Ron Irwin Travel & Entertainment

51-50  The Play

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Visit Denmark in California

So you have long wanted to visit the home of famous writer Hans Christian Andersen and you have long yearned for some delicious Danish food including their well-known pastries.  But you just don’t like those long airplane rides and your passport expired a year ago.  No problem, just fly into Los Angeles International Airport, rent a car and head north on the 101 Freeway for about 138 miles right up the California coast to and through beautiful Santa Barbara and then just a wee beyond take the Route 246 exit and you will soon arrive in Solvang in the heart of the stunning Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara County.

Founded in 1911 “Solvang” is the Danish word for “Sunny Field” and it certainly lives up to its name.  But it is also home to many examples of traditional Danish architecture, housing, a plethora of bakeries, wine merchants, restaurants, gift shops, clothing stores and just about every imaginable type of business focused on fun and pleasure. 

Most visitors spend a few hours walking the bustling streets of Solvang enjoying the sights, sounds and fragrances.  But you do have options such as a horse drawn carriage and tricycles which you may peddle through the streets. 

One of the many sights is a bronze statue of renowned Danish author Hans Christian Andersen who in his 70 years wrote well over 3000 plays, travelogues, novels and poems. However he is best known for such classic children’s tales as “The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina, The Emperor’s New Clothes and The Ugly Duckling.”    

Whether you live in California or you are visiting the Golden State, Solvang richly deserves to be on your “do not miss” list.  It is a great way to immerse yourself in the unique culture and history of Denmark without the added expense or jet lag.  A one day immersion into the exciting Danish experience will leave you with a lifelong fond memory. But beyond all of that there is one more attraction deserving of your time. 

Between the town of Buellton which is very near the Highway 101 and 246 interchange and Solvang you will find the amazing “Ostrich Land USA” where you can walk about the park with hundreds of the stunning birds eager to accept your offer of food.  These African natives are irresistible with their long spindly legs and neck connected by a more or less egg shaped body covered with wildly large feathers. The gift shop offers nothing Danish but plenty of other exotic options such as Emu oil products, feathered masks, stuffed animals and more.  There is a modest admission charge and food to feed the Ostriches is only $1.00 a bowl.   






Join Ron and his then 11 year old daughter Kari 

on a 10 day journey across America's great

Southwest in their Cessna airplane.  Visit the Navajo

Nation, Grand Canyon, Durango and so much 

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A Great Way to Experience New York City.

There is always a temptation when visiting a big city on holiday to take a tour bus to see the sights.  If you are even a little more upscale you may opt for a personal tour by limousine.  But for me I tend to prefer walking for many reasons.  You don’t have to pay to walk, walking is great exercise and perhaps most of all when you walk through a large city you get a far more intimate sense of the fine folks who live there, so it is more personal and yields richer memories. 

Of course not every city provides the best walking opportunities.  Los Angeles, for example, basically demands that visitors ride while up the road about 300 miles San Francisco is a great walking city if you don’t mind a few rather steep hills.  But New York City is possibly the best walking city in America with its ever changing environment of almost endless sights, sounds and experiences.  On a visit not long ago my daughter and I enjoyed several self-directed walking tours, but our little hike from the site of the World Trade Center to our hotel near 47th Street and Broadway was a mere 4.4 miles yet it immersed us in the diverse and bustling culture of Manhattan in a unforgettable way.  More to the point it was a genuinely awesome experience but even with its relatively short distance it took us well over 3 hours because there just so much to see and experience along the way. 

Not long after we stepped off from One World Trade Center we entered to very upscale area known as Tribeca.  Tribeca is home to some of the biggest stars in contemporary entertainment.  We were not star gazing but it became clear to us way people of substantial means would choose Tribeca for their residence.  I have included a photograph of the area which I think fairly well makes the case for Tribeca and walking through its streets is vastly more enthralling than looking at it through a glass window.

As we continued along intriguing sights and sounds played with us with each step.  Eventually we crossed through a portion of Chinatown before arriving in Little Italy.  There we serendipitously happened upon Puglia a classic Italian restaurant serving New Yorkers and visitors alike great Italian food for nearly 100 years.  Yes, their food I simply delicious and the cost reasonable.  After our lunch we walked a bit further through Little Italy indulging ourselves with a cannoli before hiking on.

We strolled along Mulberry to Blecker Street and then connected to Broadway.  Soon we connected with 14th Street and right by Union Square.  Not long after we passed the iconic Empire State Building which on the day we were there did not have a giant ape hanging from it.  Gradually a diverse group of street vendors emerged along our path.  Shortly after we entered what is arguably the epicenter of Manhattan in the minds of most of the world; we arrived in Times Square.  Very shortly after we hit 47th Street and our hotel for this visit The Edison. 

I will say that the Edison Hotel is very nice and certainly by New York City standards quite reasonably priced and couldn’t be in a better location if your visit includes one or more Broadway shows.  Our room was cozy but well above adequate and the staff was fantastic in their special New York style.  They even had a very nice little gym free for hotel guests. 

Other hikes we have taken in New York City brought us to and through Central Park, to and around the United Nations and of course 30 Rockefeller Plaza home of the East Coast headquarters of NBC and the Tonight Show.    Also across the street to the very iconic Radio City Music Hall. 

I am a firm believer in the many benefits of personally guided walking tours but you must always take full control over the “guided” aspect of your personal tour not only to assure that you get where you want to be with the greatest degree of positive experiences along your path but your preparation must also assure that you do not place yourself in an area where you could be at significant risk of harm.  Sadly such areas do exist in every major city worldwide including New York City.  But with just a little bit of solid preparation which might include your hotel concierge or maybe even a local police officer your safety can be virtually assured. 

So Bon Voyage! 

‘San Diego’ One of the Best of California

Sure, some folks have left their hearts in San Francisco and why not, it is one beautiful City by the Bay.  A bit further north there is the awesome heart of wine country in Napa and Sonoma where splendid grapes become the true wine of love.  Go south along the coast and experience an unending array of some of this world’s most spectacular beauty arriving eventually in the lovely town of Santa Barbara with an abundance of attractions including its filled with fun and great food pier.  Keep moving to the south and you will arrive in the fabled Malibu home to many movie stars and other folks who just enjoy the very best in natural beauty.  As your southward journey continues you will reach Santa Monica which from the ocean is the gateway to the big daddy, Los Angeles City of Angels and home to Hollywood.  But only about 128 more miles south through many charming towns and beach cities and you will finally arrive in what may well be the most magnificent jewel in California’s undeniably spectacular crown, San Diego. 

San Diego is smaller than either San Francisco or Los Angeles and therefore has a warmer less crowded feel.  Yet San Diego while less in population is every bit equal in natural beauty and filled with its own captivating history.  Some of best known highlights of San Diego include its world renowned zoo, the utterly charming Gaslamp Quarter and extremely inviting Little Italy with an abundant array of superb restaurants each with its own delicious meals in authentic Italian style.  One of my personal snack stores for some tongue tantalizing tasty gelato is Gelaterie Bucci at 1602 State Street, San Diego, California.  The number of truly five star restaurants in San Diego is almost overwhelming but oddly one of my favorite is a true rarity because it is in a hotel where truly top end food is often more imagination than reality.  At the Sheraton Marina, 1380 Harbor Island Drive, San Diego you will find the five star Harbor’s Edge restaurant where I recently enjoyed a nothing less than incredible crab cake and steak plate that was nothing less than perfection to my taste buds.  And not only is their food delicious but you enjoy it while looking out into the marina with its vast collection of beautiful sail boats and motor yachts.  Great food, great food, great times. 

One of my favorite activities in San Diego is a walk along the shore line from about Harbor Island Drive and Laurel Street to the USS Midway ship and museum.  It is a never ending visual treat as you pass the Coast Guard facility and continue on while watching dozens of sail boats traversing the harbor.  You will eventually pass a square rigger and a docking facility for Hornblower cruises offering yet another great option for your visit, an unforgettable diner cruise. 

Keep going and you will eventually arrive at the USS Midway an aircraft carrier that was a key player in World War Two and also the ship which helped evacuate hundreds of Vietnamese refugees during the fall of Saigon in April of 1975.   It is a huge slice of both American history in general and naval history in particular. 

But before reaching the Midway you can also turn eastbound and visit the Gaslamp Quarters and or Little Italy, the options are many and none disappoint.  There are plenty of guides and even paid tour options available, but my personal favorite is just a nice casual walk because it does the best job of truly connecting you with the amazing beauty that abounds in San Diego while at the same time making a positive contribution to your health.  Sure all of those other places have a great of sights to see, experience and enjoy, but San Diego is not to be missed.