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

“Here lies W. C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia.” This was an epitaph Fields proposed for himself in a 1925 article in Vanity Fair. It refers to his long standing jokes about Philadelphia (his actual birthplace), and the grave being one place he might actually not prefer to be. This is often repeated as “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.” It has also sometimes been distorted into a final dig at Philadelphia: “Last week, I went to Philadelphia, but it was closed.” William Penn founded the city in 1682 and named it Philadelphia, which is Greek for “brotherly love.” On the whole I really enjoyed my trip there, and when I visited, the city was open!
Please read along about my trip from New York City to Philadelphia in a whirlwind two-day tour. I traveled by public transportation and visited the sites most tourists get to. Donna Schorr, Director of Communications for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, guided me. I took advantage of all the senior discounts I could find. There are 4 million people residing in the five-county region, making Philadelphia the fifth-largest city in the U.S. Ripoff Alert!- Amtrak’s one way senior fare from NYC to Philadelphia was $72.25. I went down there by Amtrak. Coming home I used SEPTA & New Jersey Transit. Total senior fare- $11.25. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) operates various forms of public transit- bus, subway and elevated rail, commuter rail, light rail and electric trolley bus- that serves 3.9 million people in and around Philadelphia. I took their commuter rail to Trenton, New Jersey, and connected to NJ Transit into NYC’s Penn Station. It took me an extra 1/2-hour back home but I did save $61. Local buses cost me $2, plus $1 for transfers. It was over 96 degrees and it was worth the $2 to ride in air conditioned buses rather than walk the 8 blocks.

The PHLASH Trolley is a seasonable visitor trolley that loops throughout the city. It makes 27 stops from Penn’s Landing on the Delaware Waterfront to the Philadelphia Museum of Art area and is free for ages 65+. I used their services several times when they arrived before my Big Bus Tours. The same folks run the Philadelphia Trolley Works & the Big Bus Tours. They depart from Historic Downtown Philadelphia (5th & Market), and a 24-hour pass is $25 for ages 55+. I used their hop on and off feature for many of their 21 stops. The first day I rode the total route (1 1/2 hours) to orient myself to the city. I took great photos from the open-air top deck of the bus. They will also pick you up at your hotel.

A generation of 78 million strong, Baby Boomers travel more frequently than older and younger generations (I am 76 and past the BB timeline). I will note the attractions that offer a discount for seniors. I stayed at a delightful 48-room boutique hotel in the heart (Spruce at 12th St) of the Washington Square West neighborhood in Center City, The Alexander Inn. There is a 24-hour fitness center and e-mail center in the basement. A continental breakfast is served every morning and there are always fruit and snacks available. The staff was super helpful and the rates were very reasonable for the great location, $109-$139. If you are a AAA or AARP member, there is an additional 10% discount for Sunday and Monday stays. They are 6 blocks from the Historic District, 12 blocks from Museum Row and 2 blocks from the theatre district with shopping and food all around them. I ate across the street from the hotel at Tria Café, a small and casual restaurant specializing in food and wine pairings. My 4-course meal with one glass of wine cost less than $30. After dinner I walked a few blocks to have a gelato at Capogiro. This was a recommendation by Brian Friedman, a local wine and food writer.
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The first I will declare a Must See is the Independence Visitor Center- 6th and Market, across from the Liberty Bell. A block from the Bus/Trolley depot, this is the primary point of visitor orientation for the City of Philadelphia, the southern New Jersey waterfront and Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties. There are information desks, hotel and restaurant reservation service, concierge assistance, exhibits and movies and a snack bar and gift shop. The cleanest public toilets in the city are located here. The Center is in the middle of the Independence National Park Mall, and you can pick up free tickets for Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center from one of the park rangers at the desk in the Center. If you are disabled they will allow you to cut the line at the Liberty Bell.

Figure on at least an hour for another must see, the National Constitution Center (behind the visitors center- discount). There is a 17-minute multimedia journey through the history of the Constitution from its inception thru today called “Freedom Rising.” Then walk through We The People, an interactive constitutional journey that tells the story of our most cherished document. Signers’ Hall has 42 life-sized bronze statues of the 39 delegates who signed the Constitution. Of course I posed with Alexander Hamilton, a fellow Columbia College graduate. I spent another hour at the National Museum of American Jewish History, a block away. This is a stunner (must see!) whether you are Jewish or not. The 100,000 square-foot glass and terra-cotta building opened in 2010 and is Smithsonian-affiliated. It is the only museum anywhere dedicated to chronicling the American Jewish experience.

If you have time you can walk a few blocks to Elfreth’s Alley at 2nd Street. It is the oldest continuously inhabited residential streets in the country, dating back to the early 18th century and is a National Historic Landmark. Around the corner is the Betsy Ross House. In 1876 the building was generally recognized as the place where Betsy Ross lived when she made the first American Flag. After you tour the small house, plan to spend some time relaxing in the shady courtyard where you’ll enjoy free family friendly programming, hear storytelling and see colonial crafters at work.

My second day was all about museum visits with a late lunch at another must see- Reading Terminal Market (across from the Convention Center) at 12th & Arch. Established in 1893 it is the nation’s oldest continuously operating farmers’ market. Family-run vendors sell almost every type of farm-fresh cuisine as well as prepared food. There is a section devoted to Lancaster County Amish merchants. There are also plants, flowers and cookware sold. I ate at DiNic’s and had their roast pork/pulled port sandwich.
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Using my all day pass I took the Big Bus to Stop #9, The Eastern State Penitentiary Tour (discount!). I spent about 1 1/2 hours with the audio tour visiting the cell of Al Capone & Willie Sutton. It was operational from 1829 until 1971. The penitentiary refined the revolutionary system of separate incarceration, which emphasized principles of reform rather than punishment. When the building was erected, it was the largest and most expensive public structure ever constructed, becoming a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide. They even had a synagogue built for the Jewish prisoners. It is currently a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
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I retuned to the bus stop and caught the Big Bus to Stop #10 at 12th & Market for the Philadelphia Museum of Art (discount!). As an aside, if you are in decent shape and the weather is not over 90 you could walk to all the sites mentioned in my two-day trip. The steps on the front of the Art Museum were made famous by the Rocky movies. I noticed many people running the stairs, just like Rocky Balboa. At the bottom of the stairs is the Rocky statue, which is actually a prop from one of the movies and a favorite site for a photo. The museum is the home to a remarkable collection of art. I especially enjoyed the arms and armor section. There is a free trolley to the annex, the Perelman Building across the street. A few blocks away is the Rodin Museum with the largest collection of his works outside of Paris. Please note that this museum will close September 6th for renovation and reinstallation. It will reopen in late Spring, 2012.
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A few blocks from the Rodin Museum is The Franklin Institute (discount!). I took the free Splash trolley because it came along first. This is a wonderful science museum that was filled with kids when I visited. The newest Harry Potter movie is playing in their Imax Theater, and there was a special exhibit, Mummies of the World. I spent time at the Franklin Sports Challenge room learning the Science of Sports. As you walk or ride around the city keep an eye open for the more than 3,000 outdoor murals created by the Mural Arts Program. There are many tours that take you to view many of the murals. Remember, numbered streets run north and south and named streets (mostly tree names) run east and west.

It was time to pick up my bag at the Alexander Inn and take a local bus the 6 blocks to the Market East SEPTA station and my return trip to New York. Philadelphia, like New York, Boston and Chicago are walkable cities with the major attractions all accessible by public transportation. I plan on returning when the NY Yankees play the Phillies in the World Series.

 

For More Information-
www.visitphilly.com
www.uwishunu.com
www.alexanderinn.com
www.triacafe.com
www.philamuseum.org
www.rodinmuseum.org
www.fi.edu
www.easternstate.org
www.independencevisitorcenter.com
www.septa.org
www.phillytour.com
www.nmajh.org
www.elfrethsalley.org
www.muralarts.org
www.readingterminalmarket.org

For hotel managers, the days are busy and generally fly by with nary a nod. Yet occasionally the regular routine may give way to the extraordinary! During my time as general manager of the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem, I was fortunate enough through the years to experience the extraordinary when welcoming several dignitaries and high-level diplomats to the hotel.While the prime minister of Israel, the president of Israel, members of the Knesset and numerous celebrities and public figures were almost daily visitors, none of the visits stand out in my memory more than those of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on multiple occasions, and the State visit by President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
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When contemplating the arrival of Secretary Rice, I was determined to make her stay memorable in a way that she would remember the David Citadel as ‘different’ from all the other hotels she was accustomed to staying at in the Middle East. I remembered that she was quoted as having said that if she had not been appointed Secretary of State, she would like to have been the AFL commissioner!
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As it happened, the Super Bowl took place while she was at the hotel, but due to the time difference it was broadcast in the middle of the night. I arranged to have it recorded, and as she was departing the hotel, I presented it to her as ‘the in-flight sports entertainment’ for her trip back to Washington. I remember that the Patriots were playing and won, and I seem to recall she is a Patriot fan. She wrote me a letter on February 16, 2005, thanking me for taping the Super Bowl and for making her stay enjoyable. You can imagine my panic when she next visited my hotel. The NFL season was over and I had no idea how I would make this visit stand out — until I had a great idea. The Secretary may be a fan of the AFL, but I am a diehard fan of Liverpool Football (soccer to you North Americans!) Club. I still have friends living in the Liverpool area from my school days in England.

My team had just won the Champions league against Milan in Turkey on a penalty shootout, after trailing by three goals. It was a superbly entertaining match, full of action. I had a recording of the game and decided it was time to convert the Secretary to a Liverpool supporter. Again, as she took her leave of the hotel, I presented her the ‘footy’ tape for her in-flight sport entertainment with the wish that she would be a convert to the fair game of soccer. Needless to say, that July I received another wonderful letter from Ms. Rice, thanking me again for the soccer tape and also for the comfortable stay at my hotel.
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On her final visit to the David Citadel during my tenure as general manager, I again waited to say goodbye in the indoor parking lot. As I shook her hand, I asked if she was now a Liverpool fan. She did a small dance and stated, “Liverpool fan! Why not, yes. Liverpool, the Beatles and all that!” Then she got into her Suburban and was whisked off to Ben
Gurion airport. I am sure that those tapes made the difference in her memory of which hotel stood out in her world travels.

I also had the honor to welcome President Putin and shake his hand, but his visit stands out in my mind more for the story of his bulletproof Mercedes limousine.

It was flown in from Russia especially for the visit and guarded night and day in the hotel underground parking lot. I took aside one of the English-speaking Russians in his mission and requested that he show me the limo. It was a great experience! The windows were made of two-inch thick
glass, the tires were of solid rubber to prevent blowouts and the body was bulletproof. I was also amazed at how much communication equipment was in that limo — like a travelling Kremlin!

In any case, I said to the English-speaking Russian about the driver, a rather gruff-looking fellow, “Tell him that I know that these Mercedes cars are very unreliable vehicles, prone to breaking down and, that should he need it, my Peugeot 407 would be at the service of the President!” The driver took a long look at me, then at his fellow Russian, and thinking that I was serious, answered in Russian, “Tell this man that one of the tires on my Mercedes is worth more than his whole car.” I burst out laughing.

Another day in the life of a hotel manager!
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