The Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico , located in the Old Palace of the Counts of Calimaya, an eighteenth century building converted into a museum in 1964.

Mexico City foodie and anthropologists’ dream destination

Mexico City-Ciudad de Méjico

At Mexico City International Airport otherwise known as Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez, Catalina, the Mexican representative of our Australian travel agent, Eclipse Travel, greeted us warmly.

“Bienvenidos –Welcome to Mexico City. Is this your first trip to Mexico?” We replied no, but we were nevertheless really excited to be back and explore places we haven’t visited. Catalina was delighted; a tour guide for decades, she is proud of Mexico City and loves her country passionately. In her perfect English she bombarded us with information the moment we got settled in her car, casually pointing to the few security cameras looming on street lamps as she drove towards our hotel. “Mexico City is misunderstood”, she said. “It’s no different from big cities and is as safe as can be. In fact there are approximately 127,000 security cameras all over Mexico City and there is a very strong police presence everywhere.” She sighed almost with resignation and said we mustn’t believe the negative publicity about the ‘dangers’ in Mexico City.

Mexico has been getting a lot of attention of late but for the wrong reasons. At the time we were there, Donald Trump was just inaugurated 45th president of the United States of America. Despite being maligned by Donald Trump, Mexico is still considered by many as an extension of North America, specifically Texas and California. Thank goodness though, that it retains its distinct character and heritage. Good food, tequilas, its unique Aztec and Mayan culture as well as influences from the colonial days of Spain, France and America, are the heady mix that make Mexico an exciting destination. Unfortunately Mexico has also become synonymous with drug lords, “bad hombres” and danger. Regardless, based on our short sojourn there, nothing could be further from the truth. For us, Mexico City is an awesome travel destination. A few years ago, I spent a few days in this interesting and vibrant city on business and marvelled then at the city’s beauty. This time around, as a tourist, I still felt the pulsating energy that was so much part of the fabric of Mexico City.

Our hotel situated right at the heart of the historic centre (Centro Histórico) facing the square, the Zócalo, or the Plaza de la Constitucion, was a delightful surprise. The Gran Hotel Ciudad de México, an elegant 5 star hotel reminiscent of the Art Nouveau period was originally built in the late 1800’s as an exclusive department store called El Centro Mercantil. In those days it was the grandest and most luxurious department store in all of Latin America. When the department closed in 1959, the preserved building was converted to its current use. Styled in the Art Nouveau, its pièce de résistance was the stained glass ceiling made of a mix of glass and cast iron. Jacques Gruber, a student of the Nancy School Tiffany in France, created this elegant piece of work, which was very much in keeping with the ‘Tiffany look’.

Styled in the Art Nouveau, the hotel's pièce de résistance was the stained glass ceiling made of a mix of glass and cast iron

Styled in the Art Nouveau, the hotel’s pièce de résistance was the stained glass ceiling made of a mix of glass and cast iron

If in Mexico City, this hotel is worth exploring with its many art nouveau features, including an old lift and gilded birdcage.

Our first obvious stop at the hotel was the terrace bar with a view of the Zócalo. To celebrate our first night in the city we enjoyed several glasses of the ubiquitous classic Margarita cocktail with our guacamole and Cochinita Pibil Tacos (a traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatán Península served on soft tortillas). Auspiciously that evening, we were treated to a spectacle at the square, which was the lowering of the flag, executed with much pomp and ceremony.

the ubiquitous classic Margarita cocktail

the ubiquitous classic Margarita cocktail

guacamole enjoyed with my favourite cocktail, the Margarita

guacamole enjoyed with my favourite cocktail, the Margarita

spectacle at the square, which was the lowering of the flag, executed with much pomp and ceremony

spectacle at the square, which was the lowering of the flag, executed with much pomp and ceremony

The next morning Catalina met us promptly for our first guided city tour of Mexico City that included a visit to the Museum of Anthropology, a drive along the Paseo de la Reforma, the Zona Rosa, the trendy neighbourhoods of Condesa, Roma, and Polanco and then back to the Zócalo to visit the Catedral Metropolitana (The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven), the pre- Hispanic ruins at Templo Mayor of the Aztecs and the Palacio Nacional. These sights were all within walking distance from our hotel.

Catedral Metropolitana (The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption at the historic centre of Mexico City.

Catedral Metropolitana (The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption at the historic centre of Mexico City.

The Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana) in Mexico City is the oldest and largest cathedral in all of Latin America.

The Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana) in Mexico City is the oldest and largest cathedral in all of Latin America.

the pre- Hispanic ruins at Templo Mayor of the Aztecs

the pre- Hispanic ruins at Templo Mayor of the Aztecs

El Palacio Nacional located at the historic centre of Mexico City

El Palacio Nacional located at the historic centre of Mexico City

the courtyard , elPalacio Nacional. Inside the palace is Diego Rivera's murals (painted between 1929 and 1951). It tells the story of Mexican civilization from Quetzalcóatl (the Aztec plumed serpent god) to the post-revolutionary period

the courtyard , El Palacio Nacional. Inside the palace is Diego Rivera’s murals (painted between 1929 and 1951). It tells the story of Mexican civilization from Quetzalcóatl (the Aztec plumed serpent god) to the post-revolutionary period

pre- Hispanic ruins excavated at the palace

pre- Hispanic ruins excavated at the palace

We certainly noted the police presence that Catalina was talking about…Policemen and policewomen were in every street corner ready to help wandering tourists and more importantly, that particularly day, to ensure that the demonstrating farmers who descended on the ciudad ( the city) didn’t cause any disruption to the daily rhythm of life and the adventurous tourists’ sightseeing.

artefacts at the Museum of Anthropology

artefacts at the Museum of Anthropology

more artefacts at the Museum of Anthropology

more artefacts at the Museum of Anthropology

interesting artefacts uncovered on display at the Museum of Anthropology

interesting artefacts uncovered on display at the Museum of Anthropology

the largest and most visited museum in Mexico, the Museum of Anthropology is world-famous for its repository of some 600,000 art and other objects .

the largest and most visited museum in Mexico, the Museum of Anthropology is world-famous for its repository of some 600,000 art and other objects .

The next day was our free day and we decided to see more of Mexico City. For this foray, we took the Turibus (Mexico City’s hop on –hop off double decker bus that makes a circuit from the historical centre, down to the Paseo de la Reforma to Chapultepec Park and other stops for only Mexican pesos140). It was truly a great way to explore the city. Along *Paseo de la Reforma the main avenue that runs diagonally along the city, there were several stops but we chose to hop off at the Monument to Independence to make our way to the Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park), a vast 1700 acre park where the Castillo de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Castle) sits majestically on a hill. The Mexican Emperor Maximilian I and his wife Charlotte used this castle as their residence during the Second Mexican Empire (the short French intervention period of 1861 to 1867 while Napoleon III reigned in France).

El Castillo de Chapultepec

El Castillo de Chapultepec

The Mexican Emperor Maximilian I and his wife Charlotte used this castle as their residence during the Second Mexican Empire

The Mexican Emperor Maximilian I and his wife Charlotte used this castle as their residence during the Second Mexican Empire

Getting back on the bus, we later hopped off at 5 de Mayo Street to stroll down to the 18th century palace built by the Count del Valle de Orizaba family, the Casa de los Azulejos (House of Tiles-located at Callejón de la Condesa, between 5 de Mayo Street and Madero Street). What was appealing about this building was its façade made of blue and white tiles from the Puebla state.

La Casa de los Azulejos (House of Tiles-located at Callejón de la Condesa, between 5 de Mayo Street and Madero Street)

La Casa de los Azulejos (House of Tiles-located at Callejón de la Condesa, between 5 de Mayo Street and Madero Street)

interior of LaCasa de los Azulejos

interior of La Casa de los Azulejos

Note to visitors: The house itself is now a very busy restaurant. Even if one is not interested to have a meal there, a look around the interior is highly recommended.

* Paseo de la Reforma is reminiscent of the great avenues in Europe such as the Champs-Élysées in Paris; the Emperor Maximilian I in the 1860’s commissioned this avenue.
( images)

La Ciudadela was our last ‘must see’ for the day. Recommended by our guide, we found our way to this artisans’ market and were charmed by the colourful handcrafted wares. We purchased a few gorgeous Mexican handmade products, as they were really pretty and inexpensive. We always like to explore markets in cities we visit and La Ciudadela is one that we would also recommend. We were however intrigued that there were no piñatas with Donald Trump’s head. We were told by American friends to look for this trendy item.

The stroll made us hungry and for our merienda ( snack) we tried a bowl of pozole ( stew made from Hominy – a form of dried maize or corn in either pork or chicken broth, served with condiments of chopped onions, coriander, shredded lettuce, chicharones or crunchy pork skin, lime and chili, avocado and many more). This dish reminded me of the Philippine arroz caldo – a Filipino style congee made of rice soup, chicken broth, spiced with ginger and spring onions.

Mexicans eat a lot of maize or corn. As we were reminded over and over again during this trip, the corn has a spiritual and ritualistic significance for them since the Aztecs and Mayans believed the corn to be a sacred plant. Legend has it that gods created men from cornmeal dough also known as masa. Pozole then was meant to be consumed during special occasions but in modern times; one can spot little food stalls and restaurants specializing in this dish.

La Ciudadela , Address: Av Balderas s/n, Cuauhtémoc, Centro, 06040 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico

We highly anticipated our last day in Mexico City as Catalina was going to take us to the Guadalupe shrine, approximately 50 Km northeast of Mexico City, followed by the Teotihuacán archaeological ruins, a UNESCO World heritage site.

Our visit to these two places of interest didn’t disappoint. The Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe, the most visited site in the Catholic pilgrimage was for me a wish come true. I suppose, I can now cross this off my ‘bucket list’. Catalina who was somewhat intuitive to my moods gave me a few extra moments to light my candles after viewing the Virgin’s image in the new Cathedral. (The old one is slowly sinking).

The Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe, the most visited site in the Catholic pilgrimage

The Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe, according to a survey by Forbes.com it is the most visited site in the Catholic pilgrimage with an estimated 20 million pilgrims

the original image of 'Our Lady of Guadalupe' in the new Cathedral

the original image of ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe’ in the new Cathedral

Another fortuitous thing that day was La Candelaria, which we witnessed at the Basilica. The annual celebration of the Feast of Candelaria, celebrates the official presentation of baby Jesus at the Temple of Jerusalem 40 days after his birth. This is a ritual that follows the Jewish practice according to the Old Testament’s law. Among Catholics in Mexico, the person who is privileged to look after the doll dressed up as baby Jesus has to take it to mass (the event we just witnessed) and is then allowed to keep the figurine in a niche in his house or a chapel, all year round. This custom is juxtaposed with a pre- Hispanic practice of villagers bringing their corn to church in order to get their crops blessed after planting their seeds for the new agricultural cycle. This was on February 2, the eleventh day of the first month on the Aztec calendar.

The annual celebration of the Feast of Candelaria, celebrates the official presentation of baby Jesus at the Temple of Jerusalem 40 days after his birth

The annual celebration of the Feast of Candelaria, celebrates the official presentation of baby Jesus at the Temple of Jerusalem 40 days after his birth

From Catholicism we were transported to the vast archaeological complex that was a city in pre-Colombian times and a homage to Mesoamerican religion.
Built between the 1st and 7th centuries A.D. the enormous monuments of the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (the plumed serpent) and the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon were indeed impressive.

Pyramid of the moon at Teotihuacán archaeological ruins

Pyramid of the moon at Teotihuacán archaeological ruins

The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in the Teotihuacán archaeological complex

The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest building in the Teotihuacán archaeological complex

On our return to the hotel, we saw from the balcony that the Zócalo still had remnants of the La Candelaria ceremony with stalls being dismantled. Decorated with maize leaves vendors were selling various delicacies and tamales. Apparently tamales were being handed out to the crowd. We just missed the tamales , much to our disappointment.

Departing early to catch our flight to Villahermosa in the Mexican state of Tabasco, where we would start our exploration of the Mayan ruins, we promised Catalina we would shout our positive experience to the world.

Mexico, according to her, needs as many goodwill ambassadors. Her parting words were: “Did you know Mexico means navel of the moon? It comes from the Nahuatl words for “moon” (mētztli) and navel (xīctli).”

So there you have it, we can now say we have just had a wonderful time at the Place of the Centre of the Moon.

often referred to as the "true" Grand Canyon, the south rim entrance is popular among visitors

Santa Fe to Grand Canyon South Rim

Last leg- Santa Fe, Flagstaff, South Rim Grand Canyon and Sedona.

It wasn’t a good day to drive anywhere, especially down to New Mexico. At Cortez, we could see dark clouds on the horizon and rain was a certainty. So instead of taking US-160E and US 84-E as planned, we took the advice from the friendly young man at the hotel reception and headed south using a direct but scenic route to Santa Fe. The route he suggested was US 550-S then 1-25N/Old Pecos Trail in Santa Fe County. This was an estimated 278 miles and 4.5 to 5 hours drive on a good day.

route we took from Cortez to Santa Fe

route we took from Cortez to Santa Fe

As soon as it was possible, we started our journey to Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico. However, a couple of hours into the drive, the heavens opened with such ferocity that it affected our visibility. We needed to slow down to 30 miles an hour but we weren’t alone. We saw a few of our fellow road travellers on their Harley Davidsons soaked to their skin and some sensible ones took shelter at petrol/gas stations. Lucky our caddy was waterproof!

The rain was relentless. It didn’t get any better when we finally reached historic Santa Fe a few hours later. The heavy downpour seemed to follow us from a few hours back and it somewhat spoiled our plans to explore the town proper that evening. We wanted to head straight to the heart of the city and its renowned Plaza to soak in its distinctly old world Spanish ambience but the rain was a real spoiler. Fortunately, the intimate Santa Fe Motel and Inn was a lovely and delightful refuge from the rain. The staff were efficient and friendly and suggested we try the Italian restaurant, Andiamo, just next to the motel. We really didn’t want to drive in the rain to search for a good meal so this was a welcome option. We weren’t disappointed. The menu featured some of our favourite Italian classics and the restaurant’s atmosphere lent a unique Santa Fe twist to the whole dining experience.

delicious Italian meal at Andiamo restaurant, Santa Fe, New Mexico

delicious Italian meal at Andiamo restaurant, Santa Fe, New Mexico

But in fact, the evening was also made more interesting by an encounter with a lone English traveller dining by himself. Seated at a table next to us, we noted the bottle of red wine he was enjoying while perusing a USA road trip travel book (as one does when travelling solo). To break the ice, my husband enquired whether he would recommend the wine he was having… the rest of the evening was a pleasant exchange of travel stories, opinions and suggestions. It turned out our new acquaintance was a fan of American music and earlier in his youth, was inspired to see America by road, on a Mustang to visit towns and cities he has heard in pop tunes. He was pretty much exploring the south west as we were doing but stopping also at places like Wichita (from the well known tune sang by Glen Campbell -Wichita Lineman) , San Francisco ( Scott Mackenzie’s If you’re going to San Francisco) Lodi ( Credence Clearwater Revival) Las Vegas ( Viva Las Vegas by Elvis Presley) San Jose ( Do you know the way to San Jose) and the list went on. He said, growing up, he had a map of the USA on his wall with different coloured pins so he could plot a route for an adventure he swore he would experience one day. It was to be a trip of a lifetime with a friend who shared the same wish. Unfortunately his friend died unexpectedly. What a wake up call! His sympathetic wife didn’t want to travel but nevertheless urged him to realise the dream on his own. So here he was, seeing and experiencing America on his rented Mustang with the American tunes he downloaded on his iPod, blaring away. The next day after breakfast, my husband showed off our rented caddy and in turn was invited by the Englishman to take his rented Mustang for a spin. Men and their toys! And you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out that there will be another American road trip for us down the track on a Mustang.

We only had half a day to have a slice of the Santa Fe experience, so after breakfast we headed straight to the Plaza. What we saw of this picturesque and conspicuously Spanish –Mexican influenced town was so impressive; we earmarked it for a longer visit in the near future.

delicious, freshly baked rolls at theSanta Fe Motel and Inn .

delicious, freshly baked rolls at theSanta Fe Motel and Inn .

On the road again taking 1-40 W, this time we were going to head straight to Flagstaff for a couple of nights where we were going to visit the south entrance of the Grand Canyon and a day trip to Sedona. The afternoon trip was more pleasant than the drive to Santa Fe the day before and traversing the 384 miles took us only a good 6 hours.

After a long drive, once settled in Flagstaff, we didn’t want to venture too far from our motel for dinner. We ended up going to Buffalo Wild Wings across the road at 2700 S Woodlands Village Blvd. A lively and noisy venue for sports enthusiasts, the bar/restaurant boasts of more than 30 large flat screen TVs tuned to various sports games. The menu was typical of American bar food and we naturally tried the wings (which they are famous for) and shared a plate of fries and chicken quesadilla. I’m sure the wings would have pleased my palate had it not been smothered with their legendary sauce but apparently that’s how the local patrons like it. Hmmm…

Finally, the last major sight to visit transpired the next day. The 80-mile drive to the South rim Grand Canyon from Flagstaff was pretty and took approximately 2 hours (via route I-40 W then highway 64 N). This entrance to the Grand Canyon is open all year round and very popular among families and overseas visitors. On arrival at the park gate we drove to the parking area (be sure to come early specially at the height of the summer season as the four parking areas can get crowded) and made the Visitor Centre our first stop. While there, we watched a 20-minute movie of the Grand Canyon rim and river, called Grand Canyon: A Journey of Wonder. It was engrossing and educational.

This is how the Grand Canyon looks like as explained by and courtesy of the Visitor Centre

This is how the Grand Canyon looks like as explained by and courtesy of the Visitor Centre

We then took the free shuttle bus to the overlooks and walked along Mather Point and Yavapai Point. Needless to say, the views were spectacular and from this vantage point, we could clearly see and feel the difference between the north and south rims.

breathtaking views from Mather Point

breathtaking views from Mather Point

overlooking the south rim from Mather Point

overlooking the south rim from Mather Point

another vantage point to admire the Grand Canyon south

another vantage point to admire the Grand Canyon south

As we have earlier visited the north during our stay at Kanab we were somewhat more knowledgeable about the geology of the Grand Canyon. Regardless we made an effort to visit the Yavapai geology museum which is situated at Yavapai Point overlook. There we had a more thorough orientation on how the almighty 1,450-mile-long (2,330 km) Colorado River and nature sculpted the Grand Canyon. It is highly recommended to visit this museum, if not for the views one can see through the panoramic windows. At the end of this exploration, I personally felt so privileged to have seen the staggering beauty of the Grand Canyon and the many natural attractions within the Colorado Plateau. Everything we saw was spectacular but I still somewhat favour Grand Canyon North overall as it really was a very peaceful spiritual place and I felt connected to nature and God. A truly humbling experience.

unique and spectacular vista of the Grand Canyon- south

unique and spectacular vista of the Grand Canyon- south

Since we had an extra day at Flagstaff, we decided to enjoy our stop here with a day trip to Sedona. It wasn’t far to drive, about an hour and a few minutes to traverse the 30-mile distance on AZ 89-A. But my husband who was driving the wide caddy didn’t like the winding road at all and took a little bit of care and time to take us to our destination. Surrounded by pine forests, red buttes and canyons, the pretty little town resembled a village out of a fairy tale book cover. The main street was lined with interesting little shops selling arty things, gemstones, galleries and restaurants. The town had a ‘New Age’ feel to it which reminded us somewhat of Byron Bay in New South Wales, Australia and Noosa , north of Brisbane, Queensland Australia. We enjoyed the day just meandering and leisurely taking in the town’s views and character while fossicking and perusing the various shops. Though we liked the pretty town, it was a bit anti-climactic and felt that seeing the various places within the Colorado Plateau, unfairly made us accustomed to the beauty around us. In the outskirts of the village there are camping and picnic grounds for families, most notable being Red Rock State Park.

Soon it was time to pack and move on to make our way to California and visit my family. We were also scheduled to return the caddy there. Having finally completed and crossed off one of the things we wanted to experience before we get too old, I can guarantee that the road trip was one big awesome experience and confirms what Stephen Fry said… that America is a beautiful, vast, country and interesting in its diversity. It is definitely God’s country !

 

 

 

 

Anasazi Heritage, Spruce Tree House

Cortez, Mesa Verde and Canyons of the Ancients

The detour to Canon de Chelly delayed our arrival at Cortez by half a day but we had NO regrets. Canyon de Chelly was inspiring and we learned so much about the ancient people of America and appreciated the mysticism associated with the desolate setting of the Navajo land and its people.

Our next destination was to visit the Canyon of the Ancients near Cortez. We drove north from Canyon de Chelly via Indian route 64 and then US 49. US 191-N then 160-E would have been a more direct and quicker route, but what was the hurry?

Inching closer towards Cortez, we noted the changing colours of the rocks, desert and cliffs; from the ‘Red Rock Country’ in and around Kanab and Monument Valley to the limestone and green colours of the shrubs in Colorado. Once again, the vast, rugged and diverse beauty of the region known as the Colorado Plateau captivated us. It was a delight to observe the changing colours and landscape mile by mile as we approached our destination.

We pre-arranged to make Cortez our base for 3 nights and visit the territory where Ancient Puebloans lived for hundreds of years. Nearby sites at the Canyons of the Ancients, mainly Lowry Pueblo Ruins, Hovenweep National Monument and Mesa Verde were going to be the feature of the last two major stops of our American Southwest road trip.

That evening, for dinner there were notably more restaurants to choose from compared to Bluff. We were after all in the most populous municipality of Montezuma County. The meal we had at Destination Grill was a delicious surprise. The quail pleased my husband’s palate and the entire atmosphere was relaxed even at its busiest.

delicious quail for dinner at Cortez

delicious quail for dinner at Cortez

Canyon of the Ancients in southwestern Colorado is home to numerous archaeological sites within the 170,000 acres administered and protected by the Bureau of Land Management’s National Conservation System. Collectively, the numerous archaeological finds represent the largest in the USA and are mostly those of Ancestral Puebloans’ ruins. The ancient people inhabited and established communities here around AD750 to 1100.

It is important to note that most of the roads around the sites are not sealed and the attractions are what they call ’outdoor museums’. Because of the vastness of the area and the fact that some places are best explored on foot, to visit the Lowry Pueblo Ruins and Hovenweep National Monument one must obtain information and maps from the Anasazi Heritage Center, 10 miles north of Cortez. The ‘must stop’ at the Anasazi Heritage Center is important because there is also a museum in the visitor centre that provides rich information about the life of the Ancestral Puebloans as well as a very interesting interactive exhibit that offer insights on ancient dwellers’ way of life. This first point of contact is highly recommended.

We began our exploration at the 1000 year old Ancestral Puebloan archaeological site of Lowry Pueblo Ruins, located 28 miles northwest of Cortez, off Highway 491 at Pleasant View on County Road CC.

Archaeological relics and ruins suggest that Lowry Pueblo began as a small village when it was first built around 1060 AD. The ancients who inhabited Lowry Pueblo started with a few rooms and kivas (the traditional pit house dwellings of the Anasazi or the Ancient Puebloans and ceremonial underground rooms). Among the notable discoveries were a Great House, a multi-story structure with a pre-planned, rectangular layout with large rooms and a Great Kiva.

We spent a good part of the day at Lowry Pueblo ruins before we drove to Hovenweep National Monument located 40-45 miles from Cortez and only 24.5 miles southwest of Lowry Pueblo Ruins, via road 10. As always, we suggest that it is best to get the lay of the land and follow instructions from the rangers at the Visitor center.

ruins at Canyon of the Ancients

ruins at Canyon of the Ancients

Lowry Pueblo ruins

Lowry Pueblo ruins

wildlife at the Lowry Pueblo Ruins

wildlife at the Lowry Pueblo Ruins

Hovenweep was a very interesting stop because of the castle and tall towers perched right on the canyon rims. Clearly these are indications of how the early dwellers were skilled with masonry. They also showed the Ancient people’s determination to build a community in the rugged southwest corner of Colorado. From other discoveries of tools and varying remnants of plants, these proof suggest that the people were hunters and farmers. They cultivated corn, beans, squash and even cotton.

Hovenweep

Hovenweep

We began our exploration of Hovenweep on foot at Square Tower Group in Little Ruin Canyon near the Visitor Center. Then we went around the Rim Trail Loop, which took approximately a couple of hours as we lingered a fair bit to see the towers up close. By this time, we had our fill of history and suitably impressed with the fierce determination of the ancient people in the way they lived and survived the harsh environment. We then drove back to Cortez for a fabulous dinner at Farm Bistro on Main Street.

castles and towers at Hovenweep Ruins

castles and towers at Hovenweep Ruins

ruins at Hovenweep

ruins at Hovenweep

castle and tall towers perched right on the canyon rims

castle and tall towers perched right on the canyon rims

Mesa Verde was a highly anticipated visit, our last national park for this American road trip. Dubbed as the ‘first national park set aside to preserve the works of humankind’ Mesa Verde is a UNESCO designated World Cultural Heritage Park and one of the ‘must see places’ for our road trip. The phrase mesa verde is Spanish for green table. Mesas are flat-topped mountains or hills and from 600 to 1300 AD, the Ancestral Pueblo people made the cliffs of these flat-topped limestone and sandstone mountains their home for over 700 years. Like previous visits to different parks, we began our exploration of Mesa Verde at the Visitor Center, located just off Highway 160 near the park entrance. For us it’s a pre-requisite to get our bearings and to map out what we really needed to explore as we only had a full day allotted for this all-important stop. After paying our entrance fee and obtaining the information we needed, we were directed to the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum, just 22 miles from the Visitor Center for a more in depth orientation on the park and trail conditions; but more importantly, to have a better understanding of the Ancestral Puebloans and their lives at the cliff dwellings. The museum provides a 25-minute video every half hour for visitors as well as a store with books and gifts. I loved browsing at this particular store and bought a few books. Seeing that the entire Mesa Verde park was made up of a several sub-mesas and archaeological sites that were closed off to visitors we decided to focus our time and energy around the scenic Chapin Mesa area. Which in fact had the famous Spruce House and Petroglyph trail.

Although there are ranger-guided tours for visitors but we decided to explore the hiking trails on our own. From the museum we set off to trek to Spruce Tree House, the third largest and best-preserved cliff dwelling in Mesa Verde, estimated to have been constructed between 1200-1278 AD. We were treated to glimpses of how the Ancient Puebloans lived in their community made up of several kivas (8 in total) , 120 rooms, 10 ledge rooms and 2 towers. The alcove is 66 meters long and 27 meters deep. It was just so fascinating!

Spruce Tree House, the third largest cliff dwelling constructed by the Ancient Puebloans

Spruce Tree House, the third largest cliff dwelling constructed by the Ancient Puebloans

glimpses of how the Ancient Puebloans lived in their community , Spruce Tree House Mesa Verde

glimpses of how the Ancient Puebloans lived in their community , Spruce Tree House Mesa Verde

Then we decided to take up the task of going through the Petroglyph Trail which was a 3 mile round trip loop trail that afforded views of the scenic pullouts, canyons, an introduction to the fauna and foliage in this part of Colorado and the highpoint being the Indian petroglyphs. The rangers warned of the very steep climb (and I mean almost 90 degrees climb on some of the points. Warning: wear sturdy walking shoes, take bottled water and be very fit. This trail is not for the faint hearted)

The steep walk and climb Petroglyph Trail, Mesa Verde

The steep walk and climb Petroglyph Trail, Mesa Verde

on our way to explore the difficult and steep climb to Petroglyph Trail, Mesa Verde

on our way to explore the difficult and steep climb to Petroglyph Trail, Mesa Verde

petroglyphs, Mesa Verde, Colorado

petroglyphs, Mesa Verde, Colorado

It took us approximately 3 hours to complete the loop and though challenging indeed, the views and the sites were worth it.

Santa Fe in New Mexico was the intended next stop from Cortez. From there, we were going to make the final stop at Flagstaff to visit the West entrance Grand Canyon and surrounds. Early next morning, we took off…

 

 

iconic Monument Valley

Monument Valley to Canyon de Chelly

Monument Valley- Kayenta, Mexican Hat, Bluff and Canyon de Chelly

Our brief sojourn at Lake Powell Resort was very pleasant. Stephen Fry will be happy to know that thanks to him, our USA road trip with Lake Powell as the incentive was due to his fascinating TV series on America. We would have liked to linger for a few more days but unfortunately we had to continue this fabulous American southwest road trip and make our way to Monument Valley via highway 160. We estimated approximately 3 hours of continuous driving to cover the 126 miles (203 km) distance between Page, Arizona and Monument Valley.

Thanks to John Wayne and iconic western (cowboy) movies, Monument Valley is recognisable due to its various landscape used as the setting for many Western films. Located within the Navajo Tribal Park, Monument Valley is 5,564 ft. above sea level and lies on the border between southeastern Utah and northeastern Arizona. Driving into what is seemingly desolate flat land, the red rock formations of buttes and mesas, route 160 took us to the heart of well known images of the valley, that of stark red cliffs and the mesas at Monument Pass .
Our guidebook suggested to head towards the valley (on the Arizona and Utah border) from the north as it apparently provides a spectacular and dramatic image of the Southwest area. One drives through a long and flat road for miles and miles to the crimson desert towards the 1,000 foot cliffs. Cutting through the sealed road towards the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, the Visitor centre is easy to spot. The centre complex has the usual gift shop and amenities as well as an area to view the stunning landscape, the Lookout Point. Here, one can clearly see the identifiable group of red cliffs and buttes.

Monument Valley

rugged landscape Monument Valley

For a closer look at these rock formations, the park’s scenic road or Valley Drive takes visitors deep into the impressive landscape. We made a choice not to go through Valley Drive, as this road is unpaved. What would it do to our rented ‘caddy’ then? It wasn’t an option at all so we stayed near and around the complex using sealed roads. Regardless, we saw everything we wanted to see from the lookout and had time to explore the visor complex, which had an informative exhibit of the Navajo Tribe.

Some handy tips:

1. Find out when daylight saving is inasmuch as Navajo Nation observes daylight saving. So depending on the time of year one wants to travel, when daylight saving kicks in, there will be a time change from the southern routes such as Page Arizona, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas to Monument Valley.

2. There is so much to see along Valley Drive and if one is adventurous and want to really explore, options include horse rental, a basic tour of the valley, and more involved but expensive tours that are off the beaten track.

Having had our fill of the magnificent panorama, we headed north, using route 163-N towards Mexican Hat and eventually Bluff where we had previously arranged lodgings at the Desert Rose Inn. Mexican Hat is actually a small town on the San Juan River on the northern edge of the Navajo Nations’ borders in south-central San Juan County, Utah. It is named after the strange rock formation that resembles a Mexican hat

Mexican Hat

Mexican Hat

The Dessert Inn at Bluff was a very welcome respite from the drive. It somewhat took us by surprise, albeit a pleasant one. The expanded guesthouse seemed like an oasis in the midst of the rugged country. After settling in our beautiful and comfortable suite, I went for a swim in the well-appointed indoor pool while my husband chatted up a group of middle-aged German men as they parked their great big motorbikes in the driveway. It would seem that as Harley Davidson enthusiasts, high on their bucket list was to explore America on their rented Harleys. What fun! Come to think of it, we noted that all throughout our drive in the southwest, there were indeed quite a few of these legendary bikes but the interesting thing was the motorcycle drivers didn’t ‘speed’ like they do in Australia. Instead, they took their time and roared through the interstate highways while maintaining a speed limit slower than what I would do, if I were to get on a powerful motorbike. Note that I say ‘roar’. This is because the distinctive sound of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle engine is recognisable. It is such a distinguishing feature of the Harley Davidson engine that the company tried to file a ‘sound trademark’ on February 1, 1994. This resulted to an outcry from its competitors and litigations followed, which in turn made Harley Davidson drop their trademark application in the year 2000.

Soon, it was time to sample the cuisine this small town founded by early Mormon settlers had to offer. After a quick drive around Bluff, we settled for a table and a meal at the Twin Rocks Café. We were fleetingly reminded that we were indeed back in Mormon country and Utah’s restrictive liquor laws. We nevertheless indulged in a glass of wine and one of Utah’s boutique beers, ‘Polygamy Porter’ but it had to be consumed with our meal of a serve of classic buffalo chicken wings and marinated gilled sirloin steak. Delicious and inexpensive!

Twin Rocks Cafe was named after this Twin Rock

Twin Rocks Cafe was named after this Twin Rock

Polygamy Porter

interesting label of Polygamy Porter beer

Utah beer

deliciousPolygamy Porter Beer

The next day, we intended to head straight to Cortez in Colorado but got side tracked. We were told that another nearby attraction, the lesser known Canyon de Chelly (pronounced shay) National Monument, owned by the Navajo Tribal Trust of the Navajo Nation is an easy drive from Bluff . Situated about 98 miles (158 Km) south of Bluff, we travelled via highway 191, approximately 2 hours to Chinle (Apache county in Arizona) a community that serves as a gateway to Canyon de Chelly.

Navajo Indian Hogan at Chinle

Navajo Indian Hogan at Chinle

This change of plan meant delaying our arrival at Cortez by half a day but it was well worth the detour. The scenery along the way was simply exquisite.

At Canyon de Chelly archaeologists found numerous evidence that this area was occupied as early as 5,000 years ago and home to many American Indian tribes as well as the *Ancestral Puebloans.( also referred to as Anasazi, a Navajo word meaning “ancient ones.”)

*an ancient Native American culture in the area of southeastern Utah, northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado.

The recognisable features of this park are the 1,000 foot steep sandstone walls, one called by the Dine Indian (Navajo) Tribe as Spider Rock, images on the cliff walls and well-preserved Anasazi pueblo ruins on the canyon walls and prehistoric rock art.

Canyon de Chelly washome to many American Indian tribes as early as 5,000 years ago

Canyon de Chelly was home to many American Indian tribes as early as 5,000 years ago

Spider Rock

spider rock spectacular red sandstone monolith formed 280 million years ago, standing 800 foot high

Canyon de Chelly

steep sandstone walls, images on the cliff walls and well-preserved Anasazi pueblo ruins on the canyon walls

steep sandstone walls, images on the cliff walls and well-preserved Anasazi pueblo ruins on the canyon walls and prehistoric rock art

steep sandstone walls, images on the cliff walls and well-preserved Anasazi pueblo ruins on the canyon walls and prehistoric rock art

The few hours it took to explore the different sites at Canyon de Chelly were enchanting. In fact the experience was awesome! Once more, a delightful discovery of one of the most sacred lands in the Navajo Nation cemented the indelible fascination my husband has for America. Alas, it was time to head north to Cortez in Colorado.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The American southwest- the Colorado Plateau region by car

An amazing discovery of the mystery and awesomeness of the Colorado Plateau created by nature billions of years ago… stunning canyons, buttes, vibrant colours and many hidden secrets of the natural beauty of the American Southwest.

Las Vegas, Valley of Fire, Zion Park and Kanab:

Many non- Americans are fascinated by the American Interstate Highway not only because of the impressive modern engineering marvel that it is but also the fact that it was a catalyst for economic progress and changes in American cultural expression. In fact it was President Dwight Eisenhower, 34th president of the USA who made it his mission to have the major arteries of America built and improved for security reasons. He signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which initiated the largest public works program in American history. Since then the longest and most modern system of highways in the world brought America closer together but paradoxically also widened its differences in culture and living conditions.

The highway was also a result of America’s car culture, thanks to the introduction of Henry Ford’s ‘Model T’ in 1908. To underline this phenomenon, in recent times it is estimated that the USA has over 250 million cars and trucks plying the roads and sophisticated interstate network either for work, play and adventure. It is this ‘mythical romance’ attributed to the American highway system that brought us back to our wish list of exploring America by car. So when a planned surprise visit to our son in Vancouver didn’t happen, my Yankeephile husband thought it wasn’t a big deal. We would still go to North America and explore the region that is considered one of the most beautiful in the USA and the world… and this time, by car. The drive would roughly cover the Colorado Plateaus, which is actually the physiographic province that comprises southwestern United States, the southeastern half of Utah, the extreme western and southwestern parts of Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and the northern half of Arizona.

The Colorado Plateau

a large and uplifted region covering areas of Central Utah, Northern Arizona and parts of Colorado and New Mexico.

It was the perfect excuse to realise his ‘wish’ to hire and drive the quintessential American Cadillac. With this in mind we flew to LAX then on to Las Vegas where we spent a couple of days to get over the jet lag, re-visit ‘ The Strip’ and pick up the hired caddy. It was also a chance to check out Rick Harrison and his mates at the world famous Gold and Silver Pawnshop, located in the ‘seedy’ side of town.

Gold and Silver Pawnshop Las Vegas

Rick Harrison ( wax) at the Gold and Silver Pawnshop

Gold andSilver Pawnshop Las Vegas

Rick (the wax) and Bob at the Gold and Silver Pawnshop

Las Vegas in the Mojave Desert is the most populous city in Nevada with 583,756 inhabitants. Vegas is known though for its glitzy ‘strip’, gambling casinos and resorts. In 2015, it welcomed 42,312,216 visitors, 16% of which were from overseas and reported gambling revenue of US$6.3 Billion. Impressive? Perhaps, but a few months before our visit to Las Vegas, we were in Macau, also known as the Las Vegas of Asia. This small peninsula in China reported gambling revenue of 360 billion patacas or US$45 billion in the year 2013. This clearly makes this tiny enclave in the Chinese territories the undisputed winner in the gambling industry. More recently though, there was a dramatic decline in earnings due to a crackdown from the Chinese government on corruption associated with the industry and a ban on smoking in the casinos. But back to Vegas…

We took our sons to see the Grand Canyon when they were young in tandem with stops in LA to visit family and Disneyland. Las Vegas was our base enroute to attractions nearby. At the time, we witnessed the makeover of the city to be equally family friendly and not just a destination for conventions, gambling and all sorts of hedonistic pursuits associated with gambling. Back then ‘The Strip’ was already interesting, its bright neon lights providing an aura of glamour and magic to visitors who wandered around.

The Strip

The Strip, Las Vegas

The Strip Las Vegas

The older hotels and casinos in Las Vegas

Bellagio, Las Vegas

The dancing water fountains Bellagio, Las Vegas

Magic in Las Vegas

‘Magic’ on sidewalk at The Strip, Las Vegas

The Strip, Las Vegas

The Strip, Las Vegas

For this visit without kids, we explored the newer hotels and resorts that have mushroomed through the years. Over the 2 evenings, we delighted ourselves with the bright lights along ‘The Strip’ and sampled a few of Las Vegas’ bars and restaurants. Like most destinations that rely on tourists’ dollars, cuisine from all over the world was available and cocktails of various influences aplenty. While we had no gastronomic expectations on this road trip, we thoroughly enjoyed the meals in Vegas.

international cuisine

gourmet sushi meal in Las Vegas

On our third day in America and having regained our equilibrium, it was time to leave Las Vegas and pick the infamous ‘Caddy’ on my husband’s ‘bucket list.’ We had a schedule to follow for the next 12 days. Roughly we were to follow this route, encompassing what many refer to as the Grand Circle and beyond:
Las Vegas to Valley of Fire to Zion Park to Kanab(our base for 4 nights) where we were to explore Bryce Canyon, North Rim Grand Canyon Coral Sand Dunes, Grand Escalante; and then move on to Lake Powell ( Page, Arizona), Monument Valley, Bluff, Cortez-Mesa Verde , Santa Fe, Flagstaff for the South Grand Canyon and Sedona. The last leg was to slowly drive back to California to visit family. This ‘road trip’ would roughly cover almost 2,000 miles.

Roadtrip to discover the American Southwest encompassing the Colorado Plateau

Roadtrip to discover the American Southwest encompassing the Colorado Plateau

In mapping out this itinerary, we were really keen to see Lake Powell and Horseshoe Bend in East Grand Canyon. Inspired by Stephen Fry (British actor, writer, comic, author and TV host) we wanted to visit and explore what he called the True West; episode 5 of the six part BBC series ‘ Stephen Fry in America’. This fascinating 2008 program in which he travelled all 50 states of America driving his black London Cab featured the magnificent mesas and buttes of Arizona and New Mexico and the spectacular beauty of Lake Powell. The series by the way is so interesting; it should be compulsory viewing for both American and non- American audience.

Our rented Cadillac was not as exotic as Fry’s London Cab but my husband couldn’t wait to try out his rented ‘toy’. As soon as we were satisfied that the GPS and everything else in the Cadillac worked, we hit the road using route I-15 N to make our way to our first stop, the Valley of Fire State Park about 50 miles (80 km) northeast of Las Vegas. Considered the oldest state park in Nevada, USA, Valley of Fire covers an area of about 36,000 acres of red and crimson sand and rocks.

Black Caddy

Black Caddy

On arrival, the sight of red sandstone formations, rocks of various shapes and sizes, greeted us. Over 150 million years ago, Mother Nature crafted the odd shaped rock formations through a shift in the earth’s crust, faulting and also effect of erosion by wind and water. It was a virtual ‘sea of red’ of fossilised sandstone and sand dunes in the middle of the dessert interrupted only by vegetation of cactus, yucca, mesquite tree, prickly pear and beaver tail.

Valley of Fire, Nevada

Valley of Fire, Nevada

Valley of Fire, Nevada

Valley of Fire, Nevada

From Valley of Fire, we continued northeast to southwestern Utah and stopped at the town of Springdale within the Zion Park. This Utah Park formed 250 million years ago is right along the edge of the Colorado Plateau. Armed with a map and information obtained from the Visitor Centre (located at the South entrance of the park in Springdale) we hopped on the free shuttle in Springdale for a drive up Zion Canyon and to catch glimpses of the park’s highlights. Zion Park is accessible to many visitors and attracts approximately 3 million visitors each year.

Zion Park, Utah

Zion Park, Utah

Zion Park, Utah

Zion Park, Utah

on our way to Kanab from Zion Park, Utah

on our way to Kanab from Zion Park, Utah

Zion Park, Utah

Zion Park, Utah

To Kanab from Zion Park, Utah

To Kanab from Zion Park, Utah

The breath taking natural beauty of the 2 parks we just visited was a refreshing change to the bright lights of Las Vegas. Soaking in the wondrous splendour of these geological formations, we slowly drove to Kanab where we stayed for four nights. Kanab is the ideal base for those who want to explore southhwestern America’s park heartland due to its central location to major places of interest. On our ‘must see’ list nearby were the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park (very close to Kanab), Zion Park of course, and the Vermillon Cliffs National Monument( in Arizona but so close to Kanab and located south of the Utah and Arizona border). After the four-day stop, we would make our way to Page and Lake Powell.

Kanab is centrally located and an ideal base to visit and explore Zion Park, Bryce, North Rim Grand Canyon and Lake Powell

Kanab is centrally located and an ideal base to visit and explore Zion Park, Bryce, North Rim Grand Canyon and Lake Powell

Kanab is situated on the western Colorado Plateau in the county seat of Kane in South Utah, just north of the Arizona border. Long before the Mormons came, Native Americans settled Kanab for thousands of years. Then in 1776, the Spanish explorers led by Franciscan missionary Silvestre ‘lez de Escalante discovered the region. About 100 years later, the Mormon pioneers followed the Spaniards in waves of migration between 1850 and 1870. However, the more interesting transient occupants were from tinsel town. In the early 1920’s, 40’s and 50’s, location scouters of Hollywood favoured the authentic natural Western Frontier setting of the Kanab area for Western movies. Consequently, more than 100 movies and TV shows were filmed in Kanab with the likes of John Wayne starring on ‘Stagecoach’ , Robert Taylor in ‘Billy the Kid’, Clint Eastwood in The ‘Outlaw Josey Wales’ and many more, filming in the region thus making Kanab earn the moniker of ‘Little Hollywood’ .

Driving all day works up quite a thirst. On arrival at our lodging, the first thing we were hankering for was a nice cold alcoholic beverage. Knowing my husband’s ‘cocktail hour’ habit, I knew he was looking forward to a cold drink. “A cold beer would really go down well” …he would say; but surprise, surpise! Not a bar or pub as we know it in Australia was in sight. Our friendly hotel receptionist informed us that liquor laws in the state of Utah is a bit different from the rest of America. We later found out that this was an understatement. In fact the liquor law in Utah is quite restricted…to say the least. It is, in our opinion, heavily regulated and a bit complex. It sets a limit of 3.2 percent alcohol by weight (4 percent by volume) in beer sold at supermarkets or convenience stores and higher alcohol content beer are only available in bottles or something to that effect. Cocktails also have a pre-determined limit to the proportion and amount of alcohol that can be used with mixers while all types of liquor including wine and strong beer can be purchased only at state run stores that have very limited trading times. One can have alcoholic beverages at restaurants that have licenses to serve these drinks but food must be on the table first. By the time we worked out how and where we could have our aperitif, we gave up on the ‘pub search’ and headed straight to the restaurant recommended by everyone to try; the Rocking V Café . This was a pleasant dining experience despite the wait for our wine and beer (remember we had to have the meal on the table first). As I said, we designed this trip to discover the natural beauty of south-western America and didn’t harbour exigent culinary standards but some of the restaurants specially the Rocking V Café were satisfying discoveries. For four evenings, we tried some of the eclectic mix of dining establishments at Kanab. Mexican at Escobar’s ( NO Margaritas and tequilas though to my dismay) Chinese at Luo’s Café and in fact on our last evening in Kanab, we uncovered a ‘western themed’ saloon restaurant with a full service bar. Their unique selling proposition (USP)? “ Iron Horse Restaurant and Saloon- Kanab’s only full service bar where you can drink without having to eat. “ Now, why didn’t we find this place earlier on?

On our stroll back to the lodge, we saw an outdoor advertising billboard for family dining with a message that said:
“Were history and culture meet ” …

Let’s see if you can spot the error.

The next day, after a full breakfast at the rustic and well-situated Canyons Lodge, we drove off and made our way to Bryce Canyon National Park.

USA

Discovering Gods country by train boat plane and an awesome road trip

A person who is fond of France, or has a great affinity to things French is called a Francophile. So what does one call a person who loves the USA and everything Americana? Perhaps a word has not yet been officially coined but it seems that Yankeephile or Yancophile followed by Americanophile are the top most Google searched word for this.

Regardless of what is acceptable, either one of these words is what I would call my husband. His fondness for America,this beautiful and vast country started when as a child, he lived in San Francisco with his parents and spent considerable time with the locals. Since then over the years, trips to the West Coast of America to visit relatives and friends or feeble excuses of ‘business trips’ to New York were not unheard of. His interest in America centres on food; specifically ribs and cherry pie. And there is also the quintessential 50’s icon… ‘Elvis the king’ and his music. Among many other things are his obsession of American cars, with America’s luxury car the Cadillac (caddy for short) and Mustang heading the list.

Soon after our sons ‘flew the coop’, we decided to re-visit our list of globe trotting adventures. Between us, the joke was to do as much as we possibly can… while we can. Getting into the spirit of travel, the ‘inner foodie’ in us also wanted to infuse our intended nomadic adventures with food… to taste and eat our way through every destination we visit, so to speak. And so, when Qantas announced the launch of their non-stop Sydney to Dallas route which is a 13, 804 km distance between Sydney and Dallas Fort Worth, and almost 16-hours of non stop flying, we were tempted. Despite the fact that this route is considered to be the world’s longest flying distance, landing somewhere near the centre of America was appealing in the sense that Dallas was going to be an efficient connecting point to any part of the United Sates. Yankeephile won over common sense and the distance didn’t deter us from taking advantage of the specials Qantas had on offer. With no particular American destination in mind we booked our Qantas return tickets allowing a month to explore good ole United States of America.

How do we fill in a month in the heart of America? Well, considering Dallas Fort Worth is the major hub for American Airlines we figured connecting to many destinations within the USA was not going to be a problem. Furthermore, if flying in and out of cities in America wasn’t going to work, there is always Amtrak, the passenger train service partially owned by the government with the (US) National Railroad Passenger Corporation. Having just experienced once more the fun of train travel across northern Spain, my husband, an avid train traveller wanted to try out America’s train service. Mindful of the decline in popularity and numbers of train travel in the USA since the latter part of the 20th century, (partially due to the car or auto cult that has taken over American’s mode of travel), we were curious about what Amtrak had to offer. We wanted to see America without worrying too much about speed limits and driving on ‘the other side’ of the road. Plus… the idea of zipping across various destinations by plane and having to go through the necessary stringent security controls at US airports turned us off plane travel within the USA completely.

Amtrak has over 500 destinations within 46 states in the USA and 3 provinces in Canada. It covers 34,000 km of track with 300 plus trains operating each day. Surely, with the time we have, we should be able to see more of America than we ever had during our past visits?

One service we always wanted to try is the California Zephyr between Chicago, Illinois and Emeryville, California ( close to San Francisco). California Zephyr goes through Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado Utah and Nevada. Considered one of the prettiest and scenic Amtrak routes, it covers a total of 3,924 km as it goes through the plains and valleys of mid-America and climbs through the Rocky mountains and the Sierra Nevadas( also called Sierra Nevada). The scenery should be stunning to say the least.

Undaunted by the mixed feedback on Amtrak trains we sought the advice of Vacations by Rail USA, one of America’s train travel experts. Being looked after by Efi of Vacations by Rail made planning this trip so easy. Not only did she propose an itinerary that was adventurous and fun but it also allowed us to explore America at a very leisurely pace, in comfort and value for money. They call it a customised Amtrak Independent package. Vacations by Rail took over where Qantas left us at Dallas Forth Worth international airport. They booked all our hotels and train routes to make our first train adventure in America an experience to talk about and remember.

Amtrak

Horseshoe  Bend

Lake Powell and Horseshoe Bend- Grand Canyon East

Only in America! …Snow one day and a drive through the middle of the desert the next. We regretfully left Kanab and the surrounding national parks to make our way to Page in Arizona for our 2-day stay at Lake Powell Resorts. British actor, writer and comedian Stephen Fry’s TV series ‘Stephen Fry in America’ was the catalyst for our Southwest USA road trip and check out the lesser known attractions of Lake Powell. But instead of taking the shorter route from Kanab to Lake Powell via highway 89, we drove further down past Fredonia and took highway Alt 89, a scenic and pleasant drive through the desert.

Kanab is centrally located and an ideal base to visit and explore Zion Park, Bryce, North Rim Grand Canyon and Lake Powell

Kanab is centrally located and an ideal base to visit and explore Zion Park, Bryce, North Rim Grand Canyon and Lake Powell

Going the longer way (Alt 89 is 117 miles and about 3 hours from Kanab) there were no vehicles on the road for miles and miles. My husband wanted to play with his rented ‘Caddy’ and tested it at 100mph (but only for a few miles, just in case the highway patrol was actually lurking behind the buttes and cliffs, waiting to catch some reckless driver). This route also gave us a chance to stop and have a closer look at the Vermillion Cliffs, Marble Canyon and the Navajo bridge. We stopped only for a few minutes because time was actually a factor. We wanted to be at Horseshoe Bend Overlook before it was too hot. (Horseshoe Bend is in the east side of the ‘Grand Canyon complex’ and just 7 miles before the beginning of the Grand Canyon). We were also ‘thirsty’. A week of no bar or pub in Utah can be a very long time! Arizona was a very attractive proposition.

Even though the trip took an hour longer , we didn’t regret taking this route because we saw so much of the rugged and arid beauty of the immense desert area of the Colorado Plateau. The scenery still took our breath away even after a week of being indulged with a range of exquisite landforms and fantastically carved canyons. Entertained by our satellite radio* I was more content with the landscape of the desert than the ‘sound of music’. We stopped to take images of the different shades of red in the dirt and rock, from rust to vermillion to a sandy pink; the scrub brush that wasn’t quite green and the wild desert plants. Red-hued mesas and sheer rock walls rose up steeply, some of it were lime and silvery, a striking contrast against the monochromatic tones of the earth. The desert sounds had also been different. The eerily quiet was interrupted only by bees and other insects humming.

*(to keep the peace between my husband and me, we rotated our favourite stations and genres of music every hour. Not just Elvis and Frank for him but the Motown sound, Bossa Nova, Earth Wind and Fire and One Republic for me)

sclerocactus flower

sclerocactus flower

different shades of red in the dirt and rock, from rust to vermillion to a sandy pink; the scrub brush that wasn’t quite green

different shades of red in the dirt and rock, from rust to vermillion to a sandy pink; the scrub brush that wasn’t quite green

rugged and arid beauty of the desert

rugged and arid beauty of the desert

scrub brush that wasn’t quite so green

scrub brush that wasn’t quite so green

Just off highway 89, on the turnoff is a parking area that leads to one of the most photographed sights in southwest USA, Horseshoe Bend. It’s only a ¾ mile hike to get there from the car park area but on a day when the sun is blazing hot, this short distance will seem a lot longer than what it actually is. So our tip for those who want to experience Horseshoe Bend is to go there early in the day. Also take water, wear a hat and slop on some sunscreen. If you can choose the time of year, maybe make your trip in spring or autumn and not during the height of summer.

Following a few eager stragglers, we finally reached the top of the hill to the Horseshoe Bend Overlook (where the Colorado River curves around by 270 degrees, shaped like a horseshoe hence the name) and what a sight to behold! Drawing in a quick breath at the sudden unexpected and spectacular view, we were somewhat perturbed by the adventurous youngsters as they scrambled up and took photos right on the edge of the ledge where the Colorado River on the background was better seen. Made my heart stop! They obviously couldn’t see the danger. Despite signs everywhere no one paid attention. Thankfully, nothing dramatic happened.

spectacular scenery

spectacular scenery

heed the warning

heed the warning

Being at Horseshoe Bend Overlook was one moment when I wished I had a pro- camera, complete with tripod and wide-angle lenses. It was an unbelievable sight and once again thanked my lucky stars we made it to this part of the Grand Canyon. Irrespective of our wariness of heights, (the Colorado River is a drop of 1,000 ft. from the rim of the cliffs) we looked down and took some images of this marvellous scene. We could actually spot a tiny speck on the water, a speedboat cruising on the river. As the day warmed, the reptiles began to stir.

boat on the river could be spotted from our vantage point

boat on the river could be spotted from our vantage point

Lizard on Rock

Lizard on Rock

We saw a brown lizard dart into a crevice as we approached and headed back to our ‘caddy’ eager to discover the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell Resort. Prior to this road trip, we knew little of Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell so we were really thrilled!

breathtaking view looking down - Horseshoe Bend

breathtaking view looking down – Horseshoe Bend

The Glen Canyon is part of the natural canyons complex carved by the Colorado River but the necessity to provide water and power to the southwest (California, Arizona, Nevada, and parts of Mexico) meant it was inevitable to dam the Colorado River. The environmentalists were not too happy about this but the project went through nevertheless and Glen Canyon Dam was built and then completed in 1963. The result was the creation of almost 2000 miles of shorelines that is now the Lake Powell Reservoir with most of the Glen Canyon complex (about 96 of canyons) submerged in water. Stretching 186 miles across the crimson desert, rocks, buttes and canyons from Page, Arizona all the way to Hite, Utah, the reservoir has a storage capacity of 27,000,000 acre feet. This makes it one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the USA, second only to Lake Mead, formed by Hoover Dam near Las Vegas in the states of Nevada and Arizona.

Glen Canyon Dam from Marble Canyon

Glen Canyon Dam from Marble Canyon

Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963

Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1963

Finally, it was time to go to Lake Powell Resorts where we booked accommodation for 2 nights. In episode 5 of the BBC series of ‘Stephen Fry in America’ Lake Powell was shown in its most scenic. But being there, seeing the impressive views was even better than TV. Miles and miles of water interrupted by red rocks and sandstone was the backdrop of our resort. The view was stunning!

Lake Powell Resorts view

Lake Powell Resorts view

The hidden secrets of Lake Powell were made accessible by boat. Before we departed for this trip, we booked the Antelope boat cruise online for late that afternoon, a very good move because it was quite a busy weekend at the resort. We wanted to uncover the reasons why Lake Powell Reservoir is now considered a destination for avid kayakers, bass anglers, photographers and a vacation paradise for those who like houseboats. The cruise took us to see the 10 mile stretch of Antelope Canyon, known for its slot canyon. Unfortunately for this excursion it wasn’t possible to get to the slot canyon, as it is actually located in the upper Antelope canyon. To experience the much photographed slot canyon, a Navajo guide is required and can be organised in Page Arizona, near Lake Powell, (Address: 55 S. Lake Powell Blvd. Page, Arizona 86040, phone number + 1- 928-645-5594)

The hidden secrets of Lake Powell

The hidden secrets of Lake Powell

solid rock and stones and the high walled Navajo sandstone

solid rock and stones and the high walled Navajo sandstone

sandstone and canyons made for a fascinating setting

sandstone and canyons made for a fascinating setting

What we saw close up on our boat however was miles and miles of solid rock and stones and the high walled Navajo sandstone. On the way to this stretch of geological wonder was also a closer view of the Glen Canyon Dam.

There is something seductive about the water and the boat cruise was a reminder of this. We happily ended our long day of driving through the desert with a cruise on the calm waters of Lake Powell, followed by a stop at the Driftwood Lounge of Lake Powell Resorts for a delicious cocktail (our favourite classic Margarita). The good news was, Lake Powell Reservoir is both in Arizona and Utah but our hotel was in the Arizona side so restrictive Utah law towards alcohol consumption didn’t apply.

Dinner at the Rainbow Room at the resort didn’t disappoint either. Cheers…

Dinner at the Rainbow Room Lake Powell Resorts

Dinner at the Rainbow Room Lake Powell Resorts

The next day, to satisfy my husband’s interest in boats, we explored the resort’s surrounds and Wahweap Marina. Lake Powell Resorts manages 5 marinas where recreational boats and houseboats and other marina services are provided. We were driven down to the marina by one of Lake Powell Resort’s buggy cart. The driver was a fountain of information and for his efforts, earned a nice gratuity from my husband. (Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas, is managed by Aramark,
an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.)

Wahweap Marina Lake Powell Resorts

Wahweap Marina Lake Powell Resorts

Soon it was time for another excursion, once again by boat to the isolated canyons below the Navajo Mountain where the Rainbow Bridge is located. Known to be the world’s largest natural bridge, this geological wonder carved by water over millions of years is managed by the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in southern Utah, USA. It is sacred to the Native Americans who live in the area.

One can only get to Rainbow Bridge by boat or if interested in hiking, a permit must be obtained from the Navajo Nation.

We took the easy and scenic way to get to Rainbow Bridge, which is about 50 miles from Wahweap Marina at Lake Powell Resorts. We also booked this cruise online , ahead of our departure to the USA as it is a very popular cruise. The entire excursion would take about 4 hours round trip. As far as I was concerned, time was not an issue as getting to our destination was relaxing and so interesting. Passing through Warm Creek Bay we saw sandy beaches and coves. The day was glorious and not a cloud in the sky; clear blue waters of the lake and the surrounding red rocks, sandstone and canyons made for a fascinating setting. The guide told us that some scenes from the 1968 film ‘Planet of the Apes’ starring Charlton Heston were filmed here. The isolation and barren landscape does make one think of another planet and I could see why they chose this location for the movie.

The boat cruise provided a supply of bottled water and refreshments, but prior to arrival at the dock for our trek to Rainbow Bridge, we were urged to use the facilities, as there are no toilets at the site. To get to Rainbow Bridge, we had to hike for about 1.5 miles from the dock, across a trail of red dirt. It wasn’t really an easy stroll down the park so our advice is to wear a hat, sunglasses, take bottled water and ease your way slowly to the destination.

As we slogged along, coming closer to the site, we could see the arch of the bridge. It stands 290 feet (88 m) high and has a span of 275′ across. Made of sandstone, wind and water sculpted this magnificent structure over millions of years towards the end of the Triassic and Jurassic periods. It is so tall that the Statue of Liberty would be able to fit under its arch. The Puebloans (an ancient Native American culture) and other indigenous people occupied this area long ago and in more recent times, people of the Navajo, Southern Paiute, San Juan, Ute, Kaibab Paiute, White Mesa Ute, and Hopi tribes use the surrounding land. They named the bridge Nonnezoshe or “rainbow turned to stone.”

By the time we neared the bridge, the sun was blazing hot and despite the occasional cool breeze, the trek was difficult for most of us.

hiking slowly towards Rainbow Bridge

hiking slowly towards Rainbow Bridge

However, the magical scenery took our minds of our discomfort and being at an isolated, ‘sacred’ and unique geological site was a privilege.

Sacred site- Rainbow Bridge

Sacred site- Rainbow Bridge

Sacred Rainbow Bridge

Sacred Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge isso tall that the Statue of Liberty would be able to fit under its arch

Rainbow Bridge isso tall that the Statue of Liberty would be able to fit under its arch

The ultimate reward of seeing the bridge as well as the dinosaur tracks nearby was well worth the effort.

fossilised dinosaur tracks at Rainbow Bridge

fossilised dinosaur tracks at Rainbow Bridge

After a short exploration along the Rainbow Bridge National Monument, we made our way back to the boat and looked forward to a stop at Dangling Rope Marina, a mid-lake marina only accessible by boat.

The end of our short stay at Lake Powell was celebrated with a delicious and delightful meal once again at the Rainbow Room restaurant with views of the lake. We were fortunate to have been looked after by a gentleman who loved being a waiter. All his adult life he lived on a Winnebago and followed the availability of hospitality jobs on a seasonal basis; Aspen in winter, Lake Powell and other resorts for the rest of the year. Other than the Europeans who regard a job as ‘servers’ or waiters as an important career, it was refreshing to meet an American who took pride in his vocation. Needless to say, service was tops!

 

dining at Rainbow Room Lake Powell Resorts

dining at Rainbow Room Lake Powell Resorts

delicious meal at Rainbow Room Lake Powell Resorts

delicious meal at Rainbow Room Lake Powell Resorts

From Lake Powell, our next destination moving on was Monument Valley on the Arizona- Utah border.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bryce Canyon National Park and the North Rim of Grand Canyon

We were looking forward to our day of excursion at Bryce Canyon- a misnomer, because in fact Bryce Canyon is not a canyon at all. It is a vast spread of reserve covering an area of 145 km² (14,500 hectares or 35,835 acres) of distinctive rock formations, specifically the spiral shaped hoodoos, fluted walls, sculptured pinnacles, lookouts, forests and valleys. Through the millions of years, weather had landscaped, carved and created this wild but strikingly scenic park. The surrounds were not entirely just rock formations. In fact, the higher altitude of Bryce Canyon receives more rainfall than the surrounding desert so it wasn’t a surprise to see different varieties of pines like Douglas fir, Limber pine and Bristlecone pine as well as a great assortment of wild flowers and shrubs. The lower and drier levels of the park hosted varieties of plants such as cactus and yucca. Bryce is also the natural habitat of more than 50 species of wildlife such as elks, gray foxes, mountain lions, mule deer, the difficult to spot black bears and many more plus a throng of different bird species including the raven.

Hoodoos rock formation at Bryce Canyon

Hoodoos rock formation at Bryce Canyon

Use your imagination- Hoodoo at Bryce Canyon

Use your imagination- Hoodoo at Bryce Canyon

Vast parkland, Bryce Canyon

Vast parkland, Bryce Canyon

Just a handy tip; it’s always good to start early to avoid the long queues and to enjoy the full day at the park. We left Kanab as soon as we had our breakfast to get there right after their opening at 8 a.m. The drive north via highway 63 took only 90 minutes and even though it was a bit foggy when we left, the sun broke through the clouds and beamed down on us as we set out to find our way. It’s always good to plan ahead and get the current information about opening hours, weather conditions and the like. Our first stop was the Visitor Centre where we obtained information about the free shuttle bus services. For us, this was the most efficient way of seeing the highlights of the reserve as it allowed us to stop and take photos of the various points and places of interest. Gorgeous weather and gorgeous sights. The highlight for me would have been the Bryce amphitheater, situated between Sunrise Point and Sunset Point on the Rim Trail. Sunrise Point is the perfect spot to see an unobstructed view of the canyon amphitheatre.

arches formed by erosion millions of years ago- Bryce Canyon

arches formed by erosion millions of years ago- Bryce Canyon

Different shades of rust-Bryce Canyon

Different shades of rust-Bryce Canyon

At the end of the day, we thought that so far this national park, settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850’s, named after homesteader Ebenezer Bryce and visited by over one million each year was so extraordinarily beautiful and as the story goes, Bryce described this vast reserve as “a hell of a place to lose a cow”.

"one hell of a place to lose a cow" - vast expanse of Bryce Canyon

“one hell of a place to lose a cow” – vast expanse of Bryce Canyon

as far as the eye can see from Sunrise Point and Sunset Point on the Rim Trail at Bryce Canyon National Park

as far as the eye can see from Sunrise Point and Sunset Point on the Rim Trail at Bryce Canyon National Park

The north to south drive back to Kanab was leisurely via highway 63 to take in closer views of the Grand Staircase Escalante, and the pink cliffs. Earlier on from Farview Point at Bryce National Park majestic sceneries of the natural bridge and other formations including those in Yuvimpa Point and the hoodoos at Agua Canyon were a medley of different shades of red, represented in the dirt and rock, from rust to vermillion to a sandy pink. Just gorgeous!

caves at Kanab

caves at Kanab

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

The next day, we had the North Rim Grand Canyon on our agenda. When we planned this road trip, we wanted to see the Grand Canyon from the north, the east and the south. We already had been to the west entrance coming from Las Vegas when we took our sons to the USA many years ago. The north is less accessible than the south and the west vantages of the Grand Canyon and unless one is already in the vicinity of Arizona and south Utah, it is considerably remote. This is probably why it has fewer visitors per year (only 10% of the total Grand Canyon visitors per year) compared to the other three points. Our day trip to the north rim was much anticipated.
It would take 80 miles of driving south from our base in Kanab to get to the entrance of North Rim Grand Canyon. It was a very pleasant and scenic drive as our ‘caddy’ slowly drove through the Kaibab National Forest (elevation varied from 5,500 to 10,418 feet). The higher up we drove, we felt the drop in temperature at the same time. And as our car climbed up and up, at some point, we found ourselves driving through the snow. It was just breathtaking!

snow on the way to North Rim Grand Canyon

snow on the way to North Rim Grand Canyon

a lot of snow as we got closer to the entrance of the North Rim Grand Canyon

a lot of snow as we got closer to the entrance of the North Rim Grand Canyon

snow everywhere- gorgeous!

snow everywhere- gorgeous!

The North Rim Grand Canyon is closed for the winter but we planned our visit to coincide with the first day of the opening of the summer season in May. In fact, Grand Canyon North Rim’s season is short. From approximately mid-May (dependent on the snow fall and whether roads are passable) to mid- October, visitors who want to explore, hike, and camp in the park keep the rangers busy at the height of summer. Word of advice: Go early(just like the day trip to Bryce). When we reached our destination, there were only 12 cars lining up on the gate; on our way out, there would have been 200 plus in the queue waiting to get in!

first day of the spring/summer season and still snowing

first day of the spring/summer season and still snowing

Once inside the campground and parked, we headed for the Grand Canyon Lodge, built in the 1920’s and funded by the Utah Parks Company, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad. The lodge reminded me somehow of a scene in the movie based on Stephen King’s book ( made into a movie with Jack Nicholson) , ‘The Shining’. The Lodge however had a more friendly and cosy ambience, walls adorned with memorabilia from the era when it was built and fire blazing in the fireplace.

Grand Canyon Lodge, built in the 1920’s

Grand Canyon Lodge, built in the 1920’s

Brighty the Burro,'Hermit of Bright Angel Creek' Grand Lodge, North Rim Grand Canyon

Brighty the Burro,’Hermit of Bright Angel Creek’ Grand Lodge, North Rim Grand Canyon

Brighty - the Burro

Brighty – the Burro

We stood out on the veranda to take in the magnificent grandeur of the canyon, and tried to commit everything we saw to memory… peaks, plateaus and canyons of different hues of crimson, albeit sprinkled with snow.The north rim is elevated at 8827 ft., which is 1000 ft. higher in altitude than the south rim and about 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler. Just as well we came prepared and were well rugged up. It was freezing (28 degrees Fahrenheit or -2 Celsius that day) and I also felt light headed*. It was a good excuse to go back indoors and into the warmth to peruse at the Grand Canyon Association bookstore and gift shop adjacent to the Lodge. The next stop was at the kiosk for a drink of hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows!

*( 8,000 ft is apparently the point when one feels symptoms of altitude sickness)

view from the Grand Lodge- North Rim Grand Canyon

view from the Grand Lodge- North Rim Grand Canyon

desolate and peaceful at the North Rim Grand Canyon

desolate and peaceful at the North Rim Grand Canyon

The visitation area of the North is smaller than South Grand Canyon with only three major viewpoints. Standing on the bluff, regardless of the low clouds interrupting the vista, somehow, I could see down the canyons and over the peaks. I really felt the quiet and wild beauty of this vast land, offering comfort in reflective moments like this one. Indeed, time was different here. The magnificence of the North Rim Grand Canyon is indescribable; so peaceful and sacred it almost made me cry.

awesome beauty of the Grand Canyon, so quiet and soothing

awesome beauty of the Grand Canyon, so quiet and soothing

taking in the undisturbed beauty of this magnificent canyon-North Rim Grand Canyon

taking in the undisturbed beauty of this magnificent canyon-North Rim Grand Canyon

On our way out from the Lodge, we drove to one of the three overlooks, ‘Point Imperial’ where, even with the snow we saw glimpses of the Painted Desert, Marble Canyon, and eastern Grand Canyon. It was one of those precious moments where I wished we had organised to stay longer and just soak in the magic that surrounded us. But it was not to be and soon we headed back to Kanab via the Coral Pink sand Dunes (between Mount Carmel Junction and Kanab)

views from the lookout-North Rim Grand Canyon

views from the lookout-North Rim Grand Canyon

Still overcome by the awesomeness of the North Rim Grand Canyon, we were delighted with the sight of the pink and coral coloured sand, littered with juniper and pinion pines. On our drive back to Kanab, we veered just off highway 89 to Coral Pink Sand Dunes. This park is popular with campers, picnickers because it has about 22 campground rests, modern service amenities and facilities. Those who want to use the Coral Pink Sand Dunes as their base camp can do so quite comfortably. We didn’t stay very long but managed to take some interesting images to remember.

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

Coral Pink Sand Dunes

The next day came too soon and it was time to pack up and continue our journey towards Monument Valley, Bluff and Canyon de Chelly.

Seabourn Quest- image courtesy of Seabourn

The Atlantic Coast Cruise on the Seabourn

Bar Harbor, Salem, Boston, Newport then Charleston, South Carolina and Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Many thanks to Seabourn for the aerial image of the Seabourn Quest by : Michel Verdure. Copyright Seabourn

The USA is one of our favourite destinations. Having visited the west coast numerous times, it was time to explore elsewhere. This time,we had the American Eastern seaboard and New England on our sights. Many travellers say that the east coast of America is at its best in autumn. It was a good excuse as any to see what the fuss is all about. To be honest, it was in fact a very good reason why we chose the Seabourn Atlantic Coast cruise to see this part of America.Having already experienced other cruises with the Seabourn in Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea, we were certain this voyage would be just as interesting and comfortable.

The cruise started in Montreal, then a stop in Quebec City and the rest of Canada’s eastern ports in the Atlantic Ocean. From St John New Brunswick in Canada, we reluctantly departed the beautiful and rugged Canadian Maritime Provinces and continued our journey on board the Seabourn Quest to head south along the eastern seaboard of America.

The next morning, we found ourselves anchored on Frenchman Bay in Bar Harbor Maine, the largest community in Mt Desert Island, home to Acadia national park and America’s millionaires’ row way back in the 19th century. From the deck, our first glimpse of Bar Harbor was a delightful scene to behold. Bar Harbor’s rock-strewn coastline, light houses, surrounding forest with beautiful autumn foliage of red, gold and orange hues, proved that autumn is indeed a good time to be in eastern USA. The sight that greeted us was spectacular.

Bar Harbor'srock-strewn coastline

Bar Harbor’srock-strewn coastline

Bar Harbor was New England’s premier summer resort in the 19th century

Bar Harbor was New England’s premier summer resort in the 19th century

Millionaire’s row of America dating back to the 19th century

Millionaire’s row of America dating back to the 19th century

We had a full day to explore the small town. There was so much to experience and we were told not to miss places such as the Acadia National Park, Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond House, the numerous islands on the Gulf of Maine and many more…but time was an issue. We instead chose to stroll through the quaint town to learn and appreciate why Bar Harbor was New England’s premier summer resort in the 19th century. Summer estates of America’s rich and famous – the Vanderbilts, Fords, Rockefellers you name it… were built in Bar Harbor. Although many of the palatial homes were burned down during a fire in 1947, there are still impressive houses along West Street.

shopping in Bar Harbor, Maine

shopping in Bar Harbor, Maine

If a visitor only had a day to visit, this walking map is a very useful guide to have. Shopping too was interesting. The bell shaped wind chime and warm jackets we purchased will always remind us of this gorgeous coastal town on Frenchman Bay.

Back on board the Seabourn Quest, we enjoyed the sunset from the Observation Bar (our favourite spot) where the bartender intuitively handed us our favourite cocktail- classic frozen margarita- the moment we walked in.
It was a great way to say goodbye to Bar Harbour, a place I wouldn’t mind going back to someday soon.

saying goodbye to Bar Harbor from the deck &watching the sunset

saying goodbye to Bar Harbor from the deck &watching the sunset

Some of the many things we like about the Seabourn are their open bars, the selection of fine wines and exceptional gourmet meals, designed to reflect the food and specialty of the destinations. The chef and his crew work on fresh ingredients sourced from the suppliers in the destinations where we anchor for the day. Sure enough, that evening, we dined sumptuously on lobsters and many other choices typical of New England fare. As always, the dining experience on the Seabourn was exquisite.

The Seabourn difference:All dining venues are complimentary, open bars and gourmet dining

The Seabourn difference:All dining venues are complimentary, open bars and gourmet dining

fresh seafood from our ports of call

fresh seafood from our ports of call

Food Glorious Food during the Seabourn Galley Day

Food Glorious Food during the Seabourn Galley Day

The next morning, we docked at Salem harbour, the very first of many cruise liners to do so. We had a quick glimpse of this small town in Massachusetts, known for the witchcraft trials in 1692 before boarding our tour bus to spend a day in Boston. Luckily, we were in Salem just days before the celebrated Halloween in America because this was very much in evidence in Salem. Although ‘witch’ themed walking tours are available all year round, we didn’t have time to go on one. However, as a consolation prize, from our bus, we were treated to sights of elaborate Halloween displays along the streets.

Within an hour, we arrived in Boston, capital of Massachusetts and the largest city of one of the oldest original colonies in the USA. It certainly is one of the most historic, where events leading to the American Revolution took place. Paul Revere’s midnight ride, the Boston Tea Party, Boston massacre, the siege of Boston…all these underline Boston’s historic significance.

We planned our day to include the Freedom Trail, the 4-kilometre path within the heart of downtown Boston and stopped at the 16 locations that had significance and connections to the American Revolution. Next was at another iconic place in Boston, the Faneuil Hall marketplace, set in a promenade of cobblestones. Entertained by street performers, we soaked in the ambience of this bustling meeting place despite the freezing cold wind. Adjacent were North and South markets and Quincy market where we sampled Boston’s famous clam chowder and potpies at ‘Boston Chowda’. We still had time to walk around the Back Bay area to see the controversial John Hancock Tower which stands790 feet high and the tallest building in Boston.

Statue of Paul Revere, Boston

Statue of Paul Revere, Boston

Beautiful Boston Public Garden, monuments, sculptures, close to Freedom Trail and the famous Hancock Tower

Beautiful Boston Public Garden, monuments, sculptures, close to Freedom Trail and the famous Hancock Tower

Our final excursion was to the Ivy League Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts, which was established in 1636 and named after its first benefactor, John Harvard. A quick walking tour to the notable landmarks made us appreciate why this influential and prestigious private university boasts of an endowment of USD 37.6 billion to date.

Harvard University, Cambridge Massachusetts

Harvard University, Cambridge Massachusetts

Harvard University campus, Cambridge Massachusetts

Harvard University campus, Cambridge Massachusetts

Excursion completed, most of us were eager to get back to our tour bus just to get away from the cold, freezing Boston weather. Personally, I was looking forward to a warm bath in the privacy of our suite on the Seabourn Quest followed by drinks at the Observation bar to wave goodbye to Salem and head down to Newport overnight. The locals and the media gave us a grand farewell as we started to sail away from the harbour of Salem. We were apparently the first cruise ship to dock in their port. The fireworks were an unexpected treat.

That evening we enjoyed another ‘regionally themed’ and sumptuous meal from the Seabourn’s galley; choices from the main dining room, the formal and intimate ‘Restaurant 2’, the cafe/bistro ambience of the Colonnade and even the casual Patio grill reflected the specialties of the places we called on. Delicious fresh seafood, fruit and vegetables was brought in daily ( except of course on sea days) to the ship.

The next port of call was Newport, Rhode Island, the ‘city by the sea’, its annual regattas and the America’s cup and last but not least, home of the massive summer mansions of the seriously wealthy industrialists. These were built in the 19th century during the ‘Gilded Age’ and became their playground. Newport was America’s first resort to the seriously wealthy, the likes of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, the Astors and Doris Duke. We anchored in the bay and were ferried across to the port. We were really looking forward to experience this resort town.

Rhode Island in fact plays an important role in America’s history, being one of the original 13 British colonies on the east coast of North America. It was the first British colony in America to formally declare its independence on May 4, 1776, although Newport itself was founded in 1639 by a group of first officers and English settlers. Because of its rich history there were many choices of things to do and see but given only a full day to see the sights, our priority was to visit a few of the 10 mansions owned and managed by ‘The Preservation Society of Newport County’ that used to belong to America’s well known magnates.

Stupendous, ostentatious and opulent came to mind when we did our tour of the mansions on Bellevue Avenue. The first one naturally was the grandest of them all; ‘ The Breakers ’ built in 1893 to 1895 at a cost of over 7 million dollars (equivalent to over $150 million today). This mansion was the summer cottage of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, favourite grandson of Commander Cornelius Vanderbilt, son of William Vanderbilt, the richest man in the world during his time. The Vanderbilts made their fortune on steamships and the New York Central railroad. Set on a 13 acre property, the 70 room mansion faces the ocean and is open daily except for Christmas and Thanksgiving Day.
For more information ,look up this link.

view from the terrace of The Breaker- Vanderbilt Mansion, Rhode Island

view from the terrace of The Breaker- Vanderbilt Mansion, Rhode Island

frontal view of The Breaker- Vanderbilt Mansion

frontal view of The Breaker- Vanderbilt Mansion

Having seen the places where the elite met to sleep and play, we went back to our own luxurious floating digs. It was a great day to remember and from this excursion alone, my husband and I now believe the trivia we once read that only 1% of America’s population own something like 40% of its assets. Hard to imagine but after seeing the mansions and imagining how the wealthy Americans lived, how can this not be true?

It took the Seabourn Quest two days at sea to reach the port of Charleston, South Carolina. A very good reason to enjoy the amenities on the Seabourn…a day at the Spa, a game of bridge, a session at the gym to work off the indulgences and last but not least, attend the informative lecture or ‘conversation’ nights from esteemed experts. The evenings in fact are never dull on the Seabourn. There are pre-dinner drinks at the deck where the casual dining Patio Grill is located or any bar venue of your choice. There are several options for dining and of course the entertainment right after dinner for those who want to party on.

a favourite for casual dining, Patio Grill, Seabourn

a favourite for casual dining, Patio Grill, Seabourn

Finally, we reached the port of Charleston and once again, we didn’t waste time. As soon as we were allowed to leave the ship, we set off. This port of call was how I imagined the oldest city in South Carolina to be. Think ‘Gone with the Wind’ and you will easily visualise the stately antebellum homes, plantations and beautifully maintained gardens, the cobblestoned streets, horse-drawn carriages in the French quarter and Battery street.

There was so much to see and explore in Charleston and thankfully we were given practically 14 hours to check out the places of interest. First up on our list was the tour to the Magnolia Gardens, Charleston’s most visited plantation. Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, it was the Reverend John Drayton who turned the former cypress swamp into a lush garden that is now considered to be ‘America’s Last Large-scale Romantic-style Garden’. Only about 13 miles from downtown, the plantation is located on the Ashley River, across from North Charleston, South Carolina. On arrival, the first thing we did was to take a 45 minute guided stroll around the lush and beautifully maintained gardens with its variety of native plants and flowers such as Camellia, Hibiscus, Canna Lilies, Hydrangea, Impatiens and many more. Even in October there were so many species of flowers in bloom. The same family has owned the plantation for more than three centuries and with each generation, their own personal favourite plants have been added to the gardens. Whether one is a lover of plants and blooms, a garden enthusiast or an amateur botanist, it cannot be said that the Magnolia Gardens is ordinary. In fact we thought it was so beautiful and warranted the concept of ‘making you forget’ your worries in your day to day affairs…a notion associated with the creation of ‘romantic style gardens’.

We then hopped on the guided ‘nature train’ which lasted for 45 minutes. During this very interesting and informative tram tour around the Audubon Swamp Garden our guide pointed out all the wildlife including the alligators in their native habitats as well as the turtles, herons, egrets and many more who have made this planation their home in the south.

Magnolia Gardens, Charleston’s most visited plantation

Magnolia Gardens, Charleston’s most visited plantation

alligator basking in the sun, Audubon Swamp Garden, Charleston

alligator basking in the sun, Audubon Swamp Garden, Charleston

peacock and other bird species have made the Magnolia Gardens their home

peacock and other bird species have made the Magnolia Gardens their home

Finally, we made it to the stately Magnolia House, giving us a glimpse of what plantation life must have been like in the 19th century. The house features a collection of gorgeous early American antiques.

There was still plenty of time to see this elegant southern city so on our return back to Charleston we wandered about downtown. We strolled towards the bustling French Quarter and Battery areas to check out and admire the elegant townhouses built by wealthy planters and merchants in the 18th and 19th centuries.

typical colonial house seen in downtown Charleston, SC

typical colonial house seen in downtown Charleston, SC

Other historic landmarks that we were told not to miss included St Michael’s Episcopal Church, located at Broad and Meeting streets. Built between 1752 and 1761, it is known to be the oldest surviving religious structure in Charleston. Its bells have crossed the Atlantic seven times. There are quite a few churches of different denominations and because of this, Charleston has earned the moniker of ‘Holy City’.
Also of historic significance are the Old Exchange and the Provost Dungeon, (otherwise known as the Custom House) where the British held Revolutionary Prisoners captive during the Revolutionary War and Civil War. This beautiful building belies the fact that it was also where slaves and prisoners were chained to its dungeon walls, often sick with all kinds of horrible diseases.
Not to be missed is the Fireproof Building, also known as the County Records Building located at 100 Meeting Street. Built in 1827, it has the distinction of being designed by the same architect responsible for the Washington Monument. It is believed to be the oldest fire resistant building in America.

Finally, to end our day at Charleston we took a stroll through the Old City Market. This public market has been operational for more than 200 years. It occupies four city blocks from Market Street to East Bay Street. In its early days the market was a hub for farmers and plantation owners who sold their produce. It also served as a social place to catch up with friends and network with other merchants. When we were there the only disappointment was that most of the stalls were really geared up for tourists looking for souvenirs.

After going through the ‘must see’ list, we took our time to wander back to the ship, via the Battery promenade and Waterfront Park , both overlooking Charleston Harbour.

Charleston is indeed one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the American South and we appreciated the fact that we had all day to make a call on this town.

We then sailed forth towards Fort Lauderdale that evening and had another sumptuous selection of dishes inspired by the delicacies of South Carolina. On the menu that evening which I couldn’t resist were the shrimps and oysters. In South Carolina, oysters are aplenty from September and October, the months with the letter “R” in the name (much like the mud crab season in Queensland, Australia). This was really a decadent way to end our Seabourn Atlantic Coast Harbours cruise (from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale).

As they say, all good things must come to an end. The port of disembarkation of our glorious cruise was Fort Lauderdale . We arrived at the port early morning after spending another sea day from Charleston, South Carolina on the Seabourn Quest. The weather was just gorgeous; sunny yet with a cool, fresh crisp autumn breez and the sky was a vivid bright blue. My old school friend, now a resident of Fort Lauderdale met us and took us to our hotel. Sensing the need to spend time with a very dear friend whom I haven’t seen since high school days, my husband decided to venture downtown on his own. I on the other hand, spent quality time with Lani and reminisced many of the follies of our youth, over a typical Mexican inspired meal.

That evening, my husband and I discovered ‘Chart House’, just a few blocks away from our ocean front hotel, The Pelican Grand Beach Resort. This waterfront restaurant on 3000 Northeast 32nd Avenue, Fort Lauderdale Florida is also accessible by water taxis that ply through Fort Lauderdale’s canals. The menu boasts of creative seafood cuisine making use of local seafood catches. My husband had the Ahi tuna, grilled with olive oil and served with Furikake rice, wasabi cream & ginger soy and I couldn’t go past the Basil Citrus Grilled Mahi served with lemon scented sticky rice, green gazpacho relish, rich tomato coulis. Just delicious! Now I know why Ernst Hemingway loved Florida and would have wanted to go and visit his house in the Key West but we had planned to see Fort Lauderdale from the canals , via the water taxi, a fun and inexpensive way to explore the city.

Much like the hop on-hop off buses in big cities, the water taxis take you along the waterways, to see the millionaires’ row and places of interest along the waterfront. This experience makes one appreciate why Fort Lauderdale has been given- the name, ‘Venice of America’. We spent a good part of the day enjoying the sights and stopping for lunch at the 15th street Fisheries. We chose to have our late lunch at their ‘dockside,’ a casual dining experience where we could also see and enjoy the vista of many of the yachts, fishing vessels and other boats either sailing past or anchored. My husband had a mouth watering light meal of Lauderdale Lobster, a salad Roll of Maine lobster salad with celery and mayo and avocado served on a brioche hoagie, served with his choice of a side- French fries, what else. I had the most delicious fresh mahi-mahi tacos- grilled mahi-mahi meat with mango pico de gallo, fresh summer slaw (with lime juice), cilantro, guacamole and chipotle sour cream on warm grilled flour tortillas. Washed down with frozen margarita, what else can one wish for?
The unexpected treat and surprise for the day was the visit to Bahia Mar Marina where the International Boat Show was held. My husband who has a keen interest on boats and fishing was like a little boy let loose in Disneyland. With yachts like these ( see images) you can understand why. The Fort Lauderdale International boat show is an annual event.

Fort Lauderdale Florida, best seen from the water . We took a water taxi to explore

Fort Lauderdale Florida, best seen from the water . We took a water taxi to explore

one of the many palatial homes in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

one of the many palatial homes in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

the bonus was the Boat Show- so many magnificent boats on display, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

the bonus was the Boat Show- so many magnificent boats on display, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

On our last day, we rented a car on my friend’s advice and drove to Sawgrass Mills, home of outlet stores and a very popular destination for those wanting some retail therapy.

Here is some useful information:

Phone:
(954) 846-2300
Address:
12801 W Sunrise Blvd, 33323-4020
Nearby Cities:
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Miami, FL
Palm Beach, FL
Location:
20 minutes west of Fort Lauderdale, 40 minutes north of Miami, 40 minutes south of Palm Beach
Stores :
This mall has 151 outlet stores
Regular Hours:
Sun:11:00 am-8:00 pm
Mon – Sat:10:00 am-9:30 pm

We shopped for really well priced quality items and thought that the day was well spent.
That evening, we were too tired to go out for our dinner so we happily had our last meal in Florida at our hotel’s casual lunge bar/restaurant, the O2K lounge.

A perfect way to end our Atlantic Coast sojourn.

Ville de Québec

Québec and Eastern Canada- on board the Seabourn Quest

Feature image: Québec City Skyline
Copyright and credits: Ville de Québec

We set sail on board the Seabourn Quest from the port of Montreal on the St Lawrence River, Canada’s most important commercial waterway. This massive river was the route of earlier French and British explorers and the gateway to North America at the beginning of the 16th century. Seeing Montreal from the deck as we slowly sailed at dusk was a dreamlike experience. Montreal looked so pretty with twinkling lights from its historic and modern buildings and the autumn foliage dotting the landscape still visible in the soft glow of the setting sun.

Seabourn Quest
Our first port of call the next morning was Québec City in the province of Québec. Founded by French explorer Samuel de Champlain as a fur-trading base in 1608, Kebek in the language of the Hurons means “ the place where the river narrows”. (the Huron Indians were part of the Iroquoian people who were named Hurons by the French in the 17th century)
Set in one of the most stunning locations in North America , high up on Cap Diamant cliffs (Cape Diamond) and overlooking the St Lawrence River, Québec is Canada’s oldest and safest major city. We had a full day to discover this pretty and historic town, so quintessentially French. Its 400-year history is rich and exciting, palpable in its language, culture and old buildings.

The Seabourn Quest docked in the Vieux-Port de Québec (Old Port) right next to the historic city. Québec city is small and compact, about 7 square kilometres and therefore easy to explore on foot. It is divided into two parts; the Upper town (Haute Ville) and Lower town (Basse Ville).

As soon as we were allowed to disembark we promptly set off to discover this ‘European like’ city on foot with no itinerary in mind. We commenced our stroll from the pier and headed straight for the Upper Town, climbing the steep stairs that led to the top of the hill. It was a glorious autumn morning and the walk was invigorating. Admiring the view atop the hill overlooking the St Lawrence River below us and the Appalachians and Laurentian mountains to the south and north respectively, we reached Québec’s Fortifications, a defence system that surrounded Old Québec. It was built by the British two centuries ago and has earned Québec the distinction as North America’s only walled city north of Mexico. The fortifications surrounding Old Québec are close to 4.6 km in length enclosing three centuries of the city’s history, architecture and culture. This is one of the main reasons why UNESCO designated this area a world heritage site in 1985. Within the remains of the walls is a charming town with cobblestoned narrow streets littered with bistros, cafés and boutiques. The granite copper roofed houses, churches, parks and several museums and monuments speak volumes of the city’s interesting colonial past.

Dominating the quarter perched on top of Cape Diamond overlooking Dufferin Terrace and the St. Lawrence River is the iconic Chateau Frontenac (Le Château Frontenac). The Canadian and Pacific Railway built this grand and imposing building with its towers and spires reminiscent of France. It was actually conceived of in the 1800’s by William Van Horne, who was then the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He wanted to build castle like luxury hotels along the railway to entice discerning and well-heeled railway travellers to make these hotels their luxurious pied–à–terre. Le Château Frontenac was completed in 1892 and has hosted countless celebrities and royalty since then. A Fairmont hotel, the castle was named in honour of Louis de Buade, Compte de Frontenac who was governor of New France from 1672 to 1682 and 1689 to 1698.

Château Frontenac in Autumn Copyright and credits: Luc-Antoine Couturier

Château Frontenac in Autumn
Copyright and credits: Luc-Antoine Couturier

There are tours that begin at the Frontenac kiosk on Dufferin Terrace but we opted to do our own from the Dufferin Terrace to visit Artillery Park. We thought it interesting inasmuch as our walking exploration was a brief history lesson on the fight for supremacy between the British and the French. Of course we all know that the British ultimately gained control of this French colony but Québec city is unmistakably a reminder that the French were indeed its early occupants.

Dufferin Terrace and Château Frontenac Copyright and credits: Audet Photo/ Stephane Audet

Dufferin Terrace and Château Frontenac
Copyright and credits: Audet Photo/ Stephane Audet

Note: There is a tourism office Frontenac Kiosk, Dufferin Terrace that organises tours and sells guidebooks.

Frontenac

We continued our walk and headed down towards Quartier Petit-Champlain on the south edge of Old Québec. Known to be the oldest shopping district in North America, it was packed with little shops selling souvenirs, art galleries, antique shops and specialty boutiques.

Petit- Champlain Street at Christmas, Quartier Petit Champlain Copyright and credits: Ville de Québec

Petit- Champlain Street at Christmas, Quartier Petit Champlain
Copyright and credits: Ville de Québec

The narrow streets and sidewalk cafés crowded with tourists gave the neighbourhood a festive atmosphere. We ended our visit at the Place-Royale and at the square outside the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, the oldest stone church in North America (1688) where our attention was captured by the display of Halloween decorations, pumpkins of all sizes and the like. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to venture to the Musée de la Civilisation and only caught a glimpse of the Old Port public market. It was time to head back to our ship where we bid goodbye to this historic, quaint and charming Canadian city with a French twist.

Halloween display at the Square
 

Halloween display at the Square

Halloween display at the Sqaure

La Fresque des Québécois Copyright and Credits: Jean- François Bergeron, Enviro Photo

La Fresque des Québécois
Copyright and Credits: Jean- François Bergeron, Enviro Photo

After a day at sea indulging on the Seabourn’s luxuriously appointed facilities, we were looking forward to visiting the Eastern Canadian harbour towns and Maritime provinces. The first stop was Cap-Aux-Meules (Grindstone), one of the dozen or so islands that comprise the archipelago of La Madeleine. Despite the cold, gusty wind, we traipsed along the small fishing village admiring the beautiful desolated coastline and visited the church of St. Pierre at Laverniere. This wooden church was constructed from the wreckage of ships that ran aground or from some that were found submerged on the offshore ridges. One can imagine how frightening it must have been to get blown off course and sunk or lost at sea. The wrecks found in the deep around these islands tell a lot of stories that keep maritime archaeologists occupied. Now of course, a lighthouse stands at Cap-Aux-Meules to guide all types of ships (regardless of their sophisticated radars and GPS).

The cruise aimed to show us the breathtaking beauty of these parts of Canada. It also provided the travellers brief lessons in Canada’s maritime history. What was advantageous for us was the fact that it was an easy way to catch glimpses of the cluster of peninsulas and islands that form what is collectively known as the Canadian Maritime provinces, bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The Seaborn Quest took us to the town of Sydney in Nova Scotia affording us amazing views of the rugged coastline, hills and the picture perfect valleys of Nova Scotia and a day later to the busy port of St John, New Brunswick for a day of excursion.

At St John’s we acquainted ourselves with the many delights of this harbour town, notably the Market Square and the New Brunswick museum. The city is distinctly more British than French although about 30% of the population still speak Quebec French or français québécois. The highlight of our short excursion was witnessing a unique phenomenon known as the Reversing Rapids of New Brunswick, best seen from Reversing Falls Bridge. The reversing rapids are a result of the great rise and fall of the tides of the Bay of Fundy. The 28-foot tide change in the Bay of Fundy to the St. John’s River which flows right through town actually reverses direction for a few hours at high tide.

The Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island was the second region in Canada to be occupied by the Europeans after Newfoundland. Vikings were thought to have also settled there but the French still has the distinction of being ‘the colonisers’ of these parts of Canada. In fact it was known then as Acadie or Acadia. The British of course forcibly removed the Acadians during the French and Indian War in 1755–1764. Many fled to Louisiana USA while others were deported back to France.

We made our way towards the US eastern ports, sailing across the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and southeast of Newfoundland on the North American continental shelf. Found in this area is a group of underwater plateaus known as Grand Banks. Discovered by the English explorer John Cabot during his transatlantic voyage in 1497, the Grand Banks turned out to be one of the richest fishing grounds in the world. Home to dolphins, whales, Atlantic cod, swordfish, haddock, capelin, scallops and lobsters, the waters were plundered and exploited by fishing vessels from Europe, Russia and South America. The consequence of 500 years of overfishing was devastating to the marine life. Due to this, the Canadian government declared a ‘moratorium ‘ on fishing in 1992. Unfortunately, this move resulted to an economic catastrophe for the Newfoundland northeastern Canadian fishing industry.

Food glorious food…Food on board the Seabourn never disappoints. Spoilt for choice, the traveller can choose to dine in any of the Seabourn’s several restaurants. Award-winning cuisines guaranteed to be made from fresh ingredients purchased in every port stop is a delight and a boon for passengers. Whether one has a hankering for fine dining or conversely, a laid back casual meal, the meticulously thought of menus designed by Seabourn chefs are regionally themed in all of it’s restaurants. The open bars serve a huge variety of very good wine and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. This particular cruise indulged the ‘inner foodie’ in us on the array of seafood from the waters of Newfoundland but my carnivore husband was not neglected, as the best quality meats were always sure to be tender, juicy and tasty.

Note: Saveur magazine (gourmet, food, wine, and travel magazine) recognised the Seabourn as the Best Culinary Cruise Line in 2013 and 2014 for their premier Culinary Travel Awards

One of the many appeals of experiencing the Seabourn Atlantic Coast Harbour Cruise was the ease of being transported from port to port in luxurious comfort and relative tranquility. No connecting ferries, trains or airplanes to worry about and most of all, the traveller gets to unpack and pack only once. In isolated locations that are otherwise difficult to reach like Eastern Canada, for us, the Seabourn Atlantic Coast Harbours was the way to go.

Many thanks to Québec City Tourism for allowing us to use professional images featured above.