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I was delighted when my husband and I received Betty’s invitation to join her for a picnic at the Sunset in the Palms Resort in Negril, Jamaica. The setting was lush, the food and wine enticing. Conversation, though, was a tad strained. But then her recent history was a bit dicey. Recently married, rumor has it was a shotgun wedding. Seems Betty had been knocked up and the kids already there. It was hard for her to attend to them and also focus on her guests. Still she was already back at work maintaining the grounds — Betty is a very resilient goat. And one of Sunset’s favorite staff members.

Sunset is an airy, compact oasis in the middle of a jungle, wood-filled and woodsy, the abundant foliage making the transition from outside to inside seamless, with towering masses of greenery at every turn of the head. So different from the many large, bustling, antiseptic resorts often lining Caribbean beaches. Here, you’re a part of Jamaica, mon!

The beach a short walk away, free of the seaweed currently plaguing so many Caribbean shores. Spotting a red flag usually indicates a warning sign of some kind. Here, placed in front of your chaise lounge, it simply means please bring me another Pina Colada…

Tranquil was a word I heard a lot. Maybe because the all-inclusive resort is adults only — except for Betty’s kids of course, and they’re not likely to be running down the halls… And as appealing as reggae music is in the Caribbean, it is often ear-splitting along the beaches and the bars. Here, it is mellow – though, admittedly, for some, that might seem an oxymoron.

The resort comes by its name honestly. All the rooms resemble palm-fringed treehouses. The hammock on our tree-topped balcony was just a bonus. One morning I was awakened by an unaccustomed sound only to find, Betty, husband Royal Brown and kids bleating greetings below our balcony.

Sunset is all about service. Everyone sports a badge saying, “I am your personal concierge,” which I initially mistook for … well… the actual concierge. And indeed there did seem to be a more genuine camaraderie between staff and guests than I’ve seen at other resorts, possibly because so many are repeat customers.

Taking the pampering of guests to an extreme, there is a crossing guard to usher you across the street to the beach. Admittedly I felt like I was in grade school again and petulantly assured the poor guard that I had been crossing the street by myself for decades without mishap.

Like every all-inclusive, there are a number of restaurant options, but how often do you go to a restaurant with no menu in sight? Welcome to the Chef’s Showcase, where every night is a surprise in which the chef prepares a five-course meal in a candle-lit setting that sparkles with class and romanticism. But be prepared — it’s a while between courses. This is island-time, the precision timepiece upon which Jamaica runs. Overheard at a bar one afternoon, a local remarked that he’d be ready in 3 minutes. He then added: “That’s 6 minutes in Jamaican.”

Just sitting at the bar is an island experience in itself. Locals instinctively move to the music as if they were on a dance floor. And not just any dance floor but one in the middle of a dance contest. And perhaps not without some embellishment. Everywhere on the island there is that unmistakable whiff of the ubiquitous substance for which the island is so famous. It was nice to hear that possession of small amounts is now even legal.

There are three things for which Jamaica is famous: Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, the aforementioned ganja and Rick’s Cafe in Negril, where everyone at one time or another has to go to see the sunset. So go we did, despite the noise, the crowds, the commercialism and a sunset like many others (okay, so it was a pretty nice sunset…) for which the masses erupt in applause. What a marketing idea! Which is what I applauded as I happily headed for the exit. Check the Rick’s Cafe box — been there, done that.

A much more authentic experience happened on our Rasta Tour at Zimbali Retreat in Negril. Although Zimbali is a fascinating destination in its own right, based on organic farming and the Rastafarian philosophy, we were there to meet Fire.To say we climbed to the top of a mountain to do so is no exaggeration; to say it was worth it is also not an exaggeration, not only for the views and the excellent all natural meal prepared by Fire but mainly for his story. He’s been living away from civilization for 33 years in a lean-to that doesn’t even qualify as a hut. Long ago, he felt a need to get away from his mainstream life and learn how to survive — literally — in the 21st century. He grows what he needs to live, espouses a simple, less-stressful life living off Mother Earth, and adopts the Rasta approach of kindness, simplicity, eschewing financial gains.

When he started grating coconut on a grater, it sounded a lot like a Reggae beat – which somehow seemed fitting. Life as a Rasta, says Fire, became much easier after Bob Marley. The plantain, soy meat, carrots and callaloo flavored in coconut milk was perhaps not your usual luncheon fare but it was tasty. Fire lost me just a bit when he answered his smartphone. He acknowledged, with a smile: “There goes my reputation.” But technology is ubiquitous even on top of a mountain.

A more typical outing was the trip to YS Falls and the Black River, one of the hotel tour options. YS Falls offers a multitude of ways to swing over, jump into, swim under and play in a wide variety of waterfalls. And if none of that appeals, the falls alone provide sufficient photo ops. The boat ride along the Black River is billed as a “river safari” – using the term very loosely. I suspect just having crocodiles in the river justifies the safari designation. Otherwise, it’s nice boat ride with all the de rigueur bird sighting that accompany all such ventures.

As we left the resort kicking and screaming, our voices were overshadowed by the gentle bleating of the entire Royal Brown family who all gathered below our balcony to say good-bye. A fitting exit, mon! For more information, visit http://www.thepalmsjamaica.com.

 

Nevada’s nickname is “The Silver State,” and is home to a casino resort on my list of favorite places to stay and play…The Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno.

Ambling

Hotels have their own personality so, after my speedy check-in, I wandered around to catch the vibe. I discovered restaurants, shops, entertainment venues, bars/nightclubs, the casino, race/sports book, and the poker room.  I stopped by the Player’s Booth and signed up for ONE Club.  Think of it as a frequent flyer program for the resort, providing benefits for slot play, dining, accommodations, special offers, etc.  One of my discoveries was walking from the Silver Legacy’s lobby to its Mezzanine (can’t miss it, there is a three story high mining rig!); if you turn left you can amble over to Circus, Circus, and heading right leads you to the Eldorado.  They are connected indoors, tripling your opportunities for fun. Pick up a Resort Passport which contains $125 in discounts for entertainment, drinks, shows, massages, food, and gaming for all three properties (they are owned by the same company).

Gambling

There’s something for everyone: over 1,200 slots, 85 table games, including Pai Gow, a new race/sports book, and keno. The real reason for my visit was to check out Silver Legacy’s new $1.8 poker room, which is part of an overall $50 million dollar resort renovation plan.  Newly located in the main casino, it is open 24 hours, is non-smoking, and features daily Hold ‘em tournaments, as well as limit and no-limit cash games. Note: they serve great free donuts and coffee in the morning.

The legendary Margie Heinz runs the poker room. Margie started dealing when Montana first legalized gambling.  She is a link to the golden days in Las Vegas, where she was the first woman invited to deal at the World Series of Poker in 1977 by gaming icon Benny Binion.  Margie knew the early legends: Bill Boyd, Jack Strauss, Puggy Pearson, Johnny Moss, Amarillo Slim, and Texas Dolly – Doyle Brunson.  In 2011, she was deservedly elected to the Women’s Poker Hall of Fame.

 Where to Eat

Canter’s, an LA iconic classic deli, is located next to the poker room and is new to Reno. It showcases an extensive menu, but stick to the award-winning pastrami, house-made pickles, and freshly baked breads and pastries.

 

Eating at the Pearl Oyster Bar and Grill is a must. Their seafood specialties include crab cakes, cioppino, and pan roasts. You can’t go wrong with the daily lunch specials or soup/sandwich combinations. At dinner, its location on the Mezzanine makes it a perfect spot to sip a glass of wine and people watch.

The early dinner menu at the classy, award winning Sterling’s Seafood Steakhouse lived up to my expectations. My dining experience started with a house salad served with freshly baked bread, followed by a perfectly prepared beef tenderloin stroganoff, finishing with homemade praline pecan cheesecake.  It’s quite a bargain for $27. They also have special pricing for wine by the glass.

Other food outlets include Flavors Buffet, Cafe Central, Starbucks, and Sips Coffee and Tea.

Show Time

Between Silver Legacy, Circus Circus, and Eldorado, the entertainment choices are endless; midway acts, the Laugh Factory, music, and best of all, the Eldorado Theater.  The 580 seat, state-of-the-art showroom features top entertainers, as well as Broadway style extravaganzas.

For more information and reservations, including discounts and specials, logon to www.SilverLegacyReno.com or call 1-800-687-8733.

Thanks to various websites for information, photos, etc.

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Photography by Yuri Krasov

Fresh green grass after the rain, pine trees with lacy moss hanging from their branches, a stretch of the road with hardly any vehicle passing by, a veil of fog over Smuggles Cove’s splashing waves, and a few lawn chairs made of silvery drift wood placed on a hill to face the ocean… That was the view from our room at the Brewery Gulch Inn near Chapman Point in Mendocino – a magical place to which my thoughts travel back again and again, unable to break the spell.

Upon arrival at this country inn, rather new, and tastefully decorated with handcrafted wooden furniture in honey colors; leather sofas; bird-patterned throw pillows, and contemporary art pieces awashed in light streaming from the tall windows, my husband and I felt immediately at home, greeted by a smiling concierge Sarah Rowe with long mermaid hair, and a scattering of shiny AAA Diamond award plaques on the wall behind her back.

A word “Brewery” was placed in big vertical letters between the double clear-glass French doors leading to the outdoor terrace overlooking the misty ocean. When I asked Guy Pacurar, the Brewery Gulch Inn hospitable proprietor, if there’s indeed a brewery located anywhere on the property, he smiled and said that that was just the name of some former land owner. A detailed map of the area mentioned Breurry Gulch (which probably evolved colloquially into “Brewery” over time) but the historical spelling of the gulch’s name was the least of our concerns. We were mostly preoccupied by the immense beauty of the place; by our conflicting desires to sit by the fireplace, to linger on our balcony, to rush for the cameras and photograph a flock of wild turkeys parading by the Inn’s small parking lot – and a nagging realization that our stay here was too short – even before it really started!

Our room, “Osprey,” with a warm rustic feel, nautical/Native-American décor, and luxurious Sferra linens over a featherbed, was equipped with leather armchairs by the gas fireplace, a desk, a flat screen TV, a spacious wardrobe, and a full bathroom with high class Asprey amenities, Himalayan bath salts and thick Abyss towels.

Since Ms. Rowe reminded us about the nightly served dinner at 5:30 p.m. (included in the room rate, same as breakfast) prepared by the Inn’s private chef, and paired with the famed local wines and artisanal beers, we decided not to venture too far from the Inn, especially that our drive from the San Francisco Bay Area took quite a few hours with frequent photo stops along the breathtakingly beautiful Mendocino coast.

What was called “light dinner” on the Inn’s website turned out to be a rather substantial meal with freshly-prepared salad; crab cakes made with locally-caught seasonal Dungeness crab, accompanied by two dipping sauces; a grilled vegetable medley; a main course chicken and vegetable casserole, and a couple of house-made cakes for dessert!

The buffet-style meal was served at the Great Room, where Inn guests were seated in comfortable big chairs by the large tables around the four-sided fireplace of swanky contemporary design.

The next morning, a lavish breakfast was served in the same Great Room, prepared by the same excellent chef from premium organic products, and served by the friendly staff, including Mr. Pacurar himself. After we indulged in an array of fresh-squeezed juices, eggs Benedict, cooked-to-order omelet, the Inn’s special Millionaire’s bacon, and more home-made cakes, all served on artful china, he handed us a thoughtfully prepared list of places to visit around the Inn, with detailed directions, and notes like “tasting fee waived for Brewery Gulch Inn guests” across from the names of spectacular wineries with highest-rated pinot noirs and chardonnays and great ocean views.

We spent the day exploring the many parks and beaches of stunning beauty – marveling at the crashing waves next to a truckful of curious dogs, tasting wines at the Pacific Star winery with a row of red Adirondack chairs placed movie-theater style over the majestic Pacific; visited a poignantly lonesome lighthouse at Point Cabrillo, gilded by the setting sun, and return back to the fireplace warmth, and delicious aromas coming from the kitchen of our home away from home. Before we checked in, we were asked by the Guest Services to please warn the staff if we had dinner plans elsewhere. With the preparation of all meals right at the Inn using locally sourced fresh ingredients it was critical for the staff to calculate the right amount of produce needed for each meal, plan accordingly and avoid food waste.

Knowing from experience that the “light dinner” will not only be varied and delicious, but will satisfy the heartiest appetite, we surely didn’t have any plans to go out. That night, a succulent steak and roasted potatoes were accompanied by a fresh salad with sweet corn, mushroom ragout, a cheese plate, and those tempting sweets – too good to skip.

We fell asleep to the sound of the ocean, and slept soundly through the night like never before!

On our way back home, we stopped at the artist’s studio of Rebecca Johnson – a Brewery Gulch Inn featured artist. Her striking paintings of lonely barns (made of real barn wood collected at demolition sites) against green fields and blue skies, placed on the walls of the Inn impressed us so much that we decided to visit her studio, and meet with the artist of a great poetic vision.

Apparently, we weren’t alone in our desire to see more of Ms. Johnson’s work. On our list of places to visit shared by Mr. Pacurar, her studio was mentioned at the very top, and clearly marked by the amount of miles to drive from the Inn.

To help guests prepare for their stay, the Brewery Gulch Inn website has a What To Do section with suggested itineraries and an annual calendar of events as well as a link to Mendocino’s official website with plentiful information on local sites, area restaurants, and festivals. The Pre-Arrival Concierge section lists a variety of services and activities, including massages, wine tours, chocolate tastings, restaurant reservations, and horseback rides that can be arranged prior to arrival.

To book your stay at the Brewery Gulch Inn, go to: http://www.brewerygulchinn.com/.

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Just an hour out of Greenville, SC, is the Dupont State Recreational Forest of North Carolina, a wonderful place to spend time relaxing in nature and getting some moderate exercise. If you are well prepared you could spend from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. enjoying the beautiful mountain atmosphere and re-creating your mind and body. The 82 miles of trails are mostly multi-use for hikers, cylers, and some are for equestrians. No motor vehicles are allowed on trails, but there is ample parking in several places.

We chose to do the waterfalls hikes and had several tempting choices. The easy walk to Hooker Falls is only a quarter mile and is a popular swimming hole below the cascades (but no life guard, so take care.) This mountain water is always delightfully chilly.

We took the High Falls trail through the forest with our lunch to the covered picnic shelter, where those of us who did not want to venture down the fairly steep trail could see this tallest of the Little River falls from the tables. The High Falls cascade down 120 feet over solid granite and are spectacular in many viewpoints. Several of us made the trek and found many lovely picture points with the waterfalls coming together and then separating into many varied flows. Triple Falls has three distinct components which also total about 120 feet of vertical drop.  Scenes from several movies were filmed here including Hunger Games and Last of the Mohicans.

The waterfalls are not the only thing that makes the day there wonderful. The forest vegetation is rich and varied, and when we wanted to identify something we let Google tell us, so it was a learning experience also. There are five lakes in Dupont State Recreational Forest: Lake Dense, Lake Imaging, Lake Alford, Fawn Lake, and the largest (99 acres) Lake Julia.  For equestrian pathways park your vehicle at Lake Imaging or Guion Farm, the latter of which has flatter trails.  Bike trailheads are at these two places and also at Corn Mill Shoals. If you have a NC fishing license you may catch panfish or largemouth bass in the lakes or trout in Little River. Hunting is allowed on the Gamelands with a 3-day permit issued by NC Wildlife Resource Commission Gamelands program, but take caution and scout the area to be sure no other tourists are in the area of danger.

Rest rooms are available at the Visitor Center, where you will receive a map. Everyone is responsible to bring his or her own trash out to keep this beautiful park clean. No camping is allowed. Dupont Forest is located between Hendersonville and Brevard, NC. Navigate to 1400 Staton Road, Cedar Mountain, NC 28718. You can enjoy your time there 365 days a year for free. For information call 828 877 6527.

Puerto Varas nestled sweetly on the south shore of Llanquihue (yan key way) the largest lake in Chile is the adventure hub of the Chilean Lake District. On the far shore the snow-tipped Orsorno Volcano offers head-spinning vistas for hikers in the summer (November-March) and thrilling downhill runs for skiers in the winter. In the glacier moraine valley below lies is the gateway to Vincent Perez National Park where you can explore the Petrohue falls. Puerto Varas is also the headquarters for the Pumalin Park, a pristine wilderness area with native forests laced with cascading waterfalls. A fun day trip is a short ferry ride to the Island of Chilo’e that garners penguin sightings. Outdoor activities like, horseback riding, fly fishing, birding, trekking and wind surfing are popular pastimes for locals and tourists alike.

The ride to Orsorno on a highway framed in brilliant yellow Scotch Broom spiked with magenta foxglove is breathtaking. The road loops around sparkling Llanquihue with puffy white clouds floating in crystalline heavens and the snow-frosted peaks of the Andes glistening in the distance. Up you go on switchbacks snaking the flank of the volcano through stunted pines and flaming red fire-bush to the chair lift and ski hut. The path through the barren lunar landscape to stunning vistas is composed of slippery crumbled lava that requires focus and sure-footedness. The head spinning panorama takes in the width of Chile, a string been country flanked by the Andes on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Dead ahead, the bad boy, Calbuco Volcano that blew its stack in 2015, looms on the horizon. This region is in the ring of fire with 2,000 volcanos, 43 of which are active. The threat of eruptions is real. Far below the silver strand of the Petrohue River spiraling through a verdant glacier moraine valley would be our next stop.

At the very “touristic” Petrohue Falls we shared viewing spots with other visitors. The water charging over black lava boulders reminded me of the power of the water that continues to sculpt our planet. The minerals in the water coming down from glaciers high in the clefts of the mountains churns from aquamarine, to a foamy mix of turquoise, opal and moonstone. There are trails fanning out from the falls that take hikers to tranquil lagoons. Rafting trips are popular Further down river below the rapids. Continuing up the narrow track tracing the river we met Alex, a fisherman who ferried us over to his home on the river where we were treated to a lunch of local trout.

There is a movement in Chile spearheaded by the late Douglas Tompkins and his wife Kristine, American philanthropists, who have battled for the last 25 years to preserve the wilds of Patagonia. They donated 2-million acres of land to the Chilean and Argentinian government that includes Park Pumalin in the Chile Lake District. Their hope is that creating parks will bring people into nature and inspire them to protect and preserve the natural heritage of the gorgeous region. This act spurred the Chilean government to designate an additional 11-million acres of wilderness to what is slated to become the “Route of Parks.” The plan is to have campgrounds with facilities, well-maintained trails and scenic drives modeled after the National Park system in the United States. The information center in Puerto Varas provides brochures and maps for those who have time to explore what is one of the hottest destinations for outdoor adventurers.

A 30-minute ferry ride landed us on Chilo’e, an island that evolved in isolation from the mainland. Our welcoming committee was a pair of black necked swans with a trio of cygnets trailing behind. In Castro, the largest city on the island, the San Francisco church is a UNESCO World Heritage site built entirely of wood and painted bright yellow to offset the gloom of rainy days. Carvings inside the church show how the mythology of the island’s people was integrated into the teachings of the Jesuits.  We sauntered down to the shore lined with colorfully painted pole houses. The tide was out so the table was set for many shore birds picking for morsels in the mud. The chilote’s are sea people. The most important character in their mythology is the Siren. If she faces the sea it will be a good fishing day and if she turns away the fishermen will return empty handed.

After a lunch of delicious seafood soup with all manner of shellfish laced with seaweed we were off to see the penguins. Our driver careened through lush emerald pasturelands to the Punihuil Wildlife Sanctuary on the Pacific side of the island where Magellanic and Humboldt penguins, sea otters, sea lions, and sea birds reside. We boarded a skiff and circled the sea stacks where hundreds of the flightless birds breed and find shelter from predators like sea lions who attack the chicks and gulls who steal their eggs. Chiloe’s catch-phrase is “No rain – No rainbow.” We were blessed with both on this spectacular day of bird watching.

Back in Puerto Varas, a stroll along the lake front is a nice way to end a full day. Sailboats ply the azure water as lovers stroll by hand and hand and the sun casts a pink glow that blooms into deep purple. It’s an easy walk from there over to my favorite café hidden inside a rose garden where I enjoyed King Carb in avocado salad with oyster and salmon ceviche for starters.

Thank you to Overseas Adventure Travel for including Puerto Varas in my Andes to Patagonia itinerary.

www.oattravel.com

http://www.parquepumalin.cl/visiting_ptovaras.htm

https://www.welcomechile.com/puertovaras/outings.html

To learn more about her foundation and the work Kristine Tompkins continues to create and re-wild parklands go to TompkinsConservation.org http://www.tompkinsconservation.org/who_we_are.htm

 

With a population of about 300,000 in the city proper and about 2 million in the metropolitan area, Cincinnati is known as the Queen City. Generally a queen city has a larger population than the state capital.  During its 19th century population growth, Cincinnati became known as the Queen City of the West.  Fern and I enjoyed our President’s Weekend 2018 in the Greater Cincinnati area, which provides many activities and great food (including Graeter’s Ice Cream) without traveling far from the heart of the city.

Day One – Covington, Kentucky

While part of the metropolitan Cincinnati area, Covington has the charm of an independent neighborhood. Three bridges spanning the Ohio River connect Covington to Cincinnati.

Main – Strasse Village – The restored nineteenth century German village comprises a six block area, with a clock bell tower, cute shops and restaurants housed in renovated buildings. A unique sculpture, the Goose Girl fountain, is a life size bronze replica of a German maid carrying two geese to market.  We had an excellent lunch at the Cock and Bull Public House, a pub on Main Street directly across from the fountain and spent a cozy hour at the quaint Roebling Point Books and Coffee Shop.

St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption – The cathedral’s exterior façade was designed to look like Notre Dame in Paris. Modeled after the Abbey Church of St. Dennis in Paris, the building interior is simply spectacular.  We spent the majority of our time admiring the eighty two stained glass windows, the fourteen elegant mosaic stations reproducing the life and death of Christ in tiny porcelain ceramic tiles and mother of pearl, and two large murals by Frank Duveneck in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  By the entrance, one of the beautiful stained glass windows, measuring 67 by 24 feet, is among the largest in the world.  A friendly greeter answered our questions about the 1895 structure.  www.covcathedral.com

Day 2 – Downtown Cincinnati

National Underground Freedom Center – We spent most of one day within the Center. The galleries feature interactive videos, films and displays focusing on slavery in America, including the role of the Underground Railroad in leading to freedom of slaves.  Of particular interest, we were able to enter within an actual 1830 two – story slave pen which was moved from Kentucky.  The gallery featuring invisible slavery today was particularly eye opening.  The docents provided a wealth of specific information during tours and in spontaneous interactions throughout the Center.  The brief virtual reality Rosa Parks simulation puts you on the bus itself with Ms. Parks on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, as if you were being approached by the bus driver and police to give up your seat to a white passenger.  Outside the Center is a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Netherland Plaza and Carew Tower – Not only centrally located, the Netherland Plaza Hotel features an extensive fitness center with a pool, restaurants and over twenty adjoining shops. Built in 1930, the grandeur of the hotel features many ornate features inlcuding a beautiful French Art Deco palm court, with ceiling murals and a lovely fountain.   The Carew Tower is the highest elevated building in the city. After taking the elevator to the 49th floor of the Carew Tower, Fern and I were able to with 360 degree panoramic view of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky on the outdoor observation tower.

Day 3 – Greater Cincinnati

Cincinnati Art Museum – With no admission charge, we were particularly impressed with the diverse collection of art works. Fern and I particularly enjoyed the one hour tour with a very entertaining, energetic and knowledgeable docent.  Founded in 1881, the collection showcases sculpture, paintings, prints and photographs roughly in a chronological order.  We particularly enjoyed the impressionist masterpieces and works of art by and about Cincinnati.  We also had a delicious lunch of salads in the tranquil atmosphere of the Terrace Café, with art inspired decor.  www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org

Eden Park – Bordering the Cincinnati Art Museum, we explored parts of Eden Park, a lovely green space featuring paths with numerous overlooks with majestic views of the Ohio River and Northern Kentucky.

Skirball Museum – Located within the Hebrew Union College campus in the Clifton neighborhood, this small museum, founded in 1913, displays Jewish artifacts and art from around the world. The permanent collection focuses on the cultural, historical and religious heritage of the Jewish people and a Holocaust display with a remembrance wall.  In a neighboring campus building, we were able to view portraits of the various graduating classes of rabbis, including one from our congregation in Virginia.  Facebook.com/cinci.skirball

Graeters Ice Cream – Founded in Cincinnati in 1870, now with eighteen locations, this family owned chain (now in its fourth generation) arguably sells the tastiest ice cream. Their very yummy ice cream is made using the French pot method, where flavors are added to an egg custard base combined with other ingredients into flavor vats.

Day 4 – Our Final Day in Cincinnati

Contemporary Arts Center – In the heart of downtown, housed in a large modern building, this free museum focuses on contemporary art. The visual and interactive arts, including paintings, sculpture, performance art and photography, explore the relationship between art and the environment.  Exhibits change frequently.  The impressive Swoon exhibit presented a site-specific installation re-staging a colorful archive of her landmark projects of socially driven work in numerous countries as well as with transitional communities in Braddock and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.   www.contemporaryartscenter.org

We Olive and Wine Bar – In the business district, we enjoyed lunch with an olive oil experience. Along with healthy salads, we enjoyed tasting various olive oils with flat breads.  Weolive.com/cincinnati

Holocaust and Humanity Center – Currently on the campus of Rockwern Academy, the small Holocaust and Humanity Center provides education about the Holocaust to remember its victims and act on its lessons. The permanent exhibit focuses on survivors, liberators and resistors with a connection to Cincinnati.  In addition to displays, the Center contains many videos with testimony from these individuals.  The Center also includes many Jewish objects obtained from synagogues, Jewish homes and institutions.

Even in the winter, we were never bored during our weekend in Greater Cincinnati. Had the weather been better, we most likely would have explored more outdoor activities, such as the Findlay Market.  Traveling around was stress free, with a good system of roads and much more enjoyable than many other metropolitan areas.

 

E-bike sales are soaring these days, not only in Europe but in the U.S. as well. Leveling the playing field, the electric pedal-assist bicycle allows even the out-of-shape oldsters to keep up with the athletes in the family.

Making cycling accessible to everyone and anyone, the surge in popularity of the e-bike is also attributed to the fact that the electric bicycle is a great alternative to public transportation and traffic congestion. With no money spent on fuel, the bicyclist is able to save money while getting fresh air and exercise.

Going green is a big concern for many these days, and the e-bike is the way to go.

One of the best e-bikes on the market is the Joulvert. Developed as a means to getting around the Playa desert of the Burning Man Festival, Joulvert’s Playa bikes are built for tough conditions in black-rock sandstorm environments. Not just for the rugged off-road terrain, though, the bikes are also a big hit with city, suburban, and rural commuters alike.

27-year-old Zach High uses Joulvert’s Stealth model for his Pennsylvania work commute. With a top speed of 20 mph, this matte black cool-looking machine rolls along on 20” heavy-duty tires, going the distance of 45 miles per charge.

“I just can’t stop raving about this bike,” Zach said. “It’s amazing.”

With built-in headlights and rear LED lights included, as well as a horn, the Joulvert Stealth boasts an 11 amp, 36 volt motor and a USB charging port on the battery. The batteries are Lithium ion high capacity cells and a Smart Charger is included. The entire bike, including battery, weighs only 52 pounds, and it folds for easy transport.

With a cost of just under $1500, the Joulvert Stealth is a smart and economical solution to commuting costs. Riders can choose to pedal with assistance, or transfer to full power with a push of the button, going from bike to scooter with ease.

Joulvert bikers are finding love at first ride. With wind in hair, sun in eyes, beneath the skies, riders are flying high with Joulvert.

 

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Photography by Yuri Krasov

Enamored with Mendocino County, its wild Pacific coast, wind-bent cypresses and towering redwoods, roaring waves, and squeaking seagulls, I never miss a chance to visit this magnificent part of Northern California.

This year, the occasion was enormously grand – I joined the ranks of the judges for the 19th annual Crab, Wine & Beer Festival benefiting Mendocino Coast Clinics.

In my past endeavors judging all kinds of food and beverage competitions from barbecue ribs to chocolate truffles, and from chilled sake to hot cocoa, I developed quite a keen understanding of subtle differences between the good, the excellent, and the outstanding, but nothing had prepared me for the never-ending feast that awaited me in Mendocino this past January…

My husband and I embarked on a road trip from our San Francisco Bay Area home early in the morning, not to miss the many opportunities of frequent stops along the coast – to look at the ocean, to walk on a trail framed by flowering aloe vera, or to swerve into a quaint little town for some good coffee and street art viewing.

By the time we’ve reached our destination – the newly opened Noyo Harbor Inn in Fort Bragg – a lavish reception for the crab fest judges, organized by the Inn’s management and Visit Mendocino County staff was about to start. We were greeted by the festival organizers, treated to the wonderful local wines and delicious bites, and instructed on the next two days’ itinerary.

When we ventured upstairs to our room I clung to the window overlooking the Noyo Harbor – serene and pearly-gray in the approaching sunset under the cloudy sky. Enchanted, I observed a few seagulls gliding on the water, and a couple of sea lions cavorting by the docks.

Our suite was spacious, lovely, beautifully appointed with hand crafted wood panels, plush furniture, Mission Prairie style lamps, and a gas fireplace with intricate metalwork. By the window, an electric teapot, brand name tea packets, and French press coffee were neatly placed on a little table. In a full-size bathroom there was a large soaking tub.

We took a short tour around the property, marveling at its elegant beauty, warmth and hospitality of its staff, and a significant collection of mesmerizing art pieces – the majority of them produced by some talented members of the Inn owners’ family…

We could’ve slept in our comfortable bed for many hours, but the harbor view right before dawn with crab fishermen getting in the ready on their boats was too gorgeous to miss. After a well-served breakfast at the cozy Noyo Harbor Inn Restaurant we were ready for the day.

As the 2018 Crab, Wine & Beer Festival judges we were participating in an important fundraiser helping to raise money for the Mendocino Coast Clinics, a non-profit, board-governed community health center that provides medical, dental, perinatal and behavioral health care to all Mendocino coast residents and visitors, regardless of their ability to pay.

Our first order of the day was to tour the sparkling-clean, highly-efficient medical facility with Lucresha Renteria, Executive Director, and to meet with Lawrence Goldyn, the Medical Director of the Mendocino Coast Clinics. We were thoroughly impressed with the impeccable state of the buildings, the roster of medical services, the abundant financial support available to low-income patients, and the overall feel of a close-knit community of deeply engaged caring people.

A crab fest poster, attached to the announcement board, reminded the Clinics visitors where they have to hurry for the upcoming weekend.

Inspired by the wonderful goals reachable through popular events like our eagerly-anticipated crab fest, we headed for our first judging session to the Little River Inn in the town of Little River.

The white cottages and emerald-green lawns of the Inn, splashed by the recent rain shower, greeted us with a double rainbow across the sky – definitely a good omen!

At the Little River Inn’s Abalone conference room we were first outfitted with the special goofy crab hats, and then seated around a table with multiple wine glasses in front of every judge. That was the wine tasting portion of the judging – we were supposed to blind-taste 40 wines in eight flights, including sparkling wines, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot blanc, Riesling, gewürztraminer, and rosé to identify not just the best tasting wines, but the ones best paired with Dungeness crab.

Freshly cooked and cleaned, the succulent chunks of sweet California crab arrived in little plates in front of each judge, while the festival volunteers were pouring the wines, produced mostly in the immediate Mendocino area.

The three winning wines were decided upon by the majority of votes, while many of us were having a really hard time making our preferences. By naming the winners here I only want to stick to the facts, not to imply that all other participating wines lacked in anything! That was really an exquisitely capable selection of the best California whites and rosés! The First place was given to 2016 Husch Vineyards sauvignon blanc, the Second place to 2016 Handley Cellars Riesling, and the Third place to 2015 Yorkville Cellars organic Semillon produced in Anderson Valley.

That same evening, we were hospitably invited to the Mendocino Coast Clinics Cioppino Dinner – a family-style celebration for hundreds of local residents, and also a fundraiser at which the Clinics directors, staff, and countless volunteers served piping-hot bowls of seafood stew from a gigantic vat attended by a cool-looking beer-in-hand Cioppino Chef James Hoffman.

The main event of the Festival, Crab Cake Cook-Off and Wine Tasting Competition, was happening the next day, on a Saturday, in downtown Fort Bragg, in The Big White Tent with a “Sold Out!” sign in front of it.

Once again we, the judges, were seated around a big table and supplied with numbered graphs to take notes of the 17(!) competing crab cakes coming from the ambitious chefs of the best Mendocino inns, hotels, restaurants, and wineries.

All imaginable varieties of crab cakes – from lightly- to heavily breaded, from embellished with soft-cooked egg and caviar to smothered in chipotle mayo, and garnished with a variety of sides, like coleslaw, citrus fruit, watercress and microgreens, were brought to our table, some artistically plated, even though the plating was intentionally left out of the score to help us concentrate on the taste and texture of the chefs’ creations.

Once again, the task to pick and choose the winners was not easy. After thorough consideration, the First place was taken by Chef Marc Dym of Little River Inn in Little River, Second place – Chef Andrew Wells of Mendocino Jams & Preserves, and Third place was a tie between Chef Willy Real of Noyo River Grill in Noyo, and Chef Taylor Pedersen of Ukiah Brewing Company in Ukiah.

For my readers’ sake, I’m listing all the other chefs and their respective venues, so when you’ll be driving to Mendocino (hopefully soon!) you’ll know where to look for the succulent crab cakes and other delicious local fare.

The crab cake competition chefs (from Mendocino when location isn’t mentioned): Adam Celaya of Adam’s Restaurant in Willits, Julia Kendrick Conway of Assaggiare Mendocino in Fort Bragg, Jim Modesitt of Maple Creek Winery in Yorkville, Victor Hugo Aguirre and Joe Niesyn of Brewery Gulch Inn, Julian Lopez of Café Beaujolais, Miguel Mex of Café 1 in Fort Bragg, Joe Harris of Cucina Verona in Fort Bragg, Richard Scott Klaisner of The Golden Pig in Hopland, Margaret Fox of Harvest Market in Fort Bragg and Mendocino, Jon Krebs (individual master-chef) from Fort Bragg, Fabrice Dubuc of Noyo Harbor Inn in Fort Bragg, Singyn Hunter of The Inn at Newport Ranch in Westport, Mayra Ahumada and Carlos Villafania of The Q BBQ in Fort Bragg.

There were also People’s Choice Awards. The Best Crab Cakes: First place – Chef Jim Modesitt of Maple Creek Winery, Second place – Chef Taylor Pedersen of Ukiah Brewing Company, and Third place – Chef Marc Dym of Little River Inn. The Best Winery: First place – Maple Creek Winery, Second place – Toulouse Vineyards, and Third place – Scharffenberger Cellars.

As a result of the Festival fundraiser and generous donations from its participants, Mendocino Coast Clinics has reached a new record high of more than $150,000 (www.mendocinocoastclinics.org).

The 20th annual Crab, Wine & Beer Festival is scheduled for January 25-26, 2019. Online ticket sales start on October 15, 2018.

The annual Crab, Wine & Beer Festival is only one of the many culinary-, arts- and sports- events happening in Mendocino County all year round. Find additional information at: www.visitmendocino.com.

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The Greatest Showman, now playing in many theaters around the world is a marvelous tribute to an era gone by, since the 146 years of the thrill of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus tours ended in 2017 with the final performance in May in Uniondale, New York at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The elephant performances had ended because training them was considered inhumane to many who protested for decades. Although around 10 million people went to a Ringling circus each year, it was not enough to make the traveling show profitable.

Carson and Barnes Circus in Hugo, OK, is the last of the touring big tent, three-ring circuses left.  The show winters in Hugo, OK, its home for nearly four decades. Kristin Para is Circus Manager with Jan 25th this year’s special opening day and she encourages fans to watch Facebook for all the information about the show schedules for 2018. Going on the road to take the show around the country is not an easy task, which requires a large cookhouse trailer fully equipped to serve the many performers and their families. School children must be tutored for part of the tour, and families usually travel in RV’s. To see the many vehicles in route along a highway is quite fascinating.  There are specially built vehicles to transport the animals, and traveling behind them on the highway is a bit slow-going.

But who is not captivated by a circus, anywhere in the world! Although we love to travel in our RV we cannot imagine going on the road with such a large and mixed group for months at a time. And I tried to imagine how emergencies and accidents are handled when the show must move on to keep deadlines. I tried to reach the management for an interview but they were too busy to respond, so my imagination and yours can run the gamut.

Since we lived not far away, we once visited the elephant barn where the Circus vet, a friend of ours, was about to deliver a baby elephant. The elephants seemed to be well treated and content in their large farm environment, and successful breeding in captivity was a rare event for these enormous animals. The vet had carefully nurtured the mother for the nearly two-year gestation period.

Performers train and practice their acts, creating new ones, all winter in this small town in which the circus people are a welcome part of the community and when the show goes on the road for half a year they are really missed. In Paris Texas families always enjoy the Grand opening days of the circus in March, often during Spring Break with many free and discounted tickets available. And one of the most popular things for groups to see is the erecting of the Big Top tent and setting up of the Circus, with animals in their traveling coaches outside the Paris, Texas, fairgrounds. It takes many experienced people to set the ropes just right and pull to make the red and white striped tent arise into place and each rope and wire must be safely secured and expertly checked. Often unpredictable weather including high winds occur in Paris, TX, in spring, so the tent must be extra strong and well-grounded for safety.

 

There are other areas when the final setup is complete and these include many fun midway type games and the well-loved circus snacks of soft drinks, popcorn, peanuts, candy, and cotton candy. Children beg for the balloons and other trinkets to show their friends after they return from the exciting day at the Circus. It makes us all sad to think that because of the thrills and constant entertainment today’s populations have so plentifully in video games, TV, and other live performances, the circus could possibly end altogether. So go out to enjoy your time under the Big Top this year when you find it is near you. Take your family to the unforgettable experience of a lifetime.

If you are in this area of Northeast Texas or Southeast Oklahoma, be sure to visit the Circus Cemetery in Hugo. It is worth an hour to walk through and see the fascinating circus tombstones. Many have a picture and tribute to the performer buried there. And when the circus is not traveling, you can enjoy driving by their farm headquarters just outside Hugo, where you can see the large barns, many animal food supplies, trainers practicing and caring for their animals and other daily activities necessary to keep the circus the “Greatest Show on Earth.”

For More Info:

http://www.carsonbarnescircus.com/caring-circus-animals/

http://variety.com/2018/film/news/the-greatest-showman-sing-along-screenings-set-1202662441/

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/showmen-s-rest