From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, Take Photos Leave Footprints

“Over-Touristed” Destinations: What are your Alternatives?

By Scott Dicken All Photos by Scott Dicken  “Over-Touristed” Destinations: What are your Alternatives? It happens to the best of us: you spend months researching holiday destinations and tourist attractions. You sit online fawning over photos of picture-perfect vistas and iconic sights devoid of crowds. You spend thousands of dollars on flights and hotels hoping for the perfect vacation. And then you arrive. That iconic sight you had your heart set on is teeming with droves of tourists all clambering for the perfect photo opportunity. Ticket lines stretch for miles. Hawkers and unlicensed tour guides are crawling all over you trying to offload everything from cheap trinkets to “the best tour in town”. With this in mind, and based on an assumption that you don’t want to spend a two-week vacation fighting off other tourists for the best photo spots, what are your options? In this article I look at some of the worst-offending destinations and alternatives that, whilst mirroring the charm or grandeur of their more famous counterparts, benefit from the absence of the tourist hordes. The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt The pyramids have long been known to be challenging when it comes to the sheer numbers of tourists that visit, keeping control of those tourists, and the borderline harassment exerted by hawkers and guides. Online images inferring that the site is hundreds of miles from civilization also bely the fact that you can take pictures of them from inside a nearby KFC! None of this is to say you should never visit the Pyramids – they truly are one of the most awe-inspiring sites a traveler can behold. But what if you’re looking to witness something akin to the Pyramids of Giza but without the nearby KFC? The Overrated Tourist Attraction Alternative: The Nubian Pyramids of Meroe, Sudan…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, National Harbor

Out With the Old, In With the New (kinda)

By Lani Gering Out With the Old, In With the New (kinda) As I was brainstorming about what the subject matter for this column was going to be going into the New Year I decided to dig back into the archives and see what inspired me in years past. Well…2020 found me introducing Ollie – the vehicle that drove itself – and now it’s gone and last year I talked about how to “safely” navigate the stupid virus while dining in the Harbor and that’s still hanging around. I really would have preferred Ollie to stick around! January is normally a really slow month everywhere but after having such a flurry of holiday activity this December compared to the almost total absence of it in the Harbor last December – remember that the Gaylord was totally shut down in 2020 – this January is on its way to being a record setter. And…tack on the fact that there is yet another new variant of the virus roaming around, it isn’t looking like the mask mandate in PG County is going to be lifted again anytime soon. Let’s just hope that those who have yet to be vaccinated and boosted get with the program, follow the science and get taken care of. January is a good month to reflect on the last year and revel in the good stuff and shine on the bad. There is only one way to go and that is forward. I’ve never been one to make a New Year’s resolution because it seems I can never live up to it. It’s the same way when I pretend I’m Catholic during Lent – I am actually Episcopalian aka Catholic lite. In my 68 years I’ve never made it past a week with the Lent business. I guess…

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From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

What Off Season? Frostbite Racers Sail On

By Molly Winans What Off Season? Frostbite Racers Sail On “We do not consider it the off-season,” says Annapolis frostbite racer Kristen Robinson. “It is a great opportunity to hone your sailing skills, stay sharp, and try new things. Although it seems daunting to go out in freezing cold rain, we view it the opposite. Who would want to miss racing on a 60-degree day in December with eight to 10 knots of breeze? You can always stay home if it rains or is sub-zero temperatures.” Kristen and husband Brian Robinson—both SpinSheet Racing Team and SpinSheet Century Club members—sail as a “family syndicate.” They explain, “Each week we race the J/80 and J/105 out of Eastport Yacht Club with Krissy driving the J/105 and Lizzie Scales (age 11) driving the J/80. We then divide the available crew with Brian Robinson, Tracey Golde, Rob and Shay Sampson, and Pete Deremer primarily crewing on the J/105. John Chiochetti and Ben and Andrew (7) Fransen primarily crewing on the J/80. Bryan Stout and Mary Howser have generously been our floaters to go where needed most.” Chiochetti, who races in said family syndicate, says, “Many of us are missing the big fall/winter regattas, especially the pre-pandemic loss of Key West Race Week, so being able to race this time of year is a real treat… I’ve been racing J/80s in frostbite for years, but these last two seasons have given us a special chance to see the skills and traditions passing to a new generation. Sailing with Lizzy and Andrew is a real treat. We do still drink hot chocolate… sometimes with a little extra warmth!” Bruce Irvin, who races his J/30 Shamrock with Dale Eager and Leon Bloom, says, “Frostbite racing is a distillation of all the great elements of sailboat racing: a nearby course, good breeze, flat…

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

15 Best Caribbean Beach Bars for 2021

By Caribbean Journal Staff 15 Best Caribbean Beach Bars for 2021 The right beach, the right chair, the right drink. It may sound simple, but, like the greatest cocktails, you only need a few ingredients. In a time when travel has been significantly disrupted, this is the kind of experience we all dream about: the tropical idyll — an afternoon at a Caribbean beach bar, the thing we all think about when we’re stuck at home, moored behind a desk, or surrounded by wintry air. For those who are traveling right now, these beach bars are the perfect Caribbean venture: outdoors, socially-distanced, breezy. For those who aren’t traveling, think of them as your to-do list for when the world returns to “normal”. Either way, it’s worth celebrating these Caribbean institutions and the people who’ve worked to build them. Here are the best Caribbean beach bars for 2021. Karibuni, St Martin There may be no more memorable beach bar experience in the entire Caribbean than an afternoon at Pinel Island, the intoxicating little cay just off the coast of the “mainland” in St Martin. You take a one-minute ferry boat and reach Karibuni, the beach bar that belongs to the St Martin hotel by the same name. Plainly, this is what it’s all about — a Crusoe-chic beach bar that will make you feel like you’ve somehow landed on a desert island — one that just so happens to have marvelously fresh seafood and the best cocktails of the French Caribbean. A true bucket-list experience. Soggy Dollar Bar, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands The Mecca of beach bars is back, having relaunched after the British Virgin Islands reopened its borders for tourism in early December. Because after 2020, we could all use a few Painkillers (now with the bar’s own Soggy Dollar Rum). Bikinis on Beach,…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

COVID In the Country

By Julie Reardon COVID In the Country A year ago, as COVID cases and rules about masks, social distancing and cancellation of gatherings dragged along, we considered how lucky we were to live in a rural area where it’s easy to social distance and avoid exposure to the virus. It’s also easy to hide stuff like your own declining health, filling me with a false sense of complacency. Unbeknownst to me, I got COVID early on, which I mistakenly treated as a garden variety respiratory infection. After all, in January and February 2020, no one had heard of COVID—not until March. So I never saw a doctor about my nagging respiratory infection. Only marginally improved after 2 months, pollen season hit with a vengeance. My lungs, already scarred from chronic asthma, struggled. It was also very easy to hide how short of breath I’d gotten, and the weight I’d gained. With my compromised lungs I took no chances and neither of us went anywhere unless we absolutely had to. I only went to the grocery for curbside grocery pick up and the post office. Our post office is tiny, so it was easy to wait until no one else was in the little building to go in. Anything picked up outside our farm was disinfected and our hands washed before entering the house. The problem with hiding your worsening health from friends and family is that you start to believe yourself that your health problems are no big deal. The pandemic and related restrictions made it easy to keep my shortness of breath and worsening asthma well hidden from friends and family as well as myself. And 2021 started on a bad note. In January we lost my oldest dog, a male Chesapeake that was almost 15. In the spring,…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

Merry Christmas from the Blue Ridge!

By Julie Reardon Merry Christmas from the Blue Ridge! A friend who lives in the mountains shares this story every holiday season and it’s one of my favorites. I only recently found out the author’s name since various versions have been around for many years, variously titled A Christmas Prayer and The Rifle, and that it’s not actually a true story. The author was a sheep herder and wrote it one freezing night while pondering how to explain the true meaning of Christmas to his children. I think you will enjoy it as much as I do. A Christmas Story By Rian Anderson Pa never had much compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving. It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted so bad that year for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible. So, after supper was over, I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible, instead he bundled up and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, Take Photos Leave Footprints

Take Photos, Leave Footprints

By Scott Dicken Nepal: An Adventurer’s Playground! In April 2015, Nepal was hit by a devastating earthquake that measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale, killed nearly 9,000 people, and left approximately US$10 Billion of damage in its wake – about a third of Nepal’s GDP! This, twinned with the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, might lead you to ask, ‘is this the right time to visit Nepal’? My response is simple; as soon as COVID-19 conditions permit, the answer is a resounding YES! Nepal continues to be negatively affected by a slow recovery of its tourism market; and any visiting tourist is directly contributing to the country’s recovery with every dollar spent in restaurants, hotels, and with local tour operators. None of this is to suggest that this is a transaction solely benefitting the country’s recovery; it’s just a positive side-effect of visiting a country that’s steeped in history, culture, and religion, and can quench the thirst of even the most ardent adventure traveler. Below are five reasons to move Nepal to the top of your bucket list. History Nowhere is the cultural and religious history of Nepal more evident than in the Kathmandu Valley, which just so happens to be the gateway to a Nepalese adventure! You’ll likely want to divide your time equally between the Valley’s three main cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan; cities that are all within an hour of each other. Pretty much everything you touch in Kathmandu Valley is part of a World Heritage Site, so it isn’t just me alone opining its virtues; UNESCO seem to agree! With a vast array of temples, palaces, monuments, shrines and museums the Valley has it all, and can easily occupy the average tourist for a 4-day stay (and a history buff, much longer)! Scenery I think it’s fair…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, National Harbor

Celebrate Holidays at National Harbor

Celebrate Holidays at National Harbor 2 million lights over acres of entertainment National Harbor celebrates Holidays at the Harbor nightly with a 54-foot tall tree at the Belvedere event space (adjacent to Bond 45, 149 Waterfront St.) and spectacular light show every half hour from sunset to 9 p.m. A fireworks display will take place every Saturday through Dec. 18 at 5:30 p.m. The Christmas movie theme continues in the Waterfront District as National Harbor shows favorite Christmas movies on the outdoor, waterfront screen (150 National Plaza) starting at 2 p.m. on Sundays.  Movies are as follows: Dec. 5, The Year Without a Santa Claus* Dec. 12, Elf* Dec. 19, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation* Jan. 2, It’s a Wonderful Life *these movies are also part of Gaylord National’s I Love Christmas Movies experience. In addition to the dazzling MGM National Harbor conservatory, with its splendid holiday display, MGM will also present Cirque Dreams Holidaze on Dec. 16-19—a family holiday spectacular that will delight all ages. This annual tradition wraps a whimsical, Broadway-style musical infused with contemporary circus artistry. Young children will also enjoy Storytime on Saturdays at 2 p.m. on American Way when the Prince George’s County Library and Mahogany Books will take turns reading to children. Free holiday hot chocolate will be available at various retailers on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. through Jan. 2. Free cocoa mugs will be given out by select retailers with a purchase of $50 or more, while supplies last. Toys for Tots will collect new, unwrapped toys for those in need on American Way on Saturday, Dec. 4 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. As a thank you for a donation, The Capital Wheel will hand out one ticket per family (valid on Dec. 4 only.) In addition to great events and lots of holiday shopping options including 85…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, National Harbor

So. Much. Christmas.

By Lani Gering So. Much. Christmas. Those of you who have followed this column know that I go a little nutty with the holiday happenings in the Harbor and especially those at the Gaylord. It was a very sad holiday last year for me without the Resort being open so I am very happy they are going all out this year. While many of you have asked me what the theme for ICE is this year, I am sad to say it isn’t coming back. But, the new theme – “So. Much. Christmas.” – is literally that! I can’t believe all of the new activities that have been added. I contacted Patrice Clayton, the GNR PR Guru, for some detailed info and she was at the ready.  The newly added experiences include holiday cooking classes, a Christmas-themed pop-up bar, a festive desserts shop and ice bumper cars and a snow ball making and tossing experience. In addition, Gaylord National will feature several suites decked out in holiday décor for a home-for-the-holidays feel. These new experiences perfectly complement the resort’s other fan-favorite Christmas attractions and its new Gaylord Hotels original production, I Love Christmas Movies ™. Visitors can enjoy the following newly announced experiences: Overnight guests can leave Christmas tree-decorating to the experts and book one of the resort’s Christmas Dreams Suites complete with garland, wreaths, lights and even holiday stockings. This home away from home includes a one-hour professional photo shoot in the resort creating the perfect setting for family Christmas pictures or even a sweet holiday proposal. The Christmas Tree Lot is reminiscent of the time-old tradition of selecting the perfect Christmas tree. This “instagrammable” pop-up bar will bring visitors together over spirited holiday cocktails and fun photo opportunities. For guests looking to impress at the next holiday gathering, Gaylord National’s Resort Chef will lead a…

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From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Charles Lawrance and the Downtown Christmas Tree

By Erik Evans In the spirit of keeping it local, the Downtown Annapolis Partnership has selected local artist Charles Lawrance to design this year’s ornaments for the downtown Annapolis Christmas tree. Charles is known for his nautical-inspired artwork. Many are familiar with his murals that can be found in Baltimore and locally inside Luna Blu Ristorante Italiano and O’Learys Seafood Restaurant. His studio FinArt is located in the Annapolis Design District at ArtFarm. Charles Lawrance is designing the ornaments for the downtown Annapolis Christmas tree with a nautical theme that will reflect his nautical style of art. The 24 foot tall Christmas tree was purchased locally from Diehl’s Produce in Eastport and has was installed by Annapolis-based Garden Girls Landscaping starting on November 22nd. The Grand Illumination of the Christmas Tree was hosted by the Annapolis Jaycees on Sunday evening November 28th on Market Space in downtown Annapolis. The downtown Annapolis Menorah lighting and Menorah Parade of Lights was also held that evening. This year’s Christmas Tree sponsor is the South Annapolis Yacht Centre. They will be at the Christmas tree during all three Midnight Madness events this year (December 2nd, 9th, and 16th) to collect new toys and books for local children. Erik Evans the Executive Director of the Downtown Annapolis Partnership said “The Downtown Annapolis Partnership is excited to work with local artists, kids, and sponsors that are all working together with us to make Annapolis magical for all this holiday season.” Additional sponsors of this year’s downtown holiday decorations include Sheehy Lexus of Annapolis, The City of Annapolis, RBC Wealth Management, Zachary’s Jewelers, and others. The public can meet Charles Lawrance at the Grand Illumination event and on select days at his new exhibit at 49 West Coffeehouse, Winebar and Gallery during the month of December. The exhibit is open throughout December including during all three Midnight Madness events. Ornaments on this year’s Christmas tree will be…

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