Saturday, September 22, 2018

Some common travel errors and how to solve them

Part of the "fun" of travel is the lessons that are learned along the
way  (Photo:  Public Domain)

CHARLOTTE, NCThe first half of a familiar adage goes "To err is human..." When it comes to travel, the second half makes little difference because "forgiveness" is usually overruled by a guy named Murphy.

All too often, travelers do not do their homework when they plan a trip, and that mistake comes back to haunt them with spinning wheels, less than adequate accommodations and, worst of all, wasted money on your once-in-lifetime adventure.

Here are some of the most common mistakes made by travelers and how to avoid them.

Unless rafting is what you set out to do, you could be "up the
creek" paddle and all (Photo: Taylor)
Overly ambitious planning: What sounds and looks good on paper frequently doesn't work in reality. Many people, especially first-timers, want to see everything in one fell swoop. It ain't gonna happen.

No matter how often you visit a place, things change and there is no way to see all a destination has to offer in a single visit or ten.

The best thing to do is to make a list of what are the most important sights you want to see before you go. When you arrive, take a three hour city tour (they are usually hop on/hop off style) and get yourself oriented. That way you have some idea of where things are so you (hopefully) don't keep going back and forth across the city.

If you are doing more than one city or country use the same plan and follow this simple rule; schedule some time to rest and relax, because you are NOT going to see everything. If you try, you won't remember half of what you did see.

Hotel brochures are not always accurate  (Photo: Taylor)

When European travel really kicked in following World War II, the idea was to do a single "Grand Tour" that became known as the "If it's Tuesday, it must be Belgium" tours. They still exist but they are less than satisfying. As a result are actually "cookie cutter" itineraries and they don't work very well regardless of whether you book a tour or travel independently.

Traveling on the "cheap" isn't always better: This one can be tricky. Certainly everyone wants to save money, but cutting costs so thin that you fail to see the entire destination is foolish. After all, you scrimped and saved to take the trip, and then if you deny yourself the best part of it by not spending a few extra dollars to see it, you have wasted the experience.

Guidebooks are great for suggestions on places to eat and sightseeing...up to a point. Sure you can find some neat little spots for dinner that have been recommended by someone else, but part of the fun of travel is to discover things on your own.
Be careful...local cuisine could give you a bad case of "turista"
(Photo: Taylor)
Most restaurants and cafes post menus outside so that you can get an idea of what they offer just by walking past. Some of the best places are those you just happen upon. If the atmosphere appeals to you and the menu looks good, just pop in and try it. Chances are, if there are lots of locals inside, then you've hit the jackpot.

Many restaurants also offer tourist menus. Eye those with caution to be sure you are getting exactly what you want. All too often they are "Americanized" to suit our tastes and do not at all reflect traditional local cuisine.

Yes, sometimes you can, and will, make a mistake, but when you do find that treasure, you'll forget all about the bad choice. Besides, that's half the fun of travel.

Why pay less for a hotel two miles outside of town if you have to take a taxi or some other form of transportation to go back and forth? The money you save by being within walking distance could more than make up for getting cheaper accommodations.

Always negotiate ground transportation services up front
(Photo: Taylor)
Youth hostels typically have cheap rates for the rooms, but if you have to pay for towels, soap, butter and other standard amenities, you might realize that it is less expensive to stay in a tourist style two-star hotel.

In other words, be frugal, but don't be afraid to splurge now and then to see something you really don't want to miss.

The best rule of thumb is to "pack half of what you need and twice as much money."

So you spend a couple hundred more dollars. After you get home, that extra money will be long forgotten if the trip is a success.

Don't be afraid of language barriers or mistakes: For many novice travelers the fear of non-English speaking locations is traumatic. One thing to do is to make your first international trip is to England, Scotland, Ireland or some other place where "English" is spoken.

Just remember, it won't be American English and, even though they say they are speaking our language, you may not understand accents, dialects and/or idioms. It may be an eye-opener but it will usually cure the language barrier disease immediately.

Hometown traffic rarely compares to what you find abroad
(Photo: Taylor)
In most large destinations throughout the world, keep in mind that English is the universal language, so you can always duck into a quality hotel and find someone with whom you can communicate.

A great tip is to learn how to say "Please", "Thank you", "Good morning" or "Good evening" in the native language. A DON'T forget to smile. Be patient. Most people are willing to help. If they are rude, just let it go.

Another suggestion is the main train station. In the U.S. we are so addicted to our cars, we forget, or don't realize, that most of the rest of the world travels by train.

Train stations can be a weary traveler's refuge (Photo: Taylor)
Railway stations are "Yellow Pages for the soul" because you can get everything there; English tourist information, food, change, sometimes hotel reservations, gifts, restrooms, lockers, ground transportation and newspapers and magazines. Best of all, they are usually centrally located which makes it difficult to get lost.

Plan well, do your homework and the need for prayer will be reduced  (Photo: Taylor)
As for mistakes, so what. That's part of the adventure. Remember travel is a learning experience. Nobody is going to do everything right the first time out. Just go with the flow and try to minimize the errors as much as possible.

Logistics isn't the most exciting thing to think about when planning your trip of a lifetime, but it is a guarantee that if you do your homework, you will save time, money and, most of all, energy.

Those things along will make all the difference after you return.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Ireland: Six delightful and quirky B&Bs

Autumn comes to Roundwood House in Ireland

IRELAND — One of the joys of traveling to Ireland is the abundance of quaint, family operated B&B's the capture the allure of one of the greenest places on earth.

Ireland is a land of two lane country roads dotted with majestic castles and oftentimes more sheep than people. But it is also and island that beckons with quirky alluring places that become instant party ice-breakers when you return home.

The mysterious Cliffs of Moher are always dramatic
(Photo: Taylor)
Listed below are a half-dozen of those delightful discoveries. The list is by no means complete, but intended only to offer a sampling of the treasures the Irish have to offer.

Become a lighthouse on Clare Island (Courtesy:

Think of it this way, Clare Island is an island guarding a larger island off the western Atlantic coast of Ireland. Keeping watch at the entrance of Clew Bay, the Lighthouse has served as a nautical landmark for nearly two centuries.

Situated high atop craggy cliffs, Clare Island was once a safe haven for sailors protecting Achill, Wesport and points beyond. Today, the Clare Island Lighthouse is a different type of sanctuary, welcoming road weary visitors to enjoy one of the most unique and exclusive getaways in Ireland.

The ultimate room with a sea view is architecturally majestic, offering luxury, fully-catered B&B stays, complemented by the awe-inspiring, natural environment of the famous Wild Atlantic Way.

Sometimes it's rather nice to be a little "nautical."

Perched on a hill, deep in the forest, Helen's Tower is a true escape  (Courtesy:

Island Lighthouse, Helen's Tower perches high on a hill overlooking County Down. Nestled deep in the forest of Clandeboye Estate, on clear days, the three story stone tower, offers views of the coast of Scotland.

Immortalized in poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning, the tower was constructed between 1848 and 1850 as a famine relief project to provide jobs for the unemployed.

The unique gothic retreat features modern amenities as well as a rooftop terrace linked by a narrow stone staircase.

Perhaps best of all, it is the ideal getaway with accommodations for just two people.

Dining at Barberstown Castle is an event, not just dinner

Comprised of four buildings from different periods of Irish history, Barberstown Castle has had a turbulent legacy.
Situated just 30-minutes from Dublin's city center, it has a sense of being thousands of miles away thanks to 20-acres of surrounding grounds.

Since 1288, Barberstown has had no less than 37 owners, including world famous guitarist Eric Clapton who held the deed between 1979 and 1987.

Eric Clapton once owned the
castle (Courtesy:
Barberstown opened its doors as a hotel in 1971.

Despite multiple owners, Barberstown's proprietors have respected its history over the eight centuries of its existence maintaining the elegance of the structure by carefully blending its Victorian and Elizabethan extensions with the original Castle Battlement of 1288.

Built as a fortress to protect the people of Barberstown from rebel attack trying to burn the village, the walls of the Castle Keep walls slope inwards so as to prevent an enemy from getting out of range by closing up to the building.

Ironically, the rooms on the upper floors of the Castle are larger than those on the ground level as their walls are somewhat thinner.

Today however, Barberstown is ideal for enjoying exceptional personal service, open log fires and great food and wine.

The Cliffs of Moher are even more stunning at sunset

Savor the ambience of a bygone era amid all the comforts of today in this unique four-story townhouse within walking distance of the famous Walls of Derry. Built in the Georgian style of nearly 150 years ago, the architectural features of the era survive largely intact. A distinctive, atmospheric base to explore the attractions and culture of Northern Ireland’s second city.

Ireland is peaceful and alluring  (Photo: Taylor)

Fearing invasion by Napoleon in 1804, Martello Towers in Ireland and England were built to provide "bombproof" defenses.

Ireland's circular stone tower was the first to be constructed and is referred to in historic chronicles as Tower No. 1.

The name is derived from a tower at Mortella Point in the Gulf of Fiorenzo. When the Royalist French Navy combined with the Royal Navy failed to seize the Napoleonic French tower at Mortella in 1794, that was all the inspiration the British needed to construct their defensive towers. The names are different as a result of a mix-up in communication which transposed the letters "a" and "o".

Today this self-catering property accommodates up to four guests, promising a combination of luxury, exclusivity and privacy. The kitchen diner offers breathtaking 360-degree panoramic views from roof level.

The living area and balcony overlook the coastline of Dublin Bay on the middle level, while two bedrooms and bathroom occupy the lower level.

The Long Barn at Roundwood House in County Laois

Spoil yourself in one of Ireland’s finest mid-size country houses of the Georgian period. The warm reception rooms filled with antique furniture, bedrooms lined with paintings and overflowing bookshelves, crackling fires, good food, lovely gardens and extensive outbuildings make this a magical place in which to journey back in time.

Family dog guards the "Doll's
Built by Anthony Sharp whose Quaker grandfather amassed a fortune in the late 17th century by running large flocks of sheep on his 2,000 acre holdings to supply his Dublin clothing business, Roundwood House has a "doll's house-like quality" according to one analyst.

This is no place to be "sheepish" today however, as the original furnishings make Roundwood House a delightful travel experience.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Ravello, Italy: A destination with a view for every occasion

Villa Cimbrone was once Greta Garbo's secret hideaway
(Courtesy: Villa Cimbrone)
RAVELLO, ITALY Greta Garbo discovered it. So did Richard Wagner. Gore Vidal liked it so much he lived there. Others who fell under its spell include D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster, T.S. Eliot and Winston Churchill. The tiny commune of Ravello, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, sits perched 1,000 feet above the coastal village of Amalfi, and it was the ideal place for Ms. Garbo "to be alone."

View from Ravello
(Photo: Taylor)
Actually Garbo was not always "alone" in the true sense of the word as she stayed at the Villa Cimbrone on several occasions in the late 1930s with her lover conductor Leopold Stokowski including one in 1938 that was memorable enough to be merited with a plaque.

Of all the stunning places along the Amalfi Coast, Ravello arguably claims the most and the best panoramic vistas. Despite that, the village is far less crowded and cramped than the island of Capri which is an hour and a half by boat from Amafi.

Not on the sea, but close enough
(Photo: Taylor)
The reasons are relatively simple. To begin with Ravello is not on the sea, an immediate drawback for sunworshippers. Next, though there are fabulous restaurants catering to every culinary desire in the world, other than dining, taking the sun by the pool, doing a bit of shopping or enjoying a massage, you have pretty much maxed out the activities available to guests.

Finally, towns like Amalfi, Positano, Maori, Minori, Atrani and Vietri all nestle along the coast with easy access to Capri or Ischia, not to mention Salerno and Sorrento.

Thus Ravello is pretty much a spot for day-trippers except certain times of the year when it plays host to a one of a kind classical music festival in honor of Richard Wagner.

At Villa Cimbrone, there's no need to ever leave the room
(Courtesy: Villa Cimbrone)
Since 1953 the venue for the festival has been a clifftop aerie jutting eastward from Villa Rufolo toward the Lattari Mountains that plunge into the sea with their ragged, yet majestic, coastline.

Founded in the 5th century as a shelter from invasions which ultimately ended the Western Roman Empire, Ravello began to flourish on its own about four centuries later as Amalfi became an increasingly important maritime center. Ravello thrived as a wool merchant's community that supplied the Mediterrean between 839 and 1200.

Photo ops are everywhere
(Photo: Taylor)
Best known for two landmarks, Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone, many of the rich and famous guests came during a time when Ernest William Beckett was doing considerable alteration to Villa Cimbrone in the early part of the 20th century.

Villa Cimbrone was sold to the Vuilleumier family in 1960 when they initially used it as a home. Today it operates as a hotel with its gardens that must be experienced to be believed. Another must-see is the scenic belvedere known as the "Terrace of Infinity."

The Vuilleumiers meanwhile have moved in to the village where they operate another five-star family property called Hotel Palumbo. Palumbo is a hodge-podge of Moorish buildings that somehow blend into one of the most incredible mixture of nooks and crannies that lead to majestic views beyond imagination.

High view of a courtyard at Villa Cimbrone
(Courtesy: Villa Cimbrone)
D.H. Lawrence found great inspiration for "Lady Chatterly's Lover" during his time on the grounds and Gore Vidal once wrote "Twenty five years ago I was asked by an American magazine what was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen in all my travels and I said the view from the belvedere of the Villa Cimbrone on a bright winter's day when the sky and the sea were each so vividly blue that it was not possible to tell one from the other."

The setting for dining at Hotel Palumbo is hard to beat
(Courtesy: Hotel Palumbo)
Villa Rufolo, on the other hand, is more centrally located near the center of town. Enter the villa through an opening in the arched entrance tower and shortly thereafter you will come to a clearing dominated by the Torre Maggiore.

Ravello or bust
Enjoy the garden, cloister and small museum before checking out the setting in the garden of Klingsor which is commemorated in the second act of Richard Wagner's "Parsifal."

Ravello is a multi-visit trip. First take it in as a day trip. After that you will never want to leave.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Bern's Einstein Haus in Switzerland is a gem --"relatively" speaking

The Swiss capital of Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage site
(Courtesy: Bern Tourism)

BERN, SWITZERLAND — Four simple words dealing with four complex ideas  were the driving force behind one man's perception of the universe;  time, space, gravity and acceleration. His name was Albert Einstein.

Einstein in Vienna 1921
(Photo: Public Domain)
When Einstein lived in Bern, Switzerland from 1903 to 1905 while working as a Level III assistant examiner in the Swiss patent office, he developed his Theory of Relativity that changed perceptions of the cosmos forever.

Renting a small second floor flat in the center of the Old Town with his wife Mileva and son Hans Albert, Einstein's brief residence in the Swiss capital was a perfect storm for the world famous physicist.

Switzerland has always been known for precision timepieces and its clock making industry so it was not unusual for patent applications relating to time to regularly cross Einstein's desk. Some of those ideas helped to spur his insatiable lifelong curiosity about the relationship of time and space to the universe.

Bern's famous clock tower is just a couple of short blocks from Einstein's former flat  (Courtesy;
Ironically, the Einstein apartment at Kramgasse 49 is only a couple of blocks from Bern's famous Clock Tower or Zytglogge. Today, the flat is open to the public, but it may just be one of the best kept secrets in Bern.

With its arcaded streets, the Old Town of Bern has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983. Because of this, other than the cars which line the street today, visitors to the apartment can look out of the front window and gaze at  the same views of Bern that Einstein himself saw over a century ago.

The second floor apartment looks much as it did when Einstein lived there  (Courtesy:
Thanks to Bern's arcades, it has been said that when you stroll through along it's streets, you can walk through the Old Town in the rain and never get wet.

One reason the Einstein Haus is so frequently overlooked by "tourists" is the unassuming manner in which it is promoted. Were it not for a small sign on an outside wall just before the entrance, visitors could easily walk past it without ever knowing it is there.

The sign to the flat is small
and unassuming
(Courtesy: Bern Tourism)
For "travelers", rather than "tourists", the Einstein Haus is not to be missed. It is small, seemingly cramped at times, and appointed with understated furnishings, but that combined with Bern's historic architecture is what provides the overwhelming sensation that one of the world's greatest minds might actually walk through the door at any given moment.

Honoring the 100th anniversary of Einstein's residence of the flat in Bern, the entrance was renovated in 2005 to welcome visitors showing an illustration of the Milky Way.

The spiral staircase to the second floor remains in its original state, adding to the aura that Einstein and his family still live in their humble surroundings while also serving as a memorable image of how they walked up and down the stairs on a daily basis.

When you are there, you can almost feel Einstein's presence
(Courtesy: Bern Tourism)
A third floor space has been added to present Einstein's biography, papers and photos of his life's work. There is also a 20-minute video which further enhances the allure of the surroundings.

Though adept at creating elaborate formulas to calculate his theories, like so many great minds, Einstein perceived the world in what is known as "thought experiments."

Wikipedia explains a thought experiment as considering "some hypothesistheory or principle for the purpose of thinking through its consequences. Given the structure of the experiment, it may not be possible to perform it, and even if it could be performed, there need not be an intention to perform it."

"The common goal of a thought experiment is to explore the potential consequences of the principle in question", something to which Einstein devoted his entire life, thus making his elaborately complex calculations easier to comprehend.

Bern is the gateway to the Bernese Oberland 
(Photo: chensiyuan -- Wikimedia Commons)
Several decades after leaving Bern, Einstein emigrated to the United States in 1933 when Adolf Hitler came to power. Due to his Jewish background, he never returned to his native Germany, living out his days in Princeton, NJ instead.

Bern is perched on a hill on a peninsula created by the meandering River Aare. It is a favorite destination for visitors and, because it is the Swiss capital, the already magnificent Swiss rail system provides even greater access to the rest of the country with countless departures and arrivals each day.

From the main railway station, you can get to Kramgasse 49 aboard the tram in the direction of "Barebgraben."

It is also an easy walk by heading to the Clock Tower and walking a couple more blocks under the right hand arcade. Bern is a compact city and a popular place for a casual stroll.

Grand Hotel Schweizerhof is an elegant 5-star property directly across from the railway station
(Courtesy: Grand Hotel Schweizerhof)

Directly across the street from the main train station is Hotel Schweizerhof, a 5-star hotel property with its own unique historical perspective.

Bern has much to offer visitors seeking something a little different and unique apart from Switzerland's stunning alpine scenery; the Klee Museum, the Postal Museum, the Bear Pit, the Alpine Museum, majestic government buildings, the Rose Garden, arcaded streets, the Onion Market, the Clock Tower and much more.

Bern is picturesque and alluring thanks to its historic preservation and geographical location  (Courtesy: Bern Tourism)
But if you fail to visit the Einstein Haus at Kramgasse 49,
you haven't seen the whole city and sadly, too many people pass it by because they don't even know it is there.

Be a "traveler", not a "tourist", and you will be richly rewarded by the city of Bern and Albert Einstein. It's simply  a matter of time, space and relativity.

Friday, August 24, 2018

ADLER Lodge ALPE offers a "Taste of South Tyrol"

Cocktails on the terrace at twilight
(Courtesy: ADLER Lodge ALPE)
DOLOMITES, SOUTH TYROL, ITALY — Most Americans think of Italy as a warm weather destination, but what could be better than blending German efficiency with Italian cuisine to create an ideal winter holiday?

As summer gradually yields to fall and fall morphs into winter, the ski slopes of South Tyrol near the Austrian border beckon with their seductive powdery white allure.

Nothing like a swim in a heated pool after a day of skiing
(Courtesy: ADLER Lodge ALPE)

In recognition of this magical combination ADLER Lodge ALPE is offering a "Taste of South Tyrol" culinary experience in the famed Alpi di Siusi ski region.

The cuisine of this German/Italian-speaking region is both nuanced and surprising. Hearty cold-weather dishes such as polenta and canederli (dumplings) blend elements of German, Swiss and Austrian cooking, with more than their share of Italian sophistication.
Scrumptious meals with a view
(Courtesy: ADLER Lodge ALPE)
Add in the convenience of cozy, luxurious ski-in-ski out slopes on Italy's largest mountain plateau and you have an unbeatable recipe for winter relaxation.

ADLER Lodge ALPE is offering a $730 per person package (based on a three- to seven-night stay) which includes:
       A tour and tasting at the Tramin winery, which is known for its Gew├╝rztraminer
       Cheese and beer tastings to showcase locally produced specialties
       A visit with honey producer Runggaldier Werner
       A trip to David’s Goaslhof, a goat and dairy farm
       A baking lesson with ADLER Lodge ALPE pastry chef Elisa Kostner
       Activities such as hiking, yoga, mountain biking and educational botanical walks (with a focus on medicinal herbs)

Now that's a Tyrolean sampler if ever there was one.

Local delicacies with a view from the terrace
(Courtesy: ADLER Lodge ALPE)

But here's a little more food for thought. Overseeing the kitchen at  ADLER Lodge ALPE  is Chef Hannes Pignater, winner of a series of international awards, including the Gold Medal at the World Skills Competition in St. Gallen, Switzerland and the Silver Medal at the Culinary Olympics in Erfurt, Germany.

His style is simultaneously creative and authentic, with a focus on quality produce from South Tyrol directly sourced  from committed farmers. The goal, says Pignater, is “To take everyday ingredients and create something special.”

Quiet comfort in the chalet
living room
(Courtesy: ADLER Lodge ALPE)
Pastry chef, Elisa Kostner, also has a unique approach for creating her mouthwatering desserts. Rooted in the traditions of the Dolomite area combined with her distinctive personal touches, Kostner explains, “I don’t think about what I want to serve, be it mousse, ice cream or a cupcake, but rather what ingredients I want to use. These could be buckwheat, dandelion, quark, chamomile or honey pollen.”

By using local ingredients, the chef's not only support Dolomites’ farmers, but also reduce travel distances for deliveries.
The suite life at ADLER Lodge ALPE with views everywhere
(Courtesy: ADLER Lodgr ALPE)

Luxury food and travel blog  Travellers’ Places  said that ADLER Lodge ALPE was “designed to radiate peace and relaxation" which is obvious from the moment guests arrive.

The hotel consists of a main building with 18 junior suites, as well as 12 private, freestanding chalets, modeled after classic mountain huts, dotted throughout the property. The main reception area is home to a 40-foot–high totem by world-famous wood sculptor, Adolf Vallazza,.

The Finnish sauna
(Courtesy: ADLER Lodge ALPE)
Although skiers are lured by the nearby world-famous runs during winter, each season brings an unforgettable experience  all its own. Spring offers the sounds of birdsong and views of brightly colored meadows covered with wildflowers like orchids, crocuses and edelweiss.

During the lush, green summers, soft breezes and abundant sunshine make it easy to stay active all day.

Saima with a view
(Courtesy: ADLER Lodge ALPE)
The alpenglow is a famous autumn phenomenon that guests love to observe during cocktail hour. Just before sunset, the mountain walls begin to glow with an infectious mix of orange, red and violet hues. This unique, breathtaking display is a special time that lasts only for a few minutes, reminding guests and staff members to pause and soak in the magic.
ADLER Lodge ALPE is a year-round resort property
(Courtesy: ADLER Lodge ALPE)
With its setting in its own loft within the main building of ADLER Lodge ALPE visitors also discover a hay sauna, a fitness center and windows offering panoramic views of the rolling meadows and jagged Dolomite peaks.

Pristine morning mist captures the imagination
(Courtesy: ADLER Lodge ALPE)
ADLER Lodge ALPE prides itself on being an eco-friendly property which includes strict requirements for responsible energy consumption, sustainable construction materials and an architectural design that  harmonizes with surrounding landscapes.

Indoor pool with view
(Courtesy: ADLER Lodge ALPE)
With three sister properties in Italy, each  imbued with a strong sense of place, ADLER Lodge ALPE, ADLER Spa Resort DOLOMITI and ADLER Spa Resort BALANCE offer mountains of opportunities for relaxation amid charming alpine settings.

Meanwhile, ADLER Spa Resort THERMAE, in Bagno Vignoni, Tuscany, is famous for its complex of naturally fed thermal baths and pools.

Rise and shine
(Courtesy: ADLER Lodge ALDE)

Despite their popularity and growth, there has always been one constant, the Sanoner family, which has owned and managed the properties for seven generations are passionate about hospitality and service.

When the sun goes down the lodge beckons with promises of a grand tomorrow (Courtesy: ADLER Lodge ALPE)

ADLER resorts are in a class by themselves. After all the Dolomites beckon. Why not take a "peak" for yourself.