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!

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

“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.

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

“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.

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

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

Take a Virtual Vacation in April 2020

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

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

Here’s an idea

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

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

Organize your photos

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

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

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

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

Sit back and enjoy

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

Yes, even breakfast is special.

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

Bon Appetit!

Breakfast cereal at home never looks like this.

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

Cruise lines — thank you for the memories!

Happy Travels

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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. Final image courtesy of Princess Cruise Lines.

 

 

 

How to Find the Perfect 19th Century Connecticut Inn

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

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

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

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

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

And the food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The nearby winery

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

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

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

The beach 

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

The guest rooms

Twelve guest rooms and two apartments are open all year.

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

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

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

If you go

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

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

Happy travels!

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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 © 2019 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2019 Judy Bayliff