All posts by Claire Walter

DIA Gets Yoga Studio

DIA studios the nation’s first.

Yoga on the Fly opens at Denver International Airport’s Terminal A on November 7 with expansion elsewhere airports planned for 2018. There are five private mini-studios equipped with instructional videos, Yoga By Numbers yoga mats, SoundOff wireless headphones and an “essentials beauty bar” that includes facial cleansing towels, hand lotion and some essential oils.

Class options include yoga, meditation and breathwork using instructional iPad videos. Classes can be combined for longer sessions. Each is  from eight to 20 minutes of guided movement  designed specifically for such travel-related issues as poor circulation, muscle aches, anxiety and more.

The DIA studio begins with a 90-day “residency” (just in time for the holiday season). It is open Sunday through Friday,  7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Classes range in price from $15 for 15 minutes to $60 for 60 minutes. t is possible to mix and match classes for the full 60 minutes. Each mini-studio room will be for one person, with five rooms total and will be open to anyone from pilots to airport workers to travelers of all ages (and yoga levels).

Qantas Picks Up Passport Fee

Book a trip to Australia and flag carrier will pay for your passport.

Qantas Passport Take-Off is the new incentive by Australia’s flag carrier to encourage Americans who have not yet traveled  internationally to do so, starting of course with Australia.  The airline is giving Americans a discount of $135, the amount of a U.S. passport application fee, on any flight to Australia booked on Qantas.

This offers pays dividends for a decade, because U.S. passports are valid for 10 years. To take advantage of this offer,  start by  logging on to, enter the promo code “PASSPORT” and  select your desired flights then check out.  Displayed fares include the $135 discount. There is no stated end to this offer.

Southern Africa Snapshots, Part IV

South Africa, Swaziland & Zimbabwe wrap-up.

My early posts from this trip each contained just one or two captioned images. The end of trip involved more travel time and fewer sites, so I am posting several images from each. By this time, the end was in sight, and I was not ready to come home. Then again, much as I love my husband and my home and my town and my cat, I want each trip to last just a bit longer.

Day 11 – Zambezi River (Botsawana)

Photos follow from a  “sunset cruise” (i.e., boat ride) on the tranquil Zambezi River before it plunges down the canyons and cataracts of Victoria Falls.

Welcome dancers at riverside where the boats leave from.
The river’s namesake in a can.
Calm waters.
Enormous elephant browsing on the bank.
Hippos in the stream.
Many boats on the river, including this one that strangely but inaccurately reminds me of “The African Queen.” The boat in the romantic adventure film had no canopy.
The main event.

Day 12 – Victoria Falls

Like Kruger National Park, Victoria Falls merits more a longer visit.  I enjoyed the scheduled half-day visit (pix below)  but I ended up not visiting a village in the afternoon. Too blazing hot.

English gets second billing on Zimbabwe park signs.
Thirty-eight wet stone steps to the first designated lookout over the massive falls.
Statue of Scottish explorer Dr. David Livingtone, the first European to see these falls.
“Thunder smoke” is what Africans call the falls.
Roiling waters.
Wide falls dropping from a broad basalt shelf.
Canyon cascade.
Some of the offerings at the Sinathanayu Market on the fringes of Victoria Falls Village.
The Victoria Falls Hotel feeds threatened vultures every day. These large scavengers are not agile and perish on power lines or by eating poisoned carrion.
Fortune teller holds forth in a staw hut within the cavernous BOM A Restaurant where w cultural show and gut-busting buffet take place.

Day 13 – Victoria Falls Hotel

Last morning in Africa. I could (and probably should have) taken the opportunity to interact with orphaned lions that have been habituated to humans, but I just wanted to stay at the Victoria Falls Hotel to contemplate, pack and steel myself for the three-flight return to Colorado. I hung out on a hotel terrace for a time and watched the birds.  No wildlife came to drink and no dramatic sunrise showed itself, but I still reveled the quite time of morning.

Then it was time to say farewell to our wonderful guide, Anni Hennup.
No airport images from Botswana because some fool on my inbound. flight caused trouble by taking disembarkation photos. Major but totally avoidable hassle. Landed in Cape Town on a rainy afternoon with beautiful light and even a farewell rainbow.

Looking forward to another trip to Africa sometime in the future.

Southern Africa Snapshots, Part III

South Africa, Swaziland & Zimbabwe wrap-up.

More places. More wildlife. More connection with the noble battle against Apartheid. More experiences to tuck into my memory bank. And more images to post here, starting with Kruger National Park that by itself is the reason that many international  travelers visit South Africa. Scroll back for previous days’ thumbnail reports, and watch for more to come until I post about my final day.

Day 8 – Kruger National Park

One of the nine gates into humongous Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves, covers an area of 7,523 square miles. It was first protected by the government in 1898, becoming South Africa’s first national park in 1926. To the north is Zimbabwe and to the east Mozambique. It is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, an international peace park and also part of the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere area designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

And below are some uncaptioned images from the too-short time in his enormous park. We visited for less than a day. Sigh.

The visitor center’s “sightings board” indicates what was seen where. Rhinos are not listed because of the ongoing poaching problem.

Continue reading Southern Africa Snapshots, Part III

Southern Africa Snapshots, Part II

South Africa, Swaziland & Zimbabwe wrap-up.

Continuing words and images of a two-week trip to southern Africa north from Cape Town. This series includes the parks of northern South Africa and a brief (and in my view, unnecessary incursion into Swaziland). This impoverished kingdom has an unemployment rate of more than 90%, high even for sub-Sahara Africa.

Day 4 – Winelands

Heading north out of Cape Town on the legendary N1 Road, AKA the Cape to Cairo Road, the Pan-African Highway or even the Great North Road in sub-Saharan Africa, Looks pretty ordinary here, despite its length and the exotic lands through which it travels.
Vineyard landscapes have a special beauty. I didn’t know it at the time, but near the end of the trip, I learned about the tragic fires in Napa and Sonoma, two leading California wine counties. I’m guessing we’ll be drinking more imported wines for a while — including from South Africa’s Winelands region. Cape Winelands and their cultural landscape were  listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on June 24, 2004 in the Cultural category.
In addition to the usual tasting facility (not a room, because ion warm weather it is on an outdoor patio), the Spice Route Winery has vineyards with a view, a restaurant specializing in African fa are, the CBC craft brewery and tasting room, the wonderful De Villiers chocolate tasting cellar and shop, the Red Hot Glass artisan glass shop, a kids’ playground and more.
Jewelery maker among the many arts and crafts vendors at the Franschhoek Saturday market, along with food purveyors, farmers and bocce adherents who set up a rough court one edge of the market.
Boschendal Wintery & estate is one of the Franschhoek Valley’s oldest. Tasting tables are set up under shade trees near this Dutch-inspired building.

Continue reading Southern Africa Snapshots, Part II

Southern Africa Snapshots, Part I

South Africa, Swaziland & Zimbabwe wrap-up.

I recently returned from two weeks in southern Africa, booked through Gate1Travel with incomparable Anni Hennop as a guide. The continent and the countries we visit provide a kaleidoscope of both positive memories and insights that are hopeful distressing.

Quick takeaways: Enormous income inequity. Vibrant but often violent history. Compelling scenery. Trash and litter (especially plastic bottles) despoiling the landscape. Wonderful wildlife.  Poaching remains problematic. Cultural and creative richness that sees people through and gives hope. Property crime rampant. Political corruption. Go visit and see for yourself.

Meanwhile, below find an image or two from every  place I visited and thing I saw at the beginning of the trip. Visit my Facebook page for more.

Day 1 – Arrival Afternoon

Watershed, an art and design center on Cape Town’s Victoria & Albert Harbor waterfront.

Day 2 – On the Road from Cape Town

Cape Peninsula Drive, one of the world’s most scenic highways. Parts are hacked into steep cliffs. Some stretches offer spectacular scenic views of beaches and bays. Parts lead though the fynbos, known as the smallest but richest of the six floral kingdoms on the planet with some 1,100 species of indigenous plants.
Wild seas. even during calm weather, at Cape Point where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet. Whales are commonly sighted. Seals live on rocky outcrops. Birds fly past.

Continue reading Southern Africa Snapshots, Part I

Viceroy Snowmass Getting Light Makeover

Lobby improvements and eatery news at mountain resort hotel.

It seems that the Viceroy Snowmass opened just recently, but in reality, it debuted at Thanksgiving 2009. In the world of luxury lodging, it was time to refresh, and that’s what’s happening this fall. When it closes this month, work will begin on a $3.5 million-plus remodel of several public spaces at the property. It seems that there’s a new project owner willing and able to keep the property in tune with today’s luxury hospitality trends. These include the following enhancements:

  • Refresh of the lobby to make  a more welcoming and cozier 
  • A new coffee shop, Café V. Is that a 5 or a vee/, I wonder. 
  • Toro, a remodeled and reconcepted restaurant by acclaimed restaurateur Richard Sandoval
  • A new fitness center with extensive natural light and all-new state-of-the-art equipment.

These improvements are to be completed ahead of the winter-season reopening of the hotel on December 15. Next spring is to bring additional enhancements to the pool area, including two new oversized hot tubs and the reopening of Nest as a vibrant new poolside/slopeside bar and “outdoor dining experience.”

The Viceroy is at 130 Wood Road, Snowmass Village, Colorado 81615; guestroom & reservations,  877-235-7577.

Montana Wildfire Takes Sperry Chalet

Historic lodge in Glacier National Park destroyed.

While Houston and the Texas-Louisiana coast were drowning from Hurricane Harvey’s unreal amounts of ware, the Sprague Fire was raging through northern Montana. The human toll was zero, and many animals are able to keep away from wildfires,  but buildings can’t escape The fire’s most prominent victim to date is Glacier National Park’s Sperry Chalet, a historic backcountry lodge opened in 1914. Here’s what the sad report from The Spokesman:

Glacier National Park’s historic Sperry Chalet was lost to the Sprague Fire today [August 30, 2017] at about 6 p.m., park officials report. The main chalet building at a remote site in the park burned despite the efforts of a “highly skilled group of firefighters” staged at the remote chalet for the past week, officials said through InciWeb.

“Those firefighters had an extensive hose lay, sprinkler, and pump system installed to protect all of the structures associated with the Chalet,” according to the report, which pegged the lightning-caused fire at 3,275 acres tonight.

“The high winds experienced this afternoon pushed the fire to the east. The firefighters, supported by three helicopters, made a valiant stand to save the structure but were unsuccessful in saving the main Sperry Chalet. The firefighters remain on site, ARE SAFE, and are currently actively engaged in protecting the remaining structures.”

National Park Service photo of firefighters’ ultimately vain efforts to save the Sperry Chalet.

Sperry, which is at elevation 6,500 feet on the west side of the park, was closed Aug. 15 as the fire advanced after being first reported on Aug. 10. The chalet site is accessed by trail from Lake McDonald Lodge, which was closed Wednesday because of extreme smoky conditions in the area.

Sperry Chalet was built in 1913 by James J. Hill and son Louis Hill of the Great Northern Railway, the prime developer of Glacier National Park. Listed as an Historic Landmark, these rustic buildings, built of native rock, have survived their rugged environment relatively unchanged for more than 90 years.

Guests access the chalet over 6.7 miles of trail gaining 3,300 feet of elevation. Opened in 1914, the main building was a two-story rustic hotel.  Other than a modernized kitchen and the new composting restroom facility, the interiors and exteriors were much as they were built.

Sperry is one of the park’s two backcountry chalets. While guests at the park’s other chalet, Granite Park, hiked in with their own food, those at Sperry had meals, drinks and bed linens provided.  But there was no electricity in the sleeping cabins.

If only some of Hurricane Harvey’s rain could have been diverted to northern Montana.

Crowne Plaza Denver Grand Re-Opening

Latest in new and renewed hotels in Denver.

Nothing confirms Denver’s current boom as much as the spate of  openings of new hotels and renovations of older ones. The Crowne Plaza Denver is the latest. The hotel is right near the convention center, the State Capitol, the 16th Street Mall and other attractions. Its site on an especially uninspiring block of 14th Street (mostly parking garages and parking lots), but otherwise it is being spiffified with a new restaurant and redone guest rooms.

The other evening, the hotel threw a party to celebrate the big changes — something like $27 million worth. Public spaces feature little work station pods so those who are always glued to their laptops don’t have to stay in their (nicely redone) rooms to be productive. The restaurant/bar areas is now called Lockwood Kitchen. The food laid out in the ballroom foretold  a terrific new savory menu (memorable tacos and lamb chops) and the desserts set up in the bar? Beautiful and scrumptious.

Restful and tasteful dcor in the guest room, which are wired to the 21st century guest expectations.
In-room coffee and tea set-up.
One of several work stations on the lobby level. The bar is around the corner for those who want to sip an adult beverage while they work. Note the blue footstool under the desk.
The lighting wasn’t accurate or flattering, but the tacos were fabulous — tuna or shrimp with different salsas (shrimp with mango salsa here).
Exquisite and scrumptious pastries, artfully displayed.
Heated pool on the sixth-floor deck with skyline views.

I understand this renovation is a model for other Crowne Plaza properties. The hotels are part of the InterContinental Hotels Group. The Denver hotel is at 1450 Glenarm Place; 303-573-1450.

New Tourism Push to Palestine

Tour operators promote West Bank opportunities.

I’m not chasing after work these days, but when I am contacted by someone I’ve known for a long time with a project to promote a destination I care about, I’m on board. So it was when I was asked by an astute marketer whom I have worked for over the years to help with a focus group that would test how to best communicate the underappreciated aspects of Holy Land travel to the American market.

While this project embraced the Holy Land in general, it specifically addressed messages regarding travel to Palestine, which I had the opportunity to visit in 2010. WE began in Bethlehem, but visited other ancient cities too, places we usually seem to hear or read about only if there had been an “incident” of some sort. You can read my daily reports on this between from June 20 , 2010 and  July 7, 2010.

Since my memorable and meaningful visit, the  Holy Land Incoming Tour Operators Assn.,  was formed by the knowledgeable folks who provide visitors with insights to the history, sites, food and even politics of these places. Founded in 20015 in East Jerusalem to promote what I call “the rest of the Holy Land, these are the folks who will show you around and look after you when you visit.

The assignment brought up my fascinating, evocative, heart-breaking and inspiring visit. Below part of what I wrote for the organization. Remember that this is aimed at the travel industry, but the basic information is useful for travelers too:

The Holy Land is arguably the most compelling, most intriguing, most captivating destination on the planet. Only in this timeless region is it possible to visit so many places from antiquity so conveniently close together. Churches, temples, amphitheaters, markets and ancient roads where prophets and pilgrims, legionnaires and traders walked draw today’s travelers into the distant past.

The best-known sites are on everyone’s list of must-sees and must-visits, but the Holy Land also offers many that are not so well known or visited – ones that can set your tour offerings above the rest. Key members of the Holy Land Incoming Tour Operators Association can provide first-hand information about off-the-beaten-path places and memorable activities to enhance your Holy Land offerings or create new ones. By going above and beyond the usual offerings, your company truly can provide your clients with the proverbial “trip of a lifetime.”

Ask about the best parts of Abraham’s Path, the most the famous long-distance walking route in the Middle East. Learn about the archeological resources in Jericho, at more than 10,000 years, the oldest city Earth. Find out where the best markets are for local handicrafts, where to ride a camel and where to camp in the desert.