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Author: Debbie Stone

The Hills are Alive with Culinary Treasures

The act of toasting in Austria is a custom with its own set of rules. As a visitor to this land of sophistication and unassuming elegance, it’s important to know the correct protocol. You must make eye contact with each and every person at the table, loosely hold your wine glass by the stem and solidly clink on a slight diagonal plane to achieve the ideal ring. And, remember to never cross paths with someone else’s toast, as this would be considered rude. Following these guidelines is trickier than you might imagine, particularly the aspect of eye contact. Austrians...

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Elevate Your Vacation to New Levels with a Heli-Hiking Adventure

He seemed like such a nice guy. That was the group’s initial impression of our hiking guide, Paul, a mellow, Canuck with a wry sense of humor. He appeared calm and assuring as he gathered us around to talk about our first hike of the day. Moments before, the helicopter had gently set us down in front of Howser Towers, an impressive set of peaks in the Bugaboos, a range within the Columbia Mountains of British Columbia. The name “Bugaboo” actually means a hoax in Old English. Story has it that when folks came up here looking for gold,...

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Mountains, Monasteries and More in the Mystical ‘Land of the Thunder Dragon’

A revered lama and leading astrologer, Master Wengdi of the Paga Monastery in Bhutan, told me that I’m a fire monkey, born under a metal sign that imbues me with confidence and energy. Driven to success, I often gravitate towards leadership roles where I can exercise control and call upon my ability to draw people to me. But, I can be competitive and stubborn (true), allowing my strong will and needs to overwhelm me, sometimes making decisions based on emotion and not logic (also true). To help balance the forces within me, Master Wengdi recommended that I practice patience...

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Discover the beauty of Appalachia on a Smoky Mountains hiking trip

The humidity was so thick you could cut it with a knife, even a plastic one would easily do the job. At this point I was trudging up a trail, sweating profusely, swatting at annoying gnats, and solely focused on my discomfort. Ian, our guide, suddenly stopped the group and asked that we listen to the sounds around us for a moment. At first, I confess I was a bit annoyed, as I simply wanted to get to our destination as quickly as possible. But then, I had one of those “aha” moments, when I slowly became aware of...

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Mayberry Meets Manhattan in Bentonville, Arkansas

Telling friends and family I was going to Bentonville, Arkansas, was, based on their reactions, akin to informing them I was going to Siberia. I received baffled looks, followed by questions like, “Why?” “Whatever for?”–and my favorite, “You’re doing this on purpose?” I tried explaining the reasons for my trip: the primary one being to visit the renowned Crystal Bridges Museum, but still the confusion and puzzlement persisted. I admit Arkansas had never been one of those must-go-to destinations for me, most likely because I didn’t know much about our country’s 25th state. I envisioned the place to be...

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The Allure of Off-Season Travel on Cape Cod and Nantucket

Cape Cod There’s nothing like strolling on a pristine ocean beach with nary a soul in sight and only the occasional gull or plover to share the space. Far off in the distance, a pair of whales spout, while nearby, several seals play peekaboo in the water. The air is fresh and crisp, and Mother Nature’s good mood means ample sunshine. It’s April on Cape Cod and the crowds have yet to make their way to this captivating destination. Come Memorial Day, however, they will be here en masse, staking claim to their spots in the sand, lining up...

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Surprises Abound in OKC

It’s the initial ascent that provides the buildup to the exhilaration you’ll soon experience. At the precipice, you look down and your heart starts thumping because you know what’s going to happen next. You scream when the first shock of cold water hits, and then, before you can get another word out, you’re careening down a wild wave train. Your raft bounces, hits a few obstacles and spins you around, forcing you to manipulate the rapids in a rear-facing position. The only thing to do is obey your guide’s commands, dig deep with your paddle and say a prayer...

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Beads, Glorious Beads! Mardi Gras in Mobile, The ‘City That was Born to Celebrate’

One minute I was a very sane, controlled woman watching a parade. Then, before I knew it, I had joined the masses of men, women and children jumping up and down screaming for beads. Yes, beads! And oh, did I want them. As they were tossed and thrown in spectacular fashion by the revelers on the floats, I eagerly grabbed these colorful strands. And when they dropped to the ground, I scrambled to scoop them up. I confess I became a bit competitive in my desire to acquire as many beads as possible. By the end of the parade,...

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The Yukon will leave you spellbound

To most folks, the idea of taking a vacation in the Yukon during the winter seems absurd. The geographically-challenged might first wonder where the Yukon is actually located. Then when they find out it’s in the far northwest corner of Canada, they immediately imagine enduring howling winds, thirty below temps and unfathomable amounts of snow and ice amid miles of forbidding wilderness, and emphatically say, “Thanks, but no thanks!” But, to those in the know, this remote Canadian Territory is a region of dramatic beauty with a rich history, vibrant culture, incredible natural wonders and limitless landscape that’s ripe...

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Shed your cares and your parka–and head to Maui this winter

There’s a reason Maui continuously gets rated as one of the world’s best islands by readers of various travel publications. Actually, there are multiple reasons for this distinction. Many of them hit home for me on a recent visit to this tropical Hawaiian locale. The weather is a definite enticement. Typically, Maui’s temps remain consistently balmy year-round, with usually no more than a ten degree fluctuation between seasons. The same, monotonous forecast day after day is music to most folks’ ears, especially in the wintertime for those coming from cold climates. Everyone gladly exchanges parkas and woolens for tees...

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You’ll Fall Hard for This Texas Burg

It doesn’t take long to realize there’s something special about Fredericksburg. For a small Texas Hill Country town, its attractions are numerous and noteworthy. Visitors have long been attracted to the area due to its picturesque scenery, deep historical roots, outdoor recreation opportunities, eclectic shops, colorful cultural vibe, great food and prolific wine scene. And then, there’s the people. You won’t find friendlier or more hospitable folks who truly “walk the talk” when it comes to putting out the Willkommen mat to their town. They’ve even named all of the streets crossing Main to the east so that their...

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A Giacometti Pilgrimage

Switzerland is known for many things, including top-of-the-line watches, rich chocolates, a fine selection of cheese, diversity of languages, picturesque natural beauty and its neutrality in regards to world affairs. What most folks don’t realize is that this charming country also has a reputation for art, rivaling that of numerous other European nations in regards to size and scope of collections within its museums. Additionally, many famous artists are from Switzerland, including Paul Klee, Ferdinand Hodler, Jean Tinguely, Arnold Böcklin and Méret Oppenheim. The most renowned, however, is Alberto Giacometti. As I grew up in the Windy City, the...

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