Don’t Drive: Take a Virtual Vacation in April 2020

Are you missing the unbridled freedom of travel during these long days of lock downs? So are we.

For the common good we must comply with the self-isolation mandates, but Spring is coming and our wanderlust will soon be in full bloom.

Here’s an idea

In addition to challenging games of rug-putt golf, we decided to organize several arm-chair vacations. Think of it as a variation of the “staycation” idea so popular during the last recession.

Like us, we bet you have lots of digitized photos from past vacations and events.

Organize your photos

We have all our photo files on our computer in Google’s Picasa 3. We like the way Picasa organizes photos and have used it for years but unfortunately Google no longer supports it. If you don’t already have your digitized photos on your computer or in the cloud, check the internet for other places and programs to store photos. Make sure whatever program you choose has a “slideshow” feature.

Having taken tens of thousands of pictures during our 15+ years of travel writing, we have now corralled all the digitized photos from each trip and put them under one descriptive file such as “Oahu.”

As an added benefit of the process we have eliminated thousands of redundant images and really spruced up our photo presentations.

We then organized each trip under a category, country, or state destination heading such as “Hawaii,” or “Cruise – Mediterranean.”

Sit back and enjoy

Now, when we want to take a virtual “trip” we just select an album like “Cruise – Eastern Europe,” select “slideshow” from the “view” tab, set the display time we prefer for each image, and click “go.” We can pause the slideshow whenever we want to reminisce about a specific image.

For even more fun, we set the slideshow feature to “random sort.” and try to guess where and when each variable photo was taken — stimulates the brain cells.

Memory Lane is a great place to visit when you are house bound. Like Sinatra sang, “It’s oh so nice to go trav’lin’ but it’s so much nicer, yes, it’s so much nicer to come home.”

Happy virtual travels and stay safe. We can get through this.

Note: There are also virtual tours on the internet to visit places you haven’t been. For starters, check out the US National Park Systems website. The parks are physically closed, but not to your computer.

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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 © 2020 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff.

Photos Copyright © 2020 Judy Bayliff.

Cruise Food: Is It As Good As It’s Reputed to Be?

Absolutely! We have been cruising for decades in all manner of ships. One thing that has been consistently good throughout is the food. Yes, we have experienced an occasional disappointment along the way, but far too few to mention among the hundreds of wonderful meals we have enjoyed at sea.

A picture is worth a thousand words so enjoy a small assortment of our images of mouth-watering vittles from just four family cruise lines, i.e., Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, and Princess.

Yes, even breakfast is special.

Our hats off to the thousands of creative chefs and servers that make the dining experience at sea so unforgettable.

Bon Appetit!

Breakfast cereal at home never looks like this.

And special kudos to our favorite Italian Executive Chef Ottavio Bellesi of Princess Cruise Lines

Cruise lines — thank you for the memories!

Happy Travels

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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 © 2020 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff.

Photos Copyright © 2020 Judy Bayliff. Final image courtesy of Princess Cruise Lines.

A Pleasant Drive Brings Us To The Historic Hopkins Inn in Warren, Connecticut

The scenic Litchfield Hills in northwest Connecticut is home to several historic inns and restaurants. One of the very best is the Hopkins Inn.

Overlooking the northern shore of beautiful Lake Waramaug and the Berkshire Mountain foothills, the Inn was opened as the Hopkins Place, a summer boarding house, in 1847.

It operated as such until 1941 when it closed for the duration of WWII. It reopened again as the Hopkins Inn in 1945 and has been providing delicious meals and comfort to travelers ever since.

Congenial owners Franz and Beth Schober have operated the inn for over forty years.

The Inn’s Victorian dining room has sweeping views of the lake and mountains. In good weather, guests can enjoy al fresco dining on the Inn’s expansive flagstone terrace comfortably sheltered beneath a grand chestnut tree.

And the food

In season, the dining room is full of guests from near and far all gathering to savor Franz Schober’s authentic Austrian cuisine. However, there are also many menu selections that are distinctly American in tradition and flavor.

The menu and wine list are deep, and we only wish we had time to sample all that they offer. However, you can read what we missed by perusing the menu *here*.

As we waited to be seated for dinner, we enjoyed a cleansing libation in the Tavern Room where the roaring fire provided a cozy atmosphere for chatting with fellow guests.

The dining room was busy, but our table was promptly ready for our 7 pm reservation.

Selecting an entrée from the dazzling menu was difficult, but Judy chose the Broiled Halibut with pineapple salsa served with vegetables and wild rice.

Wayne also selected from the sea and had Broiled Sea Scallops in a garlic butter sauce joined by a medley of perfectly cooked vegetables.

Since neither of us had chosen an authentic Austrian main dish, we felt obliged to try the homemade Apple Strudel with vanilla sauce. Delicious!

After dinner, it was back to the Tavern Room for a nightcap and pleasant conversation with a charming German couple touring Connecticut for the first time.

Note: The restaurant is open from late March to January 1 each year. In the offseason, the inn operates as a bed and breakfast.

The nearby winery

The entrance to the Inn and restaurant is on the right side of the building. A few hundred feet from the lantern is the delightful Hopkins Winery.

It is a separate enterprise not owned by the Innkeepers, but how nice to have a winery as a neighbor!

We did not partake of any offered samples, but judging by the number of customers at the winery’s sample bar, the harvest must have been quite exceptional.

The beach 

It was chilly during our visit so we did not venture down to the lake, but the Hopkins Inn has a private beach on the lake and just a short distance from the inn. We are certain the sandy beach, and the refreshing lake provides the perfect place to pass a warm summer day in Connecticut.

The guest rooms

Twelve guest rooms and two apartments are open all year.

Our room was number 15. It was charming and immediately won us over with its elegant simplicity. Exactly what we had hoped for in a pre-Civil War era roadhouse on the back roads of tony Litchfield Hills.

The period furnishings hearkened us to an earlier time, and as we stood gazing at the lake from one of our four windows, we wondered who else, from a long-gone era, might have stood in this very spot captivated as we were by the lovely view.

The bed was superbly comfortable, and we fell asleep listening to the leaves rustling in the autumn breeze.

If you go

The Hopkins Inn is at 22 Hopkins Road, Warren, CT 06777. The Inn is about a two-hour drive from New York City and about two hours and forty-five minutes from Boston. Either is a lovely drive.

For more information and reservations look to the Inn’s website at http://www.thehopkinsinn.com

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

A Two Hour Drive from New York City and You Are In the Best of the Historic Poconos

There’s a little village in the heart of the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains that has seen more than its share of booms and busts during the course of its 200-year history. We recently visited the charming town for a second time. This time during its annual autumnal celebration.

Fall Foliage Festival

When we called the Innkeeper of the Inn at Jim Thorpe, Dave Drury, and told him we planned to do a sequel to our story about the town of Jim Thorpe and needed a one night room on a Friday night in October he was silent.

We hadn’t thought about the fact that it was leaf peeper time in the Poconos. The weather was forecasted to be splendid AND we were asking for space on a Friday night when thousands of visitors descend on the borough to enjoy the fun and festivities of the Fall Foliage Festival. Ergo, SOLD OUT – everywhere.

Disappointment

We were resigned to forgo the pleasure of sharing new images and writing more about how centuries-old Mauch Chunk prospered by providing anthracite coal for the industrial revolution and subsequently suffered when oil replaced coal as the chosen fuel of industry.

However, like the fortunes of the town, our luck took a turn for the better. Dave Drury emailed that one room had come available at his building at 44 West Broadway, just a few blocks from his famous Inn at Jim Thorpe. He said it was a very small room, but we gratefully assured him it would do fine. We actually found both the Victorian building and the room absolutely delightful.  Thank you, David! On with the story.

Strange name

Mauch (pronounced “mock”) Chunk means “Sleeping Bear” in local Native American parlance and is named so because the town rests alongside Bear Mountain and next to the Lehigh River. The resultant topographical gorge makes for outstanding scenery and abundant outdoor activities.

Evolution of Mauch Chunk

In the early days of settlement, Mauch Chunk was a prosperous town indeed. In fact, during the good times of the 19th century, when there were only 26 millionaires in the entire United States, an astonishing 19 of them had homes in Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania.

Even as the town lumbered in the sooty coal and railroad businesses, early thrill-seeking tourists started to come to Mauch Chunk to ride the gravity railroad named the “Switchback.” The railroad ran coal cars from the mines at the top of Summit Hill to waiting coal barges in the Lehigh River far below. Converted coal cars provided an early roller coaster experience for adventurous 19th-century passengers – for a price.

Unfortunately, the Switchback ended during one of the town’s economic struggles. Today, the roadway remains a popular hiking and biking venue for the hale and hearty.

Another setback

Notwithstanding earlier booms and busts, the Great Depression took the heaviest toll on Mauch Chunk and many of the town’s old buildings fell into disrepair.

It is the world’s good fortune that during these struggling times the town was too poor to demolish dilapidated structures. Today, some of those buildings make up Jim Thorpe’s quaint restaurants, shops, and lodgings.

An inspirational story of survival and revival

The people of Mauch Chunk have always been survivors. Coal miners are a hardy lot, and not to be deterred from feeding their families when times get tough.

It was in just such an economic atmosphere that the people of Mauch Chunk decided to boot-strap a resurgence of their town.

Becoming Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe was an extraordinary athlete. You can read about his many achievements in our original story, A Town and Hotel Remember the Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century.

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

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

Did the Jim Thorpe maneuver attract tourists?

Not really. The fame of the Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century faded quickly after his death and by the 1960s and 1970s many in the new generation had never heard of Jim Thorpe.

However, more importantly, the name change had excited and motivated the leaders and people of the borough, and the proud little town became noticed for its architectural revival, restaurants, trendy shops, abundant scenery, history, planned events, and excellent outdoor activities. By the 1980s Jim Thorpe was on a tourism roll and has never looked back.

If you go

Jim Thorpe is a two-hour drive from New York City. Google maps can plot your course from wherever you begin your journey.

For tourist information about the town of Jim Thorpe and its many activities and events, check out the dropdown menu tabs at www.jimthorpe.org and read our previous story *here*

Our favorite place to stay in Jim Thorpe is the historic Inn at Jim Thorpe. You can also read more about the Inn in our previous story.

A note of caution: If you plan to spend any part of a weekend in Jim Thorpe, book well in advance to avoid disappointment. Do as we say, not as we do.

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 Borough of Jim Thorpe.

Fly or Drive to One of the Best Places to Stay on the Oregon Coast: The Overleaf Lodge in Yachats

Over the last several months we have written about some wonderful places to stay along the scenic California coast. Today we introduce another outstanding lodge, this time in Oregon.

The ocean before us

The Overleaf Lodge rests on the edge of the Pacific Ocean; so close that you can easily hear the waves thumping the rocky shoreline.

The Overleaf seems large for its small-town surroundings. However, it has the advantage of a location that is situated well off busy Hwy 101 and the entire property blends well with the local flora.

A caring staff

We arrived at the lodge mid-afternoon and were immediately greeted by the very sociable and attentive General Manager Heather Tincher-Overholser, a 22-year veteran at the Lodge.

We later learned that Heather was the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Oregon Hotel and Restaurant Association Employee of the Year Award. We could understand their choice! We also thought the Lodge must be a pretty fine place to work based on our experience with other members of the staff.

A family-owned enterprise

Heather gave us a tour of the entire property. There are actually three distinct lodging groups on the site, all owned by the same family.

The Overleaf Lodge with 54 room and suites; Overleaf Village with eight cottages that are not on the ocean, but close and ideal for group or family vacations; and the Fireside Motel which is not quite as elegant as the Lodge, but close, and certainly more than adequate – and it’s pet-friendly.

Notable features at the Lodge

The Overleaf Lodge is a view with rooms. Every room boasts sweeping ocean vistas.

It has a fine Spa with a pool that overlooks the Pacific.

There appears to be a calibrated strategy to attain a comfortable sense of informality throughout.

The Lodge sits on the site of the historic 804 Trail, which was once an oceanside County Road before Hwy 101 made it obsolete in 1936.

It’s an invigorating one-mile ocean walk to the scenic little village of Yachats.

A healthy and hardy breakfast is included.

There’s a charming Picnic by the Sea option.

A separate conference center building is ideal for weddings or other gatherings.

The Lodge has a complimentary laundry – now that is unusual!

We liked it

We found the Overleaf Lodge to be a perfect getaway.

It is a rustically posh hotel that infuses just the right amount of opulence into the local culture.

The Inn is a very cozy place to relax and enjoy each other’s company while being serenaded by the sea.

If you go

Yachats is located in the middle of the Oregon coast. It is approximately 200 miles north of the California border, and 160 miles south of the Washington border. Portland is the nearest major airport, and Eugene is a good choice as the closest regional airport that has direct service to cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver.

However, if you have the time and inclination, it’s a beautiful drive along Hwy 101 from any direction.

For more information about the Overleaf Lodge and its amenities, click *here*.

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

 

5-Star Hayfield Manor is a Short Drive From Blarney Castle in Cork, Ireland

Hayfield Manor is an elegant boutique hotel near the city center of Cork. When you combine a spectacular attraction like Blarney Castle with an extraordinary hotel like Hayfield Manor, you have brewed up a “must do” itinerary while visiting the Emerald Isle.

“Leave the hectic pace of city life and enter the tranquil country garden setting of a magnificent manor house.”

The circular drive of Hayfield Manor is reminiscent of grand houses everywhere – and in the axis of the driveway, you will find an eager and friendly door attendant waiting to serve you. As you exit your vehicle, you instinctively know you are about to experience the uncompromising elegance for which the manor has earned its high rating.

The accommodations

There are 88 bedrooms and suites in the hotel – all with unique vintage furnishings, exquisite floor coverings, and tasteful window styling. Each sleeping room has modern amenities readily available, but all are seamlessly woven into the room and suite’s decor – from complimentary high-speed internet access to a 32″ flat-screen TV with DVD

Tradition dominates throughout

After our tour of the manor, the congenial General Manager, Ettienne Van Vrede, asked, “How old does the manor feel?” We missed its age by a country mile. We replied that the hotel had the ambiance and appearance of a mid-19th-century manor house. We were astonished to learn that the present structure had replaced a centuries-old manor just over 20 years ago in 1996.

Extraordinary dining

Be sure to enjoy the special culinary experience of dining at the Orchids Restaurant. The Hayfield’s gifted expert chef prepares a nightly medley of Irish victuals to excite and delight the most discerning international palate. For less formal dining, there is Perrotts Garden Bistro. Located in the bright and airy hotel conservatory, the Bistro offers standard fare such as scrumptious salads and tasty burgers.

A rather unusual private dining room for up to 30 dinner guests is located in the manor’s cellar. The “Vine Wine Cellar” provides a unique atmosphere surrounded by the manor’s extensive selection of vintage wines.

The meeting rooms

The Hayfield has four meeting rooms – the largest is capable of seating 110. All are fully fortified with the latest in technology.

Health and Beauty

The spa at the Hayfield Manor is a destination in its own right. Each of the treatment rooms is designed to ensure that guests have the opportunity to relax, refresh and rejuvenate surrounded by luxuries such as glistening chandeliers, vintage perfume decanters, and antique-style furnishings. Select from the extensive treatment menu and you are sure to come away with a renewed sense of well being.

We recommend the Hayfield Manor Hotel for global travelers planning to visit the famous Blarney Castle or have other reasons to be in Cork. By staying at the Hayfield, you will be in distinguished company. The past guest list includes Prince Andrew – the Duke of York, Henry Kissinger, Pierce Brosnan, Edsel Ford, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, John Cleese, the King of Malaysia and the Prime Minister of Canada.

If you go

Cork is a delightfully cosmopolitan city in Southern Ireland and is only a short 20-minute drive from fabled Blarney Castle.

The Hayfield Manor Hotel is located at Perrott Avenue, College Road, Cork, Ireland. It is just up the hill from University College Cork. For more information, and to read all that the hotel has to offer, check out their website at https://www.hayfieldmanor.ie/ or email: enquiries@hayfieldmanor.ie

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: Drive to the Fabulous Inn at Newport Ranch

The latest subject in our series of articles about luxuriously uncommon coastal lodgings in Northern California is unique in many respects. This coastal cattle ranch covers 2000 remote acres chock-full of forests and plains. It’s the perfect location for a wedding, corporate gathering, or a romantic getaway.

The property stretches along a mile of picturesque bluffs overlooking the Pacific, complete with magnificent rock formations that rise from the sea and have endured ions of pounding by the wild California surf.

Hard road to reality

It’s not easy to get permission to build anything anywhere along the California coast. The several buildings that make up the Inn took years to plan and develop. The result is an unusual architectural oasis anchored by a signature cypress tree in a vast meadow of rolling grass.

What we missed that you shouldn’t

We visited the ranch during a storm with just minutes of rain abatement between downpours. The inclement weather kept us from experiencing what the ranch had to offer outdoors – a sad state of affair indeed. Consequently, we missed the all-terrain vehicle tour and opportunities to hike or bike the 20-miles of trails that traverse the property.

What we didn’t miss

The inside of the rustic/elegant inn is both interesting and inviting. Immediately upon entering, you are greeted by a magnificent map of the ranch.

With your back to the map, there is a delightful gathering room complete with comfortable ranch furniture and a warming fire.

Exploring further, the smaller room opens up to a grand room which is adorned with more relaxed seating, a small bar, and game table.

Everything is situated for maximum enjoyment of the custom rock and boulder fireplace.

During nice weather, guests can enjoy a splendid wrap-around deck and BBQ pit.

Our fellow travelers

There were ten people staying at the inn during our visit. We met all of them at the Fireside Happy Hour between 6 and 7PM over hors d’oeuvres and a complimentary first glass of wine, beer or cocktail.

After friendly self-introductions and some pleasant chat, we all retired to the Newport dining room for a highly anticipated dinner at the communal table.

The dining room was warmed by a large, walk-in fireplace.

Dinner at the inn

When you make your reservations at the Inn at Newport Ranch they email you an invitation to join them in the Newport dining room for a gourmet dinner. Just a day or two before your visit, the inn will email a choice of menu main dishes for the day of your arrival. They request that you email or call with your menu selection(s) by 11 AM on the day of your visit. The price of the three-course dinner service at the time of our stay was $65 per person.

Our choice of mains included one of the following:

  • Local Ling Cod with soy ginger glaze, spicy kale slaw, pickled turnips and delicata squash.
  • For the beef lover, they offered Beer Braised Covelo Beef with porter braised onion, ale braised farro, pickled onion, and mostarda.
  • The poultry choice was Seared Chicken Breast with smoky tomato risotto, chard, lemon-parsley pan jus.
  • Lastly, there was a Roasted Garlic Panisse with beet and kale slaw, roasted garbanzos, and herb tea.

We both chose the Beer Braised Covelo Beef, and it was delicious!

The opener was Onion Soup, and all mains were followed by an aptly-named Chocolate Decadence.

No hotel sameness at this inn

There are only seven guest rooms and suites at the ranch, and all are unique.

There are three guestrooms in the main building, and four rooms in two other buildings.

The owner’s four-bedroom oceanside vacation home “Sea Drum,” is also available and provides sleeping for up to ten.

Our suite

Our accommodation was the Birdhouse Suite. An unusual name for a really different sleeping room arrangement.

The Birdhouse Suite is located on the second floor of the Redwood building. Courtesy umbrellas kept us from getting wet, but we dashed most of the 500 feet (or so) from the main building anyway. What we found when we opened the door to our temporary home made the potential soaking worth it.

The rustic-luxe Birdhouse Suite is hard to describe, so we will let the pictures do most of the talking.

If one could afford it, this suite could be livable space for any duration.

It comes with rural-cozy appointments, a complete well-furnished kitchen, a sauna room,

a super little pot-bellied stove, and a deck with a grill and an excellent view.

It felt very private even with two other guest suites located in the building.

The Fireside Spa and a conference room are also located on the first floor of the building.

The bed was super comfy and we enjoyed listening to the howling wind while snuggling under the warmth of an old-fashioned quilt. At that point we didn’t care how bad the weather got outside – we slept soundly.

Morning came too early

It was still storming, but we were on a schedule, so we reluctantly did an early rise and shine.

Complimentary breakfast at the inn starts with a pastry bar at 7:30.

A full ranch breakfast is served an hour later.

Hospitable innkeeper Patricia Hunter stops to chat with some guests.

If you go

The Inn at Newport Ranch is remote and provides exceptional access to the beauty of the northern California coast. It is 11 miles to Fort Bragg on Highway 1, and 21 miles to Mendocino.

If you would rather not navigate the winding coastal roads leading to the ranch, the inn can arrange helicopter service with Butterfly Aviation. It’s a quick 40+ minute ride from San Francisco, and 30+ minutes from Santa Rosa.

For electric car aficienados, the ranch is equipped with a charging station.

For more information, pictures, and reservations check out The Inn at Newport Ranch or call 707-962-4818

Hint: Planning a wedding or an important event? It is possible to rent the entire Inn. However, plan early to avoid disappointment.

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 the article 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. Aerial photos and picture of the Fireside Spa provided by the Inn.