Forks, WA, is Home for Twilight Tourism

Between the Pacific Ocean and the Olympic Mountains lies the innocuous little town of Forks, WA, population 3,000.  It also happens to be the setting of many scenes in the Twilight vampire movie phenomenon.

Forks is normally a quiet town built on the logging industry, and two correctional institutions, but lately, it’s been inundated with tourists living the Twilight dream in seeking actual filming locations from the movie.  Twilighters have invaded the town, so much so, that tourism has increased three times over that of last year.

Twilight tourism sites in Forks include:
  • The City of Forks Welcomes You sign
  • First Beach in LaPush where Jacob tells Bella of Quileute legend
  • Forks High School where Bella and Edward first met
  • Swan House where Bella stays with her father, Charlie, in Forks
  • Forks Outfitters where Bella works as a clerk
  • Clallam County Sherriff’s Office sign
  • Dr. Cullen’s office
  • Fork’s Chamber of Commerce where Bella’s truck is parked
  • Vampire Baseball Field near the Quillayute Prairie Cemetery
The Forks Chamber of Commerce website offers a webcam view of First Beach, a Twilight Blog, an online Twilight store, a Twilight photo gallery, plus a donation site to help save Forks High School.  There’s also a great 5-day travel guide that Twilighters can follow along accommodation, restaurant, and shopping recommendations.

For more information, visit Forks Chamber of Commerce.

Beware! Hotel Bathrooms of Horror are Lurking

It was a dark and stormy night…..since Halloween is almost upon us, what better time than this to feature Hotel Bathrooms of Horror.  

Unfortunately, in some cases the nastiness doesn’t end with the bathroom, but we can thank the readers of TripAdvisor for giving us the heads up.  Let’s take a look at the terrible tricks of the Hotel Bathrooms of Horror.
  • Fun Spots Hotel at Fountain Park, Kissimmee, FL – average USD $58 per night with a 76% do not stay recommendation; comments include “STAY AWAY!!!, “Fun Spots should be changed to Fungus Spot,” and “Terrible, Terrible hotel.”
  • Singh’s International Hotel Bombay, India – average USD $50 per night with a 75% do not stay recommendation; comments include “Oh. My. God.” “Horrible” and “GROSS.”
  • Hotel Merryl, Paris, France – no average price listed with a 74% do not stay recommendation; comments include “hotel from hell,” “Disgusting!” and “wouldnt let my dog stay there.”
From a 19th Century Halloween postcard: On Hallowe’en the thing you must do, Is pretend that nothing can frighten you, And if somethin’ scares you and you want to run, Just let on like it’s Hallowe’en fun.  In other words, beware of these Hotel Bathrooms of Horror so you don’t get totally creeped out.

5 Best European Bargain Hotels

Planning a trip to Europe?  Here’s a quick list of the 5 Best European Bargain Hotels according to the 11 million+ oh-so-wise readers of TripAdvisor, who supply unbiased reviews and opinions about travel worldwide.  Without further adieu, here is the list of the 5 Best European Bargain Hotels:

  1. Rome, Italy – Hotel Lodi – with an 88% recommendation rate – “charming,” “treated like family,” with a “very nice breakfast;” rates starting at €75 per night.
  2. Dublin, Ireland – Ardmore Hotel – with an 84% recommendation rate – “friendly, helpful staff,” “good value,” offer “excellent rates when booked online at their website;” rates starting at €42 per night.
  3. Munich, Germany – Jedermann Hotel – with a 93% recommendation rate – “wonderful hotel, wonderful people,” “super hotel value,” with “good service, nice breakfast;” rates from €35 per night.
  4. Athens, Greece – Argo Hotel – with a 71% recommendation rate – “nice, cozy, and cute,” and “great value for the money; rates starting at €70 per night.
  5. Barcelona, Spain – Aparthotel Acacia – with a 95% recommendation rate – “great place,” “great amenities, good metro location,” highly recommended;” rates from €89 per night.
So there you go, the 5 Best European Bargain Hotels.  Have one to add?  Let me know!

Shopping Oasis of the Seas with Royal Caribbean

The latest ship from Royal Caribbean International, the Oasis of the Seas, is set to debut December 5, 2009, for its 7-day inaugural Eastern Caribbean cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, FL, to St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and the Bahamas.
Located in the Central Park area of the ship is a 13 store open-air shopping ‘oasis’ with designers never carried before by any Royal Caribbean International ship that include Roberto Coin, Eileen Fischer, Charriol, Yvel, Chanel, Christian Dior, Shiseido, Coach, Lucky Brand, Breitling, Pianegonda, Betsey Johnson, Forest & Fauna, Kenneth Cole, Ed Hardy, Marc Jacobs, and Ben Sherman.
Star Pier offers DC Apparel, Roxy and Quicksilver for the teenage set complete with a Nintendo Wii gaming area and a live DJ.  Junior cruisers will love Pinwheels with its Crayola fun, plus the yummy vintage candy treats from Candy Beach is nearby.

Touted to be “the largest and most revolutionary cruise ship in the world,” this one of a kind ship will be sure to please and amaze its 5,400 passengers onboard.  Yes, five thousand four hundred.  The is the first Royal Caribbean International ship to feature the new ‘neighborhood’ concept with seven different themed areas including Central Park, Boardwalk, Royal Promenade, Pool & Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa & Fitness Center, and Entertainment Place - completed by 24 distinct dining options.  Simply amazing.
For more information visit, Royal Caribbean International

Shop Till you Drop in Vegas!

Now that travel consultant extraordinaire, LaurieLee Rosser, has got us all riled up about going to Vegas, let’s take an in depth look at the shopping, shopping, shopping!!  Resort shopping, shopping malls, outlet shopping – shop till you drop in Vegas is endless, cause after all, like LaurieLee says, “it’s Vegas, baby!!"
  • Fashion Show Las Vegas: two million square feet, 250 stores including Dillard’s, Saks, Bloomingdales, Nieman Marcus; 3200 Las Vegas Blvd S, open Mon-Sat 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Town Square Las Vegas: twenty-two buildings, 18-screen movie theater, stores including Ann Taylor, Sephora, bebe, Max Azria; 6605 Las Vegas Blvd S, open Mon-Thurs 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Fri-Sat 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Sun 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

  • Crystals: opening December 3, 2009, features luxury retailers including Prada, Christian Dior, Bulgari, Hermes, Roberto Cavalli, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Versace, Mikimoto; 3720 S Las Vegas Blvd with hours yet to be announced.
    And that’s just a taste of the Shop till you drop in Vegas, baby!  An Ermenegildo Zegna wool suit: USD $4,000; a rare vintage book at Assouline: $30,000; window shopping: priceless.

    Interview: LaurieLee Rosser talks Vegas, Baby!!

    The latest in our travel professional series is an interview with LaurieLee Rosser of Travel Masters, in Calgary, AB, and where we're talking Vegas.  

    Q. Travel Writer: Tell us about yourself.
    A. Rosser: “I’m an independent travel professional with over thirty years of experience in working with clients handling their travel arrangements.  As an independent agent, I can focus on my client’s individual needs and recommend the best properties suited to them.  I strive to connect and build lifelong relationships."
    Q. Travel Writer:  We've heard the phrase 'without a travel agent, you're on your own.'  Why does someone need to use a travel agent?
    A. Rosser:  “Simply stated, what if you needed assistance and were stranded? Or you missed your flight or wanted to lengthen your stay?  What if there was an emergency and you had to return from your journey earlier than expected?  When working with a live person, I can assist you with any problems.  Quite often the general public utilizes the internet sell off websites to book their travel and then find themselves requiring assistance, but don't know where to turn." 
    Q. Travel Writer:  Excellent points.  Tell us about your weekly Travel Deals and what benefit they are to travelers.
    A. Rosser: “I think in general, as consumers, we all love to get a ‘deal’ when we travel.  These can be weekly specials or simply specials any time of the year.  We would love them to be for travel in the future, however, last minute sell off pricing is generally offered closer to the time of travel.”

    Q. Travel Writer:  Let’s talk Vegas!
    A. Rosser:  Vegas is a great destination with enticing nightlife, fabulous hotels, casinos and gaming, cuisine, and shopping, shopping, shopping!!!  Did I forget to mention shopping?!!  Vegas is easy to get to.  At some time or another everyone is curious and wants to go to Vegas.  It’s a must for that ‘bucket list'.”
    Q. Travel Writer:  Sounds like an exciting destination!  Do you think most people come home winners?  
    A. Rosser:  “To me, if you come home with money in your pocket, you’re a winner.  After all, it’s Vegas, baby!
    Q. Travel Writer: Who travels to Vegas?
    A. Rosser: “I like to say that Vegas can be for everyone over age 21.  It’s not really a place that I encourage families to visit, though.  I’ve also arranged weddings in Vegas.”

    Q. Travel Writer:  Makes us think of a Little White Elvis church somewhere.  What are the most popular hotels in Vegas and which are your favorites?”

    A. Rosser: “Recently, the most popular is the Venetian and the Palazzo properties along with the Wynn and the Encore.  I must say these are my favorites as well.  You feel like royalty.  They are opulent and palatial.”
    Q. Travel Writer: What are the hottest shows in Vegas?
    A. Rosser: “Any Cirque du Soleil show.  Or Beatles LOVE – great music, great show!”
    Q. Travel Writer: What is the pricing like to Vegas?
    A. Rosser: “Vegas can vary so greatly in price.  It really all depends on when you book, when you travel, and where you want to stay.  There are so many fabulous options from budget and basic to frivolous and fabulous.”
    Q. Travel Writer: Great analogy!  Besides Vegas itself, what other area attractions should visitors see?

    A. Rosser: “Take a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam.”
    Q. Travel Writer: What a cool idea.  We bet (no pun intended) that many Vegas visitors never leave the strip.  You've been great, LaurieLee.  Is there anything you’d like to add?”
    A. Rosser: “Vegas awaits you, so what are you waiting for?  Explore, play, shop, dine, and experience an adventurous getaway.  You know you want to, Vegas baby!!!!
    Q. Travel Writer:  Thanks LaurieLee, you’re so enthusiastic!  Where can travelers contact you?
    A. Rosser: “You can contact me, LaurieLee Rosser of TravelMasters North, at (403) 509-9337, or by email, or you can also visit my website."
    We’d like to thank LaurieLee Rosser of TravelMasters North, for her time and travel expertise.  Oh, and one more thing, Vegas, baby!!

    © 2009 by Connie Motz.  All Rights Reserved.

    Greeting Card Universe - How it Can Organize your Life

    For those of you who know me, I used to write another blog called TravelWriter for another website, which shall remain nameless.  I also wrote an additional blog, My Favorite Things, which I miss dearly!  So since this is my blog now, and mine alone, I've decided to interject a few of My Favorite Things here and there, and I hope you won't mind!

    So here goes.  I was in need of 7 actual paper greeting cards that I wanted to send out to my editors, thanking them for their business, in the form of a Thanksgiving Day card.  (Cute idea, huh?)  I did not need 100 cards, I only needed 7.  (Hopefully, someday I'll need a thousand!!)

    My search led me to this website: Greeting Card Universe (GCU).  Have you heard of it?  GCU connects 3,159 card artists together with card buyers - what could be more simple?  There are 6,745 categories to choose from for a whopping total of 247,217 cards to pick from!

    And the amazing part?  Each card costs only USD $2.79 (reduced if you buy 25 cards or more), you can personalize the card for FREE, and you can either have the card(s) sent to yourself or directly to someone for the additional cost of the postage, 0.44 cents.  This is awesome!

    Imagine that you forgot to send a card to someone for their birthday, go to the GCU website, choose a card, personalize the inside (on both sides, if you want) or use the standard verse suggested, pay $2.79 + .44cents, tell GCU where you want the card mailed, and you're done! 

    And yes, you can even place an order ahead of time.  The truly smart thing to do would be to organize all of your dates at the beginning of the year, spend the time to pick cards, and set the dates of when they need to be sent.  Everyone would think you're incredibly smart and tremendously organized, and who doesn't want that?!

    And this is another of My Favorite Things.  Sampai bertemu kembali!

    East Bound through the Panama Canal

    As most cruise ships travel westbound through the Panama Canal, here’s a unique opportunity from Carnival Cruise Lines to cruise eastbound from San Diego, CA, to either Tampa, FL, or on to Mobile, AL.

    This exciting 14 or 15 day cruise onboard the Carnival Elation will sail Friday, April 30, 2010.  Ports of call include Cabo San Lucas and Acapulco, Mexico; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Cartagena, Colombia, Grand Cayman, and of course, transiting through three locks of the engineering marvel, the Panama Canal.

    Interior staterooms start from only USD $1,249 (cruise only) but an ocean view cabin can be had from only $1,549 for this undoubtedly picturesque cruise.  The Carnival Elation features a Twister waterslide, City Sports Park, Serenity retreat for adults only, Camp Carnival, plus inclusive restaurants, nightlife, entertainment, and more.

    Visit Carnival Cruise Lines for more information on this special eastbound Panama Canal Cruise.

    Vacation, Staycation, but what’s a Nearcation?!

    This is a new term cropping up all over the vacation world – the travel buzz word is nearcation.  Instead of vacationing abroad, or staycationing at home, now you can nearcation closer to but not quite at home.  

    Contiki Holidays (for 18 – 35’s), the “world’s number #1 travel company for students and young professionals,” has been promoting this new concept with the release of their USA, Canada, & Mexico 2010-2011 brochure.  

    Contiki Holidays offers some of the most popular travel destinations within the USA including a 26-day Grand Southern tour from New York to Los Angeles (or reverse); a 7-day California/Nevada Highlights;  and a 14-day Eastern Discovery from New York to New Orleans (or reverse).  Contiki Holidays also ventures into Canada with a 10-day Canada/Rockies Tour; an 18-day Grand Canadian or a 25-day Grand Northern tour, both of which include northern USA states like NY, CT, RI, MA, ME, and NH.  

    All Contiki Holiday trips, include transportation, accommodation, daily breakfast (plus other meals as specified), and sightseeing.  

    Enter the PROMO CODE: CWWSU3A4 to save $200 on your nearcation if you book before October 13, 2009, for travel valid until March 31, 2010. For more information visit Contiki Holidays.

    Interview: Silk Holidays, Your Asia Travel Specialist

    Silk Holidays is a premier travel wholesaler located in Vancouver, BC, specializing in travel to Asia.  Travel Writer recently had the opportunity to interview Ricky Poon, Vice President of Silk Holidays, to get the inside scoop on travel to Asia. 

    Q. Travel Writer: Tell us about Silk Holidays. 
    A. Poon: Silk Holidays has been in the wholesale business for 15 years.  We are a division of Silkway Travel & Cruise, which just celebrated its 30 year anniversary. Last February, Silk Holidays merged with JTB which became one of our major shareholders.
    Q. Travel Writer: In selling travel, do you deal directly with the public or through travel agencies only? 
    A. Poon: We are a travel wholesaler in North America and only deal directly with travel agencies.  But, that’s not to say you can’t specify Silk Holidays when working with an agent.

    Q. Travel Writer:  Great idea.  What destinations does Silk Holidays sell?  

    A. Poon: We only focus on travel to Asia - from the north of China, Korea, and down to South Eastern Asia, plus now we’ve extended to India. The most popular destinations are China, Bali, and Thailand.  We are the top wholesaler for selling Bali in Canada.  
    Q. Travel Writer: How often do you personally travel to Asia and where do you stay?

     A. Poon: I travel to Japan and Bali at least twice a year.  I stay at a different 3 to 5 star hotel each time I travel in order to know the products we sell.  
    Q. Travel Writer: That’s good to know.  Tell us, is it best to purchase airfare only or to purchase a package with airfare and hotel combined? 
    A. Poon: It is always more economical to purchase airfare and hotel accommodations together.  Silk Holidays offers very good pricing with different airlines and combined with our hotels, our clients get the best overall value.
    Q. Travel Writer: Tell us more about Bali. 

    A. Poon:  Bali, Indonesia, is the most popular destination that we sell.  We offer more than 20 hotels with our Bali package, ranging from 3 to 6 star hotels.  The most popular are any of the 4 to 5 star beach front hotels.  The Bali Super Bargain is a great deal that offers a 15-day, 12-night vacation package.  It includes return airfare, accommodations, plus 5 tours on Bali with prices starting at only CAD $1,549.

    Q. Travel Writer: That’s a great price!  What types of specialty travel do you offer? 
    A. Poon: Besides our escorted tours to China, Japan, Indochina and India, we offer golf packages to Thailand and Vietnam.  Of these, Thailand is most affordable and is very popular with travelers.  We also offer scuba diving as an optional package for our Bali group clients.
    Q. Travel Writer: When people travel to Asia with Silk Holidays, which airlines will they be flying with? 
    A. Poon: We have contract agreements with all Asian carriers plus Air Canada.  It mainly depends on the price but the most popular are Japan Airlines, KoreanAir, and Cathay Pacific.  We have very good relationships with all the airlines that fly to Asia. We also have a very strong Asia network which makes us more competitive in the market.
    Q. Travel Writer: Is there a destination that you feel will be up and coming?

    A. Poon: Definitely Thailand.  But due to the political situation, travel has slowed down since November of 2008.  No doubt it will be picking up again when everything is settled.
    Q. Travel Writer: What are your Asia travel tips?

    A. Poon: Take the time to realize that the local culture in Asia will be different; many countries have both different cultural and religious beliefs, so be respectful of that.  And be cautious of the food and drink, as with many foreign countries.
    Q. Travel Writer: Why should a traveler ask their travel agent to deal with Silk Holidays and not another wholesale tour operator? 
    A. Poon: At Silk Holidays, our only focus is on Asia as we understand our strengths.  We are the Asia Specialists – our staff is from Asia and so they all know the area really well.  Where a travel agent may not be so confident, they can trust in our knowledge to provide the best price possible and to answer any questions they may have.
    We’d like to thank Ricky Poon, Vice President of Silk Holidays, for his time and for sharing his thoughts on travel to Asia.  Be sure to tell your travel agent to deal with the Asia Specialists, Silk Holidays, by calling 1-888-800-SILK or direct at (604) 879-8000. 
    © 2009 by Connie Motz.  All Rights Reserved.

    Can’t Afford to Stay in Orlando, FL? How about $39.99 a night?!

    Here’s the travel steal of the year!  How about a hotel in Orlando, FL, for under $40 per night?  And it doesn’t stop there.

    This same hotel also offers:
    • free shuttle to Universal Studios, Wet n’ Wild, and SeaWorld
    • free shuttle to Shingle Creek Golf Club
    • free wireless internet in all rooms
    • kids eat free (age 9 and under with  adult paying at buffet)
    • 3 pools
    • 100% smoke-free facilities
    • In-room fridge, microwave, coffee maker, hairdryer, safe (with capacity for a laptop)
    • On-sight deli, sports bar
    • 24-hour security
    • Pet friendly ($10 per night fee)
    Can it get any better?!  This amazing Value Dates deal is being offered by the newly renovated Quality Inn Plaza International Drive.  This special pricing is offered on an availability basis and some blackout dates do apply.  All rooms at this low, low, price must be booked by October 15, 2009, but are valid for stays at the hotel until December 24, 2009.

    For more information on the Quality Inn Plaza International Drive or to make reservations for the Value Dates, visit Quality Inn Plaza International Drive.

    Take a River Cruise in China with Victoria Cruises

    Recently Victoria Cruises, of Woodside, NY, inaugurated the world’s largest river cruise ship known as the Victoria Jenna.

    With five passenger decks and two hundred cabins, the Victoria Jenna is the first of its kind in the world to have four elevators, plus environmentally friendly features like high efficiency toilets, and the best fuel to passenger ratio on the Yangtze River.  

    Also featuring two restaurants, three story atrium, three bars, two lounges, fitness center, two lecture rooms, library, and more, the Victoria Jenna is a high tech ship complete with an onboard passenger security surveillance system.  Fun activities for guests include presentations on Feng Shui, Tai Chi, Chinese dining etiquette, and a Chinese Tea Ceremony demonstration.

    The most popular itinerary for the Victoria Jenna is the Three Gorges Highlights sailing (four or five-day) between Chongqing and Yichang, which gives passengers exquisite views of ancient pagodas as they journey along the Yangtze River.

    For more information or to make a reservation, visit Victoria Cruises.

    Amtrak USA Rail Pass from only $389

    It’s something that you may not have thought about recently but the Amtrak USA Rail Pass just may be a bargain you can’t afford to pass up.
    Offering 15-day, 30-day, and 45-days of travel, the Amtrak USA Rail Pass is a steal at only USD $389, $579, and $749 per adult or an amazing $194.50, $289.50, and $374.50 for children ages 2 to 15.  That’s really a deal that’s hard to beat anyway you look at it.
    Each Amtrak USA Rail Pass offers a certain number of segments within each travel period – 8 segments for the 15-day, 12 segments for the 30-day, and 18 segments for the 45-day pass.  An Amtrak travel segment is considered to be “any time you get on and then off a vehicle (train, bus, ferry or other allowable leg) regardless of length.”
    The Amtrak USA Rail Pass is valid for 180 days from the date of purchase and advance reservations must be made for all travel segments.
    For complete details or to purchase your pass, visit Amtrak.

    © 2009 by Connie Motz.  All Rights Reserved.

    Best Brews at the Four Points by Sheraton

    Well, there are always new ideas when it comes to traveling and this may be one of the best I’ve heard of in a long time - the Best Brews program offered by the Four Points by Sheraton hotel chain.  

    The new marketing strategy came about as the General Manger of the Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International Airport hotel is a beer-lover – someone who enjoyed a cold beer after work.  More than 110 local, imported, and regional beers are now served at their pub, Brewster’s Bar, from 4:00 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. daily.  
    There’s an array of Belgian, Pilsner, Wheat, Kolsch, German, and American micro-brews available in bottles and on tap, ranging from USD $6.50 for a pint of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to $32 for a 750ml bottle of Allagash Curieux Barrel Aged Belgian Tripel beer.  Now that should be very refreshing for the price.
    For more information about the Best Brews program or to make a reservation, visit Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International Airport.
    © 2009 by Connie Motz.  All Rights Reserved.

    Interview with Travel Expert Michelle Sandy (Part Two)

    This is part two of our interview with Michelle Sandy, traveler extraordinaire, where we’ll talk about Honeymoon and Wedding destination travel.  

    Q. Travel Writer: Let’s go over your qualifications again.

    A. Sandy: “I’m a Certified Caribbean Destination specialist, U.S. Virgin Islands specialist, a Senior Certified Destination Wedding Specialist, a Certified Travel Associate, a CLIA Master Cruise Counsellor, a Certified Sandals Specialist, and a Disney Vacation Specialist.”

    Q. Travel Writer: Cool.  And how long have you been doing this?

    A. Sandy: “I’ve been in the travel industry for 24 years with 4 years as an Owner and 18 years in Management.”

    Q. Travel Writer: Let’s talk Honeymoon travel.  What is the most popular destination for couples?

    A. Sandy: “It really depends on the budget.  If the budget is $6,000+ for a week, a luxury resort or villa in the Virgin Islands; if the couple has a lower budget of $3,000+, the Dominican Republic and Mexico are very popular destinations for honeymooners as they offer All-Inclusive resorts which offer value & added features which are always very popular.”

    Cruises are also very popular as they offer value, the excitement of visiting different destinations, plus many fun & active onboard experiences.”

    Q. Travel Writer: What is today’s most popular Wedding destination?

    A. Sandy: “Jamaica for me is #1, then Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.  Many destination weddings are price driven.  Jamaica typically offers very reasonable packages for the guests, which is a huge consideration when working with the Bride and Groom.  In Mexico, Karisma Resorts offer luxury resorts and many added features for the Bride and Groom making it an attractive choice.”

    Q. Travel Writer: We’ve heard that renting a yacht is becoming a popular choice for weddings, receptions, and even honeymoons.  Tell us more!

    A. Sandy: “Yachting is for the young at heart.  SeaDream Yacht Club offers competitive pricing for chartering out the entire ship and holds only 110 passengers or 55 couples.  This is attractive to a Bride and Groom as it is an extremely desirable venue for a wedding and it keeps the entire group together.  The smaller yachts are more popular for honeymoons as they can be customized to go wherever you wish and are very romantic with only 4-8 people onboard.”

    Q. Travel Writer: Sounds wonderful!  What do you enjoy most about working with wedding & honeymoon couples?

    A. Sandy: “I love the excitement of working with wedding couples and honeymoons as they are moving into a different phase in their lives and are ever so excited about planning their once in a lifetime dream honeymoon/wedding.”

    Q. Travel Writer: What’s the most unique thing you’ve helped plan for a wedding/honeymoon?

    A. Sandy: “I think the most unique and unusual wedding I planned was my own and this is what led me to get involved in the wedding business.  My husband had this idea of getting married in the Smokey Mountains inside Cades Cove on government land in an antique church.”

    Q. Travel Writer: Wow, sounds like he had it all planned out.

    A. Sandy: “Right down to the chamber music.  We had an amazing day to remember.  What I didn’t realize was that this was something that really hadn’t been done before and that there would be several challenges including hiring a musician, getting a Federal permit allowing us to marry on Federal Land, hiring a minister online, and being okay with anyone attending our wedding as the church was on Federal Land, we could only reserve the church but not ask people to ‘stay out’.”

    Q. Travel Writer: Sounds like a lot of work!  How did it all go?

    A. Sandy: “It was beautiful – it turned out that we had many guests in attendance that we didn’t even know, and our three piece chamber band entertained many of the parks guests that morning.”

    Q. Travel Writer:  We’d like to thank you for your time Michelle.  Anything you’d like to add?

    A. Sandy: “You’re very welcome.  If anyone would like more information, you can visit my website, become my fan on Facebook, or even follow me on TWITTER.”

    As Michelle likes to say, ‘life’s best experiences await you!’  Michelle Sandy can be contacted by email, by telephone at (239) 403-7703, or by fax at (888) 590-7703.

    © 2009 by Connie Motz.  All Rights Reserved.

    Blue Cave Castle in Negril, Jamaica

    The Blue Cave Castle in Negril, Jamaica, is just that – a castle.  In fact, it’s built above an old Pirate’s Cave.  Only 50 feet above the gorgeous turquoise waters of the Caribbean, the Blue Cave Castle is the way to experience Jamaica.
    Located on Lighthouse Road along the Negril cliffs sits the Blue Cave Castle, with its beautiful grounds, amazing views, and steps down to the former Pirates Cave, of course.  With only 14 rooms - deluxe, tower, and superior starting from only USD $50 per night - and a Penthouse apartment, starting at only USD $120 – it’s no wonder this hotel receives a 94% recommendation rate from traveler reviews at TripAdvisor.
    Blue Cave Castle also offers airport transfers, car rental services, and local tours to attractions like Rosehall, Dunns River Falls, Treasure Beach, and the Cranbrook Flower Forest.  Blue Cave Castle can also arrange for private individual tours for two, how romantic.
    For more information or to make a reservation, visit Blue Cave Castle and look for the Blue Genie.
    © 2009 by Connie Motz.  All Rights Reserved.

    Say ‘Cheese’ on the Verde Valley Wine Trail and Win!

    Nestled amongst the gorgeous red rock canyons of Arizona, the Verde Valley Wine Trail is comprised of the communities of Cottonwood, Sedona, Camp Verde, and Jerome.

    Touted to be ‘the most beautiful place in America’ by USA today, the climate is perfect for producing award winning wines.  Tasting rooms along the Verde Valley Wine Trail include Alcantara Vineyards, Page Springs Winery, Oak Creek Vineyards, and Javelina Leap Winery.

    The Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce is inviting everyone to enter Verde Valley Wine Trail photo contest giving contestants the chance to show off their photos.  The theme of the contest is to tell the story of the Verde Valley Wine Trail with pictures – vineyards, scenery, people – anything photos taken along the trail are invited.

    The deadline to enter is November 15, 2009, and winners will receive prizes such as area wines, attraction passes, wine tastings and more.

    For more information, visit Verde Valley Wine Trail or enter the contest here.

    © 2009 by Connie Motz.  All Rights Reserved.

    Can’t Travel to France to Make your Own Wine? Become a Cyber-Vintner instead.

    What an interesting concept.  Anyone can be a ‘cyber-vintner’ by renting a parcel of land within an already established vineyard in France.  Who knew?!

    The inventive idea requires a one-year commitment of €195 - €415 depending on the plot chosen at one of several vineyards throughout France.  Current participating vineyards include Domaine Janisson-Baradon in Champagne and Chateau Baulos-Charmes near Bordeaux.

    You’ll initially receive a welcome pack but the best part is that you’re able to follow the step-by-step progress (through a newsletter and blog) of the development of your wine.  If you’d like to see for yourself, you’re welcome to visit France and participate in hands-on wine making practices at your vineyard.

    Once ready, your grapes will be harvested and ultimately you will receive either 12 or 24 bottles of the wine personally labeled with your name.  Now how cool is that?!  Okay, maybe this is the best part.

    For more information on becoming a cyber-vintner, visit (en Francais). 
    © 2009 by Connie Motz.  All Rights Reserved.

    Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

    The 37th annual world-renowned Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta will be taking place from October 3 to 11, 2009, in where else but Albuquerque, NM.

    With over 100,000 spectators expected to view the more than 700 balloons originating from over 50 countries, there will be no shortage of events to attend including flying competitions, a balloon museum, entertainment, food venues, and of course, balloon rides.

    The highlights of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta include a Special Shape Rodeo for those oddly shaped balloons, the Balloon Glow that lights up the evening sky, along with Night Magic Glow.  

    Admission to the 2009 Balloon Fiesta is $6 per person over the age of twelve while car parking is an additional $10.  There is also a Fiesta Express Park & Ride service which is the most convenient way to attend the event.

    If you’re looking for accommodation, Bishop’s Lodge Ranch Resort & Spa in Santa Fe (a one hour drive away) is offering 25% off rooms during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  

    Bishop’s Lodge features luxury accommodations, on-site activities, and an award-winning spa which makes attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta an all-around family event.