Ron Irwin Travel & Entertainment

51-50  The Play

Enjoy Our World


 

Plan on visiting Cologne, Germany any time soon?  Check out this fantastic hotel.  Just click on picture above to see more.  


A Great Gem in America’s South West

Virtually everyone on earth has at least heard of the Grand Canyon and it absolutely is spell binding.  The Grand Canyon sincerely belongs on everyone’s bucket list but so does a much less known gem a mere 150 miles east of the Grand Canyon’s south rim.  That place is in the Navajo Nation and is called Monument Valley.  The undeniable beauty of Monument Valley is more than enough to get your full attention, but even more exciting is its relatively modern history.

Harry Goulding and his wife Leone more commonly known by her nickname Mike, moved to Monument Valley in the early 1920’s.  They purchased a large plot of land and quickly set up a trading post.  At first they worked and lived out of tents but eventually they were able to build a permanent structure which today houses the Goulding Trading Post Museum, yet another must see attraction.  But then came the Great Depression which struck the Navajo even harder than most. 

Desperate to find a solution to their financial crisis Harry and Mike Goulding gathered up their last $60.00 and headed off to Hollywood to sell film production companies on the idea of using Monument Valley as a location site for their western movies.  It was an all in huge risk but it paid off grandly.  Through a combination of perseverance and good luck they met the famous director of the day John Ford.  When Ford saw the photos of Monument Valley provided him by the Goulding’s he agreed to film his next major film, “Stagecoach” in Monument Valley. 

It was only a matter of days before the film crew and cast including super star John Wayne showed up in Monument Valley to begin shooting the movie.  Recognizing the deeply distressed situation of the local Navajo, John Ford soon hired many of the local Navajo to play roles very easy for them to quickly master; that of American Indians.  For their work they were paid union scale wages a deed which greatly enhanced the living conditions of the Navajo tribe in Monument Valley.

From that break out moment Monument Valley steadily grew both as a great location for dozens of films and as a compelling attraction for photographers, artists and tourists from around the world.  The Goulding’s eventually built their beautiful lodge with a pleasant dining facility that serves a variety of foods including the spectacular Navajo Taco.  Don’t ask, just get real real hungry and then try it. 

Yes The Goulding Lodge is fantastic, the dining is grand the museum is fascinating but above it all it is the eye popping spectacular natural beauty of Monument Valley that will grab you and hold you like few other places on earth.  I have included with this article a few photographs of just some of that abundant natural beauty in Monument Valley.  There is much more and no photograph can adequately present the power of the images of Monument Valley seen through your own eyes. 

Should you want to visit Monument Valley and perhaps spend a day or two at The Goulding Lodge you may do so by simply clicking here:  http://www.gouldings.com/the-lodge/.  They offer both lodge and camp ground accommodations.  But you may also consider another option just about 20 miles south in the Navajo town of Kayenta, Arizona, Navajo Nation.  There are several hotel and restaurant options in Kayenta and there is also one other very unique and powerful attraction at the local Burger King and it isn’t the Whopper; It is the Navajo Code Talkers Display.  Somewhat hidden within the restaurant is this powerful display that portrays the enormous value of the courageous Navajo men who helped America win the war in the Pacific.  In just one famous battle, The Battle of Iwo Jima six Navajo code talkers worked around the clock sending and receiving over 800 messages.  According to Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division: “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.” 

So you may spend only one day or even several days taking in some of the most majestic naturel beauty on earth and also learn about a group of American Indians from the Navajo tribe who made a huge and valiant contribution to America’s victory in the Pacific during World War Two.  If you love to travel then this is one destination you will absolutely want to assign to your short list of future destinations. 

 


A GREAT TRAVEL ADVENTURE

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 

more.  Just click on the book cover.  Get it!

Read it!  LOVE IT!  


‘Cruisin…’ Short But Oh So Sweet

I can’t even tell you why this happened but it surely did.  One day I just blurted out to my beautiful bride:  “Hey!  Let’s take a cruise.”  To my utter shock she instantly replied “YES!”  Well now that is all fine but we had both limited time and resources but we were in the gap between Thanksgiving and Christmas and we have the great fortune of residing in Southern California where great weather is the norm even in late November so I began my search.

It wasn’t long before I found the perfect package just right for us.  It would be a short four day excursion offered by Carnival Cruise lines, one of the biggest in the industry.  We would visit Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico and spend a lot of time at sea which was perfect for our needs which were centered on relaxation.  And best of all the cost was extremely reasonable.  So we booked the cruise and off we went. 

We arrived at the dock in Long Beach, California a wee bit before boarding would begin.  Just looking at the ship The Imagination was a thrill unto itself.  She was absolutely gorgeous, far far better than my first cruise out of Long Beach many many years before aboard a U.S. Military troop transport ship.  The Imagination was long and tall and glistening bright white a true gem of the sea. 

Soon we boarded and sorry but I just couldn’t help but to salute the ensign [flag] and request permission to board which earned me a quizzical smile.  We were briefly diverted to the main topside dining area to enjoy a free snack if we wished while the bags were being taken to our cabin.  Soon we were invited to go to our cabin which was absolutely fantastic.  It was on the port side amid ship and well above the water line.  We even had our very own balcony where we could and did sit and enjoy the sea and setting sun. 

We walked about the ship and we were literally mesmerized by its nonstop almost overpowering beauty inside and out.  The pool was basically top center and surrounded by scores of comfortable lounge chairs.  The inside center was truly spectacular a virtual sea of bright colors and intriguing forms.  But we eventually found ourselves in the main dining room where we sat down for our very first and always free meal of the day. 

The sun was rapidly setting and as the meal service began we could see the ship was moving.  There was no feeling just obvious movement visually observed but not felt.  How utterly graceful.  By the time our meal was done we headed back to our cabin and enjoyed our balcony.  Now it is only 26 miles from Long Beach to Avalon but the good ship Imagination was in no hurry.  We would arrive in Catalina early the next morning.  No rush, just pure joy and total relaxation.

After our simply delicious breakfast we disembarked and walked about Catalina.  Several shore tours were offered but we opted to just enjoy Catalina on foot.  So many beautiful yachts, the magnificent Casino and the very pleasant town of Avalon all made for a great day but then it was time to get back on board and wait for the Captain to hoist anchor and sail off to the south for Ensenada, Mexico. 

Upon arriving in Ensenada we once again opted to simply go into the town and enjoy our own private walking tour.  Other passengers took advantage of a wide variety of shore tours.  That is yet another piece of cruising joy, everyone can simply do their very own thing.  At one point we even got briefly off of the main tourist track and wandered into a local grocery store.  That experience for my wife was especially enjoyable because she hails from the Philippines and found the Mexican grocery store very familiar.  Like I said, one of the beauties of cruising is the ability for everyone to do their very own thing. 

That evening we hoisted anchor again for a full night and day at sea.  If you have never cruised you really should do so for only when you are far from shore can you sea millions of stars igniting the night sky far far more than anything you can see on shore.  It is simply pure magic. 

Eventually we did find our way back to Long Beach Harbor.  We were thoroughly and completely relaxed and ready to return to that dull boring work a day world.  But now we knew how we could escape that world even if only for a few days and enjoy pure relaxation and pleasure and at a cost that darn near anyone can easily afford making it just that much more pleasant.  Should you want to look into a Carnival Cruise just click here:  https://www.carnival.com. 

All photo credits Ron Irwin

 


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.   

 

 

 

 


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.