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  • It's still All About Travel 9:29 AM on August 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Mini Vacation in Ashland and Jacksonville, Oregon 

    Sometimes a mini vacation is just as relaxing as a major all-out event.  You spend much less time planning. Surely less packing, and a few hours getting there.

    Friend Carol & I made a last-minute decision to drive up to Ashland to attend a play at the Cabaret Theater and do a little shopping.  There are many types of shops along the streets of downtown Ashland including “Shakespeare books & Antiques, LLC.” The place is a fascinating mix of books and estate items where we spent sometime perusing the unusual items.  Instead of arriving for an early dinner at the theatre as advertised, we decided to try the “Dragonfly Restaurant” patio right next door to the theater.  And so glad we did; we each ordered and shared appetizers and a half bottle of wine.  We thought the bill of about $35.00 was really a most reasonable price for a wonderful meal.  The show was great (as they usually are at the Cabaret).

    The following morning we met up with granddaughter Kelly, daughter Shannon and new great-granddaughter, 3-month-old Paige.  After taking Harry & David’s by storm and purchasing items for a later picnic, we were on our way to historic Jacksonville for a little more shopping and sightseeing.  Shannon and Kelly didn’t quite know what to say when we informed them we were picnicking in the peaceful Jacksonville Historical Cemetery.  However, we found comfortable cement slabs in the shade of old oaks, and with background music from the Britt Concert driving up from down the hill, we had a lovely time.  And of course, went for a stroll, reading the tombstones and imagining the historical events surrounding the pioneers buried there.

    Early Sunday morning we were on our way home, missing all the I-5 heavy traffic.  We have our goodies from Harry & David’s, new shoes and used books from Ashland, and our pictures to remind us of a great little mini-vacation.

    If you go up, call the theater ahead of time, 541-488-2902 or check out their website http://www.oregoncabaret.com.  We stayed at the Best Western Windsor, just off I-5 at the first Ashland cutoff and found it affordable and comfortable, the best free breakfast (they included Quiche!) and a shuttle down to downtown to the theaters.

     
  • It's still All About Travel 1:54 PM on August 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Excitement? Well, I guess! 

    Let me see, do you want to know about the time Art & I spent the day in a Portugal prison?  How about when Soviet guy ran away with me?  And then there’s the time I went wading in the nuclear laden Amur River.

    Well, the Soviet thing was pretty exciting.  It was still the USSR when Art & I took a tour, controlled of course, by the government-run “Intourist”.  Since Art was well-known for being out-spoken I warned him to be on his very best.  But, this was one time I was kind of glad he was the “old Art”.  We had some free time outside the Catherine’s Palace – it was cold, snowy, and really very beautiful, even considering the fact that all the outdoor sculptures were covered with wooden boxes.  Camera in hand, I asked if I could take a picture of the troika and the man pushing it.  He gestured for me to sit for the picture with him.  Handing the camera to Art, I sat down only to find myself being pushed down the hill by a “mad Russian”  (well, I don’t really know if he was mad or not, but he was Russian!  Art yelled for him to stop, chased him down and rescued me.  I doubt if he was really going to kidnap me, but it was nice being rescued – and Art did get the picture.

    The Amur River?  It’s in Siberia running along the Mongolian border. Our group of Travel Agents boarded an old rickety 3-story ferry-type boat in Khabarovsk . We had stopped for the day for a picnic (Siberian style) and tied up at an old pier.  I was wading in the River looking for river amber when an old fisherman in an even older boat stopped, pointed and started laughing.  I had no idea what I was doing that was so funny, until I realized he was pointing at my painted toenails. Obviously a first for him.  I’m glad I made his day.  I know he made mine.  I was told later the Amur River was a water route for Russian Nuclear Submarines during WWII; there was an underground area for submarine repair, and there was also nuclear waste in the area.  When my toenails start glowing on their own, I‘ll know why, and I won’t have to use polish again!

    Portugal, guess I’ll have to leave it for another time! Hang in there, I’ll get to it eventually.

     
  • It's still All About Travel 6:31 PM on August 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Seven Feathers Casino 

    Tell me, how does a “pinch-penny” find herself at two Casino Resorts within 3 weeks? My only excuse?  I just can’t pass up a good deal!

    Allegiant Air’s Wendover air/hotel offer from Redding was just too good to pass up for one, and two, I’d always wanted to stop at the “7 Feathers Casino Resort”in Oregon.  The casino with the humongous big eagle statue is not easy to miss on I-5, an easy drive from Redding.

    A GOOD TIME WAS HAD BY ALL!   Isn’t it nice when you can say that coming home from a mini (or any) vacation?

    Colleen and I made plans to drive up to Oregon, pick up Shannon in Medford and continue on I-5 to “7 Feathers Casino and Resort”.  And what a great decision that turned out to be for a mother/daughters birthday celebration.

    On the way we stopped at “The Station Restaurant” in Rogue River, Oregon for lunch.  Shannon told us they served great salads, and that certainly was the case.  Besides being really tasty, it was the prettiest fresh green salad I’ve seen.  All their menu items looked good, so we ordered a side of taquitos and bowl of clam chowder.  More than enough for the three of us, and didn’t break the budget either. The owner/chef Terry Fimbres was also acting greeter/server when we stopped by.  Shannon also suggested we stop on “G” Street in Grants Pass for little boutique shopping before getting back on the road.  Also, a very good idea, but a little more costly than lunch!

    We spent two nights at “7 Feathers Casino”; enough time for two shows, several really good meals and lots of fun at the penny machines.  Surprisingly enough, we all brought a little gambling money home.  It is fun to win for a change.  Thankfully they had a non-smoking room where we did most of our playing. The Casino shuttle bus was available for a trip to the quaint little town (more like the village time forgot) of Canyonville.  We talked to the locals, petted the town cat, and spied a Mexican Restaurant on the way back to the Casino.  Our shuttle driver took us back there that evening, and returned us to the Casino after dinner.  Can’t ask for better service than that – and the Mexican food was outstanding also.  A win-win.

    I guess a “little weather” is not too surprising driving south on I-5 back to Redding.  That is, if you consider rain, sleet, snow and ice a “little”.  However, we did just fine driving slow and relying on heavy-tires and a good driver.  I’ll ride with Colleen anytime!

    Look up Seven Feathers Casino at http://www.sevenfeathers.com for prices and entertainment information.

     
  • It's still All About Travel 6:19 PM on August 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Benicia State Capitol Historic Park 

    If  you like California history, Benicia is the place to head for.  As a member of the Native Daughters of the Golden West and 4th generation Native Californian, I am particularly interested in anything relating my home state California. But when I get away for a few days, I also want to have a little fun, visit some interesting restaurants, and hit a few boutiques.

    My friends, Nancy (also a member of NDGW), Carol, MaryLou and I drove to Benicia for a short visit with friend Elsie who is fortunate enough to live in this charming little community.  She acted as our personal guide to all the scenic back roads as well as the upscale shops. Does anyone stop for red lights in Benicia??

    Our first stop was the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park where we bought tickets for a tour of the building known as “City Hall” before the California Legislature convened in 1853. A steam tug and two scows had moved the state archives and furniture from the old Vallejo Capitol.  It continued as California’s third Capitol (Monterey and San Jose being the first two) for a year until Governor Bigler signed legislation to meet in Sacramento.

    The docent guiding us on our short tour was well acquainted with the history and histrionics of the building.  He reminded us of our long ago grade school California history lessons. It was well worth the hour spent there, and the $3.00 entry ticket.

    We had a hard time deciding among several highly recommended restaurants, but thought Mexican food was apropos after our introduction to the Mexican influence in California.  It was a very BUENO lunch!  Next – shopping.  We were thinking maybe we should have eaten after trying on jeans, instead of before, but it didn’t take us long to leave Benicia “green”.

    Keep Benicia in mind when you need a short weekend away.  It’s just a very few hours drive; lots of things to see:  Farmers Market on Thursday evenings, “First Friday on First”, a shopping festival in the summer months, Torchlight Parade & Dance July 3, Benicia Peddler’s Fair and The Holy Ghost Parade the fourth Sunday in July.

     

     

     
  • It's still All About Travel 6:55 PM on August 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    She-Crab Soup, Lobster and Hostess Twinkies 

    While on a bus tour of the gardens in the southern states, we overnighted at a Holiday Inn outside Charleston.  Dinner that evening included “She Crab” soup.  Something I’d never even heard of.  It was absolutely outstanding, flavors I couldn’t describe if I tried.  Since we were flying home the following day, I asked the waitress if I could order a chilled quart to go.  I figured the flight attendants on American Airlines would keep it in their refrigerator for me (this was a LONG time ago when flight attendants were really happy to accommodate).  So anyway, I called the chef first thing in the morning to remind him– and he had. I boarded the flight and brought the chilled soup home with me.  Warmed it up and served it to Art that evening and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t raving.  In fact, he said it tasted like plain old potato soup.  I was crushed; I couldn’t figure it out, until I sampled it – they had forgotten to add the crab!!  I called, they apologized, and they sent a refund.  We’ll never forget the “She Crab” soup we almost had.

    Lobster dinner Mexico was a real fiasco.  We were on a Mexican Riviera Cruise and waited anxiously every evening for lobster.  Toward the end of the cruise, we could get no confirmation from our waiter, so decided we would eat in port that evening – Lobster!  Well, we sat down, we ordered and we waited and waited and waited.  I thought the waiter had said “gracias” when he took the order – it must have been “manana” instead.  Knowing we had to be back aboard the ship we were really concerned, so after a confrontation with the matre’d we paid for our salad and left.  Boarding the boat we discovered they had served lobster that evening.  Woe is us!  We never forgot our “almost” lobster dinner.

    Then of course there was the breakfast of Hostess Twinkies and beer in Hannibal Missouri.  Nancy #1 and I decided to jump ship one morning and have a real Southern breakfast in town.  We’d never been in Hannibal before and had no idea it was so small, and low and behold – nothing open except a mini-mart place where the only thing close to breakfast was Twinkies.  Nothing to wash them down since neither of us drank pop, so……we recognized some of the ship crew going into a local bar (this is 8 a.m. – in the morning!).  Well, when in Hannibal, do as the Hanniballians do – have beer with our Twinkies.  It was a great adventure. The crew thought we were crazy.

     
  • It's still All About Travel 6:09 PM on August 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Newport Beach 

    While I was growing up reading “Robinson Caruso” and Mark’s Twain’s “Innocents Abroad”, my sister Marlene had her nose buried in “Little House on the Prairie” and the like.

    Our interests continued in the same vein, travel was/is in my blood, and she was busy learning how to make soap out of lye and ashes.

    Recently, after whining, begging and threatening I was able to convince her to make a trip down to Newport Beach for our Uncle’s 90th birthday. You might get the idea she prefers travel by a slower mode of transportation (probably wagon train). She wasn’t too fond of flying out of Boise in the winter, and it really should have been a whole lot warmer in Orange County, but she had to admit she wouldn’t have missed it for the world.   The destination and activities make up for the inconvenience of flying every time.

    We stayed in a little “upscale” (NOT) Inn  within walking distance of the pier and beach. It’s fortunate that we took advantage of that the first morning as the next 2 days were continuous visits with our cousins, (some we hadn’t seen since we were all teenagers). The patio Fiesta birthday party with friends, family and neighbors was very special for my Uncle Oscar , and for us to learn more about his many activities in the years we’ve been apart.

    As uncomfortable as flying is today, the destination more than makes up for it.  There is nothing better than reuniting with family. We all grew up in Southern California, and it is such a treat going back, walking out the pier to smell that refreshing ocean breeze, watch surfers ride the waves and children running down the beach.  It’s easy to forget personal problems and scary world situations.  We all need more birthday parties and that wonderful ocean air.

     
  • It's still All About Travel 9:58 AM on August 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Ireland – by popular demand 

    Photo by Jill Beach

    The only way to really get to know a country is to wander the back roads by car and the only way to enjoy it fully is to make the trip with friends.

    In 2004 I was lucky to be invited along by two other friends to join their two friends I’d never met!

    By the time 5 people have spent two weeks sharing space in two tiny European Fords you get to know them very well.  And…especially when you are exposed to their innermost feelings when they hit the curb (left side driving you know), get lost in the roundabout, and then critiqued pictures every evening while sharing a wee touch of the scotch.

    By the way, the five of us took over 3000 (yep, that’s right – three thousand) pictures!

    It was a great learning experience!  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    This was my second trip to Ireland; the first in the 80’s during a really “down” economic situation.  This time the economy was booming, and the changes were obvious.  Some not for the better as far as I was concerned.  I missed the “old” Irish Pub atmosphere and  disappointed the “ploughman’s lunch “ had been so Americanized.  No longer were the “Locals” fiddling and singing the old Irish ditties.  I guess the new stuff/new artists were good, but I really did miss the real/old sounds of Ireland.

    Passing the time of day with friends

    My absolutely most favorite Irish Day was spent walking across the little island of Inishboffin, while trying not to limp and let my friends know what a wimp I was.  My jeans covered my mashed knee from a clumsy fall the night before.  We took a small ferry on very rough seas from the mainland.  An ancient church, a small café (on the other side of the island), fishermen and sheep ranches made up the economics of the area.  It was a heavenly day with best friends and an Ireland most people never have the opportunity to see.

    I cannot fail to mention “Roundstone”, a small fishing village in Connemara where we spent several days.  The old Ireland I enjoyed so much was still in much in evidence. Small, locally owned shops line the one main street through the town. Butcher shops, grocers, pubs, B&B’s beckoned the nosy tourists (Tom, Faye, Ron, Jill and especially Jacque).

    If I ever have a chance to go back to Ireland, Roundstone and Inishboffin are top of my list. And my advice to you when you go to Ireland?  Get away from the Blarney Stone type areas, put on your walking shoes, talk to the people and their animals, visit the graveyards and pubs.  See the real Ireland!

    Thank you Tom, Ron, Faye & Jill for inviting me along

    picture by Ron Mayhew

    You're choice - take one or all

     
  • It's still All About Travel 9:47 AM on August 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    I’m Going to Cuba! 

    I think maybe we all have some form of bucket list.  When you shake mine some just keep falling to the bottom because they seem so impossible, or unaffordable (mostly both).

    Well, my very fondest wish is going to come true.  I’M GOING TO CUBA!!!! I have always and forever wanted to visit there.  Now, don’t ask me why because none of my answers make sense.  Exotic?  Foreign? A romantic and exciting history?  Lots of places could fill that bill.  Maybe because it was completely out of the question, not within the limits of US allowed travel, and the jungles are probably full of snakes too (the reason that makes the most sense to stay home!).

    However, when Vantage  Tours opened up  “The Caribbean Religious and Cultural” tour to the public; approved by the Department of Travel, or whatever department controls my travel plans, I couldn’t wait to book my reservations.

    My friend Nancy also has held a long wish to travel there, and was just as happy as I to make plans.

    I’ll be keeping a daily diary; (have an idea my iPad won’t be able to navigate the Ministry of the Airwaves, or whoever in Cuba control that).  So it will be back to basics, paper and pen.  I’m taking extra camera batteries and chips, voltage adaptor and probably going to throw in my extra little camera – just in case.  Oh yes, jeans and tennie runners – just the basics.  I have to leave room for the baseballs Rick Bosetti is giving me to share with the kids in Cuba.  Baseball is really big there as you know, and most of them only have sticks and rocks in place of bats and balls.

    So watch for “the latest from Cuba” from your intrepid travelers, Jacque & Nancy.

    Adios!!!  Oh yes, we promise not to drink the KoolAde, and Nancy will check the rubber raft for leaks before we head for home.

    Oh yes – next on the list?  The Trans-Siberian Rail Way.  Financially it’s on the bottom of the bucket –but who knows – Miracles do happen – I’M GOING TO CUBA!!

     
  • It's still All About Travel 9:19 AM on August 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Cruising the inland passage from Florida to So. Carolina 

    Welcoming crew of the American Star

    Don’t depend on the weather report – 1st rule of travel.

    Cruising up the Inland Passage from Amelia Island, Florida to Charleston, South Carolina was planned for the holidays as the four of us wanted to get away from cold and rainy Redding and since Florida is touted for warm balmy weather, (that’s why everyone retires there – right?) it seemed like a no-brainer.

    Well, that was the plan until the coldest, nastiest storm of the century hit the whole East coast.  Undaunted, we just packed heavier jackets and caps, and we were on our way.

    Actually, it turns-out, we didn’t pack enough woolies, but we’re tough; shopping and sightseeing were first on our list, but the further north our boat took us past Georgia and S. Carolina coastlines, the chillier it got! And colder, and colder until we caught our flight out – just the day before the airports were closed down because of icy runways.

    Nancy came home with pneumonia, Carol and I with colds.  The colds went away pretty fast, but Nancy ended up in the hospital.  She’s all better now, and thinking about our next trip – NOT in the wintertime she stressed.

    Our American Cruise Line ship was small, just the right size for docking in the smaller ports like Sapelo Island and Daufuskie, Georgia while gliding through America’s Barrier Islands. However, our cabins were the roomiest I’ve seen on board any cruise line.  The food was local cuisine and top of the line, afternoon cocktail hour was fun (drinks on the house) with the other 50 or so passengers.  Wine at lunch and dinner was included as well.  The ship provided ethnic entertainment and  Joe, the on-board lecturer, who shared his knowledge of the area with informational talks during the week.

    Other than the cold, the trip was great and we will travel with American Cruise Lines again, specifically next fall when we cruise up the Hudson River.  I’m not guaranteeing fall leaves or the weather.  I am guaranteeing we’ll have a great time!

    Look up American Cruise Line on the internet for more information about their small ships and great itineraries.  www.americancruiselines.com

    city tour

     
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