Monday, January 14, 2019

Florida: Planning a visit to Fort Lauderdale

Located on the Atlantic side of Florida, Fort Lauderdale is a great place to retire to and also a great place to visit. It has its own International Airport with regular flights from all over the country and even the world. Amtrak and Tri-Rail both service the train station in Fort Lauderdale. For people who want to drive to Fort Lauderdale, I-95, and I-595, as well as the Florida Turnpike, all lead to this part of Florida.

Where to Stay

Lots of rooms are available to stay at in Fort Lauderdale. One of them is the Granada Inn. The exterior is simple but once inside it is all about European luxury. Twelve rooms offer cable TV, plantation style furniture, and European soaps. Complimentary wireless Internet, continental breakfast by the pool and a mini fridge are part of what every guest can expect.

Many other options including most of the chain hotels such as Embassy Suites, Hilton, and Holiday Inn are offered in the city. If you are taking a cruise out of Fort Lauderdale, Embassy Suites offers a shuttle bus to the port.

What to Do

If you are going to be in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday evening there is no better way to spend an hour than by taking the River Ghost Tour. Reservations are required. The tour is $25 per person and meets at 7:30 p.m. It includes a boat trip on the New River and a tour of the Stranahan House, one of Fort Lauderdale’s most historic buildings.

For more than 20 years, Broward Center for the Performing Arts has been bringing the arts to residents and visitors. Concerts of all sorts are offered. Make it an entire evening by booking dinner at Serenade, the upscale dining venue at the Center.

The Parker Playhouse is part of the Broward Performing Arts Center and has a 40 plus year history of providing a great venue for smaller productions. The Playhouse seats slightly more than 1,100 patrons.

Fort Lauderdale has a unique Antique Car Museum. It is dedicated to the Packard and has 22 of them that date from 1909 through 1947. In addition, there are other items collected by Arthur O. Stone.

From the IMAX Theatre to the child-friendly exhibits, the Museum of Discovery and Science is a place the entire family can and will enjoy. There is a newish permanent exhibit about the human body that adds a new dimension to the already jam-packed museum.

Every visitor to Fort Lauderdale should take a tour and what could be more fun than a paddle boat.

The Jungle Queen offers a three-hour sightseeing of the New River. It also offers a BBQ dinner at 6 p.m. in the evening. Dine on chicken, BBQ ribs and shrimp while enjoying a comedy revue. The boat provides a delicious and memorable evening’s entertainment.

When you are ready to eat, head to the Las Olas Riverfront area. This area has a wide selection of dining options including Big City Tavern, Yolo, Coconuts and Wild Sea just to name a few.

When you are planning a visit to Fort Lauderdale you will find lots of things to see and do. It is easy to get there and you will find plenty of places to stay and eat. You can spend an entire vacation getting to know the area. You can use this guide to help you plan the perfect trip.

More information:

Monday, January 7, 2019

Worcestershire: Places I like to visit

Worcestershire has many claims to fame but one of them is of particular interest. Geoffrey Chaucer was here working at court in the Forest of Feckenham when he was inspired to write the Canterbury Tales. You may well be inspired to write about the area after your visit here as well, I know I am. Come along as I share a few of the places I like to visit in Worcestershire.

Places to Visit:


Allow at least one whole day to visit the city of Worcester. Begin your visit to the thousand-year-old cathedral. It is the final resting place of Bad King John, the brother of Richard the Lionhearted and son of King Henry and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. He is the protagonist with the Sheriff of Nottingham in the Robin Hood Legends and also the King who signed the Magna Carta. Prince Arthur, the heir apparent of King Henry VII and the brother of King Henry VIII is also buried here. 

It was his marriage to Queen Katherine of Aragon which led King Henry VIII to seek a divorce from his queen (Katherine, yes he married his brother’s wife) and when Rome refused to grant the divorce, Henry crushed papal influence in England and made himself the head of the Church, which still survives today as the Anglican Church.

Royal Worcester Porcelain

In 2001 Royal Worcester Porcelain celebrated its 250th anniversary. It used to be one of our favorite places to shop in Worcester. All that ended in 2008 when the factory closed. However, the Museum of Royal Worchester has remained open in one of the Victorian Factory Buildings since it was not affected by the closing.  The porcelain is so iconic to this area, that it is certainly worth a visit and is only a two-minute walk from the cathedral.

Worcester is a fairly large city so driving can be challenging. Have a good map in hand. Parking is available adjacent to the Royal Worcester Porcelain Museum and this is a good central location. From here you can walk to the cathedral easily and to the shopping mall.

A downtown shopping mall at Crown Gate offers all the shopping options you could possibly want. The city of Worcester has an art museum that is worth visiting.


Allow at least half a day even more if you really want to hit the shops. As you drive out of town make a detour to the Broadway Tower. If you are only going to visit one Cotswold Village, this would be a fine choice. The cottages are the typical honey-colored stone and just driving down High Street gives you the historic English village feeling.

Shopping in Broadway is about as good as it gets anywhere in the Cotswolds. Small chain stores and plenty of typically English village type stores and a few surprises line High Street. You will find a bookstore, clothing, food and tea stores and certainly a nice selection of restaurants and cafes. Edinburgh Woolens is a chain but offers lots of good deals and excellent inventory.

Broadway is a charming village with some parking along High St. A good sized pay and display car park is located behind the Cotswold Court Mall. This is a very good walking village. Start on one side and just walk until the shops' end and then cross the street and do the same on the other side.

Many charming B&Bs and hotels, as well as self-catering units, are available in the area. This is not an inexpensive area to stay in but the charm of the entire area makes it very desirable. 

To learn more about the area check out their website.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Elegant Irish Tours

On my recent trip to Ireland we based ourselves in Dublin but since the other three people I was traveling with had never visited before, they were anxious to get out into the countryside to see some of the sights. On a previous trip, my friend Kathy and I had hired a driver for the day to take us around. Since driving can be challenging for Americans on the left side of the road, it seemed like a good option for this trip. I looked around and found Elegant Irish tours and passed the info to my friend Irene.

She contacted Elegant tours and books a full day tour to the Boyne Valley. What was included was a stop at Newgrange, The Battle of the Boyne Visitor Center, The Hill of Tara and Trim Castle. We found this to be an excellent selection of things for us to enjoy. The cost was 595 plus tip for the driver. Split four ways this seemed a good bargain. No entrance fees were included but tolls were.

Our driver picked us up at our hotel and we headed out of Dublin. Traffic on the way out was easy, however, on the way back it was horrific. It made us very glad that Jerry was dealing with it and not us. We were very comfortable in the high-end minivan with onboard wifi.

Our first stop was Newgrange. I am so glad we stopped here, it was absolutely amazing.   It was our longest stop and I estimate we spent about two hours here. The tour tickets are timed so you know when you will be taking the bus up to the tomb.

Next, we went to the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Center. It is the most significant battle of the war between English Protestant and the Catholic Irish. We spent about an hour here. We headed to the Hill of Tara where we first stopped for lunch.

We then had a short time to accomplish the climb to the top of the hill. In November the days are short in Ireland so we had to head out a little quicker than perhaps we would have liked if we wanted to see Trim Castle. We did manage to get there but the castle is closed in November for the season so we just got to see the exterior.

As it got dark we had to deal with traffic as we tried to get back to our hotel in Ballsbridge. Jerry managed it wonderfully in spite of the crazy bicyclists who seem to have no regard for their lives.

We had a fabulous day, it was without a doubt the highlight of our trip and I would highly recommend Elegant Irish Tours if you are wanting to get out of Dublin for a day or even more. We were treated like valued customers at every part of the journey from booking to drop off at our hotel.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Hotel Review: Boston Marriott Newton

If you are doing something in the suburbs of Boston, this is a very nice hotel to choose. It is easy on and off  I 90 - The Massachusetts Turnpike and offers all the amenities you would expect in a Marriott. 

I was here for a genealogy conference, it is also a conference hotel. Parking is free which is one of the real benefits of staying in the Boston burbs rather than in the city where nightly parking runs in excess of $40. 

I was sharing the room with my friend Kathy so we had a two queen bedded room and it was spacious. We had a small fridge and a coffee maker. We used the WiFi frequently and it was strong and never let us down. We also had a large screen TV with a good variety of channels. 

The beds had lots of pillows and were very comfortable. We ate breakfast and lunch at the conference which was their catering menu not what was served in their restaurant. We did eat in the bar one evening and they had the best virgin bloody mary that I have ever had in my life. I had the onion soup and it was very good, we were pleased with our snack.

We had to drive quite a distance to find another restaurant for dinner but it was worth the drive and we loved Comellas in Wellesley Hills. 

I was very pleased with the hotel and would love to be able to stay here again.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Holiday Visit to Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum, Lennox, MA.

I love to visit houses decorated for Christmas during the holidays. This year I chose Lennox, Massachusetts. I was looking for places that are an easy drive but also have interesting places to stay and good restaurants. I found the perfect combination with Ventfort Hall Mansion. I didn't end up staying in Lennox however, we chose Lee which is right next door.

The house that stands on these grounds today is not the original home which was built for New Yorkers Ogden and Elizabeth Haggerty in 1853. That original house, an Italianate villa, was moved across the street when Sarah Morgan (the sister of J.P.) and her husband George bought the property and decided to replace the house with the mansion that exists today. It was Elizabeth who named it Vent Fort which is French for strong wind. Sarah made it into the one-word name Ventfort it has today. 

During the Gilded Age, there were upwards of 70 summer cottages in Lennox. The arts and authors were what drew millionaires to the Berkshires, not much has changed on that front into the current day. The Boston firm of Rotch and Tilden was hired to create the magnificent Jacobean Revival mansion that you see today. It had 50 rooms, 17 bathrooms and all the latest amenities of the time period. It was originally set in 26 acres of which 17 are still surrounding the house. 

The family came for the summer of 1893 but Sarah died only 3 years later. She left the home to their three adult children with George having the right to use it. When George died in 1911, the children sold the content and rented the house out. George had been a very enthusiastic gardener and I imagine at some future date, they will try to restore some of his gardens. 

It went through several owners until finally being abandoned in 1991. A developer purchased the property and intended to raze the house and build a nursing home. The Ventfort Hall Association was formed in 1994 and soon thereafter Ventford was designated a National Historic Landmark. After purchasing the building, the business of restoration began.

What you see today, is a house in process of restoration. The house was in pretty rough shape when it was saved and it has taken an immense amount of work and money to bring it back. Photos are shown throughout the house of the progress that has been made. The house is lovely and you feel quite grateful that someone cared enough to save it. The most recent addition is an elevator. 

We, however, went up the gorgeous staircase and it is a beauty. All in all, the guided tour took about an hour and we loved every minute of it. The cost is not inexpensive but I was happy to feel as if I was in my small way, contributing to the preservation and restoration of this gem. I made sure to purchase a few things from the gift store as well. 

Keep in mind that this isn't just a beautiful house, it is a museum to show you what life was like in the Gilded Age and it does it very well. 

I highly recommend coming up and seeing this lovely and unique property. For more details check out their website

Monday, December 17, 2018

Aer Lingus: Just When You Think It Can't Get Worse It Can

After my last experience with Aer Lingus, I pretty much swore I would never use them again. They lost my luggage on a direct flight from Boston to Dublin and then took 3 days to get it to me. In the meantime they were uncommunicative and when they did tell me something it was a lie. I swore I was finished with them and then they offered rates from Hartford that were irresistible. For $458 I was suckered in again.

One thing I will say about Aer Lingus, they never disappoint when it comes to being a big disappointment. This time our flight was delayed but they refused to tell us for how long, their website was totally useless and after waiting 30 minutes on the phone, their staff was even less helpful.

When we arrived at the airport, the board said our flight was on time but when we checked our bag we were told to be at the gate at 8:30 p.m. Since our flight was scheduled for a 5:10 departure this seemed incomprehensible. The desk staff talked to me like I was a child with a total lack of understanding when I questioned them. We were never told what caused the delay. 

Once we boarded our very full flight we found out how very bad the actual condition of the plane was. I didn't get headphones and had to ask for them. I was given the wrong meal which is irrelevant since they are all disgusting and the bathroom stunk almost from the moment we took off.

On the way home, I kept getting hit in the head with drops of water, the seat in from of me was broken and in my face,  Irene's overhead light kept blinking, Pete's seat cushion was not attached and the bathrooms still stank. The food was equally as disgusting as the previous flight, the Kerrygold butter was the highlight.  When I told the stewardess about the drops of water she offered me a tissue!! Really!!

I know they say you get what you pay for but this is really not acceptable. The only positive I have to say is that the entertainment system if you can get your headphones to work without having to hold the plug in, is excellent and has a great variety of options. And my luggage arrived on time in both directions. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Bed and Breakfast review: Chambery Inn Lee, MA

The Chambery Inn is a unique place to stay in Lee. The former Old St Mary's School has been converted into a beautiful bed and breakfast. We had one of the schoolhouse suites which was huge. Our room, 202 L'Aubusson, had 13-foot ceilings, and a king-sized canopy bed which seemed dwarfed given the size of the room!! I loved this room since the second floor is the entrance floor and we didn't have to climb any stairs, always a good thing. I also loved the hot apple cider that was available in the lobby.

The inn has 10 rooms in five categories, the majority of the rooms are schoolhouse suites or deluxe schoolhouse suites.  One room has two queen beds, the rest have either queen or king except the room that is called the smallest room in the Berkshires.

We loved sitting in front of the gas fireplace and watching Tv and eating breakfast. The breakfast is delivered in a basket to your door. You pick what you prefer and put the card out on the doorknob before 8 p.m. It is delivered at the time you prefer.

The bed had lots of pillows and was very comfortable. A soft throw was available if you just want to lay on the bed and not get under the covers. In the closet, are two robes if you want to just get comfortable. I loved the fact that there were two suitcase racks as well, most couples do come with two!!

A huge rolltop desk as located on one wall and it had a game box so if you want to play checkers or chess, it is there for you. On the desk, by the bed, there is a charger for your electronics. Wifi was fast and worked great and the TV is a smart TV.  A small fridge and coffee pot are on the wall with the blackboard.

My only disappointment was that the details for our room stated that we would have a Keurig coffee maker and so I brought some of my own pods and we didn't have a Keurig and I had to be satisfied with Folgers Coffee made in a small pot. It was a small thing really and when I mentioned it to the owners they told me that next time, it won't be an issue. I loved the fact that they really care.

The bathroom had a single jetted tub and shower. Plenty of pressure and nice shampoo. The bathroom was even decorated for Christmas.

Our room was located on the back of the building, we heard a train at one point, the tracks are very close, I suspect the front of the house would be quieter. We could hear the people above us walking in their room and I would guess the people below us could hear us. It was not an issue, it is an old building and the floors creak.

The location is perfect, we were able to walk out to dinner at Chez Nous and there are several other options all within just a few blocks.

We loved this Inn, it is charming and has great amenities. I highly recommend it and we will definitely be returning.