Friday, January 29, 2016

Travel Quote of the Day

Quote of the day: “You speak in French, but you sing in Italian.”
Photo by Cynthia Dial
#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #giorgiodreamitaly

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Wow Deal Destinations of 2016

TravelZoo announced its list of the top five Wow Deal Destinations where they anticipate -- and are already seeing -- amazing deals throughout 2016, in comparison with years past.

Complete with some hints, here is the list of where you should be off to this year:
Photo by Cynthia Dial

~ This neighboring country's currency is at an 11-year low, which means there's a "25% off" sticker on everything when using the U.S. dollar.

Answer: Canada

~ New government rules and regulations open up travel to this island -- visit now while it's still got an authentic vibe.

Answer: Cuba

~ A hotel boom of 30,000 rooms in less than a decade makes them easier to afford in this historically pricey city.

Answer: New York City

~ A low-fare airline propelled others to competitively drop prices (less than $500 roundtrip from the U.S.!), while Disney's "Frozen" helped put this country on the map to a generation of new travelers.

Answer: Norway

~ An increase in flights between the U.S. and this tropical destination plus seven brand-new hotels = the lowest fares in years and 4-star resorts for less than $150.

Answer: Puerto Vallarta

#travel #traveltips #travelpics #travelingcynthia #travelzoo 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Dreaming About Italy?

I love Italy and I've traveled to this country many times. But I've never experienced VIP Italy in the 'Dream Italy' way. From visiting the smallest, but best,  of winemakers and cheesemakers, to starting the day in a Ferrari driving through the Tuscan countryside and ending it in a hot air balloon soaring over the countryside, Dream Italy's Giorgio Dell'artino achieves dreams you never knew you had. Ciao!
#giorgiodresmitaly #dreamitaly #travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

There's More Than Meets the Eye at Canada's Wickaninnish Inn on Vancouver Island

by Cynthia Dial for

A little backstory. Upon learning that the Wickaninnish Inn is known for storm watching, a visit during inclement weather became a goal. Thus, when my small plane departed from the city of Vancouver to Vancouver Island (setting of Tofino, home to the Wickaninnish Inn), and I learned that poor climate conditions mean landing in Qualicum Beach, followed by a two-and-a-half hour drive to Tofino, reality set in. My dream was coming true.

“Watch your head as you’re deplaning,” cautioned the Orca Airways pilot before humorously adding, “If you don’t watch your head, watch your language.” It is on that upbeat note that my journey began – driving along the Pacific Rim Highway, first through Cathedral Grove, then around Sproat and Kennedy Lakes in rain and eventually over Sutton Pass through snow. My weather-tested arrival to Vancouver Island’s most remote patch on its west coast would be considered challenging by most. To me, it was exhilarating.

Originally a fishing village, today’s Tofino is outgoing, easygoing, enterprising and, in many ways, exclusive. Situated in the environs of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, it is the setting of an array of activities – from hiking, fishing and surfing (named North America’s best by Outside Magazine) to whale watching, bear watching and bird watching – and from November through February, for storm watching.

At first glance, the town was not impressive. Yet, closer inspection unveils an at-the-end-of-the-road place (it’s the conclusion of Canada’s cross-country east to west Pacific Rim Highway) that is cozy, charming and casual. 

Its array of eateries includes Wolf in the Fog (named Canada’s Best New Restaurant in 2014 by Air Canada’s inflight magazine, enRoute), award-winning SoBo (aka Sophisticated Bohemian) and Tacofino (a food truck renowned for its fish tacos and chocolate diablo cookies). The place to be on Wednesday nights is Jack’s Waterfront Pub for karaoke, a visit to Tofino Brewing Company should be mandatory (among its most popular draughts is Blonde) and Eagle Aerie Gallery is best known for the work of Canadian artist Roy Henry Vickers.

For me, however, Tofino’s primary appeal was found not in its pastimes or at dinnertime, but three miles from the village center at the Wickaninnish Inn. Comprised of two contemporary cedar, stone and glass structures – the Pointe Building and the Beach Building – the Inn is comfortably situated on a rocky point overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Chesterman Beach (at 1.5 miles, it is Tofino’s longest strand).

My arrival was beneath sheets of rain. Running the length of its porte cochere toward the oversized Henry Nolla-carved yellow cedar double doors (treasured creations of the late resident craftsman), my warm lobby welcome was from a blazing fireplace, flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing the churning sea.

It was this initial introduction to the Inn’s National Geographic-like setting and its meticulous attention to detail that ensured this fact: I might never leave. If “love is in the details,” as Oprah is known for saying, the Wickaninnish is a valentine.

Features of the Inn’s 75 rooms include an ocean or beach view, individual balcony, gas-burning fireplace, giant soaker tub, remote controlled privacy window shade for the bathroom windows, heated stone bathroom flooring, disappearing television screen, binoculars for wildlife viewing (eagles are everywhere), Hudson Bay blankets for the balcony, daily tide timetables for beach walking, plush bathrobes, in-room diary, backpack, umbrella and storm watching gear (including boots, rain pants and a rain jacket next to a clever note reading: “On the West Coast there is no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices.”). Handcrafted wood embellishments, from the room’s carved mantel and driftwood hewn chair to its custom-designed tissue boxes, further highlight the Wick’s commitment to perfection.

 “Rustic elegance on nature’s edge,” describes managing director Charles McDiarmid (eldest son of the Inn’s founding father, the late Howard McDiarmid) of his family’s loving creation. Hands-on from the beginning, McDiarmid recounted the Inn’s construction. “First we had to blast rock, clear the site and build the road, then run the sewer, water and cable lines.” Charles and his brother Bruce physically cleared the site. “I remember September 26, 1995, because it was the first day we were hauling stuff in rather than hauling stuff out. Launching less than a year later, it was August 9, 1996, when I took off the hard hat, put on a clean shirt and opened the doors,” says McDiarmid, a Cornell School of Hotel Administration graduate and Four Seasons Hotel veteran.

The Inn’s reception to the world’s hotel scene was simply one accolade after another. Only one year after opening, it received the Relais & Chateaux designation (typically a three-year pursuit) and in 2002 the Wickaninnish was named Travel + Leisure’s top North American hotel and the world’s third.

A walk about the Inn is akin to visiting a museum or gallery, meandering amongst First Nations artwork, burl wood furniture, locally created metalwork accents and even first editions of Captain Vancouver’s “Voyage of Discovery.” 

You’ll know you’re approaching the Ancient Cedars Spa by its aroma. Among its enticements are the spa’s two couple-treatment rooms (Rainforest Haven and Cedar Sanctuary), whose doors open to the privacy of the sea. The spa’s treatments shout “Pacific Northwest” with such indigenous components as Vancouver Island seaweed body polish and seaweed salts for its hydrotherapy soak amid 144 water jets.  

Additionally adding to the luxurious Inn’s appeal is The Pointe Restaurant, which showcases a 240-degree view and serves up Chef Warren Barr’s specialties that feature locally sourced, West Coast-inspired, fresh-from-the-sea cuisine. Chef’s not-to-be-missed weekly tasting menu – five or six courses, paired with wines – offers such dishes as ginger cured foie gras with local strawberry preserves and almond crusted Tofino lingcod. A copper fireplace occupies the center of the room, with premium seating near the warmth of this centerpiece or at one of the many tables perched window side. To avoid disappointment, however, be sure to make reservations well in advance.
Another dining option is the more casual Driftwood Café. Frequented by locals, “It’s our gateway drug,” says McDiarmid. Though smaller, it too is window-lined and it too frames a premier view. Situated around an impressive bar whose base is carved from a fallen tree, a wood-burning stone fireplace and at the entrance of the Inn’s art gallery, it features a menu that isn’t as broad but from which I experience an all-time favorites meal – West Pacific smoked salmon, paired with a glass of Blue Mountain Brut.

A year-round destination, in truth there is no “best” season for Tofino and the Wickaninnish Inn. Summer serves up Dungeness crab cookouts on the beach, wintertime can mean storm watching and surfing, hiking and wildlife viewing can be enjoyed almost anytime.  

  Photos by Cynthia Dial
At departure in Orca’s eight-seater commuter plane the skies are clear, setting the stage for an all-together different but equally enticing experience. Another day, another Tofino. The Inn’s door signage most simply described my luxuriating visit: “Watching the waves from my window. Please come back later.”  

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #wickininnishinn #vancouverisland #tofino #stormwatching

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hamburg - Elbphilharmonie - Concert Hall - Opening

The following news is particularly exciting to me as I was one of the first to walk the circular staircase of the newly opened Elbphilharmonie Hamburg concert hall, albeit wearing a hard hat and during its lengthy construction. This was in 2011.
Photos by Cynthia Dial
Fast forward to 2016 and my how times have changed. Exactly one year before the scheduled opening of the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the opening act is set: the NDR Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Thomas Hengelbrock will be performing in the great hall on January 11 and 12, 2017. Located in the Hamburg harbor, the Elbphilharmonie was designed by Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron. 

The building’s curved glass construction is set on top of a historic cocoa warehouse. It perfectly combines traditional and modern design and boldly enhances Hamburg’s cityscape. Now in its final construction phase, the building has already become Hamburg’s new landmark, and is poised to be one of the most acclaimed concert halls in the world.

#Elbphilharmonie #hamburg #concerthall #travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Travel Quote of the Day

“The worst thing about being a tourist is having other tourists recognize you as a tourist.”
Russell Baker  
#travel #TravelTuesday #travelquote #travelingcynthia

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Pack Like a Pro

by Beverly Burmeier, Going On Adventures

Most airlines now charge for a checked bag, so passengers cram as much as possible into their wheeled carry-ons. And (bummer) a few airlines have begun charging for bags you bring on board the plane.

The most typical fee for a checked bag for U.S. airlines is $25 each way or $50 for a round-trip flight, but you can avoid that by traveling with carry-ons only.

These packing tips can help you fit up to a week’s worth of clothes and necessary items into the maximum-size carry-on, which is 22 x 14 x 9 inches (Even so, you might be required to gate check your bag on smaller planes).

Make a list of what you’ll need—then follow it. You can have a general list that covers any travel; then add specific items needed for the current trip.

Before getting out your suitcase, set aside the clothing items you plan to take—then put at least a third of those items back. Same with jewelry and personal care items. Do you really need three gold necklaces and four lipsticks? Most hotels supply shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion, so you can leave yours at home.

A soft-side bag will stretch to accommodate over-stuffing, unlike hard-shell luggage. Wheels are necessary—no longer a luxury--as are strong zippers and reinforced corners. Stash travel documents or other items you might need on arrival in outside pockets.

Packing pros recommend rolling rather than folding clothes. Shirts, pants, and skirts take up less space and wrinkle less when rolled. Or purchase bags specially made for vacuum packing these items.

Stuff small items like socks and underwear (and chargers) into shoes or other odd-shaped items. After your main wardrobe is packed, slip these small items into the nooks and crannies. Mesh bags of various sizes can help keep socks, sleepwear, and T-shirts organized.

When traveling to a cold destination, wear jacket, boots, and scarf on the plane. These items take up too much space in a suitcase, and chances are you can stash them in an overhead bin if they’re too bulky at your seat. That coat might even make a good pillow if you want to sleep.

You’re allowed a personal item, so make sure it counts. A large shoulder, duffel, or tote bag can hold a week-end's worth of clothes and a computer thus increasing your packable space. Just be sure it will fit under the seat or in the overhead bin of smaller planes for take-off and landing.

Packing liquids can be a problem when you’re not checking a bag. You can’t take a jar of barbeque sauce to your friends or sneak in a bottle of wine purchased on your trip. The TSA limits liquids to 3.4 ounces or less per container, and all of these must fit into a quart-size plastic zip bag. That’s a tall order for women who typically have a variety of personal care items.

Instead of packing liquid perfume, deodorant, sunscreen, insect repellent, make-up remover, etc., switch to solids and wipes. Many hygiene products now are designed in sizes and composition that meet the regulations of air travel.

Realize that you don't need a different outfit for each day of travel, and a pair of all-purpose shoes saves a lot of space. Bonus--lighter luggage is easier on your back and shoulders and more maneuverable in tight spaces. 

Bon voyage!

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #packingtips

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Hello, El Nino!

San Diego, Torrey Pines, El Nino
Photo by Cynthia Dial

#BeachThursday #ElNino #travel #travelingcynthia #sandiego #torreypines

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Fodor's "Go List" 2016

2016 promises to be a busy, on-the-go year, but where to go is the question.  Along those lines, here are some possibilities provided by Fodor -- top picks for its "Go List."

Sequoia National Park
Photo by Cynthia Dial

America's National Parks
North Loop Minneapolis
Palm Springs
San Sebastian
Faroe Islands
St. Helena
Abu Dhabi

Top Pick: Utah

#travel #travelpics #traveltips #travelingcynthia #fodors

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Travia - China - Population

Travia: One in every five people in the world is Chinese. China's population was more than 1.4 billion in 2015, four times that of the United States.
Photo by Cynthia Dial
‪#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #travia #TravelTuesday

Monday, January 4, 2016

Israel: The Biblical Country is a Place of Diverse Terrain, Deeply Religious Sects & Plenty of Mystery

by Cynthia Dial for

Pre-dawn sounds awaken me – first the Muslim call to prayer, then church bells ringing on the hour, followed by a series of sirens and finally the cooing of pigeons. The diversity of this audio track perfectly paints the canvas of my locale. It is Israel.

The State of Israel was created in 1948, less than seven decades ago, yet its land has a recorded history of more than 4,000 years. The Bible is not merely a book of faith, it chronicles this ancient ground, considered the birthplace of Christianity. The country is composed of countless customs reflective of every civilization which has ever occupied its territory.

Israel is the undisputed nation of old. Throughout it are “tels” (archeological mounds formed upon abandoned towns), resulting in city built upon city and layer atop layer of history – all lures for inquisitive travelers.

Today’s Israel is also a country of the future. As the world’s second largest creator of IT software and systems, it is considered “Silicon Valley East,” a fact ironically underscored when stuck in traffic between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. While surrounded by such high-profile companies as Microsoft, Google and Intel, I lament to our driver that in the U.S. we have an app, Waze, which redirects drivers around traffic. “Yes,” he replies, “we invented it.”

Though antiquities and accomplishments define Israel, it is a complicated country. Home to 12 million, it is comprised of two different ethnicities (six million Jews, six million Arabs), both believing they are country’s true natives. This is the world’s only nation that borders three continents (Africa, Europe and Asia) but is a part of none. “It is not a melting pot,” says Israeli guide Amir Orly, “it is a mosaic.” 

With six micro-climates, four seas (the Mediterranean, Dead, Red and Sea of Galilee), mountains, deserts and valleys, Israel’s climate and geography are as dissimilar as its people. Thus, its unofficial title: “a little earth museum.” 

Geographically diverse, technically advanced and religiously complex, its collective characteristics deceptively suggest an immense territory. In actuality, Israel is the approximate size of America’s fifth smallest state, New Jersey, and spans up to 260 miles when traveling from north to south and a max of 70 miles (nine miles minimum) while going from east to west.

Packed into this territory of little more than 8,000 square miles are opportunities found nowhere else on earth. True, safety is a concern of those who have never traveled to Israel. But for those of us who return again (and for many more, again and again), the sense of security is never higher than within this country, which has forever contended with strife.

A visit to Israel is best begun in Jerusalem. On approach, its high desert landscape and tree-dotted hillsides are reminiscent of Southern California. “At first glance it doesn’t seem very special,” I’m warned by a local. “But it happens almost always that at a certain moment, it just hits you that you are in a place unlike no other.”

As the country’s capital, home to national and cultural treasures and the holy city for the Jewish, Islam and Christian faiths, Jerusalem showcases all of the characteristics and complexities that define the kaleidoscope that is Israel. 

Within its wall-surrounded Old City – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – are the Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim quarters. After entering through one of its seven gates (its eighth, the Golden Gate, is sealed for the Messiah to enter the city), a walkabout is akin to an international journey – Arabs in traditional white robe attire smoking water pipes in souk cafés, Christian shopkeepers selling an assortment of Bibles and rosaries and Jews in Orthodox dress rushing home before Friday sundown. 

Continuing, partitions separate men and women chanting their prayers at Judaism’s most sacred site, the Western Wall, while Christian pilgrims follow the 14 stations of the cross along Via Dolorosa – all beneath the backdrop of Islam’s gold-capped Dome of the Rock. Nearby are the City of David, the reputed tomb of King David on Mount Zion, Mount of Olives and Bethlehem. 

It is almost impossible to compute the significance of artifacts displayed at the Israel Museum – from the Dead Sea Scrolls (oldest Biblical texts, yet discovered in 1947), the Aleppo Codex (medieval bound manuscript of the Hebrew Bible) and the Nano Bible (the world’s smallest Bible).

Most sobering, however, is Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Its corridor representing the May, 1945, end to the war is short. Explanation: “We don’t need much room for celebration.” The Children’s Memorial is powerfully simple. Commemorating the 1.5 million Jewish children killed during the Holocaust, it is lit solely by thousands of pin pricks of light appearing like stars. While traversing its dark pathway, you hear the children’s names, ages and countries of origin.

 At 1,300 feet below sea level – the lowest place on earth – the Dead Sea is a mere day trip away. Upon immediate emersion from the tunnel out of Jerusalem, you are in the desert, where camels can be seen at gas stations (for photo ops) and goats are herded by Bedouins. Waterside hotels have full-service spas, featuring therapeutic treatments using the Sea’s highly concentrated minerals. For a Dead Sea float (swimming is not possible), lather with mud, lie back and relax. 

Overlooking the Dead Sea, the plateau of Masada rises to almost 1,500 feet above it. The summit and its excavated remains – revered for their commitment of endurance and heroism – are reached by cable car or along the steep 700-step stairway, Snake Path (a challenging route best taken early morning). Built by King Herod, conquered by Jewish zealots and soon afterward besieged by Romans (73 CE), the zealots chose suicide over surrender.

On approach to Galilee, Orly, a Biblical scholar says, “There was a rabbi who long ago preached on these shores and his name was Jesus.” Passing signage for Nazareth in route and crossing the River Jordan, this is where it is possible for Christian pilgrims to take boat rides on the Sea of Galilee, dine in waterfront restaurants known for the regional specialty, St. Peter’s fish, and experience the sound and light show at the ruins of Bet She’an, an ancient Roman city. 

Tel Aviv (now called Tel Aviv-Jaffa) is Israel’s cultural, financial, commercial and entertainment center. Embellished with graffiti and renowned for its collection of more than 4,000 buildings with a distinctive 1930s architecture called White City, Tel Aviv is colorful. Spread out, there is no downtown, but it is an open-around-the-clock kind of town, always active until the early morning hours. With 3,100 restaurants, cafes, bars and theatres (1 per 12 residents), and playing host to more than 60 cultural events every day, it is an internationally-recognized culinary and cultural scene.

Old Jaffa, one of Israel’s most ancient cities, has transformed into a hip happening. Jutting into the Mediterranean, its parts comprise the complete package – a fisherman’s port, artists’ quarter, Turkish Bazaar, centuries old church, boutiques, bars, cafes and more. 

  Photos by Cynthia Dial
Israel is a country that until you visit is a mystery. Yet, a single trip will transform you and transform your opinion – the mystery becomes a magnet. 

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #israel 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year from San Diego!

View from the Guy Fleming Trail, Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, CA

Photo by Cynthia Dial

#travel #travelpics #travelingcynthia #torreypines #sandiego #viewtodiefor