For dinner, we took the advice of several friends (thanks!) and went to Da Dong for their fabulous Peking Duck. The menu is huge and a bit overwhelming, but we stuck with the famous duck and a variety of other dishes and enjoyed a feast. The restaurant is modern, service attentive and instructive as we were taught how to put together and eat the duck, condiments and Chinese pancakes. It was interesting to see the chefs cook the duck in huge fire ovens, and then carve them into small delicate pieces that are reconstructed on the serving platter. Never knew duck skin put in a little sugar could be so good.
Santa Rosa, California | Wine County
The weather is perfect and we have decided to launch our food, wine and shopping journey with a tasting dinner at the St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in nearby Santa Rosa. And, OMG, what a wonderful way to begin. Read More
You have to make choices when you travel. Time, economics, and/or physical ability can dictate your itinerary. But be on the lookout for adding-in those once-in-a-lifetime experiences, even when you aren’t staying where they are offered. Many don’t realize that outside guests can often access exceptional offerings. Even if you are in town for a day from a cruise ship, you can often take advantage of these experiences, just be sure to book in advance with the hotel/resort directly. Here I describe just a few examples: the Hawk Walk at Ashford Castle in Ireland, High Tea at The Emperess Hotel in Victoria, watching the famous Duck Walk at Memphis’ Peabody Hotel, taking the Bunker Tour at the Greenbriar in West Virginia, and enjoying the Grand Hotel on Michigan’s Mackinac Island.
Hawk Walk at Ashford Castle | Cong, Ireland
We had an amazing experience on the Hawk Walk at Ashford Castle. We worked with a Harris Hawk named Aztec (and our instructor Alec) and spent an hour walking in the woods of the Ashford Castle estate.
It was actually like a page right out of a Robin Hood story, deep in Sherwood Forest. We got to see Aztec take off to hunt his own prey at one point. What a feeling to look eye-to-eye with a raptor and have him take-off and return to your gloved hand. Read More
Progress. Change. Refresh.
Words to live by in a new year. My blog theme was becoming quickly outdated and restrictive to work with, so over the holidays I have updated my look and added a few features for the new decade.
I hope you enjoy following me on my journeys, wherever they may take us.
They call Lisbon the City of Seven Hills – but when you start walking, it seems like a hundred. But what a great city to explore on foot.
I always feel some sort of draw to the oldest parts of cities and Lisbon was no exception. We began exploring getting into the Alfama district with its medieval narrow streets now lined with enticing-looking restaurants, people of all sorts wandering around, and the occasional car trying to make its way through.
The famous Sé De Lisboa is the area’s cathedral. Taken from the Moors in 1147, it’s built on ruins left behind by the Moors, Visigoths, Romans, and Phoenicians. There are currently archeological excavations underway by the cloister. The Romanesque Nave features a beautiful rose stained glass window. The window was restored using pieces from the original, after the earthquake of 1755 destroyed much of Lisbon. There are also some nearby ruins from a Roman colosseum, but we did not manage to find them in time to see the site.
The city is filled with beautiful plazas (praças) and tree-lined avenues. The big central plaza, Rossaio, is officially the Praça Dom Pedro IV. Funny though, I read the statue is not Dom Pedro at all, but a leftover likeness of Maximillian of Mexico, who died inconveniently just before the statue was delivered. It’s an early example of repurposing fixtures. At his point, you are exploring the Baixa district. Read More
The first glimpse of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is very striking. The city nestled into the angular brown volcanic landscape and set off against the bright blue sky and deep blue sea is spectacular.
The largest and probably most famous of the Canary Islands, Tenerife was the starting point for Columbus’s long journey across the Atlantic to search for a better route to India.
We always like to get the lay of the land when we visit a new location and selected a tour from our ship, the Regent Seven Seas Explorer, that would cover a lot of territory. Known for its beaches, we did see one, Playa del Teresitas. (Famous, but still, in my opinion, no comparison to our Florida beaches). Read More
The real magic of travel is when you discover something you knew absolutely nothing about . . . that’s what the experience visiting Lanzarote in the Spanish Canary Islands was like for me.
I never heard of the architect César Manrique, who was from this island and returned to make it his life’s work to celebrate and memorialize its unique beauty. His installations are throughout the island, and we had the privilege of visiting two of them. In both cases, their real meaning was totally hidden from view and not obvious until you enter, and then, Wow. The first was the Mirador del Rio, a stunning view of the volcanic terrain all the way to the Atlantic shore. My pictures will give an idea, but just do not capture the magnificence of the view or the experience.
Our first stop in the Spanish Canary Islands was Santa Cruz de la Palma, and the island was a real surprise. One of eight islands in the Canary chain, it was one of three we would be visiting this trip on the Regent Explorer. I did not expect the incredibly dramatic rocky landscape, deep gorges, huge caves, lush vegetation, terraced farming or massive banana farming. My photos do not come close to capturing the beauty here.
We began the day with a walk around the charming capital city and checked out the Castillo de Santa Catalina, the only surviving of 9 forts established in the 1500s to protect the island from pirates. These islands were very important ports, and ships from the New World stopped here before proceeding to the European mainland, these islands were very attractive plunder for pirates of the era. The town had walls and was locked up at 9 every night, a practice that continued well into the 20th century. Read More
Madeira looked like it was going to be a beautiful island, so we signed up for a tour from the Regent Explorer that would get us around as much of the island as possible in the one day we had to visit. Boy, were we glad we did. Blessed with an absolutely gorgeous day and, as our guide described, “fresh” cool temperatures, we set off from Funchal to see the western and northern coasts along with the high point and scenes from the interior.
There are no natural beaches on this pile of lava rock, and so the brilliant blue sea and crashing Atlantic waves hit a shore of black rocks and pebbles. Several places we visited had barriers to keep visitors away from vantage points due to aggressive wave action. Our guide was a German native who has spent the last 57 years on the island after marrying a local and raising a family. Her insights and commentary were authentic and very interesting, and I felt we had a good window into what it was like to live on an isolated island (with unreliable air service). She also gave us a very graphic description of how life on the island has evolved, from 10 cars and few hotels when she arrived in the 60s to the thriving tourism industry it is today. As part of Portugal, Madeira’s fortunes have also risen and fallen with changes and political transitions in their home country. Read More
Tangier was a substitute port on this trip. Our stops in Casablanca and Agadir Morocco were canceled due to an Atlantic storm, and this was a sub for one of those days. Can’t say that I’m in any rush to come back here. Although I know you cannot judge a country by one short visit, so let’s all keep that in mind.
I did enjoy our driving route since we saw some of the nicer residential areas, including a ride-by of the Presidents’ summer palace. Our first stop was at Cap Spartel, the 1,000’ seaside outcrop with a lighthouse which is the image most often associated with Tangier. Just below the Cape is the Hercules Grotto, another of the mythological legends attributed to Hercules in this part of the world. Our guide was useless and explained nothing so we hung around and eavesdropped on other guides who were giving some very lively background. I also spent some time unsuccessfully trying to get good pictures of the cats in the Grotto area. Read More