Six Hidden Gems in L.A., California

Six Hidden Gems in L.A., California

Maximizing One Day in Los Angeles

With less than a full day to spend together in Los Angeles, California, my daughter Alison and I wanted to make the most of our quality time. We sharpened our pencils and crammed an ambitious itinerary of hidden gems in L.A. Since Alison was now a Los Angeles native, I had an expert guide.

There are endless things to do and see in Los Angeles, but these six (6) hidden gems in L.A. made our short-list. You’ll find they’re great takes if you’re time-pressed, and a few are free if you’re on a budget. I might have taken a more leisurely pace on a few, but these six will whet your appetite. Read more

Road Trip to Nova Scotia: 5 Great Places to Stay (and Eat)

Road Trip to Nova Scotia: 5 Great Places to Stay (and Eat)

A 10-Day Itinerary Between Boston and Nova Scotia

Best Casual Luxury and Boutique Hotels in NS, PEI, and Maine

My mother Georgi, Jim and I packed our bags for a ten-day road trip to Nova Scotia. It was a reunion of sorts; my parents spent summers on Canada’s Northumberland Strait to escape the heat and stay connected to my father’s family heritage. Scenes filled with country life and ocean views spoke of a simpler time.

The drive to Antigonish, Nova Scotia took eleven hours by car from our home south of Boston. There are quicker ways to get there. There’s the high-speed ferry (the CAT) from Portland Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and another from St. John, New Brunswick. And, a flight from Boston to Halifax only takes about two hours.

However, driving offered an opportunity to more thoroughly enjoy the journey through two countries and four provinces. So many picturesque places materialized as stopping points along the way during our road trip to Nova Scotia and back.

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Luxury Lifestyle: The Newport Mansions Decorated for Christmas

Luxury Lifestyle: The Newport Mansions Decorated for Christmas

The Newport Mansions at Christmas

Scenes from the Gilded Age

A visit to Newport, Rhode Island is incomplete without seeing the Newport Mansions at Christmas. There are ten incredible estates that The Preservation Society of Newport County maintains year round. Guests may explore independently or follow guided tours by headset.

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Through the holiday season, four mansions are open daily to visitors: The Breakers, Rosecliff, The Elms, and Marble House. Each was once a private residence for the well-to-do, including famous families like the Vanderbilts, who retreated to the mansions’ grandeur along the cool shores of Rhode Island for summer months. Read more

Winter Scenes from the Mountain Village of Bethel Maine

Winter Scenes from the Mountain Village of Bethel Maine

Winter in Bethel Maine

An Annual Getaway

Bethel, Maine is a charming New England town we visit each year to meet friends who ski in the area. The quaint mountain village lies between some of the highest mountains in Maine. Winter in Bethel Maine offers ample opportunity for outdoor sports, including alpine skiing and snowboarding, Nordic and cross-country skiing, snowmobile trails, snowshoeing, and more.

Sunday River and Mount Abram, both in nearby Newry, Maine, are the primary attractions for our friends, who rent a place at the Sunday River Ski Resort; the guys jet right out their condo to the slopes, returning by night to one of the cozy ski lodges within the resort. We go not to ski, but because winter in Bethel Maine is particularly beautiful. Read more

Where to Find Tuscan Comfort Food in Fiesole: Il Fiesolano Ristorante

Where to Find Tuscan Comfort Food in Fiesole: Il Fiesolano Ristorante

A Sample of Fiesole’s Local Flavor

After exploring the Tuscan hill town of Fiesole on foot then catching the best sunset over Florence, my friend Mary and I had worked up an appetite. We headed back down Via San Francesco in search of Tuscan comfort food in Fiesole.

Not wanting to stray too far from the bus stop back to Florence at Piazza Mino, we considered several nearby dining options.

Restaurants in Piazza Mino

We first came upon an Irish pub. Like many restaurants in Italy, J.J. Hill closed between 4:00 and 7:30 pm. We peered in to find what you would expect of a cozy Irish pub: dark woodwork, draught beer at the polished bar, Irish artifacts. While a juicy pub burger and a cold drink sounded good, we decided against it given the authentic Tuscan cuisine that surrounded us.

Next, we considered two restaurants along the same block: Blu Bar and Ristorante Villa Aurora. Both offered garden seating with panoramic views of the Tuscan valley below. Neither piqued our interest. We declined the hostess’ invitation to wait upon the formal divans of the Hotel Villa Aurora. We’d already caught a spectacular sunset and felt underdressed for elegant dining.

Then, beneath the glowing bell tower of San Romolo, we spotted Il Fiesolano Ristorante. Here, we discovered the quintessential Tuscan comfort food in Fiesole. Read more

The Best Place to See the Sunset Over Florence

The Best Place to See the Sunset Over Florence

Exploring the Tuscan Hill Town of Fiesole

Nestled in the gentle curve between two mountains high above Florence, Italy, you’ll find Fiesole. Favored by aristocrats and wealthy Florentines for its summer breezes and stunning views, it lies across the Arno River and less than thirty minutes northeast of Florence. I think it’s the best place to see the sunset over Florence.

The ancient Tuscan hill town with Etruscan-Roman beginnings offers opportunities to explore the remains of Roman baths, a Roman amphitheater, and the grassy hill on which Leonardo da Vinci experimented with flight. For centuries, this picturesque village has inspired great literature and renaissance art.

Fiesole was a serendipitous break from Florence’s bustling city landscape for me and my friend Mary, both itinerant shutter-bugs. We found it to be an ideal place to explore while capturing a beautiful sunset over Florence. Read more

High Above “The City of Angels” at Skyspace Los Angeles

High Above “The City of Angels” at Skyspace Los Angeles

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The Best Views of Downtown Los Angeles

Tallest Building West of the Mississippi River

My daughter, Alison, showed me around L.A. while I visited for her college graduation. Following our excursion to The Last Book Store, we checked out one of the best views of downtown Los Angeles at The OUE Skyspace Los Angeles. It was the perfect pinnacle from which to get a bird’s-eye view of Los Angeles’ expansive cityscape.

OUE Skyspace Los Angeles is on the 69th and 70th floor of the U.S. Bank Tower at 633 W 5th Street, Los Angeles. The attraction features two observation decks, a Skyslide, an interactive Media level, and a rooftop bar with light fare. It also includes a Gift Shop and Cafe on the first floor.

Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE), a Singapore-based hotel and property company, purchased The U.S. Bank Tower in 2013. At the time it was the tallest skyscraper in the West at 1,018 feet. (The Wilshire Grand Tower claimed the title in 2017 at 1,100 feet.) The new owners revitalized the U.S. Bank Tower and made many improvements, including OUE Skyspace Los Angeles, which opened in 2016.

A look up from the foot of the tower gives a sense of how high above the world the observation decks are! OUE Skyspace Los Angeles offers one of the best views of downtown Los Angeles. The unobstructed, panoramic view is California’s tallest open-air observation deck. Read more

A Pilgrimage to Bramasole in Cortona Italy

A Pilgrimage to Bramasole in Cortona Italy

The Town That Inspired “Under the Tuscan Sun”

Cortona, Italy is a Tuscan hill town with a history as rich as its fertile soil. Ancient roots boast Umbrian, Etruscan, and Roman cultures dating as far back as the 7th Century B.C.

History and architecture buffs will enjoy the many churches and Etruscan ruins, and foodies won’t be disappointed by the authentic Tuscan cuisine and regional wines.

Me, I’ll always think of Cortona as the beautiful birthplace of the movie, “Under the Tuscan Sun.” Read more

24 Hours in Venice During “Carnevale”

24 Hours in Venice During “Carnevale”

Visiting Venice, Italy During the Carnival

We were delighted to learn our trip to Italy coincided with Carnevale di Venezia. In addition to romantic gondolas navigating waterways of the Grand Canal and Italian baroque architecture, we were truly enchanted by costumed Carnevale guests. The weather at this time of year was cool and damp, but it was a small price to pay for the opportunity to experience the surreal world of Carnevale. Read more