changing face of his quiet Cape Cod village. He passes away in 1952, at the age of 92. His passing was mourned by the entire citizenry of Falmouth.

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Fast forward to the 21st century, when Kevin and Trish Robinson purchased and upgraded the house to its current majestic state. The inn has the original plantation style windows with shutters, which allow natural light and subtle shadows to dominate the rooms.

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The Captain’s Manor Inn is a bed and breakfast of distinction. The inn is spotlessly clean and elegant. Roomier than most B&Bs, it’s a place where you can stretch out and not feel contained.

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There are eight sleeping rooms to dream in, and all are furnished with period antiques and sumptuous beds with superbly soft linens.

The inn is complete with everything you would expect from a best of class inn.

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When we arrived, innkeeper Trish Robinson was ready with a delectable freshly baked cookie and brewed coffee. After our nourishment we toured the inn and its extensive grounds.

Notably, there is an elevator for folks with disabilities that bring guests from the ample off street parking area to the house.

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House amenities include a full (delicious) breakfast, free Wi-Fi, private baths, down filled duvet, individual room air conditioning and heat controls, ceiling fan, iPhone/iPod compatible clock radio, LCD cable TV, spa robes, two bottles spring water, Gilchrist and Soames bath amenities, hairdryer, iron and board,  and plush cotton towels. Nice!

The inn is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.

For more information about this delightful lodging, their website is http://captainsmanorinn.com

What’s for dinner?

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Woods Hole is a short drive from downtown Falmouth, and the location of the ferry services to Martha’s Vineyard.

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Martha’s Vineyard is a must see in autumn, but that’s a story for another time.

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Our late-afternoon ferry from Martha’s Vineyard arrived back in Woods Hole just in time for dinner.

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The Quicks Hole Tavern is just steps from the ferry building and provided us with a taste of New England cooking at its best.

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We started out with a warming cup of Quahog Chowder,

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then a scrumptious, piled-high Chopped Kale Salad,

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followed by some of the best Pan Seared Halibut we have tasted. Yummy! Worth a try when you are in the neighborhood. The Quicks Hole Tavern website is *here*.

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.” 

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Luxury Living in the Rain on the Coast of Maine

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

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

A very different resort

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

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

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

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

The accommodations

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

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

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

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

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

Time to work

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

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The bathrooms were especially noteworthy, quite large and airy.

Outside photos

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

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

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

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

Here’s another example 

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

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

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

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Pet friendly

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

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

This is fantastic

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

And for the humans

Couples Room at SPA at Inn by the Sea

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

A superb restaurant

Flatbread Prep

Chef Sicinski  courtesy Inn by the Sea

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

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How about this hearty and delectable breakfast!

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

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

Everything we ate left us satisfied and gratified.

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

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

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

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

A great place to vacation

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

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

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

Rockland Headlight 7-001

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

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

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

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

Happy travels.

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

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

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

The Saratoga Arms Caters to the Sport of Kings in Saratoga Springs

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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.

The Lodge at Woodloch: An Elegant Spa Resort in the Pocono Mountains

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 Luxury Family Vacation at the Westin Princeville Resort Villas on Kauai

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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.

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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

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

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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.

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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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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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

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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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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