Category: 2006 Summer vacation plan writing contest entries

Travel Plan – Discovering Spain

Enjoy entry # 16 in the summer vacation plan travel writing contest. Entries must be received by May 17, 2006 and can be emailed to jtrotta@gmail.com.

We plan to spend a short vacation in Spain, exploring some of its wonderful history and culture while enjoying the warmth and ambiance of this fascinating country.

Day 1. Depart JFK New York, about an eight-hour flight, $1,500 U.S. round trip for two. Arrive in Madrid and take the Aerocity car, 19 euros for two, and check into the elegant Westin Palace hotel. The Westin Palace hotel is located on the Plaza de las Cortes in the heart of the city, within walking distance to the Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen museums. Beyond the glass-domed lobby of this majestic hotel, the exciting sounds of flamenco can be heard coming from the Bar del Palace. Accommodations are quite luxurious, $300 U.S. for a double room, with breakfast included. Have a couple of cocktails in the Bar before dinner; enjoy the piano music and atmosphere that Hemingway spoke of. Dinner is leisurely and delightful, a marvelous shrimp paella and Cava wine, the champagne of Spain. Dining in the hotel is relatively expensive, but worth it, comparable to what you would pay at other five star hotels in New York, Paris, or London. Slightly travel worn, retire for the night, eager for the next day’s adventures.

Day 2. After a sumptuous breakfast with great Spanish coffee, take a short walk to the famous Museo del Prado, constructed during the reign of Charles III in the 1700’s. The Prado’s extensive collection of art includes masterpieces by Rubens, El Greco, Melendez, and Goya, as well as many others. Needless to say, a couple of hours is not nearly enough time to fully appreciate the museum, so much to see and contemplate. Next stop before lunch, the Thyssen museum, a marvelous collection of 13th to 20th century art, including Rodin, Pissaro, Picasso, Renoir, Monet, and Degas. Entry fees are extremely reasonable, approximately three to five euros. It’s a little early for lunch, usually around 2 in the afternoon, time for a stroll through the shady gardens of El Retiro Park, just behind the Prado. Although the park is refreshingly cool and inviting, with trees, fountains, and lush gardens, dress appropriately. Madrid can be quite warm in the summertime.

About 2:00 in the afternoon, lunch at La Costela, east of Retiro Park. Prices are reasonable, about 19 euros for a delicious order of tapas, small croquettes filled with Spain’s famous Serrano ham, cheese, and spinach. Tapas are very similar to the tacos of the Southwest. After a small pitcher of sangria, return to the hotel for a short siesta! Dinner at Botin, a popular tourist spot in Old Madrid near the Plaza Mayor, reservations advisable. Botin, considered to be the oldest restaurant in the world dating back to 1725, was frequented by Hemingway and it is said that Goya worked here before becoming an artist. Try something different at Botin, roast lamb or suckling pig, dinner in the bodega or wine cellar. Prices range from 20 to 40 euros for a great meal with wine and dessert. Botin is a must for first-time visitors, great atmosphere, and traditional music by local groups.

(Note: Public transportation is inexpensive with the Metro, numerous buses, and taxis. Bus trips cost about $1.55 U.S. to anywhere in the city and a 10-trip pass, on either the Metro or bus line, is $6.15 U.S.)

Day 3. Have an early breakfast at the hotel and go shopping! Spend the morning wandering around the streets, in and out of shops around the Puerto del Sol and Gran Via area. Visit El Arco de los Cuchilleros Artesania de Hoy in the Plaza Mayor for unique items of pottery, wood carvings, and papier-mache; Excrupulus Net for high quality leather products, and Adama in the Salamanca district for excellent, although expensive, ceramics. Antique lovers might browse the Centro de Anticuarios Lagasca arcade of shops in the Serrano or Velasquez district. Late lunch at the Posada de la Villa, historic old inn near the Plaza Mayor, good selection of grilled meats and fish for $15 to $25 U.S. Next on the agenda, a visit to the Royal Palace and the lovely Campo de Moro gardens, admission is free.

Return to the Westin to relax before having dinner at Casa Ciriaco in the Plaza Mayor, a traditional restaurant in true Spanish style and cuisine. Try one of the specialties, partridge with fava beans, a flask of Riojas wine, and dessert for 18 to 25 euros. No trip to Spain is complete without flamenco, and the Corral de la Moreria, the Moors, located in the Austrias quarter, has some of the best in Madrid. Strolling performers, dancers, and the lively music of flamenco add up to great entertainment for around $35 U.S. Late night show and return to hotel.

Day 4. Depart 11:35 a.m. from Madrid to Santiago de Campostela, the capital of Galicia, on Iberia airlines. An hour’s flight, round trip for two, 143 euros. Day and overnight trains a bit more reasonable, but longer trips. Taxi to the hotel, 15 euros. Check into the AC- Palacio del Carmen, a delightful, quiet, hotel, restored from the original architectural design of the convent. Great location within a few blocks of the Obradoiro Square and the Cathedral. Superior room rates from 108 –219 euros. Time for lunch at La Crepe in the Casa de Congo, a short walk from the hotel. Extensive menu of crepes, seafood (a specialty in Galicia), salads, and dessert. Prices: 20 to 30 euros.

On to the Cathedral, the highlight of our visit to Santiago. The Cathedral was built in 1077 as a shrine to Santiago, the Apostle St. James. People make the pilgrimage along the way of St. James, walking or cycling for miles to this historic shrine. An incense chalice hangs from the end of a 30 meter rope that is occasionally swung by eight men (a tradition seldom seen), as a tribute to the gods. The Gate of Forgiveness at the Cathedral will open again in 2010, a holy year, when July 25th falls on a Sunday. History reveals that pilgrims knock on the door three times with a silver hammer, hoping to gain entrance and forgiveness for their sins.

Spend rest of the afternoon exploring on foot the old quarter of Santiago, down granite alleyways, winding through a maze of 12th century streets past more architectural wonders and small shops along the way. Visit the University, one of the oldest in the world, and the Church of San Agustin. Stop in one of the many bars or pubs for a cold beverage before returning to the hotel. Dinner at Toni Vicente, gourmet cuisine, prices around 40 euros, loads of atmosphere.

(Note: For a remarkable rejuvenation of the mind and spirit, the small village of Santiago de Compostela is one of life’s incredible journeys.)

Day 5. After breakfast, pick up Hertz rental car at the train station, about a 10-minute walk from the hotel. Daily rate: 63 euros. Beautiful, scenic drive (about 60 miles) on the Atlantic Motorway to Vigo, the largest city in Galicia, and a good base for exploring the Galician coast. Vigo on the coast is a picturesque city, rich in history, overlooking the Vigo Bay. Check into the Ciudad de Vigo hotel, located downtown a few blocks from the yachting harbor. Double room – 102 euros, free parking garage, restaurant. Drive north about three miles to the Madroa viewpoint on Castro Mountain for a spectacular view of Vigo, the beaches, and the ocean. Continue along the same route about eight miles to the Mirador de Coto Rodondo. Cimb through pine and eucalyptus to the top of the hill for a view of the Vigo and Pontevedra rivers below. Total toll charges and fuel approximately 6 euros.

Return driving south across the bridge to Baiona, another picturesque fishing village, with a replica of Columbus’ Pinta in the harbor. Stroll through the old parts of town before lunch. at the Parador, a fabulous hotel, situated on 45 acres surrounded by walls and pines. enclosed with walls, pines, and gardens, on the grounds of the Castillo Monte Real. Take time to enjoy the view of Islas de Cies from the 16th century walls of the Castillo Monte Real before lunch (more like dinner) for two under 50 euros. Leave Baiona late afternoon, approximately 15-mile drive to Vigo, time to relax a while at the hotel before dinner. Dinner at El Castillo, elegant atmosphere and view, great food, moderate prices, 20 to 30 euros. Retire for the night and decide to stay another day in Vigo.

Day 6. Breakfast at hotel and a walk through the historic Berbes quarter and the Calle de Los Cesteros. Lunch at one of the outdoor restaurants $11-$20 U.S. Take the 45-minute ferry ride to Islas de Cies, natural nature reserve, explore white sand beaches, amazing flora and fauna of these islands. Tickets at the Vigo Firth Ferry Station (schedule and fares not available). Return as the sun is setting for dinner at the hotel.

Day 7. Early morning drive back to Santiago to turn in rental car and catch noonday flight back to Madrid. Check in to Westin again and off to see more of Madrid. Stop at the church of Ermita de San Antonio de la Florida to admire Goya’s frescoes. Casa Mingo, across from the church, is a friendly, inexpensive place for lunch. The International Rose Festival is held in June in the Parque del Oeste, east across the overpass. Return to hotel to enjoy cocktails and dinner. Retire early.

Day 8 Depart Madrid for JFK.

We have experienced the “amistad” (friendship) and culture of just a small part of this wonderful county. Reluctantly, we say “hasta la vista” to Spain…next time for a much longer stay.

(Note: Speaking and understanding some Spanish helps, but certainly not a requirement.)

Sweden summer vacation plan

Contest entry #15. Less than a month left to get your submissions to jtrotta@gmail.com!

Day 1

Fly or ferry to Sweden via Denmark during the month of June. From Stockholm, take a flight up to the northern city of Lulea, situated on the Gulf of Bothenia, near the artic circle, and a hop, skip, and a jump to Finland. Lulea, population of 72,000, is a great place for those who want to enjoy summer at its best, not too warm and not too cold! Midsummer fest occurs on June 23rd. If you are flying from North America, you will experience a bit of jet lag, so my first suggestion is to get unpacked, relax and relish the hotel room, and your check out your immediate surroundings.

Day 2/3

Taking in a nature walk or renting a bike to visit Lulea’s “Storgatan” or the large road, is the best way to get around. There are many walking and biking paths all over town. Swedes keep fit by exercising. Besides, gas is very expensive, so use your body’s fuel to get around! Lulea is a dynamic center. Lots of shops and cafes to discover. Lulea is a port city as well. Ships come and go on the gulf. Take a self initiated mini tour of the docks. Great for picture taking!

Day 4

A visit to Gammel Stad …a medieval church village and an old euro-nordic city…is a must! It is about an hour outside of Lulea, therefore, one needs to either travel by bus or rent a car. Gammel Stad was center of hustle and bustle in the 1500’s but due to the fact that Gammel Stad habour could not accommodate the increasing trade, the people were forced to move to Lulea. Some of her citizens refused to depart, leaving this millennium with a touch of nostalgia in the air!

Day 5

Just outside of Lulea, is a rushing river rapids turn into a beautiful waterful. If you rented a car yesterday, what a great one-day excursion you will experience today. Check out the forestry. Makes for a beautiful nature ride. Don’t forget to bring rainwear!

Day 6

Teknic Husen is located at the University of Lulea is one of the city’s major attractions. This high tek attraction gives you hands on experiences. Bring a lunch and sit outside!

Day 7

Heading inland to Pitea which is about a half hour from Lulea and it attracts hundreds of tourists due to its beaches. A day at the beach can’t hurt if it is sunny. Cloudy weather? Visit Pitea and tour around the city.

Day 8/9

Arvidsjaur is a lapland (sami) town. There is a Lappstaden museum village, run by the Sami community, so don’t forget your camera and get a picture of a real Lap in his traditional costume! How about a hike in the mountains now that you are in Lapland territory of mountains, rivers, and maybe a reindeer or two. Have you tried a reindeer open-faced sandwich yet?

Vindeln is a great place to do some river rafting and canoeing. Beautiful lakes and landscape scupture Sweden.

Day 10

Say good-bye to those red painted houses on the Artic Circle and drive south to Sundsvall, where summer festivals and outdoor concerts are held. Enjoy the traditional foods and folk music.

Day 11/12

Drive down the coast to Stockholm, the Venice of the North! Take a boat ride to Drottning’s Palace and experience this beautiful location. After the mini-cruise, walk around the inner city where the cobblestones streets and modern shops meet. A Swedish beer and local conversation tops the day.

Day 13

Last day for souvenirs, postcards, and memorbilia. Off to the airport. Hejdo! That is Swedish for Bye now.

Madrid to Malaga, Spain 2006

You’ve got less than a month to submit 2006 summer vacation plans for the $1,000.00 travel writing contest. Here is entry #14 by Bob Trinder.

Saturday 29th July – Day 1.

Our flight into Madrid’s Barajas airport arrives at 11.20 am, early enough to give us time to get settled and find our feet. We’re travelling light on this trip, just one suitcase each, so we’ll catch the metro into the city centre (1.15 each).

There are hundreds of hotels to choose from; we’ve opted for a basic/good hotel – the luxury comes later in the trip.

There was nothing to choose between:Hotel VIP Preciados (198 for 2 nights), Hotel Petit Palace Londres (179), or the one we choose – Hotel Petit Palace Tres Cruces (180), are all in the tourist district, and all to be found on the www.gomadrid.com website.

Our first excursion is to find our bearings and more importantly find a bar nearby for a drink and some tapas for lunch: perhaps a few olives, some calamari (squid) and a portion of tortilla (spanish omelette) – (10-15).

Madrid is extremely well provided for in terms of museums: the Museo Del Prado www.museoprado.mcu.es (3) being internationally famous for it’s collection of Spanish art, particularly by Velazquez, Goya and El Greco. A more comprehensive collection can be found in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza (4.80) opposite the Prado, but we’re going to the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia www.museoreinasofia.mcu.es (3) in order to see Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, a huge work showing the bombing of the Basque town of Guernica by the German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and one of the most famous images of the 20th century.

Serious tourism earns some serious relaxation, so it’s time for that most Spanish of activities – the siesta.

The evening brings cooler temperatures and the opportunity to stroll the streets around Puerta del Sol and have a pre dinner drink or two.

The idea of the oldest restaurant in the world is irresistible, particularly as the speciality of Sobrino de Botin, Plaza de Oriente, (25-40) is roast suckling pig – definitely not for the vegetarians!

After dinner there’s plenty of nightlife to experience, the Madrelenos won’t be going to bed for hours. Personally, after a cafe carajillo – espresso coffee topped up with brandy- we’ll be ready for bed.

Sunday 30th July, Day 2

Breakfast of churros (long doughnuts) dipped in delicious hot chocolate (4-6), will set us up for a walk around El Rastro (start from La Latina Metro stop), Madrid’s most colourful Sunday market, although I’m told you have to be on the lookout for pickpockets!

After lunch at the Muse del Jamon (The Ham Museum) Calle Mayor 7, (7-15) www.museodeljamon.com and a refreshing siesta comes a tough choice. Should we take a walking tour organized by the tourist office in Plaza Mayor www.madrid.org (3.50 to 6.10), or an even more tiring cycling tour with Madrid Bike Tours www.madridbiketours.com (55)?

Instead we’ll catch one of Madrid Vision’s orange double-decker buses and have a hop on/hop off tour of the city (10.60) – this was never meant to be an energetic holiday!

We’ll put the energy we’ve saved into finding a restaurant for dinner. It may take a while as there are so many to choose from, but we really should go to El Corral de la Moreria www.gomadrid.com/activity/corral-de-la-moreria.html to have dinner and see the flamenco show (72 -129).

Monday 31st July, Day 3

Check out from the hotel and collect our hire car, a Renault Megane (Europcar www.europcar.com/home.html – 146 for 9 days hire – one of a small number of companies that do one way hire), and plunge head first into the fray that is driving in Madrid. As we are making our way out of the city the driving should soon become less nerve wracking as we hit the open countryside.

We’ve booked rooms at a series of Parador Hotels www.paradores-spain.com, over the next few days. Paradors are a chain of state run hotels, often in stunning location, and situated in a variety of converted buildings such as monasteries, palaces and castles.

Today we’re booked into the Parador Nacional Conde de Orgaz (232 per night for two half board) in Toledo www.go-toledo.com/ which sits high above the river Tajo, giving spectacular views over the city.

We’ve decided to go for the half board option in the Paradors as one of the features is the focus on local regional food in their restaurants – I definitely like the sound of Perdiz a la Toledana, partridge stewed in a casserole.

Tuesday 1st August, Day 4

A mixture of tourism & shopping today. The mercadillo or market is on today – perhaps the chance to buy some of the steel products that Toledo is famous for. We have to visit the cathedral, which apparently has a gold monstrance/ cup made from the first gold brought back from the Americas. We also have to see the Alcazar, originally a Muslim fortress built in the 10th century, rebuilt and added to following the Christian re-conquest.

Wednesday 2nd August, Day 5

On to our second Parador, the Ronda de San Francisco (213 per night for two half board), a former convent not far from the centre of Almagro uk.ibercultura.com/Provinces/Ciudad_Real/Almagro/ , a smaller town 130Km/80 miles south Of Toledo. The bedrooms were previously the monastic cells and this Parador’s restaurant features traditional food from La Mancha such as Berenjenas made with aubergines.

Thursday 3rd August, Day 6

Almagro is a delightful medieval town with a great deal of 16th century architecture, particularly around the Plaza Mayor. However, it isn’t such a large town, so after exploring we’ll be doing some serious sitting outside a cafe or two on the Plaza Mayor, perhaps Bar les Nieves or El Corrigidor, and watching the world go by.

Friday 4th August, Day 7

South again to the Parador Nacional Arruzafa (213 per night for two half board) just outside Cordoba www.andalucia.com/cities/cordoba.htm. Once the heart of Muslim Spain, Cordoba has a wealth of Islamic sights; even the Parador is on the site of the Caliph’s summer palace, where the first palm trees in Europe were planted.

For me, the main attraction is its pool, situated amongst lush gardens. Once the midday heat has passed we will visit the nearby ruins of the Medin-Azahara, a city built in the tenth century and destroyed 100 years later by the Barbers. (I really should do some more research on the Barbers, if only to get away from the vision in my head of hordes of white smocked men brandishing combs and scissors, ransacking the city, while at the same time asking if the inhabitants if they need anything for the weekend).

Saturday 5th August, Day 8

A must see is the Mezquita, one of the great examples of Islamic architecture, started in the 9th century and which grew to cover six acres. Right in the middle of the site is the 16th century cathedral, which even Carlos I described as “destroying something that was unique in the world”. I can’t wait to see it!

Cordoba has a reputation for being a hot city, so we’re looking forward to trying a traditional cold soup called Salmorejo Cordobes made with vegetables, garlic and olive oil, which we’ll follow with some Rabo de Toro a la Cordobesa, or oxtail stew.

Sunday 6th August, Day 9

Drive the 120km/75 miles south to the Parador de Antequra (188 per night for two half board); this one in a modern building, but which the website describes as being “for those who want to experience total relaxation, this is the perfect retreat”. Now that we couldn’t resist.

One of Andalucia’s most attractive old towns, Antequera www.andalucia.com/antequera/home.htm is another place where sitting with a coffee or a cerveza, while watching the Antequranos go about their business, seems a really good idea. If we’re feeling energetic we’ll make our way to the northern edge of town, where there are some of Europe’s largest megalithic tombs. Built between 2500 & 2,000 BC, these burial mounds were constructed by the locals with huge rocks transported from the nearby hills.

Here the cold soup is Gazpacho, which comes in variety of styles and is a speciality of Andalucia, while a more local dish is Porra Antequera, made with codfish.

Monday 7th August, Day 10

As a contrast to any laziness yesterday, we’ll make a visit to El Torca www.andalucia.com/antequera/torcal/home.htm, some 16Km/10 miles from Antequera. A 12 square kilometre area of weird and wonderful rock formations, this 1336m high mountain of gnarled and fissured limestone originated as part of the sea bed about 150 million years ago. We’ll be sticking to the 1.5Km marked walking trail.

On our return to the town we’ll be sure to see the Arco de los Giganta or Arch of the giants, which sounds promising, but may prove to not be as impressive as the name implies.

Tuesday 8th August, Day 11

An afternoon flight gives us time to drive the 50km/30 miles to Malaga, where we’ll squeeze in a visit to the Casa Natal de Picasso www.fundacionpicasso.es/en/index.html, Plaza de la Merced 15, (1 admission), where the artist’s birthplace has been converted to a museum dedicated to his work.

All before reluctantly returning the car to Europcar at Malaga airport and catching our plane home.

Costs (for two):

Madrid – Hotel Petit Palace Tres Cruces (2 nights) 180

Toledo – Parador Nacional Conde de Orgaz (2 nights) 464 (half board)

Almagro – Ronda de San Francisco (2 nights) 426 (half board)

Cordoba – Parador Nacional Arruzafa (2 nights) 426 (half board)

Antequera – Parador de Antequra (2 nights) 376 (half board)

Car Hire 146

Petrol/ Gas 100

Food and drinks 300

Entrance fees 100

Total Cost Excluding Flights: $3,110

2006 summer vacation to Vegas, San Diego, Grand Canyon

This 7 day summer vacation plan is the 12th submission to the 1,000 dollar travel writing contest. Be sure to read all the other 2006 summer vacation plans that heve been submitted.

Day 1: Vegas, baby, Vegas! As you embark on your adventure out West, you must first visit Vegas. You’ll need all the energy you’re able to summon to survive this town: Games of Chance, Drinks O’ Plenty and Excitement Squared. Live it up!

Day 2: Sleep/Rest/Recover until 3pm! Relax, you’re in Vegas! A 3pm

start is like starting at 9am in any other city. While you’re not as “rah-rah-rah”

as you were yesterday/last night, take in more of the sights. Spend time

outside of the casinos soaking up the sun and fresh/dry air.

Day 3: Adios, Vegas, it was fun while it lasted. Hello, La La land! Los Angeles: Walk of Fame, Stars, Sunset Boulevard. Don’t be too envious of the rich and famous; instead, savor the city and the exhilaration of Movie Land.

Day 4: Onward to, arguably, the most eye-appealing city in the country; take

a drive along the coast to San Diego. Stop at the renowned San Diego Zoo,

Mission Beach and everywhere else. You can’t go wrong in, as my friends respectfully dubbed it, “Diego.”

Day 5: Enter Arizona. The state’s bird, the Cactuswren, enjoy, as you

will, the dry climate. You’ll admire the cacti. Yes, while you’re in this state

even the cacti are picturesque. Take in the state’s capital, Phoenix, as well

as Tuscon. I can’t describe these cities with words; it’s more of a feel as you

move about the terrain.

Day 6: Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon Grand Canyon! Get there by any means

necessary! That’s your day. Your entire day. Take a camera and plenty of film!

You will be awestruck by its beauty.

Day 7: Eat a hearty breakfast and head East, “soldiers!” Your group has been together for a week. You’ve been to three states, “oohed,” and “oohed” some more. You’ve had quality conversation; discussions, as well as minor disagreements. Avail yourself, when you reach your humble abode, to some alone time!

Steve Doherty Jr.

Travel Contest Itenerary – These Shoes Are Made for Walking…in England!

Contest entry #11 was submitted by Hannah Kemp.

While there are many islands that I would love to visit, the British Isles will always be near and dear to my heart. Although as with any country in order to truly appreciate the wonders of England you must stop and stay for a good long while, I shall attempt to whirl you through her sights and sounds in a mere 7-8 days. Before you set out, a most necessary item will be your Britrail Pass. You must purchase this while still in the US, they are not sold in the UK. A 4 day Flexi-pass 2nd Class will cost $275 for adults and $207 for youth. This trip is designed for students or young people, as it includes a lot of walking and attempts to highlight the less expensive side of things. However, it could be easily adapted for a family or older couple. I’ve included the prices for adults, as they are the highest, but your student ID card will prove invaluable on your journey, as almost every place offers a “concession” price for students, seniors, families & children.

Day 1: Arrive in London, at either Heathrow or Gatwick airport. Plan on arriving either late afternoon or in the evening, this helps with jet-lag. Since you’re already exhausted from traveling, go ahead and slip into the train for Oxford. If you’re still awake and its still light out, head to the second level and secure a front seat view as the English countryside passes you by. When you arrive at the Oxford station you’ll be just outside the center of beautiful Oxford, England. Even though it may be late at night, you shouldn’t have a problem getting a cab. Take one of the many black taxi-cabs waiting just outside and direct the driver to your hotel. There are many places to stay in Oxford, but I recommend the Lakeside B&B (http://www.oxfordcity.co.uk/accom/lakeside/). Rooms start at 38 for a single, GBP 50 for a standard double, 68 double with en-suite and 84 for a family en-suite. Right next to a charming little park and a mere 15 minutes walk from the City Centre, the Lakeside is ideally situated. If it is unavailable, there are several other B&B’s on Abingdon Road. Be sure to let your hosts know when your plane gets in, especially if its late, so they can be ready for your arrival.

Day 2:

Depending on your interests, you may decide to spend more or less time at any one of the places on this itinerary. Oxford is highly recommended as a 2 day treat, there’s so much to see and do in this beautiful town! Plus, its nice to take things easy on your first day after a long journey.

Start out from the Lakeside B&B after enjoying a hearty breakfast. When you leave the B&B, turn left and head down the road. If you prefer, you can turn right and walk to the bus stop, where you can catch a bus to the City Centre for 90 pence. This beautiful morning is the reason to come to Oxford straight from London. You’ll see London on your way home and there is nothing like an Oxford morning to refresh and invigorate the weary traveler. By the time you arrive at the City Centre, you’ll be ready for a day full of adventure! Grab a map, and take a look at the city of the dreaming spires.

http://www.dailyinfo.co.uk/sheet/maps/map.htm

http://www.club.ox.ac.uk/images/large-oxford-map.gif

Among the unique gems of Oxford, the Pitt Rivers Museum is one of the most curious. Located inside the Natural History Museum, museum guides are still discovering new pieces in this collection of memorabilia from various private collections which range from carved pipes to shrunken heads to stringed instruments. Be sure to open the drawers, you never know what you’ll find!

Just down the road from the Natural History Museum lies University Park. This is a terrific place to sit under a tree, relax, or even take a nap to get rid of the last remnants of jet lag.

Take lunch at the Eagle & Child, where J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and other Oxford authors met to discuss their ideas over beer and pipes in a group called “The Inklings.” I highly recommend the Mushroom Pepperpot, a specialty of the pub.

On Broad Street, not too far from the Eagle & Child, lies Blackwells’ Bookstore. Blackwell’s is a haven for booklovers everywhere. Venture to the uppermost level and you’ll find the used book department, where many interesting and unique volumes can be found for 1/2 price.

Directly across from this deceptively small appearing bookstore (the largest in Oxford) is the Museum of the History of Science. http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/ This museum often has interesting exhibits, such as Einstein’s Chalkboard – preserved from when he gave a lecture on relativity at the university. The exhibits for this summer are not yet posted, but when they are, you can find them here: http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/events/

Depending on your preference, you can see the city in any number of ways. There are guided walking tours, or red bus tours if your feet are tiring. If you’re interested in a walking tour – which is probably the best way to experience Oxford – many of them start at or near to Blackwell’s bookstore.

The one thing you’ll kick yourself the most if you miss is an Evensong at Christ Church. Whether or not you tour this beautiful church (Harry Potter fans will consider such a tour a must) take a moment at the end of your day to sit and rest and experience this beautiful and uplifting ceremony. Schedules are posted on the church door on St. Aldate’s street, or can be found here: http://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/modules/standard/viewpage.asp?id=235

After a long day of walking, its good to remember that buses run fairly late into the night, leaving from St. Aldate’s Road, just a little bit closer to city centre from the gates of Christ Church. If, instead, you choose to walk, you can stop in for a pint at the Head of the River pub on your way back to your B&B.

Day 3: Hop aboard an early train and head for York. Ideally, you’ll get there in time for the first free walking tour, which starts at 10:15am and explores the history of York, ending the beautiful York Minster. http://www.btinternet.com/%7Eyork.touristguides/ After the tour, there are lots of different options. The Jorvik Viking Centre is an especially fun place for both the young and the young at heart. http://www.jorvik-viking-centre.co.uk/trialsplash2.htm The York museum offers plenty to see, and you can catch a nap in the gardens. Trains can easily become a mild passion while traveling in Britain, and you can fuel this interest at the National Rail Museum. Be sure to pick up some Yorkshire cheese from a local shop…most days there’s a small local market where you never know what you’ll find – anything from a paper cone of freshly picked strawberries to hand crafted jewelry.

At the end of the day, hop back on the train, this time heading further north to Edinburgh. The journey time should be about 2.5 hours. You have so many options for where to stay in Edinburgh. For the budgeted back-packer, I reccomend the High Street Hostel. The staff are friendly, and the location can’t be beat! If you’re looking for a little more comfort, try the Arbercorn Bed & Breakfast, its outside the city, but well worth the journey. http://www.smoothhound.co.uk/hotels/abercorn.html

Yet another option is the Globetrotter Inn. The Globetrotters in Edinburgh is decidedly off the beaten track, requiring either your own transportation or that you pay a (separate) fee to take their (admittedly frequent, but often crowded) bus to get to the hostel. Once you’re there, its right by the ocean, which has distinct advantages of long, romantic windswept walks by the rocky shore. If you can stand the isolation, and don’t mind the chance of having to wait for the bus a little extra, the Globetrotters in Edinburgh is an excellent place to stay – the staff is courteous and the place is clean and well thought out. I will highly recommend the sister hostel in London, and I recommend the facility in Edinburgh, however, the journey to and from makes the Globetrotters in Edinburgh a little too much of a hassle for the value. If you’re going to go outside Edinburgh, go to the Arbercorn B&B, where you get a lot more privacy for about the same amount of money. The Globetrotter is, however, nice for large groups, or persons traveling together who want to have their own bed.

Day 4: This is your first day in Scotland! Get a map from your hostess as you head out the door, but don’t worry too much about finding your way around town. Edinburgh is built on the “Royal Mile” and just about everything you want to see is close by. The Edinburgh Castle will take you at least 2 or 3 hours to see properly, so either visit there first, or leave plenty of time, because you’ll kick yourself if you don’t. Not to be missed is the exhibit for the blind just before the crown jewels of Scotland – a unique idea that allows those without sight to feel the craftsmanship of the crown, sceptre and sword.

A fun, and free, stop just before the castle, is the The Woolen Mill. Here you can take a brief tour of the history of Scottish dress, see a weaver in action and have a chance to buy a yard of your own tartan.

Turn off the Royal Mile at the Mercat Cross and walk down (literally) a little, and on your right you might very well spot a man in a Frankenstein’s monster costume. He is advertising another of the more unique hidden away places in Edinburgh, Frankenstein’s. This unique little restruant is located in the second story of a club/bar and has been built in what used to be a high Anglican church.

If you’re brave enough, catch one of the evening Ghost Tours. Half the fun of these tours is observing the other party members as they suddenly get “cold on one side” or “feel ghostly hands.” The guides with Mercat Tours are excellent storytellers. And, who knows, maybe you’ll have a ghostly encounter of your own. http://www.mercattours.com/scheduled-tours.asp

Edinburgh is another place you may want to extend your stay in – there’s so much to see and do! Be sure to save some time to browse in the many shops – the Scottish shopkeepers are usually quite jovial, and often wear kilts! Also, take an evening to relax in a local pub and soak up some quality atmosphere. The “story time” at the end of the Ghost Tour is a good way to start this!

Day 5:

You’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road

And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye

But me and my true love will never meet again

On the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond.

Hop aboard your favorite train and head for the tiny village of Balloch. Its literally the end of the line, so get off the train before it starts going backwards! Right next to the tracks (there’s no station, just a platform) is a tiny shop with some of the best, and greasiest, fish & chips in all of Great Britain. If you choose to stay a night, there are several lovely B&B’s right across the street. However, the true attraction is a short walk down to the right, where you’ll find Loch Lomond National Park. Be sure to bring your camera, and stay for sunset on the Loch.

http://www.lochlomond-trossachs.org/

Day 6 & 7:

As you hop aboard the train and head all the way down the country, be very glad that there are many express trains direct from Edinburgh to London! Instead of stopping at every little village possible, they pause at 2, or 3 stations and book it to London in a very brief 5 hours.

Alternatively, you can try the overnight train called the Caledonian Sleeper. If you go this option, advance planning is absolutely necessary – the “Bargain Berth” prices of GBP19 one-way disappear quickly. If you forget to plan ahead, your BritRail pass, will give you a more comfortable option, as the difference between a supplement for a 2nd class and a 1st class berth is a mere 4. Check out this website for information on how to book a ticket.

http://www.seat61.com/CaledonianSleepers.htm

Where to stay in London really depends entirely on your taste and budget. Some people will be spending little to no time awake in their rooms, so a reputable hostel is a highly economical and practical option. Others will want a more relaxing and traditional stay, so a B&B would be better. I’ve only personally experienced the hostel option, but I’ve put my researching skills to the test, and have come up with a B&B choice that I would love to try:

The GlobeTrotter Inn is a quality hostel, with above average facilities. There are no rickety metal bunks here – no, you have your own wooden bunk with a curtain, bookshelf and reading light. A personal locker with key is included. The staff are friendly and courteous – and if they can’t find something, they’ll help you find someone who can.

http://www.globetrotterinns.com/

For a good B&B, I suggest the Bay Tree House. http://www.hostels.net/hosteldetails.php

With nice rates and a good location, the thing that really sells this place to me are the various reviews of the B&B on www.tripadvisor.com, a resource I use occasionally to test and see if places I’ve found are too good to be true.

To find your own location, I suggest combining the services of http://www.londonbb.com/

with the reviews on www.tripadvisor.com

Traveling by the London Underground, or Tube, is easy and definitely your best choice. Get an Oyster Card, put GBP 7 on it and you’ll soon be zipping about with ease. The Oyster Card is very nice, as you pay as you go – so if you only travel to Trafalgar square and back, then you’ll only use 1-3 and have the rest for your next day – but if you travel a lot, the price caps at .50 less than a day pass. You can also use the Oyster Card for travel on the red double decker coaches – in fact, if you travel exclusively by coach, the price caps at 3. All in all, the Oyster card is very convenient, worry free and the best value for your money. A tip for the budget conscious, are you tired as can be, but don’t want to sit in your hotel room when you could be out and about? Don’t want to fork over bundles for the hop on, hop off tours? Just use your oyster card to get onto a red double decker bus. Secure the front seat on the top deck and just ride about London. I can tell you from personal experience, its quite nice and relaxing.

If you’re arriving early in the morning via the Caledonian Sleeper, your hotel in London may not yet have your room ready. However, they should be glad to hold your bags while you go sight-seeing. There is so much to see and do in London, its a 2 day-must and you might even extend it to 3. What you attempt is really your choice – don’t try too much or you’ll end up with lots of photographs, but no recollection of your day! For your convenience, I’ve divided the sites up by location.

Leicester & Trafalgar Square

Theatre:

Hop off the tube (please mind the gap between the train and the platform) and take the escalator up to Leicester Square – admiring the various posters for musicals on your way up. Now, there are 2 ways to go about getting tickets to musicals, the sure fire way, and the interesting and less expensive way. If you desire to go to a popular favourite, i.e. Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, all you need to do is arrive at Leicester Square BEFORE 10am. The discount ticket offices open at 10am, and all the wonderfully cheap sounding offers they have are usually gone within the first 30 minutes to an hour. After that, you can still get less expensive tickets, but they’re much harder to come by. If you’re going to a show that is not Les Mis or Phantom, you may want to buy your tickets ahead of time. Find the website for the show and purchase them there, more expensive, but you have your tickets. You can also check and see, many shows offer “stand-by” tickets, where you show up at the theatre itself in the afternoon a few hours before the show, and have a chance to get excellent tickets at very inexpensive rates. The draw back of this plan is that you may find yourself without a show to go to. If you’re a little flexible, you can plan on trying this option your first day, and going for Leicster Square tickets the second day, if you can’t get a stand by ticket.

The National Gallery:

The rest of your day in London depends entirely on your tastes. From Leicester Square, you can easily walk to Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery will take up an entire day for the art enthusiast – but the less interested can probably sweep through it in an hour or so. http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/ There are quite often guided tours which explore various elements of this large and beautiful collection. Like most British museums, all except the occasional special collection is free to view, another bonus for the budget conscious. Through the 25th of June, find a special exhibit titled “Bellini and the East,” admission to which is free. Expect to see masterpieces by many different artists from Monet to da Vinci to Velasquez, dating from 1250AD to 1900AD.

Lunchtime:

After viewing the many masterpieces at the National Gallery, it might very well be about lunchtime. If so, consider yourself fortunate and head to the crypt of St. Martins in the Fields, just across the road from the National Gallery. Here you’ll find a delightful lunch which you can either eat in the crypt itself, or take a sandwich out to Trafalgar Square and enjoy your repast amongst the lions and pigeons by the fountain. However, you should note that the most excellent soup, which is to be had at St. Martins, is difficult take-away food. If you’re there a little later, St. Martin’s is an excellent place to catch a spot of afternoon tea which is served from 2-6pm.

http://www2.stmartin-in-the-fields.org/page/cafe/crypt/crypt.html

Parliament:

Nearby, you’ll also find the offices of parliament. If either of your days in London happens to be a Wednesday, you might consider attempting to attend the Prime Minister’s Question Time which starts at noon every Wednesday when the House of Commons is in session. Space to view the House of Commons is quite limited, so arriving early is absolutely essential. Check out http://www.parliament.uk/works/occasion.cfm and “Prime Minister’s Question Time” for more information.

Westminster Abbey:

Westminster Abbey, where the queens and kings of England are christened, crowned and buried along with many other important poets, artists and historical figures. Come back in the evening to hear a gorgeous sung evensong. http://www.westminster-abbey.org/

National Portrait Gallery:

The National Portrait Gallery – sit and wonder at the stories behind the faces. http://www.npg.org.uk/live/index.asp

Along the Thames:

Tate Modern:

If modern art is more to your liking, you won’t find it at the National Gallery. For that, you must go to the Tate modern. http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/ Southwark and Blackfriars are the closest tube stations both of which are about ten minutes walk from the museum. While at the Tate, another piece of modern art may catch your eye. Situated right on the Thames, the Tate is quite close to the Millenium bridge, a wonderful place to look out at the expanse of the great river of London.

Tower of London:

Also along the Thames, you’ll find the Tower of London. Here you can compare the crown jewels of England with the Scottish jewels you saw in Edinburgh. You’ll also encounter ravens, friendly British yeomen & a variety of interesting stories of imprisonment, torture and murder. The tube stop is, appropriately enough, Tower Hill. For more information about the Tower, I recommend this unofficial site brought to you by the yeomen themselves: http://www.camelotintl.com/tower_site/

St. Paul’s:

The view is magnificent from the top of the famous dome at St. Paul’s Cathedral. www.stpauls.co.uk It costs 9.00 to see the church, with an additional cost if you desire a guided tour. Pictures are prohibited, but the postcards available in the shop are not terribly expensive, and quite gorgeous.

Great Fire Monument:

Another way to catch the view is by climbing the Great Fire Monument. (See http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/greatfire.htm for a brief history of the Great Fire.) After successfully reaching the top, you can take pictures of the London skyline (Placing your camera at a good angle between the spiked bars can be tricky.) When you come back down, they’ll give you a certificate saying that you have successfully climbed the monument.

Globe Theatre:

Those interested in Shakespeare will probably already know that the exhibition at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is not to be missed. http://www.shakespeares-globe.org/ Productions this summer are: Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus, Antony and Cleopatra, Under the Black Flag, The Comedy of Errors & In Extremis.

The London Eye

The London Eye is perhaps the most recognizable piece of modern British architecture. The view from the top is terrific, as long as you’re not afraid of heights! For a 10% discount, reserve your “flight ticket” online at http://www.londoneye.com/ Those interested in a bit of more recent local culture might be interested to know that the London Eye has also been theorized to be an alien transmitter, see Doctor Who for more information. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_(Doctor_Who)

Around London:

The British Library:

Not to be missed by the bibliophile or history buff, the British Library holds many priceless treasures. Nestled away here you’ll discover the oldest copy of Beowulf, the Magna Carta, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, and beautiful illuminated manuscripts. To arrive at the British Library, take the tube to the King’s Cross station. You’ll find a helpful map here: http://www.bl.uk/about/stporientation.html

The British Museum:

Not too far from the British Library, the British Museum is full of treasures from near and far. http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/world/britain/britain.html Check out the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies and money from around the world. Of note are the hands on events, which allow you to experience a wide assortment of artifacts from both ancient and modern cultures.

Shopping/Markets:

Fill in the edges with whatever interests you. Shopping, perhaps. Whether it be Harrod’s: famous for exquisite bathrooms and the ability to get you whatever you want, as long as price is no object, the Portabello Road markets (be sure to go in the early afternoon, many of the shops close sporadically early on different days of the week) or shopping on the famous Oxford Street, London has much to offer for the window shopper, the bargain shopper or the savvy person looking for some designer threads. For information on a variety of markets, check out the London Guide to London’s Markets: http://www.londontourist.org/markets.html

Pub Crawl:

If the thought of shopping makes you want to reach for your favorite brew to numb the pain, London is most definitely the place for you. Interesting even to the teetotaler, some of the oldest buildings in London are pubs – still open for business and a great place to get a bite to eat, sit back, relax and soak in the atmosphere. If you’d like to know more about them, or would rather not have to search for these often hole-in-the-wall places on your own, you might consider a guided tour. Here are a couple options, one self-tour and one with a guide:

http://www.walks.com/Homepage/Tuesday/default.aspx#108

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/pubsandbars/articles/21805789?source=Evening%20Standard

Day 8: Head for home.

I hope this guide has proven useful to you, or at least a little entertaining. I’ll close with a brief itenerary, for easy reference and sheduling.

Cheers!

Day 1: Arrive in London. Coach to Oxford.

Day 2: Oxford

The Pitt Rivers Museum – Free

The Natural History Museum – Free

University Park – Free

Eagle & Child – Lunch (7-15)

Museum of the History of Science – Free

Evensong at Christ Church – Free

Stay at: B&B – 25 person

Day 3: York.

Walking Tour – Free

The Jorvik Viking Centre – Adult 7.45

National Rail Museum – Free

Local Market

train to Edinburgh

Stay at: B&B or Hostel: 12 – 25 person

Day 4: Edinburgh

The Edinburgh Castle – Adult -10.30

The Woolen Mill. – Free

Ghost Tour – 6.00 adul

Shops

Day 5: Balloch

Loch Lomond National Park – Free

Stay at: B&B: 15-20 per person

Days 6 & 7: London

Catch a Show: Price varies 19 – 40 apx.

The National Gallery – Free

The Crypt Cafe at St. Martins in the Fields

Parliament – Free

Westminster Abbey – Free

National Portrait Gallery – Free

Tate Modern – Free

Tower of London – Adult 15.00

St. Paul’s Cathedral: Adult 9.00

Great Fire Monument: Adult 1.00

Globe Theatre: Adult 9.00

The London Eye: Adult 13.00

The British Library – Free

The British Museum – Free

Shopping

Pub Crawl: no charge for self guided

Stay at: B&B or Hostel: 13-20 per person

Day 8: Leave for Home.

Colorado vacation plan: July 4th

This is a custom summer vacation plan contest entry geared for a family of four which include parents and two teenagers. This vacation plan will appeal to people who are reasonably fit and appreciate the beautiful outdoors. The destination is southwest Colorado with its evergreen-clad fourteeners, the treasures of our national parks, and small cities and towns that time seemingly forgot. This area is rife with gorgeous sights and it’s one of the most beautiful spots in the state. The length of stay is 10 days. All pricing is in U.S. Dollars. This trip is geared to take advantage of the July 4th holiday.

Day 1:

Fly into Colorado Springs and pick up a rental SUV at Avis ($698.00).

Drive 1 – hours to Canon City and stay at the luxurious and rustic Big Horn Mountaintop Lodge ($300.00 plus tax) which is just a stroll from the main gates of the 1,053-foot-deep Royal Gorge which was carved by the Arkansas River more than 3 million years ago. This is the site of the world’s highest suspension bridge. Ride the astonishing aerial tram (2,200 feet long and 1,178 feet above the canyon floor) and enjoy the outdoor musical entertainment. Dine on steaks, seafood or pasta at a locals-favorite, Merlino’s Belvedere (1330 Elm Avenue). Finish your evening back at the lodge and enjoy the unparalleled views stretching across this natural wonder.

Day 2:

Start out your day in the mid-morning. Today is the long, but scenic drive day southwest into Durango (about 5 hours). As you drive southwest, continue through Salida, over Monarch Pass (11,312 foot elevation) through Gunnison to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison with a short detour to the National Monument to view the Canyon. Continue south and experience the famous Million Dollar Highway and continue on and arrive in Durango in time for a late lunch or an early dinner. Try a place that is a local favorite called Ken & Sue’s Place (937 Main Ave). Wonderful contemporary cusine with a touch of an Asian accent.

Check into the historic and beautiful Strater Hotel (699 Main Avenue) ($169.00 for a room with two full beds) where the likes of Butch Cassidy, Louis L’Amour, John Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe have stayed and been entertained.

Finish your evening close to home base listening to the honky-tonk and ragtime entertainers and period-dressed waitresses at the Diamond Belle Saloon in the Strater Hotel. The Diamond Belle is truly an institution and will transport you back to the days of the turn of the 19th century.

Day 3:

Yesterday was a traveling day and today will be a day of relaxation. Sleep in and then mosey on out to explore downtown Durango. Have a juicy burger for lunch at Lady Falconburgh’s Barley Exchange and while you’re there, pick a beer out of more than 100 beers on the menu and 20 on tap!

After lunch, drive over to the Trimble Hot Springs. The main attractions there are the Olympic-sized outdoor pool and a smaller outdoor pool with massage jets and two private tubs. The source water, heated far beneath the LaPlata Mountains, emerges through a fault at Trimble at a piping hot 119 degrees before being mixed to a more tolerable temperature. The area is beautifully landscaped with outdoor grills and a volleyball court. Enjoy a therapeutic massage (30 minutes for $45.00 or 60 minutes for $67.00) or perhaps an herbal oil wrap that includes a foot massage ($72.00). These services include a complimentary private outdoor soak in the therapeutic waters.

Take your relaxed and rubbery body back to your hotel for a nap before dinner. Wake up refreshed and relaxed and enjoy dinner at The Red Snapper Restaurant (144 E. 9th Street). Be lulled by the beauty of their many saltwater aquariums and the delicious seafood and steaks.

Day 4:

Today is the 4th of July! Catch a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gage Railroad. On Independence Day they have a special train called the Independence Day Express which will allow its riders to enjoy the holiday festivities in Silverton, a well preserved mining town, which include parades and fireworks that illuminate the glorious peaks surrounding the town (Adults $89.00, Children $49.00). Lunch at the Handlebar Restaurant (117 13th Street) which is as much a museum as an eatery with its mining artifacts and mounted animals – don’t miss the baby-back ribs! Buy a bottle of the sauce on your way out. To experience the unique beauty and history of the San Juan Mountain Range, nothing beats a trip along these tracks on a steam locomotive. This is an all day event.

Day 5:

Take a half-day white water rafting trip on the Animas River. Mountain Waters Rafting Outfitters (their booth is in the Albertson’s parking lot in downtown Durango; $176.00 for 4 people) provides river trips for all levels of experience and thrill. If you’re ready for high adventure, take the Upper Animas Trip which is a Class V! The Lower Animas has some good rapids, but is a bit more sedate. It winds its way 20 miles south through the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.

In the evening, try an old-fashioned chuck wagon dinner and show with the Bar-D (www.bardchuckwagon.com on County Road 250); corny but fun! The music is darned good and the frontier-style food isn’t bad! An evening of family fun and a few laughs.

Day 6:

Today we experience the dramatic Mesa Verde National Park with its twisting canyons, panoramic views and outstanding archaeological remains. Get an early start to be able to absorb everything this spectacular area has to offer. It is about a one hour drive from Durango and the entrance fee is $10.00 per car. Start at the visitors’ center for information, maps, tickets for tours and Indian exhibits. This is an all day event.

Day 7:

Today we see Colorado at its rugged best – on horseback! The Rapp Corral (47 Electra Lake Road) has a custom-designed itinerary and a personal and historical perspective for their trips into the San Juan National Forest. Consider the Hermosa Cliffs excursion into the elevated peaks, forests, and breathtaking views of Electra Lake and the LaPlata cliffs. This ride climbs 1,000 feet in elevation and is nothing short of spectacular. This is a 5 hour trip during which you stop for a picnic lunch ($120.00 per person).

In the evening, go to the Durango Pro Rodeo and see how real horseback riders can handle a mount! All performances start at 7:30 p.m. ($12.00 at the gate, $10.00 in advance) at the LaPlata County Fairgrounds (25th Street and Main). Full Western BBQ served at the concessions.

Day 8:

Check out of the Strater Hotel in the morning and head to Ouray (about a 1.5 hour drive). Ouray is nestled in a narrow, steep-walled valley, surrounded by 14,000 foot peaks, and is appropriately referred to as the Switzerland of America. Check into the China Clipper Inn (525 2nd Street; $180.00 per night for a suite accommodation for 4). The China Clipper Inn has magnificent views of the San Juan Mountains, beautiful gardens and is tastefully decorated.

That afternoon, enjoy the awesome alpine landscape in the back of a four-wheel-drive jeep. Switzerland of America Tours (226 7th Avenue; $60.00 per person) has experienced guides and will take you on a personalized high adventure tour to see ghost towns, unimagined scenic vistas, wild flowers and white-knuckled passes cut into cliffs with sheer drops. For the more adventurous, take the keys yourself to one of their vehicles and head into the high country. There are over 500 miles of 4 wheel drive trails in the area. Free mapping service is provided.

Head back into town and dine at the Buen Tiempo (206 7th Avenue) for delicious Mexican fare accompanied by their wonderful Margaritas.

Day 9:

Get up early today and hit the hiking trails. You can find both short and long trails to suit your abilities. A good map of hiking trails in the Ouray area can be picked up at the visitors’ center next to the Ouray Hot Springs Pool.

Leave the Ouray area in the early afternoon for the trip back to Colorado Springs (about 5 hours). Check into the Marriott Residential Inn in Colorado Springs (3880 N. Academy Blvd.; $139.00 for a studio suite for 4 people). Enjoy dinner in Colorado Springs, perhaps at The Briarhurst Manor if you want to end your trip on a luxurious high point (404 Manitou Avenue) or maybe at El Tesoro, whose building served as a brothel at the turn of the century (10 N. Sierra Madre Street) with excellent and authentic Native American cuisine.

Day 10:

Wake up and pack for home. The Colorado Springs Airport is just a short 15 minute drive away.

Submitted by Judy Potrzeba

Getting Acquainted With Europe, With a Touch of Haut Cuisine

Consider contest entry #9 this a guide for getting acquainted with Europe in a quaint manner; it mixes student resourcefulness with more expensive tastes. It would be perfect, in my opinion, for a mid-20s couple, who want to get a general sense of Europe, while experiencing some great food and great times. I am assuming that the reader I coming from New York City. I am assuming plain tickets are approximately $1000 round trip.

For the duration of your stay in London, you may wish to stay at the Cumberland Hotel for $184.00/night (book through expedia). The Radisson Edward Berkshire can be booked for 130 pounds per night, when on sale. Check hotels.com or expedia for cheaper hotels. Frankly, the hotel you stay at depends on the level of accommodations you want and your desire to go through the full itinerary. The London itinerary is rather packed, so it makes more sense to book a cheaper hotel, if you are not swimming in money, and spend more on a hotel in Paris.

Day 1: Fly from JFK to London.

Simply recuperate. I put very few requirements for the first day of your trip. However, there are two notable items on your itinerary for the day. First, you should visit Big Ben. You should request a tour 3 months in advance of your trip at http://www.britainexpress.com/London/Big_Ben.htm. Next, you should go to a play; I would recommend the Lion King or some other light hearted fare for your vacation.

Day 2: London Art

Get dropped off near the glob theater. Grab lunch at one of the many notable pizza restaurants in the surrounding area. Walk to the Globe Theater in London. This Globe Theater is a reconstruction of the original Globe. Take the tour of the Globe, it is worthwhile. If you are fortunate, perhaps you can substitute in a later production of a Shakespeare play for this portion of the trip (with due planning.) Walk across the Millennium Bridge, which is a spectacle in and of itself. Enter St. Paul’s Cathedral, constructed by Christopher Wren, the renowned architect. After St. Paul’s you have the opportunity to go the Tate Modern, Britain’s museum of Modern Art, which offers, to say the least “startling” artwork. Take a High Speed Boat Ride to Tate Britain, the original Tate museum that was renamed after the construction of the Tate Modern. Eat dinner at Gordon Ramsey at Claridge’s, be sure to have made a reservation long before your trip (a month in advice or more should suffice).

Cost: 9 Pounds (Globe Tour), 70 Pounds (Gordon Ramsey), 10 pounds (lunch at a pizza place), 20 pounds (miscellaneous expenses, including cabs).

Day 3: A trip to Cambridge (relaxation)

The architecture of Cambridge is, in and of itself, notable. Thus, the purpose of the trip is to enjoy the historic university. You may want to peruse King’s College, the King’s College Chapel, probably the most famous building in Cambridge, and the architecture of the other colleges. For lunch, go to the Cambridge Market. In addition to purchasing food, such as Ostrich burgers, you can purchase clothes, souvenirs, and other goods. Take your lunch on a short walk down to Christ’s Pieces Park and have a picnic. Finally, enjoy yourself on a punting tour of Cambridge. The tour guide pushes your punt along with a long pole that touches the bottom of the river Cam. Take some time to shop around Cambridge. Perhaps enjoy the nightlife for a night, though be prepared, tomorrow is a long day. Price: Just miscellaneous expenses.

Day 4: A Long Day Trip to Winchester, Stonehenge and Georgian Bath

This is a long day-trip. If you are looking for a shorter and more leisurely day trip, consider a trip only the Roman Baths. This will allow you to enjoy the Baths, Bath Abbey, and the Poulteney Bridge at your own leisure. Feel free to even enjoy some relaxation time at a spa if you make this choice. Otherwise, your day will begin with an early pickup. You will be transported to the Winchester Cathedral; from there you will visit Stonehenge in the mid afternoon. Finally, you will have an opportunity to visit the Roman Baths. Fortunately, because of the time constrained nature of this trip you will prompted to enjoy lighter cuisine today. Cost: 60 Pounds (Trip), 20 Pounds (miscellaneous).

Day 5: London Art 2

Breakfast of Crepes at Hampstead. Take a taxi to the British Museum, the oldest museum in the world, and one of the greatest museums in terms of art form all time periods. It is worthwhile to see the Rosetta Stone, the famous stone used to translate ancient lexicons. Perusing the museum can take hours upon hours, though I would recommend taking a guided tour and then perusing at your leisure. Enjoy a late lunch at a destination of you leisure. Take a Taxi to the National Gallery, a pre-eminent collection of art, founded without a royal collection, in Trafalgar Square. Interesting paintings include Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, some works by Da Vinci, and many other wonderful pieces. Enjoy the square at your leisure. Enjoy a late Dinner at Hakkasan, a Chinese Dim Sum eatery, famous for the quality of their food (though service can be shoddy depending on the day. Cost: 60 Pounds (Hakkasan), 15 Pounds (miscellaneous expenses, including cabs)

Day 6: Leisure

Take some time off, if you need it. Otherwise, feel free to add your own itinerary items on this day. For the evening, I highly recommend you make reservations at the 606 Club for a late Dinner and Jazz performance. This was one of the highlights of my last trip to London with my whole family. A good Jazz performance is worthwhile for most individuals 16 and older. If you have younger children, let them enjoy themselves in the hotel for a bit, while you enjoy a night of revelry and lovely music. Their website is located at http://www.606club.co.uk/. Price: 25 Pounds (606 Club)

Day 7: General London Tour and a Play

Enjoy a full day guided tour of the many sites of London. Included in the tour is a trip to the Tower of London, a viewing of the Changing of the Guard, a Thames River Cruise and Pub Lunch, a trip to Westminster Abbey, and my personal favorite, Afternoon Tea at Kensington Palace. The tour is available online at http://www.premiumtours.co.uk/tours/details.asp?iProductID=143. Cost: 70 Pounds (Tour), 20 Pounds (miscellaneous expenses, including food and drink)

In Paris, you may consider staying at the Hotel Le Walt ($200/night) or another luxury hotel. Otherwise, if you are on a tighter budget consider Les Jardins du Marais. Considered a “hidden treasure,” which is an extremely great value for its price.

Day 8: Off to France. Take the Chunnel between Paris and London. The trip is remarkably quick, so in truth, you have still have a half day to enjoy.

For Dinner, you may enjoy any one of Paris’ great restaurants. I would recommend Arpege, a Michelin 3 star French Restaurant. Expect to splurge on food, but according to Michelin a three star restaurant is worth a trip “to itself.” You get to enjoy Arpege without taking a trip to go there. This restaurant is perfect if either of you are vegetarians; the chef himself, Alain Passard, one of the most celebrated in the world, recently turned vegetarian and the fair at Arpege is all vegetarian. Cost: 140 Euros

Day 9: The Louvre, Paris Museums & Cabaret

Today, you will have the opportunity to see the art contained in France. The Musee Picasso and Musee Rodin, hosting the works of their respective namesakes are also worthwhile. Feel free to enjoy another art exhibition in Paris, or simply enjoy the rest of your day at a leisurely pace. Consider taking a walk to Monmartre and Sacre Couer, if you feel you have enough free time. Finally, make reservations for dinner and cabaret at Le Lido, a cabaret on the Champs-Elysees. Dinner is at 7:30. Cost: 140 Euros (Le Lido)

Day 10: More Art

Take some time to relax today. You will have the opportunity to peruse more art at the Musee de l’Orangerie de Tuileries, located on the south side of the Tuileries terrace. It contains paintings by Monet, Matisse, Renoir, and Picasso. Then take the opportunity to enjoy the Centre Pompidou, which is famous for its glass elevators and controversial art. If you have the time, you may wish to enjoy a spa in the evening or go out once again for a 3 star Michelin meal at a restaurant such as Plaza Athenee, by Alain Ducasse, who incidentally runs another Michelin restaurant in New York City. Be aware that this restaurant is closed mid-July to mid-August and not for those without a hefty check book. Another interesting choice, for those less stuffy individuals is, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris. Robuchon’s last restaurant also garnered three Michelin stars, though he chose to close it and start this one. Cost: 100 Euros (L’Atelier)

Day 11: Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and Opera

The purpose of today is to visit two very famous Parisian landmarks. Notre Dame de Paris the Eiffel Tower are landmarks of historical and touristy importance. Thus, take a taxi to the Notre Dame Cathedral and enjoy a tour. From there take a taxi to the Eiffel Tower. If you are adventurous, feel free to try to walk up some of the many flights of stairs. After you spend time at the Eiffel tower, make a reservation for the French Opera at the Opera Nacional de Paris. Cost: 50 Euros (Opera), 20 Euros (Miscellaneous expenses)

Day 12: The Louvre, Tuileries Gardens, Champs Elysées

You will get an opportunity today to peruse the Historical axis of Paris. It is a line of monuments running through the center of Paris, including the Louvre, the Tuileries Gardens, and the Arc de Triomphe. The Louvre hosts many priceless works of art, including the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo; the lines for the Louvre can be long, but it is really necessary to wait them out, since the Louvre is, in truth, such a critical part of a trip to Paris. From the Louvre, you can walk to the Tuileries Gardens. Here, feel free to simply revel in their natural Beauty. Continue walking to the Champs-Elyse and the Arc de Triomphe. Around the Arc de Triomphe, feel free to shop and eat. Cost: 50 Euros (Miscellaneous expenses)

Day 13: Relax. Consider a wine tasting for the afternoon. Take the chance to visit the sites not listed on this itinerary that interest you. Consider lunch at another Michelin 3 star restaurant. You will either be continuing your journey to Italy, or going home at this point.

Total Cost: Less than $4500/person all inclusive.

At some level this concludes the trip. Consider Italy an addition that does not focus on cuisine. If you decide to add an Italian leg to the trip, I recommend reversing the order of your trip and beginning in Italy. That way, you will experience two “foreign” places, before coming back to an English speaking country. Moreover, the charm of Italy and Paris will stand in stark contrast to the United States, whereas London offers a more subtle and thereby less remarkable initial transition.

Days 14-22 are in Italy. They are comprised of a Trafalgar Tour, located at http://www.trafalgartours.com/UK/DisplayTour?TourID=2820&Detail=4. Interesting additions to the tour include: “Rome. Ancient and Christian Rome; Venice. Gondola Serenade; Florence. Jewels of the Renaissance; Rome. Michelangelo’s Rome.”

Anonymous

Voyage of the Glaciers Alaskan cruise on the Sapphire Princess

Enjoy 2006 summer travel writing contest entry #8!

Come in out of the heat to one of the world’s most natural wonders. Princess Cruises offers the Gulf of Alaska: Voyage of the Glaciers cruise. A 7-day cruise with fantastic ports of call, including visits to scenic cruising in Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjord. Meals that are fit for a king and entertainment are inclusive.

In order to really enjoy one of these cruises you must book a Balcony Cabin where you can see all the sites (whales, glaciers etc) from your cabin and in addition, Balcony cabins are usually bigger in size then your standard cabins and to do a inside cabin would be a waste. So I am defiantly choosing a balcony cabin.

DAY 1 Fly from JFK to Anchorage. We check in to our fantastic ship The Sapphire Princess and have dinner at one of her great restaurants the Pacific Moon Dining Room where you are treated like Royalty… Servers are just waiting for your glass to become half full. There I ordered a gourmet dinner that was fit for a Queen and all I had to do is sit back and enjoy.

Day 2 Collage Fjord, Alaska. (scenic Cruising) ahhh now this looks lovely. To cruise around the Fjords and be able to cruise real close to the whales and actually snap pictures of them. The weather is a nice balmy 60-70 degrees heck I even need a light jacket. After taking in the scenery, I find myself going to the Boutiques for some duty free shopping. I picked up some perfume which is usually about $50.00 for half the price and even a carton of cigarette’s was only $20.00 (one carton per person). I then traveled my way to the Lotus spa to take in a nice massage actually was a couples massage. The price was 150.00 per person but ahhh it was well worth it. I felt like a new person.

Day 3 Glacier Bay National Park. (scenic cruising) Now this is heaven. The beauty of this is breath taken. It is hard to describe such scenery. So peace full and picture worthy. In addition, I figured I would take my hand in the nine hole putting course. My golfing is less than desired but fun and laughable with my partner. We also decided to see all the beautiful art in the World-class art collection gallery where they have exhibits of some of the worlds fantastic art collections. Night falls and we finish our dinner (which is lobster and steak) at the Sterling Steakhouse. What was nice about this Cruise on the Sapphire is that the dining was Personal Choice so we could eat when we wanted and of course like all cruises, as much as we wanted. We then went to the Grand Casino and I actually won about 300.00 dollars in the slot machines. My eyes grew dreary and we went back to our beautiful balcony cabin, in which all our towels where set up as animals on our bed. We cozy-ed into our bed and just listened to the waves and fell fast asleep.

Day 4 Skagway, Alaska. We rise and eat a gourmet breakfast and then take a shore excursion on the Valley of the Glaciers via a helicopter. We actually landed on a sheet of ice and walked all around it. Surrounding us was these big beautiful glaciers. Of course, I had to bundle up a bit but I was enjoying the coolness break from the summer heat. The excursion was spectacular and invigorating. I just stood there in amazement on the beauty that was surrounding me. The cost of this excursion ranges from 100.00 to 200.00 per person. Also if you want to add on the White Pass Railway and Heli hike. There are additional costs. We arrived back at the ship just in time for a quick swim and a Delicious meal at the Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria. We then took in a show at the Princess Theater which reminded me a little of Broadway.

Day 5 Juneau, Alaska. At Juneau there was so much to do and see. We chose the Glacier Flight-seeing tour via float plane where we experienced the grandeur of Alaska while flying in a nostalgic float-plane over five glaciers.

Day 6 Ketchikan, Alaska. At Kechikan I finally got to do some Kayaking through Alaska’s beautiful wilderness. I was able to see Bald Eagles, seals and also sea lions.

Day 7 At Sea… another beautiful day at sea where we took in more of what the Sapphire Princess has to offer. There is not one day where you can say.. hum I have nothing to do. The fun part is that it always either really fun activities or pampering of ones self.

Day 8 Vancover, British Columbia. Now is the time to disembark. I wish I could stay just a little bit longer. I had the time of my life. I will never forget the sites and the places and also the people I have met during my journey through Alaska.

The total cost of this trip for 2 people

$4369.68 cruise portion

$1,400.00 Airfare from NY

$500.00 on drinks.. we are light drinkers

$600.00 for shore excursions

$100.00 for tips at the end of your trip.

Total amount for 2 $6,969.68 and it was well worth it. So if you want to come out of the heat I highly recommend this trip.

Jennifer Permenter

2006 Vacation With The Grandkids

I’m very pleased with the variety of plans the vacation writing contest is generating. Entry #7 is one that children will surely love. I have great childhood memories from the very places mentioned in this travel plan:

Day 1

Fly from Houston Intercontinental Airport to Philadelphia–2 adults, 2 children (ages 7 & 3)–$964.00, Rent car ($100.00)

Drive to Strasburg Railroad Station for a Day Out With Thomas-The Tank Engine–4 tickets @$21.75=$87.

Lunch at the depot café ($20.00), ride Thomas, visit Mr.Topham Hatt, shop for toy trains and souvenirs, ride the excursion train, get face painting of Thomas.

Drive to Sleep Inn-Mountville (approx. 30min.) $129.00/night. Dinner at local diner/ice cream shop–$25.00.

Play miniature golf (next door to diner)$20.00

Day 2

Drive to Hershey Park (45 min.)–2-day passes–$170.00

Rides, shows, attractions–Eat lunch & dinner in park ($50.00)

Fireworks show in evening

Return to Sleep Inn-Mountville

Day 3

2nd day at Hershey Park–more rides & do water activities–Picnic with a Hershey character ($40.00). Dinner in the Park ($20.00).

Return to Sleep Inn-Mountville

Day 4

Drive to Langhorne, PA to Sesame Place–4–2-day passes–$167.80

Rides, shows, attractions, get autographs from Sesame Street characters, watch Character Parade in evening lunch & dinner in park ($50.00)

Stay at Sleep Inn-Bensalem, $109.00/night

Day 5

Return to Sesame Place for “Breakfast with the Characters” ($40.00)

More rides, shows, and Elmo’s House, lunch in the park ($20.00)

Dinner at family restaurant ($30.00) on the way back to Sleep Inn

Day 6: Return flight to Houston, TX

Mary Hutto

Grenada summer vacation plan

Contest entry #6 is scheduled for a return flight from Toronto to Grenada: 1471.89 march 13th to March 20th. However the same vacation itinerary can be used in the summer so we’re including it in the travel writing contest.

Room at Gem holiday beach in St George resort 1 bedroom ocean view is 126usd*7 nights. Plus 10% service charge with $8% tax. Total of $1040.86 http://gembeachresort.com/

Or one could stay at the beautiful Maca Bana villas for the 7 nights at a price of $2394usd with a 10% service charge and 8% tax. http://macabana.com/

Day 1

Enjoy the rest of this day by lounging at the beach and getting excited about the weekend.

Day2

Take the all day 8-hour tutti-frutti tour offered by sensation tours which explores most of Grenada. http://www.grenadasunsation.com/rates.htm. This tour includes lunch, drinks, admissions, collection and return to the hotel.

The price of this tour is 70usd. After dinner at one of the hotels or restaurants, which could run you $15 to $45 a meal, we will say $25 for a meal. Because of the long journey tonight you rest at whichever hotel you chose.

Total:

$70usd for tour

$25 for dinner

$5 for breakfast

$10 for extras

$125.00cnd

Day 3

On day three you would like to try diving so you go to Dive Grenada where the discover scuba diving certificate program will run you $80usd as well as a 5% government tax so a total of $84usd. http://www.divegrenada.net/. After diving since you’re at the beach you stay there for the rest of the day soaking up the sun and having a few drinks and a light snack $25. For dinner you may just have a light meal $15. After that light meal it is time to go out and experience what nightlife Grenada has to offer. You may check out club bananas, which is supposedly a popular club for young people and it is a hang for all the medical students. Or maybe if you’re a bit older you check out club fantasia 2001 were on Wednesday it is golden oldies night for the young at heart. Either or $50. You might need to take a taxi back to your hotel $15.

Total:

$5 for breakfast

$84usd for scuba diving

$25 for beach snack and drinks

$15 for light dinner

$50 for nightlife

$15 fro taxi ride to hotel

$210.00cnd

Day 4

No breakfast for the obvious. You may wake up a bit late because Grenada has a good nightlife. Today may be a good day just to relax on the beach. Today is a day just for you. Maybe talk to some locals, make some friends. Don’t spend a lot of money today. Maybe take advantage of some stuff in the hotel like play some non-motorized sport usually free of charge. In the evening just have a moderate dinner $20. The whole day should just be for relaxing so take that chance.

Total:

$10 for lunch

$15 for daily activities

$20 for dinner

$45.00cnd

Day 5

Well it’s Friday and you know what that means – Shopping!!!!!!!! There are many good things to purchase but one must pick up some nutmeg grenades #1 export. As well beautiful wood carvings, rum of course, guava jam, local arts, perfumes, soap, as well as local clothing. Maybe you rent a car for the day to get around and do you shopping. Car rental plus shopping might run you $200. Maybe after that we get dinner for $20.

After supper of course another night to party tonight, you find yourself on the rumrunner. This party boat offers a cruise along the coast with rum punch, BBQ, calypso and soca music. The evening with taxi home $100.

Day 6

Well its Saturday time to get up and really enjoy the weekend. Breakfast today must be a good one it may run you $15. After breakfast we take a boat charter for the day. It’s a beautiful day and the ocean is calm as calm can be. Well you found a company were you and three of your friends can go on a whole day boat cruise just what you needed. The company is called footloose Caribbean yacht charters http://www.grenadasailing.com/day_charters.htm. The cost is a minimum of $300usd for four people. The boat leaves at 9:30a.m and it ends at 5:30p.m. Barbecue swordfish steaks, chicken, salad, fruit, rum punch, beer, soft drinks, and snorkeling equipment provided. After the beautiful boat excursion you go for a nice dinner with your friends $30. After supper of course another night to party tonight, at the Tiki bar a popular Saturday night spot. Live music plays until 11:00p.m then a DJ takes over and spins hits until the early morning. Nightlife and taxi home $100.

Total:

$15 for breakfast

$75usd for boat trip

$30 for dinner

$100 for night life

235.00cnd

Day 7

Sunday, it’s time to relax. Going home tomorrow so now it’s time to do some last minute things. Maybe you do some last minute shopping $50. For lunch perhaps just a light snack $10. In the afternoon a relaxing time on the beach a few drinks and enjoy your last day $20. For dinner you might as well go all out. Find the nicest restaurant and spoil yourself $50. Take a nice relaxing evening on the beach or at the local club at what ever hotel you stayed at $50.

Total:

$50 for shopping

$10 for lunch

$20 for beach

$50 for supper

$50 for the night

$180.00cnd

Day 8

Time to go home.

Total for the week:

Total cost in cheaper hotel: $3307.75+ 10%gratuities.

Total cost in expensive hotel: $4660.85+ 10%gratuities.

Compared to Air Canada all inclusive to Grenada 3 star resort is at same time $2005.26

However if you compare to Air Canada Vacations most expensive 5 star resort AI at the same time its price is $4519.00cnd.

Mark & Ashley