Carmel L. Mooney

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Traveling families can make quality, lifetime memories on the Carnival Freedom, sailing from

Galveston, Texas. The Legend’s currently-fabulous Caribbean itinerary is perfect for those wanting to

experience a taste of the Caribbean.

As if that isn’t enough, Moody Gardens Hotel and Spa on Galveston Island, provides the perfect

beginning or ending point for vacationing families who like pampering and unlimited fun before or

after their sailing.

242 acres of lush tropical gardens, luxurious hotel, premier seaside golf course, aquarium, paddle-

wheeler, spa, zip line, Magic 3D theater, Rainforest Pyramid, Discovery Museum, and Texas- sized

pool are just a tiny sampling of the spectacular beauty of Moody Gardens. Entire families and multi-

generational clans from around the world have discovered the unique majesty and endless activities for

all ages at Moody Gardens. What better way to prepare for the sheer luxury awaiting you on

embarkation day, or to decompress before you face reality after disembarking the majestic Carnival

Freedom?

Once on board your sailing city, the Carnival Freedom, true 24/7 fun at sea begins. Families

traveling with small children will love Camp Carnival where the most qualified camp counselors on the

ocean, will treat the kids with complete pampered attention and care while offering fun and educational

activities and projects, art, music, movies, scavenger hunts, contests, dancing, games and impeccable

childcare and dining.

Parents can completely relax and enjoy every moment of their vacation entrusting their little ones

into the best hands knowing they are enjoying quality youth experiences and that close to a million kids

travel with Camp Carnival every single year. Teens and tweens will relish every moment of a tailored

program that ensures fun and safety from supervised dance parties, competitions, sporting events,

social gatherings, movies, teen-themed crafts, dining and more.

The Carnival Legend was recently refurbished into grandeur and is a gleaming beauty of endless

activities tailored to suit every taste and interest. When not at the Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and

Cozumel ports of call, this floating Funship is brimming with relaxing, pampering, and exciting

offerings.

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For family members who love music, you can dance or sing the night away at discos and piano bars.

Musical trivia contests provide challenging fun and nostalgia. Live bands and gifted singers belt out

Jamaican, Latin, and Calypso melodies under tropical sunny days and star-filled nights aboard the Lido

deck to help you get your groove on. Outstanding theater performances of musicals, Broadway style

glitz, and Vegas-caliber shows grace the stage almost nightly.

Does someone in your family like to play the odds? Texas Hold ‘Em, Bingo, a full casino, and slot

tournaments are a few more options.

Anyone like to eat? An empty stomach is an impossibility on a Carnival sailing. The dining options

are literally endless with room service in your cabin, Lido deck buffets, endless ice cream and pizza, a

completely themed and immersive Seussical Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast, the elegant Sun King Steakhouse experience, tea time, deli, Guy’s Burger Joint, and the standard dining room experience for

breakfast lunch or dinner, which doesn’t even begin to encompass all the choices available day and

night. Dining cruise casual or cruise elegant in the dining room or poolside while soaking up the sun

and water are only two more of dozens of possibilities for fabulous dining atmosphere.

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One ships, two ships, it’s the Cat in the Hat on Cruise Ships—as the magic of Dr. Seuss at Sea

brings the fun and whimsy of its beloved tales and characters into dining, storytime, photo ops, and

zany fun anytime throughout Carnival’s entire fleet.

Water babies, anyone? A huge, curling water slide and multiple swimming pools will provide just

the way to float the afternoon away in total relaxation as the dolphins, seagulls, pelicans, and waves

pass by.

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Art collectors, movie buffs, fitness gurus, or spa lovers in your bunch? Carnival Legend has it all

dialed in and in such a way as to entertain and appeal to all generations of your family.

Mom and dad will appreciate that they can spend a romantic date-night relishing in culinary

delights at the private Sun King Steakhouse or chill in the cabin with some room service while little

ones are safely entertained and cared for. Or they may become addicted to the Serenity Deck where

only the over-18-cruisers can pull up a romantic cabana chair or soak in the private spas while watching

the sun dip into the horizon with the sky ablaze as far as the eye can see.

Kids will love the all-inclusive fun and friendship they experience through Camp Carnival and the

youth activities. The entire family will enjoy big screen togetherness from movies on the Lido deck

during dine-in movie gatherings, to ice carving and towel animal presentations, and live shows with the

cruise director. Young cruisers enjoy wearable art and other challenging projects that not only build

skills and self-esteem but provide cherished souvenirs to take home and remember the fun for years to

come.

Grandparents can appreciate art auctions, internet cafe, spa treatments, fitness classes, health and

wellness seminars, shopping, and tasting events. And should anyone want exciting night life, George

Lopez has partnered with Carnival’s Punchliner to bring top notch comedy shows throughout the

sailing, not to mention onboard ballroom dance/salsa lessons, and late night live music, all of which

may keep you wondering if anyone ever wants to go to sleep and chance missing the endless fun.

You’ll never have to wonder what to do when ashore as Carnival has all the ports of call and shore

excursions tailored specially for Carnival guests. There are magical Jeep tours, fishing and naturalist

excursions, hikes to ruins, snorkeling and scuba treks, fabulous all-inclusive family resort days,

waterfall hikes, tubing adventures, shopping tours, and literally something for everyone’s tastes and

sense of adventure.

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Every concern and need has been attended to. A full medical center on board, gluten free options for

dining, professional family portraits, “Behind the Fun” on board tours, and outstanding shore

excursions are available to vacationing families as well.

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Northern California vacationing families have some wonderful choices for world class destinations, all within a day’s drive and South Lake Tahoe, California is one of the best.

When temperatures soar elsewhere in the United States, families can escape the heat and enjoy North America’s largest Alpine Lake, just a couple of scenic hours from the Sacramento Metro area. An equally beautiful time to enjoy Lake Tahoe is in the early Fall, when most have returned to school and work, and crowds are non-existent.

We’ve enjoyed Lake Tahoe as a family for over twenty years, and it was my favorite family vacation spot even when I grew up several hours away in Carmel, decades ago.

Fortunately for families in 2015, Lake Tahoe not only offers the same beauty and activities it has offered for nearly a century, but there are even more choices now. With a little planning, a family can experience this destination that draws visitors from every corner of the globe, and at a reasonable price.

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The best South Lake Tahoe hub to enjoy all the fun and excitement is Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel at Heavenly. Literally a few feet from the California/Nevada State Line, this gorgeous, well-appointed, and completely family-friendly property leaves nothing out of the equation.

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For families looking for value, Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel offers fabulous Family Break Packages. A few highlights of this great deal include a game board at check-in, a pizza dinner, informational Tahoe DVD, and a fantastic dessert masterpiece made by Chef Salvador Cortez Delgado, called the Mt. Tallac. This is an unforgettable monstrous banana split extraordinaire, consisting of two bananas, nine scoops of ice cream and all the trimmings.

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Don’t worry about burning off all that sugar and calories because there is enough to do, just within walking distance of the property, to keep you busy and energized for days. Every day after a hearty, hot, and freshly cooked breakfast included with the stay, your clan can venture out to Van Sickle Bi-State Park to hike miles of gorgeous alpine trails. Or you can walk along the street just yards from the hotel and enjoy wonderful boutiques, gift stores, souvenir shops, theater, and eateries.

Every guest of Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel gets a pass for the duration of their stay, to a wonderful private beach just minutes away, with grill, swimming beach, dock, and miles of trails.

Another fantastic option for adventure minded kids is Heavenly’s new Summer Day Camp Program. Just a minute or two from the edge of the hotel property awaits a real adventure where kids start their day with a scenic 2.4 mile gondola ride up to the top of Heavenly Mountain Resort, including a stop at the observation deck with panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. At the pinnacle, their day is filled with activities ranging from high ropes challenge courses, team building, hiking, relay games, scavenger hunts, conservation education, rock climbing, and nature crafts.

After an invigorating day on the mountain, back at the newly renovated hotel property you will have access to a lovely pool, spa, fitness center, and Echo Restaurant, where Chef Sal creates delectable offerings on his Adventure Menu, utilizing only the freshest locally sourced ingredients and his wonderful cultural nuances and memories of his childhood to create cuisine that is not only spectacular and delicious but a special memory with meaning. He even offers numerous specialty cocktails for the grown-ups and equally refreshing and delicious non-alcoholic versions for the kids, infused with delicious and local fresh fruits and herbs.

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Chef Sal has a special gift in the ability to serve families with passion and joy and the flavors of everything he creates reflect this. However, other team members throughout the property also love to share their passions and hobbies with the guests by suggesting spots, tips, and stories about their favorite Tahoe-area outdoor past times whether it be fly-fishing, mountain biking, water skiing, golf, stand up paddle boarding or rock climbing. Each team member has his or her favorite activity on their name badge which creates a great way to build conversations, break barriers, and foster friendships.

For many years we have become acquainted with the bar tender Anne, who serves up cocktails for the parents and non-alcoholic specialties for the kids in the late afternoon during the nightly cocktail reception hour where complimentary snacks and $2 beverages are offered. It’s hard not make friends with the staff, many of whom have been there two decades or more. Even the same bellman has assisted us for years. You will certainly make friends and feel as though you are at your home away from home.

Part of the exciting renovation of this beautiful atrium-style property, are new state of the art, specially engineered sofa sleepers. These are new in the suites, and provide a comfortable slumber without the old styled “bar in the back” that so many travelers have learned to endure on hide-a-beds.

Guests can’t help but appreciate the many Eco-friendly advances that the property has made over recent years, garnering respect and prestige throughout the area.

Overall there is no better place from which to savor the many facets of Lake Tahoe than from Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel.

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Many wonderful activities are within walking distance and just less than a half hour away is the Virginia Truckee Railroad which runs from nearby Carson City to Virginia City, for a step back into the wild west days, and into an adventure that the whole family can take pleasure in. After boarding the train in Carson City, passengers relax and are slowly immersed into the Gold Rush and Silver Mining days when Virginia City was experiencing its own Mother Lode. The guided, narrated train tour is fascinating as well as educational which means little ones can learn without even realizing it. Wild horses, tailings from mines of yesteryear, and scenic vistas, make this a captivating hour and a half voyage.

When you arrive in Virginia City, relaxed and refreshed, the family can meander old-fashioned wooden side walk streets where mock gun fights, saloons, museums, historical shows, and old-time fun, history, dining, and shopping are easy to find from corner to corner of every western block. The helpful and friendly visitor center is an excellent starting point to plan your visit and hear about the offerings from knowledgeable folks who are passionate to share the gem they enjoy and cherish.

After a full day of memory-making you can board the return train back to Carson City and finally meander back to South Lake Tahoe where comfort, elegance, relaxation and family-friendly hospitality wait to welcome your tribe back at Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel.

 

 

While Temecula is long known for its vibrant history, excellent shopping and natural beauty, it has become the heart of Southern California’s wine region. With its proximity to San Diego an hour to the South and Los Angeles a little over an hour North, it provides the perfect getaway for wine enthusiasts as a stop over or as its own destination.
Over recent decades the landscape has taken shape by rolling vineyards, world class wineries and spas, and award winning restaurants. Gorgeous views of surrounding 11,000 foot mountains tops and valley floors that are cooled by air swept ocean breezes have morphed Temecula into the “up and coming” wine region of Southern California.
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My girlfriend, teen daughter, and I recently enjoyed a girlfriend getaway to Temecula, California. We wished we had more than two nights to enjoy this unique little wine region but we managed to pack quite a lot into our little respite of relaxation and exploration.
We stayed at the Quality Inn in Temecula and while it was not high end or luxurious, it did provide a very nice clean and comfortable hub from which to enjoy our varied excursions and exploration. The staff there were very helpful and friendly and it was convenient to shopping, restaurants, and the freeway. The location proved helpful.

We started off with a lunch in Old Town at Sweet Lumpy’s BBQ. This small, casual, Texas-style, smoked barbecue, local eatery offered excellent choices of salads and all the stereotypical barbecue cuisine one would expect.
Mesquite and hickory smoked ribs, brisket, tri-tip, pulled pork, and chicken were all moist and flavorful. The salads we had were fresh and satisfying with delicious home made dressings. We were satiated and enjoyed our meal amidst locals and tourists alike.

We enjoyed strolling the quaint downtown area and a few blocks away we stopped into the Temecula Children’s Museum. We’ve been to many notable childrens’ museums across the United States and this one truly was one of the best. It’s absolutely evident why the museum and Pennypickle’s Workshop have been deemed a winner of Nickelodeon’s Best Museum and Best Kids’ Party Place.

Whacky and whimsical gadgets and gizmos adorn walls, floors, and ceilings. Workshops, field trips, hands-on displays, classes, presentations, experiments, labs, and even birthday parties, make this place the cat’s meow for kids in Temecula or visiting from anywhere. It was high quality, interactive, creatively designed and very intriguing at every turn.
While my teen daughter could browse boutiques for some special finds, my friend and I decided to explore all the buzz we had heard about Temecula wines and we were pleasantly pleased as well. We visited three wineries and wish we had time for more.
Temecula is peppered with spas and excellent award winning restaurants as well. It truly does hold appeal for all ages and is the perfect girlfriend getaway.

We first stopped into Wilson Creek Winery. We tasted the ’11 Vogiener which is to be served just above room temperature and had honeysuckle and mint notes with subtle pear and caramel. The ’11 White Cabernet Sauvignon is a best seller and with a beautiful light pink tint. We especially liked the Duet and since both of us like Sangria we agreed it would be great for Sangria back home.
Molly’s Medley had a nice nose and is released in honor of their winery micro pig. It has won both Gold and Silver medals. We both really enjoyed the ’09 Reserve Late Harvest Zinfandel Port with its jammy dried fruit and berry notes and a spice licorice and jammy finish.
But my favorite was the presentation of the “Decadencia “Chocolate Cup” presented in a tiny Dutch Chocolate “shot glass.” Fun and tasty and memorable is how we will remember that one.
Since we were warmed up we were on to the next winery and what a treat this one proved to be. Thornton Winery is family owned and we had the privilidge of meeting the family and tasting with John and son Steve.
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The family was as delightful as their wines. We tasted the Champagne flight which was superb paired with Calamari and Brie. Thornton Winery is a destination in and of itself with Jazz Dinner Concerts offered from April to October, cooking classes and 20 acres of beauty to enjoy. Sit down tastings and a 5 Star Restaurant round out the possibilities. We felt warm, welcomed and enjoyed learning about wine form the winemaker himself, David Vegari. We thoroughly enjoyed tasting the Winemaker’s Choice Wine Flight and we finished off our spectacular visit with the Chocolate Wine Lovers Flight. Each was unique, fun and gave us ideas for all sorts of fun possibilities back home. The Thornton Family offers holiday dinners and specials and we could only imagine how fun that must be to enjoy Christmas or New Year’s dinner at such a lovely winery with such outstanding ambiance and such gracious and kind hosts.
The grande finale of our trip was a tasting, tour and lovely dinner at South Coast Winery Resort and Spa.
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The vast number of choices was a bit overwhelming as the number of medals and awards won by South Coast is impressive.We loved the ’08 Tempranillo aged in a combination of American and French Oak barrels, with its spicy cherry and berry aromas and flavors. The ’06 Wild Horse Peak Cabernet Sauvignon was one of my favorites and its label like so many others at South Coast was a true work of art. The’08 Wild Horse Peak Syrah was unique with an earthy fig and lavender aroma and a bacon and plum finish. The ambiance at South Coast was relaxed and friendly. The staff were very kind and helpful and unrushed and the wines were lovely as were the labels.
Our dinner at South Coast was extraordinary. The service was impeccable and the ambiance set the stage for a delightful dinner from start to finish.
From delicious crisp, fresh salads to delectable and exquisitely presented seafood and steak dishes, to sumptuous and decadent desserts, every single facet of our lovely meal was perfection through and through. Our charming French waiter paired a couple of our courses with some fabulous South Coast wines. It was a truly impeccable dining experience.

We were very sad to say goodbye to Temecula but so blessed to have experienced a taste of this unique, warm and indulgent destination. Temecula is Southern California treasure. You need to experience it to appreciate the many pleasures Temecula offers its visitors and residents, alike.

When my teen daughter and my dear friend and I decide to enjoy a girlfriend getaway in Irvine, we weren’t sure exactly what to expect. We’d heard Irvine was steeped in arts, dining, nightlife, shopping and all the typical things that girls gravitate to when planning a gal getaway, but Irvine exceeded all our expectations which is quite a feat when you consider our ages, spanning over four decades, are as diverse as our interests.

We used the Atrium Hotel right across from Orange County’s John Wayne Airport, as out hub and home away from home. We chose to drive on this particular trip although other previous excursions to Orange County have found us flying in before. Originally this 1969 icon was the “Airporter” hotel. Business and relaxation both thrive in this location that has evolved over the decades, as much as its environs.

So note to self, was what a great location the Atrium would provide if we had flown in. It was equally well situated for this car-centered road trip to Irvine. The boutique style resort property has a beautiful pool and a very satisfying breakfast buffet that we all appreciated for fueling ourselves for our exploration of Irvine.

Our first introduction to Irvine’s diverse offerings was during our delicious dinner at Tokyo Table at the Diamond Jamboree. Tokyo Table was superb with each and every offering we sampled, brimming with delicious flavors stemming from fresh, seasonal ingredients. We had to try the OMG Roll and it is definitely appropriately named. Our server was handsome and fabulous, the ambiance was fun and funky, and the food never disappointed, all important elements for a girly night on the town.

After our sumptuous meal we decided to check out a few of the amazing cultural offerings at the Diamond Jamboree. We sauntered over to the Plush Karaoke Lounge where we thoroughly enjoyed sipping tea while belting out some songs together in the posh nightlife style of a classy lounge with 17 private rooms, touch screen monitors and technological equipment. The ultimate party place for girls, guys, families and anyone who enjoys music and parties, this place was the bomb. My teen was all over it.
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We could have stayed all night having our own little all night Karaoke party but eventually we called it a night to rest up for our marathon of cultural immersion the next day. First on the next day’s list was a fabulous visit to the Irvine Museum. This proved the perfect place to introduce kids or art newbies to the Impressionist Period. Numerous beautiful works of art depicting California landmarks, National Parks and scenery were on exhibit in this rather small and intimate setting. A docent led tour was lovely and allowed us time to enjoy each beautiful piece in an un-rushed manner with some light education leading to more appreciation of the exhibit.

Our next stop was the University California Irvine Arboretum. A fabulous assortment of succulents, cacti and other native plants kept us interested for over an hour as we walked the lovely 12.5 acre grounds and enjoyed both the plant specimens and the majestic view of the valley. Since all three of us enjoy succulents and my daughter and I make terrariums together, this was a fun and educational excursion for the three of us.

Any girl getaway to Irvine must include a trip to the Spectrum Center, a unique retail and dining experience, so off we went ready to shop, browse, and eat. Dozens of specialty stores, high end retailers, and nationally acclaimed restaurants as well as entertainment venues make this a family or a girlfriend paradise. The Spectrum Center also houses one of the country’s largest movie theater complexes, live entertainment, an antique carousel and a 108 foot Giant Wheel.

No wonder 15 million visitors enjoy the Spectrum Center every year. The top of the 108 foot Giant Italian crafted Wheel afforded us a remarkable view of the area and we could even see the Orange County Great Park with its 30 person balloon soaring at 400 feet above the 1300 acre landscape.
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Soaking in the ambiance of the best shopping and dining in the country, we worked up an appetite for dinner at Paul Martin’s American Grill. The cedar planed salmon was delightful, moist and melt in your mouth quality. The Chimichurri all natural grilled chicken was excellent as well. We loved the fresh quality of this classy yet family-friendly eating establishment with impeccable service. “Eat organic. Believe in sustainable. Buy local. Love fresh.” is the mantra of Paul Martin’s® back-to-the-farm American Bistro. This top California restaurant, with locations in Roseville, Irvine, and El Segundo, is the long-nurtured dream of restaurateurs Brian Bennett and Paul Fleming.

After a delicious dinner we were ready to enjoy yet more artistic gems of Irvine by taking in a play at the gorgeous South Coast Repertory. A fabulous theater venue, our play and the ambiance were both exceptional. Easy parking, comfortable seating, and an excellent performance made the experience lacking in nothing. Irvine does art and culture well.

On our last day in Irvine we spent quite a bit of time again at the Diamond Jamboree. We found so many excellent things to taste, see and experience there. It’s truly a rich cultural experience with so many unique samplings of so many different cultures and counties. We had a wonderful lunch at Papaya Thai Bistro where delicious Thai and Asian cuisine can be tailored to your taste by your ability to choose which protein you’d like to pair with which sauce or noodle dish. We mixed and matched curries, satays, and noodle dishes with lamb, beef, fowl, and seafood. Each one was fresh and exceptional. We mixed and matched and shared and had a delightful lunch.

We also partook in the ultimate girlfriend indulgence at the Majestic Spa where we all three were massaged with our clothing on, in a central massage room, with very unique Asian style reflexology massages. Fabulous Asian style coffee houses, yogurt shops, drink vendors, and bakeries are peppered through the Diamond Jamboree and we had to try the unusual novelty offerings of Lollicup’s Boba Tapioca drink and 85C’s sea salt latte.

Having been successfully dined, refreshed, massaged, indulged and immersed in the arts, in lavish girly style, we were ready to hit the road. Sad to see Irvine in our rear view mirror, we were richer for having visited and we now know where the hidden gem of OC resides.

112 miles to the North East of Grapevine, Texas near the Oklahoma border lies the lovely little historic town of Paris, Texas. While a movie used its name, Paris, Texas, which draws visitors from around the world, the secret treasures of Paris are best shared by the locals who have a pride and respect for their exquisite little community. You may hear someone say, “Bonjour, Ya’ll!” In no time you will understand why.
A stop in historic downtown is a must along with a browsing of the boutiques, antiques, and eateries that make Paris a little Texas wonder. One of eighty-eight Main Street cities across Texas, it’s adorable. Spangler’s, a local gift shop on West Plaza is a joy to visit with local artisan gifts, collectibles and all at excellent, fair prices.
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Paris is known for its gorgeous and historic churches. We visited a half dozen, all lovely and architecturally astounding and with colorful histories and stories to tell. Each church was an elaborate work of art which painted a picture of the community’s arts, culture and beauty. Elaborate stained glass, ornate woodwork, and spires were just a few notable characteristics we enjoyed.

Beautiful historic landmarks and hidden gems are peppered throughout Paris. The Lamar County Courthouse is one of the largest in the state and made from the same granite as the Capitol. The Lamar County Historical Museum in Heritage Park is outstanding and paints a thorough picture of the gripping history of Paris along with the steadfast spirit of its citizens through several wars, a great fire that ravaged the entire city, and other major events that shaped the area. A volunteer labor of ten local men, this 7,000 square foot museum is remarkable for such a small city.

We thoroughly enjoyed a tour of the home of Confederate General Sam Bell Maxey. A well displayed State Historic Site, it offers visitors a glimpse into state and local history with an extensive collection of historic furnishings, letters, and clothing as well beautiful architecture.

A tour of the Evergreen Cemetery is a must for history lovers. In operation since 1866, it is well known for several unique and hand-carved headstones and monuments including Jesus with Cowboy boots, a perplexing but must-see spectacle.
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Just outside town is peaceful Pat Mayse Lake, a pristine swimming, boating, camping, and fishing mecca that draws visitors from many states. While in Paris we thoroughly enjoyed a delicious comfort food lunch at Crawford’s Hole in the Wall. Locally owned and operated, this super-friendly little cafe serves quite likely the best bread pudding in the entire country. A little local, excellent and casual eatery, the décor is fun and whimsical and the place is packed with locals. Stick-to-your-ribs comfort foods like Frito Chili Pie and Fried Pickles, along with lower calorie and healthy options such as salads and specials will undoubtedly satiate your appetite. No visit to Paris would be thorough without a meal at this fabulous little unforgettable find.
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Excellent walking, hiking, and cycling trails wind through much of Paris and the town surprisingly offers many festivals and annual events so you may want to plan a visit around one. Several theaters offer terrific cultural and theatrical choices. The area is steeped in culture and arts at every turn.

We loved our informative trolley tour aboard the Trolley de Paris that we took after a visit of the Love Civic Center where we enjoyed the town’s iconic Red Cowboy Hat atop the Eiffel Tower. The Veterans War Memorial next door was also impressive.
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You will likely never find warmer or more generous and kind people than in Paris. Texas. The area is a truly spectacular Texas gem with arts, culture, family-friendly activities, excellent cuisine, and gripping history. Our family treasured our visit and we know you will too. www.paristexas.com

For complete privacy and serenity, yet the perfect central hub from which to enjoy your visit of Half Moon Bay, stay at the Inn at Maverick’s. There guests savor unsurpassed views of the bay and harbor. This sensual experience of sounds, smells, and utter tranquility will undoubtedly quiet the soul and revive the spirit.

This beautiful little boutique inn overlooking the bay is nicely appointed and relaxing beyond measure. The gentle drone of the distant fog horn will lull you to sleep along with the gulls and the seals. Fine quality linens, high-end toiletries, ample complimentary snacks in a basket, cozy outdoor fire pits and decks along with dog friendly treats and pooch amenities make this a special place to lay your head by the bay. The lovely suites all include wireless Internet, ice, DVD use, binoculars for watching sea life, complimentary access to a local gym, and private fireplaces.

The only downside about the Inn at Maverick’s will certainly be the temptation to forgo your entire agenda to simply soak in the ambiance of the Inn. But with downtown and the docks only a couple of blocks away, you will probably eventually be lured to explore and experience all that Half Moon Bay has to offer a few steps away.

One such gem is The Half Moon Bay Brewing Company where some of the state’s best beers reside and world class surfers from around the world congregate for the outstanding cuisine, the eclectic beer and some of the world’s best waves nearby at the annual Maverick event.
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Highly talented and passionate Chef Gaston Alfaro’s Yucatan-Asian influenced cuisine is truly remarkable and will entice any couple to return on their next visit, regardless of the surf. Brewmasters display not only their talents but also their creativity and passion in each and every hand crafted beer product.

Delightful seafood dishes, savory sauces, tantalizing salads and painstakingly homemade from scratch gourmet desserts are enjoyed by all ages in this fun, surf side locals’ eatery overlooking the bay. Great beer and astoundingly excellent fare marry perfectly in this establishment where the food is impeccable yet the ambiance is relaxed and casual both in the dining room and out on the heated patio which, by the way, is a favorite for those traveling with pets.

Some of our favorites were the Bootlegger’s Brown Ale, Belgium Dubbel, Princeton By the Sea IPA, Maverick’s Amber Ale, and Pinot Barrel Quadrupel, a Belgian style “quad” aged in Pinot Noir barrels. They also have several seasonal Ports, Stouts and Ales and a half dozen beers on tap. The homemade won tons and chips with Yucatan Ceviche with mango salsa was to die for, as was the satisfying and impeccable Portuguese Fisherman’s Stew chock full of fresh catch, shellfish, and linguica. It was oozing with garlic and saffron and cilantro. We loved the Beeramisu made just like it sounds as a Tiramisu but with stout–Unbelievable goodness!

Right by the harbor you’ll find Half Moon Bay Kayak: an excellent way to get the perspective from the water. After donning our wetsuits and life jackets we enjoyed a tandem ocean kayak excursion where we saw cormorants, seals, sea lions and beach fowl as we paddled around the safely sheltered harbor and bay. We even took the time to paddle out to the front of our abode at the Inn at Maverick’s to catch a glimpse from the sea up to the land right where we had peacefully slumbered just hours before. All the equipment is meticulously maintained by Proprietor Doug Connor and his crew at Half Moon Bay Kayak, and the professionals there are more than capable of teaching you whatever you need to know to feel confident, safe and adventurous no matter your age or skill level.

Heading down the coast a bit from the harbor, more gems are glistening and waiting to be discovered.

With its unique British food and hundreds of unusual collectibles and eclectic conversation pieces from locals and celebrities alike, Cameron’s Restaurant Pub and Inn is a must do Half Moon Bay experience for either a meal or snack and to take in the ambiance of yet another San Mateo County classic. They even have a British import shop with novelties to intrigue their patrons.
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A special dog dining patio, the world’s first outside double-decker smoking buses, and new RV park are just a few treasures at Cameron’s worth a second look.
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Cameron Palmer is an entrepreneur who started with a beer can collection and a dream and now boasts amazing collections of pub style artifacts and remarkable food. Specialties like Bangers and Mash, pastries, pizza, imported European sausages, Fish and Chips and Brussels Sprouts are only a few of the many signature items worth experiencing and raving about. Don’t forgo the delicious desserts and famous sundaes. It may sound trivial but everything is delicious and bountiful at Cameron’s right down to the garnish bar where you’ll find fresh crunchy pickles and kraut and dozens of sauces and condiments for whatever suits your fancy.
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The place is fun, unique, hip and oh so unique. Cameron has a new addition next to the pub. His Half Moon Bay RV Park & Campground now offers RVing and camping travelers a great location where wonderful food is just a few steps away, He even offers rooms at the Pub and Inn so groups and multi-generational travelers can RV and stay at the inn at the same time while experiencing the best of both worlds within their group together. You have to experience this fun and lively pub or your visit to the area is not complete. As Cameron states in his wonderful book, Cameron’s Inn, about his journey, “ When I first started in the restaurant business some twenty-plus years ago, my primary goals were not to feed thousands of people or make buckets of money. Instead I wanted to create an enjoyable experience and memory for the entire family on every visit.”

 

A little further South more treasures lie. Don’t miss them.

 

The Half Moon Bay Golf Links offers two beautiful yet completely different and varied golf courses. One is a more historic links style course offering unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean and the other meanders through majestic cypress and pine trees finishing with a spectacular ocean view of the cliffs, surf and of the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay.

In the Clubhouse, Mullins Bar and Grill offers three lovely meals a day with astounding views. The Ocean Course has yielded accolades from Golf For Women. The Old Course has garnered prestigious compliments from Golf Digest and Business Week particularly for its awe inspiring 18th hole played south along a dramatic cliff overlooking the water’s edge and rugged coastline.

These unforgettable and challenging golf courses have been ranked #18 in Golf Digest’s prestigious ranking of the “Best Golf Courses in North America,” and this is the highest ranking in the San Francisco Bay Area as well. They are a delight to see and even bigger delight to play. Carve out half a day for an unforgettable golfing experience of class and luxury. Gorgeous vistas, breath taking cliffs and sea life, gorgeous homes, sumptuous dining and lavish accommodations are just a few things you will find while golfing at the Half Moon Bay Golf Links.

Perhaps before or after golf, horseback riding, kayaking or cycling along the coastal paradise of Half Moon Bay, you may decide that dining deck side next to a blazing bonfire overlooking the sea sounds sounds enticing. If so, then legendary Sam’s Chowder House is in order.
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Every painstakingly homemade sauce, salad, entree, and dessert is bursting with freshness. They are even famous for and have won numerous awards for their unique lobster rolls that are better than the Maine version. Elegance and casual dining weave together to create a relaxed atmosphere where homemade and freshly prepared specialties like various clam chowders, stews, fresh oyster bar, seafood platters fit for a king of the freshest quality along with delectable local produce desserts all tempt and please.
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We loved the Captain’s Platter full of ceviche, clams, oysters, shrimp and more. It was a treat and pinnacle of the meal. The clam chowder was savory and delicious made with real tasty broth not thickened by flour. The Oyster Stew with bacon, herbs, brandy and cream was terrific. And the key lime pie was some of the best ever. They have a wonderful and varied kids’ menu and Children’s portions of their Side Dishes are also available for $4.

Half Moon Bay and its environs have a history richly steeped in the Coastal Indians, famous Spanish explorers, prohibition and Canadian rum runners. Today the same rich area draws explorers of another type in search of fine wines, culinary delights, outdoor adventures, prize winning pumpkins, wines and cheeses and so much more. The treasures of Half Moon Bay may have changed over the decades, but the magic still brings explorers back in these modern times, finding a different beauty and experience and carving out a little of their own special history on this rugged and magnificent portion of the California Coast.

We started our South Carolina getaway in beautiful Santee State Park where we took a morning Fisheagle pontoon boat tour of the swamps and gorgeous Lake Marion. We saw ospreys feeding their young in huge nests, egrets, herons, alligators, hyacinth, pungent water lilies, Jesus birds (they walk on water), snake birds, and other fascinating things like a dead alligator rotting on the banks of the swamp (talk about stench from a 14 foot dead alligator lying in the sun!!).

When we finally got our appetites back, we dined at a wonderful, authentic, VERY Southern, diner at Lone Star BBQ just outside the park. Here, like much of the south, BBQ is a NOUN, not a verb. They offered tantalizing grits and tomato pie, hush puppies, ribs, chicken, bread pudding, collard greens, hash…and so much more–truly the best southern cooking. It’s a wonderful old mercantile as well as restaurant and well worth the stop.

The next day, we drove to Columbia, the capitol of South Carolina, and we enjoyed the South Carolina State Museum. Afterwards we checked into the Inn at USC, a beautiful hotel with exceptional service staffed by students who are learning hospitality and hotel studies. The service and hospitality both made the grade and deserved an A++. Later we decided to sample yet another local BBQ called Little Pig’s BBQ, a must while in Columbia.

Columbia’s Zoo was outstanding with lovely gardens, and after a long day on foot we opted to relax on a sunset boat trip, sipping cocktails out on Lake Murray where thousands of purple martin birds congregate every night on “Bomb Island.” It’s a spectacle of nature to behold as thousands of birds perform as if on cue to their own wondrous ritual and internal time clock.

Our next stop was famous Myrtle Beach and its outlying areas. The Marina Grande Dunes provided us a luxurious location from which to enjoy the area’s attractions and beaches. The pool was gorgeous and offered a romantic respite at night, as did the property’s own private beach.

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After a lovely sunrise, we enjoyed Ripley’s Aquarium, Broadway at the Beach, Brookgreen Gardens Freestyle Music Park, and Huntington Beach State Park (affiliated with Huntington Beach in California) where we saw alligators in the marsh and where we also body surfed on the beach. So glad the gators stayed in the marsh and did not join us on the beach…I always say: “it’s better to eat lunch than be lunch!”

We drove to Carowinds, a unique Carolinas theme park, open year round, whereas half the park lies in North Carolina and half lies in South Carolina. Our rustic yet cozy cabin at Camp Wilderness on the edge of the Carowinds property was the perfect place to stay while enjoying the park and the outlying areas. We even had a small kitchen, and the proximity to the attractions was very convenient.

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In the morning we enjoyed a tour of South Carolina’s Old English Country and Historic Brattonsville, a colonial settlement, where the classic movie “Patriot” was filmed starring Mel Gibson. The place was fabulous and the history was gripping. A fascinating woman, Miss Kitty, whose ancestors were the real slaves there on the actual plantation, gave us a period tour as well. We learned about the resident heirloom chickens, goats, and pigs that are actually endangered and are no longer farmed. It’s an actual working plantation even after 300 years.

So glad we followed the locals’ advice and stopped in nearby, historic York for lunch afterwards at The Brandon House. The chef trained at the Cordon Bleu in France. Everything was delicious and beautifully presented. The darling, small, historic building that houses the eatery only added to the romantic ambiance.

Blending the old and the new, this South Carolina road trip far exceeded our expectations.

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Carolina Low Country’s Palm Key Offers Unparalleled Beauty

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One of the most beautiful and serene spots in the south is the Carolina Low Country and gorgeous Palm Key. This is a majestic place that’s both magical and peaceful looking out at the wetlands and islands of South Carolina, with huge sprawling oaks and Spanish Moss everywhere. We had a spectacular view from the deck of our gorgeous private rental home. There were even a few resident alligators in the pond.

The owners are multi-talented folks and cooked us a fabulous southern gourmet dinner at the main dining hall after we went crabbing to collect the daily catch from the crab pots.

We steamed the crabs right on the premises and you simply cannot get any fresher than that! Sitting at the head of the Broad River, about 17 miles from the sea, visitors to Palm Key are fortunate to enjoy miles of pristine salt-marsh, and blazing sunsets in this peaceful setting. Those looking for a romantic getaway will savor the tranquility, fantastic accomodations, and delightful meals.

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At high tide, outdoor enthusiasts at Palm Key kayak to see the dolphins, egrets, and other resident wildlife right from the very cottages and homes on property. Palm Key’s knowledgeable kayak guides do everything to make kayaking in this unique locale truly unforgettable.

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Palm Key is quite simply an unspeakably beautiful wildlife sanctuary, and the hospitality is unparalleled. It truly is a hidden gem, like none other.

While staying at Palm Key’s wonderful central location we took a spectacular road trip excursion and tour of the South Carolina Low country–all marshes and beaches and islands of South Carolina.

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We ate lunch in Beaufort, South Carolina, at a wonderful restaurant called Panini Café, which just happens to have the very best Panini we’d ever had and a fabulous pasta salad with a creamy mustardy-sweet dressing…delicious!

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We visited the Lighthouse at Hunting Island State Park, the Beaufort waterfront, the Old Sheldon Church ruins from 1745, Chapel of Ease from 1740, several beaches and numerous gorgeous plantations. One interesting point of interest was the grave of Thomas Heyward, Jr. who signed the Declaration of Independence.

The history and the beauty of the entire low country were unique and captivating. What a wonderful place, so peaceful and so breathtakingly pretty.

Every year thousands of visitors from around the world come to Quebec City to enjoy the festivities of one of the world’s most enormous winter festivals. Quebec Winter Carnival is ranked among the world’s top ten best winter festivals and is considered one of the world’s 1000 must-see destinations.Parades, rides, attractions, sporting events, dog sledding, dining, ice sculptures, ice buildings, skating, skiing, snow shoeing and more create a world class vacation destination in one of North America’s most majestic cities.
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Flying into Quebec City at Jean-Lesage International Airport is hassle free. The magical and historical city of Quebec is transformed into a winter wonderland worthy of a movie or fairy tale. Music, events, dining and activities abound that celebrate Carnaval. Bonhomme, the snowman, is the mascot whom visitors revel in spotting and meeting throughout the city during the Carnaval festivities. We stayed at the Hilton Quebec which was within walking distance of everything the picturesque city offers. This proved invaluable. We enjoyed dog sled races and show shoe races and live bands on the Plains of Abraham. The Carnaval Day Parade rivals the Macy’s Parade and is a must see with dozens of gigantic inflatable characters including Bonhomme.
Also one magical evening we were enchanted by a lovely ice skating session just blocks from our hotel at Place D’Youville where folks of all ages skate under gently falling snow to music. Bonhomme arrived and everyone went wild with excitement. It was like a scene out of the movie with the beautiful and historic buildings and lights framing the rink. One highlight was a guided Snowshoer’s Walk on the Plains of Abraham where our entertaining guide dressed in period costume, narrated and sang with us while weaving a tale of the history of the area.
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Just a few beautiful miles from Quebec City is Le Nordique, a gorgeous spa retreat where couples can enjoy massages, hydrotherapy pools and more, all amongst majestic mountain backdrops and frozen rivers and lakes. A beautiful hotel property nearby, Le Manoir du Lac Delage offers sumptuous meals and gorgeous views. We spent the afternoon eating a simply wonderful lunch and partaking in a fun outdoor activity called Rand Orientation where, on snowshoe, participants hunt for markers in the forest from coordinate clues and a compass. It was a wonderful way to see the back country and exercise while testing our skills.

Also nearby is the Wendake nation’s hotel and museum. Home of the first inhabitants of the Americas, this village is very intriguing. The four star hotel, Hotel-Musee Premieres Nations, blends tradition and culture of the Wendake native people. The food is a cultural experience where delicious native foods like smoked sturgeon and seal are extraordinary. And home baked breads made by native grains like bannique bread made with wild berry corn and flour are tantalizing. The foods are prepared by native peoples or by elders using generations-old techniques. Local cheese and locally crafted adult beverages make this so unique and delightful. Even the herbs used to prepare the foods, over 90 of them, are locally produced.
The entire community is full of historic and educational buildings and a walking tour is a must.
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Also just outside the city of Quebec we enjoyed Montmorency Falls Park where we took the grand cable car ride up the mountain to a spectacular historical and natural wonder. These falls are higher than Niagra Falls and simply amazing. Quebec City is an immensely romantic destination and perhaps there is no better time to visit than during Carnaval. Another novelty of the Quebec City area is the Hotel de Glace just a few miles from the city. To learn more about the Hotel de Glace you can read more HERE.

Carmel is the editor of Roadtripsforcouples.com and you can hear her every Sunday at noon talk about her travels on KJAY 1430 AM in Sacramento.

One of California’s best places for snow much fun is Big Bear Lake, California. We love it more each time we go. There’s so much to do once you arrive on “Big Bear time.” Even though Big Bear has some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the state, with virtually no lines, the pinnacle of our most recent trip was a 8 wheel drive off road adventure. It was more than spectacular to experience the back country of the San Bernardino mountains from a heavy duty off-road vehicle. Our tour with Big Bear Off Road Adventures was nothing less than fabulous and absolutely unforgettable, taking us to breathtaking vistas and allowing us a behind the scenes perspective on the beauty that is so unique to Big Bear. Our guide/driver Eric was the best.
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We even got to “off-road it” and explore an area where Bonanza was filmed many years ago. The abilities of the off road vehicle allowed us to traverse thick, virgin powder and to see winter wonderland sights that were literally inaccessible to anyone else. It’s not just a ride; it’s an adventure!

Right before we went off-road, we even stopped at Maggio’s Pizza and got the best “to go” salads and calzones we could have ever dreamed of. Fresh, delicious ingredients made our lunch stand out as truly memorable.

We love skiing at Big Bear. Friendliness and no stress are what make skiing at Big Bear a sheer delight. Much more than just a skiing and snowboarding destination, it has all the bases covered when it comes to an all inclusive snowy destination that rivals Tahoe or Vail. Snow Summit and Bear Mountainvisitors will appreciate the unique flavor with beautifully manicured slopes, friendly and competent instructors, and the feeling that you’ve stepped back in to a simpler day when a couple could spend more time skiing and less time waiting to have fun.

Moonridge Park is a wonderful zoo/animal park open all year so a couple can really enjoy seeing animals in their natural winter environment. It’s exhilarating to actually see a snow leopard romping in the snow. or a bear family frolicking in fresh powder.

Try a beginners snow shoe tour at the Big Bear Discovery Center, or an afternoon on the Alpine Slide or tubing. The “snow much fun” options are virtually endless.
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Before you retreat back to a comfy cabin, you’ll want to explore the wonderful dining in Big Bear. Again, lots of choices. Sonora Cantina serves great food and ambiance at reasonable prices, and with good portions.
The Himalayan is the only restaurant in Big Bear to offer Indian and Nepalese food. It is outstanding. With delicious sauces, warm and delicious Naan, Tandoori entrees, and using only the freshest herbs and ingredients, this place is healthy and wonderful. We loved every bite. It’s family operated and provides great food with exotic flavors. It’s the perfect place to warm up with remarkably good and filling food after a day in the snow.

Mountain West Vacation Rentals provided us the ideal location from which to get the most out of our delightful Big Bear Adventure. Our cabin was clean, cozy, well-appointed and central to all the fun.
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We enjoyed games, movies, a telescope, a wonderfully stocked kitchen, extra blankets, and nice, rock fireplace. It truly felt like a home away from home. That’s so important when you travel as a couple and are go, go, go with lots to do and see. The folks there were friendly and helpful. It’s a top notch vacation rental operation.Take note that Big Bear Lake is less than two hours from Disneyland and LAX or Orange County airport. When visiting Big Bear Lake in the winter, remember that mountain weather can change quickly so stay informed of chain control warnings. For road conditions call: 1-800-427-ROAD