The Future of the Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia shrine in Istanbul is a breath-taking religious and cultural icon that 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. 

Millions of people of all faiths have worn down the mosque entrance over 1500 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.

See it if you can.

Safe travels.

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

“Get out there, but be safe and 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 © 2020 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2020 Judy Bayliff

 

The Queen Mary Hotel is Open for Business

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.

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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.

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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.

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During her days on the North Atlantic, passengers enjoyed an indoor swimming pool.

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Many post-WWII brides came to the US in cabins like these

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

IMG_3761She 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

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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.

Happy travels!

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.

© 2020 Travels with Wayne and Judy 

Photos © 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.

Drive to San Francisco and Cruise to Mexico on Princess Cruises

It’s been a rainy winter at our home on the Oregon coast, so we decided to hunt for some sun and sand on the western coast of Mexico.

There’s a lot of ways to get to the famous Mexican Riviera. We decided on a Princess Cruise, and we are so glad we did.

Our cruise featured a total of ten wonderful days of relaxation – first aboard the Grand Princess and then in the warm sun of four exciting south of the border ports – Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, Manzanillo, and Cabo San Lucas.

Our ship was the Grand Princess, and our cruise departed from San Francisco, always a nostalgic bonus for two ex-San Franciscans.

It didn’t take long

We pointed our car south on scenic Hwy 101, and within a few days, we were standing atop the uppermost deck of the Grand Princess as she glided under the Golden Gate Bridge. Click here to watch and listen to the excitement.

The ship’s horn was blaring, the automobiles on the bridge were honking, and hundreds of excited passengers were waving their arms and cheering. What a thrilling exit from everyone’s favorite City by the Bay.

What to write about

We knew we wanted to write about this vacation, but what aspects would our readers enjoy most. Hmmm.

There are thousands of travel articles written about each of the ports-of-call we would visit on our cruise. Type the word “Mazatlán” in Google Search, and you will get over 130 million results in .62 seconds – how do they do that!

So, rather than add to the mountain of available information about the ports of the Mexican Riviera, we will instead share our views on why we think cruising is the best way to get there.

Here are some reasons to take a cruise

“Unpack once to see the world.” A favorite reason – it’s easy. No packing and unpacking as you move from place to place on vacation.

A cruise ship can be a vacation destination.  You might be surprised at how many seasoned cruisers never get off the ship for the entire cruise. To these devoted folks, the cruise itinerary is far less important than being on a favorite ship or cruise line. Everything they look for in a great vacation is right there on board.

Cruising is a great way to visit places you have never been before. Port stops are usually just long enough to get a flavor for a locale. Think of it as Visit 101. If you find a place you like, you can fly back when you have more time to explore it in-depth.

Binge or budget

Cruise lines cater to every wallet and expectation. Like an airplane, everyone on a cruise ship gets to the destination at the same time. However, the cost of a ticket on either mode of travel depends greatly on where you are on board. On a cruise ship you have four options, inside cabin with no window, outside cabin with window, outside cabin with a balcony, or an outside suite with extra room and a balcony.

Something to think about

It is possible that a budget cruise vacation with all the food you can eat – plus entertainment and other bennies, might very well be less expensive than just the cost of daily meals in a nice hotel restaurant on land.

Free stuff

Of course, everyone knows there is a lot of free stuff on a cruise – well, not really, but it feels that way after you have paid for your ticket. Food is free and available all over the ship. Yes, it is very easy to overindulge. Think of the temptation as a good test of your inner strength.

Entertainment is also free, and has improved dramatically over the years. Shipboard theaters are comfortable, and live musical productions are first-rate and on a par with the finest Vegas hotels.

The swimming pools are a great place to lounge, the library to read and relax, seminars at sea to learn – all for free.

High seas internet

It wasn’t long ago that it was expensive and an ordeal to get internet service on board a cruise ship. We are happy to report that things have improved greatly – at least on Princess.

There were three internet plans to choose from on our voyage. None were overly expensive, and the connections were commendable throughout the trip. We had a choice of guest computers in the Internet Lounge, or we could use our own devices from just about anywhere on the ship.

Cruising with electronics

There is one improvement we would ask of cruise ship designers. Please add more electrical outlets for guest use. The balcony staterooms on the Grand Princess have a total of 3 easily accessible outlets – but not all are usable at the same time if your devices have large plugs.

Here’s a little secret. If you look closely behind the TV in most cabins, you will find an open outlet. Not easy to access, but it’s there.

Tip: We always travel with a small travel surge protector/extension cord. Ours is a GE #14015 available from Amazon for about $15. It has three outlets and 2 USB rapid charging ports. There’s even a handy cord-wrap feature. Ideal, and problem solved.

Dining options

Princess has anytime dining or fixed reservation dining in the main dining rooms. We chose the fixed reservation early sitting because we like to eat early, and have ample time to get to the theater for the first show of the live productions.

We got to sit at the same table every night. Luckily, it was a window table and we could watch the waves go by as we waited for our 4-course dinners to begin.

At a fixed reservation table, you are served by the same team every night. In our case it was Sandra and Sarai, both from Mexico – so in addition to excellent service, we had the best tourist tips for all the ports of call.

Our wait team was backed up by our Head Waiter who hailed from Turkey. Everyone says that, “Our dining room team is the best,” but ours really was! They knew the menu, and their recommendations were always spot on. Never an empty water-glass or a crumb on the table. Three great personalities that after 10 days felt like part of our family. Can’t offer a better compliment than that.

Dress

Dress codes for the main dining rooms are much more lenient than a decade ago, but still a little stricter than for the truly casual dining venues on board. On land we would call it “Smart-Casual.”

Depending on the length of the cruise, there will be one or more formal nights in the main dining rooms. These dress-up dinners are opportunities for the ladies and gents to strut their finer stuff. One of these nights is usually when that savory lobster entrée is on the menu.

If you prefer to eat in shorts and flip-flops the entire trip, you will always be welcome for any meal at the Horizon Buffet, or at any of the poolside food stations serving delicious pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream cones, etc.

The Horizon Buffet is a casual restaurant with everything from American comfort food to exotic international dishes. At times it can be difficult to find an unoccupied table, but just ask anyone that has empty chairs if you can join them. We have never heard “no” for an answer.

On two of our nights, we ventured into one of the two specialty restaurants aboard the Grand Princess. There is an extra charge to eat at a specialty restaurant, but to celebrate an occasion, or pamper your palate, they are well worth the extra expense.

The specialty restaurants aboard Princess are the Sabatini Italian Restaurant and the Crown Grill Steakhouse. We have some great pics of our gourmet experiences aboard the Grand Princess, but we’ll save them for another story.

More to come

There is so much to write about a fantastic cruise. So we will end here with a promise of future articles describing our delightful spa treatments, luck in the casino, movies under the stars, beverage packages, bar services, room services, and our experience at the specialty restaurants.

We also look forward to telling you about the fun and nostalgic Princess welcome aboard program, our thoughts on the virtual end to sea-sickness, and the updated changes to the safety procedures on board Princess Cruises.

Ready to cruise?

For more information check out Princess.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

Best Places to Stay Along the Northern California Coast: The Benbow Historic Inn on the Old Redwood Highway

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