Travel and Lifestyle photojournalists Wayne and Judy Bayliff explore the world of exceptional vacation getaways for discerning travelers.
Their syndicated articles appear in popular Travel and Lifestyle magazines, newspapers, and websites.
They are founders of the popular online travel magazines the Best Vacations Journal and Captains and Cruises.
Story topics include romantic destinations, leisure time activities, upscale tours, distinctive resorts, best airlines and cruises, luxury lodgings, and delicious eateries.
The team has been traveling and photographing for over 20 years. Their work has appeared online and in print all over the world and in several languages.
If you would like Wayne and Judy to provide fresh content for your publication, or consider your travel destination or activity for a story, please email your inquiry to: email@example.com
Many people are feeling comfortable enough to travel again. However, for aging adults and people with disabilities, traveling is not always an easy undertaking. While national parks are a common bucket list destination, many elder and disabled tourists could use help in identifying which parks are the most accessible.
Our friends at AgingInPlace.org have put together a list of the most accessible national parks in the U.S and we are pleased to pass along this important information to our travel readers.
Highlights from their national parks list
Badlands in South Dakota ranks as the most accessible national park in America.
California and Arizona each have two of the top 10 most accessible national parks in their state.
Yellowstone has the highest percentage of wheelchair-friendly restaurants of all national parks in the U.S.
Looking at each national park, AgingInPlace.org gathered data on the total number of trails and the number of wheelchair-friendly trails taken from AllTrails to find the proportion of wheelchair-accessible routes.
To achieve their accessibility score both factors were assigned a normalized score out of 10 and took an average across both scores to reach the final ranking.
National parks with less than 10 trails and restaurants were removed from the rankings as this may only be a reflection of the low visitor numbers to these parks.
Published Memorial Day to honor our fallen heroes.
There are many historical destinations in the United States, but to Americans, few have the emotional relevance of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Located in our National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, the Tomb is dedicated to lost and missing American soldiers from all wars.
The Tomb was established with the interment of an unknown soldier from World War I on November 11, 1921. He was laid to rest directly beneath a marble sarcophagus inscribed
HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD
Subsequent burials from the conflicts of WWII, Korea, and most recently,Vietnam, were made near, but not under the tomb.
Due to the advancement of forensic science, the Vietnam era unknown was exhumed in 1998. DNA identified the remains of Lt. Michael Blassie, and he was subsequently re-interred near his family home in St. Louis.
The government decided not to replace the Vietnam soldier with non-identifiable remains. Instead, the original Vietnam inscription and the dates of that conflict have been changed to “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen.”
A sacred trust
Guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns is a solemn duty, reserved for our finest soldiers. Since 1937, the US Army has guarded the Tomb every minute of every day. On April 6, 1948, the permanent honor was bestowed on the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. “The Old Guard,” is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the US Army, and can trace its origins to 1784.
The elite soldiers chosen to stand watch at the Tomb are called Sentinels. They are generally men (there were 3 exceptions), and typically have the rank of Private First Class or Specialist. They stand between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet 4 inches tall, and must be proportionally built. They are on average 22 years of age.
The Sentinels do not wear insignia of rank lest they outrank the Unknowns - whatever their rank may have been.
Their uniforms are made of wool, and are worn through cold winters and hot summers on the Potomac. They are issued special shoes and sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun reflecting off the many marble monuments, and their gloves are moistened to assure a firm grip on the ceremonial rifle stock.
Inclement weather does not affect the watch
The Sentinels have a motto, “Soldiers never die until they are forgotten – Tomb Guards never forget.”
Good Americans are like Sentinels and will never forget the sacrifices made by our armed services.
If you go
The cemetery and Tomb is situated directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., and near the Pentagon. During the summer months (April to October) the guard is changed every half-hour. During the winter months (October to April) the guard is changed every hour.
The cemetery is closed to the public from 7pm to 8am April through September, and 5pm to 8am October through March. When the cemetery is closed, the guard is changed every two hours.
The next time you are in Washington D.C., take your loved ones to see the Tomb and the more than 300,000 graves at Arlington. You and they will be inspired, and reminded that the freedom we often take for granted comes at a very great cost.
With the Covid virus keeping us housebound for a year, and judging by the huge increase in streaming TV subscribers, we have all viewed more than our share of TV shows and movies. It’s time to get active.
We know from past correspondence that many of our readers are interested in the locations where movies are filmed. When we ran across an unusual LA County Park where dozens of movies and TV shows were made, we wanted our subscribers to know about it. It’s in the high desert of Southern California, and for us, it was an easy drive from our winter home near Palm Springs.
The place is the 932-acre Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park located in Los Angeles County, California. This park and its unique rock formations may be the one outdoor spot listed on the National Register of Historic Places where more movie stars and entertainers have clocked in for work than any other non-studio location.
The photos of the landscape should be familiar. Throughout the years, the “Rocks” have appeared in films when rough, desolate, and foreboding terrain is required as a backdrop.
The park’s TV credits are impressive
Here are just some of the Who’s Who of westerns and adventure series that have filmed episodes at Vasquez Rocks:
CSI, The Medium, Monk, 24, NCIS, Alias, Saving Grace, Twilight Zone, Buffy, The Lone Ranger, Wild Wild West, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke, Man from Uncle, Maverick, The Rifleman, Mission Impossible, Bonanza, Outer Limits, The Fugitive, Alias Smith and Jones, Hunter, MacGyver, Rat Patrol, Charmed, Friends, Fear Factor, Lassie, Las Vegas, Logan’s Run, Zorro, Voyagers, Daniel Boone, Alien Nation, Rin Tin Tin, The Big Valley, The Cisco Kid, High Chaparral, Six Million Dollar Man, Bionic Woman, Battle Star Galactica, Street Hawk, and of course – Star Trek.
How’s that for a walk down action TV’s memory lane!
About the movies filmed at the park
We did some research to try to find when the first movie was filmed at the Rocks. We read several articles asserting that a silent action movie starring Rudolph Valentino was made there in 1905. Unfortunately, the reports are all false since Valentino was born in 1895. We never did identify the first movie.
We do know that the classic 1931 Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, was filmed in part at the Rocks, and was followed by dozens of other notable movie productions such as, Apache, Hondo, Cheyenne, Laramie, Laredo, and Blazing Saddles. Also included – Werewolf of London, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, Austin Powers IMM, The Flintstones, and Short Circuit.
Let’s not forget the music videos
Music producers also find Vasquez Rocks a worthy setting. Michael Jackson did a famous dance sequence with American Indians at the Rocks for the hit music video Black or White, in 1991.
Millions of years in the making
The park’s ominous looking 45-degree toothy rock outcroppings are siblings to the San Andreas Fault. They were formed by a series of violent earthquakes over many millions of years. The jagged peaks rise 150 feet above the surrounding sandy desert floor.
If you decide to go
Vasquez Rocks Park is off the beaten path, but its raw beauty is worth planning a day trip to visit when you are in the Los Angeles area.
If you would enjoy a walk where Hollywood celebs have walked, the Rocks are the place. Park your car in the lot and take a short hike. Enjoy the desert beauty that has inspired the stars.
A few words of caution: There are scant facilities at Vasquez Rocks. The weather is subject to rapid change, so be prepared. Take great care if you plan to wander beyond the parking lot – there’s a lot of inhospitable desert out there.
The park is open to the public year round. There are several hiking trails, and the cliffs are accessible to climbers.
The park is located just north of Los Angeles, at 10700 Escondido Canyon Road in Agua Dulce, California, Take the Hwy 14 exit from Interstate 5, and drive about 20 miles east.
“Get out there, but be prepared.” Wear a mask and social distance when it makes sense to do so.
When you decide you are again ready for a new travel adventure, and you have already tried sky diving, hot air ballooning, and maybe white water rafting – look to the sea, and consider swimming with the sharks.
After you read our story and are raring to go, check out the new entry protocols required by the Islands in the Bahamas. You will find them at the end of this article.
Our personal favorite locations for diving with the sharks are off the beautiful islands of the Bahamas, which are an easy plane ride from the US mainland. We particularly like the island of New Providence which is home to the town of Nassau where 80% of the Bahamians live. At the opposite end of the island from Nassau is Stuart Cove’s Dive Center – one of the very best in the business.
Stuart Cove has been involved in the making of many underwater film segments including those from the popular James Bond series, For Your Eyes Only, and Never Say Never Again. Stuart personally certified Sean Connery (who lived in the Bahamas) and Kim Bassinger for their underwater scenes in the latter movie.
Through the years, Stuart has been host to a long list of celebrities and prominent world figures including Diana Princess of Wales, and the Princes William and Harry.
Next to the stingrays in the Cayman Islands, the Caribbean Reef Sharks in this part of New Providence waters are probably the closest thing to a trained fish that you will find anywhere on the planet. They are fed regularly by the shark dive tour operators and know exactly when to congregate for feedings.
During a shark feeding, all divers are required to kneel on the bottom in a semi-circle with their arms folded. The divemaster, outfitted in a chain-link suit, kneels in front of the group and dispenses large pieces of fish to the swarming sharks from a bucket via a metal pole. The process is often quite orderly with each shark waiting its turn for a tasty gobble. The rhythmic motion of the feeder and sharks is somewhat reminiscent of a matador finessing a cape across the horns of a passing bull.
Not for everyone
Organized shark feeding is not without its critics. There are those that believe that any form of unnatural feeding of animals in the wild should be banned. However, we have never observed any behavioral differences between these local sharks and those of the same species in waters where there are no recreational feedings. We hasten to add, however, that we are not naturalists or shark experts.
A thrill like no other
As interesting as shark feedings are to watch, we have the most fun well before the feeding when we swim among the gathering sharks. Their eerie luminescent lime green eyes follow divers as they swim past. They seem to be as curious about humans as we are about them.
Fear dissipates quickly when you swim among sharks and learn to appreciate their grace and beauty.
Pick your sharks carefully
Of course, not all sharks are created equal. The favored Caribbean Reef Shark runs in size from five feet to nine feet, is olive-gray to grayish-brown in color, and is quite inquisitive, but not particularly threatening.
Play it safe and dive with experts
If you decide to try a shark dive holiday, your expectation and affirmation of safety lie in the fact that professional dive tour operators have been dispensing electrifying experiences to eager divers for years – and as far as we know – there have been no tragic consequences.
You need to be a certified SCUBA diver in order to participate in shark dives, but most warm-water resorts – and many cruise ships – offer certification courses that will have you trained and ready for action within a few days.
For the duration of the visit, complete a daily online health questionnaire for symptom tracking purposes.
Take a COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test on Day 5 of the visit (unless departing on day 5).
Always wear a mask and always social distance in public places.
In addition, since 14 November 2020, all visitors are required to opt-in to mandatory COVID-19 health insurance when applying for their Health Travel Visa. The insurance will cover travelers for the duration of their stay in The Bahamas.
The Hagia Sophia shrine in Istanbul is a breath-taking religious and cultural iconthat has stood the ravages of time, disease, and conflicts for over 1500 years. It is venerated and visited by millions of tourists each year – but that may change.
If you haven’t seen the Hagia Sophia, it is truly inspirational and worthy of your Bucket List.
The story about what you will see
The tale of the Hagia Sophia is an essential part of the tumultuous history of two of mankind’s great religions, Christianity and Islam.
It is interesting to note that the time intervals between significant events in the story of the Hagia Sophia encompass many human lifetimes and world developments.
In the beginning, Emperor Constantine the Great proclaimed Christianity a free-state religion of the Holy Roman Empire in 313 AD.
He also moved the seat of his one-third control of the Roman empire from Rome to Constantinople in 330 AD. Having evolved into a corrupt social state, the city of Rome fell to Germanic tribes in 476 AD, but Constantinople survived to become the biggest and wealthiest city in Europe for the next 800 years.
It was the dream of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I to build a prominent cathedral in the capital city of Constantinople. The construction of the Hagia Sophia cathedral, whose name translates to Holy Wisdom in Greek, was completed in 538 AD, 32 years before the birth of the prophet Mohammed.
For 600 years the Hagia Sophia served as an Eastern Orthodox Catholic church. However, in the year 1204, Roman Catholic Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade plundered Constantinople and looted the treasures of the Hagia Sophia. The cathedral remained under Roman Catholic control for just 57 years before the Eastern Catholics retook Constantinople from the weaker army of Rome.
The Roman Catholic Fourth Crusade broadened the growing schism between the Roman Catholic Church centered in Italy and the Eastern Orthodox Catholic church of Constantinople – the weakened alliance made the entire Catholic empire more vulnerable to its enemies.
The Muslim conquest
Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered Christian Constantinople in 1453 and turned the Hagia Sophia cathedral into a mosque and a grand symbol of the Muslim Ottoman Empire. At the time, many of the Christian icons in the Hagia Sophia were covered over with plaster.
Through the intervening centuries, the mosque had many renovations and significant reinforcements were made to the structure. During the renovation of 1739 Sultan Mahmud I, had most of the remaining Christian mosaics covered over with other art.
In the mid-19th century, eight striking calligraphic roundels with the inscribed names of Allah, and Muhammad and his grandsons were installed prominently under the dome.
In 1931 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the new secular Republic of Turkey commissioned famed American archeologist Thomas Whittemore to locate and restore the medieval Christian artwork in the Hagia Sophia.
The Hagia Sophia as a museum
When the work was completed in 1935 Atatürk opened the Hagia Sophia as a museum and a symbolic union between Islam and Christianity. The world celebrated Atatürk’s great gift for eight decades. Millions of tourists annually visit Istanbul and its incomparable and historic Hagia Sophia.
Typical of today
In 1935 Turkey’s first president Atatürk wanted to demonstrate to the international community of nations that the new republic of Turkey was taking a worldly turn – and all were welcome.
On July 10, 2020, the highest administrative court in Turkey declared that president Atatürk’s 1935 conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a secular museum was illegal. It ruled that the Hagia Sophia should immediately be returned to its prior status as a mosque.
Highly supportive of the court’s decision, on July 24, 2020, the nationalistic president of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended Muslim prayers in the reinstated mosque for the first time in 85 years.
To his credit (and in light of the negative global outcry), president Erdogan has assured other nations that the Hagia Sophia will remain open to foreign visitors during non-prayer hours. The Christian art will be covered during prayers, but available to be seen afterward.
The change back to a mosque was a disappointment to secular non-conformists and cultural globalists, but it could have been worse – just look at the world around us.
For many years secularism thrived in Turkey. During our visits, we found the Turkish people most cordial and generous of spirit. Islam was evident all around us. We are not Muslims but we saw no evidence of religious bias. We felt welcome. Turkey was an excellent host and the country is eminently rich in history and culture.
We read an interesting front-page article in the May 19th Wall Street Journal on the subject of the challenges facing the airline industry and likely new rules as airlines ramp up to serve the flying public during the coronavirus.
We should disclose that airlines are our least favorite travel partners. As frequent fliers, we have sadly watched the airlines take away even the smallest of creature comforts from economy coach passengers. Consequently, we have little sympathy for the financial plight of airline executives during these trying days of Covid-19.
An industry of greed
It’s hard to believe that there was a time when airlines competed for business by offering value-added “perks” such as extra legroom and non-stop service.
Nevertheless, throughout our travel writing careers, the airlines have made it increasingly more difficult for economy passengers to enjoy flying.
The airlines have reaped tremendous profits from an unhappy public forced to endure “take-aways” and comply with evermore-burdening airline rules and policies. These practices are designed to enhance revenue and reduce airline costs – with nary a thought to adding value and improving the customer’s experience.
Fun of flying
Many of our older readers will remember when flying was actually part of the enjoyment of taking a holiday. 9/11 greatly contributed to the decline in air travel fun, and through that experience, the airlines quickly discovered that the public will fly no matter the level of inconvenience in the terminal – or on the aircraft.
Airlines executives analyzed the needs and wants of the flying public. They encouraged the elite business traveler to spend more of their company’s money in exchange for “free miles” for family vacations. Yet, even those programs have been diminished over time and are no longer easy to use.
At the same time, the airlines found they needed no enticements to attract the average family wanting to holiday in destinations too far to drive for a short vacation. The leisure travel economy passenger proved they would endure almost any discomfort, and the airlines piled them on.
Free ticket exchange, bereavement fares, free checked baggage, chicken, beef, or lasagna, blankets, pillows, magazines, and newspapers, and the biggest takeaway of all, space for your body. Body space has been systematically reduced to the bare limits of human endurance of discomfort.
More recently, it was discovered that even more can be squeezed from those least able to pay for the new “amenities” of air travel. To obtain the lowest possible economy fare – no overhead baggage, no seat selection, and a particularly cruel twist, separated family seating. Is there anything more that a customer can endure? Keep reading.
Is it any wonder that so many question any taxpayer bailout beyond the absolute minimum to keep this industry alive. If it were not for the fact that airlines are public companies whose stock is held in many retirement portfolios and 401K programs; the airlines should be left to reap what they have sown in negative public opinion.
All may change and add insult to injury
For example, temperature checks before boarding have been discussed, but what about obviously ill passengers that do not have a temperature?
Will priority boarding for elite passengers remain? Probably not. First-class aisle passengers won’t like brushing shoulder to thigh with coach passengers heading for the back of the plane. It’s much safer to board from the back of the plane forward in small groups. Probably a good idea to bring sanitary wipes for the back of your headrest if you are in an aisle seat since many passengers touch the seat tops as they navigate down the aisle.
In the future, deplaning may be from front to back in small groups to avoid jamming the aisles. First-class passengers will benefit here. It may take up to twice as long to exit an aircraft.
Expect fewer direct flights as the airlines attempt to build traffic and fill seats. On the point of filling seats, the airlines realize the public will have a new fear of traveling in the confined space of an aircraft. It is expected they will keep center seats empty for a time. We fully expect the airlines will find a way to capitalize on selling premium seats next to an empty center seat in the near future.
Bathrooms aboard aircraft will be another problem. The airlines will need to find a way to keep what we once heard described as “dirty tiny stalls,” more sanitary than in the past. It may not be unreasonable to post a flight attendant on duty to sanitize a lavatory after each passenger use. By the way, lining up in the aisles to wait for a biffy is surely to be verboten.
Follow safe practices, but if you believe life is a risk worth taking, get out and enjoy the summer. However, stay home if you are totally risk intolerant.
Consider a drive-to vacation instead of flying where you cannot easily practice social distancing.
Consider taking your vacation later in the year and after the summer crowd has subsided.
We bet there are relatively safe and close outdoor locations and interesting attractions you haven’t seen in years, if ever.
The Queen Mary has faced many challenges since her keel was laid in 1930. Now she is part of a new effort to beat an unprecedented enemy as she helps the world get back to business. Here’s a little more of her inspiring story:
The great ship Queen Mary has been part of Southern California’s treasures since the City of Long Beach acquired her in 1967. Long Beach then spent several million dollars to prepare her for the waiting public. Her grand California debut was on May 8, 1971.
The Queen Mary is a remarkable floating hotel, complete with 314 comfortable guestrooms and suites – all of which were first class cabins when the mighty Queen sailed the seven seas.
There are also fine restaurants on board, and a splendid gallery of shops and boutiques. Check with the hotel (1-562-435-3510) to determine if and when shops and services will be open during the Corona virus pandemic.
During her days on the North Atlantic, passengers enjoyed an indoor swimming pool.
Shipboard activities include several interesting tours and top-notch museum attractions. Unfortunately, all are temporarily suspended during the pandemic.
Your journey begins
Opening the door to a Queen Mary guestroom is like taking an imaginary step back in time. Some of the original metal fans that cooled passengers before the advent of air-conditioning are still affixed to cabin bulkheads. The old salt-water bath fixtures are still present and decorate the seafaring bathrooms.
Each guestroom has updated curtains, beds, and linens to complement original portholes, light fixtures, and paneling. All cabin/guestrooms have been meticulously restored to earlier times.
Some of the interior cabin hardware and wooden furnishings confirm their age – and to nostalgia buffs – that adds to the ambiance. Every piece of furniture has a thousand stories hidden in its historic facing – if only it could talk.
Plan to return for the tours and museums
A walk around the ship is testament that the Queen Mary is the world’s largest art deco museum. Her chambers and passageways are lined with examples of 1930’s art and exotic woods – some no longer available on the world market. Best of all, she exudes the unmistakable aura of the historic times in which she lived — when the abundantly rich, and calamitously poor, worked together to forge a new world.
The Queen Mary at war
We were fortunate that the Winston Churchill Suite was available for our visit. Sir Winston made three crossings on the Queen during World War II. A reliable source confirmed that Mr. Churchill used his suite’s bathtub – partially filled with sand – as a scaled replica to help plan the D-Day landings with members of the Allied staff. To spend time in the very place where such epic discussions took place is a rare honor indeed.
We asked why Winston Churchill did not choose a war ship to cross the Atlantic in those troubled times. “The answer is quite simple. At the time, the Queen Mary was nicknamed the ‘Gray Ghost’ because she was painted completely gray and hard to see, and at 28.5 knots (32.8 mph), she was the fastest ship on the seas.
She was so fast, that she frequently sailed without an escort and out of convoy.”
In general, the Queen played a large part in the outcome of the Second World War. She carried nearly 800,000 troops to the European Theater, and so demoralized the German high command that Adolf Hitler put a price on her head. He would pay the equivalent of $250,000 and award the Iron Cross to the U-boat captain that could find and sink her. Miraculously, she made 72 wartime crossings without an enemy engagement.
After the war, it was business as usual
The Queen Mary was the favorite mode of transportation across the Atlantic for the famous, and the rich and powerful for 30 years. She had three levels of service, i.e., First, Second, and Third class. Each level of service had distinct amenities and separate gathering rooms. First-class passengers were accorded the most space and luxury. The largest room on the was the first-class grand salon, which was three decks high.
Ship’s passengers enjoyed a variety of shops, a two level indoor swimming pool, salon, nursery, library, kennel, and several outdoor deck sports.
A little known story about a great celebrity
One of our favorite post-war stories aboard the Queen involved one lovable and flamboyant Wladziu Valentino Liberace. Liberace was already a famous entertainer in 1956. In that year, he was ticketed in first class and sailed during a difficult New York to Southampton crossing. All on board that particular voyage learned what his friends already knew – Liberace was a warm and generous human being.
The maestro, who was one of the highest paid entertainers in the world during the ’50s, offered to play a free engagement aboard the Queen. The beneficiaries of his kindness were to be the least affluent of his shipmates. He would entertain and play one night, but only for the third-class passengers.
The ship’s crew was ordered to move the grand piano from its prominent position in the first-class parlor to the relatively small and stuffy third-class sitting room. Lee, as he was known to his friends, pulled out all the stops. Everyone present said Liberace’s exalted performance was the highlight of his or her voyage on the Queen Mary. It is reported that all had a grand time – but no one as much as the gracious Liberace himself.
Additional interesting facts and trivia:
The Queen Mary has a 118-foot beam, and that was too wide for the Panama Canal.
She is 182 feet tall, which is about seven feet higher than Niagara Falls.
The Queen is almost twice the tonnage and 136 feet longer than the ill-fated Titanic.
Her full name is RMS Queen Mary – the RMS stands for Royal Mail Ship.
In July 1943, she carried 15,740 troops – a standing world record for most passengers on a ship’s voyage.
The headline entertainer on the Queen’s final passenger voyage in September 1967 was Johnny Mathis.
The last Master of the Queen Mary was Captain J. Treasure Jones. He eloquently summed up her existence when he said, “She breathed, she had character, she had personality. She was above all else the closest ship ever to be a living being.”
Don’t miss it
When you are ready to travel and are in Southern California, be sure to stay at this unique hotel. Who knows what famous person(s) may have slept in that very cabin. Also, there are reputed to be over 600 ghosts that haunt the famous ship. Perhaps one is awaiting your visit.
If you go
The Queen Mary is located at 1126 Queen’s Highway, in Long Beach, CA 90802. The phone number is 1-562-435-3510. For more information go to http://www.queenmary.com.
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.
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.
Breakfast cereal at home never looks like this.
And special kudos to our favorite Italian Executive Chef Ottavio Bellesi of Princess Cruise Lines
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.
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.