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The sun rises first in Bar Harbor

By Wayne Lazarus on January 15th, 2012

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

The little settlement that became Bar Harbor was originally called “Eden.” The name may have been a little misleading. The stark, dramatic scenery of the rocks, crags and cliffs formed by glaciers here on Mt. Desert Island is beautiful, but certainly not a garden paradise.

The little town is surrounded by Acadia National Park, which covers 50 square miles. The park was created in the early part of the last century by wealthy people who came to this area to relax. John D. Rockefeller created a network of carriage roads in the park because he loved his horses and hated to see the automobile overtake all the roads. Cars are still not allowed on the trails, but they are quite popular with bicyclists and tourists who take the carriage rides.

One option on the carriage ride is a stop at the Jordan Pond House for popovers and tea, a tradition that dates back to the 19th century, before the creation of the park. The restaurant has a full menu as well, including Maine Crab Cakes. Reservations are required. If you choose not to take the carriage ride, the sightseeing bus goes there and cars can get there via the loop road. The view looks out over the lawn and down to the lake, where the wild blueberries produce fruit in the summer, delighting the tourists.

The blueberries abound in season, and you’ll find blueberry pies on many menus in town. Instead of a lemonade stand, you may find children selling their mother’s pies on the side of the road. Don’t worry – there’s plenty of Maine’s other most popular product – lobster available as well. (It is possible to eat lobster for all three meals in a day.)

There is plenty to do and see in the area. The village has good restaurants and quirky, interesting shopping. Take a whale watching tour or a lighthouse tour. You’ll probably see puffins and seals. Or take a ride on a lobster boat. Paddle yourself out into the bay in a kayak provided by one of the outfitters, who will point out the eagle’s nests you can see in the area.

Be sure you find you way over to Cadillac Mountain for sunrise at least one day of your visit. Those on the mountaintop see the sun come up before anyone else in the U.S. Check Bar Harbor Hotel Discounts for some great choices on where to stay.

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Wings above Milwaukee

By Wayne Lazarus on November 6th, 2011

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

In competition for exhibits and attendees, museums often seek housing that expresses a grand statement. The Milwaukee Art Museum, with roots stretching back to the 1880s, was ready for an expansion of its site by the 1990s. The architect selected to create the new building was Spain’s Santiago Calabrava. He designed a spectacular addition to the museum, which is known as the Quadracci Pavilion. It opened in 2001 to great acclaim.

With over 25,000 works of art, this museum is well worth a visit, but its beautiful building alone is reason enough to go. The Quadracci Pavilion complements the War Memorial Center, which was designed by Finnish-American architect Eric Brannan, completed in 1957 and blends with the Reiman Bridge, which connects the museum to Milwaukee.

The new building includes the large, airy Windover Hall. Its 90-foot high glass ceiling is alternately shaded and uncovered to the sky by the Burke Brise Soleil, a 217-foot sunscreen that opens into giant wings then closes down atop the building. The wings, similar in span length to a Boeing 747-400’s wings, open at 10 a.m, fold in and then re-open at noon, then close again at 5 p.m. except on Thursday, when they fold in dramatically at 8 p.m. (The schedule is subject to change due to maintenance or weather.) The sun-shade is comprised of 72 steel fins which range in length from 26 to 105 feet.

The museum has been celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Soleil all year. The mechanics of this iconic sunscreen were inspected and repaired recently, and only just begun operating again. The Milwaukee Museum of Art opened its new Impressionism: MasterWorks exhibition with over 100 drawings, water-colors and pastels created by Manet, Degas, Renoir, Gauguin, Cezanne, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec among others. These works are less well-known than their paintings but equally fascinating.

The museum is open from 10 to 5 Tuesday through Sunday (and until 8 p.m. on Thursdays.) It is closed on Mondays. There are range of ticket prices, but children under 12 are admitted free. Check Milwaukee Hotel Discounts for great prices on quality rooms for your stay in Milwaukee.

Photos courtesy Milwaukee Art Museum. Used with permission.

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The siren call of Santa Fe

By Wayne Lazarus on October 30th, 2011

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

This friendly and beautiful town is a fascinating mix of high-end art galleries, old Western and colonial-Spanish history, good museums, breathtaking scenery and terrific outdoor recreational activities. If that’s not enough, cross into a pueblo and play a little at one of the casinos.

Canyon Road is the most famous art district. Over 100 art galleries line both sides of this pretty winding road for almost a mile. Most have fun and funky outdoor art to draw you in, so whether you’re looking for a new painting for that empty wall (or a sculpture for that nook) the walk (or drive) is eclectic and fun. Because it is so well established, a Canyon Road gallery or studio has become pricey, so other art districts are coming up. Some are right off the Santa Fe Plaza. Visit the Railyard District District for those up-and-coming art deals. For a look at art where you’re staying, consider the La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa, which has its own art agent.

As for history and culture – the Palace of the Governor’s forms one end of Santa Fe’s beautiful plaza. Built in the early 1600s, it is said to be the oldest continuously used building in the United States. On weekends, Native American jewelry, pottery and other arts are spread out for sale under the cover of the building. In this part of the country you can buy Indian art with certificates of authenticity. You’ll also want to visit the Native American Museum of Art, New Mexico Museum of Art, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Museum of Contemporary Native Arts and the Museum of International Folk Art.

But you can’t come to New Mexico without exploring the Georgia O’Keefe connection. The Georgia O’Keefe Museum is just blocks from the Plaza. Ghost Ranch, where O’Keefe lived and painted, is just up the road near Taos. It is now owned by the Presbyterian Church and managed as an education and retreat center. You can come for a week or just visit for a few hours and take the O’Keefe tour, where you’ll see the gorgeous vistas identifiable from O’Keefe’s paintings.

Santa Fe also has an active local food program. Some restaurants list the farms that supply their food. The newly opened Hotel Chimayo has an arrangement with the village of Chimayo to use all the heirloom Chimayo peppers they can grow. A portion of your lodging at this pretty downtown hotel goes to the education and cultural fund for the village. They will also arrange for a tour of the village if you like – a great way to see an authentic part of New Mexico.

For low-cost reservations at any of Santa Fe’s hotels, check

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Finding a green hotel

By Wayne Lazarus on October 1st, 2011

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

Many of us know a lot more about living an environmentally sound life now than we used to, and most of us take steps to help as much as possible. Conserving water, electricity and natural gas have an economic payback. Most municipalities make recycling fairly painless these days. In my area, I have to deliver aluminum, glass and plastic to the collection site, but I do it because it makes me feel that I’m having an impact, as small as it may be. So when I travel, I have a little trouble just tossing an aluminum can in the trash.

One of my expectations for a motel, in addition to a good price and convenient location, is that there is a recycling bin. I usually have to ask where it is, and once in a while, am disappointed by a total absence of recycling. Many hotels are offering patrons the option of not laundering sheets and towels daily — one I stayed at gave customers a $5 gift certificate to the coffee shop on the premises for each day the customer went without maid service. (I’ll definitely be back!)

While many hotels and motels are taking steps towards saving utilities and environmentally sustainable management – often they forget to tell you about their efforts. Sometimes its a change in the kind of chemicals used in their pesticides, or using motion detectors to save on lights (or changing the kind of light bulbs used) or even no-VOC paints and furnishings. Sometimes its using native plants in the landscaping and golf course. A LEED certification is always a good recommendation – but sometimes you won’t find that out without doing a little research. (There may be a plaque announcing it on a wall somewhere.)

Now you can rest assured that you’re finding the best price as well as an environmentally conscious hotel. offers a special section on its website listing green hotels, many of which have Greenkey Eco-Rating certifications. You can feel comfortable about doing all that you can for the environment while still getting a great deal on a quality motel room.

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Chattanooga puts great food together

By Wayne Lazarus on August 30th, 2011

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

Just in time for harvest, Chattanooga has a festival combining sustainability, protecting wild seafood and creating culinary masterpieces from local-ingredients.

The Tennessee Aquarium has joined with celebrity chef Alton Brown to educate people about over-fished and threatened species of fish – many of which are the most popular are our tables. The Aquarium will include displays about alternatives, many of which are locally available and visitors can obtain special recipes.

The Serve and Protect initiative kicks off September 22 with a demonstration by Brown in the Aquarium’s IMAX Great Hall followed by a meal prepared by chefs from some of Chattanooga’s excellent restaurants. The weekend includes a “dine-around” – meals in which many of the restaurants in town will create and serve special recipes prepared with particularly healthy and sustainable species of fish.

Chattanooga has a vibrant local production and consumption group called Gaining Ground that works to both increase local food availability and let people know where it can be found. The website lists restaurants that offer dishes prepared with locally harvested foods as well as farms, grocers and farmers markets.

The Chattanooga Market is a great example of such a market. Located a large indoor pavilion, the market has entertainment, excellent locally produced arts and crafts and the best of fresh produce, herbs, flowers, meats, jellies, cakes and breads. The market, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, enforces a 100-mile limit for both art and food. You’ll want your cooler.  I came home with locally prepared sausage, goat cheese from North Alabama and fresh salsa from North Georgia.

What has me even now planning a return visit to Chattanooga is the bread that I’m now out of that I picked up at the Market from the Bluff View Bakery. Among their offerings were Ciabatta, sourdough, Challah, croissants, sundried-tomato focaccia, but my favorite was what Chef Alou Niagadou simply calls Healthy Bread – made with all those grains that you know you’re supposed to eat. As dense as banana nut-bread with just a hint of sweetness, it makes fiber and bran a delicious alternative.

The Market is open Sundays from May through December with a smaller version open Saturdays on the plaza at the Tennessee Aquarium. The Serve and Protect program extends to the Market on September 25 when the annual Cast-Iron Cook Off, in which local chefs will compete to create the best meals from the sustainable seafood and produce purchased at the market.

Plan to stay several nights to take advantage of all that Chattanooga has to offer. Get great deals at Chattanooga Hotel Discounts.

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Roanoke showcases Virginia food, history and trains

By Wayne Lazarus on May 29th, 2011

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

Pull off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Roanoke to see a modern city in touch with its heritage. The Historic Roanoke City Market is said to be the oldest continuously operating open-air market in Virginia. Licenses were first issued to vendors who were then called “Hucksters” in 1882. The city authorized a municipally-owned market in 1884 the first City Market Building was completed in 1886. Over the years it has been remodeled and the block surrounding it developed.  Produce, plants and arts and crafts are certified locally grown or locally made.  The market has recently undergone a $10 million renovation that will add restaurants and retail to the kiosks and stalls that sell produce and art from the local area. This proper was deeded to the city by the family that owned it 150 years ago.

From the shaded stalls packed with crisp produce, brilliantly colored flowers, jewelry, crafts and homemade soap, visitors can see the ultra-modern Taubman Museum of Art. Designed by Randall Stout, it opened in 2007 and  received an American Architecture Award from the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and Metropolitan Arts Press, Ltd.  Contemporary yes, but its design is meant to evoke the surrounding mountains and to reflect the colors of the sky and the seasons here.  The lighting inside mimics the meandering Roanoke River, which flows through the center of town.

The art museum is just of one of several of interest in Roanoke.  The Virginia Museum of Transportation actually begins outside on the David R. and Susan S. Goode Railwalk – a sidewalk that runs along the working railroad track, where kids and curious adults can learn about the railroad signals by changing them, cause the cross arm to come down, ring the bells and, yes, blow the whistle. Inside are two early 20th century cars manufactured by a Lynchberg company called Piedmont. There’s also a Model 42 Clear Vision Brougham, an electric car built by the Detroit Electric Car company, bought in 1913.  They have an extensive collection of Greyhound memorabilia. But the heart of this museum is its trains.  You can board two Norfolk and Virginia steam engines, check out the caboose and others cars and discover the power and wonder of the era of railroad transportation.

Speaking of train-lovers, you’ll want to see the O. Winston Link Museum, located in the historic N&W passenger station, which is now the Roanoke Valley Visitor Information Center. If you don’t “get” trains, if you don’t understand why people travel to stations just to watch trains come and go, you will feel a little of that passion yourself as you learn about this man who was a commercial photographer but spent his off-hours (and much of his own money) in the ’40s and ’50s to record the steam engine. His photographs were admired enough by N&W’s corporate office that eventually, he was able to stop trains to get the perfect shot, but public recognition did not come until the 1983.

Roanoke is located off Interstate 81 and along the Blue Ridge Parkway, about an hour from Lynchburg, Virginia and three hours from Richmond.

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Win your next vacation

By Wayne Lazarus on April 23rd, 2011

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

If you’ve been thinking about a vacation, this is the season of giveaways.

The town of Pigeon Forge always comes up with interesting contests. This year they are filming a reality show and are looking for five families toGo-kart compete. The winning family takes home $10,000, but all the competitors will be winners, because they will have been selected by the readers of the website to be on the show. To enter, the families submit a 60-second video that will be posted on Read the rest of this entry »

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Fitting a resort into both the landscape and the community

By Wayne Lazarus on March 14th, 2011

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

The Westin La Cantera was built on one of the highest hills overlooking San Antonio in 1996 and from the beginning, it was designed to be both a resort, an ambassador for Texas and as a member of the community.Westin pool

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Join the American Pie Celebration

By Wayne Lazarus on January 20th, 2011

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

If the end of the holidays leaves you missing some of those wonderful desserts – fear not! January provides yet one more excuse to bake (or eat) or even better – travel. January 23 is National Pie Day — not to be confused with Pi Day, which is 3/14. Several places in the U. S. celebrate pie in a big way. Read the rest of this entry »

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Scenic and natural Florida

By Wayne Lazarus on December 16th, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

The Big Bend Scenic Byway was added to the list of National Scenic Byways last year. This 220-mile drive takes you along the northern edge of Florida’s part of the Gulf of Mexico, from Tallahassee to Apalachicola. It is divided into a coastal trail and forest trails.

cypressOn the western side, Highway 65 takes you almost 50 miles through the Apalachicola National Forest and Tate’s Hell State Forest. What may look like endless acres of piney woods is home to numerous rare and endangered species of both plants and animals. It also looks very much the way it has for generations — with few houses and only a small local store or two along the way. (And no gas stations! Cell phone service is limited as well.)

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