Friday, March 23, 2018

Hotel review: Hotel Mondial Lisbon

If you are looking for charm then you had better continue your search for a hotel in Lisbon. This is no charm in this hotel. However, if you want a comfortable hotel, which is used by tour groups and has a very good location then this is the perfect place.

You won't be impressed by the lobby, it is small. The staff can at times be harried but once they get to know you they are very helpful and if not overly friendly, are efficient.  A major snafu before we arrived resulted in our being taxied to another hotel for the first night of our reservation. As the hotel we were sent to was a five-star luxury hotel, it was no hardship and they paid for the taxi both ways. They were very nice to us and when we returned we were given a room even though it was too early to check in, we were also upgraded to a superior room. Let me say at this time that even a superior room is cramped so you might want to upgrade as well.

This is a large hotel with 350 rooms and the elevators are small. It can get congested. Breakfast is included in the rate and is served 7:30-10:30. It is a buffet and while not expansive has enough to fill you up. Some fresh fruit, cold cereal, ham and cheese, scrambled and hard-boiled eggs. They have a very unique toaster but great bread. Small croissants, sweet rolls and of course coffee, tea and hot chocolate round out the breakfast offerings. The bacon is very undercooked for our tastes and there are also little sausages. We found the oranges to be the highlight of the food offered.

The rooms have very basic furnishings. Blond furniture, very firm mattresses, small pillows and nice fresh clean bedding are comfortable if charmless. There is a desk with a chair and also an additional chair, a large closet and a stand for the luggage. You have a choice of twin beds or double bed. The TV is the old fashioned kind but worked and had a couple English speaking channels (CNN and BBC World).

The bathroom is all tiled. One sink, 2 bathrobes, large deep tube and a bidet. The first day a fruit basket and a bottle of water were delivered. The room has a minibar and a safe for which you must buy the key at the desk, WiFi is available but not free. when we were there the rates were 18 Euros for 72 hours or 3.6 Euros for 1 hour.

You may have a view of the castle from your room or as we did a view of the plaza in front. You are located right around the corner from the Praca Rossio and with the location right below the castle, it doesn't get better than this.

The hotel has 2 restaurants and a bar. One restaurant is on the 8th floor and has views of the castle. You need a reservation to eat there and if you arrive without one your reception will be cold in the extreme, this from personal experience.

The hotel can and will arrange tours for you. They can have you picked up by one of the tour bus companies or arrange a private tour. We did both and private is so much better.

All in all, this is a good hotel, after all the room is just where you sleep and the price was reasonable, not cheap but reasonable.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Sampling wine in North Lake Tahoe

When you think about North Lake Tahoe the first thing that comes to mind is water sports and skiing. Among the many other things of interest in the area north of Lake Tahoe are wineries.

This is an area as old as the continent itself. The valley where Truckee is located and Donner Pass were carved out by glaciers and its early occupants were nomadic tribes. Truckee was named after an Indian who helped early settlers find their way through the treacherous Sierra Mountain passes.

Truckee River Winery

For the last twenty years, this slightly cooler and higher area of California has been delivering a surprisingly good vintage of wine. Tastings are available every day except Tuesdays and right now they are producing a Pinot Noir, a Zinfandel, a Pinot Gris and a Sauvignon Blanc. The available bottles are limited so if you taste something you love, don’t hesitate to buy a bottle, if you wait, it may be too late.

Today, one of the most amazing things about Truckee is this winery.

Whispering Vine Wine Company

If you are in Reno and looking to taste a variety of local and not so local wines, Whispering Vines Wine Company offers the ability to taste wine every day of the week but they also have a calendar of events to attend for something extra special. Many of these special events will feature a variety of wines from a particular vintner.

Locals and regular visitors can set up their own wine club with regularly scheduled tastings. The selection is outstanding and the d by the glass or flight.

Nevada City Winery

Like many small wineries, Nevada City began in the garage of Alan Haley. Today it is still in a garage but a historic one that is located very close to where the original Winery was located in Nevada City over 100 years ago. As you can see, this is an area that is not new to the growing of grapes and the production of fine wines. The tasting room is open daily and if you would like a tour they take place on Saturdays at 1:30 p.m.

Several award-winning vintages on offer here. They have won many awards for the Syrah as well as their Merlot and Sangiovese. These are just of few of the wines that are offered here.

The next time you are in the North Tahoe area, stop by one of these three locations for a great opportunity to taste some of the local wines.

For more information:

Truckee River Winery
Nevada City Winery
Whispering Vines Wine Company

Monday, March 12, 2018

Popular accommodations in Charleston, SC

Charleston, S.C. is one of the most popular destinations on the east coast. It is in what is known as the Low Country and has been an important port for most of its existence. Charleston was the place where the Civil War began. Fort Sumter is located in the harbor and is still a popular tourist destination today. Visitors are looking for someplace special to rest their heads, here are some of the most popular accommodations in Charleston.

The John Rutledge House Inn is one of the best known of Charleston’s places to stay. John Rutledge was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and this is one of the houses he owned. George Washington really did visit here; he had breakfast with the lady of the house. There are 19 rooms located in three buildings at this inn. You can choose between rooms in the original house and ones in the two carriage houses. Some of the rooms have working fireplaces and jetted tubs. All rooms have robes, flat screen TVs, wireless Internet, and refrigerators. A deluxe continental or cooked breakfast is included with the room. Afternoon tea and complimentary evening port, sherry or brandy is also offered.

The French Quarter Inn is a hotel but a magnificent one with an impeccable location. The rooms are very nice, the suites are exceptional. The bathrooms are large and have real soaking tubs. Included with a stay here are lots of opportunities to eat. Breakfast is available in the lobby or it can be delivered to your room. It is a hearty continental. Iced tea and lemonade are available throughout the day. In the afternoon, tea, snacks, cheese, and wine are served. In the evening, it is cookies and milk. The hotel has its own parking and you will be able to walk to just about anyplace in the city where you want to go. Restaurants and shopping are just seconds away. You will feel special from the moment you check in and receive your complementary lady fingers and champagne. This was our personal choice when we stayed in the city.

Located in one of the most historic areas of Charleston, the Battery Carriage House is an accommodation that offers guests the opportunity to view the harbor and Fort Sumter right outside the gates. This is a bed and breakfast with 11 unique rooms that provide an oasis in the midst of this residential neighborhood. All of the rooms have their own private entrance and come with a continental breakfast that can be served in your room or under the arbor in the garden.

There are three types of rooms, the kings come with jetted tubs and are the most spacious. Lower Carriage House Rooms are the smallest and include a queen-sized four poster bed. Upper Carriage House Rooms are a bit larger and have canopy beds. Afternoon tea and snacks are served as well as evening wine receptions. Rooms come with a plush robe, wireless Internet access, and a daily newspaper. Modern amenities are mixed with antiques and historic ambiance.

If you are traveling to Charleston with children, don’t worry, there is a really spectacular place for you to stay that is also child-friendly, Charleston Place. For the adults, there are luxurious rooms, a spa that has been voted the best city hotel spa in North America by "Travel and Leisure" and a great fitness center and pool. The kids haven't been forgotten, they have their own splash pool, a special welcome package, free meals in the hotel restaurant and even a mini bathrobe so that they can enjoy the luxury as well.

These are just four of the many places that are available for visitors to Charleston. They are more at the top end of the budget but they offer great locations and the ability to walk to all the local attractions and after all, Charleston is a special destination. For the budget conscious, there are plenty of chain hotels and motels a little outside of the historic section.

For more information:

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Jewish Museum New York City

When it comes to museums, New York City has them in abundance. From the amazing Metropolitan Art Museum to the Museum of Natural History, New York has it all, even a few religious museum. One that is often overlooked is the Jewish Museum. It has a premier location on Fifth Avenue across from Central Park and is great combined with a visit to the Museum of New York City or the Met.

 Security at the museum is high as should be expected. I found it to be on par with what we experienced when we visited the Houses of Parliament in London. You will go through a metal detector, empty your pockets and even open your purse. While it may be a small annoyance, it is worth it to feel safe while you visit.

 Guided tours are offered at the museum Monday through Friday. We visited on a Sunday and took advantage of the offered audio guide. It will greatly enhance your appreciation of what you are seeing. The museum has an excellent website and it is always advisable to check what special exhibits are being offered.

The Jewish Museum is set on four floors with the temporary exhibits housed on floors one and two and the permanent collection Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey being located on floors three and four. This exhibit is fascinating. 

The history of the Jewish people and their ability to survive the most amazing tragedies and adversity make for a very interesting look at the history of our world. By the time you have walked through 4000 years of Jewish history you will be able to answer the questions that the exhibit addresses: "How has Judaism been able to thrive for thousands of years across the globe, often in difficult and even tragic circumstances? What constitutes the essence of Jewish identity?" 

One of the narrators on the
audioguide is Leonard Nimoy, which is interesting since for many people it is hard to disassociate him from his character Mr. Spock. He talks about the tradition of circumcision in the Jewish culture among other things. In case you weren’t aware, Mr. Nimoy was Jewish.

The exhibits are very interesting and well done with plenty of additional material to read. You can delve deeper if you have the interest or you can just let your audio guide direct you around. I was very interested, as a Christian, to see how the issue of Jesus would be addressed. He was after all first and foremost Jewish. He is a part of their exhibit on sects and conflict which from the Jewish perspective is the perfect place for such a controversial figure.

I found the section on the three Jewish traditions, Mizrahi, Sephardi and Ashkenazi very interesting. If you have always been drawn to the religious traditions of the world, this museum will be fascinating for you. They have a very nice kosher cafĂ© where you can nosh before, during or after your visit. Allow several hours for your visit here.

Admission is $15 for adults and the museum is open every day though, some parts are closed on Saturday since it is the Sabbath including the shops and the children’s interactive a

Monday, February 26, 2018

Disadvantages of staying with family on vacation

Most people have a family. Most people love their family. Staying with family on vacation can be a big saving. However, as we all know, family always comes with some strings attached and you need weigh very carefully if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages of staying with family on vacation.


Let’s face it unless your family runs a bed and breakfast the accommodations may not be quite up to what you would get at a hotel. Chances are you are not going to have your own private bathroom, you may or may not have TV in your room and the bed size may not be what you are used to. You may even have to sleep on a pull out sofa in the den and this can result in a total lack of privacy. 

If you are a light sleeper this may cause issues. If you are a germaphobe, you may want to bring along a small spray can of Lysol so that you can sanitize the shared bathroom before you shower. Remember, you are a guest and this isn’t a hotel so you may have to sacrifice some privacy to be able to have a vacation.

Things we have come across, too soft mattress, double beds, woolen blankets (I'm allergic ) and water that has a sulfur smell.


Again, when you are a guest of family they are likely going to provide some meals. You have to let them know in advance if you are not a breakfast eater or if you have foods that you are allergic to. Going with the flow is the best way to make these kinds of vacations work for everyone involved.

You can always bring along some of the foods you enjoy and offer to cook a meal for everyone. If you are very fussy, this might not be the kind of vacation that will work for you.

We have found that some families just don't feed us enough and we have taken to going for a ride in the evening and getting pizza or a burger. We never have told the family that we are doing this, we just say we are going for a ride to enjoy the scenery.


Keep in mind that you need to adjust your vacation to the schedule of the family you are staying with. If they are early birds while you are staying with them you will need to go to bed at a similar time. You can always read in your room or use your electronic devices quietly of course. It may be difficult to get on their schedule but it really is the polite thing to do.

Our family rarely had a TV in our room and even when we could watch TV, we were in a foreign country and my husband did not understand the language. Books are a lifesaver.


It is always a good idea to discuss your plans with the family. If you plan to be out all day visiting friends in the area or hiking, let your hosts know in advance. Your family may have already made some plans to entertain you and you need to be gracious and try to mesh what you want with what they have planned.

It is your vacation after all and if you would rather sleep in than go hiking with your cousins, you need to make this clear from the beginning. However, if you want to be invited back, it might be wise to go along with some at least of their plans.

Staying with family on vacation can be a wonderful experience or it can be a nightmare. The last thing you want to do is cause major disagreements in your family. Make sure that you respect your host or hostess home and be sure to thank them with a meal out or a nice gift. Sending a thank you note is also a good way to be invited back again in the future.

We have stayed with a variety of family members over the years and have always been welcomed back. There is no better way to bond with family than spending time together and be sure to let them know that they are welcome at your home as well. The disadvantages don't need to keep you from having a wonderful and affordable vacation.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Blanton Art Museum Austin, TX

Plans for a museum at the University of Texas at Austin began in 1927 when Archer M. Huntington made a donation of some land to fund an art museum. It took 11 years for a College of Fine Arts to be founded. In 1963 a small museum was opened, and noted author James Michener and his wife Mari donated a collection of 20th-century American art that substantially improved the collection. So much so, that they had to move to a larger building in 1972.

In April 2006 the new Blanton Museum of Art opened. Designed by Kallman, McKinnell, and Wood, the New Mari and James A. Michener Gallery houses the museum's permanent collection on the second floor. The building is constructed of Texas limestone, granite, and South American Epp wood with a Spanish tile roof. In 2008 a new building housing a cafe, store, and auditorium opened and made the Blanton the largest university art museum in the country.

The Jack S. Blanton Museum is also the home of the Suida-Manning Collection of European Art. This collection brought this museum to a whole new level. They now have the eighth largest collection of Italian old masters outside of Europe. Their collection of 17th-century French paintings is only surpassed by the Metropolitan Museum. The collection is comprised of 250 paintings, 400 drawings, and 20 sculptures.

It is made up of German, French, and Italian art from the 14th through 18th centuries. They went on display in 1999 and are an amazing collection. Many of the items are by lesser-known artists whose work is seldom seen outside of Italy, but one painting has been identified as being by Parmigianino and is only the third one in this country.

If you like Western American Art, and of course this is the West, the C.R. Smith Collection of Art of the American West offers an amazing glance at the west as it used to be with cowboys, wranglers and Indians.

As you get off the elevator you will fall in love with the beautiful museum. Some wonderful and unexpected English portraits are the first thing you see. The whole feeling is light and airy with high ceilings and amazing arches and angles.

Rooms of the fantastic European collection are followed by rooms of amazing prints. Mixed in there is a few antiquities. On to the modern works and one where you actually can walk into it. This museum is a winner and a must-see for anyone going to Austin. A gift shop is located in the new Edgar A. Smith Building which is a much-expanded version of the previous small one in the Michener Building.

Parking is available at the Brazos Garage and at several other lots in the area. The problem can be that this is a very busy area and they are often filled. Be persistent and don't take no for an answer and eventually you will find a spot and it is so worth it. The Blanton Museum of Art is a very important museum and one that you shouldn't miss if you are in Austin.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Events that are calling you to Boston this Spring

Spring in Boston is filled with the scent of flowers, the grass on The Common is turning green and love is in the air. Love of baseball that is. One of the sure signs that spring is here is when fans start heading to  Fenway Park to see their favorites the Boston Red Sox.

The end of March sees the team returning to their home field and their loyal fans. While the park is open for tours all year, it is much more pleasant to tour in the sunny spring weather.
Another harbinger of spring in Beantown is the Flower and Garden Show. This is a tradition that has been going on for 138 years and ushers in the spring season to this area. 

Generations of Bostonians have participated in this rite of spring. The show includes demonstrations, lectures, the introduction of new products, arrangements and gardens. There are competitions and events to entertain every member of the family. For five days the Seaport World Trade Center bursts into colorful life, out with winter and in with spring.

The Boston Early Music Festival has been going on every two years since 1980. It is recognized as one of the premier early music festivals in the world. For a full week, Boston is filled with the sounds of opera, soloists and a variety of performances.

In response to the people who really can’t skip a year, there are yearly performances offered. The baroque Opera is among the most popular of their many performances.

The Boston Beer Summit takes place at the Park Plaza Castle in downtown Boston. This is an opportunity to taste some wonderful local beers. What happens is for a set price you get a glass and you can taste as many of the brews as you want for over three hours. There is music and if you can’t find the beer of your dreams, well maybe it doesn’t exist. The breweries change so see the website for the listing for this spring's event.

For three days in April, the Boston College Art Festival provides a link between the students at Boston College and the residents of Boston. Over 1000 students participate in the festival and offer music, theater, dance, poetry, painting and a whole lot more. You can try your hands at the arts such as pottery making or you can just enjoy the performances. There will be events to entertain children and adults.

The first Saturday in June, the banks of the Charles come to life with music, dance, and entertainment in a variety of forms at the  Cambridge River Festival. Jazz, Latin music, and art will be offered in abundance. Food, fun and lots of entertainment for the entire family are what attracts 200,000 people to this event annually. 

Boston has a lot going on at any time of the year and spring is no exception. The weather is fine and the city is ready and waiting to welcome visitors and locals alike to all these Spring events and festivals in Boston.

My personal photo of Boston all rights reserved.