The Past and Future of Airline Travel

We read an interesting front page article in the May 19th Wall Street Journal on the subject of the challenges facing the airline industry and likely new rules as airlines ramp up to serve the flying public during the caronavirus.

We should disclose that airlines are our least favorite travel partners. As frequent fliers we have sadly watched the airlines take away even the smallest of creature comforts from economy coach passengers.  Consequently, we have little sympathy for the financial plight of airline executives during these trying days of Covid-19.

An industry of greed

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when airlines competed for business by offering value-added “perks” such as extra legroom and non-stop service.

Nevertheless, throughout our travel writing careers, the airlines have made it increasingly more difficult for economy passengers to enjoy flying.

The airlines have reaped tremendous profits from an unhappy public forced to endure “take-aways” and comply with evermore-burdening airline rules and policies. These practices are designed to enhance revenue and reduce airline costs – with nary a thought to adding value and improving the customer’s experience.

Fun of flying

Many of our older readers will remember when flying was actually part of the enjoyment of taking a holiday. 9/11 greatly contributed to the decline in air travel fun, and through that experience, the airlines quickly discovered that the public will fly no matter the level of inconvenience in the terminal – or on the aircraft.

Airlines executives analyzed the needs and wants of the flying public. They encouraged the elite business traveler to spend more of their company’s money in exchange for “free miles” for family vacations. Yet, even those programs have been diminished over time and are no longer easy to use.

At the same time the airlines found they needed no enticements to attract the average family wanting to holiday in destinations too far to drive to for a short vacation. The leisure travel economy passenger proved they would endure almost any discomfort, and the airlines piled them on.

RIP

Free ticket exchange, bereavement fares, free checked baggage, chicken, beef, or lasagna, blankets, pillows, magazines and newspapers, and the biggest take-away of all, space for your body. Body space has been systematically reduced to the bare limits of human endurance of discomfort.

More recently, it was discovered that even more can be squeezed from those least able to pay for the new “amenities” of air travel. To obtain the lowest possible economy fare – no overhead baggage, no seat selection, and a particularly cruel twist, separated family seating. Is there anything more that a customer can endure? Keep reading.

Government bailout

Is it any wonder that so many question any taxpayer bailout beyond the absolute minimum to keep this industry alive. If it were not for the fact that airlines are public companies whose stock is held in many retirement portfolios and 401K programs; the airlines should be left to reap what they have sown in negative public opinion.

All may change and add insult to injury

  • For example, temperature checks before boarding have been discussed, but what about obviously ill passengers that do not have a temperature?
  • Will priority boarding for elite passengers remain? Probably not. First class aisle passengers won’t like brushing shoulder to thigh with coach passengers heading for the back of the plane. It’s much safer to board from the back of the plane forward in small groups. Probably a good idea to bring sanitary wipes for the back of your headrest if you are in an aisle seat since many passengers touch the seat tops as they navigate down the aisle.
  • In the future, deplaning may be from front to back in small groups to avoid jamming the aisles. First class passengers will benefit here. It may take up to twice as long to exit an aircraft.
  • Expect fewer direct flights as the airlines attempt to build traffic and fill seats. On the point of filling seats, the airlines realize the public will have a new fear of traveling in the confined space of an aircraft. It is expected they will keep center seats empty for a time. We fully expect the airlines will find a way to capitalize on selling premium seats next to an empty center seat in the near future.
  • Bathrooms aboard aircraft will be another problem. The airlines will need to find a way to keep what we once heard described as “dirty tiny stalls,” more sanitary than in the past. It may not be unreasonable to post a flight attendant on duty to sanitize a lavatory after each passenger use. By the way, lining up in the aisles to wait for a biffy is surely to be verboten.

Our recommendations

Follow safe practices, but if you believe life is a risk worth taking, get out and enjoy the summer. However, stay home if you are totally risk intolerant.

Consider a drive-to vacation instead of flying where you cannot easily practice social distancing.

Consider taking your vacation later in the year and after the summer crowd has subsided.

We bet there are relatively safe and close outdoor locations and interesting attractions you haven’t seen in years, if ever.

Now’s the time to live and enjoy your freedom.

Happy and safe travels.

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel 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 © 2020 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2020 Judy Bayliff

The Queen Mary Hotel is Open for Business

The Queen Mary has faced many challenges since her keel was laid in 1930. Now she is part of a new effort to beat an unprecedented enemy as she helps the world get back to business. Here’s a little more of her inspiring story:

The great ship Queen Mary has been part of Southern California’s treasures since the City of Long Beach acquired her in 1967. Long Beach then spent several million dollars to prepare her for the waiting public. Her grand California debut was on May 8, 1971.

IMG_3609

The Queen Mary is a remarkable floating hotel, complete with 314 comfortable guestrooms and suites – all of which were first class cabins when the mighty Queen sailed the seven seas.

IMG_3616

There are also fine restaurants on board, and a splendid gallery of shops and boutiques. Check with the hotel (1-562-435-3510) to determine if and when shops and services will be open during the Corona virus pandemic.

IMG_3742

During her days on the North Atlantic, passengers enjoyed an indoor swimming pool.

IMG_3778

Many post-WWII brides came to the US in cabins like these

Shipboard activities include several interesting tours and top-notch museum attractions. Unfortunately, all are temporarily suspended during the pandemic.

Your journey begins

Opening the door to a Queen Mary guestroom is like taking an imaginary step back in time. Some of the original metal fans that cooled passengers before the advent of air-conditioning are still affixed to cabin bulkheads. The old salt-water bath fixtures are still present and decorate the seafaring bathrooms.

IMG_3700

Each guestroom has updated curtains, beds, and linens to complement original portholes, light fixtures, and paneling. All cabin/guestrooms have been meticulously restored to earlier times.

Some of the interior cabin hardware and wooden furnishings confirm their age – and to nostalgia buffs – that adds to the ambiance. Every piece of furniture has a thousand stories hidden in its historic facing – if only it could talk.

Plan to return for the tours and museums

IMG_3630

A walk around the ship is testament that the Queen Mary is the world’s largest art deco museum. Her chambers and passageways are lined with examples of 1930’s art and exotic woods – some no longer available on the world market. Best of all, she exudes the unmistakable aura of the historic times in which she lived — when the abundantly rich, and calamitously poor, worked together to forge a new world.

QM theatre x800

The Queen Mary at war

We were fortunate that the Winston Churchill Suite was available for our visit. Sir Winston made three crossings on the Queen during World War II. A reliable source confirmed that Mr. Churchill used his suite’s bathtub – partially filled with sand – as a scaled replica to help plan the D-Day landings with members of the Allied staff. To spend time in the very place where such epic discussions took place is a rare honor indeed.

We asked why Winston Churchill did not choose a war ship to cross the Atlantic in those troubled times. “The answer is quite simple. At the time, the Queen Mary was nicknamed the ‘Gray Ghost’ because she was painted completely gray and hard to see, and at 28.5 knots (32.8 mph), she was the fastest ship on the seas.

IMG_3761She was so fast, that she frequently sailed without an escort and out of convoy.”

In general, the Queen played a large part in the outcome of the Second World War. She carried nearly 800,000 troops to the European Theater, and so demoralized the German high command that Adolf Hitler put a price on her head. He would pay the equivalent of $250,000 and award the Iron Cross to the U-boat captain that could find and sink her. Miraculously, she made 72 wartime crossings without an enemy engagement.

After the war, it was business as usual

The Queen Mary was the favorite mode of transportation across the Atlantic for the famous, and the rich and powerful for 30 years. She had three levels of service, i.e., First, Second, and Third class. Each level of service had distinct amenities and separate gathering rooms. First-class passengers were accorded the most space and luxury. The largest room on the was the first-class grand salon, which was three decks high.

Ship’s passengers enjoyed a variety of shops, a two level indoor swimming pool, salon, nursery, library, kennel, and several outdoor deck sports.

A little known story about a great celebrity

One of our favorite post-war stories aboard the Queen involved one lovable and flamboyant Wladziu Valentino Liberace. Liberace was already a famous entertainer in 1956. In that year, he was ticketed in first class and sailed during a difficult New York to Southampton crossing. All on board that particular voyage learned what his friends already knew – Liberace was a warm and generous human being.

The maestro, who was one of the highest paid entertainers in the world during the ’50s, offered to play a free engagement aboard the Queen. The beneficiaries of his kindness were to be the least affluent of his shipmates. He would entertain and play one night, but only for the third-class passengers.

The ship’s crew was ordered to move the grand piano from its prominent position in the first-class parlor to the relatively small and stuffy third-class sitting room. Lee, as he was known to his friends, pulled out all the stops. Everyone present said Liberace’s exalted performance was the highlight of his or her voyage on the Queen Mary. It is reported that all had a grand time – but no one as much as the gracious Liberace himself.

Additional interesting facts and trivia:

  • The Queen Mary has a 118-foot beam, and that was too wide for the Panama Canal.
  • She is 182 feet tall, which is about seven feet higher than Niagara Falls.
  • The Queen is almost twice the tonnage and 136 feet longer than the ill-fated Titanic.
  • Her full name is RMS Queen Mary – the RMS stands for Royal Mail Ship.
  • In July 1943, she carried 15,740 troops – a standing world record for most passengers on a ship’s voyage.
  • The headline entertainer on the Queen’s final passenger voyage in September 1967 was Johnny Mathis.
  • The last Master of the Queen Mary was Captain J. Treasure Jones. He eloquently summed up her existence when he said, “She breathed, she had character, she had personality. She was above all else the closest ship ever to be a living being.”

Don’t miss it

When you are ready to travel and are in Southern California, be sure to stay at this unique hotel. Who knows what famous person(s) may have slept in that very cabin. Also, there are reputed to be over 600 ghosts that haunt the famous ship. Perhaps one is awaiting your visit.

If you go

IMG_0919-1

The Queen Mary is located at 1126 Queen’s Highway, in Long Beach, CA 90802. The phone number is 1-562-435-3510. For more information go to http://www.queenmary.com.

Happy travels!

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel 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.

© 2020 Travels with Wayne and Judy 

Photos © Judy Bayliff

Take a Virtual Vacation in April 2020

Are you missing the unbridled freedom of travel during these long days of lock downs? So are we.

For the common good we must comply with the self-isolation mandates, but Spring is coming and our wanderlust will soon be in full bloom.

Here’s an idea

In addition to challenging games of rug-putt golf, we decided to organize several arm-chair vacations. Think of it as a variation of the “staycation” idea so popular during the last recession.

Like us, we bet you have lots of digitized photos from past vacations and events.

Organize your photos

We have all our photo files on our computer in Google’s Picasa 3. We like the way Picasa organizes photos and have used it for years but unfortunately Google no longer supports it. If you don’t already have your digitized photos on your computer or in the cloud, check the internet for other places and programs to store photos. Make sure whatever program you choose has a “slideshow” feature.

Having taken tens of thousands of pictures during our 15+ years of travel writing, we have now corralled all the digitized photos from each trip and put them under one descriptive file such as “Oahu.”

As an added benefit of the process we have eliminated thousands of redundant images and really spruced up our photo presentations.

We then organized each trip under a category, country, or state destination heading such as “Hawaii,” or “Cruise – Mediterranean.”

Sit back and enjoy

Now, when we want to take a virtual “trip” we just select an album like “Cruise – Eastern Europe,” select “slideshow” from the “view” tab, set the display time we prefer for each image, and click “go.” We can pause the slideshow whenever we want to reminisce about a specific image.

For even more fun, we set the slideshow feature to “random sort.” and try to guess where and when each variable photo was taken — stimulates the brain cells.

Memory Lane is a great place to visit when you are house bound. Like Sinatra sang, “It’s oh so nice to go trav’lin’ but it’s so much nicer, yes, it’s so much nicer to come home.”

Happy virtual travels and stay safe. We can get through this.

Note: There are also virtual tours on the internet to visit places you haven’t been. For starters, check out the US National Park Systems website. The parks are physically closed, but not to your computer.

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

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel 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 © 2020 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff.

Photos Copyright © 2020 Judy Bayliff.

Cruise Food: Is It As Good As It’s Reputed to Be?

Absolutely! We have been cruising for decades in all manner of ships. One thing that has been consistently good throughout is the food. Yes, we have experienced an occasional disappointment along the way, but far too few to mention among the hundreds of wonderful meals we have enjoyed at sea.

A picture is worth a thousand words so enjoy a small assortment of our images of mouth-watering vittles from just four family cruise lines, i.e., Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, and Princess.

Yes, even breakfast is special.

Our hats off to the thousands of creative chefs and servers that make the dining experience at sea so unforgettable.

Bon Appetit!

Breakfast cereal at home never looks like this.

And special kudos to our favorite Italian Executive Chef Ottavio Bellesi of Princess Cruise Lines

Cruise lines — thank you for the memories!

Happy Travels

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

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel 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 © 2020 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff.

Photos Copyright © 2020 Judy Bayliff. Final image courtesy of Princess Cruise Lines.

 

 

 

How to Find the Perfect 19th Century Connecticut Inn

The scenic Litchfield Hills in northwest Connecticut is home to several historic inns and restaurants. One of the very best is the Hopkins Inn.

Overlooking the northern shore of beautiful Lake Waramaug and the Berkshire Mountain foothills, the Inn was opened as the Hopkins Place, a summer boarding house, in 1847.

It operated as such until 1941 when it closed for the duration of WWII. It reopened again as the Hopkins Inn in 1945 and has been providing delicious meals and comfort to travelers ever since.

Congenial owners Franz and Beth Schober have operated the inn for over forty years.

The Inn’s Victorian dining room has sweeping views of the lake and mountains. In good weather, guests can enjoy al fresco dining on the Inn’s expansive flagstone terrace comfortably sheltered beneath a grand chestnut tree.

And the food

In season, the dining room is full of guests from near and far all gathering to savor Franz Schober’s authentic Austrian cuisine. However, there are also many menu selections that are distinctly American in tradition and flavor.

The menu and wine list are deep, and we only wish we had time to sample all that they offer. However, you can read what we missed by perusing the menu *here*.

As we waited to be seated for dinner, we enjoyed a cleansing libation in the Tavern Room where the roaring fire provided a cozy atmosphere for chatting with fellow guests.

The dining room was busy, but our table was promptly ready for our 7 pm reservation.

Selecting an entrée from the dazzling menu was difficult, but Judy chose the Broiled Halibut with pineapple salsa served with vegetables and wild rice.

Wayne also selected from the sea and had Broiled Sea Scallops in a garlic butter sauce joined by a medley of perfectly cooked vegetables.

Since neither of us had chosen an authentic Austrian main dish, we felt obliged to try the homemade Apple Strudel with vanilla sauce. Delicious!

After dinner, it was back to the Tavern Room for a nightcap and pleasant conversation with a charming German couple touring Connecticut for the first time.

Note: The restaurant is open from late March to January 1 each year. In the offseason, the inn operates as a bed and breakfast.

The nearby winery

The entrance to the Inn and restaurant is on the right side of the building. A few hundred feet from the lantern is the delightful Hopkins Winery.

It is a separate enterprise not owned by the Innkeepers, but how nice to have a winery as a neighbor!

We did not partake of any offered samples, but judging by the number of customers at the winery’s sample bar, the harvest must have been quite exceptional.

The beach 

It was chilly during our visit so we did not venture down to the lake, but the Hopkins Inn has a private beach on the lake and just a short distance from the inn. We are certain the sandy beach, and the refreshing lake provides the perfect place to pass a warm summer day in Connecticut.

The guest rooms

Twelve guest rooms and two apartments are open all year.

Our room was number 15. It was charming and immediately won us over with its elegant simplicity. Exactly what we had hoped for in a pre-Civil War era roadhouse on the back roads of tony Litchfield Hills.

The period furnishings hearkened us to an earlier time, and as we stood gazing at the lake from one of our four windows, we wondered who else, from a long-gone era, might have stood in this very spot captivated as we were by the lovely view.

The bed was superbly comfortable, and we fell asleep listening to the leaves rustling in the autumn breeze.

If you go

The Hopkins Inn is at 22 Hopkins Road, Warren, CT 06777. The Inn is about a two-hour drive from New York City and about two hours and forty-five minutes from Boston. Either is a lovely drive.

For more information and reservations look to the Inn’s website at http://www.thehopkinsinn.com

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel 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 © 2019 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2019 Judy Bayliff

How to Plan a Storybook “Christmas in Connecticut”

We originally researched and published this article in 2012, and it has proven to be a winter holiday favorite among our readers ever since. We believe there is magic in the air in the small towns of Connecticut at Christmas time. See if you agree. Here is our story:

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

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

Our research

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

In particular, Janet Serra, with the Connecticut Visitor’s Bureau, provided us with valuable holiday tips for our project. She also gave us several places to consider for our base. After reviewing what each location had to offer by way of Christmas spirit and activities, we settled on the little town of Madison.

Arriving in winter

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

Driving to Madison

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

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

The Tidewater Inn

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

Meet the Innkeeper

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

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

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

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

The events of Madison

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

Parade day

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

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

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

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

Tour of Madison historic inns

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

On to the Shoreline Soul Concert

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

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

The tree lighting

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

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

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

Saving the best for last

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

Ahavah: A Christmas Story

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

Photo: Ahavah by Christian Academy of Dance

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

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

A bittersweet farewell

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

If you go

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

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

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

Happy Travels – Happy Holidays – Remember our troops!

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

Enjoy the fall colors of New England

Visit Kent Falls, Connecticut

A family budget hotel in Shelton, Connecticut

A historic inn in fashionable Westport, Connecticut

An intimate B&B on the backroads of northwestern Connecticut

The countryside elegance of the Mayflower Inn and Spa

The Delamar luxury hotel in the Greenwich harbor

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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

“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.

 

Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers 2019

Every year we receive unsolicited books, as well as interesting service and product samples. We read and test them, and those we like are recommended here in our annual Holiday Gift Guide. 

Out of twenty-two entries this year, we are pleased to present the following sixteen items for your gift-giving consideration in 2019.

Seat Sitters

Here’s a way to make airline seats more sanitary. Let’s face it, airplane seats give everyone the willies — so we were happy to test this hygiene product on a recent flight.

It was also worth doing for the fun of watching the curious faces of our fellow passengers.

We only had one sample, so after we installed the Seat Sitter and used the kit’s sanitary wipes on the tray table, armrests, and seat belts, one of us felt she was in a healthier environment.

Entrepreneur Gina Hoensheid created this kit to make airplane travel more sanitary.  She has been getting some good press with the product having been featured on ABC World News Now, Forbes.com, Inc.com, and others.

The kit is sold on Amazon.com and elsewhere. For more details about the product and everything included in the kit, check out their website at www.seatsitters.com.

Elyptol Hygiene Products

While we are on the subject of hygiene, we thoroughly enjoyed our introduction to the Elyptol line of natural sanitary products.

We found our travel kit sample to have all the necessary ingredients to keep us clean and fresh while traveling, i.e., one 2 fl. oz. antimicrobial hand sanitizer gel, one 2 fl. oz. antimicrobial hand sanitizer spray, and one 10-count package of antibacterial hand sanitizer wipes.

Elyptol is different because they use all botanical ingredients to kill 99.9999% of germs on contact. Eucalyptus Essential Oil also provides cognitive aromatherapy benefits.

This product line deserves your attention. Their website is at www.Elyptol.com.

Relief Band

reliefband

Neither of us gets motion sick, but we know people who do, and one of them swears by this clinically proven anti-nausea device that is worn on the wrist like a watch. It is a drug-free treatment for conditions associated with motion sickness.

The company claims it works by using the body’s natural neural pathways to block the waves of nausea produced in the stomach.

If you or someone you know gets seasick, check out this video. For more information go to their website at www.reliefband.com.

Yoga Mat and Carry Case

Maybe because we received a test sample of this handy and versatile Commuter Yoga Mat and Carrying Case, we have started practicing Yoga again.

At 70″x24″ and weighing only 1.8 pounds, we found this highly foldable mat excellent for us when we travel.

Made of absorbent sueded microfiber bonded to a natural tree rubber base, it’s both comfortable and washable. Carrying strap is included.

For more information about Yoga Design Lab products click on their website at www.yogadesignlab.com

CityPASS

seattle city pass

An annual favorite that keeps reappearing, and deservedly so.

When someone on your gift list is planning to visit a new city that is on the CityPASS list, you have a great gift in the making – A CityPASS Ticket Book.

This year we used a CityPASS book to see the best tourist attractions that Tampa Bay had to offer. On the list – Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa at Lowry Park, Clearwater Marine Aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry.

The CityPASS saves about 50% of the cost of purchasing the included tickets separately. It’s like seeing almost half of the Tampa Bay main attractions for free.

CityPASS is available for the following locations: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, New York City, Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California, Orlando, Tampa Bay, and Toronto.

For more information go to www.CityPass.com

ACORN TV

We are Netflix fans that appreciate good TV as wind-down entertainment. If you or someone on your gift list likes commercial-free streaming media we have a recommendation for you. Give a look at ACORN TV.

Acorn is TV at its best with programming from “Britain and beyond…” That means mostly English language movies and programming from England, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. We like mysteries, and some of our favorites on Acorn are Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Murdoch Mysteries, Jack Irish, Foyle’s War, and Midsomer Murders.

Acorn programming plots are for the adult mind, not the mindless. You can get a look-see at www.acorn.tv

Key Smart

This is a handy solution to the problem of jangling keys poking around your pocket or purse. The inventor declares that after months of prototyping, testing, and redesigning, Key Smart was born.

The frame is crafted out of aluminum to be ultra-lightweight, and the hardware is milled from stainless steel to survive in any environment.

Great stocking stuffers. There are several styles to choose from. Check them all out at www.getkeysmart.com

Mionetto Wines of Italy

Saving the best product for last, we offer this as an exceptional consideration and the perfect gift for anyone special on your gift list!

We favor Italian wines, but we were unfamiliar with the wines of the Mionetto Vineyards in the Prosecco region of Italy. What a gift — what a find.  We first opened the Mionetto Luxury Cartizze DOCG. This elegant dry Cartizze is slightly golden in color with delicate beads of tiny bubbles, and the essence of apple and pear. We found it crisp, cool and smooth. We rate this sparkling wine as probably the best we have ever savored.

Our second sample bottle was Mionetto Prestige Brut. Made from 100% Glera grapes from the province of Treviso, an area renowned for high-quality Prosecco. With this wine, the palate is marked by aromatic notes of apple, honey, and white peach. Also delicious, and easy on the wallet.

The classic ribbon displayed across the bottles means there’s no need to wrap either selection. You can easily customize your gift with notecards placed directly on the bottle.

For stocking stuffers, Mionetto has elegant mini bottles.  The website is https://usa.mionetto.com/us

Travel Insurance

Our last service recommendation is one that we know to be important from personal experience. Last year we had to cancel a cruise due to a family emergency. Without Allianz Travel Insurance we would have lost thousands of dollars.

Travel insurance has saved many a vacation for family and loved ones. Too many things can go wrong when you travel, and travel insurance is the best way to avoid major disappointments, financial hardships, and stress.

Travel insurance can cover everything related to your trip. Some examples are non-refundable tickets, travel interruptions, and medical expenses. Insurance can be complicated, and travel insurance is no exception, so talk to the experts.

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Travel Insurance.

Before you or a family member or friend travels, consider Allianz Travel insurance. It can be the best holiday gift of all.

Books for avid travel readers:

Lost Railway Journeys from Around the World

Any railroad fans on your gift list?

This book will surely set their hearts aflutter.

Anthony Lambert tells the stories behind 33 long-forgotten railway lines. He delves into the interesting history, outstanding engineering, and the people who built these railways and the passengers who rode them.

Mr. Lambert explores some of the most spectacular and fascinating routes that once crisscrossed the globe — and what led to their eventual demise.

The book is filled with over 200 maps, vintage photographs, and posters.

Lost Railway Journeys is an absorbing introduction to an era when railroads ruled the world.

An excellent hardcover book worthy of your coffee table. Available at Amazon and elsewhere.

In the Chasms – Passages Through the Grand Canyon

Author/photographer/adventurer John Annerino takes us beyond the usual Grand Canyon narrative and presents absorbing stories of the early explorers of the Canyon.

The book is chock full of historic tales, exciting photographs by Annerino as well as black and white images taken by early photographers.

Annerino takes us to ancient sites of the first peoples who roamed the canyon’s hidden passageways. National Geographic called the Grand Canyon, “The greatest and most spectacular canyon system on earth.”

Coffee table worthy hardcover is available from ShifferBooks.com, Amazon, and others.

Backroads of Northern California

This a compilation of about 170 pages of great photographs. Join photographer David Skernick as he explores the rambling back roads of Northern California.

This timeless tribute to the natural landscape captures the sublime beauty of backroad settings in Shasta Trinity National Forest, Napa Valley vineyards, Redwoods National Park, Route 1 and the Pacific Coast, and Yosemite Valley.

Hardcover for your coffee table is available at Amazon and elsewhere.

Backroads of Southern California

Another 170-page masterpiece collection of photographs by David Skernick. Book size is exactly the same as the Backroads of Northern California. A great book set for the right people on your list.

This time the author/photographer captures the astonishing beauty of the Sierras, Death Valley, Sequoia National Park, vast deserts, central valleys, and the Pacific Coastline.

Hardcover for your coffee table is available at Amazon and elsewhere.

Around the World on 50 Bucks

We found this story fascinating, but maybe not a good gift for any teenager you would like to keep at home. Christopher Schacht was 19 when he left on a global adventure. He traveled four years, reached 45 countries and covered more than 60,000 miles.

He did odd jobs to cover basic needs. He lived in both fun and dangerous situations and shares his incredible experiences and lessons learned along the way.

“My plan was not to have a plan, just live without schedules and time pressure, where I could stay in places that I enjoyed until I was ready to move on.”

Paperback available on Amazon and elsewhere.

Pennsylvania’s Preserved Lands

This is the definitive authority on the five million acres of preserved land in Pennsylvania. The author, Jeffrey Williams, took ten years to collect the information we found in this book.

The book combines text and photographs that provide a clear picture of the best and most important natural and recreational locations that Pennsylvania has to offer.

The book has information that does not exist in brochures or on the internet. Information such as the best scenic trails, warnings about hazards, and the history of the many areas traveled.

Jeffrey visited more than 200 locations to take photographs and write his book. The results will make it easier for anyone interested in visiting Pennsylvania in-depth to choose where to go and what to see when they get there.

Paperback is available from Amazon and elsewhere.

San Diego’s Most Haunted

This is an unusual little book whose author selects the cosmopolitan city of San Diego to showcase spooky happenings in more than 25 locations including cemeteries, hotels, and restaurants.

Join the San Diego Paranormal Research Society as they explore ghostly occurrences and examine eyewitness and curator accounts alongside paranormal researchers’ firsthand experiences. Learn why “America’s Finest City” could be in the running for “America’s Most Haunted City.”

Paperback available on Amazon and elsewhere.

********

Ho Ho Ho

So there you have it friends. You can’t go wrong with any of the above goodies for yourself or those on your gift list.

Wishing you Happy Holidays, and a wonderful, healthy, and prosperous 2020!

Wayne and Judy

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity. Other than the test samples, we are not compensated for our endorsement of products or services in the Gift Guide.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Plan your trips with Google Maps.

How a Coal Town Survived and Prospered: The Determined Leaders of Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania

There’s a little village in the heart of the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains that has seen more than its share of booms and busts during the course of its 200-year history. We recently visited the charming town for a second time. This time during its annual autumnal celebration.

Fall Foliage Festival

When we called the Innkeeper of the Inn at Jim Thorpe, Dave Drury, and told him we planned to do a sequel to our story about the town of Jim Thorpe and needed a one night room on a Friday night in October he was silent.

We hadn’t thought about the fact that it was leaf peeper time in the Poconos. The weather was forecasted to be splendid AND we were asking for space on a Friday night when thousands of visitors descend on the borough to enjoy the fun and festivities of the Fall Foliage Festival. Ergo, SOLD OUT – everywhere.

Disappointment

We were resigned to forgo the pleasure of sharing new images and writing more about how centuries-old Mauch Chunk prospered by providing anthracite coal for the industrial revolution and subsequently suffered when oil replaced coal as the chosen fuel of industry.

However, like the fortunes of the town, our luck took a turn for the better. Dave Drury emailed that one room had come available at his building at 44 West Broadway, just a few blocks from his famous Inn at Jim Thorpe. He said it was a very small room, but we gratefully assured him it would do fine. We actually found both the Victorian building and the room absolutely delightful.  Thank you, David! On with the story.

Strange name

Mauch (pronounced “mock”) Chunk means “Sleeping Bear” in local Native American parlance and is named so because the town rests alongside Bear Mountain and next to the Lehigh River. The resultant topographical gorge makes for outstanding scenery and abundant outdoor activities.

Evolution of Mauch Chunk

In the early days of settlement, Mauch Chunk was a prosperous town indeed. In fact, during the good times of the 19th century, when there were only 26 millionaires in the entire United States, an astonishing 19 of them had homes in Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania.

Even as the town lumbered in the sooty coal and railroad businesses, early thrill-seeking tourists started to come to Mauch Chunk to ride the gravity railroad named the “Switchback.” The railroad ran coal cars from the mines at the top of Summit Hill to waiting coal barges in the Lehigh River far below. Converted coal cars provided an early roller coaster experience for adventurous 19th-century passengers – for a price.

Unfortunately, the Switchback ended during one of the town’s economic struggles. Today, the roadway remains a popular hiking and biking venue for the hale and hearty.

Another setback

Notwithstanding earlier booms and busts, the Great Depression took the heaviest toll on Mauch Chunk and many of the town’s old buildings fell into disrepair.

It is the world’s good fortune that during these struggling times the town was too poor to demolish dilapidated structures. Today, some of those buildings make up Jim Thorpe’s quaint restaurants, shops, and lodgings.

An inspirational story of survival and revival

The people of Mauch Chunk have always been survivors. Coal miners are a hardy lot, and not to be deterred from feeding their families when times get tough.

It was in just such an economic atmosphere that the people of Mauch Chunk decided to boot-strap a resurgence of their town.

Becoming Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe was an extraordinary athlete. You can read about his many achievements in our original story, A Town and Hotel Remember the Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century.

When Jim Thorpe 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.

Did the Jim Thorpe maneuver attract tourists?

Not really. The fame of the Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century faded quickly after his death and by the 1960s and 1970s many in the new generation had never heard of Jim Thorpe.

However, more importantly, the name change had excited and motivated the leaders and people of the borough, and the proud little town became noticed for its architectural revival, restaurants, trendy shops, abundant scenery, history, planned events, and excellent outdoor activities. By the 1980s Jim Thorpe was on a tourism roll and has never looked back.

If you go

Jim Thorpe is a two-hour drive from New York City. Google maps can plot your course from wherever you begin your journey.

For tourist information about the town of Jim Thorpe and its many activities and events, check out the dropdown menu tabs at www.jimthorpe.org and read our previous story *here*

Our favorite place to stay in Jim Thorpe is the historic Inn at Jim Thorpe. You can also read more about the Inn in our previous story.

A note of caution: If you plan to spend any part of a weekend in Jim Thorpe, book well in advance to avoid disappointment. Do as we say, not as we do.

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel 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 © 2019 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2019 Judy Bayliff. Vintage photos Borough of Jim Thorpe.

Best Places to Stay Along the Oregon Coast: Heceta Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast

54-IMG_1957-002

Who doesn’t like a lighthouse? Artistic sentinels of the past and present that conjure up thoughts of tumultuous seas and shipwrecks along craggy coasts. For some, a lighthouse may bring visions of a peaceful life with the siren call of gulls and foghorns. Adventure to some, serenity to others. Who lived such a life and how did they live it? There’s a great way to find out, if only for a day or two.

Stay at a historic lighthouse bed and breakfast

There are not many American lighthouses with guest facilities, but there are a few. One of the best is the often-photographed Heceta Lighthouse near Florence, Oregon.  The old lighthouse keeper’s home is just a few minute’s walk from the lighthouse and is now a thriving B&B with one of the most scenic outlooks of the rugged Oregon coast.

A brief 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.

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 US-101.

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

17-IMG_5796

The house on the left was razed in 1940, the one remaining was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Twenty-two years later in 1995, Lane County opened the building for tours and a six guestroom B&B. What a wonderful idea!

29-IMG_1723-001

We had the privilege of spending two nights in the Mariner II guestroom at the Heceta Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast.

30-IMG_1728-002

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

26-IMG_1705-001

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

16-IMG_5790-001

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

31-IMG_1742-001

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.

33-IMG_1761-001

 

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

19-IMG_1670-001

38-IMG_5867

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

53-IMG_1949

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

47-IMG_1910-001

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.

36-IMG_1845-001

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 successors have upheld the tradition of fine dining at the house.

39-IMG_1853-001

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

42-IMG_1867-001

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

37-IMG_5856-001

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.

18-IMG_5834

If you go

The Heceta Lighthouse is located just off US-101 on the central Oregon coast and 12 miles north of Florence, Oregon.

Portland is the nearest major airport, and Eugene is a good choice as the closest regional airport that has direct service to cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver.

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz 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. Vintage photo provided by Heceta Lighthouse.

Best Places to Stay Along the Oregon Coast: The Magnificent Overleaf Lodge in Yachats

Over the last several months we have written about some wonderful places to stay along the scenic California coast. Today we introduce another outstanding lodge, this time in Oregon.

The ocean before us

The Overleaf Lodge rests on the edge of the Pacific Ocean; so close that you can easily hear the waves thumping the rocky shoreline.

The Overleaf seems large for its small-town surroundings. However, it has the advantage of a location that is situated well off busy Hwy 101 and the entire property blends well with the local flora.

A caring staff

We arrived at the lodge mid-afternoon and were immediately greeted by the very sociable and attentive General Manager Heather Tincher-Overholser, a 22-year veteran at the Lodge.

We later learned that Heather was the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Oregon Hotel and Restaurant Association Employee of the Year Award. We could understand their choice! We also thought the Lodge must be a pretty fine place to work based on our experience with other members of the staff.

A family-owned enterprise

Heather gave us a tour of the entire property. There are actually three distinct lodging groups on the site, all owned by the same family.

The Overleaf Lodge with 54 room and suites; Overleaf Village with eight cottages that are not on the ocean, but close and ideal for group or family vacations; and the Fireside Motel which is not quite as elegant as the Lodge, but close, and certainly more than adequate – and it’s pet-friendly.

Notable features at the Lodge

The Overleaf Lodge is a view with rooms. Every room boasts sweeping ocean vistas.

It has a fine Spa with a pool that overlooks the Pacific.

There appears to be a calibrated strategy to attain a comfortable sense of informality throughout.

The Lodge sits on the site of the historic 804 Trail, which was once an oceanside County Road before Hwy 101 made it obsolete in 1936.

It’s an invigorating one-mile ocean walk to the scenic little village of Yachats.

A healthy and hardy breakfast is included.

There’s a charming Picnic by the Sea option.

A separate conference center building is ideal for weddings or other gatherings.

The Lodge has a complimentary laundry – now that is unusual!

We liked it

We found the Overleaf Lodge to be a perfect getaway.

It is a rustically posh hotel that infuses just the right amount of opulence into the local culture.

The Inn is a very cozy place to relax and enjoy each other’s company while being serenaded by the sea.

If you go

Yachats is located in the middle of the Oregon coast. It is approximately 200 miles north of the California border, and 160 miles south of the Washington border. Portland is the nearest major airport, and Eugene is a good choice as the closest regional airport that has direct service to cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver.

However, if you have the time and inclination, it’s a beautiful drive along Hwy 101 from any direction.

For more information about the Overleaf Lodge and its amenities, click *here*.

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel 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 © 2019 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2019 Judy Bayliff