Friday, August 26, 2016

Stillwater summer: bittersweet time as the hollyhocks fade, birds flee

End of summer blue -- not blues -- as we embrace the autumn, and cherished friends and family around the globe. 
Fishing time was minimal this year on the West Fork, but catch-and-release
was popular with our friends who came from several states to enjoy.
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

AS AUGUST runs its sunny course, with Labor Day around the corner, we say au revoir to one venue, and bonjour to another.
Whether we are relishing bird life and flowers along our favorite Stillwater River in Montana, or savoring the salty sea vapors at our southern California digs, we appreciate nature's gifts and our ability to enjoy them.

Cookie is in her element -- saying so long to the Stillwater and hello 
to southern California, with beauty in both venues.

Our hearts are always heavy to leave one venue -- we love both our little corners of paradise.
We embrace the future with eagerness and energy.
Sculptures -- some musically inspired -- are by world class artists. 
Tippet Rise brought international performers and audience to the
 unique art center near Fishtail, Montana.
NONE OF US knows what's around the corner -- or how long we have on this treasured Earth.  Thus we must continue to try, if we have any sense at all, to roll with the punches, be thankful, relish each day.
High Chaparral is a beloved family gathering spot, with a wealth of bird life,
dozens of mature trees, hiking trails and a chance to recharge in nature.

We're thankful to be surrounded by the wit, wisdom, music, good wishes.  We've had a wonderful summer -- albeit brief. The opening of Tippet Rise Art Center near us brought national attention to our little corner of Stillwater County, and provided great material for magazine features.
Keller had engaging work, using his architectural, engineering and construction skills to help friends and neighbors with projects in the valley.  Cookie gave five more readings on "Lilian's Last Dance," and we are plugging ahead on the musical.
 'Lilian's Last Dance' readings continue
We had wonderful gatherings and dinners with friends and family.  We read, walked, rode our bikes, harvested our first apples on the Honeycrisp and Harelson apple trees.
We hosted raccoons, squirrels, bears, deer and even an elk in the yard. And a record number of birds.
WITH LABOR Day just days away, the nights are getting shorter, temperatures dropping, and hummingbirds heading south.
We recall this wise quote from Dr. Seuss (who lived not far from our winter digs, in La Jolla, Calif.)
Theodor Seuss Geisel honored summer's end with this thought:
Keller and Cookie: 
the adventure continues. 
'DON'T CRY because it's over, smile because it happened."



UP NEXT:

In the shadow of Montana's Beartooth Mountains in the Northern Rockies, a small, inviting restaurant beckons. Piney Dell holds dear childhood memories for Cookie, and she and Keller visit Red Lodge  to see if its wonders have been sustained. They sample the fare, tour the grounds of Rock Creek Resort and wonders and determine that Old Piney Dell still holds up! Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays when we post for each weekend


.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Inviting, multi-cultural Brazil provides visitors with fascinating opportunities -- dancing, included

A large statue of Christ is an internationally known landmark of Rio, with Sugar Loaf Mountain opposite it.

From Sugar Loaf to Ipanema,
Latin city serves up samba,
sports, scenery, scanty clothes

With Sugar Loaf in the background, and Guanabara Bay in front, Rio
offers mountains, water, beaches and splendid weather.

On Ipanema Beach, a pair of sunbathers stop for a cold drink, eyed from above.

The beaches of Rio are always crowded but, for the most part, peaceful.
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

WHILE ALL EYES are on Rio, Brazil and the Olympics, we're weighing in with our most recent trip to this teeming, colorful city.
Rio de Janeiro is a city of contrasts and diversity. Nuns and the nearly naked stroll side by side on the beaches, oblivious to one another's excesses or modesties.
Extraordinary opulence and poverty co-exist in many parts of town.
We last approached this huge seaside city from the ocean, having transited the Atlantic from Lisbon, Portugal.
Lisboa, as it is known in the Portuguese, has long and deep ties to Brazil, where the same language is spoken.
OUR FRIENDS in Lisbon had just returned from Rio's famed "Carnival," the world's largest. 
The festival -- held before Lent every year -- attracts two million people per day to the streets, where dancing, singing and parading attract both the sacred and the profane.
Copacabana is considered less touristy.
The first carnival festival in Rio dates back to 1723. The raucous Carnival festival captures world wide attention with its flamboyant costumes and dancing.
The Sugar Loaf cable car gives a splendid view of the city and bay below.
WHERE THERE'S water, there are water sports and people watchers.  The Olympians of this year's competition participated in events on both of Rio's famed beaches.   Copacabana and Ipanema are the two best known -- both have songs written about them -- and tourists and locals love them. We saw scantily clad sun worshippers, families on segways,  volleyball players and plenty of gawkers -- which we were.
Drinks were not cheap -- $12 for a local beer -- but many people brought coolers and made their own cocktails.
Samba is an art form in Rio; the dancers are elaborately clad.
TOWERING about the city are two  stunning landmarks -- one man made and one crafted by nature. Many memorable Olympics shots featured the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Mt. Corcovado.
The famed Art Deco statue of Jesus was created by Polish-French sculptor Paul Landowski and built by a collaborative effort between two lauded engineers -- Brazilian Heitor da Silva Costa, and Frenchman Albert Caquot.
SUGARLOAF Mountain is the other noteable"must see", a granite monolith with cable cars to its summit. I conquered my vertigo and climbed aboard one of the 65-person cars, happy to be a recovering sissy as we zipped over the mouth of Guanabara Bay with a terrific view of the peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic.

Favellas are a colorful part of the landscape of Rio.
Again, in the spirit of contrast, Rio is known for its sprawling favelas.  These shanty town shacks stretch up into the mountains, while at the top of the hills are mansions.  Rio is also home to more than two dozen five-star hotels, among the world's most opulent. The Fasano is famous. Ditto the Miramar Hotel by Windsor., and Belmond Copacabana Palace. The Grand Hyatt is also a places to see and be seen -- or samba to the band.-THE NATIONAL dance, samba, must be tried, and we did.  The Brazilian dance of African origin has a basic pattern of step-close-step-close and is characterized by a dip and spring upward at each beat of the music. One gets into the rhythm after a few tries and the locals love to help with the steps and jumps.
Explorers called the now Acari river "Janeiro" or January, thus the name. It was at a gas station near a club on the river that swimmer Ryan Lochte, drunk with his pals,  disgraced the spirit of the Olympics and embarrassed the United States with hooligan acts.



UP NEXT:
As we say so-long to another glorious "Stillwater Summer," we share photos from the nature-driven environment that blesses us each year. Here's a favorite sunflower near the West Fork of the Stillwater River.  The bears share the apples on the tree in the background and other flowers are in their glory with warm sunny days and cool evenings. Join us in a summer, sunflower swan song! Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays when we post for each weekend.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Museum of the Rockies -- cultural gem glitters in Bozeman

The people of Oplontis, near Pompeii, lived well in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, until 79 AD, when they were buried
by tons of falling ash. We viewed art and artifacts of leisure and luxury detailing the life of Rome's privileged citizens. 

One of the most opulent of Rome's luxury villas was Oplontis, the summer home
 of Emperor Nero's second wife. Parts of it are on view through Dec. 31,

Museum of the Rockies has an intriguing related  show in the
Planetarium, exploring  possibilities of the lost Atlantis.

A WEALTHY VILLA UNTIL VESUVIUS: VISIT LUSH LIFE OF ROME'S PRIVILEGED BEFORE ERUPTION ENDED IT ALL 2,000 YEARS AGO

STORY By CHRISTENE         MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

LIFE WAS GOOD for the people of Oplontis. Running water, prolific crops, lovely architecture and artwork, the comforts of civilized life. Even the servants seemed content.
That is, until Vesuvius erupted, spewing tons of molten lava, burying the prosperous little village beneath 50 feet of ash.
When ruins of the 79AD disaster were discovered recently during preparation for building of a gymnasium, scholars determined that the public would benefit from an exhibit sharing the remarkably preserved discovery.
Dining salons which seated 100 people, private chambers with spectacular frescos, marble columns rising from elaborate mosaic floor were uncovered.

The Museum's Living History Farm offers a unique opportunity to experience
life as it existed decades ago in rural Montana. Volunteers dress in perios
costumes to discuss gardening, homemaking, cooking and crafts.
THE MUSEUM of the Rockies is one of three fortunate venues to host a remarkable new traveling exhibit, "The Villas of Oplontis." It details the splendid, privileged life of the aristocratic Roman enclave which lived well and happily in a lavish villa -- until Mount Vesuvius' catastrophic eruption.
To warm us up for that, we spent a wonderful afternoon at the museum's other components, starting first at the Living History Farm, where a docent greeted us in a garden of raspberries, squash and lettuce, and invited us into the restored vintage farmhouse.
Beautiful jewels, here bracelets with asp heads, were found
clutched in the hands of the long buried dead.
There, another volunteer in period dress crafted potholders from scraps of coats and dresses, explaining how homesteaders cooked and sewed and survived a century or two ago.
WE'D PLANNED our afternoon to take in the Planetarium show, which ties in nicely with the Oplontis exhibit.
It explores the possibilities of the location of the lost Atlantis.
Sitting back in the comfy chairs and gazing to the heavens, we discovered anew why this wonderful place is an internationally respected planetarium.
A creative bison -- made of car parts,musical instruments and more, is
part of a children's area upstairs. It combines whimsy with education.
Then a stroll through the homage to the West, and a look at researchers working on artifacts behind a glass screen.
WE  WATCHED a short, well crafted "overview" video narrated by Dr. Regina Gee, an expert on frescoes and one of three primary researchers involved in the Oplontis excavation.  Based at MSU in Bozeman, Gee was instrumental in getting the exhibit to Montana.
"Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero: The Villas of Oplontis near Pompei" is the elaborate handle of this fine show. Many talents helped make it a reality.
Watching the careful process of working on fossils and other  finds 
is part of the fun and education of a visit to the Museum of the Rockies.

MSU STUDENTS assisted in recreating elaborate frescoes which adorned the walls of the luxury homes. Jewelry was discovered, taken hurriedly along with money by citizens as they fled for hoped for safety and rescue in vaults which were not discovered until recent times. The lavish dining rooms and private chambers were destroyed, along with their spectacular mosaic floors and grand marble columns.  The people left behind wines, oils, strong boxes of coins and artwork of a sophisticated civilization. The wealthy took their prized objects with them to the vault, hoping for a rescue that never came. The servants were found with their tools of trade, hoping to rebuild a life, should they be found before they perished.
MSU and Dr. Gee deserve kudos for bringing this impressive exhibit from Italy. It remains on view through Dec. 31.
We found it both moving and enlightening to share the life of these sophisticated but doomed citizens.
We ended our day upstairs in less ponderous surroundings. Above Oplontis, we watched children romp in the museum's cleverly designed play area with whimsical animals of the forest -- assembled artistically with found household and garage items.
Come with us next to Rio, with a look at this exciting city of the current
 Olympics. We share photos and insights into lively Brazilian culture.

UP NEXT: With all eyes on Rio, we share a recent trip to Brazil.  Come with us up Sugar Loaf, to Ipanema Beach, a rock-folk concert and a spectacular spice, fruit and vegetable market. Then while we're enjoying time in Montana and a particularly beautiful summer, we take a trip down Memory Lane to a fabulous restaurant in the shadow of the Beartooths above Red Lodge.  Old Piney Dell still delivers a superb meal, at Rock Creek Resort.  Remember to explore, learn and live and check us out Friday afternoons when we post for each weekend.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Rootin' tootin' Virginia City delivers the goods with a step back in time, Montana style

If you're looking for authentic, old-fashioned fun, a vintage restored town and beautiful scenery, head for Virginia City, Mt.


A little train trip awaits, just a few miles between 
Virginia City and Nevada City, by a narrow-gauge railroad.

OLD WEST FLAVOR IS KICKED UP A NOTCH IN LIVELY, PICTURESQUE OLD-TIME TOWNS

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

MY AFFECTION for Virginia City and Nevada City dates a half century back to my childhood.
The old-fashioned fire truck run by Scott McClintic
will give you history and a pleasant tour of Virginia City.
Hiking in the nearby woods
is another benefit to a road trip.
As I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, our family made an annual pilgrimage to this old-time treasure in southwest Montana.  It's historical beginnings go back to the gold rush days of the mid 1800s. Much of the place has retained the flavor of that rich, sometimes rowdy time when Montana was discovered by seekers of fortune and the accompanying riff-raff.
The Virginia City Players have been around  for 67 seasons,
with the talents of Bill Koch, present artistic director.
Thanks to philanthropists Charles and Sue Bovey, today's Virginia City recaptures the times. Bovey began restoring the town with vintage buildings and goods shortly after World War II.  He was fascinated by the period, when sluices lined the gulch and "cities" blossomed as trading and amusement centers. Miners flooded in, and others followed, in the tradition of supply and demand: ladies of the evening, criminals, cooks, vigilantes, shop keepers, bar tenders, cleaners, and grocers who could command as much as $2 for a single egg. Virginia City was the best known of towns that sprung up along the gulch.  It is sole survivor.
NO WONDER so many Montanans revere Virginia City and like to show it off. It's wonderfully "frozen in time," fun to share with visitors who might enjoy strolling a colorfully restored pioneer mining camp.
The Brewery Follies under the gifted direction of Mike Verdon are a must,
with a fast-paced, racy show sure to entertain. A fine cast, talented
musical director and the brewery environment guarantee a good time.
We traveled back in time -- pre-cell phones, pre-computers, pre-television and telephone to celebrate the Boveys, of the General Mills fortune. They bought up old buildings and repaired failing existing structures to preserve the spirit of the 1865 capital of the Montana Territory.
Virginia City had declined to ghost town status when Bovey and his wife began to pursue their passion. By the early 1950s, people were visiting Virginia City, with its iconic Bale of Hay Saloon, the Virginia City Players in the Opera House, and the venerable Fairweather Inn.
Lodging in Nevada City is rustic, but comfortable.
WE NEVER miss Bill Koch's Virginia City Players, a must for theater lovers and a time honored part of the lore and lure of Virginia City. The Players' show in the old Opera House includes a spirited vaudeville act -- cameos in the style of the Victorian music hall. Their ambitious three-part season continues to September, with good old-fashioned family fun.
For adults, the Brewery Follies offers cutting-edge comedy, lively music and a tour de force of comedy and satire featuring well acted sketches and songs by a diverse cast with "guest appearances" courtesy the talented Mike Verdon, delightful and right-on as both Donald Trump and Elvis.
Carefully restored Victorians are part of the
allure of Virginia City. Most are B&Bs.
The Follies offers a sophisticated, smartly written comedy cabaret in the 1863 brewery. There, H.S. Gilbert made his mark and money after immigrating from Germany to quench the boom town's thirst.
NOW ON the historic register, the towns are owned by the state of Montana.  Showing off an entire town as a National Historic Landmark is unique, so give your guests a treat.
We were thrilled to discover the Wells Fargo Steakhouse serves a tasty steak and wonderful appetizers, a nice Caesar salad and several fish and Italian offerings. There's also a pizza parlor, candy store, ice cream place, a couple other bars and cafes. Pop in Rank's Mercantile, which has the feeling of an old-fashioned, artfully arranged sundries shop, with unique souvenirs, clothing, toys, books, gifts and specialty groceries.
Rome, Greece, Bozeman? A wonderful show is up at Museum of the Rockies.
"The Villas of Oplontis" brings us to Bozeman and the Museum, with  a look
at a thriving villa destroyed by the Mount Vesuvius eruption. An imaginative
show of artifacts and antiquities awaits through December 31. 
One strolls the main street and peeks into the past: an old barbershop, a clothing store, a blacksmith's shop, drug store, mostly built before 1900.
Heritage markers give insights and information about the period displays, and you can dress up in period costumes to create a special holiday card, or souvenir.
THERE'S ALSO a Boothill, a cemetery where criminals and lawmen take their final rest.

UP NEXT: "The Villas of Oplontis" is a wonderful exhibit at Museum of the Rockies, which we visit next.  The wonderful Museum has a stunning planetarium and living history farm, internationally recognized fossil and dinosaur exhibit, plus much more.  The terrific new show about the life of a village near Pompeii is fascinating. Remember to explore, learn and live.  

Friday, July 29, 2016

High Country high fliers: birds delight in the northern Rockies

A lazuli bunting graces us with his presence and a lovely song each morning at High Chaparral.

A wren feeds her young as we watch quietly. In a day or two, they'll be gone.





“Every spring
I hear the thrush singing
in the glowing woods
he is only passing through.
His voice is deep,
then he lifts it until it seems
to fall from the sky.
I am thrilled.
I am grateful.
Then, by the end of morning,
he's gone, nothing but silence
out of the tree
where he rested for a night.
And this I find acceptable..."
-- Mary Oliver, "A Thousand Mornings"
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

A red tail hawk watches rabbits below, from a dying cottonwood tree.
I'M SITTING at our summertime desk, high in the Rocky Mountains, with the windows cracked and the doors half-open so I can watch the gold finches at the feeder. A lazuli bunting just had a snack.  I can hear a woodpecker pecking away at his favorite aspen tree -- the one with a few ant-infested branches!
Enroute to exercise class this morning, I saw a red tail hawk high in a cottonwood, already shed of its leaves. I was running late, but I stopped the car to watch him dive- bomb a small unlucky critter then whisk him away to feed the family.
This woodpecker likes sumac and aspen trees, especially
if they have insects, but here he tries his luck on a phone pole.
NOTHING makes me happier than watching and listening to the birds during our few weeks stay at our gorgeous High Chaparral high in the Montana Rockies.
The variety of sounds and songs from our feathered friends astonishes me.  Plaintive, flirting, melancholy, joyous -- I try to imitate the songs and sing them back.  So far, I've been answered several times, poor imposter though I am. That's always a thrill.
A ruby throated hummingbird  is poised midair near the feeder.
We know the birds won't always be here, that they are visitors, their presence temporary.  The only one I've seen all twelve months of the year is the faithful chickadee.  He can withstand Montana's bitterly cold winters, and he manages to liven up the winter woods with his pretty song. (He is one of my most faithful "responders" when I whistle my howdy-do back to him.)

THE HUMMINGBIRDS are the most exquisite of our visitors. The ruby-throated looks as if he's going out for the evening, in his scarlet red "cravat" and stylish white shirt and green suit. We have three kinds of hummers here -- the rufous with his rust-colored cape, and the tiny caliope, the smallest bird on the continent. Because they are various sizes, we have several feeders, lest the larger rufous hog the food source.
Wherever you are on the planet, remember what my grandmother told me many moons ago:  "Keep a song in your heart, listen for the birds. Feed them. When they are gone from Earth, we won't be far behind."

The Nevada City cabins in the Nevada City Hotel are rustic, nestled
against the mountains and near Virginia City. They are dog friendly.  


NEXT UP: It's a Montana road trip, and we're exploring Virginia City and Nevada City, with a train ride, fire truck history tour, a jaunt to the onetime rich gold fields and a stay in a rustic cabin where, yes, dogs are welcome! All that and more, including two lively performances: the racy Brewery Follies and the Virginia City Players, celebrating its 75th season! Remember to explore, learn and live. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Dog's life with Cookie and Keller is a pretty dog-gone good gig

Cookie and Keller, with Nick and Nora, find that the Yorkies are a conduit for meeting new friends wherever they go. 
Here, they're having a boat ride on Hornblower Cruises out of San Diego, which has a special "Pet Day on the Bay."

PLANES, TRAINS, AUTOS .....TRAVELS WITH THE YORKIES YIELD DIVIDENDS

 Nick and Nora love huckelberry ice cream, a roadie treat in Julian, Calif.
"Charley is a mind-reading dog.  There have been many trips in his lifetime.....he knows we are going long before the suitcase comes out, and he paces and worries and whines, and goes into a state of mild hysteria. -- John Steinbeck,'"Travels with Charley."

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

WE CAN'T imagine a road trip without Nick and Nora.
John Steinbeck's famous "Travels with Charley"
has inspired many journeys and many other travelogues.
Our smart, loving Yorkshire terriers are as much a part of the package as a picnic, a room with a view, a fun new hotel, a new restaurant and a play to cap the day.
Like John Steinbeck and his faithful poodle Charley, we find each journey enhanced by the Yorkies' company. The doggies introduce us to people.
They give us new perspective.  They make us laugh.
They're just plain good company.
If the airlines awarded miles for doggie travel, Nick and Nora would be flying even higher -- for they've logged over 65,000 miles each in their action-packed near 11 years.
Nick and Nora seem comfy in their regulation airline sherpa carrier.
MOSTLY, THEY go where we go, by plane or car. They're happy little road-trippers. Because we so often take them along, we've started keeping track of the best of the "dog friendly" hotels we've visited.
Savvy dog lovers also rely upon Eileen Barish's wonderful dog friendly books, including "Doin' California with your Pooch." (She features other states, too. And if you simple google pet-friendly travel, you can narrow your own field.)
You'll find that some hotels have designated areas and rooms for pups. In other properties, dogs have greater freedom. It is also common practice to walk your pup frequently and not leave him unattended in the room for long. Some hotels give  goodies
Sunburned Cookie holds Nick and 
Nora off the hot sand in 
OUR DOGGIE carry-along bag includes their toys, treats, sweaters, food and water bowl. Nick and Nora have bedded down with us in at least 65 hotels, motels and inns, besides their relatives' homes in
California and Georgia.
Nick and Nora take to the beach of Lake Tahoe.
Here are some pup-friendly places we endorse and recommend, for their personality, charm, dog welcoming spirit and proximity to fun events, scenery and history. Nick and Nora give them paws up! At these diverse and pet-welcoming venues, it goes without saying to leash your pet while promenading, and bring a stash of "doggie bags" just in case.
*Western Heritage Inn of Bozeman, Montana. westernheritageinn.com
Keller and Nora head for the Catalina Boat House.
*The Murray Hotel of Livingston, Montana. murrayhotel.com
* Vagabond's House Inn, Carmel by the Sea, Calif.  vagabondshouseinn.com
* Ashland Springs Hotel, Ashland, Oregon. AshlandSpringshotel.com
*Catalina Boat House Hotel, Avalon, Calif. catalinaboathouse.com
* Omni Los Angeles Hotel, Los Angeles, Calif.  omnilosangeles.com
*Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort, Santa Barbara. fessparkersantabarbarahotel.com doubletreehotels.com.
* Ocean Villa Inn, San Diego, Calif. oceanvillainn.com
*Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada.
caesars.com/flamingohotel
lasvegas
*Beach House Inn, Santa Barbara,
Calif. beachhouseinn.com
*Inn By The Lake, South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
 innbythelake.com




The beautiful lazuli bunting is named for the gemstone, lapis lazuli.


NEXT UP: We pay homage to birds, their haunting and magical songs, their delicacy at the feeder, their strength in flight. Join us to celebrate the myriad delights they give us, especially here in the northern Rockies in summertime's prime. We'll be in Montana's Stillwater County for a photo essay on the pleasures of sharing the landscape with hawks, hummingbirds, wrens, woodpeckers and the stunning lazuli bunting. Remember to explore, learn and live and remember we post each Friday.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Flagship dinner cruise unfurls an evening for the memory book

Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Bruce Keller take to San Diego Bay and a Flagship dinner cruise, with spectacular views.

TAKE YOUR PICK OF FLAGSHIP'S FUN, FESTIVE OUTINGS -- from whale watching to elegant dining


Time to enjoy aquatic life, with 
a look over the ship's side.
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

IMAGINE YOURSELF at sea with a glass of champagne, a lovely meal, gorgeous scenery and the one you love.
After a stroll on deck and a leisurely meal, he asks you to dance.
It's your favorite Cole Porter tune.
What could be better?
Flagship Cruises has been at the entertainment business since 1915,
San Diego's USS Nimitz Aircraft Carrier Museum, as viewed from Flagship. 
plying the waters of San Diego Bay and sharing the wonders of the beautiful southern California harbor and coastline. 
The Spirit of San Diego resembles a yacht or cruise ship, with daytime
nature watches and weekend champagne brunches, and evening dinner cruises.
WE RECENTLY enjoyed a Flagship dinner cruise -- a nicely presented and tasty meal, with fabulous scenery to complement our gastronomic indulgence. We'd boarded with a celebrating family, honoring a daughter who'd just earned her doctorate.  Together, we watched the harbor fade from view as Flagship's Spirit of San Diego traversed the big bay, winding under the Coronado Bridge and into Glorietta Bay Marina with a spectacular view of the famous Hotel Del Coronado.
As a bonus this summer, and into September, fans of fine dining and gorgeous views from the water may also enjoy fireworks over the bay. Flagship is offering dinner and dancing during the leisurely three-hour excursion, ending with fireworks over the bay.
CALL IT GILDING the lily -- the allure of San Diego's famous waterfront, kicked up a notch with fireworks. Dates are July 29-30, and Aug. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27. The fireworks-dinner combo continues through Sept. 3.
A celebrating family poses for the photographer, celebrating a graduation. 
WE THOUGHT of our a recent cruise ship adventure as we boarded the elegant double-decker Spirit.  We strolled the 2,700-square foot observation deck as we pulled out of the harbor, enjoying a glass of bubbly, wishing it were a week long venture, not just an evening! That night, the Flagship clientele ranged from couples enjoying a date night, to three-generations celebrating a doctoral degree, to newlyweds, a bar mitzvah party and retirement fete.
All were enjoying the impressive San Diego skyline from the lush outer decks and cozy cherry wood inner rooms.  Cocktails were
We left our pretty table for a stroll on deck.
available at several stations and a DJ circulated, schmoozing with guests and taking musical requests for dancing.
FLAGSHIP'S impressive nine-vessel fleet includes a new yacht, the California Spirit, the Princess, for fairytale weddings, the Marietta for whale watching, the Quiet Heart, and a pair of ferries. Glorietta, a small water taxi, is also under Flagship's purview. If you're feeling like treating 52 of your favorite people, the Spirit's VIP Captain’s Salon awaits, complete with tinted windows for privacy. It seats 52 guests and offers spectacular bay views. www.flagshipsd.com/flagship


UP NEXT:  It's a doggone good dog's life, when you're a canine traveling with Cookie and Keller.
Nick and Nora, the couple's Yorkshire terriers,   have logged over 60,000 airline miles (no frequent flier credit, darn!) and are always a part of the couple's road trips. Tips on making travel with pups easier for you -- and your four-footed pals. Remember to explore, learn and live. 
Keller takes a trip to Avalon, Catalina Islands, with Nora having a wee siesta while
Cookie and Nick take photos! Tips on making pet travel both fun and relaxing.