Getting Back Into Travel Adventures Post Covid-19

When you decide you are again ready for a new travel adventure, and you have already tried sky diving, hot air ballooning, and maybe white water rafting – look to the sea, and consider swimming with the sharks.

After you read our story and are raring to go, check out the new entry protocols required by the Islands in the Bahamas. You will find them at the end of this article.

Our personal favorite locations for diving with the sharks are off the beautiful islands of the Bahamas, which are an easy plane ride from the US mainland. We particularly like the island of New Providence which is home to the town of Nassau where 80% of the Bahamians live. At the opposite end of the island from Nassau is Stuart Cove’s Dive Center – one of the very best in the business.

Distinguished divers

Stuart Cove has been involved in the making of many underwater film segments including those from the popular James Bond series, For Your Eyes Only, and Never Say Never Again. Stuart personally certified Sean Connery (who lived in the Bahamas) and Kim Bassinger for their underwater scenes in the latter movie.

Through the years, Stuart has been host to a long list of celebrities and prominent world figures including Diana Princess of Wales, and the Princes William and Harry.

Friendly sharks

Next to the stingrays in the Cayman Islands, the Caribbean Reef Sharks in this part of New Providence waters are probably the closest thing to a trained fish that you will find anywhere on the planet. They are fed regularly by the shark dive tour operators and know exactly when to congregate for feedings.

During a shark feeding, all divers are required to kneel on the bottom in a semi-circle with their arms folded. The divemaster, outfitted in a chain-link suit, kneels in front of the group and dispenses large pieces of fish to the swarming sharks from a bucket via a metal pole. The process is often quite orderly with each shark waiting its turn for a tasty gobble. The rhythmic motion of the feeder and sharks is somewhat reminiscent of a matador finessing a cape across the horns of a passing bull.

Not for everyone 

Organized shark feeding is not without its critics. There are those that believe that any form of unnatural feeding of animals in the wild should be banned. However, we have never observed any behavioral differences between these local sharks and those of the same species in waters where there are no recreational feedings. We hasten to add, however, that we are not naturalists or shark experts.

A thrill like no other

As interesting as shark feedings are to watch, we have the most fun well before the feeding when we swim among the gathering sharks. Their eerie luminescent lime green eyes follow divers as they swim past. They seem to be as curious about humans as we are about them.

Fear dissipates quickly when you swim among sharks and learn to appreciate their grace and beauty.

Pick your sharks carefully

Of course, not all sharks are created equal. The favored Caribbean Reef Shark runs in size from five feet to nine feet, is olive-gray to grayish-brown in color, and is quite inquisitive, but not particularly threatening.

Play it safe and dive with experts

If you decide to try a shark dive holiday, your expectation and affirmation of safety lie in the fact that professional dive tour operators have been dispensing electrifying experiences to eager divers for years – and as far as we know – there have been no tragic consequences.

You need to be a certified SCUBA diver in order to participate in shark dives, but most warm-water resorts – and many cruise ships – offer certification courses that will have you trained and ready for action within a few days.

If you want more information

Check out Stuart Cove’s website at Special Offers – Stuart Coves – Bahamas Dive Shop & Tours. Then read and be ready to comply with the following important government rules.

The Islands of The Bahamas just announced streamlined entry protocols that will enable visitors to better and more seamlessly enjoy a Bahamas vacation experience. For detailed information regarding the new requirements please visit https://www.bahamas.com/pressroom/islands-bahamas-announces-updated-travel-and-entry-protocols.

Happy travels!

© 2021 Travels with Wayne and Judy

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

A Tour of Pearl Harbor: Remembering December 7, 1941

The USS Arizona Memorial is a national monument honoring those who served in the Pacific Theatre during and after the Japanese naval assault on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The memorial structure is built on and directly over the rusted remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona. This is the final resting place of 1,177 Americans killed when a bomb penetrated the deck above the ship’s munitions magazine during the Japanese air attack on Battleship Row.

The loss of life on the Arizona represents more than half of all the Americans killed on December 7, 1941. It also represents the greatest number of casualties on any American warship in history.

Now a garden setting

If you have not been to the memorial lately, you will be much impressed with the park like setting at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center.

While at the Center, be sure to see the 23-minute film and audio tour that brings that fateful morning at Pearl Harbor to life.

Well done

The exhibits at the Center are designed to pull visitors deftly into that specific moment in history, as they relive the politics and events leading up to the Japanese attack.

The presentations are poignant – be prepared for a holistic experience you will not forget.

A solemn journey

When their background education is refreshed, visitors board a launch operated by the Navy and are ferried across the harbor to the waiting memorial. It is a short and quiet ride.

After pulling alongside the monument, passengers disembark and walk up to the cenotaph resting on the Arizona.

At the far end of the memorial, look for the Wall of Honor with the names of those that gave their lives on the ill-fated Arizona. They are now resting beneath your feet.

Visitors speak in whispers, tears are visible, eyes are cast downward into the entombing water, and minds imagine the confusion and utter chaos of that December morning so long ago. It all seems surreal to the observers who now stand in the gentle Hawaiian breeze – safely atop the remains of the Arizona.

The ultimate sacrifice

One can only wonder what life might have held in store for the one-thousand plus soldiers and sailors below – if they had not been aboard the Arizona on that fateful day. Had they lived, what famous Americans might they have fathered for our generation, what greatness might they have achieved? America moved forward, one-thousand heroes remain at their post.

The tears of the Arizona

Seventy-five years later, oil still seeps from the sunken battleship. It randomly appears on the water’s surface – then like a spirit – it floats slowly away. Observers have named the oil manifestations “the tears of the Arizona.”

Be sure to visit the USS Arizona Memorial

Save a day during your vacation on Oahu and take your family to see the USS Arizona Memorial. For some, it is an awakening and first time realization about the many Americans that have sacrificed everything to keep our nation free.

The USS Missouri

The Arizona Memorial is now symbolically guarded by the ever-vigilant USS Missouri battleship. “Big Mo,” is permanently docked in Pearl – just up-harbor from the Arizona. The Missouri fought in and survived WWII and her deck was the historic site of the official surrender of Japan in 1945. It seems fitting that a battleship that participated in ending the war in the Pacific, should rest near the dreadnought that was the earliest casualty of the conflict.

The great Missouri went on to fight in Korea, and Operation Desert Storm. She was decommissioned in 1992, and took up her post as silent sentinel for the Arizona in 1999.

The USS Missouri has the distinction of being the last active battleship in the world.

If you go

The USS Arizona Memorial is located in Pearl Harbor, which is two miles west of the Honolulu International Airport.

Look *here* for more information about the USS Arizona Memorial, and *here* for the USS Missouri Memorial.

Heroes are still being interred on the USS Arizona. This video explains – You Tube

Happy travels – Remember our troops, not only today, but always.

Note: During the pandemic face masks are required for the Arizona Memorial Tour as well as other places in the park. The park is also limiting the number of passengers on the boats going to the memorial. Safe distancing is in place throughout the park. For regular updates check out http://www.nps.gov/coronavirus.

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“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.

© 2020 Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

 

How to Plan a Storybook “Christmas in Connecticut” 2020 Style

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

Note: We check every year to make sure the facts in the story have not materially changed. Because of the pandemic, none of the communal indoor gatherings are taking place in 2020 but more outdoor activities have been added on weekends.

Victoria Kolyvas, the owner of the Tidewater Inn, is still successfully cheerleading for Madison in these trying times.

Merry Christmas and God bless us one and all.

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

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

Our research

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

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

Arriving in winter

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

Driving to Madison

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

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

The Tidewater Inn

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

Meet the Innkeeper

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

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

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

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

The events of Madison

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

Parade day

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

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

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

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

Tour of Madison historic inns

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

On to the Shoreline Soul Concert

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

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

The tree lighting

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

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

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

Saving the best for last

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

Ahavah: A Christmas Story

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

Photo: Ahavah by Christian Academy of Dance

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

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

A bittersweet farewell

God willing we hope to return to Madison and the Tidewater Inn for another winter holiday very soon. Once the pandemic is under control we hope you will join us in enjoying another traditional Christmas in Connecticut.

When you go

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

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

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

Happy Travels – Happy Holidays – Remember our troops!

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

Enjoy the fall colors of New England

Visit Kent Falls, Connecticut

A family budget hotel in Shelton, Connecticut

A historic inn in fashionable Westport, Connecticut

An intimate B&B on the backroads of northwestern Connecticut

The countryside elegance of the Mayflower Inn and Spa

The Delamar luxury hotel in the Greenwich harbor

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

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

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

 

Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers 2020

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

Out of 20 entries this year, we are pleased to present the following dozen items for your gift-giving consideration in 2020.

Seat Sitters

This is a product we introduced in last year’s Gift Guide but in light of the pandemic, it deserves a repeat. Last year it was a novelty, this year it could be something much more.

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

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

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

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

Pig Wizard PorkCorn

OK, this is fun and different. Those readers familiar with all things on Cannery Row in Monterey, California may have some knowledge of the Pig Wizard store and its assortment of out-of-the-ordinary sausages, meats, and things. Their motto unabashedly articulates, “Eat My Sausage.”

We received two samples of Pig Wizards PorkCorn. The first was a bag of Beer Bacon Caramel PorkCorn. We are told that this is the company’s original flavor of caramel-coated pork rinds. Ingredients? Pork rinds, sugar, corn syrup, beer, bacon, apple cider vinegar, bacon fat, and molasses.

The second bag contained Sweet Heat Caramel PorkCorn. Similar ingredients but with a spicy whack.

We actually enjoyed both treats. The company boldly proclaims, “One of these delicious duos is your new addiction, you just don’t know it until you have the first bite.” Also, a great conversation-starting gift for those very hard to buy for.

Take a peek at the extensive menu offering of uncommon cuisine at pigwizard.com

Unique Cork Yoga Mat and Block

This is an unusual travel mat made of cork! It is as beautiful as it is functional.

At 70″x24″ and weighing only 3.5 pounds, we found this highly versatile mat excellent for us when we travel.

Eco-friendly: Designed to Love the Earth! Biodegradable natural cork & rubber printed with water-based inks. Free from silicone, PVC, and phthalates

Slip Resistant and Easy to Clean: Cork is antimicrobial, so less cleaning is required. Clean with natural soap and water.

The Cork Block

Designed to provide superior grip and strength so you can confidently move deeply into those challenging poses. 3″X5.5″X9″ Mandala design on both sides.

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

 

La Crosse Technology Wind and Weather Station

We live on a windy lake and it is great fun to watch the changes in the weather on our personal wind and weather station from La Crosse Technology. We placed ours in our office.

The 79400 provides accurate backyard wind speed & direction, temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure data.

Great to know the weather before you take off on those day trips.  Check out all the La Crosse time and weather products at lacrossetechnology.com

State Slates and Other Unique Map Gifts

A splendid gift idea for the traveler who has everything. Well Told is a company that creates imaginative memories of personal life inspired experiences such as classic glassware and bar accessories decorated with intricate wraparound maps.

Our sample is a 12″x12″ slate serving tile etched with the borders and main roadways of our residence state of Oregon. Great for chopping and serving fruits and cheeses, etc.

Check out all the etched bartop and kitchen offerings like the “Night Sky Stemless Wine Glass” at the company website at www.welltolddesign.com

 

 

La Cross Wireless Weather Station 

Another great gift product from La Crosse Technology.

La Crosse Technology® introduces a Wireless Color Weather Station with precise, real-time backyard weather. New – Indoor Comfort Meter monitors indoor humidity (GOOD, HUMID, or DRY) for ideal comfort.

Animated color forecasts with trends react to changing barometric pressure. Monitor IN/OUT temperature trends and set high/low-temperature alerts. Measure indoor/outdoor temperature and humidity with daily MIN/MAX records — all on one easy-to-read color display with adjustable brightness.

We placed our station in the bedroom. Now we know all about the day’s weather when we wake and it also makes an excellent adjustable night light. Helps us know what to pack for our trips. See it on lacrossetechnology.com

Acorn TV

We are Netflix and Prime Video 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. Have a look at ACORN TV.

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

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

Travel Insurance

Our last service recommendation is one that we recommend annually. 

Travel insurance has saved many a vacation for family and loved ones (including ours). 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 most things 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. Be sure to ask about the facts and limitations regarding Covid-19 coverage.

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

Books for avid travel readers:

Historic Tales of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park: Big Trees Grove

This year we read an extraordinary book written by an author who lives in Santa Cruz and personally experienced the recent fires in California.

Every time we read about a California wildfire we hope and pray that none of the historic and much-loved tourist destinations are involved. One such destination is the Big Trees Grove at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.

This historic book by author Deborah Osterberg is an exciting read for people who love the ages-old redwood forests of California. It details the trials and tribulations of great Americans who saved many of these wonderful stands of trees from the loggers’ ax — it wasn’t always an easy task.

We highly recommend this paperback book for a self-reading or as a gift. It is available from History Press and Amazon

The Ivory Carver Trilogy

This set of three books was written by the best selling author (and our friend) Sue Harrison. Her stories about “early native peoples” are fascinating reads. Mother Earth Father Sky, My Sister the Moon, and Brother Wind are absorbing tales that you will not want to put down.

Set in prehistoric North America, Sue’s Trilogy introduces first peoples and what they endured in the time before history.

Sue is a perfectionist and does exhaustive research on her subjects, and it shows on each exciting page.

The Ivory Carver Trilogy is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers.

Abandoned California: The Mojave Desert

Abandoned California: The Mojave Desert is a stunning collection of photographs and writings by Andy Willinger that captures the majesty of forsaken buildings, vehicles, and artifacts of the Mojave’s once vibrant past.

These sites have become meaningful, unintended statements – not only as vibrant, ephemeral artworks of strange beauty but as a testament of the impact on nature by humanity.

Undaunted, the Mojave Desert continues to brashly flaunt its skill in overcoming man’s attempts to conquer it.

In Southern California, settlers have long ventured into the Mojave Desert, seduced by its capacious horizons and fragile beauty, only to be humbled by the intense heat, bone-dry terrain, and maddening isolation.

The paperback is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers.

A History Lover’s Guide to Florida

We have great friends in Florida so we were pleased to review this outstanding guide by author James C. Clark. It is a thorough study of the sunshine state and its many interesting aspects from its history of explorers, pirates, wars, hurricanes, and shipwrecks. It covers the movies made in Florida, visits by presidents, historical landmarks, and its people.

Florida is THE state of transplants. However, most Floridians hold fast to their birthplace homes even though Florida owns one of the richest histories in the nation.  Decades before the Pilgrims, the Spanish celebrated Thanksgiving in Florida. Urban renewal was underway in Florida when the Jamestown settlers had just arrived.

The author offers a lifetime of places to explore and thousands of facts, drawings, and photographs to fascinate the travel reader.

This is a fantastic read. We recommend it. The paperback is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers.

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 2021!

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.

Achilleion: For Your Eyes Only

In October 1980 a Hollywood crew descended on the quiet Island of Corfu located between Italy and Greece in the Ionian Sea. The production company filming the 12th James Bond movie, “For Your Eyes Only,” had secured the elegant Achilleion Palace Casino for an important sequence in the film.

Thank you James Bond

The viewing public is always treated to marvelous vistas and glamorous settings all skillfully woven into every James Bond movie. However, some of the iconic structures introduced in Bond films are unfamiliar landmarks that had interesting histories long before they were 007 venues.  The Achilleion Palace is one such landmark.

The story 

Our story begins with a murder-suicide. In 1889 Crown Prince Rudolph, the only son of Empress Elisabeth of Austria was the heir apparent to the throne of Austria/Hungary when he murdered his mistress and committed suicide.

The event so upset the Empress that she withdrew from the royal court, traveled, and eventually found solitude on her favorite vacation island of Corfu.

There she had constructed a marvelous palace as a refuge from the public. She named the palace Achilleion in tribute to Achilles – a tragic character in Greek mythology.

Elisabeth had written, “I want a palace with pillared colonnades and hanging gardens, protected from prying glances – a palace worthy of Achilles, who despised all mortals and did not fear even the gods.”

An unusual theme

Her wishes were carried out and are evident throughout the palace and gardens. There are many statues on the grounds of the palace but only two are world-famous. The first is a work in marble of a Dying Achilles purchased by Elisabeth in 1890 and symbolic of her personal grief and pain over the loss of her son.

The statue of Dying Achilles depicts the now mortal Achilles looking toward the heavens asking his goddess mother Thetis for her help, which she could not give. Many believe the Empress of Austria felt empathy for the goddess-mother because she shared a similar experience with her own son.

An untimely end

After the death of her son Rudolph, Elisabeth became reclusive and preferred anonymity when she traveled – a trait that would lead to her untimely death at the age of 60. In 1898, the Empress was walking with a friend and unaccompanied by security on a street in Geneva. An Italian anarchist recognized the Royal, attacked and stabbed her, inflicting a mortal wound.

A charitable benefactor

The entire continent mourned the senseless assassination. Elisabeth, affectionately called “Sissi,” was regarded as one of the most beautiful women in Europe, but she was more famous for her generosity.

After her death

Achilleion was purchased from Elisabeth’s heir by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany in 1907. The Kaiser and his family used the palace as a summer retreat until the start of World War I.

A commemorative statue of Sissi was respectfully placed at the front entrance so the Empress could forever greet palace guests.

It was at that time that the Kaiser commissioned the second famous statue found at Achilleion, a magnificent 26-foot tall brass Achilles. It depicts Achilles as a strong warrior/god on guard overlooking the City of Corfu. The Kaiser had inscribed “To the Greatest Greek from the Greatest German.” The inscription was removed by the Greek people after WWII.

The war years

During the First World War, the palace was conscripted as a military hospital. After the conflict, the palace reverted back to Greece as part of war reparations.

In the 1920s the palace was used as an orphanage and later as government offices until the start of WWII when it was seized by the Axis Powers for use as a military headquarters. After that war, the palace came under the control of the Hellenic Tourist Organization (HTO).

The palace remained closed to the public for 17 years following WWII.

Days as a casino

In 1962 the HTO leased the palace to a private company that ran it as a casino until 1983. At the end of the lease, the palace reverted back to the HTO. Fortunately, it was still a casino in 1981 when James Bond paid a visit.

Today, the palace is a public museum and the most frequented attraction on the island of Corfu.

That ends our first story in our new series, “If only walls could talk.” Hope you enjoyed it.

If you go

The Achilleion Palace is located about 6 miles south of the colorful city of Corfu.

It is situated on a plateau overlooking the city and Ionian Sea.

Corfu is accessible by air and sea. Before the pandemic, it was a popular cruise port.

There are many Corfu tours that include the palace and grounds. You can find a selection here.

 

When we arrived on Corfu, the palace gardens and grounds were open to enjoy the statuary, but the museum was closed for cleaning and maintenance.

A great disappointment we hope to rectify after the pandemic.

 

 

Safe travels!

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“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

Copyright © 2020 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2020 Judy Bayliff

 

The Future of the Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia shrine in Istanbul is a breath-taking religious and cultural icon that has stood the ravages of time, disease, and conflicts for over 1500 years. It is venerated and visited by millions of tourists each year – but that may change.

If you haven’t seen the Hagia Sophia, it is truly inspirational and worthy of your Bucket List.

The story about what you will see

The tale of the Hagia Sophia is an essential part of the tumultuous history of two of mankind’s great religions, Christianity and Islam.

It is interesting to note that the time intervals between significant events in the story of the Hagia Sophia encompass many human lifetimes and world developments.

In the beginning, Emperor Constantine the Great proclaimed Christianity a free-state religion of the Holy Roman Empire in 313 AD.

He also moved the seat of his one-third control of the Roman empire from Rome to Constantinople in 330 AD. Having evolved into a corrupt social state, the city of Rome fell to Germanic tribes in 476 AD, but Constantinople survived to become the biggest and wealthiest city in Europe for the next 800 years. 

Millions of people of all faiths have worn down the mosque entrance over 1500 years.

It was the dream of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I to build a prominent cathedral in the capital city of Constantinople. The construction of the Hagia Sophia cathedral, whose name translates to Holy Wisdom in Greek, was completed in 538 AD, 32 years before the birth of the prophet Mohammed.

For 600 years the Hagia Sophia served as an Eastern Orthodox Catholic church. However, in the year 1204, Roman Catholic Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade plundered Constantinople and looted the treasures of the Hagia Sophia. The cathedral remained under Roman Catholic control for just 57 years before the Eastern Catholics retook Constantinople from the weaker army of Rome.

The Roman Catholic Fourth Crusade broadened the growing schism between the Roman Catholic Church centered in Italy and the Eastern Orthodox Catholic church of Constantinople – the weakened alliance made the entire Catholic empire more vulnerable to its enemies.

The Muslim conquest

Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II conquered Christian Constantinople in 1453 and turned the Hagia Sophia cathedral into a mosque and a grand symbol of the Muslim Ottoman Empire. At the time, many of the Christian icons in the Hagia Sophia were covered over with plaster.

Through the intervening centuries, the mosque had many renovations and significant reinforcements were made to the structure. During the renovation of 1739 Sultan Mahmud I, had most of the remaining Christian mosaics covered over with other art.

In the mid-19th century, eight striking calligraphic roundels with the inscribed names of Allah, and Muhammad and his grandsons were installed prominently under the dome.

In 1931 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the new secular Republic of Turkey commissioned famed American archeologist Thomas Whittemore to locate and restore the medieval Christian artwork in the Hagia Sophia.

The Hagia Sophia as a museum

When the work was completed in 1935 Atatürk opened the Hagia Sophia as a museum and a symbolic union between Islam and Christianity. The world celebrated Atatürk’s great gift for eight decades. Millions of tourists annually visit Istanbul and its incomparable and historic Hagia Sophia.

Typical of today

In 1935 Turkey’s first president Atatürk wanted to demonstrate to the international community of nations that the new republic of Turkey was taking a worldly turn – and all were welcome.

On July 10, 2020, the highest administrative court in Turkey declared that president Atatürk’s 1935 conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a secular museum was illegal. It ruled that the Hagia Sophia should immediately be returned to its prior status as a mosque.

Highly supportive of the court’s decision, on July 24, 2020, the nationalistic president of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended Muslim prayers in the reinstated mosque for the first time in 85 years.

To his credit (and in light of the negative global outcry), president Erdogan has assured other nations that the Hagia Sophia will remain open to foreign visitors during non-prayer hours. The Christian art will be covered during prayers, but available to be seen afterward.

The change back to a mosque was a disappointment to secular non-conformists and cultural globalists, but it could have been worse – just look at the world around us.

For many years secularism thrived in Turkey. During our visits, we found the Turkish people most cordial and generous of spirit. Islam was evident all around us. We are not Muslims but we saw no evidence of religious bias. We felt welcome. Turkey was an excellent host and the country is eminently rich in history and culture.

See it if you can.

Safe travels.

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“Get out there, but be safe and prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

Copyright © 2020 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2020 Judy Bayliff

 

Another Great Inn Reopens: The Inn at Longshore in Westport, Connecticut

The Inn at Longshore reopened for business on July 22, 2020. Another great American inn adds its prestigious name to the fight against COVID-19 and the economic hardship it has caused the travel industry.

Originally built in 1890 as a private residence, by the early 20th century The Inn at Longshore had become “the in place” in Southern Connecticut to get married or hold an important event.

The Inn is a living memorial to that early time, and we went there to get a sense of a special era in American history – we were not disappointed.

A place for sentimental rendezvous

As reputed, we found that little had changed over the years at the Inn. We talked with frequent patrons who were most appreciative that in a fast-paced world of constant change, there was still a place like the Inn, where past recollections were easily renewable – rather than part of a distant gossamer memory.

The Inn’s classic country club architecture and setting are pleasing to the eye, and its intimate reception area is quiet, traditional, and comfortable. There is a definite air of deep-rooted elegance about the place.

Once private now public

The 169-acre property on which the Inn is located once belonged to the private Longshore Beach and Country Club. It was purchased by the Town of Westport in 1960 and is now the public Longshore Club Park with picnic areas, three swimming pools, tennis courts, a seasonal ice skating rink, playgrounds, a marina, sailing school, and an 18-hole golf course.

A destination inn

Longshore is not “right next” to anything. You stay at The Inn at Longshore because you like Westport, Long Island Sound, you enjoy golf, tennis, the pool, sailing, – or you are attending an event. The Inn’s setting is ideal for parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and corporate events – and thousands of them have taken place at the Inn over its many decades of service.

Banquet accommodations

The main ballroom/banquet hall is very large and can welcome many guests. If your celebration will take place during the warm months, the back lawn of the Longshore can accommodate upwards of 500. In any case, check with the Inn for current capacity limitations due to social distancing.

We spoke with a young woman at dinner that was planning her wedding for the same date and in the same rooms where her parents had been married – 30 years earlier. She would also be wearing her mother’s wedding dress, and the significance of it all made her nuptial plans extraordinary and very special indeed.

After checking in, we exited the banquet room at the back of the Inn and walked the long stretch of lawn beyond the rose garden and patio. As we looked around at the bucolic surroundings, we wondered how many thousands of delighted guests had made the same journey across the grass.

We stopped at a site, watched, and listened to happy children learning to sail just off the nearby shore. It was easy to envision an earlier time when other guests stood on the very same spot, chatting, laughing, and perhaps dancing to the sounds of Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Room accommodations

The country-inn style guestrooms have the feel of a private residence where tradition dominates and permeates. The furniture is comfortably urbane, and all the modern amenities are present.

A place for memories 

The Inn at Longshore is a place where memories are made and remembered. It is a dwelling of old elegance, where generations of families have dined and idled away the hours after a round of golf on the adjacent links – or an afternoon of fun, sun, and sailing on picturesque Long Island Sound.

We enjoyed our stay at The Inn at Longshore and can recommend it to anyone who is looking for a great place to party or would enjoy a touch of mid-20th century upscale Americana. Historic and versatile, the Inn perfectly suits both romantic retreats and corporate getaways.

If you go

The Inn is not far from Exit 17 on the Connecticut Turnpike (I-95) in tony Westport, Connecticut. For more information, or to get specific directions, look up their website at www.innatlongshore.com. The Inn’s telephone number in the United States is 203.226.3316.

Due to the global pandemic, travelers are advised to call ahead to ensure what facilities are open at the Inn, and to remember to adhere to social distancing and mask guidelines at all times.

Drive don’t fly

If you plan to vacation during these early days of travel “reopening,” we recommend driving to your destination. At this time, we are not at all confident about the safety measures put in place by the airlines.

If you drive out of state, check with the visiting state for any quarantine regulations.

Happy and safe travels.

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your road 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 © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Batty? You Have Company

Hanging around the house all day during the pandemic getting you down? There are those whose daily routine is to always hang around – upside down.

When you write for internet travel magazines and you don’t travel, you have to get creative with your topics. So we dug into our travel archives to find subjects that were not of particular interest at the time we experienced them, but now, under different circumstances, might be.  Looking for a “hanging around” twist, we found a topic. So, for better or worse, here’s our story.

Flying-fox bats

When we last visited Sydney, Australia we were intrigued by the local flying-fox bats. Named because they bear a distinct resemblance to a fox with wings; they are also called fruit bats because of their diet.

A simple bat brief

Bats are the only flying mammals. They range in sizes from tiny mouse-sized insectivorous bats to the large gruesome blood-sucking man/beast bats of Dracula’s Transylvanian folklore. Somewhere in the middle is the gray-headed flying-fox bat of Lachlan Swamp in Centennial Park, Sydney. These medium-sized bats can weigh up to 2 pounds and have a wingspan of 3 feet.

The flying-fox bat is different from many other bats in that it uses its eyes to see, nose to smell, and eats fruits rather than praying on insects.

Sleeping by day, the fox bat hangs from de-foliated trees looking like so many drooping figs. But, there are thousands of them in a colony, and standing under a canopy of fox bats can be eerily reminiscent of the quiet scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” It would certainly make one uneasy should they all decide to take flight at the same time.

The main food source for the flying-fox bat is the protein-rich pollen of the Eucalyptus flower. This particular bat is an important pollinator of the eucalyptus and similar forests of eastern and northern Australia.

Fellow travelers

The fox bat can fly around 65 miles in one night, therefore providing an important genetic link to fertilizing fragmented forests across open spaces and towns. Flying such long distances is not within the capability of lesser pollinators like birds, bees, and butterflies.

Like so many other species, the flying-fox bat numbers are slowly decreasing as its food sources are diminishing. Too bad, because the cuddly little leathery creatures are quite cute if you look closely.

It sure will be nice to get back to traveling.

A fellow adventurer, Christine Allen made a short video of the flying-fox bat. Click here and enjoy.

Happy travels.

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Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

Copyright © 2020 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2020 Judy Bayliff. Video by Christine Allen.

The Past and Future of Airline Travel

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

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

An industry of greed

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

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

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

Fun of flying

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

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

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

RIP

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

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

Government bailout

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

All may change and add insult to injury

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

Our recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

Happy and safe travels.

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

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

Copyright © 2020 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2020 Judy Bayliff

The Queen Mary Hotel is Open for Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your journey begins

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

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

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

Plan to return for the tours and museums

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

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The Queen Mary at war

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

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

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

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

After the war, it was business as usual

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

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

A little known story about a great celebrity

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

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

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

Additional interesting facts and trivia:

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

Don’t miss it

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

If you go

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

Happy travels!

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

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

© 2020 Travels with Wayne and Judy 

Photos © Judy Bayliff