There but for the Grace of God Go I

I have arrived in Gütersloh, Germany but not without the help of many. I frequently remind myself “There but for the grace of God go I”. I have not been averse to go up to people and ask if they speak English. Fortunately, 99% have said yes and been happy to help me.  

Travel Pains

Veerhoffhaus, built in 1649 –

My traveling was horrendous. I had to go through five airports (2 in Ecuador and 1 each in Bogota, Paris, and Hannover (Germany) on four planes for two days, with 19 hours of layoTravel Painvers. Seven and eight-hour layovers are really boring. If one could travel from major hub to major hub, it probably would be much better.  

My second airport did not seem to know how to book me all the way to Germany. They flagged me for some reason, and twice I had to explain why I was traveling, how long I was staying, and show that I had an onward flight. I don’t know why they were so skeptical about me. I managed to overcome the challenges without telling them what I would be doing. Some countries consider my venture to be employment and they would require a work visa.  

The People I Met

I’m still living out of a backpack along with a computer bag. The only good part of flying is I have no luggage to check. In the end, I found train travel to be superior to air travel. But it was meeting very nice people along the way who saved each day.  

Old Church Square –

I had an interesing conversation with a young woman from Cuenca (where I lived) who was a native of New Zealand but a world traveler.Then I met a man from Toronto of Sri Lanken ancestry. He liked guessing games and guessed me to be 57 years old!! I guessed him to be 45, but he told me he was 27 (oops). I have trouble guessing ages.

A Cancelled Train

The third day, I went to get my train and found that it had been cancelled for that day only. One other person had arrived to get the train, so I asked him if he could help me, as I needed to get to a second train station. He turned out to work in the travel industry and knew all the ropes. He invited me to join him in a taxi ride to the second station.  

He helped me buy a ticket in a kiosk and got me to the train I needed (he then went off to get his train). Once on the train, I saw it pass through some towns and I got concerned that I was on an express train which wouldn’t stop in Gütersloh. A couple of young guys assured me that the train would stop where I needed to get off.  

Martin Luther Church, Gütersloh

“There but for the grace of God go I” sure proved to turn this trip from what might have been a real nightmare into a success. Thank God for good people.  

Fact: Gütersloh has approximately 10,000 Arameans, the largest number of Arameans of any other towns in Germany
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Starting a New Career?

It seems like I’m always starting a new career. How many have there been: organist-choirmaster, perpetual student, book dealer, medical data manager, author, writer, blogger. What now?  

Daniel Frese –

If you’re reading this on the day I upload it, I may already be starting a new career. At the moment, I am either high in the air or killing time in an airport somewhere. My attempt at starting a new career has the potential of being fulltime. We shall see.  

House Sitting

What is this possible new career? House sitting. This is best defined as taking care of an owner’s home while the owner is away. The primary reason to arrange for a house sitter is to provide some safety for the home. Often this includes caring for a pet or pets. Other responsibilities may include watering plants, gardening or lawn work, bringing in the mail, making sure everything is functioning properly, and preserving the home as it was when the owner left.  

Advertising is the most common way to find a house sitter or housesitting opportunity. There are numerous websites that exist to bring house sitters and homeowners together, usually for a fee. Social media sites are another way to offer or look for these situations. Word of mouth is probably the best source for taking advantage of these situations.  

Free Rent

Housesitting arrangements generally are rent free. A sitter provides a service in exchange for free housing. Some sitters charge for their services, however. Any arrangement can happen when it is mutually agreed upon by two people.  

Why does someone choose to be a house sitter? Often to garner free rent. Other reasons may be to experience new locales, cultures, get acquainted with a possible new home location, bide time while a new home is being built or remodeled. The reasons are numerous and particular to the individual.  

So, what am I up to? I’m still interested in traveling and not interested in settling down. I have the travel bug I warned about at the start of this blog almost two years ago. I have been doing slow travel since then, defined as longer stays in a community. I shall likely continue doing that, but I am also going to be adding some shorter travel experiences. Which brings us to today.  

Gütersloh –

I am leaving Ecuador and flying to Germany. There I will be house sitting for three months while a couple will be doing their own traveling. I am heading for Gütersloh in Northwest Germany. This is a town of about 100,000 population. One of the attractions I want to learn more about is Bertelsmann, the world’s largest media company headquartered there. I will write more about them as I learn more. I will also be writing about Gütersloh and the area.  

Flying High

If you’ve ever crossed the pond, you know it is a bit arduous. It will take me two days and five airports: two in Ecuador, one in Colombia, one in France (Paris) and finally in Hannover, Germany at midnight on the second day. I will lose six hours. On the third day, I will take two trains to get to my final destination. I will then remain there for three months before heading to England and some more house sits.  

I hope you’ll join me on these adventures.  

Fact: Your tastebuds are reduced by around 30% during flights
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A note to my Panamá friends: I tried to schedule a continuing flight (taking a break before traveling on) through Panamá City so that I could come out to Boquete, but I could not find one. I also needed to take advantage of the half-price ticket Ecuador offers to we old timers. I still could become a Panamá resident one day. Hang in there with me.

Exploring Less Popular Travel Destinations

How can you escape the hordes of travelers all going to the same places? Let’s try exploring less popular travel destinations to get away from the crowds. a leading global media and hospitality business worldwide, queried their agents who contributed their less popular destinations.

Yucatan Peninsula

Cancún and even Tulum have drawn the crowds wishing to explore this Caribbean side of Mexico. Much less popular is Lake Bacalar, the second largest lake in Mexico. It is also known as the Lagoon of Seven Colors because peacock shade of blue. This is a long, narrow lake stretching 26 miles long while only 1.2 miles wide.

Away from the coast, Lake Bacalar is in the state of Quintana Roo near the border with Belize. The spring breakers have not yet discovered this lake. You can take a kayak tour, including lunch, for about $89.00. You can also spend your time on the white sand beaches. A collection of new eco-hotels has sprung up, so accommodations are easy to find.

Srebrenik, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Srebrenik Fortress – Shutterstock

To take a look at a 13th Century fortress, you will have to cross the pond to Sarajevo, the capitol of Bosnia and Herzegovina. An 89-mile trip north will bring you to Srebrenik, outside of which stands the best preserved of many forts in B-H. It was originally the home of the first Bosnian king.

This fort stands today high in the mountains, offering a commanding view of the area. There is only one narrow road up the mountainside. Then you have to cross a rickety bridge to enter. The fort has been very difficult to penetrate, that even the Ottomans were unable to overtake it. Tread with care, as the fort has not been adequately preserved. It is possible you could fall off the edge of the mountain.

Turku, Finland

Helsinki is the “first” city in Finland and Turku is the “second” city. Actually, Turku is the oldest city in Finland and was originally the country’s capitol (until 1812). Turku does not have to play second fiddle to Helsinki, as it is equally as charming. If you can’t afford to visit Paris, consider visiting the “Paris” of Finland: Turku.

This second city straddles the banks of the Aura River and has a bustling eatery culture. Today, the past remains with its medieval castle and cathedral, while the present looks to adopt a green culture. See here for a tour of the city.

Eastern Highlands, Zimbabwe

Mutarazi Falls – Shutterstock

Exploring less popular travel destinations must include the ubiquitous waterfall. In Zimbabwe, everyone heads to Victoria Falls, but the eastern side of the country draws fewer people. There you will find the country’s highest waterfalls, the Mutarazi Falls. Try ziplining here or cross the skywalk; these are not for the faint-hearted, though.

In Eastern Zimbabwe, the terrain is made up of three hilly ranges with Mount Nyangani topping out as the region’s highest peak. This area is popular with hikers. Further south are the Bvumba Mountains, shrouded in mist and reminiscent of the moors of Scotland.

Bray, Ireland

All Irish roads lead to Dublin, but only 12 miles south is the town of Bray. The city went through a period of decline, but has begun its ascendancy to a must-see tourist experience. Bray is the oldest seaside town on the Irish coast, and its mile-long row of Victorian buildings are filled with cafes, restaurants, and pubs. The 1872 Harbor Bar was once named by Lonely Planet publications as the best bar in the world.

Bray is very much a walkable city. There is a wide esplanade along the beach, while the cliff walk on the east side of the town is the most popular hiking trail offering spectacular views of the Irish Sea. From pizza, to horse riding, to golf, there is no lack of activities for your enjoyment.

Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico

Forget the hub-bub of San Juan, everyone’s destination in Puerto Rico, and go to the island’s west side. At Cabo Rojo, you will feel like this could be any of the Caribbean islands. It has the same offerings of white, sandy beaches, alongside the green-blue waters of the sea. Located a three-hour drive from the capital city, Cabo Rojo will give you that more peaceful, away-from-it all, lay enjoyment. There is a large variety of beaches that you may end up sharing with the locals. There are no mega or even large establishments here but, instead, you will feel comfortable in the many restaurants and small inns. Since the area is on the west side of the island the sunsets are big and beautiful.

Karpathos, Greece

Karpathos, Greece –

Not just another island, Karpathos is unlike the crowded islands of Santorini or Mykonos. It is more like the island of Hydra, discussed earlier. Relax on a four-hour ferry rise from Rhodes and arrive on an island that Greeks in the know chose to visit. You will find the sandy beaches nearly deserted, mostly visited by seals.

The island of Karpathos is a throw-back to earlier times, where women still wear the traditional, colorful garb, and the only traffic noise you may hear is the braying of donkeys. Experience traditional Greek food in one of the many tavernas in Olympos, the mountain village that seems to have defied the contemporary world.

Fact: Take the road less traveled to find the unique
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Free-Flowing Wine

There is on the El Camino di San Tommaso a fountain of free-flowing wine. It spills wine all year long. Yes, it is free for the drinking. Is there another such fountain anywhere? Historically there have been some in Spain, but this is the first permanent wine fountain in Italy, located in Ortona. Unlike other wine fountains, this wine fountain is continuous and free of charge.

The town of Ortona is in the region of Abruzzo in Central Italy. Abruzzo is perched on the edge of the Adriatic Sea before the Apennine Mountains. Its claim to fame is its Basilica di San Tommaso which holds some of the relics of the Apostle Thomas. He was the Doubting Thomas who wouldn’t believe in the resurrected Jesus until he touched his wounds.

Ortona is the destination of the Camino di San Tommaso, a 196-mile pilgrimage from Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica to the Basilica in Ortona. This journey is similar to the journey in Spain along the Camino di Santiago, better known as the Camino de Compostela. There is a difference between them, though.

Back to the Wine

Dora Sarchese Vineyard

Pilgrims have walked the Camino di San Tommaso for years. Wanting to keep this tradition alive, Dora Sarchese Vineyard built a fountain of free-flowing wine as reward for those who made the long journey from Rome. That journey is no easy feat, so the winery thought they merited a treat. Tourists are also welcome to partake of the wine. Whether you walked or drove, just bring your glass or cup and help yourself to the Montepulciano red wine.  

Wine Fountain – Dora Sarchese Vineyard

The fountain is located inside a massive wine cask. For an armchair visit, see here. The Vineyard’s Facebook page say “the fountain is not for drunkards or louts. Take heed.

A Burgundy Waterfall

Take an organic compound like tannic acid which is derived from the roots of trees bordering a creek and the end result is a waterfall of burgundy color. The water falling over the cliff appears to be red in color. The taste is not that of wine, of course, but the waterfall is beautiful to look at.

Add that to the Barbeque Mountains and you have a wonderful cookout. Where is this visual, savory treat? This will make your day if you visit Dinira National Park in the Barbeque Mountains in the eastern region of the Venezuelan Andes. This is practically an untouched area, keeping the fragile ecosystems intact. The rugged terrain is without real roads, resulting in low numbers of tourists. For the intrepid, see the story of a trip to the waterfall here. It is only on the religious holidays of Carnival and Holy Week that the indigenous flock to the waterfall. This attendance can soar to 2,500 people, presenting some ecological problems. Otherwise, it’s a fairly deserted area.

Whether you walk the Camino di Tomasso or traverse the rugged roads to La Cascada de Agua de Vino, you will not likely forget these trips.

Fact: “Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions” – Peter Hoeg
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Traveling Northwest Kansas

I got into my truck and began driving. I had no idea where I was going. Four and a half months later, I stopped. Today, let me back up and tell you about a part of my favorite travel experience: traveling northwest Kansas while driving coast to coast in the USA.

Camping Across Amaerica

I entered Northwest Kansas expecting nothing and found everything. I began at St. Francis, the most western town on Highway 36, continuing to Belleville, a distance of 227 miles. Google Maps and Rand McNally told me this trip would take about 4-5 hours. In actuality, it took me nearly three weeks. This was an experience of a lifetime; I will never forget it. Highway 36 runs from Ohio to Colorado. It crosses the northern portion of Kansas, nestled between Nebraska’s Interstate 80 and Kansas’ Interstate 70.

I spent four-and-a-half months camping across the country on the blue highways, and Highway 36 in Western Kansas was the most awesome of the highways I travelled. There was so much to see. Historically, there has been a Highway 36 Association for over 100 years. All the towns along the highway have banded together to promote their communities.


Camping in Western Kansas is so easy to do. Most communities have a city park allowing free overnight camping, usually with shower facilities. At St. Francis, I found a nice park and was the only camper there. In the morning, I had breakfast at a convenience store/restaurant and met a gentleman farmer at another table. We discussed how he lived in town and drove out to the farm each day to work. The conversation stopped short, as one of us had to leave. He was one of the friendliest Kansans I met.

Beginning the drive eastward, I found another camp in Atwood and hung out there for several days waiting for an international package to arrive. The Postmaster was so helpful and even offered to forward it to me when I felt I had to leave before the package arrived. I spent my days walking around Lake Atwood, 43 acres in size, as it had a great walking path along the edge of the Lake. More fun was to come.

The Eight Wonders of Kansas Customs

Unlike Missouri, the Show Me state next door, Kansas might call itself the I’ll Show You state. In 2007, the Kansas Sampler Foundation created the Eight Wonders of Kansas Customs to rival the Eight Wonders of the World. Kansans voted upon these Wonders. Originally these were the Eight Wonders of Kansas—Cuisine, Commerce, Geography, Art, Customs, People, etc. Today, the number exceeds eight; there seems to be no end. However, each is awesome, some being down right rare.

Garden of Eden – Scott Hoover

Other Wonders I would put on the list are The Garden of Eden in Lucas (named for Lucas Place in St. Louis). Labeled the Grassroots Art Capital of Kansas, here is the home of a Civil War veteran who filled his home and property with his sculptures of characters. The whole town has become a bizarre community of uncommon artists, with flying pigs, the world’s largest collection of souvenir travel plates, and an internationally known rock garden.

So many towns in Kansas carry the name of the towns from which pioneers came, though I hit only a few of them. Oberlin (Ohio) was one of those towns. It has the Last Indian Raid Museum featuring a one-room schoolhouse as well as a sod house and tack room. I finally came to a big town – Norton: 3,000 people. Here, I found one of many memorable experiences to come. Norton has a museum of all the US Presidential candidates who lost. The Gallery of Also Rans was a finalist in the Eight Wonders of Kansas Customs.

Traveling On

I stayed overnight in Prairie Dog State Park hoping to see one, but I didn’t. Continuing on, I visited the tiny town of Prairie View (probably named for its scenic vista). Normally, I would have passed by this off-the-highway town, but before my trip, I had seen on eBay a wonderful Victorian house for sale. It sold for little money, and I thought how cool it would be to own such a home. I simply had to see this house. I easily found it and envied the new owners.

In 1873, the Army sent word to the town of Phillipsburg (named for politician/journalist William A. Phillips) saying Apaches were coming. The citizens hastily built Fort Bissell but, fortunately, they didn’t have to use it; the Indians never attacked. Today, the old fort stands in the town park.

I was excited to come to Phillipsburg as it advertised a bookstore. Scott McCoppin Book Store is on the west side of the square. It was the best bookstore I found along Highway 36.

Geographic Center Chapel

I found more fun when I arrived in Smith County. A few miles off thehighway is the Geographic Center of the USA, certainly a destination point. Getting there required travelling one of those rollercoaster roads you see only in pictures, up and down like waves on the ocean. What I found was a park, including a tiny chapel which sat six people. Also in Smith County is the cabin of Dr. Brewster M. Higley, the author of the song Home on the Range. Another Kansan composed the music, and it became the state song.

North and South of Highway 36

Next, I turned left and drove up to Red Cloud, Nebraska, former home of Willa Cather, author. She has become the town’s major industry, with a wonderful old Museum/meeting hall downtown. Much of the town, including Cather’s home, has become a national historic landmark. Willa Cather used Red Cloud as the inspiration for many towns in her writing, including My Antonia. A number of the Victorian buildings featured in her works are still standing. Visiting Red Cloud was well worth the departure from Highway 36.

Among the many different attractions in Northwestern Kansas to the south of Highway 36 is the town of Goodland (named by vote, clearly, for the good land around it). It now carries the designation of the High Plains Sunflower Capitol. If you were to enter the town from the south, you quickly learn this feature by the large Van Gogh painting on a giant easel. Crossing into the Central Time Zone east of Goodland, I found Kansas’ largest barn, now the Prairie Museum of Art and History. This barn previously existed 16 miles away. Somehow, it traveled those miles in one piece. This must have been quite an operation.

World’s Largest Ball of Twine

On my way to a wildlife lake campsite, I visited the tiny town of Cawker City (named for a town father) which housed the not-so-tiny but, in fact, the world’s largest ball of twine [so stated]. Standing proudly under a pavilion on Main Street, this certainly is the city’s claim to fame. This was another of the Eight Wonders of Kansas. Many of the town’s commercial buildings are art galleries – all making art with twine. From the number of visitors who come to this town to see the ball of twine, I think the city Fathers should change the name to Gawker City. After this, I found the farmer’s long fence displaying hundreds of hubcaps.

Next, I had to go to Mankato, named for my hometown in Minnesota. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday morning and I found few businesses open. My younger brother wanted a cap from there, but I could find nothing with the name of Mankato on it. Sadly, I had to push on, but there’s now a reason to go back again one day.

Approaching Eastern Kansas

I ended this part of the trip in Belleville (named for a leading woman of the town). I discovered a walking tour of the downtown. Each corner of the Courthouse Square has a kiosk pointing out the four major themes which existed when the town began— its beginnings, transportation, agriculture, and the Works Progress Administration of the Great Depression. A brochure was available informing me of the historic buildings adjacent to the square, also telling me of peoples’ memories of those early days.

Paul Boyer Museum

Another fascinating “must see” in Belleville is the Boyer Museum. Over theyears, Paul Boyer has created a plethora of animated sculptures. Some of these reflect historical events, while many more are honestly downright hilarious. Each work of art is in a case with a button to push to animate the sculpture. Mr. Boyer has a wonderful sense of humor, and these sculptures prove it.

The state of Kansas and Western Kansas itself get a bad rap. In nearly three weeks, I couldn’t do and see all I found so interesting. I look forward to returning one day to see all the Wonders I missed in this awesome state.

Fact: The Arikaree Breaks are 2-3-mile-wide canyons that stand in contrast to the surrounding plains
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The Great Wall of India

You have heard of the Great Wall of China, but have you heard of the Great Wall of India? China’s wall at 2,145 miles in length is hard to surpass. India’s great wall at nearly 22.5 miles long is not even a close cousin, but it is the second longest wall in the world. Although former President Trump’s “wall” is 458 miles in length, it is a barrier and not a wall. You cannot walk on Trump’s wall as you can with the China and India walls.

History of the Great Wall

The Great Wall of India as it snakes through valleys resembles its larger cousin in China. The Indian wall was built around Kumbhalgarh Fort It was built in the 15th Century between 13 towering mountain peaks. The original fort is believed to have been built in the 3rd Century. History has not told us anything about the fort from then until about the 14th Century. China took 1800 years to build its wall; India took about 15 years.

Great Wall of India – Atlas Obscura

The reigning monarch at the time first tried to build a fort about 4 miles from the present location. This and subsequent forts crumbled. The final attempt at the present site came about according to an apocryphal story:

Kumbha failed multiple times in constructing the mammoth wall until he went to a saint who suggested the present-day spot for the fort and said a human sacrifice was needed to construct it. But who would volunteer to be killed? When no one came up for some time, the saint himself volunteered to sacrifice his life. The saint said to Rana Kumbha: ‘I’ll climb the hill, Rana, and you follow me. The point where I stop first, build the main entrance of the fort there. I’ll climb up further and when I stop for the second time, I will sacrifice myself and you build a temple there. Where my body falls, that mark will be the last point of the great wall.’ The king agreed reluctantly and walked with the saint right up to the present entrance of the fort and did as was suggested by the saint.

The Architecture of the Fort

The fort needed protection, so the Great Wall of India was constructed. This wall surrounded the fort, protecting its inhabitants and the more than 300 temples inside. The fort sits high upon a hill, 3600 feet above sea level. The surrounding wall is 15 feet thick and allows seven gates for entry. The fort was clearly built as a bulwark against invading enemies.

Sagar Soneji –

The architecture created sharp turns with obstructed stairways to slow down the invaders. There are “eyeholes” allowing for viewing the whole valley below and any approaching invaders. The ramparts on the wall are wide enough to allow eight horses to walk side by side. As the fort and its wall lay among the surrounding hills, the enemy had a hard time finding it. The enemy could not see the fort until they were within 1,600 feet of the structure.

This walled fort is almost a secret within India as it is not well known. This is not only due to its obscure terrain, but more likely because it is in a very remote part of the country. You need to take a long day trip to arrive at the fortress and to walk the wall.


The Kumbhalgarh Fort –

The fort and wall remain today a testament to the creative architects who not only had vision but skills matched only to contemporary methods. Of the many forts in India, the Kumbhalgarh Fort is considered the most invincible. It and several other forts were jointly given the UNESCO heritage award in 2013.

Fact: The fort was breached only once in its history
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Sleeping in a Winery

Visiting wineries has become popular with tourists and weekenders. Finding nearby hotels can be arduous and costly. Sleeping in a winery may just be your best bet. A growing number of wineries are accommodating their visitors by providing hotels among the vines. Keep reading to find some of the best.


Beyond a mouthful of wine, if you can pronounce the name of this winery, you should get a free room: Pałac Mierzęcin Wellness & Wine Resort, Lubusz Voivodeship. This Neo-Gothic palace sits on the grounds of Poland’s third largest winery. This is Poland’s only winery with a hotel. It has 76 rooms available, so you could take the whole family and your friends.

Pałac Mierzęcin Wellness & Wine Resort, Poland

Mainly the vineyard consists of a variety of white grape vines in addition to some red and hybrid vines. To avoid becoming a lush, you might take a swing in their bowling alley or tennis courts. There’s also a children’s playground and a menagerie of peacocks, pheasants, doves, and hens. Sounds like a fun place.


Moving on from Neo Gothic to Contemporary, you can visit Clos Apalta Residence, Santa Cruz. Built into a hillside, this “hotel” consists of four individual residences with terraces to take in the views. Each residence is decorated according to one of the winery’s grape varieties.

Clos Apalta Residence, Chili

 It was founded by Jean-Baptiste Lapostolle, the creator of Grand Marnier. Today, it is run by his great-granddaughter. Their restaurant serves organic food grown on the premises, as well as other seasonal vegetables. After one of these meals, you can stroll through the vineyard or take a hike into the surrounding forests. Don’t forget to take up their offer of a private tasting.


The Meneghetti Wine Hotel and Winery consists of 40 rooms and five new villas. The winery is located on the largest peninsula jutting into the Adriatic Sea and shares its waters with Slovenia and Italy. They have taken advantage of their location to provide a private beach for sunning (swimming?) in addition to a swimming pool. Their wine cellar is built to resemble a military hangar, in honor of the military forts which surround the property.

Meneghetti Wine Hotel & Winery, Croatia

You can enjoy 10 varieties of wine and 5 varieties of olive oil. You will be in the lap of luxury inside this century-old stone building. You will find private, personalized service from the outstanding restaurant to the tasting room, to the grounds.


The shortest distance to South Africa is a visit to TWP Winery and Farmhouse, Clifton. Here you will find a cozy escape inspired by the African continent. Look out at the Book Cliff mountains from one of the four luxurious garden rooms. These surround a great room, all of which perch on the edge of a lake. Up for grabs is a garden room or the whole house. The choice is yours.

TWP Winery and Farmhouse, Colorado

They broaden the wine experience beyond their own labels by also offering other wines from Colorado. Choose one or several wines to go along with their outstanding restaurant meals. You will find their pairings to be well matched.


Eight thousand years of wine puts Georgia at the top for longest running wine heritage. The Kakheti region prospers with over 200 wine varieties. Enjoy one of the 232 rooms and suites at Lopota Lake Resort and Spa, Kakheti. Visit their winery, Châteu Buera, and then enjoy their indoor spa and wellness center, the horse stable, one of eight swimming pools or one of their several restaurants.

Lopota Lake Resort & Spa, Georgia

You can enjoy sipping one of the more than 200 wine varieties of this region. Take a tour of the winery and discover that their wine is still made in the age-old tradition. Then visit their wine-induced restaurant or sit on the terrace and view the Caucasus Mountains. At the span, you can enjoy a special “Elixir of Youth Treatment.” It starts with a vinotherapy wine bath on a terrace overlooking Lopota Lake and continues with a deep tissue massage, hydration facial, and hot stone therapy. Y0u certainly will leave relaxed.


Don’t overlook the rich history of Italy’s wine scene. At Locanda la Raia , Gavi, you will find a 12-room luxury boutique hotel. This winery doesn’t rest on its winery laurels as it is also a center for contemporary art. Located among the rolling hills between Milan and Genoa, the area is known for its Barolo (white) wine. Locanda La Raia has the distinction of having created a biodynamic winery and farm.

Locanda La Raia, Italy, Italy

The rooms and suites of the hotel differ from each other, furnished in old and contemporary pieces. The other features on the grounds include a sauna, steam bath, heated indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a gym. The restaurant offers cuisine based on the ancient tradition of the area. 


Don’t be too quick to write off Missouri. The Show Me state has the largest presence of wineries in the US Midwest. Sleeping in a winery just got easier in the center of America with The Villages at Chaumette, Genevieve. Sometimes called the Napa Valley of the Midwest, the state has over 130 wineries. Nearby on the Ste. Genevieve’s Wine Trail are six wineries for you to visit. This winery includes three catch-and-release lakes for you fishermen.

The Villages at Chaumette, Missouri

Note the name The Villages. This may refer to the several sleeping accommodations they offer. These include villa studio suites with small kitchenette; nine-foot ceiling villas with full kitchen and fireplace, which allow for dogs; and the five-bedroom Haney House set in the woods near the winery. If you don’t want to do your own cooking, the winery has a restaurant for your dining pleasure. Whether for a weekend or longer, your stay at The Villages at Chaumette will be enjoyable.

Fact: Prior to Prohibition, Missouri was the second largest wine-producing state in the United States
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Savannah, The Trustees’ Garden

 An Historical Treasure

Savannah, Georgia is known for its vibrant city squares and vibrant history. However, one of its most significant historic sites often goes overlooked by visitors: The Trustees’ Garden in the downtown. This garden played a pivotal role in Georgia’s early development as well as that of the American South. Today it stands as an iconic symbol of colonial Georgia.

History of The Trustees’ Garden

Established in 1733, the same year Savannah was founded by James Oglethorpe, the Trustees’ Garden was an essential element of his plan for Georgia. He wanted the colony of Georgia to provide a new start for debtors and other impoverished English citizens. Managed by King George II’s appointed Board of Trustees, this garden served as a source of economic support and agricultural production within the colony. It was the first Crown-sanctioned experimental garden in the New World.

In its early years, the garden served as an experimental farm for various crops such as mulberry trees for silk production, grapes and vegetables. The garden was the home of the first commercially-grown cotton in the new country. Produce from this garden was essential in providing sustenance to Savannah’s early settlers. It also helped establish Georgia as an agricultural powerhouse of the American South.

Design and Layout of The Trustees’ Garden

William Bull, Savannah’s first city planner, designed and laid out this space. He implemented the European garden design principles of a grid pattern. It featured walking paths and raised beds for planting. The design also included a small pond and central fountain. The water provided irrigation for its crops.

The design of the garden was inspired by Enlightenment principles, emphasizing reason, science, and progress. As such, it served as a symbol of Georgia’s commitment to modernity and economic progress. Botanists traveled the world to bring back cuttings and plants to establish the garden. These included grape vines, flax, hemp, potashes, indigo, cochineal, olives, and medicinal herbs. The British sent mulberry trees in hopes of establishing a silk industry. Local gardeners planted a range of vegetation, including pear, apple, peach, orange, fig, and olive trees, as well as pomegranates, spices, and herbs.

Unfortunately, the garden was not a success. Silk, wine, and cotton were expected to be the lynchpin holding the garden together. As Georgia’s climate was thought to be similar to that of the Mediterranean, the Trustees expected the garden to produce similar results. What they didn’t take into account was the difference in soils.

In addition, there was mismanagement, theft of products, neglect, and bad weather resulting in the demise of the garden. The garden was all but abandoned by 1748. The property fell into the hands of several companies who used it for their purposes.

Significance of The Trustees’ Garden

This garden served as a model for other colonial gardens nearby, leaving its mark on modern-day landscapes throughout the American South.

Today, the Trustees’ Garden’s crops symbolize the resilience and inventiveness of early Georgia settlers. Furthermore, this garden serves to remind us of the complicated yet often troubled history of the American South. It also served as an ongoing fight for social and economic justice throughout the region.

Preservation and Restoration of The Trustees’ Garden

Over time, The Trustees’ Garden has faced numerous difficulties, such as neglect, development pressures, and natural disasters. Yet there have also been numerous efforts to preserve and restore its historical legacy. In 2015, The City of Savannah announced plans to restore the Trustees’ Garden as part of their revitalization effort in the area.

Kehoe Building Restored –

The restoration project included several upgrades to the garden’s infrastructure, such as new irrigation systems, plants and trees, and restoration of historic structures. Furthermore, it sought to enhance access for visitors and locals alike with additional walking paths and seating areas.

In 2003, Charles H. Morris, a local renovator, purchased the garden and began restoring it. He envisioned creating multi-use spaces focusing on the arts, culture, and wellness. At the same time, he sought to honor the original intent of the garden.

One such cultural use of the grounds is the annual Savannah Music Festival. This yearly festival is Georgia’s largest classical musical event. Each spring, this 17-day festival features up to 100 productions with 500 of the world’s outstanding artists. Media coverage from the world’s major newspapers and outlets review the festival. More than 80 volunteers help to make the festival a success. The annual budget of $3.8 million is one of Georgia’s largest income-producing events in the state.


The Trustees’ Garden in Savannah, Georgia is an iconic historical landmark that should be honored and preserved for future generations. Its role in the economic and agricultural development of Georgia and the American South cannot be understated. Its design and layout bear testament to the values and ideas held dear by those who built it.

Fact:  The Trustees’ Garden was a natural choice for military defense in times of war and peace
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National Park Alternatives

Would you like to visit a national park this summer, but you don’t have a reservation? Would you prefer not to have to ride the crowded busses? Fortunately, there are national park alternatives which have remained under the radar of many travelers. They are there for you to explore without a reservation or the crowds.

Wallace Stegner, an American environmentalist and writer, declared national parks to be the greatest idea ever devised. Like so many other great inventions, the park system became enormously popular over time.

In 2022, more than 300 million people visited US National Parks – that’s 75% more than in 1970! While its primary purpose was to introduce people to nature’s splendors, these are also its drawbacks. The crowds have overwhelmed these parks. Consider national park alternatives.

State parks safeguard America’s iconic sights, such as redwood trees and wild ponies, the Big Sur coast, Lake Tahoe, and Niagara Falls. Even so,  some national park alternatives face similar resource constraints and overcrowding issues as the most popular parks. Yet there are plenty of others that offer nature lovers a chance to get away from it all.

These alternatives are operated by four different administrations:

Bureau opf Land Management / US Forest Serevice / State Parks / National Wildlife Refuges

Here are ten of the best alternatives but least visited alternatives.

    Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

    Utah’s BLM park is visited by a mere 500,000 people annually. Most of them stay within the boundaries of State Highway12 at the monument’s northern border or US Highway 89 to the south.

    Grosvenor Arch –

    This monument is named after the Grand Staircase plateaus which descend like giant stone steps in Southern Utah. The other half of the name refers to the Escalante Canyons that were carved by streams into the Colorado River watershed

    The park is best known for its mountain biking, hiking, and canyoneering. It also has hundreds of Native American archaeological sites and copious dinosaur digs. Additionally, there are 660 wild bee species.

    For a quick visit, you can book an Airstream trailer, cabin, or RV hookup at the hipster hangout Yonder Escalante. A nice day trip could be a visit to Devil’s Garden and Calf Creek Trail, or Peek-a Boo Slot Canyon, all easily accessible by road. With more time, consider a 6-day guided mountain biking trip across the monument with Moab’s Western Spirit Cycling Adventures. The best time to visit Autumn when it is cooler and the canyons are showing their fall colors.

    California’s Lost Coast

    The Lost Coast is one of the most under-developed coastlines in the country. It stretches 25 miles from Mattole Beach (230 miles north San Francisco) to Shelter Cove (235 miles). Imagine Big Sur as it would look if Highway 1 never existed. The coast and its beautiful backcountry are now protected by Sinkyone Wilderness State Park and the BLM’s King Range National Conservation Area.

    Taylen Lundequam – Pexels

    The area is home to many wildlife, including elephant seals, other marine mammals, bald eagles, and black bears. It also contains some of California’s last wild salmon streams. You might stop at the upscale Castle Inn or mid-range Inn of the Lost Coast Shelter Cove to surf, fish, or just for fun.

    If your schedule allows, you can hike the Lost Coast Trail for a three-day backpack camping adventure along the coast and cliffs. Summer is the best time to visit as it has the warmest temperatures and the least amount of rain.

    St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

    This park covers 43 miles along Florida’s Gulf Coast. It revolves around bays, bayous, and coastal grasslands.

    St. Marks was established in 1931 as a federal wildlife refuge. It is one of the oldest federal wildlife refuges in the country. It houses a wide range of wild animals, including alligators and manatees, white-tailed and black deer, bobcats, and black bears. Also thriving in the Refuge are hundreds of bird species, such as the bald eagle, and whooping crane.

    The Refuge may be best known for its vibrant monarch butterfly migration and the historic St. Marks Lighthouse that was built in 1831.

    Visit the Sweet Magnolia Inn. This bed and breakfast is located in an old building that was previously used as a general shop, brothel, and church.

    St. Mark’s offers 45 miles of hiking along the Florida National Scenic Trail. For those long hikes, the Refuge offers seven campsites.

    Don’t miss the Monarch Butterfly Festival held each October.

    Baxter State Park and Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Maine

    The sparsely populated North Woods of Maine offers a wilderness escape for over 25 million New Englanders and Canadians. It covers approximately 3.5 million acres, more land and woods than Yellowstone or Yosemite.

    Baxter State Park is the most popular park in the region.  The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is another great national park alternative. The two state reserves receive only 65,000 visitors per year, most of them in the summer months.

    Baxter State Park contains Maine’s highest peak, , at 5,269 feet. Allagash Wilderness, on the other hand, provides a 92-mile corridor of wild rivers and lakes. Henry David Thoreau praised this wilderness in his 1864 travel tale about his journey through The Maine Woods.

    If you’re just passing through, book a room in the rustic Big Moose Cabins, Mount Katahdin or any other lodgings in Millinocket. Then drive to Baxter State Park for a day of hiking. For a longer visit, join a weeklong guided paddling trip along the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, with Maine Trails Guide Service. Your best time to visit is June to October.

    Wood-Tikchik State Park, Alaska

    Wood-Tikchik would likely be a national park if it were in another state.

    Wood-Tikchik State Park, Alaska

    Here in Alaska, it is a state park with towering snowcapped peaks, a dozen large glacial lakes and pristine forest. Grizzly bears as well as moose, caribou, and other Alaskan wildlife inhabit the park.

    This western Alaska reserve covers 1.6 million acres and is the largest and most remote of all state parks in the country. This vast landscape is difficult to access by road. The only options for exploring it are water, air, or a long hike overland.

    Wood-Tikchik is a wilderness area that has only two ranger stations, five remote fishing lodges, and five other stations. Anyone who ventures into the park on their own must be able to survive in the wilderness.

    The only drive in the park is a 32-mile road from Dillingham leading to boating and fishing. Enjoy these sports in the summer and early fall.

    Vermilion Cliffs National Memorial, Arizona

    These chromatic cliffs were named for their purple hue. This color is due to iron oxide and magnesium in the red sandstone. They are the focal point of this large BLM park located in Northern Arizona.

    Tom Fisk –

    Visitation to the swirling “Wave” rock formation is restricted. There is also a lottery system for this site. The rest of the monument is mostly devoid of Instagram influencers or selfie-takers.

    Hidden amongst the cliffs is Paria Canyon. Other amazing rock formations are White Pocket, Toadstool Hoodoos, and the Alcove. On a day’s hike, you can view Navajo culture when you stay at the Shash and Dine at Eco Retreat in Page, Arizona.

    A longer three- to five-day backpacking trip down the length of Paria Canyon starts from trailheads in Southern Utah. Viewing the Vermilion Cliffs is not recommended in the summer due to very high temperatures.

    Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Washington

    Mount St. Helens was a typical snowcapped peak until May 18, 1980, when it erupted in a catastrophic eruption releasing 24 megatons of thermal energy. This Forest Service national monument is highlighted by a large crater, extensive debris fields, and a blanket of dead trees around Spirit Lake.

    The park’s primary activities include hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing. To reach Mount St. Helens, take Highway 504 to Johnston Ridge Observatory and follow the Eruption Trail through lava terrain. Or take Highway 99 to Windy Ridge for views of the crater or Spirit Lake.

    You can drive around the volcano in two to three days using the Loowit Trail for a 30-mile journey. Plan your journey for either summer of early fall.

    Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, Colorado

    The country’s newest national monument, created by presidential decree on Oct 12, 2022, features an impressive expanse of Colorado’s High Country. This monument combines outdoor recreation with military history and stunning Rocky Mountain scenery.

    Camp Hale – Thomas Peipert AP

    The Forest Service manages the park, including 20 miles of the Continental Divide Trail.  Camp Hale housed troops from the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division where they trained during World War II. Some of these soldiers helped to fuel American snow sports, resulting in the creation of more than 60 winter-time resorts after the war. This park offers plenty of opportunities for snowmobiling and backcountry skiing in winter. During the summer, visitors can participate in backpacking and climbing.

    Leadville is a great base from which to explore the park’s military history, and shorter hikes. Take a multi-day ski tour or summer hike with overnight stays at the park’s 10th Mountain Division Huts.

    Na Pali Coast, Hawaii

    The opening scene of the original movie “Jurassic Park” was shot on the Na Pali Coast. It is a primeval area that looks and feels like Kauai Island.

    Roberto Nickson –

    Na Pali’s rusty-colored cliffs are surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. They rise behind isolated Pacific beaches. Just beyond the coast lies Waimea Canyon. This gorge is 3,000 feet deep and is often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. The only way to explore this largely undeveloped region is by foot or boat.

    Na Pali Canyon and Waimea Canyon are home to many rare birds and plants. These are protected by natural areas and forest reserves within a 10-mile radius. Contrary to the movie, no dinosaurs live here.

    During the summer, when it’s warmer and has less rain, you can backpack any or part of the Kalalau Trail (up to 5 days).

    Salmon-Challis National Forest, Idaho

    Idaho’s Salmon River, Sawtooth Mountains, and other areas are worthy of national park status. They are some of the most impressive ranges in the Rocky Mountains. The remote area and its wild rivers are protected by many national forests, including.

    Some areas can be accessed by road. Others require you to bring a backpack and some good hiking boots. The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is the largest federal wilderness area in Idaho. It covers 2.3 million acres of wooded, water, and snowcapped peaks.

    Take the 25-mile Custer Motorway Adventure Road to historic sites in 19th- Salmon-Challis century Yankee Fork Mining District. Join Holiday River Expeditions for a six-day whitewater trip down the River of No Return, also known as the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Summer in the best time to explore this forest.


    You can enjoy these national park alternatives without fighting the crowds, viewing from a bus, or paying fees. Find a bit of heaven or enjoy the peace and quiet. Take the road less travelled and experience the beauty that others are missing.

    Fact: Buckle up for an awesome road trip and an unforgettable experience
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    No Wheels on Hydra Island

    The Greek island of Hydra, a ferry ride from Athens or other communities along the Peloponnese coast, has banned all wheels on the island. The result is a walkers’ paradise. Hydra is a jumping-off sport to visit other islands in the Aegean Sea’s Saronic group. The name Hydra comes from ancient Greek meaning water.

    Hydra Town

    The island is famous for its picturesque architecture; most of the mansions have been turned into museums which you can visit. Walk the many paths crisscrossing this small island (10 miles long) to view the many gorgeous ocean views and the old monasteries. Get lost in the alleyways and admire the many bougainvillea which dot these passageways. Drop back down into Hydra Town (or Hydra Port) and visit the Museum of Historical Archives at the port. Among the interesting exhibits are paintings, manuscripts from the revolutionary period, ship models, and rare books. At the end of the day, join into the vibrant nightlife the island offers.

    Hydra Island appears to have been, and continues to be, a mecca for the religious. There are six monasteries and 300 churches on the island (with a lot of bells ringing). An ecclesiastical museum is housed at the Church of the Assumption. This church in typical Greek white color was established in 1643 and has a bell tower made of pure marble. It serves as Hydra’s cathedral. Rivaling the religious are the Merchant Marine Academy, the first in Greece. There are many bastions or cannons surrounding the port, a reminder of its tumultuous 18th century.

    No Wheels on Hydra Island

    In 1960, the island banned wheels of any kind—cars, trucks, bicycles, motorcycles, even baby strollers—to protect the cobblestone streets which are too narrow and steep. Exempt are garbage trucks and ambulances. Instead of any motorized vehicles, residents and visitors are limited to water taxis, mules, donkeys, and horses for traversing the island. This has produced mixed feelings from those who need wheels to operate their business. There are those who are in favor of protecting the environment and the charming nature of the town. Whichever the opinion, the town fathers are resolved to keep the ban in place.

    Since there are no wheels on the island, the best activities are hiking and swimming. The island is hilly with many trails lending beautiful seascapes and leading to some of the several hundred monasteries and chapels. The Greek Orthodox churches dominate the island.

    Hydra Island contains other small villages or settlements besides Hydra Town (see Discover their beaches, which you may reach by foot or water taxi. You will find restaurants at these spots. Other beaches are scattered along the island’s shore, perfect for privacy. Scuba diving and deep diving are popular sports on Hydra since there are reefs and underwater caves to explore.

    Shop and Play

    Rafalia’s Pharmacy

    You should not miss shopping at Rafalia’s Pharmacy, the oldest in Greece run by the same family. The pharmacy opened in 1890 in one of the old mansions. Here you will discover various beauty products such as soaps, lotions and cologne using old traditional recipes from Greek formulas. Perhaps you can visit their mansion next door. When you get hungry, there are numerous restaurants catering to tourists and residents alike.

    The residents of Hydra like to party. They have festivals throughout the year. These can include folk dancing, fishing, boat races, exhibits, and/or lectures. Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter are three days of religious festivities topped off with fireworks.

    Famous People on Hydra

    Hydra has a population slightly less than 2,000. Many famous people have lived here over the years including Canadian song writer Leonard Cohen and singer-actress Melina Mercouri. Author Henry Miller’s most-hailed book, The Colossus of Maroussi, an impressionist travelogue, is set on Hydra. At least 11 films have been made on Hydra. Two of the most famous are Boy on a Dolphin (1957) starring Sophia Loren, and Phaedra (1962) starring Melina Mercouri and Anthony Perkins.

    Leaving Hydra

    Hydra Harbor
    Hydra Harbor

    Hydra is the gem of the Saronic group of islands. It is both chic and bohemian. Don’t let the No Wheels on Hydra discourage you. You can enjoy the beaches, mansions, churches, museums, and restaurants, as well as rustic outdoor hiking or ambling the back streets and pathways. There is much to experience, see, and do on this island, so you will not want to leave. Should you leave, throw some coins into the harbor. The superstition—which has proven true for some—is if you don’t throw those coins into the water, you will never return to the island. Take heed.

    Fact: Hydra may also have been named for the 9-headed serpent in Greek mythology
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