Thursday, October 17, 2013

Best Places to See Fall Colors

Follow the link ABC posted in this tweet for their list of the 11 best places to see fall colors.

Have a favorite peeping place of your own?  Suggest other "beautiful place to see the leaves changing" locales by posting a comment here.

Spookiest Haunted Houses in USA

HauntWorld names the scariest, spookiest, must visit haunted houses in the United States.  The unluckiest of us live nearby one of them.  Check them out, if you dare, at this link tweeted by ABC News.

Differences in Travel for New Generation

The Economist posted an interesting tweet discussing the differences forseen in how your people will travel.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cancun-An Overview

If you want to take a trip to Mexico with only a week’s vacation, you might want to consider Cancun. Even if you’re one of those travelers who prefer to go off the beaten track of the popular tourist locations, you might be better off to venture to this locale in the country-especially for if it’s your first time there.

Don’t misunderstand-it’s not that other cities aren’t perfectly wonderful; it’s just that there are many advantages of being in a foreign city that is equipped to deal with hoards of Americans who may not know much Spanish and have little knowledge of the culture. Being there almost makes one feel that its main purpose is for honoring visitors, and in this respect, it does its job well.

Some years ago, my husband and I spent a perfectly fine week there, and neither of us had ever been in a country where English was not the primary language. We did have some opportunities to utilize our high-school Spanish (refreshed by language guides) on a few occasions, but we had no fear of being misunderstood when we were in the main tourist areas. Our trip was with a company called Apple Tours, and we had a nonstop flight which took a little over two hours from the northeastern U.S. airports. Included in our package were two activities of our choosing-we opted for a Pirate Cruise and Tour of Chichineza, and we elected to snorkel and golf on our own.

The Pirate Cruise turned out to be what was referred to as a “booze cruise”, although don’t be misled into thinking it was a raucous free-for-all. There were many young honeymooners, but also a good deal of children, yet a cash bar quite adequately supported the general atmosphere of nautical fun and fantasy. Actors and actresses roamed the ship, telling Pirate stories of the waters and taking pictures of the guests. It wasn’t a bad way to spend an evening, and there were some lovely views of the shoreline for photo opportunities.

Chichineza is an ancient town that contains relics of past civilizations such as courts in which a deadly basketball game was once played, and towering pyramid that can be climbed by those stout of heart and limb. (I have a great picture of myself atop, canoodling with the god who protects it.) The journey was not an easy one, however. Approaching Chichineza via a rickety old bus without air conditioning and restroom facilities was not something advisable for anyone suffering even a mild form of Montezuma’s revenge. The trip was about 90 minutes and the path was through some exceedingly heart-breaking areas of poverty. (On the one rest stop, beggars swarmed those who left the bus.)

The snorkeling expedition we chose went out into much deeper water than I am comfortable with, so I alone remained in waters near the boat. It was moored in about 6 feet of water; the others went out to a depth of at least 15 feet. This is a consideration if you are a novice; the companies’ version of “beginner” may conflict with yours. (My husband relayed that one of the women became quite unnerved at one point and they had to stop the excursion for a few minutes, so apparently I’m not the only one who likes to have their feet on solid ground while dumping water from their face mask.)

Golfing was a blur and not worth the money-it was not a well-kept course, and the temperature reached 106 degrees that particular September day. Yet, we made up for it in other ways…

Our hotel room offered beautiful scenery, and we enjoyed every one of our meals-even though the chimichangas tasted a bit different than those from Chichi’s! We loved going to the marketplace, though one must get used to bargaining with the vendors. My souvenir was a stunning silver and turquoise bracelet which I still wear to this day.

In answer to questions about illness, some folks were sick every day (like my husband) while others became sick only once (like I did). The culprit were ice-pops purchased from a local child at Chichineza; we were so parched, we didn’t even care about the water. However, surprisingly, those few episodes still didn’t ruin the overall experience. Would I return? You bet! It’s probably even grander now than before, but still very tourist-friendly.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Toronto-A Very Good Neighbor

Before a passport was required for visiting Toronto, I visited for a few days one summer. To be honest, I was ill (unrelated to travel) for most of my stay, but still remember it with fond memories. That says something.

We stayed at a lovely downtown hotel. Well, that’s redundant; I think almost everything in town in lovely, or at least kept up and attractive-at least the areas that tourists see, anyway. I had ordered tickets for Phantom of the Opera some monts earler, and of course didn't anticipate it being such an inopportune time. So it was either “tough it out” or lose the money already spent. I’m glad I chose the former.

In case you didn’t know, Toronto is Canada’s largest city and is proud of its safe reputation, as well as an international melting pot. To give you an example, there is Greektown, Corso Italia, Little Poland, Koreatown and more than one Chinatown-not to mention the Gay Village. Toronto also boasts CN Tower, the tallest tower in the world and second tallest structure, surpassed only by the Burj in Dubai. I remember taking a bus through town and being mesmerized by the overwhelming diversity of cultures seen in shopping, groceries, fashion-and of course, more restaurants than a person could try in a lifetime, even eating out three times a day. (In case you have a lot of time in Toronto and don’t need to sightsee every minute of your trip, you can also get around on its PATH, a 16 mile underground walkway connecting over a thousand shops and services to subway stations, hotels and office buildings.)

We happened to be able to walk to most of our destinations, which was easy to do since Toronto is laid out on a simple grid. It was also efficient, since traffic always appeared to be as heavy as New York’s. In fact, the similarity with the big apple didn’t end there; streets in Toronto were almost as jam-packed with representation of every culture and religion, and bicyclists were so numerous they were even assigned their own lane on the streets.

Unlike us in the lower 48, Canadian currency under five dollars utilizes coins, such as the loonie ($1) and toonie ($2). But, the American dollar is accepted most places, although change is given in Canadian money. Keep in mind that there is a 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST) and an 8% Provincial Sales Tax (PST) on purchases. For a rebate to offset some of that, you can contact Custom House Global Foreign Exchange, the Global Refund, or Premier Tax-Free Services for information and forms.

In addition to seeing the show (which, as you probably have heard, was excellent), we spent a few hours visiting Casa Loma, one of Canada's most famous castles. We did not take the full tour, but if you have the time, you can check out secret passages, towers, stables, an 800-foot tunnel, and 5 acres of gardens. We also took a cruise of the Toronto Harborfront, which provided great photo opportunities of the outlying islands, the city skyline, Skydome, and, of course, the CN Tower. (This landmark is open to visitors and may even be climbed.)

In fact, if you’re interested in visiting the observation decks of the CN Tower, and would also like to see the best attractions Toronto has to offer, you may wish to consider a Toronto City Pass, which contains tickets to CN Tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame, Casa Loma, the Ontario Science Center; the Royal Ontario Museum, and Toronto Zoo. It can be used over a span of nine days.

In checking into current offerings in preparation for this article, I found that the Mayor of Toronto now uses a hybrid electric vehicle as his “limousine”, and street vendors now offer soy hot dogs. That’s the kind of attention that’s the best kind…diverse and out of the ordinary, but beneficial for the community.

There is youthfulness in Toronto, and not just in the chronological ages of its inhabitants. True, there is a noticeable influence of young fads, but also a positive energy vibe not always felt in urban streets. The celebrity Prince said that the Canadian cold keeps bad people out. Perhaps he senses it, too.