Category: Vacations

Eastern Sierra: Chasing fall in quiet McGee Creek Canyon

Posted on October, 01 2014

As fall colors go, McGee Creek Canyon was just starting to turn. I had a look the last weekend in September after driving the steep, winding four miles to the trail head — mostly on pavement, the end on gravel — for a short hike up the canyon south of Mammoth Lakes.

Most of the good leaf-peeping at this time of year in the Eastern Sierra means leaving the main drag, Highway 395, and climbing on mountain roads to elevations around 8,500 feet and higher. McGee Creek Canyon in the Inyo National Forest sits a little lower than that, which means its colors will peak a week or so later.

But the remote location is what drew me. During the couple of hours I explored on foot, I saw only a handful of hikers, some toting tripods to record their fall finds.

Autumn colors appeared in uneven pockets; this canyon still had time to pop. Aspen trees that lined the creek showed lots of green leaves or yellow tops where leaves just started to change. Shrubby willows along the water’s edge were turning a pale yellow.

As I walked farther up, I could see streaks of gold and dark orange where whole lines of trees had turned and I tried to imagine the entire canyon ablaze with color. The Sierra peaks at the end of the canyon showed a sprinkling of yellow too.

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Category: Vacations

Can’t-miss UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Posted on September, 27 2014

The list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (whc.unesco.org) grew to 1,007 in 161 countries in June when 26 sites were added. For travelers, this is a veritable buffet of possibilities of great destinations.

Among the cultural or natural treasures added this year: the Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex (Russian Federation), the Precolumbian Chiefdom Settlements With Stone Spheres of the Diquís (Costa Rica) and the Decorated Cave of Pont D’Arc (France).

Four down, 1,003 to consider. How to whittle it down? We’ve assembled a short and admittedly personal can’t-miss list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites — a sort of starter kit — that will especially appeal to those who live in the Southland. (In one case — Cuzco/Machu Picchu — we’ve joined two listings separated by a few miles; in another instance — Glacier Bay — our entry was carved out of a larger site.) Proximity played a role in this selection; history and Hollywood did too.

We’ve left off Yosemite for the time being, partly because it’s an oft-visited and well-loved destination, partly because recent fires have complicated travel there.


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Category: Vacations

Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights gets better as crowds grow bigger

Posted on September, 22 2014

Just when you think Halloween Horror Nights can’t possibly get any better, the annual Universal Studios Hollywood event finds new and more impressive ways to terrorize you.

Like an evil genius devising more deviously clever ways to dispatch his victims, Horror Nights has upped its industry-leading game once again with a host of otherworldly and mythological puppet creatures that will take your breath away with their frightening realism.

The downside of this new level of excellence is an unprecedented level of popularity. At one point during my visit on opening night, all but two of the haunted mazes boasted hour-plus wait times.

Indeed, the trio of mazes on the studio backlot had a combined wait time of four hours that produced a sea of people as far as the eye could see. Adding insult to injury, Horror Nights made visitors hoof it from the lower lot to the backlot rather than transporting them by tram as in years past, giving new meaning to The Walking Dead.

The challenge for Universal is capacity within the confines of a relatively small theme park that has grown increasingly cramped with the construction of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the Simpson’s village of Springfield.

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Category: Vacations

The Times’ favorite summer vacation photos from readers in 2014

Posted on September, 20 2014
 The Times favorite summer vacation photos from readers in 2014

Category: Vacations

New Mexico’s Enchanted Byway brings fall foliage viewing full circle

Posted on September, 17 2014
 New Mexicos Enchanted Byway brings fall foliage viewing full circle

For great fall color, the mountains of northern New Mexico are certainly in contention for a “best of” award, and an 85-mile byway makes it easy.

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Category: Vacations

Web Buzz: Hotel comparison shopping a snap at smartdepart.com

Posted on September, 15 2014

Here’s a website that makes choosing a hotel a snap.

Name: smartdepart.com

What it does: Allows you to drag two hotels onto the page so you can do side-by-side comparisons of price, ratings and reviews as well as night life, dining, shopping and tourism.

What’s hot: I’ve never seen a comparison feature like this on other hotel booking sites — it’s the key to making your decisions easier. You can use additional tools at the top of the page to fine-tune your search by price, amenities, star ratings and more. If you’re not familiar with the area, you can easily open and close a map to see where the hotels are located. If you want to know why one hotel was recommended over the other for dining, click on that topic to read the Yelp reviews.

What’s not: Double-check the prices. I found inconsistencies between search results and prices on the final booking page.


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Category: Vacations

In Old Montreal, it all seems to happen on St. Paul Street

Posted on September, 13 2014

St. Paul, the oldest street in one of North America’s oldest cities, runs through the heart of Old Montreal. It’s barely a mile long, but its first cobblestones predated American democracy, and its restaurants, shops and galleries are tucked into some great old buildings.

And it teems with pedestrians — many of them speaking French, because we are in Canada’s largely Francophone province of Quebec.

I had never seen St. Paul, or the rest of Montreal, until July, when I arrived for a four-night stay near the city’s Old Town area. But every time I spotted another tempting restaurant or gallery, it seemed to be on St. Paul Street. Inuit art. Salt cod croquettes. Echoes of Leonard Cohen.

As fall arrives, leaves turn and temperatures sink, the appeal of those snug spots will only grow.

St. Paul Street dates to the 1670s and “was the center of the fur trade,” said Tyler Wood, a historian and interpretive guide at the Centre d’Histoire de Montréal (335 Place d’Youville; [514] 872-3207, bit.ly/1oEy1id), which has taken over a 1903 fire station about 50 yards from St. Paul.

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Category: Vacations

If it’s a soaking you’re seeking, here are the best rainy destinations

Posted on September, 10 2014
 If its a soaking youre seeking, here are the best rainy destinations

Mother Nature teased Southern California on Monday with a bit of rain, which may have stirred a genuine craving for the sight, smell and feel of more.

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Category: Vacations

Perspectives on California’s missions have changed in news, teaching

Posted on September, 06 2014

Anyone who goes looking into California mission stories that were written decades ago is likely to come upon some language that’s jarring, if not downright offensive, words such as “savage,” referring to Native Americans.

The more you read, the more you see that, during the last century, California’s textbooks and newspapers have dramatically changed their descriptions of the Spanish mission system. Today, most writers show greater respect for Native Americans and are more likely to acknowledge the forced labor, fatal diseases and cultural repression that the Spanish brought to California along with Christianity, literacy and agriculture.

The result is that when researchers look back at old writings, they not only learn about the 18th and 19th centuries, but they also learn about the writer’s presumptions.

In the archives of the Los Angeles Times, a 1924 article about San Juan Capistrano tells how Father Junípero Serra befriended the American Indians, “some savage, none civilized,” and “soon had them walking in the white man’s path.”

A 1957 article about Mission San Antonio de Padua discusses the padres’ “much more difficult feat of raising the natives to the white man’s level.”

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Category: Vacations
Category: Vacations
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