Thursday, January 25, 2024

Savannah's wonders: stately buildings, lovely parks, lively River Street, theater, boats, cafes and trolleys all invite inspection


Savannah is famous for its inviting squares, beautiful oak trees and peaceful parks.

The Capitol Building of Savannah is one of many stately buildings in the
city.  Besides government buildings, many historic homes can be visited.


The SCAD beach -- a
retreat and attraction
for students and tourists.

GEORGIA'S OLDEST city, Savannah, is a  gracious, welcoming town which honors its past while embracing the new. Historians claim that Savannah was spared during Sherman's march in December of 1864.  Some say he spared the beautiful city because his mistress lived there.  Others claim he was simply taken with Savannah's beauty.  In any case, Savannah surrendered without a siege.
Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers pause at a
Patrick Dougherty installation at SCAD -- the famed
Savannah College of Art and Design.
We know today's Savannah as both old fashioned and contemporary, a city of many faces.  It's famous worldwide for its stately, well preserved homes and inviting squares, hundreds of oaks with that artful Spanish moss,  gorgeous coastal landscapes, lively shops and restaurant, and a range of art galleries. It boasts a marvelous contemporary art museum and lively shows at the historic Savannah Theatre, where "Fiddler on the Roof" is getting raves -- up through Feb. 11.
Savannah is considered America's first planned city because of British born
James Oglethorpe's orderly squares marking the city. It was e
stablished in 1733.
Savannah's Old Town Trolley is a delightful way to explore
the city, with lively informative guides and many stops.

THE PLENTIFUL squares -- 22 in total -- make it a beautiful and inviting walking town.  You can enjoy a beverage at dozens of restaurants and bars within easy reach of the squares, while admiring stylish architecture in Savannah's Historic District.
Salute native son, composer Johnny Mercer at the Mercer-Williams House Museum. His great-grandfather built it and while he didn't actually live there,  he is honored in tour narration.  Readers of contemporary novels will remember the house and
Talmadge Memorial Bridge is one of the
sights you'll see when you take a riverboat.
Monterey Square, made famous by the novel, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” The home and its palm trees have an air of eeriness that makes for an intriguing visit. Cemeteries, ghost stories, shadowy entry ways and creaking steps are part of Savannah's Old Town Trolley's Ghost Tour which we enjoyed.

Savannah Theatre is one
of the country's oldest,
with lively productions.
The much used trolley also offers a daytime hop on/off historic district city tour -- our favorite -- with entertaining guides.  They offer interesting narrative as the trolley wends its way through the oak-lined streets and past the beautiful squares and buildings that disti
nguish this stately city.
We loved this relaxing, informative tour, which covers famous landmarks including the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and the Andrew Low House, where we learned of the patriarch's rise from rags to incredible riches.

Mercer Williams House Museum is an elegant
reminder of Savannah's graceful architecture.
It rocketed to fame with the best-selling
"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."

OUR GUIDE pointed out lovely
Forsyth Park, a pinnacle of Savannah's beauty. We hopped off to stroll through 30 acres of live oak trees, and lush azaleas while admiring ornate Victorian mansions
The Waving Girl statue
is of Florence Martus,
Her sailor didn't return
We spent the better part of two days on River Street, the city's oldest street, unique in many ways. This colorful but uneven walkway is picturesque, but a bit hard on the feet -- paved with 200 year old ballast-stones, artfully recycled from stones used to weigh down cotton ships. We dined
often on this aptly named street with fun restaurants, boutiques and historical monuments. Our favorite is the Weeping Girl, who waved in vain at ships entering the harbor, hoping for a return of her sailor lover.
More information: 912-226-6805 912 232-6404 912 233-7764

Kualoa Ranch on the island of Oahu is an historic, family
 run enterprise dedicated to preserving Hawaii's history
and culture while offering fun activities for all ages.
NEXT UP: Kualoa Ranch awaits.  A unique, environmentally  sensitive enterprise has preserved respect for the land on the island of Oahu for generations, since 1850. The family-run working ranch offers an array of activities, from horseback riding to biking, zip lines, a farm tour and a tour of locations for movies made on the island. Great fun for couples, families or adventure loving friends. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each week for a fresh spin on travel, family, the arts, nature and more. 


Thursday, January 11, 2024

CityPASS offers an economical fun way to enjoy a city's attractions

Put yourself in the center of the action with CityPASS, a great money-saving concept available
in many U.S. cities and Toronto. Here, Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers enjoy
a CityPASS view of New York from the "Top of the Rock" at Rockefeller Center.


Keller and Cookie in the
magnificent Ellis Island
Entry Hall.


New York's One World Trade Center towers high and proud.

LOOKING FOR a way to save time and money and see more when you visit a major American city?
Step right up and get yourself a CityPASS.
It's a perfect way to enjoy a city in a few days, maximize your time and save bucks.  We've enjoyed the user-friendly booklets of CityPASS in New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Seattle -- always with ease and satisfaction.  We use it as a couple, and we've met families, singles and small groups  saving money with CityPASS, too.
SO WHAT exactly is CityPASS?
Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie"
Meyers enjoy CityPASS on a
New York ferry trip. 
Simply, it's a sight-seeing booklet with passes to get you into major places at greatly reduced admissions. Another plus is that you don't have to wait for lines or tickets. Once you have the booklet, you can choose your time and date, book on line and go right into your attraction.
With a savings more than 40 per cent off regular adult admission prices, you'll save a bundle.
Each city's offerings are different, and you may not use every attraction -- typically five or six admissions -- but you'll save money. If you use only three admissions, the pass has paid for itself. And having paid for the booklet, you'll want to get your money's worth, so the purchase is also an incentive to get out and tour!
The imaginative glass art of world renowned artist
Dale Chihuly is part of a Seattle CityPASS ticket.
AND INSTEAD OF rushing about, spending money on taxis and buses, you'll go straight to where you want. In this last trip to New York, we visited One World Trade Center, admiring the  Memorial and Museum, zipped to the top of the Empire State Building and took a ferry to the remarkable Ellis Island Immigration Museum. We also went to the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockefeller Center. We planned our time, set our own pace and divided our day into morning and afternoon jaunts, to save the evenings for theater.
WE BASED this time at The Quin, an elegant, centrally located hotel with a gracious feel. It's near Central Park at 101 W. 57th St and Sixth Avenue -- very convenient for CityPASS users who can walk

Christene "Cookie" Meyers and
Bruce Keller pose in front of the Statue
of Liberty. Easy subway connections
to the ferry, from the Quin. 
easily to several of the book's offerings. You're in one of the world's most amazing cities, a stone's throw from the Russian Tea Room and Carnegie Hall.  It's a fabulous walking city, so stroll, rather than taking taxis everywhere. If you're going to The Village, financial district or taking a ferry or tour, you'll find New York's subways efficient and user friendly. 

ONCE YOU HAVE your book of admission tickets,  you don't have to rush because you have a year to use the booklet. Plus it's good for nine consecutive days from the day of your first use. CityPASS uses experienced travelers and consultants who have lived in the cities for years, allowing them to pick the best attractions presented in an easy access ticket booklet.

It's well worth the money. Tally the individual admissions and you'll see. For example, in New York, on one visit, we used it for the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a Circle Line cruise and a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. On another visit, we used it for the Top of the Rock, Ellis Island and a return to both the Guggenheim and American Museum of Natural History. Three admissions alone are more than the booklet costs.  

IN SEATTLE, the pass offers entree to the marvelous, magical art of Dale Chihuly Garden and Glass.  In Chicago we enjoyed the magnificent Field Museum of Natural History with CityPASS.

The Quin is an ideal hotel for using CityPASS
in New York. Its many enticements include friendly
helpful staff with excellent tips for touring and
theater, an interactive artist salons and a video wall
In our home base of San Diego, CityPASS covers sights and attractions in both our town and Los Angeles, with world famous venues included, from Disneyland to LEGOLAND and Sea World. It's a unique "SoCal" pass, including major attractions in both cities.

CityPASS delights in Seattle

As part of its excellent customer service, the company provides an invaluable "help"   phone number, a real boon. When fog and rain made for zero visibility at our Top of the Rock visit, we contacted CityPASS. They thoughtfully rebooked us so we could see the view on the next sunny day. Terrific.
 Can't wait to use CityPASS in upcoming San Antonio, Houston, Orlando, Toronto and Boston visits. for tickets and more information.


A taste treat of many unique honeys is on tap at Honey and
Bee Savannah, where a sweet time is guaranteed. 
  1. NEXT UP: Savoring Savannah. This gracious southern city is known for delicious food served with  enthusiasm.  From grits and shrimp in a creamy sauce to dozens of tasty honeys, to a delectable spicy chicken sandwich, to double-fried pork chops you eat with your fingers and tacos with peach salsa and a southern twang, it's on tap in Savannah.  Top it off with what many believe is the world's best ice cream: Leopold's. It's all on tap with Savannah Taste Experience Food Tours. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh approach to travel, food, performance, nature, family and more.

A bravura six-person cast delivers a five-star performance
of "Intimate Apparel" at North Coast Repertory Theatre.  
--photo courtesy Aaron Rumley


An engaging evening of theater awaits at "Intimate Apparel," on stage through Feb. 4 at North Coast Repertory Theatre. This lovely, seemingly light-hearted production reveals dark yet great truths about human nature, offering a thinking person the opportunity to grow and expand, as the show's themes do. A stellar cast on a fabulous detailed set tells the story of a middle-aged seamstress of "intimate apparel" who yearns for a larger life in her dreary New York routine. Nedra Snipes as Ester headlines the gifted ensemble who surround this noble character. We watch the actor's expressive face convey the journey from innocence to wary understanding, each of us maturing a bit with her. Pulitzer winning playwright Lynn Nottage deftly crafts this memorable group of struggling people, whose lives are intertwined in complex ways. It's a thinking person's evening at the theater, with a superb cast. Jasmine Bracey's evocative direction enhances the lovely costumes and moody lighting of this enlightening story. Bravos, bravas all around.




Thursday, January 4, 2024

Cruising the light fantastic on Viva, a floating city with so much to do

NCL's Viva has it all -- inviting open spaces, welcoming dining options, top shows, intriguing art in
cabins and public spaces and diversions for all ages ranging from a fun ice bar to 3-level race track.


Set your sights on something new, daring and exciting for
the new year.  Here we are on NCL's new cruise ship
Viva. The Speedway is a three-level race track. 



EACH TIME we book a ship, we research the architecture, art and design. It's important for us to be surrounded by intriguing artwork and inviting spaces to explore on these floating resorts.

We also look for fun shows and for activities that stretch our minds and bodies. And we avoid noisy "party ships" or those with lots of children.
Norwegian Cruise Line's newest floating palace, Viva, fills our bill. She's one of cruising's prettiest ships,  an artful wonder on the water. Like her sister ship, Prima, Viva doesn't feel huge or overwhelming.  Her ambiance is relaxed, understated, with the intimate spaces of a small ship -- despite 3,900 guests.  We seldom saw the same people twice, and felt quickly in control of our space in this thoughtfully designed vessel, the latest of NCL's 19-ship fleet.  

Viva's artful design includes inviting promenades, pools,
artwork, pools and many places to relax and view the sea. 

IF YOU'RE bored on Viva, you lack imagination and have no one to blame but yourself. There is truly something for every taste. I challenged myself on the three-level race track, where young hotshots vie for top scores each day.  We enjoyed trivia contests about movies, music and geography, and explored the state-of-the-art gym -- but not nearly enough.   A huge thermal spa boasts inviting steam rooms and saunas. The roster of activities is staggering.

The open, airy Indulge Food Hall is a favorite
dining option in a wide range on the Viva.

VIVA  SPORTS both a waterslide
and a dry slide, VR games, mini-golf, darts, and a three-level race track.
Four swimming pools welcome water buffs. And the ship's sculpture-lined promenade is one of the most attractive we've strolled in our 138 cruises.
Viva's Ice Bar was a fun place for a visit -- giving new meaning to "chill out." We donned warm insulated coats and grabbed an icy beverage. Cliché, perhaps, but there's something for all on this lovely, small city/ship.

Inside the Vibe, enjoy your own cabana.
AS ON MANY other lines -- unless you're splurging for an all inclusive cruise -- you pay extra for boxed water, sodas, alcohol, specialty restaurants, and shore excursions. Various packages allow flexibility in booking. One option is the adults-only Vibe Beach Club.  For an additional fee, you'll enjoy access to this delightful area. It became a favorite haunt, where we enjoyed morning coffee, lunch and sunset cocktails as an option to our balcony which wasn't always in the sun.
ONE OF our favorites of the ship's 14 varied restaurants is its popular Indulge Food Hall, where we ordered tasty ethnic, made-to-order items on an electronic menu. It's an appealing, innovative place with a menu at each table. 
Other fun Viva options: A saltwater pool on the sun deck allows relaxation while happily floating, trading your pale skin for a tan.
And for solo travelers, a variety of studio suites offers options for single travelers -- avoiding the usual single supplement charge.

IF YOU WANT even more luxury, try The Haven, an exclusive enclave with larger  
The Viva offers a choice of slides -- both water and dry.
There are beautiful sea views from almost everywhere.
Here, Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers enjoy.

accommodations, 24-hour butler service and world-class amenities, exclusively for Haven guests. You'll have a separate elevator and restricted space, much like Cunard's exclusive  "Grills" accommodations.
IF YOU BOOK this option, it's within a centralized all-suite complex on Viva, easy distance to the private elevators. Its elegant  public areas and suites are by famed Italian designer Piero Lissoni. Every Haven locale offers stunning sea views.
We didn't stay in Haven, but were invited by the amiable French born general manager Nelson Martins to dine there. Martins is a "hands on" manager, well liked by the staff and a steady presence on the ship, chatting clients up, seeing what they like. We enjoyed our time with him immensely. 
You don't need Haven to be in heaven on Viva. We were happy on back-to-back Viva cruises, to enjoy our large veranda stateroom on deck 15. In fact, we've booked Viva for another pair of cruises in 2024, a trans-Atlantic crossing from San Juan to Lisbon to and a Mediterranean cruise.

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers spent a recent day
admiring "Lady Liberty" and touring with a CityPASS.

UP NEXT: CityPASS is a wonderful, money saving way to enjoy U.S. cities and their major sights and attractions.  We've enjoyed it in several cities because it saves time and money. If you want to move to the front of the line and spend more time enjoying rather than planning, it's the ticket.  We explore New York City this time with CityPASS, which also goes to Chicago, Toronto, Seattle, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Houston and a total of 14 U.S. cities plus Toronto in Canada. The program offers a packet of discount tickets to many of each city's major attractions. In New York, we explored on the city's famous ferry system, took in Rockefeller Center's "Top of the Rock," toured the Empire State Building, and Ellis Island, plus more adventures. Check us out next time, remembering to explore, learn and live.