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Category: Vacations

California: Century-old castle in Pacifica opens for public tours

Posted on October, 22 2014

For more than a century, a castle designed as a refuge from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake has stood in Pacifica, Calif. The fortress-like building with views of the ocean has turrets, towers and 24 renovated rooms that now are open once a month for tours.

Known informally as Sam’s Castle, it was built by San Francisco attorney Henry Harrison McCloskey (grandfather of former California Rep. Pete McCloskey) who wanted a place that wouldn’t tumble in a quake. The family moved in in 1908.

The castle off Highway 1 changed hands several times before Sam Mazza spotted it in 1959 and bought it for $ 29,000, according to a timeline on the castle’s website. Mazza, who painted and restored San Francisco theaters and other buildings, kept it for 43 years and filled it with kitschy furnishings.

“Sam Mazza’s passion for collecting led him to acquire antique furniture, a jade and black lacquer screen once owned by William Holden, stained glass windows, Tiffany lamps, delicate china and even swords,” Bridget Oates writes in the book “Sam’s Castle.” And yes, there’s a knight of armor too.

Mazza never lived there but he did entertain at the castle. He died in 2002, and the Sam Mazza Foundation took over and keeps the castle as its headquarters. Over the years, it had been many things — a speakeasy called Chateau Lafayette during Prohibition, a U.S. Coast Guard barracks, an artist’s studio — and even claims to have a few ghosts.

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Category: Vacations

Retreat.guru zeros in on spiritual and wellness getaways, info

Posted on October, 20 2014

Forget about your latest overindulgence. There are yoga and wellness retreats all over the world that have better views than your local gym.

Name: Retreat.guru

What it does: This website lists 6,751 spiritual and wellness retreats, centers and teachers in 58 countries and 785 cities, including Bali, British Columbia, California, Colorado, Costa Rica and Peru.

What’s hot: Although the retreat destinations are compelling — a seven-day women’s surf and yoga vacation in Bali or a yoga getaway in the Sacred Valley of Peru — the site also allows you to discover teachers and destinations you might not have heard about. Scroll down to the “Hot Topics” section on the home page and find key categories such as Meditation, Travel Retreat, Yoga Teacher Training, Plant Medicine or Wellness Retreat.

What’s not: There are teacher reviews, but I couldn’t find reviews for retreats or centers. As a newbie to the retreat world, I wanted to read more about travelers’ experiences. When you tap on a destination in the “Top Locations” section, the retreats are numbered, but it’s unclear what the number ranking means. I would prefer user reviews.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

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Category: Vacations

Reward for braving swells: Glorious snorkeling at Molokini off Maui

Posted on October, 18 2014
 Reward for braving swells: Glorious snorkeling at Molokini off Maui

“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea,” Rainer Maria Rilke wrote.

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Category: Vacations

Can you get a refund on a plane ticket if you’re worried about Ebola?

Posted on October, 15 2014
 Can you get a refund on a plane ticket if youre worried about Ebola?

Category: Vacations

Utrip.com acts as a day-to-day concierge

Posted on October, 13 2014

It’s OK to ask for a little hand-holding when planning your next trip.

Name: utrip.com

What it does: Acts as a virtual concierge to help you plan a day-to-day itinerary based on your travel style. Available for five cities in the United States and 28 cities across Europe.

What’s hot: There are two ways to dive in. You can begin at its Destinations page, where you can get a great overview of a city, find out what it’s known for and explore 16 ways to see it — through sports, entertainment, food, culture, history, etc. I preferred the other option: You type in your city and the dates, then check the Trip Profile selector to see its suggestions. You can toggle between “The First Timer,” “The Returning Traveler,” “The Luxury Traveler,” “The Backpacker,” use its picks or build your own. It’s easy to refine the picks by using the scroll bar to indicate your activity interest level.

What’s not: More cities, please. I’d love to see cities in Asia, Australasia, South America and Canada as well. Once the suggestions were in the day-to-day planner, I wanted to be able to manipulate their order throughout the day by clicking and dragging them in the itinerary planner.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

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Category: Vacations

Watch what happens after someone allegedly jokes about Ebola on a plane

Posted on October, 11 2014
 Watch what happens after someone allegedly jokes about Ebola on a plane

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Category: Vacations

California: June Lake beer fest Saturday

Posted on October, 08 2014
 California: June Lake beer fest Saturday

June Lake is holding its second annual beer festival this Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., a short waddle from town. Nearby lodging makes this an attractive event for those seeking to explore the ever-expanding Sierra craft beer scene. Note that fall colors will begin to peak this weekend, making this mini-Switzerland of the Sierra a timely stop.

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Category: Vacations

Travel letters: Flying’s effects on global climate change

Posted on October, 06 2014
 Travel letters: Flyings effects on global climate change

Regarding “6.3 Billion People Flew in 2013″ [Need to Know, Sept. 28]: About 6.3 billion people flew last year, a 4.6% increase over the year before. Some saw melting glaciers caused by CO2 emissions from vehicles of all types. Ask anyone who travels if they plan to cut back to reduce the effects of global climate change. Having fun and consuming is what it is all about.

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Category: Vacations

Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way makes a magical coastal adventure by car

Posted on October, 04 2014

The winding roller-coaster route along Ireland’s raggedy-edged west coast has a proper new name: the Wild Atlantic Way, an ideal drive for fall.

Meandering 1,600 miles from the Inishowen Peninsula near Derry in the north to Kinsale, in the south, it skirts storm-lashed cliffs, stalwart ruins, hidden beaches, grand estates, tiny villages and dozens of islands.

I explored the WAW’s southwestern corner, kicking off in the gourmet hub of Kinsale, which was bustling with its popular arts festival known for its pop-up exhibits. My destination was Castletownbere, toward the northwest. Though it’s just a two-hour drive on the main road, I took a week along the scenic, zigzag coastal route, first reacquainting my brain with left-hand shifting and navigating roads so narrow that hedges brushed my side-view mirror when I squeezed past oncoming cars.

I came for my favorite combo of travel activities — road-tripping through foodie country and exploring laid-back countryside on foot or by bike. I poked around don’t-blink villages, such as Timoleague and its serene 1240 Franciscan abbey, and paused for pints of creamy Guinness, soda bread and smoked trout lunches in simple pubs.

I sailed to tranquil island outposts, strolled through the formal gardens and lush woodlands of the 97-acre Inish Beg estate, and nibbled local cheeses and homemade charcuterie with their makers at farmers markets. What I didn’t expect — though I should have in this land of leprechauns — were the little jolts of Irish magic along the way.

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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
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