Monday, October 31, 2011

Spain: A Land of Fact and Fiction

“Why Spain?” we are asked by those who add, “You’ve already been there, haven’t you?”

DSCF0673We have been there several times if you count cruise ship stops; those tapa-sized tastes of a country that leave you wanting a full-meal-deal size experience.

Our week in Madrid last May scarcely gave us time to see the town, let alone anything nearby.
 
And so we’ve chosen to return to Spain to continue consuming its history, sights, culture, and of course, its food and wine.   We’ve been studying – both fact and fiction – preparing for this trip.


Spain “. . .for the greater part . . .is a stern, melancholy country, with rugged mountains and long sweeping plains, destitute of trees and indescribably silent and lonesome. . ."  Washington Irving wrote in his Tales of the Alhambra in the mid-1800’s.
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The Wall Street Journal last week reported that Spain’s jobless rate has hit an all-time high (21.5%) and that the number of households without any income hit 3.2% of the country's population, or 559,000 families.
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Spain’s elections are scheduled to take place the day we board the cruise ship in Barcelona to head home.  We know that a major terrorist attack occurred prior to elections there in 2004.

DSCF0664In reality, it’s doubtful we will see the poverty, politics or protests up close.  We will – as do most travelers  – visit historic sites, marvel at the architecture, stuff ourselves with tapas and paella, and wash it all down with copious amounts of inexpensive, but excellent, Spanish wine. 

Oh yes, and we won’t forget those famous Seville sweets – a specialty of the Monasterios’ bakeries – thanks to a tip from Carol, a travel writer friend of ours. (Click the link for her sweet look at Seville.)

In a manner of speaking we’ve already spent a few months traveling through Spain’s history and countryside, reading – in addition to guidebooks and news reports --  of fictional characters whose stories brought history to life. Two books, Victoria Hislop’s The Return and  C. J. Sansom’s Winter in Madrid each took us into Spain’s Civil War and the Franco years. The Seville Communion by Spanish author Arturo Perez- Reverte provided an entertaining murder mystery set in the city we’ll be visiting.

Yes, we are returning to Spain - our previous tapa-sized tastes are bringing us back for more adventures in this land of fact and fiction.


Note:  The books mentioned above and others we’ve read on Spain now appear on our Amazon carousel on the Travelnwrite homepage.  Clicking on them will take you to reviews of the book; and in full disclosure, if you buy one from our page we will earn a few cents.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Saturday’s Satchel: Travel Tips, Bits and Pieces

washington wednesdays 005The travel satchel has several tips and tidbits in it today thanks to you who’ve responded to recent posts:

Half-Price Haute Cuisine: prompted Paula in Kirkland to send a reminder about Happy Hours’ half-price  drinks and food as a good way to save travel dollars. As an example, she says, Kirkland’s Milagro Cantina’s Happy Hour fish tacos are only $3.

Our favorite Happy Hour stop in Vegas: The Trevi Fountain Restaurant in Caesar's Forum Shops. Their “Trevi Time” half price bar menu and drinks keep bringing us back at least once during each trip to sunny ‘Sin City’.

Packing Tips: brought an email from Teresa in Seattle who said safety pins are a key item to pack for a number of reasons.  They can be used for instant mending needs,to secure bandages and even hold up arm slings if necessary.  I’ve grabbed some for our ‘kit’.

Spain Travel Tips:  Christine* in Phoenix sent us off to a Yahoo travel site for some recommendations in Barcelona, noting that the city has been named on of the travel destination hot spots this year.

Soft Landing _3 (1)* A  tidbit: (Christine Sandifer, is a long-time friend of ours and an artist in Phoenix. During our recent trip we finally had some time to learn more about her art and her studio.  She creates hand-pulled monoprints such as the one pictured to the left. I love its title, “Soft Landing”.  She uses real leaves when doing these pieces – pretty amazing stuff.

If you’d like to learn more about her monoprint process or see more of her work, visit  her website The Town.)

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TravelnWrite News: 
0006100-R1-039-18Those of you who receive our posts in your inbox  may not have seen TravelnWrite’s new pages. 

Links to the pages are under the homepage photo:  About Us, Deal Finder, Our Favorites, Pacific Northwest Travel and Contact Us.  We added these pages to help answer the two questions most often asked us: 

“How do you find those deals?” and,
“What would you recommend?”

If you aren’t yet  receiving posts in your inbox, simply sign up in the box on the right side of the home page.  You won’t get spam from us – just posts. . .and they are free!

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It seemed appropriate for us to be ‘on the road’ in Arizona when a guest post I’d written for Dick Jordan’s Tales Told from the Road appeared. Dick ran a series of guest posts about how the attack on 9/11/2001 affected various travelers.  The end result was an interesting compilation of travel experiences.  Ours can be found at:  Italy Delayed.

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And thanks for reading!  We’ve had more than 30,000 page views with readers hailing from more than 100 countries.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

TP Thursday: London’s San Pancras Station

We love traveling on Europe’s trains.  And we love their historic train stations. 

One of our favorites is  London’s San Pancras International Station, home to the Eurostar (fast train) since 2007. 

The castle-like gothic structure was the largest station in the world when it opened in 1865.  Time took its toll and over the decades it fell into disrepair, coming close to demolition in the 1960’s. A group of visionaries should be thanked for saving it.

Work in recent years has transformed it into a Grand Dame of rail stations – a destination in itself with: a  new Marriott Renaissance Hotel (opened in the station this year),  and nearly 70 retail outlets, restaurants and pubs – my favorite: it’s home to Europe’s longest champagne bar (90 meters/270 feet).

Friends told us not to miss the statue in the Train Shed’s south end – and that would have been hard to do. It’s a  20-ton, 30-foot-tall (9 meters) statue, “The Meeting Place” by British artist Paul Day.

londonparisiceland2011 012

The two young lovers are so overwhelming that what you could miss are the stories told in the designs that circle the base of the piece. We both got a chuckle, though, after Joel noticed this one:

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Explore other destinations from around the world through travel photos, by clicking the link to  Budget Travelers Sandbox, Nancie McKinnon’s  blog where this all began.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Departure Countdown: Ka-choo, sniff, cough

londonparisiceland2011 023“Well, better here than on the road,” we keep saying.

Sniff. . .
ka-choo. . .
cough. . .
silence.

Those are the background sounds to our departure preparation activities of late:  gathering clothes, making yard care arrangements, securing the house sitters, and all those pesky other routine pre-travel tasks.

“The Bug” as we call colds and flu in this part of the world, nailed us a few days ago. In my case, the little pest snatched my voice – it’s been gone for three days. (I think even Joel is beginning to miss it – I certainly do.)

Being sick while preparing to travel does dampen the enthusiasm a bit, but there’s also the bright side that it happened here and health may return before we board the plane. 

At least here we know how to find the doctor and the pharmacist and it is comforting to know that both speak English.We’ve each experienced travel maladies and agree such things are much easier on familiar territory. Once in Thailand Joel was stricken with ‘traveler’s tummy’ (to put it nicely).  I remember our frustration when we resorted  to rolling our hands in front of his stomach when trying to buy medicine; then not being sure of what we’d purchased or how to use it. 

A few years ago I had an allergic reaction to mosquito bites while in Mexico resulting in dozens of huge welts (not pretty).  I finally had to show those welts and then demonstrate the flight and bite of the pesky creatures to the amusement of those en la farmacia as I tried to buy relief.

washington wednesdays 005Pack the Drugs

Our illnesses and maladies provide both amusing memories and valuable lessons.  These days our travel gear always includes:

1. Cold medicine with Antihistamines (the antihistamine also can be used to counter allergic reactions to bug bites.)

2. Throat lozenges/cough drops (these can usually be found at magazine kiosks and in tobacco shops throughout Europe, but it is still good to have some on the plane.)

3. Imodium or other anti-diarrheal medication for those ‘travelers’ tummy’ moments.

4. Stool softener – for the opposite of #3.

5.  Band-aids (Peter’s [Travel] Principle: shoes that are fine at home will give you  blisters when you set out sightseeing).

6. Antiseptic cream – for those cuts and scratches that happen when you least expect them.

7. Aspirin or other pain killer (travel can cause headaches).

8.  Prescription medications – We make sure our supply is enough to last until we get home and always packed in a carry-on.

9.  Eyeglass/contact lens prescriptions: We always carry current ones.  (Some take an extra pair of glasses.)

10.  Doctor and optometrist phone numbers:  With cell phones, smart phones and iPhones these days, the doctor really is a phone call away (keep the time zone changes in mind) if something serious develops. 

What about you?  Any suggestions for fellow readers?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Half-price Haute Cuisine

Or,  'Ways to take a bite out of travel dining costs.'

A friend asked if we ever eat out on our travels as I’ve been so focused on ways we save travel dollars by eating ‘at home’ on the road.

Of course, we do eat out - just not every meal.   

polotowersscottsdale 020 Recently we've discovered such a great way to enjoy haute cuisine – for as much as half off, that we just had to tell you about it.

First a disclaimer: I’m not a ‘coupon clipper’ (a popular money saving activity in the United States in which food manufacturers offer coupons for discounts of varying amounts on grocery purchases).  It’s not that I don’t like the concept, it’s just that when I have clipped them, I put them somewhere so I won't forget them, then can’t find them when I head out to the store and by the time I do find them, they've expired.

But a number of social media sites have been tempting us with coupon deals that we've been unable to pass up. These types of coupons must be purchased within a designated time frame and then you print the coupon when you are ready to use it.

It was friend and fellow travel enthusiast, Tara, who suggested we start watching these sites for deals in cities that we might be visiting. So now we have coupon offers arriving in our inbox from Groupon, Living Social, Amazon, Juice in the City, and yes, even Travelzoo.  

We tested the ‘coupon-dining’ close to home at Purple, a wine bar and cafe in Kirkland. We had a great meal and glasses of wine for $15 - half the usual price.
polotowersscottsdale 021
It was Travelzoo that tempted our palate with a deal at “Comme Ca” fine dining French Restaurant in the Cosmopolitan Hotel, City Center, Las Vegas: (Comme Ca is like the French phrase, Comme Ci, Comme Ca,--  kohm see, kohm sa, -- ‘like this, like that’)

We purchased for $79 a coupon for two three-course dinners (including a $30 bottle of wine) – regular value, $140. And then hoped the restaurant would recognize the coupon when we tried to use it.


polotowersscottsdale 019
We shouldn’t have worried. . .not only did they recognize it, they had so many 'coupon diners', they’d printed a special menu for Travelzoo customers. (Our waiter said 1,100 coupons were purchased in the four hours the coupon was available).

polotowersscottsdale 022 The photos I've included in the post take you from the French onion soup (a meal in itself), to the Beef Bourguignon, and of course, we couldn't resist sampling each of the desserts. All of which paired nicely with the dry French rose wine the waiter recommended.

Another Money-Saver:
We have joined a frequent diner club, Lettuce Entertain You, that offers discounts and points for dollars spent at a number of restaurants throughout the country – from Washington, DC to Las Vegas and cities in between.  We've used it primarily when dining in Vegas and have already accumulated enough points to have a significant discount on a future meal. We've also used 'my birthday' coupon for a $15 discount last July at one of the participating restaurants.

So how about you?  Have any tips to share about ways to save dining dollars?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

TP Thursday: A Poros Morning

porospiraeus2010_016

It's been a year and still the memory of the stroll we took on Poros is as brilliant as was the morning we took it.

The day simply dazzled the senses. We wound our way from the harbor, climbing higher into neighborhoods on narrow pathways that looped between houses; the shutter's snap, the sound of  birdsong and an occasional dog’s bark were all that broke the silence.

Map picture

This Greek island, about an hour from Piraeus (Athen's neighboring port city), is part of the Saronic Island chain near the Peloponnese coast.  You can see on the map the narrow strip of channel that separates Poros from Galatas.

We’ve spent a  lot of time this last year rememboring Poros: the people we met, the dogs that befriended us, the places we ate, the long walks we took, the hours spent watching boats and ferries come and go, and we speculate about the possibility of returning for a much longer stay. . .weeks. . . perhaps a month. . .perhaps more.  It could be done, we think.

There are places like that in the world that draw us back to them, the Greek islands of Crete, Symi and Poros among them. 

What about you?
To where do you dream of returning?

It is Travel Photo Thursday and to see more photos from around the world visit Budget Travelers Sandbox, creator of this project.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Going cruising with “Connie”

Now that we’ve finished the Southwest road trip, our suitcases are in the early stages of repacking for our upcoming fall adventure . . .

Ambles through Andalucia

We’ll fly from Seattle to Spain’s interior, beginning our trip in Sevilla, departure gate to the New World a half dozen centuries ago - the perfect place to delve into both culture and history. After a few days poking around the city,we’ll hop a train out into Seville province's countryside to spend a few days in Osuna, population 18,000. Then we head south to see the mark of 20th Century tourism and the Costa del Sol.  In the port town of Malaga we’ll meet friends, pick up a rental car and head out for the trendy, touristy Marbella on Spain’s Costa del Sol

A week later a train will take us north from Andalucia to Catalunya, where we will have a couple of days to explore Barcelona.  We’ve been here before, but always on a cruise ship stop that allowed only a few hours exploration, this time we’ll have plenty of time to ramble through its Barri Gotic and Las Ramblas and to ponder Gaude's architectural handiwork before we meet:

‘Connie’. . .

. . .  the cruise ship that will be our floating home for the two weeks it will take to reach the United States.
 

We are already thinking of the ship as ‘Connie’, the nickname given her by her former passengers/admirers. Formally, she’s Celebrity Cruise LinesConstellation, a 965-foot long (think 2.5 football fields) luxury liner.

Our 13-night cruise will take us from Barcelona, Spain to Fort Lauderdale, Florida; with stops in Alicante and Malaga, Spain; then after passing through The Pillars of Hercules, we’ll be off to Funchal, Madeira, and Tenerife, in the Canary Islands followed by seven ‘sea days’ as we  cross the southern Atlantic.
  

Map picture

We’re sold on repositioning cruises for a number of reasons: they are a good travel value, and they provide a mix of ports of call and plenty of ‘sea days’ to kick back, relax and enjoy all the ship has to offer.

We had such a great first time experience with Celebrity on their Solstice transatlantic crossing last spring going to Barcelona, that our expectations for Connie are high.  As we did on the Solstice cruise we will tell you about ship board life and introduce you to folks we meet along the way.

Note:  We’ve listed a number of agencies and websites that we’ve used to nab some incredibly good cruise fares on our TravelnWrite Deal Finder page.  It isn't too early to think about spring repositioning cruises. Some, like the transatlantic crossings, can take a couple weeks.  Others, like one we took from Vancouver, B.C. to Seattle, was a one-night 'crossing' and made for a fun Pacific Northwest getaway.

Back to Spain and our cruise: Do you have recommendations for us?  Restaurants? Flamenco shows? Tapas bars?  Send your tips by email or leave a comment.  And what about ‘Connie’ – are you a member of her fan club?  I'll compile your responses in a future post.

Monday, October 17, 2011

TravelnWrite: "Pack a Book" for the Road


Scottsdale - (c) Jackie Smith, 2011
While the High Plains Drifters were seeking sun in America's Southwest, we also were enjoying Spain. . .thanks to the books we were reading - one a novel and one a narrative - both set in our next destination.

Pre-trip 'research' is half the fun of our journeys.  And our bags, no matter how small, will never leave home without a book or two tucked inside. Yes, the printed-on-paper-kind of book that whisks us into the history of the place or that is set in a place we may be visiting one day. Really it doesn't matter if its about a place we are visiting, might visit, may-never-visit. Books provide us a window on the world.

We are armchair travelers and armchair shoppers as well.  Nothing like Amazon or Book Depository web sites to search for new reads. But often those are a game of chance: sometimes we find something and other times not - just like visiting the local bookstores.  How often have I lamented, "If only there was a place that had all those books in one spot so I could spend my time choosing between them and not searching for them."

And then a few weeks ago while reading a favorite blog of mine, A Traveler's Library I was introduced to a virtual travel book lover's paradise, Packabook.com . Created by London-based Suzi Butcher, this site groups books by country: novels, memoirs, and guidebooks. Countries range from Afghanistan to Vietnam; Bosnia to Brazil, Thailand to Turkey and dozens of others in between.

Packabook also has a great on-line book club, One Country One Book.  Each month a country and a book are featured.  The first week the novel is introduced, the second week the country is the focus, the third week offers travel ideas and the month wraps up with reviews and ideas for the next destination.  This month's book/locale is, "The Guernsey Literary and Sweet Potato Peel Pie Society." It's free and fun - I highly recommend signing up.

Me on "Zoba's' Beach - Joel Smith photo
Packabook has an accompanying blog of the same name.  And I can't tell you how much fun it was to add our reading recommendations after Suzi invited TravelnWrite to be guest bloggers.  Read our guest post to see where we followed Zorba and other novel characters on Crete.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TP Thursday: The Arizona Oracle

We are in America’s Southwest this week and it seemed fitting to highlight the stark beauty that is found in this arid region of the country.four seasons scottsdale 013

We were near Pinnacle Peak, to the north of Scottsdale and exploring the Four Seasons Resort . . .as we walked from the Residence Club parking lot to the hotel, this was what we saw between two of the casitas.  It was as if the rock was addressing the two saguaro cactus . . . we could only imagine the stories the rock could tell.

For other travel photos, check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

High Plains Drifters find an Oasis

There are certain clich√©s that travel editors preach against writers using. One of them is “Oasis” as in, ‘After miles of dry desert, we happened upon an oasis.’

So with all due respect to editors everywhere, I need to tell you that we happened upon a most memorable ‘oasis’  Saturday on our road trip between Las Vegas and Scottsdale

polotowersscottsdale 028 We had taken Highway 40, a route that led us east through northern Arizona’s high desert along the Coconino Plateau; a route punctuated with road signs marking our climb in elevation to beyond the the 5,000+ foot level.

Our original plan was to have lunch in Prescott, the bustling town 95-miles north of Phoenix, but by noon we were still miles from there. . . however, we were nearing a turn-off to Ash Fork.

Kingman to Phoenix
Ash Fork, with a population in 2007 of 2,300, didn’t make it on this map, but is near Seligman. It was Ash Fork, we decided, we’d have lunch. As we drove the two-lane street toward what we thought was town center a welcome sign told us this place was  “The flagstone capital of the world”. The claim was illustrated in all types of construction -- homes, planters. . .there was flagstone everywhere.

What we didn’t see was any sign of was a commercial center, that is until the Oasis appeared. . .the Oasis Lounge, to be exact.
polotowersscottsdale 030As we got out of our car, two big black guard dogs barked out a welcome from their viewing stand deck above the red truck in the photo. (Click to enlarge the photo if you want to see the canine crew).

Three people were sipping beers at the small bar to the left of the entry and a shuffle board table and pool table served as the tavern’s centerpieces.

“You folks looking for food?” called out the leather-jacket-clad bartender. He gestured to the back room and said, “The food’s back there.”

We were the only ones in the ‘cafe’ section so we selected one of the six booths that ringed its perimeter. Our booth provided a view of a Van Gogh reproduction on the opposite wall, as well as a washer and dryer sitting next to two center tables in the cafe, and a hand truck propped against another booth. Near the kitchen's swinging doors, a booth was set up with computers – we assumed it was the business office -- and near it were a couple broken chairs and some kids toys.

Okay, I have to be honest – I was ready to leave, but Joel reminded me we travel for ‘the experiences’ and this had promise of an experience.

Our waitress was also the cook.  We had a selection of a half dozen Mexican dishes from which to choose from on the 'lunch specials'.  Joel got the combination plate; I ordered two chicken tacos.  Although they came out as beef tacos, our  food was steaming hot. We were too early for the rice to be  quite ready but our cook/waitress had us taste it anyway –  (it was good).  In fact all the food was good, with a home-made good taste to it.

polotowersscottsdale 030 While we waited for the food we chatted with the bartender who told us the place had once been a car repair garage (note the front door in the photo – it was the car bay entry once). 

The town, he told us,  had once been a railroad stop and is right off the old Route 66. 

The train comes by these days - it no longer stops.  A section of old Route 66 is a scenic bypass between Kingman and Ash Fork. 

As we drove out of town we noted two other more traditional diner-type eateries down the road a bit, but our stop at the Oasis Lounge at 346 W.Park Ave., Ash Fork, AZ 86320, phone 928-637-2650 proved those editors wrong: you can find an oasis in the desert!.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ouch! This one “Hertz”

Or the tale of our tiny silver ‘limo’.

polotowersscottsdale 040
The old adage ‘the devil’s in the details’ comes to mind as I tell the  latest segment in the High Plains Drifters travels. Those details are important when it comes to travel. . .and this time we slipped up and missed one tiny detail.   A costly little one, at that.

Rental cars are not cheap commodities these days no matter how good a deal you get. There are the usual add-ons like city, county, state taxes to which are added  “concession recovery  fees, facility fees and vehicle license cost recovery fees'” and, in the case of Hertz, the second driver (me) fee of $12 a day which we passed on. 

. . .ah, yes, then there is that drop off fee if you don’t return the car to the same place you picked it up.

That’s the  one  that nailed us.  We thought we’d confirmed we were picking up in Vegas and dropping off in Phoenix but somehow missed that detail.  A costly error indeed.

The Hertz counter agent quickly recalculated our rental and without blinking an eye our six day Nissan Versa  ‘economy’ car  (meaning ‘tiny’ not ‘cheap’) skyrocketed from the $285 to $604.

So with our accommodations pre-paid in Phoenix and our plane tickets home from there, there weren’t many options before us.  (Yes, we considered turning it in immediately upon arrival in Phoenix and renting a car there but that created a one-day rental fee of $245, pretty much defeating the purpose of salvaging some of the cost).

polotowersscottsdale 032 So we set off in what I am calling our ‘tiny silver limo’’ on a great route to Phoenix. More on that in our next post. For now, if you have a trip planned, go check your documents – one more time.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Free and Easy (Art) in Las Vegas

By Wednesday it was clear this would not be the trip we envisioned when we left the dark, damp Pacific Northwest last weekend.  The same clouds we thought we’d left behind were covering this sun-seeker paradise, rain was  falling, and that, coupled with wind blew any plans for poolside basking  out the window. 
So what to do?

Here’s our Strip Tip for rainy day entertainment:  A Do It Yourself Art Tour that costs nothing (unless of course you can’t resist buying a piece to take home).
 polotowersscottsdale 027
First stop:  Bellagio Resort Casino lobby where internationally-known-glass-artist-Pacific-Northwest-son Dale Chihuly’s flower sculpture , a 2,100 square foot chandelier fills the hotel lobby ceiling. There are 1,600 individual hand blown glass pieces (each weighing about 50 pounds.) that make up the piece inspired by Italy’s Lake Como and created at the Venini Factory in Venice.

polotowersscottsdale 015 Walk through the lobby to get to the the seasonal garden displays at the  Bellagio’s Conservatory. Designers have again created a seasonal whimsical setting that shouldn’t be missed.  This fall’s display includes a pumpkin made of 2,000 fresh carnation blooms and red apples made of red rose buds. And a framed art piece (pictured) made of flowers and greens.

polotowersscottsdale 017 Walk through the Bellagio casino to the Cirque du Soleil “O” Theatre Lobby and  gallery that showcases the figurative sculptures of Richard Macdonald. His passion for dance is captured in the dancers, mimes and performers highlighted in his pieces.   Watch a video of dancers and the artist capturing their moves as a piece is created.  No admission cost, art is for sale.

Macdonald is currently working on a massive piece – a tribute to the founder of The Royal Ballet that will be installed next year in London’s Hyde Park.

It will cost to tour  Bellagio’s Gallery of Fine Art (admission $15/adult) but in the current display (through January 2012) you’ll see pieces from Monet to Hockney that compare and contrast expressionism in landscape art.

polotowersscottsdale 018

A new Bellagio gallery that opened within the last year– Jeff Mitchum Galleries –is next door to the Fine Art Gallery in a space once occupied by the fine art gallery shop. Walls are filled with Mitchum’s stunning light and landscape photography. Open daily at 10 a.m. Free admission, art is for sale.
Staff in each gallery were eager to talk about their artist and his work. At the Mitchum gallery art consultant, Jerry Olivarez, who was staffing  the gallery desk, was a great source of information about  the Las Vegas visual arts community.

polotowersscottsdale 023 One of our ‘fun finds’ this trip was on the second floor of City Center’s Cosmopolitan Hotel, just south of Bellagio.  As its name, Art-o-mat, implies  it is a vending machine for art. It is one of six they have in this property – reportedly the only place in Nevada you will currently find them. They are old cigarette vending machines that have been recycled into hip, retro style art vendors.  Insert $5, choose an artist and out comes a piece of art boxed and wrapped inside cellophane.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

TP Thursday: Sea Foam Saturday

To our way of thinking, there is nothing better than a walk on a beach – preferably, a warm sandy one.  We took many such walks in January while on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii.  But it was one particular beach, just beyond Ko Olina on the northwestern shore, that gave us a Sea Foam Saturday to remember.

hawaii 2010 077 Each wave glazed the sand with  sea foam, sweeping over our feet before being drawn back to the sea.

It is a month now since Travelnwrite became a part of Travel Photo Thursday – a weekly travel photo show that spans the globe.  Check out the photos submitted by others at Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Vegas: Gambling, Glitz and . . .Groceries

We’re ‘at home’ just a half block off the Las Vegas Strip, that  sexy sounding multi-lane asphalt path that visitors follow from one glitzy, glamorous casino to another. 
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The Villas at Polo Towers is where we’ve been ‘playing house’ in a timeshare unit that feels much like a regular condo. Our views out over the mountain ranges to the south, gives no indication that we are anywhere near the Strip’s  glitz and glamour.

However our location puts us an easy walk from many casino – the  MGM Grand to the left, City Center to the front and Planet Hollywood, Bellagio and Paris to the right.
And heading south on The Strip - just a short ride on the public transit – there’s . . .the grocery store.

polotowersscottsdale 003 Some of you might balk at the thought of grocery shopping and cooking on vacation, but when that is the only household duty  required, it really does take on the feel of an adventure – not a chore.

And grocery stores always provide a ‘local’ flavor, like the honey we purchased: Local Desert Honey, a produce of Mojave Desert plants. 

The maid arrives each afternoon to change towels and remove the garbage and does a thorough cleaning mid-week, giving us plenty of pool or reading time.

polotowersscottsdale 004 Four years ago we entered the timeshare world and have found we like the ‘home away from home’ comforts of these temporary digs.  One of the nicest parts of our timeshare lifestyle allows the flexibility to trade our time and place for others around the world.  We can also take advantage of owner getaways and perks. . .like this one. 

Did I tell you this week’s stay is free as part of a promotion through the timeshare exchange  company, Interval International?  Because we booked that week back in February at The Jockey Club here in Vegas, we earned a free week’s stay to use at any number of places. We chose to return to Vegas – the only thing we paid was a  $139 booking fee.

Note:  These units can be rented through sites such as Expedia, or Diamond Resorts - you don’t need to own a timeshare to stay here..

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vegas: A Desert Storm

The High Plains Drifters are settling into their home away from home only footsteps off The Strip in Las Vegas. We came seeking sun and warmth. We got the warmth - today's predicted high temperature is 90.
As for the sun. . .that seems to be a continuing quest.

The Strip is known for its late night bright lights and thunderous music. This afternoon The Strip was lit with bright light when lightening filled the skies, and thunder rattled the windows and then. . .no joke, the rain came pouring down in Seattle-like buckets.  Weather forecasters said Sunday it would be the first winter storm of the season. Sigh.

Our one-bedroom, one-bath condo at The Villas at Polo Towers, that I wrote about last week exceeded our expectations with one exception, the internet connection -- they say it is there, my computer says it isn't.  So this post is being written on one of those communal computers in the lobby where fellow guests wait a impatiently for their turn at emails and Facebook. 

I have tales and photos and some Strip Tips to share but it's going to be a few days before those are posted. Now, I am heading upstairs to dig out those Seattle umbrellas that I never travel without.

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