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Alaska’s Magnitude Warrants A Photo Time Out


Land of Hidden Treasure Hawaii


Always in Season Vancouver Island


August 2012

Send a little bit of home to one of our Troops. It’s the best $2 you’ll ever spend... LEARN HOW






Bridal Veil Falls photograph by Patricia Carmichael

Alaska’s Magnitude An Introduction and A Photo Time Out 6 Editor’s Letter 9 Publisher’s Letter 14 Curacao

For The Intrepid Traveler

16 As You Wind Through

The Rocky Mountains

20 Pinehurst Resort 24 Land of Hidden Treasure Hawaii 26 Cruise Control 28 Travel Trend for Family

Vacations Condo Hotels

30 Austin Abounds 32 Always in Season




Editor’s Welcome We are off to a good start! Inside the pages will be places to go, things to do, special invitations from travel companies and hotels, unique locations to consider and dream or think about. Whether it is for personal relaxation, curiosity or to re-calibrate that energy level, Insiders Travel Magazine will take you there! Places to see and go, things to do and special invitations from travel companies, hotels and unique locations for you, your family and friends to think about when you want to get away to relax, dream and re-calibrate your energy level. Our hope is, you will let us know if your travels lived up to your expectations and if our team can help to improve your travel expectations. Send us your thoughts if we hit the mark or if we did not. Let us know how we can fulfill your travel dreams of where to go, how to get there and what you can do when you arrive at a destination that is totally unique. Meandering,

Micki Sander


PUBLISHER Robert Martin


CREATIVE DIRECTOR Mariah Scott Rushing


CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Patricia Carmichael Mariah Scott Rushing Van Castle

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Patricia Carmichael Hobie Higgins Robert Martin Micki Sander




Publisher’s Letter

Welcome to the premier issue of Insiders Travel Magazine. We hope you will enjoy your journey through our pages, learn about some wonderful destinations and hopefully finding new vacation ideas. Our goal is to provide you with innovative and different information on destinations new to many of you. We look forward to hearing from you as to your experience and how we might improve it. Please enjoy what we believe is a new travel experience and keep us on your monthly reading list.

Bob Martin




Travel destinations are a lot like a first date... There lies in the initial moment intense anticipation of perceived potential ...will this be just the excitement of another one night adventure or is this The One I have been seeking? The One that satisfies and keeps on giving ...”as good as it gets”? Alaska is The One! All others are forgotten loves of the past paling in comparison. Eyes closed, visualize the most spectacular, breathtaking vistas to be savored, enjoyed in a variety of weather conditions, along with a myriad of activities. Ranging in extremes from a simple walk down a sun dappled path to an exhilarating aerial flight exploring Mt. McKinley, to pulse racing rides in white water raft trips down rivers of turquoise glacial water. Alaska offers a plethora of options from the heart stopping to the heart-warming. Here, in Alaska, the question becomes...Where do I start?

Alaska’s Magnitude An Introduction and A Photo Time Out by Patricia Carmichael

The starting point for this visual adventure begins in downtown Anchorage on 5th Street One of the main streets downtown where the strolling pedestrian can admire the city ambiance resplendent with all the accouterments of civilization, flowers, paved road, modern department stores, quaint coffee kiosks all of which do nothing to suggest the wilds ahead as 5th Street turns into the Glenn Highway heading north into the mountains. On the way to our first stop, Glennallen, the mist or as some refer to it, “Alaska rain” creates a feeling of heightened anticipation as it partially obscures the surroundings, leaving only a suggestion of what is to come... the wonderful phenomenon artists refer to as “lost and found” revealing a part but hiding the rest. This is a personal, visual tidbit of information with annotations to tantalize and tempt you to make that “First Date” with Alaska, seducing you into pursuing a lasting relationship with an incredibly versatile state. continued u

Passing through a narrow gap of solid granite walls, the Falls appear, materializing out of a mist challenging your perception of where the road ends and the mountain begins.

Bridal Veil Falls appearing to emanate from the sky, cscades down in a near vertical drop then culminating in a mountainous mist at the bottom.

A glacier...there are so many that a topographical map is needed to identify them. It is possible to trek across some and see the bluegreen ice up close or take a glacier tour via an ocean going vessel to experience.

Fire... after many hours of misty, moist mountain views this perfect fire is most welcome



Near the top of Thompson Pass...a charming little meadow, blueberries on the hillside, a pond created by a beaver dam, a stream...all the elements necessary for a picnic lunch of salmon jerky, chocolate and freshly brewed coffee thanks to a Whisper Lite stove.

Yaks! Not yuk, yak! Enjoyed that little literary foray.... and this is a yak farm, they grow yaks here...see the pictures? Yaks growing from the ground up...see the pictures! Seriously, these are some interesting hair balls on hooves.

Magical mists! Photographing in overcast conditions is a wonderful thing, then add the ingredient of fog...Awesome! This shot was taken across the road from the Valdez Information Center looking out towards the bay.

First Yaks, now Yurts... This (Yurt) cabin was hand built by the coup wonderful banana muffs and delicious coffee, it is worth a stop.

ple who own and operate the facility. We enjoyed .



A variety of weather conditions can be experienced in a time span of 30 seconds requiring a special mode of dressing...many layers (think thin) the least layer containing only enough fabric content to avoid arrest with other layers stopping just short of the inflatable man look. It is also a good idea to have pockets and more is better! The romance of a lovely walk in the forest is soon shattered by the reality of a call of nature (NOT the bird!) and discovering the requisite toilet paper is back at camp. Repellent (avoid anything that smells good, and greasy is desirable.) will be in one of those pockets and Deet will acquire new meaning...the mosquitoes of Alaska are small but mighty and fly in flocks replete with an armor piercing, blood sucking device creating a welt at the spot of insertion. Waterproof EVERYTHING...possible and always put up the rain flap even it the sky is clear; there is nothing more detrimental to a blossoming relationship than a cold, wet rain falling on the agonized, screaming face of a loved one! Yes, expands the meaning of the “blame game” to Mt. McKinley heights. Another necessity, the crushable, remember, it will go into a pocket during the warm part of some days--yes, read that twice, some being the operable word -- hat, a Boony is good, a camouflage Boony better and this is why: mosquitoes think it is a bush



The Island Country of Curacao is a tiny speck of land in the Southern most part of the Caribbean Sea, near the coast of Venezuela. The Country of Curacao includes the main island and a small, uninhabited island called Klein Curacao. From Miami fly on Dutch Antilles Express where bags are checked free and meals served on the plane. What a delightful way to begin the experience of island life on Curacao. The island celebrates a diverse cultural heritage and the mix is as beguiling as the grandeur of its scenery. With rocky coves and hidden slivers of sandy beach where all of a sudden you feel like you are in the middle of a movie scene as the cactus catches you by surprise. A pocket of Curacao that will be forever Amsterdam is the City of Willemstad with its stunning waterfront and Dutch Gabled roofs sitting atop buildings painted pink and pistachio with a dash of lemon or citrus to capture your senses. On a watery cul-de-sac sits their floating marketing full of tempting treats with stalls full of fruits and vegetables for the sight and the soul. While you’re on the waterfront take a tour of Fort Amsterdam and visit the 1779 Fortkerk Church Museum with

displays of antique silverware and maps. One block behind the waterfront are some of the best preserved 18th and 19th century townhouses with elaborate stucco decorations that are highlights of Dutch Colonial architecture. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage City and you can image the history as you walk the cobblestone streets. Make sure to wear your most comfortable shoes as the scenery is magnificent and the roads from a different era. Take some time to experience local fare and friendship. The people have a special way of touching your heart and wanting to help you learn about their island culture. Curacao can be a perfect time to escape the ordinary and relax or join in the many adventures the island has to offer. Horseback riding on the beach or through the trails of the 4,650 acre Cristoffel National Park is a time for taking pictures of the flora and fauna on the island. If walking is your pleasure, the guided walks on Friday mornings and many evenings will relax your mind and open your eyes to spotting the rare white tailed deer. A visit to the Seaquarium with outdoor lagoons for sea lions and sharks, tanks that house eels


and touch tanks for entertaining the kids. Part of the spectacle includes an introductory dive with a qualified instructor and you can snorkel and scuba dive among the non-dangerous residents. One of the islands best beaches is next door to the Seaquarium with access to a 12 mile long underwater park. Reservations to the Seaquarium are a must as it is one of the most popular sights on Curacao. Many nationalities make up Curacao and the cuisine on the island reflects the vast diversity. With the passage of time a local flavor has evolved from the cuisines of the Netherlands, Spain, Indonesia and many others. To truly get the flavor of the local food go to the Marsche Bieuw market in downtown Willemstad. The food is heavy and very filling, main dishes include Kabritu (stewed goat), fried fish of the day, chicken and beef served with Aros Moro (peas and rice). Hot peppers and pickled onions are popular to eat with the main dish. During your stay have one meal called Rijsttafel, it is an elaborate 20 course meal and an experience not to be missed. If you are adventurous try the Yuana or stewed iguana. Cucumber combined with green cabbage and


stewed corned beef is a favorite and a soup made of plantains and vegetable seasoned with pepper and cinnamon is a combination you will truly enjoy. It is a recipe to take home to guests. The Curacao meal ends with a wonderful dessert enjoy Sunchi (meringue made of sugar, egg whites), Panseiku (praline with roasted peanuts and almonds essence), Kokada (freshly grated coconut patties), Kakina (local chewy candy), Djente Kacho (dog’s tooth made of coconut in sugar syrup), Milk-based Ko’i Lechi (flavored with vanilla or almonds), Tentalaria (ground peanut or cashew in sugar cream) or Zjozjoli (sesame seed bars). These are recipes that are easy to make and different to the taste. While there are many known brands of hotels in Curacao our favorite is the Kura Hulanda Spa & Casino located in Willemstad. We enjoyed both the spa and the casino and the historic flavor of the island. It is steps away from shopping and has a very historic feel. There is internet access however, if getting to the beach is a morning must then there are other hotels to that will accommodate, such as the Curacao Marriott Beach Resort and Emerald Casino.




onsidered by many to be the very best way to experience Western Canada and the Canadian Rocky Mountains, the awardwinning Rocky Mountaineer carries you in the lap of luxury on a relaxing journey of superior service and jaw-dropping scenery through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world ,including the majestic Canadian Rocky Mountains, a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the destination resort towns of Jasper and Banff, Alberta. Traveling by daylight, it follows four distinct routes rich in history and natural wonders through British Columbia and Alberta, offering first-hand views of the brilliant landscapes and ensuring none of the sights are missed. From craggy mountain cliffs and snow-capped peaks to rolling desert hills and pristine glacial-fed lakes, the backdrop is constantly changing and incredibly breathtaking, no matter which route you travel on.

Rocky Mountaineer’s flagship route, First Passage to the West, travels from Vancouver to Banff, winding its way through the most scenic and majestic parts of the Canadian Rockies. On this journey, guests are swept off to a land of yesteryear, where the sites include a glimpse into the historical adventures of the railway, including the trials and tribulations of those who worked so hard to build it. This is the only passenger train that travels along this route offering first-hand views of significant landmarks such as the Spiral Tunnels, an engineering masterpiece, or Craigellachie, the site where the last spike was driven in Canada’s transcontinental rail line.



The tracks the train travels on were laid over 100 years ago, following along river-ways for the majority of the journey. It is not uncommon to spot a bald eagle or osprey swooping down into the river to catch a salmon or nesting in a tree alongside the tracks. The engineer and staff at the front of the train will call back on radio to alert passengers of upcoming animal spotting. A common call, “Bear on the left, bear on the left!” has guests scrambling for their cameras and darting to the opposite side of the car. There is also a good chance you will spot elk, deer, mountain goats, moose and more!

On Rocky Mountaineer’s Gold Leaf Service, guests relax and enjoy exceptional service and panoramic views from the glass domes of the famed two-story Gold Leaf coaches. Rocky Mountaineer Hosts tend to your every need making this seamless travel experience most enjoyable. In a private dining room, guests enjoy outstanding three-course, à la carte meals, made with the finest and freshest ingredients indigenous to the regions passing by. Delicious selections of wild Pacific Salmon, Prime Alberta Beef and locally sourced vegetables are created by talented, world-renowned onboard chefs. Awardwinning wines from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley complement this five-star, gourmet Western Canadian culinary experience. continued u



Spending two glorious days on the train, you are bound to connect with other travellers along the route, creating lasting friendships and memories, as you experience the amazing journey together. Interactions with Onboard Hosts are easy and friendly as they come through the coach sharing fascinating tales of the passing regions, pointing out photo opportunities, wildlife and delivering refreshments. For those wishing invigorate their senses in the fresh mountain air, an exclusive outdoor vestibule area gives guests a unique spot to watch the scenery unfold. A great place for picture taking, guests enjoy getting up close and personal with nature. This is also a great spot to observe the front and back ends of the train as it winds through the dramatic scenery passing by. A magical way to travel, it is little wonder that discerning customers choose Rocky Mountaineer for that special adventure. It truly offers one of the most unique ways to experience all the natural wonders of Western Canada and the majestic Canadian Rockies. Find out for yourself why this internationallyacclaimed journey has been acknowledged seven times by the World Travel Awards as the “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train,”and recognized by National Geographic as one of the “World’s Greatest Trips.” For more information on Rocky Mountaineer, please contact Rocky Mountaineer directly at (800) 665-7245, or visit



Pisco Portón is an unapologetically flavorful spirit that brings dimension and character back to the drinking experience. Taken neat, it is complex and layered. When mixed, Pisco Portón creates a whole new category of cocktails, more flavorful than vodka and more subtle than tequila. Pisco Portón is the new spirit that is actually new, with aromas and flavors sure to incite and intrigue as it opens a whole new world of cocktail possibilities.

Discover Pisco Portón® Responsibly. Pisco Portón, Manhasset, New York. 43% alc/vol. Produced and bottled by Destilería La Caravedo S.R.L. Ica, Perú





bu Hobie Higgins

Are you thinking about taking a golf vacation? If so, seriously consider the Pinehurst Resort. Located eighty miles from Raleigh-Durham International Airport, makes it reasonably accessible from just about anywhere. Most importantly, Pinehurst features eight championship golf courses, making it the largest golf resort in America. Trust me; these aren’t cookie-cutter golf tracks either. Before beginning my review of the golf courses, I need to make a few disclaimers. I carry a 4 handicap, played 153 holes of golf over the four days at Pinehurst and never written an article before so take my review with a grain of salt…and lime…and tequila. Pinehurst chose wildly uncreative names for their courses. They simply go by Pinehurst #1, Pinehurst #2, Pinehurst #3… you get the idea. Our group scheduled #5 on Wednesday, #2, and #1 on Thursday, #6 and #8 on Friday, and #4 and #2 on Saturday. Before we booked the trip, we knew the prevailing opinion is the even numbered courses are superior to the odd numbered courses. As it turns out, this is not just an opinion but an incontrovertible fact. We started with #5 because it was easy to get a tee time and less expensive than the others. We soon speculated the reason it was cheaper must be because they saved money on the course by not mowing the greens… ever. They were terribly slow. Not a great warm up round for Pinehurst #2, which boasts some of the most difficult greens in the entire world.

Pinehurst #2 is hosting the US Open in 2014. It is one of those bucket list courses all true golfers want to play. Famous for extremely difficult turtle back greens that repel shots from even the best golfers. Wow… #2 is as advertised. The highest handicap in my foursome was a 5 and we still combined for twelve three putts and a four putt, which would have been worse if we’d hit more greens in regulation. We all walked and had caddies carry our bags. They will allow carts on #2, but the caddies add to the experience. It is much more fun and worth the $100 dollar caddie fee to have someone to blame when you hit a bad shot. Warning… Pinehurst #2 is pricey. By the time you add up the green fee, caddie and a couple beers, you’ve spent $500. Do the math… that’s $27 a hole, so a $5 Nassau isn’t going to cut it. Between rounds, we stopped for lunch. I have an unsophisticated palate so no food review, it all tasted great to me. After lunch, we played Pinehurst #1. Naturally, it was a bit of a letdown after playing #2; it is a fun track nonetheless. #1 is included with the standard golf package so after hemorrhaging money on #2, it was a welcome respite. The interesting thing about #1 is the huge fairways, yet is very tight. Therefore, if you miss the fairway, you will be out of bounds. All or nothing. The course isn’t very long, so keep your driver in the bag, however, most people don’t come out to Pinehurst Resort to layup. continued u



Evenings at the Pinehurst Resort are fun. It’s very casual. Mostly a bunch of people eating and drinking and looking for anyone that will let them talk about the 10 foot birdie putt they made to win a bet. Even though no one cares about your golf game, they act like they do. I guess this is what is meant by “Southern Charm.” The bars never totally emptied so it’s easy to keep at it till 2:00 am. I know this because I managed to do it four nights in a row. Pinehurst #6 is a good golf course. It is a demanding tree-lined course from the tee box and a good test on the greens, I’m not sure there was anything unique about it. It’s the kind of course enjoyable to play but hard to remember. Kind of like beer pong. Also, Pinehurst #6 does have a bunch of houses lining the fairways so it slightly lessens the experience. I would definitely include it in your rotation. That afternoon. we played Pinehurst #8 and it was terrific. Tom Fazio built #8 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Pinehurst Resort. Wow. This course is visually stunning. Fazio courses never disappoint me. The fairways were generous, there were plenty of hazards if you got too wayward with your shot. Pinehurst #8 gives you a chance to make a bunch of birdies if you hit it well. In fact, our foursome had eleven birdies between us. Speaking of birds, the course features large areas of wetlands, home to a large variety of wildlife and birds if you are into flora or fauna . Pinehurst #8 was arguably my favorite course we played including #2. We ate dinner that night at the Pine Crest Inn. It is within walking distance of the Pinehurst Resort and has really good food, a nice vibe, and a fun crowd. If you feel like venturing out, I recommend it.

After dinner we went to Dugan’s Pub, an Irish Pub, within walking distance of the Resort. Actually, we took a resort shuttle because it was free. Dugan’s was great. They feature live music every night of the week. Sometimes it’s a local band playing cover tunes, sometimes it’s traditional Irish music and sometimes it’s Karaoke night featuring the musical styling’s of the tourists. We had a blast. The next morning we had an 8:30 tee time on Pinehurst #4. Another example of the even numbered courses being terrific. This course seemed like a Pinehurst #8 and Pinehurst #2 hybrid. Wide fairways, lots of bunkers and turtle back greens, although the crowning on the greens is less severe than #2. The course plays pretty long (we played it from over 7000 yards) but it wasn’t over-whelming because several of the longer holes had doglegs you could flirt with and cut some distance off. I really enjoyed playing Pinehurst #4, it is a must play if you make the trip to Pinehurst Resort. After lunch in the clubhouse, we had our final tee-time, it was a re-match with Pinehurst #2. A little easier and less intimidating the second time around, but the course still beat us. The thing about #2 - it’s so hard to get up and down around the greens to save a shot. We never seemed to turn bogeys into pars. I think given a few more chances we would get the hang of it, but maybe not. It sure is fun to try though. In summary, Pinehurst Resort is a terrific upscale golf vacation spot. The weather was beautiful, the service was excellent, and the golf can be spectacular. A popular topic of conversation among guests of the resort is… “How do you rank the courses?” My answer… #2, #8, #4, #6, #1,#5. Hobie Higgins is a Mortgage Banker living in Tulsa, OK. He loves to golf and to write and doesn’t feel qualified to do either.




here are few places in this world that remain untouched yet Hawaii has managed to preserve a number of sites, remote from access by car, boat or air. Ravishing beaches, tropical flowers, local music and the Polynesian culture present a perfect Paradise. Surrounded by ocean and set in a tropical latitude; the Islands of Hawaii have only two seasons. The Haleakala volcano is unmatched by any natural feature on Maui with a 21 mile wide crater, this “house of the Sun” is 3,000 feet deep. Trek up the volcano early in the morning and you will be convinced the name is appropriate. The Pali Coast on Molokai remains hidden from the outside world encompassing 14 miles of coastline it is the most spectacular and isolated land of the Islands. Kaena Point, on Oahu covers one stretch of coast that remains without a road. The 32 acre Kaena Point Natural Area Reserve is a wildlife habitat. At the road’s end on the island of Kauai’s west side lies Polihale Beach. A wide expanse of white sand and lots of sunshine. North of the beach is a Heiau (temple) considered one of the most sacred by native Hawaiians. It provides a chance to reflect and regroup from a day of touring. Stay in Princeville on Kauai and you can visit all the other islands. Five minutes from the Kilauea Lighthouse there are rental properties in the private setting of Seacliff Plantation with all the amenities of home. Kanepuu, known as the Garden of the Gods is an eerie windswept landscape sculpted by the raging forces of nature on Lanai. Rocks scorched by ancient eruptions have carved irregular pinnacles and buttes. At sunset, the brick red earth is washed with a spectrum of desert colors. Save space on your camera for shots to last a lifetime. Hawaii is pure heaven and each island offers spectacular vistas for the soul. With challenges of what to do each day, you often want to extend your stay. Each island has a different personality so relax, enjoy the pure pleasures and warm island hospitality of the Hawaiians.





Experience the heart of Europe on a river cruise, watch the scenery slide by as you sip a cup of tea or in the evening something to unwind from the day. Welcome aboard our trip down the Danube, as we settle in to capture memories to last a lifetime. We arrived in Prague and spent the first night at an ideally situated hotel, the Panorama is peaceful and is a perfect base to explore the city. They have a wellness and fitness center on the top floor and the wonderful Mezzo restaurant if you are tired after arriving in Prague and touring the city. We always advise landing, get to the hotel, unpack and out the door to get on the same time zone as the locals. If you still have stamina, you can spent some time in the hotel casino before retiring and preparing for your morning adventure. Start the morning with a sightseeing tour from the top of the mountain with a guide who will walk you down the mountain including a visit to Hradcany and the Prague Castle. Then, on your own walk over the Charles Bridge to Old Market Square. Take time to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the see the Church of Tyn with the famous Astronomical Clock. Evening time you are ready for relaxing and we suggest a Czech Dinner Show with music, dance and the traditions of the community.

After breakfast the next morning, take the motor coach up to Karlovy Vary, a spa city located in western Bohemia on the confluence of the Ohre and Tepla rivers. The city is famous for its 13 hot springs with over 300 smaller springs. A must is to try their Becherovka liqueur after a wonderful meal and take some home to savor the time spent in this most beautiful city. Their candied plums known as Carlsbad Plums are a specialty we suggest you taste, the intense flavor is one you will remember. Visit the Grand Hotel Pupp to view where Casino Royale was filmed. Now off we drive to Nuremburg, Germany to board a cruise down the beautiful and historic Danube. Arrive in time for a welcome dinner and be ready in the morning to tour the historic city of Nuremburg with its ramparts and the Imperial Castle. Then be ready to cruise through the MainDanube Canal and arrive in Regensburg. You can visit the Audi factory in Ingolstadt and tour the Car Museum . Visit the Danube Gorge or take a bike ride to visit the Walhalla Temple. Now we sail down the Danube to picturesque Passau where the Inn and Ilz rivers join the Danube . As we walk the cobblestone streets of Passau, we find the home of the largest cathedral organ in the world at St. Stephan’s Cathedral. Now there


is a decision - visit Salzburg birthplace of Mozart and setting for “Sound of Music” or travel to Cesky in the hills overlooking the Austrian-Czech border. While both options are pulling at our hearts, we to opt to visit Salzburg. “Gemultichkeit” describes the people, food and the history of Beethoven. We sat in his favorite garden under the trees, enjoyed the appetizing buffet and listened to live Viennese folk music. Back to the ship to continue our sail down the Danube to arrive in Melk, in the morning. Stroll the Benedictine Abbey and return to the ship for lunch and cruising the Wachau Valley. Arrive in Vienna after dinner on board the ship. Explore the Austrian capital then select a Mozart or Strauss Concert. Overnight on the ship and we toured Vienna next morning, especially tasting their incredible edible pastries. Vienna is a love story for young and old with their colorful gardens, music and culture everywhere. Visit the dance center, the children’s museum then surely the homes of Mozart and Haydn before shopping for souvenirs. Return to the ship and sail off to Budapest, Hungary last city on this wonderful excursion. Tour the Buda Castle where you view the twin cities of Buda and Pest which spread over both banks of the river. Tour the magnificent Royal Palace, the famous


Heroes Square and the Colossal Dohany Street Synagogue. It is the second largest synagogue in the world (NYC has the largest) and has various temples and gardens. The design is of Moorish architecture and looks like it comes from northern Africa. Budapest boasts some of the oldest metro railways in the world, the system began in 1896. As a writer it was important to me to touch the pen of the Anonymous Statue in the park near Heroes’ Square. A menacing looking statue, even looks like the Grim Reaper, however the legend is touching the pen will make you a better writer. Medicinal baths are all over the city and produce an amazing amount of water every day. The thermal springs are below the city and we enjoyed our visit as have visitors since the Roman Empire. Our remembrances of these days enrich our lives and remain within our sights forever. Leaving the cruise and the friends we made was difficult yet exciting. Returning home, we wanted to share our experiences with those of you who would understand the charm of a river cruise along with the historic benefits of traveling through ancient cities.





ith more space and better value, 5 star condos are gaining popularity for families. They offer the ability for family get-togethers with all the perks and amenities of hotels with the addition of being able to cook together and have game nights yet still be able to go out on the town. Families are looking for an authentic experience. that includes privacy and value Vacation rentals are appearing on the market more frequently with declined income from pensions, investments or employment driving the rental growth. Guests of four boutique Condo Hotels in Playa del Carmen, situated in the premier beachfront zone of Playa del Carmen, Mexico have the ability to stay in posh suites with living rooms overlooking the Caribbean Sea, enjoy multiple spacious bedrooms with their own private marble bathrooms and a lounge on their personal terrace or the rooftop. The properties have outdoor heated Jacuzzis and pools, high end kitchen appliances and outdoor BBQ grills. The properties, not only hand keys to their guests, they offer the same services any upscale hotel would. Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen are no different than any 5-star hotel. The properties have a 24-hour front desk, concierge, security, indoor parking garage, room service and daily maid service.


As it would be at a hotel, all units at Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen are equipped with luxury toiletries and fine linens. Guests can even get the services of a private chef, personal shopping, baby sitting, and transportation in luxury cars. The upscale beach club is complimentary for guests, and everyone receives passes to a modern fitness center. On site, there are two gourmet restaurants, a health cafÊ, a luxury Spa, a beauty salon, a gourmet deli & market, and a scuba shop. A rental car is truly unnecessary as walking is a way of life in this beautiful and intimate town of Playa del Carmen just a 45 minute taxi ride from the Cancun Airport. The cost is are on average at least 50 percent less expensive per square foot than hotels. Rates at Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen start at around $180 per night per one-bedroom condo suite during low season. In addition to offering more for the money, condo-hotels also bridge the gap between staying at a fancy hotel, where everything is sterile and not-to-be-touched, and a relaxed home environment. They are quite successful at their task – for example, Condo Hotels Playa del Carmen are currently #1 on TripAdvisor. com among all Playa del Carmen hotels, and that doesn’t only include vacation rentals.

Austin, Texas – home of the University of Texas – Longhorn Country and the Texas State Capitol. Sitting in the Texas Hill Country, it is a city of excellence in education with abounding art venues and an extensive system of hike and bike trails. Austin laid back and alive with music that makes you smile. It nurtures country with rock, reggae and the blues, and then turns you around with the symphony and its Lyric Opera. Austin is a treasure chest of activities on the shores of Town Lake from watching the largest urban bat population fly out from under the Congress Street Bridge in the evening, to the magnificent sunsets at the Oasis. A sprawling city surrounded by state parks Austin crawls into your heart and mesmerizes everyone from 20-somethings to seniors. Austin’s hidden gem is its Golf Circle! North, South, East and West you can find courses that match the eclectic flare of the city and the budget of every golfer. It is the home of legends like Kite, Crenshaw and Penick and their legacy is seen circling the courses. Golf is a year round experience in central Texas where the weather fluctuates between good and great. Stay in downtown Austin, play a Golf Circle course then celebrate the adventure of Austin at night.

Standouts Among The Circle Are:

Falconhead, laid out by PGA Tour Design architects has been designated as a PGA Tour Signature Series Course. So you can be sure the layout measures up to the exacting standards of the PGA and the course will offer you the same kind of quality golf the pros experience. There are unique stands of cedars and oaks, along with ponds and waterfalls along the course. With 5 tee boxes, the course offers a challenge for all golfers.

The Golf Club at Circle C has wildlife galore to distract from your game. Although they have generous fairways, you’ve got to watch out for those big oaks standing like sentinels along the course. There are challenging doglegs tempting you to take a risk as well as five lakes and tall grass that can swallow your ball. Easy-going elegance, they know what it takes to make guests feel at home and welcome both on and off the course! The Jay Morrish design is very women friendly. Avery Ranch a 226 acre facility combining Texas Hill Country panoramas with 18 challenging holes and fun to play. The 5 tee placements provide the low-handicapper an opportunity to put on their course management caps while creating an enjoyable golfing experience for other levels of players. This championship course features great Tif Eagle greens and 419 Bermuda fairways and tees. The oak lined fairways, 60 acre lake, and excellent pro shop with country club atmosphere make Avery Ranch the Austin “must play” list. The Austin Golf Circle includes Riverplace Country Club, Teravista Golf Club, The Golf Club at Star Ranch and several others. Combine any of these courses with a getaway to The Four Seasons Hotel in the heart of Austin’s Town Lake where you can enjoy the lakeside Café or explore the hike and bike trail. Another option is the Driskill Hotel, for over a century it has been the crown jewel of downtown Austin. Transcending time, the hotel is a vision of Texas past with an eye on its future. There are more activities and music venues galore than courses in Austin; it is difficult to think of going elsewhere. If the spirit of adventure calls you to experience the new, the ultimate and


the extraordinary, there will be a visit to the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa in your future. Meander just east of Austin about 30 minutes to this 656 acre destination called “Lost Pines� located adjacent to an 1100 acre nature park. In the heart of central Texas, The Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa offers inspiration to golfers on the Wolfdancer Golf Club, designed by Arthur Hills. Just walking on the course is like playing three unique courses from prairie land, to wooded ridgelines and then into the river valley lined with native pecan trees. Determination and a good fore caddy provide the ability to keep you focused on the course. Each hole offers a new test of your golf skills along with the distraction of its astonishing vistas. Top of the World is the number 12 Par 3 where aside from threading a needle to the green you have a 180 degree view of the course, the Colorado River and the distant horizon. Play the course or walk it once and Wolfdancer will haunt you until you return to enjoy Lost Pines Resort. After a day of adventure, treat yourself to a session of relaxation in the Django Spa with therapies featuring native herbs. Or select from a menu of fitness workouts and beauty treatments to wind down your day. The resort has varied restaurant options from the gourmet Stories to Shellers Barrel House with the tastiest Barbecue Sandwich in Central Texas then challenge your friends to a game of pool. Lost Pines is a destination for families, friends, golfers and genuine nature lovers. The resort has been developed with care and concern for the eco-system, the beauty of the area and abounds in Texas traditions.




Vancouver Island is a year round vacation destination. The mild climate offers an unparalleled opportunity for a an outdoors man to spend time biking, hiking, fishing or golfing. Along with a thousand other interesting things to do any time of the year. This huge 12,000 square mile island off the southwest coast of Canada is simply beautiful. Home to Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia, it enjoys a spectacular setting of snow capped mountains along with harbor views. Exploring Victoria is safe whether on foot or taking one of the pedicabs, it is a city built for pedestrians. Within easy walking distance, you can visit the Inner Harbour, Old Town, Chinatown, James Bay, Fisherman’s Wharf and Beacon Hill Park. After your stroll take a detour to Canada’s oldest Brew pub, Spinnakers, located on Victoria’s waterfront. This pub, restaurant and guest house is a blend of the sublime in food and brew. Tour Oak Bay, located along the majestic Scenic Marine Drive, it is the most British looking neighborhood with Tudor style homes, parks, beaches and an exquisite shopping village with unique boutiques and tea rooms.

Driving out into the countryside of the Saanich Peninsula, will lead you through landscapes of farms, forests and mountains. Spend a day visiting Butchart Gardens and the Butterfly Gardens located in the small community of Brentwood Bay. Sooke is a semi rural area with breathtaking coastal scenery, artisan studios and galleries. A must stop is Sooke Harbor House for lunch. The three words best describing this experience are food, art and gardens. This sea coast inn has hundreds of edible plants as well as the serenely scenic beauty of the gardens. Sooke Harbor House is the essence of a taste of the arts. Take home their cookbook to remember the wonderful aromas and tastes of the locals. Nestled among the snow capped mountains with views of emerald colored lakes and harbors are the golf courses of Vancouver Island. The trio of our favorite courses on the island is: Arbutus Ridge Golf & Country Club designed by Bill Robinson, a 5535 yard championship course from the red tees with an island green on the 17th hole that provides an unforgettable golf adventure.


Bring your cameras to capture the visual spectacle of Mt. Baker hovering over the course. This rustic country setting offers the most spectacular vistas on the island. Not a golfer? Walk the course for the exquisite beauty and serenity. One of the most highly acclaimed golf experiences in Canada is Olympic View also designed by Bill Robinson. This 5502 yard course from the red tees is in a breathtaking parklike setting with many water features including a waterfall behind the 17th green. The course is ranked in the top 35 in Canada due to the inspired design incorporating the natural terrain and meticulous condition. Bear Mountain Golf & Country Club was designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus along with his son Steve. Play this course and you walk in the footsteps of a legend. Play the course from the Cinnamon Tees, it is 5014 yards of unforgettable golf. The course combines the mastery of a Nicklaus course with the exceptional scenery of Vancouver Island. Bring your children with you to play or just enjoy Bear Mountain. They will be enthralled at the beauty and fun


Vancouver Island is a great Getaway Island for sport, touring, spa and meditating in a Japanese Garden, at the Laurel Point Inn facing the Harbor. Each summer the hotel hosts a surf meets cork even in their beautiful oriental back yard. Enjoy the appies and partake in their Sips & Seafood with select wines from the Sandhill Collection. There is nothing to do at the hotel, or everything you hope for so relax take in the oceanfront views and glass walls invite the natural light. The hallways are art museums with magnificent art gracing the walls. Join the guests as they walk out the back to the walkway around the wonderful bay to the city or just hang-out in the restaurant as the singing begins each evening. This is paradise.

Why Book with USA River Cruises? In a business dominated by money, USA River Cruises is committed to providing personal, knowledgeable customer service. You will never pay more when booking with us – you’ll almost always pay less! Travel is about the details, and we want to take care of those for you – to make sure your vacation meets your needs, desires, and expectations.

USA River Cruises 800-578-1479 360-546-5151

August 2012 / Insiders Travel Magazine  

Insiders Travel Magazine Online is the first place to look for your next escape. From a weekend getaway to an around the world cruise. Acces...

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