Gallery: The A List [6 Images] Click any image to expand.
by Maggie Zeibak
The colorful architecture in Aruba.Armchair vacations. We love to savor the dreamy moments when we curl up, painting exotic places in our mind’s eye, imagining all the while that we can afford traveling in ostentatious luxury. Eventually, reality sets in and possibility fades when we see Mr. Budget glaring at the glossy brochures, so we reluctantly revise our plan of action. Planning is a large part of the vacation experience and we should spend an inordinate amount of time wallowing in trip fantasies, and perhaps come up with some new ideas for vacationing at a different time of the year.
- APRIL, MAY, JUNE
Usually there are some reasonable fares available during the shoulder season, if you can plan around Easter and Spring Break. Although prices in Great Britain and Europe are generally higher and the currency exchange rate exorbitant, you can offset the total price by traveling to Wales staying in reasonably priced Bed and Breakfast houses and farms.
Perhaps the most you know about Wales is “How Green was my Valley”, daffodils, rugby football, Dylan Thomas, coalmines, and that all men sing - not just Tom Jones. And sing they do - in pubs and choirs, informally and formally - and they’re really, really good at it.
Albatross chick.Although the northern part of Wales holds an attraction for the history buffs with all of those fantastic castles and wild, green-as-Kermit hills for climbing, mid-Wales offers some unique opportunities for the sports minded adventurer.
Brave enough to compete in the annual bog-snorkeling event? That’s mild compared to the adrenalin-packed adventure of “Coasteering”, when cliff climbing up wicked rocks is combined with jumping free-style into the crashing waves of the sea -you’ll need a wetsuit and insurance.
Not that I’d do anything like that, but I know that thrill-seekers are out there. You can abseil all you like but you’ll find me sedately sampling the fresh farm produce, riding the narrow-gauge steam railways, attending sheepdog trails and appreciating the tranquillity of harbour towns like Aberaeron. (www.aberaeron.info
In this last bastion of Welsh language and culture, you can stay at Hazeldene Bed and Breakfast, a unique Edwardian house built for a sea captain, then walk down to the Harbourmaster Restaurant and enjoy a honey glazed rack of delicious Welsh lamb.
Now if you must go to the northern island of Anglesey, be sure to ask directions to the 57-letter town of Llanfairpwllgyngyllgogerychwryndrobwll-llandysiliogogogoch - roughly translated to The Church of St. Mary by the whirlpool. I never said it would be easy, but it’s fun to send a postcard.
A tribute to the “Frog Hop of Fame”.SUMMER
- JULY, AUG, SEPT
Ah, the dog days of summer. Perhaps you’re locked into school vacation time yet determined to show the little nippers some of California, throwing in some subtle education along the way. Guiding them around Yosemite National Park can help them appreciate the natural beauty our country has pledged to preserve and, with a bit of luck, they’ll get to see a few bears from a distance. Once out of the park, head for the Gold Rush Country through the magnificent pine trees into Angels Camp, Calaveras County. (www.GoCalaveras.com
) Ring a bell? Remember Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, when Smiley ‘ketched a frog’? It is here that they continue tradition and hold the Jumping Frog Jubilee, commemorating each winner with a plaque in the Frog Hop of Fame. It’s not hard to find as the town sidewalks are embedded with tributes to champions and their jumps. Rosie the Ribeter jumped 21 feet, 5 inches.
Once the learning part is over, drive out to Calaveras Big Trees State Park to hike through majestic giant sequoias (www.ca.gov
) and walk through the tunnel of the Pioneer Cabin Tree. Although the numerous wineries enroute can tempt the adults, a more family oriented activity is over at Moaning Caverns for a chilly underground tour below the surface, or a thrilling wet-your-knickers Zip-lining ride over the treetops.
A beautiful bridge in the city of Abaeron. AUTUMN
OCTOBER, NOVEMBER, DECEMBER
The fall season offers lots of good deals as it still encompasses the hurricane season in the Caribbean. Aruba, just 14 miles off the coast of Venezuela, is just outside the hurricane belt and you can be pretty much assured of a relaxing vacation in Paradise. The sea is crystal clear and the beach so powdery white that the urge to pass away the day under a palm-thatched ‘chickee’ (palapa) is overwhelming, until the lure of real duty-free luxury items lure you into Oranjestad. There is always a cruise ship in town disgorging some very serious shoppers ready to pick up a sparkly wrist adornment or designer shoes with red soles.
Known as the Happy Island, the locals sincerely welcome tourists, impressively speaking English, Spanish, Dutch and local Papiamento; always with a smile. It’s easy to get around on the bus for just over a US Dollar, which is widely accepted here, as is the magic credit card. With limited time available, you can choose between snorkeling, sailing and sightseeing with a grand finale at the Casino, but not before you’ve paid your respects to one of the fine restaurants around. Sample ‘pudin di coco’ - a coconut pudding infused with a rum and lime sauce, or ‘sunchi’, tiny pastel-colored meringue kisses.
Palm Beach.... so relaxing.Stay in the Palm Beach area where the hotels are perched right on the sugary sand, and where a new upscale shopping center has introduced a nightly liquid firework show of colorful fountains and music – free to everyone. (www.aruba.com
JANUARY, FEBRUARY, MARCH
Perhaps you’d like to escape Hummers and SUV’s screaming down the I-5 and seek a trip south of the Equator, where the pace is a whole lot slower. One of the most popular destinations is Argentina, which you’ll find dollar-worthy and safe. Tango lessons can make you the envy of your friends, although watching the shows is pretty exciting. Munch on flaky Empanadas and drive down a huge boulevard in Buenos Aires on your way to explore the colorful old district of La Boca and see where Eva Peron is buried in the Cemetery of the Recoleta; an amazing village of mausoleums. (www.easybuenosairescity.com
Coupled with a cruise, you can sail to the sub-Antarctic Falkland Islands where you can really get away from it all. The capital, windswept Stanley, boasts brightly colored houses and a huge whalebone structure reminiscent of past whaling days. One of the most interesting spots here is the little museum that has an excellent collection from English tea sets to military memorabilia, although the most sobering sight is along the road where an area is fenced off with a large notice proclaiming “Danger. Minefields.” There are still legacies from the 1982 conflict between the UK and Argentina including hulks of rusting ships resting in the water.
Local eatery in Oranjestad. Wildlife enthusiasts will be ecstatic – birds are plentiful and Magellanic penguins waddle around the shores coexisting contentedly with Albatross chicks.
Happily, the world is getting smaller and there are more enriching places to go. It would seem that this A-list of Aberaeron, Angels Camp, Argentina and Aruba is tailored to the A-team who have a little adventure in their souls. b