Category Archives: Travel
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.
by Carol Doherty
When 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!!!!!!
HOLY TOLEDO… WHERE IS MY POND!!!!!!!
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?????
When 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.
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
by Trish Utter
The 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!
This 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.
Apart 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.
Everywhere 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
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
by Trish Utter
Shopping in Orlando and visiting Disney can leave you exhausted and wanting sanctuary. It is a pleasant surprise to find a hotel that offers the weary visitor a place to recharge that is conveniently located within 5 minutes of the main gate to Disney and the Outlet Malls and offers a tranquil refuge for visitors.
The Bohemian Hotel is in the heart of Celebration Town Center and sits on the edge of the water. Celebration is a neighborhood of single family homes, unique retail stores, restaurants and cafes that have all been beautifully designed. This is an oasis in the heart of tourist town that only locals seem to know about. You can sit outside with a cup of coffee on one of the quiet little streets and watch the horse drawn carriage go by as it takes people for tours of the neighborhood.
On arrival guests are greeted by the doorman. The lobby of the hotel is a work of art but then that is what you expect from one of the Kessler Collection properties. The rustic furniture, mixed in with glittering chandeliers is a sight for the senses.
The hotel gives you the feeling of being in a fabulous upscale, grand home of a movie star, more than a soulless building. Rooms are comfortable with Bose stereo, along with the Kessler CD, luxury linens and beds that are so comfortable you might end up wondering how you can get one to take home.
You can enjoy a martini out by the pool that overlooks the lake or dine in the intimate and sophisticated Lakeside Bar + Grill.
This is a great place to relax and get away from Orlando’s hopping tourist area and rates are surprisingly affordable.
by Trish Utter
Are you longing to see the autumn colors, cool brisk air and the smell of the Holidays?
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are set high in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. The drive into this area is breathtaking with mountains, log cabins and lots of wildlife.
This is a destination for great family gatherings as it has something for everyone, from the glitzy tourist attractions to the untamed beauty of nature. Hotels and log cabin rentals are all around. On one side of the Smokies is Gatlinburg and on the other is Pigeon Forge. You can easily travel between both towns, however, there is so much to do that you may want to plan several trips. I traveled there with my two teens, Colt and Brooke and found that even my hard-to-please teens were enjoying themselves.
Pigeon Forge Lumberjack Feud: This dinner show is top notch….…pun intended! One of the best dinner shows we have ever seen. Real lumberjack athletes from ESPN showcase their skills…..and believe me the girls in the audience noticed their every move. The show captures the history of logging in the area before the Smokies was declared a National Park. We marveled at the shear strength of the Lumberjacks as they climbed to the top of large logs chopping the tops off, stood on floating timbers and wielded their chain-saws. There is also singing and dancing. We all adored the Timberdogs. These specially trained dogs compete worldwide and here you get a close up view of how talented they are. Leaping into water and racing back with decoys. The show even has horses on stage! Oh, and the food! Guests enjoy a half roast chicken meal, enough for any hungry lumberjack! Great value, great show and top on our list. Check out their Holiday Show. www.lumberjackfeud.com
Gatlinburg A Walk in the Woods: This was a highlight of my trip to Gatlinburg. A true vision of what this area is all about. We were lead on a trail that starts right in the middle of Gatlinburg’s busiest tourist area. I could not understand why our guide, Erik Plakanis was meeting us at such a touristy place. We followed him across a busy street and then into…….. a forest! Erik took us for a leisurely stroll down by a wide picturesque river. The scenery looked as if it was from a story book. Beautiful round boulders dotted the water. He stopped and pointed out leaves and their medicinal use and showed us mushrooms that were edible. Our guide even had leaves and things for us to taste. One leaf tasted just like spearmint chewing gum. We came across a pile of small white glittering rocks that was quartz. There are many trails that you can go on, some are good for small children, others for those that are more adventurous and they even have a pet friendly trail. Without our guide we would have walked right past all the amazing natural things and we certainly would never have thought that there would have been a wilderness trail right in downtown Gatlinburg. www.AWalkInTheWoods.com 865-436-8283
Gatlinburg Sky Lift: You cannot enjoy the beauty and scale of the Great Smokey Mountains without a trip to the top of them in the Sky Lift. Grab a cup of coffee and relax as you ascend and make sure you take lots of breathtaking photos. Sunsets from here are spectacular. At the top is a gift and snack shop with picnic tables. After dark you will see Gatlinburg ablaze with twinkling lights. www. gatlinburgskylift.com
Hollywood Star Cars Museum: This is a large collection of cars that are mainly the creation of George Barris, who made these vehicles for TV shows and movies. Knight Rider, General Lee, the DeLorean from Back to the Future and my favorite, the Batmobile. www.StarCarsTN.com
Circus Golf in Blacklight 3D: I am not a putt-putt kinda girl but we had fun in this place. The 18 hole course is beautifully painted with a circus theme, clean and inexpensive. My teens had a blast and we all laughed our heads off. 865-436- 4415
A Brit of Magic: It was good to sit down and put our feet up for a laugh with British magician and comedian, Keith Fields. His tongue-in -cheek humor is suitable for everyone. This small venue gives you a close up personal show. My son, Colt, was called up to the stage to help with one of the many magic tricks. www.KeithFields. com 888-482-3330
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies: In Florida we see a lot of marine life…but not like this! Many say it is the best aquarium they have ever seen and tourists from all over the world descend on this special place. Large exhibits are done in natural settings. The gigantic shark Lagoon is so vast that you stand on a moving walkway while sharks and stingrays glide overhead. www.Ripleys.com/Gatlinburg.com 865-436-5096
Pancake Pantry: You know it’s good when the locals eat there. It’s been open since 1960. Meals are very large and good for splitting with family. They specialize in exotic style pancakes such as Orange-Walnut, Red-Raspberry Crepes and Apricot-Lemon Delight to gourmet sandwiches like the Dutch Diplomat and homemade soups. We had so much food that we could not even see one bit of the table. Get there early as lines are long and bring cash as that is the only form of payment they accept. www.PancakePantry.com
We are excited to let you know that the owners of the Great Outdoors Restaurant in High Springs, FL, will be opening a huge resort in Gatlinburg in 2017 called, Anakeesta™. Anakeesta is a Cherokee word that translates to ‘place of the balsams’ or ‘place of high ground’. It is also a recognizable geographic feature found throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This ambitious project will feature a 105 room hotel, restaurants, shopping, zip lining and craft stores. There will also be a Chondola. This aerial lift is comprised of both quad chairs and gondola cabins. The resort has a website that you can visit now. www.Anakeesta.com
www.Gatlinburg.com 800-588-1817 www.MyPigeonForge.com 888-402-2390
by Trish Utter
I drove up on Poydras Street and checked in at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. This cobble street around the hotel was bustling with street cars, cabs and bicycle taxis. The tall building seemed to go up forever. I had heard how alive this city was and could not wait to explore.
Located right by the front door of the Hilton is the trolley car that’s inexpensive and clean and runs every five minutes. The location of this hotel is unbeatable. You are right on the Mississippi River, next to an outlet mall and across the street from Harrah’s Casino. Within a short walk you are at the French Quarter and Bourbon Street is a few blocks down.
The service at the Hilton was superb and the views from the floor to ceiling windows are show stoppers. It was the perfect place to call home for a few days in New Orleans.
Sight Seeing New Orleans, Hop On- Hop Off. This is the first thing we did and I highly recommend that you do this first as it gives you a great understanding of the layout of this beautiful city. The open topped bus goes through neighborhoods and the well trained guides give you the history and tips on where to go and what to do. We found Magazine Street thanks to this tour and heard about all the great things that Brat Pitt and Angelina Jolie have done for New Orleans. The famous couple have a house near Bourbon Street and locals love them. We were also able to stop at one of the famous cemeteries and saw the Voodoo Queens Tomb. You can hop off at designated stops.
800 362 1811 www.CitySeeingNewOrleans.com
Café Du Monde. The café is famous for its Beignets which are a French square doughnut that is covered in powdered sugar and their dark roasted Coffee and Chicory. If you don’t stop here you haven’t seen New Orleans. There are several locations. One of the best souvenirs to bring home is their beignet mix and coffee.
800 772 292 www.cafedumonde.com
by Trish Utter
Siesta Key, Sarasota FL
Banana Bay Club
This is a wonderful property for a romantic weekend or for families as every little cottage has its own kitchen and lots of
room. At the same time it is intimate, quiet and spotlessly clean. Owned by a British couple that never wanted to leave their vacation spot this destination hideaway is a bit of paradise. It is located within a few steps from a private beach and tropical warm water. The yellow and blue cottages nestle around a large pool and palm trees. A local free taxi service that works on tips will pick you up and take you into town. 888 622 6229 www.BananaBayClub.com
My daughter Brooke and I were excited to visit the Boca Raton Resort & Club, part of the Waldorf Astoria collection. We had heard many good things about this hotel but we were not prepared for the jaw dropping, immaculate, vast property.
I made a sharp right turn onto a palm lined driveway and there in front of us was a pink…… Boca Pink, gatehouse and behind that a large fountain and topiary trees. “We are expecting you Ms. Utter, enjoy your stay” said the guard. I drove down the drive slowly to take in the beautifully manicured gardens and pulled up to the main entrance. One bellman opened my door and another opened the passenger door for Brooke. We had arrived!