Monday, March 31, 2014

Alaska by Ferry









How to travel Alaska by the state ferry system? First, I was lucky enough to have my good friend Jo come up with the idea. Then I called Alaska Ferry Adventures, www.alaskaferryvacations.com, and spoke with the very knowledgeable staff there. I told them what our dates were, what we were interested in doing and where we wanted to go. They told me they would call me back within a few days. Being a former travel agent, I just had to see if I was up to the challenge of figuring it out myself. And I didn't do too badly. But I am glad we left it up to Jo-Jo, our ferry specialist. She called me back when she said she would and we really liked her itinerary. So we booked with them by paying 50% down. Then after our final payment was paid, they sent us a coupon booklet for the ferries and all our excursions. We booked our own airfare into and out of Juneau plus our own hotels.

Our itinerary consisted of four different towns with an excursion in each town. In all 4 towns we had the town to ourselves after the cruise ships left. No waits at restaurants, no crowds to deal with and a chance to go to Sitka which isn't offered on all cruise itineraries.
The ferries themselves differ by what city they are going to. The largest one we traveled on had a movie theater, restaurant, lounge, tv watching lounge, coin operated laundry, and a heated solarium on the top deck. You are allowed to bring your own tent and pitch it on any of the outdoor decks for no extra fee. You could travel from town to town for just the ferry charge! which some people were doing. We met a man who had driven from Mexico to Washington and caught the ferry from Bellingham to get to Alaska.

I loved the ferry system and have nothing but good things to say about booking it, traveling on it or any of the amenities they had. I feel we were traveling the way the locals get around and not herded from town to town with hordes of cruise passengers. Sitting outside on a lounge chair watching the beautiful scenery go by and drinking hot chocolate - priceless!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Saugatuck





Spring's official arrival was last week but you wouldn't know it in these parts. So I am sharing some summer memories of a Girlfriend's Getaway to Saugatuck - a resort town located in the southwest corner of Michigan on the lake.

We enjoyed our long weekend here. We had perfect weather and enjoyed eating at restaurants on the lake, taking a ride on the paddlewheeler, going dune buggy riding, putting our toes in the sand at Saugatuck Dunes State Park and attending a Saugatuck Community Theatre production of Game Show, a comedy with audience participation(Don't know if this is a national production, but if you get a chance to go see it, do it. I really liked this show!). We didn't take a ride on her, but Diane is the only hand-cranked chain ferry left in the United States. Her operators blow an air horn (she has the right of way) and they take her passengers 100 yards across the river for the bargain rate of $1. And her operators seem to be strong, young college students with lots of energy to do all that cranking.
Oh, how summer sounds so good right about now!www.walkingontravels.com2014/03/27/friday-postcards-thingvellir-icela/ I'm linking up to friday postcards at walking on travels - go check it out!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Day trippin'

Outside of Nashville, "14 miles and 100 years", is the small, historical town of Franklin, Tennessee. It has a 16 block National Register district full of boutiques, restaurants, historical homes and art galleries.

It is also home to the Franklin Theatre opened in 1937. Many national acts, and not just country, perform here.

One of the most famous places to visit in Franklin is Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant. Puckett's started as a grocery store in the small town of Leiper's Fork and is thought to be the model for Cracker Barrel where you can get homestyle food and shop all in one place. My lunch of fried chicken, squash casserole and green beans was delicious!

Visit in the evenings for live music by up and coming local groups with a cover charge of $12 and a full bar available.

Our hotel for the weekend was the beyond ginormous Gaylord Resort and Convention Center,  also known as Opryland hotel. This is the epicenter of the Gaylord Entertainment Group which also includes the General Jackson showboat, Opry Mills Mall (both located next door to the hotel) and the Grand Ole Opry, which is a short walk away.


This place is so big that they have employees stationed around the hotel to help those that get lost - and you are given a map at check-in. There are 17 restaurants, an indoor pool, outdoor pool, a boat ride down a model of the Mississippi River and an atrium that I can't even describe.(The boat ride does cost extra and it is a whopping $20 for parking - but be aware that if you eat at one of the restaurants they will validate your parking for you)


It really is something to see! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Atomium

This is The Atomium. Located in Brussels, Belgium, it is their number one tourist attraction. It was the main pavilion for the 1958 Worlds Fair. It is an extremely well-loved icon by the Belgian people and was built to represent the "democratic will to maintain peace by all nations."

We happened upon it on an Easter Sunday that was also the first day it re-opened after it had been refurbished. There was a live band playing at the base and crowds of people eager to see it after it's facelift.

It now houses a restaurant at the top of the eighth sphere and beautiful views of Brussels. When we were there, the viewing area had not been re-opened yet and they had a very temporary cafe set-up with belgian waffles and snacks.


There are exhibitions inside the Atomium and when we were there, there was an exhibition of cars. You can also learn all about it's history. And next door is Mini-Europe, which is Europe in miniature that you can walk around and take the shortest tour of Europe in history. We didn't visit Mini-Europe as we were off to find an Easter meal.
Have you ever heard of or been to the Atomium?
Photo credit : all photos taken by the youngest Unpaved Road child
I'm linking up with www.walkingontravels.com for Friday Postcards!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Savannah

If you've never been to Savannah, make plans to do so soon. And if you are up for one of the biggest St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the Southeast USA, then make plans to attend next year. I have never been but it's on my wish list - and one year I will be watching the ginormous parade on River Street and see the Forsyth Park fountain with it's water turned green. St. Patrick's Day, celebrated in Savannah since 1824, is it's most lucrative tourist attraction. And if you want to see what I mean just google it and check out the crowds. If you can't (or don't want to) attend then, Savannah is still fun any other time of year.

A good way to see the city is to ride the hop-on/hop-off trolley which makes 15 stops all around the city.

You can see the Candler Oak which is thought to be about 300 years old. If you are a Girl Scout or former Girl Scout, you can visit the home of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the organization. If you liked the movie or book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, then you can view the house where the supposed murder of Danny Hansford took place.

The Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD) had an art museum and store where you can purchase goods made by students at the school.  You can walk around the very interesting and old Bonaventure Cemetery for a taste of history.


If you'd like a great view of the river, head up to the rooftop bar, Rocks on the River, at the Bohemian Hotel on the Riverfront. And of course, you can't visit Savannah without visiting River Street with it's cobblestones, River Street Sweets, the Waving Girl Statue and bars and restaurants overlooking the Savannah River.

The piece de resitance to Savannah, though, is Forsyth Park. It is the quintessential Southern city park covering 30 acres in the historic district of  the city. It includes walking paths, a cafe, a Fragrant Garden for the blind, a childrens play area and fields for playing all kinds of sports. Across the street is the famed Mansion on Forsyth Park, an Autograph Collection hotel known for housing the rich and famous.

And if you're really lucky, you may just spot Forrest Gump himself, famous bench sitter of Savannah!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Rincon, Puerto Rico

Rincon, Puerto Rico is known as "the Malibu of Puerto Rico" and it definitely embraces it's surfing culture. (The World Surfing Championships were held here in 1968) A sister resort of the famed Horned
Dorset in upstate New York, the Horned Dorset Primavera, was located here after a 3 year search for the perfect spot. I stayed in the Sandy Beach area which is compact and walkable with some funky shops, bars and restaurants. Tamboo, voted one of the 50 best beach bars by CNN and featured in Travel and Leisure's best issue, is on Sandy Beach and it didn't disappoint.
Sandy Beach


Tamboo


Steps Beach at Tres Palmas Marine Preserve


Always a good day for surfing

The Horned Dorset Primavera

Surfing statue in Rincon

I'm linking up with www.walkingontravels.com for  Friday Postcards!