Monday, July 25, 2016

Ride the Rails...in Style

Rocky Mountaineer


Can you think of a better way to view the Canadian Rockies than from a domed rail car? Not just any rail car. The Rocky Mountaineer has been called the best train experience in the world…and it’s easy to see why.

This is a total experience, not just a train ride. By day, you sit back and relax in the comfort of a first class train car as you watch the breathtaking scenery roll past. Mountains, giant trees, wildlife, rivers, gold rush country, national parks, lakes, and more mountains. At the same time, you learn some history about Canada, the Rockies, and railroads. While on board, enjoy the cuisine prepared by top chefs, all prepared while you wait. Did I mention this is not just a train ride?

At night, you settle in to fine hotels in small mountain towns or in famous cities along the route. Everything is handled for you. No transfers to worry about, just a restful night before boarding the next day for more excitement, history, and fabulous meals.

By the end of your trip, you’ve made new friends, experienced train travel at its finest, and are ready to book another trip.



Look at the trips between Seattle and Banff and decide if you want a coastal trip from Seattle to Vancouver, or a trip into the clouds from Vancouver to Jasper, or retracing history from Vancouver to Lake Louise and Banff, or if the rainforest and gold rush is your ideal trip between Vancouver and Jasper by way of Quesnel. So many choices…it’s hard to pick.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Should You Loiter?

Trieste…Loitering at its Best

“Trieste offers no unforgettable landmark, no universally familiar melody, no unmistakable cuisine.” Jan Morris



Why on earth would anyone go to Trieste after reading that quote from travel writer Jan Morris? Because. In fact, writers have come to Trieste for years to embrace the city’s prickly grace, savor its glistening belle époque cafes, and enjoy the lack of tourism. Having said that, the best way to experience Trieste is by loitering.

Start your day with a fantastic cup of coffee, relaxing in the Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia. After all, this is one of Europe’s greatest coffee ports, supplying more than 40% of Italy’s coffee. The thriving coffee industry began here with the Austro-Hungarian government and is still considered the coffee capital of Italy.

As for the Piazza, this vast public domain is supposed to be the largest square opening onto a waterfront in Italy. Dozens of cafes and bars open onto the Piazza. Sit and savor coffee in the morning, prosecco in the afternoon…or the other way around. It doesn’t matter. Watch the ships in the harbor as you listen to locals greeting each other in Triestino, the local dialect still in wide use. Enjoy a Viennese pastry with coffee or chocolate cake and nibbles with your prosecco. If it’s the hour of the passeggiata, the so Italian moment between the end of the workday and dinnertime…an entirely different scene unfolds in the Piazza. Trieste hospitality includes more nibbles with your evening prosecco. Life is good.

Trieste is a medium size seaport literally teetering on the edge of Italy, its limestone plateau gracefully tumbling into the Adriatic Sea. Its history is somewhat convoluted and Trieste has been in more than one tug of war between countries. It once was one of the oldest parts of the Habsburg Monarchy. Throughout history Trieste has been an important spot in the struggle between the Eastern and Western blocs after WWII.

History and its influences are evident in the streets, buildings, food, and castles. Sitting in the Piazza, look at the buildings bordering the three sides of the square. With a boxy wedding cake like style, these massive buildings look like they belong in Germany…not Italy. Many streets appear to be symmetrical with buildings resembling everything from rigid, almost Teutonic in style to one showing off proud neo-Classical features. Italian flair mixed in with Germanic rigidness proves how history influenced this city. Influence of the Roman Empire remains here as well, with the Roman theatre ruins. Built between the first and second centuries AD, these were uncovered in 1938.

Of course, there’s the castle…Castello Miramare to be exact. Lying on the waterfront only five miles from the city center, this castle was built on a rocky cliff between 1856 and 1860 as the residence for Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg and his wife Charlotte of Belgium. Eclectic in design is the only way to describe the features included…an aquarium like fixture in one ceiling, an impressive display of weapons, and styles throughout that combine Gothic, Renaissance, and Medieval. The 22 hectar large park with its imported soil, exotic trees, and spectacular plants and flowers from all over the world were meant to be impressive. Included on the grounds is the Castelletto, a small castle where Charlotte lived after her return from Mexico. Sadly, it is also where she was locked up after a nervous breakdown.



History didn’t forget the food, either. Most pastries are rich, flaky, and Viennese in style and taste. In fact, the local cuisine is just as diverse as the population of Trieste. German influenced sauerkraut, salt cod from the Adriatic, or local red wine…nothing stereotypical here.

Trieste…a city meant to be walked and explored. Linger…loiter…savor at a relaxed tempo. Don’t worry about the other Italian cities putting on their show of architectural splendor. Trieste is a modern city sometimes neglected by guide books. Take some time to explore this corner of Italy.



If You Go: Fly into Venice and take the two hour train ride. Once in Trieste, you can walk everywhere.



Monday, July 18, 2016

Climbing Granite

Yosemite Valley...Climbing Granite to Walking Among Giants

“It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.”
John Muir, conservationist



John Muir was right. Entering Yosemite Valley is like entering a temple. Spectacular granite formations line the walls as crystal clear streams and peaceful meadows carpet the floor. Add decorations of jaw-dropping waterfalls, ancient giant sequoias, and a few bears…you have the makings of Nature’s temple.

Powerful glaciers, molten rock from volcanic eruptions, and millions of years of erosion combined to create not just a great valley, but a showcase in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. First protected in 1864 with the Yosemite Grant Act, this grant marked the first California State Park. In 1906, this area became what we know today as Yosemite National park.

Now, 150 years later, this wonderland of geological formations and biological diversity, the park spans almost 1,2000 square miles.

Did you know more than three million visitors come each year? Some come for the more than 840 miles of hiking trails and some come to climb El Capitan, the world’s largest block of granite with its 3,300 foot rock face.

Half Dome, probably the most iconic site in all of Yosemite is another granite formation rising nearly 5,000 feet above the valley floor. You might think it’s a giant granite dome with the northwestern half missing. In reality, the unique shape is the result of more glacial action. If you’re an experienced hiker, take the opportunity to experience this up close and personal. The challenge lies at the end of the hike when you ascend the final 400 feet by cables. Yes…I said experienced hiker. Cables are strung each year and reservations are a must.

El Capitan, also a spectacular vertical rock, is another place experienced rock climbers are drawn to.
Like waterfalls? Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America, with snow runoff cascading down its 2,425 foot drop. Go in winter to see an ice cone at the very top. Bridalveil Falls, another beauty, is a 620 foot waterfall located near the entrance to Yosemite Valley.

Wander along the boardwalks and trails through the Meadows, where you might see more than lush grasses and brilliant wildflowers. Deer, foxes, bald eagles, chipmunks, pikas, and of course bears may appear on your walk.

Hike or take the tram through Mariposa Grove, home to about 500 mature giant sequoias. These largest living things on earth can live to be 3,000 years old.


For me, there are no better views than from Glacier Point. Wind your way to this overlook for the most commanding view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite’s high country. Of course, you can only make this drive from late May through October or November, depending on snow fall. If you like cross country skiing…you’re in luck. You can experience the same views after skiing for about 10 or 11 miles.

“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.” Ansel Adams



Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lake Tahoe...Did You Know?



Fun facts about Lake Tahoe...

Deepest depth: 1,645 feet

Average depth: 1,000 feet

North to South; 22 miles

East to West: 12 miles

Highest peak: 10,891

Second deepest lake in the US

Tenth deepest lake in the world

Average water surface temperature: 55 degrees

Average clarity: 73.1 feet

Location: 2/3 in California and 1/3 in Nevada

Sunshine: averages 274 days per year

Age: over 2 million years old

Evaporation: 330 million gallons each day


Monday, July 11, 2016

There's an App for That...



I recently read about some apps that fellow travelers use.
Translate…Google Translate can translate instantly for you. It’s available iOS and Android.
Weather…want real time forecasts? Check out WeatherPro, available iOS and Android. It tells you if you need an umbrella or not and one of the most accurate weather radars.
Packing lists…if you don’t already have one, look at TripList. There are lists out there. I even have one I’ve posted before. This one is little different. Tell it where you’re going and how long you’ll be there. Then, it gives you a suggested list of items to pack.
Tipping…can be a challenge if you change countries. GlobeTipping acts as a calculator for tips. It also works if you need to split the bill. iOs only.
Currency…if you really need to figure out the exchange, see if this one helps. iOS and Android.
History…if you’re looking for the history of your destination, HistoryHere may be able to help you. It is only available in the US right now. iOS and Android.
Maps…Google Maps is more than just handy. It can be invaluable when checking traffic, public transit, or turn by turn navigation. iOS and Android.

Do you use any of these? Do you like them?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

To Check or Not To Check...That is the Question



You’ve decided to check your bag. Are you thinking of putting everything in it? I hope not. Why? Check out this statistic…the value of missing items in checked bags between 2010 and 2014 is over $2.5 million, according to a report by CNN. Whoa!

Let’s talk about what you don’t want to put in your checked bag.

No valuables…that seems pretty obvious, but some of the items in that $2.5 million were gold watches and rings, iPads, cameras, and family heirlooms. Bottom line, don’t put anything in your checked bag you don’t want to lose…forever. Don’t put anything of great monetary value there, either.

Let’s say you have to gate check your bag. Remember to remove your laptops, tablets, phones, prescription meds, passport, jewelry, etc.

Another obvious one…don’t pack any items which are on the TSA prohibited list. This means certain types of batteries, like loose lithium ones, must be in your carry on. TSA website has a list of prohibited items, in case you’re not sure.

Liquids…some are necessary to pack in your checked bag. Just be careful how and where you put them. Think about sealing the top with duct tape, placing it in a re-sealable bag, and cushioning with bubble wrap. That way, if something does break or spill, most of the liquid will stay in the bag and not on your clothes.

Alcohol…same thing. Put it in a bag, wrap it in bubble wrap, and place it well on the inside of your bag.

All of your clothes…don’t put them all in your checked bag. Again, it seems obvious, but you’d be surprised. Not only do you want a change of underwear if your bag gets sent to Greenland instead of Greece, but a sweater or shawl in the airport or on the plane might come in handy.

Now, let’s talk about taking care of your checked bag.

Do you use a TSA approved lock? If your lock is not TSA approved, it will be ripped off. Seriously. So, how do you know if it’s approved by the TSA? If will say so on the label.

Is your bag marked? With so many bags looking alike at the baggage claim carousel, yours may be inadvertently grabbed by someone else. Put some colored tape on the handle, tie a small ribbon around the handle, use a unique baggage tag, or anything to make it stand out as yours. The next time you shop for luggage, look at a color other than black or navy. My latest bag was on a deep clearance due to its color…it’s a dark pink and gray. The price was right and I haven’t seen another one like it.

 How much does your bag weigh? If you’re over the weight limit, the charge could be hefty. And, if you bag weighed 49 ½ pounds at home…it could weigh more at the airport. Why? Scales aren’t always accurate. Allow some room, or pack two bags.

Check all the zippers and pockets on your bag and make sure there isn’t anything hanging out or there are no straps to catch on something.

Have fun…