Holiday Gift Guide 2018

Judy and I have posted holiday gift recommendations in various publications for the past several years. Every year we receive a number of unsolicited service and product samples, test them, and those we like are featured as recommendations in our annual Holiday Gift Guide.

Out of seventeen tests this year, we are presenting the following thirteen unique gift items for your consideration in 2018.

BRAVE ERA 100% Silk Travel Sheet

Have you ever found a sleeping room, how shall we say, not up to your standards of cleanliness? If you travel it will happen. We have tested an elegant new product called the Brave Era 100% Silk Travel Sheet. It is your passport to worry-free slumber wrapped in the luxury of silk. When packed, it is the size of your tablet, but weights much less. This is a goody gift that also deserves to be in your own travel bag. A personal sanctuary on every trip. Check it out at www.BraveEra.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 Seattle had to offer. On the list – the Seattle Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, Argosy Harbor Tour, Pacific Science Center, and the Woodland Park Zoo.

The CityPASS saves about 45% of the cost of purchasing the included tickets separately. It’s like seeing almost half the main attractions of a city for free.

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

For more information go to www.CityPass.com

ACORN TV

acornWe 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 Murdoch Mysteries, Jack Irish, Foyle’s War, Midsomer Murders, the best film versions yet of “And Then There Were None,” and “Witness for the Prosecution.” Acorn programming plots are for the adult mind, not the mindless. You can get a look-see at www.acorn.tv

Phone Pouch

If your cell phone is monopolizing one of the few pockets you have in your jeans or pants, here’s a sleek and simple stocking- stuffer that provides easy access to friends and family while safeguarding your smart phone from impact damage. It’s handy. Find out more about it at MyPhonePouch.com 

 

Silipos Active Gel Products

SILIPOS GELS 2018

We have recommended the range of Silipos Active Gels in the past, and this year Judy had reason to test their Plantar Fasciitis Gel Sleeve. Wonderful! It really works.

These products are specifically designed to reduce abrasion during high impact activities like hiking and jogging. 

The Silipos product line boasts a solution for the most common problems that active athletes, travelers, and tourists face, e.g., sprains, blisters, corns, bunions, heel pain, and plantar fasciitis. Get more information at Silipos.com

Bleu Paw

Of all the samples we received in 2018, this product was the most down to earth — literally. The “Bleu Paw,” is a sanitary pet pooper-scooper that works with any plastic bag. The jaws open to 3 inches wide to accommodate BIG dogs. It has an LED night-light for accurate scooping, and you can leave the bag in the scoop, so no more hand-carrying the goods. Their ad says it all, “Hands nor device ever touch the POOP!”

Available at www.bleupaw.com

 

Books for avid travel readers:

Cuba Then

We have not toured Cuba, so found this book interesting. This expanded and revised 2nd edition is a tribute to the island nation’s culture and history and includes 30 more pages and 100 more vintage photographs than the 2014 first edition.

There are over 300 images that span more than a century. It’s a Who’s Who of Cuban actors, actresses, sports personalities, and the important political and social figures of several decades.  From the world’s playground to the Socialist containment, it’s all there.  Available from Monacelli Press

The Ever-Changing Coastline

We live on the Oregon coast, and take great joy in watching mighty tidal forces at work. One day the shore may be empty, the next day there may be a giant tree trunk so large that it is hard to imagine mere waves could move it that high on the beach. Another day passes and the great tree has magically disappeared. The ocean has the unimaginable power to dramatically change any landscape that it touches, and Joseph Votano’s book captures the results of that energy in 159 captivating images.  This book is worthy of any coffee table, and an excellent gift choice. Available from Schifferbooks.com

Touring California and Nevada Hot Springs

If anyone on your gift list is into a good soak in naturally heated mineral water hot springs in California or Nevada, this little Falcon Guide may be just the gift. This is the 4th revision of the popular color guide. It shows images and maps that will lead you to over 100 of the best places for a soak. The guide also offers safety tips, water temps, best times of year to visit, and lots more.

Available from Rowman and Littlefield

 

Ghost Towns of the West

We love exploring old cemeteries and ghost towns. This year, we were mailed a review copy of what we think is the ultimate work on the subject of western ghost towns. Ghost Towns of the West is a comprehensive guide to former boom-towns of the American West.

The book covers ghost towns in eleven western states, and is filled with history, photos, and maps with directions. This book has everything you need to know to visit and explore the remnants of how life was in the Old West. We plan to use this guide for years to come.

A great gift that is available from Amazon and other retailers.

Florida Travel Guides

Last, but not least in the travel books and guide category are two guides by David Hunter. If you or any of the folks on your gift list are planning to do any driving in Florida, these guides to the state’s interstates and major toll roads will help make the journey much more interesting and fun. There are colorful strip maps indicating gas, food, and lodging along the way.

David knows his subject, and we enjoyed his fascinating stories along the passing roadside. You or your giftee will be all the wiser for reading his tips. Along Florida’s Expressways, and Along Interstate 75 are available at Mile Oak Publishing and Amazon.

Travel Insurance

Finally, our last recommendation is one that we know to be important. This 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.

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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 2019!

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

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Discover the Legendary Powerscourt Estate and Gardens in County Wicklow, Ireland

Ireland is referred to as The Emerald Isle because of its seemingly endless expanses of verdant trees, deep woods, and rolling green hills. County Wicklow is called the Garden of Ireland, and 47 of the county’s best acres are home to the Powerscourt House and Gardens.

A long and noble history

The Powerscourt site was first settled in the 12th century, but it was not until 1299 that a castle was finally erected by the namesake Power family.

The castle and lands changed hands numerous times over the next four centuries. The Wingfield family was in possession in 1731 and built a magnificent mansion around the earlier castle structure.

The existing manor evolved through several major modifications up through the late 1800s when the house was celebrated as one of the finest in all of Ireland.

In 1974, a fire tragically destroyed the famous house. The ruins of the mansion were the only structures to be seen at the site for the next 22 years.

In 1996, the owners of the Powerscourt House began the monumental task of rebuilding the old mansion to its current state of renewed grandeur.

Artisans positioned new windows exactly in pre-fire locations. The entire structure was painstakingly and lovingly restored. Every effort was made to preserve the remarkable old building’s earlier epoch.

Today, tourists visiting Ireland can enjoy the authentic and historic Powerscourt House and Gardens, a true Irish country estate that is simply awe-inspiring. The magnificent house was recently recognized as one of the top ten important houses in the world, and the gardens were voted number 3 best in the world by National Geographic.

The elegant main house overlooks kingly Italian terraced gardens, the serene Triton Lake fountain and grotto, and numerous old statuary – many dating back to the early 18th century.

An easy walk on estate grounds will take you to a Japanese garden, a horse pasture, and a centuries old pet cemetery as well as an exquisite walled flower garden.

The River Walk

Just beyond the Powerscourt house is the River Walk. A private sloping wooded trail constructed in 1867 so the landowner and his family could enjoy a carriage ride to a waterfall and the Dargle River. The waterfall is the tallest in Ireland and cascades down almost 400 feet to the river.

The road is complete with a dense forest of varietal trees originally planted for the pleasure of the 7th Viscount of Powerscourt in the 1870s. In more recent times, the woodlands have provided scenic backdrops for such popular films as Braveheart, Far and Away, Excalibur, and The Count of Monte Cristo.

Village of Enniskerry

Just a few minutes’ walk outside the Powerscourt Estate lies the charming little Victorian village of Enniskerry.

Built in the 18th century to house the tenants and caretakers who worked the estate, this classically Irish community offers tourists an opportunity to dine in local restaurants and browse a half-dozen boutique shops that line the main street.

Bring your camera for shots of picturesque cottages and a historic clock tower in the village center.

If you are seeking the perfect holiday escape, this is a place of Irish magic. 

If you go

The Powerscourt estate is in Eastern Ireland and nary 12 miles south of the Dublin International Airport and the city center of Dublin.

Click here for more information about the Powerscourt House and Gardens.

Happy travels, and — Happy Halloween!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

Copyright © 2018 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2018 Judy Bayliff

Monarchs to Visit Golden State

Thousands of radiant winged orange and black Monarch Butterflies will soon be en route to California from as far away as southern Canada.  Lucky are those individuals who get a glimpse of these winged beauties as they make their way down and across the Golden State.

Escaping from the coming northern winter, the butterflies’ planned destination is the Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach, California.  This is the state’s largest populated monarch butterfly grove, and the annual fly in visitors will begin to congregate in the grove in late October, and remain there until early spring.

These beautiful velvet-winged tourists will cluster like leaves on the branches of sweet-smelling Eucalyptus trees.  Others will clump together like bananas, each butterfly’s wings covering the one below. The clumping helps keep the colony warm and holds it together during the central California coast’s chilly bouts of rain and wind.

Once comfortably settled into their winter haven, the butterflies will wait for daylight temperatures to approach sixty degrees before they will venture away from the group to search for nourishment from flower nectar and water.

As evening approaches and the temperature begins to drop, the butterflies will once again return to the grove and form their protective masses.

Increasing life span

The monarch butterfly has a summer lifespan of little more than six weeks, but at the Pismo Beach Monarch Grove in winter, they can live for several months.

Great time to visit

Pismo Beach is a popular family destination in the summer months, but in October, the hotels, streets, and restaurants are pleasantly uncrowded.  Everything becomes easily accessible to the curious ‘butterfly peepers’ who come from far and wide to see the monarchs.

If you plan to be in California in late October and beyond, consider a side-trip to Pismo Beach.  Everyone we talk to that visited the butterfly grove enjoyed the fascinating antics and beauty of these amazing little creatures. We certainly did.

If you go

The Monarch Butterfly Grove is on State Highway 1, and on the south side of Pismo Beach, near the city limits.  During the Monarch season, the Grove is staffed daily between 10am and 4pm.  There are docent walks and talks, weather permitting.  If you want to overnight, there are plenty of comfortable accommodations offering off-season rates, just minutes from the Grove.

Where we stayed 

We made our reservations at the Sea Venture Resort (www.SeaVenture.com) because it is located right on the beach, and close to the Pismo Beach Pier, and the Butterfly Grove.

Enjoy your autumn, and 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 © 2018 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2018 Judy Bayliff

When In Rome

One of our most beloved cities in all the world is beautiful and fascinating Rome, Italy. Join us on a brief pictorial excursion to the Roman Forum, a site within the larger city that is arguably the birthplace of modern civilization. There is much to see and learn in the Forum, and here is what we discovered.

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When you enter the Forum complex, you will be standing near the apex of extraordinary history.

The enduring columns and marble blocks in the Roman Forum have stood like dutiful sentinels for over 2,000 years. They are haunting relics of victory arches and memorials commemorating​ military campaigns. All are dedicated to centuries of triumphant heroes – Gods – and eloquent Roman statesmen.

 

In the 6th century BC, the central site of the Forum was a busy marketplace frequented by the 100,000 citizens of Rome.

Over time, the Patricians added temples, and with the growth of the Republic, government buildings eventually covered the hilly landscape that backs up to the famous Coliseum.

 Unfathomable beauty

During the Golden Age of Rome, the Forum’s open spaces were impressive. The streets were paved with marble, and imposing statues dominated every public square.

The civic buildings were designed and constructed to last a thousand years. Under different historical circumstances, these massive stone edifices adorned in gold and bronze, would certainly have exceeded their builders expectations.

As within the Pantheon, the interiors of the Forum buildings were equal in elegance to the facades.  Long naves lined with colorful marble pillars ornamented in gold led to vast halls of enormous dimension.

And still standing

The monuments and skeletal remains of the Forum have survived centuries of wars, conquests, natural disasters, and ruinous plagues. They have stood silent witness to the advent of a great democracy, a world religion – and ultimately the fall of the mighty Roman Empire.

Worth a visit

When in Rome, be sure to have the Forum ruins on your tour list. Maps that provide pictorial images of what the structures looked like in the glory days are well worth the purchase price. With map in hand, walk the wide thoroughfares, and imagine the splendor of two thousand years past.

Visualize the Apostles Peter and Paul preaching on the steps of the Curia Julia in 59 AD – and the Emperor Nero watching the conflagration of the grand temples in 64 AD.

This is where Julius Caesar was assassinated at the Porticus Pompei in 44 BC, and where Napoleon’s campfires cast shadows on the Arch of Titus in 1798 – the Arch is a commemoration of the Roman capture of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Just to the west of three gigantic columns, explore for the Temple of Vesta. Mussolini and Hitler posed for a photo in front of the temple in 1938.

The history goes on and on – and on.

Today, millions of vacationers from all corners of the globe walk the Forum and wonder how a nation that could create such grandeur could have faltered and completely lost its way.

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

Copyright © 2018 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2018 Judy Bayliff

 

A Visit to Québec and the Empress of Ireland: A Titanic Size Catastrophe Forgotten in History

Visiting Québec this summer? Consider a stop at the Canadian national historic landmark Pointe-au-Pére. It deserves a spot on your itinerary.

Favoring all destinations that involve water, we were drawn to Pointe-au-Pére’s nautical attractions –  the Empress of Ireland Pavilion, Pointe-au-Pére Lighthouse, and the HMCS Onondaga – a Royal Canadian Navy submarine. We were particularly moved by the story and exhibit of the Empress of Ireland.

The tragic fate of the Empress of Ireland

The Empress of Ireland Pavilion houses a museum that opened in 2000 and contains a creative recounting of the history of Canada’s worst maritime disaster that took place just off the nearby headlands.

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

Lost in history

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pointe-au-Pére Lighthouse

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

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

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

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

Visit the submarine

The HMCS Onondaga Attack Submarine was part of the Canadian Navy’s prestigious Atlantic Maritime Forces for over 30 years. She was decommissioned in 2000, and is now permanently docked at Pointe-au-Pére. The Onondaga is the only military submarine on public display in Canada.

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

If you go

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

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

We recommend vacationing in the Quebec Maritime

Lucky is the family that gets to vacation in Québec and explore its history and many natural wonders. This beautiful eco-friendly province of Canada is a photographer’s dream that has adventures around every turn in the road. We like spending quality-time in The Maritime, and we think you will too. For more information about what the Québec Maritime has to offer, check out their website: http://quebecmaritime.ca. Take special note of their unique self-guided tours.

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

Copyright © 2018 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2018 Judy Bayliff

ATLANTIS: A Submarine Adventure for the Entire Family

If you have never been in a submarine gliding silently and effortlessly along a coral wall teeming with marine life, you are in for a big treat.

The US Coast Guard approved Atlantis XI is a 65-foot long battery-powered submersible specially designed for underwater sightseeing adventures in tropical waters –– and where better than the Cayman Islands with some of the clearest waters in the world.

The boat has a 48-passenger capacity, is air-conditioned, pressurized, and is clean and comfortable. Light from 26 large side portholes and the huge front captain’s bubble dispels any feeling of darkness or closeness. The view-ports also provide all guests with a wide window into the fascinating undersea world.

How and where to sign up

We were on a fun-filled seven-day Princess Western Caribbean Cruise. We could have signed up for our underwater tour on board ship, but opted to take a stroll and get tickets at the Atlantis retail store located on the waterfront in bustling George Town, Grand Cayman.

The inside of the well-provisioned Atlantis Adventure Center looks something like the lobby of a movie theater, but with the addition of clothes-racks and trinkets for sale. There were also plenty of smiling employees ready to discuss the best tours for the family.

The Atlantis Adventure Center is just a two-minute walk from the bustling docks where the cruise ship tenders deposit passengers.

After choosing a tour and purchasing tickets, it was a little wait before our excursion was called. We picked up a snack and drink right there in the store while we anticipated our upcoming adventure. In about 20 minutes, our tour was called and 30 of us boarded a two-level tender that would take us out to the dive site.

On our way to the submarine rendezvous point just off shore, we were given a thorough safety briefing about the Atlantis.

Before long, a light object appeared in the deep water just below our boat. Within seconds, the Atlantis breached the surface shedding water everywhere – just like in the movies.

Getting into the submarine

The change of submarine passengers was very orderly. First, the Atlantis disembarked the last tour group to the first level of the waiting tender. Our group was gathered on the second deck, and as soon as all the new submariners were aboard, we were instructed to move down the steps of the tender to the deck of the Atlantis. That accomplished, we entered the hatch compartment, and did a backward ladder descent seven feet into the boat. It was all very exciting.

Comfortably seated we waited for the hatch to close, and watched our captain – who was in full view of the passengers at all times – submerge das boot.

Down there with Davy Jones

We leveled off at 105 feet and cruised along to the tutoring of our convivial dive guide. He explained that colors dissipate as the boat goes deeper, and how the varieties of fish change with the depth, and – wow, look at that wreck off the starboard bow! We learned about barrel sponges, soft coral and hard coral, and thoroughly enjoyed the easy to hear and understand narration.

Sadly, our underwater tour ended in about 45 minutes, the hatch opened, and we were now the experienced submariners smiling at the next group of neophytes about to take the plunge.

A less expensive alternative

Because we enjoyed the submarine experience, and had some extra time before our shipped sailed, we also took the Seaworld Observatory tour offered by the same company.

Similar to the submarine, the inside of the Observatory has large portholes for viewing the underwater world. The big difference is that the Observatory never leaves the surface. Passengers sit in air-conditioned comfort, just five feet below the waterline.

Note: The Atlantis submarine does not allow children under four years of age, but they are permitted on the Observatory tour.

You might expect that this tour would not be as exciting as the submarine, and it isn’t, but at a greatly reduced price, it comes with superb views of fascinating wrecks, and a knowledgeable narrator who talks about the amazing sea life that passes before your eyes.


Click on the name for more information about the Cayman Atlantis Submarine, or the Seaworld Observatory

We give two thumbs up to both tours. 

About the Caymans

The Cayman Islands are located south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica. They are generally flat as a pancake with little tropical vegetation, yet they are prized among well-informed vacationers for their miles and miles of pristine white sandy beaches, and the best turquoise-blue and sea-green waters in the world.

Because of the unique water clarity, the Caymans are a SCUBA divers paradise. Having spent many weeks on the islands during the now long-defunct annual “Cayman Madness” event, we can attest to the extraordinary dive sites and excellent dive-boat operators.

In addition, Grand Cayman is a safe island with a plethora of great ocean front hotels and fine restaurants – and the people of the Cayman Islands are delightfully friendly and well educated. The Cayman Islands are clean, and you can drink the tap water. What’s not to like?

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

Copyright © 2018 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2018 Judy Bayliff

Remembering Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day 2018

Published every Memorial Day to honor our fallen heroes.

There are many historical destinations in the United States, but to Americans, few have the emotional relevance of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Located in our National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, the Tomb is dedicated to lost and missing American soldiers from all wars.

The Tomb was established with the interment of an unknown soldier from World War I on November 11, 1921. He was laid to rest directly beneath a marble sarcophagus inscribed

HERE RESTS IN
HONORED GLORY
AN AMERICAN
SOLDIER
KNOWN BUT TO GOD

Subsequent burials from the conflicts of WWII, Korea, and most recently,Vietnam, were made near, but not under the tomb.

Due to the advancement of forensic science, the Vietnam era unknown was exhumed in 1998. DNA identified the remains of Lt. Michael Blassie, and he was subsequently re-interred near his family home in St. Louis.

The government decided not to replace the Vietnam soldier with non-identifiable remains. Instead, the original Vietnam inscription and the dates of that conflict have been changed to “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen.”

A sacred trust

Guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns is a solemn duty, reserved for our finest soldiers. Since 1937, the US Army has guarded the Tomb every minute of every day. On April 6, 1948, the permanent honor was bestowed on the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. “The Old Guard,” is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the US Army, and can trace its origins to 1784.

The elite soldiers chosen to stand watch at the Tomb are called Sentinels. They are generally men (there were 3 exceptions), and typically have the rank of Private First Class or Specialist. They stand between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet 4 inches tall, and must be proportionally built. They are on average 22 years of age.

The Sentinels do not wear insignia of rank lest they outrank the Unknowns -­ whatever their rank may have been.

Their uniforms are made of wool, and are worn through cold winters and hot summers on the Potomac. They are issued special shoes and sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun reflecting off the many marble monuments, and their gloves are moistened to assure a firm grip on the ceremonial rifle stock.

Inclement weather does not affect the watch

The Sentinels have a motto, “Soldiers never die until they are forgotten – Tomb Guards never forget.”

Good Americans are like Sentinels­ and will never forget the sacrifices made by our armed services.

If you go

The cemetery and Tomb is situated directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., and near the Pentagon. During the summer months (April to October) the guard is changed every half-hour. During the winter months (October to April) the guard is changed every hour.

The cemetery is closed to the public from 7pm to 8am April through September, and 5pm to 8am October through March. When the cemetery is closed, the guard is changed every two hours.

The next time you are in Washington D.C., take your loved ones to see the Tomb and the more than 300,000 graves at Arlington. You and they will be inspired, and reminded that the freedom we often take for granted comes at a very great cost.

Safe travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photo © Judy Bayliff

A Comprehensive Pictorial Guide to Villa Vizcaya in the Heart of Miami, Florida

“Like the grand estates of England, most of the historic baronial manors of America have succumbed to the times and the tax man. However, the evolution has made many of these grand houses accessible to those of us who could not otherwise presume to personally experience their grandeur.”

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The day we arrived in Florida to visit and write about the famous Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, they were closed for maintenance! There was an obvious mix-up in the scheduling, and we feared a wasted trip. However, luck prevailed.

We made a quick phone call to our host, and within an hour, a guard was opening the house for our uninterrupted and unaccompanied access to the mansion and grounds.

It is not often we get special permission to photograph an important public attraction without working around hundreds of tourists. It was an opportunity to experience the palatial serenity of the estate – as the builder and owner must have experienced just before December 25, 1916 – the day Vizcaya was presented to the world.

The vision of Vizcaya

Vizcaya is an astonishing palace constructed by James Deering, a capitalist who made his fortune at International Harvester.  His dream was to build an Italian Country Estate near Miami, Florida, surrounded by tropical woods and the Bay of Biscayne. He wanted his home to look and feel like it had been four centuries in the making. He succeeded.

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The name Vizcaya

No one is exactly sure where Deering came up with the name for his grand house, but it would seem reasonable that he named it after the tiny northern Spanish province of Vizcaya, which happens to be on the Spanish Bay of Biscay.

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Mr. Deering was captivated by the extraordinary European splendor of the 15th through early 19th centuries, and spent a fortune acquiring period artifacts from all over Europe and Asia. Amazingly, when he built his dream residence in Miami, the rooms were designed around his extensive collection of furnishings, rather than the other way around.

Behold the villa

The house is structured around a center courtyard with an entrance loggia and ground level arcades to the left and right decorated with fine pieces of Renaissance furnishings.

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At one time, the courtyard was open to the weather, but today it is protected by a glass roof. Air-conditioning was installed in 1986 to help preserve the many treasures inside the mansion.

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Inside the entrance to the villa, visitors are greeted by a 2nd century marble statue of Bacchus, the god of wine, standing above a Roman marble basin.

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In old European villas, many of the sleeping rooms and the kitchen are located off a gallery on the second floor, and so it is at Vizcaya.

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Deering had his main dining room put on the cooler first floor and away from the kitchen, which was serviced by a dumb-waiter from its traditional second floor setting.

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The breakfast room is next to the kitchen and ably blends walls of ship murals with a dominating influence of colorful Chinese figures and furnishings. There is a sweeping view of the south gardens from windows that can slide back into the walls during pleasant days.

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James Deering’s bedroom is like so many of the other rooms – distinctly different and visually interesting in its French Empire styling.

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The highly ornate ceiling and wall décor of the Rococo Music Room came from a palace in Milano.

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The entire inside of the Vizcaya villa is an exciting cornucopia of Renaissance tapestries, and Rococo and neoclassical furniture of every configuration and design.

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The stimulating living rooms are said to have been planned by Mr. Deering to cultivate conversations among his sophisticated guests.

The gardens

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Main House from South Garden

The gardens are an oasis between mangroves on the bay-shore to the east and a dense tropical native forest to the west.

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The grounds of Vizcaya were created in the style of famous Italian and French landscapes – a suitable setting to showcase Mr. Deering’s many sculpture treasures.

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Everywhere you look there are wonderful forms and splendid flora, like the impressive 17th century Italian statue of Leda and the Swan.

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Although the aspects are European, many of the garden structures and settings are made from local or materials imported from Cuba, and all the plants were judiciously selected to prosper in the subtropical climate of southern Florida.

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If you go, seek out the Secret Garden on the immediate eastern side of the South Terrace. We found it to be exceptional in its medley of verdant semitropical plants.

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We also enjoyed the unusual grottos guarded by fantastic sculptures of sea deity intricately carved in course coral rock.

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The Grand Barge

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The signature architectural statement of Vizcaya is the amazing Stone Barge to the east of the house.

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The barge functions as a breakwater in the estate’s cove between the boat landing and the lattice topped Tea House.

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View from Tea House to Boat Landing beyond the Stone Barge

Once replete with dense tropical plants and trees – long since vanquished by decades of storms and hurricanes – the stone barge remains a lasting testament to James Deering’s love of the sea.  Deering maintained two yachts at Vizcaya and he wanted to make certain that the water entry to his estate would not be forgotten by his guests. It would certainly be difficult to forget the elaborate stone barge.

A palace out of wilderness

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Main House from Tea House

1,000 workers constructed the forty-room Vizcaya out of a literal jungle. It is all the more incredible that Miami had a population of only 10,000 when the Vizcaya project began.

The opening celebration 

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Gondola Poles west of Stone Barge

Befitting the Renaissance party theme, Mr. Deering arrived at Vizcaya in a vibrant gondola like a Venetian Prince. It was a pleasant sunny Christmas day and Italian music wafted in the air. Dressed in Italian peasant costumes, Deering’s friends gaily danced along a waterfront edged with colorful gondola poles. It must have been a magnificent and colorful display. Some of the gondola poles remain, but the celebrants are long at rest.

The end of an era 

Jack Deering died in 1925, leaving a cultural legacy of enormous value. Over the ensuing years the family sold off much of the estate’s land in order to maintain the opulent villa and gardens.

In 1945, the family conveyed a large parcel of land to the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine and Mercy Hospital. Finally, in the 1950s, the heirs munificently sold the main house and gardens to Dade County Florida for a minor $1.4 million, and the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens was born.

The upkeep of Vizcaya

James Deering resided in Vizcaya for only a few winter months out of the year, but the upkeep of the estate required an extensive year round staff. Up to 18 staff members maintained the main house at Vizcaya, and 26 gardeners cared for the formal gardens. Originally, Vizcaya had 180 acres and included a large lake.

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Today, the entire estate covers about 50 acres, and only a few decaying gondola poles remain in a mangrove swamp where a beautiful lake with lush islands once flourished.

Finding Vizcaya

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Miami visitors approach this hidden architectural treasure by turning off South Miami Avenue on to a winding driveway through a forest of native trees and brush known as the Rockland Hammock. This spate of dense tropical woods essentially hides the grandeur of Vizcaya from public view.

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At the end of the drive there is a parking lot, and it’s a short walk from the lot to the ticket booth, and on to the entry drive leading to the impressive circular driveway in front of the main house.

Vizcaya is one of the few grand homes turned museum that has the innovative furnishings of the original owner – the better to define the man James Deering who wanted a home that looked and felt like a 16th and 17th century Italian estate.

Visit in good company

In 1987, President Ronald Reagan selected Vizcaya as the venue to greet Pope John Paul II. The two men met privately in the Renaissance Hall off the north arcade, and took a private walk through the garden. Later in the day, they addressed the world media from the Garden Mound, a large man made hillock with live oaks and splendid vistas of the estate.

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The Garden Mound is at the far end of the south garden, and where the Garden Room is located.

In 1991, Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, toured Vizcaya and attended a lavish garden party in their honor.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton chose Vizcaya for his First Summit of the Americas meeting. The meeting was attended by 34 national leaders from the Americas and the Caribbean.

Vizcaya has also been the backdrop for many Hollywood films over the years. You might have noticed it in Airport, The Money Pit, Tony Rome, and Iron Man 3.

So much more to see

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In our article and images we have only scratched the surface of an amazing visual heritage. There is so much to discover there that is not immediately obvious.

The villa is now the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens operated by Miami-Dade County. It is a “must see” for those who appreciate the richness and elegance of a bygone era of great residential architecture, refined furnishings, and horticultural marvels.

Look *here* for more information about this extraordinary part of American history and innovation in architecture and landscaping.

Vizcaya is a step across the threshold of time to a golden age when personal luxury in America was a given and attention to detail an expectation.

We heartily recommend a tour of Vizcaya while in Miami.

Happy travels!

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

The Sea Surrenders Great Wealth On Display In Bodrum, Turkey

Bodrum is an ancient port city in southern Turkey along the coast of the azure Aegean Sea. We had the pleasure of touring this interesting old city, which includes a medieval castle and an underwater museum. They are just two of the many attractions we found to tell you about. But first, a captivating history.

In pre-Christian times, what is now Bodrum was a busy Persian Empire settlement called Halicarnassus. After a lengthy struggle, the city was conquered by the famous Alexander the Great in 334 BC. However, Halicarnassus has a 4,000 year history of conquest, and Alexander was not the first, nor the last to lay claim to the region.

Building the great castle

Some 17 centuries after Alexander, the Knights of Saint John – returning from one of the Crusades – chose a rocky peninsula in Halicarnassus harbor to build a castle dedicated to St. Peter. Construction on the Castle of St. Peter started in 1404 and the work was ongoing into the early 16th century.

The chapel was the first structure completed in 1406. It was followed by four towers, each named after the country of the Christian knights responsible for the construction, i.e., England, France, Germany and Italy.

Today the towers contain amazing sculptured carvings and relics from the sponsor countries.

The walls and interior of this majestic castle and grounds are remarkably well-preserved and maintained.

In the year 1523, and just as the Knights were completing their fortification, the Muslim leader of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman the Magnificent conquered the entire area including the castle. One of his first dictates was to convert the castle’s chapel into a mosque, which it remains today.

Since 1523, the castle has been a fortification, a prison, and a warehouse. In the early 1960s the Turkish Ministry of Culture turned the castle into an impressive history museum, and made it the home of the famous Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. The largest such exhibit of its kind in the world.

A vision begets a museum

The oceans of the world are ancient beyond memory or record. Man has claimed dominion of the seas, yet the seas are endless and forever, and man is temporal. Throughout history, man has challenged the unrelenting seas in a contest that has extracted a toll of untold thousands of lives and ships — some laden with cargoes and immense riches — all resting on the sea-floor and lost for millennia. 

The museum planners realized that there were hundreds, if not thousands of ancient shipwrecks in the waters surrounding Bodrum. Many of these vessels were carrying fortunes, and a castle fortification would be the ideal place to display them. In 1964 the lower area of the Bodrum Castle was dedicated to the display of underwater artifacts excavated from shipwrecks found in the Aegean Sea.

Note: No part of the museum is underwater, a frequent misconception because of the name.

Inside the museum

After lying in the dark waters for thousands of years, the fascinating Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology brings to light the mysteries so long hidden in the deep.

Replica of statue of Neferititi

The museum boasts 14 exhibit rooms of recovered relics of precious gems, jewelry, bronze, clay, iron and copper. One of the gold scarabs on display is inscribed with the name ‘Neferititi,’ the queen of Egypt. The only such artifact in existence.

The museum also houses the world’s largest amphora collection, including 200 undamaged amphoras from the 5th century BC. An amphora is a container usually made of ceramic or clay and used to store wet or dry substances like grain or wine. Some amphoras date back to 10,000 years BC. Amphoras are particularly important to marine archaeologists because their unique designs help date the age of a shipwreck and the ship’s origin.

There are painstakingly reconstructed shipwrecks in the museum.

The ship named Uluburun dates back 3,500 years and is the world’s oldest surviving shipwreck.

Finding undersea treasures today

Adventurers and treasure seekers, armed with ever-advancing technology continue to discover the secrets of the deep, but discoveries are gradual – the oceans still give up their own, reluctantly.

It is an interesting fact that most ancient wrecks occurred close to shore and in bad weather, and 95% of valuable relics have been discovered by sponge divers.

Before you go

Check with your travel agent. Several of our tourist resources are now reporting unofficially that Bodrum Castle, and the Underwater Museum are closed to the public for an undetermined time and reason. Although Turkey was one of the sponsors of our trip, we have not been able to obtain an official statement. Whatever the situation, we hope it is temporary. The first class museums in Bodrum are not only interesting, but important to our understanding of the ancient world.

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

Copyright © 2018 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff.

Photos Copyright © 2018 Judy Bayliff.

 

Notes to Self: On Becoming Lighthouse Innkeepers

There are certain jobs that people dream about. A frequent fancy in a troubled world is being a lighthouse innkeeper where one can enjoy the peace and serenity of the ocean and abundant sea life. 

We wanted to see if the lifestyle of a lighthouse innkeeper might be in our future. We arranged for a visit to East Brother Island and its popular light-station located just 30 minutes from San Francisco. Join us, this just might be your cup of tea.

Where are we

East Brother Island is in San Pablo Bay, which connects to San Francisco Bay.

East Brother Light Station is managed by a Richmond nonprofit preservationist group, which in 1980 obtained permission from the Coast Guard to renovate and maintain the active light station.

The organization has many volunteers to help with the constant maintenance, and pays most of the bills by renting out the island’s five bedrooms, four days per week.

Getting to the island

After a series of email communications, we arranged to meet and interview the lighthouse innkeeper couple on East Brother Island.

On Monday morning, we were waiting at the less than luxurious Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor when our Captain/innkeeper pulled up to the dock in the island’s aluminum tender.

Before we could board the boat, the Captain first assisted the guests that were leaving the island. The visitors must have enjoyed their island experience because they were all laughing and carrying on as if they were old friends.

After introductions, our host started the engines and headed out of the harbor for a short 10-minute ride to the island.

He immediately gave us a briefing about what to expect when we arrived dockside. He described how we would be required to climb a very vertical stainless steel pool type ladder that extends from the boat deck to the landing pier that is joined to the island.  Depending on the tide, the climb can be as much as 12 feet. Think about that before you make reservations if you are not physically able to climb a ladder. Also, the island is unfortunately not able to be ADA compliant.

Buildings and facilities on the island

The one-acre island has two vintage buildings in addition to an 1874 Victorian Lighthouse. The old work shed has been converted into a cozy innkeepers’ cottage, and the other out-building houses the machinery necessary to power the working foghorns.

The island has electric power supplied by an underwater cable from the mainland, and a self-contained water system that holds about 90,000 gallons of rainwater stored in a white-clad underground cistern and an above-ground redwood water tank.

Because of the ever-present danger of water shortages in the Bay Area, there are no showers available for guests staying only one night. No one seemed to mind the inconvenience.

After gathering our photo equipment and walking up the steep ramp between the pier and the island, the Captain gave us a tour of the first building we encountered, which houses the machinery to operate the foghorns. For our benefit, he cranked up the diesel generator and gave us a live performance of the horns. Give a listen.. EBLS Foghorn

Becoming an Island Innkeeper

We soon found that our hosts had only been lighthouse keepers for ten weeks, and as of this writing they have already moved on to their next adventure. Lighthouse keeping is fun, but demanding work, and the turnover is quite high, but that’s apparently not a big problem for the stakeholders.

How many folks would love to run a Victorian Bed and Breakfast on a small island in California complete with a good salary, room and board, seals, pelicans, and a five-star view of the San Francisco skyline? Lots, that’s how many.

We are told that the number of applicants for the job is usually large, but there are serious knockout factors in the innkeeper application.

One of the applicants must be an excellent cook and capable of preparing and presenting food for a table of ten.

Another qualification is that one of the applicants must have a Coast Guard commercial boat operator’s license.

Lastly, both of the prospective innkeepers must be charming. Now we are getting somewhere.

About the work

In the case of East Brother Light Station, the island is open for business four nights per week starting on Thursday.

Prepping for the guests

On Wednesday morning, the innkeepers are on land shopping for provisions for up to 40 guests (5 rooms x 2 guests x 4 nights). They select the food for the menu, pick up the mail, laundry, fuel, and anything else they will need for the coming week on the island.

On Thursday morning, they boat back to the island with the supplies, unload their cargo into a large wire cart waiting on the pier, and winch the cart up a steep ramp that connects the pier with the island. They unload and store the supplies, and get the island ready for visitors.

A day with guests

On Thursday afternoon promptly at 4pm, the designated Captain/innkeeper returns to the marina dock at Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor to board the guests for Thursday night.

Upon arrival back at the island, the hosts provide a tour, hors d’oeuvres with champagne, and show the guests to their rooms.

The visitors then have ample time to explore the small island and enjoy the sea birds, animals, and fabulous views before dinner.

At dinner, the visitors are served an exquisitely prepared multi-course meal of the finest fresh ingredients.

All the guests are seated at one large table, which makes for a convivial atmosphere and an opportunity to socialize.

Friday morning would come all too soon, but a sumptuous gourmet breakfast would await all guests. Pity those one-night guests who must now head back to the mainland to resume their everyday lives.

After transferring the guests and their baggage to the mainland dock, the captain returns to the island to help his partner clean and prepare for new guests on Friday afternoon.

Saturday and Sunday are a repeat of Thursday and Friday.

After bidding farewell to the last guests for the week on Monday morning, the innkeeper heads back to the island and the chores that couldn’t be completed during the workweek.

Later in the day, the innkeepers load the laundry along with the empty bottles and trash into the island wire cart. The cart is pulled to the opposite end of the island and hooked and lowered by winch down to the island’s waiting boat. The innkeepers depart for the harbor, unload the cargo, and start a well-deserved Tuesday day of rest.

It’s not for everybody  

East Brother Light Station innkeepers live a romantic life full of guest kudos, fresh air, sunshine, seabirds, and seals. There are probably several of our readers that would trade places if they could. Life is short, you might want to give it a try! However, we decided not.

If you would like to be a guest at East Brother Light Station click here. Safety is important so there are several unique restrictions, be sure to check them out before making reservations.

Happy travels!

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

Copyright © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © Judy Bayliff – unauthorized use strictly prohibited.