We did it. It was easy. We fell in love with Old Cape Cod

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Last fall we traveled back east to New England to be part of the annual fall festival of colors. We put over 1,000 miles on our rental car, and were treated to great weather, superb accommodations, and exquisite dining. We also met some wonderful Americans – in the land where the country began.

There’s a lot to see in Massachusetts. On this trip we decided to stay away from the big cities and concentrate on small communities where we might discover something of that hometown flavor we yearn for, but encounter less and less during our travels around America.

Cape Cod 

Click on the Cape Cod link above if you want to set the mood for this story by listening to Patti Page singing her timeless hit “Old Cape Cod.”

It was almost Halloween when we arrived in The Cape. It would have been difficult to not fall in love with Cape Cod at this time of year. Cool breezes shuffling newly fallen leaves, the traffic of summer greatly diminished, and locals had already replaced tourists in the restaurants – where there was no wait to get a table. Also, at this time of year, lodging reservations are easier to get, and cheaper too.

It’s the shoulder season

If you follow our travels, you have undoubtedly noticed that most of our getaways are during what the travel industry calls the “shoulder season.” That’s the time of relative quiet before the kids get out of school, and after they go back. A period between peak and off-peak seasons. In much of the United States, the shoulder season is September, October, November, and March, April, and May.

Since most parents like to take their kids along on vacation – not everyone can take advantage of these relaxed vacation months. However, as empty nesters, we appreciate our road less-traveled outings.

Welcome to Falmouth Village

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The second largest town on Cape Cod is Falmouth, but calling it “large” in any context is a misnomer because the population is shy of 32,000. Falmouth is just a nice little New England village with lots of folksy charm.

B&Bs befitting the locale

We stayed at two highly recommended B&Bs while in Falmouth – The Palmer House Inn and the Captain’s Manor Inn. Today we will introduce you to The Palmer House, and save the equally excellent Captain’s Manor for a future article.

The Palmer House Inn

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This Queen Ann style Cape Cod inn was constructed in 1901, and has been a bed and breakfast since 1983.

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Bill and Pat O’Connell took ownership after retiring from the world of business and education, and have been the congenial innkeepers at the Palmer House Inn since 2005.

They have enlarged the property to its current capacity of 16 guestrooms – however, everything seems to belong exactly where it is, so we would be hard pressed to identify the areas they have changed.

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The inn is lavishly decorated with beautiful antique furnishings and tasteful décor. Upon entering, the elegant wood clad walls, stained glass windows, and shining wood floors induce immediate feelings of returning to the sanctuary of a comfortable home in the early 20th century.

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Each guestroom is different from the others,

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and each has the usual amenities discerning guests have come to expect from top-of-the-line B&Bs.

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Every great B&B worth its salt is expected to provide a savory and delicious breakfast, and the Palmer House excels in that arena.

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There’s even a Palmer House cook book to help you remember the culinary treasures.

Steps away from history and corpses 

The Palmer House is steps from the Falmouth Village Green, and local shops and restaurants.

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We can attest to strange October goings on in this neighborhood of historic (and haunted) houses.

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After dark, the “From the Night Watchman,” ghoul-tacular at the Museums on the Green was a scary fun event we thoroughly enjoyed – along with all the kids in Falmouth Village.

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The spooky activity of the night before, did not seem to negatively influence the swarm of tikes that invaded the village stores on Saturday afternoon’s trick-or-treating.

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Great fun, and we were so glad to be part of the excitement!

When it is time to eat 

We have three restaurants to recommend in downtown Falmouth, one Irish, the others Italian.

Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub

The building at 273 Main Street has been serving one sort of food or another since the early 1900s. In 1994 it became Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub and Restaurant. The proprietors’ told us that they want to offer the same comfort and ambiance that they remember from the pubs back home.

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We sampled their Beef and Guinness Stew. A blending of slow cooked tender beef with potatoes, carrots, peas, celery, and onions in a savory Guinness reduction. Served with a side salad and Irish soda bread. A meal in a bowl.

Stone L’Oven

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Who doesn’t like a good authentic hand-tossed Italian style Pizza?

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We certainly do, and we found one at 271 Main Street. What a delicious, crispy, stone-fired Neapolitan crust.

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Yowza! It tastes every bit as good as it looks.

LaCucina Sul Mare

237 Main Street. Yes, another Main Street establishment. This street in Falmouth Village has all the restaurants you need, and they are all good neighbors!

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LaCucina Sul Mare offers an ample variety of choice Italian cuisine nicely presented. The selection of Italian table wines is deep enough to please even the most discriminating palate.

Locals tell us this restaurant is very busy during the season, and they do not take reservations. In October there was no wait.

Park and walk

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All these restaurants are a short distance from the Palmer House. By the way, if you happen to be driving an electric auto, the ecologically forward-thinking innkeepers at the Palmer House have already installed two Tesla Charging Stations on the property. Check here for details.

Stay tuned

Falmouth Village is the quintessential Cape Cod town, and a superb place for a family vacation. It is an area we particularly like photographing and writing about.

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Martha’s Vineyard is just a ferry-boat ride away from Falmouth, and in a future article we will show images of autumn on The Vineyard, introduce another first-class B&B, and tempt you with more New England vittles.

If you go

We recommend that you look at the Palmer House website and consider staying there. It’s truly a warm and friendly home away from home. You will not be disappointed.

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

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

Niagara Falls – Top to Bottom

 

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We love Niagara Falls – especially the array of marvelous outdoor activities that are available throughout the area. Verdant gardens and leisure walking paths abound. Add the sound of the ever-present roaring rapids and cascades, and you have the makings of a perfect green vacation.

Getting to Niagara Falls is a beautiful road trip for those living in the north east, and an easy flight for the rest of us. It is very convenient to have an exciting natural wonder-of-the-world right here in North America that is so close to major modes of transportation. Even better, it is situated on the friendly American/Canadian border. That is especially comforting now that international travel is so stressful and debilitating.

During our last visit to the Falls we went in search of mini-adventures that could be enjoyed by the entire family. What we found were four tour activities that have been around for years, and still offer a special thrill because they feature the natural elements of the world’s second largest waterfalls. Each tour offers excitement, views, and photo opportunities that will be remembered for a lifetime.

Here are our four suggestions for getting a healthy adrenalin rush out of a visit to Niagara Falls.

Take a helicopter tour

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Helicopter tours are available from Rainbow Air located near the Rainbow Bridge and just a few blocks away from the rushing water in Niagara Falls, New York.

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The views are breathtaking, the 20-minute ride is smooth, and the pilots are very considerate of first time “choppers.”

Journey Behind the Falls

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The Journey Behind the Falls activity is on the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls border and is the best way to get a bird’s eye view of the Horseshoe Falls. Buy your tickets at the concession booth at the Table Rock Welcome Center and take the elevator down to the base of the falls. A yellow plastic poncho comes with the ticket – you will need it. The main viewing platforms are awash with spray from the thundering falls.

Niagara Lobby Card

For extra fun, be sure to rent and watch the movie “Niagara” before your trip.

Try to find the spot where Marilyn Monroe had a liaison with her lover in the mist below the Horseshoe Falls. It is visible on the Journey Behind the Falls tour. The movie was filmed on the Canadian side, and you may be surprised to find the lovely park has changed very little since 1953.

Cave of the Winds

The Cave of the Winds tour is another wet encounter with the falls, but this time on the American side. The entrance to this activity is on Goat Island – a beautiful park that is a short shuttle-ride or easy walk from downtown Niagara Falls.

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You have probably seen pictures of yellow plastic clad adventurers as they carefully navigate the slippery wooden walkway that skirts the edge of the raging Bridal Veil Falls. This event is great fun, but be sure to protect your camera under your poncho as you climb the twisted staircase. The relentless sheets of blowing water can quickly soak you and anything you are holding.

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Also, please observe the NO SMOKING sign – is that a joke?

Maid of the Mist

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The Maid of the Mist boat tour is a Falls institution. For this last recommendation, your poncho will be blue instead of yellow. Boat embarkation is available from either the Canadian or US side of the border.

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A ride on the Maid of the Mist is an exciting way to view both the American and Horseshoe Falls, and a fitting way to end your personal experience with the power of Niagara.

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If you would like more information about vacationing in Niagara Falls, check out both the American and Canadian visitors’ bureaus websites Niagara USA, and Tourism Niagara respectively.

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy (syndicated)

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Ahoy matey! Welcome to Mystic Seaport, Connecticut

We love Connecticut. It is a beautiful state that is teeming with interesting tourist attractions. Today, we focus on the historic maritime coast of the Constitution state in “Mystic Country.”

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The seaside towns and villages of Mystic Country run 30-miles along Long Island Sound, starting at the town of Old Lyme and ending at the border of Rhode Island to the east. Our story begins with a visit to famous Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut.

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The Mystic Seaport sign proclaims, “The Museum of America and the Sea.” The catchphrase was well chosen because Mystic Seaport is an exciting playground for maritime historians, boaters of every persuasion, kids of all ages, and folks who just love the sea.

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We arrived early so we had the streets of the historic port village to ourselves.

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Everywhere we looked there were tall ship’s masts and sails in the background of the village’s authentic 19th century homes and shops.

It was a quiet fall day, and a slight whisper of falling leaves in the breeze made the many historical settings that much more alive and imaginative. We were walking back in time, and looked forward to the experience.

The last of the whalers

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Our feet rustled through the leaf covered village green as we made our way to tour the Charles W. Morgan – a sturdy looking wooden whaleship that is now a National Historic Landmark.

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In the 19th century, there were over 2,500 wooden whaling ships in North America and now there is one. The Morgan, launched in 1841, is America’s oldest surviving commercial ship still afloat. She has resided in the Mystic Seaport since 1941.

During her more than 80-years of service, the Morgan made voyages ranging in time from nine months, to five years. It was on just such a ship that the morose Captain Ahab sailed from nearby Nantucket to seek the elusive great white whale named Moby Dick. Arrr!

Signing on to crew a whaling ship in the 19th century was the fast-track to a harsh life involving hard work and long voyages. Thankfully (for the sake of the whales), whaling was greatly curtailed with the invention of kerosene in the 1840s.

The Joseph Conrad

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From the deck of the Morgan you can see the steel-hulled Joseph Conrad. The Conrad was built in 1882 as a training ship for the Danish Merchant Marine Service. For years she sailed with a cadet crew of eighty, and all went well until 1905 when the ship was rammed by a British freighter near Copenhagen and sunk.

Sadly, 20 young cadets went down with the Conrad. However, the vessel was quickly raised, repaired, and continued her mission until 1934 when the ship was sold. The new owner privatized the ship and took her around the world for two years covering 58,000 miles.

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The Mystic Seaport gained possession of the Joseph Conrad in 1948, and it has been in the museum ever since.

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As we walked the decks, we could appreciate the vast amount of maintenance that is necessary to keep such an important maritime relic in ship-shape.

The Authentic Seaport Village

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The faithful Seafaring Village has an active shiplift – that’s the seasonal touring steamboat Sabino being readied for winter in the photo above.

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There’s also a sail and rigging loft – chandlery,

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craftsman workshops such as a shipsmith shop,

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nautical instrument shop, and a cooperage.

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There’s also a bank, drug store, school house, and a tavern.

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Be sure to visit the small catboat exhibit with its many beautiful varnished toys for grown-ups,

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and the Henry B. DuPont Preservation Shipyard to see what wonders marine craftsman can perform in the restoration of a boat or ship.

The kids will love it

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Mystic Seaport is the #1 family vacation destination in Connecticut, and for good reason. This is a place for every mood, and every taste. Kids are treated to fun seafaring experiences they could not find elsewhere. Click *here* to see the many learning opportunities available at this 19-acre maritime park.

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Fancy a sailing lesson around the harbor?

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Get all the additional information you need about Mystic Seaport by checking their website.

If you go

Mystic Seaport is easy to reach and lies betwixt New York City (134 miles) and Boston (102 miles) on I-95 – exit 90. Mystic Seaport is located right on the banks of the Mystic River that flows into nearby Long Island Sound.

Where to stay

We chose two delightful inns for our stay in the Mystic/Stonington area – appropriately, both were on the water.

The Steamboat Inn

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Strategically located in downtown Mystic, and close to the famous Mystic River Bascule Bridge,

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the Steamboat Inn is an uber-comfortable 11-room luxury hotel. Each guestroom has distinctive furnishings that are in harmony with the nautical theme.

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We were in room #2, apply named, “Mystic.” Great views of the river activity taking place just outside our windows.

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The inn projects comfort at every turn, and the delicious full complimentary breakfast served in the common room is a great way to start the day in Mystic Country.

To view all the rooms and learn more about this recommended inn click *here*.

The Inn at Stonington

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Just ten minutes from Mystic lies another village with a seafaring history, the Borough of Stonington. The Inn at Stonington is nestled into quiet Water Street with nearby upscale 18th and 19th century homes. The back of the inn is a stone’s throw from Stonington Harbor.

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It’s just a short walk down Water Street to the Old Lighthouse Museum constructed in 1840 at Dubois Beach.

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The lighthouse is no longer active, but the old stone building provides an excellent museum of the history of the village and surroundings.

The little Dubois beach is relatively secluded and just the sort of out-of-the-way place where busy tourists can enjoy a measure of relaxing solitude.

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You can chose from a range of bedroom types to suit your taste at the Inn at Stonington. Our room overlooked the harbor and Fisher’s Island Sound beyond. Each of the 18 classily decorated rooms reflects the ambiance of the surrounding quaint village.

We arrived at the inn just in time for the evening wine and cheese reception. Nicely selected area wines were accompanied by an ample assortment of artisan cheeses. Yummy.

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This boutique inn also provides a complimentary and substantial continental breakfast in the sitting room that overlooks the harbor.

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Tasty and filling – another good start for a day of intensive touring.

Look at the website for more information about the Inn at Stonington, availability, and pricing.

Where to eat 

This part of coastal Connecticut is noted for seafood restaurants, and you will have no trouble finding palate pleasing fare of any variety in the 80+ local restaurants.

There are four family dining facilities located right at Mystic Seaport. We were told by nearby residents that the dining facilities are all quite good, but we did not eat during our tour of the park, so cannot personally comment.

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Another place we didn’t eat, but should mention, is the famous Mystic Pizza restaurant – the inspiration for the 1988 coming-of-age movie starring Julia Roberts. It is right on busy West Main Street in downtown Mystic.

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We did enjoy some excellent, mega-portion New England fried seafood at the Seahorse Restaurant in nearby Noank. This place we do recommend. The Seahorse serves tasty full-bellied fried clams that are favored by the regulars. These clams taste a little like fried oysters, but not as pungent. Delicious!

There was also a seafood restaurant at the dock across the parking lot from the Inn at Stonington called Swooner.

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We had lunch there, and mercifully, it closed soon after our visit. Our helpful tourism contact has informed us that another restaurant named the Breakwater will open at this superb waterfront location in May 2015.

The new proprietor has a reputation for operating successful restaurants. The Breakwater will feature classic American seafood in a casual contemporary atmosphere – not fancy. Can’t wait to try it the next time we are in Connecticut.

Also for next-time, how about a day on the Ice Cream Trail meticulously organized by www.Mystic.org – a good reference website to remember.  48 sweet places to relish America’s favorite dessert. 48!

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We highly recommend Mystic Country for a quality family vacation. In addition to what you see reported here, the area is also home to the Mystic Aquarium, the Goodspeed Opera House, Gillette’s Castle, two casinos, and a submarine museum.

The reader may also be interested in the following Connecticut stories and reviews by Wayne and Judy.

Fall Colors in New England at Brainerd House

Visit to Extraordinary Gillette’s Castle

Best of Connecticut Resorts and Spas

A Storybook Christmas in Connecticut at the Tidewater Inn

A True New England Holiday Experience

A Historic Inn along the Shore of Fashionable Westport

An Intimate Bed and Breakfast on the Backroads of Connecticut

The Elegant Delamar Greenwich Harbor Hotel

The American Revolution and Curtis House Inn

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 Vacation Retreat for Global Leaders – and the Rest of Us: The Chalet of Canandaigua

When TV newscasters show two or three global leaders meeting in seclusion to talk peace, we are often impressed with the beautiful woodland surroundings the planners choose for such discussions. Well, we found a retreat these meeting handlers have missed, and the world leaders will be disappointed – however, you needn’t be.

It’s in the Finger Lakes Region of New York

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Eleven thousand years ago, glacial activity formed five lakes in the shape of outstretched fingers. American Indians believe the lakes came to be when the hand of the Great Spirit touched this beautiful land. Regardless of how they came to be, these lakes are a bountiful four-season delight for locals and visitors alike.

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Our destination in the Finger Lakes was the Chalet of Canandaigua. We found it neatly tucked away along the west side of 16-mile long Canandaigua Lake.

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The elegant rustic log cabin sits back from the road on 30 acres of pristine forest fronted by an expansive lawn, winding private road, and a tranquil pond.

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This little gem was recommended by a reader, who turns out to have a keen eye for pastoral luxury.

We arrived for our visit in late fall. It was a chilly and rainy afternoon, and amiable Innkeepers Margaret and Pattie had a welcoming fire rumbling in the hearth. We immediately sensed this was a place we would be happy to write about.

About the chalet

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The inside of the chalet is spacious, but exudes an air of intimacy. There are only three guestrooms, so it is possible to occupy the entire building for a family gathering. However, the chalet is popular, so it is necessary to plan ahead to avoid disappointment.

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Ours was the Lee Suite, but we would have been equally satisfied with either of the other two. The guestrooms are all spotlessly clean, and the king-sized beds and linens are first rate. Wireless internet access is available free of charge, as are little snacky-goodies.

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Guests are free to roam the huge kitchen and enjoy a nosh at the table or counter. The kitchen is also a great meeting place…

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…and the grand living room is ideal for games, chats or just relaxing in front of the fire.

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The welcome room, where entering guests register, is the site of the DVD and print library, and a great place to find one’s personal serenity space.

The secret service

Many of the high-end bed and breakfast inns we review have superb bones and fine furnishings. The thing that separates the real thoroughbreds from the also-rans in this exclusive luxury B&B club is – the breakfast.

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Breakfast at the Chalet of Canandaigua is where the world leaders are really missing out. The day-opening meal at the Chalet is beyond exceptional and exceeds extraordinary.

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Take for example the Fall Bruschetta which consists of multi-grain cinnamon crostini with pear, fig, date, raspberry and caramelized walnut with pumpkin mousse. Oh yeah.

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Or how about Poached Bosc Pear in cranberry juice topped with cranberry crème fraiche, grapes, raspberry and toasted almonds – drizzled with pear sauce. Oh boy.

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We also enjoyed a Peach Prosciutto Croissant with an egg over-easy and gruyere cheese topped with a whole grain mustard-balsamic sauce, and a side of butternut squash triangles and blackberries. Off the planet!

The highly creative innkeepers pride themselves on never repeating a breakfast recipe for any guest.

The Finger Lakes Region is a four season destination

The Finger Lake business people plan early for active spring and summer seasons when vacationers enjoy excellent fishing, boating, golf, hiking, biking, water skiing, etc.

Judy Hartness Ballooning

It is even possible to go hot air ballooning from the front lawn of the Chalet.

After a hectic summer, autumn is exceptionally beautiful as the lakes reflect the surrounding orchards and hills laden with fruit and forest trees anxious to show visitors their seasonal colors before they settle in for the winter.

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Winters are cold, and the hills are alive with opportunities for cross country skiing, snow shoeing, snowboarding and downhill skiing at Bristol Mountain.

There’s always something great to do in the out-of-doors of north-western New York State.

The region is also home to a burgeoning wine industry with guided and self-guided tours of the vineyards and wineries. Click on Canandaigua Wine Trail for a map and details.

If you are keen on horses, you can experience the thrill of 160-days of live thoroughbred racing at Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack.

For more information about the Finger Lakes click *here*

The town of Canandaigua

What we noticed immediately upon entering the town of Canandaigua put a smile on our faces. The town was thriving! All too often as we drive through small-town America, that is no longer the case. We were glad to see over 100 shops, galleries and restaurants with clean windows and streets, all open and welcoming shoppers. Here’s a list of Downtown Canandaigua businesses.

Lake Canandaigua is an easy 45-minute drive from airports in Syracuse and Rochester. It is a 1.5 hour drive from Buffalo’s International Airport, and 2-hours from Niagara Falls. Take Exit 44 off the NY State Thruway (I-90). For an even more scenic drive take Routes 5 and 20, which run parallel to I-90.

Finding the Chalet of Canandaigua

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The Chalet is located just minutes from town at 3770 State Route 21. For more information click on Chalet of Canandaigua.

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Great news. The Innkeepers at the Chalet have been collecting TripAdvisor awards for some time. #1 B&B in Canandaigua, #1 B&B in the Finger Lakes Region. They recently emailed us with the exciting news that they have been notified of being awarded TripAdvisor’s 2015 Traveler’s Choice Award – #4 Best Inn in the United States! Way to go Pattie and Margaret! Well earned. Well deserved.

Happy travels.

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Wherever 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

Playing with the Whales in Baja, Mexico

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The next time you get tired of winter, book a flight to La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico. During the months of January through April, the weather in La Paz is absolutely perfect, and it is a wonderful time to take the opportunity to get up close and personal with gray whales and their calves.

Getting there

La Paz has its own airport, but the bigger Cabo San Lucas airport to the south has more flights and services.

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When we arrived in Cabo, we took a taxi for the almost three-hour scenic ride on Mexico Route 19 from Cabo to La Paz – the road was good and we zipped right along.

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It does not take long to confirm that Baja California is indeed a desert, and we found ourselves imagining that the thousands of cacti along the highway were humorous stick “characters.”

Route 19 runs parallel to the pristine sandy beaches of the Pacific for about 50 miles north of Cabo and before cutting east across the peninsula to La Paz.

We stopped only once for a bite to eat in the small town of Todos Santos on the Pacific side of the peninsula. We ate at La Coronela restaurant in the Hotel California. We dined in the hotel’s comfortable courtyard, the food was excellent – and the beer was ice cold.

 The city of La Paz

La Paz is a city on the Sea of Cortez with some 200,000 residents, but much of the tourist activity is near the water where La Paz’s flavor takes on the vibe of a prosperous seaside village.

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Traffic wasn’t bad coming into town along the shore and picturesque La Paz Malecón, so we reached our hotel in short order.

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The Hyatt Place is a new hotel in the exclusive Costa Baja area of La Paz.  It’s right in front of a marina that is home to magnificent yachts from around the world. The hotel rooms are spacious and modern, and each booking comes with a tasty hot breakfast with eggs your way, pancakes, fruit, juice, coffee, etc.

Our videographer friend Richard Williams was on the trip, and put together a creative film clip about the Hyatt. See it *here*

Up in the morning

It was breakfast at sunrise and into a van for the 170-mile drive across the Peninsula, to the Pacific side and Puerto Lopez Mateo.

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The journey took about 3.5 hours, with a brief stop for a delicious lunch (we had fresh fish) in the small town of Constitucion.

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When we arrived at the whale watching dock in Puerto Lopez Mateo, we were anxious to don our life vests, board our boat, and be introduced to the mighty gray whales that were waiting for us in the inlet.

About the whales

Every year, traveling at speeds of about 5 miles per hour, 10 to 15 thousand gray whales make their way from the freezing waters of Alaska’s Bering Sea along the Pacific Coast of America to the warm waters of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. It is here that the female grays bear their calves.

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There are only three places in the world where gray whales give birth, and all of them are in Baja, Mexico. After birthing, the mothers and their offspring stay in the safety of the lagoons for several weeks in order for the mothers to teach their newborns to feed, swim, and socialize with other whales.

The male grays leave Baja first, and by April the majority of the whales are on their 5,000+ mile trek back to Alaska.

An organized adventure

State and federal licenses are necessary to go whale watching in Baja. Your tour company will instruct you on how to obtain them.

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Only guides who have been tested and certified in the nuances of protecting the whales can lead a tour that intends to get close enough to touch the gentle giants.

Our tour boat, like all the others in the fleet, had to pass a passenger safety inspection.

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There is a limit to the number of boats that can congregate in a given area, which assures that the whales are not threatened, and have ample room to maneuver.

About our tour boat

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The whale encounter boats are called “pangas,” and are 22-feet long. They are specifically designed for the purpose of whale watching.

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Jose, from the Cortez Club, led our tour and helped us into an uber-clean panga that easily and comfortably seated the eight people in our group. The quiet outboard motor moved us briskly along the placid water of the lagoon as we searched for whales.

The weather was a pleasant and dry 78 degrees, and when we stopped to visit with some grays, there was just a slight chop on the water.

Calling the whales

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Jose advised that by slapping the water on the side of the boat we would attract whales, and sure enough it took just minutes of splashing before a 50 foot long, 70,000 pound gray whale, accompanied by her calf, decided to play.

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The photo above shows a baby whale approaching a neighboring panga.

At first, it was a bit disconcerting to watch this shallowly submerged creature, the size of a school bus, bearing down on the center of what felt like our quickly shrinking panga.

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However, in every case, the breathing bus slowed to a glide as it neared the boat. At that point, the whales cruised closely along-side, and we quickly comprehended they were encouraging a friendly pat on the head.

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As they approach, the whales might do a shallow dive under the boat only to appear on the other side spouting plumes of water high into the air – what fun for them!

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Be sure to keep your camera lens protected for the duration of these momentary monsoons.

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Sometimes, mom will hang back and watch her calf interact with the excited guests, but most of the time she is right there in the thick of the action – getting her own strokes.

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During these encounters, there is no doubt in any passengers mind that these are highly intelligent mammals that fully comprehend their enormous power and prowess.

What a thrill

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It is all very exhilarating, and any concerns of personal safety are quickly dispelled as everyone lunges to get in a back slap, head pat, or a chin tickle on the gigantic mama whale or her frolicking 20-foot calf.

This is fun of the first order, time passes quickly, and it never gets boring. Some people laugh, some scream like they are on a roller coaster, and some cry with joy over the spiritual connection they feel with these magnificent animals.

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Eventually, and probably when mom thinks that junior has had enough attention, she heads off towards open water.

Several whales gave us fluke or tail waves as they departed – maybe it was coincidental, but we choose not to think so.

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It is safe to predict, that all the thousands of people that experience this annual celebration of life and nature become life-long advocates for the complete banning of whale hunting.

These gentle denizens of the deep, who are so much more powerful than we mere mortals, deserve our ultimate respect and protection.

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We heartily recommend this adventure for anyone yearning to fully experience the beauty and grandeur of nature – on a very large scale.

For more information about whale encounters and the other wonders of La Paz, check out this website: www.en.golapaz.com/

Be sure to view our friend Richard’s film clip about our whale encounters. Click *here*.

For other exciting sea adventures, see our stories about:

Shark diving in the Bahamas

A night encounter with giant Manta Rays in Hawaii

Diving in a submarine in the Cayman Islands

Sailing the coast of Maine on a magnificent schooner

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/

Nevada is Home to the Famous Thomas Flyer: Winner of the Only Around the World Auto Race

We found an American treasure in the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. 

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Hidden in plain view among hundreds of classic cars is the 1907 Thomas Flyer, the winner of the first and only Around the World Auto Race.

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After decades of neglect, in 1964 the dilapidated Thomas Flyer was painstakingly restored to her original condition by forty car craftsmen in the Harrah’s Classic Car Museum workshop.

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The project took six weeks and the end result was the Flyer, exactly as she looked, when she crossed the finish line in Paris on a hot summer day in July, 1908.

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Today, this matriarch of motor cars sits silently in the National Automobile Museum. However, if you stand before her and close your eyes – you can imagine the roar of the 350,000 people cheering her as she crossed the finish line in Paris.

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Listen quietly for the exhilaration of the crowd at the huge Manhattan ticker-tape parade held for her and her drivers on their victorious return to New York City.

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Feel the vibe of a quieter time in the company of President Teddy Roosevelt at his summer White House in Sagamore Hill, Long Island – she was there for all of them – over a century ago.

The amazing story

Interested in boosting circulation in the early part of the 20th century, the New York Times and the French Le Matin newspapers conceived and sponsored an arduous automobile race that would start in Times Square in New York City, and end in the City of Light, Paris, France – a total distance of 22,000 miles across three continents.

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Four countries rose to the challenge, and on February 12, 1908, six automobiles representing France (3), Italy (1), Germany (1) and the United States (1) headed west on a route to Chicago, San Francisco, Valdez, Seattle, Yokohama, Kobe, Vladivostok, Omsk, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin, and on to Paris.

The torturous race was won in five-months and 19 days on July 30, 1908 by the United States entry.

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The race was started in winter so the competitors could drive across the frozen Bering Straits, but the weather was so bad in Alaska that the course was re-routed back to Seattle, where the cars were shipped across the Pacific to Japan and on to the continent of Asia.

The Great Race of 1908 was the first time an automobile had crossed the United States in winter, and is the only global race of its kind on record. The feat has never been equaled, and it was undertaken at a time when there were few paved roads and no roads at all in many parts of the world.

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The winning driver of the Thomas Flyer was George Schuster, a mechanic with the E.R. Thomas Motor Company, of Buffalo, New York. George died in 1972, but not before seeing his beloved and restored Flyer placed in the Reno museum.

Legacy

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The publicity from the punishing 1908 race is given credit for the advancement of the motor car as a dependable means of transportation, and for instigating plans to pave roads and provide automobile road services in many parts of the world.

The Flyers present home

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The National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada is home to the Thomas Flyer and more than 200 other beautifully crafted and renowned motor cars that make up the history of the automobile.

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Among other famous cars to grace the museum are James Dean’s 1949 Mercury from “Rebel without a Cause”, Elvis Presley’s Cadillac Eldorado, James Garner’s Oldsmobile 442 from the Rockford Files. Frank Sinatra’s 1961 Ghia L6.4, John Wayne’s 1953 Corvette (too small for Big John), and John F Kennedy’s 1962 Lincoln Continental.

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The museum also houses the trophy won by the Thomas Flyer Team in 1908. It is the world’s heaviest sports trophy and weighs over 1,600 pounds.

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The museum is located at the corner of Lake and Mill Streets in downtown Reno. Don’t miss it.

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Get more information from www.automuseum.org

Happy travels!

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While in Reno, we stayed at the GSR, Grand Sierra Resort and Casino. Great gaming, entertainment, and restaurants that we will present in upcoming articles.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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

A Kennebunkport Classic: The Captain Jefferds Inn

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This was our first visit to the Captain Jefferds Inn and the famous coastal community that is home to the Bush family retreat on Walker Point.

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Long before news of presidential visits put quaint little Kennebunkport on the global tourist map, it was a favorite vacation spot for local New Englanders.

Pounding ocean waves, with seagulls gliding over sand and rocky shores all entreat the visitor to savor the sights and sounds of Kennebunkport, and we were glad to be there.

It was raining

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We ran from our rental car to the safety of the dry front porch of the Captain Jefferds Inn. It was a torrential downpour, but the warm welcome from Innkeepers Sarah and Erik Lindblom immediately brightened the otherwise gloomy day.

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They have enthusiastically greeted guests to the inn for more than a decade and obviously enjoy the activity.

Recommended by a friend, we found the inn to be the perfect elixir for a tiring and wet 2-hour drive from Boston.

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Our one-night stay at the Captain Jefferds Inn provided all the comforts one would expect from such a highly rated B&B in an area of many exceptional B&Bs and hotels. Perhaps it’s the friendly competition that keeps the area’s inns so special and inviting. Whatever the reason, we found this inn exceeded all our expectations for comfort and hospitality.

A step back to an elegant time

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The Lindbloms have scrupulously maintained the aura of a home once the domain of a sea captain and his family. Captain Jefferds built his home with the smartness and efficiency of a sturdy New England sailing ship. There’s even a removable railing on the stairs to assist in the repositioning of furniture between the multiple floors.

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Our room was well appointed with cozy furnishings and a warming fireplace – just what we needed to beat a late October chill. The bed was the perfect balance between support and indulgence, with linens that embellished the vibe.

Pet friendly

Captain Jefferds has considerately reserved five rooms for those who wish to travel with their pets. Located aside the main house, there is a smaller building, which was once a carriage house.

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The just-right furnishings add to the charm of these spotlessly clean and elegantly relaxed guestrooms.

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A screened porch, reminiscent of a lake house, overlooks a park like setting and completes the charm of the surroundings. It just doesn’t get any better than this for our furry best friends.

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Meet Kathleen — she is the summer/fall Assistant Manager, who gave us a splendid tour of the inn. A practicing nurse, she lives and works in Florida during the winter. Like the other staff at Captain Jefferds, Kathleen is full of energy and interesting insights about the Kennebunks.

Where we ate

Our innkeepers recommended David’s Kpt Restaurant for our evening dining. We gathered up an umbrella and walked the few blocks from the inn to the center of the little village of Kennebunkport.

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We had filled up on the delicious never ending fresh baked cookies and other goodies laid out at the Captain Jefferds’ sun room, so were not interested in a large dinner. We skipped what looked to be an excellent selection of soups, salads, and appetizers at David’s, and went directly to the main plates.

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The skewers of shrimp and scallops were delicious, and an unusual pairing of pork tenderloin, bacon, and balsamic apples, accompanied by maple mashed sweet potatoes and spinach was a savory treat. We were so content after our entrees that we passed on dessert, but did enjoy a warming espresso before heading back to the inn.

A breakfast to remember

We write about the best B&Bs, so we often experience sensational breakfasts. Notwithstanding previous enjoyments, the Captain Jefferds Inn served one of the finest gourmet day-starting meals in our recollection.

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The table was a picture of country food-service sophistication, and the seated breakfast guests anxiously awaited the arrival of whatever produced the tantalizing aromas wafting from the nearby kitchen.

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Once the serving commenced, the table discussion quickly turned to praises for each of the three-courses served to the delighted patrons.

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Dan, the inn’s convivial chef, made an appearance to check on the acceptability of the food. We think he knew the answer – and seemed to relish the well-deserved applause.

After breakfast, it was time for us to press on to our next lodging in Maine, but before we left we wanted Sarah and Eric to know that we would be describing our experience with tributes.

If you go

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The 16-room Captain Jefferds Inn is on the corner of Pearl and Pleasant streets just a little south-east of Kennebunkport’s town center. Check out their website at www.captainjefferdsinn.com

Unfortunately, the heavy rain precluded our visiting and photographing the many sights that bring the tourists to Kennebunkport, but we plan to remedy that happenstance on our next visit to New England. In the meantime, here’s a website of local images by Robert A. Dennis.

To learn more about Kennebunkport, look at http://www.kennebunkport.org

More Maine

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If you think you might like to sail the coast of Maine on a grand tall schooner, read about our adventure here.

Happy travels.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

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

A Timeless Holiday at the Adare Manor Castle and Golf Resort in Ireland

There are places in the world, where “extraordinary” is a totally inadequate description. Adare Manor Castle and Golf Resort is just such a place.

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Our Aer Lingus flight arrived right on time in Dublin at 5:45 a.m. We picked up our rental car and immediately headed west to County Limerick. Adare Manor was the first of four five-star luxury hotels we planned to review in Ireland in five short days. What a place to begin work!

Leaving the N21 highway, we passed through the ornate stone and iron entry to the Manor and proceeded along the perfectly maintained blacktop leading to the mansion.

It took several  minutes of pleasant driving through manicured grounds to arrive at the castle. 

The layout of Adare Manor Resort

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The Manor House is impressive by any standard. Originally designed as a residence for the second Earl of Dunraven, the current neo-Gothic structure was completed in 1850 on a lush 840-acre parcel of land. The beautiful terraced garden precedes the house as you approach from the west.

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Designed in perfect axial symmetry in formal French style, the garden has paths that were laid wide to accommodate the capacious dresses of the period – and the terraced steps were made aptly low to suit a lady’s stride.

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The dreamy Maigue River, complete with white swans and rising trout, passes to one side of the Manor. The Manor’s inspired, 230-acre Robert Trent Jones Sr., golf course lies just east of the house.

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There is a densely branched Cedar of Lebanon tree – planted circa 1645 – sheltering a small bridge that crosses the tranquil river and connects the main house to the golf course.

Entering the Manor House

The front door of Adare Manor resembles that of a castle as much as a manor house. To enter is to take a step across the threshold of time to an age when personal luxury was a given, and attention to detail was the maxim.

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“Registration” is a single antique desk located near a massive ornate fireplace. The Concierge desk sits on the opposite side of the glowing hearth. The receptionist was welcoming, impeccably attired, and well schooled in the art of hospitality. 

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The Great Hall yields a calming sense of space with generous proportions open to a high ceiling. Streaming natural light emanates from towering windows.

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Note the crouched gargoyle (above) holding up the mezzanine on the north wall.

He has been watching all that takes place in the room for over a century and a half.

Is that an “Oh, my gosh, this is amazing,” expression?

 

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In addition to the grand welcoming room, the Manor has a spacious sitting room, cozy library, several unique and excellent dining rooms…

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and a chummy little lounge that remains open to the wee hours.

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One of the dining/meeting rooms, the Minstrels’ Gallery, is a splendid hall of epic proportions that can seat up to 200 guests.

There are 62 guestrooms and suites in the main house.

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Our suite’s huge sleeping room, once occupied by Bill and Hillary Clinton, overlooked the Maigue, which is one of Ireland’s most famous fly fishing rivers.

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The bathroom in a nearby guestroom was almost as large as the sleeping room. It had tall windows that provided a panorama of the garden below from a vantage point of an old-style claw-footed bathtub.

It was hard to pull ourselves out of our personal sanctuary and its wonderfully inviting bed, but we wanted to visit the charming little medieval town of Adare.  

Quintessential Adare

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 Just outside the gates of the Manor, the picturesque village of Adare provides the sight seeker with authentic thatched roof cottages.

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Some are residences, and others house tiny boutique shops and sundry commercial enterprises.

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There are less than a dozen or so restaurants and pubs in Adare, but those that are there provide tasty victuals in true Irish fashion.

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We sampled an authentic Irish lunch of Fish, Chips, and Mushy Peas at Pat Collins’ Bar and Restaurant on Main Street. Simply delicious.

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Adare is also home to the only Trinitarian monastery in Ireland, and the priory dates back to the early 13th century. An interesting footnote: The monastery monks were charged with raising ransom money to rescue Christians captured by the Moors during the Crusades.

Today the old priory is called the “Holy Trinity Abbey” and is the village’s Roman Catholic Church.

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We returned to the Manor in late afternoon, just in time to enjoy a cup of tea in the library. It would be difficult not to be captivated by the room and its excellent collection of old books. We eventually spent time paging through a leather bound journal dated 1736 – an interesting read.

The Spa

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Last, but certainly not least, the Manor offers the full spectrum of body treatments, wraps, and massages by highly-trained therapists at the Treatment Rooms located a short walk from the Manor and in the old Coachman’s Cottage adjacent to the Golf Clubhouse.

In addition to the Spa, a fitness room, steam room, and heated swimming pool are all available for guest use in the main house. 

Words to remember

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There are dozens of slogans inscribed in wood and stone throughout the castle ( as in the parapet above) in both Latin and French. One Latin motto appears often. “Quae sursum volo videre”– “I wish to see what is heavenly” – very apropos for this most enchanting of Irish lodgings.

Time spent at Adare Manor Castle is noble living – the likes pleasured by kings and queens – and now available to discriminating travelers.

The celebrities and important dignitaries that have visited the manor over the generations are many. In recent times, some well-known entertainers included Samuel L Jackson, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones, Hugh Grant, Aidan Quinn, and Michael Flatley. 

Indulge yourself

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Adare Manor is one of the best historic luxury-lodgings that we have had the privilege to present to our readers.

If you go 

Adare Manor and County Limerick are in the southwestern part of Ireland bordering the counties of Kerry, Cork, Clare and Tipperary, and just 15 minutes south of Limerick City on the N21, and 30 minutes from Shannon airport.

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For more information about the Adare Manor Castle and Golf Resort, look at their website at www.adaremanor.com. Golf enthusiasts should also check out www.adaregolfclub.com. The property also has a convenient American toll-free office number in Florida at 800-462-3273 

Happy travels! 

© Travels with Wayne and Judy

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

You can see the world with Google Maps. www.maps.google.com

Charting a Course in the Florida Keys on the Legendary African Queen

As we travel, we check off places that are on our Bucket List. Being film buffs, many of the things on our list are related to movies we have seen over the years.

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We recently checked off another “to do” from our list by skippering the authentic “African Queen,” the boat made famous by Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in the 1951 Academy Award Winning film of the same name.

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The “Queen” is presently docked at a destination also made famous by Bogart in the Florida Keys, Key Largo

Finding the Queen

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We happened upon the African Queen quite by accident. We were in the Keys doing research for articles about luxury resorts and “old Florida” accommodations. A list of those articles follows this story.

The Florida Keys are fun strips of coral sand islands connected by 42 bridges and the Overseas Highway, US 1. They stretch for about 120 miles south into the Atlantic Ocean below Miami, Florida.

The Keys are ripe with salty myths and legends, and stories of true adventures like the finding of millions of dollars in sunken treasure on the Atocha. There are also unusual stories like those about Ernest Hemingway’s house of many cats in Key West.

All the excitement in the Keys make them an apropos home for the iconic African Queen.

The Queen’s history

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The Queen had an interesting past long before she came to the attention of John Houston who immediately wanted her for the movie he was directing in the Belgium Congo. She was perfect for the role of the African Queen – just beat up enough to look the part, and just seaworthy enough – to run long enough – to finish the movie.

The vessel was built in 1912 in Lytham, England, where she was named the Livingstone. Her first job was to carry cargo, hunters, and missionaries on Lake Albert and the Victoria Nile in east Africa.

Houston found her in 1951. She was sufficiently worn by then, and perfect for the material role of the African Queen in his epic adventure.

In 1968 the boat was moved from Africa to the United States by a San Francisco restaurateur. He planned to charter the famous boat to tourists.

The Queen changed hands again in 1970 when she was purchased for the price of her boatyard bill, and moved to Oregon where she was successfully chartered a few months out of the year. Finally, on to Florida for an attempt at year-round chartering – that failed.

In 1982 she was born again as a tourist attraction at the Holiday Inn in Key Largo. About that time, she also made her re-entry onto the global stage and toured around the world in ports such as Sydney, New York, and London.

The news of her re-emerging travel and popularity caught the eye of Kate Hepburn who was said to be “delighted” that the old Queen had been saved, yet again.

A new life

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Finally, in 2012, on her centennial, the most recent revival of the African Queen was completed by a new operator Lance Holmquist. She needed a new boiler, her steel hull required fortification, and her engine needed rebuilding. The work was a labor of love for Lance, and the Queen now delights vintage boat and film buffs once again.

Our wish came true

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We took the helm like Bogart and Hepburn and chugged the little 30-foot boat through the canals of Key Largo and out into the open ocean. This was high-exhilaration for two old movie buffs.

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As we approached the Queen’s home-dock at the Marina Del Mar, adjacent the Holiday Inn, Lance gave us the final thrill when he let loose the Queen’s shrill steam whistle. There is no mistaking that sound heard so many times in many places over the last century.

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Check off one more from the Bucket List!

If you go

For more information about tickets for the daily cruises on the African Queen located at Mile Marker 100 in Key Largo, look at the website here. www.africanqueenflkeys.com

Note: The African Queen is a true relic, and she wouldn’t be “authentic” if she was spit-polished. So, don’t wear your Sunday best if you plan to board her.

You will also benefit by checking out the general visitor information about visiting the Florida Keys at www.fla-keys.com

The Keys are full of luxurious and unique places to stay. Here are three stories to read about some we have visited.

Kona Kai Resort

Little Palm Island Resort

Cheeca Lodge and Spa

Happy travels!

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Vintage black and white photo courtesy of United Artists

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

A Somewhere in Time Journey to the Elegant Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

The romantic movie Somewhere in Time was filmed on location, and premiered at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan in January, 1980. Since that time there has been an annual Somewhere in Time celebration weekend at the hotel. We were invited to attend the event, and are so glad we did.

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We asked the event managers why Somewhere in Time continues to grow in popularity when dozens of other romantic movies have been long forgotten. “It’s because the story appeals to men and women alike. The idea of searching for your one true love, and once found, holding on to it at all cost, is understood by all genuine romantics.” “The tale of a love so strong that it overcame the obstacle of time itself is truly compelling, especially when the story is set in the Victorian era, and in a place like the Grand Hotel.”

The history of the movie

Somewhere in Time was overlooked by the critics when it was released by Universal Studios in 1980. Nevertheless, the touching story of one individual’s search for true love across the spectrum of time eventually caught the fancy of moviegoers around the world. It is now a cult classic.

Film location

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Mackinac Island (pronounced Mack-in-awe) is situated between Upper and Lower Michigan and is the perfect location to reenact bygone Victorian times. There are no public cars or trucks allowed on the island.

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The main modes of transportation are horses and bicycles. The image above shows guests arriving at the hotel from the ferry.

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The island is also home to many classic Victorian buildings. The period architecture is so significant that the United States government has declared the entire island a National Historic Landmark.

Arriving at the Grand Hotel

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Men and women from all walks of life, and from all over the world, gather to celebrate what they believe to be a remarkable cinematic treasure, and to share a common interest in romance and Edwardian apparel.

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They come to recreate – if only for a short time – the idyllic life of the gentry at the turn of the 20th century.

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Why this hotel?

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The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island was a brilliant choice for the setting of the film.

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The hotel opened in 1887, is a truly magnificent structure, and the undisputed grand dame of summer resort hotels.

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Our suite, like many other guestrooms, was furnished with elegant antiques — making the Grand the epitome of Victorian charm.

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Once seen, you will not forget her spectacular 650-foot veranda – lined with spotless white wicker rockers, and a porch full of flowerboxes laden with hundreds of brilliant red geraniums.

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The Grand is an immense hotel that sits like a sparkling brooch on a forest green dress. Her shining white exterior can be seen for miles across the Mackinac Straits.

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She also overlooks the picturesque Round Island Lighthouse, a prominent fixture in the movie.

Dining at the Grand

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During the event, the Grand’s large dining room is the site of a constant parade of Edwardian fashion.

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Ladies in fine embroidered gowns adorned with lace and finished with elaborate plumed bonnets – some of enormous size – are accompanied by men in top hats, tails, and spats.

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Add dozens of bustling tuxedoed waiters, gliding from table to table, and you have the perfect reenactment of a Victorian gala.

Saturday night Costume Promenade

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IMG_5293On the final night of the weekend, there is an elegant parade where all guests are invited to strut their stuff in their finest vintage garments through an admiring gauntlet of hundreds of fans.

It’s all about the movie

Once each year, the moving story of Richard Collier (Christopher Reeves) and Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour) brings to life the romantic spirits of hundreds of ordinary people. They gather to have fun, enjoy watching their favorite movie, and mingle with fellow enthusiasts.

If you have not seen the Somewhere in Time film, we suggest you rent it. The story and inspirational music may stir your emotions. If they do, maybe we will see you next October at the annual Somewhere in Time weekend.

Happy travels!

For more facts about the Somewhere in Time weekend click here. For information about the spectacular AAA Four-Diamond Grand Hotel, click here. For quality ferry service to Mackinac Island, click here.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Ms. Seymour’s photo courtesy of Universal Studios

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