A Creamie in Morristown, Vermont

 What’s a CREAMIE?? One of our first outings was to visit the local garden shop in Morristown to pick up some supplies for the new chicks and assorted soils for the garden.

Morristown was a quick 8 minute ride from Hyde Park. It’s one of those cute little, tiny towns that dot the landscape in this northern area of Vermont. Very cute and quaint with little shops like the Bees Knees Restaurant and the Bijou movie theater.

Here is a little history of the town. On November 6, 1770, the General Assembly of the Independent Republic of Vermont granted a petition to establish a land grant that would become Morristown in 1781 and by 1791 they had a population of 10 that moved from New York, Massachusetts, and 2 Native Americans. By 1795,  there were enough settlers to open a tavern that housed the first school and a brick church.  The town has grown some since then and at the 2000 census boasted a population of over 5,ooo.

We enjoyed a sweet treat as a reward for our “hard work” at the local ice cream shop where we had one of their famous concoctions called a creamie. For those uninitiated like myself, it is a hand mixed CREAMY soft confection in a cone. I had maple – what else in Vermont. Jenn enjoyed her espresso and Roberto his favorite – coconut. I like the way they do errands around here!

My “Free” Cruise

 

We are back from our “free” cruise. All in all it was fun to get away but as in all things it was a mix of good news and bad news.

It was free and that is always a good thing. Well, almost free anyway. We did have the travel expense, but as we drove from Ocala to West Palm Coast that was a nominal shared expense. And we did have to pay the port tax for the Bahamas. Beyond that, we opted for an upgraded room for an extra $75 each. It allowed us to have this room rather than one that was on a lower level with bunk beds and no window. So it was worth it.

The weather was great. The water was that wonderful blue. The people were friendly so we had a good time making new acquaintances. We did encounter a little rough water about an hour out that lasted for a couple hours – just enough to make my best friend get a little sea sick. ( I hope she still is my best friend after getting her sea sick!! :) ) But after that one episode we had smooth sailing the rest of the way. The Bahamas Celebration is an older vessel and not as grand as say the NCL or the Royal Caribbean, but nonetheless, it offered all the services and activities. There were several dining places, the RIO and THE CRYSTAL ROOM with free seating, although we did need to select a time. Several other casual eateries were also available as was the gourmet, THE COVE, for an additional $25 per person. It suited us to dine at 6 pm rather than 8 and this freed us up to go to the nightly entertainment in the club. There was a nice variety of entertainment and the evenings there were a lot of fun. They also had a duty free gift shop, a spa and a casino.

Margaret and I usually ate our breakfasts topside at the breakfast buffet which was quite extensive. It lacked the ice carvings and elaborate presentations that I found when cruising on NCL or on the smaller ship, the DOLPHIN, but the food was plentiful and good. This was also the site of ongoing dancing, contests, bingo, steel drum bands, etc. going on day and night all through the trip.

The staff was courteous and helpful in every way. Whether we needed an extra blanket to ward off the chill from the AC, a little TLC for my seasick friend, or to bring us endless items to sample at the dining tables, they provided everything with a smile. It occurred to us how hard the staff works on a cruise line.

We had only one port of call on our 2 night, 3 day cruise to Freeport but I will save that for another post.

All in all, it was a nice little getaway. I probably would not pick that cruise line again and would opt for one of the larger lines with more ports of call, and would go for one that was longer than two nights. It felt like we were coming back before I really got into it. Yet, we got more than we paid for and it was worth the two hour time share presentation I suppose.

Travel Tip of the Week – “Free Trip”

 

I am always looking for a way to travel and keep to a budget. Have you ever received in the mail that you have won a free trip? We all know that that is usually never the case and there are strings attached. Right. Well, I got one for a free 3 day, 2 night cruise to the Bahamas for two, which in my case is with my ever ready travel buddy, Margaret.

Turns out, the “string attached” to this freebie is that you have to take a look at a time share in south Florida. Since I already live in Florida, there is no way I need that. But what the heck.

While this is not a way I would generally like to do it, we decided that we would do it anyway. We have to get there, but for us that is a drive in the car sharing gas, and we have to pay the port tax in the Bahamas. So if this is halfway decent, we had a few days on a cruise ship and a day of shopping at the Straw Market in Nassau. Whether this turns out to be a good idea or not we shall see. When I get back next week, I will let you know. Meanwhile, if you don’t mind the annoyance of looking, it is a free trip.

Bus Ride

 

                                                                                  Photo by xraven1

When I was growing up taking lots of family vacations just wasn’t part of my family’s budget plan. My parents worked very hard all their lives raising my brother and me and we had everything we needed, but we just didn’t have a lot of wants – like vacations. And that was alright.

In later years, once we kids were out on our own and dad finally was able to retire, they were fortunate enough in their golden years to travel a little bit. My parents were always social and had a network of family and friends living around them and fortunately their vacations took on the form of group trips organized by our church with these family and friends – on the bus. This was perfect for them. They never had the worry of mapping trips, driving on unfamiliar roads, figuring out how to book hotels, planes or any of that. They just signed up and away they went. And they had wonderful times, visited many and varied places and collected lasting memories. I am so happy that they were able to do that. I had terrific parents and they sure deserved a little fun and excitement together in their lives.

That got me to thinking – about buses.

Just about this time, I came upon an article written by Peter Greenberg while paging through a recent issue of AARP Magazine touting the advantages of bus travel in the here and now. Whether you are going to join a group on a planned tour like my parents did or just using the bus as a means of transportation on your way to your own planned trip, going by bus may just have an attractive appeal.

In general, you buy your ticket, hop on while your bags are stowed, with no extra baggage fees I might add, and take your place in a roomy, leather reclining seat. Sometimes, I used to catch a bus home on breaks in my college days, when I didn’t have my own car, and found it actually quite pleasant. The bus made regular stops where we could stretch, grab a bite to eat and while on board, get to see a lot of just beautiful scenery along the highways and through those quiet little towns. I loved it.

Maybe if you are in a hurry, this might not be the ideal choice. Yet, if you figure in driving to the airport, parking in a satellite lot, catching the little van to the terminal and then going though all the lines before waiting to board, that all adds up too. But face it, we are all so much in a hurry to do everything that just the idea of slowing things down and enjoying the trip sounds real good to me. Even better, some of the intercity buses, like Greyhound or Peter Pan and others, looking to compete with trains and planes, are adding such amenities as wireless access, cell phone reception, drop down videos screens and even attendants who will serve you a snack or beverage. Pretty cool, huh!! Another advantage is that the fares are really very reasonable. Only down side that I can see is that for now at least, the bus still does not serve every route and you might not find service to the place you need to go. But if you can make your connections, be prepared to save big.  Greenberg said that a typical round trip from New York to Boston, for example, might cost $225 on American Airlines, $124 on Amtrak and drum roll please, $42 on Greyhound.

If you are curious about looking into bus travel, there are a few sites where you can plug in your route and get a comparison of various bus companies and fares, some with package deals as well.

BusJunction.com

GoToBus.com

Shopping Around for Airfares

 

                                                                                  Photo by Dave McLean

I am in the market for purchasing some airline tickets to a couple of places for this summer. I was just thinking to myself that I wish I could figure the best days to get the best buys on tickets. Quite by accident while going online to follow up on a totally unrelated news report on ABC this morning I found another report on “What is the Best Day to Buy Cheap Airfare”. Now, if that isn’t the universe speaking to me, I don’t know what is.

The column, written by Rick Seaney, a noted expert on air travel, offered some good advice to get a good deal. He confirmed what I already figured out with my searches for good flights. In his opinion – there is a method.

First, don’t be in a huge rush to buy too soon. He noted that four months before is time enough to start looking. He also said that you should shop around a bit to get a good ballpark of going rates among the airlines so that when specials are advertized you will know if it really is a good deal. Usually, there are not many seats at those prices, so don’t delay or they will be gone.

If you can wait, sometimes, as the date gets closer, you could see an airline offer a sale, usually on a Monday. And by mid day on Tuesday the other airlines will follow. So, Seaney says that Tuesday afternoons are the best days to get a good price. Wednesdays and Saturdays are good days for a deal too as people don’t often pick those days to travel.

Other considerations are the time of day. Most do not prefer real early mornings or late at night, so there could be some deals there too if you don’t mind the inconvenience.

If travel dates are flexible he reminds that off season travel or not going the day before or after a holiday would save you too.

Finally, he suggests using a site that will show you monthly calendars with posted fares for each day and you can do that at his site. I went there and put in my travel dates and could see the prices day to day. It was great. I also was able to sign up for email alerts reporting price changes. Take a look. It was a bit of good luck that I was able to find his report just when I was thinking about it for myself and then to be able to share the tips with you.

Did you know that you can plan your trip right here on Travelcloseup with just a few easy clicks? Just go to the Plan Your Trip page or you can just click below and check out what deals can be found by using Kayak! I am here to help you get your dream vacation plans started!

We were very lucky to spend this last weekend in Ft. Lauderdale with our very dear friends Nicki and Lisa, Lisabeeen that is. If anyone had any doubt as to Lisa’s absolute dedication to really good espresso, the proof is in the picture. Here is Lisa, in our hotel lobby, about to go down to breakfast, HAND-grinding her fresh roasted beans to make at the table with her portable espresso drip pot. We love you girlfriend!

lisa-grinding.jpg

Order your beans today!

pizza.jpg

Last week we didn’t feel like cooking. I know unbelievable, right? But it is true. Some days, just like everyone else in America, I feel like going out for a slice of pizza. We (Roberto especially) have been on a quest for a good slice since we moved to Florida.
We heard that there was another Famous Pronto Pizza opening soon in the Heathbrook Shopping Center (off route 200, Ocala, FL for the Florida locals), so we decided to check it out.

Read the rest of this entry »

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