Thursday, June 17, 2021

National Parks, Europe beckon as the veil of Covid slowly lifts

Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park is the park's largest lake and, many believe,
the most beautiful in the park. Record numbers of tourists are expected in national parks
as the veil of the pandemic slowly lifts and people seek solace in nature . 



Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers in Grand Teton.


AS THE VEIL of the pandemic slowly lifts, record numbers of travelers are taking to parks and open spaces worldwide.
After months of lock down, the outdoors offers inspiration and relief.
In the U.S., tourists are flocking to revel in the landscapes of Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Bryce Canyon and Grand Teton national parks. 
In Europe, outdoor parks and mountain trails are welcoming record numbers of enthusiasts, joyous to be outdoors again. Nature and its varied landscapes offer a calming coda to months of isolation caused by the spread of COVID-19.
The world famous Vigeland Park in Norway
is welcoming thousands to its outdoor sculpture.
THROUGHOUT the world, where citizens are vaccinated, outdoor venues, concert spaces and parks are welcoming record numbers of guests. 
Norway's Vigeland Park, featuring the intriguing sculpture of Gustav Vigeland, is a wonderful, family-friendly outdoor arena. Remarkably, it's free, honoring the sculptor's wishes and a substantial endowment.
The fascinating venue is really a park within a park, located in Frognerparken (Frogner Park), the largest public park in Oslo.  A popular spot in all weather, this lovely park also boasts an open-air pool, restaurants, a museum and much more.
A natural backdrop provides a stunning setting for The Domo,
one of many intriguing sculptures on view at Tippet Rise.
Vigeland was a conservationist and hiker and wanted his sculpture to be showcased in a venue offering the compliment of nature's healing  balm. This life-saving pairing -- art and the outdoors --  is a magical elixir, a sanity saver and health booster for millions of us now more than ever.
TIPPET RISE Art Center in my native Montana is open. This unique venue in the spectacular plains and hills of south-central Montana is open for hiking and biking on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from June 25 through Sept. Although there is no concert season again this year, outdoor enthusiasts are welcome to bring a mountain bike or hiking shoes and tour the remarkable collection of huge sculptures and soak up the gorgeous Montana landscape. Hiking and bicycling tours are free of charge, but require reservations. Call 406 328-7820.
Montana's and Wyoming's Rocky Mountains
are drawing tourists, here near Cody, Wyo.
We need all the open space we can find, so we turn to nature for relief and inspiration.
of isolation, people -- including the two of us travel writers -- are anxious to travel again.   
National parks predict tourist numbers will more than double this year, as families, hikers, bikers, campers and cyclists hit the roads.
Whether in search of geysers, sand dunes, beaches or wildlife refuges, folks are heading to the parks by the tens of thousands.
 As travel restrictions start to lift in Europe and beyond, and talks of a UK-US travel corridor heat up, travel is returning, slowly becoming possible.
The the European Union, a Covid travel pass is being rolled out across the bloc so travelers are again moving about within Europe.
The canals of Venice are expected to draw record numbers
of tourists, as Europe opens up slowly to post-Covid travel.
In several European countries, international tourists have been welcome since the start of June, with most visitors needing only to present a negative Covid test or vaccination card upon arrival.
Visitors from some countries, like the U.S., may still need to follow a 10-day quarantine. Restrictions are lifting country by country, however. So check with individual tourist bureaus.
HAPPY NEWS is that many European countries, including Italy, are expected to be classed as "low risk" by the end of June.
Cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels and
In Ashland, Oregon, the renowned Oregon
Shakespeare Festival is opening its famous
Allen Elizabethan Theater after a long lock-down

theaters have partially reopened to the public in many European countries, and parks. In Ashland, Oregon, for instance, after 16 months of lock-down, the world famous Allen Elizabethan Theater is staging its first show.
Outdoor dining worldwide is more popular than it has ever been. Many restaurants have opened patio areas, and will likely keep them even after the virus is quelled.
Keller and Cookie hold Nick on a road trip.
They're awaiting room service at a hotel pool

Masks were removed for the photo and eating.

can increase a person’s risk of getting and spreading the virus, so it is still wise to take precautions. Remember that we're in close contact with one another, sometimes for prolonged periods. We are also exposed to more frequently touched surfaces. Air or train travel requires spending time in security lines and busy airport terminals. 
So even though the CDC has loosened its requirements for masking, we recommend it. We're also devoted "hand-sanitizers." We also distance whenever possible. We ask for outdoor dining seating whenever possible.  At a recent play, we were seated six feet from others. On a flight to Hawaii, a middle seat was empty, but that is soon ending, making masking even more important. 
So be shrewd, be cautious, be protected. And with these careful conditions, we can once again travel.
Happy, safe trails!

In Salinas and Monterey, at Cannery Row in the old part
of Monterey, most people were masked and thoughtful.
   Vaccinated and grateful, we hit the deck running -- "double Pfizered" and happy to travel again.  On the road, we're taking note of trends.  We weighed the pros and cons and decided in favor of traveling.  So as we cross several states, we continue to mask as we observe without judgment. We inquire about vaccinating and we remain vigilant sanitizers. We're surprised that many are not vaccinated and do not believe in masking. A post-Covid post-mortem awaits. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, the arts, food, family, cruising and more:

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Hilton Hawaiian Village offers the best of Waikiki relaxation

Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Resort evolved from simple beginnings nearly a century ago,
as the Niumalu Hotel.  Now five towers on prime Waikiki real estate compose the famous resort.

Bruce Keller's helicopter view shows the village in all its
spacious splendor, and its sheltered lagoon and beachfront.


two vintage photos courtesy Hilton

A rare vintage photo of the property's 1928 grounds.
IN 1928, A SMALL, charming inn opened on the beach of Honolulu.
The Niumalu Hotel stood on the site where Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort now resides. The beloved Niumalu Hotel on Kalia Road became the nucleus of entrepreneur-industrialist Henry J. Kaiser’s Hawaiian Village Hotel which opened in 1955. Its new buildings replaced quaint clusters of 1900s hales, or cottages, built in the style of the Polynesian people who pointed their boats toward Hawaii. As they settled, they introduced grass huts with thatched roofs, new spices, music, dance and much more. These early cottages were known as Cressaty’s Court and Hummel’s Court at Kalia in the gorgeous, historic Kalia section of Waikiki. A smaller hotel, named the Old Waikiki, was developed in 1900, even before the Niumalu. The later property must have been a treat to guests in post-World War I times. It boasted 70 guest rooms -- compared to today's 3,386 rooms, after several name changes, owners and upgrades.
The Ali'i is booked for its privacy, attentive
concierge and a pool overlooking the Pacific.
By 1955, pampered guests enjoyed the Tapa Room, garden paths and and three swimming pools six years later, in 1961, Hilton Hotels came into the picture when founder Conrad Hilton purchased half of the Hawaiian Village Hotel from Henry J. Kaiser.
THAT SAME year Elvis Presley filmed his movie, "Blue Hawaii" at the resort. Elvis and his entourage stayed on the 14th floor of the Ocean Tower (Ali'i Tower) in the Mahele Suite. The Ali'i Tower remains the   elite choice at the Hawaiian Hilton Village. The accommodations offer pampered service, access to the Ali'i private pool and fitness center. Guests praise its laid-back yet elegant standard, and prime beach views and access.

Elvis Presley based at Hilton Hawaiian Village
in the prestigious Ali'i Tower during the
filming of  "Blue Hawaii" in 1961.

WE HAVE paid several visits to the resort, including the Ali'i (once named Ocean Tower), our favorite Lagoon Tower, and the Grand Waikikian, the latter two offering spacious time-share accommodations with full kitchens. The Lagoon, and as its name suggests, boasts a view of the resort's unique protected pond, named Duke Kahanamoku Lagoon, with a pretty central island.  We snorkeled there with our niece's two youngsters and found it a delightful protected "safe haven." There, 
All hands on deck, for a fun afternoon sail
out of the resort's private Aloha Spirit launch.
youngsters can enjoy themselves and have a sense of freedom.  Meanwhile, adults can relax  on the beach, keeping an eye on their kids' activities in the calm waters without worrying about ocean tides. My partner, Bruce, known by the youngsters as "Uncle KK," spent time with them teaching them snorkeling, paddle boarding and safety in the lagoon, while my niece and I visited.
WHILE WE rented a car during our stay, but aside from some shopping, probably wouldn't have needed it, since the resort offers boating activities which we booked, and many restaurants.  We walked twice to the Spirit of Aloha, for an afternoon snorkeling cruise and an evening sunset-dinner cruise.
Amarylla and Penelope Ganner
pose with pet parrots at the resort.

A total of five towers are spread out in the artfully designed complex.  It boasts boutiques, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, quick-stop food options, and service desks for foreign customers, including a Japanese and a Korean help desk.  Shuttles, tours, taxi service and a variety of cruise options are available, and a children's day care, Camp Penguin, will entertain your youngsters while you head out on Oahu.
IF YOU'RE feeling flush, you can purchase a special piece of jewelry, purse or shoes for yourself or a friend.  If you're more budget minded, you can shop for basic groceries to cook in your time share, or stock up on Hawaiian cookies to go with your own coffee.  You can also pick up pastries made with local delicacies including the islands' famed macadamia nuts or pose with pet parrots if you like birds. Want to buy a colorful Hawaiian shirt, shop for an extra suitcase, pick up souvenirs to take home? No problem. It's all at the resort.  
Activities are planned daily, including ukulele lessons which we enjoyed, and lei making, ditto.  We even stepped in for a hula class, swaying with the balmy island winds to the "Hukilau Song" made famous by Bing Crosby. 

Grand Teton National Park offers a serene get-away
as people recover from the anxiety and isolation of the virus.

 NEXT:  With the veil of COVID-19 slowly lifting, millions of anxious travelers are taking to national parks for relief and inspiration.  Record numbers of tourists are expected in our U.S. parks, with hikers, cyclists and families on holiday heading for stress relief in our varied and welcoming national parks. We visit some of our favorites -- Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Teton and Glacier, with a look at what not to miss. Meanwhile, explore, learn and live and please share the link for a fresh look at travel, the arts, nature and family:

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Tony Bennett's career: success, setbacks, Alzheimer's in Covid times

Singer Tony Bennett with Lady Gaga, on their "Cheek to Cheek" world tour, photographed during a New Year's Eve concert in 2014. Bennett's memory had not yet begun to fail him and when it did a year later, his concerts kept him sharp and engaged. He continues to rehearse twice weekly despite Alzheimer's. --Bruce Keller photo


Some day, when I'm awfully low
When the world is cold
I will feel a glow just thinking of you
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga jazz it up on stage in "The Lady
Is a Tramp," in a 2015 concert. The singer still rehearses.

And the way you look tonight...
Jerome Kern


WE'VE HAD MANY magical nights in our life. Those "pinch yourself" times when we float through the evening in a fog of hold-handing contentment. A play. A concert. Celebration. To life!
New Year's Eve, 2014, goes to the top of our "hit parade" list.
Tony and wife Susan
stroll each day.
We were in Las Vegas to see  Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. Securing the tickets -- the most we've ever paid for any performance anywhere -- was like participating in a feeding frenzy. I was poised at the computer when the show went on sale one fall morning at 6 a.m. The concert sold out in 11 minutes and my shaky hands were rewarded with a pair of second-row orchestra center seats.
THE SHOW was spectacular, 90 minutes of non-stop, first-rate wonder.
Tony Bennett at his last concert before Covid
 cancelled the rest of his tour, March 2020.
Only years later did we learn he began to experience memory lapses the next year. We saw him several times since that memorable New Year's Eve. His shows were flawless, introductions of his band precise and unhesitating. That's because he works at his memory, despite being diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He rehearses twice a week, takes daily walks with wife Susan and has not ruled out another concert when the pandemic eases. 
His family, Gaga, his band and others in his circle knew about the diagnosis and a few weeks ago the public knew, through his sharing of his condition with the national AARP magazine. 
 WE NOTICED Gaga's loving touches on stage, in the three concerts with the two of them. She was spirited but careful in their dance sequences. Their affection for one another showed as they twirled about the stage.  
Tony Bennett began painting decades ago, and
still paints in his Manhattan studio. This photo
is a decade-plus old, but the lower one is current.
He was in top form, riding high on the success of the pair's "Cheek to Cheek" album.  The two met ten years ago in 2011 when Gaga was still in her 20s, a 60-year age spread. Now Bennett is 94 and Gaga turned 35 in March. Their meeting was at a benefit for the Robin Hood Foundation, and Bennett approached Gaga after her performance, to compliment her jazzy, bluesy style. He compares her to the great female vocalists of his early career -- Ella Fitzgerald and Rosemary Clooney and considers her a natural born jazz singer.
Famous for collaborations, he asked if she wanted to record a jazz duet album and the rest is history. Their Grammy winning "Cheek to Cheek" launched a world tour and their friendship remains solid. Gaga says she's still "getting over" Bennett's compliments, and his seeking her out as a partner.
WE FOLLOWED the tour to two other cities and still listen to our "Cheek to Cheek" CD and its delightful tunes, all of which they sang in concert. "I Won't Dance," "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "It Don't Mean a Thing" are our favorites, besides the title song.
A recent photo of Tony Bennett in his New York
home.  He paints and sings to combat his illness.
FRIENDS SAY the pandemic has been difficult for him, but he still paints and sings a set twice a week. They confirm that the cancellation of concerts and  absence of the life-enhancing stimuli of audience and fellow musicians has no doubt set him back.
Born in Queens, the acclaimed artist has lived in several cities but has come full circle back to the Big Apple where he and his wife, Susan Crow, live in a luxurious condo in Central Park West. 
Bennett continues to practice, rehearsing a 90-minute set twice a week with Lee Musiker, his longtime pianist. Although the grim circumstances of his illness and the pandemic have impacted Bennett's memory and ability to communicate, friends say his recollection of lyrics and melodies remains remarkable. The healing power of art and music!

Hilton Hawaiian Village offers a stunning mix of trees,
flowers, sculpture, relaxing hotels, pools and a lagoon
UP NEXT: A tropical wonderland awaits in Honolulu at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.  The beautiful Honolulu property boasts gorgeous grounds with several artfully designed pools, a complex of plush hotels of varying styles, restaurants both lavish and casual, a nightly luau, inviting lagoon for snorkeling. Set on 22 acres of prime, tranquilizing, bird-friendly Honolulu landscaping, the property offers many boating options. Entertainment ranges from lei making to hula classes and ukulele lessons. It's waiting for you. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a refreshing take on the arts, nature, travel, family and more:



Thursday, May 27, 2021

Professor's legacy lives on in garden christened by poet Allen Ginsberg

Christene "Cookie" Meyers at the dedication of the Bruce Meyers Poets Garden, May, 1993,
on the campus of Montana State University-Billings, then Eastern Montana College.
Three of the professor's poems etched on marble were written on the memorial site.
The garden is listed in the Smithsonian's list of public art (see link below.)


Architect Ted Wirth and EMC president Bruce Carpenter
discuss the project at the groundbreaking in fall of 1992.
EACH SPRING,  Bruce Kemp Meyers and his writing students left the indoor classroom for an inviting outdoors venue.  They gathered on the lawn near the Liberal Arts Building on the campus of then Eastern Montana College. It proved a tradition which Meyers continued for 25 years.
He joined the class in writing poems, short stories and essays. They talked about their goals, shared ideas.
It was a special place for my talented, nature loving husband, a way to greet spring and celebrate his gifts in a comfortable place.
The late poet Allen Ginsberg made a spectacular guest
appearance at the dedication of the "Bruce Garden." 
BRUCE'S STUDENTS loved these outdoor writing workshops; so did he.
So when he passed away suddenly in February of 1992, I knew precisely where I'd like his memorial to be:
On the lawn outside the L.A. Building, where he'd logged happy hours each spring since his first year on campus in 1967 until his death, in February, 1992. The memorial includes poems written on the site.
That idea grew to include a garden and poet's corner to honor the creativity that unfolded there. I wanted it to be a place for visitors to remember him, and a haven to welcome other artists.
I CALLED my friend, architect Ted Wirth, who had followed our theater career. We'd also served on boards and committees and I'd interviewed him for the newspaper. He loved the idea and wanted to make my dream come true.  The two of us approached then EMC president Bruce Carpenter, also a good friend, an original thinker who played poker with Bruce and a group of other professors. 
Corby Skinner, left, and Christene Meyers
discuss the program on tap. Poet Allen
Ginsberg was waiting in the wings. 
HE, TOO, liked the idea.  So the process began. Over coffee, Ted and I created a space designed to relax and inspire. The front has a formal look, enhanced by granite and marble.  At its center is a bronze of Bruce sculpted by our longtime friend, fellow actor and Emmy-winning Hollywood special effects artist Andy Schoneberg.  A metal sculpture of our airedale dog was created by artist Lyndon Pomeroy to illustrate one of the poems, "Gandalf."
On the garden's sides are benches. A welcoming archway was inspired by our trips to Japan. Perennials and lilacs flank a brick wall, accented by a Jay Montague sculpture.  Aspen and river rock create a woodsy look.
An overview of the Bruce Meyers Garden and Poets Corner.
THROUGH the years, the garden has become a favorite spot of faculty, staff and students. Some take their lunch break there. Nearby residents walk, run and bike by daily.  Several professors carry on the tradition of convening  classes there -- to study art, language, philosophy and of course, writing.
Bruce Kemp Meyers
is remembered with a
bronze, poems and a garden
A 10-year event, the annual "Bruce Bash," brought together writers, musicians, actors and artists to celebrate the arts and honor Bruce. But the first arts festival celebration in May of 1993 was hard to top. Headliner was poet Allen Ginsberg, who was in Billings for a Writer's Voice appearance. When he heard of the dedication through Corby Skinner, he extended his Billings visit to participate. Also on tap were Marcia Spalding's bellissimo! bell choir, Alice Lyon's Community Youth Chorale, actors from Billings Studio Theatre, Starfire, and students and faculty from both MSU-B and Rocky Mountain College. The Nell, Roberty, Edwards Trio played jazz to wild applause and Ginsberg's 45-minute performance brought down the house.
Sculptor Andy Schoneberg and
a windblown Christene Meyers
at the dedication of the garden.
YELLOWSTONE Public Radio's Marvin Granger and his staff broadcast the event live on Yellowstone Public Radio. Director Skip Lundby  kept the program running smoothly.    
A book of Meyers' poems, "Ventriloquist in the Rain," debuted.  It is still available -- in its fourth printing. Funds from the first edition helped establish the Bruce Meyers Scholarship Endowment at MSU-Billings.  Contributions are welcome at the college's Foundation (see link below.) One of the recipients shared the stage with Bruce.  She played an orphan in our dinner theater production of "Annie" and said she was inspired to pursue a teaching and English career by Bruce, who played Daddy Warbucks. "He wished us to 'break a leg' before each performance. I couldn't understand why he would say that when we had so much dancing to do," she wrote in her thank-you note.)
Alice Lyon in blue conducts her Community Youth
Chorale at the first annual Bruce Kemp Meyers
Arts Festival (the Bruce Bash) in May of 1993.

MEANWHILE, the garden - like all growing things -- evolves and changes.  The spirit of its creation remains:  a calming, inclusive place on campus where people come -- alone or in groups -- to contemplate the contributions of a talented man who influenced many. "Bruce Meyers: poet, actor, teacher," reads the inscription.  May his memory live on.  
Here is the Smithsonian Institution's link to the garden:
Here is the university foundation's link to the English scholarship in Bruce's memory: (A field asks the donor where he'd like to direct a gift; type in Bruce Meyers Scholarship. Contributions are tax deductible and help fund annual gifts to English majors. The awards began in 1993. The Foundation also maintains the garden, as per a 1993 agreement.)

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett "Cheek to Cheek" tour,
in a spectacular Bruce Keller photo from our orchestra seats. 

UP NEXT:  While we're remembering and saluting a life in the arts, another performer comes to mind.  Singer Tony Bennett will turn 95 this August, and we honor his life in the arts, noting his struggle with Alzheimer's.  The writer of this column has been a Tony Bennett fan since childhood, listening to her parents' albums.  Bruce Keller and I have seen him in concert five times, three times with Lady Gaga. His art has kept him lively and engaged. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a refreshing look at travel, entertainment, nature and family:

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Hop onto a 'Hopper,' you'll sail away your troubles

"Cap'n Keller," Bruce Keller, this column's photographer, is a lifelong sailor who took the wheel
of a Hopper Boat Rentals small craft recently on a leisurely trip through Oxnard's canals.

Oxnard's architectural variety is pleasing to observe from
the water. From Victorians, to unique stone and slate
creations to Mid-Century Modern, it's an eye catching mix. 
Harbor seals greet small boats as they glide
by; there is abundant sea bird life, too.


WE LOVE the Channel Islands and 
make several pilgrimages a year there.
Always on the trail of something new, we happened on Hopper Boat Rentals and spent a lovely afternoon exploring the channels of the tranquil, clean and not-yet-discovered town of Oxnard, California.

Hopper Boat Rentals is tucked away on one of Oxnard's quiet little corners in Channel Islands Harbor. The rustic dock holds the Hopper fleet of a dozen or so boats, ranging in size from single and double kayaks and fishing kayaks to electric boats for a party as large as 12. The outfit also rents paddle boards for the more adventurous, and pedal boats for anyone out for a relaxing time.
Lane Norton helps his parents
at the family owned business.

The business is owned by the Norton family; the parents started the business and continue to sustain it in office while son Lane works outdoors on site. He's an amiable, helpful fellow, manning the  harbor business, checking in passengers and keeping the boats clean and ready. He offers sailors a cheerful smile and a strong arm for getting on and comfortably seated, casting off then coming back in to port.
Hopper Boat Rentals is tucked away in a quiet corner,
offering relaxed viewing of a variety of other water craft.
You can rent by the hour, for an afternoon or a day, in small or larger groups celebrating an anniversary or birthday and groups as small as the two of us -- just a couple out for the afternoon, with our Yorkie, Nicky.
OUR SMALL, quiet boat was one of dozens out on the water that day, but the channels never seemed crowded, and that's the way it usually is, Lane said.
The business has based at Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard for 15 years. 
Yorkie Nick is at home on
the waters of Oxnard Harbor.
Off for the afternoon: Cookie, Keller and Nick.

We really enjoyed the pace of this adventure on the water. The architecture in Oxnard's canals is fascinating, like most  harbor towns. The mix of styles ranges from elaborate Victorian, to Italian, mission style and Carpenter Gothic. We took photos of gorgeous gardens and artful patios.
OXNARD IS at the end of the Santa Barbara Channel and offers year-round viewing of whales, dolphins and seals. The calm water was never "rock and roll" swaying, as we've felt many times on small crafts.
Oxnard's colorful harbor area on Victoria
Avenue is in various states of repair and renewal.

It was a perfectly smooth sail with other easy-going sailors. "Cap'n Keller" kept us safe and the ride smooth navigating with perfect sailor prowess. He has sailed oceans, rivers and lakes since he was a kid.
I would have been nervous piloting the boat myself. But if you've never driven an electric boat, don't let that stop you. Lane gives easy walk-through instructions, as we saw him do with a novice-sailors couple who arrived along with the two of us. 
 IT IS COMPLETELY relaxing. And fascinating. We loved viewing boats from another boat. There's a whole community of boat people in Oxnard. 
The picturesque Oxnard, Calif., harbor reveals itself
during a leisurely few hours aboard Hopper Boat Rentals. 
 We  watched them enjoying life on their homes, which ranged from elaborate and sleek to rustic-casual, with plants, beaded curtains and sleeping dogs. Our boat was so quiet we couldn't hear its motor.
If you've never been to Oxnard, it is an undiscovered gem on the California coast, a quiet beachside community -- not as opulent as some nor as laid back as others. It has its own rhythm and profile, and is a friendly and welcoming place to spend a few days. We recommend Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor, where stunning marina view rooms offer an ever-changing picture of life on the water. Fishing boats, pleasure crafts, luxurious yachts, kayaks and paddle boards all make their way to and fro as you watch with a cup of coffee or glass of wine, while your troubles disappear.
Hampton Inn Channel Islands
Harbor is our Oxnard "home."

As Cap'n Keller says, "If you've always longed to be captain of your own boat, consider a 'Harbor Hopper.' We've rented small electric boats around the world. Whether you're on the canals of Venice or the waterways of Oxnard, California, you'll find a peaceful, relaxing way to slow down."
So do consider a weekend in Oxnard, and set aside a few hours for a Hopper boat rental. You'll be so smitten, you may decide to own your own boat!; 805-382-1100
Poet Allen Ginsberg was special guest at Writer's Voice, and
the dedication of the Bruce Kemp Meyers Poets Garden
 on the campus of Montana State University-Billings.
UP NEXT: Memorial Day approaches, so we remember a unique memorial celebration for a talented teacher, poet and actor.  Twenty-eight years ago, famed poet Allen Ginsberg made a guest performance in Billings, Montana, to honor the memory of Bruce Meyers.  The award winning writer delivered a eulogy, read his poetry and sang songs. His performance during the first "Bruce Bash" christened the Bruce Kemp Meyers Poets Garden, in memory of the late professor of English at Montana State University-Billings. While working on his MFA at Kent State University, Meyers took a workshop from the acclaimed poet and they struck up a correspondence. Ginsberg's visit was arranged by Corby Skinner during Ginsberg's Billings appearance at Writer's Voice the same May weekend as the 1993 garden dedication. We look back on the remarkable celebration of music and theater. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us each week for a fresh take on travel, nature, family and the arts. Please share the link:

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Countries open up, cruising begins, travel comes back in Covid times


Planning a return to Malta, here during an expedition to some of its famous caves,
Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Bruce Keller rejoice on the resumption of European travel.

Cruisers will once again see the lights of Hong Kong's
beautiful Kowloon Harbor, as the CDC adjusts its guidelines.



Bruce Keller and
Christene Meyers
in Honolulu last week.


WE TOOK OUR FIRST flight, PC, "post Covid," our first PC boat trip and our first PC foray into a large city after crossing the Pacific to Hawaii two weeks ago .

WE DINED IN restaurants, walked city streets, took taxis, buses, sail boats and rental cars. We shopped in stores and markets. All masked, distanced and glorious. It was as if we were tourists for the first time.

The famous gondolas of Venice await pandemic-weary
travelers, now that European travel bans are being lifted.
WE'RE TRAVELING again. After months of deprivation we packed passports, vaccination cards, sprays, masks and Covid negative test results.
WE'D LAST boarded a plane a remarkable 16 months ago, when we returned early from South America to nurse our ailing female Yorkie, Nora.  Her passing in January, 2020, after futile attempts to curb her kidney disease, seemed an omen for what was to come. It was, in many ways, one of the most troubling years of my life.  It was also a year of "inner exploration," of spending time with my favorite person, learning new ways to be happy. We've explored enough, already. So we took two weeks of aloha time.

 THE GOOD NEWS this week is the European Union's announcement that it will accept those vaccinated with vaccines approved by EMA (the European Medicines Agency). According to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, three vaccines have been approved for vaccinated travelers to Europe: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Anxious European leaders believe travel will resume by this summer. June 15 seems to be the goal, just a month away.

The remarkable lion statues in Delos await as Greece is open
again to tourism. A dozen marble statues salute the god Apollo.

Already, there are positive signs as people are vaccinated and travel regulations ease. These countries are now open to travelers outside their own country -- hooray: Cyprus, Ecuador, Estonia, Republic of Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Iceland, Israel, Mexico,  Montenegro, Nepal, Seychelles, Tahiti. Covid-negative tests are the rule for these countries, whose tourism-based economies have been nearly devastated by the pandemic. “We are working hard to propose a concrete solution, especially for U.S. citizens who are vaccinated,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a recent interview on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Airlines are busy, increasing flights and offering bargains on use of frequent flier miles.
Cruising is coming back, too.
NORWEGIAN Cruise Line and others are seeking to clarify what comes next, after CDC's easing of masking and distancing requirements. It's still unclear how travelers will interact on ships with vaccinated
American Cruise Lines is selling out attractive,
safe "home based" voyages, here American Song
cruises the Pacific Northwest of the U.S.

passengers and crew and those without. As cruise lines gear up to resume operations, most are insisting that passengers be fully vaccinated. Some will also insist on a negative Covid test as well.
The CDC's Conditional Sailing Order, CSO, requires cruise lines to establish agreements at ports where they intend to operate, implement routine testing of crew. Plans are also being formulated by the various lines to require vaccination proof and testing of boarding passengers.
U.S. BASED American Cruise Lines, is selling out many of its summer and autumn cruises, with its "homegrown" advantage over lines that travel abroad. American's modern, small river and coastal boats are all U.S. built, registered and crewed, "and not subject to the issues other lines are," said Alexa Paolella, American's public
Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers enjoy lunch
al fresco in Portofino, as Italy's tourism opens up again.

relations manager. 
Another line, Viking River Cruises, will restart limited operations in June with three special sailings along the coast of England.
"We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity and that the goal of the CSO’s phased approach is to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard cruise ships and across port communities," said Aimee
Treffiletti, head of the Maritime Unit for CDC's Global Mitigation Task Force for COVID-19. "We are committed to the resumption of cruise operations in the United States, following the requirements
Keller and Cookie above Cannes, France,
"B.C.," Before Covid. Plans are to return. 
of the CSO by summer, which aligns with the goals announced by many major cruise lines."
IN A NUTSHELL: It is likely that ships resuming sailing will demand passengers provide proof of vaccination. Crews will be fully vaccinated.
Most countries will ask for a vaccination card and may require a negative Covid test. 
Each country is dealing differently with foreign travel. The United Kingdom has divided countries of the world into three categories - green, amber and red. Status depends on the number of Covid-19 cases per country and the success of their vaccine rollout. Green countries have the fewest rules.
Beginning May 17, people in England and Scotland can take holidays abroad in "green" countries without having to quarantine when they return.
Wales and Northern Ireland have not yet announced plans to restart foreign holidays.
In the U.S., the CDC is expected to announce updated guidelines by this weekend. 


Christene Meyers, Bruce Keller and Nick take to a rental boat
 for a relaxing half-day journey in the Channel Islands.
UP NEXT:  As the world regroups, travel resumes, masking and distancing ease, and the pandemic seems to be taking a healthy turn toward control, we're pausing to reflect. We're taking this tranquil time to reflect, to smell the roses, enjoying the soothing balm of the Channel Islands waters. It's possible to rent a boat for a day or afternoon, to wander the inlets and canals of this undiscovered gem on the California coast.  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us each week for a fresh take on travel, nature, family and the arts. Please share the link: