Letchworth State Park: Exhilarating Hot Air Balloon Rides

The Letchworth State Park – surrounded by luscious forests and majestic towering cliffs. Considered by many as the “Grand Canyon of the East” due to its wonderful scenic topography. This park is definitely one of the prized natural attractions of the US state of New York.

Letchworth State Park: Balloon Ride Adventures

Through the Letchworth Gorge came the Genesee River at a roaring speed, flanked by 600 feet cliffs. As you can think with 66 miles of trails, the Letchworth State Park is a hiking paradise. The various trails lead you to stunning places within the park and adventure-seeking souls will be delighted with all the activities on offer. Activities include biking, whitewater rafting, kayaking and horseback riding. Snowmobiling, snow tubing and cross-country skiing are typical winter activities on offer. However, our number one activity that pumps adrenalin and is both exhilarating and picturesque is hot air ballooning over Letchworth.

This spectacular ride over the 170-mile Letchworth State Park gives you a bird’s eye view of the incredible landscape. Watching the park’s several magnificent waterfalls from about two thousand feet in the air is truly memorable. The Upper, Middle and Lower Falls are respectively the most notable waterfalls and are just above the gorge. They range in between 70 to 107 feet. Together with the waterfalls, you will also get a rare bird’s eye view of the Genesee River winding through gorges.

Balloons Over Letchworth is the only hot air balloon company that is operating within the Letchworth State Park. You can undertake scenic rides 7 days a week starting from the month of May all the way through mid-October. For the cost of $249 per person, the balloon flight will take you above the ground for 40 to 60 minutes, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the best views of the park’s most prominent natural landmarks, which include the lush woods and waterfalls.


July and August are the best months for a balloon ride. The dry and warm weather conditions during these months are perfect for balloon riding. You need favorable weather conditions to ensure best visibility. If you love autumn then September is also an excellent time, as the rich colors of the trees and foliage present a totally new perspective to the otherwise green air balloon ride.

Afraid of heights? Don’t worry; you will be in the good hands of a skilled and licensed pilot. He/she will also conducts safety briefing before the flight. Air balloon rides over Letchworth are rapidly growing in popularity, particularly during weekends, so make sure you book well in advance. Once booked, the firm issues you a transferable gift certificate. It is valid for one year. For the chickens under us, there is a refund policy of 30 days of date of purchase. My advice to you is take the bull by the horns and go on this unbelievable and rare adventure.

Sometimes flights are postponed due to unsafe weather conditions. You will find the launch spot for the hot air balloon rides at the picnic area of the Middle-Upper Falls. That is at the southern end of the park. Remember you will be standing for the entire tour duration, so it is important that you will be physically and mentally fit for this adventure. Kids under the age of 12 are not allowed on these trips and that solely for safety purposes. Wondered how you would get back to your own transport? Don’t worry… the tour operators will transport you back to your vehicle.

More USA Travel Ideas

How About this Travel Idea: Books & Coffee

BOOKS & COFFEE TRAVEL IDEA

One of the joys of visiting the tiny, hilly, curving streets of Boothbay Harbor is the breathtaking view over the harbor. Unlike many of the Eastern Seaboard harbors, where the water, even on the best days, retains grayish hues, Boothbay Harbor overlooks true blue ocean canvas.

Getting there is half the fun – provided you don’t expect to drive 65 mph to do so. The Maine Turnpike is 495 – and that’s not the one you want. You want 295 – I’m not quite sure what the nickname is for that one – until you get to Brunswick. Maine recently renumbered all its exits – if you stop and ask for directions, the locals will give you the old numbers, so don’t pay attention to exit number. Look for Routes and towns.

Travel Idea - Boothbay Harbor Maine

Since I have family in W. Gray, instead of heading south to Portland pick up 295 in order to head north, I take Rt. 115 to Yarmouth and pick up 295 at Yarmouth. Take 295 North to Brunswick. The roads are bad in Brunswick – make sure you’ve got pressure filled in your tires before you go there. But once you navigate through Brunswick, take Route 1 towards Bath.

Bath is a beautiful, historic ship-building town and well worth inclusion in your books & coffee travel idea, but if you’ve got Boothbay Harbor on your mind, keep going. You’ll drive over a lovely bridge with a stunning view of the water and both shores. Drive on. You’ll take the Rt. 27 South turn-off near Wiscasset, wander through gently curving roads, down the hill into Wiscasset past Red’s (which has a line around the block every day), drive over the narrow bridge, and ride through Edgcomb with its funky little cemeteries and pottery galleries, through Boothbay to Boothbay Harbor.

Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor are now separate entities. They argued and split a good many years ago, although if you ask why, you get vague looks and scratched heads. The most prevalent rumor is it was over water rights.

Boothbay Harbor itself is at the tip of the peninsula. The streets are narrow and winding. Most streets are one way. And there is one way to get into town and one way to get out of it. Parking is tricky – there are some small municipal areas in which to park (too small to be called “lots’, in my opinion). There are some parallel parking spots on the streets, if you’re lucky enough to find them. If you’re staying at a local inn, they usually provide parking for their guests.

Once you’ve arrived and you meander along the streets peeking in the stores full of things you don’t need but are fun to buy anyway, there are two “musts” for your visit on the books & coffee travel idea adventure.

Spend some time, quench your thirst and have a snack at the new Townsend Avenue Coffee and Wine Bar, on Townsend Avenue right next to Grover’s Hardware. They have parking behind the house. And a house it is. Nicknamed “everybody’s living room”, this used to be a funeral home. Don’t worry – no ghosts or other nasties wander these halls, although the special elevator used to raise and lower the coffins still sits on the back porch. Inside, the lovely décor and comfortable furniture make it a welcome stop to read the paper, meet with friends, or contemplate as much or as little as you wish. They serve coffees, teas, wine, sandwiches, salads, fondues and sweets, with high quality at a reasonable price. It’s owned and operated by Lyle Jones and Tod McKim, two Broadway veterans who chucked their life in New York for the beauty of Boothbay Harbor. The Coffeehouse itself is worth the drive. I’m often teased with “You drove all the way to Maine for a cup of coffee?”

Yes, I did and you know Books and Coffee are a travel idea worth considering.

The other gem of Boothbay Harbor is the Used Book Store. It is run by the Friends of Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library and is housed in an actual house next to the library itself. The library stands on a hill near the center of Boothbay Harbor – the views across the water are lovely. The Used Book Store has several large, long shelves on its porch, filled to bursting with volumes for sale. Price: 10 cents each. And there’s a small container attached to the door in which to set your dimes, should you crave a book in the middle of the night. I’ve never seen anyone walk away without paying, and I hope I never do.

Inside, it’s light and lovely, with simple wooden shelves filled with books. The prices are excellent – I found several paperbacks for 50 cents each, in very good condition, a hardcover oversized edition of Literary England also for 50 cents, and a book filled with a century’s worth of photographs of Scotland for one dollar. On the visit I made to the store in July of 2005, I bought 19 books for a total of $10, mostly books I can use in the research of my new novel. Money goes to support the library – a cause I’m always happy to assist. (Hyde House, right behind the Library, which is on the corner of Oak and McKown).

Boothbay Harbor is a place to spend an hour or to spend a week. The quality of light alone as it shifts across the water during the course of the day is enough to keep you entertained.

As you can see the books & coffee travel idea is quite interesting if you are a coffee and book lover.

USA Travel Idea: The French Quarter of New Orleans

At age 33, I’d never been to New Orleans.  In hindsight, it kinda seems like a bit of a tragegy.

I was heading down from Alaska to Washington D.C. for my 15 year high school reunion.  My wife and I figured that as long as we were making the big trip south (about 10 hours of air travel), we might as well poke around the neighborhood to see where else we might want to go (the neighborhood, in this case, being the lower-48 states!).  A 7 day cruise out of Galveston, Texas and then a climactic couple of days in the French Quarter of New Orleans seem like a first class travel idea.

If you’re ever worried that visiting New Orleans on a weekday or non-holiday might not be raucous enough for you– think again.  At least, think again if you are used to Anchorage, Alaska (population 350k or so).  We were visiting for a Tuesday-Thursday in April– and it rained the whole time (just about).  Still, the french quarter seemed chock full of music, drinking, and assorted revelry.  Enough so that the idea of being in French Quarter during Mardi Gras is a little scary.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Where to Stay:  After doing a fair bit of research on where to stay, we settled on The Frenchman 417 Frenchmen Street | New Orleans, Louisiana 70116, Tel: (888) 365-2775, which presented a lot like the French Quarter as a whole does– funky, friendly, comfy, and a little rough around the edges.  It has a tiny little garden swimming pool and jacuzzi, spacious rooms old rooms filled with antique furniture, fresh croissants and chicory-coffee in the morning, and delightful service.  They have a variety of rooms, ranging from $49 a night in the low season to $299 a night during “special events”.  The hotel offers a small amount of secure parking for a small fee (I think $7 a day sounds right), but in hindsight I would’ve ditched the rental car– you just don’t need it in the French Quarter.
What to Do: Unlike a lot of other destinations we’ve visited, New Orleans doesn’t seem particularly activity-centric.  The chief activity of the French Quarter appears to be wandering around– and strangely, it doesn’t get old.  Remember that we were there on three weeknights– and the French Quarter STILL seemed like it was jumping.  Wandering down the main streets (Bourbon St.,Decatur,  etc) is a riot of assorted delightful sins–  bars, strip clubs, world-famous culinary destinations, and a sleazy open-air market all make for interesting people-watching.  Walking down the main drags is a feast for the ears as you wander in and out of range of the noisy New Orleans establishments (a lot of it live, some of it canned).  We heard all flavors of jazz, blues and rock.

Even for a pair of non-partying-types, the “rules of the road” in New Orleans were energizing.  Virtually all of the bars serve their drinks in enormous plastic cups– and it’s assumed you will wander from bar to bar with your alcoholic beverages.  At night, they block off the main roads to allow for more foot traffic, the majority of which is generally carrying some flavor of booze or another.  I was delighted to find that there are tiny little booze-to-go spots– businesses who don’t even bother to offer you music or a place to sit down.  Just a big fast-food-style backlit menu full of assorted alcohol-to-go concoctions.

One activity we did decide to indulge in was The New Orleans Ghost Tour 504-628-1722.  If I hadn’t read such good things about it, I would’ve been suspicious.  I called the reservation line and never did get a call back.  A little internet research yielded that the tours started at Flanagan’s Pub (625 St. Philip Street), so we figured we’d just show up shortly before one of the tours was scheduled to depart and see if we could tag along.  When we asked the bartender, she thumbed us towards a scuzzy little ticket booth in the back, and we bought a pair of tickets for the next tour ($19 per ticket).  The tour was a walking tour led by Phillip, a flamboyant local with an obvious enthusiasm for the paranormal.  Phillip led us around the French quarter (even in New Orleans, a weirdo going on about ghosts leading 15 or so people around draws a few stares) and described the histories of a dozen or so ghosts.  It was a nice opportunity to walk around some more, drink an enormous Hurricane (the local drink), and hear about some of the local history/mythology.

Much of what there is to do in New Orleans (to me) seems centered on eating, which leads me to…

Where to Eat: My wife and I are foodies– that is to say, no matter where we go we make an attempt to find the most exceptional/interesting local food we can. This certainly doesn’t mean that we only eat at the fanciest establishments.  New Orleans is home of several of the most famous restaurants in the world, however– so it seemed a shame not to hit at least a few of the fancy places.

For our big dinner out, we had a rough time deciding.  We read that Galatoire’s (209 Bourbon Street,) (504) 525-2021 had just been named the best overall restaurant in the United States by the James Beard Foundation, so it seemed like a good bet.  We almost weren’t able to eat there.  Galatoire’s is a true white-tablecloth establishment and requires a jacket be worn for dinner and shorts are not allowed.  It obviously isn’t uncommon for people to show up sans jacket– so they graciously offered me one.  Don’t think for a moment that this means Galatoire’s is stuffy– other than appearance of staff and diners, it was delightfully casual.  Every time a birthday cake came out, the whole restaurant (staff and customers) roared out a drunken rendition of Happy Birthday.  Late in the evening, a young fellow was caught one one knee proposing by his waiter who loudly shouted out the good news to cheers from the whole place.  Our waiter (with a 5 o’clock shadow but wearing a smart tuxedo) said “All the way from Alaska?  That’s a long fucking trip.” to us, and when we were leaving said, “Um– you left some wine– you guys want it in a plastic cup?”.  Sooooo, yeah– it was the most laid back fancy restaurant I’ve been in.

The dinner menu at Galatoire’s was strange– a bit low in terms of description, and a bit free form in terms of food.  You were literally able to combine your own meats, fishes, sauces, toppings, side dishes, etc.  I’m very used to fancy chefs telling me exactly what I get on my plate (and usually artfully combining things for an exceptional plate of food).  I settled on artichoke hearts topped with crab meat and a spicy hollandaise, and my wife had a local whitefish, also topped with crab meat, and a lemon white wine sauce.  We shared the banana-bread pudding with Whiskey sauce for dessert.   All-in-all, I’d certainly put it in my top 5 culinary experiences.

If you’re on a travel budget, I’d recommend ignoring it (your budget!) and grabbing at least one fancy meal while in New Orleans– there are just too many world class restaurants to ignore.  If you are on a tight budget that simply can’t be broken, there are a gazillion great dining experiences to be had.  New Orleans has a fabulous tradition of low-budget food.

  • Beignets (Acadian doughnuts) and Chicory coffee at the famous Cafe Du Monde (800 Decatur Street),
  • muffulettas at the Central Grocery (923 Decatur St, don’t go at prime lunch time unless you want to stand in line).  The muffuletta starts with a whole loaf of round Italian bread, which is stuffed to overflowing with Italian meats and cheeses, then topped with a rich olive salad.
  • Po Boys (Uglesich’s, 1238 Baronne Street, 15 minutes from Canal St (504) 523-8571
  • Deep Fried Pickles
  • Boiled Crawfish (you can get ’em just about anywhere)

Special Considerations:  New Orleans is dirty.  If you want an immaculate destination, this isn’t for you.  When I say dirty– I don’t just mean stinky and covered with dirt (though it’s a little stinky and there is plenty of trash).  Walking down Bourbon Street is NOT a wholesome experience.  New Orleans folk seem to revel in their own naughtiness.  If I’d bothered to count, I’m sure I would’ve counted more than a dozen strip clubs, one of which promised “Live S-e-X Acts!” and had some improbably graphic photos all over the front of their establishment.  Larry Flynt (publisher of Hustler) has two clubs on Bourbon– his standard “Hustler Club” and his “Barely Legal” club.  Unlike many destinations, there isn’t a “Red-light” district that you can avoid– if you decide that you don’t want to see strip clubs, you’ll have to avoid the French Quarter entirely.

Top 10 Travel Ideas for Chicago

When visiting Chicago, IL, the birthplace of skyscrapers, there are thousands of places that tourists can visit. Many of these aren’t worth the money that it costs to get to them. So while spending a week touring Chicago with Masako, a friend from Japan, I narrowed down the list to the top ten sites to visit while in the Windy City.

Like the millions of people who visit Chicago annually, I would start with…

The Sears Tower, 233 South Wacker Drive. The bird’s-eye view of the city from the Skydeck 1353 feet above the streets is truly amazing. According to the Sears Tower web site, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois can all be seen from the Skydeck on a clear day. It was perfectly clear when Masako and I visited, and I can’t guarantee that we saw any state other than Illinois. But it does give a perspective of the city that you can’t get any other way. The price may seem steep at $11.95, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to truly feel like you are on top of the world… or at least on top of the city.

travel idea sears tower chicagoThe skyline from Lake Michigan. There are dozens of cruises that tourists can choose to take, ranging from one-hour tours to three-hour dinner cruises. All of these will offer you a wonderful opportunity to view the skyline as you float by. Narrated tours will point out the unique architecture and tell stories about the city. I have fond memories of cruises on Lake Michigan from my childhood, and they were all enjoyable. However, Masako and I found the Shoreline Sightseeing Water Taxi to be just as enjoyable. For $6, you can hop on this boat and enjoy a view of the city as you ride from the Shedd Aquarium to Navy Pier. You can also ride the taxi from Navy Pier to the Sears Tower and see the architecture from the Chicago River. Masako and I opted to buy the $12 all-day pass and ride the boats back and forth between all three locations. The ride isn’t narrated, but it is cost-effective and lets you see the city inside and out.

budget travel idea lake michigan sunsetThe skyline at night. There are many different ways to see the skyline, and throughout the week Masako and I tried several different ones. You can take one of the cruises mentioned in #2, but why spend $30 or more when you could see this for free? If you are in the city with your significant other, you may opt to view it while walking along the lakefront. There are several different paths along Lake Shore Drive that allow you to see all of the skyscrapers glittering in the night.

Navy Pier. One of the most recognizable features of the Pier is its Ferris Wheel. Even though it’s only about one-tenth the height of the Skydeck, it seems high because of the lake winds blowing through your hair and the clear view of the Pier below you. At night, the wheel is lit up marvelously, shining over the entire Pier. Masako and I enjoyed the ride, even though I am afraid of heights. There is no reason to pass it up! After riding the Wheel, you can enjoy some of the other attractions, including a carousel, miniature golf, a climbing wall, a swing ride, a funhouse maze, and an IMAX theater. If attractions aren’t your taste, you can enjoy the dozens of shops inside of the Pier. City gear, jewelry, and teddy bears are abundant in the stores and on the vendor carts.

the navy pier harbour is an excellent travel idea
Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park. If you have ever watched Married with Children, you will recognize this beautiful fountain in a heartbeat. Even if you’ve seen the water shoot out of animals’ mouths and felt the sprays as the wind blows your way during the day, you still haven’t seen anything. The real show is at night, watching the water shoot over one hundred feet in the air and seeing every inch of the fountain light up with brilliant colors. This is a must-see for everyone, from the thrifty tourist to the wealthy businessperson.

Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive. The aquarium offers the opportunity to see hundreds of varieties of exotic and local fish and various other sea life, including whales, dolphins, penguins, frogs, and otters. Unless you have a fear of water, you will find something that you enjoy at the aquarium. The only problem with the Shedd is that it is one of the costlier attractions on this list. If you want to visit all parts of the aquarium, you will have to fork up $23 for admission. If you do this, you should make it worth your money and plan to spend several hours there. I also recommend eating in the food court. You can pay an arm and a leg to eat there, or you can bring your own food in. It doesn’t matter which you do; you will still get to enjoy the gorgeous view.

Shedd Aquarium is a great travel idea
The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive. One of the best aspects of this museum is its variety of exhibits. You will be able to see dinosaur skeletons, gems and minerals, Egyptian artifacts, examples of lifestyles from around the world, a variety of artwork, and animals from every continent, all underneath one gigantic roof. Everyone will discover a favorite area of this museum. You can enjoy most of the museum for $19; however, if you’re spending that much, you may want to splurge and pay the full $25 to have complete access to all exhibits.

Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark Street. While this zoo isn’t horribly unique when compared to other zoos, it does offer a day of adventure for the low price of nothing. If you’re in the Windy City with your family, the price itself must be tempting. But once you get there, you will get caught up in the excitement. It goes beyond lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Enjoy a variety of mammals, birds, and reptiles, and don’t forget a visit to the Children’s Zoo, a favorite of the young and the young at heart alike. If you’d like to continue with an inexpensive Chicago trip, why not pay $1.75 for a day of fun on…

Another great travel idea in Chicago - Lincoln Park ZooThe El. The elevated train system runs throughout the city and offers a cost-efficient way to travel from one tourist attraction to the next. What most people forget is that the El is a tourist attraction in and of itself. You will get many unique views of the city while speeding through buildings on one of the many trains. Masako and I enjoyed watching buildings speed past so close that we could have touched them if there weren’t windows almost as much as we enjoyed watching the city get larger through the windows of the Orange Line train. Buy a 2-day pass for $9 and enjoy seeing hundreds of sights while riding every train running through the city. As you’re riding, you may notice several Asian buildings near the Cermak-Chinatown stop on the Red Line. Hop off and visit…

Chinatown, near Cermak Road and State Street. Some people visit this area to enjoy the architecture, while others stop by to taste the authentic meals. Masako and I swung by to do a little shopping. There are some wonderful deals on both food and souvenirs. Regardless of why you visit, you will enjoy this area. It gives the semblance of visiting an Asian village without leaving the city- just consider it an international trip without the international airfare. If you’ve ever questioned the authenticity of Chinatown, Masako shot it down. She said that while she was there, she felt right at home because it reminded her so much of Asia.

While there are many more sights throughout the Windy City that you may enjoy, these ten will help make your visit worthwhile and memorable.

Travel Overview of the Caribbean

Caribbean travel offers a wide variety of destinations, but they all share the brilliant blue water, powder fine sand beaches, and endless sunshine that sets the region apart

caribbean travel ideasThe Caribbean or the West Indies is a group of countries and islands in the Caribbean Sea. These countries or islands are located from the southeastern areas of Mexico to the Northwest of Venezuela in South America. There are at least 7000 islands, islets, reefs and cayes in the region. They are organized into twenty-five territories including sovereign states, overseas departments and dependencies.

Bermuda Travel

A trip to Bermuda, just a quick two-hour flight from New York, is the perfect place for an island escape without leaving the comforts of civilization behind. With its strong British heritage and growing reputation as an international financial center, Bermuda offers resorts with beautiful pink beaches and great golf courses, but also a bustling capital city with fine dining, nightlife, and of course, great pubs with delicious British ales.

 flowering tree poinsiana bermuda WHERE TO STAY: The Fairmont Hamilton Princess (76 Pitts Bay Road, Hamilton, tel: 441-295-3000) is a favorite of visiting insurance executives but is also a great choice for vacationers, offering the convenience of being just a five minute walk to Front Street’s shops, restaurants and pubs. Guests can choose between relaxing at the hotel’s two beautiful pools and lovely gardens overlooking Hamilton Harbor or taking a free ferry service to enjoy the beach at its sister hotel, the Fairmont Southampton. Ferries are the best way to get around the island, since rental cars are not allowed and the other alternative, renting a moped, is not for the faint of heart given Bermuda’s narrow roads.

The Fairmont Hamilton Princess is one of Bermuda’s most historic hotels and the oldest hotel in the Fairmont chain. The hotel opened in 1885 and was named in honor of one of Queen Victoria’s daughters, Princess Louise, who had put Bermuda on the map as an international vacation destination with her visit two years earlier. Princess Louise never did get to stay at her namesake, but plenty of other notables did over the years including authors Mark Twain and James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming.

The hotel has undergone multimillion dollar renovations over the last few years to update its rooms and lobby, including the creation of a ‘Hotel within the Hotel’ area called Fairmont Gold. The Fairmont Gold floor in the hotel has rooms and hallways that are tastefully decorated in bright pastel colors. Best of all is a spacious salon where complimentary breakfast and afternoon tea are served. The cheerful Fairmont Gold staff was always eager to be of service, making you feel like visiting royalty.

WHERE TO DINE AND DRINK: With its strong ties to Britain, one would think the island of Bermuda would be a haven for British-style food and beers. But that is not necessarily the case for a number of reasons, one being the balmy climate that tends to discourage many people from drinking heavy ales. Another is the popularity of rum drinks, including the famous Bermuda swizzle and the unofficial national drink, the Dark & Stormy, a delicious combination of Gosling’s black rum and stone ginger beer.

Fortunately there are good British-style craft brews to be found at North Rock Brewing Company (10 South Road, Smith’s Parish, tel: 441-236-6633), Bermuda’s first and only brewpub. A cab ride from Hamilton takes less than 10 minutes and is well worth the trip for the great brews and creative menu.

North Rock was founded in 1997 by David Littlejohn, an avid homebrewer, and his wife Heather, who took over a site that had housed several restaurants over the years. In the main room of their new restaurant, David and Heather added the gleaming copper tanks of brewing system. David is the head brewer and typically has five to seven different beers available.

David’s flagship ale is Somer’s Amber Ale, named for the British sea captain Sir George Somer whose ship, the Sea Venture, was wrecked in a storm off what is now St. George’s Parish in 1609. Unlike Somer’s voyage, this reddish ale is smooth, with a medium body and a crisp, dry finish from the use of noble hops. Other regular brews include two traditional British beers: West India Pale Ale, a classic IPA with enough hops to survive several trips to India, and North Rock Porter, a deep black, London-style porter that is as rich and flavorful as most stouts. On the lighter side, St. David’s Light is billed as a pilsner but is closer in taste and color to a golden ale, and Whale of a Wheat is an American-style wheat beer, with a full-bodied flavor but still light enough to quench a serious thirst.

North Rock’s beers can be enjoyed at its hand carved mahogany bar indoors or on a shaded outdoor patio, which is also a great spot for lunch. North Rock’s extensive menu is highlighted by a range of traditional British and Bermudian dishes, augmented by the use of various North Rock beers. In addition to traditional Bermuda fish chowder, North Rock offers an on onion soup made with Bermuda onions and North Rock porter. Appetizers include clams steamed open in ale and beer-battered Bermuda onion rings. Two mainstays of British pub menus, steak & ale pie and fish & chips, are reinvented here as game & porter pie, with pieces of game and vegetables simmered in North Rock porter, and beer batter used for Fish & Chips a la North Rock. Even the desserts have a beer influence, with North Rock porter paired with chocolate mousse and used in the rich chocolate ale cake.

 chancery lane bermuda alley shopping In the British fashion, beers are served in 12 ounce half pints or 20 ounce imperial pints, with 4 ounce samplers also available. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner from 6-10 p.m. North Rock typically doesn’t attract much of a late night crowd, so if you’re planning on stopping by after 11 p.m., it makes sense to call ahead to see if the bar is still open.

There are also several fine British pubs with good beer selections in Hamilton, with one of the best being the Hog Penny Pub (5 Burnaby Hill, Hamilton, tel: 441-292-2534), located just off Front Street. The Hog Penny is is a great place to have a lunchtime bowl of Bermuda fish chowder spiced up with black rum and sherry peppers sauce. Beers on draught at the Hog Penny include such British pub staples as Bass and McEwan’s.

Puerto Rico, Jewel of the Caribbean

Puerto Rico is an amazing jewel in the Caribbean, and is a great choice to explore on your own.  For starters the road system is as advanced as those you’ll find in the States.  Roads are clearly marked, and the main roads that cross the mountains were safe and well maintained.  Spanish is the main language, but everyone has English classes in school.  Resort employees speak perfect English, and if you wander outside the resorts, the person you are talking to understands you, even if they are too shy to admit it.

This island is pretty big so don’t underestimate how long it takes to get around.  There’s a main mountain chain that runs the length of the island, and the drive thru the mountains can add a bit to your drive time.

puerto rico paseo de la princesa san juan
Standard of living is high compared to most other Caribbean islands, and pretty close to what you’ll find in many US States.  Water filtration meets the same US standards.  Puerto Ricans are US citizens.  Everywhere I went folks were chatty and delightful, and many were well traveled in the States or lived there for a period of time.

Renting a car is easy, and is recommended if you’re visiting the southern or western areas of the island, if you’re planning a multi-destination itinerary, or if you’d like to explore the island on your own.  The resorts in the San Juan area generally charge for parking.  Away from the San Juan area, some resorts can be pretty far from shops, other restaurants, and the sights.

There’s a lot to see and explore on this island.  There are numerous golf courses, and diving is well established.  There’s the rain forest in the east, and the dry forest in the west, as well as caves and hikes for the more adventurous.   In general, it is a fun island to explore and get to know the history, culture, and people.

Beaches in Puerto Rico are pretty, but don’t quite measure up to Negril or Cancun.  The north side of the island is the Atlantic, while the south side is the Caribbean.  Sand quality ranges from golden to brown to gray.  The better beaches are to be found along the east coast, which is actually Atlantic & the Caribbean, and the best beaches are on Puerto Rico’s islands off the east coast (such as Vieques).

Where to Stay: San Juan is on the northeast end of the island.  Here you’ll find most of Puerto Rico’s hotels, inns, and resorts.   My personal favorite is the Hyatt Dorado ($150-$350, Highway 693, Dorado, Puerto Rico, Tel: 787 796 1234), about an hour west of the San Juan airport.  This 5 star luxury beachfront resort is nestled among well-established palm trees.  Rockefeller himself designed the resort (though the original buildings go back further).  No building stands taller than the average palm tree, and the beautiful grounds are astounding.  The beach is breathtaking, with golden sand, a curving coastline, and breakers along the swimming beach.

The ultra trendy Water Club (2 Calle Tartak, Isla Verde, San Juan, Phone: , $250 to $350), located in San Juan close to the airport receives mixed reviews.  I’d guess the mixed reviews is that expectations can be high, what with all the hype.  This is an excellent beachfront boutique hotel, great for honeymooners.

travel ideas for families
There are some great hotel choices along the East coast, and in perfect striking distance to the rain forest.  The Wyndham El Conquistador (Av. El Conquistador 1000, Box 70001, Fajardo, Phone: , $250 to Over $350) makes an excellent choice, and has a fantastic ocean view perched along the hilltop.

The all-inclusive concept hasn’t really caught on in Puerto Rico, but that’s okay since this isn’t really a destination where you’d want to be locked in to the resort.  The New Paradisus (1 787 809 1770) is Puerto Rico’s first true all-inclusive, but the beach here isn’t the best (I didn’t see it first hand).  Some of the other resorts are offering quasi all-inclusive options.

Dining and Nightlife: You can find some excellent dining venues in Puerto Rico, ranging from regional specialties to international dishes.  Everything I tasted was fresh and delicious, and the resorts are all justly proud of their restaurants.  At dinner, the pace is slower and more typical of Europe.  Good dining bets include Bebos Cafe ($8-$27, 1600 Calle Loiza, Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 787/268-5087), Chayote ($10-25, Hotel Olimpo Court, 603 Av. Miramar, 787/722-9385), El Buen Cafe ($8-20, 381 Rte. 2, Km 84, 787/898-3495),  and La Casona ($18-35, 609 Calle San Jorge, Santurce, 787/727-2717).

If nightlife is important, stick with San Juan.  Here you’ll find the trendier clubs, and some of the best chefs.  Fusion cuisine is popular (such as Puerto Rican and Asian).  Many of the San Juan resorts offer casinos, and most have a trendy club or two onsite.

California Redwoods – Hiking to the Headwater Redwoods

Headwaters Forest was the last major acquisition of Old Growth Redwoods left in the world. Located just a few miles west of Highway 101 in Humboldt county California it is seldom visited but often in the news. The actual groves are primordial and difficult to get to, but you can get to the edge of it all if you are in decent shape and in for a challenge.

The trail head and parking area are located several miles down Elk River Road, the last real exit off Highway 101 when approaching Eureka, California from the south. If you get to K-Mart you just missed it, turn around and go back. And watch for the sharp right after you exit the freeway, if you go up the hill and drive by the fire station, turn around, you missed it again. (Slow down, there are 3 different speed zones coming up, 55 to 45 to 35, the CHP lurk along the road for the unsuspecting.)

Travel Ideas - Headwaters RedwoodsFollow Elk River Road about a mile or so and up the little hill to the chicken foot ( a chicken foot is a three-way fork), take the right hand fork, and drive on for about five miles through green pasture land. Humboldt county has the best micro-climate in the world for growing grass (yeah, that kind too.) The dairy industry is a major part of the economy, the high butter fat milk is sought after by ice-cream manufacturers. Expect to see cows, horses, sheep – watch out for skunks, both dead and alive.

And yes, Martha, that really was a covered bridge we just drove by (on Berta Road). If you want to drive on it you can, or wait, isn’t that another covered bride coming up on Zane’s Road? Both bridges are 52 feet long and built of Redwood in 1936. Berta’s Ranch Road’s covered bridge is the most westerly covered bridge in the United States, Zane’s is a close second.

Go all the way to the end of the road, it dead ends at the trail head. Park your car with some consideration for where the shade will be when you get back from the hike. Be sure to have good hiking shoes, plenty of water, a hat, and sun screen (even if it’s foggy). It is a six mile jaunt to the top of the ridge and a gain of almost 2,000 feet in altitude. The first three miles are pleasantly level, then about a mile of gradual incline, then heavy duty steep for two miles.

The Park Service has provided several informational signs along the way. There used to be a full scale logging community up here called Falk, long gone now, but remnants and ruins remain. Don’t be shy about exploring, but keep in mind the time. Even the gutsy and gung-ho will find the last two miles challenging. And do take a break in the grove with the picturesque and inviting stream running through it. The tranquil sounds of the brook are magical and the cool shade is welcome. If it’s just you and your friends it will be oh so wonderfully quiet.

If you made it to the top, congratulations, not everyone does. Take the little trail to the left and you will have a vista all the way out to the glorious Pacific (on a clear day). Behind your back is the Headwaters Forest proper, your six mile hike was the “string” on a balloon, the balloon, all 7,400 acres is on the southeast side of the ridge you are standing on. Go ahead, wander on down a little, but please be careful, the Redwood Biome is a temperate rain forest, it is wet, slippery, and quite the underfoot tangle. Mind the banana slugs. Watch out for voles.

The most glorious groves are deep within the forest and a good thousand feet down the heavily wooded slope. There is talk of new trails going in soon to make the groves more accessible, and who knows, someday they actually may get around to it. If you do plan on venturing down the slope be extra careful, mind your back trail, and keep an eye on the time, it is the same six miles back to the car. A twisted ankle could put you in the woods at night, and yes, that was bear scat you saw on the trail, they love the prolific blackberries just as much as you do and yes, they do come out to play at night.

You have done something few have done, it’s a tough hike and not a well known trail head. Please remember to take out your trash, and it is always appreciated when you pick up after others. Now that you know the way you can plan an earlier start and a longer stay next time. Meanwhile you have the pictures to share with your friend. You did remember to bring the camera, didn’t you? See you on the trail, good hiking until then.

Travel Ideas on The Pacific Coast Highway

Making a trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, South California makes for an interesting and exciting travel idea.

Be sure to fill your tank with enough gas to drive somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy miles. The stations in or near Oxnard close early some nights. Drive north, starting in Los Angeles and you’ll see Santa Monica, Pacific Pallisades, Malibu — millionaire’s homes and Pepperdine University. The lesser-known jewel of this adventure is an excursion I like to call midnight trips to Oxnard. This is the perfect adventurous little jaunt that can be finished in two hours or so.

santa monica california beach holiday
At least once a week I head out by the water for a forty-mile drive to strawberry country. Once past the lights and other indications of civilization it’s simply windy roads and a cool moonlight ocean panorama perfect for romance in the truest sublime sense. What’s most wonderful about this trip is the cost — there isn’t anything to pay for aside from a few gallons of gasoline. If you stay in Los Angeles, it’s worth taking a couple hours one night.

Zuma Beach and Point Mugu are two beaches you’ll pass worth stopping at for a minute or more. Near the area, you’ll start to see fog, another spectacular aspect of the trip. The fog isn’t thick enough to cause the drive the be treacherous, just enough to remind you of the desolation on this particular stretch.

Watch for wild animals crossing the road while you drive. More than once, they’ve been scared onto the road and stunned by my headlights. If you’re lucky you’ll see a beachside coyote stalking by his lonesome.

On good nights, the moon will be out and shining over the Pacific. Moonlight reflected in the ocean is indescribably beautiful, especially in a quiet area such as this. With no traffic or city lights around, this view can be stared at in its most pristine form for hours. The moon lights up the road as much as needed for wonderful driving conditions. If you bring a companion, be sure to tell a ghost story.

Once in Oxnard, turn off on any street and open the windows to enjoy the smell of strawberry fields. Oxnard is farming land, where there is little activity after dark – again, perfect for driving.

If continuing north interests you, there is much more coastland to see. San Luis Obispo is just a ways up, all of Santa Barbara County is worth perusing. One caveat: do not venture into Big Sur at night. High up in the mountains, the roads turn dangerous quickly. The once charming fog becomes impenetrable, the turning of the roads become all the windier for sixty-some miles.

Driving back will be worth it as well. The same views you enjoyed on the trip there will be out the opposite window. Upon returning to L.A. you’ll feel energized no matter what hour it is.

Travel Overview of Africa / Middle East

Despite growing political unrest, Africa represents one of the most amazing travel destinations in the world.  From traveling the Middle East to photo safaris in Central Africa to hiking the slopes of Kilimanjaro, Africa offers an immense amount of travel variety.

kilimanjaro africa tent adventureAfrica is the world’s second-largest continent in both area and population, after Asia. At about 30,244,050 square kilometers (11,677,240 square miles) including its adjacent islands, it covers 20.3 percent of the total land area on Earth. With over 800 million human inhabitants in 54 countries, it accounts for about one seventh of the world human population.

The Middle East is a region comprised of the lands that extend from the eastern Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf. The Middle East is a subregion of Africa-Eurasia, or more specifically, Asia, and sometimes North Africa and Afghanistan. The area encompasses several cultural and ethnic groups, including the Persian, Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish cultures. The five main language groups are Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish and Hebrew.

Travel Overview of Europe & Russia

Traveling Europe offers some of the most dense travel variety in the world, offering the fjords of Scandinavia, the cosmopolitan cities of central Europe, the temperate hotspots in the Riviera and along the Mediterranean Ocean, and the relatively untouched travel destinations in Eastern Europe and Russia.

 night scene cologne germany rhine water bridge Europe is geologically and geographically a peninsula, forming the westernmost part of Eurasia. It is conventionally considered a continent, which, in this case, is more of a cultural distinction than a geographic one. It is bounded to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, and to the east by the Ural Mountains and the Caspian Sea (for more detailed description see Geography of Europe).

When considered a continent, Europe is the world’s second smallest continent in terms of area, with an area of 10,600,000 km² (4,140,625 square miles), making it larger than Australia only. In terms of population it is the third largest continent after Asia and Africa. The population of Europe is roughly 700,000,000: about 11% of the world’s population.

Note: For the purpose of this site, Russia is considered to be a part of Europe rather than Asia.

Travel Overview of Canada

Travel in Canada can range from backpacking and camping in untouched wilderness to an urban vacation in Quebec City.

 castle quebec city frontenac canada old

Canada is the northern-most country in the world and the second largest in area (after Russia). Bordering the United States, its territorial claims extend north into the Arctic Ocean as far as the North Pole.

Canada is a federation of ten provinces with three territories.

Travel Overview of USA

Travel in the United States offers a dazzling variety of options– from the tropical perfection of Hawaii to the untouched Wilderness of Alaska.

alaska iditarod dogs

The United States of America—also referred to as the United States, the USA, the U.S., America, the States, is located primarily in central North America, the United States has land borders with Canada and Mexico, as well as territorial water boundaries with Canada, Russia and the Bahamas.

It is otherwise bounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea, the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea.

Forty-eight of the states—often referred to as the Contiguous or Lower 48—are located in a contiguous region between Canada and Mexico. Two of the fifty states, Alaska (an exclave) and Hawaii (an archipelago), are not contiguous with any of the other states.

The United States also has a federal district—the District of Columbia—for its capital and a collection of overseas territories and possessions around the world. Each of the fifty states has a relatively high level of local autonomy under the federal system.

Hello Travel Destination!

The travel articles you’ll find here at CraftyTraveler.com aim to answer one question: “What should you do when you get there?”.

Each article is an exceptional destination experience provided by travelers across the world with enough detail and travel tips to allow you to enjoy your vacation  fully.