Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Le Blanc Spa Resort Cancun

Le Blanc Spa Resort Cancun is an adults only all inclusive resort in the hotel zone of Cancun. This spa resort is focused on relaxation, excellent service, and gourmet dining.  This is the type of resort that passes out chilled cucumber slices instead of mystery shots by the pool. The resort has two pool - an infinity pool with views of the oceans and an activity pool facing the lagoon that hosts in water cycling classes and pool volleyball.  Be sure to download the App.

I filmed this resort tour in March 2020. Take a peek:

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Virtual Vacation: Yosemite National Park

As Americans are starting to look at getting out and about this summer and looking to squeeze in a trip, many are looking for vacations that are outdoors. 

Last week we took a look at the Smoky Mountains area in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. This week lets head west and check out Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. 

Yosemite National Park was created in 1890 by an act of Congress. It was the first time the U.S. Government protected land for public enjoyment, laying the foundation for the establishment of our national and state park systems. The park is best known for its waterfalls, towering granite monoliths, deep valleys, and ancient sequoias. It encompasses 1189 square miles, and is located about 140 miles east of San Francisco. 

The park has just re-opened to the public after being shutdown for 83 days due to the coronavirus pandemic. Like many attractions around the country, the park is taking a phased in approach to opening. Popular landmarks and hiking trails are open, but the museums and visitor centers are still closed. Only one campground is open, but the shuttles around the Valley and at Mariposa Grove won’t be operating at all this summer. Lodging is available at Yosemite Valley Lodge, Curry Village, and Ahwahnee. Only about half the usual number of visitors for this time of year will be able to get in to the park, so you will need reservations to visit. 

Let’s take a look at some highlights of the park:

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Cancun All Inclusive: Hard Rock Cancun

Hard Rock Cancun is a family all inclusive resort in the Hotel Zone of Cancun. It lives up to the Hard Rock brand with music programs for teens and adults, an active vibe, and a lobby filled with memorabilia. The kids' club is large and the pool area of oceanfront. Rock Royalty rooms have access to two rooftop pools - one for adults and one for all ages.

I filmed this tour in March 2020. Take a peek:

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Monday, June 22, 2020

COVID Travel Update: All Inclusive Resorts

When will all inclusive resorts reopen?

A common question has been: When will all inclusive resorts reopen?

Below is information that is current as of June 22, 2020. 

A few things to keep in mind about visiting an all inclusive resort during the COVID pandemic:
  • Swim up bars are closed
  • Occupancy is 25% - 30% so restaurants have not all be open.
  • Buffets are closed or adapted with staff to serve.
  • Excursions may not be available.
  • Masks are required on flights and in airports.
  • If you or a travel companion test positive upon arrival – you may be required to finish a 14 day quarantine in country.

For more specific country information: 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Virtual Vacation: Smoky Mountains

As the U.S. begins to open up and people are starting to look a bit at travel I thought this week we would check out the Great Smoky Mountains area, which is a drivable destination for close to half the country. 

The Smokies are named for the blue mist that always seems to hover the peaks and valleys. The Cherokee called them shaconage, (shah-con-ah-jey) or “place of the blue smoke. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934 and is comprised of ridge upon ridge of endless forest on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee.

Gatlinburg, TN is a mountain resort town that borders the Smoky Mountains and offers many tourist attractions aside from the mountains. Tennessee’s only ski resort, Ober Gatlinburg is famed for its aerial tramway. 

The Gatlinburg Space Needle offers an amazing panoramic view of the town and the Smoky Mountains. There are also several Ripley’s facilities, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ripley’s Moving Theater and more. Visitors will also find tons of unique shopping and dining experiences. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Sandals Barbados versus Sandals Grande Antigua

In this video, we compare resort tours of Sandals Barbados and Sandals Grande Antigua. Sandals Barbados and Sandals Royal Barbados and Sandals Grande Antigua are both located on exotic islands with great beaches. Sandals Barbados / Sandals Royal Barbados is one of the Sandals' newest resorts. Sandals brought lots of great amenities to this resort - a bowling alley, a rooftop lounge, and all the best suites.

Sandals Grande Antigua has more Caribbean charm. Sandals Grande Antigua's rooms are all very different and the resort sprawls along a long beach.
Take a look:

I personally love the modern, new amenities at Sandals Barbados and Sandals Royal Barbados.  I do love Antigua as an island especially a sunset at Shirley Heights.

Which one would you pick?

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Virtual Experiences: United States Civil Rights Museums

We support equity for all and specifically, the Black Lives Matter movement. We compiled this list of civil rights museums with virtual resources for those interested in learning more about the long history of systemic racism in the United States. 

The United States Civil Right Trail has an online gallery of sites and settings across 14 states that have contributed to the nation’s civil rights narrative. Click on each picture to learn the significance of the site. 

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture located in Washington, D.C. recently released a “Talking About Race” Web Portal which provides participants with tools and guidance to understand and inspire conversation on the issues of Race, Racism, and Racial Identity. The Museum also offers a Digital Resource Guide to explore, learn and engage with the museum.

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park is located in Atlanta, Georgia. The park consists of several buildings including his boyhood home, and Ebenezer Baptist Church where King was baptized and where he and his father were pastors. The National Park Service offers a guided virtual tour of the birth home of Martin Luther King, Jr., click here to learn what Dr. King's life was like as a young boy.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in downtown Birmingham, AL is located in the heart of one of the most violent civil rights battlegrounds. Martin Luther King, Jr. called Birmingham the most segregated city in the country and he was jailed here for leading civil rights demonstrations. The museum is currently closed due to COVID-19, but they are offering 25 lesson plans for K-12 students about the Civil Rights Movement online. 

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr., was shot and killed while standing on the balcony at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, TN. After King’s death the hotel went into decline and eventually closed. In 1991 the site reopened and became the National Civil Rights Museum. During its COVID closing the museum is offering virtual programs as well as its Small But Mighty Storytime online. Geared towards families and children, Small but Mighty Storytime focuses on peacemaking, kindness, diversity, and creating positive social change.

The Rosa Parks Museum is located at Troy University in Alabama. Several items related to her famous protest of bus segregation in Montgomery can be found here, including her arrest records and fingerprints, 1950’s-era city bus, and a restored 1955 station wagon used to transport protestors. For a brief history of her famous protest and a tour of the museum, click here

In May of 1961, Freedom Riders stepped off a bus at the Montgomery, Alabama bus station with a goal to help end racial segregation in public transportation. These Freedom Riders were male and female, black and white, and none of them older than 22. They prepared to meet violence with non-violence, many prepared wills and farewell letters. The Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery tells their story. During the museum's temporary closing you can find information about the Freedom Riders and live educational events on their Facebook page

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum takes a look at the history of racial violence in the state including the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, Medger Evers who established the office of the NAACP in Jackson and was assassinated in his own driveway and the abduction and murder of three civil rights workers in 1964. Check out this virtual tour of the museum:

The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights whose mission is to teach the history of the Holocaust and advance human rights and combat prejudice, hatred and indifference has a special online exhibit right now, The Fight for Civil Rights in the South. The exhibit covers two prestigious photography exhibitions, the iconic march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, including the moment Martin Luther King, Jr. led more than 2,000 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the peaceful protest in Anniston, Alabama in 1961 that turned violent with the burning of the Freedom Riders Bus.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Virtual Vacation: Moscow, Russia

A Look at Moscow, Russia
By: Katy Dehavn

This week's Virtual Vacation is to Moscow, Russia! Many people are surprised to find out that I spent two weeks there during my junior year of high school on an exchange program. 

We went in November, which I don’t recommend, it was cold and dreary most of the time. The best time for a visit is in April and May. This time of year the sun is shining for a significant part of the day and the hotel rates haven’t hit their summer peak prices yet. 

Let’s see what the city has to offer! The most iconic symbol of Moscow is Red Square, located in the heart of the capital and it is arguably the most visited attraction in Moscow. Once a market where traders would sell their goods, this key location in the city is surrounded by the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, and many other attractions. This short 360 degree video provides views of Red Square and has some quick facts and figures about a few of the buildings that surround it. 

Be sure to follow the arrows. 

Meaning “ fortress inside a city," the Kremlin is a former imperial residence, it was built during the 19th century during the reign of Nicholas I of Russia. The fortress has four gateways and a back gate that conceals a secret passage to the Moscow River. Today it is the primary working residence of the President of the Russian Federation. 

 Located next to the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral was built between 1555 and 1561 by order of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, and is Moscow’s most famous artistic work of architecture. 

The Cathedral’s official name is Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat. Click here for an interactive history tour of the Cathedral. 

 Located in the heart of Red Square is GUM the most iconic department store in Russia, was built in 1893. Until the 1920’s it was known as the Upper Trading Rows. Today it includes luxury shops such as Louis Vuitton, Prada and shops selling gourmet food items, wine, chocolate, and classic Soviet products. 

 Also found in Red Square is Lenin’s Mausoleum, the resting place of the preserved corpse of communist leader, Vladimir Lenin. He is laid to rest beneath bulletproof glass, sharply dressed in a suit. There are strict no-talking, no-photography, and no-cell phones policies while in the mausoleum. The resting place of the Father of the Revolution is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular tourist destination. 

Gorky Park, the central park in Moscow covers an area of 300 acres and offers visitors a wide variety of activities including walking paths, bike rentals, boat rentals, a carousel, a playground, food venues, outdoor movies in the summer and ice skating in the winter. 

Arbat Street is one of the busiest and most popular streets in Moscow. This pedestrian only street offers shops, restaurants, museums, theaters and small amusement rides. The Pushkin Memorial House is also nearby. This was the residence of Alexander Pushkin and his wife Natalia after their wedding. 

 The Bolshoi Theater is Moscow’s premier opera and ballet house dating back to 1776.

 It is one of the most respected performance venues in the world. Google Arts and Culture offers a wonderful in-depth look at this magnificent theater which I was fortunate enough to see a live performance of “Giselle" at. 

 I hope you enjoyed you time visiting some of the sites in this historical city. It was a fun trip down memory lane for me. Check out this One Day in Moscow video which offers a great virtual tour of the highlights of the city.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Sandals Royal Plantation versus Sandals Ochi Beach

Royal Plantation or Ochi

I often get asked - Which is better Sandals Royal Plantation or Sandals Ochi Beach? This resorts are widely different, but they are next door to each other. Plus if you stay at Sandals Royal Plantation, you can access Sandals Ochi Beach.

Sandals Royal Plantation is a small, intimate resort with only 74 rooms. Every room is assigned a butler. The French restaurant is terrific. It has a small beach.

Sandals Ochi is a huge resort with three sections. The hillside has most of the butler accommodations as well as a large pool with swim up bar. Seaside and the Beach Club have more restaurants and the small beach.

I think the perfect fix is staying at Sandals Royal Plantation and visiting Sandals Ochi. It gives you the best of both worlds - a quiet relaxing home base and lots of options for fun and excitement right next door.

Take a look:

Which one would you pick?

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Virtual Vacation: Vancouver British Columbia

Vancouver is the major urban center of western Canada. It's a great walking city with nearby mountains and rain forests.

Vancouver is a popular departure port for Alaska cruises. Here's a peek into what I did during a pre-cruise stay:

Stanley Park is a 400-hectare natural West Coast rain forest with scenic water, mountain and sky views along the famous Seawall. Within the park are trails, a pitch & putt, playgrounds, picnic areas, tennis courts, water park, beaches, a miniature train, restaurants, and much more. 
Also located within Stanley Park is the Vancouver Aquarium. It is Canada’s first public aquarium, the largest in Canada, and one of the five largest in North America. While the Aquarium is temporarily closed they are offering online resources for kids to learn about ocean life. They also have several live webcams of some of their exhibits. 
Science World is a science center located in False Creek featuring many permanent interactive exhibits and displays. During the facility's temporary closing they are offering online events including live streams of their Center Stage shows, online films, at-home science activities and other live stream events. 
Located directly across False Creek from downtown Vancouver is Granville Island, home to many interesting shops and restaurants as well as the Granville Island Brewery. The Granville Island Public Market is the jewel in the island’s crown, the market is open daily and features a fascinating assortment of food, handcrafted products and unique gifts. 
Established in the 1890’s, Vancouver's Chinatown is largest the Chinatown in Canada. It’s famous for its restaurants, stores, Sun Yat-Sen Garden and annual Chinese New Year Parade, which is the best time to visit. The area really comes alive during the weekend of Chinese New Year with live performances, festival stalls, amazing food and of course the parade!
Located just 15 minutes from downtown is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Vancouver, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Originally built in 1889, the bridge stretches 450 feet across and 230 feet above the Capilano River. Aside from the bridge there are several others things to do within the park including a Cliffwalk, Treetops Adventure, Story Centre, Kia’palano, Guided History & Nature Tours, as well as seasonal experiences.
Now let's take a video tour of some of the city’s highlights. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Secrets Cap Cana All Inclusive Resort

Secrets Cap Cana is an adults only all inclusive resort in the gated community of Cap Cana about 20 minutes from the Punta Cana airport. The resort has a large, wide beach. I love how you can see the ocean from the pool. I think the Preferred Club here delivers a terrific value. Preferred Club rooms include access to the Preferred Club lounge, pool, beach, upgraded mini bar and breakfast and lunch at the Rosewater restaurant. 

A big thank you to Secrets Cap Cana for the resort tour.

Take a peek: