For the first time in more than a decade, the euro is almost equal in value to the dollar, making Spain and other European cities more affordable to Americans than even some domestic destinations.
The article describes the travels of one family in Madrid and Barcelona:
The family stop into the Hotel Colon in the Gothic Quarter for drinks. They are surprised when two glasses of white wine and a beer cost as much as one drink in a New York City hotel. Their train tickets to Madrid are less than seats on an Amtrak train from New York to Washington, D.C. A 15-minute cab ride to the beach is 10 euros.
Golden, who lives in the New York area, has good reason to throw money around. TripAdvisor’s TripIndex Europe, released last week, found that travel expenses for popular European destinations have dropped an average of 11% year-over-year. Travelers will be able to save as much as 25% on their summer trips.
Still, it depends where you’re staying and, most important, where you decide to eat. I have noticed that, whatever the value of the dollar, food is what is most likely to erode your wallet while traveling. Even in Central and Eastern Europe, where I love to travel and where things are generally much cheaper, you can end up losing money quickly, especially at hotel restaurants. One time in Budapest, I stayed at a gleaming, centrally located four-star hotel right near the Danube River for just less than $100 a night—which will not even get you a cot at a Holiday Inn in New York. But when I sat down to my goulash and steak and gin & tonics at the hotel’s restaurant, I got a bill that was higher than the room rates might have suggested.
I’m far more of a wine connoisseur than a coffee drinker. Years ago I cut back to half decaf in order to cut back on migraines and stomach trouble. The hi-test sludge my editor prefers could never cross my lips for fear of bodily damage. The one thing I associate with brutal American coffee is brutal American stress: the need to meet a deadline, please a boss, do more, say more, be more with vim and vigor. Just as any alcoholic uses cheap trash, downing brutally burnt beans has become a lousy, albeit necessary way to get a much-needed fix. And that’s where we get coffee wrong in America.
Tel Aviv is littered with cafes and kiosks serving Euro-style coffee. I never got the hang of what to order to balance out my pathetically minimum caffeine requirement, but at Cafe Nachmani I not only learned how to order the right tasting brew, I learned how to enjoy it. I’ve never seen a windowsill in Starbucks lined with art magazines. Not Cosmo or People, literal professional art magazines you’d see in big city galleries and be afraid to touch. The Barnes & Noble cafes are filled with geeks on their laptops, chugging down brew in order to use the free WiFi. At Cafe Nachmani, patrons sipped on cappuccinos and the Israeli favorite, espresso, while lingering over literary mags heavier than half the books lining our chain’s clearance aisle.
Tel Avivans work like mad in a city that never sleeps. They’ve just learned how to enjoy a frenetic pace better than we ever could. It’s amazing how much more you enjoy life when you view it as a pleasure to be lived instead of an obligation to be fueled through.To better answer the question of what you’re drinking, you need to start with why you’re drinking it.
Saturday, February 14th, 2015 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi
The Dead Sea
The ancient Dead Sea is mentioned nine times in the Hebrew Bible. It’s also known in Hebrew as “Yam ha-Melach, or Salt Sea and The Sea of Arabah.”
At this lowest point on Earth, your lungs are delighted, filling up with an oxygen content ten percent higher than at sea level, and the bromine mist over the area soothes your nervous system.
There are no lifeguards on the Dead Sea beaches because no one can drown here. Even the heaviest person will easily float. Predatory sea creatures aren’t a problem, as the Dead Sea, because of its extremely heavy saline content, is devoid of life.
If your skin is sensitive, test its waters carefully before fully immersing yourself. Dose yourself with Dead Sea mud, (barrels of free mud are on the beach) which rejuvenates your skin, making it feel very soft. This is the same mud that’s used by spas all over the world!
The Dead Sea has several luxury spa hotels, and many have indoor pools filled with Dead Sea water. Most have full service spa facilities where, along with massages and other treatments, full-body Dead Sea mud wraps are available.
Hotels and stores in the area sell products made from Dead Sea minerals and mud, including shampoo, soap, and body lotion.
The climate around the Dead Sea is arid, but surrounding the hotels palm trees proliferate. Nights are pleasant and cool. The areas around the hotels are oases in the surrounding desert. Nighttimes offer glorious views of the stars.
Near the Dead Sea are several interesting spots to tour including; the startlingly green and lush oasis of Ein Gedi where you can swim under natural waterfalls; and Masada, high on a desert hill with the archaeological remains where 960 Jews withstood the siege of the Roman army for a full year. The outlines of the Roman camp can be seen at the bottom of the hill. A couple of levels below the summit are the remains of King Herod’s luxury villa with its intricate mosaics. Climb the ancient, winding footpath to the very top, or take the cable car.
Take an excursion to a Bedouin encampment, and sample the delicious traditional Bedouin tea or coffee. Enjoy a Bedouin meal, communal platter and all. To really experience Bedouin hospitality try a night in a Bedouin tent, where you can “rough it” on mattresses and sleeping bags on the desert floor.
Since December of 2013 PJ Lifestyle has been collecting sunrise and sunset photos from contributors, readers, and Instagram. Now we’re going to begin an effort to organize the ongoing collection. Revised goals:
1. Collect a sunrise from every state in the union.Completed July 25, 2014 but you can still send in your great photos to be featured.
2. Collect a sunset from as many countries around the world as possible.
3. After getting all 50 states’ sunrises then switch to collecting their sunsets and begin the global sunrises collection.
Updated April 2014: 4. The extraordinary submissions of Mark Baird have inspired a new collection of photographs devoted specifically to our nation’s capital. We’re going to try and organize fantastic sunrise and sunset photos from all the different monuments and scenic views.
Updated August 2014: 5. We’re going to now try and start combining sunrise and pet photos, leading with images and video taken by PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle featuring Maura the Siberian Husky on her morning runs. Any pet/sunrise/sunset photos will be especially appreciated.
Updated August 30, 2014: 6. With the introduction of Hyperlapse, hat tip to Vodkapundit, we begin a new chapter of sped-up video sunrises from around the world. Please send in links to yours or leave the URLs of your favorites in the comments.
Updated January 23, 2015: 7. Yesterday we launched PJ Lifestyle Sunshine 2.0. This feature will group together various sunrises collected here and ask for your feedback about your favorites.
Saturday, January 31st, 2015 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi
Once upon a time, travel was really arduous. Some trips took days, months, and, in the case of Odysseus, years. In fact, the word “travel” is generally accepted as having its origin in “travail,” and according to Webster’s,
the first known use of the word travel was in the 14th century. It also states that the word comes from Middle English travailen, travelen (which means to torment, labor, strive, journey) and earlier from Old French travailler (which means to work strenuously).
Certainly a trip from Europe to the New World could take months whereas now it takes six to nine hours.
Many travelers might feel that travel should once again be called “travail.” Among other travails there are: long lines at ticket counters; delayed flights; long waits for luggage; airline seats that seem closer and closer to the seats in front; and waiting on the phone for a long time to speak to an airline representative (my husband Avi was on hold for fifty minutes to talk to someone at American Airlines). This is a far cry from the luxurious travel that going by air once was. Of course, there are no more complimentary airline meals anymore.
After 9/11, with the formation of the TSA, things became even worse. The lines were so long for TSA checkpoints at Newark on one trip that the door to the airline sleeve closed by the time we got to the plane. I’ve found that TSA agents are generally polite and agreeable in Milwaukee, but LAX is just the opposite.
Avi, who wears a prosthetic leg, now always has an attendant bring a wheelchair to take him through TSA checkpoints and to the plane. An LAX TSA agent, after patting Avi’s yarmulke down flat, then picked it up to see that nothing was under this thin covering. Then the agent took him away for 45 minutes. They not only X-rayed both legs, but also the wheelchair that belonged to the airport!
While waiting I saw two huge TSA female agents checking out what looked like a 90-year-old woman who was about four feet something.
Let me carry your bag for you…
We nearly didn’t make that plane either.
However the worst trip that Avi ever took was the one coming back home from Los Angeles on Monday, January 5, 2015, on American Airlines. He was to have arrived in Milwaukee at 6:10 pm after a flight from LAX to O’Hare, and then a connecting flight to Milwaukee. I flew on Southwest. We left at exactly the same time, 10:25 am from L.A. I arrived at 4:20, about five minutes late, for which the pilot apologized.
Avi arrived in Milwaukee at around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, seven and a half hours late! He’d been traveling — or travailing — for thirteen and a half hours, long enough to have gone to London from Los Angeles, instead of going to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I left a friend at the airport to pick him up. The friend kept checking the arrivals board. The arrival time was changed from 6:10 to seven something, then eight, and then… nothing. I called American and couldn’t get anyone. After leaving my number, someone finally called with no information at all.
When Avi finally got home at almost two in the morning, he told me about his horrendous trip:
When we landed in Chicago from Los Angeles, the stewardess asked people what their connections were. When I told her when my connection was, she said it was criminal to have scheduled me for just a half hour to make a plane which was on the other side of O’Hare. I didn’t even wait for a wheelchair but struggled off the plane; and since the sleeve was exposed to the air, it was extremely slippery and dangerous for me. I was afraid I’d fall. The agent in the terminal said the connecting flight was delayed an hour and I was able to be driven to the connecting flight’s gate.
The rest of the story would have been funny on Seinfeld, but it wasn’t for Avi and the rest of the American Airlines passengers:
We finally boarded the connection at least an hour and a half after the rescheduled time. After everybody was on the packed plane and seated, the pilot stated, “I need three things to take off: I need passengers, I need baggage, and I need fuel. So far I’ve got passengers.” We waited on the plane another hour, which made me now at O’Hare for three hours after landing. After loading the baggage and fuel, the pilot said: “Now the wings have to be de-iced.”
Ten or fifteen minutes later, he announced, “I’ve been down-checked by the FAA and since they couldn’t find another pilot the flight is canceled.”
That was at 9 p.m., three hours after we were supposed to have left!
Everyone got off the plane. We were still at O’Hare. The gate agent told us there were no more flights. Our only recourse was to take the airport bus to Milwaukee, and I wasn’t even sure I could make the last one. The building to get to the bus was far from the terminal I was now in, so I asked for a wheelchair. I waited for almost a half hour together with another lady in a wheelchair. Eventually one attendant came and managed to push both of us at once. We finally caught the very last bus to Milwaukee.
That trip was a horror, too. The bus was first held up by a jackknifed truck on the highway, then slid around in the snow and nearly got stuck in the snow at one of the intermediate stops. The bus, which was supposed to have arrived at 12:30, finally pulled into the Milwaukee stop at almost 1:30.
The first thing I did the next day was to cancel my American Airlines credit card, and neither Avi nor I will ever fly American again.
Saturday, January 24th, 2015 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi
When my son was a baby I wrote an article about traveling to Israel with him. I wrote that “I prepared for the trip like a general preparing for an invasion.” I took tons of disposable diapers as they weren’t so available in Israel at the time, cans of formula, and an assortment of other items. Well, disposable diapers are available all over the world now so that wouldn’t be a problem, but if you are traveling with kids, be they babies or teens, be prepared! Here are some tips you might find useful.
1. Traveling By Car
Traveling by car is the easiest way to take along everything you can think of to make the trip more palatable to your offspring and easier for you and all the adults. For babies, obviously bring enough formula, juices, and diapers, as well as toys to keep them amused, if they are beyond the stage where their hands and feet are enough to keep them occupied. Take changes of clothes for wetting or other such accidents, and a small pillow and blankets.
Toddlers and kids from three to six present the impatience problem. “When are we going to get there?” is often a refrain before you’re even out of the driveway. First of all, get the little ones psyched up and excited about whereever you are going and never mention that any trip will be longer than “soon.” Have any child that’s able to walk pack his or her own backpack. In fact, this is a great time to get a child a new backpack or little suitcase just for trips. Have the child put in all of his or her favorite toys, coloring books, books, paper, crayons, and a pencil or pen. Paper and crayons are essential. They can keep kids busy for hours. Favorite blankets — but small ones just for trips — and tiny pillows are also essential so if they fall asleep they’ll be comfortable.
For all trips an emergency medical stash is important. Buy a plastic lunch box and have it contain children’s aspirin, Tylenol, children’s cough medicine, cute bandages, neosporin, and a digital thermometer. Also carry extra prescriptions if your children are on any medications. I once stayed at a very posh Beverly Hills hotel which didn’t even have a thermometer — the hotel’s limousine had to take me to Walgreens just to purchase one.
2. Keeping Them Amused On A Car Trip
For most kids, up to a certain age, counting cars of different colors and the number of trucks, signs, shopping centers, and things that are similar is great for passing the time. Here is where the pen and paper come in handy. If they are old enough, they can also write down each time they see something they are counting. Even a four or five year old can make marks for each time a car, truck or other counted item appears. Watching for speed-limit signs is also a great way to learn numbers. Buy inexpensive binoculars for kids to watch life along the road and through cities as well. If two children are a bit older, then card games and even pocket chess are stable enough to play. Older kids can read the books they brought and even younger non-readers will love looking at pictures. Ask kids to draw what they see on the road as well.
For teens, they’ll keep themselves busy texting (or complaining). If it’s a trip between sessions in school, you might suggest that older children bring special assignments to get ahead in class.
Bring a road map to have older kids follow where they are. They can mark up the map as they pass a place listed on it.
3. Snacks On The Trip?
Have kids pack snacks the night before. Try to steer them to healthy snacks like baby carrots, celery sticks, and fruit. For little kids, always cut up fruit, like apples, as they will most likely not finish them. If they want something chewy, then try to get something as healthy as possible. Little bottles of water and healthy juices are great. Carry along some powdered milk so that you can replenish the supply with bottled water if you aren’t able to get more milk along the way. Yogurts travel very well and up to 24 hours without refrigeration. Carry along a manual can opener and some cans of tuna or salmon. Healthy crackers (check for no hydrogenated oil etc.) are always good. Carry plastic cutlery — it’s easy to use and throw away when done. Don’t forget to give kids plastic bags for garbage and carry a big one to toss everything afterwards.
4. Plane Travel Tips?
Special backpacks and suitcases are also important here, filled with the same kinds of toys, crayons, books, and paper and pencils that you take for automobile travel. Here, because of the TSA, what you take in your medicine kit may be limited. You can still take a thermometer, but any liquid medications have to be three ounces or under. You can take fruit, snack bars, tuna and maybe salmon pouches, but you won’t be able to take bottled water, yogurts, or juices. These you’ll have to purchase once you’re through the TSA checkpoint. You can carry powdered milk and snacks like bars and crackers.
Books, card games, crayons, and paper are still handy here to keep kids busy. A small blanket and small pillow are also great if there’s room for them. If it’s your children’s first airplane trip and experience with TSA, it would be a good idea to talk to them about both experiences so that they won’t be apprehensive about either.
5. Cruise Tips?
Even here it’s a good idea to bring something to color with so that your child can keep busy at a table which may be peopled with strangers. Most cruise lines have children’s programs and an infirmary so a medical kit may not be necessary, though a thermometer might still be a good idea so that you can check if it’s even necessary to take the child to the ship’s infirmary. Even though food is provided, healthy snacks of fruit may be great to have
In all cases, when traveling with kids it is essential to keep them busy, busy, busy. Keeping them busy will make your travels, by whatever means, smooth and pleasant.
Saturday, January 17th, 2015 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi
Santa Catalina Island, or as everyone calls it Catalina, is the only inhabited of California’s Barrier Islands. Viewing it from the ferry as we arrived, I found the powerful, craggy, thrusting-out shoreline magnificent and breathtaking. In fact the only really flat surface is the six block Avalon downtown, Crescent Avenue, which borders on sandy beaches. The rest of the town rolls and rises up and down, winding along with houses, and condos perched up the hilly sides. It has a Mediterranean feel with its pastel colors.
Four thousand people live on the island with 3,800 in Avalon.
Thanks to Wrigley — who bought out his co-investors — and Wrigley’s son Phillip — who established a Conservancy — 88% of the 8-by-76 mile island has been left in the same pristine state as when the Catalina Indians lived here. The Conservancy offers jeep tours of the inland and other coastal areas, where Bison (not native to the island, but brought in by a Hollywood filming group) may be encountered. Several hundred movies have been made here.
Wrigley also built an island focal point that catches every new visitor’s eye, The Casino, which has never been used for gambling, but was a big dance hall in the forties. Now it’s the island’s movie theater. Once a year a silent film festival is held here with an organist providing the music. Many visitors and islanders dress in circa 1920 garb. A big dinner and dance bash takes place on New Year’s Eve which is also a great time for everyone to dress up.
A jazz festival is held in the fall, and several art festivals as well.
Catalina has been a great retreat and living spot for many celebs. Marilyn Monroe lived there with her sailor husband when she was still Norma Jean; Zane Grey’s house still stands atop a hill above the beach road; Ronald Reagan was there with the Wrigley-owned Chicago Cubs as a broadcaster; and of course, Natalie Wood drowned here off her yacht.
The history of the island and its intriguing Hollywood connections can be seen with blown up photos of Wrigley and others in the island museum.
Catalina has become a great place to escape for people from everywhere, and an adventure land for people who love the water, to scuba, to snorkel, or just to take the kids on the glass-bottom boat to feed the fish through open wells. Either way it’s a real treat for kids of all ages to see the fish swarm in their feeding frenzy.
The more adventurous can also kayak at Descanso Beach and I was told that babies can even go if held by parents. I myself went kayaking with a four-year-old. We saw whales and dolphins! Day trips and overnight trips can also be scheduled.
Catalina is known for its special sea life. Snorkel and scuba equipment can be rented by the hour or day and there are short courses for scuba certification. The center point for many of these water adventures is the green pier which juts out into the Pacific. This is also the place to go para-sailing. The pier is always bustling.
Landlubbers are not left out. Segways, bicycles — including electric bikes — can be rented by the hour or day. Segway tours are also offered. Several marathons and triathlons are held each year along with a grueling 50-mile marathon!
At Descanso Beach — a great, secluded scenic area, just outside of town — there’s a zip line course that most zippers would love. A short introductory lesson is given for newbies, and children as young as five can ride random with an adult. First zip is off of a 350 foot height over an open canyon chasm. Longest zip, 1,000 feet and fastest, forty miles an hour.
Hiking the 46-mile trail is fun and you really get the feeling of being part of the island. Permits are free but a three dollar donation is suggested. It takes about three days.
One of the most quaint things about Catalina is that golf carts are used as vehicles. Rent one and tour the heights for great views of the city. Some rental properties come with carts.
The food is varied and plentiful both day and evening with outdoor eating. Night life is usually at the restaurants. Maggie’s Blue Rose, which serves upscale Mexican food and gigantic and exotic tequilas, is usually a great place to hang out. You can watch tortillas being made and flipped. Steve’s steak house, run by a three generation islander, has great harbor views.
A wonderful way to get a feel for where you’d like to eat and an eating adventure in itself is to take a “cultural and tasting walking tour” with Taste of Catalina Food Tours covering five different restaurants. It includes an interesting talk about the town’s history by your guide. A drinking tour is also offered.
There are a number of places to stay, even houses to rent. One of the most charming and hospitable is the Aurora Hotel and Spa, a 16-room cozy inn which has a rooftop veranda with great views of the City and harbor. A complimentary breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, juice, fruit, cereals, sweets, and individual Keurig tea and coffees is offered, as well as 24-hour coffee, tea, and fruit. There’s even a Keurig-maker in each room. The Aurora offers packages with ferry tickets and taxi pickups.
We were warmly greeted upon our arrival, treated as family during our stay, and hugged by Richard and Diana, two hotel personnel, when we left. Islanders are friendly, down to earth, and welcoming.
The worst part of a trip to Catalina is leaving.
See the previous installments in Arlene’s travel series:
I lit Shabbat candles this past Friday night for the first in a very long time. I made the decision somewhere between learning that the Grand Synagogue of Paris had closed its doors on Shabbat for the first time since the end of World War 2 and the starling fact that 15 Jewish patrons of the kosher supermarket in Paris huddled in a storage freezer to avoid being executed by terrorists.
Roger L. Simon wrote a compelling piece in the wake of last week’s barbaric attacks perpetrated by radical Islamists in Paris. Reading his article I observed with irony that he writes about America’s need for a Churchill. Perhaps, pray to God in His mercy we have one, as we are now surely England with a Neville Chamberlain at the helm. Europe, on the other hand, does not have a Churchill in sight. Europe’s Churchills and their children have fled and are fleeing, some at a breakneck pace. The only Churchill I see on the world horizon is Bibi Netanyahu, which is why he will no doubt be elected to another term as prime minister in Israel, regardless of the deals he may or may not cut with the ultra-religious. Internal politics have to be placed on the back burner when international enemies are this bloodthirsty.
Sunday, January 11th, 2015 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi
Jugglers, mimes, keyboard artists, and assorted musicians perform on the steps of one of New York City’s most prestigious museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These performers are part of New York City’s museum scene every weekend when New Yorkers and visitors alike make the rounds of the many museums in the Big Apple.
New York can well be called Museum City, USA, with more museums than any other city in the country. There are museums of art, history, science, music, broadcasting, fashion, and almost as many museums as there are cultures, professions, and interests. Many are small, offbeat, and sometimes only one floor large, their likes not found outside the Big Apple. A museum hopping trip to New York will be both unusual and educational, and you’ll find that even after you think you’ve seen them all, a new one opens!
New York museums aren’t just collections of things. Some offer concerts, poetry readings, lectures, and movies. Most museums are in Manhattan and can be toured by area, as the larger ones are within walking blocks of one another on “Museum Mile”. A few are in different part of New York City. Many are closed on Mondays, open late mornings, and have shops where you can buy items related to the collections, like books and postcards. Many even have restaurants.
Monday, December 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
I have no interest in seeing Ridley Scott’s epic IMAX 3-D meisterwerk Exodus: Gods and Kings. Why would I want to spend money on a “gloriously junky” movie that turns my history into a collection of high-tech special effects laced together by a biased, biblically-inaccurate script? Yet, for however lousy the movie itself might be, it has inspired some interesting commentary on Jewish peoplehood from Emma Green over at the Atlantic. For Green, the film inspired a polemic that highlights the seemingly eternal struggle Jews have with the idea of being called out, that is to say “chosen” by God.
I’ve always found this to be rather asinine as far as ideological burdens go. Most people struggle to find their purpose in life. Jews are born into it. We are here to bring God’s teachings into the world in order to make this earth a better place. This chosen status, this calling doesn’t make us any better than anyone else. It simply gives us a job to do, a role that manifests itself through every aspect of existence, every academic discipline, every profession we’ve ever encountered. Whether we’re religious or not, or politically Left or Right, we (for the most part) are bent on doing our part to make the world a better place. Which is probably why those who hate us the most love to rub our chosenness in our face, intimidating the Emma Greens among us into second guessing our God-given responsibility.
Sunday, December 14th, 2014 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi
When I was a guest at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu in the Beit Sh’ean Valley in Israel, I had to get up at four or five A.M. to get to the fields on a cart driven behind a tractor, with other young people, so that I could pick vegetables before breakfast. These where huge smorgasbord affairs with lots of oatmeal (because it was cheap, hot, and filling) and whatever was the most of the crop of the day. Of course, I wasn’t a paying guest, I was a worker volunteer.
Years later I became a guest again at another kibbutz, Ramat Rachel, at that time a half-hour ride from Jerusalem. I didn’t have to do any work at all, because this time I paid to be a guest. I still had the smorgasbord breakfast (which all kibbutzim with guest facilities offer), but this time it included a variety of cheeses, cereals, sweets, juices, and fish, among other things. Cappuccino was offered along with coffee and tea. I no longer had to work for my meals, and could enjoy all the recreational offerings of Rama Rachel which included a huge swimming facility, and even water slides. I recently revisited Rama Rachel and since Jerusalem has expanded so much, it is now on the edge of the city with a bus stop which offers buses constantly. It also has been the site of an archaeological excavation and offers an archaeological garden to tour.
Thursday, December 11th, 2014 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi
Stretching 150 miles from Miami, U.S. 1 traverses the Florida Keys, a series of narrow tropical islands, surrounded by aquamarine waters, and connected by 42 bridges — one is seven miles long! There are 800 keys, with only a few inhabited. Coral formations range offshore their entire length. They stretch east to west, ending in Key West, the southernmost spot in the U.S. Weather is warmer in winter than anywhere else in the continental U.S. in winter, and pleasant in summer.
The variety of land and water attractions include gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, sailing, fishing, sampling a medley of fresh area seafood, viewing unusual fauna and flora, swimming with dolphins, sea kayaking, and more. It includes the world’s third largest coral reef, which extends 240 miles from Key Largo to the Tortugas. Lush vegetation proliferates with flowering bushes and bougainvillea.
The food is special, too, with dishes like Key Lime Pie, made from tart yellow limes; Bahamian fish stew; and conch served in a variety of ways. The very special Keys’ deer are miniature, no larger than medium-sized dogs. They are so adorable that you might be tempted to take one home as a pet. Several of the keys offer the chance to swim with these intelligent warm creatures who love humans and especially kids. My son swam with them several times.
A region as varied and storied as the South has plenty of wonderful holiday traditions. From the biggest of cities to the tiniest towns, Southerners — and Yankee tourists — have plenty of special ways to spend the Christmas season.
Honestly, I had a tough time picking ten destinations, but I think the ones I chose demonstrate the variety of Southern experiences. Enjoy!
Ok, so I took some heat for putting Asheville in my list of the 10 Most Overrated Destinations in the South, but I stand by my choice. However, one of Asheville’s most iconic locations makes the list of the ultimate holiday destinations.
The Biltmore Estate is grand and gorgeous year round, but, like so many other places, Christmas decorations add even more beauty. George Vanderbilt’s palatial home hosts a display of holiday cheer that’s hard to top.
During the day, Biltmore offers wine tastings, visits with Santa, and tips for exquisite décor. At night, the estate features candlelight tours and impressive lighting displays. It’s enough to consider fending off those Asheville hipsters!
Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi
While driving on a desert road in Borrego Springs, California, if you see a massive undulating serpent whose tail is waving in and out of the sand on one side of the road you’re driving on, with the rest of him, including his fearsome almost two-story head, sticking out of the sand on the other side, you are not having a desert hallucination. The three hundred and fifty foot serpent and other fanciful and realistic metal sculptures, including scorpions, spiders, dinosaurs, wild horses rearing their heads, and an array of human like figures doing human-like activities, dot the landscape near the town of Borrego Springs, and the historic La Casa del Zorro Resort. In fact the artist, Ricardo Breceda, who sculpted these surreal creations, has his studio at one end of the resort’s 42 acre property.
Saturday, November 29th, 2014 - by Arlene Becker Zarmi
Ringling Museum complex on September 03, 2014, in Sarasota, USA. Built by circus magnate John Ringling in 1924.
Bright lights and colors; action everywhere, from one end of the circle to another.
High above daredevil acrobats fly from one swing to another, while spectators hold their breaths. Bulbous-nosed, sad-eyed clowns with impossibly big feet play pranks on one another; beautiful ladies ride tip-toed on prancing horses while a morning-coated ringmaster holds it all together! It’s a kaleidoscope of movement and sound, of tantalizing smells like cotton candy and popcorn. It’s the circus, as old and older than our republic and as American as mom and apple pie. While circuses have come and gone since our country was founded, they still reign in Sarasota, Florida, which calls itself Circus City, USA.
When Englishman Philip Astley, considered the father of the modern circus, added acrobats and other acts to his equestrian performances, he created the circus’s prototype. He brought it to America for performances in 1772 and 1773. In 1793, another Englishman, John Ricketts, established the first permanent circus building in Philadelphia. The American circus was now here to stay.
In 1825 tents became popular as circuses took their acts across the country. Circus trains became the next innovation. Cars were elaborately carved and decorated, becoming works of art in themselves. Some are still displayed in the circus museums in Sarasota.
Author and journalist Judy Bachrach started volunteering in a hospice in the late 1980s, and her real motive was to try to overcome her fear of death. About two decades later, when her mother came down with Alzheimer’s, Bachrach decided to look into the subject of near-death experiences.
So she delved into the literature, and journeyed around the United States and the world to interview near-death experiencers (NDErs or, as she calls them, “death travelers”) and leading researchers in the field. The result is her book Glimpsing Heaven. Her conclusion from her inquiries: “there are simply, as some of the doctors and scientists I’ve interviewed point out, too many experiencers and too many experiences to discount.”
How many? Dutch cardiologist and NDE researcher Pim van Lommel says that in the last 50 years over 25 million people worldwide have reported NDEs. A 1982 Gallup poll found eight million Americans reporting them. As Bachrach comments: “Not every self-proclaimed death traveler could be an arrant liar or deeply unbalanced or both.” If you want to hear accounts by “travelers” who are evidently balanced, mature, and intelligent, you can easily find them on YouTube.
But were these people really “dead”? Aren’t these experiences just hallucinations caused by oxygen deprivation? Having looked into the NDE subject myself for a few years, I believe one can only hold that view if one is ill-informed or determined.
A few years after Walt Disney’s death, the studio he founded entered a creative drought of nearly 15 years. The projects Walt had his hands on had dried up, and the most creative minds in the company were working directly on the theme parks. Ron Miller, Walt’s son-in-law, oversaw the company during most of this era, and, though the studio managed to produce some underrated cartoons and live-action films during this time period, nothing matched the artistry and innovation of the years when Walt was still alive.
When Roy E. Disney and Sid Bass brought Michael Eisner over from Paramount to head Disney — along with Frank Wells — the company experienced an almost immediate injection of creativity. In the realm of animation, most everyone dubs the period beginning with 1989′s The Little Mermaid the Disney Renaissance. (Some people end the Renaissance with the execrable Tarzan from 1999, but for me, this period ends with 1995′s Pocahontas.)
A lot of exciting things took place at Disney during the first few years of the Eisner-Wells tenure, and here are the ten best of them.
Pocahontas marked the end of the Disney Animation Renaissance of the late-’80s and early-’90s, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s nowhere near as good as the films that preceded it, largely due to its over-earnestness, Judy Kuhn’s vocal melisma, and the screenplay’s loose play with history.
However, Pocahontas deserves mention because of its firsts. It was the first Disney animated feature based on a historical person, and it also brought the Disney Princess banner to an American character (something the studio did much better in 2009 with The Princess and the Frog). Disney also deserves some credit for turning the dramatic “Colors of the Wind” into a smooth pop hit.
Even though Pocahontas isn’t the greatest of the Disney classics, it does belong among the highlights of the early Eisner-Wells era.
I am not one of those people who reflexively think European goods are superior to American ones—you know the kind of people I’m talking about—but boy do I sometimes wonder about the coffee in this country. The average American takes his or her daily caffeine in the form of a tepid, mud-like beverage that delis, diners, and commercial chains have chosen to call “coffee.” Is it? It can’t possibly be. Even the coffee at Starbucks, which is supposed to be something special, more often than not tastes like the business end of a drainpipe. It’s a shame so many people have been duped by words like “venti” and “macchiato.”
This dislike of mine has nothing to do with snobbery. I don’t care about price, brand, origin, or other markers of prestige. I know precisely nothing about the agriculture of coffee beans or the chemistry of brewing. I do know, however, that the proof of the coffee is in the drinking, and the motor oil served at most American establishments is barely potable.
I suspect I’m not alone in this judgment. If not, follow me, dear reader, on a mental trip to the beautiful city of Lviv, in western Ukraine—a place where I found some of the best coffee I have ever tasted. This was after I had tried the product of Vienna’s famous Cafe Hawelka. In fact, to imagine what Lviv is like, picture Vienna, only not as well preserved, with extra grit and grime on the buildings, and with occasional glimpses of drab Soviet architecture.
By the time the 1960s rolled around, Walt Disney appeared to have done it all. He had elevated the cartoon from an opening-act short to a feature-film art form. He had conquered live-action movies and embraced television, and he even revolutionized the theme-park experience. But Walt wasn’t done — in fact, it looks like he saved his most radical and powerful ideas for the last years of his life. And here are seven examples to prove it.
7. Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (1961-1969)
After a seven season run for Disneyland on ABC, Walt wanted to explore different options. His greatest desire was to broadcast a show in color. Even though ABC had broadcast the show in black and white, Walt insisted on filming most of the segments in full color because he believed color would add long-term value to his productions. Rival network NBC had begun to promote color series heavily since parent company RCA made color television sets, and, after a brilliant sales pitch from Walt, the network bit.
Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color ran for eight seasons before undergoing a retooling and title change. During those seasons, Walt took advantage of the new and exciting world of color programming when few producers were willing to branch out, especially in the earlier years. Once again, Walt willingly blazed a trail, and once again his pioneering spirit paid off.
Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
I didn’t fully appreciate how spiritually free I am as an American woman until I set foot on an El Al plane.
“Do you speak Hebrew?” the fretting woman in front of me asked.
“No, not really.”
“It’s okay, I speak English,” she hurriedly replied, obviously looking for a friendly face. “These Orthodox,” she motioned to the people sitting next to her, “they don’t like sitting next to women.”
“Well, that’s their problem.” My response was pointed, matter-of-fact, American.
She smiled as if a light bulb went off in her head. “You’re right!” Her expression grew cloudy. “But what if I take off my sweater? They won’t like that I expose my shoulders with my tank top.”
Again, I simply replied, “That’s their problem.”
She smiled, empowered. Removing her sweater, she took her seat and stood her ground.
And at that moment I thanked God I was raised in pluralistic America, and realized, oddly enough, that the Holy Land was giving me my first chance to practice the biblical feminism I’ve preached.
Israel is a Western nation in that women have equal rights by law. Israel is also a confluence of religious and ethnic cultural attitudes, not all of which are friendly to women. Two days into our trip to Jerusalem, a family member who also happens to be a retired journalist explained the latest story to hit the nightly news. A man accused of spousal abuse was released to return home. Later that evening, police found his wife had been shot dead. The husband confessed to the murder. Apparently, domestic violence and death is a relatively small but significant problem in Israel. When I asked my former journalist why, he pointed to the influence of Middle Eastern (both Arabic and radical Islamic) patriarchal culture as the primary source.
Yet, even religious Jews in Israel (and around the world), despite their insular nature, are far from immune to sexual abuse. Sex scandals among the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox) show up frequently on the evening news. In this case it’s not the Arab/Muslim influence, but perverted behaviors that arise from rabbinic abuse of biblical teachings. How do you expect a man to relate to a woman sexually when he’s not even allowed to look her in the eye?
A multi-part BBC series based on the powerful English classic penned by Zionist George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Daniel Deronda tells the story of a young gentleman who discovers, through a series of almost mystical events, that his mother is Jewish. A fantastic examination of Jewish identity in Victorian high society, the novel was cited by the likes of Henrietta Szold and Emma Lazarus as influential on their decision to become Zionists. Wonderfully cast, the BBC version is grossly engaging and well worth a marathon viewing.
Thursday, September 4th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
I pushed off the idea of writing this article when I first heard that Joan Rivers, one of my comic icons, was rushed to the hospital after a botched outpatient procedure last week. I didn’t want to think about having to say goodbye to Joan, to bid farewell to yet another icon of an age gone by, a powerhouse who managed to be a cultural force until her last breath. The only solace we can muster is in knowing that, for these ten reasons at least, Joan’s memory will be a blessing.
10. Joan never grew old or gave up.
At 81, she was as attuned to pop culture, politics, and current events as a 20 year old. A self-made fashionista, the comedian never retired, sat in a chair, or gave in to technology. Joan will forever be a role model to women who refuse to trade style for a shapeless moo-moo and an office chair for a rocking chair. In her later years she paired up with Melissa, illustrating that mothers and daughters really can work together and get along. She was a modern Bubbe, surrounded by her children and grandchildren as she took the world by storm.