Tuesday, June 30, 2015

America's Finest Has Fine Things to Do

Whether you live in San Diego or you're visiting, here's a NBC7 interview for you. Click here to see it live.
 Photo by Cynthia Dial

Friday, June 19, 2015

Germany's Baden-Württemberg is More Than Cuckoo Clocks and Chocolate Cakes

Imagine that you’re in a classic Mercedes-Benz, top down, for a wind-in-the-hair ride through the Black Forest. Your route overflows with castles, cuckoo clocks and cobblestone alleyways. In short, it is fairytale perfect.

Where, you might ask, is this scenario? The answer: Baden-Württemberg.
Located in Southwest Germany, this is the country’s third largest state. Blessed with close to 2,000 hours of annual sunshine and an enviable trifecta of borders – France to the west, Switzerland to the south and Bavaria on the east – the region has abundant amenities. It’s a hospitable combo of cosmopolitan cities, a variety of villages and heavenly hamlets, all showcasing their back-in-the-day beginnings – but with a 21st century twist.   
Have you ever felt you’re living a dream? That’s the premise here . . . in this land many call the “authentic” Germany.  
Red and white signage, “Welcome in Germany” (no, this is not a typo, just a lovely lost-in-translation greeting) signifies your airport arrival in the state capital, Stuttgart. It’s been said the pulse of Baden-Württemberg is strongest in the heart of this city. Spread across a mosaic of undulating terrain, from hills to valleys to parks, its acres of within-the-city-limits vineyards meld with such internationally-recognized headquarters as Hugo Boss, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. But though renowned for its top industrial feats, its peoples’ roots are ever present.
Called Swabians, this populace is “never short of an excuse to celebrate” – with evidence found in its innumerable celebratory wine and beer festivals, classic musical events and festive Christmas markets.
Pleasures of the pedestrian define Stuttgart’s city center. Anchored by Palace Square, it’s surrounded by cafes, wine bars and beer gardens. A stroll through the area reveals New Palace, the Baroque-style former residence of the kings of Württemberg; Old Palace, now a museum with the atmospheric ambiance of a knight’s castle and the Museum of Art, an imposing glass cube with a bird’s-eye view from its top level. And don’t miss the historic Art Nouveau Market Hall, the city’s lively food-and-farmers market and magnet for culinary connoisseurs.
On the opposite end of the architectural spectrum are Stuttgart’s luxury car museums. Open in 2009, the Porsche Museum building’s illusion of suspension makes a bold statement. Germany’s only car museum with an auto shop, visitors can watch skilled mechanics in action. The company’s one-of-a-kind philosophy is echoed by Ferry Porsche: “In the beginning, I looked around but couldn’t find the car I dreamt of, so I decided to build it myself.” Since 2006 Mercedes-Benz Museum has presented 120 years of auto industry history on nine descending circular levels. Designed to project mobility, among the museum’s most popular exhibits is Level 4’s collection of celebrity cars, including John Paul II’s Popemobile and Princess Diana’s M-B 500 SL red sports car. If game, save time for the racing-experience simulator (I declined after seeing one participant’s I-can’t-wait-to-get-off-this-ride look upon emerging).
Food finds: Known for such Swabian fare as roast beef with onions and beef bouillon with pancake and chives, make dinner plans at Alte Kanzlei Restaurant, ideally located in the charming square of Schillerplatz. For a regional drink, order Trollinger red wine.
Weil am Rhein is where Switzerland and France rendezvous with Germany. Three Countries Bridge, the world’s longest cantilever pedestrian and cycling bridge, crosses the Rhine River and is a prime representation of this architecturally-astute city. Called the “City of Chairs” for its throughout-the-city displays of oversized chairs, a visit to Vitra Design Museum is mandatory. Showcasing the world’s largest collection of modern furniture throughout its four floors, start on the top level and leave ample time for the Museum Shop, where miniatures of the chair collection can be purchased.
Food finds: Its idyllic climate produces such seasonal specialties as white asparagus. Our late-March timing translated to a meal featuring the local delicacy.
“So nice they had to name it twice,” said President Clinton of Baden-Baden. Situated in the foothills of the Black Forest, its neo-baroque Old Town remains as it was pre-World War II. Long known for its bathing tradition, the first facilities of this 2,000-year-old spa city were erected by the Romans. Today’s primary draws include Friedrichsbad (attire: no swimsuits), a historic 125-year-old bathing temple featuring Roman and Irish spa traditions, of which Mark Twain said: “Here you lose track of time within 10 minutes and track of the world within 20.” By contrast, the more modern Caracalla Spa (attire: swimsuits) has 12 natural springs within a setting of marble columns and an interior surrounded by glass. 

Though a noted enclave for spa, beauty and wellness, the luxury of Baden-Baden additionally extends to premier hotels, world-class museums, a lavish casino, seasonal horseracing and around-the-calendar entertainment. Walking in the footsteps of Queen Victoria and Napoleon III, a stroll along Lichtentaler Allee, the famous avenue running alongside the Oos River, passes many of these pleasures.     
            Food finds: As the recipient of two Michelin stars, the seven-course gourmet menu selection of Chef Paul Stradner with Brenners Park-Restaurant warrants a leisurely stop.
One of the world’s most romantic cities is Heidelberg. Straddling the Neckar River, a medieval castle towers over its Old Town, streets buzz with the energy of college life (it is home to the University of Heidelberg, established in 1386) and past visitors include Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain and General Patton. In this city, it’s almost a requirement to visit family-owned, fifth-generation Knösel Chocolaterie for its famous handmade confection called Student’s Kiss and place a love lock on Heidelberg’s Old Bridge. But though a portion of Heidelberg endearingly represents the past, such annual events as January’s Cabaret and Comedy Festival and June’s Literature Days propel the city forward.

Food finds: One of Heidelberg’s oldest student pubs is a popular haunt of locals, too. Restaurant Zum Seppi serves up such specialties as garlic soup, accompanied by (what else?) beer.
The Black Forest is a land of lacy curtains, hillside homes and forests so dense the color at times appears black. You’ll pass orchards, meadows, farms, placid lakes and rushing streams in route to such villages as Bad Wimpfen, known for its half-timbered houses and Triberg, home to one of the world’s largest cuckoo clocks. Set high in this region is Titisee-Neustadt, a popular resort village that centers around Germany’s pristine 130-foot deep Lake Titisee and its warm weather offerings – fishing, windsurfing and sailing.
Food finds: A typical meal of cold cuts and beer can be found at Rothaus, a brewpub that evolved from a small monastery operation to a renowned state brewery. The perfect complement for mid-day coffee is Black Forest Cake – alternating layers of dense chocolate, real cream, Morello cherries and a hint of Kirsch.

Continuing your road trip, Ortenau Wine Route is a 75-mile trail that links prolific wine villages with historic taverns. Castle Road, a 750-mile path from Mannheim to Prague, leads you to such castle homes as Burg Guttenburg and its possibility that your tour will be conducted by resident owner Baron von Gemmingen who represents the family’s 17th generation.
 Photos by Cynthia Dial

Fairytale finale: Should you crisscross Germany in search of a home for Hansel and Gretel, begin in Baden-Württemberg. Until next time, auf Wiedersehen.

By Cynthia Dial for JustLuxe.com

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #badenwurttemberg #southwestgermany #travelpics  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Southwest Germany's Hotels Impress the Most Discriminatory

Little surprise the land of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche is a land of luxury. Located in Germany’s most southwestern region, let’s begin in Stuttgart (the capital of the state of Baden-Württenberg), travel along Castle Road, wend through the Black Forest and always lodge in the best.
Having recently traveled this route, here are my first-hand recommendations:
Mövenpick Airport Hotel, Stuttgart – After a lengthy overseas flight, “luxury” can be defined as simply as a short walk from the airport’s arrival hall to the across-the-street lobby of the Mövenpick Airport Hotel. But once inside the door and greeted by 120-year-old olive trees named Oliva and Olivo, its thoughtful details erase any negative conjectures linked to its airport proximity. Among its pampered appointments are decoratory Black Forest touches. Like surround-sound, you’ll see contemporary cuckoo clocks, stag deer details and a substantial lion’s head door knocker, which adorns each room door and is available for purchase (along with much of the decor). A guest favorite is the whimsical addition of a beside-each-tub yellow rubber duck (6,000 are guest gifts annually). Additional embellishments include do-it-yourself shoe shine machines by each floor’s elevator, complimentary morning smoothies and – my personal favorite – Mövenpick (yes, like the hotel name) ice cream.   
Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa, Baden-Baden – Situated alongside Lichtentaler Allee riverside park on the banks of the Oos River, this is the setting of this spa-city’s lavish, five-star legend. Known for its 140-plus-year reputation as a historical timepiece, it shares a locale with yesterday’s elite – from Napoleon III to Queen Victoria to the Russian author, Fyodor Dostoevsky. Upon entering the lobby, the scene unfolds like soft linen. It is warm, it is welcoming, it is five-star. Its latest addition (open January 15, 2015) is Villa Stephanie, the hotel’s spa retreat said to offer Europe’s most refined spa concept for the 21st century and newly known for its digital detox program. For the beluga set, there’s Brenners Park-Restaurant. Not a single knife or shallot out of place, it deliciously showcases the creations of Chef Paul Stradner, the recipient of two Michelin stars.
Hôtel Belle Époque, Baden-Baden – Though on a smaller scale, an evening in this former 1874 villa projects elegance. Lovingly restored, it is furnished with original furniture from the “Belle Epoque” period with such styles as Empire, Louis XIV, Victorian and Art Nouveau. Like visiting a museum, its 20 villa rooms and suites are individual replicas of the past, with such choices as the Mozart Room (my selection) and Empire Suite (the sometime home-away-from-home of Placido Domingo).
Europäischer Hof, Heidelberg – This fourth generation, family-owned, five-star period hotel celebrates 150 years of continuing hospitality this year. Managed by family member, Dr. Caroline von Kretschmann, its guest list includes such notables as Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill and popular pop stars (sorry, I can’t identify those guest names). Once I was ushered into the lobby, I mentally repacked, with the imaginary inclusion of an evening gown for this is a hotel where a man can still wear a blazer and fit in. But it is Europäischer Hof’s at-your-service attitude that is most impressive, evidenced by Dr. von Kretschmann’s statement: “Our goal is to create a place where people have happy moments.”
Hotel Alemannenhof, Titisee – Though a four-star family operation, when compared to others, this lodge of luxury projects a different vibe. Whereas Brenners is exclusive and elegant, Hotel Alemannenhof is cozy and casual. Sitting east to west on the beach of Lake Titisee, guests have a ringside seat to sunrise on one end of the hotel and sunset on the other. Signage above the lobby door translates to “Enter and be happy,” the immediate impression guests receive upon meeting owner and general manager Thomas Drubba, whose culinary background is additionally ever present, especially in its cross-over seasonal menu (our meal started with glazed pork belly and ended with nougat mousse and cassis sorbet). Caution: Wait till day’s end to return to your room, because once you are in it, you may never want to leave. No two rooms are alike, but my recommendation is the top-level rectangular penthouse suite that stretches from one end of the hotel to other, providing the perfect nook for an I-don’t-have-anything-to-do visit.
Photos by Cynthia Dial

Wald & Schlosshotel Friedrichsruhe, Hohenlohe region – As the former summer residence of the Hohenlohe royal family, this 18th century, parkland-surrounded castle is home to such exclusive inclusions as an award-winning spa and a 1-star Michelin restaurant (example of excellence: foam soup of lobster with fried scallop). Repeatedly named Germany’s best wellness hotel, The Spa is known for its own skincare line, fashioned from grapes. My late-March experience was incomparable: a toasty soak in the outdoor pool during a light dusting of snow.  Final assessment – magical.

Published in JustLoxe.com by Cynthia Dial

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #southwestgermany #hotels

Monday, June 15, 2015

Travel Quote

Travel Quote: “Don’t listen to what they say. Go see.”
Chinese proverb
Photo by Cynthia Dial
#travel #travelquote #travelingcynthia

Friday, June 12, 2015


By Kelsey Blodget
Excerpted from Oyster.com

Rome is one of Europe's most popular tourist destinations for good reason -- and the Eternal City certainly has its fair share of secrets and surprises. There is so much to see and learn here that even tourists who have paid multiple visits may feel as though they've only scratched the surface. These lesser-known facts about Rome may be news to you, or maybe you're ahead of the curve -- either way, they'll be fun tidbits to whip out at your next dinner party. And they may just inspire you to plan a visit. 

Photo by Cynthia Dial

1.Only About 10% of Rome Has Been Excavated
If you think all the mysteries of ancient Rome have been uncovered, think again. The ancient city is about 30 feet below modern street level, and some estimate that only around 10 percent of it has been excavated. Which makes sense, considering there are people living on top of the ruins -- even the ancient cities of Pompei and Herculaneum are only partially excavated (about 25 and 20 percent, respectively).

2.Julius Caesar Wasn’t Killed Where You Think He Was
Most of us are familiar with the dramatic assassination of Julius Caesar at the Senate House, but some mistake the Curia Julia in the Roman Forum as the scene where it took place. In fact, the Curia Julia was still under construction at the time, and Caesar was actually killed at the Curia of Pompey; its excavated foundations are in the Largo di Torre Argentina, and most of its ruins sit under a modern road.

3.Some of Rome’s Coolest Sites are Underground
If you are into the creepy, cool, and slightly morbid, don't miss out on touring Rome's underground sights, from the Mithraic cult temple underneath the Basilica of San Clemente to the Catacombs of Domitilla to the Catacombs of San Sebastiano. 

4.You Won’t Find Spaghetti and Meatballs Here
While many Americans may think of spaghetti and meatballs as a quintessentially Italian dish, it is actually believed to have been invented by Italian immigrants already living in the U.S. in the early 1900s. No matter its origin, you won't easily find it in Rome. Instead, sample some delicious authentically Roman pasta dishes, such as spaghetti alla carbonara or bucatini all'amatriciana.

5.The Coins Found in Trevi Fountain are Donated to Charity
Tradition has it that throwing a coin over your left shoulder into Trevi Fountain will ensure a trip back to the Eternal City, but it also helps feed the needy. The Catholic charity Caritas collects the coins and uses the proceeds on a supermarket program that provides rechargeable grocery cards to Rome's low-income citizens. Over a million dollars worth of coins are tossed into the fountain each year, or over $3,000 a day.

6.The First Pizzas Weren’t Italian
The first pizzas were really more like flatbreads, and were made thousands of years ago. The ancient Greeks were making flatbreads topped with garlic and herbs long before the Romans, though the word "pizza" is believed to have developed from the Latin word "pinsa," used to refer to these flatbreads. The Italians were the first to start adding tomatoes in the 18th century (long believed by Europeans to be poisonous), and they certainly perfected the dish. 

7.St. Peter’s Basilica is Not the World’s Largest Church
St. Peter's Basilica was the largest church in the world until Ivory Coast President Félix Houphouët-Boigny built the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro -- modeled after St. Peters -- between 1985 and 1989. Though it can accommodate 18,000 worshippers, the Ivory Coast doesn't have a large Christian population and most services are attended by only a few hundred people.

8.Rome Didn’t Become Part of Italy Until 1870
In September 1870, Rome found itself under siege by the Italian army, and was formally annexed into the Kingdom of Italy on October 2nd that year. The wars leading to the unification of Italy had already been going on for decades, and essentially ended when Rome was captured and made capital in 1871.   

9.The Pantheon Has Been In Continuous Use Since It Was Built
The current structure was rebuilt by Emperor Hadrian in 126 A.D. The structure -- even the dome -- are original, though there were some modifications over the years. The dome is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. 

10.All Roads Led From Rome, Not to It
Almost everyone has heard the saying that "all roads lead to Rome." In fact, Romans would have flipped that saying on its head. In their view, all roads led from the Milliarium Aureum, or Golden Milestone, erected by Augustus in the Roman Forum. The Romans had an impressive network of highways and roads, necessary not just for trade but for military transport. Many still exist, including a section of the Appian Way. 

11.You Can Drink from Rome’s Public Fountains
Many tourists don't realize that you can drink the water from Rome's 2,500 or so public fountains -- it's fresh, cold, and delicious. For many of them, if you cover the end of the spout, the water will shoot out of the hole in the top like a drinking fountain. The fountains are referred to as "nasoni" or "big noses" because of the shape of the spouts.

12.There Really is a Secret Passage Leading Out of the Vatican
Fans of Dan Brown's "Angels & Demons" read about the Passetto di Borgo leading from Vatican City to Castel Sant’Angelo. It really does exist, and has been used by popes when Vatican City has been under attack. The Castel Sant'Angelo is a museum and open to visitors, and it is also possible to tour part of the passageway, but note that it is only open during limited months and hours.

13.There Are More Than 900 Churches in Rome – More Than Any Other City
This one isn't a total shocker considering Vatican City is within the city limits (technically not part of Rome, because it is its own country). During an average year, Rome gets around 10 million visitors, but on a holy year, it can be significantly more (some estimates say double). As Pope Francis has announced a forthcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, kicking off on December 8th, Rome’s 900-plus churches will be busy accommodating the city’s religious pilgrims.

#travel #traveltips #travia #rome #travelingcynthia

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Travel Quote

"Jet lag is for amateurs."
Dick Clark
Photo by Cynthia Dial

#travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #jetlag #nojetlag #travelquote

Friday, June 5, 2015

Travel Question of the Day

If money were no object, where would you travel?

Photos by Cynthia Dial
#travel #travelpics #travelingcynthia #travelingtoes

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Travel Quote

“Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.” 
Charles Kuralt
Photo by Cynthia Dial

#travel #travelquote #travelingcynthia

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

7 Countries Where US Dollar is Strong

The first in a long time, here are seven countries where the US dollar is strong:

Italy (or, um, just about anywhere in Europe)
Exchange rate: $1 = 0.91 euro
What it gets you: That heaping cup of authentic gelato? $2.50.

Photo by Cynthia Dial
Exchange rate: $1 = 134.30 Icelandic krónas
What it gets you: A full day of soaking in the “Oh my God, nature is outstanding” Blue Lagoon geothermal spa costs only $50.

Exchange rate: $1 = 33.68 Thai bahts
What it gets you: For just $12, you’ll get a 60-minute authentic Thai massage. You heard us. Twelve dollars.

Exchange rate: $1 = 9.84 Moroccan dirhams
What it gets you: Take home a classic wool Beni Ourain rug for as little as $500. (It’ll cost
three times that stateside.)

Exchange rate: $1 = $1.25 Canadian dollars
What it gets you: A double-double (that’s a coffee with two creams and two sugars) costs $1.36.

Exchange rate: $1 = 3.16 Brazilian reals
What it gets you: In the post-World Cup world, you can snag a pair of Havaianas for less than five bucks.

Exchange rate: $1 = 8.52 Swedish kronas
What it gets you: Historically, Sweden has been crazy-expensive. But with the krona down almost 30 percent this year, you can now score a beer for a remarkably reasonable $8. (Trust us: That’s reasonable in Scandinavian-speak.)

Excerpted from PureWow.com\

#usdollar #travel #traveltips #travelingcynthia #goodvaluecountries