Trips and Travel

Below are some of the trips we’ve taken in the past decade or so.

February, 2016, in Naples, Florida

Karen and I travelled to Naples Florida in February of 2016 for our Winter get-away vacation. We spent some time researching where to stay and what to do, and especially where we could play golf. We ended up on the VRBO website and found the Naples Bay Resort, and a condo owned by a very nice person named June Prophet. We rented the condo and June helped us further by letting us play at two private courses of which she is a member. More about golf later.

Naples Bay Resort is beautiful and our condo was exactly what we had hoped for. Our condo had three bedrooms (we only used the master bed room, which had a huge bathroom with a giant shower). We had a living room, dining room, kitchen, and patio. Our exterior was bordered by a thick treeline ensuring total privacy, with our front view into the courtyard. We were on the second floor, and we had quiet and privacy. The condo was equiped with everything one might think of. Everything was clean and top grade. There was large screen HDTV with DVR in the living room and master, and smaller TVs in the other two bedrooms. We had built-in WiFi. Everything was on Comcast, so we were very familiar with the channel lineup and so on.

The Naples Bay Resort - resort rooms, condos, and the marina; and one of the pools (the one we used most):
(Note: click on the small photos below to see a full-size version of the photo.)
A view of the Naples Bay Resort Marina Naples Bay Resort Pool

A beautiful entrance illustrating the degree of care in the resort:

The resort was a short walk to the old city downtown of Naples - where you wanted to be in the evening. On the walk, we passed the wharf area known as "Tin City", which was full of hip on-wharf restaurants and little shops. While we could walk into downtown, the resort provided a limo to take us and pick us up from dinner or whatever/whereever we wanted to go. We utilized the limo, which was really a very nice Mercedes van with drivers who were upbeat, helpful, and fun.

We ate dinners in town mostly, at Yubba Grill on Fifth Avenue, T-Michael’s Steak and Seafood on the water in Naples, proper, Campiello’s on Third Street for an excellent Italian dinner, Felipe’s Taqueria for a surprisingly great informal Mexican meal, Citrus on Fifth Avenue for an elegant dinner with wonderful service, and funky little Greek place for an informal dinner, finally, Ridgway on Third for another sumptuous meal.

Chuck on Naples Pier; and the Naples Beach:
(Note: click on the small photos below to see a full-size version of the photo.)
Chuck on Naples Pier Naples Beach

Karen at Yubba Island Grill (our first night):
Karen on Marco Island

We golfed three days at three different courses:

We liked all three courses, and thought The Rookery with all its water was the best to play of them. On The Hammonck Bay course we played with another couple, delightful folks with whom we had lunch afterwards. The Rookery was a shotgun start because of an upcoming tournament. Lely was played with another couple, who was another delightful pair. All in all, great golf and fun.

The view at Hammock Bay Golf Course; Karen at Hammock Bay:
(Note: click on the small photos below to see a full-size version of the photo.)
Golf at Hammock Bay Karen at Hammock Bay

Chuck at The Rookery:
Chuck at The Rookery

We of course when down to Marco Island to make that tour, as well. Much of Marco Island seems over-developed to me, but it has its beauty. We played with a big old Albatross for a while, and drove around to look at things, walked on the beach and so on.

Karen at Marco Island; Chuck at Marco Island:
(Note: click on the small photos below to see a full-size version of the photo.)
Karen at Marco Island Chuck at Marco Island

All in all, a great trip and a great break from the bleakness of mid-winter in the North.

September, 2015, in Stone Harbor, NJ

We took our (almost) annual trip to Stone Harbor on the New Jersey coast in early September, starting with Labor Day weekend. We rented a house that we've used several times, along with our close friends, Peter and Dorothy. During the week, other friends joined us for a while. John and Jackie were there early in the week, joined by our friend Rich, who lives in Arizona, but maintains a place near Philadelphia to visit with his family here. His "Bashi" stayed in AZ to care for their horses. All together, it was a very good group and we enjoyed the company.

The house is very near the Stone Harbor "downtown" and is just off the beach. We can see the ocean from the deck, where we enjoyed breakfast and dinner at times. Of course, dining out at the shore is also a treat, and we ate at The Reeds at Shelter Haven in Stone Harbor for lunch overlooking the bay, Spiaggetta in Stone Harbor for a great Italian feast, Axxelson's Blue Claw in Cape May for a great time and great food, and The Diving Horse in Avalon for a spectacular final dinner. Our location there is just about perfect.

Below are some photos of the trip:

Pete and Dorothy at dinner on our deck; and John and Jackie at the same table:
Pete & Dorothy at dinner on the deck John & Jackie at dinner on the deck
Karen’s spectacular photo of the sunrise at Stone Harbor’s beach; and the deck at The Reeds at Shelter Haven:
Sunrise on the Beach The Reeds at Shelter Haven for lunch

I was limited in my mobility and ability to help in any task by the cast I am wearing resulting from my Achilles tendon surgery. The whole group was very accomodating and helpful, for which I am grateful. Especially helpful was and is Karen, who has been a trooper in anticipating my every need and working her tail off to make sure that I am comfortable. Thank you to all, and especially my Sweetie - who took me to the beach each day to enjoy being on the water and sand without being on the sand. I loved it!

Chuck Enjoying the Beach Scene

February/March, 2015, in Cancun, Mexico

What perfect timing to break the long winter cold we were experiencing at home! Karen and I travelled to Cancun, Mexico, to spend eight glorius days on the Yucitan Peninsula’s gulf coast. Liz, our outstanding travel agent, once again booked us into an all-inclusive resort that exceeded our most optimistic expectations - The Excellence Playa Mujeres. Before I show you some of what we enjoyed, I must first express our appreciation for what is the best staff service levels we have ever experienced. It is difficult to describe the pleasant difference that we experienced because of the resort staff. Every single encounter with anyone was met with a sincere and upbeat effort to make our experience more pleasant. It was extraordinary.

Below: The outstanding entrance lobby provides insight to the resort; and walking within the resort is a treat:
Excellence Paya Majeres Lobby Walkway View
Below: The view from our balcony, overlooking two of the pools to the gulf shore; and the view from the pool of the grill:
View of the grill View from our Balcony
Below: Our two story suite offered an outdoor spa; and the view of the gulf from our private spa:
Rooftop Spa Spa view to Gulf
Below: Our private beach with palapas; and Chuck basking in a palapa (you could find me there a lot!):
Palapa scene Chuck under palapa
Below: Karen finishing her swing a the resort’s Greg Norman course; and a nine foot crocodile on the fairway:
Karen finishing her swing Crocodile

Our suite was special. We had a spectacular view of the gulf from our balcony, which had a round bed and a table and chairs. Our main room had a sitting area with large couch and chairs, big tv, refrigerator, desk, free WiFi, walkin closet, and a huge bathroom which featured a shower with multiple types of showers, bench seat and so on. We could walk up a stair in our room to our private rooftop spa, with a massive spa and high-drop water feed, two circular beds, a shower, and a beautiful view of the gulf.

The food at Excellence Playa Mujeres was the best inclusive resort food we have experienced. There were Mexican, French, Indian, Asian, Lobster, Grill-house, and Barcelona Tapas restaurants to choose from. (I may have forgotten one or two others.) Each meal was a pleasure, from the walk up to the door to the finish. Service levels were unmatched and the food was excellent. For breakfast and lunch, we could go to the sumptuous breakfast or lunch buffets, or get sitdown service at the grill, overlooking the gulf. Evening meals were accompanied by live music, but the music was always enjoyable and never interfered with conversation. Every evening also had an entertainment venue, from dance, music, plays, or other things. Two of the evenings there was a white table cloth dinner in the plaza of the resort (outdoor) featuring some special venue and cuisine. One was a Mexican night. Wow.

We played the resort’s Greg Norman course twice. It is very pretty, with a good bit of water, and some interesting wildlife. On one hole a crocodile came ashore and wandered to the fairway. A caretaker appeared from nowhere to entice the critter away from us. The croc was about nine feet long and up close (I got about ten feet from it), it looks as mean as its reputation. Incidentally, in the mango groves like where we were, there are crocodiles, not alligators. Florida has alligators. What is the difference? Well, about 800 miles is all I can tell you. Either one looks like they can and they want to rip your leg off for lunch. We also had the pleasure of the company of several snakes, including a pretty big boa, and a bunch of iguanas. And many beautiful birds.

The golf was very good. Karen play well; Chuck not so much. That is the story of our golfing lives. But we both enjoyed the experience and the chance to play when our weather at home did not permit it.

My favorite part of the trip? Well, floating down the "river" pool on a raft, with not a care in the world. It was a totally relaxing experience. That and reading under the palapas. And pretty much everything else. A damn-near perfect vacation.

August, 2014, in Stone Harbor, NJ

We took the better part of a beautiful week weather-wise to get our “shore fix” by going to one of our favorite places, Stone Harbor, NJ. We stayed at a very new place, The Reeds at Shelter Haven, which has 37 rooms and suites and overlooks the bay. Our room had a spectacular view, and we enjoyed every minute of the experience.

Below is a view of the bay from our room, and a view of the waves coming in at the beach:
View from Room Beach Scene

The Reeds provided us with a golf-cart-like limo to the beach, where they set up umbrellas and beach chairs and provided us with water and (if we wished) lunch. When we arranged or called, they picked us up and took us back to the hotel. Great service!

We paddle-boarded in the bay using boards that they provided... well, Karen stood and paddled, while I straddled and paddled. The ocean water was warm and inviting, and we romped in the waves, which due to a storm out at sea were pretty continuous and frisky. We took long walks on the beach, always a most relaxing and exhilarating experience, and each morning Karen took a bike ride while I read the paper and had my morning coffee.

We had some very good meals... Spiagetta, Jay’s on Third (oour least favorite of the week), Yvettes Cafe (for lunch), and of course our annual pilmigridge to Carmen’s in Sea Isle for a seafood dinner on the docks. And we had a lunch on the bay at The Reeds, and had pre-dinner drinks there a couple of times to watch the setting sun.

September/October, 2013, River Cruise Through the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary

We arranged this trip through a former Bucknell classmate of Karen's, who is now arranges travel and works out of Boston. We indicated to Liz, the agent, that we wanted to do a river cruise through eastern Europe. We had watched Downton Abbey on PBS's Masterpiece Theater, and we saw a spectacular advert for Viking River Cruises. Liz told us to look at Uniworld River Cruises. We did and she found for us a cruise on the cruise boat " River Beatrice", leaving Passau, Germany and cruising down the Danube River to Budapest, Hungary. We discussed things, and decided to do a pre-cruise visit to Prague and spend several nights there. Liz worked with Uniworld and booked everything for us, from the air transport on Lufthansa to the side trip to Prague to the cruise, and everything in between.

Why a river cruise? Let me explain that we do a lot of travel and neither Karen nor I had ever traveled on a package plan. We always made our own arrangements and toured on our own. I had done a cruise once, long ago, but that was in the Caribbean on a cruise ship, and Karen had never done a cruise. We experienced several key advantages by doing a river cruise:

  1. The whole trip required one vendor to deal with for all details, including:
    • Air Travel
    • Accommodations
    • Meals
    • Guided Tours
    • Any needed tickets and reservations
    • Local transportation, including bicycles when appropriate
    • Additional entertainment
  2. Luxury hotel in Prague ( The Hotel Boscolo, a five-star hotel in central Prague) for the pre-cruise stop.
  3. Great stateroom on the River Beatrice, a category 1 room, including:
    • Luxurious riverview suite with a French balcony
    • Suite includes a handcrafted Savoir® of England bed, built-in closet, hair dryer, safe, individual thermostat, flat-screen TV with infotainment center and satellite, and bottled water
    • Marble bathroom with L’Occitane en Provence bath and body products, plush towels, towel warmer, waffle bathrobes, and slippers
    Below is the layout of the stateroom and our stateroom:
    River Beatrice Stateroom Layout Our Stateroom on board the River Beatrice
  4. Your room travels with you from place to place... No checking out/in, moving baggage, re-acquainting with surroundings, etc.
  5. All meals are included and are extraordinary in the quality of food and service, and good wine and beer is included. The wait staff was outstanding, and from day one remembered every name and personal preferences. (Of course,we took some meals in the exquisite settings of the places we visited.)
  6. Guided tours were available everywhere we stopped and the tour guides were excellent - informative, very friendly, accomodating, and helpful. We took many half-day tours and then wondered on our own to adventure through our new surroundings.

The Itinerary

  1. Prague, The Czech Republic
  2. Passau, Germany
  3. Linz and Salzburg, Austria
  4. Melk, Austria,the Wachau Valley, and Dürnstein
  5. Vienna, Austria
  6. Bratislava, Slovakia
  7. Budapest, Hungary
1. Prague, The Czech Republic

In late September we flew from Philadelphia through Frankfurt to Prague, Czech Republic. The Czech name for Prague is “Praha”. When we arrived, we were met at the airport by a Uniworld rep, who assisted with our luggage and got us on board a van to take us to The Hotel Boscolo. We walked the neighborhood and had a meal at the Plzeñskâ Restaurant in The Municipal House on Wenceslas Square in Praha (Prague). This was our introduction to several Czech standards, such as Pilsner Urquell, the ubiquitous pilsner and pale lager (the world's first), and the potato dumplings you find everywhere. We loved the beers in the Czech Republic.

Below: The Praha (Prague) Municipal House on Wenceslas Square, and Plzeñskâ Restaurant in the Municipal House.
Praha Municipal House Plzeñskâ Restaurant
Below: Hotel Boscolo front, and what our room looked like.
Hotel Boscolo Boscolo Room

On our second day, after a hearty buffet breakfast in the hotel, we were taken by our lovely and knowledgeable guide, Janna, to Prague Castle in the Castle District, The world's largest castle. It includes the impressive St. Vitas Cathedral. We wondered during the afternoon, stopping at U Zãvoje restaurant for an alfresco lunch. I had chicken livers and, of course, dumplings, with a great Pilsner Urquell. In the evening, we walked over to Old Town Square (Staromestské námestí), watched entertainers, sat for a beer in an outdoor cafe, then went for another luscious dinner. On the walk back, we stopped to peruse a street market and promised ourselves a sausage for tomorrow. We also had a primo position to watch the famous Old Town Tower and Astronomical Clock perform its magic. On the hour, every hour, a small trap door opens and Christ marches out ahead of his disciples, while the skeleton of death tolls the bell to a defiant statue of a Turk. There are twelve signs of the Zodiac that also perform. All mechanical, and all but the zodiacs dating to the 15th century. The zodiacs were added in 1865. We, of course, learned throughout our trip of the importance to the entire region of the Hapsburg Monarchy, and especially of Empress Maria Theresa. Her influence, and the Hapsburg’s, was everywhere.

Below: The Prague Castle, and the St. Vitas Cathedral:
Prague Castle View St. Vitas Cathedral

We had the moving experience of a side trip to the Terezín Concentration Camp for the afternoon. We took our limo (bus) to Terezín, which is a small Czech town where the Nazi's built the concentration camp. The Hapsburg's built a fortress complex there in the late 1700’s, and it became the basis for the camp. Over the years of Nazi occupation, more than 150,000 Jews, including over 15,000 children were sent to the camp, of which about 33,000 perished at the camp. This tour was a moving reminder of the atrocities that human beings are capable of inflicting upon one another, and in particular, of the Nazi persecution of the Jews. Our photos below will not depict the worst of what we saw; you have to see it for yourself to gain appreciation of the full horror of the time.

Below: The Terezín camp cemetary, and a typical scene from within the camp:
Terezin Cemetary Terezin Camp Scene

On the third day, we walked through Prague’s Old Town, the Jewish sector, down the ritzy Parížská or Paris Street, where all the high-end designer shops are located. Here you can find Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Bottega Veneta, Fendi, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Ermenegildo Zegna, Salvatore Ferragamo, Prada, and Gucci. It is just off beautiful Old Town Square, and connects to Cechuv Bridge. We fulfilled our sausage promise at a street vendor on the square. Back at the Hotel Boscolo, Janna got us into our limo for the three-hour ride to Passau, Germany, where we were to board the River Beatrice. We were full of anticipation, not knowing what to expect of the river boat. We only knew that our trip had a fantastic first leg.

To view a brief video clip (8:53 duration) of the Prague part of the trip (with a few places out of sequence - sorry), please click here. This clip takes quite a while to load (107 mb), and you must have the ability to view an “mpeg-4” video (.m4v). If you don’t have an m4v viewer or plug-in, Apple offers a free QuickTime plug-in for most browsers at Apple QuickTime download site.

2. Passau, Germany

Passau is located at the confluence of the Danube, the Inn, and the Ilz rivers. The limo dropped us off at the boat and we were greeted by the staff and walked onto the boat to the concierge desk to check in. It was the easiest checkin imaginable. And once we checked in, from that point through the whole cruise, the entire staff knew our names and our preferences (more on that later). We went to our cabin, which was top deck (The Rhine Deck), most rear cabin located next to the Captain’s Lounge and Library. Our room, being on a boat, was small by normal standards, but not by boat standards. It was 150 sq ft, and had plenty of storage and a small but nice bathroom, a queen-sized bed, and a French balcony. The room was equipped with everything you could want and was very comfy. We experienced our first dinner, which is a white table cloth affair with magnificent service. The wait staff already knew our names, and we learned that they would know what wines or beers we liked, and so on. You don't want to miss the meals on the cruise.

In the morning, after a spectacular buffet breakfast (which we had every morning thereafter), we took a walking tour through Passau. We toured along the river, which clearly shows the confluence, with each of the three contributing rivers having a clearly defined color. We stopped at the town hall full of paintings and murals and received an interesting history of the town. We toured Dom St. Stephan (St. Stephan's Cathedral), and later were treated to an organ recital there on its magnificent and enormous pipe organ. We can appreciate the work of the imported Italian artists employed after the town burned to the ground in 1662 and again in 1680, working on the mixed Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical cathedral. We wandered through the scenic winding alleyways of the town. We returned to the River Beatrice to begin the trip to the next leg of the journey, and, of course, another gourmet dinner.

Below: Karen in front of St. Stephans, and a partial view of the pipe organ:
St. Stephens Cathedral St. Stephans Pipe Organ
Below: A typical Medieval Street scene in Passau, and Chuck standing in front of a hotel apparently named for him:
Medieval Street Scene in Passau Chuck in front of a hotel

To view a brief video clip (7:07 duration) of the Passau part of the trip (with a few places out of sequence - sorry), please click here. This clip takes quite a while to load (86 mb), and you must have the ability to view an “mpeg-4” video (.m4v). If you don’t have an m4v viewer or plug-in, Apple offers a free QuickTime plug-in for most browsers at Apple QuickTime download site.

3. Linz and Salzburg, Austria

We sailed at night and landed in Linz, Austria. After another sumptuous breakfast we were limo’d to Salzburg, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salzburg has many features to boast about, including a well-preserved Medieval town center. We toured the town, visiting the Mirabellgarten, which you’ll remember from The Sound of Music (Karen’s favorite movie). We saw, but did not tour, Mirabell Castle and Mozart House. I must admit that this was the only place on the entire trip where our tour guide was not very helpful... she was new, young, inexperienced, and walked us and spoke too quickly. Otherwise, a great place to visit. After the tour, we walked through Alter Market (old market), the Residenz (a large Baroque home of the archbishops), and sat for lunch in a small restaurant.

Below: We passed through quite a number of locks. First, entering a lock, and then, exiting the lock:
Exiting the lock

We met quite a number of people on the trip, both on the boat, associated with the tour, and along the way in the cities and village that we toured. Onboard the River Beatrice, we began to "hang" with a small group of couples with like interests, and to sit with them for dinner, and walk with them during tours. These included two couples from Long Island, Tony & Julia, and Gene & Donna, and a couple from the Northwest, Steve and Mary.

Below: Karen and me on deck with our friends from Long Island, and Steve and Mary with Tony and Julia at dinner:
Our group from Long Island Steve & Mary and Tony and Julia

To view a brief video clip (3:59 duration) of the Linz part of the trip (with a few places out of sequence - sorry), please click here. This clip takes quite a while to load (47 mb), and you must have the ability to view an “mpeg-4” video (.m4v). If you don’t have an m4v viewer or plug-in, Apple offers a free QuickTime plug-in for most browsers at Apple QuickTime download site.

4. Melk, Austria,the Wachau Valley, and Dürnstein

Melk, once a fortified Roman outpost, is “a charming jumble of old towers and cobblestone streets” (description from our boat's Daily Program). It is so true. We walked the town, visited the Benedictine Abbey, and wondered at the history, given to the monks by King Leopold III int he 11th century.

Below, a couple of street scenes in Melk:
Melk Street Melk Street
Below, a walkway to the Abbey, and just the charm of Melk:
Walk to the Abbey Melk

You cannot believe just how beautiful the Wachau Valley is until you’ve sailed the Danube through to Vienna. During the entire trip, we did not pass a single unsightly area, just one beautiful scene after another. There were too many hilltop castles to count, and tiny pastorial villages. A strange effect is that many of the village rooftops sported solar panels. The sail through the valley was one of the most enjoyable and relaxing viewing experiences I’ve had. Simply wonderful.

Below: Posing in front of a Wachau Valley castle, and one more castle:
Chuck and Karen in Wachau Valley Wachau Valley Castle
Below: A Wachau Valley village, and another village with its cathedral:
Wachau Valley Village Wachau Valley Village and Church

We stopped at Dürnstein, in the heart of the Austrian wine country with lush vineyards clinging dramatically to the steep hillsides, all terraced by ancient stone walls. We were invited into the Nikolaihof Wachau Vineyard to tour their winery. As we walked through their Nikolaihof courtyard, we knew we were in for something special. Part of the tour included walking down ancient stairs into the wine cellar where the grapes are crushed, wine made and stored in ancient casks with meticulous carved barrel heads. The rooms were built originally by the Roman occupiers nearly 2,000 years ago, who sealed the riverside facility using clay from nearby mountains. There has never been a leak in its entire history, and the rooms are naturally kept to a perfect temperature and humidity for the wine-making process. Winemaking began here in the year 985 AD, and the Saahs have owned the winery since 1894.

Below: Approaching the village of Dürnstein, and a view of the Dürnstein Castle:
Approaching Dürnstein Dürnstein Castle
Below:The Nikolaihof Winery courtyard, and the ancient wine press (still in use today):
The Nikolaihof courtyard The ancient Nikolaihof wine press

The owners of the winery, Christine Saahs and her son Nikolaus, the winemaker, were our hosts.

Below: The intricate carvings on the casks, and grapes being transported as we walk to the village:
The cask Dürnstein grapes being hauled
Below: A wine tasting scene, and Karen and me at the Nikoliahof wine tasting:

We enjoyed a wine tasting, hosted by Christine Saahs. Karen and I learned to especially enjoy the Grüner Veltliner wines, and brought some back to the boat, which we enjoyed later on the deck with our new friends as we sailed. Since the trip, I have looked for and bought Grüner Veltliner from the limited selection available at the Pennsylvania State Stores, the only venue for the purchase of wine or liquor in the state, except for bars and restaurants. The surprising thing is that while Austria produces predominantly white wines, including Reislings, they make and drink mostly drier wines (which I prefer). They ship the sweeter stuff to the US, I guess.

Nikolaihof wine tasting Nikolaihof wine tasting

After the tasting, we toured Dürnstein, visited a few shops, and sat for a Pilsner Urquell. What a heavenly day.

Below: A wine shop in Dürnstein that we visited (and purchased wine), and a typical village street:
Dürnstein wine shop Dürnstein street

To view a brief video clip (11:28 duration) of the Melk part of the trip (with a few places out of sequence - sorry), please click here. This clip takes quite a while to load (138 mb), and you must have the ability to view an “mpeg-4” video (.m4v). If you don’t have an m4v viewer or plug-in, Apple offers a free QuickTime plug-in for most browsers at Apple QuickTime download site.

5. Vienna, Austria

What do you think of when you hear “Vienna”? It is all that and much more. First, as you approach the city, you can see some modern buildings, but it is very clearly a city of historic beauty. The streets and everything in the city is absolutely clean and pristine... we did not see a single piece of litter the whole time in the city. This is a high-end city, with upscale shopping and restaurants, and it also is approachable, walkable, and tourable. Everything is beautiful and is perfectly kept, and that which is not, is being refurbished. We toured the national library, which is awe-inspiring in its majesty and collection.

Below: A scene from our bus as we drove through Vienna from the pier, and a typical street:
Vienna from the bus Vienna street
Below: I can’t resist showing another typical Vienna street, and a look up within the National Library:
Another street National Library

What is Vienna without the music? Of course, we went to a Vienna Concert at the Hofburg Palace, Director Gert Hofbauer conducted J. Strauss, and W. A. Mozart selections. It would be easy to spend weeks in Vienna, or even longer, and never tire of it. We visited the famed Spanish Riding School, home of the Lipizzaner horses, Mozart House, where he wrote "The Marriage of Figaro" and many others, Belvedere Palace, and the Sacher Hotel, home of the Cafe Sacher. The Cafe is the source of the Sachertorte, and was featured in films like Carol Reed’s “The Third Man” (with Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, & Trevor Howard... a true classic file), and many international TV shows. We went for lunch at the Naschmarkt, the biggest of Vienna’s 22 markets. It offered a fascinating blend of local and international markets, including places to eat, buy meats, seafood, vegetables and spices of all kinds. Of course, Tony & Julia and Karen & I had lunch of local cuisine sitting al fresco at a small cafe. It was a another great time!

Below: The room in the Hofburg Palace complex where we enjoyed the concert, and Andrea Olah, one of the Sopranos, performing a solo:
Hofburg Palace Soprano
Below: Famous Vienna Cafe Sacher, and Tony & Julia (and me in the back) perusing the Vienna Market:
Cafe Sacher Market

To view a brief video clip (6:25 duration) of the Vienna part of the trip (with a few places out of sequence - sorry), please click here. This clip takes quite a while to load (76 mb), and you must have the ability to view an “mpeg-4” video (.m4v). If you don’t have an m4v viewer or plug-in, Apple offers a free QuickTime plug-in for most browsers at Apple QuickTime download site.

6. Bratislava, Slovakia

We stopped on the way from Vienna to Budapest to hop on a bus for a ride to Bratislava, Slovakia, where we spent an afternoon. Our tour gave us a perspective of the town and its history, and an appreciation of its shops and market squares, but we only saw the most beautiful parts of the city when we toured on our own. Bratislava is an interesting mix of old and new. The old city is a delight to explore for an afternoon, and the new is represented by the spectacular Tower Bridge (not pictured here). Throughout the old city, one finds a series of very querky statues, like the one pictured below. It is impossible to not be mesmerized by and and at the same time to laugh at this artwork. It was worth the one-hour drive through Slovakia to see Bratislava, which is a little clean-up away from being a very charming tourist destination.

Below: St. Michaels Gate and Tower as seen from an Old Town street, and a park meandering through the new town:
St. Michaels Bratislava park
Below: Cumil “The Watcher” statue (which has a “Man at Work” sign), and a street scene:
Cumil the Watcher Bratislava Street

To view a brief video clip (3:49 duration) of the Bratislava part of the trip (with a few places out of sequence - sorry), please click here. This clip takes quite a while to load (46 mb), and you must have the ability to view an “mpeg-4” video (.m4v). If you don’t have an m4v viewer or plug-in, Apple offers a free QuickTime plug-in for most browsers at Apple QuickTime download site.

7. Budapest, Hungary

Someday we will return to Budapest. Does that help to describe what we thought of our time there? Though we toured with a guide and then explored on our own and with our friends, we simply did not have time to begin to see all that Budapest offers.

The charm started as we sailed into the heart of Budapest and docked on the Pest side (the flat side of the city, toward the East). The Buda side is on the west, and is the hilly portion of the city, which began as two cities (Buda and Pest, of course!), and which came together in 1873 as the capital of Hungary. Remember that earlier I mentioned Maria Theresa, the Empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire? Her predacessors in the Hapsburg Empire, 100 years earlier, took what is Hungary from the Turks in 1686, in battles that leveled both towns. Budapest has a long and interesting history.

One of the stunning experiences we had was a tour of the Országház, the Parliament Building. We got to see the Deputy Council Chambers (the legislative chambers), and everything else in a very intimate tour. The Parliament is the largest building in Hungary and the largest parliamentary building in Europe. It was finished in 1904. It is Neo-Gothic, with more than 200 statues on the outer walls.

Below: The Parliament building, and a view of the spectacular entering staircase, which is a preamble to the magnificense of the building:
Parliament Building Parliament staircase
Below: The majestic interior hallways of the Parliament, and an example of the many exterior statues on the building:
Parliament Majestic Interior Parliament exterior statues
Below: The Deputy Council Chambers (legislature), and the desks in the chamber with voting buttons:
Parliament chamber Chamber desks

Our “Budapest Walking Discovery of National Treasures and Delights” was just as advertised. We toured the Nagycsarnok (Central Market Hall), with its unending stalls of fresh veggies and meats, and got free samples along the way. Karen and I stopped at a spice shop and bought both mild and hot paprika to bring home. As an aside, I have made the classic Hungarian dish, Chicken Paprikash, several times using that paprika. Yumm! It brings back the memories of the food in Budapest every time, and it reminds us of Julia, who we met on the River Beatrice and became friends with, and who is of Hungarian descent.

Below: Two street scenes demonstrating the beauty and charm of Budapest:
Charming street shopping scene
Below: Budapest Central Market Hall (where we bought Paprika), and an old Soviet Skoda still driven:
Central Market Hall Soviet Skoda

We walked from the boat to Széchenyi Chain Bridge and crossed it and walked through Adam Clark Square to the Castle Hill Funicular, which is locally called “Budavári Sikló”. At the top of the funicular, we toured Budavári Palota (Buda Castle), an enormous and spectacular castle that was built originally in the thirteenth century, destroyed when the Christians battled the Turks, and then rebuilt by Maria Theresa in about 1760. We then watched the changing of the guards, and toured the Baroque homes and shops found in the Castle District.

Below: Castle Hill from the boat, and the funicular which we took:
Castle Hill from the boat Funicular to Castle Hill
Below: Chuck on Castle Hill, overlooking the Pest side, and Karen from that view:
Chuck on Castle Hill Karen with a view of Pest side
Below: Changing of the guard, and a Castle Hill street:
Changing of the guard Castle Hill street

All in all, Budapest is a wonderful place to visit, and it requires more time to do it right. So, we will come back.

To view a brief video clip (10:31 duration) of the Budapest part of the trip (with a few places out of sequence - sorry), please click here. This clip takes quite a while to load (126 mb), and you must have the ability to view an “mpeg-4” video (.m4v). If you don’t have an m4v viewer or plug-in, Apple offers a free QuickTime plug-in for most browsers at Apple QuickTime download site.

February, 2013, in Barton Creek, Austin, Texas

We traveled to Austin, Texas, with our good friends Mike and Diane to play some golf and just relax away from the blues of winter. We stayed at the Barton Creek Resort and Spa, just outside of Austin. We played plenty of golf, playing the three courses of Barton Creek: Fazio Foothills, then Fazio Canyon, and finally, Pamer Lakeside. They are, of course, named for the course designers. Foothills is Barton Creek’s signature golf course, a beauty of a course designed by Tom Fazio. The architectural layout features dramatic cliff-lined fairways, natural limestone caves, waterfalls, and Bermuda greens - a course with no lack of challenge.

Below: A view from the Barton Creek Resort and Spa:
Barton Creek
Below: Karen, Mike & Diane at dinner at Verde’s, and the group on the course:
Karen, Mike, & Diane The group

Fazio Canyon is two miles from the resort, and is a 7,153 yard par 72 course with some very challenging holes, in the opinion of this bogey golfer. Palmer Lakeside is perched on a secluded hilltop overlooking Lake Travis, 25 miles west of the Resort. Palmer Lakeside is a hidden retreat that rewards golfers with a striking, panoramic lake view - but because of the severe drought that Texas has been experiencing, the lake is about 1/2 empty. Oh, well.

Below: the Fazio Hillside, the Fazio Canyons, and The Palmer Lakeside courses:
Fazio Foothills
Fazio Foothills
Palmer Lakeside

The highlight of the trip for me was a visit to see my Uncle John and my cousins and their families. As anyone who knows me well understands, Uncle John is my favorite person and has been a role model for me. It was an extraordinary gift to have the opportunity to visit him on this trip. He is doing very well, thank you.

Have I mentioned the meals? Well, Austin is known to be a “foodie” town, and deserves that rap. We ate at Uchiko Japanese Farmhouse for a truly unique experience. The menu is like a Japanese version of Tapas, wherein you order a series of small plates of sushi and composed dishes. They are all delicious and sometimes you just do not know what to anticipate. The chef/owner is Tyson Cole, 2011 James Beard Best Chef Southwest award winner.

We also dined at County Line on the Hill for some legendary Texas BBQ. Located in an old Speakeasy, the BBQ lived up to its reputation. We had to try some TexMex, so we went to Verde’s Mexican Parrilla. The Mexican food was wonderful, and the Margueritas were superb. The place is informal, with a focus on fun, having some outdoor games on the patio. We also dined at PappaDeaux Seafood Kitchen for a change from the heat of TexMex and BBQ.

All in all, a great trip with good friends, a visit with my favorite relatives, fun golf, good food, and a break from our Northeast winter weather. What more can I ask?

October, 2012, in Indian Wells, California

Karen participated in a panel and gave a talk at a health care convention in Indian Wells, CA, which is next to Palm Springs. I was fortunate enough to travel with her, and we had a great time there, and then went from that desert location to the central coast and visited my sister at her home in Carpenteria, near Santa Barbara.

While Karen “slaved away” at her meeting, I played golf at Mission Hills Country Club in Palm Springs, then twice at the Indian Wells courses. It was about 102º while I played, but the courses were beautiful, as was the scenery of the area (desert and mountains in the distance). After golf, I lounged by or in the massive pool, served with a cool drink and awaited that evening’s fine dinner. Tough life, eh?

A view from the pool, and from our room:
A view from Indian Wells The view from our room

Just me, relaxed, at Indian Wells:
Chuck at Indian Wells

My sister, Nina, and her husband, Art, with me at the yacht club, and with Karen from the scenic Carpenteria Court House tower:
Nina, Art, and me Art, Nina, and Karen

August/September, 2012, in New England

Karen and I had a great driving tour of New England, stopping at her parents’ place in Connecticut, thent o Newport, Rhode Island, and finally to New Hampshire. It was a great time of the year, not quite the dramatic Fall color explosion, but still beautiful warm weather.

In Newport we stayed at the Marriott and looked over the yacht basin and part of the town, pictured below. We could walk to all the sights, and did (for the most part). We took a trip on the catamaran “Privateer”, pictured below. We also took a tour boat that guided us through many scenic and historic places, with a running description by the boat’s captain.

View of harbor from our room Privateer catamaran

While in Newport, of course we toured the famous mansions, which were outrageous displays of ostentatiousness:

One of Newport's fmous mansions Part of the mansion's garden

In Newport we did the beautiful Cliff Walk, and on the way to New Hampshire, We stopped at a car shop that dealt exclusively with restored British sports cars. The car picutred is a 1959 Austin Healey 100/6, which was the model of the first car I bought (mine was black):

Chuck and Karen on the Cliff Walk I was wowed by a restored Austin Healy, like I had once owned.

August, 2012, in Uniontown, PA for my High School Reunion

In August of 2012 my 1962 Uniontown High School class held its 50th reunion at Uniontown Country Club. It was a great pleasure to get back together with many of my high school acquaintances, re-live our experiences (and “enhanced” experiences), and also hear about their lives since high school. I am proud to have known and personally benefited from my growing up with these fine people.

Below is a photo of part our golf outing group. L to R: Don, Art, me, Frank, Randy, Don, and Joe. It was a great day of golf - even if it wasn’t great golf, if you know what I mean.
Reunion Golf Group

The class photo, taken before the reunion dinner:
Uniontown High School Class of 1962

February/March, 2012, in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

We vacationed at the fabulous Paradisus Palma Real Resort on the far eastern shore ("La Altagracia" region) of the Dominican Republic this winter. We made it an "all included" vacation, so that meals, drinks, transportation, activities of all kinds, entertainment, and so on were all included in one price. We stayed in a top-floor room with a view of the ocean, overlooking a garden from our balcony. The room itself was a suite, really, with a great bathroom (jacuzzi, shower, and all), and a canopy bed with netting. We had an HDTV, fridge that was restocked every day, and a bar withall booze included.

We flew on USAirways' A320s both ways, direct and in select seating. We had leather seats with the middle row empty, so we had a very comfortable ride. A brief wait on the transportation and then 20 minutes to the resort. Driving into the property was a revelation, with beautiful tropical gardens all along the entrance road, but we were still stunned by the resort itself.

We were greeted by our personal consierge, Alvarro Castillo, who arranged all of our meals and made whatever plans we needed taken care of. We were quickly accustomed to the place, and set out to explore and enjoy. And we did!

The architecture was a beautiful combination of Romanesque lobbies of travetine and island palapas (thatched roofs). The beach was very wide and featured a fine, white sand and beautiful multi-colored water with only mild waves. Each day we had a private palapa with beach lounges and with beach service delivering any drinks we might want (included in the resort price). Between the beach and the resort hotel was a massive swimming pool and georgeous tropical gardens.

Following are some photos:

The lobby upon entering Palma Real:
Lobby, through to ocean view Lobby view
A view of our suite and a view from the balcony:
Our room View from the balcony
Karen on the balcony, and some flamingos in a garden by the lobby:
Karen on Deck Flam\ingos
The beach, looking north, and a view of the palapas as you approach the beach from the pool:
Beach looking north Palapas
A view from the golf course at Cocotal, and part of Palma Real's swimming pool:
Golf course at Cocotal A view of part of the pool
The view from breakfast, and Chuck at the table:
Breakfast scene Chuck

We played golf two days at Cocotal, a course that is walking distance from The Paradisis Palma Real Resort where we stayed. Getting there was even easier, however, in that a golf cart "limo" picked us up and brought us back. Beautiful day, great time. It did rain when we got to hole 17 the second time we played. It was actually not a problem. Very little rain, came and went fast. Mostly warm, mild, with a bit of wind.

We ate at a different restaurant in the resort almost every evening. The food was good, not great, but enjoyable. The servcie was very good and they always kept your glass full... whatever you drank. We ate at Bana (Asian fusion & Teppenyaki), Gabi Beach (seafood), Vento (Italian), Market Grill, and Hydra Grill (which we liked the best). We ate breakfast and lunch at the Gabi Beach, Market Grill, or Naos... Naos mostly, and it was a great buffet.

September, 2011, in Provence, France

In September of 2011, we (Karen and I) were joined by our very good friends Pete and Dorothy for a trip to and through Provence, France. The joint travel with people with whom we are so sympatico and of whom we are so fond made the vacation a pleasure from start to end. We spend a good bit of time with them throughout the year, so we were well-acquanted prior to the trip.

Below: Pete and Dorothy, and Chuck and Karen, taken in Provence (do we look happy, or what?):
Pete and Dorothy in Provence Chuck and Karen in Provence

We flew through Frankfurt to Marseilles, France, and then drove through Provence to Viason La Romaine, a beautiful town. From the town’s website: “Located in the Haut-Vaucluse region, near the main motorway running through the Rhône area and the cities it serves, Vaison-la-Romaine is lucky enough to be situated between the Alps and the Mediterranean. The town lies nestling in lush, fertile countryside and invites you to share in its heritage, celebrations and commercial activities, along with its well-preserved authenticity and lifestyle.” Every word is true. We were charmed by the town and by our hotel, Le Fete en Provence, with 12 rooms and a sumptuous restaurant. We had to climb a steep staircase up a silo shaped stone structure to our room, which was surprisingly large and with a large bathroom.

Below: The entrance to our hotel, and the street view when looking back from the entrance:
Hotel La Fete en Provence Street view near our hotel

The region is very rural and agricultural, and is full of scenic medieval-era villages. We spent our first days touring the villages of Crestet, Suzette, Gigondas, Sablet, and Seguret.

Below: Town center scene, and lunch al fresco in Gigondas:
Town center scene lunch in Gigondas

We took a little drive to Pont du Gard to view the ancient Roman Aquaducts. The are still amazing - the quality of Roman engineering is not surpassed, in my view. We were permitted to climb and to walk the aquaducts... what an experience!

Below: The Roman Aquaducts at Pont du Gare:
Roman Aquaducts Chuck relaxing and enjoying the scenery 

The last full day at St. Remy, we drove into Arles, enjoying the ambiance and the twists of the city. At one point we got lost and drove in circles and ended up at a street with a big post in the center of the street to block it off. This was a common traffic control, and I was at a loss as to what to do. We finally manuvered out of the situation. We settled in for a lunch and, of course, some local wines at a local cafe with tables in an open square. Life is good.

Below: Pete and Dorothy enjoying their wine:
Pete enjoying a glass of wine Dorothy enjoying a glass of wine
Below: Chuck and Karen enjoying their wine:
Chuck enjoying a glass of wine Karen enjoying a glass of wine

There was so much more to report on this trip. I hope to complete this report soon.

February/March, 2010, in Grand Cayman Island

Our Winter vacation this year was to the Cayman Islands, where we stayed at the Marriott Beach Resort on Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman. The hotel was very nice and the location was great. We walked a lot of places, especially on the beach. Karen (and not Chuck) walked w-a-y up Seven Mile Beach, while Chuck hot-tubbed and/or read on a lounge chair looking out over the waves.

One of the unexpected pleasures of our trip was the high quality of the food. Every meal that we had was at least very good, and many were out-and-out excellent. Our first night, after checking in, we walked up the beach to The Reef Grill, where we sat upstairs. We overlooked the beach and watched the sunset, while we had a very good dinner. I might add that during the entire week I had seafood every single day. Yummy! Our next evening was at Luca, a totally wonderful and romantic place. We sat at a table overlooking the Infinity Pool, the view of which ended looking over the beach to the beautiful sunset (again!). Perfect service, perfect food, perfect view, perfect date. The next night we ate at a more local place, Chicken Chicken. {Note that I had fish for lunch after golf at The Britannia course.} The chicken and sides were very good and inexpensive. We followed that with a dinner at The Cracked Conch, and it was spectacular in both view, service, and food. Yes, I had the cracked conch and it was a delicious appetizer. Next we dined at Fidel Murphy’s Irish Pub, where I had a perfect Guinness pour and great fish ’n chips. Finally, we finished our dining week at the spectacular Osetra Bay. This is a beautiful, beautiful restaurant, bar, and lounge located on the West Bay side, in Morgans Harbour. Karen and I both had the Crab Crusted Grouper as our main course, and it was as good a fish course as I've ever had. We started with different salads and a bottle of Champagne. What a wonderful evening to end our week.

But wait, there is more! As I inferred, we played nine holes of golf at The Brittannia and eighteen holes at The North Sound Club. At each club we were amazed to find literally hundreds of iquanas, some very large Green Iquanas, and some more modest in size. Good thing that they are vegetarians. We also encounted chickens roaming everywhere, including the courses. And you should know that the island is the home of the world’s only turtle farm. The courtyard of the Marriott featured turtles and iquanas roaming around, plus birds of all kindes. We also talked with a parrot, who says to tell you “Hello”.

Saving the very best for last in this little travelogue, we took a boat ride to Sting Ray City, and then to snorkle at a coral reef. I cannot exagerate how clear the water was, and the experience of playing with the sting rays (yes, playing!). They were gentle, brushing against you like St. Bernard puppies would. They are very large, and I actually fed them some squid several times. They come up to you, lift the top of their “face” out of the water, and you present the squid and they suck it out of your hand. Their eyes are looking right at you and they are right in your face. I held one up for a while. Like I said, they are very gentle and used to the humans. And they like their calamari. We snorkled for a while and little fish swam all around us. But the water! Clear, aqua, calm, and warm. This is a “do not miss” experience. Photos below:

Sunset from our balcony Big waves at our beach
Karen on our balcony Chuck reading in the courtyard
Karen swinging through Chuck on the golf course
Large Green Iquana Sting Ray Island
Cruise ships at Georgetown From the air

August/September, 2009, in Quebec City

We decided to take a “mini-vacation” this Fall, and our choice was Quebec City. Quebec is probably the finest city in North America in terms of charm, pleasant European lifestyle, beauty, cleanliness, safety, and historical interests. Quebec is unique (I know it is an over-used word, but appropriate in this case). It feels French in all the positive ways, and yet has its own charm and friendliness. Not too far away, at least for those of us in the NE USA, yet a world apart from what we are used to. We had a truly wonderful vacation.

We stayed in the unbelievably beautiful, 4-star rated Le Chateau Frontenac. Our room included a section in the top of a turret, which had window views looking up/down and directly over the great St. Lawrence River.

Le Chateau Frontenac - Our Room

We ate at Aux Anciens Canadiens, built in 1677, and had caribou and quail in this ultra-charming place. You can find any cuisine that you seek in Quebec, and the restaurants are uniformly excellent. We walked along Upper Town's quaint streets and along the boardwalk by the Frontenac, overlooking the St. Lawrence river. We took a ferry across the river to Lévis for lunch. We walked through Lower Town streets, visiting museums, shops, and the farmer's market. We walked the historic Plains of Abraham, toured the fortifications around the walled city, watched a parade, and visited the falls at Montmorency. All in all - you must visit this place.

Aux Anciens Canadiens Karen on Deck overlooking the St. Lawrence

Quant Street Standing Guard

Parade Montmorency Falls

September/October, 2008, in Italy

We traveled once again to Italy this Fall, this time with our good friends Peter and Dorothy as travel companions. We started out in Tuscany, staying in Montepulciano in a truly wonderful small hotel, Meublé Il Riccio. The Meublé is run by the Caroti family, headed by Giorgio and Ivana. They have six rooms and with Karen & me and Peter & Dorothy, we had one third of the capacity. The place is many centuries old, extraordinarily charming, and perfectly positioned in the spectacularly beautiful Montepulciano in the Sienna region of central Italy.

We toured the Tuscana and Umbria regions, touring a number of towns... each more beautiful, historic, and absolutely charming than the last. These included Pienza, Bagno Vignola, Chiusi, Montalcino, and a trip in to Firenze (Florence). In Firenze, we toured through the city, viewing such local treasures as Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo), the spectacular statues in the Piazza Della Signoria, the famous Ponte Vecchio, and Giardino di Bobali (Bobali Gardens). Throughout, we drank the local wines, luxored in the local cuisine, and did I mention that we drank the local wines. Fantastico!

Below: Tuscany from to rooftop terrace of Meuble Il Riccio, and dinner the last night in Tuscany:
Tuscany from Montepulciano Dinner in Montepulciano

From there we drove south past Roma to the Amalfi coast, staying in mega-beautiful Positano. One cannot imagine how wonderful the place is without having been there. We took a ferry to the Isle of Capri and toured the island. Karen and I took the Funicular (like a ski chairlift) to the top of Capri and like everyone who arrives there, our first words were "omigod". Unbelievable views, of Capri, the Mediterranean, Mount Vesuvius on the mainland, the Amalfi coastline, the tiny islands surrounding Capri... everything. We took a ride in a very small powerboat along the coast to the the town of Amalfi, stopping along the way to tour water caves carved into the coastline. We saw the homes of the "rich and famous", like Sofia Loren, Rudolf Nureyev, Franco Zeffirelli, and so on. And again, we ate the local cuisine and drank the local wines. Life is good. Very good.

Below: We stayed in Hotel Pasetea in Positano, and the view from our room:
Hotel Pasetea in Positano View from our Room

Below: The Italian Coastline from the Top of Capri, and Karen and me on Capri (Mt Vesuvius Seen in Back Right):
Italian Coastline from Capri (Mt Vesuvius on the Right) Karen and me on top of the Isle of Capri

We spent the end of our days in Italy in Roma (Rome), staying near the heart of the city. We bought an open pass for one of the open-top touring buses that constantly provide guided tours. We'd get on and off and see a site and then on/off to another. We saw many of the sights we've seen before (see our 2003 trip to Italy), but they are just a amazing. And we had a final dinner near the Spanish Steps.

All in all, a wonderful adventure with very good friends.

February/March, 2007, in Hawaii

We completed a spectacular vacation of two weeks in the Hawaii islands, staying on Maui, Kauai, and Oahu. If you can do it, I'd recommend that you go there at least once in your life. The views are, well, spectacular, and the people are absolutely charming, helpful, and friendly. The accommodations are excellent and the food is great, especially if you like seafood and fresh fruits and veggies.

We flew to and from Honolulu on USAir (mostly on their America West planes/routes, recently merged in). We flew First Class all the way, thanks to accumulated Dividend Miles points, and the total airfare cost us a total of $10. From Honolulu, we flew on Aloha Airlines between islands. The whole trip, from home to back home, was a flawless adventure. Our checked baggage was always promptly delivered, onboard meals were good, service was excellent, and everything was on-time, or very close to it. We had no complaints regarding travel. The same thing could be said about accommodations. Every place we stayed was excellent, and I'll talk about each place as we go along.

We flew through Phoenix to Honolulu and then on to Maui, where we stayed at Ho'oilo House, perhaps the finest bed-and-breakfast we have had the pleasure of seeing. Our hosts were Amy and Dan, and our stay there was excellent in every way. You've got to see this place, and it is located just outside of Lahaina in the beautiful hills. Our backdrop were the mountains, and our view was the blue pacific with the island of Molokai in the background. Our first day was spent driving our Mustang convertible north to the Kaanapali coast and beyond. We ate lunch at the gorgeous Kapalua Golf course's Plantation House, and we spent the afternoon sunning and swimming on Fleming Beach in Kaanapali. That night we had dinner at Kimo's in Lahaina, overlooking the sun setting in the Pacific.

Below: Ho'oilo House, with the mountains of Maui as a backdrop, and Ho'oilo House View, with Molikai Island in the background
Ho'oilo House Ho'oilo House View

The next day we played the Bay Course at Kapalua, where we had a great time playing and enjoying the spectacular views of the coastline. After lunch at the Bay Course, we drove down to the Wailea area to Ulua Beach, next to the Renaissance Wailea Beach Resort. We played for a long time in the clear waters with great and continuous surf.

The next morning we drove the famous "Road to Hana", making breathtaking stops along the way. Waterfalls, primeval forest, cliffs, and a winding road that'll keep you on your toes, and especially, views that will knock your socks off. The drive takes most of the day (at least), but is well worth the experience. When we got back, we had dinner on the rooftop Lahaina Oyster Bar and Grill. The next day we did the beach at Kaanapali again, and had lunch at Canoes in Lahaina, overlooking the water. While at the beach, we saw humpback whales, lots of them, as they moved along the island. They'd spray as they breathed, giving away that there was a whale there, and then they'd breach the water. We lounged around much of the PM at Ho'oilo House and then went to the Feast at Lele for a tremendously enjoyable luau. If you haven't experienced a Hawaiian luau, you have missed a very entertaining (and appetite-pleasing) evening.

Below: View from The Road to Hana, and Karen on The Road to Hana
View from the Road to Hana Karen on the Road to Hana

On Sunday, we drove around the North Shore to the airport. Now that doesn't sound too exciting, but if you think that you haven't been on that road. It is largely one lane, unpaved at times, and traverses cliffs overlooking the water. The views are, again, spectacular, and the drive is treacherous at times. We stopped for a herd of donkeys to pass, and once backed up so another car could navigate through. But we wouldn't have missed it. At the end, stopped at Kanaha Kai to watch some kite surfing. Then we flew to Kauai.

In Kauai we stayed at the Poipu Sheraton Beach Resort, with a room overlooking the water. We had an excellent dinner at Shell's in the hotel, and then watched another beautiful Pacific sunset. On Monday, after breakfast at Joe's, overlooking the Kiahuna Golf Course. Then we did it... we took the Blue Hawaii helicopter tour of Kauai! Neither Karen nor I have ever experienced anything nearly as spectacular as this flight. The helicopter takes you where you otherwise cannot go, with views you cannot otherwise see. We saw so many mountain peaks with dense vegitation and thousands of waterfalls. We flew into the Olokele Volcano, which last erupted 400,000 years ago. Olokele has since eroded into two main peaks: Kawaikini (5,243 ft) and Mt. Wai`ale`ale (5,148 ft), and we flew over them, as well. We saw a 4,000 ft waterfall... and a dozen more of 2,000 ft or more. We flew along the Napali Coast. Kauai is over 5.5 million years old and is made up of eroding lava. It is lush and beautiful everywhere, and in its center mountains, it gets between 600 and 700 inches of rain per year (the wettest place on the planet). It has only 55,000 residents, and is relatively undeveloped, except for the resorts and plantations. You see all of this and more from the helicopter. If you would like to see clips from the DVD made during the helicopter tour, there are three from 6 to 12 minutes each you can select any of these:

Below: A view from our room on Poipu Beach, and A blowhole in the lava rocks near our resort at Poipu Beach:
A view from our room on Poipu Beach Blowhole near our resort
Below: The Napali Coast, as seen from the Helicopter:
Napali Coast

After the exhilerating ride, we ate dinner at Duke's in Kalapaki, watching the surfers in the evening glow. The next day we rested at the beach, right at our resort. The beach was pure white sand, clear waters, and continuous surf... pretty big surf. It was a blast! We could lay on the sand, in a lounge on the sand, in a lounge on the grass by the sand, by the pool overlooking the beach, ... you get the picture. That evening we opted for Chinese at Yum Cha at the Poipu Bay Golf Course. That evening, as we sat on our balcony having a drink, we spotted more humpback whales. What a view... the sun setting and whales in the foreground. Breathtaking.

Below: A Kauai Sunset... one every night! And Lighthouse on the North Shore; you can see the whales and the view is spectacular
Kauai Sunset Kauai Lighthouse

On Wednesday we played the Kiahuna Golf Course in the morning. Karen had woken up with a cold, but we still really enjoyed playing. It is an easy course, I must say, and there is currently a lot of home construction going on around the course. It "rained" (a mist) for the first hole, but otherwise it was a great round of golf. Rain is like that in Kauai... many days a mild mist or slight rain comes and then is gone in no time. It doesn't cause any interruption. After golf, we drove to the North Shore, stopping at a great Thai place for lunch: Mema in Kapaa. The North Shore offers such places as Hanalei Bay. There is a fabulous course course and resort called Princeville, where we stopped to tour. Next time we come, we'll play that course.

On Thursday, we beached at the resort in the AM, and then drove to the Waimea Canyon in the PM. Later, we went to dinner at the utterly beautiful Plantation Gardens for dinner. On Friday, we beached again, then flew to Honolulu. In Hololulu we opted for the "Express Shuttle" to the Marriott Beach Resort on Waikiki Beach. The shuttle was the single bad choice on our entire trip, and we got to see every damn hotel on Waikiki before we got to the Marriott. That evening we made up for it by having sushi at Sensei, followed by a walk on Waikiki.

Below: Diamondhead, as seen from our corner room. We also had another balcony overlooking Wiakiki Beach

On Saturday we toured the Pearl Harbor Memorial. We toured the International Market, ate Chinese there, and then lounged at the Marriott's pool for the afternoon. We had a scenic sunset dinner at the Hula Grill at the Outrigger. On Sunday, we lazed all day getting some sun, and then went to the airport for our all-nighter back home. All in all, a fabulous trip.

May, 2006, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

We went to Puerto Vallarta to attend my niece Sue Taylor's wedding (she is my sister's daughter) to Chris Pilarski. We stayed in a beautiful hotel (the Presidente Intercontinental), located between Puerto Vallarta and Mismaloya, which is a little south of Puerto Vallarta.

Chuck & Karen at Puerto Vallarta

We had a great time at the wedding and all of the surrounding events. It was a pleasure seeing the family and meeting Chris and Susie's friends. Chris is a pilot for Air West, and Susie is a family practice physician in Malibu and is a professor at UCLA. If you would like to see a ten-minute video of our trip to Puerto Vallarta, including the wedding, click here. (Note that it takes a few seconds to load the video - be patient!) (Note: All of the videos on this page were created using the "Ken Burns" effect, popularized on Discovery Channel in his epic Civil War pieces and his baseball piece.)

April, 2005, in Paris, Burgandy, & Rhône-Alpes, France

Karen and I went to France in April of 2005 to tour. We celebrated our anniversary in Paris at a dinner at Jacques Cagna's wonderful restaurant on rue des Grands Augustine, near our hotel, L'Hotel on rue des Beaux-Arts. Best dining experience ever. We also dined at some other wonderful establishments, like Guy Savoy's Les Bouquinistes, Jacques Francois on nuits St Georges, Le Bounty Brasserie, and on and on. We had wonderful Champagnes, Burgundies, Pomards, and you-name-it. In Paris, we toured the Louve, saw Mona and Venus of course, and Notre Dame. On several occasions as we looked at our maps, people would come to us and ask if we needed help or directions. We encountered only the best of hospitality from everyone with whom we had contact. At Notre Dame, for example, a mature Parisian stopped us and said she had something interesting to show us... a secret. She took us to a panel sculpture on the side of the building. She told us the story of a man trying to get to Mary Magdalene's body as her casket was being carried to her tomb, and his hands were cut off. Sure enough, on the sculpture we saw two unattached hands on the casket and a man lying at the foot of a procession without his hands. She was very entertaining and she just wanted these two tourists to gain some greater appreciation of the site. Such were the people we met. If you would like to see a twelve-minute video of our trip to France, click here. (Note that it takes a few seconds to load the video - be patient!)

Below: We are at Notre Dame in Paris, and at the Deaux Maggots:
Chuck and Karen at Notre Dame in Paris   Chuck and Karen at Deux Maggots

Our tours included the Eiffel Tower, the Arc D'Triomphe, the gardens of the Teulleries, St. Chapelle, and we crossed the Seine every day from our L'Hotel in St. Germain on the Riv Gauche. We had cafe latte at Deaux Maggots, the cafe widely known for the intellectuals such as Jean Paul Satre who dined there. We stayed in Paris four days, and then took the SNCF from Paris Gare Lyon to Lyon Perrache (just train stations, but they sound so nice, don't they?).

Below: St. Chapelle Interior in Paris, and Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in the Louve:
St.  Chapelle Interior in Paris Mona Lisa in the Louve

In Lyon we stayed at Cour des Loges, a beautiful hotel in a connected cluster of buildings built in the 13th & 14th centuries. Our room had a garden (see photos). We loved Lyon, and had a fine meal at Pierre Orsi. You have to talk with Pascal Nabat, the Maitre d'Hotel there. Both Jacques Cagna and Pascal Nabat spoke with us extensively about Georges Perrier, who of course is famous for Le Bec Fin and other Fine Philadelphia establishments. We also dined at Le Palais Saint Jean near our hotel, and a small restaurant, Proseca. The small restaurants are generally called "Bouchons". The specialties of local gastronomy include Quenelles (almost like an omelet with more substance based on fish), Gratons (a fried pork), Cervelle de Canuts ('cervelle' means brains and Canuts were the old silk workers of Lyon, but is just cheese and spices), and of course, andouilettes (sausages made of tripes - cow intestines). Don't try the Andouilettes unless you are adventuresome; I did and would have preferred something else. Oh, and the wines! I dwell on the dining only because Lyon is the capital of French gastronomy.

Below: Karen in the garden by our room at Cour De Loge in Lyon, and a view of the Lyon Open Air Market:
Karen in the garden by our room at Cour De Loge in Lyon Lyon Open Air Market

We walked through the Traboules (like tunnels through ancient houses), we took the Fanicular (tram) up to the Fourviere (a cathedral with a great view of the city), we toured the ancient Roman ruins in Lyon, wondered at the brilliant combination of the very old, the old, and the new in the buildings and continued use of streets, etc. We wandered around Lyon on both sides of the Saone River. Lyon is built among the Saone and Rhone rivers, like Philadelphia is built between the Schuylkill and the Delaware rivers.

We drove from Lyon to Beaune. Actually, we toured a number of villages along the way, taking small roads instead of highways. We went to Cluny and toured what was once the center of the Catholic empire, where four successive Popes lived. It is a fascinating assembly of 12th and 13th century buildings. We had an enormously pleasant lunch on the square. Driving from Cluny we passed so many beautiful villages, stopping from time to time. In Beaune we stayed at the very best hotel I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing: Le Cep on rue Maufoux. Jean-Claude Bernard is the manager, and he runs a truly magnificent place.

Below: Chuck at Cluny, and a church wall example in Cluny:
Chuck at Cluny Church wall example in Cluny

While in Beaune we toured the wonderful wine region, including a stop in Dijon. There we toured the Palace Ducal, where the Duke of Burgundy lived and is entombed. We stopped for lunch in Fixin, a tiny village in the midst of vineyards, where we dined at Napoleon, an ancient and beautiful little restaurant that I'm sure tourists rarely find. We had a grand meal of Boeuf Bourguignon, a local specialty. Too good. We then toured Clos du Vougeot, a spectacular ancient winery amidst the vineyards. No longer in operation, it has 13th century wine presses that you cannot believe unless you see them. A beautiful chateau or castle, whichever it is. You should try the wines of Clos du Vougeot. Or the Pommards. Or, oh you get the picture. At the bar at Le Cep, Monseur Bernard introduced us to Armagnac Veuve J. Goudoulin, a fine vintage brandy, that he mixed with a champagne. What a treat! Then he served us several trays of hors D'Oeurves that included little breads on which he toasted cheeses.

Below: Auxerre river scene, and the ancient Veougeot wine press:
Auxerre river scene the ancient Veougeot wine press

Finally we drove to Paris, but on smaller roads. We stopped at villages along the way, like Sussy, Avallon, and Auxerre. These were very pleasant (no so much Avallon), and we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the countryside. We stayed our last night in the Airport Hilton to kind of re-insert ourselves into our real world. We flew back through Frankfurt, the reverse of how we arrived. The whole trip was business class, courtesy of USAir Gold Preferred miles. We flew mostly Lufthansa, and the travel was extraordinarily pleasant.

Below: Typical scene driving near Sussy:
Farmland scene in Sussy

So much for France. We shall return. {editor’s note: We did return in the Fall of 2013 - see above}

Other Travels

Summer, 2004, in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Karen and I traveled to Barcelona in 2004, where I attended the International Interactive TV Conference. We were lucky enough to have been hosted by TNS personnel, who provided us with unmatched hospitality, touring, dining, and the use of a car, driver, and guide. It was a spectacular visit to a spectacular city. If you would like to see a seven-minute video of our trip to Barcelona, click here. (Note that it takes a few seconds to load the video - be patient!)

Winter, 2003, in Paradise Island, The Bahamas

In the winter of 2003/04, we went to Atlantis, Paradise Island, The Bahamas. We have visited Cape Cod and Martha's Vinyard, Maine, Bermuda (Honemoon), San Diego & Mexico, San Francisco, Florida (many times... St. Pete/Isla del Sol, Orlando, ...), Baltimore Harbor, Annapolis, St. Michaels, Maryland, and Avalon at the Jersey Shore (several summers). In 2005 we visited Washington, DC, where we went to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, The National Gallaries, Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian, Capital, South Garden of the White House, and the Smithsonian. That, plus fine dining, makes for a great trip.

September, 2002, in Rome &Tuscany, Italy

We went to Rome in September, 2002, and we saw many scenes like those below for 12 days in Rome, Venice, Ravenna, and Tuscany. If you would like to see a twelve-minute video of our trip to Italy in 2002, click here. (Note that it takes a few seconds to load the video - be patient!)

Below: Treste Fountain (“3 coins”) in Rome, and Roma Antiqua (400BC-200AD) ruins near Rome:
Treste Fountain in Rome Roma Antiqua Scene
Below: Chuck on D'Ingheterra Balcony in Rome, and Karen in Tuscany Diabolo Vinyard
Chuck in Hotel Balcony in Rome Karen at Abergo Borgo Pretale<
Below: Karen in Tuscany Diabolo Vinyard
Karen In Tuscany Vinyard

We flew into Rome, stayed at Aberge D'Inghiterra near the Spanish Steps, & toured for three days. Then we trained to Venice and stayed just off St. Mark's Square, and toured two days. We drove to Ravenna for one overnight stay, and then drove through the mountains to Tuscany. We stayed close to Siena, in Sovicille, in a centuries-old farmhouse converted to a small resort called Abergo Borgo Pretale.

It and all of Tuscany was beautiful. We toured wineries, castles, and towns. The food and wine were peerless.

Spring, 2002, in Washington, DC

Karen & I went to Washington, DC, in Spring of 2002 and toured all the sites: capital, Vietnam Vets, ...

Travel Picture

Prior trips are not documented herein. Sorry that you missed them.

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