Terry Zinn

84 POSTS

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A day at the beach should last all summer, and winter for that matter. And it can in Clearwater, Florida. (www.clearwaterflorida.org/visitor) The talcum powder like sand, the wide stretch of natural beach, the nearby amenities, the chance for glorious sunsets, a calm surf, and easy beach access all make this area a perfect anytime get away. If flying in to the Tampa/St. Petersburg airport, it’s an almost direct shot over on highway 60 to the Clearwater/St. Pete peninsula. Along the pleasant drive, you will find a stretch where water is on both sides of the road, and you may even get, as I did, a surprise welcome to the area by seeing a pair of feeding dolphins.
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The Sandpearl resort hotel (www.sandpearl.com) is your prime home base for upscale comfort. While on your fantasy escape why not experience the best. From the moment you enter the circular drive with valet parking to the expansive lobby complete with an infinity fountain view of the ocean, to the Geoffrey Smith bronze sculptures and the chandeliers which dangle with large sea shells, you can feel the luxury touches, of nature blended with mankind.
It’s the little things that make you happy in a hotel and an efficient elevator is key. The Sandpearl has the fastest, yet smoothest elevator imaginable. Of course a silky bed and balcony views of the ocean or pool, a well appointed bathroom and widescreen TV is a given. The room service food charges and quality are comparable to any resort.
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My party was hosted with an extra-ordinary wine paring dinner at the Sandpearl’s Caretta on the Gulf Restaurant. The chef and sommelier knew what they were doing, and their suggestions were encouraged. Out by the pool, a martini (sadly only in a plastic glass) and a light meal was sampled at the ocean side, Tate Island Grill.

While your Sandpearl room is enticing, being outside is a mantra in Clearwater. My outside adventures took me via ferry to Caladesi State park, (ww.floridastateparks.org/CaladesiIsland/) which is a wilderness island preserve, where sea shelling is encouraged. Here, by stone ruins, they tell of early settlers and their hard luck life style as well as poison ivy and snakes. I saw it all, but didn’t touch, but did find some shell keepsakes.
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If you ever wanted to learn to sail your opportunity awaits at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center (www.clearwatercommunitysailing.org), where classes are available and easily booked. The youthful and congenial instructors ease you into the basics of sailing. Or if you are a pro you can rent a craft there as well.
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There’s no need to wish to be a Johnny Depp-styled pirate when you can be one for two hours aboard Capt Memos Pirate ship excursion. (www.captmemo.com) The three decked ship with accompanying pirate crew is a fun family pastime, where children’s pirate themed games are played, water gun fights break out, and even a chance at pirate musical chairs. For adults, the time gliding over the calm waters of the gulf, getting lost in the clouds, or conversing with new friends is as natural as the constantly changing scenery.
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At the open air Bright House Field baseball park down in St Pete its fun to take in a game of the Threshers vs., who ever. (www.threshersbaseball.com) This is the training park for the Philadelphia Phillies, with the Threshers as their farm team. The park is a delight when the setting sun is at your back, illuminating the players perfectly. Food and beverages are easily available and impromptu seating is usually no problem. It really doesn’t matter if you have a favorite team or not as being out in the fresh Florida air, with a competition as entertainment makes for a relaxing evening. And while in the St Petersburg area, surreal art lovers enjoy checking out the Dali Art Museum. (www.salvadordalimuseum.org/) Thursday evenings the admission is only five dollars.
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Food and drink are necessary treats on a vacation, and the Clearwater Columbia Restaurant (www.columbiarestaurant.com) offers a fresh made exceptional Sangria prepared at your table. Their signature house salad, along with a variety of entrées makes Columbia an upscale experience at reasonable prices. Of course at their open air bar, I had to test their signature 1905 Martini with cheese stuffed olives. It passed with flying colors. If you don’t mind the over popularity of dining at Island Way,(www.islandwaygrill.com/) you will rejoice in their food selections. Along with culinary delights the restaurant is appointed with a variety and quite extensive display of art glass. If you can, make reservations, as in season its not uncommon to see a line of hungry patrons forming outside.
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A visit to Clearwater would not be complete without a stop at the Marine Aquarium. (www.cmaquarium.org) Here the star is Winter the Dolphin with the prosthetic tail. Internationally known as a survivor, this beloved dolphin has adapted to using an artificial fin to propel itself, after having lost its fin as a youngster due to a lobster trap mishap. Winter is inspiration to all ages of limb handicapped persons. And did I hear a chant? Winter, summer, spring or fall; Clearwater/St. Pete has it all! (www.clearwaterflorida.org/visitor)

In Spanish, Galapagos, is related to the word saddle, which describes a certain shell shape covering the land tortoise found on the islands by early Spanish explorers. Saddle could not be a better metaphor for the whole Ecuadorian and Galapagos soft adventure experience. A bucket list favorite for travelers, there’s no better time than now to saddle up for the adventure ride of your life in the Galapagos Islands.
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It can not be overstated how important your choice is of a tour company when taking an international trip. The details they know how to handle can make or break your travel experience. Ecoventura (www.ecoventura.com) is heartily recommended for their ease of booking and prolific communication to the myriad of questions and requests I had.
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From their extensive web site you gather in most of the preliminary information needed
in planning your bucket list adventure. They also can book pre or post Ecuadorian land tours. We were booked at Quito’s Plaza Grande (plazagrandequito.com” www.plazagrandequito.com) and Swissotel (www.swissotel.com/quito) for our pre and post cruise hotels, and both offered upscale amenities desired by international travelers.
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Ecoventura is committed to green travel, as exemplified by their newly outfitted 20 guest
yacht the M/Y Eric complete with wind turbines and solar panels to supplement energy needs. . Even the local frigid birds join in, as they fly above the ships wind turbines – an anachronistic sight! In 2006, Ecoventura became the first Carbon Neutral operation in Galapagos and Ecuador. As a modern traveler, complete with electronic gadgets like camera battery chargers and a photo editing computer, 110 electrical outlets in the cabins and public areas are a modern necessity and certainly a luxury not found on many adventure ships. Check out their website for a listing of their eco awards.
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The Ecoventura fleet includes the sister ships to the M/Y Eric, of the Letty and the Flamingo I. They also have the M/Y Sky Dancer which is booked exclusively for divers and does not offer land tours. The Eric is the perfect combination of land tours, snorkeling and sea kayaking experiences, flavored with surprisingly delicious and diverse meals, shared with congenial fellow explorers. Our guides of Lola and Orlando were exemplary in there knowledge and tour leadership.

The beverages at the bar were limited (the only deficiency I found aboard the Eric.) Even though I was assured they would have martini glasses and could make such, this was not the case. A young fellow traveler took pity on me and created a mock martini glass out of cardboard, aluminum foil and plastic wrap. The good natured gift made up for a lack of on board bar ware.

Upon investigation for my trip I was surprised to find many thousands of human inhabitants on the endangered world heritage site. Even at 650 miles from South Americas’ Ecuadorian mainland, there is the misconception that these islands are so remote that nothing other than wild life is allowed to inhabit this stunning volcanic Archipelago.

A typical day of a week’s exploration would be a 7 am wake up call, breakfast and then an 8:15 departure for an hour or twos land tour. Back on board for lunch, a brief rest and then back to a different locale for either snorkeling and swimming or another land tour.
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The famous wildlife still exists in abundance. It was easy in my January visit to see the Nazca, Red and Blue Footed Boobies, with sea lions and marine iguanas in abundance, frigate birds, oaster catchers, sally crabs, lava lizards, penguins, the flightless cormorant (unique to the Galapagos), land iguanas, a variety of Darwin finches among other birds, and of course the name sake Galapagos Land tortoises. Be aware that the Land Tortoise is usually only visible on Santa Cruz Island and not so much in the wild as in corralled areas. This was enlightening to me at how protected they are and how illusive it might be to see one in the true wild. Only in the Galapagos can you come upon a mother frigid bird feeding its young by letting its offspring feed down its throat.
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Back on land in Quitos we took a couple of side tours offered by Ecoventura, and had a sampling of Ecuador’s interior. A day’s tour to the Cloud Forest Preserve was tiring, wet but still illuminating. Our guide was congenial, despite muddy trails, but the misty viewing of a variety of hummingbirds at their feeder was mesmerizing.

More rewarding was a day trip north which included the Otavalo market, the largest in South America. We did not visit on their official weekly market day, but there was still a number of vendors with exceptional prices on woven goods. We wished we had purchased more.
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A real treat, besides visiting a cascade (waterfall) in a state park, was the welcome and luxurious atmosphere at lunch at the La Mirage – Relais and Chateaux property in Cotacachi Imbabura, in the Highlands of the Andes. R & C properties are known for their exquisite dining experiences, and this was exemplified by our Amuse Bouch served inside wooden music boxes. The gardens were fun to stroll- enjoying the antics of peacocks and quick sightings of other birds. The Martini I ordered was a perfect top off to this delightful visit.
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While this Ecuadorian interior visit held delights, my mind still drifts back to the Galapagos Islands. The memory of an up close panga ride (a small rubber powered dingy) along the Fernandina cliffs packed with wildlife including penguins, and cruising the smooth pacific at sunset with beverage in hand, wind in my hair and 360 degrees of unspoiled natural sea beauty, is an experience that can not be taken away with today’s dour economic issues. A trip to the Galapagos is a priceless mental refreshment in a troubled world.

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A road trip guarantees a real travel adventures. A week driving through the glacier-formed Finger Lakes of West Central New York State is barely enough time to explore all this sampling Americana has to offer. Flying in and out of Rochester gives you the opportunity to tour the Eastman House (www.eastmanhouse.org) with its photography research center, and the unique Strong National Museum of Play (www.strongmuseum.org).

On your way to your overnight in Canandaigua you’ll see the Erie Canal with a quick stop in Pittsford, and see how the canal is adapted today to leisure activities. Also en route through Mumford is the Genesse Country Village and Museum (www.gcv.org).

And what would a road trip be without getting slightly lost, or thinking you are lost? A correctly programmed GPS system in your car will become invaluable and a real comfort while traveling the many back roads of the expansive Finger Lakes. This was my first time with a talking map, and after we came to an “understanding” the device was an asset to the road trip adventure. Continuing on, you may want to drive the twisting, wooded roads of Letchworth State Park, which is listed as the Grand Canyon of the East, and does have some surprisingly nice scenic turnouts (www.letchworthpark.com).

Over night at the comfortable Bristol Harbor Resort in Canandaigua is highly recommended and a brief home base for touring the Canandaigua Lake area (www.bristolharbour.com). The town itself has quaint architecture, and a stop-off at the Finger Lakes visitor bureau at 25 Gorham street, can be helpful for last minute directions and touring advice. (www.visitfingerlakes.com) The office encourages visitors to contact them for information on the area and to learn which sights a first time visitor might like to see. It was invaluable to me, as I picked from their extensive catalog the areas I found interesting, and they were able to send a suggested itinerary.

Jump in your car and drive south on Rt 21 towards Naples. Let your intuition choose which of the road side offerings of gifts wines and foods to sample. There are so many it would be hard to see them all, but I enjoyed the small, but packed, Monica’s Pies (www.monicapies.com). A most original and indigenous treat are the grape pies, a sweet treat with a homemade goodness, which has won many awards.
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Grapes in New York state of course are made into wines, and the Imagine Moore Winery (www.imaginemoorewinery.com) has a congenial wine tasting house right next to a vineyard. I found their wine good enough to buy and take home. Other notable wineries in this neck of the Finger Lakes is Arbor Hill Grapery (www.thegrapery.com) and the Widmer Wine Cellars (www.widmerwine.com). Being an art glass collector I was tempted to purchase at the local artist gallery, Artisan’s Gifts from the Finger Lakes (www.artizanns.com) with their well-priced local art, including paintings, pottery and a few pieces of art glass.

Back to Canandaigua’s New York Wine and Culinary Center (www.nywcc.com) I was privileged to sit in on an evening Wine and Pasta pairing demonstration. My dinner in Tuscany exhibition with Chef Lorenzo Boni gave me a new appreciation of Barilla Pasta and their sauces. Now I relive a little bit of my Finger Lakes experience every time I go to my local supermarket.

With some imagination, the Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State historic park, gives you a glance at past opulence.(www.sonnenberg.org). Undergoing long-term renovation the mansion and gardens are in need of extensive care and funding. It’s sad to see the once lovely grounds and house crumbling before your eyes. At least its condition is recognized and small steps are taking place to preserve this historic New York estate. Be sure and take time to relax by strolling Canandaigua’s lakeshore drive and city pier with its historic boat houses. Also be aware that the Ontario County Courthouse is where Susan B. Anthony was convicted and fined one hundred dollars for voting.
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High on my list of want-a-sees was the Corning Museum of glass in Corning New York (www.cmog.org). An enthusiastic and knowledgeable docent took me on a whirlwind tour down their educational history of glass exhibition, with stops to see glass blowing exhibitions in their hot glass shop and a chance to participate in a glass blowing experience. While I did the blowing the craftsperson spun the blow rod and formed the small pumpkin, which when cooled was mailed to me. This is a Finger Lakes road trip stop not to be missed. Of course I was overwhelmed by their glass gift shop, where I found several pieces from my favorite glass artists. I also found tempting glass in Corning’s Market Street Galleries. Also downtown is the Rockwell (no relation to the artist) Museum of Western Art which houses the best of the West in the East (www.rockwellmuseum.org).

You can have more hands-on glass blowing experience at Corning’s Hands-on Glass: Hot Glass Studio (www.handsonglass.com) where classes are available, as well as a small selection of glass for sale. Rodi Rovner and her team work hard to keep the tradition of glass on a personal level alive. My stay at Corning‘s Radisson hotel was convenient and professionally efficient.(www.radisson.com/corningny) If you want to be over fed and have a sensory dining experience, Spencer’s Restaurant should be your Corning dining choice. (www.spencerscorning.com) When you look closely you’ll see church pews accompanied by fireplaces and an inventive menu including eggplant fries!
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Another famous Finger Lakes town is Watkins Glenn, know for its race track, where it is possible with an appointment, for you to drive your own car around the track. I chose to take a relaxing (and can be romantic) evening boat ride on Captain Bill’s Seneca lake dinner Cruise (www.senecaharborstation.com). An over night at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel (www.watkinsglenharborhotel.com) is a convenient and luxurious oasis with gorgeous views of Lake Seneca. Allow plenty of time if you wish to venture into the Watkins Glenn State Park, where waterfalls and nature combine. My time was brief as I was off to Hammonsport to be introduced to the Glenn Curtis’s Museum, centering on aviation, motorcycles and other firsts. The firsts continue with a tour of the Pleasant Valley Wine company established in 1867. Forty-Five minute guided tours are offered to explain the complicated process of wine, sherry, and champagne making in their expansive facility.
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On my way up to Aurora I just had to make a very brief detour to Elmira to see Mark Twain’s family cemetery plot and to see the nearby little writing retreat, which is like a closed-in gazebo. What’s a road trip adventure without an impromptu detour? It’s this kind of flexibility that makes a road trip all worthwhile. Of course, it made me late for my lunch appointment at the Pumpkin Hill Bistro at 2051 Route 90 near Aurora. My delicious lunch was waiting for me,and promptly served amid a charming atmosphere of intimate dining (www.pumpkinhillbistro.com)

I was in a bit of a rush, as I had tickets for the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn (www.merry-go-round.com). The professional theatre building was once a merry-go-round enclosure. Getting off the road, resting and being professionally entertained is a welcome counterpoint to a road tour. After the theatre there was a brief visit to Auburn’s Willard Memorial chapel with its interior decorated totally with Luis Comfort Tiffany religious stain glass windows and accents.
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Then it was off to the Belhurst Chateau to enjoy the grounds and public rooms of this restored and expanded Geneva mansion (www.belhurst.com). An elegant dinner at Edgar’s, with view of the lake was a perfect ending to an adventurous touring agenda. The history of this wine related lodge is felt in every room. To emphasize this wine region, there is even a working wine spicket available to over night guests in the second floor lobby. Now that’s hospitality!
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Driving out of Geneva on your way back to Rochester airport, you can tank up your thirst with award winning 100% fruit juices at Red Jacket Orchards (www.redjacketorchards.com). While I had a very full Finger Lakes itinerary there is much more to savor, and you may find other areas of interest when you request your Finger Lakes planning booklet. (www.fingerlakes.org) Summer and Autumn are perfect times to tour the lakes, hills and many attractions of this part of America, which I call a perfect sampling of Americana.