In 2008 I spent two days in Westchester County and referred to the county as New York City’s 6th borough. The tourism folks liked the name and used it on many of their advertising campaigns. This September I spent the better part of a Sunday in Scarsdale at the Southern Westchester Food & Wine Festival which was located 10 steps from the Metro North station. I thought it was time to spend a day looking at some new areas of the county. I was lucky that Lydia Ruth of the Westchester County Tourism & Film office once again served as my guide.
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Who needs a car in the county when they have lots of public transportation options? My senior fare on Metro North from Grand Central to Yonkers was just $5 one way. I could have opted for any of the NYC subway lines and caught a Bee Line bus from the end of the lines as well. I was in Yonkers in less than 30 minutes and only had a 2 block walk to the Hudson River for my first (but not last) WOW! moment. Yonkers is the 4th largest city in New York and downtown Yonkers is experiencing a renaissance of culture, community, development and art: a parking lot replaced by a babbling brook filled with fish; new and converted apartment buildings facing the Hudson; many restaurants, a post office, hotels, the public library, sculptures galore, the Motor Vehicle Bureau and clean streets and sidewalks. Robert M. Walters, the Science Barge director, was my guide. The Science Barge is a prototype sustainable urban farm developed by NY Sun Works and acquired by Groundwork Hudson Valley in October 2008 to be operated as an environmental education center. The Science Barge is a sustainable urban farm powered by solar, wind and biofuel and irrigated by rainwater and purified river water. They grow fresh fruit and vegetables using recirculating hydroponics and aquaponics. It is designed for school kids in grades 3-12, youth groups as well as teacher training. I was then led next door to the Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak (CURB). A long name for a comprehensive river education experience, learning about the Hudson River ecosystem and water quality. But the best was still to come. Lunch was at X20 Xaviars on the Hudson.
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X2O is Peter X Kelly’s latest addition to the Xaviars Restaurant Group which includes Restaurant X & Bully Boy Bar in Congers and Xaviars at Piermont as well as Freelance Café & Wine bar, also in Piermont. X2O sits in the Hudson on the only turn-of-the-century Victorian pier still existing in the river. The main dining salon’s 25-foot vaulted ceiling and 3 walls of glass frames offers views of the George Washington and Tappan Zee Bridges, as well as sunsets over the Palisades. Dishes incorporate classic French technique with Italian and Spanish influences and Asian embellishments. In 2007 self-taught Chef-owner Peter Kelly appeared on the Food Networks Iron Chef America and beat Bobby Flay in Battle “Cowboy Rib Eye”. He also played host to Anthony Bourdain on his “No Reservations” program, introducing Tony to the beauty of the Hudson Valley. Since the early 90’s Peter has also been a vintner. His wines at Xaviar’s Cellars in Napa Valley are known as “Silenus” (the Teacher of Bacchus in Greek Mythology). Peter has also consulted on several bottlings from the emerging Hudson Valley region. My salmon was so fresh I did not need a fork; it melted directly into my mouth. The real bargain was the 3-course lunch for just $25. I had such a great experience that I plan on taking Metro North to Yonkers once the weather turns warm for another lunch, along with the nearby farmers market and concert pavilion.
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Another WOW! moment was my visit to Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway. It is a half-mile harness-racing track & a casino with slot machines, electronic games & multiple eateries. You can play the roulette wheel or blackjack using electronics with no human interaction. I am not a gambler but what really impressed me was pinch (not Pinch) which is run by Alain Ducasse’s consulting company, Ducasse Studio. There are 245 seats and both the beverage and dessert menus come on an iPad. The restaurant has a growler filling station (to go), where you can choose from one of 100 New York State beers. It also has six “draft booths,” which are tables outfitted with self-service beer taps (I am not kidding). The interior design inspiration is a classic 1950’s vintage diner with automotive interiors, tailored banquettes, a raw bar and an open kitchen. Since I grew up in the 1950’s this is my kind of restaurant. I can’t wait to go back for a meal. I asked my host if we could stop at Untermyer Gardens Conservancy in Yonkers. I didn’t realize that nothing was growing during the late fall and winter months & vowed to return next spring. Samuel Untermyer was passionately interested in horticulture. He said that if he could do it over again, he would want to be the Parks Commissioner in New York City! Unlike most wealthy garden-owners, Untermyer was expertly knowledgeable about horticulture. The level of horticulture at the Untermyer Gardens was nationally famous and some great gardeners got their training there. The only place I revisited from my 2008 trip to Westchester was Lyndhurst. It was built in 1838 and purchased in 1880 by railroad magnate Jay Gould as a summer home. Mr. Gould used Lyndhurst as an escape from the pressures of his business life and when his health was impaired by tuberculosis; Lyndhurst served as a country retreat until his death in 1892. After passing to various family members the 67-acre estate became a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The grounds at Lyndhurst are an example of 19th century landscape design including sweeping lawns accented with shrubs and specimen trees, the curving entrance drive, the angular repetition of the Gothic roofline in the evergreens and the nation’s first steel-framed conservatory. The rose garden and fernery were later additions. The building was temporarily closed as they decorated for the holiday season. They kindly allowed me to get a sneak peek of A Very Dutchess Holiday. I want to return for the full effect.
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As I was still full from lunch I only tried a lobster main course (yummy) at The Stone Manor in Hawthorne. The restaurant is the latest project by Michael Casarella and Tommy Stratis, the owners of Goldfish in Ossining and Casa Rina in Thornwood. It opened in July 2013 after an 18-month renovation of its old stone building. The 14,000-square-foot Mediterranean steakhouse and catering hall creates a modern ambiance that embraces nods to the space’s 180-year history.

It was a short drive into White Plains where I caught my Metro North train back to Grand Central. I am already planning my return trip. So should you.

For More Information – www.mta.info/mnr, www.yonkersdowntown.com, www.beelinebus.com, www.westchestergov.com, www.visitwestchesterny.com, www.xaviars.com, www.centerfortheurbanriver.org, www.thestonemanor101.com, www.untermyergardens.org, www.empirecitycasino.com, www.lyndhurst.org.

Photography by Yuri Krasov

 

One of the most beautiful coastal towns, Pacifica is found along the beloved by travelers picturesque Highway One, mere a 20-minute drive from San Francisco. So close to the busy metropolis, yet so far away from its hustle and bustle, the town is shrouded in summer fog that rises from the cold oceanic waters, and gets sunnier by wintertime when the temperatures of air and water equalize in seasonal harmony. Known as a surfer’s and fisherman’s paradise, Pacifica holds many unsung treasures for art and nature lovers as well. It’s good to visit any time of year, with numerous things to see and do.
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Built by a San Francisco attorney Henry Harrison McCloskey in 1908, the fortress-like building on a hill was supposed to shield his family forever from natural disasters like the catastrophic 1906 earthquake. In its more than a century-long history, the Castle hasn’t suffered any damage from shaking ground, but took its fair share of disasters from a motley crew of its occupants who came in the wake of the original owners. They have ranged from an illegal abortion clinic and a Prohibition-era speakeasy the “Chateau Lafayette” to a communications center for the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II to guard against Japanese saboteurs potentially coming ashore from their submarines.
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In 1959, Sam Mazza, a theater painter and decorator for 20th Century Fox, purchased the Castle – not to live in it, but to “store his junk,” and thus created a museum of theater décor with its 24 rooms filled with period furnishings and artwork that had been used in films or onstage.

Lately, the Sam Mazza Foundation, a private philanthropic organization, was using the Castle for its charitable work to promote arts and education, and for private events. Now the museum is open to the public for monthly Sunday tours with an experienced and knowledgeable guide. (The upcoming tours are scheduled for November 29, December 20, and next year January 18, February 21, and March 8).

Sanchez Art Center

Located in a former elementary school building, Pacifica Center for the Arts is home to various performance arts and multiple artists’ studios. Sanchez Art Center, founded in 1996, began with a group of local artists who saw the potential for studio and gallery space in the unused school building. It now includes 18 studios, three galleries, and an arts education room. The Main Gallery holds four major exhibitions a year by well-known and emerging artists. Two annual juried competitions, Left Coast Annual, and the 50/50 Show are judged by distinguished jurors, while a lot of gallery space opens on a regular basis to the artists from the community, including children, seniors, and disabled adults.
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Lovey’s Tea Shoppe

This tiny tea house is filled with mismatched china, toys and figurines, gingerly covering every surface in a cozy sun-lit dining room. There are dozens of black, green, flavored and herbal teas to choose from, all served in whimsical teapots and accompanied by finger sandwiches, greens-and-fruit salads, homemade soups, hearty lunches, or scones and crumpets with clotted cream and berry preserves. According to the shop owner, Muna Nash, women love to bring here their kicking and screaming husbands and boyfriends for high tea, but all of them leave with a smile on their faces, and many become regulars of this sweet, warm and delicious place.
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Moonraker Restaurant

In Pacifica, this glorious salty air beach town, the culinary emphasis is understandably placed on fresh seafood, and there’s hardly a better place to enjoy it than Moonraker Restaurant overlooking the famous Rockaway Beach. Every window offers a panoramic ocean view, and a Sunday brunch buffet is nothing short of spectacular. From oysters, mussels, shrimp, crab, and smoked salmon to soups, salads, vegetables, meat dishes, and overwhelmingly lavish desserts, the Moonraker has it all, including your morning champagne and mimosas. A wonderful place to enjoy with a family or a company of friends! The regulars say that from the restaurant windows they often see migrating whales in season (December-January and February-April). According to the National Marine Sanctuaries of the West Coast, Pacifica is one of the richest areas in the world for marine mammal life.
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Puerto 27 Peruvian Kitchen and Pisco Bar

This new restaurant, packed on any evening, serves Latin-American staples and Peruvian specialties. Spicy tangy starters include Ceviche Elegancia (classic Peruvian ceviche with white fish, aji rocoto leche de tigre, red onion, lime, sea salt); Mushroom Empanadas (maitake, shiitake, beech mushrooms, spinach, corn, Jack cheese); Jalea Mixta (calamari, shrimp, scallop, yucca, salsa criolla, black mint tartar sauce), and Anticuchos de Corazon (beef heart skewers). Among the mains Lomo Saltado (steak strips), Aji de Gallina (chicken stew), and Choritos (mussels in tomato-chorizo sauce) are the stars.

Nick’s Restaurant

Built in 1927, the historical landmark restaurant is still owned and operated by the fourth generation of the founding family. Located right on the Rockaway Beach with raging waves and silvery foam under a full moon, this respectable establishment, well-known way beyond its native town, serves classic libations, generous portions of fish and meat dishes, and decadent desserts. Live music plays on weekends over a dance floor that’s never vacant.
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Devil’s Slide Trail

Hikes and walks in Pacifica are a great addition to bicycling, Segway tours, watersports, and other outdoor adventures. A newly opened Devil’s Slide Trail stretches for a little over a mile on a former Highway One segment known for its dangerous landslides and associated with them accidents and closures. Last year, with the opening of an engineering wonder – Tom Lantos Tunnels – the San Mateo County Parks Department began converting this segment of the old highway into a non-motorized trail opened to hikers, bicyclists, and horseback riders. An easy walk along the Devil’s Slide Trail grants unparalleled panoramic views of the endless Pacific and dramatic cliffs populated by seagulls and cormorants.

Mori Point Trail

Even on a foggy day, a leisurely walk to Mori Point is a fascinating experience. With an endless ocean beach of one side, and the Alister MacKenzie-designed Sharp Park Golf Course on another, the trail opens to stunning seaside vistas, and to golfing greens surrounded by dramatically crooked cypresses bent by the Pacific winds.

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Hotels in Pacifica

Pacifica Beach Hotel across from the surfer’s favorite Linda Mar Beach is a great place to watch sunsets from you room window, and to relax in a Jacuzzi tub right in your room after vigorous outdoor activities like surfing, boating, scuba, fishing, paragliding, hiking, birding, cycling, golf, tennis, bowling, archery and horseback riding. Pacifica Beach Hotel: (650) 355-9999, www.pacificabeachhotel.com.

Other accommodations include America’s Best Value Inn Pacifica: (877) 784-6835, www.pacifica-bestvalueinn.com; Best Western Plus Lighthouse Hotel: (650) 355-6300, www.bestwesternlighthouse.com; Holiday Inn Express & Suites: (650) 355-5000, www.hiexpresspacifica.com; Pacifica Motor Inn: (800) 522-3772, www.pacificamotorinn.com; Sea Breeze Motel at Rockaway Beach: (650) 359-3903.

For more information about the destination of Pacifica, California, please visit http://visitpacifica.com.

A drive through Eastern Washington State is lovely. For miles and miles we passed the rolling yellow wheat fields as far as we could see on both sides of Highway 261. Definitely, this is one of the bread basket areas of America, very impressive and unusual scenery. Starbuck/Lyons Ferry KOA is located at the historic site of the ferry which took passengers, animals, and wagons and cars across the Snake River for over a century, until the Lyons Ferry Bridge was opened in 1968. This has been a favorite fishing place for more than 100 years, with record catches of sturgeon, and other fish. The Monumental Dam creates the Herbert G. West Lake, and the Marina is located at this KOA. The setting is beautiful with rolling hills, rivers, lake and a beautifully kept KOA Kampground.
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Jim, the owner, is so personable and we loved having a delicious meal prepared in the KOA restaurant. The menu was quite varied and really well prepared and yummy from early morning breakfast through a very good evening meal. Jim and Angela are terrific personalities who give a great welcoming feeling to their guests from March to October. Fishing here is legendary, and you can see salmon climbing the ladders near the fish hatchery in late summer. PHONE 509 399 8020 or EMAIL lyonsferrymarina@columbianet.com
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There are many things to do in the area, especially the 1,000 acre Palouse Falls State Park just a short drive north of the Marina. The park is bordered by the Snake and Palouse Rivers, where you can enjoy swimming, a sandy beach, fishing, boating, or hiking. There are picnic tables and restrooms. The recently designated Palouse Falls is the official waterfall of Washington, and you’ll get great views of the very deep canyon from the park above, or you can hike along the river on a trail below. During the Ice Age a 2000 foot high ice dam was breached many times and this area flooded with water over 13 times the volume of the Amazon River (the largest river in the world today.)
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This was a site where Lewis and Clark found Indians drying their salmon. The rocky bluffs are called Marmes Rockshelter, where in 1962 an archeological team discovered about a dozen skeletons of people who lived here 13,000 years ago. This is the oldest inhabited site in North America. This is also a good area for bird watchers, and many of the birds to look for are illustrated on placards in the park. There are especially large raptor birds in this area, but don’t let your children who saw Jurassic Park Movie think they should be frightened of being eaten by velociraptors!
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We had fun watching the adorable and friendly little ground squirrels, who loved the wild wheat along the rim. Just downstream you can see the Joso Railroad Bridge, built in 1910-1914. At 3500 feet long and 180 feet above the water it was the longest and highest in the world for trains. Today it is still one of the longest and is operated by the Union Pacific Company.
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A walking holiday in the second largest country in the world seemed a bit ambitious for beginners, but my wife was keen to go.

Fortunately we weren’t covering the whole country. Our itinerary encompassed Toronto, Quebec and Niagara, some of the highlights of this vast country that is home to only 35 million people, less than the population of California.

So, armed with waterproof jackets (which we didn’t need) and our most comfortable walking shoes, we set off on our adventure.

We had to delay the start of our trip. However, we met up with the rest of the group over dinner in Quebec, caught up on what they had experienced in Montreal and Sacacomie and immediately made new-found friends.

The next morning we boarded our coach to the toughest walk of our trip. A short drive took us to the Jacques-Cartier National Park, 260 square miles of mountains, lakes, rivers and walking trails. Blessed with almost cloudless blue skies, warm sunshine and trees turning to their Fall shades of red and gold, we chatted to our new-found friends as we walked the steep inclines through the forest. As the going got tougher and trails became staircases, conversation ceased and it became a struggle for us two beginners to keep up the pace. Thankfully our guide, Jean-Francois, made regular stops to admire the view and allow us to catch up. Those views were fantastic and well worth the climb, and as the trail started to descend we felt we had already achieved something special.

We stopped at the Visitors Centre and Jean-Francois produced picnic lunches for us all at a spectacular location, right on the water’s edge. It couldn’t have been better.
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Later that day we had some free time to explore the city. Old Quebec has a strong European feel and is the only fortified city in North America north of Mexico. It is divided into the higher and lower towns, the latter being right at the water’s edge of the St Lawrence Seaway and offering moorings to an increasing number of cruise ships. We enjoyed walking along part of the fortification walls and gates that stretch nearly three miles around the edge of the old city. The streets are lined with buildings of great character, none more imposing than the Chateau Frontenac. It claims to be the most photographed hotel in the world and we could see why.

We walked along the boardwalk past the hotel to the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham where, in 1759, the English and French armies, under Generals Wolf and Montcalm, battled it out. The Plains are now a spacious urban park and being right in the City are easily accessible to locals and tourists alike.

After a short flight the following day we found ourselves in Toronto. Originally named York, it changed its name in 1834. Situated on the northern shore of Lake Ontario, towering new skyscrapers and ongoing re-development are evidence of the rapid growth the city is experiencing. Tallest of the structures is the CN Tower and the best way to get an overall view of the city is from its revolving restaurant and viewing platform around 1,150 feet (351m) above the ground. If you are brave enough you can also venture onto the vertigo-inducing glass floor – great for selfies.

Toronto is the commercial hub of Canada and home to the Canadian Stock Exchange as well as its five biggest banks. This contributes to not only a high standard of living but also high housing costs and high-rise accommodation.

The city is culturally diverse with more than 80 ethnic groups. Street signs often proclaim the nationality of the immigrants who built their community there.

However, it’s not all concrete and glass skyscrapers, some older building survive including the famous ‘flat iron’ building and the St Lawrence Market, an indoor market founded in 1803 and full of stalls selling fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. Toronto is also a major Arts centre and boasts theatres, concert halls and galleries as well as the University of Toronto which dates back to 1827.

After two days of city walks we needed some open spaces, and where better than our next destination, Niagara Falls.
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Many people think that the Falls are in a remote area but they are in the city and the hotels are in walking distance. There are in fact three falls that flow into the Niagara River which forms a natural boundary between Canada and the US, but the Canadian falls, the Horseshoe Falls, are the biggest. The other two falls are the American falls and the much smaller Bridal Veil falls, separated from the American falls by Luna Island, a mere 130ft (40m) wide. All three falls are best viewed from the Canadian side but recent passport controls have reduced the number of people walking or driving over the Rainbow Bridge that links the two countries.

The area along the waterfront consists of well manicured gardens and smart hotels but just behind this area, downtown Niagara Falls and particularly the Clifton Hill area, looks more like an amusement park with a range of attractions, lower priced accommodation and eateries catering for families. Attractions such as the upside down house, Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum and several wax works can keep kids, young and old, amused for hours.

No visit to Niagara would be complete without a boat ride into the whirlpool at the foot of the Horseshoe Falls. All passengers are provided with hooded plastic ponchos to help keep out the water which, as you get closer to the falls, feels more like driving rain. It is from the foot of the Horseshoe Falls, cascading half a million gallons of water a second into the Niagara River, that you really appreciate the might of the second largest waterfall in the world.
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Whilst the Falls are the central attraction, the area boasts numerous vineyards, many of which are happy to welcome visitors in the hope that you might buy a bottle or two. There is also the famous Welland Canal, allowing cargo ships to sail between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, its seven locks allow ships to navigate the Niagara Escarpment which, in 1990, was designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. It is part of a network of canals linking the Great Lakes that allows cargo from both Canada and US cities like Detroit and Chicago to reach ocean-going vessels at ports such as Montreal and Quebec.

Nearby townships such as Niagara on the Lake and Jordan provide picturesque places to visit and the nearby Balls Falls Conservation Area, one of the earliest settlements in this part of Canada, includes the Grist Mill dating back to 1809 and St George Church, built in 1864.

Our final walk was along part of the famous Bruce Trail. The trail follows the Niagara Escarpment for over 500 miles (800km) and is the longest marked trail in Canada. It’s paths and bridges are maintained by a number of clubs that have sprung up along its route. For many hikers around the world it ranks as a ‘must do’ trail.
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This is just a slice of what Canada has to offer, from big modern cities to wide open plains, forests and mountains. One thing all the places had in common, however, was the warmth and friendliness of Canadians themselves who, from the assistant in a local Subway to the staff at the smart city hotels, were genuinely pleased to see us, happy to help and keen to hear about our experiences in their great country. We had walked many miles along trails, sometimes steep and rocky, along canals and through cities; we had enjoyed great exercise, fresh air and making new friends with our fellow hikers. Truly a trip to remember.
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For more information on this and other walking holidays around the world, go to www.hfholidays.co.uk, email info@hfholidays.co.uk or contact their US partners Fugazi Travel Agency Inc, email info@fugazitravel.com tel: (415) 393 1588.

We try to escape Texas heat in the summer by heading north in our RV. Because we have a friend who works there, we were fortunate enough to have a tour of the KOA International Headquarters in Billings, Montana, where KOA was started. The amazing foresight of the ones in charge, who secure land for more new KOA’s each year, and the standard of excellence for each campground that sports the familiar yellow and red tent-like KOA logo, assures tired campers of the best facilities possible and the friendliest staff. There are many perks for KOA Members including quick check-in, points for free stays, and a few times each year offers of a complimentary extra night or special events. Our summer included stays at some KOA’s we would like to recommend:
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In the cool, welcoming Black Hills of South Dakota you’ll find this wonderful Custer/Mt.Rushmore KOA Kampground with good gravel roads, wide, clean sites beneath ponderosa pines for any size rig, which dot this cool land. Even in mid-July when mid-day heat rises to around 90 degrees, the nights are delightful around 60 degrees. You’ll find many of the adorable and comfortable KOA Cabins, which are so popular, and pristine, well-groomed tent sites. Of course the camping store can supply almost any need you have, and coffee is hot and fresh all day. The swimming pool is cool and inviting in the hot hours of the day, but the wonderful giant jumping pillow, for a small daily fee, is the most popular. There are always children laughing and smiling in delight as they enjoy this great exercise, making adults want to join them. The rules for safety are good. If you are not into cooking, the friendly KOA hosts will make you a great chuck wagon breakfast.

This KOA is out of the tourist traffic on Hwy 16 west, three miles out of the town of Custer. Do not mistake the big sign in town, which is for another Mt. Rushmore KOA, but call the office (605)673-4304 for good directions. Make your reservations early for peak summer months, as this is a very popular KOA, and centrally located to all the many points of interest of the area. We enjoyed Custer State Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Needles Highway Drive for the unusual rock formations, Iron Mountain Highway for the scenery and herd of buffalo, Crazy Horse Monument, National Museum of Wood Carving, Mt. Rushmore National Park, Wind Cave National Park and the wonderful touristy shopping and restaurants in Custer City, Hill City, and Keystone, all very nearby. If you want to leave the driving to others, you can make your Golden Circle Tours reservations right at the KOA desk and await your pick-up at the office.
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Butte, Montana, KOA we found to be a wonderful Kampground right beside the excellent Visitor Center, just off of Hwy I- 90. Of course, as with all KOA’s we found friendly hosts, clean, flat sites. As soon as we hooked up everything Bill turned on our tow car only to discover our battery was totally dead. When I called the KOA office they sent two men and a battery jumper immediately and in less than ten minutes our problem was solved! So no worries for us weary travelers after a long day on the road. KOA is great! Internet here was easy and free, but there was no cable TV because there are eight stations which are excellent with only antennae. We found excellent, clean laundry facilities for some needed washing.
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With Butte Visitor Center right next door, we walked over to catch the red city tour bus, which is well worth the nominal price. We had no idea Butte is such an interesting city. Our tour guide is a teacher who told us about everything from the mining operations, to the varied and unique architecture which ranged over 140 years, to the brothels and saloons and speak-easies from yesteryear. We enjoyed exercise on the nature walking path right behind our campground. The lovely native plants and flowers were plenteous and the blacktop path went for miles beside a little creek. Someone reported a moose in the water on another part of the path. When we drove our car far enough to see her there were several rangers in consternation of how to relocate her safely out of town! Butte Montana KOA should be near the top of your travel list! (Phone: 406 782 8080)
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Polson/Flathead Lake Montana KOA and Motor Coach Resort is quite something! This place is where we discovered a new concept for the camping company. The regular campsites were perfectly kept and an excellent place for RV’s, tents, fifth-wheels, and campers of all types. The cabins are typical KOA cozy, or you may rent the Deluxe Cabin with a fireplace, a kitchenette, air conditioning, and a barbeque grill and Jacuzzi hot tub on your private deck! You look out at the beautiful Mission Mountains and the big Flathead Lake, a great place to fish. You are quite near Kalispell and Whitefish and about a two hour drive to Glacier National Park.

The adjacent Motor Coach Resort was beautiful with wide, level gravel sites in tiers down the grassy hillside. Each concrete site has excellent permanent patio furniture and beautiful flowers and stone borders, wide grassy areas. On many nights there is special entertainment, sometimes sponsored by KOA and sometimes sponsored by the many people who have the large rigs as their second home and often stay for several months here and even own their own site, enjoying the facilities and friendships, and leaving their RV’s in good care when they go away for long periods of time. This is an excellent facility also for those who live fulltime in their class A motor coach and want to stop in places for long periods of time. We arrived just in time for the evening Luau with exotic drinks for happy hour and an excellent barbeque meal with all the trimmings. Rain was threatening, but the festivities were under a large white tent with tables and chairs and comic entertainment for the many enjoying the fun. This is a great concept for KOA and we will certainly look for more of their Motor Coach Resorts, even if we have only a short time to stay. ( 1 888 883 2151)
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Photography by Yuri Krasov

The name of Mount Shasta presumably comes from a Russian word “schastie” which means “happiness.” One early morning my husband and I stuffed our car trunk with everything from swimsuits to parkas, and headed up north to the snow-covered 14,179-foot peak towering over Shasta Cascade in the far north of California.

We couldn’t make it to Mt. Shasta because of the grey soot in the air that was spreading from wild fires in Oregon. Instead, we decided to concentrate on nearby Lake Shasta and the many wonders that surround it.
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Our first stop at Redding – the central city of the Shasta Cascade region – was for lunch at a new restaurant View 202 with incomparable views of the Sacramento River. Executive Chef Sean Gafner works with local farmers to create elaborate menus using a wide variety of their produce.

Starting with a Summer Mule cocktail, made with Russian Standard vodka and house-made lemon sorbet, and served in a chilled copper mug, we realized that we were at the right place.

Lobster Lettuce Cups were prepared with summer squash, heirloom tomato, avocado and basil.

Grilled Steelhead, sustainably caught in Columbia River, was served with rice and Brussels sprouts from neighboring farms.

Since it was over 90 degrees outside, I was especially impressed with a frozen dessert Café Liegeios made with double chocolate ice cream, vanilla bean ice cream, coffee ice cream, espresso granite, whipped cream, and crispy espresso meringue bits. No wonder View 202 has been voted the “Best of the North State” in six different categories.
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After lunch, we explored the city. Right in the middle of it there is a 300-acre Turtle Bay Exploration Park with a museum, a zoo, an aquarium, arboretum, botanical gardens, and a year-round aviary, where visitors can walk through Parrot Playhouse and have exotically colored and constantly chatting parrots land on their heads and shoulders.
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The most famous part of the Park is Sundial Bridge over the Sacramento River built by a Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

In order to protect the spawning grounds of the Chinook salmon underneath, the 710-foot-long bridge is fully suspended, without any footings in the water, and its walking surface is made of translucent glass, beautifully lit at night. With a 21-story high pylon that supports the entire construction, and thanks to its exact north-south orientation, the bridge serves as the world’s tallest working sundial.

Making a short trip to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area we started to fully appreciate hot midday air and the abundance of sunshine. At the popular Brandy Creek Beach we found a place to relax in the shade and take a dip in the cool clear water coming from the snow caps of the Cascade Range.

We tried to make a dinner reservation at Jack’s Grill – Redding’s landmark steakhouse in operation since 1938, but the exceedingly popular place didn’t accept reservations. Opened during the Great Depression by World War I aviator Jack Young, the restaurant, co-owned by Don Conley since the late 1970s, continues to serve the same hearty fair that used to feed miners and construction workers after a 16-hour workday, and maintains the same level of pricing (on a contemporary scale). People line up to get inside the legendary eatery, and no one minds waiting for a table at the bar where bartender and co-owner Mike Woodrum is mixing drinks with a speed and dedication of a true virtuoso.
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By sunset, we were heading to Shasta Lake Properties overlooking Lake Shasta, owned and operated by Ken Tellstrom – formerly a world champion in wakeboarding. The owner, and his fiancée Ashley were on the premises while we were settling down for the night in Dream View Vacation Home with floor-to-ceiling windows, two spacious bedrooms, living rooms, and terraces on two levels.

They took us on a tour to a larger vacation home of Shasta Lake Properties, called Lodge View – a spacious wooden house, decorated with hunting trophies and suitable for 8 to 10 people. (To view these homes visit their website, www.shastalakeproperties.com).
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After a relaxing evening watching sunset over the Lake, and then a sky, filled with bright stars of Milky Way, we had the most quiet country night, and woke up to a symphony of birds.

I made a quick meal of bread and cold cuts that looked positively chick in a glass-walled breakfast nook of the cottage flooded by the morning sunlight.
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We drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park, and entered through the north gate to enjoy the mirrored surface of Manzanita Lake and pick up maps and brochures at the park Visitor Center.

From there, we started moving along the scenic drive lined with massive granite boulders, back in 1915 ejected from the Lessen Peak volcano three miles away. At the park’s largest hydrothermal basin, Bumpass Hell, we walked over bubbling mudpots, boiling springs, and hissing stem vents emitting strong sulphuric smell.
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Our up-close and personal encounter with the magical world of not-so-dormant volcanoes ended up peacefully at Drakesbad Guest Ranch located within the park.

The wooden cabins of this mountain valley retreat, famous since 1900, are equipped with rustic furniture, basic utilities, and kerosene lamps – there’s no electricity inside. A stay includes three meals a day at a rather nice restaurant on the premises with excellent service. Another major draw of the compound is a swimming pool fed by hot springs, which allows for a delightful nighttime swim under a starry sky.
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First thing next morning we were boarding a shuttle boat for a ride toward North Gray Rocks on the east shore of Lake Shasta. Here lies another natural wonder of the area – Lake Shasta Caverns.

Up on a hillside with stunning views of the lake below, our expert guide Dave Mundt, led our group inside the 250-million-year-old cave adorned with glowing stalactites and stalagmites. He pointed his flashlight to “curtains,” “chandeliers,” “sheep,” and even a “royal couple on thrones” shaped out of lime stone and calcite by wind and water.
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Our next stop was at McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park, home to the 129-foot Burney Falls formed by underground springs coming to the surface from a water reservoir hidden in porous volcanic basalt. Flowing at 100 million gallons a day all year round, the spectacular waterfall emits brilliant mist of shiny droplets, and is framed with lush greenery on all sides, blue skies above, and rough boulders underneath.

After a full day spent with Mother Nature, we were back to Redding checking in at Best Western Plus Hilltop Inn for a comfortable stay with included breakfast and a swimming pool.

Happy with our adventures, but tired and hungry, we had a big dinner at the Cattlemen’s Restaurant that adheres to “Cattlemen’s Code” – feel and flavor of the Old West, aged and hand-cut beef, and old-fashioned Western hospitality.

More information about Redding-Shasta Cascade region and everything it has to offer can be found at:

www.ShastaCascade.com, Virtual Visitors Guide: http://issuu.com/scwa/docs/visitors_guide_2014

http://view202redding.com/, http://www.turtlebay.org/, http://www.nps.gov/whis/index.htm,

http://shastalakeproperties.com/our-properties/dream-view/, www.nps.gov/lavo, drakesbad@calparksco.com, http://lakeshastacaverns.com/, http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=455,

www.TheHilltopInn.com, www.cattlemens.com/red.htm.

Photography by Yuri Krasov

Even before Kā‘anapali Beach on the Hawaiian island of Maui was named America’s Best Beach by glossy magazines and social networks alike, I knew it. I had a deeply felt persuasion which required no further justification than what met the eye: a three miles long golden sand beach, kissed by the gently splashing turquoise waves, framed with palm trees, fragrant plumerias, and flowering shrubs, and split in the middle by the notorious Pu‘u Keka‘a (Black Rock).

The westernmost point on Maui, the Black Rock is a place for a nightly sunset cliff diving ceremony in honor of a legendary chief, and also a beginner-friendly snorkeling spot teeming with colorful tropical fish right by the shore.

In addition to providing endless opportunities for swimming, surfboarding, pedal boarding, diving and boating, the beach serves as a starting point for all kinds of cruises and water excursions, and is only steps away from the big hotels, luxury condominiums, farm-to-table restaurants, shopping centers, and watersport equipment rentals.

All of the above constitutes Kā‘anapali Beach Resort – a place of eternal sunshine, dreamlike natural beauty, and comfortable vacations.

After a pleasant flight with Alaska Airlines that included mai tai cocktails and Aloha greetings, my husband and I picked up our red Ford Focus at Budget Rent-A-Car, thinking we would be driving around a lot. Turned out, everything we wished for was right there at the Kā‘anapali Beach, even a free ride from one place to another on a vintage Kā‘anapali Trolley.
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Our rental condominium in Kā‘anapali Alii, a luxurious beachfront complex managed by Classic Resorts, Ltd., had a spacious living room which opened to a private lanai overlooking the ocean; a full kitchen with a marble counter/breakfast bar; a cool and quiet master bedroom, a spare bedroom, and a little laundry room in addition to two bathrooms and a mirrored hallway.

Founded in 1984, the “condo-hotel” Kā‘anapali Alii has 264 units in four buildings grouped around a cluster of nicely designed swimming pools, manicured lawns, and alleyways, lined with palm trees and flower beds. In a front desk facility there is always a live person on duty 24/7, answering all kinds of requests, as well as valet service, in addition to many other services that make staying here so utterly care-free.

All units at the condo-hotel have owners who come to vacation here sometimes, and rent them out for the rest of year. Each unit has to adhere to high hospitality standards; however, the individual unit’s décor is up to an owner’s taste.

In “our” condo, the walls were adorned with tasteful pieces of local craft, paintings, and art photography depicting the flora and fauna of Hawai’i.

One invaluable service offered by the condo-hotel is home delivery of grocery packages. Soon after we’ve settled in our wonderful vacation rental and checked out all the large screen TV sets in every room, and all the various and numerous gourmet cooking utensils inside kitchen cabinets, a doorbell announced the arrival of our breakfast package (eggs, milk, butter, yogurt, English muffins, coffee, cereal) and our grilling package (fresh tuna filet, zucchini, corn on the cob, plus green salad, lemon, salt and pepper).

In time for sunset, we were outside, meeting and greeting other condominium guests at the oceanfront Sunset Grilling area with industrial BBQ grills and tables and chairs under a large tent.
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Kā‘anapali Alii is the only place that offers a grilling service provided by a professional grill master – one of the staff employees. The service eliminates any possibility of accidents from those who don’t know how to operate the grill as well as unnecessary waiting, and allows people to spend time just relaxing by the ocean and chatting away while their fish, chicken or pork is being masterfully grilled and even seasoned to perfection.

Needless to say, with grocery delivery, full kitchen, and Sunset Grilling, families save a bunch on eating out, and tend to return to this place for at least a week year after year.
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For romantic couples who prefer to eat out and spend their leisure afternoons among the lush gardens, pools and waterfalls, and to attend a lu’au or a nightly torch-lighting ceremony, The Westin Maui Resort & Spa offers a desired retreat.

Serene and stunningly beautiful 12-acre resort with 731 rooms and 28 suites is filled with exquisite antique artwork and exotic wildlife. A flock of pink flamingoes and a family of giant colorful koi reside in a pool by a waterfall, practically in the open lobby they share with the resident parrots.

Palm groves, green lawns and cascading waterfalls frame the five pools of the aquatic playground. Recognized as one of the Top Ten Amazing Pools worldwide by TripAdvisor, the 87,000 square-foot pool area includes an adult-only pool deck, a Jacuzzi, two water slides, a swim-through grotto and a hidden whirlpool.

A white wedding gazebo is located on the top of a slight hill in front of the lobby, amid tropical greenery and ever-blossoming flowers.

In-room features designed to provide blissful comforts include restful Westin’s Heavenly Bed, Heavenly Bath with oversized shower heads, in-room high speed Internet access, and pet-friendly program.
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At the newly-refreshed Aloha Pavilion a lavish presentation of Wailele Polynesian Luau attracts about 500 guests every night. An excellent musical revue with a popular MC features songs, dances, and elaborate costumes of the indigenous peoples of Hawai’i, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, and New Zealand. The show closes with a grand finale of an incredibly beautiful fire dance, unique to the island of Maui.

The show is accompanied by a multi-course dinner of Hawaiian specialties – kalua pork, taro-leaf wrapped chicken, lomi-lomi salmon, purple sweet potato, various sides and salads, and tropical cocktails and desserts.
Kā‘anapali Beach Resort includes 12 hotels and luxury condominiums, 31 restaurant, 7 spas, 4 lu’au presentations, and dozens of stores and shops in 5 shopping malls – Fairway Shops at Kā‘anapali; Whalers Village Shopping Center; Shops at Westin Maui; The Shops at the Hyatt; Royal Trading Co.

More information at: www.kaanapaliresort.com, www.classicresorts.com, www.westinkaanapali.com.
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I recently visited Kansas City, the “Paris of the Plains”; geographic center of the U.S. The city successfully combines American traditions with extreme modernity.

A LEADER Chauffeur Services driver picked me up from the airport, and took me to Hotel Sorella, located on the Missouri side of KC in Country Club Plaza, an upscale shopping and dining hotspot. The Plaza was developed in 1922, based on the architecture of Seville, including Spanish-style buildings and grand fountains. Sorella impresses with old-fashioned hospitality and understated contemporary luxury.
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I got a first dose of “extreme” when trying the goods at Original Juan Specialty Foods; the Midwest’s largest bottling company, on the Kansas side. Original Juan has been creating sauces, salsas, rubs, snacks and dips for wholesale, retail, and private label customers since 1997. The factory I toured churns out 1,300 products covering 13 sub-brands, and supplies many of KC’s top establishments.

The company’s accolades include several Sofi Awards, one of the highest honors in the specialty food industry. Their hottest sauce – and the hottest sauce known – The Source, measured at 7.1 million Scoville Units. The sampling session started a few steps lower, at Pain 100%, made from habanero pepper. The tiny portion had a kick that subsided 10 minutes later. Being a novice, I only felt heat; a chile pepper enthusiast would appreciate complex flavors.

Next was Da’ Bomb Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce, containing the world’s hottest pepper. Taking a hit off a toothpick tip, my throat burned up, and I threw in the towel. Two steps above that was The Source, which I imagine makes the others seem tame – especially because one has to sign a waiver before trying or buying it.

A cool-down at Glace Artisan Ice Cream followed, a shop developed by KC-based chef and chocolatier Christopher Elbow. I had a combo of the unique Farmer Bob’s Sweet Corn and Elbow Dark Chocolate. The Sweet Corn flavor’s taste mimicked a smashed ear of corn, and blended well with the dense chocolate.
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I got back the comfy feeling at Hotel Sorella’s restaurant, Rosso, which puts an adventurously modern take on Italian fare. My appetizer of pig ear salad and bricks of polenta fries next to grilled octopus displayed Rosso’s philosophy well.

The next day, I visited the Quixotic School of Performing Arts, the practice space of the Quixotic group of aerial acrobats and contortionists. The troupe performs across the country and at KC’s Fringe Festival, using projection mapping, costumes and stage design to enhance the show. The School hosts various workshops for kids and adults, and I got to test my limits too. Warm up stretches guided by aerial artist Liv had me bending every possible way. I then observed silk rope climbing, plus a few hanging stunts. Liv also snuck me into a dressing room where the aesthetic detail used in each show was evidenced by the variety of masks and made in-house costumes.
Next, I crossed the street to a venue where Quixotic performed on its opening day, The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Opened in September 2011, the Kauffman sprung from the imagination of architect Moshe Safdie when he drew a concept of it on a napkin while dining at the nearby American restaurant. Safdie envisioned a home for all types of performing arts, and the Center now hosts KC’s top ensembles. A metal shell frames either side of a multi-floor, glass-enclosed lobby and reception area. The glass is held up by tension rods. On a building tour, venue representative Larry Jacob said, “Safdie saw musicality in everything he built here – the shells are like a kettle of a drum and rods are like strings of a violin.”

Two theaters sit at Kaufmann. Helzberg Hall is tuned for musicians, and the stage extends into one-third of the auditorium, allowing many attendees to get a view near the artist. The Muriel Kauffman Theater, based on European opera houses, accommodates KC’s opera and a ballet company, musicals, plays, and dance groups. Past talents include Placido Domingo, Willie Nelson, and Green Day’s “American Idiot” musical – a diverse mix that shows Kauffman Center’s flexibility. I was also got up close with Helzberg’s 5,548-pipe Casavant Organ, custom built for the Hall and able to produce 102 different sounds at 61 notes per sound. Billions of sound combos are possible, and walking through the organ’s workings shows how the smallest and largest parts function together.

For lunch, I stepped into Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, one of KC’s best purveyors of the city’s signature slightly sweet, tangy and spicy style. The old train freight house was an ideal setting to try the famous Crown Prime Rib; meaty, tender and charred perfectly. That, along with burnt ends, (a KC original) satisfied my craving. I also got to tour the kitchen, where the cycle of smoking and cooking in huge pits made me appreciate barbecue technique.
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Extreme art was also on the agenda. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art displayed a recently-unearthed and polished 16th century Jain shrine. Four badminton birdies on the lawn, the feathers representing the area’s Native American culture, and a triangular glass labyrinth that I almost flawlessly navigated were nice surprises.

That evening, I had a prohibition-era bar experience at Manifesto Speakeasy. Coming in through a secret door in the back and walking into the dark, small space was worth having a drink at Ryan Maybee’s establishment – Imbibe Magazine’s 2013 Bartender of the Year. Dinner at Michael Smith’s Extra Virgin was a fitting second round of unique classiness. The James Beard winner twists tapas from items like duck tongue tacos and calf heart pâté. The new Power & Light district had a dearth of leisure options, but getting my KC jazz on at Green Lady Lounge seemed most appropriate.
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A Kansas whirlwind capped my trip: speeding down Schlitterbahn Waterpark’s Verruckt – the world’s tallest waterslide; reaching 165 m.p.h. riding in a NASCAR at Kansas Speedway; catching a MLS soccer match at green energy-packed Sporting park, and staying at whimsically themed-room Chateau Avalon. KC: extremes await! More information at: www.visitkc.com.
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If you are near the DFW Airport you MUST take a couple of hours to visit Vetro Art Glass Studio in Grapevine at 701 South Main St (817 251 1668). This is an intriguing experience. You can sit in the gallery anytime and watch the amazing glass blowers at work producing many varied shapes and colors of beautiful blown glass. The owner and principle artist is David Gappa, who is gentle natured and so welcoming to all his guest and customers.
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David studied architecture in art school until he discovered glass blowing and it became his passion and focus. Spencer studied for a while the Chihuly glass studio in Washington. I noticed they wear sunglasses while working and I wished for mine because the “glory hole” where you heat your glob of glass is over 2,000 degrees and dangerous for naked eyes to look into. After a glass art piece is finished it goes into the annealer for cooling slowly. You can collect your piece in a couple of days, or they will ship it to you.
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If you want to make an article yourself, you must make a reservation in advance. Just before holidays they have special glass blowing events for guests to make gifts for their love ones. Last year they made glass flowers for Mother’s Day and beer steins for Father’s Day. And of course, Christmas ornaments are always a favorite. David and his assistant, Spencer Crouch, will help you. It is so much fun and you will be so proud of the items you make for years to come.
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We loved purchasing glass gifts and jewelry also in Vetro shop where we found something beautiful for nearly everyone.
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Vetro is across the street from Grapevine Visitor Center and Galleries, where you will enjoy more wonderful art works and displays, which change frequently. We found the Smithsonian Exhibit showing how US mail has gotten to war zone troops throughout history. The second gallery had exquisite porcelain eggs when we were there. The friendly staff will help you plan your activities in this terrific town. At noon and 6 p.m. cross the street to watch the cowboy shootout in the glockenspiel in the Visitor Center Tower as the clock strikes.
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This is one of only a few glockenspiels in the United States and the only one that has a scripted story played over a loud speaker, fun for a real Texas tale about the train nearby. You will love the Grapevine Vintage Railroad which offers themed train rides for a couple of hours or more. The real Thomas engine was arriving at the depot when we were there, and children were so excited. At Christmas you can ride with Santa. On most days you can ride to Fort Worth Stockyard and back.