Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Travel technology offers array of helpful apps to ease your transit

Watch for roaming charges, look for new apps and plans

Let your phone be your travel agent.  Helpful apps abound for the domestic or foreign traveler.  Use them!


Travel can be enhanced by taking time to read, research.
TECHNOLOGY has made travel easier and the world smaller. Like it or hate it, we might as well embrace it and use it to better our lives.

TTaking advantage of our rapidly changing high-take world makes more sense on the road than anywhere else.  Take advantage.
Our travel tips theme continues with a look at ways to use technology and modern conveniences to enhance our adventures domestic or abroad.
A travel app helped us find this offbeat guitar restoration shop in Nashville.
* ROADY READING, literature, listening. A girlfriend showed me her iPhone, proudly noting 10 audio books and a Kindle app with 12 or 14 books. If she has an unplanned lay-over, or misses a connection, she'll never be without something to listen to or read. You can also download travel books and travel maps. I am a hold-out for the old-fashioned turn-the-page book. But never hardbacks.  I take two or three slim novels, then use the ship's library or B&B "take one and leave one" book shelf to augment trip reading.  I also leave my books as I read them, either giving them to a maid or new friend, or to the hotel reception.
* USE SEARCH and booking services to find deals on flights, hotels, car rentals, and more. Most search and booking services come with apps for Android, iPhones, and iPads. 
This is useful when plans change (and they will) and you need to find a new
hotel room, change a theater booking, move up a dinner reservation.

Apps can help you plan, have a good time!
* Use websites and apps. They've revolutionized travel since we were first exploring Europe in the late 1960s. They'll help you find hotels, car rentals, specialty shops, city tours, museum hours, gas stations, local eateries, dog and family-friendly places and good prices for filling your rental car or your tummy! A couple are Fuel Finder and You can also find an app for nearly every country or destination. Just go to the web and plug in your country and the words "travel app."
*In the airport, GateGuru is a cool smartphone app providing information on more than 10 airports with restaurant and retail options and discounts near your gate!
This woman is texting on  vacation -- she may be incurring extra charges.

Don't forget to turn off your data roaming before you leave the country. We once racked up a $75 charge on our Droid, while booking from our ship a last minute, half-day city tour. As we sailed into Fort Lauderdale, the roaming meter was running! Smartphones sometimes "push" download updates and messages, too, and these automatic procedures incur charges. Keller once forgot to turn off his roaming and got a $150 charge when his messages downloaded at the Rome airport!
You've worked hard for your time off -- now
you must concentrate on relaxing, enjoying!
* Consider an app for foreign travel, such as Skype or Google Voice that will let you call at Wi-Fi hot spots for little or no charge.  On ships, buy an Internet package and use e-mail to keep in touch with home.  When you get to your country, consider a cheap cellphone in that country.  One frequent flier friend uses a prepaid SIM card to call his U.S. family.
The wireless T-Mobile is introducing a global calling plan at a reasonable price -- about 20 cents a minute. The plan just went global with unlimited data and texting in over 100 countries at no extra charge. Plus improved features for calling and texting during U.S. travel. You must have a compatible phone.  Check it out.
* USE HOUSE phones for local calls. If you aren't conversant in the language, your hotel desk clerk will usually be happy to make the call.  I always reconfirm the next night's lodging, even if I have a print-out. Good back-up.

COMING UP: We continue our travel planning tips series Saturday with tips for learning to relax, enjoy and appreciate your hard-earned down time.  Essential elements can help you travel lighter, freer, happier -- paying for things ahead, exploring local haunts to enhance your time away from home! Remember to explore, learn and live, and check us out Wednesdays and Saturdays at:


Friday, October 25, 2013

Consider an off-season holiday, and eat off the beaten path

It was late November when Keller and
Cookie toured Lisbon last.





It's a lovely feeling to arrive in a foreign destination and not feel crushed, crowded or surrounded by other tourists.

The harbor in Toulon, France, off season in early December.

HERE ARE more tips on making the most of your time and money, thinking outside the box, being creative on the road!
* THINK "Off-season."  Late spring and late autumn are wonderful times to travel, whether it's to one of our country's splendid national parks, an Atlantic crossing or a couple weeks in Australia or Europe.  Schools are in session so you won't be surrounded by kids in hotels or planes.  Hotel rates are lower and the beauty of the countryside in changing seasons  matches the attractive prices.
* BAG IT UP.  We always teased my mother for packing empty plastic bags whenever we traveled. But she knew what she was doing.
Friends Misha and David Minesinger enjoy off-season time in Key Largo.
 I bring a half-dozen variously sized plastic bags.  They take no space and are great for soiled or damp cloths, odd toiletries, extra batteries, laptop and phone chargers and other stuff that gets scattered throughout the luggage. Thanks, mums.
You can shop economically at a city market -- this large one is in Sao Paulo.
* EATING OUT. Surrounded by foreign snacks, bakery delights and all the treats we indulge in when traveling, it is not necessary to eat three full meals out every day. In the morning, we do fine with coffee and a sparse breakfast, often included in the room price.  Full American breakfasts are expensive overseas. We often picnic for lunch -- a stop at a market for a hunk of cheese, a baguette, an apple or pear, wedge of salami, a couple beers or split of wine -- and thou! Under $15. Keep fruit in your room and take a banana or apple with you on a walk.  Then we have a nice supper, often composed of three or four appetizers or a large salad and a shared main course.  House wines are usually excellent in Europe, sometimes served in a carafe or pitcher and half the price of bottles.
*AVOID PRICEY hotel shops and gourmet food places and shop instead at the local supermarkets.  We  always pick up tins of tea and bags of coffee for reasonable prices.  (Save room when you're packing.) Fun memories to sip a cuppa with a French or Italian label
Be up for a mountain trek or hike, as this one in
Santorini, the Greek Isles, with Cookie and Corby Skinner.
when you're back home.  A $3 package of cookies with the foreign label, or jar of local jam are nice presents. No need to spend $25 at duty free or the airport. You can also find cheap gifts such as t-shirts by shopping around.
* IF YOU'RE visiting only major European cities, take the train.  Eurailpass is time honored. European trains are clean and punctual.
A Labor Day march in Athens, viewed from the Grande Bretagne Hotel. 
 If you're concentrating on villages within a small area -- say, Tuscany, Costa del Sol or Provence --  rural locales trains don't regularly service -- you're better off to rent a car.  Buses are also an inexpensive way to augment travel and save money. But driving yourself on a big
European "Tuesday it must be Belgium" loop is not a good idea for the time, expense and pace. Overnight trains save you hotel money, too.  We traveled once from Venice to Paris, leaving in the evening in a shared, four-bed sleeper car, arriving rested the next morning with new friends and a shared midnight supper!
HAVE YOUR camera and sense of adventure and discovery ready for the unexpected! Sometimes the most memorable photos come from a spontaneous moment, an surprise event or scene upon which you stumble! Jugglers in Barcelona, marchers in Athens, the Queen's Brigade with horses and riders, enroute to Buckingham Palace on a sunny London morning.

COMING NEXT:  We take a look at  travel technology, from apps for reading, to maps, to money-saving phone tips. Then on to the art of learning to fully enjoy vacation.  Then our grand travel tips take an in-depth look at packing and preparation! On to eating wisely, looking for nature and combating jet lag.  Catch us Wednesdays and Saturdays at

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Planning, attitude, advance work make trip memorable


Memories come in small moments, here on Portugal's Belem Castle bridge.


WHAT MAKES a trip memorable?
For me, it's having planned as best I can, being familiar with my itinerary, lining up lodging and activities before we leave.
Then, the frosting on the cake: the unexpected treat, and being able to fully appreciate and enjoy it.
The unplanned upgrade to the corner turret room at the Victoria hotel, with a harbor view of the ship we'd sailed in on.
A charming little B&B can delight -- with scenery, comfort, hospitality. 
The whitewashed inn on Santorini, where we sipped Ouzo, watched the sunset on the Mediterranean and had fabulous lamb skewers.
The farmhouse B&B in Ireland, where the family invited us to a musical evening.  I played the piano with the granddad fiddler in their parlor for hours! We even jigged!
THE CONVERTED sugar plantation hotel in Nevis where monkeys played in the tree outside the bedroom window.
If you don't stop to smell the flowers, you will not fully
 enjoy your trip and you may return home annoyed. 
The sidewalk cafe in Sydney -- jam packed, with no empty tables.  The owner motioned us to wait, disappeared into the back and came out carrying a table over his head! A waitress followed with place settings, olives and a bottle of wine! We had a view of the famous Sydney Opera House and the bridge -- and the best table in the house. All impromptu!
TRAVELING is supposed to be fun.  If it seems more like work or a chore, you're doing something wrong. Not over-packing and considering off-season travel are two hints! We hope these other tips will help.  They're gleaned from a lifetime of passionate traveling:
If you forget an item,you can buy it -- here a hat for Cookie.
* BUDGETING.  Years ago, a wise older friend taught me this "ball park" formula for trip planning.  The total daily expenses of two people will be roughly two-and-one-half times your double room hotel rate.  It's a pretty accurate equation. Make it three times if you plan to splurge -- lots of fancy dinner or several high-priced theater outings.    This includes most things -- room, meals, museums, cabs,  tickets, tours, drinks and snacks.
An off-season trip to a beach or seaside hideaway saves money.
* GET A MAP, the best you can find, when you choose your country or region.  Bookstores have great maps.  So do libraries, but you'll want your own so you can mark it up and take it with. Once you book your hotel, you can arrange outings from that base. Start tearing out newspaper clips and magazine articles that pertain.
* STASH THE CASH.  I always get $40 or $50 one-dollar bills from the bank.  Ask for new ones.  Divide them in a few places -- both of your wallets or purses, with a few in a plain envelope for the hotel safe. Many places in Europe still take dollar bills for small purchases. I also get $50 worth of $5-bills which make excellent tips to the hotel porters, a concierge who books a restaurant or play, the tour guide who gives lively commentary and helpful pointers. Or a busker who plays Bach fugues.
* FOREIGN FEES. Your bank may have an international partner where ATM fees are waived.   Sometimes the ATM cash withdrawal is cheaper than an exchange kiosk for getting Euros or the local currency.  We always get $200 in Euros at home -- or the destination country's money -- so we have taxi fare and first-meal money and can avoid the high exchange charges at airports .

A half-day trolley tour for Keller
in Lisbon. Although it was late
November, a light jacket was fine.
COMING SATURDAY:  We take a look at the advantages of traveling off season, and eating where the locals eat. Then it's on to travel apps and phoning abroad. Then our grand travel tips series takes an in-depth look at packing and preparation!  On to dining in splendor on the road without turning into a tub of lard and doubling your dress size.  Then tips for navigating through TSA at the airports, and how to beat jet lag.  Remember to explore, learn and live, and check us out Wednesdays and Saturdays at:

Saturday, October 19, 2013

By air, by road, these hotel, car pointers can ease travel angst

If you want to be able to laze and relax once you get there, plan ahead.  



IF YOU PLAN ahead for your hotel stay and car rental, you won't waste precious time on the road negotiating for a room or vehicle.
It's wise to spend a couple days nailing down all the details for your lodging and transportation before you fly out of town or country.
First, hotels:
 Cookie toasts good planning in the lovely Altis Belem Hotel
in  Lisbon. The hotel was booked months ahead.
* MOST OF US go on line to find room rates, but it's a good idea to call the hotel directly after you fine rates.  Ask for a discount.  The websites often tout "lowest price" because they're selling themselves.  I've often been given a discount by hauling out all my memberships:  AARP, AAA, and mentioning my frequent business travel.  You may qualify for a corporate or senior rate.  Ask. Most hotels do a room inventory that expires each night, so you might call at a time when you can save $15 or $20. Don't call the chain's toll-free number.  Call the individual property.
* I HAVE a friend who swears by Priceline's Name Your Own Price auction.  Another friend loves  It provides advice for manual bidding and will submit bids on your behalf.  You enter a "lowball" bid and a "final offer" then its AutoBid begins bidding with your lowest
Cookie meets a old friend, Lucilla, a noted historian, at the Rome airport. 
offer, automatically raising your bid in increments until one is accepted or the highest offer is rejected.
* WE'VE ALSO booked short trips with Groupon Getaways, Overstock's Vacations, Yuupon and Living Social.  All offer deals but many are not as unique or enticing as advertised.  Last year we booked a long weekend in Mexico through Groupon then had to cancel three weeks out, well within the terms of the initial agreement.  It took three months and endless faxing and phoning to get the $750 credited back to our card, so be sure you know when you want to go and hope you don't have an emergency that necessitates cancelling.  Print out all your documentation as you go, and keep good records.
Keller prepares to take the wheel in Spain.
* WATCH OUT for short redemption periods. Be wary.   Usually they are up to a year, but I lost nearly $800 once booking a sweet sounding five-day trip to Hawaii.  The redemption window was only six months, and I hadn't paid proper attention. When I went to confirm actual dates, the "bargain" had expired. If you don't think you'll go for awhile -- or don't know when you might be able to take advantage of "the bargain," perhaps it is not worth risking.
* There are fun aps for hotel booking.  One is called Hotel Tonight, so if you have a smartphone, you can find the name of the hotel before you buy.  Sometimes you can land good last-minute rates, too, by calling the hotel after the 24-hour cancelation.  The no-show people who don't want to get charged for the night will have called to release their rooms.
* CONSIDER upgrading to a larger room especially if you're traveling with a family.  Sometimes you can get a much larger space -- a corner room or suite -- rather than booking a second room.  An upgrade might also offer the incentive of a hot tub or complimentary breakfast, and may cost only $20 or $30 more.
Now, for car tips:
Key Largo hotels and condos offer plenty of activity in nearby environs. 
* When possible, rent other than at the airport.  It's often cheaper in a downtown or suburban location. Sometimes airports tack on extra fees. Again, check it out first.
* If you arrive in the evening and are planning to travel only to your hotel the first night, call the hotel shuttle to get yourself there for just the driver's tip, and save an extra day's car rental fee.
* Many of the big car rental companies offer an on-line discount for paying ahead.
* Be careful about renting a car in one city and dropping off in another. Establish the rate at the beginning to avoid penalty fees.
 Cookie's got the keys for a rental car in Sardinia. Off to explore!
* IF YOU'RE renting for four or five days, check the weekly rate.  It is often cheaper than the daily rate times four or five.
* Don't be afraid of renting a car in Europe or elsewhere abroad.  We've done it the past five years -- always with success.  Interestingly, European rental car rates have been cheaper than domestic for us, plus you get the fun of driving at your own pace in an exotic location.

COMING WEDNESDAY:  We continue our travel tips with a look at foreign travel and how to make the most of your time abroad -- packing, picnics, phone apps, paradors and more! Remember to explore, learn and live and check us out Wednesdays and Saturdays at:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fly high, safely and in control with these pointers on air travel

When in Rome -- as Keller and Cookie are here -- check out all your airline options to continue flying high.

Do your homework, shop around, be assertive, talk to a human being when in distress  


View from a small plane approaching landing in Medford, Oregon. 
WITH TODAY'S jittery economy, federal turmoil, erratic travel costs and wear and tear that travel takes on body and soul, it would be easier to just stay home.
But we wouldn't learn.  We wouldn't explore, expand, adventure or have fun! We wouldn't have an opportunity to speak other languages, sample new cuisine, savor the differences and similarities of other cultures.
SO TRAVEL we will and travel we must.  Today, we begin a series designed to help you kick your travel methods up a notch. First, we concentrate on airfares and
Low-hanging clouds and blue skies await near Olbia, Sardinia, Spain.
airline tips.  Saturday, we'll look at hotels and rental cars.  Then we'll segue to tips on traveling abroad, with a look at money, phones and "travel apps." We've already offered pointers on traveling with pets and picking the perfect cruise for you!
TODAY, airline and flying pointers:
Whether you're traveling domestic or to Europe, be wary!
* First, be in control and do your homework, so you aren't caught off guard when something goes wrong. If, for instance, the kiosk won't recognize your confirmation code, don't get shunted to the back of the longest line to check in with a human. Make a polite fuss. Get an agent's attention to move you up the line so you won't miss your flight, as a friend just did leaving LAX. Be  aggressive but not rude.
* If you can, try to fly on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, which are cheaper than higher-priced fly days of Monday, Friday and Sunday when business travelers and vacationers are leaving and returning.  Thursday varies.
AIRLINES OFTEN release sale fares on Tuesdays.  The cheapest time to shop for them is 3 p.m. Tuesday, Eastern Standard Time.
* If your airline charges for seat assignments and you don't want to spend more for a "comfort" or "economy plus" or upgraded seat, wait until you check-in online -- 24 hours before your flight. Then the seat assignment is free. A frequent-flier friend sets his
Cookie has logged nearly five million airline miles!
Not quite as many as George Clooney's film character.
phone calendar to remind him 24 hours before the flight and seldom has a problem getting an aisle or window, usually farther back.
* SHOP AROUND.  I am loyal to Delta, because I travel internationally with Delta and her partners, using miles I rack up on domestic travel and my American Express card.  Also reference the major search sites:  Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz. If you don't mind more than one stop, you can get a cheaper fare taking the milk run. You'll be surprised at the differences in fares. They vary widely, especially internationally. If you're using miles, best to work through the airline, even though you'll pay a service fee, usually $25.  The airlines can make your miles go farther with a little congenial push and a human being on the phone.
Miami's skyline is a high-rise maze, just as intricate as navigating airlines.
* TAKE TIME to check fares a couple or three times throughout the day before you book.  Be careful about booking until you're sure you're ready.  Airlines can update fares several times a day and some may refund the difference if a fare goes down after you book.  But check first because if a fare goes down, you may be charged a "change" or "service" fee, which can be as high as $150.
 Be careful about using your hard-earned miles.
The 25,000-mile coach ticket isn't always available.
* In the old days, airlines offered a bereavement or "crisis" fare. Those days are gone, but usually airlines will work with you for "best available fare" if you have a sudden death, illness, accident or other emergency.  Again, take the time to call a
human being.  If you have miles saved, it might behoove you to use them for this special deal.  Again, check the options.
The Las Vegas skyline features many fun hotels -- here New York, 
New York, with the MGM Grand's Lion keeping watch at the right.
* USING MILES. Airlines release "x" amount of seats for each category -- and the 25,000-mile coach seat quota may be filled.  I've paid as much as 60,000 miles for a short-notice ticket domestic ticket to San Diego from Billings.  Reviewing the situation of that under-stress booking, I'd have been better off to have saved those miles toward international travel and paid the cash price the airline wanted for the domestic ticket --  even though it was high. Weigh the options.
* Tip for picking a TSA line. Never get behind a family, with all their child apparatus, or slow-moving people. Look for a businessman with a single carry-on and his shoes and computer already   in the tray. You'll zip through faster!

COMING NEXT: Our travel tips continue with pointers on hotels and car rentals.  Then we offer advice on international travel, using apps and more. Past columns have focused on cruising tips (check Jan. 27, April 20 and April 27 posts) and travel with pets (check May 4, May 8 and July 13 blogs.)
Remember to explore, learn and live. Visit us Wednesdays and Saturdays at:

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Yellowstone charms in autumn, segues into winter wonderland

Nation's first national park retains its magic for all seasons

A bison nibbles on the last of the autumn grasses on a recent drive through Yellowstone National Park.
One of Yellowstone's 10,000 hydro-thermal features,
this hot pot steams away in Norris Geyser Basin. 


THANKS TO Teddy Roosevelt and other nature loving visionaries, Yellowstone National Park has been a splendid destination for the world's travelers since its christening in 1872.
"Bully" Teddy would probably have Yellowstone open today! In our high-tech age we are privileged to see the same geysers, hot pots and wildlife that lured our pioneering forebears, fascinated and fed Indians and explorers and captured the imaginations of painters and photographers.
After dozens of visits, I have the same awe and respect for Yellowstone that I had as a child.
DRIVING THROUGH the gorgeous, fall-fringed Wapiti Valley to the park's east entrance, we spied our first grizzly.  Three days later, full circle as we wended our way through Mammoth and Gardiner, we spied another, a silver back. Three days and two grizzlies! Both were looking for food and the second one tossed a log over searching for grubs.
Wildlife abounds -- 67 species of mammals and 320 bird species.  On our Yellowstone swansong
Elk can often be seen around the Gardiner, Mammoth area.
for 2013, we saw elk and bison, eagles, osprey and much more.
IN THREE magical days, we entered or exited four of the park's five entrances, missing only the Northeast, which had closed earlier in the week and has been closed and opened a couple times since. We didn't want to risk it.
A snow coach trip to Yellowstone is a winter treat. 
THE PARK'S shops, galleries and restaurants cater to the Old West feeling that permeates Yellowstone. Awaiting our place in the lovely dining room at Lake Yellowstone Hotel, we enjoyed sunset and the lobby's live piano music -- Gershwin, Sondheim, Joplin.

OLD FAITHFUL Inn still draws acclaim. Architect Robert Reamer's signature blend of stone, pine and ornamentation charms, with its massive fireplace, clock and cozy ambiance.

A last look at the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone
as photographer Rick Cosgriffe admires the vista.

  Wintertime, we've enjoyed the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, walking distance to the famous Geyser.
Old Faithful isn't as reliable as it once was, but still she sprayed gloriously for us. We took the snow coach in from West Yellowstone, stopping for bison to navigate the wintry road.
LARGE ICE AGE animals adapted to the cold and wet of the Yellowstone region before becoming extinct.  But the first humans didn't arrive in the region until about 11,000 years ago.
 Old Faithful attracts winter visitors, just as she does in summer.
Today, hospitality, scenery and recreation combine to charm and delight people of all ages and backgrounds to Yellowstone's varied stores, eateries, lounges and cabins. There's something for everyone in a food-and-lodging range from simple cabins and cafes to lavish dining, with suites and condos offering stunning views.
IN OUR BRIEF visit, we heard a dozen languages and shared the beauty with Japanese, Italians, Germans, Swiss, French and Norwegians. Leaving our Lake cabin, we sipped cappuccino near a family from Mumbai, spellbound by the exotic critters and steaming pools.
THE SAME spectacular scenery that welcomed yesterday's mavericks and outlaws lures today's summer guests, winter's cross-country skiers and year-round appreciators of natural wonder with modern hospitality.
Wintertime lodging is cut back when much of the park closes the first Sunday in November, but it's possible to visit by snow coach and other snow vehicles mid-December to mid-March. The park reopens for wheeled vehicles in mid-April.
The north and northeast entrances are open year-round as is the road from Gardiner to Cooke City.
The famous Roosevelt Arch in Yellowstone.
For road updates, call 307 344-2117.  Nearby West Yellowstone offers a variety of year-round lodging. Contact Xanterra Parks and Resorts for information, reservations and timelines. 866 439-7375 or visit

If travel is in your future, improve
your horizons with upcoming tips.
COMING WEDNESDAY: Become a better traveler with tips on navigating the airways, stretching your dollar, flying in comfort and staying in control of your travel time. Pointers from our nearly 10-million mile savvy travelers await.
await! Remember to explore, learn and live and visit us Wednesdays and Saturdays at:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Alpenhof Lodge is Grand Teton's answer to European chalet

The Moulton Barn, one of the world's most photographed, makes a picturesque day trip from Teton Village.  

Artful Alpenhof offers ambiance, location, spectacular mountain views, gourmet breakfast in friendly Teton Village

 Our early autumn visit to the Alpenhof
yielded hospitality, fine food and splendid weather.

IT MAKES perfect sense that Europeans love the Alpenhof Lodge, tucked against the spectacular Grand Teton Range in Wyoming.
The inn has the ambiance of a Swiss or Austrian chalet, with flowers in the window boxes, a full hot breakfast, and Old World hospitality. It even has a yodeling website!
The Alpenhof has charm, convenience and location. From a cordial welcome at the front desk, to help with dining bookings, theater reservations, and park tips, the lodge delivers.
Jenny Lake is one of the Grand Teton's loveliest.
It also offers spa services and a top, high-quality massage program which is enjoyed by hikers in summer and the ski crowd in winter.
JUST A DOZEN miles northwest of Jackson, the four-story Alpenhof boasts a casual bistro and a more formal restaurant called the Alpenrose  specializing in European dishes -- fondues, game dishes, schnitzels and the like.  An extensive wine list was attracting takers when we were there recently.
THERE ARE plenty of lovely hotels and inns in Jackson and Teton Village, but the Alpenhof is front and center at the base of Jackson Hole Mountain.  It's just steps to the aerial ski tram in winter.  In summer, the box office and staging area for the acclaimed Grand Teton Music Festival are a stone's throw away.
Rose hips signal the onset of fall.
For natural wonders, the Alpenhoff Lodge has proximity.  The Grand Teton National Park's southern entrance is just north of Jackson and you may do what we did -- start in Yellowstone National Park and wend your way south, then take side trips from Moran Junction in the Jackson Hole Valley. Once the parks are reopened, of course!
Meanwhile, here's a recap of the wonders we saw while based for a long weekend at Alpenhof. The inn is steeped in the hospitality of "gemutlichkeit," an Austrian word which conjures relaxation, laughter, music, fine food and wines and a leisurely pace.  All of that is offered at Alpenhof.
One of the many artful touches at Alpenhof.
IT'S A GOOD idea to stay two full days, as we did, so you can properly experience the wonders surrounding you
and give proper attention to the Alpenhof's amenities.
One day, we headed toward Dubois and traversed the rugged Togwotee Pass (the "w" is silent.)  This heavily wooded region is located on the continental divide in the Absaroka Mountains -- and recently experienced more than two feet of snow.
The drive from Montana through Yellowstone then 
the Tetons offers many opportunities to pause.
We were spared, thank goodness, by planning our trip in late September just before the big blizzard   and the national monetary crisis conspired to close parks, passes and many roads and highways.
WE HAD perfect weather as we headed toward Dubois.  We decided not to go all the way there, choosing instead to find the famous Moulton Barn, in the Grand
Eggs Benedict, perfectly done,
and fresh fruit: Alpenhof breakfast.
Tetons.  The structure is one of the most photographed barns in the world and is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.  It was constructed in Mormon Row, now a well visited historic district, by T. A. Moulton to shelter his horses in the harsh winters for which the area is infamous.
WE SPENT a peaceful hour there, talking to other writers and photographers, enjoying the plaques and historic photos and exploring the barns, fields and corrals in this Mormon settlement.
The Alpenhof in winter. 
 We enjoyed a drive past the lovely Jenny Lake Lodge, but didn't stop for a cuppa as planned, to enjoy the splendid view.  We were running out of time and sunlight.
The proximity of winter skiing and a world-class music
festival in summer are part of Teton Village's allure.  
THE PARK'S eight large lakes and many small ones, plus glaciers, snowfields and lush pine, fir and spruce forests entertained us for another day's leisurely drive. By chance, as we returned, the mayor of Jackson popped by the parking lot, on his way to a reception.  Mark Barron's greeting is typical of the friendly welcome we received.
Regrouping in our Alpenhof room, we decided on a soak in the hot tub, and a swim in the pool -- it was still warm enough to brave that.
The Alpenhof's artful touches include plants and photos, tasteful pictures
and prints, a "bring one and take one" library shelf, delightful plaques and Swiss-Austrian chalet hints.
Antique touches abound in the 
Alpenhof's breakfast parlor.
EACH MORNING, a tasty hot breakfast is served with all the traditional fixings, from homemade granola and muesli to fresh fruits, egg dishes, meats, cheeses, juices and yogurt.
The coffee is served in a carafe -- excellent and strong -- and there are daily specials such as a Belgian inspired waffle and delicious Eggs Benedict which we enjoyed as our farewell.
The Alpenhof is a real Alpine treasure, a picturesque entree to one of our nation's most revered national parks.  Warm, friendly service, cozy and quaint rooms and fabulous food in a gorgeous setting await.  All that and natural wonders.  A pleasant way to gild the lily!
Rates vary, depending on the season.   307 733-3242.

Yellowstone National Park's many hot pools and
geysers attract worldwide attention. Once the
 parks are open again, an international clientele returns.
With the government shut-down, our national parks have sadly closed.  But the nation's first national park, Yellowstone, will soon be open for fans of winter wonderland.
Don't miss our look at Yellowstone National Park in its autumnal splendor and winter glory. Remember to explore, learn and live and visit us Saturdays and Wednesdays at: