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Sunday, February 25, 2007


There's no place like Disneyland. Even if you go with the "been there, done that attitude," you lose it as soon as you pass through the gates and head down Main Street toward Sleeping Beauty's castle in the distance. Disneyland is the best and the brightest created by brilliant “imagineers.” Walt was right; it is the magic kingdom he described as "a happy place" at its 1955 opening.

The magnificence of Disneyland is that the magic is really in the visitor. I AM Peter Pan and never grow up. I use my imagination and enjoy every ride and am there as each story unfolds. I step into the tale and enjoy it again and again. Disneyland is absolute delight!

That's exactly the way Rob and I approach Disneyland, and we have a glorious time! We spend two days until 4:30 PM (other commitments beckon) and one evening in Disneyland. We ride every ride we want to try--19 in all (and one twice)--see every show we want to see, watch the Parade of Dreams once at night and once during the day, average 7.5 miles walking a day, and are very tired at night. Our days are magic. February is winter in southern California, and while we see folks in ski jackets, we wear shorts in the 60º+ temperatures. NO LINES!!! Once we wait 40 minutes (for Indiana Jones Adventure); once we use Disney Fast Pass (to go on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters a second time). The rest of the time we just scoot through in under 15 minutes.

This is not the Disneyland Rob and I visited in 1971! Tomorrowland is proof of that. Remember the Carousal of Progress from the 1964 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows? They're still singing "It's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow," but instead of the carousal revolving allowing us to view the future, we step into the future as the two story exhibit allows us to experience the future playing games on x-boxes, sending email Disneyland postcards, getting health information, dancing to the music, allowing the computers to age us as we would appear returning to our school reunions, exploring the globe and space, and seeing many of the wonderful technological toys Rob and I love to explore.

Tomorrowland also hosts my new favorite ride, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters. This is an interactive ride where we get our instructions from Buzz Lightyear himself, and we use the blasters in our ships to shoot targets, racking up points to see what level space pilot we are. Since Rob absolutely slaughters me on our first go round, we have to do it again. I am even worse on the second try. We use Disney Fast Pass for this ride. Slide a ticket through a machine and there’s a "return time" when we do not have to get on line again. Super! I am a dismal failure as a space pilot.

Another great ride is Space Tours. Our navigator is R2D2, and he is up to his old hijinks. Yes, we are in for a bumpy ride through space and through some of the familiar settings of Star Wars. Kinda cool.

My favorite land, of course, is Fantasyland. It is the happiest of places, and some of the rides are exactly as they've always been. Peter Pan's Flight is delightful as we fly above London, three stars to the right and straight on till morning. These are the characters I've known for so long and for whom my affection never diminishes. It's wonderful to see Gepetto's face when Pinocchio turns into a boy, and watching the seven dwarfs march off to work just brings smiles.

Back at the World's Fair in '64 I first rode It's a Small World and heard that song. It's bigger and better now, but it remains vividly colorful, gloriously hopeful, and visually delightful. At night the outside of the building sparkles and glows; the joy inside cannot be contained. A little boy in the seat ahead of us can’t stop pointing at the marvels he sees, and we enjoy his enjoyment along with our own.

A whole new land for us is Mickey's Toontown, and as Roger Rabbit fans, this is a rip! Every structure is pulled from the movie with morphed and twisted walls and floors. The really terrific ride is Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin. Even maneuvering through the waiting line is fun (actually no line but we have to follow the path anyway) because it serpentines through the Dip factory, and it is lined with amusing warnings and signs, barrels of Dip, and all kinds of things to keep people on a long line amused. The ride is absolutely loony (or is that a Warner Bros. word?)! Rob and I laugh the entire way. Great. And we get to see Mickey's actual house. How's that for hospitality?

Over in Frontierland, I chicken out at the last minute, but Rob rides the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I'm just not the roller coaster sort. I am very happy, though, in Critter Country where I enjoy riding in a honey bee hive to experience The Many Adventures of (my friend) Winnie the Pooh. I've always loved Pooh, and who is right outside when we exit the ride? Yes, Pooh himself, and he let me take his photo.

Two great rides in New Orleans Square keep us enjoying our day. Haunted Mansion is an old Disney standby, and it remains wonderful fun with its flying ghosts, holograms, and other moments of mystery. We love it. Pirates of the Caribbean is bigger and better than ever! Cannonballs are lobbed at us; pirates sing and chase their wenches, and we just sit back and enjoy the ride. Periodically we see a familiar looking pirate, Jack Sparrow, or is that Johnny Depp in disguise?

Over in Adventureland, we look into the eye of the idol and set off on a rollicking, turbulent Indiana Jones Adventure. That is a great ride, and the last one we do at the park. What a glorious finale!

Well, not quite the end. There is nothing like the Parade of Dreams. Remember, Disneyland is the place where dreams come true. I defy anyone to frown during this marvelous, colorful, musical spectacle where all the characters, all the floats, all the dancers bring Disneyland alive. No matter who your favorite character is, no matter what your favorite tale is, no matter which Disney cartoon movie you prefer, it is in the parade, close up, bigger than life and more fun than anything because imaginations go unchecked. This is marvelous by day, but it is beyond great at night when everything and everyone is highlighted by lighting. It is a magical parade in a magical place.

If you're planning on going to Disneyland and California Adventure, please see this month's travel tips for some helpful hints.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


San Diego's famous Harbor Drive boasts its world famous long-lived seafood emporium, Anthony's Fish Grotto, voted Peoples Choice for fresh seafood year after year. Anthony's, in business for more than 58 years, opened in 1946 by Catherine "Mama" Ghio, her two sons, Tod and Anthony, and son-in-law Roy. Mama perfected the old world Italian recipes her family, fishermen both in Italy and California, had come to enjoy, and today her grandchildren run the family enterprise and serve remarkably wonderful seafood in a lovely restaurant overlooking the beautiful San Diego harbor. It's a treat to eat here, and we are blessed with window seating on a clear, sunny afternoon on the waterfront.

If this story sounds a bit fishy, it's not, but it is vaguely reminiscent of another famous seafood restaurant on the waterfront I wrote about after visiting Seattle—Ivar’s Acre of Clams, and these two family run businesses have another similarity. Their tasty specialties made and keep them famous.

Service at Anthony’s is superb. The dining room is big, and each table is taken on this afternoon. While we're perusing the menu, our server, Ashley brings fresh hot bread and flavored butter--dried tomato--and it's delicious.

I order the Big Bay Combo--fried shrimp, crab cakes and grilled stuffed salmon. It is served with a big plate of crunchy coleslaw lightly covered with creamy pineapple dressing and a baked potato piled high with butter, sour cream and chives. Each selection is very good, but the salmon, rolled and stuffed with a vegetable filling, is superb. I've never had salmon prepared like this before, and it is a dish I shall remember. The fried shrimp are anything but shrimpy; they are big, plump, moist, and only lightly breaded. They were accompanied by Mama Ghio's homemade cocktail sauce. Very nice! The crab cakes are very different from the Maryland style cakes I love, so I have to rate them my least favorite. The crab was shredded, and while the cake did not consist of bread filling, I missed the lump crab that I'm used to in Maryland. But don't get me wrong, they were quite tasty.

Rob selects the Coastal Combo because it offers him a seasonal catch--swordfish caught in local waters. He's right in selecting the restaurant’s seasonal specialty. Obviously he is not going to get that in New York. The fish, he says, is unlike any swordfish he's had. It is a thinner cut, very tender and tasty. It is the best swordfish he has ever had, and that's saying a lot. His entree included grilled shrimp, big fat shrimp (is that oxymoronic?), and crab cakes. His feeling about the crab cakes is the same as mine, but he, too, enjoyed them.

There were still things we wanted to see along the waterfront, so we didn't stay even for a cup of coffee much less the tempting desserts, but if you are lucky enough to spend some time on San Diego's waterfront--embarking on a cruise to Mexico, for instance--find the time to dine at Anthony's Fish Grotto.


Today's Disneyland is not the one Rob and I visited back in 1971. It's bigger; it's grander; it is celebrating A Year of a Million Dreams. So for Rob and me, in southern California for a visit, Disneyland is a must see. If this isn't our father's (or our) Disneyland, it's time we get back in the loop. Today's Disneyland is not a single theme park but two parks, Disneyland and California Adventure, so Rob and I opt for multi-day Park Hopper Passes, and we're eager to go to the place where Dreams Come True.

On the chance that we will not get through both parks on our three-day pass, we immediately head to California Adventure, a theme park with California at heart. Once inside we're ready for Soaring Over California, a ride that takes us up into the clouds and over Southern California, its cities, farmlands, and ocean where we skim the heads of fast riding surfers, and we glide over orange groves where the air is filled with delightful fruit fragrance. It's a great ride and a wonderful start to the day.

BTW, it is Feb. and California winter. It is a weekday. No lines!! No kidding! We do not even use Disney's Fast Pass! If you're from anywhere where winter is cold and snowy, describe a southern California winter as late spring. When we left New York, it felt, with wind chill factor, -11º, so this is balmy to us; Rob and I wear shorts!

We are not deterred by the weather and head straight toward Grizzly River Run, a white-water raft ride. My gentleman husband decides to move over one seat so each of us has more room. No good deed goes unpunished, and Rob gets thoroughly doused when his seat seems to end up directly under a waterfall, in the path of a big splash after a white-water drop, and once more in the path of a spouting geyser. I emerge from the ride virtually dry; Rob wrings out his sweatshirt. We have a great time.

I'm not a roller coaster person, but I apprehensively suggest we might zip around the famous Drive on Mulholland Madness. It is totally reminiscent of Palisades Park's Wild Mouse. (Hello, Freddie Cannon) Does anyone remember that one? I feel like the car is going off the edge--which is also the way one can feel on Mulholland Drive. While I scream my head off, Rob keeps hushing me, reminding me loudly that there are children nearby. I confess that while not a baby roller coaster, it's not one that should have elicited my blood-curdling yells!

One more ride frightens me. I think the Sun Wheel is a normal ferris wheel. NOT! Disney doesn't do things the ordinary way, and the car starts rocking, swinging me high and low--madly in my estimation. "Why aren't there seat belts in this thing?" I scream as my fingers grip the openings in the cage to prevent me from tumbling on my head (I think). When I am finally back on terra firma, I admit I had a great view of the park. It takes longer for the blood to return to my fingers.

After more rides, we see two incredible 3-D shows. I don't know which show I like best, It's Tough to Be a Bug where we get buzzed and sprayed by water and, because it’s so real, I reach out my hand to touch the untouchable. We like this show more than Muppet Vision 3D even though it was great to see some old friends like Kermit and Miss Piggy, and the effects are spectacular! There are even some Muppets sitting in a theater box. I love those 3-D shows.

In Hollywood at the Hyperion Theater is a 45 minute live show--Disney's Aladdin-A Musical Spectacular. Wonderful! We see, no kidding, about half the full length Disney show Aladdin with the music, puppets, and special effects. It is glorious. Sold me on the Disney Broadway style, and I want to see The Lion King when we get home.

All the while there is music in the air, characters walking around, and wonderful, creative locales. For instance, look at the mountain in the Grizzly Peak Recreation Area and you see it resembles a grizzly's head! It's a place where imagination runs wild, and what's better than that! California Adventure Park is divided into thematic areas: Golden State, Paradise Pier, A Bug's Land, Hollywood Pictures Backlot and Sunshine Plaza. Places to shop, places to eat, and lots of different shows and rides surround us in each area. Rob and I do skip those rides and shows that are too “baby,” but there's plenty for us, and it takes more than six hours to see and do everything we want to do. That's with no lines. We walked, according to our pedometers, about 7.5 miles, so be prepared. Just remember, this is a happy place to be!

Friday, February 23, 2007


Located in the Knott’s Berry Farm Resort Hotel is a very interesting, reasonably priced theme-related restaurant called Amber Waves. This is pure Americana, and as the famous “mascot” of the Knott’s Berry Farm enterprises, Snoopy is a favorite guest who makes two appearances while we dine. I get to take my picture with him. That is kinda fun!

I love the decor of Amber Waves. The decorator used the warmth of wood to create the charming ambience in this circular setting.
Cherry laser wood cut panels representing some of our country's prominent cities surround the bar in the middle of the dining room yet removing it from view. My favorite laser cut, of course, is New York, but the St. Louis panel is striking with its towering Arch. There are murals of the states and of America’s regions on some of the walls often painted in muted southwest shades of brown and beige. The prevalent color scheme for the linens is, naturally, red, white, and blue. The restaurant is a combination of modern industrial architecture with visible ducts along the ceiling and art deco as seen in the lighting. The mix is, because it's well done, rather charming and comfortable.

The menu carries on the theme as the entrees are divided into regional sections of the country. From the Pacific, for instance, one offering is Pan Roasted Salmon. From the Midwest/South there is Kansas City Filet Mignon, and from the Atlantic, we can try Tribeca Rib eye Pepper Steak.

My inevitable choice is Chef Shannon's Pot Pie--(right, Iris and Joyce?), chicken and vegetables topped with cornbread streusel with a hint of jalapeno. Alas, Chef Shannon must not have known I was coming, and there is none! Second choice, chicken quesedillas served with guacamole, sour cream, salsa and a salad. I'm not normally a jalapeno person, but the guacamole had bits of it, and it added just the right perk and spirit to the avocado. I like it a lot. Portions are huge, and half my dinner comes home in a box.

Rob chooses the Baja California Fajitas which arrive on a hot, sizzling platter loaded with chicken, grilled onions and peppers, fresh guacamole with a hint of jalapeno, sour cream and salsa. Four flour tortillas accompany his delicious, huge, half in a box to come home serving.

Obviously there is no room for coffee or dessert, and my one complaint is the size of the portions. We see this more and more. It would be nice if restaurants cut down on the sizes of servings.

Still, I recommend Amber Waves when you're out in the Anaheim area.


P.D. James is arguably the greatest contemporary mystery writer. The Lighthouse, her 2005 Adam Dagliesh mystery, written, btw, at age 85, is a stunning whodunit set on Combe, a fictional island off the English Cornwall coast, a rocky, forbidding, nearly inaccessible blip used by the rich and famous who leave body guards and worries behind for two weeks' total seclusion and safety. Or so they think.

When Adam Dagliesh and his investigatory team are called to Combe to solve a death that residents and guests prefer to think a suicide rather than a murder, P.D. James complicates the plot significantly when each resident and guest is interviewed and reveals personal animus toward the deceased.

A.D.'s two assistants, Kate Miskin and Francis Benton-Smith (Benton), young detectives learning the investigatory ropes from the master, are interesting characters bringing their own "baggage" to the island. While they learn from Dagliesch, they also do a lot of introspection, learn about themselves and, to some degree, about each other.

P.D. James' character building skills are brilliant; each character, major or minor, reveals himself as a multi-dimensional human being with all the strengths, foibles, and backgrounds we all have. Reading P.D. James is entering unseen into the lives of many different kinds of people--in this case from the richest titled aristocrat to the poorest waif found wandering the streets and brought to Combe to work. Each one comes alive, and each is entirely realistic. They're the ones you want to follow through the novel, and their personalities entice the reader to try to solve the mystery.

Combe, itself, emerges as a character of sorts. Although a haven, it is a cold, rocky place with a history of death dating back to WWII as well as a legacy of secrecy. Despite the beauty of its flowers, its forbidding and isolating rocky cliffs present climbing challenges for even skilled climbers, and its air of mystery is enhanced by the partial ruins of its lighthouse. A buggy and bicycles are the modes of travel, and the cottages housing Combe's guests are isolated, separated by rude paths only connected in the dark nights through the glow of distant lights peeking through the windows. Only Mrs. Plunkett has a television, and the entire locale is shrouded with a cloak of privacy. Intriguing and tantalizing, Combe is closed to all but a select few.

One of the many attributes of a P. D. James novel that I adore is that she is undeniably British. There is a wonderful flavor to her writing and a literary quality I love. She plays her music with the English language, plumbing its prodigious nuances for the exact word. She's a pleasure to read in a world that often writes in the most dummy-it-down simplicity.

Try P. D. James. Try this novel. Read it while you sip a cup of Earl Grey.


Going to Disneyland or Disneyworld? At Barnes & Noble there are shelves dedicated to How To. There are also online guides. One thing is certain--going without doing some research will result in aggravation and unnecessary cost. Disneyland/World is expensive and sometimes tricky to maneuver. Disney, creator of these magic lands, is also a creator of marketing magic! Here are a few “Wendy” tips:

Do some research! If you belong to AAA, a union, or any other organization, chances are there’s some deal with Disney. There are package offers as well, but remember that each is different.

Tickets take decision! Each Park is really two parks, and tickets can be for one or both. There are single-day tickets and multi-day tickets, but carefully check each combination for the one that best suits your time and pocketbook. The difference in price can be substantial. Rob and I bought our tickets online—3-day parkhopper (entry to both parks) tickets. The total savings for us by shopping online was $100.00! Additionally, the total difference between a 2-day and a 3-day pass was only $18.00. Caveat Emptor. (Buyer Beware)

Go in the off season. Californians think 60º temperatures mean freezing; we wore shorts and golf shirts. VIRTUALLY NO LINES! Not for rides, shows, nor restaurants!

If you can’t go in the off season, use FAST PASS. Some of the more popular rides, to avoid longer lines, offer this service. Put your admission card in a machine and you receive a time to return window—more than an hour in case you’re involved with another ride. When you return, you go right through on the Fast Pass line. We did that once when I wanted to go on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters for a second time because Rob beat me so humiliatingly at astroblasting! I wanted a re-match. During the time before our Fast Pass window, we had R2D2 navigate us on a Space Tour. Impressive…Most Impressive.

Plan your time wisely. Disneyland and California Adventure are big places but not nearly so big as Disneyworld. We saw everything we wanted to see, but it took one entire day and evening and two more entire days, and we encountered no waiting lines. We averaged 7.5 miles per day. That does wear on the feet, and we were tired at the end of the day. (This is not just for adults; the kids peter out too. We saw lots of sleeping princesses) Had there been lines, we would not have had enough time. Nor did we go three days in a row; we did other things in between. There are wheel chairs, both manual and motorized, for rent, so don’t allow walking to prevent a visit.

Pick a park. We went to California Adventure on the first day thinking that since that was unavailable in Florida, we should see what we might miss elsewhere. We had an excellent time. BUT had we gone after Disneyland and our fun in the Magic Kingdom, California Adventure would have been tame and lame. NOTHING COMES CLOSE TO DISNEYLAND!

Let your imagination loose! Have a wonderful time.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


When Rob and I take road trips, I forget how much I love flying--the exhilarating rush at take off, and, in this case on our way to Jamaica, a rising left turn over the Rockaways and out over the Atlantic, rising through the puffs of clouds to the next layer to cruise at 35,000 feet for the 3 1/2 hour flight to Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport.

Jamaica is the locale of our daughter Allison and Don's wedding on Sunday, and we'll stay from Wednesday to Wednesday soaking in the rays and enjoying whatever the resort has to offer.

It is a two to three hour drive across the island from the airport to Ocho Rios where Beaches Boscobel is located. Our Beaches driver gives us a running commentary as we slowly maneuver around holes and craters in the bumpy road still under construction. He tells us that when the road is finished, the ride will take 45 minutes. The road seems a long way from being finished, but Jamaica is hosting matches in World Cup Cricket beginning in March and the road is supposed to be completed by then. We see building everywhere, and with tourism Jamaica's number one industry, beautiful new hotels and resorts abound. One our driver points out will have 2500 rooms.

As we pull through the gates at Beaches, we're stunned by its beauty. We’re helped from the mini-van and given a welcoming rum punch. They must have the skinny on Rob! Our room is lovely and large, the bedroom area raised two steps above the sitting area. We've a king bed, armoire with TV, stocked refrigerator, and coffee pot. The roomy lower level has a desk, couch, coffee table and chair. We can also watch television from that couch. The sliding doors to the balcony run the full width of the room, and our view is lovely overlooking the resort, gardens, coconut palms, and a partial view of the beautiful teal ocean waters.

Beaches is an all inclusive resort. It is a lovely experience. We are, of course, occupied with wedding thoughts, but Rob and I “force” ourselves to begin the party before anyone else arrives!

First stop is the Bayside bar, one of several on the grounds. We meet a terrific bartender, Shaun, and she is wonderful-learns our names, and whenever we walk by for the rest of the week, we get a big and personal hello! That is exactly how we are treated no matter where we go and what we do. I think one would be hard pressed to find a more responsive and friendly staff.

Dinner that night is in the Bayside Restaurant alongside the pool. This is a buffet, but it is richly arrayed with something for everyone, and everything we taste is delicious. There are linens on the tables, and the servers are excellent, always anticipating our desires. When we ask for coffee, for instance, and we go up to choose our dessert, the coffee is brought just as we return to the table and sit down. That way it is hot no matter how long we are away. Tonight is steak night, and Rob does ask for a small piece, purple and mooing, just as he likes it. And he gets it exactly as he orders. But there is so much else, especially a wide variety of fish choices, and that's where he samples. Everything is wonderful, and we squeeze in a bit of some tempting desserts with nice, strong delicious Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. This is definitely a lovely start to a lovely week.

The Bayside restaurant is the only place where breakfast is served, so we are back in the morning expecting the same old breakfast buffet. NOT! This is by far the most expansive breakfast buffet I've ever seen. We start with the fresh fruits tasting sweet and juicy and ripe and very unlike anything available at home. Papayas, mangoes, kiwis, and starfruit abound, as do oranges, bananas and grapefruit. There's fresh-squeezed juice as well. Then we come to the fishes. Smoked salmon (lox to me), creamed herring, whitefish, and sardines, all beautifully presented and incredibly appetizing. (Did I make a pun, here?) There's an omelet station, but we pass it for Jamaican specialties--callaloo, described for us by our server, Michael, as Jamaican spinach, and other types of vegetables, bammy, a type of fried fruit bread, and many other possibilities including what might be called Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish (codfish), ackee being Jamaica’s national fruit. Breakfast this and every other morning is an adventure--trying new Jamaican foods, seeing familiar foods prepared in different ways, or enjoying the quality of old standards. No rush; no fuss. Eveything is "No problem," and at Beaches they seem to mean it.

This morning we go exploring. We'd been given a map at check-in, and there are so many places to see. Like many resorts in the Caribbean, Beaches Boscobel is etched into a mountain. The walks and pathways gently curve down the mountain. Nothing steep, and if one doesn't want to walk down to the beach, there is an elevator. The beach is neither wide nor deep, but there are many offerings: Hobie-Cats, hydrobikes, sea kayaks, snorkeling, scuba diving etc. There are sufficient chaises and plenty of shelter from the sun. Want a massage; there's a hut. Want your hair braided; there's someone available. There's plenty of shade and plenty of sun. The rumor is that the sand from this beach was imported from Cuba, just ninety miles away. Our first three days at Beaches, however, is cursed with unusually wet weather. January in Jamaica is supposed to see about 1/2 inch of rain. We see that on the drive from the airport. It rains sufficiently to suspend water sports, and as family begins arriving for the wedding, we do not get a chance to play. Next time!

We spend most of our time on chaise lounges by the pool—and the swim-up pool bar. You know, the one in all the Beaches/Sandals commercials. On a light note, on the last day when we went to the photo shack to view the photos taken during the stay, the staff member looked at our collection and laughingly commented, “You guys spent a lot of time at the pool bar!” Uh huh!

The pool bar is pretty terrific. It’s opposite a huge waterfall. You sit in water up to your waist, and bubbles come out from under the rim of the bar and up under your feet. That’s how we get the tans on our backs! Milton, our bartender is terrific, ready with Bloody Marys when we first swim up.

The pool, by the way, is huge and cool. It is never crowded, and it is always refreshing. We spend a lot of time there, in the water, at the bar, or snoozing or reading on the lounges.

During our stay we sample each of the restaurants. The Venetian is the Italian restaurant serving wonderful Italian food as well as other marvelous meat and delicious fish offerings. There are paintings on the walls and ceilings, linen service and enough atmosphere to differentiate it from any other restaurant at the resort. We dine there twice, and here is a bit of one meal we shared with Robyn and Neal. I begin with fried calamari unlike any I'd ever tasted. The calamari is neither too dry nor too chewy, and the presentation is a painting on the plate. I follow that with a crisp salad of a variety of fresh market greens, polenta croutons--a little something special—and shaved parmesan cheese. I have a lovely rack of lamb, small and meaty, medium rare as I request. The service, too, is excellent. One would think we are in a land where "your wish is our command" is the order of the day. There are no reservations in the restaurant, yet we do not have to wait, and we are not rushed. It is a splendid dinner.

There is a restaurant for adults only. It is Eleanor's, the "fanciest" restaurant at Beaches where Caribbean food is served. As an aside, there is so much Jamaican pride in everyone we meet. I didn't come from Warwick not to learn a bit about Jamaica, and everyone is willing to tell me something. The specialty of the night at Eleanor's is always a Jamaican dish. Rob begins with Middle Quarter Peppered Shrimp served with a cool lime cream. He follows that with a special Jamaican Pepperpot Soup, a stunning combination of callaloo and other Jamaican vegetables, hot and spicy but not overly, and he loves it. For his entrée he orders Jamaican Steamed Fish with okra, carrots, and scallions, garnished with bammy, a deep fried cassava bread. Marvelous. When dessert comes, a “mundane” crème brule; written in chocolate on the rim is "No Problem." What a pleasant evening.

There are other restaurants on the grounds. Near the pool is BBQ Park where there is always spicy Jamaican jerked chicken, pork, hamburgers and ribs with all good things to go with them. Jerk is a marinating technique developed by the Maroons, the offspring of runaway slaves. Nearer to the beach by the gazebo, similar fare is offered during the day at the Arizona, but at night this restaurant becomes Tex-Mex. Robyn and Neal can be caught there in the evening, sipping their drinks and eating nachos under the stars.

Believe it or not, we don’t spend all our time at the restaurants. We enjoy the pool, the pool bar, and the company. We arrive on Wed., more guests arrive on Thurs., and the rest of the guests on Friday. On Sat., Allison planned a treat for me and Leslie.

There is a Red Lane Spa at Beaches, and Sat. we three go to the spa. Leslie and I luxuriate in the enjoyment of a pedicure and manicure while Allison has a "trial" hair styling and make up. It is a lot of fun, just the three of us girls sipping piña coladas and laughing and commenting on each other's progress or on life in general. Good family time. The stylist and beauticians join in some of the conversation, and it is a great time. Of course we three take pictures!

By noon on Sunday we are all getting ready for the MAIN EVENT. Back to the salon Allison and I go to have our hair done, and then, after I dress, her friends and I rendezvous in her room to help her dress, to take photos, and to drink champagne. Michael comes by to pick up the rings he will carry, and Rob meets us there so we can walk our daughter down the aisle to be married on a sparkling Caribbean afternoon in the gazebo extending out over the water by a man whose family came to Jamaica several hundred years ago to escape the Spanish Inquisition.

Family and friends leave Monday and Tues. We leave Wednesday, and wattaya know--we come back to a New York cold winter. I think we need a vacation!

Much as I enjoyed Beaches, it is a family oriented resort. The affiliated resorts, Sandals, is couples only. I think that is really the way to go.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


“Out of the night when the full moon is bright comes the horseman known as Zorro….” Remember Guy Williams and his magnificent stallion Tornado? Remember fat Sergeant Garcia who always needed a shave? If you do, you’ll want to read Isabel Allende’s Zorro, the delightful, adventuresome history of Diego de la Vega and how he became the legendary Zorro the Fox.

If you’re newer to the Zorro tale, perhaps through the recent movies, or even if you’ve never heard of this Californian who fought for justice—not only with remarkable skill and stealth but also with cunning—now is the time to get acquainted with this exciting hero.

The tale begins in 1790 at the San Gabriel mission in Alta California when Captain Alejandro de la Vega becomes enthralled with a wild warrior Indian woman, Toypurnia. These two are destined to become Diego’s parents, but don’t think for a minute that there is anything usual about their relationship or about Diego’s birth or childhood. But I cannot give this story away.

Allende relates a passionate, often funny and suspenseful tale, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, interweaving Diego’s development of skills, ideals, and purpose with California history. She does not hesitate to show the brutality with which the Spanish treated the Indians, robbing them of their way of life while exploiting them. The brutality, of course, extends to all those who resist or question their power. These events give Diego purpose, for he cannot bear to see the injustices perpetrated against those who cannot protect themselves. For him honor means fighting for fairness.

As Diego grows up, he crosses paths with Indian shamans, brave sea captains, pirates like Jean Lafitte, and evil Spanish officials who steal California’s pearls, not for Spain but for themselves and promise death to those who oppose them.

Diego learns of secret societies, meets and lives with gypsies, and educates himself in every way to enable him to fight for right. All these encounters with people and events provide Isabel Allende the means to add action and suspense throughout her tale of this dashingly romantic masked crusader. As Diego fights or loves or learns from those around him, he takes us with him, and the book is difficult to put down.

Through all his adventures, Diego is not alone. Always there, telepathically if not physically, is his faithful boyhood friend, closer to him than a blood brother, Bernardo. They are joined by the de Romeu sisters when Diego studies in Spain and lives at their father’ home.

If you are familiar with Isabel Allende’s earlier work, The House of Spirits, you will have seen her reflecting the Spanish culture in the earlier moments of the “new world.” Enjoy the trip into the past with her, and let your imagination go wild as Zorro makes the sign of the Z.

Historic Jamestown

Somehow it’s impossible to get Virginia off my mind, and I return to the Williamsburg area again in favor of other sections of the historic triangle. We go for the real thing—historic Jamestown, the place where the American way of life was born.

Historic Jamestown as well as historic Yorktown (in a future issue) is operated through a partnership between APVA (Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities) which received 22.5 acres of the town site in 1893 and The National Park Service which acquired the balance of the 1,500 acres in 1934 and designated it as a Colonial National Historic Park. What this means for us is reasonable admission fees, or none since Rob has the Golden Passport, trained professional U. S. Park Ranger Guides, committed and knowledgeable APVA volunteers, actors, and working archeologists all prepared to enhance our ability to step back in time and step up in understanding. For me it is a glorious experience!

Jamestown never fulfilled the destiny of becoming a great city as John Smith envisioned, and so attuned are we to bits and pieces of the romantic Pocahontas legend that the real significance fades in our understanding. Life was harsh, desperate and demanding. Only ninety of the original three hundred colonists survived the 1609-1610 winter. We know this because John Rolfe, the man who married Pocahontas told us so himself! Yes, there beneath the trees lining the James River’s banks stood that colonist who explained why so many others died. The original settlers were “gentlemen,” not craftsmen, and they did not possess the necessary survival skills. The only thing they shared equally among themselves was death!

Someone finally came up with a novel idea: work more; eat more. If one did not take from the common store, he would be given an additional three acres. Nothing like a bit of motivation to make a fellow want to be independent! James I chartered the Virginia Company, after all, to make money, not to coddle. Remember how the Virginia Company stymied wine production (see in archives Williamsburg Winery Nov. 30,2006) by insisting on tobacco. Here the insistence on tobacco caused a shaky, never really successful economy. The company used the “headsight” system to recruit colonists: Pay your own way. The husband receives fifty acres, the wife fifty, and the indentured servant fifty. Seemed like a good deal—in England.

John filled us in on the details of his and Pocahontas’ life here and in England where she died in her early 20s, unable to fight European disease. There is a statue in her honor in historic Jamestown.

Was I listening to Paul Harvey telling me “the rest of the story”? No, I was listening to Richard A. Cheatham of Living History Associates, Ltd. After his illuminating performance, I had a chance to chat with Dick Cheatham. This actor is actually a 14th generation descendent of John Rolfe and Pocahontas. How cool is that?

With this background information we met our park Ranger, Lee Penham Cotton, enthusiastic, humorous, and highly knowledgeable. Intriguing during our time with Lee were some of the archeological facts surrounding the settlement. In trying to unearth John Smith’s original fort, for instance, archeologists had to go through Civil War earthenworks. The drawings, by the way, existing of John Smith’s fort were actually drawn by a Spanish spy!

We were greeted by another colonial settler in the Jamestown Church where we could see the original footings and walls excavated and protected by glass. From its inception, Jamestown was a full-fledged Parish of the Church of England, a fact that remained for more than 150 years until the outbreak of the American Revolution. Reincarnated several times because of fires, the church, in 1614, was where John Rolfe married Pocahontas. The partially ruined church tower is the only 17th century structure standing above ground in Jamestown and one of the earliest English built edifices standing in the United States.

On the royal seal above the entryway, I saw the Lion, representing the power of mighty England, and the emblem of the Royal Order of the Garter. A wonderful story surrounds this oddly named rank. It seems that Edward II was dancing with his mistress when her garter fell off. He said, “Evil to those who think evil,” and he then elevated the garter to the highest order.

Here, too, the first representative legislative assembly in the New World met in 1619. Imagine. This is OUR history.

Even Queen Elizabeth has visited. She came in 1957 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Jamestown’s founding.

Outside we were able to see ongoing archeological digs of John Smith’s 1607 fort. We received explanations from an APVA guide. We wandered through the rest of the area, looking at the different monuments to Smith and Pocahontas. There is also a Tercentery Monument. We visited the glass house where artisans demonstrated 17th century glass blowing techniques, one of Virginia’s earliest industries, begun in 1608 by German and Polish craftsmen.

By 1699 after a tumultuous life and burning by back country settlers and a Statehouse fire in 1698, the government moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg. The town never recovered.

Once again, I wholeheartedly recommend our National Park Service for protecting and maintaining not only our natural resources but also for preserving our heritage through their dedicated Park Rangers. From the East Coast to the West Coast, we’ve never been disappointed with a visit to a National Park.

BTW, you can also visit nearby Jamestown Settlement, a living history museum, but after the major part of the day in Historic Jamestown, we were just unable to do it this time. Guess we’ll just have to go back!


Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a great book! I knew that when I picked it up many moons ago. It was even better this time. The benefit of maturity allowed me to appreciate aspects of that greatness which I missed in my youth.

Years ago I concentrated on the devout Brother Juniper’s missionary-zeal inspired proposition that behind every occurrence is a divine reason. How much more influential would religion be if we could go beyond “faith” and actually understand God’s purpose and plan for us? What a great collector of souls Brother Juniper would become if he proved his proposition. I wanted that answer too.

But maturity provides new dimension to Wilder’s slim, one hundred page novel. I maneuver my own way through the maze. I see that the answer to Brother Juniper’s question is unnecessary. Que Será Será. It’s how one goes through life that matters and on what one places importance that adds value. There is a bridge that doesn’t break, and it is made of something very different from the tangible osier of which the Bridge of San Luis Rey was woven. But you have to read the novel to see if you agree with Wilder.

The famous opening line, “On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below” tells us almost everything we need as background, but before the paragraph ends, Wilder says, “The bridge seemed to be among the things that last forever.” But it wasn’t. The bridge Wilder constructs in this investigation of the human condition is not one that is tangible, but is it one that is eternal.


Once again I recommend checking the difference between the cost of airport long-term parking and long-term parking at an airport hotel. I’ve recommended some hotels and a long time parking site away from the airport for Newark airport, but at JFK, the Ramada Plaza is right on the airport grounds. There was only a $20.00 difference between a comfortable night at the airport and two hours extra sleep and airport long-term parking. Our room charge with 7 days' parking was $169.00. We were briskly shuttled to our terminal, and we were picked up with no more than a five minute wait. Can’t ask for more than that. A place to look for the fit that’s right for you is ParkSleepFly.