Returning to Historic Catalina Island and the Echoes of Big Bands Past

The Grand Casino in Avalon Harbor

Long before Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco, throngs of everyday Americans in the difficult 1930s and 1940s were keeping a stiff upper lip to the world’s problems and singing “…I left my love in Avalon…” to the Big Band sounds of Miller, Herman, Goodman, James and Dorsey.

The song “Avalon” was first recorded by Al Jolson in 1920, and has been re-recorded and played for almost a century. It has immortalized the famous Casino Ballroom situated in the northwest end of Avalon harbor, on the enchanting island of Catalina.

Through the years, the name “Casino,” which is often associated with gambling, has caused disappointment to some island visitors expecting a gaming opportunity. However, there never was a plan to offer gambling in the Catalina Casino.

The island’s owner, the late chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr., chose the name “Casino” because it means “public gathering place” in Latin, and that is exactly what he envisioned in 1928 when he began building the now famous circular icon.

The massive twelve-story structure has two main elements of entertainment, a grand ballroom and a theater. 

The 18,000 square foot ballroom is on the building’s top level and is accessible by circular walkways from the main floor – no doubt a challenge in the days when high heels were obligatory for the ladies.

The Casino Ballroom has the world’s largest circular dance floor. It must have been quite a site on May 29, 1929, when the new structure opened with 2,500 couples swinging to the sounds of Maurice Menge.

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They danced on a ballroom floor layered with felt, acoustical paper, and cork – all sandwiched between the support beams, and the elegant maple and rosewood dance floor. Five Tiffany chandeliers provide the light from atop an arching fifty-foot ceiling. Mr. Wrigley spared no expense.

The Casino has no heating or air-conditioning, so the round ballroom was constructed with massive floor to ceiling doors that allow guests to move freely to the spacious outdoor balcony – where all could enjoy the  gentle evening breeze, and moon lit view of Avalon harbor.

View from Casino balcony

If you tired of dancing, you could descend the walkway to the main floor, and the luxurious 2500 seat Avalon Theater.

On opening day in 1929, you would have been thrilled by Douglas Fairbanks in the “The Iron Mask.” It was a silent film, so Mr. Wrigley made sure his guests had the pleasure of accompanying sound from the world’s largest Page Organ – it provided the proper audio emotion for every moment.

Today the Casino organ is listed with the American Theatre Organ Society’s National Registry of Historic and Significant Instruments, and is one of only four working Page organs in the world. It still delights Friday and Saturday night patrons of the theater.

To further enhance his guests listening enjoyment, Mr. Wrigley had the high domed ceilings of both the theater and the ballroom designed for optimum acoustics. Amazingly, no electronic amplification is necessary in either chamber.

In 1934 and smack in the Great Depression, Philip K. Wrigley arranged for nightly broadcasts of Big Band music from the Casino Ballroom. Thousands of people huddled near radios every night in anticipation of the words “From the beautiful Casino Ballroom, overlooking Avalon Bay at Catalina Island, we bring you the music of…” Of course, the names of the bands changed over the years, but the music played on at the Casino until the 1950s.

One summer night in 1938, a record 6,000 people crowded the Casino Ballroom floor to dance to the Kay Kaiser Band. Can you imagine? What a night – what an extraordinary memory.

We like to return to Avalon whenever we are in Southern California. There is so much to enjoy on Catalina Island, and we always make it a point to visit the beautiful landmark Casino with its classic art deco ambiance – and echoes of America’s past.

Catalina Express

Getting to the island from Long Beach,Newport Beach, or Dana Point is easy on the Catalina Express, which docks in Avalon Bay, just a short stroll from the Casino. The 20+ mile sea journey takes about 75 minutes.

During our cruise to Catalina, we often talk about the many thousands of excited couples who made that same passage over the years on the long-gone steamships of the 30s and 40s. In those days, the trip took over two hours. We think and muse that it would have seemed a very long voyage – as they anxiously anticipated dancing to Glenn Miller or Tommy Dorsey’s rendition of “Avalon.”

If you enjoy the era of the Big Bands, and are fascinated by America in the hardest of times and during the greatest of conflicts, the grand theater and ballroom on Catalina will prove a considerable satisfaction.

For more information about the island, places to stay, and things to do, check out the excellent website hosted by the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce *here*

Happy Travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Vacation like a San Francisco Sea Lion and head for Oregon

The famous San Francisco sea lions that occupy prime dock space on Pier 39 first appeared there shortly after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Then in 2009 they mysteriously disappeared for three months. Where did they go? 

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Oregonians believe that the celebrity sea lions headed north to holiday on the turbulent and exciting shores of the central coast of Oregon. To be exact, they headed for the famous Sea Lion Caves in Florence. 

As evidence, the Oregon locals point to the massive increase in the annual sea lion population soon after the SF lions turned off the lights in their famous City by the Bay. 

Sea lions everywhere 

Sea lion fans rejoice. Currently, nature is providing ample amounts of the odoriferous mammalia to go around.

Along with the flabby fellows comes the infamous sea lion aroma. The gamey bouquet is pervasive on the famous California pier, and is inescapable in the celebrated Oregon cave. Take heart, most people recover rapidly from the first initial shock.

When they are in Oregon 

From about December to August the jolly lions inhabit the largest sea cave in America, which is located just 11 miles north of Florence, and some 200 feet below the roadbed of busy US Highway 101. 

The cave is 25 million years old, tall as a 12-story building, and about a football field in length. It’s big.

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The building entrance to the cave sits on a curve in the road that during the summer months percolates with tots and teens under the watchful gaze of parents – all anxious to view the famous pinnipeds in their natural habitat.

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 Once you have paid your admission fee inside the gift shop, it’s a relatively-short and scenic walk down to the elevator pavilion. 

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The elevator was installed in 1961, and today it’s fun to watch people cheerfully bunch into the hoist that transports them 208 feet down to the giant sea grotto below.

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The cave’s resident Steller and Northern Sea Lions are viewed in their natural habitat from behind a metal mesh screen, which can be a challenge for picture taking, but it is doable. 

Now you see them and now you don’t 

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The lions come and go from the Sea Cave on a loose schedule determined by Nature. The choice rock space begins to fill up around December 1st of every year, and the last of the several hundred cave inhabitants usually have somewhere else to go by mid-August. 

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Even when there are just a few – if any – sea lions in the cavern, the Cave is a worthwhile experience. 

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Over the years, the owners of the Sea Cave have embellished the attraction with ample parking and a great topside gift shop (try the delicious homemade fudge – yummy). 

What you will find down under 

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Look for the natural rock room where the public can view an engrossing film about the sea, cave, and the flora and fauna of the area.  It’s interesting to note that there are several species of endangered birds nesting in the cave.

Additionally, there are educational displays, and creative colors and lights that are conducive to the grotto setting.

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From the subterranean sea lion viewing level, walk up the staircase to the observation platform.

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There you will find a dynamic panorama of the sea – an excellent place from which to view the historic Heceta Lighthouse* perched on a cliff just a few miles north of the cave. 

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The Sea Lion Caves is a fun family activity. We suggest you give it a go.

Where to stay 

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On this visit we chose to stay in Florence at the Driftwood Shores Resort, the only oceanfront hotel in the area. 

The view astonishes

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Every room and suite at the Driftwood Shores has a spectacular view.

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All the rooms overlook miles of pristine beach, and the fresh air, and roar of the crashing waves is a welcome sleep inducer.

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In addition to the usual hotel conveniences, our generous lodging had a full size kitchen,

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and a front row seat to breathtaking sunsets from our private balcony. 

Other unique amenities include an indoor aquatic center, and an electric car charging station.

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The resort offers ocean cuddling accommodations from single rooms, to one bedroom suites, and three bedroom condos. It is a comfortable base from which to explore the many attractions and activities offered in this scenic part of the Oregon coast. 

The Driftwood Shores Resort would be a great venue for a wedding, large family, or small corporate gathering. There’s ample gathering space for about 100 people. 

It’s a beachy-keen accommodation that we think you will like.

Where to eat

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The Surfside Restaurant and Lounge is located right on property. The food is first rate. Open seven days a week, the restaurant is a celebration of the region’s produce in a striking setting with panoramic views.

If you go 

For more information about Sea Lion Caves reach out to their website at http://www.sealioncaves.com 

To check on current specials or make reservations at the Driftwood Shores Resort click here

*To read our story about the historic Heceta Lighthouse look here

Happy travels! 

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.” 

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance

You can plan your trips with Google Maps

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2016 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff 

Photos Copyright © 2016 Judy Bayliff – some Driftwood Shores facility photos courtesy of Driftwood Shores Resort.

The Kempinski Hotel at Barbaros Bay: Still Tops in Extraordinary Turkish Hotels

The Kempinski Hotel in Bodrum at Barbaros Bay is much more than an ordinary coastal luxury hotel in an up and coming vacation paradise. It is also a premiere destination resort for discriminating travelers from around the world. Here is why.

The Kempinski Barbaros Bay is about 20 minutes from the Turkish city of Bodrum. The hotel’s location is just far enough from the busy city center to ensure its guests complete privacy and serenity, yet close enough to Bodrum to enjoy the nightlife and vast historic treasures.

Bodrum is home to the famous castle of the Knights of St. John that was built by the Crusaders, and to King Mausolus’ Mausoleum, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

As you approach the hotel from the roadway, the first thing you notice is that the architecture is simple, but elegant in the way it communes with the natural elements of the craggy Turkish coast.

The topography is akin to that of Arizona – with an ocean.

Inside the Hotel

Kempinski registration desk

The lobby was quiet when we arrived. As we signed the register, we became aware of the distant sound of a piano coming from somewhere within.

We walked to a railing that provided a view of the lower lobby, and there seated at a grand piano was a young boy performing a very able rendition of Beethoven’s  9th Symphony, “Ode to Joy.” Unbeknown to our little fellow guest – an apparent piano prodigy – he provided us with the perfect first impression of a truly glorious hotel.

Location, location, location

The sprawling Kempinski overlooks the turquoise Barbaros Bay from a prominent bluff high above the blue Aegean.

Each of its 148 rooms and 25 suites has its own balcony from which to savor the gentle sea breezes by day and view the dazzling spectacle of limitless stars at night.

This is a photograph of a Bodrum Gullet schooner in the bay outside our room. We spent a day on the schooner, but that is a story for another time.

A luxury hotel dedicated to solitude and relaxation

The Kempinski Barbaros Bay is an oasis absent the complications of everyday life. It is easy to understand why so many come here to regroup and rejuvenate the body and inner spirit.

The water at Barbaros Bay

For your swimming and basking pleasure, the Kempinski boasts an exquisite infinity-pool that melts effortlessly into the Aegean.

Just below the infinity-pool lies a private sandy beach for guests who favor close and personal interaction with la mer.

Surrounded by history

Sitting on the beach, we could see billowing sails in the distance. We daydreamed of bygone eras and conjured visions of the thousands of sailing ships that visited these timeless shores – merchants and traders of oils, gems, and colorful textiles from the far corners of the ancient world.

Entrance to Museum

Nearby Bodrum has a renowned Museum of Underwater Archeology, where visitors can learn about the ships and cargo that sailed the Aegean in early times.

Might we have observed from our Kempinski beach vantage point the mooring site of Caesar’s galleys, or the rendezvous point where Anthony and Cleopatra warmed in the ancient Aegean sun? They were here – as was Alexander the Great, who conquered Bodrum (then known as Halicarnassus) in 334 BC.

Then and now

It is difficult to imagine how the sojourns of visitors in centuries past could be superior to what is available to couples and families vacationing at the Kempinski Barbaros Bay today.

The Sanitas Spa

After our musing on the beach, we were eager to experience the highly touted Sanitas Spa at the Kempinski – Condé Nast Traveler has selected this Kempinski Spa as one of the “Best 25 Spas in the World.” It was everything they observed, and more than we anticipated.

Finishing a soothing mineral soak, we happily assented to a sublime deep massage that was accompanied by wafting aromatic scents and ever so faint transcendental music – talk about bliss.

This amazing 59,000 square foot spa has fourteen indoor and two outdoor treatment rooms, an indoor pool, whirlpool, Turkish Hamam, Russian Bath, steam rooms – and much more. We left feeling like pampered limp noodles. After a refreshing post-spa swim, we were rejuvenated, energized, and ready for – food.

Welcome to delicious

The Kempinski Barbaros Bay has several outstanding restaurants offering local produce and seafood, International flavors, and oh-so-mouth-watering, Italian cuisine.

Breakfast buffet assorted rolls

A couple could spend an entire day eating their morning meal at this hotel and never get bored.

Scooped fresh bee honey from the comb. Pure and delicious!

Eating at the Kempinski Barbaros Bay befits royalty, which is exactly how they treat their guests. Do not fail to ask your Maitre D’ for a perfect pairing from the hotel’s extensive wine cellar.

If you go

The hotel is located about 45-minutes from Bodrum International Airport, which is well served by Turkish Airlines.

This Kempinski resort also offers excellent shopping, a state of the art health club, a complete guest business center, a fine library, and many more features that we could not fit into this short article

Find out about all that the Kempinski Barbaros Bay has to offer by looking at their website at www.kempinski.com/en/bodrum/hotel-barbaros-bay/

Happy travels.

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

 

 

Cruising the Rainforests of New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park

The “Other Down Under” destination of New Zealand is on the Bucket List of many Americans — and justly so. Problem is, New Zealand is a long way from anywhere U.S.A. Consequently, most tourists want to see as much as possible on their first visit. Our suggestion for an orientation trip to New Zealand – book a cruise.

The rationale

A cruise will visit several ports on the two islands of New Zealand, which is a great way to get a taste of the entire country – and all without packing and repacking. And, if you fancy an endless array of delicious gastronomical delights included in the price of your vacation, all the more reason to choose a cruise.

On our fourth trip to Australia and New Zealand we blocked out time for a voyage on one of our favorite ships, the Golden Princess.

There is not enough space in this brief article to adequately describe all the picturesque ports-of-call we visited in New Zealand, so let’s just concentrate on one very special destination…

Fiordland National Park

Established in 1952, New Zealand’s largest national park (3 million acres) was formed over the eons by gigantic glacial flows that gradually crushed and moved the earth into the sea leaving deep navigable canyons of water in the South Island coast.

The park fiords are lined with steep cliffs from which giant fingers of gushing water emerge to crash-dive into the sea below.

This park is extraordinary because of its almost incomprehensible size and unsurpassed isolation. Much of the flora and fauna found in the rainforests of the park are just as they were many thousands of years ago.

Entering the park

On the previous night, the ship’s captain alerted us that we would be entering the park at the break of day.

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We woke about 5:30 and walked up to one of the observation decks just as the sun started to peek over the majestic mountains on our port side.

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The sea was quiet, and there was a veil of still mist in the air.

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At first we could only hear, but finally did see, our first waterfall. There were “oohs,” and “ahhs,” aplenty.

Watch for the bears

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We had a naturalist on board who narrated our passage through this otherworldly wilderness. He jokingly entreated the passengers to keep a keen eye out for bears along the nearby rocky shoreline (there are no bears in New Zealand). A fellow passenger retorted, “Bears hell, look out for dinosaurs.” It’s that kind of place.

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At sunset we left the park for the open sea.

That evening at dinner, we joined a group of passengers celebrating the experience of spending a day cruising through time. None of us will soon forget the primitive beauty of Fiordland National Park.

If you go

The New Zealand Department of Conservation administers the fiords, lakes, mountains, and rainforests of the Fiordland National Park. Check out their website here.

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The next sailing with our exact itinerary on the Golden Princess will be January and March 2017, but you needn’t wait because Princess has other ships that cruise throughout New Zealand. Check out other dates and itineraries here.

Happy travels!

If you have an interest in cruising, the authors suggest reading their four other articles involving Princess Cruises and the Golden Princess.

A Table Rendezvous with Italy’s Chef Ottavio Bellesi on the Golden Princess

The Sweetest Suites for two on the Golden Princess

Luxury Cruising from San Francisco to Hawaii on Princess

Princess Cruise Ship Rescues Canadian Yachtsman

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

A Town and Hotel Remember The Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century 

The name “Jim Thorpe” may no longer be a household name in America, but in the early 1900s there was nary a child or sports fan that did not know of his legendary sports achievements.

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Enrolled in the Carlyle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania in 1904, the Sac and Fox Native American from Oklahoma, was destined to become one of the most celebrated athletes of the 20th Century.

Pop Warner and company 

Coached by the famed Pop Warner, a team led by Jim Thorpe from the little known Carlyle school became a national football powerhouse in 1907. The “Indians” regularly competed and won against eastern Ivy League colleges like Brown, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and also Army and Navy. In 1911, the little Indian school posted an impressive 11-1 gridiron record against much better-known colleges.

In 1912 the Indians won a highly publicized football game against a nationally ranked Army team and its celebrated linebacker – Dwight D. Eisenhower.  The future general – and president-to-be was injured in the contest and never played football again.

The world’s greatest athlete

After reviewing his extraordinary sports achievements, Jim Thorpe was awarded the title of “The Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century” by an Associated Press poll in 1950, and again by ABC’s Wild World of Sports in 2000.

For starters, Jim Thorpe had won both the grueling five-event pentathlon and ten-event decathlon in the 1912 Olympics. Further, he excelled in all track and field events, as well as boxing, golf, hockey, rowing, and swimming.

As a professional, Jim Thorpe dominated the early days of pro-football (he was also the first President of the NFL), and additionally played professional baseball and basketball during his phenomenal career.

The town of Jim Thorpe

Thorpe was a true sports legend, and when he died in 1953, two small towns in Pennsylvania – located 100 miles from his old Carlyle school – wanted to capitalize on his fame for tourism and commercial purposes. They made an agreement with Thorpe’s widow, and in 1954, the neighboring boroughs of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, merged to become Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

The new municipality entombed Thorpe’s remains, and erected a stately monument with two statues in his memory. The monument sits on soils from his native Oklahoma, and from the Stockholm Olympic Stadium where he won his gold medals.

Worth a visit

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We planned to visit the borough of Jim Thorpe primarily because of the sports legend, but also because we heard the town was charming – and offered a unique perspective on Pennsylvania coal-country Americana. We decided to spend a few days there, and hoped it might turn out to be a worthy destination to write about. It was.

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The now quiet hamlet is teeming with exciting stories about big coal throughout the 19th century, early tourism in Pennsylvania, and the famous hangings of the Molly Maguires in 1877.

The town stats

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Jim Thorpe has a population of approximately 4,700, and is peacefully situated in a valley under craggy Mount Pisgah with its many hiking and biking trails.

Nestled in the Lehigh Valley Gorge, and alongside the Lehigh River, the little town is a photographer’s potpourri of interesting landscapes and 1800s architecture. There is much to discover about Jim Thorpe that is not immediately obvious.

Where we stayed

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A subscriber to our travel stories, had recommended a local hotel because of its well-preserved architecture and period charm. We found the hotel a gentle step back in time and quite delightful.

The Inn at Jim Thorpe

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As we climbed the outside entry stairs and passed through the old wooden doors, we knew we had chosen the right place to compliment the classic character of the town.

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We checked in and ascended the long-serving staircase to our second floor room.

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Like the hotel entrance, our room and furnishings were a perfect extension of the town’s yesteryear aura. We quickly became immersed in the subject of our work.

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Sitting on the hotel’s veranda on Broadway was an enjoyable way to take in the activity of the town below.

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The Inn was re-built in the commercial center of town after a fire in 1849. Like most 19th century lodgings the Inn at Jim Thorpe has had several names, seen good and bad times, and had many opportunities for rebirths. The latest took place in 1988 when the Drury family purchased the Inn and faithfully restored it to its early glory.

If you enjoy the unassuming ambiance of small historic hotels with a very different vibe from your run-of-the-mill lodging establishments, this one is for you. 

Don’t forget to eat

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The Broadway Grill and Pub is owned by, and adjacent to the Inn at Jim Thorpe. It is a friendly bar serving both local brews and top-shelf spirits. The tempting menu includes some local favorites.

For dinner we indulged in a traditional Pennsylvania dish. Haluski, which consisted of fried cabbage and kielbasa, sautéed with onions and a touch of sauerkraut. The entrée included a glass of smooth Yuengling Lager. Close your eyes and you could be dining in a bistro in Central or Eastern Europe!

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Our daily breakfast, the “Broadway Breakfast,” consisted of two farm-fresh eggs, bacon (but available with sausage, ham, corned beef hash or scrapple), served with fresh garden potatoes, toast, coffee and juice. At the time, just $10. Yummy!

If you go

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Jim Thorpe has been called the “Switzerland of Pennsylvania,” as well as the “Gateway to the Poconos.” That should give the reader some idea about the scenic value of a visit.

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There is plenty of cultural and outdoor activity in and around Jim Thorpe. Check out the Jim Thorpe Visitors Guide, and the town website for an up to date review of things-to-do.

For more information about the Inn at Jim Thorpe click on their website *here*.

If you have an interest in differing styles of Pennsylvania and Pocono Mountain lodgings, we invite you to read our other articles on the subject:

The Fabulous Lodge at Woodloch

Rustic Luxury at the Bear Mountain Lodge in Wellsboro

The Main Street Boutique Hotel in Kutztown

PA Jim Thorpe PosterIf you have an interest in the man and athlete that became a 20th century sport’s icon, you will enjoy the 1951 movie classic “Jim Thorpe – All-American.” The film stars Burt Lancaster in the starring role and features some archival footage of Thorpe’s Olympic feats. Charles Bickford is excellent as Glenn “Pop” Warner, who was Thorpe’s lifelong friend and mentor.  

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.” ​

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance. You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2016 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2016 Judy Bayliff

The Ahwahnee: An Iconic American Hotel Name May Become a Memory

The grand Ahwahnee Hotel

The Ahwahnee Hotel photos by Judy Bayliff

Because of a legal dispute over trademarks, some of the best-known places in Yosemite National Park may soon change their names. If something is not done, the historic and revered Ahwahnee Hotel will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel.

This is not simply a name change, it is another gross humiliation for the people of America. A case where an ineffectual federal government squanders 100 years of American history and heritage through incompetence and maladroit negotiating.  The people who love our national parks are rightfully angry.

An extraordinary feat and justifiably celebrated name

Stephen T. Mather was the first Director of National Parks in the United States. He accepted the position in 1915 when there were only 16 national parks – today there are 58. Mr. Mather used the iconic Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley to propel the success of the entire National Park System. Here’s how it all happened.

The Ahwahnee History

Mather built the Ahwahnee Hotel in his favorite park in Yosemite, California in 1927. It was to be the Crown Jewel of National Park Hotels, and for a very good reason.

Interest the rich and benefit the masses

Stephen Mather wanted his Yosemite hotel to be a wilderness destination for the rich. Not because he wanted to cater only to the wealthy, but because he knew that if he could interest influential people in the National Park System, he could build better parks for everyone. His plan worked beautifully.

The Ahwahnee was built with the best of everything, from newly invented electricity to bathrooms in each guestroom, and an elaborate kitchen that would provide extraordinary dining to the hotel’s privileged guests.

Two electric elevators were installed and manned by staff operators.

Noise reducing plaster was applied to interior walls to assure that guests were not disturbed by the roar of nearby Yosemite falls.

The siding and beams appear to be wood but are actually cement

The Ahwahnee Hotel structure looks to be made of rock and timber, but in reality the primitive looking exterior siding, balconies, and beams that appear to be timber are actually constructed from cement castings superbly stained to match the surrounding redwoods and pines. We have visited the Ahwahnee Hotel many times over the years, but until we did the research for this article, we had no idea the exterior walls were indeed made of cement.

Building the Ahwahnee Hotel was a monumental undertaking

It was the largest such task for the burgeoning young American trucking industry of the 1920s. Trucks ran on dusty roads day and night, seven days a week for over a year to bring materials to the Ahwahnee worksite.

Valley road to Ahwahnee Hotel

All building materials for the six-story hotel were imported from outside the park. That meant hauling nearly 700 tons of steel I beams along with 5,000 tons of building stones, and 30,000 feet of lumber and logs with early model trucks along bumpy dirt roads. Add to that the many tons of hotel furnishings, and the kitchen and maintenance equipment necessary to run a luxury hotel. It was a huge undertaking for more than 250 drivers, workers, and artisans to create the timeless lodging masterpiece that we now so revere.

Stephen T. Mather did himself, and America proud.

The hotel had its grand opening on July 14, 1927.

The dining room

Dining was important to the wealthy, and in the Ahwahnee Hotel, the master architect Gilbert Underwood provided Mather with one of the most memorable grand dining rooms in the world.

The dining room stretches 130 feet from the elevator lobby toward Yosemite Falls and spans 51 feet from side to side. Its vaulted ceiling crowned with stripped pine rafters and trusses is 34 feet high.

Imagine the difficulty of trucking the dining room’s 11 plate glass windows that are 24 feet high on early California furrowed roads up to the building site of the Ahwahnee. One can only guess many windows were broken along the way. Consider also that once the windows arrived on site they had to be positioned without the aid of modern moving equipment – fascinating.

The great dining room timbers are huge bare pine columns that support a weighty truss ceiling. Unknown to the observer is that the pine columns are actually hollow concrete encased steel pillars. Once again, the genius of the architect is displayed. The rustic appearance of the dining room echoes the overall woodsy splendor of the plan. The immensity of this magnificent room dwarfs the 350 guests it can seat.

The dining room alcove – a magical place

 Located at the far end of the dining room, the alcove appears as an add-on to the vast main room before it. It has one of the 24-foot high glass windows, and in this instance, the window provides a showcase for the Upper Yosemite Falls and makes for an unforgettable setting.

The alcove has hosted many historic events including a round table dinner with Queen Elizabeth and Price Phillip during their visit in 1983. The Queen and Prince hosted a small dinner in the alcove after attending services in the park’s historic little wooden chapel.

When not arranged for special events, there are a number of tables for two set up in the alcove. The window center table is often reserved by newlyweds. Your authors had the distinction and privilege of having dinner at that special honeymoon table on their wedding night many years ago.

As we did on that night, we have often thought about the destinies of the hundreds – perhaps thousands of newly married couples that toasted and celebrated their future at that very spot over the last 90 years.

The beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel is host to about 200 weddings per year. If you are planning a wedding – it is an incredible venue.

The Ahwahnee Hotel design theme

The Ahwahnee has a Native American theme, and the chosen decorators did a superb job of blending the furnishings with the overall character of the property. Much of the furniture at the Ahwahnee is original with only subtle changes in fabric and design made to please contemporary tastes.

The Ansel Adam years 

When the stock market crashed in 1929, the number of visitors to the national parks dwindled, and the Ahwahnee fell on hard times.

The president of the Yosemite and Curry Company (YP&CC) decided that publicity would boost the Ahwahnee occupancy rate and he hired a young aspiring concert pianist, who was also a part-time photographer, to photograph and promote the hotel and the Yosemite experience. The young man’s name was Ansel Adams. The rest is history. His work, like that of John Muir will live as long as there is a Yosemite Valley.

Adams was in love with the beauty of Yosemite from an early age. He finally moved from San Francisco to Yosemite in 1937, and although he created visual masterpieces in other parts of the west, he remained intimately connected with the valley and the Ahwahnee Hotel for over 40 years. He retired in 1972 and died in 1982. He left behind a treasure trove of photographs of natural wonders.

The war years

The US Navy appropriated the Ahwahnee Hotel to be a convalescent hospital for sailors in June 1943. Before it was returned to the YP&CC in December of 1945, more than 6,700 patients had been treated at the Ahwahnee.

When the Navy vacated they left behind many buildings including a bowling alley, gymnasium, machine shop, pool hall, and foundry. The buildings were quickly dismantled and the salvage was put to good use in the valley.

Other changes through the years

The guest elevator was automated in 1963.

A small swimming pool was added in 1964 in a non-obtrusive space next to the bar.

Air conditioning was added, and all the windows in the guestrooms were replaced in 1976.

There was a golf course, but it was removed before 1980 in order to preserve the primordial nature of the surroundings.

TVs made their first appearance in the guestrooms in 1989.

The Ahwahnee Hotel was put on the National Register of Historic Landmarks in 1977.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) has designated the Ahwahnee a Four Diamond Hotel.

If you would like to read more detail about the Ahwahnee Hotel there are two short, but excellent books on the subject. . The Ahwahnee – Yosemite’s Grand Hotel, by Keith Walklet and The Ahwahnee – Yosemite’s Classic Hotel, by Shirley Sargent. Both books are available from Amazon.com.

If you go

Road to Glacier Point

There are several entrances to Yosemite Park and you can choose your route from the park website.

As you drive through the park, watch for signs to the Ahwahnee Hotel. A magnificent stone gatehouse at the entrance to the hotel gives the visitor an exhilarating sense of arrival. The leafy, tree-lined drive beyond the gateway increases the anticipation, and the Sequoia lined parking area provides a warm welcome to all visitors.

You are privileged to be about to enter one of the grandest rustic hotels in the world. Whatever it is eventually named, it will always be the “Ahwahnee,” to many generations of proud Americans.

Happy travels.

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Exploring Maritime Quebec and Its Bounty of Lighthouses

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The Province of Québec, Canada has so much to offer the global tourist that we found the best way to present the many vacation options was to separate them into several categories; this story zeroes in on just one of Québec’s major attractions – lighthouses.

On the trail of the lighthouses

North America’s most spectacular lighthouse trek is in Canada’s Le Québec Maritime, which is located along the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the St. Lawrence River. Central to the Maritime region is the Gaspésie (or Gaspé) Peninsula and that is where our adventure begins.

Getting there

We flew non-stop from San Francisco to Montréal on Air Canada. It was a long flight and we were happy to arrive at the modern Trudeau International Airport, and even more pleased to be able to walk to the convenient and stylish Marriott hotel located right there in the airport building next to the US Departures Terminal.

After a quick dinner, we were off to bed – anxiously looking forward to continuing our venture with the rise of the sun.

The next morning we took an Air Canada Jazz flight on a small aircraft to the quaint town of Gaspé, which is situated at the easternmost end of the Gaspésie peninsula and about 575 miles northeast of Montréal.

There we met up with friends who had already secured a mini-van and within minutes, we had our luggage aboard and were off on our search for accessible lighthouses.

There are 43 historic lighthouses in the Québec Maritime, but not all are easy to reach, or open to tourists.

Our goal 

Twenty lighthouses in the Maritime have been restored and/or converted to museums, lodging, and otherwise made available to the public. We were eager to explore and photograph as many of them as our short visit would allow.

As we drove, it did not take long to realize that all of our subjects were located in gorgeous natural surroundings thick with boreal forests and vistas of the sea. At every turn, the scenery was breathtaking, and we were fortunate to be blessed with ideal weather to enjoy our outing.

Forillon National Park

Forillon National Park

Our first stop was at a large and spectacular park not far from the town of Gaspé. At the Grande-Grave Heritage House at Forillon Park, we met up with Ranger Bruce O’Connor who is a wealth of information about the area.

Ranger Bruce introduced us to the local flora and fauna, and pointed out the interesting irregularities of the topography of the park.

We also learned that this area is rich in the history of 20th century fishermen and merchants. You can read all about the history and culture on the park’s website linked above.

Tourists can easily spend days exploring the vast Forillon Park, and if you decide to do that, there are convenient overnight accommodations right in the park. There are over 350 campsites, and if you aren’t ready for the fun of sleeping on the ground, try a Yurt, or tent trailer, both are available for rent in the park at reasonable prices.

Forillon was the place where we saw our first lighthouse

The Cap Gaspé, was established in 1873 and at 30-feet in height is short by lighthouse standards. However, there was no need for it to be tall because it is perched atop a high cliff overlooking the great St. Lawrence.

In the same park, you will also find Canada’s tallest lighthouse (112-feet) from 1858, the Cap-des-Rosiers. This light was constructed at a considerably lower elevation that has easy access to the sea.

Both lighthouses are in excellent condition. Canada takes great pride in the upkeep of their historic lighthouse treasures.

“Thar she blows”

This entire area is a vast causeway for migrating whales of many species, and we were able to see several of the magnificent animals from the Cap Gaspé cliffs.

Back to Gaspé for dinner and a rest

This is an article about lighthouses so we will not dwell on the inns where we stayed – except for this one. We spent our first night at the charming (circa 1860) Auberge William Wakeham in Gaspé.

This is a vintage inn that has been scrupulously maintained by generations of owners. The restaurant ambiance is uniquely European in flavor and the food – oh my – is regionally famous and rightfully so. There are scrumptious mains from local waters and ice cream and deserts made on site. Yummy!

The 132

In the morning, we were back on Canada Route 132, the signature highway of the Lighthouse Tour that circles the Gaspé Peninsula. There are at least 15 lighthouses on this scenic drive that runs along the entire coast of the peninsula. The 132 is rich in photo ops of colorful villages, cliffs, beaches, capes, and of course – lighthouses.

Pointe-á-la-Renommée lighthouse

Established in 1880, this 49-foot charmer is called the most traveled lighthouse in the world having been moved to and from its present site. It once resided in the Port of Québec for 20-years. It was returned in 1997.

The museum on location is not to be missed. This was the site of the first North American maritime radio station installed by Marconi in 1904. The grounds are as spectacular as the seemingly endless views. This is another place where our day passed too quickly. We want to return.

La Martre lighthouse

The La Martre is located in a quiet setting near a church overlooking a panoramic coast. This 63-foot tall lighthouse was constructed of wood in 1906. It is a rare treat to see because most wooden lighthouses ceased to exist years ago. The lighthouse still works with the original cable and weight system that operates the illumination mechanism.

Pointe-au-Pére lighthouse

This is the site of Canada’s worst maritime disaster, the sinking of the passenger ship Empress of Ireland on May 29, 1914. One-thousand and twelve lives were lost.

Resting in just 130 feet of water, the old wreck has taken many more lives through the years. Subsequent deaths were mostly recreational scuba divers who put themselves in harms way by entering the wreck seeking treasures. It is now forbidden to enter the wreck of the Empress.

The original lighthouse at this location was built in 1859, followed by three more, the latest and final rendition is 108-feet tall and was completed in 1975. It was deactivated in 1998.

The current structure is one of the tallest lighthouses in Canada with 128 steps to climb – if you are game. For those who dare, a breathtaking view of the St. Lawrence River awaits you – if there is no pea soup fog.

The Pointe-au-Pére was the last lighthouse we had time to visit on our short four-day trip. We took the time to thoroughly investigate five lighthouses, but there are so many more to see. We will make it a point to add more days to the lighthouse tour on our next visit to Le Québec Maritime.

The ferry to Forestville

We decided to explore, albeit briefly, the north shore of the St. Lawrence River before returning to Montréal and our flight home. We took a pleasant ferry excursion to Forestville from Rimouski. The crossing was complete in about one-hour.

The van was unloaded in short order we were driving to Baie-Comeau and the Garden of the Glaciers. The Garden is another of Québec’s attraction that deserves its own story, so we wrote one. You can read our article about that exciting family experience by clicking on http://is.gd/caZNCg

We highly recommend the Québec Maritime for a fun-filled fly and drive vacation. There is so much to do and the sightseeing is terrific.

If you go

To avoid disappointment, we suggest you arrange your vehicle rental and accommodations before you arrive in Canada.

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

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

A Visit to the Historic Heceta Lighthouse on the Rugged Oregon Coast

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We had heard so many fascinating stories about lighthouses along the scenic Oregon coast that we decided to make a road trip from San Francisco to visit one. Here’s what we did.

Breaking up a long drive

Ours was to be a considerable drive of 552 miles, estimated to take approximately 9-hours, so we decided to break our journey into two days. 

The first thing we looked for was a convenient bed and breakfast along the route.

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We contacted the Old Thyme Bed and Breakfast, 217 miles north of San Francisco in the town of Redding, which came recommended by a subscriber to our articles.

The inn is just minutes from Interstate 5, where we spent most of our driving time, and gave us the perfect break in our travel.

After a super slumber and a delicious breakfast, we were ready for the final leg of our adventure.

On the road again

Interstate 5 traffic continued to be light from Redding to Weed, California, and the scenery improved with each passing mile. The intermittent views of Mt. Shasta from I-5 were often breathtaking.

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The most picturesque route to the central Oregon coast begins after leaving I-5 at exit 136 and connecting to Oregon state highway 138. Be sure to make the drive along 138 in the daylight, because you do not want to miss the panoramic blend of lush forests and verdant mountains.

We arrive

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By mid-afternoon we were approaching the coastal town of Reedsport, Oregon. From there it’s a quick 20-minute drive along historic highway 101 north to the art-deco inspired Siuslaw River Bridge that spans the river running along the Florence waterfront.

It was a beautiful crisp day on the Oregon coast.

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We took lunch at the Bridgewater Ocean Fresh Fish House in the quaint “Old Town,” section of Florence.

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Our selections were fish and chips and fried oysters. Exceptionally fine sea food at reasonable prices.

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The ambiance of Florence is “American Quaint,” and we were immediately comfortable with the town and our surroundings.

On to the lighthouse

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One of the reasons we chose Florence for our base camp was its close proximity to the Heceta Lighthouse.

History

In 1891 President Benjamin Harrison reserved a coastal headland known as Heceta Head, in Lane County, Oregon, for the sole use of a lighthouse, which was subsequently constructed and dedicated three years later.

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The lighthouse, boasts a 1.2 million candle power light — the most powerful on the Oregon coast. It can be seen from far out at sea, and also, from various points along Hwy 101. 

The last keeper left when the giant light was automated in 1963. Thereafter, the keeper’s notably unique residence went vacant.

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The Heceta lighthouse keeper’s dwelling was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

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Twenty-two year later in 1995, Lane County opened the building for tours and a six guestroom B&B.

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We had the privilege of spending two nights in the Mariner II (the one we recommend) guestroom at the Heceta Lighthouse Keeper’s Bed and Breakfast.

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Our room was one of three with an en suite bath. If you enjoy traveling back in time, this is a place you will not want to miss.

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Painstakingly furnished with period antiques, the vintage Queen Ann style keeper’s house is a giant step back to the late 1800’s.

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The house is reputed to be haunted, and the setting is perfect for the phenomenon, but alas, we did not see any ghosts.

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The view from our room was inspiring. The windows were like a powerful lens through which our expectations of the beauty of the rugged Oregon coastline became a reality.

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A stay at the Keeper’s home includes a house tour, lighthouse tour, wine and cheese social, and a gourmet breakfast. All worth the price of admission.

See the lighthouse in daylight and after dark

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It’s a brief walk from the keeper’s house to the lighthouse atop the craggy knoll.

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There is also a cliff trail that rises above the lighthouse.

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The view from that vantage point invites your gaze over the shimmering ocean and the southern aspect of the Siuslaw National Forest and its rocky shoreline.

A flashlight is provided in every guestroom in the inn, along with encouragement to climb the easy trail after dark.

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At night the lighthouse is showcased in the dramatic glow of its illuminated Fresnel lens, which tirelessly scans the sea under the gaze of a million stars.

Do not miss breakfast

Original innkeepers Mike and Carol Korgan are both certified executive chefs. They are retired now, but their daughter Michelle, and partner Stephen have upheld the tradition of fine dining at the house.

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A seven-course day-opening meal awaits each guest. At this table, delicious food keeps coming until every guest is fully nourished and satisfied.

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Accompanied by rousing coffees and teas, the multi-plate tapas style breakfast was a great way to start the day. The experience was further enhanced by the congeniality of our fellow guests.

Our recommendation

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For those heading to Oregon and ready for an authentic 19th century lighthouse keeper’s experience accompanied by a gourmet-envy seven-course breakfast, we think you will enjoy the Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B. Learn more about it here.

Because this vintage B&Bs has very few guestrooms, be sure to make reservations several weeks in advance to avoid disappointment.

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Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

The St. Regis on Kaua‛i for an Unforgettable Hawaiian Holiday

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Often referred to as Hawaii’s “Garden Island,” Kaua‛i is a lush tropical paradise of towering cloud-crested green summits. The island has 50-miles of sandy beaches perpetually polished by translucent waves. It was undoubtedly the perfect island for the legendary St. Regis brand to open one of their unparalleled luxury resorts.

Behold the majestic north shore

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The Hawaiian St. Regis Resort at Princeville is surrounded by five verdant mountains overlooking the beautiful Hanalei Valley and the breathtaking Napali Coast.

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No wonder Hollywood picked nearby Lumaha‛i Beach to film scenes for Rogers and Hammerstein’s immortal “South Pacific.

Kaua‛i’s north shore is also home to Makana Mountain, better known as the mystical Bali Hai in the movie. In this case, the real thing is more alluring than the illusion.

Kaua‛i is everyone’s dream-scene of a protected rain-forest Pacific Island paradise, and having chosen it, the St. Regis is now the preferred glamour address for the elite Hawaiian vacationer.

A royal beginning

The location of the St. Regis in Princeville was named after the “Prince of Hawaii,” the official title of Prince Albert Edward, born in 1858 to King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, and godchild to Queen Victoria of England. Kamehameha IV and his family vacationed in the area in 1862. Sadly, the young prince died that same year, but out of respect, the area has retained the legacy name.

Arriving at the St. Regis

Our arrival felt like the beginning of an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. The elegant ambiance of the resort lives up to its reputation and was immediately evident.

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The reception area is part of the larger lobby, and the eyes are drawn every which way to accommodate the combined spectacle of luxury and scenic beauty.

The check-in was effortless, and the staff exhibited the training and courtesy that is the hallmark of the St. Regis brand.

A legacy of distinction

John Jacob Astor IV, opened the first St. Regis Hotel in New York City in 1904. Forty-nine openings later, the brand has retained its well-deserved image of sophistication and the reputation for successfully catering to the old (and new) aristocracy and its many fascinating personalities.

The butler did it

Each suite at the St. Regis has a butler to cater to the guests’ every wish. During our stay, our butler proved to be an invaluable resource about navigating around the resort and the island of Kaua‛i in general.

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Our Bali Hai suite at the St. Regis Princeville consisted of two levels.

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The main floor was the location of the living room, kitchen, dining/meeting room, half bath, and balcony.

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A generous sleeping room and spacious full bath were located on the second floor.

The view from our suite was sweeping and tropical

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From our rooms we had an opportunity to watch the St. Regis staff prepare for a beachfront wedding. Planned nuptials can be attended by five or 500; the St. Regis has the facility to make the event as perfect as a couple can imagine.

The Spa

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After settling in, we started our decompression in style with a massage at the luxurious Halele‘a (which means House of Joy) Spa located just off the main lobby of the resort.

This is much more than your standard resort spa. It is an 11,000 square foot facility with 12 treatment rooms, and a trained staff dedicated to your relaxation, healing, and ultimate body and mind restoration.

We chose and recommend the stress relieving Lomi Lomi Massage that involves a deep muscle therapy, accompanied by continuous gentle strokes – a technique we have learned to associate with Hawaiian therapists. Oh, so soothing.

Our first dinner at the St. Regis was a memorable occasion

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Although we found the on-site Kaua‛i Grill dining room decor to be somewhat understated for a five-star restaurant, the view of Hanalei Bay and Bali Hai at sunset more than made up for any lack in interior motif.

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The exciting bill of fare at the Kaua‛i Grill is the brainchild of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a globally recognized Michelin cordon bleu chef. The menu boasts the master’s flair for the French and Asian influence in personally selected appetizers, entrees, and desserts.

The place to start your day

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We had breakfast on the Makana Terrace overlooking Hanalei Bay.

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This is an oasis of tranquility that beckons one to sit back and enjoy the acclaimed scenery while savoring the culinary delights of the local fresh food markets.

The restaurant so fits its place that it must have been inspired by Kaua‛i itself.

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If you stay at the St. Regis, don’t miss the day-opening buffet on the Terrace.

Eat at the bar

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Here we were offered light casual pub style victuals in a convivial comfy environment. Also, a great place to gather for a cleansing ale before dinner.

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There are five excellent dining venues at the resort — all with fantastic views.

For the golfers

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The St. Regis Princeville Resort’s Makai Golf Club is designed by globally-celebrated golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and is an 18-hole championship course complete with lakes, woodlands, and a spectacular view of Bali Hai and Hanalei Bay.

If you go

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The St. Regis Princeville is a luxurious resort with significant cachet and 252 guest rooms, including 51 premium ocean view suites. Look to the St. Regis website at www.stregisprinceville.com to choose from a range of diverse guestrooms to suit your taste and budget.

You will probably fly into Lihu‛e Airport on the east shore of Kaua‛i. If you do, expect a 32-mile drive to the picturesque north shore, and the resort. There are all varieties of available transportation at the airport. A standard taxi will cost just over $100 with tip – and it’s up from there. We reserved a rental car, and were glad we did because there is so much to see on Kaua‛i.

In future articles we will write about the many things to do outside the St. Regis demesne.

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As a preview, there are watery caves to explore,

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and the famous Waimea Canyon to photograph. We will also take you along on a fabulously romantic dinner for two under the stars in the Papa‛i Kilauea Hut at the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas.

If you are researching luxury hotels and resorts for a planned holiday in the Hawaiian Islands, you might also like to read our stories and evaluations of these other Starwood properties in Hawaii.

The Royal Hawaiian in Honolulu

The Moana Surfrider on Waikiki Beach

The Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii

The Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa on Maui

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”
Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.
The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.
© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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

We flew to Honolulu and inter-island on Hawaiian Airlines.

A Winter Getaway to the Brewery Gulch Inn and Mendocino’s Crab, Wine, and Beer Festival

We love off-season travel because of the reduced crowds and bargain accommodation rates. Last winter we drove from San Francisco to Mendocino to attend the annual Crab, Wine & Beer Days – a fun family experience – especially if you savor the taste of freshly cooked Dungeness crab.

Getting to Mendocino

Starting at San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge on highway 101, the drive to Mendocino takes about 3 hours. The last half of the trip from Cloverdale along highways 126 and 1 will take you back to a time when all rural California roads were scenic and fun to drive.

It was a beautiful day, and we zipped along 126 dashing between tree cover to sunshine, and constantly pointing out new exciting sightings in the ever changing panorama.

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We arrived in Mendocino around 3pm and drove directly to the Brewery Gulch Inn just off picturesque highway 1. This highly recommended B&B would be our home for the coming event days.

Our welcome

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The appearance of wild turkeys next to the gravel parking lot was a nice touch, and a precursor to the unusual rustic luxuries we would find during our stay at the this AAA Four Diamond inn.

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When we plan to write about a place we stay, we look for the little details that will help us define the property. In the case of the Brewery Gulch Inn there was an old wheel barrow near the inn’s entrance, and a seen-better-days motor boat in the side of the parking lot. Both these unusual accoutrements got us wondering about the inn’s reputation for richness, but any misgivings on first appearances vanished upon entering the building and experiencing the homey reception and the elegant, designed for living, Great Room.

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We were greeted at check-in by owner/innkeeper Guy Pacurar. Guy purchased the inn in 2007 to fill a “Bob Newhart” fantasy. Guy is a congenial host and the go-to-guy for information about Mendocino and the Brewery Gulch Inn.

The accommodations

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The Great Room is the focal point of the Brewery Gulch Inn. At its center is a magnificent four-sided steel and glass fireplace enshrined in a room of towering wood and 13-foot high redwood French doors.

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The doors open to a spacious deck with sweeping views overlooking the ever-changing Pacific and Smuggler’s Cove. This is an architectural design perfectly suited to its setting.

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Add a measure of overstuffed leather chairs and 1930’s style oak dining tables, and you have the makings of the ideal gathering and dining room.

The Pelican Room

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Climbing the stairs to our second floor guestroom, we noted the inn was much larger than we anticipated. You can choose from eleven sleeping rooms to suit your taste along with an unattached cottage.

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All the rooms and suites elegantly avoid being trendy or too thematic. All are finely appointed with a warm touch of appropriate place and kind furnishings.

Time for dinner

We had heard rave reviews about the inn’s complimentary evening “light” buffet. Don’t believe the “light” description. We enjoyed two great dinner meals at the inn’s casual buffet. Additionally, this every-evening event is carefully calibrated by the management to assure a sense of comfort and informality.

Served with a variety of wines, beers, and soft drinks, the inn’s nightly all-you-can-eat spread was more than enough for any evening meal, and it was delicious.

First night menu

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Tuscan Ragout of Beef in a Deep Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Tri-Color Marble Potatoes with Horseradish Sour Cream

Crab-Cocktails, with Meyer Lemon Slaw

Balsamic Glazed Grilled Endives

Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Sweet Chili Sauce

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We finished off with a delectable Cinnamon Banana Brioche Bread Pudding

So who needs to eat elsewhere!

Dreaming about tomorrow

After a restful night on luxurious bed linens, and a delicious breakfast (more about that later), we headed out for our first adventure.

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It was a crisp morning and perfect for exploring the many sites of Mendocino. After walking around town and checking out the boutiques and shops, we headed for the Point Cabrillo Light Station.

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Still working off our hearty breakfast, we were grateful for the opportunity to walk the half-mile from the parking lot to the Light Station.

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The clean salt air was brisk and the walk invigorating.

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We chatted with the light station attendant in the museum/gift shop, and spent a good part of our sunny afternoon walking along the headlands and gazing out over the vast Pacific. On our day, we saw hundreds of whale spout sightings far off in the distance.

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Returning to the inn just in time for some complimentary wine — and an opportunity to rest our weary feet — we settled into two of the easy chairs on the inn’s deck overlooking Smuggler’s Cove.

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Time passed quickly, and it was once again the hour for another of the inn’s extraordinary “light” buffets.

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If it all looks good, it was! A perfect ending to a wonderful day.

The following morning

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Light streamed through the tall glass windows illuminating the rich interior of the Great Room with its period oak tables and upholstered furniture.

The breakfast at the Brewery Gulch Inn is magnificent.

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On this morning we had our choice of a crab and avocado omelet,

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or cheesy eggs, and blueberry pancakes – both of which were mouth-watering delicious. They also served “Millionaire’s Bacon,” which is a thick slice of lean bacon seasoned with hot peppers. Actually, not our cup of tea, but other guests raved about it.

After breakfast we headed for the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.

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Even in winter, the Mendocino Gardens are worth a visit.

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There are ample species of flowers to enjoy, and the trails to the ocean are a terrific way to pass a sunlit afternoon.

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Be sure to take along your best buddies, because the gardens are pet friendly.

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It took us several minutes to walk to the ocean where we sat and once again watched the distant whales frolicking on their way to the warm waters of Mexico.

Time for crab tasting

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Because these were Crab, Wine, and Beer Days we were anxious to sample the best of what the local restaurants had to offer by way of crustacean delights. We decided to have dinner at a highly recommended establishment, the Little River Inn.

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The Little River Inn is well known for excellent crab cakes, and we were in the mood. The Brewery Gulch inn and the Little River Inn are just a short distance apart.

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Dining at The Little River Inn restaurant is comfortably elegant. The atmosphere and service were outstanding, and the menu was designed to reflect the location. We found the menu choices to be sophisticated, yet approachable.

We made our selections from the Crab Specials Menu prepared especially for the days of the event.

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Our starter was a Dungeness Crab Cocktail with home-made cocktail sauce, celery, and crackers. There’s nothing quite like the delicate taste of chilled and fresh Dungeness crab to excite and delight the palate.

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We next tried the inn’s award winning Crab Cakes. We can’t describe what makes these crab cakes best in class, but we can report that they were definitely some of the best crab cakes we have tasted anywhere in the world. If you go, do not miss this delicious delicacy!

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Keeping with the symphony of flavors, our next foray into Crab Days was the Dungeness Crab Pot Pie baked under a flaky crust and teeming with leeks, celery, onions, potatoes, and sweet peas. Exquisite!

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Everything crab was topped off with an Olallieberry Cobbler,

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and a Hot Fudge Sundae.

Having feasted to fatigue, it was back to the Brewery Gulch Inn for another night of snuggly slumber.

All too soon

We found the Brewery Gulch Inn to be an idyllic place for discriminating travelers, and we wish we could have stayed longer, but before we could say “more crab, please,” it was time to head for home.

There are so many interesting things to see and do in Mendocino that we are already looking forward to our next visit. Guy and wife Sarah have some super site recommendations; look here for their description of a perfect getaway to Mendocino and the Brewery Gulch Inn.

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One of the activities they recommend is the 2.25 mile hike to Russian Gulch Falls. We did it and it is spectacular. Be sure to put it on your list.

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In 2016 the Mendocino Crab, Wine and Beer Days will be held on January 29 and 30.

For more information and reservations at the Brewery Gulch Inn click here. Book now, and avoid disappointment.

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Happy travels!

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The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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