Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Travel Articles: Ojai, California


Located off Highway 101 just 30 miles south of Santa Barbara and 14 miles inland from the ocean, the idyllic Ojai valley has attracted visitors since the Chumash Indians discovered it 8,000 years ago.  (The Chumash named it “ojai,” or “nest,” because of the way the mountains encircle the elongated east-west valley.  It’s pronounced “Oh, hi.”)  In 1937, Frank Capra brought Hollywood to this real-life Shangri-la to film "Lost Horizon", and John Lennon and Yoko Ono are rumored to have hidden out here in the early 1970s.  If that’s not testimonial enough for you, too, to relax and spend some quality time together with your hunny here, read on.

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image ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


Bart's Books in Ojai, California
Bart's Books in Ojai, California


Monday, April 27, 2015

Sights to See: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico


Self-Guided Walking Tour of Downtown Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta's cobblestone streets are lined with tiny shops decorated with wrought iron and terracotta-tiled roofs.  Start your walk along the malecón.  The beach here is known as Playa los Muertos (Beach of the Dead), named for a long-ago bloody battle between pirates and local Indian.

seahorse statue in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Don’t-miss sights include:
●the municipal building on the main square (next to the tourism office), which has a stairwell with a large Manuel Lepe mural
Follow nearby Independencia to the picturesque
Parish of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church (Hidalgo 370, (322) 222-1326.  M-Sat 7:30am-8:30pm, Sun 6:30am-8:30pm.  English Mass on Sat at 4pm, bilingual Sun at 10am. No shorts or sleeveless shirts allowed.)  This picturesque church is topped with a lovely crown held in place by angels.  Though the facts are in dispute, it is often described as a replica of the crown worn in Mexico by Empress Carlota, Emperor Maximilian's wife. 

Parish of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe church in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Vendors sell religious mementos on the church steps, and across the narrow street are stalls dispensing native herbs for common ailments.
candy vendor in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Three blocks south of the church, head east on Libertad, a street lined with small shops, to
Río Cuale Mercado/municipal market  By the river.  After, cross the bridge to the island in the river—painters are often working here—and walk down the island’s center toward the sea, until you come to tiny
Museo Río Cuale  Paseo Isla Cuale, no phone.  Tu-Sat 9am-2pm & 3pm-6pm.  Free.  It has a small but impressive permanent exhibit of pottery, grinding stones, and pre-Columbian figurines.
Retrace your steps to the market and Libertad, and walk along Calle Miramar to the brightly colored steps up to Zaragoza.  There you’ll find a splendid view over rooftops to the sea, plus perhaps a cafe offering a snack break. 
This area is known as "Gringo Gulch," because many Americans have homes here.  Continue up steep cobblestoned Zaragoza (you might want to take a taxi).  To the right one block is the famous Casa Kimberley (Zaragoza 445), which was given by actor Richard Burton to actress Elizabeth Taylor during their torrid affair in the 1960s.
Casa Kimberley in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

After they married, they bought the house across the street and linked the two homes via a curved pink bridge above the street.
bridge at Casa Kimberley in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

After being run as a B&B for many years and hosting tours, Casa Kimberley is now being converted into condominiums.  However, Casa Tabachín, is available to rent.  This is the gorgeous retreat, built in 1957, that director John Huston rented after vacating Casa Kimberley for Ms. Taylor.  The Hollywood royalty were in town to film “Night of the Iguana.” 

More things to do in Puerto Vallarta.

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

Friday, April 17, 2015

Sights to See: Kula Eco Park, Coral Coast, Viti Levu, Fiji


Kula Eco Park  Off the Queen's Road, across from the Outrigger Resort on the Lagoon Fiji, in Korotogo, 650 0505.  Daily 10-4:30.  F$20/US$13, under 12 F$10/US$6.50.  Situated beside a tropical forest, Fiji's only wildlife park has a fine collection of brightly colored tropical birds and an aquarium stocked with examples of local sea life.  It is one of the South Pacific's best places to view indigenous local flora and fauna in a natural lush rainforest setting and features an elevated walkway that is handicapped accessible.  It is also the only facility for breeding endangered species in Fiji.  The park has a large collection of iguanas that were confiscated from a smuggler at the airport, and visitors are permitted to hold the reptiles for pictures.  On the lighter side, a sulfur-crested cockatoo here, known as Charlie, was painted orange about 18 years ago for his role in the TV series "Swiss Family Robinson."  He loves to talk, and lives with his female sidekick Ratu.  No ground birds are left on this island; they were all made extinct by the mongoose.  All admission fees go back to caring for the animals.  Allow 2 hours.




travel writer Carole Terwilliger Meyers with iguanas at Kula Eco Park in Fiji
travel writer Carole Terwilliger Meyers with iguana

Hawk's Bill sea turtle at Kula Eco Park in Fiji
Hawk's Bill sea turtle

blue starfish at Kula Eco Park in Fiji
blue starfish

Fiji national bird-collared lory or kula birds-in nesting box at Kula Eco Park in Fiji
Fiji national bird-collared lory or kula birds-in nesting box

Fiji sparrow hawk at Kula Eco Park in Fiji
Fiji sparrow hawk

Indian ringneck parakeet at Kula Eco Park in Fiji
Indian ringneck parakeet

parrot at Kula Eco Park in Fiji
parrot

parrot at Kula Eco Park in Fiji
parrot

parrot at Kula Eco Park in Fiji
parrot

parrot at Kula Eco Park in Fiji
parrot     

kava plant at Kula Eco Park in Fiji
kava plant


pink spiral ginger plant at Kula Eco Park in Fiji
pink spiral ginger plant



Travel articles to inspire and help you plan trips. 

video and images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sights to See: Fountains Abbey, Ripon, North Yorkshire, England


Fountains Abbey  Ripon, North Yorkshire, 30 miles from York.  In the valley of the river Skell, this estate sits in an area of outstanding natural beauty.  It is Britain's largest monastery ruin and a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its 18th-century landscape, 12th-century abbey (founded by Benedictine monks in 1132), Elizabethan Fountains Hall, and Victorian St. Mary's Church.  It is restful to wander through the Studley Royal Water Garden.  Dotted in classical style with temples, follies, and statues, many consider it England's finest water garden.  It includes a medieval deer park, where today more than 500 Red, Sika, and Fallow Deer graze.

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Fountains Abbey entrance in Ripon, North Yorkshire, England
Fountains Abbey entrance in Ripon, North Yorkshire, England

Fountains Abbey ruin in Ripon, North Yorkshire, England
Fountains Abbey ruin
 
Fountains Abbey ruin in Ripon, North Yorkshire, England
Fountains Abbey ruin

Water Garden at Fountains Abbey in Ripon, North Yorkshire, England
Water Garden at Fountains Abbey 
View of Fountains Abbey from Water Garden in Ripon, North Yorkshire, England
View of Fountains Abbey from Water Garden

cottage covered with red creeper near Fountains Abbey in Ripon, North Yorkshire, England
cottage covered with red creeper near Fountains Abbey

Monday, April 13, 2015

Great Sleeps: Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel & Spa, Skipton, North Yorkshire, England


Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel & Spa  Bolton Abbey estate, Skipton, North Yorkshire, 01756-710441. 40 rooms. Full English breakfast. Dogs ok. Free parking. Located right in the middle of England, this estate has been owned by the Dukes of Devonshire since 1753. Built in the early 17th century and refurbished and extended in 1981, it sits removed from the world on the Bolton Abbey estate.


Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel & Spa in Skipton, England
Though upscale and luxurious, the property has a laid-back atmosphere that begins at the entrance. There, guests and staff stash their “wellies,” and on cooler days a welcoming fire greets newcomers as they register. Much of the artwork here comes from Chatsworth House--the Devonshire family home in Derbyshire--which houses one of the finest private art collections in Europe (it is open to the public for tours). Helen Mirren stayed here when she was filming Calendar Girls, and long ago Beatrix Potter came here on holiday and painted the famous 800-year-old Laund oak, which many other artists have also painted.

Guest rooms are decorated uniquely in a contemporary chic style consisting of coordinated fabrics in patterns and solids. To encourage guests to relax and unwind, rooms do not have a clock, but they do have a tea tray equipped with a china tea service bearing the Duke’s crest in gold, a delightfully fast hot water kettle, and a selection of hot chocolate, tea, and powdered coffee—plus shortbread and fruit for a snack. Further English-style comfort is provided in the form of a hot water bottle, and all rooms have a bathtub. The Lismore Suite (named for a castle in Cork, Ireland), where I stayed, has a large deep tub with a metallic tangle of hardware that includes a hand-held shower and an “airbath” feature that sends Jacuzzi-style bubbles out through circles of holes in the tub’s bottom. This suite also has a large shower, a canopy bed with an exquisite multicolor crewel-embroidered floral bedspread, doors that are arched like church windows, and framed photos of its Irish castle namesake. A superb “hills and dales view” of the surrounding estate extends seemingly forever and is visible from most rooms.

Lismore Suite at Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel & Spa in Skipton, England

view from Lismore Suite at Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel & Spa in Skipton, England

The Devonshire Health Spa is situated in a park-like area across the street. It is free to guests and features an indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, and fitness room. On-site recreational activities include 80 miles of footpaths, fishing, cycling, tennis, and cricket, and golf is nearby. Guests can tour the church ruins and take walks through beautiful Strid Woods--famous for the bluebells that carpet its valley in summer. The estate has three gift shops, a post office, a fine foods store, and a rare books shop.

Modern bistro food and local specialties are served in the casual Devonshire Brasserie and Bar. The Burlington Restaurant--named for the Duke’s ancestor, the Earl of Burlington--is a more formal dining room. It has a Michelin star and serves a refined menu of English and French cuisine such as house-smoked duck and loin of estate venison. Everything is prepared on the premises. The establishment is also known for its excellent wines.

Should the roster be full, you might try The Devonshire Fell Hotel. Just 6 miles away, this hill-top sister property offers 12 guest rooms decorated in vivid colors and simply stunning views across the River Wharfe valley and the Yorkshire Dales beyond.

More things to do in England. 
 
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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 


Friday, April 10, 2015

Sights to See: Dead Sea, Israel


Dead Sea
          Situated between the West Bank and Israel to the west and Jordan to the east, the Dead Sea sits more than 1,300 feet below sea level.  Its shores are the lowest point on Earth.  The only life in the water of the world’s deepest salt lake—1,083 feet--is bacteria.  The Dead Sea is also the world's second-saltiest body of water, after Lake Asal in Djibouti.  Its 31.5 percent salinity makes it 8.6 times saltier than the ocean and 9 times saltier than the Mediterranean Sea.  It is long and wide, and its main tributary is the Jordan River.  This sea was one of the world's first health resorts (for Herod the Great), and it was a place of refuge for King David.  And it is hot--one of the hottest places in Israel.  Fortunately, many health spas in the sea offer respite with indoor pools filled with water from the sea.
          There is a technique to floating in the Dead Sea’s buoyant waters.  Enter backwards, walking in a squat as though you are sitting.  When you are in deep enough water, relax and then, without effort, you will float.  Be sure someone is around to hand you a newspaper or book to “read” and to take your picture.  And do take time to apply some of the famous revitalizing mud to your face and body. 

More things to do in Israel

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image ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

floating in the Dead Sea


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Great Sleeps: Dalhousie Castle Hotel, Bonnyrigg, Scotland


Dalhousie Castle Hotel  In Bonnyrigg, 8 miles south of Edinburgh, l (01875) 820153.  24 rooms; restaurant.  Turreted and fortified, with ramparted terraces and battlements, this 13th-century castle is set amid open meadows and woodlands.  It overlooks the banks of the South Esk, from which came the sandstone it is built of.   A path through a bucolic horse pasture follows the river to a watchtower ruin.  The main castle has two ornate, circular, turret-like skylights and a magnificent wood-panneled library with a bar hidden behind a false bookcase door—the perfect spot for a pre-dinner drink.  Another bar and a candle-lit restaurant are in the dungeon.  Rooms feature high 12-foot ceilings and tall windows, with attractively coordinated heavy cotton brocade drapes, antique furniture, and a geometrically patterned carpet.  Large bathrooms equipped with substantial bathtubs invite a good soak.  Wind whistling through the trees sets the mind to imagining, and the stupendous views remind you of what they were once for—not for luxuriating in, but for watching out for invaders and attack. 


Dalhousie Castle Hotel in Bonnyrigg, Scotland

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Great Sleeps: Borthwick Castle Hotel, Midlothia, Scotland


Borthwick Castle Hotel  In North Middleton, Midlothia, 12 miles S of Edinburgh, 01875 820514.  10 rooms.  Built in 1430 and situated in a pastoral valley, this remote castle features a Medieval ambiance and boasts arrow windows that provide tall, narrow framed views of the bucolic countryside.  Mary Queen of Scots sought refuge here in 1567.  Features include a Great Hall with minstrels’ gallery (candlight dinners occur here), a 40-foot Gothic-style vaulted ceiling, and a collection of medieval armor.  Guest rooms are reached via a curving spiral stone staircase.  Some have four-poster beds, and the bed in the Mary Queen of Scots room is covered with blood-red fabric.  Bathrooms are small but set in thick-walled alcoves entered by low doorways--providing the feel of being enclosed in a cozy cave.  The castle has just undergone extensive renovation.


view from Borthwick Castle in Midlothia, Scotland
view from Borthwick Castle in Midlothia, Scotland

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Great Sleeps: Dornroschenschloss Sababurg/Sleeping Beauty's castle, Sababurg, Germany


Dornroschenschloss Sababurg/Sleeping Beauty's castle  Sababurg 12, 011-49(05678) 1052.  Located deep into the forest, off the main road, this isolated, twin-turreted, 600-year-old castle is surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns added in the late 1500s to act as a corral for horses and cattle.  In 1765, the castle was turned into a hunting lodge, which the Brothers Grimm frequently visited. 

Dornroschenschloss Sababurg in Germany

         Entranced by this description, I made reservations long before we left on our trip.  Still, we weren't able to get a room in the romantic tower.  We were instead booked into a newer wing that turned out to be better.  Our pleasantly decorated modern rooms had been skillfully added on to part of the castle ruins.  They had large windows and a small terrace overlooking an animal park that extends for as far as the eye can see.  When we looked out, all we saw was a quiet, misty forest populated with beasts boasting very old lineages.
Tierpark Sababurg in Germany

         Our early afternoon arrival permitted a walk through the 530-acre Tierpark Sababurg that the castle overlooks.  Europe's oldest animal park (zoo), it is populated with the beasts mentioned above--European bison, wild horses and ponies, and reindeer--whose lineages date to pre-historic times.  
         For dinner we dined on venison in the castle's refined, very quiet dining room, where large windows also overlook the animal park. 
         The next morning, before we left, we walked through the part of the castle that is still a ruins.  Romantically draped with climbing roses, it is the setting in summer for outdoor concerts and re-enactments of the tale of Sleeping Beauty.  Sleeping Beauty and her Prince also make unscheduled appearances throughout the year, presenting female guests with a red rose. 
(Note:  Another castle in France's Loire Valley also claims to be the Sleeping Beauty castle.  It is said to have inspired Perrault to write the original story.) 
         The next day's journey began with a short drive through deep, dark, wet woods, during which our imaginations had the opportunity to overreact in traditional fairy tale fashion.  It was quite easy to imagine Goldilocks or Snow White skipping through the trees to their scary fates.  More . . .

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Great Sleeps: Schloss Rheinfels, Schlossberg, Germany


Schloss Rheinfels  5401 St. Goar/Rhein, Schlossberg.  64 rooms.  Pool; sauna; steam room; fitness room.  2 restaurants; 2 bars.  Built in 1245 by Dieter V, this stately castle has a history of battles and bloodshed.  In the late 1400s, Heinrich the III charged tolls to pass on the Rhine.  Anyone who didn’t pay was tossed into the deep, dark, and dank dungeon.  In 1794, the French occupied the castle and ultimately blew it up.  Today, the hotel guest rooms are totally modern, with French-style furnishings and white walls, and many have a dormer window overlooking the Rhine.  Germany's largest vaulted cellar is used for special events, and the fitness room is in the former torture chamber.  Non-guests can also enjoy the Rhine-views from the casual terrace restaurant. 

More castles. 

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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

castle ruins at Schloss Rheinfels in Schlossberg, Germany
castle ruins at Schloss Rheinfels in Schlossberg, Germany


village near Schloss Rheinfels in Schlossberg, Germany
Schlossberg village near Schloss Rheinfels in, Germany