Princess Cruise Ships: What Makes Them Sparkle

We recently took a Princess cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Grand Princess. This was our third sailing on the Grand since she was commissioned in 1998. You might wonder, after 20 years of service and tens of thousands of passengers, how does Princess keep her looking fresh and appealing to prospective guests.

We interviewed the Captain and Hotel General Manager, and along with inquiring about their work we asked some questions about the age of the Grand Princess.

Meet the Captain

The present Master of the Grand Princess is Captain John Harry Smith. Captain Smith started his career at sea as a deck hand on an oil tanker. He worked his way up the ranks and has been with the Princess Cruise Line since 2007.

In our years as travel photojournalists we have interviewed many ship’s Masters. Captain Smith manifests the same professionalism and confidence that we have learned to expect from all the members of his highly trained and respected vocation.

On the subject of maintaining older ships in the Princess fleet, Captain Smith commented, “Having an inspired crew, and paying attention to details when it comes to cleanliness and appearance gives any ship vitality. Constant and vigilant maintenance allows older ships to remain seaworthy and popular among new and repeat guests.” To that end, each Princess ship is removed from service every three years, and the Grand Princess is next in line.

In March 2019, the Grand Princess will enter dry dock in Portland, Oregon for repairs, maintenance, improvements, and inspections.

She will be worked over from stem to stern, top to bottom, inside and out, by 1000 contractors from around the world. The work will be performed 24-hours per day, and the workers will live aboard the ship. Service will be provided by the ship’s regular hospitality crew during the entire process.

All the work and numerous inspections will take just 13 days. Now that’s precision planning!

We asked the Hotel General Manager

While the Captain is responsible for literally everything, his primary areas of concentration are guest and ship safety, navigation, operations, and the environment.

The Captain puts great trust in the person who is directly charged with keeping the passengers happy, i.e., the Hotel General Manager. The HGM is responsible for all guest services, including dining, entertainment, and housekeeping. Helmut Leikauf is the Hotel General Manager aboard the Grand Princess.

There’s a ratio of about 2 guests to 1 crewmember on board a Princess ship. Approximately 900 of the 1100 hundred crew aboard the Grand Princess are guest-centric and report to the hotel organization. The HGM is an important officer indeed.

Mr. Leikauf fits the profile of his job, perfectly. He hails from Austria, a country noted for its prestigious hotel schools. Helmut is the epitome of what one expects at the top echelon of a first class hotel – on land or sea.  He is gracious, gregarious, and exacting, and his leadership by example is evident throughout the ship. He offered, “A happy crew makes for happy guests.”

We asked Mr. Leikauf about how long a ship might expect to be part of the Princess fleet. His answer was that such decisions are way above his pay grade, but he did offer that the Princess’ head office is highly focused on an excellent guest cruise experience. In his opinion, “There will be a place for any ship that continues to uphold and perform to Princess high standards, and remains popular with the guests.”

We recommend this cruise 

Our ten day cruise to Mexico exceeded our expectations. The Grand Princess performed like the great ship she is, and the attentive officers and crew made it an exceptional vacation.

We will write about other aspects of our Princess cruise to the Mexican Riviera in future articles.

Our next cruise will be to Hawaii or Alaska, and since it will depart from San Francisco, it will be on the renovated Grand Princess. We look forward to being aboard one of our favorite ships once again, and seeing her new “sparkle.”

For more information

Contact your favorite travel agent or Princess Cruises directly.

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

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Best Places to Stay Along the Northern California Coast: Scopa at the Sea

Preface

Lodging preferences are so personal. With the advent of the internet, travel magazine advertisements have given way to lodging websites and individual reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp. Of course, lodging websites are no more objective than print ads – which leaves us to depend on personal reviews to help us decide on the best places to stay. Unfortunately, personal reviews run the gamut of “wonderful,” to “horrible” for the same property. So what’s a traveler to do? One suggestion is to single out reviews written by dependable travel writers.

Luxury travel writers’ goal 

As travel journalists specializing in luxury travel, our mission is always to find, photograph, and write about a unique lodging where discriminating travelers would enjoy a stay. In addition to cleanliness, we look for something unusual, historic, or really special. If we happen to pick a place that turns out not to meet those standards, we don’t write about it. We may have wasted our time, but we won’t waste yours.

How we found Scopa at the Sea Bed and Breakfast

We were heading down the picturesque Oregon and California coasts along highways 1 and 101 to the port of San Francisco. We were scheduled to write about a Princess Cruise to the popular Mexican Riviera.

We thought the drive would be an excellent opportunity to point out some genuinely special places to stay along the route.

The northern Pacific coastal drive is a breathtaking adventure, and we wanted to find lodgings that would complement the excitement of the trip. We found three properties to write about. The first is Scopa at the Sea.

Scopa at the Sea’s location in Crescent City, California fit perfectly into our self-imposed daily drive limits. It turned out to be a stellar choice! We rate it as one of the top boutique B&Bs of the hundreds we have reviewed.

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The weather was not cooperating and it had been blustery and raining all day. In spite of the bad driving weather, we felt fortunate to see some super-exciting ocean scenes along the way.

The Scopa is in a residential neighborhood, and on an oceanside street with amazing panoramic views. We arrived at the 3 p.m. check-in hour.

The house has been recently remodeled and redesigned for the purpose of becoming a B&B for discerning guests seeking a special haven apart from the ordinary.

The public rooms include a cozy living room with a creative mantel made from parts of a vintage organ that had been played in that same room years ago.

Following on, there is a spacious gathering room, dining room, and kitchen. A perfect layout for socializing or finding a private corner to enjoy the exclusive company of your roommate.

Deborah, the gracious innkeeper is a delight and an excellent baker and cook. Waiting for us was a home-baked banana cake with banana walnut frosting – all made from scratch. Yummy! Other guests arrived at approximately the same time, and dove into the cake before we could tempt you with a fresh close-up photo.

Around seven, Deborah laid out a selection of local cheeses and we did a little wine and cheesing along with a bit of friendly conversation before retiring.

The ambiance

It’s difficult to explain why this house has the aura of a lighthouse keeper’s cottage. Certainly, the tasteful nautical décor and paintings are part of the reason, as is the restless and magnificent ocean view from so many windows, but there’s something more.  If you stay at the Scopa, we invite your input.

Views

Our second level sleeping room is named the Whale Horizon Spa Suite. It is a nicely appointed, spacious room with an inviting bath.

Its stunning views entice you to gaze at the marvelous ocean and rugged outcroppings that make up the rocky northern California coastline. The beach below our window, and just across the street is known for agates and is appropriately named Pebble Beach.

Our fellow guests were a congenial and interesting couple from Miami, Florida. We had planned a quick getaway after breakfast, but ended up staying right up to the 11 o’clock check-out time.

Our new friends were pleased to have stayed in the suite next to our own. It’s named the Seal Song Suite, aka the Hugh Jackman Suite. It’s probably unusual to have a celebrity stay in the little town of Crescent City, so we applaud the Scopa folks for unofficially promoting it. A photo of Hugh Jackman in the living room is available in the guest photo gallery on the Scopa website.

Call to breakfast

We woke from a sound sleep in a luxurious king-sized bed to the wafting aroma of freshly ground brewed coffee and sizzling bacon. We thought this was a great way to entice all guests to the communal morning table.

Breakfast consisted of apple waffles with homemade apple syrup, pecan topping, eggs, bacon, and baked sausage.

After the morning feast, we bid farewell to Deborah, who by now felt more like family than an innkeeper.

For more details about the finer points and reservations look at the website www.Scopaproperties.com. Scopa at the Sea prices are very competitive considering what you get in indelible vistas, luxurious furnishings, conveniences, an exquisite breakfast – and other foodie treats. There are only three guestrooms on property, so it’s best to reserve early to avoid disappointment.

By the way, don’t be confused by the Scopa properties website. There are actually two buildings on one property, and one more at a different location. Scopa at the Sea is the three guestroom bed and breakfast inn where we stayed (above right), while the building to the left is called the Seaview Beach House and has three spotless and lovely housing units, Agate – Fern – and Pebble.

Two units have mini-kitchens, and one has a full-size kitchen. These are fitting homes for any duration.

The local lighthouse

On the short drive back to Hwy 101 to continue our trek south, we passed the picturesque Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City. It was a windy day with sweeping punctuated rain. Fortunately, the stormy weather added to the kaleidoscopic colors that showcased this remarkable landmark.

Next stop, the Inn at Newport Ranch in Fort Bragg, but that’s a story for another time.

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.

Copyright © 2019 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2019 Judy Bayliff

Surrounded by the Spirit of Christmas in a Connecticut Castle

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Prelude to Christmas

At the turn of the 20th century, William Gillette was a renowned American actor and playwright. In 1914 he purchased a scenic 184-acre plot of land that overlooked the majestic Connecticut River in East Haddam, Connecticut.

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On a ridge at the site, Gillette constructed a magnificent hand-tooled stone castle where he hoped to enjoy his retirement in the solitude of his estate.

Through the years, the strange-looking edifice on the high bluff became known as Gillette’s Castle. Today the castle is a Connecticut State Park and is open to the public.

Join us on a special tour, at a particularly wonderful time of year — the holiday season in New England.

Christmas in Connecticut

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We arrived at Gillette’s Castle just before it was to open to the public for Christmas. We made arrangements with the state to have the privilege of photographing the castle just after the staff had put the final touches on the holiday trimmings.

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With the exception of a ranger, we were alone in the vast 24-room castle. As we photographed the rooms, we sensed an inexplicable aura of peace and tranquility about the place, possibly actuated by some manifestation of gentle ghosts of bygone Christmases.

Past reasons to decorate

John Gillette had entertained many theater and important holiday guests during his nearly 20-years of residence at the castle.  He passed away while living at the castle three months after the Christmas of 1936. He was 83.

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A most unusual home

There is much to discover here that is not immediately obvious. It is reputed that no nails were used in the construction of Gillette’s Castle – ingenious if true. Beams are held into place with large iron rods, stone is used as an art form as well as an engineering necessity.

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Each room in the castle is like a character in one of Gillette’s plays. Light streams through the fretted windows of every chamber, illuminating each to a warm yuletide mood.

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One curious mystery is why Gillette used hospital style white metal beds throughout his castle. 

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A visit to Gillette Castle during the winter holiday season is a step across the threshold of Christmas past. It’s an introspective experience that we highly recommend.

If you go

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The park is at 67 River Road in East Haddam, Connecticut. Check out the website *here*

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For more ideas about what to see and do in Connecticut check out www.ctvisit.com

For more of our joyous holiday experiences in Connecticut, click here.

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 Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © Judy Bayliff

 

 

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

Plan your trips with Google Maps.

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!

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“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