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Saturday, May 31, 2008


Blogging has so many possibilities, and I keep learning new things.

I've learned to add links to other sites right in the posts' titles. I did that with the post on the Sheraton Vistana. Click the title, and you will go right to the Sheraton Vistana website.

If you click the titles on some links--as in the book Paper Daughter--you will have just that post on your screen and you can then email it to someone else, comment, etc.

I've just experimented with these things this month, but I will try to incorporate these links from now on. I want to make Third Age Traveler as user friendly as possible. I'd like you to enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.

I will, of course, send out the Third Age Travel link once a month, but consider using the links to Technorati or Bloglines (in the left column) because then you will be notified as new posts are added and you will have access to many other blogs on any subject you can think of. And, of course, continue to click on TATravel because you can make some excellent travel arrangements there.

Please enjoy!


There's no doubt Rob and I are Time Share fans. We like the nicely appointed suites where we can settle in comfortably without feeling cramped. We like the kitchen facilities that allow us to prepare whatever meals we feel like. (Almost 3 weeks away from home can turn eating in restaurants into a chore.) We like the resort facilities, and we make use of many of them. So in deciding to spend some time in Orlando before coming back to New York, it is a no brainer to take advantage of the Sheraton Vistana, only minutes from Walt Disney World. Sheraton Vistana is also a regular hotel available as any other hotel might be.

Orlando is time share crazy. There probably isn't a company not represented here. Rob and I actually own here with Vacation Village, but Sheraton made us an offer we couldn't refuse, and we do find it interesting to listen to what new things are out there.

Sheraton and every other hotel chain is in the time share and/or vacation club business. It makes a vacation much more affordable. Business must be bustling because the building going on down here is phenomenal. Makes sense to me. The attractions in this area can bring you back for years if you choose to use your timeshare rather than exchange it!

But let me tell you about this resort, and it works well whether you're an owner, traded to come here, or a prospective buyer. You can also come as a regular hotel guest, so this post is for everyone. The suites are very nice—immaculate, spacious, nicely appointed, well stocked, and very comfortable. We have a stacked Whirlpool washer/dryer, and having already been away for more than two weeks, I take advantage of it. Our screened-in patio overlooks a small pond where waterfowl congregate, and around which we see rabbits. It's really very pretty, very private, and very tempting to simply sit here with a good book or a laptop computer and enjoy spring temperatures.

If we don’t want to leave the resort often, there's a market and several restaurants. There's sit-down, take-out, and delivery. There are several swimming pools, and Sheraton has done an interesting thing; one pool near us closes at 10:00 P.M. but the other closes at 1:00 A.M. for late night swimmers. One area calms down while there is still reveling opportunity for others. I like that. There are the usual resort amenities: spa, exercise room, massages, game rooms, assorted activities. There are plenty of places to walk, and Rob and I did that. A nice way we spend one afternoon is to walk and stop to look at fish and birds in the different ponds. Peaceful. Relaxing. This definitely works. This is vacation.

Chances are if you vacation in Orlando, you're off to the theme parks, and there are plenty of choices. On our brief 4-day stay, we specifically plan for Epcot. We plan for one day with the option to add a second day to our ticket. We did fine in one day, but it was a long day, and another park on the following day would not have been fun.

We thought we might go to Seaworld. There was also a shuttle launching but at 2 A.M.; that was tempting but proved resistible. On our next to last day we realized we should have driven over to the Space Center, but thought of it too late in the day; at this time of year, the Space Center closes at 5:00 P.M. There is no end to the possibilities.

A Sheraton Vistana type of resort is particularly appealing in Orlando where tickets for Disney, Epcot, Seaworld, Universal, etc. are generally multi-day, and parking at those sites includes the ability to leave and return. It's nice to get a respite from the hustle and bustle, rest up, and then head back for more.

If you're interested, we can arrange for you to visit Vacation Village in the Berkshires where Rob and I own a Time share, and you can see what we are enjoying. Just email me and I'll make arrangements.


Popular among books these days are memoirs, and popular in this genre is the immigrant story. Paper Daughter by M. Elaine Mar is the story of an immigrant Chinese family escaping a bare subsistence life in Hong Kong for an unknown but hopeful future in the United States. Mar’s story is really the story of her early life tracing the cross-culture clash that she faces in her new country.

As in Namesake which I reviewed in Third Age Traveler some months ago, children find themselves in the middle of a situation they have no part in creating. In the Denver area in which Elaine grows, she is very different from her classmates and suffers the taunts and cruelties dished out by other children. She is called mean names, physically and mentally bullied by her classmates, and misunderstood by her teachers. She struggles with her new language because she wants to communicate and tries to make her way through the difficult maze of cultural rules and expectations. It's not easy though she quickly picks up the idea that education will be the path to her success. She has to do all of this alone. Her parents work long, difficult hours earning only enough wages for the entire family to live in the small basement room of a relative. There is the additional factor that makes her struggle a solo journey. None of the adults speak English nor seek to learn or understand English.

This book received positive reviews, and the back jacket credits it with debunking myths about America as a land of equal opportunity. I came away with a very different reaction.

M. Elaine Mar arrives in the U.S. as a three year old immigrant. She lives with her family who disparages everything about the United States despite the fact that they are here for a far better existence than they had in Hong Kong. They are bigots against anyone or anything not like themselves and use derogatory names for those not Chinese. They make their daughter believe, as part of their Chinese culture, that she is useless because she is female. They never try to learn English or experience life in the United States, and her mother only becomes a citizen in order to use that privilege to bring more family members here. Despite all of this, M. Elaine Mar navigates the stormy cultural seas, wins a scholarship and graduates from Harvard, proving that the American dream is still alive and kicking.

The book makes me contemptuous for those who come here and expect “rights” which they did not have in their native countries and insist on America adjusting to them without making any attempt to adjust to America.

Paper Daughter does not debunk anything. It reaffirms the reasons our country is a desirable place to live and why people struggle to come to the United States. It makes me thankful to be here.

Cultural clashes are tough. Children are cruel to each other. People are often insensitive, and differences can make life harder. As I read about immigrants to other countries, I don’t read of their successes as I do of M. Elaine Mars. If Paper Daughter accompanies you on your trip, you will finish it thankful that you are lucky enough to live in America.


In Cabo San Lucas there is enough to fill every sense—its beauty is undisputed and everywhere, so a foray into its cuisine seems not only reasonable but necessary. We choose a restaurant we’d heard spoken of by previous visitors onboard ship—Cabo Wabo, a climb up the stairs behind Plaza de los Mariachis. The climb is worth it. Our table affords us a great view, and even though the big screen TVs are playing baseball and then hockey, the décor is decidedly not “American Sports Bar.”

Rob and I are really interested in learning if Mexican food at home comes anywhere near real Mexican food served in a real Mexican restaurant.

Purely for scientific reasons, (yeah, right) we begin with Margaritas. Actually they taste very similar to Rob’s own, and we quickly move on to a second round! Margaritas are $7.00 a piece. In fact, prices at Cabo Wabo are closer to New York City’s, though on the streets $10.00 for a bucket of five beers abound.

Everything we taste in Cabo Wabo is familiar yet offers a little extra zing that makes the dish just different enough to be fun.

We order and share two appetizers. The quesadillas are stuffed with oaxaca cheese rather than the jack cheese we’re used to. The lovely addition is sautéed zucchini blossoms, and that makes all the difference. The other appetizer is vampiros. While this dish is familiar, it is also new. Vampiros are grilled corn tortillas topped with refried black beans, jack cheese and grilled sirloin. Scrumptious!!!!!

Frankly the two appetizers would have been sufficient for lunch (or dinner) but not knowing that beforehand, we had ordered frajitas—steak and chicken served with rice and black beans. Unless you’ve tasted freshly made—homemade—corn tortillas, you have never tasted tortillas like these—thin, hot, and light. The beans are seasoned in a way we’d never tasted, and they are delicious. The rice is lighter and drier with less of a tomato taste. My chicken is wonderful with plenty of sautéed peppers and onions. Mouthwateringly delicious. Rob’s steak is the same.

In addition, we are served a tray of accompaniments: guacamole—the best we’ve ever eaten, even better than the previous best at Rosa’s ( in Palm Beach Gardens—salsa—nicely diced tomatoes with the right amount of seasonings—and hot sauce that apparently tickled Rob’s palate. It was a total Mexican gastronomical extravaganza.

This restaurant in a sea of restaurants beckoning to the flood of tourists in Cabo San Lucas gives you a place to begin. Try Cabo Wabo; you might leave with a souvenir sweatshirt, t-shirt, or even a bottle of Cabo Wabo Tequila.


The New York Times Bestselling Civil War novel, Gettysburg, by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen leads us to their second New York Times Bestselling “What If?” novel, Grant Comes East. I couldn’t wait to get to it so intrigued was I by the possibilities of the first book.

Robert E. Lee triumphs at Gettysburg. He doesn’t lose one third of his Army. There is no Pickett’s Charge. In fact, there is no National Cemetery nor is there a Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The face of history is changed by a reconsideration of Lee’s original battle plans and the adoption of one offered by General Longstreet—an actual plan that the historical Lee originally discounted. It’s so simple in war to misjudge an opponent, to be stymied by weather, a breakdown in equipment or supply lines, arrogance or incompetence in leaders or soldiers, or just by poor timing. As Grant Comes East opens, a victorious and very noble Lee is ready to attack Washington DC, finally subdue the Army of the Potomac, force Lincoln’s capitulation, and end the war that is bleeding both sides to death.

This second of three books in the series is extraordinary as it investigates the personalities and motivations of the men we know through history. Politics come into play as both Lee and Grant struggle to keep their independence from the politicos around them. Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis face a struggle to deliver what each has promised. In the North, draft riots abound and a Democratic Congress fights to oust the President who got them into war but who can’t seem to get them out. The noble cause of preserving the Union has risen to the moral cause of ending slavery. Jefferson Davis sees the dwindling of his most precious commodity—men—as the South’s losses mount.

The authors also look to the common man, drawing vivid portraits of ordinary men enmeshed in a conflict over which they have no control yet in which many willingly move forward in loyalty to cause or leader. It’s a stunning revelation of the nature of leadership, and it is observed on both sides of the conflict.

The Civil War was a “new” war fought and supported in ways not used before. Imagine the difference between moving men, material, horses, food, ambulances, etc. during the Revolution and the Civil War with the country’s northern railroads and factories. During the Revolution, battles might be planned a year in advance as men and equipment moved. That is what happened as the battlefield changed from upper New York State to Virginia, for instance. With railroads during the Civil War, battle lag might be a matter of days or a week—a month if men and equipment moved in from the West. All these changes and more impact the story.

The writing is vivid, lively, and sometimes so graphic that I was overwhelmed with a deep sadness as friendships disintegrated in death, wounded Union and Confederate soldiers offered each other water and solace, or family members met across opposing lines. Though some of the moving moments are unique to the Civil War, others are unsettling because they are universal and all too familiar.

At one point a Congressman says to Lincoln: “We politicians are divided into two types in this war…The majority, though they might proclaim that the dream of the republic motivates them at heart, are ultimately swayed by the advantage they can gain for themselves…The second type, God save us, like you and Grant are so rare. You two actually do wish to see this ideal, this dream, survive and you would give your lives for it without hesitation…I think it will be thus, a hundred, a hundred and fifty years from now, if we survive; there will still be men and women who will proclaim their love of the republic, perhaps even believe it, but at heart are in it only for their own power.”

This novel is about the war that wasn’t but might have been. It’s a giant of a book. Of course I can’t tell you how this episode ends, but there is a third novel, Never Call Retreat. I’m going to take a break, and then go back to see how Fortstchen and Gingrich bring their provocative What If? to its conclusion.


I can’t get the mythic magic of train travel off my mind. I can imagine myself back on Amtrak’s Auto Train leaving the station and heading toward Florida. It’s an intense sensation as dusk settles on Virginia countryside. There’s a rhythmic pattern to the sound of the train and an occasional shuffle of the car. Outside, beyond the trees or the railside buildings there’s a vivid pink streak in the sky. The sun is setting. The world is moving to another phase, and we are moving too—to another phase or a new adventure. It is certain that before we are fully awake in the morning, the sun will rise and light up whatever unnamed occurrences await us.

By a little after 6 PM, I look through the train window and see, in straight sight, my own reflection, my table, my book. Sometimes the reflection is morphed by a light from a front or back porch of a home near the tracks or by a series of street lights lining an unknown street in an unseen town.

If I raise my eyes, I see the blackened outlines of still leafless tree limbs and beyond that light puffs of clouds against the sky. It is vaguely frightening, and I am glad to be cocooned in my dimly lighted car.

By 6:40 it is pitch black outside. We’ve moved south and into more rural areas. Lights are almost non-existent. I feel as if I’m an interloper in a thoroughly dark, lightless world. I am unable to pierce the darkness, and I travel untroubled through its quiet peace

I actually sleep although it is barely nighttime. The dense blackness, the rhythmic rumble, the dim interior lighting and the enveloping sense of peace is a tonic for whatever ails me.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Walt’s Wharf
201 Main St.
Seal Beach, CA 90740
(562) 598-4433

Take a beautiful day in southern California, a beach, a pier from which we can watch swimmers, windsurfers, surfers and kite boarders frolic in the Pacific, a lovely Main Street lined with intriguing shops and restaurants, and you might be in Seal Beach, named not for aquatic animals but for Navy Seals, those highly skilled, brave Special Forces charged with dangerous and heroic tasks as they serve our country.

Our Uncle Jesse chose his favorite restaurant there—noted for its special culinary skills—and took us to Walt’s Wharf where the motto is “If it’s fresher…it’s still swimming.”

Walt’s Wharf was Uncle Jesse’s first choice on our previous visit to Seal Beach, but the line of diners waiting for dinner snaked around the block. This time we lucked out and in an earlier hour were quickly seated.

Walt’s has that “beach” feeling yet is not too casual. The décor and staff immediately give us the feeling that we’re entering a restaurant anxious to offer a wide variety of fresh, innovative and tantalizing dishes.

The menu is extensive and changes daily. Everything is appealing. It’s hard to choose.

Walt’s dinners include a choice of soup or salad. Aunt Jeanne chooses the salad, but we three try steaming bowls of Boston Clam Chowder. It’s marvelously thick, and hearty with clams and potatoes. It is accompanied by chunks of crusty bread. Had the bowl been bigger, dinner would have been complete!

Our entrees are as beautifully presented as they are delicious. Uncle Jesse chooses Oak Grilled New Zealand Orange Roughy with papaya and red chile salsa, scalloped potatoes and steamed organic carrots. It is a provocative intermingling of flavors and textures, and it’s beautiful. Uncle Jesse proclaims it delicious and eats with great gusto.

On the advice of our waitress, Shayna, I choose Oak Grilled Mahi Mahi stuffed with Blue Swimmer Crab and mozzarella cheese, and accompanied by asparagus, and lemon caper sauce. It is light and moist and served on a bed of Black Hidden Rice. Rob selects the Oak Grilled Local Swordfish with pineapple and Fuyu Persimmon salsa, crispy herbed risotto, sautéed bok choy and caramelized red onions with balsamic glaze. It’s Rob’s nature to try local fish whenever possible, and he is rarely disappointed. Rob and I trade tastes, and both are excellent.

Aunt Jeanne decides on the Fresh North Atlantic Sea Scallops, oak grilled medium-rare, with melted leeks, sautéed mushroom, and fingerling potatoes with a roasted red pepper nagé. It, too, is scrumptious. There’s so much that she brings half home for the following day!

Dessert is tempting, but absolutely out of the question. Just a smidge of room left for a comfortable cup of coffee. Great company; great dinner. Uncle Jesse was absolutely right. Walt’s Wharf is terrific.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Click on the title of this post. It’s a link to Schmap where one of my photos taken at the Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s medieval collection in Riverside Park, NYC is featured in the Second Edition of Schmap’s East Coast Guide in their museum section.

The trip to the Cloisters was terrific. ( This is one of the premier collections of medieval art, and the Cloisters is comprised of several monasteries brought and reconstructed here. The view across the Hudson is pristine as any property that would mar the vista was bought to be kept undeveloped in perpetuity.

If you haven’t been there, choose a beautiful day, and I guarantee you will love it. Spring is here, and it is the perfect season to enjoy the beauty of Riverside Park and glorious views of the Hudson.

If you're traveling, look at the info in a Schmap. Explore their site; their material might be very helpful in planning a lovely experience.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


As airlines are getting stricter about the sizes and numbers of carry-ons (thank heavens for that), they are also pulling in the reins on weight and number of checked baggage. Check with your carrier—or carriers since different airlines have different restrictions even if you are on connecting flights—to find out what you are allowed. Overweight or additional baggage can add hefty fees to your travels.

If you have a lot of baggage, you might consider one of the services that picks up your luggage and delivers it. The different in cost may be nominal. For instance, Princess Cruise Line offers this service at a cost per bag each way. You might decide to take your allowable luggage on the plane and ship the rest.

Search “luggage delivery service” or similar keywords and you will be surprised at the number and types of options available.