Your Friday Escape:  Dubrovnik, Croatia

Your Friday Escape: Dubrovnik, Croatia

Where:  Croatia, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea Today’s weather forecast:  Sunny, High 92*F, Low 78*F Population:  42,615 (2011) Approaching Dubrovnik for the first time, you may sense that you’ve been there before.  It’s ancient stone walls rise from the sea, protecting a city of towers and winding marble streets.  In your mind you hear the crazed laugh of an evil, blond, teenage king.  Yes, Game of Thrones fans, you’ve just arrived in King’s Landing.  Dubrovnik, one of the world’s finest preserved medieval walled cities, fills the role of the capital of the Seven Kingdoms in the wildly popular HBO series. Things to do: Walk the top of the city walls.  Dubrovnik’s defensive wall dates back to the 9th century and by the 15th century enclosed the entire town.  The 2 km wall rises up to 25 meters high and is 1.5 to 6 meters thick.  Look out to the north from the Minceta Tower and imagine that it’s 600 years ago and it’s your job to watch for invading Turk armies.  On the west side, peer out of the Lovrjenac Fortress over Blackwater Bay, and, if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, remember Tyrion Lannister bravely defending King’s Landing from Stanis Baratheon’s bloody naval onslaught.  Look for evidence of shelling by Serb and Montenegrin soldiers during a 7 month siege of the city in 1991. Of course, there’s a Game of Thrones guided tour. Ride the cable car.  For amazing views of the coastline and entire city, take the cable car to the top of Mount Srdj.  Up top, visit the museum to learn about the 1990-95 war with Serbia which broke apart Yugoslavia....
Your Travel Bucket List Isn’t Real

Your Travel Bucket List Isn’t Real

How often do you hear someone refer to a travel experience as something that’s on their “bucket list.”  “Eating a hot dog at Wrigley Stadium?  Oh, yeah, that’s on my bucket list.”  Capturing quality footage of a Sasquatch running through a mossy Oregon forest?  Bucket list!”  But the bucket list as elusive as the the Loch Ness Monster.  Has anyone ever actually seen one?  And who came up with this “bucket list” term anyway?  It’s almost cringe worthy.  And I’m not crazy about the idea of keeping important things in a bucket.  Buckets are good for holding beach sand, soapy wash water, and paint, but I don’t keep money, jewelry or my dreams in a bucket. But I do like lists.  Is there anything more satisfying than checking something off of a list?  Come on, you know you’ve added things like “put on shoes” and “drive to work” to your daily to-do list so you can experience an early day sense of accomplishment.  And what’s the best kind of list?  A list about lists of course!  So let’s make one.  Oh, this just appeals to my personality all over! Here are three steps to transform your travel “bucket list”(someone puhleeeze come up with a better phrase!) from a hazy presence in the back of your brain into an actual, real-life, I’m-going-to-accomplish-cool-things-and-cross-them-off-and-feel-awesome list. 1.  Put it in words. Set aside 30 minutes and relax with your favorite tool for capturing your ideas.  I’m a paper and mechanical pencil girl, but you might like typing on your tablet or talking in your phone’s voice memo app.  Whatever works.  Imagine all the places you’d...
Your Friday Escape:  Banff National Park

Your Friday Escape: Banff National Park

Where: Eastern Slope of the Rocky Mountains about 80 miles west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada Today’s Weather Forecast: Sunny, High: 82*F, Low: 48*F Escape the summer swelter and soak up the rugged beauty of waterfalls, jewel-toned lakes, and granite peaks. You can camp, but there’s no need to rough it here. The resort town of Banff offers charming boutiques and restaurants, and chateau-style hotels. As you head out for dinner, grab a light jacket in anticipation of a chill in the air after sunset. Sleep well, because adventure awaits! Things to do: Banff National Park offers four-season outdoor recreation. Relax in the hot springs which have drawn visitors for over 100 years. Watch for wildlife including grizzly, caribou and wolves while hiking, canoeing, fishing or cycling. For a summertime adrenaline rush, try whitewater rafting. Return in the winter to ski or snowboard, or if you’re especially adventurous, climb a frozen waterfall. Step back in time to the Old west at Bar U Ranch. Ride in a horse-drawn wagon, learn how to make butter and rope and do laundry the old-fashioned way. Special events include a chuckwagon cookoff, rodeo, trail rides and a cowboy skills competition. Facts: As told by the official National Park website[insert link]: “In the fall of 1883, three Canadian Pacific Railway construction workers stumbled across a cave containing hot springs on the eastern slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. From that humble beginning was born Banff National Park, Canada’s first national park and the world’s third. Spanning 6,641 square kilometers (2,564 square miles) of valleys, mountains, glaciers, forests, meadows and rivers, Banff National Park is one of...
Your Friday Escape:  Les Baux de Provence

Your Friday Escape: Les Baux de Provence

This Week’s Destination: The tiny village of Les Baux de Provence, France Population: 427 Closest major airport: Marseilles This week we’re traveling to another continent and another millennium. Imagine scanning your eyes across a vast plateau from inside the thick walls of a fortress built high on a rocky outcropping. Les Baux de Provence, as this village in southern France has been known since the Middle Ages, has provided a vantage point and place of protection since prehistoric times. A major building program initiated in the 13th century replaced the early fortress with a keep and expanded the castle to take advantage of the natural rock foundation. As a Disney-fied American, I tend to think of a “castle” as a single building, but real medieval castles were often a collection of buildings enclosed within a wall. A “keep” is a self-sufficient structure at the center of the castle which served as the residence of the lord and the place of last refuge if the castle came under attack. Over the centuries the village’s population decreased from a peak of near 3,000 during the 13th century to about 400 by 1900.   After World War II , tourists drawn by the opening of a world-class restaurant revived the village.  Careful restoration earned it the official title of “One of the Most Beautiful Villages in France” in 1999. Today you can stroll its narrow, automobile-free streets, visit museums and small shops, and dine on Provencal cuisine. Things to do Cycling: The village’s official visitors’ website suggests cycling because it “allows you the time to meet people, and you only have to put out your...
Your Friday Escape: Jamaica

Your Friday Escape: Jamaica

This Week’s Destination: Jamaica Population: About 3 million Where: In the Caribbean, South of Cuba Things to do: Here’s where I’d love a little help. We just booked a family trip to Jamaica, but I’ve never been before, and I’m looking for suggestions of unique things to see and do. Obviously we’ll be hanging out at the beach and pool, but what can we do in Jamaica that’s different than other places in the Caribbean? At least 3.5 million people visited Jamaica in 2014, so someone must have some ideas for me. Here’s what I found with a little internet searching: Tour a Rum Distillery: It’s no surprise, but rum is Jamaica’s national drink.  Appleton Estate in St. Elizabeth provides guided tours of its unique copper pot distillery and oak barrel aging house while educating visitors on the history of the estate and Jamaican rum production. Yes, the tour includes samples. Guests can also buy the Appleton Estate Exclusive Blend, a rum not available for purchase anywhere else. Hours: Mon-Sat 9-4. Go Bird Watching: Interested in unique birds? At least 305 species call Jamaica home, and 28 of those are found nowhere else. Conde Nast Traveler recommends two essential items: the Birds of the West Indies field guide and a pair of binoculars. That’s a lot easier to pack and haul through the airport than a set of golf clubs. Winter provides the greatest variety of species. I suppose that’s because of the snow birds. And I don’t mean the featherless ones who arrive by plane. You can hire a local guide or book a group trip through Jamaica Birding which offers...