Monday, November 20, 2017

Best Uruguay travel websites

When you want to research your travels to Uruguay the best Uruguay travel websites will help you to find the information to plan the perfect vacation.

Uruguay is a small country in South America. It is often referred to as the heart shaped country because of its shape. It is bordered by Brazil and Argentina and the Atlantic Ocean. The capital city is Montevideo and the majority of the population of the country live in or near the city. Many wonderful beaches are located in Uruguay, some are very quiet and others are filled with music and excitement. So no matter what you are looking for in a vacation, arts, music, relaxing or great food you will find it all in Uruguay. 


Welcome Uruguay is a commercial website that is almost too busy to look at, there is a lot going on. Things are moving and the advertising is pretty blatant but in the midst of all this there is plenty of useful information.

Across the top right below the pictures are three very thin and hard to see buttons, Littoral, Center and The Beaches. Clicking on the link brings up some more choices, with Littoral one of the choices Carmelo which is a city in the province of Colonia.

When you get to the new page there is an overview of the city in the center and there is a list of links on the left side which will give you further information. Some of the options are Tourist Services, Tours, Photo Gallery and Where to sleep. If you click on Tourist Services, you get the name of a car rental agency and other travel services.

On the left side below the links that apply to Carmelo there is a section called Topics. It has a section for Hot Springs and another is Wines of Uruguay. If you click on Hot Springs it brings up an article and a map with the locations of the Hot Springs.

This is just one small section of a very detailed website. It is easy to navigate and while the front page could be improved the rest of the site is much easier to see and understand.
Given the scarcity of websites to help you plan your trip to Uruguay,

Discover Uruguay is a ray of sunshine. The site covers a lot of ground from lodging and transportation to actually making those reservations. The activities section has a great list of things you can do but there are no clickable links to take you to more information. So while you now know that there are casinos to enjoy where they are and how to get there is not provided. But at least you can take that information and go looking other places. Discover Uruguay is another commercial site that sells tours but you can use them to send you in the right direction.

Uruguay Natural is the official tourism site of Uruguay. It is hard to believe that the official website for the country does not make it to the first five pages of a Google search of Uruguay, but its’ true. What you notice first in the banner is the social media site icons, they really catch your eye. I guess on a site that features travel to your country that isn’t what you want people to notice first but it is what caught my eye.

The pictures on the homepage don’t change and the choices along the top are Home, Places to Go, Things to See and Information. If you scroll down past the first massive photo you get six choices of Places to See. Sorry but the design of this website is just poor and made me want to go someplace else almost immediately. I suggest you do find another place for your research because what is available on this site is very superficial and not of much use except in a very general way. This is probably the worst official website I have ever come across.


What is quite obvious at this point is that planning a trip to Uruguay is not going to be easy using just one website. You will need to use these to send you looking for more specific information. You can also use all the old standbys like Trip Advisor, National Geographic, Frommer, Fodor, and Lonely Planet. Uruguay is a fascinating country and all the effort will be worth it in the end.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Best tours of Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax is a city that deserves to be toured. No matter how you arrive there, by plane, by car or by cruise ship, you will want to take one of the many tours that are offered to enhance your visit.

Hop on Hop off Double Decker
These authentic London style red double-decker buses allow the visitor to take a full tour which goes to all the most important historic sites and then get off and back on when they are ready These buses run during the warm weather and services ends in mid-October. The tour has fifteen stops and you will receive a map with your ticket. Some of the stops include The Citadel, Pier 21 where the cruise ships come in and the Museum of Natural History.
What isn't included on this tour is Fairview Lawn Cemetery where the Titanic victims are buried.

Deluxe City Tour
This three-hour tour is offer twice daily at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. from June 1st until October 15th. If you are visiting on a cruise at a later date they will have made arrangement for the tours to be available through the cruise lines. Tour buses are trolleys that look like the original San Francisco trolleys. Tours are guided and your kilted tour guide will provide an interesting and informative running narrative as you travel through the streets of Halifax.

This tour visits the Citadel for a photo opportunity but does not allow enough time for a visit. The trolley parks outside of Fairview Lawn Cemetery. The tour includes a guided tour through the graves of the Titanic victims and the fascinating stories that the graves hide. There are many photo opportunities on this tour be sure to bring along your camera.

Private Limo Tour
If you have a limited amount of time to spend in Halifax this may be the perfect choice. They will do a custom tour to your specifications. All the fun of being chauffeured around and none of the formality.

Historic Halifax Walking Tour
If you prefer to do it on your own you can visit Halifax Tourism Website and get a copy of their suggested two to three-hour walking tour. It will take you through the downtown area and even the Citadel. The city is hilly and you will need to have a certain amount of stamina to attempt this walk but the effort will be well worth it.

Harbor Hopper Tour
If you enjoy the Duck Tours that are so popular in many American Cities then the Harbor Hopper will provide much of the same thrill. You will spend fifty-five minutes driving through the streets of Halifax enjoying the narrated tour and then off into the harbor for a unique view of the Halifax and Dartmouth skylines. Be on the lookout for the green frog that decorates the side.


No matter how you choose to tour, Halifax is sure to delight and intrigue. Most tours are available only during the summer months so plan your trip accordingly.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Comfort Inn Clarion, PA

I am sure you may have noticed that I tend to be very brand loyal when it comes to hotels and my usual choices are Marriott, Holiday Inn or Omni. However, there are times when one of these hotels isn't available or is so over priced that I have to try to find an alternative, this was one of those cases. The Comfort Inn in Clarion was well located and well priced and therefore I decided after considerable research on Trip Advisor to give it a try. I wasn't disappointed. 


The hotel is two-story and you enter through the lobby, the rooms are not accessible directly from the exterior. The lobby is not exceptional about the lobby but you will immediately see the pool and spa which is directly ahead of you as you enter. Across from the desk, coffee is available and in the hall is an ice machine.

This hotel hs smoking rooms and that is one reason I usually am not a big fan of Choice Hotels. If you want to be away from them, be sure to make your preference known. The first room assigned to us would have been too close to the smoking section to be comfortable. It is also important to note that there is no elevator so if your room is on the second floor, you will need to carry your luggage up the stairs. We opted for first floor and got room 106. It is located right next door to the breakfast room.

Did I mention that breakfast is included? It is and is quite an adequate spread. Scrambled and boiled eggs, sausage, two kinds of bagels, three choices of cold cereal and make your own oatmeal, two kinds of bread to toast, English muffins, Danish and mini muffins, yogurt, fruit cocktail (the canned variety) and make your own waffles which can be had with strawberries and cream or syrup. The one problem is a small breakfast room with only 5 tables and a few bar seats. The room could hold a couple more tables and it would be a good idea to add them. People were walking out in disgust or standing around making those eating feel uncomfortable.

The room

The king room was spacious. The bed had modern bedding with a white duvet and coverlet in a neutral color. It had five pillows which while not feather or down were what most people prefer however, the mattress was soft. A flat screen TV sits on the dresser across from the TV. There are 70 channels available including HBO. Sound proofing was good and we were not disturbed by any noise.

The room also has a sofa which converts into a bed. There is a large desk working area. As you enter the room there is a closet with an ironing board and iron and a luggage rack. There is also a bar area with a small sink, microwave and fridge. The coffeepot is located on the desk which seems a bit odd but at least there was a coffee pot.

Location

One thing that this hotel has going for it is its location. It is less than a mile off of the interstate and adjacent to a small mall. In the mall there is a K-Mart and several other stores and also a very good steak restaurant. It is nice to be able to walk out to dinner and leave the car parked at the hotel.

Condition

Overall the hotel was in good shape. The room was clean with only a little bit of mold located on the caulking behind the tub in the bathroom. The sink was also cracked as were a few of the floor tiles and there was rust on the frame of the door. The closet door was very difficult to close once it was opened so it only got opened once. The wooden furniture had its share of nicks, scratches and gouges but the carpet looked in good condition as did the bedding. The air conditioner worked great and kept us very comfortable.

Staff

The woman at the desk was very helpful and gave us a coupon to use at the steakhouse which got us a 10 percent discount. She also made sure we had a room away from the smoking area which I really appreciated.


The all-important question, would I stay at the Comfort Inn again? Yes I would. The location is convenient and the overall condition and amenities are good. There are a few small details that could be better but we slept well and at the end of the day, that is what is the most important. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

An evening entertainment at Circa 21 Dinner Theater

If you happen to be in Rock Island, Il and are looking for an evening of entertainment, Circa 21 Dinner Playhouse is the place to come. You will get to enjoy a delicious pre-show dinner, be serenaded by your waitstaff and follow that with a very entertaining show. 

The spacing in the theater is excellent, The tables to dining and viewing have plenty of space between them and are on levels. You don't feel as if you are sharing you meal with your neighbors. 

The building that houses the theater is historic and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of the original details are still visible. Of particular interest is the head of the Indian Chief Blackhawk. Constructed in 1921, it was known as the Fort Armstrong Theatre for 55 years 

Originally a Vaudeville and silent movie house, by the 1970’s had fallen into disrepair. The building was rescued by Denny Hitchcox who saved it from being razed and turned into a parking lot. The playhouse celebrated its 37th season in 2013 so as you can imagine, there are thousands of grateful patrons.

While the original auditorium could hold over 1500 people, the theater now seats 344. Six or seven main stage shows are offered per year and subscriptions are available. Dinner is a buffet with plenty of delicious choices. The buffet is set up on the first level near the stage on the right hand side. You can order alcoholic drinks which are not included in the ticket price.

Dessert is served separately and should be ordered early enough so that it can be delivered at the appropriate time. You have a choice of having it after the pre-show or during intermission. We ordered the strawberry shortcake for intermission and it was both huge and delicious.

The wait-staff, known as “bootleggers”, do a warm up show. It is amazing to see your waiter or waitress dancing and singing their heart out and they all have great voices.

The quality of the show was excellent. Not quite Broadway but better than most local theater. The people that perform here have to audition and many of them have had extensive experience on Broadway and around the country. If you are going to be in the Quad-Cities, be sure to check what is playing at the playhouse and book your tickets in advance at their website so that you are not disappointed.

Monday, October 23, 2017

A visit to Stonewall Kitchen in York, Maine

Most people have heard of Stonewall Kitchen. Their products are sold all over the country. If you happen to be visiting York, Maine, you have the opportunity to visit not only their flagship store but also their kitchens where cooking classes are offered. This is the corporate headquarters. It is bigger than any other store of theirs that I have ever visited. You can also eat at their cafe. 

Why you ask is it important that their kitchen is located here? They offer cooking classes at their cooking school. It is one of the most entertaining meals that I have ever enjoyed and I can’t wait to go back and do it again.

The number of participants is limited. You are not going to get to cook yourself. However, either guest chief or members of their talented staff are going to cook a meal for you and are going to be able to watch them go through it step by step and ask questions. You will be given the recipes so that you can create the meal at home and it is not just to promote the food items that they sell, however, many of the implements they use to cook are for sale in the kitchen store and participants get a 10 percent discount.

The menus vary; they are seasonal, regional and always interesting. On Sunday’s there is usually brunch, on some days there is lunch and dinner and on others just lunch or just dinner. There is a calendar on their website that will give you the menu choices, the price and the time of the meal. Some examples are “Sensational Fall Flavors” with the following menu:

Spinach Salad with a Warm Bacon Shallot Dressing
From Scratch Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Fried Shallots
Herbed Roast Pork Tenderloin with Pan Gravy
Sausage, Leek and Herb Cornbread Stuffing
Maple Pumpkin Bread Pudding.
Another menu “Fall in Italia” has the following menu:
Autumn Salad of Apple, Bleu Cheese, Candied Walnuts and Spinach with Warm Bacon Dressing
Handcrafted Linguini with Wild Mushroom Cream
Herb Crusted Pork Loin with Fennel and Figs
Chocolate Hazelnut Gelato.

As you can see, the menus have multiple courses and take about an hour and a half to serve and enjoy. The average price is $55 per person but there are special meals that can run a little higher.


I did this together with my friend Cindy. We enjoyed our dinner so much that we checked to see if Sunday brunch still had openings but we were out of luck. We also enjoyed shopping in the kitchen store especially with the 10 percent discount. We stayed in Wells but there are plenty of options in York. This is a great girlfriends or mother and daughter getaway weekend idea, I am looking forward to doing it again soon.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Springhill Suites Fishkill New York

Springhill Suites in Fishkill is a new hotel and the design is just gorgeous. The rooms are sleek and modern with a very stylish appearance. We loved it at first sight. The person who welcomed us at the desk was friendly but did not tell us what time breakfast was served or that a side door was much more convenient for our rooms. 

I was not welcomed as a silver member which I always am and thanked for my loyalty. Usually I arrive in my room to find extra towels and pillows which I have requested, they are not guaranteed but usually, they are there, not here they weren’t.

Another thing that I found odd was that I received an email about noon on the day we were checking in asking me if we were still coming. Since I had two rooms reserved and would have been charged a very high cancellation fee if I didn’t show, I certainly was. What if I had not looked at my emails as we were driving, would they have given my room away? That I found rather disturbing.

Once we got to our room, we were quite delighted with what we found. I had a king sized bed, a very comfortable one I have to say, A desk that was part of a room divider, a sofa that turns into a single bed and a trundle bed a coffee table with a tray on top, Keurig coffeemaker, microwave, and fridge.


The bathroom is downright glamorous, with a huge walk-in shower, sleek white countertops and sink, a night light which I love, glass barn door and separate, though not closed off toilet area. Also a good sized closet and though Joe did not have a luggage rack in his, we did in ours. A metal bench  covers the radiator and it served as a good place for him to place his luggage.

The room was very clean and had plenty of plugs but the nightstand on the left side of the bed had no plugs so I couldn’t plug in my phone unless I changed sides of the bed which I didn’t want to do, that I found inconvenient. How do they know that both of you don’t want to charge your devices on your nightstand? Breakfast is a wonderful affair with scrambled eggs, bacon, turkey sausage, cheese to top the eggs and soft tacos to wrap your eggs and salsa. Chocolate croissants, bread, bagels, and muffins. Oatmeal, cold cereal and make your own waffles, you won’t go away hungry.


Marriott has also decided to get rid of the hot tubs in their newer hotels or ones that they update to the new design. I am not at all pleased with this decision and it may well be what drives me into the arms of another chain. When we travel, I enjoy a soak in the hot tub after a long day on the road, I find their decision very disappointing.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Structures built for world fairs that you can still visit

World’s Fairs and Expositions have been happening for over 150 years. They have been located in many different cities and the structures are usually built with the intention of being temporary. In spite of that, there are a number of structures that have remained for many times longer than their original designers intended. Here are a few of them that you may just want to visit.

Probably the oldest extant structure that was built for a World’s Fair or Exposition is the Eiffel Tower which was constructed in 1889 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. The International Exposition of Paris lasted for 180 days and welcomed over 32 million people. It was certainly the first of its kind to achieve this scope of influence and the Eiffel Tower was the showpiece of the exhibition. Imagine how impressive it was over 100 years ago before there were buildings as tall as those we have today. And yet, there is hardly a person who would visit Paris in 2016 and not see and be impressed by the marvelous building designed by Gustav Eiffel.

The Parthenon in Nashville was built for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897. It was originally supposed to open in 1896 which was the actual 100th anniversary but none the less it was a great success welcoming almost 2 million visitors in the six months that it was open. The Parthenon was the Fine Arts Building at the exposition and proved to be one of the most popular. So popular in fact that it was not torn down with the rest of the temporary buildings. That is not to say that the gorgeous building of today is totally original, it isn’t. It had to undergo a massive rebuild in order to make it permanent. Any visitor to Nashville will agree, it is amazing. So amazing in fact that when the Greek Government was going work on the original, they used the Nashville version to help them, pretty impressive for a temporary building.

One of Brussels Belgium’s most iconic sights is the Atomium. It was built for the 1958 World’s Fair and was the main building of the fair. Five of the spheres on the structure are open to the public and offer a permanent exhibit, temporary exhibit space and also some wonderful views. No visit to Brussels is complete without at least having your picture taken in front of this unusual structure. It was built in an era where atomic energy had been used to end a war and ways were being looked at for a peaceful use of atomic energy.

These are just three of the many interesting buildings that have been built for World’s Fairs. A few others include the Vasco da Gama Tower in Lisbon, Portugal, The Unisphere in Flushing Meadow, N.Y., The Space Needle in Seattle, Wash., The Palace of Fine Arts in Chicago and the Tower of the Americas in San Antonio, Texas.

As these all indicate, being the location of a World’s Fair can mean that a tourist attract will be left behind for visitor’s to enjoy for years to come.