Category: Vacations

Israel: FAA ban silences some traffic to Tel Aviv, and tourism suffers

Posted on July, 23 2014
 Israel: FAA ban silences some traffic to Tel Aviv, and tourism suffers

With a  second day of flight cancellations snarling plans and silencing some air traffic to Tel Aviv, one tour operator reports that life — but not travel-related business — is proceeding as usual.

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Category: Vacations

Train travel connects the destination dots in Europe

Posted on July, 19 2014

My wife, Laurel, and I had laid out an idiosyncratic European itinerary for our trip last fall: to London for theater, to Paris to scout Ernest Hemingway’s long-ago haunts, to Friedrichshafen, Germany, for the Zeppelin Museum, and finally to Hamburg to sail home on the Queen Mary 2.

We had no question about how to connect these disparate map points — by rail, because for us one of the joys of traveling in Europe is that trains can take us almost anywhere. Besides that, we find train travel relaxing and just plain fun.

We pieced together an eight-train (and one boat) odyssey, a three-country journey that would be spread over nine days, feature leisurely stopovers and fine scenery and include three premier high-speed rail services: the Eurostar, the French TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) and the German ICE (InterCity Express).


It would be hard to find a more auspicious place to begin than London’s gloriously Victorian St. Pancras station, built in 1868 and rebuilt in 2007 to house the Eurostar service though the Channel Tunnel to Paris and Brussels.

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Category: Vacations

In Alabama, taking on golf’s green monsters

Posted on July, 16 2014

Our destination was the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Alabama’s collection of 468 often-spectacular holes at 11 locations from Muscle Shoals in the north to Point Clear at the southern tip of the state.

For golf junkies  like us — three journalists and an oil refinery worker — this trip is as good as it gets.

Extraordinary golf courses, plenty of interesting restaurants, good accommodations, hospitality that you read about but almost never actually experience and, perhaps best of all, a price tag that journalists and oil-refinery workers can easily afford.

We made this trip in early June, just after the lower summer rates went into effect , for about $ 2,200 apiece. That covered plane fare on Southwest ($ 399), 14 rounds of golf over 6½ days ($ 797), lodging ($ 462), a minivan ($ 92) and food, including wine and beer ($ 450).

By comparison, I recently received an offer from Pebble Beach for a round of golf at Pebble and one at the Links at Spanish Bay, plus two nights at the Inn at Spanish Bay.

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Category: Vacations

Traveling to Bordeaux? The city has refined its flavor

Posted on July, 12 2014

It was raining when I landed at Bordeaux’s airport, and I couldn’t find the shuttle bus. Claudia, from Santa Barbara and studying at the University of Bordeaux, came to my rescue.

How did she like living here?

“I love it,” she said. “I think it might have been dull, but in the last few years all kinds of trendy bars and cafes and boutiques have opened up, so there’s plenty to do, and in the summer they’ve made a feature out of the riverside where the old port used to be.”

Bordeaux? The port city known for wine and architecture? Had it taken a cue from sister city Los Angeles and reinvented itself?

For years, Bordeaux was known as “La Belle Endormie,” or Sleeping Beauty. Its ocher-colored limestone edifices were hidden under layers of black soot, cut off from its waterfront by derelict warehouses and rusting cranes in the old port, which had moved downriver.

Alain Juppé embarked on a major urban renewal program when he became mayor in 1995 (he now is mayor again), cleaning the historic buildings, pedestrianizing key streets, turning the old docklands into a gentrified urban frontier called Chartrons with loft apartments, boutiques and new museums, and building 27 miles of tramway to connect it together.

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Category: Vacations

Idyllwild: California mountain town fest shows lemon lilies some love

Posted on July, 09 2014

Lemon lilies are true California natives. Tall stalks, big trumpet-shaped yellow blooms, super sweet smell. They’re hard to miss when you’re rambling through certain parts of Southern California’s wild places.

I was lucky enough to be on a trail that started at Buckhorn Campground, about 34 miles north of La Cañada Flintridge, when I stopped in my tracks at the sight of a mini-forest of lemon lilies.

The town of Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains loves them too, so much so that it celebrates what’s botanically known as Lillium parryi with a two-day festival each year. This year’s event will be this weekend.

“The goal it to make everyone aware of them,” said Julia Countryman, festival spokeswoman, “and not to pick them when they go hiking.” She explained that in the 1900s, the hills were covered with hundreds of thousands of lemon lilies.

People started finding and uprooting the plants to take home. But the wildflower didn’t thrive in home gardens because the habitat was wrong. That didn’t stop the lilies from being just about “picked to extinction,” Countryman says.

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Category: Vacations

Baker’s big thermometer to light up starting July 10

Posted on June, 25 2014

So how hot is it along Interstate 15 on the drive to Las Vegas? The legendary Baker thermometer will once again provide the answer starting next month.

Owner LaRae Harguess told me a “soft lighting” (a variation on a soft opening) will be held the afternoon of July 10 for the 13-story-tall thermometer . Restoration work is to be completed this week, but Harguess decided to time the turn-on to the 101st anniversary of the recording of the world’s hottest temperature.

On July 10, 1913, in what is now Death Valley National Park, the official weather bureau thermometer soared to 134 degrees. To honor that record, Harguess’ parents, Barbara and Willis Herron, made Baker’s quirky tourist attraction 134 feet tall.

The Herrons first switched on the thermometer in October 1992, but, over time, it fell into disrepair. The temperatures were often wrong and, a couple of years ago, the display was switched off. Earlier this year, Barbara Herron decided to spend about $ 150,000 on restoration.

Visitors exiting the freeway at Baker, a popular Mojave Desert stop on the drive between Southern California and Las Vegas, will once again be able to snap photos of the iconic tower. They can then cool off in the air-conditioned comfort of the family’s adjacent gift shop.

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Category: Vacations

The view from on high

Posted on June, 23 2014

Here’s a website that’s taking armchair travel to new heights.

Name: TravelByDrone.com

What it does: It’s a collection of YouTube videos pinned to a map by location. The video footage must be taken by a drone (nonmilitary) and show, in good quality, the area where the drone flew. The public can submit their videos, which are reviewed by the website before posting.

What’s hot: There are lots of drone videos from all over the world; a column on the home page lets you know about the most recently published ones. You can zoom in and out of the global map to find where the videos are from. It’s fun to view the aerial shots: My favorites were taken in the Serengeti in Kenya, the streets of London, off Dana Point, Calif., and Kilauea and Maui, Hawaii. Warning: Watching the videos might lead to a new hobby; several of the videographers mention the type of drone they used to take the shots.

What’s not: You might want to hit the mute button; the music that accompanies some of the videos is not for all tastes. Also, it’d be great if there were features so you could save favorite videos or share them with friends.


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Category: Vacations

Foreign Briefing: Rome seeks money for antiquities restoration

Posted on June, 16 2014

Roman officials are trying to raise $ 271 million to restore gladiator training grounds next to the Colosseum and to catalog 100,000 boxes of excavated artifacts, among other projects. This is the latest effort to seek outside funding for conservation in Rome and other cities amid economic troubles in Italy. In recent years, Italian luxury companies such as Tod’s, Fendi and Bulgari have donated large sums to restore top attractions in Rome. Leather goods maker Tod’s has pledged $ 34 million toward restoring the Colosseum. Some potential donors have said they are worried about Italy’s reputation for public waste. They noted that Pompeii has suffered from chronic mismanagement and corruption issues.

The most recent fallout from the ongoing political turmoil in Thailand: Miss Universe Thailand. Critics assailed her for her political comments on Facebook; they also called her fat. Less than a month into her reign, Weluree Ditsayabut, 22, tearfully announced Monday she was giving up the title that would have allowed her to compete in the international Miss Universe pageant. She has spoken out against the “Red Shirt” supporters of the former government. On May 28, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert telling U.S. citizens to “reconsider any nonessential travel to Thailand” because of “political and social unrest.”

As the World Cup gets underway in Brazil, Bloomberg reports that only half of the projects designed to showcase the country were completed, despite an investment of $ 11 billion. Simon Anholt, a policy adviser who has worked with more than 50 nations on identity image, said in a Bloomberg news story, “Everybody imagined that Brazil is 20 years further advanced than it really is. There is quite a strong possibility that the image of Brazil will suffer a downward correction.” The U.S. State Department has a World Cup resource guide at 1.usa.gov/QWbgNm.

India may be drier than usual this monsoon season because of El Niño. The June-September wet season may produce about 5% fewer shows, according to the state-run India Meteorological Department. India ranks No. 2 worldwide in production of rice, sugar and wheat, Bloomberg news service reported. The 1997-98 El Niño event was blamed for drought in such places as Brazil and Indonesia and more-than-normal moisture in Peru, California and the southeastern U.S.

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Category: Vacations

Everything is beautiful along U.S. 84 north of Santa Fe

Posted on June, 14 2014

Downtown Santa Fe is enough New Mexico for some people. But in between gallery crawling, jewelry browsing and pepper tasting, you might like some elbow room. Some open country. If so, head north on U.S. 84. The tab: $ 160 for a night at the Old Santa Fe Inn, $ 22 for lunch at the Flying Star Cafe and $ 40 for a tank of gas.

Lovely inn

The Old Santa Fe Inn (320 Galisteo St.; [800] 745-9910, www.oldsantafeinn.com; rooms for two usually $ 160-$ 260) must have been a cheap motel once. But now it’s about as upscale as a motel-shaped property can go, with stylish bedrooms, thoughtful service, a generous free breakfast (free Wi-Fi and parking too) and a location just four blocks from the Santa Fe Plaza. Many of the 43 rooms have kiva-style fireplaces. All this and the convenience of motel-style courtyard parking too.

Eat like a local

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Category: Vacations

2014 World Cup Brazil: Travel tips to know before you go

Posted on June, 07 2014
 2014 World Cup Brazil: Travel tips to know before you go

Category: Vacations