Travel Blogues

p1150103-w500-h500.jpgThree hundred and fifty kilometres within the Arctic Circle, lies the city of Tromso, our furthest north destination of this Norwegian Fjords cruise to the Arctic Circle..

At about  7 AM yesterday morning the Queen Mary 2 crossed into the Arctic Circle. I  was watching the seas from my verandah. The sky was clouded and gray-blue waters stretched out to the horizon.

There was not a ship in sight, and sadly, King Neptune did not appear from the depths in person to issue his call (as written in the Daily Programme) for “all icebergs, sea lions, narwhals,  polar bears, whales, mermaids and other creatures of the frigid north to show due deference and respect to all those bluenoses crossing over into the northern reaches” of his realm. So just like crossing the equator, I had to take the crossing of “the line” on faith. Hard for an empiricist to do.

beautiful_2647-w500-h500.jpgBeautiful: The Carole King Musical
by Doug McGrath
Music and Lyrics by Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil
Director Marc Bruni
Choreographer Josh Prince
Stephen Sondheim Theater
Currently running

New York, NY.  Like the more than 25 million other fans of Carole King who bought her album Tapestry,  the songs of this album are embedded in my musical memory and I have been looking forward to seeing Beautiful: The Carole King Musical for months. But it wasn’t until I was actually in the theatre, relishing one superbly performed musical  number after another, that I realized just how many of the songs that I had danced to in high school and known only by the artists or groups that performed them, were written by King and/or Gerry Goffin, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. And the show covered only a fraction of their works.

riversidets-w500-h500.jpgAlthough I travel frequently to Orange County, this was my first visit to this part of California.  A favorite winter destination for Canadian snowbirds - including many of my Vancouver friends- the average winter high temperature is around a pleasant 22 ° C.  On the other hand with an average July temperature high around 40 ° C,  one would think it would take a special reason like a convention or a festival to motivate  people to visit. Surprisingly though the hotel pool was crowded with kids as well as adults, splashing away under the blazing noon day sun.

I knew that this area was part of the Sonoran Desert, that the San Andreas Fault ran through it  and that was why there were hot springs, but that was the limit of my knowledge. Flying over miles of brown arid desert and then seeing this long swath of green valley, I realized that I needed a quick geography lesson. The introductory  information in this post is for those of you who, like me, also know little or nothing about the area of Palm Springs and Indian Wells.

p1140484-w500-h500.jpgI took the Westjet direct flight from Vancouver that leaves at 1 PM  and arrives in Palm Springs shortly before 4 PM.  The taxi ride from the airport to the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort Indian Wells  is about half an hour. Check in was quick and key in hand, I was soon on my way to my room. I have a rule that "if I can't carry it myself it can't come with me" so instead of enlisting help I lugged my own luggage down seemingly endless corridors to the room. But it was worth the effort for the room location.

p1140487-w500-h500.jpgMy room, the basic resort view room with a king bed,  was large and spacious. The view over a golf course was of lush greenery and trees, with the muted grey-blue of the mountains in the distance.
And having the resort view room rather than a room with a pool view meant it was also blissfully quiet, no music, voices or splashing from the pool area.

 

p1140519-w500-h500.jpgWith two main dining possibilities other than room service as Sirocco was closed, on my first evening at the hotel I opted to try Cava for supper. Cava is the hotel restaurant adjacent to the pool area, serving fresh California cuisine.

After some debate with myself about the carbohydrate/caloric load of a burger I ended up ordering the Greg Norman Kobe burger and fries. It came with aged cheddar cheese and caramelized onions, and a sundried tomato horseradish sauce. I only took a couple of bites of the bun but enjoyed the Kobe beef patty with the onions, lettuce and cheese. The burger was very satisfying after the foodless plane trip and I also treated myself to a glass of Wairau River New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

p1100095-w500-h500.jpgFor a theatre-loving foodie, few cities in the world can match New York and on traveling out of New York, I always try to plan a few days in Manhattan before or after my trip. Theatre and restaurant reviews from my NY explorations over the past few years can be found through the links below. This post is the index to hotel, food and theatre experiences Spring 2014.
(New York New York: 2009 Part I Seven Days of Theatre and Food)
(New York, New York Part II) 
(New York, New York Part III)  
(New York, New York 2010) 
(New York  in Winter 2012)
(New York Theatre 2013)

This time en route to board the Crystal Symphony for a short cruise from New York to Halifax, I planned a two night stop-over in New York for dining and theatre. Despite the limited time I managed to enjoy several excellent restaurant meals and three shows.

p1140391-w500-h500.jpgHakkasan New York
311 West 43rd Street, NY (Between 8 and 9th Ave)
Ph: (212) 776-1818  or reserve online

My first dining experience in a Hakkasan restaurant was in 2010 on a 5 day theatre and food visit to London before embarking on a dance cruise round the British Isles.

p1140393-w500-h500.jpgI had dinner one evening at Hakkasan in London.  I loved the food there, only bemoaning the fact that as I was dining on my own, I could not taste more than a couple of dishes, but they served a soft shell crab preparation that I thought was the best I had ever tasted.

Element New York Times Square West
311 W 39th Street, New York, 10018
Ph: (212) 643-0770

p1140362-w500-h500.jpgp1140363-w500-h500.jpgOn visits to New York over the past few years I have been fortunate to have family living in Manhattan so its been a while since I tried out any mid-town hotels.  This time I decided to check out one of the Starwood Hotel Group's boutique hotels, prior to embarking on a cruise out of New York. For my 3 nights (actually more like 2.5 nights as I caught a red-eye into Newark) I chose the Element New York Times Square West. Interestingly, this was first suggested to me 2 years ago by one of my readers, in a comment on my New York in Winter 2012 story.

p1130524-w500-h500.jpgp1130281-w500-h500.jpgVienna may be variously termed the City of Music, the City of Dreams or the City of Waltz, but it most definitely merits the title of City of Fabulous Food and coffees.  In a short visit one can only touch the surface of the restaurant, cafe and coffeehouse scene but I certainly got a taste, so to speak, of the overall food scene, and I did not have a single bad dining experience.

20140223_hor8172-w700-h700.jpgThe IAEA Ball at the Hofburg Palace was a larger and seemingly more formal affair than the Johann Strauss Ball of the previous Saturday. Because of the International nature of the sponsoring committee there was an amazing array of different national dress to be seen, as well as exquisite gowns worn by so many of the guests.The men all looked so elegant and handsome in their dark suits and tuxedoes. This time there were no ticket mishaps or funny stories so this post will mainly feature pictures from the ball.

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