Blog Archives

Getaway to Nara, Japan

Nara, located in the Kansai region of Japan, was formerly known as Heijo and in 710 was established as Japan’s first permanent capital. The capital was moved in 784, in large part due to the growing power and ambition of the many Buddhist monasteries located there. The historical treasures of the area remain, however, including some of the oldest and largest temples in Japan. Like most other cities in Japan, there is folklore around the name of Nara. A variety of theories exist, but the most widely accepted one says that the name came from words and phrases that meant “flat land” or “gentle slope” which described the area’s topography. Today Nara is the capital city of Nara Prefecture and is an active center of both government and commerce. Like Awaji, It makes an easy getaway destination from Kyoto and […]

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UNESCO Site: Visiting Malbork Castle, Poland

A visit to Malbork Castle Museum will feature both the historical and artistic aspects. There are also some archaeological activities and research, always looking for ways to add depth to the layers of history of the Teutonic Order and the Castle. The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, usually referred to as the Teutonic Order, is a Catholic religious order dating back to the 12th century. Although it was originally founded as a German military brotherhood, it’s purpose has changed over the years and since 1929 it has been strictly a religious order, although it harkens back to those early years with the conference of honorary knighthoods. Today the Catholic branch of the Order has about 1,000 members, and while originally no women were permitted, members today include a couple hundred nuns. The Castle of the […]

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Weekend Getaway: Gig Harbor, Washington

The Pacific Northwest town of Gig Harbor, Washington, is located across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from Tacoma and is about a 45-minute drive from Sea-Tac Airport. The town has taken its rich history of commercial fishing and boat building and turned its downtown area into a historic waterfront community that attracts visitors with its galleries, parks, public and private docks and marinas, shopping, and dining. It is also one of the many small towns that promote itself as the gateway to Olympic Peninsula. It’s easy to think of Gig Harbor as a summer destination, and it is a great one, but don’t overlook the value that can be found in the shoulder or offseason. Fall is a beautiful time in the area, sunny and crisp days, but the rainy season means fewer people and lower prices. Things to Do Enjoy a […]

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Hotel Review: Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel, Orlando

Address:  Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando is located at 5601 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida. Value Luxury Rating:  (out of three hearts) Features:  Located on the grounds of Universal Orlando Resort, and a short complimentary water taxi away from CityWalk and the theme parks (and through November first from Halloween Horror Nights), the hotel location is popular with guests wanting the extra benefits that come with staying on property. Those theme park benefits are substantial, adding up to real dollar and cents savings, and include:  Express Pass (skip the lines) valued at up to $89/per day, priority seating at many theme park restaurants and first available seating at others, first available seating at CityWalk restaurants, complimentary water taxi to both theme parks (avoid driving and parking), complimentary shuttle to Wet ‘n Wild water park, SeaWorld, and Aquatica, and one hour early […]

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Is a River Cruise Right for You?

Earlier this year, I was the enthusiastic guest of Viking River Cruises onboard their longship Eistla cruising the Rhine. We started in Frankfurt and ended in Amsterdam, the trip is also offered in reverse, and, I’m told, this was a fairly typical first river cruise itinerary. River cruising is generating a lot of buzz lately, with gorgeous print ads, television sponsorships (Viking sponsors on PBS), and blogger campaigns. But when you strip away all that glitzy advertising, the decision to take a river cruise is a big one – one that needs to be made out of the spotlight and made with an eye toward your personal vacation preferences. Here’s my take on Viking’s Legends of the Rhine cruise. I hope it will help you decide if a river cruise is right for you. River cruising attracts an “older” demographic I […]

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Hotel Review: Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast & Barn, Yakima Valley

Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast & Barn Address:  3271 Roza Drive, Zillah, Washington (Yakima Valley) Value Luxury Rating:   (out of 3 hearts) Features:  Set on a working farm in the Yakima Valley,  Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast & Barn offers overnight accommodations in 22-foot teepees. This specialty bed and breakfast has barbeque grills, compact refrigerators, separate super-clean and private water closets, along with an open-air shower to round out its amenities. The property is horse and dog-friendly, and the teepees have a special bed in your teepee so your dog can sleep right along with you. No children permitted. Price Range:  $245/night based on double occupancy. Full breakfast included. Cherry Wood is open during the “season”, generally from late spring into early fall. Reservations required; make them early as they book up for the season quite quickly.   Personal Notes:  I’ve been interested in […]

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