Showing posts from 2009

Star Lords (1979)

What does this entry have to do with travel? Plenty! As 12 and 13-year-olds, my then-filmmaking buddy Danny and I made this movie about traveling in space. December 2009 marks the 30th anniversary of our short film, "Star Lords." This was our first attempt at sci-fi filmed a few months before I purchased a Bell and Howell Soundstar camera -- which would have made a lot more sense with this film since we had an actual script. Using Danny's silent Bell and Howell camera, we were forced to make our own subtitles by actually holding them. "Star Lords" was shot in Danny's basement mainly on a ping-pong table. Sheet metal was used for some of the props. As with some of my videos, the files uploaded seemed to be a bit strange. I have a clearer version of this on my Vimeo channel: Look for more 30th anniversary commentaries on this blog --just to break things up.

Top of the Rock

The wind was whipping at me as I viewed the Big Apple from a perspective that I never experienced before. From where I was standing, Central Park, Times Square, the Hudson River, the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge and other landmarks took on a different meaning for me. No, this isn’t the top of the Empire State Building. This is view from Rockefeller Center’s observation deck 70 stories above New York City also known as the Top of the Rock. I needed to get on the top of 30 Rock. After so many days, I felt somewhat claustrophobic in Manhattan. For some reason, the skyscrapers were “closing in on me” after spending some time here. I went through that feeling about 25 years ago when I was last here. I’m not sure if anyone else feels that way about the nerve center of New York City, but if I had to give advice, I would tell you to take a trip to these observation decks. Yes, the brochures will exclaim that you will be treated to, “expansive vistas,” but there is no much more to

Hotel Giraffe, New York City

Sleek. Hip. European. Those are the words that describe Hotel Giraffe. Located on the corner of Park Avenue and 26th street in New York’s Rose Hill neighborhood, Hotel Giraffe is a sight for sore eyes and feet. If you’re looking to kick back and relax after walking, shopping or eating on Park Avenue, then this unique hotel is the answer. From its spacious lobby to it fully updated rooms, Hotel Giraffe is perfect for couples or business travelers who simply want to get away from it all. Guys, if you would like to send your “significant other” or wife on a Girlfriends Getaway, Hotel Giraffe is safe, clean and beyond comfortable. Since this is a boutique hotel, there are just seven rooms to a floor which make for quiet evenings. Ladies, this is the perfect place to recharge your batteries for a day of Manhattan shopping. Whether it’s traveling to New York for fun or work, Hotel Giraffe provides the tranquility one might be looking for in Manhattan lodging. Each room blends classic

Hotel Elysee, New York City

I was sipping wine with hors d’oeuvres and fruits in a New York hotel’s club room, away from the bustle of midtown Manhattan a few stories below. I couldn’t hear the taxis’ blaring horns and emergency vehicles’ sirens. Those nerve-wracking sounds were drowned out with good food, drink and conversation. The wine, imported cheeses and prosecco seemed endless. The deep red hues in the room’s carpet and chairs gave me a sense of calm that I never experienced in my travels. I felt like I was in a “cultural embassy” – away from the world’s financial capital which is filled with plenty of heartache these days. I didn’t want this moment to end. Welcome to Hotel Elysee, a luxurious boutique hotel on Manhattan’s 54th Street – between Madison and Park Avenue. Excellent location When I was finished with my “state of nirvana” in Hotel Elysee’s Club Room, our party wandered the neighborhood. I soon discovered that Hotel Elysee is a quick walk to Central Park, Museum of Modern Art, Saks 5t

Biking the Emerald Coast

Anyone who attempts to do serious biking in the Atlanta metro area knows the activity is a challenge. Sharing the road with 18-wheelers is a practice that cyclists like me can do without. That is why I put the family bikes on my car rack and head to a trail like the Silver Comet. After hitting Atlanta area trails many times over the years, I'm always on the lookout for a change of scenery. On a recent getaway, I revisited the Timpoochee Trail that runs parallel to Walton County's Scenic Highway 30-A in Florida's Panhandle. The 19-mile Timpoochee Trail brings a mixture of sun, fun and a good workout in one session. On my last outing, I started at one end of the trail in the community of Santa Rosa Beach. Santa Rosa Beach Just as I was entering the trail, I felt the cool breeze coming off the Gulf of Mexico and the golden Florida sunshine. If the mostly flat trail makes you think that this is an easy trail to ride, think again. The wind provides resistance, wh

Visit Steinhatchee, Florida

Originally posted in 2009 It was 5:15 p.m. on a humid afternoon. We emerged from traveling miles of sun-drenched north Florida roads. We finally reached town. We were weary, but determined as we went on a search for our reserved lodging. “Do you know where Steinhatchee Landing Resort is?” I queried a waitress at the Lynn-Rich Restaurant. “It’s…Oh, I don’t know how many miles. It’s just down the road on the right,” she replied in a slow drawl. The waitress' customers looked on as if this afternoon would last forever. They had no particular place to go as they looked at me as if I had lost my mind. They were probably correct in their assumption. I was on a mission to find our room for the night. We were definitely worlds apart. “I’m on the right path,” I announced to my traveling posse as they shot me back with skeptical looks. I hurried back to the car, slammed the door shut, put the pedal to the floor mat (or close to it) and got back on Highway 51 north. We arrived at

Florida's best-kept secret

Several times a year, I make the trek to visit family at the Beaches of South Walton in Florida’s northwest corner. Every time, I’m amazed by how many shops, restaurants, golf courses and resorts have sprung from every crevice in this valuable, sun-drenched area. While I’m impressed with how communities in the South Walton area have balanced progress with nature, I sometimes long for a taste of Old Florida. If you haven’t experienced the way things used to be in the Sunshine State, there are a few places where that feeling still exists. Only 10 miles apart from each other, the sleepy and inviting communities of Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe evoke fond memories. Yes, Floridians will say that a fair amount of building has happened here over the past decade, but compared to the rest of the state, the city fathers have dubbed these panhandle towns Florida’s Forgotten Coast.That Old Florida feeling is further enhanced during the off-season. “Mexico Beach is a great gathering place for fa

Beaches of South Walton

I haven't been to the Beaches of South Walton in months, and what a difference a couple of months makes. The staggering growth that communities such as Seaside in Florida experienced 20 years ago is now happening in places like the Watersound community, Seacrest Beach, Inlet Beach and Rosemary Beach. Even though they have been around for some time, it seems that these beach communities have been dropped onto the Florida Panhandle map overnight. On most of my visits to the beaches, I would stay in Santa Rosa or the still-growing Watercolor development. Most of my time was spent strolling through nearby cute shops and the fine grocery store in Seaside, which was the picturesque setting for the Jim Carrey film "The Truman Show." This time, I devoted the bulk of my visit to Rosemary Beach, which I believe is the brand-spanking-new sibling to Seaside. About 10 miles to the east of its older "sister," Rosemary Beach is, at the moment, peaceful and attractive. Bu

Lighting the way

Take a trip on any part of Florida's 1,800 miles of coastline, and you're bound to find a lighthouse. From St. Augustine to Key Biscayne, scores of lighthouses invite visitors to climb spiral staircases to take in breathtaking views of the state's magnificent terrain. Visitors to lighthouses come for several reasons, including the structures architecture and romanticism. "My wife is into the romanticism of lighthouses," said Gene Oakes, president of the Florida Lighthouse Association. "I married someone who is a lighthouse nut.'" His wife's passion inspired Oakes to become the president of the state's association that's dedicated to preserve, protect and restore Florida's lighthouses. And visits to these attractions are more popular than ever. "About 44 percent of tourism is in culturally based activities," said Paul Kayemba, spokesman for Visit Florida, the state's official travel planning agency. "More visitors ar

Pennsylvania Dutch Country B&B

From coast to coast, entrepreneurs open up their homes to travelers looking for that down-home touch. Bed-and-breakfast inns are the perfect place to enjoy autumn - falling leaves, fall festivals, welcoming fireplaces - during an off-season vacation or weekend jaunt. No one knows that better than Dawn Darlington and Greg [sic] Hesling, who run the Speedwell Forge Bed and Breakfast in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Located among the region's rolling hills, pristine lakes and natural parks, this bed-and-breakfast in the town of Lititz is filled with tranquility and history. Built in 1760, the Speedwell Forge Mansion features original craftsmanship, seen in its hand-carved cupboards to its hardwood floors. The home sits on land that was once home to an iron forge. Massive stone walls, deep-paneled windows and high ceilings give this bed-and-breakfast a sense of stateliness. Spacious beds, romantic fireplaces, claw-foot whirlpool tubs and pedestal sinks characterize Spe

The Fighting Tigers

In a news service poll once named Louisiana State University’s Tiger Stadium the most dreaded stadium for visiting teams to play. But a visit to Louisiana State on any weekend the Tiger football team is playing should be anything but feared. The stadium and campus make for a great fall weekend jaunt, and can give some insight into the Southeast’s strong college football culture. To folks like me who are outside observers to this spectacle, college football can be a bit difficult to understand. To the devoted fans — like my brother-in-law, who follows the University of Georgia Bulldogs with an undeniable passion — it seems almost like a religion. That same devotion to college football can be seen in Louisiana State’s Tiger Stadium. Better known as “Death Valley” to non-Tiger fans, the stadium was built in the 1920s. Since then, it has been renovated five times and gone from a 12,000-seat stadium to a gargantuan structure that holds more than 90,000 people. It’s Saturday nigh

Finger-lickin' good in the Carolinas

These days, people call anything cooked on a grill barbecue. But if you want the real deal, plan a trip to South Carolina. From the cities of Charleston and Columbia to the hamlets of Orangeburg and Cheraw, South Carolina’s barbecue joints serve up their own takes on the traditional, smoky meal. According to the South Carolina Barbeque Association’s Web site, there are four basic barbecue sauces used across the country in basting and serving the meat — vinegar and pepper, mustard, light tomato and heavy tomato. South Carolina is the only state that’s home to all four sauces, writes association president Lake High Jr. on the site. Vinegar and pepper, the oldest and simplest sauce, is popular on the coastal plains of the state. Germans who settled in South Carolina brought mustard sauce to the Santee, Congaree, Broad and Saluda rivers in the 1700s. The Pee Dee region, which includes towns like Darlington, has taken a liking to light tomato sauce, which is vinegar and pepper with

The Natural State is booming from the Ozarks to Little Rock

In the past, Arkansas has been associated with an image of swamps and humidity. Fortunately, that negative reputation isn't the least bit true. Arkansas' climate is mild and its scenery is beyond graceful. From north to south and east to west, from cosmopolitan Little Rock to Hot Springs and all the outlying areas, Arkansas is an affordable summer trip that is filled with impressive sites worth seeing. An unspoiled natural wonder A trip through the Ozarks in northern Arkansas will show you that the state is full of natural wonders. One, the Buffalo National River, is so alluring it has merited a "National Geographic" piece. The river cascades through geological rock including sandstone, chert and limestone. Speaking of limestone, the Blanchard Springs Caverns in the Ozarks National Forest is buried beneath layers of it. The caverns are formed in a three-level system, but only two are accessible to the public. If you're seeking a respite from the summer

Take time out for Virginia’s Shenandoah region

In the summer of 1978, my family made a classic 1970s trek to Washington, D.C. Even though the sights and sounds of D.C. left an impression on me, it was the trip through Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley that introduced me to the region’s natural beauty. Dressed in our blue “Virginia Is For Lovers” T-shirts (which I kept for several years after), we rolled down the windows of our spacious Oldsmobile to take in the scenery. My sister Aimee Nebel-Gould, who now lives in Akron, Ohio, has fond memories of our family’s trip, which took place just before she headed off to college. “I recall the mountains being absolutely beautiful and peaceful,” she said. “The landscape in that area is spectacular, in that there is this blue haze from a distance over the mountains.” Almost three decades later, the Shenandoah Valley is still a pristine slice of Virginia that welcomes all visitors. A great starting point The best place to start a tour of the region is at the new Museum of the Shenandoah

Gatlinburg balances nature, tourist attractions

In the Smoky Mountains, the Gatlinburg area proves that culture and nature are able to coexist. Gatlinburg, a city carved into this gorgeous yet rugged terrain, attracts a range of tourists, vacationers and honeymooners. Here, you really can have the best of both worlds. An array of shopping, dining and lodging combined with outdoor activities makes Gatlinburg a top-notch summer destination for virtually anyone. Getting there, getting around Driving to Gatlinburg takes about four hours, but the awesome views along the way make up for the drive. "Scenic Highway 73 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the way to Gatlinburg is a pretty drive at any time of the year," said veteran Gatlinburg visitor and photographer L.A. Jackson. Once you've taken in the beauty of the Smokies, be prepared for the hustle and bustle of downtown Gatlinburg. "The first thing you notice on 73 coming out of the pristine beauty of the national park is the crowds of people wa

Summer in Western North Carolina

As my family and I began our trip to the mountains of North Carolina, I found myself haunted by flashbacks of sixth-grade summer camp. I’ll admit it: Even though I’ve been on several fun camping trips over the years, the prospect of the whole “rustic thing” left me less thrilled. “I think I should turn this car around,” I joked, as we headed toward the High Hampton Inn in Cashiers, N.C. My friend Bruce Hensley, who handles public relations for the inn, had been urging me to check out the place for a while. When I finally took him up on his offer, everyone in my family assured me the trip would give me a chance to “find myself.” And I did. My family’s time in Cashiers offered me and my family an escape from electronic gadgets, from malls, from traffic. It gave us time to bond. The beauty of the region and the peace it affords its visitors really is good for the soul. A summer retreat for everyone The three-hour drive from here to Cashiers (pronounced: Cash-ers) is an easy one, but th

Beale Street attracts musicians from Louisiana

It is no secret that Beale Street in Memphis is a hot spot for great music. Today, this legendary thoroughfare in the heart of the city is exploding with a mélange of musicians creating a new sound. Hurricane Katrina left thousands without a home including scores of artists from Louisiana and Mississippi who arrived here with little more than the shirts on their backs looking for work. “We reacted quickly by stepping up to the plate to coordinate musicians so that we can book them,” said Carson Lamn, a club operator on Beale Street. “They just want to keep at their craft. I am simply here to help.” Together with his father Preston, Lamn has booked hundreds of musicians, coordinated programs through Musicares and held fundraisers/street parties on Beale Street to provide the necessary equipment and housing for the musicians. While he does not have an exact count on how many displaced artists are in the area due to the transient nature of this phenomena, Lamn does know that Beale Street

Mississippi juke joints

During the 1980s, scores of communities in the United States were vying to be the home for the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Cities including Atlanta and San Francisco said they deserved the shrine because of their history and connection to rock music. The museum ultimately went to Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland? Isn't that where a river once caught fire? What was once joked about as a "mistake on the lake" won this honor because the term "rock 'n' roll" was coined there by Alan Freed, an influential disc jockey. Without Cleveland, we might not be experiencing rock 'n' roll as we know it today. The battle for the rock hall story is one to which Mississippians can possibly relate. Widely known for its Southern history, military bases and gaming industry, few people realize that this dynamic southern state is where modern music's roots were established. From juke joints to museums, a trip to the Magnolia State is evidence that Miss

Elvis' birthplace

Explore Elvis Presley’s birthplace in Tupelo Towns don’t get any more American than Tupelo, Miss. This thriving enclave in Mississippi’s northeast quadrant is filled with everything that has made this country great. The town has been chosen three times as an “All-American City” by the National Civic League. Visit Tupelo for a chance to get closer to Elvis Presley, vintage automobiles and herds of bison. The birthplace of Elvis Elvis was born in Tupelo on Jan. 8, 1935 and lived there until he was 13. Tourists flock to the Elvis Presley Birthplace to see where this musical genius got his start. Even though the house is a modest two-room structure, it somehow represents so much more. The house has been restored and appears as it did in the period before the Presley family moved to Memphis when Elvis was 13 years old. The birthplace is part of Elvis Presley Park, which also includes a chapel, a museum and a gift shop. The focal point of the park is a life-sized statue call

Southeastern-style golf

The sound of the iron on the club as it approaches the vulnerable white dimpled ball on its tee produces an exhilarating effect all its own. Once it departs from its resting place, the ball ascends into the distance like a free bird. For myself and others it is an escape like no other. Welcome to the game of golf. For some, golf is a hobby or an occasional treat. With my busy schedule, I include myself in this group. Whenever I get on the fairway, golf is a mystery and a challenge. After each outing, I’m left wondering, “What is it about this game?” When you break it all down, it’s just people hitting balls into holes. For others, golf is religion. I have met many of these devotees on my travels who are equally fascinated with the game. Whether you are an amateur or a pro, I have discovered that all types of golf courses are available throughout the Southeast. Golfing among great scenery Playable yet challenging is what describes the Maggie Valley Club’s golf courses.