Tag: "itinerary"

5 day Las Vegas travel plan

Las Vegas is an ever-changing fantasy world of bright lights, fabulous hotels, glittering casinos, exciting shows, and breathtaking attractions. Vegas is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S., ranking alongside Disneyland and Disney World. Over 40 million people come to Vegas each year to experience the nightlife and non-stop, live entertainment, as well as to visit Las Vegas attractions and day trip tours. There’s a definite appeal to seeing the Grand Canyon, a casino, and a live show all in one day.

Day 1 – Arrive at McCarran Airport and take the shuttle ($7 p/p) to the Mirage Hotel located in the center of the Strip. Our accommodations are quite nice, with up-to-date amenities and modern decor. After unpacking, we have lunch downstairs at the Paradise Cafe where we enjoy the weather at poolside. Reasonable prices and good menu variety.
Mirage Room Rates – $100 & up. Packages and promotions available.

This afternoon we are looking forward to a deluxe helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon, one of the most amazing natural wonders in the world. We have an incredible panoramic view of Hoover Dam, extinct volcanoes, and Lake Mead, as the helicopter gradually descends to the Canyon floor. We are now in the land of the Native American Hualapai where we have time to explore and take spectacular photos of our surroundings. We enjoy a complimentary picnic lunch & champagne before leaving the Canyon floor and returning to the hotel.
Tour (3-4 hours): Adult – £246, Child – £235. Round trip transportation/transfers from hotel included.

Back in our room, it’s time to relax before dinner tonight at Sushiloca restaurant, about 30 minutes from the Mirage. Pleasant atmosphere with authentic Japanese cuisine featuring sushi, sashami, and a wide assortment of specialty rolls. Friendly service and excellent chefs.
Hours: 11am-2am. Prices: $11-$30

Day 2 – Early morning breakfast at Cravings buffet in the hotel. Breakfast hours – 7am-11am. Price: $16 p/p. Off to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the thrill of a Richard Petty Driving Experience. We’re not quite daring enough to drive it alone, so we decide on a less-challenging 8-lap Rookie Tour. Rookie Tour – 9am or 1pm. Open – Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat, & Sun. Price – £317. A stop at the Race Shop and Gift Store and round trip transportation to hotel included.

It’s time for lunch and a visit to the Forum Shops, a famous Vegas attraction across the street from the Mirage. The Trevi restaurant in the Forum features a menu of traditional and gourmet Italian from pizza and pasta to Bruschetta and Carpaccio.
Prices: $20-$35. Hours: Mon-Thurs,& Sun, 11am-11pm. Fri & Sat, 11am-12am.

We stroll through the 3-story Forum of Roman statues, fountains, and swanky shops such as Gucci, Tiffany, and Vuitton, as well as many others catering to the budget-minded shopper. Cobblestone streets, reminiscent of Paris and Rome, and ornate spiral staircases leading to the painted ceiling of a Mediterranean sky add to the splendid decor of the Forum.

Shopping bags packed away, we join the fun of happy hour downstairs and a casual dinner at Stack. Appetizers and popular American cuisine, steak and seafood.
Cocktails, beer, & wine: $4. Avg Dinner Price: $50. Hours: Sun, Tues-Thurs, 5pm-10pm. Mon, Fri, Sat, 5pm-11pm.

Day 3 – We begin our day with a full breakfast at the Paradise before seeing more Vegas’ attractions. First on the agenda is a short walk south on Las Vegas Blvd to the LINQ hotel, which houses a fabulous auto collection of over 250 classic, muscle, and historically famous cars. Some of these are worth over $100 million, and all are actually for sale. Whether you’re a collector of antique cars, just like cars, or have only a casual interest, here is “history on wheels,” the largest classic car showroom in the world. We spend several hours here before lunch. Open daily, 10am-6pm. Cost – Adults, $11.95, Seniors & Children, 6-12, $8.

The Yardhouse restaurant nearby is a good place for a light lunch with beer or ale, about $15. Open daily, 11am-after midnight. Lunch 11-5pm.

Next stop, a visit to the world-renowned Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian; located in 14 cities worldwide, this is a must-see attraction while in Vegas. We take pictures beside our favorite celebrities (over 100 lifelike figures), watch the 4D Marvel Super Heroes movie, and spend most of the afternoon exploring the Museum.
Admission: Adults, $29.95, Children 4-12, $19.95. Hours: Open daily year, Sun-Thurs, 10am-9pm, Fri & Sat, 10am-10pm.

We dress for dinner tonight and taxi to the Top of the World restaurant in the Stratosphere hotel tower. The wine and 3-course meal of lobster & prawns, small filet, and dessert are superb. The Top of the World is a unique experience in fine dining, with an extensive menu of gourmet contemporary and international specialties and amazing selection of wines. Enjoy great views of the city 840 feet below as the restaurant slowly revolves 360 degrees. Hours: 11am-11pm. Prices: $50 & up. Special 4-course tasting menu, $90.

Day 4 – Starbucks opens early, so we go downstairs for espresso and pastry before joining the 90-minute cruise on Lake Mead. This is a delightful cruise on a paddle-wheel boat past Boulder Island to Hoover Dam. We have two hours to explore this man-made wonder of engineering, visit the museum, and Observation Deck. A bonus stop at Ethel M’s Chocolate factory and Botanical Gardens on the way back to the hotel. Light lunch onboard and round trip transportation to hotel included. Lv at 8:30am, 45 minute ride to Lake Mead, entire excursion about 7 1/2 hours. Price: £64 p/p.

We relax before going to Treasure Island for dinner at the Kahunaville restaurant and the spectacular 90-minute performance of Mystere Cirque du Soleil.
Hours: 7pm & 9:30pm. Price: $79 p/p.

Day 5 – We get an early start with a full breakfast downstairs at the Carnegie Deli, open 24 hours. Avg prices: $15-$20. There’s still plenty of time to watch the dolphins play and explore the world of lions and tigers at Seigfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, a popular attraction at the Mirage. Carnegie Deli, open 24 hrs, $15-$20. Seigfried & Roy’s, 11am-5pm, Adults – $19.95, Children 4-12 – $14.95. Before returning to our room, we decide to check out the casino; who knows, we might get lucky!

We dine tonight in the warm, romantic ambiance of Tuscany decor and soft, classical music at Portofino in the Mirage. After dinner, wetake a short flight over the sparkling lights of Las Vegas at night. A glass of champagne and a ride in a deluxe helicopter are a perfect way to end the evening. Individual headsets & complimentary round-trip limousine service included.
Hours: 12-15 minute narrated flights from 6-9pm, Winter, 6-10pm, Summer. Price: From £57 + $5 fuel charge p/p.

Las Vegas is an adventure, a fun-filled, memorable experience for anyone, whether you come just once or return again. Although the energy, glamour, and glitz of Vegas remain the same, chances are you’ll discover something new and different each time you visit this exciting city.

Sharon L Slayton

Travel Plan – Sanibel Island itinerary for Spring

You may be thinking of escaping the monotonous daily routine to spend a few days in the sun looking for shells, visiting a wildlife reserve, watching dolphins, or simply enjoying the casual atmosphere of an island not far away. Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast, about 15 miles across the bridge from Fort Myers, might be just the place with warm days, cool nights, and lots to see and do.

Day One – Arrive mid-afternoon at Southwest Florida International Airport and rent a car to drive to the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa, about 21 miles. (Avg taxi fare $45.) Guestrooms have modern amenities and private balconies overlooking the waterfront. Enjoy casual or formal dining at any one of five restaurants. After checking in, you could unwind at the spa before dinner at the hotel’s Tarpon Café. Great steaks, pasta, and seafood after 6pm. Prices: $20-$40.
Rates: From $199/dbl. (Packages & promotions available.) Parking: $12/day.

Day Two – Start early!

With a map and directions from the hotel, take the Causeway across the bridge to Sanibel Island, about an 8-minute drive to the Over Easy Café on Periwinkle Way. Extensive menu of traditional American and Mexican breakfasts. Bridge Toll – $6/car. Café Hours: 7am-3pm. Prices: $10-$15.

Drive to the J.N “Ding” Darling Wildlife Rescue Refuge (named after cartoonist Jay Norwood Darling), 6400 acres of the mangrove ecosystem encompassing 1/3 of Sanibel Island. Bring your camera! You can rent a bicycle, or take a guided tour of the nature trails inhabited by vast numbers of migratory birds and wildlife. Free 30-minute naturalist programs and interactive exhibits at the Cross Dike Pavilion or Education Center. Bookstore & gift shop. Kayaks, canoes, fishing bait & licenses available.
Entrance Fee: $5/car, $1/bicycle
Hours: Wildlife Drive, 7am-7:30/8pm. Daily, closed Friday.
Education Center, Jan-Apr, 9-5pm, May-Dec, 9-4pm.
Tours: Tram, Adult – $13, Child – $8. Kayak/Canoe, Adult – $30, Child – $20. Nature & Sea Life, Adult – $23, Child – $15.

Lunch on the patio of the popular Island Cow. The extensive menu includes baked oysters, shrimp won tons, crab, and frickles (fried pickles). Starbucks, beer, and other beverages. Gift shop for Moo Ware. Hours: 7:30am-till closing. Prices: $10-$25.

Spend time this afternoon at the Sanibel Historical Museum, a village of restored historical buildings from the 1500s-1800s including an old schoolhouse, the Rutland “cracker house,” Ms Charlotta’s Tea Room, and Bailey’s General Store.
Hours: Nov-Apr, Wed-Sat, 10am-4pm. May-Aug, 10am-1pm.
Admission: Adults (18+) – $10. Unique items at the Old Village Gift Shop.

Dinner at the Blue Giraffe on Periwinkle Way before returning to the hotel. Try the chicken scarpariello with Italian sausage, peppers, and potatoes, or an order of babyback ribs. Hours: Daily, 9am-9pm. Prices: $15-$30.

Day Three – Seashells by the shore

Have a quick breakfast at the Palm Court Bakery in the hotel, grab your camera and beach gear, and off to Bowman’s Beach at the eastern end of the island. Enjoy sunbathing, swimming, daydreaming, or bird watching. Join the other beachcombers in the “Sanibel Stoop”; looking for shells in the sand is a popular pastime among visitors and locals. Shells are a significant part of the history, economy, and culture of Sanibel Island, where even the streets are named after shells. Picnic tables, grills, bike racks, restrooms. Hours: 7am-7pm. Parking: $2/hr

Time for lunch at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill, named after the main character in the novels by the owner Randy Wayne White. Recommended for great atmosphere and delicious food prepared with Caribbean spices and special sauces. Clam chowder, fish tacos, and jumbo shrimp are favorites. If you’re in the mood for an afternoon cocktail, have Doc’s specialty rum mojito. Hours: 7 days, 11am-11pm. Prices: $11-$30.

Visit the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel-Captiva Road, the one museum in the world featuring hundreds of shells in fascinating exhibits and interactive displays. The museum houses the most common shells of the islands and mangroves, 25,000 types of land shells, rare shells, and deep sea mollusks. It is educational, as well, with a children’s learning lab and exhibits explaining the benefits of shells used in medicine. The Raymond Burr exhibit, famous shell collector and philanthropist, is a new addition to the museum. You’ll find apparel, books, jewelry, games, china, and wonderful, unique shell items at the museum store (shellmuseum.org/store).
Hours: Daily, 10am-5pm. Closed New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, July 4th, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Admission: Adults – 17 and up, $9. Youth – 5 to 16, $5, ages 4 and under, Free.

Return to the hotel to relax before dinner at the Courtside Steakhouse (menu & prices were unavailable).

Day Four – Sea Cruise

Early morning stop by the Palm Court before driving to the Marina and an exciting sea cruise onboard the Sanibel Thriller. The 55′ yacht takes you on a narrated tour in the Gulf of Mexico and Pine Island Sound around Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Great opportunity to take pictures of dolphins, wildlife, and the 120-year old lighthouse. Tour (1 -11/2 hrs): Adults – $43, Child – $35. Reservations.

Return to dockside and lunch at Gramma Dot’s Seaside Saloon, winner of the Taste of the Island People’s Choice Award for 7 years (original owner & world traveler Dorothy Stearns.) Dine on fresh seafood, enjoy waterfront activities, and browse at the Marina Ship Store. Hours: Daily,11:30am- 8pm. Prices: $15-$30
Back at the hotel, relax and refresh, while looking forward to dinner tonight at the Sangria Grill. Enjoy excellent sangria made in house by Pepper and “food for the fun of it” by Chef Todd Erling. A variety of international cuisine on both regular and vegetarian menus. Good reviews for this recent addition to Sanibel dining.
Hours: Tues-Sat, 11am-10pm. Sun, 11am-8pm. Closed Monday. Prices: $12 & up.
Day Five – Go Shopping

After breakfast at the Over Easy, it’s time to shop at Periwinkle Place for eclectic gift items, jewelry, clothing, and beach wear at numerous stores including Trader Rick’s, Butterfly Beach, and Peach Republic. Visit Sea Life for unique shell items, and Tiki Jim’s for T-shirts and souvenirs. Have lunch at the Blue Giraffe before returning to the hotel to pack before dinner. Enjoy the beautiful sunset and view from the verandah at Charley’s Cabana Bar. Have a mojito, martini, or other specialty cocktail with an order of tapas or a delicious gourmet flatbread. Prices: $10-$25.

Day Six – Thoughts on leaving. Sanibel is like other islands in many ways with beaches, warm weather, and tropical breezes, yet it holds a different kind of appeal from similar vacation destinations. Besides the fun you’ll have exploring for shells and discovering the culture of Sanibel, you will escape the noisy nightlife, bright lights, and fashion conscious crowds that flock to the usual tourist hotspots in the spring. It is an ideal place to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature and the simpler pleasures of life. In the words of world traveler Arthur Frommer, Sanibel is “an idyllic haven of white-sand beaches.”
Getting There: All major airlines fly into Florida’s Southwest International Airport, many nonstop. Some travelers may prefer driving their own vehicle (or renting one).

Sharon L Slayton

Travel Plan Idea – Spring Break in Savannah, Georgia

It’s springtime in the South and time to get away from the daily grind of going to work in the miserable winter weather which many of us have experienced this year. What better place for fun and relaxation than Savannah in the Spring? We often think of Spring Break as something only the younger crowd enjoys, but in Savannah it can be much more than a wild party scene. You will have a wonderful mini vacation in a milder climate with exciting things to do, numerous good hotels and restaurants, interesting old mansions, and a lot of history.

Day One – Arrive Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport early afternoon and take the courtesy shuttle to the Mansion on Forsyth Park, an exceptional, luxurious boutique hotel in the historic district. The district itself is laid out in multiple squares named after famous people or events in keeping with the original plan made by British General Oglethorpe in 1733. If you’re a pet owner, as are many visitors to Savannah, the Mansion does allow dogs up to 40 lbs ($150 non refundable cleaning fee). Located a short distance from various attractions in the historic district, the interior decor of Italian marble and Venetian columns adds charm and appeal to the Mansion. The hotel offers concierge service and numerous amenities in elegant guestrooms, as well as the Poseidon Spa/fitness center, a rooftop lounge with live entertainment, a wonderful art collection, and the excellent Drayton Restaurant onsite. Restaurant Hours: 7-10am, 11-2pm, 5-10pm. Room Rates: Avg $295/dbl.
Spend the afternoon strolling through the beautiful gardens beneath the hanging Spanish moss on live oaks in Forsyth Park. From the famous cast iron fountain at one end and the Fragrant Garden for the Blind to the various monuments and neighboring Victorian mansions, the Park is one of Savannah’s main attractions. Magnolia Hall/Inn is of particular historical interest as the birthplace of poet laureate Conrad Aiken and temporary residence of author John Berendt, while writing Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Have dinner tonight at Sam Snead’s Oak Grill & Tavern, highly recommended by other travelers. Enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine in the casual, comfortable atmosphere, visit the various rooms featuring Sam’s golf memorabilia, and choose from a varied selection of appetizers, entrees, and desserts on the menu.
Prices: $20-$30. Hours: Mon-Fri, 11am-11pm, Sat, 5-11pm, Sun, 11-9:30pm.
Mon-Fri Happy Hour – 4:30-6:30pm.

Day Two – Places to Go

After breakfast, join the Old Savannah Tours minibus for a nonstop 3-hour tour through the Victorian District, Thomas Square, the Beech Institute, and Victory Drive. Lunch at Johnny Harris’ restaurant is included in the tour (recommend BBQ and mud pie for dessert).
Prices: Adult – $41, Child – $26. Hours: Mon-Sat, 9-2pm.

Reservations for dinner tonight at Paula Deen’s Lady and Sons’ restaurant, a landmark and tradition in Savannah offering the best in Southern cooking. Stop in at her store next door to find cookware, cookbooks, and other Paula items while waiting for dinner. Menu includes fresh seafood, chicken, and steak pot pies. Try fried green tomatoes or grits with your meal and don’t forget sweet tea. Enjoy a delicious dessert such as banana pudding, peach cobbler, or pecan pie.
Prices: $20-$30/entrees. Lady’s Southern Buffet (all you can eat): $17.99.
Hours: Mon-Fri, 11am-9pm, Sun-11am-5pm.

Day Three – More to Do (see Concierge for map & directions)

Begin a leisurely day with a visit to the Savannah History Museum inside the Visitor’s Center to view artifacts and exhibits from 1733 to the present. The museum houses memorabilia from Native American cultures, the Revolutionary War, Johnny Mercer, and Forrest Gump. Hours: Mon-Fri, 8:30-5pm. Sat-Sun, 9-5pm. Admission: Adults – $5, Children Under 6 Free.

Next stop, the historic Davenport House on Columbia Square built in 1833 and carefully restored for a public museum. The museum houses archaeological artifacts and a collection of ceramics, books, textiles, and household items portraying domestic life in Savannah in the early 1800’s.
Daily Tours. Hours: Mon-Sat, 10-4pm. Sun, 1-4pm. Admission: Adults – $9, Children, 6-17 – $5.

Lunch at the SoHo South Cafe, recommended for nice atmosphere and good, inexpensive food.

Splurge on dinner tonight at The Olde Pink House, next door to the Planter’s Inn on Reynolds Square, an 18th century mansion with outdoor dining and live entertainment in beautiful surroundings. Gourmet menu includes sushi, oysters on the half shell, and lobster, duck, pork, and steak entrees.
Hours: Mon-Sun, 5-10:30pm. (Lunch – Tues-Sat, 11-2:30pm) Prices: $31-$50.

Day Four – Tybee Island

Plan a day in the sun on Tybee Island (weather permitting). Stroll down to the south end pavilion to see the dolphins, visit the Marine Science Center (open 7 days, 10am-5pm), and look for gifts and souvenirs at Seaside Sisters. Fannie’s on the beach is a fun place for lunch.
Shuttle service to/from Tybee Island – $3/pp, one-way. Hours: 7 days,10am, 12 Noon, 2, & 5pm. Last return service – 7pm, Fri & Sat.

Return to the Mansion to rest and dine in tonight with gourmet cuisine at the Drayton.

Day Five – Spend Money

Start the day by going to Narobia’s Grits & Gravy for a hearty Southern style platter of anything you like from French toast, eggs, and grits to sausage, biscuits, and gravy. Inexpensive. Open 7:30am. After a great meal, it’s time to shop. Savannah has the usual malls and large department stores, but it’s more fun to shop for collectibles and unique items at the smaller shops and boutiques in the historic district and the Riverstreet Market Place. One Fish Two Fish has everything from painted furniture and home accessories to apparel, jewelry, and gifts. Look for handmade crafts and original artwork at the Village Craftsman, and visit Paris Market & Brocante on Broughton Street for French items. ShopSCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) for paintings, photographs, handmade jewelry, and pottery. Go to Iona’s Gallery and Great Finds on Abercorn and Congress for paintings, home decor, and jewelry.

Lunch at Huey’s on the riverfront – have a shrimp or oyster po boy or fried green tomato muffuletta with a slice of praline cheesecake for dessert .
Prices: Sandwiches – $8-$12, Dinner – $14-$30.
Hours: Mon-Thurs, 7am-10pm. Fri-7am-11pm. Sat-8am-11pm & Sun-8am-10pm.

Return to the hotel, put away shopping bags, and relax at the Poseidon Spa before dinner tonight at the popular Pirate House on Broad Street. Highly recommended for excellent food and service, the Pirate House is one of the oldest historic spots in Savannah. The extensive menu includes a variety of appetizers and features large platters of shrimp, oysters, crab, and other seafood, prepared Creole or Southern style. Order a rum cocktail and enjoy the ambiance of the Pirate House.
Prices: $30 or less
Hours: Dinner, 4:30-9:30pm. Lunch, 11am-4pm.

Day Six – Leaving Savannah today, you’ll remember Spring Break this year as a pleasurable fun-filled week (or longer) of experiencing real Southern hospitality and reliving some of the history in one of our nation’s most fascinating cities.

Getting there – Most major airlines fly into Savannah/Hilton Head International, about 7 miles from downtown. Cheap and reasonable airfares available. Driving to Savannah, or renting a car at the airport is another option.

Sharon L Slayton

Craft Beers across Canada travel itinerary

Please enjoy this guest-authored travel plan: I love micro-brewed beers & craft beers with intense full flavour and I’ve had the luxury of sampling them in almost all the provinces across Canada via my music touring. Canuck brewing has come a long long way in the last 10 or so years. I first developed my love of beer when in university in Belfast, Northern Ireland when I realized they all didn’t need to be kind of watered down bland-tasting pale brews catering to the broadest spectrum of palates possible. My hunch at the time (survey of one 1!) was that British and Irish people liked more flavour in their beer than North Americans but I’ve seen as the Canadian offerings have become more and more interesting that the uptake amongst my friends has been pretty significant. I think we were settling for mediocre mass produced brews because that’s what we could buy. But now, we’ve seen that locally made craft beers can be gutsy and bold and there are so many now that with some digging you can find a favorite. They can be extremely hoppy, or really bitter. They can even incorporate local fruit flavours or coffees if they want, and they know they aren’t there to please everyone – which is just fine by me and those who love them. They own their niche, and they own it well.

I’ve been able to pick a favorite or 2 in many of the provinces in Canada that I’ve toured to with my performing and I thought I’d share a few of them here. If you come across them you might want to give them a try. (Caveat: for all I know, some of these have been discontinued since I tried them! If so, try some other brews by these breweries – they’re all doing good things.) Happy Tasting! NOTE: I make no claim to be an expert. Rather, I’m merely sharing some beers that I enjoyed, and hope you do too.

If you were taking a Trans-Canada drive here is a bit of a beer itinerary I’d recommend, starting at the West coast and working your way East.

Monday: British Columbia: Granville Island Brewery (Vancouver) – Robson St Hefeweizen

Start your trip off with this fresh unfiltered wheat ale. It has some fruit overtones to it – and it’s often served with a wedge of lemon or orange: a nice start to your trip. You’ll be driving past the Okanagan Valley with all of its fruity goodness en route to Alberta so this seems a good fit.

Wednesday: Alberta: Wild Rose Brewery (Calgary) – Alberta Crude Oatmeal Stout

As you pull into oil-country after you’ve doddled through the beautiful Rocky Mountains, I’ll point out that you can only get this aptly named wonderful stout on tap. It’s not actually bottled! So go try it in the brewery’s taproom in Calgary as a treat. It’s got a nice complex taste and if you like Guinness this certainly gives it a run for its money.

Thursday: Saskatchewan: Bushwakker Brewpub (Regina) – Palliser Porter

Staying on highway #1, your next big urban centre (population 220,000!) is the queen city of Regina Saskatchewan. You’ve just driven through some insanely flat prairie turf and you’re a bit bored so you need a pick me up. I discovered Bushwakker brew pub in Regina years ago and keep going back. They brew fantastic delights. There’s a tiny bit of sweetness in their malty Palliser Porter. It’s pure deliciousness in a pint-glass. You can get this bottled too, but go try it right at Bushwakkers and check out this amazing brew pub on Dewdney Avenue.

Friday: Manitoba: Half Pints Brewing Company (Winnipeg) – Stir Stick Stout

An easy 6 hour drive from Regina and you’re in Winnipeg. Winnipeg never fails with this lovely brew on the menu. I discovered this after a gig at the Park Theatre. It’s pretty strong tasting stout (6% alcohol) and most of the flavours I get from this are of the locally roasted coffee ingredient, but there are chocolate notes as well. It’s delightful! I’ve only had this bottled. Not sure if you can get this on tap too?

Sunday: Ontario: Mill Street Brewery (Toronto) – Mill Street Belgian-Style Wit Beer

When you pull into Toronto after the drive from Manitoba you’ll be ready to collapse. But instead, take this advice & head on down to the actual Mill Street Brewery in the incredibly quaint distillery district. It’s like walking back in time. The Victorian industrial space is so well-preserved with it’s cobblestone and brick streets, and 1800s architecture. You’ll get thirsty just looking at it. Wind through the lanes to find the Mill St brewery and belly up to the bar. Their Wit Beer is unfiltered & cloudy, and pretty citrus-y. There’s a hint of coriander and actually banana (somehow). You can get this one bottled too. I’d be amiss to not mention their Tankhouse Ale which you can now get bottled all across Canada. It’s a go-to beer for me too but is almost becoming too common for me now. Hence me recommending the Wit! It’s different and worth a try.

Tuesday: Quebec: McAuslan Brewery (Montreal) – St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout

You’re likely in Montreal by now and you’d be crazy not to try this one. This stout is available both bottled an on tap. It makes a great creamy head and is super black in a pint glass. It has rich coffee and chocolate notes. It’s one of my go-to Quebec beers.

Thursday: New Brunswick: Pumphouse Brewery (Moncton) – Scotch Ale

I’ve had this New Brunswick brew in a bottle and quite liked it – my bandmate didn’t. All the more reason for you to try it. I’m pretty sure I tried it in Moncton and am not sure about it’s availability elsewhere in Canada, but I noticed elsewhere in NB. It’s a nice dark brown when poured into a glass and has a great smoky caramel taste going on – kind of a woody/peat flavour so you know what you’re getting into. I actually think the aroma is more robust than the actual taste when you sip it. The aftertaste is fairly strong too. Certainly unique and worth a try.

Friday: Nova Scotia: Propeller Brewing Co. (Halifax) – Propeller Porter

I tried this porter when in Halifax last year. Two words: So. Good. It has a nice thick creamy head and the flavours are that chocolately coffee goodness I tend to migrate to in a porter. This seemed to have a few dark fruity hints too. It’s actually a little lighter than some other porters I’ve had which was a nice contrast. Maybe a good entry porter if you’re not used to drinking them?

Saturday: PEI: Prince Edward Island Brewing Co. (Charlottetown) – Iron Bridge Brown Ale

You’ll drive the confederation bridge over to PEI and you’ll be ready to settle in that evening for a pint. The PEI brewing company brews it up in Charlottetown, the capital. I had this one in a bottle and it was medium bodied compared to other ales I’ve had – maybe a bit thin if you like them super full bodied. It had a yummy malty chocolate taste and there was something a bit ‘grainy’ (roast cereal?) about the taste too. I’m sure that’s polarizing for some tasters but I’d do this one again for sure.

There are some obvious locales of this Canadian beer trip that I’ve not mentioned yet. It’s either because they didn’t fit the route I just described or I’ve not visited yet and have yet to pick a favorite. One more worth noting is in Yukon though:

Yukon: Yukon Brewing (Whitehorse) – Midnight Sun, Espresso Stout

I had this from a bottle in Whitehorse when up in the Yukon for a show as part of the Western Canadian Music Awards a few years ago. This stout had a nice malt + espresso coffee flavour. It was really robust with chocolate notes. I remember the bottle being BIG too!

If you’re looking for brew thoughts from Newfoundland/Labrador, NWT and Nunavut you’ll need to wait for a future post. I’ve yet to try the brewed delights there. I can’t wait though, as it’s been pretty fun doing this trans-Canada tasting. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little post and if you get to try some of the beers I’ve mentioned please post/reply and let me know what you think.
Cheers! Jeffery
www.jeffstraker.com

5-Day travel itinerary for Costa Rica: Monteverde Cloud Forest, Arenal Volcano

With so much to see and do in Costa Rica, it’s well worth having a plan in place before you arrive. 5 days may just be a short break, but you’ll be able to see plenty if you take a little time to consider your itinerary. Here, we give you a recommended plan for 5 days in the beautiful setting of Costa Rica.

Day 1: Arrive and settle in

Many itineraries that you find online will have you trekking all over on your first day, but it’s wise bearing in mind that you’ve got several full days ahead of you. This considered, we’d strongly recommend using your first day to settle into your hotel in San Jose and familiarise yourself with the surroundings. Head to a local shop to buy some water, and take a leisurely walk around the neighbourhood. You’ll stumble across many stands that sell exotic and fresh fruits that you should definitely sample.

On the evening, head over to the National Theatre and see a show if there’s anything on that you’d be interested in. You’ll have a busy few days ahead, so make sure that you get a reasonably early night so you’re well rested for your adventures!

It’s worth noting that San Jose is divided into dozens of neighbourhoods, known as ‘barrios’, and some are obviously safer than others. Stick to the tourist areas and avoid the Coca Cola Bus Station. If you need to get from A to B and are unsure about safety, it could be worthwhile getting a taxi. It will only cost you a few dollars to be taken anywhere within the city, though bear in mind that you’ll usually have to provide the name of a landmark or building rather than a street address. It’s always worth carrying a map with you.

Day 2: Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve

Set your alarm clock for an early start and take a guided tour of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Having an expert guide on hand will be invaluable when it comes to making sure that you see everything. You’re likely to experience the hummingbirds just near the entrance, as well as the bat jungle and the frog pond.

It can easily fill up a whole day, so be sure to take plenty of sun cream. The temperatures can really soar during the warmer months.

Day 3: Arenal Volcano

Rent a car and take a drive up to the Arenal Volcano in the National Park. It’s an impressive site of natural beauty, and many people revel in the opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

There are several natural spas in the area, so be sure to call in for a relaxing treat. There’s also plenty of places to pick up souvenirs for your loved ones back at home. After a day that will inevitably include a lot of walking, treat yourself at a luxury restaurant. Benedictus Steak House comes highly recommended and offers fantastic views and excellent service.

Though it’s possible to get a good feel for the area in just one day, many travellers feel that it isn’t quite enough to really soak up the atmosphere. If you can stay a little longer, it’s well worth it.

It takes around three hours to get from San Jose to Arenal, so you’ll need an early start. The route is a fairly easy one, but be aware that roads aren’t always maintained to the highest standards, so watch out for potholes. Car crime is notoriously high in some places, so take a wheel lock just to be on the safe side.

Day 4: Boat tour

The waters of Costa Rica are absolutely beautiful, so schedule in a little time to get out on the open seas. There are many organised tours available that will call by all the main attractions, so look out for deals. Wherever you’re staying, you’ll find plenty of options available.

We definitely recommend just kicking back and relaxing on one of the many golden beaches, though if you’re more of the adventurous type, take your hiking boots and get exploring. There are many walks that cater for different abilities. Snorkeling is also popular, so keep your eyes open for boat tours that will take you to the hotspots spots.

Day 5: Fly home

You’ll be flying home today, so it’s worth factoring in a little extra time for organisation and any last minute things that you need to take of. Especially if you’re travelling with children, it can be a stressful day! Have a leisurely breakfast from a local café, then do any shopping that you still need before leaving.

Fly back home with plenty of happy memories and photographs to show your friends and family!

There’s room for flexibility in this itinerary, so if there’s something else that you particularly have you heart set on, just do a little bit or rejigging so you can fit in everything that you’d like to do.

If you like things to be taken care of for you, you might want to consider booking through a travel provider. Click here to find out more about offerings from The Holiday Place.

Have you ever been to Costa Rica? What would you consider to be the highlights?

This article was brought to you by Ruth Richards on behalf of The Holiday Place. Click here to read more about their exotic break options, including holidays to Cuba.

Travel plan for Bournemouth, Torquay, and Dartmoor National Park

Torquay is in the English Riviera, which, thankfully, does not share the climate for which England is famous. On England’s southwestern coast, Torquay is in Torbay, which is in Devon County. This means its an excellent companion to a travel plan that would also cover Dartmoor Prison in Devon. Let’s see if we can start working on a travel plan.

Day 1: Bournemouth

This spa town is famous for having attracted the elite of of Victorian society and Bournemouth Hotels are largely designed to help you stay in and relax.

The Cumberland Hotel, for example, has an indoor heated pool, spa tub, sauna, gym facilities and a tournament-sized squash court open to guests. Recognised as one of the most fashionable properties in the UK, this hotel comes with stunning sea views and a Miami Art Deco theme. Relax in the decadent glamour of the 1930s whilst still enjoying the urban chic style that makes the hotel so popular. Many guests choose to enjoy breakfast and dinner in the hotel as well.

Day 2: Bournemouth

The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, the private home of extensive travelers Sir Merton Russell-Cotes and his wife Lady Annie, was one of the last Victorian manor houses ever built. Some of the rooms are furnished like they were back in the day, with amazing decor, furniture and extravagant china. There are galleries of fantastic paintings, many by female artists, and good sculptures. There are very good descriptive cards explaining the meaning of the paintings.

After the museum, take a long walk to Hengistbury Head, a fascinating headland with terrific views all year round. I believe there are ferries if you’re not up for a long walk along the beach.

Day 3: Torquay

Head west to one more the historically known vacation spots in England. Hotels in Torquay tend to be resorts, but there’s still plenty to do besides relax. So we spend some time at the hotel, but we make sure to explore as well. Hotel Gleneagles is a peaceful fifteen minutes from the town centre and features a private pathway that leads you through 8 acres of woodland to the South Devon Coastal Path and onwards towards the popular Ansteys Cove, our first tourist attaraction.

Ansteys Cove, a shingle beach favoured by Agatha Christie for picnics during her time in Torquay. There’s a small beach, some dramatic cliffs, and a cafe. By the way, for Agtaha Christie fans, Torquay has an Agatha Christie festival in September. There’s always the Agatha Christie Mile. In addition to Agatha Christie lovers, for those who enjoy a bit of British history, especially WWII era, her house is a great place. This is also a great place if you enjoy nature and gardens as well. Be prepared for a bit of walking; it is hilly and can be muddy. There’s a bus from Torquay to Greenway for £11 per person. The old 1940s bus is neat to ride in. You can get to the house via train and boat as well. At Greenway you pay the National Trust fee to get in. The house has all the contents from the time when Agatha Christie used it as her holiday home. The history behind the grounds, from WWII and Roman era, is very interesting and there are volunteers all around to give you further information about certain things, especially around the house.

Day 4: Torquay

Agatha Christie (along with King George V and some other famous people) also enjoyed Kents Cavern, Britain’s most important Stone Age site, which was home to early man for some 700,000 years. The floor is composed of several strata, with remains indicating the prehistoric coexistence there of humans and now-extinct animals.

These caves may not be the most visually spectacular but are nevertheless very interesting and well worth the visit. Be ready for a lot of steps as you go on your guided tour of about an hour. Most guides know their stuff and are entertaining as they explain many thousands of years history of the system. Learn about the earliest cave dwellers and the legacy left by them and the many animals that sought sanctuary within. You can also expect to learn how the interesting rock/mineral formations came into being.

After visiting the caves in the morning, head to the harbour. The best view may be from the 60 meter high wheel. Conveniently, the wheel is located within the famous Pavilion Gardens, so you can spend some time strolling through the gardens as well. This might not actually take long, but so spend a few minutes to admire the exterior of the pavilion.

Day 5: Dartmoor Prison Museum / Princetown

Located on 28 acres of the moors high above the village of Princetown, the prison is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and managed by HM prison system. The Museum on the main road through town to the prison opened in 1996 and is now a main attraction for over 30,000 visitors a year. Brian Dingle, the Curator, worked as the prison shepherd for over 20 years, so he is very familiar with Dartmoor and eager to share its history. Cement gnomes, toadstools, and dogs on display outside are sold for garden/yard ornaments. Two guard mannequins greet visitors, a sign advertises cell doors for sale at $80, and another designates Dartmoor as a Category C prison, with about 600 residents in 2009. Visitors can have a mug shot taken for $6.00, explore the exhibits of weaponry, crafts, and memorabilia, and listen to a 1/2-hour video of the typical daily routine of prisoners and staff.

Day 6: Dartmoor National Park

One of England’s 15 National Parks, Dartmoor covers an area of 368 square miles and is the largest and wildest area of open country in Southern England. On this day, you will pick your activity. Your choices include walking and cycle routes, hard and not so hard, both on and off road. Also horse-riding, climbing, letterboxing, geo-caching or kayaking though kayaking and the like will take some serious preparation on your part.

How about some movie tourism while in Dartmoor National Park? They have tours that discuss the area and the filming of Steven Spielberg’s War Horse. Or you can grab one of the park’s publications and venture out on your own to find the landscapes that you saw in the film.

Travel plan for Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, and San Francisco

I start school in September. As a poor student, I’ll have less money for traveling but I don’t want that to stop me entirely. I’ll be based in Tallahassee, Florida, and I’ll try to get to a few places in America and maybe South America or Central America. So time to start dreaming up American holidays and – as many of you know – I like to check out different tours to get some well-planned itineraries to start from. For a British perspective, I found a site promising luxury holidays in America and started to search for their itineraries.

So if you were to check out this page for USA tours, you would find the following itinerary: New York -> Washington DC -> Chicago -> Scottsdale -> Grand Canyon -> Las Vegas -> Los Angeles -> San Diego -> San Francisco. That’s a beautiful itinerary for someone with 22 days to spare. I’m thinking I can just take a part of that travel plan. For example three places I’ve never been: Las Vegas -> Grand Canyon -> San Francisco.

My travel plan:

Day 1: Las Vegas

I start here first because it should be a very easy airport to fly into. For lunch, try Mon Ami Gabi in front of Paris – Get a table on the patio. Excellent food and great place to people watch. If you time it right you’ll see the fountains at Bellagio during your meal.

After that, how about a Vegas-style nature walk? The MGM Grand’s lion habitat is open from 11am to 10pm. The Mirage has its white tiger habitat (by the Las Vegas Boulevard entrance). The volcano erupts at the top of each hour from 6pm to midnight so you may want to come back later in the evening.

What you have to do at some point before leaving Vegas is see an Elvis show. I’m told that there’s a good free one in the Riviera Hotel but I can’t find confirmation on their website. This part of the travel plan could use some more research.

Day 2: Las Vegas

For brunch, try Bouchon in the Venetian hotel. It’s a Thomas Keller restaurant and it’s excellent. While there at the Venetian, you could do a gondola ride, but I’d feel weird doing it in Vegas when I skipped it in Venice (a regret I must admit, but it was pretty pricey as I recall – Vegas is probably less expensive).

After you’ve eaten, walk off those calories at the Fremont Street Expereince. Fremont street has stuffy casinos and vendors if you’re a shopper. The huge LED canopy covering 5 blocks of Fremont Street does something special every hour on the hour.

Back to the strip to check out Circus Circus. Different acts perform each half hour from 11 a.m. to midnight. They only have about 60 seats and you can’t reserve one. But the news isn’t all bad – it’s free and 15 minutes before a show starts usually gets you a seat.

Days 3 and 4: Grand Canyon

I really want to raft the Colorado River here and camp overnight. My wife isn’t so sure but I have some time to talk her into it. It’s hard to really itemize this part of the itinerary, but the tour I linked to above has some good ideas like a sunset tour of the South Rim for some stunning views.

Day 5: San Francisco

Head down to the Fisherman’s Wharf where there’s sure to be something for everyone. Pier 39 is a festive marketplace with more than 110 stores, 12 Bay view restaurants and loads of outdoor stuff like the Aquarium of the Bay, bike rentals, street performers and a Carousel with famous miniature San Fran landmarks. If fun and laughter don’t suite your fancy you can always hop on an Alcatraz Cruise from Pier 33 that will take you to Alcatraz Island. In case you don’t already know, Alcatraz used to be the home of some of America’s most notorious criminals like Al “Scarface” Capone and the “Birdman” Robert Stroud.

San Francisco has a great Asian influence and being right on the water, sushi in this city is to die for. Take yourself out for dinner in Japantown or J-Town as the locals like to call it, to Kiss Sea Food Japanese Restaurant (1700 Laguna St.) The restaurant is a little small so be prepared to wait in line or make sure to head there early.

Day 6: San Francisco

The site I linked to above has some more cool ideas. One is a guided bicycle tour of the Waterfront, Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito, including a ferry trip to return to the city. This sounds like a lot of fun. They also have a scenic seaplane flight (weather dependent) over the beautiful San Francisco bay for views of the cityscape, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge. It also occurs to me I don’t have a single museum in my itinerary. The Walt Disney Family Museum is one option, but I think I would prefer the Asian Art Museum.

6 day Orlando and Tallahassee travel plan

I’ve just returned to Orlando after spending a few days in Tallahasse. Mostly I was in Tallahasse working. I went to an Instructional Systems conference where I met some people from the program I start in the fall. And most of my time was spent house-hunting. I need a cheap place to live in a nice area near Florida State when I return to school as a poor student.

So it wasn’t exactly a holiday, but we managed to do a few fun things, beyond just driving from house to house with our real estate agent. And it gave me an idea for a Florida vacation itinerary.

Day 1 – Orlando

Holidays to Orlando revolve around Disney so that’s where you go first. If you arrive early enough, Disney’s Animal Kingdom can be done in a half day. 6 hours is reasonable to hit the main attractions. The best rides are Kali River Rapids, Dinosaur, & Expedition Everest. There’s The Boneyard Playground for kids to wander through an archaeological dig. The film It’s Tough to Be a Bug is worth seeing for kids around middle school age. Then there’s the musical, Festival of the Lion King. You want to see some nature so check out the Kilimanjaro Safari, the Tree of Life and the Maharajah Jungle Trek

If you arrive too late for that, you might spend a few hours in Downtown Disney (the shopping district). Entry is free but I think most everything is overpriced. Remember that Disney vacations aren’t about bargain hunting.

Day 2 – Orlando

You’ll need a full day at Magic Kingdom. It’s a huge park with rides/events for everyone in the family. Without listing all the attractions, here are some big ones:

It’s a small world – a world-brotherhood-themed indoor boat ride (I still remember this one from when I was kid)
Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade – a feel-good afternoon Parade
Country Bear Jamboree – an audioanimatronic country-hoedown theater show
Jungle Cruise – an outdoor safari-themed boat-ride
Liberty Square Riverboat – an outdoor scenic boat ride
Main Street Electrical Parade » Old-School Nighttime Parade with a bazillion lights
Mickey’s PhilharMagic – a 3-D movie starring Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck and some other favorites
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor – interactive animated comedy routines
Stitch’s Great Escape! – a sci-fi adventure show
The Hall of Presidents – an audioanimatronic historical theater presentation
The Haunted Mansion – a haunted-house dark ride – some people say the elevator is the best thing in Disney
Tomorrowland Speedway – mini cars you get to drive
Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress – another audioanimatronic theater production
Aloha Isle – go here for dessert

Day 3 – Orlando

There’s plenty left to see in Disney, but most kids would probably like to see Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If it’s a crowded day, some visitors report being rushed through the castle even after waiting on line for hours to get in. And some complain that the ride through the castle is too rough (and not worth a long wait). Other visitors report the line for butter beer being too long. The wand show is great, especially if you’re lucky enough to get brought up on stage.

When the park closes, you might as well head next door to Universal Citywalk for restaurants and bars like Hard Rock Cafe and Margaritaville.

Day 4 – Tallahassee

Holidays to Florida tend to focus on Orland and Miami, but the state capital has its share of attractions too. After a 4-5 hour drive from Orlando, you’ll want to relax a bit in the evening. Join the locals for a stroll around Lake Ella in central Tallahassee. At Cancun’s on Tennessee Street, $20 should feed a family of 4.

Day 5 – Tallahassee

Your only full day in Tallahassee so pick something fun. Top attractions include Florida State University (the campus is pretty and you might be able to catch a game depending on when you arrive). If you’re more into nature, try the trails at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge where you can be a little active (short trails through different ecosystems) or more active (a 6 mile and a 12 mile trail). A third option is the excellent Tallahassee Antique car Museum, where you can see the Batmobile and more than a few other cool cars.

If possible, get this night to fall on the first Friday of the month. Then at night, head to Railroad Square for art that ranges from traditional coastal landscapes to weird stuff to jewelry. You’ll hear some local music and see some local people. Vegans must check out the Krishnas serving incredible vegan/vegetarian food ($5 or $6 for a meal).

Day 6 – Orlando

Seaworld is cool to visit on the 4th day. You can spend a lot of time here. Try to get a mixture of rides (Journey to Atlantis will get you happy and wet), shows (Shamu Stadium for the killer whale performance), and animal exhibits (we like the Shark Encounter underwater tunnel but if you like touching animals first head to Dolphin Cove and Stingray Lagoon).

Travel Plan Idea – 5 Romantic Days in Ocho Rios, Jamaica

The year-round tropical climate of Jamaica attracts all types of travelers from celebrities and the very rich to college kids on spring break, families, honeymooners, and solo travelers. Made famous by the songs of Harry Belafonte, Bob Marley, and Lee Scratch Perry, as well as today’s favorite rock stars, Jamaica is an island of art, reggae music, and dance. Featured in the first James Bond movie, Dr No and the more recent Live & Let Die, the resort area of Ocho Rios is a popular vacation and cruise ship destination known for the natural beauty of waterfalls, white sand beaches, and lush tropical vegetation. This itinerary will appeal especially to couples for their wedding, anniversary, or for that rare opportunity to spend quality time together in an unforgettable romantic getaway.

Day One – Arrive Montego Bay Airport and take the shuttle bus to the Couples San Souci adults-only resort about 70 miles from the airport.

(Note: The new Ian Fleming International Airport named after the creator of James Bond and resident of Jamaica in the 50’s and 60’s serves private and charter aircraft only.)

Check into a luxurious suite equipped with colonial style furnishings and modern amenities, as well as an amazing view of mountains, gardens, and the Caribbean Sea from the private balcony/terrace. Experience the romantic ambiance of this fantastic 35-acre resort while strolling on the beach at sunset or wandering through the lovely gardens filled with exotic plants and sounds of tropical birds. Before dinner, indulge in an hour or two of personal pampering or couples massage in a private cabana at Charlie’s Spa. $50 & up.

Dine tonight at the Palazzina restaurant featuring a wide selection of delicious entrees, desserts, coffees and teas. Excellent service. Reservations required. Hours: Breakfast, 7:30 -10:30am, Lunch, 12:30-3pm, Dinner, 6:30pm. Closed Tues & Fri.

Relax with an after dinner drink at the Balloon Bar while enjoying piano music or mingling with other guests of the resort. Make it an early night before all day sightseeing tomorrow.
Resort Rates: $490/per couple a night (all inclusive). Special off-site excursions and numerous complimentary activities included. Packages & bonuses available.

Day Two – Exploring the Sights

After breakfast, begin with an excursion to Dunn’s River Falls, a unique national treasure of natural springs less than 5 miles from the hotel. Extending over 600′ wide and emptying into the Caribbean Sea, the 100′ high Falls are relatively easy to climb accompanied by a guide. Not into climbing, you can watch the others from balconies by the falls or from the beach below. Just a few minutes away is Dolphin’s Cove where you can spend several hours with various activities such as interacting with the fish, snorkeling or viewing the amazing marine line from a glass bottom kayak, meandering through the nature trails, watching the Shark Show, taking photos, and visiting the gift shop for local artwork, music, and island souvenirs. Enjoy the buffet lunch and a refreshing rum cocktail or the local Red Stripe beer. If you like spicy, pepper hot food, be sure and order the Jerk Chicken or Pork (spicy barbequed meat). Lunch: $12/pp.
General Admission: $45p/p. Prices vary for individual activities.

This afternoon there’s time for an educational, leisurely visit to the 18th century Prospect Plantation before returning to the hotel. Open air jitneys take Dolphin Cove tour groups to explore the 1,000 acres of this ecotourism site. From the highest point to the fields below, a variety of crops such as coffee, bananas, pineapple, and allspice thrive in the fertile soil. Signs on trees planted by famous visitors bear the names of prime ministers, statesmen, celebrities, and playwrights. Also of interest within the plantation is the Great House complex of more than 18,000 sq ft. Five different tours available, as well as horseback riding for $70p/p for 1 ½ hours.
Tours: Mon-Sat, 10:30, 2pm, 3:30pm. Prices: Adult – $27, 12 & Under – $15.

Returning to the hotel, unwind with something from the mini bar in your suite and relax on the ocean view terrace. Reflect upon what has been a most interesting day as the sun sets over the Caribbean Sea.

Dinner at the resort’s elegant Ristorante Casanova featuring gourmet French, Caribbean, and international cuisine. Outstanding service, delicious food, and premium brand beverages are all part of the romantic atmosphere in both indoor or outdoor dining at Casanova. Hours: 6:30-9:30pm. Closed Tues-Fri. Reservations required & Dress Code. Menu prices not listed, so my guess would be expensive.

Before retiring for the night, you’ll appreciate the alone together time at Couples Sans Souci, where the cares and worries of everyday life have been left behind.

Day 3 – More to See

You could easily spend the entire day at the resort; it has so much to offer – maybe golf or tennis, swimming, sunbathing, lounging at the beach, a yoga class, or just daydreaming in a hammock doing little or nothing. Yet, there is more to see in Ocho Rios and only a couple days left on this itinerary. Early morning breakfast buffet at the Palazzina and on to Coyaba Gardens 4 miles from the resort. (Taxis average $5 for 10 miles.)

You’ll delight in the beauty of Coyaba water gardens amid old Spanish architecture and giant banyan trees, as well as a natural aquarium of tropical fish. Coyaba Gardens feature a panoramic view of Ocho Rios Bay and Lookout Point at Mahoe Falls nearby in addition to a Museum of Island History and early Arawak culture. The gift shop offers Jamaican arts and crafts, rums, and coffees.
Hours: Daily, 8am-5pm. Admission: Adults – $10, 12 & under – $5. Special events and weddings can be arranged here.

Next on a list of popular tourist attractions is Margaritaville, a name made famous by Jimmy Buffet’s song, and now an island tradition since 2002. Located at the Island Village shopping complex by the cruise ship docks, the restaurant has 3 bars, pools, and a trading post. The restaurant is full most of the day, but nighttime brings in the party people. Have a Margarita and a special Cheeseburger in Paradise before the entertainment and fun begins. Dance to reggae/disco music and stay as late as you like. Expect lots of noise and crowds at a typical Jimmy Buffet hangout. Hours: 8am-11pm, Bar – till 4:30am.

Day 4 – At the Beach

After a big night at Margaritaville, sleep in, have a late breakfast, gather your beach supplies and taxi to James Bond Beach, 10 miles from town. The beach is located next to the Goldeneye Estate, formerly owned by Fleming and Marley and currently locally owned. Spend the afternoon sunbathing and swimming in the clear blue waters of James Bond Beach. You’ll find this beautiful, small beach uncrowded and quiet, although the area is frequently used for international music concerts. A few hours in the sun and water and it’s time to check out the Moonraker restaurant onsite before heading back to the hotel for the night.
Entrance fee: $3.

Day 5 – Shopping Spree

Be ready to spend some money while shopping today in Ocho Rios and ignore those persistent street vendors you’ll encounter. There are several shopping malls and a number of specialty stores including Island Plaza for the best in Jamaican art, Casa de Oro for fine jewelry and perfumes, and Hemp Haven’s huge inventory of any and everything made of hemp. Take a break from shopping at the Coffee Café for a sandwich, espresso, or a meal. Gift shop of coffee memorabilia and packages of Jamaican coffee.
Prices: Sandwiches – $5.50, Espresso – $3, Main courses – $10-$28.
Hours: 8:30am-8 or 10pm.

Since your romantic getaway is almost over, why not end it with a moonlit dinner on the beach at the Bella Vista. Typical Jamaican cuisine, casual attire, reasonable prices.

Day 6 – Leaving Ocho Rios you’ll remember it as a place the locals call Irie, – a simply beautiful tropical paradise.

Sharon L Slayton

(Note: June – Jazz Festival. August – Seafood Festival)

Travel Plan Idea – Destination Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, offers travelers a look at the culture, the maritime history of Portuguese explorers, and a romantic ambiance. All types of music, especially Fado the folk songs of the poor, are an attraction for many travelers to Lisbon. Although the Mediterranean climate is generally pleasant year round, Spring may be the best time to visit this beautiful city. This itinerary should work in any season.

Day 1 – Arrive La Portela Airport and taxi to the Sofitel Lisboa Libertedad hotel, only 4 miles away and centrally located on one of the main avenues in Lisbon. Check in to a tastefully decorated room with a pleasing combination of historic and modern amenities and decor. Dine in at the hotel’s elegant Ad Lib restaurant and begin sightseeing tomorrow. The menu offers a variety of a la carte Portuguese and French gourmet cuisine such as quail and foie gras appetizers, seafood, pasta, and meats, as well as an extensive wine list. Avg Prices (entrees): $28-$50. Dinner Hours: Mon-Sun, 7:30pm-12Midnight. The restaurant is also open for weekend brunch and lunch, Mon-Fri, 12:30-3pm Avg Room Rate: $126.

Day 2 – Out and About

Buffet breakfast at the hotel and off to explore. Take Tram 28, the best way to reach St George’s Castle, a 6th century B.C. fortress on a high hill overlooking the city and the Tagus River. Hours: Mar-Oct, 9am-9pm, Nov-Feb, 9am-6pm. Entry: $8
(Note: Trams avg fares $2-$5.) Wander through the narrow streets of the historic Alfama district before a tram ride to the 16th century Belem Tower, a former lighthouse, fortress, and prison, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hours: 10am-5pm daily except Monday. Free admission.

Leaving the Tower, visit Jeronimo’s Monastery, part of the same World Heritage Site. Built by King Manuel I during the Age of Discoveries to give thanks for Vasco de Gama’s safe journey to India. A unique mix of architectural styles can be seen throughout the entire monastery, in the halls, cloisters, and tombs. Hours: May-Sep, Tues-Sun, 10am-6:30pm. Oct-Apr, 10am-5:30pm. Adults – $9. Under 14 – Free.

For lunch head over to Flor dos Arcos for gazpacho, the local specialty “bacalhau” cod fritters, and a glass of white wine. Cozy, good service, reasonable prices.

A few hours left before dinner and time to take the 40-minute train ride to the nearby town of Sintra to visit the Pena Palace and Park. Designed by King Ferdinand and Queen Maria II and completed in 1847, it became a World Heritage Site and one of the “Seven Wonders of Portugal.” Tourists will be intrigued by the different, somewhat gaudy architectural styles and pastel walls of the exterior and the lavish interior furnishings. Stroll through the splendid gardens and see the Chalet of the Countess of Edla, built for Ferdinand’s second wife.
Hours: Pena Park – 9:30am-8pm, Palace – 9:45am-7pm, Chalet – 9:30am-7pm. Closed 25 Dec & 1 Jan.
Ticket Prices: $15 – Palace & Park. Guided Tours: $7

After a full day of sightseeing, return to the hotel before dinner tonight at Café de Sao Bento, perhaps the best steakhouse in Lisbon and a long-time favorite of politicians and celebrities. Excellent place for delicious steak and fries! Hours: Mon-Fri, 12:30–2:30pm, 7pm-2am. Sat & Sun, 7pm-2am. Main meals: $40

Day 3 – Visiting Cultural Attractions

Fado Museum – Following the history of Fado or “destiny,” music, the museum features exhibitions, interactive information panels, audio-visual presentations, wax figures, and other memorabilia. Live performances of Fado are given by the Visitas Cantadas, Singing Tours. Gift shop & café onsite.
Hours: Tues-Sun, 10am-6pm. Closed 1 Jan, 1 May, & 25 Dec. Admission: $5

Maritime Museum – Not to be missed, this museum traces Portugal’s maritime history with model boat exhibits, memorabilia from ships and famous explorers such as Vasco de Gama, as well as nautical devices and uniforms. Hours: Tues-Sun, 10am-5pm, Oct-May. 10am-6pm, May-Oct. Admission: Adults – $5, ages 6-18, $2.50.

Lunch at the highly recommended Gambrinus restaurant in the city center before going on to the Tile Museum, a short distance from town. Specialties include shellfish bisque, gourmet appetizers and shrimp, lobster, sea bass, and spicy chicken. Expensive, great food, excellent service. $27-$47 (full meal).

National Tile Museum – Known for exquisite ceramic tiles or “azulejos” throughout Portugal, Lisbon’s Tile Museum in the Convento Madre de Deus is definitely worth seeing. Housing collections and history of tiles and tile making dating back to the 15th century, the museum features Lisbon in 1738 with a 7′ long landscape masterpiece of 1300 tiles. Cafeteria & gift shop. Hours: Wed-Sun, 10am-6pm, Tues, 2-6pm. Admission: $7

After a full day, return to hotel. Go Italian tonight with pizza, pasta, or risotto at the small, romantic Come Prima restaurant. Dinner Hours: Mon-Thurs, 7-11pm, Fri & Sat, 7-Midnight. Prices: $12-$22.

Day 4 – Shopping Day

Explore and spend money in the Chiado district of numerous boutiques, designer label shops, and second hand clothing stores. Among those recommended are A Vida Portuguesa for unique gifts, the beautiful Ourevesaria Aliança for silver and gold, Bertrands, the oldest bookstore in the world, and Voa for perfumes, textiles, and ceramics.

Lunch at A Brasileira café on Rua Garrett, the famous café/coffeehouse popular with visitors, poets, writers, and artists. From the bronze statue of poet Fernando Pessoa at the entrance and the art deco interior of chandeliers and mirrored walls to the outdoor umbrella tables, A Brasileira is the place to socialize and people watch, or join friends for late night drinking and conversation. Be prepared to pay a bit more here because of its popularity, over $6 for a cup of local coffee “bica” or a pastel de nata “custard tart.” Hours: 8am-2am.

Return to hotel with full shopping bags, relax before dinner and cocktails at the Ad Lib hotel restaurant.

Day 5 – Tours

After breakfast, join the 3 1/2 hour guided tour of the old parts of Lisbon including the Alfama, Graça, and Castelo districts. Walk through the Martime Moniz Square and the traditional neighborhood of Mouraria while learning about the Moorish conquests. Other highlights of the tour include the spectacular view from the Chapel of Our Lady on the Hill, the Castle Citadel, and the Casa dos Bicos palace. Price: $20.

Lunch at one of the many cafes and spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sights in town.

Return to hotel to pack before joining a small group for the Fado and Tapas 4-hour tour beginning at 7pm. Visit neighborhoods and listen to music with a glass of beer, wine, or Lisbon’s Ginjinha liqueur. The tour ends at a small restaurant with a live performance of Fado and a plate of tapas. Price: $52

Day 6 – Leaving Lisbon.

Sharon L Slayton