Vacationing in the Biggest Little City in the World

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Reno, Nevada has been known as “The Biggest Little City in the World,” ever since an enterprising Californian won a slogan contest sponsored by the city way back in the late 1920s. Yes, Reno was on the entertainment map long before Las Vegas had its first slot machine.

A short list of things to do

Here are just a few of the attractions we have enjoyed in the world’s Biggest Little City:

First – the best way to see Reno

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If you have never ridden a Segway, this is the place to give it a go. Walter McMath is the congenial owner of Reno Fun Tours, and is an expert who can instruct you – in just under an hour, everything you need to know to enjoy a Reno Segway tour.

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There are two Segway tours per day, and each tour lasts about two and one-half hours. On your Segway tour, you will see many of the attractions we write about in this article.

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For more information about the Segway tour, look at the Reno Fun Tours website at http://renofuntours.com/

Base Camp

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The tallest rock-climbing wall in the world is called Base Camp, and is located right next to the famous Reno “Biggest Little City in the World” arch on North Virginia Street – just around the corner from the Segway center.

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The wall is 164 foot high with a climbing surface attached to the outside of the 16-story CommRow building – home to the Whitney Peak Hotel. This wall has seen many a world-class climber, but everyone is invited to give it a try. There is also an adjacent 7000 square foot indoor bouldering park with 2900 square feet of climbable space. This is a climber’s paradise.

The Truckee River

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Rushing through the middle of town, the famous Truckee River provides fabulous summer recreation for visitors and residents alike.

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Watching the kids at Bicentennial and Wingfield parks reminds us of earlier times in America when a reliable inner tube was an essential summer accessory.

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Reno’s inner city is park and recreation-centric with a huge assortment of activities for outdoor lovers of all ages.

The Great Reno Balloon Race

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The first Reno Balloon Race took place in 1982. It was created to keep visitors in Reno between the State Fair and the Reno Air Races.

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From that humble beginning, the event has morphed into the world’s largest free hot air ballooning event with as many as 100 balloons and 150,000 spectators. Admission is free to all spectators. The show is always spectacular as the multi-colored balloons take to the air amid applause and wonder.

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The views from aloft are even more breathtaking than from the ground.

This well organized event is held annually on the first Friday through Sunday after Labor Day at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park at 1595 N. Sierra Street, in Reno. Check out this website for more information http://renoballoon.com/

National Automobile Museum

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Before his death in 1978, Bill Harrah amassed one of the world’s greatest collections of automobiles. Many of his finest cars can be found in the National Automobile Museum in Reno.

Today this exhibit is one of America’s five greatest auto museums, and there is plenty to see and do among more than 200 “cherry” motor vehicles and exhibits.

Reno’s National Bowling Stadium

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While most cities have bowling centers, Reno has the National Bowling Stadium. The “Taj Mahal of Tenpins” has 78 championship lanes and the longest video screen in the world. There’s 440 feet of scoring graphics and extreme video clarity.

As Graceland is to Elvis fans, the National Bowling Stadium is to faithful bowlers from around the world. If you are a bowler, “Bowl there or be square.”

The Nevada Museum of Art

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Nevada’s only accredited art museum features a wide offering of imaginative and fine art from mainstream and contemporary artists in a unique architectural setting.

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The rooftop sculpture exhibit is particularly interesting, and the views are awesome.

The Reno Air Races

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This race has been voted one of the ten best air shows in the world by USA Today. Now celebrating 50 years of the world’s fastest motor sport. This is a truly exciting event as sleek propeller aircraft wing their way around the pylons.

Among the many exciting features at the show is the Patriot Jets Team, a six-jet diamond formation aerobatic group. These hi-flyers are ex-Blue Angel and Thunderbird pilots, and they are really something to watch.

And, so much more

With superb golf courses, 86 park locations, and over 140-miles of trails in the Reno area, we could write volumes about “what to do in the outdoors of Reno.” The many gaming and festive events, activities, and conventions would add still more to your “things to do list.”

Our recommendation is that you plan a trip to Reno and experience it all for yourself.

The Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa

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While in Reno, we stay at the fabulous four-diamond Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, which boasts more than 800 guest rooms and suites, a 30,000-square-foot spa, eight award-winning restaurants and more. It also has a convenient sky bridge that connects it to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. We were so impressed with the Atlantis that we wrote an entire article about it. See it in the Best Vacations Journal.

If you go

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Reno is located on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada range and is easily accessible by air on all the major U.S. airlines. It is also a pleasant three-plus hour drive (218 miles) northeast on Interstate 80E from the San Francisco Bay Area.

To learn more about what Nevada has to offer by way of vacations, check out the state’s tourism website at www.travelnevada.com and for the Reno/Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority look here.

Nevada is all about fun

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The entire state of Nevada is a tourist engine with extraordinary outdoor adventures and arguably the best gaming atmosphere this side of Monaco. With Reno in the north and Las Vegas in the south, the entire state radiates huge entertainment value for your vacation dollars.

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With fun all around, it’s easy to see why we love to spend time in Nevada. Click on the titles below to read more of our articles about this great western state.

Smokin Camels in the Nevada Desert

Riding the Rails to Virginia City, Nevada

The Newest US National Park is in Nevada

The Hot Springs and Cool Caves of Nevada

Explore Nevada, Land of Wonders

Also, click here to see the complete photo gallery from our Reno trip.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff – Photos of airplanes, automobiles, and National Bowling Stadium provided by Reno/Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA).

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

This Site of a Maritime Disaster is Now Home to a Famous Canadian Submarine Museum

Today we are visiting Pointe-au-Pére (Father’s Point), a national historic landmark in Québec, and the home of the HMCS Onondaga – a Royal Canadian Navy torpedo submarine. The Empress of Ireland Exhibit and Pavilion, and the Pointe-au-Pére Lighthouse are also at this site.

The region

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Pointe-au-Pére is located in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of the Québec Maritime. It is the traditional starting point for the scenic Gaspésie Tour known for outstanding landscapes, charming inns, and delicious foods such as succulent lamb, artisan cheeses, and maple victuals.

The Onondaga

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The Oberon Class HMCS Onondaga (S73) was part of the Canadian Navy’s prestigious Atlantic Maritime Forces for over 30 years. She was decommissioned in 2000, and became a warship museum in 2009. The Onondaga is the only military submarine on permanent public display in Canada.

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Self directed audio tour is available in several languages

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Onondaga means “People of the hills.” Her motto is “Invicta,” in English, “Unconquerable.” She is 295 feet long with a cruising range of 10,000 miles propelled by twin diesel electric engines.

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The Onondaga is an attack submarine with eight torpedo tubes, six in the bow, and two in the stern. She sailed with 18 torpedoes and a crew of 70.

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Bringing the Onondaga up to periscope depth

Living and working aboard the Onondaga would be “cozy.”

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Authors in the forward torpedo room

Visiting the Onondaga is an excellent opportunity to tour a modern submarine, which is quite different from the mostly WWII vintage boats that are open to the public in other parts of the world.

Sinking of the Empress of Ireland

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Another attraction at Pointe-au-Pére is the Empress of Ireland Pavilion. The pavilion houses a museum that opened in 2000 and contains a creative recounting of the history of Canada’s worst maritime disaster, which took place just off the nearby headlands.

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In heavy fog, in the early hours of May 29, 1914 the luxury liner RMS Empress of Ireland was struck amidships by a steamship hauling coal up the St. Lawrence River. The steamer was fixed with an icebreaker bow that tore a 14-foot hole in the Empress. She sank in just 14 minutes. There were 1,477 passengers aboard the ill-fated liner – only 465 survived the frigid waters of the St. Lawrence.

A Titanic size catastrophe

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Even though the loss of life on the Empress of Ireland was in a league with that of the Titanic and Lusitania, the sinking of the Empress remains relatively unknown. There are several reasons.

The Titanic was a celebrity ship on her maiden voyage on the prestigious route between New York and London. There were many famous people aboard and her builders had bragged that the Titanic was unsinkable. After hitting an iceberg, she sank on April 15, 1912.

The Lusitania had the distinction of being torpedoed by a German submarine on May 7, 1915, just under a year after the Empress tragedy. The Lusitania incident eventually led to the United States entering World War I.

Contrast those famous calamities with that of the Empress of Ireland. The Empress was on a routine (96th) run across the Atlantic from Québec City to Liverpool – not a particularly prestigious route. There were no famous millionaires aboard, and the loss of 1,012 lives was apparently not remarkable at a time when tens of thousands were dying on the battlefields of Europe. The Empress tragedy was literally pushed from the front pages.

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Notwithstanding the lack of notoriety at the time, the Empress sinking was Canada’s greatest sea tragedy and one of the world’s biggest civilian losses of life at sea.

To this very day, there are over 600 bodies entombed in the twisted wreck of the Empress – just 130 feet below the surface of the icy cold waters of the swift St. Lawrence River.

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The detailed exhibits in the Pavilion are full of artifacts recovered from the ship. In addition, a dramatic film presentation documents the events leading up to the sinking.

Pointe-au-Pére Lighthouse

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Had it not been for the early dark hour and fog, the Empress of Ireland accident could have been visible from the Pointe-au-Pére Lighthouse. Built in 1909, at 108 feet the lighthouse is the second tallest in Canada.

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The lighthouse is constructed of concrete with eight buttresses that support a central tower with 128 steps to the top.

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The light was deactivated in 1975, and it, along with the adjoining lighthouse keeper’s house, is now open to the public.

The keeper’s lodge is a “Museum of the Sea,” in which there are several interesting exhibits about navigation on the St. Lawrence River.

If you go

This national historic site lies three and one half hours northeast of Québec City. Drive along the south shore of the St. Lawrence on Route 132. Your destination is just 15 minutes east of Rimouski.

We recommend vacationing in the Quebec Maritime

Lucky is the family that gets to vacation in Québec and explore its history and many natural wonders. This beautiful eco-friendly province of Canada is a photographer’s dream that has adventures around every turn in the road. We like spending quality-time in The Maritime, and we think you will too.

For more information about what the Québec Maritime has to offer, check out their website: http://quebecmaritime.ca. Take special note of their unique self-guided tours.

Other articles about Québec

Click on a title below to read more vacation stories about the bountiful Québec Maritime.

Quebec: The Best Lighthouse Tour in North America

Tracing the Ice Age Glaciers in Quebec, Canada

The Great Gathering of Ghosts from the Sea in Sainte-Flavie, Quebec

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Three Great Reasons to Book Your Next Cruise out of the Port of San Francisco

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Flying along the bay side of San Francisco

Reason #1 – San Francisco is an outstanding port city with great cruise itineraries

Imagine spending a vacation touring the fabulous attractions of San Francisco and then boarding a luxury cruise ship bound for another remarkable destination like Hawaii, Mexico, or Alaska.

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The Golden Gate Bridge

If you have sufficient time and money to both explore the many sites of San Francisco, and then sail off on a cruise that begins with drop-dead gorgeous views of the City by the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge – that’s a combo vacation that is hard to beat.

How the bayside of San Francisco became a tourist Mecca

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Soon after the infamous 1989 earthquake, the City made a very wise decision to remove the always hideous and then dangerous freeway that separated the iconic Ferry Building from the rest of San Francisco. Before that time, except for the stretch between Fisherman’s Wharf west to the old Presidio military installation, the bay front was not a place favored by tourists.

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Pier 39

The freeway teardown was the continuation of the amazing renaissance of the San Francisco waterfront that began in 1978 when the ever-popular Fisherman’s Wharf was joined by a new and exciting Pier 39 to its east. West of the piers, in 1994, tourism benefited from the conversion of the beautiful Presidio into public use land.

It just kept getting better

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The Ferry Building

Next, in 2003 the historic Ferry Building was brought back to its original glory and reintroduced as the centerpiece of San Francisco’s waterfront. Taken together, the city did a brilliant job of revitalizing the San Francisco Bay scene. This area, once run-down, is now safe and alive with entertainment, walkers, joggers – and tourists from all over the world.

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Alcatraz Island

Embarcadero Avenue, which runs all along the new waterfront offers visitors and residents outstanding views of the Oakland Bay Bridge*, Treasure Island, Angel Island, and Alcatraz. Go further west along the water and enjoy Ghirardelli Square and the Presidio National Park.

The new Bay Lights

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Oakland Bay Bridge

*Very recently, the world’s largest L.E.D. light sculpture began illuminating the 1.8-mile western span of the Bay Bridge with 25,000 surging lights. Created by artist Leo Villareal, the new nighttime light extravaganza has added to the joy of tourism and living in San Francisco – another blessing for a city with so many blessings.

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Fun on the Marina Green

Beyond Ghirardelli Square, there is the Marina Green with its vistas of the famous St. Francis Yacht Club, and Golden Gate Bridge. Try your hand at kite flying in sight of the historic Palace of Fine Arts, and Coit Tower.

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AT&T Park – Home of the San Francisco Giants

The icing on the cake of the entire waterfront refreshment was the construction of the spectacular AT&T Ballpark – home of the SF Giants – right on the bay where boaters anxiously wait to fish out home run balls beyond the park’s right field wall in McCovey Cove.

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McCovey Cove at AT&T Park

These are only a few of the bayside attractions – the vacation paradise of San Francisco offers so much more!

Reason #2 – The New Cruise Terminal in San Francisco

The America’s Cup Challenge finals will take place on San Francisco Bay in September 2013. The headquarters for the America’s Cup is in a new and modern two-story glass and metal structure on Pier 27.

The America’s Cup will remain a tenant until October 2013, after which the building and area will be restyled to become San Francisco’s new Cruise Terminal – and what a terminal it will be. There will be ample room to accommodate today’s jumbo ocean liners and to handle over 2,500 passengers arriving and departing the terminal.

Cruise lines and destinations

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View of Golden Gate from Pier 35

At the time of this writing, familiar cruise lines such as Princess, Holland America, Cunard, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, and Oceania all book cruises sailing from San Francisco.

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Alaskan Glacier

Typical destinations are Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, and the Panama Canal, but cruises also depart for Asia, the South Pacific – and the world.

Reason #3 – Super selection of pre and post cruise attractions and lodging

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Golden Gate Park

Many vacationers prefer to arrive at the cruise port a day or more before their ship sails, and some like to exercise their land legs after a cruise and before flying home.

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Crooked Lombard Street

There is no better city for either occasion than San Francisco – the assortment of tourist activities and excellent hotels and restaurants is legendary.

About our cruise

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The Grand Princess

We took a 15-day round-trip cruise from San Francisco to Hawaii on Princess Cruises. For our part, we did a pre-cruise stay at the fabulous Embarcadero Hyatt Regency Hotel* at the foot of Market Street and directly across from the Ferry Building. This Hyatt is an iconic venue that is very close to the cruise terminal. More about that wonderful Princess cruise and the SF Embarcadero Hyatt Regency experience in upcoming articles.

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Atrium of the San Francisco Hyatt Regency Hotel

*Starting in May and through the end of July 2013, Alcatraz Cruises, and the Hyatt Regency San Francisco have partnered to present the traveling show “Alcatraz: Life on the Rock.” This is a museum quality display about the history and stories of Alcatraz Island. The exhibit will appear in the Embarcadero Hyatt’s famous grand atrium lobby. If you are in San Francisco this summer, be sure to check out this terrific exhibit.

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Inn at the Presidio Hotel

Further, we also stayed at the newly converted officer’s quarters that is now the upscale Inn at the Presidio. This is a must-do if you enjoy luxury accommodations mixed with volumes of fascinating military history. You can read the story and see our pictures of the Inn at the Presidio *here*.

A little tight for now

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Close up of Golden Gate from Princess Cruise ship

Until the spring of 2014, the location of the San Francisco cruise ship terminal is at Pier 35. It is small and in need of a facelift.

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Disembarking at Pier 35

Because Pier 35 is located on the busy Embarcadero, and lacks sufficient handling capability for large ships, it is more difficult to arrive and depart that terminal. However, the San Francisco cruise terminal administrators do an admirable job of working around a tight situation.

As mentioned above, the good news is that the new facility at Pier 27 will be available for passengers in the spring of 2014, and Pier 35 will become a backup terminal. We look forward to that improvement.

Summary

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So much to do in the City by the Bay

A holiday in San Francisco followed by a round trip cruise out of the port of San Francisco to another great vacation destination like Hawaii or Alaska – is the stuff getaway dreams are made of, and we highly recommend it.

If you go

Click on the title for information about Princess Cruises , the San Francisco Embarcadero Hyatt Regency, and for the Inn at the Presidio.

See our Examiner photo gallery for this story *here*.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Relaxing in Luxury on Exotic Little Palm Island, Florida

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Tired of run-of-the-mill luxury vacation destinations? Looking for something extraordinary and exotic for that very special occasion? We have found a world-class tropical resort – in the United States – that will have you talking about your getaway for years to come. Here’s the story of Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys.

Driving south from Miami, it took us about 2-hours to cover the 120-miles to Little Torch Key and to reach mile marker 28.5 on scenic US1. There we found Pirates Road and the Little Palm Island Welcome Station (aka resort check-in and transport dock).

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The vibe for this destination resort is South Seas Island elegant and the Welcome Station fits right in. The Station building is a high-peaked thatched roof structure that is nestled against a lazy mangrove lagoon. The lagoon is where passengers board the shuttle boat to the Little Palm Island Resort and Spa.

As we entered the door of the Station, we were greeted by a Little Palm Island employee who quickly and efficiently arranged for our luggage to be removed from our auto and placed on a bell cart to await transport to the island.

Registration was an unfussy affair that was made enjoyable by a complimentary beverage – we chose a refreshing rum punch – very tasty. Check-in went quickly – no doubt attributable to the fact that there are only 30 guest quarters at the Little Palm Island Resort.

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We parked our rental car in the lot adjacent to the Station, and proceeded to the Gift Shop, which was chock-full of interesting objects including sundry headgear and upscale clothing.

It was a beautiful day, so we lounged on the outdoor patio while waiting for our motor launch ride to Little Palm Island. There are just two ways to get there – boat or seaplane. The island is only 3-miles from the Station, and the launch departs hourly, so the choice of transport was an easy one.

Everything done in style

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At first glance, we thought our transportation to the island was a sleek 1930s Chris Craft motor launch – but it wasn’t. In reality, it is a 1990s built replica that looks and sounds like the real thing.

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Before we knew it, we were being whisked away by a uniformed four-stripe captain in a classic motor yacht to an offshore island paradise.

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As we approached the dock of the lush palm-laden island, we would not have been surprised to see Tattoo in his little white suit shouting “De boat, de boat.”

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Instead, we were greeted by a very cordial island guide in smart tropic attire. He told us that our luggage was already waiting for us in our elevated thatched palm roof “Sandpiper” suite. The bungalow suites are harmoniously named after tropical birds – and that is so very fitting in this Audubon haven.

Speaking of birds

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One of our first introductions was to “Spencer” a dominant gray heron and distinguished character. Spencer lords over the shallows of the island.

Our guide told us that Spencer could be occasionally cranky and territorial when it comes to other “big” birds eyeing his island for a roost. Later in the day, we were privileged to witness Spencer doing a ceremonious roust of a very big and lanky white crane.

Five acres of paradise

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We toured the entire Little Palm Island in about 45-minutes. The meandering manicured white sand paths and thick tropical landscaping are ingeniously designed to ensure bungalow privacy.

During our walk, we passed by the Spa Terre, the Library, the Zen Garden, the splendid outdoor pool, the outdoor chess set, the island gift shop, and the bar and restaurant.

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Guests have free access to fishing rods, kayaks, beach boats, small sailing crafts, and romantic double umbrella shaded lounges that are strategically placed throughout the island.

Harry and Bess

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There is much ado about the Trumans on the island, including two full-length oil paintings of the famous couple in the Library. The pride stems from the president’s affinity for the isle when it was a private fishing resort.

Admiral Bill “Bull” Halsey was one of the many famous island guests of the Trumans after the War.

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Another president and Navy veteran, JFK was on Little Palm in 1962 to watch the filming of PT109 – a movie about his heroic exploits aboard a PT boat in the Pacific during WWII.

Cue the deer

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Just when we thought we had seen everything imaginable on this contemporary Fantasy Island, a tiny-toddler of a Lilliputian creature walked onto our white sand path. Here before us was a Key Deer fawn – so cute – and quite tame.

Before long, the fawn’s mom came along, happy to join in the photo op.

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The Key Deer is an endangered species native to the Florida Keys, and the Little Palm Island mini-herd swims over from a neighboring island – maybe to nuzzle the various celebrities that populate the resort from time to time. It is illegal to feed these little guys, but a joy to commune with them.

Photographing our hut-suite

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Each room in the Palm Island bungalows is like a character in a play. When combined, all the clever little things inside the suite add to the ethos of high living in paradise.

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Our suite was #23, The Sandpiper Suite, and it is very much like the other bungalow suites on Little Palm – a good thing because all 30 bungalows were occupied. We only had an opportunity to photograph the inside of the suite where we stayed.

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All the bungalows are South Seas castaway dream homes with a dash of British Colonial charm.

Each thatched roof suite-hut is outfitted with a well-appointed living room with comfy woven-seagrass sofa and chairs, a softly humming ceiling fan, military style birding binoculars, a stand of old-fashioned umbrellas, and a replica antique telephone with which to communicate with the Quarterdeck (Concierge).

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In the evenings, the large bedroom in each bungalow is softly lit by a simulated-candle that enhances the romance of the lavish room by casting exotic shadows on the wooden beams above.

Your sleeping comfort is guaranteed by an elegant and uber-comfortable king four-poster bed complete with decorative netting and zephyrous ceiling fan.

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Our suite also had a soaking tub, a large modern shower, and an attached outdoor bamboo shower room.

Of course, all the suites are fully air-conditioned. This is what present-day tropical luxury is all about.

Relax

Little Palm Island is a place of leisure. Go fishing, kayaking, listen to the birds or the quiet lap of the sea against the shore.

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Wait for a Key Deer to entertain while you sip a soothing beverage on your veranda, in the garden, or by the pool. Lounge on the beach or on one of the wooden walkways overlooking the sea – there are no bad choices on Little Palm Island.

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Relaxation sometimes requires help. That is why the suites do not have Wi-Fi service, TVs, or off-island telephones – and there are no children allowed on the island.

If you must

If you are a tech-junkie some of the above might make you nuts, so there is limited Wi-Fi service in the Library, which is also called the Great Room. If you look hard, you will also see a flat screen TV among the books and games – it is the only one on the island.

The Spa Terre

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Unlike many spa experiences that are a singular event in a busy day, the Spa Terre experience becomes an essential part of your total day on Little Palm Island.

We selected the ancient and deep Sacred Stone Massage – but perhaps you would rather a soothing massage on a table in the shallow water of a secluded beach.

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Whatever your choice, you can continue the bliss by immediately entering the warm and tranquil sea or nearby island pool.

Follow your dip with a shaded rest on one of the islands many comfortable lounges or couples hammocks.

Now is the time for a contemplative assessment of the joys of living. Little Palm Island is about Elysian serenity – your personal Shangri-La.

Dining on the Island

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Food plays a role of cardinal importance at the Little Palm Island Resort and Spa.

Savor a focused cuisine of Latin ingredients and French techniques. The menu created under the influence of Corporate Executive Chef Luis Pous, and enhanced and orchestrated by Executive Chef Brendan Mica and his team is nothing less than superb.

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Need we say more than Zagat rated the Little Palm Dining Room as the third best dining facility in the United States, and number one in the state of Florida.

The menu choices are both sophisticated and approachable, and reflect the location and relaxed atmosphere of Little Palm Island.

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For our appetizer, we chose a uniquely presented shrimp cocktail.

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Our main courses consisted of Key West Lobster accompanied by sweet corn, apples, fennel, onions, and Caviar Beurre Blanc and

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Rosemary Braised Short Ribs with a lavish medley of aged white Cheddar, creamed potatoes, mushrooms, truffle, and crispy shallots.

The night is young

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As guests opened and closed French doors between the restaurant and adjoining lounge, we could hear barely audible conversations and laughter.

Even with the doors closed, we enjoyed the faint familiar tunes being played by an entertainer on the lounge piano.

An after dinner digestif, accompanied by the murmured tinkling of piano keys in another room – and a sky full of seemingly touchable stars – it does not get more romantic than this.

The late Paul Newman, and Marvin Hamlisch relaxed in this restaurant – we suspect they were equally captivated by the setting.

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If you go

Little Palm Island Resort is the Florida address of the elite traveler. It has a cachet that will appeal to those with discriminating travel tastes. We recommend it to anyone wanting to experience the luxury of exclusive private island vacationing.

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For more information about availability, services and rates, look at the Little Palm Island Resort and Spa website at http://www.littlepalmisland.com/

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Discovering a Luxurious Hideaway in the California Gold Country

Gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California in 1848 and inquisitive tourists have been exploring the old mining towns of California ever since.

Today, striking it rich in the gold country means finding luxury vacation accommodations at reasonable prices. We staked our claim at the Eden Vale Inn B&B, and this is why…

Location

We drove from San Francisco to the Eden Vale Inn in about two hours.

The Eden Vale Inn is located in the heart of the Gold Country in Placerville, California. It affords a superb base camp for tourists interested in gold history and exploring the many sites of beautiful El Dorado County.

The Inn is just minutes away from the Gold Discovery State Park in Coloma, the location of Sutter’s Mill.

The Inn is a quiet retreat nestled in the foothills and surrounded by acres and acres of picturesque landscapes and gardens.

Entering Eden

Entering the long wooded driveway, our instincts told us we were headed for a splendid retreat. What we did not know was the level of quality and comfort that awaited us beyond the trees.

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The driveway ends in a circle, just a few feet from the countrified entrance to the main building.

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As we stepped from the car, we were summarily greeted by the Inn’s inquisitive cat. He lingered just long enough to satisfy his curiosity and was off to resume his place in the sun.

A warm welcome

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Innkeepers Mark and Gayle Hamlin welcomed us from the wooden doorway of the hay barn – now converted into a chic auberge for discerning guests.

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After unloading our luggage, we were treated to a tour of the well-appointed public spaces and the strategically positioned guest facilities on the estate.

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The innkeepers are justifiably proud of the evolution and utter transformation of their property from laboring farm to country elegant B&B. They have created a very comfortable vacation getaway.

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At present, there are seven tastefully decorated sleeping quarters to choose from, each is unique and features all the updated modern amenities such as computerized lighting, fireplaces, free telephone and internet connections, large showers, private outdoor patios, and spa tubs.

The spa

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The Inn has a charming Spa Studio located in a separate building just to the right of the main lodge. If you are seeking a place to rejuvenate your mind and body, this is it.

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Treatments are combined with the latest relaxation and wellness techniques, and all are personalized to suit individual tastes and needs. NOTE: To avoid disappointment, be sure to schedule your spa treatments in advance of your visit.

A most appealing attraction

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We have not had the pleasure of staying at a B&B that included the prospect of a cool dip in a country watering hole – until now. The Eden Vale pond complete with trout and a colorful rowboat, is most inviting and harkens images of early-times, skinny-dipping, and basket picnic lunches.

Time for dinner

After touring all the sites around the Inn, we were getting hungry and decided to dine at the Café Mahjaic, which is not far away in the tiny town of Lotus. The Café came highly recommended, and as it turns out – for good reason.

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Like most everything in the area, this restaurant has a familiar gold country ambiance. Located in a brick building constructed in 1855, the vibrant eatery exudes a comfortable atmosphere and a culinary reflection of many ethnicities. The eclectic menu emphasizes local and seasonal ingredients that will satisfy the fussiest of palates.

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Check out their Pork Tenderloin roasted with a chili cashew crust and a mango-lime chipotle sauce, and served with garlic-mashed potatoes.

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Another unusual offering is Chocolate Chipotle Prawns sautéed in a Scharffen Berger chocolate, brown sugar, and chipotle sauce, served with avocado and a white cheddar lime risotto cake – uh, huh!

For reservations look at their website *here*

Evening by the fire

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After a long day of exploring, it was nice to return to the Eden Vale Inn to sit around the crackling outdoor fire-pit and talk about the day’s discoveries and tomorrow’s agenda. When the wine was gone, it was off to slumber-land in paradise.

Outstanding breakfast

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A healthy and robust breakfast is included in the price of lodging at the Eden Vale Inn. There is an ample assortment of start-your-day home-cooked goodies to satisfy the health conscious and pickiest foodies.

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Many of the ingredients of our gastronomical morning delights were grown right there in the Inn’s extensive garden. Everything was delicious – and the fresh brewed coffee was divine.

If you go

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If you like your lodging full of local color – and more like an elegant mountain retreat than a downtown hotel – this is the place for you. Full of rural splendor, we highly recommend the Eden Vale Inn, and anxiously await our next opportunity to visit.

Like gold, the Eden Vale Inn it is not easy to find, but well worth it when you do. It is situated less than an hour east of Sacramento just off California Highway 50 – the frequented route to Lake Tahoe. For specific directions look at their website at www.EdenValeInn.com or call Mark or Gayle toll free at 866-914-8445.

A unique area

We suggest taking the time for a family or romantic getaway to El Dorado County. It’s a pleasant drive from San Francisco and offers a special vibe only available in the Gold Country of California.

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Gold helped make California what it is today. It’s fun to see how it all happened.

For more information about beautiful El Dorado Country and its attractions, their website is *here*

If you like this story, and want to learn more about the California Gold Country, sign-up to follow our articles.  In the near future, we will write about, and present photographs of more Gold Country adventures – including the annual Gold Discovery Day celebration, and a gold mine deep inside a mountain.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Enrich Your San Francisco Vacation with a Stay at the Unparalleled Inn at the Presidio

The Inn at the Presidio

The Inn at the Presidio

Part of our job is to find and tell you about worthwhile one-of-a-kind luxury lodgings that will provide you with an exceptional vacation experience. Our work is even more fun when we come across unusual accommodations that offer something extraordinary. The new Inn at the Presidio in San Francisco is just such a rare find. Here is why.

Location

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The Inn at the Presidio of San Francisco is situated in one of the most fascinating vacation and ecological settings in the world. It is a short distance from the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Palace of Fine Arts, Coit Tower, Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and North Beach.

Environmental time capsule

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Being located within the old Presidio military compound, the Inn sits among indigenous plant species that no longer exist on other parts of the San Francisco peninsula.

It was not planned, but because the Presidio was a military installation for over 200 years, its ecological environment became a refuge for flora and fauna that were otherwise unprotected from the commercial development that consumed many parts of San Francisco.

Today there are several organizations dedicated to the preservation of this horticultural treasure, and many plant species that are not native to the Presidio area are systematically being removed and replaced by native vegetation.

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Long absent birds are also making their way back to the Presidio – there are over 50 species of our feathered friends now nesting in its nearly 1000 acres.

Historical significance

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The Georgian Revival style building that is now the Inn at the Presidio was constructed in 1903 in the heart of the settlement.

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General John “Black Jack” Pershing

The building was splendid bachelor officers’ quarters during the time the site was under the purview of the U.S. Army. It was named Pershing Hall, after the great US Army General John “Black Jack” Pershing, who was stationed in the Presidio, and went on to become the Commander of the Expeditionary Forces in France during WWI.

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The Army departed the Presidio for good in 1994, and the Presidio Trust* completed a painstaking renovation of hundreds of historic buildings and grounds culminating in the opening of the Inn at the Presidio in April 2012. Every effort was made to keep the military authenticity while providing all the modern creature comforts for the Inn’s guests.

Today, the first ever Inn in the Presidio is a National Historic Landmark located in the vast Golden Gate National Recreational Area.

* The Presidio Trust is unique among federal agencies. It has transformed the military Presidio installation into a financially self-sustaining national park – amazing.

Hotel furnishings

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The public rooms are replete with Army memorabilia and historic photographs. The surroundings manifest a sense of dignity and honor – no doubt attributable to the many decades the building served as home to officers before they were sent off to war.

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Many fallen heroes have undoubtedly graced the rooms of the Inn. For many, the old BOQ was probably the last place they slumbered in America. We are indeed in the company of great spirits when we stay at the century old Inn at the Presidio.

Hotel amenities

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The Inn features 22 historically inspired accommodations, including 17 roomy suites with gas-operated fireplaces. There is a distinct military presence and order about the guestrooms and furnishings – a credit to informed interior decorators. Army history is evident throughout, but the quarters are also luxurious and comfortable – no small achievement in a martial environment.

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There are uber-comfortable beds, free Wi-Fi, flat screen TVs, a mini-fridge, bathrobes, and all in a smoke free environment.

You can even bring Fido, but be prepared to pay a $40 non-refundable cleaning fee. It’s so worth it.

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A stay at the Inn at the Presidio includes an evening wine and cheese reception for guests and a nice continental breakfast in the original officers’ mess. Ten-hut!

Out of doors

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Not all the unique creature features are inside the Inn. Outside there is a grand old porch with rockers; a pastime enjoyed no doubt by decades of officers in their off duty hours.

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In the back of the building there is an inviting gas fire pit surrounded by outdoor tables and chairs and providing warmth on those chilly San Francisco evenings – and sometimes days. Very cozy indeed.

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There is also an extensive network of trails throughout the Presidio. We stopped often to admire the amazing views. One of the trails starts right at the back of the Inn.

In addition – let us not forget the prestigious 18-hole Presidio Golf Course that is open to the public.

The Presidio is home to one of America’s National Cemeteries

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The San Francisco National Cemetery at the Presidio was the first national cemetery on the west coast. It has breathtaking views of San Francisco Bay.

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On a slope surrounded by majestic trees, the quiet cemetery is a fitting resting place for the 30,000 Americans buried here. Among the interred, are Buffalo Soldiers, Civil War generals, Medal of Honor recipients from various wars, and a woman Union spy. Be sure to spend some time here when you visit.

Parking

There is ample parking for guests of the Inn. At the time of our visit, there was a nuisance six-dollar overnight parking fee, but hey, that’s better than the more irritating – and more expensive – resort fee, now extracted by many upscale hotels.

The spa

The Inn does not have an in-house spa, but the well-known SenSpa, is located in the Presidio, just a short distance from the Inn. They have a full array of spa services to detox and relax the body, mind, and spirit.

If you go

The Inn at The Presidio was the first hotel to open in the historic Presidio, and the only new hotel to open in San Francisco in 2012. The Inn is also a member of the Historic Hotels of America.

With outstanding views of the San Francisco Bay, the Presidio is a picturesque venue that is hard to beat. The surroundings are breathtaking, and the vibe is green and pastoral. We recommend it highly.

Find out more about the Inn by clicking *here* to see their website.

Like to view more of our photo gallery of the Inn and Presidio, look *here*

Another San Francisco Gem

If you like the Inn at the Presidio, we encourage you to consider a stay at an equally elegant and recently transformed military installation directly across the bay in Sausalito.

Old Fort Baker - Cavallo Point

Old Fort Baker – Cavallo Point

Old Fort Baker is now home to Cavallo Point, the Lodge at the Golden Gate, which opened in 2008. Like the Presidio, this old fort was meticulously renovated to offer the public an accurate depiction of military history in a modern luxury setting.

The views of the Golden Gate Bridge from Cavallo Point are stunning.

Both the Inn at the Presidio and Cavallo Point Lodge are ably managed, by innovative Waterford Hotels and Inns. Cavallo is also co-managed by Passport Resorts.

You can see pictures and read our story about the Cavallo Point Lodge *here*.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

On Being Pampered at the Bath of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in Istanbul, Turkey

Exquisite pleasures by Ayasofya Hamami

Exquisite pleasures by Ayasofya Hamami

In the year 1556, the wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent ordered a royal bath to be constructed over the ruins of an earlier public bath destroyed in 532 AD.

Easy walk to bath from Blue Mosque

Easy walk to bath from Blue Mosque

The new bath came to be called the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam because of its close proximity to the famous Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) – the 6th century Byzantine cathedral/mosque that is now a world-renowned museum. We were invited to experience this celebrated bath, and this is the story.

Years of service

The Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam pleasured Sultans and their guests from 1556 until 1910 when the baths were abruptly closed.

The building was repurposed on several occasions between 1910 and 2011 when it was finally restored to its original glory and prominence as an opulent Turkish bath. One of its more interesting functions after 1910 was as a place of confinement for inmates during times of “overflow” at the nearby Sultanahmet Prison.

Coincidentally, the Sultanahmet Prison is now a luxury hotel and the place we stayed during our visit to Istanbul. The exquisite Four Season’s Sultanahmet Hotel is the subject of a future story.

The bath as hamam

The Turkish hamams are all natural baths that generally provide mind and body therapies similar to those offered in tony spas around the world. Ottoman style all natural baths, like the Ayasofya Hamami, are as much in vogue today as they were in antiquity.

Entering the hamam

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The front entrance to the bath opens into a reception area. This is where the vitamin bar, rest area, and boutique shop are located.

Select from a wide array of services

After signing in, each customer is asked to select a bath program. There are many hamam packages to choose from and we opted for the Pir-i Pak or “Full Cleansing Program.” We chose the Pir-i Pak because it offered the standard services of a traditional Turkish bath. Here is what happens after you make your selection.

Separate facilities

Private dressing rooms

Private dressing rooms

Men and women are separated and guided to their own private dressing rooms that are small, but tastefully furnished in exotic woods and well secured. The customers are left to disrobe and don the traditional silk and cotton bath wrap, called a “pestamal.” The pestamal is usually worn during the entire bath process; however, the choice is left to personal preference.

First room

Dressed in our pestamals, we exited our dressing rooms and walked to the first of three rooms where the treatments are performed. This first chamber is of lustrous white marble and tall ceilings, and has the appearance of an ancient Roman steam room. Guests sit on Marmara marble slabs next to alabaster sinks with hot and cold gold faucets. The purpose of the room is to acclimate the body to the heat and to begin the detoxification process. The temperature is about 100F degrees.

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An attendant provides each guest with a replica Ottoman period gold plated bath bowl with which to help with the preparation of the body with alternative drenches of hot and cold water. After an ample amount of self-soaking, muscles start to relax and pores are open and receptive to the next passage – each guest is led into a very large white room.

Second room

This next room is still warmer (116F) and is also elegantly appointed in marble and fine woods, and contains individual white marble bath stations with sinks. In the middle of the room stands an immense multi-sided heated belly marble platform about 30 inches high, and perhaps 40 feet in circumference.

Each guest is seated at a bath station and his or her same-sex attendant commences a vigorous full body scrub with an exfoliating mitt.

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by Ayasofya Hamami

When the invigorating body scrub is complete, guests are rinsed and requested to recline on their back on the marble dais in the center of the room. Each customer is positioned head to toe in circular fashion around the edge of the stone.

The magic foam

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by Ayasofya Hamami

With an easy flick of what appears to be a towel laden with warm liquid, the attendants engulf the guest’s body from neck to toe in a gentle cocoon of luxurious foam. They then commence a full body massage under the cover of the soothing bubbles. The full body massage includes everything except private parts.

Celestial refrains

During the rigorous deep massage, the men’s attendants cantillated ancient Turkish chants that resonated in the tall 80-foot ceilings and added an entrancingly mystical component to the already lavish experience of the bath.

Several dousings of warm water followed the massage, and when all the foam was entirely extinguished, each guest was invited into a warm fluffy towel wrap, and led to the third (cooling) room. It is at this point that we were truly engulfed in a sublime feeling of cleanliness and complete rejuvenation.

Finishing room

The final room was also the reception area where the journey originally started. There we laid motionless on chaise lounges as we savored the sensation of uber-relaxation, and contemplated the history and cultural significance of what we had just experienced.

It was here that we were offered soothing and delicious teas, and enjoyed a chat among the other participants of this most enjoyable event.

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At our will, we returned to our private lockers, dressed and prepared to rejoin our partners and re-enter the busy world outside the magnificent Sultan’s Bath of Istanbul.

One final thought

There is one downside to this experience. It is hard to imagine that another Turkish bath can compare to the spotlessly clean architectural marvel of the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan’s Bath, so we may be spoiled for life.

Consider a holiday in Turkey

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Turkey is a country whose history is at the center of human civilization. A country where tourists are welcome and the locals are eager to show visitors their beautiful nation and treasured antiquities.

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Turkey is also a land of extraordinary diversity and wonder – and a fantastic place to vacation.

If you go

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Should you find yourself in Istanbul, and you want to enjoy a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience, the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam is one to savor and put in your diary or memoirs. For more information, check out the Bath’s website *here*.

Check *here* to see more of our photo gallery of the Ayasofya Hamam.

Happy travels.

Click on any of the following titles to read our other stories about fascinating getaways in Turkey.

Turkish Airlines and their new International Club

Bodrum, a vacation paradise in Turkey

The Kempinski Resort and Spa

Exploring Ephesus

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff – photos of models in the bath provided by Ayasofya Hamam

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

Reliving the Privileged Past on Waikiki Beach

Beach at the Moana Surfrider a Westin Resort & Spa

Beach at the Moana Surfrider a Westin Resort & Spa

This is the first in a series of articles about luxury accommodations in the Hawaiian Islands. Our series begins with a story about the very first elegant hotel to be built in Hawaii, the Moana (now the Moana Surfrider a Westin Resort and Spa). It is located on Waikiki Beach on Oahu, and is aptly nicknamed “The First Lady of Waikiki.”

Early Waikiki

In the later part of the 19th century, not a single hotel was to be found on beautiful Waikiki Beach. There were however, a number of stately beachfront homes owned by successful families. One such owner, Walter Peacock, theorized that the location of his seaside abode would be the perfect spot to build a hotel that would attract moneyed people from North America.

Committed to his belief, Peacock moved his home and began construction on the Moana Hotel – it would be the first luxury hotel on the most famous stretch of beach in the Pacific.

The Moana Hotel by Starwood Hotels

The Moana Hotel

The 75 guestroom Moana opened its doors to the public on March 11, 1901.

They came

Moana Surfrider beach view of Diamond Head

Moana Surfrider beach view of Diamond Head

The Moana Hotel was designed to appeal to the rich and famous who could afford to sail to Oahu on steamships. In those days, only the affluent could manage the time for the long sea voyage to reach the paradise that was Hawaii.

Before the advent of the Moana Hotel, the wealthy were obliged to stay with friends or in one of the few minimally acceptable hotels in nearby Honolulu.

Vacationers of independent means sought out Waikiki to enjoy the sandy beach, tropical climate, and stunning vistas of Diamond Head. The new beachfront Moana Hotel suited them perfectly; it was a fashionable structure with élan that fit nicely into a simple tropical setting – a tribute to astute architects and builders.

A pleasant aloha

Sporting tall ionic columns and a fashionable porte-cochère to greet carriages, the Moana was indeed an elegant lady.

Entrance to registration lobby

Entrance to registration lobby

The inside of the hotel was every bit as inspiring as the exterior. Arriving guests were welcomed in a spacious lobby that was full of colorful native plants.

Unusual for the time, almost every guestroom in the Moana had a telephone and private bath.

Hawaii’s first electric elevator was put in service in the Moana to lift the hotel’s early lodgers between the lobby and residence floors. The historic elevator is still in use today.

Be sure to explore the Moana Museum at the top of the magnificent white wooden staircase that greets all visitors in the Banyan Wing of the hotel entrance.

Edward before Wallace

In 1920, the young Edward, Prince of Wales, reaffirmed the hotel’s standard when he stayed at the Moana as part of his world tour. The list of distinguished guests that came before and followed Edward included many other royals and iconic figures from all fields of endeavor – names such as, Amelia Earhart, Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball, Joe Di Maggio, Frank Sinatra – and scores more.

Time and change

After decades of sometimes-dramatic physical changes, the Moana was closed for restoration in July 1987 and reopened in March 1989. The objective of the exercise was to restore the hotel to its original appearance. It took 20 months of painstaking research and care to bring the hotel back to its 1908 glory. The rework also restored the 1918 addition of two elegant wings – what an exquisite revival! It was so successful that we are able to use recent photos when depicting the look of the hotel in earlier times.

Banyan Court

Banyan Court

In 2007, there was yet another multi-million dollar renewal – this time the hotel re-entered the anxiously awaiting tourist market as the Moana Surfrider a Westin Resort and Spa.

Click *here * to see our complete photo gallery of the Moana Surfrider a Westin Resort and Spa.

Today's Moana Surfrider a Westin Resort & Spa by Starwood Hotels

Today’s Moana Surfrider a Westin Resort & Spa by Starwood Hotels

With the increase to 726 guestrooms and suites, and the addition of enhancements and amenities that brought the Moana up to contemporary luxury standards, it is every bit the grand and glorious hotel it was 110 years ago.

The guestrooms

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The original guests of the Moana Hotel would be envious of what is available to vacationers in the 21st century. Each room is outfitted with premium pillow topped Westin Heavenly Beds, and traditional décor with a relaxed touch of the islands. Of course, each room has a large flat screen TV, fitting bath amenities, and wi-fi access.

The famous Banyan tree

1904 Banyan tree

1904 Banyan tree

In 1904, a Banyan tree was planted immediately to the rear of the new Moana Hotel. The hope was that the ficus species, native to India, would prosper in the beach soils of Hawaii – and indeed, it did.

The Moana Banyan Court tree has been the centerpiece of hotel and Hawaiian history as so many activities and events have been sheltered by its gigantic 150-foot canopy.

The majestic old Banyan has been an onlooker to two world wars, witnessed the incoming aircraft during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and celebrated generations of weddings and important social events.

Moana Surfrider Banyan tree, pool, and beach

Moana Surfrider Banyan tree, pool, and beach by Starwood Hotels

The tree also provided the backdrop for the Banyan Court “Hawaii Calls” radio show that aired across America for 40 years from 1935 to 1975. That’s quite a resume for one tree.

World War II

The Royal Hawaiian

The Royal Hawaiian

By 1941, the Moana had been joined on the beach by the bigger Royal Hawaiian Hotel built just to the west. The Royal Hawaiian, (the subject of a future article) is often referred to as the “Pink Palace of the Pacific.” During the war, it was leased to the U.S. Navy as a Rest and Recuperation Center for submariners, while the Moana remained a commercial hotel for the duration of the conflict.

During the war, Moana guests wanting to take an ocean plunge had to navigate rows of barbed wire that stretched across all of Waikiki beach. Nevertheless, these were busy and prosperous days for the hotel.

Only oceanfront spa on Waikiki

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There are spas, and there are spas, but we have found few that can compare to the 18,000 square foot Moana Lani Spa, at the Moana Surfrider – it is a destination within a destination.

Couple's therapy room overlooking beach

Couple’s therapy room overlooking beach

Before being indulged with a Hawaiian style deep massage in a breathtaking ocean view couple’s therapy suite, we took a tour of the fabulous facility.

The tranquil Moana Lani Spa is decorated in pleasing colors and is complete with comfortable post-therapy relaxation rooms that overlook the beach below. What a pristine meditative setting.

Guests are invited to luxuriate in separate male and female state-of-the-art facilities. We concluded that with steam rooms, saunas, soothing whirlpool tubs, and 16 treatment rooms – including two oceanfront couple’s massage rooms with large soaking tubs, this spa would be the ideal place to gather for the morning after a big event, or the perfect spot to just unwind and re-balance.

Each treatment in the Moana Lani Spa is preceded by a beautiful Hawaiian ritual designed to relax the incoming guest. Each spa visitor is invited to leave his or her worries in a ceremonial wooden bowl filled with Alaea salt. The salt remains in the therapy room soaking up cares and woes until the guest departs. It is then collected, and at the end of the day thrown into the ocean so it and the guest’s troubles are simply carried out to sea.

The entire experience will afford you with a quintessential touch of deep relaxation and peaceful indulgence.

Eating at the Moana Surfrider

Relaxing on the Veranda

Relaxing on the Veranda

The period Veranda that spans two sides of the Banyan Court and overlooks the hotel’s freshwater pool is a great place to enjoy breakfast and afternoon tea. We learned that tea at the Moana is an enduring Hawaiian tradition enjoyed by guests and locals alike. We can add that comfortable seating and relaxing views are enhanced by the refined Victorian setting.

The Beachhouse at the Moana

Al fresco dining at its best

Al fresco dining at its best

The Moana has always been a preferred dining spot for locals and vacationers with discriminating palates. Over the years, the hotel’s extensive menu has evolved with the tastes of its patrons, and today the Beachhouse Restaurant serves some of the best regional dishes in Hawaii. Led by talented Chef de Cuisine, William Chen, the Beachhouse kitchen features both fresh and seasonal ingredients from paradise – true epicurean delights – each with its own unique identity.

Our dinner experience

Authors preparing for dinner

Authors preparing for dinner

We stepped across the threshold of time and were seated at a most satisfying table at the end of the familiar veranda that overlooks the Banyan Court and blue Pacific. This is the scene of countless historic photos – and we are happy to report that the exceptional setting was only exceeded by a truly spectacular meal.

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Our appetizer consisted of a uniquely prepared Caesar Salad that was immediately followed by a main of tender Moyer Farms Filet Mignon and Wailua Asparagus with citrus hollandaise sauce. D-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s!

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The desert was a trio of mini Hawaiian chocolate pot de crème with Chantilly, macadamia crusted carrot cake, and vanilla bean gelato. It was hard to choose between that and the guava cookie crust lemon cheesecake, with roasted pineapple star anise relish, and caramel sauce. OMG!

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As we savored desert, we watched the sun slip slowly below the far horizon and listened to the island music and the waves lazily curling along the sand. It occurred to us that anyone having an opportunity to experience a dinner such as this, in a place so famous and outstanding, was indeed fortunate.

Avoid disappointment – be sure to make a reservation.

Great place for a wedding

Wedding heaven

Classy wedding venue

During our visit, there was a seemingly endless parade of beautiful brides and handsome grooms walking the wide hallways of the great hotel. It is obvious that wedding planners appreciate the Moana Surfrider as a perfect venue for a never to be forgotten tropical wedding.

Stay at the Moana Surfrider

Originally, the Moana catered only to the very wealthy, but today the Moana Surfrider a Westin Resort and Spa is available to anyone who appreciates fine living.

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by Starwood Hotels

The Moana Surfrider is the grand dame of Waikiki Beach – just as she was over a century ago. New hotels spring eternal in Hawaii, but none can match the majesty, style, and sophistication of the First Lady of Waikiki. She alone can reflect on the indelible vistas of the once remote white sand beach that rests at her doorstep and under the gaze of the ageless Diamond Head.

To spend even a very small portion of one’s life in one of the guestrooms or suites at the Moana Surfrider is to become part of the legend – and an opportunity to appreciate Victorian elegance meticulously restored and maintained. This is an idyllic hotel for discriminating travelers with a taste for history. On Waikiki Beach, it is simply the place to be.

If you go

Chic Kalakaua Avenue

Chic Kalakaua Avenue

The Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort and Spa is located on fashionable Kalakaua Avenue on Waikiki Beach and nine miles from Honolulu International Airport. For more information check out their website *here*.

Want to learn more about the historic Moana? We recommend a short, but informative book by author Stan Cohen entitled, “The First Lady of Waikiki.” The book is available from Amazon.

You might also enjoy our recent article about Pearl Harbor *here*.

Special thanks

A special thank you to Marcia Wienert and Diana Su of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Hawaii, without whose knowledge and help this article would not have been possible.

Happy travels!

We flew from San Francisco directly to Oahu on Hawaiian Airlines.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © by Wayne and Judy Bayliff – unless indicated otherwise.

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

The Curtis House Inn has Welcomed Wayfarers Long Before the American Revolution

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The Curtis House Inn in Woodbury, Connecticut was established as a public lodging house in 1754. We decided to visit and see what it would be like to sleep in a 250+ year old colonial inn.

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Before checking in, we looked around and wondered what famous men and women over the centuries had walked these venerable creaking halls and climbed the splendid staircase that leads to the guestrooms above.

If the Curtis House walls could talk, perhaps they would convey tales of passionate debates about freedom and taxation. They might also speak of later voices boasting of a newly elected first President who visited the area and promised to nurture and preserve a fledgling Republic.

Keeping confidences

It is certain that the Inn’s now treasured crooked walls hold many secrets that today’s guests will never discover. However, they know that the room where they peacefully slumber is inside a cherished inn that has survived the turbulent growth of a great nation – and that makes a stay at the Curtis House Inn very special indeed.

Blending the past and present

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The old main building where we stayed has fourteen guestrooms – each with its own individual flavor. The robust historic atmosphere is obvious throughout the inn, but especially in the guestrooms.

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We enjoyed the ambiance of the antique furnishings including a classical canopy bed and colonial desk, but we also appreciated the modern conveniences of cable TV and wireless internet access.

The pub and dining 

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The rustic and comfortable City Hall Pub is right on the premises. Here again, we mused over what topics might have been the center of conversations over the past centuries in this historic setting.

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The Curtis House has two dining rooms and a kitchen that prides itself in serving sumptuous and hearty meals – at reasonable prices.

The extensive menu features Yankee fare like chowders, potpies, roasts, seafood, and delicious homemade baked desserts.

Beauty abounds

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Woodbury is situated in the foothills of the picturesque Berkshire Mountains in western Connecticut – a town well known for its abundant antique shops.

We have visited Woodbury on several occasions, and we always seem to covet a fantastic “something” that is always too large to ship home to California!

The area also provides abundant hiking, biking, boating, and golf opportunities.

An evening in Bethlehem

Our visit to Woodbury was in conjunction with a plan to write about “Christmas in Connecticut.” We arrived in Woodbury just in time for the annual Christmas tree lighting in nearby Bethlehem.

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Each December this quaint hamlet takes on special holiday significance as thousands of visitors make the journey to the little town of Bethlehem to mail 200,000 Christmas cards with the famous postmark.

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Also in early December, there is an annual Christmas Town Festival with dozens of vendors offering crafts and foods. It is quite a party as the locals gather for the lighting of the 75-foot tree on the town green.

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During our visit, we enjoyed an opportunity to assist Santa in selecting who was naughty and who was nice. There were not many volunteers for “naughty” among the crowd of kids beseeching Santa’s favor. Go figger.

Stay at the Curtis House Inn

Stay here if you would enjoy a lodging with a counterpoint of timeworn simplicity and Yankee character – a property steeped in colonial history and tradition. The Curtis House will provide you with an unforgettable experience that melds an early American past with a contemporary New England present.

If you go

The Curtis House Inn is located 90 miles northeast of New York’s John F. Kennedy airport. Take the Woodbury exit (15) off Interstate 84 and Route 6 to Woodbury. For more information about the Inn click *here*

To read more of the journalists’ articles about Connecticut and other great places to stay, click on the abbreviated titles below:

Plan a storybook “Christmas in Connecticut”

Enjoy the fall colors of New England

Visit Kent Falls, Connecticut

A family budget hotel in Shelton, Connecticut

A historic inn in fashionable Westport, Connecticut

An intimate B&B on the backroads of northwestern Connecticut

The countryside elegance of the Mayflower Inn and Spa

The Delamar luxury hotel in the Greenwich harbor

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

How to Plan a Storybook “Christmas in Connecticut”

In 1945, Hollywood coined the phrase “Christmas in Connecticut” after the movie of the same name. Since that time, romanticists around the world have dreamed of spending at least one winter holiday in a quaint Connecticut hamlet complete with a town common crowned with freshly fallen snow and carolers strolling by storefronts and elder homes.

The scene that is presently in your mind’s eye is not a figment from a Currier and Ives print – it actually exists – and we found it.

Our research

We spoke with tourism friends and officials in Connecticut and asked for the names of small towns and villages that would fit the homey Christmas characteristics of Bedford Falls, a fictitious town in another popular holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Arriving in winter

We landed at JFK airport on a cold day in early December. We rented a car and headed for nearby Connecticut at a time when many small towns and villages throughout the area are preparing for the upcoming holiday season.

Janet Serra, the Executive Director of the Western Connecticut Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Anne Lee, the Executive Director of the Central Connecticut Regional Tourism District provided us with valuable holiday tips for our project. They also gave us several places to consider. After reviewing what each location had to offer by way of Christmas spirit and activities, we settled on the little town of Madison.

Driving to Madison

First settled in 1650, Madison was renamed for President James Madison and incorporated in 1826. Madison is a pleasant little community along historic Route 1, the Boston Post Road in the “Connecticut Shoreline Area.” The town lies approximately equidistant between New York City and Boston. Yale University is just 20 minutes away.

By the time we arrived in Madison, the small shops that make up the bulk of retailers in the village center were ready for the holidays. Most were sporting holiday decorations and touting special sales – many to benefit local charities and civic projects. 

The Tidewater Inn

Before we walked the entire town, we decided to check into our chosen lodging for our time in Madison. We had searched for a place that was like a relative’s warm and inviting home – an inn that properly fit into our pastoral Christmas picture. The Tidewater Inn (circa 1928) is a bed and breakfast that proved to be exactly what we wanted, and it was an easy walk to downtown Madison.

Meet the Innkeeper

Congenial Victoria Kolyvas, is the owner of the Tidewater Inn, and she was the perfect personality to help us with an itinerary that would give us a flavor for all the seasonal activities and events that would be taking place in and around Madison during our brief stay. She pretty much planned our visit for us, and we could not be more grateful. We will also mention right here and now that Viki is a superb host and cook!

Innkeeper Kolyvas already had the Tidewater spruced up for the holidays. A beautifully decorated tree sat next to a cheery fire in the hearth in the dining/tea-room.

We ate some bountiful breakfasts and had friendly afternoon chats accompanied by local wines and cheese at a large table in that same room.

Staying at the Tidewater Inn is very much like going to grandma’s house for Christmas. It provides a feeling of sanctuary – of returning – coming home. Each of the nine guestrooms is pleasantly decorated with beautiful antique furnishings and other tasteful décor. Our room was cozy and warm, and we slumbered each night in luxurious comfort.

The events of Madison

After a sumptuous gourmet breakfast at the Tidewater, we took our air with a brisk walk to the center of Madison. We visited a number of shops and craft fairs and found one event particularly delightful – the “Décor Encore” at St. Margaret’s Church. It was advertised as the place to find “previously loved Christmas decorations revived and ready for a new home.” The fair also featured beautiful homemade quilts for sale. What a treat!

Parade day

In early December, the Madison Chamber of Commerce has a homespun Holiday Parade that brings out the entire citizenry.

Some colorful participants and unusual costumes and floats gave us big smiles. It was a wonderfully crisp winter day, perfect for this wholesome family entertainment.

Santa, his wife, and a comely elf stopped by a local café to chat with the kiddies. Donations for the needy of non-perishable food items were accepted to help the Madison Food Pantry.

We also dropped by the local bookstore to watch Santa Letter Writing – great fun.

Tour of Madison historic inns

During parade day, the Tidewater Inn, along with one other local inn, provides a Christmas Open House and Tour of Madison’s Historic Inns via a horse drawn wagon that clops from place to place, and stops for passengers to imbibe on Christmas cheer and sweets – all for the benefit of local charity.

On to the Shoreline Soul Concert

Later that afternoon, we enjoyed the “Soul Concert” at the local First Congregational Church. It featured holiday songs sung by an accomplished volunteer choir in a beautiful church. The entire scene was truly inspirational.

The singers were led by a highly talented conductor who had the choir and audience hand clapping and singing along. This is an annual event you do not want to miss. Any freewill offerings from the event went to support the Village Mountain Mission. 

The tree lighting

As dark descended on the expansive town green, it was time for the annual Christmas tree lighting. Three, two, one – Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah!

Families and friends gathered around the lighted tree to drink complimentary hot cocoa and watch the children wonder at the magnificent tree and colors.

Everyone was holding candles and having fun talking with their neighbors. It was a scene right out of Norman Rockwell, and we could not help thinking that once upon a time, much of America celebrated Christmas in just such a grand manner.

Saving the best for last

Victoria told us that we would run out of time before we ran out of things to do in and around Madison – at any time of year. We found that during the holiday season she was most certainly correct. Fortunately, she planned enough time in our itinerary for a wonderful event.

Ahavah: A Christmas Mystere

We had never heard of Ahavah, which is the Hebrew word for love, and we soon learned that it was also an original ballet about a young girl’s search for the true meaning of Christmas. It is performed annually in early December by the Christian Academy of Dance at the Morgan High School in nearby Clinton. Do not be put off by the venue. This is excellent entertainment professionally written, choreographed, and directed.

Photo: Ahavah by Christian Academy of Dance

The talent that appears in this ballet is exceptional. We found this Psalm written in the program handout:

“Let them praise his name in the dance: Let them sing praises unto Him with the timbrel and harp. For the Lord taketh pleasure in His people.” The young performers in this ballet seemed to take the ancient words to heart.

A bittersweet farewell

We hope we can return to Madison and the Tidewater Inn for another holiday season one day very soon. It was everything we had hoped.

If you go

The website for the Madison Chamber of Commerce is www.madisonct.com

Look *here* for more information about the Tidewater Inn.

To learn more about Ahavah – A Christmas Mystere, click *here*

Happy Travels – Happy Holidays – Remember our troops!

To read more of the journalists’ articles about Connecticut and great places to stay, click on the abbreviated titles below:

Enjoy the fall colors of New England

Visit Kent Falls, Connecticut

A family budget hotel in Shelton, Connecticut

A historic inn in fashionable Westport, Connecticut

An intimate B&B on the backroads of northwestern Connecticut

The countryside elegance of the Mayflower Inn and Spa

The Delamar luxury hotel in the Greenwich harbor 

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff – Ahavah photo by Christian Academy of Dance

You can see the world with Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/

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