Category Archives: Travel

Travel: The Ahwahnee Hotel

 

 

Imagine the task of getting 5,000 tons of stone, 1,000 tons of steel, and 30,000 tons of lumber to a remote location - in 1927. Photo by QT Luong, uploaded by terragalleria.com.

As you can see by the tags for this entry, the Ahwahnee Hotel earns its way on this list in several ways. It’s a great hotel, so Travel. It’s been a part of Yosemite National Park Since its creation in 1927, so History. And it’s a combination of the architectural elements of the Art Deco and Arts and Crafts movements, so The Arts.

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The site for the Ahwahnee was chosen because it looks out on several of the most distinctive features of Yosemite, including Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point. It’s constructed of rough-cut granite, and what appears to be wood siding is actually poured concrete stained the color of pine bark and redwood. You can imagine the complexity of getting 5,000 tons of stone, 1,000 tons of steel, and 30,000 tons of timber to this remote location in 1927.

As a hotel, this 4-Diamond property provides 99 rooms, parlors, and suites, as well as 24 additional cottages. It offers a range of amenities that almost mock the idea of it being in a national park, from turn-down service to afternoon tea. If you choose to go, be sure and cash out some CDs — the cheapest room for a simple room with no breakfast is over $400…

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Travel: Santa Fe

 

In 1912, Santa Fe mandated that all buildings be constructed in the Spanish Pueblo Revival style, giving the city a distinctive look in harmony with the surrounding Sangre de Cristo mountains. Uploaded by coldwellbankersantafe.com.

Okay, here’s a trivia fact sure to win you a bar bet: Santa Fe, N.M. is the highest state capital above sea level. (Cheyenne is second, Denver third.) Maybe it’s the altitude that has made the city so different, and so fascinating. Certainly the surrounding terrain is beautiful, with the mountains providing a palette for the desert sun. The architecture is in the pueblo, adobe style — mandated by law. And the mix of people who call the area home is as varied as the rich tapestries for sale in the markets and galleries.

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Historically, the city is at the intersection of the old Camino Real and the Santa Fe Trail. Geographically, it’s nestled in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Culturally, it’s a national center for art, opera, and the traditions of both Hispanic and Native American life. And spiritually, it’s been a destination for wide variety of truth-seekers throughout its history.

Santa Fe is celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2010. And it’s certainly not a secret these days. Conde Nast Traveler Magazine Readers’ Choice Awards poll named Santa Fe as the #3 most popular travel destination in the U.S. In the TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards, Santa Fe was rated as the #2 U.S. destination in the Relaxation & Spa category, #9 for Great Food & Wine, and #10 for Culture and Sightseeing.

Food: Peter Luger Steak House

 

The star attraction at Peter Luger is the porterhouse, cut to serve one to four people, and served pre-sliced with creamed spinach and German fried potatoes. Uploaded by roadfood.com

There are lots of world-class steak houses in New York City. Some are new and innovative, such as The Strip House and BLT Prime. And some have become institutions; Sparks and Smith & Wollensky come to mind. But one restaurant is the institution, the must-have steak in the Big Apple: Peter Luger Steak House.

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Located in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, Peter Luger has been delighting New York carnivores since 1887. The main attraction is a large porterhouse, prepared for one to four people. The steak comes to your table pre-sliced, served with signature creamed spinach and German fried potatoes.

Just how great is Peter Luger? The readers of the much-respected Zagat (Great American Things, July 26, 2010) New York Restaurant Guide have chosen it as their favorite for an astonishing 26 consecutive years. Here’s the Zagat commentary, in its unique style:

Now in its 26th consecutive year as our surveyors’ “favorite” steakhouse, this Williamsburg porterhouse specialist “lives up to the hype” as a “quintessential NY experience”, with lots of imitators but “none that compare” to the “real thing”; despite prime prices, theatrically “grumpy service” and an “inconvenient” no-credit-card policy, its worth the trek for what fans call the “best steak in the world – period.”


Travel: Vermont Route 100

 

Vermont Route 100 goes north-south from the state's border with Canada to its border with Massachusetts. You can see fall foliage, great ski resorts, and Ben and Jerry's factory. Uploaded by yankeefoliage.com.

 

Route 100 in Vermont is one of America’s most scenic highways. Especially during autumn, when the maples are bursting into bright shades of orange and gold.

 

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The highway runs north and south, all the way from the Canadian border down to the Massachusetts border. It winds through the mountains, offering plenty of breathtaking vistas along the way. If the weather is cold enough, you can stop and ski at a number of New England’s best resorts, including Stowe, Killington, and Sugarbush. Or you can visit the Vermont Country Store in Weston, or take a tour of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury.

You can drive its entire 216-mile length in one day. But with all there is to see and do along the way, why would you?

 

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Travel: San Diego Zoo

Panda Canyon is one of nine animal zones at the San Diego Zoo, featuring more than 4,000 animals and 800 species. Uploaded by ucsd.edu.

Living on the East Coast, my initial exposure to the San Diego Zoo has been through Joan Embery, bringing exotic animals to the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (Great American Things, June 28, 2009). Something would crawl on Carson’s shoulder, maybe nip his hand, and Carson would have that look.

But I digress. The San Diego Zoo has more than 4,000 animals of 800 species on its sprawling, beautiful parkland.  A good way to get an overview of the zoo is by gondola…then you can take a bus tour that covers 75% of the park.

Photo by ron niebrugge, uploaded by wildnatureimages.com.

Once you’re ready to see more, the zoo is divided into nine animal zones. They are: Polar Rim (polar bears, reindeer), Panda Canyon, Asian Passage (lion-tailed macaques and Bornean sun bears), Elephant Odyssey, Urban Jungle (giraffes), Africa Rocks (big cats, meerkats), Outback (camels, koalas, wombats), Lost Forest (monkeys, hippos), and Discovery Outpost (children’s zoo, giant tortoises).

Of course, that just scratches the surface of the exotic, interesting, and rare animals found at the zoo. You’ll also see extensive native plant life, large aviaries, and almost all the exhibits are in the open air, not in buildings. And the warm, sunny climate of San Diego helps many of the animals thrive. And who knows…you may just run into Joan Embery her ownself.

Travel: Napa Valley

Head north from San Francisco for about an hour, and you'll come to this lush region of rolling hills and more than 450 vineyards. Uploaded by theworldofwine.com.

It goes without saying that the Napa Valley in California is an American wine lover’s paradise.  People come for the colorful, rolling hills, the breathtaking views, the world-class hotels and restaurants – and, of course, the wine.

Oh yes, the wine.

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The Valley is about 30 miles long, and devotes about 45,000 acres to grapes. That’s only about an eighth of the size of the Bordeaux region in France. Some 450 wineries call the Napa Valley home, and most of them are open to the public. About 4.5 million people visit the area each year, and it was named “The World’s Best Food and Wine Destination” in the Trip Advisor 2010 Travelers’ Choice Awards.

A drive of about an hour north of San Francisco will bring you to Napa, and you’ll pass through scenic vineyards along the way. As you might expect from a region catering to wine lovers, things are a bit expensive in the area. But a little planning can turn up a charming bed and breakfast, or a modest bistro, or even a perfect picnic. (If you’re looking for auto parts, you’ve come to the wrong NAPA.)

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Travel: Grand Teton National Park

 

Grand Teton National Park is located in northwest Wyoming, just south of Yellowstone National Park. Uploaded by wallpaper-s.org.

In this roughly 40-mile long range of the Rockies, you’ll see nine peaks over 12,000 feet high, the highest being (no surprise) Grand Teton at 13,770 feet. They aren’t the tallest, but they rise without foothills and are some of America’s most scenic mountains.

The area became a national park in 1929. The park covers 484 square miles of land and water, and like most of the national parks in the western U.S., is a haven for sports enthusiasts. It’s located in northwest Wyoming, just south of Yellowstone National Park (Great American Things, December 28, 2009).

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There’s biking, boating, camping… cross-country skiing, fishing, hiking… climbing, rafting, and snowmobiling. You can get a guide to show you the best places to fish. If you enjoy birdwatching, this is an especially diverse habitat for birds, with more than 300 species present. And there are more than 200 miles of hiking trails within the park as well.

By the way, it’s likely that the name “Tetons” was given the mountains by some lonely French trappers. Tetons means “breasts” in French…

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Americana: Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, was named America's 14th most favorite architecture in an AIA survey. Uploaded by de.academic.ru.

No trip to St. Louis would be complete without a visit to the Gateway Arch along the Mississippi River. Although it seems as if it’s always been there, the Arch was completed in 1965.

The distance between the two “legs” of the Arch? 630 feet. The height of the Arch? 630 feet. And it weighs 17,426 tons. The bases are 54 feet wide; it’s 17 feet wide at the top.

View of downtown St. Louis from the observation room. Uploaded by kintoy.blogspot.com.

You can take a small, slow-moving guided tram to the observation room. Slow-moving is right – 4 mph to be exact. Even so, just a couple of minutes and you’re able to see beautiful vistas of downtown St. Louis, the Mississippi, and into Illinois.

Each of the two legs has a different exhibit for visitors. The north leg display includes fascinating photographs and information about the construction of the Arch. The south leg display shows life along the St. Louis riverfront in the 1800s.

The Arch was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen. In the AIA’s selection of America’s Favorite Architecture, the Gateway Arch was voted number 14.

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Travel: Sedona, Arizona

A unique sandstone native to the Sedona area lights up at sunrise and sunset to demonstrate why the area is known as Red Rock Country. Uploaded to Flickr by Tex Texin. See the original here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/textexin/495824173/sizes/l/in/set-72157611267268977/

When the sun rises and sets, the rock formations around Sedona seem to glow in the most beautifully vivid shades of red and orange. Caused by a variety of sandstone found only in that region, the formations have drawn people to Red Rock Country for generations.

Sedona is a small city of some 11,000 people in the upper Sonoran Desert in northern Arizona. It’s grown from a few ranches in the 1950s to a trendy town now that welcomes the second homes of many Hollywood and political elites.

For those who enjoy outdoor activities, Sedona is a haven. The region boasts spectacular locations for hiking, climbing, rafting, horseback riding, and fishing. You can tour the area by jeep, airplane, hot air balloon, or ATV.

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The rock formations themselves have been given names to identify them. Around Sedona are Thunder Mountain, Coffeepot, the Sphinx, Wilson Mountain, the Sail, and Submarine Rock.

The nearest major airport is in Phoenix, about two hours from Sedona. There’s a smaller airport in Flagstaff, about a half hour from town. If you choose to drive from Phoenix, some of the trip is along State Route 179, designated an All American Road by the Federal Highway Administration based on its natural, scenic, and recreational qualities…

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Cathedral Rock. Uploaded by wallpaper-s.org.

Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona. Uploaded by img107.imageshack.us.

Coffeepot. Uploaded by flickriver.com.

Red Rock Spires. Uploaded by wallpapers-diq.net.

Travel: Georgetown

Historic row houses, narrow streets, upscale shopping, great dining, unparalleled people watching. That's Georgetown. Uploaded to Webshots by storliet11.

There are lots of great things to see and do if you make a visit to Washington, DC. You’ll see breathtaking monuments and mind-boggling museums. If you’re lucky, you may get to follow a Congressman down the street as he throws money to the winds. With so much excitement, it’s easy to miss Georgetown, a fashionable and historic neighborhood. But it’s definitely worth a visit.

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The town of Georgetown (isn’t that somewhat redundant?) had been around for a while when the District of Columbia was officially established. Since it existed before Washington, it was the District’s center of commerce and entertainment for many years.

It wasn’t until 1871 that Georgetown was officially assimilated into the city of Washington. Though many families moved to the “newer” sections of town, lots of old families stayed in Georgetown, leading to the gentrified neighborhood it remains to this day. Many famous people in the US Government live in Georgetown, and several countries have their embassies there.

Uploaded by girlfriendsgetaway.wordpress.com.

Follow the row houses and cobblestone streets to a host of excellent restaurants, hotels, inns, and shops that help make any visit to Georgetown more memorable. The area along the Potomac has made a nice transition from abandoned manufacturing to upscale retail. The DC Metro does not have a stop in Georgetown, however, so you’ll have to drive to the area. That’s not hard to negotiate – the area’s main thoroughfares are Wisconsin Avenue and M Street – but parking is another matter…

Travel: Faneuil Hall, Boston

If you can get away from the dozens of restaurants, the shopping, and the street entertainers, you might still hear the echoes of Samuel Adams calling for independence from Great Britain. Uploaded by 0.tqn.com.

Get to Faneuil Hall early, before the cacophony of commerce kicks up, and you can almost hear the history echoing around its walls. There’s Samuel Adams, rallying the good people of Boston to support our independence from Great Britain, and planning the Boston Tea Party. There’s Daniel Webster, eulogizing Thomas Jefferson and John Adams upon their deaths on July 4, 1826. There’s Oliver Wendell Holmes, Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglas.

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Built in 1742 by Peter Faneuil, the center has always been downtown Boston’s premier gathering place for both commercial and public life. By the early 1800s more space was needed, so the next-door Quincy Hall was added as part of Faneuil. Throughout the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries, Faneuil Hall continued to prosper.

But, consistent with the suburbanization of America after World War II, downtown Boston started to lose its appeal. The Faneuil Hall buildings began to fall into disrepair, and some even fell vacant. Due to the vision of city leaders and The Rouse Company, Faneuil Hall was renovated into a festival marketplace in 1976, leading to similar renewals in Baltimore, New York, and many other cities.

Today, Faneuil Hall Marketplace consists of four buildings: the original Fanueil Hall, Quincy Hall, North Market, and South Market. A combination of shopping, restaurants, history, and entertainment now draws 18 million visitors each year to its 6.5 acres, located across the street from the waterfront.

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Food: Gullah Cuisine Restaurant, Mount Pleasant, S.C.

You'll find shrimp, chicken, sausage, and vegetables in Gullah Rice. It's available as an entree or as a side dish, and is a taste revelation. Uploaded by rooadfood.com.

With all the wonderful restaurants to choose from in the Charleston, South Carolina area, it would be easy to miss this way-out-of-the-way spot. It’s on U.S. 17 in Mount Pleasant, on the way to Isle of Palms. I mean, that’s where it is physically, but cuisinically (like that?) it’s on the way to flavor heaven.

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Maybe the word “Gullah” is new to you. It describes a special culture of African Americans living in the low country of South Carolina and Georgia. Because of their isolation, they’ve managed to preserve more African language and culture than virtually any other group in the country.

Owner and chef Charlotte Jenkins brings some of the special flavors and dishes of Gullah culture to her restaurant. Perhaps the centerpiece is Gullah Rice, a wonderfully rich rice in which you’ll find shrimp, chicken, sausage, and vegetables. It’s a main course in itself, or you can enjoy it with other entrees such as lightly coated fried shrimp, fried chicken, or fried oysters. Yes, fried. You can’t do it every day, but you’re depriving yourself unnecessarily if you avoid it altogether.

Owner/chef Charlotte Jenkins. Uploaded by scnow.com.

You’d also be depriving yourself if you didn’t try Miss Charlotte’s wonderful vegetables. Michael Stern, of the terrific website roadfood.com, has this to say: “No one ever need nag me to eat my vegetables when they are as delicious as Gullah Cuisine’s collard greens…How do so many southern cooks manage to transform austere broccoli into a rich, luscious vegetable? We’d guess the answer includes breadcrumbs, plenty of butter, and cooking time long enough to make it soft as clotted cream…If you like your yams sweet, these caramelized hunks are heaven on earth.”

I couldn’t finish this without talking about the two “soups” on the menu that are so delicious. The Gullah gumbo is full of shrimp, chicken, and sausage, while the she-crab soup is a rich bisque fortified with a dash of sherry.

There are so many delicious choices at this restaurant – you either have to pig out, or have your party order several things and share…

See an interview with Gullah Cuisine owner Charlotte Jenkins just after the four minute mark of this video:

Travel: Mackinac Island

Motor vehicles are banned on Mackinac Island. So the only ways to get around are by bicycle, on foot -- or in horse-drawn carriages. Uploaded by planetware.com.

First, let’s make sure to get the pronunciation right. Call it MAK-in-aw. Mackinac Island is located in Lake Huron, in the straits between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. It’s not large at all, only 3.8 square miles. Eighty percent of the island is reserved as Mackinac Island State Park. And here’s the thing that probably sets it apart more than anything else – no motor vehicles (except for emergency and service vehicles) are permitted on the island.

As a result, Mackinac Island has a slower pace that’s centered around horses. If you want to get around the island, you’ll either engage a tour carriage, take a private carriage with driver, or rent your own carriage during your visit. Or if you prefer a more energetic choice, bicycles are available (and so is walking).

The whole island has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. Its history goes back to Native American tribes, who used the island as a meeting place following long winters. In the 1600s, French traders and Jesuit missionaries came to the island along with the fur trade, which dominated Mackinac Island for 150 years. In the late 1800s, folks found what a beautiful and relaxing place the island could be, and tourism became an economic mainstay. Wealthy businessmen built large hotels for the public, and Victorian mansions for themselves.

The Grand Hotel. Uploaded by mackinacisland.org.

Today, you can enjoy a visit to one of the island’s many resorts, hotels, bed and breakfasts, historic inns, and rental cottages. Maybe you’ll choose the Grand Hotel, which certainly lives up to its name. You can visit downtown where there’s a wide variety of well-regarded restaurants and interesting shopping.

And maybe you’ll buy some fudge. Don’t laugh. Mackinac Island may be the fudge capital of the United States, with a half dozen shops devoted to the rich confection. In fact, you may hear yourself referred to as a “fudgie” while you’re in town. It’s a local term used to describe tourists, many of whom won’t leave without taking some gourmet fudge back home. Don’t be offended, though; they say it’s a word used with affection. That’s what they say, at least…

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Sports: Fly Fishing in Montana

If you love fly fishing, at some time in your life you'll have to make a pilgrimage to the rivers of Montana. Uploaded by rtdc.tjc.edu.

Where’s the best place in America to enjoy fly fishing for trout? Ask a hundred sportsmen, and you may get a hundred different answers. But the one state that’s mentioned most often, the state in which fly fishing is an obsession, is Montana.

If you’ve read A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean, or seen the movie, you know about Montana’s snow- and spring-fed Blackfoot River. Stay in nearby Missoula, and enjoy the rugged scenery while angling for brown and rainbow trout. The Blackfoot became more popular following the movie, but passing time has again made it enjoyable and less crowded.

In the far western part of Montana, paralleling the border with Idaho, runs the challenging Bitterroot River. Missoula is also a good place to start the trek down this beautiful waterway. Head down Highway 93 to find excellent campgrounds and seldom-visited creeks teeming with trout.

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On the western boundary of Glacier National Park, from the Canadian border southward, runs the North Fork of the Flathead River. Here you can find bull trout, cutthroat, lake trout, rainbow trout, and whitefish. And while there are few entry points for wade fishers, and the river parallels a road high up the mountainside in some places, the rugged and difficult conditions are compensated for by the spectacular scenery.

Obviously, a post like this can only hit the high points. And certainly, there’s excellent fly fishing in Michigan, Florida, New York, and most of the Rocky Mountain states. But there’s something special about the experience of pulling in a rainbow trout in America’s Big Sky Country…

Travel: Catalina Island

People have spent the last 150 years trying to develop Catalina. But it has retained its quiet nature, and wants to keep it that way. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.

Doesn’t it surprise you that there’s a scenic island, only 22 miles away from Los Angeles (estimated 2010 population 4,000,000), that has only one small town and a population of under 4,000? Santa Catalina Island (usually called Catalina) would like to keep it that way, thank you very much.

In truth, folks have spent most of the last 150 years trying to figure out how to make Catalina into a popular tourist destination. William Wrigley, Jr., he of the chewing gum empire, bought controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1919 with the intent of making it a recreational and entertainment destination. He built infrastructure, had ships make regular runs from the mainland, even brought his Chicago Cubs to the island for spring training.

Catalina Casino. Uploaded to Flickr by Only in Cambodia.

The most distinctive structure Wrigley built was the Catalina Casino. This circular building is surrounded by the sea on three sides, and was constructed in the Art Deco style. But don’t let the name fool you — it never was a gambling hall. Its downstairs housed a huge movie theater, supposedly the first constructed specifically for movies with sound. Upstairs is a dance hall, in a building that stands the equivalent of twelve stories tall.

The primary town on Catalina is Avalon, with a population of about 3,100. It’s home to a picturesque harbor and a small but busy beach. Most of its activity today is oriented toward tourists, about a million of whom visit the island each year.

Today, William Wrigley’s son, Philip, has given his share of the island to the Catalina Island Conservancy, which protects the island’s natural heritage. Oh, remember how his father brought the Cubs to Catalina for spring training? One year, one of their young broadcasters decided to slip away to nearby Hollywood and do a screen test while he was in town. The producers liked young Ronald Reagan, and the rest, as they say, is history…

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Travel: Roswell, New Mexico

Roswell would like you to come for all its various attractions. But they know, deep down, you're only interested in E.T. et. al. Uploaded by theeasytraveler.com.

In July, 1947, E.T. couldn’t phone home, because his flying saucer crashed about 30 miles from Roswell, New Mexico. Or not. We’ll probably never know. The Army says the wreck that turned up outside of Roswell Army Air Force Field was the remnants of a weather balloon. Either way, the incident catapulted this sleepy town in southeastern New Mexico straight into national folklore.

Even McDonald's gets into the spirit. Uploaded by roswellufofestival.com.

This isn’t the forum to address what the Government said, what the locals said, what the experts said, or what the conspiracy believers said. Something happened in that field, and whether we have the remains of alien critters or not isn’t likely to be resolved.

But if you’ll make the trip to Roswell, you’ll have every opportunity to learn all that’s in the public domain about the world of UFOs. You can start at the International UFO Museum and Research Center. A good time to make your visit is during the Roswell UFO Festival, held each year over the Fourth of July weekend. Wait, did I just hear a UFO crash??? No, no, it was just fireworks…

Travel: The Coast of Maine

Bar Harbor is typical of the charming New England towns that dot the state's Atlantic coastline. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.

Here’s a fact that could win you a few bar bets: The total coastline of Maine is greater than the coast of California (3,478 mi. vs. 3,427 – includes shoreline of outer coast, offshore islands, sounds, bays, rivers, and creeks). Okay, that’s a little misleading, but there’s no disputing that the Maine coast is unlike anywhere else in the United States.

Portland, with about 66,000 people, is Maine's largest city. Uploaded by cnunextgen.org.

Not long after you pass over the Piscatiqua River from New Hampshire, you’ll come to some classic coastal towns, such as Kittery, Kennebunk, and Kennebunkport. Travel further and you’ll come to Portland, Freeport (home of L.L. Bean), Camden, and Bar Harbor. The towns are charming, and the coastline is mesmerizing.

The Maine coast isn’t “the beach,” but it’s visually unique nonetheless. Let’s take a visual tour…

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Kittery, uploaded to Flickr by sweatmonkeys.

Bailey Island, uploaded by stevekluge.com.

Camden, uploaded by students.umf.maine.edu.

Portland, uploaded by portlandmaine.wordpress.com.

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Kennebunkport, uploaded by whitebarninn.com.

Travel: Siesta Beach, Sarasota

Looking back toward land, you know you're in Florida. From the beach to the sea, you'd think you were in the Caribbean. Uploaded by vacationbeachpackages.com.

You’ve probably heard about Dr. Beach (Stephen Leatherman), and his annual ranking of America’s Top 10 Beaches. He often names locations that aren’t as well known as the most popular destinations. So when he named Siesta Beach as the number 2 American beach in 2009, a lot of people took notice.

Here’s what he said about this site: “With some of the finest, whitest sand in the world, this beach attracts sand collectors from all over. Siesta Beach has clear, warm waters that serve for ideal swimming. The beach is hundreds of yards wide in the shape of a crescent, due to anchoring of onshore rocks to the north and a unique underwater formation of coral rock and caves, providing for great snorkeling and scuba diving. This beach is great for volleyball and other types of recreational fitness.”

Sounds more like a Caribbean beach than a Florida one. There are actually three sections to this beach: the popular Siesta Public Beach, Crescent Beach to the south (with the best snorkeling and diving), and Turtle Beach below that, a sportier, family beach.

While the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” is often inaccurate (or at least seem so to a writer), no amount of words will show the beauty of the area better than these photos:

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Travel: Yorktown, Virginia

The Moore House in Yorktown, site of Cornwallis's surrender to George Washington. My father gave tours of the building as an employee of the Park Service. Uploaded by history.org.

Yorktown existed as a town beginning in 1691, or 80 years before it became famous. It was named “York” after the city in England (a trend in the area; witness “Portsmouth,” “Norfolk,” and “Hampton”), but it could just as well be called “Cornwallis’s Mistake.”

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This post isn’t about the particulars of the battle that served as the de facto end of the Revolutionary War. You can find out all those details at the National Park Service sites that dot the town. You can visit the redoubts, the Moore House (where the surrender was signed – Cornwallis didn’t attend because he was “sick”), and two attractive museums, the Yorktown Victory Center and the Yorktown Battlefield and Visitor Center.

The town of Yorktown is a quiet little community set alongside the York River. A trip could entail visiting 18th century homes, exploring the town’s quaint shops, strolling the new Riverwalk, even sitting on the little beach beside the river. Yorktown is one town in the Colonial Triangle, connected to Williamsburg (Great American Things, July 23, 2009) and Jamestown via the 23-mile-long Colonial Parkway.

Yorktown has a special sentimental value to me because it’s where my father grew up. My grandfather was a laborer on the Colonial Parkway, gratefully getting work from the WPA during the Depression. My father worked for the National Park Service, giving tours of the Moore House to visitors. Though the family moved to nearby Newport News after World War II, my father always had a special place in his heart for Yorktown. As do I…

Travel: Disney World

We'd never heard of Lake Buena Vista, Florida before Disney World. Shoot, we'd barely heard of Orlando. Then the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, and...BOOM! Uploaded by i2ko.com.

It would be challenging to try to sum up all the great opportunities available at this Florida megapark. The thing is, I don’t have to describe it to most people. Chances are, you’ve already been there. If not, you’ll certainly want more details than my four or five paragraphs can supply.

But I can’t do a post without giving a nod to all that’s available for family fun. SO…basically, there are four main parks: The Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Then there are two additional water parks: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Then there’s what Disney calls “Things to do”: Downtown Disney (shopping, dining, entertainment), Disney’s Boardwalk (shopping, dining, clubs), the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex (game fields, Atlanta Braves spring training), and five golf courses.

Whew. I’m worn out just typing it all.

Uploaded by cheezhead.com.

Of course, that’s just scratching the surface. There are parades, and characters, and theme hotels and campgrounds, and special events throughout the year. There are playgrounds, pools, and beaches. In fact, if you’re willing to spend money on it (and it’s legal), you can probably enjoy it at Disney World.

Two things stand out in my memories of the place. First, it’s obsessively clean. Wonderfully, unrealistically, enthusiastically clean. And second, I forgot time. I was in another dimension that wasn’t dependent on clocks. Of course, that doesn’t mean I forgot about time altogether, because there are lots of reasons to bring your watch. But it was a step outside reality, and I loved it. It comes with a fairly steep price tag, but it’s one of those “we’ll go now, worry about money later” places. Really, it is…