Terry Zinn

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Photography by Terry Zinn

Hotel Mousai is worlds away from the ordinary upscale all-inclusive resort. The high rise column of luxury accommodations, nestled on a juggle covered mountain side, is indeed a world away from expectations. In fact, lunching or cocktail imbibing or swimming in the roof top infinity pool (one of three in the Mousai complex) one can hardly believe they are not on the French Riviera, or at some exotic South East Asia retreat.  Surprisingly, Hotel Mousai is only a moderate nonstop plane ride away to the destination popular Mexican resort of Puerto Vallarta.  Puerto Vallarta is named as one of the friendliest Mexican towns.

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The roof top pool at the all adult Mousai is accompanied by another infinity pool half way down the mountain side, where again, food and beverage and the uninterrupted vast exotic ocean side horizon embracing the soul.  Down by the ocean is the sister accommodation of the Garza Blanca family friendly resort where again a pool with food and beverage service is accompanied by a modest white sand beach, complete with access to jet skis and kayaks.

Upon your greeting with a cool refreshing towel, and a cool beverage perhaps made of green tea and fruit, you are adorned with a ribbon bracelet which identifies you as an honored Hotel Mousai guest, and grants all-inclusive privilege throughout the compound. No tacky rubber or paper bracelet but a handmade braided ribbon, which is an example of the details that exist to accentuate a guest’s stay.

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You may be assigned your personal butler, acting more like a second concierge than a room assistant, to guide you during your stay and perhaps accompany you to your high rise, ocean view room.  Here be sure and detain your host to explain in detailed the plethora of digital light switches and other amenities. Here you will find your touch control switches to open and close two sets of panoramic curtains, the playing of a variety of music, in addition to several lighting configurations, including sedate illumination of onyx décor and a more conventional room temperature control.  Of course a traditional TV remote is a welcomed companion to the super wide screen, complete with CNN and a few English stations, mounted on a wood and mirrored wall.  The pristine maintenance of that wood and glass mosaic to the everyday accumulation of salt sea breezes and fingerprints is unimaginable. But such are the details you’ll witness.

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Besides your room’s dual shower and dual sinks atop massive onyx bases, a Jacuzzi may adorn your balcony view, where you may also enjoy room service dining or an addictive retreat to a large welcoming hammock. Submerged in your gentle Jacuzzi you may forget that this is another infinity designed pool.

The complex offers several all-inclusive restaurants. A favorite is the morning terraced breakfast option off the main lobby, which converts to Oriental dining later on and of course offers beverages. While during the off season of summer you may dine at, Hiroshi, Blanca Blue, BocaDos STK, Aquazul and the Terrace without reservations, and let your whim be your guide.  The attentive staff at this relatively new hotel have been hired for their friendliness and personal affinity for the guests, and maybe not so much for their previous hotel experience.  A forward thinking hotel management philosophy.

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The additional cost Spa is an over the top experience, offering several types of hydro therapy, a variety of creative massages (Ever had a Tequila wrap massage?), and salon complete with expert manicures and pedicures. Of course there is an upscale and extensive work out facility, with again that beautiful vista you come to expect.

With all of your resort needs filled at the complex, it may be hard to pull yourself away to take a tour of the town of Puerto Vallarta.  If you have never visited before you will find the everyday seaside resort a touch of old Mexico mixed with touristy venues, and some good dining experiences.  Your tour provided by the hotel may include a Tequila tasting with stops near the famous ocean side views of the movie location of Night of The Iguana, along with a brief stop at a quaint village called “Mouth of the Tomato.”

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An added convenience is the frequent hotel shuttle trolley to take you up and down the mountain side to your various venues, or a golf cart can also be arranged. This is a detail appreciated by seniors and all who what an ease of access. All in all Hotel Mousai is fit for an out of this world contemporary James Bond experience, and/or for you requiring the best in exotic resorts.  For more information and your reservations:  http://www.hotelmousai.com/ or Goggle Hotel Mousai.

 

Photography by Terry Zinn

When you think of visiting Georgia you may only think of the big towns like Atlanta or Augusta, but there are other fascinating towns if you can make the time to travel by car which produces your own unique road trip.

Atlanta does have a lot to offer and I have to say I am impressed with my overnight stay at the Westin Peach Tree Plaza Hotel (http://www.westinpeachtreeplazaatlanta.com/), with its downtown location, comfy rooms and an impressive observation deck on the 73 floor, capped off with a cocktail lounge and The Sundial Restaurant on adjoining floors. During the cocktail hour I enjoyed their Bar 73 New Georgia Peach Martini ($14) of Grey Goose, Peach Schnapps and Amaretto, to accompany a small Caesar salad ($9). The rotating cocktail lounge is a combination of exhilaration and relaxation with incomparable views of Atlanta. And of course a trip to Atlanta would not be complete without a visit to the Atlanta History Center (http://www.atlantahistorycenter.com) with its extensive collection and outdoor living history compound.

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Augusta (http://www.visitaugusta.com/) offers the historic yet quirky Partridge Inn which was the center of tourist attention of 1889 to 1930. After a recent renovation following many more previous additions, the Partridge Inn sits on “the hill,” as a testament to time and travelers of all seasons. A cocktail or light supper out on the verandah offers a tranquil and southern elegant evening. And while Augusta’s funky, The Bees Knees Restaurant is known for its variety of Tapas, I delighted in my first chicken and waffles. Among many attractions, Augusta offers for your education and enjoyment; the Canal National Heritage area, the Museum of History with a special exhibit of home town musician, James Brown, and an historic downtown with its Haunted Pillar. Touching or moving it may result in a death.

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Escape to Statesboro (www.visitstatesboroga.com) where you will find a banquet size meal served in family style elegance complete with ghosts stories in the Historic Beaver House Restaurant (http://www.thebeaverhouserestaurant.com) at 121 South Main Street.

The home dates back to 1911 and has an antebellum charm but in a real family residence, where room sizes are small but portions are large. The Traditional Boarding House Dinner served on Friday and Saturdays offers exceptional Prime Rib and Fried Fantail Shrimp which is served along with a plethora of homemade sides. And if you need a sweet desert or more, try the Cotton Patch Bakery and Deli for more homemade madness. If you are in a shopping mode on certain days take in the Main Street Farmers market and the nearby comic memorabilia shop, that brings out the kid in us all.

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Statesboro is also home of legendary entertainer Emma Kelly. She was called by song writer Johnny Mercer as the lady of ten thousand songs, She is featured in a chapter in the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” and I was privilege to have sat in on a couple of her cocktail lounge performances in Savanah in past years. It was a life affirming joy to see that Statesboro renamed a theater in her honor before she past. (http://www.averittcenterforthearts.org)

You may think you are in Europe when you stay at the Hotel Indigo in Athens, Georgia. The rooms are equipped with modern amenities, and light switches that may take a little exploration for you to work. This modern design and the hotel’s LEED Gold Certified property of sustainability, fits perfectly with Athens being the host to the University of Georgia.

As one might expect of a university town, Athens has upscale dining as I experienced at The Five & Ten Restaurant where I had a pre fix dinner of Smoked Kielbasa with artichokes, radicchio, fermented sunchoke, sorghum gastrique with sunflower seeds, and an entrée of Glazed Lamb Shoulder with pickled blueberries, hakurei turnips, fennel, smoked pecans and onion broth. A red wine of Minerviois, Chateau D’Oupia, from Languedoc, France 2012 accompanied the meal before the desert of Panna Cotta with pecan sandie thumbprint and pickled peaches. All was impeccably served and while the Lamb was delicious the Panna Cotta was ecstasy! And the true test of fine dining is a properly prepared Martini, which Five & Ten poured to my satisfaction.

Besides the Georgia Museum of Art, artistic delights should be consumed at a number of other eateries, including The Place, Creature Comforts Brewery and the roof top of the Georgia Theatre at Phickles Pickles serving Fried Chicken Skins and Pimento Cheese made with goat cheese. Yum!

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Albany, Georgia (http://www.albany.ga.us) has the Ray Charles Plaza complete with a bronze of the entertainer and his piano at Riverfront Park, the Welcome Center in the old bridge house of the Flint River, the Civil Rights Institute and the new Flint River Aquarium. Albany is home to eight golf course and a number of entertainers including, Ray Stevens, Luke Bryan and American Idol Winner, Phillip Phillips.

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To round out your road trip a stop in Washington (www.historyofwilkes.org) will be a surprise you will not forget with its quaint town square, row upon row of architectural house gems, and the Washington Historical Museum in a home built in 1835, and today serves as a reminder of the past to understand the future of Wilkes County.

When in Georgia think about taking in one of these under sung locales.

 

 

Photography by Terry Zinn

Many people find that a packaged tour offers the best in time and treasure management. A package tour is designed to offer the ease of small group travel and the expert knowledge offering the highlights of a particular itinerary. Package tours take the worry out of exploration, as the operators know the area offered and the fastest way to experience the survey of an area. For first time visitors, it gives an over view of the best of the area, and if the traveler finds that time at an attraction is not enough, it is a good reference point for a follow up visit. As you can tell, I find an expert package tour is a convenient holiday experience.

Adventures By Disney is a relatively new group tour operation. Disney does it right, whether it’s movies, theme parks or group tours. Recently I experienced Nashville the Disney way, with many insider and backstage visits not available to other tours and certainly not by solo travelers. Several years ago I visited Nashville, but after my tour with Adventures By Disney, I have a complete Nashville experience with many Disney extras that are memorable, educational and fun. Staying at the Opryland Hotel was a treat in itself. Every day our energized and informative tour guides, Kelley and Paola, offered extras and surprises that got us spoiled as we visited from venue to venue. Just when we thought the venue or day was complete we’d hear our guides say, “And then there’s more!”

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The Hermitage, located near Nashville, was the home of President Andrew Jackson. Adventures By Disney arranged for Andrew and his wife to greet our bus, and welcome us at the traditional entry to the homestead, which is not offered for other visitors. We had an after-hours visit, complete with a guided grounds and house tour, and then there was more. We had a period dance instruction with Andrew and his wife joining in, as others in the group enjoyed wine and vintage Andrew Jackson bourbon. And then there was more. We had a hands on instruction in simple biscuit making by expert, Maryann Byrd, and then enjoyed our creations baked just for us at a catered sit down dinner in an a joining air conditioned venue. Walking back in the dark to the bus we were all more than satisfied as our departure was enhanced with a spectacle of fireflies.

Recently Nashville has added notoriety with the popular ABC television drama of the same name. Disney enhanced our Nashville adventure with a bus tour of filming locations, and a very special private concert luncheon at the famed Blue Bird Cafe. The essence of Nashville’s established and rising performers was exhibited by the intimate hour long plus performances by Leslie Satcher and Walker Hayes. We were all moved by the stories they told that inspired the creation of the songs they sang for us. This example of sincerity and the universal experiences of life, is the real Nashville sound. The clear voices and rhythmic songs were true examples of craft being raised to the level of performance art. Beyond the flash and country glamour of Nashville, the Blue Bird Cafe experience reaffirms the essence of America’s indigenous music.

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A visit to Music City would not be complete without a tour of the historical Ryman auditorium and of course Disney gave us a special private tour and a chance to stand on that stage which was inhabited by the founders of country music. We entered through the stage door entrance in an alley adjacent to a bar/lounge famous as a haunt of music pioneers. And while the Ryman is a must, the new Grand Ole Opry venue is as impressive when you are able to visit the famous back stage dressing rooms, and wall of fame. But there was more!

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We had a pre-show dinner in the broadcast studio where many Nashville shows were filmed which included the sound stage where the popular Hee Haw show was once produced. A catered sit down meal with wine was only briefly interrupted when instruction in line dancing was included. And to top off all of this VIP experience, we had VIP seating at that night’s Grand Ole Opry show, with a special treat for me, hearing a couple of songs by Vince Gill, a fellow Oklahoman.

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The more continued with hands on poster making at Hatch Show Print, a mock station ID recording at the legendary WSM 650 AM radio station, admission to the expansive Country Music Hall of Fame, and a private visit to Music Row’s RCA Studio B recording studio where Elvis along with other legendary artists, recorded their songs beginning in 1957. We were entertained with insider stories, and with many rehearsals under our belts, we recorded our own group singing a well-known Elvis favorite, and was later presented with our own special CD of our performance.

All along our days of adventures all admission charges were taken care of by our hosts as were most meal times. We ate at Merchants’ Restaurant where we customized our own BBQ sauce, and had breakfast at popular Puckett’s Grocery. There was even a little free time for us to explore downtown Nashville sights on our own. I took this opportunity to reserve my spot for lunch at the Southern Steak and Oyster restaurant, and then took a stroll up to the historic Hermitage Hotel and the Capitol Grille, where I took in a beverage and tales of this famous watering hole.

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If you couldn’t tell I was impressed with the services and thoughtfulness of the Adventures By Disney experience. Some Disney tours are for adults only while most welcome the whole family. Documents and itineraries are sent to you well in advance of your departure and should you have added questions they are easily answered by phone from your personal travel concierge. Besides state-side destinations, the company offers tours overseas and cruises as well. Tempt your travel lust by exploring: https://www.adventuresbydisney.com.

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Photography by Terry Zinn

“Travel is the truest form of education,” – Shirley MacLaine

For years I had heard of Mazatlán, Mexico, and yet not knowing much about it, I decided it was time I was educated by traveling there.

Mazatlán is a West Coast Mexican resort town, which was never planned as a resort town.  It has all the qualities needed for such: a developed 13 mile Malecon, or promenade, (http://www.discoverymexico.com/mazatlan/guides/mazatlan-malecon/ ) along a picturesque ocean front bay, mid to upscale resorts and many dining opportunities. 

My Oasis was the Pueblo Bonita Mazatlán ( http://www.pueblobonito-mazatlan.com/) an all-inclusive hotel on bustling, Camaron Sabalo avenue,  where the traffic competed for audio pleasure in my room with the relaxing swoosh of the surf. I would have changed my room location away from the traffic, but the view of the bay and pools were too outstanding.  An all-inclusive hotel option can be your ticket to ease, but sometimes its popularity causes delays in seating where no reservations are taken. The popular Bonita hotel chain has a newer property slightly up north on Emerald Bay, which needs exploring. I see in the hotel newsletter there are shuttles up and back, but my stay was far too short and my itinerary was pleasantly filled with other delights.

My stay included an itinerary of many fine eateries in a variety of atmospheres but all with attentive service and with a specialty of Mazatlán fresh sea food.

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Costa Marinera Restaurant (https://www.zonaturistica.com/restaurante/251/la-costa-marinera-mazatlan.html ), is right around the corner from my stay at the Pueblo Bonita Mazatlán hotel, and has an open air dining option overlooking the bay, with wandering musicians (singer Ernesto Sudea was a favorite) and attentive service.  As with many Mazatlán restaurants they offered a variety of breaded shrimp, on a seafood platter of Lobster, Tuna, Octopus, Mahi Mahi and my favorite at all the eateries, fresh Guacamole.  I was introduced to Toni Col (emobtell adori) a non-carbonated vanilla coke concoction with a distant taste of Coca Cola.

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A breakfast treat at the Shrimp Bucket Restaurant    (http://gomazatlan.com/en/restaurants/el-shrimp-bucket ) was a sugar cookie type offered at the table among assorted pastries. Again outdoor eating, despite the passing traffic was enjoyable, with views of old town architecture and the picturesque dear stature.  Mazatlán, I am told, means Land of the Deer. One of the off shore islands is named Deer Island.  You can enjoy a slow boat ride around the bay and a stop off at Deer Island, where a casual lunch and open bar, might tempt you away from the banana boat and kayaking activities. With sand between your toes under the shade of a palapa, a cool drink in hand, and views of the Mazatlán hotels across the water, it makes for a relaxing adventure.  ( http://www.mazatlantours.org/kolonahe-catamaran-deer-island.htm )

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Panama, with several locations, was my favorite of all the dining options. Here I had a comfort breakfast of egg over easy, potato frites, a crisp Belgian waffle topped with fruit and a heavenly syrup, accompanied by iced tea – it was a satisfying wakeup. The pastries in the shop in the front of the modern clean and uncluttered décor of the restaurant were tempting and looked too good to eat. Be sure and ask for the menu in English.

Also relatively close to the Pueblo Bonita Mazatlán hotel is the new La Mazetleca ( http://www.lamazatleca.com/ ) seafood restaurant. Weather permitting you can be seated at their sandy outdoor terrace overlooking the crashing surf.  With a Mango Margarita, the sun, the breeze, and good company, what more do you need?  I enjoyed a salmon with sunset sauce, ~ a refreshing fruity compote. La Mazetleca offers a number of exotic and visually stunning seafood dishes to explore. If outside seating is not an option, the interior has expansive windows toward the surf and video screens for passing the time.

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On my departing evening my hosts arranged for a tour of the seaside night life along the coastal road after sunset aboard the signature Pulmonias. Pulmonias are an adoption of a golf cart with open air seating. The story goes that when first introduced this touristy transportation was in competition with local taxis.  The taxis warned that you could catch cold or pneumonia riding in this open air motorized cars, thus the nickname Pulmonias. Pulmonias are only used in Mazatlán and have become its trademark image.

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The farewell dinner was at the El Presidio (http://www.gomazatlan.com/en/restaurants/el-presidio)  a gourmet restaurant  in the Historic District.  Here the charming atmosphere of a semi open air interior exposed brick courtyard transformed from reuse of an old house and factory, made for an exotic and memorable evening.  In fact the atmosphere out did the gourmet food. The congenital wait staff followed my instructions explicitly and made me the best traditional Martini I had during my stay. It would have been easy to order another Mango Margarita but requesting a well-made simple Martini is a real test for any gourmet restaurant and El Presidio measured up. 

 My stay was too short, but you may also enjoy the expansive market downtown which has everything from souvenirs, table coverings, religions artifacts, fruits, vegetables, meats, seafood and leather goods among its many stalls.

Traveling is not only educational and of course enjoyable, but with a destination like Mazatlán, you may have discovered your favorite Mexican resort.  There are a limited number of nonstop airline flights from a variety of United States gateways.  Explore: http://www.gomazatlan.com/

 

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Photography by Terry Zinn

I have visited Orlando and its amusement parks several times since the 1980’s.  Much has changed and improved and attracted even more hordes of pleasure seekers.  Knowing the expense of travel and the expense of accommodations and the expense of entertainments, I did some deep research online (not available in the ‘80s) and was able to make the most bang for my buck with my limited travel time.

Having stayed at on site park hotels before, this time I decided to find a property near the parks and downtown Orlando, and succeeded with the Wyndham Orlando Resort. http://www.wyndham.com/hotels/florida/orlando/wyndham-orlando-resort/hotel-overview

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A boon for this property is its close proximity to Disney World, Universal and Downtown Orlando all via Interstate 4, with on ramps just two blocks from the hotel.  And if you like you might take Universal Boulevard directly to the Universal Park, as the street is adjacent to this Wyndham Hotel.

The Wyndham Orlando Resort is a moderatly priced sprawling property with self-parking, and several pools.  The rooms are located in 2 story buildings surrounding the common area.  The convenience store is next to the exercise room on the property, with the Gatorville Grill open for lunch and late night snacks.  With music into the night it is a popular energetic outlet for some guests.  The pools are supposed to close and be quiet by 11 pm, but you may have to remind the front desk of these times, even though the desk does not always answer their phones.  To my surprise there are no elevators to the second story rooms, something traveling seniors might take note.

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With Disney World I opted for the 2 day park hopper pass, as I wanted to visit as many attractions as possible, and since I am not an early riser the extra early hours for Disney World hotel guest was of no interest to me.  Still, arriving around 9 am gave me good parking spots and not too much pedestrian traffic in the parks.  Disney has employed a fast pass option for guests to book before or while in the park. There is a magic band which has your ticket information encoded, making it easier to access the parks and to retrieve your one day 3 complimentary fast passes timed visits.

Also the online Disney Experience. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/plan/my-disney-experience , lets you reserve dining options as well as ride preferences.  With your preplanned visit you can construct an efficient schedule, taking the worry out of, “What do we do next? When do we eat? Let’s not miss so and so attraction.”  I tried to make a reservation at the upscale Victoria and Albert’s inside the Grand Floridian, but they were sold out 30 days in advance. In its place I had a delightful pre dinner cocktail at their Misner Lounge, accompanied by the live music of The Grand Floridian Society Orchestra, playing ole time favorites. I was lucky to track down their 1995 CD and by playing it am enjoying them and the evening again.

After the cocktail I enjoy a mass luau experience and mini Hawaiian show at the Polynesian resort. The Disney touch was again experienced, as the dinner was during a rain shower that turned into a down pour at its conclusion. As the Luau pavilion was some distance from the main hotel many guest were drenched on their return, but were handed towels once inside the hotel proper. Later on my visit I booked a gourmet lunch at Epcot’s French Restaurant, and a delicious signature pot roast at the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Tavern.  At MGM Grand I booked a dinner buffet at the Hollywood and Vine restaurant which luckily coincided during another rain shower, keeping me dry and my hunger satisfied, before viewing the over popular Disney Fantasmic water show.

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Of course I had to take in the two parks at Universal, a requirement to see both Harry Potter exhibits. After viewing the attractions via You Tube, I had little surprises, with the expectation of the rides which definitely tested your ride jerkabilty quotient.  The mixing of 3D movie and live motion made for an adventurous experience.  Here again the fast pass is a must to get into and out of popular attractions. And while it costs more on your ticket it is a relatively small price to pay for a near hassle free day. Disney World’s parking for the day at any park is $17 and the Universal $25 VIP parking was worth the economy of a few less steps into the park.

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Orlando has a myriad of other parks and attractions.  I ventured to take an indoor sky diving experience at IFLY. https://orlando.iflyworld.com   Here within a glass enclosed chamber, you are suited up, given a minimal of training and allowed to gently lean or leap into an updraft of air, accompanied by your tandem instructor, holding and guiding you.  The hardest thing is to keep your head up during your 2 minute dive. It is natural to look down, but keeping your head up keeps your body in a stable position.  I wonder how high flying sky divers can do this with the fast approaching ground and the momentary earthly views below.  Young children are accepted and up to 250 pound adults.  I had variety of body types in my flight session and all were novices, like me, and all succeeded in an enjoyable flight experience.  Of course you may purchase a video of your flight, if you make previous arrangements, or still images as well.  IFLY has several locations throughout the Unites States as Orlando is just one.

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I also was fortunate to take in the Central Florida University Festival of Performing Arts. They were free with reservations at the new Performing Arts Center downtown.  I stepped into the upscale Bohme Hotel across the street and had a quick bite and beverage before the Festival show. Other attractions and night life can be found on Church Street, along with galleries I wish I had had more time to peruse.

With detailed forethought you can get the most for your time and treasure in Orlando, whether for your entire family, your extended family or as I did, a solo visit.

Photography by Terry Zinn.

Idabel, Oklahoma native artist Harold Stevenson was recently reunited with friends and a selection of his artwork dating from 1953 at the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. “The Nature of Man: Paintings and Drawings by Harold Stevenson,” will be on exhibit through May 2015, and was generously donated in 2013 to the Museum by childhood friend and art collector, Ross Dugan.

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The museum has previous works of Stevenson in its collection including his monumental series, “The Great Society” of a 100 larger than life portraits of his neighbors, friends and acquaintances generated in Idabel, Oklahoma in 1966.  Besides being in many private collections, Stevenson works are in the collection of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

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As described in the gallery brochure, “The Nature of Man, explores Harold Stevenson’s investigation of masculinity from his early career in 1960’s to more recent works from the 1990’s. The male body in Stevenson’s works represents variously an expression of eroticism or memory of a reference to art history…. he produced naturalistic yet simplified depiction of the human body, frequently using a monumental scale and unconventional or unusual perspectives.”

This style was rejected by the critics of the 1950s who were more interested in non-objective abstraction.  But Harold’s creative, artistic lust would not be quelled and his prolific painting continued to great heights.

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A self-taught artist, Harold moved away from his home kitchen table at an early age and set up his own gallery/studio in a second story of a main street Idabel building.  From then on, his art took him to the University of Oklahoma, on to New York and Paris, with homes there, in Key West, Wainscott Long Island, Long Island City and a cabin in the woods in Idabel.  This energetic octogenarian lives now in an apartment in his beloved Idabel.

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It was a fitting honor to have Stevenson and his childhood friend, benefactor and University of Oklahoma graduate, Ross Dugan at the intimate gallery event, where his niece Stephanie Coldiron, his longtime friend Mary Jane Rutherford and the Fred Jones Junior Museum of Art Interim Director Dr. Mark White, commemorate this reunion and celebrate Stevenson’s approaching 86th birthday.

It is not often that an artist and his friends have the opportunity to celebrate the man and his art near the end of a career, as does this Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art exhibition. It is also recognized as punctuation to the talent and career of an artist. The museum is open to the public free of charge and as always presents and celebrates an eclectic exhibition of fine art.  Harold Stevenson is as original as his art, and the Nature of Man exhibition could be called the Nature of Harold, as it depicts his personality as well as artistic expression.

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Authors Note:  I first met Harold at an impromptu luncheon in Oklahoma City in 1995, hosted by Dr. Duane Moore.  From this first meeting I knew I was in the presence of a celebrity with an extraordinary talent of telling tales of his worldly experiences with such notables as Andy Warhol and Peggy Guggenheim, among others.

His love of a luncheon, or anytime, Martini reintroduced me to that cocktail of elegance and joy, resulting in my own photographic interpretation of the Martini through my worldwide travels.  www.martinitravels.com

Since 1995 I have visited Harold in New York, Dallas and of course Idabel, documenting his life and creativity in photographs and in recorded interviews.

For Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art times and more information visit, http://www.ou.edu/fjjma.html

Photography by Terry Zinn

In late fall of last year, I had a delightful and fun filled December weekend in Grapevine, Texas, during their Christmas Celebration.  You know Grapevine is the Christmas Capitol of Texas, and everything seems to be bigger in Texas?  Between sips of wine, main street shopping and a couple of theatrical presentations, I discovered that Grapevine is filled with festivals and celebrations through the year. Now is a good time to schedule your favorite Grapevine event.  With the listings below you can see how Grapevine is officially recognized as a World Festival & Events City by the International Festival & Events Association. Grapevine welcomed more than one and a half million visitors to the city’s festivals and special events in 2014.

Some of Grapevine offerings are:

12th Annual Day Out with Thomas, April 10, 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19: Take a journey with Thomas the Tank Engine at the 12th Annual Day Out With Thomas on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad.   The train ride is approximately 25 minutes. www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/Thomas.

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11th Annual ChocolateFest, April 24 and 25: Sweeten up your weekend at the 11th Annual ChocolateFest, benefiting Travelers Aid D/FW. On Friday, April 24, delicious delights await at An Evening of Chocolate and Wine at the all new location of Austin Ranch, 2009 Anderson Gibson Rd. (located near Grapevine Mills), 7 p.m. Guests must be 21 and above. On Saturday, April 25, sample an array of chocolate treats paired with beautiful works of art at A Day of Chocolate & Art at Austin Ranch from 10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. www.ChocolateFestGrapevine.org.

Grapevine Farmers Market and Grapevine Market, April 9 – October 17: Experience shopping at the festive open-air European-style Grapevine Market for an eclectic array of items including handmade jewelry, distinctive home decor, quality antiques and locally-grown produce and other products at The Grapevine Farmers Market. Located behind the Town Square Gazebo, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. www.FarmersMarketofGrapevine.com or www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com.

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23rd Annual Blessing of the Vines and New Vintage Wine & Gallery Trail, April 11: For centuries, Old World grape growers marked the beginning of the growing season with the ceremonial Blessing of the Vines and this tradition continues in Grapevine. After the Blessing of the Vines, enjoy the New Vintage Wine & Gallery Trail, featuring tastings at each participating winery, food samplings and beautiful works of art at all of Grapevine’s art galleries. www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/NewVintage.

14th Annual Spring Into Nash, April 18: Celebrate life on the farm like Grapevineâs earliest settlers. Held at Grapevine’s historic Nash Farm, the event features heritage toys, kitchen gardening, cotton planting, authentic heritage animal breeds, tractor-drawn wagon rides, field cultivation, wood carving demonstrations, jump rope making, cooking demonstrations on a wood burning stove and blacksmith demonstrations. 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. www.NashFarm.org.

31st Annual Main Street Fest, May 15, 16 and 17: Tap into three full days of festival fun at Grapevine’s Main Street Fest – A Craft Brew Experience. Events include craft brew tastings, pre-festival craft brew and dining experiences, live entertainment, KidCave, Carnival and Midway, Texas Wine Terrace, artisans and vendors, festival food and much more. www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/MainStreetFest.

7th Annual SummerBlast, May 22 – September 4: Blast off with family-friendly summer fun in Grapevine, the perfect destination for  all ages. Some of the exciting activities include Summer Bash at Gaylord Texan Resort, Friday Night Fireworks Over Lake Grapevine, perfect poolside relaxation, shopping, wineries, dining and much more. Fireworks happen every Friday night at 9:30 p.m. over Lake Grapevine. And don’t miss the special 33rd Annual Fireworks Show on July 4th. www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/Summer.

29th Annual GrapeFest, September 17, 18, 19 and 20: GrapeFest, the largest wine festival in the Southwest United States, celebrates the best of Texas wines, West Coast varietals and International offerings. This four-day family-friendly festival also features events such as the People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic, GrapeStomp, the Texas Wine Tribute, pre-event wine and food pairing dinners, the Champagne Terrace, KidsWorld, GrapeFest Golf Classic, GrapeFest Tennis Classic, ItalianCarFest, five stages of live entertainment and much more! www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/GrapeFest.

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18th Annual Butterfly Flutterby, October 17: Flap your wings with the southern migration of the Monarch butterfly at the Grapevine Botanical Gardens. Guests help release more than 600 tagged butterflies during three scheduled releases throughout the event. Children and pets are invited to participate in the colorful Butterfly Parade and in the costume contest. Free admission. Activities also include plant sales, arts and crafts and more. www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/Butterfly.

Hallo-Wine Trail, October 24 and 25: Scare up some fun along Grapevine’s Hallo-Wine Trail! This spooktacular event features three tastings and food samplings at each participating Grapevine winery tasting room, a souvenir wine glass and a bottle of premium Grapevine wine. www.GrapevineWineryTrail.com No-5-DSC_0154.cr-GreatWolf-jpg

And of course don’t miss out on the over the top Holiday celebration of the:

Christmas Capital of Texas, November 2015 – January 2016: Unwrap the magic of the season in Grapevine, the Christmas Capital of Texas! Grapevine celebrates Christmas with more 1,400 events in 40-plus days and is the perfect place to celebrate with your family and friends this year. Millions of magical lights, enormous decorations, Christmas events and more perfectly capture the spirit of Christmas in Grapevine. Events include North Pole Express November 27, 28 and 29; December 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23) ICE! and Lone Star Christmas at Gaylord Texan Resort (November – January), Bass Pro Shop’s Santa’s Wonderland, Light Show Spectacular, Carol of Lights (November 23), Parade of Lights (December 3), Snowland at the Great Wolf Lodge, Main Street LIVE’s Christmas Shows and classic Christmas movies at the Historic Palace Theatre, Christmas Wine Trains (December 10 and 17), after Christmas train rides and much more. www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com/Christmas.

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Many of Grapevine’s hotels offer special rates and packages during annual festival and events. For hotel information, tickets or more information regarding Grapevine’s festivals and events, you may contact the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau at 800-457-6338 or 817-410-3185 or visit www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com

I can personally attest that Grapevine, Texas offers big city events with small town hospitality!

While an excuse is never needed to visit exotic locales, it’s advisable to have an anchor activity for your visit.  The Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival near Montego Bay, was my initial reason for revisiting Jamaica.  I had been there decades ago with a group of college chums. Other than the palm trees and azure waters and the natural wonder of Dunn River Falls near Ocho Rios, I don’t remember much.

The Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival is a three night event, held this year at the Trelawny outdoor stadium near Montego Bay.  The musical line up of acts was impressive, fun and educational.  Reggae is not in my lexicon of favorite musical styles, as the first night was all nominal Reggae from local and regional bands.

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The second and third nights the caliber of musical entertainment increased with well-known performers including: Mariah Carey, Arturo Tappin, Richie Stephens, Peter Cetera, Charlie Wilson, Pointer Sisters and Soja, who were nominated for Best Reggae Album at the 57th Grammy Awards this year.   While many expected Carey to be the highlight of the Festival, it was Charlie Wilson and Peter Cetera who earned the adoration of the music fans.

 

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Before and after the evening concerts I visited several Jamaican attractions that offer variety, education and fun.   Be sure and plan to visit the restored 1760 Rose Hall plantation house.  Here with a personal tour you can step back in time to imagine the lifestyle of a sugarcane plantation owner.  The most famous inhabitant was John Palmer’s wife, Annee, who turned out to be called the White Witch by her slaves for her cruel treatment, as she murdered a few husbands and herself was killed in the house. It is said she still haunts the house to this day.  While the house was in ruin until in 1965, we are thankful it was completely restored to what might have been its glory days.

 

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Chukka Caribbean Adventure Tours (www.chukka.com) offers  ATVs, dune buggy rides and Zip lining.  It is a safe and enjoyable soft adventure to drive a two person dune buggy through the orchards with majestic views of the distance Jamaican mountains.  Zip lining is always an adventure, for no two locales are ever the same. As you sit down into your harness and let go, you never know what jungle vistas will be zipping by. Going through the fork of a large tree, is indeed a thrill.  The expert guides at Chukka are to be commended for their skill and attention. Chukka also offers, nature canopy tours, river floating and rum tastings.  If you can work into your time, visit the great house. The view from atop this hilltop mansion of the Egg Crate Mountains provides a unique memory.

Over in Ocho Rios, be sure and visit Mystic Mountain (www.rainforestbobsledjamaica.com) with its dry bobsledding ride, Dolphin Cove (www.dolphincovejamaica.com)  with its sea life and aviary, and it goes without saying to visit iconic Dunn River Falls (www.dunnsriverja.com) .  For Jamaican history visit the downtown Montego Bay Cultural Center, by Sam Sharpe square with parking in the rear.

 

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In Montego Bay you may wish to stay at the adults only, all inclusive, upscale Hyatt Zilara hotel (http://rosehall.zilara.hyatt.com) with its extensive pools and palm fringed private beach.  While I don’t know if it’s officially recommended, but with eight all inclusive (no bills) dining locales, where reservation are not taken, your own impromptu progressive dinner could be enjoyed.  What a luxury to sample an appetizer here, and entree at another venue and then dessert at another.

 

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Hyatt Zilara offers Brazilian style dinning; Italian, with fresh made oven baked pizzas; an anytime buffet at Horizons, and a favorite of all, the on the beach Jerk stand, with melt in your mouth grilled chicken, port and sausage. Open till 6 pm, a beach side sampling, always hot and ready, is indeed a vacationer’s dream.  Beach and pool side servers are available to take and deliver your beverage requests. More eating options are also available along with a Crepe stand near the lobby, operating until 2 pm. And don’t forget 24 hour room service. At Flavorz, I had a Welsh Rabbit, Sunday Roast with Yorkshire Pudding (a pastry), topped off with Jamaican Fruit Cake which is more like a chocolate mousse cake infused with fruit flavors.

On my first night I was delighted at the service and ambiance of the dress code-enforced Petit Paris restaurant.  Stewart, my server was informative, efficient and personable as he served me scallops, a house salad, Steak Frites and an out of this world Coconut Crème Brule. I added another perfect martini made from the Stirz bar adjacent to the main lobby.  Not many bars in the best resorts can make a proper martini or follow directions, but at the Hyatt Zilara, over several days of enjoyable testing, I found them all accomplished.  With an evening beverage in hand while strolling along the balmy ocean surf at dusk, you can create for yourself a true lux resort experience.

You need not wait until next year to visit Jamaica during the Jazz and Blues Festival, for as you can see Jamaica has many other attractions around which to center your visit. My thanks to the Jamaica Tourist Board for their assistance, as they can also help you plan your Jamaican visit.  (www.visitjamaica.com)

The ending of a long vacation, maybe the most memorable part. For the ending of my two week Blount Small Ship Adventure Cruise, I chose to remain in the final destination port of New York City. Having been to NYC many times since 1972, I never before approached the imposing skyline of one of the world’s most dynamic cities from the water. My Blount cruise came down the Hudson and then glided by midtown on down to the harbor. With a long pause at the Statue of Liberty and with a kitsch playing of the Sinatra version of “New York, New York,” it was a fitting close to the end of a cruise and the start of a post cruise stay in little ole New York.
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The view of the dynamically changed skyline is impressive to see from the water, with the Freedom Tower punctuating the sky. I visited the serene memorial pools and the cavernous museum, which was not as saddening as imagined. The plaza is impressive surrounded by its towering glass skyscrapers contrasting with the pools of water effortlessly falling hypnotically down, down, down.

A highlight of my Blount cruise was my stay at the Waldorf Astoria New York Hotel for a weekend. Hilton is encouraging everyone to Be A Weekender with their www.HiltonWeekends.com site. I was greeted with spacious accommodations, an imperial set of Art Deco grand lobbies with impeccable service and fine dining and beverage options. As I was several hours earlier than their standard 3 pm check in, I was welcomed into the private lounge on an upper floor to await my Tower room. There is also a private check in and departure desk for Tower guests. While there is an attentive door man to assist with your taxi needs, I found a modest eight block walk to the Theatre district an efficient choice, particularly when taxis are hard to come by due to rain or rush hour, which seemed to me was all the time.
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My room on the 26th floor had a spectacular view of the Art Deco Chrysler Building, and was next door to the Lyndon B. Johnson Suite. The New York Waldorf Astoria hotel has a long history of United States Presidents staying there, along with a myriad of celebrities and entertainers. The 20th floor has the Marilyn Monroe room, where she once had an extended stay.

I took in the elegant Sunday Brunch at the Peacock Alley restaurant with an extensive buffet that spills over into the lobby, with a dining choice of piano or harp accompaniment. It’s not every Sunday you can have such an extravagant brunch. I had two of the signature Peacock Alley cocktails served in a martini glass ~ elegant with just the right touch of sweetness. It is a tradition at the Peacock Alley, to see and be seen, and observing the other dining patrons was intriguing. The next day. after a schedule tour of the hotel of ballrooms, kitchens and the 20th floor terrace with beehives and herbs, I also had an efficient acceptable lunch at Oscars, with their surprisingly different than expected famous Waldorf Salad.
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The history of the hotel is fascinating. On March 24, 1893, millionaire William Waldorf Astoria opened the 13-story Waldorf Hotel on the site of his former mansion at Fifth Avenue and 33rd street, and was joined in 1897, with the adjacent 17-story Astoria Hotel. The original Waldorf Astoria New York closed in 1929 and was reincarnated in 1931 where the current hotel reigns at Park Avenue and 50th, making it at that time the world’s largest and tallest hotel at 625 feet with 47 floors, and is today one of the world’s largest Art Deco buildings. The hotel is synonymous with the grandeur of the best of New York City and in 1993 was deemed an official New York City landmark. In this Internet age it is easy to explore a destination or hotel. The Waldorf Astoria New York has a myriad of internet links that illuminate its history and current amenities. There are way too many historical tangents to list here, but you can explore many at: www.waldorfarchive.com. I used their concierge and theater ticket desk for last minute reservations and found them courteous and efficient. Of course if you can make your own theatre ticket choices in advance you can save the added expense of last minute theatre decisions. I don’t regret my last minute choice as the theatre seats book through the Ticket Desk and the dinner reservations were excellent. Buying your theater tickets far in advance is always recommended. The Broadway Collection can help.
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While In New York I took in the comedy, It’s only a Play, with its star studded cast; Cabaret, a tired show and performance; Pippin, a ghost of a show I first saw on Broadway on my first 1972 visit; Disney’s Aladdin, an exuberant and true extravaganza of what a Broadway show should be; Kinky Boots, with outstanding performances and more fun than expected; and in its twenty sixth year, Phantom, with my home town connection of its co lead, Jeremy Hays. Hays is a product of Oklahoma City University’s performing arts school where other notable Broadway and theatre alumni were nurture including: Lara Teeter, Kelli O’Hara and Barbara Fox DeMaio Caprilli, among others. I was told Hays will be in the show through January. His voice is smooth and clear, his acting appropriately dramatic, his diction impeccable, and with his good looks and personality make him a perfect romantic lead.
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New York’s Metropolitan Museum always impresses with its prime collections inviting a pace of leisurely observation, as there is never enough energy or foot power to see it all. I enjoyed using my CityPass coupon book for entrance, which offers discounts to many New York City attractions, and offers you a road map for your own itinerary choice. And while the rooftop cafe closed a day early, I enjoyed my first time visit there with views of Central Park. New York City can be intimidating but with a little planning and a comfortable oasis like the Waldorf Astoria New York Hotel, it can be a perfect weekend getaway or the perfect end to a Blount Small Ship Adventures Cruise.

Here are some sites to aid in your planning: www.hiltonweekends.com; www.waldorfastoria.com;

www.citypass.com; www.blountsmallshipadventures.com; www.broadwaycollection.com