Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Whale Watching & Glaciers in Quebec, Canada

You might be wondering where in the world is Baie-Comeau. It's a quaint town on the Atlantic Shore in Quebec, Canada. Founded some 20,000 years ago by glaciers, Baie-Comeau is part of the whale route ensconced at the confluence of the Manicouagan and St. Lawrence rivers in Uapishka World Biosphere Reserve. Relax and enjoy the outdoors either hiking, biking, water sports from kayaking and whale watching to uncovering underwater treasures through scuba diving, to birding, golfing, to winter sports such as; skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing.
Catch the Matane-Baie-Comeau ferry and respite at the Hotel Le Manoir, the only four star hotel east of Tadoussac. The Hotel Le Manoir was founded by Robert R. McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune, has 60 rooms and is great for both business and personal excursions. Beautiful views await you from your room or the balcony, even from the dining room. They offer; wireless high-speed internet, room service, a workout room, tennis courts, bicycle rentals, a relaxation center (day spa), laundry services, beach access and business centre.
They are located in the historic district near theatre, golf and skiing facilities. And only a few miles from the Jardin des Glaciers (, a state of the art interpretive, exploration and research center. For the adventurous person, grab on at the Adrenaline Zone as you zipline across glacial lake and fjard; rappel down a rock face or kayak across a glacial lake or sea. Rustic campsites and Mongolian yurts are available for nightly rentals. Take a guided boat tour and learn about the impact of the Laurentian ice sheet; from glacial grooves, canyons, moraines, bays and fjard. Get up close in the Valley of the Seashells, in the heart of the boreal forest which are 90 percent shellfish from 8,000 years ago.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Glaciers and Baie-Comeau

You might be wondering where in the world is Baie-Comeau. Its a quaint town on the Atlantic Shore in Quebec, Canada. In a quaint hotel, La Manoir Baie-Comeau, with relaxing views from your room, or the patio/balcony. Whether you come on business or pleasure, be sure to book your spa treatment and enjoy your leisure time in the dining room and walking downtown shopping.
Spend the day going back, 20,000 years to Jardin des Glaciers, a multi-media cyber center, glacier exploration station and maritime adventure park! Descend four kilometers under a glacier and understand the impacts of a giant perpetual movement, then facing a giant water screen be a privileged spectator of the rising sea level as the glacier melts, 8,000 years ago. enjoy a guided kayak tour or via ferrata (rock climbing) by the Sea or 35 kilometers of rustic pathways in the Adrenalin Zone.
How about some Ziplining across the river? Get your adrenalin going at the Adventure Park, for kids and adults to enjoy the day, and also great for groups who are looking for some team building exercises.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Farmer's Markets

It was a beautiful summer morning in downtown Clinton with a rainbow of tents lining the parking lot. Local honey bee keepers, fresh from the garden, organic tomatoes, squash, corn, beans and other summer produce were proudly displayed on tables, in baskets and on the tailgates of trucks. One special vendor caught my eye.
Two long tables were lined together towards the front of the tent. On the table to your left were several pans, commercial kitchen size with several utensils on the table, a few spices, garlic cloves, olive oil and a few burners to your right with frying pans. Off to the side of the tent, flanking the tables were chairs where you can enjoy your biddles. Savory home fries, along with your favorite fresh egg omelette. Xavier Presley is at your service. He will gladly special order your breakfast for you at the market. Or, Presley comes to your home and prepares a meal at your request. You tell him what you want and he does the grocery shopping and cooks for your family and friends. 
Local vendors and farmers will gladly supply some veggies to Xavier at the Farmer's Market and he brings most of the staples to cook for you, as a demonstration. He only accepts donations at the market. But will charge you accordingly for your dinner party or festive event. Xavier once cooked for President Jimmy Carter, while working in a major hotel chain. He was formerly trained at a Texas Cooking School while on scholarship. Xavier is originally from Miami.
Xavier's son helps him cook on the weekends. Today he was making fried green tomatoes. A wonderful corn meal or flour coating with fresh spices for seasoning then fried to perfection. Rupert also helped make a sweet potato casserole. After selecting your favorite toppings; cheese, onions, green peppers, etc., for your omelette, Xavier will show you how they make fire in the frying pan and then prepare your delightful breakfast or brunch. He expertly cooks your eggs and breakfast. Xavier also has some corn on the cob slowly cooking in a large pot of water. "This is how you should prepare your corn," suggests Presley. "People today are often in a hurry and want their food instantly. When we do that it doesn't taste as good."
Xavier should know, while working for the hotel, President Carter sent a letter to the General Manger telling him that his potatoes were the best he's ever had. 
In addition to preparing food at the market, Xavier will give you tips and techniques from chopping vegetables to cooking eggplant parmesan, even which spices to purchase for the best flavor. 
read more at:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

People, its about the people

"I hold a strong conviction that the true breed of diminishing mountain folk of Southern Appalachia are among the most admirable people in the world. They are kind, gentle and compassionate, yet tough and resourceful," said John Rice Irwin, who founded the Museum of Appalachia, a Living Mountain Village in Norris, TN. 
Irwin began collecting history, artifacts with human touch, when he was young. His grandfather told him to "start a museum of these old-timey things". His grandfather has an appreciation for his ancestors and an eclectic assortment of primitive items from three or four generations back. 
"If you need something, what do you do?" asked Irwin of us. Looking around the dinner table at our faces, he explains, "With our parents and grandparents, they made the things, tools and resources they need. Today people just think about where to go to buy what they need."
According to Irwin, each generation is loosing more and more of their history, not even connecting with their ancestors. 
This unique living museum offers a respite for many. Stepping back in time, maybe a few dozen years or more than a hundred, depending on your history lesson. Irwin, a former School Superintendent, would spend weekends driving around several counties, meeting people, getting to know them and if they had something from the past, something he felt would tell a story, their story, he would offer to buy it from them. Irwin didn't want anything that he didn't know who it belonged to and the connection.
(more soon) 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Secret City, Oak Ridge

I first visited the Secret City, Oak Ridge, TN, a few years ago and was fascinated by the history and who the people were and what their life must have been like. May people are still unaware of the secret city. I have the wonderful opportunity to come back and learn some more about America's history and how it affects us everyday. I flew into Knoxville, just  a few minutes down the interstate from Clinton and Oak Ridge. 
We began our excursion at Norris Dam State Park with a picnic lunch and a great narration from our Park Ranger/Manager, Mark Morgan. Mark explained some of the history of the area to us including the park, its' uses, the river and the dam. The dam was built for flood control in 1936, and also brings efficient electrical power to East Tennessee. the dam is 265 feet high and stretches 1,860 feet across the Clinch River. The dam is surrounded by 4,000 acres of virgin forest complete with scenic nature trails. 
Norris Dam State Park offers wonderful amenities for everyone to come out and enjoy, including; rustic cabins, a full-service marina, recreation areas and a swimming pool. Anglers will love the river with more than 50 different species of fish to reel in. The park offers 20 miles of trails for hiking, bike riding or horseback riding. Active lifestyles, getting outdoors is great for the body, mind and soul. Bringing families together is what it's all about.
Photo above: At the American Museum of Science and Energy; this is what 300,000 volts of electricity will do to you. Gives you a nice tingly feeling.
(part one- more to follow, stay tuned for more history, colorful people and wonderful places to visit in Eastern TN).

Kids everywhere

When you're pregnant you can't wait for your bundle of joy to be born. Then after they are you're lugging around diaper bags, bottles, toys, medicine, change of clothes-you basically need another set of luggage and then wish the little lanolium lizard (noun- baby or toddler who crawls on the floor) was back inside you, or perhaps older so they can tote their own toys and tools. Your little crumb snatcher, (noun) who grabs everything in site and attempts to maul it with their gums or little teeth are eating dirt and chasing animals in the wild, that are meant to stay in the wild. Can't find your keys? Check with the little rugrat, (noun) you know the one-running around taking things and hiding them. Or worse, your little peepot, (noun) yes that lovable child who pees all the time with or without a diaper on. And finally, snookums, (noun) your little devil who likes to snitch, or sneak thing when they think you aren't looking. Really, how dumb do they think we are. I'm not sure I'm happy my kids are older or wish I could send them off to grandma's until they are 24.  Happy Trails! Also connect at:

Sunday, July 5, 2009

South Beach Adventure

The beach beckons. Warm, soft sand and turquoise waters offer the perfect playground 
for any age. Welcome to South Beach Miami. We're staying at the Z Ocean Hotel a few sandal-clad steps from one of America's Hottest Beaches. 
Valet your vehicle and step into a new adventure.
Guests can enjoy jet skiing, para sailing, boating, biking and helicopter rides, to peek your adventure. Shopping alone is a sport not for the faint at heart. If you're going to visit Miami, South Beach is the place to be, and Z Ocean Hotel is in the heart of the action. Walk to great restaurants, whether you're looking for pasta, steak or sushi, you'll find plenty of choices along the beachfront, Ocean Drive, or on Collins Avenue one block over. Or, at the hotel's restaurant, Table 8, partake in a light or hearty fare with hundreds of candles, earthy plants and decor, watch a game on one of the large screen tv's or dine with friends over drinks with hip music. 
After a hectic day playing in the surf or shopping, step into your Spa Suite, with a jacuzzi (for four) on the balcony, plush king-size beds with overstuffed pillows and an entertainment center to chill out. Bose surround sound both inside and out, on your private balcony. 
We know men and women a like will enjoy the partitioned bath. With frosted glass and four wall sprays, a handheld spray and rain shower, a separate vanity area, you'll feel like you're in heaven. 
Oh, did I mention the pool on the second floor? A great lap pool with lounge chairs in the sun and in the shade, a bar and even a few small waterfalls to help you forget the hustle and bustle around you. 
Elegance surrounds you--both inside your suite and outside on the sizzling beach. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Geocaching Trail in Florida

I've been geocaching a few times. For those of you that aren't familiar with this addictive hobby, its like a treasure or scavenger hunt, however we use a hand-held GPS device to help navigate our way to  cache. You can find the waypoints, which are the coordinates either at websites like, or from participating places (like state parks, CVB's, chambers of commerce, etc.). 
Recently I enjoyed a five day journey with some old and new friends as we traversed from Micanopy, FL (near Gainesville) all the way up to Tallahassee. Geocaching is great for individuals, couples and families. You can enjoy it locally, or as you travel. Just plug in a zipcode to where you are (going) and give it a circumference like say 2 miles, give or take and you will be provided a list of "caches", with a clever clue and the waypoints (coordinates). Everyone signs on with their own code name and when you find a cache, there is a logbook in the container for you to write your name, date and what you took and left. Each cache usually has some trinkets, some local, some for fun and they get exciting with "travel bugs" and unique coins for each cache. Then you go back onto the geocaching site and log in where you've been or if you move someone's travel bug.
Back to geocache trip.
This charming town of Micanopy, which I'd only seen from the Interstate (I-75), offers a great venue for day trippers who like antiquing, with a few local restaurants, unique shops, a bookstore and even a history museum. This rural town made a great backdrop for the movie, Doc Hollywood, several years ago. I had the pleasure of staying at a wonderful historic home and B&B, the Herlong Mansion and Inn ( Micanopy is a great weekend getaway and is near many other natural, recreational and historic places. After exploring the town and seeking out the cache, we meandered down the road, Old Florida Heritage Highway to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. 
We ventured off the beaten path, a 21,000-acre prairie, marveling at the vast marsh and wet prairie vegetation. We hiked a little on the Le Chua Trail in search of the wild bison, horses, alligators, endangered sandhill cranes and bald eagles. 
From here we continued on our scavenger hunt to another spectacular park, Devil's Millhopper State Park. Here we took a short hike to the large sinkhole. It's worth walking down the winding stairs (more than 200) to the bottom of the sinkhole, with the native flora and fauna and trickling waterfalls. After a good rain the waterfalls sound like they are rushing around you, as they spill out of the limestone.
After this wonder in Florida, we took a road trip up to Stephen Foster State Park (Cultural Center), in White Springs, FL. It's no wonder this amazing State Park is one of the Nation's pride and joys. Nestled in a quaint town, teaming with history and recreational activities, Stephen Foster State Park offers some wonderful riverside log cabins to rent. They also have hiking and biking trails, and the infamous Suwannee River. After a heavy rain the Suwannee River is swollen, oftentimes covering the hiking trails. Local guides would love to take you paddling down the river to show off their treasure. The State Park also offers a museum and Carillon Tower.
The town of White Springs Incorporated in 1885, however people lived around the sulphur springs for centuries. It is rumored the Paleoindians were the first to discover the springs, however the Timucuan Indians discovered the medicinal value of the sulphur water. They considered the area to be sacred. Later the Seminole Indians came to the area, although it was an American who capitalized on it. White Springs was a bustling town in the Twentieth Century, as a resort for the wealthy and business travelers.
Drive down the road to Big Shoals for a geocache hike along the Suwannee. There are several caches hidden in the park. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Haunted Places

Not too long ago I visited Eureka Springs, Arkansas and was immersed in yesteryear. Puting aside the long, hot bus ride up the mountain, this charming town captured my attention, even to this day.
Most people are fascinated by spirits, or hauntings, something related to the supernatural. Whenever I travel I am usually always interested in haunted places as well. Eureka Springs, Ark., has their share of unusual events as any other, especially considering they have more than 2,000 pre-1900's structures. (Can you say haunts?)
One famous place is the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa. While on tour here myself, I felt and saw something unusual upstairs and in the basement. (Not for the faint at heart.)
The Crescent Hotel & Spa is the premier resort in Eureka Springs, and is recognized as one of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Crescent is of Victorian period with modern-day amenities, including a full-service spa, and 15 acres of formal gardens and nature trails. 
Tours are scheduled by appointment and often times, your guide will be in period costume. As I recall most of the tour was all conducted inside the hotel. Be prepared to stand or sit on steps, occasionally, if guests are present you will need to move. I believe the tour lasted more than an hour. An interesting history of the property will enlighten and surprise you.
Irish construction workers referred to the hotel as "The Grand Old Lady of the Ozarks". the newly completed railroad brought in thousands of tourists. There was even a stables with more than 100 horses, so everyone could ride.
At one time the palatial hotel was an all-girls school and later became a cancer hospital, before closing in 1940. It re-opened after World War II and in 1967 a fire destroyed most of the fourth floor including the center penthouse. 
As for the spirits...
It is rumored that during the construction of the hotel one of the Irish stone masons fell to his death in what is now room 218. And not surprisingly, this room proves to be the most 'spiritually active" room in the hotel. Guests are reported to have seen "hands coming out of mirrors", cries of a falling man in the ceiling, the door opening and then slamming shut. Naturally, many guests request this room. (During our tour, it was occupied so we didn't get a peek or feel anything unusual.) Guests have reported seeing playful spirits dressed in Victorian garb and employees have seen packages and furniture in the dining room move from one place to another. Others have witnessed Victorian era apparitions and have seen them or heard them speak. 
In a hallway upstairs, I thought I saw an apparition of a boy and a girl playing near a window.
The more eery feeling I felt, was in the basement where the morgue was, when the hotel was a cancer hospital during the 1930's. "Dr." Norman Baker, claiming to be a licensed physician, examined cancer patients while charging their families exorbitant fees. The stylish doctors apparition has been reported around the hotel too. The autopsy room was in the basement with a walk-in freezer, the braver of us walked in and around. I chose to stay outside the freezer as just being in the presence of the original autopsy table gave me the creeps, even as I think about it more than a year later.
A cancer patient is also reported as being seen in room 419, and has been known to talk to guests. 
Many more stories and apparitions can be seen or heard at the Crescent Hotel & Spa.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Winter Wonderland

One of my favorite states in the union is North Carolina. They have an abundance of land just ripe for adventure lovers like myself. I enjoyed the barrier islands. Hang gliding in the dunes in teh Outer Banks, kayaking along the coast and now skiing the slopes in High Country. Be sure to bring your camera so you can take dozens of photos to remember and share all the exciting adventures on your next trip to North Carolina. I guarantee you'll want to come back again and again. Majestic mountains offer a winter wonderland of activities for the novice to the experienced double diamond skiers. North Carolina offers an array of slopes to accommodate thrill seekers. Haven't skied in a a while? Maybe never? Don't worry, these resorts have experienced instructors who are patient and will help you learn to walk, glide, parallel ski and you will be skiing like a pro by noon! The conditions are perfect. Try skiing, snowboarding and/or snow shoeing. Not only will you be impressed with the instructors, the slopes, blissful snow, but you will make new friends to share your adventures with! Try out Cataloochee, Sapphire Valley, both are great for families too! Rent a beautiful cabin at Wolf Ridge Ski Resort for couples or family get togethers, with twenty ski runs, lessons and more coming! And you won't want to miss Sugar and Beech Ski Resorts! Sugar has the highest run in the state at 5,300 feet, Whoodedoo! Awesome slopes, great instructors. They also have ice skating and tubing for couples and families to enjoy. There's still time! The conditions are perfect! These resorts know how to make the most of snow and the weather conditions. 

Friday, January 16, 2009

Soar with the Eagles at Eagle Island

Breathe deeply. Do you smell the fresh pine trees and smoke from cedar logs burning in the fireplace. Cold, damp air is refreshing. Energizing to both physique and mind. Total seclusion. No traffic coursing by. You're not at a resort with organized chaos outside your room. You are far removed, accessible only by boat. The Private Isles of Georgia. A slice of heaven is waiting your arrival. From the moment you board your vessel off the dock near Skippers Restaurant on the Altamaha River, you will be leaving your worries behind and embarking on a respite you deserve.
Bait your hook, step into a kayak or simply take a walk in the woods. Relax on a hammock in the southwest corner of the wooded area and read a novel. Free your mind to release your spirit on Eagle Island. Marvel at how quickly your senses will allow you to embrace your home away from home. 
Don't worry about dinner, your meals can be prepared and brought to you or a chef can create your culinary delights upon your request, at the lodge. although it is recommended guests bring their own food to prepare as a family or couple, when they are ready for it. Enjoy the outdoor kitchen or the spacious lodge kitchen for fun, creative memories! The perfect anniversary, family reunion or girlfriends (or guys) getaway for a week, or weekend. Explore the many islands, drenched in history, with as much or as little adventure as you wish. Learn how to go crabbing, steam oysters, go birding and walk along a private beach.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Secrets Hotels Don't Tell You

Want a few good tips about hotels (from booking to lost and found)? 
1. You can get the best rate by calling the hotel's local number, not the 800 number. Ask to speak to the Manager on Duty, Director of Sales or the GM, they have the authority to negotiate room rates. 
2. Rooms are more expensive in the morning. The best time of day to make a reservation by phone is right after 6 pm. This is when hotels wipe out all the no-show reservations that were unsecured by a credit card. They can offer those rooms at bargain rates. 
3. Everything is negotiable. Think parking is overpriced? If the lot looks half empty, offer less than the daily rate. Planning to make a lot of local calls? Some hotels offer a per-day flat fee for long distance in the US and local calling (usually $9.95) but you may ask for it. 
4. Rooms are available even when a hotel has no vacancies. In any large hotel, a few rooms are usually listed as "out of order" at any given time. The problems might be something as simple as a stain on the carpet or a chair that has been sent out for repairs. If you're desperate for a last-minute room in a hotel that claims to have non available, tell the manager  you are willing to take an out-of-order room with a minor problem. 
5. It pays to tip the housekeeper everyday. Exchange a few pleasant words with the housekeeper if you see him/her and leave a $2 or $3 tip each day. You'll get better service. Housekeepers  are overworked, underpaid and underappreciated in hotels. Knowing the housekeeper also reduces the chances that your room will be burglarized. Dishonest housekeepers are less likely to target guests they have met.  (more tips at