Washington’s Newest Museum

African-Americans’ struggles & triumphs shown.

The 19th and newest component of the exemplary Smithsonian Institution on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  is the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC). Its 12 galleries contain more than 3,000 images and artifacts, plus s interactive and  oral histories.

Media who previewed it have singlee out an exhibit showing how separate and unequal life was for African Americans during segregation at the turn of the last century. Others feature a slave cabin from the Point of Pines Plantation on Edisto Island that was dismantled and painstakingly reconstructed piece by piece inside the new museum, a replica of the set of Oprah Winfrey’s television show, a room with pieces of an actual slave ship that wrecked off the coast of South Africa and an airplane used by Tuskegee Airmen, who like the Navajo code talkers in World War II, are finally getting the recognition they deserve. The NMAAHC also honors the better-known African American musicians and sports heroes.

The windows of the $540-million museum are placed to frame views of other iconic buildings around the city. The Contemplative Court is off the history galleries with glass and copper walls and a central, cascading waterfall to enable visitors to begin processing what they have seen.

Consulting chef Carla Hall, a popular Top Chef contestant and one of the country’s best-known African-American chefs of the modern era, is credited with The Sweet Home Café whose four stations serve food from four regions: the agricultural South, the Creole coast, the Northern states and the Western range.

As with all Smithsonian institutions, admission to the NMAAHC is free. Timed passes, which give visitors specific time windows for entry.

Hello, Halcyon!

Cherry Creek North hotel a stylish newcomer.

halcyon-logoTwo months ago, I posted news of the high-tech, high-touch features of the Halcyon Hotel that was about to open in Denver’s tony Cherry Creek North.  I get a lot of news about hotel openings, but I post very few that I haven’t seen or experienced. This one, however, interested me because of the location and the features. At the time, I wrote, “No pix yet, because I haven’t been there, and there as yet are no images on the hotel’s website, but I’m intrigued enough to post it now.”

The Colorado Tourism Office hosted a reception at the Halcyon, so I can now confirm that it is delivering on its promise and I also have some photos to post:

Sophisticated décor with clean-lined furniture, white bed linens and well-placed lighting in all guest rooms.
Sophisticated décor with clean-lined furniture, white bed linens and well-placed lighting in all guest rooms.
Vinyl whimsy.
Vinyl whimsy.
Soaking tub and wubway tile.
Soaking tub and subway tile.
A place for keys and men's wallets neat to the door is a simple, thoughtful feature.
A place for keys and men’s wallets neat to the door is a simple, thoughtful feature.

Continue reading Hello, Halcyon!

Vail CEO’s Epic Generosity

Ski company boss writes BIG checks to worthy causes.

Vail-logoVail and Aspen, the most glamorous names in American skiing,

From Vail Resorts’ press release:

Vail Resorts, Inc. CEO Rob Katz and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, founder of Elana’s Pantry, made personal contributions totaling $2 million to 12 local non-profit organizations in the communities where the company operates, including Eagle, Summit, Denver and Boulder counties in Colorado; Summit County in Utah, South Lake Tahoe in Nevada, North Lake Tahoe in California; the Municipality of Whistler in British Columbia, Canada; Afton in Minnesota; Brighton in Michigan; Kenosha County in Wisconsin (near Wilmot); Cooma in New South Wales, Australia (near Perisher); and Jackson in Wyoming (near Grand Teton Lodge Company). Each of the contributions will be directed toward programs that support the welfare and education of children in these local communities.

“The success of our local communities brings a number of unique challenges that require our focus and attention – none more important than helping kids and families who are most vulnerable. Elana and I feel fortunate to be able to provide this support to these outstanding non-profits to allow them to continue their great work,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.

This announcement follows last year’s $1.5 million contribution by Rob and Elana to the Epic Promise Foundation, which provides grants to employees of Vail Resorts who are in need or are looking for additional educational opportunities…[There are] non-profit organizations receiving funds from this $2 million gift and the impact these funds will have on children and families in the local communities they serve. 

Think about this next time you buy VRI resort pass or buy a lift ticket.

Lonely Planet Adds Food-Forward Guides

With food a major part of travel, publisher debuts titles.

lonelyplanet-logoLonely Planet, now the world’s largest travel guidebook publisher (and my favorite line of titles), is launching the Lonely Planet Food imprint. Food is a key way in which we experience a place when traveling. Out on October 18 is Food Trails: Plan 52 Perfect Weekends in the World’s Tastiest Destinations ($24.99), promising “a gastronomic tour of the greatest, most memorable food experiences worth planning a trip around – from barbeque in Texas to patisserie in Paris, fine dining to cooking classes.”  Also coming this fall are Food Trails (October), From the Source: Spain, and From the Source: Japan (both September). Coming in May 2017 is Lonely Planet’s Global Beer Tour.

The new imprint is launched with impressive ambitions. Associate publisher Robin Barton says, “We will be publishing a wide range of titles, including recipe books that feature food in its place of origin, and travel companions to food and drink trails around the world. We show chefs cooking, customers eating and ingredients being bought in markets, giving readers a true sense of place. A huge part of the food experience is the surroundings, atmosphere and people – our aim is to bring the complete package to people at home who are keen to experience world food at its most authentic.”

In Lonely Planet fashion, the publisher says that its “experts scoured the globe to create a comprehensive guide to a year’s worth of weekends in food heaven. Both practical and inspirational, Food Trails features culinary experts, reviews of restaurants, cafes and markets, and maps and information on where to go when and how to get there.” And did I mention that the food and ambiance photography promises to whet travelers’ appetites?

Cross-posted to Culinary Colorado.

New SCOTTeVEST Garments for Travel Ease

Multi-pocket garment line expanded.

scottevest-logoFor several years now, I’ve been traveling internationally without a purse, but rather I wear an early model of the multi-pocket SCOTTeVest. It holds a lot and holds it all securely.  It came with an illustration showing all the pockets and what each is designed for, but I have adapted it to my own needs: at the very least, passport, wallet, room or apartment key, street map, glasses for sun or reading,  transit pass.  Sometimes I stick in a lightweight GoreTex shell for rainy or windy weather, or sunscreen on a bright day.

Principles of SCOTTeVEST garments include lots and lots of secure pockets of different sizes.
Principles of SCOTTeVEST garments include lots and lots of secure pockets of different sizes.

Now, the Idaho-based travel company has a couple of new products, and in watching the promotional video, I discovered that the line has grown to include jackets and cargo pants too. I was intrigued by the new Off The Grid (OTG) Jackets for men and women. These jackets feature 29 engineered pockets that include two patented front Rapid Access Panels, which reveal large compartments designed to hold a laptop (except Women’s XS and S) without showing bumps or bulges. Since my XS and even S days are behind me, I’m especially intrigued.

Oktoberfest Aloft

Meet Lufthansa’s ‘Dirndlcrew’ on select fall flights.

Lufthansa-logoThis is the 10th anniversary of Lufthansa’s Dirndlcrew, which, since 2006, has flown to some 20 destinations on four continents. Two days prior to the beginning of this year’s Munich Oktoberfest, two cabin crews take-off in Angermaier attire  — first on flights from Munich to Toronto and from Munich to Washington, DC., and then to destinations including Shanghai and Hong Kong on September 20, Denver on October 2 and Boston on October 3.

Lufthansa's variations on the theme of Dirndl during Oktoberfest,
Lufthansa’s variations on the theme of Dirndl during Oktoberfest,

At the beginning and the end of the Munich Oktoberfest, a crew from Lufthansa CityLine swaps regular uniform for the distinctive Dirndl on Belgrade, Birmingham, Cluj, Nice, Olbia and flights.  During Oktoberfest, Lufthansa passenger service employees at Munich airport also wear this endearing national costume. Since Denver celebrates its own Oktoberfest, I’m glad that the Dirndlcrew is assigned the MCH-DEN route early next month.

Revisiting Greenland

Picking pix for upcoming presentation on South Greenland.

changesinlatitude-logoMy husband and I visited South Greenland a few months ago on the ‘Sea Spirit,’ a small expedition ship. On Wednesday, I’m giving a presentation on Greenland at Boulder’s Changes in Latitude, a wonderful Boulder travel store. Preparation prompted a run though our images. Take a glance at one or two from each stop:

Boardi8ng the 'Sea Spirit' at the pier in downtown Reykjvik. There followed two days at crossing the Greenland Sea and the Stait of Denmark
Boarding the ‘Sea Spirit’ at the pier in downtown Reykjavik. There followed two days crossing the Greenland Sea and the Strait of Denmark
Cape Farewell, southern tip of Greenland.
Cape Farewell, southern tip of Greenland.
Locals in Nanortolik at the dock to welcome us -- the first sea visitors of the 2016 season.
Locals in Nanortolik at the dock to welcome us — the first sea visitors of the 2016 season.

Continue reading Revisiting Greenland

Latest Air-Travel Add-On: Complaining

U.K. Passengers may pay to complain.

ComplaintDeptThis is rich. In an effort to lighten its workload, Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) wants to shift some passenger complaints to Alternative Dispute Resolutions”(ADRs). There are three, and oddly,  two of them propose to charge an upfront fee £25 that will only be refunded if if the customer’s complaint is deemed “successful.”

The first step in complaining remains to address the airline itself. The second step, in case the problem is not resolved or the airline does not respond, would be to proceed to an ADR, which in theory should avoid an eventual court case.  The ADR’s decision would be binding, but it it anything like the way FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) handles investor complains in the U.S., it’s usually futile to go that route.

Nineteen airlines have reportedly moved their conflict resolution to an ADR. These include  British Airways, easyJet and Thomas Cook Travelers.

Boat Sharing Promoted for Travel to Cuba

Boatsetter provides perivate option for travel to Cuba.

boatsetter-logoWhen Ernest Hemingway traveled between Key West and Cuba, he often did so on “Pilar,” his 1934 speed boat. It was described in a 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine as having been “marketed by Wheeler as a 38-foot, twin-cabin ‘Playmate’ with a 70-hp Chrysler Crown gasoline engine reportedly capable of generating a cruise speed of 8 knots and a top speed of 16 knots. But Hemingway had specified some addendums (and would later specify a few more), thereby making her one of the first—if not the first—custom sportfishing vessels of the 20th century.”

Now Boatsetter, likened to “the Air BnB of boating,” is promoting boatsharing as a way for visitors to reach Cuba in the Hemingway way.   (Sorry. Couldn’t resist. ) Who would have thought it?  The company offers a knowledgeable team from the boat rental community that includes boat owners and captains who know the southern waterways, as well as what needs to be done before setting sail for the island so newly accessible to American travelers. Boatsetter will walk customers through the process of filling out the right paperwork to finding the right yacht with boat rental options available in Miami and Key West.

Boatsetter Cuba is an international peer-to-peer boat rental service headquartered in Aventura, Florida. Currently, the company boasts the world’s largest network of U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captains and has a fleet of over 4,000 boats worldwide. Boatsetter provides safe and fun boat rentals, including “world-class insurance, 24-hour free cancellations, access to our network of certified captains and worldwide fleet of privately-owned boat rentals of all sizes and styles.”

It’s not a bargain way to travel, of course, but it certainly is a memorable way to reach Cuba. FoMoInfo: 305-570-4768.

All National Parks Free to Celebrate Centennial

Visit, appreciate and protect our National Park lands.

NatlParkServiceLogoThe centennial of the National Park Service as been promoted and written about and covered in the broadcast media for months, but the agency’s celebratory freebie long weekend is Thursday, August 25 through Sunday, August 28. On those days, all 412 National Park Service units (Parks, Monuments, Historic Sites) are open to the public for free.

That means no charge for entrance fees, commercial tour fees and transportation entrance fees. Other fees collected by concessionaires (lodging and food service, camping, tours and outfitters such as fishing or climbing guides) are still in effect.

Expect normally busy parks like our nearby Rocky Mountain National Park and communities just outside park boundaries (Estes Park and Grand Lake adjacent to RMNP, for instance) to be crowded. But even as we celebrate, we should be aware of the increased development pressure directly at the edge of popular parks. The 1916 legislation that created the Park Service had a mandate to leave park scenery and wildlife “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” That was then and this now.

Celebrate by Protecting

The Los Angeles Times recently wrote an op-ed exposé, “Can America’s National Parks Defeat Developers at Their Gate?“, pointing out the detrimental proximity of wind farms in the Mojave to protected land and other projects. Grand Canyon Escalade is a frightening plan to construct a huge resort and a tramway that would ferry up to 10,000 people a day to the bottom of the Grand Canyon at the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers, just outside of National Park boundaries. The developer tries to make a case for how wonderful it would be for the land, the river, the wildlife and the Navajo Nation, while its opponents, including the Grand Canyon Trust, document the abuse of those very same interests of that would result. My feeling is that it is preferable to stop a questionable or outright undesirable project than to “un-build.” Let’s give the parks a big birthday present and put the brakes on rampant development in the neighborhoods of “America’s Best Idea.”

Award-winning travel blog. Colorado-based Claire Walter shares travel news and first-hand destination information from around the corner, around the country and around the world.