Monday, September 29, 2014

Travel Quote - Joan Rivers

Travel Quote: “Every time you make someone laugh, you give them a little vacation.”

A Joan Rivers’ favorite quotation

Thursday, September 25, 2014

America's 10 Most Expensive Hotels

NEW YORK, NY - The most expensive city hotel in the United States is located in New York City, according to the latest survey. In fact, as the survey reveals, nine of the country's 10 most expensive hotels are located in Manhattan.

Photos by Cynthia Dial

The survey specifically compared luxury hotels in cities across the nation based on their average rates for a regular double room. The month of October 2014 served as the basis of comparison. Only such hotels located inside the USA's major cities were considered.
With an average rate of $1,189 per night, the Soho House, located in the heart of New York's buzzing Meatpacking District, is the most expensive city hotel in the United States. Snagging the runner-up position, with an average price tag of $1,134 nightly for a double room, is the Skylofts at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The Peninsula, located in Midtown Manhattan, rounds out the Top 3 with an average overnight rate of $1,014 per night.
Boston's most expensive hotel is the Four Seasons. With an average price of $725 for the cheapest available double room, the hotel ranks 14th most expensive in the United States and comes in behind the Skylofts at MGM Grand as the second most expensive non-NYC hotel.
Following are the 10 most expensive city hotels in the USA. The rates listed reflect the daily rate, on average, for the most affordable double room in each hotel during October 2014.
1. Soho House (New York City) $1189
2. Skylofts at MGM Grand (Las Vegas) $1134
3. The Peninsula (New York City) $1014
4. The St. Regis (New York City) $995
5. Four Seasons Hotel (New York City) $943
6. The Plaza Hotel (New York City) $927
7. The Ritz-Carlton, Central Park (New York City) $923
8. Park Hyatt (New York City) $875
9. Trump International Hotel & Tower (New York City) $846
10. Mandarin Oriental (New York City) $821

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Where, oh where, in the world is this?

Where, oh where, in the world is this?
Photo by Cynthia Dial

#photo #travelpic #travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #coast

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Los Cabos - Hurricane Odile - Update

From eTN Global Editor

Los Cabos Tour Operators and Hotels Access Damage

LOS CABOS, Mexico - According to the latest reports, the Mexican resort community of Los Cabos still has "no water, no electricity and almost nothing to eat" one week after Hurricane Odile caused an estimated $1 billion in damage with 125-mph winds.
Los Cabos
Photo by Cynthia Dial
Los Cabos
Photo from eTN Global Editor 

The death toll from the storm has been raised to four people, officials said, including two South Korean tourists whose car was swept away in the flood, a German who died in a boat, and a British woman whose body was found on Saturday.
NBC is reporting that most Americans who were stranded in Los Cabos following the hurricane were on their way home by Saturday, according to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, although officials did not provide exact numbers of how many people remain in the area. U.S military planes were sent for a handful of Americans, but many who were left behind worried about looters, the lack of cellphone service and lawlessness, and some left on their own.
The U.S. Embassy assured visitors that "anyone remaining in the area who wishes to leave should be able to find a flight out of the area." But many who were trying to get out this week complained about the lack of immediate aid from U.S. officials, and some complained that they would be charged $600 for chartered flights back home through the U.S. government.
Hotel Updates
Here is an updated look at the hotels and tour operators in the area.
The Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort is reporting that all tourists have departed the hotel as of last Friday. At this time, the resort is closed to arrivals and no longer accepting reservations. "We are presently assessing the full extent of physical damage and will share an update on hotel status once completed," the hotel posts on its Facebook page. "We continue working with the local authorities and our tourism partners, as well as doing all we can to help our team members affected by the storm."
Sheraton Hacienda Del Mar in Los Cabos is reporting that its staff members are safe and unharmed. Starwood has a team on the ground in Los Cabos focused on assisting them and there is in place a program to help them with their needs, both immediate and long term.
Barcelo Grand Faro Los Cabos will not be accepting any new guests until operations resume at the Los Cabos International Airport or further notice. The resort is currently in the process of assessing property damage but can confirm that all current guests and staff members are safe with the resort in an operational state. As of Friday, 94 guests had been evacuated.
#loscabos #hurricane #hurricaneodile #odile #cabosanlucas #mexico #travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #traveltuesday

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cambria - Hearst Castle

Article by Cynthia Dial for
There’s a dramatic coastline to the west and rolling hills to the east, but it’s the scent of pines that announces your arrival in Cambria.  Ensconced in a forest of evergreens, this California village—deemed “one of America’s prettiest towns”—sneaks upon motorists traversing Highway One, the state’s scenic roadway.

Situated equidistance between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Cambria is the child of neither but rather a destination unto itself.  Admittedly more NorCal than SoCal, this is a region of California where there is more going on than the application of sunscreen.  Far from the tourist track, Cambria feels like a secret.  Operating under the radar, time slows down when you arrive.  There is no rush hour, there are no rigid rules and fast food chains don’t line its streets.  With a single glance, it’s apparent that life rewarded the village with a stop-and-smell-the-roses ambiance, but despite this enviable rep it remains an unknown commodity to many. 

Upon closer inspection, Cambria unfolds like a cozy coverlet.  Let me set the stage.  Tracing the unincorporated town’s main street, actually called “Main Street,” you’ll meander through its East and West Villages—past 20-something art galleries, an assortment of eateries from informal to gastronomic, a collection of locally sourced boutiques and a single grocery store.  The setting is old-fashionedly charming.  It’s a dog-friendly place with many of the town’s attractions found in Victorian-style storefronts that are set in pastel-painted houses.  If you’ve ever wished you lived back in the day, Cambria is calling your name.  It represents a period of time when the reference to “apple” signified a fruit and the word “yahoo” meant hooray.

Let’s explore.  Meal choices are varied and voluminous, whether you’re starting your day with a lobster omelet on the patio of Indigo Moon or dining by candlelight at the Black Cat Bistro while luxuriating in the meal’s finale of sticky toffee pudding.  There’s seafood at Sea Chest Oyster Bar, international cuisine at Robin’s Restaurant and American/French cuisine at Madeline’s.  The list goes on and on.  And the coffee scene is equally plentiful, beginning with Main Street’s Cambria Coffee Roasting Company, a welcome reflection of local java enthusiasts.  

With more than 100 wineries within 30 miles of Cambria, the region additionally tips its hat to vino, but there’s no need to leave the village for a sample. Fermentations, a retail wine shop featuring a variety of Central Coast wines, gives tastings; El Colibri Wine Bar serves its wine accompanied by California tapas fireside in its cozy lounge and you’ll find artisan wines by a single label winemaker at Black Hand Cellars.  But if a visit to a local winery is on your agenda, head into the hills.  The 2,000-acre estate vineyards of J. Lohr in Paso Robles is only one of your tasty options. 

The shopping scene is classic Cambria, teeming with antique shops, gift stores and art galleries.  It’s a renowned artist colony, with artisans often in their gallery studios.  A talented example is Patricia Griffin, who can be found most afternoons in her converted one-room schoolhouse workroom, the Patricia Griffin Studio.
Cambria’s live entertainment ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­landscape equally thrives.  Showcasing concerts, musicals and plays, venues include the 35-year-old Pewter Plough Playhouse and the Cambria Center for the Arts.  And for the make-your-own entertainment crowd, there’s always lawn bowling at the Joslyn Center. 
Though there are ample in-town diversions, the out of doors is plentiful with pastimes.  For the active there’s biking, kayaking, surfing, hiking and horseback riding.  Appealing to the more leisurely appetite are such activities as walking along the cliffs, tide-pooling in the shallow shore and rock hunting along the beach.  A real regional perk is ocean fishing, which is allowed off San Simeon’s pier without a license
Known as the unofficial Gateway to Big Sur, Cambria is blessed with all of nature’s amenities that come with the designation.  At the top of the list are the following.

Moonstone Beach – A shore distinguished by pebbles of amethyst, gypsum, rose quartz and milky moonstone (the area’s locally coveted gemstone), its 1.5 mile boardwalk is punctuated with benches along its path and wooden stairs that negotiate from the cliffs to the surf and tide pools 100 feet below.
Fiscalini Ranch Preserve – Located in the heart of Cambria, this natural 440-acre area contains a vast network of trails, from an ocean-side boardwalk to trodden tracks through an endangered forest of Monterey pines.  The most popular trail is the one-mile Bluff Trail, which runs along a cliff overlooking the ocean. The “Ranch,” as it is called by locals, is open from dawn till dusk every day of the year, and offers a docent-guided walk once a month.
Piedras Blancas Light Station – Perched on the rugged coast about eight miles north is this historic lighthouse that promises “a glimpse into our nation’s past when lighthouses served a vital role in sage maritime navigation.”  This is prime property for spotting marine life, such as whales and sea otters, and for listening to the sounds of the sea, from its surf to the barking of sea lions.

Elephant Seals’ Beach Rookery – Approximately 17,000 elephant seals migrate twice a year to this popular beach overlook, their land-based home for breeding, birthing and molting.  Here’s the schedule of activity for these distinctive mammals whose prehistoric-looking males weigh up to 5,000 pounds.  Winter is peak season of seal activity: males begin arriving from their Alaska migration in late November, pregnant females first appear in December and the pups are born from mid-December to early February.  The rookery is ten miles north of Cambria and just south of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, requires no entry fee and provides countless photo ops.

Hearst Castle – If you fancy the finest, there’s Hearst Castle.  Celebrated for its unabashed, unadulterated and unconditional luxury, William Randolph Hearst was the man behind this ambitious architectural endeavor called La Cuesta Encantada, “The Enchanted Hill.”  Situated on a hilltop in the Santa Lucia Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean, a battalion of artisans labored nearly 28 years to create the regal estate of 165 rooms sitting amid 127 acres of luscious gardens, numerous terraces and an assortment of palatial pools. 
Known as a 20th century phenom, Hearst is recognized for his expertise in publishing, politics and Hollywood.  In Central California he additionally is associated with the famous estate that bears his name.  The love affair of William Randolph Hearst with the best began at the age ten when he traveled with his mother to Europe and returned with the desire to create his own “castle,” one that years later would become a home for his vast and impressive museum quality art collection of classical paintings, tapestries, religious artifacts, oriental rugs, sculptures and even antique ceilings.  Collaborating with architect Julia Morgan, this masterpiece was the multi-decade realization of his boyhood dream.

Hearst Castle is a place where “spare no expense” was the guiding principle and where the 15-minute drive up the steep hill serves as a statement of arrival.  Here Hearst entertained such luminaries of the Hollywood, political and literary worlds as Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Winston Churchill, Calvin Coolidge, George Bernard Shaw, Charles Lindbergh and Howard Hughes.

Today a visit to the Castle is akin to previewing a private serenade to history within a home that once attracted only the moneyed crowd.  Offering a selection of four tours, it’s a thoroughbred kind of stop.  Options include: the Grand Rooms Tour, Upstairs Suites Tour, Cottages and Kitchen Tour and the Evening Tour (offered seasonally).  Each walkabout gives visitors the opportunity to return to its fabled past as a haven for the rich and renowned, but it is the Evening Tour that allows visitors to experience the Castle as one of Hearst’s guests might have enjoyed.  Docents dressed in period outfits bring the lavish surroundings to life as it existed in the 1930s.  As you walk its grand rooms teeming with its docent “houseguests,” you feel like you’ve trespassed a velvet rope line to time travel back in history.

Located in San Simeon, Hearst Castle is about six miles north of Cambria.  When in route, keep a lookout for the property’s zebras that roam the Castle’s undeveloped land.  These black-and-white striped mammals represent one of the area’s most photographed sights after the Castle itself and the rookery’s elephant seals.

A year-round destination, Cambria’s most popular annual events are the Cambria Art and Wine Festival (January), the Cambria Western Dance Jamboree (February), the Cambria Chili Cook-Off & Classic Car Show (May) and the Scarecrow Festival (October).  Then there’s an old-fashioned July 4th celebration and Holidays in the Pines is celebrated throughout the month of December.

Known for the indigenous moonstone found on its beaches, Cambria is the most precious stone of California’s Central Coast crown.  It’s the perfect antidote for a world that is a little too large and a little too fast.  Cambria is where to go for simplicity and for a landscape and a lifestyle that are generous, authentic and perfect.

The area code for Cambria, California is 805.

Where to Sleep:
Blue Dolphin Inn – As an adult only option, this inn serves up an oceanfront location and a sophisticated environment. Steps from the beach and its boardwalk, it’s located directly on Moonstone Beach. 6470 Moonstone Beach Drive, 805-927-3300,

Cambria Pines Lodge – Set on 25 wooded acres of Monterey pines and gardens, this luxurious rural retreat offers something for every taste, including a butterfly garden, wishing well and the bird house garden featuring “living” birdhouses with flowered roofs.  A nature trail from the Lodge leads to Cambria village. 2905 Burton Dr., 805-927-4200,

Fog Catcher Inn – This combo of old-fashioned England and contemporary conveniences is set in an inn punctuated by a rounded thatched-style roof, flower-lined brick paths and fireplaces in every room. Here guests can watch the sunset from the year-round heated pool, the soothing Jacuzzi tub or one of many benches situated in the inn's gardens.  The hotel holds a wine tasting featuring local grapes the first Friday of each month. 6400 Moonstone Beach Drive, 6400 Moonstone Beach Drive, 805-927-1400,

The J Patrick House – Blending with its wooded setting above the village of Cambria, this authentic log home and carriage house has been recognized as one of the area’s best bed and breakfast inns. The main house overlooks a forest of tall Monterey pines and the carriage house has seven rooms with private baths and wood burning fireplaces.  Each day at 5:30 pm guests and hosts collect in the cozy living room of the log cabin for homemade hors d'oeuvres, fine wines and good conversation. 2990 Burton Drive, 805-927-3812,

Where to Eat and Drink:
Black Cat Bistro – Though small, the three room restaurant is one of Cambria’s finest gourmet eateries, complete with white linen tablecloths, fine china and crystal stemware—all bathed in candlelight.  The Black Cat features traditional American cuisine with a classic French influence, serving such specialties as stuffed fried green olives and three-cheese baked polenta.  1602 Main Street, 805-927-1600,

Madeline's - Best described as fine dining in a casual atmosphere, the restaurant's American/French influenced cuisine includes such selections as lamb en croute, rabbit braised with fresh plums and white and dark chocolate pots de cremes.  788 Main Street, 805-927-4175, 

Robin’s Restaurant – Set in a historic adobe home with a fireplace and garden patio, this restaurant has been known for its authentic international food creations since 1985. Featured menu items include Scottish salmon, lobster enchiladas, tandoori chicken, pad Thai gnocchi and Robin's signature dish, salmon bisque.  4095 Burton Drive, 805-927-5007,

Sea Chest Oyster Bar - Overlooking Moonstone Beach and serving seafood for almost 40 years, the menu is full of specialties, from John D's oyster Rockefeller and fresh New Zealand mussels to the house cioppino.  2616 Moonstone Beach Drive, 805-927-4514, 

What to See:
Hearst Castle – High above the Pacific on a site called The Enchanted Hill, William Randolph Hearst created his private retreat.  Once accessible only to celebrities and famous guests, the Mediterranean-style grand palace estate is open for visitors to explore.  Note: The Evening Tour is offered March – May; October – December.  Highway 1 in San Simeon, 800-444-4445,

Photos by Cynthia Dial

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Travel Quote of the Day

Travel Quote:

"I traveled way too much in my life," said no one EVER! 
  Photo taken with Burmese nuns

#throwbackthursday #travel #travelquote #travelquotes #traveltips #quote 
#traveltips #travelingcynthia

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Warmer Side of Whistler Has More Than Just Wintertime Activities

by Cynthia Dial

It was my final day in Whistler and I relaxed in luxury upon rattan at the entrance of Fairmont Chateau Whistler, which at 25 years of age is the village matriarch. As I awaited my transportation, I observed. Surrounded by the green of mountains and a blue sky above, the village to the left and spruce and cedars everywhere, it was a Christmas-perfect setting – one that is best known for winter. But as its warm weather guest, I discovered that Whistler is much more.

Photo by Cynthia Dial
As if to reaffirm my revelation, pulling beneath the porte-cochere of my tony digs was a car to retrieve golfers for tee times, another for bungee jumpers, a third for alpine photographers, and traversing between this motorcade of vehicles were on-the-go bikers and hiking-booted walkers. To quote my taxi driver: "Whatever your sport, it's here." 

Photo by Cynthia Dial
Established initially as a fishing resort, a summer getaway named Rainbow Lodge was opened in 1914 by Myrtle and Alex Philip. But it wasn't until the 1960s that this under-the-radar community without electricity, piped water, sewage facilities and even a roadway to Squammish or Vancouver started its gradual transformation to a celebrated ski hangout. It began with a dream. A group of Vancouver businessmen attending the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics returned to Canada with an aspiration to host the Winter Olympics.

A search north of Vancouver uncovered Whistler and the vision accelerated to reality with a bid in 1961 to host the 1968 Winter Olympics, another in 1965 for the 1972 Olympics, an additional bid in 1967 regarding the 1976 event and ultimate success in capturing the 2010 Winter Olympic Games --naming Whistler the site of the alpine, Nordic, luge, skeleton and bobsled competitions. 

Photo by Cynthia Dial
Development of Whistler was not by happenstance. Sprinkled with cobblestoned plazas and low level buildings designed to showcase the surrounding landscape, so that wherever one strolls a view of Whistler or Blackcomb is almost always guaranteed, the planned community is a vehicle free, pedestrian only, advertising restricted township. The result is not a touristy town but a lovely, livable village.  

It’s one of those I-came-for-the-winter-but-stayed-for-the-summer kind of places where five lakes and two ski mountains represent only a few of Whistler's natural year-round aesthetics. As North America’s largest ski resort with the longest ski season (November into July with summer’s glacier skiing), it sports an annual average of more than 35 feet of snow and 37 lifts. Since December 2008, Whistler and Blackcomb are linked by the Peak-2-Peak Gondola, the world’s longest lift of its kind, an 11-minute, 2.73-mile ride between the peaks.

 Photo by Cynthia Dial
Warm weather brings hanging baskets, outdoor dining, wildflower covered hillsides and a profusion of activity, from ├╝ber active to relaxingly docile. Scandinave Spa Whistler, a 20,000-square-foot outdoor day spa, was my choice after a full day of travel. Set in a forest with views of the surrounding mountains, Scandinave operates on the Nordic concept that a body is rejuvenated through the repetition of three stages – alternating hot and cold, followed by relaxation. Open 365 days a year, its circuit of saunas, steam baths, hot baths and cold plunges are all experienced in silence.

There are many legacies of the Olympic Games. Olympic Plaza is the epicenter of activity. It’s converted to an outdoor ice skating rink in below-freezing temps and as the mercury rises it’s furnished with Adirondack chairs. Noted as the world’s fastest track for Winter Games, Whistler Sliding Center presents bobsleds on wheels in summer and a winter bobsleigh experience with speeds reaching up to 75 mph in snow.

Add to the active list whitewater rafting, ATV tours, ziplining Canada’s longest tandem course, alpine hiking, swimming in one of the five area lakes and negotiating Whistler Mountain Bike Park, North America’s largest mountain biking park with five levels of difficulty, from easy to pro.

The Alpine Wining and Dining adventure is a three-plus hour warm weather culinary journey that starts at Blackcomb Base, travels Wizard Express and Solar Coaster for brunch at Christine’s Restaurant in the Rendezvous and includes an alpine trail walk. This is followed by boarding the Peak-2-Peak Gondola for its over-the-valley view, before descending into town via Whistler Village Gondola and ends on the sunny patio of Garibaldi Lift Company (locally called GLC) for a burger, beer and people watching.

Another notable activity is a bear tour that is available around the region. Home to a notable concentration of approximately 60 black bears and cubs, 4x4 vehicles traverse Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains’ ski roads from mid-May through October to get bear enthusiasts close to the mammals’ feeding sites and their winter hibernation habitats in quest of hopeful sightings.

Whistler Blackcomb’s Ski with an Olympian program underscores a local’s summation: “Athletes are like rock stars here.” This high-altitude package gives skiing enthusiasts the elite experience of a private ski day or lesson with such celebs as Olympic Gold Medalist Ashleigh McIvor or Olympic competitive skier Julia Murray, both local residents.

Photo by Cynthia Dial
From the Four Seasons to the Pan Pacific to the Westin, the village has a number of luxury accommodations available. I chose the Fairmont Chateau Whistler for its longevity, as well as its ski-in ski-out location at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. The 550-room landmark features an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones, Jr. golf course, Canada's only Leadbetter Golf Academy, Vida Spa (many treatments are based on Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old Hindu medicinal system) and an outdoor 60-foot heated lap pool with underwater music. A cross between a mountain lodge and chateau, itsculinary offerings are equally appealing, including Alpine Afternoon Tea (served June through October), evening fondue in The Chalet (mid-December through March) and Portobello Market & Fresh Bakery’s specialty—maple-glazed donuts topped with bacon bits.

With over 90 restaurants in the Village alone there is no shortage of selection, nor is the area bereft of flavor. Drawing from a combo of Pacific Rim food culture, fresh seafood from the ocean (50 miles away), daily produce from nearby Pemberton Valley and wines from the Okanagan, a meal in Whistler is often a mouth-watering memory. And one-of-a-kind occasions are plentiful, from summer's epic Mountaintop BBQ Series upon Whistler peak to prime-time Whistler restaurant, Araxi, and its Longtable Series. Offered seasonally, this out-of-the-village, open-air dining event features a single lengthy table serving more than 100 guests farm-to-table creations of award-winning executive Chef James Walt, paired with wines selected by wine director, Samantha Rahn, 2013 Sommelier of the Year. 

Luxury lodging, delectable dining, matchless athletic feats, it’s no surprise that Whistler is a popular inclusion of the international celebrity circuit. It’s where Prince Charles vacationed with William and Harry as young boys, Seal made a mountain-top proposal to Heidi, Gene Simmons owns a home and its most recent royal visit was the Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.

Photo by Cynthia Dial
Off season? What off season? White is no longer the new black as any time is the best season for Whistler. High-lux living, served with a bit of alpine attitude, you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see Inukshuk, the First Nation’s stone landmark figure of greeting. Welcome to Whistler!