Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Following the Mother Road as a summer vacation

The Route 66 sign at Adams Street could be a starting point for a Mother Road trip. It is across Michigan Avenue from the Art Institute of Chicago. (Photos by Jodie Jacobs

The Route 66 sign at Adams Street could be a starting point for a Mother Road trip. It is across Michigan Avenue from the Art Institute of Chicago. (Photos by Jodie Jacobs

The summer of 2018 is a great time to travel the Mother Road, or as songwriter Bobby Troup wrote in 1946, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66.” The National Trust For Historic Preservation has a motorcade that, as Troup wrote, “winds from Chicago to LA, more than two thousand miles all the way.”

The “Preserve Route 66” motorcade invites travelers to meet up at a variety of good Route 66 sights and destinations. The first segment is Chicago to Springfield that is the first week of July. The Missouri segment is July 6-10.

You can catch up with the group, join them at any date that suits your schedule or use their schedule of stops as a guide for your own trip. Their meetups are free and open to the public.

Since Springfield, IL is on the list, here are some recommendations of places to stay and things to do in the capital city of “The Land of Lincoln.” St.Louis is next with where to stay, eat and go.

But first, if coming from Chicago, go downtown to where it supposedly begins. The route historically starts in Grant Park near Jackson boulevard, east of Michigan Avenue.

However, the sign for it can be found across Michigan Avenue opposite the front entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago. In Illinois I-55 (known in Chicago as the Stevenson Expressway)  basically follows historic Route 66. Illinois has posted Route 66 signs along the popular old road.  Tip: Chicago to Springfield is about 197 miles so plan on it taking about 3 ½ hours. Police do patrol the highway.

 

In Springfield

The city has enough fascinating Lincoln spots from the Lincoln Museum and his home, to the Old State Capitol building and the current Capitol building, to fill two days so look for a place to stay that makes it a fun vacation.

Where to stay – The Springfield Visitors and Convention Bureau is a great resource for places to stay, eat and see. If you like historic inns and B&B’s consider The Inn at 835. An early 1900’s former apartment house, the Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Two places close to the action are The President Abraham Lincoln Hotel and the State House Inn. Tip – Wear comfortable shoes and bring the sunscreen. This is a walking town.

An option for people who like a pool and sauna break after a day of sightseeing is to stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, a conference-style facility on the Dirksen Parkway at the edge of town near I-55.

 

Unpacked and ready to go – Springfield is about Lincoln, about state government, about historic homes and about Route 66.

Visitors like to pose with Lincoln's family at the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield

Visitors like to pose with Lincoln’s family at the Abraham Lincoln Museum in Springfield

Lincoln – Renew your acquaintance with the 16th President at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. You will be in for a remarkable two hours. Plan to spend at least that amount of time to see the movies and the exhibits that peel away the myths from the man and the times.

While downtown Springfield, walk over to the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, where he worked above Seth Tinsley’s dry goods store, and to the Old Capitol across the road where he served as a representative and gave his “house divided” speech. Also visit his and Mary Todd Lincoln’s home.

Then drive north of downtown to the Lincoln Tomb where he, his wife and three of their four children are buried. If time allows, drive north 20 minutes on IL Hwy 97 to New Salem, a wonderful village recreated with the timbered homes and stores that existed when a young Abe Lincoln worked there.

State government – Tour the Old Capitol, Illinois’ fifth statehouse (but first in Springfield) to see where bills were debated and state laws passed from 1839 to 1876. The building was reconstructed in the 1960’s. The impressive dome of the State Capitol, 361 feet above ground can be seen from miles away. But go inside to see where legislation has been argued and passed from 1888 to today in the House and Senate chambers on the third floor.

Historic homes – Unless you are a Frank Lloyd Wright maven you might not know that one of the best examples of his work is the Dana Thomas House in Springfield. It still has all of its original art glass and much of its original furnishings.

Also put the Vachel Lindsay Home on the itinerary. Built in the late 1840’s, the house was home to Mary Todd Lincoln’s sister Ann. Vachel Lindsay’s parents bought the house in 1878. It was the poet’s home until his death in 1931.

Route 66 –  Visitors can go back in time by taking in a double feature at the Route 66 Drive In or stop for a bite at the Cozy Dog Drive In, where the family still makes the famed “hot dog on a stick” that they have been serving up since 1946. Another must stop is the Moterheads Bar, Grill and Museum. Rte 66 places are included in Things To Do/Attractions.

However, car enthusiasts really into what is the Mother Road of historic routes come for the town’s annual International Route 66 Mother Road Festival in September. This year’s festival is Sept. 21-23. That is when hundreds of vintage vehicles from street rods to motorcycles will roll into town and live music fills Springfield’s downtown streets.

For more information Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau. Also visit Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byways.

Have fun!

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cruising: The good, bad, and why were we not warned

 

A good part of our cruise was our upgrading our dining experience to club status.( JJacobs photos)

A good part of our cruise was our upgrading our dining experience to club status.( JJacobs photos)

Sometimes a travel article has to be about a trip where everything wasn’t perfect so that people planning similar vacations know what to ask and what not to do.

We have always had good experiences on the Princess Cruises Line so we expected to have a great cruise down the west coast of South America last December.

First, the good part of the cruise was that we signed up for a package that included good mattresses and extra treats like chocolate covered strawberries and wine.

We also opted for a dining experience that put us on one side of a dining room where we were away from crowds, had a couple of extra food choices and got to know our server.

Also good was that we arranged for a couple of days in Santiago, Chili where we disembarked. We stayed at the Ritz which is a Marriott property with a great pool and concierge room. There we made our personal city tour arrangements.

Now, the bad. What we didn’t expect on the cruise was that the ship would continually have maintenance issues.

Throughout the whole trip, elevators were alternately closed for maintenance, the pools were often closed for maintenance when they really would have been good for swimming laps (the rest of the time they were so wavy and sloshy it felt like swimming against a tide), and no matter where we tried to sit there was painting and other coatings going on so there were fumes.

In addition, some of the public washrooms needed work and about half the washing machines  were not working.

As to our land excursions, we should have made our own arrangements because except for Lima where we had an excellent tour, and the rocky Ballestas Islands near Paracas where we saw blue-footed boobies and red legged cormorants, seals and penguins,  our excursions taken through Princess promised much more than they delivered.

So, here are a few cruise vacation suggestions:

  1. If booking a cruise, ask how old the ship is and what maintenance was done beforehand and what will be in process during the cruise.
  2. Check with your favorite travel agent about hooking up with a reliable shore tour – either a group excursion or a personal one.
  3. If there are packages available that will up the vacation level from a C to at least a B +, seriously consider the option.
  4. Check what other cruise lines offer for similar destinations before reserving your cabin.

 

Prague: A true Bohemian city

Prague. Think music because no matter where you walk around the capital of the Czech Republic, you will see a concert notice or hear classical chamber or orchestral music.

The astronomical clock in Prague. (Jacobs photos)

The astronomical clock in Prague. (Jacobs photos)

Or think Central European history because it was the capital of Bohemia and home to Charles IV.

Whatever your interest, however, you won’t have enough time to see and do everything. So, first, sign up for a tour of the city and secondly, plan to come back.

Here are just a few places to put on the itinerary. BTW, the city has an excellent public transportation system of subways and buses. Cabs can be expensive so if taking one ask how much before you get in.

Your best place to stay is in the historic area because it’s colorful, fun to stroll and easy to find an outdoor café for a needed break. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This is where you’ll see a crowd gather in the Old Town Square (Stare Mesto) by the Prague Orloj, an astronomical clock on the Old Town Hall’s south wall.

If there near the hour, pull out the camera because the 12 apostles can be seen strolling past the clock’s windows.  Alert: the clock is undergoing repair so is not expected to be back in place until sometime August, 2018.

The cave in the White Horse Restaurant

The cave in the White Horse Restaurant

A great place to do dinner in the Square is at the White Horse, a protected UNESCO structure with a 12th century cave.

Although located near the astronomical clock, it is not a well-known touristy restaurant.

The dishes lean toward traditional local cuisine but also include an excellent salmon.  Yes, you eat in the cave if not outside on the Square.

Before dinner get your exercise walking the Charles Bridge which is near the Square.

Spanning the Vltava River, it is a way to go from Old Town to Prague Castle. Charles IV started construction on the bridge (replaced an earlier one) in the mid 14th century but it wasn’t completed until early 15th century.

See its Gothic Old Town Bridge Tower  and photograph the statues even though they are replicas of the original ones from about 1700.

Definitely visit the castle during your stay. It really is a huge complex of nearly 750,000 square feet that includes palaces, garden a cathedral, basilica, monastery, museums and the President of the Czech Republic’s official office.

While in the castle district area visit the Strahov Monastery with its gorgeous ceilings. The monastery has a noted brewery.

If looking for a restaurant that is noted for its beer and its local cuisine, check out Budvarka where Budweiser is rumored to have started. Its in the Devjice area and has a great duck confit and is a place where locals go.

Strahov Monastery Library

Strahov Monastery Library

Before leaving Prague, go see the Jewish synagogues. They are spectacular.

Surrounded by Old Town, the Jewish Quarter known as Josefov, contains a famous cemetery, the Jewish Museum, a Franz Kafka monument and five synagogues worth visiting.

They are the Old-New Synagogue considered Europe’s oldest active one (1270), the Spanish Synagogue (1868), the Pinkas Synagogue (1535, the Klausen Synagogue (largest one, 1694) and the Maise Synagogue (1592).

Oops, we haven’t even talked about the other museums, the city’s many galleries or its festivals.

Looking forward to next visit.

Jodie Jacobs

The Door: A heavenly vacation spot belies its death passage name

Hike, bike or take the Door County Trolley through Peninsula State Park for great views of Green Bay. Jodie Jacobs photos

Hike, bike or take the Door County Trolley through Peninsula State Park for great views of Green Bay. Jodie Jacobs photos

The best part of vacationing in Door County, WI is the way its delightful harbors make you feel you left work and daily stress miles back at the last stoplight.

The county actually begins back a ways on a thumb shaped peninsula that separates Lake Michigan from Green Bay (the body of water, not the city). There are a smattering of stoplights at its southern end.

But once you cross a drawbridge over Sturgeon Bay, a shipping waterway cut across the peninsula to  connect Lake Michigan to Green Bay, you enter a world where a curve in the road reveals yet another scenic view and where villages have a few scattered stop signs, not stop lights.

However, to experience the dangerous waters where Lake Michigan waves bump against those from Green Bay that give the peninsula its name, you should drive north about 40 miles from Sturgeon Bay to Gills Rock and then a short distance to Northport. There you would take a ferry across to Washington Island.

Among the stories floating between the peninsula and the island is a tale of how when one native tribe lured another tribe to cross from Washington Island to the peninsula, those who attempted the crossing died in the stormy waters, thus giving the crossing the name Death’s Door.

Safe? Yes, though sometimes the trip can be rocky. But the Washington Island Ferry is so popular the best plan is to check the season’s schedule and get to its departure ramp at Northport ahead of time so there is room for your car.

While exploring look for Island Stavkirke, a recreated 12th century Norwegian church and the Jacobsen Museum of island artifacts.

OK, you’re here, meaning at the Door County room, condo, guest house or cottage or other lodging you booked ahead of time, and you are already gazing out at the quiet blue expanse of Green Bay or the ever changing colors of Lake Michigan.

Ah, but an hour later comes the stomach rumble, so next is investigate food options. Do ask your accommodation manager because Door County is loaded with good restaurants and diners so choosing one is a matter of what kind of food you’re in the mood for and how far you want to go. Read the rest of this entry »

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