Category Archives: travel

Travel to Bavaria and steep yourself in history

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My sister and her husband have now taken two river cruises through Germany, each of which traveled through large sections of Bavaria. They were entranced by the local food, drink and music and, of course, awed by the majesty of the castles. But the history was the biggest draw for them, particularly because her husband was stationed in Germany during his long-ago stint in the U.S. Army.

Stepping through the courthouse in Nuremburg (Nürnberg in German). Walking in the footsteps of Adolph Hitler’s troops on the parade grounds where they passed in review and saluted him: “Heil, Hitler.”

Munich – Viktualienmarkt

Bavaria is Germany’s southernmost state and the #1 vacation destination in the country. It’s home to picture-book scenery, unspoiled nature, idyllic towns, vibrant cities, delicious beer, sun-drenched vineyards, delightful regional cuisine, magnificent castles, ornamental baroque churches, medieval abbeys, and the majestic Alps. Visitors enjoy the benefit of the deep sense of hospitality that’s common among the locals.

Munich (in German, München) is the capital city of Bavaria. It is Bavaria’s largest city and the third largest city in Germany (after Berlin and Hamburg). Munich lies about 30 miles north of the edge of the Alps and is bisected by the Isar River. Population in 2011 was nearly a million and a half. For more, check out Britannica’s brief history of Munich here.
Steinerne Brücke(c) Stadt Regensburg
Romantic Road, the Castle Road, and The German Alpine Road are popular tourist routes that allow visitors to explore Bavaria’s richly varied landscapes and attractions.  Everywhere, visitors partake of the Bavarian conviviality and joie de vivre, whether in traditional beer gardens, at wine festivals or at a vast range of cultural events.  Tradition is strong in the region; visitors can participate in the Oktoberfest in Munich, the Bayreuth Festival, the Oberammergau Passion Plays, Nuremberg’s Christmas Market and the Maypole Festivals throughout Bavaria.

You’ll find yourself immersed in history, majestic beauty – both natural and man-made, as well as enjoying the warmth of the people when you visit Bavaria. It’s a good trip to make with spouses, kids, grandkids, and/or friends.

And nowadays, there are plenty of direct flights from Chicago to Munich. Next post we’ll tell you more, including the lowdown on the very cool Munich Airport.

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Total solar eclipse August 21 – see it from the ocean!

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English: Total Solar eclipse 1999 in France. *...
English: Total Solar eclipse 1999 in France. * Additional noise reduction performed by Diliff. Original image by Luc Viatour. Français : L’éclipse totale de soleil en 1999 faite en France. * Réduction du bruit réalisée par Diliff. Image d’origine Luc Viatour. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Accuweather.com is a pretty reliable source of information about the weather. Thank you, Accuweather! And they also have the occasional newsworthy story. Thanks to them I now know there’s going to be a total solar eclipse this August 21. Think about what such events might have meant to people centuries ago when the strange phenomena seemed to come out of nowhere. These days scientists predict them, the media announce them, and we can all marvel at the wonders of the universe we live in.

Here is Accuweather’s list of the top 10 places in the U.S. to view the eclipse. Remember, exact start times and length of the eclipse depend on your precise location. Even a few miles can make a big difference.

And here’s a fun idea – combine a vacation with a guided viewing of this extraordinary natural event. Royal Caribbean is doing a ’Total Eclipse Cruise’ during which you can watch the eclipse from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Participate in eclipse-themed activities on board, and wear your provided protective eclipse glasses for the actual event. Tickets are still available for the seven-night cruise, which departs from Port Canaveral, Florida and stops in the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten.

Or if you’re not going out of town and you can’t see it from your location, you can always go learn more about it and see videos of astounding sky-related stuff at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium.

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Oregon Mt. Hood Territory – vacation in gorgeous natural geography

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We recently wrote about the Jackson Family’s lovely wineries and Pinot Noir wines of Willamette Valley, Oregon. After meeting recently with the tourism rep for Oregon Mt. Hood Territory, we learned even more about Oregon wines. We learned that the area isn’t just rich with grape vineyards. It’s also veined with “farm loops” that harbor berry fields, nurseries, nut groves and farmers’ markets.  Sustainable farming and all-star chefs – delivering the best of the Pacific Northwest, no matter what season you decide to visit.
Mount Hood, with Trillium Lake in the foreground.
Mount Hood, with Trillium Lake in the foreground. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And there are a hundred other reasons to take your next vacation to Mt. Hood Territory – whether solo, with your significant other, or with the grandkids. It’s a long way from Chicago but offers a plethora of outdoorsy enticements that are not so readily accessible in the Midwest.

The Territory is home to a variety of one-of-a-kind lodging options – from 2000 different campsites and RV camps, a Victorian bed-and-breakfast, or a WPA-era lodge to luxury resorts and hotels so you can rough it or live it up. And one of the coolest things is that, when you’re visiting, the Mt. Hood tourism folks will help you plan ways to enjoy the sights to the max while also minimizing any negative impact on area resources or on the environment. Sustainable tourism – an innovative concept, born out of respect for their position as stewards of the Earth and all its Oregon glories.
What to do? White water raft on Sandy River Water Trail leading up to Willamette Falls. Kayak on the Willamette River. Multiple lakes let you standup paddle boat, camp, fish, paddle and watch the wildlife. Cycle through river valleys or along ridge-top panoramas. No car required – public transit service gets you up there.
Ride horses, run trails, or hike through 6000 acres of pristine forest, towering basaltic cliffs and spectacular vistas in the Cascade Mountains. Observe the wildlife along the 4-mile Mt. Talbert Nature Park trail network. Ski, snowboard, snowshoe, or cross country all winter.
The history of Mt. Hood Territory could be really fun for kids to explore. The Willamette Falls Heritage Trail, for example, is home to Philip Foster Farm, where you can experience scrubbing your laundry on a washboard, building a log cabin, or grinding your own corn – the way life was in Oregon in the 1800s. Or take a ferry across the Willamette River.
If you’re going to the west coast, don’t miss a chance to see this beautiful area – blessed with bountiful natural wonders and working hard to preserve them all. For all the details on that and more, check out the Mt. Hood Territory detailed travel planner here.
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Clakit strap pouches are really handy

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Clakit Clips and Pouches are patent-pending clips and pouches designed by backpacking hikers who realized, during one of their treks in the mountains, that everything they needed was in their backpacks. Which meant they regularly had to stop hiking, take off the packs, open them and dig around for the water bottle, the cell phone, the snacks, the permits or tissues or whatever. Crazy, they said to themselves.
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So they decided to create some small versatile packs that you could easily clip to your backpack straps in front and in which you could stow frequently needed items within easy reach while walking. And that’s how the Clakit line of clips and pouches was born.
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Clakit comes in several different shapes, all of which attach to a sturdy adjustable plastic clip with teeth that clamps securely onto your backpack or other strap. You choose the style that fits what you want to carry – water bottle, phone, etc. – and your small carrier sits right on your chest. The clip is adjustable so that it can work on other types of straps to as long as they have some thickness. And for those of us boomers who need to carry a lot of stuff, these could be a real shoulder-saver.

One of the packs, called the Clakit StrapPack Radio/GPS Clip Pouch ($19.95 on Amazon), has two strong hook-and-loop attachments – front and inside back – so you can adjust the height of the stretchy strap that goes over the top, which holds the items in and allows you to carry items of different sizes. I put a small reading glasses case in there along with my cell phone/camera and I can even fit a few business cards in with all that. Plus, this model also has an elastic strap that goes horizontally around the pack – I slip my sunglasses in there I decided to attach one of these on the strap of my big tote bag I’m saving much wear and tear on the purse zippers – I’d been constantly unzipping and zipping one zipper so I could move the phone in and out of the purse. Now I can spare the zipper and still get the phone easily. In fact, sometimes and I can actually leave my poor exhausted purse at home and just carry the tote-bag-cum-Clakit-pack. I love not having to carry two items and now I don’t lose my phone, glasses and sunglasses in the bottom of the giant tote bag.

By the way, if you’re like me and already have a selection of little packs, you can just buy the Clakit clips and see how they work with your own carriers. Brilliant idea, Larry Schessel, Clakit Founder/CEO.
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Chicago Rooftop dining news

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Rooftop dining in Chicago is a lively and friendly competition to see whose venue can provide the most sweeping or unique views of this dynamic city, along with enticing dining, drinking and even dancing options. Lots of contenders invite your attention – many of which are situated atop elegant hotels.  Perfect for us baby boomers to get out and enjoy the outdoor views, the food and the ambiance as the weather warms up. Tip: Go early to miss the younger crowds! Here are a few to put on your must-try list this spring:

  • Raised, An Urban Rooftop Bar, 1 W. Wacker Dr., 3rd floor of Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel. One of the most popular and buzzed-about rooftop destination, Raised will host the 2017 Tin on Tin Cocktail Classic Mixology Competition on March 27, 2017 from 4pm-9pm. Six Chicago bartenders will go head to head before judges Liz Pearce (Winner of Chicago Speed Rack), Brian Jaymont (Marriott Global Beverage Manager), Matt Schnieder (Certified Sommelier) and two elite judges. The winner will receive a trip to the 2017 Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.

    Raised, An Urban Rooftop Bar
  • AIRE, 100 W Monroe St. Kicking off just its second year in Chicago, AIRE, located at on the 24th floor of Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago, has quickly become Chicago’s hottest new happy hour destination and weekend escape. This spring, AIRE will debut a new, carefully crafted menu featuring signature city-themed cocktails as well as an extensive offering of local beers and wines and seasonal small plates.

    Aire rooftop at Hyatt Centric
  • ROOF on theWit, 201 N State Street, a glamorous indoor/outdoor escape set 27 stories above the city with sweeping views of Chicago, private event spaces and entertainment programming. Watch for their dynamic party events several times each year.

    Roof ontheWIT plays party music
  • LH, LondonHouse Luxury Hotel‘s tri-level rooftop venue at 85 E. Wacker Dr. lets you dine indoors or out on re-imagined American cuisine and cocktails. The modern, firelighted spaces draw in both visitors and locals and inspire those at the top of their game to engage, sip, converse, taste, connect and exchange ideas.
  • Geja’s Café, 340 West Armitage Ave. Not exactly on the roof, but a beautiful patio for sure. As part of their ever-evolving worldly wine festivals, Geja’s Café is celebrating International Women’s Wine Festival March-April. Each of those months the wine menu will devote an entire page to wines made by notable women of enology from around the world. Geja’s Café will donate $1.00 for every bottle ordered to Deborah’s Place, Chicago’s largest provider of supportive housing exclusively for women.
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5 books from 2016 – reviews for Boomers

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Who doesn’t love books that speak to us where we are in life? Whether you’re feeling old or caring for aging parents, or you’re just curious or wanting to read a good memoir/story, here are a few – in a wide range of topics – from the year 2016 that some of us Boomers might enjoy.
  1. Wondering why he’s still around at 93

    I’m 93. Why am I still alive? True stories from a long and eventful life, by Alan Mayer. Ever ask yourself this question – even if you’re still a long way off from 93? Mayer is a NY native who butchered, boxed and entrepreneured for many years. Then he and his high-school-sweet-heart-turned-spouse moved to Chicago where he was a banker for 30 years. This short new book – written in large print, with very small margins and lots of white space between lines – is full of stories from his life and many of his own personal observations on life. He’s survived near-miss accidents, several serious illnesses, life-threatening disgruntled employees, and other incidents that left him wondering how he came out okay. Check it out (paperback $14.95) at http://wethepeoplepublishing.com/

  2. Cats Are Capable of Mind Control, and 1000 UberFacts you never knew you needed to know, by Kris Sanchez. Fun. Weird. Interesting, occasionally perhaps questionable “facts” about a myriad of things such as:
    – “Coca-Cola and Pepsi are used as pesticides by farmers in India, since they’re cheaper and get the job done.”
    – “The [five-sided] Pentagon was constructed so that no point in the building is more than a 10-minute walk from any other point in the building.”
    – “Vultures have stomach acid so corrosive they can digest anthrax.”
    Light reading that may appeal to several different levels of curiosity. My reaction to a few of the statements was to go and check another source before believing it, so keep your truth detector in gear and tell kids to double-check with you if they question something. Suitable for adults and kids maybe 7 and up. My 9-year-old granddaughter found it intriguing in small doses. Available on Amazon in hard cover and Kindle editions, both ~$12.
  3. Bourbon: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of an American Whiskey, by Fred Minnick. The author is famous for writing about spirits in a well-researched and entertaining fashion. This book is no different – amusing anecdotes, interesting history of the spirit as unique to its original home in the South, fascinating stories of competition between distillers, and even a story of how James Bond, who ordered a martini “shaken, not stirred” instigated the rise of white spirits to compete with bourbon. Sample chapter headings include: “Government: Friend and Foe,” “Whiskey Is the Devil’s Own Brew,” “Distillers vs. Nazis and US Government,” “To Beat Jack Daniel’s” and more. The books’ bibliography reveals how the author conducted his research: interviews with important industry figures, government publications, books, corporate literature and so on. Quarto Publishing Group 2016. ~$12 Kindle edition, ~$15 hard cover on Amazon.
  4. Move to France at 78?

    The Blue Nightgown: My French Makeover at Age 78!, by Karin Crilly. It’s a memoir, not a novel. The author’s husband of many years dies after a long illness, and she decides to move to Aix-en-Provence to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in France, despite the fact she doesn’t speak the language. Simply written, the story is a chronicle of her experiences there in search of joy, learning and, yes, romance at age 78. She re-connects with a guy she met 25 years earlier and, after months of increasingly intimate phone conversations, agrees to meet him in Amsterdam – and buys a blue satin nightgown in anticipation. You have to read the book to know what happens. This is an easy read, a charmingly simple story of a huge adventure undertaken by a long-past Boomer-age woman of comfortable means. And it’s even more enjoyable because she ends each chapter with a recipe for something wonderfully French to eat. $6 Kindle.

    Elegantly poetic memoir of wounded childhood and adult fears

  5. The Future Tense of Joy: A memoir, by Jessica Teich. This book is the beautifully written chronicle of a brilliant 30-something woman’s battle with childhood demons and a seemingly ineradicable fear about life’s danger. Educated at Yale and then at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, she has two young girls and a loving husband, but she can’t get control of her fear. One day she hears about another brilliant young woman, also a Rhodes scholar, who at age 27, had a hugely promising life ahead of her – but chose instead to commit suicide. Author Teich decides she will investigate this woman’s life story and see if, in deciphering that woman’s suffering and life choices, she can find help for her own struggles. The story is full of tension and drama and even some of the really tough parts read almost like a novel in gentle poetic prose. $14.99 Kindle on Amazon.
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Vacation ideas in warm-winter Arizona

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Even when your Baby Boomer life is very comfortable, things can sometimes start to feel really low-key, even  routine. So it’s good to know about travel/vacation options that could revitalize you with their unexpected vibrancy. Arizona is one of the few states we’ve been to multiple times – and enjoyed very much each time. The folks from VisitPhoenix.com partnered recently with Lux Bar, 18 E. Bellvue Place, to showcase the winter joys of Arizona and invite Chicagoans to include this winter-warm state in their upcoming travel plans. Scottsdale serves as the main hub for Phoenix, Mesa and more and is continually growing and changing.
Sonoran Desert Scottsdale AZ 50349
Sonoran Desert Scottsdale AZ 50349 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wineries in the desert?

Yes! Downtown Scottsdale features four Arizona wine tasting rooms that tell the story of the state’s 100 award-winning wineries including LDV Wine Gallery – eat, sip and taste on their two shaded patios. Further south in the Wilcox wine region, check out Salvatore Vineyards, Carlson Creek Vineyard, and the Sue Vino Winery, all of which serve, along with the four tasting rooms, as part of the Scottsdale Wine Trail.
Scottsdale is also now home to a unique cocktail bar called Counter Intuitive. Open only on Friday and Saturday nights, 8pm to 2am, it rotates its decor and menus every few months – from a New Orleans antique shop or Cuban hideaway, to an Agua Caliente Racetrack during Prohibition or a Chinatown hangout. You never know what kind of ambiance to expect – just that it’ll be interesting and stimulating – which gives even full-time area residents something new to get excited about.
Southwest culture and art

Besides imbibing, of course, other activities may call to you on your visit. You might like to go exploring the cultural footprint of the Southwest’s Native American nations during Native Trails. This is a series of noontime festivals that tell stories of Native culture through song and dance. Free, at Scottsdale’s Civic Center Park January through March. Then you can always visit the Arts District where dozens of creative minds have their shops;

Soleri bridge in the desert

extended hours on Thursday evenings let you take the Scottsdale ArtWalk. Or take a self-guided tour of the Scottsdale Public Art Program (love the holiday musical greeting on their website!) of some 50 artworks, including well-known pieces like Robert Indiana’s iconic “LOVE”sculpture and Soleri Bridge & Plaza.

Challenge yourself!
Wanna be a cowboy? Almost all local resorts in Scottsdale offer trail rides and communal cookouts, but how about this for a challenge?! Arizona Cowboy College gives you a closeup view of what it’s like to be a true cowboy. Learn horsemanship skills – yes, serious things like cutting, branding, inoculating, dehorning and driving cattle – and then go out and do that stuff on the range. Yikes! We’d have to sign up for an awful lot of horsemanship skills before even thinking about attempting the rest of it. Hmm. Wonder if trying this at a ripe old age like 60 would ever result in actually achieving such skills? Hey, who cares? If it’s on your bucket list, go for it! If your taste leans more towards a less vigorous horse-related activity, check out Fort McDowell Adventures for a trail ride.
Or how about learning (or at least trying) to drive like the pros on a racetrack? Bondurant Racing School experts teach high-performance racing skills on a 1.6 mile, multi-configuration track. From four hours to four days, the school offers racing courses for every level of driver. If you’ve already graduated to a huge Cadillac or Buick, consider how this might shake up your life.
Green Zebra Adventures

Then there are adventure tours that include climbing mountains, stargazing, hiking and bicycle riding. Try Green Zebra Adventures or a trek with Arizona Outback Adventures (AOA) that includes the history and gelology of the landscape and some insights into the desert’s flora and fauna.

If you like to plan your own adventures. get yourself a copy of the Scottsdale Area Hiking and Trail Guide from ExperienceScottsdale.com.

Where to stay
In case you’ve been there before and would like to indulge at a new top-of-the-line location, three new luxury resorts are coming on the scene in the Scottsdale area. Hyatt Corporation just opened Andaz Scottsdale Resort and Spa. Then in February 2017 Mountain Shadows debuts. Then mark your calendar for late 2018 for the unveiling of Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley.
Fly the skies in hot air balloons from The Boulders Resort

Other facilities to consider: The Boulders Resort & Spa. One-hundred-sixty private casitas (small individual houses) set out in the Sonoran Desert just far enough to be free of light pollution – the canopy of stars out there is magnificent and seemingly endless. The resort just underwent a multimillion dollar makeover that incorporates the area’s indigenous roots and Old West charm along with new furnishings and upgraded fixtures in bathrooms. Enjoy your private fireplace and cozy patio. Commune with 12-million-year-old natural rock formations. Enjoy drinks in the redesigned lounge bar and dig the Southwestern cuisine in the Palo Verde restaurant.

Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa

Or check out the new custom-designed furniture in the completely restored and modernized 60-year-old Hotel Valley Ho that welcomed Hollywood’s finest during its heyday in the 50s and 60s. There are dozens more places in a wide range of prices, including the wellness experience at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa‘s Spa House.

Lux Bar hosting
Lux Bar welcome Arizona Tourism attendees with tasty appetizers that led to a first course of rich crab bisque, then the diner’s choice of broiled skirt steak with caramelized onions and maitre d’ butter, or sauteed whitefish with lobster butter, or penne pasta with dried tomato, parmesan, arugula, and zucchini, seasoned with thyme and roasted garlic and topped with smoked Nueske’s Farm smoked chicken. Entrees were accompanied with creamed spinach and mashed potatoes served family style. Dessert was an old fashioned chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache and chocolate frosting – perhaps a new “near-death by chocolate.” High five to the Lux Bar culinary and service teams.
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If warm-weather-destinations are on your agenda, consider Arizona/Scottsdale/Phoenix/Mesa this season. And if happy hour’s on your agenda, try Lux Bar’s new one 3-6pm Tuesday to Friday.
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