Author: Debi Lander

Cruising Portugal’s River of Gold

River cruising, luxury sailing on ships smaller than ocean liners, has gained tremendous popularity, especially with the Boomer generation. The desire for adventure and learning is enhanced by what is called “experiential travel” or connecting participants with the history and culture of a destination. The journey includes excursions and interactive workshops in cities and towns strung along the waterway. I recently took a Viking River Cruise in Portugal that not only met, but also exceeded those goals. Arrival in Lisbon Portugal rests in Southwestern Europe bordering Spain and the Atlantic Ocean. The entire country is only about half the...

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Perfection at the Adler Thermae Resort

There’s a famous quote that says, “Traveling is the ruin of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building after seeing Italy.” I tend to agree. I found it hard to resist the emotional pull of the wondrous Duomo in Florence, Rome’s ancient Coliseum or the colorful row of houses on the tiny island of Burano. Italy’s towering mountains, sunny landscapes and rustic charms accompanied by fabulous food and wine and Italian hospitality make it one of the finest travel destinations anywhere. The abundance of Renaissance art alone made my head spin. I found myself mesmerized by my surroundings,...

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Aria Budapest Hotel Sings

The Aria Hotel Budapest sings with excitement the moment you pass through the door of the original 1880s exterior into its modern decor. No doubt the tone is the result of its inspiration and musical concept by master designer Zoltan Varro. The luxury boutique hotel followed his passion to “simultaneously recreate the rich, lavish atmosphere of a historic Hungarian palace while also embracing visitors in the warmth and comfort of a private residence.” All I can say is the lobby wraps you in music and surrounds you with delicate notes of beauty. Follow the keyboard tiles snaking through the...

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Four Seasons Gresham Palace in Budapest

The Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest sits on fabled history almost as long as its name. The renovated historic venue along the Danube River was constructed from 1904-06 over the Nákó House, a neo-classical palace built in 1827. Visitors now wander the lobby, off Széchenyi Square, and experience the grandeur of old-time Budapest. The smart ones book a room. Originally, the palace served as an office building but was also a home for wealthy British aristocrats connected with the Gresham Company. Bombing of the nearby Chain Bridge during WWII caused great damage. After the war, Soviets occupied the...

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Savoring Sun Valley and the Trailing of the Sheep

When Hemingway first came to Idaho—on September 19, 1939, to be exact¬ home was Suite 206 at the Sun Valley Lodge. “Glamour House,” he nicknamed it, and so it remains. The Sun Valley Resort is the granddaddy of U.S. ski resorts, the first in the nation, founded by W. Averell Harriman in 1936. Since then it has attracted the rich and famous for  seasonal recreation:  golf, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, swimming, tennis ice-skating and skiing. The chic yet cozy Sun Valley Lodge has been updated and remodeled many times and, in fact, the resort just finished another monumental overhaul....

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Florida Secrets: Finding Flagler County

Flagler County hovers under the radar between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, Florida, including a swath of historic Highway A1A that runs along the scenic Atlantic coastline. Drivers often stop for a meal at one of the Mom and Pop establishments along this route and discover Flagler’s hidden gems. Amy Lukasik, Director of Tourism, says, “We draw the accidental tourists, and once they find us, they return year after year.” What makes the Flagler Beaches and Palm Coast so special? The folks that live there swear it’s the strong community spirit. Many current residents who were not originally Floridians,...

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Best Time of the Year to Visit New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana promises and delivers good times year round. Mardi Gras brings the biggest and most boisterous crowds, summer is laid back, but the days following Thanksgiving through Christmas are the best. Temperatures are ideal; the streets are clean and warmly festooned with green boughs, red bows and white lights. New Orleans follows its deep Catholic roots and celebrates Christmas, not the winter holidays.   The season brings many special events, and one of the finest is the free concert series in the historic St. Louis Cathedral and Basilica. Listen to prominent New Orleans musicians, church choirs and...

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Asheville’s Hidden Gems

Downtown Asheville, North Carolina buzzes with a collective hum. Perhaps it’s due to the city’s membership in the Bee City USA national pollination program. More likely it’s because Asheville resonates for everyone: the rich and famous who came in the 1920s, today’s health enthusiasts who bicycle, jog or hike the mountainous roads, musicians who perform on street corners and micro-breweries that concoct the latest craft beer. Asheville is a happening crossroads where visitors, locals and honeybees thrive on diversity and natural delights. I was attracted by the elegant  and extraordinary Biltmore Estate, Asheville’s claim to fame. No wonder; it’s America’s...

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Open-Air Flying in a Biplane

Old style leather flying helmet over my hair, goggles on my head, and scarf wrapped around my neck; I’m ready to take flight, feeling like Amelia Earhart and those 1920’s barnstormers. Pilot Dave Genet at the St. Augustine Regional Airport instructs me about the biplane and flight plan before explaining how to enter the open-air cockpit, “Step in backwards with the first leg and then slowly turn around as you lift the second leg.”

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Tour, Dine or Stay at Nottoway Plantation

Plantations were a way of life in the South before the Civil War. While tobacco was profitable and cotton was king, in Louisiana they grew sugar. A strip in south Louisiana along the Mississippi River, from New Orleans north to Baton Rouge, had the highest concentration of millionaires in America. These owners used the Mississippi River to export their product abroad. I recently stopped by Nottoway, one of the grand old southern estates, a former sugarcane plantation called the White Castle. The location later became known as White Castle, Louisiana. It’s the largest surviving antebellum home in the South...

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New Disney Bungalows Offer Polynesian Perfection

Staying in a Disney Hotel or Resort provides one of the best perks of a memorable visit to the Magic Kingdom. Now, one of Disney World’s original and most beloved properties, the tropical Polynesian Village Resort, has undergone a fabulous make-over. Anyone who enjoyed the resort in past will find the improved version even better. Disney’s 20 new luxury bungalows at the Polynesian have become the choicest place to stay in Orlando. Think Bora Bora meets Disney World. The individual lodges hover over the water of the Seven Sea Lagoon and command prime views of Cinderella’s Castle and the...

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Experiencing Minorca’s Festival of Saint John

Mention you’re going to the Balearic Islands, and you might get a quizzical look. More likely, the four islands will be recognized by their individual names: Mallorca, Ibiza, Minorca and the least well known, Formentera. They lie off the coast of Spain in the western Mediterranean Sea between the mainland and Africa. Catalan and Spanish are the official languages, but many locals understand English. The Balearics rank as favorite vacations spots for Spaniards and other Europeans. Many tourists from the UK visit annually, but relatively few Americans. The easiest U.S. gateway is through Madrid, and then you can hop...

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