Category Archives: Travel

Movie Stars, Red Woods, Cable Cars…California

by Trish Utter

Trish & Brooke riding Cable Cars in San Francisco

The golden state of California is well worth a visit but to tell the truth, it was not high on my 20-year-old daughter’s list of places to go. I told Brooke that I felt visiting California was important for her worldly education. I wanted her to see things that she had seen on TV but in person. It is hard to get the scale of a California Redwood or the fresh smell of the forest from a website or TV. We started in Los Angeles, our first stay was at the Mondrian Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard which was a wonderful central location. If you ask for a room as high up as possible and facing away from the pool you will get spectacular views of the Hollywood Hills and downtown LA.

One of the first things I do when visiting a new city is take a tour. We did this with Starline Tours and opted for the Grand Tour. We were picked up from our hotel and taken to their main terminal where we boarded a luxury tour bus. Our guide narrated the 5.5-hour tour that took us to the Chinese Theatre where the Oscars are presented, and up into the Hollywood Hills to see the famous sign and the fabulous view overlooking LA. We drove down Melrose Avenue and saw loads of interesting restaurants and boutiques we wanted to visit. The bus stopped for lunch at the famous Farmers Market that opened in 1934 where you will find lots of high quality and creative food. One vendor was selling coffee in what looked like mini ice-cream cones!

A Weekend in Washington, D.C.

By Trish Utter

My daughter and our friend, Chery Regan, were in Washington D.C. for a weekend. A trip that included a visit to Congressman Ted Yoho and a drive through the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia, but it started with a most unusual tour of the city.

“Cherry Blossoms will appear in the Spring”, said our tour guide from DC Ducks. The amphibious vehicles that DC Duck use were built in 1942 to take troops to the beaches of Normandy. Today, these amphibious vehicles have been completely restored. Our trip, started, by taking us past the Embassy of Canada, a very modern looking building. Then, we went past all the museums, like the Smithsonian, Air and Space Museum, the Capital and the White House. The highlight of the tour was to drive down a ramp at a marina and into the Potomac. The views from the water of Washington D.C. are spectacular, and especially being at the very end of the Reagan National Airport runway, on the Potomac, when planes are taking off, you felt you could reach out and touch them.

33480, the Richest Zip Code in the US!

By Trish Utter

The doorman whisked the car away. We walked through a small, tropical courtyard and ushered to a desk in the lobby that was filled with roses. A glass of sherry was put in my hand along with a… key! Yes, the Chesterfield gives you a brass key. The glass of sherry made me laugh as it brought back memories of my Scottish aunt who always offered sherry to her guests upon their arrival… a good old British tradition for arriving guests.

My daughter and I had arrived at the Chesterfield Hotel Palm Beach, located in a residential neighborhood of multimillion-dollar estates and three blocks from the beach. It’s around the corner from the famous Worth Avenue. The property is part of the British-owned Red Carnation Hotel Collection and Small Luxury Hotels of the World. The hotel was built in 1926 and is part of the Palm Beach Preservation Foundation and a historic landmark.

Oil paintings from England are scattered throughout the property. A painting of Sir Winston Churchill hangs in the beautiful conference room and a photograph of Margaret Thatcher, who stayed here, is in the library. Guests have included Cyndi Lauper, Tommy Hilfiger, Mike Wallace and an endless list of others.

Along with vast displays of flowers are dishes of candy and freshly baked cookies, all for guests to nibble on…free of charge. We took the small elevator to the third floor, which is the top floor of this small, boutique property with just fifty-three exquisite rooms. Our room was filled with beautiful, white Florida-style furniture and plantation shutters filtered the afternoon sun onto patterned carpet. We both immediately got on the free Wi-Fi that was super easy to access, so that we could post our photos of this jewel box of a hotel. A real, red carnation was in our room which is a symbol of the hotel chain. As we unpacked, I noticed that there was a fridge with free bottles of water and lots and lots of room to hang clothes and put everything we had brought away. And believe me, two girls in a hotel room for a week bring a lot of stuff!

NOT Your Grandma’s Ferris Wheel!

Are you looking for something to do this weekend? We are constantly in search of unique places for our readers to visit. Our latest trips were down I-75 to Orlando to visit I-Drive 360 and a plane trip to the Washington, DC area to see National Harbor in Maryland. What both destinations have in common are massive Ferris wheels, entertainment, restaurants and stunning views.

I-Drive 360, Orlando FL

This entertainment area is located on International Drive, close to the convention area. It was named after the 360° view you will get from the Orlando Eye. You will find restaurants, shops, and entertainment and best of all, lots of free parking!

Coca Cola, Orlando Eye

The huge 400-foot, Ferris wheel opened in 2015 and is run by Merlin Entertainments, under its Midway attraction brands which also has the iconic London Eye. Although this in not as large as the London Eye, it is still impressive and gives you panoramic views of Orlando, theme parks and downtown. Each of the 30 capsules are air-conditioned and have seating. There are touch screens in the gondolas that tell you what you can see on your twenty minute tour. At night, the Eye lights up
with changing color displays commemorating national holidays, important world events, and charitable causes.

America’s Most Jaw Dropping Piece of Real Estate

The mountain air is fresh in Ashville, North Carolina. The huge, beautiful trees sweep across the 3-mile driveway. The winding narrow approach road gives visitors time to sit and relax, but wonder what is around the next corner, until you eventually get to a large iron gate, and then……….…the HOUSE!!!!!

If you ever wanted over the top drama and opulence and have a few hundred million to spend, then the Biltmore Estate is it. Some might say it looks like an English manor house, but you could put a manor house inside this gigantic mansion many times. It even makes Downton Abbey look like a dollhouse!

Weekend Road Trip to Clearwater and St. Petersburg

by Trish Utter

The great thing about living here is that on one tank of gas you can drive to so many great places. Here are a few of our top picks for your weekend getaway.

The Fields of Red in Carver, MA

by Carol Doherty

carver1When guests come into The Great Outdoors Restaurant that is located in High Springs, quite often they ask me where I’m from or they try and guess……. I always say Boston…but that is not really true! I only say Boston because when I say where I really lived before moving to Florida, Carver Massachusetts, people usually say where!??

Carver, Massachusetts is a quaint New England Town close to the gateway of Cape Cod, about 10 miles before the Bourne Bridge. It is a town with large Gambrel houses, hand built stone walls, Christmas tree farms, and two other things that set Carver apart from most New England towns on The South Shore, The Edaville Railroad and The Cranberry Bogs!!

One day, I came home from work
and The Pond Was GONE!!!! I
mean literally Gone!!! Every drop
of water had disappeared!!!!!!

Carol’s Home in Carver, Massachusetts

Carol’s Home in Carver, Massachusetts

Ahhhhhh…..The Cranberry Bogs….. what a wonderful memory. For those of you that have no idea what a Cranberry Bog is or what it looks like, let me tell you! The bogs are flat fields of land, with a large embankment. They have a soft marshy ground where the cranberry grows on vines and are usually located near wetlands. During the months of September and October, what one sees for miles and miles are these fields of deep red vines against a dark green back drop made up of these wonderful tall pine trees. Carver Cranberry farmers started growing and producing cranberries in the 1870’s and now grow one fifth of all the cranberries produced in the US. Visitors can take tours of the cranberry bogs, learn how the cranberry is harvested, and of course, bring home samples. The feeling one gets while walking, biking, or driving through Carver Massachusetts during harvest season, is a feeling I cannot put into words.

So how does one harvest each little bitter bud of red???? Well, In short, they are floated and corralled. The bogs are flooded, a thing that looks like a fire hose corrals the fruit as they rise to the top of the water. Then they are pushed together, usually in big circles, so they can be sucked up by the machine that transports them. BUT, where does the water come from?????

carver3When I moved to Carver Massachusetts, I also knew little about The Cranberry Bog…..But, when I purchased my house, I soon found out, in the times before refrigeration, it was a cold storage facility for cranberries! The house sat on several acres and was surrounded by cranberry bogs. There was a good size pond in the back yard. My chocolate lab, Stella, loved to run down into the pond and then run in the house and shake everywhere!!!

One day, I came home from work and The Pond Was GONE!!!! I mean literally Gone!!! Every drop of water had disappeared!!!!!! HOLY TOLEDO… WHERE IS MY POND!!!!!!!

I called the police to report my Pond is gone, Stolen!!!! The Police said, don’t worry, you’ll get your pond back when harvest is over.

Carol’s Chocolate Lab, Stella

Carol’s Chocolate Lab, Stella

What I learned that night is that all the little ponds of Carver have this underground dam system that transports the water from one bog to another to harvest the CRANBERRIES!!!!!

Stella was very Happy when the Pond returned to us right before Christmas!!!

For more information on Carver visit Destination Plymouth County website- SleepyMouth.com

Best Hotel Experience of My Life

by Trish Utter

WaldorfThe doorman greeted me with “Good Afternoon Ms. Utter are you checking into the Waldorf Towers?” The small but elegant lobby on 50th Street is reserved for Waldorf Towers guests only. The Towers takes up the top part of the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel located in mid-town Manhattan.

The intimate lobby was full of staff awaiting your every whim. I am so used to long check–in lines but here you feel that you are, the only guest…in fact we were the only guests in the small lobby. I was given a little gold box of chocolates by the receptionist. My kids, Colt and Brooke and I were escorted up to our suite. From the beautiful fine wood elevator to the glittering chandelier lit hall way fit for a princess we knew this was not like any other hotel experience. Black and white photos of many movie stars, world leaders and royalty that have stayed at the Towers adorn the hallway walls.

The door swung open and there was what looked like a Parisian suite with a view of Manhattan that took our breath away. Two large bottles of water and four chocolate cupcakes were there to nibble on along with a thank you card from the staff.

An exquisite over stuffed couch, large desk with lots of outlets, paper, pens and anything else you might need. A wet bar, with fridge, which was more like a butler’s pantry area, mirrored French doors that led to a king bed room and a huge marble bath room fit for a princess. Every detail was taken into consideration. In the hall closet were two Waldorf umbrellas. In the bedroom were slippers and cotton dressing gowns of the highest quality and lots of hangers. Many hotels are slick and modern but this was just like staying at Windsor castle or maybe even the White House! The furnishings were so amazing that each piece must be worth thousands.

It is worth noting that every room in our suite had its own thermostat. This is great as you know how family can be. One likes it hot and another likes it cold.

When you stay at the Towers you have accesses to their Concierge floor. That means you get to visit the special lounge area in the morning for breakfast. They serve fruit, eggs, freshly made in house pastries, juice, coffee and anything else they can bring you. In the afternoon between noon and four they serve sandwiches, cakes and afternoon tea or coffee. This is all included in your room charge. The staff in here got to know us fast and upon our arrival they had everything we needed ready. That is what makes the level of service at the Towers so amazing. The staff know you by name and know what you want. One evening we asked a waiter where an outside restaurant was. Instead of giving us directions he took the time to walk us across the street to where we were going! The chamber maids were as quiet as mice. You never see a cart in a hallway. Not sure how they work this magic but they do. No one ever knocked on our door about making up our suite. Somehow they knew when we left…even if we were out for ten minutes we would return to a beautiful clean suite. Service, service, service!

Waldorf2This was not only the most luxurious stay I have ever had anywhere but surprisingly it was the quietest. What, in New York you say! Yes, I slept like a baby. Didn’t hear a thing during the whole stay. The bed….oh the bed! If I could have brought it home I would have. It felt as if I was sleeping on a cloud. Usually my back is killing me from hotel stays. This bed and the pillows were wonderful. I know I am gushing with compliments but it is all true.

In the main hotel lobby is the Peacock Alley Bar & Lounge. Music from the grand piano wafts the air. We sat there many times after walking miles sightseeing enjoying a drink and listening to the music. We also had the pleasure of dining in the Bull and Bear Steak House. The intimate, round booth gave you privacy and comfort. I had a famous Waldorf salad which was superb followed by a mouthwatering steak. Once again the service is unbeatable. Not only are the staff attentive they were all very happy.

As you all know I do a huge amount of travel writing but this by far was THE best hotel experience I have ever had.

Waldorf3Apart from all the fantastic hotel food you can also find very affordable meals right outside the property. Several times we ate from food trucks that are on every corner. These food trucks are very clean and you will see all the office workers dashing to get their lunch here. We found Indian, Chinese, breakfast food within a block of the hotel and great meals for under $8!

New York is huge so it is important to choose a good location. We were one block from St Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue and a block or two from Grand Central Station which is also full of restaurants and food vendors.

I honestly have never been so sad to leave a hotel. It was almost cruel to end my stay.

We met up with our Gainesville friend Paulette Raulerson and were trying to find ideas for things to do when we met NYPD officer Andrew who gave use great tips of what to see and where to eat. I can’t say enough about the people in New York as they were so helpful.

Waldorf4Everywhere you go there is something to see. The world famous store windows, street entertainers in Washington Square, a walk in Central Park. I encourage you to ask local people what you should see and do. The Diamond District is a unique area and also within walking distance from the hotel. Here you will find great deals on jewelry and get fantastic knowledgeable service. You can also sell your jewelry here.

We used Uber but we also found that taxi cabs were not much different in price and we never spent more than $20 per ride for all of us. The Subway was easy to use and cost us $3 each.

Big Bus Tours

The first thing I like to do in any new location is to take a tour with this company. We got on at Times Square and toured lower and upper Manhattan. You jump on or off at any of the many stops along the way. The guide tells you about local exhibits, history and even about who lives there. We rode around Central Park, through Times Square and then to Soho, the Village and around the 911 Memorial. This is an invaluable part of any vacation. BigBusTours.com

Metropolitan Museum of Art

You can spend months in here as there is so much to see. Something for everyone. Paintings, furniture, fashion, Egyptian artifacts and more. Brooke and I loved the fashion exhibit and Colt enjoyed the rooms that are set up like palaces with antique furniture. MetMuseum.org

Waldorf5Top of the Rock

The Rockefeller Center is within walking distance from the Waldorf. We would have missed this fantastic place if it hadn’t been for a chance conversation with a local New York police officer named Andrew who told us about it. He said we would really miss something great if we didn’t go up there so we did and Andrew was right. We took the elevator to the 67th floor. There were terraces all around with huge glass walls so you have un-obstructive views of every part of the city. We walked up to the 69th terrace and then to the 70th floor terrace where there is a complete 360 view of the city. TopOfTheRockNYC.com

On Your Feet

This Broadway show all about the life of Gloria and Emilio Estefan. The Latin music was so good that we were, on our feet dancing! Funny that here we were in New York seeing a story about a girl that grew up in Miami. Fantastic true story of a young Cuban girl’s chance meeting with Emilio and working together to create the Miami Sound Machine. All the objections the couple overcame and their wonderful love story. You just can’t sit still to this one. OnYourFeetMusical.com


You have limited time on vacation so if you don’t want to miss the most important attractions and you want to save 40% then this is a must. Attractions include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Top of the Rock, Empire State Building and more. Some restaurant coupons as well as shopping. www.CityPass.com/NewYork